What do you want in a Local Yarn Store?

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We did a little yard work on Monday, and today I woke up with two little spots of poison ivy on my arm. Of course. It never fails. Whenever I do yard work, I get poison ivy. Doesn’t matter what precautions I take or whether we can see any where I’m working. It just happens. Fingers crossed that it’s just the one spot and the calamine continues to do its job. Then I had a blog post half-written this morning before I realized I’d already posted about that topic (the purple crochet fedoras). Shoot. That was my big plan for the morning. Instead I’ll go down and cast on for the Honey Cowl again with my Madelinetosh.

My brain is a little preoccupied, I guess. I found out the other day that one of my favorite LYSs is moving. It will still be in the metro area, but it’s farther away. It leaves the area on this side of the state line with just one LYS, and not a great one. There are some positives, the best one being that it’s a 3-minute drive for me. It’s a big store and they have good prices. They’ve been there for years and years and it seems like the customer base is much older. The ladies who work there don’t always take kindly to younger crafters like myself invading their space. It is not a welcoming store. It’s not really a friendly store. I like to look at the yarn but I’d never want to just sit down and hang out there. And that’s what I want in my LYS. 

So this news started a little voice in the back of my head talking, poking me about opening my own LYS. I’ve thought about it, dreamed about it. I have a vision in my head of what it might look like. It’s fuzzy and shifts, but it’s there. Certain aspects stay the same. I have ideas of promotions I would do, groups I could host, how I’d arrange the comfy chairs for crafters. I’ve already thought about what types and brands of yarn I’d want to carry to distinguish myself from the other LYS, but I think the atmosphere would be the biggest variant. Knitters and crocheters are such a friendly, community-oriented bunch that I think we flock to places that encourage it. I *want* to encourage it. I want to foster it and be part of it.

My husband and I have talked about creating a shop together, one that would allow us both to showcase our creations and help others create. He dreams of building custom furniture, and a yarn store could easily also be a showroom for his sample pieces. We have a name picked out, we’ve looked at available buildings…every For Sale or For Rent sign in our little downtown area catches our eyes.

Right now I’m dreaming. I’m even yearning a bit. But it’s not time yet. My kids are busy, and aren’t old enough to drive themselves to their various activities. I still want to be there for them, help them be active in band and theater and music and whatever else they dream of. I have some other family stuff going on, too, stuff that wouldn’t allow me to easily take on something as huge as my own store. I have a puppy who would eat the house if left alone all day, every day. We haven’t begun to write a business plan yet, something that definitely needs to happen. We need to do some research, start compiling numbers and working out the details. But I think this could happen. I think this could be our future.

It makes me wonder, and I want your feedback: What do you look for in a LYS? What compels you to go there again and again? What do you like and not like? What do you wish your LYS had or did? If you could have a dream LYS, what would it look like?

 

Doctor Who Tote Bag

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Several days ago, my SIL and I made a pilgrimage to Nerd Girl Yarns to check out her studio and hopefully score some Doctor Who-inspired yarns. There were several to choose from but not the one we both wanted the most: Blue Box Exploding. It’s a gorgeous blend of TARDIS blue and golds. See, look at it here. Go ahead, order some. You know you want to. It’s okay. I’ll wait. … Happy now? Okay. So I bought a couple of other skeins and figured I’d order some myself in the near future. Then I went to Knitcraft and found two separate skeins of mercerized cotton that spoke to me.IMG_2857

They said, “Hey! This blue looks like TARDIS blue! And look, here’s a fiery blend that could be explosion colors!” And I said, “Hey! You’re right! I’ll buy you then.” And I did. And it was good.

