Vacation with me?

Two weeks! I was in Florida for two whole weeks and while it was awesome, I am really glad to be home. Home with my yarn and my work and this glowing box that allows me to communicate with the entire world!

We went to the beach and played putt-putt. We went to pools galore and ate all of the shrimp we could get our hands on. And it was awesome! But you know what? I was still knitting. Of course I took knitting. And I took my video camera so I would have stuff to show y’all when I came back.

I made a vlog while I was down there.

And of course I visited a yarn store

or two

Stash - A Place for Yarn

Stash – A Place for Yarn

Actually three

Roxy's Yarn

Roxy’s Yarn

In order top to bottom I visited A Good Yarn in Sarasota, Stash – A Place For Yarn in St. Petersburg, and Roxy’s Yarn in Tampa. Each one was a completely different feel but each one was fabulous in it’s own way. A Good Yarn carries an almost overwhelming array of yarns (almost, I can totally take it). Stash is a meticulously curated selection of lovely yarns in a funky, arty part of town. And Roxy’s impressed me with their diverse range of yarns and impressive list of classes classes chalked up behind the register. I would be wonderfully happy if I lived in any of these cities and was able to call the store “my” LYS.

Local Yarn Stores are the heart and soul of the knitting community. There is no denying that I frolic in the knitting cybersphere but there really isn’t anything that can replace the importance of the brick & mortar store. Do you have a local yarn store that you love? I hope you do.

I really want to make more store/shopping videos like the one above at A Good Yarn. Hopefully I will be able to travel more and see stores everywhere. If you have a great yarn store near you that I need to check out please let me know in the comments. Maybe I can convince my family to plan our vacations around yarn stores?😉

 

Scarab Shawl Revisited Again

It is an unfortunate fact of life that yarns get discontinued. I don’t blame the yarnies, they have to do what their customers want. But it can create some issues. When I re-knit the Scarab Shawl for independent publication (it was originally published in Knit Now) I was lucky enough to receive yarn from one of my favorite dyers Miss Babs.  The alpaca/silk blend that we decided to pair with the pattern brought a whole new look to the shawl and I adore it. I sometimes take it out and pet it. But alas, all good things must pass

But let us not look upon it as a loss, but as an opportunity! An opportunity to see Scarab knit in an entirely different yarn! This time the crack team at Anzula just happened to be introducing a brand new Sport weight MCN called Ava. And you know, the difference between DK & Sport weight is in the “close enough” category considering the non-fitted nature of this shawl. It was a bit of a gamble, but one that paid off.

Scarab Shawl - a lace shawl by Barbara Benson in Anzula Ava

I still love this delicate lace.

Look how beautifully the yarn paired with the pattern. This color is called Misfit and I am totally in love with it. I kinda don’t want to mail the sample back to California but it needs to be reunited with its owner. It was such a pleasure to do a photo shoot with this shawl and my model Fatimah is just the picture of beauty isn’t she?

Scarab Shawl, a knitted shawl from Barbara Benson in Anzula Ava

We do have about as much fun as it looks.

Really, I don’t need to say much, the pictures speak for themselves.

Scarab Shawl, a knitted shawl from Barbara Benson in Anzula Ava

But of course, before it departs on its journey I decided to make a pattern tour video.

In the video you will see the two shawls side by side. There are subtle differences in how the yarn behaved but both are beautiful. I think that you should knit two!

TNNA 2016 – it happened!

I know y’all have been waiting in anticipation to find out if I said anything ridiculous. OF COURSE I DID! We’ll let it be a mystery what that might have been specifically – but it wasn’t a fatal blow.

It seems like forever ago and just yesterday that I got back. Things have been complicated by the fact that I brought back a combo sinus infection/bronchitis which pretty much knocked me out last week.  I would have blogged last week but OMG was I wiped out. And there was the yarn hangover.

What’s a yarn hangover you might ask? It’s when I have seen so many beautiful yarns in so many beautiful colors … and when I have been talking with other talented designers about their amazing ideas … my brain gets so very full of ideas zipping about that I get a little yarn drunk. I cannot focus on one thing because of ALL OF THE THINGS clamoring for my attention. And after the drunk comes the hangover, as usual.

