Author: Amy Singer

Sheeping and Woolling in Maryland

I love a good fiber festival and I haven’t been to one in a few years. When my friend Jennie the Potter invited me to join her booth crew in Maryland, I decided it was time for a return visit!

Everyone talks about Rhinebeck, and I’ve been to and loved Rhinebeck New York’s Sheep & Wool festival many times. It’s got a country-gone-urban vibe that’s very different from what I’ve experienced at Maryland’s Sheep and Wool Festival.

The Maryland festival [MDSW] is, frankly, huge. Very well attended this year — crowds lined up for the awesome branded merchandise with the festival logo [see poster at left] long before the show even opened Saturday morning. Barns full of every kind of sheep and many other fiber-bearing animals amused kids of all ages. Sunday was remarkable for the number of moms being ushered around the fair on Mother’s Day, and pairs of bewildered sons and daughters trying to find just the right thing to give their mamas.

Me? I spent much of the weekend at Jennie the Potter’s booth, helping write up sales and find her beautiful hand-thrown pottery new homes. I love getting to spend time with my friends this way, and having a home base at the fair means a lot of Knitty readers stopped by and got one of the new 2011 Knitty buttons. [Right now, the only way to get one is to meet me at an event somewhere…upcoming events for this year include Sock Summit 2011 and Vogue Knitting Live in LA.]

While waiting in line for the obligatory pit lamb sandwich, I heard the beginnings of the Parade of Sheep nearby. Did you know that there were originally 4 breeds of sheep that all current sheep descend from, and only one of these original breeds remains relatively unchanged? It’s the Bighorn Sheep. Anyway, I had to get back to the booth, but next year, I’m going to grab a spot in the bleachers and watch all the different breeds go by with the interesting commentary to match!

I leave you with a few snapshots of my weekend. Did you go to the festival? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

Yes, I know that's not a sheep. It's an alpaca.
an excellent motto for the weekend!
Jennie's hand-thrown and carved mugs...they're fabulous
pluckyfluff -- free spinning lessons all weekend!
matching woolmark tattoos
some of my haul from the weekend: a new Dyak Swan spindle, Bullens Wullens tussah silk, yak down from Bijou Basin Ranch and silk/yak fiber from Shadeyside Fibers. plus a new Jennie cup to hold my spindles.

And for a great video of the weekend, visit this week’s entry at Knitter’s Review. You might recognize someone around the 5 minute mark.

Congratulations to our Denise Needles winner: Anna from Illinois!

We could use a little brightness today

Mondays are often challenging. So it’s time for a big contest!

One lucky person will win a FiberBuzz Gift Basket, including prizes from all of our FiberBuzz sponsors. Take a look at this yumminess!


Quick Fitted Wristlets &
Cabled Turban patterns
by Stitch Diva
prize value: $14

Empire State Gloves kit
by Van der Rock Yarns
prize value: $21CAD


Leather-covered measuring tape
by Debra’s Garden
prize value: $18

Sheep Needle Gauge
by Goose Pond/elegant knitter
prize value: $15


Beaded Smoke Ring kit
including pattern, luxury yarn and beads
by HeartStrings
prize value: $25



A copy of Timeless Knits for Kids
by Timeless Knits
prize value: $24.95


2011 club membership
by Jane Thornley Knitter’s Club
prize value: $75


1 skein of yarn
by Red Barn Yarn
prize value: $24

image 3 Patterns – Chloe, Haltermelon,
and Spring
Garden Tee
by Never Not Knitting
prize value: $15

Here’s how to win: leave a comment to this post by Friday, March 25, at midnight eastern time, and you could win! We’ll choose a winner at random, make them answer a skill-testing question, and post the results next week.

Happy knitting, and good luck, everyone!

Obsessing over knitted toys

I finally get to meet a little girl I last saw when she was still on the inside. And I want to knit her something huggable, so I sent out a call today on Twitter for well-received toy patterns, and got a flurry of great recommendations! I thought I should share my favorites with you…

Flo, recreated by Franklin Habit for Knitty

From Knitwhits:  Bramble or Sakura [30% goes to Japan Quake relief, btw]

From Rebecca Danger: just about the whole catalog got recommended!

