Drea Renee Knits

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//Yarn Babies// Part 7 - O-Wool

giveaway, knitting, yarn, yarn babiesAndrea Mowry38 Comments

This weeks Yarn Babies is very near and dear to my heart! Last year, I began emailing with Jocelyn Tunney of O-Wool, and have been working on some really fun projects with her yarns ever since. Earlier this week I got to release the first pattern, Pollen, in a series that I am designing with her amazing range of yarns! Every yarn she offers is so unique, and her color palettes are just breath taking! I am thrilled to share some of her story, as told in her own words below!

Pollen Hat knit in O-wool Local in the River Oat Colorway

Pollen Hat knit in O-wool Local in the River Oat Colorway


Could you tell us a little bit about what brought you to owning your own yarn company?

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs so owning my own business was always something I aspired to. After working in yarn retail and then wholesale for a number of years, and having come from a fiber arts and design educational background, it seemed like a logical step. I heard through the grapevine that Vermont Organic Fiber Company, the founders of O-Wool, were looking for a new owner, and in May of 2010 O-Wool was mine! Thinking you can own your own business and actually owning your own business are two different things, though. After a steep learning curve the first few years, I feel like O-Wool and I have settled into a great groove of beautiful colors, fun knitting pattern designs, lovely yarns and fantastic customers.

O-wool has one of my favorite color palettes! How involved do you get to be in in the dyeing process (i.e. picking out and developing the colorways for O-wool)?

I am 100% behind the development of O-Wool's colors! I feel, after a number of years, I've developed a palette I really love. And I am psyched to hear you love it, too! Choosing new colors and editing the palette is the most fun and also most difficult thing. If a new green is just slightly too yellow, or light, or what-have-you, it won't sell, so I have to be really thoughtful. When I started, I was choosing colors that I thought I needed and that I thought other people would love and want to buy. Over the years I've realized that my personal vision is what is contributing to O-Wool's success, so now I only choose colors I like. And then I show them to my trusted colleague who proceeds to tell me that I can't ONLY make greys and blue-greens. I'm not convinced. :) I work with professional dyehouses and it is a communication adventure. They are scientists and I am a designer, so we approach the same thing from completely opposite perspectives. Even though we come from different worlds, they understand weird feedback I provide, like, "this red is too blue" and always produce a stellar product.

A new design coming soon, using some of my favorite O-wool colorways!!

A new design coming soon, using some of my favorite O-wool colorways!!

Can you tell us about the different bases O-wool has to offer? Do you have a favorite??

I feel like choosing a favorite yarn base is like admitting you have a favorite child... I feel guilty about it. However, in confidence, I will admit right now I am obsessed with my newest yarn called Chunky Merino. It's a big, fat, chunky 100% organic merino 2-ply and knits up like a soft, fluffy dream. It also has the dreamiest palette - really gorgeous, weird, muted colors. I envisioned this being a great sweater yarn, so I went with a more wearable color palette to start.

I'm also very fond of my yarn called Local. This yarn is a labor of love. I drive around to small family alpaca farms about an hour radius of Philadelphia, buy their clip, load it into the truck and take it home. Once I have about 500 lbs, I "skirt" it all (unroll the fleece, remove the dirt and yucky hairs, roll it back up). This takes one filthy, exhausting weekend. And then I stuff it all into big freight bags on pallets (more filthy, tiring hours), and send it off to be scoured, spun, skeined and dyed!

My O-Wash Fingering and O-Wash Sport line I am so proud of. This is a highly unique yarn for handknitters - it is essentially organic superwash merino. So it is organic, machine-washable, crazy soft and has gorgeous colors. I hope to offer dk, worsted and chunky weights in the next couple of years. Superwash is so popular, so I think it's important to offer an organic alternative in every weight.

In addition to Chunky Merino, I have two other classic 100% organic merino yarns that have been workhorses in the O-Wool line for many years. Classic Worsted is the flagship O-Wool yarn, and Legacy Bulky is not far behind. This stuff wears like no other. I call it "bomb-proof". Whatever you make in these yarns, if you take good care of it you will have it for years and years. I hear from folks who knit their kids sweaters in this yarn years ago, have passed it along to other children, and it still looks amazing.

And then there's the most popular O-Wool kid - Balance! This yarn has been so popular because it is a really unique and useful yarn. It is 50% certified organic cotton and 50% certified organic merino in a light worsted weight. When dyed, it has this fantastic tweedy look to it. The cotton makes it great for Fall and Spring items and also makes it very soft and cool to the touch - folks love it for baby stuff. There's also Balance Bulky, which is the same thing in a bulky weight for folks like me who like a quick knit.

Where can we find your yarn?

I mainly sell O-Wool through my website o-wool.com, but I am also a vendor at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival every October in Rhinebeck, NY, and I do a pop-up at Knothouse Yarns in Frederick, MD during Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in May. I know some folks find it hard to buy yarn online, but I sell shade cards for all the colors in every line, and am totally into answering emails like, "is the color Oyster Mushroom more of a pink, or a beige, or a grey?"

I am blown away by how you have been able to keep your yarns organic, cruelty-free, environmentally friendly and processed here in America. On top of all that, they are very fairly priced.  What do you feel has been the most challenging aspect of this?

Educating my customers, processors and suppliers about what can and does go into making O-Wool has been the biggest challenge. Also, not compromising on any of the above-mentioned issues can be challenging. I have a Frequently Asked Questions card you can download on my website that I update periodically, and I am as transparent as possible about every step of O-Wool sourcing and production - I encourage everyone to read through it. Many folks assume that I have a sheep farm, have my own mill, and hand dye all of the yarns with natural dyes. Let me tell you - this is my DREAM! However, there are many lovely folks who offer that product, and O-Wool offers something different. O-Wool supports commercial sheep farmers who have chosen to undergo the difficult and expensive process of becoming certified organic. O-Wool supports some of the very few remaining spinning mills in the USA in hopes of reviving the USA textile industry (and I will say my mills have become exponentially busier over the course of the last 5 years, so things are looking up!!). And O-Wool supports commercial dyehouses in the USA for the same reason. I actually don't use the term cruelty-free to describe my products anymore, because I want folks to understand the nuances of the lives of animals being raised in certified organic husbandry instead of reading that phrase and making a snap decision. So read through my FAQ card to learn more! https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0155/0473/files/O-Wool-FAQ-Card.pdf?7089696914339681033

What advice would you give to people out there wanting to follow their creative dreams?

This is probably some sobering, un-inspiring advice but I think it's important. If your dream is to be an entrepreneur in an art/design/craft realm, then take some business classes in additional to your art and design education. I have a BS in Studio Art and did 3 semesters coursework in a Textile Design and Engineering graduate program. All of this education was truly priceless for informing the creative half of my business, but it took 3 years and some expensive lessons to learn how to do the other half - the business half. So balance your creative and business learning!

What is your spirit animal?

A PitBull! Because they are very loving, kind, loyal, enthusiastic and resilient. And sometimes hyper and annoying :)

What is your favorite noise?

The cacophony of a huge band of starlings hanging out in the trees above my house.

Thank you so much, Jocelyn, for taking the time to tell us more about O-Wool today!!


I absolutely fell in love with O-wool Local, and designed a sweater that I can't wait to share with you in a couple of months! In the meantime, I was lucky enough to have some left from my sweater, and new I needed a beautiful textured hat knit out of this light-as-air yarn for Spring! So - Pollen was born! Knit up in the River Oats colorway - it reminds me of the pollen coating all of the bees legs as they busily move from blossom to blossom in Spring! With instructions to fit the whole family, Pollen is my ideal hat. Textured, cozy but light, and a fun, quick knit! You can find the pattern here in my shop and also over on Ravelry! And keep an eye for more fun designs knit up with O-wool, coming in the next few months!!

Leave a comment below to have a chance to win the Pollen hat pattern .pdf, as well as a skein of O-wool Local!! Tell me if you continue to knit thru the warmer months, and don't forget to include your email address in the body of the comment!!

Want to make sure you that you don't miss out on interviews, giveaways, and new pattern releases?! Make sure to subscribe but filling out the quick form in the right hand sidebar!


Want to hear more of Joceyn's story?? Check out her interview on the ever-engaging Woolful Podcast!


Congratulations to the winner of the Silver Spun Giveaway -Taciana Simmons!!

//Yarn Babies// Part 6 - Feel Good Yarn Co. Silver Spun & a Giveaway!!

giveaway, knitting, yarn, yarn babiesAndrea Mowry49 Comments

As some of you know, I taught at the Lantern Moon Retreat a few weeks ago. I met an amazing group of women, and learned so much as a teacher! Two of these women really opened my eyes to something that I think can be easily forgotten - they can't use any animal fibers. They both happen to have really bad animal allergies, and even yarns that should be okay (i.e. Alpaca), cause a reaction. This was such a great reminder on how important it is to remember we are all different, and have different needs! I'll be the first to admit that plant & man-made fibers take a back seat in my stash to wool and other animal fibers. I am so happy that they reminded me how useful, fun, and interesting other yarns can be, and that we all have different preferences for what we put on our needles - whether it be due to allergies, ethics, climate, or what just feels good in our hands!

