Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Soap, Water And Wool

Stephanie wrote:

We have a springtime tradition of making felted eggs. Yesterday I captured the process from start to finish and thought I'd share it with you. Felted eggs through photos.

Start with wool roving.

I dug through my stash and pulled several bags of roving with lots of different colors. Mixing and matching the colors is half the fun.

I decided to use white for the center of my egg.

I drafted the fiber by pulling it ever so slightly. Then I wrapped it around my hand to form this.

A soft, cushy pillow of fiber.

Next it was time for a bath.

We had a bowl of hot, soapy water ready and waiting.

Time for some agitation.

Roll the blob of wet wool between your hands. Toss it back and forth.

Agitate, agitate until . .

. . . you get something that looks like this. A blob of wet wool with form.

I added some color by layering more drafted wool over the blob.

I repeated the process of bath and agitation to produce this.

A felted egg.

Notice that during this second round of agitation I did a bit more shaping to transform the blob into an egg shape.

I've been doing this with the kids since they were little. Soap, water and wool can provide hours of entertainment. Even though the kids are bigger now, they still enjoy making felted eggs.

A bowl of eggs in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

We're in the midst of more gray, wet weather. These eggs will brighten our days.

Thanks to all who entered the contest. It's encouraging to hear of all the thriving local yarn stores. The winner of the $25 Dye Dreams gift certificate is Tracey. Congratulations to all of you for buying local!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Afternoon Fun

Stephanie wrote:

Yesterday afternoon Mona and I were able to break away for a few hours. We took a short drive to Wellesley Booksmith. They were hosting a Knit-a-Thon and had a full day of scheduled events.

We attended the color session. Melissa Morgan-Oakes discussed how her book, 2-at-a-Time Socks, came to be. Melissa is a firm believer in knitting two socks at the same time, and her book demonstrates how to do it using one circular needle. Keep an eye out for her new book, Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks, which will be available later this spring.

Kristin Nicholas led a discussion of the color wheel, complementary colors and analogous colors. Using samples she showed various color combinations and how you can tweak them to suit your own taste. Be sure to click on her link for oh-so-cute sheep pictures.

And finally Gail Callahan, aka The Kangaroo Dyer, gave a demonstration on how to dye a skein of yarn. After discussing various dyes she proceeded to dye a skein of yarn with help from Melissa.

This is Gail on the left with Melissa as her assistant. Melissa had poured the dye on the skein and set the dye using a microwave. Here Gail is squeezing out the skein to show what little dye is left in the water.

The finished skein had some beautiful color combinations - perfect for spring.

And there were goodies.

The raffle prizes included three skeins dyed by Gail.

The session was followed by a book signing. Wellesley Booksmith was running a charitable book fair in conjunction with the Knit-a-Thon. Customers could request that 10% of their book purchases be donated to Women of Means, an organization that provides medical care to women and children in shelters.

It was an inspiring afternoon.

While my goal is to tidy up a few projects already on the needles, I did have to start this new one.

This is Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket. I've made several of these sweaters and enjoy the process every time. I recommend this pattern to all of my knitting students as a good exercise in faith and following instructions. If you can't envision the finished product, just follow the pattern and believe - it will all work out in the end.

Today is the last day of our contest. We've had lots of responses. If you haven't done so already, leave a comment and enter to win a $25 Dye Dreams gift certificate.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Buy Local and Contest

Stephanie wrote:

Like so many days yesterday was one of those days devoted to transporting kids. The difference was that I wasn't driving across town. I had to schlep 40 miles one way. I was discussing this with my sister - the lost knitting time, my sore back, the million and one things at home that weren't going to get done - when she asked if there were any yarn stores along the way.

Brilliant. Now why hadn't I thought of that? Talk about turning lemons into lemonade. Of course there were yarn stores along the way and one in particular that I had been meaning to check out.

After I had deposited said kids I made a swing by Knit Purl.

This is a comfy, well-stocked yarn store. They have an extensive selection of yarn with something for everyone. The walls are lined with samples - plenty of inspiration. And they have a nice selection of knitting bags, an overflowing sale basket, patterns, knitting books, oodles of needles and accessories. I could have been swallowed up for days.