I knew they needed to become a market bag so I had to find a good pattern. Fortunately, I had several in my Ravelry library. (Of course.) My favorite is the Ilene Bag. It’s pretty, it’s knitted, I love the short and wide handle. So I cast on and within a day I had a new market bag! And I love it!IMG_2883

The only part I’m not crazy about is the way the handle attaches. It’s a 3-needle bind off, which I normally like, and it’s definitely sturdy, but it’s not seamless and the seam jumps out at me.IMG_4840

Overall though, I think it’s pretty darn cool. I’m not a Whovian but I play one at home, so I was sorely tempted to keep this little baby for myself. Instead, it will be a gift to the Gifted program teacher who helped my daughter make it to DC in National History Day, a teacher who is unfailingly kind and encouraging and fun and wacky and wild. She has been my daughter’s favorite teacher for the last three years and is now my son’s favorite teacher, and the one teacher I truly look forward to seeing at every school function. She’s a Whovian too, and I think she’ll enjoy this little tote. And I like knowing it’s going to a good home.IMG_2884

Silk Yarn from India

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My husband got home this weekend from a two-week work trip to Bangalore, India. For the most part, it sucked. A lot. I’m not used to being a single parent to our two kids and rambunctious puppy, so that was stressful. Plus I missed him. I didn’t think I would. I thought I’d be all “Oh yay I can do whatever I want!” and I kind of did, but…I do that anyway and he never cares. So that part was the same except I didn’t have him around and I didn’t like it. But enough mushiness. Because he’s home now, and he came home with presents! The best present ever: YARN!

That’s right, my fabulous husband found a company in Bangalore called Silkindian that creates specialty, luxury silk products, including handpainted, handspun yarns. (They also have machine spun yarn, custom yarns, fiber for your own spinning pleasure, silk fabrics and knitting needles.) Not only that, he convinced his driver to go out of their way to find this place so he could buy me yarn. That was difficult since apparently not many women in Bangalore knit for fun and the driver couldn’t figure out why Alex would want to go to this place.1381183_10152534539164724_1301209726800138021_nSilkindian’s wall o’yarn12188_10152534538949724_6360805160988210479_nMohammed poses with some of his offerings10609572_10152534538804724_9182705025302663282_nAlex and Mohammed. I like these guys. They provide yarn.

Yarn yarn yarny yarn for me! I have no idea how Alex picked but pick he did, and he picked out a lot more than I expected. Probably more than I would have allowed myself! Look what I ended up with:IMG_2885Let’s take a closer look, shall we? Obviously it’s all silk. My favorite is two skeins of Roving Silk, a worsted weight with 200 yards of variegated purple in each skein. Gorgeous.IMG_2872I got three skeins of this worsted Duke Silk Yarn, and these are the softest skeins of yarn I’ve ever touched. They’re heavenly. The colors are so rich too. Truly, this photo does not do the yarn justice.IMG_2869Two more skeins of Roving Silk, again in worsted. (The man knows what I like!) It’s a really pretty combination of colors and I can’t wait to see how it knits up. I’m thinking they’ll be a shawl, maybe with an edge of the lilac Duke in the previous picture.IMG_2871Another Duke Silk Yarn, 225 yards of worsted, in two of my favorite colors. I adore pink and green, especially together. Just one skein of this. What will it be?IMG_2873This Duke Silk is a gorgeous rainbow with purple and teal and olive and salmon and mint. Mmm. The colors are brighter than the picture shows. Multicolored yarns are my favorite way to do colorwork! I think this will make my new favorite cowl.IMG_2868More multicolored but these are pastel, and a bulky weight. 115 yards in each, so I’m glad I have two! Maybe a hat and mittens? They’re soft enough that I’ll love the feel against my skin.IMG_2865These are my “outside of the box” yarns. The purple is a sport weight, thinner than I usually use but 350 yards of it! I’m excited to branch out and see if I can make a pretty spring shawlette with it. The green isn’t labeled but I’m pretty sure it’s a DK weight. I just have no idea how many yards are in it, so I’ll have to find a great flexible pattern for it. I do love the subtle variations in the greens.IMG_2879Whew, are you getting tired yet? I am, but I’m not done! I have four more mystery skeins, already wound but lacking any labels. I’m pretty sure they’re worsted weight. Three are these marvelous rainbow skeins. I haven’t weighed them yet but I will, which should give me a basic idea of how much I have to play with. And one little random skein of pink and brown which will make a darling hat, I think.IMG_2874

