Madrona: The Haul

I am just back from Madrona, filling up on tea and willing my brain to make the shift back to eastern time from western time. I had an amazing time teaching and my students were fantastic, fun, smart, and I almost got them to dance with me. We did have a disco sing-along in one class.

I will not pretend that today, a fake Monday for many (yesterday was a holiday celebrating presidents Washington and Lincoln) that you are remotely interested in anything, but seeing what I bought and clicking on the links.

Fiber,fiber, fiber, yarn!

Fiber,fiber, fiber, yarn!

All but two braids of fiber are from people and companies that are new to me.

My repeater in the lower left is Woolgatherings. Two braids of 50% alpaca/50% silk. King of All Weavers, John Malarky,  showed me his and I had to have some.

The two bundles of roving above the alpaca and the two natural yarns in the lower right are from Abundant Earth. Just go look, don’t send me the bill. They have free shipping until the end of April.

The green yarn (Rambouillet naturally dyed with indigo) and the bump of roving (Finn and Angora) above it are from Local Color Fiber Studio on magical Bainbridge Island.

The mug with stockinette stitch on it is from Creative with Clay. I almost didn’t buy one because it was so hard to pick.

I’m tip-toeing around the elephant in the haul – the red yarn next to the alpaca and the 7 (!) bags (there’s a braid in each) are all from Homestead Hobbyist. I have not be this excited about a new fiber company is long time. I went back four times to their booth and compelled many people to buy from them. The blends, the colors, all of it was irresistible.  I will release the fiber from the bags and do an in depth viewing after Ken gets back from Stitches West and has his shop refilled.

Does that help soothe this almost Monday?

I will be writing more about Madrona and my classes tomorrow over on my personal blog. Now, I need to get spinning!

WWW: On the Value of Making, Designing and Persisting

Although the focus on this article is getting children to be creative, the message about the value of making applies to all ages!

It feels so fundamentally good and right to use our hands to manipulate materials – to use tools to extend our ability; to put stuff out into the world.


The Craft Industry Alliance reports that both the size and scope of the craft industry have grown significantly since 2011. We can conclude, I think, that many are coming to understand the value and pleasure of craft.


Loving the cover of last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.


I really enjoyed reading this report from Clara Parkes’ Knitters Review about the most recent American Sheep Industry professional meetings.


I’m very keen to watch a new documentary series, premiering on Netflix. Abstract: The Art of Design tells the stories of eight different ‘professional creatives’ – an architect, an illustrator, an interior designer, a stage designer, a graphic designer, a car designer and a shoe designer. The episodes document the work and workspaces of these artists.


A chart, suitable for embroidery or cross-stitch, courtesy Kim Salazar. Click on the link to download a larger verison.

I also very much like this version of the quote as a cross-stitch chart: it’s a bit more modern in approach, with bonus pink hats! H/t Kim Werker who told me about it, and it was designed by Haley Pierson-Cox of The Zen of Making.

WWW: Sizing Chart Update, Pats Hats for Newborns, Instagram Challenge

Very pleased to see that designer and student-of-garment-fit Ysolda has updated and republished her sizing chart. A boon for designers and knitters!


Two nurses at Newton Wellesley Hospital in the Boston area recently spent a Sunday afternoon knitting timely hat for new arrivals… on Superbowl Sunday, they made hats in the colors of the New England Patriots, the team that won the sporting event.


There is so much to love in this: news of competitive sheep-shearing and wool-handling, and a group of bare-chested New Zealand shearers performing the traditional Haka dance.


If you’re not a member of Instagram, you might not be familiar with the concept of a ‘photo challenge’. Instagram, a social media network, is centered on photography, and many like to take advantage of the medium by joining in group projects, dubbed ‘challenges’. The idea is simple: that you post a photograph every day, connected to a theme. For the month of February, many in the yarn community are participating in the Yarn Love Challenge, an idea originated by Mary Heather and Christina. If you’re not on Instagram, you can explore pictures here and here. And if you are, consider joining in! I’m doing it, and it’s lots of fun. The theme for today is “Where I craft”. I’m loving everyone’s photos, and seeing such creativity in interpretation of the themes, and in the images themselves.


