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In my last blog post I shared design inspiration and storyboards for my Chalet Collection knit pillow project. (see them here) After a year in the works the pillows have come to life! They were a resounding success at their debut at the Chandler 4 Corners showroom at the AmericasMart Gift, Rug, and Home Shows in Atlanta last week.

The pillows are knit of the softest wool (like your favorite old ski sweater but not itchy) and backed with cotton velveteen. Some are also hand-embroidered. The pillow inserts are filled with down. A Norwegian style pewter button is sewn to each corner for a distinctive touch. (Do you think the button adds to or detracts from the overall effect?)

Evoking winter’s romance with their traditional alpine motifs, the pillows will start being shipped in November – just in time for the first snowfall! For information about ordering pillows contact Chandler 4 Corners. Or stop by the Chandler 4 Corners booth at the New York International Gift Show next month.

There are twenty-one Chalet Collection pillows. These are some of my faves. Which do you like?

To see more of my portfolio click here. To connect with Poppy Gall Design Studio on facebook click here.

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Truth be told, even though I’ve been hand knitting for decades, love to knit, design knits for clients, and even owned a knitting company, I am technically not a very good knitter. I tend to knit while I’m chatting, or when I’m a passenger in a car, or making dinner, so often my knitting doesn’t get the attention it needs resulting in dropped stitches or bloopers too far back for me to worry about.

What really gets me excited about knitting is the way the yarns feel in my hands, how the colors react with each other, and how the design unfolds.

You may recall that I hand-painted some lovely muti-colored yarn last November. I’ve always been awed and inspired by all those highly patterned Norwegian and Latvian style mittens. And intimidated because you need to knit two of them, and my attention span is too short for making more than one of anything. However, the yarn, a very sturdy 2-ply lightweight yarn, that lost its identifying tag eons ago, beckoned to be made into mittens, and I obliged.

I’m not one for following written instructions but I  looked through a number of old knitting books for pattern inspiration and decided to graph my own.

I knit much more quickly and comfortably using smaller needles so I used size 2 and 5 double pointed needles for cuff and hand respectively, and mixed my hand-painted yarn with a dark aubergine of similar weight.

If you’d like to give them a try, my pattern below is for a size medium. If you do, I’d love to know how they turn out. And please don’t use the pattern for commercial use.

Don’t look too closely or you’ll see my bloopers! Happy Knitting!

for more knitting inspiration click here. Click to “Like” Poppy Gall Design on facebook.

 

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We have a winner! Kathleen from the Fashion Incubator blog (check it out!) won my 2nd Anniversary Thank You & Give-Away. A pair of hand knit mittens from Lost Horizons is on the way to her. The mittens, designed by me, are hand knit in Nepal in a woman’s co-operative and can be found at many natural food co-ops around the country (unfortunately the company doesn’t have a website).

Kathleen writes, “I would like to see more of the design process. The real life side of it that laymen don’t understand or know exists. In sum, the boring paperwork, project management of execution. This would be invaluable to any aspiring designer.”

I received similar comments from other readers. I will do more of this. I’ll just need to think ahead, keep my inspiration boards and take photos as projects progress.

I start working on a design project sometimes up to 18 months before the collection arrives in stores. That’s how long it takes to design, make prototypes (usually 2 rounds), to weave and dye the fabrics or yarns, make salesman samples, take orders from retailers at trade shows, make and ship the item from the factory and then send it on to the retail store – whew!

Alas, I’m not able to show product that isn’t in the market yet. I’ve almost forgotten about the stuff I’ve designed by the time it hits the store floor.

Another of Kathleen’s comments: “By all means, be more commercial. By that I mean, flog the products from your job. Let us know about them.” As soon as I am able, I promise I will post more of my work with links to where you can find it here and on my facebook page.

Thank you everyone for all of your thoughtful comments and for your subscriptions. I really enjoy hearing your thoughts and ideas and you’ve introduced me to all sorts of new things – you keep me going!

This is my concept sketch for the mittens Kathleen won. Sometimes I like to get away from my computer and sketch by hand as I’ve done here. My drawing skills have become sloppy because I use a computer all the time, so spending some time hand sketching keeps me limber.

