River Colors Studio Yarns

River Colors Journal

Friday, July 22, 2016

On Color Pops and cleverness

Color makes us feel alive.

Where we place it makes us feel clever.
 So I have to say one of the things we discuss the most at the studio is color.  I think every day we have someone hold up two different colors of  yarn and ask "which color do you think looks the best on me"?  The other discussion we are often included in is "I want to change up my colors and get outside my comfort zone".   I propose to you that there are lots of ways to work with the colors that you want to without having to worry about either of those issues.   We call it the yarn pop!  With a little cleverness you can include the colors you want to work with...those outside of your comfort zone or what looks good on you. How about using that neon that you love in a not so obvious place?  I am using fashion garments to demonstrate the concepts so that your creativity gets sparked a little. Yes you are right, usually we are not going to line a poncho with the neon but we might knit or crochet a poncho and then punch it up with a stripe of neon at the edge or place that neon as a patch pocket on a sweater you have knitted or crocheted. Select a shawl pattern that can  end with the color that you are dying to use.  When you are no longer in love with that color or the fashion trend is outdated you can rip back to your comfort zone colors and replace the outdated colors with new ones.   That is the beauty of yarn.  Yarn is recyclable and reusable.

                  bunmomamy's pasOsolo on Ravelry

Colors leads you to places you would not normally go to!

How about this woman?  I think she usually likes to wear neutral colors.   This amazing fashionable dress she has would look totally different if it were in the orange pop that she has on her hat.  Perhaps in the orange the clean sharp lines and drape would be totally lost.  She added color by inviting you to see that pop of orange first and then you look at the rest of the garment styling.  Perhaps you want to use colors that you are comfortable with but there are those other colors that keep speaking to you.  Look for a  pattern that will enable you to use them.   Take a look at Stephen West's Reis.  Look at the different photos of this very traditional sweater and take note of color pops.  It is amazing how one pattern can look so different based on color selection.  

komepanda's Reis on Ravelry.

Go ahead, give it a try.  Play with the colors you have been wanting to.  It is the perfect opportunity for playing with the crayon box of colors that we have thanks to Hedgehog Fibres and Madelinetosh


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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Breaking free from patterns
One of my favorite things about crochet is how easy it is to improvise.  Once you know a few techniques - single and double crochet, how to make even rows, how to work in rounds, maybe some increases and decreases - you have all the skills you need to modify existing patterns and design your own projects.

Because you have only one "live" stitch on the hook, it's very easy to see exactly what's going on in the fabric you're making. No need to find a pattern for a simple pullover; just grab an existing sweater from your wardrobe and crochet pieces that are the same size as the ones in your current garment.   You can easily measure your crocheted piece up against the existing garment to make sure you're on the right track with shaping, drape, and overall size.  Try it on a kid's garment first - the investment in time and yarn isn't so great - and soon you'll be off to the races.

Sweaters aren't the only thing you can create as you go.  Amigurumi (a fancy Japanese word for "little stuffed toys") is a great way to play around and invent new things.  The basic body shape is usually round or oval, and things like arms, ears, and clothes can all be added or changed.  Check out these tutorials to start from scratch, or find a basic pattern and embellish it as you get more familiar with the craft.
Cute little chicks aren't the only thing you can crochet off the cuff.  If you've ever held a crochet hook in your hand, someone has probably shared pictures of the Crocheted Coral Reef  project with you.
This art installation is an example of something called "hyperbolic crochet," The technique was developed in 1997 by Dr. Daina Taimina, a mathematician at Cornell, as a way to model a concept known as "hyperbolic space."  The resulting objects don't just look cool - they mimic the actual geometry that nature uses in things like kelps, corals, sponges, sea slugs, and nudibranchs.  A quick search of Ravelry for the term "hyperbolic" returns plenty of options for getting started with the basic shapes.  You'll still be following a loose "pattern," but the results are a lot more organic than your typical granny square.