From Knitty: Flo and Sheldon

From Debi Birkin: the whole shebang

From Hansigurumi: the Anglerfish

From Penwiper: Extermiknit!

From Blue Sky Alpacas/Bobbi Intveld: Baby Bobbi Bear

From Ysolda: Poppy

From Barbara Prime: everything, but I did actually squee at the Alpaca in bikini!

Now how do I choose? What a fun problem to have.

The fabulous Friday of LoooooooVE!

We’ve planned today’s post all week and are going ahead, but we cannot go forward without a mention of what’s happened in Japan today. Our thoughts go out to everyone affected and we send you strength and love. If you are concerned about someone in Japan who you haven’t yet heard is okay, Google has provided this Person Finder page that may help. This page has a roundup of places where you can help financially.

This wraps up the week of LooooVE, celebrating the release of Rachael Herron’s new book. We’ve never done this before, and we’ve had a blast. We hope you’ve had fun too!

Business first: The lucky winner of yesterday’s “Name your fictional heroine’s job” contest, chosen by Rachael and Amy, because this one was too hard to judge alone: Brenna, who wrote, “Elementary school teacher by day, professional roller derby star by night. Her roller derby name can be Miss Take, because every good teacher loves word puns, and every woman over 40 probably would feel roller derby is a Miss Take after the first injury.” Congrats, Brenna — you’ll be receiving a copy of Rachael’s brand-new book, HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME!

Although there are no prizes to go with them, Honorable Mentions go to these three entries:

Katy Rose: My fictional heroine is a medical librarian; sometimes she runs across journal articles detailing a brain injury due to knitting needle puncture, but that’s not enough to deter her from her hobby. 746.1! (that’s Dewey Decimal for “Yarn preparation and weaving”)

Anne: My heroine would get to do all the wild stuff I haven’t done. She worked with a vet at the zoo, and as a tight-rope walker at a small traveling circus, and as a fire dancer at a RenFaire. When the book I’ve been thinking about writing starts, she is actually desperate to find a position as far from her family’s occult store as possible, and waitresses at a roadhouse in a podunk Southern town, and sings karaoke in her spare time.

Liz in Ypsilanti: My fictional heroine would be like me: A middle-aged administrative assistant who knows a gazillion things off the top of her head, but is able to stop everything, close the door, and let someone have a good cry.

So we promised you two things today: a present for everyone and the biggest contest yet. Ready?

From Rachael’s own needles, a brand-new pattern inspired by her new novel: Heart Back Home fingerless mittens!

Which is cuter, Rachael or the mitts?

A simple, fun knit that avoids traditional colorwork by using duplicate stitch. I personally am a big fan of duplicate stitch. [I’m a fan of anything that looks like it was harder to do than it is.]

Where is the pattern? Guess. Yup, it’s in the magazine, and you’ll find it right here!

Ruby's Bookstore Sweater, from HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME

And now, it’s time for the final contest of the week, and we think you’ll like it.

Remember this sweater —> ?
It’s the pattern included with her new book, and we’re giving away a kit so you can knit one for yourself. Of course, you’ll get the book, too!

How do you win this time? Leave a comment to this post and tell us this: What’s your most favorite recent book to give to a friend? Entries close Saturday, March 12 at midnight eastern time.

One lucky winner will receive a copy of HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME and a sweater’s worth of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted so they can make Ruby’s Bookstore Sweater. Value of yarn: $114.00. Our sincere thanks to Lorna’s Laces and to Rachael’s publisher, Avon, for the prizes this week!

Now we’re just getting nosy

We’re getting near the end of Loooooove week. What? Here…we explain it all on Monday’s post.

