she’ll hook you up

Posted on 250 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events

since i’m rather busy every day this weekend, i thought it would be a good time to do another book review, and since i’m in austin, i thought it would be appropriate to do one that’s really different—a little crochet anyone??

you might think that crochet isn’t for you, but have you actually tried it??
it’s crazy fun, really, it is.

i have to be honest that knitting has solidly outrun it as my craft of choice, but there was a time in my 20s, yessirree, that i was very deep into crochetvery deep indeed. and i think of that time fondly.

problem was, that i hit a wall with it—at the time, there was very little innovation in the craft and very few modern designers doing anything creative or cutting edge with it. the crochet revolution of the 70s had passed (and believe me, it was fab in its own right), and if one wanted to explore the deeper depths of this fine needle art, one was pretty much limited to complex lace items for the home. which were interesting enough to execute, but mostly lacking in purpose for my everyday life. that being the case, i eventually abandoned the hook in favor of spending more time with the needle.

while i have been aware that much has changed to revolutionize crochet along with knitting, i’ve been lazy about reopening my exploration of the hooker’s art. why, i don’t know—maybe lack of time or the need to limit my horizons for a while.

then this beautiful book, crochet inspiration by sasha kagan landed on my doorstep from sixth&spring books and i had to say—WOW.

now available in paperback, this award-winning book is exactly as it claims in its title—inspirational. if you haven’t thought about picking up a crochet hook lately (or ever), now might be a good time to give it a go.

before opening the book, i thought i’d find what you find in most crochet manuals—lots of this

and it’s true that ms. kagan starts off with the basics. but only has a prelude to showing us what you can do, once you have those down. for instance, single crochet can, indeed, be lines across the fabric, but it can also be fun circles of all types

which morph into slightly more complex arrangements

and wait—what’s that, a flower? let’s explore that a little further in some filet crochet

or maybe free it up completely from the constraints of a linear background

or, while we’re at it, let’s just go whole hog and ditch that background completely

not exactly what you fancy? how about flowers another way?

or maybe you don’t like flowers . . . let’s take single crochet and really put it through it’s paces

i just love that maple leaf piece; i may have to make a set of coasters form that pattern. even if those are the only items i ever construct with crochet for the rest of my life, i’ll be happy; they will see a lot more airtime around my house than my old doilies ever have (they’re just too nice; i can’t part with them and i can’t use them either!).

the book features much, much more than single crochet technique—too many ways to do crochet than i have room to talk about here, but trust me—this would be a nice addition to any knitter’s library because of its depth and breadth.

as is so often the case, sixth&spring has generously offered to send one lucky reader of today’s review a gift copy of crochet inspiration. if you would like to be in the running to win it, please leave a comment at the end of this post by 9pm EST on tuesday, april 19th. we will announce the winner on wednesday, when we’re back in our home office.

i have one more teaching day here in austin and a travel day on monday. i’m hoping to write a post before i leave, to wrap up my wonderful tour of texas, because if not, i won’t be able to get back to you til after tuesday. if it doesn’t happen though (you know stuff happens, right??), be assured that i will be back in a few days . . . see you then!

a little lazy this week—so far

Posted on 23 CommentsPosted in designing, lace/shawls, projects

junebug cracks me up—she’s taken over ownership of the sofa blanket. when she wants to watch TV, she carefully arranges it all just so into a nest. then at night, she rolls up in it so she’s completely covered, like a cowboy. except she’s on the sofa, of course, haha.

we’ve been taking it easy here in austin; maybe not really lazy (i’ve done a lot of catching up on work, for instance), but not exactly painting the town red either, haha. i can’t believe we’re more than halfway through the week already and i’ll be getting back on the teaching horse tomorrow for a fun weekend at hill country weavers. where does the time go?

i gotta be honest; we’ve hardly left the house except to go for walks and do the usual family stuff. we tried to go downtown yesterday to see an art show, but got caught in a nasty traffic snarl and ended up heading home as soon as we got there, so we could make it to daniel’s football game.

which was a ton of fun—he plays in this 7-n-7 league which is designed for middle school kids to learn the plays without engaging in full contact football (so it’s more focused on footwork and strategy). he’s number 14.

but of course, the fun part is many-faceted; watching one of our family play sports is a novelty for us (we are enthusiastic about getting out there to move and try, but notoriously uncoordinated and uncompetitive and therefore, not very good at games, haha). but daniel’s different—he takes to all sports like a duck to water and he’s very, very talented.

