Travel Season is Here. What Are You Taking With You?

Long car rides and flights, days on the beach, evenings on campsites, summer vacation season is days away.  What are you taking with you to work on?

If you’ve never taken a project on the road, give it a shot on your next trip!

So what makes a good travel project?

I’ve traveled with everything from socks to sweaters, it really depends on the type of trip, but I’ve found that there are few guidelines to making travel crafting pleasurable.

  • Think small. I know summer seems like a the wrong time of year to be thinking about hats, socks and scarves, but these are great small projects to bring along.  They take up just a little space and in most cases don’t require more than yarn, needles/hook, and maybe a pair of scissors.
  • Think simple.  If your project requires multiple charts or a novel of directions, it can get fidgety when confined to a small work space like a plane or car.  There are plenty of one page projects or one page, easy to remember charts out there to pick from.
  • Think color.  One color is your friend!  Trying to manage multiple colors can be light fighting an octopus when you’re on the move.

Here are a few ideas for projects to throw into a project bag and carry along on your next adventure….

Lataa can be made with a single skein of sock yarn and has a small repeating chart.

The Vortex Shawl can get a little large but is still manageable on the road. Once you’ve completed a few repeats of the pattern, it’ll stick with you until it’s done.

These Poseidon Socks pack a lot of punch without a lot of fiddling around.

Coraline in Wine Country has an easy to memorize pattern and it’s a crochet piece so it’ll move along fast.

Vanilla Latte Socks are a quick work up, and would work with virtually any colorway.

With a linen based yarn the Clapotis Cowl would be a great summer piece for those chilly office spaces you’ll have to return to after your vacation.

There it is…just a handful ideas to pack up and take with you on the road this summer.  Give it a try! Want to share your favorite travel projects? Post them up in the comments.

Yarn Snobbery: Justified?

Yarn-Snob-Pin-IvoryIf I’ve learned anything hanging out with knitting types is that there are varying levels of yarn snobbery.

I’ve met them before: the true, honest-to-god-, in the wild, classic yarn snob.  These are the people who only knit 100% natural fibers, usually with the highest price tag, and shrivel at the notion of touching any man-made fiber.   I’ve actually had a classic yarn snob say to me with a straight face that they were allergic to acrylic yarns and meant it. I’m not saying that an acrylic allergy is impossible but the gut hunch in this situation was this person felt the need to justify their fiber extravagance with a statement that many wouldn’t go out of the way to question.

There’s another classification of yarn snob; the acrylic snob.  Yes, they actually exist, and usually stand aghast in a local yarn store when they see the price of high-end yarns.  These folks love their yarn work, but they can’t justify the cost of pricier yarns for a myriad of reasons.

Both sides of the snobbery fence can make beautiful knitted or crocheted projects out of their materials of choice; and often stand in judgement on one side of the fence or the other.  The classic snobs are seen as pretentous the acrylic snobs are accused of beign cheap. Is it really worth it to park firmly in one camp or the other?

That answer is NAH!

I’ll admit that I’ve railed against certain brands of mass-produced commercial yarns (cough cough Red Heart cough cough) but even it has its purpose in the crafting world.  Most beginning knitters and crocheters begin with these types of yarns.  I fall into that category, dozens of projects were hooked in my childhood and teenage years.  Honestly, chain craft store yarn was really the only thing available to me for a very long time, and I really didn’t know any better.  I learned to knit in my 20s on the same yarns, and then I eventually wandered into local yarn shop and my knitwork began to change dramatically, and went through a few solid years of classic yarn snobbery.  It was lacework that forced me down the classic snob path, and I still won’t use a anything but a natural fiber for the thinnest of yarns, personally, I think it’s a risk to do fine lace work and then not have it block out correctly because of a too high man-made fiber content.

Being a classic yarn snob is expensive as hell though, and I evolved into a yarn connoisseur by necessity and a great deal of crafters fall into the connoisseur category.

Connoisseurs have learned the pros and cons to different fiber types and blends of those types.  An 100% acrylic yarn can’t be traditionally blocked and may not be the best for a garment, but an acrylic yarn with a 20-30% natural fiber content will block beautifully most of the time instead of dropping $150+ for higher end natural yarns for a sweater.  We’ve learned that there are some projects that an inexpensive acrylic yarn can really be the best choice, especially for items that could really end up taking a beating like toys and some afghans.  We’ve learned that the super squishy soft cashmere and wool blend would be gorgeous for that baby sweater for a friend but know that it would realistically be a burden on a new parent to have to hand wash it so it’ll end up worn once and put in a drawer, so we find a soft, washer and dryer friendly yarn instead. We all know that one craft-worthy friend that simply can’t wear animal fiber due to allergy or lifestyle choices, blends of cottons, bamboo, viscose, or other materials are acquired. Knowing fiber types and how they function and are made go a long way, and is absolutely worth taking the time to learn, and help others learn that walking down the middle path of yarn acquisition isn’t a bad idea.

