Tutorial: How to Unwind a Skein

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About a week ago I got a great question from Mary, one of my students and customers.  She wrote, “How do you unravel a twist of yarn? Made a mess and I am sure there is a correct way but I’m not privy it and I have three more to go….Mary.”  When Mary was talking about a twist of yarn, she was talking about a skein.  And this can be quite puzzling if you’ve never dealt with yarn stored this way.

I thought it was a great question, so I’ve put together a tutorial about it.  Since it’s a fairly picture-heavy post, I’ve put the rest of the post behind a cut so the photographs won’t slow down the loading time on the website.

But first, why is yarn stored in skeins, and not pre-wound for customers?  There are a couple of different reasons.  First, it’s generally agreed that keeping your yarn wound into balls for long periods of time can stretch out the yarn, especially if the yarn is wound up tightly. Keeping it in a skein allows the yarn to breathe a bit more.  Second, it’s easier for yarn companies to ship their yarn in skeins: they take up less space, squish better, and lie flatter in boxes.  Yarn that is in balls tends to be hard for LYS’s to store – I used to call a couple of different balled yarns “tribbles,” as they seemed to jump off the shelves whenever my back was turned.  Finally, for hand-dyed yarns, gradients and a few other yarns, skeins allow customers to see all the colors in the skein better, so they’re not surprised by a “mystery color.”

So that’s why you often may get your yarn in skeins from a Local Yarn Store.  Most stores offer balling services if you buy the yarn in the store or if you pay a small fee.  But do expect to wait – often sales clerks have to fit in the winding of yarn around their other duties!

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A Brief Tribute to The Yarn Spot

Today I got a sad letter in my email inbox.  The Yarn Spot, a knitting store in Wheaton, MD, is closing.  It’s been a while since The Yarn SpotI’ve written anything about the store, so I thought I’d take a moment to reflect.

In June 2010 Mr. Turtle had just graduated Davidson College, and I was wrapping up my contract working for the Davidson College Theatre Department.  Michael had just gotten a job working for the Advisory Board Company in DC, and I was rather desperately looking for employment.  After having our apartment in Maryland fall apart, I found a place to sublet with a crocheter on Ravelry, and we moved in just as summer hit full swing.  Still being in the recession, I was finding full-time employment rather difficult to find.  Our landlady pointed me towards The Yarn Spot, and shortly thereafter Victoria, one of the owners, had hired me part-time to teach crochet and work in the store.

The Yarn Spot gave me a place to grow.  My job with the Davidson Theatre Department had been a poor fit, and I was too inexperienced to ask for the support I needed.  It left my confidence shaken.  The Yarn Spot was where I began to get my confidence back.  There, I was able to allow my expertise to shine.  I was allowed to develop my first classes for an adult audience.  I was allowed to peel back the curtain of the Yarn Industry.  I learned about yarns by fondling them, knitting them up, and listening to what other customers had to say.

It’s hard not to talk about The Yarn Spot without talking about the culture of the store.  The Yarn Spot drew on a large base of deeply Jewish people, and it’s there I learned the meaning of so many yiddish words, ideas and concepts.  Preparations for Pesach (Passover) were discussed in the store; it is there I learned what a Sukkot was.  On slow afternoons, Victoria would discuss with me Jewish mourning traditions or recipes.

I moved from DC just as The Yarn Spot was moving into their new space.  We’d drifted apart before then – I’d moved further away from the store, and was unable to work there as an employee anymore.  Still, every time I’d run into Victoria, Marianne and Lee at Trade Shows or when I was able to stop by the store, it was wonderful to catch up with them.  I’m so glad that the store existed, and I hope they all are successful with wherever life takes them next.

If you live in the DC/VA/MD area, The Yarn Spot is having an end-of-business sale.  From February 10-18th, everything will be 50% off.  From February 19-29th, everything will be 75% off.  You should stop by!

It’s Never too Early to Think about Summer Camp

Learning to spin at summer camp

Learning to spin at summer camp

It’s getting to be the time to think about summer camp, and for me, that means I’m talking about the summer camps I’ve been running the past few years!  However, Tinking Turtle has a couple of changes happening this year (spurred on, in a large part, because of our impending tiny turtle).

As I’ve talked about many times before, some of my most formative years were spent going to a summer camp in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, Camp Chimney Corners.  Summer camps are a great way to foster independence, expose children to new experiences or hobbies, and foster a different type of learning than what school offers.  And I’ve been proud, the past two years, to work with Montgomery College to bring fiberarts summer camps to the DC/Rockville area.

