Category Archives: Nature

Beach Patterns-Knitting Inspiration on Fire Island

Fair Harbor Beach

Fair Harbor Beach

Patterns are an integral part of knitting. They are the instructions that we read and the sequence of stitches that we make to create wonderful hand made creations from various fibers. 

Spend time on any beach and you’ll see natural patterns emerging. Being in true sunlight can have a wonderful impact on the color and shadows that emerge. They can be sources of inspiration for new stitches and ways of imagining garments and other knitting projects. Norah Gaughan in her book Knitting Nature draws on naturally occurring patterns.

Here are some of the patterns that I found while on vacation in Fire Island. In particular, I was drawn to the way that wood was used and the patterns it formed. I could envision sweaters with ribs and/or colors translating these shapes.

Dune Fencing on Fair Harbor-Could be sweater ribbing

Dune Fencing on Fair Harbor-Could be sweater ribbing

Gate Design - Two Colored Graphic for a Sweater?

Gate Design - Two Colored Graphic for a Sweater?

 

Board Walk Pattern

Board Walk Pattern

 

Fence Shadow as Sweater Pattern Inspiration

Fence Shadow as Sweater Pattern Inspiration

What do you think? Have you used any of nature’s patterns in your knitting?

Submitted by Knitted Yarns Editor-in-Chief

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Shell Stash-A Knitter’s View

Shells clustered after high tide on Fire Island Beach

Shells clustered after high tide on Fire Island Beach

Regardless of age, it seems that people, particularly women, who walk along the water’s edge on ocean beaches stop to pick up shells. The type of shells accumulated depend on the beach and time of year. Children tend to go for the larger clam shells (at least on Fire Island) which can be decorated and turned into wonderful DIY projects. While adults are more selective in their collections; they tend to look for a specific type of shell.

I have bowls of shells decorating my apartment from various vacations including some wonderful ruffled clam shells from my honeymoon in the Cook Islands. 

As I walked along the Fair Harbor beaches in the early morning hours, it occurred to me that collecting shells was a lot like amassing stash. I tend to pick up one type of shell that catches my fancy.

This year, I was surprised to find numerous snail shells and small sand dollars that were vacated. After being in the Cook Islands where any abandoned shell would be inhabited by a hermit crab (in fact, several of the shells that I thought were empty crept away during the night!), it seemed that the New York based creatures lived more extravagantly when there were abandoned shells to be had.

Colored Clam Shells

Colored Clam Shells

More Fire Island Shells

More Fire Island Shells

Snail shells collected in Fair Harbor, NY

Snail shells collected in Fair Harbor, NY

Like knitting, together these shells form patterns and can be sources of inspiration for future creative projects. 

Submitted by Knitted Yarns Editor-in-Chief

Fire Island Bound-Knitting to Follow

Fair Harbor Flag on Fire Island

Fair Harbor Flag on Fire Island

We’re off to Fair Harbor in Fire Island. It’s a wonderful town on one of the shelter islands off the southern coast of Long Island. From Manhattan, it takes a LIRR train, jitney (fancy name for a mini bus from the train station to the ferry) and a ferry to get to.

The trip takes about 2 1/2 hours from the time you leave NYC’s Penn Station until you set foot on Fire Island. But once you arrive, you feel like you’ve left the city far behind.

 

 

Welcome to Fair Harbor, Fire Island, NY

Welcome to Fair Harbor, Fire Island, NY

Since Fire Island is a small island, there are few four wheel vehicles. A few year round residents and people who compose the local businesses have cars; otherwise, they are forbidden.

View from Fair Harbor-Fire Island, NY

View from Fair Harbor-Fire Island, NY

The beach is a US National Coast Line and sitting by the water’s edge you feel the wonder of the natural beauty. Since Fire Island is difficult to get to and there are few public facilities, the beaches are relatively empty.

For me, it’s a great place to sit in a beach chair with my knitting in hand and listen to the constant sound of the water lapping up to the shore.

