New Favorites: For him

New Favorites: For him

So that stockinette sweater I’m about to be knitting for my poor handmade-sweater-deprived husband? I’m harboring fantasies that after I finish this one, I’ll get away with knitting him something more interesting. I’d love to knit and see him in any of these—

TOP: Shire by Lisa Richardson looks especially great in this low-contrast color palette

MIDDLE: Cotswold Henley by Meghan Babin features some first-rate texture blocking

BOTTOM: Mount Robson Pullover by Jessie McKitrick, well, you know how much I love a military-inspired sweater

Might just have to knit that last one for myself.


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Mega blankets

Cowichan-style Knitalong — the WINNERS

Cowichan-style Knitalong — the WINNERS

I have to say, I think it’s funny that there’s an expectation of prizes with big knitalongs. To me, the prize is your sweater! And there have been so many winners in that regard. I think I said already that I was expecting fewer sweaters to come out of this Cowichan-style Knitalong than the last one (it’s a vest, a Cowichan-style vest, from a Japanese pattern, with colorwork worked flat …) BUT I am so beyond thrilled with all that has come of it. Everyone who has participated so far — and it’s by no means too late! — has been so thoughtful, inventive, enthusiastic and eager to try new things; it’s just been inspiring and heart-warming all the way around. It’s really hard to pick favorites or prize-winners, but I’m glad for the opportunity to shine a spotlight on these three—

ABOVE: The grand prize winner — who’ll receive a $100 gift certificate to Fringe Supply Co. — is Ella Gordon. We talked a lot during this knitalong about cultural sensitivity issues relating to the appropriation of the Cowichan style. Ella was working from a different Japanese pattern, which had teepees as the main motif. If you’re familiar with Ella, you know she is a serious student of knitting traditions and a collector of sweaters from across all of them. She also lives in Shetland, not the PNW, and teepees have no particular cultural meaning for her. So for all of those reasons, she replaced the teepees with the croft houses that dot her own native countryside. I found it both clever and touching, and her finished vest is just fantastic. You can read all about it and see more photos on her blog and her Instagram feed, @ellalcgordon.

And I’ve got two $50 gift certificates for these two:

Cowichan-style Knitalong — the WINNERS

Jess Schreibstein, above, played around with much more ambitious and traditional motif ideas before settling into a minimalist version of a Cowichan-inspired vest. She tackled the Cowichan method of float-trapping* — I’m so happy about how many people took this on! — and wound up with a garment that’s totally her own and looks great on her. For lots more gorgeous pics of this vest in progress, see her Instagram feed, @thekitchenwitch.

Cowichan-style Knitalong — the WINNERS

At a glance, Claire Allen-Platt’s finished vest looks like a great garment that’s pretty true to the pattern (and obviously I approve of her color usage!) but I think she’s one of only two (?) people to knit it in the round and steek it. She also tweaked the motifs a tiny bit to make the main one a little less snowflake-like — and it fits her perfectly. Tweaked and steeked, I like it. See her Instagram feed for more, @claireallenplatt.

Ladies, send me an email (karen at fringeassociation) to collect your prize!

If you haven’t seen the full feed, check out #fringeandfriendskal2015 on Instagram, where you’ll get to see @nappyknitter’s socks, @luckypennyknits’ dog sweater, original designs by @carolsundayknits and @whit_knits, and so much more. And like I said, it’s never too late to jump in. We still have two more panelists to hear from!

*See the video tutorials linked in this post.


Fibery links for your clicking pleasure

I’m tardy in casting on my Seathwaite for the #fringehatalong. It didn’t seem like the right thing for last week’s trip, when I’d be knitting in company at all times, and I haven’t knitted a stitch of anything since I got home. But I will be casting on soon (so many beautiful hats on the feed!), and for anyone else who hasn’t already gone there, I want to mention that Kate posted a full tutorial about how to work the join round for the folded brim. And also, in golden Kate fashion, how to wear your Seathwaite. Elsewhere:

– I’m eager to listen to Pam Allen on the Woolful podcast. If you’re wanting even more from Pam, I recommend the whole archive of (which I’ve heard may be getting a revival with a new host! fingers crossed)

The history, science and benefits of wool

The mad scientist of Levi’s

– and What we can learn from watching kids craft (Lessons I need to learn!) Related: best Instagram pic ever

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone — thank you for reading!



yarn + water = magic

yarn + water = magic

Here’s what I want to talk about today: Water changes yarn, and it changes knitted fabric. Sometimes it changes it for the better, sometimes not so much. Knitting swatches — and blocking those swatches — is always described as a critical step in achieving the right fit. And it is. (It’s the only way you can know how big your stitches and rows are, and thus how big your finished object will be.) But it’s also so much more than that, and the “more” is far less often discussed.

