Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Washing yarn

Have you ever had to wash your yarn? Yes, I did say "yarn." Not "finished project."

Before I share the details, we already know that you should never put anything but knitting and knitting supplies in your knitting bag. We’ve all done it sometime or another - carried around something that should never have been in the bag with the knitting. However the next time you are tempted to downsize to one bag for all your travel-about needs, please think about this:

Last Friday I came upstairs from the shop and discovered there was something leaking from my knitting bag. I didn't think there was anything leakable in the bag. I carefully pulled out each item in the bag. First my almost finished entrelac hat, which was fine and free of any liquid substances.

Then another project - the soon to be revealed Noro Silk Garden Sock project, again free of any liquid substances. I was starting to feel less panicked at this point.

The next thing I reached for was sticky. It was the remainder of the ball of Noro Silk Garden from my entrelac hat. And it was more than just sticky, it was saturated. By this point I realized that the maple syrup I brought to work for my coffee had taken it upon itself to explore my knitting bag on the drive in to the shop. Even though I’d removed it immediately when I got to the shop, that short trip from Burlington to Essex Junction was enough time for it to have a wild party in my little bag. BUMMER!

I had used two balls of the Noro Silk Garden yarn in my entrelac hat (it really only takes one!)because I wanted to choose the colors that appeared in my hat. The second ball was still in my bag and there was quite a lot of it left. It was so sticky, it looked like a lost cause. Throw it away? No! Never! I cannot waste yarn! (Some of you may know this feeling.) I had to do something to save it!

So I ran the water in the sink and got ready to do a little yarn washing. :) This was pretty easy for a silk-wool blend, but did I mention that there were also two balls of fluffy, gorgeous, unused, Adriafil Carezza angora that had also been sitting in the syrup puddle in my knitting bag?

I could have thrown them out. That is probably what a sane knitter would do, but I just couldn’t do it. I hadn’t even taken the ball bands off these. So wash it I did, very gently in warm water, without agitating it because I didn’t want it to felt. Poor angora yarn, it looked like a little wad of wet rabbit hair, nothing like yarn at all! I put it in a plastic bag to go home, and when I got there I used my umbrella swift to unwind the angora very carefully into a loose skein so it could dry. It worked! The yarn is back to a fluffy wonderful ball waiting to be knit into a hat. But what a lot to go through!

Repeat after me, "I will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, put anything to endanger my knitting into my knitting bag!"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Seeing Stripes

So you know we now have Noro. And I've been knitting with the Silk Garden and the Kureyon and the Kochoran. Barb made something with the Cashmere Island - which I am going to swatch tomorrow (it's so soft!) Shawn is cooking something up with the Silk Garden Sock (not a sock!) and I'm trying to pick a project out for the Iro. And a project went out to Karen in NJ... a sweater in the Kureyon. So lots of Noro knitting going on here.

My intital thoughts on Noro? I really like it. I love the color transitions. You just can't get that in any other yarn. I knit an easy bag out of 2 colors of the Kureyon: and just felted it this weekend. I wouldn't say it's the softest wool out there, but it really didn't bother me as much as I thought it might. And for all those people who swear Noro is loaded with knots... in four balls I had none. (I don't freak out at knots the way some people do. It's a knot... I untie it, and knit on. Just my feeling, folks.)

The Kochoran was lovely to knit with. Very soft and quick to knit and that angora is so gorgeous! I would love this in a sweater because the angora is there, but not so in your face. After the Kochoran is felted, the angora is WAY more in your face, but in a good way. Look how gorgeous and fuzzy these mittens are!

The Silk Garden is my favorite of the bunch. I thought I'd finish the little sweater I'm making this weekend. After all, it was so cold outside that I did manage to stay inside for the whole day (except for a super quick trip to the grocery store!) I finished knitting the sleeves, and then got ready for seaming. Did I mention I love seaming? When you know how to do it right, it's almost as enjoyable as the knitting. I swear!
The bummer about this sweater is that it called for 200gm of Silk Garden. That's 4 balls. When I finished the back, I had an inkling that I would need a 5th ball. And I was horrified today, to find that not only did I go into the 5th ball, but I need a 6th, just for the last 4 rows and bind off of the neck ribbing.
I'm too tired tonight to check my row gauge (my stitch gauge is right on) and really, what can I do? If I need another ball, I need another ball. It is what it is. I'm also going to research online - are there erratas out for this pattern in terms of yardage required? Possibly. And another thought. These little felines could be the culprits of the yarn shortage... at least for a part of that 5th ball. I really think I had another small bit of it in my bag, and left unattended around yarn, both of these cats, well, they have a really bad track record.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Color Therapy

I think that I’m ready for some sun. The winter blues are getting to me. So I’m indulging in a little color therapy. I’ve been spying great color combinations all over the shop that I just can’t wait to take home.

