I recently visited my dad in Wallowa County, where I was born and lived until around 11 years old. Wallowa County is the very northeastern county of Oregon. It’s remote, high in elevation, and beautiful. The first time I took my husband to visit the county he called it Little Scandinavia, because of the picturesque alpine peaks and pastoral farmlands.

596Photo courtesy Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce

Wallowa county has always been somewhat self-reliant. Because of its distance from any metropolitan center or robust supply chain, coupled with a recalcitrant attitude towards big box stores and chains (Subway is the only chain restaurant in the entire county), Wallowa locals have always grown a lot of their own food. This trip back to my birthplace was especially interesting because the slow food and locavore trends are making a big impact in the county. I ate at the newly revamped Lostine Tavern, a local tavern that was recently crowd-funded to turn it into a farm-to-table eatery headed by Chef Lynn Curry.

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Across the street from the LT I visited the Lostine Community Marketplace, a shop selling local handcrafts, from quilts and homespun yarn, to slingshots, pickles, and pottery. The Community Marketplace is staffed in volunteer shifts by those who sell their wares through it. I especially admired a collection of vintage hats on display and the tiny wood-burning stove.

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The store was started by my “Auntie” June, an ideas-woman whose current project is using native plants to dye handspun yarns and fleece from her specially bred flock of Targee-Wensleydale sheep. The wool from this breed has a long staple, with no “prickle factor,” and a wavy crimp. I visited her home studio and got to bring an undyed skein still smelling of lanolin home with me.

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Kitty-corner from the Community Marketplace is M. Crow & Co. General Store. I grew up buying penny candies here. The General Store has also recently changed owners and received a facelift. Now along with the same popsicles and Jiffy Pop popcorn from my childhood, you can buy Filson workwear and handcrafted wooden furniture. Three nice attractions, with a focus on local goods, in a town of 275 people. Lostine is hopping!

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I also attended the Wallowa Harvest Fest on the Nez Perce Homeland grounds where my sister, dad, and I pressed five gallons of apple cider from apples we had gathered the previous day. We also picked out pumpkins for Jack-O-Lanterns and a few dozen duck eggs to bring back to Portland with us. It was a good visit to a place where “shop local” isn’t just a buzzword, but a way of life.

I’m not the most adventurous knitter. I like to experiment, but generally I stick (somewhat) close to a pattern. I need the guidance.

That said, I love swatching and designing, both of which involve a lot of free knitting. But being inspired by so many other knitters and designers, I’m not completely without that guidance.

We’ve been thinking of ways that we like to deviate from the written word a little around the store, in little ways, and in dramatic ways. Some examples we’ve come up with are changing stripe arrangements, adding colors, adding shaping, and using our experience to go off on our own a little bit.

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Some of my recent experiments include the Encadre, by Julie Hoover. I altered the MC and CC in the colorwork section, and started knitting the second half first.

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With Shibui’s Cliff sweater, I had difficulty getting the bottom ribbing to be tight enough, so I used smaller needles, a 2×2 rib, and a single color. It’s still a little loose, but much better. I also changed the neck ribbing to i-cord.

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I started knitting Hannah Fettig’s Wispy cardi, and decided I wanted it to be a shrug. I added Cima to my Linen, and knit in garter stitch in the round for a cozy shrug that made an appearance at a summer wedding.

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This hat is based on a mitten pattern Alexis Winslow designed for Brooklyn Tweed. (She’ll be here for a book signing November 1 from 2–5—you should come!) It was intended for a fingering weight; but with a little math,  I changed it to a worsted-weight hat. It’s super warm, and I don’t get to wear it enough!

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Linda knit her Skipping Dots using our suggestions, but added a little purple stripe for that extra pop of color.

Two of the patterns feature in our newsletter this month,  Dessine-moi un mouton and Lucky No. 7, we did a little experimenting with stripe sequencing in our samples, too.

For the Lucky No. 7, Keli decided to use Swans Island Fingering instead of any of the recommended yarns, because it’s so wonderfully soft and she loves the natural colors. Searching the projects on Ravelry, she found 2 people who had worked the pattern in that yarn: one inspired her to use the lighter Natural colorway as the contrast color, and the other inspired her to use just one skein of each color to make an abbreviated cowl. Our sample knitter decided to knit the cowl with 14-row stripes of the main color, because she liked that the wider spacing made the white stripes look less busy.

