Churchmouse Yarns and Tea

I got my first taste of the Churchmouse brand while at a fiber festival a couple of years ago.  Their knitting patterns are exquisite, and I fell in love with their style immediately.  When we were planning our trip to Seattle, I just knew we needed to take a ferry ride over to Bainbridge Island to visit their shop.

And then, a few weeks ago something wonderful happened.  I was in Boston for the Yarn Market News conference, and I started chatting to the most charming gentleman.  Turns out it was John, one of the owners of Churchmouse!  Along with his longtime wife Kit, the two have built a beautiful shop and brand.

While in the shop, I felt very inspired, both as a knitter and yarn shop owner.

You can take classes, brew a cup of tea, and browse the large selection of knitting and needlepoint supplies.  There are charming surprises to be found everywhere you turn, from repurposed furniture pieces to extra large knitting needles.  And their spring window display is beyond charming, don’t you think?

I brought home a few new skeins of yarn, the bulk of which comes from Brooklyn Tweed.

Now the question of what to knit…

Off the Needles

I am woefully behind on sharing my most recent finished objects.  You know they aren’t really finished until someone wears or takes a photo of them, right?

One morning this week before opening, I did a little photo shoot inside Stash.  I can only imagine what people thought as they walked by the window and saw me laying back on the sofa taking photos of my feet.  Oh well; knittas be crazy.

Then I played around taking photos of my reflection in all the mirrors in the shop.  Also crazy fun!

This was a really fun project, and it has sort of started me on a hat kick.  I’m thinking Slable next.

Hope you’re having a fun weekend, perhaps even finishing up a project of your own!

Work Knitting

I’ve been knitting again!  Granted, I never really stopped knitting, but there was some ennui, a certain indifference toward my knitting in the past couple of months.  Yarn yarn everywhere and not an urge to knit!

So now, as I have the opportunity to sit back and look at all the yarn around me all day, I am feeling inspired again.  One of the yarns that has been calling out to me since I put it on the shelf just had to be a hat. I could no longer resist the call of Scorched Lime.

I’ve been knitting this at work, and for the most part it is going quickly and smoothly.  There have been a few times where I was certain a grave error had been made, when in reality it was just my own inability to count.  Is seems to be smooth sailing now as I have the pattern (from Weekend Hats) memorized.

Are you able to knit at work? Do you have to be sneaky or are able to knit out in the open during meetings and lunch breaks?

Happy weekending, everyone!

Stash Update

After looking at nearly every available space in my community’s downtown district, I have found a home for Stash.  It had to have the right combination of space, character, natural light, and potential.  I believe this spot has everything I was looking for, plus room to grow. And look at that window!  Can’t you just imagine the wonderful display possibilities?!

exterior before

interior before

This whole opening a yarn shop thing is really cutting in to my knitting time.  I had to take advantage of this moment and get a few stitches in on my around town sock!

Now that the space is secured, I am moving pretty quickly in an attempt to open at the beginning of October.  My mind is abuzz with ideas for the layout, including a seating area, gallery space, learning space, storage, and display.  The vendor list is pretty exciting, and I’ve started placing orders and receiving shipments!  And soon there will be the not so small task of cleaning this place up (oh, the dust!), painting, and putting in all of the fixtures.

This is a very exciting time, indeed!  I can’t wait to show you the transformation as it unfolds.

 

Stash Enhancement

I’ve been keeping a secret from you.  Well, not a secret so much as a tender, fragile dream that has slowly grown stronger and bigger over time.  My dream?

To own a yarn shop.

Thanks to the encouragement of my incredibly supportive friends and family, as well as that of my online family (Kathy, I’m winking at you) I am now ready to make the big leap into the unknown.

I am opening a yarn shop!

Stash will be opening in Corvallis Oregon this fall.  The shop will feature yarn, accessories, and artwork created in the Pacific Northwest.  In addition to the retail yarn business, the store will also be part gallery and part gathering space where classes, knit nights, gallery openings, and special yarny events will be held.  It is my intention to create a community gathering place (family-friendly, too!) where people can come together to share knowledge, celebrate each other’s work, and just have a good time in the presence of other creative spirits.  And, yarn.  Lots of beautiful, soulful yarn from talented spinners and dyers from our neck of the woods.  To quote the Contessa, “How bad can that be?”.

