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Crazy for Ewe

British spring

British spring

As I tied my coat against the drizzling cold yesterday morning, I had this rush of of deja-vu.  Everything about the moment seemed so familiar.  It was the spring chill, the rain, the way the light shone low on the horizon - it all took me back to a vacation in Northern England and Scotland.  This is very British weather we've been having.  It's fitting then, that we celebrate beautiful British weather with a sale on beautiful British yarns by Rowan. From heirloom sheep to classic tweeds, Rowan is as British as knitting gets. Just look at this darling town - this is where Rowan is headquartered.  It's like something out of a fairytale, isn't it.  

If you saw yesterday's post, you already know that lovely Cotton Lustre is on sale.  I've decided to expand the sale to include all Rowan yarns.  20% off.   Take a look at Revive, the beautiful and hardworking summer yarn Amy Herzog chose for Spanish Bay, one of her most popular Custom Fit cardigans. 

Revive's nice tight twist give it great stitch definition - perfect for heavily cabled pullovers like this free pattern designed especially for Revive.

Revive is also stunning in the Easy Folded Poncho to wear with everything from suits to jeans all year long.

Classic, season-less Kidsilk Haze is also on sale.  Kidsilk haze is the whipped cream of the yarn world - rich and light at the same time.  Wonderful on its own or a welcome addition to anything and everything. Personally, I'm addicted to the stuff and have piles of it in my stash.

So there you have it - the perfect yarns for the weather we're having - now through Saturday, April 23rd.    Stock up while you can - Rowan in your stash is money in the bank.  

Come savor the best of British yarns at a great price.  I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table.  You are always welcome here. 

Ellen

Back to 12 April 2016 Newsletter

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The knitting type

I got an email from my cousin, Robert, the other day.  His wife's boss is moving to this area, and he said, "I told her about your shop and showed her your website.  I'm not sure she's the knitting type, though." 

The knitting type.  What does that mean anyway?  I think about the people who regularly join us Friday mornings, or Saturday afternoons and I see such a mix.  Who are we?  We're engineers, teachers, retired attorneys, college professors, paralegals, travel agents, hair dressers, and more.  We're 30-something, 40-something, 50-something, 60-something, 70-something.  We're married, we're single.  We have 8 kids, we have no kids, we're working moms, we're stay at home moms.  We're Black, White, Hispanic, Korean, Jewish, Danish, Italian, Scottish, whatever. 

There is no knitting type, and I believe that it is this very diversity that binds us in community.  Around the table you'll meet people with whom you already share a passion but would probably never have met otherwise.  Around the table, we become friends with relative strangers.  We talk about work, kids, relationships.  We discuss movies, music, culture.  We talk about the past, the present, and the future.  We share our lives and ourselves, and everyone is richer for the sharing.  I thank each of you for what you bring to the table.

Please feel free to join us around the table, and bring a friend who thinks she isn't the knitting type.  She might just find that she's exactly the knitting type. 

Back to the 1 March 2016 newsletter

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Are you different?

Are you different?

When my daughter Elizabeth was in high school she came across a list of "Little Golden Books that didn't make the cut."  Very tongue in cheek with politically incorrect titles like "Strangers Have the Best Candy", "The Pop-up Book of Human Anatomy", or"You're different, and That's Bad" they gave us all a good laugh.  I was reminded of that last title the other day when a customer saw one of our new yarns and said.  "That one is really different.  I don't like it -- it's weird." 

Um.  Okay.  I didn't say anything, but here's what I think: weird is okay.  In fact, weird is good.  Weird and different are usually the sources of the greatest creativity. It's when we look at things that don't go together- pieces that don't belong, stuff that doesn't look as we think it should -  that inspiration strikes. 

Creative people know this intuitively, and they live happily in a world that's a little bit jumbled.  Maybe a lot jumbled.  Inc Magazine ran a feature article recently entitled, Why the Most Creative People are a Hot Mess, that talks about this phenomenon.  Creative people make a habit of being open to possibilities, embracing the unusual, and thinking outside the box.  You don't have to be an artist to be creative.  Accessing your creative side is a skill that can help you in all kinds of ways, from solving problems to improving relationships. 