For the French sweater, we knew we wanted to show off the Geilsk Wool Cotton, but we thought we’d go understated by picking just a few colors instead of knitting a whole rainbow of stripes. We laid out all the colors on the table and grouped those that looked especially nice together, finally settling on greens and neutrals. Again, Keli turned to Ravelry to check if anyone had worked the pattern with a dark main color.
We found this project in colors very similar to those we had just picked and thought it looked fabulous. To arrange the stripes, she scanned other projects on Ravelry to see what worked best, deciding that she liked the sweater most when the lower 3 stripes were very subtle and the most eye-catching stripes fell above the bust line. From there, Keli mixed the colors around a little to give the stripes a fun, random feel.

How have you been playing with your patterns?

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I grew up on a small farm from about the age of 7 to 18. We had a beautiful garden, fruit trees, and a small collection of animals. My parents taught my sister, brother, and I many valuable tasks. However, one of the few things I didn’t learn was canning. How I missed, this I’m not sure, but I think it may have had something to do with the Super Nintendo that entered the family around age 13. Isn’t Donkey Kong the best?

Canning, right! Let’s get back to the subject, shall we?

Spicy pickles! That’s what I chose for my first canning extravaganza—a family recipe from my dear friend Heidi. The following recipe yields 10-12 jars.

What you’ll need
My dear friend Heidi  (or a sidekick of your choosing)
12 1-Quart Canning Jars
5–6 Pickling Cucumbers Per Jar
1–2 Garlic Heads
1 Fresh Dill Plant
1–3 Tsp Cayenne Per Jar
1–3 Serrano Peppers Per Jar (optional)
Large Canning Pot with Jar Dividers
Canning Tongs

Pickling Solution
10 Cups White Vinegar
10 Cups Water
1 Cup Canning Salt

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Tip
I was told to put my glass jars through the hot and light loud option of my dishwasher, lids off. This way your jars are hot when you pack them and transfer them to the hot water. It’s less likely the glass will burst.

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Instructions
Clean the cucumbers. Prepare the canning liquid and heat to a low simmer, not boiling. Heat your large pot of water (with dividers) to boiling. Pack your hot canning jars with one head of dill, 1–3 garlic cloves, 1–3 tsp cayenne, 5-6– cucumbers and a couple hot peppers.

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Next, carefully fill each jar with the steaming hot vinegar mixture to just about 1/4″ from the top of the jar. Screw each lid on just tight enough, but not too tight! Carefully drop these beauties into the boiling water between your jar dividers and cover with the lid for exactly 8–10 minutes. Pull out each jar using your handy dandy canning tongs when the time is up!

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Lastly, place your jars in a clean, cool, dark, dry place and wait ever so patiently until it’s time to pop the lid and give them a taste. I think 3 weeks is the minimum to wait. My husband would tell you two weeks…. But his patience level for spicy pickles is slim to none!

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Canning is much easier and faster than I thought it would be. There will definitely be more canning in my future. Hopefully with my mom! I so appreciate all her beautifully stacked glass jars I remember seeing in our cellar so much more now.

Here at Knit Purl, we’ve been enchanted with Spincycle’s Dyed in the Wool yarn for a while now.

On the sales floor, I’ve been working away on a Quaker Yarn Stretcher (inspired by this project). The sport-weight Bluefaced Leicester makes a supple fabric on US 8 needles, the pattern has enough variety to keep me engaged without taxing my attention, and the color transitions of the yarn keep me knitting simply to find out what soft stripe will appear next. With our stock recently replenished and some new colors to admire (Payback, Devilish Grin, and The Saddest Place), now seems like the perfect time to share more pattern ideas for this dazzling yarn!

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Back in June, we were lucky to host Kate and Rachel—the creative masterminds behind Dyed in the Wool. They brought a trove of inspiring samples featuring the color-flecked stripes of their yarn. I especially enjoyed seeing the full garments, including Nijo and the charming Jonesy. Still, I think my favorite approach to using Dyed in the Wool is to combine it with a more solid yarn—whether in simple stripes or intricate colorwork. Both ladies had versions of Mon Petit Gilet Rayé, Kate shortening both the sleeves and body to make hers extra cute over a dress. Used this way, the sophisticated hues of Dyed in the Wool almost seemed to shimmer.

