Friday, October 30, 2009

A new electric ball winder

Recently one of our notions suppliers sent us an electric ball winder to test. I've been meaning to give it a try for a couple of weeks now, but never had the time. Now that I'm home with sick kids, it was the perfect opportunity.PROS
It's from Boye, seems to be well made and sturdy, and retails for just $89. It has a nice big suction cup and a great carrying handle. It was super easy to set up, and once I plugged it in and turned it on, it started to wind automatically.

I tried the different winding speeds, and found that it was very easy to adjust. And even though I switched the speed numerous times during the actual winding process, it made no difference to the tension in my finished center-pull skein.

This winder would be great if you did a lot of winding. If you really mind cranking the lever on the regular ball winders, this will certainly save wear and tear on your arms, hands and wrists.

There's a certain WHIRRRRR that I'm used to when I'm using my regular winder. It's the sound of the winder winding and the swift turning and it's actually a pleasant sound. The electric winder is a bit on the loud side... a little jarring.

Even when I had the winder working at the highest speed, the umbrella swift was still turning rather slowly. I was actually worried that the swift was going TOO slowly, and that this would cause a problem. So the motor is going quickly, but the yarn isn't being wound any faster.

I'm not sure I felt comfortable leaving the room - or even taking my eyes off it - while it was winding. Perhaps with more use I would be?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Arts & Crafts & Blocking

So it's Thursday and I've been home all week with sick child #1, then sick me, then sick child #2. Fun fun! The good news is that Sophie recovered early in the week and has been back at school since. More good news, I was pronounced flu-strep-pneumonia-H1N1 FREE on Tuesday. I still have an awful cold, but I'll take it as good news. Then bad news, child #2 Helen got a fever yesterday morning and will miss the rest of the week.

Our couch has turned into a sick bed. This was days ago:
This is today:
The only ones excited about all of this sickness are the cats! They like having warm bodies to snuggle with in the middle of the day.

I tried to cheer Helen up today with a French manicure. Let's just say it's a good thing I didn't go into that line of work. Fortunately she's quite happy with it, so that's all that matters.
After playing "nail salon", I was feeling so crafty that I decided to block my Lace Beret (from Vogue Knitting Magazine Holiday Issue). I finished it last night and I love it! However it does need light blocking at the top. It's hard to block hats, and berets can be more difficult. So I got out some supplies: a piece of cardboard, a pair of scissors, a Sharpie, a plastic bag (thanks to all my trips to the drugstore this week, I have plenty of those!) and a washcloth. I drew a circle on the cardboard just slightly bigger than the hat. I cut it out and covered the cardboard with the plastic bag. Then I gently slipped the hat onto this handmade blocking aid.
I saturated the washcloth with lukewarm water and laid it on top of the beret. I used both hands to press down for several minutes and removed it. By tomorrow, it will be dry.
Now I'm off to figure out our new electric ball winder!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New projects galore

We've been cooking up some new projects recently... some are still in the thinking stage, some are in the works, and some are completed. It's crunch time folks. The time of year that customers come in and count on us to give them quick and easy ideas for their gift knitting.

So we're busy coming up with new ideas and recycling some old ideas (
with new yarns!) so that we have an arsenal of suggestions for you. I have seen some really cute modular scarves recently. If you haven't tried this type of knitting, I have to say - it's easy and fun. It's like breaking a project down into lots of little steps. Okay, I'll be honest, there may be more ends to weave in at the end, but we think it's worth it. Manos Silk Blend is one of my all time favorite yarns. It is amazingly soft and the colors are lovely. I was rearranging the shelves the other day, and noticed how well some of the colors worked together. I grabbed a variegated shade and two solids and knit up this funky modular scarf. I'm working on deciphering my chicken scratch now so the pattern will be available shortly. It was easy, fun and took no time at all. There are some really great color combinations - come on in and let us help you choose one!

The Super Bulky Button Hat has been our most popular hat for two years now. It is quick, easy and affordable, using just 2 skeins of Malabrigo Chunky and a funky Frog Tree Ceramic button. However, Malabrigo can be hard for us to get... so Barb thought it would be fun to knit one up in one of our new super bulky yarns... Berroco Sundae. You still need two skeins of the Sundae, but you'll save 6 bucks and only have to work single stranded. Great pick, Barb!
(Doesn't our model look right at home in my backyard? I'm home with a bad cold and now a feverish child, but I sort of like the photo backdrop!?)

