Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Third Block of the Mystery Sew Red Sew-Along from Ellen March

We are so excited to hear about all the people who are participating in the Mystery Sew Red Sew-a-long! Thanks so much for joining us for the release of the third block!

All About Ellen

Ellen March started sewing at age 8. Growing up, sewing was always a big part of her life. Her grandmother was a seamstress by trade and her mother made all of her Halloween costumes, formal dresses and endless hair scrunchies throughout her school years. Since her mother and grandmother were such accomplished sewists, Ellen was always intimidated by having to make everything perfect. She began teaching herself to sew instead of following their guidance and found methods that made it easier, faster and more fun. 
At age 16, Ellen appeared in the educational film "Picking Your Patterns, Fabric & Notions," still available and used by home-ec teachers nationwide. She loved combining her love of sewing with her love of the stage and theater, never thinking that she would end up doing just that for her career.

After college, Ellen dabbled in theater costume design, winning an honorable mention in Los Angeles' Backstage West Garland Awards in 2001 for costuming A Midsummer Night's Dream. She also traveled the U.S. selling original fashions—tops, dresses, skirts and bags—at music festivals and craft fairs. 
Luckily, Ellen discovered a job opening at Sew News magazine in 2004. They were looking for a graphic designer, which Ellen is not! So she wrote a letter to the editor-in-chief, pleading for any kind of job with the magazine. It took 4 months, but Ellen was finally hired as the editorial assistant in 2005. Four years later she became the editor-in-chief and manager of all three sewing titles (Sew News, Creative Machine Embroidery (CME) and Sew it All) and is the host of the PBS series Sew it All. (Contact to find air dates and showtimes.)

Ellen & Sew Red

Ellen was thrilled to be asked to be a part of Sew Red. A vegetarian since age 13, Ellen tries to live a healthy lifestyle and is passing that onto her son (who is also a vegetarian, for now). Learning that sewing can help lower blood pressure was an eye-opener for Ellen, and she passes that info on to the readers, viewers and fans of Sew News, CME and Sew it All as added benefits for beginning and continuing the hobby. She contributed the Panel Maxi Skirt, which is a favorite design of hers because it can be sized up or down easily, showcases coordinating cotton fabrics and looks great on kids and adults alike.

Ellen & the Sew-Along

photo 3 e1382636454921 300x225 SImple Quilt Block with Embroidery
Ellen wanted to feature machine embroidery in her block as an homage to Creative Machine Embroidery magazine. Of course, she still kept it simple and affordable by using easy piecing techniques and fabric scraps from her stash. 

We absolutely love the design and can't wait to get started!  Follow the link to the SewNews blog to get started on this month's block!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cozy Knits Giveaway!

Cozy Knits, the latest book from designer and editor Tanis Gray, has just arrived and we are so thrilled to have a copy to give away to one lucky reader today!

Cozy Knits features 50 quick projects from designers like Faina Goberstein, Kathy Merrick, Debbie O'Neill, Mary Beth Temple, Angela Tong, Nancy Marchant, Tanis herself, and many more! The projects range from hats, mittens, cowls, scarves, sweaters, shrugs, shawls, and gift items. Each of the designs feature either Cascade Pacific or Pacific Chunky yarn proving that this 40% wool and 60% acrylic yarn isn't just for babies and kids anymore!

After spending a good amount of time with this book, flipping through pages and pages of fantastic knitted items, I've stumbled upon a few that I'm really excited about and would love to share with you here.

First up is the Jane Austen Lace Panel Shrug. I love the lacy design of this with the simple bow tie closure. The shrug is knit flat making it a super simple construction. With the holidays coming up, I could see myself wearing this over my shoulders to holiday parties and other fun events.

Jane Austen Lace Panel Shrug

Next up I love the Make Mine Mocha Stockinette Poncho. The simple design makes it the perfect knit for a beginner and the shape would look great open (shown) or belted. It's such a chic look and a great layering piece.

Make Mine Mocha

I also really love the Victorian Lady Shawl knit in Pacific Chunky. It's the perfect shawl to keep at my desk for those chilly days when I need an extra something warm about my neck. Knit on big needles (US 11), this shawl is a quick project that could be knit in a weekend. Who doesn't love instant gratification every now and then!?!?

Victorian Lady Shawl

Cowls are all the rage, and this cute slipped stitch patterned one merges style with classic patterning for a design you'll want to wear again and again. The Slip-Switch Neck Gaiter is shown here in a neutral combo of chocolate and cream for a cozy and simple look. I love how the accent colors switch in the middle to give the pattern some interest.

