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!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Live from Vermont ...'s me!

Where have I been? Working. And that's about it. Doesn't make for very good blog fodder. I am in the midst of 'Hotel Dementia' -- where one hotel looks just like the next, and I get confused every time I go to my room because it's always in a different place.

On the knitting front, I've barely touched it. I finished the World's Ugliest Shawl, but it needs a good blocking. I haven't yet decided whether or not I will give it to the intended recipient. Grandma's socks are still on the needles, with one sock done and the other only about 2 repeats in to the Waving Lace Pattern ... I have a long way to go with those. And my Yarntini socks have been relegated to the back burner, as I concentrate mainly on finishing the Heartbreakingly Cute Kimono from Mason-Dixon knitting. The baby shower is this weekend, but I won't be attending, so I do have a bit more time.

But don't stop reading me. Coming up, more yarn store reviews (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York!), photos of my WIPs, and a thoughtful, more serious essay on Knitting Celebrity. Or maybe craft celebrity, I'm not sure. And OK, maybe not groundbreaking, but I do have some thoughts about it, which will be more fully developed after this weekend.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Needham, MA: Creative Warehouse

Creative Warehouse 4Creative Warehouse is a yarn experience like none I've ever had. Tucked in the corner of an industrial park, the shop truly lives up to its name. The store is located just a few minutes off Rt. 95, and the driving directions on the website are clear and thorough. The store is marked outside with a cheerful sign saying "open", so I found it easily from the parking lot.

The first thing that struck me was a sign on the door: Yarn of the Day, 20% off. It listed the yarn (which of course I now forget), but I thought it was a cool idea.

The entrance of the store is, in a word, overwhelming. Picture a mountain of yarn (most of it in bags), as high as the very high ceilings, tumbling off shelves onto the floor. It's a warehouse, all right, and it feels like one, too.

The next section of the store features the cash register area, and the pattern area.
Patterns are spilling out of spinner racks and wall racks, and there are more patterns than I've ever seen in before in one place. They are organized and labeled with pattern type (shawls, scarves, afghans), but it's still quite overwhelming.

Then, moving back into the store, more yarn. Much more yarn. Yarn everywhere. Brown Sheep, Cascade and Encore, but also Jamieson, Colinette, Berroco, and many brands that I'd never heard of. Sample garments hang from racks and bags are interspersed throughout, but it's still a lot of yarn. I'm not quite sure how it's organized -- if I had to guess I'd say by weight. I was pulled to one fixture that contained some luxury yarns: Schaefer Elaine, cashmere and wool blends, Great Adirondack hand-dyes. Across the aisle was sock yarn -- Sockotta, Trekking, and Colinette Jitterbug. There were a few hanks of Mountain Colors Weavers Wool quarters there as well.

Several people were sitting at a large table in the middle of the store. A staff member saw me browsing and asked if I needed any help. When I told her it was my first time in the store, she welcomed me, and told me that they were looking at new fall yarns -- I should come over and take a look with them. I went over and realized that they were meeting with a yarn rep, and she was asking customers for input as they sat and knit.

When I asked about pricing, she handed me a price list and explained how it was arranged. I carried this with me as I shopped through the store. Yarns seemed to be priced pretty close to suggested retail, except for 'final sale' yarns that were discounted. She also told me that they were having a sale, and handed me a coupon for 15% off all yarns, needles and books, good through the end of the month.

Then I found the books. Lots of books -- even some that were out of print. I found Charlene Schurch's Knitting Marvelous Mittens, which I had been trying to find without paying the $100 price that the book sells for online. That alone made this trip worthwhile.

The notions wall features needles by Addi, Lantern Moon, Brittany, and Clover. These are self-serve and easy to browse. Other things the shop carries: knitting bags, and lots of them. Hanne Falkenberg kits, SOAK fabric wash, shawl pins, reading glasses, many kits of all kinds.

At the beginning of this review, I described the shop as "an experience" and that's really the only way I can explain it. At first glance, you may think that there is nothing there that interests you, and that's it's too confusing and cluttered to shop. But once you get in, you are there for a long time. There's so much to look at that it's sometimes hard to concentrate.

But what truly impressed me about this shop was the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff. I'd have to say that it was the best welcome I'd ever received from any yarn store. It's the kind of place where you feel like a "regular" from the first hello. I will definitely return.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Canton, MA: Sheep Street Yarn Shop

I chose a Tuesday afternoon for my first visit to the Sheep Street Yarn Shop, and found it to be very busy. When I entered this tiny store, I counted 7 people, plus myself. Two or three were staff, and I suppose that being busy is a good thing for a yarn shop, but I found it very difficult to navigate the store and browse in comfort. There were several times that I had to step over something (knitting bags or baskets of yarn) or lean across another customer to reach a yarn. The store is somewhat cluttered, and I didn't get a real sense of how the yarn was organized.

When I first entered the store, it felt like everyone was talking and then shut up when "the stranger" entered. I'm sure it didn't actually happen that way, but it was a bit unsettling. It took quite some time before anyone acknowleged me, and that was with a "can I help you?" that was not exactly effusive and friendly.

Sheep Street specializes in luxurious natural fibers, and the selection does not disappoint. There were several brands of alpaca and cashmere yarns, as well as higher-end wools. Manos, Schaefer, and Classic Elite, and Mission Falls yarns were featured prominently, and I also saw quite a bit of Debbie Bliss and Cascade 220. The sock yarn selection appeared to be small and I didn't find anything of interest -- I think I noticed Trekking and Opal or Regia or one of those fairly common variegated yarns that come in large balls. They have Louet listed on their website as one of their suppliers, but I did not find any Louet sock yarn, just Euroflax Linen.

A few shelves and baskets of yarn had "sale" tags, and I lucked out and stumbled into (literally) a basket of Cascade Fixation yarn that was 50% off. I scooped up 8 balls.

The book selection is fairly small, but is up to date with many of the current releases in stock. Patterns are organized in binders at the front of the store, but I did not take a look because there was no comfortable place to browse. The small table near the front of the store had bags on yarn on it, and someone sitting and knitting.

Needles and notions are located behind the register; they carry Brittany needles (I found my precious Brittany cable needles!), Addi Turbos, and the Lantern Moon Sox Stix.

