Archives for category: Travel

Back in September when I sent my first ever shop-bound shipment of Shelter, it was headed for Austin, TX. When I heard back from Suzanne, the owner of Hill Country Weavers, a few weeks later that she wanted to commission an Austin-inspired knitwear collection with the wool I was surprised and delighted, and more than thrilled to give them the green light.

I had the pleasure of making my first trip to Austin two years ago and was immediately charmed by the city and found an incredible amount of style inspiration there myself. I was excited to see what some Austin handknitters (and weavers!) would do when given the task of using their city as a muse.

On Christmas night, HCW debuted their collection to the world and I’m thrilled to be able to share some of the images with you here, all of which were shot on-site in Austin this winter by Meg Rice.

This hand woven blanket is a stunner!

This hat is knit in one piece, seamlessly — I love it.

You’ll find full details on the collection in its entirety on HCW’s web site — some of the designs are also available on Ravelry.

A big thank you to HCW and their design team for putting this all together!

Aside from the obvious reasons for making a trip to an island as remote as Shetland, I had another wonderful reason for the trek.  My friend and colleague, Gudrun Johnston, had asked if I would photograph her new collection of knitting designs on her home turf.  Long have I daydreamed of the mythical light in Shetland, so from a photographer’s perspective I was thrilled by the proposition.

Aside from the obvious perks of our location, Gudrun’s collection was fantastic, which made my job so enjoyable. We shot the book in one very full day (from pre-dawn to sunset in a Northern Latitude) and to our luck, the weather cooperated.

The green vest above was one of my favorite pieces of the day.

The collection has a great range of projects from small accessories to full garments (the beautiful cardigan below is knit with a lace-weight wool/silk blend) that I think is wonderfully edited.

All the patterns shown above (as well as some not pictured) are are included in Gudrun’s book which is available in print through her website.  A digital version of the book is also available.  Thanks for such a beautiful collection, Gudrun!

Sometimes a pattern has a very long journey from inception to publication.  Today’s pair of mittens has been one of those. To me it feels funny to be calling something a ‘new pattern’ when I spent most of the winter last year with these warming my hands. I had fun tracking their history — they first appeared on the blog almost two years ago and then again, finished this time, in April of ’09.  Having realized that these have been around, and well-worn, for a good amount of time reminds me of one of the many reasons I love Shetland Wool: the mittens still look clean and new with nary a pill to be seen. (The photos of the mens mittens were taken just days ago with zero surface-grooming needed!)

If you came to my house – you’d quickly notice that I’m a sucker for all things Chevron and Herringbone.  I have one too many woven blankets (if that’s possible) with variations on these themes and I never tire of incorporating them into my knitting. Strago blows up one instance of a Chevron motif which naturally follows the shape of the hand inside.  Simple, graphic, lovely.

When I got serious about writing out the pattern, I wanted to include a size for women as well and because I was so happy with the motif’s existing proportions, I decided to size them based on gauge.  The smaller size, shown here in a rich Ochre heather, is worked with fingering weight Shetland wool while the larger is worked in a DK weight.  Both mittens are knit with Jamieson’s ShetlandSpindrift for the small, Double Knitting for the large.

The motif on the top of the hand is reflected on the palm identically, which means Right and Left mittens are completely interchangeable and you’ll only be working from one chart for both mittens. If you begin wearing out the palm someday, just flip them over and switch hands and they’ll feel good as new. The thumb is worked with a shaped gusset along the side ‘seam’ of the mitten for a natural and pleasing fit.

The smaller pair traveled with me to Italy in the Spring and was shot in a small hilltown in Tuscany.  You may recognize the setting and model from our shoot for Dryad? It’s really hard to beat Tuscan light.

The pattern is now available through Brooklyn Tweed as well as Ravelry.  Mine have already seen some good use this year – the urban chill is definitely upon us.  Enjoy!

My time in Scotland will soon be coming to a close and as I reflect on all I’ve seen in the last two weeks, my mind boggles.  I’ve referred to Shetland as knitter’s Mecca and maybe this sampling of images will give some evidence to that end.

I’ve gotten to see a lot of hand knitted lace here — both historic and contemporary.  Some of the shawls I’ve seen are knitted from the finest threads you can possibly imagine.  The craftsmanship is staggering.

The traditional scarves are knit tubularly and pressed flat, using lace-weight or jumper-weight yarns, and often sport a multi-colored fringe worked from leftover scraps.  I’ve seen so many unexpected and wonderful color combinations — I particularly like this sweet scarf which is housed in the Shetland Museum.

One of the notable highlights of the trip has been the time I’ve gotten to spend with the amazing and hard-working people at Jamieson & Smith.  Their passion for the preservation and promotion of Shetland wool has been inspiring, to say the least.

