Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fruit Smoothie, anyone?

Yep, I'm getting thirsty. That's what these new colors of Blue Sky Alpaca Silk remind me of! We recently discontinued a few colors of this yarn so we could bring in these 6 beauties. They are so fun and happy and springlike. Would love to use them all together somehow...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Finally, a finished hat

It's been sitting in the classroom for weeks now, and it's finally done! I knit the hat but wasn't too sure of my artistic ability when it came to the needle felting. So I asked Michele to do it, and both she and Kalen contributed some flowers, and yay! It's done.
Very cute! Now I just have to find my notes from when I made up the pattern... Need to recreate it. Why am I always so bad about keeping good notes?

We've been going through a lot of tea recently - we've sold Harney teas for several years now, and we just love them! Many of our internet customers have been turned ON to Harney - most of our boxes go out with a little Harney tea sample... and we're amazed at how many of our customers love tea!

Every afternoon I seem to need a pick-me-up at about 3:30. My favorite is the Hot Cinnamon Sunset - a black tea with 3 types of cinnamon, orange peel and sweet cloves. Yum! I had been drinking the Hot Cinnamon Sunset for about a month, when I started to have difficulty falling asleep at night. It's most likely NOT the tea's fault, as it was during the last full moon, and I often have difficulty sleeping during the full moon. But I figured it couldn't hurt to switch to a decaf tea, so I switched to the African Autumn, which is a blend of herbal Redbush, cranberry and oranges. It is delicious! And so no more counting sheep for me!
I just finished a gorgeous scarf out of Pure & Simple. I can only show you this much... ... because it's in Massachussetts at a Tilli Tomas photo shoot right now, along with several skeins of our custom colorway "Leaf Peepers". They are doing a shoot for fall ads and may use our stuff... COOL!

I'm also working on a cute little sweater from the Nashua Handknits Blossom booklet. I chose the Cascade Cotton Rich DK and I am really enjoying working with it. I had already knit a swatch with this yarn and really liked it. It has very subtle color variations that add some nice depth to the finished piece. The sweater I'm making is cute - and should be done soon as it's only a 3-6 month size.
We've already made two other models (still drying!) from this book - it's a keeper. We used the new pink Ecologie Cotton for one, and the Purelife Cotton in Lipstick Tree for the other.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Don't sweat the small stuff

For those of you who aren't local, the back room is where we keep our sport and dk weight yarns (and a few baby yarns...) During the past six years, this room has usually been the quietest in the shop. Novelty yarns weren't ever in the back room. Sock yarns have always been at the counter. Handpaints are mostly in the hallway, with some scattered throughout the store. Worsted wools for knitting and felting are in the back of the main room. And quick bulky yarns are in the front room. So all of those trends have kept knitters in other areas of the shop.

The back room hasn't been totally empty - it has always seen its share of new baby knitters. Who doesn't want to make a nice sport or fingering weight sweater, hat or blanket for that newborn? But those projects are easy to choose, so you find a pattern, pick a suitable yarn, and zim, zam, you're in and out of the back room.

During the past year and a half, though, that back room is starting to see some real action! Let's face it - not everybody can wear a bulky sweater. Even a sweater out of worsted weight yarn can be too warm for some folks. All of a sudden, sweaters in sport and dk weights have rocketed to the top of the charts. And boy do we have some luscious fibers from which to choose...

It is hard to get someone used to "small yarn" knitting, though. Customers are finding great patterns, and when they realize that they need to use a sport or dk weight yarn, most times they say, "Ugh!" But really, if you knit because you love to knit, and you love to wear what you knit, then why the "ugh"? So the stitches may be smaller, and it may take you a little more time to complete the project. But don't you love to knit? So it shouldn't matter that you are spending more time knitting something. The point is, you are knitting. So the yarn is a litte smaller than what you are used to. Don't sweat it. Knit it.

