The Great Wall of Yarn, Indianapolis

May 27th, 2014

The Great Wall of Yarn at The National Needlework Association Summer Trade Show is where yarn manufacturers show off their new yarns. Hanks and skeins of yarn hang within reach of eager hands, designer swatches show just what you can do with these yarns. Best of all, each manufacturer provides six- to eight-inch lengths of yarn for shop owners and designers to take away.

The first time I saw the Great Wall of Yarn in 2012, I chose the most novel or interesting yarns and taped them into the notebook I always carry around with me. I took notes, most of which were even legible. After this flurry of activity, I noticed a stack of booklets provided to show attendees. The booklets listed each yarn on the Wall and who manufactured it. A convenient space was left between listings, where one could tape the appropriate yarn sample.

I vowed that next time, I would find the booklet first and tape every single sample yarn into its space. Well, it took me over an hour, but that’s just what I did at the 2014 TNNA Summer Trade Show in Indianapolis, earlier this month. I had so much fun!

What can I tell you about the new yarns? Cashmere figured prominently among the luxury yarns. Bold and understated metallics gave a sparkle to the Great Wall, but not too much. Mint, teal, peacock and other values of blue-green were plentiful.

Several manufacturers featured yarn whose raw fiber was sourced in the U. S. Good-looking recycled yarns caught my eye, too. I liked the feel of Kollage’s “Riveting” yarns, made from recycled blue jeans.

For sheer restrained luxury, my vote is for Zealana “Air,” 40% cashmere, 20% silk, and 40% brushtail possum. Oh, to knit a scarf with such softness and lightness.

New York, New Jersey, New Yarn

May 23rd, 2014

Do I need more yarn? NO!

Do I want more yarn? Considering the size of my stash, I can resist buying yarn these days. But sometimes…if a yarn is really nice… or if it’s pink…

Cascade Yarns’s Souk was on a low shelf at Knitty City. Its bold colors with their subtle variations appealed to my folk art-loving heart. The slightly irregular spin did, too. I love yarns and other things that are obviously good, but not refined to within an inch of their lives. I see a Crochet Charm Lace project in Souk’s future. The buttons, on the other hand, are destined for a wall hanging, without a doubt.

Schulana Macaibo fell into both categories: really nice and pink. Lengths of matte tape-style yarn alternate with brilliantly shiny lengths. The colors seem to glow! The Blue Purl, a yarn shop in Madison, New Jersey, displayed a lovely cowl made of Macaibo, along with a free pattern. I was drawn in like a moth to a lightbulb.

Here’s the yarn with the first few rows of the cowl already on my needles. This one is for my daughter Eva, who goes to the University of Texas. The orange in the yarn is almost UT orange. Close enough, anyway. I’ll make another cowl for my daughter Ella with the pink yarn. Maybe she’ll let me borrow it.

I’m planning a multi-pink sweater to replace one I made in 2001. It finally wore out, but it is immortalized in the banner at the top of this blog and also in my friend Peggy’s quilt, which you can see in my last Valentine’s Day post. The Blue Purl had two pink yarns for my new sweater collection: Jojoland Fantasia and Claudia Hand Painted Yarn. The Madeline Tosh yarn in the photo is from Knitty City.

My friend Jane was responsible for my being in New Jersey and at The Blue Purl. We hadn’t seen each other in about 15 years, so I took the train down from New York City to visit her. We picked up where we left off—talking about yarn and knitting.

We met when we both lived in Sheffield, England. Both of us enjoyed going to charity shops, which in the UK are thrift shops that support charities. The shops usually had a large collection of knitting needles and other needlework tools. Sometimes they had yarn for very good prices, probably from someone’s estate. I bought lots of buttons from the charity shop near our house in Sheffield.

We examined Jane’s collection of charity shop yarn. She had worked through a lot of it, making socks and experimenting with stitches and shaping. “Isn’t this yarn awful?” she said, showing me the white and multicolor yarn in this photo. She had about six balls of it.

I said, “I’m pretty tolerant of weird color combinations.” I pointed out that the colors were all slightly grayed, which gave them an interesting vintage feel.

“Here,” she said. “Have two. Then we can have matching socks.”

New York Weekend

May 22nd, 2014

I met Crochet Insider’s Dora Ohrenstein for lunch and a visit to the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art on Madison Avenue. We have both been authors for Lark Crafts, and we both design for magazines. Dora has only been crocheting for ten years, so I would say she obviously has a flair for crochet design.

