What’s new (and new again)

What's new (and new again)

It’s been quite the dry spell in the receiving department at Fringe HQ lately — thanks to winter storms and dock worker strikes and other pesky delays — but thankfully our beloved delivery drivers have returned this week, bearing boxes full of goodies too numerous to detail. Suffice to say there are books and tools and Bentos and, best of all, the Bucket Tote now comes in the black-and-white rain print. Huzzah! So hop on over to Fringe Supply Co. and see if whatever you’ve been waiting for is back on the virtual shelves.

Thank you for all of your responses to yesterday’s Q for You as well as your generous advice about my grandmother’s shawl. It’s been an insanely busy week for me (lots of exciting things happening behind the scenes right now) and I haven’t been able to respond to everything, but I’ve read every word and appreciate you all so much!

Have a wonderful weekend—

Q for You: How do you close out a project?

Q for You: How do you close out a project?

This might be a bizarre question, and it’s something I never really thought about until I started knitting sweaters more routinely/seriously. You knit (or crochet, or sew) a thing, and then you’re left with a certain number of parts. The pattern, your notes, the remnant yarn or fabric. I keep every knitting project in its own project bag, and it always comes down to this little puddle of stuff in the bottom of the bag (needles, waste yarn, ball bands …). I always sort of dread putting it all back wherever it goes. I’ve had it ingrained in me that you should always buy more yarn than you need for a sweater because you never know when you might want or need to replace a button band or a cuff, or to patch an elbow, or who knows what. That’s been especially on my mind lately as I unpack the detritus of completed sweaters that I love enough to really imagine having for a long time. I’ve found myself making these little packets for each finished sweater: the last wound skein, my swatch, the tag or ball band with the sweater name written on it and, in the case of my Bellows (the first time I’ve been quite this thorough) a spare button. I’ve been packing them away in ziploc bags — for lack of a similarly protective, less aesthetically offensive solution — and they’re like little souvenirs, or time capsules. Each time I’ve wondered if this is odd or perfectly normal, so that’s my Q for You: How do you close out a project?


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s the knit you couldn’t live without?

A shawl for my granny

A shawl for my granny

It’s funny how I’m always looking for shawl patterns that aren’t granny-looking, and now I’m looking for a shawl pattern for my granny. She’s turning 90 in exactly one month and — please don’t tell her! — I’m planning to knit her a shawl. The thing is, I’ve been planning it for at least a month and haven’t cast on a stitch yet because I’m hung up on what it should be. I feel like it should be lace — or at least lace-edged or something — but I don’t want to give her anything that requires really precise blocking every time it’s soaked. Ditto the yarn selection: Not only am I hesitant about giving her anything hand-wash-only, she lives in Texas! So wool is out of the question. Size-wise, she’s not a very large person, plus there’s that whole Texas aspect (this is really something to toss on in over-air-conditioned spaces), plus I need to be able to complete it in a month. So basically I’m looking for a simple, small-scale, decorative-edged shawl. For the yarn, I think I’ve settled on the dark purple Shibui Heichi in my stash (her entire wardrobe is shades of purple), which is 100% silk. Still hand-wash, but not wool. Right? So I’ve narrowed it down to the smaller Lola (top), a scaled-down Palmyre (middle) and the lace-less but still really pretty Marin (bottom), which I’ve wanted to knit for a long time. I haven’t knitted with 100% silk before and really don’t know what that will look or behave like, so it seems like my best bet is to swatch all three and see.

Still have never managed to pick the right shawl for my mom. :(

Our Tools, Ourselves: Christine Chitnis

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: Christine Chitnis

I first met Christine Chitnis while at Squam Art Workshops last summer. She teaches a class at Squam and online about how to get your work published (whether it’s writing or patterns or photos), called Pitch Perfect, which I didn’t get to take. But we somehow met at the beginning of the weekend and hung out a bit, and I’m not sure how I would have pulled off my table at the Squam Art Fair without her hauling me and the goods around the campgrounds and generally being a delightful and helpful person. In addition to being a talented writer and blogger, Christine is a great photographer, so I was curious to see what her creative space looks like and hear about her relationship to her tools, and I’m so happy she obliged — it’s not often I run into someone so tidy they make me feel like a slob, so I enjoy the experience!

