Brave New Knits Tour

The Brave New Knits book signing and trunk show tour has begun! Kicking it off with a trip to New England, I visited WEBS for the first time – surely a dream destination on every knitter’s wish list.

Retail Store Manager Karen Minott made lots of display forms and hangers available to me, which made it easy to set up all of the book’s fabulous projects for visitors to admire. About 20 customers came to hear me talk about internet resources for knitters.

I took a brief poll at the beginning, and about half of the knitters in the audience raised their hands when I asked who did NOT regularly use the internet!

And those same customers, one by one, pulled out notebooks and started taking notes as I talked about the list of resources on my outline – which made me feel great because I love to spread the word about Ravelry, Yarndex, Patternfish, and other great sites that serve our community. 

Here’s Karen with me at the end of the evening. That display of knitting needles behind us is just the tip of the iceberg at WEBS. Karen was kind enough to give me a tour of their building before my talk began, and I was absolutely gobsmacked to see so much yarn under one roof.

There were several dazed-looking customers pushing actual shopping carts back in the warehouse, loading up with bags of gorgeous yarn!

The next morning I drove from Northampton to Boston, where I had the rest of the day to myself to explore and enjoy one of my favorite cities. With the weather cooperating, I just had to get outdoors after a couple of hours in the car.

A stroll through the Boston Commons put me back into a good mood (I tend to think I love a good road trip until I actually get behind the wheel and drive for hours by myself with only the car radio for company!).

Walking back to my hotel via all the boutiques on Newbury Street was pretty tempting. If I hadn’t blown my budget at WEBS the night before, it could have been downright dangerous.

Continuing my explorations in Beacon Hill, I discovered charming cobblestone streets like this one, lined with beautiful old row houses, lushly planted window boxes, and antique street lamps.

Saturday was the signing and trunk show at Windsor Button in downtown Boston, where Susan Baker was my charming host for the event. The shop is packed full of yarny goodies and, yes, they do have the MOST amazing button collection.

Special local celebrities whose projects are in Brave New Knits joined me at Windsor Button, including Grumperina.

It was great to see Ann Weaver (center) of Weaverknits again – her first self-published pattern collection is due out any day! And Angela Hahn (right) of Kntitude fame drove in from Cape Cod to the event; it was such a pleasure to meet her in person at last, since when we did her interview she was still living in Italy.

The event at Windsor Button was so much fun, and sold out of all the books Susan had pre-ordered!

A Pause For Momentary Kvelling

Two terrific reviews appeared within the last few days about Brave New Knits. One is by Carol Sulkoski of Go Knit In Your Hat fame, which you can read here if you are so inclined.

The second review is by Leslie Petrovski of Nake-id Knits, whose witty and insightful articles for illustrious knitting industry magazines such as Vogue Knitting and Yarn Market News are always the first I turn to when I receive a new issue. You can read her review here.

I was thrilled by both of them; you never know how an impartial reviewer is going to react to your precious baby lovingly crafted book, after all. I have tremendous respect for both of these women as writers (and knitters), and confess that it made me nervous to think of them reading Brave New Knits with a critical eye.

Is it possible that these two glowing reviews have anything to do with the fact that according to Amazon’s ranking of bestselling books in various categories, Brave New Knits is, for the moment at least, the #2 bestseller in the Knitting and Needlecrafts categories?

Almost all of the book’s projects have been uploaded to Ravelry at this point. Errata and forum discussions are underway in the new Ravelry group called Brave New Knit(ter)s.

Designer Spotlight #10: Melissa Wehrle, Neoknits

While we chatted over coffee last year, in a busy Starbucks near her office in New York City, Melissa gave me a peek at her bursting-with-ideas design notebook. As we discussed her knitwear designs and inspirations, she pointed out a few sketches of stunning garments that could be suitable for Brave New Knits.

When she came to the Origami Shrug, I hesitated for a fraction of a second – I hadn’t seen anything like it in all my years as a knitter, and I was definitely intrigued.

