Knitting with Paper

Have you ever knit with paper? I hadn’t until this week when I broke into a beautiful cone of ITO Urugami. I’ve always admired the ITO yarn at Knit Purl. The packaging is clean and simple, the colors are eye-catching, and the yarn content is very unique. What makes ITO’s Urugami yarn so special? It’s composed of a twisted, airy paper core that is wrapped in soft, fluffy wool.

The concept of knitting with paper and wool was difficult to wrap my brain around. What would I be able to make out of it? What would it look like once in fabric form? Would it turn into papier-mâché when introduced to water? These are a few questions that kept me admiring Urugami from afar—until this week.

I was once again gazing at Urugami as if it was a piece of fine art when I finally gave in and made the purchase. I had no project in mind for the yarn, I just needed to take it home and try it out. I was working on my Yoga Shawl when I decided to pick up my new sleek cone of Urugami and knit a simple stockinette swatch.

The yarn was nothing like how I expected. For some reason I thought it would feel like knitting with linen—slightly rough. This was not the case at all. The yarn was a little stiff when being unwound off the cone, but it was soft to the touch when being worked in my hands. The finished swatch was also not what I was expecting. I thought the paper core would cause it to not have any elasticity, but I was wrong. The fabric is stretchy and bouncy, with a nice drape, and clear stitch definition. I’m also happy to say that my swatch didn’t turn into a papier-mâché project gone wrong when I submerged it in water. The care label did say hand-wash, but I was doubtful, and then happily proven wrong.

Paper textiles have a long tradition in Japan, and they are very much like silk in that they're cooling in summer, and warming in winter. Knowing this helped me come up with my first project idea for Urugami. Last summer I made the Otherside tank out of Shibui Linen, and I’m now playing with the idea of making another using Urugami, with one small modification—making it into a dress. I’m also a little obsessed with the colorway Marine, and might have to knit a shawl/wrap before getting to my dress.

February 12, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

My Design Inspiration: Narangkar Glover

My name is Narangkar Glover and I’m an artist, arts educator and knitter. I created the color wheel works that are currently on display in the windows of Knit Purl.

The inspiration for much of my work usually starts with "what if." It’s a spark of curiosity that nags me until I do something about it. A while back, I wanted to know if I could apply scholastic color theory principles to bits of string. That is to say, would criss-crossing, or holding together two bits of string of different colors behave similarly to mixing two hues of paint?

I set out to create it in crewel embroidery work. I used single strands of the 12 hues, and criss-crossed them in varying fashions with white, grey and black in order to achieve the tones, tints and shades respectively. Turns out, the eye reads it just as if we are reading mixed pigment.

Color Wheel by Narangkar Glover, 2007, 16 x 16 inches, embroidery on jute

Then, about 3 years ago, I wanted to know if I could create the same thing in intarsia knitting, using Elizabeth Zimmerman's Pi Shawl formula. How would it look? Could I work it in the round? Or would I have to work it back and forth and make a seam? How would my seam look? What kind of yarn would be best suited for this? Should I hold my yarns together, or should I ply them with a drop-spindle? How would different stitch patterns, fibers, and subtle variations in the dye process effect the overall outcome?

It’s typical that I ask myself a lot of questions during the research phase. I make a lot of samples and mock-ups, similar to how swatching informs knitters about the feel of the fiber, the color interaction and its behavior as a fabric. The questions are both pragmatic and esoteric.

That is to say, I am not only concerned about how my work will be executed, but also what it will ultimately convey to my viewers. What objective minutia can I realistically implement in order for the subjective aspect—the content and the meaning that it carries—to be legible and clear.

Farbenkugel #1 by Narangkar Glover, 2016, 37 x 37 inches
hand-knitted mohair/silk yarn over plexiglass and wood lightbox
On view at Knit Purl until March 8th

Despite this seemingly exhaustive research process in all of my work—along with the trials, errors, and at times, the miserable failures—my enthusiasm for the straightforward, academic color wheel remains a constant. It was my favorite thing to do in school. It’s one of my favorite things to teach. It’s a go-to method for warming up. It helped me develop the discipline of beginning studio sessions with a color exercise.

