Thursday, September 30, 2010

SUPER BIG NEWS: Introducing SHELTER by Brooklyn Tweed (and yep, we got some!)

I promised y’all we were going to have a REALLY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT and today I am here to deliver. I’m posting it at midnight (Brooklyn time-- natch) going into Friday because that’s the soonest I was allowed to do so. Yes, that’s right, think of this as a sort of Harry Potter Book Release party for fiber fanatics!

Let’s build up to the news, shall we? First, a hint—many of you had the opportunity last year to meet the inimitable Jared Flood, aka Brooklyn Tweed, when he came to HCW last year. Jared is a wonderful knitter, a splendid designer, an amazing photographer, and above all a fantastic human being (and yes, he's very, very cute). He gave several sold out workshops and, really, we wanted to keep him here, nestled up in the little room across the street so we could get our daily fix.

Alas, we’re not the only ones in love with Jared, and as much as he enjoyed his time here, he had other shops to visit and other pressing matters to tend. Chief among his endeavors in 2009 was the decision to create his own line of yarn. Jared put a tremendous amount of thought into just how he wanted to execute this goal. The result is SHELTER. Before I tell you about the yarn, I will now reward your patience with The Big News:

SHELTER will only be available in a few brick-and-mortar stores and—you got it—Hill Country Weavers is on the chosen short list of Flagship Retailers. HOORAY! Now for those of you reading this blog from afar, don’t panic—you can also get SHELTER online from Jared directly. And/or perhaps you live near another of the handful of locations selling it. Meanwhile, those of you who do live nearby should consider RUNNING, not walking, on in to scoop up what you can. (And considering the Hill Country Yarn Crawl is coming right up, you might want to run down TODAY.)

I’ve had a sneak peek at the pictures—which we’re sharing here today-- and I cannot WAIT to get my hands on the real deal. I also got the skinny on how SHELTER came to be. Jared and I played a little phone/email tag this week—I was hoping to interview him but he is super slammed with getting his first batch out to the stores. He promises us he’ll check in soon. Meanwhile, let me tell you what I do know about the yarn.

Jared noticed an absence commercial American made yarn and wondered if it was possible to develop 100% American sourced, spun, and designed wool yarn that could “make it” amidst so much imported competition. He spent a year researching and developing what such a yarn would look and feel like.

SHELTER is a 2-ply wool with “an extremely light and lofty hand.” It’s versatile enough to serve a number of purposes. It’s designed to really show of your stitch architecture. The palette is nothing short of stunning—think autumnal hues and natural browns and greys (<-- traditional enough to be spelled with an “e”). And the fiber is fleece-dyed.

From ewe to you, the process is 100% American: wool milled in the USA from sheep raised in the USA. Jared selected Targhee-Columbia sheep, a cross breed from Montana that offers yarn that will stand the test of time and, at the same time, skip the itch factor entirely—as Jared puts it the yarn is “uniquely suited for the needs of handknitters and wool-wearers alike.” After choosing the flock for the job, he then moved to Montana and, wearing the boots we gave him here in Texas, hand fed each and every lamb. Okay, wait, I made that last sentence up. But really, for as much thought as he put into the process, he might as well have a flock in his Brooklyn apartment—that’s how hands-on this development has been.

The shorn and dyed fleece is woolen-milled by Harrisville Designs in New Hampshire—and those folks know what they’re doing. In fact, they’ve been milling about (in the best sense of the expression) since 1794. (Yes, they had a bit of a slow spell during the tragic synth-fiber ‘60s, but they rallied and made a comeback in the ‘70s.)

SHELTER is launching with 17 shades, with more to come. The yarn comes in 50-gram hanks of 140 yards. Because it is, literally, very airy, it works well in across a spectrum of gauges. The price is right, too—running neck-in-neck with many commercial, similar weight wools.

One more thing? Jared being a great designer, but of course he’s got patterns to go with the SHELTER line. And yes, you got it—you can pick those up at Hill Country Weavers, too.