I’m not sure I actually quite believe this story, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief because the pictures are so great… Knitted scarves for cats have apparently become trendy in Japan.


Would You Fix it or Leave It?

As I was spinning this weekend, I noticed that there are spinning irregularities that I almost never fix and ones that I always fix. There is no right or wrong answer to this situation, it is 100% personal preference. Some spinners fix everything and some fix nothing. This weekend I found that I have a particular threshold.

fix it or leave it collage knittyblog jan 6I almost never fix thick and thin spots unless it is extreme to one end or the other, and sometimes I still leave those spots. The thick and thin is exactly what I like about handspun yarn. A machine can’t do it with true randomness and I think it’s what gives handspun yarn life.

It’s the blips that I have particular feelings about. The blip in the top photo I wouldn’t fix, I don’t mind how it looks and the twist goes through the bump of fiber, so it’s stable.

The yarn on the bottom I would fix, by drafting out the blip. This one is looser and it looks like a flag to me. The twist goes through part of the fiber bump, but not all of it. It was quick to fix, a little untwist and draft and it smoothed out.

Both of these yarn aren’t particularly consistent and I wouldn’t fix that. What would you do? The thing I didn’t say about this yarn is that it’s a singles. I’m not going to ply it, so it won’t have the buddy correction of a plied yarn. Does that change your answer?

Is there something that you always fix in your yarn?

Knitting as a Political Act; Clones in a Pink Hat; A Lace Dress

Craft as resistance: Have you downloaded Donna Druchunas’s free ‘Knitting as a Political Act’ e-book yet?


Related: this talk about the role of knitting in the era of World War One sounds fascinating. February 9th, at the Rockport Public Library in Rockport, Maine. If I lived closer, I’d definitely attend.


Just a little reminder: Jillian and I are both reaching at the upcoming Interweave Yarn Fest, in Loveland, Colorado. The weekend of March 30-April 2, the event features a broad variety of classes on all topics yarny: knitting, crochet, spinning and weaving. If you’re in the area, there’s also a great retail fair.


Not knitting, but absolutely fascinating: a lace dress, made for Queen Charlotte, the wife of England’s King George III. The dress is rare for two reasons: very few pieces of the era have survived, and this one in particular is constructed entirely of lace – a process that would have been incredibly time-consuming and costly, and resulted in a very very delicate garment. The story is worth reading, if you’ve been following the new TV series “Victoria”, as Charlotte’s sad family history ultimately led to Victoria being crowned.


YES: Craft on the cover of the New Yorker. And here’s the story behind the artist, Abigail Gray Swartz, who is also a knitter. She submitted it to the publication on a whim!


Totally blowing my own horn here, but I can’t resist.

Due to a connection through my husband’s work, I had to make two pink hats, as a day or two before the march I ended up giving my first one away. My first hat went to none other than Tatiana Maslany, Emmy-winning actress and lead in the very popular TV series Orphan Black, where she plays a series of characters. Ms. Maslany was unable to walk in the Women’s March January 21st due to work commitments, but she did post pictures of herself, in character(s), wearing the hat I made.

Click on the link in the tweet to see the hat!

It was even mentioned in Entertainment Weekly. Squee!

Planning Projects As You Go For A Spinner

Cjkoho Designs, BFL and my cowl in progress.

Cjkoho Designs, BFL and my cowl in progress.

I’m sure you all know by now that knitting my handspun is one of my favorite things. I like to design my projects and I like to design my projects as I knit, especially smaller projects. How does that work if I’m spinning the yarn I’m knitting? What if I run out of yarn or what if I change my mind in the middle of knitting, my design becomes something different and I know I don’t have enough yarn?

