Sunday, May 31, 2009

Swatching away

New Berroco fall 2009 yarns arrived late last week and so one by one, I've been swatching!

I've only swatched the Vintage Wool and Blackstone Tweed so far - last night my eyes were closed by 9pm so there wasn't any knitting for me! After hyperventilating with excitement about the Vintage Wool last week, I have to say my breathing is still a bit uneven! I swatched it, and it DID NOT disappoint! It is gorgeous in stockinette stitch and shows stitch detail beautifully. So smooth going through the fingers, and the finished swatches are lovely.

I'm not a fan of acrylic at all, but there are some yarns that have a lot of acrylic in them, that have a "good" acrylic feel. Like Plymouth Dreambaby DK, and all of the Berroco Comfort yarns, from Sock to Baby to DK to Worsted to Chunky. These yarns are wonderfully soft and washable, and so is Vintage Wool. Super soft, easy care, quality product. You'll see!

The Blackstone Tweed was also a treat to knit with! I knew I'd love this yarn, and I was right. It's a blend of wool, superkid mohair and angora rabbit hair. I'm not fond of mohair, but superkid doesn't bother me at all. I've always loved yarns like Kid Silk Haze, Douceur et Soie and Kid Seta (these are on sale BTW!) and so I knew this "ingredient" in Blackstone Tweed wouldn't be a problem at all! And the pattern booklet for this yarn is really great! There are quite a few sweaters in it (Nuss, Nonpareil & Napolean!) that I'm going to want this fall.
Speaking of patterns, the Berroco books are due in 2-3 weeks, and they are all online for you to see! We've started taking pre-orders, and we'll be shipping them out the day they arrive.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Yarn lusting, and some overuse of the word SO (we can't help it!)

Sometimes when a new yarn comes out, we literally LUST after it. We pet the skeins, fondle them, caress them, squeeze them... okay, folks, it's not x-rated, it's just yarn we're talking about! But there are some yarns that are born winners. And one of them arrived today.

Brand new for fall 2009 is Berroco Vintage Wool: Vintage Wool is a blend of acrylic, wool and nylon in a worsted gauge. Check out the awesome colors here, and just know that when you actually feel a skein of this yarn, well, I can't be responsible for what you'll do!

This yarn will be giving both Cascade 220 and Plymouth Encore some stiff competition. HOW, you ask, is that possible, since Cascade 220 and Plymouth Encore don't even complete with each other? I'll explain...
  • If you glance at the shelf, this yarn looks just like Cascade 220. It's got beautiful solids and lovely heathers, and it comes in a hank. The yardage (217) is comparable to the 220.

  • And if you look at the specifics of the yarn, it compares to Encore. First off, it's machine washable. And it's reasonably priced at only $6 compared to $5.50 for Encore. If you do the math, the Vintage Wool and the Encore both come out to 2.76 cents per yard.
So for all those Encore knitters, here's a yarn that is the same price as Encore, but much softer and without that acrylic feel. The color palette is different, so you can experiment with gorgeous rich shades that you haven't seen in the Encore line. (The heathers are simply stunning!) If you have issues with wool, Vintage Wool only has 40% wool, so you'll most likely not have any issues with it.

And for all you Cascade knitters, here's a yarn that looks and knits like Cascade 220. But it's much softer, and it's machine washable, so you can make items for kids that LOOK handwashable, and not worry that they'll be accidentally felted by those folks who don't know better. And at 2.76 cents per yarn, it's less than the 3.16 cents per yard you'll pay for the Cascade.

We love the Plymouth Encore and the Cascade 220, but Vintage Wool is unique in that it competes with different yarns in different ways. It is SO soft, the colors are SO beautiful, the price is SO reasonable and there are SO many yards... SO what does all this mean? Well, let's just say it's a KEEPER. In a big way!

Berroco fall patterns are coming in June! Hopefully by the third week in June we will have all the new books. They are SO awesome! ...Sorry! :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Are you rested and ready for summer?

