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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).

123 cover

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:

123 mitts thompson

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:

123 nico

Tweedy yarn Mossa was used for this cabled bag:

123 esper bag

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

123 picot

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

123 jewett

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

123 brown

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

123 top tobita

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);

123 murrray

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

123 chen cape

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:

123 bunny

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:

maplewood

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.

 

turj cover

 

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.)

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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!


Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

And now a word from my kid

Hi everyone. I’m James (also known as Elvis). You’ve probably seen me on this blog and watched me grow up over the years.

Ever since I can remember, my mom’s had knitting needles in her hands and yarn between her fingers. Her passion and dedication to her work simply amazes me. Last summer, I started playing around with some yarn for a hat contest sponsored by the yarn company Schachenmayr. I had so much fun that I’ve continued to knit.

One of the hats I knit last summer

One of the hats I knit last summer

Recently an opportunity for me emerged to give back to my community and help those in need, something that I admire in others but had never really explored for myself. A friend of our family does a lot of work with Covenant House, a shelter for homeless teens in Philadelphia. I decided to knit hats for some of the kids at Covenant house. It’s fast and easy and unfortunately there are a lot of kids who could use warm things in order to get through the winter.

My mom says that summer is a good time to knit small things like hats. So I’m going to knit as many as I can over the summer and give them to Covenant House. And that’s where you come in. If I’m going to make any difference in my community, I want to make a big difference, so I’ll need all the help I can get. Just knit a hat that would fit a teenager, using warm, machine-washable fibers. The folks at the shelter said that they would also be happy to take mittens and scarves too. Send them to me or drop them off at Loop in Center City Philadelphia, and I’ll donate them this fall, when the weather starts to get cool at night. Covenant House helps over 5,000 homeless teens each year, so the more hats we have, the more of a difference we’ll make.

I’ll post some updates and let you know how my knitting is going along — and also show you some of the hats that are donated by you.

My mom says that she has the most kind-hearted and generous blog readers ever, so I hope you’ll help me.  Thank you.

 

A note from Mom:

I’m gathering up those oddball skeins of machine-washable yarn (Plymouth Encore, Rowan Pure Worsted, Schachenmayr Boston are a few excellent choices) and whipping out some caps. They knit up so quickly and are good projects for knitting on car trips.  Keep in mind:

  • machine-washable fibers
  • warmth is good, so wool content is excellent
  • sized for teens, which means 19 to 22 inch circumference
  • these are for kids who live rough, so avoid really light colors like white for the main color of the hat
  • simple, classic styles are best — or check out some of the websites popular for teens, like Abercrombie, American Apparel or Hollister for style ideas
  • a few free pattern ideas:  Hats for Everyone;  Southern Lights or the Slouchy Beanie:
  • knit or crochet, as long as it’s warm!

You can drop off finished caps at Loop in Center City — the nice folks there agreed to collect finished items for us. Or send me a message at cDOTsulcoskiATattDOTNET and I’ll send you my address.

We’ll be collecting caps (and mittens or scarves, too, if you’re up for making them) through the fall. Thanks so much for your help!

 


Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Preview: Noro Magazine Spring/Summer 2014

I just got a review copy of the latest issue of Noro Magazine, and since you know how much I enjoy doing previews…let’s take a look.

noro ss 14

My love of Noro yarns is long and well-documented. They are some of my favorite yarns to knit and design with. So can you blame me if I love Noro Magazine? The latest issue has 32 patterns in it, along with other features, such as a recap of the newest Noro offerings, book reviews, a profile of the owner of Juniper Moon Farms, and a look at using slip stitch patterns in Noro yarns. It also contains my article, “Ten Tricks for Bending Noro Colors to Your Will,” which addresses some common concerns that knitters have when they work with Noro yarns. If you’ve ever wished you understood the way that Noro colorways worked, or needed some help in figuring out how to make the color progressions look fabulous, then you should take a peek. I hope you’ll pick up a trick or two that will help you when working with self-stripers.

And now…the glorious patterns.

The first section of patterns is devoted to the concept of negative space. I’ve seen this term used in quilting circles a lot, where it refers to the areas around the individual quilt blocks or pieces. Skillful use of negative space can make really interesting quilting patterns where you not only notice the blocks and pieces, but also the designs created by the space around them. It’s fun to see this concept applied to Noro yarns, and the way in which patterns which contain eyelets or other openwork create striking effects when placed against the vivid colors of Noro yarns. This vest was designed by Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton and consists of strips that are knit, then pieced together to form the ripples and openings.

noro cornelia 2
 

The uber-talented Deborah Newton used daring shoulder cutouts along with an eyelet pattern to creat this striking sweater:

noro newton

 
Melissa Leapman never disappoints, and she uses the very clean lines of this short-sleeved pullover to accentuate the double-eyelet pattern:

noro leapman
 

while Irina Poludnenko adds more dramatic holes with a broomstick lace-style pattern:

noro irina

The next pattern section focuses on Noro Shiraito, a blend of cashmere, angora and wool, which means it’s super-soft and has a slight halo from the angora fiber. Robin Melanson mixes a cable panel (right down the front) with a complementary cable down the shoulders in this capelet:

noro robin

Yoko Hatta’s cozy shrug (or is it a capelet?) with a hood is knit so the cable and twisted stitch patterns are worked perpendicularly to the yarn’s stripes:

noro yoko

and Laura Zukaite (who is one of my favorite designers) presents a great poncho-style wrap with mesh stitch, cables and a cowl neck. It sounds like too much but it’s just enough:

noro zukaite

Hookers will be pleased to see a section devoted to crocheted patterns (once again, these striking designs make me resolve to practice my crochet more). I love this funky scarf from Jacqueline van Dillen that alternates floral motifs and mesh-stitch stripes.

