Category Archives: Patterns

But what about Matt?

Ok, ok. So what am I doing now?

Well, I’m currently officially unemployed, but as a dear friend and fellow entrepreneur commented to me recently, entrepreneurs are never unemployed. Thankfully, I’ve found that to be true.

I’m working on a major “saw-sharpening” project that will hopefully pay off in a marketable skill in the near future, and as it comes along, I’ll be excited to share it with you. Yes, it’s knitting-related, and yes, it’s a logical fit. But I’m a beginner, and I—like the vast majority of the people I’ve worked with over the years—don’t care to share my fumbling first steps with the world. Yet. At some point if I’m very, very lucky, it will be something I can share entirely, and oh, that would be fun for a whole huge lot of people. But I’ll stop teasing.

Something I am at liberty to share is a by-product of recently downsizing to more affordable accommodations. I’ve had to unpack, resort, and reevaluate all of my stash and unfinished projects.

Now, if you’re the kind of knitter that I was prior to opening a yarn shop, you probably have at least a room dedicated to your stash and projects. You’ve likely got stitch markers in every upholstered piece of furniture in your home and possibly some in your pet’s bed. It happens. You have a kit that’s literally within an arm’s length at least most of the day every day. Now imagine that same person had access to one of the largest inventories of independent-market yarns in the country for a few years.

When you’ve regained consciousness after the aneurism that thought caused, let’s just say that I was conservative. My collection was limited largely to yarns that I truly loved and were one-of-a-kind opportunities (frequently as products were being discontinued) and projects that I either taught as a class or had planned for either classes or my own patterns. Luckily for me, I suppose, I’m also notoriously non-project-monogamous, so I have a lot of projects on the needles. Some will most assuredly be finished, and some most assuredly will never be. But that also means I have yet more yarn to incorporate into stash.

In the coming days, I’ll share some of the treasures that I’ve unearthed and that I’m going to be using in projects moving forward. But since I haven’t yet gotten much of anything in enough semblance of order to want flash photography involved, I’ll just offer yet another tease.

For one thing, any visitors to my home in the last year or so would know about the three-and-a-half foot tall Collins glass of various shades of Koigu KPPPM that I kept at the corner of the kitchen and living room. I’m a collector. What can I say? I love that yarn, and I absolutely love their dyeing. I’ve been an addict for years, and I expect there are quite a few folks out there still sporting Charlotte’s Web Shawls for which I put together colorways in the early days of ThreadBear. My God, we must have been shipping those things a dozen a day at the height of the craze if not more. I definitely recall many afternoons standing in the post office with tub upon tub of small double-fist-sized envelopes going to every corner of the globe (except Antarctica—I suppose if you haven’t knit it before you get there, you’re kind of screwed).

There’s a similarly tall blown glass vase full of various shades of Mission Falls 1824 Wool. I’ve always loved that original Mags Kandis palette, and of course, this is old enough product to have seen her tenure. In any case, I’ve got a project in mind for that whole vase, and it’s going to be amazing.

There’s a bag of multiple shades of Jamieson’s Spindrift and Jamieson & Smith 2-Ply Jumper Weight in appropriate shades for an old Alice Starmore Fair Isle pattern that I’ve wanted to knit since before the shop ever got rolling. I’ve got the pattern around here somewhere, but that will also have to be unearthed.

I’ve got sweater quantities of Jo Sharp Classic DK Wool (my favorite all-purpose worsted-weight wool on the U. S. market until it no longer was), Blue Sky Alpacas Suri Merino and Alpaca Silk, Classic Elite Bazic, and even a fine-gauge red cashmere that I’m still deciding on a final use for. I’ve blown the dust off The High Helen Sweater, my decadent and damned-near-unearthly Pyramid Sweater, and my Colour-Your-Own Philosopher’s Wool sweater.

