sweetheart of a weekend

Posted on 9 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, projects


in the midst of a polar blast which blew in a ton of snow and the coldest days of the winter so far, a little warm glow sparked and grew at knitspot HQ on valentine’s day.


to start the day,  leslie, olga, and angie drove up soon after we opened, determined to make the most of their weekend get-together despite the storm. we spent a delightful hour or more chatting and drooling over yarn—i might have sold them some yet-to-be-counted-and-labeled stuff from out of the back room (sorry anastasia). and someone might have got back in the car with the brand new cabécou laceweight (it’ll be listed soon, we promise!) for a pine and ivy, or couple of stone soup fingering skeins in river rock for  a wheaten wrap, or better breakfast fingering in three shades for a sheltie triangle. and maybe just a little more BBF for a couple of wheaten cap and mitt projects were purchased too, but i’m not telling . . .

with all that knitting in their plans, i wanted to jump in that car and tag along—i hope they are having an absolute blast with the rest of their weekend.


just as they were getting ready to go, beckie arrived with her spinning wheel to show the kids how it’s done.


of course they just loved that.


the weather kept a lot of families at home yesterday after all, but the ones who braved the snow and cold to come over had us all to themselves and a good afternoon was enjoyed by all


some of them even did some knitting!


this little guy wasn’t really ready for sitting still with sticks and string, but sheyanne entranced him nevertheless with her camera—now that was fascinating.

we also got some parents to give it a try and i think that was a lot of fun for them. or something a little different anyway.

we really appreciated everyone who came in and hope that they’ll join us again some time.

when the afternoon was over, i scurried back home to get into warm clothes and put a pot of soup on the stove—potato—and i’m glad i did; it was cold last night.


after supper, i finished up work on the first blanket club chapter that will go out on tuesday.


i am so looking forward to seeing how everyone will put together their shades and pieces; i just know there will be a huge variety and some wonderful surprises, both form those with yarn memberships and those who joined up for the pattern only (eBook) option.


the BS ravelry threads are heating up and i hear there is a contest afoot—and you know that contests mean prizes.

alright then, now that my chapter is put to bed (or it will be after one last look-see from anne marie), i can get back to my knitting in earnest.


i started my natty sweater in the better breakfast DK option (in muesli, which gets its taupey color from rose gray alpaca). even though i had knit a ton of swatches, i was still really, really not sure what needle size i should go with. i wanted this sweater to drape nicely most of all, but i also wanted good stitch definition and that can result in the two being at odds when it comes to needle size.


so i began, as i recommend in my classes, with a sleeve swatch (top) on size 3.75 mm needles. i was sure this was going to be right, but after getting a few inches in, i felt like it was too dense. this fabric will become more liquid after a soak and wash, it’s true, but it still didn’t feel right to me.


so i put that one on a holder (top) and started afresh on size 4.0 mm needles (bottom).

amazing—it feels exactly right now. i just know it. even if it does become more fluid after a wash, i’m comfortable with whatever will happen. i’m keeping the first swatch because although i won’t use it for this sweater, i happen to need one for the craftsy class i’m preparing to teach—nothing lost at all. in fact, it illustrates points i need to cover in several lessons so it’s a great investment.

when something is right, it’s just right—and it’s amazing how the whole project takes off once you figure that out. my sleeve is almost to the underarm now and i believe i’ll finish that tonight.


meanwhile, i swatched the pattern in a new polwarth DK yarn from briar rose fibers called joyful—when chris asked what color i wanted to work with, i suddenly felt a need for some orange in my wardrobe (hmm, i wonder why??) and in just a couple of days, here it was on my doorstep. a juicy valentine indeed, hehe.

one of them will be a cardigan and one a pullover—but i can’t decide which. i’m leaning toward the orange for the cardigan and the natural for the pullover, but i don’t have to decide just yet. i can knit the sleeves and backs and then decide when i get to the fronts. barb will help me . . .