And speaking of great lighter weight yarns, I thought that last week we had finally gotten the back room to a state of organization - where it could stay for at least a few months. We've had so many new yarns recently, it was a trick to fit them all in, and in a way that made sense. But then yesterday a box arrived from JCA... It was the Jo Sharp Georgette that I ordered a couple of months ago. I guess we have to move some more things to fit it in...

It is not online (will be tomorrow) but believe me when I say, it's just incredible. The colors are lovely, and it is amazingly soft. Unfortunately, the Jo Sharp books were not in the same shipment, so we have to wait a bit for the patterns, but I do remember there were several that I wanted to make.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Times haven't changed, all that much

This past Sunday was spent mostly in the car... we drove the girls to see the Hannah Montana movie in Hooksett, NH. It was really cool - the 3D stuff was impressive to say the least. Helen and Sophie were wide eyed, throughout. I was blown away by the people in the movie trying to dress and look like HM, even wearing HM wigs! There were thousands of young girls on screen screaming at the top of their lungs at this concert. I guess HM is quite the sensation with my daughters' generation. My first reaction was to laugh, but I was young once too. Weren't we all?

I didn't have a favorite singer when I was 8. But this movie brought back memories of my high school days, when all my friends had their bedroom walls plastered with posters of Michael Jackson... the Michael Jackson of way back, who we all thought was cute, and normal! (How things have changed.) And Madonna, whose songs we all knew every word to and played over and over in our "walkmen." In September of 1984, my senior year in high school, I saw Michael Jackson moonwalk in front of 60,000 screaming people who were mostly wearing white socks and lone white gloves. I went to Madonna's Like a Virgin concert in May of 1985, and I am guilty of wearing black leggings, an off the shoulder top and tons of black rubber bracelets. So I can relate to these little girls, in a way.

Anyway, on the drive back we made a quick stop in Bow, NH to drop off some Purelife Cotton for Joy. She has started knitting a beautiful sweater for herself out of the Yellowwood color. It is really nice! She needed more of it, and she is only a mile off the highway, so I told here we'd stop by. We've dropped off yarn before, but this time I went in to see her place. She has all these beautiful paintings on her walls and I noticed on that on the lower right hand corners, there are three letters "J-O-Y". Now I was amazed enough, to find out that she had done them herself. But when she told me she did them between the ages of 10 and 12? I was a bit speechless. This was my favorite:
And this:
Check out the detail:
And this:
And this was a bird she had done when she was only 5 years old.
Nice to have a talent like that! Well, it's really just one of many. She showed me all of her recent knitting projects, some finished, some not, some hers, some for the shop.
She posed with Sophie for a picture, when I noticed a gorgeous throw on her couch!
I thought it looked familiar! Remember this?
Times have changed - something that was so in fashion several years ago, looks so out of fashion now. But how stunning it looks on a handsome leather couch!

A tale of two tweeds

This weekend I managed to knit another 10 swatches for the swatch jar at the shop. These swatches are actually proving to be very valuable selling tools. If a customer is choosing between two yarns, he/she can see sample garments knit up in each one. But if one sample garment is in stockinette, and the other is in cables... well that's not really comparing apples to apples. So in addition to seeing each yarn knit up in a sample garment, now you can also see each yarn in a basic stockinette swatch. This has already helped a number of wavering people make up their minds.

I've always loved tweeds. I started knitting when I was 15, and I knit some of my first few sweaters with tweedy yarns. We have two worsted weight tweeds in the shop now that I just love. One is Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed and the other is Plymouth Tweed. They are both great - in different ways.
Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed
147 yds for $9 (6.12 cents per yard)
5 on a US 6
85% wool 10% silk 5% cashmere

Pymouth Tweed
109 yds for $7 (6.42 cents per yard)
5 on US 8
100% virgin lambswool
Most people think the Silkroad DK is more expensive. It's Jo Sharp (sounds expensive, right?), it's $9 per ball, and it has cashmere and silk in it. Plymouth also has a reputation for lower priced yarns. But if you calculate the price per yard, the Jo Sharp is actually LESS... 6.12 cents per yard compared to 6.42 cents for the Plymouth. A lot of people don't do that price per yard calcuation, but in this case it shows that it can prove just how wrong a perception really is.

