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Crazy for Ewe

Be fearless

Be fearless

It's graduation season.  Such an exciting time for young people as they take the next step towards their future.  My Katie graduated from University of Maryland last week. The University of Maryland has a motto "Be Fearless," which each speaker touched on as they addressed the graduates.  Young people are usually pretty fearless.  Especially new college grads - they're confident and ready to change the world.  You can see it in their faces as they stride across the stage to receive their diploma.   It's exciting and inspiring to be part of that fearlessness.

As we get older we often get risk averse.  We tend to play things a little safe.  Knitting gives us an opportunity to feel the thrill of fearlessness again.  If you're a timid knitter, sticking with scarves and dishcloths until you've worked every stitch pattern or technique you might possibly encounter,  stop it!  No disrespect to devoted dishchoth knitters, but if you really want to make a sweater but you're afraid your skills are only up to dishcloths, think again.  Take a deep breath and find a sweater pattern you love and bring it into the shop.  Or come in and we'll help you find one.  We'll get you started.  Jump in.  Get the yarn and get going.  You're a smart person, and we'll help you.  It's what we do. 

Knitting has some built in safety nets that make it the perfect place to practice fearlessness.  First, your yarn store staff.  We have your back. If you don't understand an instruction, just ask. We'll go over it with you.  Second, making a mistake in knitting is not the end of the world.  It's not like cutting fabric too small.   What was knitted can be un-knitted.  And re-knitted.  Several times.  Ask me how I know. 

I started knitting in college.  My first project was a vest, and my second project was this oh so 1980s lace sweater. The long sleeved one.  (Frightening to think that I even wore my hair like that)


Was this project beyond my skill level?  Of course.  Did I make mistakes with this project?  You bet - more than you can count.  But I knit that sweater, and I wore it.  And I learned a ton.  Much more than I would have learned if I'd played it safe.  You will too.  If you're dying to make something, but it feels too complicated, stop worrying, and start trying.  Be fearless.  You will make mistakes, but you will learn, and next time, you will do even better.  I promise.

I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table being fearless.  You are always welcome here.


Back to the 26 May 2016 Newsletter

p.s. The Ripple from Tahki Stacy Charles is in. If you've been drooling over the samples in the shop, time to get going.  We're being featured in the Tahki Stacy Charles Newsflash again this week, so you'll want to get yours while it's in stock!  ~E

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The plan - revised

Last night I promised myself that I would make a plan for handling those simultaneous decreases on the lace front of my Kelmscott. It's not hard to do, actually. Trying to keep it all in my head without writing it down is what's hard and overwhelming.




Logically, I know it's the right thing to do, but my intuitive nature sometimes gets in my way. I rankle at detailed instructions tending to prefer the, "let's just get started and see how it goes" approach. Unfortunately, many things just don't lend themselves to that approach-like lace sweaters. So I have to shove myself out of my comfort zone and get specific and precise. It's a stretch, but having done the work of writing out row by row instructions, I am actually more relaxed, calm, and happy.

Strange how that works, isn't it.

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Handling the tricky parts

I've been working on my Kelmscott.  The back is done,  the sleeves are done - they're the plain mindless sections that I whipped out without much though.  The front is a fairly detailed chart with lace patterning on both sides, so it's much slower going, especially now that it's time to begin armhole and neckline shaping. Here they are up to the neckline and armhole shaping.

Kelmscott fronts 

A section like that where I have to pay attention to how many rows and how many decreases is the kind of detail-oriented thing I just loathe.  It has to be done, and it has to be done right, but damn, I just hate it.   It's so tempting to just wad it all up and stick it into my knitting bag and move on to something else.  And I've done it plenty of times, trust me.

There in my bag, those slightly tricky bits grow menacing.  They aren't a big deal, but the longer I put them off, the worse I imagine them to be.  Not good.  I have to just do it, and I will, but I'll do it in the morning when I'm fresh and the light is good.  I'll write out the pattern and the decreases row by row and follow them through the tricky part.

I've been trying to remind myself that the tricky bits of life are best handled this way as well - don't leave them too long, make a plan, and handle them when you're well rested and have plenty of light.

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Mila and the Bamboo Shell

Everyone knows I love sparkly things - and anything pink - just check out my Pinterest board on the topic!  So you can imagine how I feel about our new yarn, Mila. 

It's a beautiful cotton with the finest sparkly filament running through it.  I've had it scoped out for a special project for weeks now but with the late spring, the weather has been too cold to get excited about its bright, juicy colors. 

Today's high of 82 changed all that.  When the sun shines hot, bright colors feel right.  What I have in mind for Mila is this smart little design Lynne found last month, Bamboo Shell by Cheryl Andrews.  It's a great new pattern with lots of reasons to love it.  It's the kind of design that will fit nicely into your wardrobe, perking it up without being fiddly or hard to wear.  I like that it's ribbed which will give it a nice smooth fit and keep the edges straight without a fussy border. The ribs are uneven and broken by garter rows which gives the fabric rhythm and interest. 