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The trunk show included several accessories using this same principle, including a Pine Bough Cowl nearly as lovely as Cait’s. Kate and Rachel highly recommended Beyond the Pines because you can use every bit of a cherished single skein of Dyed in the Wool. Their version of Fixation still has me feeling inspired to make at least one for myself. (If you find this interplay of yarns and colors as captivating as I do, be sure to look out for Dianna Walla’s forthcoming mitt pattern. The Spincycle yarn pairs well with Loft, Staccato, and Swans Island Fingering, to name a few.)

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Finally, the self-proclaimed spinsters had some highly inventive projects that took advantage of Dyed in the Wool in very different ways. You may have seen Heidi Bears’ crocheted African flower creatures on Ravelry. In celebration of their yarn’s rainbow of colors, Kate and Rachel had a hippo and unicorn created. They were simply adorable (and larger than I would have guessed). In contrast, Kate used a more homogeneous colorway to create an incredible Celestarium.

Kate and Rachel themselves are simply delightful and we’re so proud to carry their handiwork. Each skein of Dyed in the Wool is one of a kind—pick some out while there’s still plenty to choose from!

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In any yarn store, you’ll discover shelves laden with merino wools, sourced and produced all over the world. Sometimes, it feels like if you have seen one merino, you have seen them all. Soft to the touch, merino has become one of the most favored wools in the yarn industry for good reason. It has changed the way that people feel about wool, and opened the door for other breeds like Polworth, Rambouillet, and Targhee.

But occasionally, a merino comes along that is something truly special. With 17 microns and a hand more like cashmere than merino, there’s no denying that Kristin Ford’s new enterprise, Woolfolk, features a merino that is beyond the ordinary. Ovis XXI, a collaborative group of farmers, has a major hand in producing the superfine merino that Woolfolk’s two introductory yarns Får and Tynd are made from. Their methodology expands the horizons of wool conservancy and production for the industry.

Patagonia, a region shared by both Argentina and Chile, has long been a source of beautiful wools, but with increased knowledge and application of environmental conservancy measures, farmers there are taking new steps to maintain the rich grasslands through more conscious grazing procedures.

With such a thoughtful beginning, it’s no wonder that Kristin’s end product, Woolfolk, has an equally thought-out development. The line is a celebration of high-end materials and the knits they become. Inspired by the simple beauty of the Scandinavian and Dutch cultures, Kristin named her line’s introductory yarns Får and Tynd. Får, which means simply sheep, is a worsted-weight, chainette-structured yarn that knits up with lofty decadence. Tynd, which means fine, is a fingering-weight, plied yarn fills in the rest of the line, giving a wide range of gauge options for those hoping to knit with this ultra-soft merino.

Kristin wanted to start with a color palette that would reflect the knitting season.

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“I’m not trying to make yarns for spring,” she explains. “Knitting is something done to keep warm, to calm and to occupy in colder months. It just makes more sense to embrace that than fight against it!”

The palette, which contains cozy, comfortable colors in shades of mushroom, indigo, and cabernet, is beautifully utilized in an introductory collection by Olga Buraya-Kefelian, a designer we’re quite familiar with at Knit Purl.

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“Olga seemed like such a natural choice. I had worked with her in the past and had a connection with her—her designs are technically meticulous, interesting and have an engineered feel to them, which works very well with my personal history in architecture,” Kristin explained in our interview.

“We had a lot of Skype sessions, it was a very collaborative process. I required that the pieces have minimal seaming but still looked structured. The final pieces truly reflect the wide variety of textures and shapes achievable in these yarns.”

There are more patterns in line for Woolfolk, too. Antonia Shankland, a designer you might be familiar with from some of her Shibui patterns, has a trio of accessory pieces due to be released later in the month. Kristin is busy daily, sending out the yarn to flagship stores from her home base.

“It’s a warehouse where we used to make hard cider. We send the apples now to be pressed elsewhere, it’s nice to be able to use a space on the farm. I ride 200 yards on a bike, past the goats and the barns, to the warehouse each morning. It’s a new identity for me, warehouse handler, yarn manufacturer,” she explains.

With such a rich history behind it, we can’t wait to see what the next year for Woolfolk holds.

