Oh Brooklyn Tweed, how I love you. Let me count the ways....
Brooklyn Tweed is actually based in Portland but at one time in its life called Brooklyn home. I pretty much love everything about this yarn company. The thing that caught my eye first was BT, as a company, are into thoughtful production- taking wool from American breeds of sheep, using minimal processing, and keeping each step of the supply chain in country and sourced from partners with ethical business practices. I like that. Even as knitters and weavers, we can make a difference.
Moving past their business practices, they offer a large collection of wonderful patterns. (They also offer a lot of free tutorials on their blog.) The knitwear they curate is modern, sleek, thoughtful, and more often than not, very beautiful. It meshes with my personal tastes as a knitter very well. Coupled with this is their yarn. I have now had experience with two of their lines. Vale is their laceweight yarn offering and Shelter a worsted, sweater weight yarn.
I am currently playing with their Shelter line, which is a Targhee-Columbia blend. For all you spinners out there, it really is a woolen spun yarn. It is so light and squishy! I love it. I am using it to knit a sweater, which I know will be warm without being super heavy because of this woolen delight. Because of how it is spun, there are some thinner and thicker parts to the yarn, giving it a more "rustic" appearance. Also, because of the minimal processing, you sometimes come across a little bit of veggie matter. For being so wooly, it actually is surprisingly soft. I haven't gotten to the wet blocking stage of my project, but word on the street is that this final step really helps this yarn sing. This is going to be a definite go-to yarn for me when knitting sweaters.
As far as materials go, I am usually a wood needle girl, but recently I started using metal needles. I inherited some metal needles from my husband's grandmother, and I realized I do enjoy metal needles, too. They make a pleasant clicking noise, keep their tips, and actually make me knit a little faster. Don't get me wrong, I love my wood needles, they have not been replaced. It's just that I have learned to appreciate differences in my knitting needles and there is a place for metal knitting needles in my life.
My very sweet boys decided to get me the Addi Click Turbo basic set for my birthday this year. (They spoil me.) Addi is a German, family-run company that has been in operation for over 180 years. They craft knitting needles and crochet hooks and this particular "Turbo" set includes 10 interchangeable needles from size US 4-15. I am not sure where my family purchased my needle set from, but they actually purchased me the European region's set, which means it runs on metric sizes and does not include the needle size US 5. You can tell the region for which your needles were intended by the color of the cords. Blue cords are for the North American region while gold cords are European (red is Japan). There is no difference in the needles other than the color of the cord and organization of the needle sizes. I have read that the real difference between the sets is who you would contact should you have a warranty issue.
The needles themselves are lovely. I am currently working on a sweater using the US 10 (thus they are missing from the pictures because they are otherwise engaged) and am loving them. They are 5" needles and click securely to the cords with no chance of your yarn catching. The Addi novel click system means the interchangeable needles use a sort of tongue and groove system instead of threads like a screw. This means there is no chance of your needles unscrewing while you knit! It's great. (The whole thing reminds me a little of how some genius thought of the car base and clicking infant carseat, but I have babies on the brain, so forgive me.) The set is a little pricey, but if you are a serious knitter, the needles will get used and the price is worth it for the simplicity and ease of the click-and-go system. Addi offers the needle sets in bamboo, natural wood and metal, as well as lace tips in two sizes and a combo of needle pairs with one lace tip and one blunt tip needle- so if you are going to spend the money, they offer needles for all knitting tastes.
The set is very nice as it comes in a clean, flat case that is easy to stow in in any project bag imaginable. It also offers a great storage answer for your needles: mine tend to end up all over the house, draped over various hooks on walls and stuffed into mugs on countertops. This case keeps things tidy and, unlike a lot of set/gift cases, is meant to be used past the initial "OOOOOoooooooo" of opening your new needles. There are also additional cord sizes available (three cords come with the set: 24", 32", and 40"). The cords are interchangeable with different needle sets available through Addi, though I have read the 16" is unsuitable for the click needles. Lastly, there is a connector piece in the set which can either serve to secure your knitting on a cord as a stitch holder or to connect two cords together for a longer cord, if needed. That's pretty neat.
Bottom Line: This is a very nice set with very nice needles. The clicking system for the interchangeable needles is AWESOME. The set is expensive, but I wold say Addi Clicks put their money where their mouth is and offer a truly superior knitting product.
