The Ins, Outs and Goings-On at Signature and Beyond straight from Cathy Bothe
This week Signature Needle Arts will be celebrating our SEVENTH birthday and we want to thank all of our loyal customers for helping us get here! I thought you might be interested to see how far we have actually come. We now have customers in over 60 countries. Those close to me know I will help with all projects that don't include anything "artsy" as I have NO skills in that area. But, I can color like any 7 year old and this is the map that show how many places where there are Signature Needles.
I often contact customers and during these seven years I have "met" so many interesting people from around the world. Here are a few: a woman who lived in Malta as the thousands of refugees fled Libya a few years ago; a Russian woman whose husband and she work in Ghana in hot, hot Africa; an engineer in the Philippines who knits for her Canadian grandchildren; a paleontologist working in Nepal; a designer in Russia; a wonderful Convent full of Sisters in Boston and so many others. How lucky is that? And talk about lucky: I can knit to my heart's delight and reconcile it to "working".
Currently it seems that many young friends are having babies so I have lots of great toddler sweaters to do. Here are two of the latest for twins of a young man who works at our local paper:
There are so many people here who work tirelessly on Signature from the office to the shop floor and no needles would ever be made or sent without them. I want to wish them a most thankful "Happy Birthday". This week will have many special surprises for you and everyone here hopes you will enjoy them no matter where you live.
This week will have many special surprises for you including a special Birthday Circular bag by the talented Erin Lane company. Everyone here hopes you will enjoy them no matter where you live.Read More
Many times over the last 7 years I have been told how lucky I am to work with Signature by knitting enthusiasts while working the Signature booth at trade shows. I wholeheartedly agree, but for different reasons than they usually think. Our conversations often include questions like:
Do you get all the free needles you could ever want? Do you have lots of time to knit during the day?
It is not until I get to the truthful answer that people are surprised.
Fact: I do not and cannot knit.
Fact: When Signature began almost 6 years ago, Cathy sent Laura and me to a knitting class to learn to knit so we could have a better understanding of customers and the business. My scarf was completed through row 15 (several of these rows were actually knit by my mother) and is still in its production state. Laura has gone on to knit countless sweaters, scarfs, and table runners.
Fact: The passion most knitters feel for yarn and knitting I feel for travel, but I have yet to go on an adventure without stopping in at least 1 knitting store or checking out the local knitting culture. So while I do not and cannot knit I truly understand the passion behind it.
This spring my husband and I traveled to Central America and I learned to spin yarn. Cathy was a bit surprised when I mentioned it in passing. While visiting an indigenous village we stopped at women’s spinning and weaving cooperative and learned all about harvesting cotton, spinning it into yarn, dyeing the yarn, and then creating one of a kind fabrics with the back strap loom. I even got to try my hand at spinning. I am possibly a bit better at spinning (it is incredibly difficult) than I am at knitting. It was a wonderful day and was fascinating to watch the demonstration showing the process of how to get from harvested cotton to the beautiful final woven product. I picked up a few skeins of the final spun yarn before leaving to bring back for Cathy and Laura. While I completely lack knitting talent I can fully appreciate the hard work that goes into a lovely new pair of socks made from Guatemalan hand spun yarn. Hint, hint!
