Winter is here!

We've been empty nesters at our house for over a year now, which is why it seemed odd to me when my husband decided that he wanted to make a new Christmas figure to go with Santa on our lawn. I thought that he might have had something more sophisticated, more adult in mind. But no, when he showed me the options that I had to choose from, they included reindeer, elves or Mrs Claus as seen here with her sock and her knitting needles in her hand. He was a bit concerned that people would think that I looked quite old in this representation, then I reminded him that I was not Mrs Claus, she was! I think she's sweet.

I'm writing this on the evening of the most glorious winter days I can remember in years,
on the eve of the storm from hell -- although they're calling it a Colorado-low, not a Hell-low.
But heaven knows, there will be enough time to recognize the challenges of winter life before the season is out; let's just take a moment to appreciate the sun and the snow on my Colorado spruce. We bought this spruce tree when it was but a twig about 10 years ago from some students at QECVI who were fund raising. The other 3 twigs that we got have long since perished, but this guy is going like crazy and stands about 8 feet high- that's about 7 feet and 4 inches higher than when he was planted, which just goes to prove that not everything from Colorado is low. (groan)

The store is crazy these days, in the nicest possible sense. It's so fun to watch the delight that people take at coming in to escape the mall crowds, or planning their wish list, or just running in to pick up some needles, a final ball of yarn or a gift certificate. It's a good place to be each and every day.

I just wanted to remind you that a week from tonight, Tues. Dec. 15th is our Christmas open house from 7-9pm. Please feel welcome to come and bring your knitting, and some treats if you wish, and we'll have the cider and coffee on. We're all hoping that the weather will cooperate and that we'll be having a lovely evening of fun and friends.


Friday the 13th, and beyond.

On Friday, Nov. 13th about 25 people came to the store in the evening to enjoy some treats and apple cider, and some knitting time. It was a meeting of escapees from the home front. We had a great time and got to know quite a few new people.
I wish I could say that we had such a great time that it has taken me over a week to fully recover and that's why I haven't managed to get anything written here, but that would be a more than slight exaggeration. But we did have a lot of fun.
In fact we had so much fun that we are offering an opportunity to do it again, on Tuesday, Dec. 15th, everyone is welcome to join us at the store from 7-9pm for our annual Christmas get-together. Please feel free to bring some goodies and your knitting. We will supply the drinks.

I have written before about the afghan that my Grandmother-in-law gave us which is now at least 75 years old. It's knit in pure wool, probably fingering weight as the gauge is about 26 sts over 4 inches in garter stitch. I've always been intrigued about the quality of the fabric that still looks pretty darn good even after all these decades of continual use, and about the tedium involved in knitting that much garter stitch. How much devotion would it take to complete such a project.

I kept saying that some day I was going to figure out how many stitches there actually are in the darn thing. Well Fri. Nov. 13th, 2009 was the day to do the calculations. Then everyone was invited to make a guess and the closest "guess", mathematically guided or not, would get to bring home a skein of any yarn in the store.
Kathy Broughton and her engineering brain took the prize with a bid of 210 000 stitches. There are (approximately) 232, 128 stitches according to my calculations. Now that's a whole lot of loving for a sister to make such an afghan for her sibling. I never heard if Granny Carpenter really understood or appreciated the work involved. I hope so, and I'm so glad to be the keeper of it now.

Another example of under appreciated knitting came to me the other day when I had the opportunity to put on my favourite mittens for the first time this season. I realized that they were probably celebrating their 20th birthday some time this month. The story behind these beautiful mittens and why I consider them to be under appreciated is that I bought them at a crafters cooperative in Morrisburg ON, near Upper Canada Village, as I say, about 20 years ago, for $6.
They're probably made of pure wool as they really are warm, even when wet. The pattern is flawless and because of the 2 colours, is particularly warm with the double thickness...for $6!!!
I felt like I was rescuing them from some boorish shopper who would just buy up a cheap pair of mitts and lose them, or wear them to wipe the snow off the windshield of their car. They've been my main mitts for the past 20 years, and although other hand warming accessories have filled in for shoveling duty, etc. these will always be my favourite mitts for the bond they've forged between me and the ardent knitter who was churning them out for just a fraction of that $6 price.

P.S. I never thought about it until now, but I don't imagine that it's an accident that every light winter coat that I've bought in the past 20 years has been navy, so it would go with my mitts.


Winter Class Schedule Jan./Feb. 2010

Design and Make FIMO Buttons with Carolyn Barnett
Renound knitwear designer, Carolyn Barnett will join us to let us in on her secrets of creating the perfect buttons and accent pieces for your knitted creations.
WHEN: Sat. Jan 23rd 1-4pm
COST: $45 Material Kit: $20.
Sign up early as this is bound to be a sell-out class.
Check out some other designs by Carolyn at her website:
Make these wonderful heart mittens just in time for Valentines Day. Slippers and hats too.
WHEN: Sat. Feb 6th 1-4pm
COST: $35
TEACHER: Anne Woodall

Learn the techniques of this honoured crafting tradition from one of the finest teachers in the area.
This beginners kit includes cut fabric, spun and unspun wool yarn to give you a taste of all of the different media available to rug hookers today.
WHEN: Sat. Feb 20th 1-4pm
COST $45 Material Kit: $35
TEACHER: Rhonda Kellett


Thinking BIG

Although I've always appreciated style and that which I find beautiful, I would never have presumed to be ahead of the fashion curve. I do believe that this is the first time that we, at WOOL-TYME Kingston have actually come out with a featured style in our newsletter that later was to be found in VOGUE KNITTING Magazine. But here we have it...the BIG COLLAR which can be found on our pattern site as of last month and the incredibly popular Shoulder Warmer which has been up at the store in 2 variations for a few months, but whose pattern will be available on our site within the next couple of weeks. Both are examples of the Big Neck style that looks so luxurious in the Holiday edition of VKM and is as cozy as can be.

