Monday, December 31, 2012

Shameless plugs

As you know, gentle knitters, occasionally I mention opportunities that seem worthwhile. Recently the following events caught my eye, and I'll pass the info on for your consideration.

The first to occur, on January 17th of 2013, is the Second Annual Knit-In, sponsored by Main Street Art, an arts community center in Newfields, New Hampshire.  It runs from 8 to 8, and is to benefit New Horizons of New Hampshire, a social services program that includes a food pantry, homeless shelter, and soup kitchen in Manchester. "Knitters are welcome to join us for the day or just for an hour...Yarn and patterns provided, but everyone should bring their own needles (7-9).  We'll be knitting up as many hats as we can and would love everyone's company."  So, for further info go to, or contact Kelley Corson at 603-321-7305/

The second is a Debbie Stoller weekend retreat, February 15-18th, at the Rowe Camp and Conference Center in Rowe, Massachusetts (in the Berkshires, very pretty).  It's called "Raging Wool," and it promises to be amusing, though I hope not overly enraged.  Click here for more info.

Now, on to the last shameless plug. When I queried Sven and Laura Risom, the dynamic couple behind North Light Fibers on Block Island, about their New Year's knitting resolutions, I seem to have unleashed a force of nature.

As you may recall, if you read some of my earlier posts, the Risoms have embraced yarn as a way of life, and to spend any time in their company is a fiber immersion experience. Now they're asking willing knitters to collaborate with them on specific projects, all of which sound quite interesting.

I'll leave you with the Risoms' resolutions and forecasts in their own words. (In a day or two I'll be posting the New Year's resolutions of other knitters who responded to my request--and if you have some you want to share, email me asap!)'s the skinny from North Light Fibers:

As many of you know, North Light Fibers is a small yarn mill and store located on Block Island, RI focused on producing quality blended yarns from exotic fibers such as qiviut, yak, camel, alpaca, bamboo, silk, etc. We clean, dehair, dye, card, and spin all of our yarns and we are starting to work with other exotics including Paco Vicuna and other beautiful fibers. We are located in the middle of an animal farm on a beautiful island and welcome everyone to visit us. In addition to planning a great retreat for the weekend of May 3rd with instructors including Deborah Newton, Melissa Leapman and more ( and introducing a new line of Forever Lace yarn (80% baby alpaca, 20% bamboo in 16+ colors as pictured below), we are really wanting to work with more knitters and expand the use of our yarns – and this gets us to our resolutions for 2013:
  • Work with knitters to develop new patterns and applications for our yarns. Laura is knitting a pillow with a prototype new super chunky yarn (80% Fine Alpaca/20%Fine Bamboo) in the picture below. But we need new ideas and we want to work with knitters to help develop and introduce the ideas to the knitting community.
Credit:  S. Risom

  • Develop and market more patterns and kits using our yarns. If any of you design patterns or have recommendations of patterns for us to carry, we would love to hear from you. Many knitters want help in planning their project and we need your help in developing the kits and project plans.
  • Create many more knit samples of patterns we market. We produce a lot of yarn but we need assistance making samples of the patterns. We would love to hang your knit sample in our booth at shows (Stitches, Vogue Live, New York Sheep and Wool Festival, New England Fiber Festival, etc). We look forward to forming partnerships with knitters to work with us.
  • Expand retreats in the spring and fall that are dedicated to yarn shops, clubs, guilds or groups. We have had many "small" knitting retreats that have all been very successful (i.e. The RI Hook and Needle Guild) and we would enjoy talking with more people about a weekend retreat on Block Island.
  • Identify a select set of stores to sell our yarns wholesale. We plan to start selling our yarns wholesale in 2013 starting in 2-3 stores in the Northeast. Do you have any ideas? We would love input and advice as to what stores can best carry our yarns.
As the saying goes, you put out your call to the universe, and you get what you want.  Let's hope the universe is listening in 2013!

Neighborhood alpacas inspect North Light Fibers yarn.  Credit:  S. Risom.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Neo-Victorian Mitts: a free knitting pattern

A holiday present for gentle knitters everywhere.

Neo-Victorian Mitts 

My friend Chavvy [not her real name], one of the world’s few academics who’s also a nice person, typifies the perfect fusion of Victorian and contemporary style in everything she does.  With this in mind I designed these mitts for her and used acrylic yarn (SMC Northern Worsted), as she’s allergic to wool.

