mixing it up

Posted on 16 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, designing, food and garden


did you know that knitspot turned ten years old this year? it’s been so fun, i can hardly believe a decade has passed—wow! i have so enjoyed getting to know and understand our readership—and one thing i’ve learned is that, while knitting might be your first passion, you enjoy your time in a variety of ways. also, that you are endlessly curious about how i spend mine and where i find inspiration.


how many times have i shown my most recent cooking project and you all responded back to tell me about your favorite version or to ask for my recipe? or, having asked where i can find a way to make gluten free, beet free borscht, you deluge me with possibilities (just kidding about needing that one, ok)?

you are the best, most interesting people i know and it has endeared you to me. and we are about to embark on a new adventure together, one that embraces several of our favorite pastimes, explores the process of inspiration, and celebrates the culmination of, well, knitting our lives to each other.


i’m talking about our upcoming pairings club, which gathers all of our loves in one package. pairing me, pairing you; pairing fiber, pairing food, pairing naturals and chromatics—we are gonna do it all.

the idea for this club really came from you—i know you like variety! in thinking about ways to introduce something new into our club offerings, i thought it would be fun to mix things up a bit—i hear you when you say you’d like to do a bare naked knitspot club again, but i also see that you love a dash of color in your knitting life. i hear you when you say “just give me a subscription to ALL your yarns” or “i don’t know here to begin!”—it can be daunting with so many tempting choices.


if you are curious about our bare naked wools yarns, the pairings club is the perfect way to sample them—we’ll be including four of our custom spun yarns, one in each shipment. to up the fun factor, we are pairing each BNW selection with a compatible hand dyed yarn from favorite color fiber artists. each shipment will include TWO yarns—one natural yarn and one hand dyed yarn to work some knitting magic (we’ll be including goodies too!). the contents of each shipment is a surprise, so it’s like getting a present in the mail just because—times four.


with yarn in hand, you’ll next discover what we’ll be knitting. soon after each package arrives, you’ll receive word that the eBook download is ready, with beautiful photos and pattern (often multiple patterns) for a project that takes advantage of working with two colors.


projects will vary in technique—could be stripey or worked in blocks of colors, could be slip-stitch, could be stranded color work—each will be different; you won’t get stuck with projects of just one type or ones that are overly fussy.


in the ebook—which is updated with each installment—i’ll share my inspirational process, talk about the fiber characteristics of the yarns as they relate to the project(s), and the steps that take me from there to a finished design. we take pains to provide tons of beautiful photography to support the project.


designs and yarns span a range of weights and accessory options in keeping with the time of year that they are introduced. skill level is generally intermediate; if we do tackle something more challenging, you will be supported by our renowned ravelry clubhouse group (more about that in a bit!)


now here is where we’re throwing in a new curve. to keep up the fun and energy between the bi-monthly shipments, we’re going to cook and eat together! you like food, don’t you??


think foods inspired by knitting in color—like peach pie with crumble topping, caprese salad, beans and wild greens, pasta with roasted tomatoes—vibrant flavors and colors that bring our fiber combinations to another level. the actual food course will be a surprise too, but be assured that they will be flexible and easily varied to suit your taste.


our recipes will take advantage of seasonal garden offerings and local specialty foods. in this effort i have enlisted the help of my dear friend, knitter and professional chef, katharine wainwright.


i recently spent a week at her lovely, vivacious home, where we prepped and cooked and photographed the days away in a flurry of club-centric preparations. we’ve come up with a four-course menu we think you’ll enjoy from start to finish, especially when you prepare it together with us.

we will peel, boil, and whip up some fun and good flavors; in the clubhouse, we’ll chat about how to work the recipes and create variations to suit your taste/diet.


which brings me back to our wonderfully hilarious, swinging’ knitspot clubhouse, led by the dynamic duo katJ and kim3, along with josée. these three amigas keep the club chatter lively and timely, with the focus on fun, fun, fun. i can’t say enough how many friendships have been forged and advanced knitters made with the love and help of our clubhouse support—it’s the besets; you should join us.


lest you think that we are all fun times and no foundation, let me introduce the behind the scenes heroes of the club—ericadavid, and lillian—who are working hard here at knitspot HQ to keep those packages coming, provide support as needed, and correct the rare mishaps that occur. we are all about each and every one of you having the best experience we can provide.

still have questions about how it all works?  for more in-depth details, see our club essentials page here or general club FAQs here (must be a rav member to use this link). and be sure to check out our clubhouse chat threads to get the skinny from our veterans if you’d like to ask questions before committing—they will happily fill you in.


as for me, i hope i’ve talked you into joining us—i sure hope you will! see you in july, yes?


don’t sweat it!

