Travel Season Is Upon Us... Grab Your Fiber & Let's Go!

Travel Season Is Upon Us... Grab Your Fiber & Let's Go!

Summer travel season is almost here. Road trips. Plane trips. Hiking and biking and all the good stuff. It is no secret that I bring my yarn EVERYWHERE. Seeing me at the airport with yarn in hand is a shock to no-one! Here are some fiber friendly travel tips. Never leave your yarn at home.

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VKL 2018: The Haul

When I was packing for my first Vogue Knitting Live, I had that sudden crisis moment every knitter probably has: yarn or clothes? I wanted to keep my luggage manageable since I was going to be in New York for a whole week and transferring between Airbnb locations, but still needed my best knits. So in the end, I opted for a small duffle that easily popped up on my back and a small carry on with a few wips. I was so proud of myself for minimal packing and streamlining. I brought only the two projects I planned to work on and no extras.

And yet this was an epic fail. Why you ask?

Well, because when I devised my master packing plan I had fully intended NOT to buy anything at VKL. Yes, you read correctly. I had told myself I was going to make this an exploratory trip, take it all in and go for the lessons, classes and people. With the best intentions I set myself up for an epic failure that may have resulted in an extra suitcase purchase to ship a box of yarn home. Live and learn.

I have to say that it was still a small modest hall by my normal show standards. Anyone who has seen my standard Stitches Midwest hauls knows I don't play. So even though I broke the "no buying and no accepting yarn" pledge, I did stay within reason and made what I think are some smart decisions, which was not easy.

The Market Place was sensory overload. I have to admit I had to take it in doses because there was just SO MUCH happening. And though I tried, I did not even cover 2 thirds of it! But that didn't stop me from making some amazing finds. So let's check the haul:

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One of the cooler aspects of the VKL Marketplace was how much space they dedicated to education. Books, teachers - it really was as much about feeding the knit soul and mind as stocking up on good finds. I grabbed an advance copy of the Vogue Knitting Ultimate Guide along with a copy of Knit New York which is a curated collection of New York inspired patterns published by One More Row Press. I am so excited for both of these. The patterns in Knit New York are perfect for the theme and I cannot wait to work them up.

One booth I was beyond excited to visit was The Third Piece. You may or may not know that I sort of stalk them on instalk-gram. They are such an empowered women's knitwear brand and they just opened their flagship store in Boston. I have been dying to get my hands on their chunky fiber and as soon as I did I was NOT disappointed. I also got to spend some time with Kristen & Jin (Owner / founder & designer respectively) and fell in love with them. I got enough Lavender to make their New Yorker scarf and the pink to make the boyfriend cardigan.

What is really awesome is that they offer both finished goods to help grow the handmade knitwear industry as well as materials, kits, fibers and host classes. They truly are bringing knitwear to the people of Boston and I love it! And now I will KNIT IT!!!!

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The fine folks at Love knitting dot com hosted a pre-VKL party for lots of us bloggers and it was SO MUCH FUN and they loaded us up with all kinds of British themed swag and some of their yummy in house fibers Willow & Lark! I arrived late (more on that later) so I made sure to visit their booth and get the low down on all they are offering. The colors they are offering are so vibrant and fun I am totally keeping them in mind for some fall projects.

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One super happy awesome discovery at the Marketplace was Clinton Hill Cashmere. It was instant love. For real I could have just called it a day because I found my divine inspiration fiber. Now I don't typically like cashmere because is typically a finer fiber an I do not like anything under DK weight. BUT... this is worsted weight and so squishy soft. I barely made it out of the market place before I had the first ball cast on my needles to make a hat. It is simply amazing. Yes it is a bit spendy so I will be saving up to do the shawl kit, but it is worth EVERY PENNY I tell you!!!  Meet Becky the founder and Learn more about them here.

I had so much fun hanging out and romping about the Stephen & Penelope booth. They are  such a bright happy place and group of fiber peeps! I had such fun meeting and hanging out with Petra from Undercover Otter. Her fibers were for sale at Stephen & Penelope and well, I may have left with 15 skeins. Hey now... I got plans for them skeins. They will become a beautiful shawl, a marled sweater and something else I haven't thought up yet. Her colors are SO VIBRANT and she is so rad. These will be my spring reward waiting for me when I get through the season.

My last big yarn splurge was with Northside Knit Co. What a hidden gem they were! I was knitting with my friend Chantal Saturday night (instead of going to the gala and I think I made the right call!) and she had this cotton that was simply insane. The color was incredible but the feel of this for a chunky cotton was actually something I have not felt before. They dye it naturally and so the next morning Chantal and I met up to visit the gals of Northside Knit Co. so I can get my hands on this yummy awesomeness. If I was gonna go broke it was going to be in this booth. This fiber just called me. I got 5 skeins of their bulkier cotton. It is an aran weight but really a thick thick Aran. I have some ideas of what I will be making and cannot wait.

So all in all not a bad trip to the Marketplace. Even though I originally planned not to buy at all, I still kept it modest (especially in comparison to the damage I usually do).  I certainly made only thoughtful purchases or accepted yarn I would truly use. To get the full recap watch below.

Rhinebeck Newbie

It's that time of year. Looking back over the past and maybe making a list of what you want your 2018 to look like. Maybe you need more of this in your life?

Have you heard people bring up "Rhinebeck" in conversation and wonder what the heck they were talking about? And why they said it while gazing wistfully into the distance? I first heard the it uttered during the load-out of a Broadway show I was working on. Someone was happy the show closed before "Rhinebeck" so she could attend, because otherwise she wouldn't have been able to get time off to go. So - she was happy to be unemployed because it meant she could attend an event that wasn't a wedding, family vacation, graduation, etc. I thought, "This thing must be pretty awesome."

I'm definitely more of a sewist than a knitter/crocheter but I'm curious about all kinds of fiber arts. So, of course, I googled. The official name is New York State Sheep and Wool Festival and it began in 1980. It's held on the Duchess County Fairgrounds in beautiful Rhinebeck, NY (hence the nickname) on the third full weekend in October every year.  Workshops, competitions, livestock displays, and vendors, vendors, vendors. It makes me think of my county fair days back in Ohio - but much more colorful! I'm lucky to live about an hour away from Rhinebeck so I thought it would be fun to check it out for myself. I'm so glad I did...

