Jack’s Year of Knitting Dangerously: October

Greetings Dangerous Knitter,

Alright! After that embarrassing confession last month, I climbed back in the saddle and got my knit on!! Having finally finished the Chelsea Market Hat, I can decidedly say that it was a really fun project to knit. I loved how the regularity of most of the hat was broken up by the chunky, traveling cable. The temperature continues to drop, so this hat will be ready to go when Jack Frost starts nipping. And, since one can never have enough warm head wear, another hat for October seemed appropriate.

Dangerously yours,


Bubble Star 1_in Malabrigo Worsted at Natural Stitches

Colorwork on crown of hat

October Pattern:

This month I have chosen a GORGEOUS colorwork hat called the Bubble Star by Misa Erder. This is another pattern that calls for worsted weight, making it a pretty quick knit. I chose to use a deliciously soft single for this project – Malabrigo Worsted. Malabrigo Worsted is a hand painted, 100% wool yarn that comes in a wide array of colors. The yarn sports both solid and variegated colorways in tons of saturated colors with lots of depth. I went with a stunning deep purple and white combo. Now, I am usually a proponent of machine washable yarn for hats, but, in the case of colorwork, that is not advisable. Here is a helpful hint. Using a 100% wool yarn makes everything go much more smoothly when knitting stranded colorwork patterns. The wool fibers help the stitches maintain the proper shape and aid in the blocking process.

Garter stitch brim

Garter stitch brim

Bubble Star is actually an easy knit. It begins with a garter stitch brim followed by 5 inches of stockinette stitch. The real fun begins after that initial 6 inches. The remainder of the hat consists of knitting the colorwork chart one time through. The crown decreases are incorporated into the colorwork pattern, so it creates a beautiful star at the top of the hat.

Colorwork is seriously fun and addictive. There are several ways to manipulate the yarn, including both strands in the left hand, both strands in the right hand, and my favorite, one strand in each hand. The only tricky part is maintaining the position of each color. One strand floats above the other on the wrong side of the work and, once started, this position must be maintained, OR ELSE!!

Sorry. That escalated quickly. Ok. Since we are knitting dangerously, I won’t call the knitting police. Just be sure to mind your floats and enjoy!

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WIP Wednesday: Shani’s Boy Fox

I had never heard of the designer Julie Williams of Little Cotton Rabbits until Shani sent me this pictures of her Boy Fox in a star spangled sweater in progress. Since then, Jessica and I have been pouring over the pictures on her design page on Ravelry and shrieking because they are, no exaggeration, the cutest things we have ever seen. The patterns are available as Ravelry in-store download purchases, and Shani is knitting hers in Berroco Vintage.

shani fox

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The Taming of the Stash: Be Kind, Please Rewind

…or don’t wind until you are ready to cast on!

A cautionary tale: a customer came in with some yarn she’d purchased from us, which was wound into cakes, and had been stored like that for about a year. To our surprise, we discovered that the yarn was stretched thin and snapping in places. We checked it carefully for the M-Word and other “surprises” and eventually had to conclude that the damage was from being wound for too long.

The process of winding stretches and pulls on the yarn. The more compact the yarn cake is, the tighter the yarn has been stretched, and therefore it may be damaged. This happens most frequently with a swift and hand-turned ballwinder, as it’s easy for one to wind too quickly in order to get it over with. When that customer with the damaged yarn left, I realized that I was that excited knitter who had done that to a heck of a lot of my sock yarn, and so I went home and checked my stash.

First, I separated out all the yarn I had wound tightly, and rewound it on the winder into looser cakes. Then I put them in a special bag and resolved to reach for those yarns next time I was ready to cast on. As I knitted with it, I found that the yarn did not have as much bounce and spring as I was used to getting.

So I made some resolutions. I’d once read that the Yarn Harlot wound sock yarn when she got bored and I’d done the same thing, thinking I’d be ready to cast on at a moment’s notice. The kicker here is that the Yarn Harlot can sneeze out a pair of socks in a day or so, while I, um, can’t, so my wound yarn quickly outpaced my ability to keep up with it. No more of that.

Second, when I’m ready to wind my yarn, I do the following: I wind by hand into an actual ball, which is the best way to keep the yarn loose, or I use the shop’s automatic winder, at a medium speed while using my hand or a knitting needle to tension the yarn. The last resort is to use my swift and hand-cranked ballwinder at home and remind myself constantly to SLOW DOWN to keep the cake loose.

So the upshot is this: we are really happy to wind your yarn for you, but please consider keeping it in the hank until you are ready to use it and then bring it back to us to wind. Your yarn will thank you for it!


A photo posted by bookscatsyarn (@bookscatsyarn) on

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It’s a Mitt-Along!

