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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.

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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),

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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.

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

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

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

Valencia is another winner:

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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.

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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.

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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).

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

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and if you like semisolids, some gorgeous ones:

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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:

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as well as semisolids.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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:

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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).

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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).

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


Sunday, June 26th, 2016

TNNA recap + so much more

TNNA Update

A few weekends ago, I attended the industry trade show TNNA, which stands for The National Needlearts Association. The summer show is scheduled before the big push for fall hits local yarn shops, and is a chance for shopowners to see the newest products from yarn companies, publishers, distributors of books and notions, and so on.

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Believe it or not, it was my tenth TNNA*, and it has been fascinating to watch our industry change in response to all that’s happened in business and the crafting world in the past decade. There’s a lot of talk about whether TNNA’s live shows are really necessary given the amount of business that can be transacted online. Many retailers, especially larger ones, have already gotten visits with representatives of their suppliers and may have even placed their fall orders before the TNNA show. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I’m a staunch believer in the need for industry folks to actually get together in the same space, even if it’s just for a weekend. Why?

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We need to connect in person. There is nothing like the chance to meet new people, be inspired by others’ work, and bounce ideas off each other. I have learned so much from having conversations with various folks in the industry and hearing their experiences. Our industry is very much dependent on human relationships and shows like TNNA are an excellent place to build them. Given the importance of color and feel when it comes to selecting yarn, TNNA gives us a chance to really see and appreciate the goods before purchasing them. I’ve also found myself intrigued by displays that showcase what a yarn can do, whereas seeing color cards and just a skein or two might not give the entire sense of that.

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This year, the show was held in Washington, D.C., instead of Columbus, and although the weather was muggy and hot, it was fun to have the show hosted by a different city. Look at this majestic sight as I exited the train station:

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The Washington Convention center was new and quite lovely. I think mixing up the host city is a great idea for the show. It adds energy and it varies the pool of attendees: for example, an East Coast city like Washington makes it possible for an entirely different group of shopowners to attend by allowing them to drive or take a train instead of fly. I also liked that there were many more hotel and restaurant options near the Convention Center, allowing for real price competition and variety.

I hadn’t made the TNNA Fashion Show for a couple of years, so I enjoyed catching a glimpse of some beautiful garments. That Amy Gunderson is just too much–she had several absolutely stunning pieces in the show, and of course my pal Brooke’s design, Paris Nights, designed in lovely Ancient Arts Fibre yarn, was my personal favorite.

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One highlight for me was seeing my next book, called Self-Striping Yarn Studio, in finished form:

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My friends at R & M West Coast Enterprises (who are the loveliest folks, and wholesale all kinds of great craft books) had a few copies and so I was able to hold the book in my hot little hand!

And then when I came home….

This happened:

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You’ve literally watched him grow up on my blog, and now my firstborn is an official high school graduate. He’ll be attending Amherst College in the fall, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

And after that, this happened….

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The twins celebrated their transition from middle school to high school — shockingly, they will be high school freshmen in the fall — with a lovely recognition ceremony. I couldn’t be prouder of them, either.

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And there’s still a lot of exciting things going on here. I selected the lucky winner of Brooke Nico’s wonderful book, More Lovely Knitted Lace, and I’m hoping that Yvonne, a.k.a. KnitWitch39, will get in touch with me (Yvonne, I sent you a Rav message) so I can mail it out.

I’m dyeing up tons of yarn, and there’s a batch of freshly listed skeins in my ArtFire shop:

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We are getting ready for our first ever retreat, which will be held in St. Louis the weekend of July 15-17

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Find full details and sign-up links here (and there’s still some spots available!). This is going to be so much fun, plus you’ll get the chance to take four classes from four teachers (Melissa Leapman, Patty Lyons, Brooke Nico and me) for around $200!!!

I’ve got lots of new books to review, and some other fun stuff in the offing, so keep an eye on this space. Thanks for all of your support and caring–it means so much.

*Which also means it’s the tenth anniversary of meeting my love Veronik Avery….(don’t worry, we had a joyous reunion and a fabulous lunch at a noodle place.


Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Win a copy of More Lovely Knitted Lace by Brooke Nico

Ah, my lace-loving friends, today we have a very special treat for you. My pal Brooke Nico, lace cognoscente, just released her second book, called More Lovely Knitted Lace. The title does not lie: you’ll find more lovely garments, more gorgeous lace, and plenty of knitting to keep you creating smashing sweaters and accessories that you’ll wear with pride.

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Yes, I’m totally prejudiced, but here is a list of the things I like about the book:

1. Patterns are once again organized by shape. This makes is easier to envision the finished garment and also gives you some sense for the method of construction.

2. All sorts of yarns are used, not simply superfine yarns. Of course, I do love fine-gauge yarns and some designs are featured in them, but you can also find thicker gauges to mix things up. Lace takes on a different look when different sized yarns are used, and it’s fun to see how this plays out. Look at how gorgeous Montauk is, a sweater knit in a richly hued chunky yarn with lace accents:

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3. Charts and written-out directions, because some people have strong preferences for one over the other.

4. Stylish photography by Carrie Hoge. Troika is a clever piece that can be worn multiple ways; look how the lovely color of the yarn perfectly ties into the natural backdrop:

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Plus a big shout-out to lovely model Senetra, who has modeled in some of my Studio books!

5. Items other than shawls, like sweaters, beret, wristers and jackets. Not everyone likes wearing shawls and it’s great to have designs for accessories as well as designs for sweaters. For example, look how lovely this tam-style hat is with a delicate lace pattern over the top:

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What are some of my favorite patterns in the book?

DeBauliver is a cape in a delightful deep indigo color, shown with a ribbon closure.

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I love the shaping in Lea, a top with a gorgeous yoke-like neckline:

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Holly is a masterpiece built one strip at a time, like a log cabin quilt — but with beautiful Estonian lace motifs.

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Amaryllis uses lace to create an entrelac-style wrap, ingenious and gorgeous, with Kauni yarn, that shades from one color to another effortlessly.

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and last, Primrose, which is made in ethereal shades of Debbie Bliss Angel yarn, with delicate vertical motifs. It’s knit in vertical strips, so you can carry along one strip and work on it as a travel project. Then seam it together and you’ve got a flowy A-line top, airy and wonderful. I would love to see people experiment with different colors: I could picture it in deep wine with lighter reds, or all one color for a dramatic look, or even with several jewel or bright tones mixed up.

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So now I’ve told you a bit about the book. Let’s give away a copy! (U.S. entrants only.) Leave a comment telling me what your favorite design is and make sure there is a way for me to get in touch with you (Ravelry ID, for example). I’ll accept entries until Sunday, June 5th at midnight Eastern time. Then I’ll randomly pick a winner. Even if you don’t win, this book is worth buying. So many gorgeous projects at such a nice price! Can’t wait to see what my pal Brooke comes up with next.

P.S. If you can get to the St Louis area in mid-July, meet Brooke Nico and take classes from her at the first Sip Sip Knit Retreat! Economically priced, with lots of classes, shopping and wine! Go here for details.