Sunday, September 22, 2013

So, two years ago, as I was getting ready to leave the fairgrounds on Sunday afternoon, Ysolda walked up to me and asked if I would be interested in being part of a project she was working on - a collection of sweaters that would capture the spirit of the New York Sheep and Wool Festival and celebrate the tradition of the Rhinebeck Sweater, which is a project you begin early and finish in time to wear to the festival.  And, oh, yes I was!

Then, one year ago, I showed up with sweater in hand (or, really in protective bag, as it's white and needs to remain spotless for a while longer) and I spent a few pre-festival, post-rainstorm hours on the grounds with Ysolda (and Gudrun!) taking photos - while all the vendors loaded up their tents with yarn and goodies for the weekend.    And since then, I've had to sit quiet, knowing there was a full year until the project would be done and ready to share.

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Not easy, I tell you.  But another year has passed and I finally get to show it to you!

This is Beekman Tavern, named for the colonial era tavern in the quaint little downtown of Rhinebeck, which is a stone's throw from the fairgrounds.  Every October, this tavern sees an influx of knitters, in their hats and shawls -  and especially in their sweaters, painstakingly planned and knit to show off for the weekend.  They sit at the old, wooden bar and order drinks and catch up with friends who they only get to see once a year, or who they knit with all year long and travel up with for the festival.  Houses are rented and the hotels are full.  It's a really special festival.

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But it's the producers who make the fiber that this is really about.  And I wish you could feel the yarn I used through your screen.  When Ysolda first approached me, I had just fallen in love with this Cormo from Foxhill Farm and was dying for the excuse to work with it. Alice Field, who runs the farm, is exactly what a fiber festival is all about. She’s committed to her craft, raising a flock of cormo sheep out in Western Massachusetts, from which she makes exquisite yarn. She’s a small batch producer, who runs her own business and her main retail outlet is the variety of festivals up and down the East Coast.

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It's the stuff that yarn dreams are made of, I swear.  Absolutely worth the trip to the fair.  And it was perfect for what I wanted to design - an updated version of the classic Fisherman's sweater - a little softer and more feminine, but creamy and perfect and squishy and rustic.

I used some classic motifs, which you see in the openwork on the center panel and the twisted cables bordering it on front and back.  And then I accented those panels with a more unexpected assymetrical cable on either side. For another modern touch, I ran the tails of that cable down into the bottom ribbing on both front and back.  I then added cables to the sleeves, worked a detailed raglan seam, and designed the sweater as a bottom up seamless pullover to allow for shaping modifications. (I wear mine a little slouchy, but you know I like to give you options, so side panels make altering the fit very easy.)

I also had fun with an updated neckline, adding a notch and a few buttons to a more open collar - instead of the traditional crew neck you see on these sweaters, for a more feminine feel.  And since this is maybe my favorite photo of all, showing the cables and the notch, I'll put it up here again for you.  I may have already used it a few times before on Facebook and Ravelry :)

The entire collection of 12 sweaters is now available for pre-order, and Ysolda has posted a lookbook on her website so you can see a preview of ALL of the designs.  Really, I'm so honored to be included in such a lovely collection, and so happy to be a part of a project all about the Fair and the people who make it such an amazing experience every year.

The preview includes yardage and schematics for each project, so you can make your purchasing decisions in plenty of time for October! 


And as I finish writing this up, I realize:  ONLY 4 MORE WEEKS TILL RHINEBECK!!  And my sweater is all done.  ;)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

As most of you know, we indie designer types spend a lot of time home alone, but occasionally we leave our dining rooms and computer desks and get to do some pretty cool stuff.   Which is what I did yesterday.  

In preparation for a workshop I am going to be doing at the Slater Mill Knitting Weekend this January, I drove down to Pawtucket, Rhode Island to visit the site and meet the folks who run the museum and are putting the event together.

How beautiful is this?

The Mill has been turned into a gorgeous museum complex with two original mill buildings full of artifacts and old industrial machinery, an original saltbox house, a gift shop and a really lovely park along this river, with sculpture and benches and grassy areas.  A nice respite from my dining room table, I tell you!

The coolest part of mill for me was the little behind-the-scenes tour that I got from Andy, the curator.  Behind his workspace full of old, leather-bound books with faded titles was the archive.  

And in the archive were shelves and shelves of vintage photographs and quilts and smaller pieces of machinery that had been used almost 200 years ago.  This little box was in a drawer of hand-knotters - strap on contraptions straight out of a steampunk novel, that would allow workers to retie strings that had broken on the machine, without getting their hands too close to dangerous machine parts.   (and note the name on the box!)  Who knew?  So cool.