So it was rather serendipitous that just a week earlier, I got to emailing with Laurie Gonyea, the creator of Silverspun yarn! This yarn is truly unique - American made cotton spun up with pure silver! The silver in the yarn adds some amazing thermal, conductive and therapeutic properties. Much to my surprise, the yarn is incredibly soft and springy. Such a treat to knit with!

~Silver inhibits the growth of bacteria (including those that cause odor), thus SilverSpun is an excellent choice for socks!
~Those who suffer from diabetes, arthritis, or sensitive skin will enjoy the thermal and non-toxic properties of the yarn. The anti-microbial properties of the yarn help to prevent infection.
~ ... because of the thermal properties of the yarn it is warm as wool without the itch. Great for people who have an aversion to animal fibers!
— Feel Good Yarn Company
The conductivity of the silver means you can use them with your touch screen!

The conductivity of the silver means you can use them with your touch screen!

My very good friend, Annie Rowden of by Annie Claire, just happens to be finishing up the sweetest collection of baby knits with Silverspun! This yarn is great for baby knits as the anti-bacterial properties of the yarn inhibits the growth of germs! Keep an eye for the collection mid-April! You can find Annie and her amazing patterns on Ravelry, Instagram and Ello as byAnnieClaire !

I highly recommend listening to Ashley and Laurie chat more in depth about the Feel Good Yarn Co. and Silverspun yarn on the Woolful podcast!  Laurie's story is truly inspiring!

Do you want to try out this amazing yarn for yourself? Leave a comment below telling me about your favorite non-animal fibers and you will be entered for a chance to win a Tumnus Hat kit! The kit will include Silverspun yarn and the Tumnus Hat pattern designed by Courtney Spainhower of Pink Brutus Knits! Don't forget to include your email address in the body of your comment!


Congratulations to the winner of the Ancient Arts giveaway - Mary Jo!! I've emailed you :)

//Yarn Babies// Part 5 - Ancient Arts Yarns & a Giveaway!

giveaway, knitting, yarn, yarn babiesAndrea Mowry90 Comments

One of the best parts about my job is being introduced to new yarns! Being the shawl lover that I am, I especially love a yarn that has been hand dyed with care, and that offers unique colorways to inspire my designs!

Ancient Arts Yarns combines interesting fibers with low impact, environmentally friendly dyes to create some truly unique skeins! I love how they talk about the inspiration for dyeing their yarns:

Here at Ancient Arts we use only the best quality yarns in order to ensure your creative journey is superior. We draw our inspiration for our beautiful colours from three places: nature, art, and stories of everyday life. Our colours begin with primary pigments, and are dyed using an immersion style dye process, which draws on the principles of water colour painting in order to give each colour way luminosity, character, and light, no matter how saturated the hue. Colour is gently applied in layer after layer, building exquisite tones that present a story in each skein of yarn, and allow us to capture the complexity of the world around us.
— Anicent Arts Fibre

You can really see the depth of color they have added to the yarn, and it gets even better as you knit it up! I love this "Where the Coho Go" colorway, that reminds me of Torch Lake, where we have a cabin up north. I plan to use my skein in a summery lace shawl, knit up lake side, while I dip my toes in the cool, spring-fed water. Even better? I get to give a skein to one of you!

Leave a comment below telling me what you would knit up with your own skein of Ancient Arts fingering weight yarn and don't forget to include your email address in the body of the comment! They giveaway will be open until 3/26/2016 at midnight EST!

Head on over to Ancient Arts Fibres to check out their amazing selection of colorways, and interesting fiber blends. I hope to try their Blue Faced Leicester next! And for all of you animal lovers - they even have to yarn collections based on our four legged friends, with a portion of the proceeds going to help stray and abandoned dogs and cats: Meow & Woof! I love supporting companies with a heart!


Congratulations to the winner of the Fringe Supply Co. giveaway - Hannah!! Want to make sure you don't miss any blog posts? Subscribe using the form in the left hand sidebar and they will arrive directly to your inbox!

Favorite Tools // Fringe Supply Co. Giveaway

giveaway, knitting, toolsAndrea Mowry89 Comments

When it comes to the tools I use everyday - I get pretty passionate (and opinionated). If I find something I like, and that works well for me, I want to tell everyone about it! So I figured, it was time for a blog post, so all of you can check out some of the items that make my work life better!

Let's start with something that has been near and dear to my heart since I was a wee one. I use to use my allowance every week to buy school supplies. What can I say - I've just got a thing (or what some would call - an obsession) with pens and notebooks. I find it so satisfying to have a shelf lined with notebooks that I have filled with notes, recipes, journal entries, patterns - all in my own handwriting. I also have at least one notebook and one pen with me at all times. (Okay, if I am being honest - more like 3 notebooks and an entire pack of pens.)

So, my current faves??

1. Frixion Erasable Pens - I am the kind of person who had a "messy" notebook and a "tidy" notebook in high school. I couldn't stand bad handwriting, or crossed out lines - so I would rewrite everything nice, neat and organized into my tidy notebook after taking speedy notes in class in my messy book. These pens solve that. They are truly erasable - but still good quality pens that write smoothly! Major bonus - you can get a pack with 24 different colors! Whoop whoop! (Thank you for introducing these to me Melynda!!)

2. Dot Grid Notebooks - Woah Mama. In love. So tidy. So fun. Perfect for knitters! Without the confines of lines (horizontal or in grids) you can make each page what you want it. Perfect for sketching, writing, graphing - whatever you need. I am also a huge Bullet Journaling fan (thanks to Annie!), and these are ideal for that. (Again- thanks for introducing these to me Melynda!!)

3. Knitter's Graph Paper Journal - as many of you already know, knit stitches are not a perfect square - they are more like a rectangle. So when it comes to charting out designs for color, cables, lace and texture - if you don't want it to be distorted, you need knitters graph paper! These journals from Fringe Supply Co., are perfect! Not only are they affordable - they also have super handy hand drawn notes in the front and back covers (needle charts, graph keys, ect.)

4. Fashionary Sketchbook - My drawing skills aren't quite as advanced as my knitting skills. But that whole "I like my notebooks tidy" issue, means I want tidy sketches, as well! Enter the Fashionary Sketchbook. Each page has 3 faint dot-lined female figures. They are faint enough that you can easily write over them, otherwise they are perfect to use as a guide to draw out garments and accessories on a model. Perfect for designers, but also great for those of us who desire a handmade wardrobe, or plotting out outfits.

The infamous and highly-coveted Fringe Field Bag

The infamous and highly-coveted Fringe Field Bag

Let's talk project bags. I love to keep all of my individual projects tucked away in their own special bag. That way I don't lose anything, I've got everything I need for that project and I can just grab and go! I am not a monogamous knitter - I tend to have 2 to 4 projects on my needles at all times. When I am heading to my knitting group, I just pick the easiest one to work on while chatting and I am out the door. At home in my studio - having everything in their own bag, helps me keep organized! I also usually keep a row counter in each bag, that way I don't get them mixed up and end up on the wrong row in my project!

My absolute favorite bag is the Field Bag by Fringe Supply Co. This is a seriously well made bag. It is sturdy, stylish, and functional. I love the simplistic design, and useful details. It has a sturdy bottom and sits upright on the table, so I can utilize it like a yarn bowl. It has a drawstring and handle for easy portability. Pockets!! I've mentioned how I like to keep everything I need for a project all together in one bag - now I have space for pens, pencils, stitch holders, scissors, stitch markers, row counter, notebook, scrap yarn and spare needles. Seriously - I just can't say enough good things (which is why I own four - no joke.)

My "I use these for every single project" notions.

1. Lantern Moon Sheep Measuring Tape- I've had this little guy for probably 14 years. I love him. He brings me joy every time I use him. Every knitter needs a tape measure - might as well make it a cute one! (You can probably find this at your LYS! Support small business if you can!)

2. Clover Row Counter - There are all kinds of row counters out there and this one is by far my favorite. Again, I began using it way back when I first started knitting. I have tried others. Simpler ones, and fancier ones - and I just find this is the best for me. The "click" helps remind me that I pushed it so I know I am not forgetting rows, and it's sturdy. I have a couple so I can have one for each project. (You can probably find this at your LYS! Support small business if you can!)

3. Chibi Tapestry Needles and Holder - As you can tell from the wear and tear, I also got this when I was a relatively new knitter. Nostalgia and functionality holds its place in my top fave tools. It does exactly as it is suppose to, and I like its now worn look. There are some much more modern holders available these days, so go with what fits your style - but for me, this guy is perfect! (You can probably find this at your LYS! Support small business if you can!)

