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Sparkly? It's only natural

I love sparkly things.  Everyone does, to one extent or another.  We're drawn to things that are sparkly, shimmery, and shiny, but why?  Is it a vain kind of "look at me" preference, or is it something deeper?  Turns out, the preference for sparkly things is in our nature.  In 2010 researchers conducted experiments in which they gave very young children a variety of plates, some shiny and some matte.   To an overwhelming degree, the children preferred the shiny plates and put these plates to their mouths significantly more frequently than they did the matte plates.  The researchers believe that the appeal of shiny and sparkly things has to do with our primitive need for water, and that the research results " might characterize the precocious ability to recognize the glossy and sparkling features of water long before this information is useful later in development. "  You can read the entire report here.

What, if anything, does this have to do with yarn?  Well, lots actually, particularly Stacy Charles Yarns.  These fibers have long been among my favorites because no one does sparkly as well as Stacy Charles.  My favorite are Gioiello, Adele, and Ritratto - glistening strands of multicolored viscose, soft mohair and sparkling metallic thread. 

In the skein, they really catch your eye, but  it can be hard to visualize them in an entire garment.  At Tnna, Ginni, Mary and I had the opportunity to see the yarns worked up, and we loved them.  Stacy graciously offered us a trunk show of the best of these beautiful garments for us to share with you. 

We have the gorgeous poncho in Adele (at the top) which is our First Friday knit along, as well as other beautiful sweaters in their lovely new (not sparkly) yarn, Lena. 

So come see the yarns, try on the garments, and started on your own Adele poncho, because it is most glamorous (and easiest) thing you'll knit all year.  Don't let the holidays to catch you without something new and sparkly to wear!

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An expression of love

For bookclub this month, I'm reading Unforgettable, Scott Simon's story of his mother, a former showgirl and all around bonne vivante, as she succumbed to cancer at 84.  Simon opens by saying that death is the reason for life.  It's why we do what we do.  Death is why societies construct monuments and make art.  It's why couples have children, and it's why we struggle to build something that will endure after we are gone.  It's because our time on earth is finite that we feel compelled to create. 

At some level, I guess it's why many of us knit.  Unlike so much of what we do, knitting is proof of our time spent.  It's a tangible representation of who we are, what we do, and what we care about.  A lovely young woman, Tanya, who had been part of the Crazy for Ewe community, passed away last month.  Her memorial service was Saturday, and several of us who had known Tanya went to pay our respects to her family.  When we walked in, there was a display of all these beautiful things Tanya had knit.  Many of them had been knitted for the people in the room, and I'm sure it was a special comfort for them to have those items.  Tanya, like all knitters, put her heart into each stitch.  The shawls, socks, and scarves are physical reminders of Tanya, her love of the craft, and her love for each person for whom she knit. 

Knitting is a tangible expression of love.  To knit for another is to offer them a piece of yourself, and to receive such a gift is to be truly blessed. 

Here are some of my favorite memories of Tanya

  

 Back to the 18 August Newsletter

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Knitting your Custom Fit Sweater

Sad to say, summer's almost over and everyone's back to school.  You may not have school aged kids, but regardless there's this feeling of getting back into the groove after a long and lazy summer.  We've planned some great classes and projects for you that will build your skills and light up your knitting. 

You already know about the Custom Fit program.  Many knitters are already on board because they've knit lots of sweaters and are excited about having patterns that are already tailored to fit them exactly.  But I've also heard from newer knitters who would like to do the Custom Fit program, but you've never knit a sweater before.  That's totally okay!  We get it.  That's why we're offering a class for anyone who would like some security, guidance, and support through the knitting of your Custom Fit sweater.  Are you obligated to do the class when you get a Custom Fit sweater?  Of course not!  However, if you are a newer knitter, there may be some techniques that are unfamiliar to you.  This class is for you. You may also be someone (like me) who finds that the structure of a class helps keep you on track.  There's nothing like a specified goal or deadline to keep you focused!  Or you may simply enjoy the camaraderie of the class. 

We've found that most knitters can finish a sweater in around 6 weeks, if they work on it steadily, and have deadlines (which is a key piece of the class).  So our Custom Fit classes will meet weekly for 6 weeks, beginning August 25th.  You can sign up for six sessions and come every week, or you can sign up for three sessions and come every other week.  Either way, you'll learn a lot, and most importantly, you'll get your sweater done.  All the way done. So you can wear it.  In season.  Isn't that why we knit sweaters anyway? 

If you want to do the Custom Fit Sweater class but you haven't yet had a chance to do one of the workshops, you can opt for a private fitting and swatching session so you'll be ready to jump right in on your first class.  Email me or call the shop to schedule a private session. Whwat are you waiting for?  Sign up now and be part of the fun!  