Congratulations Jared! We are so happy for you. And we’re SO happy for us. Being one of SHELTER’s flagship locations is an honor that makes us—dare we say it—all warm and woolly inside. Just one favor, please? Now that you’ve launched, come on back to Austin. We’ve got a place waiting for you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pssst-- BIG NEWS Coming Soon. Meanwhile, I'm Taking a Survey

Hey Y'all,
Be sure to tune in on Friday when Hill Country Weavers makes a VERY BIG announcement. In the meanwhile, I'm taking a little survey. I was reading the Sunday NYT and came across the etiquette advice column. A reader asked if it is rude for folks to knit during meetings. The columnist says yes it is. You can see the article here (scroll to the bottom).

I couldn't resist-- I emailed the guy and said I beg to differ, that knitting is very grounding and that when I'm not knitting in a meeting all I'm thinking is, "Meetings are so stupid." I also suggested that perhaps he'd never been on the receiving end of a handknit item, and offered to make him a hat. He wrote back to say that actually he himself is a knitter and he still thinks it's not kosher to knit during meetings.

Since I had that exchange, I find myself still bringing my knitting to meetings but feeling weird about actually working on it. Maybe I was defending the right to knit just because I was trying to justify what might actually be rude behavior? I hope not and I really don't want to give up this practice-- and given a choice I'd rather give up meetings. So I'm taking a little survey here-- do you knit during meetings? Does it seem to bother other people? Do you care?

Do tell.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More Yarn Crawl News! Prizes and Bus Schedule!

Okay, the Yarn Crawl is coming RIGHT UP! I know, I know, I told you this already. Now I'm here to give more details including the bus schedule. You don't have to ride the bus to participate in the crawl-- you can drive yourself around. But going on a bus filled with your fellow yarn fanatics bumps the experience up a notch. Plus, you don't have to keep your eyes on the road-- you can look at all your lovely purchases. Here are some basics (for all the details check out the official website):

  • The crawl is four days: October 8 - 11 inclusive.
  • To participate, pop by the store and buy a passport ($20)-- you'll get a commemorative bag, too.
  • Eleven Hill Country shops are participating. You'll get a free gift at every shop you visit.
  • Get a passport stamp at each stop-- those with at least 8 stamps can win big prizes.
  • Even if you don't hit 8, you're still entered at every shop you visit for a $25 gift certificate.
  • Grand Prize? $400 worth of fiber fabulousness!

About the bus: $50 gets you a seat and a stop at several shops. You also get lunch. There are several buses departing from different locations on different days. Buses leave at 9 am and return at 6 pm. Below is the schedule and, below the schedule check out pictures of some of the great prizes we're giving away. The buses will fill up so don't wait to sign up.

Bus #1
Saturday October 9
Leaves from Gauge
Visits: Sustainable Fibers (formerly Texas Fiber Mill),
Yarnorama!, Old Oaks Ranch (where you will have a picnic lunch), Knitting Nest, Hill Country Weavers (for Happy Hour)

Bus #2
Saturday October 9
Leaves from Tinsmith’s Wife
830- 995-5539
Visits: Old Oaks Ranch, Nan’s Needleworks, Stonehill Spinning, and Rosewood Yarns

Bus #3
Sunday October 10
Leaves from Hill Country Weavers
Visits: Nan's Needle Works, Stonehill Spinning, Tinsmith's Wife, Rosewood Yarns, Yarnivore, and The Yarn Barn

Sunday October 10
Leaves from Tinsmith’s Wife
830- 995-5539
Visits: Knitting Nest, Hill Country Weavers, Gauge, Sustainable Fibers, and Yarnorama!

Bus #5
Sunday October 10
Leaves from Yarnivore
Visits: Old Oaks Ranch, Yarnorama!, Gauge, Hill Country Weavers, and Knitting Nest

Sign up early to guarantee your spot!
Call store that desired bus departs from to sign up

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hey Y'all, It's (Almost) Time to Crawl!

Hey Y'all,
I just wrapped up a knitting retreat on Monhegan Island, off the Coast of Maine. To finish up the trip, we did a mini yarn crawl. We stopped at Romney Ridge Farm, a tiny sheep and goat farm (the farm was small, I mean, not the sheep and goats). I picked up some beautiful yarn that was grown, shorn, spun, and dyed right here in Maine. Then we headed to a craft Gallery in Bath, Maine, and met Nanne Kennedy who uses sea water and solar power to dye her Seacolors yarn collection. Nanne also raises her own herd. I mean, Maine is WOOL PARADISE y'all, and yes, I picked up still more yarn on this second stop.

