A quick update and a change of plans

Today’s been quite the day.

Supplies for a class on Saturday at Fibre Space

Right now, I’m in the airport, waiting to get on a plane to head to Boston.  It wasn’t all that long ago I was in Boston for fun with Mr. Turtle, but this time it’s for sadder reasons.  My great-aunt, Janet, died last Saturday morning.  I found out Saturday morning as I was heading out the door to catch a train to Old Town Alexandria for a full day of teaching at Fibre Space.

So today I’m heading back to Boston, and then onward to Newburyport and the family home there.  I’ll be supporting my mother (Momma Turtle) and extended family.  I’ve got mixed feelings about the trip, but we’ll make the best of it.  I’ve got a backpack full of yarn to finish the sweater I need to send off on Monday.

I’ve got a couple of fun blog-posts scheduled to run while I’m gone, so be sure to keep tuning in, but I won’t be checking my email until Monday.


In other news, I got a package in the mail yesterday evening.  It was small, and I couldn’t remember that anything was supposed to be getting back to me soon.  So of course, I immediately ripped it open.

Karner Butterfly

Karner Butterfly

It was my Karner Butterfly socks, returned to me.

Getting projects back after they’ve been published is a bit like greeting an old friend: a little odd, and very welcome.  Oftentimes I worked in these projects quite a while ago (in this case, nearly 11 months ago), and I haven’t seen them since then.  They immediately bring back all the memories that happened when I was working on them: in this case, it was the cruise I went on with my family last year.

If you missed Karner Butterfly the first time around, you should check them out!  They’re a fun little pattern.

My Easy Finishing Technique for Weaving in Bulky Yarn

Techniques for Weaving In Really Bulky Yarn

Today we have a quick little blog post that I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but haven’t quite gotten around to!  I thought it’d be the perfect thing to start out our week: a tutorial on weaving in really bulky yarns.  I think it’s a helpful finishing technique for both knitting and crochet.

What am I going to be talking about? Well, weaving in ends.  Now, I know weaving in ends isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I totally understand.  It’s one of the reasons I offer finishing services.  But for those of you who like to sweat the details, weaving in ends can be an important part of finishing a project.

Today’s little tutorial is specifically about weaving in really bulky yarns, which can be hard to pull through the fabric.  Now, this trick only works for plied yarns, but it’s a nice thing to have in your arsenal.


  1. First, we’re going to want to take the tail that we plan to weave in above.  See how it’s plied together – that is, it’s got multiple strands all twined around each other?  We’re going to separate those out.  You’ll want to do it by twisting the yarn in the opposite direction it’s twisted together, so the individual strands start standing out from one another.  Once you’ve got one you can grab, pull it from it’s neighbors, until you’ve got them all separated like this:
    Yarn separated out into it's individual plies.

    Yarn separated out into it’s individual plies.

  2. Now that you’ve got the plies separated out, get a sharp-pointed needle and thread one of the plies onto the needle.  Like this:
    Thread one of the plies onto a sharp needle to weave in the end of the yarn.

    Thread one of the plies onto a sharp needle to weave in the end of the yarn.

  3. Make sure the other ends are out of the way, and now, weave in the end.  Do the same with the other strands of the yarn.
    Nearly there: All but one end woven in!

    Nearly there: All but one end woven in!

  4. Finally, trim your ends away as close as you can to your project without cutting anything.
    Trim your ends away, and admire your work! You've finished weaving in your ends!

    Trim your ends away, and admire your work!


Do you have a favored method of weaving in ends, or a finishing technique that you love to share with others?  Tell me about it in the comments!  I love hearing from you!

My First Local Yarn Store: The Needlecraft Center

This last weekend Mr. Turtle and I drove the long five hours to Davidson College, our alma mater.  It was his class reunion (last year was mine, but since the weekend was the same one as TNNA… I chose to forgo it).  Davidson College is a small liberal arts college just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina.  You might have heard of Davidson College in a few different contexts: our free laundry services, when we went to the Elite 8 in 2008, because we’re Stephen Curry’s Alma Mater, or (if your’e in the stitching world) the fact that we’re the alma mater of Ann Shane of ’85 – also known as one half of Mason-Dixon Knitting.

Mr. Turtle and I have been back to Davidson a few times since we moved away five years ago – the most notable instance being at Mr. Turtle’s brother’s graduation.  So the changes to the campus weren’t quite such a shock to us as they were to others.  Still, it’s interesting to see how the campus has grown and changed.

