Friday, July 31, 2009
For those of you who missed it, our beloved Yarn Harlot, Stephanie P-Mc-P, had a scandalous affair back in May that she blogged about. Yes, it's true, one night, under the exertion and duress of peer pressure, she put her knitting down and traded it in for some weaving on a Cricket Loom. I know how it feels to cheat on knitting-- I took a basket weaving class once and I admit I kept thinking about my needles and yarn back at home.
But according to Stephanie, I won't be giving my knitting a second thought while I'm out playing Cricket. This is also what I hear from our fearless leader Suzanne, who has been teaching classes on the Cricket of late. The class, called Weaving for Knitters is offered regularly and also sells out regularly. So if you want to get in on one, you better call the store now and hold a spot. (Looks like September 12th might be a good bet but don't wait.)
So what is it about the Cricket that has all the knitters sneaking out behind the backs of their socks-in-progress? Suzanne says the secret-- actually secrets, plural-- are these: the loom is little and portable; you can set it up really fast-- like in an hour or less; you can use sock yarn to weave really rocking scarves like the ones pictured here (above and below); and this weaving, like the set up, is also super fast. So the brown/beige scarf in the picture? That took about three hours including loom set up.
I'm sold and will see if I can get a spot in the September class. I still don't think I'll ever wander too far or for too long away from my knitting (you should SEE the Manos de Uruguay I got today to make a sweater), but I am willing to tiptoe a few steps in another direction just for a teeny little taste of the weaver's life.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
When Suzanne asked me to interview Renate (Ri-NA-ta) I was thrilled. I’d heard Deb and Fran talk about Renate a lot during classes I’d taken over the years, describing this woman who can finish your work and make it look like a couple of million bucks. And I’d heard others speak of her skills, too. Suzanne likens Renate's abilities with finishing knit projects to those of a laying-on-of-hands faith healer-- yes, Renate is that talented.
In fact, she is so revered that I now realize I had, at some point, decided that Renate must be a mythical creature. Like Santa Claus. Because she was rumored to make all this magic happen, and everyone who ever spoke of her lit up. But I had never seen her with my own eyes.
Turns out Renate, who moved to the US from Germany after college, does really exist, and she can really help you finish your work. Here’s a little interview I put together from our conversation:
Spike: How did you get started knitting?
Renate: The Catholic nuns taught me in kindergarten—they gave us white yarn. If I dropped a stitch or if my yarn got dirty they would pull my pigtails. I didn’t like that, so I learned to knit. That was when I was five. I’m 62 now.
Spike: How did you learn to finish things so nicely?
Renate: The way German schools worked at the time, you would have to take what you call handiwork— knitting, crocheting. We had to do it all. You learned how to knit and how to put it together.
Spike: Is there anything you don’t like to knit?
Renate: I hate knitting socks. And gloves. My grandmother had to finish every pair of socks I started.
Spike: What do you like to knit?
Renate: Sweaters. I like to work with leftover yarn— you have to be creative and work it into a pattern. I do my own patterns-- I like cables and combining different colors. I start off and don’t’ know where it’s going to take me. While I work, I think, Maybe I’ll put a little design in the center. I don’t start out with a great plan.
Spike: Is finishing work relaxing for you?
Renate: Some projects are more relaxing than others. Some of them—they’re challenges but I enjoy doing it.
Spike: How come some knitters don’t finish their projects and instead rely on you?
Renate: I think some people just enjoy the knitting part and it either frustrates or doesn’t interest them putting it together. Some don’t feel competent. If it’s not finished correctly it looks homemade.
Spike: Have you hit any finishing bumps over the years when working on other people’s stuff?
Renate: I had lots of projects where one sleeve would be longer. I have a friend who knitted sweater in the round and it was a pretzel—she couldn’t wear it but she would not rip it. Twenty years later she still has a pretzel she cannot wear.
Spike: What’s your advice to stubborn people like me who keep trying to finish their own stuff with mixed results?
Renate: Practice makes perfect. Have fun with it. Never be afraid of something. I’ve taught many friends how to knit and sometimes they wanted to start with the most difficult pattern. I never discourage them—instilling confidence is important. The possibilities are endless.
