Friday, July 30, 2010

Pancreatic Craftacular

My regular readers may recall that my father died of pancreatic cancer last December. In some respects, he was the classic pancreatic cancer patient: by the time he noticed symptoms that weren't vague and easy to ignore, the cancer had metastasized. He died just a few days after receiving his diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer is such a nasty disease that we actually took some comfort from the fact that he did not linger longer, suffering from all sorts of intense pain and indignities.

When I saw on Facebook that Kim Werker, former editor of Interweave Crochet, author of Crochet Me: Designs to Fuel the Crochet Revolution, and all around good gal, was beginning a fundraiser for pancreatic cancer research, I wanted to participate. Kim's family has been ravaged by this disease: she has lost a grandmother, aunt and uncle, and her father is currently undergoing treatment for pancreatic-related issues right now, although thankfully, his prognosis is good.

So I present to you the Electric Eyelet Socks.

It's a pattern that I had written a while back, and was planning on offering in PDF form, but for various reasons, it had fallen to the back of the to-do list. I am offering this on Ravelry (link here) and Patternfish (link here). From now through December 23, 2010 (the one-year anniversary of my dad's death), I will donate 50% of the purchase price to the Lustgarden Foundation for Pancreatic Research Center as part of the Pancreatic Craftacular that Kim has organized. (Be sure to check out the other participants in the Craftacular, who are offering crafty goodies with a portion of the proceeds going to this cause.)

Thanks for your support. I hope this will be a win-win situation, in that you will get a fun sock pattern to knit, while a worthwhile research center will get badly-needed funds to fight a terrible form of cancer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fall preview: Berroco

This is the time of the summer when -- if you live in the same climactic zone that I do -- the irony is inescapable. It is, literally, going to be 90 or more degrees F here today, and yet I am writing a blog post telling you about yarns made of wool and other cozy, heat-inducing fibers. But it's fall preview time here at GKIYH and if you are an early bird, you may be interested in casting on a new project now in order to finish it by the fall. (Or perhaps you are just a complete whore for yarn, like me, and like hearing about what's coming this fall...)

Fremont by Cirilia Rose (Vintage)

You've heard me kvell over and over again about the terrific yarns and patterns Berroco has produced in the last couple years under Norah Gaughan's direction. So I won't blather on and on about it any more. Let's head straight for the good stuff: the yarn and patterns.

Ana, by Cirilia Rose (Remix)

This fall, we're going to see five new yarns from Berroco. Two are new weights of some familiar favorites, while three are brand-new yarns. While in the past couple of years, Berroco was producing a lot of all-natural fiber yarns, this year, almost all but one of the new yarns include some synthetic content. I wonder why this is: price sensitivity, given the economy? desire on the part of knitters for more machine-washability?

Daron (Remix)

Maybe one reason is the desire to source reused fibers. Berroco Remix uses 100-percent recycled fibers -- 27% cotton, 30% nylon, 24% acrylic, 10% silk and 9% linen, a pretty eclectic combination. The end result is a non-wool, machine-washable tweed yarn. It's heavy worsted weight, and you get 216 yds/100g for ten bucks a ball -- an alternative for the wool-allergic at a versatile gauge, and around the same general price point as the uber-popular Cascade 220. (Even those who are not allergic to wool may appreciate the cooler blend of fibers for wearing on less-frigid days.) Remix comes in twelve colors, about half of which are neutrals; the others tend to deep, rich shades like a rich ruby red and a deep orange, along with favorites like denim blue and buttercup yellow.

Abi (Remix)

If you are looking for a yarn to wear on freezing-cold days, you can try Campus or Borealis. Campus is a blend of wool, acrylic and a little alpaca (the exact proportions are 50% wool, 40% acrylic, 10% alpaca), in a bulky weight (handwash).

Lutt-Witt (Campus)

Campus is priced at ten bucks a ball, and you get 130 yds/100g, knitting at 3 sts per inch. The texture is slightly thick-and-thin, and it's got some multicolored plies, although the nine color combinations tend toward the subtler rather than the crayon box.

Bourtanger (Campus)

Borealis also knits at around 3 sts per inch,

Outre, by Cirilia Rose (Borealis)

and features a 60% acrylic/40% wool mix. Borealis is also a multicolor but with brighter combinations than Campus. It retails for $14 a ball, and you get 108 yds/100g, with 10 colorways.

Boyd (Borealis)

I mentioned in one of my TNNA posts that in light of the economic situation, I got the impression that some of the yarn companies were trying to reduce the risk of introducing brand-new yarns by bringing out newer weights of old favorites. It makes sense: if you know customers like a yarn, it's less risky to get them to buy a different weight of that yarn than one they've never tried before.