So it’s with sorrow that I say that I will not be running camps with Montgomery College this year.  The amount of traveling I’d do to teach the camps in Rockville, MD would be a little too much for our small family.  But it is with joy that I’m announcing that this year, I’ll be bringing fiber arts camps to my hometown, Ashland, by pairing with the Hanover Arts and Activities Center!

I’ll be hosting two camps this summer:

  • String Theory, happening August 8-12th, is a high-energy introduction to the fiberarts suitable for ages 8 & up.  It features spinning, knitting, basic sewing, weaving and dying.  Students will be working the week through on two different projects, with opportunities to customize and tailor their interests.
  • Next Step Needlecraft, happening August, offers a glimpse into some of the lesser-known handcrafts.  Suitable for ages 10 & up, this summer camp features spinning, punch-rug needlework, needle felting, crochet and dying.  Students have the option of planning and creating a variety of projects, which they will work on throughout the week.

If you live in the Ashland/Richmond area and know kids who would be interested, I’d love for you to pass my information along!  You can find out more at the Hanover Arts and Activities Website.

On the other Side of the Snowstorm: Repairing Broken Things

fixing the toaster

Mr. Turtle fixing the toaster

One of the things I love about snowstorms is how they can sometimes function like a home-vacation: a chance to tackle all the things you haven’t quite gotten to yet.  I talked about my plan on Friday of things I wanted to tackle: darning, personal projects, starting the Piecework lace project I’ve got to get off by the end of the week.  And in that regard, it was a lovely weekend.  Little did I realize it at the time, but the theme of the weekend became repairing things: Mr. Turtle and I took turns solving problems and mending what’s broken.  There’s a lovely sort of satisfaction in that.

Saturday morning with the snow still coming down, Mr. Turtle and I got up earlier than expected.  After breakfast (and happy we hadn’t lost power during the night), Mr. Turtle tackled repairing the toaster, which had been failing to latch when you put the lever down.

Darning Socks

Mending socks with a darning needle and yarn.

It was one of those moments that made me glad that Mr. Turtle and I have different interests and things we’re good at: when a small electrical appliance breaks, it’s “broken” to me, beyond repairing.  Similarly, when Mr. Turtle’s got a hole in his socks or some textile wears out, he wouldn’t have a clue about how to fix it.

But to Mr. Turtle, the toaster was (nearly) an open book.  Meanwhile, I was busy tackling a pile of darned socks that had been building (and building and building).  Many of them didn’t need much repairing – we’ve both gotten better about “watching” our handknits for thin spots.  Much of the work was just working duplicate stitch over areas worn thin.

So while Michael tackled the toaster, I tackled the socks.  Then, it was out to do the first of two shovel efforts, a quick walk, and then a retreat indoors as the storm picked up again.

hat, mittens, gloves and scarf hanging from an unused shovel in a pile of snow.

Loosing the hats and mittens as we warm up

Sunday dawned with the news that church was canceled (not surprising), and nearly another 8″ of snow spread over our cars, yard, driveway and sidewalks.  It was not going to be a fun job to shovel – our one real snow-shovel (with a metal edge along the blade!) was out of commision.  The day before I’d bent the handle – a combination of it being an “ergonomic” handle and me being a mite bit too enthusiastic.  I was not looking forward to shoveling the driveway, sidewalks and other areas with a garden shovel.  Not only are the blades on these shovels small (so small!), but it just hurt my New England pride.

This is, again, where Mr. Turtle comes to the rescue – off he vanishes with the broken shovel, to return with the blade on a new wooden handle.  Our yard edge-trimmer (which we never use), valiantly gave up its handle to be installed on the snow shovel.  Soon we were warming up, the hats and mittens, jackets and scarves coming off as we polished off the driveway.

And because it hurt my pride not to do it, we are the sole people on the street that also cleared off our sidewalks and storm drain.  Again, raised in New England (and later upstate New York), I’m fairly certain it’s a law that you have to shovel off your portion of the sidewalks and clear out storm drains in your yard.  If it isn’t a law, then it was at least a family law in our household: you dug out the mailbox, you dug out the storm drain, and, gosh darnit, you dug out the sidewalks to ensure safe passage from the house in case of a fire.

So even as we’re living in Ashland, we did the same.

Then, it was time for another walk, this one along some of the more parklike areas of Ashland, to take pretty, artsy snow photography and enjoy the evening sun.



What “Little Turtle” means for Tinking Turtle

As I mentioned yesterday, Michael and I are having a baby girl at the end of May, next year.  We’re terribly excited, and so grateful for all the congrats and messages I’ve gotten over the last 24 hours!  I can’t wait to share this new journey with you!

