Friday, September 30, 2011

Rowan Rowan Rowan Your Knitting... Gently Down the Stream

We have a bunch of new Rowan Fine Tweed & Rowan Lace!

Fine Tweed is a fingering weight single ply yarn that would be great for colorwork. Its sold in small 25g balls at 98yds apeice. Peerie Flooers is an adorable hat pattern using a bunch of different colors that would be great to try out using this yarn.

Rowan Fine lace is 80% Baby Suri Alpaca & 20% Fine Merino. Its 437yds/ 50grams and we have a wonderfully elegant palette. We also have the Rowan Lace book in this has been getting a lot of buzz and it contains both knitting and crochet lace patterns.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hill Country Weavers-- Then and Now

<--- Old School

New School ---->

Suzanne and I were talking the other day about how much knitting has changed. Funny thing is, we weren't even talking about the whole Knitting Renaissance, or Yarn Bombing, or how Stitch 'n Bitch helped launch an absolute explosion of new knitters. Nope. What we were talking about was how much the knitting business has changed.

Back in the day, when Hill Country Weavers started-- what was it? thirty years ago? --- the place was a shop for weavers and knitters. You could check into textile heaven and check out of your daily drudgery. Now, with the advent of computers and smart phones and social media and online shopping, and all the rest of it, everyone seems to take everything with them everywhere they go. I know I certainly do-- I have in my pocket, courtesy of my iPhone, the ability to talk to my friends and family in an instant, the opportunity to read headline news, and the ability to take a picture or movie of anything anytime. Being a knitter, I also happen to have a couple of counter apps, an app to keep track of my needles, and an app to help me measure a gauge in case I forgot my good old-fashioned tape measure.

Really, it's pretty nuts how high-tech-centric you can get with this very old school craft. And I haven't even yet mentioned Ravelry, finding hundreds (thousands!) of patterns online, and the fact that if I want yarn in the middle of the night, I can actually track some down, order it, and expect it to arrive within days.

There is so much good in all of this to be sure. We can connect with knitters from around the world, calculate sock patterns, show off pictures, and enjoy the wisdom of knitting superstars like the Yarn Harlot and Brooklyn Tweed.

But sometimes-- sometimes running the business side of it is really so wildly different than back in the old days that it really gives us pause. Folks are learning to knit on YouTube sometimes instead of taking classes at the shop, sometimes in addition to taking classes. Customers hold up their tiny smartphone screens and want to know, "How do I knit this pattern?"

And as we march forward, Suzanne and the shop march forward, too. Now there's an online shop, there's this here blog, our Facebook Page, our Ravelry Page, our Twitter account. So what do you make of all this? How has knitting changed for you since technology got so big and crazy? Or maybe you didn't knit until you saw some knitting something or other online. Do you like how you have ready, instant access to knitting info any hour of the day or night? Do you wish you could log off? Do you think HCW should have video classes? Do you like Suzanne's idea-- she wants to set up portals so that late at night you can shop at the HCW online store, press a button, and have yarn magically shoot out of your computer. Would you sign up for this service? (I would.)

So much to think about. Tell use your thoughts, please.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Check Out the New Funky Chunky + More Atenti Bags!

Have you ever tried knitting with super uber bulky yarn? Even if you're a tiny-needle project lover, don't turn your nose up at the prospect of size 20 or bigger needles and yarn to match. I once knitted up a sweater in about three hours using the Big Stuff and the process and the product were both most rewarding. Because while good things come to those who wait, and the end result of a months-long lace project can fill you with pride... well, still, the instant gratification of Big, Fast and Finished is not to be underrated.

Toward that end, Suzanne took a single skein of the super bulky Berroco Link and Size 35 (!!) needles created a really groovy scarf. The pattern is simple-- a mere four stitches across, with a repeating YO. The result is gorgeous and you can knock one out over the course of a weekend. And hey, today is the first day of Fall and brr... it's going to be dropping down into the 80's soon, so you better get cracking.

In addition to Berroco Link, there are some other great super bulky yarns in stock including: Pagewood Farms Lanas Grande & Rustic Spin, Bouton d'Or's Mistral, and Riviera from KFI.

Once you've made yourself a lovely super bulky scarf, you'll want a bag to go with it. Great news-- we just restocked our Atenti collection. Atenti bags are made in the USA using groovy materials from around the world. You'll find fun combinations of textiles and embellishments for an overall effect that is eye-pleasing as well as a tactile delight. Here are some pics to give you an idea:

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Update from Yarnorama and the Donation Drive!

