My Gift to You

We have a satelite dish at home and I often hear people asking how it's possible to have reception of 200+ channels and there's still nothing on TV.

Lately, I've taken this on as a challenge. Believing that there has to be something interesting or worthwhile on at any given point of the day, I'm willing to invest a few minutes to find it.

A few weeks ago on the Documentary channel I came across a great 65 minute film called LAUGHOLOGY which truly changed my life (for the time being anyway).

What an extraordinary look at the science behind laughter and how therapeutic and contagious it can be. The film brings us through many segments and stories, but my favourite part was the when we are introduced to Doug Collins, the man with the most contagious laugh in the world. This title apparently came about when Doug was randomly selected to take part in a segment of the Comedy Barn, and to the host's helpless surprise, Doug actually stole the show by doing nothing more than lauging...And the rest is history in that the YouTube segment called Dad at the Comedy Barn now has been seen by 21,035,246 viewers and with good reason.

I can't begin to count how many hysterical video doors are opened by Googling Doug Collins laughman.
And what a joy it is to spend some time with Doug. Not only is his laugh unstoppable, but he seems like such a genuinely nice man that you want to visit him often, and you always come away feeling refreshed and joyful.
My wish for each of you at this hectic time of the year is that you receive and give in turn all the benefits that the joy of a great bellylaugh can bring. And give yourself the gift of spending a few minutes with Doug. You'll not regret it.


A couple of distractions to check out.

So have you ever noticed that the crazier the pace of our lives becomes, the more we look around for things to distract us from the very tasks that we should get done to keep things from being so crazy??? I prefer to think of this as a simple trait of human nature and not necessarily a bad thing. After all, this nose to the grindstone is quite overrated in my opinion.

That being said, if you're looking for a few distractions to break from the pace in these last few weeks before the Holidays, here are a few that I'd suggest:
Wander through Downtown Kingston where there's a special treat awaiting your fibre sensibilities in front of Tara Foods/Vandervoort's Hardware on lower Princess St. Fun loving crocheters have decorated some of the bike racks there with colourful swatches of Granny Squares.
And to show that they aren't ashamed of their stitching obsession, there's even a little card attached to each asking you to send fan email messages to Outlaw Wool Lovers.

It's fun to think of a little bit of subversive stitching going on right here in our own backyard.

Or you might want a bit of diversion delivered to you through your computer:
A few weeks ago, we received the special 100th issue of Knitters Magazine, also celebrating their parent company, XRX's 26th year in business. This double issue of the magazine contains a full 50 patterns and is a great buy, but the cool news is that they are actually making this edition available for free to any Mac, PC or iPad user. Link here to receive your free digital copy of the magazine and spend a few relaxing hours dreaming about projects that you can make for YOU after the holiday rush is over.

Or if a little fun knitting is the sort of distraction that you're looking for, what do you think of this great little Holiday knitting project? Isn't it the cutest, although I'm not sure that the avian world would actually classify this little fellow as a partridge to go along with the pear but it would be fun to put on the tree anyway.
Find the free pattern to make these lovely ornaments in Patons on line newsletter.
Meanwhile, I'm off to leaf through a couple of new rug hooking books that I just picked up...and perhaps sneek a peak at the Julia Child/Jacques Pepin cookbook that Alana brought in for me to browse through. We might either have Blanquette de Veau with Pomme de Terre Dauphinoises or grilled cheese sandwiches for supper, depending on how distracted I actually get.


In the 2 days since the newsletter went out...

It's good to have this edition of the newsletter "put to bed" and I can only say that much as I enjoy writing it, I'm certainly glad that it's a monthly deadline that I have set myself and not a weekly one. By the way if you aren't signed up to receive it regularly through email, you should be.

But as life would have it, no sooner did I hit the send button but I received an email from a customer telling me about her participation in the Ravelry Advent Lace project. What a great idea: you access a different part of a lace scarf pattern for each of the 24 days before Christmas. When I went on line to check this out I was surprised to find that there are actually 2 such projects through Ravelry. Both seem to be from German knitters who appear to be equal opportunity designers, recognizing that the world of lace knitters is divided very strongly between the chart people and the written instruction group.

The one pictured here is by Unikatissima and the other one, cleverly hiding any photographic representation of the finished project is by Kristen Benecken. Now I'm the first to admit that I don't have the concentrated time to do a lot of lace knitting but I was pretty awestruck at the concept that a person on this planet would have the time during the month of December to accomplish each of the 24 sections on each of the next 24 days. What a challenge it would be and it will be fun to check in on the groups to see how people are keeping up with the pace. They don't even have hours of dedicated television watching to fill as we do during the Knitting Olympics.