I mix paint, create color palettes and I form them into a plan for what I might want to work on next. The world might never see it, but it’s an integral part of my process, and because of this it has an intimacy and familiarity that is stabilizing and comforting.

In a broad sense, the academic color wheel signifies the language of visual art. It epitomizes and simplifies the artistic process, and equalizes the disciplines. Its circular (or spherical) form is codified and speaks to an almost immutable semiotics of color, and therefore points to our common perception. It fills a space for a conceptual self-reflexivity and in the end, the specificity of it speaks to art itself, and to the dialectic between form and concept.

If my inspiration is a kernel, a "what if," then the fuel for that inspiration is this dialectic. I’m routinely drawn to the tug between the tactile and the cerebral, and their convergence that then forms a singular, crystalized idea.

Thanks for reading, and if you are in the Portland, Oregon area, I hope you get a chance to stop by Knit Purl to see my windows in person. Ciao!

Farbenkugel #2 by Narangkar Glover, 2016, 16 inches (diameter),
hand-knitted mohair/silk yarn over paper and wire lamp
On view at Knit Purl until March 8th

More of Narangkar’s work can be seen at http://www.narangkar.com
Or follow @narangkar on instagram, twitter, and tumblr.

February 08, 2016 by Guest Blogger

Tranquility in a Color Palette

Whenever I see a color or colors that catch my eye, it’s like a firework display goes off in my mind. When I experience these fireworks, I take a mental image of the scene and colors to either later inspire me creatively or to use as a meditative tool.

The fuchsia bougainvillea tree in front of my grandparent’s stark white Mediterranean-style home in San Francisco is always an image I refer to when seeking color inspiration, and the vibrant blue wall at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City is a memory I go and visit when I need a calming mental moment.

© Pantone LLC

Being that I love color, I was excited to see Pantone’s color(s) of the year, and this year they did something different. They went with two colors: Rose Quartz and Serenity. Rose Quartz is a pale pink and Serenity is a cool, light blue. Together they reflect connection, wellness, and a soothing sense of tranquility.

[Copper Bamboo, left, and Risoni, right]

Colors tend to have an emotional effect on me, and I love the idea Pantone had of coming up with two colors that are meant to give everyone a sense of calm. After I finish knitting the Yoga Shawl, which is a nice meditative knit, I plan on using Serenity to knit the Sanagi Dress, my first spring knit of the year. I’m hoping that the Sanagi Dress and color therapy will keep me centered and at peace this spring while I fight off allergies.

 

February 05, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Spotlight on Vegan Yarns

In New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada you will find the home studio of Heidi and Jeremy, the dynamic duo behind Vegan Yarns. They spend their time in their studio dyeing yarn. What kind of yarn? Beautiful, environmentally friendly, vegan yarn.

When Heidi Braacx first started to get into knitting, she would frequent the local yarn stores in search of vegan yarn. Sadly, whenever she would ask if they carried any she would get shown to the “Acrylic Wall of Shame”.

Seeing an opportunity for a fun project, Heidi took a class in spinning yarn. Using this new skill and her previous experience dyeing fabric as a costuming and set decoration seamstress, Heidi started to dye and spin a variety of cruelty-free and sustainable fibers. In 2009, Heidi listed her first small batch of hand-dyed and hand-spun yarn online, and Vegan Yarns started to come to life.

“I've learned so much since then, mostly trial and error, and now this has become something I look forward to doing every day," Heidi says. "I feel so lucky to be able to do something I find so satisfying, which is also so much appreciated by other people at the same time.”

The time, detail, and love Vegan Yarns puts into their dyeing process does not go unnoticed. Here at Knit Purl, we carry Arcturus Worsted, a silky smooth, ever-so-slightly variegated, half Pima cotton and half Oro Blanco Tanquis cotton yarn.

