Thursday, November 20, 2014

Indie GAL Interview with Nancy Whitman

Tomorrow is the last day of the Indie Design GAL sale: have you gotten your patterns yet?  Get on it!  But you know, even when the sale is over, the fun is just beginning!  Join us in the Ravelry group for great contests, prizes, and one of the most epic KAL/CAL ever!

Today I'm interviewing Nancy, who is the creative presence behind whitknitsdotcom.  Like myself, she learned to knit at the age of eight.  She's a crafty individual who's worked with quilting, woodworking and stained glass (gee, can you see influences in her designs?), who also runs her own online shot at  Please welcome her to the blog (and finish reading to the bottom for a surprise)!

Eden Prairie
Nancy, it's nice to have you to interview today!  First off, I want to ask you about your body of designs.  I noticed that you tend to favor shawls filled with color blocks and geographic forms. Looking at the page for Eden Prairie, the finished items almost look unreal with their geometric lines. What interests you about that style of designing? 
All of my color-blocked shawls are made with modular knitting. That means there is nothing to sew together, your knitting can go in any direction at any time, and you only use one color at a time. I really like graphic images and blocks of color surrounded by borders. All these things mesh well with how my brain works so using it as an approach to design makes sense to me.

I totally understand!  So kind of jumping off from that, when you approach designing, how do you go about the process?  Can you outline some of the questions or problems you are trying to solve? 
I am probably the most undisciplined designer on the planet! I tend to have a very broad idea of what I want and the form it will go into – cowl, shawl, hat, etc. For a modular shawl, I will have to decide on the order of construction. After that, most of the designing is on the needle. I don't recommend this method for efficiency, but it does work for me.

Piet on Point
You mentioned you like graphic images and color surrounded by borders.  What, if anything, do you draw from?
 If you look at my newer designs, I am really drawn to the look of stained glass as in Eden Prairie. Most recently, I was inspired by the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. You can see this in Piet on Point.
Piet Mondrian Abstract Cubes

You mentioned that you are a rather undisciplined designer, but that you plot out the order of construction.  Do you have a favorite way of sketching out your ideas?  Do you use pencils, watercolor or something else?
I use GIMP, which is a shareware image manipulation program. If I have an idea, I will try to draw it there to see if it looks right. I try to knit at or near the computer so I can type up the pattern at the same time. The first time anything is on paper or I use a pencil is to proof the pattern.

What about other tools?  Do you have a favorite type of needle?
I always disliked circular needles, preferring double pointed instead. I tried some addi needles and was hooked. No pun intended. I hold my needles pretty far from the points so most circs made my wrists hurt. The addi long lace interchangeable set is long enough for me to use comfortably. I now knit with them exclusively and even started to carry them at

Now for some silly questions! If you were a knitting/crochet notion, what would you be? 
A row counter! They are really useful and make for even knitting. I like that.

What's one knitting technique that you wish that you could share with every knitter you met? 
Three needle bind off. It helps me to avoid sewing or grafting. I even use it to close the toe on all my socks and to join modular pieces.

What's the last book you read that you absolutely loved? 
The Book Thief. My 20-year-old son raved about it. I waited to see the movie so I could finish the book first, which I did about a month ago. Coincidentally, the movie was on HBO last week. Now my 14-year-old son is reading it.

Do you have a favorite heel style you like to work? 
A traditional top-down hell flap. And I always get a kick out of turning the heel!

Do you have a designer crush?  Who is it?  Why? 
Yes I do. Heidi Kirrmaier. Her knits are classic and effortless, but not boring. There is always a design detail that speaks to me.
Gardener's Shawl

How do you define success in your career? 
I read a Ravelry post about Bocce. The poster said she saw someone wearing it at Stitches. That to me is success – someone wants to knit one of my patterns and someone else recognizes it. What more could I ask for?

Thank you Nancy for taking the time to talk with me!  If you'd like to learn more about Nancy, you can find her on Ravelry or on her website.  Check out her Gift-A-Long patterns!  I, in particular, like her Gardener's Shawl.

As a fun little reward, Nancy's generously offered up one of her self-published patterns, winner's pick.  Nancy will be choosing a winner, and we'll make an announcement on Monday.  Make a comment below telling us your favorite one of Nancy's patterns.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Making things Ugly, and Yarny Crafting

Sleepy Sick Drugged Watson
I've been dealing with a sick cat for the last week and a half (Watson, who I love to photograph), and
everything I want to share on the blog pales in comparison to what's been going on behind the scenes. Now that Watson's starting to improve (knock on wood), I'm starting to get back in the groove of things, especially because I'm not visiting the Vet everyday.

