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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Creative Christmas Projects

The hours of late night knitting to finish our Christmas gift projects are now behind us. The sight the recipient trying on the completed garment and breaking into a grateful smile is the reward that makes all of those hours of knitting so worthwhile.

During the four days of our Boxing Day Sale, Beth and I had the fun of seeing many of these lovely gifts.

Erika's talented mother made her this cute hat and sweater set. She is one of the best-dressed young ladies to visit the store; always wearing a lovely knit outfit.

This is the first sweater that Lisa has knit. She was part of "My First Sweater" class that ran in the fall. You can't see the proportions here, but it is a tiny sweater that is a gift for her soon to be born son (about 2 weeks from now and we can't wait for an introduction). Lisa also knit him a little hat that will keep him snugly on his way home from the hospital.

We first met Ruffles in the springtime as an "bundle of love" little puppy. Her mom, Pat, picked out some colourful Noro yarn to make her a sweater for walks in the cold when she grew to be a "big girl". What a perfect result! She is so proud of her coat of many colours and is sure to be toasty warm on her outings.

Yes, I did finish my one and only knitted gift this year. I was working on the toe of the second sock for my Dad as Steve drove us to London to see him last Sunday (sorry no time for a picture - and they didn't get blocked). I was very realistic with my available knitting time this year and still almost missed the deadline. My dad has enjoyed his hand knit socks since I first started knitting them for him over thirty years ago. He knows the effort and love that goes into each stitch and is happy to show them off whenever he has the chance.

What really impressed me was the planning of many of our customers in the days right after Christmas. Many were thinking about next year's gifts and were stocking up on yarn so that they could get an early start on their knitting. I admire that type of organization and fore site! Several of you even had lists! You are truly an inspiration for the rest of us. That is the type of attitude that can make Christmas knitting so enjoyable and really takes the pressure off when the holidays arrive next year. Just knit one gift a month and by next Christmas most of your gift list is solved. That even sounds like a good possibility for a New Year's resolution.

Posted by Karen

Monday, December 15, 2008

Karen's Disney Vacation Knitting

Beth and I have often commented on what a fine line it is between work and play when you own a yarn store. We absolutely love what we're doing and knitting is play for us - but often we are knitting store or class samples - for work. You can see that it is often difficult to differentiate between whether the fun is working or playing.
Last week was completely play for me! My husband, Steve took me on a week long escape to Florida. We stayed at a resort at Epcot Center, which is part of Disney World in Orlando. This was the first time that we had gone there without the kids. We missed them, but did enjoy the chance to just do what we wanted, which of course included some knitting time for me.
I'd knit by the pool, while my husband checked his emails and conducted business. This was a great setting for his office for a week and I never have any complaints about his need to work when I have my knitting.
Disney world is known for its line-ups for whatever you want to see and do. We were there at the so called "slowest time of the year" and I was still glad that I had my "waiting socks" always with me tucked in the Go-Knits bag. Steve would pull out his Blackberry to check messages while I happily knit away. We must have looked like a couple with a huge communication problem, but were we ever efficient.By grabbing snippets of knitting time throughout the day, I had managed to knit almost an entire sock in the week. It's my only Christmas knitting project for this year. The socks are for my father who really does appreciate the effort and even proudly shows off other pairs that I have knit for him. He has size 13 feet, so enjoys the custom knit size factor.
After the fireworks displays at night, or other times when I had room to spread out, I would work away on a new store sample. I am making a vest-like capelet in Manos del Uruguay using one of their new patterns called "Tucson" from booklet #9. Hopefully it will be ready for viewing in the early new year.
My favourite adventure was "The Living Seas" featuring Nemo and his friends. One of my other major interests outside of knitting is swimming. Nemo represents a philosophy that I hope to carry on for years to come. Over and over he repeats "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...."; a perfect attitude of determination, both in the pool and in other aspects of life.
Substitute the words "Just keep knitting, just keep knitting...." and you'll have the motivation to finish up your Christmas knitting. Who could imagine that a little clown fish with a broken fin could have so much influence.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Scarf Knitting

Karen is away on a much deserved vacation, leaving me with a few tasks that are usually hers. This is not normally much of a problem - I have been on my own in the store many times. But this time, I have been left to do a blog entry. This is my maiden voyage into the world of blogging. It’s actually a little scary. But at least I am talking with you about one of my favourite, familiar knitting projects – SCARVES. Scarf knitting is an often maligned obsession which I passionately defend. I love scarves! Here are a dozen reasons why scarves are wonderful
1. Scarves can be as easy or as complicated as you wish; straight garter stitch or complicated cable. Scarves are perfect for beginner knitters but the right pattern can still challenge the most experienced.

