Our Tools, Ourselves: Jared Flood (Brooklyn Tweed)

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jared Flood (Brooklyn Tweed)

So if you read this blog, you know what a huge admirer I am of Jared Flood, his knitting designs, and his illustrious company, Brooklyn Tweed. And I’m obviously far far from alone in that. I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with Jared in recent months, first at Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle and then again at Squam, where he was the “knitter in residence.” (My new goal in life is to be dubbed “knitter in residence” somewhere other than my own illusory front porch.) While those encounters were just brief conversations in crowded venues, I was struck by what a pleasant and genuine person he seems to be, as I’m sure you’ll see by his answers to my Our Tools questions. I also hope you’ll love the photos (Jared had the clever idea to photograph his worktable at various moments over the course of a few weeks) and that you’ll join me in wishing him HAPPY BIRTHDAY today. Thank you, Jared!

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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

Yes, I have some experience with all of these things, but my primary interests are knitting and sewing. Knitting is obviously my main “bread and butter” — both as a hobby and now as my career! Sewing is something I’ve picked up later in life, particularly after falling into a career path as a knitwear designer — learning to sew has been a natural outgrowth and feeds my interest in shape, textile architecture and fabric. Slippery slope there …

I’ve dabbled in weaving and dyeing, but would not consider myself anything other than an amateur in each area! I recently took a card weaving class, which was completely amazing. Add it to the growing list of hobbies I wish I had extra time to pursue!

I got bitten by the spinning bug in 2007 and was very actively spinning during that year. It taught me a lot about yarn (a subject that I am very passionate about!), and was probably one of the first steps toward my future as a yarn producer.

I would consider myself a pretty good crocheter, but I tend to gravitate to this hobby more for the structural nature of the craft rather than the resulting fabric/garments. I love crochet as a sculptural medium. I also have a very geeky interest in Japanese crochet charting. (If you’ve never seen these charts, they are beautiful works of art in their own right!) I’ll admit to much of my crocheting being an excuse to study and appreciate those charted illustrations!

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

The tools I regularly use for knitting are very simple — my general preference is to use as few tools as possible to do the maximum amount of tasks. I do 90% of my knitting work with interchangeable circular needles (I am an Addi devotee!), a tapestry needle, rust-proof (coilless) stitch markers, a large gridded blocking board and blocking wires (I absolutely adore my Handworks NW hand-burnished blocking wires – couldn’t live without them) and my smartphone (calculator and camera are in regular use!). I may have occasional use for an odd tool like a pom-pom maker or sharp scissors for steeking, but in general this simple list of tools gets all the work done that I need.

I’m probably a little bit more obsessive about the tools I use for design. I have been a lifelong lover of pens and notebooks, and my notebook collection is one area where I probably seem like a hoarder. Though in recent years, I’ve found a specific brand of Japanese notebook that I use religiously: spiral binding, hard plastic cover, perfectly sized sheets and — most importantly — a dot-rule grid. I love working on grids (which thankfully I need to do often in knitwear design), and a dot-rule grid allows me the presence of the grid without a large amount of visual clutter coming from traditional gridlines on graph paper. It’s the perfect marriage of graph paper and blank sketching paper — again, the more versatile the better.

I’m also very particular with my writing and sketching tools. I like precision tools, so tend to use Japanese writing utensils — both pens and mechanical pencils — with tip fineness in the range of .3 to .4 mm. (Now my inner geek is really coming out!)

The other tool area that I remain uncompromising about is software. I spend a lot of my time doing design and photography work on-screen, and over the years have honed in on those tools that are most well-designed and efficient for my own workflow. I spend a lot of time working in Adobe Illustrator (an absolutely amazing piece of software!) working on design mock-ups, pattern drafting, chart and schematic illustration, etc. Illustrator is seriously powerful, and having spent the time to figure out specific ways it can work for my needs has been totally worth it over the years. For digital photography, I am completely reliant on my Wacom tablet, which transforms photo processing (at least in my own head) from something mechanical to something much more painterly. It allows digital photography to feel more like hands-on work in a darkroom, which I really love.

