Mmm, wooooool.

I’m incredibly pleased to get the chance to talk about a new book by Sue Blacker that I really, really like. Pure Wool: A Knitter’s Guide to Using Single-Breed Yarns is the sort of book you’ll love if you liked Clara Parkes’ The Knitters’ Book of Wool or Deb Robson’s The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook: More Than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn. (The book is available used on Amazon US right now and new via Amazon UK, though hopefully that will change shortly for US readers! The US publisher, Stackpole, also offers it for sale directly on their page here.)

Sue herself farms Gotland sheep, as seen in the photo below, and as she explains in the introduction, not only is wool a natural fiber with many qualities to recommend it (we knitters already know that!) but it is ecological and even…entertaining?

She tells the story of her very clever sheep who spent 30 minutes trying to break into the chicken house to get at their grain — if you’ve ever watched sheep for a long enough time, you know that this is not even one bit unlikely. They’re as food-driven as my dachshund! It’s the sort of delightful anecdote that makes this book such a joy to read.

Every breed addressed in the book includes information about its history, breed societies and other places you can find more information, fiber qualities (including a yarn user’s guide with information on what that breed’s yarn is particularly good for, knitting-wise), and then patterns by a variety of designers. I’m a big fan of Sue’s own Hebridean Handbag (page 70), and not just because I’m a sucker for the color “sheep black”!

So jump for joy like the sheep below and get your hooves…I mean hands…on a copy of this ASAP! You’ll be glad that you did. (And on a not-terribly-related note, but as something of interest to me and CP recently, I was excited to see that this book was printed on matte paper instead of glossy, it’s more environmentally friendly and in my opinion, easier to use when you want to commit the lazy sin of writing all over a pattern to keep track of where you are without making a fresh working copy on the photocopier!)

The next stop on the blog tour is with my friend Dee over at Posh Yarn. Head over there

Felicia Lo’s Spinning Dyed Fibers + giveaway

I love Felicia Lo from Sweet Georgia Yarns! We first met in person many moons ago while I was in Vancouver taking photos for my book Spin to Knit, and we’ve worked together on a number of projects, including my book Alt Fiber (she dyed all the natural fiber yarn samples) and books for Cooperative Press.

Now she’s got a new class called Spinning Dyed Fibers at Craftsy, and you can get a discount on it by using this link.

The class is described in part as follows: “In addition to teaching you different ways to prepare your fiber and preserve your color, Felicia demonstrates useful techniques such as Andean and Navajo plying, spinning from the fold and the on-trend method of fractal spinning. Learn to use color theory to harmoniously match and blend fiber into hues so vibrant and beautiful, the yarn will never see your stash.” Felicia’s hitting the (virtual) road to talk about the class on a blog tour and today she’s all ours, so I wanted to ask her some questions about actually creating the class itself!

What was the most interesting part of actually filming the class, Felicia?

The most interesting thing about filming the class for Craftsy was figuring out how to best use video to demonstrate what I was trying to teach. It’s one thing to be in a classroom, face-to-face with students where they can touch and feel the yarn or fibre and ask questions that will lead my teaching, but it’s a whole other thing to have to get all the content super organized upfront and try to find ways to convey the details through the computer screen. I hope we did a good job of showing students up-close shots of the spinning and the samples, so it could be like they were “right there” looking over my shoulder. That was interesting to me… plus the fact that we filmed in an old burrito factory.

Whoa. Sorry. Got distracted by the words “old burrito factory” for a second there.

With the Craftsy class we needed to keep it pretty focused so that we wouldn’t confuse students or leave them overwhelmed. But there so much more that I’d love to teach on their platform. I’d love to see more spinning, dyeing, and weaving classes offered especially since those kinds of classes and retreats are hard to come by for a lot of interested people… myself included.

How did you learn to dye? What about the process originally appealed to you?

In terms of learning to dye, I taught myself back in early 2005 with some Kool-aid and Corriedale fibre. I remember how all the yarn I spun for weeks smelled like Kool-aid. Right from the start, I was hooked on colour and fibre and spinning. There was something about it that was so perfectly tangible and creative… it was like painting, but I didn’t have to create pictures of anything. Instead, I could create colourways that represented my thoughts and ideas. If I was obsessed with a particular band or song, it would come out in my dyeing. Or if I was entrenched in a mood (good or bad), it would come out too. When I realized I was drawing more positive creative energy from dyeing than my existing graphic design work, I made the switch and focused entirely on making hand-dyeing my business.