The staff was polite, but not very welcoming or friendly. Questions were answered perfunctorily, and more than once the person stopped in the middle of helping me to answer someone else's question, or to pay for their lunch delivery. When I told the woman who was helping me that I was a new customer to the store, she did not say "welcome", provide information about the store or classes, etc. My purchase was rung up, they put my name in their customer database, but they did nothing to encourage me to come back. There was a little bit of discussion about what I was going to do with my yarn, which was nice, but it came well after my initial impression, and I still didn't feel that they were really interested.

Free parking is available at the back of the store, which is convenient. According to their website, the shop is closed on Sunday and Monday, open til 7pm on Wednesday, and until 5 on the other days.

Though it's not terribly far from my house, I think that this is the type of store that I will keep in mind when I need a certain yarn that I can't find locally elsewhere ... and I will call first to see if they have it before making the 1/2 hour drive. They do have beautiful yarns, but I don't see myself going in often and browsing, as it wasn't a terribly comfortable or welcoming environment.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A note on comments here

I've just installed Haloscan for comments here on my blog. Unfortunately, as part of the install process, all existing comments on the blog disappear. I knew that going in, and I'm ok with it.

I think I've responded to everyone who has commented, but if for some reason I missed you, I'm sorry.

Feel free to leave me new comments so that I can test out this new comment thingamabob and see how it works!


Sometimes it just feels right

The minute I saw the Catalina shawl over at the Posh Yarn blog, I knew I had to knit this. Designed by Gabriella, it is the perfect pattern to use with my Malabrigo Laceweight. And best yet, Gabriella doesn't think it will be too difficult for a beginning lace knitter.

Now if I can just get some of these other projects out of the way so I can cast on this beautiful project!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Sock in a day -- I did it!

OK, I'll admit it's a little bit of a cheat .. an ankle sock in Cascade Fixation knit for a 5 year old foot. I did up the degree of difficulty by trying a new short row heel (Priscilla Gibson Roberts' version, which I took from the Priscilla's Dream Sock pattern in Interweave's Favorite Socks book).

It took me somewhere around 8 hours from cast on to kitchener. I didn't keep track of time too carefully, as I knew I'd be able to finish in the allotted 18 hours.

Sadly, it doesn't fit. Thankfully, it's too big rather than too small. But I also realize that my gauge in ribbing (2x2) is w-a-y looser than my stockinette gauge. I think I should have gone down one needle size for the entire sock, and maybe 2 or 3 needle sizes for the cuff. At least, I think that's the problem. If it's something else, or if you have other suggestions, please tell me.

I really loved the yarn-over short row heel. I am going to try it in the next pair of socks I knit for myself.

This is also the first pair of socks I've knit where I didn't follow a pattern from start to finish.

Pattern: none - 2x2 rib and stockinette cuff, yarn over short row heel, stockinette foot, and traditional toe.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Eesh, am I really going to do this?

When I started blogging, I swore I wasn't going to fill my blog with memes. And I'm not. But I saw this one on Sandy's blog, and thought it was a great way to document where I am and all of the things I still want to try. Regular posts will resume tomorrow, and I will have the meme thing out of my system.


Bold for stuff you’ve done, italics for stuff you plan to do one day, and normal for stuff you’re not planning on doing.

Garter stitch
Knitting with metal wire
Stockinette stitch
Socks: top-down
Socks: toe-up
Knitting with camel yarn
Mittens: cuff-up
Mittens: tip down
Knitting with silk
Moebius band knitting
Participating in a KAL
Drop stitch patterns
Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn
Slip stitch patterns
Knitting with banana fiber yarn
Domino knitting (modular knitting)
Twisted stitch patterns
Knitting with bamboo yarn
Two end knitting (note: I have no idea what this is, so I don't know if I've done it or want to)
Charity knitting
Knitting with soy yarn
Toy/doll clothing
Knitting with circular needles
Knitting with your own handspun yarn
Graffiti knitting (knitting items on, or to be left on the street)
Continental knitting
Designing knitted garments
Cable stitch patterns (incl. Aran)
Lace patterns
Publishing a knitting book
American/English knitting (as opposed to continental)
Knitting to make money
Button holes
Knitting with alpaca
Fair Isle knitting (note: just a tiny bit, once)
Norwegian knitting
Dyeing with plant colors
Knitting items for a wedding
Household items (dishcloths, washcloths, tea cozies…)
Knitting socks (or other small tubular items) on two circulars
Olympic knitting
Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn
Knitting with DPNs
Holiday related knitting
Teaching a male how to knit
Knitting for a living
Knitting with cotton
Knitting smocking
Dyeing yarn
Knitting art
Knitting with wool
Textured knitting
Kitchener BO
Knitting with beads
Long Tail CO
Knitting and purling backwards
Machine knitting
Knitting with self-patterning/self-striping/variegating yarn
Stuffed toys
Baby items
Knitting with cashmere
Knitting with synthetic yarn
Writing a pattern
Knitting with linen
Knitting for preemies
Tubular CO
Freeform knitting
Short rows
Cuffs/fingerless mitts/arm warmers
Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine
Knitting on a loom
Thrummed knitting
Knitting a gift
Knitting for pets
Knitting with dog/cat hair
Hair accessories
Knitting in public

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My first Meme

Mrs. H. tagged me. I think it's my first tag, so I'm going to do this, because it's a pretty good one.

Here are the rules... Each person tagged gives 7 random facts about themselves. Those tagged need to write in their blogs the 7 facts, as well as the rules of the game. You need to tag seven others and list their names on your blog. You have to leave those you plan on tagging a note in their comments so they know that they have been tagged and to read your blog.

1. I am mayonnaise-a-phobic. I can't eat anything that has been touched by the smallest molecule of mayo.

2. I don't hold my pencil "properly." Because of that, I have never mastered chopsticks, because everyone says to "hold it like you hold a pencil." Doesn't work for me.

3. I don't like to tell lies, because it seems that then they come true. When I was in fourth grade, we went roller skating for girl scouts. I didn't feel like skating, so I pretended to twist my ankle. But when I pretended ... I really did twist it. Since then, I've been on crutches 3 times because my ankle has never been right. So now I think twice before telling a lie. I never "call in sick," because I know that I will then get sick. Sadly, this won't work if I tell a "good" lie. If it would, I'd tell you that I just hit the lottery.

4. My husband and I were born one day apart. I'm the older woman. My mother and his father were also born one day apart.

5. I placed 8th in the Westchester County Spelling Bee. I didn't want to win, but I really really wanted to come in 2nd, because the prize was a television. The word I lost on was "vouchsafe". I couldn't believe that it would really be spelled just like it sounds.

