There’s a lot to be said for fair isle, that lovely stranded color work technique that produces shock and awe responses in the uninitiated. Even intermediate knitters who have not tried fair isle can be intimidated by its polished and impressive look. While it looks daunting, it’s not as tricky as it seems.
In traditional fair isle, only two colors are used per row, with additional colors added or alternated in subsequent rows of a fair isle pattern. The other saving grace of many fair isle knit pieces is that they are done completely in the round, as in a yoke of a pullover or a hat. Circular fair isle utilizes only knit rows, making the alternating of colors much more accessible and easy. Fair isle knit back and forth requires knit and purl rows and, believe me, it’s just not as fun.
The truly hardcore fair isle knit is the one that is “steeked” to make a cardigan or armhole openings in a top-down knit sweater. This endeavor is for the knitter with a sewing machine, scissors and no fear! Steeking lets you knit every round of a fair isle motif, but allows for extra stitches within the body of the piece at the front where the cardigan will open. Generally these extra stitches are not patterned and are reinforced with vertical lines of machine sewn seams after the knitting is complete. The machine stitching on either side of the extra stitches locks the knitting on either side and allows you to CUT through the middle of the extra stitches. Once this leap of faith has occurred, raw stitches are picked up on either side to knit cardigan bands.
In the end, the beauty is obvious. Fair Isle and steeking aren’t for everyone, but Karen Brehm makes it look easy. Here is the progression of Karen’s baby sweater from Dale Booklet 142, Design 6 using Canopy Fingering from the Fibre Company. Sleeves were knit first on dpns, then body from the bottom up. Sleeves and body are then joined when it’s time to knit the color work yoke. In this piece, the picked up button and buttonhole bands fold over to the inside to provide a completely finished look. Bravo KB!!!
When my children were little, I didn’t knit. Now that I do knit and have unlimited access to all the best there is, knitting for babies is my very favorite thing. Knitting for little ones has everything going for it…the projects are small, which makes them easy to finish. The patterns are irresistible, which makes you NEED to make them. The yarns are beautiful and soft. Nothing makes a knitter happier than to knit with a particular baby in mind or for one who is on the way. I know more than a few knitters who are making things ahead for prospective grandchildren or gifts. It’s not for everyone, but it is for those of us wanting to knit while we have the mind and hands for it. Don’t laugh…knitters think this way!
At Woolworks, we take knitting for wee ones seriously and have a room in our very small space dedicated just to kids and babies. It provides a bright and inspirational atmosphere for moms, grandmas, aunts, uncles and just about anyone who needs a fix of cuteness. Our kids room is chock full of store samples and yarns to make anything from the most simple hat to a complicated fair isle sweater or knit toy.
Imagine my delight when my nephew asked for a knit baby dress for his little girl, Tatum’s baptism. Despite feeling honored to be asked, I was slightly panicked since the deadline was less than a month away. I ran the idea of the ‘Clara Dress’ from Tutto by my nephew & niece and was off and running. I had made Clara before and knew I could make it again. The parents measured little Tatum and I knit like the crazy great-aunt that I am.
The dress moved along and I was able to ship it with a few days to spare. The day Tatum’s mommy, Rachel, sent me the dress rehearsal picture, I felt like I’d won the lottery. A beautiful baby in a most special knit dress, all ready to go. A few days later, Tatum was baptized with family and friends around her. I wasn’t there for the ceremony, but I feel like the dress was there, acting like a big hug from me.
This week we received a shipment of Zauberball Crazy in from Schoppel and it brings to mind a project that we have always wanted to try. Funky Grandpa by La Maison Rilile is a boxy, deep v-neck cardigan with a top-down, almost-all-in-one piece construction that is fascinating. http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/funky-grandpa
Funky Grandpa is not a new design, but it is very much a timeless one. It’s not trendy or high fashion. In fact, what makes Funky Grandpa so appealing (beyond the name), is the fact that any body type can wear it. The wide range of sizes and customizable shaping make it accessible to everyone. This design’s fashion comes from its retro style. Our Grandpas wore the basic shape, as did Mr. Rogers. What sweater loving person can’t relate to either of those guys? Zauberball Crazy is a fingering weight yarn that has fairly long color runs that gradiate, but also change between tweedy and solid within those sections. Funky Grandpa uses Zauberball Crazy to jazz up solid fingering weight sections every so often, making you look like a brilliant colorist.
