Workshops Aside

Wondering where to find me in your neighborhood for the rest of this year? Here’s a handy list:

March 27-29, Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival — I’ll be teaching several workshops and signing books at the SpaceCadet booth. Oh, and I’ll be on the judging panel for the fashion show!

April 17-19, Loveland, CO: Interweave Yarn Fest — I’ll be teaching several workshops and signing books at the Bijou Basin Ranch booth

April 23-25, Nashville, TN: Stitches South — I’ll be teaching several workshops and signing books at The Buffalo Wool Co booth

August 6-8, Schaumburg, IL: Stitches Midwest — I’ll be teaching several workshops; book signing TBA.

September 17-20, Irving, TX: Stitches Texas — I’ll be teaching several workshops, book signing TBA.

For more specifics, please visit my Events Calendar! More appearances will be added as I schedule them …

New Pattern: Heartbound

As we approach my Spring teaching season, it occurs to me that I’m teaching a number of instances of Double-Knitting Cables — but nobody has a reason to take the class because there’s a sum total of maybe 3 double-knit cable patterns out there. I have a double-knit cabled hat that I’m working on, but it’s not ready for primetime yet — so I decided to make a slightly foreshortened version of it in the form of a headband.

Heartbound headbandHeartbound is a lovely continuous-cable design that looks something like interlocking hearts — hence the name. The opposite side, of course, is the same in reversed colors. You can see it modeled the other way around here — and a sample shot of it here. It’s worked in Jaggerspun Green Line and Heather 3/8 sportweight, and the hat will also be done in that yarn. Don’t know how to do double-knit cables? No big shock. The methods I use are different from those I’ve seen before and I document them to some degree in this pattern — although there will be much more complete explanations for the technique in my new book (but that’s still some time away). I also plan to release some videos for double-knit cables with and without a cable needle but that’ll have to wait until I have time. In the meantime, I’m teaching double-knit cable workshops at Stitches West, Harrisville Designs, Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival, and Interweave Yarn Fest this Spring.

I really want to do a shout-out here to Andi Smith, who’s a fellow Cooperative Press author currently working on two-color cables. Hers aren’t reversible, of course, but there are obvious similarities. From looking at her charts, I realized that the way I had originally set up this pattern was not the cleanest possible way, and using techniques adapted from Andi’s charts I was able to get the cables looking and acting the way I wanted. The caveat: not many rest rows. But the end result is stunning, and I look forward to using the techniques more in the future. Andi is also the author of Big Foot Knits, a sock book for people with normal human feet.

Speaking of Cooperative Press, we (my fellow authors and I) have been working on signal-boosting each other’s work for the 2 weeks from the beginning of February to Valentine’s Day. It’s called the #shareCPlove promotion and if you follow me anywhere else you may have seen it. There’s not much time left in the promotion, but if you like indie designers and want to help us succeed (in general, not with anything specific), you can still give us a hand by using that hashtag and joining the CP mailing list. You can check out more about the promotion here. You might even win some cash.

Cookbook Challenge: Slow-Cooker Channa Saag

Today on my way out of work, someone stopped me and said “I heard you like to cook Indian food, and you have a blog …” Well, yes — both of these things are true, but for the past several months they haven’t necessarily been related. I can fix that …

You may (or may not) remember the cookbook challenge — my wife challenged me to make one recipe out of each cookbook in my library before the end of 2014, or forfeit the cookbook. The challenge is done and I have not been as diligently recording it as I should have. However, I have this old post that I had meant to make back in July when I cooked it last.

indian-slow-cookerChanna Saag is the dish I credit with getting me to eat spinach. I don’t like spinach. The smell, the bitter taste, it’s just not something I enjoy. However, when it’s pureed with spices and garlic and ginger and cream, it’s delicious. Perhaps it’s not so important that it’s spinach at that point. It could be any dark leafy green. Heck, it could be cardboard (well, maybe not). Indeed, while most Indian restaurants will have you believe that “saag” = “spinach”, this isn’t strictly true. Saag is a method of preparing greens, and a dish made that way. As a matter of fact, the saag I like to make in my slow-cooker is half spinach, half mustard greens. Also, you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s a healthy dish, so loaded with greens and garlic and ginger. But most of the time, it’s sauteed in ghee and finished with cream. It’s a fairly decadent dish, really. Which is why the prospect of making it in a 6-quart slow cooker is kind of terrifying.

