Archive for the ‘yarn shops’ Category

Joanna, modeling the amorphous garment "right side up"

On Thursday I was at Sister Arts Studio in Chicago to kick off a the Cardi Shawl Knit (and crochet) A Long. I first knit this garment (designed by Stitch Diva) last September. After raving about it to Donna at SASI over the pone and e-mail, I knew I just had to drop in wearing it. Just as I suspected, when she saw it in person, Donna decided that we must do this project as a Knit-A-Long.

The whole thing is knit up as one looooong rectangle, knit along the long edge instead of the short. The magic is in the 3 needle bind off. The resulting garment can be worn right side up, upside down, belted, pinned, open, even backwards!  Of all my garment projects, this is my most frequently worn item.

Please Note: photos never do this garment justice, though Donna and Joanna made a valiant effort! She is wearing the XS, which is generously sized enough to be tried on by significantly larger women. Customers who normally knit a size L or even XL are knitting this project in M.

To prepare for the Kick Off event, I knit up a small army of swatches. It was amazing how much there is to think about when planning a garment yarn choice. I admit, I usually don’t spend as much time on this step as I should. That will certainly change now! The key word you’re going to hear over and over with this project is “Drape”. This is not a densely knit wool sweater, it is an exciting foray into the sensuous world of slinky knits. Today I will cover the protein fibers I swatched up.

"Upside Down" and shawl pinned, my personal favorite way to wear this!

The most luscious choice by far was definitely the Lhasa Wilderness by Bijou Basin. It is a 75% yak, 25% bamboo DREAM of a yarn. I was in love before, but after this swatch, I am really dying to knit this garment again with this yarn. The swatch was unbelievably light and soft, but with spectacular drape and a barely-there sheen. The stitch definition was clear. This fiber combination is both breathable, hypo-allergenic, and warm. Considering this project would need just a hair over 4 skeins for the generously sized XS, this is a great “Bang For Your Buck” yak project.

If the Yak/Bamboo is just not in the budget, the new Llama Luxury from South West Trading Company is a spectacular substitute. It comes in a subtle palette of neutrals. The llama fiber is remarkably light, yet insulating (think alpaca). It drapes wonderfully, but has enough stitch memory to keep from looking saggy. The swatch had a slight halo, making it look oh-so-inviting to squish!  Soft and lovely next to the skin, you would need 7 skeins to make the XS.

Wearing it backwards; feels crazy, and yet it totally works!

The most popular choice at Knit Night was the Yin/Yang combination from SWTC. These are sister yarns, each 60%wool, 20% bamboo, 20% silk. Yang also has a iridescent mini-sequins held on by a silk thread. With these yarns you can knit most of the garment in the plain Yin, and then throw in some Yang on the ribbing and drop-stitch rows. It adds some extra sparkle and interest. The yarn itself has great stitch memory and knit up to a rather dense, bouncy swatch compared to the rest. The bamboo and silk contribute enough drape to keep the project hanging as it should.

Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of Swatched With Love; Cellulose Strikes Back!


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Sorry for dropping off the Blog-O-Sphere for a while, I do still exist!

Part of the reason for my absence is the gone-missing-ness of my camera upload cable. Posts without photos are like decaf-espresso shots….no fun. Well, I have unearthed the errant cable and so here I am! Lets catch up a little.

The gifts, all tarted up for the big day

Due to a slow December, I did get all my X-mas knitting and quite a few other people’s shopping done well in advance. I was quite pleased with how all the gifts looked, wrapped and ready for Christmas morning! Everything seemed to be pretty well received and appreciated. It was a (relatively) peaceful holiday with precious little drama, besides my mother’s brand new, top of the line oven going Ka-Putt on us, X-mas eve with loads of family members due to arrive the next day… and nothing prepared. We managed to keep our wits about us and everything worked out just fine, though.

Mom in our classy room!