Purple Lamb is a fiber store on Etsy, linked here. I have found that Etsy is a great source of fiber material, but it can be a little overwhelming. Purple Lamb, however, is a great place to shop. I have purchased some, and plan to purchase more, of Ms. Hanson's beautiful art batts. They arrived quickly, were well packaged, and most importantly...they were BEAUTIFUL. They have been a true pleasure to spin. I'm playing with one called "Rainy Day" right now on my new bulky flyer and cannot wait to share it when it's done. The owner and artist of this shop does a wonderful job blending colors as well as making a cohesive concept. I find that some yarns, wools, and batts have snappy names that grab your attention but when you actually look at the item, it is hard to discern how the name is connected at all. That is not the case with Linda Hanson. Her concepts are clever and the colors and materials she chooses really demonstrate the concepts well.
While I have only purchased art batts from her, she does have yarn, scarves, and finished fiber garments available in her store. She has recently started an art batt monthly subscription, as well. In addition to all of this, she also maintains a website at www.purplelambfiberarts.com and has a presence on social media. (I enjoy following her Instagram.) Also, as a perk, I have noticed she runs a fair number of sales on her goods, and who doesn't love a sale?
I believe her fiber journey mirrors a lot of ours out there. Right down to balancing an artistic journey with kids and family. I am really happy to support her shop when I can and in some small way maybe help to feed her own fiber habit so she can keep creating beauty for the rest of us.
Bottom Line: Check out Linda Hanson's Etsy store called Purple Lamb. She has some real show stoppers there. And it's always nice to support small businesses and artists, especially when they deliver quality products.
Okay, I have to be one hundred percent up front here...I'm pretty sure I have a crafting crush on Jacey Boggs Faulkner, the publisher and director (amongst other things) of Ply Magazine. What a great journey to what I view is a great, quality publication that adds immensely to the fiber community! This magazine was crowd-sourced by a successful Kickstarter campaign, which is an impressive accomplishment in itself. But "crowd-sourced" does not mean it lacks in any of the polish and refinement of more traditionally funded publications. (And really, what is traditional in the publishing world anymore?) Printed on high quality paper, filled with quality articles that advance the craft of spinning, and beautiful art and photography on every page, this magazine has become an instant favorite of mine.
I think the thing I enjoy the most about this publication is that, while a professional magazine, it still manages to feel like a community endeavor. The small staff that run the show at Ply do a wonderful job preserving the unique voices of those who enjoy spinning. Whether you are new to the craft or a seasoned pro, I feel this magazine is an open invitation for everyone...there is a lot to learn in its glossy, well thought-out pages. They want people to contribute no matter their skill-level because there is something for all of us to give; that is a really wonderful thing.
And you know what, it is interesting. While I love a good how-to book or magazine, and I drool over beautifully photographed weaving and knitwear patterns, this magazine really connects me with the journey of how and why in spinning. It respects, however, that with many ancient handcrafts (and newer ones, too) there are many ways to approach the same thing and that we are artists. With the framework of a common language brought together by this magazine, it is great to see all the different ways people spin...and they are all beautiful.
Bottom Line: If you spin, you should buy a subscription. If you don't spin, you should buy an issue because the sweet siren song presented in its pages might lure you to spin. Either way, you should buy this magazine.
I first checked this book out from my local library not knowing what to expect. As a novice weaver, I was not sure if the book would be suited for my skill level. However, I was so pleasantly surprised by this book, I renewed my check-out three times and when I could no longer renew, I went out and bought the book. This book is wonderful. The title states that the book focuses on the "next steps" in weaving, which at first may seem intimidating to someone new to the craft. However, I think this book makes a lovely companion for the beginner weaver. The pages do not include tutorials on choosing fibers, using warping boards or warping your loom, but as long as you have a working knowledge of these steps there is so much you can gain from Pattie Graver's book.
I loved her introduction. It really captured how I sometimes feel in my crafting life- that I love the art, but I somehow missed the gene that allows people to spontaneously create from scratch. Ms. Graver really wants to capture the "why" in these pages, not just the "how," so that she can show that it is not a gene that allows people to create. It is a deeper understanding of the craft, the mechanics behind it, the reasons for why things work the way they do on your loom. I say this, but I do not wish to imply that this is a technical textbook, bogged down with hard to understand diagrams and riddled with jargon. Quite the contrary. Pattie Graver organized this book in such a way that through doing you gain understanding.
