Saturday, December 5, 2009

And We Have a Winner!

In a post last month I asked if anyone was familiar with this yarn.

I knew it was a 3ply wool.  I wasn't sure if had any bamboo or silk in it but didn't think so.  I had the WPI and the yardage.  Now, I have the name...

Drumroll please.

Ella Rae Lace Merino in color #101  (Burgandy, Magenta)

I thought it was something I had purchased at Kathy's shop.  But she knew right away that it wasn't hers (as any good shop owner would).  So, I thought back to when I had purchased sock yarn.  Amazingly, there haven't been many purchases but unemployement tends to do that to you.

The only other sock yarn I had aquired was from the Yarn Basket.  Today, I was in the neighborhood.  Ok, so this shop is about 60 miles from my house, I was at a friend's house 40 miles in that direction, close enough to make a trip.  As soon as I got to the sock yarn section I saw it and had the a-ha! moment I was hoping for.

That's all.  I was just worried that some of you might not be sleeping at night with this unsolved knitting mystery hanging out there.  So the winner is Ella Rae.  Mystery solved.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled holiday knitting and spinning.

PS.  I added color # 102 (Primaries) to my stash.  Dying colorway research, don't ya know.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Post in Pictures or How I Spent My Day

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Mystery...have you seen this yarn before???

Our bedroom is an odd shape with the main part (sleeping area) being just big enough for a queen size bed up against the only wall with no windows and about 3 feet of space on each of the other 3 sides.  The one and only closet (a non-walk-in sort of standard size with two bi-fold doors) is at the foot of the bed and off to one side a bit.  The other part of our 'Master Bedroom' is sort of a sitting area that you have to walk through to get from the door to the bed.  It is maybe about 8 x 10 feet.  My dresser, a little antique writing desk, an end table or nightstand height antique radio, the radiator and its cover and The Stash occupy this 'room'.  I use the quotation marks because as master bedrooms go there's not much master in it.  Square footage wise I think the room Max and Carter share is probably the same or bigger (I know their closet is). As for the sitting area it isn't a seperate room at all.  The room is just a really wierd shape.

The problem with The Stash is that it has taken over the entire sitting area, as well as the 3 feet of space on my side of the bed.  It appears to be a living breathing entity.  I think Addison beats it back when I am not looking.  Some days it seems more subdued than others.  I have beautiful cubby-hole type shelves, fabric drawers that fit in the cubby-holes, and a number of different baskets to store it all in.  Plus, there are also a few under-the-bed clear plastic bins.

Then, there is the wonderful site, Ravelry.  It took me longer than most to join and I still have not really done anything on the site.  Yes, I have found a few local people (Kathy from Colonial Yarn, and Alice of Altobish and also from Colonial Yarn in particular) and joined a few groups.  Beyond that, nothing.

I like the idea of all of my knitting related stuff categorized all in one place.  The problem with that is I don't know what all I have.  I'm actually more than a little afraid to find out.  It's one thing to have a plastic baggy with most of my sock needles in it and some in WIP's, and some burried or hidden here and there.  It is something altogether different (and a definite needle purchasing inhibitor) to know that I have 304 circular needles in the 0 to 2 size range.  I exagerate a little because I am afraid to even hazzard a guess. Do I really have to find out how many I have?

So, The Project is one of cleaning up the stash.  More importantly it is one of photographing and identifying exactly WHAT (and how much) The Stash really is. A full documentation.  With images.

Just for the record, The Project has commenced.  I spent most of Wednesday photographing and winding into center-pull balls the few skeins that made up the "wool cubby".  I have also just spent the better part of the last three hours getting my Flickr account linked to my Ravelry account, uploading all of the pictures I took Wednesday plus the yarn I dyed last week that is for sale on Etsy plus pics of some of the sweaters I have made.  This is going to take a while.

