These are all stitch markers I found while browsing on Etsy. Each one has a locking/opening closure (often using a lobster claw fixture) that makes it crochet-friendly. I use stitch markers all the time to keep track of right and wrong side, to note the beginning or end of a round when crocheting in unjoined spirals, or to keep track of row counts.
Stitch markers are a great gift because there are so many different types that you can choose something very suited to the recipient, and they are relatively inexpensive when compared to other gifts for crocheters.
Images are copyright the respective shop owners. Prices are listed in US dollars.
This set of 9 stitch plastic stitch markers include vintage-style pin-up images. These are a bit more risqué than the others, but are undoubtable a perfect gift for someone on your list! Price: $10.99. Ships from US.
I’m participating in BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month (also known as NaBloPoMo) by blogging daily through November, 2014.
It’s that time of year when we all start thinking about gifts for others – and for ourselves. I’ll be sharing a series of gift guides for crocheters, starting with today’s edition: Yarn Club Memberships and CSA Shares.
Yarn club memberships and CSA shares are gifts that keep on giving. For the next month, or season, or year, the recipient will receive a delightful package of yarn in the mail, sometimes even including a pattern. These gifts are also great for knitters. (If you’re looking for options for spinners, many of the companies in the gift guide also have a fiber or roving option.)
So what are yarn clubs and yarn CSA anyway?
Yarn clubs are subscription services for yarn lovers. Many yarn clubs operate on a mystery model, where the exact yarn and/or colorway isn’t revealed until the package is received. Some yarn clubs are organized by a single yarn company and include exclusive colorways or first releases of a new yarn; others are coordinated by one company and include yarn from several dyers, spinners, or manufacturers.
CSA is an abbreviation for community supported agriculture. (You can read a brief but interesting history of CSA in the United States here.) Members buy a share of a farm’s fiber or yarn production in advance, which allows the farmer to plan and budget and also gives the share holder the opportunity to get to know more about how the yarn was produced and the animals that contribute to the yarn. CSA yarn is sometimes undyed, in which case it would also make a great gift for a dyer.
I should mention that I haven’t participated in any of these yarn clubs or CSA programs in the past, but they look like a lot fun! I’ve compiled a list of 5 yarn clubs and 5 yarn CSA programs that are still open for 2015.
Yarn: A variety of natural colored wool yarn in whites, browns, blacks and gray, typically 12- 16 skeins.
Total Cost: $150
Deadline for sign up/order: open
If you’d like to find more yarn clubs and yarn CSA programs, I have a Pinterest board devote to this theme. Many of these open up at different points during the year and aren’t accepting new subscriptions or shareholders now.
Earlier this year, my mother had a business opportunity to travel to New Zealand. My sister had just recently finished law school and was able to go with her. They asked what I would like them to bring me back, and naturally, I said yarn.
Side note: You know you’re a yarn addict when every country is reduced in your mind to its capabilities as a fiber producer. (On a more serious note, apparently declines in wool demand are causing problems for New Zealand’s sheep farmers, according to this recent New York Times article.)
When they returned from the trip, I was presented with exciting yarns in brands I had never heard of before.
But, here’s where things get tricky. As soon as I opened up the Loyal, my sister said it was intended was for a scarf. For her.
Somehow, my request for an extra special gift – a unique/inaccessible (to the American market) yarn from the world’s third largest wool-producing country – turned into a job.
If you’ve ever made crocheted gifts, you know what I’m talking about here. Because you love to crochet, anyone and everyone feels entitled to ask for (or, rather, demand) handmade gifts from you. As if that weren’t enough, the gifts have to be customized to their needs.
I’ve made many crocheted gifts for my younger sister before. You may remember this double bed sized granny square blanket, in the colors of the New Orleans Saints, which she asked for as a housewarming gift when she went off to law school.
It took five months to finish. I’m assuming its still in use, since I recently got a text message asking about washing instructions.
And, speaking of text messages, I started receiving them sporadically after I was gifted the yarn. Most messages would start with “I’m sure you haven’t started the scarf yet but…” and end with a picture of something she did or didn’t want included in this famous scarf I would be making for her from my “gift.”
