HEY LOCALS …. now here’s something very exciting …

dhy yarns

Grand Re-Opening of Dog House Yarns This Weekend!

September 20 & 21

There is a cool, crisp bite in the air and the shop has been re-stocked. It’s the prefect time to stop by and check out our new look and stock up on all your Fall knitting and crocheting supplies. We have added additional seating at the front of the store, reorganized the pattern books and done other small things to ensure a fun shopping experience.

Our Grand Re-Opening is this Saturday and Sunday, September 20 & 21.

The first 50 customers will receive a Thank-You gift.

There will be door prizes (the drawing will take place at 4pm on Sunday) so stop in and register for your chance to win.

Come check out the new Dog House Yarns Orphanage and adopt a skein (or more) for 40% off the marked price.

We will be rolling out our new Customer Loyalty program on Saturday. More details available this weekend.

We really appreciate the support and patience of all of our wonderful customers and friends. We look forward to seeing you.

(Parking: There is additional parking available behind the shop.)


come on out and see what’s new … sig block

Saying Goodbye to an Amazing Mentor

Rosanne and one of her dearly loved Jack Russels

Rosanne and one of her dearly loved Jack Russels

I’ll never forget the afternoon I heard the news.

I got a voice-mail to call a fellow fiber-fanatic as soon as I got the chance.   Thinking she just had a knitting question, I happily called Jan back … only to hear the news:  our dear friend, Rosanne Berkenstock, had died the day before after a short battle with cancer.

Rosanne, the owner of Dog House Yarns, had brought the caller and I together … as she did so many others … a few years earlier when she first opened Dog House Yarns in Culpeper.  Rosanne was a born-mentor … nurturing my love of knitting and helping me to become a much better designer, teacher and writer about knitting.  She commissioned me to be the “main event” at DHY’s first annual Spring Knitting Retreat … she hired me to work in the shop … she allowed me the great privilege of writing a column in this blog several times a month … she coached and critiqued my designs, making me a much better hand-knits designer.  She was an amazing mentor and an amazing friend.

And I wasn’t the only one.

She brought many of us together to share our love of all things fiber … to meet and greet and swap tips and techniques and pattern suggestions. We will always love her for that and we will greatly miss her.

A Shawl for Rosanne (email the shop for free pattern-directions to this beautiful work of art)

A Shawl for Rosanne (email the shop for free pattern-directions to this beautiful work of art)

One of the “Thursday Night Knit Nite Ladies” designed a shawl in Rosanne’s honor. It’s a patchwork of lace patterns (lace knitting was one of Rosanne’s favorite things to work)  … a patchwork just like all the folks she brought together … a mix of differences that together make a beautiful piece of art. If you would like a complimentary copy of the design, email the shop and they’ll get a copy of the pattern right out to you.

BTW, in an interesting twist to the story: the woman who called me that day … Jan … has taken over as the new owner of Dog House Yarns! How cool is that??? Jan will continue the shop under the name Dog House Yarns to honor Rosanne’s memory. But just as Rosanne would have mentored: Jan will be running the shop the way Jan wants the shop run.

I can promise you’ll what Jan’s got in store for us fiber fanatics!

So stop on in … visit with Jan … fondle some luscious fiber … and enjoy the adventure that Rosanne started us all on …sig block


Review: Artful Color, Mindful Knits by Laura M. Bryant

Artful Color, Mindful Knits by Laura Bryant

Artful Color, Mindful Knits by Laura Bryant

You know all those gorgeous hand-dyed yarns Rosanne carries in the shop? I’m constantly being asked for advice on what to project to make with a Hazel Knits colorway … or how best to show Green Dragon’s short-repeats … or just exactly how a skein is going to knit up.

None of us wants unitentional pooling or striping of colors; we don’t want to take time to work an intricate stitch only to have it lost within the amazing colors of the hand-dyed.

What to do?

