Pro-Verbial Club: Nancy Marchant

Posted by Kristine Vejar on October 15, 2018 0 Comments

Are you a member of our Pro-Verbial Yarn, Fiber, & Shawl Club 2018-19?

If so, today, you are receiving your first of four shipments!

Our first design collaboration is with Nancy Marchant, largely considered The Queen of Brioche Knitting, has taken this style of knitting, experimented, and has created her own stitch patterns. This style of knitting, similar to knitting cables, is made up of a unique combination of stitches. Though the culmination of learning the technique and the vocabulary, you too can create fabric which is reversible, and very cozy, due to its squish-factor. Others who imbibe in the richness of brioche knitting include Stephen West and Andrea Mowry.

You can knit with one color while knitting brioche, however, we felt the need to take the opportunity to really stretch into brioche, so created two colors. We used madder root to create a deep orange, always one of my favorites and reminiscent of Autumn leaves. (You might recall Thai Iced Tea, a vintage Verb colorway.)  The second color is a natural creamy white named Weathered Wood.

The yarn for this shipment is Annapurna, a perennial favorite at Verb because it is soft as a bunny's ear. Well, this Summer we made it even softer. Annapurna used to have 10% nylon. We took this out (yay for plastic-free yarn!) and replaced it with 10% more cashmere.

Nancy took these two colors and created Deep Swell. Please check your in-boxes for your pattern. Yarn and fiber is shipping today. So check your mailboxes in the next day or so! 

This is our 9th year having the club! We are so excited to be on this journey with you - and hope you like today's design collaboration.

-- Kristine

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Stitch Exchange: Papa Sweater + Horizon Yarn

Posted by Kristine Vejar on March 15, 2018 2 Comments

Last September, we began receiving little hints from Japanese designer, Junko Okamoto, that she may be using a Verb yarn to create a new pattern. Tiny flashes of Verb yarn began appearing on her Instagram feed. Being a huge fan of Junko's work, my eyes widened. With great anticipation and curiosity, I watched and waited for new clues. Soon enough I learned she was indeed using Verb yarn. One of my favorites, due to its local providence (Sally Fox's farm) and woolly texture, Horizon.

I am drawn to Junko's designs because of how she plays with shape - oversized, balloon-shaped, puffed sleeves. She typically throws in some texture in the form of cables (and has used them for shaping, a technique I find ingenious), or a dash of colorwork (ok, sometimes a lot of colorwork, see Twigs). So what would she make with Horizon?

Papa Sweater! Junko emailed to let us know she was in the process of designing a sweater. She told us her inspiration was a child wearing an oversized sweater. The colorwork motif would be similar to a child's scribble of flowers. All of us in the dye studio ooohd' and ahhhh'd, loving the originality of her design. I mean if you are going to design a big, oversized sweater, why not throw some flowers on it to, right? Right!

Oh! And don't let me forget to mention, as far as I have seen from her many patterns I have downloaded, she offers one size. With all of the strides we knitters and knitwear designers have taken to disassemble and reassemble sweaters, and to debate with great fervor over what is the best way to knit a sweater for the best fit for your body type, I find this one size approach, which is essentially a blanket for your body, a welcome respite. No need to deliberate over which size I am! I get to focus on the yarn, swatch, and cast-on.

Since the release of this pattern, many people have asked me how difficult this sweater is to make, in terms of the colorwork. My understanding is that a lot of people are drawn to try colorwork for the first time, which is really exciting! The fact that this sweater only comes in one size plays in the knitter's favor in terms of colorwork. Because, if your gauge is off (a bit, and yes, you must do a swatch), it is not going to throw the fit of your sweater off. Whereas, if you are knitting a traditional Icelandic sweater, where the colorwork is typically in the yoke of the sweater, if your row gauge is off, at all, your yoke will be too long, and honestly, it will look strange. The fit will be off. The same is true if you make a colorwork hat or mittens (or god help us, socks), your stitch and row gauge must be absolutely accurate.

Fair enough, correct gauge when knitting colorwork is an absolute worthy goal. That said, when knitting colorwork, there are other techniques to perfect like making a beautiful fabric. So as you may know, when knitting colorwork, you are knitting with two strands of yarn. I knit with the yarn which I want to show up most clearly in my left hand, and the color which I want to fade into the background, with my right hand. I usually knit (a bastardized version of) continental, so it takes me a minute to adjust to using my right hand to knit. So just right there, a skill to practice and perfect.

