All posts by Lorraine

Back from Stitches!

Pumpkin couple in lobby


October, and another outing to Stitches East.  Last year I kind of blitzed through it, allowing myself only one afternoon and the following morning at the market.  This year, it was a treat to spend a couple of days there.  I actually took a couple of classes, strolled the vendor market at a more leisurely pace, and actually didn’t break the budget overdosing on yarn.  It was a win all-around, plus some terrific views of the fall foliage on the train to and from Hartford.

This year Stitches was October 11-14, which coincided with Lidlady’s birthday on the 11th and Restaurant Week in Hartford.  Shoutout to Trumbull’s Kitchen for a fine dinner!  And kudos to the city of Hartford for the free shuttle service that runs from the train station to major hotels, restaurants, and the convention center.

Decided to take it easy this time, and not sign up for workshops or classes at 8am.  That left the morning for the Market, schmoosing with the vendors, a bit of lunch, and then an afternoon workshop before getting back to the hotel and collapsing from exhaustion.  Shop till you drop indeed!

Saturday afternoon’s workshop was “Beyond Basic Crochet,” with the Crochet Dude himself, Drew Emborsky.  To be honest, it didn’t get all that much beyond the basics, but the Dude helped us get our stitches right and get our rows straight.  (Yes, yes, I have crocheted a few unintentional parallelograms in my time).  He taught us how to change colors correctly and carry yarns almost invisibly.  Best of all, he showed us how to weave in those pesky yarn ends (and that, my friends, was worth the whole workshop for me!)

headless display in lobby
He had enough time to make and model a sampler!

Everybody was dragging by Sunday afternoon, so that might not have been the best time to take a workshop involving knitting wristers with seed beads and fingering weight yarn,  but “Off the Cuff” with Susanna Hansson was a lot of fun.  She had a great sense of humor and kept up the encouragement (“Don’t worry, it’s a piece of cake!”), even as many of us had brought the wrong kind of yarn, or the wrong size needles, or the wrong size beads for the project.  Can’t imagine what I was thinking when I went through the old bead stash and selected beads that were at least 3 times the size I would need!  Live and learn.  But I did figure out a workaround that got my bead rows to line up more or less correctly, and for that I was dubbed “clever” and “creative.”  (See?  I told you she was encouraging.)  Don’t know that I will be making tons of these beaded cuffs, as knitsters of a certain age with fading eyes and a house full of felines have to exercise some caution.  But they are kind of neat, and now that I am home with a full bead stash at my disposal, I do intend to complete at least one pair.

Will be posting more about my yarn purchases anon, as I begin new projects!

Grinning and Bearing It

Frankie Bear
Frankie Bear

Wow, Labor Day has come and gone, and we’re off and running into Fall already, making yarn plans and dreaming up new projects.  More to come on those subjects.  In the meantime, I don’t know where everyone else’s Summer went, but I spent my downtime reading my way through the Game of Thrones series (just finished Book 3) and working on those cute teddy bears for the 2KnitLitChicks MotherBear knit-a-long (KAL). Since last post, I managed to complete 5 more before the August 31 deadline. I had never made one before, so each became a learning experience.  First bear (Eric) was done from the head down, on 8″ double-pointed needles.  No joke, trying to manage such a small number of stitches for the arms and legs on those giant dpns!  Shortly after #2 (Albert), I went to a “Socktacular” event at the Li0n Brand Yarn Studio, and it occurred to me that I should try doing a bear from the bottom up on 2 circs (since that’s the way I like to do socks).   And since I liked doing the little garter-stitch paw, I had to re-learn the Emily Ocker cast on to start the circle and draw it closed so the stuffing wouldn’t fall out.  The paws were coming out a bit wonky, though.

Barry Bear
Barry Bear

By #3 (Barry) I had acquired not one but two sets of little 5″ dpn’s to make the arms and legs easier to knit.  And, although this project was supposed to be a stash-buster, I found myself acquiring several skeins of worsted-weight acrylic for “bear-work.”  Okay, it was sale yarn, but still…  Number 4 (Chip) and 5 (Donny) moved right along.

Oh! And then came a total revelation.  I was curious to see if YouTube had any bear making videos, so I surfed around and stumbled upon a fantastic way to make the arms that did NOT involve one of my least favorite activities, picking up stitches.  Are you ready?  It’s a raglan join.  I set to it immediately, and created bear #6 (Frankie).

