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Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Book look: Crocheted Mitts and Mittens, by Amy Gunderson

It’s always fun to connect with other folks in the industry, and at Stitches West in February I had the chance to hang out  a little bit with Amy Gunderson, creative lead at Universal Yarn. Amy is not only extremely talented, she’s also hilarious, with a dry sense of humor that I adore. Recently she sent me a copy of her new book, Crocheted Mitts & Mittens: 25 Fun and Fashionable Designs for Fingerless Gloves, Mittens, and Wrist Warmers (Stackpole Books; $21.95 MSRP).

The first thing you’ll notice when you look at Amy’s book is that it’s got a lot of patterns — 25 in all. I love how the Ravelry listing shows each mitten or wrister against a relatively plain background, with the hand flat, because it makes it easy to see and compare all of the various designs.

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(That one is called Holey Color and uses a lace stitch to showcase a multicolored sock yarn.)

Another thing that you notice right away is the unbelievable variety of styles and techniques used in the patterns. Lace, colorwork, cables, embellishment, texture… it’s all included! If you like regular mittens, you can find them; if you like wristers with individual fingers, you’ve got it; if you want a decorative wrister, you’ll find options like Adorn:

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My favorite design in the book: these adorable robot mittens:

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I also like the Little Victory pattern, which uses shells to make a dramatic long gauntlet:

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and the Houndstooth Mittens:

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Frolic features a charming ribbon embellishment, along with crossed stitches, eyelets and texture.

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The Radiate mitts feature clever construction, working from the thumb out — a great use for the flexibility of crochet, and the perfect use for a self-striping yarn:

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The Emotimitts have removable emojis so you can tell the world how you feel on any given day:

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The Ode to Bruges mitts feature a lovely lace pattern inspired by Belgian bobbin lace from the 17th and 18th centuries.

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In addition to a variety of techniques, there are a variety of yarn gauges, from fingering on down to worsted, so if you’re looking for crocheted handgear, you’ll definitely want to check this book out.

If you are reading this and saying “Dayum, I don’t crochet” you should be advised that Amy also published a book of knitted mitts and mittens last year. It also features a very wide variety of techniques, yarn gauges and styles, and honestly, these fish mittens are worth the price of admission all by themselves:

gund fish

You can check out the rest of the knitted designs in Knitted Mitts & Mittens: 25 Fun and Fashionable Designs for Fingerless Gloves, Mittens, and Wrist Warmers.


Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Limited edition microbrews….

It’s been so much fun working with the folks at Jimmy Bean’s Wool to produce some limited edition yarns for their Microbrew series. This month, the theme was guilty pleasure movies. At the top of my list is the movie Mean Girls. Poor Gretchen, trying to hard to make “fetch” happen.

Please join me in welcoming Fetch, a yummy superwash merino/nylon blend, fingering weight:

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A limited number of skeins are available here. So let’s make “fetch” happen!

And this month, I was approached by Loops Knitting, in Tulsa, to do a color for them as part of the same series. I was honored! Behold It Had To Be You, a semisolid blend of blues, grays and violets, named in honor of When Harry Met Sally,

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another of my favorite all-time movies.

Also available for a limited time, here.

I had such a blast working on these colors — I hope you give them a lot of love!


Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Long time no blog!

Sometimes the weeks just race by with a will of their own. Since I last blogged, I’ve been to the trade show TNNA in Columbus — we shared convention space with a group of haunted house producers; how fun was that?–

 

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and I spent a glorious weekend in Amish country at the Lancaster Yarn Shop’s first-ever knitting retreat:

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and in between there’s been all sorts of stuff going on. I’m finishing a book that will be published early next year, and in the midst of working on another one that will be released next fall. It’s insanely busy, but I love it.

One of the things I have been doing a lot of, believe it or not, is dyeing. I just posted some miniskeins in my Artfire shop. I’m just dabbling in the miniskein sets to see what customer reaction is. I’ve got a terrific blue to green gradient set in a new base (mostly merino with some superfine alpaca and nylon — it’s so softy and cushy)

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and I also played around with a blue-faced leicester/bamboo blend,in both gradients (this is Russian sage, going from periwinkle through gray to sage-green)

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and also some colors that I dyed to work together, although they aren’t technically gradients. (I love Vintner, which has wine shades, a great transitional gray with flecks of wine and green, and grapeleaf green.)