Materials:  Four #7 dpns, scissors and a yarn needle, two skeins of worsted-weight yarn, a Main Color (MC) and a Contrasting Color (CC).  (Note—only a small amount of yarn is needed for the CC, and the MC is probably about 50 yards or less—in case you want to use up stash yarn.)

Directions:  With CC cast on 36 stitches and purl for an inch, or desired length of contrast ruffle (it will curl under to some extent).  Switch to MC and knit in the following ribbed pattern—K2 P1—for 4 inches or desired length.  At this point you’ll change stitch patterns and start working the thumb.  The thumb will be done in stockinette (unless you want to do it in Moss stitch), the rest in moss stitch (Row 1:  K1 P1; Row 2: P1 K1; alternate rows).

Thumb:  Rows as follows below:
1.     K2, M1R, K, M1L, pattern to end
2.     K all thumb stitches, pattern to end
3.     K2, M1R, K3, M1L, pattern to end
4.     K all thumb stitches, pattern to end
5.     K2, M1R, K5, M1L, pattern to end
6.     K all thumb stitches, pattern to end
7.     K2, M1R, K7, M1L, pattern to end
8.     K all thumb stitches, pattern to end
9.     K2, cast on 5 using backwards loop method, transfer 9 thumb stitches to a holder or waste yarn, pattern to end
10. K10, pattern to end
11. K1, sl1, psso, K2, K2tog, pattern to end
12. K1, sl1, psso, k2tog, pattern to end.

Note:  The last three rows of the thumb only can be done in the CC, or MC, as you desire.

Continue knitting the hand of the mitt until you reach the desired length, approximately 8 inches from the beginning, before starting the top edging.

Top edging:  Purl in CC for four rows, or about a half-inch.

Bows (make two):  Cast 3 stitches onto one of your dpns, and with it and another, knit a 16-inch I-cord.  Tie each cord into a small bow, and tack onto the mitt where the wrist joins the hand.

If you find errors in this pattern, please advise!

 Please note:  Mitts are excellent to wear while reading in bed in a cold room.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

'Tis the season...

Maybe because it's the stressful holiday time of headless-chicken behavior, but lots of stuff has gone kablooey in the past few weeks (think late-night visits to the ER, pet health issues, loss of communications owing to Hurricane Sandy, Thanksgiving, dear friends undergoing the surgical knife), hence the scarcity of my posting. As well, I've been perpetually losing things in the chaos of my incompetent housekeeping, resulting in anguished moments and serious meltdowns. Also, it did not help that H thought it was important to give his twelve-year-old grandson lessons in gunsmanship last weekend. But that is life. At some point I pick myself up, dust myself off, and ask these Important Questions:  Does what you're looking for Really Matter?  What if you had to do without it?

The answers are invariably "No," and "I'd be just fine." The rational (and smallest) part of my brain then feels smug and superior, and the crybaby part hides sulkily under the covers. Until the next hysterical eruption.

So...a few weeks ago three knitting books to review came into my life, and I wanted to tell you about them earlier but too much of mundanity intervened, and, additionally, I had no idea where I'd put them in my many-mansioned house. However, they recently surfaced and there's still enough time for you to buy one or all if you're motivated by my reviews, before the holidays are mere ghosts of Xmas past. (Depending on how prosocial you feel, check them out at your local independent bookstore, your LYS, or on

The best and most wonderful of this trio is Sock Yarn Studio, by Carol J. Sulcoski. (Lark Crafts, 2012).

Most of us sock-knitting enthusiasts have leftovers in our stashes, and Sock Yarn Studio is good at suggesting how to make use of these. Beyond that, there are excellent ideas for clothes and accessories designed specifically to showcase beautiful, interesting sock yarn. If you enjoy knitting largish items on tiny needles, this is a good book for you. There are sweater, capelet, vest, and afghan patterns, all done on #2 and 3s. Then there are less voluminous things, like mitts, scarves, shawls, throw pillows, and caps, for knitters with short attention spans. The best thing about this book is that most of its patterns (a compendium from different designers) are attractive and well-explained. Sulcoski's prefatory sections on technique and inspiration are also very good; she has a delightfully direct approach, beginning with the question "What is 'sock' yarn?" So I say, this is a worthwhile addition to your own knitting library, especially if you do or don't knit socks and admire sock yarn, and maybe you should drop some hints if someone you know is trying to figure out a present for you.