A few other pieces of software that I can’t live without are PathFinder for Mac (a browser replacement for Finder that is incredibly feature-rich and geared towards power-users who manage a wide variety of files, folders, directories, servers, etc.), OmniPlan (a beautiful solution for project management, which I rely on for all sorts of project planning, most notably scheduling for all of our overlapping collection schedules at Brooklyn Tweed), and Curio (a “mind mapping” software that I use for visual planning and organization — when curating or putting together a design collection, color story or pattern roster, for example).

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jared Flood (Brooklyn Tweed)

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

I’m a very organized person in general, and I like for my tools and supplies to have a good system of order. First, I am constantly trying to whittle down my tools to only the most essential things I need. If I haven’t used a tool for a year or more, I most likely will donate it or give it away. I find the constant process of editing my tools very liberating – and a sort of meditative practice, like constantly reassessing yourself and your needs for your current situation.

For the tools that I do use regularly, I like compartmentalized organizers or other custom-sized vessels. (I have a weakness for the Container Store.) I keep my circular needles organized in hanging case with sizes clearly marked. Circular needles are by far my most beloved tool for knitting.

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

With my knitting, I’ve been working hard for the last few years to minimize both my stash and the number of unfinished, outstanding projects that I have languishing. It’s certainly been an exercise in self-control, as any avid knitter can probably understand — but it’s been a very rewarding payoff. For the first time, I have only a handful of in-progress projects in my life, and as such can store them in very simple ways. I love woven baskets, so store most of my projects in various corners of my living space in baskets that I’ve been collecting over the years.

My ultimate goal would be to have 1-3 projects “in-process” at any given time. I haven’t gotten there yet, but it’s a goal that I’m slowly but surely moving closer to.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

I inherited my mother’s sewing machine — a Japanese machine from the late ’70s that works wonderfully. I love knowing that I’m working on the machine that churned out tons of awesome, neon children’s clothes for my brothers and me in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Do you lend your tools?

Not usually — but I think that has more to do with the fact that I am a very solitary maker; my crafting pursuits and social life don’t intersect much. (Aside from my day-to-day interaction with my team at Brooklyn Tweed, which provides plenty of creative stimulation!)

When it comes to lending tools, I usually prefer to give something away instead — it’s all part of my constant effort to pare down my tools to only the essentials. As I get older, I notice that I tend more and more towards a minimalist approach to my tools and possessions in general.

What is your favorite place to knit?

I like knitting really late at night when the world has gone silent. I find that this is the best time to let my mind wander and to really enjoy the process of making stitches.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I am a fall and winter creature to the core. I have a quiet, pensive personality – and I find that my innate personal traits seem more at home in the colder months, when the weather forces us to slow down, stay indoors, and contemplate the inner workings of our lives.

Spring and summer can be lovely, of course, but as a Pacific Northwest native, I am severely ill-equipped for East Coast heat and humidity in the summer, even after almost a decade living here!

I do, of course, knit year-round — and very happily. I don’t discredit the role my air conditioner plays in my ability to knit with wool even during the hottest days of summer, however.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jared Flood (Brooklyn Tweed)

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

While I don’t think it should be considered a “quirk,” I absolutely love swatching. I know I am in the minority of knitters with this, but there it is!

I love spending time and care on my swatches, getting a feel for a new stitch pattern and a new fabric, studying the behavior of the yarn at a certain gauge, and getting to know the essence of my garment before I begin work on it. A lot of people seem surprised or shocked that I finish my swatches with the same care I do any other knitted item (charting them, wet blocking, weaving in ends, squaring all the edges, etc.) but to me it just seems like good sense. Plus, I love having perfect little swatches around me — they give me inspiration and help fuel new ideas.

What are you working on right now?