There are few places that have been as formative to my life as Davidson.  There’s Camp, of course, and my family.  But Davidson is where I learned a lot of life skills in a very short amount of time: how to write well, create an ordered argument, set-up an excel sheet like a pro, weld and hammer.  It’s where I met Mr. Turtle.  It’s also where I met my first LYS: The Needlecraft Center.

The Needlecraft Center, Davidson NC

The Needlecraft Center, Davidson NC

So while Mr. Turtle spent his time socializing with old friends, I took a quick hour to stop by the store, say hello to the staff, and just revisit a place that got me through many college crisis.  And then, on Sunday before we left, I took some time to spend with the owner, Elaine McArn, who has run the store for 43 years – since 1971.

It was lovely to visit with Elaine.  When I was in college I was a little intimidated by her: she was so very knowledgeable and experienced.  She was the one who caught that I was knitting twisted stitches, who gave a word to the knitting style I preferred.  She was the one who educated me on why it was worth it to save your pennies and use good yarn.  She started me on my first terrible socks.  I didn’t always welcome her advice: after all, I was young and didn’t always appreciate being told what I was doing was wrong, or not the best way to go about things.  But I respected her – especially when I realized she was almost always right.

The year after I graduated my perception of her changed.  I was working for the college, living in a house, and beginning to figure out the “adult thing.”  I began to really respect the fact that Elaine had a long-time respected business, especially in the crafting world.  I got to know her better through knitting nights at the store, and by hanging out more as she talked about the difficulties of owning a store: dealing with “missing merchandise,” how to market yarns and tools, and making tough choices about where her business was going to go.  We bonded over gardening: growing peas and tomatoes, zucchini and squash.

young hatchlings in a nest cozied in a potted fern

Young Hatchlings in Elaine’s Fern

We’ve kept in touch on and off since then.  Elaine was one of the first people I contacted when I knew I was going to TNNA.  We met over breakfast the morning before the show floor opened, and she gave me advice about how to conduct myself.  It made me relax when I was SO nervous!

So on Sunday it was more than nice to visit with Elaine, to talk about families and business, gardening and textiles.  To talk about having to make tough decisions when you run a business: are you going to buy a new printer, or do workarounds so you can have the cash in reserve?  Which yarns do you carry, what things are fads and which are not?  We bonded over the young birds hatching in one of her ferns, and the way rosemary smells just after it rains.  As we were talking I had a moment where  my younger self looked through my eyes – not quite believing we were discussing tatting and crochet in heirloom textiles.

Have you had people in your life whose relationship has changed and grown?  I’d love to hear about some of them!

A weekend in Pictures: Davidson Reunion

Mr. Turtle and I got back from our Davidson College Reunion later last evening.  It was just enough time to unpack, read through emails, feed the cats, and start a load of laundry.  I swear, this traveling every weekend thing has to stop.

Tomorrow I’ll talk more about the reunion, as my thoughts settle.  Today, a few quick pictures of what I’m working on:

Swatching for my current design!

Swatching for my current design!

I’m working with some lovely yarn called chocolate. I’m trying not to get hungry every time I use it.

Working on the sleeve of the piece. Knitting bag in Davidson colors!

Working on the sleeve of the piece. Knitting bag in Davidson colors!

Davidson College has a lake campus, where Mr. Turtle spent many an afternoon as Commodore of the sailing team.  We went to revisit the lake campus, and I plopped myself by a tree near the water, and worked on the sleeve to this project.

All the revisiting members of 2010. I'm not there as I'm class of 2009.

All the revisiting members of 2010. I’m not there as I’m class of 2009.


Tinking Turtle’s Summer Camps: Knitting, Crochet, Sewing and More!

young child learning to sew

Sewing with Next Step Needlecraft from Tinking Turtle Designs

It’s that time of year again: the weather is warming (despite all the rain we’ve had this week), and on my walk this morning, I found the first delicious blackberries.  It’s summertime – and it won’t be long now until school wraps up and those hot days will be around the corner.  It won’t be long until Tinking Turtle’s Craft Summer Camps start!

For me, this means a shift in Tinking Turtle’s focus: I’m beginning to get ready for the summer camps that I’ll be running.  They’re one of my favorite parts of the year.