One of the best things about each of these designs is that they are wonderful for beginner knitters and those who need the cozy wrap NOW! Quick and easy to knit in so many gorgeous yarns. There are some trends that come along that you just gotta love.
But speaking of knitting in the fashion world. I had to laugh when I was going through the latest edition of Canadian House and Home magazine and they were showing the beautiful Victorian Toronto house of a designer of high end hand crafted adornments for the home. The main colour used in this house's decor was white (do people actually live in these places???) and in the rich and cozy living room, one of the display pieces was a basket of pouffy white yarn with 2 bamboo needles strategically arranged on a covered ottoman in the middle of the living room floor. It looked lovely but I couldn't imagine any knitter visiting this family being able to leave the yarn in its decorative setting; I for one would have set myself down and ignored everyone else while I cast on a few stitches and set to making one of the big neck warmers as described above.


Why celebrate Friday the 13th?

A few years ago, I heard about the regular gathering in the small town of Port Dover, Ont. where bikers from everywhere meet each and every Friday the 13th, no matter the month or time of the year.

I really liked the idea of the unpredictability, yet the resoluteness of this non-occasion which brought old friends together on a less than regular but at least an annual basis. And again I thought, WHY NOT?

So at WOOL-TYME Kingston, I'm hoping to establish this very groundless tradition of keeping the store open on each Friday the 13th beginning this month of November to welcome one and all to a pot luck treats, knit and chat night, when we can use it as an excuse to finish those UFO's that are haunting the bottom of project bags and the backs of closets, or just to work on anything that we have going.
Now, don't waste this opportunity...in 2010 there is only 1 Friday the 13th and it falls in August when many of us can be quite busy.
Please join us at 6:30 and feel free to bring treats to share. We will provide the apple cider and decaf.


You know you're in the right business when...

There are times when I have to wonder about myself. But then again, who is going to look the gift horse of a job that still thrills me with something as simple as an invisible seam...every day.

I love knitting. Not so much the actual formulation of each individual stitch, as I've done more than my share of that over the years, but I love what the knitted fabric can do, and what we can do with knitted fabric. Consequently, I often will reserve interesting finishing and repair jobs for myself, just for the enjoyment of it and the learning factor.

Earlier in the week I was putting together a sweater made of Sirdar's YoYo boucle yarn, and was once again struck by how fun it is to pull the strand of yarn that I had used to sew the seam, and PRESTO! It's invisible!!

I've been doing this regularly for 13 years now, you would think that I'd get used to the fact that the mattress stitch actually works and easily creates a seam that is virtually undetectable to the eye. But although I know what to expect, I still love it. I'm like a new baker whose bread actually rises in the oven, or a kid who makes 5 out of 5 succesful jump shots in the basket. I'm amazed and excited.

Okay, now that I've embarassed myself with my confession, I stand behind the belief that this is the one area where I've been blessed with a perpetual "beginner's mind", which continually delights in the marvel of life (in the knitting lane, at least). And how lucky am I that it's part of what I do to make a living!

But look for yourself. Can you see the seam on the side of my husband's sweater in the picture above. Isn't that cool? Here is a picture with the pen pointing to the seam.

SO, earlier in the week when I was marvelling at the simplicity of my thrill reflex, and thinking that it would be something that I'd like to share in the blog, I also remembered that we have a class scheduled on Sat. Dec. 4th, to give people a chance to learn this great little finishing trick.

Call early to sign up if you're interested in joining me, as there is a bit of homework needed (just a few little squares to practice on.)

The best thing that I can say for the mattress stitch is how many beginner knitters who have learned the technique with me and used it on their first sweater come back to tell me that co-workers, moms, grandmothers, and other knitting friends of theirs remark immediately on the finishing of the sweater. "How did you do THAT?" is the most common comment they've reported with great pride. And to think it's so easy.


A definition of Luxury that I can live with.

The Oxford Dictionary describes a luxury as an inessential but desirable item.

I do believe that this Murano glass bowl, at $2 690 (available on-line from Birks Canada, in case you're interested) would fall into that category. It really is lovely, and I'm sure even more exquisite in real life. But it's also obviously out of reach, and probably not even that desirable for most of us.

But I've been thinking lately that luxury can come in many forms beyond extravagant living and inessential things. A bit of extra time, for instance can be a great luxury. I remember telling my sister this summer about what a luxury it was for me in my new empty nester life to have the time to hang the clothes out on the line. I'm not kidding. I like to hang clothes outside to dry, but when the kids were all home, there was so much more laundry and less time that I'd never quite get around to doing it; it was so much easier just to throw everything in the dryer.

Another example is that I've finally decided to take the time to learn how to make pie pastry properly and not just rely on my adhoc method of throwing everything into the mixer until it stuck together enough to role it out and get it into the oven. We all have time involving activities that we can consider luxurious if/when we indulge in them.

Other things that I would consider luxurious, perhaps by virtue of their inessential quality and desirability if not their extravagance would be stretch jeans that fit really well, good sharp garden shears, silicone liner sheets on cookie pans, lots of good pens that write well. I remember hearing Stuart McLean of the Vinyl Cafe describe the luxury of having a whole box of new socks so that he could indulge in opening up a new pair every day until the box ran out.

None of these comes close to the Murano glass category of luxury but they all make me smile and feel grateful when I use them.

At the store, I recognize every day how knitting affords so many people the opportunity to enjoy a bit of real luxury in their ability to choose a seductive sock yarn, or a couple of skeins of cashmere lace yarn, or the amazing colours of Noro yarn for a felted bag. Each of these choices allows the individual to be decadent in a most positive way, basking in the sensuous beauty of the yarn.

This week we received a 3 box shipment of pure luxury: FOOTLOOSE, a merino sock yarn in drool provoking colourways; LIMA, pictured here, is lightly spun 100% Peruvian highland wool and is as soft as can be;
and PILLAR, a blend of llama and silk. Each of these new yarns had customers fawning over them before we even got them on display.

We all have our own examples of luxury in our lives. I guess the trick is to remember to recognize them and appreciate them.


