Thursday, March 26, 2009

Souvenir of Paris

My husband and I just got back from a trip to Paris. Ever the frugal pair, instead of frittering away our money on souvenirs or gifts for friends, we took a special tour on Saturday afternoon. It was of this quaint little place on Avenue Victor Hugo called Hopitale Americain. I left with a fancy French x-ray of my right foot along with a darling pair of silver and black crutches. Really, what more could a girl ask for?

In spite of this little mishap, the trip was great. I'll write a proper post tomorrow. Complete with yarn things. And skulls.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lovely Lace!

I just had to share this fantastic picture Clara Parkes of Knitter's Review sent us. It is her new color Clara's Garden in Helen's Lace. The pattern is Shetland Triangle by Evelyn A. Clark from Wrap Style. So very lovely!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Color Commentary with Clara Parkes of Knitter's Review

Well kids, it's that time again. I'd like to present the newest member of Color Commentary, Clara's Garden. I think it is just fantastic. Light and airy. Spring-like. Feminine.

Stirring things up in the dyepots with Clara Parkes of Knitter's Review was a ton of fun. I'll let her tell you all about it:

I’ll admit it, I have a thing for pink. Friends tease me about it as, again and again, I inevitably add yet more pink-hued yarns to my stash. I can’t help it – done right, pink is an exquisite color. I’m not talking about the oft-maligned pink of Pepto Bismol and bubble gum, but the elegant, nuanced, womanly hues of Mary Cassatt paintings, of peonies and hollyhocks and tulips. I know of no pink in nature that is not beautiful.

When Beth asked me to create a color with her, my mind immediately turned to those peonies, hollyhocks, and tulips—all three of which I have in my garden. They are pink, yes, but they have elements of yellow and white in them as well. I sent her a picture of a pale pink peony with hints of yellow stamens at the very center, and that’s where we began.

Translating a picture or a feeling into yarn is one thing—but doing it in such a way that you end up with a yarn that conveys this same feeling when knit up, that requires true skill. While I said what I liked, Beth knew how to make it happen, and in that regard, this was a truly collaborative process.

She first pulled three common colors from my picture—pink, yellow, and purple—and we started there. (We agreed right up front that we’d focus on the flower itself and not complicate matters by bringing in any green.) She dyed several skeins of sock yarn to start, each with different saturations and lengths of color placed at varying spots along the skein. While the skeins looked nearly identical at first, their differences quickly revealed themselves when I started swatching. In one skein, those innocent-looking yellow dabs became popcorny globs when knitted up—and the colors looked darker than I’d envisioned, pooling in an unattractive, oil-slick kind of way. (You can see a little bit of this in the cuff of my sample sock.)

One more trip back to the drawing board. We opened the curtains on our Mary Cassatt drawing room and let the light in, pulling the purple and replacing it with white, lightening the pink, and transforming the yolky yellow into a pale and delicate buttercup. The next test skeins were much happier.

Again, the mystery was revealed in swatching. One skein (shown in the toe of my sample sock) pooled in larger waves that didn’t seem quite right. But one special skein (instep section) produced lovely little rippling waves of color that reminded me of the wavy edges of a flower petal—and I chose that color as the base for Clara’s Garden.

But we had one more surprise in store, which came when Beth dyed up a hank of my favorite Lorna’s Laces yarn – Helen’s Lace – in the new colorway. Love at first sight!

I immediately cast on a lace triangle shawl that’s now just a few repeats away from completion. I could not be more pleased with how the colors translate into lace fabric, shifting softly from yellow to white to pink, much like a bed of tulips and daffodils. There’s just enough variegation for visual intrigue without detracting from the lace pattern. And the colors—and their promise of spring—provide a welcome vision that shall sustain me through the last weeks of what has been a very long winter here in Maine.

It has been a great pleasure, and learning experience, to create this colorway. I’m proud to present it to you, and I hope you enjoy it.

