Crochet Circular Cast on

Crochet Circular Cast on

The intoxicating inspiration of FiberCamp 2014 spawned new project ideas, friendships and improved techniques in crochet, sewing and knitting.

In heady fumes of the moment, I imagined writing several blog posts about the weekend. In reality, I’ve only written on Tactile Travel. Erin from Knitting in Beantown has a lovely round up from her perspective.  Any one else? I’d love links to your impressions.

One of the weekend highlights was the Designer Showcase, organized by Julia Farwell-Clay. The Guild did a fabulous job spotlighting this Handknit Runway. Now that I’m finally writing, I’m sure I could go on and on and on…


Today I want to share the great way Jennifer creates a circular start in crochet. I’ve traditionally started granny squares or other circular items by chaining a few stitches, linking the chain to create a circle, then beginning the first round. There’s always been a gap in the center of the circle, but Jennifer’s method makes a nice tight beginning. Watch this!

P.S. Jennifer, if you have a web site or other way we can credit you, shout it out!



Cool, Baby: MFA’s Hippie Chic

Cool, Baby: MFA’s Hippie Chic

Did you catch it yet? It’s a total trip that I really dig. The Museum of Fine Art’s Hippie Chic fashion exhibit is a blast from the past.

The fifty-three outfits span the 1960s and 70s and are curated into five themes according to influence.  The installation is super, complete with a juke box full of period music. Frequently, you can the view the garments from several angles which I appreciated. The enthusiasm of the time period radiated, as suddenly I loved the shag carpet in neon colors on round go go platforms!

Hippie Chic is on view until November 11, 2013, so there’s still plenty of time to soak it up.  Meanwhile, the MFA web site has great features to whet your anticipation.  There’s even a fab game (this coming from some one who would rather do just about anything than play games on her computer!) where you create your own album cover.

Don’t miss this fun exhibit! I heartily recommend soaking it up as soon as possible, then heading back to Lauren Whitley’s gallery talk on November 7.

Textilfilia excited about Hippie Chic at the MFA Boston

Love the dress!

Learn Knitting Skills in Melrose

The Melrose Adult Education program list is growing by leaps and bounds this spring!  There’s opportunities to learn about painting, acting, business skills, interior design and craft.  Yours truly will lead two sessions on basic knitting skills, a lecture on how to make a duct tape mannequin and fair isle (stranded) knitting skills.  To register, go the Melrose Adult Education Office for the full schedule and registration forms.  Here’s class summaries for the sessions I’m leading:

  • Basic Knitting Skills: Learn 2 ways to cast on, to knit, to purl, and how to bind off. Understand some of the most common abbreviations in knitting patterns and get ready to work on a basic knitting project! Bring light colored, smooth (no novelty yarns, please) worsted or bulky weight yarn and appropriate size of knitting needle. With your MCAE registration confirmation  Sit ‘n Knit Melrose offers 10% discount on your class supplies. 7 – 8:30 p.m. Offered on Mondays April 1 & 8 and May 6 & 13, 2013. COST: $25.00
  • Make Your Own Duct Tape Mannequin:   A dressmaker’s mannequin is a helpful tool for sewists, knitters and crocheters. Ideally, it fits your body and your pocketbook! For many hobby garment makers, a duct tape mannequin is the perfect solution. This power point presentation and demonstration helps you and a couple of friends create your own duct tape mannequins. Handouts will help remind you of the steps when you try this at home. Monday, April 22, 2013  Time: 7:00 – 8:30, COST: $10.00
  • Fair Isle Knitting: Knitting with more than one color at a time creates classic or contemporary accents in your projects. Learn Fair Isle (also known as stranded) knitting techniques using English and Continental methods and read charts. Bright 3 contrasting colors of worsted weight yarns and appropriate sized knitting needles (if you’re comfortable working with double pointed or the “Magic Loop” circular knitting, fantastic!  If not, you can learn with straight needles (Monday, April 29, 2013) Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. COST: $25.00

All classes are held at the Milano Senior Center in Melrose, 201 West Foster St.  I hear that you’ll soon be able to register online, and I’ll keep you updated.

My first online yarn purchase: Miss Babbs

Living in the Boston area, wool lovers are spoiled with more than 20 local yarn stores (lys), multiple sheep and wool festivals and a bevy of fairs where you can find independent dyers tempting us with luscious fiber and colors. My yarn stash does just fine without purchasing yarn online.  Even Webs, that jumbo online yarn emporium with the amazing back room, is only 2 hours away.  Why buy online when there’s beauty all around you?

During the 2011 pilgrimage to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY, I had a mission: find yarn to knit a cardigan for my daughter, who had texted a picture of something she saw in a a very posh shop.  “Mom, could you make this but in purple?”  Rhinebeck is a perfect blend of wool, food, and animals (the leaping llama contest is my favorite) mixed with crowds wearing wonderful hand made garments and Ravelry pins.Rhinebeck_yarn_shop

After much yarn handling, the alluring  Miss Babs  Yowsa super wash merino wool, color Clematis fit the bill.  I invested in 3 skeins, or 1680 yards of the lovely yarn.  Way  more than I needed, but 2 skeins would limit the design possibilities.  What a treat to touch Miss Babbs’ yarn after reading about their marvelous color ways online!

