Thursday, August 28, 2008

Little Known Treasure: Japanese Pattern Books

Many new visitors to Rosie's are temporarily taken aback by the sheer quantity of goods we have in the store - especially considering the deceiving entrance and locale. To me, even after a 1 or 2 week absence (vacation, infernal grad school, etc) I always have to take a moment to let it all soak in. (We think this is a big plus. So much amazing stuff!) We thought it would be nice to take a moment to introduce you -- both frequent and new friends of ours -- to a few sometimes overlooked gems we have here at Rosie's.

I can't exactly say when Rosie's started carrying the amazing, delightful, stunning, transport-you-to-another-time Japanese pattern books we currently have in the shop, but recently our selection has expanded to include some wonderful treasures.

One of our absolute favorites is this mitten book:

It is a unique mix of traditional Fair Isle (think Scandinavian) work with Japanese minimalism. The combination is stunning. This is probably the point where you are all saying to yourselves "but I don't speak Japanese!" No worries. This -- and the vast majority of the others -- come with charts and imagery that need no words:

Another winter accessories book we love:

Admittedly, the cover is slightly deceptive. The vast majority of the patterns are more traditional selbu-style, including the red and white beauties at the top of the post.

There are books featuring a wide variety of garments:

Or funkier, more modern styles:

As well as Knitting and Crochet titles, we have the opportunity to extrapolate when picking out the books, and inevitably a few others make it on the list:

This book, "Sewn Frocks", is chock full of beautiful dresses and outfits. What kills me about it is the styling -- this is, hands down, the coolest 8 year old I have ever met. (It is no secret I wish I could re-live my adolescence as her).

Another gem is "Bonjour mon Petit Bebe!" Filled with both sewing and embroidery patterns, it is a classically beautifully book with just enough cuteness, but not sickly sweet.

The books are located above the Koigu in the main room of the shop. Next time you have a moment, come in and take a peek!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thrummed Mittens, After the Fact

I woke up the other morning and was shocked to discover that I was in fact chilly. It was such a strange sensation. The windows had been open all night long, with the fan blowing on us in the usual Summer in Philadelphia way but when I awoke Clyde was nestled under my chin with is shockingly cold feet buried in the blankets. It was awfully cute and reminded me that Fall is right around the corner. When I got to work I put together our Fall Class schedule which you can find in your inbox if you are signed up for our newsletter, or you can download it here. (FYI, Thrummed Mittens is on Sunday November 15th from 1-5 pm).
One of the classes I really wanted to do this season was a thrummed mitten class. I love these mittens. They are so warm and cozy, and I'm going to tell you a disgustingly saccarine story all about them now. The first year I was in college was the year I decided I was going to learn how to knit, for real. I had learned garter stitch from my Grandma as a kid and couldn't really remember how to do anything except a backwards loop cast on. That winter my boyfriend at the time and I went to his family's house in Maine. They lived in this picturesque seaside town on the mid-coast that was so small it had no police, fire or school. There wasn't even a store. Well, I should elaborate, there WAS a store but the people who owned it disappeared one night and the store was locked up so you could SEE the food inside but couldn't get to it. In typical Mainer fashion no one was concerned about this and they couldn't understand my incredulity at the situation. Equally concerning to me was the amazing house near theirs, an old clapboard farm house with a windmill and 1940's car out side. No one was sure whether the old man who lived there was still there or not. I commented on how sad it was that the house had been abandoned and they assured me it wasn't although my boyfriend admitted that when he was a kid the man who lived there was really old and that no one had seen him in years. I think is skeleton is still in that house. See, this is why I don't live in New England, Kate. But back to knitting. My boyfriends mom was a knitter and I tried to get her to teach me to knit, she handed me a copy of Knitting Without Tears and said, "If you can't learn from this book then no one can teach you." I took the book and poured over it for days with needles and yarn in my hands and cried. I didn't get it. It was all words, and those damn drawings that make no sense if you don't already have a vauge idea of what you're supposed to be doing. I let her think I lost interest instead of admit that I was a lost cause. On the bright side, for Christmas that year she gave me this amazing pair of mittens. Mittens like I had never seen before. They had little colored dots
and the inside was all fluffy and warm. I now know they were thrummed mittens. I wore them all that winter in freezing cold Chicago and now I'm not sure what black hole they got lost down but maybe now it's time to make my own.

We have friend visiting this weekend, which means lots of hands to hold the baby so I managed to cast on and knit this entire mitten last night while doing the social thing over dinner. I don't think everyone realized what was happening until towards the end someone said, "Did you just knit an entire mitten?!" Well, yes, I had but unfortunately I hadn't looked up in advance how to actually thrum the thing so I invented this "Afterthought Thrum." It's really just like doing duplicate stitch with roving and a crochet hook, because that's exactly what it is.