In addition to her blog and class, you can find Christine on Ravelry as lavenderlime.

. . .

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

My two great loves are knitting and sewing, though I do occasionally crochet. I learned to sew from my mom and for that reason sewing will always hold a special place in my heart. She was such a patient teacher and I have so many wonky little doll quilts to show from my early years. My mom has never been a knitter, so when I expressed interest in learning she took me to the sweetest little knitting shop in our town and there I learned. I was twelve years old. Because, you know, that’s what most twelve-year-old kids are dying to do! Let’s just be honest here — I was not a part of the cool crowd, but I’d like to think I’m super cool now to make up for it ;)

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

It’s funny: I’m really picky about the yarn and fabric I use, but I am not very particular when it comes to tools. I’ve always used whatever I have on hand. For example, I bought my sewing machine off Craigslist for $35. It is a decades-old Singer and has no bells or whistles, but it gets the job done and I love it. It’s similar to my mom’s sewing machine, which she inherited from my grandma. Newer machines, with all their fancy parts, tend to scare me! As for knitting supplies, when I started I would just buy the needles I needed for the project I was making so I have a hodgepodge of different needles. One day I’ll invest in a really nice set … maybe once I get my two toddlers through college and they stop using my needles to sword fight!

I love collecting vintage sewing notions — old spools of thread, interesting scissors, and scraps of old quilts. One of my favorite places to find bins of this stuff is at Brimfield, the huge annual antique show in Massachusetts. These tools and notions serve more as inspiration, though I do use them in my crafting.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Christine Chitnis

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

I am a bit ridiculous in my organization. I don’t like clutter, so I keep my supplies and studio space very clean and well organized. I have a tiny stash. (I pretty much buy for projects, which means I only ever have little odds and ends of yarn and fabric left over.) I keep all of my supplies on a large, open Ikea shelf that lives in my studio, and for all of the unsightly supplies, I keep them in white storage boxes that fit perfectly on the shelves. I like my supplies to be visible, but in an organized fashion. I keep my yarn in a small basket, and my fabric stacked by color. I keep my thread organized by color on a thread holder, and I keep my needles arranged by size in a fabric roll. Typing that out I realize how anal retentive that must seem, but the truth is, I just like how it looks when everything is in its place. It gives me clear head space to focus on my projects. I am definitely someone who needs a clean desk/studio before I can get down to making.

It’s also worth noting that I share my home with three boys: my husband, a 4-year-old, and a 2-1/2 year-old. My studio is my happy place — everything is clean, white and free of little fingerprints! The rest of the house … not so much. The boys are welcome to join me in the studio — the only rule is we wash hands first!

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

I don’t like having a lot of unfinished projects lying around. There’s such joy in seeing a project through from start to finish, so once I begin a project, I usually finish it before starting another. That being said, I always have at least 3-5 projects in rotation at any given moment. I keep my sewing projects laid flat, with all the necessary trims and buttons, in an Ikea 6-drawer rolling unit. I love this system because when I want to pick up a project I don’t have to hunt around for the thread I was using, or the bias tape that I need. It’s all right there. My knitting projects live in separate bags and fabric buckets that I keep all together in a large woven tote. It’s pretty enough to act as decor in my studio, and I like to have it out so I can grab a project whenever the urge strikes. The knitting project that I am actively working on lives in a small, silk-lined fabric drawstring bag. It comes along with me everywhere, except once a sweater grows too large!

Our Tools, Ourselves: Christine Chitnis

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

A small zippered pouch, which I use to store my knitting tools, and my little fabric-covered notebooks are some of my most favorite tools. I bought them in India — I love the colors and patterns, and every single time I pull them out, I am reminded of my trip (which was the trip of a lifetime).

