“I’m going to take so many pictures of you today!” I told Jon, since he looked very handsome in his sweater.
“Noooo!” he replied.
“If we take photos now, we don’t ever have to take pictures of this sweater again!” I said to Jon as we walked through the 4H gate at the NY Sheep and Wool Festival.
I have to hand it to him, Jon is always game for my fiber-fueled antics. He’s been dragged to Rhinebeck year after year, there’s yarn in every crevice of the apartment, and he never discourages me from buying yarn. I’m constantly forcing Jon to photograph me in my latest finished garment when he’d much rather be enjoying his day off.
What I mean to say is, this boy deserves a great sweater!
I was working on Grettir for a long time. I started it over vacation back in April and it took me a long time to stop procrastinating and actually graft the underarms. (I can’t be the only one that’s terrible at finishing knits.) But I guess speed wasn’t really important since sweater season seemed far away.
Now it’s finally that time! I love the way this sweater looks on him. It fits really great and the colors are really handsome. The pattern is great and it feels really classic. Jon’s been wearing his sweater and nothing feels better than seeing someone enjoy what you made them.
Didn’t he look great at Rhinebeck?!
Rhinebeck this year felt a lot like Black Friday shopping. I’ve never gone Black Friday shopping but I imagine getting a Cabbage Patch Kid the day after Thanksgiving 1987 was a lot like trying to get into the Miss Babs booth Saturday morning at the NY Sheep and Wool Festival. Lisa said that she crawled on her hands and knees into the booth to secure three skeins of worsted-weight yarn. (That’s why I love her.) (Babs herself was there being just lovely. She told me in hushed tones that it was ok to squish all the yarn, pick a color, and buy it online.)
Let’s start with the bad news, this is the yarn I didn’t buy.
We all have different strategies for fiber festivals but this is mine: I do a lap before I buy anything. In fact, sometimes I do many laps. Now, there are exceptions to this rule, sure. If it’s the last skein in that base I love or I can’t get it online or I just feel like it’s THE ONE, snatch it up. But this way is the best for me to prevent impulse-buying. At the end of the day, if I still hear the yarn calling out to me or I can’t get it out of my head, I’ll go back for it.
I walked away from a lot of yarn but that’s not to say that none of this was gorgeous. I wanted it all. But my budget (and overflowing stash) keeps me from getting everything. Part two of my strategy is to take a photo and write it down so that I can buy it later online when I either have a project or the money.
I went with a list this time but, let me tell you, it was very overwhelming to make big decisions in this atmosphere so I didn’t end up checking anything off of my list. The big ticket item was yarn for Benton. I’d love to make one for NaKniSweMo but I’m not sure what colors I want. I wear a lot of blue so I’m trying to stay away from navy. I was thinking a clay red, forest green, or maybe gold? In the end, there were so many fibers and so many color choices that were so perfect for this sweater (plus so much yarn substitution and price math), I just couldn’t choose. So I have a list of possible choices that I’m going to compare when I have my wits about me.
Here’s what I did buy. And looking at it now, I feel kind of silly because it’s really all the same. But, like I said, I have lots of yarn that are buzzing around my brain. And, spoiler alert, I did get some Christmas gifts that will have to remain a secret.
I’ve got too much sock yarn but Into the Whirled is just so yummy. All of these are the Manchester Sock base which is merino/nylon/cashmere. It’s so soft. I’m addicted to sock yarn.
When we arrived at the house Friday night, I put on some hand knit socks to get cozy with a cider (as you do at the start of a Rhinebeck weekend). I can’t tell you how sad Jon was that he hadn’t packed any knit socks. This boy loves cuddling up in handmade socks and it just really tickles me. His appreciation for socks makes me want to make him a billion (he only has two pair, that’s not right!) and it feels like a pretty valid excuse to add to my sock yarn stash. So when I was browsing the racks at ITW, I decided not to go with something pretty and purple. I picked out Wanderlust because I thought it was really masculine.
I was also totally drooling over their new semi-solids like this peacock colorway, Qualinesti. I’ve got plenty of self-striping and variegated yarns and I just feel like they limit me to making slip stitch or plain socks. I can only cable with semi-solids and solids! It’s just a thing.