4. Stitch Markers and Pouch - I got this as a gift from my friend, Marlee, and I adore it! The brass stitch markers are perfect for many different needle sizes, and the pouch is just so special. Little pieces like this (especially when received from friends) add so much joy to my work days.

5. Sharp, Small Scissors - (not pictured) I use small, gold handled embroidery scissors that I keep in my notion bag. They are probably about 10 years old, and still sharp and easily portable. And pretty - very pretty. I don't think you can get that particular set anymore, but there are sooo many options out there for all different kinds of styles. You can find them at your LYS, Fringe Supply Co., and any craft store.


So there you have it! Some of my all time, and most used, favorite tools. These are the workhorses of my collection, that I am utilizing every single day. I really like to "use" my tools - I am not gentle. So to have high quality, durable items, is really important to me. I hope you found this useful!!

To help you build up your own hard working tool set I am SO excited to announce that Karen of Fringe Supply Co. has offered a $50 gift certificate to her shop (does not include shipping costs)  for one lucky winner!!! To enter, simply leave me a comment below carrying on the discussion! What are you favorite tools? Are their items you want to see a post about? Let me know! And don't forget to include your email address in the body of the comment so I have a way to reach you if you win! Giveaway is open until March 13 at midnight.

Two New Hats for Tolt Yarn & Wool // Snoqualmie & Rudbeckia

brioche, knitting, new pattern, tolt yarn and wool, yarnAndrea Mowry2 Comments

In February, I released the Range shawl, which was the first piece of a fun little collection with a focus on texture and yarns with a story, for Tolt Yarn & Wool. I am so excited to kick off March by releasing the second part of the collection, which is two hats knit up with Tolt's very own Snoqualmie Valley Yarn! This yarn is so special - sheered from pasture-raised grass fed sheep using organic practices, it is truly "farm to needle." And so dear to my heart - Tolt generously donates 20% of the profit from this yarn to the Seattle Children's Hospital. As some of you know, we are forever grateful to the Children's Hospital near us that helped save my daughters life, and they can always use whatever support we can give them!

First up is the Snoqualmie Hat! When I started this hat I wanted it to be something that I just couldn’t set down, but that also felt soothing to knit. A pattern you could finish in a weekend, and that looks great in everything from a natural undyed yarn, to more bold colors. This hat is all about the texture. It is addicting to knit as you move from one fun stitch pattern to the next. The different textures play well together to form a flattering slouchy style hat. Fun to knit and easy to wear!

Next up - the Rudbeckia Hat! Two of my favorite details of the Range Shawl were the brioche and tweed sections, that melted from color to color. I had so much fun knitting those - and knew it would be equally as fun (and so satisfying) in a quick hat! The Snoqualmie Valley yarn used for this hat was dyed by the amazingly talented ladies of Local Color Fiber Studio, whom I blogged about a couple weeks ago! The blue was dyed with Red Cabbage and the green with Rudbeckia (which is the hats namesake). I love these colors, and even more so together! By alternating sections of two color brioche and a simple tweed, you get to see the colors play off of each other, as well as adding a texture that "pulls and gives" just enough to add the perfect drape to this slouchy style hat.


You can save 15% on all patterns in the Tolt Yarn & Wool collection until Wednesday, March 2 at midnight EST with the coupon code TOLT!


In super exciting news - I will be teaching these hats at Tolt Yarn & Wool in Carnation, Washington on March 12! If you are in the area and would like to sign up or get more info you can head here. I will also be hanging out at their open stitch night on Thursday, March 10 from 6-8! If you want to stay up to date with more events, keep an eye on my Events page, and don't forget to subscribe to the blog!

Stitches West Recap!

knitting, NaturallyStraightForward, yarnAndrea MowryComment
Ready to go in my Range Shawl, with my trusty helper sharing the load!

Ready to go in my Range Shawl, with my trusty helper sharing the load!

If you follow me on Instagram, then you probably know that I was at Stitches West last weekend with my good friend (and Naturally Straight Forward partner) Annie Rowden! Both of us are work-at-home-mamas, and this was a big trip away from the littles. Ashley was also able to sneak away from her business trip to join us for a couple days! We sacrificed sleep to soak up every spare minute of knitting and girl time, loading up our days with classes, yarn squeezing, knitting and meeting new and old friends!

Veronika from YOTH and Dami from Magpie Fibers! Veronika is wearing the  Marley Shawl  knit up with a combination of their amazing yarns!

Veronika from YOTH and Dami from Magpie Fibers! Veronika is wearing the Marley Shawl knit up with a combination of their amazing yarns!

The YOTH & Magpie Fibers booth made you feel like you left the convention center and walked into a trendy yarn shop, complete with clothes, accessories, YARN, and couches (where I crashed with my knitting for most of the day Sunday - it was glorious!) As you can see from my yarn picks below - I apparently was in a very blue mood.

It was amazing to see the ladies of Spincycle and their yarns in person! Their booth was overflowing with color inspiration! This two-woman company sells yarns made in the USA from "sheep to skein" (which sets my heart a flutter) and offers truly unique products (more on them coming to the blog soon ;) .

Kate and Rachel of Spincycle!

Kate and Rachel of Spincycle!

I was also hugely drawn to yellows this weekend - can you tell I have spring fever? This colorway from  Spincycle  is called Greed - and I love it!

I was also hugely drawn to yellows this weekend - can you tell I have spring fever? This colorway from Spincycle is called Greed - and I love it!

Kristine from  A Verb for Keeping Warm

With our love of naturally dyed yarns, Annie and I were in heaven at the AVFKW booth. Gorgeous isn't a big enough word to describe the amazing collection of yarns. A picture might say it better (because you know I couldn't leave without some of this yarn! Naturally...)

I wish you could reach out and touch them, and turn them over in your hands to see all of the amazing subtleties in the color.

One of my absolute favorite keepsakes from the trip is Sincere Sheep's Sheep Tote! I mean - come on! How cute is this bag? Love it!

One of my absolute favorite keepsakes from the trip is Sincere Sheep's Sheep Tote! I mean - come on! How cute is this bag? Love it!

If you read my previous blog post, you know that we were lucky enough to release two new patterns with Brooke of Sincere Sheep (click here to read all about it!) And I'll say it again - if you haven't had the opportunity to work with Brooke's yarns, you should really head over to her site, because they are amazing! And while you shop you can listen to her awesome Woolful interview. She has a company you want to be supporting!

Inspiration was not in short supply - between stunning yarns, beautiful tools, and motivating classes - I am already busy plotting and scheming for well into next year! Stay tuned for some amazing collaborations, including some Yarn Babies posts with these amazing people.

And Stephen West - because the knitting world just wouldn't be the same without him!

And Stephen West - because the knitting world just wouldn't be the same without him!


Congratulations to Carmen Bockman - the winner of last weeks giveaway! I've emailed you :)

Naturally Straight Forward // Spring Fever Flash Sale!

knitting, NaturallyStraightForward, saleAndrea Mowry2 Comments

As some of you may know, one half of Naturally Straight Forward (By Annie Claire) lives in Northern California, where they are already seeing signs of spring. The other half (yours truly) lives in Michigan - where we just got 12 inches of snow! The snow is beautiful - but my heart strings are tugging for some green - some afternoons spent outside with my daughter, and some sunshine on my skin. To help us get thru the rest of winter, and to celebrate what is coming soon, we wanted to have a little sale!

Use the coupon code SPRINGFEVER in my pattern store or on Ravelry for 15% any and all Naturally Straight Forward patterns 2/26/16-2/28/16 at midnight! Enjoy and Happy Knitting!!!

Naturally Straight Forward // Wildberry & Freshwater Shawls

knitting, NaturallyStraightForward, new pattern, yarnAndrea MowryComment

As many of you who follow me on Instagram know, I just spent the weekend at Stitches West with my Naturally Straight Forward knitting bestie - Annie Rowden of By Annie Claire!

Always looking to push our creative boundaries, we really wanted to do something special for Stitches West. So we teamed up with Sincere Sheep to create two new shawl designs- Freshwater (pictured top) and Wildberry (pictured bottom). If you haven’t experienced Brooke’s yarns - they should move to the top of your list!! Amongst my favorites our her Cormo (used in the Freshwater Shawl), Equity (used in the Wildberry Shawl), and Bannock (used in my Chevy Hat.)

Annie and I each started a shawl without telling the other what our plans were. Then about halfway thru we stopped and mailed it to the other person so they could finish it up however they desired! The result was two designs we couldn’t have achieved on our own! It was such a special way to celebrate our partnership and love of naturally dyed yarn and knitting!

We hope you love them as much as we do!

We originally released the patterns at Stitches West, but they are now available both here and here in my pattern shop and also on Ravelry! Both patterns are welcome additions to the ongoing Naturally Straight Forward Knitalong that I host in the DreaReneeKnits Ravelry group!