While working on all of this, I came across a yarn whose lineage is a complete mystery.  I am not sure of the fiber content but think it is a superwash sock yarn blended with either silk or bamboo.  It could just be plain superwash but I can't tell.  It seems to have the slightest sheen.  It is a 3 ply and is 25 wpi.  I first thought it was a lace yarn because the wpi count seems too high for a sock yarn but I looked at some other lace weights and decided that if it were meant for lace it would only be a 2 ply and the wpi's would be higher accordingly.  It is just a light fingering.  It is a 100 g skein and I measured it to be in the area of 460 yds.  It is tightly plied but doesn't have a lot of bounce or spring to the touch.  I haven't tried knitting with it.

The colors are staggeringly gorgeous (if you are a fan of purple or pink or combinations of same).  It also has a silvery sort of grey/lavender and a dark purplish brown.  If you have seen this yarn, please let me know...I would love to call it by it's proper name when I gush over it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Better Late Than Never

In previous posts I mentioned the sweater I made for Addison and my Got Gauge sweater.  At the time of those postings I had not gotten off my ass to take the damn pictures did not have photos available. As Drew Barymore so famously said a long time ago...

They're here....

This was made from a bulky roving yarn from Nashua that has been discontinued.  I can't remember what yarn the trim is made from.  I just know it was pure luck that I found something in the same type and weight of yarn that went so well with the original.  It is from a different yarn manufacturer.

And here...

I have plans to make another one of the Got Gauge sweaters (and write the directions down this time).  It started off as a tank top with eyelets for ribbon to be woven through.  Large women (such as myself) should probably not chose to accentuate their width by having ribbons (skinny little ribbons at that) form horizontal lines around their bodies.  So, as you can ribbons.  No tank top either although that is still on my short list of designs I am working on mentally right now.  But, I think the next time I do this it will be in a size small (as most of the things I am making right now are due to financial and time constraints) or even better yet in a child size.  Hmm. I have three skeins of Claudia Hand Painted Sock Yarn in related colorways that might be pretty awesome as a sweater for a little girl.....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Third Time's the Charm

Jake loves the color orange.  I got this gorgeous (if you like orange) Trekking yarn at The Yarn Basket that fateful day in September.  See here for the story on Max.  I got this to make surprise socks for my little sock hog, Jake.

I got out an Addi Turbo (my needles of choice) in a size 0.  I chose the 0 over a 1 or 2 simply because it was what I found that day.  I keep buying sock circs and they keep disapearing. The smaller the needle, the better (tighter stitches and durability you know) but I will use up to a size 2 if that's all I can find.  When I start adult socks I can usually make a good guess at my gauge and the required number of stitches based on the feel of the yarn and the stitch pattern involved.

It's been a while since I made socks for Jake and darn it...he grew.  My gauge with this yarn/needle combination is somewhere around 9/in.  I cast on 48 stitches.  I made the cuff.  I knit the leg.  I made a beautiful heel flap.  I turned the heel.  I started the instep decreases.  I tried it on him in his sleep.

I cast on 56 stitches the second time around using a tubular cast on for the very first time.  On something so small it was a giant pain in the ass but very cool looking once done.  I made the cuff.  I made the leg.  Mom tried knitting with my size "ohmygodthesearetiny" needle in one huge loop so some of the leg stitches were clinging-on-for-dear-life tight (but that's ok, I got them to even out).  I made another beautiful heel flap.  I did the decreases.  I haven't knit on this for a while. When I got it out this morning it occurred to me I should forgo the surprise part and try it on his ever growing 5 yr old feet.

I am now casting on 64 stitches.  I measured the child this morning and we should be good (with a little room for growth) at 64.   The first time I used the tried and true long-tail (or slingshot) cast on method.  As mentioned above I used the tubular method the second time.  This time I am using the knitted-on method.  I realized in making this decision (for the third time explative deleted) that this great variety of methods is one of the things I like so much about knitting.

