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Interview with Pam Hoffman from Indian Lake Artisans

I’m really excited to share an interview today with Pam Hoffman from Indian Lake Artisans. I had the pleasure of meeting Pam at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013, and then again in 2014. Pam and her husband, Mark, make these amazing hexagonal knitting needles (and other knitting and crochet accessories) using locally sourced materials. If you are at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival this weekend (also known as “Rhinebeck”), please check out their booth!

Pam and Mark also generously sponsored my 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-a-Long by providing a set of hexagonal knitting needles to the winner of our August giveaway. (If you want to join in on the MKAL, you can buy the pattern here on Ravelry and chat in the Underground Crafter group here. There are more fun prizes to come in October, November, and December!)

You can find Indian Lake Artisans online on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter. Product photos are copyright Indian Lake Artisans and used with permission.

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Interview with Pam from Indian Lake Artisans on Underground Crafter blog

Pam at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013. I loved the booth as soon as I saw it!

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you start Indian Lake Artisans?

Pam: We live in a little log cabin, on a little island, on a little lake, in southeastern Michigan, north of Detroit named Indian Lake. Mark and I have always loved the outdoors and find much inspiration in our life from nature. We love arts and crafts so when we began making knitting needles we wanted a name that would grow with the company and encompass multiple art forms and artisans, thus Indian Lake Artisans was born. We launched the company in May 2010 with 9 products and we now make over 200 items. We make single point, double point and circular knitting needles. We have shawl pins, cable needles, stitch markers and our very own unique hexagonal wooden yarn bowls.

Interview with Pam from Indian Lake Artisans on Underground Crafter blog

Straight hexagonal knitting needles by Indian Lake Artisans.

UC: What inspired you to create your signature line of hexagonal knitting needles?

Pam: I was shopping for a Christmas present at my local yarn shop and I wanted to buy some knitting needles, yarn and a book for my daughter who was in her mid twenties and a beginning knitter.

The expert knitter at the shop thought square needles would be a good idea for her. She took a set down and began casting on to show me how easy it is to knit with the square needles. She was all thumbs and really struggling, and she was the expert. It sure didn’t look easy to me!

I declined on the square needles and bought a traditional pair instead but I couldn’t stop thinking about different shapes that might be beneficial for knitters. Back in my Jeep and driving to pick up my son, I came to a stop sign. Octagonal? No, too many flat sides. I had a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil on my dash board and that triggered my brain. Hexagonal! Easy to hold, round in nature. Returned home, grabbed my pencils and yarn, and began knitting. This felt really great.

The hexagonal shape is easy to hold. You do not have to grip the needles tightly to control them. The hexagonal shape is round in nature and creates beautiful stitches with uniform tension, and your stitch gauge stays true to size. If you think about the hexagonal shape, the yarn stretches from point to point around the hexagon. The flat side is slightly under the yarn and this creates a tiny gap or ease in the yarn. This makes it very easy for you to slide your knitting needle under your stitch, making it very easy to knit and purl. You never have to force anything.

The minute you have to force your knitting needles, you need to grip them tighter and that action tenses everything…hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, back and brain. When you are holding our needles in one hand, they rest comfortably flat side to flat side. You don’t have to try to control two round objects that want to spin against each other. The hexagonal shape makes knitting multiple stitches together, or knitting into the front and back of a stitch, so much easier because you have just a little extra wiggle room to work your stitches. The needles are recyclable and non toxic. Allergy sufferers really love our needles as they are nickel free. We hear from our customers all of the time how our needles have changed their lives. They are able to knit again and their hands no longer ache. Our needles are very ergonomic.

Indian Lake Artisans single point knitting needles are available in US size 6 through size 15. Each single point size has a decorative copper topper unique to that particular size. I designed all of the tops and they are made with a very lightweight and recyclable plastic that is copper plated. The toppers from small to large are as follows; feather, owl, fish, rowboat, arrowhead, lantern, acorn, turtle, and cabin.

The double points are available in size 2 through size 15. The DPN’s are wonderful as they provide control for your hands and your stitches. No need to worry about your stitches dancing off the needles while resting on the table.

The circular needles are available in size 3 through 15. We make standard lengths 16″, 24″, 32″ and 40″. We are also able to make custom lengths. We have made 12″ and 60″ length circulars for customers and everything in between. We love customizing needles for a particular project need. The circular needles swivel on the connector and this relieves twisting of the cord as the needles move with you.

Hexagonal knitting needles make happy knitting!

Interview with Pam from Indian Lake Artisans on Underground Crafter blog

Hexagonal circular knitting needles by Indian Lake Artisans.

