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Finding Holiday Joy

Are you going to buy some gifts today? Did you go out Thanksgiving night or Black Friday? I know it’s a thing in many families. They work together to figure out their routes. They time their shopping to get to Costco for the free food tastings. It is a full contact sport.  I am not a shopper.  Oh when I was a kid, we did have big shopping sprees.  What we did was go on the day after Christmas to return gifts and get new items that we marked down really deeply.  And it was a fun time with my mom and sister.  


Since I was a kid, it was always a thing to make presents. I know if you have been reading my posts for a while you may have already heard about my handmade gifts.  As a family, we would make candy and cookies for friends and family. We always made English Toffee for my grandpa, it was his favorite.  As a pre-teen, I made potholders out of leftover fabric and I stuffed them with a piece or two of old towels.  I made these for many years.  It was my thing.  

When I started to do more cooking, I wrote my own “cookbook”. It was a collection of salads, including all our family favorites, even Jello salads.  I typed these up with carbon paper to make multiple copies at once. Oh the error fixing!! It was a horror.  Things are so much easier today with spell checking computers and printers. The adults who received these cookbooks, were so kind and encouraging.

Over the years, I’ve made jewelry and scarves. I’ve made calendars that included all the family’s important dates. I’ve woven and beaded and dyed and printed. I’ve shared the things that are important to me with those that I loved. I hoped that they would appreciate and feel all the wonderful holiday feelings that went into making their presents.

So as we look to the next Christmas or Chanukah or even birthday, how about making or buying things that promote cozy, loving feelings. Buying something that makes a home cozy. Buying something that will enhance creativity, yours or for the person who will be getting the gift. Buy something that is made by a local artist or is from a local farm. This way your gift will be meaningful to you, your recipient and the makers. 

In the next couple of weeks there are many opportunities to shop with small businesses.  You can find some hand made gifts, even if it is too late for you to make them yourself. We are open this Sunday from 1:30-4:30. Or email for an appointment!

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Finding our Kindness in These Dark Days

Disclaimer: I usually keep my political views to myself. This post is different. I feel the need to speak my truth. If you would rather not read this, that is okay too.

As I sit here this morning, I feel the full weight of the last week of tragedies upon my shoulders.  What is going on? What has happened to our country? How could my country turn into such a dangerous place? It feels dangerous to state our preferences. It feels dangerous to be open to strangers. It has been getting more and more dangerous to go to school. And now it’s dangerous to go to our place of worship, although maybe that has been getting more and more dangerous over several years.  One church locking the doors, so the gunman went to Walmart and shot people there instead. The worshipers in Pittsburgh had active shooter training, WHAT? I’ve had to lock-down training, but I would never have thought that a person practicing his or her faith would have to learn how to deal with an active shooter. And yet, here we are.

I am hoping to find more kindness. But is hope enough?  Okay, I will put more kindness out into the world. It is small thing that I can do. I can hold the door open for the next person. I can greet people I pass on the street. I can let that car pass me or merge in front of me.  I can slow down my pace.  I can open my heart to people who are different than I.

And most importantly this year,  I can go out and vote, well, actually I have. YAY! I can ask my representatives to be more kind, not just civil but kind. To look at their work as if the health and well being of THEIR families depended on it. And I am going to ask you to vote as well. I am not concerned with HOW you will vote, I just ask you to participate in our democracy.  And to celebrate that, I am hosting a giveaway of a Raddiant Shawl kit. How do you enter to win? Well, first go out and vote, and then comment to let me know that you have voted on either my Instagram page or my Facebook page. I will randomly pick a winner to receive this kit. But most importantly,  I think we will all win when more people participate in our civic duty of voting for our representation. So GO, VOTE, COMMENT, and WIN!

 

 

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Finding Your Joy!

Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy is in the small moments. It is in the smell of cinnamon almonds and kettle corn. It is in the turning of the fall leaves.  It is in the light playing off the Potomac as you are crossing over it.  It is in the feel of a great yarn like our Zephyrette. It is in the feeling you get when you start a new project OR when you finish one. It is in the sound of the trick-or-treaters at your door, the cute ones, not the teenagers (LOL). It is a feeling of connection with other people and with nature. It is the feeling that all is right in your world, right now.

These last few weeks, I wrote about overcoming overwhelm at these shows.  I realized just recently, that I need to regain my joy at fiber shows. And I am writing today because I have come to understand that maybe you need to find that joy as well.  If you want an additional help for defeating overwhelm, I made an organizer for you that you can get here.  And while I don’t know if I have all the answers for finding joy instead of overwhelm, I think this is a start.

Before I was a vendor, I would go to these shows as a buyer and a looky-loo and a participant. And it is true that there are a lot of people and a lot of activities and a lot of things to buy. There are things to eat and drink and there are animals and fleeces, too.  There is a lot.

Now that I am a seller at these shows, my perspective is a little different.  There is all of that still and there is my color work that I have up on my wall for you to look at and hopefully to take home with you.  But, I think today I will peel back the curtain and let you know that I have felt myself losing the joy at shows. You know that’s hard to write, because I love what I do. I love to make beautiful color combinations. I love packing up the yarn and roving and putting it up on the grid wall. I love to have you look at what I’ve been making for you. But I feel my joy starts to dissipate as I respond to people telling me that they are overwhelmed or that they just got here and have to look around first or that they are on a fiber diet. I start to take on those feelings too.

My message to you today is this: when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed at a show, stop and take a moment.  Maybe go outside and sit for a minute. Maybe go into that empty booth instead of the one with the line and take a moment to appreciate the work that artist has done. Even if it isn’t anything you want or need, that person has brought it there for you to admire.

I’m asking you to do something not only for me but for all the other artists at the show. Just tell us something good. Tell us that you love our colors. Tell us that you appreciate what we are doing. Tell us that you love that shawl. That kind of interaction will build us up.

And I promise to you that I will do the same. I will complement your sweater or shawl. I will appreciate the colors you put together. Together we can spread that joy throughout the show. We, artists, don’t expect you to buy something at everyone’s booth. Of course, I hope you will find something that you love in my booth. But don’t make an excuse, just say thank you.

And what about that family that is walking too slowly or that person who just stopped dead in her tracks? Spread the joy with them too. Complement them, don’t get angry. It’s supposed to be a fun day not a stressful one. Say a kind word to that person or admire their hat or sweater or shawl that they have made.  Feel that connection to the artists, fiber farmers and creatives who are out for a day of joy at the fiber festival. And of course, come by our booth and say Hi! It will be one of the joys in my day!

 

 

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Washfast: What does it mean?

I am asked all the time about whether my yarns are color fast and wash fast. And my usual answer is yes. But I need to clarify that answer. And I’m going to try to not sound like too much of a chemistry geek, so here goes.

The dyes that are made to dye protein fibers are called acid dyes. There are many different formulations of these dyes but they all work the same way.

To be totally washfast, the dye molecules need to hold on to the fiber like you would hold onto your child on a busy street. You have a strong grip on your child and he or she won’t be able to get loose.  But acid dyes don’t work that way. They have a very loose grip, more like holding someone’s hand with your pinkie. In the right conditions, that pinkie can slip away. Wool, silk, mohair and alpaca fibers  hold the dye particles very weakly.

If you wash or rinse your yarn or your knitted garment in HOT water, the dye will fall off and you can have bleeding into other colors that are nearby. This is especially true with reds and turquoises.

If you are buying roving there is another layer to the story. With roving, dyers need to be very careful not to felt it when dyeing and rinsing, so there may be more loose dye particles in roving. When you are drafting and spinning your roving into yarn, you can be dislodging these tiny particles from the fiber and so when you rinse your yarn to set the twist you may have more dye run off. So be mindful of that. Again, rinse your newly spun yarn with cool or cold water.