And just to show the learning never stops,  last week Knitter Simona suggested a perfect resolution to the bottom-up paw problem — start with a provisional cast-on for the arm or leg, and do the paw at the end (towards the bottom, in other words, rather than starting truly bottom-up).  Thanks, Simona!

Chip Bear
Chip Bear
Donny Bear
Donny Bear
Albert Bear
Albert Bear

Bearing Up…. While Stashing Down

Closeup of BearWell, here’s an idea for the stash-down.  Over the weekend I completed my first teddy bear for the Mother Bear Project.  I know, always late to the party.  Knitters have known about this for years, and my good pal Lidlady has created nearly a dozen herself.  She warned me that they are addictive, and she’s right.  I’m already working on a second one.

Go to the website to read about the project and see photos of all the kids with their bears.  You can buy the pattern (for knit or crochet versions, in-the-round or flat/seamed) on the site.  It is also available in the book, Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time, by Betty Christiansen.

Over on Ravelry, Barb and Tracie from the 2 Knit Lit Chicks podcast have started a Mother Bear KAL/CAL with some nifty prizes for randomly selected members of the group who post their finished bears between July 1 and August 31. If you’re looking for inspiration to make a bear yourself, try a Ravelry search for “mother bear” in the “projects” section and there are almost 2800 hits.  Each one is made from the same basic pattern, yet all are different, with distinct personlities.  Most have names, too.  My little guy is “Eric”  — suggested by Lidlady when I was taking so long to finish the paws that she named him “Slow-paw.”

Speaking of paws, I have not posted Part 3 of “Meet the Interns” — so here you go.  Meet Maxie (male, black) and Biscuit (female, grey/blue), the last of our little orphan tribe.

cat sticking out tongue
Mmmmm.... bears.... tasty!
I could knit a bear.... if I wanted to!


Summer Stash Down Redux

OK, Memorial Day has been and gone, tomorrow is Flag Day — and it’s time for another attempt at Summer Stash Down.  Having already registered for Stitches East in mid-October, I don’t have a lot of time to make room for any fiber goodness I expect to bring home.  I am out of plastic bins and room to store them!  As a reality check, I dragged them all out and spread them on a queen-sized bed.  Result was too large to fit in a single photo.   Even standing on a chair.  Sigh….

bins of yarn
Sock yarn... and lots more

Meet the “Interns” — Part 2

orange cat on knitted mat
Goes with my coloring, don't you think?

Time to meet some more of the feline staff!  These guys arrived as a set, born on the back deck some two years ago.  Their mom sneaked them into our shed while we were on vacation and they spent the rest of the summer growing into cute little furballs. They moved into the house that fall, when the weather (and our neighbors) grew colder and less forgiving.    Yes, all FIVE of them.  And Tee got promoted to supervisor.

Howie is the largest, and a keen assistant!  Though he will be into your project bag and making off with a skein in an instant, he has a particular affinity for tools.  It is impossible to work with 14″ straight needles around him, the little grabby-paws, but my favorite memory (sadly no photo) is the time he snatched my #13 circs right in the center of the cable  and ran through the upstairs hallway looking like Fu Manchu with the needles dangling out of each side of his mouth.

cat in the sink
Hey, don't put any of that Eucalan stuff on me, okay? I'll move when the shawl gets here.

Raymond is the other “Weasley twin.”  He is a total knitting buddy, happy to stretch out alongside your leg instead of hogging up all available lap room.  Not that he isn’t interested in your project and anytempting balls of yarn attached to it.  But a few gentle reminders to keep his paws to himself, and he’ll just lick your hand and go to sleep.

cats on bed
Baby Days

Leo is the only long-haired one, with a decidedly short attention span.  Loves to be in your lap while you knit, but can’t make up his mind which lap, or which position to settle down in, or — hey, maybe doesn’t want to be in your lap after all — wait, he’s back!  Leo!

cat on mat
There's something soo satisfying about a rectangle...

New in the Stacks

Circular Knitting

We’ve added some new titles you should definitely hunt down and check out!  Look for them in the Main Stacks on the 5th floor, in the TT 820’s call number range.