We've had a good response so far to our first Knit-Along, scheduled for Feb. 2011 when we will knit the wonderfully versatile February Lady Sweater, including some responses from customers outside of our geographical area who want to participate on-line. This could be really fun. If you would like to learn more, link here.

Also, in that same Inbox batch of messages, I got one from Elizabeth McCarten letting me know that she had a new free download through Ravelry of a reversible cable scarf called Tumnus, a lovely design to try for someone special. By the way, everyone should check out Elizabeth's blog to see her wonderful photos of the city as seen through the eye of an artist discovering her new surroundings. If you are a Kingstonian you'll see the common through a fresh set of eyes. If you're from away, you'll be seduced to visit our great downtown area.



Do you remember the Eyelash yarn?

To be quite honest, we had eyelash yarn in the store for a year and a half before the craze caught on. We used to have it in a little basket, with about 2 balls of each of the 7 or 8 colours that we carried. We had one customer who loved it and made quite a few projects of all sorts with it. It seemed as if she was the only one who had any interest in buying it even with the cute little bolero jacket that we had on display.
Then the TSUNAMI of popularity hit. It was not uncommon on a Saturday to have a half dozen customers picking up 30 balls of this yarn, not to mention the 30 customers who were there to pick up a half dozen balls. There were some days when we could have auctioned off 2 balls of black FUNNY that were returned for 5 times their regular price.
My favourite business story in the 14 years that I've had the store is of an older woman who won the Best in Show prize for knitting at one of the local fall fairs where we had donated a $25 gift certificate for the prize. She had never been in our store and arrived with 2 of her adult daughters to see what we carried and to spend the gift certificate. They all fell in love with the eyelash yarn and I finally lost count of how much return we made on that "donation" but between this lady and her friends and extended family at least 250 balls of eyelash yarn were purchased that season.
Enter FRILL SEEKER and the other frill yarns that have taken over.
Again, we had an identical yarn in different colourways 2 years ago in the store, and again we had one forward thinking customer who loved it and was responsible for about 75% of the sales that we made when we carried SOLO in the store. But for some reason it just didn't catch on until this season.
And predictably, there just isn't enough stock. How can anyone predict what will go "viral" in the knitting world, or any other aspect of life for that matter?
I was at the distributor's warehouse last week and heard that they had invested $6 000 to air ship a tonne of FRILL SEEKER yarn to Canada. That is one heck of a lot of frills. Last week we received 32 bags of that lot and have but a few balls of just 3 colours left. More is coming later in the month, this time by ocean freight (sensibly), and yet another shipment is expected with new colours to arrive before Christmas.
It reminds me of the Cabbage Patch Doll craze, where my mother, God bless her, fought the crowds at the Bay on Rideau St in Ottawa to get one for Christmas for our oldest daughter, who drew on the doll's face some time in early January. And bless her in turn, Catherine just wasn't a doll kind of kid.
Anyway, this new one is a fun yarn and a nice gift. (Apparently, FRILL SEEKER scarves were spotted by one of our customers in Mont Tremblant fashion boutiques and are selling for $50.)
At right is a picture of RIZOS, by Katia, another version of the frill yarn and a bit more sophisticated. We will have a bit in stock but I had to fight to get 2 of the last 4 bags in the warehouse where it is housed. The knitting world can be a tough one. It's good to know that our customers appreciate the battles that we face to get the yarns they want. LOL.


A bit too much knitting, perhaps.

I've loved knitting all my life. I was quite young when daydreams often consisted of how to make a knitted swirl go around a sleeve. But I have to say that even for me, the wallpaper in this hotel room might have been a bit overwhelming.

Joanne, one of my customers, brought this photo back from a trip to Ottawa recently where they stayed at the Hotel Indigo. Having recovered from the shock of finding an entire wall covered with a mural of a sweater that I owned in the '70's, I was intrigued as I'd never heard of this hotel before, having worked at the Chateau Laurier in my early twenties, and Ottawa being my second home.
When I looked it up on-line, I was taken aback on several fronts. First of all, it would appear that this pretty upscale "boutique" hotel has this type of mural wallpaper in all their rooms. The ones that they feature on the web site have you sitting in a forest of birch trees, or in a much-larger-than-life field of wheat.

Secondly, I was blown away when I realized that the Hotel Indigo is actually the latest incarnation of what used to be the old YMCA, which is right across the street from the old YWCA, and is the corner where my brother, Andy and I first found our Independence when we were but 7 and 9 years old.
We were the oldest of 5 kids and with one car and a Mom who never did want to have her driver's license, we were shown the way then allowed to go to swimming lessons by ourselves, taking the 35 minute bus ride over from Hull in Quebec, getting off at the Chateau Laurier, walking along Wellington to the front gate of Parliament Hill, then turning south on Metcalfe St and walking down the 6 or 7 blocks to our respective Ys. We never looked back. Andy has traveled extensively in Asia and has been on just about every continent on this planet. Although I haven't been as far afield, I have an instant sense of comfort in any city that I've ever visited, and independence is my middle name.

