February 28, 2008

Subversive :: Yarn and yarn shops

Due to my involvement in a school fundraiser, I've been going to Michaels a lot lately. Each time I go, I stop by and look at the yarns and patterns -- and I'm no stranger to the needlecrafts aisles at my local Wal-Mart, Joann's, and Hobby Lobby either. In the last few weeks, it appears that Michaels has revamped their yarn section and decreased the selection of novelty yarns and increased the quantity of garment yarns in Lion Brand and Patons brands. This is a good thing, in my opinion, and demonstrates a responsive shift toward what knitters and crocheters want. I found quite a bit of fresh stock of Patons Classic Merino and since it's the 2nd most popular yarn on Ravelry and the only one of the top ten brands I hadn't tried yet, I threw caution to the wind and dropped less than $5 on a ball to try. I've since swatched it (that is, I'm knitting a hat with it) and it's awesome to knit with and delicious to the touch. It's slightly softer than Cascade 220.

Patons hat in progress
Basic 80-stitch hat, ready to start decreasing

So . . . I'm clearly happy with the yarn, the way it knits and the value. What I don't get is why some knitters and crocheters refuse to cross the threshold of a local yarn store in favor of ONLY shopping at a craft chain or Wal-Mart. I do understand bad service and unpleasant experiences at yarn stores, but I don't think they're the norm. Anybody can have an off day (and I know that I have had those days in the past and probably unintentionally alienated a few customers). But at Michaels (and the other stores I mentioned), I'm never greeted, never helped while I'm at the back of the store in the yarn section, and nobody ever looks me in the eye when I check out. Conversely, when I go to the yarn shop (as a customer, not an employee), I'm greeted, helped with my selection and sometimes get quick instruction with something I have on the needles. The modest amounts of money I spend at local yarn stores help local families and small businesses. THAT is value.

I understand there are many people for whom yarn shops are NOT local geographically and have no other options -- but when there ARE options, why do you not go and experience what a local business has to offer? Is there just a general desire to be anonymous, faceless and completely divorced from who benefits from your purchase? Do you think that if you darkened the door of a yarn shop, you'd be assaulted and forced to use your grocery money to buy cashmere? Do you not trust yourself in the face of friendly people and a variety of merchandise? Educate me! I don't get why there are still so many people who do not think it's worth their time and energy to patronize a local business.

If all I had was Michaels or online shopping, that's how I would buy yarn - and I'm VERY likely go back to Michaels someday to buy more Patons (in a sweater quantity IF they have matching dyelots) - but I'll never believe it's a delightful experience to walk in a shop unnoticed and navigate my way past plastic flowers to the back of the shop to look at yarn.

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January 16, 2008

But will I wear it?

I've been taking a long hard look -- a very critical look -- at my list of garments I intend to knit for myself. Usually something will make it on to my list due to my falling in love with a particular yarn. It's the yarn that attracts me first; then color next and design last. It's very rare that I buy yarn without a project planned but there are some yarns that have aged a bit in my young stash whose originally-intended patterns are really not that stylish any more.

So I've evaluated the store-bought sweaters I've loved and hated through the years and aside from the unfortunate intarsia phase, my favorite sweaters were solid colored -- usually natural colored, gray, red, or white, ribbed or plain stockinette and close-fitting. The sweaters that were the least flattering were loose-fitting cabled sweaters. I look best with some shaping, but an oversize sweater can be flattering on me if the proportions are right. Most surprising was that nearly all of my favorite sweaters were either 100% cotton -- or linen, viscose, ramie, and silk blends. Nearly all of them had some cotton though. I can remember owning only a small handful of 100% wool sweaters (one of which I still own after 15 years). Finer gauges predominated also.

My conclusion for knitwear for myself? Simple is best -- but it probably won't make good knit blog fodder or Flickr photos. And I'm okay with that. I want to knit what I'll wear. Chic Knits patterns seem to represent the style I envision for myself (Ribby Pulli and Cardi, Arianne, Cece) -- along with Knitting Pure and Simple cardigans and the Hourglass Sweater (Ravelry Link) in Last Minute Knitted Gifts. Accessories are another story -- I'm much more adventurous with scarves, socks (sometimes), and hats.

