Friday, November 3, 2017

a mountain view

Today, I'm sharing a yarn story with you about a new company I've discovered through Instagram. Luckily, Paula is running a wonderful contest right now for anyone working with her yarns. Read more about that contest here!

mosaic photos courtesy of Moel View Yarns
Paula Goosen's appetite for natural color was ingrained early. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, she remembers the stunning vistas that surrounded her home growing up, and carried these images with her when her family, looking for a more stable environment, relocated to the U.K. when she was twelve, leaving many of their belongings and home behind. In the U.K., they lived a frugal lifestyle with little room for waste or luxury. The few belongings they did have were precious, and Paula remembers organizing her personal things into pleasing arrangements in the corner of her bedroom, drawing satisfaction from the light and color placement of each object.
Paula carried these tenants of frugality and appreciation for small things into her adulthood. She learned to knit with acrylics and microfibers, but yearned to use the beautifully soft natural fibers she saw in shops and stores. At one point, she broke down and bought her daughter a white vest knit in Merino wool, only to have it become a dulled gray as the sticky hands and wayward spoons of childhood discovered it. In turn, Paula discovered natural dyeing, a ready-made solution in her own atmosphere: black beans from the cupboard, nettles from the garden, carrot tops and tea bags saved after every meal found new lives as color in garments. The simplicity and availability of using what was at hand appealed to her, and as she explored the colors these materials could make, she fell in love in earnest. The colors felt fresh and comforting, familiar and reminiscent of the places she had lived and traveled. She began buying natural materials to dye on, knowing that they could be refreshed and re-used infinitely more than their synthetic counterparts.

Eventually, Paula moved to Wales, this time with her own family (three small children, 5, 3 and 1). The dramatic landscapes stunned her -- their moody tones and breathtaking scenery left her brimming with artistic inspiration. With new materials available to her and a found passion for natural fibers, she dreamed up the idea for hand-knitting yarns dyed in an array of natural tones. While her husband worked, Paula found herself sketching the view out her window of Moel Famau, the mountain that now adorns each Moel View Yarn label. Three months later she 'set up shop' and opened her little world up to others online with the hope that someone would love her natural tones the way that she did. As she expanded, she began to use not only foraged materials, but also extracts, allowing herself to play with new methods and techniques. The process is artistic for her, and she doesn't write down recipes or strive to repeat colorways perfectly. Each batch is an individual moment in time, immortalized in color on wool.


Within her first year, Paula got a message from a follower on Instagram. The knitter was vegan, and lamented that while she adored the colors that were on offer, she didn't feel comfortable buying yarn without knowing more about its origins. Eager to please and unsure about what might be available, Paula began researching wool production, seeking yarn that could be truly considered ethical and that could be sourced start to finish. She wanted to be able to offer her customers a product that she knew for certain came from well treated sheep that were loved and cared for throughout their lives. She found a slaughter-free farm in the Cotswold Hills in South-Central England. (Slaughter free in this case specifically means that the sheep are raised from the beginning to the end of their lives only for wool. They are never slaughtered for food or put down for being past their prime. The sheep live their lives out wandering the land and being brought in for shearing as needed.)

The farmer raised a mixed flock of Blue Faced Leicesters and Wensleydale sheep. The resulting blended fiber was slinky and silky, but also downy, soft and fluffy. She took some home and was delighted to discover that it absorbed the dyes as if they had meant to be together all along. Partnering with the enthusiastic farmer, Paula decided to do a test run with a small batch, but then added the yarn as a regular feature after getting positive responses from knitters around the world. While not every vegan knitter is interested in trying her Ethical yarn, she has discovered a niche of knitters of all backgrounds who are seeking a guilt-free wool to use. I was fortunate to receive samples of this yarn while writing, and it is unlike anything else I have in my stash. The mixed breed wool creates a yarn with exceptional sheen that takes rich, full-bodied color. Wooly but not rough, I could see this yarn being ideal for a variety of garments, although those with sensitive skin may want to wear a light layer beneath. It is likely that anything knit with this yarn would last a long while without pilling or becoming worn.

I've cast on a bit with a few skeins of Ethical that Paula sent my way, and I love the wooly rustic-ness of this yarn. While I probably won't get a chance to visit her idyllic Welsh world anytime soon, I feel more connected to an area of the world I have never visited through the stories she tells on her beautiful Instagram feed. I love seeing new colors arrive. and hearing the stories behind them, too.