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//Yarn Babies// Part 4 - Blacker Yarns Tamar & a Giveaway!!

giveaway, knitting, yarn, yarn babiesAndrea Mowry43 Comments

I am so excited about today's yarn chat! Blacker Yarns is getting ready to launch their new yarn line - Tamar Lustre Blend on March 3, and I got an early sneak peek - and a skein to give away! First, let's talk about this stunning new yarn. I'll let Blacker Yarns tell us a bit in their own words...

Tamar is a lustre blend yarn with a fluid sheen, reminiscent of flowing water and the river which gives this blend its name. This luxurious lustre yarn has been worsted spun to enhance the fibre’s inherent drape and shine.

Tamar is made from historic Wensleydale, Teeswater, Cotswold and Black Leicester Longwool, which are amongst the most distinctive British breeds. Tall and elegant with long lustrous ringlets of wavy fleece, their fibre is smooth and sleek with a distinctive silken sheen.

Pure lustre blend yarns may be rather lean and lack ‘give’, so we’ve added 30% Cornish Mule to Tamar, helping the yarn retain that characteristic woolly bounce. Mules are a crossbred sheep and can be found on most British farms. For Tamar, we’ve hand selected only the finest local Cornish lambs’ fleece. The baby-soft Cornish Mule creates a fine cloud of delicate fibre which perfectly complements the long staple of the lustre breeds creating a yarn which is durable, yet velvet soft. Due to the long fibre length this yarn will get softer and softer with every wash.

Using different ratios of Black Leicester Longwool, we’ve hand blended two natural shades and added a modern colour palette with fifteen dyed shades. Tamar is available in both DK and 4-ply.

Despite their glorious fibre Teeswater, Wensleydale, Cotswold and Black Leicester Longwool are all listed as either ‘at risk’ or ‘vulnerable’ by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. These breeds are an important part of our heritage, with Cotswold and Leicester Longwool dating back to the 13th and 17th centuries respectively. The fibre used in Tamar has been bought directly from UK based small producers, who are working to preserve these lustre breeds.
Tamar DK in Valency

Tamar DK in Valency

I couldn't wait to get my samples on my needles and began swatching up some of my favorite stitch patterns! After a bath, my swatches blocked out beautifully. Great drape, perfect amount of shine, and beautiful stitch definition. I am already dreaming up a cardigan with the DK and a shawl with the 4-ply!

Tamar 4-ply in Trevella

Tamar 4-ply in Trevella

This is the yarn that you want people to ask you about, because it so special! I love the care that went into creating Tamar, and how there is such a beautiful story to go with it. Blacker Yarns is invested in keeping their environmental impact low, growing their local economy, and focusing on sheep breeds that may otherwise die out. This is a yarn company I want to support. When wrapping up garments and accessories made from their beautiful yarns, I know I am helping to support abusiness I can believe in, and one that is so very important to our fiber community. Blacker Yarns is a company with a soul - and we need more of those in our world today.

Blacker Yarns believes it is wrong to use oil-based or high energy input fibres when wool and other natural fibres are sustainable high-performance raw materials providing warmth, insulation and comfort. For the sake of the people living on the planet in future, we believe in doing as little damage as possible...
— http://www.blackeryarns.co.uk/about/our-values

For your chance to win this beautiful skein of Tamar DK, just leave me a comment below, joining in on the discussion! I want to hear your thoughts on everything - fiber preferences, how you feel about woolly yarns, companies that care...And don't forget to include your email address in the actual comment so I can contact you if you win!!


Congratulations to Kate - the winner of the Mushy Vest Giveaway!

We Are Knitters // Mushy Vest & Giveaway!!

Finished objects, knittingAndrea Mowry62 Comments
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Apparently, I am all about quick bulky knits these days! And expanding the color palette of my wardrobe! Here is my latest finished object - the Mushy Vest from We Are Knitters!

I cast this on in the afternoon, and was completely finished by the following afternoon. Talk about satisfying! I also had a lot of fun playing with the large needles and super bulky, singly ply yarn (which is SO soft!)

A knitting kit from Urban Outfitters is actually one of the things that really got me back into knitting in my teen years. I remember it came with neon yellow and neon pink acrylic yarn and needles, and you could choose to knit either a scarf, skinny tie, or leg warmers. I, of course, went with the leg warmers. I wonder if I still have those somewhere...

Knitting kits have come a long way since my teen years! I was so impressed with the options available, everything from blankets and pillows to sweaters, hats and baby knits (Hello, Teddy Sweater!!).

My kit came with all the yarn I needed, wooden needles (definitely nicer than the aluminum needles of my youth ;), directions for the pattern, a label to sew into my completed vest, and a darning needle to sew the pieces together. In other words, everything I needed to complete my project.

These kits would make awesome gifts for any knitter in your life (or a gift for yourself!) They come with everything you need and everything is high quality. The patterns are all modern and fun. And the really exciting news?? I get to give one away!! To enter for your chance to win the kit of your choice (up to $100), just leave a comment below telling me which kit you would pick and make sure to leave your email address in the comment! The contest will close Saturday, February 2/20/16 at midnight EST. Can't wait to get your hands on your own kit? You can use the coupon code DREARENEE to save 15% off of your order at www.weareknitters.com! You can also find their fun and inspiring feed on Instagram!

Want to see some more pictures of my finished vest? Head on over to my Ravelry project page!!

Agnes Sweater KAL #havefancyhouse

knitting, Finished objectsAndrea MowryComment

Designing knitwear doesn't leave me a lot of free time to knit other people's patterns. But I really love to support my fellow designers, and sometimes a gem comes along that you just can't turn down! Jaime (Fancy Tiger Crafts), Marlee (Have Company) and Lizzy House, decided to host a fun little knitalong (#havefancyhouse) for the Agnes Sweater. If you aren't familiar with this sweater, let me share with you the key points - bulky, quick, top-down, seamless, pockets. Pockets. Seamless. Bulky. QUICK! I couldn't resist (even knowing that with this ever-growing belly of mine, I wouldn't actually be able to wear this sweater until next fall.)

I picked up some Quince & Co. Puffin in Fox for the body and Osprey in Audouin for the pockets from Have Company. (Not to mention a really adorable new dress from Conscious Clothing that I will be able to wear while pregnant and after!!)

I have a strong tendency to lean towards greys and greens when knitting up sweaters for myself, so I pushed myself to go against my norm with orange. I am so happy I did. What a fun addition to my wardrobe!

This knit was super fast. This sweater could easily be knit up in a weekend. The result is a bulky knit sweater, that doesn't leave you feeling like you just added 10 pounds of bulk to your frame (huge win!) I love the deep ribbing for the neckline, hem and wrists. The directions are very simple, and easy enough for a beginner. I would happily knit myself a couple more of these! I will have to see if, sans belly, the torso is long enough next fall. I am very short waisted - so I think it will be okay, but luckily, I have a whole extra skein of the Puffin if I decide to add some more length! To see more pictures, you can hop on over to my Ravelry project page!

Hand Care: Taking Care of Our Most Precious Tools

knitting, techniques, toolsAndrea Mowry8 Comments

This past week I have been very busy knitting EVERYTHING. As you can imagine, this can take a real toll, and so I wanted to take a moment today to talk about taking care of and protecting our most precious tool - our hands. Early in the week, with deadlines looming, I noticed I was knitting "thru the pain," and knew I had better start paying attention to that twinge of discomfort pinging in my thumb. Even though I didn't want to, I set my knitting down, did some stretches and a hand massage, and left my knitting for the next day. Taking this brief time out, allowed my hands the necessary time they needed to rest so that I didn't end up with a worse problem. In the past, I made the mistake of ignoring the warning signals - and paid the price dearly. Listen to your body, take short breaks now, so that your hands don't end up on the sidelines for a number of weeks (or worse months!)

I have been an avid knitter for many, many years, but before knitting became my job, my hands were still the force behind my livelihood. My twenties were spent baking as a pastry chef, with a brief stint as a hairdresser thrown in. I love to use my hands, and they have treated me well over the years. After a few injuries, I have learned to take good care of them, so I can continue doing what I love!

I am sure I am not the only one out there guilty of hours of marathon knitting whenever my life allows. You may have had your own experiences in the past of "over-doing" it, and ending up with very sore hands (or worse, a serious injury.)

Let me stop and say here - I am not a doctor. Everything contained in this post is what I, personally, have found helpful, and is my own opinion. If you are concerned you may have injured your hands, please see a specialist!


My top three tips for keeping your hands happy and crafty are:

1. Take breaks!! It is so easy to slip into the knitting zone (especially if you have a great Netflix series or audio book going ;). Your hands will fair much better in the long run if you take a break at least every 30 minutes. It doesn't have to be long, but just something to break up the repetitive movements. A few minutes, and you can pick up and keep going! If you tend to get lost in the meditation of knitting, try setting a little timer on your phone as a helpful reminder!


