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Friday, August 29th, 2014

A new yarn (and free shipping this weekend)

A while back, I had a fingering-weight yarn in my Black Bunny Fibers shop that was a marl — different-colored plies twisted around each other. Each ply took the dye in a slightly different shade of the same color, giving a funky barbershop-style effect. Not everyone likes the marled look, but it’s fun to play with and I got some really lovely effects with it. Alas, that base was discontinued. Recently, however, I discovered a new fingering-weight yarn with a similar (although much subtler) effect, and I dyed some skeins of it to see what it was like.

Behold Fairview:

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alp candy

It’s a two-ply yarn, with one ply of baby alpaca and one of merino. The marled effect is much subtler than the previous base yarn I was using, and I really like the subtlety of it, which looks terrific whether the yarn is a semisolid or a multicolor.

alp sea green 5

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There are about eight or nine skeins in my Art Fire shop right now: you can see them here.

I try really hard to be disciplined about not dipping into my own inventory too much — although it can be very tempting! — but I made an exception for Fairview since it felt so soft and looked so intriguing.

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I’m hoping to have a cowl pattern up and running soon…but in the meantime, check out Fairview and if you’re tempted, use the code FAIRVIEW for free shipping. (It’ll work on any order in the shop for the next five days — I’m easy that way.)


Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Coming events….and a FO

Maybe I’ve been in denial lately about how quickly summer is winding down and autumn is edging in. So it probably makes sense for me to announce some of the events that I’ll be attending over the course of the next few months.

September 12-13: Kirkwood Knittery, St. Louis, MO

I am so excited to see Kirkwood Knittery, the shop of my friends Brooke Nico and Robyn Schrager. I’ll be there the weekend of September 12-13. Friday night, I’ll be signing copies of Sock Yarn Studio at a “Sip Sip Knit” meet-n-greet, and Saturday, I’ll be teaching so check out the Kirkwood blog for details if you live in the St. Louis area.

October 9-12 is Stitches East, in Hartford, Connecticut! I’ll be teaching at Stitches East! Four classes, including some new-to-East ones. Go here to sign up.

And Brooke and I will be finishing up the month of October with VK Live: Chicago, once again at the storied Palmer House Hotel. I’ll be teaching Yarn Substitution and giving a one-hour lecture on handpainted yarns, plus we’ll be vending all weekend at the VK Marketplace. I’m working on some new yarns, kits and patterns for the show, so that will be worth checking out. Details are here.

I’ve updated the “Events” page on my website, and I’ll try to keep it updated on a regular basis. I may be adding a few appearances here and there, so check back from time to time for the most recent information.

In other news, I’ve got a new FO to show you: a quilt. This is a very special one that I made for a friend. I started with the backing fabric, which I’d picked especially for her:

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Then I cut blocks from a variety of fabrics, using the colors in the backing fabric as a rough theme.

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(This was the best part, because I looked for fabrics that reminded me of Bridget. Cats, dogs, teacups, books…..)

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It was also fun to lay out the blocks and play with different arrangements, although part of the fun of a scrap quilt like this is the randomness.

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I machine quilted horizontal lines following the rough outline of the blocks, and opted for a bright turquoise print binding.

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Ta-da!
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Thank you to my trusty quilt-holding assistant, Boy Twin, for his help.

I had so much fun making this one, partly because the colors and fabrics were so cheerful and bright, but mostly because I knew that the recipient, whom I dearly love, needed a lift and would enjoy snuggling up in it.

Even if she is a bit of a Grinch.

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Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Fall Preview: Rowan Magazine 56

Because my ancestors spent centuries drinking vodka by the chilly shores of the Baltic Sea, I am not a summer person. My pasty Polish skin always burns, I don’t particularly like to swim, and the heat makes me cranky. That means it is not an exaggeration to say that my favorite thing about summer is the release each July of the new Rowan Magazine.

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And sweet mother of mercy, is this a good one!

Y’all remember how this works, right? Patterns are organized into two “stories” with a theme, plus an “Essentials” section with pared-down styling. And there are always interesting articles, designer profiles and previews of other Rowan design collections and yarns.

The first grouping of patterns, called Wilderness, was inspired by the beautiful and dramatic landscapes of Scotland — with an emphasis on techniques and motifs found in Scottish textiles, like plaid, cables and fair isle patterns. Marie Wallin gets us started with an interesting blend of cables and stranded knitting — cables on the body of the sweater and stranded motifs on the sleeves, all in a blend of green and gold and orange tweedy colors.

