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

Guest post: Rohn Strong

Rohn Strong, author of The Heritage Collection: WWI & WWII is our guest on the blog today! I first met Rohn when he pitched another idea to me for Cooperative Press, but I was really excited about this project he’s doing and I hope you will be, too. As some of you might know, I’m an ex-history-grad student, so I nerd out about anything history-related! Here Rohn is talking about his book, and the influences behind it…

“History is a curious thing. It is not solid, like a rock. History is more like a shape-shifting cloud or a shimmering rainbow that you can’t quite find, ever searching for the promised pot of gold at its source.”
-Donna Druchunas

That quote, by my good friend and amazing editor, Donna Druchunas begins a journey through time. To a time where knitting changed the world, aided a country at war, and eased the minds of those on the home front. To a time where knitting was not a hobby but more of a military trade. To a time where knitting saved lives.

In my new book, The Heritage Collection WWI & WWII, you will be transported back nearly 100 years to the start of WWI. A time where the world was falling apart. A time where knitters and crocheters picked up needles and hooks to help save a nation. Through projects and essays you are able to see a glimpse of life, through the eyes of home front heroes.

From coast to coast, every knitter was asked to pick up their needles and wool and begin knitting for our boys. My Great-Great-Grandmother was one of those women. Her name was Clara Ann Dalton.

Shortly after leaving her life of a Shaker, Granma (as I refer to her), married Grandad Lloyd in 1912. Not out of love but more out of convenience. Granma was not interested in love, but more companionship. Her life up to that point had been nothing but her and God, and she was going to remain married to God.

It was not until Grandad was called off to war that Granma felt the sting of war. Living in rural Montana at the time with a child on each hip made the pain that much worse. However to cope, she did what so many others were doing, and began to knit.

Her love of knitting pulsed through her veins; she cranked out socks, one pair after another.

Granma’s preferred method? Double knitting, or as she called them…Magic Socks. She would cast on two sets of stitches and knit a tube, a ribbed heel and garter stitch toe provided stability and comfort. She knit for her husband, who was in turn fighting for her. Women across the country were in the same position as Granma. Their needles clicking ferociously, interlacing yarn into lifesaving garments.

I never really understood the weight knitting played in the war effort. My Granma is just one example of millions of women who worked tirelessly to help warm every soldier. We must never forget these knitters. Never.

Purchase The Heritage Collection: WWI & WWII on Amazon or Ravelry today. Or visit Strong and Stone for more details!

Not dead, just busy…

My mother has been suitably appalled with me over the past week. I’ll call to check in on my dad, who fell off a ladder at work last month and has not been having a very fun recovery (dizziness is no one’s friend), and she’ll say “what are YOU doing?” “going home to make dinner…” — then realize the reason she’s making that Very Momlike gasp of air noise is shock. “But it’s 8:30. You’re still at the studio?” “Yup.” And then I sometimes get an “awww” noise. Gotta love moms, right?

But there’s been so much going on! We’ve got a handful of new books going to the printer in time for Stitches East, Rhinebeck and Vogue Knitting Live next month! And this is on top of everything else!

For example… today, on the Twist Collective blog, there is a post about my Budapest Market socks and color. I think it will shock no one to learn I am a sucker for the color green, particularly the chartreuse-y ones.

What else have I been doing in my copious amounts of free time? Oh, you know. Just launching a new knitting magazine. The first official issue of Knit Edge went live last Friday. Note to crocheters: there is (and will continue to be) crochet content, too!

At home I’ve been doing what I call a “destashing” — or what any sane person would call “getting rid of TOO MUCH STUFF.” I’ve only just gotten started and already there are three enormous boxes of clothes to go. Just wait for the book culling…it’s going to be ruthless.

I’ve hit that point where too much Stuff is just annoying, and anyway, I made a deal with myself that if I did this, brutally, I could hire a cleaner. The very day I made this mental deal with myself, I walked into the kitchen and found a cleaning service’s card on our fridge. “Umm, honey? Where’d this come from?” He found it on our car when he was at the gym. Talk about a sign! I have always had this weird guilt about hiring someone to clean (though I am more than happy to take my mom’s help, let me tell you!). It’s come to the point where I just have to get the heck over that and do it. I think we’ll all be better off.

(As an aside, this is part of the reason I can’t really work at home anymore. I hate the temptation of being able to sneak off and do the laundry or dishes when I have other things that need to be done! Please tell me I’m not alone on this.)

It’s actually chilly chilly outside just now. I might get to wear a Real (read: wool) sweater today. Yay! September and October, my two favorite weather months!

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!

My brain hurts just to think of it…

Have you seen this wondrous Kaffe Fassett throw for Rowan?

Whew. Ok, so what have I been up to since last I posted? SO MUCH STUFF. Was kicked out of my office for over a week while workmen fixed the concrete header over our window. Apparently it was the worst one they’ve seen yet, and that’s saying something, since this building is about 100 years old. Though it was annoying (and now there is a thin layer of concrete dust on EVERYTHING, necessitating a major clean-and-rearrange session I haven’t managed to do yet), at least it means it won’t fall on our heads someday.

(Which is more than I can say for my knit sample shelf, which DID fall and nearly took off my HEAD in the process!)

Knit Edge issue one is well underway and it is so GOOD, you guys. Oh, man. Trust me. You want a subscription…and not just because we’re doing a really cool subscribers-only giveaway this issue.