The Silkroad DK was heaven to knit with. The finished swatch is very soft and light. The overall color palette of this yarn is much softer. My dry hands were definitely "sticking" to this yarn, which was kind of annoying. (It would have been easier has I put on some No Crack cream before I started knitting, but I was too lazy to get up and get some.) I would love to make a sweater or vest out of this yarn, but I would need to make sure my hands were lubed properly!

I also really liked the Plymouth Tweed - it was surprisingly soft! It is squishy soft in the ball, but as I ran it through my hands I didn't really think it would be that great to work with. I stand corrected. It did not catch on my dry, scaly hands at all, and I think the color palette is vibrant and fun. My eyes are now opened up to the many possibilities for this yarn!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Classic Elite Soft Linen

So Marc and I are heading south on Sunday to take the girls to see the Hannah Montana Best of Both Worlds Concert Movie. They are going to FREAK out when I tell them this afternoon.

The bad news is that we have to drive 2 hours to see it... apparently Vermont has no 3-D theaters. The good news is that the theater is just minutes away from Target, and I love a good trip to Target! I will also have about 4 hours of knitting time, so I'm about to head downstairs to see what needs to be done.

I've recently swatched some new yarns.One of them was the Classic Elite Soft Linen. This is a really nice blend of baby alpaca, wool and linen. The color palette is just amazing - really soft and mature. There are several that are tied for my favorite! The yarn was very nice to knit, but I liked it even more after I blocked the swatch. It really softened up and the stitches evened out. It would make a beautiful sweater! We still have a couple of colors on backorder for this yarn, and I imagine they will be as nice as the ones we have in stock.

The pattern support for this yarn is also great - Classic Elite always does a wonderful job with patterns. They are classic, yet current at the same time. We have already sold out of the Make it Modern booklet, but we have more on the way. This booklet has a lot of great patterns! The Hoodie is popular:The Feather and Fan Cardigan is advertised in Interweave and is also popular:The Button Up Shrug is cool - can be worn as a shrug, or opened up and worn as a shawl.There are also some patterns for Cotton Bam Boo, which I decided not to stock, but hey, it's all about substitutions, so go for it! There's the Girl-Tank and the Fluttery Sleeve Top:and the Smock Top:All very nice! So definitely a booklet worth buying.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Where's Waldo?

Not this Waldo. But Waldo, Ohio! Yesterday we were priviledged to have a visit from Michele's mother-in-law, Merry Lou and her husband Don, who are in town visiting from Waldo, Ohio. She has to drive over 40 miles (or did she say minutes? can't remember... anyway, that's too long!) to get to her closest yarn shop, but she drove over 700 miles just to come to our shop!

Well, okay, they came to visit Michele, Brett and the kids, and to bring back all of Michele and Brett's Christmas presents that were too big to fit in their car, when they drove back from Ohio after the holidays. (One of these gifts is Brett's worm farm. I'm sure there's an interesting story there...)

Anyway, Merry Lou is a faithful blog reader, and she and Don braved the snowy-icy-freezing-rain-covered streets so she could come in and get her yarn fix. She came in with her own canvas bag (she read about our bag credits!) and a big list of all the things she's seen on our site that she wanted to touch in person. She's big into sock knitting - but she's starting to do some hats now. She picked up some Malabrigo Chunky to make the button band hat. She is also going to make the Cable & Rib Hat, but instead of Frog Tree and Foliage, she chose Nashua Handknits Vignette. She read Barb's entry about her Gansy class, and she bought the Gansy book. We had fun chatting about knitting, cooking, eating out (and some too salty experiences), travels, Michele's famous holiday cookies (which by the way, we're SURE she's making for us... after all it IS Valentine's Day!) With all the talk about food, I wonder why Merry Lou did not tell me that Waldo, OH is the home of the WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS BOLOGNA!
After all, she's knows how much we enjoy eating! Might just have to plan a reciprocal visit to get some of that fried bologna.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Road trip hat

