Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Knitty 2009: Bitterroot & Pyroclastic - Ka Boom!

So, let’s continue on with are lil’ whirlwind, shall we? Ok! We shall! Because what would life be if we didn't have ups to go with our downs? Perhaps stable, secure...maybe in my next life.

In the new release of Knitty Winter 09, we are fortunate to have our yarn and fiber featured in 2 patterns – by 2 amazing designers, Rosemary Hill and Marlowe Crawford.

Dyeing, ok, I can do it – there are times, especially with natural dyes to create certain colors, or color combinations. And, then, there’s the physical aspect – which has taken a certain toll on my body over the past couple years. But designing, I have serious respect and a certain amount of awe around people like Marlowe and Romi who can take a material and transform it into a beautiful, inspiring, useful object that keep you warm.

From literally sitting beside Marlowe on the couch throughout this process, and from talking to Romi, there are so many stages of designing that might not be obvious at first glance. Sure, there’s the idea, I am very familiar with getting ideas – but bringing that idea to life is a whole other set of complicated commitments. There’s the idea, then starting to swatch, knitting, ripping, knitting, ripping, pencil, paper, erase, scratch, calculate, multiply, do it again, alter, shift, change, knit, test knit, name, re-name, photograph, choose photos, edit photos, typography, format document, get it out to the public, or in the case of Knitty, submit your pattern, and let the waiting game begin. The pattern is accepted, yea, hoots and hollers, sipping of champagne, then mum’s the word. While the worker bees over at Knitty are and have been doing much pretty the same thing to the patterns about to be released. And, this to our beloved knitter and spinners is FREE to you. This is truly a gift of talent, thought, and love.

Sometimes people ask me if I plan to design something – my goodness. At this moment, I could not be happier supporting people like Marlowe and Romi, those that have dedicated themselves to the process with materials. Their designs encourage me to use the best materials and to create interesting colorways that hopefully will inspire them to continue creating such beautiful pieces.

Bitterroot, by Rosemary Hill, is a shawl available in 2 sizes. I adore the pattern – how it builds upon itself – alike peacock feathers in a plume. Bitterroot features my favorite type of edging, deep V’s, exaggerated and dramatic lace. Romi spun our 50% camel / 50% silk in Glenda for this shawl.(all photos courtesy of Romi)

Pyroclastic, by Marlowe Crawford, feature the dynamic paring of form meeting function. This pair of socks which have a sweet, classic, cable design are coupled with the shaped arch. The shaped arch creates a biased fabric which keeps the sock snug even after wearing them multiple times. Furthermore, for my butterfly brain, fluttering here and there, is often times plagued with 2nd sock syndrome, the shaping through the arch, makes knitting the sock go by very fast. Marlowe used our Creating Superwash Merino yarn in Burnt Ember. These socks will be a gift for my Mom – another avid supporter of Marlowe and her designs.PyroclaticPyroclaticPyroclatic

Well, my newly cast-on Bitterroot is calling my name. Be back soon with photos!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

In every stitch there is a thought. Donna.

As those of you close to me know, life around here has been pretty hectic the past few months. I think the insanity started with preparing to Sock Summit, which quickly rolled into SOAR, the fiber club gaining many more members, working with designers, and classes at AVFKW really taking off. We have been blessed with a growing business. That said, behind the scenes we have been going through something really sad.

I've kept quiet about it because I think that writing about it would it make it more real. And, as I write it does. Adrienne sister-in-law, Donna, was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer about a year and a half ago. Her cancer went into remission. At the beginning of October, Donna participated in a walk for breast cancer. She was having stomach pains so they went to the hospital. At that time, she learned that she had liver cancer. From what I've learned, I guess that it is somewhat common for breast cancer to develop into lung cancer or liver cancer. The doctor gave Donna the awful news that she had only a few months to live. Whats worse, is that Donna was responding poorly to her pain medication, so she went into intensive care, and was in so much pain that she was incoherent. This was all happening the week before SOAR. It was daunting to head into the middle of Oregon - now knowing what was going to happen to Donna. Upon arrival to Oregon, we received good news. That Donna had been moved from ICU to a regular hospital room. She was coherent and now we family could talk to her again. She then returned home.

As soon as I heard about Donna's illness, I proposed to Adrienne that we make her a shawl. We decided to team knit the Daybreak Shawl. Knitting this shawl for Donna seemed to give some direction to our anxiety, sadness, and worry transforming those emotions into something beautiful that could provide comfort and warmth. Donna loves sunflowers so we used golds, browns, and reds. Donna's DaybreakDonna's Daybreak

Earlier in the week, we learned that Donna had to go back to the hospital. After spending a few days undergoing blood work. We have just learned that Donna is not doing well. Her liver and her blood work...so, if you are knitting this week, or spinning, if you could just dedicate a few stitches to Donna - a few thoughts her way, and to her family, I would really like that.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Picking Up Where I Left Off: SOAR 2009

Silk reeling was my hands down favorite part of SOAR. It provided the much needed stretch in skills that I've been looking for in my spinning practice. Let's get down to business with some visuals.