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Let me know if you’d like to see more and if so, whether you like gradients, coordinated sets or both!


Friday, May 15th, 2015

Maryland Sheep and Wool (and giveaway winner!)

I’ve been going to Maryland Sheep & Wool for years, but always on the Saturday of the show weekend. This weekend, my oldest was going to the junior prom:

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and so Saturday was out. Not to be cheated out of a day at the show, my ragtag carload of fiber-lovers decided to go on Sunday. What a revelation! No lines. None. Not to turn into the fairgrounds, not for the bathroom, not for food, not for t-shirts.

No line to see me!

No line to see me!

No crowds. Although there was good turnout, you could actually maneuver around the buildings without being surrounded by a mass of humanity.

No lines to see me, either!

No lines to see me, either!

The weather was gorgeous (just lucky on that one).

I even caught sight of Ryan Gosling next to the word “ginormous” so I’ll let you guys ponder that one for a while.

I'd like to pet him

I’d like to pet him

And as usual, there were adorable sheep (Jen and I fell in love with this emo-looking guy):

Teesdale, right, Beth Smith?

Teesdale, right, Beth Smith?

There were all kinds of fleece

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and beautiful knitting & crochet

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and weaving

weaving

and more knitting

and mittens

and more cute beasties

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and all sorts of tempting things to buy.

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So I’m thinking that maybe going on Sunday will become a new tradition for us.

Giveaway winner!

Lovely Maggie was the winner of the Lace Yarn Studio book and yarn giveaway! Thanks to everyone who entered. We’ll do some more fun giveaways in the coming weeks…


Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Rule Britannia: Interview with designer Andi Smith and GIVEAWAY

One of the best things about creating Lace Yarn Studio was the chance to work with so many talented designers. Andi Smith designed the lovely A Little Luxe Gauntlets

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that so beautifully use twisted stitches and pleats, techniques which look particularly good in fine-gauge yarn. (My favorite part about writing a curated book is getting packages in the mail from designers sending in their sample garments. When I opened the package from Andi, I screamed — the gauntlets were just so amazing.)

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Andi has been knitting for over 40 years (apparently she started in utero) and she originally hails from Yorkshire. She now lives with her family in Ohio and teaches, designs, writes and tech-edits. You can find her on Ravelry under the name “knitbrit,” and she’s got lots of gorgeous patterns there for sale. I chatted with Andi recently about her knitting, working with fine yarns in particular and other fun stuff.

andi smith

CS: A lot of knitters are intimidated by the thought of working with very fine gauge yarn. What’s your favorite thing about lace weight?

AS: I have two favorite things about lace weight yarn. First has to be the flexibility it gives me to manipulate the fabric created. Working with 9 or 10 stitches per inch creates a versatile fabric that has boundless possibilities without bulk. For Lace Yarn Studio, the fabric created for the Little Luxe Gauntlets was so fine and delicate that I was able to add pleats and keep the delicate aesthetic. The second thing I adore about lace weight is the actual knitting. To me, working with US#1′s or 0′s is utterly pleasing. The zen of knitting each stitch is exponentially increased the smaller the gauge.

CS: Have you always used lace weight and other fine yarns in your knitting?

AS: When I started knitting in the early ’70′s, I used whatever my mum would give me, and that tended to be fine, fingering weight yarns. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I truly fell in love with lace weight yarns, and again, it was their versatility that intrigued me.

CS: Tell us about how you came to design the Little Luxe gauntlets.

AS: You mean other than begging you to let me design for you? :D

If I remember correctly, I wanted to do a wrapped stitch gauntlet, but it wasn’t until I was able to play with the yarn that I came up with the row of buttons, and the pleats. Trendsetter/Lotus Mimi is such a classy yarn, and so I thought about classy gloves, and images of 1930′s and ’40′s silk gloves, with long, long rows of buttons and clever manipulations of what is essentially a tiny scrap of fabric came to mind.