The lucky winner of yesterday’s “Name your fictional town” contest, chosen by Rachael herself: Becca, who wrote, “I would name the town Lester, as a bad joke on the pronunciation of Leicester.”  Congrats, Becca — you’ll be receiving a copy of Rachael’s brand-new book, HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME!

Today’s the last day of our probing questions with Rachael. Tomorrow, we have an extra-special surprise for everyone and the biggest prize this week! Don’t miss it!

Rachael and Lala

Knitty: How did knitting and romance find themselves together in your novels?
Rachael: I’ve always been a writer, but I was, for a long time, a more “serious” writer. I wanted to write Great Things (which, of course, never got written, as things with such weight attached to them often don’t). Then in 2006,  I took part in National Novel Writing Month (an online challenge to write a novel in the month of November). I knew, that Halloween night, that I had one evening to figure out what I was going to speed-write a novel about. I knew I loved two things: romance and knitting, and perhaps if I wrote about what I loved, the going might be easier. And it sure was. I put a knitter and a sheep rancher together (both need wool, but not for heat; they generate enough of their own), and they took over the story. It was a fun, wild ride, and I realized at the end of the month that I loved my little book, and that it was better written than my serious stuff ever was. Over the next year I doubled its length and did revisions, and eventually took it out to find agent representation, and the rest is history.

K: Has anyone you loved (romantically) ever knit for you?

R: Oh, yes. An old boyfriend learned to crochet just so he could make me a yellow afghan, in honor of the first short story I ever published. And my wife, Lala, knits me socks. In fact, she’s almost done with my Christmas pair! (From 2009, okay, but they’re coming! 75% done!)

K: What is in the water in Cypress Hollow? It seems to attract hot men like bees to honey.
R: Ha! Someone once pointed out to me that it seemed like all the men in Cypress Hollow had great butts. I never knew I was someone who really appreciated that side of a man until I reread some of my work—yes, the heroine always, at some point, is behind the hero, admiring the view. Huh. Illuminating.

And then, of course, there are the men like Elbert Romo and Pete Wegman, the older ranchers and town locals who probably had great backsides in their time, but are now more well known for being loving and kind and funny, and I adore them just as much.

K: Is Cypress Hollow based on a real town or a whole bunch of towns that you’ve spliced together?
R: It changes—when I first created it, I thought I was making it up. Now, I realize that I’ve drawn from many small towns I’ve known. In my head, it’s a cross between tiny Pescadero (south of Half Moon Bay) and the coastal ranching town I lived in during my teens (Arroyo Grande). And when people from small towns write to me and say that I got it just right, that people really DO interact the way they do in my books, it makes me feel fantastic.

K: Would you rather own a yarn store or book store?
R: Bookstore! For sure. No, wait. Yarn store! Seriously, interesting question. I hadn’t ever stopped to consider the fact that my first heroine, Abigail, owns a yarn store, and my second heroine, Lucy, owns a bookstore. I worked in a small-town bookstore for five years, so I know that commerce, that kind of trade, better than I know the yarn industry, but I certainly know the PRODUCT sold in yarn stores. But my brain is so tied now to being at my desk, creating worlds, that it would be hard to work retail in any form. I consider those who own yarn and bookstores my heroes, and I respect their chutzpah and bravery in the face of today’s often stormy economy. I pledge to continue to do my part in the form of purchases!

It’s our last book-day giveaway…maybe today will be your lucky day!

This time, to win, leave a comment to this post by Thursday, March 10th at midnight, eastern time. In your comment, tell us what your fictional heroine does for a living. Rachael will pick her favorite and that lucky person will win a copy of HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME.

See you here again tomorrow for the big finale! A present for everyone AND the biggest prize yet!

WWW: Now with added Rachael!

The love started Monday…if you’re wondering what’s going on today, take a peek!

The lucky winner of yesterday’s “Name your heroine” contest, chosen by Rachael herself: Jennifer B who wrote “Anjuli – It was in a wonderful novel called The Far Pavilion by M. M. Kaye, and I have always loved it.” Congrats, Jennifer — you’ll be receiving a copy of Rachael’s brand-new book, HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME!

