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.