Good dyeing technique makes sure all the dye in the pot is now on the yarn or fiber. It’s called exhausting the pot.  Good dyeing technique makes sure that there is plenty of time for the dye to attach to the fiber at the correct temperature. And finally good dyeing technique makes sure that the yarn or fiber is rinsed and that the water from that rinsing is clear without any dye particles in it.  And know that all my of yarn and fiber has gone through these 3 steps.

Now if you are spinning the roving and your hands are becoming pink or blue, that roving hasn’t been properly heat set and rinsed. That’s a bad dye job. If you get a roving like that I would urge you to wet the fiber, wrap it in plastic wrap or put it in a plastic bag and steam it for 10 minutes. Then you can let it cool and rinse it out. That should fix the problem and this should have been done by the dyer.

So how should you wash your garments or yarn? If you are making a fair isle or other colorwork item, rinse the yarn before you do all that knitting. You will be able to tell if the yarn will run and you will mitigate the problem before it is a problem. And each time you wash your hand knit or crocheted items, you should wash in cool or tepid water. Use a nice wool cleaner, I use The Laundress Wool and Cashmere Shampoo and then lay flat to dry.

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Defeat Festival Overwhelm!

Do you get overwhelmed at yarn or fiber festivals?
Do you feel like you buy yarn that sits in your closet, mocking you and demanding to be used?
Do you feel like you have a stash but not a collection?

You are not alone! You have plenty of company.  I hear the anxiety and frustration at every show. I hear it within 5-10 minutes of the gates opening and I hear it at noon, when people are tired and hungry and I hear it at the end of the day.

I have been thinking for a long time about this topic. Because as a yarn and fiber maker, this overwhelm is not just a problem for the shopper. It is my problem as well.  How can I help my new and seasoned customers feel comfortable, relaxed and joyful at these festivals.

My answer is a technique that helps me to deal with being anxious when faced with lots to do and too many choices.  I know that I feel less overwhelmed when I go shopping with a list. With a list, I have a mission to accomplish.  With a list, I can be focused about my purchases. With a list, I can remember what I need and what I want to make. And when I use a list, I can feel like I’ve accomplished something that I needed to get done.

And along the way, of course,  I may exercise my right to buy some things that weren’t on the list, but I have my mission to complete and that gives me purpose and reduces choices in a small way.

In order to help you with this I’ve made “Festival Fix”. This little brochure is a place where you can put your ideas BEFORE you get to the festival. There are 2 sections to put the information about a garment that you want to make. You will write down the pattern name and what weight of yarn you need. Also the number of skeins or yards of yarn you need and what you should look for….is it a semi-solid or a variegated? Do you want to make it in cool colors, warm colors or natural colors? And the 3rd flap is a place for you to write down any special projects that may be coming up like the holidays, or a special birthday or any special item for charity or a resistance garment like the pussy hat.

Do you think this would work for you? Do you want a copy for yourself? If yes, click here to get one for yourself.  And tell your friends that they can get this free download when they enroll for my emails here.

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Is it Too Hot to Knit?

I hear all the time from people who can’t think about knitting in the summer time. Have you heard this too?  Maybe it’s just me and maybe it’s just my job, but I knit when it’s cold and I knit when it’s hot. But I don’t knit outside, in fact I don’t do much outside in the summers of Maryland. It’s been really hot and muggy here during summertime. It is hard to breathe when you’re outside. And there are gnats and mosquitoes. Sounds great right?

Knitting at the library during a presentation

Instead I stay inside and I will watch a movie or binge watch a TV series. And I find other places out in the “wild” where I can knit. The local coffee bar, my library branch, at the doctor’s or vet’s offices, at a restaurant. So even if you don’t have air conditioning, there are places you can go to get a little knitting done.

Knitting at a restaurants while waiting for our orders.