When I was there, there was a lively group gathered around the table chatting about this and that. What a lovely sense of community. I enjoyed my time there and my discussion with Nancy, the owner.

My visit to Knit Purl turned my thoughts to the state of local yarn stores. My immediate area has seen the loss of two stores. For an area this size we don't have many yarn stores. And I've heard of well established yarn stores in other cities and towns closing their doors. I understand some of the reasons - high overhead, online competition - but there's a real loss of community when a store shuts down.

I was envious of those women at Knit Purl gathered in such a cozy setting, knitting row after row, sharing stories, offering advice about this or that project. Knitters have been gathering together for centuries. Today many gather in online venues. There are many advantages to internet forums - you can share ideas with others across the country or across the globe. I'll be the first to admit that the internet has revolutionized knitting. But there is an element of intimacy and shared experiences that can't be duplicated electronically.

The challenge is to maintain those connections in the face of an ever changing retail environment. I encourage everyone to shop their local yarn store. Don't take it for granted or you may wake up one day to find it closed.

In an attempt to practice what I preach these goodies came home with me.

It was a day for turquoise.

The calendar says spring and to mark the occasion we are running another contest. Leave a comment and a plug for your local yarn store. The winner, chosen at random, will receive a $25 Dye Dreams gift certificate. The contest will close on Sunday, March 28.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Knitting In The Wild

Stephanie wrote:

My recent internet wanderings have turned up a couple of interesting tidbits. The Newcastle ScienceFest includes, among other things, guerilla knitting. Knitters turned out in force to decorate Newcaste for this event. The knitting was done in advance of the actual festival which is going on right now. Pictures can be found here and here.

As so often happens with the internet one thing leads to another. Before I knew it I had landed at Knitted Landscape. Check out some of these pictures. Fun, creative, wacky and entertaining.

Along these lines someone recently brought the book Yarn Bombing to my attention. I haven't seen the book yet, but I'm curious to take a peek. While I'm not a fan of graffiti, this is one form of graffiti I can appreciate.

And from the dye pots . . .

. . . more samples. It's always fun to envision what they might become.

This past weekend we had wild, wet weather here in eastern Massachusetts. A nor'easter moved into the area on Friday and stayed around for the entire weekend. We experienced heavy rains and house-shaking winds. It was raw and blustery - perfect knitting weather.

These pictures show the flooded banks of the Mystic River.

Some areas reported upwards of 10 inches of rain over a 72 hour period. Logan Airport recorded winds over 50 mph with other areas reporting even stronger winds.

The storm caused flooded streets and homes and, in some areas, evacuations. Monday brought snarled traffic and school closings.

As the waters recede people are assessing the damage and beginning to clean up. The weather forecast for this week is favorable with drier conditions.

I've heard reports of crocus sightings. Spring can't be far away.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stitches West Part Two

Stephanie wrote:

Now for my second report on Stitches West. The marketplace was huge and at times overwhelming. Even though I was there for the duration I didn't see all there was to see. But I did spot some interesting things.

Take this, for instance.

This is a soy lotion ball. Mona first brought this to my attention. When I saw it again at the Ruhama's booth, I thought I'd give it a try.

The soy lotion ball is just that - 100% pure soy oil and vitamin E. To apply you roll the ball around in your hands. Your skin will feel smoother and softer without being greasy. I've even used it on my feet.

By the way the women at Ruhama's were so pleasant and helpful. Among other things they had an inviting sale basket and racks full of Kauni. If I ever find myself in Milwaukee, I'll be sure to stop by their store.

And since I'm on the subject of hand care I have to mention my all-time favorite.

Super Duty Hand Care is made locally at Sweet Grass Farm here in New England. I have dry skin, and my fingers often have cracks. Super Duty works like a charm. Between the Super Duty and the soy ball I have all the bases covered. Check out Sweet Grass Farm for other goodies - lip balm, muscle rub, soy candles.

In my marketplace wanderings I stopped several times at A Verb For Keeping Warm. While they had lots to look at, I kept returning to fondle the Jannah - a 50% camel, 50% silk fingering weight blend. In the end I didn't get any because none of the colors really spoke to me. Jannah is a new product and isn't on their website yet, but I'll be checking back.