So when did you make that decision? What drove it home for you?

I can remember the exact moment when I decided to make dyeing my focus. I vaguely documented it here. Actually, it was during the time I was natural dyeing for your book, Shannon — Alt Fiber. Alongside the yarns I dyed for your book, I dyed a skein of cultivated silk in weld and marigold. It glowed like amber in the morning light and seeing it at that moment, I was overcome with a feeling of pure awe. I’ve never felt anything like that before. I was touched and transformed by seeing light and colour, more than I had ever been by music, art, film or anything. At that moment, I just knew that was it.

Check out Felicia’s class here at Craftsy.com!

Want to know what the fuss was about with those natural dyes? One commenter will win a signed copy of my book Alt Fiber — leave a comment or a question below and we’ll pick a winner!

Cast On, Bind Off blog tour

Just a heads up, we’ll be a stop on the Cast On, Bind Off blog tour later this month, but heads up, here’s where else the book will be…

7/9 Picnic Knits
7/10 Knit and Tonic
7/11 Zeneedle
7/12 Rambling Designs
7/13 The Knit Girllls
7/14 Neo Knits
7/15 Knit & Nosh
7/16 Knitting at Large
7/17 Rebecca Danger
7/18 Lapdog Creations
7/19 Nutmeg Knitter
7/20 Yarnagogo
7/21 Weekend Knitter
7/22 knitgrrl
7/23 It’s a Purl, Man
7/24 Whip Up
7/25 Knitspot
7/26 Under the Humble Moon
7/27 Knitting Daily
7/28 Knitting School Dropout
7/29 Hugs for Your Head

Guest post: Wearwithall

Today we’ve got a guest post by Theresa Gaffey, one of the authors behind Wearwithall, a beautiful new independently-published knitting book. Buy your copy here! There’s going to be a signing for the book at TNNA this weekend, and I’ve known Mary Lou Egan (one of the five contributors) for some time now. Super-exciting!

Something I love about this book is that the website lists the yarns used in the projects (sorry, Wearwithall-ers, I might have to steal that idea for Cooperative Press!) — so useful!

To use a photo from the book (and the photos were shot by the lovely Gale Zucker), here’s my overall review…

Now here’s Theresa…

It doesn’t seem likely that five colleagues could get together, produce a knitting book and come out friends at the end of the process, does it? Five knitters, five opinions—on everything?

The key, I think, is that we all came into the project with the same clear vision of what we wanted our book to be—the look, the color palette, the number and type of projects, what the photos would look like, what our models would look like—and we never lost sight of that vision, even on the days it seemed a bit blurry.

I remember the first meeting around my dining room table in St. Paul, Minnesota. Each of us talked about the skills and experience we brought to the table. We all had publishing experience, but beyond that we each brought special expertise. Scott Rohr had years of book production experience. Shelly Sheehan is a business and accounting wiz. Sarah K. Walker is a graphic designer with a flair for creating clean, appealing layouts. Mary Lou Egan is a talented designer with public relations experience. And I, (Theresa Gaffey) have been designing and editing knitting and crochet patterns for years. The roles each of us would take on just seemed to fall into place.

Next, we talked about timelines. A couple of big events were coming up in the spring of 2012—a city-wide shop hop, the Minnesota knitting guild’s big conference, the shop’s annual sale. We wanted to take advantage of those opportunities to promote the book, which meant we had to have printed copies of the book by March 2012. We knew from the start that this was an aggressive timeline, but we agreed—or at least hoped—that we could pull it off.

I look back at that crazy timeline and think about all the things we didn’t foresee, and my first instinct is to say that we were lucky. Luck wasn’t all of it, though, because we each had a critical piece of what we needed to do a book.

There were lots of long discussions—what yarns did we want to use? which projects were going to make the final cut? what variations did we want to add? But generally we ended up agreeing on almost everything. Really!

And yes, sometimes we changed our minds. At the beginning, we decided we didn’t need a shawl in the book. What could we add to the hundreds of beautiful shawls already out there? Then later, as we were doing a preliminary layout of the book, we decided—almost literally at the last minute (at least in knitting time) —that the book really needed a stole or shawl. I ended up knitting 116,000 stitches—more or less—in about a week. It was pretty insane. But the stole is one of the most popular projects in the book.