All of those things happen to me, a lot. You know what? I don’t sweat it. For me it’s the trade off for not having to be exact. I don’t know exactly what I’m knitting, I have a good idea, but it always evolves. Also I like to spin ish yarn, not exacting down to the micron.

Right now I’m working on a projects and patterns for a class I’m premiering at the  Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat, Yarnitecture 2: Spinning for a Specific Project. I will present my students (waving!) with three patterns and they can choose which one(s) to work through the sampling process and as much of the spinning process we can do in a day. One pattern has color manipulation, one is lace and one is cabled.

I’m finishing up the cabled project right now and it keeps evolving. It’s a cowl and I have about 4.5 inches knit from 3 ounces of fiber. I spun 4 ounces of fiber and I want the cowl to be at least 8″ tall, maybe 9″. I won’t know until I get there. You see what’s going to happen? I’m going to run out of yarn. Did I stress? Nope. I contacted the dyer (CJkohoDesigns – she’s in town) and she had more. Will it match exactly? Nope, but it will be close enough. If she didn’t have more fiber or if I had bought the fiber at a festival 10 years ago with no hope of more, I still wouldn’t have stressed. I would have ripped it out and rethought the cowl.

Some things aren’t worth stressing over. Plus for me it’s like a puzzle, a challenge, what happens next? I love that. It’s at the heart of fiber arts for me, the puzzling and unpuzzling.

Do you plan on the fly for spinning projects or do you plan everything exactly?

WWW: Painting the Town Pink; Madison, WI Knit-In; Sweaters for Elephants

Knitters, crocheters, sewists, all the makers who got busy in in the past few week with: you did it! Saturday, a sea of pink hats was visible all around the world. Kay and Ann over at Mason Dixon Knitting said it best.

Unattributed internet photo, as per Mason Dixon Knitting.

Unattributed internet photo, as per Mason Dixon Knitting.

I must confess to have been very amused at the confusion some apparently felt about how so many hats were made, in a short period of time.


Spinner and teacher Abby Franquemont penned an excellent response to this question, published on BuzzFeed Community.

No matter how you feel about the hat or the name, I think we can all be proud of this demonstration of the power of craft, the power of the work of our own hands.


Love this: a clever maker in Saskatchewan, Canada, has developed his own knitting machine to make socks to donate to shelters across the country. In the seven years he’s been doing this, he estimates he’s made over 10,000 socks.


On a totally different note, just a reminder that registration closes soon for the Madison, WI Knitter’s Guild Annual Knit-In.  The event takes place March 17-19th. I’m teaching there this year, along with Knitty designer Laura Nelkin, and double-knitting genius Lucy Neatby. The event features 35 classes of all sorts, and a number of fun social events. I’ll be teaching a number of sock classes, for different levels of knitters. An excellent way to pass a late-winter weekend.


This week, in the “not knitting but still pretty wonderful category”: Indian women living near the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in the northern city of Mathura are making blankets to keep the resident elephants warm, as the region experiences a highly unusual cold-snap.


Amazing: Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin offers a Mathematics of Knitting class. From the syllabus: “The goal is not only to show the connections between knitting and advanced mathematical concepts, but also to demonstrate the importance of problem solving and critical thinking found in mathematics.”  Where was this class when I was studying mathematics at University?

Why I Still Buy Yarn

Aranmore and June Cashmere, mmmmmm

Aranmore and June Cashmere, mmmmmm

If I spin why do I still buy yarn? Yes, I often look at commercial yarns and think, “I can make that” and sometimes I even do make something similar.

But I still buy yarn to knit and weave with, why? There are companies making interesting yarns, yarns that this picky, picky spinner falls in love with. There are dyers who make exquisite colors and don’t dye fiber. There are companies making and selling yarn that employ people in countries not as bountiful as ours, or from sheep that are becoming endangered or from sheep, mills and dyers that are in their own neighborhood.

I buy yarn from yarn shops almost exclusively, I don’t want yarn shops (or book shops) to ever go away.