The other two books have their merits, but to be perfectly honest, I have to say "Proceed with Caution," as the design quality is uneven. If you are a knitter interested in doing small projects with luxury yarns, have a look at the latest volume by Iris Schreier (founder of the luxury yarn company, Artyarns),  One + One Hats:  Thirty Projects from Just Two Skeins (Lark Crafts, November 2012).  

Obviously, the hats on the cover are attractive, and there are a few of comparable beauty inside. However, there's also a number of patterns so peculiar that you'll find yourself staring in disbelief. Does this matter, though? It does if you want maximum value for your money, I suppose. But then there is the cookbook analogy.

Let's say you buy a cookbook on the strength of one recipe you've been served at someone's house and thought a real winner.  Then, having purchased this cookbook and trying some of the other recipes, you discover that most are ok but nothing great, and some are just plain awful. Does this mean you wasted your money?

I guess the answer is not really. I think of the wondrous gingersnaps I've made zillions of times over the years, from The Picnic Gourmet, a 1977 book filled with otherwise forgettable recipes. So, all I'm saying is caveat emptor.


And then there's Cathy Carron's just-published Short Story: Chic Knits for Layering (Sixth and Spring, 2012).

If you are between the ages of fourteen and thirty and extremely slender, you'll probably look very good in most of these designs, which are youthful verging on infantile. If you're a "mature" sort of person (31+) and a pretty good knitter, you might adapt a number of these designs, making them more user-friendly and flattering by extending the bottoms of these sweaters by about eighteen or so inches. I realize the lengthening process is counter to the book's Big Idea, but that's my humble opinion. If you're going to spend all that time knitting something to wear, it ought to be something that flatters and can be loved for years on end.

Yet... there are good ideas in this book as well as in the two others--ideas about color, form, and texture--that can be useful, and even inspiring. They're all three worth the read, even if that's all you do--just read them.

As for moi, I was inspired almost immediately by the idea of using sock yarn for non-sock purposes (thank you, Carol Sulcoski), and, whipping out the #2s, I made myself an elbow patch for an ancient, beloved, and ripped-at-point-of-extreme-wear cashmere sweater (machine made) that I've owned for almost twenty years.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Knit Something Day: The Aftermath

Dedicated readers of this blog know that an annual tradition, the presentation of Knit Something Day results, was begun a couple of years ago and continues to snowball. Every year I invite knitters to send photos of what they were knitting on the day after Thanksgiving.

Some folks believe that like Valentine's Day, Knit Something Day is every day. I wouldn't disagree, but like Valentine's Day, it's really nice to honor whom or what we love with a special holiday. So let's hear it for KNIT SOMETHING DAY 2012!!!

In the materialistic world, this day is known as "Black Friday," a way of defining year-end profits for merchandisers. In retaliation, the Adbusters folks call this day "Buy Nothing Day," and while my heart is with Adbusters, I prefer the positive energy of my term:  Knit Something Day. The positive energy of knitting something, working by hand, crafting, self-expression through yarn, and the calming nature of the knitting process is, I believe, highly preferable to the negativism of the commercial and anti-commercial concepts.

Well, enough of that homily.  Herewith the photos for your delectation. If anyone would like to send me more images of their work, feel free to do so using the email button attached to my blog profile.  I hope you enjoyed your Knit Something Day as much as I did!

We begin with Neuroknitter, the consummate "everything" gal--spinner, dyer, and knitter par excellence. Obviously she's got a lot of good stuff going on!

Next, the socks for Nancy that I finished on the 23rd (coincidentally, her birthday!) These are from the Marathon sock yarn I like so much (the colorway is Twin Cities).

Deborah Newton sent a photo of the inner side of a tam she designed for her niece's birthday in La Gran mohair (knitted in one day, I must add, with matching mittens):

Susie B sent a gorgeous Aran-style children's sweater in process. She writes: 

This is the back of a sweater for a dear friend's granddaughter. I knit slowly and it's a complicated pattern requiring concentration and time, which in short supply. So I'm knitting it in a larger size than she would need right now in hopes that I don't miss the window. We'll see.