I had work-work on Saturday morning (and was getting over the flu) so I wasn't able to go that day, which is the 'big day.' I was originally bummed about this but there was still PLENTY to see on Sunday. Looking back, I think it was a good thing I had to go on the second day of the festival. I overheard that Saturday was their highest attendance EVER so I would've just been dealing with that and not able to see the loveliness. As a vendor told me, "My advice for first timers is this: Look on Saturday, buy on Sunday." I don't know how I would've been able to hold back but I think it's good advice!

I grabbed a friend and hit the road early. We made a stop on the way to real-life meet some lovely people: @vanessa_knits, @premknits, @sere_k_nity, @knittysknittycreation and @lnsandbe. They all attended Saturday and were heading out. I wish we could've visited more but there was just time for a quick meet/visit and some festival coaching from the ladies. They made me feel much better about being a first-timer and what to expect.

The "festival" part of the name of this event is so appropriate. There really is a fun, festive air to the entire scene. It takes place on a picturesque fairgrounds and there are so many makers, doing their thing and excited to meet other makers. Along with the over-200 vendors, there are competitions, livestock displays, demonstrations, workshops, book signings, an equipment auction and even kids' activities. Pace yourself!

I didn't take any workshops and I (regretfully) did not get to see the canine frisbee demonstrations, but I did walk around aaall the vendor booths. I thought it would be the best way to get a real overview of why a maker would be so excited to go to Rhinebeck. Let me tell you - I get it! As you may expect, the majority of vendors were yarn-focused. I found one lone sewing booth (Hi Brooklyn Haberdashery!) along with many rug-hooking and roving vendors. If you are looking to pick up any new skill that involves wool, this event will start you on your way. I've always wanted to start needle felting so I was in heaven. (And I later heard from a co-worker the roving prices were great, which made me feel better after the fact because I bought a few big puffy bunches of it!)

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I've always wanted to start needle felting so I was in heaven.

Not to doubt your superhero abilities but YOU WILL NOT REMEMBER ANYTHING. That yarn you saw just as you were leaving and had already hit your spending limit but maybe you'll find later on-line? Gone to history... A system I've used on some vacations is to take a photo of the sign of every landmark/park/attraction before I take any photos at the landmark/park/attraction. That way my organizing is done for me and I don't have to stop to write notes. I didn't take my own advice at Rhinebeck and I'm kicking myself now. And remember to clear out your phone storage before you go! I did manage to pick up many, many business cards. One of the great parts of an event like this is discovering new stores and sources.

I heard many vendors taking orders to ship items direct to customers. Many stalls were even set up as more display/touch-and-feel areas than straight-up shopping areas, which I thought was a good move. The staff was free to really talk to people and take time with them instead of working around the crowd while trying to restock. Some vendors bring special Rhinebeck-y items that are limited edition (keep an eye out on Instagram in the weeks leading up to the big event) so definitely seek those out and pick them up if you want the special kit or limited-edition yarn for that year. But don't be shy to ask someone working the booth if you want to order something and if they have any deals on shipping. 

Many vendors have gift items for display as well. Finished garments and projects, decorative objects and toys share space with materials and supplies. Next time I'll budget for holiday gifts as well as my craft materials. 

My favorite unexpected discovery was Sweitzer's Fiber Mill. It was my first time seeing corn, soybean and mint yarn! (Yes, I smelled it and, yes, they caught me.) They were very nice people. Their focus seems to be on fiber processing but they had some lovely items of their own to offer (see above photos). Some of the colors were inspired by the photographs of the owners' daughter, Lilli. Hence the name "Lilli's Rainbow Yarns." Hearing that definitely tugged at my mama heartstrings. Unfortunately, I found them late in the day after I'd spent my budget.  I didn't buy anything on the spot but I'm looking forward to buying some of their yarn in the future.

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Yup.

I Ran my fingers through that.

A word about festival merchandise: If getting the tote bag, t-shirt, etc. is important to you, think about taking advantage of the pre-sale and pick up option available on the festival's website. I saw a 'Sold Out' sign on the merchandise tent for multiple items. And why wait in line to buy something you already know you want? This is the Super Bowl of Yarn for many people - you may find yourself being one of them!

As with any large event, planning is key: There are many, many small buildings spread out over the grounds (among vendors set up outside buildings along the walking paths) and it's easy to get overwhelmed. In the week before the festival, I took some time and wrote down the names, building numbers and stall numbers of the vendors I didn't want to miss. While I was at the festival, I realized the stall numbers weren't very helpful. The stall numbers aren't displayed as clearly as the vendor's name, so it ended up being extra information I couldn't use. The program that is provided with admission is fantastic. It has a great map and a full list of vendors. 

Some nitty gritty stuff...Parking was free and very well-organized. I saw only one small water fountain so plan to either buy water or haul around a lot. The bathrooms were excellent but, given the fact this event attracts a majority of female attendants, there were lines as the day wore on. The fairgrounds are very well-maintained with paved paths that can be navigated easily. As per usual in this part of the country, the terrain is hilly but I did see people in wheelchairs and motorscooters that were getting around without difficulty. There's a bag check! I personally like to lug around my purchases in order to keep spending in check, but that may not work for everyone. 

This event is very popular (and not in a major metropolitan area) so housing options fill up quickly. If you are really excited to attend, book workshops and a hotel ASAP. (As a guideline, workshop registration this year opened on June 1.) I am lucky to live within driving distance but I heard that all hotels within a 30 minute drive were sold out. Also, in case you didn't hear, Indie Untangled hosts a trunk show the Friday night before Rhinebeck in a hotel near (but separate from) the main event. I heard it was a busy, busy place but definitely for good reason.

The booths get very, very, very crowded very, very quickly. As lovely as fiber artists are in general, I did experience some light jostling ... I'm not going to say shoving. Maybe because it was Sunday and people were filling out their shopping lists. Who's to say? Also, I'm going to wait until my daughter is around 7 or 8 to share the Rhinebeck shopping experience with her. She's beyond stroller age but I witnessed some heated exchanges around a stroller in a booth and would not like to put either of us through a similar experience if I can help it. If I do choose to take her with me next time, I would bring along someone to sit with her, watch the sheepdog shows, take her to the petting zoo and let her visit with lamas.