Photo courtesy of Cheryl Andrews via Ravelry

I also like the way the armholes are cut in just enough for a sleek, flattering line.  It feels fresh and modern but still modest and age appropriate. 

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Andrews via Ravelry

 Finally, I like this little side gusset that gives you some waist shaping.  Actual waist shaping in the design allows the garment to skim, rather than stretch, over the body. 

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Andrews via Ravelry

I can see myself wearing this all summer, but it is a sleeveless shell, and I totally get that not everyone is comfortable in sleeveless.  But this is a perfect layering piece too.  It would look great under a jacket at the office or paired with with a gauzy long sleeved blouse.  I think this is a beautiful look.

Photo courtesy of

You could even do a matching bolero and make it a twin set.  I'll be swatching the Mila tonight, but if you want to see more progress, check with Anne Boone, who started hers last week.  She probably has the entire back already done!  

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Soft as, well, a bunny

I love angora.  It's truly one of the most delightful and decadent fibers in the world.  I know, it gets a bad rap for shedding, leaving trails of fur on your clothes, and making you sneeze, but it is gorgeous.  We received a large shipment of 100% French Angora Friday for a few special projects, and I just sat gazing at it and petting it all weekend.  Doesn't it look just like baby bunnies!

I needed to knit a swatch and figure out its best gauge and all that other stuff we do with new yarn.  Okay, that's not completely true.  I just really wanted to play with it, and yesterday was the day.  I must admit, I was a little hesitant about knitting it in the shop while I was working and wearing black pants and a wool jacket.  But I cast on and figured that I had a Gleener handy...

There's no gauge info on the ball band.  The yarn looks kind of fine, but angora blooms, so I decided to try it on an 8.  This yarn is absolutely luxurious - it's like knitting whipped cream.  So soft and delicious!

But the thing that amazed me was the complete and total lack of shedding.  I was prepared to put up with the shedding because the fabric is so gorgeous, but there was not a single loose bunny hair or fuzzy bit on my pants, on the table, or on my jacket.  What was this?  How can this be?  The fuzz stands a good half inch off the surface of the fabric, but it's all firmly attached.  I can't even pull the fibers off. 

I decided, as Lynne always says, to consult "the great god Google" and see why this angora did not shed.  Turns out, all that stuff you hear about angora is really just the cheap stuff.  I hate to say it, and I know it sounds very snobbish, but it's the truth. Angora fibers are graded on a number of factors, but one of them is length.  "Excellent" and "Prime" angora fibers are 1.5 to 3 inches in length.  Lower quality (less expensive) angora fibers are much shorter, and many are broken during the processing.  These shorter fibers fall out of the yarn leaving little bits of fine bunny fluff on your clothes, and in the air, and up your nose.

You owe it to yourself to knit at least a little something with this amazing yarn.  There are several patterns for fingerless gloves, hats, and cuter than cute baby booties and caps.  I plan to knit this baby bunny for each of my kids' Easter basket.  It only takes one skein.  Yes, I know my kids are 20, 18, 18, and 11, but personally, I don't think you're ever too old for chocolate and soft fuzzy things.  Don't you agree?

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Softknit Cotton and Kelmscott

Last week I swatched the beautiful new Rowan Softknit Cotton for my Kelmscott.  The pattern gauge is 5 stitches to the inch, and that's exactly what I got on my size 7s.  The yarn is smooth in the hand, and surprisingly bouncy.  Cotton doesn't have any natural elasticity, but this yarn is spun with a chainette construction that give it very nice recovery.  On my Addi Turbos, which have the regular point, and there was no splitting or sticking - just smooth, pleasant knitting. The yarn looks great in both plain stockinette and seed stitch portions of my swatch.

Since I seem to have an issue with sleeves (as in knitting them for my otherwise complete sweater), I decided to start with the sleeves and cast them both on at the same time. 

The sleeves and back have a sweet little flourish at the center worked in lace stitch.  I'm working the remainder of the fabric in stockinette rather than in reverse stockinette indicated in the pattern.  The front is worked entirely in a stockinette-faced lace and it just seemed more in keeping with the sweater's main feature to do it this way. 

I should have worked on this all weekend, but the amazing bunny yarn arrived Friday afternoon, and I had to play with it.  I'll blog about it soon, but in the mean time, there are a couple of photos here on Facebook and here on my Pinterest board . 

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We all make mistakes

I was planning on finishing up the knitting on my Lipstick and Change last night, but I was ready to do the flaps, and they needed a little more attention that I could give them.  We were watching the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, and I decided that brainless movie knitting would be a better plan. Skyfall is a typical Bond movie with all the requisite explosions and unlikely scenarios, but Judi Densch is terrific, and of course it's so easy to look at Daniel. Albert Finney was looking spry--anyone remember him as the sexy star of Tom Jones nearly 50 years ago?

So this morning, I returned to my Lipstick and Change.  Dividing for the flaps and my numbers were not coming out right.  Each flap is supposed to be 48 stitches - half of the total number of stitches.  So I counted out 48 stitches and worked a couple of rows.  But the flaps look uneven.  Counting the stitches, I realized that I had 48 stitches on one side and only 36 stitches on the other.  Hmmm.  Going back to the pattern I calculated that I had started with 72 and added 12 stitches twice.  That's 84 stitches, not 96.  Could there be an error in the pattern?  Nora is quite meticulous, but we all make mistakes, so I called her. 