Like any skill, tapping into your creative side takes practice, and the more you do it, the better you become.  So how do you develop your creativity?  Here are a few ways you can start:

  1. Play with something that's really unusual for you. As a knitter, the obvious medium is yarn.  Choose a yarn in a style you've never worked with and knit it.  Make a swatch. Experiment with stitch patterns.  Change needle sizes.  Carry it with something else.  Remember that this is about playing.  You will not end this exercise with a product, but an experience.  It is not a waste because experience is never a waste.
  2. Put crazy different things together. Look through your stash and grab three yarns that are as different from one another as possible.  Knit a scarf with them.  It might be awful, but it might be fabulous.  Who knows?  This is the concept behind "Chopped."  Those weird basket ingredients focus the contestants' creativity.  When they find a way to make foie gras, kale, and gummy bears work together, you know they're on it. 
  3. Doodle. Draw boxes, draw circles, draw triangles - make them into robots, houses, watches, hats, whatever. Do it quickly without much thought and without second guessing yourself.  Just play with the shapes - do as many as you can as fast as you can.  We so often pre-edit ourselves that our really best ideas never make it out of our heads; this exercise helps prevent that.

 Need a little inspiration?  Stop in and see the beautiful new yarn and take a minute to play.  I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table.  You are always welcome here.

Back to 16 February 2016 newsletter

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The stress of not knowing

The stress of not knowing

One of the biggest sources of stress in our life is knowing what we need to do but not knowing how to do it. Fortunately, we are all adults managing our lives with relative success, but when it comes to knitting, there are things, large and small that can derail the mindful mojo that knitting typically brings.  Whether it's the panic of having some or all of your stitches fall off the needle, the fear of putting your sweater pieces together, or the overall anxiety that your finished garment will fit and look as beautiful as you imagined.  

Any of this sound familiar?  I get it.  I hear it in the shop all the time.  There are even knitters who have stopped knitting altogether because of these worries and fears.  Is this you?  If so, stop worrying.  We are here to help.  

If you're concerned about making a hash of your fabric with mistakes you can't fix and instructions you don't understand, then "Fixing your Knitting Mistakes" is the class for you.  You'll never again panic when your needle comes out, drop a stitch, or just see your fabric looking wonky.  This class will give you knitting confidence and ensure there's no knitting crisis you can't handle.  

Anther source of angst for many knitters is finishing.  If you shy away from anything that's not worked top-down in the round because you don't know how to seam your handknits, pick up stitches perfectly, or set in the sleeves of your sweater, then our Finishing Workshop is the class for you.  I would say that if you hate to do finishing, you need this class, because once you really know how, finishing is actually fun.  In this class you'll gain all the skills you need to ensure your sweater looks absolutely picture perfect and is something you'll be proud to wear.  Knowing how to do it with confidence every time will make all the difference, and when someone compliments your sweater and asks you where you got it, you'll know you've arrived.  

The biggest not knowing stress, though is fit.  Perfect fabric and immaculate finishing is all for naught if your sweater doesn't fit you.  Maybe you chose the wrong size, or perhaps you didn't get gauge.  Either problem spells disaster and the very real fear of it can keep you from ever even starting a sweater project.  But it doesn't have to be.  The Custom Fit Program ensures your success because every pattern is generated to your exact measurement, fit preferences, and knitting gauge.

We are here to help you.  We are always happy to lend a hand and show you the way, but I guarantee you will have more fun knitting if you have the skills you need to feel confident handling those little crises before they become major emergencies.  Sign up for one or all of these classes and spend less time worrying, and more time relaxing with your knitting.    

I look forward to seeing you in class, or in the shop around the table.  You are always welcome here.