And sock yarn? Sweet Jesus, I’ve got sock yarn. It doesn’t hurt that I worked as a sales rep for some of the fastest-selling sock yarns (at the time) in the country for several years, but I already had an extensive collection. And that doesn’t even count the Koigu, and yes, if you want a truly luxurious experience, make yourself a pair of Koigu socks. No, they don’t have an iota of nylon in them, and they’ll wear through like butter if you stomp around in them. But they’re like sex on your feet while you’re sitting on the sofa or really getting dressed. Seriously.

But enough for now. I’ll have the camera up and running before much longer. And I’ll have to toss in some gratuitously cute dog pics for those of you who know my penchant. I may have lost my own beloved mutt, but my roommate is the proud papa of four—count ‘em, four—adult Chihuahuas.  Life is never boring.

Good morning

Sunrise over the Grand River in Lansing's Old Town neighborhood
Sunrise over the Grand River in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood

My view from the sofa is of the sun rising over the Grand River in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood. K. D. Lang is crooning Save Me on XM Radio, and I’ve got a nice, hot café mocha with a shot of orange syrup sitting beside me. Rob and the dogs are still sleeping peacefully upstairs, but I just got in from running Franklin Habit to the train station after another wonderful visit. He was at ThreadBear over the weekend teaching Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket and signing copies of his book of cartoons and essays, It Itches, but it’s always just nice to have him here. Watching him go is a bit like saying goodbye to family.

Obviously, with Franklin here, the shop was a delightful madhouse all weekend, so I only got as much knitting time as was left over at the end of our long days, but I’m almost up to the cap on sleeve two of the barn coat. If there’s time this morning, I may finish that off and have a new coat by the end of the day.

I’ve also got some photos for you. Those will have to come later in the day, but I have shots from the weekend with Franklin as well as the shots of the living room that I promised my Mom at the end of last week. I haven’t forgotten her projects, either. It’s off to work on this end, folks. Have a great week!

My cozy little morning nook
My cozy little morning nook

Sleeve two of my barn coat
Sleeve two of my barn coat

A visit from the Bourgeois… -es

Ann & Eugene Bourgeois are coming in this evening for a workshop, and Rob and I are looking forward to having a nice dinner with them at Taste of Thai, a wonderful local restaurant. The Bourgeois… -es are always a delight to have around, and I, for one, and really grateful to have the time to actually relax with them a bit. Frequently, they’ve been in Lansing when Rob and I have been so utterly swamped that even during the times when we were supposed to be relaxing, we really weren’t.

Of course, tonight is also my typical Wednesday night in that the ThreadBear newsletter will also need to go out, but someone (them, I suspect) was smart enough to suggest dinner before their workshop. We’ll be off to dinner, come back, they’ll teach while we get our work done, and at the end of the evening, we’re not scrambling—hungry—to figure out who is still open. And which, of those is actually going to be good food for everyone? Much smarter. Sounds like Ann to me. I like her.

I like Eugene, too. He’s a genuinely nice guy who also happens to be very bright, funny, and conversationally astute. He alone can keep the table entertained for hours. Hmmph. Maybe having dinner beforehand wasn’t the best choice. It does, however, make the most sense for them. I feel fortunate to have guests here; it’s just that I’m greedy enough to want to get my work done and spend more time talking with all of the fun and interesting who come through Lansing.

Coat progress
I’m six rows or less from the top of sleeve one, and I can actually see the finish line. I want to install one sleeve immediately to make sure that it fits, so you may get to see that as early as tomorrow.

Sock progress
Nowhere. I’ve not picked it up since the last pic here.

Morgan progress
Ditto.

Other knitting
I did swatch with Classic Elite Cotton Bam Boo a couple of weeks ago, and I’d been carrying the swatch around on my addi Click needles in my bag since. Today, I showed three staff members to Magic Loop. I had no idea they didn’t know prior, or I’d have show them then. Anyway, the swatch and different needles are now on the Cotton Bam Boo shelf for anyone interested in trying out the yarn or Magic Loop technique.

