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Monday, December 7, 2009

Fleece Artist

Last week, I was re-reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's book, Yarn Harlot (the secret life of a knitter). As I read the chapter entitled simply "It", I received some comfort knowing I am not the only one this happens to every year. Let me quote the first few lines for you.

"Once again, it's Christmas. How can I be completely blindsided by a holiday that happens on the same day each year is absolutely beyond me. You'd swear that they only announce the date for Christmas in November and I have maybe three weeks to cope with the news. Once again I am nowhere near ready ..."

Sound familiar? It sure does to me. I have several half pairs of socks waiting to be finished and one or two whole scarves I haven't even started yet. And to make it worse, many of them are for family from one end of Canada (Kamloops, BC) to the other (Kingston, NS) and should already be in the mail. I think it may be Chapters and Home Depot Gift Certificates again for some of my mail-away gifts. My kids are accustomed to receiving one sock with a promissory note the second will arrive ASAP.

If you find yourself in the same boat, we might be able to help. We have just received an order from Fleece Artist and Hand Maiden. If you still have some time for a small project, we have a large selection of thrum mitten kits .......

..... in a rainbow of colours. Fleece Artist never disappoints.

Several dozen new skeins of sock yarns - Casbah, Trail Socks, Somoko and a new Fleece Artist Sock yarn Nyoni. Nyoni is a machine washable blend of 65% merino, 20% kid, 10% nylon and 5% silk for $12. Yes $12, that is not a typo.
We have also received 4 ply Cashmere, Seawool and a Mulberry/Tussah Silk blend, all perfect for scarves.

If you don't think you have time to whip up even a small project, and the intended recipient is a knitter, they would probably be just as happy with a gorgeous skein of anything Fleece Artist or Hand Maiden. When it comes to hand painted yarns, nobody does it better.
And last, but by no means least, if your loved ones need any suggestions for you, feel free to send them in, we would be pleased to help them pick out something for you. If the colour ends up not quite right, we are always happy to exchange unwound yarn.
We hope the next couple of weeks are not too hectic for you and that you have moments when you can slow down and thoroughly enjoy all the pleasures of the season. And if a little bit of knitting happens to be one of those pleasures, enjoy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Knitters' Fair Fun

For 18 years On the first Saturday after Labour Day, the Kitchener / Waterloo Knitting Guild hosts the largest knitting show in Canada. This was the 18th year of the much anticipated event. The Waterloo County Knitters' Fair brings together knitters from all over the province of Ontario and beyond.
This year Serenity Knits set up their booth along with the other 77 Vendors at Bingman's Conference Centre in Kitchener / Waterloo to showcase their beautiful yarns.
We brought three trucks loaded with yarn, patterns, samples, shelving and displays for the show. The night before the event, Beth and Gabriella can be seen hard at work assembling and stocking while my husband Steve volunteered to stay back in Newmarket at the store. We appreciate Steve's willingness to handle the store while we're away, but we always guessed he likes it so much because it provides a great new audience for his numerous jokes!

The morning gives us a chance to work on some last minute details - like Beth dressing the mannequins (above) and Matt (Karen's son who graciously ran our cash register all day) lovingly finding homes for our sheep collection (below).

Some of our features included a lace collection from the designer line of "Queen Anne's Lace" including Zephyr and Country Silk which are the yarns used in her patterns
Gabriella designed sleeves for Vogue's Botanical Medallion vest. We had Nashua's Creative Focus Cotton paired with the pattern for a beautiful effect.
Louet's Euroflax linen is one of our year round favourites. The fall colours are rich and the knitted fabric drapes like a fine linen suit - without the wrinkles.

We had Rowan's Colourscape yarn made of 100% lambswool in all the new colours released this fall.
Here we are set up for the show to start and waiting for the nearly 2000 knitters to head through the door and be immersed in the knitting frenzy.
There was unfortunately no time for pictures of all the great knitters who visited us. Our only regret of the day was that we didn't have the chance to shop at all the other vendors to add to our own knitting stash.
Posted by Karen

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fall is Arriving

After a single week of hot, and humid days of summer, we are already feeling the crispness of fall here in Newmarket. Perfectly on time, our new fall line of yarn is arriving. Each day brings more yarn and with it our twice a year dilemma of what to do with all the new selection.

There are some terrific new Chunky weight yarns for warmth and quick fashionable knitting, which seems to be very popular this season. The collection includes the new yarn called "Sirdar Chunky Escape" - same great yarn as last year's Escape DK - only chunkier, with exciting new colours and patterns to highlight this wool rich blend.