Arcturus starts its journey with a good scouring, followed by being mordanted twice with natural items such as mayrobalan, oak tannin, and alum, then it meets the "tea" bath (this is made with the plant used for dyeing). And finally, once the yarn is dry, it is given a decent thwacking. This process can take anywhere from three days to two weeks, but the results are worth it.

“We work mindfully to create beautiful things that exist for more than their own sake, that do not exist at the expense of someone’s happiness but as works of art that are made of freedom, compassion and joy,” Heidi says.

It might be a little early, but I already have a few spring projects in mind for Arcturus Worsted:

February 01, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Bundles of Crochet

I’ve found many vintage treasures in my mom’s closet throughout the years. One of my favorite and most treasured finds is a crochet dress that my aunt made in the 60s. I’ve worn the dress every summer ever since I pried the dress out of my mom’s hands. This dress was my introduction into the world of yarn and my admiration for all things crochet.

    

Recently, while perusing Ravelry, I landed on the page of an amazingly talented knitter and crocheter, Alina. I was looking at her projects when I saw her First Crochet Dress. Swoon! The details were perfect. A simple dress with intricate details on the back and neck. This is the dress that made the need to learn how to crochet a must.

My goal is to pick up a hook this summer and crochet my first project. I’ll probably stick to something a little less ambitious than one of Alina’s dresses, I’m thinking some fingerless mittens. To keep me on track, I’ve started to put together a bundle in Ravelry of all the crochet projects that I either want to make or that motivate me. I’ve also added the Knit Purl Crochet bundle to my bundle, I’m on a bundling craze. Needless to say when summer hits, I won’t be lacking inspiration.

If you’ve never created a bundle in Ravelry, here are a few simple steps:

  • Find a project that makes you see hearts in your eyes.
  • Add the project to your favorites.
  • When the pop-up appears click on Create a Bundle.
  • Give your Bundle a name (something that describes it or maybe a fun name). Mine is called Crochet Me Maybe, after the song Call Me Maybe.
  • Click create and then save.

Now you have your first bundle, and you can add as many projects to it as you desire. There is also a great post called Bundle all the Things! on Ravelry, if you want a little extra inspiration.

Happy bundling and crocheting!

 

January 29, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Rose City Yarn Mystery Knit Along

Who is ready for the Rose City Mystery Knit Along? The first clue comes out on Wednesday and I’m really excited since this is my first MKAL. Being a MKAL newbie I’ve been reading the 2016 MKAL and MCAL Pre-Clue Discussion! post on the Rose City Yarn Crawl Ravelry group. It’s been a great resource since many people have been posting color combination ideas and the designers have been answering all questions.

A few clues have been provided to help when it comes to picking out yarns.

  1. It’s a cowl.
  2. There is a main color and a contrast color.
  3. The lovely description on how to pick out the MC and CC. This is what sold me on joining in on the fun:
    “Think of the main color as the road you travel, where you make your tracks. Will it be over wooded trails, urban streets, grass, concrete, sand? Choose a yarn that will show texture and pattern. Tonal colorways or solids, not extremely dark, will work best. Imagine the contrasting color as something curious or brilliant you see on your bike ride. The gem tones of fall leaves, colors in coffee shop windows or the subtle variegation of light reflected in a stream.”
    Can all patterns come with lovely descriptions on how to pick colors?

Thanks to those three helpful hints, I’ve narrowed my pairings down to three options.

 

Big Pink: Sunday Knits Angelic in Smoke (MC) and Melon (CC). When I saw these two colors together, it made me think of being on I-84 when the setting sun hits Big Pink just right.

 

Coastal Retreat: Sunday Knits Nirvana in Ocean (MC) and Rain (CC). This made me think of the coast right after a storm when the first sunray breaks through the clouds. If I go with this color pairing, I will do a textured swatch first to make sure that the stitches will be visible in Ocean. If they aren’t as noticeable, I will make Rain the MC.

 

Into the Woods: Sunday Knits Eden in Garnet (MC) and Bronze (CC). These two colors made me think of going on my first hike right before spring hits. When the ground is still muddy from all the rain and the bright colors are just ever so slightly starting to pop-up. Depending on how the CC is used in this cowl, I feel as though these two colors could really work out nicely together.

