Friday, November 22

What a blur!

Fall has flown by in a blur!  Which is always the way it is for me (and I suspect many other yarny types).  Since NYS Sheep & Wool I've been to Chicago for Vogue Knitting LIVE and Canandaigua, NY for the Knitter's Review Retreat not to mention NYC for a couple of classes at Purl SoHo.
I have pretty much no photographic proof that I was at these events but I swear I was!

This is me & Kristen who came to help out in the booth while Ysolda was signing her new book The Rhinebeck Sweater. Because, let's face it 90% of the fun at fiber fests is sweater spotting, I'll tel you I'm wearing Each Stitch in Mohonk and Kirsten is wearing Party Mix in Hudson.


And here is a pic (obviously from almost the same moment) of me & Ysolda, she's wearing Laura Nelkin's Artichoke French from The Rhinebeck Sweater made with a skein of Empire.

I'm back home and busy shooting all sorts of yarn plus working on a couple secret projects I can't quite tel you about yet.

But I can tell you that I'm super psyched that Lee Meredith designed a hat (well, actually 2) in Hudson for the latest Holla Knits collection.

I have been a huge admirer of Lee's designs for a long time, especially since Cal Patch wears her Vortex EVERYWHERE. One skein of Hudson makes both versions of the hat so you don't even need to decide which on to make!  Allison has a skein to giveaway if you pop over to her blog and make a comment you're in the running.

The accessory collection is quite beautiful, I an especially enamored with the heart cut outs on the gloves & the colorwork hood. I'm so proud to have played a small part in this collection!

What's on your needles & hooks these days?

Wednesday, October 23

Rhinebeck Wrap Up


NYS Sheep & Wool flew by in a blur of beautiful pottery, friendly faces and amazing yarn creations of knit & crochet variations.  Seriously a BLUR.  I took exactly 0 pictures, bought almost nothing, mostly because I barely had a chance to leave Jennie's booth.  I did manage to score a bottle of SOAK, some gorgeous buttons from Jennie and just a couple skeins of yarn, but they are for something gifty so they'll be my secret stash for now.

I got so many compliments on my sweater on Saturday, which as we all know makes a knitter feel GREAT!  I made it for O+ festival in Kingston, and if you haven't seen it yet, here's a pic.

I made it with Mohonk in North Atlantic, Rust and a sort of renegade batch of Petunia and used (basically with a few teensy mods) Elizabeth's Percentage System and it kept me nice & cozy!

I saw SO many good sweaters, and shawls & accessories.  I loved seeing Laura Nelkin wearing her Artichoke French and apparently so did lots of other people, because I ran out of Empire in semi-solid shades! There are more coming out of the dyepots everyday but your next chance to snag one will be at Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago.

At Vogue, I will have lots of both semi-solid & variegated Empire hanks and I'll also have copies of Ysolda's The Rhinebeck Sweater, which not only has Artichoke French but includes 11 other beautiful sweaters (I kind of want one of each)

Even better? The lovely Ysolda herself will be doing a book signing from 12:30-1:30 on Saturday 11/2 in my booth.

I've got a lot of dyeing to do before heading to Chicago so I better sign off for now!

Before I go I'll mention I have a few kits left for Twister and more coming to Chicago with me. A KAL is starting in my Ravelry group 11/15, it is a fun and pretty simple knit, I'd love for you to join us!

Thursday, September 12

Sweater Season KAL - Be prepared

That's what the scouts say anyway.   I think when beginning a knitting project especially, a large project like a sweater almost all the hard work is in the preparation.
Lincoln has been quoted as saying "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I'll spend the first four sharpening the axe".
I guess what I'm saying is start with a sharp axe...
I've learned most of these little tips and tricks the hard way, although they do seem a bit obvious on reading through them. Sometimes we all just need a reminder to eat our veggies.

First and most important, you CANNOT make yarn & a pattern match by sheer force of will.  I know I have been guilty of this, and I bet some of you have too.  You have found THE perfect sweater, the one you see in your dreams, the one you will wear every single day all Fall long and you are itching to cast on...but all in your stash yarn the color you picture it in and have almost the right amount of yarn for is the wrong weight.  Within reason you can "push" the stated gauge on the ball band a little but you need to understand what the does to the fabric.

Using thinner yarn than suggested will make an airier & drapier fabric.  This is usually a better option than using a thicker yarn than suggested which will give you a more dense and stiff fabric. Of course you still need to get the gauge listed on the pattern if you plan on following it exactly.