Oh, and a veeeery yarn-y friend of mine directed me to this post before I went and I found it helpful.

i'm guessing that face was made because I was high on wool fumes.

i'm guessing that face was made because I was high on wool fumes.

Just to finish things off, here's the roundup of my purchases. Lots of colorful roving from Bartlett Yarns, sashiko needles from Brooklyn Haberdashery (two different lengths!), and lovely white fluffiness from Twist of Fate Spinnery. Oh, and some yarn from Dragonfly Fibers

the obligatory haul photo...yup, i'm a sucker for roving.

the obligatory haul photo...yup, i'm a sucker for roving.

I'm so glad I made time to visit this lovely event. It really has it all - beautiful scenery, passionate attendees, and sheep!

A Hedgehog & A Butterly For A Perfect Match

One of the most exciting things about the internet and social media is the world it opens to us. As a small business and fiber enthusiast I find it especially exciting (and freakishly overwhelming at times). I have had the pleasure of connecting with some incredible fellow fiber friends. One such fiber find is Hedgehog Fibres.

For about 6 months I had seen the vibrant colorways created by Beata Jezek's Hedgehog Fibers stream across my social media feed. Bright colors. Bold combinations. All of it so exciting. And what I love most about Hedgehog colorways is they are fearless. They scream personality. They are, in essence, me in a fiber. 

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So when I got the opportunity to collaborate with Hedgehog for the Galway Shawl, well yeah... I was kind of stoked. OK, I WAS SUPER STOKED! I may have run around to all my fiber friends so excited saying "GUESS WHAT I GET TO DO". My friend Laura may or may not be able to confirm this ;-)

Now I want to say something about the team at Hedgehog: I have so much respect for how this collaborative process has progressed. Every detail was met with ease and attention. It was not a matter of "let's send you some yarn and make something". Oh no, they care about every bit of the makers that will get their fibers. They care about their customers and makers and creating things to best serve them. It is such an honor to work with such an amazing team. After a few emails to talk about inspiration and colors and texture we landed on the Aran Merino base and a crochet shawl inspired by the flight of a butterfly and the colors of the fields in fall in her Pod colourway. All was set for a collaboration of beauty.


When the yarn arrived I was BLOWN away. The colors are way more vibrant in person (like how is that possible???) and even my friend Laura said "THEY GLOW"! I mean Beata must have some magic in those dye pots in Ireland. I seriously could not stop looking at the colors. When I wound it up to cake the skeins they kept the vibrancy too.

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I love the weight and texture of this fiber. It works up so easily and is not clunky. As a crocheter and a knitter I am always excited about yarns that work well for both. This yarn is one of those. The design itself went through a few tweaks and changes along the way to get the drape and shape that I envisioned.

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Once I settled on the shape though, it flowed with ease creating my vision.  A vibrant butterfly emerged and I could not wait to block this beauty.

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A drop of my fave Eucalan in the blocking bucket with some water followed by a quick soak and my butterfly was ready to rest and let her stitches settle.

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You know the saying a watched pot never boils? Well I am sure there is a saying "the watched block never dries". I kept checking but had to leave this beauty on the blocking mats overnight. In the morning though, the most beautiful butterfly I had ever seen emerged and the drape and shape are perfection. I could not wait to wear it and show to my local fiber friends.

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And now - The Hedgehog Fibers team and I want to share this beautiful collaboration with YOU! You can get the free pattern here and enter below to win a KIT to make your very own:  yup 2 skeins of this beautiful fiber, hook, pattern and toggle. And check out Hedgehog Fibers. Make your world a little more colorful!

Stitches Midwest - Worth It Every Time!

I first heard of Stitches Midwest in 2013. I had recently opened my Etsy shop and just been accepted to appear in the upcoming One Of A Kind Show in Chicago. I knew it was time to step it up a notch and fill in some holes in my self taught crochet knowledge so I searched for area events and voila... my discovery of Stitches Midwest. As luck would have it, Drew Emborsky (The Crochet Dude), who was a big inspiration of mine and a name I recognized, was teaching a class, so I knew it was serendipitous. I enrolled right away and was grateful for a local find!

IN CLASS LEARNING WITH DREW

IN CLASS LEARNING WITH DREW

While it seemed to be more a knitting event, I had a blast and the class I enrolled in was simply fabulous. There were several A-Ha! moments and "oh man that's HOW you do that" light bulbs going off in class with Drew. I learned so much and could not have been happier and, in fact, we are friends to this very day! I also shopped until I dropped (for real) in the market and discovered all sorts of tools, fibers and delights. I learned Tunisian Crochet and discovered the Big Alpaca Bump from Becca Smith. That was also the year I met indie dyer Katie of Dragonfly Fibers, who I have worked with ever since.  A total success!


In 2014 I returned with Katie to grab my enormous haul of incredible hand dyed delights she made for me. For real... it was So. Much. Yarn. I wandered a bit and got to discover Karen and her company Fringe Supply Co with her lovely rosewood hooks and notions for fiber folk. That was also the year I met Stephen West and Steven Be,  which launched our fiber affair. (more on that later). So all in all... another success!

I had to skip 2015 due to being on location for a shoot so was super excited to return in 2016, even though the event itself somehow seemed a bit smaller. My fiber business was taking off and thriving, I had just launched this blog and was dialing in to go full time and full steam fiber dream chasing so I had a feeling it would be special. It was more special than I could have imagined.

Due to my schedule, I wasn't able to take any classes but was able to see some amazing humans and tear it up in the market. I got to spend some time with The ShibaGuyz Shannon & Jason Mullet-Bowlsby in person. We had basically become social media besties at that point so being in the same room was just too fun. And of course, Jason & I landed in a deep discussion about photo apps. I mean, no one was surprised by this.

And HUGE Bonus, Shannon introduced me to Theresa & Ron of The Buffalo Wool Co.. Not only are they two of the nicest human beings I have ever met, they have an incredible story and fiber. You know I didn't leave empty handed. Please check them out - you will NOT regret it. 

