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.

Hand Knitted Socks Demystified

I’m in the middle of teaching a sock class this month, so it’s a good time to bring up socks.

There seem to be two projects that scare the living beejeebus out of knitters; sweaters and socks until they conquer their first ones. It’s understandable, they look a little intimidating at first, never mind the fact there are literally hundreds of thousands of patterns for each out there, and for socks there are at least 12 different types of heel construction and just as many toe shapes. No wonder why even some very experienced knitters won’t go near socks.

Here’s the official pep talk. Can you do a knit stitch? Yes. Can you do a k2tog? Yes. Can you do an SSK? Yes. Then guess what? You can knit socks!

It’s time to suck it up, pick out a ball of sock yarn and needles and get over it. Your feet will thank you!

All socks have the same parts, although there is some variation in construction. There is the cuff; usually made with a few inches of 2×2 ribbing. The leg; the tube portion that travels down the leg to the ankle. The heel; this is where the leg turns 90 degrees to accommodate your heel and ankle. The foot; the tube that goes from ankle to roughly the middle of the ball of your foot. Lastly, there’s the toe; where stitches are decreased to accommodate those odd little nubby bits that are at the end of your foot.

Most socks are constructed one of two ways, you either start at the toe of the sock and work your way up to the cuff (toe up), or the exact opposite direction, cuff to toe (top down). This is another one of those personal preference choices. I use both but prefer toe up. Top down usually comes into play when I’m using specific yarns that have some sort of matching technology. Yes, there are totally sock yarns out there that will help you make matching socks faster if that’s your cup of tea.

Socks can be knitted using circular needles by using the magic loop method, or by using double pointed needles (DPNs). I encourage people to try using both needle types to see what works best for you. Make your first pair using one needle type, then yes, start a second pair using the other. Personally, I dislike magic loop and love double pointed needles, but it’s different for every knitter.

Most needle size recommendations will range from 0 – 2 for typical sock weight patterns. If you decide you love sock knitting, you’ll likely find a needle size that works the best for you and stick with it for most basic sock patterns.

Your yarn choice for your first pair of socks is important! As tempting as it is to pick up a $3-5 ball off the shelf at the local chain craft store, I’m going to beg you not to. Many of these brands are splitty, or have a higher than needed acrylic/nylon/other unnatural fiber content making them slick and harder to knit, not something I would recommend for a first sock. I recommend a high Superwash wool (washer dryer friendly) content 70% or better. I can hear a few people mumbling now. Doesn’t she hate non-natural fibers? For the most part yes, I hate plastics in my yarns but there are exceptions to be made, it’s either a very pretty yarn, or it’s for socks. A bit of nylon, polymide, plastic by any other name, will make your socks more durable. My all time favorite sock yarns are made by Regia, their blends make great wool socks that I wear year round. Other recommendations include, Cascade Heritage and Happy Feet, Zauberball, Berroco Comfort Sock, and any of the Supersocke 4 ply yarns. Color can make a huge difference. Think lighter colors for your first pair, you’ll want to clearly see every stitch.

You have your yarn, picked your needles…moving forward.

Measurements!

Break out that measuring tape, you are about to get up close and personal with your tootsies. The two most important measurements you will need are the width and length of your foot.

For length, you will need to start of the center, back of your heel and pull the tape to the end of your big toe. If you have flat feet that spread forward when you stand, stand on your measuring tape to get this measurement, you might need an extra pair of hands to help line this up.

For width, you will wrap the tape around the widest point at the ball of your foot. Same applies here, if your feet spread quite a bit when standing, stand on your tape and wrap it around.

Some patterns may have you take ankle and calf measurements if they have very long legs, don’t use these patterns for your first time. The point is to learn the basics and then get into the fancier stuff later on.

Now what?

It’s time to cast on!

These are my go-to simple patterns for newbie sock people.

Whirlsie’s Vanilla Socks – top down construction with very clear directions and three size options.

Appalachian Socks aka Purly Bottoms – toe up construction, once again very clear directions and three size options. Plus there’s the added benefit of having the stockinette portion at the bottom of the sock up against the skin of your foot, it makes already comfy socks that much more divine.

There’s also a very simple pattern generator at the Sock Knitter’s Notebook that will spit out simple directions for you. You’ll need a gauge swatch in your yarn with your preferred needles size beforehand.

There you have it, enough basic sock discussion to get you going. Socks are one of my favorite things to knit, after you get a few under your belt, you’ll find they are easy to travel with and with the exception of turning the heel, are easy knits. If you are still a little nervous about striking out on your own, I’ll be offering basic sock classes a bit more often in the new year. If you’re not in my neck of the woods talk to the staff at your Local Yarn Shop, there should be someone to help you get started or can schedule class time for you.

Just remember one thing, they are socks, don’t stress over them

Classes Vs. KALs: What’s the Difference Anyway?

snake knittingWhat’s the difference between a class and a knitalong (KAL)?  This question has come up a lot in my knitting life lately since I began offering both options since beginning to teach group classes earlier this year.