You see, way back before Tinking Turtle was a name written on a piece of paper, before I’d even dreamed up my first pair of socks, I was a camp counselor at Chimney Corners Camp.  I’ve talked about CCC (as it’s known to campers and alumni alike) before: it’s the place where I met my longtime friend Becca, and where Mr. Turtle proposed to me.  CCC’s been a huge part of my development as a person – not only personally, but professionally as well.  CCC was the place I taught my first students: figuring out how to break down knitting, crochet, embroidery and cross stitch to campers aged eight to fourteen.  I was only about seventeen myself, and I had very little clue what I was doing, but I figured out.

Since then, I’ve continued to love working and crafting with children.  I worked as a nanny for many, many years, and last year I ran the camp String Theory through Montgomery College.  It was a hit and a blast, and this year I’m adding to the lineup with two new classes: Next Step Needlecraft and Knockout Punch Rug Needlework.  Let me tell you a bit about the classes:

String Theory is my flagship class, now in it’s second year.  It’s a variety introduction to needlework

young girls showing off their finished knit mitts

Finished knitted mitts from String Theory!

and crafting for both boys and girls ages 8-12.  Campers learn how to knit a fingerless mitts (or two!), sew and decorate a project bag, learn to process, card and spin fiber, and the basics of how to dye wool.  This year we’re offering three sessions: 7/20 – 7/24 from 1-4 pm, 7/27 – 7/31 from 1-4 pm, and 8/3 – 8/7 from 9 – 12 pm.  You can click on the links to find out more and signup!

Because we received such a great response to String Theory, we’ve added Next Step Needlecraft.  Intended for campers who loved String Theory and want to learn more, or for older students looking to learn some more interesting crafts, it’s a great next step.  Students learn how to crochet, how to spin yarn, the basics of needle felting, and how to create stunning punch rug pieces.  This class is meant to sink students’ teeth into needlecrafts you don’t get exposed to nearly anywhere else.  This year I’m offering two sessions: 7/20 – 7/24 from 9-12 pm, and 8/3 – 8/7 from 1-4 pm.


My last class: Knockout Punch Rug Needlework is a very focused class.  Unlike the other two camps which focus on variety, this one dials down into the art of rug making.  In this class students will have a lot more independence to learn, plan and execute one, if not two projects.  This class focuses on giving students the independence to decide and plan their own projects, and my help to make them a reality.  We’ve got just one session of this camp, so if it sounds like something your child would enjoy, make sure to sign up as soon as possible. Knockout Punch Rugs will run 7/27 – 7/31 from 9 – 12 pm.

Child learning to knit with multicolored yarn

Learning to Knit in String Theory

If you’re looking for a great crafting camp for the summer, these camps are for you.  Don’t have children of your own?  Tell your friends about these camps.  Teaching kids crafts improves dexterity, problem solving and creativity – and preserves these traditions for the next generation.

Let me know what you think about the camps – and what other crafts I should look at adding to the repertoire!

Making and Fixing Mistakes

darning and fixing a hole in knitting, repairing a mistake

Fixing a Mistake: a hole, in knitting

I’ve been thinking a lot about mistakes lately.

One of my most popular classes is titled “Oops!”  The class hits home with knitters and crocheters: sometime, somewhere, we all are going to make a mistake.  Probably even more than one mistake.  And if it’s a big enough mistake, it’s going to need to be fixed.  It’s a simple premise for the class.  Let’s take the pressure off making mistakes, and deliberately make them – and then learn how to fix the mistakes we’ve created.  Oops is a class, that, at it’s heart, is about being human.  Instead of pretending that mistakes don’t happen, it faces them head-on.

I’ve heard it quoted a couple of times that in Navajo rug work the weaver puts a deliberate “mistake” into their work: the idea being that only the Creator is perfect.  You hear this idea echoed in Indian or Persian rugs, or in Islamic geometric designs.  While some people believe the myth is not true, there’s a point to be made in the story: by being human, we make mistakes, and in some ways we should make peace with it.

The Yarn Harlot’s written about mistakes dozens of times.  Elizabeth Zimmerman held the idea that there are no mistakes in knitting, as long as the results turn out the way you want.  Heck, mistakes are so common in patterns that there’s a word for it: errata.

Yet, two weeks ago I was a stew of anxiety as I went through tech editing for three of my patterns coming out in the fall.

darning a hole in a worn out glove - repairing a mistake

Fixing a hole formed in a worn-out glove

It’s funny: a large part of my income comes from doing away from imperfections: repairing broken things, and fixing mistakes in pieces seen as unsaveable.

Yet, when it comes to my *own* mistakes, I’m hesitant to talk about them.