i finally got my little reversible crescent shawl cast on too—poor thing got set aside in the excitement of finishing up my cam cable pullover. i know it’s not very far along at the moment, but i feel as if, with the cast on accomplished, i could pick it up at any time to knit a bit. for this week, it will be my kitchen project to work on over morning coffee—an actual better breakfast at daybreak, haha (snort, i’m such a doofus). i’ll also pack it in my bag for my trip west next week.


i knew you all would seize on this little group of swatches, haha. honestly though, while the yarn is right, i’m not actually going to work with this color.


this is the real color, which i personally like a whole lot more (i like red, but not so much for my clothes). i think this skein has enough for the little sweater i’m planning with it, but to be safe—and because i have the spare skein of that red—i’m not using any of the blue for swatching.

i won’t say much more about this just now—since the yarn is a new offering and not yet available for purchase, we’ll save the evolution of this project for a little later. i will say that the tayet yarn is simply divine and i can’t way to delve deeper into that delicious blue bundle.

after all, i’ve actually got plenty going on right now—preparations for a class, a few new sweater patterns in various stages of production, and a couple of garments on the needles (plus a little shawl for good measure). i mean, that’s enough for the moment right?

i knew you’d agree—time to go knit now. have a wonderful presidents day.


black, white, and re(a)d all over

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


happy valentine’s day!


it is snowing to beat the band here; i hope our kids valentine’s day event isn’t snowed out. we will be here no matter what since it’s just next door, but i hope we have some visitors show up, too—we have cupcakes, if that makes a difference . . . and beckie will be here with her spinning wheel.


bret’s house is festooned with valentines that announce to the world how much we and our neighbors love each other. at night it’s lit up with sparkling lights all over and trails of twinkling lights across the yard—i’ll have to add a photo later on, since i forgot to get one last night (and i was staring right at it for hours, too, from my perch at my desk).


i was hoping bret might stop in to our event today—he’s really a big kid at heart after all—but it looks like the storm may have got the better of him . . .


if you end up stuck at home due to the snow and cold (i hear it’s going to get REALLY cold tonight!), david has put together a sweet deal for today only on our 2015 BNK blanket statement club—a little discount from us to you.


haha, in fact, batches of these boxes are stacked all over the house, since we had to clear out the shop for today’s social event. i understand david is even storing as many as can fit in the car overnight (locked safely in the garage). he’s carting those to the post office throughout this morning. no worries if you’re just signing up today; packages will begin going out again on monday.


i’ve got my first blanket eBook chapter all written up and am putting all the pieces together into the layout over this weekend. in fact, most of the eBook is set to go; anne marie and i have been working hard for several months on spiffing up the pattern to be as flexible and fun to knit as possible. sheyanne, david, and our whole staff have been photographing and editing materials to make each chapter a beautiful work of art. our whole staff and friends have needles needles poised to start—let the blankets begin.


now, how about some knitting for this snowy valentine’s afternoon? what are you working on this weekend?


i’ve got a sweater underway and i started my reversible crescent shawl, plus i’m swatching again—i just can’t seem to stop, hehe. what can i say, there’s no rest for the wicked . . .


dueling sweaters

Posted on 18 CommentsPosted in designing, projects, yarn and dyeing


we may have moved the main workings of our office out of the house, but on random mornings i still wake up to find evidence of david’s late-night photo shoots.


leaving unprotected yarn about—especially soft, delicious better breakfast, tsk, tsk—is SOOooo dangerous; a rookie mistake. why, anyone could come along and just nab one for any reason! i had started the cast on for my reversible crescent shawl in the muesli shade (which i think of as a mix of whole grain colors), but was feeling just a little ambivalent, since i am now knitting a sweater in that shade (more about that later). the daybreak shade (a true silver gray) has been singing me a siren song for a few days now and what can i say?

it was laying about unattended . . . and now it’s MINE.

when we last left off i had finished blocking my sweater pieces and was about to put everything together.