Next skill: Managing your tension which knitting colorwork. When you are knitting with one of the yarns, you are carrying the other yarn with you, this yarn, as it lies behind the fabric, is called a float. It is important that your float mirrors the tension of the fabric you create when knitting. Otherwise, if you are pulling the float tightly on the backside of the sweater, the fabric on the front-side cannot block flat, and will pucker. Wool is stretchy - but not that stretchy. Some people say to carry your float loosely. Maybe. What I find most useful is to while I am knitting, when I get to a point where I am going to use the yarn in my left hand (in this case, the yarn I am using to knit the flower) to unbunch the fabric on my needle, so the fabric is relaxed and flat, I make sure my float's tension matches the same length as the fabric I have just knit. If anything, allow the float to be a little too loose. But matching is better. At first, I go slowly, and watch my tension in this way, then I find, once I get into the rhythm, I can just knit without doing that. However, I will every so often, stop, and check-in to make sure I haven't begun gathering my floats too tightly. ("Oh yeah, I am in the process of knitting! Not just zooming through to be able to wear the Papa - but I so badly just want to wear Papa - ok well then you are going to have a puckered Papa. Ok, fine I will slow down." This is basically the conversation in my head when I am knitting colorwork.)

Long floats. Papa does indeed have some long floats - in other words - long spaces between lines of the flowers. This tutorial and commentary on colorwork (aka stranded knitting) changed my life in the best way possible. One invaluable thing it taught me was how to catch my floats while knitting which makes long floats bearable. Yes! Read it over, I swear there are many good lessons. 

It helps that Horizon is forgiving due to its woolly texture. It nicely fills in little gaps here and there, between your knit stitches, creating solid fabric. Plus, it is made from really cute sheep, who are grow a myriad of colorful fleece. I like thinking about them while I knit.

Kits for the Papa Sweater are available here.

Let me know if you have any questions!

- Kristine

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Stitch Exchange: Evening Fog Cowl Pattern

Posted by Kristine Vejar on September 29, 2016 1 Comment

It's that time of year - when the fog rolls in a little bit earlier every day and lingers in the morning - creating a slight chill in the air. While it would be lovely to stay in bed under the covers, drinking tea, and reading a book, sometimes the world demands our attention and we must venture out. Bring a bit of your home's warmth with you, and wrap yourself in a woolly squishy cowl like this one: The Evening Fog Cowl. This cowl is extra big. You can either wear it tossed once around your neck. Or you can wrap it around your neck twice and get that extra cozy feeling.

The yarn used in this cowl is called Big Sky. You might recall a few years ago, we traveled to Montana to meet the farmer who raises this wool and to visit the sheep. It was an extraordinary trip. I am so happy to have this yarn as a memento and to carry a bit of that journey with me as I wear this cowl. This yarn is woollen spun. There are only two mills left in North America which have the capacity to make yarn like this. So while it is thick it is also light and warm.

This cowl is easy to make - and fast! A great project to make for yourself and for your friends!

56" circumference x 12.5" tall

7 stitches and 15 rows = 4", in seed stitch

A Verb for Keeping Warm Big Sky (100% Montana Targhee wool; 160 yards [100 g])

Color A: Zinc or color of your choice, 1 skein
Color B: Barnacle or color of your choice, 1 skein

One 24" circular needle size US 15

Darning needle

With Color A, using long-tail method, cast on 97 stitches.

Begin seed stitch pattern:
Rnd 1: (K1, P1) to last stitch, K1
Rnd 2: (P1, K1) to last stitch, P1

Continue in seed stitch until you have used half of Color A (approximately 11 rounds, ending with Rnd 1).

Rnd 12: With Color B, (P1, K1) to last stitch, P1
Rnd 13: With Color A, (K1, P1) to last stitch, K1

Continue in seed stitch, switching colors each round, until you are out of Color A (approximately 28 rounds).

Continue working in seed stitch in Color B, until you are almost out of Color B (approximately 11 rounds).

Bind-off loosely or use Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Sewn Bind-Off for a nice clean effect.

Weave in ends, block lightly.


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The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: Sandstone Shawl

Posted by Kristine Vejar on March 08, 2016 1 Comment

For the month of March, as part of The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along, we are focusing on the Sandstone Shawl.