Slip-Switch Neck Gaiter
 Lastly, we have my favorite pattern of the bunch-- The Turquoise Trail Fair Isle Wristers. The gorgeous southwestern style patterning and color palette really speaks to me and lends a unique look to a simple pair of fingerless mitts. I live in these mitts in the winter time (they are perfect for chilly days in the office when I need my fingers free for typing. I will definitely be adding these to my Ravelry queue.

Turquoise Trail Fair Isle Wristers

Most of the pattern pictures from Cozy Knits are up on Ravelry if you'd like to give them a look--I'm sure you'll find other knits to love as well.

I have a copy of Cozy Knits sitting here on my desk to give away to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment on this blog post letting me know what pattern you are most excited about from Cozy Knits. Also feel free to leave your Ravelry name so that I can contact you directly if you've won. I will also announce the winner one week from today, Nov. 1st right here on the blog, so be sure to check back to see if you've won!

I hope you all have a lovely (and cozy) weekend, and happy knitting!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Go Team USA!!!

Some of you may have already heard about our hat drive in our latest newsletter, but I thought I would cover all of the basis and post about it on the blog too. Plus we have some really fun photos to share. :)

The 2014 Winter Olympics will be here before we know it - and we are getting a head start on keeping our athletes warm (pun intended!). What are we up to this time, you ask? Well, we've set a goal of gifting every single Sochi-bound athlete (and their families) with a cozy and patriotic handmade hat, compliments of the yarn industry (after all, what goes better with winter sports than hand-knitted hats?). As you can see from the photo, we've finished one... just a few hundred to go! Want to join us in our hat drive? Here's the skinny:

1. Each hat must be made in red, white, and blue. (The hats are going to the U.S. Teams)

2. Crafters choice: hats can be knit or crocheted. Any size needle, any type of fiber. 

3. JBW will be the collection point for the hats. (I.e., mail your finished hat to us at 1312 Capital Blvd #103, Reno, NV 89502.)

4. All hats must be delivered to JBW by January 1st.

5. JBW will deliver all of the collected hats to the various U.S. Teams!

6. Our goal is to deliver thousands of hats, so as to keep all of the athletes - and their families - warm!

Americana colorway
For those of you that don't already have red, white, and blue yarn at home
- and/or don't know what pattern to use - we've created this Team USA Hat Kit which includes three balls of Schachenmayr Original Boston yarn in the quintessential patriotic trio of Red, White and Blue. There is the bright option, shown here which ships on 10/28, and also an "Americana" option that we added this week because the bright option was so popular and we wanted another color option to offer you. The kit also comes with an exclusive hat design straight from our latest book, Stitch Mountain, which is debuting this December (we modified the pattern slightly by doing it in stripes instead of a solid color... as modeled here by future Olympic athlete, Huck. Aren't these photos ridiculously cute, and silly too?!?!?)

For crocheters, we are recommending you check out any of the awesome FREE hat patterns from Schachenmayr's My Mountain Campaign that use the original Boston yarn in the Team USA Hat Kit. (By no means do you have to use the knit pattern we provide, it's just a little extra freebie we've included.) There are several really great unisex designs from My Mountain, like the Feldberg, Sunshine Peak, or Mount Tyree hats, that are simple and easy to crochet. 

Remember, you don't have to use our pattern, yarn, or our kit --we will happily forward on anyone's awesome handmade hat (as long as it's red, white, and blue)! Go Team USA!

Happy knitting and crocheting!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Knitter's Dream...A Cornucopia of Tosh!

We've been so inspired by the leaves turning, gorgeous fall colors, and of course, Tosh, that we decided what better way to decorate your table this fall than with a Cornucopia full of stunning hand-dyed yarn! Huck approves, so we just had to snap these adorable photos of him enjoying the table arrangement we created. Oh, the cuteness!

The Tosh Cornucopias are available in Tosh Vintage and soon in Tosh DK in a large size (shown here) with 5 skeins of yarn or a small size with 3 skeins of yarn. To see all of the options available, check out the Cornucopia Gift Basket page on our site.

Happy fall knitting to you all!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fiber Feature - Mink

I thought writing about mink yarn would be a breeze! Mink have been raised on farms since the late 1800s so there should be a ton of good solid factual info out there. Right? Wrong! Mink is such a new fiber to the yarn world that little has been written on the subject.

How did the subject of mink yarn come up? Because we carry an absolutely lovely 100% mink yarn - Mimi, from Lotus Yarns! I mentioned Lotus yarns in my last Fiber Feature post about Yak. Lotus is a high quality spinning mill that produces custom natural and luxury fiber yarns for some very familiar labels. Now Lotus Yarns is producing luxury fiber yarns under their own label and Trendsetter is the US distributor for them.

You must touch Mimi to get a true appreciation for how soft it is. It is every bit as soft as Yak down but doesn't have that smooth cool butter sensation. The feel is warmer, much like cashmere, which it is often blended with.

