Bonnets & Boots

13 Apr

Easter BonnetToday was a true Sunday, a family day, a beach day, a bocci ball day…Easter!   Viola wore her Grandmama Judy’s bonnet, sweater, and boots that her mama made for her in 1946.  How fun it was to spend the day in the sun dressed in all that finery.  “Don’t be afraid to dig in the dirt, play with the worms, and chase the butterflies,”  Grandmama Judy would say even in the most delicate of heirlooms….SO Vi spent most of the day in them, laying under a bright banana slug yellow umbrella in the yard while mama & papa played bocci ball and ate chocolate coconut ice cream.  Earlier at the beach she kicked around in the Italian mohair boots I knitted for her the Good Friday before.  Talk about walking on clouds…my my!

Easter Boots

Easter Boots


First Time Felting Blues

18 Apr

Here are some shots of a couple different shoe patterns BEFORE felting. I wanted to somehow capture the magic of felting and will attempt to calm “First Time Felting Blues.” If you’ve never felted before you are shocked and amazed simultaneously at how gargantuan your project seems. DON’T WORRY! It will shrink down to the appropriate size with the first, second, or even third felt attempt. Check out these MaryJane’s I made for my mom. The pattern comes from Funky Knits by Carol Meldrum and Julie Marchington.

BEFORE felting

Ok, so her feet aren’t 12 inches long, but after a few cycles through the wash they’ll fit a size 8 foot. I usually just throw my felting projects in with my clothes on wash day. This will slow down the felting process because the slippers don’t have the whole washer to themselves and will be less agitated due to crowding. That’s ok with me. It saves water and shrinks at a rate that I can deal with. If only one or two projects are in the washer with a little natural soap and hot water, they will tend to shrink down with only one (maybe two) washes. Natural SHAMPOO/laundry soap + HOT WATER + AGITATION = FELT.

Another hard to believe transformation are these little boots (from feltFORWARD by Maggi Pace).

BEFORE Felting

Although 7 inches doesn’t seem so ridiculous for a child’s foot, these guys shrink down to fit a 2 year old nearly half their original size. The soles are about 2-3 inches longer than the upper shoe itself, and has to be eased in to fit the opening This is because the sole shrinks more lengthwise than widthwise. Here’s a shot of the little boat-like shoes BEFORE felting.

***Stay tuned for the finished shoes, and for an interview with the felting queen herself, MAGGIE PACE!

Jolly Green Giants

9 Apr

Tuesday’s Ready-to-Wear Edition ‘s Woman’s Wear Daily thrilled me with their green edition. Apparel Brands Find Their Eco-Friendly Sides by Sharon Edelson clarifies the meaning of the trendiest word in most industries at present…green. It also reveals the fashion giants who are proud to call themselves “green” and the initiatives they’re taking to reduce their carbon footprint on Planet Earth.
I hope it’s safe to say that the majority of my fellow Californians have some idea of what the word green means. Edelson gets right to the point. Green fashion isn’t just about using organic fabrics and recycling dye baths. It includes ethical treatment of factory workers, working environment, garment delivery methods, and of course, reducing energy emissions. Small and large companies alike are moving in the green direction not only because it’s trendy, or because less waste means more profit, but because it’s the right thing to do ultimately affecting our quality of life.
Patagonia, one of the pioneers of the green movement, based in Ventura California launched the Footprint Chronicles, tracking the impact of five products through the supply chain. From sourcing to manufacturing to delivery, studies will reveal just how much of a carbon footprint wool sweaters and recycled polyester jackets make. From the very beginning in 1973 Patagonia began donating money to help replenish the natural resources diminished from rock climbing. Powering their corporate headquarters by the sun, using recycled cotton from Italy, and post-consumer recycled packaging are just a few initiatives taken by this green giant. The choice to go green may have put a dent in their profits several years ago, but today literally fuels their search for more sustainability, a smaller footprint, and of course the most beautiful places nature has to offer.
Patagonia isn’t out there on the limb by themselves anymore. The HE.5, Wal-Mart’s most energy efficient U.S. store yet will use up to 45 percent less energy than their traditional Supercenters. Even the products sold will be 25 percent more energy efficient in the next three years. Wal-Mart’s chief executive officer Lee Scott not only wants to provide more sustainable products, but to reduce the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases caused by their suppliers. Maybe I will wear the organic cotton pajamas my mom sent me several months back to support Wal-Mart’s efforts in becoming “better stewards of the environment.” We all know they have a lot of catching up to do.
The best surprise was finding out about French Luxury Giant LVMH. Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton began measuring its negative impact on the environment in 2004. Since then they’ve stopped using air shipments and now transport products by boat, which is 40 percent less polluting. Their recently built warehouse on the edge of Paris that uses geothermic heating, natural lighting, and water filtration. New stores use 30 percent less electricity and older less efficient stores are being refurbished in favor of more energy efficiency. In 2006, 152 tons of waste was eliminated from excess packaging.
Another company in the green light was Howies. Their store in London is painted with eco-friendly paints and has reclaimed hardwood flooring. It’s collections use sustainable organic merino wool shipped by boat and Tagua nut buttons from South America. They print their T-shirt designs locally in Wales in small batches rather than in bulk in Turkey. The label will be entirely organic by fall “which is far more important than slavishly following trends,” said co-founder David Hieatt.
And finally, Loomstate “starts at the farm with soil fertility and sourcing organic cotton” and ends up in the hands of celebrities. Edelson is right. Green isn’t always a color. Whatever the reason, going green, has a huge impact whether changing the light bulb in your writing desk, or making your friends green with envy over your new sexy Loomstate jeans. With more and more jolly green giants leading the way our planet may have a chance to be just that—green— for our kids and theirs.