Even if you can't make it to Maine, as you know, we also live in a gorgeous part of the world. The Hill Country Yarn Crawl is a most excellent opportunity to see some beautiful scenery, check out 11 local yarn shops, and-- oh yes-- shop til ya drop. Here are the details. And I'll post more news as I get it. Oh, but first, here's a picture of a sheep I met today:

It's the 4th Annual Hill Country Yarn Crawl!

Columbus Day Weekend October 8th-11th, 2010

Proudly Hosted By:
Gauge, Austin
Hill Country Weavers, Austin
Nan’s Needleworks, Horseshoe Bay
Old Oaks Ranch Fiber Arts Center, Wimberley
Rosewood Yarns, Boerne
Stonehill Spinning, Fredericksburg
The Knitting Nest, Austin
The Tinsmith’s Wife, Comfort
The Yarn Barn, San Antonio
Yarnivore, San Antonio
Yarnorama!, Paige

Hop onboard for 4 fun-filled days crawling your way through 11 yarn shops throughout central Texas. Bring family, meet up with friends and make new ones.
Win prizes and discover new ways to feed your fiber obsession, meet local fiber artists up close and delight in their wares.

How to Play:
Go to

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Retreat, Retreat, Retreat!! Greetings from Monhegan Island

Hello Everyone,
For the third year running, I'm on Monhegan Island, twelve miles off the coast of Maine, spending a week knitting and eating little cakes. Yep, that's right, it's time for the Knitting and Yoga Adventures retreat. It is so splendid here. Y'all should join me some year. And/or I recommend you sign up for a closer-to-home retreat. Or just be sure to host a knit knight sometime soon.

If you want to read about my knitting adventures in Maine, I'm keeping a blog for KYA which you can read here. Also, in about a week, the Weekend Edition of Interweave KNITS comes out. I've got the back page essay in the magazine and, that's right, it's all about my annual retreat to the island. I hope you'll check it out.

See ya soon,

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bon Voyage Fran!

I am so not fond of goodbyes but it's time for us to bid Fran farewell and good luck. After having the wonderful pleasure and honor of her company at HCW for five years, we are releasing her into the wilderness of New Jersey. Fran's from the NE and after some amazing world travels back in the day, and 18 years in Austin, she and her husband are heading back to their roots. But the good news is that Mr. Fran still has work in Austin and will be coming back regularly and yes, Fran says she's going to make some of those trips with him. So YAY for us!

I talked to Fran a bit this morning, right after she signed off on the sale of her Austin house and went out for celebratory pancakes at Kerbey Lane. I asked her to tell me again about her history with the shop. As she recalls it, back in the spring of 1997 a friend of hers started talking about knitting. Fran said she used to knit and so she became a born again knitter, visiting HCW when it was downtown. Then, like a lot of us do, she started working with Suzanne.

"I loved working at the store," Fran says. "It was a great opportunity. I had always worked with children. I had never really been around so many adults at one time. That was really a nice experience for me. It was nice because knitting is fun-- it’s not a critical thing, like you’re worried about some child learning to read."

While I understand what Fran means by that, as I told her, her teaching skills helped me so much that it was almost as big as if she'd taught me to read (the one passion I have that rivals knitting). When I took a sweater class with her, it changed my life, really. I had so much fear around trying out a tricky pattern and learning how to sew seams and finish. But Fran's patience was amazing and these days whenever I make a sweater I do it with joy, not fear, and I think of Fran. So thank you for that Fran, thank you more than I can say.

Fran says she hasn't made any knitting connections in her new hometown yet but figures it won't take long. "I know where all the stores are. There are about four that are not too far away. Plus one of those has weaving, too, so I won't have to call Suzanne every time I need help. There’s an active weaving guild there I’ll join. I’ll find my little niche."

She figures she'll teach some private knitting lessons and, one of these days, visit a shop and see about teaching a sock class. Her students will be lucky to have her. I asked Fran to tell me a little about her teaching philosophy as I worked to keep her on the phone for just a few more minutes...

Here's what she said:

I think it’s helpful to take a class for a sweater and have somebody hold your hand through the first time. Then you get so much confidence you can tackle it on your own. And you know you can always go into the store and ask a question. Suzanne has created such a great climate for that. We're always there to help everybody. We love knitting and want everybody to keep knitting. I loved teaching knit 101. I loved to see those people come back again and again. And to see people who’ve joined my Tuesday night class. I loved to see the progress people make over time, and I loved to see the enthusiasm.