Nancy sent a pair of socks just finished for very lucky moi in Lang Jawoll from Switzerland:

Jude sent a photo of her elegant sweater, an original design:

Helpful data provided by designer:  cardigan in 2 gray yarns; needles size 3 and 5; steeks open ready for sleeves and front ribbing.

Joan's pet pig models a Classic Elite Lowell cowl under construction:

And finally, Irene Garza DeVerna sent a treasury of works in progress from herself and members of the knitting community fostered by her wonderful Rhode Island LYS, Eneri Knits. One thing I admire about the way Irene has built her business--which just celebrated its second anniversary--is how she's created a welcoming venue for knitters who just want to knit. There are open knit sessions several times every month where people can gather to meet like-minded knitters, have refreshments, and sometimes enjoy presentations like trunk shows, technique demos, etc. There's never any pressure to buy, but there's a real incentive to do so in such a pleasant, low-key environment. (Thanks to Irene for providing the captions below, as well as the six photos.)

Mary Lou was working on her Classic Elite 'Molly' scarf today with Liberty Wool Prints.  It's coming out great!

Irene writes:  I'm working on a cashmere bouclé kimono vest designed by Berta Karapetyan.

This is Victoria's Blue Heron chenille scarf, which she's made up with some (suggested) help from her knitting circle friends.  She's making a fun, twisted fringe every couple of rows.

Kristen is working on a Seamless Yoked Baby Sweater, which is also a free download on Ravelry.

Cathy and Susan were working on the Revontuli Shawl today.  It's a free download pattern on Ravelry:
Susan has just started, and Cathy is mentoring her on the project!

We had some crocheters today taking a class who wanted to get in on the action!
Debra, Mary, Andrea and Audrey are working on the quick Classy Cloche crocheted hat.  This was a class that Audrey teaches and she designed the pattern!

I hope you find this gallery inspirational.  Coming up in near future posts--some reviews of interesting knitting books I've been reading. You might want to give yourself a few for the holidays....

Monday, November 19, 2012

To New York, with love

Linda and I are sending a box of knitted and crocheted items to New York, as part of the Hurricane Sandy relief effort.

If you'd like to make a knitted donation on your own, here's the information, provided by Vogue Knitting:

Molly says "Thank you!"

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Friend and FO

The wheels of change grind slowly, but gradually I'm reaching the bottom of the UFO pile. This latest FO, called the "Petite Popover" and modeled by Ted and the owls, is one of those delicious free patterns to which I'm heavily addicted. It came to me via the Purl Bee newsletter from Purl Soho, and if you don't know about the amazing stuff this shop sells, I invite you to click on their link.

The garment knits up fast and is a clever way to keep a small child warm, since it combines a hat and generous scarf, thus preventing the dreaded Chilly Neck Syndrome. (Size is adjustable from baby to toddler to child.) Pop it over the kid's head, stuff the ends into the snowsuit/jacket/bunting, and you're ready to roll. I forced myself to knit this in acrylic because I don't trust the parents of Caiden (beneficiary, age 6 months) to hand-wash anything. And much as I detest synthetic yarn, I have to admit that what I used--SMC Northern Worsted--is nice. (Purl Soho shows the popover gorgeously done-up in cashmere and a top-of-the-line merino from Swans Island.)

Speaking of Swans Island yarns, catch my latest article in Knitscene's Winter 2012 issue about Coastal New England Yarns, from Block Island (North Light Fibers) to Swans Island!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fumbling around in the dark

yesterday evening, at the Hook and Needle Guild of Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, I was thrilled to meet knitting goddesses Amanda Keep and Norah Gaughan, who staged a trunk show for their employer, Berroco. They brought along a good selection of sweaters, which popped out of the darkness of the poorly-lighted rooms (a color-killing combination of extreme glare and extreme shadow) like what?   Christmas decorations?  Fireworks? Bright jewels?  Or something else entirely clichéd....


How interesting it was to see the knitting up close, as well as to talk to these friendly and massively-talented gals.  Amanda's designs are updated classics (she told me she really loves to design accessories), and Norah's are always completely original.  She has a way of seeing form and possibility in knitting that's unlike anyone else out there.  I've been a fan of her work ever since coming across Knitting Nature, almost exactly six years ago.

Après trunk show discussion.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A kindred soul

Gentle knitters, I was rambling down the Hoparts Open Studio trail this weekend and came upon the wonderfully talented textile artist, Sarah Campbell, exhibiting/selling her very distinctive and original handknits and sewn clothing.