This winter has been horrible. They "say" that March 20 is the first day of Spring. Here in mid-America we are still way below normal in temps. For us getting into the 40s seems wonderful-- kind of like a starving person thinks moldy bread is quite nice. We traveled to see friends to upper Wisconsin this past weekend and when we left on Sunday it was -22 degrees. Not wind chill but real -22degrees on March 23! At this rate we will be putting away our winter coats on Memorial Day. Those of you who live places where you can just walk outdoors with no bundling should consider yourself lucky. We have had some great fun in the family as we plod toward Spring. First, our grandson grew his luxurious, curly and fabulous red hair since his Uncle Paul's wedding last September in preparation for a great event. There is a group here called the St. Baldric's Foundation that gathers people to get their heads shaved to earn money for Pediatric Cancer Research. Here he is before, during, and after:
I think this is pretty gutsy for a middle school kid and we are so proud of him. Our granddaughter is the photographer in the family and dog lover. This is Mel (one of 3 rescue dogs in the family) celebrating St. Patrick's day:
Here at Signature the world of knitting has no cute kids or dogs but lots of other activity. We have a new kit coming out with the fabulous young designer Toby Roxane in April as well as early preparation for our trip to the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival in early May. My own knitting has been all babies all the time. A young friend and his wife have just had twins so my plans for a sweater had to be doubled. Here are some pieces
The dad works on our local newspaper and I know the 1st amendment is very important to him so I thought the red, white, blue would be a good reminder of that. I also got a wonderful and unexpected email from another new to be Dad--he had seen an earlier blog post of the 2 sided blanket I made for a baby with an American dad and Brazilian mom with the flag/colors of each. His mom is a knitter and she wants to replicate for their American/Brazilian baby to be. I have to refigure what I did on the Brazil side because I didn't keep my chart but I am happy to do this. I consider it my part in helping international relations.
I am also trying to do
something about my stash--it is beyond belief and I know I will not be able to stop myself from adding. I have decided that between baby sweaters I will do hats/scarves for next winter which will probably be starting on the 4th of July.Read More
We live in Wisconsin and we know about winter: cold, ice, black ice, snow drifts, frozen lakes and snow days. And now we know about a "polar vortex". Horrible, live threatening cold that makes you think of your blood actually freezing.
This has taken me by surprise since I HATE hot weather. Our family and friends chuckle when we say we keep the house in summer "cold enough to hang meat". In winter we keep it cold enough that one of our kids once said were he a renter he could complain to the housing authorities.
During the last "Vortex" I took a picture of my dashboard as I arrived at work.
When it warmed up to ZERO it felt like a heat wave. The painful cold was just a memory. I knew that if we got to 25 degrees there would be people out in shorts.
Of course staying inside means lots of time for knitting. I have been on a baby sweater binge. At the same time I knew that Signature had a new product coming on line so I didn't do final finishing so we could do some pictures.
I know that anyone who has done blocking has dealt with trying to "shape" a droopy piece of wet knitting. Getting the sides to be straight on a scarf comes to mind, but also trying to get the shoulders lined up evenly on a large wet piece is difficult with results not always what we want.
One night as I was struggling I thought how great it would be to have something that had a grid pattern on to help--much like the grid patterns that are now printed on the back of wrapping paper to achieve straight cuts. I also wanted something that able to be stored easily and without taking up too much room.
I began the search to find someone who would make such a cloth in the United States as you know my commitment to US made products. Once I found someone then we had to determine the proper fiber and weight. I knew we needed something absorbent, smooth, and not too "flimsy" because I also knew most projects would require a towel or two beneath. And so... the Signature Blocker Cloth was born.
I think you will like it as much as I do. It makes blocking so much easier and when you are done just fold and put away.
Some of the shots you will see on the site are showing pieces of several baby sweaters. Of course I had many others just in case the photographer needed them. The bad news is that this all took so long that some of the babies have grown past the original sizes so I have to go back and make new ones in larger sizes. The good news is that I will have some "in the bank" for the next babies.
Today is Feb 3, 2014 and here is the latest weather forecast--bad enough to freeze the heart of even the cold lovers among us: So here in the frozen north there is time for knitting-- and for me knitting bigger sweaters.
For additional information on steam blocking check out the Steam Blocking Hand Knits video by Annie ModesittRead More
We hope you have all had a wonderful holiday season. We are delighted to be able to introduce you to Toby Roxane -- a wonderfully talented young designer. We will be carrying all her patterns and ebooks. If you look at the patterns you will see they run the gamut from shawls to accessories to sweaters with many more to come!
When I first became acquainted with Toby and her work I was struck by her wonderful work but also with her bringing a fresh, new perspective. I know that being a full time designer in the world of knitting is a real challenge. Everyone here knows you will love her patterns and books.
I thought the best way to have you learn more about her was to "interview" her.
- Is your full time work life in the world of knitting?