With a road trip planned with a friend last weekend (she was driving), I needed to find a knitting project that woud keep my hands busy, without requiring too much thought. Jill had recently swatched the Manos Silk Blend yarn, and had two partial balls left. The Silk Cap in the new Primera Book had caught my eye. I probably would have selected two semi-solid colors, but we had a semi-solid and a multi color already open, so I figured, why not give it a try, to see what it would look like?

The yarn was a pure dream to knit with and the color design still showed, it was just a little more subtle than the one pictured with two solids. The hat looked better after a very soft blocking.

Now I'm on the lookout for a pattern to knit something for myself with this yarn. Maybe a vest for spring?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Trip knitting completed

Today I'm wearing my Blue Sky Worsted Pleated Vest.
Way back in November, my family and I flew to Seattle, Washington to visit family. I picked this pattern for the long plane ride. It's a no-brainer, and I really liked the way it flared at the bottom. The pattern called for a double strand of a sport weight alpaca, but I decided to use Blue Sky Worsted, a yarn I had been dying to knit with.

I was a little nervous with the pattern, because it calls for a provisional cast on... yuck. I did that part before the trip, just to make sure I wouldn't have any problems. I was thrilled that the cast on was easier than I thought and the end result looked great!

When we arrived at the Burlington airport, we had a 2 hour delay. I started knitting, and was halfway up the back before we even boarded the plane (love those larger needles.) I started worrying that it was TOO quick of a project - that I wouldn't have any knitting to do on the way back!

The trip was fun, and I managed to space out the knitting so that it did last me the whole trip. I finished with all of the pieces, and just had to do the seaming and the band. But I set it aside in the pre-Christmas rush, because I needed to focus on finishing a hooked rug for my sister-in-law (I'm still working on that one!)

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to finish the vest so I could actually wear it this winter. And I love it! The Blue Sky Worsted is amazing. I like knitting on larger needles so it went really fast. I am now eyeing the Chocolate color and trying to come up with a pattern so I can knit with it again.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Even I need to keep a needle inventory

I have a wonderful needle size chart on the back of our business card. I recommend that all of our customers fill it out, so they know what needles they own. Do I have one of these cool cards in my wallet? No. And so every time I take yarn home to start a new project, I find I do not have the needle size needed. How can this be? I own a LOT of needles. I mean, I own a shop, how can I not?
Recently I've been doing a lot of swatching, and I've been using a size 5 needle. What I wanted to use was a 5/24", which I know I had at one point. Because I have a plastic package for a 5/24" in my needle bag. But it is now empty... I have a 5/16", but my left hand cramps when I knit for too long on a 16" needle. I have a 5/32", which is too long. With only 28-30 stitches, that's just too much cable. I don't own any straight needles - can't stand straights. I ended up suffering with the 16" for several swatches, and then I switched to the 32" for the rest. I guess I should go grab a 24" while it's on my mind...

This weekend I took home some Malabrigo Chunky to make a button band hat. Kalen had made hers out of Blue Sky Bulky, but I wanted to use the Glazed Carrot color of the Malabrigo Chunky (double stranded.) I had written up her pattern for some people who asked about it after she posted a picture of it on the blog. And since I wrote it up, well, I thought it would be nice to make a sample for the shop.