But can you imagine? Today, I believe that allowing your 7 and 9 year olds to take the bus alone to another province is considered a chargeable offense. Children's Aid would no doubt have something to say about it.
Everyone at the class was pretty amazed by the Hotel Indigo wallpaper and wondered aloud what percentage of the people who were assigned that particular room were knitters? Could you actually request a room with a particular scene? Anyway, in the way that life would have it, Alana came across this other version of knitted wallpaper the very same week that Joanne brought us the picture. I'm not big on a white on white colour scheme for my house for obvious reasons, but I must say that there is something much more appealing to me in this warm and balanced MEGA ribbing.


A weekend of "I'd love to have the time to..."

DH and I have just had a weekend that I've often dreamed of. I actually extended it to include Friday as I wasn't scheduled to work in the store, and Monday which is my usual day off anyway.

The only criteria for what we were to do this weekend was that at some time we had to have said something like: "Someday we've got to..." or "I heard about this place we should try some time..."

And here are some of the places we visited and things that we did on our staycation weekend:

- Supper at Fasoolio's on Gardiners Rd. Amazing!

- Found Schroeder's restaurant on HWY 62 in Prince Edward County that features wheat free baking (hooray) and great food in general.

- Visited the Cidery at Waupoos and fell in love with their Cabernet Franc wine as well as their premium cider. Unfortunately at $24.95 a bottle for the wine, we left it until a more memorable occasion and took home some of the cider.

- Were directed, by Janet at Wilton Fibre Mill, to Fifth Town Artisanal Cheese store, also in Waupoos where I discovered yet another reason to love sheep. Bonnie and Floyd, their award winning sheep cheese is absolutely fabulous: somewhere between a mild cheddar and the pungency of a hard goat cheese. I still can't figure out how it's possible to combine the characteristics of such different cheeses but I can only guess that sheep are all about comfort , even in the cheese that is made from their milk.

- Stopped off at Lake on the Mountain park where I believe this picture of the Glenora Ferry was taken, which we crossed on to head back to Kingston.

-Had a great Chinese supper at New Henry's on Montreal St, a restaurant that we have passed almost every day for the 16 years that we've lived in Kingston but never tried. The food was really great. "Henry" the chef, said that he'd been there for 39 years, open each day from 9am to 10pm but when it's not busy he closes at 8:30pm. His day off? He takes Christmas day and lets his kids cook for him. The decor (velvet flocked wall paper and wood panelling with an array of the healthiest plants I've ever seen) is probably original and immaculate, as if kept to museum standards: an authentic piece of the '70's.

-Went to Fort Fright at Fort Henry...how fun.
- Attended the Empty Bowls fundraiser for Martha's Table. That one is on my calendar to get tickets for next year.

As I reread this, it sounds like my Dad's recounting of any excursions that my parents have taken: "...Then we ate here...Then we picked up some bagels there... Cheesecake at this place..." But why not? It was so fun.

And just so you don't get the idea that we did nothing but eat all weekend, we watched a DVD of an African movie called "Beat the Drum", (beautiful but sad), and a golden not-so-oldie: "The Rain Maker", and a tear jerker "The Painted Veil". And to round things out with a bit of action and gunfire, we went to the Cineplex to see RED with Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovitch and Helen Mirren. I loved it: The Geriatric A Team.

We also read and read and read, which for me included getting caught up on magazines and emails that I'd been wanting to go through more carefully. That's where I found this fabulous offer from Interweave Knits introducing their new line of ebooks. The one that I liked was : Knitting for Children. 8 terrific patterns from different Interweave publications including designs from Norah Gaughan, Ann Bud, with a felted frog purse, a sock pattern in any gauge to fit any kid's foot, a trio of earflap hats (shown here) and unspun roving mittens made of our lovely hand painted pencil roving.

I got to go through my latest of copy of A NEEDLE PULLING THREAD, the extraodinary Canadian needlecraft magazine that is now included for FREE to all members of the Canadian Guild of Knitters. I was delighted to find a lovely design by our good friend of WOOL-TYME Kingston: Sherri Bondy. Her Art Deco Cowl is beautifully classic, as all art deco designs are.

I also got to work a lot on my latest rug hooking design and really do love that art/craft as much as anything I've ever done.

All in all, it was a great weekend and it was a bit like having Thanksgiving all over again without the turkey, being grateful for the time and the company and the wonderful things that our area offers.


18 more days to Halloween

I just got an email from PolarKnit advertising their free Halloween themedpatterns on-line and was intrigued.

Before going any further, here is the link so you can start planning right away.