These 2 scarves are samples of a beginner and advanced scarves you could learn in the class on short rows.

2. As a gift, they are perfect. They always fit. A scarf is never too tight. A nice scarf never makes your hips look bigger.

3. They are small, portable projects, good for the car or dragging off to the rink while your child plays hockey.

4. They are a fabulous opportunity to indulge in a luxury yarn that you would never consider spending the price to knit as a sweater.

5. There are hundreds of free patterns on the Internet for just about any style scarf you may want to knit. Or dig out your favourite stitch dictionary and design your own.

This scarf is from a simple Rib Lace Pattern from one of my favourite stitch dictionaries. It has a gentle ripple to it which is accentuated beautifully by the subtle striping found in Nashua Geologie.

6. In February, when winter is dragging your spirits low, a bright colourful scarf brightens everyone’s day. (Fun, bright socks can do the same, but that is for another blog)

7. I love to play around with colour. Scarves really lend themselves to playing with colour, especially with the self-striping yarns.

This simple "Skinny Scarf" was so much fun to knit in two contrasting but complimentary colour ways of Kaffe Fassett self-striping sock yarn. A Kf&b in the first stitch and K2tog at the end of the row sets the stripes on the diagonal and makes it even more interesting.

8. Many scarves knit in a fun chunky, yarn can be completed in an evening when time is in short supply.

This "Skinny Scarf" uses 2 balls of Needful Joy; a self-striping chunky yarn. I knit this scarf in an evening while watching TV.

9. They can be the perfect project for those one or two balls of yarn that have been sitting in your stash forever.

This scarf used up 2 orphan balls of Woolly Stripes. All those colours are from one colourway!

10. If one of the reasons your stash is overflowing is because you also happen to be afflicted with an addiction to sock yarns, many sock yarns are just as much fun in a scarf as they are in socks.

This simple "Yarn Over Wave Scarf" is stunning in Fleece Artist merino 2/6 sock yarn. One skein makes a generous large scarf.

11. They can be an easy way to practice a new technique without the extra complications of shaping.

This scarf is a pattern I developed as a class project for the Short Rows & Lizard Ridge course. You can have fun playing with the vibrant colours of Noro Kureyon as you learn the short row technique used in the Lizard Ridge Afghan.

12. Most scarves when you are finished knitting, you are done; weave in a few ends, you might need to do some blocking but no complicated finishing.

So have some fun, take a break from larger projects and knit a few scarves. Many of the scarves in this blog and others on display in the store come with patterns free with the purchase of yarn. There is still time to knit up a few last minute Christmas Gifts.

Posted by Beth

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cozy Afghans

It's afghan season. With the long hours of darkness and chilly nights, an afghan is perfect for a knitting project that will give you warm results. Many of this season's afghans are knit square by square, so you will never become tired of the same pattern. An afghan can be one of the most appreciated gifts or keep one for yourself to snuggle under while you work on other knitting fun.
Gabriela made this afghan for a class she taught called "Entrelac and Lace". It is based on a pattern in "The Best of Interweave Knits". There is no sewing together at the end of the knitting as squares are picked up during the construction and the border is knit onto the main section. Done in a fine weight yarn, it becomes a lacy shawl. In a heavier yarn, it grows into a delicate afghan. She will be teaching this class again in the new year.

Kris completed her "Great American Afghan" in record time using Cascade 220 yarn. She admits that the squares are a little addictive - you just want to keep knitting to see how the next one will look. She is already halfway through a second afghan in heather greens (for herself this time), using squares from the Tech Square Afghan booklet by Joanne Clark. Kris is an accomplished knitter, but was thrilled at the different techniques that she mastered by working the unique squares.

Ann knit this beautiful heirloom baby afghan (above) for a friend who was expecting her first child. The pattern is from Nicky Epstein's book, "Cover Up", with the "Baby Booties" square as an added touch in Ann's own design. It was made from the incredibly soft SRK "On Your Toes Bamboo" in ivory.

Unbelievably, I have completed knitting my 25 squares for the Great American Afghan. I looked at each square as a mini project and sandwiched the knitting around my larger sweater projects. It was nice to have such a portable piece of knitting that tucked into my Go Knit pouch and followed my everywhere. There were so many new techniques that I picked up while knitting the squares. I always tell my knitting friends that one of the reasons I love knitting so much is that there is always something new to learn. Admittedly, it will likely be the new year before I have a chance to tackle the assembly and border.

We have several afghan classes scheduled for the winter session, starting in January. (Check our website at for class details). Challenge yourself to learn new knitting skills as your cozy afghan grows. Warm winter wishes!