6. My cousin and I had the exact same name, including middle name, until we each got married. We are one month apart in age.

7. (this is harder than I thought). When I was 7, I wanted to be a nun.

OK, now I'm tagging Knitchick, Katie, Michelle, Jeanne, and I think I'm going to stop there.

Have fun! I look forward to reading about you all!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'm Knittin' Ugly!

Yes, that's "knittin'" and you need to say it that way .... "I'm knittin' ugly!" Or maybe, "I'm knittin' ugly!"

'Cause this shawl ... it's U-G-L-Y.

I've made some mistakes with this shawl. For one, I used size 11 needles instead of 13s. So it's too small.

But the yarn? So not my fault. Looks lovely in the ball. Looks lovely in a striped scarf. In a v-shaped shawl that starts at the center back and works out? Noooooooo.
(Okay, maybe it is my fault that I chose the wrong yarn. It's not my fault that that was the only soft and non-scratchy bulky yarn available at my LYS. But that's a rant for another day).

The ladies at knit night have convinced me to try and save it. We'll see. It has done its job: gave me something to do while I waited and worried, so I didn't feel so useless.

The doctors' plan right now is to release Meri from the hospital on Thursday after a heart biopsy to see if the rejection has lessened. So I'm not going to be sending her this piece of straight-out-of-1982-thick-and-thin-lumpy-granny-afghan-like ugly knitting, since she'll (hopefully) be home before it's done.

Photos soon -- when I've saved it or trashed it, whichever comes first.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sincere and effusive thanks to those of you who commented and emailed after my last post. It is wonderful to know that my friend is in your thoughts and prayers.

And I truly appreciate the encouragement you gave me in my quest to knit for Meri. While I decided not to chance the cashmere socks (too risky since I didn't know if I'd have enough yarn), I am knitting.

A shawl. Which I think is better anyway. I wasn't making the "prayer shawl" connection, but it is, indeed, my version of a prayer shawl.

Once it's done I will post pics.


Friday, May 11, 2007

If I could knit faster, I wouldn't feel so helpless...

I have a friend. No, she's far more than that. I have tried for decades to describe this relationship, and I can't. Something like friend/sister/mother/aunt all rolled into one. We're not related by blood, but that's the only thing that makes the definition difficult. She is part of our family. She does not live near me, and we talk only sporadically, but we are as close as ever.

My "friend" (I think I'll call her Meri, which isn't her real name) is in the hospital. Three years ago, she had a heart transplant. It is miraculous that she is still with us today; it was a matter of days, just waiting for the right heart. She almost didn't get one. The transplant went well, and she has been able to regain an almost normal life. After almost 3 years, it seemed that she was out of the woods. I saw her less than a month ago at my brother's wedding, and she looked fabulous. She was laughing and dancing and smiling and it was so good to see her.

Last night, I got the call that Meri was in the hospital. It appears to be rejection of the heart. On a scale of 0-4, with 0 being the best and 4 being oh so not good, she is at a 3.5. None of us really know what that means. They are doing everything they can to try to figure out what's going on, because everything else appears normal. They are confident. We are worried.

She'll be in the hospital at least until Monday, when she is scheduled to have more tests. It will probably be longer than that.

My first instincts last night were to knit her a pair of socks. Last time she was hospitalized, I was not a knitter. Now I am, and I understand the desire to wrap the people you love in comfort, through knitting. I have 2 balls of worsted weight cashmere sitting here on my desk, and I want nothing more than to have them knit up and in FedEx's hands.

But I know that I am too slow. I don't know if this is enough yarn. It's only 1.2 ounces. I can steal some different cashmere from another project that is somewhere in my UFO pile, I suppose. But I don't know her foot measurements, or even her shoe size. I think it's a 9, but the steroids she's on now will change her weight and measurements. And if I did nothing but knit all weekend, it would still take me too long. I feel totally helpless.

Invisible email, hooray!

Since I've started reading blogs, I've been frustrated by Blogger's inability to allow blog owners to respond to comments via email. If a person has a blog hosted through Blogger (as I do), and you leave them a comment, there's no easy way for them to respond. They can answer you in their own comments, but there's no guarantee that you're going to check back. They can go to your blog (if you have one) and leave you a comment there, but that's awkward (and the approach I've tried to take).

I've finally hit on a solution for my own commenting. I don't trust the common practice of including email addresses by spelling them out: me at yahoo dot com. It is, after all, common. And that means that any day now there will be spambots that can translate that into an actual email address.

So my solution:

Over on the sidebar of this blog is a link that says 'email me.' I've set up a (free) account with Contactify, which provides me with a secure email link that does not reveal my email address. The email through that link is forwarded to my email account.
(One note: when you sign up for the Contactify account, it will ask for your email address and a password. You don't have to use your email password -- it's just a password for Contactify so that you can go in and edit your email address if you ever change it. So use any password you like.)

So if I've left a comment on your blog, the URL in my comment will lead you over here ... and you can email me directly through the link.

Not a perfect solution, but more elegant than others I've seen. I hope others will start to include similar email links on their own blogs.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Old Saybrook, CT: Saybrook Yarn

saybrook yarns

Old Saybrook is a lovely little town on the Connecticut shoreline, which has a antique shops, bookstores, coffee shops and restaurants galore. It is also home to Saybrook Yarn, which is right on Main Street in the middle of all the retail goodness.

The store is larger than it would seem from the outside, and is relatively comfortable to browse in. There are some odd nooks and crannies that feel a little bit tight, but overall, I did not feel claustrophobic. I'm not sure how I'd describe the atmosphere except to say that it felt "nondescript." How's that for verbal acuity?

I chose a weekday afternoon to visit the shop. When I entered the store, I immediately noticed a table in the front of the store, where a staff person was sitting and pricing merchandise. I am guessing that this table is used for classes and sit and knit groups, but today it was being used for store business.

Staple yarns include Plymouth Encore, Brown Sheep, and Tahki Cotton Classic. They carry a complete line of Classic Elite yarns. I found some specialty yarns that I had not seen in many other stores: Lobster Pot cashmere, Sheep Shop, Mountain Colors, and Clekheaton.

They had a small selection of sock yarn: Jawoll, Tofutsies, and Austerman Step. This is the only store where I saw sock blockers for sale (the blue FiberTrends version). The Mountain Colors Bearfoot sock yarn was located with the rest of the Mountain Colors line, not with the sock yarn, so don’t miss it (don’t worry, I didn’t, and a skein came home with me).