The cast on methods I have used so far in my short knitting career:
  1. Long-tail or slingshot
  2. Knitted on
  3. Cable (fancy cousin of knitted on)
  4. Backwards loop (or e loop)
  5. Long-tail with 2 different yarns
  6. Tubular
  7. Provisional using a crochet chain of waste yarn
  8. Provisional using a crochet hook and crocheting the chain around the knitting needle
  9. Provisional starting with waste yarn and just changing to the working yarn
  10. Magic figure 8 for toe up socks
  11. Circular for the center of a shawl
  12. Mobius for magical knitting
Even with a dozen different ways to start my knitting I know there are tons more.  I recall reading about a Latvian method but I have not tried that one yet.  (Help for casting on can be found here, here, here, here, and here  to show you just a few of the many resources available)

The point is that while knitting is simply pulling loops through loops the infinite variety of it keeps me mezmerized.  I enjoy learning new things (especially if it is knitting related).  I find I have to really pay attention if I am trying to figure something new out.  That slightly uncomfortable feeling when the muscle memory isn't there giving way to the almost comfortable feeling of "heyIthinkI'mgettingthehangofthis" and finally having that  feeling of success when the fingers and the brain are in concert and finally comfortable with the task at hand and have developed a new rhythm is a wonderful experience to go through every so often and I highly reccomend it.  Discovering the variety of available cast-on because I keep forgetting to measure Jake's feet...not the same thing!

Yarn for surprise socks for Jake--$25
Favorite circular knitting needle--$15
Knitting the socks in the right size the FIRST time--Priceless!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cheaper is not always better...

In these times of economic difficulties and uncertainty we are all trying to do everything we can to pinch pennies, save money, spend wiser, and stretch dollars farther (or is it further?). I digress-go figure.

There are, however, situations when that which costs less really costs more in the long run.

I have two situations in mind.

The first is when you shop at any of the "big box" type stores when there are small, local, momandpop equivalents available AND the item in question is NOT an absolute necessity. I have phrased it that way (with both stipulations) because when money is non-existant and your child needs some necessary piece of clothing or you need to put food on the table I am not suggesting you should patronize the local up-scale childrens boutique or the local gourmet shop. I don't have much in terms of common sense but I have enough to know that would be ridiculous.  When the item being shopped for is NOT a necessity AND there is a local alternative then I believe it is that local merchant that we should support.  When the "luxury" you are craving is something as simple as a bag of chips or a cupcake, visit the little corner store or the upscale bakery (especially the upscale bakery!!) There are local book sellers, markets, gift shops, all kinds of wonderful places.

I know time is as tight as money these days. And, why pay more for the same item if you don't have to? Well, for one thing, the change of scenery will probably do you some good.  It is far too easy to get stuck in a rut.  Go someplace new. Meet new people.  The service at a small local shop is almost guaranteed to be better.  The local shop keepers value your business in ways the huge stores never will and can't even fathom.  If you are looking for something special just ask the owner.  Try that at the local mega-mart. If you don't know where the local shops are--find out. You never know what other great "finds" you will find once you start looking. When you spend your money in these local shops much more of it stays in your community benefitting you, your neighbors, and the community as a whole rather than just benefitting greedy corporate america.

I understand that the same item at one of these smaller stores will most likely cost more (the shop owners have to pay themselves and their workers living (not minimum) wages AND offer health care at exorbitant rates. But we are talking about non-neccessities here.  So, save your money. If it takes a couple extra days before you get to reward yourself the reward will be a little sweeter.  Besides, the couple of extra days will give you the time you need to find that little cafe.  Or the local chocolatier.  Or the independent book seller. Or your LYS (local yarn shop for the non-knitters out there).

A few short months ago I had only one LYS that I frequented and I only knew of three others. I am now aware of six, have visited four at least once, and regularly frequent two.  You never know what is out there until you start looking. Or, ask your family and friends for recommendations.