So I said that that was enough sock yarn. I was just going to make some soft, amazing socks for my boyfriend…But then I went back to ITW with Panda and she convinced me that buying this skein of Cherry Bomb because it matched my nail polish was a totally legit reason. (Nail polish is Essie “In Stitches” because it’s also totally legit to buy nail polish just because it’s named after knitting. Knitting-themed nail polish, nail polish-themed yarn…This is getting a little meta.) It’s a little tough to photograph. In real life, it’s a little more on the mauve side.
I did end up getting something that’s been on my list. Ever since I saw Dana’s earrings at VKL in January, I’ve coveted a pair of Jennie the Potter earrings. It was really tough deciding which ones to get but I really love these!
So there you have it. I came, I saw, I bought yarn.
What did you get at Rhinebeck?
Did you miss me? I know it’s been a while. September was a crazy month and I just started a new job so I’ve been settling in. But it’s time to get back to business because I’ve got new pattern out!
Ilsa is a drop-shoulder cardigan with color work details on the fronts. The sweater is part of Knit Scene’s Vinter Stickning spread which is all about Scandinavian-inspired pieces. I love Scandinavian design, it’s where I go for inspiration when I’m feeling stuck so I was very excited to make something directly informed by it.
I wanted to do something a little boxy and relaxed. The trends for simple lines really lead me to this shape. Of course, I’m obsessed with neutrals but the little pops of color give it that Scandinavian whimsy.
Are you casting on your own Ilsa?
I recently wrote about upcoming print-only Knit Wit Magazine and how I’m dying to get my hands on the first issue. The Kickstarter is quickly coming to a close but I was recently able catch up with Zinzi Edmundson, Knit Wit’s Editor. Zinzi (and art director Gigi Jack) come from a magazine background. She was nice enough to do a little interview with me and I’m very excited to share!
What drew you to the magazine world?
It’s unclear. I wanted to work in magazines from such an early age that it’s a little hard to pin point (around middle school, I wrote a letter to Anna Wintour. Unreturned, naturally). As a kid pre-blog, I would take all my favorite parts of other magazine (mostly photos + some headlines) and create my own Zinzi-themed magazines in sketchbooks. I’d even write stories around the images.
You come from a magazine background so what is it about textiles that you find interesting?
I’ve been a knitter since I was 8, but I have to admit that the current mega-surge in textile interest is really what hooked my attention. I love the limitless ability for expression and the cultural specificity that gets woven, stitched, knit, printed or dyes into fabrics. It’s really romantic and it’s so, so interesting. But, because we’re still in discovery mode (and this is our personalities anyway), the magazine will never be written from the point of view of an authority or some austere perspective from on high. It’s an honest curiosity and readers can come along for the ride (and chime in via social, too!).
Most (if not all) knitting magazines provide patterns but Knit Wit has none. What made you turn away from that format?
I think including patterns makes it a different kind of magazine and I wanted to introduce Knit Wit as an alternative to what’s already out there. That’s not to say that we’ll never include projects, but it’s just not exactly the idea. I have these grand visions of people who aren’t crafters or who never picked up knitting needles to be swept away by the stories and the incredible people so much so that they decide to dig deeper and start making stuff themselves. And that hardcore knitters or weavers or what have you (if they aren’t totally pissed that there aren’t patterns!) will discover something new or hear a story about something they already knew about, but from a different perspective. So for our purposes, it’s always been more about the people, places and objects than it is about DIY aspect. Call it a jumping off point or something.
What do you make of the contemporary knitting/textile scene?
This is a tough one. It’s so enormous—there are so many different people, all of whom relate to it in a completely different way. I was thinking recently about how fiber and textiles is considered a niche, which it definitely is, but it’s so weird given that there are millions of people participating in these activities, whether they’re just fucking around or upholding a grand tradition. So yeah, I guess I have to say that I think its vast and dynamic and just so chock full of stories. I think what’s interesting about Knit Wit is that it can be technically about something so specific, but it’s secretly very, very broad. We’ll never run out of material.
What do you see for the next issue and the future of Knit Wit?