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, patterns, projects, spinning and fiber, yarn and dyeing

We know that the knitters and crocheters who love Bare Naked Wools love the simplicity of a great selection. Those who try our yarns know they aren’t being deprived of color, but instead are getting to try the truest form of a fiber for themselves. What better time than mid-summer to try a fiber that is one of the oldest in the world, but still new to many crafters? Hempshaugh, one of our favorite yarns from the Bare Naked Wools line, is a blend of 40% Merino, 30% Hemp, and 30% Silk. Since Anne shared her ongoing project in this great yarn, we’re here to help you start dreaming up projects of your own, too.


Hempshaugh comes in two weights—lace and fingering. Hemp is a strong fiber and is sometimes called bast (this just means it comes from plants). Longer than your typical wool, it blends beautifully with silk, but it can be tricky to blend with wool. Luckily, our mill knows exactly what to do with it, and Anne knows when she comes across the perfect mix. This yarn is lightweight, has great shine, and a beautiful hand that translates into warm weather garments you can actually wear.


Our Ensemble series is the perfect place to look for inspiration. From this year’s Spring collection, we have to recommend the beautiful Estlin pullover from designer Bristol Ivy (you can find the kit here!). Featuring delicate details like a two-toned yoke, short row shaping, and elbow-length sleeves, it’s easy to wear this piece long past summer ends—just in case you tend to knit at a leisurely pace.


Kit available here 

Living in deep summer heat? Don’t despair, when working with hemp, you can still wear your knits proudly. Anne was wearing Salt and Pepper from the Spring collection all weekend in Washington, D.C.—and the weather was well into the 90’s! Knit in Hempshaugh lace weight, this is the perfect traveling companion project. Wandering bodies (and minds) are a match made in heaven for stockinette stitch. The clean lines of this garment will assuredly match anything in your wardrobe, too. (Though, might we suggest you think about pairing it with the Amalfi Coast skirt? The look is just too chic!)

White jeans or shorts and the casual classiness of a knit polo (with a bit of feminine flair) are exactly what you find with our Janet Guthrie pattern. Designed by Anne, this top can be sporty or sweet, and in Hempshaugh Fingering, it’s decidedly cool. Even with all the delicate details, this pullover can be a speedy knit—with options to bypass the sleeves if you get impatient.


Make it in two colors for contrast stripes, or knit in a solid color like Millet if you want to go for a more shell-like sheen.


In Ensemble, we recommend substitute yarns from the Bare Naked Wools selection on every pattern, should you decide to go your own way. That said, with a great yarn like Hempshaugh in two weights, a few more months of summer stretching out before us, and needles itching to cast on, why would you?


Posted on 16 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, designing, food and garden


finished up the seaming on my illas cíes pullover on thursday night and snapped a couple of photos the next morning once i’d pressed those last seams (sorry about the hair; in my excitement, i didn’t do anything with it). you might be able to tell that it was still a little short at this point; i had purposely kept it that way because i know how much the hempshaugh yarn will gain in length, once it’s washed. it already feels really nice against my skin—nearly weightless, soft, and dry—just what i hope for in a summer sweater.


after clowning around a bit with the camera, i immersed it in a nice bath. as usual with our natural colored yarns, a hot sudsy soak is best to remove any remnants of spinning oil and allow the fibers to soften and bloom. hempshaugh is especially respondent to this treatment, as the hemp fiber tends to be slightly stiff until well soaked. while quite soft right out of the skein, it will become even more cuddly with every washing for a while—one of its most endearing qualities.


right out of the bath a couple of hours later, its shape has softened so much as to be a bit alarming. don’t be, no matter how bad it looks—with some brisk reshaping (see my craftsy class or my blocking DVD for technique), this fabric takes on a super smooth look in no time and will benefit from further reshaping as it dries. barb and i have also discussed the strategy of using VERY judicious amount of gentle machine drying (like ten minutes or so) to get the drying process started and we both agree that it can work, but you have to keep a strict eye on it and promise to employ at your own risk. you know what i’m going to say—try it with your swatch first!! (you did make swatches and keep them, didn’t you?)