The second situation where cheaper is not always better is a fiber related one.  A few weeks ago, National Alpacca Farm day to be exact, I bought a whole, unprocessed alpacca cria fleece.  When I did this, I committed several fiber related sins.

We went to two farms on the day in question.  At the first farm I saw a raw fleece.  The staple length was a gorgeous 4-6 inches.  With just my fingers I drafted and spun a few fibers. It was beyond incredible!  At the second farm the owners have a cute little shop with a number of finished garments, a small collection of alpacca and alpacca blend yarns, and a big assortment of alpacca and alpacca blend fibers from their own animals for sale.  Unprocessed alpacca fiber is much easier to deal with than unprocessed wool because you don't have to wash it before you spin it.  Alpacca does not have the greasy lanolin that makes sheep's wool so dirty.  In fact, for competitions the breeders are not allowed to wash the animals.  That is how clean they are.

This fleece caught my attention.  It is black with a dark red-brown at the tips from the sun. It was less expensive because it was unprocessed.  And, it was on SALE!! The processed rowing ranged from $4/ounce to $8/ounce depending on quality, color, and blend.  The unprocessed fleece was normally $3/ounce and was on sale for $1.50/ounce! The catch was that I had to take the whole fleece (26 oz. $39). So, for the same money I could get 26 oz of unprocessed fleece (understanding that a little of that weight is vegetable matter so my net fiber is probably I'm the range of 20-24 oz).  For the same money I could get 4.75-9.75 oz of processed roving.  So, we're talking anywhere from 2 to almost 5 times the fiber for the same price!! There was no question.  I was in love. The color is exquisite. Of course I forgot that knitting with really dark yarn is a Bitch! I also forgot one other teensy, weensy, little thing.  I neglected to check the staple length.

This fleece it turns out is this particular cria's first fleece.  A cria is the name for a baby alpacca.  I'm guessing this was a baby born in the fall. Alpaccas (like sheep) are shorn once a year-usually in the spring.  So, while this is baby alpacca (even softer than regular alpacca which is saying something) the staple length is at best two inches.  At worst maybe an inch. Ouch! Hindsight may be 20/20 but it also can hurt like a mother.

I started out trying to spin it as is much the same way I had been able to with the fiber I played with at that first farm.  Yeah, not so much. I only use a drop spindle (I dream of a wheel of my own but I've never even tried one and wouldn't know where to begin) and even as drop spinners go I am at best an advanced beginner (I did manage to make a respectable 3-ply sock yarn of 15 WPI from a Blue Moon Fibers kit). So, while I have learned how to make a very fine (25+ WPI) single for lace or socks with a fair amount of consistency, I have very little experience with a range of fibers, two dog slicker brushes for make shift hand carders, and no experience making a consistent thicker yarn or using a very short staple.

So, this morning I got out the dog brushes. For the record, I bought these specifically for this purpose-they were never used on actual dogs.  This beautiful dog of a fleece is a different story. I made six little mini-rolags and started to spin it with my "baby" spindle (it only weighs half an ounce). I'm trying to make the singles a little thicker than I usually would. 

I got the fibers unclumped and layered a bit better than what they were before.

At this point I am thinking I will andean ply it.  Another thought is to blend it with another roving. Is that an option given the "tools" I am using? Do I try to card them together? Will I ruin the other roving in the process? Or, do I continue carding this stuff (it seems to be helping) and just blend them as I spin them?

I'm usually pretty good at figuring fiber things out. And, while it may take a while (and some good resource materials) I have confidence that I will get there eventually. I'm just hoping that with so many amazing spinning talents out there one of you will take pity on me and my blinded by the sale sign purchase and offer up some advice on how best to proceed.

Of course, if all else fails I do have at least four other spinning projects started that do not have fiber issues...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Got Gauge?

My thoughts on gauge are a lot like my thoughts on patterns. I sort of do my own thing and go with the flow.

My approach to swatching has changed.