56 craggie wallin

Lisa Richardson explores the same concept — body of sweater knit in one pattern, sleeves in a different one — but she opts for plaid on the body of the sweater and small cabling down the sleeves.

Ashie, by Lisa Richardson

I have to say, that whatever Marie Wallin is smoking, I WANT SOME. Because the gorgeous patterns keep coming…..

Moraig is knit in Fine Tweed, with bands of patterning and some plain rows in between — a good project for someone new to stranded knitting, as the plain rows give the knitter some breathing room in between stranded rows.

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This stunning men’s cardigan in knit in Cocoon, with bold cables and a garter ridge background:

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This woman’s sweater features stranded motifs on the yoke and sholders, then allover cable patterning on the lower sleeves and body, both using a diamond shape so that it all ties together:

Ness, Marie Wallin

And check out this divine checkerboard knit with color-morphing stripes:

Scaven, Marie Wallin

Yowsa, that’s a lot of amazing design work from one person! Of course, there is no shortage of talent on the Rowan design team, and you know of my platonic crush on Martin Storey,

who designed this exquisite cabled sweater in Felted Tweed Aran:

Fergus, Martin Storey

Storey also designed this stunning coat — I love the way black is used for the background color instead of cream or beige:

Roan, Martin Storey

and this sweater that uses checkerboard-type stranded motif while alternating contrast colors:

Ordie, Martin Storey

Amazing as always, Mr. Storey.

Lisa Richardson’s cape uses an very interesting stitch pattern, with muted but beautiful color choices:

Brack, Lisa Richardson

and Richardson’s Heilen top is a wonderful melding of colors and motifs — love it!

Heilen, Lisa Richardson
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Vibe Ulrik’s Laide is lovely, too, and its quieter color scheme is a nice contrast to some of the brighter garments.

Laide, Vibe Ulrik

I really enjoyed seeing how the colors of each garment were carefully coordinated with the background (shot in Scotland), sometimes contrasting, other times picking up colors in the beautiful natural setting.

It’s particularly fun to go from the Wilderness story, inspired by very traditional textiles, to the Craft story, which takes inspiration from more modern design elements, the Bauhaus and Arts/Crafts movements. You’ll still find plenty of color and patterning, though, like Galina Carroll’s Franziska

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I like the colorwork motifs, which are a little different, more modern-looking, and the colors are beautifully chosen.

Marie Wallin’s Angelika

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and Sarah Hatton’s hazy mohair Birgit both use simple graphic motifs but add plenty of oomph with their color choices.

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It’s really fascinating to see colorwork done with slipped stitches and non-Fair Isle motifs. Karolin, by Lisa Richardson, is intricate and lovely:

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The use of mohair-blend yarns along with wool yarns reminds me a bit of Bohus-style sweaters — love it.

Gemma Atkinson’s Isolde wrap mixes stitch patterns with stripes and other tribal motifs:

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and Gisela, also by Atkinson, shows off an eye-catching quill pattern.

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Embroidery embellishes Elsa,

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Returning to more graphic-style motifs, Kaffe Fassett designed two striking sweaters, Katja

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and Tanja.

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Lisa Richardson’s jacket Ulrika features a terrific use of Fine Art handpainted yarn, harnessing the way the yarn pools to create vertical stripes.

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Last is the Essentials feature, with pared-down styling to focus on shapes and fit. This Magazine’s version of Essentials shows both oversized and slim silhouettes (HOW CAN BOTH BE IN???),

But since fashion trends are dictated by the runways, I guess this fall, we’ll be seeing both silhouettes.

For example, Julia Frank’s Song tunic, in a clever v-lace mesh, has a slim fit (especially for tunics, which often are made with more ease),

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whereas Grace Melville’s Rhyme features very wide sleeves, giving a dolman or batwing feel;

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Vibe Ulrik’s Muse is described as a “slim crew,” with texture knit in Kidsilk Haze;

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and Sarah Hatton’s mohair Stanza features a boatneck with trim 3/4 sleeves.

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(And we all know how I feel about Sarah Hatton…..)

Martin Storey taunts me with Verse, which looks so much like the “shaker” sweaters from Limited that we 80s gals wore over tights in college….

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Lisa Richardson’s lace tunic is worn as a very cute dress,

56 lace dress

and Marie Wallin’s Lyric features a subtle but arresting textured design.