Perhaps it’s because of the scale. To me, a mistake in a blanket affects nothing except the blanket.  If I make a mistake cooking, or gardening, or in any of my personal activities, the only person harmed is myself (and perhaps Mr. Turtle, if he’s forced to eat my cooking).  In contrast, a mistake in a pattern affects someone else’s life.  It can inconvenience them.  A mistake in a pattern can take hours for a tech editor to untangle; in worst cases, it can derail publishing deadlines and hurt the bottom line.  Mistakes on that scale can be costly.

I’m not one to let go of my own mistakes lightly.  In 10th grade, on a field assignment, I broke a thermometer that my teacher was letting me borrow.  I was heartbroken and that night I cried myself sick, thinking about telling my teacher the next day that I’d let him down.  The whole day before I could go see him, I worried the situation over like a sore tooth: poking and prodding at it, envisioning the worst case scenario. By the time I got to last period when I could speak to him, I was physically sick and trembling.  My small mistake had become so big in my mind it has physiological effects.  When I went to tell him what was wrong, I ended up just crying from the stress.

It’s why I love working for myself: I can choose the people, and the situations, where I’m held accountable.

I’ve grown up since 10th grade, but big mistakes still have the ability to immobilize me, at least a little.  Crafting an email in response to an irate customer can still leave me feeling queasy.

So two weeks ago, when I had not one, but two patterns in tech edits with some significant problems, I struggled to keep my composure.  In a conversation to my friend Becca, she put things into perspective.

A while back I hired a woman to help me crochet some pieces that were on a deadline.  They were samples, and the patterns were already written, but they needed to be worked up in different yarn.  I had very specific instructions.  I handed off the yarn to her, with a firm emphasis that if problems came up, if her gauge was off, if she made a mistake, she should contact me right away. I knew that she might make mistakes, but as long as she communicated with me, I could manage things.

Unfortunately, when she made mistakes, as sometimes we are wont to do, she kept working the pattern, hoping that if she went further the mistake would be less obvious.  Instead, when I got the pieces, I had to do quite a bit of work to fix things she hadn’t shared with me.

I was angry.  It wouldn’t have been a problem if she had just gotten in touch with me, but instead, she waited until the deadline to inform me of the problems.  It left me with very little time to do damage control.

In the same manner, Becca pointed out, I should handle the mistakes I make.  If I made a mistake, I should be upfront about it.  I shouldn’t cover it up.  Instead, I should communicate what my problem is, and ask for help.

Not so very easy.

Why am I talking about all this?

Well, I’m thinking about how mistakes are viewed in crafting, in the knitting and crochet industry, and in my own personal life.  And I’m thinking about ways I can both respond to mistakes I make, and other’s make, with more grace.

Have you made a mistake in your personal or professional life?  How do you handle them?  I really, really would like to know.

Yarn Highlights from 2015 Columbus TNNA

And again, a picture-heavy post, as I’m in the airport waiting for my flight to leave so I can get home.  I wrapped up the morning by saying hello (and goodbye) to friends, wrapping up conversations, and running off with yarn to swatch.  I also am in the process of going through my notes, making sure that I don’t get home and wonder what the heck happened.

It’s interesting to compare my experience to my first TNNA last year.  This TNNA was a lot less frenetic: I didn’t quite try to fill every moment with something. I wasn’t quite as worried that I’d miss something, and was able to take breaks as I needed them: including going to bed on Saturday rather than staying up and zombie watching (there was a Haunter’s Convention next to ours).  Tonight, when I get home, I’ll come home to a husband and house… last year I came back to a stripped-bare apartment, as Mr. Turtle had started his old job, and I was wrapping up things in DC.  I think, in many ways, all these changes are good.

And now, onto what you all want to see: shots of new to me, or new to everyone yarn that stood out for me at the show!

yarn in shades of brown from basket

From the Mountain

I may be a little biased, but this yarn, From the Mountain, is distributed from Chapel Hill, very close to where Mr. Turtle was born and grew up.  It’s a yarn with a social purpose: it gives the women from Fayzabad, Afghanistan a socially viable way to earn a living and create a beautiful product.  As the company has grown, so have their spinners: all the yarn is entirely handspun.  It’s a lovely, lovely yarn in natural colors that creates a beautiful product.

mini-skeins of CEY's Big Liberty Wool in grey, pink and purple.