Mimi is a thin yarn, and looking at it I would classify it as a light fingering weight. I have noticed that based on Trendsetter's information some sites are listing it as a sport weight and others a lace weight. The label doesn't give a stitch count but does recommend a US 3-4 needle, suggesting to me something lighter than sport but not as light as lace. Mimi comes in solid colors and now Trendsetter has teamed up with Alchemy to create beautifully hand-dyed colors - Mimi Hand-dyed. The hanks are 330 yds per 50 grams so you get enough yardage in one hank to work a nice sized cowl, scarf or small lace shawl.

Mink have a dual coat consisting of a soft undercoat and long outer guard hairs. The guard hairs are stiffer and slightly prickly feeling. But the undercoat is soft and helps to insulate the animal from the cold. This undercoat is the fiber that is spun into yarn, after processing to remove the guard hairs. I couldn't find any information on micron count but it's inferred that it is in the same range as cashmere and angora. The fibers can be as long as 1 1/2 inches but are often shorter. American mink have the longest coat so are the species most cultivated for fibers. Because of how short and fine the fibers are, you will often find mink blended with other fibers. When I've removed a few fibers from a strand, Mimi seems to have a staple length on the longer side of the range and is comprised of 3 plies. Each of the 3 singles is tightly spun, the tight twist helps to make a strong yarn.

Now for the question I know you all are asking, because I asked it too. Are the mink harmed obtaining this fiber? The answer is no! Yes, they are farmed and the fibers are shaved or combed from the animal about 3 times a year, when they would normally shed their undercoat. This process is very similar to how we get angora from rabbits and wool from sheep. Well treated animals provide the best quality fibers which are worth the highest prices so it is in the mink farmer's best interest to have healthy, happy animals. An animals coat is the first place signs of stress appear so fiber producers are highly motivated to take the best care of their animals. Their livelihoods depend on it!

I hope this has been informative, the yarn is yummy to the touch and would make lovely, delicate, lacy projects such as cowls, shawls & scarves as special gifts for the holidays. Here are some patterns that this yarn would be lovely in:

Asterope by Rosemary "Romi" Hill:


Cilantro by Indiegirl:


Clarus by Laura Nelkin:


The Guernsey Triangle by Brooklyn Tweed:

Guernsey Triangle

Or Buttonwillow which is also by Romi Hill:


If a scarf or cowl is more your style, try the Cream and Sugar Cowl from Never Not Knitting:

Cream & Sugar Cowl

Or, the Churchmouse Diagonal Scarf and Wrap:

Diagonal Scarf & Wrap

Have fun and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The 30 Day Sweater Challenge- Are you in?

Some of you may have heard about the 30 Day Sweater Challenge that kicked off October 1st. When we were asked to participate in the challenge, of course, we accepted and even worked with Koigu to develop a special colorway of KPPPM in honor of the challenge. We love working with hand-painted yarns, which is why we offered to be a stop on the blog tour for the 30 Day Sweater Challenge. Here is what the fine folks running the challenge had to say about working with Hand-painted yarns:

3 Things to Try When Knitting Your Sweater With Hand-painted Yarn

Since the early 1990’s the demand for hand-painted yarn has been exploding! There is nothing so satisfying as creating an entirely unique sweater out of hand-painted yarn! But sometimes knitting with a hand-dyed yarn can be frustrating especially when each skein varies slightly in color. Here are 3 tips for knitting with hand-painted yarn to make your next sweater a show stopper!

1. Double-strand

Try holding one strand of each skein together and knit as normal. When you are checking your gauge, make sure to hold two strands together so you get an accurate measurement.

2.Alternate Rows

Work two rows of one skein and then switch to the other skein to work two more rows. Keep alternating between skeins every two rows, to blend the colors. Simply carry the strands up the side as you go to avoid the need to weave in extra ends.

If you are knitting In the round you can work one round of each skein. Begin by working your cast on and first round with your first skein and then join the second skein and work a round. Continue alternating skeins every round.

3. Show Off Your Yarn

Complicated stitch patterns tend to get lost when you use hand-painted yarn. Try to stick with simple stitch patterns for a fabric that really shows off the beauty of your yarn!

And there you have it, with these tips you’ll be prepared to knit great looking sweaters with hand-painted yarns! Now that you know how to blend colors easily you can also use these techniques when you have mixed dye lots.

Speaking of hand-painted yarn, Jimmy Bean’s Wool worked with Koigu to create an exclusive hand-painted colorway of their KPPPM Yarn just for the 30 Day Sweater Challenge!  Since KPPPM is a fingering weight yarn we recommend holding two strands together to make a sweater, conveniently this will also help blend your colors.

If you’d like to learn more about planning your next sweater project, download our free Sweater Planning Guide. In this guide we talk about design basics, color choice, how much yarn to buy and everything else that goes into preparing to knit a sweater that you’ll love!