For Brooklyn Tweed, I am working on my designs for our Winter 2015 collection, scheduled for release in January of next year. In my personal knitting, I’ve been playing around with some linen yarns, and am working up an open-gauge linen pullover for myself that will be a great summer “knock around” item. I absolutely love linen — and especially love that I can throw it in the washing machine and it will get softer and more worn-in with time. It’s also such a huge contrast to my true love — wool — that it feels nice to change it up and explore new fibers when I have the time.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jared Flood (Brooklyn Tweed)

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

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Photos © Jared Flood

Future most-worn handknit

Greetings from Utah! Awhile back Ashley Yousling, one of my favorite knitterly people, happened to mention that she had never knitted anything for herself — only for other people. I loved what happened next, and am happy to have her here to tell us all about it today. Thanks, Ash!
—kt

Future most-worn handknit

My journey as a dedicated knitter first began much like Karen’s, with the discovery of Joelle Hoverson’s Last Minute Knitted Gifts through a friend I worked with. The seed was planted years earlier as a child, when a great aunt taught me the basics of knitting. Renewed interest and patience did not come until adulthood and even then it would take time to foster this fiber relationship. I’d often start projects and never finish them. This was an enduring trait I’d had since childhood. But when my niece was born, I chose small projects and found great satisfaction in finishing them. I completed a variety of knits that year, ending it with an ambitious goal of knitting everyone’s Christmas presents. My interest waned drastically. It wasn’t until I found out I was pregnant with my son that I picked up my needles again. That is when my love affair with knitting and wool truly began.

I again started with small projects, but this time chose increasingly more difficult and time consuming patterns. Much of my renewed dedication to knitting was owed to my growing knowledge of fibers and technique. A few months back I realized I had never actually knit anything for myself. Someone tagged me on Instagram asking, “What is your most-worn hand knit?” I didn’t have one! The next day I started on my first personal knit, a pair of very colorful socks.

Soon thereafter, due to much knitting jealousy (it’s a real thing I swear) I wondered if I had the gumption to knit a sweater for myself. I had never knit anything adult sized for the very reason I mentioned earlier. With much encouragement from knitting friends Karen and Anna, I took the plunge and ordered ten skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Loft for my first sweater, Reine. As soon as the yarn arrived, I got to work, focused on doing everything the “right” way. Swatching, measuring, note taking and so on. Progress was slowed only by my career and motherhood, not by any lack of interest. With every hurdle overcome, I fell more in love with knitting, more infatuated with wool and more confident in my skills as a maker. I suppose I had a very well-written pattern to thank as well.

This past week I knit the final stitches on the sweater, made just for me. I still can’t believe the fit or feel. It’s pretty magical. I discovered the antique buttons at a local haven I’d been hearing about, Exclusive Buttons in El Cerrito, and couldn’t be happier. If you’re ever in the Bay Area, make sure to visit. The sweet little old lady Mary has owned the place for 30 years and has a story or two to go along with your purchase.

If you’ve been holding back, consider this a pep talk. Go knit yourself something amazing.
—Ashley Yousling

Future most-worn handknit

For more from Ashley, check out her blog, Woolful, and follow @woolful on Instagram. And p.s. I can’t believe I never made it to Exclusive Buttons before I left town!

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Q for You: How do you store your patterns?

Q for You: How do you store your patterns?

My friend and former wonder-helper Anie proposed this Q awhile back, and it came to mind as I was packing my desk for the move. Most of my knitting patterns are downloads. The moment a PDF comes into my possession, I drop it immediately into Evernote and add some helpful tags so I’ve always got them available. In that regard they are all neatly stored and organized. But when I’m ready to actually knit from a pattern, I almost always print it out. I’m still a pencil-and-paper girl when it comes to annotating things, so I mark it all up before I start, and I leave myself notes about my mods at the end, so that I can (in theory) refer back to it if I ever need to. The prints have just been stacking up on my desk over the last couple of years, along with any paper patterns that come into my possession, which does happen from time to time. They’re not in any particular order or anything. And right now they’re in a giant ziploc bag in the back of the car, headed east. I like the idea of organizing them in some fashion in a binder, along with the ball band from the yarn, maybe a swatch? (ha!) But this is sure to get some interesting answers, so here’s my Q for You: How do you store/organize your patterns?

