Friday, August 26, 2011

Bonnie Bishoff Shawl Pins-- Handmade. Gorgeous.

New shop sample is a circle vest made from Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande and featuring one of the new Bonnie Bishoff handmade shawl pins.

As we all know, the list of Reasons We Love Knitting is rather long, perhaps endless even. Besides the actual meditative wonderfulness of the process, there's the tactile awesomeness, the amazing finished garments, the mathematical and architectural wonders and on and on. Beyond all that, there's the excuse to collect RELATED ITEMS. And though perhaps we need no excuse to acquire more bags, being a knitter demands that we collect bags of all sizes and shapes. And then there are EMBELLISHMENTS. Beyond buttons, zippers and hooks, SHAWL PINS are a terrific way to make a beautiful garment even more beautiful. You don't even have to bother with buttonholes! We just got in a bunch of gorgeous shawl pins from Bonnie Bishoff. Each is handmade and all are super cool. Come on down and check them out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Meet SHELTER & PRAIRIE BLISS Designer Elizabeth Cobbe

Hey Y'all,
The HCW Prairie Bliss pattern collection-- a follow up to the super awesome SHELTER collection-- is currently being released, pattern by pattern. Designer Elizabeth Cobbe has beautiful designs in both collections. For the SHELTER collection, she created Sarah Rose, pictured here. Her two new patterns for the Prairie Bliss collection are:

Vineyard Rows
A gorgeous short sleeve pullover worked in Alchemy Kozmos and Alchemy Silken Straw
Rockabilly Soft
A sweet cardigan worked in four different shades from The Fibre Company Road to China Light.

The new patterns haven't been released yet, but they will be soon. For now you can get sneak peeks at them over in our Online Look Book.

Elizabeth Cobbe
Meanwhile, while you wait to get your needles on a copy of the patterns, here's an interview with Elizabeth Cobbe:

HCW: How long have you been knitting?
EC: Since 2001

HCW: Why do you love knitting?
EC: Aside from being a counterbalance to various mental instabilities... I'm also a writer, and I appreciate very much that knitting is so much more reliable than writing in terms of predicting the output. Now, before anybody protests, yes, I too have encountered the devastation of the Swatch That Lies. But dude: at least in knitting you CAN swatch. If someone can tell me how to swatch a play or novel, I'm all ears. Of course, there are many parallels between the writing process and the design process. You learn though experience how to use your tools and your material, and then it's a series of problem solving. How do I make my cable go sideways? How do I create a villain who is sympathetic? Then, at that point, it's just getting your butt in the chair to carry through - miles of stockinette, or the chapter you just have to get down on paper somehow if you're ever going to get to the next one.

HCW: How did you come to be part of this project?
EC: Dumb luck? In fact, Suzanne saw pictures of my very first sweater design (Meryton) on Ravelry, and she kept me in mind when the idea arose for the Shelter design project. To say that I'm flattered and honored to be in such talented and more experienced company is an understatement.

HCW: How'd you name your pattern Sarah Rose?
EC: Originally, I called it South Congress, but when I realized they'd be sold outside of Austin, where the phrase "South Congress" means pretty much nothing, I switched it to something that I hope is evocative of simple yet feminine, contemporary yet rooted.

HCW: What inspired your design?
EC: The yarn. Shelter is a very "grounded" sort of yarn, with moderate colors and a tweedy texture. In some ways, it's quite masculine. Also, it's wool, which to a Texan means that layers are wise. From there, the design is a balancing act. Tweedy jackets aren't usually shapely and feminine, so I created a jacket with curved lines and a lace edging. I'm also a fan of bloused sleeves, which are far easier to make then you'd think. The herringbone band at the waist is there to give it a hint of the kind of boxy structure one typically associates with a tailored jacket. I was aiming for something that encapsulates what I love best about Austin fashion: the ability to take something that in other contexts can be pretty dull, and add just enough frill to give that no-nonsense version of femininity that Austin women exude: "Sure, I'm a pretty girl, but these boots can kick your ass."

HCW: What obstacles did you encounter?
EC: Nearly blew a fuse trying to figure out those curved front corners - my studio is littered with silly-looking swatches of bizarre shapes from when I was testing out techniques. Also, figuring out the numbers for different sizes is enough to challenge a rocket scientist, which I most definitely am not. I'm so grateful to our excellent tech editor Elizabeth Sullivan for her invaluable assistance with sizing.

HCW: How do you like SHELTER?
EC: ADORE. First of all, you'd think it might be scratchy, but it is not. I am guilty of wearing my sample for one evening before I had to turn it over to HCW, and it bothered me precisely not one bit - and my neck and face are quite sensitive to even high-quality wools. Secondly, the yarn held up to multiple frog-and-restarts. (Not that I'd know about that, because I am a perfect designer who always gets the results she plans for.) I ripped out one section in particular about three times, and it was like the yarn turned around and said, "Oh please. Honey, I'm just gettin' started." Oddly enough, however, the yarn didn't spit-splice well at all.