For future socks for a family member, a planned 2x2 or 3x1 ribbing:

Passionberry :: See Jayne Knit

It's "Passionberry" -- a blend of merino and tencel from See Jayne Knit, an Etsy seller. Last week, I also received a set of sock blockers from Fearless Fibers. I love them and how they've infused my socks with their cedar scent. (And a quick thank you to Sallie, who has hooked me up with somebody we know who has darning eggs for sale).

I also finished the first of a pair of socks knit with Pigeonroof Studios sock yarn:

Pigeonroof Studios - Cinnamon

I love her dye job. The superwash merino she uses as her base is very nice -- the yardage made me a bit nervous, but not nervous enough to become a toe-up sock knitter. I like living on the (sock-knitting) edge. I've knit up all but two of my single socks-in-progress. I'm down to just one unfinished single sock and then will finish their mates. My Gesta vest front is almost finished and then I'll seam the sides and shoulders and crochet an edging.

There are a few changes in the air here and I can't share many details about them, but they're positive changes. While I anticipate how this will affect some of my plans, I've made some decisions about some of my former goals -- the ones unrelated to knitting. I'll share those as soon as I can. For now, I'll be in list-making mode.


January 07, 2007

Feel the failure

Failure and I got reacquainted over the holidays when I attempted to knit during my downtime. I was breezing along on Ariann (and loving it so much) when I made an error that I didn't notice for several rows. Attempts to rip back and "fix" were fruitless, so I frogged and restarted all of it -- on the wrong size needles. Eight rows of ribbing later, right before starting the set-up for the lace pattern, I realized I was using Size 4 (3.5mm) needles instead of Size 6 (4mm) needles. Failure, you are a fickle teacher.



The thing is . . . I was quite anxious to have some progress to show knitting-wise so perhaps my wrong motivation set the stage for failure. I was also fighting with my Denise needles the entire time I was working on Ariann. In deciding to switch to Addi Turbos, I'm convinced the knitting experience will be much more pleasant when I start working on her again for the third time.

EDITED TO ADD: the yarn is Cascade 220 in Color No. 9338

Until then, I'm grateful to my failure for allowing me to enjoy some books, movies and time with family and friends.

Embrace failure. It's only knitting.

December 09, 2006

Santa Fe Ruana

I was trying to make a decision about my Santa Fe Ruana when I came across this blog entry at January One. If you read it, you'll understand my reasons for abandoning the ruana. It wasn't the pattern (I still love it) but the colors I chose. While I love each of the colors of Manos del Uruguay individually, together they are not so compelling for me.

So yesterday, I exchanged the gorgeous multi-colored Woodlands colorway for the Brick that I am so in love with. The persimmon is amazing too, but I have tons of delicious orange in my wardrobe now.

Manos Del Uruguay

And, Ariann, I haven't forgotten you, but that unfinished ruana was weighing on me. Now I'm lightened -- excited! Ariann will be what I start before the year ends. Of course, there are many other possibilities for 2007:

Blue Sky Alpacas


October 01, 2006

Ariann Swatch

Chic Knits Ariann Swatch

There are alternate yarn choices here, but I chose Cascade 220 because it's economical and knits up so well. I visualized this sweater in a green, brown or charcoal and color 9338 is a bit of all three; it's easily something I can wear with black or brown.

I worked yesterday and noticed we have some great new books -- including Yarn Play, by Lisa Shobhana Mason (designer of the Stitch 'n Bitch "Big Bad Baby Blanket"). The photos are wonderful (check out the photo styling - I love it).

Knit 2 Together was in as well. I was reading the review here yesterday morning, so it was great to see it (just one copy?) at the store. I'd definitely read it but I'm not sure if I would buy it for the patterns.

And it's the first day of SOCKTOBERFEST. (Over 1400 1500 participants? Holy cow!) I have something planned for Socktoberfest that I'm hoping to accomplish this month. Stay tuned.

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