Then I made a mad dash over to Steven Be's booth for what can only be described as fiber fabulosity and the birth of our fibar antics and mayhem! At this point, I had to resort to using my auxiliary shopping bag because the yummy fiber finds were just to good to leave. I needed to get All. The. Yarn. It was my introduction to Freia Fibers and I have never looked back. And of course there's always time for fun fiber antics with Steven.

I hopped over to Yarn Culture New York where I met Patti and discovered her amazing fibers, including Crave Yarn. I was immediately in love with the colors and textures of Crave Yarn, appropriately named by the way because I was craving it on sight and it was SO SOFT! I also had to grab some of her Rosy Green Wool Cheeky Merino because it was very interesting and a bit heavier than most DK weight fibers and the colors are so vibrant. Total score!

A quick haul to the car to unload the day's finds and then a yarn break to recharge. It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car. Convention entrance seemed to be a good place to park for a minute.

It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car.

It's a good thing I keep my picnic blanket in the car.

Fully recharged I was super excited to stop by and see what the gals at Dragonfly Fibers had for me this year. I also finally got to meet Nancye, the other half of the magnificent dyeing duo!

And I was not disappointed. Normally I am drawn to their bulky Super Traveller but the new gradient kits had me swooning over worsted & dk weight like never before. Their colors are always so vibrant and fun.

 

Before heading out, I wanted to stop by the Halos of Hope to thank them for all they do. I have been partnered with Halos of Hope since 2014 to make and send chemo caps to cancer centers nationwide. You can read the full story here. 

Even though I had partnered with Halos for years, I had never met Pam in person. It was such a treat to see her there. She is spunky and fun and fabulous and genuine and exactly all the things you can imagine of such a kind person.  I was blown away by this beautiful woman and sharing a few minutes with her.  We bounced around Stitches Midwest booths and laughed and it was so much fun to connect. The absolute highlight of my day and a perfect way to cap off Stitches Midwest 2016.


When the Early Bird registration email for Stitches Midwest 2017 arrived I was ON IT! I was particularly excited when I realized Shannon & Jason (The Shibaguyz) would be back teaching the classes I missed last year. SCORE! And they added Jason's photography class. Um... HELLO please take my money and sign me up!

Now... before I get into the market madness and all my fabulous finds (and trust me, this may have been the BEST YEAR YET), let me do a little classes review first. Short review: THEY WERE SO GOOD. I learned so much. Longer review...

The Alter to Fit class was great to fill in some gaps in my self taught design knowledge. I also learned so much from hands on measuring and what I call Designer Math. If you ever want to get a pattern but Alter it to Fit, this is the class to take. If it comes to a town near you sign up, you can also get started online here.

Fab Crochet Fabrics was so good, though it did fly by. The class was small enough that Shannon & Jason taught a bit more conversationally than by following a strict layout. I feel like we could have gone on all day. It was such a joy to discuss and learn about texture, drape and how to determine the right yarn and stitch for your project. What a great thing to be in a room full of creative people on the same page as you. I just didn't want the class to end. THESE WERE MY PEOPLE!

The photo class was great but definitely too short. What was super cool is that it was interactive. Learning stances. Learning about lighting. Not from seats but from being up with our cameras or phones and doing it. It was great to have a photography class that focused on FIBER. What we are trying to show and feature in our work. So many great tips tricks and hacks too that I am blown away.  OK... so that is the classes.

 

Now on to the market... and Oh - Emmmm- Geeeeeeeee. If you follow me on Instagram you saw the awesomeness as it happened!

One of the best parts of Stitches Midwest is seeing fiber friends who are too far to see often. One of my faves is Steven Be. At first when I didn't think I would make this year's event missing out on a shopping day with Steven be was the worst part. But then when I was able to attend, well it was of course a highlight. His whole team, Missy, Pippin, Erin and the King Bee himself, are all so much fun to play yarn with.

And they curate some of the most FANTASTIC fibers that make me swoon. Colors and texture... it is a sensory overload upon arrival in the best way.  I may have stopped by a few times over the course of the event, going back for more each time. I even got a new Blue Sky Kit for the most incredible cocoon I cannot wait to make.

Speaking of seeing fiber friends, of course I stopped by Dragonfly Fibers a few times and may have left with 2 large bags of yarn. Thank you Nancye!

 

I made my way over to Yarn Culture New York to visit with Patti and see all her new fibers. Oh my goodness, her offerings are always so classic and modern all at once. It is that perfect balance. The new "joy" weight of Rosy Green Wool Cheeky merino is so fabulous and is indeed full of joy. Of course I had to grab some in shades of blue and cannot wait to design something fabulous... for the Fellas! We had time to chat a bit and cook up a few new ideas together so stay tuned... because some fun things from us are coming soon.

The other great thing about Stitches Midwest is discovering all of the amazing new Fiber Friends. I found an incredible hand carved size S Crochet Hook when I met Sandy & Dennis from S & S Camelid Co. They have an Alpaca Farm and sell the big Bump's of yarn! Rugs will be made!!!

making important yarn decisions with Dami of Magpie Fibers

I also met Dami from Magpie Fibers. Dami gets me. I had breezed by Magpie on my first trip as I must have been in a daze and missed her offerings. Thankfully she tagged #StitchesMidwest in an Instagram post and it caught my eye as I searched the hashtag. So I made a point to head to her booth.

After staring at her fibers for what must have been an eternity, she came over. Clearly I needed assistance lol. You know how it goes... you see a fiber you REALLY want to work with but you don't have a plan yet? Lord knows I don't need to grow my yarn stash. So the staring game begins. Between me and the yarn. It tells me to take it home and I tell it I must first devise a plan. Dami could see I was clearly in over my head staring down her incredible offerings so I am glad she came over to introduce herself and help.

I think what made me an instant fan of hers was that before she asked me if I needed assistance she offered to join me in the stare down. THIS IS SOMEONE WHO GETS IT! So we stared. Then we chatted. Then she helped me come up with a plan and I cannot wait to show you what I make.

