Friday, July 27, 2012

Dora's Crochet Corner- Essential Crochet Books for your Library

When I started to crochet seriously in 2003, very few crochet books were in print, and I ended up cobbling together most of the knowledge I needed from knitting books and out of print crochet books from the 70s and 80s, some of which I still cherish.

It's amazing how many crochet books have been published since that time!  I've been reviewing books at my website, for years, and now have an enormous collection.  Seems like I can look up just about anything I need to know in one or the other of them. 

Today we also have video tutorials that are valuable, especially for learning anything that requires a specific sequence of moves with your hook.  More elaborate concepts, however, like adjusting gauge or shaping, are not so easily shown in a short video. That's why I encourage all crocheters who are interested in building their skills to have a collection of reference books in their library. 

Here are some of the books that I find very thorough and useful.  Every crochet household should have one or two of these references, and no two provide the same information. If there are others I've not included that you really love, please let us know in your comments!
General Reference

200 Crochet Tips, Techniques & Secrets
Jan Eaton
St. Martin's Press
158 pages
This is a hardcover book suitable for both beginners and intermediate crocheters.  Big beautiful photos and diagrams illustrate all the concepts.  In addition to essential basic information, it includes sections on how to read patterns and charts, shaping, designing, garment making and much more. A great book for the large overview of crochet techniques and possibilities, with plenty of detail as well.

Teach Yourself Visually Crochet
Cecily Keim an Kim P. Werker
Wylie Publishing
332 pages
This soft cover book is equally as useful as the one discussed above by Jan Eaton, if slightly less visually appealing.  On the other hand, at about twice the number of pages, there is even more information here, such as sections on Tunisian crochet,  Broomstick, Hairpin Lace, and step by step illustrations of many stitches and motifs.  An excellent guide from which you can learn to crochet, and move from beginner to the next level.

Crochet Tips & Tricks: Shortcuts and Techniques every crocheter should know
by Lily Chin
Potter Craft
Lily is one expert whose advice you can always trust, and this book is filled with great advice.  It's hardcover, small and portable.  Again, the basics are covered, and the author then goes on to more obscure, but potentially project-saving techniques such as the Russian join, how to make a handy dispenser for difficult yarns (for example, ribbon yarn) how to pull out stitches from the middle of a finished piece.  I heartily recommend this for anyone who wants to have a class with Lily right at their fingertips.

The Crochet Answer Book
Edie Eckman
Storey Publishing
320 pages
Another small portable book from an expert, Edie's book provides a tremendous amount of information organized around broad topics.  Edie is a well-known teacher and author who truly understand the problems crocheters run into. This is a source to turn to whenever you have questions about a project or pattern. 

Stitch Dictionaries

If you're looking for crochet inspiration, nothing does the job like a good stitch dictionary, at least for me.  There are several things to look for in these books 1) clear instructions on how to do each pattern 2) clear diagrams of the stitches 3) good photos   4) good organization.  You're not likely to find all these qualities in all the dictionaries.  Then there's the question of quantity -- do you want a huge selection to choose from?  Some books give you that but skimp on  photo quality, while other that provide the latter may have fewer stitches (it's a question of manufacturing cost and book price).  Here are some of my favorites:

Crochet Stitch Designs
by Linda Schapper
Lark crafts
352 pages
Few other dictionaries compare in sheer number of stitches to this one-- there are 500!  Chapters are organized around particular stitches, so there are sections on single and double crochet stitches, V-stitches, several on various types of shells, etc. The book is tech edited and has diagrams by one of the best in the business, Karen Manthey, making it very user friendly, clean and clear.  My one quarrel with this book is the photography of the stitches, which is not crisp, and sometimes  shows too little of the stitch pattern to really see how it looks as a fabric.  Nevertheless I refer to this book often for ideas and variations on patterns, and always find something interesting.