Clara's Garden is shipping to LYS near you right NOW!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fremont Sock

Well, the Ides of March are upon us. It seems to me as good a time as any to get started on a new color work sock. This beauty was designed by Chrissy Gardiner. It's the latest release from the Lorna's Laces and Mountain Color's Duets Series. Isn't it a stunner? Something about the light bits reminds me of Space Invaders characters. (Does that tell you anything about how old I am?)

We call it the Fremont Sock and we've put together kits in five colorways. They contain enough Shepherd Sport and Bearfoot yarns to make a pair of socks in any of the three sizes the pattern is written for.

The model shown here is knit in Lorna's Laces River and Mountain Colors Winter Sky.

It's also available in Lorna's Laces Gold Hill and Mountain Colors Plum.

Lorna's Laces Woodlawn and Mountain Colors Sapphire Trail

Lorna's Laces Camouflage and Mountain Colors Wild Raspberry

Lorna's Laces Aslan and Mountain Colors Moose Creek

We're also putting the finishing touches on the next Color Commentary right now. We have one more "I" to dot and we'll be all set. That will be shipping later in the week. Look for another post when it's ready to go.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Snuggly Hoodie

You gotta love babies, they are just so darn cute! Here's a darling little hoodie from the new Interweave Crochet.

It's made from our Shepherd Sock yarn. Island Blue with Ashburn Trim.

Now if I could just find me a baby....

Friday, March 13, 2009

Amanda's View

Some people have a city view, some people have a country view. This is the view from Amanda's desk.

There's Gold Hill, Amy's Vintage Office, Jeans, Cedar.....

It changes every day depending on what we dye. Should we post the new view on Twitter every afternoon?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Motif of the Week

A couple of weeks ago our Emily started posting a new feature on her blog called "Motif of the Week". These are wonderful little colorwork motifs that she's designed and charted and she's making them available to anyone just for the taking.

The first one was this cute little penguin.

Next up was this this cow skull graphic. It's not too late to make a little something for SXSW is it?

This week's entry made me laugh out loud.

I'm not sure why the carrot amused me so much. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Vegetable motifs would make awfully cute dishrags. Just sayin'.

Emilyt has all the charts on her blog, so you can download them and make them for yourself. She's also happy to take suggestions. Anything you'd like to see?

The possibilities for these little guys are endless!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mothering Sunday

Several months ago a designer from the UK, Erssie Major, contacted us. She had a fantastic concept for stockings using our Shepherd Sock in Flamingo Stripe. In case you don't remember, we donate 20% of the proceeds of this yarn to breast cancer charities.

Well, it turns out that Erssie's family has quite a history with the female cancers. Her mother died at 54 of ovarian cancer and her grandmother died at 42 of breast cancer. She wanted to create something to honor her mom and thought this yarn would be a perfect fit. So, these feminine and lacey wonders are called Ann Marie Stockings. They are available as a free download on Ravelry and here.

The timing of this pattern is perfect since this Sunday is the UK equivalent of Mother's Day. They call it Mothering Sunday. So, I'd like to wish all you UK moms a fantastic Mothering Sunday.

To everyone in the US and Canada, there's plenty of time to have a pair of these knit up for your own mom by our Mother's Day in May.
And as a little incentive, I'll enter everyone who sends me a picture of their Ann Marie Stockings into a drawing for enough yarn to knit two pairs of socks in the colors of their choice. How does June 30th sound for a cut-off date?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My First Project

Last Wednesday, the entry in Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Page-A-Day Calendar read:

I think everyone should keep the first thing they ever knit. I know it's likely going to be a pretty rough-looking object, but save it anyway. Then, a couple of years later when you're really struggling with a cabled hat, you can look back at a time when you thought garter stitch was challenging and feel way better.

So, I decided to pull my first project out of the closet and show it to you and tell you about how I came to be a knitter.

I don't have a romantic story of how I learned to knit sitting at my grandmother's knee. In fact, the only time I remember using yarn as a child was when I chain stitched an entire ball of yarn. Yards and yards of chain stitch. To her credit, my mother praised me rather than laughing out loud.

Fast forward about twenty years. I had just broken up with the first great love of my life and decided I needed a big change. So, I took a job selling college textbooks, packed my things and moved from Saint Louis to Kansas City.