i didn’t do that here—just laid mine flat this time to dry. i used a ruler and my schematic to push and pull all the parts of the sweater into the recommended measurements. the fabric tends to grow lengthwise and narrow a bit widthwise after soaking, but by tugging the side seams in opposite directions until the chest, waist, and hem were the right width, the length shortened accordingly. i reshaped those gangly sleeves the same way, by pulling horizontally along their lengths and they shortened to the right length. the hemp fabric dries really fast in my experience, so i checked back every hour or so to pick up the garment, fluff it, and reshape—especially toward the end when moisture evaporates more quickly.


i couldn’t be happier with the results; the fabric is soft and dry but still has plenty of body and i don’t feel it will stretch out over time. i wore it with a t-shirt and linen shorts, but i gotta tell you, wearing it makes me want some hemp shorts more than ever. gotta get those on the needles next.


emily and i took it along with another item for a photo shoot at a nearby lake yesterday; it was hot and humid, but both of us were wearing garments knit in hempshaugh fingering and neither of us even broke  a sweat.


you might think that with all that softening in the fabric, i’d lose the stitch definition, but you couldn’t be more wrong—the heavy embossing in this stitch pattern is crisp and clear—maybe even better for being cleaned.


the length is perfect now—just to the top of my pockets, about an inch longer than when it was just OTN. i am 100 percent satisfied with this sweater; i feel lucky to be able to say it. you know what i mean—even when VERY satisfied, there is often a thing or two you want to change “next time”. but this time, not; i am completely happy and i know i will wear this piece a lot. and didn’t emily do a great job photographing it?

i’ve taken my time getting started on my shorts as i needed to work through my strategy for construction. while i knitted my other projects these last couple of weeks, i’ve been going back and forth about whether to knit them in the round, or in pieces. pieces appeal to me more because i can add stability with seams, but working in the round will make it easier to do the waist casing and the leg hems that i desire, as well as work the bifurcated architecture. decisions, decisions . . . i’ve got to make them soon.

with the pullover and the club surprise off the needles (oh yeah, i finished that too on thursday night!), i am turning my focus to a couple of sweaters i have underway for the winter ensemble as well as the next secret project.


i’ve got one sleeve done on this twill stitch pullover that i’m knitting in kent DK; i’m knitting several sizes larger than usual, so i’m feeling those extra stitches and inches. i’ve got to step up my pace if i’m going to get through all the designs i have planned. i need to decide on a cable for the side seams and have been dawdling a bit over that.


the plan is for a classic pullover/cardigan with overall subtle texture and cable detailing. currently it’s slated to have cables around the armholes and down the front of the cardigan as well. so it can’t be a huge cable—in fact, it will need to be rather petite so as to fit into the smaller sizes reasonably.


years ago i knit a sweater for myself with the same overall stitch pattern and used this cable on all the seams. it’s perfect for this style, but i think it might be too wide for the new design . . . and possibly too subtle for the kent DK. i’ll be doing that research today, as soon as i wrap up this post.

my ensemble submissions includes a skirt that can be worn with this cardigan to make a modern day suit—won’t that be adorable? if i had to wear a suit to work, that’s the kind i’d want.


a couple of weeks ago, while erica and i were at TNNA in DC, we met with author hannah thiessen, who is writing a book about wool and knitting that includes our yarns. over the next couple of days we got to talking with her in depth about her work in the knitting world (hannah has been managing projects and promotion for a variety of companies in our industry) and before long we all hatched a plan to bring her into our company to help out in that area as we go through some necessary updating of our site, our look, and our marketing efforts.

we feel hannah is a terrific fit for us and we want you to love her too! she’s smart, funny, organized, and super excited to work with all of us. you’ll be seeing her in our ravelry groups (she’s hannahbelle) and as a contributor to the blog; i know you will make her feel welcome and included. remember she is here to help make your knitspot experience as wonderful as possible; she, like us, values your feedback and participation, so don’t be shy.

and that’s pretty much all i have for today—it’s much too lovely outside to linger; i need to eat some lunch, look at some cables, and after that, we are going for a nice, long, bike ride in the country.


fortunately, a fresh, healthy meal is growing right outside the back door—earlier, i spent five minutes picking a bowl of baby greens to have at the ready for just this time of day. we tried some new ones this year that are delicious—mibuna greens (for a bit of spice), yukina (tat soi) greens (hearty and delicious), and crunchy vitamin greens, with baby chard also in the mix. i can’t help but look forward to lunch. i’m trying to keep healthy and eat right because i’ve been noticing that my legs are pretty tired after running and biking lately.