Do you have a yarn story or yarn maker you feel needs some attention? I'm always looking for beautiful new wools. Shoot me a message or leave me a tip in the comments. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

a sneak peek at heritage

It's easy when you've been working on something for awhile to forget that not everyone already knows about it. Such is the case with a few under-wraps projects that I'm very close to unwrapping. One of these is Malabrigo Heritage, a digital collection I've put together for Malabrigo Yarn this past year and that will be released in early September. I'm currently in the middle of doing the layouts for it, but the photo shoot went exceptionally well, so I thought it might be fun to share a few sneak-peek pictures with you all.


After working on my book, I knew that I wanted to do more collection-style projects for other companies. I couldn't believe it had been over five years since Malabrigo and I had worked together, so naturally they were my first choice for a new collaboration. They've been putting out many beautiful books since my last project with them, but I wanted to do something a little romantic that hopefully captured my feeling of what Malabrigo means to me and to other knitters.

I asked my photographer from the book, Katie Meek, to come on board and she worked her magic on a hot (extremely hot) July day! We used some local models and shot the collection right here in Nashville, which is unbelievable to me in these final photos -- they really do feel like they could have been taken somewhere in Uruguay and are an expansion on the visual style of Book 4, although a little moodier and richer. Even though the photo shoot happened fairly recently, this project has been in the works since summer 2016 -- it takes a long while to get everything knitted and pulled together.

This collection will be available as a grouped e-book with some additional writing and essays about Malabrigo, or the patterns will be available for purchase individually in PDF format, too. This is a new release style for Malabrigo patterns, and I'm looking forward to sharing each of the individual pieces with you all soon. The designers who worked on this book are all immensely talented (some will be names you may have seen in past Malabrigo books, too). I had so much fun working on this and have so much more to share in the coming weeks!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

twist & shout

I remember the first time I learned how to cable, with a large, U-shaped cable needle and worsted weight acrylic yarn -- how frustrating it was! Moving stitches to the back and the front, making sure the yarn was on the correct side, all while trying to balance the yarn, knitting needles, and cable needle. I made it worse on myself by attempting it on a hat being worked on double points. I barely understood the chart, much less the written instructions, and I probably had to re-work that first cable several times before completing it correctly.

Since then, my cabling skills have really grown. I discovered how to cable without a cable needle, which made my stitches zip back and forth a little faster. I discovered that cables in stretchy, round wools are much easier than in unyielding, shiny synthetics. Above all, I learned how to read the charts -- the true key to cable success. I consider myself a capable cabler, though hardly a master, and while I haven't completed a whole cabled sweater yet, I have certainly attempted.

If, like at the state fair, we were to line up all of the knitters currently living who are the very best at designing and implementing cables in their work for a Cable Queen (or King) award, we'd be in for a pretty hefty challenge before handing out that sash. There are some amazing cable knitters out there! Sure to be among them, though, would be Norah Gaughan. Norah has embraced the cable fully and reached a sort of zen level among cable knitters -- she understands what they do, how to use them, and has a system for making them work in all sorts of fantastic ways. Luckily for those of us who simply study and do not theorize on the subject, last year she released a beautiful book on cable knitting: The Knitted Cable Sourcebook.


Part stitch dictionary and part cabling guide, Norah leads her readers through pages and pages of beautiful cable stitches, then teaches us how to swap them out within patterns, design with them, and apply them to some wonderful silhouettes she's been so kind as to include in the book. I picked up my copy when she was signing them at Rhinebeck 2016 -- I was lucky enough to have her as a roommate, and was also able to pick her brain a bit on the subject. (Brace yourself -- Norah does not cable without a cable needle, she believes that it uses the same amount of time either way.)

In celebration of my own book coming out with the same publisher soon, I thought it might be fun to host a little giveaway of this wonderful book right here on my blog and on Instagram. It's easy to enter: just make sure on Instagram that you are following me (@hannahbelleknits) and Norah (@norahgn) and leave a comment telling me about your first cabled project. Or, if you prefer to enter the old-fashioned way, you can leave a comment here on the blog about your first cable project. I'll draw a winner on September 1. 