But it was totally worth it. Worth it to get the opportunity to chat with the many, many yarn store owners who came by my booth and allowed me to explain what all of my craziness is about. Worth it to hear of the exciting things that are going on in their shops and how I might be a part of them. Worth it to spend 4 glorious days surrounded by people who love knitting and yarn as much as I do. If you were one of the awesome people who stopped by and chatted with me – thank you.

Deeply and sincerely, thank you. It is why I do this thing called designing.

Of course I took my trusty video making apparatus! I made video at TNNA to share with y’all, so that you can see a small fraction of what I saw.

And I also made a vlog showing some of the fun items I brought home with me.

If you are not of the video inclined I have a whole passel of links that you can check out!

I received a cool doo-hickey called a Fix-a-Stitch that you can keep in your knitting tool arsenal to help you fix boo-boos in your knitting. Beroco Yarn has several really cool new yarns including a cotton/wool blend that I think might just have to become my first baby blanket pattern (what do y’all think of baby blankets?)  And I have a beautiful color combo from Baah! Yarn that will be becoming a shawl in the not to distant future.
And in the screen shot above you can see a new version of  my Scarab Shawl that was knit up in a beautiful new sport weight yarn from Anzula Luxury Fibers. Expect to hear more about this in the very near future after I get my camera out and shooting!

Do y’all have any questions about TNNA? I would be happy to babble more if there is more you’d like to hear! Let me know in the comments.

I’m headed to DC

On Thursday I will be getting up very early in the morning and heading out to TNNA which is located in our nation’s capital this year. It has been a while since I’ve been to DC, but I will be spending 95% of my time in a convention center, so it isn’t like I will get to see the city.

I am pretty excited and nervous about the trip. Well, not the trip itself but the convention. I adore meeting all the wonderful knitters but I am always worried that I am going to say something ridiculous. Actually I am pretty much guaranteed that I am going to say something ridiculous. Hopefully most people will think it is part of my “charm”. And if you want to increase your chances of me saying something ridiculous come later in the day. The more I have been talking the more I am likely to say.

If you have ever wanted to see any of my pieces in person, now’s your chance! I have plans and chains and sticks and tables and all kinds of stuff to set up my booth, which I am sharing with the awesome Andrea Rangel so be sure to stop by if you are there.

On the YouTube front I finally worked out the tech aspect of doing a Skype interview and had a lovely chat with Stephannie Tallent who has a new Craftsy class on designing your own color work fingerless mitts.

I split the interview up into two parts to keep the videos relatively short. First, an interview that is mostly about the Craftsy class ( I say mostly because staying on topic is not my strong suit):

And then we have what I call the “outtakes” which is where we went more in-depth into some Craftsy stuff and then seriously derailed into talking about knitting while binge watching TV.

I had a ton of fun making this video and I hope that y’all enjoy watching it. If you do please let me know in the comments so I can do more. If you have any suggestions on who I could talk to, please let me know!

Finally a little reminder. I now have a monthly e-newsletter that I would love for you to sign up for if you haven’t already. The first Thursday of each month I will be sending out a recap of what happened in the previous month, what’s on my needles, and a sneak peek of things to come. For at least the first few months I will also include a one time use coupon code for 25% off any of my independently published patterns on Ravelry. Click Here to sign up.

Conversations with yarn

My design process is slightly non-standard. I rarely start with a fully formed vision, sketch the design, and set about finding yarn that will work. I tend to start with the yarn. I have a conversation with the yarn. I try to find out what it likes and dislikes. Where its strengths lie and where it might prefer not to go.

Or.

I start with the stitches. My mind asks me “what if” I did something weird and then I swatch to see what will happen. Sometimes I begin with one stitch and end up swatching a length of fabric where subtle changes in the pattern evolves into something completely different (and coincidentally a gigantic swatch). Often this process begins with yarn that I have laying around. So then I have the fun of trying out the newly born stitch with other yarns to see what kind of yarn the stitch likes.