I've got a little downtime in the space between the end of Fiber Festival Season where I'm doing a lot of behind-the scenes work for next year.  This involves a lot of computer work: writing proposals for classes, creating design proposals for magazines, and planning how the next year is going to go.

It's given me some time to do some crafting that isn't work related (well, at least not at the moment), and start reaching out into the Ashland community in a way I haven't been able to do until now.  On Monday I went to a knitting group that meets at the town library.  They're an older knitting group that recently decided to stop meeting in each other's homes and instead open themselves to the public and meet at the library.

I've been to a few knitting groups since I moved, but most of them were much further away, closer to the heart of Richmond.  As the winter gets colder, I wasn't keen on making the drive all the way there.  On Monday, I bundled up and biked the 5 minutes to the yarn store.  (It was much like when I used to bike from my home to the Yarn Spot, including the reminders to put on my bike light so I didn't get run over on the way home.)

Oh, yarn friends, meeting up with the group was like coming home.  I haven't really felt that sense of belonging since I moved, and I came home feeling not exhausted (which is often what I feel in group settings, being a borderline introvert), but creatively rejuvenated.  It drives home how much people rely on their sense of community, and mine is tightly connected with yarny things.

Speaking of yarny things, I've recently revived my interest in punch rug hooking.  About a year ago, I bought a punch from the Oxford Punch Needle Company, tried using it a few times, and then put it down.  Mostly because I couldn't seem to get things to work in a way that kept me happy.  Recently my interest has revived, and I've been fooling around with my rather sophomore effort.  I often tell people that their first project should be a swatch, because the amount of mistakes you'll make whenyou first start is incredible, and the improvement you see from the beginning to end is noticeable.  I followed my own advice, deciding to create something that was  Mighty Ugly, like Kim Werker (who I have a industry-crush on), suggests.

I started out with it ugly, in colors I didn't really like , but somewhere along the way it turned into something I liked.  Oops.

I particularly love this section of pinks, greys, and blues.
The difference between the beginning and the end is very noticeable: I'm not showing you a picture of the back, but suffice to say that the back in the beginning isn't pretty.  And that's okay. I think I'll shoot for my next project not being quite so ugly.

I'm also working on a beaded sock, which may or may not end up being a design.  A quick glimpse of it here:
What've you been working on lately?

Huntress Shawl by Jennifer Chase-Rappaport
A few housekeeping things: The Indie GAL is in full swing.  I've been enjoying watching the hubbub around the event.  Perhaps my favorite thing is all the new-to-me designers that I've been missing out on - there's so many of them!  I love reading the interviews that designers have been doing of other designers.

Some of my favorites:
Nancy interviewing Jessica of Goosebear Knits
Stephannie Tallent interviewing Jenise Reid
Lily Go interviewing Marnie MacLean (which was just one gorgeous design after another)
Jen Lucas interviewing Jennifer Chase-Rappaport (heh, me, Jennifer, talking about two Jennifers)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Indie Design Gift-A-Long

The Indie Design Gift-A-Long starts tonight!  I'm so excited!

What is the Indie Design Gift-A-Long (GAL)?
This is a multi-designer promotion done on Ravelry.  It begins with a sale: Between tonight and Friday Nov. 21st, independent designers will have between 4 and 20 of their designs discounted by 25%.  Then, all the way until New Years, will be an epic Knit-A-Long (KAL) and Crochet-A-Long (CAL) as people race to get holiday gifts finished.  Meanwhile, prizes and contests will be held.

What patterns is Tinking Turtle discounting?
I'm discounting my entire self-published catalogue.  You can look at it here.

Where is all the action happening?
The Ravelry group is here.  That's where the the contests, chatter and whole event is happening!  I'd love to see you there!

As part of the Gift-A-Long, I'll be doing a bunch of interviews and other fun things to encourage participation.  I hope you join us!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Finishing Objects

In other news, I've actually managed to knit some things that aren't designs.  It's a miracle!

I thought I'd share.

A few weeks ago I promised my brother, Matthew, a pair of fingerless running gloves.  I'm sending them to Matt tomorrow, with a little note.

The letter reads,

"Dear Matt, Congrats!  You have a pair of Tinking Turtle originals A Few Facts:

  • The fiber was named R'lyeh, by a dyer named Cloudlover. (R'lyeh is from a horror story).
  • The yarn was spun by me over about 15 hours.
  • 1 stitch takes me .0275 minutes.
  • Each glove has 2660 stitches.
  • Including finishing, each glove took me 2 hrs 10 minutes.
  • Total time: 19 hrs 20 minutes.
  • Total worth: approx $483*
  • Wash in lukewarm water, not in a washing machine. Do not Agitate.
Love, Jen"

I'm hoping it will motivate him to take care of them.  