i began with the raglan seams because A) they all need to be joined before the neck finish can go on and B) once they are joined, it’s very easy to steam those seams and give that part of the sweater its final finish.


once they were stitched together i threw it up on the mannequin to see how things were looking; this is actually my first chance to asses the garment in three-dimensional form, so i’m pretty excited.

doesn’t that kent DK yarn look beautiful in the daylight? so much better than in my studio under electric lights.


everything looks good—the neck opening is the size i intended, both in actual measurements and in the way it fits—high enough to make the funnel neck stand up , but not so much that it will choke me.


the top of the sleeve sits exactly where it should on the center of the shoulder to balance the way the sweater hangs. i love how the cable ended up in that spot. though i did nothing to influence that outcome, if you wanted it to hit on  a certain row, you could figure it out for your size using the row gauge, the sleeve measurement, and some simple math. then of course, you would have to knit exactly to gauge throughout both sleeves and you know what that means? yes, the S word. do you see now why i like to embrace a certain level of randomness about these things? but i digress.


after the raglan seams were done i picked up stitches all around the neck opening, including the ones from the yarn holders. i continued the cable detail back and front, while along the sides i filled in with alternating six by four ribs. i got most of this done in class on monday afternoon.

after binding off, i did pull it on over my head to be sure it would work. adding a band or collar will always tighten up the neck a bit because it adds stability. in this case, it fits me fine and i like it, but i have a really small head and neck. i’m thinking that for most knitters, a larger neck opening—both lower and wider—is going to be desirable so this is one thing i will be tweaking in the pattern (which is why we need a prototype AND some test knits).


next—and the last thing to be finished—are those long underarm and side seams. i worked on those late on monday night and early tuesday morning. this picture is kind of crappy because i was working on it so early that it wasn’t light out yet.


once those last seams were done i gave them a nice steam pressing. ok, when i say that, i don’t mean that i am putting weight on them with the iron. what i do is to get them good and steamy by touching the wet towel with the hot iron. then i remove the towel and “encourage” them to lie flat by pressing down down and holding with the palm of my hand. if i had a wooden clapper, i would use it for this job, but i keep forgetting to look for one—i like to purchase these kinds of tools second hand, where someone has already used it for years. but i’m so busy and have so many projects crowding my mind, that i lose track of things i mean to do . . .

the use of steam is an old—maybe even ancient—tailor’s tool that can be employed whenever wool needs to be molded into an irregular, dimensional shape—like a collar stand, a rolled lapel, a slightly bowed seam. it can also be used more aggressively to shape heavier objects like felted hats. it’s one of those skills that you learn to do with a certain measure of intuition—knowing exactly what’s needed, how much, and what level of pressure, is kind of indescribable; it’s just something i know. i love steam for this reason and at the same time, i wonder how many people make use of these methods any more; is it going by the wayside? i don’t know . . .

enough of my blathering—let’s try the dang sweater on already, shall we??


YAY, it fits!! it’s still a little scrunchier than it should be at its final size so the next thing i did was to sink it into a hot, soapy bath to allow the garment to relax to its final shape and size.


after a good soak for an hour or more, i squeezed the water out and laid it to dry. one nice thing about the kent DK is how airy and light it is when knit up. after a bath that removes those final vestiges of spinning oil and dirt, the fiber blooms readily and becomes a wicking machine. which means that it dries in practically no time.


the blooming fibers draws all of those stitches into straighter rows and columns, making the fabric surface a dream of sleek, vertical lines. the sheen of the lustrous romney fiber enhances the textured patterns in the fabric. the gold tones in the kelp shade that i chose to work with are especially sparkly in the sunshine.


a final try on wednesday after it was dry—it turned out exactly the way i wanted it to look and i love it.


meanwhile, barb has been speedily working through her bel air pullover in the daybreak shade of better breakfast fingering with custom moving mud buttons—and we both wore new sweaters to knit night last night.

well, i have lots more news about my next sweater project and a few other things, but i have to run to a meeting right now—catch you tomorrow, ok?