Submitted by Knitted Yarns Editor-in-Chief

MDSW-Fiber Festival Here We Come!

 The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival is held the first weekend in May in West Friendship, Maryland. It claims to be the largest fiber festival in the U.S. 

For me it’s a knitting adventure. I meet a group of other knitters at a deli at 35th Street and Sixth Avenue to board a bus that leaves the city at 7.00 a.m. sharp for the Maryland fairgrounds. This was my fifth pilgrimage to the MDSW. I join friends and others on this bus. This group started as part of BAKG, the Big Apple Knitters Group. Now  it’s a word of mouth event that fills up quickly!

We all board the bus with anticipation of the wonderful yarns and fibers that we will see and buy. There’s excitement in the air. Regardless of age, we’re like small children who have been waiting for Christmas all year. We can’t wait to get to the fairgrounds and drool over the wonderful display of goods.

Despite the clouds and forecasted poor weather, we came prepared. By the time we arrived in Maryland, the rain had already passed through. The outdoor stalls had temporary coverings. The lines for the fairgrounds were short and buses were re-routed to avoid muddy parking.

As a veteran of four previous MDSW fairs, I had a couple of early stops on my itinerary. Living in Manhattan, I have access to a wide variety of yarns. Therefore, I use festivals like MDSW to buy fibers from local producers and rare breeds. 

First on my list was Spinning Flock Farm, a small Maryland farm which has a small offering of Blue Face Leceister, which is a rare breed. I love it for its ability to show stitch definition and the soft material it makes. It’s wool that’s not itchy! Spinning Flock Farm generally uses old fashioned colors. In addition, they have a variety of other types of wool. I always buy enough wool for a sweater.

Spinning Flock Farm Sign

Spinning Flock Farm Sign

Blue Face Leiceister in Blues from Spinning Flock Farm

Blue Face Leiceister in Blues from Spinning Flock Farm

Making First Purchase at MDSW at Spinning Flock Farm

Making First Purchase at MDSW at Spinning Flock Farm

I stopped by the Ravelry gathering at the Rabbit Hatch and got my buttons. My husband had made me a tailored one to promote this blog.  The place was packed with Ravelers and their friends. Everyone is wearing knitted garments and are intoxicated with the fiber fumes.

 

Ravelry Gathering at MDSW-Distributing buttons

Ravelry Gathering at MDSW-Distributing buttons

 

Ravelry members in knitted garments

Ravelry members in knitted garments

 

 

 

Knitted Yarns Editor-in-Chief in Swallowtail Lace Shawl at MDSW

Knitted Yarns Editor-in-Chief in Swallowtail Lace Shawl at MDSW

 

Since I had visited Tess Yarns in Portland last summer and figured that I would have an opportunity to do so again this summer, I had decided not to stop by their tent. But…the burst of color lured me in. I considered buying some of her lace merino which is a great buy at $10.00 a skein. Instead I opted for two skeins of a blue-green super wash merino. It should be just enough for a long sleeve sweater if there’s not much design.

 

Tess Yarns Lace Weight Selection

Tess Yarns Lace Weight Selection

 

Tess Yarns selection by color not fiber!

Tess Yarns selection by color not fiber!

 

Melinda (aka Tess) taking the money at MDSW

Melinda (aka Tess) taking the money at MDSW

 

 

 

On the recommendation of a fellow lace knitter, I made my way to Spirit Trail Fiberworks. It was a small booth in the main barn filled with color. I found a wonderful wine colored merino lace weight. I would have bought 2 skeins but alas it was the only one in that colorway. I am hoping to make a small shoulderette from one of the recent Knitty patterns.

The most unusual find was a blend including dog hair (yes you read that correctly). At $24.00 for 200 yards, I decided it was a bit too exotic to try. It was made by a small mill where a woman comber her dog team and they used the hair.