If you want Renate to turn your pieces into a finished work of beauty, you can get her contact info by calling or visiting the shop.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I'm not a totally brand new knitter, but I'm just starting to think about making something a little bit trickier than scarves. I've been looking through pattern books and a lot of times I come across things listed in the "supplies" section that I'm not familiar with. Can you help me?
What the Heck Is A Marker?
Dear What the Heck,
Oh Goody! A chance for me to give you a little tour of our gadget wall, which is in the back room, to the right of the wall-o-needles. One cool thing about knitting, besides the knitting itself, is that it's an opportunity to collect bags. Another cool thing is that knitting is also an opportunity to collect lots of cool little doodads that can greatly help you get a project right. Instead of just telling you about these things, allow me to show you a few of the most handy items with brief descriptions. And then, excuse me, did you notice it's over one hundred degrees again-- I am getting back to my nap. Here's the skinny on the gadgets:
First, The Gadget Wall-- The Whole Glorious Thing:
Next, Mini Sweaters-- Actually, these aren't really mini-sweaters, they're needle holders. Let's say you're working on a pair of socks, and you are using four pairs of DP needles. When you're ready for a break, instead of risking stitches slipping off when the project is in your knit bag, you tuck the ends into these open ended sweaters and voila, the needles are bundled together, no slippage.
Next, Counter-- There are a few different kinds of counters out there. Some folks like counters you can put right on your needles. Some use a free iPhone app that features a cool hi-tech counter, and some folks like the little, old school red counters that make a very satisfying clicking sound. (Warning, little kids love these.) This green counter is a variation on the red, slightly upgraded because it features a lock so that when it's in your bag it won't accidentally click ahead. And what's the counter for? You can keep track of how many rows you've knitted, if you're on an even or odd row (helpful when decreasing every other row), or even where you're at in a pattern that repeats across a long row of stitches. Counters are priceless, the modern knitter's answer to the old hash-marks-on-paper routine.
Next, All-In-One-- This is one variation of an all-in-one knit-gadget collection. Excellent for a first time gadget collector, you'll find lots of basic stuff, like markers and a tape measure and a stitch holder.
Next, Stitch Holder-- Looks like an enormous safety pin for Shrek's kilt, right? The purpose of this nifty gadget is to hold stitches off to the side. For example, when you make a top down sweater, you reach a point where you need to isolate two sets of stitches that will be used for sleeves later one. Since binding off is not what you want to do, but getting stitches out of the way is what you want to do, stitch holders handle the job.
Next, Embroidery Needle-- excellent for weaving in loose ends as well as necessary for sewing pieces together when you're making something like a sweater.
Next, Nifty Needle Holder-- not absolutely crucial to your adventures, but super handy when it comes to keeping track of those embroidery needles.
Next, Crochet Hook-- possibly a knitter's best friend. Even I, Stella, genius dog knitter, have been known to drop the occasional stitch. And this, my friend, this little tool will save your butt every time when you have to go fishing down several rows to pick up that dropped stitch. (Note, the crochet hooks are actual on the needle wall, but I included this because it's so darn important.)
Hope that helps. Keep those questions coming.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Last night I popped by HCW to sit in for a bit on Cookie A.'s first in a series of classes this week. As I mentioned before, Cookie is a Sock Rock Star. I have to admit, when I first heard her name, for me it conjured an image of somebody's nice old Jewish bubbie. In fact, Cookie is young and hip.
Last night's class, The Perfect Rib, focused on how to make a ribbing work just right with complex (for me, anyway) sock patterns. As she stood at the white board sketching out schemes for understanding ribbing, I had a bit of an epiphany. For longer than I can remember, I've wished I were bilingual. Learning another language has been on my to-do list forever, and I swear I will reach that goal before I die. My partner is trilingual and this is, in great part, why I know a few words of Hebrew and a few more in Spanish. But, until last night anyway, I considered myself uni-lingual.
