The Season for Blankets

I've been seeing a physiotherapist for the past little while with some shoulder issues and she suggested that I take a 2 week holiday from knitting. I realized that the main problem was probably not the knitting when my immediate internal response was: "Thank God she didn't say 2 weeks away from the computer." But I digress.

I'm a good girl and always do what I'm told, so I've mostly put away the needles for a while and last weekend did some work assembing this sampler afghan that we're designing for the store. I realized very soon that it's been years since I've worked on a blanket. I had forgotten how much I like it and I really believe that it's one of the most therapeutic types of knitting. When my partner and I first got together back in the late '70's, he was in BC and I was in Montreal for the first 6 months. During those months we racked up some heavy phone bills, but on the + side, I completed 5 full sized afghans during that same time. (Would you call that therapeutically obsessed?)

At the end of Dec. the Ottawa Citizen featured an article about a group of hockey moms who have put their arena time to making blankets for Project Linus, an organization that many of you know that we coordinate locally, which provides hand made blankets for kids who are going through a difficult time. Then within a week, we received a flyer from Bernat Yarns offering support for Project Linus and free pattens for other fundraisers.

Project Linus, in addition to doing wonderful work, is one of the best organizations that I've ever been associated with. From their beginnings in 1995 it grew so much in the first year with chapters world wide that an executive decision was made that they would either have to expand to include paid staff...or...they could simply trust the goodness and integrity of the people involved and completely let go of the reins of power. Having chosen the latter way, each chapter is loosely associated with the larger organized non-organization, meaning that there is support but absolutely no paper work, no reporting, only proper and important work getting blankets to the kids who need them.

WOOL-TYME Kingston has been involved since 1996 and to date, I think we have distributed, through the generosity of our customers, over 3 000 blankets in the Kingston area, extending to Napanee and Gananoque.

That being said, if any of you know of a local group who works with kids when they are going through a difficult time in their lives and would like to have some blankets to help make their time easier, please let us know. We'd be glad to share what we have with you.

So grap your needles or hook and work up a blankie for yourself or someone you love. (And considering that we just found out about 2 family weddings coming up this summer, I'm sure I'll be taking my own advice in the near future...as soon as I'm off the disabled list.)


Perfectionism and the Bull.

You may remember a few posts back I mentioned about discovering work by Kingston's own yarn bombers on display on lower Princess St. Well as in everything else, NYC knows how to do it BIGGER.

This is the Wall Street Bull. The underlying statue is itself a work of guerrilla street art as artist, Arturo Di Modica placed him in the centre of New York's financial district without permission in 1987. Zoom ahead 23 years and you have New York yarn artist, Olek, doing her bit to add some colour to the financial district on a cold December night. Isn't he beautiful? I remember when I first saw this picture I was awestruck at the perfection of the fit, especially around all those fine curves of the feet and the horns. How could anyone possibly accomplish such precision...in secret, no less?

Then I watched the video of the assembly which took place this past Christmas Eve in the middle of the night in 20 F weather. (One must suffer for one's art). What struck me was that although art may look perfect at the end, it's creation involves a series of adaptations, decisions, reworkings, evaluations to achieve that illusion.

Here are some of the things that I love about her process - in relation to the work of those who have learned to improve their knitting skills with me:

-The artist was obviously well prepared in that she had all the pieces that she knew that she would need to cover every square inch of the bull, but from the way she has to tug and pull to make it fit, she proves that she is able to work with what she has, even if it isn't perfect to begin with.

-She isn't shy about sharing her work and her adaptations with the passers-by, even if it means that they see it as a work-in-progress .

-She takes huge delight in her work, especially when it's completed. We should all feel like doing a little "Rocky" victory dance at the end of a big job, knitting or any other task.

I have some issues with perfectionism myself. I think that I just don't have the make up to even pretend that anything that I do can possibly be perfect so I'm absolved of even trying.

Last week I was listening to the radio while working on my latest rug hooking project and heard Dr Brene Brown speaking about her book: "The Gifts of Imperfection" and felt so relieved that I no longer needed to feel guilty because I wasn't prepared to tear out an entire flower because one section wasn't exactly as I planned it, or rip back the entire sleeve of a sweater because I saw a mistaken in the crossed cable near a cuff.