When setting out the lessons I wanted to teach through The Modern Natural Dyer, I designed the Sandstone Shawl to demonstrate the four following principles:

1. Demonstrate how fibers made by different animals take dye differently.
To make the Sandstone Shawl pattern, I ask for three types of yarn: Malabrigo Rios (100% Superwash Merino), Blue Sky Alpaca Sport (100% Alpaca), and Shibui Silk Cloud (50% Mohair / 50% Silk). These are all protein-based fibers. So though they are scoured and mordanted, for all extents and purpose the same, though as you can see from the list - there is quite a range of protein-based fiber types. Each of these types of fiber, for instance if it from a goat rather than a sheep, will interface differently with the dye, and the resulting color will be affected. So, from our previous discussions, we know that protein-based fibers are different than cellulose-based fibers, and due to that fact, the scouring, mordanting, and dyeing processes are different. Though as we get to know the different types of fiber better, we get to understand how each of the types of fiber respond and react to the dye. To learn more about this, you can read the chapter in The Modern Natural Dyer titled Choosing Fiber. In the case of the Sandstone Shawl, we add the yarns made of various fibers in timed increments into the warm dyepot which does affect the dyed color, that said, even if you were to add them in all at once, you would still achieve a range of colors based upon fiber content.

2. Inspire exploration of combining 3+ dyes.
I wrote the Modern Natural Dyer so the projects would build upon themselves, hoping to build a foundation for those of you who want to really understand the natural dyeing practice. So in this respect, we've built up to this project, first, making making the Northwoods Hat using one dye and the shade card as our guide. Then, making green by combining two dyes, again using the shade card as our guide. Now, let's up the ante by using three dyes to create a color. In the Sandstone Shawl, I give a recommended recipe.

Here is another recipe, to make a deep red-purple, similar to the color of red wine:

1 tsp cutch
1/4 tsp madder
1/16 tsp logwood purple

If you would like to experiment and try creating your own recipes (I hope you do!), keep this in mind: Adding too much dye can change the texture of the yarn, especially wool yarn. The texture could feel brittle, dry, or rigid. I would advise that the amount of dye I used in the Sandstone Shawl's recipe is the maximum amount of dye to use before the hand of the wool will begin to shift. With this being said, combining two or three different dyes widens the color palette, and can be an endless study of possibility!

3. How to create three different shades of color from one pot.
So now, let's say that instead of using 3 different yarn, each made of different blends of fiber, as done in the Sandstone Shawl, you were to choose 3 yarns, each made of the same material - let's say they are all made of merino wool. You can create three slightly different shades of color, by introducing them into the pot at three different intervals. This principle goes hand in hand with #4.

4. Teach what it means to exhaust a dyebath, and how to do so.
In order to make a dark color, you have to use more dye. The yarn can only take so much dye, thus, there will be dye leftover in the pot. When one uses all of the dye in the pot, it is referred to as exhausting the dyebath or dyepot. In the Sandstone Shawl project, by adding skeins of yarn throughout the dyeing process, we are practicing this dyeing technique. When I achieve a color by dyeing this way, I find it hard to replicate the color. Though the color which can be achieved can be very beautiful and unique, so it is a practice I enjoy, and one I encourage home dyers to explore to discover new colors and to create a range of colors closely related to one another, so that when knit or woven can create an ombre. Plus! You have used all the dye in your pot, so nothing is going to waste. 

So from using this dyeing technique, there are three skeins of yarn, made of three different materials, weights, and colors. I knew I wanted to design something that would highlight these differences. Before I knew how to spin yarn, I was always looking to how I could create my own kind of yarn. I began holding two yarns together - typically a light fuzzy yarn, like mohair, with, well, really any other kind of yarn - ranging from laceweight silk yarn to a heavier worsted weight wool yarn. This is still a technique we use a lot in the shop to create unique knitted fabrics. So when faced with designing a piece for the book using the yarn I just dyed, I definitely knew I wanted to hold two types of yarn together, as I have done in the Sandstone Shawl. I also wanted to create a piece which highlighted the range of colors, from dark to light, achieved this dyeing style. I thought a triangular shaped shawl would be pretty and something I like to wear to the beach when it is windy. When I went to try on the sample, I just loved the way that the heavier yarn, the Rios, curled around my neck, more like a scarf than a shawl, and the very light-weight Silk Cloud, kind of floated softly, almost like how the white foam on the incoming tide sits just on the water. The way the orange-gold color formed in bands reminded my of Sandstone, hence the name.

If you are in the area, I am teaching a class dedicated to dyeing the materials for the Sandstone Shawl - and - we have quite a few opportunities coming up to knit together, it would be wonderful to see you and your progress on your Sandstone Shawl. And if you are not in the area, I love seeing your progress via Instagram.

