I need to do a better job sharing things that bring me joy. Hands down, Dana Williams-Johnson's website/blog Yards of Happiness is one of those things. I mean, really, she is all about things that spark joy. For her, those things include knitted sweaters.
To say she is a prolific knitter is a HUGE understatement. She cranks out sweaters faster than I eat holiday chocolate...which is pretty fast. Not only does she create beautiful sweaters for those of the human persuasion, she also creates tiny masterpieces for Jellybean, her dog. Most of the time these sweaters coordinate charmingly with her people sweaters and pictures are always included. In addition to great photos, she also includes the people sweater pattern names and tips, hints, pitfalls, strengths of the pattern and/or yarn choice she uses. It is a great launching point for sweater inspiration.
She is active on other platforms, as well, if you prefer or want a little more Jellybean in your life. She is an active contributor on the MDK website, sells enamel pins sporting her brand on Etsy and posts photos regularly on Instagram. I believe she also has a YouTube video podcast. And while most of her posts are full of joy and spark happiness, she is a dynamic person living a real life with important things to share and say. It is not all dog sweaters and great color combos, but there is a lot of that.
Bottom Line: If you like knitting and you like sweaters, this is a blog to keep on your radar. If you don't even care so much about sweaters but you share Dana's exuberance and outward joy, this is a blog to keep on your radar.
Ashford offers a large range of rigid heddle loom options. I own their 32-inch standard rigid heddle loom (which is available in four sizes) and their 10-inch SampleIt loom. They also have a Knitters loom, which I believe folds; neither of my looms fold. I absolutely love both of my looms, though. I'll take a moment on each, because one is a large rigid heddle loom and the other is tiny- they are different yet they are both mighty. They are both in metric sizes with US size approximations; so know that a 12-dent loom, for example, is actually a 12.5-dent loom because of the metric reed size.
The 32-inch loom is wonderful! At first I was hesitant to have a rigid heddle loom that was so large, but it is well constructed, the balance is great, and it works just as well as my smaller rigid heddle looms (such as my 15-inch cricket), no matter what size project I am tackling. I have made a baby blanket, receiving cloths, scarves and wraps on the loom- three of which are now featured in Interweave publications and one in Ply Magazine, so the loom can really produce quality weaving without fuss. And somehow I manage a very balanced beat with the larger reed size. I would actually say that my fell line is more consistent and even with my larger loom than my smaller one- perhaps the extra grabbing space changes the way I pull toward the front beam. My 32-inch loom is not the largest size, either. There is a 48-inch loom I've been tempted to explore, as well. I have a stand for all of my rigid heddle looms, which I think makes using them much easier. However, the stands are just as expensive as the looms themselves, so a tabletop works great, too. If you have the money to splurge, however, I would recommend a stand.
There are plastic bits on the loom, but they are durable and tough, not at all flimsy. I really like the crank, it is very secure and I like the way the break is designed for the crank. The extra little bump makes winding and stopping so easy. I was hesitant about the plastic ties that hold the apron rods in place, but they actually work great and Ashford offers replacement pieces should your loom need some love and care. I have had my loom for two years with lots of traffic and have not needed to replace anything.
I have purchased the loom stand for my SampleIt, too. While I would recommend the loom stand for the larger looms for everyone, I would not say the same for the SampleIt. Don't get me wrong, I really like the loom stand, it works great for me and helps my weaving. However, unlike the larger stands, I think body type is a bigger factor for this particular stand. My legs fit under the loom still, so I can sit comfortably as I do with all my weaving. My mother, on the other hand, has to straddle the stand because her legs do not fit as comfortably underneath. This changes her whole weaving stance. While the straddling position may be comfortable for some weavers, it was not for my mom. It is an expensive accessory, so I just wanted to mention that it is narrow.
Overall, I really really really like my Ashford looms. I would recommend them to any rigid heddle weaver, whether new to the craft or a seasoned expert. They are sturdy, well-made tools and they are widely available, making reeds and other accessories easy to get. They are reasonably prices, but some of the accessories can start to get expensive- but because the loom is great on its own, the pricey bells and whistles are not actually needed.
This book is AWESOME. It is well thought out and a visual delight. Not only does it have very detailed images of different handspun yarns, detailing how to successfully create each one, it also includes knit swatches of each yarn. With these swatches are discussions on the pros and cons of the yarn for its knitted purpose (such as cables or colorwork). The author, Jillian Moreno, is sort of a rock star in the spinning world and this book makes it obvious why she is such a popular writer and teacher of the topic. She has a blog and a monthly newsletter linked here. Check it out, she is a well of fiber knowledge and always has great book recommendations.
I first checked this book out from my local library and enjoyed it so much I bought a copy for my permanent book collection. It really is a great reference, with tips on how to achieve clean colors when spinning, different ways to ply and finish your yarn, and ideas on what to create with the yarn you spin. Ms. Moreno compares the different stages, from prep to finished yarn, to building a house. Her explanations are very easy to follow and the house analogy created a very cohesive book. And, as i mentioned, it is a wonderful visual journey. The colors, samples, and overall photography are really wonderful. Even if you aren't a spinner, this book would be fun to look at.
Bottom Line: If you spin, whether you're a seasoned veteran or a newbie, this book is great. It has so much packed in its beautiful pages, there is something for everyone. It is a great resource and a pretty book for your shelf.
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.