We admit it – we aren’t very good at this whole knit-along thing.  We try, and we are often distracted by the oooo shiny thing that’s happening over on Ravelry, and soon our knit-along is forgotten in the bottom of our knitting bags, and then it’s moved to the UFO pile next to the couch, and eventually unearthed when we’re trying to find our size whatever needles that we KNOW we have because we have SO MANY of them and then oh hey, look, it’s that knit-along project we were doing months ago.

We were talking about another knit-along and what kind of project might work in our last meeting, when Jack blurted out “I love you guys, but PLEASE, no more shawls!”  We also thought about the upcoming season, the possibility of snow, and how we like to have warm hands.  Thus our mitt-along was born.

Since the projects are small, maybe we won’t get so distracted by whatever thing is exciting on Ravelry, and even if we do, it can’t be THAT bad because (it bears repeating) mittens are small and we can finish a pair while we binge watch something* on Netflix.  Also, even if you don’t like to wear mittens, they are perfect items to donate to charities.

Are you convinced yet?  No?  Then let me add some incentive.  If you participate and follow the rules, then you could be eligible for prizes!  We’ll have three gift cards to give away, and between now and November 30, who knows what other prizes could show up!

Left to right: Wood Hollow, Waiting for Winter, Cloisonée, and Springerle across the top.

Left to right: Wood Hollow, Waiting for Winter, Cloisonée, and Springerle is lounging across the top.

Start date:  October 19, 2015
Last day to submit entries: November 30, 2015***
Register for the Mitt-Along by using this Google form.

To be eligible for prizes:
♥You must register using the Google form mentioned above.
♥You must complete a pair of mittens using one of the following patterns:  Cloisonée, Springerle, Waiting for Winter, Wood Hollow.  (All available at Natural Stitches through the Ravelry In-Store Downloads program!)
♥You must use yarn purchased at Natural Stitches (stash yarn is okay!).  In the case of the Cloisonée mittens, we ask that the bulk of your yarn be from our store.
♥You must not start your mittens before October 19, and you must finish them by November 30.

You will receive one entry into our drawing for each pair of mittens you complete.
You can receive one bonus entry per pair when you tag your mitten project on Ravelry using the tag NSMittAlong.
You can receive one bonus entry per pair when you tag your mitten projects on Instagram using #NSMittAlong.
If you bring your mittens in to donate, you will receive TWO bonus entries.  (Currently, we split our donations between several local charities.)
That means that for each pair, you could have five entries!

Sound fun?

Then let’s do this thing!



*Current favorites:  Turn, Call the Midwife, Madam Secretary, Bob’s Burgers**
**Yes, I watch cartoons and I’m not afraid to admit it.
***That’s a month and a half!


Posted in Charity, Fun, KALs, News, Ravelry In-Store Patterns | 2 Comments

FO Friday: Holly’s Nefertem

nefertem in iKnitiatives (1)

Last summer, both Kirsten Kapur’s Shawl Book One and iKnitiative Tootsie Gradients arrived in the store around the same time. Holly snapped them up and made this gorgeous Nefertem.  Nefertem is available individually as a Ravelry in-store download purchase, or the entire book is here in the store, with a complimentary download code so you have both a hard and electronic copy.

Karen, the wonderful dyer behind iKnitiatives, dropped off a restock of some of these great colors and she reports that fall gradients will be coming soon!


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WIP Wednesday: Yvonne’s Pyro

Pyro in Opera

When we saw Zen Yarn Garden’s newest yarn, Opera, at the TNNA show last spring, we eagerly said YES PLEASE!  Dyed under a new line for Roxanne called Black Tie Affair, Opera is a laceweight merino, cashmere, and silk blend. Yvonne is showcasing the beauty of Opera in the Pyro Cowl by Anne Hanson, and we can’t wait to see how this yarn blocks out.

Pyro Cowl is available as a Ravelry in-store download purchase, and the Opera is $25 for 400 yards.


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Taming of the Stash: What’s in There?

You’ve tossed. You’ve donated.  You’ve sorted and organized.  The big question becomes, what’s in there? How do you know what you’ve got?  This is an important question, especially if you’re going to be shopping your stash (which we’ll talk about in a later article) for that next project.

We know that logging your stash on Ravelry is a great option; however, not everyone does this.  I’m one of those people — I have some of my stash on Ravelry, but certainly not everything (and apparently I should update it because I donated a lot of what you see there!).

Every yarn! All the notes!

Every yarn! All the notes!

During the yarn crawl, we had a customer come in with a book of stash. It was crazy! But it was her organization system, and it worked for her.  In her book was a snippet of EVERY yarn she had in her stash, plus details about it — yardage, weight, and how many skeins she had.  WHAT?!!  But how handy to know exactly the color, or which dye lot, and so on. Nora, our former spinning teacher, used a similar system but with index cards.