The title of the class was Spinning Six Slick Silks with Michael Cook aka Wormspit.Learning how to reel silk.

The first yarn we made was created using the Laotian method of reeling. In this method, we take a few handfuls of cocoons and place them into a kettle of simmering water. In order to start reeling, we need to rough up the outside of the cocoon with a scrubby brush and grab the filaments coming off the cocoons. Learning how to reel silk.

In the above photo, if you look in the left hand corner you can see a copper pipe thingy - this is called a croissure. We wind the filaments through the croissure in order to start reeling. The croissure helps us keep the filaments organized and also allows to squeeze extra water out of the newly reeled thread. Just learning how to wind the filaments through the croisure was a test in itself. Learning how to reel silk. Learning how to reel silk.

During the Laotian method, the silk is pulled through the croissure and carefully laid in an organized pattern on a towel. Then, it is wound by hand onto a silk bobbin. The next 5 yarns we created, we used the Japanese method of reeling. This method, like every in craft in Japan, was much more detail oriented and precise. In this method, we used 18 cocoons instead of the large handful above. Also, we went from using 1 pot of boiling water to 3 pots of water, all running at different temps. As difficult as it was, it was fun to have challenge my level of ambidexterity. Often times, the right hand needed to be doing something very different than my left hand. From here on, the photos will refer to the Japanese form of reeling.

Once the filament has been wound through the croissure, the reeling can begin, we attach the end of the yarn to reeler and start to give it a go - being very careful, steady, and watchful that the filament does not break. If you have ever lost an end while spinning wool, imagine losing an end of this. Mind you th filament we are reeling is 100,000 yards per pound. To give you a point of reference, the finest yarn AVFKW carries (Wishing, 100% Alpaca) is 7000 yards per pound.Learning how to reel silk. Learning how to reel silk.

Even though the first reeling is complete, from here the silk must be re-reeled 3-4 times so that we can get as much water out of the silk as possible. If the silk is allowed to dry too fast, the filaments can become stuck together, this making it impossible to use the filament. Then, you get to cut your silk off the bobbin, and toss it in the shhhh...trash. Also, it is very important that you reel your silk in a criss cross reason for the same reason. DSC_0078.JPG

Once the silk has been re-reeled, I added twist to the filaments using my spinning wheel, thus, making them into yarn. The first yarn I made is called Tram which means that it is a low twist single, often times used for embroidery. Then, I made a 3/2, 10 twists per inch. 3 refers to the amount of filaments in the yarn, 2 refers to the ply. Each filament was made of 18 cocoons. The next group of yarns I made were a high twist (20 twist per ince) 2 ply and a high twist 3-ply. These are definitely the shiniest of the bunch - like little tiny, sparkling pearls. Finally, I made my thickest yarn, laughably about 9000 yards per pound - somewhat resembles AVFKW Shimmering Lace - 10/2 - so, 10 filaments, 18 cocoons each, 2-plied.

After adding twist, and marking each sample with contractor's ribbon, it was time to remove the waxy, stiff seracin from the yarn. My yarn felt more like flax than silk. DSC_0100.JPGDSC_0104.JPG

Ah! That's more like it, soft, shiny, silk.DSC_0113.JPG

I hope to demonstrate this process at the studio - but want to practice a bit first. It was an amazing albeit insanely detail orientated experience. Michael Cook was a fantastic teacher. I highly recommend taking a class from him if you have the opportunity - you will learn to understand silk in a whole new way.

Monday, October 26, 2009

SOAR 2009: Arrival Day

Reporting from SOAR, I'm behind a day. It happens, right? Spin-Off Autumn Retreat is in Sunriver, Oregon this year, 2009. Adrienne and I have been working our arse(s?) off getting ready. During the beginning of the week, I am taking a 2.5 day class with Michael Cook of Wormspit titled Six Slick Silks. I'm learning how to reel silk. Crazy. Ok, I am moving ahead of myself.