And there is nothing I love more than great photographs in a reference crafting book. This book has photographs for everything. It has samples of all the weaves discussed, shows them with various warp/weft combinations as well as the front and back of the woven cloth. And after a visual demonstration of all the different weaving patterns in a given chapter, there are numerous complete projects that can be attempted. The nice thing about the projects is that they are designed with creativity in mind. Pattie Graver intends you to make changes, expand on the projects and make them your own. She has crafted launching points. However, if you aren't ready to take off (or you just like the look of her project) the projects are all quite nice just as they are. As a bonus, all the patterns are for a four-shaft loom. Yay!
Bottom Line: I really enjoy this book. I am currently making my own set of kitchen towels as samplers of the rosepath twill. (I'm experimenting with different iterations on the same warp.) It has been a treat because I feel like I really understand what is happening and it is all thanks to this book. Pattie Graver organized the book well, included great and appropriate pictures, and really explained things in an accessible way. This book provides the why to what you may already know as how. It is a great addition to any weavers library.
Quite recently I stumbled upon a blog by a wonderful writer, Nadia. It is an Irish craft and garden blog, but I feel it really touches on much more than that brief description implies. While the blog includes much by way of fiber craft and gardening, it also provides a heartfelt outlet for the voice of a woman, mother, wife and dedicated writer. Nadia's posts are very moving and speak to me on a personal level, which is why I enjoy reading them so much. I am a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers, as is she, but this does not define all of me...this is just a part of me. I have dreams and ambitions that I try to squeeze in between potty training, trying to teach my sons to be gentlemen, and weird gloopy messes on the couch. Nadia gives me strength when I am feeling slightly defeated and cries out to me that I am not alone. In a way, I find myself feeling as though I am part of a crafting, fiber-loving, sci-fi enthusiastic sisterhood when I read the words put down by this blogger.
I am writing this as a blog review, but I would be remiss not to include the other ventures Nadia includes on her website. Nadia also produces quality, interesting podcasts (I've listened to a few and have loved each one) as well as engaging social media posts. She has committed herself to being a full-time freelance blogger, so I feel the content is only going to grow in the coming months. Her beautiful photography is also worth checking out, both on Instagram and on her blog. Her garden is really an inspiration.
She is the full package, ladies and gentlemen...her website has a little something for everyone. I would highly recommend checking out her website and joining in her conversation. Even if you don't find fiber as exciting or gardening as consuming, she offers something more. She writes about life, which we are all currently involved in, so take a peak at her perspective. It is well worth it.
Local Yarn Shoppe Review
I just returned from a visit to my parents. It was long overdue but I was very nervous to make the trip with my two toddlers. An eleven hour drive with nothing but you, a one-year old, a three-year old and the open road can be quite scary. My husband and I had kept planning to arrange a time when he could get off work to come with me, but unexpected and unavoidable things kept cropping up, so I put my big-girl panties on, loaded up the car, and ventured forth solo. Now that it is all done and I have made it back home, I feel quite proud of myself. High five to me. It was a lovely visit, too. My kids got to meet their great grandmother, their great great aunt and spend lots of fun time with their grandparents. Family is a very special thing.
However, a visit is not a visit without scoping out a local yarn store. And the Saturday after I arrived at my parents' house was World Wide Knit in Public day, so there was a ready reason to convince my entire family to pile in the car in search of yarn. (My dad was not thrilled, but he lucked out and found a new guitar store. So really, everyone was a winner here.) I did a search on the internet and found Bella Filati was not far off, so it was there that we went. And I am so glad we did. That yarn store is so happily situated it is almost unreal. The street where Bella Filati find its home is filled with the cutest local shops you've ever seen. In truth, it was all luxury shopping, but it was all very special. It is not every day you can find a place that has a local book store, local yarn shop, local ice cream parlor, local furniture gallery, local music store...the list goes on. In the age of big box stores and the internet, it was quite refreshing. And that was just the knitting store's location; the store itself was lovely, too.
