moving right along . . .

Posted on 13 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden, lace/shawls


is there any more cheerful sight on a spring day than these bright pink cherry blossoms against a blue, blue sky? i photographed these on my last morning in brooklyn, while running in the park.

along with these pretties . . .


at home, we were behind NYC by about a week and though there were buds on everything, the weather has caused them to hit the pause button. all week long we saw forty-degree shifts from one day to the next, from mid-seventies one day to mid-thirties the next; the poor flowers couldn’t decide which way to call it, haha. safer to stay shut.


today though, they are tentatively opening up to face the sun. yay. to celebrate, we’ve got a spring fling free shipping offer for you in our online shop; just a few hours left to take advantage of this deal.


thank you so much for your very nice compliments on my new pullover design, illas cíes, which will be included in the spring ensemble collection we are rolling out at the end of april.


all washed and blocked now and it feels like a dream—soft, light, and with a lovely drape over the body’s curves in ginny sport and it took only two and half skeins for size small. on me, it’s a little looser and easy-fit than it is on my dress form, which is more well-endowed than i, haha. but it would also be super-cute as a tighter fitting pullover, i think.


the sleeve is a feature of its own and provides interest from any angle. the design is named for an archipelago off the coast of galicia, spain, the islands of which make up a protected natural area with wildly curvy coastline exposures.


the cardigan/dress/vest version of this design (which barb is knitting now) will be named costa figueira, for an especially curvy portion that is heavily populated by fig trees. you can see in this photo that the terrain even looks like a platter of plump figs!


here, i pinned the sleeve aside so that you can see how the sweater hem slopes from front to back, adding to the feel of a comfy “boyfriend” fit; i’ll be throwing this on over t-shirts with long shorts and chinos, my summer uniform. the longer back is completely optional, of course, if you prefer a dressier look. you could also wear this much shorter, so that it just skims the top of your jeans in front—make it your own.

as soon as my knitting time is freed up, i’m going to be making one of these in our hempshaugh fingering yarn, which according to my swatches, should knit to the same gauge as the ginny sport (though i might need to go down a needle size, TBD). i just have to decide between the buckwheat and kasha shades. i am SO on the fence.


no sooner was that sweater sewn up and soaking in a bath then i was on to my next sample—my zig zag skirt, which i’m naming for the amalfi coast (hmm, may we DO need to take a vacation). i’m knitting this one in all shades of our hempshaugh fingering yarn, which is light, cool, and airy—just the thing for those really hot sticky july days. i like to wear that kind of skirt instead of shorts when i have to go out.


first, the swatches. i am modeling this design on an older skirt i made about eight years ago which i wear a lot in summer. the original was knit in a cotton/silk blend, very similar in character to our hempshaugh (AKA, the hemp), though ours is softer and lighter.


the hemp can be knit on a variety of needle sizes, depending on what sort of fabric you are looking to achieve. for lace, you can go all the way up to 5.0 mm or even 5.5 mm. on the bigger needle sizes (top, size 5.0 mm/US8), the 2-ply yarn is going to show its character by getting a bit wobbly; not a problem if you are stretching lace, but might not be ideal for garments, where you a fabric that holds a true center line and keeps its shape on its own (bottom, size 4.0 mm/US6).


when we zoom in a bit, you can see even better how the tighter fabric (far right) is much more consistent. and there is little sacrifice in terms of lightness; it’s still airy and fluid enough to fall into nice folds. i don’t care for skirts or trousers that feel weighty or like they are dragging on my hips, so that’s an important feature for me.


i actually cast on at the waist just before leaving brooklyn on the off chance that i might get stuck in a storm somewhere on the way home and need some extra knitting.


ok, i’ll admit that the flight went off without a hitch, but i did have a four hour layover in atlanta and let me tell you, i am glad i had my knitting. any longer and that skirt would have definitely seen some airtime.

as it turned out, it is just the kind of knitting that i can leave within reach of wherever i am in the house, to pick up and work on as time allows. company meeting? pick up and knit a few rounds. cooking dinner? pick up and knit while the pasta pot boils. haircut? knit a few rounds while i wait.


with all that stockinette in the upper skirt, it is brainless knitting to say the least—just an increase row every now and then to remember. this photo was taken on tuesday, a day or two after i got serious about it.


before i knew it, i was on the openwork—only slightly more complex but feels far faster because it’s also more interesting. i skipped a day or two to seam my illas cíes and work on my shawl pattern, but by friday morning there was progress from the night before. and from here i was very monogamous—at least for the weekend.


i stayed up late friday to knit and then first thing saturday morning, i was back on it i’m working mine in stripes as in the original, but cherie is neck and neck with me on a solid version for photography.