When I first started knitting I was in such a hurry to get going that I would just do a 'quick & dirty' swatch to find out the number of stitches per inch in stockinette stitch.  I would look at the yarn label, cast on the number of stitches that "should" make 6 inches, knit 4-5 rows in garter stitch and then 4-5 rows in stockinette, then measure.  If I liked the way it looks and liked the way it felt while I was making the stitches then I would rip it out and away we would go.

I still do that every once in a while.  I've learned some patience and mellowed a bit but I'm not gonna lie to you. I still do a 'Q&D' every once in a while. For the most part though, I have learned to enjoy swatching for swatching's sake.

Because I rarely use someone else's pattern I am free to chose my yarns based solely on what I like.  I base my choices on what speaks to me at the time. I may have a specific color or fiber or yarn weight in mind. Or not.  What's on sale that day also plays a part in my choices (now more than ever).

Most recently, I have had this little jacket in mind.  It is cropped.  It is asymmetrical (in shape and stitch pattern).  It is fitted.  It is for spring.  It has 3/4 length sleeves.  It has a gauge of 4-6 stitches per inch in stockinette. On a size 5-7 needle.  It is 'electric' blue. It has good stitch definition.

When I started looking for the yarn that this sweater-in-my-mind is made out of I ran into some problems.  The first yarn I found that seemed to fit the bill was Noro. I forget which ones because I love them all and enjoy mixing them.  That was the problem.  I made two of my last three sweaters out of Noro (Kuryon & Silk Garden Sock Yarn). I know I will making more sweaters out of Noro's lovely yarns just not this one.  When I finally tore myself away from the Noro goodness I had a really hard time finding anything. All the amazing blue yarns that were the right color were too heavy. So I kept reminding myself to "Think Spring". Think Spring, think Spring, think Spring. And as I walked around the Yarn Basket I saw a basket of this:

(imagine picture of cozy, pastelly, yarn.  I will photograph soon.  I promiss.  When the light is good.  But I wanted to get this post up in the meantime. )

Great Adirondak's 100% Alpacca in soft sweet pastels.

It was love at first sight.  So, the little jacket I am knitting now is going to fall short of the S.I.M.M. because it is NOT that magical color of blue, and it will not have the tailored look I wanted.  That's okay.  As I knit it I am thinking that I will add a little bit of ruffle detail to accentuate it's soft, feminine feel.

Meanwhile, I didn't give up on finding THE yarn that is going to make THAT jacket.  I looked around Kathy's stash-for-sale at Colonial Yarn and found IT. The only problem (although it is not really a problem more of a misconception on my part) is that it is cotton.  With cotton in hand I searched the shop again. No luck. I never imagined that a cotton (not my favorite fiber) would be the answer but it is.

So, I bought 8 skeins of that perfect blue and 2 skeins of a darker almost navy blue for trim accent.  When I got home I started swatching.

(Insert picture of swatch.  No, not the picture from the phone.  A better picture.  Take it when you get off your ass to take the picture above.)

Swatching for stitch patterns (and gauge) is one of my favorite things now.  The goal of this kind of swatching is to decide on a needle size, get the gauge measurements, and most importantly play.  In playing I find out what kinds of stitches and stitch patterns look best with the chosen yarn.  Since the goal is to play and then choose a favorite or favorites I don't feel the sense of impatience to 'finish'.  In this case, I swatched a whole skein (only 70+ yards) to get an idea of the coverage I am going to get from each skein.

(While you are at it, take a couple of pictures of the Got Gauge Sweater and put them here so people can understand what you are talking about when you blather on about the mathematical relationships between the multiple gauges, blah, blah, blah.)