While introducing crafty types to different yarns and manufacturing processes – they learn how to make an educated decision for their individual project needs.  But, what one ultimately chooses is entirely personal choice. Yep, totally personal choice.  Curling your nose and someone’s choice of yarn isn’t polite.

I personally prefer animal fiber or mostly animal fiber blends for myself.  I will admit that this preference isn’t the most budget friendly at times, but it helps if you have a talent for catching a good sale here and there.  If you take a good look at my horde though, you’ll find a pretty fair split between high-end animal fibers, and animal fiber and man-made fiber blends.  There’s even a fair amount of acrylics for oddball needs here and there.  It’s a balanced horde, and one I’ve sworn to work from for quite a while (well, unless someone asks me to knit them something specific as a commissioned project).

 

All in all, to each their own, it all really boils down to we’re making stuff for ourselves, and for others, and are having a great time doing it.

Keeping the Community Together: Crafters Unite!

91fc3c7db372acc3944a9bb98e9237d4I helped out at Yarn Rhapsody on the first day of close out sales.  The shop was busy, and I would like to thank everyone that came in to support Claudia as she works through the closing process.  A great deal of yarn left yesterday but there is a great deal of amazing yarn left.  The shop reopens Tuesday at noon.  Hint, not so subtle, hint.  Really, it all has to go!

I spoke to quite a few people yesterday and heard it voiced several times; where are we going to knit and crochet now?  There was always an open and available table at the shop for people to come in and work on projects.  Unfortunately,  when the shop goes, that table goes too.  There where a lot of good times and discussions at that table.

I’m going to do the best I can to keep ,and if possible build, the crafting community that started at Yarn Rhapsody alive, but it’s not an easy task.  It’s something we, the collective we, the lonely knitters/crocheters we, have to fight to keep. Let’s be honest, we’ve lost the yarn shop, the folks I spoke with yesterday just  realized how much we’ve taken things for granted and that sense of community can easily crumble with the shop closure.

A very active hunt for class locations began last night for what I hope mid-May class dates.  I had been putting out feelers, but didn’t want to hunt too hard until the shop had officially announced its closing.  I’m looking for quiet, well-lit locations that can host no more than 10 people at a time for 4-5 hours two Saturdays a  month.  If you are in the Hall County area and have a public location (or contacts at these locations) that can fit this bill, please give me a shout.

Knitalong/crochetalong locations have been solidified and once schedules are confirmed a few of these events will be ready to roll again early May.  The shorter times, and less structured nature of these events made finding host locations a lot easier.  Just keep an eye out on this blog and the facebook page for those announcements.

Now, for the stuff that doesn’t require a fee to attend…

There is a yarn craft group in it’s infancy that meets on the second Sunday of every month (except this month – long story) from 1:00pm to 3:00pm.  That would be Woolly Wonders, it is wide open to any fiber crafter, and changes locations every month for a little interest and to keep from stressing out one location.  It’s not a huge group now, but it’s growing bit by bit.  The next meeting is May 6th (not the second Sunday but the first – no one wants to compete with Mother’s Day) at Downtown Drafts on the Gainesville Square.  The June event will be announced once a location is decided on.

There is another crafting group in the works…more details on that later.  Summer tends to be a little busy at work, and before this group gets announced I would like to have a co-organizer confirmed for the times I can’t be there.

World Wide Knit in Public Day is Saturday, June 9th this year.  I’ve reached out to the city of Gainesville to see if an event can be hosted on the square, like Yarn Rhapsody had set up last year. There was a pretty good turn-out.  If the city approves this request, I would like a little help from the locals to organize prizes for a raffle.  This introvert isn’t great at approaching local businesses for sponsorship or prizes.  If this city does not approve the request for the square that day, a backup location is being worked up.

All in all, there will be places and events that us crafty types can get together and work on our common interests together.  Update: Claudia has announced that she’ll still be an active contributor to the crafting community by offering themed knitalongs, finishing services and get help sessions.

If you see an yarn themed event or group meet up, or are interested in starting one of your own, give me a shout with the details. I’ll help spread the word.

