Category Archives: Kelly

Yarn School

There is a school for yarn, I kid you not.  I have recently returned from my pilgrimage to The Harveyville Project Yarn School.

My effort in Dye Lab.

My effort in Dye Lab.

Imagine, if you will, a summer camp full of adults doing all the naughty things kids can only dream of…  Late nights, indulgent food, our favorite activities, all the friends at which a person could shake a drop spindle.  Cookies, cheese, booze and sheep.  You can’t swing a ball of yarn at Yarn School without hitting a small clutch of people laughing, talking and creating.

Yarn School is perhaps best described as a small spinning retreat hosted in the Harveyville, KS school-turned-residence-sometimes-camp owned and operated by Nikol Lohr. 

The spirit of Yarn School can be seen in this bathroom decor.

The spirit of Yarn School as seen in bathroom decor.

I went to a place for spinning and I don’t spin.  Much.  I certainly didn’t (erm, things might have changed when I fell, swiped my credit card and bought a Fricke) own a spinning wheel.  Yarn School for the uninitiated can be a bit intimidating.  There is a bit of a cult following here – people who have been to many, many previous Yarn School weekends.  When one walks into the old gymnasium there is a circle of spinning wheels whirring contentedly while their operators chat merrily.

I was at a loss.

That didn’t last.  Once I got over the chilly temps in the “Seven Dwarfs Room” where I was sleeping, once I acclimated to dinner at 10pm, once I let go and got okay with no schedule that was easily discernible I learned to LOVE Yarn School.  People cared.  They asked why I wasn’t spinning.  They offered to let me try their wheels.  They helped.  One lovely attendee even sang at me once I’d made my first yarn.  I had my own personal sound track and I loved it.

There was dyeing with Adrian Bizilia of Hello Yarn.  There were alpaca courtesy of Alpaca of Wildcat Hollow.  There were bunnies thanks to Little Angora House on the Prairie.  But really there was just a tiny fiber of life, plied tightly with people who had found their place and dyed with the experience of a lifetime.

*cough* So, in a couple of weeks you might be seeing a post on my new spinning wheel.  What can I say?  I’m a sheep.

The sheep of Cupcake Ranch (the Harveyville Project herd) are a delight.

The sheep of Cupcake Ranch (the Harveyville Project flock) are a delight.


2013: I’m a knitting zombie

It is 2013, did ya know?

I thought 2013 would launch itself upon me with silk and cashmere, but it sneaked in quietly totally lacking fanfare. 

A 2013 FO: Roll Play by Susan Ashcroft knit in Three Irish Girls Wexford Merino Silk

A 2013 FO: Roll Play by Susan Ashcroft knit in Three Irish Girls Wexford Merino Silk

I think I want all of my knitting this year to behave the same way.  I will not be making elaborate plans.  I will not be making detailed lists.  I will not be obsessively adding new projects.  I am going to knit.  Quietly.  Enjoyably.  Peacefully.  A bit like a knitting zombie…

One of the things I have discovered in 2013 is the knitting videocast Stockinette Zombies.  I luuurve it.  I wait (im)patiently each week for their new episode to be released.  I hit play on my iPad and knit away merrily while watching.  They are funny, interesting, and cool.  Damn, these ladies knit fast.  The number of projects – sweaters no less – that they roll through from week to week makes my head spin.  Please note:  they will be dangerous to your yarn diet.  They seem to have an endless list of indie dyers from whom they order yarn.  Then they show the beautiful yarn on their videocast making me want to buy. all. the. yarnz.

I plan to stumble, zombie style, through the year – knitting, spinning and dyeing.  Bring your undead self along for the ride.

Suprisingly, my sheep aren’t that cold

I thought this “going cold sheep” thing would be a lot harder than it is.  Do you know how much yarn I have?  (Well, yes you do – I posted a photo of my Ravelry stash count in Kelly’s Confessional.)  I am not going to experience a shortage of things to knit.

Unexpected bonus: “Hello creativity, my name is Kelly”.  I have been thinking differently, more broadly about what I might knit and which yarn I might choose.  I like it and I don’t feel compelled to buy more yarn.  I do know that I plan on purchasing a rich, heathery chocolate-brown for a cowl and legwarmers (yes, legwarmers – back off) as a gift to myself in early December.  But, I don’t feel rushed to do it now.

I had the notion to go into 2013 with the purpose of using reclaimed yarn.  I posted this thought in one of our (humorously failing) stashdown threads at the Back of the Bus and was surprised by the response.  Most of the gals said it would be too hard.  I don’t know if this comes from a place where they truly think I won’t be able to do it or an unfounded fear that I might ask them to join in.  I won’t.