Looking at the Positive Side of Failure.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of hearing CBC's Bill Richardson interview author, Anne Michaels at Kingston's Writersfest. During the Q&A afterwards someone asked her what advice she might have for aspiring authors who were trying to get their work published. She sighed heavily and admitted that no one was going to want to hear what she had to say on that subject. She then went on to say that they should learn to embrace failure, which seemed self-evident if not very positive, and distinctly not encouraging.

She went on to explain that it's only by learning the lessons that such long, hard slogs of being repeatedly rejected can teach us, do we find the way to success for each us as individuals. Needless to say, this wasn't a recipe for getting published but for living a satisfying life, no matter what success turns out to look like in each of our lives.

I had arrived at the Writersfest directly from having spent the day teaching our very popular: Sock-in-a-Day class and started thinking about what it meant to "embrace failure" in other contexts. It occured to me that although everyone of the class participants left that day with a completed sock of some sort, each sock looked very different despite the fact that everyone had followed the same set of instructions. They all had their own design features that were born of mistakes or misunderstanding the directions; each sock was a different size, had impromptu eyelets at different places, and more or less frilly tops while tension was being worked out.

It occured to me that one of the most important factors that makes all of my classes more productive and enjoyable is how we learn to laugh at our mistakes and what some would call failures. How boring it would be if everyone sat down with needles and yarn, and following the template before them, each participant created a perfect sock.

No one minds that the others are laughing at a mistake that they've made, as everyone knows that within a few minutes it will be someone else's turn to run into such a problem. From a teaching perspective, one person commiting an error (like knitting 2 needles worth of stitches on to a single needle to create a very awkward non-triangle) is a perfect opportunity to show everyone what to avoid. And mostly, I can use anecdotes of my own halting experiences over the years to warn them away from certain knitting potholes.

Anne Michaels was right, no one wants to hear that failure is the route to success, but it is true, none the less. Life would be extremely boring without mistakes, and consequently our successes would have very little meaning

On another note: on CBC news this morning, they were noting that the Cowichan knitters were claiming that HBC had ripped off designs of their traditional sweaters to create knitwear for the Canadian Olympic Team. Some of you may know that I began my commercial knitting career in the Cowichan Valley of BC and am a great lover of their designs. But in the spirit of embracing one's failures, I think that the Cowichan knitters should take heart that they were not awarded the contract and forced to produce these sweaters that would not have allowed for an ounce of creativity nor authenticity away from the designer's drawing board.

The sweater in this picture is not very authentic anyway, using raglan sleeves and a square collar and chemically dyed red yarn that never would be incorporated into a traditional Cowichan sweater.

Looking at it positively however, the fact that the Canadian Olympic team will be wearing knitted sweaters that somewhat resemble the traditional Cowichan sweater (which Vogue knitting has declared is the only true example of strictly Canadian knitting), can only invite excitement for their designs and for knitting in general. Long live the mass market that tells us what we want to wear.

One last point: I want to know how much they had to pay that girl to wear that dorky hat.


Further notes on Creativity

A few years ago when I was in the middle of the editing process of my novel (http://www.dancingwithsilence.blogspot.com/) my sister sent me 2 framed pieces of Chinese calligraphy. The one I have positioned on top in my study is in the "portrait" direction and says DREAM, and the second, on the "landscape" horizontal plane says PERSEVERANCE. What a perfect message to send to anyone who is in the middle of a creative endeavour, where the perseverance needs to be supported by the memory that it all started with such an all consuming dream.

This was, to a great extent, much of Sally Melville's presentation on creativity at the Perth Manor on Monday. She reminded us how the dominant the bossy left brain is for most of us, always putting up the roadblocks to the fun that we might get out of trying new things, and seeing the world in creative ways.

With the help of some exhilarating hands-on practical exercises, we all got a chance to shake up our sleepy artistic right brains, and called upon them to see possibilities.

But Sally, wonderful teacher that she is, was careful to provide the balance that the message of my sister's calligraphy brought forth: there is only so far that you can get with inspiration without the perspiration.
A terrific idea for a sweater can only succeed with slavish devotion to planning, trying, checking, and sometimes starting over.

So a balanced brain would perhaps have the following conversation:
Righty: "Wow, how wonderful. I LOVE that pattern and I NEED to try it."

Lefty: "You think so, do you? And just what do you think your going to need to give up in order to knit this latest knitting seduction?"

Righty: "Whatever! I just have to try it. I could use this colour, and that texture, and I'm sure that I have something in my stash that I can add to it."

Lefty: "That may be so, but did it occur to you that I'm not at all sure that we need a 15th handpainted lace shawl? Uh, and by the way, don't you have a report that needs to get in before the end of the week."

Righty: "You always want to spoil the fun. I can do it. I have to make it. And besides, creative outlets are essential to life."

Lefty: " Yeah? I'm only looking out for the balance in your life. And I don't want to be the 1/2 brain that has to be looking for the new job when you get fired".

All that to say that no one has both sides of their brain in perfect balance. We all need to be aware of the gifts that the less-called-upon side can provide.

(Like how my creative problem solving right brain came to the rescue the other day when I accidentally added 2 tbsps of dried mint to my soup instead of 2 tsps of Italian seasoning. I scooped up as much as I could from the top of the pot and added lemon juice and called it Greek soup, featuring those wonderful flavours of mint and lemon that I've had combined in so many dishes at Greco's on Princess. Who could possibly argue that a creative mind isn't a darn handy thing to have around?)


HELP! I'm being stalked by CREATIVITY.

I'm not sure if it's all the lovely new yarns coming in, or a return to my more normal life after the summer, but I've had this overwhelming urge to stop and take time to look at anything that catches my eye these days. I'm like a crow attracted to anything shiny and colourful. It's got me thinking about how much creativity means in my life.

My first creative encounter with knitting was (as it was for so many knitters) in the works of Kaffe Fassett, but soon after that I discovered Debbie New's knitted teacups. Really, how amazingly beautiful they are in their total absurdness. But Debbie was just getting started back in those days. Since then her art has stretched the boundaries in so many ways, and she has reinvented knitting as a totally ecclectic medium for her artistic expression. Who else would think to knit a lace boat? (I'm serious.) And look at this beautiful wall piece to the left called "Living Cave".