*I calculated the worth at $25 an hour.  I did not take in the cost of the fiber.  I should have probably valued them closer to $30, which is normally what I make for difficult finishing work or teaching, but I gave him the "family discount."

I have mixed feelings about the fingerless gloves.  I really like them; I'm thinking about making a pair for myself.  Part of the problem is this yarn has been one of my favorites for a long time.  I was saving it for something special.  When I was looking for yarn to make the gloves, I kept coming back to the color, because it's masculine without being a boring color, and they've got a little bit of interest to them.

I just kinda want them for myself.  So I'm going to send them off before I keep them.

I also managed to finish two sets of socks this week.  Now, before you think I knit an entire set of socks in a week, let me explain.  About 2.5 years ago, I got to play with my friend's antique sock knitting machine.  It was a little sensitive, and would only let us do tubes that day.  So, I made a bunch of tubes that I've been using for teaching.  BUT!  Two of them I managed to make into tubes that I wanted to turn into socks.  I finally got around to it.  For all the sets, I only knit the ribbing, the toe, and the heel. Still a bunch of knitting, and I was also cutting into the sock to do afterthought heels and toes, but not quite so terrible.

If you're observant, you'll notice that the second pair is a set of fraternal triplets.  The middle one wills tay a teaching sock, while the top and bottom become wearable socks.  For some reason as I was working these, the tube went from tight to loose, and the first sock had different pooling from the other two.

What have you been working on lately?

Sunday, November 2, 2014


I'm not quite sure where the last week has went, as I've been preparing for the Indie Design A Long and finishing up a couple of patterns.

I was so excited for Halloween - it's one of my favorite holidays, not the least because it happens during the height of Fall.  I also love that it's the holiday where you can play pretend; or eve
n try on different types of people you want to be.  Oftentimes when I was a teenager, Halloween was the time to let my dreams out to play.

This year I was so excited.  We live in suburbia, and I was convinced that we'd get lots of trick or treaters. Last week I decorated the house, making a rather epic run to Walmart, which was pretty impressive considering that I left stuff for others to buy.  I got pumpkin bags that you fill with leaves (real grownups have those - my parents never got them as we always lived up against a wooded area, so leaves got composted).

We got 12 trick or treaters.  It was a disappointment.

Still, I thought I'd share with you some pictures of my decorations.

The house, decorated, with the pumpkin bags in front.

In the dark the house looks much scarier!

My black cat costume matches the cat on our door!
I carved my pumpkin to be my logo.

Putting my dress forms to good use.

My other dress form. I made the heads!

I stuck a flashing light inside, so when it got dark it glowed!

Another picture of my turtle, because I worked very hard on it!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Most Incredible Amazing Ballwinder Ever

Back about a month or so ago I was teaching at SVFF, and I realized I'd left my ball winder at home.  I went to the organizers, and one of them arranged to have her balwinder at the festival the next day for me to use for my class.  (As an aside, the staff at SVFF were amazing.  If I lived closer, I'm want to become friends with all of them.  You know when you just meet someone and you immediately sense that they'd be a really great friend?  That was nearly the entire staff of SVFF.)

The next day when the ball winder came, I was in awe.  Serious, envious awe.  I'd never seen a ball winder like it, and I've seen more than a few.  It wasn't a Royal or a Knitpicks  or a Boye Electric Winder - those are all plastic, and wear out fairly quickly.   It wasn't one of the wooden ones: neither a Strauch nor one of Nancy's Knit Knacks commercial heavy duty ball winder.  Both of the wooden ones I've used at several different stores: both the motorized ones and the hand turning ones.

No, this thing was hefty, made out of cast iron or aluminum, and geared in a way I'd never seen before. This thing looked like it could be thrown against a wall and still be OK.  I fell instantly in love - and as soon as I got home I ordered myself one.

The ball winder, made by Stanwood Needlecraft (who I've never heard about), is absolutely lovely.  Priced lower than the wooden ones, I'd say it's comparable in durability, and can wind up to 10 oz of yarn with no problem - more than double what most of the plastic models can handle.  I've barely gotten to use the ball winder since I've gotten it, since each time I go to wind a ball of yarn, Mr. Turtle pulls it out of my hands and winds it for me - apparently the smooth running of the gears makes him happy.

It works differently than other ball winders - the little arm you see rising out from under the ball winder goes in one direction while the white center part runs in the other direction - creating a ball that winds very quickly and smoothly.  Balls are much more regular, and perhaps even more densely wound - meaning they hold their shape better even when you've pulled the center out.