I think I’ve found the answer: Artful Color and Mindful Knits: the definitive guide to working with hand-dyed yarns written by Laura Militzer Bryant. Wow! Does she know what she’s talking about … and does she know how to make art out of her knitting.

Back in the mid-80s, Bryant started hand-dying yarns commercially which led her to start up her own company, Prism Yarns. For over 30 years, Bryant has been working with dyes … and fibers … and knitting … and crocheting … and honing her amazing knitting-artistry. She’s been teaching workshops on all this for the past 10 years or so. And now, she’s written “the definitive guide” to how to make the yarn work the way the knitter/designer really wants it to work.

With great detail, clear instructions and tons of anecdotal evidence, Bryant leads the reader thru her art — determining the repeat of a hand-dyed and using it to best advangtage in a final product. Her well-written text is accompanied by great diagrams and images to illustrate her point. This is not for the beginner knitter … but for the knitter who wants a challenge, has time to be mindful (not on auto-pilot) with his/her knitting, and really wants to create art. She has included progressively more detailed projects throughout her book, each accompanied by extensive helps. From simple scarves to wraps and shawls to intricate, woven-like jackets to softened argyle-like designs … all created from the same yarn’s colorway.

This book is definitely a must-keep for the experienced knitter’s reference shelf!

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Review: Sweater Girls … feminine and fashionable

book review graphicI thought I’d review a book that is a couple of years old but one that I’ve just finally looked at.  Sweater Girls: 20 Patterns for Starlet Sweaters, Retro Wraps & Glamour Knits is co-authored by UK designers Madeline Weston and Rita Taylor. It is a gorgeous book filled with very feminine, yet wearable, designs reminiscent of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, a time period known as the “glamour girl” age.

It’s funny … I am most certainly NOT an uber-feminine, girly-girl. It wasn’t until I turned 50 that pink started to slowly creep into my wardrobe; even then it was not a pale, girly pink but a vibrant fuschia. With five brothers and only a couple of other girls in the neighborhood, I was the proverbial “tom boy”.

That said, I do like to look feminine when I can. I like the look and sense of style from the mid-20th Century … the close-fitting (but not skin-tight) sweater blouses, the full skirts, the slim leggings … the style that is modest yet feminine; that exudes sensuality of the feminine form rather than pushing the sexuality of the woman.

This book is perfect for what I like:  styles that include knitting techniques of fair isle, lace, and textured patterning. Some are pullovers, some are cardigans and some are sets. There is a lace top and matching skirt set that is absolutely gorgeous. The angora bolero (we’d call it a shrug) has beads along the border …


There are also a couple of accessories included in this book: a lacy-stole (that could be made narrower and warn as a scarf), a fabulous fair-isle beret (the colors are amazing … I love the brights used), lace stockings and lace mitts.

This is a beautiful book with vintage patterns updated to today’s yarns, colors and fashion sense. These are not simply the old pattern re-done .. these designs have been recreated to reflect the 21st century woman’s body. sig block

Wanna join a Knit-a-long

Knittin' Love FebSome of you may have seen my Knittin’ Love shawl in the shop … it’s a fun shawlette, worked from the top down, all in one piece.  The one in the shop is done in Plymouth’s Cleo (DK) and I’ve also knit it with Cascade’s Ultra Pima — both knit up beautifully and work well with this shawl.  It takes about 440 yards of a DK and doesn’t HAVE to be done in cotton, although you want a yarn with a nice spin and little halo to get the look you see here.

For the month of February, I’m hosting a KAL  in my By Hand, With Heart group on Ravelry.  The “rules” are simple:  join the BHWH group, signup for the KAL (promising to post in-progress and finished pictures of your shawl), and work the shawl during the month of February.  We’ll have prizes for all those who finish the shawl AND post a picture by March 1, 2014 at 5pm EST.  

When you sign up for the KAL, I’ll send you the pattern.  All you’ll need to buy is 440 yards of DK yarn to join the fun ….sig block

Book Review: Op-Art Socks … graphically amazing!

book review graphicGood afternoon!

