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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.

 


Saturday, May 28th, 2016

It’s Rowan Magazine (#59) — now with more Sarah Hatton!

Well, hello, Spring/Summer Rowan Magazine. Here you are to brighten up an unbelievably rainy spring. We’ve got cool cottons, crisp cables, some Japanese-inspired designs and lots of amazing designers this time around. Although I’m late to the party, there are some fantastic designs in here that you might want to blitz so you can wear them this summer.

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The latest magazine has two feature stories; first is called Coastal, and includes designs for men and woman that it describes as “wearable.” (Although I think that might be setting the bar a bit low — lots of gorgeous stuff that is interesting as well as wearable!)

Think soothing sea shades, lots of texture and a mix of pared-down garments along with some more intricate designs.

I’m fascinated by Watton, by Lisa Richardson:

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The front bands are so interesting and I like how the different textures play off each other. Another design, Glaven, opts for raised cables that look like braids (plaits) or rope — fascinating detail and visually arresting. I also like the combination of yarns used.

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Morston and Reydon, by Martin Storey (love that man) are also striking:

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Morston plays with different-sized cables in an intricate pattern (check out the pattern used for the hem), while Reydon goes for a simple, striking motif

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A special BBF shout-out to Cirilia Rose, who makes her first appearance (I think) in Rowan Magazine:

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with Heacham. Open shoulders, lace motif, pretty stitchwork on the front — way to go, Cirilia!

Carlo Volpi’s Felbrigg is restrained but quite lovely:

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Reverse stockinette sleeves and some interesting cablework make it worth a second look.

My ego is not huge enough to think that Rowan has intentionally heeded my cry for more Sarah Hatton, but there’s more Sarah Hatton in this Magazine, which can only be a good thing. I like this men’s sweater with an unusual and striking detail around the neck:

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I also like Bodham, which is a more traditional fisherman style sweater:

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and Cottishall has some lovely textural patterning (unfortunately it’s a little hard to appreciate given the darker indigo color of the yarn).

Other designs take features of traditional fisherman’s sweaters and meld them with more modern design features. Cortan, for example, by Martin Storey, has cables on the top half of the sweater and stockinette stripes across the bottom half.

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Amy Herzog’s Thursford uses raglan shaping and a zigzap motif just down the arms:

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And Martin Storey’s Burnham has lots of texture and cables but a cropped silhouette with short sleeves.

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The second major story in the article is called Kyoto, and is a collection of women’s designs inspired by all things Japanese. In keeping with the season, look for light colors, airy designs and a mix of flowing and fitted garments.

Gifu is a lightweight tee with allover lace pattern and a slight scoop neck, using Kidsilk Haze along with a laceweight yarn.

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Kidsilk Haze is everywhere! Look at Ibaraki, by Heather Dixon:

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Very beautiful allover lace pattern with deep garter edgings. Saitama, by Martin Storey, uses one strand of Kidsilk Haze and one of Fine Lace, with a delicate lace pattern with ribbed edgings and a cropped silhouette.

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Yamanashi, by Xandra Rhodes, uses Kidsilk Haze for intarsia.

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I love when magazines feature samples knit in different colors. The change between using an airy light color as the background versus the deeper blue shown on the cover is striking.

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I think it’s great that Rowan designers don’t shy away from colorwork in the summer months, using non-wool yarns. In addition to Yamanashi, check out Mei, by Lisa Richardson:

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Sarah Hatton’s Osaka is fabulous, using stripes with a lace pattern:

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For those who are less advanced knitters, or who just are looking for a less strenuous knit, Rowan always includes several designs that are stylish yet less technically demanding. Yamagata by Kaffe Fassett is just lovely but eminently do-able even for a new knitter:

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I know we’re very close to seeing the fall Magazine, but there are too many interesting designs in the spring edition to ignore (even if I’m way behind in blogging).

On a related note

I have also heard lots of disgruntlement about how Rowan is scaling back its yarn collection beginning this fall. I am as heartbroken as the next Rowan fan to see some of my favorite yarns discontinued (NOOOOO NOT WOOL-COTTON AND LIMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) but having been involved in the industry for a while, I’ve grown more philosophical about the way yarns come and go. Yes, it stinks to say goodbye to a yarn you love, but on the other hand, as someone who sells yarn (albeit on a much, much smaller scale), I can tell you that part of the reason is that knitters and crocheters have become increasingly obsessed with what’s new — new bases, new fibers, new styles. I think Rowan may have overexpanded its options in recent years, so a retraction is in order. Stocking fewer classic lines mixed with limited edition runs of new yarns seems a sensible way to balance out providing consistency in yarn support with some variety to keep things fresh.