Crochet Inspiration
by Sasha Kagan
Sixth & Spring Books
255 pages
Just like the title says, this is a book to get your fingers itching for the hook.  It's part dictionary, part pattern book, and there are sections on motifs and flowers as well.  Kagan is a renowned knitter with a particular flair for color work, which is obvious here too.  What I love about this book is that swatches are stunning, beautifully photographed, and, in many cases, given an entire page.  Rather than show all the stitches in the same yarn, you'll find thick, thin, fuzzy, smooth and all the variations in between.  It's a large, hardcover book and I'm glad of that too, as several of my paper back reference books have fallen apart.

Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia
Robyn Chachula
272 pages
One of the newest additions to the literature, this hardcover book is authored by a great designer and technician, and nicely presented by Wylie, with a few quibbles.  There are 300 stitch patterns, well organized by technique, including patterns for colorwork, Tunisian crochet, motifs, and edgings. There are many unusual stitches you won't find elsewhere, and a particularly valuable, yet rarely seen, section on joining motifs in various ways. Instructions and diagrams are good.  What I find lacking is the photography of the swatches, which lacks clarity and too often gives only a hazy idea of what the stitch actually looks like.  As mentioned earlier, you can't have everything in a single book, and I would still give this my strong recommendation because of the great variety of new things to learn and do.

Two books I've written are also reference books you might find useful:

Creating Crochet Fabric, (Lark, 2010) is an in depth study of how to make your fabric match your project, from light gossamer shawls to flowing sweaters to sturdy warm hats.  This book teaches you how to work with many different yarns and stitch patterns and get beautiful results, and is the fruit of several years of intense swatching and designing.

Custom Crocheted Sweaters (Lark 2012) is my most recent book which is all about getting sweaters to look great on you.  It covers the many ways to put a sweater together, how to read schematics, how to measure yourself and your store-bought sweaters, and all the math you need to adjust patterns to fit you.  If you want to get into garment making, it's the only book of its kind for crochet.

Hopefully some of these books are already part of your library, and if not, they are definitely worth checking out!

Thanks so much for reading and happy crocheting!

Dora Ohrenstein is an author, designer and writer whose most recent book is Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments that Really Fit.  Her website  is a great source for articles, interviews and techniques, and where she teaches online crochet classes.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Show Your Pride...Knitter's Pride that is!

Dreamz Straight Needle Set
So earlier this week, I received an e-mail from the nice folks over at the Knitter's Pride and they are hosting a super video fun contest over the next few months to encourage us to share our pride for our Knitter's Pride needles! It sounded so cool that we HAD to share it with you!
Dreamz Interchangeable
Deluxe Set

I am a HUGE Knitter's Pride needle fan so of course I am probably going to enter! I can't pass up a beautiful shawl pin! I actually have an older set of Knit Picks Harmony Wood interchangeable needles that are probably five years old. For those of you who don't know, Knitter's Pride has been making those Knit Picks needles for years so even though these needles are new to the market, they have lots of experience making awesome quality knitting products! As I said, I really LOVE my Harmony Wood needles and I was so thrilled to see that Knitter's Pride needles and cables are all compatible with my older set! Not only that, but Knitter's Pride also makes the shorter interchange tips that are compatible with 16" cables for making hats and smaller projects. I went a little crazy buying all of the sizes to fill out my set and have been happily knitting away ever since! Plus, the Dreamz are actually color coded so that each size is a different color making it easier to find in your needle case!

Nova Interchangeable
Deluxe Set
Dreamz Crochet Set
The contest itself is pretty sweet! To see full details, be sure to check out the details page on the Knitter's Pride Website. Basically, everyone who submits a video will receive a free Shawl Pin (awesome, we all love free stuff), and then you'll be entered into a drawing to win a full set of needles of your choice! That means you can choose from Knitter's Pride Dreamz, Cubics or Novas! The Cubics are their square shaped needles and the Nova's are nickel plated--plenty of different options to choose from!

