pre-game day

Posted on 15 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, projects

one of our favorite family cookbooks, after 50-odd years of constant use . . . someone helpfully duck-taped the spine at some point, but the loosened, brittle pages still need to be handled with care.

i’m sure all of our american friends are as busy as we are today; whether you’re traveling or cooking at home, shopping last minute or all set with what you need, today is the day that many people begin preparing for one of our biggest national holidays—thanksgiving.

last night, after a full day of early christmas shopping, we started prepping stuffing ingredients and other vegetables for dishes that require peeling and chopping. at home, i would do all that on thanksgiving morning, but my mom needs to pace herself a little more now. today we’ll bake pies (pumpkin and apple).

we have a secret weapon—a helper stands atop the stove watching over our efforts

i hope we plan to stay home all day—i gotta tell ya, my mom’s totally got me beat at being fit enough to shop all day. it was a success though; we got quite few things crossed off her list in the way of gifts that she wanted a second opinion on. and i just can’t get over how now, even thanksgiving is not reserved for simply giving thanks—the stores are all open and beginning their sales hat day, now.
they should pass a law, ya know??

but wow. i am not cut out for that life, heh. after shopping all day and working in the kitchen for a bit, we did just a little knitting through a movie, and then i was ready to fall over before 11 pm (of course, i’ve been waking at 4 am every morning —yes, ME—because our schedule is so different here; that’s the one time i can work and answer email which doesn’t interfere with the planned activity of the day).

so what have i got to show for my knitting self today?

well the first and prettiest thing is probably the flaming desire sock, which i’ve designed for the december yarn4socks club kit

i love the way it turned out—the yarn and stitch pattern work so well together. BTW, valerie and donna have made more kits available in their shop—if you tried to buy one earlier and couldn’t, you can now preorder one on their club page.

the yarn is sooo comfy and cozy; i’ll be grateful to wear these in january when our floors are so cold. the first one fits me okay, but could be a little more snug; i made a slight pattern adjustment by taking out a purl stitch near the side, which will be perfect. now i’ve got the second one underway (and it was so fun to knit, i may actually re-do the first one, too).

though it’s been much too warm lately to think about layering, i’m getting ready for a sudden change of weather that could hit at any time

i knit a larger-sized cornrow mitten over the weekend and am contemplating whether it’s right or not. it fits me very well through the hand, but feels big at fingertips in a way that the smaller size did not. i suspect that i need to decrease a few more sts at the end of the cable pattern for a better fit. i think i’ll work on correcting that this evening.

the matching hat is almost done. but i can’t find the 4mm DPNs i thought i packed to do the topmost part. arrggh. at least i know it’s cute. and it fits.
both pieces are good and dense in knit up in zen yarn garden serenity worsted—the yarn’s tight twist makes a compact fabric; with a touch of cashmere to fill in any spaces that do exist between stitches, it’s practically windproof.

my second holidazed sock looks pretty much the same as it did the other day; i can’t remember if i worked on it or not since i left the retreat sunday, heh (we’ve been busy). i think i did add some repeats in the car. i should finish it up; i’d have a whole new pair of socks, seemingly overnight if i did (and i can use them; my own sock drawer is pitifully low). but i’m trying to get my red scarf done as well, so they might go slower than i planned.

i hit a little stopping point in my henley, which i need to confer with catherine about, so i went ahead and started the sleeve of david’s fatigue sweater. i figure it’s best to get it on the needles where i can pick it up any time i need something to do.

it’s easy-peasy knitting—just a rib stitch with increases at each side. i’ve added on to it since this photo was taken yesterday and got almost all the way to the underarm last night while watching the movie (wow, the pieces go fast when the gauge is 4 sts per inch—who knew??).

i think that’s about it for catching you up with my knitting progress—i’m going to do a separate post about the red scarf, in case anyone is interested in joining me for a special mini KAL.

i also did a little photo study today around my mom’s house of all her beautiful indoor plants and will bring those to you in a couple of days. i hope everyone that is celebrating this weekend has a lovely, festive thanksgiving holiday.

re view

Posted on 25 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, projects

once again i’d like to thank kristin nicholas and tara, from sixth&spring books, for their generous participation in last week’s blog interview and book giveaway. the lucky winner of colors by kristin is: jane L!

thank you everyone for participating!