Rowan still has one of the strongest design houses in the industry. They still put out a beautiful magazine with interesting and creative patterns, mixing yarns, experimenting with different silhouettes, and using technically advanced stitches like lace and cabling. Instead of bitching online, how about purchasing a pattern booklet or some yarn to support this fine company, and not letting the quest for the perfect be the enemy of the very, very good?


Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

So much is going on!

These are the things that happened last weekend:

1. I got to leave a city full of rain and arrive in a city full of balmy sunshine and palm trees. (Well, the palm trees aren’t balmy, but you know what I mean.)

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2. I got to see my people at VK Live: Pasadena… and have margaritas on the patio….

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3. I brought and sold lots of yarn, like these stripers

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although I have a few stragglers I’ll load onto my site this weekend.

4. I got to see Franklin’s terrific new knitting coloring book

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and sign books with him and Vicky Howell (whose book Wee Garter Stitch has lots of adorable baby patterns knit in, you guessed it, garter stitch).

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5. I got to host a trivia contest, meet an amazing knitter, crocheter, singer and songwriter named Siedah Garrett,and give a lecture on self-striping yarn.

6. Did I mention I got to see some of my amazing fiber friends?

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including EDIE ECKMAN (star of stage and screen):

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7. I got to experience an unplanned eight-hour layover in the Omaha airport, where I dined on fine chicken fingers from Kracky McGee’s…

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8. AND (this is a big one!) I helped finalize details for the first-ever Sip Sip Knit Retreat, which will be held in St. Louis, MO in mid-July. Four teachers (Melissa Leapman, Patty Lyons, Brooke Nico and me), a fun sipping and knitting event, BBF yarn to buy, books and DVDs, and an all-around great time.

You can find out all the details, including the very reasonable prices ($195 for four classes, the Friday night event, and a discount on all purchases made that weekend) here. (I’ll be posting more about the retreat soon!)


Thursday, March 10th, 2016

In memoriam: The Knitting Curmudgeon

When I first started reading knitting blogs, even before I had my own, I stumbled across the Knitting Curmudgeon. She was acerbic, she was funny as hell, she suffered no fools gladly, and she had absolutely no patience with hypocrisy. She also knew a hell of a lot about knitting.

She had a huge heart and a barbed tongue. People often didn’t like her because she told the truth, plainly, often painfully. But she loved her friends and she adored her family and she still mourned her husband Jimmy.

We were online friends at first, and then met in real life many times. We were part of a ragtag group of friends who loosely lived around the Philly/NJ/NY area and loved to knit. We met for lunch in New Hope and trawled fiber festivals and shows, especially Rhinebeck, which we all love(d).

Last year, I heard from her daughters that Marilyn was ill. Not “I have a cold” ill, but gravely ill, on a ventilator, with doctors stumped as to what was devastating her body and mind. This week, her daughters told us that Marilyn died.

I am still a bit shocked that Marilyn is gone. I am still a bit shocked that I will never read another pointed blog post, that I will never see her across a crowded fiber show floor, that I will never hear her boast about her amazing daughters or her adored Liz again.

She was the Dorothy Parker of knitting.
She was rare and handy.
She will be missed.


Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Two chances to win….

Two wonderful friends are giving away copies of Knitting Ephemera: A Compendium of Articles, Useful and Otherwise, for the Edification and Amusement of the Handknitter….

Check out Patty Lyons’ blog, with a Q&A about the book here.

Then listen to my interview with Kathy Elkins here.

 


Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

It’s here!