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To live and dye in Oaxaca

To live and dye in Oaxaca

Jess Schreibstein, aka @thekitchenwitch, took a trip recently that I wanted desperately to see and hear more about, so while I’m (knock wood) on the road today, she’s here to tell us all about it. Thanks so much, Jess!
—kt

To live and dye in Oaxaca

The sun rises early in mid-May in Oaxaca. Around five in the morning, daylight crests the blue Sierra Juárez mountains and roosters begin crowing. I get up slowly, throw on a cotton dress and scarf, and join my host, Josefina, in the kitchen where she prepares coffee, eggs with avocado, sliced papaya with lime. It’s nine o’clock by the time I make my way down the cobblestone main road to the home of Federico Chavez Sosa, a third-generation master weaver who teaches me to weave rugs in the traditional Zapotec style in the small village of Teotitlán del Valle.

I had wanted to visit Oaxaca, and Teotitlán in particular, for years. It’s a fiber Mecca, with cascades of naturally-dyed skeins of churro wool baking in the sun, intricately patterned geometric rugs hanging from every shop doorway, and embroidery of fantastical animals adorning huipiles. But it wasn’t until last fall, when one of my closest friends, a Mexican, called me up to say that she was getting married in Oaxaca and that I was in the wedding so I better be there, that I finally bit the bullet and bought my plane ticket.

I arrived in Oaxaca City, a stunning old colonial town where all of the buildings are painted in pinks, tangerine orange, rust and aqua. The streets are a churning river of markets, hawkers, vendors selling icy sweet nieve and fresh tortillas with quesillo and roasted grasshoppers, teenagers texting, women in floral dresses with long black plaits down their backs. Teotitlán is a thirty minute drive east of the city and is everything the city is not – quiet but for the church bells and farm animals, brown adobe and brick walled houses overgrown with cacti, men and women greeting you with a Buenos días or Buenas tardes on the main road.

For four days, I visited Federico’s sunlit home and worked on my tapete, or rug. The middle of the bottom floor is an open courtyard reserved for carding, spinning, and dyeing yarn, a common feature in most homes in Teotitlán. For yarn, I was free to choose my colors from the dozens of skeins hanging from hooks on the wall in brilliant reds (cochineal), indigo blue (from the fermenting indigo vats), lemon and mustard yellow (marigold flowers), and sage green (Spanish moss). Each one was dyed by Federico and his family, who are all talented weavers and dyers in their own right. I was given my own treadle loom, a beast of a structure brought over by the Spanish in the early 1500s that for many replaced the simple but limited backstrap tension loom used by the Zapotec Indian people in Oaxaca. I stood bent over my work all day, shifting my feet on pedals to change the warp and throw the shuttle through the threads. It felt like skiing.

On the last day, Federico taught me how to “make the colors,” or dye yarn with plant and animal dyes. Out from the closets came bags filled with dried marigold, which he had gathered in the nearby mountains and smelled like anise. He showed me mango skins that his son had added to the bubbling indigo dye vats for acidity. And then, he revealed a glass jar filled with what looked like small, silver beads. It was cochinilla, the cochineal insect, carefully cultivated on cactus pads and dried, to be later ground into a fine powder that produces the richest natural red and purple dyes the world has ever known. He ground a small amount in a coffee grinder and added it to a big, boiling pot of wool. An hour later, we pulled the skein out of the dye vat, the color of royalty. The color of bougainvillea. The color of Oaxaca.

To live and dye in Oaxaca

I arranged my workshop with Federico through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, an incredible resource for those interested in intensive weaving and dyeing workshops and cooking classes in Oaxaca. Norma Hawthorne connects interested travelers to local teachers and arranges lodging during your stay. More information is available at oaxacaculture.com.
—Jess Schreibstein

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You may remember Jess from Our Tools, Ourselves. To keep up with all of her adventures, follow her blog Witchin’ in the Kitchen or @thekitchenwitch on Instagram.