This fall, you'll find Blackstone Tweed Chunky, a bulkier version of Berroco's popular Blackstone Tweed. Like the original, BT Chunky is a blend of 65% wool/25% superfine kid mohair/10% angora rabbit fluff but instead of knitting at 4.5 sts to the inch, the chunky version knits at 3.5 sts to the inch. There are ten colors, again with lots of versatile neutrals as well as favorite shades like blues and rich red.

Emerson Pullover, by Norah Gaughan (BT Tweed Chunky)

Similarly, the popular Vintage gets a thicker sibling; Vintage Chunky retains the 50% acrylic/40% wool/10% nylon blend of the original, but knits at 3.5 instead of 4.5 sts per inch. Vintage Chunky debuts with a nice selection of 24 colors, with a brighter palette than some of the other new yarns. Vintage is labeled for gentle machine washing, always a plus.

One of the great things about Berroco under Norah Gaughan is the strength of the pattern support that is offered. This fall, Berroco is releasing seven pattern booklets.

Aquamarina by Norah Gaughan (Lustra)

Gaughan fans will be interested in Norah Gaughan Vol. 7, the latest installment of her designs.

Zolfo, by Norah Gaughan (Ultra Alpaca + Lustra)

The booklet contains 17 designs inspired by "crystals, geodes and gemstones," and uses mainly the popular Ultra Alpaca yarn, along with Lustra.

Stibnite, by Norah Gaughan (Ultra Alpaca)

A book dedicated to the new Remix features knits for the family -- children's as well as a few adult garments; the book dedicated to Campus contains basic pieces for women; the Borealis book is also women's garments, mainly sweaters, but with more dramatic style. A booklet containing Blackstone Tweed in original and chunky weights is devoted to classic garments for women,

Reid, by Cirilia Rose (BT Tweed)

while a Vintage original and chunky weights booklet looks like it was designed to appeal to a slightly younger demographic (with that adorable Cirilia Rose modeling).

Vashon by Cirilia Rose (Vintage Chunky)

The final new booklet is a combination of sweaters and accessories in super-thick Sundae and Peruvia Quick.

Berroco's fall yarns and pattern booklets are already being shipped to fine yarn emporia like Loop and WEBS.

More yarn previews and book reviews coming soon....

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'm back....

After our rocky departure day, we had an absolutely gorgeous time at the beach.

The weather largely cooperated; although there were one or two days when it was cloudy or we had a thunderstorm, our first day (which was devoted to travel anyway) was the only rainy day -- we were able to get to the beach and in the water every other day, which is pretty amazing.

We did the traditional flying-of-the-kite

and sand-castle-building

and bodysurfing in the waves, and we ate ice cream

and even the crabbier members of the family (they know who they are) were laughing and having fun.

We even played a round or two of mini-golf, although it was dreadfully hot that day.

We met a cute little toad

and had some delicious seafood.

You'll be pleased to know that the Beach Bun had a great time, too. Look how relaxed he is.

With fall right around the corner (!), there's lots going on in the knitting world, so I'll try to catch up soon. I've got fall yarn previews and book reviews and all kinds of good stuff coming up....

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Slow start...

My grandmother used to say that bad things come in threes. (She also used to say that deaths came in threes, which was really irritating, because there's nothing like getting all sniffly that Uncle Wladislaw died, only to be told by a dire old lady in a black cardigan that two more people were on their way soon.) Last night, as we got ready to pack for a week at the beach, a certain child of mine (cough, Elvis, cough) left the hatch of the car open after he brought stuff in from the back. Even though his mother said, "Did you close up the car?" It wasn't until after the downpour when I went to put stuff in the car that I noticed it had rained in the hatchback for close to two hours.

That's one.

We woke up to more rain this morning -- sheets of rain.

That's two.

When I went to put stuff in the other car a little while ago, I could not help but notice that it had a flat tire.

That's three.

I consider us highly fortunate to have gotten all three bad things out of the way before we hit the road.

And if we'd gotten out the door as planned, perhaps I would never have gotten to see this little guy:

I have no doubt that some entomologist-knitter out there will be able to identify this critter. But, um, if it's a termite in waiting, then please wait until after the beach to tell me, because I don't want to start the cycle of three all over again...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

June Book Report

Here's what I read in June:

The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly, is the first in a series of mysteries set in colonial India. The detective is Joe Sandilands, a WWI veteran who now works for Scotland Yard. Sandilands has been asked to look into a series of deaths that look like accidents, but may actually be a series of murders. I liked the unusual (for mysteries) setting of 1920s India, and the characters were interesting. In fact, I liked this one so much I went on to read the second book in the series, Ragtime in Simla. In this book, Sandilands is travelling north to Simla, a northern provincial city, in order to vacation at a friend's guesthouse. While riding to Simla, the man sitting next to him is shot by a sniper. Sandilands is asked to figure out why. Another good mystery which takes advantage of the exotic setting.

