KPSlowKnitBlog1

Especially at the height of knitting season, the world around me seems to settle into a constant state of blur. Timelines, deadlines, due dates—they rush forwards and then past, being fulfilled and crossed off the planner, pages turning like a flip book, the margins animated with notations and ideas. The knitting of samples, swatches, patterns, projects, speeds by almost as quickly. Sometimes this is okay. A project rapidly off the needles provides some sense of satisfaction, especially if I can wear it sooner. Lately, though, I have been thinking of slower knitting.

You may have heard of the “slow food” or “slow living” movements, through which people are taking a breather in their busy lives and re-evaluating. Fewer ingredients. Fewer belongings. Simple food, simple beauty, simple lives. It’s a return to the past. After all, didn’t our ancestors come up with all of this technology, all of these inventions, to make life easier? So why has it become so difficult to set aside time for ourselves, our families, our interests? We seem busier than ever.

I propose a return to the slower cycle of all things knitting. I plan on taking my cues from fiber animals, whose fleeces follow a year-long journey, culminating in a shearing, a carding, a spinning, a yarn.

In this same way, I will choose my fibers carefully and thoughtfully, selecting a project not for it’s expediency or end product, but simply to make something beautiful. I will muse over the stitches, taking pleasure in the beauty of yarn passing through my fingers to become something new. No longer will I fear a long project, or blocking, or trying a new technique. I will do this for the enjoyment of the process as much as for the project.

I vow to take time each day simply to enjoy the act of knitting—all too often, I find myself absorbed instead with a task within the task, knitting while waiting or doing something else. I will add in time just for the knitting itself.

In these simple, quiet moments, I will rediscover the meditative quality of wool and needles.

 

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Portland has quite a few pumpkin patches nearby. Many of them with hayrides and (haunted) corn mazes, and plenty of hot cider and kettle corn.

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Usually, they’re not in season until we start to see rain, and they can get kind of mucky. I happened to go after a particularly rainy week; there was plenty of mud, and subsequent mold, to be found.

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This particular patch was quite busy on a Saturday morning, with a lot of enthusiastic hunters out in search of the perfect pumpkin.

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After rolling over a lot of too big and too gnarled pumpkins, I found just the one: small, round, and ideal for not carving. I love carving pumpkins, but I love not carving them just as much.

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Right now, this guy is on display with some other wild-looking gourds, keeping our table company through fall.

an impressive spread from the Hopeless Housewife blog

an impressive spread from the Hopeless Housewife blog

Have you ever watched one of those Halloween movies, where everyone gets together for a big party, dressed in costume? The houses are decked out in spooky skeletons, ghosts and cobwebs, and there is always a massive table, laden with caramel apples, bat-shaped cookies and a bubbling cauldron of a punch bowl. Growing up, I wanted so badly for these excessive parties to be realities — and almost as soon as the first day of October rolls around on my desk calendar, I hope that somehow, this will be the year to make them so.

While I regret to admit that there is no ghoulish bash being penciled into my 2014 desk calendar, I still want to get into the Halloween spirit by picking up a pair of needles (wooden stakes, if you prefer) and yarn in festive colors! I pulled a few of my favorite patterns from Ravelry to share with you.

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If you have a year like mine where you can plan ahead, think about making an Owls sweater! This seasonal pullover is great throughout fall and winter, but especially spooky around Halloween time. In a chunky yarn, it works up pretty quickly, and half the fun is finding buttons. There’s also a child-sized version called Owlet that would be squishy and warm in Swans Island Bulky.

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Did you know that Portland is ranked as one of the Top 3 Cities for Trick-or-Treating in the US? With many events throughout the city and a variety of family friendly neighborhoods to stroll, it’s no wonder that the streets of Portland are often filled with costumed children begging door to door! (Check out this list of events for some ideas.) Since Beggar’s Night can often be a chilly evening, think about taking some festive mittens along, like these Candy Corn Stranded Mittens from Emily Elizabeth, or Adrian Bazilia’s Pirate Mittens.

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It’s easy to turn a favorite hat pattern into something Halloween-themed. I love the idea of knitting Stephen West’s Botanic Hat in Paprika and Eggplant Forage! Get the kids in on the fun (even ones too little to wear a costume or ring doorbells) with the festive Candy Corn Hat by Sarah Sagaser.

Of course, any kiddo’s end goal is to come tromping home with a treasure trove of candy. But who says you have to have something store-bought to carry it home in? Think long term with the Hocus Pocus Trick or Treat Bag pattern from Thea Eschliman. As soon as you get it out each year, you’ll know it’s Halloween! After all, tradition is what makes each and every holiday fun.

 

 

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!