Wednesday, May 27, 2015

June Read Along

One great thing about being your own boss is you can decide to do something a little different on your blog and no one will nix your idea because it's not "on brand." (Sometimes I feel that if I never heard the word "brand" again, I would be ecstatic.)

Anyway, I wanted to share that Vibeke of A Butterfly in My Hair is hosting a read along that starts a week from today. The book is Jean Giono's Joy of Man's Desiring. You can read all about it on her blog. It's going to be a fairly mellow read along, happening over four weeks.

She recently posted a photo on Instagram of the cover of a new edition of the book. Seeing it, I was suddenly transported pretty far back in my life—I first read this novel about 25 years ago, when I was living in Chicago and just a couple of years out of grad school. The book came into my possession by chance—a customer at the bar my ex-husband and I owned gave it to me, saying she thought I would like Giono's descriptions of nature.


I did like it, so much so that I embarked on a Giono odyssey, reading several of his other novels in quick succession. I've kept them all, carrying them faithfully with me every time I've moved, but I haven't ever read them a second time.


So I'm going to read Joy of Man's Desiring again and see what I think of it at this stage of my life, now that I live in the country rather than the city, and am no longer young. Will I still like it so much? 

As for other new beginnings: On Memorial Day, I gave myself a real holiday (no work knitting or pattern writing), and got started on a cardigan just for me, the Windsor Cardi by Amy Christoffers. I'm making it with Woolen Rabbit Grace in the Godiva colorway:

Busman's holiday - cast on a sweater for me - what a treat to just follow the pattern, yay - Windsor Cardigan by Amy Christoffers #knit #knitting  #knittersofinstagram #knitstagram #woolenrabbit

And early this morning—at 6 am, as I listened to the birds sing—I began the next wrinkle embroidery piece. Feels good to be starting a new stitching adventure. It also feels really good to be able to knit and embroider outdoors, on my balcony. What a treat, after the long winter!

Beginning the day - first stitches of a new wrinkle embroidery piece #bonniesennott #embroidery #dailyembroidery #stitch #joy

The last wrinkle embroidery piece is done—I think—I need to leave it be for a little while to be sure:

Done? Maybe. Releasing the need to be sure right this second. Time will tell. #bonniesennott #embroidery #dailyembroidery #yes #letyourheartbreatheprayer

Well, since I wrote a little about art and knitting, I guess this post wasn't so "off brand" after all. Hope to see you in the read along!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Shop Update: New Bag and Free Shipping

What-not Bag

New in my Etsy shop: a sweet drawstring bag for all the little things you need for your crafting projects—tape measures, scissors, cable needles, and so on.

At 5.5 inches wide and 7 inches tall, it's just the right size for keys and phone and what-not, perfect for keeping small stuff from getting lost in a tote bag or purse.

Heading into my Etsy shop soon: linen "what-not" bag, perfect for knitting or crochet notions, keys and phone, what-not. Hand embroidered. Crochet motif made with Habu Cotton Gima. Cotton drawstring. Vintage button. 5.5 inches wide by 7 inches tall. #bonn

Sewn from 100% linen, the bag is embellished with a bit of embroidery, a delicate circle motif that I crocheted with two colors of Habu Cotton Gima, and a tiny vintage button.

What-not Bag

What-not Bag

From now through May 31, get free shipping on this and all bags and sachets in my Etsy shop with the coupon code FREESHIP.

What-not Bag

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Fiber Conversations: Brenda Pirie of End of the Row Yarns

Welcome to Fiber Conversations, a series of interviews with creative fiber folks. Today's conversation is with Brenda Pirie. Brenda is a longtime knitter from Annapolis, Maryland, and an active member of the Ravelry Blue Peninsula group. She recently opened an Etsy shop, End of the Row Yarns.

Bonnie: Hi, Brenda! Thanks for taking the time to chat about your new Etsy shop, End of the Row Yarns. Could you talk a little about how you began dyeing yarn and what lead you to open a shop?