Truth be known, there was no way I was going home without some of her fibers. But at least I can feel better about it now with a plan. :-)

So many incredible finds. Over the next few months I will be showing you some close ups and launching special collaborations and projects that showcase some makers and finds from the Stitches Midwest market. We have some really special stuff planned for you guys and you know that means a few AWESOMESAUCE giveaways too.

Click the photos below to get to the vendor site of some of my fave finds. 

If you have ever considered attending an event like Stitches, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Being around YOUR people. Supporting small businesses. Learning and meeting fabulous humans.  It's been 5 years since my first Stitches Midwest. Some years I took a class and some I didn't. Every year was different. Some vendors the same and some new ones to discover. Always awesome. Always worth it.

And of course... when you go... make some time for antics and a hat lesson with Steven. Enjoy.

Mama Knows And That Ain't No Lie!

Ok... I have to force myself not to use all caps for this entire post because I am so excited I want to yell and jump and dance and make sure everyone knows it. I MEAN THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN! for real... I have had the time of my life collaborating with Sarah and Mama Knows Luxury. She knows fun too by the way!

I had seen all of these big chunky merino projects over the last year. Blankets and knits and hand knitting and arm knitting. It was all exciting and curious and totally overwhelming. I wanted to try but those big projects didn't seem to call me by name. I had a feeling I would start with a bang then see them over in that endless pile of all my other "in progress" projects. I wanted to do something different to try this stuff out. This stuff I talk about is big bulky huge balls of merino wool. I reached out to Sarah with my crazy idea for bright colors and home decor with a twist. I am so glad she was on board for this because I have had SO MUCH FUN!

Ok... let me sidebar a minute:

If you read my post about Brand Partnerships, then you know how important partnering with the RIGHT brands is for success. Partnering with Mama Knows Luxury was more than Right, it was perfect.  Originally, we had agreed to have this collaboration post for Easter. I had a big fun Easter spread planned. And then my sweet Sadie got sick. So we moved the project to be for Mother's Day. Then my Sadie suddenly died. And my world fell apart. I didn't want to create. I wasn't feeling inspired. I hardly wanted to make anything. I tried. I took out the project bag so many times trying to force myself to feel creative but all I felt was sad missing my Sadie.

A big Box Of Fun waiting for me

I emailed Sarah feeling terrible. I had never missed these deadlines or not delivered on a collaboration. I was so excited she wanted to work with me I was worried I would ruin the relationship missing all these deadlines. But then Sarah emailed me back. She said "Take your time and get yourself right". She got it. My head space wasn't there. And because I partnered with the RIGHT brand and the RIGHT small business owner in Sarah, the stress was lifted in an instant. I had the freedom to take the time I needed without added stress.

Then it happened. Time passed and I found myself reaching for these big fluffy chunky merino balls. In fact, they helped bring me back. Like magic balls of yarn. So thank you Sarah for being who you are and to all of YOU reading this.. partner with the RIGHT Brands because it makes all the difference.

OK... now back to this AMAZING project.

At first I just wanted to squeeze all of the yarn. I admit, once I got going there was some play time before getting down to business and it was awesome. I knit it. I crocheted it. My husband threw the big yarn gum balls (as he called them) at me. It was just FUN.

My initial idea was inspired by my favorite placemats but that didn't quite work out. Making them square was sort of boxy and didn't have the look or feel I had envisioned. But the yarn was so fun to play with that it was not long before I had a new plan. I switched to round placemats and then it hit me... barstool pads AND placemats. GENIUS!

Then...I decided... hand crochet. I WANT TO HAND CROCHET. 

Ok if you have never tried hand crochet then let me tell you: IT IS SO MUCH FUN!!!!! This is the perfect project for it because you can make each Barstool Pad with a single ball. Which, by hand crochet, I kid you not... 15 minutes. 30 if you are having fun and undo it only to remake it again! Think about it... a brilliant fun handmade home accent you can MAKE in 15 minutes. YES!

I decided to make my first set LSU Colors... because... GAUX TIGERS! They are great for mini playroom stools and big barstools too. You can make them in any team colors for your game day accents.

As I was making these magnificent fun barstool pads I had a brilliant idea. My FAVORITE coffee house is a super chill place in Peoria called Zion Coffee Bar (more on them later but if you follow me on social media you know it is my joint). so I asked them if they would let me come in and add a pop of color and BAM!!!!  How amazing is this?


Now for Phase II: The tables. My friend has the perfect North Carolina home with such beautiful decor. But what she is missing is a pop of color. So I sent her a set of these beauties and will you look how much fun they bring to your summer tables!

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This whole experience, even with the challenge I faced personally losing my Sadie, was incredibly perfect. Sarah is the real deal. A woman with a passion for people who make things. It is what this blog is about . She made the project beyond my dreams awesome. I Love how the pads came out. I loved learning hand crochet. I loved playing with this big chunky merino. I love the whole shebang. If you have been wanting to try big merino but afraid of the big projects, this kit is for you.  A perfect start and introduction to Big Stitch Merino.

And standby... because there is more to come from me and Mama Knows Luxury.

The Cotton Club!

While it is true, I am a cozy vibe, snowboard loving, scarf making kind of gal, anyone who knows me knows I am truly an ocean loving Pisces to the core. Nothing gets to me like the fresh waves and salt air. When I lived in Australia, there wasn't a single day that went without a dip in the South Pacific, of course it helped that I lived and worked a short walk from the beach. With this in mind, it was probably only a matter of time before my two passions (yarn and ocean) collided.

beachside-knittng

About two years ago, while on location in Florida for a shoot, I got the idea to make myself some lightweight cotton garments to wear. But while on location with super long shooting days, and still prepping for the Chicago One Of A Kind Show... well let's just say such an undertaking would have to wait.

Last year, while in Miami for several weeks, the idea reignited and so the journey began. Over the last year I have experimented with various fibers and cotton was always the winner for this idea. Like the commercial says, it is the "fabric of our lives" after all. I began my process of swatching and sketching and found the old ideas I had tucked away coming to life again. In the process, I quickly fell in love with a few specific cottons that lent themselves in both color and texture to my vision.