CS: What did you think of the Trendsetter/Lotus Mimi yarn? It’s 100 percent mink (a Chinese breed — the fiber can be collected without harming the animal).

AS: Oh! The hand! This is such a blissful yarn to work with. I’d take the gloves in progress to my knitting group, and everyone would pet and swoon over how soft and delicate the yarn was.

CS: Any tips for people making the gauntlets?

AS: Don’t be daunted by the pleats! When I was figuring out how to make them, and write directions that are easy to follow, I used scrap yarn, and practiced a few times before working the Mimi. Work a swatch or two of just the pleats in a larger gauge. Turning those dpns clockwise and counter-clockwise can seem awkward at first, but it’s easy to do, if you work step by step.

CS: What are you working on next?

AS: I’m currently working on my second Synchronicity collection, and hope to have it published late summer/early fall. Much like the Little Luxe Gauntlets, I love to manipulate the fabric our knitting creates and see just how far I can stretch the bounds of traditional knitting. You can see the first collection here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/synchronicity/patterns

CS: What is your favorite cocktail?

AS: Oh, that has to be a Moscow Mule.* Utter deliciousness.

Giveaway!

A huge thanks to Andi, both for being a part of Lace Yarn Studio and for doing this interview. Make sure you check out her beautiful collection called Synchronicity, which features some stunning two-color cable patterns.

andi cowl

The collection also includes a tutorial to help you with the two-color cable technique. If you’re a sock knitter, I often recommend Big Foot Knits, Andi’s sock book which gives all sorts of valuable information about fit, particularly for designing socks that fit larger-sized feet. And her Queen Street Cardigan is just gorgeous!

queen st

In honor of Andi’s visit, we’re going to do a giveaway. We’ve got a copy of Lace Yarn Studio and a skein of the Mimi yarn you’ll need to create Andi’s gauntlets.

To be eligible, leave a comment and make sure there is a way for me to get in touch with you (either by being registered with an email to leave comments or including your Ravelry user name in the comment — no way to get in touch, no way to win). Leave a comment by midnight on Monday, May 11th and on Tuesday, I’ll use a random number generator to pick a winner.

*Squeeze about 1/2 an ounce of lime into a glass, add the rind and ice, then add 2 ounces of vodka. Fill to the top with ginger beer.


Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Part two….

I arrived home after a red-eye flight both exhausted and energized by Pasadena! I only had a few days to enjoy at home with Boris

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before hopping on another plane — this time to Nashville! I’d never been to Nashville before and I simply could not believe how warm and friendly everyone was. We even had a waiter sit down at our table one day to chat (we kind of thought he’d never leave….)

Stitches South was held at the Gaylord Opryland hotel, which is a spectacle all its own. To say that it is huge cannot do justice to the mammoth size of this hotel. We practically needed to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find our way back to the room each night. There are all sorts of gardens and greenhouse-like levels

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and many shops and restaurants — all inside the hotel. There’s even a riverboat cruise: INSIDE THE HOTEL.

This was our first vending experience at Stitches, and we had such a great time! We met some amazing folks, including Hazel, who is a charter member of our Yarn Club

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and we had new tote bags to sell with our Sip Sip Knit logo:

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There was even a sighting of “Dolly Parton”:
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So by the end of the weekend, I was all

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Perhaps the best thing of all was the Starbucks coffee vending machine that we discovered.

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Sunday night, after we broke down our booth, we went to dinner with the amazing Melissa Leapman. We went to a place that was an aquarium combined with a restaurant (seahorse salt and pepper shakers!)

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and a coral reef motif. Fortunately we were not expected to catch our own fish.

And yes, I came home with my first pair of official cowgirl boots.

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It was a great show indeed.


Friday, May 1st, 2015

In which I start in Pasadena, end up in Nashville, and arrive home with a pair of cowboy boots — part 1

The month of April has been a whirlwind. After being sick as a dog with my diverticulitis, I rebounded just in time for back-to-back shows. I had a marvelous time — even though right now I feel like I will never NOT be tired again.