So, yesterday, Sunday, we left the Bay Area bright and early for Sunriver - about an 8 hour drive. Loaded up a rental van with all sorts of fiber goodies (later in the week we are vendors). We stopped in Weed, which is the home of one of my favorite greasy spoons, the Hi-Lo Cafe. Hi-Lo CafeHi-Lo CafeHi-Lo CafeThen, we headed into the wilds of Oregon - nature! what a novel thing.Mt ShastaSOAR 2009 It always takes me a good 24 hours to unwind. The buzzing energy of the city slowly sizzling out of my system - then, I realize I am dead tired. Sorry, once again, I digress, it's been a full day, now topped off with a glass of port, snowflakes, and a hot tub. So, we pulled up to this beautiful resort - a lil condo - with a fireplace - pair of deer right outside. After I finished dinner, I peeked into my classroom and this is what I saw: SOAR 2009SOAR 2009 I can NOT wait to share what I am learning in silk class with you. It's amazing - all new information to me.SOAR 2009SOAR 2009SOAR 2009SOAR 2009 My hands are clumsy and heavy, inarticulate, and I love it. I get to feel like my students when they are first learning to spin - the frustration and exhileration of making my mind and body work together, then it does, and my head feels lighter, happier - all along, the outside world is non-existant because I am concentrating. My silk bubble.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On and On and On

That's the refrain of a Wilco song that has been stuck in my head for the past week - perhaps for good reason - as I continue on - make more things - dye more yarn and fiber - get another fiber club shipment out. I don't mean to make it sound boring, it actually is refreshing to have a sense of routine. To have an internal timer go off, and say fiber club, must get to it. Rather than looking at the calendar, and saying, oh sh*t, the fiber club - or whatever it happens to be that day.

I finished the Clothilde - and gifted it to my great friend Michelle - she had a birthday.ClothildeClothildeI knit this out of AVFKW Wishing yarn, in Crocodile Tears.

Also, I have started a new project, The Nightingale Wing, by Anne Hanson aka Knitspot. For the past few months, Anne has been working with our yarn, Holding, 100% alpaca, to create a pattern. I have watched via blogland, her add a few rows here and there, in anticipation for the blocking. The time finally came in late August. From following Anne on her blog, I began to realize that this weight of yarn and the fiber content, alpaca, is a bit on the light side typical to Anne's designs. Yet, seeing it amongst her body of work, it is great to see a piece so light. This piece reminds me of paper. I absolutely love how it turned out. Here is a photo that was featured on Anne's blog. All photo credits go to Anne and David.

Here is a photo of my progress so far.
AVFKW Nightingale Wing
I really love this pattern. The border graphs are more complex then the center panel. i like this, it reminds of the way that sari fabric is designed. Plus, it means that 80% of the stole is pretty easy to knit, and the other 20% grabs my attention, and keeps the shawl interesting to knit. Plus! It is knit in one piece. I know, I know, grafting is part of life, but sometimes, I just like to bury my head under the sand and knit.

Which brings to mind something else, we are beginning to offer knitting classes at Verb. I am so excited about both classes. First, we are offering a class that teaches Elizabeth Zimmerman's Percentage System - what does this mean? In a nutshell, you will learn how to create a sweater that fits your body, as exactly as you'd like. Karen, the teacher, was in the shop yesterday talking to one of the students - basically, you can bring in any idea that you have, cables, lace, cardigan (hello, steeking, great chance to learn) and Karen will teach you how to create the pattern. And, you can bring in what ever kind of yarn that you'd like - handspun, stash dive, I have also just stocked the verb store with a bunch of beautiful yarns from Wendy at Shaggy Bear - a wide range of natural colors, grown and spun right here on the West Coast.

Also, Marlowe, is teaching people how to use her Basic Shaped Arch sock pattern. I have knit 3x as many socks from using Marlowe's pattern. The shaping through the foot creates a very snug fitting sock, my favorite kind, and the shaping in the foot keeps my mind busy, makes the time fly by, and voila I am at the toe and grafting (see! I do graft!). Even if you've knit a couple sock, and you are bit unsure if you like to knit them, c'mon by, and give it another try. She might hook you... click here to learn more.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Knitting Culture Club - SFMOMA

Adrienne decided to put a call out to Bay Area Knitters - to meet up at the SFMOMA for a morning of knitting. Recently, the SFMOMA built a new sculpture garden on its roof. And, to sweeten the deal, they added a cafe which serves fancy pastries and cakes as well as the Bay Area infamous Blue Bottle Coffee. Sometimes when I drink it, I feel like I am floating - sometimes I see sparkles. Earlier in the week, Leah Garchik, a reporter for the SF Chronicle, included this most recent exploit of Adrienne's in the paper. Adrienne was running around the studio yelling "I'm in the paper. And, my name is even in bold". Otherwise, she had put a call out to Ravelry. Funny enough, we have 3 knitters join us from reading about it in the paper - which was really cool - and adventurous of them. Knitters came from as far south as San Jose and as far north as Larkspur. Also, many people who were there to look at art, asked to take our photo, as if we were a 1970's performance art piece - and we were just knitting - imagine if we were spinning?!Knitting Culture Club - SFMOMAKnitting Culture Club - SFMOMAKnitting Culture Club - SFMOMAKnitting Culture Club - SFMOMAKnitting Culture Club - SFMOMAKnitting Culture Club - SFMOMAKnitting Culture Club - SFMOMA
Knitting Culture Club - SFMOMA

I am not sure where Adrienne will gather the next group - or when. But if I find out more, I will be sure to post, and you be sure to come :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Beginning

ClothildeHere is where the love affair begins. No fights, no tears, only the anticipation of what will happen next, the potential of sheer delight just a few rows away.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Taco Tuesday: Carne Adovada

I have arrived. I've been living like a monk for the past 2 years while starting my business. I saved and saved and finally took the plunge and bought a camera. Prior to this, I was borrowing Adrienne's 5 year old digital Nikon point and shoot, Ol' Trusty. Or shall I say Ol' Crusty! Oh sad! Point being, I really wanted to feel excited to take photos and to share them with you - so here we go.