Of course, I had to cast on right at Rhinebeck on a cardigan, that has quickly become quite a brain-teaser and needs to be re-worked. I talked it out with Anne and discovered that it simply isn't working for me at all, so it's going back to the drawing board once I can bring myself to frog it (sigh). I hate when that happens! Here's a look at the piece that made it to the underarm, at least:


Thursday, August 10, 2017

in print

As a teenager, I loved magazines. Specifically, fashion magazines. I loved flipping through the glossy pages and tearing out ads I loved and styling that I found inspiring. This love of magazines was reflected in my shopping habits, too: I was a cheap clothing addict. I love print, pattern, color and texture: Forever 21 had these in overabundance at great prices, and so most of my wardrobe was a riot of one-off pieces that didn't go together, didn't overlap. I struggled to buy basics (I think I went a decade without a pair of black pants), but anything with a crazy print or an unusual color found its' way into my closet easily. Shoes, adorned with pom poms and glitter and metallic colored with laces, were just as much of a problem. Before long, I felt overwhelmed by the clothing I had but wasn't wearing, the pieces I wanted to wear but couldn't figure out how, and the shoes that didn't fit quite right but were so unique and such a bargain. The magazines spurred me to buy more, generated obsessions with colors and textures that I had to have. 

If there's one thing that will break you of a fashion habit faster than anything else, it's having a major life change that results in a lot less income. Like many teens, my income was often my own to do what I wanted with. I've never been a very good saver, so most of the meager paycheck I had earned working through high school went towards clothes. In college, my paycheck had to go towards food and school supplies. It was a much needed reality check. Soon, the abundance of my wardrobe provided another issue: relocating from dorm to dorm, and then apartment to apartment as an adult, meant that I had extensive experience with packing and moving that wardrobe, so the culling began. I went from probably 80 pieces to 50, then 50 to thirty. Right now, I'm sitting somewhere around 20 pieces in my whole wardrobe (yes, including winter. I live in Tennessee, it's like 40 F here in December.) Somewhere in there, magazines lost their sparkle. The glossy, inspirational advertisements generated resentment towards their brands. The articles seemed like advertorials for actresses and causes with which I had no connection. The spell had been broken.

During this time, my knitting and I became more serious. We spent long afternoons together and woke up early on the weekends to have coffee. I watched my favorite shows over sweaters and socks, mittens and hats. Collecting yarn replaced collecting clothing, but it has always been easier for me to give away, sell, and divest of yarn. I drew my inspiration from the internet, mostly. The rise of Pinterest meant less clutter and as much visual stimulation as I could ever want. Instagram  and Ravelry were much of the same: I could follow other knitters around the globe and feel inspired by what they were making and working on.

I forgot how lovely the ritual was of sitting down with a magazine and absorbing each page, breathing in the smell of the ink, admiring the photography and highlighting interesting bits of writing. In the moments when my brain is too tired to knit, but not sleepy yet, I have rediscovered a space for magazines, but not the slick-paged ones I had once loved. Instead, I have discovered the joy of the small batch publication. Here are a few of the ones I've recently tried, just in case you're interested!



Pom Pom Quarterly 

It would be unfair not to say that Pom Pom is the reason I started buying magazines again. After several years of flirting with the major knitting magazines and a few online publications, I gifted myself a year of Pom Pom. Meghan and Lydia are really on to something special with these quarterly issues: bright and cheerful, their pages are adorned with lovely patterns I actually want to knit. The size of each issue is perfect for slipping into my handbag or knitting tote. The materials this magazine is printed on, from slightly waxed cover to perfectly matte pages, make this publication feel cozy and familiar. One to two articles are slipped in, thoughtful musings on knitting and materials and shared knitting experiences. The most recent one seems to be one of the best yet (although the Anniversary issue was pretty fantastic!)

By Hand Serial 

I'm a little biased, because I work part-time doing the marketing for this book series. We don't call them magazines because they aren't -- each individual issue is like a maker's travel guide to a new place. The first issue I felt really in-depth with was the Nashville, TN issue (#3), in which I was also interviewed about my book. What I love most about these as a reader is how the entire book is written by the same person. Andrea Hungerford and Karen DeWitz travel to each of these places and actually interview the people featured: they visit their studios and homes, chat about what got them started, and talk about their products and processes. By lining up these interviews, Andrea gets a very comprehensive view of what the mood of the city is, and what it's like to be a creative within it. Each issue gets better and better, and I can't wait to see what 6 - 8 look like. This book series comes out with a new issue three times a year.

PLY
not pictured, I have a digital version

Okay, so I'm really only a fairweather PLY reader. While I love everything Jacey is doing (I cannot speak enough good about her Craftsy class, I swear), I really don't spin so frequently that I feel I'd benefit from a subscription to PLY. However, I love that each issue covers a topic of interest to spinners in a new way. There aren't very many spinning publications out there to begin with, and I love how fresh PLY feels against others available. I bought the Woolen issue some time ago and still pick it up to re-read frequently. If you're a spinner, I highly recommend checking this one out. PLY comes out four times a year and always has a very unique topic -- this summer's issue is called "Bobbin Lead".