The store features an extensive clearance yarn section in the back. I didn't spend much time there -- I was after the "good stuff."

I liked that there were many swatches and samples. It appeared that they had some Classic Elite samples on display, almost like a trunk show. I'm not sure if this was a temporary loan arrangement, or if the garments were knit by store staff. The store also features a very nice selection of books and patterns. In notions, their double-pointed needle selection was light, and the store staffer told me that they were in the process of transitioning from Crystal Palace Bamboo to Brittany Birch. However, they did have Addi dpns, which I had never seen before. I asked the staffer how they were to use, and she actually went out to her car to bring in her sock-in-progress so that I could feel the needles out of the package. I love that customer service! (And I bought the dpns...) I also found some very nice needle/crochet hook rolls that appeared to be made locally and were reasonably priced (about $20). There was a bit of "knitter's jewelry" at the cash register that would make a nice gift for a secret pal.

The staff was friendly and helpful, but never pushy. They have a frequent buyer program, and will track your purchases for you so you don’t have to carry a card. They do have classes (check the website) and a sit n’ knit night on Thursday. On-street parking is valid for 2 hours, (I had no trouble finding a space directly in front of the store on a weekday afternoon) and they are located just 5 minutes off Rt. 95. The store is open from 10am to 6pm Monday through Saturday, and til 9pm on Thursday. They are closed on Sunday.

I’d say that this store is certainly worth a trip if you combine it with lunch or an antiquing trip and want to spend a lovely afternoon in Old Saybrook. While I don't feel the need to stop in every time I am near the store, I can see myself coming here a couple of times a year to see what’s new and different, and soak in some of that CT Shoreline air.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Over on the Knitty board, Everwhelming Liz came up with an interesting challenge: can you knit a sock in one day?

My answer: I doubt it, but it will be fun to try!

I am taking a vacation day from work on May 18th, and I'm going to give it a shot.
I will be knitting an ankle sock for The Belle from Lorna's Laces in the Hawaii colorway. It's real sock yarn, not worsted, so while the ankle sock might be perceived as a "cheat", it's not. That's what The Belle requested, long before this challenge was conceived.

Thing you can do it? Go to Liz's blog to get the rules, and to sign up!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I'm such a geek. (yes, it's knitting related)

During the course of planning our cross-country vacation, we've decided to buy a portable GPS unit for the car. I've used one before in rental cars, and I've always wanted one but never had the justification to buy one.

But that alone does not make me a geek. No, what makes me a geek is that I have plans. Oh, do I have plans. And my plans will make this GPS absolutely knitting related.

See, the GPS unit above (Garmin Nuvi 360) supports some really cool, customizable features. One is that you can create your own Points of Interest file and upload it to your GPS. Now I'm not intimately familiar with how it works, but it appears that I can upload a file of local yarn stores (LYS) so that I can find those stores when I am in a particular location.

But that's not all. This GPS supports something called "GeoTours", with audio As you're driving down the road, if you've downloaded a particular audio file in advance, that audio file will begin playing when you are near a certain feature. For instance, if you are in Washington DC and are near the Lincoln Memorial, an audio file will begin to play, giving you the history, etc. of the Memorial.

And you can create your own GeoTours.

Can you imagine this for yarn shopping??

I would set it for a certain distance (10 miles, maybe?), load a file of knitting stores, and record a brief clip. As we drove within 10 miles of any of the knitting stores in my database, my voice would announce, "Knitting store nearby! Need yarn?" Or, better yet, I can solicit brief audio reviews of the LYS from online knitties, so that as I'm driving in Florida, I can have Knitchick tell me that I must take a short detour to Chez Casualle and why.

Oh, the possibilities.

We haven't bought the unit yet, but when we do, this is almost certainly a project that I will undertake (much to my family's delight, I'm sure, she says sarcastically).

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Wishful thinking

Who knew that less than a year after I learned to knit, I'd already have a line-up of projects that exceeds my life expectancy?

I treated myself to a little shopping spree at Webs today (could not resist the great deals!) and then spent the rest of the drive home mentally tallying all of my planned projects -- for which I have the yarn -- and despairing of my slow knitting pace.

I started as a "process" knitter -- it was something to do while I watched TV, etc. But now I am getting project lust, and want to have finished items.

The wishlist as it exists right now:

  • Mason-Dixon Baby Kimono for a new family member due in July (Blue Sky Organic Cotton)
  • Socks for The Belle (Lorna's Laces Hawaii)
  • Clapotis for me (Brooks Farm Fourplay)
  • Linen stitch scarf (Cider Moon Giddy)
  • Clapotis for mom (Lorna's Laces Lion & Lamb)
  • Top Down Cardigan for me (Debbie Bliss DK Alpaca Silk)
  • Top Down Cardigan #2 for me (Berger du Nord Silk)
  • Lace Shawl for me (Malabrigo Laceweight)
  • Hourglass Sweater (Malabrigo)
  • Ribbed Striped Noro scarf (Noro Silk Garden - 2 colors)
  • Ela's Favorite Hat for Bean (Noro Silver Thaw)
  • Velvet Scarf from Scarf Style (Muench Touch Me)
  • Ela's Favorite Hat for me (Noro Silver Thaw)
  • Lacy hat for me (Louisa Harding Kimono)
  • Cable and lace hat from Runway Knits (Malabrigo chunky)
  • Mittens for me (Malabrigo chunky)
  • My So-Called Scarf (Malabrigo Seleccion Privada)
Notice something missing? SOCKS!! Besides the pair I owe The Belle, there are no socks on the list! Why is that a problem, you ask? Because I have enough sock yarn for 50+ pairs of socks!


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Secret Pal strikes for the last time!

Yesterday, the postal person delivered my final package from "S. Pal" -- the name she used on the return address. I didn't figure out who she was, even though she used the same return address on every package. I poked around a little, made a fool of myself by emailing someone else and asking "are you my secret pal?" but never did expend too much energy to find out. All I knew was that she was from North Carolina, and called herself "theunknowable" in her messages to me.

So I eagerly ripped in to this package to find out who it was. Zimmie!!!

I must say, Zimmie knocked herself out with this package. After spoiling me with luscious sock yarn for the last two packages, she decided that I needed this:

Coffee and chocolate, of course, because who doesn't need that. And the thing that looks like a yo-yo in the photo -- that's a VERY cool tape measure, with it's own neck strap, so I don't lose it like I have every other tape measure I've owned. And last, and best, a GORGEOUS bag to use for my sock knitting! It is perfect in every way. I would have bought this myself if I had ever seen it -- my colors exactly, and oh so pretty. I truly, truly love it!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Quick update, since it's been a week

I've been a bad blogger as of late, I know. I'm about to enter the busy season at work. However, I didn't want to let an entire week go by without a post, so here's a down and dirty update.