Other projects
I got a call from my mom this afternoon, and I’m to show her photos of my new living room furniture arrangement and pick out three new projects for her. The photos are taken (oh, I’ll show you, too, if you promise not to make fun of my lived-in—by dog and bear—living room), and the projects include:

  • her second time around on Fetching from Knitty. Her first go-round was using Needful Extra Stampato, but she had help on her thumbs. She was here for me to do the first, but she shipped the second one to me to do. This time, I intend to walk her through the process here,
  • the Shape-It Scarf from Sally Melville’s The Knit Stitch, and
  • a cabled scarf.

These shouldn’t be too challenging for her, but usually, she’s here in Lansing visiting when she starts new projects. Since ThreadBear’s a fifteen hour drive from her home in LaGrange, Georgia, we thought this way might be more cost effective.

On the needles

Cookie A teaching at ThreadBear
Cookie A teaching at ThreadBear

We had a great visit with Cookie A last weekend. Her classes appeared to go well from the outside, but we had genuinely glowing reviews from the folks in the chairs. From my own perspective, it was wonderful to actually get to spend a little time with her. We’ve met several times at busy industry events where one seldom has more than a few minutes to get what you need, make a little small talk, and move on, but this was the first time we had a real conversation. I hope she had fun. For myself, I was charmed.

One of the things that we discussed was her great regard for Cat Bordhi’s Visionary Retreat for prospective authors. Cat had suggested the retreat to me over sushi during her visit to ThreadBear in August, and while I was certainly intrigued, I’d back-burnered the idea in the face of the heavy-duty workload that I’ve set for myself at ThreadBear over the year or so. Cookie’s obvious reverence for the experience, though, gave me the incentive to pull that idea back onto high flame. No, I won’t be headed to the island this year, but I’m definitely blowing the dust off the designs and concept.

Along those lines, I’m pleased to say that I’ve finished the School Days Pullover pattern that I wrote for the CAYSC Back-to-School Shop Hop that ThreadBear participated in at the beginning of September. We’re in the process of culling the e-mails from the backs of everyone’s passports, and they should be sent out next week. I’ve already got a couple of people knitting from the pattern already, so if any problems crop up, I’ll be sure to let you know here.

Since this is supposedly a knitting blog, I suppose you might like to see what I’m working on.

Tubularly-knit sock in progress
Totally Tubular Sock Construction in Opal

Tubularly-knit sock in progress
Totally Tubular Sock Construction detail

This is a model for a class that I’ve just scheduled called Totally Tubular Sock Construction. The idea came to me as Rob and I were packing to go to Long Beach this January for a trade show. Since Rob and I tend to be squeeze in pretty tight on planes, I thought a very compact project that didn’t require a lot of thought would be ideal. I also had a beautiful skein of Colinette Jitterbug that everyone had told me wouldn’t make a pair of socks in my size. So, I cast on the number of stitches that I’d normally use to make socks for myself, and just started knitting. I didn’t worry about cuffs, heels, or toes. I just knit.

Over the course of the trip and trade show, I had a very simple project that I quite literally was able to walk the trade show floor working on. I had tons of people within the industry—designers, vendors, and other shop owners—ask me what I was doing, and when I explained, it was as if I’d told them the sky was falling. “Why go to all that trouble?” they asked.

Well there are a few reasons not the least of which is that I don’t own a pair of my own hand-knit socks. I own several individual socks, and I have no compunction about wearing any two of them. I’ve had more than one person genuinely delighted to see my mismatched hand-knit socks, and frankly, I enjoy the silliness of it. But I really would like to have pairs. And I do suffer from Second Sock Syndrome. If I’ve already knit one sock in that yarn, casting on a second one sounds like the soul of boredom.

This way, I only cast on once, and by the time I’m done with the original tube, I have all of the basic fabric for both socks, and all I have to do is the fidgety bits that are really the most fun for me, anyway. Where’s the downside of that? Yes, I wind up picking up stitches, but if you’ve ever worked an afterthought heel, you can work an afterthought toe and cuff. It’s not hard work, and it doesn’t require a lot of brain power. Yes, in the pair that I’m currently working on, I did start off with a cuff, because I hadn’t intended to make this pair tubularly, but as it happened, it became convenient to do so. I also added some calf shaping, but the essentials are there. As for the Jitterbug socks? Well, I had more than enough of the Jitterbug for the body of both socks, and decided to use another technique to jazz up the cuffs, heels, and toes, but that’s for another post.