HCW: If you could design any project, and actually have time to knit it, what would it be?
EC: I have this blanket idea. It's all mathematical and stuff. You'd love it, you really would.

HCW: How long did it take you to knit the prototype for your design?
EC: I crammed that thing into a single month, plus a few extra days to frog and restart the collar. I'm not a fast knitter at all; it nearly broke me.

HCW: What else would you like to tell us?
EC: I have more designs in my head than I have time to construct. Just think what the world is missing out on by forcing me to have a day job. (Stupid mortgage.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hotter Than the Weather: Yarn Bowls!

We just got in another order of yarn bowls. They're so pretty and practical: No more chasing after balls of yarn-- the bowl holds your yarn in place. Last time we got in a batch, they flew out the door. They're hot, hot, hot. So do not wait to come 'n git yours.

Also, since you're coming down to get a yarn bowl, might as well pick up one of the new Namaste Mini Messenger bags while you're here. Namaste makes super groovy project bags that are really well thought out-- by knitters, for knitters. They're non-leather so you vegan knitters are in luck, too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

UNITED in TEXTILES: Fiber Arts Show at Dougherty Arts Center

The Austin Fiber Artists group has a show up at the Dougherty Arts Center that runs through August 27, 2011. It features 48 pieces done by 22 artists. Included in this wonderful show is work by Mary Macaulay. Mary teaches the felting classes at HCW-- and she's also going to be teaching a Viking Chain Knitting class on August 28th. Here's a link Q & A with Mary from awhile back, which includes a most excellent picture of her dog modeling her work.

The gallery is open Monday - Thursday, 10:00 am - 9:30 pm, Friday 10:00 am - 5:30 pm, and Saturday 10: am - 4 pm.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Knitting Vacations-- Where Do You Go?

Shannon (L) and Margaret (R) at the Astoria Fiber Arts Academy in Oregon

Taking a little survey today-- how many of you plan your vacations to specifically include knitting adventures/destinations? Besides just always being on the lookout for knit shops when I am traveling, I also have some very specific knit-related places I enjoy visiting as often as possible. One of these is Astoria, Oregon, where I spent the past couple of days.

I have a friend, Shannon, I met in 2006 when I spotted her knitting at the Astoria Farmers Market. We struck up a knit conversation, and we've been friends ever since. I have another friend in Astoria, Margaret Thierry, who hand dyes yarn and also runs the Astoria Fiber Arts Academy. The academy opened in 2010 and includes a room full of looms, some of them historic. Someday I'd love to just spend a month in Astoria hanging out with Shannon and Margaret.

On the drive back to Portland from Astoria, my host and driver spotted Knit Divas, a little knit shop in St. Helens, Oregon. Of course we stopped. I love talking knitting with people-- it's like an instant pass to a friendly conversation even with total strangers.

What about y'all-- do you have places you visit because you know you'll find fellow fiber fanatics? Have you ever been traveling and come across a great knit shop by accident? Tell us about it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Juniper Moon Yarns: We've Got the New Line In!

I think a lot of us fiber fanatics fantasize about having our own flock. Susan Gibbs decided to follow through on that dream. She left her job as a network news producer in New York and moved to a farm outside of Charlottesville, VA. Juniper Moon Farm practices eco-conscious animal care and they recently released a new line of three yarns. Great news, we've got all three at the shop and not only that, we have all the available colors in all three weights.

Some other fun facts about Juniper Moon-- they started the world's first Yarn CSA. If you're not familiar, CSAs are Community Supported Agriculture programs where local farms are supported by folks who subscribe to receive what they produce. Usually when you hear about CSAs it involves getting boxes of produce delivered. But with Juniper Moon, shareholders buy into annual fleece yields, which they can receive as spun fiber or roving.

Juniper Moon also has a vacation program-- you can stay at the farm for a long weekend or even a full week. A good way to go if you're thinking that you might want to translate your flock fantasy into a reality. If you don't have time to travel, you can visit the farm anyway-- JF has a LambCam you can tune into to watch the sheep.

Here's some more info about the yarn we have at the shop. It's getting great reviews-- why not give it a spin and see for yourself:

Named for author Willa Cather, Willa is a 40/60 blend of Merino & Super Fine Kid Mohair. It's bulky weight and super soft with a nice sheen.

Findley is a lace yarn, 50/50 Merino/Silk. It comes in a ball-- nearly 800 yards per. Knits smooth and doesn't split.


Susan named this yarn after organic farming pioneer Alan Chadwick. Chadwick (the yarn, not the farmer) is a 60/40 Merino/Baby Alpaca blend-- super soft and lofty. It's a single ply with 202 yards per ball.