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

andi 3

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.)

andi 6

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:

CS: What is your favorite cocktail?

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


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

boris may 15

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


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:


There was even a sighting of “Dolly Parton”:
IMG_1321 (1)

So by the end of the weekend, I was all


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


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!)


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.


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.


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.


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


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!)


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!!!).


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!

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Paddy’s Pub!

My next limited edition batch of yarn for Jimmy Bean’s Wool went live today as part of their Micro-Brew series. Introducing worsted-weight Paddy’s Pub….

leprechaun 2

It’s 100% merino wool, each skein has approx. 215 yds/100g, and it knits as a typical worsted weight: about 4.5 to 5 sts per inch on US size 7-9 needle. There’s a special pattern download available to you with purchase: you can download the Fareham Scarf pattern, an easy two-skein project, or the Ivycroft Wristers, an easy one-skein project.

And why Paddy’s Pub?

They say “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and even though I would disagree, based on the past few weeks, the show is hilarious. Given the many green tones of the colorway, and given that I live right outside Philadelphia, it’s a perfect fit!

Go to Jimmy Bean’s and pick up a skein or two here.

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Book look: Artistic Differences by Talitha Kuomi (with Classic Elite Yarns)

I recently was sent a review copy of a brand-new pattern book by the very talented Talitha Kuomi. If you watched The Fiber Factor, you’ll recognize Talitha as one of the contestants. She’s also had designs published all over the place, for magazines like knit.wear and KnitScene, for yarn companies like Classic Elite and Malabrigo, and on her own website. Talitha’s got an interesting background. Like many of us in the industry, she didn’t originally set out to become a knitwear designer. She fronted a blues/rock band, trained as a bridal seamstress, and ended up knitting when her kids were little. Soon she was tweaking patterns and then writing her own.

tal cover

Talitha’s latest endeavor is a book of designs called “Artistic Differences,” created in collaboration with Classic Elite Yarns. It’s a terrific idea: giving a designer yarn and tech support, allowing her to tell a story through a set of themed designs. (It’s this kind of thinking that we in the industry need to do more of: finding collaborative and creative ways for people to work together.) Talitha drew on her background in the music industry, envisioning designs that could be styled two ways: an edgier “rock-n-roll” look, and a more “bohemian acoustic” style. You can get a feel for how this works by comparing each version of a given design. For example, the Tensity bags feature a lovely central cable motif; the bags are constructed the same way but finished differently.

tal tensity

Different silhouettes and handles (and obviously different color choices) give each bag its own look.

Likewise, the Cade cowl pattern is shown in two variations; the purple is the boho look,

tal cade

while the blue version features the edgier style.

cade too

Forte is a great sweater knit in bulky yarn, with dropped stitch details front and center; boho version

forte brown

and rocker version.

forte tan

Setto features a lovely cable motif and is shown in two very different lengths, cropped for rocker and longer for boho:


I think my favorite, though, is Terva with its arching lace pattern, shown in gold (boho)


and deep raspberry (rocker). So pretty!


The Silve wristers are shown in an all-one-color version as well as with contrasting-color edgings:


Chroma is a shrug that comes in two lengths; it’s knit from the bottom up, flat, in one piece, using a long circular:

chroma 1

chroma 2

Talitha did the styling and photography, as well as the knit design. I had a chance to chat with her about what it was like to shoot the photographs at a nightclub called Club Passim.

“Club Passim is a landmark in Cambridge, MA. Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and many other familiar names played there back in the day. Framed photos of them hang on the walls.

“Once I knew what the themes of the book would be, I called on friends and dug through my own closet to dress Lindsay and Hayleigh, the models. My friends did not disappoint. Pam’s tall boots are being worn with Boho Setto and Renee’s silver cuffs really add attitude to Rocker Forte. About 90% of what’s being worn is actually mine from when I was fronting the band in local clubs. Each piece has memories for me: the orange suede jacket for waiting in the cold backstage, the black Doc Martens for schlepping gear from the free parking spots to the back stage doors, and then there are the D-ring clogs. Oh, how strong I feel in heels and when you’re on stage dumping out the contents of your heart for strangers, shoes that make you feel strong are a must have.

“We all arrived early one Tuesday morning this past September. Staff unlocked the doors for us and left us to have full run of the place for the whole day. We shot Rocker Terva in front of the wine list on the kitchen wall, and Boho Terva in the sound booth. We took pics of the flyers in the ladies room. We shot Rocker Tensity at the front door, and Boho Setto just inside the rear exit. Out back, behind little outdoor tables and chairs stacked for storage, we found wavy metal panels framed in painted wood. I still have no idea what their actual purpose is, but we hauled one out and it made the perfect backdrop for the Cade cowls. It was great to be able to take pictures in all the real nooks and corners of this historic club.