Chris Bylsma's Symphony Jacket
Detail of Chris Bylsma’s Symphony Jacket in autumnals

Chris Bylsma's Symphony Jacket
Working ball of yarn(s) from Symphony Jacket

Also on the needles, is Chris Bylsma’s Symphony Jacket. I saw this garment on Chris, and I was immediately smitten. I love blending yarns anyway, and this project is the perfect canvas. The basic idea is picking a palette of yarns in various colors, textures, and fibers that suit the project and chopping them into bits and tying them back together. It sounds a bit crazy, but the results… well, judge for yourself.

Chris Bylsma's Symphony Jacket
Progress on Chris Bylsma’s Symphony Jacket in autumnals

And finally, I’m knitting Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket as inspired by Franklin Habit. Franklin’s coming to ThreadBear in January to teach the class and for a book signing for It Itches, a collection of his knitting-related cartoons. I’m loving the project, and I’m having a lot of fun watching the Jojoland Rhythm migrate through colors.

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Tomten Jacket
Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket in Jojoland Rhythm

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Tomten Jacket
Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket in Jojoland Rhythm

Not MY work, per se…

Things have been a bit chaotic on this end, but I’m very pleased that one of the projects that was recently chosen for Knitting Olympics was ThreadyBear. Kirsti of Kirsti Knits finished hers for a gold! Congrats, Kirsti!

Kirsti's ThreadyBear
Kirsti’s ThreadyBear

Much love, folks.
-Matt.

Getting there

I don’t have a huge amount of time, but I did want to update everyone on the progress on ThreadyBear.

The local class started Monday, and of course, I’m well ahead of the class, but I’ve also put them on a time table to catch up with me very quickly. It’s so much fun to be teaching this class again, and I’m very excited to have the first shipment of Spindrift in stock.


Jamieson’s Spindrift

Yes, that means kits will be forthcoming. Yes, that means I have to finish writing up the tutorial preceding the actual knitting instructions (this is, after all, a beginning Fair Isle project). And yes, there are still about four million other things that I also have to keep up with in the meantime, but man, I love this stuff.

As for the class, though, I’ve got five, and one sent me a photo today of her progress to date. She’s already hit the first mile marker: the underarm steek cast-on.


Laurie’s ThreadyBear just after the underarm steek cast-on.

As for my own, I’ve cut my neck steek and finished the neck ribbing, cut open the first of the arm steeks, and started down the first arm.


Matt’s ThreadyBear a quarter of the way down one arm.


Matt’s ThreadyBear neck and arm detail.

Class won’t meet again until the Monday after the Fourth (that would make it the eleventh, yes), So I’m hoping everyone will be able to make it at least as far as Laurie has. Good job, kiddo! You’re officially teacher’s pet. 😉

Oh, and before I forget… the absolutely fabulous Colinette Absolutely Fabulous Throw Kits are on special for the Fourth of July Weekend for 10% off suggested retail. They’re one of the items we aren’t able to discount on a day-to-day basis, so this is a special treat for anyone interested in one of these monsters. They’re gorgeous knit up, and I’m working on one that I haven’t pictured yet in mitered square diamonds. I’ll post as pic if I’m able to before the weekend.


Colinette Absolutely Fabulous Throw Kits.

Much love, folks.
-Matt.

Slowly but surely…And don’t call me Shirley!

You know, this business amazes me every day. We just got in our fall order of Manos del Uruguay, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.


Manos del Uruguay Wool

I’m known around the shop for working with color, and I’ve just got to say that this stuff is out of this world. Their colors are always amazing, and if you’re familiar with their palette, you’ll notice the two new shades… the bright acid green solid in the top left corner and the coordinating multi in the top right. They definitely weren’t what I would have expected from Manos, but they’re certainly brilliant.