And now, onto day 3 of the week of Looooooove!

Knitty: Are you ever tempted to pull stories from the news into your fiction, or do you want the world you create to be free of that stuff?
Rachael: I can honestly say I’m never tempted to pull the news in—I listen to NPR three or four days a week, and I feel I’m usually pretty up on the news, but there’s nothing that dates a manuscript more than reading old news (unless it’s being done for a specific purpose, to ground a novel in a particular time). I like my novels to stand alone, politically neutral (although there is an occasional mention of current things that I really love, like Twitter and Ravelry—those things will still be big in a few years, right?).

K: Will Cypress Hollow have its own web page…or blog?
R: Actually, Mildred tweets! She gives us the low-down on Cypress Hollow.

K: How do you find the time to work full time, write novels, knit and still be a pleasant and lovely person?
R: You’re TOO KIND. Normally, in life, I run pretty fast. I wake up ready to go, and I go-go-go until bedtime. I’m not good at relaxing (until I try really hard, and then I get TOO good at relaxing and don’t want to do any work—that happened last week).

But really, the first thing to go is the knitting. After all, I have to write, and I have to work (luckily, I can sometimes knit in the down times at work, which is a blessing—at least a little bit gets done), but I don’t actually HAVE to knit to survive, you know. But we all have lots of hours in the day, it’s just about how you use them. No matter what, I have a pair of socks-on-the-go in my purse, and I knit them when I’m at the movies or standing in line. When I’m hanging out with friends, I knit. I write early in the morning, before work. Sure, I get tired, but it’s what I love, and it’s worth it. Also, I don’t have kids, like a lot of my writer friends do. I don’t know how THEY do it.

A few hundred thousand of the millions.

In honor of the centenary of International Women’s Day, a group called SitAndKnitABit in the UK has organized the 100 Million Stitches project.  Designed to mark the anniversary, and bring attention to the challenges and discrimination that women have faced over the years, and that continues today.

Let us introduce you to Mary Westwell, of Manchester, UK. For more than 10 years, Mary knitted dolls for sick children in the Manchester area, which she had her sons deliver to the children – entirely anonymously. She knitted over 2,000 dolls and toys over the years, and despite bids to find out who was behind the scheme, managed to keep it a secret. Mary gave her grandchildren permission to reveal her secret shortly before her death last month, at the age of 98.

In you’re in the UK, add WoolFest 2011 to your calendar, June 24 & 25, held in Cumbria. This year’s event promises to be the biggest ever, with a whole new floor of vendors added at the venue.

Let’s give away another copy of Rachael’s new book!

This time, to win, leave a comment to this post by Wednesday, March 9th at midnight, eastern time. In your comment, name the fictional town where you’d set your knitting-based novel. Rachael will pick her favorite and that lucky person will win a copy of HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME.

Good luck, y’all, and stay tuned…we’ve got prizes every day this week with a special big surprise on Friday, and lots more Rachael!

Spinning a tale with Rachael

The love started yesterday…if you’re wondering what’s going on today, take a peek!

The lucky winner of yesterday’s “Name the book you’d write”, chosen by Rachael herself, is “Needle Me Knot, Little old ladies using unique methods to kill.” She loved both the title and the premise.  Although it was DIFFICULT to pick, sez she. Winner is Sherry from Idaho. Congrats, Sherry — you’ll be receiving a copy of Rachael’s brand-new book, HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME!

And now, onto day 2 of the week of Looooooove!

Rachael and the cat of her heart, Digit*

Knitty: Your first novel was full of sheep and fiber and spinning!…but nothing in book two. Will it return?

Rachael: The spinning comes back in the third book, WISHES AND STITCHES (out in October). In fact, we see Eliza spinning, and the fiber she spins becomes integral to the plot (and hides a secret). And hey, I just learned to weave on my darling little Schacht Cricket loom! So there’s nothing saying that weaving won’t play a role somewhere, someday soon…..