I saw the PolarKnit yarns at the recent trade show that I attended and loved the feel of it. It is made of actual polar fleece and comes in good colours and is nice to knit with.

BUT... Why didn't I bring it in?

This brings up a topic that actually came up in conversation earlier today: what are the criteria that we use in choosing a particular company to deal with or a specific yarn?

Generally, I use a series of questions that I ask myself, the first of which revolve around ease and dependability: Is this a company that I can rely on to deliver enough yarn on time? Do my regular suppliers have something comparable that I can include in my regular orders? Does the shipping from its place of origin cause me any issues? PolarKnit appeared to be okay in these respects although the representative wasn't actually there to ask questions of, so that made me a bit nervous.

The second batch of questions are more customer centered: Will my customers be able to work well with this yarn? Will it inspire project ideas for them? Will they recognize its value in relation to the price? And there I found the elements that made me pass up this yarn for this year, anyway. I'm sure that PolarKnit is a great yarn to work with; I'm a fan of polar fleece, why not in a yarn? But because of its very special composition, I guess, it makes it really expensive, especially considering the yardage that is in each ball. For that price, I want it to be REALLY special.

The other issue is that for some reason, they consider 12 stitches over 4 inches to be a Chunky weight and 16 stitches to be a Worsted Weight. This is much heavier than any other yarn on the market. It would drive a knitter crazy to get all set up with their yarn and a "chunky" pattern only to realize that they would need much more yarn than they expected AND they would have a terrible time trying to achieve a typical chunky gauge.

All this to say that each LYS has a different focus and set of criteria when choosing yarns. Each shop owner has their own priorities, preferences and penchants in style. I'm sure that PolarKnit yarns will find a good and happy home in many stores. It just occured to me that readers would probably find it interesting as an exercise, to hear a bit about why some yarns that I see make it in to my store and some don't.

I was however so pleased with the fun patterns like the one above and this skull beanie, both available as free downloads, but I do advise customers to be very careful and look at the pattern gauges closely before choosing a yarn, or 18 days won't be enough time to knit it twice to get the right size!


Having "Fun" with the Solution Sweater.

This is the story, in point form, of the sweater that I've made for my brother's 50th birthday. I call it the Solution Sweater as my way of seeing it as a wonderful learning experience redefining all of the interesting challenges that this darn thing has presented, and the solutions that were handed to me along the way.

1.About 2 years ago, I had chosen and put aside a gorgeous discontinued brown Noro Aran weight yarn for this purpose. Anthony, the brother in question, mentioned that he always wanted a green Aran sweater. Solution: Alternate the chosen brown yarn with rich green Manos del Uruguay. It looks great...just like the forests of Vancouver Island where he lives.

2. A hood, said he. I'd really like a hood. Or maybe not. Could you make it with a hood that can come off?

3. Sure, said I. Solution: a hood with a series of small buttons around the bottom that can fit in the holes on the inside of a double neck band.

4. Oh, said I. You'll have to have a zipper at the neck or it will look like a little kid's hoodie. (As I'm saying this, I realize that if the zipper is worn open it will show the tacky inside of the zipper.) Solution: Make a second band on the inside of the sweater and slide the zipper between the 2 layers. Picture at left.

5. Make a swatch to check for colours and designa compatibility. This next picture is proof that I did a swatch last December. (Check my Flickr account. I really did do this swatch before beginning.) More about this later.

6. Knit 2 sleeves to make sure that tension is really okay. Sleeves come out fine. More about this later.

7. (Full disclosure, and a little bit of a spoiler alert: I did get some help here from one of my knitters to do the back with armhole shaping to accomodate a set-in drop sleeve, according to my directions. Also had her do the front to the zipper opening and armhole shaping.)

8. Picked up and finished the front to include the zip opening but forgetting that the back had armhole shaping. Solution: Rip back the back of the sweater to the armhole shaping which is then redone to match the front. (I was not about to do all that front neck shaping again.)

9. Design hood. Knit part of hood. Run out of green yarn. Solution: Find that the emerald green of Topsy Farm's wool is almost exactly the same colour, if a bit thinner. It's okay for the bit that I have left.

10. Sew the sleeves in. Discover that the sleeves have a depth of 8". For those of you who sensibly rely on patterns, 8" is the sleeve width of a fine lady's sweater. A man's jacket type sweater needs at least 10". (You do remember that I made and measured the sleeves in step 6 and they were fine when I made them.) Solution: If you look carefully just below the little red line triangle of the blocking board on the picture here, you will see a band of knitting where the stripes are going perpendicular to the rest of the sleeve. (we'll call it a design feature of some great ingenuity and importance to the integrity of the entire piece). These are bands of short rows that I picked up along the inside of the arm on each side to add the missing couple of inches.