Alpine Shrug

4 Apr

p4030006.jpgOk…so this is my second project, or should I say rendezvous with Rowan’s Magazine # 42. I would almost like to say shame on me if I wasn’t boycotting guilt altogether. I started this shrug how long ago? Oh yeah, right before Christmas gifts. After making 12 hats, 4 pair of slippers, 3 pair of striped elf socks, 10 washcloths, and a big batch of lavender soap for the holidays I finally finished the shrug….for me! It lay on my bookshelf for weeks meeting all sorts of buttons….wooden, metal, glass. She just didn’t like any of them. I couldn’t wait to wear my first shrug, but I couldn’t rush the finishing touches. On the way back from Luminous Threads I stopped off at the local thrift shop to rummage as I love to do. I found a little plastic bag filled with beautiful old hair clasps waaaay down in the bottom of a huge box of shirts. BINGO! Now, my shrug was instantly adjustable. She was very cordial to her new clasp. I wasn’t about to tell her (her…made of pumpkin-colored Rowan Big Wool) that she had just been wed to a five cent hair barrette from a second hand shop. I’ll still get to wear my Alpine Shrug quite a few chilly nights here in the Santa Cruz Mountains before she’s tucked away with much care into a cedar chest for next winter and many winters to come.

p4030003.jpgThrifty Clasp

Winter Collection 2007

10 Nov

Introducing the Winter Bonnet Collection…

Riding Bonnet

Riding Bonnet

Riding Bonnet



Rainy Day Bonnet

Rainy Day Bonnet

Rainy Day Bonnet



Town Cap

Town Bonnet

Town Bonnet



Flying Bonnet

Flying Bonnet

Flying Bonnet



Interviews with the Gurus

5 Nov

Laura Irwin

Laura Irwin

If you knit or crochet on Planet Earth then you’ve seen the cover of Bag Style. If you haven’t, then shame on your local yarn shop for not showcasing it! I didn’t even have to skim the pattern to know that I would knit this bag for my winter purse. The name sealed the deal…The Formal Boot Bag. I had just dug out my boots for winter wear, and have enough of them to know that this was just the companion they needed. This book will solve thousands of winter purse problems not only for the vegan who doesn’t care to carry leather, but for all woman who need a unique carrying case. You know that your purse says everything about you…the color, the shape, the size, the stitch all clue us in on who you are, what you fancy, whether you carry the kitchen sink or make do with chap stick and credit cards! Being a woman of accessories I will eventually knit more bags than I can use (is that even possible?) because of this book. Thank you Ann Budd and Pam Allen for another Style book to shake things up in the world of knitting!

Drum roll please……..from the cover of Bag Style

Today I have the pleasure of bringing you the master mind behind the Formal Boot Bag. Designer Laura Irwin has given us time out of her busy schedule for a little Q&A with SteeleWool and its readers!

Q: What was the inspiration behind your Formal Boot Bag design?
A: I think it was military/1930s feel- fancy simple low budget.

Q: What was running through your head (and fingers!) when Ann and Pam
came to you with their book idea, asking for your design input?
A: Well, I just submitted a design, (if you go to the Interweave Knits
website, there’s all the info about submitting your work). I actually
submitted two designs, and they chose the Boot Bag. When they told me
it was going to be on the cover I pretty much freaked out- That’s an
unbelievable honor.  It’s still weird thinking about it, even weirder
seeing it.

Q: What was it like collaborating with the other designers?
A: For this project I didn’t really collaborate with anyone. They
chose my design and I knit it and wrote the pattern for it. I don’t
know any of the other designers- but think it’s a great collection of
patterns…really appealing to a wide audience.

Q: Besides your own what were some of your favorite bags from the book?
A: I liked the Hemp Market Bag, and the Crochet Needle Bag a lot!

Q: How did you get started knitting?
A: I taught myself how to cast on and the knit stitch, and did that for
a while until I couldn’t stand the way garter stitch looked. Then
I asked someone working in my neighborhood yarn store how to purl…and
the rest is history! No, actually about a year and a half later got a
job at a yarn store where I ended up learning so much, and I’m still

Q: What was your very first project?
A: I made these really weird hats that I would sew together with my
sewing machine, because I didn’t know or understand the basic
construction of a hat. They were pretty awful.

Q: What turned you on to knitting and felting bags in particular?
A: Felting is so awesome. I think there’s so much potential…still.
Creating a different stable fabric by just knitting and washing is
really satisfying. Especially when you’re calculations work, and you
get what you intended!  I think combining bag making and felting is
just a practical application of technique.

Q: I’ve always heard that knitters don’t crochet and that crocheters don’t knit.
A: Really? I think you get the most out of knowing something about both.
They’re happiest when they are used together.

Q: Do you crochet as well?
A: Yeah- I’m a crazy single and double crocheter.

Q: What ‘s in the works for 2008?
A: My First Knitting Book! Fall 2008! Whoo Hoo!

Thank you so much, Laura for sharing your knitting stories with us here at SteeleWool. We’ll all look for your new book to be in 2008!

Check out Laura Irwin at Precious!

Rock My Boat

27 Oct

I was already feeling tired from my Saturday morning cleaning duties and found this……..~Rock My Boat~ by Dntel. It gave me the energy to get through chores and on to creating. Hope this is inspiration enough for you too. Turn up those speakers!