“The faded plaid hat worn in some of the boho shots really was my grandfather’s hat. He worn classic old men’s hats nearly everywhere he went. I keep in on a shelf in my livingroom to remind me of how he chose to live. To remind me to make wise choices as I live.”

You can find Artistic Differences on Ravelry (you can buy individual patterns or the entire collection) and through your local CEY stockist. Learn more about Talitha and her work at her website here.

Photos copyright 2015 Classic Elite Yarns, used for review purposes.

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Adventures in overdyeing

One thing that’s hard to get used to in this industry is how far in advance we work. You finish something you’re excited about, you send it off, and months, maybe even a year, later it shows up in a book or magazine somewhere. Last year, I had the good fortune to work on an article along with an accompanying pattern for Creative Knitting Magazine. It’s a special issue called “Just-in-Time Knits,” and features 40 projects that are easy to carry around, including a section on leftovers and odd balls of yarn.

annies cover

cover copyright 2015 Annie’s

As a handdyer, I know that I’m more fearless than most knitters when it comes to playing with dye and in particular, overdyeing yarn. But I also know that if you have odds and ends of yarn that don’t quite look the way you want when you combine them — the color combinations are a little off, or maybe you just want a more cohesive look to the project — one fun way to get the look you want is by overdyeing your yarn. Overdyeing is especially good for little remnants of yarn, because it’s low-stakes. If you’re nervous about dyeing, you’re not risking an entire ball (or multiple balls) of yarn, and most of us have oddballs of yarn that we don’t quite know what do with anyway.

For this project, I was very fortunate to get yarn support from Classic Elite Yarns. They sent me some of their oddballs (which were all beautiful to work with): leftover skeins from sample projects, hanks of yarn from opened bags that are then hard to ship to retailers (who tend to always buy in full bags of five or ten). Here’s a photo of the yarns they sent me, wound off into little hanks:

undyed 2

(In case you’re wondering, the yarns are, from left to right, Liberty Wool; Majestic Tweed; Color by Kristin; Inca Alpaca; Crestone; and Vista.) And here is what they looked like after a simple bath, all together in the same light blue dye bath (in the same order). Part of what is so fascinating about this process is seeing how different yarns, made of different combinations and colored fibers, constructed in different ways, take the dye.

overdyed 2

If you’re unsure about dyeing, then the most conservative approach is to pick shades of white, cream, light brown and light gray to overdye. I had a blue tweedy yarn, so again, to make it easy, I went with a blue overdye. If you want to get more adventurous, however, you can overdye other light colors — pastels like pink and yellow and mint, slightly darker shades of beige/brown and gray, yarns with texture or marl (like the Crestone, which features plies of two different colors for a “barberpole” effect). Remember the basics of color mixing you learned a long time ago in art class: if you start with a yellow yarn, adding blue dye will give you a green shade, and so on.

Another thing that is important to remember if you want to use all the skeins together in a project is to use yarns that are all about the same weight. I used all worsted weight yarns (Category 4 on the Craft Yarn Council Chart) so that I knew they would all knit at roughly the same gauge. You’ll also want to use wool and other animal-fiber yarns if you’re following the directions in the magazine; otherwise the specified dye won’t adhere to the fiber. The article gives complete directions for overdyeing, along with a hat pattern that uses my worsted-weight overdyed skeins:

overdye hat

photo copyright 2015 Annie’s

I had a lot of fun working on this project so it’s nice to see it appear in print (along with forty other projects from wonderful people like Amy Gunderson, Patty Lyons, and Lorna Miser.)

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Preview: Rowan Magazine No. 57

We’re in the middle of what they claim is one last snowstorm of this long winter, so it’s a perfect day to turn our attention to something that will remind us of warm weather, sunshine and the historic vistas of Tuscany. Yes, this year the Rowan design team took to the beautiful Italian countryside to photograph the spring/summer magazine. (The Rowan design team are not fools.)


Regular readers of either my blog or Rowan Magazine will know that Rowan Magazine is a beautifully-produced, large-sized magazine, the gold standard for pattern support in the yarn industry. Patterns are mainly knitting with some crochet, and are organized into two main fashion “stories”, along with a third set of designs shot with stripped-down styling (called Essentials). The Magazine usually includes a few feature articles and some regular sections (such as a look at other pattern booklets coming out this season from Rowan). Obviously, since this is a spring/summer publication, we’ll see lots of cottons, linen and silk, and designs that can be worn in warmer weather.