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Curls Trunk Show

Join us for two beautiful Trunk Shows this week.  First is the show from Hunter Hammersen featuring several Curls from her book by the same name, as well as a few treasures from her Curiosity Cabinet series.  The second trunk show is a beautifully complimentary trunks show featuring the fun and colorful shawl pins of Bonnie Bishoff.  The Curls are a perfect backdrop for the shawl pins, and the pins are a perfect accent for a curl.  It's a match made in heaven, and I'm super excited to bring them both to you! 

Hunter Hammersen's Curl book started out as what she refers to as "a pile of swatches and a stack of scribbled notes"  As she knit, she played with increases and let the stitch pattern do what it would do.  And what it did was curl into a lovely shape she could wear a bunch of different ways.  She was totally infatuated with her creation, and so am I.  There are many reasons to love Curls, but here are my top 6.

      1. Versatile and flattering fit - Curls are beautiful a beautiful shape that sits effortlessly over your shoulders and fits all the curves of your body.  Because there's a wide end and a narrow end, you can wear it lots of different ways.  Wrap it around your shoulders and secure it with a shawl pin.  Toss the wide end to the back and let the narrow end fall into a graceful spiral in front.  Put the narrow end around your neck and let the wide end drape to the side and front.  Here are a couple of photos to show you what I mean, but your best bet is to come to the trunk show and try it yourself.
 

      1. Pleasing growth  There's something very organic about the way a Curl grows as you knit.  It's got the feel of the golden ratio.  It's probably not, but you know what I mean.  The increases follow a natural rhythm in a very pleasing and proportional way. 
      2. Freedom -- While Hunter tells you what yarn she used for each Curl in the book, those are just suggestions.  You can choose whatever yarn you like and knit a curl at whatever gauge you like.  There's this feeling of freedom to choose and play.  That freedom makes Curls a great way to play with a single skein of something luxurious and special. 
      3. Learning - A Curl is a new and different kind of modular construction.  It takes a minute to wrap your head around what's happening as you knit a curl, and that figuring out stage is really fun. It's good for you too.  Your brain needs just this kind of exercise to keep growing and functioning at its peak. 
      4. Mindfulness - Once you get it sorted out, the rhythm of the knitting is very soothing.  Not boring, but not taxing.  Each repeat becomes a kind of mantra, and you can take pleasure and satisfaction in the completion of each one. 
      5. You're done.  With a Curl, you decide when it's finished.  You might want a tiny scarf just to tuck into the neck of a jacket or you might want something huge and cozy to wear instead of a coat.  Either way, or anywhere in between, a Curl has got you covered (as it were).  Just get started and knit until your Curl is the size you want it to be. 

 

Come see the Curls we have in house for First Friday, as well as the beautiful projects from Hunter's other collections.  Pick a luxurious yarn you want to play with, and we'll get you started on your very first Curl.  Join us, because this is a great event and a free class you don't want to miss. 

Back to 4 August 2015 Newsletter

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Why take a Custom Fit Workshop

We had our first Custom Fit Workshop this past Sunday afternoon.  Ginni and Mary and I are all very excited about the Custom Fit program.  I love Amy Herzog's modern classic designs and her straightforward approach to getting a great fit.  Sunday was our first Custom Fit workshop, and we spent the afternoon looking at our silhouette, thinking about our style preferences and getting the measurements needed for a one of Amy's Custom Fit patterns.  Of course I hope everyone chooses to knit one of Amy's sweaters, because I think they're beautiful, but if not, there was still great value in yesterday's workshop. 

The measurements we took are key in getting any pattern to fit perfectly.  In these workshops you discover the numbers that reflect what I call decision points in a sweater pattern.  It's fairly easy to get a particular body measurement, but it's more challenging to know how to translate that into a number of inches at a particular point in your sweater.  For instance, it's one thing to measure your armhole, but it's quite another to know how deep you like your sweater armhole to be.  It's a subtle but very distinct difference.  The same with sleeve lengths.  If you don't know how deep you want your sweater's armhole, you won't know where to begin your sleeve length measurement, and your sleeve may be too long or too short.  Likewise the waist to armhole length and so on.  These are crucial measurements for good sweater fit, and they're all tied up together.  When you have your measurements and you know your fit preferences, you can compare those measurements to the schematic of any sweater pattern and adjust accordingly. 