Oh yeah, and did I mention that each month has a theme? Yup! Here is the breakdown of each month of the contest:

July- Anything goes! Tell us why you love Knitter's Pride.
Cubics Interchangeable
Deluxe Set
August- Most interesting filming location.
September- Best animal guest appearance.
October- Best use of costume or props.

I love that these guys have a sense of humor and with a theme each month, that gives you four opportunities to win a set of needles!

Thanks Knitter's Pride for making such a great product and for the awesome opportunity! I hope some of you will consider entering!

I hope you all have a super fun and crafty weekend!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"8 Handspun Scarves to Felt, Knit and Weave"- Allie gets Published!

Recently, one of our very own "Beans" was re-published in a new collection by Spin-off Magazine of beautiful handspun scarves. Her design, that was done in collaboration with designer friend Charlene Schurch, was originally published in an issue of Spin-off in 2005 and is now gracing the cover of "8 Handspun Scarves to Felt, Knit, and Weave"! I was able to snag Allison (or Allie as we call her) for a fun interview about her design, spinning, and her love of fiber. She also shared some truly priceless photos with us which I have also included. Here is what she had to say:

Allison and Charlene's
beautiful work!
Kristen- Please tell us a little bit about your Ombre Silk Scarf design in Spin Off’s “8 Handspun Scarves to Felt, Knit , and Weave”. We’d love to hear about how the idea came about and the process of designing it!

Allison- I’ve known Charlene Schurch, my collaborator, for a very long time – we have roomed together at SOAR (Interweave’s Spin-Off Autumn Retreat – we met over coffee when we were the 6 am early birds to the lobby coffee pot) more times than I can recall. Charlene had been playing with the idea of ombré changes in yarn using the process of dyeing solid colors which are closely related, and then holding these yarns together, changing one color at a time, in this case one out of 3. Charlene did the spinning (tussah silk, quite fine) and dyeing (9 shades). This involved a TON of math, and luckily neither Charlene nor I am afraid of working numbers! Charlene wound the yarns together to make the ombré progression so that in the knitting it would only entail me working through this ball. (Have I mentioned that I love Charlene??) I received this marvelous ball of handspun, hand dyed silk, and all I had to do was pick a pattern from a Barbara Walker treasury, sample, and GO!

Kristen- Since this is a compilation of previously published designs, when did the design originally debut?

Allison- The original article was published in the Fall 2005 Spin-Off magazine.

Head to Head hats pattern from
 Allison's "KnittinIt" pattern line.
Kristen- It must be exciting to have your design continue to be recognized! What do you think makes this design so timeless?

Allison- Thanks for asking, Kristen! As a designer yourself, you know there can be some fine lines between sticking to signature designs, “timeless” designs, and those quirky on-the-forefront designs (which may or may not become timeless in themselves). I’m mostly traditional in what I choose to design and knit – and I want what I design to appeal to those people who come to me for knitting help all the time. Not too difficult, but different enough that it speaks to you on a level. Making it look harder than you had to work is also a bonus! The stitch pattern I chose for this scarf is one that I absolutely love because 1) it’s completely reversible, 2) involves only knit and purl stitches and 3) without any effort from the knitter, it pleats! I first saw this stitch in an Alice Starmore sweater and really love to use it when I can. Knitting can be magic sometimes! In the Barbara Walker Treasury #2 it is called Triangular Stitch. The beading was also fun - I reversed the colors used in the scarf so the beads complimented and drew the project together.

Kristen- Are there any special techniques that you use when working and designing with hand-spun yarns?

Allie's Fair Isle
Stocking Pattern
from "KnittinIt"
Allison- Not really. Over the years and with advice I was able to attain from so many wonderful pioneers in recent spinning (believe it or not, our modern wheels haven’t been around for that long – less than 200 yrs, and in the 60’s and 70’s the “hippies” had to re-invent the craft since it was dying out) I learned a lot. These good people taught themselves, gained expertise, and now we have so much information regarding twist and grist and energized and balanced yarns. I tend to make Allison yarn. If it’s silk (oh, and she is the Queen of fiber, IMHO!) I spin fine then make a Navaho 3-ply. On my spindle I’m making a thicker, lumpy bumpy 2-ply wool from Imperial during our morning meetings. I let the fiber tell me what it wants to be, and accommodate as best as I can. Then I find a project for it, which also takes into account how many yards or ounces I end up with. That is my nature, and another personality will have the project plotted out before beginning the spinning.