Another thing to think about is same gauge doesn't always mean same fabric hand.  The swatches below are both the same gauge but the left is knit with Nimbus held singly and the right it is held double.  Besides the look being different the drape of the fabric created is totally different.

The last little tip about preparedness I'll share is REALLY use your swatch!  What I mean by this is try the ribbing or an unfamiliar technique out on this tiny piece of knitting before moving on to the real thing.  If you've never picked up stitches from the side of a piece of knitting, trying on your swatch is a low risk way of perfecting your method.  Then, when you are ready to pick buttons, you can bring your swatch with you to test for size rather than dragging the whole sweater along.  I recommend not banding your swatch in garter, although I know many knitters like to for 'prettiness' but I think it can slightly distort your gauge, so unless you are making a cardigan trimmed with garter, resist the urge!

This probably could go without saying but, I'll say it anyway: wash & block your swatch if you intend to wash & block your sweater, the gauge may change and it is the safest way to test for colorfastness.

I've had such a hard time trying to decide what sweater to make for Rhinebeck this year.  My mom emailed and said she was really wanting to make the Sweatshirt Sweater from Purl Bee and I realized I could REALLY use a utilitarian sweater just like that. She's making hers with Mohonk.
And I was totally set on doing that too

Sweatshirt Sweater from Purl Bee

...and then I did last week's post with all the beautiful sweaters from my Ravelry group and had a moment of indecision.  While "idling" through new patterns on Ravelry I also stumbled across the perfect in its simplicity Crows Nest Cardigan by Amy Christoffers and got to thinking how gorgeous that would be in Hudson, done in stripes of a multi and contrasting solid color...

Crows Nest Cardigan

Or maybe Strokkur by Ysolda Teague made in Valkill which is a DK weight so there would be a bit more air in the knit than if I used Aran weight but the Cheviot fiber will hold it's structure really well and had a twist similar to traditional lopi yarns.  I'm imagining it in Cloud with the colorwork done in Dark Roast and Paprika...

But you can never have enough cardigans, I like the super low neckline of the Delancey Cardigan and it would be perfect in undyed Rockwell with a bright overdyed shade as the stripes

So it looks like I haven't really narrowed my choices down at all!  Luckily there is a lot of yarn here to choose from so maybe I'll just swatch for a few of these options and have a think for another week.
Have you started a new Fall sweater yet? I'd love to hear what you're making! Maybe it hep me decide - or if nothing else help grow my Ravelry queue to even more epic proportions...

Friday, September 6

Sweater Season

It's cold this morning. Like, SweaterWeather cold. I love it!
If you read my blog post earlier this week, you know I've had sweaters on the brain. I might be a bit biased but to me, almost nothing is better than wearing a hand knit or crocheted sweater on a cool Fall day. In my new sweater daydreaming I took a little stroll through the finished sweaters in my Ravelry group and WOWSERS was I impressed.  It did not help me settle on which sweater to make as my brand spanking new Rhinebeck sweater for this year but it certainly was inspiring! I thought I'd share (with the maker's permission of course!) a tiny selection of some really beautiful sweaters:

Knitosaraurusrex (what a user name!) seems to be pretty prolific in her making and we seem to share a taste for color and a bit of quirkiness. She made the sweater below using(ish) the Zuma Tunic pattern and three colors of Mini Empire.

Knitosaurusrex's Forest For the Trees
 Krisnicole made this insanely beautiful version of Party Mix using some variegated Hudson, for everyone who is afraid of variegated sweaters I think this is a perfect "gateway" sweater.  Toned down a bit by the semi-solid contrasts  it is really a showstopper!
krisnicole's indian corn & candlewick
 Empire sweaters abound!
Myself, I love a variegated sweater, and here are a few people who obviously feel the same, these sweaters are all made with Empire - which by the way, is getting prepped to make its first appearance of 2013 in the shop soon, you can join my email list up on the right hand side of this blog to be among the first to know when it does...

Queenofquitealot went with the Classic Ladies Raglan, which seems like a perfect choice to "tame" the wildly variegated colors of her Empire skein and Alisamcr started with a crocheted cardigan pattern but ended up heavily modifying it for a more flattering fit, the result is a perfect & very wearable cardigan!
Queenofquitealot in a classic knitted in Empire
Alisamcr's crocheted cardi

Then there is my Empire sweater which I think encompasses everything about Autumn in Upstate NY, changing leaves hues in a cozy cardigan with some of the best wood buttons I've ever found, they are apple wood, what could be more Upstate NY?!  
(I know you'll ask, and I'm sorry to tell you there isn't a pattern, yet.  I improvised it so I'd have something to wear to Rhinebeck and have been meaning to get the pattern together but that just hasn't found its way onto the schedule yet)
Upstate NY Autumn in sweater form