The gearing is wonderful: very precise and I don't see it wearing out anytime soon, since all the parts are metal.  The only detractor is the running can be rather loud if you go all out and are really cranking away - but slow it down and it gets quiet again.

So where can you get this ball winder?  It's cheapest on the website, but also can be found on Amazon.  Seriously.  I'm in love with it.

PS: I was not compensated in any way shape or form for reviewing this ball winder.  I just love it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yarn Review: Himalayan Trail from Bijou Basin

A couple of months ago I heard through the grapevine that Bijou Basin was doing a yarn color line based off of the book/show Outlander.  Normally Bijou works in natural colors, so I perked up at this news.  Now, I've spoken before about my love for the books, and while I have mixed feelings about the show, I've decided I'm in love with Bijou Basin's yarn.

Fingerless Gloves worked in Himalayan Trail
Full disclosure, I was sent the yarn by Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter, of Stitchcraft Marketing.  They help coordinate online and promotional things with Bijou Spun.  I also spent a good 45 minutes talking to Carl (one of the owners of Bijou) at Rhinebeck, and was thoroughly charmed.

I decided to request two often problematic colors: a strong red and a strong yellow.  If there was any problem with dye bleed, I wanted to know about it.  I'm happy to report that I needn't have worried.  The yarn is completely colorfast, and the colors are strong and vibrant.

Let me share with you what this yarn is and isn't.  I was sent Bijou's Himalayan Trail, which comes in a skein of 2 oz and 200 yards.  It's 75% Yak Down and 25% Super Fine Merino.  It's a 2 ply yarn, rather loose/medium spun (it's not quite totally loosely spun, it it isn't quite medium either), and hovers around a sportweight yarn.  The price seems to hover around $25.

Normally I'd be wary about two ply yarns not spun tightly; in my experience they tend to be rather prone to splitting.  Perhaps because of the down's fuzziness, or the general properties of the yarn, I found the two strands liked to "cling" to each other.  That meant that they were a lot less prone to splitting than I expected.

Stitch definition is pretty good - again, something about the yarn seems to mean it deviates from the norm.  Part of this is because even though the yarn is a little "fuzzy," the fuzzies are not overwhelming.

The yarn's got a springy and lofty feel, and it comes across as sturdy and on the softer side.  The loft is amazing.  As soon as I got this yarn I knew it was destined for things that were warm and snuggly: garter stitch, brioche and ribbing all came to mind.  Stockinette doesn't do the yarn justice.  Cables and colorwork are good options too.

Now, a couple of things to be aware of.  These are not quite detractors, but they are things to take into consideration.

When I made my pair of fingerless gloves, I did deliberately choose to seam them together.  I wanted to see how the yarn stood up to the stresses of seaming - as I had a sneaking suspicion that this yarn wouldn't be the best.  My seams were about 3-4" long, and while the yarn did hold up, it looked pretty worse for wear when I was done.  If I was seaming up a sweater or other garment, I'd probably choose to do the seaming in another yarn.  The Yak Down, being a shorter staple length, means that I'd probably break the yarn if I was working a long seam.  In fact, I can easily break the yarn in my hands, without even pulling that hard.  That isn't surprising.  Yak Down is a very short staple length, and I'm sure the Merino is doing the bulk of the work holding the yarn together.

Also, I think it'd do well to one or two unravelings, but if you were working a project and you knew you might be ripping back a lot... this wouldn't be the project to use this yarn.  I'd also be careful about which way you pull the yarn from the yarn cake: if you were going in the wrong direction, I could see you removing some of the twist from the yarn and that could be frustrating.  Still, I have that problem with a lot of other yarns, so it's more something to be aware of.
Swatch worked in brioche.

I've been wearing my fingerless gloves for nearly a week and a half.  Pilling or shedding hasn't been a problem.  I wouldn't choose this yarn for something that was meant for rugged wear: neither socks nor shoveling mittens would be a good choice.  But things like hats, cowls, sweaters worn close to the skin, fingerless mitts, and shawls would be great choices.  Still, I think those detractors are a fair tradeoff, considering the other pluses.

An I will say this much, I've worked a couple of different design proposals in this yarn in the last couple of days, which means I like it enough to work with it!  And I'm picky!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rhinebeck Recap, and Olana

My classroom and schedule.
As I'm writing this, wind and rain are blowing off the maple leaves in our side-yard, before they even get the chance to change full color.  It somehow seems a little appropriate.