while we wait

Posted on 9 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing, projects, yarn and dyeing


it’s kind of like the night before christmas around here—the air is filled with that exciting, pre-event buzz.

david is putting the last touches on some graphics and photos, i’ve been swatching so i can start my next sweater adventure (more about that in a minute),


anastasia and lillian have been counting, labeling and organizing their little hearts out


and laura has her finger poised over the go buttons on a wave of posts and pins to get the party started.


we’re excited to finally serve you up a better breakfast in a buffet of yummy flavors, starting first thing monday morning. david and anastasia will open up and refill the listings throughout the day as she and lillian get more yarn counted, labeled, and up on the website.

we received about thirty to forty skeins in each shade (eight in all, this go-round: daybreak, milk and honeyporridgemueslibiscotti, mocha, warm coalsand americano) and each weight (DK and fingering) and all of them should be in the store by the end of the day.


i exerted executive privileges and secured a SQ of the muesli DK before the big grab begins, so that i could get a head start on my next sweater project. that’s right; i’m ready for a new one now (more on THAT in just a minute; SO many exciting things happening at once!).

before i launch into today’s knitting news, i promised laura and erica B that i would mention the sock knitting class that we have scheduled to begin on thursday, february 12 (scroll down to view the sock class information). this will be a fun and easy way to learn how to knit socks, beginning with a worsted weight baby sample sock (materials for this project are included). after the sample sock session, students will spend two more sessions working through a sock to fit themselves. this class would be a great way to try out one of our hardwearing, natural sock yarns!

ok now, which do you want to see first, my cam cable sweater progress or my swatches for the next sweater? oh well, i guess i’ll have to decide for you . . . hmmm. let’s go with the cam cable and finish up at the end with the new swatches.


that back piece i showed you a couple of days ago, when i was an inch or so in?? it’s done. i mean wow, did that knit up fast; i think the bulk of it was knit in three sessions, the last being this morning.


it was off the needles around noon and much as i wanted to block it right then, i also wanted to take advantage of the unusually warm weather to get out and run, so i left my pieces piled up on the pressing bench and tied on my running shoes before the sweater could get the best of me.


i have quite a bit of yarn (kent DK, color kelp) left from the four skeins i opened to knit this project—if i wasn’t working from scratch and knitting a bunch of swatches, i probably could have gotten away with three skeins (with my luck, i’d more likely still need to open a fourth for the last few yards).

having a sweater’s worth of finished pieces just at this time is rather fortuitous, since i’m in the midst of preparing for another craftsy class, which is all about the essentials of sweater knitting. in addition to asking for input from lots of newer knitters as well as experienced pals, i’ve taken notes at every stage of knitting this sweater to add to my curriculum.


i also promised the producer that i’d take photos wherever they would illustrate a concept well, such as how the pieces go together


or what we mean by opposing decreases.


and the concept of “keeping to the pattern” while shaping pieces (as luck would have it, this is a particularly good example because the cable is not symmetrical). they won’t necessarily use my photos, but they will be helpful for reference in creating illustrations and more professional photography.

anyway . . . enough of that chatter—i know what you’re lusting for right now. and i got your back; on with the blocking prøn!


no one—including me—ever thinks their finished sweater pieces look crappy. how could they after all the work you’ve done? many a knitter will swear that they love the depth and texture of the pieces just the way they are and are loathe to block out of fear that this gorgeous texture will flatten and disappear.


first of all, that’s just not true—they won’t. and secondly, that “texture” will be lumpy-bumpy and entirely lacking in drape on the body; to display it so actually does your work a great disservice.

and thirdly, as soon as the garment is washed for the first time, it will be blocked anyway; you may as well do it while you have some control over the process and the ability to make adjustments if you wish (but i know you won’t need to, because you did your due diligence in swatching before you got started and throughout your knitting, didn’t you?).

anyway, back to my cam cable sweater . . . after my run and a shower,  i beat a path up to my workroom and started pinning, schematic at hand to check measurements.


i started with that back piece, which pinned out beautifully to the expected size, yay. i didn’t have to overstretch or live with extra length or width i didn’t want. phew! always glad when that happens.