The first story in Rowan 57 is called Daydream, and is described as a romantic set of women’s garments with hints of 1950s sensibility. The designs are an interesting mix of cropped/fitted and long/oversized. For example, Donnie, designed by Gemma Atkinson, is a cropped cardigan made of Cotton Glace and Kidsilk Haze, with reverse stockinette sleeves and a little pattern stitch on the body.


Elda, on the other hand, is a boxy, oversized top with a graphic flower motif on front, knit in gauzy Kidsilk Haze.


Elda by Galina Carroll

You’ll see those two silhouettes, cropped/fitted vs. loose/boxy repeated throughout the magazine.

Zarah is a pretty sleeveless top with crossed straps in the back:

zarah back

Zara by Vibe Ulrik


Zara, another view, by Vibe Ulrik

Amy Herzog’s Fia is striking — a mostly stockinette front with a hint of lace at the top

fian 2

but the back is all lace — gorgeous!


Martin Storey’s Catarina is a cream, long-sleeved top that combines eyelet and cable patterns on the front with ribbed sleeves.


Vibe Ulrik’s Violetta is knit in dreamy Kidsilk Haze plus Fine Lace, with lovely flowing lines in the back and a large cable pattern in the front.


The back is styled cross-over rather as than one single piece.

violetta back

Sarah Hatton’s Esta uses a delicate lace pattern in classic v-neck cardigan form.


and Simona (also designed by Hatton) is an ethereal shawl with lace edging.

Simona 1

The second story, Relic, moves away from the pastels and dreamy nature of Daydream, turning instead to earth tones, more textured yarns and use of color rather than stitch pattern. Borro is a lovely slip-stitch sweater knit in Purelife Revive and Creative Linen in smoky blues:

Borro 5

Borro by Carlo Volpi

Vicchio, designed by the delightful Brandon Mably, features a diamond motif in the tweedy texture of Purelive Revive:

Vicchio 1

Marie Wallin’s Massa uses Purelife Revive plus Cotton Glace to create vertical stripes in the front with horizontal stripes on back and sleeves.

Massa 4

And Empoli (by Lisa Richardson) uses three different yarns and a ribbed/slipped stitch to create a subtle but lovely crewneck with saddle sleeves.

Empoli 2

Don’t fear, ladies, there are beautiful designs for you in the story, as well! Gemma Atkinson’s Sieci is a shot of bold color, crocheted in Pure Linen:


Arezzo, by the amazing Kaffe Fassett, clearly takes its inspiration from the patterns and colors of Tuscany (maybe tile?):

Arrezo 6

Prato, by Marie Wallin, goes for richly-colored stripes set off by black:

Prato 4

and Poppi (also by Wallin) has got a whole lot of interesting texture going on along with muted stripes.

Poppi 4

And last, the Essential section isolates some of the key shapes and design trends that Rowan predicts will be big this season. Again, you’ll find both boxy and drapey pieces on the one hand, and more fitted garments on the other. All are photographed in soft blue shades, and several feature Rowan Denim (which needs special attention paid to it because it shrinks after the first washing; the Denim patterns have been especially designed to take this shrinkage into account and include before and after washing gauges — you can see how the row gauge changes dramatically. Tread carefully and with a calculator if you substitute a non-denim yarn for these patterns.)

Denim is the perfect choice for a jean-inspired button-front vest– so biker chic!


Elektra by Lisa Richardson

But it’s also fun to see in a swingy top


Olympia by Grace Melville

or tunic with a smidge of eyelets around the neckline.


Hestia by Amy Herzog

Handknit cotton is used for a lace dress


Martin Storey’s Alexus

I love the sleeveless top with just enough patterning on shoulder and neckline from the wondrous Sarah Hatton:


Adelphia by Sarah Hatton

Hazy mohair/silk makes for a filmy sweater with fisherman’s rib:


Nemesis by Heather Dixon

and ruching is used beautifully to blend Kidsilk Haze with Cotton Glace:


Philomena by Marie Wallin

Feature articles: a story on the new Clothworkers Centre, a textile arts museum in London; a profile of Amy Herzog; some factoids about silk; and a look at the work of designer Justin Alves Khan.

Summing up, while this isn’t the most edgy Rowan Magazine we’ve seen, it’s filled with beautiful, wearable patterns with classic style. I love the mix of shapes so no matter what you like, there’s something that will appeal to you; the use of interesting stitch patterns and texture; combining stripes along with changes in texture; the mixing of different yarns, even yarns of different weights; and the use of effects like ruching, bell sleeves, and pleats in interesting ways.

Rowan Magazine retails for $23.95 (with 35 designs inside, that’s a per-pattern cost of less than seventy cents!) and is available at a LYS near you.

I received a free copy of the Magazine for review purposes. All photographs used with permission and for review purposes.