K: Do you spin? What wheel(s) do you have?

R: I am passionate about spinning, although I’m only intermediate at it. The more classes I take, the more I realize that I’m a production spinner more than anything else. While the action is soothing, I really love having the finished product (I’m similar in knitting this way, too). I’m fast, and I use the long-draw method. I have two wheels, both Ashfords (my mother was from the town they’re from, Ashburton, New Zealand): a Joy and a Traditional. I’d love a Majacraft someday—I think they’re lovely.

K: What are you spinning right now?

R: Ooooh, I’m spinning a GORGEOUS yellow-brown merino/silk batt from Lisa Souza. I’m addicted to her batts. Now there’s something I can spin without worrying about what I’m going to make from it—I just love spinning her stuff. Such colors! Such softness! (However, now that I think of it, I believe I’m going to spin it up and use it as the weft in a scarf with a dark brown warp. Oh, YUM.)

*One of the most amazing things I’ve ever read was the day that Rachael’s cat Digit, lost for months and thought dead, came home. You must read it.

Today, we’ve got a copy of Rachael’s new book for another lucky KnittyBlog reader!

This time, to win, leave a comment to this post by Tuesday, March 8th, at midnight, eastern time. In your comment, tell us what you’d name the heroine of the novel you’ve always wanted to write. Rachael will pick her favorite and that lucky person will win a copy of HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME. Good luck, y’all, and stay tuned…we’ve got prizes every day this week with a special big surprise on Friday, and lots more Rachael!

How would you combine these colors?

Jillian sez: There will be more spinning fun next week. I’ll be continuing my investigations into marling. I want to explore how to use natural colors to make a variegated colorway go further and how to blend two colorways to create depth of color. Anything you’d like to see?

Welcome to the week of LooooooVE

we love this book.

Nope, it’s not Valentine’s Day any more…it’s the week of love in print, specifically in the pages of Rachael Herron’s newest novel, HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME, set in the fictional town of Cypress Hollow. Both Jillian and I got to read the book early, and we absolutely loved it. So we decided to make big hoopla when the book was finally available to y’all!

This week, we’re celebrating the convergence of knitting and romance with daily giveaways, and peeks into the love-filled mind of author, knitter, spinner, and general all-around nice person, Rachael Herron*. Today, we start with a little getting-to-know-you stuff.

Knitty: Part of each novel you’ve written is focused on an original knitting pattern that you design. Where in the writing process does the sweater design fit in? Do you create the character around the sweater or is the sweater based on the character, or do they grow together as you write the novel?

Rachael: It’s interesting—the way the patterns have grown along with the books is completely organic. If I’m struggling with the book, I’m struggling with the pattern. The man’s raglan gansey in HOW TO KNIT A LOVE SONG went smoothly, as did most of the book writing. The women’s cardigan in HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME was tricky for such a simple pattern—I had problems solving obvious issues, and had the same issues in the novel. (Plot? What? Collar? Really?) And when the book finally came together, so did that dang collar issue I’d been having [see the sweater below right]. It’s like the writing and knitting paralleled each other exactly.

Rachael in Lucy's sweater...the pattern is in HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME

It’s fun, though. In the first book, Abigail is a knitwear designer, and the man’s sweater she designs ends up fitting our hero Cade to a T. In the second book, bookstore owner Lucy loves the last sweater her grandmother ever made, loves it so much she’s desperate to recreate the sweater. And when I wear the prototypes of these sweaters, it’s as if they catch some of the spirit of these fictional characters. I find it extremely fun.

K: Can we look forward to a Cypress Hollow pattern book one day? Or a yarn line?

R: I dream sometimes of a collection of Eliza Carpenter patterns. In the new novel, the heroine Lucy finds a rare copy of a precious pattern book (fictional, of course), but it makes me long to have the book for real. Wouldn’t that be lovely? A coffee-table book called Silk Road, with Eliza’s best patterns mixed in with stories of her life…. And then I remember that she’s fictional too, and that I’d have to write it. But maybe someday!

