Monday, October 1, 2007

Promises, promises

I made a commitment to keep this blog current and I have failed. For weeks now, I've wanted to write about finished objects, sock wars, Monkey Hooters and balls, WIPs, pattern errors and startitis.

I admit that much of the delay has been due to not having any photos. I had planned to take pics of my gorgeous Monkey Hooters swap with Weezalana. Never happened. Thus, no post.

A confession: Ravelry has contributed to my blogger inadequacies. Uploading my photos, WIPs, queue, and FOs to Ravelry made it less pressing to write about them here. I hope to change that, because I truly enjoy the interactions that I have had with people who comment on my blog. And of course not everyone is yet on Ravelry.

I'll try to do better. It's my crazy season at work -- not much time to breathe til mid-November. But I'll try. Really.

And Rhinebeck is just a few weeks away. So I'm sure that I'll have lots to talk about after that weekend.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Thing of Beauty

I spent my weekend organizing yarn.
To most people, of course, that sounds like the fourth level of Hell, I'm sure.
Me? It makes me all giddy and trembly inside.

Prior to this, my yarn was in plastic bins, various bags, boxes and containers. It was impossible to find anything, and I didn't remember what I had. The closet was a mess -- office supplies, spare electronic parts, and tons of old craft supplies, rubber stamps, paints, scrapbook stuff -- almost nothing that had any hope of ever being used in the next couple of years.

Now, after a long and dusty weekend, it's gorgeous.
Finally, I can see every skein of yarn that I own.
All of my WIPs and "hibernating" projects are organized.
And best yet, every skein has been entered into Ravelry, so that I can tell at a glance if I need yet another skein of blue/green sock yarn (I don't, and won't for several years).

The white cabinet in the center of the closet is mostly ofice supplies -- envelopes, packaging materials, etc. Only the top two drawers are given to knitting: the top drawer holds all of my needles, and the second drawer my notions, stitch markers, etc.

And yes, I'm going to leave the closet doors off, because it just looks so darn pretty. I can't stop gazing at it all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On sabbatical til mid-August

I meant to update before I left, but didn't have time.

I'm on vacation until mid-August. The family and I are driving cross-country.
I thought that I'd have lots of car-time to knit, but I've been too fascinated by what's out the window -- I've only knit about 10 rows on my Grandma's sock.

I did find some yarn in a Native American Trading Post in Arizona, but it was made by Brown Sheep, so I passed. The weavers there use it to weave amazing rugs. I want to learn how to weave.

I'll update if I have any knitting news, but really, I can't imagine that I will get much knitting done for at least another week.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I love to plan, but will I stick to those plans?

I've been in a whirlwind of knitting lately, though very little knitting itself is actually getting done. Instead, I'm scheming and plotting my list of vacation knitting projects.

We (the family and I) are heading out on a 6-week long roadtrip next week. We are driving from Massachuetts to California and back. Since Studley Knit-Right does most of the driving, this means many potential knitting hours for me.

Reality, of course, says that I cannot take my entire yarn stash with me, so that I can cast on at a whim. I need to plan ahead. Reality also dictates that I pay some attention to the family while en route. So the goal this week is to get a number of projects together: yarn, needles, photocopy or printout of the pattern, each in a self-contained project bag.

Choosing projects has not been easy. There are specific criteria, as follows:

  • I must first finish Grandma's Waving Lace Socks,and my Yarntini striped socks.
  • Projects for car knitting must be able to be put down at a moment's notice, to break up a fracas in the back seat, or take advantage of a bathroom break.
  • It will likely be very hot where we are going, so materials need to be considered.
  • Projects for hotel knitting can be slightly more complicated, but must still be knittable on a hotel room bed, in a room with 2 small children, a husband, and probably a television.
  • I will be at my Grandma's house for about a week, with very little to do but knit, so I can choose a larger project for there. But I still need to be able to converse while knitting.
Here's what I have so far:
I realize that I'm most likely overestimating my ability to get things done. And yet I still feel that there's something missing from this list; that I'll want something more. Something different, that's not socks. But I don't know what that is.

I also realize what a sheep I am .. most of the patterns on this list are the most popular patterns in the knittingverse. And Nine to Five socks are well on their way to exploding in popularity. Oh well. I never said I was original.