My last Noro sweater taught me that gauge can be your friend, and that playing with gauge can be fun and effective.  For this sweater,whose name incidentally is the same as this post title, I wanted to do something different with sock yarn.  I experimented with different needle sizes.  The first size I tried was a US 2.  I got a gauge of 6 stitches per inch.  Then I went up to a US 9 and got 4.5 stitches per inch.  Lastly I tried a US 13 and got 3 stitches per inch.  I had made notations of the three needle sizes and the three gauge numbers.  As I was trying to decide which swatch's stitches I liked best I looked at the numbers and realized there was a mathematical relationship between them that made sense to me.  So, I made a sweater whose main gauge is 4.5. The lower half and sleeves have a very lacy and flowy feel in a  gauge of 3. The finished edges are closely knit and ruffly and the sleeve seems are very finely knit in a gauge of 6.  Because the numbers are mathematically related the increases and decreases were simple.  So, in this case, gauge was my friend and co-designer. 

Friday, October 2, 2009

Questions about the fiber industry

The preceding post was written on Sunday, Sept 28th but due to technical issues (operator error) was not published until today:

First of all the heading of this post...should it really be questions about fiber industries (plural)? My questions are about spinning, dying, knitting, AND designing. Where does one industry stop and another one start? Many of my questions are also about the publishing end of it all and as such involve a whole different beast.

Secondly, how does one such as myself contact the appropriete people to get the answers? Are the people who are kind enough to give answers the people WITH the answers? Does that even make sense to anyone besides myelf?

With those pre-questions asked, here goes.  This is an open letter to all of those individuals involved in the many aspects of the varies industries/activities/hobbys that I find myself chasing after down the rabbithole (I think the white rabbit was an angora). Whether you do these things from your home for pleasure only or as a professional as your only source of income I welcome any and all advice.  And thank you in advance.  You can either leave a comment here, or e-mail me .

Deep breath, here goes...

To whom it may concern;

I am a novice in all things fiber related.  I never cared for fashion. I didn't know there were "Knitting magazines" or this vibrant fiber community.  I had never heard of or seen a drop spindle. That all changed in 2005 when I found after learning to knit that "I GOT it". I am talking about the great and amazing, religious-like awakening of the soul when you realize your life's calling. Now I just need to find out how to make a living doing these amazing things.  Here are my questions in no particular order:

1.  For independant dyers: how or what kinds of records do you keep to dupicate a colorway? Do they include photos? How many skeins do you dye at a time?  My dying experience has always been a series of happy accidents.  I tend to prefer painting the skeins.  Do I keep track of the ml of dye used?  How do you keep your sense of serendipity and your sanity?

2. How do you find wholesale companies to get 'blank' yarn from? Do you use one company for the various yarns or do you work with multiple companies?

3.  For spinners/dyers: Do you sometimes just spin solid color or white yarn and THEN dye it or do you usually spin multicolor top or roving?

4.  How does one get 'test knitters'?

5.  Designers: If a garment is made with 'standard' construction do you just design on paper and give to test knitters or do you knit it yourself first and use the test knitters as a double check?

6.  Selling designs: mainstream magazines vs. Knitty online vs. Ravelry vs. Your own web site or blog which is best and why? Which is easiest? Which pays the biggest dividend for the long run (i.e. name recognition vs financial)?

7.  Coding technicalities: help! How does one integrate photos, charts, schematics, and regular documents together in to one PDF thingie? Then how does one 'host' this PDF thingie and offer it for sale using PayPal?

8. If you want people to notice and use your work BUT you also know you want to put togther a book AND you need to make money at this; how much do you put 'out there' and how much do you 'keep in reserve'?

9. What is the typical pay for a design from the major publications (VK, IK etc.)? Do they look at stuff from rookies such as myself?

I think that is it for now. For some of the above questions I have sort of answered them for myself but I would still like to hear what people have to say. Question #7 is a big hang-up for me in part because our PC is about seven years old and having issues. We are looking into buying a laptop but that is a whole other series of questions.

Gotta run.  Today is National Alpaca Farm Day so we're off to see and pet some Alpacas.