I hope you all had a nice long weekend! I enjoyed - and needed! - the three days off, and I guess summer is here, though our weather this week doesn't seem to agree.
I started my weekend with a surprise visitor on Saturday morning! I looked out the window and had a little friend staring in at me. We often have deer in our backyard, but this one was about 6 feet off the front of the house. We had a bit of a staredown through the window, until the deer got bored or hungry and wandered back into the woods.
I didn't work at the shop on Saturday, but I did come in with the girls and Marc to see the Essex Junction Memorial Day Parade. It's always a long one (pushing two hours!) and with the road closed for several hours, the shop is never too busy on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend! Once Emily and Shawn finished restocking and pulling orders, they came out on the front step to enjoy the parade. They seamed some charity afghan squares while they watched. I was in the shop waiting for the parade to start and just as it started, Helen came in to get me so I wouldn't miss the "disabled veterinarians" who were coming up the street. (We were a ways away from the announcers, so she didn't hear it properly!) It's always fun to see the unexpected in parades, like old cars that seem to have lost their get up and go. Luckily people watching jumped up and started pushing this one, so this guy made it up the hill with a bit of help.
One of my favorite groups was the bagpipers. What a beautiful sound they made!
And of course the Green Mountain Derby Dames were a highlight this year. They are Vermont's first and only all-female flat track roller derby league. They've been popping up all over recently - getting the word out about their team. Cool!Sunday was the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, and while we didn't enter as a shop this year for the relay team, I did agree to run a leg on my friend's team several months ago. Then, I was so busy with the launch of the new website, that I didn't get to train as much as I should have. I only had to run 5.6 miles, but when you haven't been running at all, 5.6 miles can seem daunting - and it did! I was extremely nervous all weekend, but I managed to surprise myself and came in well ahead of my ETA. It was really fun, and I felt that nice kind of "sore" afterwards (and still today!) but it did POUR the entire time I was running, and I definitely could have done without that.

Marc and the girls were going to watch me finish my leg, but didn't make it in time. Between me finishing faster than expected, and Marc trying to find parking in the North End, they were still 6 blocks away when I finished and called them. I was glad that Marc thought to bring an old Gortex parka with him, because by that time I was drenched and freezing!
I started a new swatch last night! Yarn is Pure Pima and it's a stitch pattern from one of the Barbara Walker books. Oh how I love this cable pattern! I stayed up way too late last night knitting it, because it was so much fun. I'm going to have to design something around it now...
Time for a new website feature: let's talk about patterns! Our free pattern section will be expanding this summer, but the biggest thing to notice is that all free patterns have now been formatted so they look a heck of a lot nicer on the page! And if you'd like to print out a free pattern, just click the Printer Friendly icon and a Word file will open up for you to print.
Customers have been asking for months, "Can we buy PDF patterns?" and we're happy to announce that starting now, we do have some PDF patterns available for purchase. For those of you who don't know, PDF stands for Portable Document Format. It's a file format that captures all the elements of a printed document in an electronic image. When you purchase a PDF pattern on our website, once you submit your order, you will be able to download the pattern almost immediately. People like PDFs because they are fast, paperless, and usually less expensive than paper patterns. All copyright laws do apply to PDF patterns, so please bear that in mind!
At this moment, we have our own patterns and two Dream in Color patterns available as PDFs. BUT we are expanding the offering, so stay tuned! Not many of our vendors sell their patterns in PDF format, so we are identifying those who do. And we're hoping that the vendors who do not offer this format will reconsider, as it's a green thing to do!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The perfect cotton, and new feature of the day - Product Reviews!

Are all of you subscribed to KnitBits? If not, you go here to sign up! It's Berroco's weekly e-newsletter that has great information as well as free patterns! Yesterday's issue took a closer look at Pure Pima, their dk weight cotton. It talked about the unique construction of Pure Pima - how it contains both mercerized and unmercerized cotton strands, resulting in the best of both worlds: nice luster, reduced pilling, soft feel and matte appearance. The colors of Pure Pima are all breathtaking, and they work beautifully together, as you can see in the KnitBits issue.

All of us here at the shop agree that Pure Pima is a winner! I just finished a baby sweater with it, and our kyarns team has joined forces in another top secret Pure Pima project. We can't show you for another 4 weeks or so, but I can tell you it involves 10 different colors of this beautiful yarn, and the end result is going to be simply beautiful, in more ways than one! So stay tuned...
If you're eager to try the yarn, but not sure what to knit, here are some great ideas, all from Norah Gaughan Volume #4. The Flower Child Sweater has been SO popular this season. It is easy to see why:The Woodstock sweater is tunic length and flatters many figures:
And the Love Camisole, though quite simple - has decorative shaping stitches at the neckline:And now, the "new website" feature of the day: PRODUCT REVIEWS!

