Back in stock: Schoolhouse Press.

Some of our favorite Schoolhouse Press titles are now back in stock!

The Opinionated Knitter is a collection of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s original newsletters and the clever designs within. It also includes updates from her daughter, Meg Swansen, and new photos of these classic designs. This is an inspiring book, and a bit sentimental for me – Zimmermann’s “Fair Isle Yoke Cardigan” was my first-ever colorwork sweater, igniting a curiosity and preoccupation that persists over a decade later.

Mary Rowe’s Knitting Tams is full of fair isle tam patterns using one of our favorite yarns, Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift. Anne made this one, which hangs on the wall of our shop with so many other colorwork hats. Even in this distracting context, Anne’s tam stands out, knit in cheery colors and featuring a bird motif near the brim, which some insist is a dinosaur. Either way, it’s a fun hat to knit, and has inspired some to knit through the whole book!

Meg Swansen & Amy Detjen’s Knitting With Two Colors is neither a book of sweater patterns nor a book of colorwork charts, but truly a book of techniques, a slim paperback volume that is absolutely bursting with information. Pick up this book for technical detail on steeking, guidance on altering existing colorwork patterns and designing your own, along with the hows, whys, and whether-or-nots of various hems, borders, and necklines. If there’s an ambitious colorwork project in your future, this book should be in your hands.

We’ve also got EZ’s famous “Baby Surprise Jacket” back in our single pattern binders, and a BSJ class in the works for the new year – swing by the shop soon to browse books and patterns!

Back in stock: Schoolhouse Press.

Every so often we find ourselves running low on books or patterns from Schoolhouse Press, and when it’s time to reorder, Anne and I love checking their website for a new book or pattern that we might bring in along with our old favorites.

We had run out of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s classic “Adult, Baby and Child’s Surprise Jacket” pattern, along with her grandson Cully Swansen’s The Complete Surprise. The first two volumes of Barbara Walker’s treasuries had sold out over the holidays, as had Mary Rowe’s book of fair isle tams. All of those had to come home to our shelves, but we wanted a little something new, too.

This new-to-us issue of Wool Gathering caught our eye, perhaps because of the fair isle that we love so well. These 8 hats are knit in a variety of gauges and styles, all cleverly designed by Meg Swansen and her late mother, Elizabeth Zimmermann. Look for them in our Schoolhouse Press pattern binder, by the front window.

We try to keep most, if not all, of Zimmermann’s books in stock here at the shop, along with a variety of other Schoolhouse Press publications. Come by the shop to browse them all!

The Complete Surprise.

Elizabeth Zimmermann’s “Baby Surprise Jacket” is a classic pattern and a feat of creative knitted engineering.


It’s one that we always have copies of, though when we went to reorder it from Schoolhouse Press, we also noticed a new book on the subject: The Complete Surprise. No surprise, you’ll now find both the single pattern and this new book here at the Hillsborough Yarn Shop.


Elizabeth Zimmermann’s grandson, Cully Swansen, is the mind behind this book and a designer in his own right. Inside The Complete Surprise, you’ll find thorough instructions for adult-, baby-, and child-sized Surprise Jackets, with new custom sizing info and all manner of Surprise variations.

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Look for The Complete Surprise on the teacart here at the shop, and remember that everything (including brand new books!) is 15% off during our Annual Inventory Sale and Book Raffle. For each book you buy this July, you’ll receive a raffle ticket, an entry to win a signed copy of an exciting new knitting book. See you at the shop!



Just a reminder–all sales are final on discounted items; there can be no exchanges, returns, or special orders. Thanks!

Vogue Knitting.

The latest issue of Vogue Knitting is here!


This issue features a great article on Barbara Walker, author of the amazing four volume Treasury of Knitting Patterns published by Schoolhouse Press.


As a nod to Walker, many of the patterns in this issue include two-color mosaic motifs, a genre of stitch patterns to which she has contributed tremendously.


Mosaic knitting is created by slipping some stitches and knitting others, working with just one color on any given row.


Meg Swansen’s Vogue column covers increases this time around, the how, when, and why of them.


Come by the shop to pick up a copy of Vogue Knitting! We hope you find your winter knitting inspiration here.


Fair isle tams.

If you’ve visited the shop in the past month or two, you may have noticed our stash of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift front-and-center in the second room. We’ve recently replenished our supply of the stuff, inspiring us to plan some colorwork projects.


I finished knitting the “Autumn Tam” just before we left for TNNA, where we serendipitously encountered its designer, Sandy Blue. I had so much fun knitting it, not only because of the clear, engaging pattern and well-reasoned color combination, but also because I just love this yarn. I’ve already picked out enough for a sweater: “Puffin,” by Kate Davies.


I’m happy to announce that Nancy Cavender is offering a class at the shop on knitting fair isle tams, giving students the choice of Sandy Blue’s “Autumn” or “Midnight Sun” tam patterns. Head to the “Classes” page on our website to sign up now!