OMG, good question. Now that we’re funded and most people signed up for a subscription, we’ve got to make good on that! Ha! In the future, I hope to continue to put as much care and love into future issues as there is in this one. And on a more literal note, Gigi and I are looking to expand into hosted workshops with fun lunches and awesome guest instructors. Coming soon…
I’m so pumped that Knit Wit was fully funded long before their deadline but tomorrow is the last day to back Knit Wit Magazine on Kickstarter! I hope you are all looking forward to the first issue as much as I am. Thanks for sharing with us, Zinzi!
Have you backed Knit Wit yet?
It’s currently Shark Week out in the television universe. Of course, we might not have our own network but I am envisioning seven days dedicated to our wooly friends that make yarn happen. That’s right, here it is Sheep Week! This week’s posts will be dedicated to sheep, lambs, ewes, etc etc.
I figured I’d kick off Sheep Week with a few lamb-inspired patterns!
What are your favorite sheep sweaters? Are you looking forward to Sheep Week!?
Grettir is finally coming together. There wasn’t much to show you during the long haul of stockinette but now something interesting has happened. And, alas, now it’s basically over.
I’m quite pleased with the look of the yoke. It was a pretty simple colorwork pattern for me. Everything was straightforward there. Stranded colorwork really is my favorite thing. I imagine that if I were a dragon, instead of a cave full of golden treasures, I’d be sleeping on a big pile of fingering-weight colorwork sweaters.
I recently looked back on the beginnings of this sweater and thought, “God, I’m such an asshole!” Can you believe I started this thing back in March? It’s July and it’s still not finished. I really have no excuse for this taking so long. Though, I suppose, the beauty of knitting for myself (and by that I mean knitting something that isn’t on a work deadline because clearly this sweater is not for me) is that it doesn’t have to be finished with any haste. But, still. It’s a little ridiculous that a worsted-weight sweater that is mainly single color stockinette has taken me months and months.*
I think this sweater is kind of telling of my mental state this summer. I’m really all over the place. I want to sew tank tops and eat ice cream and read comic books. I’ve allowed myself to become undisciplined after a year of hard deadlines and workaholism which was a big mistake! Give me and inch, etc etc.
All of that over-analysis aside, Grettir is almost finished. I have to graft the underarms to the sleeves which I just have had zero motivation to do. There’s a lot of waste yarn still hanging around the cast ons of this sweater. And he could use a nice blocking. It fits Jon well and he’s really pleased with it. I think it suits his style perfectly.
But, of couse, it was 90 degrees today so I have absolutely no desire to be finishing a sweater right now.
Do you ever get lazy with knitting? What keeps you on track on personal projects?
*Okay, stockinette stitch for miles is a good excuse for taking a long time. It just NEVER ENDS.
On 364 days of the year, I would never be caught dead wearing an American flag t-shirt or rocking stars-and-stripes nail art. I wouldn’t say that I’m not proud to be an American but I wouldn’t go singing about how I’m free, yadda yadda. To me, America is like an embarrassing parent. It’s great and it doesn’t give me a hard time about my curfew but sometimes I wish it would wear something different when we go to the mall. (Can you go lead the free world away from me and my friends? I’m trying to get Europe to notice me!) To put it simply, I am not an American of the AMURICA variety.
All of that aside, I love Independence Day. I love grilling, I love drinking domestic beers, I love the Founding Fathers (sorry those assholes are always dragging you guys into everything). I want to get drunk and watch 1776 on full volume.
Since tomorrow is AMERICA’S BIRTHDAY, I thought it would only be appropriate to share some yarns that are Made in America. There are lots of amazing yarns coming from around the globe but there is an excitement for me in buying locally and supporting America’s textile renaissance.
Here are some yarns hailing from California to the New York Island.
1. A Verb for Keeping Warm Floating in Transitional Fury
2. Quince & Co. Puffin in River
3. Jill Draver Makes Stuff Mohonk in Bing Cherry
4. Imperial Yarn Columbia 2-ply in Natural
5. Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in Almanac
In the spirit of the holiday, I am reminded of the American colonists who eschewed British fabrics and produced their own homespun to boycott unjust taxes. Those are our very own forefathers of American DIY!
I’d love to collect a better list. What are your favorite American-made yarns?