As for my knitting, most of my recent work has been associated with classes that I’m teaching this summer. I’ve done tons of swatching for my Sock Options class where I go over several techniques of use to sock knitters from using circulars to knit one or more socks at a time to heel and toe options to various ways of getting started and finishing off. I’ve also been developing a pattern for the toddler coat that I posted photos of recently for a class I’ve dubbed DIY Victory Coat for the V-shaped construction and the ease of varying the size to suit your intended wearer.

Later this summer, I’ll be doing an intarsia class, and I’m really looking forward to working through the SWAK Intarsia Workshop book in preparation for that class, but I’ve also just placed orders for some intarsia patterns and yarn that I’ll be working on for shop models later this fall.


I’m doing the and the Karma Throw (left) Bloomfield Throw (right).

In the meantime, I’m finishing up the pattern and model for my Traditional Fair Isle Techniques class that I’m teaching in July. The pattern is ThreadyBear, and those of you who’ve been around for a while will remember that I actually started writing this pattern while we were still in the old Indiana shop.


Body of ThreadyBear Teddy Bear Fair Isle
with two more panels before the shoulders.

Personally, this is the one I’m most excited about at the moment. As I said, I started the pattern over a year ago in Indiana, and I used it as the class project in my Intro to Fair Isle [ultimately named Traditional Fair Isle Techniques] class there. There were too many colors in the original, though, at least for such a small project for beginners to the technique, and I broke up some of the dual color changes that confounded some of my folks back then. It’s been nice working on this little guy, though, because it’s been like having those folks with me again. Hi, Margaret! Hi, Monica! Hi, Mary and Pat and Melissa and everybody else that acted as my guinea pigs for that class. What a hoot! You can see pics of some of their accomplishments in my archives.

It’s a fun class, and I’m really looking forward to working through the project with a class again, but if you’re not in the area, you may want to bounce over to Yahoo! Groups where we’re about to start test-knitting and finalizing the ThreadyBear project for learning Fair Isle knitting at a distance.

Visit the ThreadyBear Yahoo! Group

So that’s what’s up. Other than that, I’m still tearing the shop apart and putting it back together again to make room for yet more new stuff coming in.


The front counter is now in the middle of the front of the store facing the front door so that you’re not forced to walk all the way around the far side of the counter or stumble through our mail station (which, I might add, is now completely out of the public space and behind the counter).


Official Olympic Norweigian Ski Sweaters and Ingeborg.


Our big wall of DiVé at the black tables (our standard classroom and technical help area). That’s a huge wall of Lana Grossa behind there.


Cha-cha-Land includes Trendsetter, Kertzer, Crystal Palace, Ironstone, and several others.

So now what? Oh, there’s always more coming in the back, so I’m sure it will all shift around again soon. *sigh*

Much love, folks.
-Matt.

P. S. By the way, check out our new patterns from Trish of Bloomin’ Knitiot.

threadybear triumphant

threadybear triumphant

Hallelujah!

Friends and neighbors, go tell it on the mountain. The last session of my Intro to Fair Isle class was tonight, and my students and my pattern came through with flying colors. Of the original seven, six of my intrepid students remained for the second class, and all of the six finished the class. Over the five sessions of the class, a few missed one class or another, but tonight, I had five of the six, and I know the sixth is sure to do well. She’s a regular customer, and she always does a great job at her projects.

Want to see their work?

This is the beginning of the Nova Scotia colorway that our friend Pat is working on. She did get a late start because of a trip that she had to take in the middle of the class, but she’s done a spectacular job in her short time of working on the project. She was able to take into account the late instruction in corrugated ribbing, so I absolutely had to show it off for her.

This is the Thistle colorway that our friend Monica is making. We all had quite a delight watching her steek her first armhole. She’s done a great job.