The following week, I traveled to Italy to work on future Tactile Travel tours and meet up with clients Giardini di Sole.  The long flight, train time would give me good knitting stretches.  Like many knitters, I don’t want to be caught without a project or twelve in the suitcase!  So I packed 2 of the skeins, my design notebook, a variety of needles and set off for Italy! The pattern and knitting proceeded quickly, but I only used one skein during the week.  Imagine my dismay when the other ball of Yowsa rolled under the bed at a friend’s house on my last night!  Theresa said she would send it via post.  Initially, I was reluctant to agree…. the Italian post office was not always reliable and perhaps I could finish the sweater in only 2 skeins.  Eventually I asked her to send it, and the wait began.

I wait, and waited and waited.  Two month later, I emailed Theresa, who said that the tracking said the package was  delivered three weeks after she sent it, sigh.

Checking Miss Babs online marketplace, I didn’t find the Clematis colorway.  Eventually I searched stashes of Ravelry users, hoping there was some leftover Clematis languishing.  Sympathetic negative responses yielded no results. Finally, Clematis appeared in her shop again.  I sent a sample of the yarn I used, hoping the dye lots would be a good match, and last September, I found a rumpled package on my doorstep.2012-10-09 21:44:48 +0000

“What on earth is this?” forgetting that the yarn might be on the way.  The return address label didn’t give many clues, so imagine my delight when I opened this tissue covered confection, complete with a stitch marker and sample of new yarn. Knit with Miss Babs Yowza This was my first online yarn experience, a fabulous customer experience and a sweater that my daughter now wears several times a week!
Alanna Nelson hand knit sweater
hand knit sweater by Alanna Nelson
Huzzah to Miss Babs!


FiberCamp Boston 2013

Did you think I was on the sofa, eating bon bons and watching “Downton Abby“?  Mais, non!  (Alright, I did spend the last two Sunday evenings with knitting and hot chocolate, watching season 3).  Fabric and yarn excitement and shifting priorities made the last three months simply sizzle.

Currently, the waning fireworks are from the Common Cod Fiber Guild’s Ignite Craft and FiberCamp… three days of creative energy, company and the opportunity to share with others.  On Friday night, I spoke at Ignite about the wonders of FiberCamp.

Ignite Craft 2013 speakers

All eyes on Guido Stein as we prepare for IgniteCraft Boston 2013.

I offered to facilitate three sessions at the FiberCamp  itself:

  • Making a Log Cabin Quilt Block (here’s my handout CreateLogCabinBlock)
  • Creating a Duct Tape Mannequin
  • Fair Isle Knitting (I had no idea there was such trepidation about this topic!)

FiberCamp 2013 SewingThere was also time to show Sheeri around her new sewing machine, fetch coffee, label rooms, browse the pop up vendors like Dirty Water Dyeworks (a skein from Stephanie is a FiberCamp tradition!), pick up that incredibly crazy “52 Pick Up” pattern from Fallingblox and some teal hand spun from SnowMoon3.

Good thing stash reduction was not a New Year’s resolution.

I treasured the session led by Jen Stark of BlueAlvarez, where she shared the Excel spreadsheet she’d developed to streamline pattern grading for knitwear design.  Jen is a creative and thorough designer who has experience, education and “the eye.”  Fit, function and statement flow from her designs.  Wow!  The SAORI Weaving session was at the same time, and I thought perhaps I would follow the “rule of 2 feet” and try to stop by both sessions, but I was totally absorbed with the possibilities and ease for sweater design.  What a great session Jen led.

Thank goodness I was able to enjoy Mihoko’s presentation the night before at Ignite Craft… I’ll be sure to share the video when it is posted.

Amy King of Spunky Eclectic led a bunch of sessions on Saturday and I managed to catch a bit of making patterns from existing clothing.  I have, on occasion, been burned by mistakes while doing this.  Most of these could have been avoided by placing my pattern paper on top of a soft surface (say carpet) and pricking important lines with T pins.  Now why hadn’t  I ever thought of that?
Amy King at FiberCamp 2013 Whatever the session, it was fun to dive in and see what might happen next. I crocheted aliens, overheard tips on thrummed mittens, and just enjoyed the company of the other FiberCampers.

Now it’s back to my regularly programmed life and posting about other fiberlicious projects in my studio.

Christmas in August Stockings

When I worked as a seasonal ranger for the National Park Service, August 25 was a great excuse for a party.  Dubbed “Christmas in August”, we enjoyed more of each other’s company  with a dose of Christmas cooking and perhaps a small present or two. When you live in a transient, isolated small community, hanging out together is a pretty popular activity.  Most of us wouldn’t be together for the winter holiday and the summer season was beginning to wind down. While there might be mulled cider at “Christmas in December,” there never were stockings and Saint Nick wasn’t even discussed.

Crater Lake National Park, OR

Thanks to the NPS for this aerial view.

Now that you know this little tidbit about me, you can understand why debuting a Christmas stocking pattern in late August  isn’t so crazy.  It gives you plenty of time for you to knit up a couple for this Christmas.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to reproduce Christmas stockings for a Stoneham, MA family.  When their girls were small, a neighbor had knit them each a stocking.  Now that the girls are women and building their own families, the parents wanted to add a stocking for the son in laws as well.  The original stocking was typical sock construction, with a seam up the back and an attached loop to hang from the chimney.  I altered the pattern to work the stocking in the round and incorporated the loop into the stocking itself.  For those who hate to seam, this is a simple stocking for you!

I’m planning to riff on this pattern for some color work holiday stockings, but click The Warren Christmas Stockings by Alanna Nelson for your own copy of this classic Christmas stocking to knit in worsted weight yarn.