85% of all authentic Shetland wool passes through their humble doors and undergoes a rigorous hand-sorting and hand-grading process.  The wool from a single fleece often needs be sorted into multiple grades — a labor intensive process that I’ve found fascinating.

Here we see piles of the natural colored wools waiting to be sorted.  These fleeces come directly from local crofters (farmers) whose sheep roam all reaches of the island in flocks large and small.  I was lucky enough to meet one crofter dropping off his most recent batch of fleece one morning that I was there.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to visit such a special place and look forward to the day I’ll be back here again.

A picture can say a thousand words… needless to say, I’m in paradise.

Sheep, sheep, everywhere you look.

Hand-grading and hand-sorting of Shetland wool at Jamieson and Smith.

Fishing boats in Lerwick.

Laceweight Shetland wool on a sunny windowsill in the Textile Museum.

Stone boat houses.

Robert Williamson‘s original hand drawn notebooks

Fair Isle stocking cap from the Shetland Museum archive.

Flowers cling to cliffs.

Sunset near Sandness.

Be still my heart.

I travel a lot, but rarely for the express purpose of vacationing. My considerations for travel-knitting, in general, are designs that are in-process works that are at a point where a significant amount of mindless, or at least not-difficult-to-record knitting is in store. This way, I get ‘work’ knitting done without having to sit in front of Illustrator or InDesign, activities which I prefer to do only on the Homefront.

So, when a true Vacation came along I thought my travel knitting should reflect this change, and I decided to bring simple, 100% pleasure-knitting that required no pattern, no notes, and very little brainwork. I wanted projects that were geared towards my hands and allowed enjoyment of the simple act of knitting. And oh how wonderful it was!

I took small amounts of two special yarns that were both worthy of a special occasion. First, one beautiful skein of Buffalo Gals Yarn — a very special 2-ply Bison/Merino yarn, hand-dyed by Fiber Sage Judith MacKenzie McCuin — which I was fortunate enough to acquire directly from the source (Judith’s hands) and have been savoring ever since. The other, my recently spun Romney 2-Ply, which is as light as a feather and wonderfully woolly.

I fell deeply in love with Judith’s dye work, and this rust orange skein stole my breath. Bison, as it turns out, takes dye incredibly well and this skein seemed to almost shimmer with some other-worldly presence (again, I attribute this to Judith’s sage-like energy.)

Buffalo Gals

Armed with one beautiful skein, I threw a prized set of Ebony needles into my luggage and started thinking of the possibilities for something luxurious and simple. A feast for the fingers! I ended up deciding to knit a top-down hat in a simple waffle-stitch pattern. The yarn is a sport weight and creates a beautiful, light-weight and butter-soft fabric. A perfect companion for being in the passenger seat of a car for miles of Italian Autostrade.

Romney Kerchief

Alternatively, the skein of Romney created just enough variety to keep me constantly entertained, bouncing between two projects from day to day. For this, I began work on a simple, almost-garter-stitch triangle. Because I had limited amounts of both yarns, I decided to work both projects from the top down (in the triangle’s case, from top-center, opposite of Triangle Tip) and work mindlessly until I used up all of my yarn. I love working in this way — armed with a simple kitchen scale, you can always be sure of using as many yards as is possible without having to spend the last 20% of your knitting time biting your nails, wondering if you’ll have enough yarn to finish.

I didn’t complete either project on my trip, which was a good lesson toward learning that I often need less yarn than I think I will while on the road. I have, since being home, just about finished both projects with very satisfying results.

Also, upon return, I was stricken by an incredible urge to have some Unspun Icelandic yarn back in my life (this is what happened the last time), and ordered yarn for a new lace project in this lovely stuff. It reminds me of a chocolate layer cake.

Layer Cake

Unspun Icelandic Wool ranks high on my list of favorite yarns, largely because it is so unique and unlike anything else out there for knitters. The majority of the yarn is air, after all!

So, it turns out that I ended up learn something important from vacationing — keeping it simple, even though my instincts were screaming to bring more yarn, was absolutely the perfect choice for enjoying knitting every day and savoring every stitch of these special yarns.

I’m home after a wonderful week of adventures — simple knitting projects, simple foods, and many a click on the old odometer (people drive fast in Italy) — oh what fun! I took the opportunity of being in the middle of such a visually rich country (texture, texture everywhere) to shoot some new accessory patterns that I’ve been working on this Winter. I’m happy to introduce Dryad — which has become an instant wardrobe luxury around BT headquarters, even despite the slow thaw that brings Spring.

