Lots of people come into the shop and ask for a pattern for something like an easy hat, a simple baby sweater, or a plain pullover. I show them the patterns that we still stock, but I also ask “Have you looked on Ravelry?”  If I get a blank look or “oh, I hate computers” (yep, still get that now and then), we look at print patterns.  Sometimes I hear, “I found some but I’d like to buy from you,” which I love but online patterns are welcome in our shop; if it’s a decent pattern (see below) we can find the right yarn and help you to choose the right size and fit.  Very often, when I mention Ravelry, I hear “I looked but I get lost.”  We can help you with your searches: with a few questions we can narrow things down so you’re not looking at tea cozies when what you want is a cabled cardigan. (All of a sudden, you’re distracted and thinking about the virtues of a tea cozy that looks like an old English cottage – I know how that is!)

So (I ask again) what makes a great pattern?  There are a few things that distinguish a poor pattern from a really good one:

Gauge.  The number of stitches and rows per inch (or centimeter) that you should achieve.  The only kind of pattern that could possibly get away with no gauge is a dishcloth or perhaps a blanket.  And even then, you must be sure you have way more yarn than you think you’ll need.  If your gauge is way off, (and how will you know?) you could end up using a lot more yarn than you think.  If your project has to fit anything (even a teapot), you need a gauge to swatch for.

Size.  You need a finished size in inches or centimeters.  Small, medium, large: meaningless.  8, 10, 12: meaningless. Even To Fit Bust 32, 36, 40: meaningless.  The designer may think that you want a sweater with no ease (the distance between your body and the garment) but that may be because she’s 24 years old and weighs 98 pounds.

 

 vs.

Personally, I want a little wiggle room, and sometimes a lot.  On the other hand, the designer may be employed by a yarn manufacturing company, so he or she will be motivated to use as much yardage as possible.  Sixteen inches of ease may just make you look like you’re wearing a skillfully cabled pup tent instead of an elegantly casual hand-knit sweater.

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Schematic:  Not essential for most accessories, but these boring-looking outlines with lots of numbers are absolutely crucial for a garment. (Below is a random Google image for knitting schematic – I don’t know what garment it’s for.)

Yuck, right?  But!  A sweater must fit many different parts of a body, not just the bust.  How deep is the armhole?  How wide is the neckline?  How long are the sleeves?  And how will these dimensions sit on your body?  A detailed schematic means 1000 times more to a knitter than the beauty shot on the front of the pattern.

Love the way it looks on the model?

How tall is she?  Is she long- or short-waisted?  Is she wide in the shoulders?  Where will the hem fall on you?  Will the shoulders fit you or fall inches down your arm?  Are the sleeves too wide or too narrow?  Without actual dimensions and a tape measure, you don’t know. We can help with that. (The sweater above is Sunshine Coast by Heidi Kirrmaier, who writes wonderful patterns.)

Recommended yardage/yarn details: When a yarn manufacturing company commissions a pattern, they are doing it so you will buy their yarn.  That’s understandable, and we need to do some research to find the right substitute. Yardage and weight per skein, fiber content, and recommended gauge all figure in to finding the perfect yarn for your project.

Of course you want the pattern to have clear instructions and explanations of techniques and abbreviations.  Before you buy, you can get a good idea of how well the pattern is written from the comments of people who have posted projects for the pattern on Ravelry.  Take time to read them before you buy.  Study the photos of people who have made the sweater.  You can also look at the ratings on the pattern page but be aware that 5 stars from the designer’s two best friends don’t mean nearly as much as 4 stars from 200 people.

Classic design and versatility should also figure in to your decision on a pattern.  If something catches your eye with its trendy neckline or hemline or poofy sleeves or pleats or whatever is popular this season, be sure you’re going to want to wear it 3 or 4 years down the road.  Hand knitting is not cheap or fast; invest your time and money in  something that will make you happy for a long time.

Choosing your next project should be fun but there’s also a little work to be done.  We’ll help you with the pattern research, with choosing a yarn that will work for the design that you want, and with making the right size and the right adjustments so that the garment you make will be the one you’re dreaming of.