Oh, and channa? Those are chickpeas, garbanzo beans, whatever you call them. In India, they use a slightly different species that’s smaller and darker — but it’s easier to get the canned ones for this purpose.

As much as I like decadent food, I also know that I can’t afford to eat too much of it at one time. Which is why I love The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla. See, here’s the thing about slow-cooking. Sure, it takes longer — but you can get the effects of frying things in butter and oil without the butter or oil. The saag recipe I used is vegan, for heaven’s sake. Not that I care about that, but it does make it easier to take to potlucks.

052614-saag

Sad to say, I don’t have any photos of it after it’s done. But you can imagine a mottled deep green paste with little flesh-colored balls floating around in it. Not the most appetizing image in the world — but so tasty!

Channa Sarson ka Saag

  • 1 lb mustard greens
  • 1 lb spinach
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2″ piece of ginger, chopped
  • 15 cloves of garlic (or 2.5 Tbsp minced garlic)
  • 7 Thai or Indian green chilis
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander seed
  • 2 Tbsp cornmeal
  • 1.5 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 29-oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Put all the ingredients except the garam masala and chickpeas in a 5 or 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours. Puree the resulting “mush” with an immersion blender (or dump it in a heat-tolerant blender with a little extra water if necessary, puree and return to the pot). Add the garam masala and the chickpeas and cook on low for 1 more hour.

That’s all! Add salt to taste (I’ve never found it needs any more than this) and enjoy over rice, cornbread or with fresh-made rotis. If you give this a shot and love it, I highly recommend you grab the book and try some others!

Charts & Graphs & Bears, Oh my!

It’s been a month (to the day) since my birthday, and you may remember that I put out a code that was active for that day only to allow anyone to get one of my patterns for free. Today, I’m posting the results of that craziness.

WIH-sale-piechartThe code only applied to patterns which are fully “mine” — i.e. patterns owned by Cooperative Press as part of Extreme Double-Knitting didn’t apply (except for Falling Blocks, which was released before the book). This meant, however, that all of my most in-demand patterns were free during that one day. Each customer could pick one and only one — although I don’t doubt there were people who used devious means to get more than one.

I posted only to a few places — my own Ravelry group, my Facebook page, and my mailing list. I did, however, ask people to feel free to share/forward the message elsewhere on their own. To this day I still have no idea where the posts were shared, although I suspect someone posted to /r/knitting.

I expected, given typical post/email engagement rules, that maybe a few hundred people would use the code before it expired. Boy, was I wrong. At the end of the day, the total according to Ravelry stood at 2,469 individual uses of the code. I was shocked — but also excited. There was a good chance that among all those people, there were a good number who were new to me and my work. So I emailed them all (or as many as I could) and invited them to follow me. I got a lot of happy replies and a bunch more followers/subscribers on all my social media sites.

For those so inclined, here’s the “winterishere” promotion by the numbers:

The graph above shows how many of each pattern were acquired. In the lead, unsurprisingly, was the Parallax eBook — showing that people are practical about their free patterns, since this one is actually 5 patterns in one. More surprisingly, the next most popular were Spring Willow and Severn Thicket, both mid- to low-priced patterns. The least popular was the kClub edition of 52 Pickup. I blame the fact that I have not knit a full scarf out of that pattern so it’s hard for people to visualize it.

The total “value” of all the patterns taken, if they’d been paid for, would have been $20,130.20. That’s a big birthday gift! I take solace in the fact that the vast majority of the people who took a free pattern would probably not have bought the pattern at full price. It is, of course, my hope that they will buy full-price patterns from me in the future :>

Of the 2469 people who used the code, 21 of them bought another pattern along with the freebie.

Since I sent out my email blast to the 2212 people with legit email addresses, I have gotten 132 new subscribers to my mailing list, 79 new members in my Ravelry group, 122 new likes on my Facebook page, and some new followers on Google+ and Twitter (it’s harder to see dates there).

So when I sent out my announcements about Victorian Raffia, a pattern I was finishing around the time of my birthday, I was excited to be able to tell an even larger number of people about it. Imagine my surprise, after posting around to my usual places plus a couple of FB groups: the original post is approaching 26,000 views, over 400 likes, 149 shares and almost 60 comments. But those are metrics for another day.