Brenda: Hey Bonnie! Great to be chatting with you. The first time I dyed yarn was some 10 years ago. After a trip to my grocery store, armed with Kool-Aid, I dyed a couple skeins of self-striping sock yarn. I enjoyed the process but the colors weren't too exciting. So I ordered some acid dyes and tried it again ... better color intensity but not quite what I wanted. I didn't do more than a skein or two of solid colors ... not sure why, probably that thing called "life" got in the way.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I really wanted to try dyeing yarn to get that nice tonal color we all know and love. I always wondered, how do they do that?! So I watched a bunch of YouTube videos, got some bare yarn donations from friends, together with a skein or two of bare yarn from my stash, and started dyeing! I really just jumped in ... and found that I really had a knack for making pretty yarn. I figured out that whole tonal yarn thing, too!

My friends in my knit group have been so supportive. Their encouragement and excitement over my yarn made me think I could actually open a shop and sell my yarn. On a personal note, I'm at a point in my life where the nest is close to being empty. I've been a stay-at-home mom for 21 years and my youngest is only a couple years away from graduating from high school. I really wanted to do something for me, something I love to do and of course, something knitting related!

Bonnie: You offer fingering weight (sock) yarns in both variegated and tonal colorways. Tell me a little about the differences between the two. What kinds of projects do you think they are best suited for?

Brenda: Tonal yarns are basically one color but the tones of the color vary from light to dark. I think tonal yarns work well with most patterns and will show stitch patterns quite well. Variegated yarns have more than one color. Some can be more subdued and others quite wild! The more colors, the more your stitches will be hidden, meaning when your project is finished the design of the stitches will be hard to see. Most knitters have discovered this issue and search for patterns that are designed to work with those wonderful handpainted/variegated yarns. Sometimes I do that, and sometimes I knit whatever I want with the yarn I love, regardless. 

I dye my variegated yarns in a random way that creates little to no pooling. Pooling is when colors clump together and knit up into pools or splotches of color. I'm discovering that some of the dyes actually separate (break) colors in the dyeing process and create a skein with more than one color. Being somewhat new to this world of yarn dyeing, I find that so cool! Usually when I get a new dye color, I'll dye a "tonal" skein, just to see what the dye will do. Dyeing is such an adventure!


Bonnie: In your Ravelry profile, you say you started knitting in your 20s when you saw your mom teaching herself how to knit. Did she teach you, or did you decide to teach yourself, just as she did? Have you knit ever since then? Did the two of you ever knit the same patterns?

Brenda: Little did I know how much saying, "I want to do that!" would change my life! My mom showed me how to knit that day. We both made slippers with scratchy acrylic yarn, complete with pompoms! We were so proud of those silly slippers. We found a knitting "workshop" class through our local adult education community. We took that class over and over for years! This was in the 80s, when knitting was just starting to come back into popularity, so I guess you can say that class was my first knit group. We knit the "class project" together sometimes and also did our own thing. You could come to class and just knit your own project—that was perfectly OK. From there, we each took a different path with our knitting. She excelled in making her own patterns for sweaters. We learned Elizabeth Zimmerman's Percentage System in class and mom just took the ball (of yarn!) and ran with it! I used to call her the Bionic Knitter. Me, on the other hand, I like to follow a pattern. I'll make modifications, but creating my own pattern from scratch isn't my thing. And when I learned to Continental knit, my knitting speed took off like a rocket! 

I remember a few years after learning to knit, Mom came to class with a skein of sock yarn and these impossibly tiny needles, ready to embark on knitting her first socks. I said, "What are you nuts?! That yarn is so skinny and those needles?! It'll take forever!" I then uttered four words that to this day, I can't believe I ever said, "I'm never knitting socks!" But of course, I did. I didn't start making socks till the 90s and now in some circles I'm considered the Sock Queen. Ha-ha! I usually have at least two or three pair on the needles at any given time. I did take some time off from knitting to have babies but returned as soon as possible. My mom still knits quite a bit, but she says that I'm the Bionic Knitter now. Mom and I are on opposite coasts, so I miss hanging out and knitting with her. 

Bonnie: What are your favorite kinds of knitting projects?

Brenda: I really love to knit all kinds of projects. I like to have multiple projects going so I can switch projects when I feel like it. I’m somewhat impulsive when it comes to starting new projects. As long as I have needles available, I’ll cast on. Then sometimes I feel overwhelmed with WIPs and start a finishing spree. I’m equally excited when starting a project as I am when finishing. I love to make shawls and socks most of all. Hats are another favorite, especially worsted weight with cables. I made toys for the first time last year, and I plan to make more now that there are a couple babies due this fall in my extended family. I also love to knit the same pattern over and over again. I like the familiarity, like reading a book I loved over again or listening to a favorite song. I think I’ve knit [Cookie A’s] Monkey Socks 10 times.