UC: Tell us more about your commitment to using locally sourced materials.

Pam: On receiving the first patent, we had to figure out how to make the needles. What an adventure it has been! Michigan had not rebounded from the recession of the early 2000s and was devastated by the financial crash of 2008. I wanted to utilize every Michigan company I could to produce the needles. If we couldn’t find a Michigan source, it would have to be a USA company. I was determined to avoid overseas, outsourced, cheap labor and components.

We are extremely proud to say that we have succeeded in our “Michigan made” mission. We use more than ten Michigan companies that help employ roughly 500 people to produce our needles. The individual decorative tops for the single points are made in Grandville, MI along with the tooling for these tops. They are copper plated in Warren, MI. The wood we use is from sustainable forests in the Great Lakes and a mill in Highland prepares the native wood, walnut, cherry, and maple, for Mark. The two custom made machines Mark uses to cut the needles were made in Ann Arbor and Lapeer. The cutting blades for the machines are made in Flint. The US stainless steel connector parts for the circular needles are made in Saint Clair. The packaging is made in Rochester and is die cut in Dexter. The brands to mark the needle sizes and our logo for the beautiful yarn bowls were made in Madison Heights. The 100% natural beeswax we use to finish the needles comes from Benzonia. We use local patent attorneys, lawyers and accountants.

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And there is us, me and Mark, our labor force of two. Yes, indeed, the needles are handcrafted by us, every single one, hand cut, hand sanded, and hand polished. The needles are beautiful! We both try very, very hard to make the best quality knitting needle available in the marketplace today and we think we have succeeded in this mission. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you are knitting with a locally sourced, locally handcrafted product, helping to provide economic support to your local community.

Interview with Pam from Indian Lake Artisans on Underground Crafter blog

Shawl pins by Indian Lake Artisans.

UC: You travel to a lot of fiber festivals to showcase the Indian Lake Artisans products. (In fact, I met you at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013.) What are some of your favorite memories from the fiber festivals you’ve visited?

Pam: We have been participating at fiber festivals for roughly two years and we absolutely love it. Mark and I love adventure and travel and we enjoy meeting people everywhere we go. Having a booth at a fiber show allows us to meet our fellow fiber enthusiasts and tell them all about our wonderful knitting needles. We always have a few different sets with some yarn for knitters to test drive the knitting needles and experience the hexagonal shape. We just have the best time and it is always fun to see a beautifully finished project the following year from a satisfied customer.

We have exhibited at  the Vogue Knitting LIVE events, STITCHES, and many local fiber festivals. We have a lot of fun at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY and will be there again this October. We are busy right now preparing for the Michigan Fiber Festival held in Allegan, MI (UC comment: This event was held on August 15 – 17, 2014). We hope to exhibit at more festivals in the future and see more of our great country. We really like driving to our shows to help keep the travel costs down. Plus driving allows us to take more products along too. We met Marie at VKLive in New York last year.

Interview with Pam from Indian Lake Artisans on Underground Crafter blog

Hexagonal yarn bowls by Indian Lake Artisans.

UC: If people aren’t able to meet you at a local fiber festival, where else can they buy your needles?

Pam: We of course sell the needles and accessories at the fiber festivals we attend. Our complete product line is available on our Indian Lake Artisans website marketplace. We are lucky to have about 75 retailers across the country that carry our needles and that list of retailers is on our website. We are constantly surprised by the number of people who have never heard about our fantastic knitting needles and we are always looking for opportunities to reach more people. So please spread the word to your favorite local shop owners and friends.

Interview with Pam from Indian Lake Artisans on Underground Crafter blog

Stitch markers by Indian Lake Artisans.

UC: Do you and Mark knit?

Pam: I learned to knit as a teenager and  almost finished a sweater but really took up knitting with interest in 2003. Mark just learned to knit last year and was only using size 10 needles to make his first scarves and hats that sent him on his knitting adventure. He challenged himself recently though, and picked up some size 6 double points to knit a pair of fingerless gloves with flaps. The fingerless gloves are a very complicated pattern for a new knitter and pose additional challenges with a first attempt using double points. You can see photos of Mark’s gloves in progress on the Indian Lake Artisans Facebook page. I think you will agree that Mark is doing a great job!! I firmly believe the hexagonal shape facilitates learning to knit and purl, and control of the knitting needles. Mark’s very first scarf was even and straight. For a first project I attribute his success to our hexagonal needles as his stitches were well formed and very nice. Successful beginnings lead to a life long hobby.

UC: What’s next for Indian Lake Artisans?

