Knitting and unknitting

Good news first, right? I love this hat.
IMG_4149.JPGIt’s Scrollwork from Brooklyn Tweed, knit from my dwindling stash of cashmere. I have to admit that I didn’t love knitting it; the cable pattern never quite became second nature to me, though the pattern itself is extremely clear and easy to follow, and the fact that the yarn was several very fine strands held together meant that the knitting and cabling both had to go very slowly, but it was worth it.

And this sweater turned out exactly the way I hoped:
IMG_4227.JPGIt’s Chalkstone knit in Berroco’s Ultra Alpaca Light, which is finer gauge than the pattern calls for, so I ended up knitting a couple sizes up from where I normally would. The lace pattern was easy to memorize and I love the fancy-relaxed vibe the finished garment has.

This one, alas, is getting ripped out and the gorgeous yarn repurposed.
IMG_4247.JPGI’ve always liked Cobblestone. I think the simple design is lovely and the way it plays garter and stockinette off each other is very elegant and sculptural. Unfortunately, the fit on me wasn’t great. It’s designed for men’s broad shoulders, which I don’t have, and I didn’t find the neckline especially flattering. Plus, in hindsight, I think it looks better in a rustic wool than the drapy alpaca I used. I’m planning to use the yarn for another Effortless Cardigan, which will suit it perfectly and produce a garment I’ll wear a lot.

Also, man, my hair is getting long. Maybe today is the day I search out some braiding tutorials online…

Renegade Craft Fair

These days, I work on making, labeling, packing, and shipping soap for a few hours before I go to work and then another few hours when I get home. We had a super strong launch, including adding several wholesale accounts months ahead of schedule, and are looking forward to a really busy holiday season.

The Renegade Craft Fair is a big part of that. Schoon Soap will be in booth 149A and we’d love to see you there! We’ll be launching out some limited-edition holiday varieties (anything that sells out may not be available again until next winter): Gingerbread, Fir Tree, and Frankincense & Myrrh, plus a charcoal Krampus soap for the naughtier names on your list.


Fall knitting

Cobblestone is finished and awaiting blocking. I’m toying with the idea of overdyeing it though; the yarn has an olive component that’s much more visible in the knitted fabric than it was in the yarn and it’s not a color that flatters me or would look good with the rest of my wardrobe. The blue in the background is beautiful though, so I’d like to find a similar dye color, one that’ll preserve the blue, but move the olive into more of an aqua-teal. I was initially thinking about trying to set up an indigo vat (using these crystals, I haven’t taken complete leave of my senses), but a light navy or royal blue regular dye bath is probably the way to go.

The other two main projects I have going at the moment are Baby Cables and Big Ones Too in a black finewool and Chalkstone in Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light that I reclaimed from a sweater I knit a few years ago. It was one I designed and I was planning to release the pattern, so I don’t think I ever showed it here, but it had some shaping issues that I couldn’t be bothered to resolve and it’s been taunting me from the bottom of a box since. This is a much better use for the yarn.

20140915-083858.jpgThey’re both patterns I’ve had queued for a while—years where Baby Cables is concerned—and they’re both garments I’ll wear a lot with clothes I already have. I’ve been trying to move toward knitting with long-term wardrobe planning in mind, rather than picking projects based on what would be fun to knit or what would work with yarn that I have on hand. These two have me off to a pretty good start, I think.


Even with the soap R&D taking up a lot of my time and mental space this summer, I’ve still managed to do some knitting. In a happy confluence of events, I wanted to make a new very warm knock-around sweater for this fall and winter and Michelle cleared out some stash and passed along a whack of Blue Sky Alpaca Melange. I’ve always liked the Cobblestone Pullover pattern–it uses extremely basic stitch patterns in a way that’s graphic and interesting, but wearable and simple. The alpaca is a little lighter in weight than the yarn called for in the pattern, but I know I’d want to scale it down a little bit; the smallest size is 39.5″, which is an inch or two bigger than I wanted here. The only real change I made was to cast on a smaller amount at the wrists–even in the pattern photo, the sleeve cuffs seem disproportionately billowy. I cast on about an inch’s worth fewer stitches and moved the increases a few rows closer together so I could end up with the same number at the upper arm. Actually, that’s not true–I did make one more change. The pattern calls for five decrease rounds: a k3, k2tog; two k2, k2togs; a k1, k2tog, then a final k8, k2tog that knocks off six or seven stitches. I didn’t do that last one so the neck opening would be a little wider and more feminine.