Back to 9 February 2016 newsletter

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A room of one's own

A room of one's own

I was reading an article the other day about women's issues, and the author mentioned A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.  I hadn't thought about that book since a course on 20th Century women writers, but I pulled it out and started looking through it again.  It's a ground-breaking piece of writing that examines the various societal situations that limited a woman's ability to become a successful writer.  She says that in order to write, you need a place to do it.  You need somewhere to think - somewhere to generate creative ideas, distill those ideas, and then get them down cohesively on paper.  That's a long process, and a demanding one.  Interruptions cause you to lose your train of thought, and it's hard to get back into the zone.  In order to have a private place to do such thinking and writing, a woman needed money of her own, or a wealthy, supportive family situation that would afford her access to such privacy and leisure time.  English literature's most celebrated women authors, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Emily Bronte, were all wealthy - not wealthy because they were successful writers, but the reverse - they were successful writers because they were wealthy.

By the standards of those days, today, we are all wealthy.  We have such unimaginable luxuries as hot and cold running water inside our home.  And even if we work full time, most of us have plenty of leisure time.  Today, I would argue, the importance of a room of one's own is metaphorical.  We have plenty of space to call our own, but how often do we go there?  I think that it is essential to carve out a space in our day where we can get outside of our lives and inside our head.  We need to let our minds wander.  For me, and probably for you too, this is the space that knitting creates.  This place where we allow our brains to enter a creative state - a problem-solving state. 

We are so fortunate for the women who came before and fought for our right to have an independent income, own property, and devote leisure time as we please.  We all have a room of our own.  We just need to make sure we go there regularly. 

I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table.  If you can't find your room, you are always welcome at ours. 

 Back to 25 January 2016 newsletter

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Why I knit

Why I knit

The other day I accidentally broke a dish. Not just any dish - handmade porcelain, hand-painted by an icredible artist.  Expensive. I loved that dish, and I'd splurged when I bought it.  But there it was.  Broken broken. I was so angry at myself.  So frustrated.  If only I had been more careful.  Why was it there anyway?  The self-recriminations came fast and furiously. It couldn't be repaired.  There was literally nothing I could do about it.  I wanted to cry.  

I needed to be alone, so I went to into the sunroom, my little sanctuary. Next to the sofa there was my knitting - a simple project of 1x1 rib in two colors.  

I picked it up and started working on it.  The rhythm of the needles and that easy stitch pattern helped me to settle myself.  That's part of why I like knitting.  It's the thing you can do when you can't do anything. 

I know that sounds strange, but think about it a minute.  There are tons of things in our life that we have no control over.  If you're a 7 Habits devotee, as I am, you know that those things are in our area of concern, but not our area of influence.  We should always focus on those things that are within our area of influence - those things we actually can do that might have some positive impact. 

But what about those big vague things that we're worried about that there's really nothing we can do personally to change?  Worrying is profoundly unproductive both collectively and individually.  And so we knit.  Around the time of September 11, 2001, there was a surge in the number of women aged 24-24 who took up knitting - a jump of more than 20%.  Knitting is calming to the mind and soothing to the soul.  That's one reason I love to knit.  What about you?  Share your reasons here. 

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Needle in a Haystack

Needle in a Haystack

Today, as I write this, my father would have been 98 years old.  He was brilliant, finishing his PhD in Linguistics before he was 22.  As a young Naval officer during WWII, he used his skills to break German and Japanese codes.  I miss him every day, although he could make me crazy.  He was thrifty to a fault.  No, I'll just say it plain.  He was cheap.  His cheap shoes hurt his feet.  His cheap tires were a hazard to all, and his cheap wine, well, I think you know where that goes.  My darling husband is also very careful with his money, but unlike my father, he is a fanatic about buying quality things that last and save money in the long run.  He's imparted this philosophy to the kids so strongly that when considering their options, they often ask, "WWDB - What would Dad buy?" 

My husband is not a knitter, but if he were, he would absolutely buy a set of interchangeable needles.  They are a big investment up front, but given the fact that they save you 300% over the course of your knitting, he'd be an enthusiastic supporter.  I love interchangeable needles.  As far as I'm concerned, they're the greatest invention since the circular needle itself, and every knitter should have a set.  Just having them puts your mind at ease when you start a project.  Do you have the right needles?  Yes.  Need to go up or down a size?  You're covered.  Need varying lengths for one project?  You got it.