the knitter’s review retreat i attended this weekend was loads of fun and a great teaching experience. as you can see, each participant received a delicious goodie bag filled with treats from the lovely event sponsors.

immediately after breakfast on saturday morning, we kicked off the day with a huge group photo outdoors. then it was on to our respective classes. i taught my “sweater fitness” class, where participants learned how to use measurements and fabric information to choose the correct sweater size, tips and tricks on using the pattern as a knitting tool, and making pattern adjustments for better fit. our class was very full and very eager to participate, which always makes for a lively few hours together—i had a great class and i hope they did, too (i think they did!). i’d love to say i got a good photo of everyone, but the room was dark and the pictures didn’t turn out so well.

after class, we grabbed some lunch, and then it was on to the market where four of us worked the briar rose booth for a few hours amidst a buzzing crowd of avid yarn fans.

chris and i were extremely lucky to have the expert help of clara’s cousin kathy and aunt judy at the sales table, which left us available to help knitters in choosing yarn and patterns (because, well, choosing among chris’s many incredible yarns and colors can be an experience that requires help).

it was a very polite (and fun!) feeding frenzy for most of the afternoon and much of the booth stock was well depleted by the end of the day (the yarn that was left, however, will be added to the online shop this week for those at home who are waiting for more).

susan, karen, and janet from the kitchener waterloo guild in ontario found a few skeins of yarn to take home (along with some patterns). i love the photo below where susan seems to be warily taking in some serious justification by karen for her purchases

karen, you don’t need to explain to us why you “need” that yarn!
it was my good fortune to spend time with this lovely trio of women—i’ll be visiting them in june for the kitchener-waterloo adjudicated knitting show and teaching at karen’s shop, shall we knit?, while i’m there. they are a ton of fun and always smiling—i can’t wait to spend more time with them.

and—omg—looks who’s buying my pattern and some of chris’s sea pearl yarn to knit it; that’s ann budd, editor and author of several well-known knitting books, including the knitter’s handy book of patterns, an all-time favorite.

we had a few chances throughout the weekend to share a brew and a barrel of laughs with this wonderful lady and i hope there is a lot more of that in my future; she is one of the warmest, most good-humored people in the business.

speaking of warm and good-humored, there’s clara, with barbara parry of foxfire fibers, sneaking a hit of cormo fumes in a not-so-private moment—oh well, that’s an example of how wool fumes can break down one’s inhibitions and good sense.

karen grover (right), was there from maine representing her gorgeous string theory yarns. that’s jane on the left, who designed the beautiful wrap she’s wearing, which appears in clara’s book, from karen’s yarn.

i finally got to have a chat with jennifer, from spirit trail fiberworks, and discovered she is the sweetest person; as beautiful a spirit as her fibers and yarns would have you think.

and wow, has her selection of incredible wooly wonders expanded over the last few years—row upon row of drool-inducing yarns, bags of fiber, and beautiful samples filled her booth.

pam and a friend (i’m SO sorry i don’t remember your name!) from storey publishing were about all day on saturday—storey generously opened their doors that afternoon to retreat participants for a tour at their facility and treated each guest to a book. i was not able to attend because our booth was so busy, but perhaps another time.

across the way, kathryn alexander’s booth of incredible multi-colored knitting wonders was hopping busy as well—adorable hat and sock kits being snatched up for christmas gift knitting as fast as knitters could manage it.

to our left, clara signed copies of her new release, the knitter’s book of wool and entertained her fans with a constant stream of dry, witty humor (we just love clara!).

melanie falick was also on hand signing books, including the beautiful, newly-released reversible knits book, by lynne barr. melanie is a long-time dear friend and it was my great pleasure to be reunited with her during this weekend. it’s been ages since we had a chance to meet and talk and so good to have some time to do both this weekend.

once everyone was shopped out for the day, it was time to relax and enjoy and evening of socializing, knitting, dinner, and more socializing. melanie gave a presentation early in the evening about her career in book publishing and the many beautiful books she has written, edited, and is currently working on.

i worked on a larger cornrow mitten while she spoke, and got my hat all the way to the point where i need to switch to DPNs to finish. i had to put that aside til i have a moment to search for the needles (i thought i packed them, but i don’t see them on the surface of any of my bags and i’ve been too lazy to dig deeper. heh.).