Check out the Philosopher's wool site to see more of her beautiful and thought provoking work. http://www.philosopherswool.com/Pages/DebbieNewCards.htm

On Labour Day, I found myself downtown looking for some birthday presents. My little ADD-crow brain took over and I couldn't pry myself away from the gorgeous array of 2010 calendars at Novel Idea Bookshop on Princess St. I came away with a collection called "Arts and Crafts Tiles" and at least a dozen ideas for rug hooking projects. (I'm still thrilled that I bought it, but really, who needs a 2010 calendar on Sept 7th?)

A few weeks ago, I saw a write up in one of the knitting magazines for Henry Moore's Sheep Sketchbook. I didn't even read the article, I just knew that I wanted to have it. I like the idea of sheep and I love wool, but I'm usually not a compulsive art collector. Before I knew it, my fingers were flying to the Amazon.ca site and the book was on its way from Britain.
It arrived a couple of days ago and at first I was amused by my atypical enthusiasm and I wondered at paying nearly $20 for what amounted to a little sketchpad with a bunch of line drawings.

Then I had time to sit with it.

The notes at the back by Henry Moore explain so much of the delight that he took in a 3 week exile to a smaller studio next to a sheep field. He invites us to look at what he saw of the wooly masses and their shorn bodies later in the season. But the most amazing discovery is that the book is a true reproduction of the actual sketchbook given to Moore's daughter, Mary, with black marker bleeding through the paper to the other side and ink squiggles of different colour intensity, presumably where Henry was trying out the different effects that he was wanting to achieve. It's always so interesting, spending some time in other worlds (I mean the world of an artist, not outer space.)
Then I got an e-mail from Janie Hickman from Janie H Knits in Perth telling me that she will be hosting Sally Melville for a workshop on Monday, Sept 21st if I knew anyone who might be interested.

Now Sally is the woman who shares on her website that she got into designing knitwear in the following way: As a young woman, I made a truly weird sweater that, when fixed, was oddly appealing . . . enough that I could begin selling my work. Now that's a creative soul.

And I'm always up for an interesting day with creative people. And furthermore, Sally is a great knitting designer who shows such respect for the people who read and follow her patterns as to write them well while still leaving room for the knitting artist in each of us. Sally is a real teacher in the truest sense of the word. I'm so looking forward to the day.
Anyway, I'll let you know what creative bits and bobs that I come home with next week. Meanwhile, I'm off to whip up some crazy (no, I mean creative) omelette concoction for supper. Wish me luck.


Teaching Anyone To Knit.

I'm often asked by people who knew of my former life as a teacher if I miss the classroom. And the honest answer is that I just switched classrooms. My new life affords me all the wonderful experiences that teachers have in learning new things in order to share them with others, yet in this new knitting classroom no one yells at me if they're angry at their Mom because she didn't pack the right lunch and I don't have to do yard duty. What is there to miss???

The on going classes that we have offered at WOOL-TYME Kingston over the past 12 years reflect the idea that we grow into our knitting persona, that everyone should be able to work at their own speed, on their own project that they have committed to with same encouragement no matter if it takes them 2 weeks or 2 years to accomplish the task. See the link above to our Never Ending Knitting Class for more information about how we differ from many other knitting classes.

In Interweave KNITS newest magazine publication: Weekend Knits, there is an article about teaching kids to knit. I was struck by how applicable all of these tips are to teaching anyone anything. Here are a few examples:
-Focus on process, not product. And I would go even further than that and say that even the process should never be expected to be perfect from the beginning. I so often hear people say: :I can't knit because I can't hold the yarn like my mother told me to." I say: "Whatever..." I will often not tell people how to hold anything. I'll show them what I do and direct what the yarn and needles should do, but I don't tell them how to do it. They've had years of experience holding all sorts of implements; their bodies have their own knowledge of what is comfortable for them. I watch and if I see someone struggling with the stitches because their "technique" is not firm enough, I'll suggest a few tips that may make life easier and the knitting more satisfying for them. All that to say that there is no wrong or right way to knit (or do most things, for that matter). When you're starting out, it's all about what works for you. There will be plenty of time for perfecting technique later on.
-Quality materials matter. I would say that this is perhaps even more important for adult learners. Not only do quality materials feel better when we use them, and usually provide a more satisfactory finished product, but if an individual has invested time and money into their new skill, they are more likely to stick to it than if they've taken on as a task a $3. dishcloth.
-Choice is key. When beginners come for instruction, one of the first questions I ask is: What do you want to learn to make ultimately? We all know that they aren't going to pick up a set of needles and make a sock in the first class if they've never knit before, but it helps us all to keep the actual goal in mind right from the beginning. By the 3rd class, we can often get them started on some simple form of their dream knitting project.
The article has a few other tips but my favourite is the last: Show pleasure in what's accomplished. Sometimes our new knitters look at me skeptically when I say how well they've done, even if the 1st swatch has a few "eyelets" and has changed shape while progressing to a more uniform tension. But truly, as a teacher, all I see is the progress that's been made. There are so many things to learn with any new skill, and heaven knows that we can all think of how new skill acquisition can keep us all very humble.

But the thing that most impresses me is knitters who come back to class over months to slog through a project that is presenting more challenges than they expected. How could anyone possibly criticize the product of such determination. There are no knitting police to inspect your finished projects!


The store is becoming a TEENAGER - ARGH!

For those of you who get the e-newsletter, you will have seen this lovely birthday cake that my
niece had to celebrate her 13th birthday, which coincides with the 13th anniversary of the WOOL-TYME Kingston later this month. (For those of you who didn't get the newsletter, sign up to the right).

It's funny to think that I've had the store longer than I've had any other job in my life. I guess there comes a time when we have so much of ourselves invested in a project, we can't imagine any other life.