In no particular order, here are some things of note:

  • My brother's wedding in Virginia was very, very fun.
  • Driving home in the Nor'easter was not. Thought we were going to float away on the Merritt Parkway -- loads of flooding and cars off the road.
  • I only knit about 2-3 hours of the drive down, and not at all on the way back.
  • Both Yarntini socks are past the gussets. However, they are now on hold, because
  • My grandma (who taught me to knit, sort of) asked for a pair of socks.
  • I'm trying to get those socks done for Mother's Day. I'm using the Waving Lace pattern from the new Favorite Socks books by Interweave. So far, they are the quickest socks I've knit.
  • I'm at the gusset on sock #1. I cast on Friday -- so about a week.
  • I hate knitting the gusset part of a sock. Hate it.
  • Made our room reservations for Rhinebeck! Yay! Making it a family vacation with my knitting buddy and our families.
  • We informed our families that we needed the 1st half of Saturday to shop, unaccompanied by family members. Then we will rejoin them after lunch.
  • Failed to pass up a sale at Chez Casuelle that resulted in the purchase of enough Lorna's Laces Lion & Lamb for a clapotis. This one will be a Christmas present, so that's a deal, right? Total justification.
  • Hating the Pony Pearl dpns right now. Splitting at the tips of 2 needles on the first sock knit with them is NOT right. Haven't decided if I'm going to call customer service (if there is such a thing).
And lastly. My favorite photo from the wedding. The is The Belle, in her Flower Girl dress ...


Friday, April 20, 2007

An Ode to Cider Moon

It started with this:

One skein of Cider Moon's Istanbul colorway, purchased from Sheri at The Loopy Ewe.

After it arrived and I saw just how beautiful it was, I decided that I wanted to do solid colored cuffs, heels and toes on the socks that I am going to knit from this luscious yarn. I emailed the folks at Cider Moon, asking if they had any colorways that would work with the Istanbul yarn. Jacki was happy to give me two suggestions. Cider Moon had just updated their site, and I couldn't decide. And so, to my shopping cart, I added Raspberry Twist, and Victoria:

But of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone. By the time I checked out, my order looked like this:

You can just see the solids peeking out from the back of the pile. Sitting proudly in front are Giddy, Apple Crisp, and Fern Cliff. Apple Crisp is in their 'Flurry" line of yarns, while the others are all in 'Glacier." The Flurry line is a tighter twist, more reminiscent of yarns like Koigu. I wanted to try it, and just couldn't resist the colorway. Here, take a closer look -- it just glows:

My order was shipped immediately, and sped through the mail blindingly fast. When I opened the package, I oohed and aahed at the loveliness of the yarn. The package included a handwritten note from Gail, one of the owners. But whenI got to the bottom of the box, I gasped aloud. The folks at Cider Moon had decided to prey upon my weakness. They sent me this:

Adorable little sample bundles of yarn -- each identified by color name and yarn type on the invoice. (I'm not going to tell you which colors they are. Go see for yourself. I heard rumors that they were going to update the shop soon, including their new Blizzard line that uses Louet Gems as the base yarn.) I will tell you that the pink and black yarn in the back is called Jackie O., and Cider Moon donates 25% of the retail price to the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation. So go buy some of that.

Oh, and my original reason for ordering -- yes, I found the perfect match.

What do you think? I hope that the solid color accents will highlight the gorgeousness of the variegated yarn. Unfortunately, I have a few projects ahead of these socks in the queue, but I can't wait to get them knitted up.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me, again!

That's 3 skeins of Brooks Farm Four Play, in the Wines & Blues colorway. They arrived in the mail yesterday. This yarn is destined to become a clapotis. And yes, I bought it for myself. Studley Knit-right didn't know what to get me, so I took the pressure off and took care of it for him.

Thank you to Elizabeth, Nell, and Jody for the birthday wishes.

Jody wrote:

3 inches of sock to drive all the way to Virginia?? How can that possibly be enough to keep you occupied?

OK, I'm a slow knitter, but not that slow. I guess I wasn't clear. Once I turn the heel on sock #1 (hopefully done by tomorrow), I will have the entire foot (7" or so), plus I will also have 3" of the leg left on sock #2 before I get to that heel. So, 10" of stockinette, plus 2 young kids in the back seat, should keep me occupied the entire ride.

Speaking of the socks:

Aren't they pretty? I just love the yarn (Yarntini 4-8-15-16-23-42).

Monday, April 9, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

Fran's Chocolates: milk and dark chocolate with gray and smoked sea salt. My favorite chocolates in the world (so far). And today, my breakfast.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Another photo-free blog post!

The good news: I found my camera.
The bad news: the batteries are dead, and I don't have any more AAs in the house.
So you miss seeing us in our Easter finery.
This year, that was our pajamas.

This is the first Easter since college that we didn't have a meal with extended family. We were invited to my sister-in-law's, but then her kids came down with strep. So we stayed home, baked cookies for my brother's wedding next Saturday, played video games, and just hung out. I did cook a ham for dinner, and of course the girls stuffed themselves with lots of chocolate, so some traditions remained intact.

We did get all dolled up last night, though. The four of us went to Pot Au Feu for a special birthday dinner (mine tomorrow, Studley Knit-right's on Tuesday). The girls were amazingly well-behaved. They've eaten in "fancy" restaurants before, but I was a little concerned about how they'd do with French food. They shared an omelette au trois fromages -- and didn't really care for one of the three cheeses. But they did like the french fries, and loved the Smoked Bluefish Pate appetizer. Of course the hit was the dessert course -- creme brulee, and pot de creme au chocolate.

I haven't done much knitting. I started turning the heel on Yarntini sock #1 tonight, in preparation for our trip to Virginia this weekend. I don't want to try turning the heel while riding in the car, or chatting with relatives at the hotel. So I'm trying to get the 'trickier' parts out of the way. I still have about 3" to do on the leg of sock #2, so I think that will be sufficient car knitting.

In the meantime, I've become obsessed with the Jan dress designed by Wendy Bernard, available at The Garter Belt. I'm trying to figure out what yarn to use. I had never checked out The Garter Belt, thinking that it was patterns for knit lingerie, etc., but I saw this dress on someone else's blog and fell instantly in love. I think it will look adorable on both girls.