By the time she had finished describing its unique style and construction (Reversible lace! A single seam!) I was sure this would be the one. And what a stunning success it is.

Melissa has been busy since we last talked. Her fabulous Aryn Tunic Cardigan was featured in the Fall 2010 issue of KnitScene, and as she describes it: “All that texture + pockets + big wood buttons = LOVE!”

And her Elementary Vest is in the Fall 2010 issue of Interweave Knits, offering simple but effective colorwork for knitters wanting to try it out:

In addition, she decided last fall that she really needed her own website, designed to her very specific taste, and so was born. Having a beautiful new home on the web makes it easier to get excited about her knitting-related activities, now that Melissa has bounced back from a months-long break to cope with what she calls “a bit of burn out.”

The site has been rejuvenating all round. “With a fresh design, I’ve been much more inspired to keep up with my blogging, even during those periods where secret knitting tends to make blogging difficult.”

Designer Spotlight #9 – Jennifer Hagan, Figknits

When Jen Hagan of figknits offered to make the Global Cable Coat for Brave New Knits, I had to pinch myself. The sketch she sent me was promising, but it was impossible to imagine how much more gorgeous this sweater-coat would be in real life.

Knit with bulky weight, hard-wearing Beaverslide Dry Goods McTaggart Tweeds & Heathers, this is hand-knit outerwear at its finest; wam and elegant, stylish yet practical. Although it would probably be too warm for all but our chilliest California winter days, I am sure that the Global Cable Coat will be a big hit in parts of the country that have a real winter (though I have to make it anyway… because Resistance. Is. Futile.).

Its simple cable repeat set off with garter stitch borders gives a luxurious texture to the project, yet in terms of difficulty an adventurous beginner could make it. Beautifully rustic, hand-crafted wood buttons by Jay Beesmer of Wooden Treasures are ideally suited to the hearty texture of this wool.

In the year since I interviewed Jen for the book, she has started a new pattern line adventure called “Mirth.” As Jen tells it, “For my newer line, Mirth, I am working on a “Learn to Crochet” pattern and a “Learn to Knit” pattern complete with step-by-step photos and clear instruction. I have gotten very good feedback about the clarity and look of the Mirth patterns and this makes me very happy. Mirth is my adventure in digital publishing, as it is available only in PDF download.” (Her Figheadh pattern collection is sold in hard copy through yarn shops nationwide.)

In addition, she is working on an e-book of glove patterns for Mirth as well. “There just isn’t enough out there about glove knitting, especially as it compares to what’s out there for sock knitting. I’m going to try to get gloves more attention!”

After taking a much-needed break this summer, Jen is back at work with renewed focus as we move into fall. She is blogging again and trying to do it more regularly. She has also put business pages on Facebook for both the Figheadh and Mirth pattern collections, and is trying to be more present and attentive on Ravelry.


On the freelance front, she is still working with Ravenwood Cashmere (a U.S. cashmere goat farm… when can we get some of THAT, I’d like to know?!) as she continues to promote local fiber.

She was thrilled to see Pam Allen’s new business Quince & Co., because sourcing fiber domestically sets a great precedent for what Ravenwood Cashmere is trying to build on. As knitters and crocheters learn about the domestic fiber options becoming available for their knitting and crochet projects, she hopes more will make the effort to track it down and use it in their projects.

In addition to Brave New Knits, she has a chapter on blocking in DRG’s new The Perfect Finish coming out in September. It will be offered as both a hard copy and as an e-book. Other books with her designs in them are in the works and are thus the dreaded “secret knitting projects” that cannot be talked about yet. No doubt, all will be well worth the wait!

Vampire Knits: A Bloody Good Read!

Say Hello To Vampire Knits!

When Genevieve Miller invited me to design a project for her upcoming book, Vampire Knits, I couldn’t refuse. My daughter is an ardent Twilight fan, to the point of lining up for the midnight premieres of the first movies in the series. And I enjoyed Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles books tremendously when they came out years ago.