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All photos © Jess Schreibstein

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

Before I had any idea who she was, it was an encounter with Joelle Hoverson’s book More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts that led (within hours) to my learning to knit. You probably already know she’s the co-owner of Purl Soho, that lovely NY store (and webshop) that also supplies us greedy makers with the amazing resource known as The Purl Bee. Having gotten to know Joelle a little bit through Instagram and Pinterest, I asked if she’d be willing to answer my Our Tools, Ourselves questions, and it turned out the whole wildly talented Purl Bee crew wanted to weigh in. So here’s a collective glimpse into the crafting lives of Joelle and Page along with Whitney, Laura, Molly and Corinne, whose names you’re sure to recognize from their copious Purl Bee patterns. Thanks for playing along, ladies!

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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew…?

In our private lives, everyone who works on the Purl Bee does a lot of some things and a little of everything else, but publicly, Joelle knits, crochets and sews; Page sews; Whitney knits and crochets; Laura knits and needlepoints; Molly sews and embroiders (and makes friendship bracelets!); and Corinne sews and embroiders … Unless Molly’s crocheting and Laura’s sewing!

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

One thing you’re sure to see at a Purl Bee meeting is a table littered with Purl Soho Zip Bags from Baggu. We all store our projects in them because the zippered opening keeps everything safely inside, no matter how carelessly we treat the bag. And we love the colors!

Another popular tool around here is Sajou’s incredibly beautiful scissors. Half of us vote for the Ciseaux Lievre and half of us are Ciseaux Tour Eiffel fans, but bunnies or monuments, both pairs of scissors are very sharp, very precise and very lovely!

The knitters all agree on a few indispensable tools: Skacel’s new Addi Rocket circular needles have nice, pointy tips and super fast shafts. The combo makes a world of difference when you’re working with lace weight yarns or knitting up fancy stitch patterns. We’re all also newly in love with Fringe Supply’s Brass Stitch Markers, a small detail that adds so much pleasure to knitting!

The sewists on the Bee have some favorites too: We love Merchant & Mills classic tailoring tools: their Pin Magnet, Bodkins and whole collection of straight pins. And we all use Purl Soho’s Hand Sewing Needles which come in a sweet wooden case and are as easy as pie to thread.

And we can’t not mention a few other favorites: the Addi Turbo Needle Gauge (very handy), Clover’s Bias Tape Makers (a must-have), and Ka’s Aluminum Stitch Holders (can’t beat the colors!).

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

We all seem to “organize” our vast collections of supplies in a vast collection of containers! From vintage enamel pots to candy tins and from plastic bins to woven baskets, we all agree that the chaos is only tenuously under control.

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

The entire Purl Bee team agrees on this one: Baggu Zipper Pouches! Joelle, as a rule, keeps her most current project in the Purl Soho version, which we all think is a pretty smart idea.

Are there any particular prized possessions amongst your tools?

Laura still hangs onto the crochet hook her mother gave her when she learned how to pick up dropped stitches. It’s banged up and battered at this point, but definitely treasured. And we all consider our Sajou scissors pretty special. Since we use them to snip final threads and tails, they’re the tool that comes in to finish the job with style!

Do you lend your tools?

We’d be pretty pathetic craft emissaries if we hoarded all of our tools for ourselves! We all tend to “lend” our tools with no expectation of getting them back. “Just keep it!”

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

What is your favorite place to knit/crochet/whatever?

The sewists on our team use their kitchen tables, and since they’re all moms, late nights are their witching hours. The knitters and crocheters are, of course, more mobile: airplanes, couches, floors, subways, parks and movie theaters are some of their favorite spots for sneaking in a few rows.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

We craft year-round, but we definitely use seasonal materials: cotton, bamboo and linen in the summer and cashmere, alpaca and wool in the winter. And in preparation for the winter holidays, we always design a few extra-special things!

