First soy, then bamboo… now wheat?

An interesting article excerpt on creating commercially-viable fibers from wheat gluten:

Some of the properties of wheat gluten fibers also are superior to soy protein and casein materials intended for biomedical applications, the report states.

Wheat gluten fibers would have a major cost advantage over both wool and silk, the two existing commercial natural protein fibers, according to the researchers. While wool sells for about $5-$8 per pound, and silk for $10-$14 per pound, wheat gluten fetches less than 50 cents per pound and huge quantities are available worldwide.

The full article will be published in the 12 February issue of the American Chemical Society’s monthly journal Biomacromolecules. They seem to post entire articles on their website, so stay tuned!

In other spinning and fibery news, Gandhi’s charkha (wheel) is once again in use.

And finally, if you’d like to win a copy of my book Crochet Style, Detroit News craft columnist Jocelynn Brown is offering one at the end of her very lovely review. In reading her craft weblog at the paper, it seems she does giveaways with all her review copies — cool.

A Knit At The Movies

Cute article on knitting at the movies in Scotland:

It sounds unlikely, but knitting at the movies could become Glasgow’s coolest new trend.

Wool buffs are venturing out from behind closed doors to indulge in a special knitting night at Stefan King’s cinema in the trendy West End.

Dozens are taking their number fours away from the fireside and into the Grosvenor Cinema in Ashton Lane for Tuesday knit at the movies.

The unusual gathering will take place on January 30 and was the brainchild of Katherine Walker, who runs K1 Yarns Knitting Boutique in the West End.

Hey, I brought my knitting when we went to see Sin City in the theatre… why not?

In “ooh! pretty!” news, check this out: a cardiganized Sweet with collar by Ellen Bloom. Pattern by Amy dearest is here if you want one, too.

Speaking of crochet (knit, too — especially socks), Crystal Palace has two amazing new yarns called Panda Cotton and Bamboozle. They’re 55% bamboo, 24% cotton and 21% elastic nylon. Panda Cotton is the perfect weight for socks or crochet, and Bamboozle is slightly thicker. Every sample knit in either yarn at TNNA was just yummy. If you’re a sock person, you should also check out Panda Wool, which is 46% bamboo, 43% wool and 11% nylon. When Amy and I were poking all the skeins and samples, the closest comparison we we could come up with was Cascade Fixation, except the swatch texture is not so nubbly. Bamboozle would probably be a really nice substitution for Fixation in Jenna’s Knitgrrl 2 tank top pattern, too.

A very crochet day

Kim’s big news — she’s going to be editing Interweave’s crochet magazine, which will now be published quarterly instead of as a special interest publication. I’ve been sitting on the hint of this for months now, and I can finally yell to the rooftops…

Congratulations, Kim. You know I love you & now even more people out there will, too.

With that, let me also announce that my latest book, Crochet Style, is now shipping at Amazon. It’s turning out to be a very crochet kind of day.

MOTC heads north to Lake Placid

Grace, Kim and Beatrice at Adirondack Yarns in Lake Placid, NY. (Photo by Kim’s mom)

Even if you’re not in training for the Olympics, Lake Placid, NY has much to recommend it… it’s beautiful, there’s lots to do, but most importantly: there is a yarn store with a coffeehouse inside, namely Adirondack Yarns. We had so much fun!

Grace started Amy Swenson’s Nakiska headband in a gorgeous cornflower blue alpaca last night. (Don’t worry, Amy, I made her promise to send photos!)

The shop was packed with kids and moms, learning how to crochet flowers with Kim and how yarn is made. Sivia Harding’s jewelry from Knitgrrl 2 was a huge hit — I taught Sophia how to knit, from scratch, on US size #4 needles with Fleece Artist sock yarn because she wanted to make jewelry. Not even one row in and she was stylin’ — a natural-born knitter. Who says you have to start with chunky yarn? there’s no law!

If you’re ever in northern NY state, be sure to check out Adirondack Yarns, and many thanks to owner Susie & staff (including her mom, who’d just arrived the night before) for a wonderful evening.

Whew. That was a long week.

Last Friday, Andi and I drove to Indianapolis for TNNA. After a quick break in the suite I was sharing with Amy, Kim, Cecily and Amy’s summer intern Johanna (codename: Ginger), it was time for the fashion show and dinner.

Now…if you’ve never met me in person, you may not know this, but I am loud. Very loud. It’s not deliberate, it’s just the way my voice is. (Cecily says I’ve got a lot of bass). TV show sound people have had to turn my mike down when all others were cranked up. Etc etc. This alone, along with my previous experience as an art critic and overall life experience as a total smart mouth, should pretty much tell you that taking me to a fashion show is a bad, bad idea.