Dryad

In the Fall I found myself frequently experiencing the urge for a serious cabled scarf — one that pulls out all the stops and doesn’t apologize for being dramatic. I wanted something wide and long, with big, plump cables that still retained a non-oppressive weight and elegant drape. As is usually the case, finding the right yarn for the job was the key to solidifying design, and made all of the above listed requirements possible.

Dryad

The scarf is knit with Blackstone Tweed, new from Berocco last Fall, a yarn that is special and unique and in my opinion stands out among the commercially available tweeds. Blackstone Tweed has a rustic look, but a surprising drape and hand, due in part to its interesting fiber composition (Wool, Superkid Mohair, Angora). Don’t be fooled though, this is not your average mohair/angora sneezy fuzzfest. The yarn is prepared with minimal halo and a lightly spun, crisp hand. The touch of angora (just 10%) adds amazing softness and really makes this a luxurious material. The drape that can be achieved, even in heavily cabled fabric is something definitely worth taking a second look at!

Dryad

All that said, it makes a perfect fit for a scarf that may otherwise be overly heavy or rigid. Even with 6-stitch cables, which begin to be voluptuously plump, the fabric still drapes and moves beautifully, and is quite visually appealing as well. A great color palette doesn’t hurt either.

Dryad

Back to my ever-present desire to be swathed in cables: this one definitely fits the bill. In general, I usually wait to absorb a new piece of knitting into regular wardrobe rotation until the pattern is written and the photo shoot complete… not only as a way to keep the work fresh for its close-up, but also to trick myself into getting the work done faster. This scarf has been burning a hole in my pile of finished knitting and I’ll be honest that I’ve been wrapped up in it ever since we wrapped the shoot. Even indoors. Which makes me think I may have a problem.

Dryad

The pattern has been provided for three differing lengths: 60, 75, and 90 inches. All sizes have a width of approximately 8.5 inches. The sample shown is the long version and can be wrapped and wrapped if you require a nest of cabled fabric around your face. If you’re less about the drama, a shorter version can be worked without problem.

Dryad

The pattern is now available in my Ravelry Store here as well as directly through Brooklyn Tweed. Pattern instructions for this piece are charted.

Dryad

Thanks also to my dear friend Sara for modeling — a Contemporary Italian Literature Scholar and truly fashionable Tuscan — she wears knitting quite well, wouldn’t you say? We shot these photos on location in a tower-filled, Medieval hilltown outside of Siena.

I hope you enjoy!


At this point I’m starting to accept that being stranded in an airport due to cancelled flights/blizzards is fast becoming my new holiday tradition. That said, I guess I should also say that off-the-cuff, knitting-is-my-only-sanity gift projects are also becoming a customary form of combat when faced with this unfortunate and mind-numbing fate.

Wool Leaves

This year, I willed myself to knit through the stress with something simple that would take care of one of the many handknit gifts I had planned on getting done by December 25th but, well, never quite got around to. In need of simple, mindless, therapy knitting, a giant swatch seemed just the ticket. After all, that’s all a baby blanket really is, right?

Wool Leaves

I’ve been binging on a generous diet of wool lace recently so this was naturally already where my brain was. Since fine yarns and detailed patterns were out of the question under such duress, I grabbed a leftover skein of Ecological Wool, conveniently pre-wound into a center pull ball (always travel prepared), took one end from each side and started knitting a chunky and fast project on 13′s with yarn held double.

Instant stress relief.

Wool Leaves

The result isn’t the most heart-stopping piece of knitting I’ve ever seen, but it served it’s purpose, both for me and its little recipient, very well. The center rectangle is a simple Shetland Leaf pattern, trimmed with double-seed stitch on all sides. I really meant it when I said Giant Swatch.

And by the time we finally landed on the other side of the country… it was blocking time.

Wool Leaves

There’s definitely more interesting lace knitting on my needles at the moment, (including a color that I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with and must photograph for your viewing pleasure) but sometimes keeping it simple makes for such welcome company.

I’m proud to say that today welcomes a woefully overdue makeover to Brooklyn Tweed Proper. I’ve been slowly but surely redesigning my website with hopes of finishing it up by the first of the month. I may have missed my mark by a day or two, but I’m happy to show you my new duds at the new fangled www.brooklyntweed.net!

Re-Design

Click the image above for a peek.

Most notably, my travel schedule is now available all in one place for easy viewing, and easy locating! I have all my scheduled workshops through the end of the year listed presently and will be listing 2010 dates shortly. Additionally, the design section of the site has all my patterns in one place for ease in looking up pattern specifics or for purchasing where applicable.

I’ve gone for a clean, light look with hopes that things are easy to find and the space is nice on your eyes. I hope you like it! As for the blog — my blogger site is linked directly from the main site at the moment. I intend on a more seamless (har, har) integration in the future, but I think we shouldn’t change too much too fast, for fear of overstimulation or disorientation!

