Swans Island Trunk Show.

The Swans Island Trunk Show is here!

For the next couple of weeks, we have sweaters, accessories, a baby blanket, and the incredible Swans Island Coat on loan from Swans Island.

Most of these are made in their Organic Merino Worsted, and some in Organic Merino Fingering. Both yarns make soft fabric that drapes beautifully, with excellent stitch definition. We also have new patterns to give you even more ideas of how to use this special yarn.

Come by the shop to see these beautiful garments while they’re here, and to see how the Swans Island yarns behave when knitted up. See you at the shop!

An abundance of show and tell: part one.

There’s been so much incredible showing and telling going on at the shop in the past few weeks, enough that it can’t all fit into one blog post. Here’s the first of two installments.

Mary has been cranking out hats in the Swans Island Organic Merino Worsted.

It’s been great to see how these colorways look in a finished garment after months of admiring them in the skein. I was also glad to see that these hats were blocked, allowing the yarn to blossom a bit, and creating a more cohesive fabric. The Swans Island yarn is such cuddly stuff!

Mara came in during the Triangle Yarn Crawl with not one, but two finished pieces to share. Here, she models a sweater made in the sadly discontinued Mission Falls 1824 Wool. The pattern is Tubey, a cleverly-constructed pullover in aran weight yarn–and a free pattern, to boot.

Mara also shared these pretty mitts, a gift for her mother. The pattern is Leafy Fingerless Gloves, available as a free download on Ravelry.

Michelle was knitting at the shop the other day when she finished her Stasis Pullover, made in the much-admired Isager Alpaca 2. I happened to be wearing my recently-completed Stasis, and a photo-op was born. What a difference the yarn makes, in spite of the identical patterning. Michelle’s Stasis came out soft and cuddly in Alpaca 2, and mine came out sturdy and slightly more fitted in Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight. Our two sweaters are the same, but very different, with each of us getting exactly what we wanted out of them. I can’t wait to see Anne’s Stasis, in Schulana Lambswool!

Thanks, everyone, for the amazing show and tell, and keep your eye on the blog for part two!

KnitScene and Jane Austen Knits.

Two new magazines came in this week: KnitScene and Jane Austen Knits, both of which are full of patterns for sweaters and accessories–plenty to keep your needles busy this fall and winter.

I was pleased to see that KnitScene profiles one of our favorites in this issue: Swans Island, a small company in Maine that produces organic, naturally dyed merino yarns.

For one way to make use of Swans Island’s Organic Merino Fingering, look no further than Jane Austen Knits.

(If that pattern doesn’t appeal, let me pull out our binder of Swans Island patterns for you–there are so many good ways to use this yarn!)

Come by the shop to get the newest fall and winter issues of your favorite knitting and crochet magazines, where you’ll find them on the teacart and the magazine rack. See you there!


Sincere Sheep and Swans Island are two yarn companies we’re thrilled to support, and one of the many reasons is that they both use all natural dyes. This means that their colors are created with minerals, plants, and insects rather than synthetic, petroleum-derived dyes. The bold blue colors have been some of the most popular in both Sincere Sheep and Swans Island yarns, and they all come from natural indigo, a plant-based colorant. Indigo can also be used to create deep purples and steely grays.

Natural indigo has a tendency to rub off, one which you may have already experienced in a pair of blue jeans. A knitter working with an indigo-dyed yarn will likely have blue fingers after a while, but it washes off easily and won’t stain your hands. The color comes off on wooden needles, as well, so metal needles are a good idea if the notion of blue-tipped bamboo needles troubles you.

Once the garment is complete, Swans Island recommends giving it a good soak with a gentle fiber cleanser like Eucalan, along with a rinse afterward, until the water runs clear. After that, the indigo should not rub off onto your neck as you wear your scarf, or onto your clothes. I recently washed a swatch of indigo-dyed yarn, and can attest that while it gave off a dark blue color in its water bath, the color of the yarn itself did not fade.

This little swatch was made with Sincere Sheep Luminous, a dk weight blend of Polwarth wool and Tussah silk. The yarn is a deep, brilliant blue called “Anja,” an indigo-based colorway. (You may have seen that little swatch before, in fact; it’s on the left in this picture of all our TNNA swatches.) Now that three yarns from Sincere Sheep have made the Hillsborough Yarn Shop their home, I thought I’d pull that swatch out and block it, so it could live with the Luminous yarn as a small sample. I was thrilled with how well-behaved the yarn was in its swatch and its bath, how readily it shows off cables, lace, stockinette, and all else. Yarns like these are worth blue-tinted fingertips; anticipate the rub-off and these indigo-based colorways will delight you.

(If you’re interested in the process of dyeing with natural materials, you can read more about it on the Swans Island website.)

New colors in Swans Island Organic Merino Fingering.

Recently, when we reordered a few sold-out colors in Swans Island’s buttery soft, naturally dyed, organically processed fingering weight merino wool, we couldn’t help but notice a few colors we’d never stocked before. Why don’t we have this yellow?, we asked each other. We should really have a darker green, don’t you think? And what about that new, limited-edition color for Fall? The delicious-sounding one? Oh yes: Sugar Maple.

So, we ordered a few new colors along with the old favorites, bringing our total number of available colors to a sweet 16. We just couldn’t help ourselves.

Come by the shop to see this expanded selection of Swans Island Organic Merino Fingering, and think about all the incredible one-, two-, or three-color shawls out there calling for fingering weight yarn. MultnomahRockefellerColor Affection, I’m looking at you. Or you could make an entire sweater out of it–I did, and I couldn’t be happier.

