Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

If you are inclined to splurge one last time before all your New Year's resolutions begin, I did just update the Black Bunny Fibers website, including a new product which I call "JumboSox" -- 600-yd skeins of sock yarn for those who make larger sizes or kneesocks...

Have a wonderful and healthy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Another knitter is born

Incentivized by her "Learn to Knit with Harris the Bear" kit, a thoughtful present from Mom and Dad, Miss Thang learns to knit.

Partial transcript follows (maternal profanity sanitized for your protection):

M.T.: Mom, when I can I do it?
Me: I have to show you what to do, or else how will you know what to do?
M.T.: Hurry up.
Me (demonstrating): See how it goes in, around, through and off?
M.T.: In, around, through and off. I KNOW, Mommy.
Me: Okay, give it a try. In, aro---
M.T.: I KNOW. Through and OFF! Do you think I'm dumb, Mommy?

15 minutes later.

M.T.: MOMMY! Why is this so tight?
Me: Let me take a look.
M.T.: Why did you give me knitting with extra-tight stitches? Did you purposely make them tight so I couldn't do it?
Me: Don't be silly. [Fixes knitting and goes to visit bathroom]

3 minutes later.

M.T. [at the top of her lungs]: MOMMY! MOMMY! I NEED YOU! MOMMY!!!

Me (rushing downstairs half-clothed, ready to call 911): What?! Are you okay?

M.T.: I need you to help me with my knitting. There are too many loops.

Each one, teach one, so the teached one, can kvetch some...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday knitting report

Well, my feeble attempt at holiday knitting has come to an end. Not wanting to tax myself, I did not assign myself a long list of holiday knitting. I had ideas about things I might want to knit, but not pressure; if I didn't knit them, too bad. Instead, I chose to assign Christmas as the sort-of-arbitrary deadline for a single project, this baby ensemble:

This sweater is a special gift for one of Elvis' former teachers. He had Miss G. for second and third grade, and they got along beautifully. We learned from the school grapevine Miss G. lost her husband to brain cancer at a shockingly young age, and this made us sad. We were delighted for her when she remarried (thus becoming Mrs. C) and even more delighted to learn that she was expecting a baby boy in January. So I knit up the jacket, while newly-minted knitter Elvis knit the hat.

A special gift for a special baby. Specifics are in my Ravelry projects list.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Happy whatever-you-do-or-don't-celebrate from our family to yours!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A couple more links

Our week of handpainted sock joy comes to an end, with two more posts about KSWHY:
  • our hat trick designer, Kristi Schueler, tells us about her third (3rd!) design in the book, the extremely cool Spread Spectrum socks;
  • Barb Brown has a special interview with me (Barb, I'd happily come to see you if I didn't hate airplanes like poison).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More designer links -- and a post on Knitting Daily!

For some more behind-the-scenes information from the designers, visit:
  • Laura Nelkin, as she talks about her beaded Whirlpool Socks;
  • Kristi Schueler's blog, to hear more about the Austen-esque Longbourn socks;
  • Deb Barnhill tells us about her lovely Potpourri Socks on her blog.
If you aren't totally sick of me by now, you can check out my post on today's Knitting Daily. (A huge thanks to Sandi Wiseheart, for allowing me to guest post!) (Also, I do know that there is a typo in the first sentence and it should say "twelve" rather than "ten." We're working on it.)

And I'm thrilled to report that as of this writing, Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn is Number One on's Knitting Books AND Needlework Books lists!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dancing socks & designer insights...

If you missed yesterday's Knitting Daily, then perhaps you did not see the clever dancing sock video, featuring many of the lovely designs from Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn. Go here and you can see it in higher resolution by selecting "Watch in high quality" which is under the lower right-hand corner of the frame. (Try to imagine the theme song from "Footloose" playing in the background -- sadly, intellectual property issues precluded us from using the original.) Rest assured that no socks were harmed during the making of this video.