Well, thanks for staying through this whole post! As a reward, here’s a sneak peek on a new pattern that should be coming out in the near future. Sorry for the questionable quality of the CO and edges; the final piece will be perfect (within reasonable limits).

dk-cables-sample

VATmess

To those of you in the EU wanting to purchase one of my patterns, you’re in luck! LoveKnitting has published all of my patterns; the links are now on my website’s patterns page or, if you’re in the EU, you should see purchase links to LK from the patterns’ Ravelry pages. I have removed all my digital patterns from non-VAT-honoring sites Craftsy and Etsy until they get their acts together — sorry.

If you don’t know why I’m changing things, you can check out this overview from Ravelry. There’s plenty more out there about it if you go looking.

Go off the grid with Victorian Raffia

Folks, it’s been a long time but Victorian Raffia is finally available for purchase. Kieran Foley and I decided to release this as a jointly-authored pattern and we hope you enjoy the results.VicRaffia-600

I’m just going to keep this brief and recommend you check out my previous blog post on the topic — all the creative-process stuff is laid out there. Thanks for your patience and I hope it’s worth the wait!

For a more complete look at the scarf, check out this photo too.

Winter Is Coming

I’m not going to make a big ad push, just sending this out on social networks and letting it percolate naturally. Visit my Fallingblox Designs store on Ravelry and use the code winteriscoming to get $2.00 off your purchase until Dec 31, 2014. Thanks for your interest in double-knitting!

In other news, I have confirmed a new Spring workshop weekend at the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival, March 27-29, 2015! This completes my four compass points — N(CO), E(PA), S(TN) and W(CA). I also have a weekend penciled in at Harrisville Designs in NH but will publicize that once it’s all settled.

Knit the forest for the trees

One of the things I look forward to in the winter is the stark, quiet beauty of the New England landscape after the leaves have fallen. Don’t get me wrong — I love autumn even more, for the colors and the perfect comfortable weather for knitting (inside or outside!) — but being from Vermont, winter holds a special significance for me. As a child, I’d treasure the silence while walking (or skiing) through the forest trails near my home, and the promise of a warm fire when I got home.

For obvious reasons, one pattern I really loved back when I started knitting was the classic Barbara Walker “Twin Trees II” (which I have erroneously called “Twining Trees” for a long time). I added my own touches to it, giving the trees a curved purl “hill” to stand on and an arching window around and above them to echo the shape of the hill and enclose them in the frame I felt they deserved. When I began working out double-knit cables, the trees made another appearance, and it was that swatch that Dianna at the Knitting Boutique gravitated to, asking me to write a pattern for her using these trees — but a simplified version, if possible.

What I came up with was a sort of reversal of the process I used to translate another pattern to cables — I translated the trees from cables to a simple colorwork chart, then began to play with further overlapping them so they could run all the way around something without any gaps.

Marianne1This cowl was the final product; Dianna has been selling it at her shop, using it to show off one of the yarns in her new yarn line, named “Severn” after the river in Maryland (although it could just as easily be the river in the UK). I decided to call it “Severn Thicket” since it looks like a cluster of trees. Of course, since I sent it to her in April, it got a wholly incongruous springtime backdrop in the photo — and since she has the finished object (and I am out of time to knit another myself) I was unable to take new shots. In the end, I decided it was better to use the shots I had (with Dianna’s permission, of course) when the pattern left exclusivity earlier this month. Since this shot is not the best for seeing the pattern (for the trees), here’s another shot.

Now, as to the price: I realize that by my current standards it’s a little high — but the price was set by the store and I don’t want to compete since they’re still selling it via their own methods. Unless the store lowers their price, I’m honor bound to keep it where it is.

In other news:

Next Spring (2015) will now officially be The Spring of the Big Shows for me. I have no other engagements, but registration is now open at all three events:

Also, NEXT WEEKEND I have workshops in the Boston area, at Seed Stitch in Salem on Nov 15th, and Stitch House in Dorchester on Nov 16th — I believe there is still space in both so please sign up if you’re interested.

Breaking my radio silence (and new ground)

I’ve been a bad little blogger (surprise surprise) but I have an excuse … I’ve been in “creative mode” for the past month or two, working on new ideas and, finally, I have a prototype for a new pattern.

Unfortunately, until the book is out, it only shows that this is possible and practical — there will be no instructions on it outside of the book for now. The sheer quantity of new techniques is going to make this piece prohibitively complex to release as a standalone pattern — sorry.

ferronnerie-1Without further ado, this is Ferronnerie. A French-named technique deserves a French-named pattern, and since this is double-knit entrelac, its name translates to “wrought-iron” in French. The yarn is Quince & Co Finch, and it takes less than a skein of each of 4 colors, even for the largest size. Check out the brim as well.