If you have any suggestions for other projects, please let me know. I've got lots of yarn to wind.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Littleton, MA: The World in Stitches

The World in Stitches describes itself as "The largest counted thread, needlepoint and knitting shop in Massachusetts". Truth be told, I haven't yet run into another store that carried as much needlepoint and counted thread merchandise, so it may well be true in that regard. But still, I think the phrase is a bit misleading unless you parse it carefully. They have a lovely knitting selection, it's true -- but hardly one of the largest.

With that out of the way, let me tell you about the shop. It's a bit hard to find, and with no active website to provide directions, I drove by several times before I found it. It's in a big yellow building that houses a variety of offices and shops. The World in Stitches is on the second floor, and just finding the entrance proved a challenge (it's around the back, in the middle corner). Once you go up the stairs (I admit that I failed to look for an elevator; my apologies), the store is clearly marked.

The layout is, like so many yarn stores, unique. The entire store is a warren of individual rooms -- this could have easily been a doctor's office in a previous life. The front room is given over to a display of needlework (excuse my ignorance -- I think it's needlepoint, but I really have no idea). I think the owner described it as a 'trunk show,' but I didn't inquire further. I was after the yarn.

Walking further into the store, there is a doorway, through which is the counter/cash register on the left. Mentally, I thought of it as the area where you'd hand over your co-pay after your physical exam. It was here that I was met by a very friendly woman, who I believe was the owner. She greeted me with a big smile and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. When I told her it was my first time in the store, she gave me the shop tour.

In one room is the classroom, with a large conference-style table. The next room is the sale room -- she flicked on the lights, and told me that this was one room I had to know about. That room also featured some toys, so I'm guessing that children are welcomed. The sale room had an assortment of odd-balls, some of which were very very nice, and also some superbulky variegated yarn, and a full bag or two of some very nice alpaca.

The owner explained the organization of the yarn, which is mainly together in a large room off to the right. It's divided pretty much by weight, and only a few of each yarn are on display; they will fetch additional yarn from the store-room. It was fairly well-organized, with price sheets near each fixture, though I did notice some balls and skeins priced individually as well. Prices seemed to be in range with other stores. Because there were single balls of multiple colors mixed into each bin, nothing seemed to jump out at me. Often I am first attracted to a splash of color, then texture, and then I fondle the yarn. Without that draw of the color, I wasn't as "touchy" with the yarn as I usually am.

Lines carried include Encore, Cascade, Classic Elite and Rowan. They carry Lobster Pot yarns, which are dyed here in Massachusetts, and a lovely line from Idaho called Steadfast Yarns, which the owner said was Brown Sheep yarn that was individually hand-dyed. The store also carries a wide range of Manos. Sock yarns include Regia, and a line of yarns from Universal Yarn Co. called Wisdom Yarns that reminded me of Opal, but softer. They also had quite a bit of Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn.

I spotted a small fixture of needles and notions -- Addi Turbos were really the only needles I remember seeing, though I'm certain there was a selection of straight needles somewhere. The shop has an extensive selection of patterns, well organized into binders. When I commented on the quantity, the owner told me that she'd been in business over 30 years, so they had amassed quite a number of patterns. So if you're looking for an older, hard-to-find pattern, they might just have it here. Numerous samples are strewn about the store, often unmarked as to pattern or yarn, though the owner is knowledgable and will give you the details if you ask.

Overall, I'd say that as a local yarn store, this shop is okay, but I wouldn't travel far out of my way to go there. Still, if you do, you should definitely check out the Steadfast Yarns ... it was very, very nice, and I almost bought some for myself.

The specifics: the store seems to have a website that is under construction, so I'll post the details here. As always, call first before you go to verify that the hours have not changed.

256 Great Road, #16
P.O. Box 1285
Littleton, MA 01460
phone: (978) 486-8330

Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday nights, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Closed on Sundays

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Middlebury, Vermont: Vermont Beads and Fibers

Every once in awhile, I enter a store (of any sort, really) that makes me forget the stress and craziness of life, take a deep breath, and relax. And sometimes, I visit a store that is put together just-so and I leave energized and inspired. Vermont Beads and Fibers is both of those.

I had only a few minutes to stop in, and in all honesty, I was running late and shouldn't have even considered stopping. But I can't resist a yarn store, and I was walking by, so in I went. The second the door shut behind me, and I took a deep breath of what I can only describe as "yarniness", I felt myself relax. I was immediately drawn to a display of project samples for upcoming classes. I wanted to sign up for each and every class -- the projects (especially a pretty sock) were creative, different from other class projects I've seen elsewhere, and very inspiring.