I actually did cast off last night, but we’re having one of those oppressively hot and humid days of which we had so blessedly few this summer and the last thing I want to do, even at 8:15 in the morning, is put on an alpaca sweater. I still have about a skein and a half of this yarn left, and I’m thinking about making a pair of elbow patches. The garter stitch patches will look perfect on this sweater and they’ll help keep my elbows from poking through.

Secrets revealed!

So, I’m starting a soap company.

It’s been strange to have had such a big project in the works for months without even hinting about it here, but it’s been a lot of fun too. Schoon Soap–’schoon’ means clean in Dutch–is luxury soap made in small batches without palm oil (because orangutans), synthetic fragrances, or animal products of any kind. Since it takes about a month from when soap is made to when it can be used, the R&D and testing phases were pretty extended. I spent several months developing a base formula that produced soap that would be hard and long-lasting–it’s the palm oil and animal fats that contribute those qualities to commercial and many handmade soaps and since I wasn’t using those, finding other ways to achieve those qualities took some doing–but also rich and moisturizing. The final recipe uses coconut, olive, sunflower, avocado, and castor oils, as well as shea butter, to achieve that balance.

Then I spent another few months developing the fragrance line. There are three varieties that have no added fragrance whatsoever: a completely Pure/Unscented one; one with homemade Almond Milk and Oatmeal; and the only variety that uses a different base: Olive Oil & Cocoa Butter. The other varieties include Grapefruit & Bergamot, Lavender Lemon, Lavender Eucalyptus, Bay Rum & Vetiver, and Lemongrass Basil, in addition to more complicated fragrances that I named after counties in New York State: Ulster (geranium, ylang ylang, West Indian sandalwood, black pepper), Tioga (cedarwood, fir needle, juniper, petitgrain, black pepper), Rensselaer (howood, which is a more sustainable and less expensive alternative to rosewood, cardamom and nutmeg), and Herkimer (clove, cinnamon, rosemary, eucalyptus, and litsea).

The superfantastic logo and packaging and eventual website are the work of Anna Dorfman, who you may know from her (also superfantastic) design blog, Door Sixteen. The labels are purposefully a bit obscured here, but I’ll do full and detailed reveals once we’re live. :)
20140818-083902.jpgMy goal for the launch date is 9/15, so I’ll be in heavy production mode until then. There’s still a lot left to do–finalizing product descriptions and other text for the site, getting tax IDs and the other staying-one-step-ahead-of-the-law details worked out, sorting out shipping details. Rob will be handing shipping and customer service since he’s good at that sort of thing and I’m not available during the day. We’re starting out small and will be selling strictly through Etsy at the beginning, but I have a lot of ideas for things I’d like to do and ways I’d like the company to grow and I’m really looking forward to getting this show on the road.

On the road

I’m writing this from my phone on a bus upstate, which is kind of amazing if you stop to think about it, which I will NOT because I hate everyone on this bus, especially the woman in front of me, who is on her way to a meditation or yoga retreat but keeps slamming her seat back into my kneecaps, which i hope is destroying her karma.
I have started a new sweater, Baby Cables and Big Ones too, which is making me a little carsick to work on but I won’t stop; I’d rather get to my destination a little green around the gills but with something to show for my time than feeling normal and useless.

More sewing

20140728-082334.jpgI worked on my bat dress this weekend, and it went pretty smoothly until I set the sleeves in, mostly because of my lack of experience with setting in sleeve caps with woven fabrics but also because sewing is stupid and I hate it.

No, not really. But maybe a little?

Doing things you’re not good at frequently enough to become good at them is really hard and disheartening and also the only way to get good at anything. Ugh. Everything is just the worst.

Washi II

20140724-074608.jpgThis is the exact same pattern as this Washi dress, but worked up in Nani Iro cotton double gauze. The fabric is a dream to sew, especially after that nasty poly satin, which slithered all over the place and promptly sprung back from any attempts to press hems up and whatnot. Double gauze holds pressed folds like a dream and gripped itself quite obligingly–I barely needed pins–and is soft and lightweight and just altogether lovely. Most of the patterns and colorways are a little sweet for my taste, but these floral rings are both pretty and geometric and the background is my favorite shade of purple-gray. The yardage is narrow though; I didn’t have enough of it for the pockets and ended up using some lavender cotton scraps.