There are a number of unique things you can do with DK entrelac that you can’t (easily) do in standard entrelac, but I’ll describe those at a later date. In short, for a number of reasons, I feel like double-knitting is incredibly well-suited to entrelac and I hope this will open some new creative doors for other designers in the future.

As you may have seen in my previous post on double-knit entrelac, I had a number of hurdles to overcome before I could do this. It’s what kept me from working it out earlier — but now that I’m in “creative mode” I’m in the mindset to systematically resolve many problems. Documenting them is still sketchy, however. In order to do this piece, I had to work out double-knit invisible short rows, double-knitting backward, picking up stitches along edges, keeping all 4 edges of each diamond fully locked, decreasing the sizes of the diamonds appropriately to shape the closure properly, and creating a final closure that requires minimal seaming. As you can imagine, this will take a whole chapter in my new book to properly document. I look forward to it — but it’s going to be a while.

In other news

I have yet to schedule any LYS workshops for the Spring — if you know of any who’d be interested, please have them contact me — but in addition to the upcoming gigs this November and December, and the two big shows already scheduled for the Spring (see my previous post for dates), I’d like to announce that I’m now scheduled for ANOTHER big show: Stitches South in Nashville, TN, from April 23-26, 2015. I’ll post more upcoming dates once I’ve got them nailed down.

Fall 2014 Workshops and more

Over the span of my teaching career, I’ve noticed a pattern — I may have mentioned it to you before. In the Fall, as many people start to think about knitting again (I mean, some of us never stop … but you know what I mean), you’d think people would be excited to work on some extra-warm and fashionable double-knitted items. And perhaps double-knitters already are — but folks who don’t already know? They’re not up for it just yet.

I call it the Holiday Knitting Effect. I don’t teach project-based workshops, but in the Fall people are disproportionately knitting projects for gifts rather than stuff for their own use that may not have as firm of a deadline. So in the Fall, when I run workshops, I’m all about teaching people new techniques. They don’t want to hear it. Heads down, churning out hat after scarf after shawl, using the knowledge they already have and every ounce of speed they can muster (and a fair few curse words). And my workshops don’t fill up.

The Spring is a different story — having hit (or resigned themselves to missing) most of their deadlines, knitters will come out of hiding as early as January to learn new techniques. It may be too late to use them for anything that’ll be useful during that season — but those new techniques will come in handy sooner or later.

What does this mean for me and my double-knitting technique workshops? It means that I’m still willing and able to teach in the Fall, but shops and venues that have their fingers on the pulses of their clientele know that these classes may be a risk. So the shops that do run my Fall workshops are the ones that can reduce their risk in other ways — in other words, my local shops.

So, fellow northeasterners, I was all psyched up to let you know that I’d be teaching in 4 states this Fall, but NH and ME have bowed out until the Spring and I’m back to MA and NY again.

Of course, you can always check my events calendar for the latest listings but for your convenience here’s a rundown of my short Fall lineup. New Yorkers! pay special attention because this is very short notice!

  • Saturday, Sept 20. New York City, Knitty City, 9-12 Intro to Double-Knitting
  • Saturday, Sept 20. New York City, Knitty City, 1-4 Multi-Color Double-Knitting
  • Saturday, Nov 15. Salem, MA, Seed Stitch, 1-4 Intro to Double-Knitting
  • Sunday, Nov 15. Dorchester, MA, Stitch House, 9-12 Intro to Double-Knitting
  • Sunday, Nov 15. Dorchester, MA, Stitch House, 1-4 Advanced Double-Knitting (TBA)
  • Saturday, Dec 6. Salem, MA, Seed Stitch, 1-4 Multi-Color Double-Knitting

And for those of you who like to plan WAY ahead, I’ve got a couple of major gigs coming up in Spring 2015:

In other news …

fircone sachet

Earlier this year I submitted a neat little pattern to the Interweave Knits Gifts issue, and that issue should be hitting store shelves soon (I assume, since it just got posted to Ravelry). It’s called the Fir-Cone Sachet, and it’s a simple DK piece in Shetland wool that can be sewn together and stuffed with spare pine needles from your (or someone else’s) Christmas tree to keep that nostalgic aroma around well past the holidays. Double-knitting means that you can choose the face you prefer when you’re done and the double thickness means it doesn’t need to be lined before stuffing it. I hope you enjoy it!