But as I listened to Cookie discuss how K2together slants one way and SSK slants the other, and as I heard her speak in the shorthand of knit, it occurred to me that a decade of knitting has left me knowing a different sort of language. I remember, when I first started, hardly understanding "garter stitch." Anything other than plain scarves totally intimidated me. Then, very, very slowly, through taking classes, reading knitting magazines, and eavesdropping at the shop as other customers had problems solved by the staff, I picked up a bunch of terminology. And so I understood what I was hearing and it thrilled me.
The Language of Knit doesn't stop with words, though. I also realize I can-- if only a little for now-- read charts. And I have, to a certain extent, come to comprehend the concepts of structure and engineering that are applied to making something like a sock work. In that sense, I had a flashback to high school algebra. Now algebra might not get some of you excited, but I was a total math geek, zipping through my lessons, moving on to advanced classes ahead of a lot of my peers. It was exhilarating for me each time I grasped one new idea or another, each time I got an equation to work.
Which is all to say that I realize that knitting makes my head feel big and smart and excited. Don't get me wrong-- I still love to always keep at least one incredibly simple project going along with whatever else I'm working on. This I do in the interest of meditation and also having something I can comfortably work on when I'm in a conversation or at the movies. But I also like to have at least one more tricky project happening at all times, too, so I can get that thrill of learning what, for me, feels like the equivalent of understanding irregular French verbs.
I took a few photos of the class-- see below-- which included a chance to see a ton of utterly gorgeous socks. We'll post some more photos soon, as Cookie's classes continue.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Recently I was telling you that Cookie A. is coming to HCW to teach some classes. Well, guess what? The sock queen is HERE. Her classes start Thursday. Every single one of them EXCEPT FOR ONE is totally sold out. That is because Cookie A. is a total rock star in the world of knitting. She is a genius and self-admitted sock addict (<-- if you click that link, you'll even get a free pattern from Cookie A. over at KNITTY).
The one class that has room is the class on Thursday evening, July 23rd (which is tomorrow if you're reading this right as I post it, and TODAY if you're reading it on Thursday). It's called The Perfect Rib and for a mere fifteen bucks, you can learn some mighty amazing ribbing tricks. Not just your basic K2P2 but, as Suzanne explains it, Cookie A. can teach you about working ribs that are incorporated into patterns. You know, like setups for cables and such. So you do not-- I repeat DO NOT-- have to be a sock addict or even know how to knit socks to benefit from this class. Scarf lovers, sweater knitters-- all y'all will get something out of it.
Plus, besides the cool stuff you'll learn, you get that ongoing benefit of hanging out and being part of The Buzz. The class is from 7 til 8 pm. My hunch is that, what with me posting the news that this is the only Cookie A. class left with openings, it will sell out quick. So do yourself a favor, call the store: 707-7396 and hold yourself a slot.
I'll see ya there,
Monday, July 20, 2009
So, when we talk about Knitting in Public, usually what we mean is sitting around, working our knit in a cafe or park or on the beach, right? But when some folks talk about Knitting in Public, they are talking about leaving cool knitting projects out in public places for others to discover. In the case of the above knitted gas station-- well, that's an example of really awesome Knitting in Public extremism. You can read about the project here.
Tree Cozies are also apparently popular ways to leave your yarn mark in public. For more information on that, click this link. But if you want to talk about really radical Knitting in Public here's my favorite example:
How about y'all? Ever knitted something you purposefully left out for others to see? Do tell.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in July. Which is to say Santa is probably over at Barton Springs in a Speedo trying to keep his cool as we continue to hit 100 degree plus weather. Still, if you're one of those folks that insists on knitting gifts for everyone on your Christmas or Hanukkah list (even though the Yarn Harlot insists this is not necessary), then really, you might want to start thinking about getting cracking.
Last month, at TNNA's Market in Ohio, the company Judy's Colors unleashed eleven new stocking designs which are intended to be combined in countless ways. We heart Judy -- for her designs and her attitude. Check out the ABOUT page on her website-- talk about getting right to the point.
There's a Judy's Color's Trunk Show happening at the store RIGHT NOW featuring cool stocking patterns and inspirational samples. And Suzanne says that I can-- as an early gift to you-- tell you that HCW will give you a 10% discount on the Judy's Colors collection but ONLY IF YOU MENTION YOU READ ABOUT IT AT THE BLOG.