As for the knitting. Well. It’s cable season.

A Cabler's Life For Me

I’ve been spending a good portion of my days on airplanes or in hotels and therefore have filled my life with small (portable) cable projects in some of my favorite yarns. Projects that don’t require carrying anything other than a good sturdy circular needle and the knitting that’s hanging off of it. Leave the cable needles and papers at home. That’s my kind of travel!

I even squeezed in a little time for some… wait for it… handspinning. I know. I can hear you gasping from across The Expanse. It’s been awhile! It felt wonderful hearing that comforting whirrrr of the wheel and letting the fiber flow.

Alpaca Merino

This is a skein of 70% alpaca, 30% blue faced leicester wool spun rather lazily into a bulky, textural single. I’m new to alpaca spinning so this was a fun experiment. I intentionally fulled the yarn a bit during washing and love the finished texture. Who knows what this skein will become one day… for now I’m happy petting it on my way out the door.

AND. I finished something. (Audible Gasp #2) It’s nice to know that when life is spiraling, we can at least finish a little luxuries for ourselves here and there, isn’t it? This scarf has been 3 years in the making and will get a post of its own… but here’s a sneak preview:

A Fall Present To Myself

I’m off to Texas tomorrow and then jetting on to the West Coast (home!) to get a little reminder of how great Fall in the Pacific NW is. That and, oh did I mention, I’m an uncle now?! Prepare yourself for the Wool Onslaught, little one! (You have no idea what you’ve been born into….)

Well. It’s been a wild month of travel for me — from Oklahoma City, to Philadelphia, to Texas, to New England and many a space in between. I’ve had the wonderful fortune of knitting with folks from all over the country and it has been an absolute pleasure. When I returned to Brooklyn on Monday for a two week break from airplanes, I sat down at my knitting window and realized that transition-time was over and Fall has, in my absence, made itself quite at home here in the city.

The click of the seasons is something that gives me pleasure beyond words, and Summer to Fall, not surprisingly, has got to be the most special time of year for us knitters. It’s usually about the second week of October when my fingers start to twitch even more than usual for soft, wool sweaters on my needles and my eyes desire a bath of materials in rich, autumn heathers.

What else does October mean? It’s the one time of year that I knowingly cast my self-control to the wind and embrace even my most irrational wool cravings, which means I generally acquire more during this period than any other. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I might as well share with you some recent acquisitions from my travels and yarns that are frankly keeping me up at night with giddy anticipation.

Harrisville Shetland Cones

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting Historic Harrisville in New Hampshire — home of some of my very favorite American-milled yarns and a historic treasure for our national textile tradition. I’ve been on a major lace knitting stint lately (before the sweater monster came to bite) and these are both slated for woollie shawls.

Harrisville Designs is like a wool-lovers paradise: walls of colorful, sturdy wools housed in a 2-century-old brick building nestled directly over a stream (if you peak through a knot-hole in the floor boards you’ll see the flowing waters of the stream below). A destination for any knitter’s New England itinerary… and a destination I hope to return to in the future.

Imperial Stock Ranch

Another wool that has recently sent me headlong into infatuation comes from the opposite coast and my home region of the Pacific Northwest. Imperial Stock Ranch makes beautiful, Oregon-grown yarns from their 125+ year old flock of Columbia Sheep (the farm, which is a National Historic District, has been responsible in part for developing this wonderful breed). The yarns are minimally processed using antique spinning techniques (a la many other favorite yarns you’ve heard me wax poetic about in the past — Beaverslide Dry Goods in MT and Marr Havenin MI, most notably) and come in both two-ply woolen spun yarns (yum!) and a wonderful unspun bulky “puck”, similar to Unspun Icelandic Wool. While the company has been in business for decades, their recent push into the world of hand knitting is one that I think is a very welcome addition to the industry.

Jamieson and Smith Jumper Weight

And no Fall knitting would be complete without a healthy dose of Shetland Jumper-Weight wools straight from the island. You may be sick of me talking about my wool-standby, but I do start to get nervous if I’m away from this stuff for too long. To me, Shetland yarns are truly fine wines in our world of materials. With these? More lace. Always more lace.

I must sound like a glutton at this point, pulling in all this wool for Fall (there’s more too…but we won’t go there today) but if you can’t be a wool glutton in the Fall, when can you be? And there’s no better way to spend the afternoon than quietly working stitches in a good, solid wool as you watch the fading golden light play across the increasingly bare branches.

Despite the natural world telling us that Fall symbolizes the end of something, to me it represents a new beginning and a new inspiration. I hope you are feeling inspired by the wools under your roof and the cooler breezes that are causing us to grab our woolens on the way out the door. Lets enjoy it while it’s here!