Archives for category: Swatches

It’s been a dramatic week for us here in the city. On Monday, mother nature stormed in and reminded me of a few things.

Five days later – when several are still without power, heat and in some cases, even water (the irony) – it’s hard to remember how just a week ago the pressures of day-to-day life seemed so pressing, so immediate and so important. Funny how natural disasters have a way of giving you an instant reality check.

I’ve lived in the city for 7 years and have experienced a very small number of events in which we are all forced to stop, slow down, and wait something out. The transit strike in the winter of 2005 being the first, the rest being weather/disaster related – this week certainly being the most extreme.

There’s an eerie beauty to silence in a city like New York. Maybe I like it because it forces everyone to spend their time like we introverts prefer – staying indoors, getting cozy, gazing out the window, thinking about things, watching the light change, knitting… 

I was without power for just under 5 days, and though I’m so grateful to be wired again, these quiet days gave me a few things I really needed, too. Slowing down allowed me the chance to take stock on life and reorganize my thoughts and ideas – something I often have a hard time doing at such a busy time of year.

I also got the chance to spend some serious time with my knitting. A very welcome activity in the midst of a frenzied work season. Even in low light, I managed to chronicle my week in swatches. 

Recovery will be long and gradual for a lot of affected areas along the East Coast – and I’m grateful to report that all of us at BT have come away safe and mostly unscathed. We are well.

Thanks, too, to all who checked in on us over the last few days. For me, being reminded of strength in community – both in our knitting world, and our big city – has been the silver lining of this story.

Busy days, but simple pleasures.


We are really fawning over classic cables around here lately. What else would we be doing during a heat wave?

Simple pleasures.

I’ve had several late nights of swatching recently… searching searching searching for the perfect balance of cables for some new design work. Composing with cables is always easier said than done – balance is everything.

Shelter in “Embers”

I’m still on the path with these, but the jewel-like colors glowing in the lamplight were too seductive – you know I’m a sucker for a good yarn halo.

Loft in “Birdbook”


This early Spring has inspired many a new lace idea (and exploration of our more “flowery” colorways). One benefit from this unseasonable warmth? Swatches dry about twice as fast.

Loft in “Blanket Fort” 

Have a great weekend!

Though the garden is sprouting and Spring has arrived, work for Fall is well underway here in the studio.

I often think of swatches as post-it notes. They help me visualize a larger group of work and remind me of design details or color combinations in a more tangible way than sketches alone can.

Happy Monday to all — hope you had a wonderful weekend! Time to turn our hands to our work…

It’s been quite an extreme winter seemingly everywhere, and the city here has been no exception. Several blizzards and ice storms have walloped us, leaving large snow deposits virtually everywhere the eye can see. From an observer’s perspective, I’ve really enjoyed witnessing the different types of snow as it falls, as well as how it behaves on the ground in the days (or weeks) following. There are currently glassy layers of ice covering oddly shaped mounds. Some are still white, thankfully.

The inevitable Quieting Of Things that snow heralds has been really great for me. I’ve been slowly but surely finding my way back to balance after a a very crazy period following Shelter’s launch, and feel my creativity restoring as a result.  I’ve used a good deal of this snowed-in interlude to work on new projects and get back to basics with a healthy amount of swatching – one of my favorite pastimes.

I’ve also been spending some serious time reading (or, re-reading) Sharon Miller’s work, and continue to marvel at the amazing tradition of Shetland Lace. Her new bookLove Darg Shetland Shawls – is fantastic.  Above is a swatch of one of my very favorite Shetland Edgings that I’ve been playing with.  I’m so taken by soft, wool garter stitch lace and have a few pieces on my needles.  Knitted lace worked in garter with fine-gauge wool creates fabric with such vitality.

Color has been a focus as well.  I think it’s a good idea to seek color inspiration outside of my yarn stash every so often. Last week I dumped the whole of my thread collection out and organized it in palette order to get the creative juices flowing. All this color creates a welcome contrast to the grey days.

Speaking of Shetland, I’ve been deeply enjoying the use of one of my most treasured souvenirs from the islands.  I brought back this large woven blanket from my trip and really adore it.  Jamieson & Smith sells these beauties in a number of different designs, all woven from hand-sorted, undyed Shetland fleece. For me, this is pure luxury. I could’ve taken the whole pile home! Each limited edition blanket comes complete with a tag identifying the specific Croft from which the sheep were sourced — mine originated at the Kirkhouse Voe Croft.

I’m sure the weather is helping you remember and enjoy your own special luxuries too.  Stay warm and keep the wool coming!

As the weather warms up, I find myself busying my hands with smaller projects.  Sure there are always a few sweaters that accompany me through the long & sweltering East Coast Summer, but small projects are always happily embraced during this time of year.  Mittens, gloves, neckwarmers, hats — those in-betweens that we sprinkle around our larger undertakings — help me feel like I’m being conscientious in storing up for Fall & Winter.  They also bulk up the now-depleted pile of gifts, so that when another cold season comes (we’ll wait patiently) there are plenty of woolies to dole out to friends and family.

I’ve recently worked up a few accessory patterns that I’ll be sharing here with you now as Spring becomes Summer.  Today we start with a pretty piece of lace that is designed with a nod to those special one-off skeins of luxury fiber that we all have stashed somewhere special, but often don’t know what to do with.