A couple of years ago, in a fit of organization, I pulled out every skein of yarn and a notebook* and wrote down everything.  Everything.  Then, because I’m a glutton for punishment, I entered all of my notes into an Excel file, where I could sort it by weight (I have a lot of lace weight), and of course with the magic of formulas, I could figure out exactly how much yardage of any given yarn I have (and, horrifically, the overall yardage).  If you’re a Ravelry stasher, you can download your stash to an Excel file and find out that you have 39+ miles of yarn, too.  Go to your stash page and click the little spreadsheet button in the right-hand corner, then wait for the magic (or horror) to happen.

download stash

See where the arrow points? That’s what you need to click.

Basically what I’m getting at is you should know what’s in your stash, even if you’re uber-organized like David with boxes and boxes.  It will help prevent duplicate purchases, and will be handy for those times you get startitis, or the 12 days of Casting On, or as you’re pattern surfing and just wondering what on earth you have in your stash that would be a good match for that pattern you want to knit so badly.

How do you know what’s in your stash?  Share with us in the comments, or join the conversation in our Ravelry group!

Coming up in our Taming of the Stash series:  Using those skeins you’ve already wound; using “the precious”; pairing stash yarn with new yarn (because we all need new yarn); and one skein projects.


*True confession:  I also have a notebook problem. And a pen problem.


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Spinzilla Prep: Cleaning Your Wheel

Hi all! Spinzilla is almost upon us! We have one week until the start, and preparations are at a frenzied pace! I’ve been thinking about my goals and challenges for the week, which fiber I want to spin, what colors of fibers I want to blend, or do I want to work on a fleece for the week? But before I can spin the fiber I decided on, I need to prepare my equipment!

Sometime spinners get too caught up in what we’re spinning, and we forget that we have our equipment to help us spin. This is a perfect time to clean your spinning wheel! (This is good practice throughout the year, not just before events.)

How does one clean a spinning wheel? Do I just stick it in the shower or give it a bubble bath? Maybe I could take it outside and just spray it down with the hose? While all these techniques would probably get your wheel cleaned, the wheel would be damaged greatly.

Instead of wondering how to clean your wheel, I’ll tell you how I clean mine! Before you try any of these cleaning techniques, please check your owner’s manual for your wheel, and if in doubt, check the manufacturer’s website or call to ask if these products are okay to use on your wheel.

I begin by laying out a towel on a flat surface, in a room with plenty of light. Spinning is a dusty hobby, and one will want to see all the stuck on bits (“dirt”). After placing my wheel on the towel, I remove the flyer, and I make sure to have my drive band in a safe spot to keep any cleaner from getting on the drive band.

Next, I wipe down the whole wheel with a soft, dry, lint-free cloth. I pay close attention to the little crevices where loose fiber may build up, and around any moving parts where oil can build up. I keep extra soft, lint-free cloths and a small bowl of diluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and water close by. I used a solution of 20% Murphy’s Oil Soap and 80% water. If there is an area of tough “dirt” on the wheel, I dip one of the extra cloths in the solution until it is damp (not dripping wet) and gently rub the “dirt” off the wheel. Be sure to thoroughly dry any damp spots on the wheel!

Now that all the “dirt” is gone, the wood of the wheel could use some polish. Be sure that you use a wood polish that is approved and okay to use on your wheel! Depending on your wheel and how the wood was finished, there are a lot of choices of wood polish out there (or beeswax) to use on the wood of the spinning wheel. I apply a small amount to ONLY the wood on the wheel, let it sit for about five minutes, and then I buff off all of the polish using a clean, soft, lint-free cloth.

The final step on the spinning wheel is to oil all the moving parts again so they stay lubricated and move without force.

Don’t forget your bobbins and flyer too! Wooden bobbins can get the same treatment as the wood on the spinning wheel. Try using a pipe cleaner to clean the center of your bobbins!

Now your spinning wheel is happy and ready for Spinzilla!

P.S. Drop spindles need cleaning love too!



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FO Friday: Carol’s Liz Christy Shawl

Formerly known at the 2015 Through the Loops Mystery Shawl, this Liz Christy shawl is shown to its best advantage on Carol’s daughter practicing her fencing. Carol chose two colors of Dream in Color Jilly for a striking finished object.

Liz Christy by Kirsten Kapur in DIC Jilly at Natural Stitches

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WIP Wednesday: An Update on Lee’s Cap Shawl

We thought we’d let you know how Lee’s Cap Shawl from the book Victorian Lace Today is going. (You can read about the shawl in earlier stages here.) Lee is really trucking away on the knitted-on edging! What an amazing labor of love this is.

Cap Shawl in Cascade Alpaca Lace at Natural Stitches

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