First up was VK Live: Pasadena. It’s been about 25 years since my last visit to Pasadena, and I’d forgotten how absolutely beautiful the city looks, nestled with the foothills behind it.

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After a cold and wet winter, it was glorious to be in sunshine. And it was glorious to be in a convention center full of passionate knitters, crocheters, weavers and spinners.

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First order of business was to scope out where our booth was, and to haul some yarn and other fixings so we’d be ready for business Friday.

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Luckily, we had the help of the amazing Patty Lyons and made short work of the moving in. Then we treated ourselves to Mexican food and drinks under a sunny sky.

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Our booth was small — it’s so expensive to ship inventory and furnishings across the country! — but we did have lots of self-stripers

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and other goodies. (The stripers sold out in a day — woohoo!)

It was amazing to see the reaction of knitters to Lace Yarn Studio. We had copies for me to sell and sign, and many of the samples from the book, and the reaction exceeded my hopes. (I’ve got a couple of copies left, so if you’re looking to pick up a signed copy, go to my Artfire shop!)

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Best of all, I ran into some of my favorite yarn peoples. The Vogue staff is always exceptional, but I also ran into friends I made at prior shows (waves to Connie!) and internet friends that I got to meet in real life for the first time (JEREMY!!!).

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It was a truly wonderful trip, and although I was jet-lagged, I only had a few days at home before I had to pack my bags again…


Friday, April 10th, 2015

Coming up….

It’s been a little quiet here — had a diverticulitis attack and have been laying low. But just in case you’ve missed me, here are some of the trips I have coming up in the next few weeks:

VK Live: Pasadena

Brooke and I will be vending in Booth 310! I’m teaching a class and doing a lecture (Yarn Substitution Made Easy, and Handpaints and How to Use Them: A Dyer’s Perspective) so if you’ve got a chance, please sign up. We’ll have a wonderful time. If you can’t make to a class or lecture, then stop by our booth and see some beautiful Black Bunny Fibers yarn, along with stellar pattern support by Brooke.

Stitches South

Yep, Brooke and I will be in Nashville! I’m going to be manning the booth (no classes) while Brooke is teaching and will vend with me. We’ll be in Booth 135. Ditto for having some gorgeous BBF yarns and patterns….

And I’m thrilled to announce that we’ll have a limited number of copies of Lace Yarn Studio for sale, so you can pick up a copy. We’ll also have lots of samples from the book, along with gorgeous handdyed lace weight yarn you can purchase if you’re feeling inspired to cast on something from the book.

TNNA: Booksigning

I’m very pleased to announce a booksigning at R&M Distributors Sunday, May 30th at 1 p.m. during the TNNA Summer Show!

Lancaster Yarn Shop: Retreat

Just a few spots left for our amazing retreat, scheduled for the first weekend in June in picturesque Amish country, with the Lancaster Yarn Shop….so don’t delay!

Stitches With Style Booksigning: Newark, Delaware

The lovely ladies at Stitches With Style will be hosting me for a booksigning (I’ll have some Black Bunny Fibers yarn, too!) on Saturday, June 20th. More details soon!


Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Miniskein madness!

Brooke and I recently finished the first shipment of the next round of our yarn club–and we are rather pleased with the results, if we do say so ourselves. The theme for this club round is Minis, as in mini-bar and mini-skeins. For our first shipment, we chose the theme Bombay Sapphire. It’s an aromatic gin inspired by the Star of India, a precious sapphire that is now housed in the Smithsonian.

bottle yarn

I sent Brooke a set of four miniskeins in blues ranging from a light turquoise morphing to a deep cobalt.

bombay yarn 1

She worked her magic and created this lovely cowl pattern: easy to do, but with a spectacular result.

connie bombay best

cowl partial

We’re already working on months 2 and 3–and here’s some exciting news. We’ll be vending at VK Live: Pasadena AND Stitches South in Nashville next month. Come and see us if you’re at either show!