Blog

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

2017 — and not a moment too soon

What a strange, exhausting, emotional and dark year 2016 was for me — and apparently, for many of you. For me, the year was marked by waves of optimism that ended up mostly crashed on the rocks of reality. (How’s that for a metaphor?) I won’t bore you with the crap I had going on in my personal life; I’d rather try to move forward. With so much upheaval, with the grim outlook presented by our political system, with the number of deaths and illnesses and mayhem in the world, I’ve given in to viewing 2016 as a nightmare best not remembered.

But I know that life isn’t really all one thing or another, and so today I’m going to deliberately think about the best parts of the past year:

My beautiful children, moving forward with their lives in good health: James finishing his first semester at college (and doing well — coughcoughAllAscoughcough) while the twins started their freshman year in high school (and are also doing a tremendous job).

Boris and Charcoal, still fluffy and sweet and loving, and also in good health.

Deep and meaningful friendships that enhance my life and give me laughter, hope, and encouragement.

Learning and growing in my not-so-new job, and enjoying the friendships I’m making with my coworkers, in particular my wonderful lunchtime knitting circle.

Publishing two (!) books and many articles and even a couple of designs, all of which I am very proud — along with our first-ever knitting retreat.

Still blessed by my mom’s presence in my life — how precious that is!

Finding pleasure in books and yarn and other hobbies.

We will all face major challenges in our personal lives and in our country in the coming year. I wish I had some kind of magical wisdom to help us all face those challenges. I wish I knew what to say to give us all some reassurance that 2017 won’t suck even more than 2016, and that we’ll all be okay. When I had baby twins and an active four-year-old running around, people would often ask “How do you do it?” And I would say “I do it because I have no choice.” It’s not as grim an answer as it sounds. It reminds me that I am strong and a survivor. I can face obstacles and heartaches and challenges and somehow muddle through. If you’re reading this, then you’re a survivor, too. Let’s muddle through this next year together, finding joy everywhere we can.


Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Blissful Balls

One of the best things about my job is my crew of knitting coworkers. We meet in the cafeteria at lunchtime, as often as we can, to knit together. It’s wonderful to have a break in the day and to think about things entirely unrelated to work, and I never fail to be inspired by the beautiful items my friends are working on.

One of my lunchtime crew is an accomplished quilter as well as knitter, and she showed me her newest creation: downloadable PDF patterns showing how to make these lovely ornaments:

bliss-4

These darling ornaments are inspired by quilt patterns, like the beloved nine-patch:

bliss-9-patch

I love the red and white color scheme — very sharp! — but I can also imagine these in all sorts of wonderful color combinations. Or making some red and white, some green and white, some gold and white, and so on to go on a wildly colorful tree. The pattern instructions include some photographs of different color schemes to get your creativity flowing.

bliss-5

The balls are made with small amounts of fabric and foam balls, and the instructions show, step by step, exactly how to make the ornament. There are lots of photographs to accompany each step, making it easy to follow along. (Because you need to use sharp tools, this is really an adult project rather than one for the kids.)

bliss-3

You can download one of these wonderful PDF patterns at Jane’s website here or if you prefer, on Etsy. Have fun!

All photos and designs copyright 2016 by Red Studio 51; photographs used with permission.


Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Book look: Indispensable Stitch Collection for Crocheters by Melissa Leapman

I have been a huge fan of Melissa Leapman for a long time.

leapman-books

(See? Trufax.)

In the interests of full disclosure, I have also had the great fortune of getting to know Melissa as a friend. (Sometimes I still get all fan-girl, and think “OMG! Melissa Leapman likes me!!!!”)

I felt extra-lucky, then, when a review copy of Melissa’s latest book appeared in my mailbox.