stopped here because i teach a class on saturday morning, but when i got over to the shop and sat with erica for a while, we both realized we forgot that there was no class yesterday. DUH. back i scurried to my skirt knitting—never waste found knitting time.


i admit that i was obsessed yesterday with finishing it; i didn’t get up off of that sofa til it was done. i’m only a little ashamed that i stayed inside knitting for hours on such a fine day, instead of joining david for an evening bike ride; hopefully the exercise and weather gods will understand and not rain down wrath on me for wasting it.


it was off the needles before he even got back and long before dark. i decided to wait til today to block it, since i still had to knit the i-cord drawstring.

the difference between the unwashed gauge and the washed gauge of this fabric means that the final results seem very uncertain until i can see them with my own eyes. much as i loved the way it looked, i thought i was in trouble with the size—it seemed awfully narrow through the upper skirt to me and indeed, it measured several inches too small at the hip.

but i believe in my system of heavy swatching and have had good results so far with it, so last night i drowned myself in my next project (and maybe a little chocolate) and tried not to think about it til i had soaked it.


it’s drying now. and it’s not only the correct size but there is plenty of wiggle room, too; i can’t wait to try it on. now this fabric (hempshaugh fingering yarn) just LOVES to be picked up, shaken, tugged in both directions, and then reshaped to make the final fabric look its best (which also hastens the drying time). i’ve been giving mine a toss every hour or so, which seems good.

if you lay it down very carefully while wet and leave it undisturbed it will look about as good as a wrung out dishrag. so don’t be shy—have at it. the lace edge doesn’t need pinning; it will scallop very nicely on its own or with a few tugs (and you don’t want to fuss with that anyway, right?). alternatively, i bet you could throw this in the dryer for about ten minutes to get things started or at the very end to bring back the yarn’s loft—with so little wool content, a few minutes probably won’t hurt it. i meant to try it will this skirt but i guess now i’ll wait til after we photograph it.


interspersed with the skirt knitting, i’ve been working on a shawl project with this incredible shade of turquoise nona, from spirit trial fiberworks. this is jen’s corfu colorway—it’s the sea in my hands, haha.


this complex shawl project has been growing slowly since before i left for NYC. the knitting itself is not difficult—it’s the pattern and charting that’s kicking my butt all over the place. i have to chart a bit, then knit a bit, often knitting right at the computer so i can correct as i go.


by the time i got home i had solved the first hurdle and moved on to the next, much bigger one—which is that the shaping is not any of the usual types that i rely on, but more embedded in the motifs themselves, so tricker to work out (and thus, more ripping and redoing).


by thursday morning some larger forms were beginning to emerge from the mesh background—don’t ask me how many times i had to restart this particular segue, but suffice it to say the i used my lifeline several times.

my aim is to create a composition on a mesh background that appears to have layer upon layer of large flower and leaf shapes exploding out from previous sections.


by thursday night i had gotten through the first layer of bigger leaves and felt like i understood much better how the shaping should be worked into the motifs. i’ve actually made a lot of progress just getting over that hump! and don’t get me wrong; i enjoy this, haha. i wouldn’t set such challenges for myself if i didn’t.

the knitting is seriously so much faster than the charting; i’m halfway through the next big section and looking forward to finishing that after i write this. it will be wonderful to knit through what i’ve put on paper to see if it works.

i’m thinking that i might have to knit the BNW sample myself just to be sure i’ve got it right; i don’t know if i want a test knitter to have to knit it until after i’m sure (i like being able to make corrections as soon as i see an issue, not matter what time of night it its, hee-hee).

so that’s my project in progress at the moment—what’s next?


wee-eelll, i’ve had this design in my head for a while that i had hoped to squeeze into the spring collection. it was on the boards as definite, but then when i came back form NYC i wasn’t sure it would get done. and now that i finished a sweater, a skirt, and my shawl is nearly under control, i’m kind of feeling like i might be able to manage it.


i won’t say too much more about it now except that i love this chevron motif from my trevi shawl design—i always like a nice, abstract pattern without narrative like this ancient zigzag motif. it’s perfect for what i have in mind, having a lot of open area and some shadowing between repeats.


my swatches tell me that the stockinette gauge and the openwork gauge are quite different from each other, however, and my project has a mix of both so i have to think about how i’m going to handle that and if i can make it work throughout the piece. i can let that perk a bit at the back of my mind while i work on my shawl pattern some more.

next time i’ll update you on how that all shook out and hopefully, i’ll have a better photo of the shawl as well, so you can see what the heck i’ve been babbling about.

now i need to go off and order my garden seeds; david has spent the afternoon outside getting the beds ready, so it’s time!

