Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My Favorite Book This Season

Even without having seen all the new releases, even though I've got stuff in a book that's coming out this month or next, even though the Stitch'n'Bitch crochet book is gonna sell the pants off all of them--

My favorite new book this season is Inspired Cable Knits by Fiona Ellis.

Some of the designs are more traditional, some are less, but they've all got the elements that are so hard to find in cabled sweaters:

-- Attention to detail, and interesting details. The necklines are carefully worked into the cable patterns. And check this:

It's part of this:

Which brings me to the next item:

-- Shaping. I don't think there's a single drop shoulder in the bunch. And you can see the side shaping in the photo above.

-- Sizing. Because the cables make for large pattern repeats, plenty of cable sweaters are sized "40-44-48-tough luck." The size ranges here include at least one that starts as small as 30" and at least one as large as 60".

-- Cool stuff. I'm not usually a fan of books that claim to show what "inspires" the designer, but I could look at photos like these for hours:

And I probably will.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Just In Case You Were Wondering

Ever wondered how yarn winds up where it does in the shop? Why this yarn on this shelf, in this bin? Of course you have. It probably went something like this: "So she said this one was the right gauge for my project, and this one, and . . . this one over here . . . and, wait, wasn't there one on this wall, too? Couldn't they just keep all the DK-weight yarns in the same place??"

You wish. So do we.

Most often, what determines a yarn's location is its put-up, which is the industry term for the shape of the unit: is it 50 grams or 100? And is it in a hank (like Manos or Peruvian Tweed), a twisty skein (like Rapture or Summer Tweed), a doughnut shape (Cashsoft DK or Natasha), a pull-skein (Alpaca Lace or Blizzard), or wound on a spool (Suede or Oriental [which is on sale, by the way])? Even with the versatile shelving system we've got in the West Wing (thanks again, Brent!), some yarns don't work in some places. Some yarns shouldn't be shelved at all, since the skein tends to fall apart as soon as you turn your back.

Or there are so many colors (La Gran) that you can't hope to show them all. This is a chronic problem with Big Wool, but we do it anyway: if it's a yarn we're constantly selling a lot of, we don't want to have to run into the back room for it every minute every day. So if projects frequently call for just a skein or two, we'll devote more shelf space to a yarn, so that people will be able to help themselves.

Which brings us to Provence. What are there, 50 colors? Through the winter, demand was low, and we let the color selection diminish, and we hung a skein of each color on a series of rods in the West Wing, near the other non-wool options (Manos Cotton, Celia, All-Seasons Cotton--see, we try to put yarns of similar function together!). But once the Spring magazines start coming out, and the Spring yarns come in, we're going to be reaching for Provence constantly. It's going to need some serious real estate.

In past summers, Provence has gone in the big glass bins in the front room. This has worked well for several reasons: the colors are very visible. There's enough room for all of them, and for more than just a skein or two of each (that fixture is the single most capacious in the shop, barring the Manos wall). Because the skeins are big, they don't avalanche out of the bins every time someone picks one up. And because Provence is the perfect yarn for so many Spring and summer projects all the time, people have to look at it--even though it's over the bench, where there are often people sitting. See, as prominent as that location is, customers often won't browse it at all; whether they're aware of it or not, they're reluctant to disturb anyone sitting anywhere nearby. So we've learned--it took years--that we're dooming a yarn to failure if we put it there, unless it's something that people just have to have: like sock yarn, or Provence, or (sometimes) Noro.

(Notice that it's not just the characteristics of the yarn that come into play when we're deciding where to put something: it's the characteristics of the fixtures, too.)

So Provence is going back into its old spot, here:

But wait! That space wasn't empty before. It was full of sock yarn. Where does the sock yarn go? We thought we'd try the gridbin at the bottom of the stairs--the small bins work best for the small skeins, and that wall is another one where people are reluctant to linger. (That's why the Koigu goes there: because people will do anything for Koigu.)