A knitting class is easy to define.  Classes are situations where students will be learning specific knitting techniques, styles, or working through a complex pattern with the assistance of a hands-on teacher.  There’s several ways classes can be taught.  Some lead participants through a pattern row by row, step by step, others encourage a go-at-your-own-pace situation and will come to you as you reach a certain point and give individualized instruction.  In both scenarios you’ll have a certain amount of homework to try to complete before the next session.  I’m a fan of option two, with my own classes, I’ve seen a range of skill levels within the same class and feel that if I taught a row by row style class a more advanced student will inevitably get bored and shank me with a needle.  I don’t need any extra holes in my body at this point.

Knitalongs are a different beast.  KALs are group meetings where multiple participants will sign up to work on the same project togther, and if need be, help each other.   KALs are an opportunity to work through a project you know is within your skill level but you may be a little nervous about, or just a project you think is awesome and would like to work along with peers.  KALs typically do not offer the benefit of the dedicated teacher from a knitting class, in fact the KAL leader is most likely going to be sitting at the table working on their own version of the KAL project with you.

Hopefully that clears some things up.

 

 

The Great Knitting Update

It’s been an exciting week, knitting wise, and May was a nutty month period, I’m hoping June will bring a bit of breathing room.  Alas, I think it’ll be another case of no rest for the wicked.

I finally got off my butt and uploaded that pattern I’ve talked about a million times on this blog to Ravelry, and then crazy things happened.  It hit the Top 20 within 8 hours and the number one spot by Tuesday morning.  But knitting fame is fleeting and it’s backing down the list as other great projects climb the ranks.  You can download the beastie here.

After that pattern hit the top spot and I’m still a little awestruck that it did, I’ve already started work on the follow up.  I’m going a different route this time, it will be a long asymmetrical wrap in two colors, featuring mosaic motifs and inspired by the lace patterns of the Oomingmak knitters of Alaska.  The yarn is already on the needles and three pages in my infamous Moleskine are filled with notes with several pages to go before I can actually start typing it up.  I’m keeping the skill level in the range of adventurous beginner, mosaic is very easy to learn, but it’ll be helpful to have a little lace experience under the belt.

Square Web PromoSo that’s knitting life in a very small nutshell.  I’ve still got multiple projects on needles all in various stages of completion.  I may declare June no cast on month so I can catch up on things, but we’ll see how that goes.  World Wide Knit in Public Day is June 10th, if you’re near Gainesville, GA you should come.  June knitting classes begin this weekend.     July classes are mostly planned, I just need to work out dates and times.  I’ve got blog drafts in progress illustrating actual techniques coming up soon.

Personal life….well….work and knitting has consumed most of my time lately.  I’m okay with that.  Severus developed a bad urinary tract infection shortly after his pet guinea pig, Peanut Butter, passed on.  The vet said it was likely brought on by stress with the changes in the house, plus my neighborhood has had a severe problem with feral cats this spring, and several males were marking the house.  Sev is very territorial and  doesn’t react well to cats walking through the yard let alone marking his house.  He’s an indoor only cat, but he knows when and where the wild ones are passing through.  A lot of medication, fluids, and several calming remedies later he’s improved and is acting like himself again. Lucius, still thinks he’s a dog. Goober.

I watched one of my closest friends get married last weekend, and of course she looked absolutely amazing, and I’ve never seen a wedding so tailored to a couple before.  Everything from A to Z was tailored to fit their personalities. 

A Whole Lot of Knitting Going On

It’s May, and holy cow is my dance card is full for the month.

I might as well move into my local yarn store!  Actually, people probably already think I live there. That’s okay, the bulky yarn section is full of soft squishy pillow like skeins that are good to snuggle with at night.

I made a post last month featuring classes that begin this weekend.  You can find that here.  One more has been added to the schedule after a demand from a few folks to offer another session out of Barbara Benson’s latest publication, after seeing the sample at her trunk show and book signing.

img_0992Beginning May 10th, Barbara’s Lacy Pinstripe Cowlette is a go! Oh, and guess what? It’s a weekday offering.

This one will run three consecutive weeks from 5:30-6:30pm at Yarn Rhapsody, in Gainesville, Georgia.  The fee is $60, and you will have to purchase Barbara’s book, Mosaic and Lace Knits, for the pattern, this one could not be featured as an individual pattern purchase on Ravelry.  Please contact Yarn Rhapsody at least 48 hours before the first session to get signed up.

Coffee and Wool now has a dedicated Facebook page too.  There’s a love/hate relationship with that site but it is a good centralized spot to land all things Coffee and Wool.  So if you woud like to give that a follow, the link is here. 

So besides classes and social media updates, what else is going on?
I escaped Georgia for the weekend, to attend a weekend long bachelorette party at Disney World.  Translation, I didn’t get any knitting done this weekend, but hey, ummmm Disney with friends.  The wedding associated with this bachelorette party is at the end of the month.  You know I love this friend dearly when I don a dress and heels to see her walk down the aisle.

Spring festivals are popping up left and right, so when I’m not teaching on the weekends, there will be some sneaking off to those. The Georgia Renaissance Faire is in full swing, that pilgrimage needs to be made.