And if that's still not wild enough for you ... how about Freeform Crochet?  I'm not all that familiar with this technique (yet), but the basic idea is that you mix and match colors, patterns, and stitches as much or as little as you want.  Pieces don't have to be worked in rows or rounds unless you want them to be - otherwise, you can make the stitches wherever your heart desires!  Frequently, individual pieces (called "scrumbles") are joined together to make a larger garment, blanket, bag, or other project.
Here is a great round-up of tutorials to get you started.

Whichever technique you choose, you shouldn't be afraid to grab a hook and try something new.  After all, summer is a time to PLAY, right?

- Gretchen

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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

A Little Shirt for a Little Lady
Hi everyone, I am Hana.
I'm a lifelong crafter. I've been knitting and crocheting since I was eight years old.    Over the years of exploring the fiber arts I have become increasingly passionate about it

Making gifts for family and friends has taken up the majority of my crafting time, but now that I'm a mom, I'm finding myself poring over patterns for little girl clothes and accessories. There are a million and one cute things to make for a little girl, so how do you choose? I had some Juniper Moon Farm Zooey left over from knitting a shirt from my mom and thought it would be wonderful for grandma and granddaughter to have matching shirts.   Because Zooey is a DK weight yarn  I knew I needed a pattern that called for that gauge. In my personal stash I had a bit of Berroco Linsey that I wanted to use for a nice color pop.  The Linsey was also going to be my back up in case I ran out of the main yarn. Excited to cast on, I headed over to Ravelry to find a pattern that fit my requirements.

My search ended when I found the All in One Sleeveless Baby Top by Marianna Mel. Knit in a DK weight yarn on size US 6 needles, there are options for sizes from six months all the way up to twelve months. It looks great in any color, so I knew I had found my pattern.

Photo credit: Marianna Mel
I loved that not only was it one piece, I had the right amount of buttons in the right size. The only thing I didn't particularly care for was how it was open all the way down. I had pictured more of an actual shirt, but since I was excited to make something I went ahead and cast on. It's a quick and fun knit, great for hanging out on the couch with your baby. I found myself working on the last button hole round before I knew it, while I kept admiring how cute it was, I still wasn't wild about leaving it open all the way down. What were my options? I didn't have enough buttons to continue that way, so that idea was out. What was my other option? The only other choice I could see was to join it in the round and go from there.

I took a good look at the construction of the top and what would happen if I joined it as it was. When I pulled it together it seemed a tiny bit bunched, so after joining I did a make one increase to the left. Increasing by one stitch was enough to allow it to lay correctly without puckering. From there it was a simple matter of knitting till I was happy with how long it was. Five easy rows of 1x1 ribbing completed the shirt. All in all it was a very simple modification yet, that one little change altered the entire look of the garment.

As you can see, little miss Rose is pleased with her new shirt. I am happy with the finished product and with the confidence I've gained. Now I feel like I can tackle more complex modifications without fear.

Thanks for joining us, now go make something!

Hana & Rose

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Tips, tools and apps to make your life easier
There are so many gadgets, hacks, and apps out there - how do you know which ones are worth trying, and which are just going to make your life more difficult?  Not to fear!  Let's follow the "life cycle" of a project and look at some tips to make things go more smoothly for you.

Find a pattern:

Ravelry.com is the place many of our customers start when they're looking for a new project.  They have powerful search functions - click on the "Patterns" tab, then select "pattern browser & advanced search" on the left side of the page.  This lets you filter the list of more than 600,000 knitting and crochet patterns.  By clicking on choices in the various categories - yarn weight, project type, number of yards, etc. - you can reduce an overwhelming variety of ideas to a handful that are easier to decide among.  Many choices are free, and others can be ordered and paid for directly through Ravelry.  New to the site?  Check out the resources on their wiki pages: http://www.ravelry.com/wiki/pages/GettingStartedGuide

Store your purchases:
     "I have seven balls of this yarn that I bought here two years ago, and I think I was going to make a sweater?  But I don't know what pattern I was going to use.  Do you remember which one I picked?"  Don't let this happen to you!  Erika's memory is good, but it's not infallible. When you find a pattern and yarn you like - STORE THEM TOGETHER IN THE SAME BAG.  It's such a small thing, but it will save you so many potential heartaches later on.  Another tip - when you match your yarn and pattern, add the project to your "queue" in Ravelry.  That way you can always go back and see what you'd planned to do, even if the physical objects get separated.