I was a teacher who had moved with my family to Kingston 2 years before and was discouraged that although I could get a teaching job with my French qualifications, it was nearly impossible to establish oneself being at the bottom of the seniority pile, and at 42 years of age it just seemed way too much like scary work to be starting all over again as a new teacher every year. I wanted to leave that craziness to the 25 year-olds who would have the time to enjoy it once they got established.

So after being laid off yet again, I decided that I would take the advice that I had given my Grade 8 students for years: Look at your strengths and talents, and be flexible in what you can do with your life. I took a 6 week evening course in Entrepreneurship at St Lawrence College and found an ad in the Whig saying that WOOL-Mart in Ottawa was looking to offer a franchise here in Kingston.

Some of you may remember the WOOL-Mart vs Wall Mart situation, when Wall Mart first came to Canada and objected to the use of the name WOOL-Mart by this independently owned yarn store and its franchises. A legal battle ensued and it was all eventually settled - after some terrific publicity for WOOL-Mart- by changing the name of all 11 franchises to WOOL-TYME. And the name change just happened to coincide with the opening of our store at 751 Gardiners Rd (2 doors from Boston Pizza). This announcement made national news and put us on the front page of the Whig. You can't buy publicity like that.

Isabelle Turner was not a library in those days but was the Mayor of Kingston Township. She joined us for the ribbon cutting ceremony on our opening day, and Carlolyn Dunn, the reporter we frequently see reporting for CBC from Afghanistan, was there to tell the city about it through the CKWS. It was all very exciting.

My 19 year-old daughter was in grade 1 when the store opened. We were reminiscing the other day how she and her sister would take the school bus to the store and hang out in the back room where they could do their homework, crafts and watch TVO - I think that the kids felt that Polkaroo was one of the family, they watched him so much.

On our 5th anniversary, we had a big sale during that whole week which began on Sept. 11th (2001). It was a crazy day with people congregating around the 12" TV to get the latest news as the tragic events of that day unfolded.

Year 6 was the dawning of the eyelash yarn frenzy and the role of the Internet began to really show its value by providing information and support to knitters (and the rest of the world too, I guess.) The knitting world had changed forever.
Before the 7th anniversary, the location at 725 Gardiners Rd became available and with the help of wonderful friends and customers, the move went as smoothly as one can imagine.
A few years after I opened the store, I wrote a piece (which I can't find for the life of me) that likened the first few years of a business to the process of parenting a young child. It was published in a few locations and seemed to strike a chord with other shop owners who had lived through those first lean years of any business, where all acts of kindness and all words of encouragement from customers, friends, family and staff are about the only thing that helps you keep your head up. I think back to that piece now and can only hope that my store's teen years will be pleasant and gentle ones, where we get to enjoy each other and grow together.
I'm way to old to be wrestling with a headstrong teen at this stage of my life.


A Dream Road Trip

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow "hooker" who meets with us on Wednesday nights at the store sent me a link to a beautiful website by a woman who was hooking exclusively with 3ply yarns, approximately the same type of hooking that I've been doing.
It was lovely to see the beautiful traditional designs that Margaret Arraj of Mill River Rugs was producing. I happened to notice in a corner of my brain that she lived somewhere in Massachusetts. I stored that info away in case I might have the chance someday to do a road trip and visit her studio, as well as several other tempting locations that I pass regularly on the Mass Pike on my semi regular trips to Boston to visit family.
To my wonder and amazement, a whole pile of details fell into place just days later and the opportunity arose for me to make the dream trip! I couldn't believe my good fortune -- I immediately emailed Margaret and was welcomed last Monday, Aug. 17th so warmly to her beautiful home studio on the gentle banks of a lovely... (you guessed it) river by a mill.
Please link www.millriverrugs.com/gallery.html to see for yourself Margaret's exquisite work.

The wonderful thing for both of us was that we were like long lost hooking sisters reunited, as rug hookers who use yarn are a rare breed indeed with the major exception of Cheticamp rug hooking from Cape Breton - but that yarn is extremely fine, not like our style at all.

For me, hooking with yarn only makes sense as I have enough yarn at my disposal to hook a rug roughly the size of a small European country in every imaginable colour. Better yet, hooking with yarn is ridiculously easy and still maintains a sturdy durability and gorgeous surface texture. Margaret and I spent a lovely hour or two exchanging ideas, resources and I came away inspired to run away to a cabin on a mountain with my burlap, hooks and ...oops. I guess if I run away to said cabin I wouldn't have the yarn to hook with. Besides I would desperately miss my family, and my knitting, and the store, and the folks there, and the newsletter, and... Oh well, I'll just have to be like the rest of the world and settle for revelling in my passion when I get the time to squeeze it in between the other lovely distractions of life.

Speaking of my yarn life: Margaret also put me on the road to 2 great yarn stores in the vicinity of Northampton MA. (just 15 min. north on I-91, off the Mass Pike if you're in the area.)

The first was Northampton Wools, a terrific shop right in the very centre of a most lovely town. It's actually 2 shops, one with fashion and adult natural fibres, the other one focusing more on baby and kids styles. Great idea. Linda Daniels, the owner, has been in business at that location for over 20 years. She was very sweet and I was glad to be able to share ideas with another fellow traveler on the yarn store journey.

In a completely different vein, just down the street from Linda's shops is Webs Yarn Store. This is some big operation: to put it into context: on a Monday in August (not exactly prime knitting season), they had at least a dozen staff people working diligently and there was still a bit of a line up at the cash.
But for those of you whose only experience with yarn SUPERstores is Romni Wool in Toronto, you wouldn't believe this place: immaculate, everything beautifully displayed, more samples on display than we've had in our store in the past 5 years, and very friendly and helpful service to boot. I was surprised to see on their blog that the store is owned by a couple: Kathy and Steve. Let me tell you, these folks know their business, and that business is making people feel good about their knitting, spinning and weaving.
It's always a good idea to get out from behind the cash and from in front of the computer and see a bit of what the rest of the world is doing. It's like giving your brain an invigorating spa experience.



Learn to crochet a simple border around your knitted pieces or finish an afghan with a lovely edging.