 

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It’s sweater season again, and time for me to wash the sweaters I didn’t manage to get around to last spring. Yes, “wash”.  Most people are terrified to wash sweaters by hand because they think they’ll shrink them, and often avoid buying them in the first place. In reality washing wool sweaters by hand is quite simple if you know how.

images via: Sandra Backlund

Here’s a step-by-step description of how I wash my wool sweaters and hats. I’ve never ruined one by hand washing. The first thing to keep in mind is that the combined agitation of wet fabric and soap mats and shrinks i.e. “felts” wool knits, not the temperature of the water. Wet wool needs to be handled gently as the fiber is weakest when wet and easily disturbed.

Start by running hot water, but not so hot you can’t plunge your hand into the sink or tub you’re filling. (Yes, “hot”.) Add a squirt or two of mild detergent; using the same amount you would wash dishes with. Swish your hand around the sink a couple of times to blend it with the water without creating suds.

Unless you want to felt your sweater it’s important to use a mild detergent rather than soap. Soap has a high alkaline ph content and scours the wool fibers and helps mat and shrink the fabric. Dish washing liquids like Ecover, Seventh Generation or Dawn (with the blue label) work well. Dawn is used to clean birds caught in oil slicks because it doesn’t damage their feathers so it is fine for wool. Despite Woolite’s fantastic job marketing itself as a wool wash, don’t use it; it has a high alkaline content.

Next, lay your sweater down on the surface of the water and very, very gently push it down into the bowl to wet it, or you can just let it sink by itself. Do not rub, scrub, scrunch or wring the sweater. Just let it soak. The hot water and detergent will pull out dirt, grease, wood smoke and pet dander without your help. Let it soak for at least 15 minutes. Longer is Okay.

Drain the water from the sink without handling the sweater or gently reach under the sweater and pull the plug. Once the water is drained gently push down on the sweater with your palms to remove more water. Then carefully lift the lump of wet sweater and place it in another container. I wash my sweaters in the bathroom sink and transfer them to the bathtub for this step. Wool is most fragile and susceptible to felting and stretching when wet so it is important that you transfer it carefully. Resist the temptation to wring or squeeze the water out.

Rinse out the dirty sink and fill it again with hot water, this time without detergent. Place the sweater back into the sink and let soak again for another 10 or 15 minutes. Repeat the rinse process two times or until the rinse water is clean.

Place a big towel on the floor and gently move the sweater to the towel and arrange it so that it is smooth and flat. Roll it up in the towel and press hard to remove the water. I kneel on the roll for better leverage. Never twist or ring the towel – just press. You’ll need a couple of towels so you can repeat this step again. Once the excess water is removed and the sweater is just damp, carefully place it on a dry towel and gently pat the sweater back into the same shape it was before it was washed. Wet wool stretches so be careful that your sweater isn’t wrinkled or skewed to one side or the other because it will dry that way. Some people like to use special netting racks designed for drying sweaters. These are great because your sweaters will dry more quickly than on the floor.

Be patient because it can take a couple of days for a sweater to dry depending how heavy it is. I dry mine in my guest room where I won’t walk on them. Check in on it periodically to flip it over or turn a sleeve back to expose the damp areas.

As you can see it’s really not hard to wash sweaters by hand. Think too of all the money you’ll save by not sending them to the dry cleaners.

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I have tons of knitting yarn. More yarn than I can probably use in my lifetime. My skeins fill baskets, bins and burlap sacks. I have a dozen unfinished projects spanning decades. I don’t need any more yarn. I made a pact with myself about ten years ago; I was going to knit it all up before I started acquiring more.

I reined in my yarn enthusiasm and knit up a lot of what I had. I resisted setting foot into yarn shops. I made a nice dent in my hoard. One day, two years ago, everything changed. I entered a swanky knitting store and was overwhelmed by how much the knitting world had changed while I was ignoring it. There I found tantalizing blends of alpaca, silk and mohair in sumptuous textures and delicious colors! How could I resist knitting up a few things using these lovely yarns? My resolve was blown.

The multi-colored and subtly variegated yarns held a special allure. One can no longer only associate variegated yarns with hideous cheap acrylic. The new breeds are truly luscious. As a dyer, I was curious about how color is applied to these many-hued skeins. I asked a number of dyers at the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival about the ins and outs of “hand painting” yarns and gleaned a rough idea of how to go about it.