Thus my first Summer Cottons Collection was born.

cottons-design-process

Within a few weeks I had edited it down to a variety of looks I would want in my own closet. I drew inspiration from the many coastal places I have been and created pieces that spark a memory from each place they are named for.

I have put my heart into my first Summer Cottons Collection. This collection features garments made from some of the softest cottons and breathable for those summer days. Garments I enjoy both making and wearing. And I hope they are garments many others will enjoy both making and wearing.

The collection is made up of 20 new designs for makers to enjoy and be inspired by and a handful of made to order garments available here. And you can try the Inwood Summer Beach Top free pattern here.

For a deeper look at the fibers, read on to learn about the materials. (disclosure: the following contains affiliate links where I may get credit or commissions but these are not sponsored posts and opinions are my own).

Wool And The Gang Shiny Happy Cotton
Ok... this is by far the most superior cotton of all the fibers I have used and tried gearing up for this collection. Yes, I work with WATG often, no they did not pay me to say that. My order receipts can be proof enough how much this material factors into my designs and offerings. Why is it so special? First of all, it is just a wee bit thicker than most other cottons on the market. It has that few added strands that makes a difference in how it holds structure of my stitches. And still, it does not sacrifice drape effect for being a wee bit thicker which is awesome because when designing with lightweight fibers drape matters!  Last, I do not know what their color process is but this cotton has a sheen like none other. It truly is Shiny Happy Cotton and I love it! And because WATG is awesome, you get 15% off with code WATG144S through 6/9/17!

Betta Knit Pima Cotton
I discovered Betta Knit last winter when I collaborated with them on the Stella Jumper design and fell in love with their chunky wool. I was thrilled to discover they are offering Pima Cotton for summer. This cotton is great for those drapey and lacey designs. It holds the stitch structure well for a finer fabric. This is technically a category 3 DK yarn but in truth it works up like a sport weight and I just love it. I designed my Megan's Bay Shrug specifically for the way this fiber drapes. And... Betta Knit is giving you 20% off with code 144XBK through June 30, 2017 WOOT WOOT!

Lion Brand Yarn 24/7 Cotton
Lion Brand continues to deliver for affordable yarn options. The 24/7 Cotton is mercerized adding a sparkle and sheen even after multiple washings. Trust me, I tested this claim out and it passed the test! This fiber is interesting because it is a little bit "rope-like" for lack of a better term. It was interesting to work up and I quickly fell in love. It is perfect for my Saratoga Shrug design! I loved it so much I reached out to Lion Brand and we teamed up to collaborate on a design specifically for this collection and this yarn. More coming on that very soon!

Universal Yarn Cotton Supreme
The name says it all. It truly is Cotton Supreme. One of my favorite things about this fiber beyond the awesome texture is all the colors they offer. You can get so many blends and without much effort in yarn change, your garments will have style and color all their own. This is a heavier weight cotton, definitely more category 4 worsted. And yes still gives you the soft drape of the finer fibers. It is ideal for garments like my Manchester Tunic where you can let the yarn do the color work for you!

DebbieBlissCottonDK

Debbie Bliss Cotton
I discovered Debbie Bliss Cotton well into this project. In fact, most patterns were already out for testing when I came across this gem. I discovered it while checking out a new Local Yarn Shop Wool & Company that opened about 15 minutes from my home. (More on them in a future post). This fiber is delicious! In colors and in texture, I was delightfully surprised. It says it is DK, but more of a sport weight for sure. You can order from them here and they provide free shipping in the US!

I know there are endless other cottons out there and have tried many. But these are the ones that inspired and are featured in this collection and I encourage you to try them out. Do you have a favorite cotton you want us to know about? Share in the comments below. And tag #stitchandhustle on social media so we can see your summer cotton projects. Happy summer and see you in the Cotton Club!

And to celebrate.... I am giving away the whole collection of designs. Yep - ALL 20 PATTERNS could be yours! Enter below

Manos Del Uruguay Milo & The Naples Shrug

Ok ... so I could hardly contain my excitement when I was told Manos Del Uruguay would be sending me their new Milo fiber to try and review ... and what colors would I like. Um... ALL OF THEM? Can that be an option?

No but seriously, even though the palette of this fiber is more muted than the vibrant colors I typically work with I wanted them all.  They are so fabulous and so enticing it was hard to choose.

As I looked at the colors I had this instant image from the Florida beaches on a full moonlit night. I selected to make an ombre item that would be like the shoreline beach up to the dark sky.

The colors I chose were:
Natural
Potosi
Lisboa
Indigo
Manchester  

Can you see it? Beach to night sky? Ah - PERFECT!

When the yarn arrived I was ecstatic about my choices once I saw how truly perfect they worked together. It was exactly the blend I envisioned.

Now, the yarn states that it is "fingering weight" but in truth it is closer to sport weight. Ish. You know how it goes... no strands are ever quite exactly the same. Either way - it was definitely thinner and lighter than my normal chunky yarn vibe. I worked up a couple of swatches and I knew a shrug would be perfect. I pulled out an old motif and got ready to put a new twist on it.

The Milo works up so quickly and so smoothly. It has an interesting texture because of the linen blend but it is not stiff with that starch-like feeling so many other linen blends that I've used have.

I could not be more please with this yarn and am already starting another project with it! because yes.. it is THAT GOOD! I want to make so many things with it. 

Thank you so much to Fairmont Fibers & Manos Del Uruguay for sending me this yarn to try. I am definitely a new fan.

You can get the Naples Shrug pattern here to make your own.

Webs Yarn has Milo in stock and also if you buy a certain amount you get their club discount. I love their customer service - here is the link. (nope - not an affiliate link - I just like shopping with them).

 

 

Disclosure: Fairmont Fibers & Manos Del Uruguay sent me this yarn free of charge for the purpose of this review and collaboration. Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review are my own.

Get Your Cravings Satisfied!

I love discovering new yarn and new artists. So when it's a double header in the form of an indie yarn dyer - well happy dances happen!

Last year, while visiting Stitches Midwest,  I met Patti who owns Yarn Culture New York. Now let me tell you; Patti has some amazing fiber offerings and if she is ever at an event in your area I cannot convey enough to check her out. Follow her on IG for event appearances. I wanted to put her whole booth in my bag to go home (and may have even tried).