Teacher: Janette Atwell
When: Sat. Sept 19th, 1-4pm
COST: $35. Includes all materials.

2 dates to choose from!!
Our most popular class. Learn the basics of 4 needle sock knitting and how to adapt any pattern to fit any foot...all in a day.

Teacher: Anne Woodall
When: Sat. Sept 26th OR Sat. Dec. 12th 10am-2pm
Cost: $45. Includes all materials.

What an opportunity to learn the fine nuances of this beautiful craft, combining the use of cut fabrics, spun wool and fleece in a time honoured tradition.

Teacher: Rhonda Kellett
When: Sat. Oct. 3rd, 1-4pm
Cost: $45 for the class and $45 material cost.

A demonstration of professional techniques to finish hooked rug pieces.

Teacher: Rhonda Kellett
When: Sat. Oct 24th, 1-4pm
Cost: $45. Materials not necessary for this demonstration.

Modular knitting is fun, adaptable to many types of knitting projects and easy to learn. Pick up all the tips and tricks while creating a scarf of glorious self striping yarns.

Teacher: Deb White
When: Sat. Oct. 17th 1-4pm
Cost: $35. for class and $20 for materials.

EASY LACE - Feather and Fan
Introduce yourself to this beautiful traditional yet easiest of lace patterns - for scarves, shawls, afghans, baby blankets, sweaters, bags etc.

Teacher: Anne Woodall
When: Sat. Oct. 31st 1-4pm
Cost: $45. Includes basic materials.

We are proud to feature Andrea Graham, renowned felt artist, who will demonstrate different techniques of felt making as art.
Andrea Graham will show how to create one of a kind, handmade felt from unspun wool fibre using ancient nomadic feltmaking techniques! She will discuss incorporating other fibres and fabrics, using resists and also demonstrate needle felting techniques and other options to embellish finished handmade felt projects.
Check out her website http://www.andrea-graham.com/

When: Sat. Nov 7th, 1-4pm
Cost: $45.

The simplest way to discover the wonder of spinning fibres is with a drop spindle. Try your hand at this age old craft.
Teacher: Kim Parkinson
When: Sat. Nov. 14th 1-4pm
Cost: $45 for the class. $10 material cost.

Learn the basics of knitting mittens for the whole family on 2 needles and/or 4 needles. Options for fingerless gloves and "convertible mitts will also be presented.
Teacher: Anne Woodall
When Sat. Nov. 21st, 10am to 2pm
Cost: $45. Includes all materials.

Here it is: your opportunity to learn all there is to know about the magic mattress stitch, which easily and quickly seams your knitted pieces together...invisibly. Just in time to finish your Christmas knitting projects with a professional touch.

Teacher: Anne Woodall
When: Sat. Dec. 5th 1-4pm
Cost $45. Material list handout available upon registration.


Who knew that Roller Derby was still around???

A couple of weeks ago I discovered this knitting book on the New Arrivals table at the local library. (By the way, this is a plug for all of the local libraries who carry an amazing range of Knitting and other craft books. Right On!)
I was shocked to learn that Roller Derby is alive and well in the western world, and that many of the participating "roller girls" are avid knitters!

Toni Carr, alias Joan of Dark, has combined her 2 loves to come up with Knockdown Knits, this most creative (if not 100% practical for the rest of us) book that includes chapters with titles such as: The Injury List (armpit cushions for crutches, Frozen Peas for Bruised Knees=ice pack cover - shown above, a Booty Pillow, etc); Skating in Style (Slinky Leg/Arm Socks, Broken Arm Sweater, Belly Warmer, If You've Got it, Flaunt it Skirt, etc); Ref's Gear (Smile and Wave Ref Mittens); and lots more.

Toni has also included some great Roller Derby facts: The "sport" was actually invented by Leo Seltzer in 1935. It began as a marathon race, until he realized that what the crowd really loved were the fights and falls that happened between all the skaters. The focus is now on those most prized moments of connection and is reflected in the names of the girls to whom J of D introduces us: Blazin Ace, Shadi Layne, Lilly Whip, Sin Lizzie, Slammy Faye, and so on.

Although many of the projects are real groaners in how they make us wince at their uses, Toni/J of D is also incredibly creative as shown in the arm warmer with an attached drink holder known as Dill and Brownie's Beer Saver.

I love to have an opportunity to discover aspects of our world that I would not have thought would come across my path. This was one fun hour I spent getting to know a bit more about J of D and her buddies and their world of Roller Derby.
Check it out! (and I mean that literally: get to the library and check out some of the knitting books that they have on offer.)


The joys of a Blogger

Last week I spent 7 blessed days (thanks to the only so-so weather at the cottage) with my nose in one book or another. I had brought 3 books, the 1969 Time magazine retrospective and 7 Canadian Geographic magazines, not to mention the 200 page NY Times Crossword puzzle book.

By Tuesday afternoon I was going a little stir crazy so I made the big trip into the nearest city (pop. 9 000) and found myself in WalMart where I had to check out the books. I picked up a copy of the latest hit to be made into a Hollywood movie: Julie and Julia. This memoir takes us through a year in the life of Julie Powell who, approaching the age of 30, decides that it's important to make some kind of a statement with her life and thereby chooses to prepare all 500+ recipes from the Julia Child "Mastering the Art of French Cooking - vol 1" within 365 days.

This amazing challenge may or may not have died a premature death but for Julie's introduction to the world of blogging. Having announced to the on-line world that she was taking on this challenge, she seemed incapable of backing out of the proposition.