R2: p1, [k1, p4] repeat to last s1, p1

Posted on 13 CommentsPosted in food and garden, lace/shawls, projects



Charts or Written Instructions, have yet to make a definitive decision. Upon beginning the Blanket Statement Club I was rather hesitate to make use of charts, a seemingly unfathomable, if not daunting proposition. This opposed to written instructions, of which began simple enough, i.e.: R2: p1, [k1, p4] repeat to last s1, p1. Yes simple indeed, not a lot of space for ambiguity, concise and rather straight forward, just the way I like it, offering an easily remembered refrain. Of course written instructions can imbue a certain clumsiness with more intricate patterns, negating any semblance or hope of remembering a complicated series of stitches. This is where charts truly shine, particularly with a more complex pattern. The chart  can be partitioned/dividend/marked up in any manner of ways that will allow for easier reading at a glance. In the photo above, rows are divided in groupings of 4 stitches, a quick look allows me to know what to knit (Anne’s idea actually). But then there is this business of working on the wrong side, even numbered row from left to right and doing the opposite for the right side. It has taken some time to get my mind right and follow this logic and to keep it in the foreground as not to forget to do what when. Presently gravitating toward charts for the moment, can really appreciate their use, especially for larger and more complicated patterns. Have not done anything to challenge my current beginners aptitude, perhaps a sign to try something a bit more complex.


Just brought a new pair of cycling shoes. Finally an opportunity to replace a pair that I have been wearing for the last 15 years or so, the buckles are/have began to fail. Cost of replacements buckles are a bit obscene, although would have liked to replace the buckles and continue wearing. Wonder if such longevity is do to not riding enough miles, probably not, but more likely because you are not actually walking in them. In general bicycle clothing and shoes are quite an extraordinary value, all things considered, still wearing bib shorts and jerseys that are 15 years plus. Liking the black and white combination, appealing to my fashion sensibilities opposed to tech specs (albeit very good, carbon soles, make for a rather rigid shoe). Paul Smith (menswear designer) offered a similar dress shoe combination some years back, same color but slightly different styles, I like this concept. Reminds me of Anne’s Double Happiness pattern, two wonderful motifs on each side of the shawl.


Nearly time to turn my attention to the garden, last fall we had 20 or 30 yards of compost delivered. Unfortunately there was no way of having the compost dumbed directly into the garden area, necessitating me to move it myself, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow. Now I get to move it again, yay (not so much), half will go in beds around the house and rest will remain in vegetable garden. Planning on digging up all previous mounds in vegetable garden, mixing in compost and creating new mounds. Affording an opportunity to either sow plants in same positions as last year or rotate, a tremendous amount of effort, but nice to have options.




Photos really do not capture the grandeur of compost mass, they were higher, but have settled. Landscape fabric did do a fair bit to control weeds, will likely use again, also would love to install some drip irrigation this year.


Renovation has slowed as the cold weather continues to prevent me from moving desk upstairs, reluctant to run furnace during the day. May be a while before I can get back to demolition of remaining third of room. Cleaning of old plaster continues, note the contrast between cleaned plaster.  Also have started to remove old baseboard, considerable termite damage, will not be able to salvage wood after all . Fortunately damage does not extend to floor and appears to have happened some time ago, as there are no present signs of termite activity.

If  anyone is interested in traditional plaster finish/top coat, let me know and I will be happy to share my techniques here.



swatcha doin’?

Posted on 18 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, lace/shawls, projects


even though i left home with a good-sized bag of swatches, i didn’t have nearly enough to guide the precise work of pattern writing, so i had more research to conduct during my work retreat. i am nothing if not a process person—i revel in this aspect of my work.


after completing janet guthrie, my next goal was to write up three patterns that i had test knitters waiting on. barb especially was waiting for one and i don’t like to keep her unoccupied for long, haha.


this next design was actually inspired by barb and cynthia, who mentioned a couple of times that a dress-length, sleeveless ivar would make an excellent jumper. i loved that idea, but had to let it stew for a while; i thought maybe it would be a good idea to change out the stitch pattern and reshape the body a bit for that application.


then in the fall when barb and i were examining samples in our shop and discussing how knitters are so universally drawn to certain motifs, i had a brainstorm—wouldn’t the motif from the curling cowl and mitts be a good choice for the dressy ivar? it’s such a favorite and one of our best sellers. she quickly agreed and i set to work on swatches.

this design is really going to work well for fall and winter, so choosing the stone soup fingering yarn (as i did for ivar) was a no brainer—it’s light, warm, and tweedy, perfect for this look. but for spring and summer, i wanted to see if one of our hemp or cotton blends would also work.