The biggest and most valuable takeaway from yesterday's session, was, of course, this set of measurements.  With this information you can turn almost any sweater into a custom design perfect for you.  We've been doing it for 10 years in our Fit and Finish classes.  So, why I'm so jazzed about the Custom Fit program if you can do the same thing in a Fit and Finish class?  I'm glad you asked!  Actually, there are four reasons:

  1. No Math -- With Custom Fit, you don't have to do any of the math. There's no calculating the rate of change for longer or shorter sleeves, figuring out how much waist shaping to add and where to put it.
  2. You're never in between sizes, or outside of the size range -- So often a pattern jumps something like 36" to 40", and you'd like it to be 38". Very frustrating, but all too common. Or the largest/smallest size is smaller/larger than you need it to be.  With Custom Fit you don't have to worry because the pattern is always your size, whatever that is. 
  3. Gauge is what you say it is - You never have to worry about your gauge being ever so slightly off. In fact, you can work the pattern at any gauge you want with any yarn you want, and again, there's not math to do.  It's all built into the program. 
  4. With a Custom Fit pattern you have the opportunity to build in a particular amount of ease. You can specify close fit, an average fit, or a loose fit, depending on your preference.  The computer calculates the correct amount of ease about the bust, hips and waist without impacting that ever-important fit at the shoulder. 

Could you do this yourself any or all of these adjustments yourself?  Of course.  I've done it, and I've taught classes on how to do it.  But it's fiddly.  Not everything needs to be sized up the same amount.  The whole process takes  a considerable amount of time and a certain amount of knowhow, and unless math is your thing, it's not that much fun.  All those calculations are just in the way of what we love most about knitting - the knitting.  

If you missed Sunday's Custom Fit workshop, it's not too late get in on the program.  We have another workshop Sunday, August 16th, and another one Sunday, September 20th.  Sign up today and get ready to knit sweaters you absolutely love! 

Back to the 28 July 2015 newsletter

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Ugly Sweaters

This cartoon makes me laugh. And then it makes me cry.  Not really, but it is sad that hand knit sweaters have such a bad a rap.  The image of the ugly, ill-fitting sweater is powerful.  Wonky parts, garish colors, and itchy fibers.  And oh, the guilt as you thank the well-meaning someone who knitted it "just for you."  The ugly sweater even has its own TV trope.  It's an exaggeration, but not a wild one.  Let's look at the four aspects of an ugly sweater:

  • Poor materials. As with anything, your finished product is only as good as the ingredients you put into it.  Cheap yarn is, well, cheap.  Low grade acrylic yarn doesn't breathe, it's uncomfortable to wear, and it pills like a big dog.  Plus craft yarn doesn't come in fashion colors, so it always looks just a little off.  But you're a Crazy for Ewe customer, and you already know that. 
  • Bad Fit Exaggerated in film, but all too close to the truth is the sweater that doesn't fit right.  The best yarn in the world won't make up for a lousy fit.  Too big in the shoulders, not right in the bust, too short or too or long in the arms (or anywhere, for that matter) and you're looking at a major Ugh. 
  • Wrong Style If a sweater doesn't suit your style and preferences, you're going to think it's ugly.  The fact is that ugly is in the eye of the wearer.  We all have different shapes, different aesthetics, and different challenge areas.  That's just the way of the world, and what looks terrible on one body will look wonderful on another.  Choosing a style that's flattering and fits your personal style essential.
  • Poor finishing You know I'm a pretty chill knitter.  If I miss an increase on one row, I'll just do it on the next.  Extra stitch?  Just knit those suckers together.  But when it comes to finishing, I am a type A perfectionist.  It doesn't matter how beautiful your yarn, how perfect the fit, or how flattering the style, your sweater is only as good as the finishing. 

We've all seen ugly sweaters.  Heck, I've knit an ugly sweater or two myself.  It was part of my learning process, but it doesn't have to be part of yours.  I'm very excited that Crazy for Ewe is part of Amy Herzog's Custom Fit program.   With this program we can take your measurements and enter them into the computer (and save them, so it'll be there for all your future sweaters too). The program turns that information into a perfect custom pattern.   No more calculating increases or decreases to adjust shoulders, sleeves, or anything else.  The pattern is perfect for you, right out of the gate.   

As part of the kick off for this program we'll also be offering workshops that will help you choose sweaters that flatter your shape and suit your personal style.   Regular finishing seminars will ensure that you can put your sweater together professionally for a garment you'll love to wear for years to come.

Sound like fun?  We're still finalizing the details, mark your calendar for Sunday, July 26 for our first workshop.  If you want to be the first to know, comment on this post, and I'll add you to the preferred list, so you'll have first dibs on classes and other benefits.  

I look forward to seeing you in the Custom Fit Workshops and around the table  You are always welcome here.  

Ellen

Back to 14 July 2015 newsletter

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That bad boyfriend

Have you ever had that boyfriend? You know the one - you have such a great time together and you can't wait to see him again, only you don't. He doesn't call. Then he does. You make plans. He's late. You're sure he's not coming, and if you do ever see him again you're going to slap him. No one treats you like that. Five minutes later he's at your door looking amazing. Just the sight of him, and your resolve crumbles. He gathers you close and kisses you hair - oh he's missed you, you're so beautiful, and damn if he doesn't smell so good. Yeah. There you go again. Just close your eyes and go with it.