Vampire Knits’ release date is just a couple of weeks away, and my project is called the “Under Cover of Midnight Cowl.” Genevieve previewed it on her Vampire Knits blog so I don’t think I’m spoiling the surprise by giving you a sneak preview here:

Copyright 2010 Potter Craft

Genevieve is running a series of designer spotlights similar to mine, featuring each of the designers who contributed a project to Vampire Knits. I’m pleased to share mine with you here. Enjoy!

Artichokes In Bloom

Once the peak of artichoke season comes and goes in late spring, the ones that remain on the plants are often too tough to bother eating. I can’t believe I just wrote that – how can ANY artich0ke not be worth cooking and eating? But it’s true; they get woody and bitter and are better left on the plant to bloom… like this:

It’s hard to remember, looking at these specimens, that our home-grown artichokes start out small, bright green, and oh-so-tender, and often wind up getting sauteed in olive oil and garlic for the dinner table. The mature version below would undoubtedly have the texture of shoe leather and the flavor of shoe polish!

Much better to be admired for its color contrasts than to be eaten at this stage of its life.

Designer Spotlight #8: Kirsten Kapur, Throughtheloops

Knitting books that feature a wide variety of projects (as opposed to knitting books that focus on one kind of project such as shawls, or hats, or sweaters, etc.) always win points from me for including at least a couple of pairs of socks.

As I assembled the projects for Brave New Knits, I knew there would be socks and I certainly hoped that the designers who volunteered to make those socks would offer up unique ideas.

They did not disappoint, and today the spotlight is on Kirsten Kapur of Throughtheloops, whose lovely Sockstravaganza project made the cover of the book!

The Sockstravaganza socks are so named because they incorporate both cables and colorwork into a single really fun design. The colorwork cuff and leg continue down into a single color cabled foot with ribbed heel.

Kirsten had wonderful materials to work with as well; namely, Deb Kessler’s Fearless Fibers Tight Twist Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in two gorgeous colors: “Spellbound” and “Sloth.”

Not only is the fiber itself fantastic to work with for socks, shawls, and even tiny toys if that’s your thing, but Deb is a color genius whose yarns are beautifully semisolid, somehow managing to be both subtle and saturated.

With the variety of lace weight, sock weight, and other yarns she carries in her Etsy store, it can be hard to choose which to buy, but her colors are consistently gorgeous!

In the year since Kirsten and I met to do her interview for Brave New Knits, she has contributed to several more books, one of which is Stitchy McYarnpants & Caro Sheridan’s book Knitting it Old School, which was also released this month.

Kirsten’s adorable Swing Time short-sleeved pullover has a delicious “pin-up girl” vibe to it, don’t you think?

Photo Copyright 2010 by Denise Siegel

After spending the first half of this year working on commissioned projects, she finally has the time to focus on resuming her self-published designs. And one of her favorite parts of self-publishing is the feedback she gets from knitters. “I really enjoy the way online self publishing allows me to have direct contact… with knitters.”

This October she will host the Through the Loops Mystery Sock KAL for the third consecutive year. Flickr and Ravelry, as well as her colorful blog (in which her musical and brilliant teenagers make frequent appearances as in-house models for all those knitted designs) continue to be the primary ways that she documents her work. Like many of us, Kirsten also enjoys connecting with other knitters on Twitter. Definitely an indie designer for the 21st century!

A Recipe for Plum Jam – Or Shouldn’t That Be “Yum” Jam?

My plum tree overfloweth with fruit this summer, no thanks to me. Mother Nature is not to be underestimated. We may have had only 5 pears on the Bartlett pear tree this year, but the Satsuma plum tree more than compensated for it.

These jars are just a few of the three dozen I’ve made so far.

And, oh my god, is it ever delicious! Here is my basic recipe, which can safely be doubled or even tripled to equally good effect:

For every 3 lbs. of plums (split, and then each half sliced into three wedges, pits removed), you should also use

1/3 to 1/2 cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice

3 cups of sugar

minimal pectin (I use Pomona natural citrus pectin according to package instructions)

Never one to leave well enough alone (althought these plums make a sinfully delectable jam to be sure), I’ve been known to add a couple of cinnamon sticks while the plums cook down, or even a few star anise pods. They give the finished jam a unique depth of flavor that I really like. Just remember to remove and discard them before you begin spooning the jam into jars!