noro crochet 1

Suzann Thompson creates another floral extravaganza with her scarf — it cleverly uses only a single ball of Taiyo sock yarn, and she opted to do the flowers in the red and orange tones, and the leaves in the green shades. Which ties nicely into the….bouquet…. that the model is wearing on her head.

noro crochet 2

Mari Lynn Patrick must never sleep because she turns out so many beautiful garments so often! This is a racerback tank, wish mesh stitch and some embellishment at the neckline.

noro crochet 3

There is still so much more packed in the magazine, like a pattern section on waves — check out this jacket from Ann Klimpert that uses short rows and two contrasting colorways of Silk Garden to create the wavy pattern:

noro klimpert

and Vanessa Putt’s shawl mixes a solid color of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino with the multicolor stripes of Noro Shiraito.

noro putt

There’s a section with four sock patterns knit up in Noro sock yarns:

noro socks

(these lattice-cables socks were designed by Lois Young); and one last section with accessories. Look how clever Rosemary Drysdale’s watch cap is, with its entrelac top:

noro rosemary

there’s a wild wrap knit in two colorways of Noro Shiro, using two very different stitch patterns;

noro wrap

and I love these wristers by Annabelle Speer:

noro wristers

My fellow Noro-lovers will enjoy this varied selection, which includes sweaters and accessories, all for women, with lush photography and plenty of inspiration. MSRP is $9.95; available at fine LYSes (rumor has it that Loop in Philly has some copies in stock) and some bookshops like BN.com.

All photos copyright 2014 Rose Callahan, used with permission for review purposes.


Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Book Look: Michelle Hunter’s Building series

About a year or two ago, I was introduced to the lovely and talented Michelle Hunter, also known as “Knit Purl Hunter.” You may have seen Michelle’s designs in Knitter’s Magazine, on her own website or Ravelry. (I’m really excited that Michelle agreed to do a pattern for my next book — I only wish I could show you a photo or two because it’s gorgeous!) Michelle works closely with the fine people at Skacel, and you may have met her at a trade show like TNNA or during one of her many teaching gigs.

Today we’re taking a look at Michelle’s Building series. It’s a great idea: a booklet containing a series of small projects designed to help knitters improve their skills. Each project introduces one skill and provides a thorough explanation of the skill; you’ll also get links to videos on Michelle’s website that illustrate specific skills. Better yet, each project consists of a single afghan square or row. You can work your way through each square or panel, then seam them together, and in the end, you’ll have increased your knitting knowledge exponentially, and have a spiffy new afghan or throw.

The first book in the series is called “Building Blocks.” It begins with the foundation stitches, knit and purl, and then introduces knitters to charts, yarnovers and bobbles, decreases, cables and mock cables, twisted stitches, slipped stitches, the M1 increase and more.

BuildingBlocks01

The second book in the series, Building In Color, introduces all sorts of techniques for creating colorwork patterns:  intarsia, slipped stitches, brioche/knit one below, two-color cables, and more. The projects in this case also combine to form an afghan, but this time in horizontal panels rather than blocks.

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There are so many thoughtful touches:  photographs of the stitches knit in alternate colorways, tips and hints sprinkled throughout, help in translating a specific technique to chart form, and of course the links to video instruction.  There’s even a “Teacher’s Guide” to give LYS owners or those who want to use the book as the basis for classes help in breaking it all down for students.

I love when authors and designers are able to provide technical instruction that will help their readers and students become more confident knitters. When knitters improve their technical skills, it makes them happier knitters — they’re less frustrated, their projects look fabulous and they come back for more — and that is a great benefit to the industry. So if you’re looking for a way to improve your knitting while working at your own pace, this is a great series to check out. You can find a list of shops that sell the book here, or if you’re a shopowner, you can order copies from Skacel.

 

 


Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Days 2-5: Our trip by the numbers

Total miles traveled, Philadelphia area to Portland area, round-trip: Let’s say 800+ (yowza!)

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Number of gorgeous models photographed: 3 in our presence (including my daughter); plus 2 more

Number of times I marveled at photographer Carrie Hoge’s incredible skill and talent:  1,080

Number of miles of coastline ogled:  scores — at both high and low tide

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Number of islands tromped around: 1

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Number of beautiful beaches visited: 4

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Number of lighthouses visited: 3 plus Portland Observatory (all closed until Memorial Day — wah!)

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Number of times Little Miss and I swam in the hotel pool:  4

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Coldest outside temperature when Little Miss and I swam in the (heated) hotel pool: 53 degrees F

Number of times I was told I was annoying: 89

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Number of One Direction songs listened to: 235

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Number of times we watched the One Direction documentary “This Is Us” in hotel room: 2

Historical landmarks visited:  3 — Portland Observatory (closed)

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Longfellow House

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and Fort Williams

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Visits to Lobster Shack: 1

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Pet bunnies encountered: 1

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Yarn shops visited: 1 (the lovely KnitWit)

Number of times I hope I get to return to Portland:  infinity

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P.S. Last chance for this round of the Pairings Yarn Club — only 3 spots remain!  Go to my Artfire shop if you’re interested….