Kertzer has introduced Tweed Montage, a beautiful chunky weight tweed, subtly self striping in a rich array of colours (above right two columns of yarn). We have restocked Marble Chunky and the coordinating Northern Chunky - and it has actually found a home in one of our units. There are several new pattern booklets for all of these yarns. You can see one of the sweaters made from the Tweed Montage above, right.
Rowan introduced Kaffe Fassett's "Colourscapes" chunky 100% lambswool last fall. It was so amazing last year and this season they have added to their colour range with a selection of pastels and earth tones (including masculine hues). There is a new pattern book featuring Colourscapes sweaters and accessories. I am already working on "Jess"; a garter stitch edged, collared cardigan in the colourway "Northern Lights". After working on several fine gauge knits in the summer, this project is just flying off the needles.
The top units, above, show off the pastel collection of Colourscapes, with some of the richer colours on the bottom.
We also have the Zitron's "Zauberball" - translation: Magic Ball and its partner "Zauberball Crazy ". It is a fingering weight yarn with large, vibrant stripes. Gabriela designed the cute little sweater that uses only one ball of either of the Zauberballs for size 1 year or 2 year (pattern in store).
There are all the new colours of Noro's sock yarns - so popular for brilliant shawls as well socks.

We have brand new "Baby Marble", "Country Silk", more patterns, new books .... and a UPS truck pulling into our parking lot ..... more boxes of excitement!

Posted by Karen

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Queen Anne's Lace Trunk Show

Today is the launch of our "Queen Anne's Lace" Trunk show at Serenity Knits.
Anne Corcoran is the creative genius behind Queen Anne's Lace which includes a magnificent collection of lace shawls and scarves. We have 20 of her designs displayed in our store from July 18th to July 25th, 2009.
Anne's "Poetic Shawls II - Summer's Day Shawl" (shown above) was inspired by Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 which begins: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely....."

Designs for Queen Anne's Lace also derive their inspiration from nature with designs such as "Woodland Solace Scarf and Shawl" which attempt to catch the interplay of light and leaves - so magical in a forest.

We will also be offering a selection of the yarns Anne uses for most of her designs including Zephyr (above) and hand dyed Country Silk (below) - shown with the patterns.

Also as a bonus for customers, we are holding our Summer Clearance Sale until August 1st, with discounts on selected summer yarns (see our web site for details).
Posted by Karen

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dyeing Sock Yarn

Our last shipment from Louet contained sock yarn dyeing kits in a choice of 5 colour themes (reds, browns, blues, greens and purples).
Of course we had to try the kits out for ourselves. It was no surprise that I chose the purples while Beth experimented with reds and greens and Gabriela the blues. My cat, Whisper, inspected the contents. The kit contains three skeins of soft fingering weight undyed yarn, three shades of dye, a "Soak" fine fibre wash packet, squirt bottle and a booklet of complete instructions and even a knitted sock pattern.

The kit even seems to have a really fascinating cat toy included in the packaging.

The first step is to completely saturate the yarn with water that has a small quantity of Soak solution added. The yarn happily sits in the bucket for at least an hour while you have the chance to work on another knitting project.
The skeins are placed side by side on a waterproof surface -a garbage bag on the kitchen table worked well for me. The directions tell you how to mix the dyes and in what order to use them. They have helpful suggestions - but the spacing and width of the bands of dye is up to you. Above was my first dye application in Silver Birch. Here is dye number 2 in a deep red.
The final dyeing sequence fills in any white spaces. At this point I'm feeling a little worried that my technique might be a little "unusual". This was not what I expected from a one of a kind hand-painted yarn. I shouldn't have worried though - Louet has this process mistake proof.

The dye is set in the microwave oven for 8 minutes - in plastic bags so that there is no mess!
The colours in the yarn have blended and deepened. Next they need a good rinse to remove any excess dye. You hang the skeins to dry and like magic you have created beautiful hand-painted yarn. The entire dyeing process takes only about an hour. The yarn was dry by the next day (it actually hung in the bathtub - I wasn't prepared to tempt the squirrels and birds) and ready for knitting.

And here is the finished yarn and a sock knit by Beth using one of the skeins of the beautifully soft fibre.Beth and Gabriela also enjoyed the dyeing experience using different colour theme kits with great results.

The kit was a wonderful way to take the mystery out of the technique of hand-painting. It is a mistake proof introduction to dyeing yarn and the results will be beautiful and unique every time.

Posted by Karen

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Serenity Knits at Knitter's Frolic

Serenity Knits was at the 12th Annual Knitter's Frolic on Saturday. It is an event for knitting enthusiasts sponsored by the Downtown Knit Collective. The excitement happened at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. There was great shopping at the knitter's marketplace, where vendors like ourselves showcase their yarns, patterns and knitting accessories.

Here is a glimpse of our booth. You can see our 100% sugar cane yarn named "Ruca" from Araucania's collection and Louet's Euroflax sport weight linen (that is rapidly becoming Karen's favourite summer fibre).