Hi Y’all,

A little over a week ago, we posted a note asking you to help out with donations for our knitting friends in Paige who shop at Yarnorama. Paige is real close to Bastrop and many of the 1500+ homes that were lost were in Paige. I asked Susan Fricks, who owns Yarnorama, if she’d be up for an interview. She agreed. Below is what she had to say. Please remember that if you’d like to make a donation, you can still drop stuff off at HCW until September 25.

HCW: What was it like for you, personally?

SF: It has run the whole gamut of emotions. When the fires started that Sunday, we had our Paige Purls knitting group. As people got calls about the fire along 21 in Paige and in Tahitian Village, we all mobilized to get people home safely. Over the next couple hours, we had half our group displaced, so it was about worry and fear. As I located people and learned they were safe with other knitting group friends, I was relieved. Then the fires grew and the shock and horror grew as we watched the fires, the smoke, and the mile-high smoke clouds from our home near Hwy 21. So many emotions… John, my husband, and I were evacuated when a new fire broke out about 5 miles up our road and we stayed at the shop for a couple days. During that time, people who had lost everything began showing up looking for some supplies to keep their hands busy. Powerful stories of escape, loss, thankfulness and emotions unfolded and still continue.

HCW: Did a lot of folks come to the store after the fires just to sort of find good company and comfort each other?

SF: Yes, many have come to be together. Those that have lost so much have come in to get things so that they could get back to knitting/crocheting/spinning and try to get some sort of comfort/solace. Then they found company and emotional support.

HCW: You came up with a really great idea for the donation drive-- did it just pop in your head?

SF: No… I am a big believer in finding ways to support people’s emotional needs through fiber. Can you imagine how it would be if you lost all of the very thing that gives you comfort? There was so much outpouring of support from people asking how they could help that it seemed a logical extension that they might be able to help build the very things that were lost, that mean so much to all of us - our stashes, our tools, our means of creating. I didn’t want people just going in and cleaning out the things they didn’t want and donating them. My desire was that those who gave would take a moment and think about what they were giving, something dear to them, so it might hit home and would be a true empathetic gesture, sending positive wishes to their fiber sisters and brothers who had lost so much. That’s how the idea evolved.

HCW: Have you had a lot of donations and good letters?

SF: It is beyond my wildest dreams. We have gotten boxes and boxes of beautiful yarns, needles, hooks, books, patterns, bags. We have had people send items from other states who heard about this! The outpouring of support, caring and concern for our fiber community has been over the top!

HCW: Can you tell me about some of the donations and maybe some of the letters?

SF: A group that meets up from Austin and Houston has contributed sock yarns, luxury yarns, needles, bags, toiletries, washcloths… boxes and bins of items. Someone from Cypress got her knitting group together and they put packages together with yarns and needles, one sewed maybe 20 project bags for people. Another gave a backstrap loom she had gotten on a trip to Peru. She hopes that someone else who wanted to do this will pick it up and continue on the tradition. I have customers, 3 adult sisters, and parents, all of whose homes were lost. One of the gals lost her loom, her spinning wheel, projects, another lost knitting and felting projects, another cross-stitch/embroidery projects. One of our friends gave a loom, one a spinning wheel, one a whole bolt of cross-stitch canvas and frames… all that in addition to yarns, sets of interchangeable needles, bags, notions.

I have only read a few of the notes, as most are private. They all talk about the meaning to them of the items they are giving and what they hope in the healing of their new fiber friend. More things continue pouring in with more personal stories and touching notes.

HCW: How are people now, a couple of weeks after the fact-- in shock? recovering? rebuilding?

SF: Shell shocked. Those displaced are just now getting back into their homes and having to deal with all the stress of working with insurance companies, reparation companies and such. Many have lost pets that they are trying to locate. Those are the good outcomes. Those who have lost everything are in random states of emotional turmoil, while dealing with their loss. Recovery will be long and challenging. Imagine that you have a beautiful 3000 sq ft home in the woods near Lake Bastrop, some of the most beautiful landscape in Texas. You get evacuated with only 15 minutes max to get out, some less than that, with only your purse, your clothes and maybe a computer or whatever you have your wits about you to grab. As you escape out of your neighborhood with only one way out, flames are all around you. You live with friends or in a motel for 5-6 days before you even know what has become of your home. When you do learn of its fate, you see that there is nothing left… only grey soot, your house is only 1-2 feet high with its tin roof on top. Not even a shard of glass to be found. No living trees, no plants, toxic soil. That’s how it is, and that’s why recovery will take some time.

HCW: For those of us who want to offer additional help, what are some smart things we can do to be most useful?

SF: Continuing to give lovely supplies, especially notions, scissors, project bags, stitch markers, needle tips, tape measures… lots of smaller items that we all need but never seem to have enough of in the best of times.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Phoenix Rising Fiber Event!