It was a labor of love that I started in fall of 2012. It was carefully nurtured, and revised, and tweaked, and edited by the fabulous folks at Sixth and Spring Books, and then a wonderful book designer created exactly the perfect design for it. And now, nearly four years later, it’s on sale at your LYS or local bookshop or online:

 

Knitting-Ephemera

What is an ephemera? Well, it’s a collection of things thought to have only fleeting popularity, but which when preserved, often prove to be quite valuable. And this book consists of all sorts of information — facts, statistics, anecdotes, humorous bits, historical tidbits, ethnic and folk traditions — all about knitting and yarn (and a little crochet and spinning and weaving, too) that might not be thought by some to be worth preserving but which I think truly are. I hope you will enjoy perusing this collection and I hope that you agree with me that it is material that is well worth keeping.


Friday, January 1st, 2016

A fresh start

One thing especially nice about New Year’s Day is that it sets us up for fresh beginnings. New calendar, new year, new start — and really, after a year like 2015, there’s something fabulous about feeling like you can put the bad things behind you and start fresh.

I’m happy to look forward to some of the wonderful things that will happen in 2016. I spent much of last year finishing up two books that will be released in 2016. The first book will be going on sale very soon–the worldwide premier of Knitting Ephemera will be at VK Live New York in just a few weeks.

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This is a very special project for me, because it was my first chance to collaborate with Trisha Malcolm and the folks at Sixth and Spring on a book. (I want to send out a special thanks to Lark Crafts for helping work out the contract stuff — I’m still making pretty books with them. In fact, I have a third book in the “Yarn Studio” series coming out this fall — but more about that in coming months.) Trisha and I were having lunch one day a couple of years ago, and bouncing ideas back and forth about various topics. I mentioned how fascinating I found various anecdotes and stories about the knitting world, often uncovering them when I do research to write articles. And the idea for this book was born.

Knitting Ephemera: A Compendium of Articles, Useful and Otherwise, for the Edification and Amusement of the Handknitter is a collection of all sorts of bits about the knitting and fiber worlds: pieces of history, folklore, silly things to make you laugh, factoids, tips, all sorts of things that I’d call “trivia” except because they have to do with the fiber world I love, they aren’t trivial at all to me.

The book goes on sale at VK Live and we’re doing a really fun trivia quiz event Thursday evening, using questions based on the book. Brooke and I will be teaching and vending so make sure you stop by and see our gorgeous yarns and patterns as well as a signed copy of the book.


Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

The next chapter

As Ferris Bueller so famously said, “Life moves fast….” Indeed, in the last few months, life’s been moving so fast I was afraid I’d end up as roadkill on the shoulder of the highway. But one thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am a survivor. I’m still here, and though things in my life are changing, some in ways I never expected, I’m still here and I’m still knitting.

In the last month, I’ve taken a full-time job back in the legal world. I lucked out, and was offered a fantastic position at the first law firm I worked for, which is now one of the biggest firms in the country. The job will, I think, be manageable with reasonable hours, and I have already been amazed at how fun, funny and smart my new colleagues are. Several of them have asked me to teach them to knit.

Obviously I’ll be scaling back on some of the knitting-related things I’ve been doing. But I won’t be disappearing entirely. One of the odd things that I hope will come out of this big change is that I’ll have a chance to do more of the things I really enjoy and I’ll be able to focus on doing fewer of them at once. Having very few obligatory knitting projects right now, I’ve starting knitting “for fun” again, and already feel like some of the joy that got stomped on by deadlines and too many submissions calls is back. I’m also hoping to be able to blog more regularly. I’ve really missed the ability to keep up with my blog, especially book reviews, so I’m hoping to have more time to do that.

In the meantime, I still have a lot of fun and exciting things lined up in my knitting life. One of them is the premiere of my next book, called Knitting Ephemera: A Compendium of Articles, Useful and Otherwise, for the Edification and Amusement of the Handknitter, which will go on sale at VK Live: New York. This book has been several years in the making. It’s a collection of factoids, trivia, anecdotes and fun bits of information pertaining to the fiber world. You’ll be hearing plenty more about it in the weeks to come!

A long time ago, I started knitting a Salt Peanuts cardigan for myself. (Longtime readers know how much I adore Veronik Avery, both as a friend and as a designer.) I never finished it, and one of the first things I did now that I have knitting time on the train is to cast on a new Salt Peanuts for myself. (Business casual means I can wear sweaters to work!) I hope to show you the finished sweater in a few weeks. In the meantime, a huge thanks to all of you who have stood by me through thick and thin.

To quote Ferris Bueller once more, “only the meek get pinched. The bold survive!”