To set the Zauberball Crazy off we like Claudia Handpainted Yarns newly renamed semi-solid fingering “Addiction” and have many choices in stock that mesh beautifully. Other fingering choices would be Malabrigo Sock, Dream in Color Smooshy or even a more luxurious choice like Rowan Finest or Canopy Fingering from the Fibre Company. The options are many and the choices all good.
We’re going to give it a try. Stay tuned. Or come on in and try it with us. Everyone should have a Funky Grandpa.
Every once and awhile we get a project going at the shop that takes off with a lot of customers. In this case, a customer brought this pattern and book to our attention (Thank you, Brenda Wilson!) and it grew from there. The book Wearwithall: Knits For Your Life is a compilation of patterns by various designers and spans the range from kids to adults to home goods.
One factor that is a common thread in popular shop projects is their accessibility for a wide range of knitters. The skills needed here are pretty basic: the ability to knit and purl with gorgeous yarns. The most important skill with this project turns out to be PATIENCE, with a side order of stick-to-it-tiveness! “Stole”, by Theresa Gaffey is a lot of stitches in a basic rib pattern, using 9 different colors. The yarn used for this project is the gorgeous Isager Alpaca 2, a 50/50 blend of alpaca and merino. The color palette of Alpaca 2 is glorious, with many options when choosing for a project of this type.
An excerpt from the Wearwithall blog gives a description of designer Theresa Gaffey’s style and knitting sensibility:
“Knitting and crocheting are my equivalent of worry beads – a way to focus my mind while keeping my hands busy. My life is often overly complicated, so in my designs, I gravitate toward elegant simplicity – say, a simple rib contrasted with stripes of gorgeous colors – a project that is easy to knit, but satisfying. And I’m always working on something. When I’m lucky, my passion for yarn and my editing career overlap, as it did with Wearwithall.”
Customers making this project have the full range of Isager Alpaca 2 to choose from. Once the job of casting on a zillion stitches is done, the meditative ribbing begins. Changing colors is a highlight and watching the piece emerge spurs you on. While the knitting of a piece like “Stole” can be tedious, the finished object yields incredible results. Kim models Barbara Steinhart’s freshly blocked version below. Elegant indeed.
When Brenda, Susie Bank, Amy Gold, Suzanne Dagurt and the many others finish their “worry-bead” project, we’ll be sure to post pictures!
Check out “Stole” by Theresa Gaffey on Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/stole
The Mystery KAL’s just keep on coming! During our May/June Thursday knit along nights, lots of folks took part in the most recent Kelbourne Woolens May Day Mystery KAL. Courtney Kelley of Kelbourne Woolens featured Fibre Company MEADOW in a pattern that was doled out clue-by-clue for 6 weeks. This one was a toughie, as it was “true lace”; meaning you knit lace patterning on both the right and wrong side of the work. The finished object was stunning – a lace shawl that started at the neck with a tab cast on and finished with a gorgeous, flowing lace edge. Kim and Karen both used Meadow and Susan used Isager Spinni for a little different size and feel. All the shawls are show-stoppers as you’ll see….At the end of the mystery KAL, the pattern was named BELTANE.
For lots more information about this project, access the links below our finished objects!
KAREN’S BELTANE: FIBER COMPANY MEADOW “Queen Anne’s Lace”
KIM’S BELTANE: THE FIBRE COMPANY MEADOW “Aster”
SUSAN’S BELTANE: ISAGER SPINNI “28-s”
Find the pattern here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/beltane-shawl-2
Read about MEADOW here: http://kelbournewoolens.com/yarns/meadow/
Mystery KAL Round up from Kelbourne blog: http://kelbournewoolens.com/blog/2014/6/may-day-mystery-knit-a-long-round-up
See other Beltane shawls on Instagram at #KWMKAL
A couple of months ago I was scrolling through Instagram and happened upon a post from Rosemary “Romi” Hill about her upcoming Mystery Knit A Long, “It’s a Mystery” shawl and decided to give mystery-knitting-along a whirl. With that, I entered into what was a fun, interesting and challenging knitting endeavor and dragged several of my compadres at the shop along!