I'm off on a business trip tomorrow, but then I promise I will get batteries and photograph my sock!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Where, oh where, has my camera gone?

Oh where, or where can it be?

I'm a bad blogger. Knitter, too. And now an entry with no photos. Shame on me.

I had a week-long business trip, and knit for only 3 hours on the plane. It was difficult to find the motivation to knit in my hotel room when I'd have a glass of wine or two at dinner, or a margarita after hours. On our one free afternoon, I chose a nap over my sock.

The good news is that I have the cuff/leg done on one sock, and half of the leg done on the other. I'm knitting both separately but at the same time on dpns. The yarn is wonderful -- Yarntini in the 4-8-15-16-23-42 colorway. I wish I had my camera! They cheer me up so every time I look at them.

My schedule doesn't appear to be opening up any time soon; lots of travel for work, more travel to attend my brother's wedding ... but I am already planning my next several knitting projects. Is that terrible? Because while I haven't been motivated much to knit lately, I have been motivated to buy yarn. The last few weeks brought me the following:

  • 3 skeins of Vesper Sock yarn
  • 2 skeins of Socks that Rock Lightweight
  • 1 skein of Austerman Step
  • 1 skein of Fiesta Ballet
  • 2 skeins of Malabrigo Laceweight
I also received a fabulous early birthday present from my friend, who got me 3 more skeins of sock yarn (2 Regia, one On-Line) and Knitting on the Road by Nancy Bush.

So yes, there are more socks in my future. I think I have enough sock yarn for 45 pair. At less than one pair per month, well ... you can see where I'm going with that.

But today is The Belle's 5th birthday. So after I cook her specially -requested Birthday meal (breakfast for dinner -- pancakes, eggs and bacon), I will spend tonight putting the pompoms on her scarf -- finally.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Blue Screen of Death

No, not my computer, my Tivo.
Specifically, my DirecTivo.
And I'm in mourning.
Because DirecTV no longer supports Tivo, and instead has their own DVRs.
Studley Knit-Right went to Best Buy to get another (because there is no way we can live without two: one for us and one for the kids).
And frankly, it sucks.
I'd almost consider switching to cable, but I know that the Comcast DVR isn't any better.

I bought a Tivo the very first day they hit the stores, in 1998. I was pregnant at the time, and knew that if I ever wanted to watch TV again, I had to buy one. And so I did, not caring that it cost $600 for a 14-hour TiVo. Ten minutes after hooking it up, we knew that we could not live without it.

The one that died, well, that's was our third TiVo, and second DirecTivo. It had lived through a major power surge that fried our home stereo and a bunch of other things, and it has been limping along ever since. Unfortunately, it was the kids', so they've lost the recordings of their favorite shows, and we need to start from scratch.

It's a sad day in the clumberknits household.

Smooth peanut shaped remote that bongs, I shall miss you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Confession is Good for the Soul.

My name is Clumberknits and I'm a sockyarnaholic.

That's all.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It's all in the details ...

So Friday night's post saw me humbled, unable to cast on properly. But I've been called "stubborn" on occasion, and thus, I present to you, this:

Pattern: Ela's Favorite Hat from One Skein Wonders by Judith Durant
Yarn: Noro Silver Thaw
Gauge: 4.25 sts/in
Needles: Size 7 and 8 as called for in the pattern
Started: 3/16/07 Finished: 3/17/07

Cute, right? Trouble is, it was supposed to be a hat for me.

The problem: I didn't pay close enough attention to the details in the pattern.

There was nothing in the descriptive text that stated if this was an adult hat, child hat, or baby hat. The book encompasses all types of projects, and the photographs of the projects show only the item, not the item actually being worn by a human being. So the only tip-off that this was a child's hat was in a single line:

Measurements: Approximately 18.5" (47cm) circumference
Now, if this were a sweater pattern, that would have been the first line I read. But it was a hat, and looked kind of adult-like in the photo, and so I ignored that line completely.

And the Belle has a new hat.

Not a terrible thing, since I still have not put the pompoms on her scarf, and so she has yet to receive a knitted object from me. And she likes the hat.

But I am still hatless.

On the other hand, I loved this yarn, and since it's on closeout at Webs, I'm going to buy more. I'll try to modify the hat pattern for myself, and maybe make a scarf, too.

In a better turn of events, my Secret Pal timed her package perfectly to arrive on St. Patrick's Day. In the package was a bag of Dove Dark Chocolates, a cute notebook with a green cover (that has already made its way to my knitting bag), the book Knit One Felt Too, and this lovely handpainted sock yarn:

Thanks so much to The Unknowable.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Coventry, CT: The Knitting Nook

The Knitting Nook is a store that seems focused on community. This message comes through strongly on their website, which features the following statement on their home page:

Knitting is known to induce a calming effect – you are encouraged to bring your stash and/or project and join us! We make a pretty decent cup of coffee and have a comfy sitting area for you to fully enjoy the social aspect of knitting together. If we are open – you are invited!
The store is located in a small strip mall just off of Route 44 in Conventry, CT. It is very conveniently located between Hartford and the University of Connecticut, about 7 miles from UConn. The have very interesting business hours: they are closed Sunday through Tuesday, but are open from 9am to 9pm on Wednesday through Friday, and 9 to 6 on Saturdays. While I think the expanded evening hours are terrific, I am not sure that I would be too happy if I ran short on yarn on a Saturday evening -- I'd have to wait until Wednesday to get it. (OK, who am I fooling? I of course have enough stash that I could find something to knit for a few years before I'd really need to buy more yarn.)

Upon entering the store, I was immediately charmed by the lovely seating area to the left. It is arranged living-room style, with a couple of sofas and easy chairs arranged in a conversational setting. I could easily see myself sitting and knitting with a few friends , or striking up a conversation with a new knitting pal by just taking a seat. On this afternoon, there was nobody sitting and knitting there, and indeed, I didn't really see anyone in the store from my vantage point at the front door.

After my appreciation of the seating area, my next impression was one of extreme order and cleanliness. This store is spotless. Everything is in its place and there is no clutter to be found anywhere. However, that does not mean that it is sterile. The atmosphere is cozy and comfortable -- and really, really tidy. Yarn is arranged in free-standing fixtures that break up the store into comfortable browing areas, so that you don't really feel you are in a boxy strip mall store. Most yarn is shelved by brand, with baby yarns, luxury yarns, sock yarn and "staples" together by fixture.