I’m not an expert on breeds, fiber characteristics, how yarn is spun … none of it. Not by a long shot. But I know a few things, and a lot of what I’ve learned, I’ve learned from knitting and soaking yarn. (Or watching Clara Parkes do it.) If you give it a chance — if you look and touch and listen — yarn will teach you things. So at the risk of sounding didactic, I want to talk a tiny bit about why you should soak your knitting, if you don’t already — especially your swatches.

1.) See that photo up top? It’s an amazing small-batch yarn from Hinterland called Range — a woolen-spun wool/alpaca blend that is so light and airy and cushy I actually have a hard time believing there’s alpaca in it. I met the lovely Hanahlie Beise of Hinterland in Carnation last weekend and she had with her these two skeins of the same yarn. The one on the right is how it’s sold in the skein, and the one on the left has been soaked. See how much plumper it is? I wish you could squish it. It “bloomed” — or fluffed up! — when washed. Yarns like that are my very favorite yarns, but you can’t know how a yarn will behave until you soak it. If you swatch and don’t block, you don’t really know what sort of fabric you’re creating, don’t know what the yarn is capable of — and what it is capable of might affect how it should be knitted. This yarn would benefit from being knitted a little on the loose side so there’s room for those stitches to grow. Right? (Hanahlie gave me a skein of this amazing stuff before we parted ways, and I look forward to figuring out the exact right thing to do with it.)

2) See the photo in the middle? That’s (the now discontinued) Shibui Merino Alpaca. It’s a sweater I started long ago and will apparently never be finishing, but this photo is a good example of the most commonly known result of blocking knitted fabric, which is that it relaxes into itself. Lace opens up; stitch patterns lay flatter. These two sleeves are identical, but the one on the bottom has been blocked. The individual stitches have all settled into their new shapes, and the fabric has become more cohesive, with a very slight halo. In this case, it’s also become more drapey. (Too drapey for my taste. A lot of people like drapey; I happen to not.) If the pattern called for the wool/alpaca Hinterland above and you were substituting this yarn, or vice versa, you’d wind up with a garment that hung and wore and behaved very differently from the designer’s version because the yarns are so different, despite their seemingly-not-that-different fiber content.

3) And then that photo on the bottom? You’ll have to take my word for what’s going on here, but that’s the blocked swatch and one of the unblocked sleeves for the sweater I’m knitting from my Sawkill Farm yarn. Again, this a yarn that blooms a bit when washed — compare the fringe on the left edge of the swatch with the working yarn just above it — and can tolerate a slightly loose gauge. But beyond that, what you’d find if you could see and touch these two things in person is that the swatch feels very different from the skein or the unblocked sleeve. Again, I’m no expert, but apparently some yarns are washed one last time after they’re spun (before they’re skeined) while others are not. This one feels lovely in the skein but seemingly hasn’t had that post-spin wash, so there’s a little trace of machine oils on the yarn — again, not uncommon. (This was pointed out to me by more astute friends. I wouldn’t have been able to explain the difference.) The washed swatch is a clearer grey and it feels as light as air. If you’ve ever felt lopi — the yarn of Iceland — you’d be able to guess that there’s some Icelandic fleece in the mix here. It has that weightlessness and fuzziness, which wasn’t apparent until it was soaked.

When you soak a piece of knitted fabric, you might find these things — yarn blooming beautifully, getting softer, taking on an appropriate drape (or not). Or you might find that your nice plump cables fall flat, or that your heel stitch exhales to the point that your formerly perfect-fitting hat falls down over your face. (These are real examples from my own life.) Different breeds and blends do different things. Worsted-spun is different from woolen-spun. An undyed yarn can knit up and behave differently than the same yarn plus dye. All of these nuances and complexities are what make yarn and knitting so fascinating. And the best way to begin to understand and appreciate it on that level is to simply run some tepid water* and give that swatch a dunk.

*For those about to ask what I recommend as far as wool wash, my longtime favorite soap to use when blocking knits is the bar soap that I’ve recently been able to start selling. Anything with lanolin — which is stripped from wool in varying degrees during processing — will increase the softness of wool when used.

SEE ALSO: How to knit and measure a swatch and How do you block your knits?