Rhinebeck was everything it was made out to be and more.  I taught for 4 grueling and rewarding days, connecting with students and meeting other teachers.  It was wonderful and exhausting and exhilarating and I loved it.  I'm also glad to be home.

I was staying with my parents about an hour north of the town of Rhinebeck, and each morning I woke before the sun had risen (not quite the task it would be in the summer), loaded up the car with teaching supplies, and drove a glorious and visually-rewarding drive along the Hudson River.  The sun would rise as I drove, and I would watch the colors of the trees light up in the morning sun.  I'd anticipate the drive over the Rip Van Winkle bridge, and then would wind my way along Rt. 9, passing dozens of apple-orchards and pumpkin fields.

I'd arrive at the fairgrounds just as they were opening, find a parking place, and each day I'd hurry to my classroom to set up.  In the evening, with the adrenaline still pumping from teaching, I'd make my way back home as the sun would set, and watch the pinks and oranges and golds of the sunset reflected in the trees and marsh-grasses and purple hills.  Then I'd promptly get home, eat, prep for the next day, and go to bed early.

Working on duplicate stitch for Darn Those Knits!
On Sunday, that schedule changed a little, as my mother came with me.  I was fortunate to have an hour and a half lunch break between my first and second class.  I hastily downed my sandwich, then spent a whirlwind hour having my mother (who neither knits or crochets), show me her highlights to the fair.  I loved seeing the fair through her eyes.

She also managed to get some pictures of me actually teaching, for which I was grateful, or I would have had no proof that I was at the fair otherwise.

Rhinebeck is hard to capture in words.  On Saturday during my lunch break I tried to explore a little bit on my own, and quickly became overwhelmed by the crowds and the fact that I couldn't get anywhere without shuffling.  I finally found a bench behind a building, and sat down with one other knitter, who was waiting for her friend to finish buying things from a vendor.  We admired the trees, talked a little, and I managed to get my head back on my shoulders soon enough to dive back into teaching.

Classes, for the most part, went smoothly.  As always, I walked away with things I'll plan on improving, and I probably learned just as much from my students!  Some comments people made really brought home where my skill set lies, and I have some great ideas for future workshops.

Because Rhinebeck was so big, I'm going to finish this with a pictorial journal of the weekend.

Footwear is very important when teaching.  No fancy shoes for me -
My Keens served me well. Although I think they've finally bit the dust.
A "Frakensock" made by one of my students in the Heels, Heels and More Heels class.
The Iconic row of maples at Rhinebeck.  The Colors!
It was so crowded, and there was knitwear everywhere.
Fleeces at the fleece sale.  I wanted one so badly.
This shawl was the colors of the trees, and it made me so happy.
This sweater was one I did not knit.
But it was warm, and I inherited it from my grandmother.
It seemed appropriate.
The view from Olana (where many Hudson Valley Painters worked). My mother and I stopped as we were heading home.
The sun was setting.
The colors made your heart sing.

Monday, October 20, 2014


I will be at Rhinebeck, teaching from October 16th to October 19th.  I'll be traveling on the Wednesday before and the Monday after.  That means from October 15th until October 20th, I'll be super busy and won't be answering my email or phone consistently.

Blog posts will also be intermittent.

If you'd like to take a class, you can see the classes I'm offering here.  If you'll be at the fiber festival and want to say hello, drop me a note.  I'll have limited time around lunch and would love to share a quick hello!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Traveling to Rhinebeck

Today I gathered up my belongings and, while it was still dark, walked the three blocks to the train station, dragging my two suitcases behind me.  The larger one has my teaching supplies.  The smaller - more teaching supplies and clothes.

This morning I was on the train from Ashland to NYC, now I'm on the second leg of my journey, from NYC to Albany.  This train ride remains one of my favorites.  I'd rank it up there with the train ride Michael and I took going across the Rocky mountains.  For anyone who has ever taken the Empire Builder, they know that heading north, you get seats to the left of the train.  Heading south, you get seats to the right.  Why?  Because of the views over the Hudson.

Each time I take the train it's different.  Today there are dramatic clouds - shades of dark and light grey, with occasional glimpses of blue.  The river is the color of Buckingham Slate - dark and reflective.  River grasses billow in the breeze, their heavy heads full of seed.  An dominating everything is the color of the trees: the bright orangey red of sugar maple, the yellows of beech, the reddish browns of oak, and the occasional bright flash of red dogwood and butter yellow willow.

My heart sings with the colors of fall.

It seems like Rhinebeck is the culmination of a knitting year: the time when we get to show off a year's worth of the fruits of our labor.  I have to admit I'm thinking the weather is going to be perfect... a little on the cold side on Sunday, but that's what wearing your knitwear is for.
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