Now comes the hard part—making a decision!

If you are joining in on the MKAL or MCAL, please share your color choices. We would love to see all the amazing pairings!

 

January 25, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Brooklyn Tweed: Winter 2016 Collection

The Brooklyn Tweed Winter 2016 collection came out last week, and I’m in cardigan heaven! I’m not sure if it’s because I’m really lacking a good cardigan in my life, but my top three favorites from the collection all happen to be cardigans. Leave it to all the talented designers that work with Brooklyn Tweed to make me want to stop all my other knitting projects and start on these.

Corvid: Two words: power cardigan. I want to stomp, pose, and twirl in this. I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect cardigan for work, running around town, and lounging at home, and I found it, now I just need to make it. I would typically want to knit this in Cast Iron, but I’m seriously thinking about knitting Corvid in Homemade Jam.

Intersect: Hello there, classy. I will make you in every color of Loft and wear you when I want to feel sophisticated and chic—so, all the time.

Snoqualmie: Michele Wang outdid herself. The cable work on Snoqualmie is beyond dreamy. Ladies, it’s time to retire your grandpa sweaters and upgrade to the epitome of cozy cardigans.

Riptide: Yes, I know. Riptide is not a cardigan, but I had to mention it because of the amazing brioche cowl and because I love all chunky knits. Talk about turtleneck upgrade! I want to live in this sweater.

Which pattern is your favorite? I know it’s hard to pick one, I couldn’t even stick to three.

 

January 22, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

My Design Inspiration: Melanie Berg

We're big fans of German designer Melanie Berg here at Knit Purl. We've featured her patterns in numerous kits, and are always excited when she comes out with a new pattern—her designs are so beautiful. So we were thrilled to be able to offer a series of workshops with her in early February. She was able to take some time out of her busy schedule to share some of her design and inspiration process with us, before coming in to teach in person.

Hello, dear readers of the Knit Purl blog! Melanie Berg here. We thought with my upcoming workshops at Knit Purl, it would be nice to introduce myself and to tell you a little about my work and inspiration.

I'm a knitwear designer from Bonn, Germany, and I live together with my husband and three little kids in a house that's well filled with yarn, knitting needles, and all kinds of crafty books.

One of the questions I get asked a lot is where I draw my inspiration from, so let me tell you a bit about this.

I love starting to think about a new project with a concrete yarn in mind already. There's nothing better than having the yarn at hand, being able to look at it, to touch and smell it, and to enjoy its colors in crisp sunlight. What I often do is put some skeins of yarn into a nice, bright bowl and place it at some prominent spot in our living room—that way, I walk past it several times a day, giving this new project a lot of time to grow into a concrete idea. And some projects need time to develop, you know?

Time is an important factor anyway. Sometimes I need a little pressure, like an approaching deadline, to kick me off on a project, but sometimes it's just wonderful to have the opportunity to freely decide about the perfect point of time for casting on. Will it be today, or in a year? The good thing about yarn is it can't run away!

Do you have a paper notebook you use for writing down everything you want to keep in mind? I have one for everything knitting related! Sometimes, when I have some spare moments, I get my notebook (or rather let's say, one of them, as there are many!) out and start sketching down some ideas. Sometimes I'll just doodle away! And sometimes I don't come up with anything useful—that happens, too!

What's definitely helpful is to have a box of art supplies at hand to help you color your ideas. It might be watercolors, pencils or markers—anything that you find easy to work with and that you like playing around with. And don't be afraid of drawing poorly or “making mistakes”—there are no mistakes in painting! If you're open to allow for the “creative mess” to happen, that's when inspiration is at its best.

So, I really like to re-visit these notebooks from time to time, to skim through and look at old ideas with a fresh mind. Sometimes I discover ideas I had discarded earlier.