IMG_2875Now look at these little beauties! Alex knows how much I like a little sparkle, so I’ve got two skeins of this yarn with some shimmery gold woven through. No labels but they look/feel like maybe a sport weight. They’re not as silky soft as the worsted & bulky yarns, but they feel light and bouncy. I’d love a shawl from them, I think. Do I work the colors separately or together?IMG_2862 IMG_2863Okay, we’ve reached the last bit of yarn, and these are the most unusual. They’re the recycled silk skeins. They’re cheaper than the others, not as soft, and there can be a lot of variation in thickness throughout each skein, but they’re fantastic nonetheless. The colors are still so bright and vivid, and more than any of the other yarns they evoke the feeling and personality of India. I’m saving these four to make a purse for myself, and it will be a treasure!IMG_2860That’s the end of the yarn, but not the end of the presents. Alex picked up a lovely pair of knitting needles from Silkindian too, a 14″ set of size 8 with nifty ends. I’m already trying to figure out what pattern I can make to use them.IMG_2888And finally, I got a silk pashmina in shades of fuchsia, purple and teal with stripes and polka dots: all my favorites in one article of clothing! I’ve already worn it and LOVE it. (This wasn’t from Silkindian.)IMG_2881I know. I’m so terribly spoiled. I quite like it that way. If you’re jealous of my yarn, check out the Silkindian’s website here or find him on ravelry here. What I have is just the tip of the iceberg!

On School, Bullies, and Doctor Who Knitting

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So the kids started school yesterday, and overall both considered the first day a success. The girl said her day was “Awesome!”, and the boy said his day was “okay”. Given that he didn’t get lost, show up to class tardy, miss the bus, or have problems with his locker, my son said his day was better than he was expecting. In my mind, that’s a win, especially since he was in a good enough mood this morning while we waited for the bus.

My daughter loves her teachers, her classes and her new high school. She got a map from a helpful teacher and is figuring out where everything is. She’s excited about all the club and activity options offered, and is trying to decide which ones she wants to join to go along with marching band. She’s in a somewhat difficult situation, because 99% of her middle school friends went to a different high school, so she’s trying to find some new ones. She’s a great kid, friendly and helpful and kind and outgoing, and it won’t be long before she’s got a gaggle of friends again. But it’s hard to get there, especially when the people you trust turn on you.

With all the talk of bullying these days, I’ve seen more friend-on-friend meanness than true bullying. I know bullying happens, believe me, I do know. I’ve been through it and it’s horrible. And the Mean Girls stuff has been around forever, too. It’s just sad. It’s sad that kids can’t even trust their friends to be kind to them. Maybe it’s typical, maybe everybody makes fun of their friends. But it hurts. I think it might even hurt more to hear it from a friend than from a stranger. And it’s not just kids, it’s parents too, questioning and ridiculing my daughter’s choices. So maybe these kids are taking the hurtful things said to them and spewing it back out. Could it be a defense mechanism, a way to cope? I don’t know.

All I know is that I’m trying to teach my daughter how to be strong in the face of unkindness. I’m thankful she is self-confident, so these incidents sting but don’t crush her. I’m thankful she’s sympathetic and generous, and I am confident she would never talk to someone else the way some of her “friends” have talked to her.

I know I am trying very hard to restrain my mama-bear tendencies to go after those who have hurt my girl. She *has* to learn how to deal with people like this, unfortunately. And the sooner the better. I’m trying to help her find ways to communicate with these people, to let them know their words hurt, but it’s a hard skill. It’s something I didn’t learn until I was an adult. But boy does it help. I know sometimes teasing comes with love, and is not intended to hurt. But if it does hurt, you’ve got to let them know or else it will keep happening. And if it keeps happening, then you’ve discovered a sad truth about that person and you can move on.