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

We all have an embarrassingly large amount of fabric and yarn stashed in the closets, drawers and dark corners of our homes. And like all crafters, we have piles of unfinished projects, dating back to the last century!

What are you working on right now?

Since everything we work on ends up on the Purl Bee, you’re about to find out!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Naturally, all of the team’s favorite tools are available at Purl Soho. And I’m thrilled to announce that now includes the full line of Fringe Supply Co. original goods!

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Anna Maltz

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Q for You: How many WIPs are on your needles?

Q for You: How many WIPs are on your needles?

My knitting bag overfloweth again and I was trying to figure out why, since I’ve been so much better lately about not casting on new projects willy-nilly. As usual, what’s taking up space is detritus of finished projects — swatches and yarn ends, and gloves and hats waiting to be blocked. But I do have several works in progress — four sweaters (one for Bob), a hat, and the vest front I cast on in a class at Squam — plus one big swatch and sample yarn for a pattern I hope to someday get back to. But basically six WIPs. I’m sure this is “better” than some people and “worse” than others, but I also think we all have different ideas about whether having a lot of WIPs is a good or bad thing. So this is my Q for You: How many WIPs do you currently have going, and if it’s different from the norm for you, what is your norm?

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What else do you do while you knit?

Knitting in paradise

Knitting in paradise
Knitting in paradise
Knitting in paradise
Knitting in paradise

On my flight home from New Hampshire, the nice woman seated next to me looked at what I was doing and said “That’s … knitting, right?” Shaking her head woefully, she declared, “It’s a lost art, I tell ya. I’m an art teacher.” I assured her briefly that knitting is alive and quite well, but it was a particularly funny moment for someone to say that to me, since I had just left the deep woods of Squam Lake, where I’d spent several days surrounded by knitters (and artists and writers and weavers …) at Squam Art Workshops.

I’d been seeing photos and hearing about Squam for the past few years, and longing to attend, and I can tell you the place is even more beautiful than the pictures. When Anna and I got our first glimpse of our cabin and our porch (that porch!) and our dock, we just shook our heads and laughed at how lovely.

Knitting in paradise
Knitting in paradise
Knitting in paradise

It being late Sunday night after the long travel day home, I’m too tired to describe any of it nearly as well as I hope these photos can — but there was the scenery and the yarn bombing and the wonderful people, some of whom were carrying Fringe Supply tote bags! The first couple of days were chilly, and we started off in classes held around blazing fireplaces in the living rooms of various large cabins and lodge buildings, which was just as charming as it sounds. But by Saturday the sun had arrived, and the place was a whole ’nother kind of beautiful. Many classes, mine included, moved outdoors. And Saturday afternoon was all free time — prime dock knitting time, the one thing I wanted most.

Knitting in paradise
Knitting in paradise
Knitting in paradise
Knitting in paradise

It all culminated in the Squam Art Fair on Saturday night, which I definitely don’t have the words for. I’m so grateful to Christine and to Anna for helping me in so many ways, to Austen and Kate for bringing me cold beer from the Ravelry party as I stood boiling under those lights, to the friends who came from neighboring states to say hello, and to everyone who introduced themselves and/or shopped the table. It’s all a blur, but it was amazing.

Knitting in paradise
squam_sam_lamb_kate_osborn

These last two photos are my two favorite outfits/sweaters of the week. Sam Lamb, on the left, is wearing a sweater she improvised and a Wiksten tank dress. Kate Gagnon Osborn, on the right, is wearing a sweater I’ll tell you more about soon, with a perfect denim jacket and the cutest Hasbeens ever — which you can’t see in this photo, but this one is a lot funnier than the one where you can see the shoes, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

In short (much too short; leaving so much and so many people out): it was a fantastic trip, full of good friends old and new, and a reminder of just how much knitting — thankfully not a lost art — has enriched my life.

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ON A TOTALLY DIFFERENT NOTE: There were some difficulties back at Fringe Supply Co. headquarters while I was away that held up the shipping of some orders. I apologize profusely for the delay!