Kristen- We know that you often contribute to Spin-off magazine! Are there any upcoming issues in which you’ll be involved?

Allison- No, nothing in the pipes right now. There may be mention of me in the Winter 2012 or Spring 2013 issue if they cover this year’s SOAR – I’ve served on the scholarship committee for SOAR for 5 years and am retiring.

Basketweave Watch Cap
pattern from Allison's "KnittinIt" Pattern line.
Kristen- You’ve graciously given your time to many of us here at Jimmy Beans over the years who have wanted to learn to spin and we are all so thankful to have you here! What advice do you have for someone who has never tried spinning before but wants to get started?

Allison- I find that so many knitters are fascinated by the process but really worry it will take away from their knitting time. I’m here to tell them that they shouldn’t worry – IT’S TRUE! But it’s also true that spinning is so meditative, very portable and inexpensive if you spindle, and there is so much satisfaction in producing a useful garment, be it a hat, sweater, socks or king-sized afghan! You can buy a fleece (which often comes with the name of the sheep it was shorn from) and take it to the end product, or you can by already prepared and dyed fibers. Take your pick. Bragging rights are worth a lot, haha! Also understand that spinning is like riding a bike: you can’t do it until you can do it. And once you “get” it you have it in your hands forever. I have a special place in my heart for a 14-yr old autistic young man who was a student of mine who really found his groove with spinning – it’s repetitive, it’s productive, and he can’t get enough of it!

Kristen- What other designs or projects are you currently working on?

Allison- Do you mean what’s in my knitting bag, or what’s in my house? Either way, lots! Spinning-wise I have picked up a 4-oz Sliver Roving from Imperial Yarn in the Marionberry color way. I have only spun it on a drop spindle during our 15 minute morning meetings at JBW. My goal is to prove that without taking time away from anything else during my day I can spin this up, make a 2-ply yarn, and knit a hat. That involves being able to listen and contribute during meetings and doing all of this standing up. I purchased the roving on 5/5/12 and have spun up almost 3 oz. That sure does sound like slow-going, but again, it’s spinning that would not have been accomplished otherwise (and I’m doing it in front of all of our Beans, hopefully inspiring them to continue on with their practicing!) What do you want to bet that once the hat is completed there will be a run on spinning! Oh, I do love this so much!

Kristen- How long have you been working with fiber?

Allie spinning while Diane Soucy watches Allie's three
daughters knit! The tallest of the girls is Amanda who
works in purchasing! :)
Allison- My brother Gus ( and I decided to teach ourselves to knit while in high school. I was a miserable failure. Looking back I realize I was making the common mistake of twisting my purl stitches and gave it up. Fast forward to getting married and having three daughters-- I decided I would never get into mother heaven if I didn’t hand make garments for them, so turned back to knitting. My other incentive was to be better than my brother at SOMETHING! (The jury is still out on this.) I returned to knitting when our youngest daughter Phoebe turned two, 23 years ago. And I picked up spinning two or three years after I started knitting, when Diane Soucy (designer and owner of Knitting Pure & Simple), and who is my knitting mentor suggested we go to a spinning jamboree. I bought a wheel, but she did not for another 10 years!

Kristen- What is your favorite type of fiber to spin? How about to knit with?