Although this could have turned into an opportunity to talk to my sister about entitlement, assumptions, and gracious gift giving, it didn’t. I decided to actually take this beautiful yarn from a land I’m unlikely to ever visit and convert it into a scarf for her.
However, none of her pictures were suitable. You see, as a non-crocheter/knitter, my sister has really no idea what can be made from 3 skeins of yarn totaling less than 350 yards, especially when she wanted me to hold two strands together for a tweedy look.
And, since she’s now living in Houston, I had a hard time understanding why she might need a double stranded scarf. (Apparently, years of living in the harsh climes of New York City has made me a bit biased about what constitutes “winter.”)
So, I decided to create something different. I’m calling it Tweedy Pineapples for now.
It measures about 5″ x 40″ long off the hooks, but I’m sure things may change once I add the border and block it.
Even before blocking, you can see the little pineapples doing their thing.
By the way, I really liked the yarn. Too bad there’s barely enough left to make anything for myself. On the plus side, this makes the second Christmas gift I’ve finished so far. And I still have the Opals to try out.
I’m participating in BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month (also known as NaBloPoMo) by blogging daily through November, 2014.
Way back in January, I had the chance to meet Lindsey Rice from Bartlettyarns at Vogue Knitting Live. The Bartlettyarns booth was stocked with some great wool that was produced in the U.S.A., and I soon learned that they are the oldest operating woolen spun mill in the country.
I also got to talking to Lindsey about crochet and he mentioned that “[C]rocheters are rediscovering us and that this art form seems to be making a great return.” I knew then that I had to interview Lindsey and his wife, Susan, about this awesome bit of American yarn history. You can find Bartlettyarns on their website, Facebook page, and Ravelry yarnie page.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you get started in the yarn industry?
Bartlettyarns (BY): Lindsey was enrolled as a 4-H member in New Hampshire and he had a sheep project. Eventually, we met as teenagers in 4-H (long story). Lindsey began a sheep shearing business throughout New England and we got married. Sometimes we got paid for shearing and other times we were given the wool. With several hundred pounds of wool, we ventured to Bartlettyarns to have it processed. We picked out eight colors and started our business attending sheep and wool festivals and farmers markets.
During one trip to Maine, the pulley system that runs the Mule was broken. The owner of the business was explaining the situation to us and Lindsey (a Marine) stated he knew how to splice it back together. Within fifteen or twenty minutes, it was back in operation.
Fast forward many years, many trips to Maine, and a good friendship later, we got a panic call that the Mule was broken again. The owner was in California on vacation and it was broken for two weeks so they were unable to produce yarn. We arrived to the rescue the next day and fixed it once again.
We always had joked with the owner that someday he would retire and what would he do with the business. We received a phone call two weeks after this and we were offered the business. How could we say no??
The Bartlettyarns Mule in action.
UC: Tell us more about the history of Bartlettyarns and the Barlett Mule.
BY: Bartlettyarns was established by Ozias Bartlett in 1821. His great grandson, Harry, took over the business at age 16 and it remained in the Bartlett family until 1947, when it was sold to owners outside the family. It was originally a water-powered mill, as it sits along the Higgins stream in Harmony. It was converted to electricity in the ‘40s. Today, it runs much like it did then.
UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your displays of the mill. Where do you find your inspiration as a dyer?
BY: An excellent piece on the mill was done by WCSH in Portland. They have a show called 207 and they produced an eight minute segment about us. It originally was supposed to be just two or three minutes long, but turned into a whole show for them.
Our Mule spun yarns are not skein dyed, but rather we stock dye the fiber and then it is blended to make our colors. As for the hand dyed yarns, those are skein dyed and Susan does those. She has an eye for color and she is like a witch with her brew. She tends to dye with colors of the season, prefers to dye on crisp, sunny days for clear, bright colors and on overcast days tend to bring more muted colors.
UC: To what extent is Bartlettyarns a local product?
BY: We are vey proud that we work with local producers to source our wool, and that the scouring and dyeing is also done here in the US. We are definitely a “made in the USA” company and one that has been continuously run for over 190 years.