And I love looking at fashion! I find it fascinating to see what's hot in Haute Couture, or what people wear on the street. This is a never-ending source of elation for me and it gets my mind working. What else could you do with a certain textured fabric? The colors on this coat go so well together—wouldn't they work for a shawl, too? And look at this fit —I wonder if I could transform this into a hand-knit garment....

So, to bring this to a close and to motivate you to discover and dive into your own ideas: As in any art, there is no right and no wrong in knitting. Anything is allowed, and it's wonderful to have the opportunity to play with yarn and to experiment with it. Don't be afraid to go and try things out. Make a lot of swatches and get a feeling for how a certain yarn behaves!

After all, the very worst thing that can possibly happen is that you don't like the result. And in this case, you can always start over. :)

_____________________________________________________________________ 

Thank you so much, Melanie! We can't wait to meet you in person next month!

For more of her inspiring words and images, check out her blog and Instagram.

 

All images © Melanie Berg

January 18, 2016 by Guest Blogger

Where Does Your Yarn Come From?

Where does your yarn come from? Does it come from sheep that frolic in Wyoming? Or maybe it comes from alpacas that graze on Block Island? Knowing where your yarn comes from allows you to be a more thoughtful purchaser and makes you more aware of the choices you have out there.

When I first started knitting, I didn’t take the time to look into where my yarn was coming from. I would make my purchase based on color, how soft to the touch the yarn was, and price. I also thought that the only “good” yarn that existed came from some far off location that would take a journey to get to. I had no idea about all the amazing yarn that is made right here in the United States.

I can’t remember the exact chain of events, but out of nowhere I started to heavily research yarn. I wanted to know the story behind where my yarn was coming from, so I started to visit the “About Us” page on yarn companies’ websites I was interested in, so that I could gain knowledge and educate myself. In doing this, it opened up my eyes to how thoughtful many yarn companies are when it comes to sourcing, dyeing, and spinning their yarn. It also introduced me to many yarn companies that are 100% made in the USA.  

Here are a few yarns we carry that are made in the USA:

Brooklyn Tweed: Patterns and yarn?! Oh my! Not only does Brooklyn Tweed have amazing patterns (their new Winter 2016 collection came out today), but they also have beautiful lofty (no pun intended) yarn.  Their yarn is sourced, dyed, and spun within the USA and they have a passion to produce American yarns that preserve, support, and sustain the tradition of U.S. textile production.

Swans Island: All American Collection. Swans Island uses Rambouillet wool from western American ranches that is scoured and spun at the oldest woolen-spun mill in the US, and later hand-dyed in their Northport studio. If you are in need of pattern ideas for this yarn, look no further. The new swoon-worthy book, Swoon Maine, is made for this yarn!

North Light Fibers: One stop shop. North Light Fibers is a little gem on Block Island, RI. Their yarn comes from the farm that surrounds their mill where they tumble, wash, pick, dye, de-hair, card, spin, ply, and finish all their yarns. I also recently wrote a post on North Light Fibers if you would like to learn more about them.

As nerdy as this may be, I now love spending time reading up on yarn companies. I enjoy reading all the stories that are shared on how and why they started their business and all the information that is shared on how their yarns are produced.

 

January 13, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Knit Care

There is nothing more frustrating than looking at the care label on a garment and trying to decipher the hieroglyphic symbols. I used to let the words “hand wash only” deter me from purchasing certain yarn. Eventually common sense took a hold of me and I realized that hand-washing a garment and letting it dry flat is not difficult. If I can block a knit garment, I can hand-wash one!

When I started to look at hand-washing as blocking with a little bit of detergent, my whole outlook changed. I now really enjoy hand-washing all my knits and find the process enjoyable and even therapeutic. I think it has to do with my short and easy process. Soak knits, do a little gentle swishing, rinse, lightly squeeze excess water out, and lay flat to dry. Repeat when I accidently drop food on my sweater (this happens more than I would like to admit).

If you would like more in depth directions on how to hand-wash your woolen goodies, Martha Stewart has a great little write-up. We also have a fantastic Sweater Care Kit by Cocoknits with easy instructions on how to hand-wash your sweaters.

 

January 08, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin