Blog Crush: The Craft Sessions

Blog Crush: The Craft Sessions

It occurred to me when putting together the last installment of Elsewhere how often I link to Felicia Semple’s Craft Sessions blog and yet I’ve never done a proper Blog Crush about it. Well! Felicia is the founder of the Australian craft camp known as The Craft Sessions — which I dream of one day attending — and started the blog (I believe) at the same time as the run-up to the first Sessions, a couple of years ago. In addition to her being a fantastic knitter and sewist, whose every project is worth an ooh and an ahh, the blog has become an outstanding resource over time, as Felicia is not afraid to write long. She picks a topic — from keeping a visual diary to picking the right sweater pattern — and digs all the way in. That means I don’t always have time to read as much of it as I would like, but I love knowing it’s there when I do — you know? Keep it up, F!

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PREVIOUSLY in Blog Crush: Woolful — who, by the way, launched her podcast yesterday

New Favorites: Hearth Slippers

New Favorites: Hearth Slippers

I’m having a serious case of knitting FOMO right about now. My friend Anna at Tolt enlisted my friend Dianna Walla to design a pattern using my friends at Fancy Tiger’s Heirloom Romney, and the result is the totally adorable Hearth Slippers. And now they’re all having a joint knitalong! I saw the samples when I was at Tolt and they’re even cuter in person. But I’ve been checking out the hashtag on Instagram the past few days and I’m loving all the color combos people are coming up with. Especially these two — so different. I wish I loved knitting colorwork as much as I love having knitted colorwork, because my feet would really enjoy these.

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Knitalong FO No. 1: Jaime Jennings

FO No. 1: Jaime Jennings' Amanda cardigan

Jaime Jennings is the first of our illustrious knitalong panel to have finished knitting her Amanda cardigan, and it’s a beauty in undyed Heirloom Romney. She put up a thorough post on the Fancy Tiger blog on Friday, and I had a few questions for her as well:

First, Jaime, let me say your sweater is SO CUTE. It’s motivating me to keep going. I especially love that natural dark grey. And the leather buttons. But enough fawning! So how are you feeling about having knitted for Team Seamless? Were there any aspects that came up during the knitalong that made you wish you’d done any part of it any differently?

I’m so glad I was Team Seamless! I took out all the selvedge stitches so the side panels on my sweater and underarms look amazing with absolutely no breaks in the honeycomb pattern. There were two reasons that Team Seam might have been better for this. One was that I didn’t fix any cable mistakes. (I made a few.) I had so much work on the needles for the body, I was scared to drop down and fix anything and risk really messing up a lot of knitting. It makes you question ripping out more since there is just so much knitting on the needles. Second was the button holes, which were hard to line up evenly not knowing the exact length of the finished garment. Next time I would knit the sweater seamlessly, but I would knit the bands as written, back and forth after the rest of the garment was completed. I’m still glad I did Team Seamless though.

Do you think you’d still have been the first one finished if you’d knitted it in pieces? I want to pit you and Kate head-to-head in a knitting race sometime.

Maybe … seaming doesn’t really take that long. Kate would definitely win in a head-to-head knitting race. She had to take a break to knit another sweater and I just knit this one sweater.

One of the reasons you were confident knitting this seamlessly is that your Heirloom Romney is such a sturdy yarn, and it does seem (based on the photos) like it also worked up into something almost lopi- or jacket-like in density and warmth. I know it’s a big subject but what’s your nutshell stance on softness versus durability or ruggedness when it comes to yarn and choosing yarn for projects?

My nutshell stance is I’ll take durability over softness any day. You’re talking to a woman who has made four lopi sweaters, three Heirloom sweaters, and three sweaters in Loft or Shelter … it’s pretty obvious where my heart lies in terms of my love of a rustic wool. Amanda is a lot of work. I would be heartbroken if it started pilling or wearing out in a short amount of time. I wear my knit garments a lot — I wear them hiking, camping, while shoveling snow, snowshoeing, while wearing backpacks, you name it. I love being confident in knowing I can wear my finished garments often. This is especially true of a cardigan when you know you’ll always have a shirt on underneath, so softness isn’t such a concern. Of course, depending on the pattern, I might want a yarn with more drape, and every once in awhile I’ll knit something that’s just really soft that feels amazing. My next sweater is going to be Northdale, and again, that’s a big commitment. I’m going to knit it in Jamieson and Smith for durability.