the late evening was devoted to a good talk with chris over a local brew and chatting with other retreat participants. that’s connie and jayme there—i got into a conversation with them very late on saturday night that resulted in continuous cracking up over nothing; maybe just to hear connie laugh one more time (she has a great laugh, totally infectious). i think the blurriness in the photo was all on my end by that point—sorry ladies.

sunday morning, we all gathered sleepily for “new beginnings” and knitting church (well, okay, they all look chipper and busy; it was just me that was sleepy and bleary).

the reverand clara presided over the congregation—we all cast on a new project specifically just for ourselves to celebrate and were blessed accordingly.

my choice was my second holidazed sock; i even got a few inches of it completed during the service. after that, the retreat broke up, everyone going their separate ways.

chris and i headed back to albany with sheila january in the afternoon, where i met up with david back at my mom’s.

i actually got lots of knitting done over the weekend, but it’s too early in the day now to have good light to take pictures of everything. i finished my fire sock (above, working on the toe), a holidazed sock, most of the cornrows set, and got some work done on my henley, too.

we all had a good dinner and then settled in for dinner and some knitting—look at her go on that afghan.

and now she’s letting me know it’s time to stop working so we can go out. so i better get to it; i’m not even going to proofread today, so excuse me in advance for typos!

mass gathering

Posted on 20 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, projects

for me, there’s no place like the northeast during thanksgiving season; the terrain, the light, the “oldness” of everything sets just the right mood for me at this time of year. i always enjoy our fall visit home.

we put the final touches on our packing after one last spinning class wednesday night.

anne marie brought along her recently-completed skeins of DK 2-ply, spun from briar rose BFL fiber. she ended up with about 1000 yards from her 16-ounce bump, enough to make a vest or maybe a smaller sweater. it has a beautiful sheen, doesn’t it?

thursday morning we were up early and headed out by 9 am. the weather was good and we listened to most of my life in france, by julia child, while we drove. it made me long for traveling again.

i drove on the first half of the trip and knit for the second half. i got pretty far into the new STR sock i showed you the other day, far enough that we can now see what it is

i’m knitting the holidazed sock that i designed for the rockin’ sock club last year. a number of people emailed to ask me how to get the pattern at that time, but it was exclusive to the club for a year. now, tina has released the pattern in her shop at the blue moon site, so anyone can buy it. since i could use some new socks, i thought i’d knit up a pair for myself with a rare gems (one-of-a-kind) skein of STR that gail sent me last winter.

well, these knit up so fast that i even surprised myself—by the time we got to albany i was past the heel. we arrived at my mom’s early enough for dinner and more knitting afterward.

the big news is, my mom has taken up her needles again after a number of years away from knitting—my youngest nephew, arjun, has cajoled her into knitting an afghan for him (how much do we love that kid??).

she’s knitting the same pattern that MY grandma knit for arjun’s mom (my sister), when she was about his age. pretty cool, right? i’ll show you more of it as the week progresses. my mom didn’t intend to finish it for christmas, but we figured out that if she continues to knit at the same rate she has been, she just might have it done by then (and now that she’s finished the dan brown book she was reading, she’ll have more time for knitting).

i worked on my cornrows hat that evening and completed the bottom part and some of the top shaping. i need to locate the DPNs i thought i packed to finish it up; i was too lazy to look for them, so i started on another matching mitten.

friday afternoon we headed up to williamstown, driving through troy and eastern new york state to massachusetts. by the time david dropped me off at the hotel, i was shaping the toe of my sock.

i finished up during the evening show-n-tell session of the retreat.
if you’re looking for a quick, fun sock pattern for gifting, or need to replenish your own supply of practical, warm socks, this pair is a good bet.

once i dropped my bags in my room, i found chris and we got to work setting up the booth after a quick lunch. chris shipped some boxes ahead and i brought some stuff by car, and together we ended up with a pretty, cozy corner of gorgeous, yarny love.

i wish you could see it in person—there’s nothing quite seeing like piles and piles of chris’s yarn in one place.

chris wants everyone to know that she’s sorry the briar rose online store is so bare at the moment, but after this trip, she plans to fill it up again with all sorts of goodies. and of course, you can always email her to discuss anything specific you need.

our booth is set up right next to clara’s book booth, where piles of her new book are waiting to be snapped up by eager shoppers.

the market area is quite small but has the very best vendors—more on that next time; i’ll get pictures of all of them this afternoon when the market is open.