Posted by Karen

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas Open House

Serenity Knits was lovingly decorated and Beth had arranged the festive treats in anticipation of our 3rd Annual Christmas Open House. Beth's traditional Sugar Plums are such a favourite and so many have requested the recipe that it is included for your enjoyment below.

Sugar Plums: From “Victorian Christmas Crafts”by Barbara Bruno

Sugar Plums are an ancient treat probably originating in the Middle East where whole figs were transformed into the original glace fruit by long and repeated simmering in sugary syrup. Victorians, always ready to guild the lily, added nuts, orange rind, a variety of dried fruits and brandy, to create the “Sugar Plum visions dancing in heads” in the Victorian Christmas poem, the Night Before Christmas.

3 pounds of dried mixed figs, dates, raisins & currants
1 ½ pounds of blanched almonds
½ pound unsalted shelled pistachio nuts
½ pound of crystallized ginger
finely grated rind of 2 oranges
white granulated sugar

Method:Finely chop and mix all ingredients except brandy and sugar. Use a food processor or grinder because you want the ingredients to be well chopped/ground. Add 2-3 tablespoons of brandy to help make the mixture stick together. If you would prefer not to use brandy, use the juice of one of the oranges instead. Mix WELL. Form the mixture by hand into small balls, approximately a tablespoon at a time. Roll them in sugar.
Store the Sugar Plums in a covered container. It is best to let them meld for a few days but they can be served right away. They will keep for several weeks in a covered container.
Merry Christmas, Beth
Our guests arrived for the fun, friendships, treats and yarn sales. It was a great time to stock up for Christmas knitting projects.
Erin brought in 7 month old Hayden for a visit. We were 1st "introduced" to him while Erin was taking a crochet class. She made a beautiful blanket to welcome him. He came back to the store as a newborn and now as an active, bouncy and so cuddly little fellow - that Karen can't help snuggling. He will be one of the best dressed babies we know with his talented mom providing the knitted outfits.
Some of our guests arrived on four legs. We always have a treat jar with dog treats right next to the candy dish. This is "Honda", a rescue greyhound accompanying her owner, Isabelle. She had been a race dog and after her career ended, Isobel provided a loving home for her retirement.
Serenity Knits 3rd Annual Christmas Open House Door Prize Winners
Entrelac & Lace Class with Gabriela: Edith Larkin
Sheep Accessory case with Tape & Eucalan: Lorna & Silvia Au
Two Skeins Koigu Sock Yarn: Mary Lou Strathdee
Scarf Kit: Sue Lavigne & Mary Joe Brown
Slip Stitch & Mosaic Knitting Class with Beth: Erin Mahoney
Great American Afghan Class with Karen: Kirsten Ruhland
Knitting Gifts Book: Lorna & Jayne Beardsmore
Little Box of Scarves: Nancy Prime
Go Knits Bag: Deb Yew
Ginger Candy: Edith Larkin
Stitch Technique Class with Karen: Julia Cheng
Getting Started Knitting Socks Class with Beth: Heidi Brautigam
Congratulations to all our winners.
Posted by Karen

Friday, November 14, 2008

Deck the Halls

We had plenty of fun at the store today decorating for the holiday season and preparing for tomorrow's Open House. This is our 3rd annual Christmas celebration that we plan to coincide with Newmarket's Santa Claus parade.
Gabriela designed a new seasonal yarn wreath.

We chose special door prizes for our customers, such as a series of classes, yarn, scarf kits, books, accessory filled sheep and more...
The shelves were stocked with new yarns just waiting to become a treasured gift. Our displays were overflowing such as this one with "Go Knit" bags that make knitting projects perfectly portable.
There were decorations to hang, including Mr. Felted Snowman.

With the decorating and preparations complete, Gabriela has "visions of sugarplums dancing in her head" - waiting for the arrival of Beth's homemade sugarplums that have become a traditional part of our Open House celebration. Customers can warm up after watching the parade with hot cider and enjoy other sweets and treats.
Now the real fun begins with planning the perfect knitted gifts from the huge selection of featured yarns, books and patterns. We look forward to welcoming the holiday knitting season with our friends tomorrow.
Posted by Karen

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Yarn Crawl

Serenity Knits enjoyed an exciting day as part of the Newmarket area "Yarn Crawl". The area has become a centre for quality knitting stores, with 6 stores participating in the fun. Knitters spend the day "crawling" from store to store, picking up great deals and finding exciting yarn at each location. Many use it as a opportunity to have a special day devoted to a knitting adventure.
Everything in the store was on sale and there were bins full of featured yarns with even larger discounts. It was a perfect day for knitters planning their Christmas gifts or looking for a new sweater to make for themselves.
Mary Joe (right) had come all the way from Ottawa to take part in the event. Her friend, Jackie, brought us her specialty - freshly baked double chocolate cookies. The treats were enjoyed by many of our customers and especially by Karen and Beth. They were the perfect lunch - many thanks!