There has been a lot of business happening behind the scenes these last couple of months, as well as much navel gazing and contemplating the enormous shift in lifestyle from stay at home mama to entrepreneurial mama.  We have been working closely as a family to come up with a business model and childcare/playschool opportunities that offer flexibility and maximum time together.  It’s important to me to remain very much a part of PB’s daily life, to be able to take her to some of her favorite activities, and to welcome her into my new workspace. I think we’ve about got it figured, which is a huge relief.

And now I’m at a really fun stage in the process: looking for a location and selecting vendors.  I’ll be at Sock Summit taking a peek in person at some of my potential vendors’ newest yarns and colorways.  This is the biggest stash enhancement expedition of my knitting life, and a dream come true!

Look to this space for updates on the progress of the shop.  If you’re so inclined, join the Stash Ravelry group.  And, if you are one of the talented, soulful spinners, dyers, designers, artists, or crafters making beautiful things in the PNW, please email me at sonia AT stashlocal DOT com.  I’d love to take a look at your work.

Let the adventure begin!

Shopping Survival

I have never really considered myself a die-hard shopper.  Sure, I like to shop, even enjoy it on most occasions, but I am not one to search high and low for the best deal.  If I like it and can afford it and haven’t talked myself into believing I don’t “need” something, I buy it.  So when it comes to shopping for yarn, I take one of two approaches.

1. Buy what looks and feels good.

2. Buy yarn for a specific project.

When I first started knitting, I was a project-centered yarn buyer.  If I wanted to make something, I’d go out and get yarn to make it.  In the beginning I didn’t know about the wealth of places one can buy yarn, both locally and online.  So often I would find myself standing in the yarn aisle of a craft store making a guess at choosing a good substitution.

Then I started going to a Stitch ‘n Bitch group that met right next door to a yarn shop.  More often than not, we would go over after knitting for a while, just to see what was new and take advantage of a group discount.  This is when I started stashing, unknowingly at first, then with intention after I started knitting socks.  It’s just so easy to buy beautiful sock yarn with abandon!

All of this is to explain to that when I go to a yarn store like Webs, on a big sale weekend, I go with a mixed strategy.  Sure, I made a list.  And I got everything on my list, or some variation.  But I’m also open to spontaneous yarn acquisition, which is how I came home with an extra skein of sock yarn (or two).  And the Addi Click interchangeable needles I have been daydreaming about.  It was a good thing I couldn’t reach the Lexi Barnes bags from where I stood in line, because I certainly don’t need another knitting bag!

We arrived at Webs right at 10am as the sale was supposed to start.  The place was already packed with bargain-hungry yarn shoppers.  I have always been quick to say that knitters are a gentle, generous folk, but some of the behavior I saw that day has me questioning this.  I was bumped into, given agitated looks, and downright ignored when speaking.  More than once!  Good thing I was in a good mood and not so serious about the whole thing.  I was just there to get what was on my list, after all!

I filled that blue/green bag with yarn, and when it was full I called it quits.  I stuck to my budget (except for those neeldles…okay, I stuck to my yarn budget), got more than I needed, and had fun while doing it.  Success!

Did you go to the Webs Tent Sale?  What did you buy?  How long did you stand in line?!

Searching

So, I left the mis-crossed cable and finished up the body and seaming of the vest.  And now I am essentially out of yarn.  This is a problem because there is still a bit of ribbing to knit around the neck and arm holes.  Naturally, my LYS is out of this color, and the nephew’s birthday is Wednesday.  Grrr.  My options now include choosing a contrasting color from my stash or from the same type of yarn at the yarn shop.  I chose this yarn because it is soft and superwash, two things which don’t seem to coincide in a compatible color in my stash.  Looks like I have to buy more yarn…

Good thing we’re headed up to the Webs Tent Sale this weekend.  I just may be able to find something that will work among their thousands of skeins.

Sweetie and PB are gearing up for the event, too.  If you see us, please come on over and say hello!

Have a great weekend, wherever your yarn takes you.

Challenged

I am woefully behind on knitting a sweater for a Knit-Along I joined this month.  In fact, when the month started, I wasn’t even close to choosing what pattern to make, let alone knitting it!  I was vacillating between several patterns, but in the end decided to make Coraline by Ysolada Teague.  The pattern fit all of my requirements: a cardigan that would look good worn open or buttoned; a fit that would flatter both my pregnant and non-pregnant self; simple but not boring in construction.  I did have to buy the pattern, and didn’t have the yarn for it in stash, so….a trip to Webs was in order!