My postergirl Cal Patch sporting (almost) head to toe JDMS
You probably know the picture above is my BFF (Best Fiber Friend) and sewing guru, Cal Patch in full fiber fest gear she's wearing her own design Wingfeathers crocheted with Splendor, a Laurel headband knit in some commercial yarn (BLASPHEMY!) Just kidding, it is Noro if you can't tell by looking. In my opinion the pièce de résistance and according to a cursory Ravelry search the ONLY one of its kind (how can THAT be?!) of this amazing outfit is her crocheted EPS sweater made from an Empire hank.

Laura Nelkin ready to pick peaches in raspberry
The most recent sweater added to my rav group pool is Laura Nelkin's modified Beach Street Park made in Mohonk she squished and squished and cradled at Vogue Knitting Live last January - I was so glad to see it finally as a sweater!  You can find all of her mod notes over on her blog obviously it gets colder out by the Finger Lakes earlier than it does here, I wasn't quite ready for a sweater a couple weeks ago...

Above is a sweater I knit - and there IS a pattern for this one made out of Nimbus. Because Blithe is knit with lighter than air laceweight it is diaphanous but because that laceweight is a blend of 70% angora and 30% silk it is the absolute warmest thin sweater you can possibly ever wear.  I love that it is a big, cozy silhouette but you can still see hints of you shape underneath so you can be warm without adding lots of bulk.

I'm ready to knit about 16 new sweaters, think I can squeeze them in while prepping for Fall fiber season? Maybe not 16, but I am hoping to make at least 1 new sweater for Rhinebeck.  
I started a thread in my Ravelry group for moral support and will be posting some tricks I've found for making sweaters come out the way you envision them over the next bunch (six to be exact) of weeks.  Are you ready for sweater season? Please  join us over on Ravelry and let's all encourage each other along to finish some new sweaters!

Wednesday, September 4

Spinning a Sweater

I've been dreaming of sweaters almost non-stop since I woke up on the first morning that had a cool breeze blowing through the windows.   

I have had a couple incredibly beautiful fleeces that have been slowly getting washed and carded over the past couple years (yeah...) but finally they have made it to the spinning stage!  I could not be happier.  They are both lovely naturally colored fleeces from Elihu Farm and I've carded in gobs (two plastic "salad" containers worth if you need specifics) of angora from my mom's bunnies that I dyed in super hot shades, pinks bright & pale, flame orange, bright purple...

I kept the two fleeces separate in the carding and have been alternating between the dark & the light sort of randomly while spinning.  My plan is to Navajo ply them so I get thick & thin stripes.

Why on earth did I start this project last weekend, just before my busiest season starts? Madness? Masochism? Distraction from the inevitable? A little gift to myself? Probably a smattering of all of those.  I haven't 100% decided what sweater pattern this will get knit up into. It will depend on my finished WPI and yardage, both of which I'm terrible at determining beforehand. I do have almost 2 pounds of batts so I figured that should be enough for my options to be pretty open.  

Have you started dreaming of sweaters yet?  
Have you ever spun for a sweater? 
Should I seek professional mental help? 

I'd love to hear your answers to any of the above questions!

Sunday, September 1

I'm not having a HUGE AMAZING WHOA NELLY Labor Day Sale

I know.... what a downer, right?  

Isn't this the weekend when everyone who owns a business tries to talk you into buying tons and tons of stuff at rock bottom blowout prices? I guess it is now. I'd like to ask you to spare a moment or two to think about Labor Day, not the last weekend at the beach-barbeque on your Monday off-back to school sale Labor Day but the "real" one.

Labor Day celebrations were started as an act of defiance.  Laborers taking a non-paid Monday off listening to speeches and marching for fair wages and safer work conditions.  Here is this country, where we are so rich in so many ways it is easy to forget how many people working in this country still have to go to work on Monday and still probably aren't making a fair wage.  

I went to The World Domination Summit this Summer and heard from many amazing speakers & business owners.  One of the speeches that stuck me the most was Bob Moore from Bob's Red Mill.  He talked about growing an equitable company. A company that pays workers fairly, has them work in a safe environment and has grown on the strength of all of their work.  On his 81st birthday Bob gave away the ownership of his company to his employees. He divided the stock of his now multimillion dollar company up by shares based on how long people had been working for him. He had been doing profit sharing for the company's whole history, even when the profit sharing checks he wrote were 2 figures.