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Articles include a feature on Sanquhar glove making; a look at knitting during the First World War; a fiber profile of alpaca; and a quick primer on two-handed fair isle technique. Rowan members can get access to additional patterns through the Knit Rowan website, too.

In a knitting world where dumbed-down seems to be the big thing, it’s such a pleasure to see beautiful designs using techniques like stranded knitting, cables, slip stitches, and to see how the masters of knitting design combine color and texture to create gorgeous garments. Rowan 56 is a winner, and I shall drool over the patterns within for a long time.


Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Re-entry

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably remember that like true Philadelphians, each summer we go “downa shore.” Our preferred New Jersey beach town is Cape May. When we first started going to the beach, my kids looked like this:

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Now they look like this.

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Sometimes my mom gets wistful about the kids getting older; she says things like “They are getting so big! It’s such a shame!” and while I understand how sweet little kids are and miss many things about when my kids were younger, I can’t feel sad about them growing up when they are such great people. This past week we had an amazing time together. Seeing them start to morph into adults — smart, kind, well-adjusted adults — fills me with pride. And it’s wonderful to spend time with people who are funny, bright and interesting.

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I feel fortunate to have these beach weeks with them, and with my husband, who works terribly hard most of the year. (In fact, the worst part of our vacation was missing Boris and Charcoal! although my lovely father-in-law did a great job of boarding them.)

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It’s nice to be home, too, and now things are starting to rev up in anticipation of the coming fall. (It’s not that far away, you know!)

But for now, we’ll enjoy these last, lingering days of summer.

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Sunday, July 13th, 2014

No-Bull Book Review: Noro 1-2-3

Today’s book review: the new Noro book from Sixth & Spring. It’s called Knit Noro 1 2 3 Skeins, and as the title suggests, all the patterns in the book can be made with either one, two or three skeins of Noro yarn. Noro yarns come in all gauges, and this book takes advantage of that, featuring yarns as fine as laceweight (Taiyo Lace)all the way through chunky (Kama, Taiyo, Mossa, Nadeshiko).

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Like all the Noro books in this series, this is a hardback with lots of color. The models are photographed against vivid backdrops, they are styled to the nines, and close-up photos of the yarn and models are everywhere. If you’re a die-hard fan of Noro yarns like me, then books like this are coffee table books; even non-knitter Mr. Black Bunny Fibers leafed through this book a few days ago and was impressed with how beautiful and colorful it was.

As you might expect from a book that allows a maximum of three skeins of yarn per pattern, patterns are mainly accessories, although some smaller garments are featured. Since I’m a little bit anal, let’s look at the patterns based on how many skeins they take. Among the one-skein projects, my favorites include these twisted stitch fingerless mitts, by Tammy Eigeman Thompson:

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this cute collared shawl, by Marin Melchior,

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and a darling chunky cabled hat — love the way the angora content of Nadeshiko makes this one look like it’s been dusted with snow:

123 hat morse

From the two-skein projects,check out the cover garment, a flowing lace jacket, with a chevron lace pattern, knit in Taiyo Lace (designed by my friend Brooke Nico!). The stitch pattern perfectly shows off the color changes in the yarn:

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Tweedy yarn Mossa was used for this cabled bag:

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only two skeins of Koromo (chunky weight) were needed for this elegant picot-edged shawlette;

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Jacqueline Jewett used deliberate geometric cutouts to spice up her scarf:

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and Barb Brown used two colorways of Takeuma (another chunky weight yarn) to create this cute colorwork cowl with button closure.

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From the 3 skein projects, I love Mari Tobita’s empire waist top:

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and Cheryl Murray’s long scarf/shawlette (the relatively muted colorway of Shiro contrasts nicely with some of the other, more vivid shades used in the book);

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and Therese Chynoweth’s chevron cape plays up the warm rich tones of Silk Garden Sock.

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I’m pleased to say that I have three projects featured in this book: this chunky capelet:

123 cjs capelet

a lace scarf, using two skeins of Silk Garden Lite:

123 cjs scarf

and (inspired by Charcoal) this stuffed bunny rabbit:

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Quick summary: a total of 30 projects, all shown in Noro self-striping yarns; tons of color photos of yarns and projects; schematics for the garments and charts where necessary; most items are one size fits all (although the top and jacket come in three sizes); yarn weight ranges from laceweight to chunky. All the garments are for women; there are a few home dec patterns, too. The patterns aren’t arranged in chapters, but are randomly arranged. MRSP is $24.95; the book is available through the link above for $19.68 at the time of this writing.

