27 February 2009

A Sleepy Man Walks Into His LYS...

I knew I shouldn't have stopped at the yarn store on the way home from school this afternoon, but I couldn't help it. My local yarn store, In a Yarn Basket, is celebrating a year of being in business. I, coincidently, am celebrating a year of being a knitter and thought I would be nice to myself and buy two more skeins of Noro for the Lizard Ridge.

Note to self: do not go to the yarn store when sleepy. I had lost two days at the beginning of the week to a head cold and had managed to still complete everything I needed to get done, but by the time the symposium I organized had finished this afternoon, I was exhausted again. Sleepiness + piles and piles of lovely, lovely yarn = Me, walking out of the store looking like a drug addict who had just gotten his fix. Not only did I walk out with the two skeins of Noro but also with six skeins of Cascade 220, the fixings for more Fiddlehead mittens.

I feel a little guilty: I had promised myself I would not buy more yarn until I had worked through a good portion of the yarn I already own. Must use the stash. However, I realized, all the yarn purchased today has a purpose, patterns already attached to them. I'm buying early holiday presents that will, eventually, get knit up. I'm buying entertainment on the random night I do actually have free. Rob from Threadbear had a post a day or two ago that got me thinking about the economics of knitting, particularly about the price knitters pay to create the garments and projects we make. True, it may cost more to make socks than actually buying socks, but there's something about the act of actually creating something with one's own hands that cannot be duplicated. The act of knitting, much like the act of writing, feeds me.

Walking out of the yarn store this evening, yarn in hand, I hoped for a similar scene a year from now: In a Yarn Basket's second anniversary. In a time of economic turbulence, local businesses need thoughtful support from community members. A few things I'm trying to do in my own yarn (and general product consumption):
  • I try to pay with cash, particularly if I am shopping at a LYS. Credit and debit cards carry a small transaction fee with them that I would rather help my LYS avoid if possible. Every once in a while, I don't have cash and they happily accept my little plastic card; it's just something I try to keep in the back of my head.
  • I try to limit my online yarn shopping. Chances are, aside from the lovely offerings on etsy.com, my LYS can order any yarn my little heart desires. I might as well order it through them since it tends to equal out after shipping and handling.
  • I try remember to bring my own bag. Bags, like everything else, cost money and I own enough of them that I can easily bring one with me when I visit the LYS. It's better for the environment, helps the LYS conserve resources, and helps keep my closet clear of excess bags. (Side note: If you're ever in Bloomington, In a Yarn Basket has great bags. Seriously great bags.)
It will be a while until I need more yarn: the skeins purchased this afternoon join an over-flowing bin of wool that will soon become mittens, blankets and, maybe, even a sweater. When it's time to purchase yarn for a new project, however, I will be thoughtful about how I go about it. Long live the LYS.

20 February 2009

Done with Entrelac!

I, somehow, managed to find the time to finish the Entrelac scarf I started back in December last weekend, blocking it this week. I am overly thrilled with how lovely this scarf turned out - yes, it took a while, and the eight stitch back-and-forth got a little old around skein three, but the end project, as modeled by the lovely Anne of my Thursday night knitting group, is gorgeous. And long. Long scarves are always good things.

The pattern comes from Freckles and Pearls and used four balls of Plymouth Yarn's Boku in colorway 12. I love the colorway - the self-striping yarn provides the basket weave pattern definition and really pops after being washed and blocked. It was also surprisingly soft once washed. I let the scarf soak for about twenty minutes in Brown's Top of the Sheep Shampoo before blocking and it came out silky soft.

What I didn't love about the yarn were the several breaks I experienced while knitting - the Boku would literally break while in the middle of picking up stitches or knitting through a row. Luckily, these tended to be in spaces in the pattern where I could easily fix the issue. I read that Noro's Silk Garden (with a similar composition to Boku) is less prone to break, but I can't help but be attracted to the pricetag of Boku. It sells for $6 a skein at my local LYS while Silk Garden normally runs $10+. I used four skeins (could probably get away with three), which sets the price point for this project at $24 versus $40+.

I remember now why I stopped knitting people scarves for holiday gifts around August: they simply take too long, but this entrelac scarf was definitely worth it. It's all packed up and ready to be mailed out, which officially ends my holiday 2008 knitting. Better late than never, right?

13 February 2009

Fiber Voyeur: The Yarn Garden

Despite a growing pile of academic reading I should have been delving into, I started Kate Jacobs' Knit Two last night, her sequel to The Friday Night Knitting Club, revisiting the familiar characters and yarn-filled space of Walker and Daughter. Forty pages in, it's similar to that first novel: light reading peppered with characters I can't help but want to know and knit with. The novel picks up five years after the conclusion of The Friday Night Knitting Club and the circumstances the characters find themselves are not the only things to have changed. The very walls of Walker and Daughter have changed as well, which is a little hard to bear but totally expected. Five years have passed, it is only natural the store, so integral to the book and characters within it, should change as well. What makes it so difficult is Walker and Daughter is the store we all wish we gathered at on knit nights with friends - it embodies everything one could possibly want in a great yarn store: experienced, energetic service, a lovely selection of fiber, and space to sit, talk, and work the needles for a while.

The closest I've ever come to Walker and Daughter is the lovely Yarn Garden, located in Charlotte, Michigan. Charlotte is a small bedroom community outside of Lansing that continues to host small-town events like Frontier Days, always held the weekend after Labor Day, and has a small, yet sustainable downtown. The Yarn Garden is in an old building off a side street downtown, facing their historic courthouse. The facade is merely a hint at the personality awaiting inside the heavy, old wooden double doors.

The Yarn Garden is a cozy space but the soaring ceilings, low shelves packed with yarn, and staging make it a delight. Lindsay Harmon, the owner of the Yarn Garden and blogger over at Yarn Gnome, loves knitting and her selections in stock show. On the shelves, you will find classic yarns, Cascade 220 and Berroco, along with some lovely surprises, like Yak. It is a thoughtfully laid out space, with carefully selected yarns and brilliant ideas to go with them.

I happened to spend a day at the shop last weekend, taking a mitten class. The back of the shop has space for classes, a long table right next to the sale bins, which I think was strategic as I walked out of the shop with three skeins of yarn, totally destroying my goal of no yarn unless there is a project in mind. But when you see it, you gotta grab it, you know? The instructor for the class, Janeen Licatovich, designed a mitten called the Cathedral Window Mitten. I saw a sample of it when visiting the store last fall and was excited to get to finally take the class. Janeen teaches several classes at The Yarn Garden and her colorwork is amazing. I fumble through my colorwork projects with the hope I will, one day, be as good as she is. Anyway, I learned how to make the mitten, which is sitting in a basket next to my bed, having not been touched since. Grad school is definitely getting in the way of my knitting time.

I like to think of The Yarn Garden as something of a local yarn store away from my local yarn store. There's always plenty to look at, a delightful mix of standard yarns with specialty yarns, and great people.

It's the template upon which I build Walker and Daughter in my mind while reading: exposed brick walls, store samples that make me wish I had more skill, and lovely, lovely yarns just waiting to be made into something. Also: if you get a chance to visit (and I highly recommend you do), be sure to pet Noro, the shop pup, but don't bring any treats. He's on a diet.