Some years ago, Dora traveled to Tajikistan to explore the origins of crochet. Later she went to Istanbul, Turkey, for the same reason. I’ve written before about my fascination with Turkish crafts, which I think are beautiful. I want to go to Turkey, too, and Dora gave me lots of information and hints about traveling there.

Just before we went our separate ways, Dora asked if I had noticed any crocheted fashions on my walk up Madison Avenue. Yes I had! The motifs on this skirt remind me of old tablecloth or bedspread squares. I couldn’t find the name of the shop where I saw it.

Further down Madison Avenue, the Hermes shop amazed me with a strange and wonderful needlepoint display. I can’t begin to guess how many hours went into the planning, shaping, and making of these crazy wonderful pieces.

I enjoyed a leisurely Mother’s Day, walking south from my room through neighborhoods to the Strand Bookstore. This mosaic was a lovely, colorful surprise.

Happiness at Lion Brand Yarn Studio

May 21st, 2014

In the early 1990s, David Blumenthal of Lion Brand Yarn Company was among the first people to commission knitting and crochet designs from me. I designed a couple of afghans and sweaters, which Lion Brand used to promote their yarns.

Last week, about twenty years later, was homecoming time. I returned to Lion Brand as a textile artist and crochet book author. Yay!

The friendly and helpful staff at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio (34 West 15th Street) hung my wall hanging, Passionate Heart, in the gallery space just to the right as you walk in the door. The wall hanging will be there through the end of July 2014. Having a piece of art displayed in New York City is absolutely thrilling.

You can see Passionate Heart in the background of the first photo above. The next photo shows it from another perspective, where you can see the beginning of the yarn display at the left.

On the evening of Thursday, May 11, customers and employees of Lion Brand Yarn Studio gathered for my presentation “TextileFusion: A Knitting of Art.” Before we started, I had to tell them the story of the lamb design in Cute Crochet World (pp. 30-31).

My husband and daughter were sitting around talking, when he asked, “Does steel wool come from sheep?” She knew the answer to this silly questions. I happened to be designing the lamb pattern at the time.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “I could make a steel wool lamb with that ‘Wool Stainless Steel’ from Lion Brand.” So now we know of at least one sheep with steel wool.

Wednesday in New York

May 20th, 2014

Instead of visiting live animals at the Central Park Zoo in New York City, I headed to the Arsenal Building nearby. The fourth floor was filled with Ruth Marshall’s knitted pelts and skins of tigers and other felines, snakes, and small mammals. To make them as real-looking as possible, she studied actual skins in museum collections. Her question is, “Why not create pieces that look like real animal skins, and let the animals live?”

Read more about Ruth’s work at www.ruthmarshall.com. Ruth’s book, Vanished Into Stitches, which has many photos of the work on display at the Arsenal, is available at amazon.com.

String Yarns (33 East 65th St, 2nd Floor) was my next stop. The shop’s motto, “if ‘obsession’ puts in mildly…welcome home,” prepared me for the luxurious yarns inside. The long, narrow store was bright and welcoming. A few ladies sat around a table, knitting and chatting, while I examined the yarns. My favorite for pure softness, lightness, and luxury was Zealana AIR, a blend of 40% Cashmere, 40% Brushtail possum down, and 20% Mulberry Silk.

Then I went west, across Central Park, to the American Folk Art Museum. I love folk art. It inspires a lot of my own work. When my family was in New York in 2012, I just didn’t have time to go.

This sign below was the first thing that greeted me as I opened the door. The museum was closed to install a new exhibit, and would open again on Tuesday, May 13, the day after I left New York. Better luck next time, I hope.

Next stop, Knitty City (208 W 79th St.), another long, narrow shop. This one was stuffed with yarn of all kinds—plain and fancy. People sat around tables, talking and knitting. Pretty bags and cute buttons rounded out the selection. Though I was nervous about my shoulder bag knocking skeins off shelves, I enjoyed the sheer range of choice in this shop.

My last stop was the Bard Graduate Center Gallery (38 W 86th St.), where the admission price was very reasonable for two multimedia exhibitions. “Waterweavers” showed contemporary work of Colombian textile artists, focusing on the river.