I sometimes wonder why knitters seem hesitant to purchase books, when they are usually such a good value. A single pattern download can cost anywhere from five to ten dollars, sometimes more; here you’ve got 30 patterns, which breaks down to about 65 cents a pattern. There are plenty of lovely items that would make great gifts, like the cowls, hats and wristers. Given the gorgeous production values of the book, the number of patterns, and the different techniques included (lace, cables, colorwork and more), I’d say this book is well worth the investment. And if you’ve got a stash of self-striping yarns, or even odds and ends of balls in your yarn basket, this book will give you lots of inspiration and many patterns to show those stripes off perfectly.

All photographs copyright 2014 by Rose Callahan, used for review purposes and with permission.


Monday, July 7th, 2014

Giveaway winner and a new pattern

Congratulations to Judy, the winner of the Knits That Breathe giveaway! I’ve contact Judy and will get her book to her shortly.

I’m also very excited about a new pattern of mine that has just been released as part of the WEBS 40th Anniversary celebration. It’s called the Maplewood Cardigan, and it’s intended to be an easy, comfortable layering piece. If you’re always warm, like me, you can wear it as a light layer in cooler weather; if you’re always cool, you’ll want to keep this cardi handy to add an extra bit of warmth over long sleeves. It’s knit in one of the special anniversary handdyed yarns, the WEBS base Northfield, beautifully dyed by Malabrigo. I love this base because it is plump and bouncy and soft and gorgeous.

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The color I used is called Piedras, and it’s a lovely blend of browns, ranging from golden to taupe to rusty to slate, even a hint of lavender. The nice folks at WEBS knit a second version in their regular Northfield, and it looks great in solid colors, too:

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This is a fun cardigan to knit: you start at the bottom lace edging, knitting in one piece, and once you’ve finished the edging, it’s easy going in stockinette. The front edging is knit as you go, and finishing is minimal.

maplewood close up

There is plenty of Malabrigo-dyed Northfield in stock right now, but it’s a limited edition and won’t last for long. Thanks to everyone at WEBS for the opportunity to work with an amazing yarn!


Monday, June 30th, 2014

FO & Giveaway: Knits That Breathe (so you’d better comment)

Before I announce the giveaway, allow me to show you a FO. It’s a quilt that I made for a co-worker of my husband — someone who has been undergoing some tough times and needs a reminder that not everyone is as big a jerk as her soon-to-be-ex-husband. I started out with a pack of Kaffe Fassett charm squares in blue that I got from the late, great Spool and added a few more random squares from my stash in order to make the quilt top larger.

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I added a frame in denim blue and used a blue-green for the backing, both from the Kaffe Fassett shot cottons, which I dearly love,

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then used some of the woven stripes for binding. I’ve really enjoyed playing around with printed fabric to make different effects in binding — and I like the way that the horizontal stripes make little bars around the edge in this one. (Striped fabrics also look great the other way round, or at angles, for binding.) I machined quilted horizontal lines that roughly aligned with the horizontal rows of blocks — because of all the glorious color in the blocks, I opted for simpler binding and quilting.

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Now the giveaway: After my book review the other day, the lovely Julie Turjoman emailed me and kindly offered to giveaway a PDF or print copy of Knits That Breathe, winner’s choice, to one lucky commenter. So leave a comment on this post, making sure that there is a Ravelry ID or some other way for me to reach you (if I can’t find you, I’ll have to draw another name) and I’ll pick a winner on Friday, July 4th at noon, because JULIE TURJOMAN LOVES AMERICA.


Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Book Review: Knits That Breathe, by Julie Turjoman

Call this one perfect timing: if you despair of finding interesting, fun-to-knit garments that are appropriate for warmer weather, or if you’re like me, and find pure wool sweaters are often too warm, you’re going to love Knits That Breathe: 12 Breezy Projects To Keep You Cool, by my pal Julie Turjoman.

Julie’s goal was simple: to create a collection of elegant women’s sweaters that are suitable for warm weather, tropical climates, and women who rarely get chilly enough to require turtlenecks and long sleeves. That means that you’ll find garments knit in plant-based fibers, like cotton and bamboo; plenty of shorter sleeve lengths; and drapey rather than closely-fitted silhouettes.

 

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Knits That Breathe is one of those self-published books that doesn’t look anything like the stereotype of a self-published book. It’s beautifully designed, photographed and laid out, and I can tell you that production quality like this is not cheap. If you think you can turn out a book of this quality with your old digital camera and a 2008 copy of Illustrator, you are sadly mistaken, my friend — it’s a myth that self-publishing doesn’t cost money. And it’s well worth it to end up with a book this beautiful. [Rant over.]