Corral your yarn:
     You're ready to start, and things are going well ... until your yarn ball rolls off and starts herding the dust bunnies that live under your couch.  There are lots of ways to keep runaway yarn from slowing you down.
  1. Wind your yarn into center-pull balls whenever possible.  Many people prefer to wind their yarn just in time to use it.  If you're one of them, consider investing in a yarn winder and swift, the two items you'll need to wind yarn quickly and efficiently.

  2. Center-pull balls and commercially wound skeins can be easily "unwound" as you work by storing them in something that keeps them contained when you pull on them.  This can be anything from a gallon-size plastic bag that's closed except for where the yarn comes out, to a colander, to a shoebox.  There are plenty of beautiful yarn bowls on etsy.com if you want something a little more official, and we've found the yarn butler to be a useful tool to hold yarn for our shop projects.

  3. Project bags are useful, fun, and a little addictive.  They're essential for traveling with a project - nobody wants to chase a ball of yarn all over the floor of an airplane - and they make great gifts.

Keep track of where you are in your pattern:
     Stitch markers and Post-It notes, highlighters and pencils - all these things come in handy when you're trying to keep track of where you are in a complicated pattern.  But what do you do if you've joined the digital revolution and your pattern is on your iPad or tablet?  You use knitCompanion!  This app lets you "mark up" pdf patterns the same way you would highlight rows on a piece of paper.  Many of our customers swear by it.
     And while I'm thinking about it, I have a confession to make. Despite my collection of useful and cute stitch markers, I still end up using paper clips, hair bands, scraps of yarn, pieces of dental floss, twist ties, plastic baggie ties, and even pieces of paper jammed onto my needles.  Some days my projects look like they were assembled by a magpie.  Don't ask me why ... and don't be ashamed if you do the same thing!

Weave in ends as you go:

   There are few things more disheartening than finishing your beautiful afghan ... and then noticing the hundreds of yarn ends you now have to deal with. Crochet projects are no problem - it's easy to bury the yarn tails as you go, no darning needle required.  But knitters should consider taking a break every so often to weave in their ends, especially on projects with lots of color changes.  You'll do a neater job if you aren't in such a hurry to finish the project, and you probably won't end up hating the process as much.

Pay attention to yarn care requirements:
     The only thing worse than weaving in hundreds of yarn tails?  Finishing your project and having it radically change in size or shape the first time you wash it.  Ugh!  Prevent shrinkage (and bagginess) by paying attention to the care instructions provided by the yarn dyer or manufacturer.  These may not be in words - manufacturers have come up with a list of "universal care symbols" which are supposed to tell you all you need to know.  Of course, most of us can only remember a few of them, so here's a link to a cheat sheet that shows the meanings of the most common symbols.

So, what's your favorite hack for knitting or crochet?  The weirdest thing you've used as a stitch marker?  Ever used pencils or chopsticks to replace a lost needle?  Share your tips with us in the comments - let's see what you've got!

- Gretchen

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sheep Appreciation

Appreciating the Sheep

Is there any sight more peaceful than a field of grazing sheep? From afar, their woolly white bodies dot the green field, an echo of the fluffy white clouds in the blue sky above. Their heads bent to the task of turning sweet grass into wool, a flock of sheep reminds us that life can be full and simple at the same time.
Photo courtesy of Flickr
Here at River Colors Studio, we love wool in all its forms: spun and unspun, dyed and natural. We love the variety of textures of wool from different breeds: the rustic warmth of Icelandic Lopi, the plump cushion of Malabrigo merino, the heathered loft of Shetland Spindrift, the Rambouillet bounce of Swans Island All American Collection, the exquisite softness of Woolfolk's extrafine merino.

Deep Sheep Knowledge

A mouflon. Photo courtesy of Flickr

  • Northeast Ohio's own Urban Shepherds promotes using flocks of sheep to manage grass on vacant lots and other large swaths of land like utility corridors.