Allison- I love silk. I also love baby camel down, qiviut (musk ox), wolf, Wensleydale sheep (very much like mohair), merino, nettle, dog (NEVER cat), flax, cotton, buffalo, alpaca, etc etc. Drier lint is a tough one. Just too short a staple length. I can’t ever imagine spinning angora (rabbit) again. It’s luscious, but too much goes up one’s nose. There are also synthetics such as lurex and tencel and those odd ones like milk and bamboo. I will knit with anything. Being an official member of our Sheep-to-Shawl team named “Wool Hussies”, you can bet there’s not much out there I don’t want to experiment with. That’s the absolute best part of spinning – the opportunities!

Kristen- Do you have any personal spinning resources we can recommend to our blog readers who want to get started? Videos, tools, websites, etc?

Allison- Interweave’s Spin-Off magazine is a gem – chock-a-block with advice all the way around, from instruction, patterns (knit/crochet/weave) as well as history. Interweave’s eStore includes videos as well, and my friends and mentors Maggie Casey, Judith McKenzie and Abby Franquemont have books and DVD’s and YouTube instruction.

Thanks so much to Allison for taking the time to answer all of my questions and thanks to all of you for reading! To see all of Allison's for-sale patterns through her line "KnittinIt", check out the Jimmy Beans Wool website. You are more than welcome to send Allison any questions or comments you may have via our e-mail address and we'll make sure she gets it!

Hope you all have a great day, and happy knitting!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Winner of Tina Barrett's- Knitted Dinosaurs!

Hi everyone!

I hope you all are having a wonderful day! I wanted to take a quick second to let you all know who won the "Knitted Dinosaurs" giveaway from last week! Drumroll please......

The winner is (thanks to the random number generator at Lucky # 13- Brie Clendenin who said:

"The Pleiosaur is sooo cute, but I'd let my nephews each pick out one."

Congrats Brie! We hope your nephews love these cute little Dino friends! Please send me an e-mail at with your mailing address and I'll pop your book in the mail right away!

Hope you all have a wonderful evening and we'll be back tomorrow for a fun treat from one of our very own beans!

Happy knitting!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dora's Crochet Corner: Crochet Guild of America 2012 Design Winners

For the past few years, the Crochet Guild of America has held a design contest, with numerous categories people can enter to win.  The designs are displayed at one of the CGOA's annual conferences, and then posted on the web for all to admire.  I was so blown away by this year's First Prize winners that I want to share them here, and talk about the creativity that went into them.  To see all the winners (and there are many more beauties!), and larger versions of these photos, visit Doris Chan's blog here:

Grand Prize
Reversible Rowan Tree Vest by Laurinda Reddig
This remarkable design is a real vision, inspired by the designer's wish to remember her daughter Rowan.  She writes about her creation in detail here, and it's well worth a look.  Reversible intarsia and cables are two techniques that Laurinda has invented, and both are featured in this piece.  A memorable piece of crochet art!

Category: Accessories
Knots of Love Shawl, by Kathryn White
I've known of Kathryn White's work for a long time -- her color work doilies are fantastic!  Earlier this year I met Kathryn at TNNA and learned she was moving into designing fashion. As expected, the transition was flawless:  this shawl is equally as exquisite and delicate. I particularly admire the use of Love Knots (a/k/a Solomon's Knot) in this design, as it's a beautiful, but mysteriously neglected, stitch.  Brava Kathryn!

Category: Afghans
The Princess and the Pea, by Michele Wilcox
Yes, an afghan that tells a story!  How imaginative and fun!!  The details in this afghan are amazing, from the little princess with her granny square blanket and  curly locks, to the little green pea near the bottom, and layers of bedding displaying clever stitching and color work. 

Category: Fashion
Mystique by Tammy Hildebrand
Tammy is one of the leading crochet fashion designers, whose work can be seen in many magazines.  Its always beautifully made, wearable and fun, and this winning design is exemplary. Tammy has created a smashing top that draws on Irish Crochet, but updates it with a modern eye.  I love how unique this design is, and yet quite accessible to make.

Category: Jewelry
NC Necklace by Karen C.K. Ballard
More rampant creativity is on display in the jewelry category.  This super design has stones set inside thread crochet flowers and leaves.  I don't know how she did it, but the results are stupendous!  A real statement piece of jewelry, showing the endless possibilities of crochet. 