 

What We Knit: Sarah’s Nymphalidea Shawl

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 I have really enjoyed working on my Nymphalidea. It’s the second shawl that I’ve started, and I was in search of a burst of color. I found Noro Shiraito to be the perfect solution, and I combined this with Twirl’s Petals yarn in Twirling Ollie (black). The solid neutral tone of Twirl against Noro’s changing colors creates a nice contrast that I could see being a colorful accent to any basic outfit.

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As a newer knitter, I like that this shawl appears somewhat intricate, but is actually quite simple to knit! I enjoyed working with both yarns, particularly Twirl’s unique, raw handspun qualities, which have an interesting texture.

Noro is one of my favorite yarn labels. The way that the colors transition can make panels of basic stitches interesting and engaging to knit, moving me through the project quickly with the promise of a new reveal in every row. Many patterns have been based on Noro Yarns’ color changes, often using simple stitch patterns to let the colors speak for themselves. I thought it could be fun to explore some new possibilities with Noro’s Shiraito, a blend of angora, cashmere, and wool, spun at a delicate fingering weight.

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First, here is color 31, knit into a simple stockinette swatch. The color transitions are fairly wide, making it a great candidate for textured stitches or effects with stripes and colorwork. I love the way that the purple transitions into the green with a displaced, speckled effect, but has almost an immediate transition into the sage color. Just another fun aspect to using this yarn!

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It’s fun to highlight and increase this effect, or even break it up a little, by using a textured stitch that features slipped or crossed stitches (psso, anyone?). Linen stitch seemed like a great candidate in the Shiraito because it really upgrades the knitted fabric into something special, giving accessories a woven look. It translated so well in our swatch, I love the way it broke up the transitional bars and made the speckled portions carry on a bit longer than they normally would.

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Striping in Noro can be an easy way to get all kinds of awesome effects. If you wind your yarn into a cake and then knit from both ends, using one as your main color and the other as your “stripe” color, you can work the transitions against each other, creating a finished piece that has a ton of interest and movement. It’s almost like an optical illusion!

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Of course, you can go the more traditional route and stripe the Shiraito with a plain contrast color to make the transitions really pop. For stark results, pick a color not featured in the yarn but complimentary (a neutral like heather gray or brown can be a great choice). For more subtle striping, choose a color that matches a section of your Noro yarn. In this case, we played up the cream that already existed in the Shiraito skein.

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No matter what color, method, or project Noro Yarns inspire you to try, don’t be afraid to play around and swatch a few different options. You might surprise yourself in the process!

What We Knit: Shop Samples

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With the return of cooler days and longer nights we have lots of cozy seasonal samples planned for the store. Here are a few of the latest shop samples knit up in fantastic new yarns..

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Autumnal Mitts knit with Sage Bluff DK in Covelli, Blade, & Willow. A quick and plush knit.

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The Plimouth Hat in Swans Island All American Worsted in color Flint. The 25% Alpaca content of this 100% domestic yarn adds a touch of drape and smoothness to the sturdiness of the Rambouillet.

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The Wilson Hat shown in Herriot Grand from Juniper Moon Farms. Just one skein of this silky and drapey alpaca yarn makes a stylish slouchy beanie.

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Stop in the store to feel these amazing yarns in person, or give us a call and we’ll help you knit your own cozy fall accessories!

I have had many knitting spaces over the past few years, having moved frequently across country here and there. When you move as much as I have, you really learn what you require for a home office or studio space. Since I work out of my home 90% of the time, my space can’t just function as a craft studio, but it also has to fulfill all my needs for office space. Good lighting (natural when possible), clean flat surfaces, plenty of storage, and a small seating area for when I have a friend over to knit or discuss a project are all necessities.

My current studio has everything I could ever ask for in a space. The room, a converted screened in porch off of my bedroom, has bright light thanks to the wide bank of windows. I can work most of the time in natural lighting, which makes it wonderful for photography and brightens it up even when the winter grey skies hit.

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Yarn that I have a current plan for sits within easy reach, stuffed cozily into cubbies and flanked by pattern books and tools. (The awesome print is from Fringe Supply Co.)

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Project bags line up merrily on a peg hook along one wall, within easy reach when the moment strikes.