But another bonus was that Patti turned me on to Amor and her Crave Yarn. Um hello most excellent yummy fibers that I must become one with. Legit awesomeness. Not just the yarns, which are high quality, but her colors are magnificent. I was in love. IN LOVE!

As I got to know Amor and her work I fell more and more in love with her colorways. True, I was a bit sad she doesn't offer my fave chunky fibers but we handled that.

We decided to do a special limited edition collaboration with a chunky base. Keeping the amazing blue steel colors I fell in love with at first and using an incredible 100% alpaca chunky base, Amor created a fiber that I can only describe as divine. It was a dream to work up.

I immediately knew I wanted to create a design that was as flowing and dreamy as this yarn. The way the swatch draped and hung, it was clear a wrap would be perfect. Not your average chunky yarn. This chunky alpaca hangs like DK weight silk. CAN YOU STAND IT? It blew me away.

I am a Pisces and ocean lover and knew it would be all about the wave to go with the flow of this fiber. I started thinking of waves crashing upon the shore. And The Every Wave Wrap was born. It came together perfectly and I am madly in love with it. It is a scarf, a wrap, a shawl. It is what you need it to be and ideal for transitional weather.

Amor and I decided we had to share this fiber with the rest of the world. So we decided to turn these into Kits! We are offering these kits in LIMITED EDITION! So when they are gone, they are gone. You will get all the yummy yarn you need to make the Every Wave Wrap (4 skeins of hand dyed 100% alpaca), the hook, pattern, button, notions and a fun project bag. Um YEAH!  You can purchase your Limited Edition Every Wave Kit here.

And as an incredibly special celebration of this Limited Edition Kit, we are giving one away. WHAT? YES - GIVING ONE AWAY!

We even teamed up with Natasha from the Amazing Hook Ewe shop to include a custom made ergonomic crochet hook.  I have been such a fan of Natasha's work for so long as it scrolls across my Instagram feed that I was thrilled she wanted to join this giveaway. Her handmade ergonomic hooks are not only functional but true works of art. She has made one to match the colors of the Every Wave Wrap.

Do NOT miss out. Enter below!

And get out there and discover some new yarns :-)

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: Crave Yarn sent me the yarn for this giveaway & collaboration free of charge. Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review content are completely my own.

Be Fearless With WATG

Oh the happiness of a new project. Yes, I may have done an actual little dance when Wool And The Gang wanted to send me a Fearless Cardigan Knit kit. I had seen it on my Instagram Feed when Krysten Ritter posted hers and fell in love with the color she chose too. SO the chance to create my own was super exciting. And I especially love new projects where I get to learn something like new stitches or techniques. When it arrived, and it was the color I loved on Krysten, well I was elated. I dove right in!

 

At first I had to pause a minute. I mean it had some pretty BIG knitting needles and I admit, I was maybe a little fearful. It took a few tries but I got the hang of them big needles! 

As I moved along the pattern it was a bit challenging doing the stitch additions on the needles. I ended up having to restart a couple of times. But an Instagram friend suggested I get these circular needles and as soon as I did I was off and running. Thanks IG friend you know who you are! Oh and yes, I kind of love these big needles now.

Assembly was a breeze. The pattern called for a specific type of assembly and while I followed the pattern this time, I figured out a way to make it a SINGLE fabric so there will be no back seam on the next one. WINNING!

Like I said - the very best thing is a project where I get to learn something new. This project I learned cable cast on technique which I assure you will be used often and horizontal invisible seam technique, AND and how to handle these awesome BIG needles which I guarantee you I will be using for many projects (including more Fearless Cardigans).

Click here to get your own Fearless Cardi Kit and use code WATG144 for an extra 15% off through March 31. GET YOUR KNIT ON and add this perfect transitional item to your closet.

 

 

Disclosure: Wool And The Gang sent me this kit free of charge for the purpose of this review. Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review are my own.

Shibui Knits Reed Octave Scarf - Right on Time For Spring

I am kind of excited about this giveaway and let me tell you why. Because one of you guys is going to win a pretty AWESOME prize: A full Kit to make the Octave Scarf featuring Shibui Knits Reed fiber. Um... YES. I said it. You are going to win big here.

I first discovered Shibui Knits about a year ago when I was getting more into garment design and upping my knitting game. At first I admit I was intimidated. Shibui Knits screams of high end fiber and elegance (yet somehow has an urban edge to it as well). Over the last few months as my knitting skills improved and as I was seeing more and more of Shibui on my instagram feed I was getting more curious than I was intimidated and I had to try it. So when I had the opportunity to collaborate with Shibui Knits for this giveaway I JUMPED at the chance.

Being that I typically work with bulky fiber,  the Shibui Reed Linen was a completely new experience. It is a fingering weight yarn, which was a bit of a shock to my system when I first cast on. The first few swatches were surely not photo worthy.

 

But I have to say that as my hands adjusted to the finer fiber, it was such a joy and ideas began to flow. After several swatches (isn't swatching new yarn just one of the most fun things to do by the way?) I settled on a lovely knit stitch with a slightly larger needle than the fiber calls for. I was able to get a beautiful "open" stitch and it gave me an idea for a summer tank beach cover up. Linen, on the beach in Miami? YES PLEASE!

And now you too can get your hands on some of this Reed Linen delight courtesy of the amazing team at Shibui Knits. You will get the full 6 skeins needed and pattern to make an Octave Scarf - which is ideal for transitional weather so right on time. Enter below.

 

 

Disclosure: Shibui Knits sent me the yarn for this review & giveaway collaborations free of charge. Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review content are completely my own.

Discovering New Yarn with Betta Knit

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Who doesn't love getting happy mail? Now, let's be real. Boxes of yarn arrive here on the regular. But when new yarn company Betta Knit wanted to send me samples to check out for the blog, I mean... heck yeah. You don't have to ask me twice! And get this... they want to give YOU some too! What? Read on!

OK.. so the box is pretty and I will say - their logo and branding is right up my alley. Made the unboxing super bright and fun. Diving right in I was immediately mesmerized by the Cool Wool in the Dip Dyed version. The color is both vibrant and still faded in some magical way. I work with hand dyed yarn often so seeing this kind of color in this chunkiest of wool made my heart smile.

