Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Smartest Knitting Trick of '06 (so far)

I don't really expect to see a more clever or more useful technique in the second half of the year, either.

This is from someone named S. Kate, and full coverage of the event is on Stephanie's blog. (I'm still in about 98% blog blackout, so don't anyone be offended that I'm not reading yours, but someone pointed me to this.) Kate had a lace problem:

(Don't expect to see the error; this is actually a photo from the nearly-fixed stage; there's no "before" photo. But this gives you an idea of the challenge and the goal.)

So she did the brave and ambitious thing:

That is, she ravelled back the area where the problem was, planning to fix the problem and then re-knit the area instead of ripping back the whole project 16 rows.

The beauty part is this:

This is a swatch of the pattern area in question, in which each row has been worked in a different color. The brown strands are all the plain purl rows, and then the different colors each represent a different pattern row. Now Kate has a reference point that shows where every strand should go from one stitch to the next, and it's color-coded so that she can tell which thread twists in which direction around which other. I want to draw your attention particularly to the spots right above the yarnovers, where brown yarn twists around gold or blue. Those are double yarnovers, which may be the trickiest part of an operation like this.

Is this brilliant, or what? Among the things I like about it: you really don't have to do it ahead of time. That is, if you tend (as I do) to drop the stitches back pretty casually, assuming that you'll just knit them right back up with no trouble--and then find that you're wrong, and having lots of trouble--it's o.k. to stop right there, put the work aside, and make your swatch. It's just as useful when you've botched the fix as it is when you're only dealing with the original simple mistake.

This makes it different from a lifeline, which works well as long as you use it--that is, as long as you take the time to put it in as you go. You can add a lifeline later, but it's much more difficult, and much more prone to error, than if you'd done it when you were supposed to. The lifeline works best for those who demonstrate the maturity to recognize that they're going to need it--as opposed to those of us who pretend that we're not going to make mistakes.

That's today's lesson in laceknitting and human nature.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sneak preview of coming attractions

Making a special appearance at Rosie's Yarn Cellar, a batch of Black Bunny Fibers wool-nylon sock yarn:

I will be bringing it with me on July 13th for the special Handpaint Studio. No, my dears, I will not bring a hank in for you before that; it's all reserved for the Handpaint Studio on the 13th. (And there's more on the drying rack, in case these colors don't tempt you....)

Monday, June 26, 2006

So Young, and Yet So Cynical

So we're strolling through Target on Saturday afternoon, looking for new bedding for Diana. (She and Eva have been sharing a room, but it's time to split them up, so everyone gets some new decor.) This experience has driven us all to new heights of exasperation.

As we come upon a display of striped jersey sheet sets, in kind of an astonishingly bright green stripe, Suzanne says to Diana, "What do you think of those?"

Diana considers them a moment and then rejects them thus: "You just want me to get them because they have that bag that makes a good knitting bag."



Meanwhile, preparation goes on apace for the Handpaint Studio. For the series of articles on working with handpainted yarns, I'd appreciate any pictures you'd care to send of projects you weren't happy with. Striping, blotching, whatever color effect you didn't anticipate and didn't appreciate--I need examples to discuss what goes wrong and how to avoid it. (Not that I don't have a few myself. But I'd like to think there are more mistakes out there than I've made.) Send them to lisa at rosiesyarncellar dot com. I'll be happy to preserve your anonymity if you'd prefer.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Treo Alert: Save the date

Treo, Blackberry, old-fashioned Filofax, or the free calendar they give you at the Hallmark Store: whatever your method of saving the date, please set aside Thursday, July 13th. Rosie's is planning a celebration of hand-dyed yarn. Old favorites like Koigu and Anne (with, if all goes well, fresh stock), new favorites like Claudia and Great Adirondack, and some brand new stuff Rosie's hasn't stocked before.... (telling you more would spoil the surprise). We'll have refreshments, new patterns and sample garments; intimations that the Black Bunny of Black Bunny Fibers will make an appearance are, right now, merely unconfirmed rumors. (We're waiting for a return call from Charcoal's publicist.) Watch this blog: we'll also be doing a series of posts about hand-dyed yarns, including how to use them and how to enjoy them (even) more.