Alasdair Post-Quinn, Extreme Double-Knitting: New Adventures in Reversible Color Work (2011)

Gwen Steege, The Knitter’s Life List (2011)

Julie Turjoman, Brave New Knits: 26 Projects and Personalities from the Knitting Blogosphere (2010)

Mandy Moore, Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti (2008)

Margaret Radcliffe, Circular Knitting Workshop (2012)

And on the 4th floor, visit the Reference Stacks to see — Vogue Knitting Knitopedia: The Ultimate A to Z for Knitters (2011). Not a huge coffee-table compendium, this book is a good, basic overview of knitting topics, with brief entries and excellent illustrations.  Clearly aimed at today’s knitters, it talks about trending topics like entrelac, covers  podcasts, and has brief (one-page) essays by many of today’s big names — the podcasters, authors and teachers you meet at conferences.  I do have one gripe with this book.  Not to sound crabby, but the text is very tiny and way too light.  Who is the audience?  Many potential buyers of this book, who might want it as a reference, are of (shall we say) a certain age where readability is more of a factor than price.  But that’s enough ranting….

No time to read a book?  Our good friend Beth reminds us that the Library now subscribes to Interweave Knits magazine.  Look for the latest issue at the Periodicals desk on the 6th floor.


We’re Baaaaack…. and Speaking of Conferences

Well!  I certainly didn’t intend for so much time to slip by.  But as we come up to our first anniversary I can only promise to be a better blogger this time around.

Last time I was talking about the Stitches East conference in Hartford CT.   I still remember my first Stitches, back in 2007 when it was still in Baltimore.  I signed up for all the events (starting on Thursday evening), took 3 classes over the next 3 days, spent hours in the Market, and by Sunday I was exhausted.  We bought so much yarn we had to ship most of it home in a huge box and jam the rest into every inch of our suitcases.   The Market was amazing and overwhelming, so many vendors, so much yarn, so many pretty colors….  Sensory overload to the max.

The first time is always special, and my next couple of Stitches experiences were more governed by common sense and a budget.  I tried to remember — I live in New York!  We have dozens of yarn stores.  I have a full time job!  Time to knit is limited, and there is no point collecting yarn just to let it sit in a stash.  I work at FIT — and in the Library at that!  I have access to wonderful books every day for free — books on technique, books to inspire, you name it.   You get the idea.

So why go to Stitches?  For me, it’s a chance to see and feel the yarns.  Online shopping is great for price and convenience, but even a really great photo of a skein or swatch is no substitute for tactile experience.  You can ask the vendor questions, see and feel sample garments, and sometimes get a decent price break on sale or discontinued yarns.  The classes and workshops are frequently taught by the authors of those wonderful knitting books.  It is a chance to learn a new technique or pursue an aspect of knitting on a deeper level.  And, of course, all spare downtime is spent knitting, so you get to meet a variety of people who love it just as much as you do.

This year at Hartford I just went for the Market, and did manage to limit my purchases to fill one totebag.  My vote for favorite vendor is Blue Moon Fiber Arts, source of the beautiful Socks That Rock yarns.  Their booth was mobbed at all times, but the Blue Moon ladies could not have been nicer, more patient or more helpful.   Every other person I saw in the Market was wearing the Stephen West Daybreak shawl — and those who weren’t (like me!) were lined up at Blue Moon to buy yarn to make one.  It’s a fairly simple shawl, requiring 2 colorways and knit in stripes.  Impossible to choose!  One of the Blue Mooners was ready with advice.  She had each one of us in turn select one colorway, and then she picked out one or two coordinating colorways for us.  Great suggestions and unusual choices, tailored to our preferences.  Now that’s customer service!

In the Library Stacks

Busy week for knitters!  Last weekend was the New York Sheep & Wool Festival at Rhinebeck, and this weekend there is Stitches East at the Hartford Convention Center in CT.  I missed the first, but am definitely headed up to Hartford for a day of breathing in the fiber fumes at the market.

In the meantime, and for those who like to do a little traveling closer to home, here is a quick browse through the FIT Library stacks on the 5th floor.  Many of the  “fiber arts” type books are generally in the TT820-TT825 section.  Yes, I know there are many exceptions — don’t get me started on the vicissitudes of Library of Congress Classification! — but this is a great place to begin.  Anyway, since one of the real pleasures of my job is to buy books for the FIT collection that I’d actually want to read or use myself, here are some recent additions that make me want to reach for the needles.  They range from the social/historical  to the practical, from fiber to finished design, from clothing and accessories to yarn bombs and cute li’l critters.  Check ’em out and have fun exploring.