I got home Saturday after work and was excited to get started. Marc and the girls went to the big Father-Daughter Dance at school, so I had two hours to myself! I ran on the treadmill, showered, and then went down to wind the yarn. I was all set... I sat down in my comfy chair with the yarn & pattern, turned on my DVR and started watching last week's Lost. I grabbed my huge needle case, full of Addi Turbos, and opened the size 15 pouch... no 16". I had a 24", but that was it.
Okay, I can make do, I thought. I do own a Denise kit, for emergency situations like this. So I went to my desk, grabbed the Denise kit... and look what I found?
Those empty spaces? They should be filled with the size 15 tips. I started to panic. When was the last time I used size 15's? It was a LONG time ago, I know that. I spent about 15 minutes going through my desk, my 3'x3' coffee table (full of yarn), my Lexi Barnes Lady B bag, my BagSmith bag, and my front closet. No size 15/16" Addi Turbos, and no size 15 Denise tips.

My blood pressure was climbing at this point. Sure, I had other projects, but I was COUNTING on starting this hat, and I really didn't feel like knitting anything else. And the clock was tick-ticking, and my precious "alone" time was going to be over soon!

I made a last ditch attempt to find some sort of size 15 needles. I STRONGLY dislike double pointed needles (I prefer working on 2 circulars.) I own a selection of DP needles, but I really don't like using them. I will use them if, and ONLY if, I have absolutely NO OTHER OPTION. Well, I had no other option. So I opened up my double pointed needle case, and the largest size I had was
size 13.

I sat and stewed for a few more minutes, and realized that if I wanted to get any satisfaction from knitting this hat, I'd have to use size 13 Addis - which I did have, amazingly... and 2 sets, so I could work on 2 circulars!
and rewrite the whole darn pattern. So, I did.
That's a lot of chicken sratch, isn't it? I had to work the decreases about 3 times to get it to fit right, but it's done and I love it. And I think I like it better at this slightly snugger gauge!
Moral(s) of the story...
  • Keep a list of what needles you own, to avoid major headaches and possible heartbreaks.
  • If you find you need a certain needle size, buy it right away, before you forget.
  • Put your needles back when you are finished with them.
  • Don't be scared to re-work a pattern. You may just end up with a fantastic result!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Seeing Red (yarns) on a Snowy Saturday

We're definitely in the white here. The snow has gotten heavier this afternoon and tomorrow could be another nice dump day. We had a great beginners knitting class here at the shop with 5 enthusiastic people this morning. One woman picked it up so quickly that her first project is going to be a sweater! Good for her!

We've had a huge response to our Valentine's email, that went out yesterday afternoon. I've been in shipping for most of the day, and I was even able to get a good number of packages out first thing this morning, as I got in early, and whizzed through anything that was going Priority Mail. By the time Elwyn (our mail carrier) stopped in to pick up the packages from yesterday, I'd added about 15 more to the pile.

I had so many emails asking what yarns I used in the email I sent out yesterday. I really didn't give much thought to it... I just went down into the shop, grabbed some yarns that were different, interesting, and in shades of reds. Anyway, they all looked great, and I guess many of you out there agreed, since this morning after I responded to people, we've had a rush on those yarns. So here they are, to save time...

1. Manos Cotton Stria - color RED
2. Colinette Jitterbug - color TAPIS
3. Berroco Seduce - color CINNABAR LAQUER
4. Schaefer Anne - color BRIGHTS (these skeins are ONE-OF-A-KIND, this colorway has already sold. But be creative! Pick something else, or ask us and we'll do it for you!)
5. Rowan Damask - color ZIRCONE
6. Frog Tree Alpaca - color 24
7. Berroco Jasper - color ROJO CORALITA
8. Tilli Tomas Flurries - color RASPBERRY

Several of our customers are planning to make mixed fiber shawls. These yarns are pretty much fingering, sport and worsted weight yarns. But there are no rules with mixed fiber shawls so it doesn't matter that they aren't all the same weight.