11. While knitting these bands, finish the skein of brown yarn that I wound a couple of weeks ago. Go to the stash and retrieve another, knowing that because this was the original yarn that I intended for the entire sweater, there was plenty. This is a picture of the first of 7 skeins of the beautiful Noro yarn that was destroyed by mice and/or moths over the past 2 weeks. Solution: Turn blue while holding my breath as I examine the 8th and last skein of the yarn. Silent prayers to the knitting gods are answered; the last skein is intact.

12. Sew the sleeve extensions and side seams. Lay the hoodless sweater on the floor to admire the rough beauty of a finished garment before it's blocked. Try to ignore the nagging optical illusion that makes it appear to be smaller than I expected it to be.

13. Flatten out the sweater and measure one last time to reassure myself. Scream. (Remember the swatch from step 5?) Breathe deeply and remind myself that the evil knitting gremlins could not possibly have stolen an inch from each side of the sweater, making it 4 inches smaller in total than it had been when I measured the pieces before sewing them together. This is simply not possible. Solution: Put the whole thing away until the morning when I get up and soak it in a bath of water and Eucalan (to relax the fibres) and block it on the board to the exact size.

14. I am planning on sewing the buttons to the hood tomorrow and HOPE that the idea works and that the effect is a good one. I'll let you know.

All this to say that despite the ...INTERESTING...aspects to this project, I've really enjoyed it as it has given me a chance to "build" a proper sweater from the beginning, refining some of the skills that might have gotten a bit rusty lately and learning as I go along. Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures that also show how nicely the colours work together and how the corrugated ribbing from the bottom of the sweater worked to tie in the blended colours.

I'll hang the finished piece at the store until mid November when the birthday guy comes to town. All in all...it was a lot of FUN.


How to have fun - Part 1

Over the past few weeks I've been both surprised and delighted at how fun my life is lately.
It could possibly be that I've been reading Eat, Pray, Love and the author's life swings from such desperation to elation that I'm just glad to be little old me having a good time.

The first opportunity that I had to notice how much fun I've been having was when I found myself at the "Knit Trade" Show organized by the ladies at Cabin Fever, where LYS owners were invited to meet with smallish yarn/knitting related product companies who wouldn't have the opportunity to visit all the stores.

Here is some of the fun stuff that I got, much of which came from the booth with the dynamic pair of dye divas from Dye Version.

I had made a small note to myself before going to the show that I wanted to check out the price of their bamboo/lycra sock yarn as it seemed like something new that I thought would work well in my store. WELL, was I dumbfounded when I saw their line up...And I have the MasterCard receipt and the products in my store to prove it.

Not only did I come away with a good selection of the Bamboo/lycra sock yarn (in amazing colours), but I also picked up 2 other lines: their fingering weight 100% bamboo which runs through your fingers like water, and the most amazing sock yarn that we have ever carried, being a gloriously hand dyed blend of merino wool, silk, nylon and (wait for it...) sterling SILVER filament.

Honestly, the Dye Version ladies said that they hadn't actually heard of anyone who really made a pair of socks with this to-die-for yarn, but with the nylon content I guess it would work...but who would want to? You would end up walking out into traffic, while lifting your pants above your ankles so you could watch the silver flecks and the colours as they moved in the sunlight.

I also brought back a whole pile of other fun things including knitting key chains, glittery mohair, and oodles of books and 2011 calendars. COme on in and check them out.
Later that evening I got to spend the night with my daughter and her new "J-ug" (being a Jack Russel, Pug cross) puppy, Zoe. I was also introduced to the indescribable joyful cuteness of an urban park full of dogs and puppies of every shape and size, congregating for a good old fashioned run and fetch. It doesn't get much more fun than that.
In Part 2 and 3 of these How to have fun posts, I will discuss the joys of teaching a class of lovely ladies who absolutely want to learn what I have to teach them about toe-up socks, and my experience with the Solution Sweater that I'm making for my brother's 50th birthday. I call it the Solution Sweater as during its creation I was presented with a whole series of challenges, problems and mistakes to be fixed (without resorting to starting over from scratch) and the solutions to these dilemmas were Eureka provoking and thankfully received.
Meanwhile, fall always makes us happy at the yarn store. Lots of new products, lots of new and returning customers, lots of work to keep us out of trouble.
Life is fun.
More later.


Meet Perri Klass

"I love to knit, I love to read, and I love to read about knitting." Perri Klass

That statement only begins to cover the things about which Perri Klass is passionate. I'm sure that many of you know her name but for those who haven't run into her in print, I'll list the "hats" she wears that I can identify in just a few minutes on the internet:

Pediatrician, professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at New York University, literacy advocate, regular columnist in Knitter's Magazine, knitwear designer, writer of knitting books many articles and papers and books in any of the above fields plus pieces on travel and food topics to boot. AND she has 3 kids of her own!