Called Melissa Leapman’s Indispensable Stitch Collection for Crocheters (Quarto Publishing 2016; available for $16.14 at the time of this post), this book is exactly what it professes to be: a clear and exceedingly useful book full of wonderful crochet stitch patterns.

leapman-cover

The book begins with a helpful introduction explaining how to use a stitch dictionary, how to swap stitches into existing patterns you own, tips on designing, and how to add shaping to a stitch pattern. Then you’ll find the 200 stitch patterns, organized into the following sections:

    • allover stitches
    • stitches with shells and fans
    • openwork and lace stitch patterns
    • textured patterns
    • colorwork
    • edgings.

The book concludes with a section showing techniques, abbreviations and how to decipher international symbols used in crochet patterns.

leapman-st-patt-3

What is so special about this book?

  1. Close-up, clear photographs of each stitch pattern (worked in Cascade 220, the perfect smooth worsted yarn with excellent stitch definition).
  2. Each stitch pattern is included written out in words for the verbal crafter, and shown in chart form for visual crafters.
  3. Reversible stitch patterns are marked with a special symbol.
  4. You’ll find stitch patterns that are original, making this especially valuable since there’s less overlap with the stitch dictionaries you may already own.
  5. There are a lot of texture and colorwork patterns, a type of crochet that seems (at least to my eye) to be used less in patterns and stitch dictionaries.

leapman-st-patt-2

Melissa is one of the most professional and conscientious designer/authors in our industry, and having reviewed scores of books over the years, I have come to realize how good it is to buy a book knowing that the author has worked diligently on it AND has extensive experience designing and teaching–nothing slapdash here.

If you’re looking for a holiday gift for the crocheter in your life, or want to treat yourself, then this book is a wise choice: so much inspiration, presented in an easy-to-use format that will delight any crocheter.

READ THE FINE PRINT: I received a review copy of this book to incentivize me to write a review but the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own. I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, which allows me to earn a small advertising fee when the Amazon link above is used to purchase items from Amazon.com. Photographs and cover image are used with the author’s permission and for review purposes.


Sunday, November 13th, 2016

MPLS MINN: You rock!

We saw no evidence of those scary Minnesota winters last weekend, when the temperature soared to 70 degrees. It was a beautiful start to VK’s first-ever Minneapolis show. There’s been so much rancor in the intervening few days, and it’s something I don’t feel ready to talk about at length. So instead, let’s take a look at some of the sights from the show.

img_2356

img_2353

img_2366

20161104_121248

20161104_181124

20161106_135523

20161106_125112

20161104_191055

img_2490

20161104_203310

20161104_181258

Right now, thoughts of dear friends, new pals, beautiful yarn and enticing projects are helping me cope. Thanks, Minneapolis! I hope to return soon.


Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Book Review: 21 Crocheted Tanks and Tunics by Sandi Rosner

I really wish that there were more hours in the day, because I’d love to become a better crocheter. One reason I yearn to wield my hook with more skill is that there are so many great patterns coming out these days. Take a look at Sandi Rosner’s new book, 21 Crocheted Tanks and Tunics (Stackpole Books; available at the time of this writing for $16.95 at this link).

Every time I see a commercial that makes fun of knitting or crochet as the dowdy province of grandmothers, I want to shriek. There are so many stylish, on-trend patterns for handcrafters, and Sandi’s book has got 21 of ‘em, perfect for warm-weather wear. None of these patterns look exceedingly difficult to my untrained eyes, but they have classic lines, are made in beautiful yarns, and are elegant enough to wear to many workplaces (either alone or under a cardigan for those places who frown on bare arms).

Particular patterns that catch my fancy include Folsom (oh boy, how I hope it’s a Johnny Cash reference),

sr folsom

made in a pewter-gray silk/bamboo blend, with a ballet-style front and back tie.

Montgomery, in a pale butter yellow, features alternating sections using different stitch patterns. I like the button front, too. This one’s shown in an all-linen blend, which will feel great in summer and get softer and softer the more you wear it.

sr montgomery

Sutter uses a gradient-ish set of successively darker colors, with simple lines and a great stitch pattern:

sr sutter

and check out Pacific, made in a multicolored pure silk yarn.

sr pacific

Something about the shine of the silk and the zigzagging lines of the stitch pattern make this one so striking!