“Carrying Coca” traced the history of chuspas, the small, flat bags with long straps, used by the people of the Andes to carry coca leaves. The earliest bags, from before Europeans came to South America, were notable for their fine threads and attractive natural/naturally-dyed colors. I enjoyed seeing the evolution of the bags over the years to the present, when a very different style of coca bag is made for sale to tourists. Most of the bags were woven, but I saw a few knitted bags in the show.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14th, 2014

Love Family, by Suzann with motifs from Cute Crochet World

I love family.

Love Home, by Suzann with motifs from Cute Crochet World

I love home.

Pink Heart for Peggy, by Suzann

I love pink.

Gold Heart for Rachel, by Suzann

I love getting together with my quilting friends once a week.

Love Checks, by Suzann with motifs from Crochet Garden

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As Seen on TV!

February 3rd, 2014

Stranded Checks on the Ultimate Sweater Machine

Stranded checks on the knitting machine. Sounds good. Are they payable to me? Are they written for large amounts?

What? Oh. It seems the checks on the knitting machine are knitted checks with the unused yarn going across the wrong side of the work, i.e., stranded. It has been a really long time since I knitted on my Ultimate Sweater Machine, so maybe you can forgive me for the “stranded checks” mistake?

It really is fun to knit on the Ultimate Sweater Machine (as seen on TV!). Plain rows add up very fast. Stranded rows take longer, because they’re hand-manipulated. It helps to have a handy tool, like the one in the picture. It helps you push out every other pair of needles to make stranded checks.

I bought this tool years ago from Catherine Goodwin, who still sells handy knitting machine tools at her website: http://www.knittinganyway.com.

Flashback Friday

January 24th, 2014

Earthen house and ice

My parents’ 56th wedding anniversary on January 19th was also our one-month-versary of living in our new house. We love it!

We are unpacking stuff that has been in storage for years. Sometimes unpacking is like finding old friends and sometimes…well, I wonder why I kept some of it. It must have seemed important at the time.

double sided knit hotpad

This hotpad qualified as an old friend. It takes me back to the time before we ever dreamed of building a house, before kids, back to when my design career was just starting, in the early 1990s. Three double-sided knit hotpad designs were among the first I ever got into print. The house design may have been the sample I sent to the editor in my proposal. I gave it to my mother-in-law, Gene Frederick.

It hung in her kitchen for years. After she died, the hotpad returned to us and now we are using it in our new house. Things come around and go around and gather memories.

double sided knit hotpad

Instructions for this hotpad are in “House Warmings” (three potholder designs and patterns), Country Handcrafts, pp. 4–5, Bazaar 1992.

East and North Walls

January 6th, 2014

Earthen block cutter or guillotine

It was February 2013. With Mud Daubers Fred and Art working full-time, the east and north walls of our earthen home rose amazingly fast! Rachel and I helped at first, then left all the sifting and lifting, mixing and mudding to Fred, Art, and the rest of Callon’s crew.

They had little patience for the guillotine or block-cutter we had used since the Summer of 2010. It was slow, difficult to use, inaccurate, and it broke lots of bricks in half the wrong way. A circular saw, fitted with a masonry blade, was much faster. It cut through most of the brick’s thickness, and we could break through the rest of the brick by hand. Unfortunately the circular saw created a huge cloud of sandy dust. We either wore a dust mask, held our breath, or, if possible, stood upwind of the saw.

First row of earthen bricks on arch

So goodbye, dear guillotine! You weren’t a great block-cutter, but you were perfect for builders like me, who like quiet tools.

When it came time to build the last and biggest (5 feet wide) earthen arch in the house, Rachel and I were back on the job. We laid the first row with such speed and confidence, Fred remarked, “Looks like y’all have done that before.” Yep, we had a lot of practice rebuilding fallen arches.

Earthen brick arch

We finished the arch. Fred and Art finished the east wall. Jerry and Van answered my call to work on the bond beam as the daffodils burst into bloom.

Jerry and Van working on bond beam

Northeast corner of our earthen home

Morning daffodils

House Graffiti

January 5th, 2014

Once the rooms of our earthen house were defined by walls, I labeled the girls’ rooms, hoping to make more real to them the possibility of having their own spaces.

Eva's room

Ella's room

the artist at work

Inspired by my work, Eva added her artistry to the master bedroom floor. There’s something about spray paint…

I hope my daughters remember these symbols of love under their feet when they walk around in their rooms. And I will think often about the happy home hidden within my happy home.

Eva's happy home