UC: You have the opportunity to travel to many fiber related events. Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.
BY: Well we do Maryland, New York, TNNA, and a few local fairs. Our children are involved in their spare time and try to come to the larger shows to help us. One child is definitely the salesperson, so he handles the booth, and the other enjoys talking with wool producers about their custom processing options. We enjoy the educational process with people and how our mill is different, being spun on the woolen vs, worsted system. People enjoy the history and the videos we show at the booth – the noise of the machinery captures their attention.
Probably the most amusing, is when the wife is dragging the uninterested husband around looking at yarns and has the totally bored look on his face. Oops, he hears machinery clinking and clanking, where is that sound coming from??? He sees machinery and mechanical parts moving, he is hooked. The wife gets time to look around, she purchases yarn and is ready to move on and then she has to wait until he is done watching and asking questions and all of a sudden the role is reversed.
UC: Where can people buy your yarns?
BY: We have three different segments of our business. We have wholesale accounts, which are primarily yarn shops who carry our yarn. Next, we have custom processing which allows fiber producers to turn their raw fibers into roving or yarn. We have options that allow them to get their very own fiber back. Lastly is our retail component where you can come to the mill and purchase directly and get a free mill tour, order from our web site or visit us at one of the shows we attend. Our website lists the shows and dates.
Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Lindsey and Susan!
(As a side note, this interview has taken so long to write up that I can no longer say that both Danielle and I live in New York City – since our interview, she has relocated to Long Island. On the other hand, now I can share that her Mackinac Tank pattern made the cover of the summer issue of Knitscene!)
Danielle has generously shared a coupon code for any of her self-published patterns with my readers! (Read on for more details.) All pictures of Makewise Designs patterns are used with Danielle’s permission.
Underground Crafter (UC): Can you tell me first how you got started knitting?
Danielle: Growing up, my mom always knew how to knit and crochet, and I started doing it all the time, but I wasn’t really all that interested.
When I went to college, I lived in a dorm that had a community setting, and one of the people in my dorm wanted to do the Warm Up America program where you knit blanket blocks and then they’re sewn together for charity and donated. For some reason, at 20, all of the sudden I wanted to learn how to make these blanket blocks, whereas I’d never wanted to do it before. So, she taught me garter, stockinette, whatever. I don’t know why, but the fabric started growing off the needles and it was like magic. I thought to myself, “All of these wasted years!”
UC: Well, you have the (knitting) genes, obviously.
Danielle: Exactly. It just started from there, so it’s been going on 15 years at this point.
UC: Did your mom get mad that she wasn’t the one who taught you, or was she like, “Finally, you’ve taken it on!”
Danielle: No, just the opposite. She was thrilled. She still does quite a bit of knitting and crochet. Since then, she’s taught me how to crochet. She’s totally embraced it and we love to share tips, share things we’ve learned, and have a conversations with each other in that language that only two knitters are going to understand, like “I moved that ssk…” and people are just like, “What are they talking about?”
UC: That’s awesome, now you guys have a secret language. How did you get started designing?
Danielle: I love to follow other people’s patterns. I love to see other people’s creative processes. At some point a switch just flipped and I thought, I’m looking for this thing, I didn’t find it anywhere, I didn’t find it on Ravelry (which is probably a representative sample of the knitting universe, at this point). I just thought, “Well, I’ve taken a lot of math, I know how stockinette behaves and garter.” There’s certainly still a lot of trial and error involved, but I thought why don’t I just try it?
I’m definitely kind of a Type A person, kind of I’ll do it myself, self-starter kind of person so I gave it a whirl. I gave it a shot and tried it and it was that same rush that I felt the first time [knitting]. Oh my gosh, the fabric, it’s growing off these needles, and now there’s that extra element of, and, it’s working out the way I expected in my head.”
UC: And that doesn’t always happen. You left out the part where you have to tear out the thing…
Danielle: Well, I’m trying to glaze over those parts! I actually just was working on a design where the downside of being a Type A rears its head. Take it out, take it out, to the point where I think one of the most important things that any really successful designer has captured is not only knowing themselves, but knowing their style and knowing when to stop designing a piece. Don’t keep designing, and don’t over design it. You don’t need to add that one more textural element, it doesn’t need that second lace pattern. What you’ve done is what should stay. It’s the editing process – that’s what I call it in my head.