This year, I was attracted to the Wensleydale Long Wool again. Last year, I came close to purchasing some for its amazing luster. One of my fellow knitters has been making a shawl from some olive colored wool. Since I still worried about the “itchiness factor”, I only bought enough for a shawl as a test. It’s a deep, rich grey. It breaks my rule of only buying fromlocal producers since it’s from Yorkshire, England but I am hoping that it makes a wonderful shawl for the fall.

 

Flying Fibers is a family business

Flying Fibers is a family business

 

In addition to the fiber buying frenzy, there are wonderful exhibits of hand made goods. I use these pieces for future inspiration. 

Of course, there’s the usual fair fare. It’s a combination of lamb dishes mixed with fresh lemonade, ribbon potatoes and ice cream.

 

MDSW ice cream offering

MDSW ice cream offering

Ribbon potatoes are a big hit at MDSW

Ribbon potatoes are a big hit at MDSW

 

Then there are the animals who are really the center of the show (although unlike Rhinebeck, I don’t go out of my way to walk through the barns.)

 

Sheep taking a rest from the excitement at MDSW

Sheep taking a rest from the excitement at MDSW

 

Alpacas shorn for the MDSW

Alpacas shorn for the MDSW

 

 

For entertainment, there were several groups of musicians playing folk music. It’s a good place to park the less wool-friendly members of your group.

 

Musicians play folk music at MDSW

Musicians play folk music at MDSW

More musicians attract listeners at MDSW

More musicians attract listeners at MDSW

 

By 4.30p.m., my New York bound knitting friends wander back to the bus. Each ladened with packages and feeling happy. The bus home is an exchange of seeing what types of fibers and colors we have purchased. Everyone has found some wonderful wool to make a stunning piece. Tired from the adventure, many sleep or knit as we motor back to New York City.

Submitted by: Knitted Yarns Editor-in-Chief

Knitting on Fair Harbor Beach in September

We managed to get one more weekend on the beach to get away from New York City and enjoy the lapping waves. September is a great time to go to Fire Island since the beach is empty except for the few brave souls enjoying the peaceful rhythm of the sands.  Of course, since I’m always cold, it means layers of clothes and coverings! It makes knitting with wool a welcome pleasure.
Fair Harbor, Fire Island in September

Fair Harbor, Fire Island in September

 

Fair Harbor Beach on Fire Island - September 2008

Fair Harbor Beach on Fire Island - September 2008

Koigu and Tess' Yarns Projects Protected on Fair Harbor Beach

Koigu and Tess' Yarns Projects Protected on Fair Harbor Beach

Huddled beneath my layers of warmth (no swimsuits needed!), I worked on two projects, the Koigu Lace Ribbon Scarf and my Purple Chevron Sweater. It’s wonderful to work outside in natural sunlight which brings out the fullness of the colors. Here are some Yarn Harlot inspired photos.

Tess' Twinkle Yarn in Purple on Fair Harbor Beach

Tess' Twinkle Yarn in Purple on Fair Harbor Beach

Purple Chevron Sweater on Fair Harbor Beach

Purple Chevron Sweater on Fair Harbor Beach

 

Koigu Ribbon Lace Scarf Stretches on Fair Harbor Beach

Koigu Ribbon Lace Scarf Stretches on Fair Harbor Beach

From a creative perspective, the beach and environs are great sources of knitting inspiration from the undulating sands to the wild grasses.

Untouched Sands - Textured Knitting Inspiration

Untouched Sands - Textured Knitting Inspiration

Wild Grasses as Textile Inspiration

Wild Grasses as Textile Inspiration

Labor Day Knitting in Montauk

Heading out to Montauk on Labor Day may becoming a tradition for us. To take advantage of the last days of summer, we make a one day pilgrimage to the end of Long Island where the beaches are relatively less crowded. Of course, it’s a three and a half hour train ride which allows me more uninterrupted knitting time but we view it as an adventure. I used the time to work on my Saffron Tunic in Beige Cotton.