Well imagine my surprise when I was going through the stacks of the library recently and came upon her recent non-knitting, non-medical, non-literacy related NOVEL. I think that I just saw her as a regular SuperWoman before but finding this book: The Mercy Rule, which I believe is her first real work of fiction, really hit home and made me ask with a true sense of exasperation: How Does She Do It?
I know the hours it takes to slog through the multiple drafts of 250 pages of fiction, when 5:30am is considered sleeping in. It took me the better part of 3 years and I only had 1 job! Does this woman never sleep? Is she like Hermione Granger who experimented with time shifting in order to accomplish all she needed to do during one year at Hogwarts Academy of Magic?

Maybe they should make a Movie of the Week of her life, or more likely an HBO series as no one could cram all the things that she excells in during a 2 hour movie.

Check out her website and see if you just can't tell from the tone of her knitting articles and by the arenas where her life has taken her, that she has just got to be a really nice person too.

Having begun this post with a quotation from the internet, I shall close the same way and you can picture me sitting tall at my computer desk, secure in the knowledge that if it hadn't been for all the time that I wasted with my head in the toilet bowl during 3 x 9 months of morning sickness that I too could have accomplished as much...NOT!

"She (Perri Klass) also wrote, in the New York Times Magazine, about the experience of having a baby while in medical school" Wikipedia


Made it through the first week of school.

I've been out of the school teaching business for 14 years now. My youngest "child" is in 3rd year University. The only real connection that I have to the ebb and flow of the scolastic year is in the school bus's return to pick up the kids next door. Yet every year I still walk through those first few days after Labour Day with a fondness, excitement and sense of relief at the approach of that first Friday which signals the end of the first week.

I've been pondering memories of my own student days, remembering the grade 7 teacher that I had who taught us, literally next to nothing in the entire year, except how to knit a spiral hat much like this one that I found on the net.
Now you can imagine that although she was no Socrates, that woman was to be commended for her attempt to have 30 12 year-old girls of varying levels of dexterity, interest, hormonal upheaval, and ability actually complete what I now recognize to be a relatively intricate pattern. For the first time in my life, I realize what a gift that teacher gave me and how much I learned about math and its relationship to structure in general and the construction of knitting designs in particular, never mind that I spent the year focused on how much work we were avoiding by knitting for a good portion of every day.
Having spent last week touching down mentally into the schoolyards of my past, I was delighted to receive this video link by email from my sister. I have declared it to be my favourite music video of all time (for this week anyway.) Kristin Andreassen's Crayola Doesn't Make a Color for Your Eyes.
I absolutely challenge you to watch it and see if you aren't humming the tune for the rest of the day, feeling a lot more hopeful about the future of our world, and harbouring the coziest memories of wonderful teachers that you have had in your past. (I wanted to run away and join her that grade 2 class).


Such Role Models

Next Sunday, the store will have its 14th birthday.
One of the very best gifts that I've received during those years has been to observewhat it means to grow older for many different people.
We all grow older, some people just do a better job of it than others. Aside from having a really good example in my parents about how important it is to take care of yourself, to stay active and keep connected with friends, I've learned so much from the people that I see every day, month in and month out, year after year, who change as we all do with the passage of time but never seem to lose that spark that keeps them learning and interested in life around them.
A friend of mine from the Tai Chi days and who is now a good customer was in to the store today telling me about the trip to the north where she had been with her parents who are pictured here: Don and Katy Lou McLauchlan. Don was an RCMP officer in the north for decades but had spent 3 years in the tiny centre of Aklavik, which was celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The interesting thing is that Don himself is only 2 years younger than the community.
Yes, that's right. Don at 98 and Katy Lou at 92 made the trek to the high north this summer to help celebrate. This would be quite a trip under any circumstances for these folks but it's important to note that Aklavik has no hotel, B&B, restaurants, roads, telephones...nothing of what might make one feel a bit more comfortable in our southern ways.
Read all about the trip and some of Don's recollections here and think about some of the amazing elders that we have among us. I know I feel so priveleged to be surrounded on a daily basis by people of all ages who are such great examples of living and learning.



I received an email recently of this picture along with several other examples of humans being taken advantage of by animals.
It really is quite a funny series and I thought that my oldest daughter would get a kick out of the pictures as she is presently working for a Humane Society as an animal protection officer.

Her response to my email was as follows:
It says a lot about my upbringing when I see buddy at the end getting knocked out by a kangaroo and one of my first thoughts is “nice Aran sweater”.

I guess my children were a bit more immersed in the beauty of handknits than many others would be.


Get togethers are great!

CALLING ALL CRAFTERS who like to hang out together with others who share your enjoyment.