2. Moisturize! Especially in these colder winter months, are hands get so dry. Give them some love with a good moisturizer. And better yet, throw in a quick hand massage at the same time! My current favorite that I keep in my project bag is Love and Leche Lotion Bars. I have tried all kinds of different hand products, and I really love this one for a number of reasons. For one - it's adorable, I love the stamped bee on the bar, or even better the hearts they stamped for Valentine's Day! The scents are delicious, while being very mild. I love my essential oils, but I don't always want to impose them on the entire cafe I happen to be knitting at! Most importantly - this lotion doesn't interfere with my knitting. I have tried so many moisturizers that leave my hands greasy or wet feeling, which is not ideal when you are trying to work with fiber and slippery needles. These bars feel decadent as your rub them between your hands, and then leave a moisture that is easy to work into your skin, leaving your hands soft and ready to knit. I actually love my bar so much I wanted to share with you a quote from the companies site:

When you receive one of my soaps or lotion bars, they may have been hand-poured by my son Simon, and packaged by my daughter Roan. The packaging was designed by a local designer, and strives to be as green as possible for the size of my business: recyclable, reusable, re-giftable, or keepable-foreverable! The artisan designs were thoughtfully created as a collaboration between myself and local sculptor Stephanie Huerta...
— www.loveandleche.com

What a great treat to have in my bag - from a family run business that cares. To read more about the benefits of these bars, and to get your own you can head HERE. I am lucky enough that my LYS sells these - yours might too!

While moisturizing my hands, I always give myself a little hand massage. One of my favorite parts of the massage is to pretend that my fingers extend all of the way to the base of my hand at my wrist. I follow this path all the way up, pushing and squeezing gently, to the tip of each of finger. Imagine you are "milking a cow."

While moisturizing my hands, I always give myself a little hand massage. One of my favorite parts of the massage is to pretend that my fingers extend all of the way to the base of my hand at my wrist. I follow this path all the way up, pushing and squeezing gently, to the tip of each of finger. Imagine you are "milking a cow."


3. Stretch! Below are some of my favorite stretches to do during my breaks.

I typically begin my simply bracing my hands against a wall or table and pushing gently. I start with my fingers pointing up, hold the stretch for 10 seconds, and then rotate so my fingers are pointing down and hold for another 10 seconds. 

I typically begin my simply bracing my hands against a wall or table and pushing gently. I start with my fingers pointing up, hold the stretch for 10 seconds, and then rotate so my fingers are pointing down and hold for another 10 seconds. 

Here is another variation on that same stretch that you can do anywhere. I really like this version as I can very gently adjust my hand a bit to the right or left to feel the stretch stronger on one side, and then the other. This is great to loosen up your wrist. Remember to repeat this stretch with the other hand!

Here is another variation on that same stretch that you can do anywhere. I really like this version as I can very gently adjust my hand a bit to the right or left to feel the stretch stronger on one side, and then the other. This is great to loosen up your wrist. Remember to repeat this stretch with the other hand!

This stretch I find not only alleviates any tension in my forearm and wrist, but also in my fingers. With your arm outright, gently pull back on your fingers with your other hand. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, then repeat with your other hand.

This stretch I find not only alleviates any tension in my forearm and wrist, but also in my fingers. With your arm outright, gently pull back on your fingers with your other hand. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, then repeat with your other hand.

Thumbs! Mine seem to get the brunt of the work sometimes and can get really tight. In this stretch just hold your hand out with fingers spread and gently pull your thumb towards the back of your hand. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat with your other thumb.

Thumbs! Mine seem to get the brunt of the work sometimes and can get really tight. In this stretch just hold your hand out with fingers spread and gently pull your thumb towards the back of your hand. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat with your other thumb.

Pinky's up! Same as the above stretch, just with your pinky instead of your thumb. Feel free to repeat this stretch with all of your fingers.

Pinky's up! Same as the above stretch, just with your pinky instead of your thumb. Feel free to repeat this stretch with all of your fingers.

This forearm stretch is another favorite. I work down the outside of my arm, then rotate and work down the inside of my arm. Simply squeeze and then gently push down towards your hand (without actually slipping down your arm) to stretch. Hold this for at least 30 seconds. Let go, move down your arm a little ways, and repeat. I usually do 2-3 segments to make it down the lower part of my arm.

This forearm stretch is another favorite. I work down the outside of my arm, then rotate and work down the inside of my arm. Simply squeeze and then gently push down towards your hand (without actually slipping down your arm) to stretch. Hold this for at least 30 seconds. Let go, move down your arm a little ways, and repeat. I usually do 2-3 segments to make it down the lower part of my arm.

Same as above, working down the inside of my arm.

Same as above, working down the inside of my arm.

Lastly, a stretch I think we are all familiar with! Simply lock your fingers together, rotate palms facing out and push away from your body. Hold stretch for 15 seconds, repeat if desired.

Lastly, a stretch I think we are all familiar with! Simply lock your fingers together, rotate palms facing out and push away from your body. Hold stretch for 15 seconds, repeat if desired.

I hope this post helps to inspire you to take care your precious five-fingered assets. If you have any tips you want to share on you how take care of your hands- please leave them in the comments!!


Congratulations to Nikki - the winner of last week's giveaway!!

Range Shawl // Tolt Yarn & Wool // Hinterland

brioche, knitting, new pattern, yarnAndrea Mowry3 Comments
Joyful knitting. When yarn and needle come together in a serendipitous moment, and your hands don’t even need to be told what to do. You just sit back and watch something beautiful spring from your needles, stitch by stitch, seemingly effortlessly.

That is how I feel about the Range shawl.  The yarn is Hinterland Range from Tolt Yarn and Wool. Made from 50% Rambouillet and 50% Alpaca, it is woolen spun, soft and strong and utterly perfect in the four beautiful, undyed natural shades of White, Honey, Maple and Truffle. Together they form the a stunning neutral gradient, that when combined with some clever knit texture, melt sweetly from one hue to the next.

I love when the fiber tells me what it wants to be. Designing this shawl really was pure joy. Everything just worked. As the vision popped into my head, it easily translated to my hands and I was able to savor every stitch. As it poured from myneedles, I dreamt of winter walks in the woods and quiet, fluffy snowflakes falling from the sky. Wrapped up warm, protected from the wet and the cold, with only the crunching of my boots as the soundtrack to my adventure.

I hope you delight in knitting this shawl as much as I have!


To celebrate this collaboration with Tolt Yarn and Wool and joyful knitting, please enjoy 15% off this pattern until tomorrow night (2/3/16 Midnight EST) with the coupon code RANGE !

//Yarn Babies// Part 3 - Local Color Fiber Studio: Interview & Giveaway!!

knitting, yarn babies, yarnAndrea Mowry64 Comments
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I am so excited about to talk to you all about Local Color Fiber Studio! I was recently introduced to them and their amazingly beautiful, naturally dyed yarns. Run by Emily and Tatyana, Local Color Fiber Studio is a real gem in the fiber industry! I have been just blown away by their rich color palette and love how conscious they are in running their company. Much to my delight, I get to share some of their story in their own words:

For anyone not familiar with your company, can you tell us a bit about Local Color Fiber Studio?

"Local Color Fiber Studio is a collaboration between the two of us, Emily and Tatyana. We are equal parts farm and dye studio. On leased acreage on Bainbridge Island, WA, we grow a wide range of dye plants, sheep, and angora rabbits. We focus on dyeing domestically grown wool and small farm yarns and showcasing what colors are possible in our home in the Pacific Northwest."

I would love to come see your farm some day! I love that your dye materials are homegrown, as well as some of the fiber you dye!

Emily, you went from architect to farmer! I think there are quite a few of us who found fiber and craft and it drove us from our original paths, back to one where we use our hands and get back in touch with the land, animals and craft. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?

"I actually rediscovered fiber arts and farming at the same time. I was between jobs in architecture about five years ago and started working at a food bank farm in South Seattle. From there, I found farm apprenticeships and applied for one on Vashon Island, WA. I started taking the ferry back and forth with another woman who happened to be a knitter and have been knitting and farming ever since! I love farm work and living seasonally. Every day is different and there is always something to look forward to, from lambing in the spring, to bringing in hay in the summer, fall's abundant harvests, and winter's rest. Local Color Fiber Studio is the perfect intersection of all of my interests, as we grow as much dye material as possible."

I love the imagery you bring up, connecting with the seasons. Being a Michigan girl, we get all four seasons in full force, and I can't imagine life without them. Each one brings new inspirations and motivations, and have a huge impact on my creativity!

Tatyana, what brought you to fiber and natural dyeing?

"I’ve always loved creating things. I became interested in fiber because of my innate desire to understand how everyday items are made.  I’m a bit more of a goal oriented knitter, though process is important too. When I was a kid, my grandmother would send us a box of slipper socks from Russia each New Year. I recognized the time and care that went into them and wanted to reciprocate. I mostly learned to knit from a book, made her a beret and scarf and have been hooked ever since.  Being a thrifty knitter, I took to frogging thrift store sweaters, which led me to dyeing.