One commonality you might note in this is that the yarn and the stitches seem to be the boss of me. And they kinda are. Sometimes I manage to bully yarn into doing what *I* want, but most of the time it is me learning from them.

Yarn from The Ross Farm

The Ross Farm wool

All of this is lead in to some beautiful yarn that I have been having an ongoing Serious Conversation with. It is a unique and amazing yarn that has been taking me to school.  The Ross Farm raises rare heritage breed sheep with care and love and use their wool to create beautiful yarn. Leicester Longwool to be specific. It is such a different beast from the wools that I typically work with that it has been a very steep learning curve.

It is minimally processed, lightly spun, and undyed. Each label has a picture of the sheep from whence the wool came and the color of the yarn is the color of the sheep. And I wanted to do color-work. Yadda, yadda, yadda

A color-work lace swatch

A swatch is a Proto Pattern

I think I might have finally found a stitch for this yarn. This is a combination of my two design techniques. The above pattern was the result of an experimental stitch swatch combined with extensive swatching with the yarn to find what it loved. What do y’all think? Is this worth pursuing? If yes – what type of FO would you see for this? I have one skein each of the two colors with ~ 250 yards of Sport weight.

Maybe a small shawlish thing? Cowl? Scarf? If you can visualize this as something I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Great Mail Week

Have you ever had a great mail week? Where you open the mailbox and find something awesome? Walk up to your door and find a package? Answer the knock and it is your friendly parcel delivery person? I hope you have because it is fantastic! I had a great mail week this week. I received two knitting related packages and opened them both as “Unboxings” for my YouTube channel.

The first was something that I ordered for my booth at the Summer TNNA show. Its use is the only thing that really makes it knitting related.

The second was my Secret Shopper for this month. Have I mentioned how much I love doing this? There are so many amazing products out there for knitters and I know that I will never find them all. Having one of you kind souls share with me some thing that you have discovered is absolutely amazing.

A huge shout out of thanks to CathyG (it’s a Ravelry handle) to being my intrepid shopper this month! If you have an idea for Secret Shopper, something you think I need to have, please drop me a note and we can see if we can schedule you.

Til There Was You

The design of this shawl was driven almost entirely by the yarn. I had come up with a shaping idea, but other than that I had little to no ideas of what the details would be. It was me and the yarn and a bunch of swatching for quite some time. What precisely did this yarn like? What did it do well? And I found that it really loved cables. The chunky weight gave the cables great presence even with a 2/2 cross and the softness and bloom filled the cables in to create a wonderful field of texture in the basket weave pattern. You may recognize the Stitch Sprouts Crater Lake from a previous pattern release. This one has actually been in the works since before that one, but patterns will do what they will. Some cooperate, some take more nurturing.

Til There Was You  - An elegant white shawl with bulky yarn and cables.

Ever since In Uffish Thought I have been enamored of the idea of using a cabled selvedge to prevent rolling because it just looks so cool. For this the challenge was making the cable run seamlessly along the top edge when the construction was top down. The solution to that is Judy’s Magic Cast on, only worked flat. I didn’t want the texture of the cables to overwhelm the shawl so I kept the body simple. This also had the bonus of highlighting the lines of lace that make up the functional increases of this shawl. This wedge increasing eventually transitions into a pi-shawl increase to provide a blank slate (without increases) for the basket-weave trim.

Til There Was You  - An elegant white shawl with bulky yarn and cables from Barbara Benson.

A 10.5 needle produces beautiful drape,

You can easily size the shawl up and down by increasing or decreasing the number of repeats you work of the stockinette body. The rule of thumb to remember is that the trim will take about 50% of your yarn. As written the body takes about 150 grams of yarn and then the trim takes 150 grams. If you want to knit the body for 200 grams then you will need at least 200 grams for the trim. Does that make sense? And of course – since you are changing things on the fly, you might want to have an extra skein, just in case.😉

Til There Was You  - An elegant white shawl with bulky yarn and cables from Barbara Benson.

I love the weight of the trim.

If you would like to check out the video tour of this pattern here it is!