Last Saturday morning after looking through my color palettes for some color inspiration I dug out my dyes and dusty dye pot and five random skeins of natural colored wool and launched into my first attempt at hand painting yarn. It’s a lot more time consuming than dying solid colored yarn and makes a lot more mess. But I loved mixing the colors and applying them to the yarn. I am surprised and pleased with the results of my messy morning!

The “painted” skeins look a little scary-Grateful-Dead-tie-dye-ish in this state but once the colors merge in the dye pot and the skeins are re-wound the stripes disappear.

Once they  are-wound the tie-dyed look disappears.

Finished hand painted skeins. There are two different types of yarn, and each skein is slightly different from the other.

For more color inspiration click here. To “LIke” Poppy Gall Design Studio facebook page click here.

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I found this knit rainbow spiral on ravelry.com and might just have to knit one myself! The colors are great too! If you’re a knitter (or crocheter) join Ravelry and be prepared to get lost/inspired for hours.

from ravelry.com

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From a series of hand knit wool sweaters and accessories made in Nepal, designed by Poppy Gall Design Studio.

3 Sweaters

To see more work by Poppy Gall Design Studio click here.

Like” Poppy Gall Design on facebook.

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I’ve been following French cycling champion Jeannie Longo’s career since the 1980’s. I was thrilled beyond belief when she mounted the podium to accept her gold medal at the 1986 World Championships in Steamboat Springs, Colorado clad in one of my Mountain Ladies & Ewe knit earflap hats!

Last week, 52-year-old Longo powered her way to her 11th French national time trial championship win and her 58th national title, leaving riders half her age in her wake.

“A 58th title is a figure somewhat symbolic because it (1958) is the year of my birth,” said Longo. “This is the one I wanted and it really has made my season.”

Longo is accomplished on both the road and track and is an Olympic gold-medalist and twelve-time world champion. While champions come and go, she has been an inspiring and impressive constant in women’s cycling.

Despite the fact that she will be almost three times older than some of her rivals, she has indicated that she wants to ride the world championships in Copenhagen later this year. My hat’s off to you Jeannie!

1986 Jeannie Longo

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I think yarn bombing is great, but PLEASE let’s keep our knitting needles and crochet hooks away from defenseless creatures!

poor-turtle

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What do you call a bunch of women motorcyclists who are yarn-a-holics? Purl’s Angels, Moto-psycho Knitters, The Close Knit Gang? We can’t decide either!

On a recent weekend adventure, a group of landlocked gals headed for the coast of Maine in search of twisty roads, lobsters, and yarn! On Saturday morning, while the men in the party were off getting haircuts, we immersed ourselves in a fiber artists heaven called Halcyon Yarns in Bath.

Motorcycling and knitting seem pretty incongruous and we all had a good laugh at ourselves as we crammed colorful skeins of yarn into our tank bags and next to our tents. We’ll be knitting up a storm until the road beckons us again. Now all we need is a name for our “gang. We’re taking suggestions…

Purl's Angels

box of yarn

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In recognition of International Yarn Bombing Day I’m posting a few of my favorite examples of a pastime that is rapidly gaining mainstream popularity.

Yarn bombing, or guerilla knitting, blurs the distinction between craft and installation art. Knitters and crocheters are picking up their needles and hooks worldwide to add color and humor to public spaces, inner city sidewalks and galleries alike, with a bit of DIY craftiness.

While knitting or crocheting scarves for statues, or sleeves for parking meters and lampposts, is a popular form of yarn bombing, I prefer larger scale installations that require a bit more imagination, planning and engineering.

Click to see more great examples of guerilla knitting.

1-tree yarn bomb

2-yarnbomb tank

Via

3-yarnbomb moto

Via

4-Shed Jumper

Via: Artyarn

5-yarnbomb magda_mini_countryman

Via: Knittaplease

6-yarn-bomb-bike

7-Yarn-Bombing-garage

via: Let’s Colour Project

8-yarn bomb sheep

via: Alan in Belfast

urn:newsml:dpa.com:20090101:110515-10-10325

via: Twisted Sifter

10-theresa-honeywell-knitted-bike

Via: Theresa Honeywell

11-Yarn-bombing-the-blue-line-2

Via: Ajoure

12-yarnbomb_jpg_627x325_crop_upscale_q85

Via: AV Club

13-yarnbomb Paris

Via: SMU Daily Campus

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Visiting the Álafoss factory shop housed in the old knitting mill in Mosfellsbær where Iceland’s woolen industry was launched in 1896 was on my “to visit” list.