Dealing with these hiccups, I’ve found that one of the best ways to cheer up my kids is to say the words “Doctor Who”. Yesterday I distracted them by showing them my LYS find. I celebrated the first day of school by going to Knitcraft and found some gorgeous TARDIS blue mercerized cotton. A row below was a fabulous red-orange-yellow multi. Well, put those two together and what do you get? Exploding TARDIS! I may not be a Whovian but I can speak the language pretty well. Needless to say, I bought them and am planning to make a market bag with them. I’ve cast on the bottom of the bag and hope to get plenty more done today.IMG_2857

Back-to-School Knitting

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The kids started school today, one in high school and one in middle school. I cannot believe they’re that old, or that I’m old enough to have kids that old. We had an early start to the day to get them on the bus, and now I am relishing the quiet. I still have a bouncy puppy who wants to play, but otherwise the house is empty. There’s no one else here that I have to worry about, or take care of, or anticipate the needs of. It is bliss. It’s a feeling that I haven’t felt for a long time, and I’ve needed it. I like being their mom, I like helping them and the rest of my family, but I need this time to myself too. What’s the saying? “In the event of an emergency, apply the oxygen mask to yourself before helping others.” I’ve been trying to remind myself of that lately, that I need to take care of myself so that I’m healthy enough to help others. But it’s hard. You all know it’s hard.

Anyway, so today. Quiet, empty house. I finished another Christmas present last night so as a reward I’m casting on a treat for myself. When I went to that store-closing sale a few months back, I bought a bunch of yarn, but I also bought an awesome book by Rowan called Winter Warmers. It’s full of patterns for their Lima (worsted) and Alpaca Chunky yarns, which are the weights I use most. They’re all these gorgeous muted tones of gray and blue and lilac and caramel and I want to make everything in there. I don’t have any Rowan chunky, but I do have several skeins of Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky, which is probably my favorite yarn ever.IMG_4801I have three skeins of this red, and they’ve been earmarked for this pattern since I looked through the book.IMG_4802 Can’t wait! I’m off to cast on now!

 

Knit along if you know what Happiness is to you

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Whew. After a few really crazy weeks, I finally have time to catch my breath and post a few pictures of my latest projects. With a lot of kid activities and back-to-school stuff happening right now, my yarn is all that’s keeping me sane! So this is a photo-heavy post–I need a lot of help to stay sane right now. I had another request for girl/doll hats, but this time in blue. IMG_2667 IMG_2669 IMG_2671 IMG_2674After that, I had another set to make, but it was a little trickier. She wanted the cowboy style (only more like a fedora) but she wanted it for a girl and doll, and before I’d only made that style in the doll size. I searched for a good pattern, and went through three of them and wasn’t happy with any of them. I even bought a pattern! But they were all wrong in some way. Either they were too small or the wrong shape or they were too floppy.

Finally, I went back to the original hat pattern and modified it to fit a child. (*fingers crossed* She hasn’t received the hats yet.) I doubled the yarn, went up two hook sizes, and kept increasing by about 20 stitches. I do like how it came out; it’s soft but still holds a shape somewhat. I just hope I made it deep enough for her head. If not, I’ll be making another attempt!

IMG_4784We celebrated my niece’s birthday this weekend, and I got to make her a couple of things too. She loves stuffed animals, so I crocheted a little cardigan for her Hello Kitty doll to wear. It went so fast, and it’s super cute.

IMG_2697I also made her a hat of her own. She’d seen me making the purple one, and kept telling me how much she liked it, so I worked up a blue version for her. I used a single strand of a bulky yarn, with some wool instead of all acrylic, and I wasn’t happy with the end result. It came out floppier than I wanted, and today I discovered that it’s too small for her. (*insert sad face here*) However, it looks adorable on my nephew, so I might just make another, bigger one for her.

IMG_2703Finally, I was done with all those hats! With no pressing yarny needs and a sore wrist from crocheting, it was time for fat yarn and knitting needles. I picked up my indigo Cascade Magnum and my size 19 needles and made a Marian twisted cowl.