It is! I'm lucky enough to be a full-time, self-employed knitwear designer. Before I started doing this full-time, in October of 2012, I worked at yarn shops for about three years so I've been in the knitting world, in some capacity, full-time for a while now.
- What made you start to make your own patterns?
I didn't learn how to knit until after I graduated from college in 2009, and when I did learn, it turned out I was good at it. Having recently graduated from college, I was trying to find a job and, like everyone else who graduated in 2008 and 2009, I couldn't. Plus, I really loved knitting—it seemed right for me in a way nothing else did. I also knew I wasn't cut out for a nine-to-five office job and that, ideally, I'd want to work for myself. Designing my own knitting patterns seemed like a logical way to make that happen.
- What is the biggest challenge for a young designer?
I know it's a bit crass to talk about money, but that is, without a doubt, my biggest challenge. This is not a notoriously high-paying field and there's been a lot of interesting speculation about that recently. Annie Modesitt, in particular, has been a real advocate for designers earning fair pay, but there's still a long way to go, and a lot of different parts of the industry where the idea of paying designers fairly has yet to infiltrate. As far as being young, I think I face all the same challenges my peers do in this regard, although I'm working in a field where I think I'm definitely on the younger side. I sometimes feel alienated from my peers because I spend so much time with people older than I am, and I sometimes feel alienated from my colleagues because I'm so much younger than they are.
- Do you ever run into people who think knitting is for grandmothers only?
All the time! It drives me nuts! And I get it from both knitters and non-knitters! Working at a yarn shop, sometimes a woman would come in needing help with something easy, like joining a piece of work in the round, and she'd be completely incredulous that I was not only able to help her, but I'd designed the pattern she was working on. And then on the other end, sometimes when I knit in public on the subway or in waiting rooms, a non-knitter will say something like "Aren't you a little young to be doing that?"
- How do you connect with the creative world-- knitting or otherwise? Mainly Ravelry. I don't know what knitters did before Ravelry. This job can be kind of a solitary one, but I do look forward to the TNNA (The National Needlearts Association) trade shows, where I get to hang out with other designers and yarny folk.
- What in your formal training helped you to be the designer you are?
Well...I don't actually have any formal training, exactly. I went to school for writing, but I did take a course at the London College of Fashion in the summer of 2011. That course was mainly geared toward people who want to design machine-knits for the big fashion houses and less toward writing patterns for hand-knitting, but I did learn a lot about how to put together a collection, which is something I do a lot (as evidenced by my shawl collections, London Underground, The Tarot Collection, and the upcoming Everwear: London Underground Vol. 2).
- Where do you find your inspiration for new designs?
There are three main places I find inspiration, and it depends on the design. The inspiration for lot of shawls has come from stitch dictionaries, particularly Barbara Walker's and the Japanese ones. I love to look at stitch patterns and try to imagine the best possible way to use them. Another thing that inspires me is yarn, especially hand-dyed yarn. A lot of shawls have come from finding ways to combine colors in a unique way. The third place I go for inspiration is high fashion. I love to look at the runway collections because I often see interesting silhouettes that could translate well into knitwear.
- How did you find Signature?
I think it was when a co-worker at one of the yarn shops showed up one day with a pair of Signature straights—she let me knit a few stitches and I was impressed. I got a circular size 7 for my birthday that year and I was hooked. Spoiled for life.
- What upcoming projects do you have planned for 2014?
Tons of exciting things! A lot of it is going to be a surprise, but I will say this: sweaters. Many, many sweaters.
- What is something interesting about your life story?I think I was raised in a sort of unconventional way—my dad was my main caretaker. He's an artist, and he worked at home while my mom worked in the city, in publishing. I had a few friends when I was little who were in the same kind of situation, with a stay-at-home dad, so I was at least 8 or 9 before I figured out that this was the opposite of what was considered "traditional." I also used to think everyone made their own art to put on the walls of their houses. All the paintings and photographs in my house were my dad's, and I thought every family just made their own—when I figured out that people actually bought art my mind was blown.