PS. One of the sweaters I am working on now is 100% Alpaca (dreamy soft).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

So wierd there aren't words

It occurs to me that while I am doing something that I love (designing knitwear and knitting patterns) I am also doing something that I hate (using patterns).  It is a rather odd juxtaposition (I love that word) of creating the one thing I really hate to use.

I began (taught myself) knitting February 2005.  I apologize for mentioning this fact ad naseum but I have a hard time grasping the time span.  Since then, I have made 2 sweaters from someone else's pattern.  The first was a hugely bulky sweater for myself out of Lion Brand "Thick and Quick".  The sweater is so warm as to be unwearable indoors and so big (I'm already a 3X on top) as to be embarrasing.  But it was my first sweater so I cut myself some slack on my choices that I made then.  What did I know (apparently, not much).  The second sweater I knit from someone else's pattern was the "February Lady" sweater by Pamela Wynne.

I used Noro.  I modified the pattern in a couple of ways.  First, I used a different ball for each section of the sweater so that it would give me different stripe widths.  Then, I made the bottom of the sleeves larger for a bell shape.  Finally, I put a split in the cuffs to exagerate the sleeve shape.  But all-in-all I followed it pretty closely (for me).

Aside from these two, every other sweater has been one of my own creations.  I started off making some simple drop shoulder sweaters for my husband, my boys, and my nephew.  The challenge on those was stripes.  They were made from the same yarn with varying colors and stripe patterns.  The challenge was to match the sleeves exactly with the body.  Then, I did a little colorwork for Jake in the form of a heart and reverse stripe.

At some point Carter asked for a hoodie made out of Lion Brand Homespun.  This was that result:

Then there was the sweater knit sideways for my husband out of a thick and thin varigated roving yarn from Nashua that I don't think I have any pictures of...

And the bazillion pairs of socks I have knit since I first learned how in January of 2006.

And, let's not forget the first "serious" attempt at colorwork, the Jake sweater.  Made for Jake for his 5th birthday last March.  Here he is in all his glory:

There are also two other sweaters made for me that I did recently that I love.  The point of this is that while I do lots of sketching and even more math, I do not "write" patterns for any of these.  I love to use my creativity  (and lots of math skills) to make my own creations.  Having to learn to write my stuff down (in a format that others can understand) is really hard.  There are not words for how wierd it is to have to create that which you never use.

How could I forget?

The absolute best part about the Colonial Yarn shop is the selection! Kathy is wonderful, the store (while small) is so warm and inviting, the events she holds are great, and I love the shop layout. But the very best part is the amazing selection!

When I asked Kathy how many different lines of yarn she carried she started naming them. I'm talking full or mostly full lines. I lost count when she got past twenty. Then she started listing some of the individual yarns she has on hand.

What blew me away the first time I perused her selection was the fact that I didn't know or hadn't heard of so many of them.  I know I have only been knitting for four years. But, I read every knitting magazine I can get my hands on. I have a pretty good selection of knitting related books. I have been to Rhinebeck once and the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival twice. Yet, Kathy continues to surprise me with yarns that I can't get anywhere else locally. (I'll discuss Webs in a future post)

She also features a local independent dyer, Alice Bish. Her label is Altobish. She is on Ravelry as "Azalea". You can check out her blog here.  I even met Alice at the shop a couple of days ago.  I like to dye my own yarn from time to time (something I plan to do more of in the future) and I can't wait to talk techniques with Alice. How many LYS's can you do that at?

And, as a by-the-way kind of thing; Kathy is on Ravely as"colonial1".  Stop by either in person or on Ravelry.  I'm sure she would love to meet you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Colonial Yarn Shop in Shiremanstown, PA

The second in my series of yarn shop reviews is the Colonial Yarn Shop in Shiremanstown, PA. This shop has been around for quite a while (25 years!) with different owners. Kathy is the current owner/operator.