Enjoy the snow tomorrow, if you are getting it. See you next week!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tahki Cotton Classic

Just in... over 30 colors of Tahki Cotton Classic! I've been wanting to add this for a while, and well, I finally did! Gorgeous colors, so soft to knit and to wear. Works well at 5 & 5.5 stitches to the inch.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I'll take a skein of each, please

I thought Barb's post yesterday on the Sierra yarn was interesting. I think it's really important for knitters to understand that buying a skein of yarn, just to swatch, is a critical part of the whole knitting process. Just because you see a new yarn on the shelves, and you think it feels good when you fondle it, and you like how our swatch or sample looks, doesn't always mean you will like it when you work with it yourself. I know how hard it is to leave the shop with just one skein. Especially when you really want to start a project. It can be really difficult to get excited about swatching. Believe me, I know.

This past weekend, I was off on Saturday... which meant, I had two days off in a row. And with the rain/ice/freezing rain we had on Friday, I knew I was not heading up to Stowe to do any skiing. When I have two days off in a row, I usually pick a new project to take home with me. But this time I showed some restraint. I decided that I HAD to finish my Babyboo "I Love You Baby" sweater (which I did!)...

...and then I would do some mindless swatching of our Tilli Tomas yarns. We sell a TON of Tilli Tomas. And we do have several samples knit up. But we sell ALL of the Tilli yarns, and we don't actually stock all of them in the shop. Tracy had just sent me some Plie, which is comparable in weight to the Pure & Simple, but it's plied, which means less pilling. Just holding the skein, I wasn't convinced that I liked it as much. So I swatched.

I am now convinced. It's gorgeous! I went on to the Beaded Plie, the Pure & Simple, the Disco Lights, the Rockstar and finally the Flurries. I learned a lot about each of these yarns in the process, and now we have them all here for you to see and touch.

Suzie came in the other day to look at all of our new spring yarns. She is trying to select a new spring project, and she couldn't decide which yarn she wanted to use. She's always excited when we get new spring yarns... because she doesn't like wools! She ended up buying 4 skeins: a Love It Colors, a Cotton Rich DK, a Purelife Organic Cotton, and a Natural Silk Aran. If any of you know Suzie, you know she is a swatcher. She doesn't always end up using all of the yarns she buys in sweaters, but she certainly gets to know each yarn VERY well while swatching. She emailed me and told me how much fun she had knitting during our mini ice storm on Friday. She said knitting with the Love It Colors was speedy - the color change kept her interest, and before she knew it, she had knit the entire ball!

She also really enjoyed the Cascade Cotton Rich DK - she said she only had one split stitch... and that's because she looked up for a moment and was startled to see a deer looking right back at her through her window. "Up close and personal with mother nature I guess. I love the little bit of color variation (the different way cotton vs nylon takes the dyes maybe?) The swatch turned out incredibly soft and drapey! So, now I'm thinking summer sweater out of that..."

Swatch #3 was the Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton. She had to drop down to a 4 (she knits a tad loose!) but she got really even stitches in both stockinette and seed stitch. She said, "It is so soft to knit with that I have a hard time remembering that it is indeed 100% cotton. Also, it doesn't fuzz and absolutely hasn't split on me -- even when the 6 large wild turkeys went wandering through the woods behind my house! (Like I'm running a wildlife show here or what?)"

Her final swatch was the Rowan Natural Silk Aran. She fell in love with this yarn a few years ago, when she made the sleeveless funnel neck striped top from Sally Melville's Color Experience book 3. She picked up a ball of the light pink the other day, and is thinking about making another one of those tops. "a repeat as that was a really great top - just dressy enough if it had to be, but still comfy and cool! So, here's my conundrum... which yarn to use for a spring/summer/fall stitch work sweater? Nice problem to have! Thank you for adding those awesome cotton and cotton blend yarns!"

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

One reason why I love my job...

is because I get to play with this stuff! Look, Christmas in February! Today three big boxes arrived. Look what was inside! "What is it?" you ask? Check it out here... and here...

So we worked hard. It's online, and almost all wound and stored in the attic. It'll be on the shelves tomorrow morning, because we had to move things around, yet again, to make room in the shop. But that didn't stop it from selling... since we had it all wound up in baskets down by the counter.

GREAT pattern booklet for this yarn, too.