I also made a couple of trips to Black Water Abbey Yarns. So many lovely colors . . . decisions, decisions, decisions. Thank you, ladies, for your patience.

While the marketplace is made up predominantly of vendors with goods for sale, there were a few booths that had something else to offer.

The Lacy Knitters Guild is comprised of knitters with a passion for lace knitting. In their booth they displayed beautiful pieces of lace work. They also had information about the Guild for those who might be interested in joining.

One evening we met two Guild members in the lobby of our hotel. Lew and Eugene are two men in their 80s who knit lace. They were sitting quietly in the lobby, working on their projects. While I hated to disturb them, I just had to go over and investigate. They were more than happy to show off their lace projects and share their stories. Before long a crowd of knitters had descended on the two men, oohing and aahing over their beautiful handiwork.

I asked Eugene if he knits only lace. He said he used to knit other things, but back in the 50s he came across some lace. "I can do that," he said. And he's been knitting lace ever since. They were a delightful pair and so engaging. I'd like to think their knitting keeps them young.

Walking through the marketplace I noticed several people with hand knit bears. One woman had a family of bears peeking out of the top of her back pack. When I commented, she mentioned that the Mother Bear Project had a booth and she was going to drop off her bears. I was already familiar with the Project and made a stop at their booth.

Mother Bear Project sends hand knit bears to children from emerging countries who have HIV/AIDS. To date they have distributed over 50,000 bears. The Mother Bear booth was a busy place. If you have time for charity knitting, you might want to put them on your list.

Finally, there was an entrepreneurial girl scout troop walking the aisles of the marketplace with a cart full of girl scout cookies.

Just what I needed - something to bring home to the family. The girl scouts bailed me out big time.

Back to work, back to the dye pots.

Sun dappled yarn.

Friday, March 5, 2010

There And Back Again

Stephanie wrote:

The excitement is over, and we're still recovering from Stitches West. As is usually the case with these large events we are totally focused and immersed in preparations for weeks. Poof! In the blink of an eye the event is over, and we're back home picking up the pieces.

I don't know where the time in Santa Clara went - that may have something to do with the time difference - but we were busy from the get-go. I tried to savor the moment as much as possible.

We were greeted with warmer temps, blooming trees and green.

As Mona often pointed out the air smelled sweet.

The convention center sign was a beacon to knitters far and wide.

Note more flowers and green.

The first visit to our booth was a harsh reminder that we had lots of work ahead.

The gridwalls were not set up, and we were not happy. After ironing out the details to get our booth in shape, we were ready to get to work.

With the help of three Ravelry elves we were able to transform our space into this.

Ready for showtime.

This table of colorful bags attracted lots of attention.

Most of these bags are the work of Michele from Three Bags Full. She uses lots of fun fabrics, many with knitting themes.

We featured two new sweater designs at Stitches West.

Tangled Up In Teal is shown here in Celestial Peacock. I didn't get a close up, but the neckline includes some beautiful bead work.

And the short sleeve cousin Tangled Up In Rose.

This is a fingering weight version in Twinkle Toes Raspberry Sorbet. Both designs are the work of Mara Labell (Ravelry link).

We highlighted a couple of designs from Janel Laidman's newest book, The Enchanted Sole.

This is Mirror Mirror on the left and La Licorne on the right. Both are available as yarn packs.

We also had a new shawl for our booth.

This is Damson knit up in Classy Sox. The yarn is dreamy soft and the pattern calls for one skein - a nice combination.

Before we knew it the show was over, and it was time to tear down.

Packed up and ready to hit the road.

Our last night at the hotel bar was full of fun and games.

The fearless leader of the Blue Moon team walks, clucks and, if given needles and yarn, could probably even knit.

And in the hotel lobby . . .

. . . a sign that knitters were there.

Thanks again to everyone who stopped by the booth. Club members who introduced themselves get bonus points - it's always nice to put a face to the name.

I came across a few interesting things at Stitches West, and I'll highlight them in my next post.