Mason Dixon Field Guides

Although I'm fairly certain these aren't considered 'magazines', these little pamphlet-style study guides come out and definitely create a stir among knitters. Powerhouse writers Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner have teamed up with former Interweave editor and STC lead Melanie Falick to create an exceptional array of patterns, projects and articles designed to inspire and motivate knitters around the globe. I especially love the community they've generated around these via their site, which also offers weekend Snippets, ongoing knit-a-longs, and a ton of additional content.

Making 

Carrie Bostick-Hodge's project, Making, is a magazine that is all about knitting with some crafting thrown in. I have heard so much praise for this magazine, but hadn't taken the plunge until recently, drawn in by a pattern my friend Amy designed. (I seriously have to have this sweater.) I was surprised to discover just how much content is included in a single issue. Dots, the issue I purchased, is the third issue, and has page after page of projects, with a few short written pieces in between. The themes of the issue dictate the types of projects in a loose way, and it's fun to see how different crafts embody the idea behind Carrie's overall vision with each new page. I will certainly be making a few of the things in this one, and might consider checking out Lines, which is due out in Fall. This publication comes out twice a year.

Amirisu

Who wouldn't want to love this adorably Japanese magazine? I love Amirisu for opening my world up a little wider and giving me insight into the Japanese culture that surrounds knitting. On trend with the modern minimalist movement and featuring many of my favorite knitting designers, Amirisu's issues are beautiful, but a little crowded (each page features both Japanese and english text in columns.) While I love looking at Amirisu and browsing the listing on Ravelry for patterns, I was a bit disappointed to discover that not every pattern is actually included in the book. For some, you have to go outside of the publication and purchase the pattern separately, so this is something to be aware of before you order any issues. I now reserve my purchase of Amirisu with a local stockist, so that I can see what's included before I buy. This magazine comes out four times a year, seasonally.

Extra Curricular

I can't remember how I discovered these delightful little books from New Zealand, but I love them! I ordered two some time ago, one to give in a swap and one to keep, and I can't stop thinking about them. Similar to By Hand Serial, each issue features a range of interviews with makers and artisans. These are small in size and each cover is an illustration that gives a little hint to what is inside. Unfortunately, I've just found out that they've published their 20th and final issue, so now begins the quest to collect the ones I've missed.

Do you have any small publications, magazines or serials you adore? Please share them with me in the comments -- I am on the lookout for new things to read!


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

indigo blues

 

The "indigo trend" has been going strong this summer. It seems like the world is in love with the rich blues of this natural dye, and I'm seeing it continue to pop up everywhere and in every capacity. I have never been a huge fan of faded blues, but even I can't resist the siren call, as evidenced by two very different projects currently making their way across (and around) my knitting needles.

Tegna seems to be a sweater-of-the-moment, although I'm a little behind on the trend. I fell in love with the idea of making this cropped, lace-trimmed pullover sometime around May and just haven't let it go. Meanwhile, Haus of Yarn, one of my favorite local shops, carries a yarn brand I've been meaning to fiddle with, Geilsk, in just the right cotton-wool blend for this garment. I picked up a skein to swatch and ended up going back for the other three almost right away. This pattern is zippy! I finished the lace portion in just a few days, and slogged through the stockinette while watching GLOW on Netflix. I feel a bit so-so about the show, but the sweater, which is now divided for the shoulders and sleeves, has me over the moon.


I'm also knitting a little doodle of a hat, in a skein of hand-dyed indigo yarn I picked up at last year's Nashville Farmer's Market. I'm not sure what the wool blend is, though I suspect some Romney, or Jacob, or crosses of some sort, based on the hand. It's quite crunchy and rustic, although I suspect it will soften up quite a bit with a warm bath. The pattern is a simple slipped stitch hat I've been knitting for years but haven't bothered putting into writing. I should probably remedy that, although it's so easy you can probably figure it out if you want to knit it n-o-w.