Several of our guests dressed for the occasion with beautiful sweaters that they had knit. Michelle wore a Kaffe Fassett Colourscapes sweater knit from yarn that her husband had bought for her birthday gift.
Rosalie had knit an incredible retro sweater from a pattern that she modified from a 1950's publication in "Bingo" chunky wool.
We appreciated all of the dedicated knitters who took up the challenge of visiting their favourite yarn shops in the "Yarn Crawl". You never fail to amaze us with your creativity and great knitting skills.
Posted by Karen

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kaffe Fassett Colourscape Scarf

While Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably were visiting us a couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to admire the intricate colourworks of the garments that they had brought for the lectures. During his workshop, Brandon showed us a scarf made by Kaffe from the Rowan Colourscapes Chunky yarn. He said that Kaffe had made several of the scarves as Christmas gifts for his family. It was unlike his other designs in that it was a very simple diagonally knit scarf done completely in garter stitch. There weren't any complex patterns or dozens of colour changes. The yarn that Kaffe had designed at a wool mill in England did all of the work of the colour extravaganza.

Later, while Kaffe was signing books at Serenity Knits, many knitters were asking about the pattern for the scarf. I asked the master knitter himself and he said we were welcome to give out the pattern with the yarn purchase. He graciously dictated the pattern to me, I typed it up and had him proof read it before I printed out copies. You know you are getting the perfect pattern when the designer is the one who personally checks the details. This Christmas many knitters will be able to give the perfect gift with this special designer scarf.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Our Traditional Thankgiving

Last weekend our family closed the cottage for another year. It is always a sad time for me; saying goodbye to my favourite place and the my official end of summer.

There is lots of work to do - storm windows to install, taking home all the perishables, wrapping everything that we can in plastic (in case we have some scampering, furry visitors), taking out the dock, draining the plumbing, antifreeze in the toilet, outdoor furniture put away, boat taken out..... My daughter, Marie commented that it is fun to do the reverse in the spring, but depressing in the fall.
We do have our "traditional" Thanksgiving meal to look forward to. I go to the freezer, take out everything that is left over from the summer, put the meat on the barbeque and enjoy our surprise dinner. We were lucky this year to have steak and salmon - I'm not as popular during the years that we're left with hamburger buns and a frozen casserole.

Another tradition is that everyone gathers on the beach at sunset. It is a great way to catch up with the neighbours and this time say goodbye until next spring. We were rewarded with a spectacular Lake Huron sunset as the perfect farewell. Is it any surprise where I have aquired my love of pink, blues and purples? The sunsets are the inspiration for my knitting!

With darkness arriving so early these days, my daughter and I were able to have several hours of knitting time in the evening. As well as being my favourite place to be, the cottage is also where I accomplish the most knitting. I'll gladly take my Muskoka chair over a rocking chair as my creative place of choice. Please understand that far away look in my eyes when you see me in the store over the next few weeks - I'm not counting the days until Christmas - just Victoria Day.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Brandon Mably Workshop

On Friday, Serenity Knits hosted world famous author and knitwear designer, Brandon Mably as he presented his workshop "Concentrating on Colour and Design". He proved to be an avid and enthusiastic teacher, bringing us out of our comfort zone and away from preconceived ideas about working with colour. The workshop, which was held at Newmarket's new Magna Recreational Complex, began with selecting light and dark palettes of colours for our swatches (12 colours just to get started!). This exercise seemed to be a challenge in itself, with hundreds of yarns to choose from.

Next came knitting our Fair Isle swatches and turning all the rules we ever had about combining colours upside down. There were KNOTS (gasp) to contend with! (Anyone who has taken classes from me know of my "no knots" rule.) Then there were the actual colours and moving past our usual comfortable choices. I was quite happy with my usual blues, purples and pinks when Brandon jolted my swatch with LIME GREEN and then later with browns, oranges and more greens. After I picked myself up, I had to admit that his combination was amazing (although don't expect to see it on my next sweater).
Here are several of the students swatches that are ready for critiquing by the expert - which Brandon did with great insight and useful suggestions - and his wonderful sense of humour.

There were door prizes, generously provided by Westminster Fibers, distributor of the fine Rowan yarns used in Brandon's designs. Jeanette was a winner of one of Kaffe Fassett's sweater kits called "Glacier".
Brandon also had many of his designs on display which provided us with a large measure of motivation and great appreciation of his skill.

This is Brandon's "Royal Cat" vest, showcasing his intricate detailing and effective use of so many different colours.

It was truly a day of inspiration and skill building for us all!
Posted by Karen