Plus, in the interest of Free Pattern Friday (Please note, I'm only ONE day late this week) I tracked down a Free Christmas Stocking Pattern from Cascade.
So hop on to your reindeer and git on down to the shop while the trunk show's on.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Alas, we actually had to turn people away this past Sunday-- so popular was the Sock Yarn Tasting. For those of you who didn't get in, fear not, more fun events coming up soon. Meanwhile, check out the pics of the event, which featured swatch-size samples of sock yarn for eager knitters and crocheters to try out. And, yes, of course, there was food. And yes, also of course, with Suzanne as hostess, it wasn't just any food. It was Theme Food Extraordinaire. Above, S is offering a tray of sandwiches that redefine toe jam and footlong sandwich. Scroll down for more.
[Close up of the Food for Thought.]
[A Fete for Feet!]
[Look at these adorable little Sock Monkeys-- No Socks or Monkeys were harmed in the shooting of this photo.]
[Knitters with taste!]
[Tower o' Sock Yarn]
Monday, July 13, 2009
Awhile back I reported that Susan, who works in the shop, had purchased an RV that was the right size to accommodate her, her husband, their dogs, and her spinning wheel—in short, life’s essentials. She’s out on the road right now and I emailed her asking her for an update.
Susan sent back the best photos—would that we could all sit outside knitting in places like this everyday. Currently she’s in Portland, Oregon, one of my favorite places to knit. Soon she’s heading to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, and Mt. Rushmore as she meanders over to St. Louis for a wedding.
Susan writes, on her virtual postcard:
I managed to find out about the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, OR on their last day open. Here I am by a fleece that I shared with some others --three bags full!!!
A newly designed knitted scarf which I'm also doing a crocheted version of.
The big red rock behind me is in Arches National Park, Utah.
I've finished several crafty projects so far, one of which is a submission to a contest run by Aslan Trends. (Keep your fingers crossed for me!) I finished a pair of socks, knitted a beaded scarf, transformed a poncho made out of alpaca into a lap blanket for my mother-in-law, started a summer cardigan made out of hempathy, spun up some luscious camel hair, and I'm currently working on another beaded necklace— knitting with beads is addictive!
Friday, July 10, 2009
Happy Friday Y'all,
I mentioned before that I write another knit blog which is connected to Knitting and Yoga Adventures, a group I go on an annual retreat with to Monhegan Island, Maine. Knit designer Lisa Evans (who goes by the design name LB Evans) is in charge of the retreat. We were talking recently about knit project ideas and blog post ideas and I asked her if she had a pattern for a yoga mat bag. That's something I've been wanting to make for a while.
Lisa didn't have a pattern at the time, so she started to design one. The first pattern she posted, she later corrected, as it was much bigger than it needed to be. I really liked the whole first post, second post thing because I often knit by the seat of my pants and have to figure it out as I go. I'll start something, revise midstream, or even sometimes turn one project into something else entirely. So it was fun observing Lisa's process in real time. And I even took her original pattern and, with some hints from her about how she was contemplating revising it, I started in on the project and managed to get it going even before we posted the correct instructions.
Lisa decided she wanted to incorporate lace into her yoga mat bag. I enjoyed taking a lace class, and I like the idea of one day really mastering lace. But for this project, I wanted something very meditative, something that didn't require me having to refer to the pattern constantly. So I decided to just knit mine in the round and to accomplish a sense of fanciness not through lace but through-- does this surprise anyone?-- the wonders of Noro. Yep, I'm jamming on the mat bag with Noro Blossom, which is a gorgeous wool/kid mohair/silk/nylon blend. It's colorful, variegated, and promises to be sturdy. I am having so much fun with this project.
If you'd like to join me for a little informal knit-a-long, you can find the pattern for LB Evans Yoga Mat Bag here. While you're at that site, you can also scroll down and see the original pattern if you, too, are into designing and want to check out the process. I sure love process.