While I visited a lot of museums, my first stop when I go to a new city is the LYS. It makes me feel like I’m part of the community, like I could picture myself living there a little bit. Every store I’ve visited is different and really shows what the area is all about but at the same time it’s very familiar. There is no better home away from home for me than a LYS.
Speaking of homes away from home, I was just about ready to move in when I got to A Verb for Keeping Warm. I’d always wanted to go after seeing photos by other bloggers and it was so exciting to finally be able to make the trip. I decided to dedicate a day of my adventure to Oakland so that I’d have a good amount of time to spend at Verb. It was way more than what I’d expected!
Verb is just a lovely shop with a great selection of the higher-end delicious yarns we all love. The fabric selection is something else. There were so many bolts that caught my eye, everything from organic, natural-dyed cottons to Japanese Nani Iro prints. There were a lot of things that wanted to go home with me. Verb recently released their first sewing pattern so I had to pick up a copy of that.
Sarah gave me a little tour of the shop. Verb specializes in natural dyeing. They sell dyes (which I was VERY tempted to buy but have promised myself that I will not take up dyeing. I can’t have another hobby!) as well as their own line of natural-dyed yarns. I’m absolutely obsessed with these yarns and spent a long time petting them. Sarah explained that the fleeces come from a nearby organic cotton farm which is fertilized by sheep. The mill is also located within 90 miles of the shop and everything is dyed in house. I don’t think it can get more local than that.
I wish I could’ve taken one of the natural dyeing classes while I was in town. Luckily, Verb’s owner Kristine Vejar is busy finishing up a book about the subject. Those of us who are not lucky enough to be in the Bay Area for lessons will soon be able to learn at home!
This bold red “Transitional Fury” really stood out to me so, I had to have it.
My favorite thing about the shop is the garden. Not only is there a beautiful and sunny place to take your needles, there is a little garden of plants that can be used in natural dyeing. It really made me want to make better use of my window garden. Maybe a project for next summer? I got to meet Verb’s very own angora rabbit, Marcel. He was the sweetest! So soft and happy. He’s sheered four times a year and the angora yarn quickly sells out every season.
I’ve certainly seen my share of LYSs. This one is definitely one of my favorites. I love it when a store not only is beautiful and friendly but has a really solid identity. Verb is really dedicated to being a great resource for all crafters and you can tell just by spending a few minutes in there. I’d love to take another visit (maybe when I can afford to bring more souvenirs home) and attend one of the classes there!
Have you been to A Verb for Keeping Warm? Do you want to learn more about natural dyeing?
As I mentioned before, I was really excited about the mythology theme. I was thinking of lots of cool images including singing vases, bodega coffee cups, and Penelope’s tapestry. I decided that I wanted to do something Egyptian. I really wanted to be an Egyptologist when I was a kid. I think I have this book memorized. Egyptian mythology arouses so many visuals, there’s a lot to work with there.
But my inspiration came mainly from Cleopatra who was not a mythical creature but a real live human being. If you’ve read Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra, you know that many of the popular legends about her just that and that she was actually a remarkable leader of her country and army. Cleopatra came along a lot later than King Tut and the pyramids and she was actually Greek. The popular vixen story appeared somewhere later down the line. So Cleopatra herself is something of a myth. (Am I getting too literal here? Stay with me.) Anyway, it lead me to this idea of interpreting the Egyptian nemes, that iconic headdress that the pharaohs wore.
I had this picture in my mind of modern Cleopatra. Maybe it came from watching too much Clone High (RIP CLONE HIGH. WHERE CAN I STREAM THAT SHOW!?) but that was where the fun started. I imagine she’s pretty cool and artsy. Still wears a lot of eye make up, obviously, and maybe has some cool tattoos. She definitely knows the best coffee shops and dive bars. I suppose that she’s a myth to me, too.
And this is what that incarnation wears. It’s got those jewel tones of the nemes, the turquoise and ebony in gold, but it’s in a repeating pattern that appeals to me as a minimalist. The shape of the hat really lends itself to that Brooklyn (sorry, I’m using that as an adjective and I don’t care) vibe that our no-nonsense coffee beverage-drinker, who’s working on her latest installation piece modern Cleopatra gives off.
So there you have it. Do you think Cleo would wear one of these?