A Yarn Addict Without a Dealer: What’s Next?

It’s been officially announced.  Yarn Rhapsody, the home away from home, the place where I’ve met people who have become family and close friends, and the host site for my classes and knitalongs is closing.

I walked into Yarn Rhapsody early in 2015, and bought two skeins of deep purple Malabrigo sock weight.  I was on the verge of a knitting binge of epic proportions and finding a yarn shop in my own backyard was a blessing in more ways than one. When I needed a sense of community the most it was there.  It sounds cheesy but this little store on Dawsonville Highway changed my life.

Over the years watching others create beautiful projects one stitch at a time encouraged me to challenge myself with harder and harder projects.  It was Claudia (the owner) who encouraged me to begin teaching.  Without her, this ongoing project of mine would not exist.

It’s been heartbreaking to see customers fall away as shop hours became unpredictable last summer/ fall while Claudia was going through cancer treatment.  Even though she’s regained her health, the customer base didn’t come back despite efforts to pull people back in. Small business can not afford to lose momentum.

I’m deeply concerned for my friend (and German big sister), she’s loosing her livelihood and her dream job.  She’s a survivor in more ways than one, isn’t the type to wallow in self pity, and she’ll land on her feet and continue to move forward to her next chapter, but this type of transition is never easy for anyone.  So please, wish her well, and help her with her biggest request as the store wraps up its last days, empty it.  She would like to close the doors on the last day with nothing left to pack up.

I’m horrible at eulogizing Yarn Rhapsody, but this is a bitter loss, a blow to the local crafting community, the small business community, and Claudia.

Despite the resurgence of knitting and crocheting, local yarn stores are struggling.  Like most brick and mortar stores they battle online retailers that offer the same products for a buck or two cheaper with free delivery.  There’s also competition heating up between yarn stores and commercial chain craft stores, with the resurgence of yarnwork these retailers are slowly getting better yarns on their shelves at better prices, Red Heart even has a 100% merino wool line now. Everyone knows Red Heart, especially their super saver line with it’s scratchy plastic feel, known for decades for their 100% acrylic yarns.  How many millions of  blankets have been made out of it though? Are these yarns the quality you would see at most local yarn shops? No.  They certainly are tempting for some project types though, like the quick gift for the questionably knit worthy friend or family member, or for those that are ready to start knitting/crocheting larger and more difficult projects but are worried about the financial commitment.   All of this sends yarn stores a little further down the specialty store rabbit hole when lines like Encore Worsted and Cascade 220 have competitors readily available at Michael’s and JoAnn’s.

So what happens with Coffee and Wool now? Simply put, things are evolving.

First, let me make clear, that Claudia and I have discussed a lot of what I’m about to type out, even now, I have no intention on stepping on her toes.  She’s been a knitting mentor and a very good friend for several years now, if she decides she wants to teach and offer other project based services after the shop closes, I have no intention of doing anything to aggressively compete with her.  We have similar abilities, know what our individual strengths are, and have somewhat different teaching styles.  I can still see us working together on quite a few levels to make sure the educational/project help/repair needs of the local knitting/crochet community are still met after the dust settles and Claudia lands on her feet again.

Of course little of the blog side will change.  I’ll write posts, and share what information I can about the crafts we commonly love.  I’m still in search of people, places, and products that make yarnwork more interesting.

Locations for classes and craftalongs will change.  There may not be one single location in the end, and I won’t offer as many options per month.  I’m hoping to have the location issues worked out by mid-month and begin offering classes and craftalongs again beginning in May.

There will not be the convenience of a yarn store at the fingertips, so there will be need to be  better pre-planning and communication with students and participants to make sure every one has what they need before sessions begin. Options for a reservation/booking system and pre-payment are being researched. The duration of individual sessions and the number of sessions for each class/knitalong will likely change.  The current plan is longer sessions of 2-3 hours each with 1-2 meetings per class instead of one hour sessions. Craftalongs will more than likely remain at one hour each for a designated number of sessions.

I am working on creating a dedicated space in my home to serve some of the needs that the shop used to fill.  This will be space for finishing and repair services, that I intend to keep as pet free as possible.  It has always been a concern of mine when bringing home a client’s project to keep my cats (and their fluff) as far away as possible, both for the protection of project and reducing allergens.  Living in an historic small home, this is an interesting challenge but one well under way with some planning and rearranging.

I will continue to work with my private students and will happily take on more.  Individual classes will be offered at my home from time to time, a local coffee-house (the most likely option), or if the student is comfortable with the idea, I can travel to their home.  Unfortunately, my home isn’t well suited for group sessions, but I can work with a single student easily.