That being said, like Olek, I have learned that in order to maintain the quality of my work, I better develop the skills that I need to deal with the errors and issues that might arise that keep the work from being the best it can be. So over the years I have learned how to use sewing thread to camouflage small inconsistencies in tension; I have added bands of knitting on both sides of a sweater under the arms to give it a bit more room if it's too small; I have removed ribbed bands and worked down to lengthen a garment; I've knit the back a smaller size than the front of a sweater in order to give more ease for those of us who might need it in the front and have "fudged" or eased the armholes to make them work together. And most importantly, I have learned, as Olek knows, that a good tug, especially when doing the final blocking of a piece can make a world of difference.

All of these tricks and the confidence to use them have come to me over 40 years of knitting and being too lazy or practical to start over. When a class member comes upon a major stumbling block in her project, I will offer possibilities...some based on the "do it over" model, others based on my more random attitude towards fixing the problem. I totally respect that some people would abhor the concept of a mistwisted cable in their garment but I also appreciate when product and process find a good happy medium and can coexist without making the knitter a slave to either one.


Very gingerly, let me say a few words...

I suppose I could explain my absence from this bandwidth for the past couple of weeks as being a byproduct of my holiday revelry and the madness of retail at that time of the year but it would only be partly true.

Last week I got an email linking to Mags Kandis' website announcing the end of the licensing agreement for Mission Falls Yarn, meaning that it will not longer be produced, and therefore when the stock is sold out, will no longer be available. Like all other fans of this beautiful product I was sorely disappointed, especially as I had just brought in the line of their sport weight wool just last spring. What an unfortunate loss - a wonderful product which was conceived, designed and actually spun here in Canada. But alas the world, knitting and otherwise, will keep on turning no doubt.

I don't mean to say that I was so prostrate with grief at the thought of losing a yarn line that I couldn't bring myself to write a blog post. I was however quite shocked by fall out and assumptions that this announcement brought with it and had to think about what I wanted to say. These assumptions originated with the following lines from Mags's original post:

Sad news:
As of today, the Mission Falls brand is no longer.
Happy news:
As of today, the licensee has begun liquidation of Mission Falls products. Yippppppeeeeeee for all you yarnie makers!

I have to commend Mags on her post that day. After 15 years of her life being invested in building such a great brand it must have been a difficult one to write and to word properly. Unfortunately the yipppeeee has perhaps given a wrong impression.

As a yarn store owner I had a very different reaction to losing a yarn that is of such great quality. My first thought was: "I sure hope that they have lots in stock so that the transition to other options can be made more smoothly." It never occurred to me that it would be sold off at fire sale prices.

Mission Falls wool and cotton is still a very valuable commodity, made all the more valuable in the eyes of fans and those who have partly finished projects of Mission Falls yarns by the fact that there will be no more of it coming off the spinners. Why would I devalue it for that exact reason?

On a chat in Ravelry where they were discussing this very topic, one member said that she couldn't understand yarn stores that sell discontinued yarns at full price. Let me say that from this side of the counter, a product is worth exactly what a customer is willing to pay for it. And a beautiful yarn will not lose its quality or value just because no more will be available in the future.

Now don't get me wrong. Full disclosure here...I am a major bargain hunter. I have never seen a Clearance sign that I haven't investigated. And as a yarn store owner, many of you will know that we seldom have an empty section in our Bargain area of the store. But these are yarns that make it to my clearance table by virtue of their overproduction, or outdated colour, or their "orphanhood" being the last few balls of a dye lot. In my store, it all comes down to real estate: does a specific yarn deserve its place in the full price section or should it move on at a discounted price to find a better home under some deserving customer's roof.

Another thing that I want to say is that I really have appreciated CNS yarns' work in continuing and expanding the Mission Falls brand over the past few years. Yes, we all know that it isn't EXACTLY the same, but it was darn close to the original product that Mags offered us for so many years - and it remained a fully Canadian product. I for one think they did a really good job.

As for the cotton, in case you don't know of it, we started stocking Cascade Yarn's LUNA a few years back to complement the colour range of Mission Falls cotton. It is as close to the real thing as you can get in terms of texture and has been a very popular addition to our midweight cotton lines.

To sum up with my best wishes:
-Good on ya, Mags. Enjoy the next phase of your life.
-Thanks CNS - for continuing to bring us these great yarns for the past 5 years.
-And customers, a bargain is a great find, but good quality yarns are a bargain even at full price.