Churchmouse’s Simple Tee is a great pattern that gives a lot of information to help you choose yarn and size, with a good schematic and excellent instructions. It also gives you lots of flexibility in the look you knit, depending on the yarn and features you choose.  (Churchmouse Yarns & Teas is a Local Yarn Store in Bainbridge Island, Washington.  Being a LYS, they know what makes a good knitting pattern, and they’re completely reliable as to including the essentials above.) They show two styles on this pattern:

Long with split hem and cap sleeves:

Short with long sleeves:

We gave a class on this sweater this past spring.  I made the long version in summery Hempathy with three-quarter sleeves (the gray version below) and have just now finished a tee from the same pattern with a shorter and wider body and short sleeves in Lang’s luscious Lusso (say that 3 times fast), a fingering-weight fuzz of – now, get this – extra fine merino, silk, baby camel and super kid mohair.  Can you say luxurious, light, and lovely? A little layer of warmth and color over a black tee!

Two completely different looks for different seasons, both wearable for many years:  this pattern is a keeper.

 

Harvey was and still is a nightmare.  I, like everyone else, watched with horror as the rains kept coming and the rescues mounted, and now we are still learning the terrible aftermath.  My nephew and his family live in a western suburb of Houston.  They were lucky.  Their house, their kids, and their pets are all safe.  They, like others who were fortunate, spent the week that they couldn’t go to work volunteering at local shelters and ferrying donations and supplies where they were needed. Life there won’t be normal for a long time.

Anything we as knitters or crocheters can do?  Houston doesn’t need warm hats and socks and mittens and blankets.  The agencies that are helping people and pets need money, period.  I know most of us have probably sent something already, but I just had a notion that maybe we’d like to have a little get-together at the shop and everyone can throw in $10 (more if you want) and we’ll knit or crochet the afternoon away and send good thoughts to Texas while being grateful for our good fortune.

All donations will be split evenly between American Red Cross’s Houston fund, the Houston Humane Society and the Houston SPCA.  You can tape a note to your $10 bill if you want it to go one way or the other. I know there are many naysayers when it comes to the American Red Cross, but what other organization could launch this kind of massive effort to feed and shelter thousands in the matter of a few days?

So let’s do this!  Come anytime between noon and 5 on Sunday, September 17, and stay as long as you want. Bring $10 in cash and a project to work on, and if you want to bring any nibbles, please do!  We’ll have tea, coffee, water, and some variety of wine available.

Spread the word, bring a friend, everyone is welcome!

The cardigan from my last post, Aileas, is proceeding apace.

As you can see, I did the sleeves before completing the body, just to get them out of the way.  The faux-cables are fun to work:

and are included on the sleeves:

so that even the sleeves won’t bore you to pieces.

I’m just about to add some columns of cables that will accent the back and set off the pockets so things are moving along.  I’ll probably whine at you just a bit when I’m partway through the bottom ribbing – there’s a bunch of it!

We got some really beautiful yarn in from Plymouth this last week.

That’s “Estilo” to the left and center, 10 fabulous colors of wool and silk lusciousness in a fingering/light sport weight.  Karen already snagged 2 colors to make a shawl that she may teach in the fall!  Here’s just one skein of the elegant steel blue:

The other column of beautifulness is “Reserve Sport” a blend of merino, milk, and bamboo that reminds me very much of a hand-dyed Nuna (one of our favorite drapy, shiny, slithery yarns).  I for some reason got the bug to crochet something a couple weeks ago, and since my skills are basic and my speed is snail-ic, I needed something really easy.  Reserve Sport is nice for crochet because it has built-in drape due to its fiber content, and while helping another customer, I came across this pretty and simple cowl called Tembetari.  So I’m trying it out.  After 3 hours, this is what I’ve accomplished:

Impressive, no?

I’m going to stick with it.  The yarn is delightful, and I sorely need the practice!

 

Last post, I left you with an enticing photo of huge boxes just delivered.  Those boxes contained 150 (!!) pounds of yarn from Plymouth and we’re still trying to fit it all in the shelves.  It’s a really fun dilemma to have, believe me.  I love it when the store is just bursting with wonderful materials to inspire all of us.  To look at a yarn, feel it, have an idea form in your head about what it can become, and then find the exact pattern you want for it.  There’s nothing better except sitting down to start that perfect project.

Anyway here are two of the yarns we received.  The first is our perennially favorite soft bulky yarn, Baby Alpaca Grande, in wonderful classic shades:

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One for a soft, warm hat or close-fitting cowl (close-fitting is okay, it’s SOFT!), 2 – 3 skeins for a luxurious scarf or cowl, 4 -6 for this easy shrug that will keep you cozy without overwhelming you.

