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Crazy for Ewe

No, it's not normal

No, it's not normal
Everyone is asking when we will be able to open, and we are all wondering what that will look like. The first answer is fairly easy - I want to open as much as you want me to, but I need to be absolutely sure that I am comfortable with our protocol to ensure everyone's safety. The second answer is, I don't know what it will be like.  It will be different for sure. But it's the new normal.  It is kind of scary, because change is hard, but we have new normals in our life all the time.  

A while back, after her first lesson, one of my newer Continue reading

Why is Noro important now?

Why is Noro important now?
Okay, let me start by saying that I am not an expert in Japanese art or even a student of Japanese culture and aesthetic.  I am, however, a big fan and an obsessive collector of Japanese textiles in the form of yarn. I’ve carried Noro in the shop for 15+ years and have knit literally dozens of garments with Noro. When I look at my handknit collection, it is Noro garments and accessories that have stood the test of time.  Noro sweaters remain in my closet, year after year.  What is it about Noro that makes it so fascinating?  I have thought about it and written about it many times on the blog, each time uncovering some new aspect that deepens my love and respect for the yarn, the company, and Continue reading

What we miss most

What we miss most
Happy Mother’s Day.  I like to think about Mothers' Day not just as a day to remember our own mothers, but a day to recognize and honor all the influential women in our lives.  Certainly, our mothers are the first to love us, but there are so many strong women who have nurtured us—been there for us. These are the women who give us the opportunity to try, comfort us if we fail, and support us as we try again.   Continue reading

Plant-based fibers series Part I- Cotton

Plant-based fibers series Part I- Cotton

as we move into warmer weather, we start looking at plant based fibers for our hand-knit garments.  You can totally wear a smooth, high-twist merino in the summer, but when most people think of summer knitting, they think of plant-based yarns.  Cotton, linen, and hemp are the three main plant based fibers you’re likely to see in handknitting yarns.  Over the next couple of posts, I’ll give you a quick primer on each one, including what makes them awesome and how to ensure you have the best experience working with them. First is cotton. 

    1. What differentiates good quality cotton from poor quality cotton?

Like wool, one of the key ways cotton is judged is its staple length, or the length of a strand of the unspun fiber.  Good quality cotton such as Sea Island cotton, Pima Cotton, and Egyptian Cotton have staples that are at least 28 mm long and can reach up to 50 mm in length.  These are your finest quality cottons

    1. What does fiber length matter in knitting yarn?

Short staples have lots of ends exposed, and the yarn must be twisted very tightly to hold all those little pieces in place.  The tight twist makes the yarn feel hard, and the ends sticking out make it feel scratchy and give the yarn a "linty" worn appearance.  Yarns spun from longer fibers have far fewer ends exposed and can be spun more gently giving those yarns a soft pleasant hand.  Garments knit from quality cotton yarns last longer, and the fabric has better stitch definition than cheaper cotton yarns. 

    1. How is it to knit or crochet with cotton yarn?

Unlike wool yarn, cotton yarn is not bouncy or stretchy.  If you cut a length of wool yarn and pull on each end, you can stretch it out in length up to 30%. When you let go, wool yarn will spring back to its original length.  Cotton yarn has no such stretch.  What that means in your knitting or crochet is that you need a smaller needle to get the same gauge that you would if you were working in wool.  So if you’re using cotton in a pattern designed for wool, you may need to go down a needle size or two. Also, you may find that some cottons, especially unmercerized cottons, have a little more drag, and you might be happier with an Addi turbo or Addi Rocket needle for smoother knitting.  Mercerized cottons and cottons blended with microfiber may feel slipper, and you’ll want to use a bamboo or birch needle.

    1. What is mercerization, or why do some cotton yarns look shiny and some look matte?

While there are inherent difference in luster among varieties of cotton, the most notable difference between cotton yarns is whether or not it's mercerized.  Mercerized cotton yarns have been treated first with a strong base and then neutralized with a strong acid.  This process strengthens the yarn, makes it more lustrous, allows it to take dye more deeply, and minimizes shrinking.   It also makes the yarns feel cooler against your skin. 

Unmercerized cottons have a softer hand, appear more matte, and require a smidge more care when laundering.  They are cozier.  Which you choose is personal preference.  One is not better than the other-- they're just different.

    1. How does fabric knit in cotton yarn behave?

As I said above, wool yarn is bouncy, cotton yarn is not, and that goes for the fabric you knit with it as well.  This characteristic can be a real plus for certain kinds of fabrics and styles of garments. For instance, cotton hand-knit fabrics tend to curl less at the edges, which means you can cast on and go right into stockinette without having to work ribbing or garter stitch border to keep the fabric from rolling up.  This characteristic is perfectly suited lighter weight summer garments that you might naturally want to feel less structured. 