Classic Elite Yarns Big Liberty Wool

Classic Elite Yarns has several new yarns out this year, but the one that got me the most excited is their Big Liberty Wool.  With the same look and makeup of the Liberty Wool, it’s about time they got a larger weight!  Working up somewhere between an worsted and aran, it’s got the same lovely feel of Liberty.  I’d love to do a kid’s sweater in these three colors: the purple, pink and grey work really well together, don’t you think?

dark green yarn from Kismet Yarns

Refuge Fingering Weight from Kismet Fiber Works

Kismet Fiber Works was a new-to-me company this year (although I believe they’ve been around for a while).  I absolutely fell in love with the rich emerald of this particular yarn.  Made from Baby Camel and Silk, it’s to die for, and the hand is meant for a snuggly shawl.

mini-skeins of yarn paired with normal skeins in yellow, blue, grey, and other colors

Wonderland Yarns’ Messenger Hat Kit

Wonderland Yarns has some fun little bundles I’m rather excited about: called Messenger Hat Kit, they’re enough yarn to work several different patterns that they have.  Personally, because I’m not good at following the rules, I want to make something of my own.  I really loved the hue of the blue and yellow pictured above.

Rainbow colored marled yarn

The Yarns of Rhichard Devrieze had a new yarn made of superwash and non-superwash wool.


Saving one of the best for last: the Yarns of Rhichard Devrieze has two new yarns: one of which I’m working with soon, (and will talk about a little later) and the one pictured above.  It’s created by spinning two types of wool together: superwash and non-superwash.  The result is a yarn that takes the dye slightly differently, and creates a marled effect.  I loved it.  It’s a bulky weight, with a sweet hand, and of course, comes in Rhichard’s wonderfully saturated colors.  I wanted to just hang it around my neck, but restrained myself.

Any of the yarns catch your eye?  What do you think?

A Brief Visual Tour of TNNA 2015, in Columbus, OH

I’m at TNNA this weekend (I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon), and having a ball.  It’s a lot of networking (which can sometimes be a little hard), but it’s also just so wonderful to spend time with people who are passionate about the same things.

However, after using my words all day. I’m fairly worded out.  So today’s a brief visual tour to TNNA, with captions.


Bags full of knitted and crochet goodies, for the fashion show!

Getting Ready to the TNNA Fashion Show, backstage.

Painted Canvas Trolley with Ashland, VA on the side

Ashland, VA represented! I was shocked.


Knitted and Crochet Teepee with Addi's booth.

Knitted and Crochet Teepee in Addi’s booth.

My mittens at the Willow Designer Breakfast at TNNA.

My mittens at the Willow Designer Breakfast at TNNA.

Making net out of Sprang.

Learning how to work Sprang with Carol James – she’s a really great teacher!


There were so many other things I want to share with you, and I will, once I get home.  I have yarns I’m excited about, patterns and opportunities.  But for now, I really should get ready for tomorrow… and figure out how I’m going to get all my yarn home.

New Website!

Welcome to Tinking Turtle

New Welcome on the Landing Page

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been working on a new website with Cultivar Designs, and it’s finally done. If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to click through and take a good look. It represents a much needed change – while the old design served it’s purpose, I was growing out of the tools I had at hand, and it was time to make a change.

So, what has the new layout got going for it? Let me count the ways:

  • The layout now scales to any size screen, be it mobile, tablet, computer, or big-screen TV.  It should be easier to pull it up on your phone to show your friends, if you want to share the wonderfulness that’s Tinking Turtle.
  • I’ve got an easier way to contact me, if you want to ask questions or drop me a note.
  • Some of you found the old way of commenting on my site very difficult.  I’ve moved over to another comment system that allows you to login in a variety of ways, as well as commenting the “normal way.”
  • If you’re interested in having Finishing done, the new form is a little more responsive, and allows me, on the back end, to get in touch with you faster.
  • The site reflects the way Tinking Turtle is now – a little older, a little wiser, but still full of fun energy and silly humor.

Much of the credit for the great website is due to Cultivar, and I’ll be talking a little bit more about the experience of working with them next week.


On another note, tomorrow I’ll be heading off to TNNA.  This year will be my second year, and it’s quite a start to realize how much more relaxed I am this year than last one.  For one, I’m packing this evening instead of say, three days ago.  For another, this time around I’m much more willing to let things flow as they will.  I’m looking forward to the event – it’s wonderful to be around people who “speak your language.”

And when  I come back, I’ll have lots of pictures to share – both from my travels last week, and my travels this weekend!  I might even have some stitching things to share – so stay tuned!

As a last note, if you haven’t already, now’s a great time to signup for my newsletter, to keep up-to-date with everything.  You see the new button to the right?  You should click on it.