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Monday, January 28, 2008

The Ugly Swatch

We are often asked about the projects that we are knitting in the store. (One of the benefits of this job is that you are expected to knit at work.) I'm always excited to talk about my current sweater in progress and will tell you about the designer, yarn, stitch patterns, changes I'm making and any other detail that you may (or may not) want to hear about.

Last week several of our customers asked me about what I was knitting to which I replied "an ugly swatch". No one disagreed with me; although some were kind enough to say that the colour was pretty. By the next day there were actually two ugly swatches. They were knit from the same ball of Noro Silk Garden (notice below that the colour at the top of the swatch on the left continues at the bottom of the one on the right). They both have the same number of stitches and rows, same pattern and were both knit on 5 mm needles. They were part of a demonstration for the Saturday morning "Finely Finished" Class as to the reason for "blocking". Unfortunately, many knitters don't want to take the time to block their knitted pieces before they assemble them.
One of my "ugly swatches" was transformed into a "beautiful lace swatch" as the result of the simple blocking process. It's the little details like blocking that can turn your knitted pieces into garments that you will be proud to wear or give as gifts.

We even have the fellows at Home Depot trained to know that a knitting blocking board comes from styrofoam insulation!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Norah Gaughan KAL Class

Today was the final class of our Norah Gaughan Knit Along series. Since November, the class has been learning the various techniques used to create the garments featured in the Norah's "Knitting Nature" book. She is known for her distinctive designs highlighting shapes found in nature such as hexagons, pentagons or repeating patterns called "fractals". She often uses cables and travelling stitches to compliment the beautiful shapes.

The students have either completed their garments or are well on their way to finishing their designer sweaters. Here is Gabriela's version of the "Russian Coat" that was featured in the Vogue Knitting Holiday 2007 issue.

Shelley is blocking an lacy inlay, that we learned to knit today; just perfect for a summer top. The lace effect is created by dropped stitches.

Debbie is knitting a coat that includes the front edges outlined with hexagons. The yoke on Jeanette's "Silkdream" sweater is made of connected pentagons . Michelle (not pictured) had already knit one Norah Gaughan sweater before starting the course and has another well underway and a 3rd one planned!

All the ladies accomplished so much great knitting in the last couple of months - except their teacher. I thought that I should set a good example and knit my own sweater along with the class. I picked out a soft Berroco yarn; Ultra Alpaca Light (yes, more purple). Knowing that it would be a busy time for me, I chose the "Cable Swirl Pullover", a design that was easy stocking stitch knitting on the lower section of the front, back and sleeves. The pieces were then to be joined in the round and the cable section worked on the yoke.

How embarrassing - everyone is proudly showing off their projects and I'm almost ready to start the cable section. I've had lots of requests to offer the course again. At least I'll have a good head start when the class begins again after the March Break!


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Project Class

Many of our winter session knitting classes started this week. One of the favourites is the Project Class where our students work on a knitting project of their choice. It's fun to see the progress from week to week, and there is plenty of good conversation and lots of encouragement. We even have show & tell - a chance to admire the finished work.

Here is our Friday morning class hard at work.

Mary Lou (feeling shy today) shows us her finished sweater for her nephew.

Shelly is well on her way with a Norah Gaughan sweater from "Knitting Nature".

Maria's husband is going to be cozy and fashionable this winter. What a beautiful sweater!

Well done ladies. It's nice to have a special time set aside each week just for your knitting. It is rewarding to see how a few hours, or even a few minutes, of knitting that you can fit into your busy schedule can quickly add up to a lovely project.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My Colour Choices

Your colour choice for your project is probably the factor in knitting that is most based on personal preferences. Knitters have their own favourites in needles (I've done my share of refereeing those heated discussions among customers about what ones are "best"). We all lean in certain directions with our choice of technique and type of project. For example, if you visit our store and see a lace sample, you can be sure that it was Gabriela's creation; socks and mitts are Beth's and cables and colourworks are mine. It's fun to try different knitting skills and along the way we may even discover new favourites, but our colour selections rarely vary.

I'm working on the last square of my second "Heritage Afghan" with many of the squares knit from the "Great North American Aran Afghan" book. I still have the sculpted leaf edging to finish and the assembly, but I'm eager to tackle new squares. I decided to knit the recently re-released "Great American Afghan" in Cascade 220 as my next afghan. I always have an afghan on the go - a work in progress that can easily take a year or more to complete. I enjoy working on a square between large sweater projects and I like the portability factor. We brought in 60 colours of Cascade 220 last Monday and it has taken me a week to choose the colours for my new afghan. As you are aware with me - the colours were going to be pinks, purples and blues. Even narrowing that down, there were still 27 different colours in that category and I had to choose just 5 or 6. Everyone had their own opinions when they saw my various combinations sprawled on the table, but the final decision had to be mine alone. I almost went for the pastel look, but my current afghan is lilac, so my final choice needed to be a little more dramatic.

In the end I had picked 7 colours (I needed a "green" for all the foliage squares - that's the teal one) and even my cat "Buttons" approved. (Sorry that the colours aren't accurate in the photo below - can someone please tell me how to take proper colour pictures inside on an overcast day?)