If you are at all interested in sock knitting, especially sock knitting that goes beyond the usual, have I got a book for you:

Op-Art Socks by Stephanie van der Linden

Op-Art Socks by Stephanie van der Linden

Op-Art Socks: Creative Effects in Sock Knitting is one of those books that is just awe-inspiring. German hand-knits designer, Stephanie van der Linden, has taken 19 classic optical illusion art* patterns and translated them into gorgeous socks for men and women. Some of the designs rely on color-work for their “pop” … while others are knit-purl textural socks, knit in a single color, for a more subtle approach. You could of course do them either way, it’s up to you.

just some of the graphic designs used for inspiration

just some of the graphic designs used for inspiration

The reader/knitter is offered a chance to really delve into color-work and/or textural knitting on a relatively small scale by knitting the socks. The same patterns would translate wonderfully into a bigger project — jackets or throws would be spectacular — with the charting already done by the author. There is a playfulness to some of the patterns … a sophistication or subtlety to others … but all are amazing.

The bulk of the designs are for those who have done lots of socks and want a challenge, a challenge that will reward the knitter with some amazing socks. The directions are well-written and charts are easy to read. The book is replete with tips for improving your knitting, including:

  • how best to strand color-work knitting so as to avoid making the sock too tight to put on
  • how to read charts (and to copy them larger for ease in following)
  • how to adjust the pattern for foot differences (length, width, etc)
  • how to adjust a cool optical illusion color-work design into knit-purl design for a more subtle approach (or vice versa)

This is my favorite type of knitting book — unusual techniques (some of the socks are knit modularly and then seamed) and designs that can translate to other knitted items (such as making a jacket with some of these effects). van der Linden is a pro when it comes to knitting … and she encourages the knitter to go beyond his/her comfort zone, to stretch their knitting prowess, to create a work of art.
I highly recommend this book for the adventurous knitter … a book that is definitely eye-candy for all knitters …sig block

* The op-art movement was big in the 1960s, an artistic movement that “emphasizes the psychological and physiological conditions of visual experience” (pg 6). Very graphic with high contrast, the illustrations were often in black/white or one bright against another. Some of the art is almost psychedelic in nature.

Merry Christmas … from our house to yours …

knitted Claus dolls from Jean Greenhowe's book (shown in Plymouth Encore DK and Dreambaby)

knitted Claus dolls from Jean Greenhowe’s book (shown in Plymouth Encore DK and Dreambaby)

Happiest of Thanksgivings, y’all!

... we have so much to be thankful for ....

… we have so much to be thankful for ….

Thank you to all our blog-readers, shop customers and all those who have made it possible for Dog House Yarns to be the awesome yarn shop/community that it is! Remember to eat lots of the good stuff.

Small Business Saturday
Black Friday comes earlier every year, but this year, please make a point of saving some of your monies for Small Business Saturday:

… whether shopping on Etsy, downloading patterns on Ravelry, buying supplies or classes on Craftsy … or heading out on Saturday and shopping small local businesses like Dog House Yarns is such a great benefit to you, the business owners and the local community!

Happy, happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Review: Harvesting Color

book review graphic
Good morning!

Have I got a great book for those of you who may want to try to dye your own yarn:
Harvesting Color: How to find plants and make natural dyes by Rebecca Burgess is a great place to start. Dying fiber is fun (some would say, addicting) and while there are many commercial products out there (including kool-aid powder!), this book focuses on the plants needed to make natural dyes.

Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess

Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess

Burgess starts with some history on natural dyes, the basic “tools of the trade” necessary, the pros and cons of various “mordants” (the natural chemicals that help keep the dye on your yarn thru wash after wash), and some basics on how to dye fiber. Burgess recommends using fibers that are mostly (if not all) wool as wool takes dye so well due to the sheep fiber’s construction. Superwash wool can be used, but the dye will “take” differently than a less-processed wool.  You can also over-dye fiber for some very cool effects.