You mentioned at the beginning that you were a little intimidated by the volume of cabling involved. Would you say you’re a cable devotee now or just glad you did it?

I am! I loved the cables. It was (surprisingly) easy to get into a rhythm with them, and I love the look. This sweater made me feel super confident in my cabling skills, so now I feel I can knit anything!

You talked a little bit about your neck modifications in your blog post — the neck being the thing you and I were mutually concerned about at the outset. Are you really thinking about ripping it back and altering it more?

I might … The jury’s still out. I’m going to wait and see more people’s finished sweaters. If one looks really hot, I’ll redo mine. But that’s not going to stop me from wearing it right now. I’m growing to like it more and more each time I wear it and I’ve gotten tons of compliments, so that is awesome!

Have you picked out your next cable project yet?

No, but I’ve got my eye on about 10 things from Brooklyn Tweed. I especially love Field — because I definitely didn’t get enough of the honeycomb stitch. Honeycomb forever!!

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Thanks, Jaime — and congratulations on the gorgeous sweater! Will the rest of us ever finish? Time will tell …

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: The simple joy of seaming

The simple joy of seaming

How to work mattress stitch

Can I just take a minute to publicly say how awesome Kate Gagnon Osborn is? When she signed on as a member of our Panel of Experts for the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, she offered to share her seaming wisdom (and enthusiasm). In the meantime, she’s taught us all so much more: how to accurately measure gauge with a cable swatch, how to account for post-blocking changes in row gauge, how to work increases “in pattern,” and even how to rewrite neck shaping. She blows my mind on a regular basis. (And we’ve laughed a little over how few comments there have been on her ultra-detailed posts. Did she blow your minds, too?) And now it’s finally time to talk about seaming! Kate has an excellent tutorial on the Kelbourne Woolens site (in their ever-expanding Tips & Tricks section) and I can’t see any point in reinventing the wheel. So she’s updated that tutorial with Amanda photos and you can read it at the other end of this link: How to work mattress stitch. (Thanks for being you, Kate!)

Despite my ongoing issues with knitting sweater pieces (all of which boil down to ADD) I genuinely enjoy the act of seaming those pieces together. It is so easy and so magical, pulling that strand and seeing pieces come together to form a whole.

So after blocking your joined sweater and sewing up those side and sleeve seams, all that’s left is to finish off the button bands, including working the button holes, and pick up stitches for the neck band. For guidance on picking up stitches, particularly for the curved portions of a neckline, the best resource I know is Pam Allen’s passage on the subject in Knitting for Dummies, which I think everyone should own. I also love her discourse on button holes in that same book. For those of you who don’t own it, I refer you to the buttonhole/band episode of Knit.fm. Well worth a listen!

From here on out, I’ll be checking in with our panelists as they finish their sweaters, starting with Jaime Jennings. And I also have more to say about the specific tiny mods I’ve made to my Amanda. And of course, we’ll all be watching the hashtag for as long as there are people using it!

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: Skiff hats of the knitalong

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Photos © Kate Gagnon Osborn

New Favorites: BT’s best shawl collars

New Favorites: Brooklyn Tweed's best shawl-collar cardigans

When I was talking to someone recently (can’t remember who/where) about putting a shawl collar on my Amanda cardigan for the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, they said something about how on-trend that will be. And I suppose it will, but it got me thinking. There are definitely lots of shawl collars in the stores right now, but aren’t there always? I genuinely don’t think there’s ever been a year when there haven’t been amazing shawl-collar cardigans I’m dying to own. Certainly the shapes and details vary, and they may be more “in” one year than the next, but a shawl-collar cardigan is never out of style. And I think that timelessness is a big part of why I keep casting them on! It seems perfectly reasonable to me to invest large chunks of knitting time on a garment that cozy, and that I believe has a greater chance of wearing out than falling out of fashion. So that train of thought and yesterday’s Wool People release got me looking at the Best of Brooklyn Tweed shawl collars:

TOP: Field by Kazekobo, the newest entry, from Wool People 8. Honeycomb on the body, reverse stockinette sleeves, and compound raglan shaping — a total classic. Plus based on the gauge, it appears to be the perfect pattern from which to borrow the neck shaping and collar method for a shawlified Amanda. (Was there anyone at BT reading these posts thinking “Hold on! We have the perfect candidate!”?)

ROW 2 LEFT: Channel Cardigan by Jared Flood, from BT Winter ’14, knit-purl splendor already on my needles. Even though I’m planning to leave out some of the details that make it so exceptional, I think this is the Sweater of the Year.