We are offering a very special introductory price on her patterns as the first of our "12 Days of Deals". Those 12 days come with a wish for a healthy, happy 2014! Read More
Have you ever wanted to give a gift to someone who
- Has everything they would want
- Knows how to make most anything they would want?
- Is your future mother-in-law?
Think of having to cook for Julia Child. I know all about how gut-wrenching such a proposition might be so you can imagine my delight when our new future daughter-in-law (the lovely Ms Marian) made me a knitted gift. What may look like a simple hot pad holder is something I use every single day and think of her every single time.
Used so many times that I took it for granted and was careless and burned it a bit.
Fast forward to a wonderful summer of wedding preparations. Two of my dearest friends, Minneapolis Minnie and Zion Zelda held a fantastic tea at our house for the bride to be and close family and friends. It was just unbelievable with 10 kinds of tea and beautiful finger sandwiches, fruits and desserts. All the guests loved the invitation that read "hats and gloves optional".
In thinking about how kind Marian has been to me and our whole family I got a brain storm-- do hot pads for each of the guests. I did many different patterns and colors.
I have never really made a lot of these but I soon learned why so many knitters enjoy making them-- they don't take long so you are never bored and you end up with something usable by any one.
One of Marian's friends was very, very pregnant with her first child and I was looking for a non hot pad project so I did this for her with some Mission Falls Cotton Picture of pink baby sweater
I know I can't make a hot pad for all of the wonderful Signature family but there is something that will make the DPN folks happy: starting July 24, 2013 each purchase of DPNs will be shipped in one of our storage tubes at no charge.
We will be at Stitches Midwest August 9-11, 2013 so please stop by and see us!Read More
Summer is here and so are the new Signature Convertibles. This is a new concept so please allow me to explain: We are now offering circulars that are convertible to other lengths within a size which allows for flexibility and more than one use for your needles. If I had a penny for every inquiry about why we had pulled the size 7's, when they would be done etc. I could take about 10,000 of you on a nice tropical vacation. This seems like a good time to let you know what has been going on behind the scenes. We had some issues with cables cutting on some of our needles. We came to the conclusion that there will always be some of those because of the way a TINY percentage of people hold the needles--with pressure right on the join area. In looking at this we did months of testing to see if we could minimize that problem. Testing of even a single change can take many weeks-- first block time to get a tweaked design machine time (1-3 weeks wait), run samples (1-5 days), send off to testers (1-5 days), have testers test and send back reports(1-2 weeks), review all reports (1-5 days) and make new design tweaks. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. As you can see even a few changes can add up to months. During this time we had the "ah ha" moment-- why not allow people to have the ability to convert their needle stalks in a given size to more than one length? We know people have asked for something like this and that it would allow the multiple use of a single pair of needles which would be economical for knitters. Back to drawing board to see what we would need to do to have this happen. We wanted a design that would work easily and without extra "tools" to make changes, or be complicated in some way. Our testers included people of all ages and we had them ask non-knitters of all ages if they could make the changes in cable assemblies. We had unanimous approval. We think you will love the new version of Signatures (so cleverly named by the husband of one of us) which will be available Tuesday, May 28, 2013. What this means is that you can buy, for example, a pair of US 4 needle stalks with a 5" length and then buy a single cable assembly or as many as are available for that combination. In this case you could buy a 24", 32", 40", 47" overall length assembly either one at a time or as many as you would like. And, YES, you can still buy the older model "fixed" needles but only until they are all gone. We have also changed our packaging and think you will like that too.
We appreciate our customers' patience during this long process. Even as we all wanted to have the 7s back, all the people who inquired about them were very understanding about our work to bring them back. We hope you love the new Signature Convertibles as much as we do.Read More
Hi, Signature Needle Arts Fans, If you follow me at all on my blog , Twitter @SusanBAnderson, Facebook, or Instagram , you will already know how much I love my Signature circular needles and sets of double-pointed needles. Through my knitting and photography my devotion to the Signature Needles shines through on an almost daily basis. I was asked to guest post on Signature's blog but I feel it is important to note that I have personally purchased all of my Signature Needle Arts needles on my own. My review and constant use of these needles is strictly by choice.