The shop is packed with woollen goods knit, woven and felted from world famous Istex “Lopi” wool, the yarn from which Icelandic sweaters are knit. Unique in it’s composition, Icelandic wool is made up of two types of fibers; fine, soft and insulating inner fibers and long and glossy outer fibers which are water and dirt repellent. Sweaters knit from Lopi yarn are lightweight and warm.

In the old days the small waterfall (“foss”) behind the mill powered it’s machinery. A large selection of old photographs and knitting machinery are interspersed throughout the store, which fills the mill’s first floor, reminding one of the building’s heritage.

My visit to the shop was not disappointing – I left with two large bags of Lopi yarn and a wool blanket. This was the first time I had seen the full range of Istex yarns ranging from super lightweight “LéttLopi” to “Plötulopi”, the unspun yarn used to knit Icelandic sweaters. The colors are luscious and I was unable to resist buying a skein of almost every shade! Luckily the skeins compress and I was able to cram them into the empty spaces in my ski bag to avoid paying an excess baggage fee!

© Poppy Gall 2011

Yarns, sweaters, blankets and crafts fill the whole first floor of the old mill shop in Mosfellsbær

© Poppy Gall 2011

A delicious spectrum of color!

© Poppy Gall 2011

One can never have too much yarn!

© Poppy Gall 2011

Love the company vehicle!

To become an interactive part of Poppy Gall Design Studio on facebook click here.

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After spending three and a half weeks in the land of ice, snow, sagas, volcanoes, hot springs, trolls, sheep, northern lights and endless daylight it’s been a tad difficult to readjust to my day-to-day life. Iceland, surreally shaped by fire and ice, perpetually inspired me with her landscapes, colors and textures. It is truly a place of wonder and I’ll be sharing some of my experiences here.

I spent my first two weeks skiing in the mountains near the Arctic Circle on the Troll Peninsula, and my last week touring around the western fjords with my camera at my fingertips and my eyes and brain on visual overload.

As my traveling companion and I packed our skis in the back of the rental car and leisurely headed back toward Reykjavik, the snow was just beginning to melt from the mountains leaving ribbons of it behind in steep and narrow gullies creating lovely patterns. Waterfalls cascaded thousands of feet from rocky cliffs. After awhile I started seeing Icelandic sweater designs in all the mountains!

©poppy gall 2011

©poppy gall 2011

©poppy gall 2011

©poppy gall 2011

©poppy gall 2011

©poppy gall 2011

©poppy gall 2011

©poppy gall 2011

To become an interactive part of Poppy Gall Design Studio on facebook click here.

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I’m Iceland bound today for three weeks of skiing and poking around the island! I’m so looking forward to long creamy untracked runs to the ocean, being in those beautiful treeless mountains, getting into the daily rhythm of climbing and descending, soaking in geothermal hot springs, packing goat cheese and caviar sandwiches for lunch, enjoying almost 24 hours of uninterrupted daylight, laughing around the dinner table and dreaming about designs for new products. For a peak at what the skiing is like in Iceland check out Bergmenn Mountain Guides.

My first day there I plan to visit the Álafoss yarn mill to stock up on scrumptious colored skeins of their famous Lopi knitting yarn. My knitting needles are packed to start a project or two! I’m also excited to check out the many art galleries in Reykjavik before hopping a flight north to the Troll Penninsula. I may, or may not, be blogging during the next few weeks, but I am sure that I will have lots to share here when I return!

By the time I get back to Vermont in May, I hope that the foot of snow that’s piled around my studio will be melted, and that I can put my skis away and start riding my bicycle and gardening!

Photo: Andrés Kolbeinsson

Photo: Andrés Kolbeinsson - Fashion models at Arbaer Museum, 1961

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Tasked with designing a lightweight wool knit sweater hoodie, I started out by playing with simple stripes. I then randomly broke the stripes up into small squares and rectangles altering them into something interesting and playful, yet maintaining their simplicity.

The blue/green colorway wears well with jeans thanks to the navy and chocolate in the pattern. The Lipstick and natural colors pop on a chocolate background on the other version.

To see more of Poppy Gall Design Studio portfolio click here.

©Poppy Gall 2011

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©Poppy Gall 2011

To learn about day-to-day activity in my studio like” Poppy Gall Design facebook page.

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