And yes again, we were lucky. Gale Zucker, an extraordinary photographer, came to the Twin Cities for an incredibly exhausting but productive photo shoot. Friends and family and customers’ kids modeled for us. The kids all behaved, and the models looked beautiful. Gale helped up find a skilled and patient stylist, Malika Sadi Goodman, who took us all in stride. Mary Lou not only contributed three beautiful designs and but also us connected with yarn companies for their support pre- and post publication. Sarah came up with the perfect name and a great layout. Shelly kept us on schedule and sane. Scott found a great, local printer and then shepherded the book through production.


(editorial comment-caption from Shannon: who would like to knit one of these for me, like, NOW?)

That last part about the local printer is important. At the beginning, and all through the process, we wanted to keep it local. OK, Gale was a bit of a ringer, but she went to the University of Minnesota and comes to town frequently to visit family. That’s local enough. We may not keep such a local focus in a second book, but for the first, it felt right. Keeping business in your community is a good thing to do when you can. It also made the press checks much simpler!

So after all the late nights, and long days, we’re still colleagues, but even more, now, we are friends ready to start the next book.

Crochet Stitches VE blog tour stop

So, as announced last month, we opened up the floor to all of you to ask Robyn Chachula questions about her new book Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia. (Amazon sales link, Wiley link). The contest winner is announced at the end, but first, the questions!

Jenna asks:

Robyn,
How did you have time to crochet while your toddler is wild? I am mother of two and I am knitter. I am knitting during my daughter is napping, and knitting during the kids are in their beds. I want to knit during the day everyday.

and Annette adds…

Do you still have a “day job” as a structural engineer? In addition to having a rambunctious toddler, how do you find time to crochet?

It’s not easy, that’s for sure. I crochet any second I get. I crochet in line at the grocery store, at the dinner table, and while doing puzzles with my daughter. I was laid off when I was 8 months pregnant when the economy was really horrible for anyone in the architecture field. So I turned to my second career, in crochet. Now I am full time mom and full time designer. I can easily say Full time engineer and part-time designer; SO MUCH EASIER!

Natalie asks,

What inspired you to include some of the lesser known forms of Crochet (ie: Brussels Lace, different forms of Tunisian, and other laces)?

and

Emy adds:

How did you decide what stitch patterns to include, or for that matter, exclude?

and Karen also wants to know…

Wow, the book is so well organized and laid out. How did you resource so many stitch variations? Amazing.

To be honest, I wanted to include every type of crochet I know. So I started at the beginning with simple stitches and worked my way out. I wanted cables, pineapples, grannies, edgings, filet, color, on and on. What I ended up doing is trying to have at least 3-4 of every type of crochet I know. I say that because I know there is a ton more versions and types of crochet that I have not even discovered yet. Once I brainstormed, I came up with 9 chapters; simple, cables, lace, weird lace, Tunisian, color, grannies, flowers, and edgings. We originally were working with 350 stitch patterns, so I tried to shove into each chapter a few of every technique I could think of. Like in the lace chapter, I divided it in to chain space stitch patterns, cluster sp, shell, pineapple, and waves. Then I looked at designs of mine to see if I could pull from those first, then I headed to my antique pattern books from the turn of the century, I then headed to 60s and 70s pattern books, then to foreign (mainly Japan, Ukraine, and Belgium); and finally swatched. I pulled from so many sources since I really wanted a well rounded stitch dictionary. In each chapter, there are some classic, some foreign, some antique, and some new stitch patterns.

Ruth asks:

What types of yarns work best for which types of crochet?

It really depends on what you are crocheting and what effect you are going for. Cotton can have a great stitch definition, but be really challenging to work with when it comes to post stitch since it has no elasticity. Merino wool has great bounce and is fabulous to crochet, but will always need blocked. For my book, I got a mix of yarn from acrylic (Red Heart Soft Yarn and Eco Ways) to wool (Cascade 220 Sport and Naturally Caron Country) to Cotton (Cascade Pima Tencel and Lion Brand Cottonese) to luxury (Blue Sky
Alpaca Silk). I wanted to have a number of fibers on hand to play with. I knew I needed a lightweight animal yarn for the cables, and a shiny plant yarn for the lace. I wanted a large palette of colors for the color stitch patterns but also to make the book look more interesting.