The Culture of Knitting — Joanne Turney, 2009
Fiber Gathering: Knit, Crochet, Spin and Dye… Inspired by America’s Festivals — Joanne Seiff, 2009
In the Loop: Knitting Now — Jessica Hemmings, 2010
The Knitted Odd-Bod Bunch: 35 Unique and Quirky Knitted Creatures — Donna Wilson, 2009
The Knitter’s Book of Wool — Clara Parkes, 2009
Knitwear Design Workshop: A Comprehensive Guide to Handknits — Shirley Paden, 2009
Luxe Knits: The Accessories — Laura Zukaite, 2010
Modern Top-down Knitting — Kristina McGowan, 2010
Noro: Meet the Man Behind the Legendary Yarn — Cornelia Hamilton Tuttle, 2009
Norwegian Handknits: Heirloom Designs from Vesterheim Museum — Sue Flanders & Janine Kosel, 2009
Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously — Adrienne Martini, 2010
Urban Knits — Simone Werle, 2011


Knitting Rainbows

Rainbow MittenEver since Knit Picks introduced their Chroma yarn last year, I’ve been enjoying trying out the different colorways on small 1-2 ball projects.  In the process, I discovered that while I love the worsted weight of this yarn, I am not so crazy about the fingering weight.  All the worsted weight projects I tried turned out well.  The yarn has a great feel, very soft and smooth.  I learned some new techniques — mittens, a keyhole scarf with a ruffle, and more.

picture of ruffled scarf
Ruffled Ascot knit in Regency colorway
 crochet diamond scarf
Diamond scarf crocheted in New England & White colorways
Mittens & Headband knit in Prism colorway


Best experience was an entrelac cowl.  I actually had to learn entrelac first, but it wasn’t so difficult.  The pattern (Lacy Entrelac Infinity Scarf by Michele Bernstein) was designed specifically for the Chroma yarn, so the changes in color were automatic rather than having to break off one color and start a new one.  That made knitting it a whole lot easier.  It became fun and addictive, and I took the project along with me to a conference where I worked happily away during the sessions as well as breaks.  Cowl and I had a great time in Philadelphia.

picture of scarf on table
So many sessions, so much time to knit
picture of scarf on chair
Entrelac cowl knit in Pegasus colorway










Kudos by the way to the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) for a “green” conference.  This meant no papers or handouts to carry around, thus room in my tote bag for more important stuff (like my knitting).   More important, it meant that all the slides and session notes were available online after the conference, so I could knit during the sessions and not have to worry about hastily scrawling notes.  This being a really easy pattern, I could focus my attention on the speaker.  And last but by no means least, knitting in public at a conference is a great way to make acquaintances and “network.”

pair of knitted socks in progress
Socks knit in Roller Skate colorway

As for that fingering weight… I bought one ball and tried it out on what I call my “Up and Down Rainbow Sox.”   The finished sock is Cat Bordhi’s basic sock (from Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles)  knitted cuff down.  I never do them that way anymore, so it was going back to the way I first learned.  (Well, not quite all the way back — I learned on dpns.  That was BC — before Cat.)  I remembered that I did not really like doing up the toe with the Kitchener stitch, but the real annoying thing was the yarn.  It has a thick-and-thin quality that didn’t work for making tight stitches on small needles.  I decided to do the second sock toe-up, since Cat’s method makes a nice rounded toe, but the knitting isn’t any more pleasant with this yarn.  Maybe it would work for a shawl or a scarf, but I would not use Chroma again for socks.  Oh well, live and learn.

Knit Like Your (Great) Grandma…

Cover of knitting bookOur good friend Paul just alerted us to a wonderful resource for knitting manuals from the late 19th and early 20th century.  If you like old pattern books, you have to check out the Richard Rutt Collection at the Winchester School of Art Library.  Rutt is a scholar and former bishop who wrote A History of Hand Knitting (1987) and then donated his research collection to the University of Southampton.  The books are full text, cover to cover, and are publicly available as downloadable PDFs.  A real treasure trove!

What is in the collection?  As long as you’re still here reading, allow me to quote from the VADS site:

“A particular distinction and strength of Richard Rutt’s collection is the range and number of nineteenth century knitting books first published in the 1830s. These Victorian knitting manuals may be considered as the precursors to the contemporary knitting pattern and the ‘how-to-knit’ books that are still being published over 180 years later. This collection has now been digitised and each book has been copied from cover to cover by the University of Southampton’s Digitisation Unit and are available online via the Visual Arts Data Service (VADS)”

Oh, and while you’re at it, check out what else VADS has on the site.  There are some gorgeous collections of images in textiles and the graphic arts.