after we got the booth settled, it was beer o’clock and we headed to the bar to join up with a few friends for drinks—chris and i like to imbibe in a nice beer together now and then. we opted for a couple of tall glasses of the local seasonal brew, cabin fever, from the new holland brewing company. yu-um.
we were soon joined by ann budd, who quickly doubled the entertainment quotient at our table. we decided she has to come to more of these events . . .

after dinner, it was time for everyone to gather in one big group for the first time

it’s a big group and a wonderful one as well. the mike was passed all around as each person made introductions and said a little bit about what they’ve knit this year (many participants have attended this retreat multiple times, some have been here every year!).

i was sort of a bad blogger today; it was hard to remember to use my camera. i promise to have more photos of knitters, teachers, yarn, and group events tomorrow.

now, it’s time for me to get ready to teach my class—sweater fitness. i can’t wait.

color by kristin

Posted on 155 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, interviews

as you read this today, david and i are driving east toward the berkshires, where i will be deposited in williamstown, MA for the knitter’s review retreat weekend.

since i can’t be home to write, i prepared another book review for you to read while i travel. i thought it appropriate that the author and designer of today’s new book is kristin nicholas, a designer i have long admired. her farm and life in western massachusetts set the stage for the subject of her new book,
Color By Kristin: How to Design Your Own Beautiful Knits.

and what better time of year to focus on color, when, for most of us, the landscape has turned to a more subtle, neutral palette. we knitters are so very lucky to possess a talent which enables us to create our own color landscapes within our private lives and our community. for those of you who’d like to explore designing in color, or want to try color knitting, this book is a great place to start.

in her latest publication, kristin guides the knitting reader first through an autobiographical timeline revealing the development of her design style and the techniques she uses to draw inspiration from her surroundings. she follows up with several lessons about applying color techniques in knitting and design.

for those who are not familiar with the work of kristin nicholas, this book provides a beautiful window into her long and richly-textured career as a designer and illustrator. her complex combinations of color, stitch pattern, and embellishments have been featured in mainstream publications for over two decades; she has also produced numerous books in several different disciplines of the needle arts and maintains an active blog on which she chronicles her daily life. her charming and original home is a magical kingdom; hers is truly a life of artistry.

in addition to guidance on design, kristin’s new book includes a generous selection of color knitting projects, ranging from basic to complex, with embellishments and without. many are garments, but there are plenty of household accessories included as well.

i feel especially lucky and grateful that kristin offered to answer a few interview questions for us today—let’s turn the “microphone” over to her now!

kristin, tell us about your favorite part of putting this book together; was it developing the projects, the autobiography, the illustrations, or choosing the yarns?

There are so many layers to a book—different processes. I’m sure most knitters don’t think about it when they are holding a book. They just think, “oh yeah, it’s a book.” It takes at least 2 years for me to do a book. That’s a long time in a designer’s life. I started this one just after I finished Kristin Knits but in actuality, it had been percolating for over fifteen years. Soho, the publisher of Color by Kristin “got” what I wanted to present. I have known Trisha Malcom, the Publisher at Soho, for over 15 years. She trusted my judgment and style and just let me go and do what I wanted after she accepted the initial Book Proposal. The Art Director, Diane Lamphron, also understood the presentation I was looking for, my concepts and what I am all about.

Back to your question . . . I think the most enjoyable and my favorite part of doing this book was actually the days of photography. I had a specific vision rattling around in my head for Color By Kristin and Soho was willing to go along with it (just so you know, it doesn’t always go this way). I wanted to photograph the projects here at our farmhouse and on our hill. I wanted to show the knitted projects inside my house with my colorful painted walls in the background. They all go together so nicely. John Gruen, the photographer, is a friend of mine and we have worked together many times here photographing my house for various magazines. He also photographed my Kids Embroidery book. I was ecstatic that Diane Lamphron, Soho’s Art Director, hired him to do all the location photography. John has such a lovely eye for light and I think he really captured the projects and the scenes here at our farm beautifully. The whole team was a lot of fun to work with—Diane, John, his Photo Assistant, Julie the Stylist—it was a great two exhausting days but we got the look I had envisioned!

(Oh, and I didn’t do the illustrations—they are illustrations that Soho owns. I have illustrated many of my books but not this time!)