In my other life, I work as a landscape designer. My academic background is in landscape architecture and environmental studies. My job and passion is in park, trail, and street design. Running a fiber dye company has allowed me to use plenty of skills from my landscape architecture background: graphic design, horticultural knowledge, appreciation for craft and detail… And my experience developing and marketing colors has also affected the way I approach planting design, graphics, and other creative work.

 My love of natural dyes, their subtleties and temperamental nature is constantly growing as our operation matures. Working with unrefined dye material can be very frustrating at times- consistency is illusive. But it’s rewarding in other ways: knowing that our process generates very little waste, the majority is readily compostable soggy flowers or leaves. And approaching each dye job with curiosity for what it will bring."

Thank you for sharing the story about your grandmother! I was lucky enough to learn from my grandma, and almost 18 years after she taught me, I was finally able to reciprocate with a sweater I made for her (which she wears whenever I see her in the winter.) I cherish that I am able to continue a craft that my grandma has been doing for decades! 

I also love that you touched on the frustration that natural dyeing can bring, along with its rewards. I am so intrigued by it, and am blown away by the depth of color you and Emily have been able to achieve in your yarns!

I love some of they mystery that comes with natural dyeing, the same plant at different times of year or prepared differently, yielding different results. What do you love most about natural dyeing? Do you have a favorite plant to dye with?

"I love that naturally dyed textiles are alive and responsive: to pH, sunlight, temperature. I like that they transform over time and yet can be renewed if the continuity of ritual re-dips is appealing to you. I like that the technology and techniques that people used thousands of years ago, are still in use today and cannot be replicated, nor replaced by more modern dye techniques. I also love learning about natural dyes in different cultures around the world. 

Growing and processing hundreds of pounds of Japanese indigo has been a challenge, but also my favorite to dye with. Love those blues!"

Can you tell us about the different bases Local Color Fiber Studio has to offer? Do you have a favorite??

"We are selective in what bases we carry. All of our base yarns are breed specific, US grown and milled yarns. Our primary bases are Rambouillet from Mountain Meadow Mill, Columbia from Imperial Stock Ranch, plus a few yarns from local mills in Washington. We also have our own yarn from our flock of Finnsheep that is blended with angora from our rabbits. The Finn yarn is great because it has the perfect amount of fluff, but we love dyeing on the natural grays from Mountain Meadow."

Where can we find your yarn?

"Our website and at a few local yarn stores, Churchmouse Yarn & Tea, Tolt Yarn and Wool, Bazaar Girls. We do a few fiber festivals each spring and fall as well!"

Tell us about your animals!

"We keep a small flock (about 18 ewes and their lambs) of Finnsheep. These sheep are in the same family as Shetland or Icelandic sheep, but have a single coat. My flock is overall exceptionally friendly and often people buy my lambs as fiber pets. They come in a multitude of colors which is why our Whole Flock yarn is a natural tweedy gray. The sheep contribute a lot to the farm; they turn pasture grass and weeds into fiber, meat, and hides, mow steep hillsides, and provide much of the fertility we need for the dye fields.

Our rabbitry is home to our German Angora rabbits. These fluffy bunnies get shorn every three months and can produce up to half their body weight in fiber each year. My original doe and buck are almost house rabbits now and often come in and sit on my lap while I knit after dinner."

I love that your animals seem to have really become a part of your family!

What advice would you give to people out there wanting to follow their creative dreams?

"Prepare to be creatively frugal and really evaluate what your priorities are. We have bootstrapped this whole venture from the beginning and have put in a lot of time even when we both work full time at our "day jobs." Even when the yarn company was pretty small (two rows of dye plants and a swift), we both treated it like a real job."

What is your spirit animal?

"A hummingbird (Tatyana); a miniature donkey (Emily)."

 What is your favorite noise?

"The “thwomp” of cork being pulled out of a jar (Tatyana); When any small engine starts after being in storage (Emily)."


As awareness has been growing around breed specific yarns, sustainable farming & business (dyeing) practices, and purchasing local goods, I know that there are a lot of us out there who really appreciate being able to find yarns that hit on all of these points. Thank you for what you do! And thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedules to let us get a peek inside your lives, business and creative practices!


I am a sucker for sweet little details, and I just adore these beautifully printed tags that share what each skein was dyed with!

I am a sucker for sweet little details, and I just adore these beautifully printed tags that share what each skein was dyed with!

Would you like to get your hands on a beautiful skein of naturally dyed yarn from Local Color Fiber studio?? I am giving away one skein to a lucky winner this week! Just leave a comment below, telling us about what you find important when looking at which yarn to purchase (and don't forget your email address!)

 

//Yarn Babies// Part 2 - A Good Yarn Sarasota

knitting, tools, yarn, yarn babiesAndrea Mowry2 Comments
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Today's Yarn Babies post is going to be a bit different than last weeks. Instead of focusing on a yarn company, I am going to chat about a specific, stunning skein from a yarn shop, A Good Yarn, in Sarasota, FL!

This beauty is called Midnight Pass, and it is an exclusive Madeline Tosh colorway for A Good Yarn. Y'all - the pictures just aren't going to do this yarn justice. It is much more bright aqua then any of my photographs could capture. It is like staring into a deep, blue pool of perfection!

I know most of us will be familiar (aka obsessed) with Madeline Tosh. My favorite Tosh base is definitely Tosh Merino Light (TML) - which happens to be what this little pretty is dyed on. I am a sucker for a single ply, and this one does not disappoint. The uses for this fingering weight yarn are endless - my favorite is definitely a shawl. Which is what I have planned for this lovely skein. It is just itching to be paired up with 2 other skeins and knit into a perfect summer shawl - maybe crescent shaped, with some lace texture??

No joke - I tried so hard to capture the true color of this gem! Every background I could find got a chance...

No joke - I tried so hard to capture the true color of this gem! Every background I could find got a chance...

A Good Yarn Sarasota has a whole line of exclusive colorways (oh to own a yarn shop!) and each one is stunning! I especially love how it really correlates to their local community! You can even see inspiration pictures paired with most of these colorways and how they came up with them - so cool. So if you want to check out a shop with a personality that shines thru their yarn, I highly recommend it!

Are you lucky enough to have visited this shop in person?? If so, I am dying to hear about it, so tell me everything in the comments below!! As always, I love to hear about other yarns you want to see showcased here! The conversation continues next Sunday!

Also, a big congratulations to Brienne, the winner of the Eucalan Giveaway!!!

Washing Woolens & Eucalan Giveaway!!

knitting, tools, techniquesAndrea Mowry85 Comments

Grab a hot bevi, and let's talk about washing and blocking our woolens!!

I am passionate about blocking and truly believe it will take you to the next level as a knitter!  My favorite wool wash company, Eucalan, also happens to be celebrating their 25th year! So I thought it was perfect timing to really delve into another of my favorite topics ;)

I know there is many a knitter out there who finds blocking their knits akin to cleaning the bathroom - it's just not high on your to do list, or maybe better stated, your want-to-do list. I hope today I can change your mind.

In my earlier days of knitting, I avoided blocking my knits - I just couldn't be bothered! I wanted to get back to the fun part - the knitting! (And don't even get me started on swatching!) Thankfully, thanks to the wisdom of Elizabeth Zimmerman, and some eye opening personal experiences, I am now a faithful blocker, and I actually really enjoy it!

They take time and care to make, so wash them with time and care.
— Elizabeth Zimmerman, Knitting Without Tears

I have two specific memories that helped change the way I feel about washing and blocking my woolly goodies. The first was a sweater - bulkier weight, hip length and full of big, squishy cables. The second it was off my needles and seamed, I tried it on and was so sad. It added about 10 pounds to my hips alone! The bulky yarn and the squishy cables I had dreamed of, were hugging me in all the wrong places and to say it was unflattering on me, was an understatement. I folded it up and gave it to a woman much more petite than myself. Guess what I didn't do? I didn't block it. Those beautiful cables never had the chance to open up - to really show themselves. The drape and fit of the sweater never got to bloom and relax thanks to a quick soak in the tub. The sweater was never given a chance to reach it's potential! Many sweaters later, I learned how powerful of a tool blocking can be, and how essential it really is. Had I blocked that sweater, it no longer would have been pulling in at odd angles from the freshly knit cables. It would have hung properly on my frame, given the opportunity to open up, thanks to a dip in some warm water and a few pins on the blocking boards.

...you are the master of your sweater. A damp sweater may be shaped to your will. It may even be made slightly larger or slightly smaller, by slightly stretching it, or gently coaxing it in.
— Elizabeth Zimmerman, Knitting Without Tears

Okay, so I learned to block my sweaters - a big step in the right direction. But hats? Really? Do I really NEEEEDDDD to block my hats??? YES!!! Oh the lumpy crowns of hats I see out in the real world, that could be so round and beautifully shaped, if just given a teensy bit of TLC. The laces and cables that would open; the perfect drape achieved for the slouchy hat we all love so much!! It was cables that did it for me again - taught me the lesson I kept pushing back against. I knit a really beautiful cabled hat, and then threw it on my head (like I would do with all of my hats the moment I bound them off - often times forgetting to weave in the ends.) Hmph, I thought, this really doesn't fit as nicely as it does in the picture. The crown squished together, and the cables sort of enveloped themselves. So what did I do?? Gave it away. Again. Fast forward a year, when I designed my first hat. Being a good little designer I did everything the proper way - swatches, samples, and of course blocking. Mind blown. The crown of my hat was so perfect. I couldn't believe it. How had I not put two and two together all these years?? So that was it. From there on out there isn't a swatch or knit that comes off my needles without a trip to the tub. 