Bonnie: Do you have any favorite fibers or weights that you find yourself going back to again and again as a knitter?

Brenda: If you were to analyze my stash, you'd probably find mostly sock yarn and worsted weight yarn. I really love fingering weight yarn! You can make anything with it ... socks, shawls, cowls, sweaters, mitts, gloves, hats or scarves! (Did I miss anything?!) And I think I've knit just about all of them, too. Worsted weight is another favorite. I love making hats, cowls, and mitts with worsted yarn. They go so quick! I know that when I walk into a yarn shop I can find one skein of fingering or one skein of worsted and I know I’ll find a pattern that will use just one skein. Also, I usually don’t have a very big yarn budget. Being a one-income family, spending a ton of money on yarn just isn’t possible. So instead of getting 8 skeins for a sweater, I can get one skein and be perfectly happy, dreaming about what wonderful things I can knit!

Bonnie: I know you’ve only just opened your Etsy shop, so maybe this is premature … but I’ll ask anyway! What’s on the horizon at End of the Row Yarns? Can you share any plans for future new colorways or yarn bases?

Brenda: Yes, I did just get started but of course, I’m thinking ahead … dreaming of all the possibilities! I’ve been ordering different bases in single skeins and sort of test dyeing them, just to see what they will do. I would love to add an 80/10/10 (superwash merino/silk/nylon) base and a 50/50 merino and silk base, both in fingering weights. I have dyed both in current colorways and love the look. I’m hoping to add them in the not too distant future. The biggest challenge for me is repeating the same colorway. I’m working on ways to keep track of my process so this will get easier. I dye one skein at a time and I am always adding new colorways. My daughter, Justine, helps with me come up with colorways and names. I dyed one last light that is variegated with earthy browns and greens; I named it Mother Earth. I would also love to create a yarn club or partner with a designer on a pattern someday. Right now I’m still working on getting the word out about my shop. 

Bonnie: It’s been great learning about your knitting and dyeing adventures, Brenda. I wish you all the best on your new shop. Thanks for chatting!

Brenda: Bonnie, thank you for including me in your series. I had fun answering your questions and doing my first interview! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Betwixt and Between

Flowering Tree

Temps soared into the high 80s for several days this week and the whole world burst into bloom. I decided it was high time to wash the fingerless mitts that got the most wear over the winter. (I wear them around the house a lot—helps keep the heating bill down.)

Won't be needing these again till fall (I hope!) #fingerlessmitts #knit #knitting #knittersofinstagram #knitstagram

Clockwise, from upper left, the patterns are: 1) My Fiery Searcher Mitts, 2) Chalice Mitts by Julia Trice (in yarn I dyed with hickory nuts), 3) no pattern—I made up these up on the fly using alpaca bought at a local farmers market, and 4) Toast by Leslie Friend (the dark grey is my very first handspun!).

Wouldn't you know, as soon as I put them away, the weather turned cool. We even had a danger of frost the past couple nights. So this morning I was wearing my Toast again.  

When it comes to projects, I'm as "in between" as the weather. My second Conklaree, which I'm knitting this time with two strands of laceweight yarn (Jaggerspun Zephyr) held together, is coming along but nowhere near being finished. 

Lifelines in my Conklaree. I rarely need them but use them anyway. Better safe than sorry! #bluepeninsula #knit #knitlace #knitting #knittersofinstagram #knitscarves #knitstagram #yokal2015

Even though these days I usually catch mistakes on the same or next row, I still use lifelines religiously on lace projects like this. You just never know. I like to use a laceweight wool—it's thin and it stays put. If you use lifelines, what do you use?

My next sock design is also "betwixt and between." I'd finished about five inches when I hit upon a much more interesting way of doing the ribbing and transitioning from that to the next stitch pattern. The more I considered it, the more I liked the new idea. So I started over completely! 

Next sock design is begun! What a surprise - it's got lace. �� #bluepeninsula #knitting #knit #knitsocks #knittersofinstagram #knitstagram #periwinklesheep

Glad I did, though—I like the design even more now.

Got yarn, wifi, good coffee, and great light. All set for a productive morning of design work! #bluepeninsula #knit #knitting #knittersofinstagram #knitstagram

There've been beginning and endings on the embroidery front, too. I finished my "Abend" piece, the one with the silhouetted trees at dusk. Now I need to mount it and take better photos.