The shop carries an interesting selection of yarn, including some local yarns. They don't have full lines of many vendors, but a carefully chosen selection: Dale, Cascade, Plymouth, Lorna's Laces, Mango Moon, and Great Adirondack were companies that I saw represented. The yarns are displayed in an attractive fashion, and there is a definite concentration on natural fibers. A very good assortment of sock yarn is housed at the back. Samples hang around the store, and they are lovely and interesting, and well put-together.

And then there are the beads.

So a little back story: At another store, I had purchased a skein of Great Adirondack Sirino. When I bought it, the yarn band did not include gauge information, but I loved it anyway, so I bought it without a real project in mind. I found the perfect project in No Sheep For You: the River Rock scarf, which includes beads.

Of course, I have never knit with beads, and didn't know what to buy or how to do it, so I put the project on the back burner to deal with later.

So here I was in the perfect store: a yarn store that was also a bead store. Close to 1/2 the store is beads. And the woman working in the store was so friendly, that I felt very comfortable explaining my project. She took the time to help me, especially when I said I didn't know the exact weight of the yarn -- she brought me skeins to feel to see if it was similar to the Sirino, then helped me find beads that would be just right for the project. She told me how to pre-string the beads, directed me to the Beading Needles, and I just know that if I had the yarn with me, and the time, she would have sat me down and helped me start the project.

I was running short of time, so I looked around just a bit, bought my beads, and while I was at the checkout, all of that inspiration just got to me. I fell in love with some yarn from Laughing Tree Farm, a locally-produced Merino in luscious colors. But I had no real use for it. I fondled it, over and over. Then I saw a sample hat knit out of the yarn (also incorporating beads) and just had to make it. So I bought the yarn, which came with a free pattern for the hat, and picked out some beads to go with it.

(the green beads go with the green yarn; the purple beads are for the River Rock scarf)

The particulars: on-street parking in front of the store, though when I was there the street was under construction so things were a bit odd. There may be a public parking lot; I got a spot directly in front of the store, so I didn't explore further. The store is closed on Sunday, and open from 10-5:30 on other days. Wednesday evenings there is Community Knitting from 5:30-9, and it appears all are very welcome. As always, check with the store for changes to the schedule.

I would have loved to have spent more time in the shop--there is a table at the back of the store for drop-in knitters, and the atmosphere was so inviting that I would not have hesitated. However, I shall have to wait until my next trip to Middlebury. I do fully intend on making more time to spend at Vermont Beads and Fibers.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Inspired, in over my head, and done!


I was so engrossed in the class that I neglected
to take many photos. Sorry Lucy, this was the best.

On Saturday, I took a class with Lucy Neatby at Cornwall Yarn Shop in New York.The class was alled "Scintillating Socks", and it didn't disappoint. Though I'd previously knit one of Lucy's sock designs (Mermaid Socks from Cool Socks, Warm Feet), I learned a lot in thes class. The Garter Stitch short row heel, which I had done twice before, seems much easier now that she's walked me through it. I also learned the Channel Islands Cast-On (love it!), a cool stretchy way to bind off, and probably a million other things that I can't come up with right now.

Over My Head:

A selection of Lucy's double-knit delights.

Saturday's class was so fabulous that I managed to wiggle my way into Sunday's class with Lucy, called "Seeing Double." This class was all about double knitting -- something totally unfamiliar to me. It was brain-bending. I am now more determined than ever to learn how to knit Continental, so that I can do two-color knitting by holding one color in each hand. Had I been able to do that in class, I would have made a bit more progress than I did. Still, I learned a lot, and enjoyed myself. Lucy is a fabulous teacher, and when I'm ready to try the double knitting for myself, I will get her DVD and I'm sure that most of it will come right back to me.


The Uglyshawl! Meri is in the hospital again, this time for about a week as she undergoes some treatments, so I buckled down and finished the shawl. I know that she will overlook the aesthetics and take it for what it is -- a surrogate hug when I can't be there. In truth, this pic makes it look a bit more attractive than it appears in reality, and yes, I did weave in all those ends before I sent it off to Meri.

Over all, a great and very productive weekend. If you haven't had the chance to take a class with Lucy Neatby, do take the opportunity if you can. she's a great teacher, and obviously loves it. And if you can't ... her DVDs are a bargain at under $30, and with running times around 2 hours plus, they are well worth the money. It's not quite the same as having her live in class, but about as close as you can come.

More yarn store reviews coming soon!