i first swatched with hempshaugh fingering (front) and ginny sport (back)—gorgeous, but not even in the same gauge ballpark as the stone soup fingering.

by the way, one of the topics covered in my new craftsy class, improve your knitting, is how to measure the gauge of patterns with moving sts or special textures. getting a beat on where the motif begins and ends or how much a fabric should be stretched to get gauge can be tricky . . .


so next i tried the hempshaugh lace, which i had knit in garments using needles similar to the size i used for the stone soup fingering. compared to the fingering weight (top), the lace (bottom) knits almost to the same gauge, but the fabric is much more delicate and fluid.


on 4.0 mm needles (bottom), i almost got a gauge that compares well with the stone soup, but the fabric was very liquid; i wanted a little more body. the next size down was better, but i still worried that in a longer garment, it might be a little unstable. two sizes smaller, i hit gauge very nicely and had a fabric i liked (top). again with this yarn as with the cotton blend, the difference between prewashed and postwashed gauge was considerable and the change in drape even more drastic.

it really pays for me to swatch a lot; not only do i get the precise numbers i need but i feel much more confident that my choices will work. since i wasn’t going to be knitting the prototype of this design myself, i was even more obsessive about it; i don’t want the test knitters to be worrying over whether the fabric is right—they need to focus on whether the instructions are right!

with those decisions made then, i got to work on redesigning the ivar into a jumper/vest as a pullover or cardigan (and yes, it will have a sleeve option, too)—something for everybody. even though we have a fully sized pattern in the correct gauge, the process of adding body shaping and a skirt to it was grueling and took the better part o f two days. but by friday night i had something to send to barb and kristi, who are knitting the sample garments. i also sent it to our tech editor tana so every number i wrote would be double checked by an expert.


with that all done, i got to work on a simple, “little nothing” scarf/stole in our lace weight mohair yarns, chebris and cabécou. we haven’t done one of these in a while and i thought a nice wide scarf for spring would be a great addition to the collection.


i had my eye on a simple but elegant stitch pattern—fun to knit in that way that makes you want to work just a few more rows to finish up the repeat before bed/work/dinner/cleaning. you know the kind . . .


a bath and a few pins turned caterpillars to butterflies and points out the obvious necessity for swatching—growth. how, as the designer, could i possibly predict an accurate stitch count without seeing the final fabric?

the other thing is that i just want to know that the yarn is right for the motif. i assumed that the cabécou was a hands-down winner, but after swatching, i really loved the pattern in the chebris lace—maybe even more; it surprised me by being lighter than air and soft as a feather. and erica agreed from the photos i sent. but as the swatches get handled, i’m growing more and more fond of the cabécou after all—i love them both and so we shall knit the piece in both. jeanna is working on the stole right now in chebris and we’ll find someone to knit the smaller scarf in the finer lace.


the motif is also luscious in the heavier ginny DK—just so cuddly! i’m sure we’ll knit a sample in this as well to bring forward into the january collection.

one of the goals of ensemble is to encourage the knitting of pieces that endure—ones that will work with your wardrobe not just in one season, but for many. so you will see as we progress and build it, that we’ll show pieces from previous seasons alongside and layered with new ones. i’m really excited about this concept and we’ve already got looks planned for both spring and next fall/winter that take advantage of the idea.


i still needed to write the skirt pattern, but i also needed to get started on my own next knit so i could write up THAT pattern afterward. going back to the swatches for the ivaresque jumper/vest, i was so taken with the translation of the motif in the fingering weight yarn that i decided we could use a second design that took advantage of its slightly bolder size and was configured a bit differently.


i would work again with the ginny sport, this time in the georgia shade—it’s sooooo . . . . sexy. i thought this would be wonderful as an easy, boyfriend pullover with a v-neck and a boxy fit to throw on at the beach or over a t-shirt on a cool night. knit on size 6 needles, the cotton blend is airy and floaty, but has body to support itself nicely.


my crash course in knitting this yarn had barely begun when i put the first sleeve on the needles and when i blocked it out alongside janet guthrie, i found i had overcompensated on estimating the growth of the sts (believe me, i learned a LOT about knitting with our plant based yarns in the last month!). anyway, pretty as it was, it turned out a bit too narrow. i could stretch it to the size i wanted, but then density of the fabric suffered in a way i didn’t like. also, i wasn’t as happy with the hem as i’d hoped, so i was game to reknit this. one sleeve as a sacrificial lamb for the sake of a whole sweater? i’m ok with that as the designer—as long as it means the pattern gauge will be right when YOU knit it.