Category: Thread Crochet
Charm Blouse by Natalia Kononova
The Russian/Ukrainian world has had a long and intense relationship with the needle arts, and many fine designers from this area are working in the US today.  One of the remarkable new crochet styles that has emerged there drawing, again, from Irish Crochet, has motifs placed on a "ground", or open background.  This design is a very fine example, of particular interest because of the contrast between oversized flowers and the delicate, irregular ground -- is the background crochet?  I couldn't tell from the photos, but it sure is a gorgeous piece!

Category: Fanciful Fashion 
Summer Dreams Bolero by Dot Drake
Another reinterpretation of Irish Crochet, this time incorporating color work and padded cord. Irish Crochet was invented in the mid-19th century but reached its zenith around 1910 - 20.  To mimic Venetian laces made at the time, crochet thread was "padded" by working over several threads at a time, to make parts of the design more prominent.  A similar idea is used here and adds a touch of whimsy to this adorable piece.  Dot also won an award for technical excellence for her work here.

Category: Artistic Expression
Ageless Elegance Gatetop Purse by Kathryn White
Another marvelous piece by Kathryn, featuring intricate embroidery-like decoration in metallic silver. Absolutely stunning!

Thanks for reading and checking out this year's amazing winners!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

 Dora Ohrenstein is an author, designer and writer whose most recent book is Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments that Really Fit.  Her website  is a great source for articles, interviews and techniques, and where she teaches online crochet classes.

Pssst! Here are the giveaway winners from last week thanks to! Remember we have 5 winners so here goes:

1) Commenter 79- AngelRoseLite, who said, "They have such fabulous kits! I would love to make their Raindrop Bag first."

2) Commenter 60- Linda, who said, "My personal favorite is the shaelyn shawl that I knit last year with Their tracie yarn. I love the look and texture and can't wait for cool weather to wear it. 
The pattern I like the most from Imperials website is the swing cardi. I can see myself wearing that to work almost every day."

3) Commenter 91- Ani, who said, "Totally digging that cable and plaid poncho! Super fun. And I was digging the pencil roving throw."

4) Commenter 21- Sandra, who said, "Love the swing cardi and the thrum slippers!"

5) Commenter 42- Lorraine Carter, who said, "I have knit the essential sweater dress and I have the raindrop purse in my to do next pile. I think that the swing cardigan just might be the next Imperial Ranch project to do, it is so beautiful."

Congrats to our five winners! Thanks to everyone who entered and to Imperial Yarns for donating the kits and roving! Winners, please e-mail me asap at: and I will ship your prizes to you!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tina Barrett Knitted Dinosaurs

We recently had the opportunity to do a blog interview with Tina Barrett, the clever designer behind the adorable book "Knitted Dinosaurs". We just love how cute these guys are--perfect for the little ones in your life...or even your dino-loving friends! Here is what Tina had to say about her book, knitting, and life in the UK:

JBW- Can you give us a description of Knitted Dinosaurs for our readers who might be new to you and your work?

Tina- Knitted Dinosaurs. How to describe it? Hmmmm…..Fifteen well known scary dinosaurs which are simple to knit and assemble with loads of scope for you to stamp your own personal mark on their fearsome

Photo courtesy of STC Craft
JBW- What was the inspiration for the book?

Tina- I cannot tell a lie, my publishers GMC asked me to do it. It was their original idea but having said that, I had total control over the type of dinosaurs featured and also the design input. My five year old daughter, Lily at the time, was totally obsessed with dinosaurs and wanted to keep every single beast that came off the needles. I had to explain they were going on a long trip to be photographed but that when they came back home, she could definitely have them for her bedroom.

JBW- Do you have a favorite design (or designs) from the book that you’d like to highlight for us? What makes this design(s) your favorite?