Valencia is another winner:

valencia

I like the scoop neck and picot trim, plus half-double crochets always look great.

Taraval uses a yoke construction with a contrasting color, creating concentric rings.

Taraval_CottonFair_medium

It’s got an A-line shape. I can imagine all sorts of wonderful color combinations for this one — maybe a multi for the contrast? — although I do like the white with just a splash of a vivid contrast.
And Greenwich features a collar with contrast trim; armhole shaping (an extra curve) is a thoughtful detail to show off your arms.

Greenwich_Cotton-ish_medium

There’s still plenty of warm weather on tap for many parts of the country (we’re getting a hot spell in a few days), and these tops would work up fairly quickly, giving you a spiffy new sweater to end the summer on. And when the patterns come from a seasoned professional like Sandi, you know they’ll be well-written and beautifully designed.


Monday, August 8th, 2016

Giveaway winner — and yakking it up (plus coupon code)

Congratulations to SusanfromStatenIsland — you are the lucky winner of a copy of Self-Striping Yarn Studio. I already heard back from Susan and her enthusiastic response was a joy to behold!

Coming up soon: book reviews….I’ve got several lovely books to review now that we’re getting closer to autumn. In the meantime, enjoy this Hellenic-inspired coupon code at my Artfire shop. I just uploaded a new sock yarn with 20% yak (plus 70% superwash merino and 10% nylon).

cassava 2

I picked names that had some connection to Brazil, like this Carnival-inspired skein:

carn 3

and if you like semisolids, some gorgeous ones:

acai4

My photos seem a little dark but the yak yarn starts out a slightly deeper beige than most sock yarns, which are creamy white.

I also restocked Meritage, a lovely fingering weight wool, not superwash, but has nice grab (great for lace) but still feels great with some interesting multis:

trans2

as well as semisolids.

lovely 3

The last time I checked, the US was up to 12 medals, so I’m offering a coupon code good for 12% off your purchase (expires 8/12). Use the code RIO12 at checkout.


Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

The very very first giveaway of Self-Striping Yarn Studio

I am thrilled beyond words to announce that my brand-new book, Self-Striping Yarn Studio, is beginning to appear in the great wide world even as we speak.

cover ssys

This week, I got a report of a Barnes & Noble bricks-and-mortar sighting, and it began shipping from the BN.com website. Now it’s also in stock here and I hope at your favorite LYS.

Vauclain Wristers

Vauclain Wristers

I have always loved self-striping yarns, ever since the time I first was hypnotized by a skein of Noro Kureyon. Those lush colors that change all by themselves! All the shades of the rainbow but not so many of the ends to weave in! Getting a project that has 10 colors in it but only needing to buy 2 skeins of yarn! And the opportunities for design presented by stripers is something that never fails to get my creativity hopping.

Faux Isle Combo

I am especially proud of SSYS for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a topic I love, and I’ve wanted to do a book on stripers that goes beyond just patterns to offer knitters technical guidance about how to use stripers. What do you do if your stripes look wonky? How do you deal with a knot that spoils the rhythm of the striping repeat? What kind of patterns particularly suit stripers? All of these questions are dealt with in the book’s beginning section. I hope that it empowers readers to make the most of their stripers, and enjoy using them even more.

Magic Carpet Capelet

Magic Carpet Capelet

Another reason I’m proud of the book is that is came together in a very short amount of time, during a difficult time in my personal life. It was a great solace for me to have a project that I loved in the wings, distracting me and letting me lose myself in designing and knitting and writing. Having the book come out so beautifully made me feel competent and capable at a time when I had a lot of questions about myself.

Barcladen Stole

Maudlin musings aside, I’m also proud of the people in my life who rallied around me to help make the book happen. The contributors outdid themselves in coming up with gorgeous designs that showcase some of the unique things that self-stripers can do–and they did so in a remarkably short timefame. People who volunteered to test knit when time was tight, designer friends who “whipped up” an extra pattern when needed, pals who cheered me on when things got intense. Thanks to all of you.

