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.