(readers, descriptions and ordering information for all of the above-mentioned books and more can be seen on kristin’s book page)

in writing your autobiographical sections, what new insights did you take away from examining the timeline of your evolution as a designer? did any of it surprise you, such as a newly-remembered influence?

Ohhhh, you like that part, do you?
(yes, very much; especially the 70s photos—i think i have some just like that!)
We wanted to put a personal slant on the book and Diane (the AD) asked me to see if I could find any old pictures of myself. I looked and looked and couldn’t find any. Then one day, I stumbled up a box in the attic, opened it up and there was my life before I left for college in a box! Wow. Talk about flashbacks!
The thing I realized after writing the Introduction which is called A Life in Color is that I have been working on this book all my life. Color by Kristin is about mixing patterns and color together. It started doing that when I learned to sew when I was nine years old and I haven’t looked back! I’m still doing the same thing I did then only now it is with yarn and knitting and all kinds of other designing. And that is pretty neat to think about.

as a designer, a lot of my own work fulfills me in a purely imaginative (and very important) way, while in reality, the pieces i tend to use or wear the most are the more tailored and practical ones.
what kinds of knits would you say you would use or wear the most? which projects satisfy your “fantasy self”?

Oh, you should see my wardrobe!! I live on a sheep farm and I can’t get out the door and into the car without getting some bit of brown stuff on me! Whether it is mud or muck or dogs jumping up and down. I have a really boring wardrobe because it is functional—lots of brown, black, navy, khaki. I’m wearing the same handknit sweaters that I made 20 years ago—that is the ones that were oversized and I can still fit into.

There are lots of accessories in this book and that’s where I tend to be colorful in my wardrobe. I wear colorful scarves, hats and mittens. But truth be told, I have barely any Kristin-made pieces because they all tend to migrate to publishers and magazines. I never have time to knit for myself—I’m always on some kind of deadline.
As for my “fantasy self” I have no clue—I don’t have time to think about that! We have a sheep farm and sell our lamb meat frozen direct to the public and to restaurants so whenever I’m not working on a book or magazine project, I’m juggling one of the balls bouncing around here on our farm.

since many knitspot readers have a big interest in lace, which has quite a different weight and texture from the more solid color work that you present, can you draw a few correlations between these seemingly disparate types of knitting that might give lace knitters a better understanding of the allure of color work?

I have knit lace in my day and I know why people like to do it. Lace knitters like to follow a charted pattern and watch it develop before their eyes. For me it is the same thing with colorwork—following a chart and watching the colorful pattern build up slowly on my needles. Fair Isle knitting is incredibly addicting—just like lace!

One reason I think lace knitters (or cable knitters too) like to work in those techniques is they are afraid of combining colors together themselves. They like the security of picking one color and buying enough for a project. And that is fine.

I know it can be scary to knit with many colors. I frequently see the terror in knitters’ eyes when I teach classes. Color By Kristin has a lot of instruction for learning about working with color. What all knitters have to realize is there is a learning curve to every technique. Everyone starts working on a basic sock or scarf and then they continually add skills as their knitting knowledge progresses. That is the same way it is with working with color. You get better with every project you try!

I suggest knitters start with a small colorful project to get their feet wet. If they make several little different projects each in a different colorway they will feel more confident with their color-aptitude! And it is really SO MUCH FUN!

(don’t you just love her?? hee-hee!)

is there a project you’d like to create some day that is so fantastical, you are still building up the courage to try it?

I have tons of swatches hanging around here in various bags from over 25 years of designing. I want to sew them altogether and make a blanket or two. I think that would be great. But I guess I need a deadline to do it and I also might need a hand or two with the sewing! The swatches are all different sizes so it would be like a giant jigsaw puzzle to get it all to fit together!

kristen, thank you so much for participating in this blog tour and gracing us with an interview. i’m sure i can speak for everyone reading this in wishing you the BEST of luck with your new book and a happy holiday season to you and your family!

we have been speaking today with designer kristin nicholas about her new book, Color By Kristin: How to Design Your Own Beautiful Knits, published by sixth&spring books, new york.

once again, the publisher has generously offered to send a copy of kristin’s new book to one lucky reader. if you’d like to be added to a drawing for a copy of color by kristin, please leave a comment by sunday, november 22nd at 9 pm, telling me you’d like a copy. we’ll announce the winner next week.