Do you lend your tools?

I LOVE teaching people how to knit, and so I am always loaning out my supplies and giving away skeins of yarn. I think that is another reason I have almost no stash — if I don’t have a specific project in mind for a skein of yarn, it’s most likely going to a friend so they can learn to knit. I think one of the greatest joys of crafting, whether it be knitting or sewing, is teaching others.

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

With two young kids demanding my constant attention, I’ll knit anywhere I can. Often I hunker down on the couch and knit in the playroom while the boys play. I knit while waiting for water to boil while making dinner. I knit once the kids are in bed — by then I’m usually in bed too, watching Netflix.

Sewing is a bit different. If I’m hand sewing a small project, I’ll take it along with me, but most of my sewing happens in my studio or in the studio of my dear friend and sewing guru Sarah. Her studio is the real deal as she designs and produces her own children’s clothing line. She has a serger and a couple of nice sewing machines, and she is just a wealth of knowledge. Plus it gets me out of the house, which is always nice. Her studio is basically my promised land! I’ve become so much better at sewing garments under her tutelage.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Christine Chitnis

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I love all four seasons. (Well, I’m pretty over winter this year but aren’t we all?) I definitely ramp up my knitting in the fall and winter. We live in a 100+ year-old home with no air conditioning, so sometimes knitting in the summer months is unbearable. I feel like I turn my attention more to sewing garments in the summer. I am obsessed with the Scout Tee and Wiksten Tank, which are my summer standbys. I can’t wait to make a few Purl Bee City Gym Shorts this summer. I’d also love to draft the perfect tunic pattern this summer. I’ve sewn so many tunics, and they are never quite right. This summer is the summer of the tunic — you heard it here first!

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

My dark secret, which is almost too shameful to admit, is that I don’t swatch, or gauge, or whatever you call it. Ahhh! How can that be? Now, I am a smart girl. In fact, I majored in science, which involved a ton of math. But for the life of me I cannot understand how to gauge. It boggles my mind. So for all of my knitting, I literally just take a stab in the dark and go for it (usually using the suggested needle size and a close match to the suggested yarn)! Isn’t that insane? It’s nothing short of a miracle that my sweaters all fit. My goal for the coming Squam session in June is to find a willing teacher/glutton-for-punishment who will finally break down gauging for me once and for all. Any volunteers?! [Editor’s note: Ahem.]

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently testing a children’s sweater pattern for Nadia. It is the most adorable knit, very vintage-inspired. After that, I promised Elizabeth I would knit her a sweater. We’re both pretty keen on Westbourne or perhaps Antler, which is my favorite.

On the sewing front, I’m busy finishing up a quilt for my nephew and I have plans for a few more Scout Tees, and a tunic or two before summer hits. But honestly, my closet it pretty maxed out and I’m super happy making for others right now. My ultimate crafting goal is to get my boys to wear something I knit for them. A girl can dream!

Our Tools, Ourselves: Christine Chitnis

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)


Photos by Christine Chitnis and Forrest Elliott

My tiny giant cloud


Here’s a little anecdote for anyone who’s ever wondered why or whether gauge matters.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending Rebekka Seale’s blanket workshop in her beautiful studio, with a bunch of lovely women who had traveled from all over. I had provided Knit and Let Knit totes for everyone, and Rebekka had filled them with giant spirals of undyed merino roving and size US50 circular needles. We all introduced ourselves and then set to work knitting fluffy 3×2 ribbed blankets, while chatting and eating and oohing and aahhing over how beautiful the materials were. (And how the rose meringues for dessert looked just like our clouds of roving.) Of course, nobody ever thought to wonder about gauge or knit a swatch or anything — it’s a blanket; who cares, right? By mid-afternoon, we each had a substantial amount of fabric on our enormous needles and I suddenly noticed how vastly different my stitches were from Jennifer’s, who was sitting next to me. We were using the same exact yarn and same exact needles, had cast on the same number of stitches and were knitting the same exact stitch pattern. And yet, as you can see above, her stitches were almost twice as big as mine — as were pretty much everyone else’s at the table. The result being that I was knitting a baby blanket while everyone else was knitting one suitable for adult-sized humans.