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A new yarn for us, Homestead is a sturdy heavy-worsted weight 100% wool from Peru.  It’s a classic wool, great for outer-wear, cardigans, felting, slippers, mittens.  It’s a hand-wash yarn, but that’s its only drawback, everything else about it says Knit Me!  The colors are beautiful, the hand is gratifyingly woolly, the weight will knit up quickly, the price is surprisingly reasonable.

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We have this pretty throw in the shop to show you:

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but I think it would be great for a classic cardigan like this one, designed by Tammy Eigeman Thompson:

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or this very pretty new design by Josee Paquin:

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More, more, more to show you, but no time!  See you soon!

I think I’ve been in a knitting slump.  Here are two sweater projects that I tried over the summer:

Nancy’s Vest:

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Now 2 giant balls of lovely yarn, because I cast on a million more stitches than I was supposed to and didn’t notice till I was at the armholes.

Unnamed Cardigan:

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Now many small balls because after I put the shoulders together and tried it on, I realized that the modifications I made didn’t work out.  The proportions were wrong and nothing could have made it right.  It would have been an insult to a great yarn to finish it, so after I wavered for a week, out it came.

I was about to send myself down to the minors.  Instead, I took a vacation from sweaters and worked on the afghan for the knit-along – which is full, I’m delighted to say – and have enjoyed it immensely!  It’s like working on dishcloths (the fallback project for many knitters when they don’t want to be challenged too much), only it will end up being a much more impressive finished product!  I’ve also done a few other small projects along the way which have turned out fine, so I’m not totally useless yet.  I just had to wait for an inspiring sweater design to come along, and it did.  I just started and feel pretty confident about it.

Meanwhile, the shop is full of new yarn already!

Here’s the latest entry in Zen Yarn Garden’s Artwalk Series:DSCN2992

The colorway is a perfectly balanced rendition of the colors in Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover called “Walking to Church:”

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We received a lovely bunch of Fino from Manos del Uruguay, with 3 new colors, including Ascot which is the little peek of dark blue-gray in the photo below:

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Fascinator, an in-your-face I-love-PINK!

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and Storm Glass, a nuanced dusty jade with hints of olive:

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Juniper Moon Farm sent us some fabulous shades of Moonshine, one of our favorite worsted weight yarns. The colors can’t help but be vibrant; even the neutrals shine in this combination of wool, alpaca and silk:

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And here for its good-bye tour is Tenzing, the lovely dk weight blend of extra fine merino and yak that we have fallen in love with and that would have been discontinued last year except someone found a bunch of un-dyed yarn in a warehouse.  If you love it, now is the time (unless this is just a new type of sales pitch they’re using.  It worked on me!)

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Which one is coming home with me?

Okay, off I go to see another yarn rep this morning.  Enjoy this beautiful day!

Despite its being a bleary, dreary day, I had a lovely morning looking at new yarns for fall.  Josie Baxter, who reps for Berroco, Lang, and Mountain Colors among others, is the first rep of the season to visit me.  She also represents the company that distributes Addi needles in this country and she showed me a sample of a new olive wood needle that will be available in fixed needles and interchangeables.  I ordered just a couple so that we could all give them a try.  When they’re available, they’ll be on the table in the front room so you can take them for a test drive.

We’ll have some new colors of River Twist – hats, mitts, cowls –  and some Twizzle  – ditto plus beautiful for sweaters – from Mountain Colors in the fall, as well as a few new colors of Inca Tweed from Berroco.  This is my favorite yarn for our Warm x 2 Cowl and I have a new project in mind for it that will be fun and a little kooky – I hope to start this week!

We looked at Lang’s huge line of wonderful fashion yarns and their excellent design collections:

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How to choose??  This has been a tough year for yarn stores – as you will know if you are on any mailing lists and have seen the number of stores that have gone or will go out of business this year.  Trying to play it safe instead of jumping in with both feet, I’ve ordered a few new yarns from Lang in tiny quantities – just enough to try them out and see if I want to stock them.  No, I know I want to stock them, but I also need to have a project in mind that won’t cost a million dollars and take 5 years to knit.  How does a crazy-soft cashmere bouclé sound?  At $28/ball, it sounds too much.  But if 2 balls will do the softest cowl you’ve ever felt, will that tempt you?  It tempted me, but let’s face it, when it comes to soft luxury yarns, I’m the easiest girl at the party. And you don’t even have to buy me a drink.  One thing I can guarantee is that this store will have some lovely yarns and fresh ideas for you this fall, and I can’t wait!