Do you have a group of friends with whom you share some regular knitting, hooking or regular crafting time and would be open to having your group visited or joined by others of the same persuasion? Please let me know the details. I'd love to be able to share the information here on the blog, in our newsletter, on our Ravelry site, or just when people call us to see what's going on in the crafting community of Kingston.

This picture was taken a couple of years back. It shows our regular Thurs. evening gang that meets at the store from 6:30-8:30. This group has been going on for the better part of 10 years with an obvious ebb and flow of participants. It began with the class regulars outgrowing the need for instruction but still looking for the fun and companionship of a regular "class time" with or without the actual class.

As I was working on my "To Do" list this morning I realized that next Wednesday, the 8th of September we will be restarting the bi weekly rug hooking get togethers at the store (the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month.) By the way, this is the piece that I was working on for part of last year and finished late in March, but the Reindeer that I was hooking when we left off last spring has not been touched since then. How typical!

The feeling of anticipation reminded me of when I was a kid and I looked forward to my first Brownie meeting of the year, or swimming lessons starting up again on a Saturday morming. There's something really great about the rhythm of returning to an activity that we enjoy on a regular basis.

Here we notice at our regular on going classes that so many of the people who attend form real bonds that sometimes extend beyond the knitting store; there's the fun of getting together with people of like mind who may be from very different backgrounds, age groups, and life experiences but still share our love of learning a new skill. If someone has been away for awhile, they're welcomed back with questions about family, pets as well as the progress of the knitting project.

Please consider joining us on Thursday evening whenever possible. It's free and fun and we'd love to have you.


How to value your knitting.

This afghan (which was made by my husbands great aunt for her sister in the early part of the last century) is a perfect example of a project that can only be considered an absolute labour of LOVE as it is knit entirely of garter stitch sections in FINE, 4 ply fingering weight yarn. When it comes to placing a value on reproducing such a knitted project, it is without price (as most of us would die of boredom long before it was done).

We have so many amazing knitters that we meet each day, and also many who are extremely competent yet all of these craftspeople and artisans often feel shy about answering this rather sensible question asked by those who don't know about such things: "What would you charge to knit....(whatever) for me?"

Despite the fact that anyone who would even consider taking on a knitting or crochet project for money must absolutely LOVE knitting, and be fairly enamoured with the concept of a bit of a challenge in their knitting, it shouldn't take away from the reality that you are giving up a substantial number of hours of your skilled work to produce something for someone who absolutely must realize how valueable that work is.
What I'm saying is: don't be shy!

The people who are asking you to knit something for them usually fall into one of 2 categories: the first might remember the beauty of the handknit article that they received in their past and recognize how rare it is to have someone care enough for you to produce such a garment and are willing to pay accordingly. The second group is associating your work/ability and the finished project with the pair of mitts made of sayelle left over from 1973 that they saw at the church bazaar last fall for $3./pair.

My advice is don't even consider the project unless the person is willing to accept the fact that it requires good quality yarn. You deserve to enjoy the feel of what you're doing. Then when it comes time to charge for your labour, you should at least receive the equivalent price of what was paid for that good quality yarn. (I can almost guarantee that it won't net you much more than $1/hour but at least it's something.) If the pattern is in anyway complicated, altered, hard to understand, boring beyond belief or inordinately time consuming then you should charge twice what the good quality yarn is worth for your part in the process.

A group of women in the UK have really gotten it right and came up with a great way of dealing with this dilemma in forming Grannies, Inc. a company that knits and sells custom designed beanies to the hippest of the young skiers, snowboarders and other hipsters on the British Isles. The company charges (and charges well, I might add) for their hats and the ladies don't need to be embarassed.

Keep it warm. Their latest product, which is this collection of tea cozies inspired by favourite TV shows in Britain. The cozies cost 45pounds (pardon my lack of familiarity with the symbols on my keyboard) but you can order and download the pattern for just 2.50pounds.
Take pride in what you create and share that enthusiasm and pride with those who don't have the skill, knowledge or time to do it for themselves. You deserve to be recognized as the skilled artisan that you are.


The Fall Line Up of classes.

We have a wonderful list of classes for the next few months, most of which were suggested by our customers.
Take the time to go through them and contact us to register or if you have any questions. Registration for any of these classes can be made in person, via email wooltymekingston@gmail.com or by phone: 613-384-3951
The fine points: Classes must be paid in full at time of registration to ensure your place.
Refunds will be issued only if the class must be cancelled. Should you not be able to attend, a credit can be issued for a future class.
2 Dates to choose from:
Sat. Sept. 11th 10am-2:30pm or Sat. Nov. 27th

If you can knit and purl then you can learn the techniques required to knit socks in any size, using any weight of yarn.
$45. Includes all materials.