Each product on our new website has product reviews enabled. Of course the site is brand new, so we need your help reviewing the products you have used - then your comments will be available for everybody to see.

Simply browse to a product you have used, and click on "Review this product" under the "add to cart" button. Fill out some basic information, rate the product on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the highest) and then submit your review. And your review will show up as soon as it has been approved!
Once a product has reviews, you can easily read them! You will see a star rating, and you can click on "Read review(s)" to see what others have to say about the product!
Now get out there are start reviewing!

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Website Features... here we go!

So I won't overwhelm you with ALL of the new website features in one post. Rather, I'll highlight 2-3 at a time, so you can get used to them at a good pace.
Biggest change: SHIPPING RATES!
  • Our new shipping rates are SWEEEEEET! All US Orders over $75 are FREE, and under $75 - just $4.95.
  • Because $4.95 is so low (and postage rates did just go UP btw) we will decide how to ship your package. It may come 1st class, Priority Mail, UPS ground or Parcel Post.
  • If you want your package to come faster, you can choose a UPS expedited option. You will pay based on the rate of your order. We have a handy shipping calculator right in the cart that gives you an immediate shipping quote!

  • Locals - you can specify PICKUP as a shipping method! Finally!
  • International folks - NO MORE SURCHARGES! Your shipping is calculated by weight directly in the shopping cart so you'll know exactly what the charges are.
And now you can become a member of our site!
As a member, you can:
  • Set up multiple ship-to addresses
  • Set up reminders for special events, like your knitting friends' birthdays, upcoming knitting classes, etc.
  • View all the details of all of your past orders (of course this is new, so it's as of 5/19/09!)
  • Quickly reorder products you've purchased before from us
  • Create a wishlist and send it to all of your friends!
  • As a member, you will receive special promotional codes that non-members will NOT receive. These codes will be ONLY for you, they will not work for anyone who is not a member.

Check out your recently viewed products!
The last feature I will mention today (so many more to come!) is a cool little something in the left nav bar. If you scroll down you can see the last 5 products you were viewing. So it's pretty easy to go back and find things you may have skimmed over!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

1-2-3, Completed!

I am feeling a sense of accomplishment in several ways today. Isn't that how you should feel when something you've been working on has been completed? And I have several completions to mention...
First up, the adorable Jessica sweater in Berroco Pure Pima that I started in Florida on my spring vacation. I finished it last night and then sewed on the buttons this morning. This would be a sweet little gift for any little baby girl. The pattern is in the Nashua Handknits Sprout booklet.Excuse the strange colorations in the picture, I didn't need to block the entire sweater, so only certain parts are wet. By tomorrow it will be dry and in the shop.

Earlier this week, we added two new shop samples to the mix, featuring Berroco yarns. Barb knit the Amherst Sweater out of Berroco Cuzco in the color: Ginseng. This is a super popular pattern from Dolce Handknits. It's easy and quick, and customers have been raving about this pattern. Now they can see it knit up!

And Karen finished up the Nimbus Sweater, in Berroco Peruvia Quick. This is an ADORABLE little cropped sweater with a fun shawl neck. I love the color we chose - Bing Cherry - and folks, it's a FREE PATTERN on the Berroco website! It was featured in their KnitBits newsletter a while back, and it's SO good that we couldn't pass it up. Check out our sweater, and link directly to the free pattern from our site.

And finally, the best completion of ALL. If you've noticed that I've been a little quiet in the past few months, well, here's the reason. Three months ago we started the process of migrating our website to a new provider. This was a HUGE undertaking, and was the number one priority for me - day in and day out. My days were full of maxxing out spreadsheets, editing and resizing images, re-classifying data, creating skus, etc. Because of this switch, we had to install 3 brand new major softwares here at Kaleidoscope Yarns. With apologies to my staff (and myself!) for having to learn three new software systems, pretty much simultaneously... but hey! We all lived through it, and things are awesome!