and we make a sizable peanut gallery combined, so we all piled out there to enjoy the stupendous spring evening, watch the games, and root for our team.

mary, aaron, and andrew took advantage of the wide open space to entertain us with tumbling acts (or more accurately, some wrestling feats).

the oldest kids have been more elusive during this visit—they are involved in myriad activities of their own and they both have jobs now, so we only see them late at night.

back at the ranch, there is much to be jealous of outdoors—with the beautiful spring weather beginning in february here, it’s possible to get the garden going early and i’m green with envy over this

tomatoes and herbs, some already in flower. our garden isn’t even turned over yet (but then, i’ve hardly been home to do it). actually, we have it on the calendar to get out in our garden when we get home to turn up a little dirt and maybe plant some early greens, but the tomatoes won’t be going in the soil for at least another month.

and the roses that are blooming everywhere right now—wow. my brother tells me you pretty much can’t kill a rosebush here. a far cry from ohio, where they are under constant threat from mildew and insects . . .

of course, all that also makes it prime allergy season here, which is adding to my lackadaisical attitude this week. i have been doing lots of knitting though; wanna see?

i’m zooming along on my secret project, which makes me very, very happy. you can see i’ve been through a texture change in the fabric at this point and i’m now happily knitting away on the feature motif of the piece, which is quite thrilling to construct (ok, that statement officially makes me a dork, but who cares?).

i can’t show you any more of it than that, but it’s been good to have a project well established on the needles for this part of my visit. i can just pick it up at any time and knit on it without too much need to have the instructions out—a good strategy when dealing with kids and pets in the near vicinity.

i’ve also made excellent progress on the whitfield shorty i’m knitting up in woolen rabbit frolic (colorway jungle book). i love the yarn; it’s sooo yummy to knit with and looks great in the fabric, too. it’s knit candy—every time i pull it out in public, knitters flock around to fondle it.

i’ve got just one front piece left to complete and that’s on the needles now. i’ll finish up the knitting here and then do the finishing work at home next week. after all, i’ve still got another sweater with me that has not seen nearly as much air time. for no good reason other than i only seem to be able to focus on two projects at a time; the rest stay packed in my suitcase (that’s an idea—keep some things hidden to improve one’s focus on other things . . .). once the shorty is done (probably tonight), the cable and rib cardigan will come back out.

i realized last night that i hadn’t yet shared any of the nice yarns i seem to have collected on this trip, so i thought you might enjoy a little yarn parade today. let’s start with my first stop at hazel knits in seattle, where cookie and i got to hang out with wendee and do some dyeing.

this skein of rubber-eraser pink caught my eye and i was smitten, so wendee handed it over and i’ve been fooling around with an idea for future hazel knits kit. then in the drying room, i found another temptation

this is a fairly-new 4-ply lace base that wendee is working with called filigree. ever since working with the great northern yarns lace yarn i used for the crooked walking shawl and gray zigzag scarf, i’ve been fascinated with the characteristics of multi-ply lace yarn. there are definitely some that feel stringy to me, but there are many that are quite lovely and this is one of those. spun of the same fiber content as hazel artisan sock, it has a nice density and plumpness, while still remaining smooth and consistent. i’m looking forward to trying it. the skein is generous too, weighing almost 6 ounces and having 1200 yards—about 200 yards per ounce, which is a very nice weight to knit with, almost fingering. in fact, this yarn could make a very nice CWS.

and when i get home, i’ll get to see how my own dyeing efforts turned out . . .

next stop was sock camp, where sadly, i did not get to dye (tina and i have yet to spend quality creative time together!), but where i still managed to leave with yarn in tow, haha.

this is the skein i received i my welcome packet, in our camp colorway, which is mad hatter. so perfect—how can i NOT knit socks for myself with this?? even if they are plain ol’ stockinette, methinks i must cast on soon. but almost certainly, they will not be plain; i think i have an idea coming on . . .

then i was gifted this gorgeous skein of blues by angela; this is her seacell rayon/silk blend, in colorway blue streak. it is the most heavenly blend of blues; i am seriously considering casting on a scarf with it before the weekend (it wouldn’t hurt to have a portable little project to carry in my purse; i’m currently out of those . . .).