    1. What different types of cotton yarns are there?

Cotton yarns are predominantly spun and plied into a standard round yarn for knitting.  They are sometimes mixed with other fibers to enhance certain characteristics or create a particular look or add durability. Modern mill techniques give manufacturers lots of new ways to spin cotton fibers in to all sorts of different yarns.  Some cotton yarn is flat and tape-like so that you can work it up on a larger needle or hook but still have a light fabric.  Many cotton yarns today have a chainette construction which gives them more of the kind of elasticity you expect from wool yarns.  They are a pleasure to knit and make a beautiful garment with both drape and memory.

Here are some of my current favorite cotton yarns for this season.  

  1. Sunshine from Wooladdicts – a beautiful worsted weight mercerized organic cotton with a lovely sheen and a chainette construction that makes it very nice to use.
  2. Cumulus from Juniper Moon – Soft as a cloud, this worsted weight cotton blend also has a chainette construction for a light feel that is dreamy to knit or crochet
  3. Happiness from Wooladdicts – a bit like Cumulus in its feel, Happiness is a super soft wool blend. It is flatter in construction, almost like a tape yarn, but just lovely to knit and makes a wonderful fabric for next to skin wear
  4. Summerlite dk and Summerlite 4-ply from Rowan – Two classically plied, cottons with a silky sheen and soft hand.
  5. Cotton Cashmere – A lovely soft yarn with 15% cashmere for softness gives this yarn a beautiful slightly heathered appearance – like your favorite pair of faded denims
  6. Modern Cotton by Berroco – an easy care, affordable blend of cotton and microfiber that’s wonderful to knit and washes like a dream.

 

There are tons of others I love, but these are a few of my favorites for 2020.

 

Hope that helps!

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What is it about Shibui?

What is it about Shibui?
I remember the first time I saw Shibui at the trade show.  So beautifully displayed – different fibers lined up in rows of coordinating colors against a black backdrop.  I loved it all so much, but to be honest, I was a little intimidated, and I just moved on.  I told Mary and Ginni about this yarn line I had seen, and they were intrigued, and when we were all at the show together, I decided to make an appointment in the Shibui booth – just to talk to the owner and the designer.  Well,  Continue reading

Why take time for yourself

Why take time for yourself
I get it.  It’s hard with all the demands on our time. Working moms at home with the kids, stay at home moms without a break, working women doing more than your share, and all of us trying to figure out how to navigate this new normal. It is ok to sit for a moment and notice without judgment what you are feeling. Taking a moment to calm and renew makes us all better at what we do and more ready to face whatever lies ahead. Continue reading

With practiced hands

With practiced hands

Quarantined at our house, Bill and I have the  Katie and Johnny (the twins), Katie's sorority sister, Augustine, and our youngest, Colton. It's quite a houseful.  I spend an inordinate amount of time cooking, but it's okay--I feel a little bit guilty admitting that I kinda like having everyone home again for a bit.

The other night Augustine wanted to see pictures of when Katie and the rest were little.  We spent hours looking at albums and scrolling through the  photos on my phone.  I ran across a picture of Colton at the beach last summer, and posted it to Instagram yesterday morning.  I look at the old pictures of my sweet boy, my

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Developing our mental core

For the last 20 years or so, fitness experts have talked about the importance of our core.  As you probably know, our core refers to a collection of muscles in our midsection and, with the exception of the coveted six-pack, are decidedly unglamorous.  Core muscles don’t show when we flex them, and they don’t make our butts look awesome in jeans, but they are, possibly, the most important muscles in our body.  These are the muscles that hold our internal organs in place and allow us to stand and walk upright.  A strong core is what gives us balance, stabilizes us, and keep us from being blown over by the wind.  Continue reading

Comfort in the familiar

I talked to my Seattle daughter, Elizabeth, Sunday.  It was her fiancé’s birthday, and she’d been asking me for suggestions on what to make for his birthday dinner. They’re both foodies and Elizabeth is a particularly good cook, so the options are pretty much endless. I texted her Sunday afternoon to see what she had decided on. She laughed, “I am making homemade mac & cheese and eggplant Parmesan. Andrew wanted comfort food.”

Comfort food. I love it. What we call comfort food depends, in large part, on more

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5 keys to happiness

5 keys to happiness

Such a strange and unprecedented time we are experiencing.  So much is unknown, and what we think we know changes daily. As I’m sure you have heard, Governor Hogan has closed non-essential Maryland businesses.  You and I probably consider yarn stores essential businesses, but sadly, the Governor does not, so Crazy for Ewe was officially closed to customers yesterday evening. While it’s frustrating more

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