Our new site started to launch on Tuesday of this week, and by that evening almost all of our customers in the US and abroad were seeing the new version. Check it out! You won't notice any major design changes - the folks we surveyed were actually thrilled with our design and didn't want that to change. But we do have a lot of nifty new features that I'll be posting about here and in our e-mail newsletters over the next week or so.

So, with this HUGE project now completed, I guess it's time to get back to regularly scheduled programming blog entries!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Seaming starts tonight, 5-7pm

It rained (poured!) most of Saturday, and so even though I really needed - and wanted - to be out in the garden, and out in the woods helping to build a "fort" for the girls, I was forced inside. I made some serious progress de-cluttering my house... or at least the first floor of my house. (The girls' bedrooms could just put me over the edge, so I'm not ready to go there quite yet.)

I went through every shelf and every surface in the downstairs rooms and pared down. What took me the longest was the many knitting bags full of WIPs (I think there were 12, no lie.) Some projects were so old, that I just had to let them go. American Girl Doll sweaters that were half finished, uncompleted project ideas for the kids' after school knitting program, balls of yarn in every color and texture and weight, notepads full of chicken scratch (my own) that must have been important at one time. It was a mess. I am happy to say that where there was once a huge pile of knitting bags next to and behind my knitting chair, there is now only wood floor. I found a better home for everything, and at least for the moment, it is organized.

Because that didn't take me ALL day, I had some time to sit down, listen to the rain and knit. I pulled out my Pure Pima project, and made a lot of progress. The back had been done, but I finished the fronts and one sleeve, and then last night I got started on the second. When I started this sweater, the edge pattern made me a little crazy. I had a hard time with it, but I've since realized that it's actually got nothing to do with the difficulty of the pattern (it's quite easy.) I was watching a few episodes of Lost when I started this sweater and kept messing up. If you are a Lost fan, you know that watching Lost while working on something that requires concentration isn't that easy.

Tonight is our first group seaming event for the charity blankets - 5pm-7pm at the shop. Come on in!
Here's a shot of Joy - who knit 42 squares! She drove up from NH last two weekends ago to deliver them and they are beautiful. Thanks Joy, what an amazing donation!

And one of our good customers and friends, Kali, came in last week, took ALL of the squares to her house, and spent a huge amount of time arranging them into 5 blankets - 3 twins and 2 doubles. Now she didn't seam them (that's for all of us to do!) but she arranged them by color - so now we have GRIDS so we know where everything goes. Not only did she map things out on graph paper, but she labeled each and every square, so we have NO EXCUSES for getting confused. What a huge time committment this was, and we are all so appreciative Kali!

In the meantime, more squares have arrived! I think we have another 15-20, and i know more are going to be delivered in June. No worries! We can just make another one, right?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Did you know we hired a hedgehog? It's okay, she's crafty!

I just wanted to showcase some talent here... Emily is the newest addition to the Kyarns Team. She has been working here at Kaleidoscope Yarns for several months on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. She does an incredible job of balancing work with married life, loads of school work, her own business and her alter ego - the Crafty Hedgehog! (Check out her etsy shop here!)

Emily brought in a box of creatures today to show us (up close and in person) a portion of her knitted goodies. She's participating in the Queen City Craft Bazaar in Burlington this Saturday, May 9th at Union Station from 10am-5pm. I couldn't - for the life of me - pick a favorite, although I do want to share some of them! There's just something so endearing about these creatures... some of them with just eyes, and BIG eyes at that. This is the White Bellied Bunny. Her version uses Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend and Berroco Plush for the tail. And this barn owl, aptly named "Yarn Owl" is great! Made out of one of my new favorites: Manos del Uruguay Wool Classica Natural yarn. And check out this little guy - the Happy Frog Prince Hybrid - made with the yummy Tilli Tomas Milan! And the Rainy Day Bird, who we've heard is going to someday get a pair of galoshes and an umbrella - all hand knit, of course! (Those legs have NO wire in them folks, they are just stuffed expertly!) Rainy Day Bird was hatched from Manos Silk Blend and Colinette Jitterbug. And here is Cat Ball. I love this little guy! I had no idea that he was made with Tilli Tomas Pure & Simple in the Tuxedo colorway. He's very soft, like a kitty should be! Prrrrrr. Prrrrrr.
And finally, the dissections! You may think these are a little wild, but these are a hot item in Emily's Etsy shop! Wouldn't this be a great gift for your kid's science teacher? It's that time of year...
If anyone's in need of a little giftie, head on over to her table at the craft show. Or if you want to try your own hand (& needles) at some of these cool projects, Emily sells her patterns! They're available on Ravelry (look up CraftyHedgehog and check out her patterns!) or on her Etsy shop.
Swing on by the craft show on Saturday to see these in person, it's a DON'T MISS!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Vintage Baby Knits book signing and trunk show