The next two-thirds of the book is really neat: by season, Burgess lists plants (and their geographic location) and what plant-parts are necessary to make the color shown (bark, root, fresh blossoms, berries, etc). She gives you “recipes” for mixing a bit of this with a bit of that to create unique, but all natural, colors. The illustrations in the book — beautifully photographed — show a sample of dyed yarn with the plant (for instance, hollyhock blossoms next to a pale yellow skein of hand-spun) and other pictures that might be of help (harvesting the plant or preparing the dye baths).

Sprinkled throughout the book are interesting facts about things like the Navajo dying traditions, seasonal dye starters for dying any type of fabric as a fun family project, “restoration dye garden” (or planting and maintaining local plants in a healthy and natural ecosystem), and a few, simple knitted projects using the hand-dyed yarn to it’s best advantage. She finishes the book with a resource listing of local and national sources for fiber, plants, etc.

A very cool fibery-fun book indeed!signature block

Review: The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting

book review graphic
Good morning … have I got a great book for those of you who love knitting lace: The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting: Stitches, techniques, and project for light-than-air shawls and more by Elizabeth Lovick. This book is definitely a keeper.

Elizabeth Lovick's newly published The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting

Elizabeth Lovick’s newly published The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting

Lovick takes the reader on a journey … a journey to the Shetland Islands where knitting lace, especially the famous “wedding ring shawls”, is a tradition still carried out to this day. Beginning with some background history, Lovick than deciphers the various lace elements inherent in traditional Shetland lace and breaks them out into a stitchion-ary that is not only beautifully charted (with written instructions) but also separated by size of the motifs (stitches by rows for each repeat) so that the reader can “plop” them down into whatever he/she is knitting.

Lovick finishes her books with a half-dozen patterns … patterns which can be knit over and over again by changing the lace stitch worked. The patterns include shawls (including a gorgeous, cobweb weight square shawl), baby layette, socks and hat/scarf sets. Fun and gorgeous.

For all of you who want to delve into designing your own garments, this book is one you’ll want to have on your shelves for inspiration and traditional lace stitch patterns.signature block

Ravelry … a great place to hang out …

… even in your pajamas!

When was the last time (if ever) you were on Ravelry?

  • Did you search the ginourmous pattern database (currently more than 140,000 patterns in 200 categories)?
  • Did you join one of the almost 30,000 groups to chat with like-minded individuals?
  • Did you search for how-tos on a technique, pattern or to query about a particular yarn?
  • Did you check out other Ravelers’ project pages, read comments on a specific design or yarn, or just go to kvetch about something?

Dog House has our own group … with the ability for members to add pictures of their finished projects, find out about upcoming events and just generally touch base with each other (even at 2 in the morning).

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I have just started a group specifically for By Hand, With Heart – hand-knit designs.  This is where I’ll post about test-knits, new patterns, host KALs and swaps, and generally build community around my design work.

Oh, and here’s a “heads up” … starting on Nov 1st, a ton (including me) of indie designers have gotten together to host an Indie Gift-a-long … participating designers are offering 25% off some (or all) their Ravelry patterns from Nov 1-15. Check out THAT group and you’ll be amazed at the talent that a community like Ravelry can showcase.

Bottom line: Ravelry is a great place to hang out with fellow fiber enthusiasts whether you’re a knitter, crocheter, spinner, weaver, knit-loomer, etc. And you can commune in your pjs!signature block

Book Review: knitted jackets!

book review graphicIt’s been quite a while since I”ve done a book review so I thought I’d give y’all a break and do one today.

Have you ever wanted to knit a jacket?  Not just a heavy sweater, but a real jacket?  A jacket that looks woven and sophisticated and uber chic?

Books about knitting jackets ... MARVELOUS!