UC: Where you keep out those extra pieces that are overkill.
Danielle: RIght. So when you look at something by Debbie Bliss or Jared Flood or Hannah Fettig (who’s one of my big favorites), lots of times you can look at their pieces and know that’s one of their designs because their internal editing is so strong. So for me, this internal editing is what I find the most challenging obstacle. When is it exactly what I have pictured in my head? Have I tried to overdesign it? Does it need to be that complicated? That type of thing is tough. That’s the learning curve for me.
UC: Related to that, I’ve noticed that your designs are primarily self-published or though some branch of Interweave. I’m wondering if that’s a conscious decision or did it just work out that way based on where you’ve submitted?
Danielle: I think it’s a blend. Self-publishing, a lot of designers will tell you, has a liberating aspect at the end. You miss that deadline, something comes up – personal nature or professional (your day job) nature – then you bump your publishing deadline a week, that’s life.
For me, I am a good deadline person, I’m a good time manager, I always have been, so I wanted to reach out for that third-party publication recognition and also wanted to challenge myself in that way to be working with a reputable publication, work with the yarn that they’ve chosen on their timeline. Working with Interweave, I’m just really familiar with their publications. I’ve long loved Knit Scene, one of my very favorite magazines, so I think I was specifically targeting them. I really wanted to part of that family because I love their style, their ethos, their way of expressing themselves.
UC: You could see yourself fitting into their publications.
UC: So what was that like the first time you have your printed pattern in one of their publications? Did you frame it on the wall?
Danielle: When you get something published in their magazines, they send you a copy of the magazine, but then they also send you copies of pages that were not inserted in the magazine – printed copies – so I put those in plastic sleeves because… Type A.
UC: That’s really nice of them. A lot of publishers don’t do that.
Danielle: So you get the bound copy and then you get the flat copy as well. But it wasn’t so much seeing it in print as it was getting that email from the editor saying that they would love to take the design and put it in.
The first time that happened to me, I think I looked at the email and thought, “This is a hoax!” Or, “Wait a minute, they didn’t mean to send this to me.” There’s that moment of self-doubt, and then your second thought is “Oooh, that is so cool!” My very first design for Interweave was for Interweave Knits and it was pillows. They were wool, bulky gauge, and I had to do it in July. It was a little bit of a steamy process, but it worked out.
UC: Do you have knitting books, for your own collection, or do you do everything online?
Danielle: When I need technical resources from the technical planning/pattern writing side of things, I much prefer written resources. I like to have them out in front of me. Obviously, stitch dictionaries. Interweave has a lot of publications that include charts for sweater sizing in different yarn gauges.
When I have the time to knit anything, other than what I’m hopefully designing for myself, I love online PDFs because I can keep them all in one place. The wealth of choices is overwhelming so I try to balance between the two, but I find that if I need a technical resource, I need it printed out.
Danielle and I bonded over our love of the Kinokinuya bookstore booth at VK Live.
UC: I know people think it is weird when you publish your patterns online that you don’t personally do everything online, but I feel the same way. For patterns, it’s one thing, but I want a tangible thing I can flip back and forth. Do you have any favorite stitch guides or books in your collection that you always go back to?
Danielle: You probably hear this a lot, but I love Kinokinuya, the Japanese bookstore that’s exhibiting here at VK Live. I love Japanese stitch dictionaries. I find that they include a lot of complex patterns, and sometimes I think my designing tends more towards simplicity, so sometimes I use those stitch patterns as a jumping off point and then I think, “Could I take out an element? Can I thin that idea out?” Because their patterns have cables, lace, and bobbles all in one stitch pattern, but maybe I just want the lace.