Monday, June 19, 2006

TNNA Report, pt. 2

Oh, you want to know what I saw in the booths? (As opposed to the aisles.)

According to Rowan, cables are back, bigtime. Some are oversized and placed as a central motif; some, as here, are allover patterns:

Rowan also has not one but two new self-striping yarns: Tapestry, which is about 5 sts per inch,

and Country, which is about the same weight as Big Wool, and has its own pattern booklet:

We've got the posters for Rowan 40, the new RYC booklets, and the new designs from Nashua; stop by and ask to see them. (It's not like there's any wall-space available to display them, so they're folded up on the front table.)

With the discontinuation of the Yorkshire Tweed line, we were shopping exhaustively for replacements. They're out there, all right, but it's a tough bunch of decisions: should they be plied or singles? crunchy or soft? bright or dull? And the answers may be different for the chunky weight, the aran, or the DK . . . . We're still debating all of that, so if you've got favorites, now's the time to speak up!

Last but not least, I'll just tease you by saying that we saw (and ordered!) a new product from the ladies at Koigu. It's incredibly exciting--just don't ask about delivery time!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

TNNA Report (pt. 1)

Well, I'm back.

I'll spare you the charming anecdotes of my flight-averse travelling companions, and the hyperbolic descriptions of the yarns we saw, and a jealousy-provoking photo of the swag I brought home (hint: it included 6 skeins of Regia sock yarn), and starstruck recaps of the knitting celebrities I met (hint: the three of us were alone for conversations with Debbie Bliss, Louisa Harding, Pam Allen, Jo Sharp, Norah Gaughan, and Veronik Avery).

At least, I'll spare you for now. I reserve the right to return to some of these topics.

For now, though, I want to consider one of the really broad issues that the show raised: what, exactly, is the function of handknitting today?

I have a relative who gets concerned whenever s/he comes into the shop and I or my colleagues are looking, um, not all that soigne. The argument this person makes is that I'm "selling style," and that customers must implicitly evaluate the shop and my personal judgement based on what we're all wearing.

If that were true, most of the shops run by people I saw this weekend would long since have gone under.

Or, to be less absolute about it, let’s say that what constitutes “style” must vary hugely from one place to another.

I’m trying to avoid specific criticisms, though there were many, many people whose aesthetic judgement I questioned. (I can’t resist one example: I’m all in favor of comfortable shoes; the show involves many hours of standing and walking on concrete floors. But not that many attendees seem to have gotten the memo that good walking shoes no longer have to look like orthopedic sneakers.)

And there were people whose common sense I questioned. (If you were going to an event attended entirely by your industry peers—shopowners, designers, sales reps—why would you choose to wear a garter-stitch poncho made out of mass-produced multicolor ribbon yarn? It required neither skill, nor time, nor taste, and you’ve worn it to the one place on earth where every single person is guaranteed to know that.)

But the issue is more than what the attendees were wearing. There was a fashion show on Friday night, featuring garments from the new Fall lines. Each exhibiting company was permitted to enter up to two items of their choice, for a total of 80-some entries. (Not every company chooses to participate.)

While some things were clearly shown for effect rather than with the expectation that many people would actually knit them (hey, check out that purple ballgown made of Kid Silk Haze!), I still saw very few things that I thought anyone in the audience would wear. There wasn’t all that much that I thought you or I would knit or wear, either.

Don’t worry—I’m not saying we’re going to have trouble finding exciting patterns next season. The fashion show was deceptive in that regard: it showed only two garments each from Rowan and Vogue Knitting, where we’ll expect to find quite a bit of good design; and it showed very few accessories (just a couple bags), even though that’s where much of the exciting work is happening.

But I had to ask myself: if we’re (by and large) not knitting to make ourselves look like we just stepped out of Women’s Wear Daily, why are we knitting?