Day 91 of my "Abend" embroidery, which I began January 1. I think it might be done. #bonniesennott #embroidery #dailyembroidery

And I'm nearing the end on two wrinkle embroidery pieces. For a while I didn't work on these two at all, but now I'm motivated to finish so I can enter them in a show in June.

Snickers, stitching, and tree dust: spring! #bonniesennott #embroidery #stitch #dailyembroidery #cats #catsofinstagram #mykitty

Gonna take lots of French knots to make this red wedge as dramatic as I want it to be! #bonniesennott #embroidery #dailyembroidery

I've also been swatching and planning some fall designs, but can't show you anything much right now. Like I said, it's a very "betwixt and between" time!

No. 19 for My Year of Swatches. Plain ol' stockinette - Green Mountain Spinnery Mountain Mohair in Spice #bonniesennott #52weeksofswatches #greenmountainspinnery #knit #knitting #knittersofinstagram #knitstagram

It's a swatch blocking kind of morning. Love the smell of lavender Eucalan and wool. #bluepeninsula #knit #knitting #knittersofinstagram #knitstagram #52weeksofswatches

How about you? Have you finished anything recently, or are you "betwixt and between," too?  Wherever you are, I hope you have a beautiful weekend!

P.S. Look for a new Fiber Conversations post soon, with Brenda Pirie of End of the Row Yarns.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Yarn Over KAL Beauties

So many beautiful projects are being made in the Blue Peninsula Yarn Over KAL. Today I thought I'd share a few—some in progress, some finished—with links to the knitter's Ravelry project page. (And not just knitting is happening—check the discussion thread for a delicious-sounding recipe for honey-ginger lemon-limeade.)

 a lettuce-green Knoppen Hat by afeistyknitter

 a striking Oliveta by Brennee

another Oliveta with a lovely pink lace edge by Camsclan

and still another, this one by tricoteuse007

 Fee-bee Mitts by suzygirl

 Also by afeistyknitter (her needles are smoking!): a pretty pink pair of Shallows Mitts

Such an inspiring range of projects, colors, and yarns! I'm loving all the bright, summery colors. If you'd like to join us, cast on anytime between now and May 17. While you might not be able to finish something large like a shawl, a hat or a pair of mitts is doable. And if you need extra incentive, take a look at the new prize that's just been added—a skein of sock yarn from EndoftheRowYarns:

What a gorgeous blue! It would be perfect for a pair of Couplet socks, or maybe a Biscuit cowl, or Streusel. I envy the person who wins this beauty.

Just a reminder: My Mother's Day Sale on the Conklaree scarf and Oliveta shawl ends Sunday. Use the coupon code BLACKBIRD on Ravelry to save 30% on either or both of these patterns.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Mother's Day Ravelry Sale!

Announcing a wee sale, in celebration of Mother's Day: Use the coupon code BLACKBIRD on Ravelry to get 30% off either Conklaree or Oliveta (or both).


Sale ends midnight EST Sunday, May 10. (EU knitters: So sorry, but Ravelry coupon codes do not work for customers in the EU.)


Meanwhile, today I'm casting on the next All You Need Is One design, with the Atlantic colorway of Periwinkle Sheep Watercolors sock yarn.

One of these days I'll wind a skein of sock yarn into two cakes of equal size. But not, apparently, today! The yarn: Periwinkle Sheep Watercolors in Atlantic. #bluepeninsula #periwinklesheepyarn #knit #knitting #knitstagram #knittersofinstagram

Beautiful color, isn't it? I can't wait to get started!

Friday, May 01, 2015

New Pattern: Conklaree Lace Scarf

As the red-winged blackbirds announce spring with their conklaree! song, I'm excited to announce a new pattern:

Pattern: Conklaree, by Bonnie Sennott

It's now available in my Ravelry, Craftsy, and Etsy shops, as well as at Loveknitting.


Conklaree is a geometric lace scarf perfect for spring and summer. You can easily dress it up or down—it works for everything from Saturday errands to an evening concert. You can wear it many different ways—looped around your neck, or with one end tossed over a shoulder, or draped like a stole.