We have created a special relief project to support all our fiber friends in and around the Bastrop area who have lost their belongings, including their stashes, due the fires and smoke there. So many of you have empathized with their heartbreak and have asked how you might help. Let’s help them get a start on rebuilding their stash in the best way possible!

Here’s what we are asking… look around at your stash and find an item, be it a skein of yarn, a pair of lovely needles or a hook that you truly love… one that makes your heart sing when you see it and feel it, one that has been waiting for that most special of projects. That is the one we hope you have in your heart to contribute.

Then, write a note about what this item means to you and what you wish for the recipient and attach it. You can put your contact info on it if you like and maybe make a new fiber friend, or remain anonymous. It’s totally up to you.

Drop your gifted treasures off between now and Sunday, September 25th at one of the following local yarn shops:

Yarnorama - Paige

Hill Country Weavers - Austin

The Knitting Nest - Austin

Gauge Knits - Austin

Yarnivore – San Antonio

Susan, at Yarnorama, will then distribute all the gifts to the fire victims.We can’t thank you enough for all your outpouring of support and concern during this terrible tragedy, and look forward to Phoenix Rising!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Interview with Our Own Designer: Elizabeth Green Musselman!

Elizabeth Green Musselman designed the gorgeous Modern Tartan sweater that appeared in last winter’s pattern book Hill Country Weavers SHELTER. Now she’s got another beautiful sweater pattern, Blue Sage Shrug, in the new Hill Country Weavers Prairie Bliss collection, which you can buy by-the-pattern at our online store, or down at the shop. You can find her as elizabethgm on Ravelry and on her blog, Dark Matter Knits. Here, Elizabeth, who has worked at HCW off-and-on for years as a teacher, talks about her knitting life.

HCW: How long have you been knitting?

EGM: Almost 30 years. I asked my mom to teach me when I was a tween.

HCW: Why do you love knitting?

EGM: So many reasons! First and foremost, I love that it makes me feel like a creative person, something that I never thought I was (because I can't draw very well, don't write short stories or poetry, etc.). Like so many people who spend all day working in their head producing nothing tangible, I also appreciate the opportunity to create something with my hands. I also like being able to produce clothing that I and my loved ones actually like to wear, instead of having to wear whatever Old Navy decides would look good on us this year. I love having this strong point of connection to my mom. I could go on and on....

HCW: How did you come to be part of the SHELTER project?

EGM: Knowing that I had started to design knitted garments, especially for boys and men, Suzanne asked me to design a men's sweater for this collection.

HCW: What inspired your design for Modern Tartan?

EGM: Above all, the yarn. I could not pick just one color since the dye work is so lovely in this yarn, so I started thinking about how to create a simple colorwork project that would combine multiple colors. The striping pattern in the neutral colors I borrowed from a baby blanket that my mom knit for my son, and I added the columns of orange purl stitches to slim down the horizontal stripes a bit. I wanted the shape of the garment to mimic those fleece pullovers that so many men like.

HCW: What obstacles did you encounter?

EGM: I had a hard time figuring out how to explain clearly how to do the raglan shaping while doing the colorwork at the same time. This was also one of the first times that I knit a sample garment that didn't fit anyone in my household, so I had to put a lot of trust in my numbers.

HCW: How do you like SHELTER?

EGM: I like this yarn a lot, especially because it's like nothing else on the market (that I know of). I love its wooly feel and smell. But above all, I adore the depth of the color. Many yarns have a single-dimension color, but this yarn's coloring gets more complex the closer you look at it. For this sweater design, I also really liked how light the yarn is. In most worsted-weight yarns, a stranded-knit sweater would be quite heavy, but my finished garment was quite light -- warm, but not cumbersome.

HCW: If you could design any project, and actually have time to knit it, what would it be?

EGM: I have an idea in my head for a dogwood-tree-inspired stole that I can never seem to get to. It would have appliqued dogwood flowers, branches, leaves, the whole gamut.

HCW: How long did it take you to knit the prototype for your design?

EGM: It took me several weeks of very focused knitting -- lots of late nights. But some of that time was ripping back to make the shoulder lie better, etc.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Madeline Tosh & Freia -- Come and Get It, Lace Yarn for Everyone!

Madeline Tosh Prairie

New in the shop we've got a new shipment from Madeline Tosh -- some of the DK stock you know and love and also a brand new yarn for us MT yarn called - Prairie. Prairie is a single ply laceweight with really great yardage - 840 to a skein. Its going quick so y'all should come out and get some before Connie takes it all home!

hurry-- Connie is going to get it all!

Freia Lace Yarn

We also have a new lace yarn from Freia, both Flux & Ombre, as well some new patterns from her. Kennedy really likes this yarn and says it would make beautiful gradient shawls or scarves and has long slow repeats in the ombre that will not obsucre stitch patterns.