I’d like to avoid the usual list of stock answers—a sense of community, creativity, connection to the past, etc. But I’d appreciate it if all those of you who knit wearables for yourselves would take a minute to consider what designs you choose, and why. Do you think of your knitted garments as making you part of the contemporary fashion scene, or as things that set you apart from it? As you expand your knitting skills, do you want to make things that more closely approximate custom tailoring, or things that offer more challenge in traditional knitting techniques?

I know many people are going to answer “Some of each” or “Sometimes one, sometimes the other”; and I know everyone’s answer is going to be different. But I’d like to hear some of your thoughts. It would help me clarify my own ideas about the craft, and it might help me look for pattern sources that would appeal to Rosie’s customer base at large.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

On the Stage, On the Road, On the Street

For those who wanted to know more about "the half-naked glam boy in the back room," he's Jeffrey Marsh, and he was being fitted for the garment you see him wearing here:

(He's the one in the middle.) The group is the Oberon Orchestra, at their performance last month at the World Cafe Live.

On another topic entirely: I'll be in Indianapolis over the weekend, attending the annual TNNA show. (Why Indianapolis? I think this group found Columbus too exciting.) What's the TNNA show? A buying event for shopowners, chiefly. Just about every yarn commercially available for handknitting in the United States will be there. Think about that for a moment. Then maybe breathe into a paperbag for a little while.

Inconveniently, the yarn will be spread out over a huge convention hall, interspersed with most of the needlepoint available in this country. In fact, there's much more needlepoint than yarn. That'll put a damper on things, at least for me.

I've already written a bit about what it's like to buy enough yarn to fill a shop, but next week, you'll here about what it's like to be surrounded by every distributor you've ever heard of and plenty more.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we'll be trying to do a little de-stashing: come over on Saturday on your way to Knit in Public, and check out the Sidewalk Sale. Believe it or not, I'm already having to fend off suppliers who want to ship our Fall orders now, and they obviously can't until we make a little space.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Round and Round We Go

So Karen came to teach Spinning with a Drop Spindle on Sunday, and there sure was plenty to learn. She brought a bunch of stuff to demonstrate:

She explained the various stages of the process that takes wool from the sheep's back to the spinner's hands, the different preparations from which one can spin, and the characteristics of various fibers (from a spinner's point of view, rather than a knitter's). There was more information than most people could absorb at once, including stuff that was immediately relevant to knitters, like the effect of twist on the finished knitting, and the difference between single-ply yarns and multi-ply yarns.

Washing the raw fleece didn't sound too appealing. Wool combs looked pretty scary. Handcards were better but looked like an awful lot of work.

Then came the spinning.

There was some frustration. There was fierce concentration.

Then there were spindles in the air (as well as in the lap and on the floor).

There were breakthroughs.

Eventually, there was yarn!

People spun from pencil roving and then from a thicker roving that needed to be fluffed up and pre-drafted. The consensus was that the pencil roving is easier for novices. Several people took some home. (Most people had bought some fiber at the same time as they bought their spindles, but no one wanted to waste their hand-painted roving or exotic camel-down on these first experiments.)

The pictures didn't come out, but one participant has already been back (less than 24 hours after the class!) for more fiber--and she had two mini-skeins of her own yarn with her, and a full spindle more!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Workshop Reminders

There are still a couple spots left in Sunday's "Spinning With a Drop Spindle" class; if you have the time, the inclination, and a spindle of your own, call the shop.

(And if you want to stop by on Sunday afternoon just to laugh at us all as the spindles clatter to the floor repeatedly, feel free. We're not afraid.)

Looking ahead, there's a "Pattern Modification" workshop on Sunday, 6/18. It will cover altering patterns for style, fit, and/or gauge.

For those ready to take the next step, "Pattern Writing" is Sunday, 7/16.

Anyone who's following the escapades of The Amazing Lace and is inspired to start making holes of their own is encouraged to sign up for "Lace Basics" on Sunday, 6/25. Also anyone who's actually engaged in The Amazing Lace but thinks they may have gotten in over their head and wants some formal instruction.

Finally, there will be a "Socks" workshop on Sunday, 7/9. I had planned to do the all-purpose Intro version, but it seems like an awfully long time since we did a Toe-Up socks class, so I'm considering shifting to that. Speak up--what do you want to see?