I feel that using these beautifully-crafted and designed needles has upped my knitting game to new levels. The speed and clarity of my stitches has benefitted by the crystal-clear points and the smoothness of the needle and cable construction. I love both the circular needles and the double-points but today I am focusing on the double-pointed needles. As I say in the video I've provided, I use my Signature Double-Pointed needles for all sorts of projects (hats, sleeves, mittens, socks), but as a knit toy designer I most often use them to make toys. Most of the time for my toy patterns the knitter needs to cast-on a small number of stitches onto double-pointed needles to begin working in the round. When I am teaching toy-knitting workshops I have noticed that the cast-on and the first few rounds of working in the round can be challenging for some knitters. Of course, as with everything, practice over time always makes things easier but using these lightweight and smooth Signature needles also helps the process. I have made a short video showing how I cast-on 9 stitches onto 3 Signature double-pointed needles to begin working in the round. I am showing you how I cast-on and set up a small number of stitches for working in the round on dpns. For more technique-based instructional videos please check out my YouTube Channel at SusanBAnderson: Here is the video. Enjoy!
If you are interested in toy-knitting, please check out my newest toy book, Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Knit Toys. It is chock-full of fun and whimsical reversible toys that you will love knitting on Signature dpns! You can always preview the patterns on Ravelry for all of my books. Here are the links to my other books and my knitting blog (where I use Signature double-points and circular needles a lot!): Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Knit Toys Itty-Bitty Hats Itty-Bitty Nursery Itty-Bitty Toys Spud & Chloe at the Farm Susan B. Anderson (blog) Happy Knitting and thanks for having me! Best, SusanRead More
Guest Blog Post by: Kate Atherley, Magic Loop & 2 Circulars
Although double-pointed needles were the traditional solution for knitting in the round, circular knitting needles, invented in the late 19th/early 20th century, provided an excellent and convenient way to work larger pieces in the round. Before their invention, knitters would have used longer DPNs: it wasn’t uncommon to see 14 inch DPNs, and a knitter working a garment in the round might have the stitches distributed across multiple sets of DPNs.
UK Knitting needle manufacturer Aero coined the name “Twin-Pin” to describe these circular needles, and they were adopted with enthusiasm by knitters on both sides of the Atlantic.
Although originally design for working in the round, circular needles can also be used for working back and forth in rows – essentially becoming a pair of straight needles joined by a piece of string. This is particularly useful if you’re working on a larger piece, as the weight is better distributed, and you don’t have to jam together many stitches on a straight needle. Many knitters – myself included – use circular needles almost exclusively for knitting, whether flat or in the round.
There is, however, a limit on the use of circular needles – you can fit a larger round on a circular needle, but not a smaller round. And the smallest common length of circular needle is 16 inches. (There are smaller circulars – 12, 9 and even 8 inches – but the small circumference demands shorter needle tips, and some knitters find them hard to hold and work with. In addition, the tightness of the angle can make it challenging to work anything other than plain fabrics: it can be difficult to tilt the needle tip to work decreases or increases.)
So for a long time knitters continued to use the traditional double-pointed needles for smaller circumference items like the tops of hats, socks, mittens and sleeve cuffs.
But DPNs have drawbacks. They’re not necessarily great for portable knitting, as it’s too easy to lose a needle. And some knitters find the “porcupine wrestling” aspect daunting. Four DPNs means 8 points; five DPNs means 10 points! Stitches can fall off the ends of the needles, and laddering – loose stitches at the breaks between the needles – is an issue for some knitters.
Almost exactly 100 years after the invention of circular needles, some clever knitters landed on ways to use them to totally eliminate the need for any other kind of needles – notably, DPNs.
The Magic Loop method – invented by Sarah Hauschka and popularized by Bev Galeskas in 2002 – uses a long circular needle (usually 32-40 inches) to work a smaller round. The round of stitches is divided in half, and loops of cord pulled out at the breaks between the halves. The half of the round actively being worked sits on the actual needles; the other half of the round rests on the cord.