For starters, Mystery Knit Alongs ( KAL’s) were all over the place on Ravelry and I was curious to see how they worked and what people liked about participating in them. The formula is pretty simple: a designer makes a knitting project available in clues and those clues are doled out one at a time over the course of several weeks. Participants are told what supplies and skills are needed, and what the object is they are knitting, but not much else. After an initial pattern purchase (which many times is the pre-release price for a new pattern), a clue is delivered to your Ravelry Library and you are notified via email. You pick up your needles, the first clue, and start knitting.
Designers establish a Ravelry discussion board around the KAL and moderators administer the discussion threads, answering questions, commenting on progress and encouraging participants. Participants can comment, ask questions, post pictures of their progress and socialize with others. There are even SPOILER threads on which pictures are allowed for those who want to see what others are doing.
As Romi’s “It’s A Mystery” shawl KAL progressed, both the shop participants and knitters on Ravelry formed an ongoing conversation about the techniques, colors and accessibility of the project. It was fun to see what people chose for their color combinations and see their progress, week by week. Romi even stalked the Ravelry thread occasionally to get a peek at how things were going.
At the conclusion of “It’s A Mystery”, the project/pattern was renamed “Red Rock Canyon” which aptly describes the effect of the lace and color work sections of the beautiful finished shawl. I wrote to Romi and asked her if she’d mind answering a few questions for me that I could share with our readers and she most generously agreed!
Amy: When were you first aware of Mystery KAL’s?
Romi: I knew that there were people doing mystery shawls back in 2005 and it intrigued me, so I finally tried one in 2007: Melanie Gibbons’ Swan Lake Mystery Shawl. I’m kind of a control freak, so it was a giant leap of faith for me.
Amy: As a designer, does a KAL help roll out a new pattern/design? Are they good sales tools for designers?
Romi: That’s difficult to answer for everyone, so I’ll just comment on my own case. I personally love to do KALs because my Ravelry forum enjoys knitting together. There’s a fantastic community there, and I know they like to have all my pattern releases spread out so they can hang out, chat, and share stories while they work.
Amy: Do you design a piece as a KAL, or design a piece and figure out how to break it down into a KAL?
Romi: For my non-mystery KALs, I just design pieces without thinking about how people with end up knitting them – whether alone or in a group. For a mystery KAL (this was my second one), I definitely design the pattern with the mystery in mind rather than breaking it down into clues later. I try to break it into 5 fairly equal pieces that have something interesting about them. My favorite thing is to begin with a clue that gives the impression of heading in a different direction from where the piece will ultimately end up. Maybe I will end a clue with the top of a motif that looks completely different broken up, or in the case of the Red Rock Canyon shawl, the first clue used shaping reminiscent of a circular shawl before getting triangular in the next clue.
Amy: How do you decide who your moderators will be on Ravelry?
Romi: It’s super important to me that my forum is a welcoming, friendly and supportive place. My moderators are all helpful and kind, and love to chat with people. We share a common goal in wanting everyone to feel comfortable and relaxed, like knitting together in a friendly living room.
Amy: When you read the Ravelry threads related to each clue, what gets you the most excited?
Romi: I love, love, LOVE seeing all the different color combinations people choose. Some I never would think of to try and they look amazing! Watching it all come together is an incredible feeling.
Amy: What do you feel makes a great/successful Mystery KAL?
Romi: Being moderate, I think. In other words: it needs some element of surprise, but not too terribly much, and it needs to look similar to my other work so knitters can decide whether or not they want to participate. I try not to do anything off-the-wall for mysteries. And above all, it needs to be FUN! My wonderful moderators and Ravelry group members made the KAL a really friendly and encouraging place to be, and I think – in the end – a positive experience and a beautiful product are the most important things.
We are most grateful to Romi for sharing her process with us. To view Red Rock Canyon on Ravelry, please visit the link below:
Have you been sucked into the creative and visually stunning vortex that is PINTEREST yet? Well we have and believe you me, we are not always proud of the amount of time we’re spending doing it! However, (and this is important) it is an extremely valuable resource for all creative types. Just last week we started the Woolworks, Baltimore Pinterest account, after having individual accounts amongst us for a couple of years. The idea behind Pinterest is to create virtual “boards”, by category of things you like. These boards can be any subject matter and when we say the possibilities are endless of what you’ll find, we are not kidding.