I'm not a fan of teeny tiny needles, but something about the Lace Beret in the Vogue Knitting Magazine Holiday Issue really called to me. The 0's and 2's didn't even deter me. I grabbed 2 skeins of Tilli Tomas Milan and some 20" Addi Turbos and cast on this past weekend. The pattern is charted, and is actually quite easy! I am very close to finishing... hopefully tonight! From baby blankets to baby sweaters, and hats to scarves, we have a lot more small projects that we're knitting up, so come on in and get inspired!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Let's accessorize!

So whether you are panicking about H1N1 or not, there's a lot of sickness going around in our area. H1N1 is the talk of the town. Conversations have been focusing on numbers... how many students are out sick each day in our town and in all the neighboring towns, how many of your kids are sick, how many days of school they are missing, how high the temperature is, how many hours have they been fever free. I'm not sure if it's a full blown panic yet, but when you have "face masks" on your shopping list, you know something's up.
Pretty much every family (with school age kids) that I know has been hit with either flu-like symptoms, strep throat or pneumonia. Sophie had a 4 day fever and whatever it was, it was definitely worse than any other fever she's ever had. I had a bad cold three weeks ago with a lingering cough (I thought from my asthma?) but honestly, I think it's now turned into pneumonia. I'm just waiting for a call back from my doctor's office now (another few numbers... how many times you call the doctor's office and get a busy signal, then once you get through, how many minutes you are on hold, and once you speak to someone, how many days before they can see you.)

So if I venture out at all, it will be to see a doctor. From what I've heard, they practically attack you in the parking lot with masks and hand sanitizer. I don't mind... but I carry my own now!
I'm not alone. In the past couple of weeks, I've seen people in masks all over town. If I feel self-conscious wearing a mask, I can just tell myself I'm practicing for Halloween. (Actually, I needed a costume, and was stressing that I didn't have one. Now I can just wear one of my medical masks!)

Knitters are so talented, that in the days and weeks to come, I fully expect to see personalized facemasks. Why can't we pull a few yards of yarn from our stash and whip up a little decorative cover (or two, or three?) for our face masks? Why walk around with a plain, common face mask when you can customize your own? I'm sure you have a bit of extra sock yarn in your stash, and we all know how slimming vertical stripes are:
If you think that's too mindless, grab a solid and throw in some cables: Practice your colorwork and make a fair isle one:
You know you have SOME novelty yarn left somewhere deep down in that stash. Make a fancy one:
I think the orange fur really brings out my eyes!? The sky's the limit. Just stay healthy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Customer projects

We're seeing a lot of finished projects these days. Check out this cute Celebration Hat! Theres used Opal Rainforest #2671 and the the Knitting at Knoon Polar Baby Cats pattern. It's adorable. I love i-cord in sock yarn.

Dennie stopped in wearing her new Foliage sweater, from Nashua Handknits volume 1, and knit in gorgeous Cascade Eco Wool. And Linda H. brought in these beautiful mittens to share! She used a Robin Hansen pattern and Plymouth Encore.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rising from the Flood

I finished a new hat a couple of weeks ago and I loved knitting it. I used Rowan Cocoon for its amazingly soft texture. I love the silvery strands of mohair in the colors. Just my thing for a new fall wardrobe addition! The hat is the Quincy pattern in Jared Flood's (brooklyntweed) new pattern booklet, Made in Brooklyn from Classic Elite. I really like brooklyntweed's designs although I haven't knit as many of them as I'd like. I picked this pattern out because of its unique construction technique to give a hat a new 'twist.' The bottom portion of this hat uses a provisional cast on. It is knit flat with an I-cord edging, and then twisted before you graft (kitchener stitch) the band together. Once you've completed that portion stitches are picked up around the top edgings of the twist to create the hat's crown. It is very comfy and looks great!
Barb made one up for the shop, and one of my friends already made off with my hat. So now I'm going to have to make another one for myself!

Best picks

I realized we hadn't posted a BEST PICKS in a while, so here it is!

Best Pick Kits:
-Judy's Colors Christmas Stocking Kits
Another great way to prepare for the holidays these kits are colorful and include all the yarn you need to create a great family keepsake for the holiday season! These have been very popular, but we will not be reordering them, so get them while they're available.

-The Jade Sapphire Cashmere Scarf Kits for Her continue to be big sellers. We sell out of these weekly but keep getting more in stock.