And then there is a lot of watering the garden.  My little patch of dirt has taken off, to the point it may need it’s own state of the garden post.  I managed to make the first baby green salad of the year last night for dinner.  Growing my own food makes my soul happy.

So that’s it, things are a bit busy, but in a good way.

Hot Off The Presses Shawl – Finished At Last

eda6bd61-6f1b-409a-b87a-37c99b380923Okie. Finally it’s finished.  There’s a bit of a story behind the name of this project.  When I decided I wanted to teach a mosaic knitting class at the end of March I thought I had found a great, easy pattern to use for the class.  Well, ummm, I started working this pattern up for a shop/class sample and discovered it was busted and was more of a string of suggestions than an actual pattern.  I got to work and started knitting and writing like mad to come up with something my students could learn the technique on.  The draft, (I say draft now, because a student discovered some typos) was finished about two days before the class.

First let me promise to future students, I will never teach a pattern that hasn’t been test knitted at least a half dozen times again.  Things are going fine with this class, but having a couple of typos turn up has really bothered me.  This is not the experience I want my students to have.  Mea culpa.  Mea culpa.

Anyway, all that aside; it’s finished!

img_0968I’m offering this one up for some test knitting if anyone is interested, and I have no intention of selling the pattern, but will be offering it for free since it’s my first design out of the gate.  If you have a couple of 400 yard skeins of fingering weight yarn hanging about yell, I’ll happily respond with the PDF.  After it’s been tested a few more times a final version will be released for download on Ravelry.

This project also featured a yarn I hadn’t had my grubby paws on before.  It was worked up in Feza’s Harvest Sock, an organically dyed superwash merino. I used Rubia (Red) and Oleaster (Off-White).  The two colors are striking together, and the Rubia photographs more red, but is truly a deep rusty red orange.  One of my students is using the Indigo colorway with the Oleaster and it’s amazing.  Working with this yarn is easy with sharp needles, it has a looser twist so blunt needles may split here and there.  Don’t let the feel of the skein fool you if you pick it up, this yarn creates a very soft fabric that would be great next to the skin.

Edit: At the urging of several designer friends I’ve been told this pattern should only be available free on Ravelry for a limited time.  If you are interested in this pattern the download is available here.

The Return of Mosaic Knitting

Trends are cyclical and mosaic knitting is on it’s way back into the spotlight.  It’s a trend that unlike jelly shoes and eyelash yarn I’m happy to see reappearing.  A cult classic since the late 70s mosaic Knitting (also called slip-stitch knitting) is amazingly easier than it looks.

In mosaic knitting, you alternate between two contrasting colors, but instead of working every stitch in the row, some stitches are slipped, and you only have to manage one of those colors at a time. That’s really all there is to it.

For a beginner that thinks fair isle knitting is a little intimidating for a first attempt at color work, mosaic is a good starting point for chart reading and managing multiple colors.  More advanced folks may find mosaic patterns faster for those “emergency gift” projects that pack a punch.

A great deal mosaic patterns out there are variations on the patterns established in the 70s, BUT over the past year I’ve begun to see mosaic mixed with other techniques.  In fact Barbara Benson (another Georgia knitter that I’ve yet to run into) is releasing a new book, Mosaic & Lace Knits: 20 Innovative Patterns Combining Slip-Stitch Colorwork and Lace Techniquesdue out at the end of the month, mixing mosaic with lace, and the teaser pieces I’ve seen are drool-worthy.

I’m currently working on a sample for a mosaic technique class I’m hoping to get on the img_0730schedule in April or May at Yarn Rhapsody in Gainesville, Georgia.  I began working on this sample last night during one of those time-change caused sleepless nights.  Don’t get me started on what spring time-change does to my sleep schedule, and as expected I’m blazing right through the mosaic pattern portion.  I’m also using a new yarn carried at the shop. It’s Harvest Fingering Weight by Feza Yarns.  The colorways are organically died rubia and oleaster and the photo does not quite do the colors justice.  This is certainly one of those yarns that would feel great in a garment of any sort.

If you happen to be in north Georgia or metro-Atlanta and are interested in attending classes or are interested in private lessons please feel free to contact me through the form below.  If you are interested in group classes, I will send a reminder email with upcoming classes, dates, and times.  If your interest is private lessons, this is just a little ice-breaker.

 

I Need a Knitcation

I’m having one of those weeks, okay, more like one of those months.

My full-time job won’t be referenced here often (social media and employers don’t necessarily get along sometimes), but the small company I was working for merged into a larger one, and man, that’s not been the easiest of transitions.  Change isn’t always easy, but we’re better off in the long run.

brain-is-fried
My brain is fried, like a bologna sandwich on white bread. 

It may be Tuesday but I’m looking forward to the weekend, a mini knit-cation is planned.  All the typical weekend chores will be done before Saturday.  I’m taking a crack at designing my first pattern for a technique class I want to teach hopefully at the end of February or early March.  I’m leaning towards mosaic knitting, which doesn’t seem to be an entirely common but interesting way to do two-color work.

Have I mentioned this is the first group class I’ll be teaching?  I’ve taught other non-craft related subjects before, but if there are any knitting teachers out there that would share a tip or two I’ll be greatly appreciative.