Pam: We are in the process of developing interchangeable circular needles and designer needle cases. We plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding for the project. This is a very exciting undertaking for Mark and me. We will be sure to announce the Kickstarter on Facebook and Twitter so friends can help us reach our goal.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Pam! We look forward to seeing those interchangeables on the market, so let us know when the Kickstarter launches! 

Free Pattern: A Little Bit of Bling Shawl

A Little Bit of Bling Shawl, free crochet pattern by Underground Crafter

Last January, I crocheted some samples for the Kollabora booth at Vogue Knitting Live.

A Little Bit of Bling Shawl, free crochet pattern by Underground Crafter

One was this shawl. Kollabora was looking for something that really stood out in the booth, and I held two strands of yarn together – a metallic and a mohair yarn. I’m really excited to be able to share the pattern for A Little Bit of Bling Shawl with you today. It’s a great project for the last days of summer – it’s quick and airy, but the long fringes provide good coverage in case it gets chilly.

A Little Bit of Bling Shawl, free crochet pattern by Underground Crafter

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This summer, I spent a great afternoon with my friend Carlota Zimmerman from the Creativity Yenta (interviewed here). In addition to being a contributing blogger for the Huffington Post, she’s a great model! After a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we went to Central Park to take some pictures, and Carlota had some great poses wearing this fun and flirty design. (Her tagline isn’t “Just your average sexy force of nature” for nothing!)

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A Little Bit of Bling Shawl, free crochet pattern by Underground Crafter

A Little Bit of Bling Shawl Crochet Pattern

by Underground Crafter

Updated October 4, 2014

02-easy 50 3-light 50 US terms 50This quick and easy triangular shawl makes a great transitional weather accessory. 

The metallic yarn brightens up any outfit! Adjust the length of the fringe to fit your personal style.

Finished Size: Adjustable. Photographed sample is 50” (127 cm) wingspan length, 13.5” (34 cm) spine length, excluding fringe.

Materials:

  • Galler Yarns Kismet (87% polyester/13% nylon, 8 oz/227 g/1,400 yds/1,280 m) – 1 cone in 901 Silver, or approximately 300 yds (274 m) in any metallic, light weight yarn.
  • Galler Yarns Flore II (75% Kid Mohair/15% Wool/10% Nylon, 1.75 oz/50 g/100 yds/91 m/) – 3 skeins in 1005 Ocean, or approximately 300 yds (274 m) in any light weight mohair blend yarn.
  • L-11/8 mm crochet hook, or any size needed to obtain correct gauge.
  • Yarn needle.

Gauge: 10 fdc = 4” (10 cm) across.  Exact gauge is not critical for this project.

New to crochet? Check out Improve Your Crochet, an online class at Craftsy.

Abbreviations Used in This Pattern:

  • beg fdc – beginning foundation double crochet – Ch 4, turn, sk 3 sts, yo, insert hook in next ch, yo and draw up a loop, yo and pull through 1 loop (counts as ch 1), [yo and draw through 2 loops] twice.
  • ch – chain
  • fdc – foundation double crochet – Yo, insert hook in ch 1 from previous st, yo and draw up a loop, yo and pull through 1 loop (counts as ch 1), [yo and draw through 2 loops] twice.
  • ea – each
  • rep – repeat
  • sc – single crochet
  • sk – skip
  • sl st – slip stitch
  • sp – space
  • st(s) – stitch(es)
  • yo – yarn over
  • * Rep instructions after asterisk as indicated.

A Little Bit of Bling Shawl, free crochet pattern by Underground Crafter

Pattern Notes:

  • Entire shawl is crocheted holding one strand of ea yarn together.
  • Shawl is worked from top (long) edge with steady decreases to point.

Pattern Instructions:

Shawl

  • Holding one strand of ea yarn, beg fdc, 103 fdc. (104 sts) (To adjust size, fdc in multiples of 4 sts until the appropriate length for long edge is reached.)
  • Row 1: Turn, *ch 5, sk 3 sts, sc in next st; rep from * across. (26 ch-5 sp)
  • Row 2: Turn, *ch 5, sc in next ch-5 sp; rep from * across.
  • Row 3: Turn, sl st in ea of first 3 ch in first ch-5 sp, *ch 5, sc in next ch-5 sp; rep from * across to last ch-5 sp, sk last ch-5 sp. (Decreases 2 sets of ch-5 sp)
  • Row 4: Rep Row 2.
  • Rep Rows 3 & 4 until 2 ch-5 sp remain, ending after Row 4.
  • Row 5: Turn, sl st in ea of first 3 ch in first ch-5 sp, ch 5, sc in next ch-5 sp. Fasten off. (1 ch-5 sp)
  • With yarn needle, weave in ends.  Spray block if necessary.