In the end, in this case, no big deal. I was already wondering how on earth I would keep this beautiful thing away from my cats, so I took it as a sign, bound off, and seamed it into the biggest cowl known to man. (Just in time for 60-degree weather.)

The moral of the story: Knitting with the yarn and needles used in a pattern is no guarantee of matching results. If size matters, knit a swatch.

My tiny giant cloud

Vintage sweaters, snow days and Elsewhere

Vintage sweaters, snow days and Elsewhere

My friend Victoria Heifner of Milkfed Press (she prints the Yarn Pyramid) recently came into possession of a trove of vintage craft supplies and asked me if I would like these two Jack Frost pattern booklets from 1950-51, one book of men’s sweaters and the other of women’s. These vintage booklets always kill me. They’re generally not more than 32 pages each but they are so packed with patterns (even with the full-page photos), and every pattern is a little gem. They’re not tricksy or fancy in any way — just solid, useful, beautifully designed garments. Page after gorgeous page of them. The patterns are all much briefer than knitters have come to rely on these days; they assume you know how to knit, so they cut to the chase. The two books here have as many as 3.5 sweater patterns per page. I adore them, and clearly so did their original owner. The spines have been taped together after falling apart from use, and not recently — the tape has been there long enough to have yellowed and disintegrated by now. The ladies’ book also had the previous owner’s notes tucked inside. Such incredible treasure, Victoria, thank you. I can’t wait to knit from these.

The vintage vest I’m currently knitting is coming along nicely — you can see a glimpse of the finished back piece here. And I did actually sew last weekend for the first time in a year! Rather than diving into the Sonya Philip pattern I wrote about last Friday, I decided it would be wise to start back in with a pattern I already know — dust off those particular brain cells after their long disuse. So I traced off a modified Wiksten Tank and cut it out of some khadi cloth I bought at A Verb for Keeping Warm last spring. We had another snow day in Nashville yesterday, which for me means a work-at-home day, and I spent what would have been commute time finishing it up. I’ll show it to you soon!

Meanwhile, a mini-Elsewhere for your weekend clicking pleasure:

– There’s a promising new webmag called Woven Magazine that just kicked off with a terrific interview with Nashville weaver Allison Volek Shelton, who you’ve heard me raving about before.

– It’s been a long time since I professed my love of Karen Barbé’s blog, but anytime I want to be inspired by the way someone else’s mind works, a trip to her site always pays off. Her aesthetic, her photos … so good.

– I’m happy to hear that Kelbourne Woolens is planning to do Crochet Summer again — maybe that and this free pattern will mean I finally make that granny-triangle shawl I’ve been talking about for … how long?

– And have you ever seen anything more beautiful than these sheep?

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone — thanks for reading!


PREVIOUSLY in Elsewhere

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: A Detacher forever

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: A Detacher forever and ever

If I hadn’t already professed my undying love for Mona Kowalska of A Détacher, I would certainly be doing it now. Her Fall 2015 collection got all my juices flowing; clicking through the images, my brain was thinking up things to sew and knit faster than my fingers could sketch them. Mostly simple little tops and dresses my closet and I are longing for (albeit not in those particular prints — other than the amazing volcanic explosion print!), but the way she’s mixed those breezy little pieces with knits here is classic quirky Mona. Along with simple little change-ups like a woven vest over a sweater dress and knit vest over a woven dress. There’s just no one like her. And nothing, especially, like that look below: quilted jacket over dress-length aran sweater over quilted pants. Ms. K, can I borrow your brain for just five minutes? And also this quilted dress?

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: A Detacher forever and ever

PREVIOUSLY in Fall 2015: Wool and the Gang walks again