Read What the Experts Are Saying About Brave New Knits

Inquiring minds want to know where they can find more information and read reviews about Brave New Knits before plunking down their hard-earned dollars to buy it.

So here is a list, which will be updated regularly, of the places where you can read about the book, view select images of the projects, and find out more about the interviews with some of our favorite knitwear designers in the blogosphere.

Jared Flood, read his review here

Diane Gilliland, AKA Sister Diane, read her review here

Angela Hahn, read our Q & A interview here

Jordana Paige, read her review here

WEBS – America’s Yarn Store,; Podcast interview on Ready, Set, Knit: here

Jennifer Hagan,; read her review here

Teresa G.,; read her write-up here

Pam MacKenzie,; read her review here

Hilary Smith Callis; read her review here

Melissa Wehrle,; read our Q & A interview here

Designer Spotlight #7: Kat Coyle,

The Perfect Knitted Accessory

Sometimes the smallest bit of fibery goodness will make you smile. And Kat Coyle’s  ( knitted bits of highly creative goodness for Brave New Knits made me smile from my first glimpse of the sketch she sent to illustrate her idea.

Add This To Your Holiday Gift-Giving List

Who doesn’t love nearly-instant gratification? We knitters definitely love those clever stash-busting projects that can be completed in a single afternoon. And it’s even better when those little stash-busters turn out to be gift-worthy items that we can feel proud to bestow on a loved one.

Deploy A Special Button

And those of us with a secret stash of vintage and other special buttons (OK, maybe not so secret), especially love stash-busting projects that also incorporate one or more of those fabulous buttons as the perfect finishing detail. Kat must have read my mind, because when I first opened the gold boxes into which she had placed these two lovely accessories, I was absolutely smitten.

And I think you will be, too.

Although she feels as if she hasn’t worked as much this year, Kat has had a couple of brilliant successes in two popular knitting publications. Following up her fabulous Courting Sophia shawl pattern in the Spring, 2010 issue of Twist Collective, another of Kat’s designs appeared in Veronique Avery’s St. Denis Magazine Issue #2 – the Bright Stripes lace scarf pattern.

In addition, she made an art piece – something she’s been wanting to do more of, and was part of a group show of textile artists this past spring. For that show, her work was a combination of embroidery, crochet and knitting. And, this summer, she was in another group show – this time, a lace piece using her version of Irish crochet.

She continues to teach children’s classes at Wisdom Arts Laboratory, where the summer’s projects included having the kids make mobiles… and of course, she introduced several to the joys of knitting and sewing.

This fall, we’ll see more knit designs, and if we’re lucky Kat will produce some of her first self-published patterns.

The Garden Gets Its Second Wind – When Will It Be My Turn?

With all the travel I’ve had to do this summer, a lot of the garden has simply passed me by. One week I leave and nothing much is happening, but by the time I return a week later, a riot has broken out.

The roses are in full bloom again, which really caught me by surprise. The last time I saw the climbing roses looking like this, it was the first week of May, right before all hell broke loose with my family back east. But it definitely soothes the soul to come home from a long week away to this:

Not that I play favorites – because they are all beautiful – but this floribunda rose always takes my breath away:

And I always know it’s high summer when these Belladonna Lilies begin to bloom. They are a kind of Amarylis also known as “Naked Ladies” because the flower stalks poke up out of the ground, quite raw and, yes, naked-looking, and then bloom well before any leaves appear. To me, they are the Mr. Bigglesworths (Remember Austin Powers, anyone?) of the floral world.

See what I mean?

But before you know it, they have turned into this riot of gorgeous pink pulchritude:

Designer Spotlight #6: Chrissy Gardiner, Knittinmom

She ‘Hearts’ Self-Publishing

Since our Brave New Knits interview, Chrissy Gardiner (AKA “Knittinmom” in the blogosphere) has delved further into self-publishing, which has been, in her words, “the best experience!”

