Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Soysilk and the needles

I couldn't resist it. The violent shocking horrible purple, it called to me even in my sleep. I dislike purple in most cases. I find it too whimsical for the kind of person I like to think I am. But this purple, the most horrible amazing purple, I NEEEEDED it.

So I got some and cast on for the Swallowtail Shawl from the Fall 2006 Interweave Knits.

Looks good, no? I love it. It's wonderful and I don't even have to concentrate because someone else has already figured out the pattern. How wonderful. I sometimes have this thing where I think if I am going to spend the time to knit something I may as well design it myself but I needed a well deserved break--and Wendy egged me on Saturday. You may have noticed from the picture that I am in fact using mismatched old ratty straight needles. It's true. I was having a throwback moment to those days before I have all the lovely needles at my fingertips, when the only needles I had were my grandmother and great grandmother's hand-me-downs in an old Folger's can. All mismatched and warped and bent. Ah, the old days. Now there are so many different needles on the market the mind reels. I don't even know what I like anymore. How can I? As soon as I think I have found the greatest needle ever and started collecting something even better comes along. My poor Crystal Palace circulars, once they were my treasured needles and now they are dusty and neglected in the bottom of the needle box of doom (that tangled box I rummage through to find the right size). Then I moved onto the Inox coated aluminum, then onto the addi turbos and now I am having a quiet love affair with the Lantern Moon needles, not the straight ones, just the circulars and particularly the double points. They are the perfect double point, except for the awful packaging, but it has everything to do with displaying them and nothing to do with knitting. I did manage to knit up to the point you see in the photo on those mismatched and bent straight needles and then I gave in. I switched to the lantern moon rosewood. So much better.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Elizabeth Zimmerman fans,

Your attention please.
Has anyone noticed that there is a wrap version of the "Baby Surprise Jacket" in the new Vouge Knitting for Summer 2007? Meg Swansen found the notes for this adorable version in her mother's journals, unpublished and overlooked all these years. How cool is that? Very cool.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Conjoined Creations

So yesterday was a long day in the sometimes dreary world of retail. It mostly gets that way when it's really nice out and I'm in. But we got to have the door open for most of the day, which was almost as good as actually being outside, especially when all the leaves and dust from the street would blow in the door. Then it was really like being outside, in a less fun way with a lot of sweeping.

But! My day got brighter when a giant box arrived from UPS. My first response, "ugh." My second? "Cottage Creations!" These are the people who made lighthearted fun of us all during TNNA in San Diego in...whenever that was. (Brain is fried, I gave up the caffeine. Why? I'm an idiot apparently.) We, especially I, spent a lot of time in their booth and by a lot of time I mean multiple days for long stretches of time. They have a range of about 5 billion colors all of which you can get in Dark, Mid, Light and Pale. So multiply 5 billion by 4 and that's really how many they have. Then you can also have them make you custom multi colors out of any of those 20 billion colors. So then it just becomes too many colors to even imagine. You can see why I spent so much time there. And here is what came of it:
100% soy silk in a lace weight in all these lovely colors:

And as if that wasn't enough they also custom dye soy roving with any of the 20 billion colors in any combination. We got some Soy silk roving and also some Optim (which is merino wool where the staple length has somehow been stretched giving it even more lustre.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

As Promised

I said I'd do something about knitting, with pictures, and here it is: from the first session of the Entrelac Sock Class a week and a half ago. Everyone--really, everyone--was wearing wonderful handknit stuff. Unfortunately, all of the pictures were blurry except this one of Sherry wearing Geyl and Jim wearing a sweater he designed.

So you should just imagine Wendy in her turtleneck-with-sleeves (sleeves-with-turtleneck?) from Wrap Style, Karen in the Half-Square Shawl, Barb with an Alligator Wrap, and Christina wearing--hey, Chris, what is that scarf? I can tell it's Noro, but I can't see any more than that.

The cast-on is definitely the trickiest part. We tried a couple variations. Eventually, everyone got it, and repeated it enough times to feel like they'd still know how to do it when they got to the second sock.

Working the entrelac was no big deal--working entrelac never is. It's easier in the round, because you don't have to worry about side triangles. This particular pattern has a couple unusual characteristics: in most entrelac, the first stitch of every row is slipped, but not here. Eunny Jang, the designer, says that the slipped stitches decrease elasticity. A couple people experimented with doing it either way and they found no difference. The slipped stitches make it easier to pick up the right number when starting the next block, though, and working all the stitches (rather than slipping them) seems to lead to gaps along the picked-up edge. So some people are choosing to slip them anyway.

Second, on each round, the stitches for the first block are picked up in the reverse direction as all the other blocks. That is, if the whole round is going to be full of blocks picked up purlwise, the first block is picked up knitwise. And vice versa. This seems to be a function of where the yarn ends up at the end of the previous tier, and facilitates carrying the yarn up the inside of the sock rather than cutting and rejoining it every time. That's a worthwhile change, though a little confusing at first.

From here, it should be smooth sailing for all until the heel begins.

Here's a picture of Wendy's toe and Courtney's. They've both got the same Koigu multi. Wendy's olive solid is Reynolds' Sea Wool, and Courtney's mustard is a solid Koigu.

Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Help Wanted

Exciting opportunity for employment in the yarn industry. Seeking individual with strong knitting skills and excellent customer-service skills for job with Philadelphia yarn distributor. Half-time, full-time, or something in between; not evenings or weekends. Cheerful, detail-oriented, reliable, and/or physically strong all pluses. In addition to customer service (primarily phone), responsibilities will include shipping; bookkeeping; and designing handknits.

Send resume to fairmountDOTfibersATgmailDOTcom, or Fairmount Fibers, 915 N. 28th St., Philadelphia, PA 19130.

The sooner the better.

New Autumn House Sock Yarn

We have new colors of the Autumn House sock yarn, in some new colorways that we've never had before. Some of them are a little brighter, some our old favorites.

They also have a new sock yarn, Specks and Spatters, which is the same gauge and available in the same colors but has little slubs of color for extra kick!

Very cool.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Let me preface this by saying that it's not much about knitting. But because I'm still thinking about this episode a day later, and because it ties in to some themes that have come up for discussion before, I'm going ahead anyway.

A customer (let's call her "Customer A") was in the shop browsing, choosing some yarn, looking through some books. A second customer (let's call her "Customer B") came in to look for some buttons.

Customer B wasn't sure whether I was the same person who'd helped her pick out the yarn on her last visit (I wasn't). She asked my name, and I said, "Lisa." She looked more closely at me and asked my last name. I said, "Myers." "Oh!" she said. "You wrote the book! I've seen it in the library."

"Yes," I said, "that was me."

"You have a Ph.D. in English!"

"Yes," I said, "I do." It's difficult to know what else to say to a comment like that.

"Wow. A Ph.D. That's hard."

Now, at this point, I'm frankly groping. On the one hand, she's correct; graduate school is incredibly difficult and the achievement of completing a doctorate is one I'm proud of. On the other hand, I was raised to be modest, and I'm just not comfortable saying something like, "Yes, it was, and I worked like a dog to do it." Also, I'm not sure that it's more difficult than lots of other things--like owning one's own business, or giving birth, or writing a book--not to mention any of the very difficult things I have no firsthand knowledge of, like running a marathon or having a life-threatening illness or being a nun.

But while I was struggling for a reply, Customer A chimed in, "Well, but it's not like math."

Take a moment to consider your own response--spoken or unspoken--to that.

I'm afraid you can't compare your response to mine, because I said nothing at all. I was completely stuck. And frankly, it wasn't the rudeness of it that hit me first. It was the hypothetical Barbie-style sexism of it. (Remember the talking Barbie doll that was re-designed after people protested that one of her sentences was "Math is hard"?) Do we still all assume that math and science are inherently more difficult than the humanities? Or are they just assumed to be more difficult for women?

In a comment on a post not that long ago, I was taken to task for belittling women's achievements by claiming that knitting is easy. I disputed the specific accusation (there's easy knitting and there's hard knitting, and I don't think saying "We're all smart enough to do this" is dismissive of the effort involved in it), but I'm right there with the overall point: many girls are taught that modesty is becoming, and this can lead to an unwillingness to claim credit when we deserve it.

And I guess I'd have to say that the score was Sexism 2, Feminism 0 here yesterday--once because I couldn't find a way to acknowledge my achievement without feeling like I was bragging, and once because I couldn't say, "Hey, you don't really think advanced math is harder than advanced literary studies, do you?"

Why am I blogging about this, which has so little to do with knitting? Because I feel bad about not being able to speak up yesterday--and about hiding my silence behind some phony idea that, as a shopowner, I'm prohibited from saying anything critical or unpleasant to a customer. I also think that's why some people around here didn't want me to blog about it: the point is not the anonymity of the customer(s), but the taboo against saying anything negative to or about any customer, ever. It's fascinating to me the way traditional retail policy dovetails with a traditionally "feminine" upbringing.

Sorry, no tidy insightful conclusion is forthcoming. But I promise that the next post will have knitting, and pictures.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

So much new stuff, I'm gonna plotz.

Okay, I come in this morning, and even though I was warned by Courtney's post yesterday, I see this:

bags and bags of new Koigu. I want to strip down and roll in it naked, but out of consideration for our customers, not to mention that pesky L&I inspector, I'll hold back.

I also found this:

bags of Rowan's new Bamboo Tape, in the most luscious spring colors. Okay, some All-Seasons Cotton sneaked in that photo but you can see a bee-yootiful indigo-purpley color on the right.

They tried to disguise this bin of new Reynolds Soft Sea Wool

by putting it on a shelf with the sock yarns, but I am too slick for them. This is a lovely new 7-to-an-inch wool, and we also have a great book that is all sock patterns to go with (including some patterns for men). Here's a link to our website if you can't stand it and want to buy some.

And we also have the 3 new RYC books with lots of Martin Storey patterns: Coast, Mother and Baby, and Nature.

Keep in mind that I've only been in the shop about twenty minutes. There's no telling what else I'll find as the day wears on. So stop by and see us this weekend!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Once more, with feeling...

So the other day when we got in 20 dyelots of Koigu we were totally excited.
Imagine how we felt when 30 more showed up at lunch time.