Photo courtesy of STC Craft
Tina- Personally, I love the cute Pterodactyl but everyone I talk to seems to have a different favourite which I take as a great compliment. My eldest daughter loves the big Diplodocus, Lily loves the Triceratops and loads of folk love the Steggie the Stegasaurus.

Photo courtesy of STC Craft
JBW- As a designer and author do you have any advice for those folks out there who are just starting to design on how to make a living doing what they love? Have confidence in your work. Approach magazine editors and ask if they are looking for new submissions and if so what type (ie: accessories, socks, garments). If they are positive, send in some sketches (we are not talking Leonardo Da Vinci, just a clear thumbnail of the shape and idea of your design) together with a swatch. You will probably be surprised at how enthusiastic they are about your work. Once you have negotiated and completed one design job, they will probably ask you for more and you can then start building on these foundations.

Photo courtesy of STC Craft
JBW- What kinds of future projects are on the horizon for you?

Tina- I think I may be taking it a little easier this year, actually. I wrote two books last year (The Sewn Nursery and Knitted Dinosaurs) in addition to my usual load of design work for magazines and yarn companies. I reached a point where I actually wanted to burn my needles (yes I was that maxed out!). I kicked back at the beginning of this year and am now just finding the joy in knitting again. I am currently designing four children/baby knits for Blacker Yarns which is something I am really enjoying plus my usual design work for magazines such as Knit Today and Lets Knit.

JBW- Now, let's get a bit more personal! We'd love to know a little bit more about you! For example, where did you grow up?

Photo courtesy of STC Craft
Tina- In sleepy rural Devon which is sited right down at the bottom of England on the sticky-out leg bit.

JBW- What time do you start work?

Tina- I have to get my youngest to school and then vacuum the house, shove washing in the machine and sort dinner for that evening first so I usually manage to get to my desk around ten thirty and work on till about three when it’s time to pick up Lily and get stuck into the evening round of household chores. See, it’s not all glamour.

Photo courtesy of STC Craft
JBW- Do you prefer coffee or tea?

Tina- Coffee but it’s always decaff.

JBW- Tell us about your previous life—you know, before designing…

Tina- I was originally a hairdresser before I gave that up to have my four children. Then, I wrote children’s books for Working Partners (Animal Ark, Midnight Library) before developing my knitting career which began as a hobby.

JBW- What is your favorite hobby?

Photo courtesy of STC Craft
Tina- My favourite hobbies are knitting and sewing which is the expected answer but true, none the less. I am currently sewing curtains and cushion covers for our VW campervan which I am
soooo excited about!

JBW- What is your dream job?

Tina- A children’s collection for Rowan.

JBW- A little known fact about you…

Tina- I worked as a man’s barber years ago and I love trimming and shaping beards and moustaches! Bizarre but true.

JBW- Your favorite book?

Tina- Three men in a boat by Jerome K Jerome. It makes me laugh out loud every time I read it.

JBW- What was the last crafty project (knitting or other) that you created?
Tina, in her craft room.
Photo courtesy of Tina Barrett

Tina- A new set of sewn cushion covers for the front room- a mix of fun fur, flowers and cupcakes. It may not sound great but it does work- honest.

JBW- If you be any animal (besides human), what would you be and why?

Tina- A cat. They have their owners trained for their ultimate convenience if you ask me. Waited on hand and foot- what a life.

JBW- Favorite possession?

Tina- Our VW Campervan. It has flowers all over it. You can’t help smiling when you are riding in it. People always wave and smile at you too.

Thanks so much to Tina for granting us the interview! It was so much fun getting to know you and hear all about "Knitted Dinosaurs" and your other projects! To read more about Tina's work, be sure to check out her website: Also, you can view all of her designs on her Ravelry designer page: Lastly, you can see more of Tina's Knitted Dinosaurs in the "I Love Dinosaurs" group on Ravelry:

To win a copy of Knitted Dinosaurs, please leave us a comment on this post telling us what prehistoric pal you would knit first! We will select a random winner and announce it in next Wednesday's blog post. You have until 11pm (PST) on Tuesday, 7/17 to enter! Be sure to check back here to see if you've won!