I know this has everything to do with my current project. I can already tell that I will be making multiple Entrelac Hats since EVERYONE who sees this comments on it, and it isn’t even finished! (Yes, I always end up making more than one of everything because someone who doesn’t knit always makes a special request…more about that some other time.)

Of course it helps that I am, and always have been, a great fan of the colors available in Noro’s Silk Garden. So no surprise really that when I finally had a chance to try out Entrelac (a new technique for me) with the Fourth Grade Hat pattern from Twist Collective I pulled out some Noro Silk Garden for the cause. (My solid is Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed!)Gasp! "Entrelac? I can’t do that!" you say? Don’t worry - it really isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. It is impressive, all those squares knit in different directions, interlocking together with no seams. Try it and you might love it – I know I do!

I’ll be looking for another project using this technique sometime soon. Maybe the Interlaken Throw in Berroco Book #269 Comfort.

If any of you want to learn this technique, call quickly! You just might be able to snag the last spot in our Learn to Love Entrelac class….

The nice thing about this pattern is that it's a great way to show off almost any stunning yarn that you choose since you can use many different gauges to create the hat. (Love those multiple gauge patterns!) This of course is contributing to my problems about how to combine yarns for the next hat. Or next several hats… I can just see the super soft Loop-d-Loop Moss in Black combined with one of the amazing Twilleys of Stamford Freedom Spirit colors. Or maybe the heart stopping bright color changes of Colinette Cadenza in Jewel with one of the contrasting solids. Then there are all those different colorways of our new Noro yarns - both the Kureyon and the Silk Garden to try and don’t forget the Geode, Jasper, and maybe the River Twist

Monday, January 19, 2009

The importance of a good needle collection, and checking your gauge

And by "good" I guess I mean "extensive".

I took home a project the other night. Some Noro Silk Garden and the Jane Ellison Designer Mini Knits pattern book. I am making Design #26, which is a cute short sleeved raglan top, with a button closure at the neck. The gauge is 18 sts to 4" on a size 8 US needle, or 4.5 sts/inch. I typically go down one size for needles, so I pulled out my 7 US Addi Turbos and started swatching. After a nice 4 inch swatch my gauge measured 4.25 sts/inch. Only .25 stitches off, so no biggie, right? WRONG!

Had I gone ahead with that needle size, the back of the sweater would have been an inch too large. and the front would have been too large as well. See 82 stitches divided by 4.5 sts (the correct gauge) = 18.25 inches. But 82 stitches divided by 4.25 = 19.3 inches.

So I pulled out my size 6 Addi Turbo needles. And swatched. Typically (and this is not ALWAYS the case) your gauge should change 1/2 stitch for every needle size you go up or down. INCREASE your needle size, your number of stitches per inch should GO DOWN 1/2 st. And DECREASE your needle size, your number of stitches per inch should GO UP 1/2 st. And in this case, this happened to me. My gauge on size 6 Addis was 4.75. But do the math... 82 stitches divided by 4.75 sts (the correct gauge) = 17.3 inches, this time an inch too small.

Luckily, I own a Denise Interchangeable Knitting Needle Kit. I normally use it for emergencies - when I can't find my Addis, or when I am travelling and want all of my needles in one handy case. But yarn slides very differently over Addis than it does over the plastic Denise needles. So it stands to reason that my gauge should be different. I pulled out the Denise 7s and BINGO! 4.5 stitches to the inch.

But beware, the danger of the Denises...
I cruised throught the back of the sweater, and then finished one front. As I was getting ready to bind off the front, I happened to look at the needle in my right hand. It had a "5" stamped in it. Egads! After I had finished my ribbing on size 5 needle tips, I had only switched ONE needle tip to the size 7. So I just had knit the whole front with one 5 and one 7. Gauge? Yes, it was off. So frog, frog, frog.
It's a good thing I really like knitting with this yarn. :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Keeping warm with new yarns

So things in our area have been a bit chilly recently. This morning I awoke to -21 (F). Photo was before coffee, a bit shaky as you can see. and my windows weren't too happy!
This is the INSIDE of my windows. I spent about an hour with a hairdryer and towels getting off the worst of it. I didn't want to leave for work and have things melt all over the place!
Our house is always SO dry inside so we use a humidifer on the furnace. We neglected to turn it down this week. Oopsy.
Even though it's been quite frigid here, we have been keeping warm at the shop by unloading LOTS of new yarns. It's a time consuming process, though it is pretty fun since we can oooooh and aaaaah over each bag that comes out. On Tuesday of this week we got our Noro shipment. It was large, to say the least. We did have a few backordered colors but for the most part we are very well stocked in all of the yarns we got. And yesterday I finally got the Noro yarns out in the shop. They are a really great addition to our already large selection of yarns. I've already made a pair of felted mittens out of the Kochoran - just took one skein! Haven't felted them yet, but that's because I'm going to felt something in Kureyon, and I don't want to be wasteful of water or energy!