i quickly made up for lost time by knitting the whole front the following day. it just flew off the needles, believe me—i had no expectation of finishing it so fast but there you have it. it also felt good to be making something after spending a lot of time on test squares; it’s good to be diligent in research, but nice to feel productive too.


i even blocked it to be sure i was on the right track. it was perfect and i love it; i have a feeling i’m going to be living in this sweater once it’s seamed together (and then again in the fall). it’s a simple design, with the pattern running straight up the middle. to keep things in scale across the whole size range, i also used the pattern on the sleeve—it will add interest at the outer edges as well as a sexy, summery detail to an otherwise androgynous style.


well i couldn’t resist getting the back started right away—can you blame me? i decided on the fly (since i hadn’t committed to a written pattern yet) to add some optional short row shaping to the back; i thought a little extra length would be cute and just the touch that sets this basic sweater apart (aside from that addictive stitch pattern, of course).


as i mentioned, i still had a skirt pattern to write and another, more complex shawl in the works, so i stretched out the knitting of the back over the next few days, alternating it with some lace shawl knitting. i was binding off the back neck sts while waiting for my car to the airport the other day, so i did complete it before heading home.


i thought ahead though and also cast on for a sleeve, because this design is a great travel knitting project. the sleeve would be my plane knitting and was as enjoyable and quick as could be; in addition to finishing off janet guthrie on friday morning, i also knit the sleeve cap and bound off.


i’m skipping ahead a bit on the timeline just to say that i had three pieces finished by friday and had cast on for the second sleeve. i’m really gunning to get this done as fast as possible because right now we are having the perfect weather to wear it; i don’t want to have to wait for fall. it will be simple to stitch together and just needs a bit of neck ribbing to finish.


and for the summer, i am totally knitting one of these in the hemp fingering—i know i’m going to want a light pullover that doesn’t stick to the skin at ALL and for me, hempshaugh is just the ticket.


by sunday morning, all of my pieces were complete and i treated the unblocked ones to a nice hot soak in soapy water, then pinned them out to dry.


amazing isn’t it, what a difference blocking will make? i never get tired of it—so worth taking this step; the pieces are much much easier to work with after a bath or steam blocking.


yesterday morning i added the neck trim before starting my day—all that’s left now is to seam in the sleeve caps and sew up the underarms and sides. i’l be sure to share the results in my next post—i’d have it done already but have been trying to give equal time to my shawl pattern and skirt knitting.

next time i’ll tell you all about those—this time i’m mixing it up a bit!

It’s Back

Posted on 8 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, patterns, projects, spinning and fiber, yarn and dyeing

Hi, again! I had to drop by and show you some more tempting new things…..

For those of you that missed out on the spinning fiber last month, we have some more!

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This time around we have one of our very special plant fibers as a roving option. This super shiny and silky soft fiber is Hempshaugh Buckwheat. Hemp is usually a rough plant fiber, so many spinners haven’t used it, but this is a soft and unique blend that will make for an excellent project!

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The other fibers are Better Breakfast (65/35 Merino/Alpaca). This dark, stormy grey is a rich color that will complement many outfits and skin tones.

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This creamy white is a soft and luscious color. It has some slight variations in shade that lend a lot of character and charm to the roving.

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You all seemed smitten with the Chebris Multi last month, so we had our brilliant millers create a similar fiber blend in Better Breakfast. This unique mix is similar to our muesli with a stunning blend of grey and brown. It is the perfect shade for a sweater or accessory as it pairs beautifully with most neutrals.

Now, for the yarn! I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to use the fluffy and cozy new Better Breakfast Worsted to make a blanket wrap for my sister. I could not decide which of those shades to use, so I grabbed a couple skeins of each and decided on some stripes.



I am knitting Hypoteneuse. I highly recommend this pattern if you’re like me and haul your knitting everywhere! I knit in the car, in class, at the laundromat, restaurants, waiting rooms, and everywhere else. I had this pattern memorized three rows into the motif and it goes so quickly. I am knitting a half to a full stripe a day, depending on my homework demands.



My kitty, CC, loves to cuddle under it while I knit. She is an adult, but will never get bigger than a kitten due to a genetic disorder. She is a great knitting buddy and loves anything Alpaca!

More to tempt you…



Biscotti on the top and Muesli on the bottom. The biscotti is a little different from the fingering and DK shade as it was blended with brown alpaca and light merino as opposed to brown merino and light alpaca.

When I saw the two new shades in Worsted, I was planning my next project. I love the way this yarn is working up as a blanket or wrap, but I want to do a cabled hat like Woodcutters Toque or Gobi  with the new shades.

What would you knit with the new Worsted, and which fiber was your favorite this month?