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We also got a new book on the subject, Mary Rowe’s Knitting Tams: Charted Fair Isle Designs, published by one of our favorites–Schoolhouse Press.

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Most of these patterns, like the “Autumn Tam,” are knit in Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, though a couple of them call for heavier yarns. Anne snapped up a copy of this book the day it arrived, and I can’t blame her; these are exciting patterns for lovers of colorwork.


I’m equally excited about our newly-acquired Jamieson’s color-card, which shows all 200+ shades of Shetland Spindrift. We can’t stock them all here at the shop, but if you’re looking for any colors in particular, do let us know and we’ll be happy to order them for you.


Come by the shop to see our sample “Autumn Tam” and plan a fair isle tam of your own!

Barbara Walker’s treasuries.

Speaking of classic knitterly tomes published by Schoolhouse Press: we recently reordered Barbara Walker’s stitch dictionaries, something we do every now and then to be sure that all four volumes are on our shelves at all times, if possible.


Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns is a treasure, indeed, a collection of stitch patterns ready to be plugged into whatever you can dream up: scarves, sweaters, blankets, socks–any and all of the things you can knit. Walker gives written instructions (and in some cases, charts) for ribbings, texture patterns, cables, lace, slip- and twisted-stitch patterns, and two-color mosaic patterns, to name a few.


A small black and white photo accompanies each stitch pattern, and Walker lists how many stitches it is to be worked over (e.g. “Multiple of 4 sts,” “Multiple of 17 sts plus 1,” or “Any number of sts”). Most also come with a short description that says how best to use said pattern, and what qualities the resulting fabric will have.


Early on in my knitting career, I recognized that these books would take me a long way, and made sure to add them all to my own little library of knitting resources. Although I was not yet skilled enough to work every pattern from these volumes, I figured that I might be, one day, and that trying a few of them here and there would be challenging and exciting, and teach me new techniques.


I pull out my Barbara Walker treasuries often, thumbing through the pages, marking those that look promising for decorating the leg of a sock, the body of a sweater, a cowl or pair of mitts. They are truly inspiring books, and I’m always happy to have them on my shelf, reminding me of the limitless possibilities of this craft. Come by the shop to add them to your own library; you’ll find them on the top shelf among the reference books.


See you at the shop!

Knitting Workshop: Updated Edition.

I’m excited to announce that Schoolhouse Press has updated and rereleased Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Workshop, a book that is very dear to me, as are all things Zimmermann.

DSCN2492This new edition of her classic novice-to-master workshop has been lovingly updated by her daughter, Meg Swansen, and her grandson, Cully Swansen. Zimmermann’s original text and illustrations are intact, but the old black and white photos have been replaced by crisp color photos, and there are more of them. Editors’ notes are sprinkled throughout, chiming in just when clarification is needed, or extra information could help. Perhaps most importantly, some of Zimmermann’s patterns, tacked on in an appendix in the original book, have been updated, with additional sizes and information about gauge and materials used.


So what does Zimmermann teach in her Knitting Workshop? Pick up this book and you’ll learn all kinds of things, including but not limited to: how to wind yarn into a ball, cast on, increase and decrease, measure gauge in the round, work with two colors at once in stranded patterns, design and knit seamless sweaters, and graft live stitches together, among many other tips and techniques. Yes, Knitting Workshop can keep you busy for a good long time.


I’ve written about this on the blog before, but it bears repeating: Elizabeth Zimmerman’s books are some of my favorites because they liberate knitters from patterns, encourage experimentation, and urge you to be the boss of your own knitting. Elizabeth’s percentage system (“EPS”) for designing seamless sweaters in any gauge, along with the chapter in Knitting Workshop on seven seamless shoulder shapings, is largely responsible for my love of sweater knitting, and especially for my willingness to forge ahead rather than let some needles and wool intimidate me.

Nancy is teaching a class on the subject starting in February, working from this updated Knitting Workshop to knit a seamless sweater with the yoke shaping of your choice–read all about it and sign up on our website.


It has been so lovely to revisit Knitting Workshop and to read Elizabeth Zimmermann’s words again, for her voice and sensibility (and sense of humor!) are always a pleasure. I can’t recommend this book highly enough! Come by the shop to page through it, and if it seems like your kind of book, do browse the Elizabeth Zimmermann/Schoolhouse Press shelf, as well–all of Zimmermann’s books are wonderful, and Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors is also a favorite.


See you at the shop!

Knitting with Two Colors.