next stop was dallas, as you know and there i finally got to meet susan from slackford studio, who provided the gorgeous yarn for the aria delicato and fallberry mitts projects.

susan not only treated each of my classes to a yarny door prize, but brought along a bag of goodies for me too—some of them new additions to her online shop.

top to bottom we have nimbus cloud fingering yarn, a heavenly alpaca/cashmere/silk blend in colorway limon. then there are two skeins of stalwart sock in colors after midnight and fawn. next we have a skein of nimbus lace (same as nimbus cloud, only lighter) in colorway rapunzel. and finally, that delicious skein of celena lace, a silk/merino blend (i think!) in colorway true blood. this one doesn’t seem to be on her site yet, but i imagine it won’t be long . . .

well, that just about wraps things up for the day—i think it’s time i got outside to walk that lazy dog (and myself), while david works a little longer. then, maybe this afternoon, we’ll go adventuring . . .

crooked walking shawl

Posted on 39 CommentsPosted in patterns

when i designed this shawl, i was aiming to create a victorian piece of the everyday variety—a bit decorative, but not too; simple, but dramatic, open enough to create a pattern against the fabric underneath, but sturdy and warm as well.

the result is this sweet little shoulder shawl with shaped garter yoke and neckline, defined by a tiny standup collar. the cozy shoulder area is shaped to fit all the way around and can be pinned closed at the neck. the center front edges are defined by a pretty vertical edging along their length.

the solid warmth of garter stitch gives way to a striking zigzag pattern in the hem section to lighten the effect and add a little swing to keep things from getting mundane.

and the sizing can be applied in a variety of ways—combine the smaller size shoulders with the medium or tall hem if you like or vice versa; the various options all work together and can be tailored to your taste or yarn supply.

this piece is a good wrapper too, if you prefer to bring it up around the neck as a scarf—there is plenty of width to work with here.

shown here: size small yoke with the medium length hem, in great northern yarns mink/milk/baby merino blend, in colorway heathered merlot. this is the loveliest knitting yarn; i enjoyed working with it so much that i was sad to bind off at the end.

the pewter leaf pin shown with the shawl was purchased at perl grey. and oh my, they have a new dragon pin, too . . .

to purchase pattern or view complete pattern information, please click here to visit the product page in the knitspot pattern shop.

most of you know that i’ve been a champion of craig’s beautiful and animal friendly mink blend yarns since he first popped onto my radar last year. and with good reason—they are not just spun of unusual and rare fibers, but beautifully engineered to provide years of luxurious beauty. and craig works hard to offer them at a price point and yardage that make it possible for everyone to enjoy knitting with them. he’s a big supporter of independent designers too; how can we not love that? please check out all of craig’s delicious yarns in the great northern yarns online shop.

i am very grateful for the efforts of our test knitters karolyn and phoebe, who are always at the ready to try out a new pattern, even before we’ve sussed out all the mistakes. thank you so much you two!

BTW, karloyn knit her shawlette in spirit trail nona colorway raven’s wing—one skein will make the petite size shawl. i got to feel it in person when we visited—let’s just say that karolyn kept a very close eye on that thing while it was in my hands! i cna seriously vouch for jen’s yarns too; they are awesome.

and thank you once again to my friend helena, who modeled the shawl for us. this time we had a chance to get outside and include some of her animals in the photos, like shirley

who was very curious about the camera

and needed to make sure it wasn’t a threat to her mistress

then there were the chickens, who wanted to be wherever we were, but at a distance

checking us out the whole time, but pretending not to, haha.

it was a beautiful, fun, if slightly chilly day at the farm.

where the sun shines

Posted on 24 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, lace/shawls, projects

i am SO not a football fan or even knowledgeable about the sport (i know—for shame!), but even i was impressed with the dallas cowboys stadium.

but before i get going on a whole long post about dallas, i bet you all want to know who the kollage budding apple giveaway, right?

well, my niece mary is sitting right here next to me (because she’s home “sick” from school), and i was able to interest her in “helping” me out by picking the winner while i whirled the email list of comments (it’s totally fair and random, since she’s much more interested in looking at the camera than at the list. and tina, just so you know, she’s now completely addicted to pocket frogs, which is all your fault).

anyway, she put her finger on a comment by . . . . maria h!
congratulations maria; i know you’ll enjoy this kit (maria has knit many many knitspot shawls and i missed seeing this year’s efforts at sock camp, as she was not able to make it this year).