ok, now i’m really going . . see you later!

shouldering on

Posted on 11 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden


nothing says summer like pie and with the advent of berry season—and fortunately, also biking prime season—it’s game on. on sunday i took a little time in the afternoon to bake one of my favorites—strawberry rhubarb.


i had more filling that i needed for the pie and a mess of ripening peaches as well, so i also baked a dish of fruit crisp with a jewel-tone filling. mmm. of course the two of us can’t eat two big plates of dessert in one week, so the pie went into the freezer for now. i’m sure we’ll be able to share it soon with friends.


slowly, slowly (or so it seems to me), i am approaching a completed illas cíes pullover in our hempshaugh fingering yarn, color buckwheat. because i am also trying to finish a surprise extra project to end our IMMERSION club, i am only allowing myself to work on the pullover as a treat at the very end of my day, late at night while we watch TV. haha, which means i often fall asleep over it.

but i managed to sew the sleeve caps into the armscyes over the last two nights and wanted to point out that if at first, your sleeve seams look like the one on the right there, it’s totally not you. it is completely normal for them to become quite distorted from the kind of handling they must take during the seaming process.


fortunately, there is a fix—ham to the rescue (see the left seam as proof!). a tailor’s ham, that is. you might have seen one of these in your grandma’s sewing room or you might even have one that you inherited somehow, but never knew what purpose it served. you might even know what it is and have used one before!


if not, you are missing out on one of the best aids for coercing your hand knits into a final, polished appearance.  let me now expound on the wonders of this magnificent tool. first, note the shape—it’s ham-like oblong form is comprised of every possible curve that might be used in a garment. it makes the perfect form for pressing and steaming curved seams or for molding wool into shapes that conform to the human body.


take that sleeve cap seam for instance; it’s a real mother to press, isn’t it, made up as it is from a series of opposing curves? if you get one part to lie flat than another part doesn’t and just when you think you’ve got it all right, you’ve gone and pressed in a nice crease where it’s supposed to tuck smoothly under the arm, unnoticed.

but with a tailor’s ham, you can lay that seam right over its form and steam in a smooth, crease-free final shape. nice. (for an even more in-depth discussion of the tailor’s ham and shoulder seams, see this post from 2012)


but look what a difference it makes to give that shoulder area the right treatment—WOW. so worth the effort (what tasks in fine finishing aren’t?).


when you consider that this seam is smack at eye level of whomever you might be taking to when you wear it, it is very worth investing in. we might not worry as much about dressing for success in our industry, but a little polish for any look goes a long way.

BTW, there are lots more terrific finishing tricks and tips in this DVD or this craftsy class. almost as good as having me there to harangue you in person.


with my shoulder seams complete, it was time to move on to seaming up the underarm and side seams. i worked on this at knit night this evening while chatting with barb (she is also currently knitting the same sweater, but in briar rose sea pearl for chris to use as a booth sample).

i got one side done and that leaves just one longish seam between me and a finished summer pullover. well, and a nice soak in a hot, soapy bath to make it über-soft and wearable. i am SO going to pack this for my trip to alaska in july, where i will be teaching on a knitting cruise.

i am so excited about this trip; i’ve never been to alaska, nor have i been on a cruise. i am doubly thrilled that our nephew amad, who will be visiting from switzerland in july, is going to join me on the trip. not only that, it will be his birthday week, so we plan to make the most of a wonderful chance to discover the unknown together. if you have some great alaska experiences or good advice to share, please leave a comment (i’m a little curious about what temperatures will be like).


another reason my knitting has been slow this week is that i’m getting used to incorporating the garden harvest into our daily routine.


we are currently dealing with an explosion of greens (much anticipated). this year we tried some new items—emiko cabbage, vitamin greens, mibuno greens, and kuniko greens. all delicious—i highly recommend them.


on monday, my friend mark came over to take some off my hands and while he was picking, i also hauled in a couple of big basketfulls.


half of them became this gorgeous stir fry with mushrooms, eggplant, carrots, and tofu. david cooked the other half this evening in his famous curry tofu pasta. (i know, but it is aMAZingly delicious, trust me).

and here’s the thing—we are not even nearly caught up; today i picked a HUGE bag for lillian to take home and asked the neighbors to please come and take some too. and still didn’t make a dent. i think i might have to start freezing some this weekend.

because even if i did feel a little caught up . . .


there’s a monster afoot right around the corner. it’s c-o-o-ming.