The inside of the store was well-organized and spacious. I have commented before that I enjoy a snug knitting shop, but this store clearly was organized with the social aspects of knitting in mind. The proprietor of the shop hosts multiple social knitting groups a week, offers knitting tutorials and private lessons and also hosts classes from visiting designers. It is important she have space for people to sit and work. There was a ton of natural light pouring into the store, too, which made choosing yarn colors that much better because you could really see.
Another thing I liked about the store was that for every sample that was on display, the owner of the shoppe made the yarn that was used in a well-organized display where you could easily find nice color combinations and alternatives to the pattern. There was not a huge selection of yarn considering the size of the store, but all the yarn that was available was very nice and of high quality. The prices were very reasonable, too.
Bottom Line: This store is well worth a visit if you are in the area. The shop owner was very knowledgeable and had a very pleasant disposition. The store was bright, clean, and cheerful. Perhaps most importantly, the yarn was lovely.
Available from various retailers for approx. $15.00 a skein.
This is a single-ply, bulky weight yarn good for needle sizes US 10-11 or 6-8 mm.
Yardage= 130 yds (119 m)
100% Merino Superwash Wool
I feel like I'm gravitating toward single-ply yarns lately. They are just so delicious and squishy and, I feel, really show off the fiber from which they are created to great effect. One such example of my single-ply obsession is the Malabrigo Mecha bulky weight yarn. My mother-in-law recently came for a visit, and while casually perusing the numerous knitting magazines I had about the house, she found a cowl she really liked. She did not ask directly, but she sort of implied she would enjoy owning said cowl. What a perfect present, then! I love knitting, she loves cowls...it's a match made in heaven.
The pattern, which I promise I will share when it's done, or at least more done than it is now, called for two contrasting colors in a bulky yarn. I stumbled upon the Malabrigo at my local yarn shop and thought it was the perfect fit. I've begun knitting the cowl, and it already feels really warm and, as I mentioned before, squishy. Yay! It's exactly what I wanted for the project. I have wound all my yarn and started my cowl with about 4 inches knit (it is knit in rows and joined at the end) and I have not had any problems with breakage or tangles. And have I mentioned how soft it is? Oh my goodness, I just want to curl up in my tiny bit of cowl. The yarn itself also has a variation in its thickness, but never gets too thin or chunks out too far.
Mecha is one of 18 different yarn types offered by Malabrigo and at last count had over 40 colorways available. (Malabrigo boasts over 300 different colors throughout all their yarns, and if you are at all familiar with the company, you must know they are ALL gorgeous.) One of the things I love most about Malabrigo yarns are their colors. They are hand-dyed, so there is natural variation in all of the skeins, which is part of the charm. The good people at Malabrigo have really done a wonderful job capturing inspiration in the form of yarn. The vibrancy of their colors is really something else. If you cannot get to a store to check out their yarns in person, I would highly recommend at least checking out their website to see their lovely color palette. They two colors I have featured on this page are "natural" and "teal feather."
The company is based in Uruguay, starting as a small kitchen operation and now operating a mill in Parque Tecnológico Industrial del Cerro, a Technology and Industry Park in Montevideo, Uruguay with a brand new mill in Peru. They have made upgrades to their equipment to try to reduce their ecological footprint and are advocates of sustainability. Their wool comes from free-range sheep that are "herded by actual old-style shepherds." They are focused on the humane treatment of their sheep and providing a quality, responsibly sourced product.
Bottom Line: Malabrigo Mecha is a wonderful bulky yarn to work with. It comes in rich, vibrant colors (as well as natural) and is a high quality single-ply. I have used Malabrigo yarns in the past and have never had a bad experience. By all accounts, Malabrigo is doing their part to be a responsible source of fiber. While it is perhaps a little expensive, it is worth the money for those special projects. It will be a delight to knit with and the project will look beautiful when it's finished.
Lamb's Pride Superwash yarn is a line available from Brown Sheep Company. As far as I know, they only distribute wholesale, but many local yarn shops and a ton of online retailers carry this "Made in the USA" brand. I purchased my stash from my local shoppe. Lambs Pride has particular appeal for me because it is all natural and extremely affordable when compared to other wools carried in house at the yarn store. Each skien is less than $5.00. You can't beat that. Especially if you're whipping up something as a practice run on a design or need the nice finish of a real wool but not the high price of the more luxury end yarns.