So we move the sock yarn here:

But wait! That space wasn't empty before. It was full of ribbon and fluffy stuff and things that are good for silly scarves. Hmm. Some went onto the dowels the Provence used to occupy, on the theory that the scarf season is winding down, so it won't be such a problem to have those yarns where people have to ask us to get them from the back room. Some moved to the bookcase by the register, because there were so few skeins left. Some went into baskets on the floor, waiting for inspiration. Some went into the sale bin. Like this:


Frankly, that was a pretty simple move: time-consuming, but straightforward. So the next time you come into the shop and see a few boxes, like this:

--and then, a day or two later, you come in again, and see this:

--bear with us. It's not as simple as it looks.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

And (Someone Else's) Finished Object

Ever wondered how a Clapotis would look in Mountain Colors' "Mountain Goat"? Roz found some of the color called Mystic Lake, and she wondered, so now you don't have to:

She was thinking about making one for her mom, but worried that the yarn (wool/mohair blend) would irritate Mom's skin . . .

. . . so this became just a sort of trial run at the pattern,

and Roz will have to keep it for herself. Poor Roz!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Medals and Munchies (or, Any Excuse for a Party)

It's official: we'll be celebrating the end of the Knitting Olympics at the shop on Sunday from 4:30 to 6.

(Some may notice that this overlaps the timeslot for Sunday's workshop--"Jump-Start Those Stalled Projects"--but there seems to be a sort of thematic link. Something like, "Be inspired; challenge yourself; nothing is impossible, not even finishing that [fill in dreaded project here].")

Come one, come all--official members of Team Philly, or of Team Wales, or unaffiliated participants, and spectators. Bring refreshments if you want; Rosie will provide some, too. And by all means, bring any Finished Objects you can.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sigh of Relief


is why I've been so cranky about the Knitting Olympics.


Months ago, a customer brought this in to be finished. She'd knit the cardigan and the matching dress, and wanted us to do the steek on the cardigan. (The dress had no steek and she finished that herself.)

Sure, we do steeks. Though usually, that's all we do: machine-stitch where the steeks go, cut them open, and hand the piece back to the customer to complete. I didn't really stop to think about the difference.

Or about the fact that most Dale Baby sweaters I've seen have been in the 6-month size, not the 3 year.

Time passed.

And when I finally had to buckle down and do it, it just wouldn't end. There's the neckband

and setting in the sleeves with their facings (the photo of which came out really bad, so just imagine), and the buttonband and buttonhole band:

(And a few ends to weave in.) And of course, all the bands are doubled, because they're turned under and stitched down to cover the cut edges of the fabric. I particularly hate having to do the buttonholes twice; I'm always sure they're not going to line up right. And I was on #1 needles, knitting tightly to keep the bands firm, and my hand hurt.

So along comes the Knitting Olympics, and I couldn't cast on anything new, and I couldn't even go on a UFO-finishing binge, because I couldn't do anything until this sweater was finished.

But at last, with help from Courtney in the last mile, the wretched Dale sweater is finished.

Cute, isn't it?

Monday, February 20, 2006


Is "Work In Progress" a standard knitblog abbreviation? Or have I imported it from my grad school days? Anyway, I haven't used it here before, so I'm obliged to provide the definition either way.

Because (with a little help from Courtney) I finally finished the finishing job from hell (pictures later), I'm working through the shop sample for the Lace Sampler Workshop:

(Blogging before coffee sure is difficult. The keys don't seem to be in the right place; I've backspaced and retyped the same typo 3 times, and resting my thumb too near the touchpad thingy on the laptop has caused me to exit the editing screen by accident. More than once.)
Anyway, I like the scarf so far. This is what it will really look like, and this is why we block:

I love being able to block things while they're still on the needle.
There are going to be quite a few more patterns--among the challenges the class is going to cover, we've got to consider a variety of different lace notations, stuff where the stitch count changes, things where markers won't work. And (regrettable but necessary) handling mistakes. (If there are other topics about knitting lace that drive you nuts, and you're free on Thursday evenings in March, let me know, and we'll work them in.)

One last thing: all you Olympic Knitters out there, I don't know the technical rules for the finish line, but don't you think there should be something--say, champagne and munchies--with the closing ceremonies next Sunday? Rosie's would be happy to provide the venue (though not the large-screen tv), and some non-Olympian fans to cheer you on as you frantically weave in the last few ends. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

You try it

All right, most of you know what the shop looks like: where do we put 30 colors of Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Cotton? It's put up in 50-gram bullet-shaped pull-skeins (that is, like miniature Encore).

This is not a theoretical question. Knitting Circle may have to sit on the stuff tonight. Hey, maybe we should offer a prize for the best solution!