Some of the designs were quite nice. I’m just going to say that right up front. In particular: Suss’s designs, the Koigu skirt, the hexagonal blanket they draped on a model in order to send it down the runway (poncho-style), the nicely-shaped Classic Elite cabled sweater…heck, I adored the 100% over the top crazy cardigan from Ozark Handspun and would have worn it myself in a heartbeat. But oh… when things were bad, they were VERY very bad. I couldn’t stop the sighing. Or commenting to Stefanie and Yahaira behind us. Or outright attempting not to laugh. Or burying myself in Cecily’s (considerable) head of hair and giggling. The older women in front of us were ready to kill me.

Sorry, kids. You send some of that kinda craziness down a runway and expect me not to laugh? I’m only human, ok?

Dinner was an absolute blast. I booked a giant table at Buca di Beppo and here’s who came: Suss, Jill from her NYC store, Stefanie, Yahaira, Amy, Kim, Cecily, Johanna, Andi, Heather, Tricia from Interweave Press, Amy, Robyn, Vickie… my head is still swimming, but here are the two funniest things to take away from dinner:

1. Always order less than you think you should at Buca.
2. Kim isn’t always all manifesto-y like that, she was just wound up on caffeine.

As to #2 — towards the end of the night, someone asked an innocent question about crocheters’ second-class citizen status in much of the yarn world and Kim went off on a (intelligent, coherent, frequently punctuated by table-pounding) rant about it. Everything from crocheters having yarn taken out of their hands in shops to books that advertise “knit and crochet” patterns but split the number 80/20, to general ignorance about the craft.

At the end, Suss, in her sweet, lilting Swedish voice, says: “I did not know crocheters had so much…rage.” Then the entire table started to laugh. Perhaps the next book should be called Crochet Rage?

The show: TNNA is daunting. There are so many temptations — free book signings! seeing all your friends! checking out new stuff! — that it sometimes is difficult to get all the business you need to accomplish done. I met some really awesome new people, such as Jacqueline Sava. Those are some of her hats at left. (Her new fiber wash soak is just about the best-smelling laundry product I’ve ever, ever experienced…ask your LYS to stock it, you won’t be sorry! Print this and give it to them! I’ve been using the testers on all kinds of stuff and it’s great… Aquae is my favorite scent).

We also were first to learn that our beloved Amy Singer, of knitty.com, is quitting her day job to do Knitty and her books full time.

(Every time this was mentioned — “did you hear? Amy’s quitting her job!” — at least 33% of those present in the room jumped up and did a little happy dance for her. I swear. I’m not making that up at all).

Speaking of Big Girl divas, we desperately missed Jillian, and will not accept no for an answer come winter TNNA. It’s just not the same without you, Jillian!

I hadn’t seen Amy Swenson since…oh, Amy’s book signing for Knit Wit at Lettuce Knit and that was what, 2004? Given that she now has a whole yarn store to buy for, she was being remarkably restrained. (I was watching her order while waiting to talk to Gina at Alchemy Yarns, who, by the way, is so super-awesome it would make your head explode.

Speaking of super awesome: have I told you lately how much I love Lexie Barnes? Because I totally do. So totally that it even makes me use 1980s words like “totally.” Go buy lots of her bags — even conservative-looking older women were chatting me up in hotel elevators about my Lady B bag covered in crocheted skulls. Plus, she is even more adorable than her bags. Want proof? Here’s a photo, at right. Her newest fabrics are killer adorable, but the most torture-filled moment was when someone walked up with a vintage Lexie bag in a fabric that’s no longer available (it looked like a Kaffe Fassett poppy pattern). Oh, yum.

I spent lots of time in line (the best book signings inevitably have a line) with the women from Rosie’s Yarn Cellar in Philadelphia, just one spot on the fabulous fall book tour Kim and I are doing.

All in all, it was great. Then, Monday I drove to NYC with Kim and Cecily. We ended up staying overnight at a hotel in Hazleton, PA, too tired to drive any further. While it looked clean when we went to sleep, the next day we had an uninvited guest during Kim’s morning shower. Picture, if you will: Cecily in bed, I’m getting dressed. We hear a short yelp from the shower, the kind you’d do if the water temperature suddenly changed. Then another.

Me: “Kim, are you ok? Do you need help?”
Kim: “I’m naked.”
Me: “Well, that would preclude me helping you, then.”

I only remember this so clearly because Cecily was amused by my use of the word “preclude” and included it every time she told the story. As it turns out, a rather large cockroach had appeared in the bathroom and crawled up the side of the shower curtain, where it wiggled its antennae menacingly at Kim.