IMG_2690 IMG_2692I think that’s all. Ok, not really, I also made an adorable Christmas present but can’t show it off yet. Darn it. I do love it, too. And now I think I will be working on some more Christmas presents because I ordered a bunch of stuff in the Knitpicks summer sale and I have this fun box of yarn to play with now!

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Yarn for the Nerd in all of us

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Have you heard of Make magazine? Or maybe the Maker Faire? They’re parts of a larger Maker movement that encourages people to…well, to make stuff. They want people to interact with their environment, to open their minds enough to think about how to do something differently, or to create something fun and interesting and helpful. The magazine has all kinds of project ideas, and my husband has been reading it for ages. He loves to find fun things to do with the kids. I’m awfully glad he does too, because it led to a new yarn source for me.

So, the Maker Faire. It’s “the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth—a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement.” Sounds cool, doesn’t it? Kansas City hosted a Maker Faire last month, but unfortunately it fell on a weekend when we simply did not have time to go. But shortly after, the Make blog featured one of the KC vendors, Nerd Girl Yarns, and since Alex reads the blog, is a nerd, and has a wife who loves yarn, he watched the interview. (Watch her interviews here) And then he shared it with me, and I got all excited because guess what? NGY is in Odessa, Missouri which is only about 30 minutes from me!

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I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of them before, but as I poked through the website I realized that it was because she focuses on the dyeing, and selling custom orders. She does have a small retail space, but it seems to be more of a sideline. And I’m okay with that, because the yarns she creates are awesome. Yesterday I got out to the studio for the first time to see some of the yarn in person. The retail section is small, with just one little bit of wall devoted to yarn. The other side has the hand-dyed clothing, and there were a couple of chairs for those inclined to stay and be crafty. I wasn’t there for that. I was there for the yarn.

A lot of the colors are inspired by Doctor Who, like a blue and brown named Tenth Doctor. There was a red named I Am the Cyber King, and a Gallifrey with oranges and reds. There was a TARDIS blue, of course, and a yellow/orange with a touch of blue Sunflower. I was really hoping for the Blue Box Exploding, which is mostly blue with some yellow/orange too. She has Don’t Blink, Doctor Donna, Fantastic, Raggedy Man, Regenerate, and Time Machine. Both my kids (and the husband) are Whovians so I’d love to get some of each to make them lots of Whovian presents. I can’t do it all at once, though. I know. Patience, grasshopper.

They’re not all Doctor Who, of course. There’s Windu, Nevermore, Resurrection Stone, Serenity Firefly Class, Forbidden Forest, Walking Dead, Girl on Fire and so much more. So many references that I don’t even get! I can’t list them all, so you really should check out her stuff yourself. Go to her website here.

The really cool thing is that you can order the colorway on any base you like. So if you adore fingering weight, you can get that. If you love bulky yarn, like me, you can get that. You can get exactly the yarn you want!

“What did you get??” I can hear you asking. My eye went first to a gorgeous purple sparkly yarn named Secretly Spiders. The site says it’s inspired by Night Vale, and sadly I have no idea what that means. All I know is that I love it. It’s on Smashing, which is a DK of 70% merino and 20% silk with 5% silver-toned stellina to make it shine.IMG_2677I kept picking skeins up and putting them back. I really needed to restrain myself to 2 or 3 skeins, but it was hard. I struggled with choosing based on the Whovian names or the colors. I ended up going for the colors this time. So my second skein was a beautiful blue-green blend named #nofilter. The colors were more vivid on the fingering weights, but I knew I’d enjoy a heaver weight more, so I went with Foxy. Foxy is a DK weight too, but it’s 85% Polwarth Wool and 15% silk.IMG_2679Once I got through the initial getting-to-know-you phase, I was able to look beyond the wall o’ yarn, and that’s when I saw the sale section. It wasn’t big, and there were only two bowls of yarn, but any sale yarn is good yarn in my book. My third selection came from that.IMG_2682This is called Shtako. No idea what that means. Feel free to enlighten me. But the purple caught my eye, and as soon as I touched it, it was mine. It’s on the Luscious yarn, and it really is luscious. It’s Heavy Worsted, 60% superfine merino and 40% silk. It’s heavenly. It’s only 100 yards so it will have to be a small project; I’m thinking some fingerless gloves.