And, then there was this. 
Oh, this....

I nearly died when he opened a box and took out some of the original catalogs of lace motifs and fabric patterns that the mill produced and delivered to their clients in the 1800s.  On each page were beautiful and delicate notes, drawn in careful calligraphy, listing delivery dates or quantities or client names for the specific patterns. 

I'm a stitch dictionary junkie already and I could easily have sat down right there for the rest of the day and been happy.   Instead, I snapped a few photos and hinted that I would love to maybe come back sometime and take another peek.  For now, let's just say that this is NOT the only photo I took of an open page on these books. 

My visit to the mill wasn't all fun and games though, we were making plans.   Some of you careful readers may have noted that I mentioned a workshop up top in that first paragraph.  More details will follow, but it should be a fun weekend, and I'm not the only teacher that will be there!  Stay tuned.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Hi guys. School is underway, Craig is ready to go back to work, and I'm about to reclaim control of the school-day office, the dining room table and the TV/Pandora controls once more.  Life is good. 

Yep, that up there says back to work, and he starts on Monday.  It was a short lived layoff this time, and we are thankful that he's got a new gig as an in-house marketing guy, which will be much more predictable and less stressful than his previous life in various advertising agencies.  (Watch MadMen if you don't know what I'm talking about.  Think Billy Campbell but without the skeeve and the city apartment.  New business, late nights, crazy clients - no more!)

So, I offer you my apologies for the lack of blog posts and cocktails in the last few months.  I know I've only really checked in when I've had a pattern to publish or something to tease you with,but computer time has been short and I've not had a batch of adventures that would lend themselves to good blog stories.

But now, I'll have my freedom and my space back.  I've done the back to school shopping, the signups for all the activities, the week of events, and I got wrangled into being both a committee head on one thing and a room parent for another.  My finger is healing up, and I will soon be bringing my knitting to all the academic, athletic, and musical functions where sitting happens, so you can rest assured that these other distractions will in only add to the amount of  upcoming knitting and any related tales good enough to share here.  

And to show you the upcoming knitting, here's the box here that I'll be digging back into next week and a few of the things I'll be toting along to the next few soccer games.
Two sweaters in testing, two sweaters in knitting, and one on the chair -- still in bag form.    

I can't wait!!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Introducing Tanqueray, a classic seamed sweater that - like the gin - is appropriate for any occasion.  I was in the mood for a real wardrobe staple when I began designing this, and was still happily addicted to the little flowers I've been playing with on Chamonile. Combining the two seemed like the perfect way to go and it made me super happy.  I love the delicate quality of them in this yarn.  (BTW,  am still addicted to the flowers.  You may see them yet again!)

Tanqueray features a deep V with a twisted rib, lace, and floral detail that continues around the shoulders and meets at the back neck.  The detail shows up again at the wrists, but otherwise the bulk of the knitting is all soothing stockinette.

 Cotton Comfort, by Green Mountain Spinnery adds a rustic touch to the sweater, and is a perfect mid-weight DK that can be worn with almost anything, layered with a shirt under, or worn with a jacket over.  It comes in a ton of great colors if you don't need a neutral wear-everywhere silver gray like I did.

And yes, I went seamed this time.   I think it's good to mix things up every once in a while and I was in the mood.  Plus, for a sweater that's going to get a LOT of wear and has a little cotton content, the seams add a little stability over time.  Lots of simple stockinette and clean lines mean mods for your shape are still easy, and so is the finishing.  

The pattern is for sale on Ravelry for $6.50, on you can find it on the Patterns Page on this website (see the link on the bar above?).  Some details are below, and all the info is on the Ravelry page.

Yarn:  Green Mt Spinnery Cotton Comfort, in Silver. 180 yards per skein 1000(1100,1200,1350,1450)(1550,1700,1850,1950) yards. 
Needles:  US#5/3.75mm needles, or size to get gauge.  
Sizing:  Finished width at bust:  33.5(36.5,39.5,42.5,45.5)(48.5,51,54,57)"  Worn with 2.5" of ease.
Gauge:  5.5 stitches/8 rows per 1".  Based on blocked stockinette swatch.

To go with this,  you really just need a perfect Gin and Tonic.

2 oz Tanqueray gin
juice of half lime, fresh squeezed
pour both over ice
Add tonic and another slice of lime

(and my favorite addition - a splash of grapefruit juice)

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A new pattern coming out later this week!

This one in Green Mountain Spinnery's Cotton Comfort - a great pullover to bridge the gap from the crisp days of September, all the way into deep, wooly, cabley Fall.

I told you I wasn't done with those little flowers on Chamonile....