Lots of times, nothing ever comes of that brainstorming, but at the same time, I think it’s instructive. If I do want to edit that stitch pattern, how am I going to do it? If I take that cable out, what’s going to happen to the gauge and what’s going to happen to the texture? I think you can never get enough of that. I think it’s just like an established designer saying if you want to learn about designing and learn about the business, the best thing you can do is read patterns. Read other people’s patterns. Some people are going to shape that shoulder with a bind off and then seam that edge. Some designers are going to shape that shoulder with short rows and then do a three needle bind off. Why do you choose between them? Does it depend on the fabric, does it depend on the shape, does it depend on the style?
UC: Speaking of the Japanese stitch guides, do you have a preference for written patterns or charted patterns? Some people seem very committed to one or the other.
Danielle: I think that goes to my inherent way of learning, which is to write things down. I retain things better if I write it down myself. For me, written instructions make more sense to me than charts lots of times.
UC: So if you see it in the Japanese stitch guide, you’re writing it down for yourself.
Danielle: Often. And even, look at the chart, decipher what I think is happening in the chart, knit, and write it down at the same time – because even if I successfully translate it from the chart into actual knitting, a week later, I’ll forget half of what I did. I’m looking at it saying, “How did I manage this?”
UC: While you’re here at Vogue Knitting Live, what exciting things are you planning to do?
Danielle: I took a seaming class with John Brinegar – I think a refresher course is always valuable. I’m taking a steeking class this afternoon with Ragga Eiríksdóttir. I’ve never done it, and she’s teaching it in the round. Usually for me, knitting in the round is greater than or equal to knitting flat, so I’m going to try that. Tomorrow, I’m going to work for the String Yarns booth all day because I used to work for them.
UC: Do you have any exciting yarn store employee stories to share, or can you talk about how that influenced you as a designer?
Danielle: I think the influence is huge because you’re looking at different yarns from different manufacturers. On your feet, you need to know the gauge; the construction of the yarn – is it plied, is it a chainette, is it a single ply; you need to know how it blocks; how to treat it after it’s been knitted; what the construction of the ply is – 2 ply, 4 ply, 6 ply. It just exposes you to the entire world of options. So if you are comfortable working with a smooth Merino superwash, you don’t always spring to a Shetland wool option. You think it’s scratchy or something like that. But the upside of Shetland is it’s incredibly hard wearing and durable with really reliable gauge.
I think it broadens your horizons, it shows you what the options are, and it is really a good education into what you need to know as a designer. If you get into a third-party publication, they’re going to send you the yarn that they’d like you to work with it, and it might not be something you’re familiar with. You need to be able to look at it and say, “Oh, I see it has this construction, these many plies, these care instructions…”
UC: And even on proposals, you can say, I’m looking for an x type of yarn because you have that background knowledge.
Danielle: Yes, I think it isn’t just what comes in so you’re prepared to work with it, but exactly like you said, it also informs your choices of when you even make a submission, to a magazine or something you want to produce yourself. You make that educated decision about this design really isn’t good for a single ply yarn. I really need a plied yarn for this.
UC: That’s great. A lot of people just learn that through arduous trial and error, and you got paid to get that experience!
Danielle: And I got to touch a lot of really nice yarn, too.
UC: String has a fancy collection!
Danielle: Yes, the beautiful cashmere that comes in from Italy is amazing.
Danielle: I have some publications coming up this year for different outlets, and that’s really exciting. I always try to blog about anything that I’ve done that’s new. I try to expose a little bit of the thought process behind it – the inspiration, or a spot where I struggled – because I think that designing, even for somebody who is really experienced, is so much of a journey. I mean, sure, there’s a lightening strike of inspiration from time to time, but it’s also a very measured, thoughtful, mechanical process of needle selection, yarn selection, seamed, or unseamed, lace, texture, and that type of thing, and that’s what keeps me so excited about it still.
There is so much to learn and I frankly think I’ll never learn it all. Somebody will always know more than you about a specific thing, but it’s that excitement of learning it and trying to make myself better, while at the same time producing something with my own two hands that at the end of the day, I can actually hold it and touch it. That’s what’s most gratifying.
Danielle has offered a 20% discount on her self-published designs for my readers through midnight Eastern time on Saturday, July 20, 2013. Just use the code MAKEWISE in her Ravelry shop or on her website.
Thanks, Danielle, for taking the time for the interview, and for sharing the coupon code!