ROW 2 RIGHT: Timberline by Jared Flood, from BT Men. I could stare at those intricately branching cables all day, and think the collar on this one is perfection.

MIDDLE: Little Wave by Gudrun Johnston, from Wool People 6, textured stitch panels with garter-stitch accents. And pockets! This one didn’t make that huge of an impression on me until I tried on the sample and fell in love. (I’ve also been taking a second, third and fourth look at Persimmon lately.)

BOTTOM LEFT: Burr by Veronik Avery, from BT Fall ’12, in stockinette with stylized shaping. Looks like such a simple sweater, and then you start to notice all the amazing, subtle details.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Bellows by Michele Wang, from BT Fall ’14, allover texture with cable accents. Seriously, it’s all I can do to not cast this on before finishing Amanda and Channel. And actually, my all-time favorite BT shawl collar might be another Michele design: the Arlo kids cardigan.

I wish I had every one of them in my closet right now and forever.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Offshore

Elsewhere

Yarny links for your clicking pleasure

Know what I’m excited about?

- the impending Seamwork webmag from Colette

- the impending podcast from Woolful

- Ann Shayne’s crazy 8-yarn sweater for the #fringeandfriendsknitalong

- the fact that people like this exist (thx, jo!)

and

- Felicia Semple’s Stash Less series

Not to mention there’s a new BT Wool People collection coming along any minute now … [UPDATE: Here it is, the Wool People 8 lookbook]

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Single-flock souvenirs

Single-flock souvenirs

I’m not sure I’ve ever really written about this, but I’ve spent considerable time in the wine world. Between living where we lived (including a few years right in Napa) and having a cousin who’s a small-batch winemaker, we’ve spent a significant amount of time in vineyards and cellars, literally working harvest many years and drinking the fruits of our labor, among other things. So I find myself pretty routinely drawing comparisons, in my mind, between yarn and wine. I’m oversimplifying here to keep this brief, but in wine you basically have a continuum that ranges from stuff like Charles Shaw (aka “Two Buck Chuck”) — a dude who buys up everyone else’s leftover juice and dumps it together in a tank — to “single-vineyard wines.” In between are brands that buy specific quantities of known fruit from known growers, winemakers that contract with growers to grow fruit to their exacting specifications, and wineries that grow their own fruit on their own property. With Estate and single-vineyard wines, you know exactly who grew it on what exact plot of land. (Plus there’s all the blending of varietals and whatnot.) There are equivalents for all of that in yarn, which starts with farmers all around the globe selling their fleece to be graded, sorted, blended and resold for assorted purposes — from mattress stuffing to yarn for hand-knitters. The big yarn brands buy fiber through brokers. One might not care at all about breed or origin, only that it meets a certain micron count (the way fiber is graded for softness); another might be specifically looking for merino or alpaca or whatever, in addition to the grade. Then you have yarns such as, for instance, Brooklyn Tweed, where they can tell you not only that the fleece comes from Targee-Columbia sheep but that those sheep live in Johnson County, Wyoming. Or Woolfolk, which is built around a specific Patagonian merino. And so on. My very favorite yarns are undyed (sheep colored) and minimally processed (sheep scented/textured), but the ultimate are what I call “single-flock yarns,” and I was lucky to bring two of them home from my trip to Tolt.

If you happened to read the article I wrote about Tolt for Knitscene, you already know about Snoqualmie Valley Yarn. Anna approached some neighboring farmers who raise BFL–Clun Forest sheep, and together they produced 400 skeins of rustic, undyed, bouncy yarn — “farm to needle” — three of which are now mine. My friend Lori asked Anna for other local yarns, and when Anna walked up to us with an armload of options, I grabbed one of them right out from under Lori’s nose. (Sorry!! Geez, I’m such an asshole sometimes.) As you can see from the handwritten label, it’s 200 yards of “Longwool Lamb” from Abundant Earth Fiber on Whidbey Island. It’s soft and fluffy and one of my favorite sheep colors, that nearly-black brown. Some other lucky person had made off with the rest of it before I got there, so this one precious skein is all I have. But what treasures.

The one other place I was dying to visit while I was in Seattle was Drygoods Design, which did not disappoint, and the one thing I was hoping they would have is the freshly minted Linden Sweatshirt pattern from Grainline Studio (love that Jen Beeman), which they did. So those are my know-your-source souvenirs from a thoroughly lovely trip.

Single-flock souvenirs