The pattern books are amazing. I'm really pulled to a lot of the designs. I love Design 1 in Designer Mini Knits by Jenny Watson.It's out of the Kochoran and will be a really quick knit. This book has a TON of great patterns - socks, vests, shrugs, pillows, hats, scarves, mittens, you name it! Definitely a good buy.

I also love Pure Noro by Jane Ellison. The Manhattan sweater on the cover is so pretty:It's knit with Cashmere Island which is super soft. This booklet also has several other nice patterns for Kureyon, Silk Garden and Iro.

There's also a great sweater in Collection 3, by Jenny Watson, that is calling out to me. It's a cowl neck done in Silk Garden.
We all keep looking at the books and feeling a bit stressed - too many good designs! I'm going to have to sit down with all of them and make some hard decisions...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Manos Naturals!

These came in yesterday - Manos Wool Classica Naturals. They are stunning! Same gauge as the regular Manos Wool Classica, but these have a streaky, marled look. Three undyed colors - natural white, natural black, and dark black - are blended with overdyed colors. The result is spectacular - highlightin the beauty of the natural colors of wool in its raw state.

I can't wait to knit with these!

We also got 5 new colors in the Manos Silk Blend Semi-Solids - butter, powder, zinnia, tomato, and lawn - and one new color in Manos Silk Blend Multi - caribe. Yummy!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Don't you deserve a little bling?

We're having a super special on Tilli Tomas Mogul... it's normally $28 on sale for JUST $16! That's 40% off! That's a great deal for this beautiful beaded wool. It's 80 yards of super soft wool strung with gorgeous glass beads. We have 5 luscious colors: Pinecone, Ruby Wine, Black Cherry, Iced Latte and Black.

Mogul is the same yarn as the very popular Tilli Tomas Flurries, but the beads are larger. This gives you way more BLING per square inch. I was really torn between Black, Black Cherry and Ruby Wine, but I ended up choosing the Ruby Wine. I decided to make a quick hat with a soft internal brim. For the brim I picked Bristol Yarn Gallery King George - one of the softest yarns (IMO) in the shop. I knit a little more than 2" in stockinette, did a turning purl ridge, and then changed to the Mogul.

Do you know that most eyelash-y or beaded yarns require a little work to have the full novelty effect appear on the stockinette side? That's right. The hairy stuff and the beads will always gravitate toward the purl side. So if you are doing a hat in stockinette stitch, more than half of your beads will end up on the inside. Don't worry about it. Just knit away, and at the end, flip your hat inside out and gently press each bead so that it goes through to the stockinette side. This will take some time, but it's SO worth it. This shows you my progress on bead poking.
I would be finished this hat, but dummy me... I grabbed two skeins of this yarn that did not match. You can see the difference: No worries, Tracy from Tilli Tomas is sending more Ruby Wine so I will be able to finish my bling-licious hat early next week. I can't wait to wear it!
Today we received new colors of Manos del Uruguay Wool Classica. Hopefully they will be online by tomorrow, but I can say they are SO BEAUTIFUL!!!! Unlike anything I have seen. Just you wait!
We were also supposed to receive our backorders this past Wednesday, but there was a screwup on their end, and they did not come. Nor were they in the boxes we received today. So... many frustrated phone calls later, we have been assured that the remaining yarns that we (and many of you) have been waiting months for, are in boxes that will be picked up by UPS today in Philadelphia and delivered here in Vermont on Tuesday of next week. We're very sorry. This is completely out of our hands and we're as frustrated as those of you who are waiting.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Another closeout - at rock bottom prices!

So we're getting in a number of new yarns later this week and early next week, and while we may be able to squeeze them into shelves in the shop, because we order in such large quantities, we know we're going to have issues with our back stock. We figured now was as good a time as any to blow out a few yarns so we can make some space.

First up, Plymouth Tweed. It's 50% off - that's just $3.50 a ball!!!! Can you say CHEAP? (In a good way, of course!) It really saddens me to see this yarn go. I absolutely LOVE the colors, and it is amazingly soft. It screams cozy winter sweater to me, but today, as I was counting the remaining stock, it started saying "afghan" and I think I may have to grab enough for an afghan for myself before it's all gone. There are some really nice colors!

It's in the shop for another day or so, but your best bet is to order it online. It's going to go quickly!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sign up for Winter Classes - preview some items here!

We had our winter class schedule ready in the middle of December, and we have some cool things to show you, if you still haven't taken the plunge and signed up.