K: Have you planned the whole series out? How many books can we look forward to?

R: I’ve got three more books (for a total of six) planned out at this point. I’m super excited to start working on them! The third is completely done and will be out in October: WISHES AND STITCHES. This one comes with a wedding shawl pattern (designed by Romi, since while I love knitting lace, I’m not up to designing it well yet).

So to start the week off right, how about we give away a copy of this book, eh? I say yes! Jillian says yes! Rachael says yes!

To win, leave a comment to this post by Monday, March 7th at midnight, eastern time. In your comment, tell us what you’d name the novel you’d write that would combine knitting and your favorite genre [romance, horror, mystery, whatever…it’s up to you!]. Just the title, please.  Rachael will pick her favorite and that lucky person will win a copy of HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME.

Good luck, y’all, and stay tuned…we’ve got prizes every day this week, and lots more Rachael!

*Rachael Herron received her MFA in writing from Mills College, and has been knitting since she was five years old. It’s more than a hobby; it’s a way of life. Rachael lives with her better half in Oakland, California, where they have four cats, three dogs, three spinning wheels, and more instruments than they can count. She is a proud member of the San Francisco Area Romance Writers of America and she is struggling to get better at playing the ukulele.

Obsession Thursday: Whut’s a Wovel?

[This is Amy, really. I occasionally write stuff about things I like. This is one of those posts. There’s no financial gain in this for me…I just want to share, because this thing has solved a problem for us.]

Okay, so whut IS a Wovel? A wheeled shovel. It looks like this:

this is a wovel. a wheeled shovel. get it?

It made the gadgety press in 2006, but didn’t appear in our house until last week. See, what you don’t know is that my hub has been going through some heart-related stuff recently, and shovelling was banned by his cardiologist. Me? I’ve got hand problems and my back can never stand the strain of shovelling. And with this snowy winter? We were in trouble. [Neighborhood kids never come around here asking for shovelling work. Not sure why.]

He saw the Wovel on sale, and I [who had thought it was awesome in 2006, but had no real need for it, since hub was a super-shovelly man until these recent problems] was right on the case. It came in a few days and he put it together after our recent snowfall. It took 1.5 hours to assemble. But it was worth it.

It works like this:

It's all about pushing and using leverage. it's brilliant.

Hub says it’s faster than the snowblower [which he was not banned from using], lighter and much more enjoyable. He loves this thing. Like really loves it.

Stupid name, awesome product.

Tiny weeny spindle

my Lilac-wood Turkish Delight

I have a weakness for spindles. Only one spinning wheel, but the spindle count is above 15. Not sure how much above 15.

I love that they’re portable, and I love the sculptural quality of the spindles I choose. My latest love was spotted across a crowded Silk Retreat room — it’s a Jenkins Turkish Delight.

I’ve been a staunch top-whorl girl since I learned to spindle. But this thing was so freaking cute, I couldn’t resist. Especially with yarn on it. You wind the yarn on over two arms, under one, and that gives a nice, plump square-shaped cop. At right, you see my little Turkish Delight, with the beginnings of a cop. It’s very lightweight, and so I’ll be spinning a laceweight that I’ll ply later. I’m in no hurry. I just like to play with it.

I thought it’d be hard to spin on, but it’s not. It spins long and fast, like a crazy rabbit on crack [this is a good thing], and is so very, very pretty.

Ed Jenkins makes every spindle by hand, and in this case, he made this one for me out of Lilac wood. Lilacs remind me of my Grandma, and I couldn’t choose anything else. I love that there’s a little vein of natural purple running through one of the crossbars, too.

Here’s a video with instructions on how to wind onto this spindle, via the lovely Mrs Jenkins, Wanda.

The tiny Turkish Delight too big for you? Go peek at Ed’s newest invention, the Kuchulu. Not sure how long I’ll be able to resist this one. Should I even try?