I am in love with the idea of creating beauty from an unloved item.  We live in an age of toss-away consumerism that makes me sad and sick.  I love beautiful yarn as much as the next fiber-crazed addict and I don’ t plan to stop buying the pretty.  But, I do plan to take that thrift shop sweater and make it into the most amazing cabled hat you’ve ever seen.  My son will have some wicked cool sweaters knit up out of Goodwill dogs.

Just you wait and see.

Kind regards,


Does This Test Require a #2 Pencil?

On Ravelry, there is a group called Free Pattern Testers.  The description tied to Free Pattern Testers is “This group is for helping budding designers and willing testers to come together and help each other in an open barter system.  Testers get the benefit of getting free patterns and designers get the benefit of free testing. ”  Isn’t that nice?  Shall we all join hands now and sing a few rounds of Kumbayah?

Leaf Peeper Cowl

Maura’s most recent test knit

The reality is that this group is run by very, very strict rules.  These rules govern the designers and the testers and heaven help you if you don’t follow these rules.  There is a system of strikes and if you get 3 strikes, you get banned from the group.  The demi-gods of FPT patrol all of the many current tests and verify that each detail is following the stated protocol.  I can imagine that this is stressful for the designers as much as it is for the testers.

Kelly Says:

Generally, I quite enjoy being a pattern tester, assuming it is something I would knit anyway.

  • I don’t (generally) have an excess of WIPS so I can usually focus on the test knit and come in ahead of the deadline.
  • I write training documentation for a living, so I can catch words/phrases/formatting which isn’t as usable as one might hope.
  • I usually take “okay” photos so the designer will have a FO (finished object) attached to their pattern which looks relatively nice, out of quality yarn at launch.  This is big in the world of Ravelry; people don’t knit patterns that haven’t been knit.

However, I fled FPT and I will not be lured back.  There is a vast difference between “running a tight ship” and “a ship run by control freak whackjobs”.  Okay, I (wildly) exaggerate.  But seriously… I once used bullet points and got a nastygram.  I once emailed back-and-forth with a designer about a pattern outside of the forum which resulted in a nastygram.  I forgot to link to a tester’s Ravelry profile (say it with me folks!) and I got a nastygram.

Quite frankly, too much nasty – not enough nice.

I will likely lose out on the opportunity to test some really swank designs, but let’s face it – my queue is huge already.  I don’t really need more to choose from.  And, I already have a full complement of control freak whack jobs in my life, I don’t really need more.

Maura Says:

I have not had any problems in the FPT group.  However, I am fairly careful about what I test.  I have done 2 tests for the same person because I like how she writes patterns and what the objects are.  I usually test only small objects, like hats or cowls.  Because I always have at least 5 projects on the needles (ouch!), one more doesn’t concern me.  Now, if I were to take on testing of a large project, I would probably fail miserably.  I can’t work on any one thing monogamously for any length of time.  I would definitely be kicked out of the group!

I am not a frequent tester, nor do I want to be.  I have run into some really poorly written patterns which makes me really cranky.  I like my patterns to be very clear, without spelling or punctuation errors.  I think that is fairly uncommon, though.  I will keep testing, but I will probably not do any large projects.  I know myself too well.  And I don’t deal with nastygrams well.

There you have it, two perspectives on ‘Free Pattern Testing’ within Ravelry.  Have you survived this group?  Do you bear scars and have tales to tell?  If so, we want to hear.  If not, we want to hear that too!

Process or product

Reading Maura’s last lovely post about the joys of yarn potential got me thinking about product knitting vs process knitting. Is the joy in knitting having a beautiful finished object, that’s just as you envisaged it, and that you (or the recipient) will treasure ? Or is it in the act of creating; the meditative nature of knitting; the thrill of learning? Or is both?

So which are we? Product knitters? Or Process knitters? And which are YOU?

I’m a process knitter. I love learning new things and I love the physical act of knitting. It’s not that I don’t love having finished objects, but they’re not the sole motivation.  Here’s an example. I finished a lace shawl a couple of years ago. It was the most complicated thing I’d ever knitted, and I was ridiculously, crazily, unrepentantly proud of it.  Here it is:

Well, not that long after I’d finished it, my daughter, then aged about 5, was playing with it in the dining room.  She laid it out on the floor, and then she put a chair with thin metal legs on top of it.  And then she sat on the chair, and tried to pull the shawl up over her knees…  You can guess the rest!
I surprised myself by how NOT upset I was: I’d enjoyed knitting it, I’d learnt a lot, and I could live without the shawl.   So now I don’t fret too much about how many WIPs I have; I don’t despair if I have to frog something; and I don’t cry when the kids lose or destroy the things I make. I still love me a pretty FO but it’s not the be all and end all!