Next up: the hidden bats dress.

Five for Friday

1. Current projects on the needles: a Cobblestone pullover in some gorgeous Blue Sky Alpaca melange I was lucky enough to get when a friend was cleaning out her stash. I think it’ll make a really great knockaround sweater for this fall. I’m making the smallest size and my gauge is a little tighter, so it won’t be as loose-fitting, but the drape of the alpaca is so fluid and dreamy, I think it’ll still read as a relatively flowy garment. And my Stripe Study is back on track. I tried a few different cream yarns, but preferred my original selection (Swan’s Island merino/silk) in the end. It’s a little lighter weight than the gray, but I don’t have anything in the stash that’s the right color and the exact right grist; the Blackberry Ridge wool/silk I tried was a little heavier and that looked inelegant and clunky, while a couple of other wedding-dress-option yarns whose labels are lost were even lighter than this. I think it’ll even out pretty nicely when it’s blocked, anyway.

20140718-090442.jpg2. I really like Colette’s new pattern, Myrtle, and the face that it can be made in either knit or woven fabric. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a pattern to use with this fabric and I think Myrtle might be it. I’ve been picturing it used in a dress or skirt that was ankle-length and sweeping to show off the gorgeous pattern and take advantage of how well that fabric will move. It’s 58″ wide, so there should be plenty of room to lengthen the skirt and make sure it’s very full at the lower edge

3. I know it’s hot and humid and so very, very July out there, but I have fall knitting on the brain already. Partly, I think it’s because I’ve been dipping my toes into Project 333, which really deserves a post of its own–I think I’ve mentioned it before, but the idea here is that you choose 33 items, excluding underwear, workout clothes, and sleepwear, and that’s what you wear for the next three months–and I’ve been thinking about what sweaters I’d want in a very limited wardrobe. When my friend Rachael did Project 333, she didn’t count handknits at all toward the 33 items, but I already give myself so many outs, I’d like to reign myself in a little if I can. So for fall, I’d really like to have a black Baby Cables and Big Ones Too. It’s patterned enough to be interesting, but not so much so that it would look weird with patterned clothing. And I’d like a fair isle cardigan in a relatively small gauge with small geometric patterns in natural sheep shades of gray, white, and black and raglan sleeves. I haven’t been able to find one that meets my specifications, so I’ll have to come up with one. This is the closest I’ve come across, but the gauge is too big and it has drop shoulders and while I love the cross motifs, I’m not wild about the floral ones. I have the cable pattern and some gorgeous black Italian finewool on cones that’ll be perfect for it, so should start that sooner rather than later.

4. A few things I’ve enjoyed lately: Rosamund Hodge’s debut novel, Cruel Beauty, which mixes Greek mythology and the Beauty and the Beast story in very smart, well-crafted story. Happy hour at Maison Premiere in Williamsburg, where I enjoyed some $1 oysters and a couple of French 75s yesterday while sitting at a marble bar with my husband in one of the prettiest spaces in New York City. And I finally watched Frozen, which is thoroughly charming. I was struck by the fact that Elsa has gotten so much attention when it’s really Anna’s story–she’s the one who meets new people and goes on the quest and makes things happen. Elsa spends most of her time shut away, either in her room or in her fancy ice castle.

5. My office is moving this weekend from west SoHo to the Financial District. I don’t really know that part of town very well and am looking forward to exploring a bit. I know about Les Halles and The Dead Rabbit, but any other leads on good places for lunch/after work/interesting things in the neighborhood would be much appreciated.

Paint it black

I recently came into possession of eight glass candlesticks when I made an offhand comment about not having any to a friend of my in-laws who was looking to offload some.


I’ve always admired the Mosser glass candlesticks from Schoolhouse Electric and, since my benefactress had assured me that these weren’t anything particularly special or valuable, I got it in my head to try spray painting a few of them.


There isn’t really anywhere I can do a spray-painting project at home, but luckily we spent this past weekend at my mother-in-law’s house in Connecticut. I used three thin coats of this spray paint in flat black, which went on very smoothly and dried surprisingly quickly, and I completely love how they turned out.   


Unfortunately, they’re a little dinged up right now since they were on the floor of the backseat when we were going home and a bag of groceries fell on them when Rob hit the brakes hard to avoid running into someone who cut him off on some parkway or other, so they should probably get another coat of paint at some point. I still love them though.