Babel by Barry Maitland is another in the Kolla/Brock series of mysteries. This one, I thought, was weaker than some of the earlier ones in the series. As the book begins, Kathy Kolla is still shaky and suffering PTSD from being held captive at the end of the previous book. She's debating whether to pack it all in and start a new career, when Brock is called in to investigate the very public murder of a controversial professor at a London university. The story, which was written before 9/11, features a look at Islamofascism, but unfortunately, the plot just didn't resonate as well in a post-9/11 world.

Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin by Hampton Sides. A fascinating look at the assassination of MLK Jr and the search for his assassin, James Earl Ray. The book very tightly focuses on the period immediately before the assassination, beginning with Ray's escape from the Missouri penitentiary in which he was serving time, tracking him to Memphis, describing the murder in detail, then following the path he took attempting to avoid capture. Sides doesn't really seem to spend much time on any of the conspiracy theories that abound regarding King's death, but the depth of his research into this time period gives plenty of compelling reasons to reject them.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson. I think it was the weakest of the three, but I still enjoyed it and liked finding resolution of sorts to the series. There was a bit more about Swedish political history in here (maybe could have used an edit) but you'll find out what happens to all your favorites characters (and un-favorites) from the first two books. How sad that the author died at an incredibly young age and won't be around to write more.

So that's my June summary. You know the drill: feel free to leave comments telling me what you're reading or what you thought of any of the above. . .

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Stella sparkly sock in stock

Just uploaded some of the sparkly Stella sock yarn




Solar Spectrum

to the BBF website, along with a few skeins of some wool/silk laceweight.

Mauve Merino/silk Laceweight

Now I'm off for a quick overnight visit to my mom's, so the kids can have some Nana time... Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Fall preview: Quince and Co.

If you were sad like me to hear that Pam Allen was stepping down from Classic Elite as creative director, you will be as happy like me to hear her latest news: Yesterday, Pam's new enterprise, Quince & Co., opened for business.

Marian Cowl

What is Quince & Co.?

Effie Beret

Why a fabulous new yarn & pattern company, of course.

Featuring beautiful and extremely well-priced yarns primarily from North America, Quince & Co. is selling direct to the knitter on their website. Pam has joined forces with Carrie Bostick Hoge (a photographer and knitting designer) and Bob Rice (a mill owner), seeking to create beautiful yarns while remaining socially conscious "without making too much a fuss about it."

Castle Pullover

What will you find at Quince & Co.?

For its debut, Quince has created four yarns, all of them wool, with the majority of it sourced from America and all of the weights coming in the same palette of approximately 37 colors:

  • Chickadee is a sportweight wool (gauge is listed as 6 or 6.5 sts per inch, depending on needle size), three plies of American wool, and is described as firm yet soft. At $5.75 for 181 yds/50g, it's exceedingly well-priced and looks divine for colorwork.
  • Lark is another firm yet soft yarn, this time with four plies of American wool, knitting as a worsted weight, with gauge given as 4.5 to 5 sts per inch. Price point: $5.50 for a skein of 131 yds/50g.
  • Osprey is described as a three-ply aran-weight yarn, knitting at 3.5 to 4 sts per inch. Osprey has a more relaxed twist, aiming for a loftier feel. $10.75 for a whopping 175 yds/100g.

  • Last but not least, Puffin is the thickest of the Quince family, a single-ply yarn knitting at 2.5 to 3 sts per inch, for when you need speed. At $8.50 for a skein of 112 yds/100g, it's also very nicely-priced.

Pattern support looks divine. Right now, about 15 or so patterns are listed on the site, available by download. They are roughly evenly divided among the four yarns, and include sweaters as well as accessories. All have that clean yet elegant simplicity that hits just the right spot: interesting but not overdesigned. All are photographed beautifully. Price for the download varies by the size of the pattern, ranging around $5 to 6.75 -- but there are also a few free downloads, too.

Right now, Quince & Co. is selling direct to knitters, and through a single yarn shop, KnitWit in Portland, ME.

Cullin Cowl

According to their website, the higher costs of doing business in the US, as opposed to, say, importing the yarn from other countries makes it harder for Quince to offer their yarns through knitting shops. It will be interesting to see how this innovative business model plays out...

Photos copyright 2010 Quince & Co.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

"It is the flag just as much of the man who was naturalized yesterday as of the men whose people have been here many generations. "
~Henry Cabot Lodge

"There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.
-- Barack Obama

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism."
~Erma Bombeck

"There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."
-- Bill Clinton