Today is that rare and thrilling day when I finally get to show you something we’ve been working on for months on end: Meet the new Rambler cross-body satchel! This is my answer to your requests for a cross-body bag, which actually works as a cross-body or a shoulder bag, as well as in the hand. I’ve been carrying it daily, traveling with and loving it for half the year — and I hope you’ll love it, too. Today is also Winter 2019 Lookbook day, and you can read lots more about the Rambler in the lookbook intro or on the product page in the shop.
We gave subscribers to the shop newsletter first dibs on the Rambler last month, as supplies will be limited, and I want to emphasize this with you all, too — supplies will be limited! There are only so many we can produce for the holiday season, so if you want one, act on it. And if you run into a Sold Out moment, please use the Notify Me button to be alerted whenever a new batch arrives. We’ll do our very best to make sure everyone who wants one can get one, but can make no guarantees!
The Rambler design was obviously inspired by the Porter Bin, my personal favorite of our bags, and having the canvas and webbing in the right weight and color for the Rambler has meant that the Porter is now finally available in toffee, too! Which I know you’ll be as happy about as I am.
And I hope you’ll also take a moment to look through this winter’s lookbook. Creating the lookbook is possibly my favorite of my many jobs with Fringe, and I’m really pleased with what we’ve put together for your perusal this holiday season. It was shot by my friend Hannah Messinger down at the pretty little Airbnb at Bloomsbury Farm, which has become my favorite place to shoot. It’s equal parts beautiful and rugged, which is just what I aim for with all things Fringe!
The Fall/Winter 2019 issue of Amirisu landed on my desk last week and I had a bit of a swoon. It is stunningly beautiful from front to back, and there’s not a single thing in there I wouldn’t want to have. (Including the house where it was shot!) I’m not sure the last time I said that about a magazine or book, but while I’m thumbs-up on the entire dozen patterns that comprise the issue, of course there are those that stand out as my very favorites of the bunch:
TOP: Streaks by Keiko Kikuno would make me want to learn how to knit if I didn’t already know how
LOWER LEFT: Fleur by Megumi Sawada is a pretty little lace-and-bobbles hat (which apparently is a thing that appeals to me! who knew)
LOWER RIGHT: Lierne Cowl by Bristol Ivy is a fascinating little loop of pleated coziness
BELOW, UPPER: Escala by Alice Caetano features a mesmerizing fade in texture from smocking to diamonds — I’m obsessed with this
BELOW, LOWER: Wetherell by Kiyomi Burgin is a super charming yoke sweater with additional colorwork accents at the cuffs
IN SHOP NEWS: We’ve got the new MDK Field Guide, No. 13: Master Class with patterns by Kaffe Fassett, as well as a limited-edition set of drawstring bags we’re calling Stash Bags sewn from collected miscuts, in a variety of sizes and colors. They’re sturdy canvas, endlessly useful and priced to sell! (At least one size is actually already sold out …)
Hats are the best. A great way to learn to knit (or crochet!), pick up new skills, add variety to your queue, get that “I made it!” feeling fast. And of course, they don’t require a lot of yarn and they’re the perfect handmade gifts: The receiver is wowed with something you made yourself — without your spending a month or more making it! For this round of the holiday hat knitting cheat sheet, as I did with our Fringe Hatalong Series a few years ago (6 free patterns), I’ve organized it by the skills involved, from what I think of as the simplest to most challenging. You may dispute the order, and of course there’s no requirement that you knit them all or in this sequence, but if you’re looking for some fun patterns for charity or holiday gift knitting, and the chance to maybe pick up some new skills in the process, check out these gems that have caught my eye this year—
I’ve been back from India for two weeks — and granted it’s been a week of brain fog and a week of work mayhem — but I still have yet to figure out how to describe the trip to anyone. It was such a rich and immersive experience, it felt like we were there much longer than we were, and I really struggle to summarize it. I loved it so much. Even just trying to write about the workshop aspect for the sake of the blog, I feel like I can either write a postcard or a book; anything in between is impossible. So I’ve decided to write you a postcard (is how it feels, anyway) and say the same thing I’ve been saying to my husband and friends who want to hear about it: Ask me a question! And I will elaborate accordingly.
The core of the trip was an Ace Camps workshop on block printing in Jaipur, Rajasthan, led by my collaborator and friend Jen Hewett, and it was a better experience than I had even hoped. We actually had three teachers. First, Jen taught a version of the handprinting process that can be done at home using readily available art supplies, since carving a wood block is obviously a very specialized/localized skill. (The at-home method can also be learned from her book Print, Pattern, Sew.) She demonstrated how to create repeats and other techniques, and we practiced printing either on yardage or whatever finished goods we’d brought. My best result was a set of scarves I printed with a super-simple motif inspired by the giant paving stones at the Taj Mahal, which I had the honor of visiting beforehand. During the first phase of the workshop, we also took a field trip to the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing to learn about the history of block printing in the region, and got to see master printers at work there and in a visit to Brigitte Singh’s beautiful compound (above), where we also got to see the carving process. All of which was groundwork to be followed by two brilliant days printing with wood blocks in Bagru studios, learning from local experts.