Yes, in fact, we do all make mistakes, but this mistake was mine alone. 

I had missed the increase detail that was not simply kfb, but kfbf.  Instead of increasing just once, I was supposed to have increased twice.  No wonder my bag was not as poofy at the bottom as I thought it should be, and no wonder my stitch count was incorrect. 

Nothing to be done but pull out the entire bag down to that first increase round and simply begin again...and learn from my mistake.   ~sigh

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Thoughts and lessons learned from the Bedouin Bag

Felting and felted bags are something I've been in and out of love with ever since I opened the shop. Currently, I am in love, mainly because of my new Bedouin Bag, which I think is an unqualified success. 

Felting is a magical process that completely transforms knitted fabric.  It can be rustic and earthy, fun and frivolous, or elegant and chic.  The difference is in the design and the details - finishing, embellishments, and hardware.  Here are a few important lessons I learned from the Bedouin Bag.

  1. Nora Bellows  (Noni Designs) is an extremely talented and meticulous designer.  Her patterns are carefully written and tested, and she understands that a felted bag without interesting details is just, well, a felted bag.  Her designs are really without equal.  Anywhere. If you don't believe me, take a quick tour of the other felted bag designs on Ravelry...

  2. The right hardware is an essential component.  Whether a focal feature of the bag or a well placed detail, without great hardware, it's just a felted bag.  With great hardware, it's a signature piece that shows your style as well as your skills. 

  3. Laura Bellows, (Jul Designs), is also tremendously talented.  Her pieces are interesting and different, and they are hand crafted with great attention to detail and quality.  She and Nora often collaborate - Noni bags and Jul handles seem so perfect for one another because they were designed to work together beautifully

  4. If  you are felting something with a wide opening, baste the opening closed with sewing thread so that the edges of the opening don't stretch out and splay unattractively.

  5. Heather yarns make a slightly different fabric than non-heathers. Heather felt is more dimensional and textured, non-heathers are more crisp. Both are really lovely - it just depends on the look you want. 

  6. Felted fabric heals itself, if you make openings with a knitting needle rather than with scissors.  That means that if you put a Jul handle on in the wrong spot, you can move it, and chances are good that no one will be able to see where you changed your mind.  

  7. Good quality hardware - and I mean snaps and feet - not just straps - make a real difference in form and function.  The Noni Amazing Snaps, are pricey, but they are mechanical and will hold together, while simple magnetic, or pressure snaps may not.  

  8. Noni bags and Jul handles are one piece of the creative process.  You add your creative energy to the bag as you choose your own colors, and felt the fabric to the texture and size you like.  It's your bag - make it how you like it.  
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Lipstick and Change

Love this new little bag from Noni - Lipstick and Change.  It's just the right size for going out, and its cute little sparkly accents add just the right amount of bling to make you fell a bit dressed up. 

It's a super quick knit worked with a single strand of Shepherd's Wool.  I'm using a size 7 needle to get the pre-felting gauge of 20 stitches to four inches.  I cast on the base of my bag and used it as my gauge swatch.  

You don't have to use DPNs to pick up, but it helps me pick up correctly and also allows me to get a good gauge measurement. 

I've had it here at the counter in my kitchen, so I can knit it off and on - you know, while I'm cruising Ravelry, or Facebook, or just having my morning coffee.  I've made quite a lot of progress in just a little bit of time.  I'm making the medium and am almost finished with the body. 

 I think I'll have the knitting done today and will felt it this evening.  Loving this color - Raspberry!!!

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Bedouin Bag final felting

After Nishaya brought in her Bedouin Bag, I realized that mine was not finished felting.  I had run it through the regular cycle once, but not the rinse.  It was felted, certainly, but not enough.  See how much bigger mine on the right is.

We put the handles on her bag, and it looks just fabulous!


Nishaya's Bedouin Bag in three colors

So I went home and put mine through another cycle.  I pulled it out of the machine before the first spin started because I didn't want it to adopt some twisted shape as it spun, so after the water had drained from the machine, I laid the bag in against the wall of the tub and let it spin.  When the spin was nearly over, I opened the machine and pulled the bag out.  It was nearly dry and quite firmly felted.  Just for fun I let the bag go through the rinse cycle and repeated the spin process with the bag against the wall.  It hadn't felted any further, but it looked smaller and more manageable.

The additional handles arrived Friday, and I put them on my bag, as well as the mechanical snap closure that I decided I really did want after all.  (I have a few in stock if you think you would like one on yours as well.

 I'm SO happy with it now!  

Here are the specs of this one - I used the Berries colorway of Shepherd's Wool, made the smallest size, and attached the 26" Jul handles so that the circle of the handle (at the top) is just above the top of the bag, and the bottom of the handle tabs is just above the first welt.

I learn something with every project, which is as it should be.  I've put together some thoughts/lessons learned from this project which I will post soon. 

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