I just got back from Stitches Midwest, where we launched Audrey Knight’s new book from Cooperative Press, Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues. Even if you don’t like to knit scarves, there is such a huge variety of techniques for reversible fabrics presented in easy-to-learn form that I am quite sure many of you clever people will apply them to other projects. If any of you feel like making me a reversible black cardigan for this October, go right ahead! 😉

(I’ve looked at my travel schedule for October and it is INTENSE. Some would say “insane.” Teaching at Stitches East, Felt School, vending at Rhinebeck and Vogue Knitting Live…I’m all over the place!)

I had really great students at Stitches Midwest (hi Anna!), and I took second place in the teacher contest (congrats to Drew, who won, and yay to Marly, who took third)! The hotel was fabulous, the booth was fun (I’ll post more photos when I get a chance, probably to the Cooperative Press blog). I scored some Malabrigo in the Archangel color way and cast on for a cardi, only to find that dear Audrey has already been making me a scarf from her book in that colorway. Quelle coincidence…love it!

So, you know…the usual. Busy, crazy, and crazy busy! More to come soon, I haven’t forgotten you all by a long shot!

Win an alligator bag kit!

I think that a lot of my own design work tends towards the classic, the wearable, the…well, frankly, you could even say “boring with a twist.” (Sometimes that’s very literal…I do love a cable). I like things to not only be relatively straightforward to knit, but also something you’ll actually get a good amount of use from in the long run. I know I don’t have nearly as much knitting time as I might like, and I suspect I’m not the only one…so there you have it.

That said, I have a real weakness for “fun” bags. (See: Red Lotus, for example, or the Boombox Bag from the Knitgrrl books that actually had knitters building speakers into their bag).

Morehouse Farm has been publishing some really cool bag kits of late, and they’re allowing me to give one away here on the blog.

I chose the Alligator, because it is a) hilarious b) adorable and c) because I almost lost my best friend and officemate Arabella to the swamps of New Orleans earlier in the year (she’s staying in Cleveland for at least one more year — whew!).

To win one of the kits, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post. We’ll pick one by random number generator 25 July.

Edited to add: Congratulations, Jennifer! I’ll be mailing you for your address now!

Totally self-serving post

There’s a teacher contest for next month’s STITCHES Midwest. They want to see how many people we can get to click through on a given link (in this case, a link to our class listings). So, if you click the below, it won’t cost you a dime but it might win the contest for me! Help a grrl out? I am not above bribery. Here’s $3 off patterns!

(If you’re in the Chicagoland area, of course I would love to have you actually in class with me, but don’t let that limit you!)

I WANT TO WIN.

(thanking you in advance for putting up with my selfish request…EMBORSKY AND BIRD, YOU’RE GOING DOWN!)

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

Knitting help

Spike is helping me knit today.

This is the new Erika Knight wool fur yarn and it is fabulous! Finally a worthy successor to Crystal Palace’s sadly-discontinued Shag.

Speaking of which, if any of you have a few balls of black Shag in your stash that you’d be willing to sell, I’m on the hunt for some. I have a half-finished Rockstar scarf and I think it really wants to be finished someday…

TNNA antics…

(Crossposted from the Cooperative Press blog…)

TEAM COOPERATIVE PRESS! yaaaaay! (I am so fortunate to work with these people, let me tell you…)

If you’ve been wondering why things seem so quiet over here, believe us when we say they are NOT, not by a long shot! We just returned from TNNA, the National Needle Arts Association tradeshow, where yarn store owners, designers, yarn companies and many more industry people gather together each June to sell knit-related things to each other. Oh, and eat ice cream from Jeni’s. (It’s a tradition, just like taking over the Hyatt’s lobby bar to knit and chat each night).

Imagine a convention center filled with yarn, knitting tools, and every knitting and crochet person you can imagine. Ok, now double that!

We were fortunate to have many CP authors at the show with us, some of whom have written up their own posts about it. (Alasdair Post-Quinn, Audrey Knight, Anna Dalvi and no doubt others I am currently missing).

The last day or so before the show was intense as we packed everything up, including galley copies of our upcoming books to show yarn store owner potential-buyers. We also had all new posters featuring images of items from upcoming books, and on Saturday, the big news was the launch of our new magazine Knit Edge, which as of today has had well over 2000 downloads. We got great feedback on the magazine, and on all of our upcoming books.

Friday night was Sample It!, a chance for yarn store owners to walk away with cash-and-carry products. You can only have one special deal for them (which makes it easier to get them checked out during the frenzy of that hour), and in our case it was 3 books for one price.

Immediately after that was Marly Bird’s infamous Yarn Thing Designer Dinner…this year with a masquerade theme. Here’s part of Team CP:

Saturday night Craftsy held a great party — here’s a picture. Believe it or not, there was a lot of business getting done! And I love how the sunlight is hitting Lee Meredith’s hair in this photo!

We were very pleased to sponsor the 2012 Business Innovations Award…

and all the more pleased that our friends from Shibui won!

So, in short — it was a lot of work but it was also a lot of fun. We introduced CP’s books to even more yarn store owners and met lots of designers, yarn companies and other great people. If we seemed quiet it was just because an event of this magnitude takes a lot of prep to pull off! Many, many thanks to all the CP authors who came and helped, and particularly to Elizabeth Green Musselman, the second-in-command around here these days and the one responsible for helping Cooperative Press move forward even faster. We couldn’t do it without her!