I’m still so new to knitting that I haven’t quite made up my mind about this, but I probably lean more towards the Product Knitter side. I feel like whether you’re a Process or Product knitter can better be described as which shade of grey are you? Where do you fit on the Process vs Product scale because to some extent we have to be a little bit of both right? (even 5% Product and 95% Process) if you’re as obsessed with knitting as we are, it would seem like that might be the only way you would stick with it for so long. Originally I was a 99% Product knitter. I took up knitting specifically to make myself a pair of gloves (seems innocent enough) but I have slowly transitioned to being about 60% Product and 40% Process. I really enjoy the process of knitting, obviously, and it has gotten a lot more fun as I have become more proficient at it. However, that being said, I LOVE finishing things. I never cast off an item and let it sit around for days  (let alone weeks or months) without the ends woven, and I HAVE to get it blocking as soon as the weather permits. Making things out of balls and strings and actually having them be loved and be useful is what it’s about for me. Being able to say I made that, Me! really makes it special.


I have to stick with the fact that I am pretty much in the process knitter group.  I remember being in college and my professor of Art, who was married to my professor of Drawing (a whole different story…), spoke frequently at great length about process versus product.  Are you creating Art for art’s sake or for Art for the audience?  Are you being true to the art and to yourself by making art to sell to someone who asks you to make something specific?  As you can imagine, I come to knitting (or quilting or home decor) as an art form.  I do it for myself – I am extremely selfish.  I only do that which brings me joy, that which feeds my soul.  Most of my finished objects are sent out to someone else and I usually don’t know who it will be until the item is finished.  Many times, I make something just as an experiment – to see how the pattern works, how a stitch works, how easily I can do it.  Then in the middle, the pattern and the yarn start telling me who needs to receive this object.  If the object has no home, it stays with me and I look at it with a sense of nostalgia – Wasn’t that fun to make?


Well, I guess my little evil, greedy comes out again.  I am so far down the product scale it is scary.

I. Want. The. Thing.

I choose patterns because I think they are pretty/comfy/fun/cute/wearable/useful/gorgeous/popular.  I can’t think of even once where I have chosen a pattern to learn a skill…  Oh, that is sad.  This should have been immediately apparent to anyone who knows me, and how hard it is to give FOs (finished objects) away.  Only the truly knitworthy…


I adore the process of knitting but I think ultimately I’m a product girl.  Sometimes it’s only knowing what is awaiting me at the end of all the hard work that really keeps me going when I’d rather just stash the item somewhere and forget its very existence.  Like Kelly, I don’t think I’ve ever chosen a pattern simply to learn a new skill, learning new skills is simply a result of having to have that particular item. Now.

What can I say, I’m a little bit of a material girl! (see what I did there? Ahem)

Breaking Black – Chicago

I broke black.  That makes me sound wicked cool, doesn’t it?

I used just shy of two balls of Fortissima Socka.  This actually involved ripping out the contrast toe/heel of a half-knit sock.  I came to terms that I would never finish that sock, and I ripped.  That is my level of committment to “breaking bad”.

Dye Specifics:

– Wound in 16 inch hanks
– Soaked in .5 cups white vinegar and 12.5 cups water (1 hour)
– Striped on Wilton black
– Squished hanks to fleck color

It needed more, so:
– Dropped into slow cooker w/1 pink Easter egg tablet and 8 drops McCormicks red

Voila!  I broke bad.

Kind regards,


When to say “when”

Sometimes I’m a quitter.

When do you give in?  Give up?  Get out?

I am working on a test knit for a sweater.  It is lovely, and oh-so-innovatively designed.  I love everything about it, but I just can’t get it cast-on.  Well I can, but it doesn’t look right.

Sleeves for my DLP’s sweater – I haven’t quit on these… yet.

So here I am, a knitter of moderate experience.  Experience limited in time perhaps – but not substance – struggling with casting-on.  I’ve emailed the designer.  She was charming and understanding.  Her work is beautiful and not for the faint of heart, so I imagine she is not unaccustomed to people quitting.  But when?  How long should I try?

I love the design.  I like the yarn.  I want the sweater.  Do I quit?

When do you say “when”?

Kind regards,