New Favorites: Mega blankets

New Favorites: Mega blankets

There’s something so incredibly irresistible about a massive mound of wool to curl up under, isn’t there? (Especially, for some reason, when it’s pictured in a completely impractical shade of white.) I’m currently dreaming of these two beauties:

TOP: Koselig Blanket by Wool and the Gang is knitted on US50 needles in herringbone stitch, with the perfect fringe (also available as a kit)

BOTTOM: Falling Bobbles Blanket by Purl Soho is knitted on US15 needles and sprinkled with giant bobbles (free pattern)


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Mitts and more mitts

Introducing the Stowe Bag — our first sewing pattern!

Fringe Supply Co. x Grainline Studio = Stowe Bag sewing pattern

Remember that bag I sewed in May and couldn’t tell you about? And then the ones that showed up in my Gallery Dress post, which I also couldn’t tell you about? Well, I can finally tell you: Today marks the debut of Fringe’s very first sewing pattern — the Stowe Bag, in collaboration with Grainline Studio! You can tell how excited I am about this by the number of photos I’m including here.

Some of you will remember the little project bag that Fringe Supply Co. first launched with in the winter of 2012. It was modeled after the ubiquitous plastic bag, with its fold-flat design and handy handles, but made in sturdy canvas and ticking and with lots of useful pockets. I had a small run of them made, but the design proved to be problematic for production, so that’s all there ever were. Still lamenting its demise, in the summer of 2014 I got in touch with the supremely talented Jen Beeman of Grainline and asked if she’d like to collaborate on a sewing pattern, and thankfully she said yes! Because we’re both so busy and wanted this to be a fun project rather than a stressful one, we’ve taken our time bringing it to you, but it’s finally here. While staying true to the original, Jen tweaked the construction to make it suitable for home sewers and also scaled it up for a larger version, both of which are included in the pattern. As much as I love the original size, I am crazy for the big bag and use my canvas one all the time — mainly for travel and for hauling a load of stuff to sewing classes and such, but I’m also making a pocketless linen one to be my errand-running bag.

We’ve labeled Stowe an advanced-beginner sewing pattern only because of the bias edging — if you’ve never worked with bias tape before, this is actually a great project with which to learn. And because I know some of you will ask: This is a sewing pattern only; the bag is not available as finished goods. (We have lots of great bag options in the shop!)

You can order the printed paper pattern today at Fringe Supply Co., and it’s also available at yarn and fabric stores all over — so look for it wherever you buy Grainline patterns. There’s also a digital download version available through Grainline Studio.

I can’t wait to see what you sew!

Fringe Supply Co. x Grainline Studio = Stowe Bag sewing pattern

Photos by Kathy Cadigan

All’s well that ends well

All's well that ends well

Then the darling six-year-old Chinese boy in the middle seat turned to me and said, “What is that? Are you making a glove?” I said, “I’m making a sweater.”  “Wow, that takes a long time.” Nod.

“Did you make this whole sweater all by yourself?” he asked, gesturing toward my Bellows cardigan.

“I did.”

“THIS sweater?” he repeated, pointing more emphatically.

“Yes, I made this sweater.”


After we discussed how long it took (not very long — big stitches) as compared to the one on the needles, he thought for a minute and then asked if there are any colors besides yellow and pink or purple. I clarified that the two sweaters under discussion were actually two different shades of grey, not pink and purple, and grey is all I had with me on the plane (my waste yarn is yellow). Indicating Bellows again, he said, “This could be a different color,” to which I replied, “It can be any color you want if you make it yourself — that’s the beauty of making things.”

We were nearing the end of our flight by this point, and he had already given me tiny lectures about clouds being water (“if I tried to step out onto one, I would fall through to the ground and die”); planes being “hard to people but soft to the ground” (if the wheels hit the ground wrong “the whole plane could go kapow”); and the existential fact of grown-up deaf people who don’t know what their names sound like. “I get curious into everything,” he told me at one point with a bit of sigh of resignation, like it was his burden to bear. So I was not surprised that these were his parting thoughts on the subject of sweater making:

“Once upon a time, you might want to make a sweater a certain color but the King would say [voice of doom and authority], ‘NO. You can only make it THIS color.’ But then they changed the rules.”

I wish I’d taken a picture of him to add to my other favorite moments of the week — an action-packed 48-hour holiday photo shoot with Kathy (which necessitated a visit to Drygoods Design), a quick pilgrimage by ferry to Churchmouse, dinners with good friends, knitting all day Saturday at the Tolt anniversary with the other Farm to Needle book contributors, meeting lots of you, seeing not only the book in 3D for the first time but four Tolt staffers wearing their version of my Anna Vest to the celebration! Including Anna herself (who wore the test knitter’s). All in all, a marvelous trip — despite the bumpy start.

Reading-glasses photo by Kathy Cadigan