Also, if you want to find out more about the Challenge or the Design competition associated with it (yep, there is a design contest too!), be sure to check out the 30 Day Sweater Challenge website.

This guest post is a part of the 30 Day Sweater Challenge promo tour. If you’d like to try out some of these techniques and try out the exclusive Limited Edition Koigu Colorway (#478) we have a great opportunity for you to challenge yourself! Join us this October as we help 5,000 knitters around the world knit a sweater they’ll love, in 30 days. To sign up just visit and download your free Sweater Planning Guide. It will help you get started on the right foot! See you in October!

Laura is participating in the challenge but she is getting a bit of a late start. She will be using the special Limited Edition Koigu KPPPM color held double to create a DK weight gauge. However, she is debating between The Knitbot Effortless Cardigan and the Knitting Pure and Simple Drape Front Cardi. She loves the easy fit of both of these cardigans and they will look great knit in this variegated yarn. Which one would you choose?

We hope you'll challenge yourself this month!

Happy knitting,

Friday, October 4, 2013

TGAAA Square #4


It's once again time to announce the next square for The Great American Aran Afghan Knit A Long!!!

So far we've learned how to do a basic twist and a basic cable and I sneakily made it a reversible cable with completely reversible square #1!  In Square #2 we learned traveling stitches and that some charts are purposely written opposite of standard charts.  For square #3 we learned how to make bobbles and add some texture fill while practicing our new cabling skills.
For square #4 we are going to do more traveling stitches, learn the trinity stitch and learn how a plait works.  We will learn all of this with the square on page 32 designed by Hanna Burns!  This square features "DNA" strands spiraling away from each other with a beautifully plaited cable up the center framed by elongated twists.  Two side panels of trinity stitch really help to accentuate the purl background making the DNA strands really pop!

For the most part I think most of you will do well with this block, it's still in the easier category.  My first suggestion to help you is to be sure to copy the charts, enlarging them if needed, and using highlighter tape, sticky notes or magnets to block off all the lines except the one you're working.  I say this because I find the traveling stitch symbols difficult to distinguish one from another.  They kind of visually run together.  All become very clear when the rows above and below are blocked off.  Do note that chart B on the left sides of the square begins with row 17 so that it spirals opposite of chart B on the right side.

(And yes for you science nerds like me, this DNA spiral is only a 2 dimensional, artistic representation and is not a true double helix but it's still very pretty! Here is a link with other DNA helix patterns on ChemKnit's blog if you wish to make a true double helix.)

The trinity stitch, aka blackberry stitch, is a pretty texture stitch that makes three stitches out of one and one out of three.  This is done by knitting the next stitch on the left hand needle but don't drop the stitch off the left needle. Instead, yarn forward and purl into the same stitch and still leave it on the needle.  Then yarn back and knit into this same stitch again. This time dropping the stitch off the left needle to complete the three stitches out of one.

The trinity stitch increases your stitch count by two each time you work it. These extra stitches must then be balanced by decreases to keep your stitch count the same. This decrease is done with a purl 3 together (p3tog). This is done just like purling 2 together except you catch 3 stitches instead of 2. A double decrease is the result, turning three stitches into 1. If you have trouble getting your needle through all three stitches try a needle with a sharper point or slipping all three stitches onto a crochet hook purlwise then pulling the yarn through and returning the single remaining stitch back to the right hand needle, being careful not to twist it.

You'll notice that the trinity stitch creates offset rows with diagonal lines. Whereas the moss stitch which looks somewhat similar, is all horizontal and vertical lines.

I hope you enjoy this square! If you have any questions or comment please don't hesitate to send me an email or ask in our Ravelry group thread. I've created a special thread just for asking questions so they don't get lost in the general chat. If you don't already belong to Ravelry I urge you to sign up. It's free and you don't get any unwanted email. It's a wonderful resource for finding patterns, connecting with other knitters & crocheters and keeping track of your projects, needles and stash!

We're seeing some lovely squares completed! Here are those that have been post during the last two weeks.(Sorry for the funky placement, it's not terribly easy to arrange photos in blogger.)

Angela's Square 1
Anna's square 1

Donna's Square 1

Lovely first squares everyone! I love the colors each person is choosing! Many people are using Cascade 220 superwash with great results.

Katy is doing an ombre and chose MadelineTosh Denim for her first square, shown below.

Katy's Square 1
Steph's Square 1

Sandee's Square 2

Anna's Square 2
Angela's square 2

Anna's Square 3
Tanya's Square 3
As for me, I'm only about 2 inches into square 2. I've been working on some other projects that have deadlines. I hope to be back to making some progress on my square after this weekend.

Happy Knitting!