I am currently not interested in being a shop teacher at a single location again like I was with Yarn Rhapsody, at least not right now.  I have greater interest in possibly traveling for a half or full day group class with focus on a single project type or technique.  I am beginning to develop these type of classes and hope to roll them out late summer or early fall, more likely winter.

I would like to seriously begin designing more.  In fact, there’s a design project looming for a close friend that will be hilarious and adorable at the same time.

There it is, change is inevitable and rolling with the punches is necessary.  At a minimum I would love to stay in contact with the amazing people I have met through the shop since walking in the doors for the first time in 2015, and those that have waltzed through the shop doors since then.  The yarn craft community in northeast Georgia is special.

For those that aren’t local to northeast Georgia, its too late to save this local yarn store in Gainesville, but please, shop at your own local yarn stores for your crafting needs whenever possible.  These  business are ran by a lot of love and fairly small profit margins, no one is going to get rich selling yarn, but they are invaluable resources to the crafting community.  Too many of them have shuttered their doors over the years and we’re loosing another great one.

Shop small, shop local.

Woolly Wonders!

img_0069I’ve wanted to get a new knitting group going for a little while.  A couple of the ones I had participated in over the past few years either fizzled, evolved into other things, or real life kicked all of our asses at once and have been on a very long hiatus.

Between work, knitting shenanigans, slowly enacting my plan for world domination, and strong introvert tendencies, social commitments can be difficult at times.  I think everyone is in the same boat paddling for time, so setting up a groups that meets the second Sunday of every month sounded like a good plan.  To toss in a bit more fun, why not move the knit up location every time? The group wouldn’t stress one location consistently.  That also allows us group folk to support more than one local business.  I’m also a huge fan of crafting in public, when it feels like most of the world is staring at a smart phone, stitching away in public seems like an act of social deviance.  We can all use a bit of that in our lives.

After creating one of those infamous event things on Facebook I crossed my fingers and hoped a few people would show up to Mocha Moe’s in Flowery Branch.  One person came somewhat by force because I kidnapped her.  That’s not entirely true but a funny visual.  Three more people came!  Is that a huge knitting group, no, but it’s a damn good start.  Deborah, Kelly, Lia, DeAna, and myself had a good afternoon filled with knitting, coffee, and a few laughs.

We’re doing this again on March 11th at 1:00pm – 3:00pm at Left Nut Brewery in Gainesville, GA.  Keep an eye out for one of those event things, with the set up at the brewery I’m going to need a head count so I can beg them to reserve us one of the bench tables a few days in advance.

If you’re in Northeast Georgia feel free to drop on by.  Woolly Wonders (that name may change eventually) is meant to be open to anyone who enjoys any fiber craft; knitting, crochet, needlepoint, or anything else requiring fiber to make, with a welcoming spirit.  I hope for a diverse group of women and men, of all ages, walks of life, and skill levels.

We have very few rules.  Please leave the political debate at home, it has destroyed too many crafting groups over the years, and treat others respectfully.

There is no obligation to come every month.  There’s no rigid structure here, simply come and spend some time working with some crafty people.

All of us will have one thing in common, our love of fiber craft, everything else can be built on from there.

February Class Schedule

It’s that odd time of year for us crafty types.  Winter isn’t quite over, Spring hasn’t sprung either.  So what is there to do?  Time to find some projects that aren’t too heavy, aren’t too light, and some other goodies in between.

All classes will be at Yarn Rhapsody on Dawnsonville Highway, Gainesville, GA.  Please register for classes by contacting the shop or myself at least 48 hours before the beginning of the first session.  All yarn should be purchased from Yarn Rhapsody, stash yarn can be used for an additional fee.

First, we’ll get into some beginning level classes.  These are for the new knitters and crocheters looking to create their first projects.

Crochet 101 – Granny Squares – Mini Class
Bring your G or H sized hook and pick out your favorite colorway of worsted weight yarn.  In 1.5 hours you will be well on your way to creating your first granny squares.  These simple squares are the foundation for many an afghan, bag, or stuffed animal.
Available Sessions: (Pick One) February 10, 24 and March 10 – 3pm-4:30pm
Skill Level: Rookie
Price: $30
Click here to reserve your spot online: Seating is limited.