If you'd like to see and hear more about some of the individual sock patterns, all this week the designers will be blogging about them. So far, you can visit:

  • Kristi Schueler, as she discusses her Herringbone Rib socks (the ones that were featured in the latest Interweave Knits), here -- and for a special bit of fun, read the test knitter's reactions on her blog here;
  • Mindy Soucek tells us what it's like to see your first pattern in a book here;
  • Jody Pirrello describes her Chevvy cover sock design in her blog with some terrific photos and even possible modifications;
  • Deb Barnhill does a quick interview with me on her blog, and I'm hoping will tell us about her Potpourri socks later this week;
  • visit Barb Brown, of Wild Geese Fibres, where she tells us about her Rib Fantastic socks; and
  • take a look at an earlier version of Elizabeth Ravenwood's Braided Gems socks.
There will be more designer insights coming up later in the week, so stay tuned -- it's going to be Handpaintapalooza this week. . .

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hardly-Any-Bull Book Review: Knitting Socks With Handpainted Yarn, by moi

Journalistic objectivity be damned: I'm gonna review Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn, right here, right now, and none of yins are going to stop me.

And guess what?

I rather like it.

This week marks the official release of Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn (Interweave Press 2008), MSRP $19.97; available for $13.67 by following the link above.

The reason I wanted to write the book was simple. Handpainted yarns have become very popular: great colors and combinations of colors, often done on luscious base yarns by an ever-growing selection of artisans who do the dyeing. You can score a skein of sock yarn for under $25 in most cases, which makes it a relatively small investment. No matter what your sartorial style, nearly everyone wears socks and oftentimes you can be more whimsical and colorful with socks than other garments. And because the knitted fabric isn't worn next to your face, you can indulge in colors you might not normally wear. What's not to like?

Well, the pooling. And the splotching. And the way that sometimes colors which look wonderful in the skein don't look so great when you knit them up in a sock.

I wrote KSWHY in order to help people who love handpainted yarns learn how they work: why the colors look the way they do when knit up into a sock, why they sometimes make semi-stripes and splotches and pools of color in a way that's not always attractive, and what you can do if you don't like the way your sock is knitting up (instead of selling the yarn on Ebay...). I also wanted to compile a collection of patterns that were expressly designed for the way handpaints work. Instead of the designer selecting a handpaint that works like a solid, these projects were made for the multicolored hues of handpaints -- and designed to alleviate some of the less desirable color effects that one might get when knitting with handpaints. In this regard, I was extremely lucky to work with approximately 17 other designers who contributed some really innovative and good-looking and creative patterns.

The book is divided into roughly two parts: the beginning chapters cover technical info about handpaints and the second section contains the patterns.

The technical section, titled "The Road to Handpaint Happiness," begins by making clear that this book is meant for people who already know how to knit a basic sock (no "how to knit" instructions here!), and focuses primarily on fingering weight yarn (the most commonly used weight of yarn for socks). The knitter is also warned about the idiosyncratic nature of handpaints: they can vary greatly from skein to skein within the same dyelot, and even sometimes within the same skein. Next comes the heart of the discussion:
  • a brief description of handpaints, discussing machine- (or space-) versus handdyes, fiber choices, different methods of dyeing, and distinguishing self-patterning and self-striping yarns.
  • an approach that divides handpaints into three categories based on color: Nearly Solids, Wild Multis and Muted Multis. Photographs show some examples of each category of yarn, and I give you general tips on how to use each category of yarn to best effect.
  • the section I think of as Color Theory Lite. I discuss the concepts of value and saturation, two other key components of traditional color theory, and apply them to handpainted sock yarn.
  • a thorough discussion of pooling and splotching and striping: why it happens and what you can do to change it.
The most fun part of all is the pattern section. It contains 21 patterns designed with the unique qualities of handpaints in mind. What was especially fascinating to me was seeing the various ways that different designers approached the problem of pooling. For example, Kristi Schueler's Longbourn Socks use a semi-solid handdye and a wild multicolor handdye in a tessellated colorwork pattern to break up pooling. She also embellishes the sock with embroidery to help tack down long floats inside the sock. Clever and good-looking, no?

Laura Nelkin's Whirlpool Socks (top in the montage following this paragraph) also use an eyecatcher to pull attention away from any color effects, but she chose to use small beads instead of embroidery as accents. The swirling textured pattern on the cuff also helps move the color around and draw the eye away from any splotching. Deb Barnhill's ingenious Potpourri Sock (bottom) employs a whole bag of tricks to keep from pooling. Changing stitch counts from round to round, yarn overs, wrapped figure-eight stitches -- these socks move the color around so much it just doesn't have a chance to pool.