From the train station, we take one of the mini-van taxis into the center of town and walk to the beach from there. Despite the motels that line the road along the beach, the beach tends to be fairly empty. (Mind you this is a Manhattanite’s perspective. Beaches that are closer to New York City are so densely carpeted with blankets that it can be difficult to see sand until you’re at the water’s edge.)

Sea gull eye view of Montauk Beach

Sea gull eye view of Montauk Beach

Enjoying Montauk Beach enables us to take an afternoon break for heros from the local grocery store followed by a yarn break at Purl By The Sea.  While I get to fondle the various yarns and indulge in stash enhancement, the hubster can settle into the spouse rocker and read.

Purl By The Sea - Montauk Yarn Haven

Purl By The Sea - Montauk Yarn Haven

To my surprise there was a Labor Day Sale in progress. Music to any knitter’s ears. Since my stash was overflowing, I bought Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns. It is a book that every knitter should have in their library. Although it would be improved if the stitches were charted.

Maine Bound Knitters

For our annual summer pilgrimage to visit friends in York, Maine, we rented a car in Stamford (much cheaper for those of you New York City residents). My husband drove while I knitted and navigated. Since my friend Amanda and I were aiming to go shop at Tess Yarns in Portland, we were under time pressure to get to York by the early afternoon. I used the time to make progress on my Leaf Lace Kimono.

Fortunately, I had called Tess earlier in the week to let her know of our plans. (I love how friendly people are outside of large metropolitan centers!)  As a result, I knew that she was planning to be dying for an upcoming wool show. En route, I left her a message but received no response.

When we got to York, Amanda insisted that we go straight to Portland despite the fact that all we got was a recording at Tess Yarns. Thanks to Amanda’s driving we got to Portland and found the store in record time. While the store was closed, there was a note and a phone number to call. This time we got a human who let us know that she’d be over in about ten minutes.

I had experienced the intense color experience of Tess’ hand dyed beauty several times at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Unlike most yarn stores, the yarn is displayed by color (as versus by type of material or brand). When you enter the store, your eyes don’t know where to go.  It is a wonderful, peaceful place where you decision of what to buy is really tough to make.  

Portland Knitting Adventure with Amanda
Portland Knitting Adventure with Amanda
Inside Tess Yarns
Inside Tess Yarns
Tess's Color Arranged Yarns
Tess’s Color Arranged Yarns
Tess's Mom (aka Tess)
Tess’s Mom (aka Tess)

Since I wanted to make a sweater with what I thought would be the fall colors, I bought some rich royal purple sock yarn called Twinkle Toes. I bought three skeins with wonderful yardage (440 yards each)I had seen the color in the window at Bloomingdales a week earlier. Amanda bought some wonderful blue worsted weight to make a vest with.

Tess’ Yarns wasn’t the only aspect of our trip that provided color. I was amazed by the wonderful flowers that seemed to lift their faces to the sun during the short Maine summer.

Maine Potted Flowers in Bloom
Maine Potted Flowers in Bloom

 In addition to taking advantage of the Maine coast, Amanda and I knitted and I got to see Amanda’s amazing two shawls that she was working on. One was in fingering weight alpaca that I had given her. The stitch involves great patience and has wonderful dropped stitches. Amanda’s become a great fan of Folk Shawls and, based on her Wool Peddler shawl, I’m considering getting a copy of the book.

On Sunday, the weather prevented us from enjoying outdoor activities so the four of us decided to take a trip to Freeport, the home of LL Bean. While it doesn’t sell yarn, it’s an amazing shopping town. I loved the humor that existed in the form of giant sized (literally) products.

L.L. Bean Outlet Store in Freeport, ME
L.L. Bean Outlet Store in Freeport, ME

On our way out of York, we stopped from some local fare, lobster rolls. They’re amazing! It’s special treat to have them this fresh! 

Authentic Maine Lobster Roll Readyto Eat!
Authentic Maine Lobster Roll Readyto Eat!