Knitting 101 – Leafy Dishcloths – Mini Class
Using the wide selection of cotton yarns at Yarn Rhapsody we will make leaf-shaped dish cloths to put those freshly learned knit and purl stitches to use. Sessions are 1.5 hours long.
Available Sessions: (Pick One) February 17, March 3, March 17 – Noon-1:30pm
Skill Level: Rookie
Price: $30
Click here to reserve your spot online: Seating is limited.

Toe Up Socks – Knitting Class
Did you miss out on the Wednesday sock classes?  It’s time to offer up a sock knitting opportunity on Saturdays. Bring a set of size 1, 1.5, or 2 double pointed needles, and pick your favorite sock yarn, we’ll be kntting up a pair of toe up socks, with a basic heel flap.
Recommended Yarns: Regia Design Line or Marisol Khusku
Dates: February 10, 24 and March 10 – 10:30am – 11:30am
Skill Level:
Apprentice
Price: $60
Click here to reserve your spot online.

GrisGris de Lin Cowl – Knitalong
This lace cowl is a wonderful addition to any wardrobe and can be worn well into spring and only needs about 200 yards of fingering weight yarn  and size 4 circular needles with a 16-24″ cable.
Recommended Yarn: Louisa Harding Amitola
Dates: February 10, 24 and March 10 – Noon – 1:00pm
Skill Level:
Apprentice
Price: $30
Click here to reserve your spot online.

BonBonBonBon – Knitalong
Easter is right around the corner on April 1st!  If you’re looking for a unique basket buddy you can knit up your own bunny in either DK or worsted weight yarn using only one skein.  For DK size 3 double pointed needles are recommended, size 5 for worsted weight.
Recommended Yarns: Liberty Wool or Knitcol
Dates: February 10, 24 and March 10 – 1:30pm-2:30pm
Skill Level:
Apprentice/Virtuoso
Price: $30
Click here to reserve your spot online.


SlippersBurgeoning Slippers – Knitalong
It won’t be quite warm enough to run around the house barefoot for a little while yet, but it’s going to quickly get to warm for those heavy-duty house shoes.  These beautiful slippers will do the job, knitted up in about 300 yards of DK weight with size 2 needles.
Recommended Yarns: Criative DK or Plymouth Select
Dates: February 17, March 3 and 17 –
10:30am-11:30am
Skill Level: Apprentice/Virtuoso
Price: $30
Click here to reserve your spot online.

Processed with VSCO with s2 presetFrench Market Bag – Crochetalong
This amazing bag will be perfect for use when the spring markets begin to open or that first trip to the beach. This bag uses about 560 yards of worsted cotton with a size G hook.
Recommended Yarns: Lisa Harding Marmo or Butterfly mercerized Cotton
Dates: February 17, March 3 and 17 – 2pm-3pm
Skill Level:
Apprentice
Price: $30
Click here to reserve your spot online.

Bring Your Own Project Night – Knitalong
If you have a project that you need a wee bit of help with, or a section of it has you stumped this knitalong is the solution. Bring any project you like and work within a knitalong style environment and get a helping hand when you hit that rough spot here or there.
Available in sing sessions, blocks of 3 sessions or 6
Session Dates: March 7, 14, 21, 28, April 4 and 11 – 6pm-7pm

Skill Level: Any
Price: $10 per single, $30 for 3 sessions, $60 for 6 sessions.
Click here to reserve your spot online.

 

2018 – Changes for Coffee & Wool

Coffee & Wool is about to have its first birthday, and I’m sitting here thinking that jeez this year has gone by quickly. In this past year, I’ve knitted more than I’ve ever knitted, started teaching classes and in general have learned more about the fiber arts. In case you haven’t noticed I love it. Also in this past year I’ve been encouraged by like-minded friends to do more and over the past few weeks I’ve started to come up with a game plan to turn this little hobby page into something greater.

That’s where 2018 comes in.

I’ve heard it said a few times that the fiber arts community is dying, that its practitioners are aging, and fewer people are interested in learning how to knit, crochet, weave, or manipulate fiber in general. That is simply untrue, the fiber arts community is strong, albeit a little quiet. Beginning in 2018, I want the voice I provide to the fiber arts community to go from a 2 to a 10. There will be more informative posts, more tutorials, and eventually video (someone has to get over her camera fear first).

No matter what, I’m turning up the volume, but I’m going to ask for your help. I’m asking for your patronage. Small monthly donations can go a long way towards helping me promote this page, purchase supplies, and travel to fiber festivals and fiber producing farms for content. If you would like to help me expand Coffee and Wool please visit my Patreon Page. As Coffee and Wool grows not only will you be supporting a fiber artist and the community you’ll get exclusive content and updates in the future.