Always remember, I wrote this book as much for the Armchair Dyer as those who are diving into the dyeing process, so please, if you do like the pattern, no matter if you did not dye your yarn, I hope you will join us on this KAL - and knit your own Sandstone Shawl - the possibilities of choices of yarn and color are endless!

-- Kristine

Tomorrow night! Join us for an evening of conversation: Slow Fashion Forum, 7pm.

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Stitches West 2016

Posted by Kristine Vejar on February 12, 2016 0 Comments

It is almost time for that magical event called Stitches West, where one can walk through miles of aisles of yarn, and have the choice of nearly any fiber spun into any size yarn, in every shade of color imaginable, and where designers pull out all the stops, and create new patterns.

At A Verb for Keeping Warm, as always, we will have a wide spectrum of naturally dyed yarn. We take the opportunity of Stitches West to celebrate the symbiotic relationship between dyer and designer, and team up with Rosemary Hill (aka Romi), to create a series of exciting, new pattern and yarn combinations.

The most anticipated is our annual Mystery Knit-Along Kit. The colors this year are stunning. New this year! There will be two base yarns to choose from and three color combinations. If you are new to this concept, here's how it works. The kit includes 2 skeins of Verb yarn, a shawl pin exclusively designed for the kit by Romi, and the first clue of the Mystery Knit-Along and a code so you can download the pattern on Ravelry. It comes in a project bag designed specially for Stitches West 2016. I always get a kick out of explaining what a Mystery Knit-Along is to people who have never heard of it before as the concept is quite amusing. It is a knitting pattern that has been broken into sections, and is doled out to you over the course of (typically) 4 weeks. Here's the kicker - you don't know what the pattern looks like when you start! The pattern is unveiled as you knit. There will be a thread in Romi's Ravelry group where you can participate / get support if you so desire.

There will be Mystery Knit-Along Kits available online - for those of you who can not make it to Stitches West. They will go on sale on Thursday at 5pm - at the same time as when the Stitches Marketplace opens. We will post a link, once they are live, to our Ravelry group.

We are releasing two new yarns this year at Stitches West. The first is named Entwined. It is a 2-ply yarn, one ply spun from Merino wool, the other ply spun from silver alpaca. once it is dyed, due to the difference in fiber content, the yarn develops a nubby texture. It is nearly the same gauge as our alpaca-silk-cashmere blend yarn, Floating. And is a lovely juxtaposition, as you will see in our newly hand-knit sample of Romi's Swoon. In this photo, you can see a close-up of Entwined and Floating nestled together in the dyepot.

The other new yarn we are releasing is called Range - 1st Edition. This is our newest California-wool farm yarn. We are so excited to release this yarn!! It feels like we have been working on it forever and a day and can not wait to get it out into the world. Made of Rambouillet wool, we are releasing 4 natural colors: white, silver, light grey, and dark grey. They are stunning. And for the first time ever, this farm yarn has been combed before being spun, so it has a smooth, more polished surface. It is DK weight (5 stitches per inch), so perfect for your next sweater - a pattern for which you might find across the aisle at Cocoknits booth.

Romi has created a new shawl pattern which can be knit in either Entwined or Range. This will also be available as a kit - complete with a shawl pin by Romi, the pattern, and a Stitches West project bag.

There will also be a third kit - featuring a sweater from Romi's new book, New Lace Knitting - the pattern is titled Bright Lights and will feature in Even Tinier Annapurna in Old Vine - a color reminiscent of red wine. Of course, we will have a plethora of other colors to choose from, and will be happy to help you choose.

Stitches West 2016 is an exciting year because Romi and I both published books in Fall of 2015. So this year, it is going to be great fun to have both of our books in the booth - with the accompanying trunk shows. This means you can stop by and see all of the projects in the books in real life. Romi and I will be signing books on Friday and Saturday at 1pm.

You know who else just published a book - and is going to be at our booth ??? Clara Parkes!! She will be with us on Sunday from 11:30-1pm signing copies of her newest book, Knitlandia.

Other than that, we will have all of our usual suspects: Reliquary II, Even Tinier Annapurna, Floating, Annapurna, Flock, and Horizon. And a few fun extras, like Fringe & Co Field Bags, Merchant & Mills scissors, Liberty of London fabrics, etc.

We hope to see you very soon!
- Kristine

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