Saturday, January 31, 2009

I don't understand...

Why would you have this license plate? I mean, really.

To top it off, it's a Bentley. Not a fancy new Bentley, but still.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Cat's Ahah

A couple of months ago Cat Bordhi contacted us to talk about making what she calls a "learning yarn". Her idea is that if students have good yarn, with certain characteristics it will help them visualize the skill they are trying to master.

Here, I'll let her describe it:

In recent years I’ve had the pleasure of teaching many new techniques to over 5,000 knitters, and have often watched students struggle with yarn which splits, goes limp, or is too thin or single-colored to allow individual stitch behavior to be seen clearly. My students always want to know where to find yarn like the treasured, discontinued ball I reserve for demonstrations. And so I’ve teamed with Lorna’s Laces to produce a similar yarn, ideal for learning new techniques and honing skills. This single-ply, full-bodied yarn is easy to manipulate, produces highly defined stitches, and has a color sequence which makes it easy to distinguish and examine individual stitches. We’re calling it “Ahah! Yarn” because it helps you see and understand.

(Take a look at this YouTube video.)

Follow the instructions (you can stop and start, move back and forward in the video as needed). Little details that help you understand, such as that Hungry Stitch is a different color than his neighbors, and that the yarn running behind Hungry Stitch is the same color as the stitch on the left needle, proving they are indeed connected – are made clear by the yarn’s color changes. And the individual stitches are well-defined and easy to examine. You might even find yourself saying, “Ahah! I get it!” After practicing with the yarn for a while, you’ll be ready to apply this technique to socks, sweaters -- anywhere you use ssk’s and k2tog’s.

My dream is that every serious knitter keep a ball of Ahah! Yarn handy to pull out when a new technique is to be learned. One ball will last for years, and become a trusted ally for learning, seeing, and understanding.

Cat and I spent quite a bit of time this fall and early winter talking about what would work best for this concept. The first step was figuring which yarn to use. We sent samples of several of our yarns and she decided that Bullfrogs and Butterflies would be just the thing.

Then the fun part began...color! My first try wasn't very good at all. It hit all the marks technically, but it wasn't very pretty to look at. And if it's not pretty, what's the point? Even if it will do the job, it should still be a joy to look at while you're working with it.

After a few wonderful conversations and several tries, we hit on the yarn you see here. It's rich and warm with distinctive color changes and easy on the eyes. What's not to like.

We were lucky enough to have Cat spend some time in our booth at TNNA.Wow, she is a phenomenal teacher! She is witty and patient and has a way about her that makes what she's explaining make perfect sense. Ahah! (OK sorry about the pun.)

BTW, that's Clara Parkes on the left. We were all full of yarn dignitaries that day.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Remember I told you that I was taking two projects to TNNA and was considering a third? Man was I overly optimistic!

This is all I got done. Didn't get very far on the my bookclub book either. I put that in this picture for scale.

Here's a close-up. This is Pearl in Annie Modesitt's Roadside Gerry.

I am in love with this yarn. For real.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pearl Yarn

Remember last fall when we brought out Amy's Vintage Office colorway? And Amy-Friendly yarn? It's the silk/bamboo blend that we got so Amy Singer could make something in her own color that she wasn't allergic to.

Well, we got such a monster response to the yarn that we decided to release it full bore across all 134 colors that we dye! We launched it at TNNA and it will start shipping in earnest in a few weeks under the name Pearl.

We changed the name for two reasons. First, we didn't want confusion with Amy's Vintage Office and Amy-Friendly yarn. We have enough trouble keeping things straight around here and didn't want to make any mistakes. Second, the yarn is all shimmery and Pearl seemed to fit. It didn't hurt that our mascot (my harlequin Great Dane) is named Pearl either.

Besides just selling the yarn by the bag or by the skein to your LYS, we did a cute little kit with it.

Inside the "Pearl Shell" you'll find a skein of Pearl and the pattern for the Lyerka Scarf by Kenny Chua of The Boy Who Knits fame.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

TNNA Recap

I'm back from San Diego and digging out from the big ol' pile of work that accumulated while I was away. Can someone please explain to me why it takes two days to recover for each day I'm gone?