"Put people before profit. Share with those who helped you build it.” - Bob Moore in his speech at WDS.

I'd ask instead of trying to find the cheapest backpack at a big box store this weekend, try to find a local company making things that will last past October and spend your money with them.  

Aurora Shoe Co. hand made in Upstate NY (and my favorite shoes)
It is good for your community and your heart.  The more we spend on things produced with care and high ethical standards the more sustainable those things become.  The downtown of your small town can only stay (or become) vibrant instead of a sprawl of shopping centers that could be picked up and dropped in any part of the country without looking out of place if YOU shop them.

If you don't want to eat food produced with the use of GMOs and chemicals, shop at your local farmer's market, big corporations have way less care for your health than your neighbors do.
Ride your bike to your local bookstore, I know Amazon is SO convenient and Barnes & Noble has a 25% off coupon but someone in your town lovingly picks out the books in their shop, they can probably make actual recommendations based on what you like, as opposed to the person working in the book department of a box store because the guy who normally works in that department called in sick and tomorrow they'll be back in kitchenware.
You know how much you appreciate it when the LYS owner helps decipher a pattern that has had you cursing at you knitting? They'll appreciate you even more if you buy your needles from them instead of waiting for the big sale online.

I think the only way to wrestle the American economy back from the brink of collapse is to buy conscientiously.  We are never going to make the cheapest t-shirts again.  We may be able to make the best, most ethical, produced without the factory workers getting brown lung t-shirts.  Trying to do this does mean having less in number but better made things. I'm certainly not perfect in this (or any!) regard but I'm trying.

Don't let what you consume consume you.

Friday, August 9

Close to home

This sweet face plays a big part in the first of the new yarn I'm adding to the Jill Draper Makes Stuff line.  She is one of the three angora goats living at Sweet Dreams Farm.  This yarn is closest to my heart of all the new yarn, so it seems natural to introduce it first.  If you were lucky enough to attend Squam Art Workshops in June you might have seen Hoosic at the art fair Saturday night.

The reason Hoosic is so dear to me is because of the woman who raises these goats, along with a couple dozen chickens, a few bunnies, barn cats and a Golden Retriever.

This hobby farmer is the kindest, strongest, most generous, non-judgmental, caring and probably my favorite person in the entire world.

Here are a couple shots of us together, a couple decades ago and a couple years ago. It should be pretty obvious by now, she's also my mom.  If you've come to Rhinebeck or Vogue Knitting in NYC, there is a pretty good chance you've met her and most people who do don't forget.  She has an absolutely radiant smile and almost immediately upon meeting her people feel the desire to hug her.  She's just one of those people.  I think she brought enough picnic lunch to the last NYS Sheep & Wool to feed a small army, including egg salad from her chicken's eggs. I'd call her a hippie, but she corrected me once and said she's a folkie, so there you go.  She has a full time job and just raises the animals for fun, and I can tell you from experience anything she loves gets the best care around.  The goats often go on the evening dog walk, along with one of the barn cats, around her property on the NY/VT border.  She is awe-striking in so many other ways, ways that I'm jealously keeping all to myself, for the sake of brevity here, but everyone whose life she has even a passing influence in knows how amazingly special she is.

After the mohair was shorn from Evie, Elijah & Pearl it made a short trip, following the Hoosic River, to Putney, VT.  In Putney some other kind people at Green Mountain Spinnery combined it with a blend of Suffolk, Columbia and Targhee wool.  It is a 50/50 wool and mohair blend, at 400yds/4oz I'd call it sportweight although with the mohair content you can knit it at a much larger gauge without the yarn losing body & becoming droopy.  

This is Hoosic dyed in a semisolid called Bering, and I didn't have to ask but I know if she had her pick, my mom would say this color was her favorite.  I picture Hoosic knit up densely as mitts and super loosely in a lace stitch as an almost year round wrap, or at gauge in a modern take on the classic Gansey sweater.

My mom being who she is won't take any of "my" money for the mohair she has so lovingly raised so I thought maybe you all could help me with that.  I'd like to donate $2 from every skein sold to a cause I know is dear to her heart as a health care provider, Doctors Without Borders or MSF for my non-American readers.  She'd never take ask for or accept something for herself, so instead this is my tiny way of paying her back by paying it forward.    There aren't a ton of skeins of this and when it's gone it will be a while before we make more, it took a few years of shearings to get the few hundred skeins we have.

If you like the yarn and see me walking a fiber fest arm & arm with what looks like a much better dressed, more elegant version of myself don't be shy about telling her.  Folkies love that.

Tuesday, July 30

Change is good!