And if you want to use the same yarn I'm using, please note that Noro Blossomis on sale for 40% off right now as it is being discontinued. So you better go get some now.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I love making socks. Love love love it. There are many reasons. Here are a few:
1) When you get to the part where you're using five needles (if, like me, you're a DP sock knitter) you look like the offspring of a rocket scientist and a brain surgeon. (Actually, knitting socks on two circulars also gives onlookers a pretty impressive view.)
2) Despite how tricky socks look on the needles, in fact, once you get the hang of them, they're really not hard.
3) There is a certain satisfaction unique to finishing a pair of socks. You made two. They (hopefully) match somewhat. And they look great.
4) There are infinite variations.
5) On a personal note, sock knitting was the first knitting class I ever took and this, in turn, not only got me over my fear-of-socks, it got me over my fear-of-classes. I've gone on to take so many classes and every time I leave feeling so psyched with my latest new set of skills.
6) As a lot of us hardcore-even-in-the-summer knitters will tell you, because they are so small, manageable, and portable, socks really beat the heck out of knitting, say, a king-sized afghan in this triple digit heat.
I could go on, but you get the idea. I was thinking about socks today because I just got the HCW email announcing the Sock Yarn Tasting (details below) and the reminder that Cookie A, sock knitter extraordinaire, is coming to town soon to teach some classes. I'm going to try to track down Cookie and hopefully she'll have time enough to put down her needles for a little bit and answer some of my questions about her specialty. I'll keep you posted on that front. Meanwhile, if you want to attend the Sock Yarn Tasting-- which, for the record, you don't even need to be a sock knitter (yet)-- it's a steal at five bucks. But we do need you to RSVP because space is limited. So, here's what you need to know:
Sunday, July 12
11 a.m.–1 p.m.
At a yarn tasting, you get to knit with a swatch-sized amount of several different kinds of yarn. We will supply the yarn and some tasty refreshments. Bring yourself and needles or hooks-- crocheters welcome!-- in several sizes that are appropriate for socks (needles in sizes 0-3 and/or hooks in sizes B-D).
Also, if you are ready to learn socks, register for our Sox on Two Circulars class, which meets on Saturday, July 11 from 1-4 p.m. Or, sign up for our Coffee Cup Cozy – 3 Ways class, which meets just after the yarn tasting (1-2:30). There, you will learn how to knit socks – or any other small project that is knit in the round – using three different methods: double-pointed needles, two circulars, and magic loop.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Hope you had a splendid 4th of July weekend. I certainly did. Among other things, I got started on a cool yoga mat bag with some rockin' Noro I just picked up on sale down at the store, aka My Happy Place. Yeah, yeah, I know, me and my Noro... The bag I'm working on is actually based on a pattern-in-progress being designed by my friend Lisa. As soon as she nails it, I'll share it. (Being impatient to make the project, I'm trying to guess where she's going with it-- so far, so good.)
For now, I'm here to share with you the Wavy Crayon Wrap, which is HCW's take on a free pattern by Laurie Osborne called Wave and Shell Shawl. It was also inspired in part by Carrie Thielmann's Striped Sole pattern. As Suzanne writes in her notes over on Ravelry, "I used the same Wave and Shell Shawl pattern but didn't see the second page. So I guess this is a dumbed down version."
Dumbed down? Maybe. Dumb? Absolutely not. This version is made with Noro (yay Noro!) Kureyon Sock yarn and, as you can see, it knits up totally gorgeous.
Here's what you need:
2 skeins (924 yards) Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn-- be sure to get two different colors. Which, since you'll be using the ever-variegated Noro, means that actually you'll have about 400 colors mixed throughout those skeins combined. Sort of like fireworks, you know?
Then just click on the above link for Laurie's pattern and your choice-- you can skip the second page, too, or knit as instructed. Either way, it'll turn out great.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Suzanne went to TNNA a few weeks ago. TNNA is aka “Market” where folks in the biz of needle-related crafts go to check out all the new, cool stuff available for shops. When she got back, she told me about the Stitch Cooperative, a cool new way for independent designers to reach a bigger audience with their patterns both in shops and online.