With that in mind, the Woolworks, Baltimore Pinterest is made up of 19 boards so far – all having to do with knitting, crochet, needle felting, buttons, inspiration and design. We’ve chosen knitwear designers to “follow” on Pinterest so that you – our followers – may see what current designers are pinning and planning. If you choose to follow Woolworks, you’ll have access to an already curated batch of boards that cater to what we all love the most. In addition, when following our “Feed”, you’ll scroll through and see what some incredibly talented people are doing and what they are inspired by when it comes to fiber arts.
If you haven’t joined Pinterest yet (it’s free, there’s an app, etc.), please do. Once you have an account, look for us – Woolworks, Baltimore – and give us a follow. We think you’ll like what you see. Best of all, most of the “pins” track back to the source, whether it’s Ravelry, Rowan’s website, great blogs, tutorials, etc. It goes on and on. We love it and we’re pretty sure you will too!
We know…it’s crunch week. The needles are flying, nerves are fraying and gosh darn it, there’s MORE to do! Every knitter, crocheter, needle felter and handcrafter is at their wits end trying to finish what is started for gift giving. In light of this very specific angst, we’d like to say this: We all do it. We all plan, have good intentions and amazing ideas, all ready for execution. The reality is, there are only so many hours left and the toothpicks holding your eyelids open are starting to pinch!
For those of you wanting that last minute save, we’ve ordered the greatest reusable project bags that are set to arrive Friday of this week. The wonderful Della of DellaQ has designed plain fabric drawstring bags that have
one of three sayings on them…”Shhh…I’m counting”, “Knit With Love” and “Cheaper Than Therapy”. We figured we’d give you a clever vessel to put that last minute, perhaps even unfinished project in to give on Christmas morning. For $10, you really can’t go wrong. A bunch of cute colors in all of the sayings are on their way to us.
We also want to remind you about our great Gift Card Deal that is on until December 24th. For every $50 gift card you buy, we throw in an extra $5 to sweeten the pot. So if you go for $100 (for that very lucky recipient), they will get $110 to spend as they choose. Like you, we love a deal and we hope this helps with some of the knitters on your list.
An easy gift for even the non knitter or crocheter is one of the gorgeous JUL Designs shawl sticks or pins. They come in a pretty organza drawstring pouches and are sure to please any lady on your list. We have the Twig Lace Pin pictured below, as well as Pearl Tendril Fermoir Pin, and a variety of shawl sticks with various stones…For specifics, please come in. We have a great selection, all priced from $17 up.
We wish you a wonderful holiday with your family and friends. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being our customers and we greatly value your friendship and patronage. We look forward to seeing you in 2013 and continuing the fun!
Amy, Mindy, Kim, Karen
As Labor Day approaches, we all seem to have the “back to school” mentality. The kids are getting their last swim in and their supplies ready. The rest of us think about how our schedule is going to change once the calendar flips to September. At Woolworks, we look forward to Fall especially, with the new Fall/Winter products arriving each day and the shelves switching over to cool weather fibers, patterns and idea inspiration. This season is no exception, with the abundance of enticing new colors, fiber combinations and patterns to support the yarns.
A big part of our shop learning curve this fall is our new Point of Sale System which arrives today and will be installed on Monday. We eagerly await the new, improved check-out system, loyalty program and bar-code scanner! We feel a little nervous about getting ourselves acclimated and “online” with it all, but feel sure we can do it. This coming Monday, August 27th, we will close our doors at 2:00pm to get things set up and organized. We’ll be Back-To-School ourselves that day and we’re hoping it is indeed possible to teach a few old dogs a very new trick! Please indulge us in this half day of learning. We feel sure it will be worth it!
Speaking of learning, our Fall/Winter Class Schedule is available on this site and we hope you’ll find something you’d like to learn this year. We have all sorts of technique classes and workshops. As always, private instruction is available. Just give us a call and we’ll get that organized for you.
Here’s wishing everyone a smooth transition for Fall, 2012! We hope a Woolworks class will be in your queue, a visit on your way to carpool, and the place you think of coming for amazing yarns!