So let's get to the knitty gritty - this is how I block:

Water - think warm enough for a baby's bath (after all, these are your handknit babies you are about to wash). I opt for the kitchen sink, but the bathub, a bucket, a big bowl, anything that can hold a sufficient amount of water to soak your knit is just fine.

Soap - My current favorite is Eucalan Delicate Wash. It is non-toxic, eco-friendly, biodegradable, lanolin-rich and a big one for me - NO RINSE! When I first started blocking I would just use some gentle shampoo. Well if you have tried that, you might be able to feel me on trying to then rinse your woolen. I hated having to refill the basin a couple times to get the soap out. I have also just used a few drops of essential oils - but in my family, we really wear our woolens, and especially with a toddler, I wanted a little more oomph in my sweater bath. My favorite scent is Grapefruit, followed closely by the Lavender. The Grapefruit is scented with grapefruit essential oils which are also naturally antiseptic! The Lavendar is even more amazing - it's antiseptic, deters moths, is rich in lanolin to keep your woolens soft and static free and it's soothing scent is perfect for relaxing, especially for little ones! I love to use it for all of my daughters woolens. The best part is a little goes a long way. I find a capful in my sink is plenty, and my sink can fit a number of articles at once.

Soak - So you've got your warm (NOT hot) water, a bit of wool wash and now it is time to add your woolens! Just toss them in the water and give a gentle squeeze. If you are washing 100% wool that is not superwash, you want to be careful with how much you agitate the knit in the water. We don't want to felt anything, so just gently squeeze it to help it absorb the water. Then leave it to soak for about 15 minutes.

Remove Moisture - This step is pretty important, as you don't want a waterlogged woolen taking days to dry and left smelling like it needs another bath. First, drain the water and then gently squeeze as much excess water as you can with your hands. Next, some brave souls throw it in their washer and run a spin cycle. I have found a big bath towel does the trick just fine for me. I lay out my towel and gently spread my knit out on it. Roll it up like a burrito, and use your full body weight to help press the water out (in other words, go ahead and stand or sit on it!) If your woolen was still really saturated when you pulled it from its bath, you may want to repeat this once more with a dry towel. Not to get repetitive - but do remember to be gentle, damp stitches are heavier, and can get stretched easier if you aren't careful. I find this to be especially true of superwash yarns, which doesn't seem to have quite the same elasticity as their untreated brothers.

Lay Flat to Dry - Time to lay it out and let it dry! I opt for blocking mats, as I find them extremely useful. But you can easily use any large surface you've got! For years - I overtook our dining room table. A word to the wise - do not lay your knits out on towels to dry! The towels will soak in the moisture and now you just have damp garments on top of damp towels getting stinky together and taking forever to dry. If you aren't using blocking mats, I would suggest laying everything out onto garbage bags. The bags can't soak up moisture, so instead the moisture is forced to evaporate. If you need to pin, you can lay the garbage bags over a rug or on your bed, ect...

Blocking Pins and Wires - Some knits are going to want to curl at the edges, so you will need to pin them down. Other items (lace, cables..) need to be more aggressively blocked, and to keep them open you must use pins. In my opinion, pins are essential for blocking, even though you may not use them for every single project, you will most likely use them for most. Wires are great for us shawl lovers out there. They help give a nice straight edge and can be used in all kinds of creative ways when you need to do a "harder block" (i.e. opening up lace or cables.)

Shawls - shawls have to be blocked to obtain their desired shape and look.

Swatches - If you really want to be sure you can trust your swatch, block it the same way you would the finished item you plan to knit. Be amazed at how much tidier your stitches and tension look after a dip in the tub.

Hats - You can block hats flat, or, to really help with the crown shaping they do great draped over something. My favorite is a 6" cake pan turned upside down over a mason jar. An appropriately sized bowl would work great, too. If you want to have even more fun with it - blow up a balloon inside the hat to get the perfect, round head shape!

Our knits take so much of our time, love, and effort, let's take care of them so we can continue to enjoy them for years to come! I am so excited to be able to giveaway a collection of Eucalan's different washes! I am fascinated by these washes and their amazing properties! I touched on the Grapefruit and Lavender above. The Eucalyptus is a great unisex scent that is also a moth and flea inhibitor. If you store your sweaters for the warmer seasons, I highly recommend washing them in this first to help protect them while they are stored! The Natural is perfect for anyone with skin sensitivities, or if you have asthma that is easily effected by any scents. It is still lanolin-rich to keep your knits soft and static free. Lastly, Jasmine is the most intoxicating of the scents! Also rich in lanolin and antiseptic. It would be great one to use for your lingerie as well as your woolens. One lucky winner will win all of 5 of these! Just leave me a comment below with your email address and tell me what you plan to get in your wool bath first! The giveaway will close Saturday, 1/23/16 at midnight PST.

Do you have some great blocking tips?? Share with us in the comments below!

Congratulations to Vicky, our winner of the last week's giveaway!!

 

//Yarn Babies// Part I - Mountain Meadow Wool

knitting, tools, yarn, yarn babiesAndrea Mowry70 Comments

Hey y'all!! I don't know about you - but one of my all time favorite topics is yarn (obvi)! So I thought I would start a new weekly chat, where we can talk about our favorites!! I am going to kick things off this week with Mountain Meadow Wool (and a giveaway!!).

Left: Powder River 75% Mountain Merino, 25% American Alpaca; Right: Powell 4-ply Worsted 85% Mountain Merino, 15% Alpaca in colorway Lupine

Left: Powder River 75% Mountain Merino, 25% American Alpaca; Right: Powell 4-ply Worsted 85% Mountain Merino, 15% Alpaca in colorway Lupine

I was lucky enough to first be introduced to this beautiful American-made yarn by my LYS (Woven Art) owner, Meg. Having just had my eyes opened by my sweet friend Ashley of Woolful, I was on the hunt for more yarns with a story. I love to support yarn producers that are doing everything they can to run a "conscious" company. Producers that are conscious of their product quality, where it is coming from, how it is effecting our environment and communities, and how they treat their employees and fellow business people. Mountain Meadow Wool has a pretty incredible story and strives to hit every single one of these marks:

Our fiber factory begins in Wyoming’s rugged mountain climate.

Because it is so fine, mountain merino yarn is silky soft to the touch, insulates well, and feels delightful next to your skin.

We process the best fiber from the best growers in the West, transforming it into extraordinary wool products: knitting and weaving yarns; handspinner roving; quilt batts; felt and more.

We use only environmentally friendly cleanser, and vegetable based spinning oil.

- In operation since 2007
- Currently processing 15,000 lbs of wool a year with capacity of 80,000 lbs
- Producing 11 types of yarn as well as custom blending and spinning
- 11 Employees, women owned
- 5,000 visitors per year
- Selling in 42 States and 3 countries overseas
- Complete full service mill, including scouring.
- Work with 16 ranching families for environmental agricultural sustainability and economic opportunity
- 100% natural, using bio-degradable soaps and non-petroleum spinning oil
- 100% made in USA
- 100% Hand-dyed using natural techniques
— http://www.mountainmeadowwool.com/
North Country Mitts: Pattern available  HERE

North Country Mitts: Pattern available HERE

I love Laramie, their 2-ply worsted weight, which I used for my North Country Mitts this past autumn. Cushy, with a woolen spun, I am hoping to knit up a sweater next fall, possibly in the same colorway you see above - Prairie! The subtle changes in dye makes the yarn a real treat to knit up, and I love the balance of the rustic woolly appearance with the next-to-skin softness!

Powell 4-ply worsted in Lupine Colorway

Powell 4-ply worsted in Lupine Colorway

I am delighted to giveaway a skein of their 4-ply worsted weight yarn, Powell, and my North Country Mitts pattern to one lucky winner! All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment below with your email address and your favorite yarn that you would like to see me chat about here! The giveaway is open until midnight EST on Wednesday 1/20/16!

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about these amazing women and their company, I highly recommend giving the Woolful Podcast a listen!

If you need me, I will be drooling over this Powder River -a unique blend of 63% mountain merino™, 25% alpaca and 12% black rambouillet - that I've got on my needles :)

Do you have a yarn brand you love? Let me know! Leave a comment below and tell me why you love them! Are you a yarn company that would like to see your yarn here? Email me at dreareneeknits@gmail.com !