From the moment I saw this beautiful merino/silk yarn—Elemental Affects Civility Fingering—at WEBS, I knew I had to design something with it. Elemental Affects yarns are U.S. sourced—check out their website to read the stories behind their yarns and learn how they are produced. According to the yarn label, Civility Fingering is 70 percent U.S. merino and 30 percent mulberry silk. It's got the most amazing, crisp stitch definition and—thanks to the silk—a lovely sheen and great drape.


Conklaree is the second pattern in my All You Need Is One ebook collection of five accessories requiring just one skein of yarn (my On the Other Hand mitts were the first). The ebook is just $16 for all five patterns; it's automatically updated in your Ravelry library each time a new pattern is added. Three more patterns will be added to the collection between now and fall 2015.


Conklaree would be a great project to make for the Blue Peninsula Yarn Over KAL. If you cast on soon, I'm sure you could finish it by the end of the KAL on May 17. (Or, at least have fun trying!) By the way, we've just gotten another gorgeous prize, a skein of sock yarn from End of the Row Yarns. This and other prizes will be awarded randomly to finished projects at the end of the KAL. Come join us, get to know fellow Ravelers, and maybe win something!


Many thanks to my sister Jenny Sennott for her expert tech editing. If you haven't yet seen the March/April issue of Handwoven, please check it out, to see Jenny's beautiful Moscow Nights tea towels. (Follow that link and scroll down to the collage of photos; her towels are at upper left.)

And thanks also to the Conklaree model, Janelle Rivers. I met Janelle a couple of years ago, when she took my very first embroidery class at Knack. She's still stitching (most recently, an intricate, bright orange octopus!), while also teaching English as a Second Language and making really wonderful time-lapse videos. You can see them at her YouTube channel.

Last but not least, if you're curious about the gingko leaf necklace Janelle is wearing in the photos, it's by Michael Michaud.

Thanks very much for reading. Hope you have a great weekend!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spring Stitching and Shop Update

A lone crocus, the only one I saw on my Easter walk #crocus #easter #amherst #amherstma #westernmass

I feel like I'm coming out of a long hibernation. Our spring has been slow in coming, but things are blooming at last. The sun is stronger and that feels so good, even if it is still chilly (41F yesterday!). Today when I went to pick up some early spinach at the farm I belong to, the chickens in one of the greenhouses seemed to be dancing for joy. 

Doing their Chicken Dance #brookfieldfarm #amherst #amherstma #southamherst #chickens #farmlife

And I've been stitching and sewing up a storm, filling orders for sheep and lamb sachets and project bags. I so enjoy making them—each one has its own personality and brings a smile to my face as I work.

Mailing taxes tomorrow ... And sheep! #bonniesennott #stitch #sheep #embroidery #etsy #lavender #sachet #sewing

I never tire of stitching these lambs! #bonniesennott #sheep #embroidery #stitch #etsy #baa

I guess I've really got sunshine and yellow on my mind—maybe it's the forsythia and daffodils starting to bloom all over the place? Yellow's the main color in my new Sunburst project bags and lavender/chamomile sachets. They've just been added to my Etsy shop today.

Shop update! Starburst project bag and sachet just added to my Etsy shop. Link in profile. #bluepeninsula #bonniesennott #knit #knitting #embroidery #sachet #projectbags #knittersofinstagram

There are also a few one-of-a-kind bags made with repurposed shirts and tops, fabrics from a creative reuse center, and vintage buttons (below). Unlike the sheep and sunburst designs, these improvisational, one of a kind bags won't be repeated.

Today's stitching and sewing: one-of-a-kind bags made with remnants and vintage buttons #bonniesennott #sewing #stitch #embroidery #wabisabi #drawstringbags #etsy #projectbags #diy #creativereuse

Another project bag ... Look for an Etsy shop update later today! #bonniesennott #etsy #bags #creativereuse #sewing #totebag

If you're in western Massachusetts and would like to try your hand at some colorful embroidery techniques, join me for my Fun Stitches class May 2 at Knack, in the Eastworks building in Easthampton. You'll learn some of the stitches seen here in my sunburst—woven circles and couching—as well as other fun-to-embroider embellished stitches. All materials are provided; you can sign up here.

Sunny stitching on a sunny morning #bonniesennott #embroidery #sunshine #stitch #joy

In knitting news: I've got a new design almost done, the second pattern in my All You Need Is One collection. It's a geometric lace scarf, in a beautiful merino/silk fingering weight from Elemental Affects. Can't wait to show it to you in May!