See you at the shop!

The newest books.

We’ve had several shipments of books in the past few weeks, filling the teacart with a wide variety of knitting and crochet resources.

There’s something for almost everyone here. The whimsical new book by Norwegian designers Arne and Carlos shows how to design and clothe the Knitted Dolls it’s named for. Woolbur is equally whimsical, a children’s book about a non-conformist sheep. Cast On, Bind Off and Charts Made Simple are excellent resource books offering guidance on essential knitting techniques: casting on, binding off, and reading charts. Beyond the Square: Crochet Motifs and The Beaded Edge 2 give crocheters new ideas for crocheted shapes and edgings. Knitting for Him, Knitting New Mittens and Gloves, and The Sock Report: Vol. 1 are all full of project ideas, perfect for paging through as you consider your next knitting project.

We also got the new French Girl Knits: Accessories, by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes. Hats, wraps, gloves, socks, and more are within. If you like the style, be sure to check out Griffin-Grimes’ French Girl Knits, as well.

Two books by Martin Storey also found their way to the shop–Nordic Knits and Aran Knits, each taking their inspiration from traditional patterns, but designed with contemporary knitters in mind.

And then there’s Knit Red, a collection of patterns in all shades of red to raise awareness for women’s heart health. Each pattern is by a different designer, and the list is long and impressive: Nicky Epstein, Norah Gaughan, Debbie Bliss, Jared Flood, and Ysolda Teague, among many others. Anne has just cast on for this beautiful linen stitch blanket from Knit Red, designed by Michele Orne for Swans Island Organic Merino Fingering yarn.

Come by the shop to browse all our books for inspiration, ideas, and whatever project it is that you decide you must cast on for immediately. We know the feeling!

A fashion show, a thousand things to see.

Anne and Rosi and I had another long, excitement-and-yarn-filled day here at The National NeedleArts Association Trade Show in Columbus. We got up early for some interesting classes, then hustled over to the fashion show, scoring front row seats, thanks to Rosi.

Then it was time to start walking the showroom floor, where hundreds of vendors had set up displays of their yarn, patterns, books, and accessories. I saw so many things that I’d heard of, but never seen in person, and even more that I’d never heard of at all. There were an overwhelming number of new things to see, but we made sure to visit some familiar faces, as well, to order a few new things from old friends.

After seven hours spent strolling up and down the first five or so aisles of vendors (out of at least a dozen aisles), we dragged ourselves away and back to the room to sort through the business cards and sample skeins we’d acquired throughout the day. There is so much to think about as we decide what to bring into the shop, what would please our knitters and crocheters the most, and how to fill in little gaps in our inventory. We’re having so much fun deciding! And tomorrow, we do it all again, which means that now I must rest up for another big day.

Two new colors from Swans Island.

Just two.

We expanded our Swans Island spectrum a bit, but with some self control–a difficult task in the face of Swans Island’s soft, squishy, organic merino yarns. Upon reordering colors whose numbers were dwindling, we pulled out the colorcard to see if we’d missed any. That’s when we gave in. We have room for a few new colors, right? Well: just two.

I just finished a sweater in the Swans Island Organic Merino Fingering, and while it was blocking, I bought another skein to play with, so I speak from personal experience: this is very special yarn. The care that went into its production is evident in the skein as well as in the finished knitted garment. Perhaps these new colors will inspire you to give Swans Island a try, and perhaps their beautiful pattern support will do the same. Come by the shop to take a peek.

A Handknit Romance.

A new book arrived from Interweave this week: Jennie Atkinson’s A Handknit Romance: 22 Vintage Designs with Lovely Details.

The first thing I noticed in this book was the use of Swans Island Organic Merino Fingering yarn. The mere mention of Swans Island tends to stop me in my tracks, that I might join in gushing over their spectacular yarn.

Those of you who appreciate fine yarns at small gauges will appreciate A Handknit Romance, especially if you have a fondness for traditional feminine details. Take a look next time you’re in the shop.

More works in progress.

About a month ago, I posted pictures of two of the works in progress that hang around the shop. Anne and I always have at least two samples for the shop on the needles–one on her needles and one on mine. Because the urge to talk about what we make and what we see others making is strong, we find ourselves talking about these projects at many points throughout the day. When the process is enjoyable, we’ll tell anyone who will listen about how soft the yarn is, how incredible the color. Since I last brought this conversation to the blog, two new works in progress have sprung up.

I’m working on a simple drop stitch scarf with the new Malabrigo Arroyo. This pattern is a particularly good choice for variegated yarns like this, as the elongated stitches highlight a stretch of color in the yarn that would otherwise be distributed differently along the row. We’re used to variegated yarns striping and pooling in stockinette and other texture patterns, but the drop stitch scarf pools differently, purposefully. 
Within three rows, I had the pattern memorized, and since then, it feels like it’s been knitting itself. 
Anne is also working on a scarf, but hers is made from the Swans Island Organic Merino in the fingering weight. The pattern came from our perpetual calendar, 365 Knitting Stitches a Year, a nice resource to turn to when you intend to make a scarf and don’t intend to use a pattern. Flip through the calendar, pick an attractive stitch pattern, cast on an appropriate number of stitches for said pattern, and go until you run out of yarn. A formula for scarf success.
This one will look particularly lovely when it’s blocked, I imagine. I can’t wait to see it. In the meantime, come by the shop to see these two very special yarns in action, and listen to us go on about them. See you soon!