Nova Cubics Platina Interchangeable Needles

knitting, tools, needlesAndrea Mowry12 Comments

Let's talk knitting needles. I think we all go thru a transformation as knitters when it comes to the tools we use. Many of us were lucky to learn on needles handed down from our grandmothers, and even more of us start off with whatever we find at garage sales or on sale at the craft store. There are endless options when it comes to needles - from plastic, aluminum, stainless steel, wood, bamboo, glow-in-the-dark, light up, bone, ivory...you name it - you can probably find it. Not to mention straight, double pointed or circular.

I started off with a pair of aluminum needles, but quickly moved on to bamboo. There was something about the natural feel of bamboo that really appealed to me - until I used my first pair of Addi Turbos. My stitches flew off the needles with increasing speed, and I knew there was no looking back. My other needles began to collect dust as I opted for metal needles more and more.

Choosing the material of the knitting needle is really user preference. We all knit differently (which should be celebrated!!) and thus, have different needs. I am a very tight knitter, and found that the stickiness of bamboo clashed with how tight my stitches were. Where as metal needles give me the slip and glide to help my stitches flow smoothly over the needles. If you are a tight knitter like me - give metal a try! If you tend to knit very loosely, you might prefer the grip that wooden and bamboo needles can offer!

Next up - straight, circular or double pointeds?? Again, this has a lot to do with user preference, and what type of projects you prefer to knit. I have found that I only need (and only use) circular needles. They work perfectly for any project that I encounter, especially if you master the fabulous "magic loop" trick of knitting a small circumference on a single pair of circular needles. I prefer magic loop over double pointed needles for mainly two reasons. Firstly, I don't need as many needles. I can often use one set of circular needles for an entire sweater project, because the longer circulars I needed for the body, work great for magic loop for the sleeves! Secondly, I found that when I was knitting in the round, my tension and fabric turned out neater thanks to less jumps between needles (there are only two when using magic loop, as opposed to 3 or more when using DPNs). Again, this is just my preference! If you haven't tried out magic loop, but would like to - here is a great tutorial!

So what is the point of all this needle chatter?? Well, I wish someone had told me years ago when I began knitting more and more, and investing more and more money into my new found hobby, how much money I would have saved in the long run by purchasing a set of interchangeable needles, as opposed to individual needles.

I love the versatility that a set of interchangeable needles can offer the knitter! You always have the size needles you need, and my personal experience is that you will no longer need that big stash of individual needles you have collected over the years.

Again, we have lots of options when it comes to needle sets - many brands, and again different materials and of course sizes. I think the most important factors to consider are: needle material, needle sizes, tip sharpness, cord material, cord lengths, the join between the cord and the needle, and price.

Today I am going to talk about my latest set - the Cubics Platina from Knitter's Pride. I just finished my first project with these needles and I wanted to share what I thought of them, specifically the factors I find most important!

Knitter's Pride Cubics Platina Deluxe Interchangeable Needle Set

>>The specs: Includes needle tips for sizes US6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10.5, 11/4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 8mm; 4 cords - 24in/60cm, 2x 32in/80cm, 40in/100cm, 1 set of cord connectors, 8 end caps, 4 cord keys, and a carrying case.

>>Needle Material & Shape: Chrome coated brass pipes. I would compare these to other metal needles - my stitches flowed easily and quickly over them! What are really unique about these needles are their cube shape! I was so curious about how it would be knitting on square needles instead of round - and I have to say - I loved it! They were so comfortable in my hands, and most importantly, I found my tension actually improved! Even after all my years knitting, I still have trouble with even tension when knitting stockinette stitch flat. My purl stitches are just looser than my knit, and it tends to show in my knitted fabric. I found when using these needles I notice much less of a difference! Yay!!

>>Needle Sizes: With sizes ranging from US6 - US11, these needles are great if you tend to knit with DK, worsted, or Aran weight yarns! I knit up a worsted shawl with mine on the size US8 needles, and it was perfect!

>>Tip Sharpness: These needles are nice and sharp, which I love! If you enjoy knitting lace, brioche or cables, you will really benefit from a sharper tip. It makes it so much easier to move stitches from one needle to the other!

>>Cord material: I worked with a LOT of different circular needle brands, including many different interchangeable brands. I have to say, that when it comes it cord material - these are the best I've found. Some cords are just too stiff, or get kinks , or won't unwind. These were flexible and soft. I am very impressed!

>>Cord lengths: This set is really ideal for someone who loves to knit shawls and sweaters, or anything on magic loop. I have the "Normal IC" size, which means it does not include a 16in/40cm cord, because the tips would be too long. From what I could tell on the website, you can get a set that has shorter tips and includes a 16in/40cm cord, although I could not find that set for sale on Amazon. If you are big on hat knitting, I would suggest trying to find the shorter tip set! Otherwise, you should have no problem with the longer tips and cord lengths!

>>THE JOIN!!: To me, this is definitely one of the most (if not the most) important factor to consider. There is nothing worse than having a rough join between your needle tip and your cord, that catches your yarn every time you try to push your stitches over it. Or even worse, a weak join that comes undone, leaving your stitches without a cord! Luckily - you won't have either of those problems with these needles. They utilize a screw in system, with a little cord key that ensures they are screwed in tight enough. I had no issues with them coming unscrewed, and the join was perfectly smooth. I do highly recommend using the enclosed cord key, otherwise you may risk them coming unscrewed as you knit.

>>Price: On Amazon.com this exact set runs for about $72.  Which is a very fair price as far as needle sets go! I have sets that cost double that, and I think the quality of these needles surpass them. In the beginning, it may feel like a lot of money to spend on needles, but you will save yourself so much going for a set instead of spending $10-$20 on each new individual needle size you will want to own down the road.

So there you have it! If you are finding yourself getting more and more serious about your knitting, I really recommend investing in a good set of needles. Let me know if you have any questions - as you may have noticed, this is a topic I LOVE to talk about :)

xoxo

Naturally Straight Forward: White Pine & Riverflow

NaturallyStraightForward, knitting, new patternAndrea MowryComment

Happy New Year!! 2015 was a huge year for me - truly life-changing! I owe so much of that to all of you! Thank you for your amazing support with all of my patterns, from your likes and favorites on Instagram & Ravelry, to your purchases and amazingly kind emails and messages. From the bottom of my heart - my dream wouldn't be coming true if it weren't for all of you!

That being said, I can think of no better way to celebrate than with kicking off 2016 with my first ever sweater pattern release - White Pine! This pattern was a long time in the making. I began sketching for it last spring, and my testers finished up with it at the end of November! I hope you will love it as much as I do!

White Pine

White Pine

I wanted a classic pullover sweater, that was easy to knit, while still remaining interesting! Simple enough for most intermediate beginners, White Pine is knit from the top down, completely seamlessly, while relying on the texture of the body to do all of your shaping for you! The growing garter stripes at the sides of the body not only create the dramatic slimming lines, they also gently shape the sweater into an incredibly flattering subtle A-line shape.

Photograph courtesy of Annie Rowden

Photograph courtesy of Annie Rowden

The set-in sleeves are also knit from the top down, utilizing short rows so that you don't have to fight with sewing in your sleeve caps! I really love this technique, and I hope you have have as much fun learning it as I did! Faux seams running up the center front and back give the sweater that touch of timeless style that you can dress up or down. Knit up in your favorite worsted weight yarn, White Pine will fly off your needles!

My beautiful Naturally Straight Forward partner, Annie Rowden (byAnnieClaire), knit up the most stunning gradient shawl to complete our first release of the New Year! This woman has got a way with naturally dyed yarns! I love the texture and all of the color possibilities that are waiting for this bias shaped shawl!

Photograph courtesy of Annie Rowden

Photograph courtesy of Annie Rowden

You can snag both patterns for 20% off until midnight PST on 01/06/2016, using the coupon code NSF2016. White Pine is available both here on dreareneeknits.com and on Ravelry. You can find Annie's Riverflow shawl here!

Cheers to the New Year and many happy stitches!!

Farm Slippers for the Whole Family

new pattern, knitting, NaturallyStraightForwardAndrea Mowry1 Comment

I love the holidays!! Especially the days that we get to stay in our pajamas as long as possible...preferably surrounded by twinkling lights...while sitting next to the fire...with cozy slippers on our feet...

My newest pattern, Farm Slippers, is all about celebrating those days - sized for the whole family, quick to knit, and bursting with cozy! I knit mine up in the ever-amazing and soft Organic Merino from Fern Fiber! I am all about the marl these days, so if you feel like playing with a little color, grab two different sport weight yarns and hold them together as one strand. Or keep them classic with a heavy worsted or aran weight yarn.

These make great gifts for everyone on your list this year! There is just something so meaningful about giving gifts that you have made to the people you love. Our time is so precious, and often so fleeting, so when you choose to spend it knitting up something special for your loved one, it means so much! I hope you will join me in making this holiday season handmade. <3 <3 <3

Save 15% on this pattern until Wednesday @ midnight PST with the coupon code FERNFIBER !!