Fran-- thank you. We are going to miss you so much and we hope you have a spectacular time!


The Gang

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Best Knit Shop In the World

So I just got back from an incredible two week vacation to Israel. I only found one little knit shop in the town where I was staying, but my passion for fiber is such that I'm always thrilled to find yarn, no matter how big or small the store is, no matter where I am in the world. I've lost count of the total number of shops I've visited all across the US as well as in Japan, Argentina, and Israel. But I'll tell you something-- there really is no place like Hill Country Weavers.

I was so jet lagged the past week I wanted to collapse. It's the price I pay for traveling, and definitely worth it. But when I get back, during the time my body is readjusting to this time zone, I have to be very careful, otherwise, I can get cranky. So I have some very specific things I like to do to get grounded. This includes napping, heavy duty bonding with the dogs, remembering to eat, and-- of course, popping by the store.

I did that the other day and was so glad for the chance to say hello to my fellow knit fanatics. I wandered the rooms in a very happy daze. And I got to thinking-- since I started writing this blog (if you can believe it it's almost two years now), my relationship with the shop has changed some. Not better or worse, just different. Often when I head over, even if I'm on the hunt for new stash and gadgets, I still have my blog-head on. I take pictures and notes. Back in the old, pre-blog days, I was always in shop-mode, like a little kid in the most fantastic toy shop in the world.

While I did-- as you shall soon see-- take a lot of pictures on my first trip in to HCW after I got back, I mostly wandered around in happy little kid mode, like the old days, not taking notes, just immersing myself in the whole experience. How I wanted to just jump in a huge pile of yarn the way I used to jump in big piles of leaves when I was a child. It felt indescribably good to be back.

And then, not two days later, the temperature dropped. Okay, so only about ten or fifteen degrees, and granted, I won't be getting my sweater coat out just yet. But the break from the super heat was a reminder that pretty soon we are going to be able to get out those scarves and hats. I can't wait to get out my favorite things and, of course, to knit up some new fab warm stuff. (In fact, I'm heading to Maine on Saturday for a Knitting Retreat, and I'll definitely get to bust out my leg warmers up there.)

So what I'd like to do today is to share with you pictures of my happy, jet lag stroll through HCW. If you haven't been in in awhile (or heck, even if you have) let this be a reminder that regular trips to the store have been proven to vastly improve your mental health and almost totally relieve jet lat instantaneously.

This super chunky, super bright yarn is from Knit Collage in Hong Kong. We heart Knit Collage.

I was eyeing some Blue Sky Cotton-- am thinking about making another one of Suzanne's Bon-Bon blankets, maybe even more than one. Three of my friends are expecting right now. I dig the greens and other "non-traditional" baby colors.

You can never go wrong with Noro. Noro, Noro, Noro!!

Oh so many colors! My eyes get instantly happy when I walk in the shop.

This collection of Be Sweet isn't new-- Suzanne ordered it at Market in January. But I still LOVE looking at it and touching it and taking pictures of it-- isn't it cool how it looks like hard candy?

I think my love of books about knitting food somehow relates to my love of puns. I'm still ironing out that theory.

Don't you just want to hug big bunches of Manos? My all time favorite, most used sweater is a very simple top-down I learned in a class with Deb. I have so much sweater pride over that one and what makes it downright elegant is the hand dyed effect.

My one problem with all the beautiful samples around the store is that I pretty much want to make every one of them, including this amazing shawl made with shimmery Prism yarn.

Here's another sample that I have GOT to make. A super funky chunky mobius. Anyone want to join me for a knit along?

Close up of Prism.

Yes, we now have faux-fur enhanced yarn. Even if it's not your thing, you have got to go and touch it. Go. Right. Now.

And, while we're talking funky, check out this hat and scarf Brenda made.

And how about a round of applause for the ladies that make it all happen. Here, I caught Kathy hard at work reorganizing. This started out as a small project but then she noticed a ball here and a ball there that she thought she could getter situate and, before you know it, she was re-doing the whole shelf. And that, my friends, is how the miracle of constant organization really happens. Thanks ladies!