Best Pick Patterns:
-Chic Knits patterns are relatively new in the shop and they have been really popular with our customers. These patterns feature a variety of knitter friendly designs that flatter the figure and present an interesting array of different techniques to keep your project interesting. Great fashion and function projects that you'll love. (We've reordered several times, so reserve yours now!)

-Crafty Hedgehog patterns are also taking off here in the shop. The Happy Frog and the Frog Prince are the best sellers by far, but we keep reordering all of them from Emily, our very own Crafty Hedgehog!

-Rowan's Lima Collection has great designs in it this fall and the yarn is simply gorgeous. It is hard not to fondle it everytime you walk through the worsted room. The sample sweater we have in the shop is just to die for and is the most gorgeous pine green color - it's my favorite and if you've been in on a cold day, you've probably seen me wearing it! Again, we're having trouble keeping this pattern booklet in stock so order it now to reserve your copy from our next shipment.

Best Pick Accessories, Notions, & Needles:
-Lantern Moon Fan Needlecases are the newest double pointed needle storage and they are ingenious! I simply cannot wait for us to get a couple more of these in stock so I can take one home. The cases open into a large circle where you will find the pockets to store your needles and then they fold up like a gorgeous silk fan to keep everything in place. Orange and silver silk pretties...

-Hiya Hiya 9" Circular Sock Needle Kits. Sock knitters take note - these come in both steel and bamboo points, and there are 3 sizes in each one - a very good deal.

-Fiberspheres... these are just really cool, and if you don't have one yet, you're missing out on the fun!

Best Pick Yarn(s):
-Fall Rowan yarns are a hit this month. Lima is an amazingly soft blend of baby alpaca, merino and just a touch or nylon blended together in a knitted chain construction that holds an amazing amount of loft. Cocoon is a bulky weight in a merino wool and mohair blend that is perfect for hats and mittens. As always Rowan has lovely colors available in both of these yarns and we are working to find as many patterns as we can to show them off! Try the Quincy hat or mittens knit flat (from our upcoming class). The new colors of Rowan Colourscape are also amazing! Check them out!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall foliage

The past 2 weeks have been just beautiful here in Vermont so I thought I'd share some gorgeous foliage with all of you. We are so lucky to live here, and this is truly the most beautiful time of the year. The other day I drove home and grabbed my camera and my kids and went out for a little drive to admire the beauty.Camel's Hump was surrounded by a carpet of color:
Then yesterday I did it again, because the foliage is still spectacular, and made such a gorgeous contrast against the early SNOW in the mountains. (So this early cold snap is good for something!) The trails are definitely visible at Bolton Valley:Camel's Hump is looking a lot colder this time around, you can hardly see its snow covered peaks in the wintery sky:And that's Mount Mansfield getting a little late day sun, and looking quite snowy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Project Recap

Temps are falling fast and stitches are apparently flying. There is a lot of knitting going on around here. Polly finished a vest for her son from the Queensland Collection Book 9. She used Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend - isn't it gorgeous?
Shawn finished an afghan for some friends recently. It's so cool - she used 8 colors of Berroco Vintage Wool (2 skeins each.) We're going to have this pattern available soon. The size is perfect, and it's a really easy knit.

Yvonne K. brought in her vest in Noro Kureyon, from Designer Mini Knits. So cute!
Barb and Shawn have each cranked out a Quincy hat from the new Jared Flood booklet, Made in Brooklyn. They both used Rowan Cocoon which is becoming one of our most sought after bulky yarns.

Just follow the directions, no matter how strange they may seem

The past two projects I've worked on have been a bit difficult for me. I'm a very visual person, and I need to SEE that each step I'm taking relates somehow to the finished product. So the Stitch Diva Endless Cardi and the Baby Surprise Jacket both messed with my brain!