We received a hefty shipment from Frabjous Fibers this week, with some new colors of their superwash sport weight Mad Hatter and some gradient packs that coordinate nicely.  We of course played around with color combinations

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(These are the same gradient packs.  The computer sees them differently because of the colors they’re with – we probably do the same. Color is so interesting.)

And for the Prince of Purple:

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Now to find the perfect pattern!  What are your ideas?

 

Well, no question about it, we did have snow, didn’t we?  I hope it was the whole winter’s worth at one go so we don’t have to deal with that again! I also hope you had enjoyable knitting to do while you watched the snow fall.  I got a few things finished, but I’m here to show you other people’s beautiful finished items!

First, I want to remind you that Lynne’s Beginner Crochet class is coming up on the Saturday the 13th.  If you’ve ever wanted to try this craft, or need a refresher on the basics, there are a couple spots open.  I do a bit of crochet and have had a hankering to do a project for the new baby that my niece is expecting.  I love this little bunting:

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and I would love to make this little African flower dog, done in fingering weight, and I have loads of sock yarn scraps:

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I’m neither a confident nor fast crocheter so either project will require a time commitment, but I think they’re worth it, and I know who to ask if I run into trouble, since Lynne has done at least one outstanding African Flower project from Heidi Bears (and we’ve got the owl to prove it!)

Okay, on with your projects!

Beautiful shawl knit by David Ritz from a pattern by Josh Ryks called Stained.

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Carol Slifka and Kim Lally both wore their Easy Folded Ponchos into the shop, both in Shibui Silk Cloud and Cima, and both looking wonderful!

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Virginia Griffith took Karen’s Moon Shadows shawl class and made this gorgeous accessory.

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Jettie Hunt’s version of Moon Shadows is equally stunning!

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Anne Alderman made this fun version of the Dr. Who scarf by special request from her daughter-in-law:

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Karen Walter made this wonderful All the Shades of Truth, designed by Laura Aylor, from all the natural shades of Herriott Fine:

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and then made this gorgeous gradient cowl from the leftovers:

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Sue Marshall loves knitting small things for all the members of her family.  From Top left: socks in Noro Silk Garden Sock, then hat and two versions of fingerless mitts, all (I think) in Manos Maxima:

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This wonderful cowl, knit by Tracee Yawger from Wonderland Yarns’ Cheshire Cat gradient pack, is Ann Weaver’s design Yipes Stripes!

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You remember Donna Hain’s massive scarf from a couple weeks ago – it’s well worth repeating!

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David Lutz finished this scarf in his favorite colors – red, white and blue!

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And last, but not least, Rebecca Botvin made this adorable shark hat for her son Asher, and is currently making one to match for husband Blake:

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You guys are freakin’ awesome!!!!

Next week (probably): Sweaters!

 

Well, all forecasts point to our having our first real snowfall this coming weekend, which is both a good and a bad thing.  It’s a good thing because I love snow, even the shoveling part, and because it’s going to get back into the 40’s shortly thereafter so it won’t hang about forever.  It’s a bad thing because the Pottstown Knit-Out in support of breast cancer research is to take place this Saturday.  My store is not involved except to donate a few things, but I know how hard everyone works to put this together.  Let’s all keep fingers crossed that the snow holds off till Sunday!!  Yes, I mean you, too!  Cross those fingers!

Here’s a photo from winter a couple of years ago to keep things in perspective.  This was Penn Avenue in 2014:

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May I just say: yuck.  Even I am not that enamored of this much snow.

On the bright side, we certainly need all our warm woolly sweaters and accessories now.  I’ve seen many beautiful sweaters and scarves in the past week.  This one takes the cake, however:

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Donna Hain made this huge scarf/wrap/almost-a-blanket in super-bulky Kureyon Air.  It’s a gorgeous piece that could wrap around her tiny frame from head to toe with room to spare.  If you see a colorful mound of knitting walking around town, that will be Donna.  Honk your horn!

Lynne brought in the model for her crocheted infinity scarf that she’s teaching on February 27.  It’s so pretty, with an interesting stitch that looks great on both sides:

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and is long enough to wrap 2 – 3 times around your neck and keep you cozy at any temperature:

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It’s soft and beautiful in Manos Maxima – yummy! – and Lynne says it could easily be adjusted to use a bulky yarn for an instant-gratification project.