BTW, after that last row at the neck, i didn’t break my yarn; i thought i’d keep it attached and just start the neck pickup from that point, once i got the seams stitched.


once it was pinned out, i laid a wet towel over it and, using a hot iron, steamed that piece without pressing at all.


i don’t use ANY weight on the fabric at all; just touch the hot iron to the nap of the wet towel to create steam. this floods the fabric underneath with vapor that works a magical charm to smooth and relax the fiber, make the stitches swell and bloom, and bring a tidy consistency to the surface.


now, isn’t that a texture you want to stroke just a little . . . and aren’t those cables just dreamily swishy once they are opened up a bit?


ok, you tell me—which of these pieces would you rather drape on your beautiful bod and tell people you knit? that crumpled, misshapen thing or that smooth talker lying underneath?

now pinning out springy sweater pieces is kind of time consuming, but the good news is that with symmetrical sweaters, once you do one piece, its partner can be pinned out in less than half the time, right over the top of the first one.


so that’s what i did next, with my front piece.


from bottom to top it took just a few minutes. speaking of the front, you might have noticed that i’ve placed the stitches from both the front and the back necks on scrap yarn holders to be pick dup later for the standing collar—thus breaking my sacred rule of preferring a bound off edge to stabilize the neck.

what’s up with that??


the one time i think it’s ok to break this rule is when we have a cable running up through the collar. cables, by virtue of their very construction, are quite stable and inelastic—i feel pretty comfortable letting them stand in for seams or a bind off. plus, it’s a shame to interrupt the continuity of a handsome cable.


wow, the difference between the blocked body pieces (left) and the sleeves (right) is pretty convincing, isn’t it? imagine if you were here to touch and experience them side by side?


oh, right—you could try this at home and do a hands on comparison yourself. why, you could even invite a friend to share the joy.


the sleeves can be treated the same way—first pin and block one to size


then bring in its partner and pin that one right over the first one.


who would have thought when we started with this . . .

that we’d end up with this?


next i need to seam and add the collar—hopefully i’ll have all of that done by the next time you hear from me. i like seaming and finishing, so this shouldn’t be a problem.


i’ll be getting started as soon as i finish up this post and since i also have a two hour class tomorrow afternoon, i’ll probably get some done then, too. and then, it will be time to wash and wet block the whole sweater. i can’t WAIT for that because that’s when the last of the crispness in this yarn succumbs—the clean fiber plumps, blooms, and softens to become an entirely different fabric.


and while it’s soaking and washing and drying, i’ll already be on to my next project, because by then, i will have swatched and decided on needles and mapped out a basic construction plan for the next design. this time i’m working with the better breakfast DK, color muesli.


i just loved the way my natty cap turned out in the natural gray, so i’ve decided that my first sweater design in better breakfast should be a natty cardigan.

i took a break from my cam cable project last night to make some swatches.

i tried a size 6US (4.0 mm) needle first (above),

then a 5US (3.75 mm) (below)

i hope you can see the difference; it’s kind of subtle. in fact, the stitch and row gauge are nearly identical. however, the two fabrics are quite difference in their weight and substance, as well as the constancy of the surface. and i think the stitch definition benefits form being knit a bit tighter—in fact, i wonder if it should be even more so.

i’m actually going to knit one more swatch on the next size smaller needle, just to see if i like the texture better alpaca can sometimes use a little more built in structure.it’s possible that it will end up too dense; while i do want the stitch pattern to stand out, i don’t want a sweater that feels heavy or stiff. but i won’t know for sure until i exhaust all the possibilities. i do this work so that you won’t have to!

speaking of which, i should get on with that . . . we have a big week coming up—i need to gab some precious knitting time while time permits.