There are dozens of interchangeable sets out there -- we carry at least 9 different sets at the shop.  There are lots of factors to consider -- the tips, the material, the mechanism, the cables, the join, and more.  The only way to really know what you like is to try them out.  Which is exactly why we're having a needle expo next week.  We'll have all the sets out and available for you to see and touch and use.  Bring some yarn and have a relaxing afternoon deciding which is your favorite.  You can buy them that day, or like many knitters, you can put them on your wish list and let Santa get them for you.  Either way, a nice set of interchangeables is a good investment you'll always be glad you made. 

I look forward to seeing you at the needle expo, or in the shop and around the table.  You are always welcome here.

~Ellen

p.s.  Don't forget the Entrelac class starts this Saturday - a fun knit and a great project!

Back to the 19 November 2015 newsletter

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Interstitial knitting

Interstitial knitting

Cavendish throw

Reading Ravelry, knitting blogs, and various knitting magazines, I envy those designers and knitters who have large chunks of time to devote to their craft. Hours to sit, uninterrupted, focusing on a complex pattern -- I know myself and my life well enough now to know that I will never get that kind of time for my more

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A Mystery Knit Along is an act of Faith

Mystery box

In November, we're doing our first ever Mystery Knitalong. You may be wondering, "What is a mystery Knitalong?"  Well, it's where you sign up to knit something, but you don't know exactly what that something is.  A mystery knitalong is an act of faith. It's a statement that you trust someone enough to follow them on a trip to you-don't-know-where through all manner of you-don't-know-what. We promise that the trip will be fun, and the end product will be fabulous. How can you be sure?  Well, Mary selected the project, and everyone always loves whatever Mary is knitting.  Plus, she'll be your cheerful and helpful guide throughout.

It is a mystery, but we will tell you that you'll be making a wrap. We'll also tell you that the yarn is amaaaaazing. We've selected Lana Gatto's VIP because it's luxurious to knit and comes in lots of colors.

You just know your project is going to be lovely - how could it not be with this yarn! We've put together seven different palettes, so you're sure to find one you love. 

We'll be kicking off the Mystery KAL on First Friday, November 6th, so come by the shop anytime between now and then and pick out your kit. We'll send out the first set of clues Friday morning. Work away on that portion of the project. You'll have two weeks until the next clue arrives. There will be 4 clues in all followed by the big reveal at our holiday party, Friday, December 18th.

So hurry and get your kit because this is going to be very fun and you don't want to miss out!

Key dates:
Kick off and Clue 1 -- November 6th
Clue 2 -- November 21
Clue 3 -- December 5
Clue 4 -- December 12
the Big Reveal and holiday party - Friday, December 18

I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table.  You are always welcome here!  ~Ellen

Back to 27 October 2015 newsletter

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Your brain on art

People who don't knit often come into the shop and say things like, "Oh, I could never knit - I'm not creative."  It makes me feel bad, because the truth is, everyone is creative and artistic.  It's just a matter of where our particular interests are and how we choose to display our creative talents.  As Picasso said, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”  As a knitter, you're an artist using your creativity to choose and combine colors, fibers, and stitch patterns into fabulous fiber art.

Art is so important in our lives.  I've talked a lot about how knitting keeps us sharp by offering learning opportunities that forge new pathways and stimulate brain growth.  Art is equally important and powerful.  Neurological research shows that making art improves cognitive functions by producing both new neural pathways and thicker, stronger dendrites.

Knitting provides a lot of artistic opportunities, but I think that part of what's so essential to brain growth is the learning aspect - doing something different that stretches you.  Mix it up a little.  At a recent retreat I tried working in fused glass, and I loved it!   Very different from knitting, but still creative and expressive. 

If stepping outside your knitting comfort zone sounds like fun, you're in luck!  The St. Mary's Arts Council, in conjunction with the Leonardtown Arts and Entertainment District, has invited top artists from around the region to come and teach a wide variety of classes for students of all levels.  The event is called Art Work Shop, and it will be Saturday, September 12th You can take classes in watercolor, ceramics, poetry, dance, photography, Ikebana, and more.  I'm especially excited that fiber artist Debra Lee will be teaching two workshops - one on mosaic knitting, and one on Shadow Knitting.  I hope you'll take at least one of Debra's classes, as well as something that's a little outside your comfort zone.  Your brain will thank you. 

 

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