Sriracha Socks

I’ll be posting more about the book in coming weeks, but I’ve included just a few photos that I hope will intrigue you and tempt you to check out the book. (Believe me, there are so many amazing patterns that I haven’t even shown you yet!)

Hexagon Sweater, Amy Gunderson

Hexagon Sweater, Amy Gunderson

And just to get things off to a self-striping start, I’m going to give away a free copy of the book to one lucky commenter. Leave a comment in the notes telling me what your favorite self-striping or self-patterning yarn is, and I’ll randomly pick one commenter and send them a copy of the book. (Usual rules: one entry per person, make sure there is a way I can easily contact you in your email, your entry must be received no later than Sundday, August 7th at midnight EST time.)


Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Retreat Recap

Oh. My. Lord.

We had so much fun at the first-ever Sip Sip Knit Retreat. So much fun, I was afraid we’d get arrested. (Especially when we pretty much got thrown out of the hotel lobby at 10 pm for being too raucous. Although the bartender did ask the security guard to take a group photo of us because she said we were the most fun group she ever served.)

20160715_153658

Over fifty intrepid knitters joined us for our retreat in steamy St. Louis. We didn’t have a chance to see the Gateway Arch, so I took a selfie near the Faux-way Arch in front of our hotel:

20160716_074216

Since this was our first retreat, we were a bit nervous: would anybody come? did we overlook some hugely important details? would everyone have fun? and most important of all, would we have enough wine?

Luckily things went beautifully.

We started out Friday night with an informal get-to-know-each-other knit-in, where we had a Knitting Ephemera trivia contest, gave away tons of door prizes from our wonderful sponsors, and of course had good snacks and wine.

food

A big thanks to Brooke’s mom, who was our caterer.

After checking in, registrants were given these wonderful goody bags (here is charming Melissa giving out one).

retreat 10

We also had lots of books and dvds and Black Bunny Fibers yarns to sell, along with some special kits — I am sold out of all the yarn for the kits (and all my yarn period!!), but we’ll get some yarn packs up in my online shop as soon as I can in case you’d like to knit along with our attendees.

While I knew some of the lovely knitters who joined us, from teaching classes at various shows, and also from visiting Kirkwood Knittery before, I also got to meet so many wonderful new friends.

patty o melissa

Each attendee got to pick four classes from offerings taught by Brooke Nico, Patty Lyons, Melissa Leapman and me. Our students were fun and smart and you could see how much they loved knitting.

patty teaching

They learned a lot but even better, there was so much laughter and community happening, and that makes it even better.

20160715_182625

A huge shout-out to our lovely helper, who ran errands, fetched things and kept our spirits high throughout all the many administrative things that had to happen behind the scenes.

peyton merch

We are really excited about planning some more SSK retreats, and we will keep you posted as soon as we have the next one scheduled. We’re going to move the location around a bit to enable more people to come, and we’re tentatively looking at the Philadelphia area sometime in the spring of 2017.

Thanks to everyone who came and made the weekend such a success!


Monday, July 4th, 2016

Podcast, anyone?

If you’re in the mood for some podcast listening, might I humbly suggest you take a listen to two podcasts, both created and hosted by consummate professionals in the industry. I was recently interviewed by these excellent podcasters, and we had a great time and discussed some very interesting topics.

First up is Kara Gott Warner’s Power Purls podcast (link is here).

Carol Sulcoski

Kara and I spoke about how I first came to be obsessed with knitting, how knitting went from a hobby to a career, and of course, we spoke about my book Knitting Ephemera.

I also had the honor of being hosted by Vickie Howell on her new podcast, Craft-ish. Vickie’s podcast is taking a broader look at the world of crafting — including photographers, quilters, and even the director of the new Star Wars movie — focusing on issues of creativity, building a career, and (all together now) about my book Knitting Ephemera (link here).

CRAFT-ish-carol-630x630

I hope you’ll have a listen — it is a great thrill for me to be asked to contribute to these wonderful podcasts.