While I certainly don't foresee myself starting up an indigo vat in my apartment any time soon, I seem to be doing an abundant amount of reading on the subject. A revisit with one of my favorite books, The Modern Natural Dyer, is just what I need in advance of seeing Kristine in person in a few weeks here in Nashville. She's teaching a workshop at Craft South. This shop also carries quite a bit of Anna Joyce's hand-printed indigo fabrics, as well as a wonderful assortment of chambray denim fabrics. I may have picked up a few for a future quilt, although I'm not currently sure if I'd like to go with a simple nine-patch block or something a bit more complex.

It might be the easy going nature of Nashville is finally rubbing off on me (a bit like indigo on your fingers), or it could just be a deep sigh welcoming the end of Summer, but right now, I've got nothing but the blues.

Monday, August 7, 2017

physical copy


Oh, I am so very excited about my book coming out soon! It seems like forever ago that I submitted the initial proposal to Abrams, then there were months and months of writing, and preparing, and so many people to keep track of and bills to pay and things to arrange and schedule. The photo shoot itself was an enormous mountain of work: styling and shot lists and direction on-set. After photo editing, it was all about layout for several months -- colors, fonts, and proofs in the mail. Then, the final proof went off to the printer and it was quiet for awhile. Very, very quiet. Until finally, a printed, very real copy of my actual book arrived in the mail.

I cannot express to you what this feels like. It must be a bit like graduating college, I suppose -- or having a baby, I've been told. Something you have waited and worked very hard for is suddenly here, and there is a deafening silence, and a sudden empty space that used to be filled with work and worry and excitement, and instead there is a physical something in its place. For a while, I took the book around everywhere to show everyone. Recently, I began a re-read. Would you believe I haven't fully read the source material in almost a year? It's easy to read a single essay when it needs edits, but reading the whole book over and over for each proof just wasn't going to happen -- I had to skim, check for trouble spots, and send it back within a few days each time.

The words seem like they're resonating even more with me now. I wrote the book in many ways as a reminder to myself, to do all of these things that I have found make my knitting more productive and thoughtful. Now that I'm reading them, I can't help but wonder what the rest of you will think and say and do as a result of reading them too. I hope it is liked, and well loved, and that nobody thinks I am insufferably pretentious. In some ways, the waiting for the book has started up all over again.

Come swiftly, October 10th!

Monday, June 5, 2017

mini mini

Did you guys know that I'm a new columnist at The Fringe Association? I honestly could not be more excited about it, having admired Karen's blog for a very long time, and all of the goings on that happen over there. I write a column called Origin Stories about yarns and where they come from (and the people who make them), much in the same vein as my upcoming book.

Like many knitters, I read all of the posts that pop up on Fringe, especially the slow-fashion ones. Lately, I've been dreaming about lightweight, summer knits. I picked up a thrift store top recently that I have fallen in love with (machine knit) and I'm into the idea of  knitting something for warmer weather, and Karen's sleeveless top seems right in line with what I'm feeling right now.

While I love the look of Karen's chunky version, I feel like I would just about sweat to death wearing it, even in linen blends, and I look a bit like a chipmunk wearing turtlenecks anyway, so I'm all about making my version a little more inspired by these garments:


both garments from Anthropologie
In the first, I love the weight of the fabric. I could probably actually wear something that weight (and even neck height) pretty easily in Nashville all summer, especially out in the evenings. It's casual and simple and will look great with jeans. The second image, I love because of the marled stitches (two yarns held together) and what I think is a purl-side facing, along with the extra-large armholes that are a little sexier. I love big armholes paired with lacy bralettes! Oh, and the cool longer hem in the back is so my look right now.

I'm already knitting an experimental duplicate of my dropped-hem tank, using Penny Tank as a baseline for cast on and short rows. This pattern uses a new-to-me short row method by Carol Sunday. (I was actually woefully ignorant of Carol's work and have gotten totally absorbed in exploring her website as a result.)

Penny Tank by Carrie Bostick Hoge
I am changing it a bit - for one, my tank is a little lower in the front, more of a v-neck, and I personally find that a bit more flattering. I'm also not going to give it any garter stitch edging, but I'm going to see how a ribbed bottom looks and then do the edges with simple slipped stitch edging for a clean finish. We'll see how it goes. If I love the result, I'll probably cast on another -- the one I'm knitting now features stripes, since I didn't have a full skein of either of the yarns I wanted to use. (Purl Soho Linen Quill and Buffalo Wool Co. Sexy. I actually like the Sexy better as a finished fabric, but the Linen Quill is lovely and oh-so-affordable!)

I suppose technically these could also fit with the current Summer of Basics KAL that is going on over at Fringe, although I doubt I qualify for any prizes! Are any of you planning some basics for the event?