Geographically, this wasn't a big move. But I didn't know a soul in KC. And I didn't know anyone who knew anyone. The topper was that I worked from home which meant that I didn't have a natural outlet to make friends. There was no one to come over to my desk and say "Wanna join us for lunch?" or "We're heading out for happy hour, grab your coat".

Even in a friendly place like KC, people think you're a little off when you approach them on the street or in the grocery store and invite them to dinner. Or knock on their door when you see they are having a party and introduce yourself as the new neighbor two doors down. Don't think I didn't try. Needless to say, I got some very frightened looks. I was also very lonely.

I don't want to mislead you, it wasn't like there wasn't anyone for me to talk to. I did have colleagues there, but we weren't really a good fit in terms of socializing. I was young and single, they were both married with small children. As you might expect, their lives revolved around the kids.

Besides children, my colleagues also had knitting in common. One afternoon we got together for a meeting. I immediately noticed their sweaters. It turns out they were both knitters. I started asking questions and decided I wanted to learn to knit too.

One of my big clients at the time was the University of Kansas. There's a great yarn shop in Lawrence called The Yarn Barn and I signed up for a beginning knitting class there.

They had us pick a project and buy the supplies before the first day of class so we could hit the ground running. We got to pick any project we wanted too! I had been expecting to have to make something small, like a scarf, but their theory was to let us choose whatever we wanted so that we would come away from the class happy with the end result. Since the class was six or eight weeks long, there was plenty of time to learn many skills.

I chose the roll neck pullover you see here. It was from one of the very early Rowan books, I don't remember which one. The yarn is Brown Sheep's Lamb's Pride Bulky. (By today's standards, it's oversized and boxy, but I still pull it out and wear it a few times every winter, usually when it's really cold. It always makes me feel warm and cozy.)

Boy did I learn alot about knitting during that class. There was the basic stuff like knitting, purling and ribbing. I learned to increase, decrease, cast on, cast off, pick up stitches.

I also learned that creating fabric from string can give you a real sense of accomplishment.

...that if I think something through, and refuse to let myself get frustrated, there are lots of things that I can figure out on my own.

...that spending two hours together once a week for eight weeks can turn a perfect stranger into a lifelong friend.

...and that a ball of of yarn and a couple of sticks can become a life's work.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

Even as I complained yesterday about the long long winter, I keep getting glimpses of the spring that is inevitably right around the corner.

One of my favorites harbingers is the arrival of daffodils in the grocery stores. They show up about this time every year and I've seen them sell for anywhere between $1.00 and $2.50 for a bunch of ten. I figure five bucks or so is a small price to pay for that much hope.

I know there are parts of the country where the daffodils are already in full bloom, but it will probably be at least another month until we see the crocus push their heads up through the snow. Tulips, like going outside with out a heavy coat, are still just dreams. So, we take the promise of warmth where we can get it.

Another way I know that spring is close is when bright colors and open lace start feeling right again. The browns, greys and blacks of winter begin to feel a little oppressive. This crocheted shrug is a birthday present for Amanda from her friend Mercedes. Somehow the bright cheery color makes that little bit snow in the background all but disappear.

Monday, March 2, 2009

In Like a Lion

March has certainly come in like a Lion. It's been blustery and cold and we got snow yesterday. It'll be in the low teens overnight to boot.

I know I choose to live in Chicago and all, but it sure is easy to become weary of winter this time of year. I have high hopes that the the daylight savings time change this weekend will help brighten my spirits.

It doesn't help that my darling husband was kind enough to pass along the monster cold he's been suffering with. I had to call in sick on Friday because my head was so full of sn@t that I didn't think it would fit through the door. I probably could have forced my way in through the loading dock, but I still couldn't have gotten into the studio. It's a little better today, but I'm no where near feeling good. Dang.

One bright spot this morning was seeing Sam in her new sweater. It's from Debbie Bliss's fall book. She couldn't remember the pattern. She wanted to make sure it was ready in time for the South Side Irish Parade. And she will be doing the jig in fine style.