The Endless Cardi is so cute, and is actually quite simple to make. (Crocheters take note, there is also a Crochet Endless Cardi pattern!) They recommend a silk yarn, but I really wanted to try something a bit different, so I went with Noro Silk Garden Sock, which is a wool, silk, mohair, nylon blend. I knew it wouldn't have the same drape, but I decided to try it anyway. There's nothing difficult about this pattern. It's basically a huge rectangle that is seamed together in a unique way.The difficult part for me, was that I couldn't envision how it was going to work. Even when I started seaming it together, I still couldn't SEE the finished product. So I followed the step by step instructions and it was pretty amazing to see it all take shape. There's some 3 needle bindoff:
and I was so glad to have my Denise needle kit. In order to do the finishing of this piece, I had to rearrange the stitches several times. All of my needle tips, cables and stoppers were so helpful during this process.
Because the yarn is not as heavy as a silk, it doesn't drape quite as much. In this shot, it's just been seamed up, and not yet blocked. Excuse the ends hanging out, too!
I did steam it to block it, but it just wasn't enough. So I've been wet blocking it in sections. Because of the unique construction of this piece, it's impossible to block it all at the same time. Hopefully it's almost finished:
And then last week I made a BSJ (Baby Surprise Jacket.) This is a hugely popular project, and I'd never done one, so I figured I should hop on the bandwagon. We carry both the original pattern and the new and improved line-by-line-plus-additional-sizes pattern. The new and improved pattern also gives instructions for adding a collar or a hood.
I picked Schaefer Nichole in the awesome Green Jeans color. I used a size 5US needle and followed the instructions line by line. I kept trying to fold it up in different ways, to see how it would work out. I couldn't SEE it!
Finally when I had about 12 more rows to go, it all clicked for me. It was such an easy project, and the end result is really cute! But it definitely played games with my brain as I was knitting it!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Vermont Sheep and Mud (oops, I mean Wool!)

This past weekend held a special event for me, one that I've looked forward to every year since I arrived in Vermont several years ago: the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival.

This year the festival was held in Tunbridge, Vermont which was quite a drive for those of us who have become fans of the festival in Essex at the Essex Fairgrounds. I tried to keep an open mind this year for the new site (I know the festival used to be held in Tunbridge, but that was before I arrived in Vermont!) but I have to admit that the distance was a deterrent for the many people that I usually invite to experience the festival with me. I've always had such good luck introducing new knitters and non-fiber freak friends to the world of Vermont Sheep and Wool by bringing them to this event, but not this year. :( It was just too far away for those who don't know anything about fiber to want to travel with me and share the experience.

The change in venue was also a surprise to many people who usually travel to attend the festival. I was working in the shop on Saturday and we had quite a crowd of disappointed festival goers who weren't aware that S&W was no longer held in Essex. They stayed and visited with us rather than make the 1.5 hour drive to attend the festival in Tunbrige. We're always happy to see our friends from afar, but this was quite a disappointment for several groups of people I talked to.

Turns out that Saturday wasn't such a great day to visit the festival anyway, as it rained most of the day and was quite muddy! Emily (CraftyHedgehog) and I both had Sunday off, and she was also psyched to attend the festival, so we made plans to drive out to Tunbridge and check it out. As an added bonus for Emily, I offered to drive so that she would have some good knitting time in the car (Note: I can't knit in the car because it makes me ill! More power to those of you who can!) Emily and I are not morning people, but after a stop for the all important COFFEE, we managed to get underway fairly early.

Most of the drive was a lovely experience. We were anticipating the festival and watching the gorgeous Vermont foliage. The clouds were low and the valleys were filled with fog. Fortunately as we arrived in Tunbridge, the weather started to clear. The parking lot was full of car-eating mud from Saturday's rain. We were so glad to be there on Sunday!

There isn't much cover for parts of the festival, and most of the vendors that we talked to were SO glad that the rain had stopped. I guess Saturday was pretty miserable. The Sunday sun started to peek through the clouds and we were treated to beautiful views of Tunbridge. Take a look! We made a leisurely circuit around the vendor areas first, promising ourselves that we would re-visit all the booths that held something we may need to take home with us before leaving the festival. As usual there were so many wonderful things to see and feel as we made our way about. We saw incredible baskets:boxes of mohair fleece:silk wool hand dyed roving:felting batts:We watched the llama obstacle course and came upon my favorite trouble makers, the goats, in some of the other areas.I caught Jim McRae asking his border collies to jump over sheep fences from the corner of my eye, and spied Chet Parsons from the agricultural extension office, who I've heard many times speak on the wonders of sheep. It's always fun to see folks from Mountain Fiber Folk fiber cooperative and the Merlin Tree with their signature hitchhiker spinning wheels too. While I do love to knit, I also appreciate just about every aspect of fiber from the animals and work that it takes to raise and care for them to shearing, spinning, felting, and more!

Unfortunately, there were many vendors who were noticabley absent. Despite the sunny weather, I thought it was difficult to see well in most of the exhibit and vendor spaces. If a vendor hadn't brought their own lighting it was terribly difficult to see the all important color variations and subtleties for their products. The booths where Emily and I happened to make purchases had great lighting, but it wasn't supplied by the space or the festival.