Her focus has shifted from individual patterns to books. She is busily working on her next book, for which her newest idea is to set up a pattern club which she dubbed a “CSK” (for Community Supported Knitting, a phrase coined by her husband when she described the similarities between her concept and a farm CSA).

Community Supported Knitting

Starting in August, each month for the next year the pattern club CSK group will get a pre-released pattern from the upcoming book. As part of the club, she is also doing raffles and goodie bags – and those 150 goodie bag slots sold out in a mere 3 weeks! More information about the project is available at

Chrissy has also shifted to a lot more digital delivery of patterns and her book; in fact, she released an e-book version of Toe-Up! on Ravelry a few months ago. Also in the works are her plans to offer online classes.

For Brave New Knits, Chrissy created a new design in the genre for which she is perhaps best known, and her fans will have no trouble recognizing it! Worked in one of Sundara Yarn’s fabulous semi-solid colors, a peek at this project is here:

Although Chrissy insists there have been no major changes to her design sensibility, her style continues to mature. “I’m a lot less afraid of experimenting, and I have a much broader base of experience to work from. Every year that I design brings me new challenges and discoveries – it’s great fun!”

While she still blogs regularly,  “… it just doesn’t quite have the same appeal that it did when I started my blog nearly 5 years ago.” She spends lots of time on Ravelry, but like many of us she has discovered that “… getting away from the computer and taking a break from technology is very refreshing.”

Like many busy designers, Chrissy has days when she finds that she’s not knitting at all due to all the time she spends surfing or formatting, and when that happens, she knows it’s time to refocus on the yarn and needles.

Designer Spotlight #5: Ann Hanson, Knitspot

Ask Anne Hanson of Knitspot how her life has been over the last year, and she will tell you, “Things are pretty much the same, but MORE.” 
2010 has seen her travel schedule get a jump-start; she is in ever-increasing demand as a teacher of lace knitting, sock knitting, and more. In fact, she recently returned from Knit Nation in London, and found that one of the best things about her expanded travel schedule is that, “… it’s been a lot of fun to get out there and meet so many readers and customers, as well as those who are new to me. i love teaching and talking about knitting, after all!”
The main downside to all this globe-trotting is that it takes a toll on how much Anne is able to get done at home. As a source of inspiration, however, it can’t be surpassed; she uses her travels to keep things fresh.
Secure in her place among that elite group of knitting bloggers who writes posts several times a week (nearly every other day most of the time!), Anne keeps a unifying focus on knitting and the design process, “… with a bit of gardening, cooking, and general life thrown in. And of course, travel! Everyone loves to see photos from the places I visit.”
She reads all of her readers’ comments (although she can’t respond as often as she used to), and still loves blogging and the interaction it affords her. It stimulates her both intellectually and artistically because, ” … having a forum to explore questions with is wonderful…”
An active participant on since its inception, Anne’s Knitspot fan group there is flourishing – closing in on 3,000 members, in fact! It’s  a great resource for Knitspot pattern users and a fun place to come visit (everyone is welcome!).
At the end of August, Anne’s lovely lace project for Brave New Knits will make its debut. A sneak peek is below! And that gorgeous yarn is Opulence, a luxurious 50/50 blend of silk and merino wool from The Woolen Rabbit.
Anne’s husband, David, is the talented photographer behind the beautiful images that show Anne’s creations on her blog and patterns. As he has increased his involvement with the Knitspot business, he has created a presence for them on Facebook and Twitter, and started making little films that he posts on their youTube channel. According to Anne, “… he brings a delightfully fresh viewpoint to what we can offer….  He also travels with me once in a while and is a big hit with festival-goers and event participants.”
Never content to rest on her laurels, Anne continually looks for fresh ways to reach her audience and present knit design in a new light.

CraftyPod Rocks!

Oh CraftyPod, How I Love You!

Notice anything different about this blog lately? If you have not yet taken an online class with Sister Diane of CraftyPod fame, I urge you to run, don’t walk, to her website and sign up right this second!!!