Now it’s time to take a look at the patterns.

Julie does a great job of mixing up patterns that contain some interesting stitchwork with some patterns that are primarily stockinette, allowing the book to appeal to a wide cross-section of knitters. Flutterbye, for example, is knit in an exquisite silk yarn, with two strands used for the body of the garment and a single strand for the handkerchief hem panels to make them extra fluttery.

turj flutter

This garment relies on simple stockinette to let the yarn and its drape be the focus, with lots of soft movement to give it style.

Haven is a short-sleeved top with an easy fit that features an off-center lace panel (love the use of the zigzag eyelets).

turj haven

A cotton-linen blend does the honors, making this a great choice for hot weather.

If you’re looking for a bit more in the way of stitch pattern, check out Iced Frappucino (and the pretty yarn, from Kollage, is a blend of milk and soy fiber):

turj iced frap

The garment is knit in the round to the armholes, then back and front are knit separately and flat through the armholes, and finally the yoke is knitted circularly. Pretty!

Pochette is a slightly fitted tunic, with curved pockets seamed to the bottom edge in a brightly contrasting color.

turj pochette

The cool, flowing appeal of Still Waters

turj still wat

is created by the combination of lace borders and soft handpainted linen yarn. For those who want no sleeves but some coverage in the body area, there’s Breezy:

turj lace hem tunic

Zephyr, knit in a dreamy colorway of Lorna’s Laces Pearl with interesting stitch pattern accents, is also striking:

turj zephyur

And there’s a gently flowing shrug:

turj shurg

a classic cardigan,

turj sorbet cardi

and the lace-front beauty Splash to add to your summer wardrobe. Lots of lovely choices!

turj splash

The details: 12 patterns for women, all designed to be cool and, yes, breathable, knit in plant-derived fibers like linen, cotton and bamboo, in a generous size range (generally XS to XXL, with finished bust ranging from around 32 inches to 58 inches, depending on the pattern). Lots of lovely photographs; charts (and it looks like the pattern stitches are also written out for those who are verbal rather than visual); schematics; and helpful pattern notes. I especially like the chart which lists various plant fibers and their characteristics, for those who aren’t as familiar with them. Gauges are in the worsted to sportweight category.

Knits That Breathe is available via the link above for $17.12 ($24.99 MSRP) at the time of this writing, or via Julie’s website here (in both e-book and print form), or via Ravelry download.

Well done, Turj!


Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Take a peek!

Late last week, we mailed out the very first packages of the Pairings Yarn Club. It was a family affair: the kids helped me tape labels and pack envelopes, and even Mr. Black Bunny assisted with packing. (He wanted to put a slip of paper inside the envelopes that said “Lovingly packed by Tom” but I told him that would seem too much like underwear.)

packages

Delivery to the members began Monday and it’s been so much fun to hear from the club members as they open them up!

In case you’re curious, the first shipment of the club is titled “Summer Spritzer.” I opted for a wool/silk blend sock yarn, Stella, that I haven’t had in stock in a while. It’s also got some silver sparkles in it, which make it extra fun. Brooke was inspired by the citrus tang and sparkle of a summer wine spritzer, and so I started with a golden shade reminiscent of white wine, then added some citrus colors — orange, lime-green, hints of berry — to spice things up. I like the way the silver sparkles evoke the bubbles that club soda adds to a spritzer!

spritzer 1

Creating exact clones is not my forte when it comes to dyeing, so club members will find subtle differences in the precise shades of their skein, but I think that’s part of the attraction when it comes to a product that is made by hand, in small quantities!

When it comes to pattern, Brooke really outdid herself. She chose a relatively simple mesh-type lace stitch, and let the yarn’s colors do the rest.

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This is a pretty easy knit, all in one piece with knit-on ribbing and a ribbon and button closure at the top.

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And beautiful Connie (a pal of my oldest kid) looks absolutely breathtaking! We took those photos at nearby Haverford College, which had lots of greenery and flowers for the perfect backdrop.

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I’m so excited about the Yarn Club. Working with Brooke is a pleasure and we’re already planning the next couple of shipments. (We’re also thinking about the next edition of the club, which will probably run February through May of 2015 — details will be coming later on this year.)

P.S. Rumor has it there’s a fantastic sale at Loop — 20% off!