We've had an amazing garden this year.

This year we chose tomatoes with our cooler Bay Area weather in mind. One of the varieties we purchased is from Siberia.Our Garden 2009

Serrano ChiliesGarden 2009

Hopi Black Dye SunflowerOur Garden 2009

Last night, Marlowe, Caitlin, Jose, and Kathleen came over to our house for dinner. It was Caitlin's last Summer night. About 2 months ago, I bought Adrienne a new cookbook Tacos by Mark Miller. I highly recommend it. The recipes are delicious and straight forward.

Last night, we used ingredients from our garden for our meal. I love that.

We made fresh tomatillo-avacado salsa, green rice, and carne adovada (pork in New Mexican red chile sauce - which we made from scratch). Taco TuesdayTaco TuesdayTaco Tuesday - Carne Adovada

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sock Summit 2009

What more is there to say? Hard to know where to begin. This show has been monumental to my business. Since the beginning of March, when I learned that I would participate as a vendor, I have been working my ass off. Doing this show required that I focus, that I bring extra help, Adrienne and Nam, that I expand my product line, and that I bring my best colorways forward - which happen to be some of the most beautiful yet challenging colors to create yet. I put myself out there like I never have before - and as painful as it was at times, it was worth it.

I have to admit that I am horrible taking photos at these events. To me, there's something romantic about the mind's eye but then I come home and want to tell you all about it - so, I hijacked Adrienne's camera. To her, I owe her gratitude for the following photos.

Michael, Marlowe, Kathleen, Adrienne, and myself drove up to Portland with all of the goodies. We arrived a day early and started to set up the booth. Loved that we had the booth set up early! Also, there to meet us was my Mom, Aunt Mary, and Cousin Katherine. They took the train all the way from Minnesota to help us work the show. Love!

The shoppers! This was the view from our booth!

My favorite part of the event was the opening night ceremony. For an hour, Tina, of Blue Moon Fiber Arts, and Stephanie Pearl Mc-Phee, the Yarn Harlot, regaled us with tales of putting on this show. They were funny, sincere, and focused of their pursuit. Three qualities I find admirable. They started their speech with quotes that led them through the process. One Stephanie shared was "Tread lightly, you are walking on my dreams." I could not find a better quote to sum up my relationship to the world and to my company. Mostly their speech was about conceiving a dream, and the process of bringing that to dream into existence, inviting other to join, and watching it grow into something unimaginable. I love knitting, the action, the mechanics - but it's the philosophical approach that the fiber community brings forth that melts my heart. That time and time again, the fiber community supports fully new ideas, dreams, and creativity, really blows my mind.

Beyond the booth, I took 2 classes from Judith MacKenzie McCuin, Sock Exotica and Using Handspun for your socks. This is the 1st time that I have left my booth to take classes - it was pure luxury. As I sat in class, it dawned on me how grateful I was (and still am) for the ability to spend time taking classes - that my folks who help me, and who were busy working the booth, are so awesome. Of course sitting for 9 hours and spinning with Judith was amazing - but even more amazing and meaningful to my life at this time - was having to focus on only 1 thing. My brain took a serious break. Through this experience, I have decided to completely re-structure my spinning classes at the studio. More to come about that very soon.

One of the most amazing things about the marketplace were the notable figures strolling the halls and marketplace. We get a but of this at Stitches - but the marketplace is so large and there are so many shoppers that they are not as easy to stalk, I mean spot ;) Here's Anne Hansen, a contemporary lace master, looking at yarn. Yikes! I hope that we are making materials that inspire these great designers and teachers as much as their patterns inspire us.

The Sock Summit gave me the opportunity to see some old friends, like the Rav crew, that I haven't seen for a couple years which was great. Saturday night, we took the Portland's FREE subway to the Ravelry party. I wish I could remember what we were laughing about - probably a state of delirium, we were all getting a bit punchy by this point.

What better to lighten up a sleepy Sunday morning: Voodoo Donuts! I so wish I could have one right now! And, in the case that you are getting married, and looking for a place to exchange your vows, you may be happy to know, that Voodoo Doughnuts may be just the place for you!