Back in November, I wrote about two of my favorite new colorwork resources: Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting and Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Motifs. I remember the feeling of contentment I had in placing those two on my bookshelf at home, thinking, “This completes my colorwork library.” That, however, was before Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors appeared. Now, having seen this new book from Schoolhouse Press, gaps appear in my colorwork library where none existed before. Where was the technical detail on preparing for and cutting steeks? The guidance on altering existing colorwork patterns, and designing your own? Ways to incorporate shaping into a colorwork sweater without completely confusing the patterning? The hows, whys, and whether-or-nots of various hems, borders, and necklines? Why, here they are, calmly and clearly explained by these two most experienced colorwork knitters, Swansen and Detjen.

Knitting with Two Colors is neither a book of sweater patterns nor a book of colorwork charts, but truly a book of techniques, a slim paperback volume that is absolutely bursting with information. I can imagine no better companion to Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting or Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Motifs than Swansen and Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors. Colorwork enthusiasts, and anyone else who’s curious, should take a look at this book, and take home a copy if there’s an ambitious colorwork project in your future. Find it on the teacart.

Schoolhouse Press.

I have a lot of favorite things in the shop. From time to time, some unsuspecting customer will ask me what my favorite yarn is, and the answer they get is lengthy, a handful of yarns at least, and only represents my favorites of that particular moment. We have so many yarns that I love to knit with, and so many more that I’m aching to work with but have not yet gotten to. The same can be said for books, though I am slightly more focused in that department. I keep my knitting library relatively small, favoring reference types over project-based books, usually. When I look at my own collection, it closely mimics one shelf at the shop in particular: the Schoolhouse Press and Elizabeth Zimmermann shelf.

We devote a shelf to Schoolhouse Press publications partially for organizational reasons, but primarily to honor the output of a particularly outstanding book publisher. Schoolhouse Press was founded by knitting heroine Elizabeth Zimmermann in the mid 1950’s and is now run by Zimmermann’s daughter, Meg Swansen. The Schoolhouse Press shelf is my favorite for a reason: the books that are found there are stuffed with information that liberates knitters from patterns, encourages experimentation, and urges you to be the boss of your own knitting.

And now, we’ve collected all our single patterns from Schoolhouse Press into one binder. Zimmermann’s classic Baby Surprise Jacket can be found there, along with the updated version: the Adult, Baby, and Child Surprise Jacket, and others–the Tomten, the Green Sweater, and now, the Square-Rigged Vest. There have been several developments, you see, since last we spoke of my Square-Rigged Vest. Anne insisted that it become a class, and I agreed to teach it. (It’s half-filled, so if you’re interested, register now!) A phone call to Schoolhouse Press solved the problem of the pattern being out of print–they kindly reprinted it for us, which is why you’ll now find it in the Schoolhouse Press pattern binder. With every new publication, and kindnesses such as these, Schoolhouse Press gives us another reason to appreciate and admire them. Come by the shop to join us in our admiration, and I’ll gladly point you towards my favorite shelf in the shop.

Hello, Briggs and Little Sport.

Recently I completed a project that had been stuffed in the bottom of a basket for about a year. I’m not a monogamous knitter, but lingering unfinished projects do bother me a bit. Every once in a while, I’d remember this particular project, a half-completed colorwork vest, and worry about it a little. Would I ever finish it? Why did I put it down again? There must have been something intimidating ahead in the pattern, something scary enough that I’d hide the whole thing away and spend a year knitting other things. When I pulled out the pattern, an out-of-print Meg Swansen gem called the Square-Rigged Vest, it was immediately clear why I had stopped when I did. After casting on at the bottom edge and knitting happily round and round in the color pattern, I’d reached the armpit, where I’d have to plan for steeks. I’ve cut my knitting before, but something about the little bit of math and boldness required for this next step tripped me up. Coming back to it a year later, I was pleased to find myself excited rather than nervous at the prospect of steeking, and in a matter of weeks the whole project was done.

The yarn is Briggs and Little Sport, an unsung hero of a yarn. A rustic, single ply, 100% wool yarn, Briggs and Little Sport is quite affordable, comes in an astonishing array of colors, and has a sticky quality to it–all of which make it perfectly suited to stranded colorwork knitting. Once knit, the stitches cling to each other, which is handy for steeking, since it takes some serious pulling and stretching for the cut stitches to unravel.

Briggs and Little Sport is often passed over, I think, because it isn’t soft to the touch. It took some time to get used to it, but soon my fingers were accustomed to the texture of the yarn and enjoying the process. I was promised by those who had knit with it before that it would soften with washing and I can’t tell you how right they were. It’s not cashmere or anything, but then, that’s exactly what I love about this classic, wooly yarn.

If you’re considering a colorwork project, Briggs and Little Sport is certainly worth your attention, but I’ve seen it used successfully in other ways as well. Marion and several of her students have made February Lady Sweaters holding the Briggs and Little doubled to obtain a worsted-weight gauge. When I searched for the yarn on Ravelry, I found that many knitters are using it for socks, shawls, mittens, and hats, as well as sweaters. Come by the shop to visit this unsung hero and consider how you might make use of it. See you soon!