Books about knitting jackets … MARVELOUS!

If so, the books I’m going to review are perfect for you.  Jean Frost, the known expert on knitting jackets, recently published (through XRX Books) two books:  Custom Fit Knit Jackets: Casual to Couture and Stitches for Tailored Knits: Build Better Fabric with Jean Frost.  Together, these books guide you through designing just the right jacket for you — the first book details jacket construction with all the idiosyncrasies that make knitting a jacket different than sewing one.   Frost walks the reader through how to measure, chart and create a knitted jacket that fits, no matter what size you may be.  She teaches the reader how to create a paper pattern, a “jersey template” to test the paper pattern, and then how to knit up the garment.  She also walks you through how to make a lining, construct interesting closings, and embellish your final masterpiece.

The second book (which really should have been added to the first to make a complete volume) adds a stitch-dictionary; these stitches (charted and row-by-row) photographed in great detail and shown in different color combinations so that you can clearly see exactly what the stitch patterns will do and why they would work for a tailored jacket.  Many of the stitch patterns create a knitted fabric that looks woven — houndstooth, basketweave, diagonal weave (that looks like twill).  Gorgeous ideas here.

The only down-side is I think you really need to buy both books if you’re interested in knitting a fitted jacket — the stitchionary, on it’s own, is useful for knitting fabrics filled with texture and depth, but you really need the Custom Fit Knit Jackets to help you create a one-of-a-kind, yep-it-fits, jacket.

Have you found other knitted jacket books?  I have the one from Cheryl Oberle (an Interweave book) but I think Frost’s books are light-years beyond the variety in Oberle’s book.signature block

Winners from Weekend Fiber Festivals

The 26th Annual Fall Fiber Festival and Montpelier Sheep Dog Trials happened this past weekend down at Montpelier Station.  I spent all day Sunday at the festival, helping at the Spring Gate booth and also demonstrating knitting for 90 minutes in the afternoon.

It was just generally a great time (see my blog post for more details about the weekend).  As I mentioned on that post, the Festival hosts a skein/garment competition for adults (with separate categories for kids) in various “divisions” — handspun, handknit, handcrochet, handknits from handspun, handwoven, recycled, hand-dyed, and “other fiber techniques” (there are four similar categories for kids).

Well, it seems a couple of DHY folks won ribbons this year:

Jan's hand-spun boucle placed second

Jan’s hand-spun boucle placed second

and she won lots of gorgeous natural fiber, a prize donated by Kim Harrison Fiber Arts

Natural fiber from Kim Harrison Fiber Arts

Natural fiber from Kim Harrison Fiber Arts

Cool, huh?

I also won some ribbons and got awesome prizes from KSC Designs (a removable journal cover that is uber cool), a huge skein of hand-spun bulky yarn in a reddish-brown tone from Silverleaf Spinning (from Louisa, VA), and a very nice felted wool wall-hanging from Mad Maggie’s Farm.  I’m particularly proud of the “best in division – hand-knits” for my Nollag Seal (done in Cascade Eco+).

Nollag Seal (Christmas Shawl)

Nollag Seal (Christmas Shawl)

It’s great fun to enter these competitions, whether you win or not. I particularly like this one at FFF because the judges give you feedback and a bit of explanation as to why they liked (or didn’t like) your entry.

Go ahead and start thinking of things you can enter next year … it’s so worth it!signature block

Come see and touch … our newest yarns!

When we were out in Columbus, OH for the trade show, Rosanne picked out some new yarns to carry.  If you haven’t been in the shop for a while, here’s a peek at just a few of the yarns that have started arriving:

Alpaca Silk

Marks & Kattens “Alpaca Silk”

Marks & Kattens “Alpaca Silk” is a fabulous fingering weight yarn that is 70% alpaca and 30% silk.  With 230 yards on a skein, you can knit up a luscious scarf: we have a shop model of Blooming Liriope done in the gorgeous green.  Or use a couple of balls and work up a shawl: we have a shop model of Flight Formation done in the light purple.  This yarn has great stitch definition and feels like pure cashmere when knit up!