Once the holidays were over I got ready for a big trip out to Anoka, MN for a fashion show at Shepherd’s Choice. I will confess, I was more than a little concerned about this trip. The event was booked in the middle of the day on a Saturday, meaning that I would be hard pressed to either drive in that morning and immediately put on the show, or drive out right after the show, being on the road alone in the dark well into the night. I could not find any other appointments out that way so I could not justify staying overnight for 2 nights for just one appointment. Also, right before I left there was a big ole’ dump of snow right over my route, making the roads impassable, at least in my immediate area. I was more than a little on edge about going all that way in those conditions all alone.

Well, long story short, my mom came to the rescue! We drove out there on Friday afternoon, in the brand new SUV she got for X-mas! We decided to stay in Stillwater, MN, because I’ve been there before and thought it was adorable! Well, Stillwater was indeed adorable, but DARN COLD! Mom and I checked into the deal-of-the-century Water Street Inn, and were beyond grateful to be inside from the -10 temps outside.

All set up for Bubble-then-Snuggle, I guess

Besides being affordable, adorable, and warm, the Water Street Inn also had Spectacular food (the best meal I’ve had on the road to date!). There was live music in the bar and the holiday decorations were still up, making my mom feel festive and smile-y. The room had one surprising feature, worthy of photos: a whirlpool tub right smack-dab in the bedroom! We did not use it, but we were amused by it. We instead decided to cozy up to the in room fireplace to relax. I will certainly be staying at the Water Street Inn again. Mom says she would love to come back to Stillwater to shop and explore, only next time when the weather supports human life.

The next day we went over to Shepherd’s Choice in Anoka, MN for the fashion event. We were greeted with warm smiles and great enthusiasm, despite the continued deep freeze outside. The fashion event was a great success! Customers knit with sample balls from Bijou Basin, fondled sample garments, learned a great deal about luxury yak fiber, and then settled in for a SWTC fashion show… complete with volunteer models. It seemed a little silly, talking about breathable, lightweight summer fibers like soysilk and bamboo, but I think everybody found it hopeful and comforting. Spring will get here eventually, we should start preparing for it now!

I will be posting photos from this event, but alas….more camera cable capers! My mom took photos on her camera and so she gave me the camera to upload them, but I do not have her cable.

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When I woke up in Hibbing I was greeted by a heavy layer of frost. I plotted my travels for the day; a morning appointment in town, then a 2.5 hour drive to Duluth for a second sales call, then a 3 hour drive back to the Minneapolis area.

Before setting out for appointment number one I remembered why “Hibbing, MN” stuck in my head like like a piece of popcorn sticks in your teeth; Bob Dylan grew up here! Well doesn’t that just make sense. I mentally played some tracks and yep, Hibbing came right into focus. I did a quick Google search for landmarks, but came up with only “The Greyhound Bus Museum”. No thanks.

I arrived at The Knitting Knight a tad early for my appointment. By a tad, I mean about 1/2 an hour early. As my college girlfriends put it, I’m pathologically on-time. I knocked on the door anyways, and was greeted by the shop owner’s brother. I asked him if he could think of any Bob Dylan Landmarks that I could get to before his sister got there. He graciously gave me directions to Bob Dylan’s old house. “It’s a blue house on Bob Dylan Drive with a big mural of “Blood on the Tracks” on the garage.”  Lo and Behold…

Bob Dylan's Garage

Bob Dylan's Garage

I wonder if Bob ever got a letter addressed to this street...









I snapped a few photos because my Dad is a HUGE Bob Dylan fan… I couldn’t not. So, these are for you, Dad.



When I got back to the Knitting Knight, I settled in for an appointment. I Looked around the shop and was struck by the range in price points that this shop offers. Miss Amber has everything from Red Heart and Lion Brand all the way up through Noro and Misti Alpaca. If you are looking for a rare novelty yarn, I think this store will have just what you’re looking for! Plus Amber and her brother were quite entertaining to visit with. This was my second shop on this trip to be run by siblings. As someone who has my fair share of brother and sisters, I find these arrangements quite endearing and also hilarious.