Cathy asks:

What was the most difficult part of writing the book? How did you get through it?

and Margo adds:

What was the greatest challenge and your favorite part in writing this book?

The hardest part of this book was the timeline. I started writing in January and the book is out now. That is about 8-9 months less than any other of my books. Plus it is twice the size of any of my books. Needless to say, there were many many late nights. I loved researching the techniques to the fullest. I would get so caught up in the process that there are many chapters that I cut a ton of patterns because I was coming up with say 100 flowers, when I only needed 25.

Pam asks:

Is this a good book to learn from? I can do some basic crochet but would like to learn some of the fancier stitches.

It all depends on your skill level. The book has no “how to” section. We had to cut it for room. If you know how hold yarn, and have made a couple of stitches; then this book is great. It will go from basics of what is a sc to the some of the most fun patterns I know.

Cami asks:

What made you decide to do a stitch dictionary after so many successful garment books?

Wiley approached me about writing an encyclopedia to fit into their new line of “Visual Encyclopedia” books. They were not sure what to include, but wanted a large book filled with pictures and diagrams. For me, I always wanted a chance to compile all my favorite stitch patterns, motifs, tips, and tricks into one book.

Kate asks:

What is your biggest inspiration when you are designing things? Although there are things that are similar in some of your designs a lot of them are so different, what keeps your creative juices flowing?

My environment is my biggest inspiration. I am home full-time with my two-year old. So every day, we go somewhere. The science or children’s museum, the playground, the plant conservancy, the zoo, the library; somewhere. And from that I pull ideas from the people on the street, or the color in the trees. When I feel like I am at my end; I make a cup of tea or coffee sit down and randomly open a stitch dictionary and start crocheting. That usually gets my creative juices flowing enough to get me back on track.

Kate asks:

In your book is there a section that will explain the best ways to take your stitch ideas and turn them into our own projects? From the preview on your blog the stitch samples are great, but I am not sure which would be best for baby clothing, adult clothing, or should just be used for accessories.

The book has tips and advice in each chapter, from how to block to project ideas. Every stitch pattern has a tip as well, from project ideas to yarn advice. I was hoping crocheter would use the book to learn a new form of crochet, or use it as inspiration in their next project (by crocheting a bunch of the grannies and joining them into an afghan, or taking an edging and adding it on a fleece blanket, or using a Tunisian color pattern to make a woven shawl), or use the tips to make their current projects even more wonderful.

Carmen asks:

What is your favorite weight of yarn or thread – and why? Superwash merino dk wool. Always. Dk is a great weight for crochet projects, not too thin or thick. Perfect for garments. Superwash merino usually is plied together to not split and easily flows through your hands.

And now, the contest winner! Courtesy of random.org, the commenter who wins a copy of the book is Natalie! Natalie, please email admin (at) knitgrrl (dot) com with your address and I’ll get that right out to you!

Crochet Stitches VE tour contest

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be taking part in the blog tour for Robyn Chachula’s new book, Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia. (Amazon sales link, Wiley link).

Here are the tour dates:

10 Oct: Getting Loopy
11 Oct: Yarn Thing
12 Oct: Go Crochet
13 Oct: Hook and I
17 Oct: Vickie Howell
18 Oct: Modeknit
19 Oct: Knitgrrl (here!)
20 Oct: NexStitch
24 Oct: Styled by Kristin
25 Oct: Yarn Craft
26 Oct: Crochet Doctor
27 Oct: Lindamade
31 Oct: Manhattan Craft Room

We’re going to run this one a bit differently…I’m going to let YOU ask the questions! Everyone who posts a question for Robyn in the comments below will be entered to win a copy of the book! So start thinking and posting now, and we’ll post the answers here on the 19th. You need to have your question in before the 11th, ok, so Robyn has time to answer (and I have time to post!) before leaving for Rhinebeck.