Why? Because my good friend Ellen once told me her secret to high knitting production and this is it: Knit a little bit every day. Knit for 10 minutes. Knit while you’re in line at the MVA. Knit during a staff meeting. If you knit a little every day, you will be finished with your sock, hat or sweater rather soon. If your project just sits in your knitting bag or your yarn bowl, it isn’t getting finished.

So in the past few weeks, I’ve been out knitting in public, mostly at the vet office because Chester is having chemotherapy.  I have had some great conversations with people because I had my knitting out.  People are curious and people have questions or reminiscences about their grammy or aunty.  I know that sometimes this can be annoying….I just want to knit in peace. It also brings up a feeling of community.  That has been a bright ray in the midst of an otherwise dreadful day.

Knitting at the vet office

So my advice to you is to go out and knit in public, even if it isn’t the official knit in public day. You will get make more progress on your projects and maybe you’ll have a good conversation with someone new.  Let me know where you are knitting and how it’s going!

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Sock Blanks: What Are They? Why Would I Use Them?

Hot Fuschia Sock Blank

Let’s talk about sock blanks.

What are they?  A sock blank is a pre-knit fabric that is then used in an entirely different way than it’s first rendition.  It is not a sock. It is not in the shape of a sock. It is a rectangular shape.  Does that make sense?

Why are they call “sock blanks”? I think this name was originally coined by the manufacturers of these fabrics.  They were made with sock weight yarn for the hand dyer to dye, paint, or print onto.  And there simply hasn’t been a change in name and really there should be. I think there would be less confusion that way.

How do they come? There are “double” sock blanks and “single” sock blanks.  Doubles are made with 2 threads in each stitch. Singles have just 1 thread in each stitch.

What can I do with a double? With a double you can knit Two at a Time socks. This way you will get matching socks. You can also just reknit the blank, holding the yarn double to make a cowl or scarf.  If you don’t know how to make socks TAAT,  then you can knit with one of the threads and you will ball up the other one as you go along.  And if you do this you can make socks, scarves or shawls with the single thread.

What can I do with a single? You can reknit this fabric into anything you desire; a cowl, scarf, shawl or even a cardigan.

How do I work with the blank? There is a “live” end that unravels and the cast on edge that doesn’t unravel.  So work from the live end. Unravel the stitches as you knit your new garment.

Why would I do this? I hate to rip out knitting!  Well the fun part about knitting with sock blanks is that it is a mystery. Your finished product will NOT look like the original.  If the sock is dyed in a gradient fashion, it will stay a gradient but will have some striping in it. If it is printed or dyed with a pattern, that pattern will not be maintained.  You will have a more spreckled, freckled look to your finished product.  What I love about these fabrics is that as I knit, the new fabric is coming into focus. It is becoming its own new fabric. This mysterious nature keeps me knitting.  I want to see what will happen next.

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Color 101- Color Harmonies Part 3

Triads, Tetrads and Sequences

In previous videos I have taught about color principles and color harmonies We are down to the last 3. Today we will be talking about Triads, Tetrads and Sequences. If you would like to watch this video, click here.

Triads are simple 3 colors that are equidistant on the color wheel. We’ve already talked about these as Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colors. They are the 3 colors that are equidistant. So red, yellow and Blue are one combination and orange, green and purple is another one and them you have red-orange, yellow-green and Blue-violet and finally yellow-orange, red-violet and blue-green. This color harmony is highly excitable. And so the values that you use are going to be very important.

Next is Tetrads: 4 colors that are equidistant on the color wheel. Examples of this harmony are orange-green-red-blue. They are basically 2 sets of complementary colors. Another example would be purple-yellow-red and green. To use the tertriary colors you would use yellow-orange, yellow-green, red-violet, blue violet. Again these colors can fight each other because they are complements. So be careful with them.