Our time in southern CA was fantastic. We left -17F/-27C in Chicago and arrived to find sun and 80F/27C. Our flight was on time and uneventful. We even arrived in San Diego with enough time to drop our bags at the hotel before hopping on the Amtrak to LA. The Amtrak ride was also uneventful. When it comes to travel, uneventful is good.

The party at Unwind was spectacular! Over a hundred people turned out...enough that they had let them into the shop in two groups.

This is probably going to sound a little nutty, but I don't get out to visit yarn shops as often as I'd like. I sort of have lots of yarn here (duh) and tend to get focused on what needs to be accomplished for Lorna's Laces rather than seeing what's out in the world. I should make an effort to do better. The best part of getting out is the chance to meet knitters and hear what's making them happy and find out what we can do to make them even happier.

After Unwind, we got back on the train and arrived in San Diego a little after 1:00 AM. I had been apprehensive about the late hour and all the travel, but it turned out to be good thing because it helped my body clock adjust to the time change right away. I woke refreshed the next morning at a time that made sense for being on the west coast and I was good to go for the rest of the trip.

Friday is set-up day. We had some new displays that show all the colors we dye.

They are wine riddling racks that my husband found. The samples are shown in Shepherd Worsted and it was a little tight. We may need to adjust and switch to Shepherd Sport the next time around, but after five years of the same thing, it felt good to be doing something different.

We brought five new colors, a new yarn and a special color/yarn to the show. Today, I'll tell you about the new colors.

This is Montrose. This color feels really fresh and current to me.

It's a combination of greys, browns and a fabulous icy green. It knits up into a sophisticated neutral with just a pop of brightness. Of course the garments we have knitted in all the new colors are in the crate on their way back to us right now so I can't show them to you today. I'll post them as soon as I can.

The next color is Beverly. Nice bright blues and greens. This is a happy color that will be nice for little boys and anyone with blue eyes.

This is Andersonville. Golds, greens, blues and browns. The shell we have is something special. The greens really shine.

Here's another shot.

Next is Rockwell. I have to admit this one is a little autumnal, but something about it just spoke to me when it came out of the dye pots for the first time. There's a slate color, a great green, a rich plummy red and a wonderful pumpkin-y gold. Maybe I like this one so well since I'm a redhead these days. Although I think Andersonville might be good on me too.

Last but not least is Satsuma. This is a bunch of shades of orange. Nice rich oranges with depth.

My favorite color is what I refer to as Crayola orange. When I was growing up, I never got the big box of crayons. The 16 box was all we got so I learned to work with what I had. I used to be so jealous of the little girl across the street because her parents bought her the box of 64. I suppose I need to get off the bitter bus about that, huh?

My next post will cover our new yarn.

I'll leave you today with a photo of Amanda and Stefanie Japel. Stefanie was doing a signing for her new book Glam Knits. Amanda is wearing the Two-Toned Shrug from Fitted Knits knit in our Green Line Worsted colors Ashburn and Chocolate. It's a nice photo of them both!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fisherman's Fancy

Last absentee post until I get back from TNNA and can do things properly. This is Stef's Fisherman's Fancy sock. Cute huh?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

More Hollywood

Check out Jessica Alba and her daughter Honor Marie Warren. Honor is wearing a hat made from our Angel in Tickled Pink.

Between the hat, the visit to Unwind, and the Coraline movie, we're just all Hollywood these days.

OK, maybe not so much Hollywood, but we were pretty thrilled by it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Travel day

I'm not at the computer, but here's a shrug from Stefanie Japel's Fitted Knits that Emily is working on.

It's knitted from Green Line Worsted and it's going to be gorgeous when it's finished. I'll have pics of her wearing it once it's finished.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Planes, trains and automobiles

Amanda and I are off to TNNA in the morning. If all of our travel plans work out, we'll be at Unwind in LA by 7:00 for an event with Jess, Casey and Mary-Heather from Ravelry and Dawn and Kelly from Namaste. It's going to be a hoot. Keep your fingers crossed that the weather cooperates.