I am terrible at blogging. Well, maybe not the actual act of blogging (I'll leave that for you to decide) but the keeping up with it part. I run a business, mainly alone, and spend many hours of many days just doing the stuff that NEEDS to get done.

Don't get me wrong. My job is the best. I love it, a lot. Most days. It is incredibly hard, terrifyingly uncertain, amazingly satisfying, and on the good days really, really, really fun.

Being the owner of a small business means making the hard decisions all on my own and writing all the checks out of my own bank account.  I worry. Will they (you) like it as much as I like it? Will someone wash a yarn in dog shampoo and then post an unkind comment on Ravelry? Will the mill deliver the yarn we've agreed on, in the time frame that has been decided? In truth, the answer to all of these questions is: perhaps, and I really have no control over any of it.

Running a hand dyed yarn line is worth the struggle when someone walks up to me at a fiber fest holding some precious item they've created and tells me it's their favorite shawl/sweater/pair of socks/Cthulhu, or when I get photos in my inbox of some adorable smiling baby snuggled in handknitted love.

Why am I telling you all of this? I am because it is important to me that you know. I've made some decisions about where Jill Draper Makes Stuff is headed and as proud and excited as I am, I am also scared.

Starting this Fall/Winter, all Jill Draper Makes Stuff yarn will be US sourced & spun. 

The picture above is Tom, the farmer who raises some of Rambouillet that goes into Empire, me & his ram, Big Mike. I hope you can tell who is who.

I love working with the farmers I buy wool from, the people who make the mills run and knowing that my business plays a small part in helping those businesses succeed. One of the things I never expected to feel is the pride in watching my income help not only my business but other small businesses to grow.  I get so much fulfillment out of working with mills to develop yarns I feel serve the fiber best and will wear well for years to come.  I'm not going to lie, I cried when I read Clara Parkes' review of Empire last year.  It's as if she saw everything I was trying to do with it, appreciated all the things I spent time on and probably drove the kind people at the mill mad about tweaking until it was perfect.

What this change means for the current line is that this is the last year that a few of the current JDMS yarn options will be available.  Splendor, Aurora & Nimbus have varying stock amounts left, I expect them to last through Fall but when they are gone, that will be the end of them. There is more of all of these bases waiting for color, besides what is in the shop now and as I type shipments are heading to & scheduled for some amazing LYSs.  So pretty, pretty please for my sanity and yours make sure to buy sufficient amounts to finish your projects. Emails that end in sad face emoticons make me have a sad face, especially when there isn't anything I can do to help.

I'm still proud of these yarns, think they are as lovely as ever and hope you'll help me give them a great send off.  I know some of you will be disappointed to see these yarns go. 

Please know, these yarns are leaving to make room for some new and truly, in this yarn lover's humble opinion, beautiful new yarn I'll be releasing one style at a time over the next few months.  Yarn that is made here in the US from sheep (or goat!) to skein. Yarn that not only will help my business flourish, but will do their tiny part to keep mills here in the US running, truckers driving wool across the country and sustain the farmers that raise healthy, well cared for animals by doing the (almost literal) yeoman's work required.

Thank you all for all your support over the last five years and for taking this journey with me.  I could not do what I'm doing without you. I hope you love the new yarns even half as much as I do.

Saturday, February 2

New Stuff (even on Groundhog Day)

Shameless, I know. Who can resist a post that starts with a tiny lamb face?  This lovely creature is Cassiopeia and she was born a couple weeks ago at White Barn Farm.  I had the chance to meet her and some of her flock last week when Paula kind enough to loan me and some friends her lovely pastures as back drop for a photo shoot.

Diesel, the newest ram on the farm getting his 15 minutes.

Thea Coughlin came down from Albany to shoot a new shawl I finished along with some other projects that aren't mine and still under wraps...It was a cold but super fun day, I love being at White Barn and it was such a nice treat to see Thea in between Squam Art Workshop sessions!

The pattern for the shawl, Triad,  is now available and even enjoyed a some time in the Top 20 on Ravelry! I made mine with 3 skeins of Mohonk in Mourning Dove, Straw Into Gold & Rusty.

Because combioning color is one of my favorite things to do, I thought I'd put together this little chart of possible color combinations I think would be great. All of these work whether you read them across or down.

I can't wait to see what everyone making the shawl chooses for their colors! Are you making Triad? What colors did you pick?

If you missed the announcement, I am super psyched to be heading off to Portland to spend the Rose City Yarn Crawl (3/1-3/3) at one of my favorite far away LYSs Happy Knits, if you are in the Portland area, please come & say hi!