ok, now let’s take a little tour of dallas . . .
i arrived last tuesday evening to some awesomely lovely weather—balmy, breezy, and sunny. i succumbed to a good night’s sleep and a later-than-usual wake time at the incredibly comfy hotel in which i was booked for the week. once refreshed, it was off to the shabby sheep for my first day of classes.

the shabby sheep is an incredibly cute and well-appointed yarn boutique and knitting workshop located in the heart of the charming historic district next to downtown dallas.

with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore both in the shop and in the surrounding neighboorhood, it’s the perfect destination shop for a day out with knitting friends.

owner ronda van dyk has filled the shop with a delicious range of yarns and fibers, notions, tools, patterns, and books. there is an interesting class and event schedule, as well as weekly knitting nights, attended by regulars and drops-in guests alike.

i was to spend two full days teaching lace and sweater fitness classes, as well as a lecture to go along with the trunk show one evening.

we had a lovely evening, talking about design, yarn, and shawls; everyone had a chance to look at some samples up close and personal, which is so different than seeing them in photographs.

leahe, who works at the shop, came to every class AND the trunk show AND she brought her daughter along for the evening presentation; she was so helpful too; i really enjoyed getting to know her.

and then there was maria, who i finally got to meet in person, after a couple of months of trading emails as she arranged my class schedule. maria brought her beautiful fibers along, too, which she dyes by hand with her partner ceylon to sell in her etsy shop, two if by hand. they offer a yummy assortment of fiber blends and colorways; each dyer has her own distinct “voice”.

(when mary saw this photo, she shouted, “WOW, those are REALLY pretty”. she doesn’t even spin . . . . yet. but she may have potential, whaddaya think?)

i may have succumbed to a couple of special bumps at the fiber show this weekend . . . even though i do not need more fiber.

my days and evenings in dallas were completely booked from morning to night, but i still managed to get a little knitting work done

i soaked and blocked my eliza neckwarmer before i left my room on the first day and by the time i got home that night, it was dry. the next morning i added the buttons while i drank my coffee

karolyn helped me pick them out during our visit to churchmouse yarns in seattle—we were both smitten with the adorable pleated rims to match the pleated hem of the piece. plus, they have a hint of pink in the shell, to go with the hints of pink in the yarn.

lovely! now i need to finish up the pattern so agnes can test knit the matching rectangle scarf. i’m hoping to do that tomorrow.

next on my dallas itinerary was to spend the weekend teaching at the DFW fiber fest. that’s liz, who is on the board of directors, wearing her gorgeous hypoteneuse wrap.

my classroom was right across the hall from the kollage booth, where erica spent the weekend introducing knitters to the lovely kollage offerings. rebecca here was already familiar with crochet and spinning, but learned to knit on friday, thanks to erica and a little downtime between activities—look at her go!

it was especially fortuitous that she won a skein of yarn as a door prize at the friday night keynote talk; she cast on the next day for a nice squishy cowl . . .

on saturday at lunchtime, we took a break to explore downtown grapevine for locations to shoot with a flat stanley that erica had in tow

while she took pictures of the kid, i took some of the burgeoning rose bushes i saw everywhere

aren’t they something else?? we won’t see any at home until june . . .

later that evening we were treated to a special outing at an area eatery that is truly like no other—potager cafe in arlington.

saturday’s menu had two meat entrees and a number of various vegetable dishes, served up in courses according to the diner’s whim.

this is a little hidey-hole of a restaurant that is becoming very popular with locals and with good reason—this is the best food i’ve eaten out in ages; maybe in years.

dinner ended with a strong cup of well-made espresso and a luscious dessert of fresh strawberries over short pastry.

everything was so good, we didn’t even think about taking out our knitting.
what a great way to wrap up our weekend with the DFW community

david flew in yesterday and met me at the festival, where he got to take a look around, talk to some other fiber enthusiasts, and work on his own knitting in the lounge for bit while i finished up my class.

then we piled all my stuff into the car and headed for austin, where i will be teaching next at hill country weavers—but not til the weekend. for the next few days, we’re going to relax, enjoy our family time, and catch up on a little work (but not too much!).

more later . . . we still have a pattern to release that we haven’t gotten to yet! tune in tomorrow to check it out . . .