The rest of the day was much less eventful! One of the reasons Kim and Cecily came to NYC with me was for a photoshoot; I’m editing a crochet book, and Cecily hand-modeled for me (see left). She doesn’t call her site Such Sweet Hands for nothing! Armed with two of the most formidable forces in crochet photoshootery, we did a two-day shoot in one and amazed everyone involved. The rest of the week was devoted to meetings at publishers, a visit to Suss‘s (gorgeous) NY store, and a last-minute technical editing gig for a publisher I work with who desperately needed someone to de-Britishify a packaged knitting book they’d bought. Nice work, if you can get it. I was most excited about our book tour-related meetings…just wait til you see what we’ve got in store!

I received an absurdly thoughtful gift on my way out of town yesterday morning. My friend Erika, who used to sell her amazing dresses at my online shop site, got out of the business. So she gave me two dressforms and an EZ-Up tent, which is beyond useful for doing outdoor craft shows when you’re as pale as I am. I can’t thank her enough!

Sorry to be missing the Renegade Craft Fair today, but it feels good to be home!

p.s. One more hilarious thing: in the same convention center as TNNA, there was an Irish step dancing competition. You have never seen funny until you’ve seen a million little girls in clip-on curly wigs wearing those giant outfits running amok. Don’t believe me? Click here for photographic evidence).

Debbie Stoller interview on YouTube

Worth it for the West Side Story-esque knitters vs. crocheters opening alone:

Michigan was a blast despite the rain…plus who can say no to a trip to the LYS known as Jillian’s basement? She introduced me to some yarns I’ve never met before (and now want copious amounts of, naturally). I also got to test drive her WooLee Winder and it’s fantastico!

Photos to follow when I get caught up and track down my camera card reader in the nightmarish tangle of yarn known as my studio…

Photographic evidence

It really is true. Cecily taught me to crochet.

This photo was taken first thing in the morning, before enough coffee had been ingested to make me look awake. Yarn and crochet hook courtesy of the largest Rite-Aid drugstore I’ve ever seen in my life, in San Mateo, CA. Signs your drugstore is a. cool b. too big or c. all of the above? Having a yarn department is one of them… I can’t wait for TNNA-Indy. Maybe having Kim, Amy, and Cecily in a room with me will propel me to new crocheting heights!

I left my (Red Heart) in San Francisco…

Sorry for the bad joke, Tony Bennett…what I learned this weekend in San Francisco made me think of Red Heart yarn for a second. I had the best time. As soon as I arrived, I went to Petaluma to deliver a sweater design for Lana Grossa in person. (It’s called Stella Maris — I might post a photo of it and its sibling sweater Noemi soon). Unicorn’s warehouse staff told me they ship lots of my books, which was blushingly flattering, and I got to poke and prod all the boxes of yarn for future design consideration…yarn petting being an integral part of any visit to a warehouse full of the stuff!

I signed books at Stitch Diva Jennifer Hansen’s TKGA booth. Jennifer is a great big flaming ball o’ energy — my favorite kind of person. Her booth looked awesome, by the way. I love those mannequin busts of hers, and she’s a consummate salesperson without being car salesman-y about it. You couldn’t help but want to learn how to do Tunisian crochet after watching her do it with three different textures and colors of yarn. That green hairpin lace skirt she designed? Oh, I need it…and in that colorway, too. It’s so heavy and drape-y and fabulous it hurts. Guess what I bought from her, though? A massive handmade Tunisian crochet hook. Yes, crochet. More on that in a sec. She also has these massive hand-turned knitting needles, one of which resembled Mr. Pointy on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I think I need one just so I can name it Mr. Pointy).

I also talked to the wonderful Suss Cousins, who reminds me of all my beautiful blonde Swedish relatives…we’re going to do some events at her NY store this year, which will be great. And finally, I’m negotiating to teach on some fiber-related cruises/tours put on by an amazing travel agency based in California. And this was just in the first 24 hours!

Next, Cecily flew up from Los Angeles to check out Maker Faire and…uh-huh…teach me crochet. I have, at various times over the years, tried to learn how to crochet properly. With the exception of steeking and the kinds of crochet-onto-the-edge-of-things crocheting, I’ve never been very good at it. My grandmother was a great crocheter when she wasn’t braiding massive rag rugs out of wool or making stuff for her (my) dollhouse…two big granny square afghans prove it. Kim tried for a few minutes last summer, but at last, I made that mental breakthrough and now have a very bizarre swatch to show for it. Thanks, Cecily! (After you left I figured out how to decrease and drew all the edges together into a weird cat-toy shape).

I taught two classes at Maker Faire (yes, Julie’s mom came to one of them, which was super-cool — she’s clearly awesome, just like my mom), and sold my hand-dyed yarn / fiber / etc. Photographer extraordinaire Heather Champ bought an orange Erica Weiner scarf kit after previously attempting to decide between green and beige. Champ is just plain gorgeous. I wish she’d model for my next book…and I’m hoping she’ll send a photo of whatever she makes with the kit!

I’m going to upload all my photos from this weekend in one big Flickr set, which I’ll post as soon as I find my cardreader.