A Little Bit of Bling Shawl, free crochet pattern by Underground Crafter

 

Make and attach fringe

  • For each fringe, hold one strand of each yarn together and cut strands to 40” (100 cm).
  • To attach fringe using crochet hook, insert hook into st or sp indicated below.  With fringe strands folded in half, insert hook into fold (center) of strands, pull up a loose loop in st or sp. Yo with both halves of the fringe strands and pull through the loop. Tighten loop to hold fringe in place.
  • Starting from top corner, use crochet hook to join fringe to third ch of first ch-5 sp. Working across angled edge, *sk next ch-5 sp, join fringe in next ch-5 sp; rep from * across edge until 2 ch-5 sp before center point.   Attach 2 strands of fringe (2 strands of ea yarn/4 strands of yarn) to center point, sk next ch-5 sp, rep from * along edge. Trim fringe as necessary.

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© 2014 by Marie Segares (Underground Crafter). This pattern is for personal use only. You may use it to make unlimited items for yourself, for charity, or to give as gifts. You may sell items you personally make by hand from this pattern. Do not violate Marie’s copyright by distributing this pattern or the photos in any form, including but not limited to scanning, photocopying, emailing, or posting on a website or internet discussion group. If you want to share the pattern, point your friends to this link: http://undergroundcrafter.com/blog/2014/09/01/free-pattern-a-little-bit-of-bling-shawl. Thanks for supporting indie designers!

A Little Bit of Bling Shawl, free crochet pattern by Underground Crafter

Interview with Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm

At Vogue Knitting Live 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm.  Laura’s yarns were extremely colorful – and so was she! – so I was immediately drawn over to her booth.  It was wonderful to learn that she’s a New York State local (about 90 minutes north of New York City).  I ran into her again at 2014’s event, and she was kind enough to take some time from the busy lifestyle of a farmer/shearer/spinner/dyer/entrepreneur to share an interview.

You can find Laura online at the Full Moon Farm website and their Facebook page.  You can find out more about their yarn and fiber here and learn where to buy their products here.

Laura Watson at Full Moon Farm's Vogue Knitting Live booth in 2014.

Laura Watson at Full Moon Farm’s Vogue Knitting Live booth in 2014.

Underground Crafter (UC): Besides shearing, spinning, and dyeing, do you also crochet, knit, and/or weave?

Laura: I knit, but am a rank amateur. It is on my list to get better. I felt and do Australian Locker Hooking.

The Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013.

The Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013.

UC: Tell us more about your motivation for starting Full Moon Farm, and about its expansion.

Laura: I grew up on a sheep and beef farm. I (like all my siblings) moved away from the farm but then, in the end (like all my siblings) I returned to farming. I stuck with the sheep. I like them and can manage them, physically, without assistance. My flock started with 1 bred ewe, Border Leicester.  I added Corriedale and then Merino, so now my flock is a motley mix with decent body size for meat, and nice, fine wool for spinning and felting.

Felted signs in the Full Moon Farm's booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2014.

Felted signs in the Full Moon Farm’s booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2014. 

UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm. Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working?

Farming is a 24/7 life. One must be prepared for fencing or haying a field in the heat of the summer or checking on the flock in the middle of the night in the cold during lambing season. The benefits are the beauty of the pasture or hay field, the coziness of a full hay loft, new born lambs – so sweet and bouncy – and fiber.

Felted hats at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

Felted hats at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your colorways. Where do you find your inspiration as a dyer?

Laura: I love color and have so much fun dying my yarns and spinning fiber. I usually go with colors I like. I am not afraid to combine colors and just go with my gut to choose what combinations to make. I have recently started trying to be more focused and going with a theme such as “Mom’s Flower Garden” or “Field of Sunflowers.”

Yarn at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

Yarn at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014. 

UC: You have the opportunity to travel to many fiber related events. Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.

Laura: I love going to fiber festivals because I know that the people attending are there because they love (or like a lot) fiber, so we already have something in common. I like to see what the other vendors are doing too because there is such versatility in wool and other fibers. It makes me smile just writing about it.

More yarn on display at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

More yarn on display at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

My favorite event is a little fiber festival in Clermont, NY at an historic site. It is called The Chancellor’s Day Sheep and Wool Festival. The setting, on the banks of the Hudson River, is idyllic, and they do historic re-enactments, such as shearing sheep using an antique shearing machine. It has grown in size and popularity over the years but remains small, quaint, and very friendly.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura!

By the way, I love the look of the skein I bought from Laura in 2013.  It has since been wound into a yarn cake and is awaiting transformation into a beautiful project!

Full Moon Farm Fabulous Yarn