    • The mouflon(Ovis orientalis orientalis), a wild sheep found in the Mediterranean and Near East, is thought to be one of the ancestors of all domesticated sheep.
    • Depending on the breed, a sheep can produce anywhere from 2 to 30 lbs of wool fleece in a year.
    • Sheep's milk cheeses are highly prized. They include Greek feta, the Spanish manchego, French roquefort and Italian pecorino romano and ricotta.
    • Sheep have been domesticated for at least 12,000 years. 
    • Wool was so valuable a commodity in early modern Europe that Spain's Age of Exploration was financed by its wool trade, and exporting Merino sheep from Spain was a capital offense until the 18th century.
    • In the same way, England's King George III, to protect the English wool industry, prohibited the export of sheep to the American colonies and banned wool trading there. And we thought the American Revolution was about taxation without representation!
    • Sheepdogs fall into two types: herding dogs, who help the shepherd move the flock, and guardian dogs, who protect the flock from predators.
    • Sheep terminology:adult males are called rams, adult females are called ewes, sheep of both sexes under 14 months are lambs. Castrated adult males are wethers.

    Interested in more sheep facts? Many of these came from 25 Surprising Facts About Sheep.

    Come to River Colors Studio on Saturday, June 25 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm to buy Cestari yarns. Francis Chester of Cestari Yarns will be here  with all of the Cestari yarn blends, plus rugs and cones of yarn.  He will tell us about his adventures as a sheep farmer in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.   After you meet him you might believe that he will have an impact on the states with the highest number of sheep!

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    Thursday, June 16, 2016

    Knit in Public Day (from the eyes of a child)
    Well, actually that headline is a tad deceiving.  The person (Kelsey)  who wrote this post is now a mature wonderful adult.   But you see, when I  first started River Colors, she was a child and has grown up with the studio and Knit in Public Day in her life.  I asked her to write this posting because I thought it would be fun to see what she said.   Little did I know that when I reviewed it I would be in tears and say...."wow she gets it". Of course, I am biased so you can decide for yourself.  


     As I sat down to write this post, Orlando’s most recent tragedy and the tumultuous state of the world came to mind. Even though, my initial brainstorming had led me to a much more lighthearted funny spin on the fast approach of World Wide Knit in Public Day, when I sat down to write, reflection seemed to spill from the keyboard. And thus my title: WWKD….What Would a Knitter Do?
                When I was younger, my siblings and I always thought it was so funny that no matter where she was, my mother ran into a fellow knitter. We used to make fun of her for knowing everyone. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I was older and wiser, did I realize that River Colors had become a community and when my mother ran into fellow knitters, they shared something more than a passing hello. I should have known this far earlier, as I had watched the effort my mother put in to things, whether it was a garment to share with others, making sure to stay and hang out with the Thursday night knit circle, or the excitement that accompanied World Wide Knit in Public Day.
     I remember one of the years I first attended World Wide Knit in Public Day. I didn’t quite know what to expect. I remember thinking it was very hot, and when I arrived, I bore witness to a group of individuals knitting away on the asphalt parking lot. I’m sure I didn’t get it then, but in the years since, I have tried to be present on World Wide Knit in Public Day to help, whether it was putting up tents in the sun, or making sure they didn’t blow away in the wind, I even made the food last year (so if you enjoyed it, yep I’m that famous chef you’ve been searching for since!). I did these things because it meant something to my mom, and to the community of River Colors, because after hanging around the store enough, you start to understand it’s not just about a needle and yarn, it’s about everything in between. World Wide Knit in Public Day isn’t a day to knit socks in the heat of summer, it is a day for knitters to unify and celebrate the craft that has created a community for individuals all over the world.
                When I titled this piece WWKD, it was not in a joking matter, it was that despite other identities, you all identify as knitters. And, in reflection of the events in Orlando, and violence and hatred that divides our world, maybe this year we can see World Wide Knit in Public Day, as day unification, under craft and kindness.
    I don't have any pictures of Kelsey at Knit In Public Day.....but I do have these from a long time ago. She was a good sport and modeled for a fashion show we had at the studio. Thanks for sharing Kelsey.