I did some reading about the Brown Sheep company, it is a family owned business that started over 100 years ago. The mill is located in Nebraska and has been passed down generations as it matured and grew into what it is today. The company is interested in sustainability and green processing methods even while they grow and expand to over 1000 colors and multiple lines of yarn. It seems to be a responsible company that is succeeding while living out a real American dream type story. It was very inspirational learning about the company and makes me feel good to support them.
I have used the Lamb's Pride on a number of projects, including a set of gloves and hat I knit for my sister this past Christmas as well as a shawl I currently have on needles. The yarn produces very nice stitch definition but is a little stiff and a bit scratchy. It definitely feels like what most non-knitters imagine when you utter the word "wool." However, it does ease up in the scratchiness after you wet block a project, as I learned with my sister's gift. There are an absolute ton of colors to choose from and they have done a nice job making colors that look nice together. (Especially when you choose one of their yarns that has different colors spun together. "Mountain Peak" is one I have featured here.) I have not had any issues with the colors running, staining my wooden needles or washing out. I bet, and I haven't tried so I can't say for sure, this yarn would be great for any kind of color work. This superwash wool is available in fingering, sport, worsted and chunky...so if you can dream it, you can knit it with this yarn.
Bottom Line: This is a solid workhorse of a yarn. It is a good quality yarn for an affordable price from a responsible, family-owned company. I look forward to sampling some of their other yarns available.
I am working on a cardigan for my husband, and I was delighted to see the pattern called for size 8 double pointed needles. I, in fact, did not own any size 8 dpns and was happy to have an excuse to finally buy a new set. I was mostly excited because I have been wanting to try square knitting needles for quite some time. However, when I have a set of very serviceable needles in the required size already in my collection (that just happen to be round and not square), it's hard to justify going out and buying more. This cardigan solved my problem. Yay!
So, with great anticipation, 17.5" of the body worked and permission to move on to the sleeve, I pulled out my brand new 8" Foursquare Majestic Wood double pointed needles from KnitPicks. I figure, double points were a good way to really test these needles out, too...take them for an in-the-round spin, so to speak.
First, let's talk about their appearance. I am a huge fan of wood needles, always have been. KnitPicks has some particularly beautiful needles in a variety of woods and finishes. The Foursquare needles are the laminated birch wood in the "majestic" colorway, meaning they have a nice combination of blues, purples and greens. These needles have what I would call a "high gloss" finish, which surprised me, but I will get back to that in a moment. As the name implies, the needles are square, having four flat sides with slightly rounded edges. They come to a nice, rounded point (on both ends, in the case of the double pointed needles). They are the same size as their rounded counterparts, meaning you can use the same hole in a gauge to see what size needle you are dealing with.
*Side note: Luckily my stitch matched my gauge from the round needles I worked with throughout the rest of the sweater. KnitPicks does encourage you to check, however, as some people's stitch size is different when they switch from the round to the square needles.
Now that the appearance is taken care of, let's talk mechanics. As I mentioned, these needles are very glossy. I was worried, especially working in the round, that this would lead to stitches easily falling off. However, those crafty designers at KnitPicks know what they are doing. I guess it's the perfect blend of gloss and edge, my stitches slide off easily when I want them, but stay put when I don't. I found these needles to work very well with my tweed wool in my current project, making every stitch feel consistent and smooth. I like that the needles are offered in a variety of lengths (4, 5, 6, 8"); I personally like working with the longer 8" for worsted weight yarns. These 8" needles are available in sizes 4-11. However, I did see that sizes 0-3 (with the more precise metric sizes included) were also available in the 4-6" lengths.
Bottom Line: If you are looking to try something new, I would recommend getting a pair of these needles. Especially if you enjoy wood needles. I am sure they are not for everyone (as is the case with all needles) but I really have enjoyed knitting with them. I get consistent stitches and the motion of knitting is very comfortable. The needles fit well in my fingers and the flat sides might actually help with my grip. And of course these needles look beautiful, too, with their swirls of greens and blues acting as eye candy as you knit. For such an affordable price, these are great needles. I plan on buying more.