Duluth streets all seem to drop straight off into the lake.

From the Knitting Knight I pointed Lola South-East-wards and started driving. Next stop was Playing With Yarn in Knife River. I was treated to yet another stunning day on the road, thank goodness! I did get to cruise through downtown Duluth. Duluth was a surprising treat, with it’s charming shopping district and SPECTACULAR view of Lake Superior. Namely, that view of Lake Superior is from the main drag in town, a remarkably steep and winding road that appears at every turn to drop off instantly into the Great Cold Blue Yonder. All I could think of is driving on this road during the icy months, which in Duluth is usually probably late September until Late May, and also June, July and August. I lucked out and had a clear and miraculously ice-less day. I’m not particularly used to driving anywhere where they have actual geography. I’m from Chicago.


When I did pull up at Playing With Yarn I should have taken a photo, or two, or twenty. This shop is located up a National Scenic Highway, backing up onto Lake Superior and surrounded by beautiful pine forest. But alas, it finally happened, I was LATE (gasp!) so I just hustled inside. In this shop I found a very well established shop. Judy, the shop owner, had a very informed perspective on the industry as a whole. She offered me loads of advice and “food for thought”, so much so that I ended up staying much too long. When I finally left, it was dark (and again, I mean DARK like I am not accustomed to).

I ended up crashing in Duluth for the night instead of heading back to Minneapolis. That turned out to be a great idea for several reasons. First of all, I lucked out with the absolute nicest hotel I have stayed in yet. Kudos to the Duluth Days Inn. The woman at the front desk hooked me up with a “handicapped” room because I was so tired and struggling with my bags/food. So my room was extra-big and extremely clean with a brand new mattress and just looked so inviting and warm. The front desk even called me an hour later to make sure everything was too my liking. I am by no means accustomed to such service when I’m on the road. I was just blown away! What a great way to spend my last day on the road.

I woke up the next morning, packed up, and settled in for a long haul back home. It was 9 hours of largely uneventful driving. Cow. Pine tree. cow. pine tree. strip club billboard. pine tree. dead deer. pine tree. pine tree. I think you get the picture.

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When we left our tireless heroine (me) she was hitting the hay in a motel near Stillwater, MN….

When I woke up I realized I had bitten off quite a lot for the coming days. On this day I had 1 appt in Minneapolis, 1 in Buffalo, and I had to get to Hibbing for the night. Well, the flaw in my plan lay there…Hibbing was more than a little farther out than I had anticipated. More like twice as far as I anticipated. Minor miscalculation.

Calhoun Parkway, Minneapolis

My first appointment was at Linden Hills Yarns in Minneapolis. This shop is in a charming corner of the city with beautiful houses and a stunning parkway along a large and picturesque lake. I was blessed with a beautiful cloudless day so I could fully enjoy this parkway.

Please be aware, people in this neighborhood don't know how to park their cars. Getting my massive suitcases back in my trunk was a real trick with this car here.

Linden Hills was a fitting yarn shop for this area. The shop was packed with skillfully knitted sweater samples. Jan, the owner, welcomed me warmly and explained that she had a very experienced, talented clientele. During our meeting she worked on the rice fields sweater, a fascinating two color garter stitch project out of the new Marianne Isager book. I could hardly tear my eyes away. If you are a sweater knitter, this is a fantastic shop to visit.

From Linden Hills I headed out to Buffalo to visit Patty at Silver Creek Cabin. This shop was tucked away in the basement of a coffee shop in a quaint suburb. But don’t let it’s location fool you; this shop was packed floor to ceiling, entryway to backend with yarn. And good yarn!

After leaving Silver Creek I started the longest leg of my journey that day. I pointed Lola northwards and pressed on to Hibbing, MN. Cell phone reception was spotty and signs of human civilization were few and far between. As the sun set I learned rapidly that people out here have an entirely different and shockingly severe definition of the word “dark”. If there was anything to see along the way, I missed it. It was dark.