Sarah Campbell with her hand-knitted (and versatile) capelet, and a sleeveless top. 

The ruffly shrug is another hand-knitted design.

You will learn a lot about color, texture, and style by studying her beautiful work! If you want to see it up close and maybe even own some, find her at the Fantastic Umbrella Factory's Artisan Market, in Charlestown, Wednesdays through Sundays, 10-5, through December 31.  (There's an Open House on 10/27 from noon-5.) You can also reach Sarah at

Monday, October 8, 2012

Recipe for success

In the past two years I've seen, sadly, several Rhode Island LYS go belly up. Why? The economy, stupid! as the snowclone (and James Carville) would have it. This doesn't explain, though, how Eneri Knits, now celebrating its second birthday, has made it through one of the roughest patches in American history. But, gentle knitters, I can speculate....

Reason number one:  Irene Garza DeVerna, proprietor and founder, who's simply amazing. Within a short time she's rapidly increased her inventory of excellent yarns, knitting notions, pattern books, magazines, and miscellaneous items like Harney's tea and the amusing sign (below).

She's also very responsive to her customers. Besides offering a range of classes from Fair Isle Mittens to basic knitting instruction to Finishing Techniques, she's ordered yarns like Noro Kureyon that customers have requested, and hosts twice monthly "stitch-and-tell" sessions where she provides delicious refreshments and gives merchandise discounts. What's not to love? An added bonus is the glossy purple-paper totebag that comes with every purchase. Although I appreciate certain no-frills aspects of any business, it's touches like this pretty little lagniappe that make a difference to me.

I bought three skeins of Cascade Yarns' Heritage Silk Paints, a merino and mulberry silk blend for socks.

Reasons number two and beyond:  The store itself is easily reached via major routes, and parking's abundant.  The ambiance is airy, light-filled, and helps to explain why Eneri Knits has become the epicenter of an extremely friendly South County knitting community that's dedicated to talking the knitting talk, nurturing creativity, and supporting local business.

Since one photo's worth a thousand words, I leave you with some snaps of my recent visit. And I say Brava, Irene, and thank you for your vision and hospitality. Long may your enterprise flourish!

A Stitch and Tell session, August 2012
My favorite section of the store: sock yarn!

Irene and a customer.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Providential and luminous

Deborah Newton gave a slide-illustrated talk to the Slater Mill Knitting and Crochet Guild last night, about her three decades as a professional knitwear designer.

And she brought sample garments, designed for magazines like Vogue Knitting, Interweave, and Knitter's. Afterwards it was very touchy-feely, as everyone checked out the knitting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Songs (almost) without words, Part Two

By the time we'd crawled through the Peter Patchis warehouse o'yarns, it was time for lunch. Then--onward! We drove to Warren, about twelve miles outside of Providence, to our final destination, Bella Yarns.

Bella's organization of its yarns is simply clever:  machine washables on one side of the shop, hand-washables on the other.

What we bought, and where:

Fresh Purls:  Moi:  4 skeins of Berroco "Naturlin"; Neuroknitter:  1 skein of Jojoland Tonic in Nuclear Orange, 1 hank of Uniso sock yarn.

The Yarn Outlet:  Moi:  2 skeins of Aslan Trends "Santa Fe" (hand-dyed), 1 Hiyahiya #4 16" bamboo circular; Neuro:  1 hank of Fiesta Ballerina extremely fine lace weight, 2 skeins of Treasure Purlescent,  size 50 (!) needles.

Peter Patchis Yarns: moi:  0; Neuro:  3 lbs of 77% wool, 23% rayon fingering weight.

Bella Yarns: moi:  1 ball of Lang Yarns Jawoll Color Aktion; Neuro: 2 hanks of Araucania Ruca (100% sugar cane!), and a loom shuttle.

Put these emporia on your "worth the visit" list. Even if you don't find knitting yarn at Peter Patchis (I have found it there in the past), it's the kind of place where the inventory changes often, and its funkiness places it in the "interesting" category. And I am happy to report that all of the shops (save the Patchis warehouse) collect hand-knitted items for charitable donations to great organizations. Drop off  your Knit Something Day contributions (baby clothes only at Bella Yarns) whenever convenient!