Oh, and if you were wondering: 93 yds, cabled, mercerised, 5 sts per inch, says "Handwash" but I bet you can put it in the machine (we'll test and get back to you).

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Just in time for the snow: spring yarns!

If you haven't visited the shop recently, be forewarned that there's all sorts of boxes full of spring yarns being schlepped in by the faithful UPS guys. When I came in Saturday, I pretty much stumbled over a box full of Rowan goodies -- Calmer, new colors of All Seasons Cotton and Summer Tweed, and more -- as well as some very interesting RYC stuff: a wonderful book with cabled and other textured sweaters, a very cute RYC kids book called "Classic Bambini" and new colors of CashCotton, among other things. RYC's Natural Silk Aran looks luscious and it was probably the most tempting of the new yarns so far. We got a few more colors of Debbie Bliss Cathay, and a new Noro booklet featuring Silk Garden Lite. I'm playing with some Classic Elite Premiere -- we got new spring colors in that, too, and it's an extremely soft, drapey blend of pima cotton and tencel. Provence is coming in, too, and you'll see the all-colors-of-the-rainbow display where the sock yarn used to be. Probably the most unusual new yarn is called (I think) Meditations: it's lavender-scented to provide you with knitting aromatherapy. Seriously. Even I couldn't make that kind of stuff up.

So if you need a lift after shoveling out this weekend (we got about 18 inches in my suburban neck of the woods), you might want to stop in and starting thinking about spring.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Info You Need

Whether you're participating in the Olympics or not, all knitters should read this knowledgeable advice about preventing knitting-related damage to your hands.

Also, though it's once again going to take a little while to get the new stuff onto the website, the spring yarns from Rowan have started to come in: Summer Tweed (including the two new colors, 540 Orient and 541 Blossom), All-Seasons Cotton, 4-Ply Cotton, and Calmer.

Monday, February 06, 2006

On the Fence

Anyone out there who hasn't heard of the Knitting Olympics? Unlike the sporting events in Turin, the Knitting Olympics aren't competitive; the idea is to challenge oneself as a knitter -- with a new technique, or unusual speed, or whatever. I've been completely undecided about participating, and I haven't even been sure about why. Mostly, it seemed like any challenge I set myself would be rigged: it would either be a project I could complete comfortably in the given time period (and where's the challenge in that?), or it would be a stretch, and I'd have to lose sleep, diss offspring, and neglect work responsibilities to complete it (and hate myself afterward, to boot). Either way, not much suspense. Didn't sound like all that much fun, either.

But as I thought last night about another of my hesitations ("You mean, work for 16 solid days on the same project?"), I thought suddenly about my unfinished tallit (which you can see here, though you'll have to scroll down quite a bit), and whether two weeks' work would complete it. And then I thought, how many UFO's could I finish in two weeks, if I put my mind to it, and didn't cast on anything new in the meantime?

[And then I thought, that's ridiculous. Surely I don't cast on a new project every two weeks. I mean, I can't possibly, right? Even though I mostly knit small stuff like hats? Even counting stuff for the shop that's mostly for display and may never get finished? All right, how often do any of you cast on a new project? Honestly. Including stuff that turns out to be just experimental swatching, that may never turn into a project, let alone a finished object. Confess. Inquiring minds need to know: how crazy am I?]

Now, one of the rules of the official Knitting Olympics is that one may not cast on until the opening ceremonies. So if I go on a finishing marathon, I'm ineligible, technically. Which is a shame, because I'd really love to see the "Team UFO" button. But I'm still really tempted. Anyone want to join me? We can have our own alternative to the alternative games.

And here, because I'm still trying to catch up and I know how boring a post without pictures is, are some snaps of Michelle's holiday knitting:

She made some socks (this isn't all of them),

and some catnip pillows,

at least one of which was, um, appreciated immediately.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

We Don't Need No Stupid Groundhog

Spring is here! I don't have time to scan the cover, let alone anything inside, but the Spring Rowan mag (#39, for those of you keeping track) arrived this morning!

Lots of super-feminine stuff, and lots of non-knitted stuff--things trimmed in crochet, but also armbands and necklaces and headbands made of (hold onto your seat) macrame.

You'll have to come see for yourselves. I have to go back to counting yarn.