I hope you all have a great rest of your week, and happy knitting!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Imperial Stock Ranch Yarn- American Made, Sustainable, and Beautifully Ewenique!

Essential Sweater Dress
Jeanne and Dan Carver, the owners of Imperial Stock Ranch, are two of the nicest people you will ever meet and boy are they passionate about what they do! Their ranch sits on more than 30,000 acres of land in eastern Oregon's high desert where they raise sheep and cattle and grow grains and grasses. The ranch is also home to many wildlife including elk, deer, antelope, game birds and fish that play an integral part in their ranch ecosystem. The Carvers work year-round with various agencies to make sure that their ranch land is healthy, sustainable, and preserved for generations to come.

Raindrop Bag
When Jeanne and Dan stopped by Jimmy Beans Wool on their way through Reno to drop off our first shipment of their yarn, we were blown away at their sustainable approach to ranching and how passionate they were about sharing their philosophy with others through their educational programs. For those of us knitters and crocheters who like to support American  and conscientiously made products, companies like Imperial Stock Ranch provide us with not just a supply of beautiful yarns, but also inspiration.

Rustic Shawl
In fact, their beautiful website outlines that educational component perfectly with information on sustainability, how their yarn is made, and much more. My favorite part is their "Ranching News" section, a backlog of all of their e-newsletters that include plenty of fun ranch-life tidbits and plenty of lamb pictures! Who doesn't love lambs?!? So cute! I highly recommend checking it out!

Felted Bracelet Trio
The more I learn about Imperial Stock Ranch and Imperial Yarns, the more I want to don a pair of dungarees and work boots and wrangle some sheep. (And then I would probably get distracted and hug them and pet them. I wouldn't make a very good rancher I'm afraid.)

Sliver Roving
Ok, so I haven't said much about the yarn, but let me tell you, yarn like this speaks for itself! Naturally soft and gorgeously textured, Imperial Yarn is such a welcome addition to our collection of high quality yarns. We are carrying the Columbia 2-ply (my personal favorite), Tracie Too, Native Twist, Bulky 2 Strand (Pencil Roving), and Sliver Roving. I think it's particularly exciting that we are now carrying roving! We've long been asked about spinning materials and this is just our first step in that direction.
Sumptuous Cowl

Did I mention their designs yet? Oh my! Their pattern support to go along with their yarns is simply amazing as well! Some of our favorites include the Swing Cardigan and Rustic Shawl in Tracie Two, the Raindrop Bag and Essential Sweater Dress in Columbia 2-ply, and the Sumptuous Cowl and Moonshine Hat and Mittens in the Bulky 2 Strand. And these are just a few of the beautiful designs from Imperial Yarn!

Swing Cardi
Remember when I mentioned how nice Jeanne and Dan were? Well, when they came to visit, they gave us a box full of goodies to share with our amazing customers! We have three kits to give away today on the blog as well as two 4oz bundles of sliver roving. That's five different winners! If you'd like to enter to win one of these kits and roving, please leave us a comment on this post telling us what your favorite Imperial design is (Feel free to check out their site as well and let us know if there are any other patterns we should carry!) We'll randomly select 5 winners next Friday, 7/13 and announce them on the blog!
Retro Thrum Slippers

7/13 edit- the winners have been announced on today's Crochet Corner blog. Please go there to see if you've won!

Additionally, we have two more kits and another bundle of sliver roving reserved just for our Reno retail store customers! The first 3 customers who come into the retail store on Saturday, 7/7/12 and mention this blog post will get to take home either a lovely kit or some pencil roving! The kits are first come first serve! You must come into the store to win.

We hope you'll enjoy these beautiful American made yarns as much as we do! We are so happy to have Imperial Yarns as part of the Jimmy Beans Wool family! We hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and happy knitting!