That's how I felt when walked into the Malabrigo booth at TNNA. The yarn is so gorgeous. Rich intense colors and sumptuously hand. I know they don't deliver on time. I know they are always out of everything, but...OK, I am weak, and we placed an order. Everything is in stock, they said. We'll ship right away they said. That was May. Finally I get an email that yarn is on its way. I'm pretty torqued, but at least I'm not stood up.

The Mechita arrived Thursday. Honestly, I am weak in the knees. is even more beautiful than I remember. It's 420+ yards of hand-dyed merino single ply, and it is gorgeous. Is it everything I ordered? Of course not. Do they know when the rest will arrive? Not a clue. But these colors are here now, they won't be here long, and I don't know when they will be back. Choose your colors and figure out what to do with it later. It doesn't really matter - a few skeins of Mechita deserve a place in your stash. So if you want some, better drop everything and get in here.

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

Ellen

Back to 7 July 2015 Newsletter

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Learn better in context

First day of summer, and so much is happening already! The Andrea Shawl class starts this week.  Andrea is a gorgeous project you'll love wearing, and you'll learn a ton of skills and techniques.  Can you learn techniques and skills independent of a project?  Absolutely.  However, you retain the techniques much better when you learn them in the context of a project because you see not just how, but why you do a particular thing a particular way.  This type of learning gives you greater skills overall and allows you to better apply those skills in the broader context of your knitting.

Techniques like picking up stitches, creating paired increases and decreases, and working yarnovers in a changing stitch pattern make so much more sense when you see how to apply then to join fabric or create a motif.  You'll understand the difference between picking up stitches under the selvedge, or along the front or back, and why it matters.  You'll learn these things, but more importantly, you'll remember them and be able to use them in the future.  Sign up , because you don't want to miss this class.

Back to 23 June newsletter

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This weekend! Blue Heron!

It's that time of year again -- Blue Heron Yarn 3rd annual Trunk Show is this Friday and Saturday.  I swear this event gets bigger and more fun every year!  We'll showcase their flagship yarn, Rayon Metallic, but we'll also have lots of my favorite from last year, Soft Twist Rayon.  Both are 100% rayon, but that's where the difference ends.  Rayon Metallic is silky with a tiny filament sparkling throughout - very glam and sexy.  Think Marilyn Monroe in yarn form.  Like any Hollywood starlet, all it really wants to do is lounge around and be admired.  And everyone does, because Rayon Metallic is mesmerizing.  You just can't help yourself.  Step out with this beauty, and people stare.  Even non-knitters will ask you about your garment. 

Soft Twist Rayon is the more serious, hardworking sister.  Also beautiful, but with a more subtle shimmer.  Without the sparkle, you focus more on the colors and the lovely texture of this yarn.  It will be happy showcased in a special wrap, but it's also an excellent choice for a year round sweater.  Soft Twist Rayon would be comfortable under your jacket at work, and make a smooth transition to an evening out. 

Both fibers are best worked in a project that plays to their strengths - knit something that takes advantage of the beautiful fluid fabric they create - Something like Chance of Showers by Heidi Kirrmaier that drapes and takes advantage of how Blue Heron yarns flow.

 Chance of Showers

Or Louisa by CocoKnits that falls in graceful points

 

Whether you choose Blue Heron for a sweater or a wrap, you will love it because their yarns are really special, and whatever you make will be special too.  

Back to 16 July Newsletter

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A pinch of bright

This morning as I scrolled through various social media, I saw a link to the Ralph Lauren Spring/Summer Ready to Wear show.  I was amazed to see all these summery pops of color among his usual neutrals.  The colors reminded me so much of the juicy brights of Zooey from Juniper Moon. Bright colors are cheerful and fun and speak to everything good about summer.  But maybe you're more comfortable in quiet neutrals. I get that.  Neutrals are safe, and you don't have to think about it.  But even if you prefer quiet tones, it's good to throw in a pop of color.  Color elevates your mood and makes you happy even if you're not.  Nothing puts a smile on your face like a brilliant top in your favorite shade or a carefree scarf in a cheerful bright.

I pinned some of the images from my favorite designers ready-to-wear collection, but here are a few to show you what I mean.  Ralph Lauren is not exactly known for brights, but his spring collection includes a few pieces in eye-popping shades that give the line energy and excitement.  I like this easy fitting jacket in tangerine. Just a touch packs a lot of punch.

Even Carolina Herrera is featuring a pinch of bright

As a knitter, you can get this look with a simple open cardigan in like this one in Zooey from Juniper Moon.   

It's a fun and easy way to give your summer wardrobe a fresh look and bring some happy to every single day. 

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

Ellen

Back to June 9 Newsletter

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