I was going to make a cardi shrug, which I have been on a roll with lately. But as usual, the yarn spoke to me and said "just play with me". So I did. I tried knitting it. I tried crocheting it. I tried a shawl. I tried a scarf. Frogged each one. Yup. This yarn is so scrumptious that I really did not mind this design process one bit. And I have to say the yarn held up REALLY well.  It didn't fray or fall apart or get all tattered through the process. Even when one time I pulled it apart I lost the end and had to play find the end in a pile of yarn ramen. You know that game right?

In the end... 8th time was the charm and I came up with a super fun pullover sweater we will call Stella. This jumper works up so quickly it is great for beginners and the most experienced crocheter alike. Every level can make this sweater I tell you. I wanted to create something both cozy and breathable so as not to suffocate my skin in all of this cozy wool. I also created a postive ease on this pattern because who wants to have their top ride up on them when it is cold? Not me! I will definitely be living in this top this winter! Get the pattern here or keep reading :-)

And, I had so much fun working with this yarn! I am both sad and overjoyed about finishing my project. I guess I will just have to get some more. :-)

I also had a chance to play with this new thing they call Blow Yarn. Um.. excuse me wonderful cozy squishy awesome yarn but where have yo been all my life?

Now, my only word of caution here is that this yarn does not like being frogged. Nope. Not at all. I definitely found that while I was playing with it that it meshed with itself as I pulled out stitches. So KNOW the pattern before you get going. For real.

It is a blend mostly of Alpaca with a touch of Polyamide & Merino mixed in. I was able to modify one of my favorite hat patterns to create what very well may be my new favorite hat. Yup - I will be rocking this Nepal Beanie all season. Definitely worth checking out the Blow Yarn. Just don't frog your work lol.

I also got to play with their Superwash merino and um.. hello... we all know how I love me some superwash Merino! Well their is definitely some of the yummiest ever. I haven't decided what to make with I Love My Jeans yet. A bit thin I may double it up and make some cool coasters. In fact... yes I will. So expect a free pattern for that pretty soon.

In the mean time.. check out Betta Knit. You can use code 144XBK and get yourself 20% off your purchase of yummy yarn. What? Yup. And that's not all... You can WIN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO MAKE THE STELLA JUMPER!!!! Worthy of all caps right? Enter below.

Thank you Betta Knit for sending me so many treats to try out.

 

Disclosure: Betta Knit sent me this yarn free of charge for the purpose of this review & pattern collaboration. Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review are completely my own.

One Love With Wool And The Gang

I was pretty excited when Wool And The Gang wanted to send me a Project Kit for review. And even more excited when my One Love Top Kit actually arrived.  I had a few other projects and customer orders to finish before I could start on it, so it sat in my studio for a few days. I admit, I looked at it often. The color of the Shiny Happy Cotton Land Of Oz Green in person is beyond magnificent. It's like no emerald green I've seen.

The pattern itself is easy enough to follow and with this awesome cotton it worked up pretty fast.  The pattern doesn't offer sizing but it is quite easily adjustable to suit any size with a little math. I followed the pattern to the letter for the back panel.

I tweaked the front panel pattern based on my own preferences for my body. I added an armhole slant where the lattice rows started by doing symmetrical decreases on the first two lattice rows. I also altered the last two rows of the top for more of a scoop neck than boat neck look to show off a little collar bone ;-)

I'm thrilled with how it came out and will definitely not only make more of these but likely offer them in my shop next spring for my customers. If you would like to try a Wool And The Gang Project shop here and use code WATG144 for 15% off all through March 31, 2017. 

 

Disclosure: Wool And The Gang sent me this kit free of charge for the purpose of this review. Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review are my own.

 

Taking A Trip With Super Traveller

Me & Kate in the Dragonfly Fibers booth

I attended my first Stitches Midwest event in 2013.  I had no idea what I was in for though. I arrived early the first day to check out the market place before my class. It was instant sensory overload of the most magnificent kind. Yarn, tools, supplies, more yarn and so many wonderful people. It was fabulous.

Though a bit overwhelmed, one Fiber Artist's booth stood out. I was drawn to the amazing vibrant colorways of Dragonfly Fibers. And once I started touching and felt the texture of the merino... well, thankfully I was in my element or I would have gotten strange looks I bet.

Kate Chiocchio, the artist is a wonderful woman and I knew I had to start working with her in an instant. Within a week I placed my first order and have been placing more orders since.

The items I create with Dragonfly Fibers are always well received in my shop and everyone loves the colors. They are some of my biggest sellers at the Chicago One Of A kind Show each year.

Bags Of Yarn Make Me Smile

In 2014, when I visited Kate again at Stitches Midwest to pick up my most recent order, I got the idea to design patterns for the Super Traveller which is my favorite of her offerings.  I just cannot get enough of it. It is a super wash merino bulky fiber that works up so wonderfully. The rich colors come alive with each stitch. I wanted to bring the personality of the color of the fiber to life through a collection. 

Of course, you know how it goes, add an idea to the To Do list and get back to work on other projects and eventually try to get to that idea on the list of many.

Rockin' The First of The New Roma Traveller Puff Stitch Hats

 

Then, about 8 weeks ago I got my latest shipment of Dragonfly Fibers Super Traveller and it spoke to me. The colors, the texture... So inspired, it stopped me in my tracks and I got to work on some new patterns right away. No more delay!

I had been working with the Puff Stitch (one of my favorites) when my yarn arrived and I knew it would lend itself so well to the bulky texture of the Dragonfly Super Traveller.

I started with a new beanie. It is actually an update on an old pattern of mine that I never really loved. It worked up so quickly and so perfectly it was like magic. Now, it is my fave hat instantly!

And, that magical combination led me to design the Puff The Magic Stitch Collection. It is divinely cozy, works up so well and takes you on a trip through the rainbow of color with variations on a stitch.

So, pick a pattern, get some Dragonfly Fibers Super Traveller and you too will fall in love. They are available on Ravelry, my site and Etsy pattern shop.