In my opinion (remember, just my opinion) the festival was fun, but I'm not sure if it was worth the drive. I really enjoyed visiting Tunbridge, but I missed the larger spaces and well lit vendor areas in Essex. I can't help wondering why there was only one vendor hall and so many of my favorites were missing. Was it a lack of space, the location, the fact that hotel rooms are hard to come by in that area? Even the vendors and exhibitors in attendance seemed to have much less to show in their booths, not as many products, fewer yarn selections, very few fleeces for sale, etc.

Still I managed to spend all those pennies I saved for the event and CraftyHedgehog and I will be busy knitting socks for a while. (I hope those Addi Turbo 8" circulars in US 1 get here soon!)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Berroco Trunk show is here!

Wow! This week has really flown by. We've all been commenting on how quickly the days have passed. We get here in the morning, the doors open, and next thing you know, you check your watch and it's closing time.

We can't really account for all those hours in the middle of the day, but we do know that the parking lot is full, the door is opening and closing all day, the shop is bustling, we're seeing so many folks from out of town in town for some foliage peeping and yarn shopping, we're restocking and straightening like crazy and our "emergency doorbell" is ringing and ringing. We installed a doorbell under the front counter so as soon as the people working the floor need help, they press the button, and the buzzer rings upstairs. Then everyone upstairs drops what they're doing and comes to help. (It's our new favorite "gadget"!)

TRUNK SHOW ALERT!! Yesterday afternoon we unloaded the Berroco trunk show: Oh my gosh. There are some SICK SICK SICK sweaters in this trunk show. My list of "wants" has just increased! Just now we had a welcome lull in the shop, and I called everyone down to try things on. We has so much fun seeing how the sweaters fit us. I have to say, we were working it big time. Watch out ANTM, here we come!

We're all REAL people with REAL bodies, and our bodies are all different shapes and sizes. It's so great to see that a lot of these sweaters work well on different figures. We also tried on sweaters that we
didn't think we'd like, and we ended up liking them! The biggest surprise for me was the bright yellow Potter from Norah Gaughan 5:I knew this was a popular sweater, but it didn't appeal to me in the least. After trying it on, however, I realized I love it! (And yes, the color is growing on me too...)

Emily never thought she'd like Nimbus in Peruvia Quick - but she changed her tune after trying it on. And look who is peaking out on her Woman's Bob Tee! That Ravelry Dog sure does get around!
Barb looked awesome in Assemblage from Norah Gaughan 3. This sample is knit in Inca Gold. Here she is admiring the detail on the cuffs. This one's a little blurry (sorry!) but Shawn is sporting Nuss in Blackstone Tweed (Book #288). The blur is because we were both laughing so hard, NOT about the sweater! We just felt so funny posing for the camera.Shawn is wearing the Beagle Sweater from Norah Gaughan Men shown here in the smallest size. Even though this pattern is in the men's book, it's clear that the style is quite unisex. Shawn would shorten the sweater if she made it for herself - she's got it rolled up in the picture. And here's me in Drift. This is a free pattern and it combines the stitch pattern from Beagle (above) with a more feminine fit. This was super comfortable and very flattering, knit in Vintage Wool. Here's Emily in Anhinga - very cute! (Pure Merino, Norah Gaughan 5) Barb tried on the Osprey Shawl from NG5. This is an easy piece that is very versatile, and it uses Ultra Alpaca and Ultra Alpaca Fine. And here's Shawn in the Nonpairel in Blackstone Tweed (Book #288).. This looks so great on her! In the pattern book it's shot with such a different outfit. I never would have put it with just jeans, but it takes on a whole new meaning when dressed down. Okay, Shawn was a good sport to put this next one on, as ruffles just are NOT her thing (Sweater is the Heron, NG5). We always like to tease her about it though, that and her favorite color "pink". (NOT) So if this sweater were done in pink, this could have been a great blackmail photo. She's such a good sport though, she was really having fun with this shot! And since we're on the subject of ruffles, here's me in Cormorant (NG5). I've actually started one of these for myself. I'm making the next size down, in teal Vintage Wool, and I've only got the sleeves done. This is a reminder that I need to get moving on that. And to stop spinning like a 4 year old wearing a skirt! This was another of my favorites, the Curie from NG5. We could only get the detail to show up without the flash. It's gorgeous and fits like a dream! Here's the last shot - I'm wearing the Danielle Coat from Book #287 in Berroco Sundae. Great coat! And Shawn has on the Goodall Sweater from NG5 in Inca Gold. This was stunning!So come on in now (through next weekend) to check out these sweaters!