Sheep(ish) blog tour & upcoming free pattern

Sheep(ish), the first yarn in Vickie Howell’s Stitch.Rock.Love line for Caron hits Jo-Ann Stores later this month, but you can get it now on Caron’s website. (Or use the finder app on Vickie’s website here to look for a Jo-Ann with the yarn). It’s 70% acrylic and 30% wool, with a nice hand and even a slight halo to it. The colors are super-rich and really pop. We used Magenta(ish) for the free pattern we’ll be posting on the second as part of the upcoming blog launch tour — here’s the full schedule:

May 25th: BlogHer.com (Kathy Cano-Murillo)
May 26th: LindaMade.com (Linda Permann)
May 27th: Kitschy Digitals (Danielle Thompson)
May 28th: DOUBLE POST DAY:
CraftyChica.com (Kathy Cano-Murillo) + JustCastingOn.net (Deb Steenhagen)
May 29th: Susan B. Anderson
May 30th: CrochetbyFaye.com (Robyn Chachula)
May 31st: CathieFilian.com (Yarn Wreath Project by Cathie)
June 1st: Craftzine.com (Review by Sister Diane)

June 2nd: Knitgrrl.com — We’ll be posting a free pattern! Don’t forget to stop by!

June 3rd: CraftyisCool.com (Allison Hoffman)
June 4th: Coquette Blog (Natalie Zee-Drieu)
June 5th About.com (Sarah White)
June 6th: Manhattan Craft Room (Brett Bara)
June 7th: BetzWhite.com
June 8th: TheCrochetDude.com (Drew Emborsky)
June 9th: Naughtysecretaryclub.com & Ilovetocreate.com (Dual post on the same day. Yarn-wrapped mobil by Jennifer Perkins)
June 10th: Craftzine.com (Ladybug Outfit Pattern by Vickie)
June 11th: StefanieJapel.com

See all 21 colors of Sheep(ish) here.

Transcript of #knittingplus TweetChat

A only-slightly-edited transcript of last night’s #knittingplus TweetChat with Lisa Shroyer about her new book! All names are the Twitter handles of the person in question. Enjoy!

Knitgrrl: Why this book? Why not just lobby for added size range in existing books? What’s special about plus-sized knits?

LisaShroyer: so many pple tell plus-sized knitters to modify for custom fit, but that requires more than adding waist shaping

Knitgrrl: Plus-sized knitters aren’t one-size-fits-all in terms of modifications, in other words?

Lisa Shroyer: no. and no two sweater designs are alike. how do you modify bust circ in a seamless yoke? in a set-in? this book breaks down the rules of sweater construction–once you know the structure, you can change anything in a sweater

Knitgrrl: What fit or construction “error” drives you craziest on plus-sized sweaters? (For me it’s a badly-fitted armhole…)

Continue reading “Transcript of #knittingplus TweetChat”

Book tour stop tonight!

Tonight I’ll be interviewing Lisa Shroyer, editor of Knitscene and the author of a new, amazing book called Knitting Plus: Mastering Fit + Plus-Size Style + 15 Projects — but not here!

Meet us at 8:30 Eastern time on Twitter by going to Tweetchat.com and entering “knittingplus” as the hashtag you want to follow! You can ask questions by using the hashtag on your own tweets, and I’ll post a summary here after we’re done (one hour later). See you tonight!

Vintage Modern Knits blog tour stop

As mentioned previously, today is the blog tour stop for Vintage Modern Knits. I was hoping to catch up with the authors (Courtney Kelley and Kate Gagnon Osborn) in person during my stay in Philadelphia this past weekend, but no such luck. We may well have some bonus content from them later…they were working out a fashion show using the video function on Courtney’s camera!

So meanwhile, let’s talk about the book itself and why it’s so amazing. There are plenty of vintage patterns floating around out there. There are plenty of modern patterns — as of this moment, there are 45,729 patterns available for download on Ravelry alone! But there is a real dearth of not only lovingly-designed but effective, well-fitted patterns out there in vintage style. Kate and Courtney’s book solves this problem times one million zillion billion. (Note: hyperbole-filled number is completely made up, but you get my point).

The Brigid sweater is my hands-down personal favorite in the book, and not just because it happens to also be my favorite color:

Although these handwarmers are an incredibly close second! The patterning is just delicious, and I am a total fangirl when it comes to the Fibre Company yarns used in the book. (You may remember I used Fibre Company’s Terra in my design Katalin).

You can see all the patterns here.

Pick up a copy of this book today — you’ll love it! And if we get the fashion show video together, I’ll post it here soon!