I wanted to take a moment to address some questions people had about how the new arrival is going to affect Tinking Turtle, and the various branches of the business.  I love having happy customers, and one of the best ways I accomplish that is communicating with you about what’s going on.  So, below are some questions I’ve gotten, and if there’s more, I’ll add them to the bottom of the list!

How is this going to affect your designing?
One of the really fascinating things about publishing with magazines and other venues is how the publishing schedule and releases trail behind the work I do.  So there’ll actually be a bunch of designs coming out in April, May and June!  However, I probably won’t have many designs coming out in the Fall of 2016 or in the beginning of Winter, because I wouldn’t have submitted ideas to those design calls.  Don’t worry though, I’ll be making up for some of the lag with some really great self-published patterns!

Will you still be teaching?
Definitely!  One of the things I’m super grateful for is how supportive Mr. Turtle is to Tinking Turtle.  I actually have a teaching date schedule for 3-4 weeks before I’m due, and another retreat in June, a month after the baby is due!  It does mean, however, that I’m going to be a lot more careful about how and when I schedule travel dates.  As always, if you’re curious about where I’ll be teaching, the best way to keep up with things is to check out the calendar, or to sign up for my newsletter!

How will your Finishing and Repair Services be affected?
Finishing and repair will still be available, although there will be a period before May where I will not be accepting new pieces until after the baby is born.


If you have any other questions, please drop me a note in email or in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer them!

Family and Thanksgiving

Packing last night to get ready to go, I noticed one of my favorite pairs of socks had a hole in it – like nearly half of the hand-knit socks I own right now.  They’ve went in the repair bag, to take along with me this weekend.

We’re heading up to my parents in Upstate New York, and it’s bound to be a lovely trip.  My youngest brother I haven’t seen in person for nearly a year.

What are you doing for the holidays?21657912859_40b7ff2d54_o

Coming Home From Holiday

A quick update from the Turtle front…

Last week Mr. Turtle and I took a much needed trip with two of our close college friends, to a small island off of Puerto Rico, called Culebra.  It was wonderous.


We went hiking along the coast, making our way along crystal clear beaches – some sandy and some rocky.


We had the opportunity to to go snorkeling – one of my favorite activities!  We played games, got sun, caught up on sleep – I even managed to get some knitting in.


Right now the inbox is full to overflowing, as I try to catch up on 5 days of missed work.  Please be patient with me as I attempt to catch up in the next few days!

Normal blog posts and updates will resume shortly.

How to Set a Zipper in a Sweater

The rights have reverted back to me for a number of blog posts I did for Jordana Paige’s blog a few years ago, and I’ve begun re-posting them on occasion to have them on my own website, and so students can reference them.  This particular tutorial about setting a zipper into a sweater, I’ve updated and refreshed, but much of the technique remains the same.


Setting in a zipper is a process that takes time, patience, and a certain amount of willingness to fiddle.  Not everyone likes to do that, which is why so many of the finishing projects I do involve setting in zippers.  But if you’re willing to take the time, setting in a zipper can be very satisfying!

To set in a zipper you will need: a zipper, yarn to match the garment, yarn (or embroidery floss) in a contrasting color, a sewing needle (with a sharp point!), pins, and the 2 sides that you are attaching to the zipper.

a sweater, matching yarn, a zipper, needle and red embroidery floss are shown on a white background.

It’s helpful to have all your materials available!

Please note: When purchasing a zipper, make sure you get the correct type!  You don’t want a zipper for a bag, as it is attached together at both ends – you’d never be able to get your garment off!  Same thing with double ended zippers.  Take time to read the package and know what you are getting.  Also pay attention to length.  As I explain below, get the right size zipper, or a little longer.

The first thing I do is block the two fronts to the garment I’m attaching the zipper to.  Make sure the front is blocked to the correct measurements, and that your zipper will match those measurements, or be slightly longer.  If you need to, you can trim the top of the zipper to the length you want.  Make sure you use a file to eliminate any rough edges, and sew a new stopper so your zipper tab doesn’t come off.

Next, pin the zipper into place on the inside of the garment.  Make sure that you are not pulling or distorting the knit fabric – at all.  If you pull the fabric to stretch to the zipper, it can cause the zipper to pucker or wave.  After you’ve gotten things in place, I like to run a basting stitch along the zipper, as I don’t like to get poked with pins.  It also makes super-sure your zipper doesn’t shift around.