(I'm including the pictures above left to show the magic that Hollywood can perform. Turning Amy Adams (bottom left) into Julie Powell was no challenge at all. But Meryl Streep into Julia Child!!?? -
I believe that Meryl deserves some kind of Oscar for Character Jumping: sexy mother in Mama Mia, staunch and terrifying Mother Superior in Doubt, and now 6'2" Julia Child. Amazing! And all in the space of a year.)
Okay, so what does this fun little romp through my reading preferences have to do with knitting??? Well actually, not much. Except that having read all of the Yarn Harlot's books, I was amazed at the similarities between Stephanie's view of the world in relation to Julie's: they both have a wonderful ability to maintain a tremendous sense of self discipline while being able to pull back and laugh at themselves and what they see as their foibles. And they are both VERY FUNNY ladies (although be warned: Julie is a self proclaimed "sailor mouth". This is not a PG13 book for language.)
I too, have had some fun with my on-line relationships lately. Lynne from the North of England is a regular receiver of our monthly e-newsletter and very kindly emailed me this weekend to let me know how much she appreciated receiving it, having been directed to the site by her Canadian cousin. I love it. How fun.


"I Made It Myself"

"Labor is not just a meaningful experience – it’s also a marketable one. When instant cake mixes were introduced, in the 1950s, housewives were initially resistant: The mixes were too easy, suggesting that their labor was undervalued. When manufacturers changed the recipe to require the addition of an egg, adoption rose dramatically. Ironically, increasing the labor involved – making the task more arduous – led to greater liking. "

So begins the article by Michael I. Norton of the Harvard Business School. This reality, how we are sometimes fond beyond the value of an end product when our labour is involved in production, is known as the "Ikea Effect". So named, it explains how generations of Ikea shoppers are still so proud of the slightly wobbly book cases that they assembled then moved around with them since graduation 20 years ago, or the pot rack painstakingly hung from the ceiling of a first home, or the kid's bed knocked together with such pride to mark the passage beyond toddlerhood.

I understand this phenomenon and see it alive in the dish cloth that my 9 year old knit for my mother over a decade ago, which still comes out every Christmas. There is no question that we are unusually proud of our accomplishments, no matter their aesthetic appeal to the rest of the world, but I'm getting a little sick of the tone of the non-DIYs of the world. Their beliefs insinuate that we who are willing to take a chance on our skills and our ability to learn and express ourselves creatively are to be looked down upon as not sophisticated enough to accomplish something that can be valued by others.

In the days when goalie, Jacques Plante, helped his mother by knitting socks, mitts and long johns for his younger siblings, crafting wasn't chic, it was a necessity to acquire the things one needed to keep warm in the winter. But even in our grandmother's day, who can tell me that women spent countless hours knitting fashionable 3 piece suits or "twin sets" of the finest fingering yarn for the savings they would achieve. I believe that many of these people were driven to express themselves and often produced garments that were beyond anything available in stores.

For the ultimate book dedicated to encouraging the hidden artists within each of us, read Julia Cameron's book: The Artist's Way. You'll never be critical of "homemade" attempts at creativity again.
By the way, here's the link to the full article on the Ikea Effect.



Knitting in Living Art Project.

Yesterday must have been a slow news day, or perhaps the editors at CBC News just felt that we needed something uplifting. Whatever, one of the main news features throughout the day was about Anthony Gormley's art project to put a different Brit atop the 4th "plinth" (who knew what a plinth was before yesterday? I didn't) in Trafalgar Square for an hour of pure, wonderful exhibitionism. The idea was to make art more about the present than the past. Here's a link to the Daily Mail's great article.

Okay, so aside from sharing my discovery of the meaning of "plinth", why am I writing about this in my blog, you might ask. Good question.
The other thing that CBC mentioned in each of these news features was that participants could do anything (legal) for their hour on display, including knitting!
I thought: how wonderful to have the world recognize how the profile of knitters and knitting has changed in the past few years and how wonderfully expressive it can be. I was anxious to get on-line and see pictures of the new face of knitting in Britian atop one of its most memorable sites. As you will see if you click on the Daily Mail article, there are lots of photos of individuals doing intersting things, but I couldn't find the knitter!

Then I found her in this picture. That's right, bless her heart, the lady in black, second from the right.

Okay, so where is Debbie Bliss, Jean Moss, Kaffe Fassett??? The kid down the street who has learned to make knitted hackey sacks? The young mom knitting a beanie in eco cotton for her newborn? The grandmother making rainbow coloured socks for the whole family? Where is anyone who is not dressed from head to toe in black, knitting with white acrylic???

I guess I can console myself with the fact that CBC thought that it was noteworthy enough to mention that there was a knitter among the participants. Perhaps they were just a bit too squeamish to mention the gentleman that the Daily Mail leads off with wearing his excrement costume.
Oh well, we sometimes think that knitting is the just the coolest thing on earth these days, then we do get put back in our place when we realize that 99% of the rest of the world (the non-knitting Muggles, to quote the Harlot) still don't get it. Alas.


A different kind of Girly-Girl.

One of the things that I love to discover as I browse the internet looking for quirky things in the world of fibre arts is how different people see the same world that we all see, but choose to pair different aspects of it in such interesting ways.

This picture is of Theresa Honeywell's 1980 Kawasaki motorcycle cozy (www.theresahoneywell.com) The article on her site explains how her art combines "girly" crafts with macho images like this motorcycle.

If you Google images of Theresa Honeywell, there is a whole array of examples of how she plays with delicate needlecrafts and incorporates them into the world of construction (toolbelt, jackhammer), warfare (a tank cozy and machine gun), and a whole selection of beautiful and delicate tatoo art. Many of you know that I'm a fan of tatoos so that makes me a fan of Theresa who has rigged up her sewing/embroidery machine to produce tatoo art for in embroidery for sale at craft fairs.


"Ukelists" unite on Ravelry

At the store, I hear of people who do get some time to browse on Ravelry for fun. I get to do it as part of my job (how lucky is that?) and am here to share some discoveries with those of you who might just get a few minutes to check out your own site and perhaps a favourite group or two, or those of you who haven't discovered that insanely gigantic community of committed knitting crafters that meets regularly on line.
So in my browse today, I was going through the new groups that have been formed recently and noticed that number 17 down the list was called Ukulele and Ukulele Stringers! and featured this lovely young Hawaiian lady as their mascot (I wonder if she was squished on purpose to make her have more realistic build than we usually see on hula dancers?)