I recently completed her three-part online Craft Blog Tune-Up class, at the suggestion of Kim (another craft goddess whose work is awesome and inspiring).

Have You Looked Under The Hood Lately? Or, Why Your Blog Needs THIS Tune-Up

Craft Blog Tune-up made me rethink my entire blogging philosophy, from its most ephemeral qualities (high-value vs. low value topics) to the most nuts-and-bolts aspects (photo size, amount of white space vs. text).

Sister Diane is among the most generous and all-round wise craft-blogging-and-ebook-publishing gurus I’ve ever “met,” and it’s not difficult to describe what makes her classes so very, very worthwhile:

1) Meaty information: There’s nothing superficial about the class lessons. Sister Diane gives amazing value to the class content in terms of the students’ investment, and then she goes above-and-beyond by making herself available in class chats and forums to answer additional questions;

2) Visual inspiration: Between her incredibly astute understanding of the uses of photography (and the gorgeous quality of the photos themselves) and her thoughtful video lessons that alternate with text/photo lessons, Diane has nailed the most difficult aspects of craft blogging. She makes her lessons such a visual feast in and of themselves that students want to run straight back to their own sites and start making improvements;

3) Long-Term Results: You probably go in thinking you’ve already made your blog as good as it can be, yet you have the nagging feeling that you’ve missed something. You finish the class lessons feeling completely fired up to make a million changes, but confident that even taking one baby step at a time will make a noticeable difference.  By the time you’ve incorporated all the suggestions that are applicable to your own personal craft blog, you might not recognize it from its original format, but it’s still YOU – but a new and improved you that reaches your audience in equally new and improved ways!

Designer Spotlight #4: Ann Weaver, Weaverknits

No Dust Grows on a Rolling Skein
Catching up with Ann Weaver (and her blog, Weaverknits) more than a year post-BNK-interview, it came as no surprise to learn that she is still doing at least ten things seemingly all at once. How she keeps all those balls (of yarn) in the air simultaneously is a mystery to me, except for her occasional hint that she gets about four hours of sleep a night. Yet somehow, she does it all, and she does it all WELL.
Although she loved her year-long stint as a commercial baker, she gave it up (but not, she maintains, because of the overnight and early morning shifts) when the bakery folded.
Landing soon afterwards at a publishing and editing company, she quickly became the “staff jack-of-all trades,” contracted indefinitely to work her way through everything from “…editing and proofreading educational book and web content one day, performing quality assurance checks on websites the next day, cold-solving math tests for coursebooks the next.” 
See what I mean? She does do it all.
For Brave New Knits, Ann created a fabulously colorful project that gives a tongue-in-cheek nod back to the punk rock scene. Its close fit,  slip stitch pinstripes and prominent buttons combine to lend this design an insouciant flair.
In the interim since we last spoke, Ann has produced designs for Interweave Knits, Knitscene, several published and upcoming books, and is currently working on additional projects for yarn companies, books,  AND her “… very own first self-published collection of 10 utilitarian patterns, tentatively titled Craft Work Knit, which will be available in digital and hard-copy format by the beginning of October 2010.”
As much as she has enjoyed working in different formats and with different companies and publications, she wanted to “… make something that was ALL ME, with everything made from yarns I chose independently, photographed the way I wanted, laid out the way I wanted, in my favorite colors, modeled by my friends and family.  No compromises.”
Coupled with her other activities, Ann’s independent pattern collection has been an enormous undertaking, particularly because it contains four fully-sized sweater designs, two of which are offered in two distinct variations each.
She clearly thrives on this kind of intensity. With characteristic enthusiasm, she says, “The content is all coming together and I love it.  I don’t care if it sells more than 20 copies… it is going to be AWESOMETOWN.”
I’m thrilled to announce that Ann will be joining me at Windsor Button in Boston on Saturday, September 11th from 12 noon to 3 pm for a Brave New Knits signing and trunk show (where you can see her fabulous project in person!).