To do a basting stitch, take some waste yarn or thread, and use a running stitch, sewing the zipper to the fabric with big stitches.  When you’re done attaching the zipper, you can remove the basting stitch, so don’t worry if the basting stitch isn’t perfect.

Using a running stitch to baste the zipper to the fabric.


After I’ve finished basting (and this is another good reason to baste your work, because you can’t do this if the zipper is pinned), I check to make sure that the zipper can zip up and down without catching on any fabric.  Better to find this out now than after I’ve sewed everything together!  This is your opportunity to make any adjustments.

The basting stitch on the wrong side of your work.

Finally, you can sew the zipper to the piece.  Depending on the piece, sometimes I use the yarn the sweater was worked in.  Other times, if the yarn is delicate, loosely plied, or extremely fuzzy, I’ll use sewing thread in a color that is close to the color of the yarn.  Either way, I use the same technique.

Working from the back, I secure the yarn.  When I sew, I make sure that each time I’m going over only a single strand of yarn between two stitches.  Basically go into the purl bump if viewing from the back.  Mostly, I choose the space between the first and second stitches against the edge.

Working very slowly, I sew my way up one side, then up the other.  Be patient. Take your time. Check your work often.  Use small stitches.  Because the zipper is located at the front of the sweater, I’m super careful to make sure that my sewing doesn’t show.  Sometimes, if the fabric is wide, I’ll run a second set of stitches further out along the zipper band, so it doesn’t flop and lies nicely down.  You can see I did this from the picture below.

The zipper, sewn to the sweater with two rows of stitches.


When you’ve finished attaching the zipper to both sides of the fabric, I check my work.  Check again to make sure the zipper moves smoothly along the track.  Then, and only then, if I’m happy with what I’ve done do I remove the basting stitches.  Finally, weave in your ends.

Zipper in sweater


Crochetscene 2015: Bow Wrap

Bow Wrap from Interweave Crochetscene 2015 by Jennifer Raymond

Photo Credit: Interweave/Harper Point Photography

My original sketch for the design proposal.

They say that copying is the highest form of flattery.  While I’m not quite sure that’s true, this piece is directly inspired by a cute little miniature wrap I saw on a small child last winter.  While I wouldn’t be surprised if the little girl’s version was more complicated, I immediately thought that I’d wear her wrap, in an adult size.  Bow Wrap was then put in my brain’s back pocket, until I submitted the idea to Crochetscene.

As I mentioned on Monday, when I was working on proposing these designs for Crochetscene, I was also coming off of working on a few projects in finer yarn, and I knew that I wanted something a little bit more sized up.  Bow Wrap is made holding two yarns together, but you could easily substitute for a bulkier yarn with similar results.  Holding the two yarns together creates a cushy, stretchy and warm ribbed fabric.  The ribbed fabric is created by working crochet through the back loop.

The “gather” is made in a contrast color, with a single yarn held together.  I toyed with the idea of creating another version of this, in a sparkly yarn or fastening some glittery pin over top of the gather, for some added class and interest.  Well, I may yet make a second version!

Bow Wrap from Crochetscene 2015

I love the look of the textured stitches, and the way the wrap drapes over the shoulders!

There’s two things I think that make Bow Wrap stand out as a project.  The first is simplicity: Bow Wrap is essentially made up of two squares – the magic happens in the seaming.


Bow Wrap by Jennifer Raymond

Wear over the neck and shoulders to keep out the chill!


The second thing I love about Bow Wrap is the styling options.  It can be worn like it’s featured in the magazine, but it can also be worn a few other ways!  I had fun taking pictures of a couple of different styling options.


Bow Wrap by Jennifer Raymond

Wear it like a traditional cowl, with the “gather” in the back

Bow Wrap can be found in the latest issue of Crochetscene 2015, or on Interweave’s website.  For more information and notes about my sample, you can read about it in my Bow Wrap pattern page.

On the Stands Now: My Interview with Inside Crochet

Inside Crochet Cover
Just a quick note from me this Friday afternoon, as I attempt to beat back my email inbox.

CaptureIf you live in the UK, or happen to get Inside Crochet Magazine, you should go take a gander at the issue.  I’ve got an interview with the Deputy Editor, Rhian Drinkwater, in a feature titled “Crochet Entrepreneurs!

We talk about a number of my upcoming patterns, a few of my role models, and how I got my start!

I also talk about something that really made me feel vulnerable, but I think talking about it is important: making mistakes.

You can pick up an online copy here, or buy it wherever the magazine is sold.  And if you’re in the UK, take a picture of it if you come across it and send it to me!  It’s my first international publication I’ve been in!