There will be lots of airport and train time tomorrow because the trip up to LA and Unwind is kind of a last minute thing and we already had the plane tickets to San Diego. So once we arrive in SD, we're hopping an Amtrak up there for the event and then back south when it's over. It's going to be a long day, but one of those fun long days where you get to see lots of people and meet new friends!

Time to start putting together the knitting projects for the trip. Right now I have two things but I think I better grab a third.

The first thing going in the bag is a skein of Shepherd Sport in Echo. I'm going to make a Mountain Stream sock with it. It's a pattern Judy Sumner designed for us a few years back and I've been meaning to make a pair for awhile and somehow it just got put on the back burner.

The second thing for me is going to be a scarf made from a new yarn...I'll give you more details when I return from market. Here's a quick shot of the yarn. The scarf is a lacy thing that we're doing as a kit. Kenny Chua designed it for us. Kenny is a real gem. We've worked with him on a couple of projects and we can't say enough good things about him. The scarf has to be finished by the time we get to Unwind. Should be a piece of cake. (Famous last words.)

Now I better find one more thing....or I could wait until the show and see if there's anything there I can't live without.

Amanda is bringing Shepherd Sport in a custom color we did for Knit, a shop in Charleston, SC. She's got a pair of socks going on the needles as soon as she finishes up the shrug she's wearing on Friday. No pressure.

Monday, January 12, 2009

what is a designer?

I got a note the other day from a person representing a "designer". This designer has published a book and makes some appearances etc. But, as best as I can tell, very little of the work is really hers.

For the purpose of our discussion today, let's call the designer Ms. Great PR. When you look at the small print in her pattern leaflets, there is a disclaimer. It's says "Model knitted by Another Person" and "Pattern written by Another Person".

So Ms. Great PR is not writing patterns. I guess what she is doing is the conceptual work. And it raises some questions. In our little corner of the world, do you have to actually do the nuts and bolts work to call yourself a designer? Or is it OK to put your name on it if the idea behind it was yours?

I am by no means a designer. Sure, I fiddle around with some very basic things, but if you asked me to design a real sweater, with real features in several different sizes that would actually fit a human being, you'd be out of luck.

Sure, I can come up with ideas of things I'd like to knit, like this drawing, but it's nothing more than a indication. I could more readily walk on water than write a pattern for it. And could I knit it without one? Not a chance. But since I came up with the idea, can I commission someone to write the pattern and knit a model and call myself the designer?

I know my initial reaction was that Ms. Great PR doesn't have much substance. She's got a fantastic PR machine and that's about all. I want her to do the work. At the very least, I want her to be capable of doing the work and I'm not convinced that she is.

But, here's another way to look at it. When Tom Ford/Donatella Versace/Calvin Klein puts together runway show every season, how much of the work do they actually do? Make sketches? Pick fabric? Cut fabric? When was the last time one of them touched a needle and thread? And let's not even go into all the derivitive products like handbags, home decor and frangrances.

My guess is that designers of that class are doing the conceptual work and that's about all. They have staff members doing the rest.

In the needlearts world, I think most of us picture designers as people who sit with needles and yarn making swatches and doing the math neccessary to write an accurate and knittable pattern. But is that the only way? Is the person with the idea just as legitimately a designer? Can you start your career with your needles, do a bunch of great work, earn your chops and then move on to just doing the conceptual stuff?

I had a very particular point of view on this and sparked a "lively discussion" the other night over dinner with friends. There were some points made on the other side that I had to admit have some merit.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I've got nothin'

Just wanted to let you know I haven't fallen off the mortal coil or anything.

The nice man is coming to pick up our crate and take it to TNNA in San Diego on Thursday and getting everything ready has me seriously off kilter. For the life of me, I can't think of anything to tell you about. You'd think this was the first time I'd done this. Sigh.

Seems like everyone else has plenty to talk about. Lists of things they'd like to do this year. Discussions of fabulous events they went to over the holidays. Plans for upcoming vacations. Exciting adventures of lost dogs found.

Me? I've got nothing. Maybe tomorrow.