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!