The Two Circulars method – invented by Joyce Williams and first described in print in the Summer 2000 issue of Knitter’s Magazine – uses two shorter circular needles (usually 16-24 inches) in a manner similar to Magic Loop. Each half of the round lives on its own needle, and those stitches are worked only with the needle they live on.
If you’re not a fan of DPNs, these two methods provide excellent alternatives. There are pros and cons to all three methods; which you prefer is usually a matter of how you hold your needles, and how you like to work. Don’t let anyone tell you that what you’re doing is wrong! I still work my socks and mittens most often on DPNs, but I will change off to Magic Loop if I’m travelling – losing a needle mid-vacation would be a total disaster! I also like using Magic Loop if I’m working a sock with cables that twist all the way round, as it reduces the number of times I have to rearrange my stitches. I also use Magic Loop if I’m working a patterned sock with a large pattern repeat that’s worked twice around; I can organize the stitches so that there’s one repeat per needle.
For these two methods, you should choose your circular needles carefully: you need cords that are flexible enough to bend, but not so flexible that they kink. Older circular needles had much stiffer cords that would not bend sufficiently. When the Signature product development team was working on their circular needles, the cords were an area of great focus – making sure that they were just right for all uses of circular needles.
For more info, see the below
Youtube video http://youtu.be/gucmILhpUQs - Knitting Socks with eliZZZa #02 * How to knit socks with 2 circular needles
http://youtu.be/RybPvCNfrT8 - Cat Bordhi - Part 1: Knitting on 2 circular needles
http://youtu.be/hqySdHjIPIc - VeryPink Knits - Knitting 2 Socks at-a-Time, Magic Loop, Parts 1-5Read More
We have had such a cold and miserable and WET time the past few months. Rain and roof leaks and folks here with water in finished basements. Honestly last week we had snow showers. And then yesterday (the last day of April) when I walked out of the office
We are near Lake Michigan so I drove down to see what the lake did to temperatures
The heat is nice but it will condense a wonderful sign of spring at one of our town’s community centers which was an old Anglican Girl’s School—a sea of beautiful blue Scylla I hoped to be able to see it for as many days as possible before we leave for the ever amazing Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.
Preparation has been going on for weeks and today is the day for packing
You may notice a new face. We are so happy to have Donna here doing all the project management as well as the zillions of things that need to get done besides the manufacturing of the needles. She has jumped in with a wonderful enthusiasm. She also helps with Customer Service calls afternoons so some of you may have already “met” her on the phone.
We will be in the Main Building Booth C5 . This year you will see Laura and me as well as Vicki who is our financial manager. This is her first show and we have been trying to explain the fantastic MSW but I am quite sure that we have not really conveyed the size, the yarn, the sheep and the wonderful people. Please come by if you can.
I am just finishing a few baby sweaters and once the buttons are on will share. Right now I have 2 wonderful wedding projects waiting as our son Paul will be bringing the wonderful Marian into the family later this summer. As it will be an outdoor wedding she asked for a shrug to wear over her wedding dress for the evening festivities.
She and her mom Nancy and I had a wonderful morning going over many, many patterns and found one she liked. A special treat was getting to see “the dress” once more in person. Right now I have enough different yarn to make 3 of the pattern for her to review. What will happen to the other shrugs is yet to be decided. Maybe a Shrugathon give away?
Early summer will mean a bridal shower and who doesn’t like those?? I am stealing an idea from a shower I went to recently which will require knit hot pads (32 of them). I have never really done any of these and am looking for any direction as to a good yarn. I think cotton but would a blend work? If you can give any help or direction it would be most appreciated.
This project is especially meaningful to Marian and me since she knit me a pot holder for a gift. If it had been me in her shoes I would have had a lot of anxiety in giving such a gift: new mother-in-law to be, who is a long time experienced knitter, and head of a knitting needle company. Turns out I had never made anything like this for myself or anyone else and its unique shape helps me every single morning when I have my one cup of coffee. I can’t think of any gift that I use so often and every single time I use it I mentally thank her and am glad she is coming into the family. Just in: weather in 70’s today but by tomorrow and Friday back down to the 50’s—maybe Maryland will have a real Spring to show off.Read More