2 Dates to choose from:

Sat. Sept. 18th, 1-4pm or Sat. Nov. 20th 1-4pm
Traditional RUG HOOKING

Learn the basic techniques of beautiful traditional rug hooking using yarn, fleece and cut strips.
$45. class $45 material kit.
Students must bring a 10"-14" hoop or frame.

Sat. Sept 25th, 1-4pm
For those who are familiar with knitting on 4 needles this class covers a simple, practical "toe up" method and "afterthought heel" so you can expand your sock repertoire and make socks that fit every time.
$45. Material list available at registration.


Sat. Nov. 13th 1-4pm
Everything you ever wanted to know about using circular needles for all of your knitting projects. Use long needles for small hats, mitts and socks with the "Magic Loop" method. Learn how 2 circular needles worked together can make any project in the round a breeze. Try out the different materials in circular needles including Addi TURBOs in regular and lace styles, Chiao Goo PREMIUM RED series, and Clover BAMBOO needles.
NOTE: $30 for "OTHER SOCK TECHNIQUE" participants. $45. for others.

Fri. Oct. 1st 6:30-8:30 and Sat. Oct. 2nd 1-4pm
These Part I weekend sessions are for those who are ready to go beyond the knitted scarf and want to develop the confidence to select the right yarns, choose the right size and learn to read patterns correctly.
$45. class. $20-$40 materials to be purchased on Friday evening. Material list available at registration.


Sat. Oct. 16th 1-4pm


Part II will show participants how to finish their cardigan begun in Part I. Button bands and button holes, sewing seams and inserting sleeves will be covered.
NOTE: $30 for Part I particiants $45 for others.

2 dates for this very popular workshop.
Wed. Oct, 6th 6:30-8:30pm or Wed. Nov. 17th 6:30-8:30pm

Bring your finished sweater pieces and learn the best way to pick up stitches, sew seams and give your garment that professional finished look.
$25. Sign up early, space is limited.

Wed. Oct. 20th 6:30-8:30pm
Learn the techniques used to block knitted pieces and the best way to achieve a beautiful polished look to your project.
$15. Bring your knitted pieces for demonstration.

Sat. Oct. 30th, 1-4pm
This most basic of techniques for spinners is a great introduction for fibre-holics into the satisfactionof creating your own yarn. Surprisingly easy and fun.
$45 class $10 materials.

Wed. Nov. 3rd 6:30-8:30pm
Learn how to achieve beautiful colour work by stranding 2 yarns of different colours. THis class will include an introduction to "continental knitting" in order to achieve the two handed Fair Isle knitting method. Chart reading and finishing tricks will also be covered.
$30. class Material list available at registration

Sat. Nov. 6th 103pm

Those who are feeling uncertain about finding their way around the internet for knitting help will love the workshop introducing RAVELRY the site that has it all. Free Patterns, yarn descriptions, technical help, friends, informatio of all kinds.
$30. class No materials necessary.

Introducing the class for which we've had so many requests:
Part I Sat. Oct 23rd 1-4pm
Part II Sat Dec. 4th 1-4pm

In Part I you will learn the beginning skills of designing your own patterns by incorporating the beautiful stitches found on-line and in stitch dictionaries to create your own unique shawl or baby blanket. Basic knitting and pattern reading skills required.
$45. class Material costs will vary.

Part II will teach the basics of finishing your beautiful blanket so that it is equally appealing on the front and the back. Picking up and finishing from a provisional cast on will be covered as will working a crocheted edge.
$30 for Part I participants. $45 for others


Knitting Designers

So I've been really lazy with the blog this summer, having fun on a trip to the Maritimes and getting things organized for the fall.

When I was preparing the August Newsletter I was so impressed by the designs of Laura Chau, a wonderful knitwear designer from Toronto, and we're really pleased to feature some of her patterns in the store. They've been going well. Alana discovered this new pattern from Laura that's now available through Ravelry called Cityscapes.

Then I started thinking of some of the knitwear designers from the Kingston area who have had patterns published over the past couple of years and I spent spent some time browsing the Kingston Group of knitters on Ravelry and came up with these examples. Hope you like the line up (and this is just a few of the talented artists in our area).

Cathy Broughton's Diamond in the Rough

Deb White's Silk Bathrobe from the book: No Sheep For You

Maria Leigh's Picnic Cardigan

Robin Hunter's
Pinwheel Cardigan

And our latest addition to the group of Kingston-connected knitwear designers, Elizabeth McCarten will be featured in the next edition of the Twist Collective with this gorgeous men's zipped cardigan called Sandridge.
Link to her blog and you'll not only get the inspiration that contributed to the creation of this sweater but also see the cleverly reinvented version of it as a lady's coat with a flattering A line silhouette (also available on Ravelry).