I also got a medium project bag with the logo, like you see in that first picture. You can never have enough project bags, and at $12 it was the perfect price. She didn’t have any Blue Box Exploding, so I’ll probably be ordering some in the near future. And we got to talk to Christa, the owner, for a little while, and she mentioned the possibility of doing quarterly events where they dye larger quantities of some of the popular colorways. I’m really hoping that happens, because I’d be there in a heartbeat! If you’d like to find out when that happens, follow her blog here. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Fighting with the Yarn

The yarn has not liked me this week. I am fighting with every project I pick up, and it’s getting me down.

Remember those cowboy hats that looked like fedoras, the ones I made for American Girl dolls? I have someone who wants one for her daughter too, and I’m really struggling to find a good pattern. I thought I’d found one, but it’s new enough that there are no projects on Ravelry yet. Not a problem, except there’s nothing to look to when I have issues. And I have issues. My gauge is nearly 2″ too big, and I can’t easily go down a hook size since I’m already using an F hook on worsted weight yarn. The size of the hat top looks plausible, but when I did the chains for the body it seems huge. So I set it aside and searched through the patterns again.

I found a cowboy hat pattern that looks cute, and plenty of people have made it, so that was my next attempt. The problem with this one is that there’s no size given except “Child” and most of the project notes mention how small it comes out. I went up two hook sizes and started crocheting. It’s a simple enough pattern, but I don’t think it’s coming out big enough. I can’t go to a bigger hook or it will be too loose and floppy.

Argh. What now? I can buy another skein of the yarn and double it to make the cowboy hat bigger. Or I can trust the pattern on the original fedora and soldier on. Or I guess I could try to adapt the doll hat pattern to a child size…but that sounds horrific. I’m not a big fan of that. I’d rather find a pattern and just follow it.

Given those struggles, I decided to start an “easy” project while I waited during the boy’s swim lesson. I took my treasured Madelinetosh DK to cast on for a Honey Cowl. That pattern keeps popping up whenever I browse patterns, and I decided it was a sign that I need to make one. My first cast-on attempt came up short. I frogged and cast on again, this time ending up with easily 18″ of tail, more than I like. The heck with it, I thought, and kept going. It’s a great pattern, simple and easy to remember, but somehow I managed to mess it up. Nothing major, but I want this project to be special. This yarn is special, my first Madelintosh yarn and souvenir yarn from DC. So I think I will be frogging it and starting over.

While I try to recover, I’m going to browse my pattern library and find the easiest pattern on there, and that’s what I’ll start next. I need a success to keep me going!

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Mad Man Knitting: “My LIVE Interview on the Huffington Post”

bonnyknits:

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post called “Knitting is for Old Ladies” about the stereotypes us knitters and crocheters face. I even mentioned the Mad Man Knitting as an example of the fantastic non-traditional artists out there. Today, he was part of a HuffPost Live panel about when you don’t match up with your stereotypes. I’m glad he’s got more positive experiences with it than I do!

Originally posted on Mad Man Knitting:

ghOk, so I usually don’t blog twice in one day. I was going to wait to post this tomorrow, but I figured, “What the hell….why not?”

Earlier this afternoon I did my first on camera interview. NEVER have I done that before. But, the Huffington Post via Nancy Redd contacted me and asked if I would be part of a discussion about when your stereotypes don’t match your interests. Why me? Because I’m a scruffy looking man that knits. Sure! I’d love to! But, keep a few things in mind. I was crazy nervous, my lamp made my face look wacked, and I don’t have the top of the line computer beauty that most do, so I had to phone in my audio. Kinda funny. I was the only one holding a phone up to his ear.  So goes life.

I told myself, no matter what happened, I wanted to…

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