When I went into this group I discovered some interesting things:

-it was only formed 2 days ago and already there are 16 other groups that have been formed since it became part of the Ravelry world.

-in 2 days, 15 people have found it and have signed up as members from the US and the UK. (Does that mean that only people from countries that begin with U are interested in the ukulele?)

-8 people have posted

-from this thread, I was lead to a site http://rockthatuke.com/ that appears to be a documentary subtitled "a peek at human nature through a very tiny sound hole" and has an endorsement from film industry big gun: Ethan Coen, Academy Award-winning writer, director and producer.

-there is a CD of Beatles Music on the ukulele.

In the interest of actually getting something else done today, I finally closed down the Ravelry site that originally led me on this path of ukulele discovery but was amazed to realize that this tiny segment of the of the wider population of knitters has found each other and, for some of them, may have rekindled another creative interest.
I keep hearing about how the Internet is isolating us more and more, but I have to say that I just don't get that.
Maybe I'm just a bit too eclectic in my tastes, but I love to stumble on such fun things as ukulele knitters and learn about what they find important.


the 3/50 Project

This is a difficult post to write.
For a while now I've been wrestling about how I feel when hearing(usually overhearing) so much from so many people about what a great yarn deal they got on-line; or this sock yarn that is to dye (sic) for that just arrived in the mail; or anything from or about Knitpicks or other on-line distributors.
You have to understand that I'm not violently against big-box stores or on-line shopping. I'm glad to send customers to Michaels; we've happily co-existed with them virtually across the street from my store for the past 8 years. The point is that they can afford to stock tons of stuff that I just don't have room or the interest to carry. And many times I've heard that their staff have recommended WOOL-TYME to shoppers when they don't have what the customer needs.
But the reality is that as our economy is changing, if we don't make a true effort to recognize the value of our local bricks and mortar stores that provide attention, expertise, service, and the physical availability of products for customers to touch and relate to, we are going to lose these stores.

The 3/50 project is a grass roots economic stimulus plan of sorts, conceived by Minneapolis based retail consultant, Cinda Baxter and you can link to their website for more information at http://www.the350project.net/ . The idea is to take some time to really reflect on the value of small, local and independant businesses in our own lives, and to start putting our money where our warm feelings are.
The 3 refers to choosing 3 local businesses that you would really miss if they weren't there. (How many people have said to me over the past few weeks how sad that the S&R Dept. store is closing?)

I would really miss the chats that I have with David at Green Door Vitamins on Wellington St. The morning glory muffins at the Sleepless Goat are the best in town. A visit to the Glenburnie Grocery store is almost as good as a trip to the cottage as it reminds me so much of other small grocery stores that I've visited on warm summer weekends away. What would my family have done without Fred's Bread??????? When we got new kitchen cupboards a few years ago, we got more and upgraded products for the same money from a local company than we were quoted by Home Depot. Progress Fitness is the only gym in town that allows me to buy a pass for x# of visits, and no time limit which allows me to visit the gym when I can without feeling that I'm wasting a fortune on a membership; only a locally owned and independant gym has chosen to do that.

The 50 of the 3/50 project refers to encouraging consumers to consciously spend $50 in product and/or services at these businesses each month to show our support for that which they bring to our community.

I personally don't know that such an amount would make sense (I'm not sure that the 2 of us could eat $50 worth of bread from Fred each month,) but I think that important thing is to make us more mindful of where we spend our hard earned money and to consciously choose to visit these 3 businesses at least once a month.

The reason that it's difficult for me to write this post is that I'm a firm believer in balance in everything; I know that I won't forgo my 1/2 hour of rest and relaxation at Starbucks across the street in favor of driving downtown to go to an independant cafe. And I, like most people, love to SHOP while on holidays out of town. But every week I hear out-of-town customers coming to our store, so grateful for an LYS (local yarn store) that is big enough to offer selection and environment; so many of their communities have seen their local craft stores close over the past few decades. We are happy to have them and proud to be carrying on a tradition of service and selection, but I guess I wonder when I hear local customers talking about a colourway that they just had to order from Arizona, or a particular fibre blend that could only be purchased in Colorado, - how much do you really need that ball of yarn, and would those bucks perhaps be better spent at any of the local businesses in Kingston rather than shipping it to communities that have no stake in our homes and lives.

Please don't ever feel uncomfortable in our store, no matter where you spend your knitting dollars, but I personally felt challenged by this 3/50 concept and wanted to share it with you.


Vogue Knitting Magazine

We all have our favourite knitting magazines, but seldom does Vogue Knitting really make a big impact on the knitters that visit our store. We sell a few but mainly to people who "read it for the articles" to quote some Playboy fans. Usually the patterns are a bit too excentric for our knitters, and although it can have beautiful design ideas they aren't all that practical for many of us.

This edition for Spring and Summer 2009 is very nice but I'm not pushing it to sell more copies as we sold out of this one very quickly (I'm sure that Chapters might still have some in.) But I did want to point out the website features that they spoke of in this issue that are really wonderful.

First of all they now offer knitters the option of seeing every one of the patterns featured in their magazine in a video version of a 360 degree view showing the completed project from the front, sides and back. For instance if we look at this magnificent vest on the cover, who would have a clue what the front would look like. And stunning though the back might be, most knitters would like to think that what they are wearing should look good in the front too. Thanks to these videos you get to see the whole shooting match.

Another great feature of their website is called Knitbook where you can create your own personalized pattern book from their archives, or buy single pattern downloads from the hundreds of designs featured in past and sold out issues of Vogue Knitting, the Debbie Bliss Magazine (whose 1st edition completely sold out in a week) and Knit 1 magazine.

This picture above is of one of the most popular patterns in that 1st Debbie Bliss Magazine. Isn't it exquisite? How wonderful that we can now access these patterns, even when they're unavailable through the conventional print means.
Finally, the Vogue Knitting Website offers a newsletter that lets you know when they will be hosting a Lunchtime Chat with guest designers and Vogue Knitting staff who will be sharing their insights. Check out http://www.vogueknitting.com/ It really is worth the browse.