I checked in with two of the main folks involved—Annie Modesitt (top picture) and Shannon Okey (bottom picture), and asked for details about the Coop. Annie designs, writes knit books, and teaches knitting fulltime. She’s published eight books including Romantic Hand Knits, Twist & Loop, and Men Who Knit & The Dogs Who Love Them. Shannon also counts knit-related work as her fulltime gig, including editing the UK-based knitting magazine Yarn Forward .Below is our conversation about Stitch Coop.
Spike: Suzanne came back from TNNA excited about Stitch Coop. In a nutshell, can you tell me how this works?
AM: Well, obviously Suzanne was excited because we'd arranged for her to get a Shiner Bock from Buffalo Gold. We're good at hooking parched Texans up with each other.
Seriously, though, the Stitch Coop is a group of 9 designers who offer high quality, well-edited knit and crochet patterns. We originally joined together because we like each other's aesthetic vision and respect each other's work, and to offer our patterns wholesale to yarn shops. We've also devised a unique and exciting way to bridge the gap between Internet shopping and the brick and mortar local yarn shops, allowing greater flexibility for knitters and crocheters who like to shop online, but also want to support their local yarn shop.
Spike: Will you add more designers?
AM: We have a waiting list of designers. We’re slated to start welcoming in more this Fall. New designers will be juried so we can keep the quality at a level we're all comfortable with. And, obviously, we all have to be able to work well together and respect each other.
SO: Yes, there are currently 184 designers on the designers' waiting list...which means there will be quite a bit of jurying to do! We want to keep the quality level as high as we can.
Spike: Tell me about the online affiliate program.
AM: Originally we'd intended to simply sell our patterns wholesale to yarn shops as paper patterns. But we soon discovered that shops would also like access to a larger scope of patterns than just the dozen or so they can afford to buy as paper patterns and sell in their shops. Knitters like to shop both online AND in yarn shops, and they like a LARGE selection of patterns (which not every yarn shop is able to offer...) but that doesn't necessarily translate into sales for the brick and mortar shops, which are the heart and soul of many knitting communities.
After appraising the situation, Shannon came up with the brilliant idea of an affiliate program for yarn shops whereby they could offer Stitch Coop's whole catalog (right now it numbers around 140 patterns) and at the same time close the circle and bring some of those internet-shopping customers physically into the shop.
SO: There are many different ways to tackle the digital issue, but this one seemed to make the most sense in terms of not putting an additional burden on the store owners and in keeping individual designers' comfort levels high re: piracy, etc. We ran a trial run test of the software with a local yarn store that has a large mailing list, using 2 Stitch Cooperative patterns. After they sent it out, they promptly got deluged with pattern orders.
Spike: Overall do you see the Internet as more beneficial to designers (with a
chance to reach out to so many shop owners) or more detrimental (with
everybody flinging around free patterns online)?
AM: There are a lot of free patterns out there - it's inevitable! Those of us who try to earn a living by designing and selling patterns see a wealth of free patterns as a mixed blessing. I think just about every designer has at least one free pattern they've put out for charity or marketing purposes, and many folks who aren't full-time designers like to publish their work gratis for others to enjoy. I, myself, offer several free patterns on my website and also offer a free-to-yarn shops pattern to encourage folks to visit their local yarn shop. Free patterns are a reality, and to just rail against ALL free patterns is non-productive (and a bit unrealistic). Instead we at the Stitch Coop choose to offer high quality, well-edited patterns in a wider range of sizes and styles than most free patterns, and trust the savvy knitter to understand that you get what you pay for. At $5 to $7, a pattern that provides hours and hours of enjoyment is a bargain.
SO: I think if shop owners choose to think about the Internet as an opportunity to reach out to more knitters and solidify their relationship with the knitters they already know, they will reap the benefits. Yarn stores that choose to participate on Ravelry, etc have a much more devoted following than the others do. And when new people come to town and look for a knitting community, they're searching online -- having a presence is vital.
That said, in terms of patterns, I think our digital program just makes economic sense. If a yarn store owner wanted to bring in all 140 patterns (and let's give each pattern an average price of about $5) as print, we have a minimum of 3 you need to order, so they'd have to spend over $1000, not including shipping. Contrast that to having the ability to sell ALL 140 patterns, all the time, with no upfront costs or constant reordering...does that not make so much more sense?