As I browsed, a staff person walked out to greet me. She told me that there was a class going on at the back of the store but that if I needed any help, to feel free to come get her. I had not seen nor heard anyone in the back of the store, so I was surprised that a class was going on. I liked the fact that it was at the back of the store; often, the classes or groups are in the front or middle of the store, and I feel like I am intruding when I am shopping. The setup of the store is very conducive to shopping even while such a class is in progress.

The focus on community is carried through the store's yarn selection. The first fixture when you enter the store is stocked with local yarns. These are farmhouse yarns that, as a sign points out, "haven't left Connecticut." The producers are small local farms, and each was labeled with a bit of information about the farm, type of wool, etc. If I were vacationing in CT, I would certainly be justified in buying some of that yarn as a local souvenir. Yarns from Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont are also featured.

Yarn brands carried by The Knitting Nook are Schaefer, Brown Sheep, Debbie Bliss, Filatura, Frog Tree, Cascade, Noro, Malabrigo, and Dealegarn. The sock yarn selection was fair, with many colorways of Trekking, Sockotta, Tofutsies, and Cherry Tree Hill.

The store features a very nice selection of books, and a few binders of patterns. These again are very organized, and it is easy to find what you are looking for. Most of the "hot" knitting books were represented in quantities of 3s and 4s, and most of the standard classic texts appeared to be in stock as well.

A small fixture houses needles from Clover and Addi Turbo, and another small spinner features notions such as tape measures, stitch holders, etc. The back wall behind the cash register highlights beaded row markers that are made at the store. These are the type of markers that can be worn as a bracelet or hooked onto a knitting bag; as you knit a row, you slide a bead from one end to the other to keep track of where you are in your knitting. At a price of $12, I thought these were a nice addition to the store, and I happily purchased one for myself.

The Knitting Nook has an extensive class schedule (this link opens an excel spreadsheet), for both kids and adults. They feature multi-week Learn to Knit and Intermediate knitting classes, multi-week project classes, and single-session project workshops. Current offerings include 3 different sock classes! There are also drop-ins, private lessons, and free charity-knitting sessions. Classes are conveniently scheduled for both daytime and evening hours.

I can easily see this becoming a favorite neighborhood knitting store for those that live in this area of Connecticut, and a destination for travelers in search of local Connecticut yarns. If I ever have some time in between meetings as I travel through Connecticut, I plan on stopping and spending some time knitting on one of their sofas. I suspect that I will be very welcome.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Home, and humbled

A change in travel plans due to the weather made it possible for me to be home today, when I should have been in Connecticut. We've got about 2 inches of snow on the ground so far, and I'm not sure when it is supposed to end.

It seems strange to think that it was 73 degrees F. just a few days ago.

The snow and cold weather made me want to knit a hat. I desperately need a new hat, and I had the yarn (Noro Silver Thaw) and the pattern (Ela's Favorite Hat, from One Skein Wonders), but hadn't gotten around to knitting in before the weather had turned warmer. So today, I picked it up and cast on.

And cast on. And cast on again. Then cast on one more time. Then frogged it all and put it away til next year.

First, I did a long-tail cast on using a tip I read on Loxosceles' blog here : use both ends of the ball to cast on, so that you don't have to worry about your tail being too short. Brilliant, right? It was, except that when I joined the round, my stitches were twisted. Rip rip. Once I ripped, however, I ended up with a long piece of yarn that was not joined to the ball. So I cast on again, using my "old" way. Tail was too short. Rip. Cast on again. More twisted stitches. A Moebius hat, how lovely! Frog.

Here I am knitting socks, starting lace, looking at cool patterns, and I can't even join a hat in the round. Argh.

Back to my socks. They make me happy. I'm about 3" into the cuff, using my lovely Yarntini in the 4-8-15-16-23-42 colorway. The bright green makes me happy, especially since tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Round and Round, the Mermaid goes ...

Behold, the never-ending Mermaid Socks! Pattern from Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks, Warm Feet. Yarn is Fearless Fibers superwash merino, in the Glorious Green colorway. The socks were knit on size 1 and 0 dpns. Cast on was January 27, 2007 -- socks were finished on March 9, 2007.

The knitting of the socks was a bit of a saga, so if you just want to ogle their loveliness and keep away from the drama, you may click off now. You have been warned.

These were knit for Meg Weaver, my partner in the Knittyboard Sock Swap. Meg said that she liked "plain" socks, in solid, heathery, or lightly variegated colors, and that her feet were always cold so she liked wool. She preferred short row heels. She thought that maybe she'd like a twisted rib or eyelet rib sock. Easy, right?

When the rules of the Sock Swap were posted, we were told to sign up in one of three groups based on socks that we have knit before this exchange:

  • Sock Newbies (0 pairs)
  • Sock Beginners (1-5)
  • Sock Pros (5+)
I signed up for Sock Beginners (1 complete pair of socks, plus two Christmas stockings that I only half-counted because they were knit flat and seamed). My partner informed me that she had been knitting for 13 years (!) but was kind of new to socks so she signed up for beginner as well. But immediately I felt the pressure.

I had 3 wonderful skeins of Fearless Fiber yarn, including 2 almost solids, in brown and green. So I decided to swatch and do a "practice" sock with the brown, then make Meg's socks. I could not find one solid definition of "twisted rib," so decided to try a couple of different ones. I swatched and didn't like them. I then received Cool Socks, Warm Feet in a book swap, and instantly fell in love with the Mermaid Socks shown in the book. They were ribbed, and it was twisted (well, spiral, really). It had a short-row heel (which I had never done) that looked a bit easier than the ones I'd seen with picking up wraps, etc. And better yet, I had also just purchased the 2 Lucy Neatby Sock DVDs, and much of the sock is demonstrated by Lucy herself on these DVDs.

By that point, two weeks had gone by, and I was feeling the time pressure. I disposed of the "test" sock and went right to the main event. I cast on, and knit. And knit, and knit, and knit. I saw reference on some blogs that this sock took a l-o-n-g time. So I knit, and knit, and knit. Turned the heel with only minimal problems, though it took 6 hours of my life. Began the foot. And then, about 8 or 10 rows into the foot, the knitting emerged from behind the needles, and ... CRISIS! The pattern did not match up. The ribbing was off by two stitches. I tried to convince myself that it wasn't that bad, that it was a design feature. I kept knitting. After a few inches, I could no longer live in denial. It was right on the top of the foot where it met the ankle -- the most visible part of the sock. I was afraid to frog in case I couldn't recapture the stitches, and I did not want to relive those 6 hours turning the heel again. I waited a few days until I could go to my knitting class and enlist the help of my instructor, who is now dubbed Saint Mary of the Golden Needles.