Suddenly, out of the darkness, I saw the most beautiful WalMart I have ever laid eyes upon. I had arrived in Hibbing. I pulled into the Motel 8, and called it a night, a full 12 hour drive from home.

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I’m back home again after a very productive and interesting trip to Minnesota. I visited Kelly at Double Ewe in Circle Pines on Monday Morning. Her shop was very homey and warm and I enjoyed visiting her very much. If you are looking for Jordana Paige bags in northern Minneapolis, stop by and visit this shop soon!

"...falling down the rabbit hole..."

From Circle Pines I headed over to Mahtomedi to visit the ladies of Lila & Claudines. Well, as I mentioned in a previous post, this shop had a lot to live up to. And, well, they did not disappoint! These ladies have really put their heart and soul into creating an invigorating, joyful and all out FUN place to shop and knit. I could have stayed for days…or years… wow!

knitting wonderland at Lila & Claudine's

Oh, before you go and start asking around for Miss Lila or Miss Claudine, you should know… This shop is owned and operated by sisters Kirsten and Polly. They named the shop after their grandmothers. How sweet!

The sisters stocked up on the South West Trading Company so if you need anything, this is the place to go! If you don’t think you need anything, this is still the place to go!

From Lila & Claudines, I emerged dazed and delighted. I sought out a motel for the night, checked in, dropped my bags and then set out for a perhaps non-yarn-shop adventure. I found a brochure and ventured out into Stillwater, Minnesota. From the brochure I quickly decided that this was a vacation-worthy destination. I never made it one block into the shopping district. Just as soon as my tires hit Main St I saw a sign for “Darn Knit Anyway” and well, the car parked itself. I had found a rare find, a yarn shop that was not on my list. Lo and behold, shop owner Aimee just opened this little gem a month ago! I looked around and visited with her. It was nice to meet someone else just starting out as a professional in the knitting industry. Aimee did end up buying some Jordana Paige bags as well, so if you are in the market now you know where to go! Also, she is giving out the cutest little tote-bags with her awesome shop name on them right now, I don’t think those will last so go quickly!

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of my trip.

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I’m on the road again this week. I woke up this morning in Mounds View, Minnesota. I’m very excited about my itinerary this week. Today I’m visiting what must be a very special shop, Lila & Claudine’s. I was first alerted about this shop just days after it opened, by one of my vendors who lives out in Seattle! She had already heard rave reviews of this new shop all the way across the country! She described it as “falling down Alice’s rabbit hole” and demanded that I send her photos when I get there. Well, today’s the day and I’m interested to see what the fuss is about.

Also this week, I’m heading farther North than I’ve ever been, to Hibbing, MN. I’m a little nervous about traveling that far from home. However, the weather has been cooperating and I’d much rather venture out there when it is not under 4 feet of snow and ice. Just sayin’.

I’ll keep you posted. Wish me luck, everybody!

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It is a sad fact that the downturned economy and a multitude of other forces have sunk several independent yarn shops in the south-west suburbs of Chicago. It seemed to me that this blight of boarded up store fronts was just too bleak to be true. Surely at least one shop managed to hunker down and weather the storm? Well, it turns out, one did! Yesterday I went to visit Stitch N’ Hook in Shorewood, after being tipped off by Jordana Paige that there was a shop still open in the otherwise barren LYS-graveyard. Ms. Sonda’s shop is modest, but well edited. Stitch N’ Hook has a clear and well executed focus on affordable but fashionable sweater knitting. This shop has a spectacular set up for warm and inviting knit nights! I can tell that this shop has a dedicated following of talented knitters. If you haven’t been there yet, I recommend that you go soon. Be advised that there is a mess of construction all up and down Cottage St. The shop is still accessible, but if dealing with construction makes you batty then you should probably wait a month or two before checking this gem out.

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