And the last color harmony I’ll be talking about is color progressions or sequences. This is one of my new favorite color harmonies to dye. This is when you take 2 colors and combine them in varying amounts. Here is a gradient set. I started with yellow and blue. and then I combined these to make the other 3 colors. Thees are like analogous colors because they are all related. This is a very pleasing and eye relaxing when used in shawls or other garments. I have 3 sets of Sequences on the website for sale and the Raddiant pattern to make a great shawl with them.  

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Color 101-Color Harmonies Part 2

Complementary Color and Splits

This is the 3rd in the series about color theory and how to use this knowledge to pick colors and patterns for your knitting or crochet. If you want to watch the video, click here.

Last time we talked about the soothing color harmonies of monochromatic and analogous color harmony. Today we will be getting more “exciting”. Our eyes and brains are always looking for excitement. The 2 color harmonies we are talking about are complementary colors and split complementaries.

Complementary colors are those that are directly across from each other on the colorwheel. So red and green are complements as are orange/blue and purple/yellow. These are the most exciting to our eyes. When they are right next to each other they make our eyes almost vibrate. So these are almost “dangerous” together. When using this harmony, there are a few guidelines that I think will help you make a more harmonious interaction. First if you are going to make stripes, your stripes should be several rows wide. If you change your color every 1 or 2 rows, the colors will actually start to mix and your sock or shawl will take on a gray tone. This is because when we mix the two complementaries together they do make a neutral gray or brown color. So wider stripes will be better. You also need to pay attention to the values of the complementary yarns you are using.

Remember when we talked about Value? If you pick a very high value yellow and a very low level purple, you will be multiplying the excitement. If you pick a red and green that are really close in value, you will be multiplying the chances of getting a grayed out shawl or sweater.

I would also suggest that you swatch! I know this is a dirty word, but do it anyway. A few minutes of swatching the actual stitch and row pattern, will save you from spending time on a pair of socks or shawl that you absolutely hate.

Let’s move on to color harmony #2 for today. This is Split Complementary. This harmony moves away from the extreme of complementary and can be more pleasing and more soothing than a complementary color scheme. So what is it? To find the split complementary, you look at the color on either side of the complementary color.

Here are some examples: Yellow and purple are complements. So the split complementary would be purple and yellow-green or yellow-orange. Think of this as purple with chartreuse/lime green or purple and cheddar. These colors were wildly popular in quilting a few years back.

The other side of that would be yellow with red-violet or yellow with blue-violet. In nature you would see these colors in pansies and irises. We love those right?

For the red-green complement, you would have red and teal or red and charteuse. That sounds horrible right? But how about green with red-violet and green with red-orange.

And finally the orange-blue complement, you would have orange with teal or orange with blue-violet. Or Blue with red-orange and blue with red-violet.

Here are some patterns that work well with complementary or split complementary colorways. My new shawl is complete, but the pattern is not. As soon as it is available, I’ll let you all know.  The Olilia  shawl is really nice with complementary colors. You can find it on Ravelry.

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Fixing Mistakes

Fixing Mistakes

Have you ever realized just how hard it is to proofread your own work? When I was teaching, I would suggest that the kids read their work backwards, word by word. Because we already know what it is we wanted to say, but did we really say it? That’s the tricky part. Now that I’m designing shawls and other knitwear, I think that I’ve gone over it all with a fine tooth comb, but every once in a while I write the wrong symbol. (Have you noticed how knitting patterns really are written in a different language?) So with my new shawl there is typo that will change the look of the shawl. At the end of each row I wrote “k2, kfb”. That’s wrong, because I had a yarn over increase, not that Kfb increase. So if you have the Raddiant Shawl pattern, please make that change on your pattern. 


At Rhinebeck, I ran into Lar Rains. He is the designer of the Exponential Shawl. He also had a pretty significant omission in this pattern. I have the errata for anyone who has bought this pattern. Unfortunately, I don’t know who you are. So please email me at goat…… and I’ll send you the fix for this kit.

Photo by Gale Zucker