Start by deciding what stitch you are going to thrum. In the stitch BELOW that one pull a little 3-4 inch long tuft of raw wool or roving from the inside to the outside, leaving a 1-2" tail of roving inside the mitten.
The crochet hook is inserted above into the stitch that you are working the duplicate stitch on. See how the roving is coming out of the center of the stitch underneath? Now insert your hook in the same manner as above into the stitch ABOVE the one you are thrumming. Pull the roving through, behind the stitch from right to left.
Now put your hook back in to the original spot where you pulled the roving out of in the first step and pull the end down and into the inside of the mitten.
Voila! An afterthought thrum. Not the best way to thrum a mitten, but works if you want to make an existing pair warmer, or just give an old pair of mittens a face lift for the coming season. It gives them a nice vintage folkloric feel, I think, which is a great look this winter. If you want to take a stab at making a more sensicle pair of thrummed mittens sign up for our one day workshop on Sunday November 16th from 1-5.

They Yarn Harlot also has a great blog post with links to a tutorial (check the second link, the first is knitting mittens flat, silly IMHO) here on thrummed mittens, which I looked at this morning, after the fact.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Beijing or Bust!

We don't need super duper aerodynamically designed Speedo straightjackets, er swimsuits, to compete - just pick up your pointy sticks, and cast on by 8:00 p.m. Beijing time - and that would be 8:00 a.m. here in Philly!

That's right, it's time for, drum roll please . . . Team Rosies!

You still have an entire day to set up your "athletes" (projects) in your Notebook . . .


If you're kind of scratching your head, saying, I don't get it -- well, I don't get it really either, but it's a great challenge to finish off a few languishing projects OR take advantage of Rosie's 15% discount, and start something new. Here's how it works - as best as I can explain it.

What it Is:

While the real Olympics is clearly a competion with all of the thrills of victory and the agonies of defeat, the Ravelompics is simply an organized challenge to the individual knitter to tackle a new skill, finish an old project, cast on the thing you've been dying to knit - and, to see how many finished projects Ravelry can produce during this Olympic fortnight. As of yesterday, there were 10824 projects from 4283 Ravelers - amazing!

So, pick your project, or your WIP that desparately needs attention, and join a Team, or don't join a Team. If you join Team Rosie's, and print out the Team Button, you can get a fifteen percent discount on the yarn you need to start/complete your project. Once you've picked your project, enter it in a "event." An event is simply another way of categorizing things on Ravelry so that with the search function, for example, all shawl knitters can see what other shawl knitters are knitting, etc. You can enter the following "events":

Afghan Marathon
Amigurumi-n-Toys Toss
Baby Dressage
Bag-n-Tote Backstroke
Balance Beads
Cable Steeplechase
Colorwork Cross-Country
Cowl Jump
Designers Discus
Fantasy DecKnitathalon
Felted Freestyle
Free-For-All Freestyle
Fleece to Finished Fencing
Glove Decathlon
Gift Knits Pentathlon
Hand-Dyed Hurdles
Handspun Heptathalon
Hat Dash
Holiday Handball
Home-Stuff Hammerthrow
Itsy Bitsy Bikini Breaststroke
Laceweight Long Jump
Mitten Medley
Pets Pommel Horse
Scarf Stroke
Shawl Relay
Sock Put
Sweater Sprint
Synchronized Flirty Skirts
Vest Vault
WIPs Wrestling

Make sure you create your project in your Notebook by 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. If you want to participate, and you're thinking, why the heck did you wait til the day before to tell me (well, I was going to post this earlier, but a. that lawyer job thingy got in the way, and b. Kate put up that lovely post about Noro Sock Yarn, see below, and I didn't want to push it off the front page), just create a filler project - upload the Rosie's Button, tag it with Ravelympics(see below), and whatever event you think you'll compete in and decide the details later. Create as many filler projects as you want, because you never know, you could be working at gold medalist pace, and finish your initial project right away, and want to start another "event" - so, here's how to get started -

How to Participate

1. Open your Ravelry notebook, and create a new project.
2. In the picture area, upload the Rosie's Team Button, above.
3. Fill in the details of your project.
4. In the Tags area, click on the Ravelympics "r" next to the entry box.
5. First, tag your project with Ravelympics, then type in TeamRosies (one word), then tag your entry with your event.

And that's it! You cannot start your project before 8:00 a..m. tomorrow morning. You may swatch - that's training. You do not have to cast on exactly at 8:00 a.m. - you just can't start until then. You can take advantage of the Rosie's discount during the entire two week Olympic period, as long as you've tagged your projects Team Rosies, and bring in the Rosie's Button.

Good luck to all participants!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

On Yarn, Names and a Freebie.

In the past few months, the color striping geniuses at Noro have come up with 2 new yarns, Kureyon Sock and Silk Garden Sock.