Ptarmigan is designed for sport-weight or light-dk-weight luxury yarns — cashmere, yak, bison — pick your poison.  I tend to be plagued by a too-little amount of yardage in many a beautiful (expensive) yarn.  Luxury fibers are pricey and sometimes only allow a single-skein-splurge, leaving us with very special yarns but all too often a roadblock in the way of pattern options.  It was with this in mind that I started knitting this little lacey number.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a cooler climate, this might still qualify as spring-wear (nudge to you, Pacific Northwesterners — this is the time of year I start getting really homesick), although here in the city the heat and humidity are already poking small jabs at my own cold-weather biases.

The neckwarmer is closer-fitting, rather than relaxed and slouchy, to keep those soft fibers nice and close to your skin, exactly where they should be!  Very light. Very warm. Gets the job done.

The pattern requires approximately 175 yards of yarn, although instructions are included for extending the length in case you have extra yarn and a penchant for more voluminous, slouchy neckwear. By all means, use up every last yard! All the pattern specifics are listed on the Ptarmigan Pattern Page here at BT or over on Ravelry.  The buttons below will whisk you off to either location.

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I’ve had a few weeks at home, which has been an absolute luxury. I’ve gotten back into my own studio and have been exploring and experimenting with wool and stitch patterns, something I never tire of.  I love swatching — it’s the moment of possibility, and more often than not the moment of unexpected discovery.  Or to call it in a different way… your first date with your yarn. All nerves and thrill.

Things in the garden are growing and so it feels like the time of year to plant new ideas and regain productivity.  I hope you find some inspiration and motivation around you as we push forward in our creative work.  Happy Spring!

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.

Swatching does a funny thing to your productivity – you know you’re knitting a ton but feel like you have very little output. I really enjoy swatching, though — it’s the best way to really get to know a yarn, and I find that design ideas almost always reveal and shape themselves in a major way during that period. To me, the material makes a design, so swatching is a bit of a brainstorming session. Or maybe like a first date.

I’ve been doing a lot of swatching these past couple of weeks.

Hap Swatching

The Tweed Baby Blanket got me really hungry for a true Hap Shawl knitting experience with traditional yarns – so when I pulled out my burgeoning Shetland Stash and started pairing color groups, I really got into it. Shetland, with it’s unbeatable palette, lets me indulge my love of tonal color relationships. That, and my fixation on natural sheep colors and their endless combinations.

Shetland Browns

There are also mitten designs being worked on – lots of colorowork around here. I just can’t ever seem to shake that bug.

And a very special arrival came this week from Portland…

Shibui Kits

A gorgeous treasure trove of Shibui Sock — sent as a collaboration between the folks at Shibui and my sister-in-law (they’re practically neighbors) — kits and colors chosen by the Baby Mama herself. And let me tell ya, she has great taste — I’m certainly not complaining about these choices!

Shibui Oasis
I’ve already started knitting a pair of baby leggings with the golden colorway – I hardly ever knit with real SOCK yarn – so I’m enjoying the change of scenery for these. And they’ll be machine-washable too – something I can rarely say about my knitting. Good for new babies (or new parents, rather) for sure.

Tonight I fly to the West Coast – for a little work and a little play. I have a photoshoot in Seattle over the next few days then am taking some time with my family before a quick trip to SoCal for a short but real-and-true VACATION. I’ve packed knitting that satisfies needs across the board from the simple stockinette longies to fingering weight colorwork. That’s what I call travel security.

September, for me, seems to consistently be a time for re-assessing my knitting direction. Time to circle the wagons, see what we’ve got after all that summer knitting and see where we’re going. This year, as with last, it also happens to be the time when my schedule undergoes a rather severe change and I find I have new knitting needs that need to be met.

I’ve been floundering a little bit over the last week trying to transition from having the time and brainpower to work on intricate, detailed knitting, to striking a new balance with simpler, more intuitive projects. Things are still up in the air, but I did do a bit of spinning to help aid the confluence.

The Minstrel & I....

I pulled out a bag of natural brown shetland and set myself on auto-pilot. Lately more and more I’ve been craving natural, undyed sheepswool, and spinning this has been just the ticket for me in the last few days. As for knitting with it, I’m dreaming of some in-the-round knitting with steeks – something simple that shows off this beautiful wool. For now, though, I’m happy with endless plying.

Spinning Spinning Spinning

I’ve said it before, but Shetland is one of my all time favorite things to work with on the wheel. I think it gets lot of flack for being typically scratchy and unwearable, but I think it is quite the opposite – so light and lofty, it spins up into a yarn that is fluffy, soft and warm – not to mention looking beautiful. I never tire of it.

In other news, as I was trying to physically organize my knitting this week, I was able to collect up all my swatches from this summer into one place (they were stuffed in many a nook and cranny) (oh the places you’ll go, little swatches!) and had to take a photo. Is this a way to measure progress?

The Things We Do For Gauge

I have a scarily low number of projects on the needles (that’s a relative “low”). After having finished up some design projects that were needing attention, I realized I may be closer than ever to digging myself out of the deep ditch of WIPs I seem to have created for myself last year.

Oh yes, and the woolly lace is progressing without delay and should be all ready for the click of the seasons that I’m expecting here any day now…

Lace Lump
Until then, though, I’ll be doing my share of knitterly spring-cleaning in hopes of reaching a balance which I can ride right into the thick of our favorite season for wool-wearing. It really is just around the corner.