Mary saved my sock. She helped me rip back and pick up the stitches in the proper manner, and then she did much of the un-knitting for me, since she is about 1,000 times faster at it than I am. She guided me through determining the proper place to resume the pattern. She answered my stupid questions like, 'is that a yarn over, or a mistake?' She has my eternal gratitude.

The rest of the sock, and the next, went mainly without incident. It just took a long, long time. And my work schedule was not only packed, but involved much travel, which took away from my knitting. In all, I was 10 days late for the February deadline. Considering that I lost close to that amount of time with my error on sock #1, it's not too bad.

Oh, and remember my frustration that the leg of the sock was too short, despite having measured and re-measured? Well, when I received the socks that Meg knit for me, I was delighted to see this:

They are identical in height. Insert large sigh of relief here.

Overall, these were a fun knit, even with the stress I put on myself. I learned a lot, and really pushed myself. I'm not sure that I would have continued on, if these were for myself ... or at least, I would have lived with the error. But in the process of fixing the problems, I learned better how to read my knitting, how to think before blindly following the written pattern. I also learned how to weave in ends as I go, which is a skill that I will use going forward.

And I will make them again, using a self-striping yarn -- what this pattern was really designed to highlight. Next time I think I may reverse the pattern on one sock so that they spiral toward each other, or away from each other (depending on which sock goes on which foot). But I will definitely knit them again.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sockety Goodness!!

I remembered last night about 10:00 that we had neglected to bring in the mail, so I sent Studley Knit-right out to get it. He returned with a package from the talented Meg Weaver, my partner in the Knittyboard Sock Swap. I opened the package with great anticipation, and was delighted to find, these:

Meg has provided full details on her blog entry. I'm not sure what her favorite short row heel is, but it fits me wonderfully. The socks are warm and comfy and lovely. The colors are perfect! Thanks, Meg.

Shortly before I sent Studley out to get the mail, I cast off the socks for Meg. That's right, they are finished!! It's been a long month of knitting on those socks, to the exclusion of all other knitting, and I'm thrilled and relieved at the same time. It will be a little difficult to part with them, but I am going to mail them out on Monday. Once she receives them, I will post pics and details here.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Martha's Vineyard, MA: Heath Hen Yarn and Quilt Shop

I chose one of the coldest days of the year to explore Heath Hen Yarn and Quilt Shop. The store is located in Vineyard Haven on the island of Martha's Vineyard, and is a short walk from Main Street and the Vineyard Haven ferry. The store is a bit off the beaten path, so I got directions from the hotel. Even on this frigid day, the walk was reasonable: about 10 minutes from my room at the Mansion House Inn.

It wasn't the most beautiful walk that one could take on the island, but I had a mission: I needed yarn. I was in danger of finishing the sock I had with me, and I couldn't imagine being caught on the ferry home with no knitting.

The shop is located in a small plaza with a seafood/takeout store, a toy shop, consignment shop, and some offices. When I walked in, there was one staff person who was helping a customer, so I slipped in unnoticed. The store consists of two rooms: the first room is dedicated to quilting and cross-stitch, and the second room to knitting. There is a pass-through window on the wall between the two rooms, and through that window I could see many sample garments hanging, and I knew immediately that my yarn was in there.

The store is cozy, with wide plank wooden floors and a calming color scheme on the walls -- exactly what you'd expect for the Vineyard. It was warm and smelled of wool: just the thing I needed on this very cold winter day.

The yarn room was organized by type of yarn. The "staples" such as Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride, Jamieson, and Cascade 220 are to your left as you enter. There were about 5 colorways each of the Jamieson and Cascade 220, and maybe 10 colorways of Lamb's Pride. I also saw some Rowan Tapestry on that wall as well. Below eye level were lower-end staples, mainly Plymouth Encore.

The bulk of the display space, however, was given over to Berroco. The entire back wall and center "island" display area were almost completely devoted to Berroco yarns. There was some novelty yarn, but most of it was the more "conservative" of the Berroco line, such as Foliage, Pure Merino, Cotton Twist, Memoirs.

The sock yarn selection was slim: 3 colorways of Jawoll Jacquard, and approximately 5 colorways of Opal. I didn't pay too much attention to their selection of baby yarns, but it was not overwhelming.

I appreciated seeing many of the samples that the store had on display. A log-cabin style afghan that I had seen on the web and didn't care for was actually quite nice in person. I was disappointed that the samples were not labeled with the pattern name or source.

Yarns seemed to be about standard retail price. The store carried a very small selection of knitting-specific notions, such as stitch markers, darning needles, etc. -- nothing I hadn't seen elsewhere. The knitting needles are kept behind the cash register, which I found a bit odd. I spotted Clover bamboo, Pony Pearl DPNs, and Addi Turbo circulars. I think you just ask the staff for the needles you need.

I don't know much (OK, anything) about cross-stitch or quilting, so I can't really evaluate the store on those grounds. They had an assortment of fabric and sewing notions, but I can't speak to the selection. There were some cute cross-stitch kits displayed behind the counter that were Martha's Vineyard specific. If you are vacationing on the island and like cross-stitch, it might be a nice souvenir. The local theme was carried into their selection of buttons and shawl pins, many of which had a seashell or nautical theme.

When I made my purchase (2 skeins of Jawoll jacquard sock yarn in a colorway I'd actually been looking for), the shopkeeper was polite and businesslike. There were two other customers in the store awaiting her assistance, so perhaps that was the reason, but I was surprised that she didn't ask if I needed needles, or try to chat me up in general. In fact, I don't think she said much beyond telling me the amount due. Perhaps in the summer tourist season there is more friendliness.

Overall, I don't think the store is a place that I need to visit again, unless I am desperately in need of a project while on Island. It's nice enough, but I didn't find there to be enough of a selection. However, (and I think this is important to note), business and the economy on the Vineyard are very slow in the off-season; the quantity and selection of yarns may improve considerably in the summer months, during the height of tourist season. For that reason, I am not going to issue a star-rating for this store, because I'm not sure that it would reflect the reality in July.

The store offers both knitting and quilting classes. Please check their website for address, hours, class schedule, etc. Keep in mind that winter hours may be very different from summer hours.