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So what will you be knitting during our snow storm? I’m working on a spring cardigan in a new yarn, but it seems vastly inappropriate to be knitting with a cotton blend when it’s snowing.  I’m wanting something new and quick.  These are from my favorites on Ravelry:

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Funky Nanna’s Slippers in Galway or Encore

by Stitcher Universe

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Extra-quick Reversible Twisted Cowl in superbulky Ushya or Kureyon Air

by Sarah English Perry

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Luxe Aoraki in doubled Shibui Pebble

by Libby Jonson

Of course, there are a couple un-finished things that I could work on, like the second mitten of a Fair-Isle set of hat, cowl, and mitten (yes, just one, for a year or so now) in Nature Spun Sport.  Here’s the pattern for the mittens, so cute:

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Purple Rain Mittens

by Dawn Cottone

Or – yikes – my second Carmine and Rocko, also in Nature Spun Sport.

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My first Carmine and Rocko in Road to China Light

designed by Nancy Marchant

 I love Nature Spun Sport for colorwork, but my colorwork projects seem to have a hard time coming to a conclusion.  I’m sure it’s not the knitter!

Whatever you knit during the snow, have fun, be cozy, stay safe!

A little more eye candy for knitters!

Here is Obi, a bulky wool/silk blend from Noro that makes a chunky and of course colorful cowl or scarf in a flash.  Gorgeous colors, as always with Noro:

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Janet made this very pretty and quick infinity scarf with two balls, from the new Noro Magazine:

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Inca Tweed, a soft and chunky alpaca/wool blend from Berroco, also arrived, in a lovely array of wearable shades:

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I bought a bunch, as you can see, so Berroco sent us a model sweater, which was very nice of them indeed.  It’s pretty, but…

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I really had to knit with the yarn, couldn’t resist, so I made this very cozy, soft, yummy, fast hat from the new magazine “Make It! Knits:”

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Delicious yarn, cute design!  When the magazine is gone, this is my hat!

The Inca Tweed booklet also features a beautiful chunky cowl that is crocheted (!!)  I want it so much I may just pick up my hook and give it a go:

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Another new yarn from Berroco, Andean Mist is a brushed alpaca/silk blend in a DK weight that knits up light as a cloud.  It’s a soft, luminous yarn, made of drifting dreams, so I bought dreamy colors for your romantic moments.

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Aren’t they so pretty?  I made this lace-edged capelet/cowl from their pattern booklet from just 3 balls:

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Now all I need is the romance!

 

Berroco’s Kodiak is another soft alpaca blend in a bulky weight that almost floats, it’s so light.  I intend to have a sweater from it this year since I didn’t get to it in time last year.  By the time I decided what to knit there was none left!

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I’m glad I waited though, because Berroco came out with this design this year…

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…and this is the one for me!  Can’t wait to get started, but must finish one or two small things first.  One is in Shibui’s newest yarn Maai – (sneak peek:)

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and one is in the newest Dream Club yarn, which I can’t even give you a peek at.  Loving them both!

Lots more to show, hope I’ll get to another post in a couple days. Meanwhile, we’ll be looking for you:

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…I must be buying yarn!  ‘Tis rep season and my favorite visited this morning.  Tonny Shankland represents Shibui, Fibre Compay, Manos, and MadelineTosh, as well as Swans Island – so many of my favorite yarn lines!

Here is a shot of Shibui colors, always so sophisticated:

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and their newest yarn, called Maai, available in September, a blend of superbaby alpaca and fine merino:

DSCN1509 DSCN1510 (I bought some.) (You’re surprised, aren’t you?)

Maai, like most of their yarns, is thin-ish and can be used alone or in combination with their other yarns to make luxurious mixtures.  I love how they coordinate their colors between yarns so that you can mix or match with ease.

But this post was really supposed to be about the benches, which we yarn-bombed with cat hugs for Art on the Avenue last Saturday.

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They turned out to be cute, didn’t they?  And lots of people tried them out, including Jettie Hunt, who was here Sunday for a crochet class and sat comfortably making progress before class.

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Thank you again to everyone who made hugs and brought them over, and especially to Donna, who assembled one of the covers!  We lucked out on the weather – no rain! – so I disassembled them on Sunday and the hugs will be delivered to the Humane Society next week when I’m on vacation.

Hey!  I’m on vacation next week starting Sunday June 29 through Tuesday July 8.  The shop will be closed but classes will take place as scheduled. This week, I’ll be calling people who ordered yarn for the Hitofude knit-along, so they can pick up their yarn and do their swatching before the first session on Thursday July 10th.  Should be fun!!