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Flanked by two vintage velvet tub chairs, my dad’s old media center makes excellent storage for knitting books and the small shoebox-bins I keep scrap yarns and tools in. The checkerboard boxes house samples, swatches and color cards from various companies.

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Some of my favorite tools are spirited away throughout the office, but I gathered them up for you: A Knitter’s Journal, my iPod Touch (wonderful for playing music or snapping shots for Instagram), a smattering of quirky, lampwork and handmade stitch markers, tapestry needles (I can never have enough) and a pair of sharp scissors. The needles are bone, from Fringe Supply Co. They are my absolute favorite for casting on hats!

I love this room and will be sad when eventually I’ll need to relocate from it, given that it’s in my parent’s house. But for now, it’s my small knitting oasis in the middle of every busy day.

 

 

While knitters are some of the most innovative and creative people I know, willing to take risks and experiment with new techniques and tools, in many ways, they are also some of the most resistant to change. We all have the things that we love most (and others that we avoid at all costs)! So when something new comes into the market, especially when it looks a bit foreign or different than what we’re used to, there is some level of risk involved with trying it.

While chain plied yarns have been around for a long time (spinners, especially, will understand them best referred to as n-plied yarns) they are still a relatively unusual product in the mainstream, manufactured yarn market. The structure of the yarn is similar to that of an i-cord—the strand resembles a chain, often hollow at the core, and these yarns sometimes take on a flat, cubed, and braided appearance. Many knitters, faced with a choice between a chain-plied yarn and a more standard, round yarn, will go with the one that seems the most familiar to them. In this post, I fully intend to take you outside of that comfort zone and explain why you need to try these yarns for yourself!

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Structure

Because of their construction, these yarns are able to fill and even improve upon two types of yarns: woolen yarns and fibers that have a lot of drape.

When a yarn is spun woolen, this means that the yarn is almost built like a tube, with the fibers misaligned around an air core. This method of spinning (whether by machine or hand) results in wooly, fluffy, lightweight and delicate yarns. While we love woolen yarns for so many reasons, they also have a reputation for being fairly delicate. Fibers may drift apart if pulled too hard during the knitting process, resulting in occasional breakages and extra ends to weave in (although, we must assure you, once knit, these yarns are wonderfully strong!) By using a super-soft fiber and then chain plying, we are able to get softness, loft, and an ultra-warm air core similar to that of a woolen yarn, with a stronger structure.

An additional benefit to chain plying is stability. Alpaca and linen (two of the fibers that Shibui Knits offers as chain-plied yarns) especially benefit from the added support, allowing for greater design flexibility and use in larger garments. Have you ever been told that a sweater in linen will sag? With a chain ply, the pull of gravity is slightly countered by a horizontal pull from the yarn’s structure, helping create the elasticity needed for garments that linen naturally lacks, and keeping your linen garments full of drape rather than droop.

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Stitch Definition

An added bonus of using chain-plied yarn is increased stitch definition. While a fuzzy fiber might blur the edges of a complex cable, or make a seed stitch field fade in a standard construction, chain-plied yarns are rounder than the typical yarn, filling out more space and creating neater, more defined stitches. While cables in alpaca add plenty of structure to a fabric with heavy drape, wouldn’t it be nice if they could be seen clearly as well? With a yarn like Maai, the chain ply pulls double and even triple duty, illustrating each springy stitch in high relief.


Snagging & Unraveling

Perhaps the biggest fear knitters have about working with these yarns is the worry that they will snag. There just seem to be so many loops that a needle or hook could get caught in! But the reality of working with them is quite different. Chain plied yarns do well with blunt or sharp needle tips, and you should choose your needle based on the fiber’s behavior and your own knitting preferences, rather than the yarn’s structure.

Another major concern is that the ends will come unraveled, resulting in a mess of tiny threads. As illustrated before, chain plied yarns are structured much like an i-cord, actually knitted together, so there are no tiny threads to come undone, but a single strand of fiber. As long as you weave your ends in carefully, you should be just fine! There is no more worry with a chain-plied yarn than with any other type of yarn. However, if it makes you feel better, feel free to tie a tiny knot onto the last bit of each end before weaving in.

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Are you ready, set, and willing try a chain ply yarn? Knit Purl has several in stock, including Shibui Linen, Rowan Truesilk, Ito Kouki, and the new Shibui Maai.