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Special Visitor

We always enjoy the visitors who come to the store but today there was an extra special one. This beautiful lady graced Serenity Knits all decked out in colourful mitts and a scarf. She even cuddled one of our sheep (as so many knitters like to do). OK, I'll admit to being a little biased. This is my lovely daughter, Marie, and she is wearing the proof that I actually did finish a Christmas gift. One of my annual traditions is to make her a pair of mittens to tuck into her Christmas stocking. This year's set was knit in the jewel tones of Nashua's Sitar that Marie had admired back in early December. Unfortunately, the matching scarf didn't make the deadline and was knit several days after Christmas - yes I'll start earlier next year (anyone else make that resolution too?).

Several of our customers are dropping in to show us pictures of their Christmas projects. I am so impressed by the your creativity and generous gift of time in knitting for others. It's no surprise to see all the smiles in the pictures as the recipients model their knitted gifts. It makes all those late nights of "clicking needles" seem worth while as you worked to finish on time. I think that you deserve to reward yourself with a knitted treat for yourself. After all, knitting is a wonderful way to pass these cold winter nights and you'll end up with something cozy for your daytime outings.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Just like Christmas

Our family Christmas celebration has never focused on the presents, but rather the "Reason for the Season". It doesn't stop us however from enjoying the excitement of both giving and receiving gifts.

Whenever new yarn arrives at the store, Beth and I feel like we are experiencing the joy of opening Christmas gifts. Even though we have ordered the yarn ourselves, it still seems like a complete surprise. We linger over the beautiful colours and fibres and like little children exclaim our pleasure over the special package contents.

Today was one of those days. I picked up the bags of yarn from one of our distributors, Estelle Yarns and Design. It almost filled the back of my Jeep to overflowing. Back at the store, we piled the bags together and could hardly wait for the fun to begin.

It was our order of Cascade 220 - over 60 colours all compelling us to try them in the new Noni felted purses, bags and fun accessories patterns. Here they are on the wall.

As most of you know, I'm a pink, purple and blue knitter. I'm trying to put together 5 or 6 Cascade 220 colours for the Great American Afghan. My choices are a little overwhelming and I think the best solution is to wait until tomorrow for daylight to best showcase the colours and then start to play with the combinations - one of my favourite parts of the planning stage.

How am I going to possibly limit myself to just 5 or 6 colours? I'm always up for a knitting challenge.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Show and Tell

It has been a fun couple of days. So many of our friends have come to the store showing us their Christmas knitting accomplishments. Well done to Erin for her lovely baby blanket, Heather and Eleanor with their Heritage Afghans, Jackie and Mary Joe modeling their terrific socks, Nancy and her colourful Wooly Bully scarf, Mary Lou's knitting bag holding 2 sweaters for her nephews ....and so many more "wow" knits. I wish I had grabbed my camera so everyone could see, instead of me just standing there in awe, admiring the wonderful knitting. It truly makes our day when we are able to see the yarn that leaves our store come back as beautiful finished projects.

Gabriela knit an amazing Christmas vest over her holidays. It's done in Jo Sharp Silkroad Tweed DK and is an adaptation from the Vogue "On the Go" series: Vests. I just love the little bells that she used for buttons.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Inventory Day

Once a year we need to take inventory of all the yarn, needles, accessories, patterns and books in the store and today was the day. It's a day of mixed emotions. We have the fun of spending the day holding all the beautiful balls of yarn, each with potential of becoming a knitted masterpiece. We dream of all the projects that we will knit and the hours of enjoyment. About 8 hours into the counting, reality hits and we realize that we are getting tired, haven't had a chance to knit a stitch all day and that there won't be enough hours in the next year to tackle even a fraction of the knitting fantasies. The challenge becomes just choosing just a single favourite next project and the dreaming begins again...

Gabriela tackled the bags of yarn in the storage room, while Karen played with the yarn in the bins. Beth kept track of the patterns, books, needles and more yarn (and out of camera range).

Finally all the stock was counted. Now we're ready to bring in the new yarn!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! We’re starting our year at Serenity Knits by launching our blog. We’ll keep you updated on our latest projects, new yarns, classes in progress and other details of our day to day activities.

Here is a picture that I snapped at 10:00 A.M. looking out of my “knitting room” window (actually my sewing room – but since I don’t have the time for sewing these days, it has been renamed my knitting room). It’s a perfect day to curl up and knit and sip hot chocolate.

I have a New Year’s tradition of starting a new knitting project to celebrate the new year. It doesn’t matter that I have a dozen UFO’s (unfinished objects) on needles at various stages of completion. It’s exciting to take a fresh skein of yarn and cast on. This year I’m showing great restraint with my choice of projects. Since I have a Norah Gaughan “Cabled Spiral Pullover” and a mitered square cardigan (278 squares and I’ve done 252) as part of my UFO collection - both begging to be finished, I actually picked a quick knit late Christmas gift.
My son Matt (he’s the talented computer whiz who does all our website and newsletters and is guiding me through this first blog), and his girlfriend, Jeanine visited the store before Christmas. Jeanine was amazed by the Fleece Artist and Handmaiden wall of yarn and couldn’t resist the lure of the hand painted colours. She especially loved the greens and bright yellow blends - which of course I noted. I tucked away a skein to make some soft mittens for part of her Christmas gift. Needless to say, the mitts didn’t even get started, but now will be that perfect New Year’s project.

This will be a new experience for me. For those of you that know me, I never knit with a yarn that isn’t a shade of blue, purple or pink. The only green yarn that I’ve ever used has been for leaves in intarsia and felted projects. This already looks very unusual on the needles, but I’m sure the finished mittens will look just fine even in this strange hue. Now back to my rocking chair.