And this is the Marigold colorway that our friend Melissa is knitting. I would love to go into great detail about how spectacular each of these are, but frankly, they’ve all already heard it from me. I’ll leave to you further congratulations for them.

As for the rest of life, I actually got a decent lead on a property for the new shop this afternoon. It’s the first one I’ve seen, really, but I’m hoping it won’t be the last. I’ve got to say, though, it’s a huge relief to have at least one property under my belt. Now, we just have the zoning hearing on the current property to deal with next week. Wish me luck!

Much love, folks.
-Matt.

caution: threadybear testing underway

caution: threadybear testing underway

It’s really happening, folks!

I started my ThreadyBear test garment over the weekend, I got the last of the yarn out to my test knitters yesterday, and the class that got the whole thing going met for the first time last night. Woohoo!

I’ve been amazed at the number of folks who have joined the Yahoo! group to participate, and I’m really excited to get testing out of the way and get the kits out to everyone who’d like to try one of these little guys out.

Oh, quickly for those of you who weren’t there for the germination of this idea, ThreadyBear is a teddy bear sweater in Fair Isle that I’ve developed to offer knitters who have been intimidated to take on the emotional and financial investment of a full-sized project a smaller, less expensive, and hopefully easier beginning project. The yarn for the entire project, if purchased as a kit from ThreadBear, should be under $25 (we haven’t calculated exact yarn usage yet– that’s why we’re test-knitting).

Anyway, I’m very excited about having my own started, and I’m finalizing the pattern during the testing process, so it should be ready for public consumption in a week or so.

About sixteen hours ensue…

Um… Ok. I was in the middle of my blog post when I stepped away to shower and get ready to open this morning. Since then, we’ve had yet another phenomenally busy day on Hutchins with both your orders and our tremendous local business. Fortunately, we have a couple of people helping out now that are really making life somewhat bearable. Seriously, I love what we’re doing, but it’s been so busy that it was really getting to be too much of a good thing.

Anyway, as I started to tell you this morning, the ThreadyBear test kits have left the building and are on their way to my test-knitters: Wendy of Wendyknits and Teresa of One More Row and Another Latte. Wendy is getting the largest of the sweaters (since she’s da’monstah and will likely complete this miniature project in fifteen minutes or less) in the Spice colorway, Teresa’s doing the smallest of the sweaters in the Winter Wheat colorway (though she’s doing the smallest only because she was concerned about keeping up… as if), and somehow I suspect in last place will be me fitfully completing the medium sweater in an original colorway just because Spice and Winter Wheat were the only two full colorways I had in stock.

I did get a little bit done on a sleeve cuff over the weekend, but I suppose I could rip it and do a real colorway, now. Why? Oh, didn’t I tell you? The Jamieson’s 2-ply Spindrift for ThreadyBear came in.

I’ve spent every moment that I’ve had not devoted to clients or legal crud today getting that checked in and verifying that I have the yarn for each colorway. There were backorders, so I’m scrambling to make substitutions where I can to complete as many colorways as possible before the test-knitting is done.

Please, know that if you have a color consultation on hold with me right now that I’ve gone through the lot of them tonight and that I am trying to get back with everyone as quickly as possible. There is most definitely a backlog, and I can only apologize. As always, every client’s business is exceptionally important to us, and we devote whatever time is necessary to each customer to get their needs served. If that means that the person in line behind them has to wait a bit longer, please understand that you will get the same attention when your turn comes.

Fortunately, though, we do have a new toy!

Office geek porn!! Woohoo!

If you’ve ever been a slave to having to run to the post office as a part of your job, you know how orgasmic it is to finally have a postage meter. Rob and I have looked at each other at least four-to-five times a day for the last week and said, "that thing is amazing, isn’t it?!?" We may not have load of excess time, but we have more time to get done the myriad things that there are to be done each day. I didn’t realize how time-consuming our post office trips had been, but the difference is amazing.

Ok. It’s late, and I’m off to bed.

Good night, everybody. Be well, love deeply, and know that whether you see it or not, you are deeply loved.

Much love,
Matt.