Queen Liz (my Ashford Elizabeth 2 wheel) for sale

The Etsy listing is here, but if anyone out there in internetland would like to trade a Strauch drumcarder for her instead, please get in touch! It breaks my heart to let Queen Liz go, but it’s a question of space, and her sisters Joy and Victoria (yes, all my wheels have names) has been getting all the love recently.

I should also add that if you’re in the market for a Louet wheel, I’m a dealer — that new Julia is just yummy. Even Abby says so. One of my students ordered one this week and I can’t wait to play with it. I think I promised to put it together for her just for that reason…

On the radar: Yarnia

Here’s a cool interview with Lindsey Ross of Yarnia, a new make-your-own-yarn store in Portland, OR. (Her blog is here).

About a year or so ago, before we opened Stitch Cleveland, I was saying I should open a dye-your-own yarn store akin to those paint-your-own pottery shops. We were talking about it on the Lime & Violet boards, in fact. I think that a combination of the two (paint your own AND ply your own) would be amazing, don’t you? We’re more or less set up for that here in my shop, but no one’s really requested the service before. Think I should start offering it?

Spindolyns, hybrid knitting, machine-knit socks?

In response to a recent question from someone who saw my Knitty Gritty spinning episode (hi Amy!) — the supported spindle I’m using on the show is a Spindolyn. You may recognize the photo on the top of the Spindolyn page from Spin to Knit — that’s Catherine, one of the featured spinners in the book, and the creator of the Spindolyn. You might also be interested in her re-released Pleasant Spindle if you’re on the lookout for a supported spindle. I love my Spindolyn!

When I went to her site to link the right page here, I noticed an interesting post on Catherine’s blog about “hybrid knitting.” The sad but true part of knitting for a living is that you eventually need to learn to use a knitting machine to get through the big, bad blocks of stockinette and other time-consuming things in order to produce enough work to meet magazine deadlines, book deadlines, etc etc.

I have a few knitting machines, although to be honest I’m still fairly unskilled in using them, and usually end up crying for help. My shop co-owner Heidi is a knitting machine genius, so she generally draws the short straw there! So I’ve been talking to another local knitting machine guru about putting on a conference for newer designers sometime near Columbus TNNA on using machines in their work.

I say “newer designers” for a reason: those who have been in the business since the 80s or early 90s when it was much easier to get your hands on a good knitting machine — let alone learn how to use it properly — have more experience with the machines, and therefore a distinct advantage! The current crop of designers don’t have machine knitting experience, for the most part, Marnie excepted, she’s got a sweet Silver Reed.

Back to the idea of hybrid knitting: combining machine- and handknitting. This is something I can get behind. I don’t see it becoming widespread among non-designers, if only because the big machines are pricy and of limited use to the average knitter. But I heard some rumbles at TNNA that lead me to believe a sock-related knitting machine might be on the way, and if it’s priced well, can you imagine how that would take off? (And with it, hybrid knitting). Imagine being able to crank out the bottom portion of a sock and then spend extra time and love on the fancy patterns for the top, for example.

Don’t ask me what information leads me to guess about a sock knitting machine on the way. None of it was obvious enough for me to outright assert that’s what’s going on, and I wouldn’t want to implicate anyone in particular in case it is true and they get accused of letting the cat out of the bag (which he or she did not). However, I’ve got a pretty good track record for predicting things like this, based on fairly oblique comments or bits of data.

You heard it here first, if it’s true.
If it’s not — well, come on, companies — get on it!

I love YARN

Well, duh. But I’m referring to the Australian knitting magazine in this particular instance. Their April issue featured my favorite review of Spin to Knit yet. Some ultra-fabulous quotes from it:

Remember having driving lessons with your parents? For a knitter taking up spinning, Shannon Okey is more like your laid-back aunt. She doesn’t bother much with telling you the right way to do it; instead, she gives you the basics, hands you the keys to her (manual-shift) car and lets you get on the road. She knows nothing will teach you like experience.

True, that. Because seriously, unless I am there in person hanging over you with an exceptionally pointy and serious-looking spindle, you are never going to learn as much as you do when you just try.

Spin to Knit is never a dry technical manual, however. Okey often uses quite
vivid language to evoke hands-on concepts that are difficult to get from print. (She describes Andean plying, for example, as ‘looking like you’re dancing the hula from the elbow down’.)

And in my case, preferable to actual hula dancing. Really.

By simply demonstrating the joy to be had in spinning, Okey will probably do
more to build a new generation of spinners than any dedicated manual could.

(I’m tearing up, YARN. I’m actually sobbing now. Thanks. Now where’s my tissues? The only other review to actually get me teary-eyed was one my friend — and Top 500 Amazon reviewer — Rob wrote about Spin to Knit. What can I say? I love that book like a human kid!)

Seriously. That YARN review made my day. And when I looked on the website, I found out it was the same issue Sivia is in, so of course I had to order one. What’s with me & Australia this month? We just got in a big order of handbag supplies from there, too.