Several designers opted for ingenious methods of construction to combat pooling: Jody Pirrello's Chevvy socks (featured on the cover; top in the montage below), use a chevron pattern but also short rows to make some huge vees of color so that the colors won't mass in splotches; Kristi Schueler's Spread Spectrum Socks (bottom left) use intarsia to break up pooling and create visually arresting ministripes; and Chrissy Gardiner's Color Collision Socks alternate garter-stitch stripes (knit flat) with ribbing knit in the round.

All of the above designs are aimed at those sock yarns with lovely colors that are incorrigible poolers. For the muted multicolors in your stash, the ones that aren't quite as prone to color splotching but have too much going on for more traditional patterns, look to the designs that use eyelets (like my own Switcheroo Socks, bottom right in the montage below), travelling stitches (like Lorna Miser's Escher Socks, top) or ribbing (like Barb Brown's Rib Fantastic socks, bottom left).

Another thing that I particularly like about the book is the mix of designers I got to work with. Some of my knitting idols are represented (Nancy Bush, Ann Budd, Priscilla Gibson-Roberts, Ve-Ve) but also some newer people and some GKIYH pals who submitted kick-ass designs (like Barb Brown, Puff the Magic Rabbit,

Courtney Kelley). To add an extra thrill, Ms. Ann Budd herself used Black Bunny Fibers sock yarn to knit these lovely Punctuated Rib socks.

The patterns are labeled not by difficulty level, but by the type of yarn they will work best with. Some of the more complex patterns appear in one-size-only format; others contain two or more sizes. Unusual or advanced techniques are illustrated in the back section. A bibliography lists some of my favorite sock books, and there are miniprofiles of the contributing designers in the back.

So there you have it: Knitting Socks With Handpainted Yarns. It's the sock book I wished I had when I first started delving into the world of handpaints. And it's full of patterns that I want to try myself. I am certain that I will find much joy pairing patterns from the book with the many, many skeins of handpainted sock yarn in my own personal stash. I hope you do, too.

Stay tuned this week for more KSWHY features, including links to the blogs of the designers as they discuss their individual designs and a special surprise!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Socky things

It was a lot of fun dyeing up these:

This is a limited-edition colorway called "Jingle Bells," available only until Christmas. I just loaded ten skeins of it onto my website. I also loaded some lovely semi-solids (superwash merino fingering weight) at a special holiday price of $18 a skein (each skein is 400 yds/4 oz), like these two.

In the meantime, I am pleased to let you know that Interweave will be doing some cool promotional things for Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn -- one of which is my guest appearance on the Knitting Daily e-newsletter. I'm also hoping that some of the individual contributors to the book will post on their blogs about their designs. So stay tuned for some fun stuff.

Including a booksigning appearance at Philadelphia's Loop, on Sunday, January 25th, from 1 to 4 p.m. Come and see me, 'kay?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's here!!

I just noticed that now has copies of Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn in stock and ready to ship!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Let a word to the wise be sufficient.

Watch this.

How many times

can two seven-year-olds watch a bunch of cats flushing the toilet?

As of this writing, 47 times.

And counting. . .

Friday, December 05, 2008

Something new

Why was there a clothesbasket full of BBF sock yarn in my living room this week (actually, several clothesbaskets full of BBF sock yarn)?

This very day, I shipped my first big wholesale order of sock yarn to the inimitable Sheri at the Loopy Ewe. Yes, Black Bunny Fibers is coming to the Loopy Ewe. . .

It was a bit of a challenge for me to try to create multiple skeins of yarn that constitute "dye lots," and the practicalities of producing yarn on a larger scale than I'm used to is a little different, too. I couldn't do this all the time, and I don't think I could handle any more wholesale customers on this scale, and I have no intention of shutting down my own website. That means that for the foreseeable future, you can enjoy BBF yarn both at my dot-com AND as soon as it arrives and is uploaded to the Loopy Ewe's website. (And if you haven't had the pleasure of shopping with The Loopy Ewe, hoo-boy, do you have a treat awaiting you!)

Now please excuse me while I pace nervously about, hoping that Sheri is pleased with this large carton of blue-faced leicester superwash sock yarn that is en route even as I write this. . .

Monday, December 01, 2008

Happy birthday, Twins!

Yep, seven years ago today, that clever (and rather attractive, I might say) surgeon cut on the dotted line and brought forth the twins.

Happy birthday, dear ones -- and many, many more.