I knew that I wanted a DK weight yarn with an interesting blend of fibers in it.  So I arrived at Webs with a short list of contenders.  Sweetie accompanied me and took up her usual post in an armchair at the front of the store, assuring me I could take as much time as I needed.  Awesome!

A preliminary loop through the store netted some good possibilities for yarn:

IMG_1444

All lovely choices, but I wasn’t crazy about knitting with any of these colors.  As Sweetie was so bold to point out, “I’ve seen this basket of yarn before.”  I was busted for sticking to my comfort palette!

Armed with a challenge to choose colors I haven’t worked with recently, I set out on a second search through the store.  I was also looking for yarn for a couple of other projects, and this new perspective helped me find them too.  This is what I came home with:

IMG_1449

Cherry, bubble gum, and raspberry!  I was definitely more excited about these colors than I was about my first basket, lovely as those colors were.  But Sweetie was right; sometimes we need to shake things up and try something outside the lines we’ve been coloring in.

I ended up choosing Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light for my sweater.  It’s in a vibrant shade of red that I think will punch up my fall/winter wardrobe quite nicely.

IMG_1465

I cast on on Saturday and am already 4 rows into the pattern.  I know, it’s going to be hard to keep up with me at this speedy pace!

Yarn Pilgrimage

Friday’s trip to Mecca WEBS proved to be both inspiring and fruitful.  There is so much beautiful yarn there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  But thanks to a courteous staff member, I was directed to the types of yarn I was looking for, and in what felt like no time at all I was surrounded with great options for a sweater.

In searching for the perfect pattern for My First Sweater, I had these criteria:

  • Seamless construction.

  • Modern and stylish.

  • Something that would look good on my body that I would like to wear.

  • Simple but not boring.

In the end, I purchased two top down patterns.  I went to WEBS with the intention of getting the yarn to make one or the other, whichever I was more excited about when I saw the yarn options.  Silly Peaceful Knitter!  There were a few great options for each sweater, and I ended up stocking up to knit both.

  • Pattern: Wicked

  • Yarn: Artyarns Supermerino in color 239.  It’s a gorgeous blue-purple semisolid colorway.  Love.

wicked-start

baby-cables-start

See that cable coming up the sleeve from the wrist?  That’s what did me in!

I wound up the yarn over the weekend and started swatching.  That’s right: I took your advice and swatched then swatched again.  Apparently I had a little bit of a mental block when swatching for Wicked.  The pattern calls for a size 7 needle.  I got 5 1/2 stitches to the inch with 7s (too few), so I needed to try another needle size.  This is when I glanced back at the pattern to make sure of the needle size.  I saw US size 7 and US size 4.  “Really? 4s with worsted weight yarn?” I thought to myself.  Okay….so I swatched with 6s.  Then 5s and finally 4s.

I was feeling beyond frustrated about not achieving this mythical gauge when I started complaining to Sweetie.  She said she’d take a look, and I handed her my knitting and my trusty Susan Bates gauge thingy.  She chuckled and said something to the effect of “shouldn’t you be going up a needle size if you want fewer stitches per inch?”  After a moment of complete humiliation, I thanked her for being so good with measurements and proceeded to rip out and start over.  Apparently when I saw size 4 I was looking at the information for the laceweight version of the sweater, not the worsted!  I ignored what I thought I knew about gauge and was implicitly trusting what I thought the pattern said.

I got a good start on Wicked at knitting group yesterday, and am about to start the raglan increases.  I love the yarn, and the pattern seems straightforward and just interesting enough.  Is it wrong that I’m already excited to be finished with this one so I can start Baby Cables?

While at Mecca WEBS, I also found a better yarn for the Hanami Stole than what I had swatched with before.  This is a beautiful raspberry wine color of Misti Alpaca.

misti-alpaca-lace

One our way out of the parking lot, Sweetie and I both noticed the bead shop.  “Do you want to stop?” she offered.  “Well, I do need some beads to go with this lace yarn…”  We pulled in, found the right beads almost immediately thanks to another courteous staffer, and were on our way.  The day was a great success!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my sweater.

Ha!  I’m knitting a sweater!  I really like the sound of that.