Spinner’s Quarterly, not to be outdone, said about Spin to Knit:

Reading this 128-paged book is like having author Shannon Okey give me a cup of tea, look me in the eye, and spell spinning out for me. She uses technical vocabulary with simple definitions that I can apply to the spinning I have already done, with an eye to making progress with my future spinning. The focus of the book goes beyond basic spinning techniques, encompassing spinning tools as well as troubleshooting common problems.

I am more likely to give you a cup of tea than poke you with a Punishment Spindle, that’s true. In fact, I’m agitating for a tea shop to go in next door to mine. Quoting the handsome and wise Rupert Giles (Buffy’s Watcher, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), who has been caught drinking coffee during a crisis: “Tea is soothing. I wish to be tense.”

So — pull up a chair, a cup of tea and a phone this afternoon for The Knitgrrl Show with Lily Chin — call in, IM a question, we’ll chat with you at 5:00 Eastern.

I lichen tweed a lot!

After a weekend spent devouring Seasons on Harris: A Year in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, I was compelled to order some insanely beautiful tweed and matching knitting yarn from Harris Tweed and Knitwear, along with the biography of traditional weaver Marion Campbell, a member of the family who runs the site.

In Seasons on Harris, the author describes how the Campbells used lichen (more specifically members of the Parmelia genus, known as “crotal” by Scottish dyers and weavers) to achieve traditional wool colors. If you’ve got my book Spin to Knit, turn to page 90. See that orchid purple? That was dyed with a New England lichen that grow on granite. But the Scottish dyers have us beat: check out this Wikipedia entry on traditional dyes of the Scottish Highlands, this site on Scottish lichens or this page of Scottish plant bibliographical references, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds. For example:

Clothing dyed with crottle lichen dyes (those that yield red-browns in boiling water) has some interesting traditions attached to it. It seems that, as the lichen is associated with the earth, it was considered a good idea to wear socks dyed with crottle if undertaking a long journey on foot. However, if crottle dyed garments were worn by sailors, it was thought that they might bring bad luck, or if the sailor / fisherman drowned, his body would never be recovered — anyone wearing crottle dyed garment sinks like a stone and “What comes from the rocks returns to the rocks.”

The quote above is from one D. MacIntyre’s 1999 University of Edinburgh master’s thesis, “The role of Scottish native plants in natural dyeing and textiles.” Wow.

When I was in Toronto last fall, Kim and I visited the Textile Museum of Canada, where I purchased a copy of Lichen Dyes: The New Source Book. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet but now I am itching to run out into the forest and look for lichens, then follow Abby’s tweed directions for blending the resulting fiber colors.

And while we’re at it, when am I just going to break down and buy Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland? For those of you who didn’t know this, I was once a grad student who specialized in medieval history, so it’s very easy for me to geek out on this stuff. Once a grad student, always a grad student.

But on to the yarn! the glorious yarn! This is what I ordered — tweed at left, matching yarn at right — look at the yummy blue flecks!

I have serious fiber excitement going on here, making plans for a classic-yet-kicky tweed skirt and a heavily-cabled cardigan on top. I had to restrain myself on the handknit kilt hose. Seriously. Sitting on my coffee table right now is the catalog of another Scottish yarn-and-fabric manufacturer that puts chills down my spine, because I’ve got plans for kits. (Then you all can geek out tweedily with me and I won’t feel so alone).

Two Pagodas


Abby Franquemont also spun some of Pippi‘s Pagoda top. This is yummy stuff.

Here’s my version at right, using the Pagoda I got from Pippi before I visited her last month. I made mine chunkyfunky and left it as a nicely energetic single, winding it straight off the bobbin onto my ballwinder to relax a bit.

When I knit up a bit to see what it looked like, I found it’s bright but not overly so — a very happy color mix. And speaking of Franquemont Fibers — check out this excellent tutorial Abby wrote on spinning tweedy yarns. It’s got me convinced I need to buy Natasha‘s old carder, since I love tweediness.

And speaking of tweediness, my mom just dropped off a great big hardcover book she found at a garage sale called The Scottish World. I’ve been flipping through all the beautiful scenery shots, straining my eyes to check out the sweaters people are wearing in the background.

Spring is in full swing at last. Here are lilacs from my mom’s yard, but better still — the yellow lilac we planted three years ago finally has a few flowers! The black tulips are almost done, though, which makes me sad since they’re my favorites.

The true definition of torture

The true definition of torture is having a brand new wheel and giant box of fiber waiting for you, but no time to spin. First, I was teaching, and now I’m catching up on all the stuff I missed while teaching… if I am very, very good I’m going to let myself take it out of the bag later today and set it up within visual range. The cats have already been enjoying the shipping box.

Which wheel, you ask? A Louet Victoria, bringing my monarchist wheel collection to 2 out of 3.

(I call my Ashford Elizabeth II “Queen Liz,” and unless there’s a Queen Joy I don’t know about…)