Suzie finished her first mitten for the Fair Isle Mittens Knitting Class, and here it is in four great colors of Frog Tree Alpaca. This mitten is great - everyone here in the shop loves it! It is so cute and fits so well. I just love the Frog Tree Alpaca - so soft, warm and wonderful to knit with. Reasonably priced, and an amazing color section. What's not to love? Anyway, this class - as of today - has just a couple more spaces available.

And Barb finished her hat for the Learn to Love Entrelac Hat class. Again, what's not to love with this hat? She chose the Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran yarn, which is just heavenly to knit with, and when I put this hat on my head this morning, I immediately put this on my "to knit" list. It's awesome!! Now this class has only ONE SPOT left as of today, and I'm sure that will be filled quickly.

Also - for those of you who are already signed up for this class but who have not yet purchased your yarns... we will have several wonderful New yarns in stOck befoRe this class starts that are perfect fOr this hat, in terms of offering a really cool color transition.... (if you're smart - I left you some clues.)

Barb also finished her scarf for the Tunisian Crochet Scarf class on Feb 17th. It's simply stunning! The pattern is easy, yet beautiful. Tunisian crochet is my favorite kind of crochet - it's more like knitting, actually. Barb chose the Manos Silk Blend Multi in color 3113: Wildflowers. It is so pretty. A gorgeous pattern for a gorgeous yarn. This will be a fun class for sure, and once you learn the technique, you'll be finished in no time.

And for any of you who know someone who wants to learn to knit, we do still have a spot or two open in our January 24th Learn to Knit class from 9am-12noon.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Assistant Knitting Instructors

Today I'm training Helen and Sophie to be Assistant Knitting Instructors. Suzie and I just wrapped up session 1 of the "Learn to Knit for 3rd & 4th graders " in Williston, run through the rec department, and sponsored by the shop. We have a second session coming up - it starts in January. This time we've added 5th graders, and we're going to focus more on small projects... so the kids can learn different skills, and get lots of practice with each skill. My girls are learning to knit with eyelash yarn today, so they can be helpful to kids in the class when we teach that skill. (Helen doesn't look too happy here... it got better after a few rows!)
So I'm knitting up a few small projects so that we can have examples to get the kids excited. First project will be a fun bookmark. A small one, that can be completed relatively quickly. They will learn knitting, adding in a fun yarn at the top for several rows, binding off, weaving in ends, and putting on a few pieces of fringe.
Second project is going to be learning to cast on (knitting on). We've found that kids do better by learning to knit first... then taking what they know about the knit stitch, and applying it to the cast on. It's not my favorite cast on, but some 8, 9 and 10 year olds have limited dexterity, and loads of frustration... so this is what we'll do. Once they've got the cast on down, they'll make "fuzzy wuzzies" (thanks to Helen and Sophie for the name!) which are sort of little creatures, the size of a mouse. They'll cast on the stitches, and then work in garter stitch using Plymouth Encore and Plume (eyelash). It's not that easy to use 2 strands of yarn when you are first learning, but kids LOVE to mix differet yarns together, and BOY DO THEY LOVE EYELASH!!! They'll drop those two yarns and use just a solid for the face, and learn decreasing. Then they'll fold it in half, learn seaming, stuffing, sewing on some beads for the eyes, and they'll finger knit a chain for the tail. I will post a shot once the girls have completed theirs... they are test knitting them for the class today.

Of course I'm not sure how long either of these projects will take the kids to complete. Some kids don't do any knitting outside of class - so those kids will not learn as many techniques. Others, who love to knit at home, will have a lot of skills at the end. They may even move on to a cell phone bag. And we can always do a doll hat - teaching them stockinette and working on the seaming again.

In the last class, they were just working on scarves, and a couple of the kids wanted to start a new project each time. Don't we all have a million things in our unfinished bin? For this next session, we're going to stress "start something, finish something." Otherwise, they leave with nothing really done.

Hope you all had a wonderful New Year's! We braved the FRIGID temps and wind chills here and went into Burlington last night for a very early dinner. We caught a bit of the Church Street parade - very cute:
and then hit the newly remodelled Ben & Jerry's for desert.I was going to be good and not have an ice cream... but that never works. So we all indulged in cold ice cream on the coldest day of 2008. On the way to our car, we passed a newswoman for one of the local stations, getting ready to film a segment. She was being blown to bits by the wind and snow - several gusts almost pushed her over.
We headed to our car, which was luckily parked in THE BEST spot on the top of the parking garage. So we were able to sit in our car and watch the early fireworks show out over the waterfront. It was hard to photograph with the basic camera I had, but I had some fun with Photoshop, and put about 7 different shots together, to bring you an idea of what it WOULD have looked like, had they all been going off simultaneously. Wouldn't that have been something to see?