I love this shop for a variety of reasons. First of all, Kathy really knows her stuff. And, more importantly, she knows how to teach and seems to enjoy helping the knitters who come to her. There is a round table smack dab in the center of her shop to sit and knit at or just put your stuff down on while browsing. That brings me to the yarn.

There are many ways that I can think of to organize a yarn shop. The first is by fiber type (all the wool together, all the silk, etc.). The second is by weight (lace, sock, DK, worsted, bulky). The third is by manufacturer (Noro, Shaeffer, Lorna's Laces, etc.). The fourth (I've never seen it done this way but would absolutely love it) is by color. And, then there is Kathy's way. Which is actually probably the easiest to deal with and that is no particular order. Sorry Kathy, if there is a method to your yarn madness I can't tell. I actually love this though because it requires that you look at everything.

I don't particularly like to work with cotton yarns. They're ok while I'm working with them it's just the way they tend to sag and not recover later on that frustrates me to no end. Yesterday, I was looking for a particular color/weight of yarn and when I found it at Kathy's it turned out to be 100% cotton. Had her store been arranged by type of yarn as most stores tend to do I never would have found it.

Kathy offers a number of knitting classes, hosts a lace knitting group and a sock knitting group and has knit nights once or twice a month. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Yarn Garden in Carlisle, PA

Our first stop on the tour of LYS's (local yarn shops for the two non-knitters reading this) is The Yarn Garden in Carlisle, PA.

The Yarn Garden is located at 52 W. Pomfret St. The first 4 to 5 blocks of this street are an artist's dream. There are all kinds of creative shops, artist's studios, and eating establishments.

The proprieters are Hillary & Jill and you could not ask for two kinder people. They both love to knit and really care about their customers.

Their shop features a huge picture window. A table, sofa, and chair directly in front of the window create a wonderful sitting area with abundant natural light--the perfect place to make color choices about new projects or just sit and knit on works-in-progress. Besides the front window, the shop has other windows bathing most of the space in natural light.

The yarns are mostly seperated by type/fiber and are either in cubby-hole shelves or hanging on the wall. They carry a wonderful (if slightly consevative and predictable) sellection. They have many of the smaller, independantly produced yarns and carry everything from lace and sock to cottons, wools, silk and some novelty yarns. They even have a beautiful selection of pure qiviut (the really, REALLY good stuff) and qiviut blends (more affordable and just as soft).

The two story building provides ample room for their yarns, pattern books, needles, and accessories to be displayed artistically without feeling crowded. There is also room upstairs for a classroom/meeting room, a kitchen area, a bathroom, and ample storage.

There is also a patio off the back of the shop where customers can enjoy a lovely breeze or the scent of nearby flowers when the weather allows.

A cup of coffee, a little conversation, a sock to knit on (or lace, or cables, or....) and the world is a perfect place. That's what you'll find here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Hello. My name is Susan Stacy Baiman Taliaferro. You can call me 'Sue'. In all actuality I will answer to just about anything but 'Sue' seems easiest and most straightforward.

This is my new job. My new life. If you came here from my existing blog then you are well aware of this change. For those who haven't read my earlier stuff here's the short version. I was recently laid off from my job in a wholesale food warehouse. Now, I am starting out as an independant designer. Of knitwear and knitting patterns.

This blog is devoted to that endeaver. I am currently working on a number of designs. The first few will be submitted to Unfortunately, I can't show my designs here before I submit them.

Even as I am working on some things that I can't discuss I will also be working through themes, issues, design elements, and just working on the many aspects of my craft. So, I am sure I will have plenty of things to discuss.

One of the avenues I am starting to explore is working with the local yarn shops, their proprieters, and their customers. With that in mind I will be first introducing you to these wonderful places.

So, welcome on this journey with me. It should be a fun ride (hopefully not too bumpy). Our next stop will be the Yarn Garden in Carlisle, PA. (Please keep all hands and arms inside while the ride is in motion.)