Plymouth Yarn's "Johanne"

Plymouth Yarn’s “Johanne”

Johanne, from Plymouth Yarn is a light worsted blend of 40% wool, 30% mohair, and 30% acrylic.  At 327 yards per skein, you could easily make a gorgeous scarf or shawlette.  The yarn’s hand-dyed colors are soft and sophisticated.

Good for Ewe's "Kettle Steps"

Good for Ewe’s “Kettle Steps”

Good for Ewe, a small indy-dyer from Indiana, brings us two yarns — one, “Kettle Steps”, is a tonal fingering/sock yarn of 40% superwash merino, 40% baby llama and 20% nylong. The kettle-dying process gives this yarn real life and would look great as socks (one skein would make a pair) or knit up into a shawlette or poncho.

Good for Ewe's "Mirrorball"

Good for Ewe’s “Mirrorball”

The second yarn from Good for Ewe would be perfect for shawls or other fancy-dress — “Mirrorball” is a light fingering with over 700 yards per skein. Created of 95% fine merino and 5% silver stellina, this yarn puts a bit of sparkle in your knitting. I’m anxious to start a shawl in the charcoal grey!

Red Barn Yarn "Llama Sparkle"

Red Barn Yarn “Llama Sparkle”

Red Barn Yarns, a hand-dyer from California, has a one-skein shawl pattern (free with purchase of the yarn) that really shows the WOW of their yarn, “Llama Sparkle”. A worsted weight blend of 95% baby llama and 5% stellina, this yarn comes in glorious varigated tones. With 273yds on each skein, you could make a cool one-skein shawl (either the one from Red Barn or another) … working on big needles to quickly knit up a one-of-a-kind wrap!

Gorgeous, gorgeous fibers … and more to come. So pop on in and check out the new fibers as well as some of our standard beauties (Blue Ridge, Shepherd’s Wool, and Green Dragon … to name just a few).

Enjoy!signature block

Review – Adventure Knitting … or “thinking outside the pattern” …

book review graphicGood morning!

I wanted to share a new book I just found … well, it’s more like a booklet and it’s available on Ravelry or directly from the author’s website .  However you obtain the book … I think you’ll love what you find.

So what is this book?  Adventure Knitting: A Day in the Woods is the brain-child of Lee Meredith (whose Rav name is Leethal .. which always makes me smile as she is one of the nicest women).  Lee has written a pattern book that allows the knitter to “choose her/his own adventure”.  The book includes four patterns — hat, cowl, fingerless mitts, and a coffee-cup sleeve.

Doesn’t seem like much, does it?

Adventure Knitting: A Day in the Woods

Adventure Knitting: A Day in the Woods

But … and here’s the very cool, thinking outside the pattern bit … Lee has given the knitters tons of options for each item.  The items can be worked with ANY weight yarn and ANY size needles.  The items are custom-sized through short-rows and modular knitting techniques.  All pieces are done in three sections — each section having its own options — but still all in one-piece so there is minimal finishing.  All the items require knitting in the round … but if you’ve never knit in the round, these are a good place to start as there is quick gratification with these small projects.

The book comes with 20 stitch patterns that are both charted and written out and there are lots of suggestions for making each item your own.  This book started out as a mystery-knit-along on Lee’s Ravery group so check Leethal Knitters  for links to other projects folks have posted; she invites her readers to post what they make based on her book.

The book is illustrated with fun sketches of adventures in the woods:  hiking, camping, climbing, etc.  Further, a cool addition to the book is that Lee gives you directions for printing your own, small-sized version of the book … either as individual pattern booklets (that would fit nicely in your project bag) or as a fully sewn-binding book.  She has very clear directions … and a fabulous tutorial on her site for how to bind the booklets together.

VERY cool …signature block