Kureyon sock is a 70% wool and 30% nylon blend and Silk Garden Sock is a luxurious blend of 40% wool, 25% silk, 25% nylon & 10% mohair. Although of a slightly different fiber percentage and blend than the other yarns in the Silk Garden line, the hand and appearance are pretty much the same. Like the other Kureyon and Silk Garden yarns, both are singles -- there is 1 ply per strand. The colors for each yarn currently represent the best selling yarns from their respective lines.

So, lets talk about that name. Kureyon Sock was the first to hit the shelves in the spring and immediately got an undeserved bad rap due to its behavior when knit -- especially when in the hands of "tight" knitters. Silk Garden Sock is brand new this fall, and seems to be a bit stronger and more consistent in spin than the Kureyon Sock, which has an ever so slight variation in weight in the strand. The nylon in both yarns adds strength to the protein fibers and the properties of the singles and lighter weight makes the yarns wonderful for fine accessories, shawls and sweaters, but -- although we have seen many a beautiful finished pair on the internet -- not ideal for socks. (And in the case of the Silk Garden, not a "sock yarn". Period). Instead, lets forget the name "Sock" for a minute and focus on the actual yarn qualities.

Kureyon Sock comes in beautiful striping colors, exhibits wonderful drape when knit slightly looser than the recommended 30 sts/4" and is great for textured stitches. Due to its fiber content, it has a little more stretch and give. Silk Garden Sock is heavier than the Kureyon Sock -- after swatching a few different stitches on size 3s, 1s and 0s I believe it is ideal at 5.5-6.5 sts/inch -- has lots of texture in the singles due to fiber content and spin and is very soft. It also, again due to fiber content, has very little stretch but beautiful drape and hand.

When Kureyon arrived at the store, Jen immediately cast on for a pair of socks. (She knits socks. It is called Kureyon Sock. Perfect). This made sense but didn't quite work out. Instead, using some knitters intuition she let the yarn do what the yarn wanted to do. She paired a classic pattern with the modern yarn and produced a beautiful small version of the Landscape Shawl.

The shawl only took 1 ball of the Kureyon Sock and is an interesting play on the construction -- the horizontally knit diagonal eyelets and textured "V" segments are broken up by the color stripes in a really neat way.

I, too, was hit by Noro Fever when the Silk Garden Sock arrived a few weeks ago and immediately cast on for a Fair Isle beret. This also made sense. I knew the Silk Garden Sock wouldn't work for me as a pair of socks. I love berets. I love Fair Isle. My vision was a contemporary take on a classic design -- my favorite way to knit. Perfect. One very long week, a numb hand, and some beautiful yet way-too tight and completely non-functional corrugated rib on size 0s later, I changed gears and let the characteristics of the yarn speak for themselves. I went up a few needles sizes, turned to garter and let the yarn do what the yarn wanted to do: drape.

The end result is a simple, yet effective, triangular kerchief (not quite "shawl" sized) in alternating stripes of two highly contrasting colorways. The increases are placed in a way -- as opposed to Jen's Landscape Shawl -- that creates a diagonal stripe as you go. In sharp contrast to my rock-hard corrugated rib, when washed, the yarn bloomed and grew and has really beautiful drape. (I am still determined to Fair Isle the yarn -- I am not sure what it will be, maybe an epic sweater, a hat on the right needles, or mittens, but I am sure there will be no corrugated rib or a size 0 in sight).

At Rosie's we spend a lot of our time helping customers finding the right yarn for the project at hand. It is always exciting when the match between pattern, personal taste, desired characteristics and end product comes together with the perfect yarn. Many variables come into play and it is important not just to look at recommended gauge, or name, and really look at the yarn itself, its behavior when knit and the properties that make it stand out as the right match for your needs. Everyone is different; if knitting socks out of either of these two yarns worked for you, then you have found the right match. If not, don't immediately dismiss either of them as vehicles for potentially beautiful handknits.

If you would like to knit the Landscape Shawl, come into Rosie's and we'll set you up. It is a classic, fail-safe and wonderful shawl pattern that is highly customizable to your desired finished measurements and yarn gauge and suitable for both beginner and highly experienced knitters. If you would like to knit my Silk Kerchief, you may download the free pattern below:


Friday, August 01, 2008

New Project of the Month

You probably just recieved our August newsletter in your inbox (and those of you who haven't should visit our homepage to sign up!) and saw this cute capelet designed by DC Boyd.
It uses 4, 5 or 6 balls of Rowan 4-Ply Cotton for sizes to fit bust 32-36, 38-42 and 44-48. It's knit from the top down with a garter stitch yoke. The sleeves are placed on holders and a Trellis Lace pattern (only a 4 row repeat) is worked to the waist. There is a nice, dense picot bind-off for the sleeves which creates a ruffled cap sleeve effect. Simple, cute--and perfect for the Ravelympics! Wendy has organized "Team Rosie's" for the Ravelympics. If you are on visit our group for more instructions. Wendy has promised a full blog post with all the details in the coming days, so get ready for the opening ceremonies!