This past weekend I taught spinning at Loop Yarns and succumbed to the siren song of gorgeous yarn in a

Hedgehog Fibers and MJ Yarns - the color!

Hedgehog Fibers and MJ Yarns – the color!

gorgeous shop. I bought two skeins of Arranmore from the Fibre Company. From a spinners point of view this is a good yarn, an interesting blend, beautiful colors and well made. It’s a little light on ply twist, but that is my very personal preference. I also bought two skeins of  June Cashmere in Scarlet. The color is exquisite one of the best reds I’ve ever seen. Did you read about it in Knitter’s Review? If Clara says it’s good and that the company is doing good things, I’m in!

I added two more, new spins to me fibers from Loop too, Hedgehog Fibers (merino and nylon) and the sexiest BFL roving I’ve ever touched from MJ Yarns. Really, it’s so good I almost bought it all.

Loop Yarns, don't you want to knit it all? Photo borrowed from the Loop website.

Loop Yarns, don’t you want to knit it all?
Photo borrowed from the Loop website.

 

If you are ever in or near Philadelphia make sure to go to Loop Yarns, it is a spectacular shop!

 

WWW: On the Pink Hats

Everybody is talking about the Pussy Hat initiative. As I’ve mentioned before, the objective is that every attendee of the women’s march in DC this coming Saturday be outfitted in a pink hat. The point is for a visible symbol of unity, a symbol that absolutely cannot be missed.

The color and the design – and the name and its connotations — were very deliberate choices. The name and shape nod to a particular comment made by a particular politician, and of course the color is the one shade always and only associated with women. (Those who aren’t keen on that particular design have been making Donna Druchunas’s wonderful “Resist” hat instead, less whimsical but equally meaningful.) There has been some very good debate about the design. Some feel that the shape and color are too juvenile, and those wearing the hat are likely to be dismissed for not being serious. This Washington Post article seems to support that position. Others feel that the attendees of the March are going to be dismissed regardless, and that the color and style of the hat isn’t going to make any difference: indeed, the point of the hat is to own and subvert stereotypes and offensive language.

There’s been coverage in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, LA Times, the Guardian, and so many other outlets. Yarn shops are reporting shortages of pink yarn, and the hats are all over social media – and celebrities are talking about them, making and wearing them: Rosanne Cash, Patti Smith, Anna Paquin, Neko Case, and many, many others.

There are Women’s Marches taking place all over the world this coming Saturday. A lot of stores — including Yarns Untangled, my LYS — are collecting hats to distribute to marchers in both local and the DC event.

Both Jillian and I have made hats, and will be wearing them on Saturday.

2hats
Time is getting short, but if you can get your hands on about 75yds/70m of a super-bulky yarn, you can follow my notes to make a hat or two in plenty of time for Saturday. Friend of the show and crochet-master Kim Werker has published her notes for crochet version.

I will be attending the Toronto March with many members of the Toronto knitting community. #resist

Favorite Spinning Tools: My Steamer

Only 7" tall, but my steamer is mighty!

Only 7″ tall, but my steamer is mighty!

I have a little portable steamer that I use all of the time. It’s become one of those tools in my arsenal, along with my scale, that I had no idea when I bought it how much I would use it.

I use it the most when I’m sampling. I’m not a patient spinner and I want to see what my yarn and knitted swatches are going to look like as soon as possible. Steaming is perfect for that. My steamer is small and is best for small skeins of yarn. I used to just hold my skeins over our electric kettle until I got tired of finding wool in my tea.

I have used it for bigger 400 yard skeins, it took a couple of passes with my little steamer, but it was less time than waiting for the skein to dry after wet blocking. All I want to do was get started knitting!

I do need to say that if I am working with a fiber or blend that is new to me I will take the time to wet block my sample yarn.

A steamer is great for blocking swatches too. I pin them out first and then hit them with steam. I also use it to do touch up blocking on knitted or woven garments or accessories that are looking limp. A hit of steam can get a cable to stand back up, or get a quickly pinned out lace edge to open up.

Do you use a steamer?