Our second teacher, first day in Bagru, was Raj (above) whose company, Ojjas, is part of a collective of manufacturers committed to sustainable practices such as using natural dyes and recycling the water involved. With Raj and her team, we learned about mud resist (dabu), using their wood blocks to print with their specially-made mud on fabric, which we then sprinkled with sawdust and laid out in the sun to dry. We did two pieces — a practice print and a finished scarf — which were variously dipped into vats of kashish or indigo, then another round of mud resist and a dip in the same or opposite dye, depending, for a variety of final results. (Naturally, Jen’s was amazing.) It was a day with a lot of downtime, waiting as each step dried in the sun, and my favorite part was listening to Raj talk about the relationship between climate and textile traditions in different parts of India, as well as the current state of the business of block printing.
And then our second day in Bagru, the last official day and culmination of the workshop, our third teacher was Hemant of Jai Texart (in the blue apron, above) — an unforgettable experience that I wish I could repeat. We’d had the opportunity to submit artwork ahead of time for the carvers to convert to a wood block, which we received upon arrival in Jaipur. After giving a short talk about natural and synthetic dyes and then showing us the grounds and their various capabilities (during which we helped mordant fabric for the next group), Hemant taught us some best practices for block printing, set us up with a series of tasks to perform and get the hang of, and then we got to print a giant stole using our custom blocks and any of theirs they had laid out for us, and our choice of four natural dyes. Not having made anything I especially loved on dabu day (when I let perfectionism get the better of me), I was feeling extra pressure to leave with a treasure, and I’m exceptionally happy with how mine turned out.
But far more than what I made, what I truly treasure is what I got to see and learn and, most of all, the people we got to meet, who were so generous in showing us their craft. As exquisite as block-print textiles are, I feel like they are one of those things that are easy to overlook or take for granted in our age of mechanized and digitized everything. I mean, how many people even realize it’s a handcraft, or marvel at the fact that it persists to this day? It is incredible that there are still artisans who painstakingly carve designs into chunks of wood, dyers who extract inks to be used with them, printers (human beings, not machines) who stand at long tables — padded by layer upon layer of burlap — dipping those mostly 6″ or 8″ wood blocks into a little wooden tray of ink and stamping the design onto fine cotton muslin, repeating each stamp across the fabric (without any markings or guidelines), then going back over the same ground with the next color, one block at a time, until they’ve created yardage. And these are skills that have been passed down through generations across centuries. Experiencing it all first-hand has given me a whole different level of appreciation for it.
See? I barely told you anything at all and yet this is six paragraphs long, so please ask me anything you want to know more about, and I will happily oblige. It’s an experience I’m profoundly grateful for and eager to discuss.
It’s officially knitting season. I know because my brain is like “What’s a sewing machine?” and my fingers are like “Why are we not knitting?” I am knitting, but it’s also officially peak crazy season for me with work, so there’s little time for anything else. But as it goes, by squeaking in a row before bed here and there I’ve crossed the magic dividing line, and my cardigan-in-progress now has sleeve caps and a body. I’m absolutely dying to get to the shawl collar on it, and given that it’s as much knitting as a sleeve, I think I’m going to change up the order a bit on this one and finish the body first (which I usually do last), so I can do the collar next, then the sleeves last. I’m convinced that having that collar on there will light a fire under me and I’ll race through the sleeves so I can wear it.
But I’m also pondering baby sweaters. I’ve got two tiny new great-nieces (cousins to each other), and the circumstances for their arrivals are complicated. So I feel strongly that my first baby cardigans are in order. I just need to settle on patterns and yarn and then they’ll take precedence over this lovely green stockinette beast. Feel free to tell me your all-time favorite baby sweater patterns!
Right on the heels (har!) of that conversation about how socks are the perfect travel project but I’m not a sock knitter, I’m feeling tempted by socks. No doubt fueled by your comments as well as the extremely cute pair of Harper socks that my friend Jen just finished. Sock temptation happens to me once in awhile but somehow the socks never do. Will any of these make it from my favorites list to my needles?
TOP: Open Heart by Ainur Berkimbayeva are some darling slipper socks
MIDDLE RIGHT: Thaba also by Dawn Henderson are the full sock-knitting commitment, but oh so cute!
BOTTOM: Willard Socks by Alicia Plummer are basically the dense house socks of my dreams
p.s. I’m still working on my India tale for you! I’m a bit swamped, having been gone and then come back right at my very busiest work moment of the year, and I also underestimated the challenge of boiling it down into words! But soon, soon.