Have you picked up Pom Pom Quarterly’s summer issue yet? I’ve been so pleased with the response to Creamsicle. But I have to give credit where credit is due. Linda’s fantastic yarn really took the design over the top. I can’t stop raving about the color and delicious softness. Which is why I asked her to do a little interview!
Aside from having yummy yarns and gorgeous colorways, Linda is very serious about being environmentally friendly. She recently began dyeing full time and I’m so glad that she’s been able to take that step! Linda was kind enough to share the process and philosophy behind her company Kettle Yarn Co.
How did you begin dyeing yarn?
My journey into yarn is a somewhat personal one that I haven’t discussed much publicly.
My yarn dyeing adventures started a few years ago during a period of illness. I was a practicing artist at the time and found that preparing canvases was just too much for me so I started knitting so that I could continue to create while conserving energy. Dyeing my own yarn was a logical melding of the two disciplines!
After over a year’s worth of poking and prodding by medical professionals and my health deteriorating to the point where I could barely get up a small flight of stairs, I learned my illness was largely due to severe fragrance allergies. Kettle Yarn Co. was started in the hopes that one day I’d be able to have a bit more control over my working environment and lessen my exposure to the perfume chemicals that were currently damaging my lungs in the open plan office environment at the university where I worked.
I have been very fortunate. I have left the university and am now not only able to work from home a good portion of the week but am doing a job I truly love and am passionate about. My health has improved exponentially and I feel that I’ve finally found my creative niche!
right: clear water remaining after dyeing process is complete
One of your goals is to be eco-friendly. How do you make your yarns a little “greener?”
My partner is an Environmental Project Manager and I’ve been lucky enough to get a lot of free help and advice on how to make my processes as low impact as possible.
I have chosen to use a local dye supplier and the most toxic thing I use in my process is regular household vinegar! I try to ensure that I use up all dyes in the pot when dyeing. I’ve even developed a line of OOAK (one of a kind) yarns – TWIST 100% British Bluefaced Leicester fingering – that helps me to use up every last particle so nothing gets wasted or ends up back in the water table.
All my yarn blends are chosen to ensure animal welfare and humane wool production. Any Merino I use is Peruvian to ensure that absolutely no mulesing is done to the sheep and many of my blends use 100% British Bluefaced Leicester. It is very important to me to support the British Wool Industry and help to maintain traditional breeds.
I always joke that British Bluefaced Leicester is the Holy Grail of wool blends as the fleece combines three of the most highly prized qualities for handcrafting:
1. a softness comparable to Merino wool – delicate enough for the most sensitive skin;
2. a long staple fibre, making yarn hard wearing, long lasting and extremely low pilling;
3. the fleece is formed of crimped fibres, creating a natural lustre and elastic bounce.
This gives the yarn a gentle sheen, which reflects light to enhance stitch work and colour while also giving the blend elasticity, warmth and a luxurious drape. Purchased from the British Wool Marketing Board, we only use supersorted 100% British Bluefaced Leicester fleece. ‘Supersorting’ is when the fibre is picked through (cleaned of any unwanted bits!) twice as much as normal wools are handled and then is examined again before being combed and sent for processing at the spinning mill. This ensures that only the very softest BFL is used for Kettle Yarn Co. blends.
What’s next for you and Kettle Yarn Co?
I have two UK trade shows coming up in July and am in a yarn dyeing frenzy for the next month in preparation. I am so excited about them both as will have my very own solo both for the first time! Unwind is the first, which takes place July 12th and 13th in the beautiful seaside town of Brighton and Fibre East is at the end of the month July 26th and 27th in Bedfordshire.
I am working on a few new blends to release for the shows and they will be available in August in the shop! So exciting.
Thanks for sharing with us, Linda! So many amazing insights into the knitty gritty (excuse the pun) of yarn dyeing. If you’re in the neighborhood, you should definitely check out the Kettle Yarn Co booth at those upcoming festivals! Luckily for the rest of us, Kettle Yarn Co is available through Etsy. And Linda has put together Creamsicle kits in Sherbert and Melon Balls, just add an issue of Pom Pom Quarterly and needles!
Have you knit with Kettle Yarn Co before? How important is it that your yarn be eco friendly?