Don't forget! This Saturday, Kristen Rengren will be at the shop from 12:30-2pm, signing copies of her new book Vintage Baby Knits! She's bringing a trunk show of garments from the book, so you can all ooh and aah over these precious little goodies in person.
The book is incredible. It has more than 40 heirloom patterns from the 1920's to 1950's. They are all gorgeous, but I have a few favorites! I love the Billie Beret - which is knit in Baby Ull. It would be fun to knit a beret for a baby, as opposed to a regular hat... it looks so cute on this little one!
Many of our customers have been knitting wool soakers for their babies. Using cloth diapers with hand-knitted wool soakers is an environmentally friendly solution to diapering! Kristen's book has some really cute patterns for soakers - in fact Shawn in going to make the Milo Soaker out of Malabrigo Worsted. Some people ask why you'd use Malabrigo for a soaker, because it's expensive... Our answer? It's not really that expensive! It's only $12 and it is SO soft. If you don't want to use Malabrigo, use Cascade 220, or better yet, Cascade ECO Wool... 100% wool in all natural colors, with no dyes and no chemicals. You'll have enough for a set of soakers!
Another one of my favorite patterns from the book is the Stella Pixie Hat. It's so sweet! I am going to start this tonight - I chose a skein of Dream in Color Smooshy in Blue Lagoon. That yarn has been screaming out to me for months now, but I just knew it wasn't saying "socks!" or "lace shawl!" Now I know, it was saying... "STELLA!" (It didn't sound anything like Marlon Brando, either!)
And I love the Cleo Kitty Slippers. Wish this pattern would have been around - oh - 10 years ago! Then Helen and Sophie would have each had a pair.
Hope to see you there... I mean here!?

Friday, May 01, 2009

We have some AMAZING customers (but we already knew that!)

When I left for vacation we had about 40 blanket squares that had been brought in to the shop. Apparently, they have been POURING in since then. We extended the deadline to the end of April (yesterday) but people have still been calling and asking when the ABSOLUTE deadline in. The answer is... by mid May.

That's when we are going to schedule our seaming dates, so we really need squares to be in by then. We will most likely have to see if we can use the space in the Brownell Library, since our classroom just isn't going to be big enough. A lot of people want to help with the seaming, and we will be offering several dates & times so everyone who wants to help, can help.

Today we had a group of women from UVM come to deliver their squares. These women work in several different departments at UVM, and get together to knit in smaller groups at lunchtime, and on Wednesdays they meet in a larger group. They brought us 35 gorgeous blanket squares that were knitted by different members of their UVM knitting group. So a big thanks goes out to EVERYONE from the UVM knitting group! They all did a great job, and we were so appreciative!

When I took their lovely squares upstairs to add them in with the rest, I noticed that the 40 squares we'd HAD, had blossomed into more than 100 and when I added the UVM squares, we now have over 150 squares!

Folks, this is simply amazing! We are SO thrilled to have this many squares. It takes 42 squares to make a twin sized blanket, so that means we have enough for 3.5 blankets right now! We just want to let you ALL know that we are so thankful to have such generous and caring customers. You guys rock!

This is a portion of the squares:
And here's the box of the first 40:
We have emails and phone numbers and we will be contacting all of you in mid May once we've determined some times/dates for seaming. It will be fun to get together and meet other knitters, and all have a huge part in this project.

And we'll also be giving out some fun prizes at the end of May, too. Now that we see how MANY people have contributed time and effort to this project, I'm going to start addint to the pile of prizes. Oooooh, won't that be fun!?