Socktoberfest Postmortem

At the beginning of the month, I had one pair of socks on the needles.  It was a project that had stalled out of boredom and gauge concerns.  As the excitement of Socktoberfest washed over me, I decided to cast on a new pair of socks in a perfect autumnal color palette.  Then, in the final days of the month, I took a class and cast on yet another pair of socks.  That’s 3 pairs of socks on the needles.  It’s nearly driving me insane.

Pair #1

After a significant hibernation period, I pulled this sock out to see what, if anything could be done.  I sat on the floor of my craft room and turned picked up the gusset stitches and knit a row or two.  Still not loving it, but also not quite ready to rip it out.  It could be the perfect mindless projcet for me at some future date.  Back into the bag it went.

Verdict: Hibernate.

Pair #2

These socks have been wonderful.  The yarn and pattern are working together in a perfect symphony of color and texture.  I have one sock down, and about half of the second sock to go.  Hopefully I can finish these off this week.

Verdict: Finish Soon!

Pair #3

In a fit of excitement and  curiosity, I signed up for a class on knitting 2 socks on 2 circular needles at the same time.  This is something that appealed to me for a couple of reasons.  First, I regularly suffer from SSS (second sock syndrome), and this looked like a great way to eliminate that possibility altogether.  Second, I have always been circular-curious.  Don’t get me wrong, I love knitting socks on double-pointed needles.  But there is the odd occasion where it would be nice not to have to worry about dropping a needle, or poking yourself in the palm of your hand when reaching into your knitting bag.  I also had the feeling that knitting socks with 2 circulars would be less strenuous on the fingers and hands.

I signed up for this class at one of my Local Yarn Shops (I know, how lucky am I to live where I have more than one yarn shop to choose from?!).  This store is more disorganized than not, so it should have come as no surprise that just about everything associated with the class was a mess.  When I signed up, the owner of the store couldn’t tell me what pattern, yarn or needle size we would be using.  My inner teacher’s pet started feeling anxious immediately.  How could I be prepared if I didn’t know these things?  So I called the store the day before the class and was told I needed to come in to pick out my yarn.  I made arrangements to get there 30 minutes before the start of the class to do this.

When I got there, the instructor*** pulled out 5 colorways of worsted weight Artyarn for me to chose from.  I immediately gravitated toward this great grey, pink and aqua yarn, which I then had to pay for on top of the fee for the class.  And because I didn’t already have two size 5 circular needles, I had to buy those too.  So, a class advertised for $40 turned into a $75 experience in a flash.  If they had made that clear when I registered for the class, I may not have taken it!

I then had to divide the yarn and wind it into two balls by hand because they don’t have a swift and ball winder.  As you can imagine, this turned into a mess.  Fortunately, a kind and patient classmate helped me untangle it all.  But I digress.  You are probably anxiously waiting the end of this rant so you can find out how the class was and whether or not I like the technique!

Well, it made no sense to me at first.  Two balls of yarn and what is essentially 4 needles and 2 cables is a lot to manage.  They strive to get entangled and twisted.  It’s difficult to discern which needle goes where when it’s time to knit.  But I knit on, patiently following the instructions and waiting for it to come together.  Sometimes knitting is like that: you just have to knit blind and have faith that it will make sense at some point.  Usually it does, and this time was no exception.  About 4 rows in, I had my epiphany.  I get it!

I’m tickled to have learned a new technique, and I love this yarn.  But… It’s a little fiddly for me.  I know, double points are fiddly too, but it’s not the equipment that’s bothering me.  It’s the constant untangling and yarn management that’s getting me down.  Do you have any advice on how to keep things neat and separate while knitting?  How do you prefer to knit your socks?

I am thrilled with the knitting on 2 circulars bit, and I can definitely see myself knitting one sock at a time this way.  So now I am at a cross roads with these socks as well.  Since the class didn’t provide a sock pattern (ahem…), I’m kind of knitting blind here.  And I’m not sure I want a pair of worsted weight socks, so I’m thinking about ripping these out and using the yarn for something else. Ugh.

Verdict: Undecided.

All in all, I was happy to participate in Socktoberfest.  It gave me an excuse to think about past, present and future sock knitting, inspired me to take a class, and resulted in the purchase of 2 skeins of sock yarn, a new project bag, and that nifty wooden needle holder.  I think I was a true sock fanatic this month!  I hear November is Knit a Sweater month…

***While the lack of organization and information about this class was frustrating, the instructor did a good job. She was patient and took time to help everyone figure this tricky technique out.***