Above are some of the sample garments in Louet's Euroflax, Nashua's Silk and Daylily, Rowan's Colourscape and a girls dress designed by Gabriela in Cascade's Fixation and Butterfly Cotton 10.
We included Nashua's 100% Silk and Daylily in our collection of beautiful yarns.
We have a jewelry designer from Canada's east coast sculpt unique silver shawl pins for us. Also from Canada's eastern shores were Barbara Telford's adorable "character" hats such as her "Cat & Mouse" or "Frog and Lilypond" designs. We stocked sweater kits using Misti Alpaca's new handpaint pima cotton and silk blend yarn.
Many thanks to our friends and customers who visited us throughout the day. Even Beth, Gabriela and I enjoyed the adventure of shopping at the displays during the few moments that we could get away.
Posted by Karen

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Even More Spring Yarn

This was the view from our front step this morning. This unexpected return of winter happened just as the crocuses, daffodils and tulips were peeking out in the gardens. Now I don't feel so bad about not having all my winter knitting projects completed.

At Serenity Knits, we had a very different view. Even more boxes of spring yarn arrived today. Beth is ready to dive into the Misti Alpaca selection. It includes a beautiful silk and pima cotton blend in a double knit weight.

An hour later, the above shipment arrived from Louet. It includes some exciting linen and special dye-your-own yarn kits.
Somehow I get the feeling that my winter projects will be on hold now for a few months. Welcome Spring!
Posted by Karen

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New Spring Yarn

It has been a long while since I last kept you posted on our days at Serenity Knits. Spring arrived here over a month ago when the deliveries of the new yarns began at the store. Since then, everything seems like a fun and crazy blur. We held a winter clearance sale to make space on the shelves for our new fibres. Beth then began scurrying about rearranging the store, transforming the shop into an array of cheery springtime colours. Almost everyday a new delivery would arrive and more winter yarns went into summer hibernation.
Above is one of our favourites. This yarn is made from 100% sugar cane. The colours remind us of candy floss. Beth laughs at me when I tell customers that the yarn is made from "candy canes" - oops. It is incredibly soft with a beautiful drape and lustre and knits to a double knit weight (22 sts / 4 inches of stocking stitch). Gabriela has already made a summer tank top that is hanging in the store as a sample of this amazing fibre.
On the right is a sampling of some of the colours we are carrying of Estelle's "South Pacific". It is another DK weight yarn of 100% Pima Cotton. Each skein has 250 meters per 100 grams. We have a huge selection of patterns that are perfect for spring and summer wear for this so soft cotton.
The left side of the above display shows another new yarn for the season from Sirdar, called "Juicy DK". It is a blend of 80% bamboo and 20% cotton. There are terrific leaflets and a booklet (The Juicy Book) designed exclusively for this yarn, full of fashionable summer wear. The women's leaf yoke top is the display sample shown above.
I've only touched the first display - when I remember to bring my camera in there will be another preview of spring knitting. I can't wait to cast on!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Arizona Vacation Knitting

On my last post I shared some highlights of my recent vacation with my father in Arizona. What was missing was my chronicles of knitting adventures on that trip. I confess that when I'm packing for at holiday, the first thing that I think about is the knitting projects I will take with me - very typical knitter's behaviour. I plan excursions to the local yarn shops in the area and my special souvenirs include yarn treasures that I have found.

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of yarn shops in Arizona. The first shop that I found was appropriately named the "Red Rock Knit Shop" in the heart of the red rock town of Sedona. Being a warm weather climate, I was afraid that knitting wouldn't be as popular as it is here in Ontario. My tourist perspective is that warm clothing is needed for the cold evenings (we had to scrape frost off the car windshield five mornings during the week we were away). We all know that it's hard to improve on a cosy sweater or socks to keep toasty warm.

Jerome is an historical town that is filled with artistic shops and quaint inns and restaurants. The drive alone is exciting - a mile high above the surrounding landscape, accessible by a narrow, winding road complete with tight turns and few guardrails. The town originally thrived as a copper mining town and then became a ghost town when the resource was no longer in demand.
Someone saw the potential as a tourist haven and the old buildings were restored and filled with unique offerings. The town's yarn shop (above), named "Knit 1, Bead 2" has been in business for 27 years. The store is owned by the most helpful and talented, Erica. She displayed her yarn grouped by colour, turning the store into a rainbow of possibilities. It certainly gave me plenty of souvenir options.
Yes, that is a "KnowKnits, Go-Knit" bag in my had that I did take on the sight seeing plane ride over the red rock mountain formations of Sedona, AZ. We arrived at the airport early for our flight and I knit while I waited, but honestly didn't knit while flying over the most breath-taking scenery.
After our days of sightseeing, there was always time for knitting - a true holiday luxury and a bonus to be able to knit outside in February! I had packed several projects using yarn that we don't carry at Serenity Knits. Beth and I like to refer to this as product research. We can't possibly carry all the available yarns (although we would love to), so it is fun to work with different fibres when we have the opportunity.

Many of you have asked me about my yarn souvenirs. I couldn't find any locally produced or dyed yarn. In reality, I never saw a sheep during the entire vacation. Instead, some 100% silk, hand dyed in Australia (blues and purples of course) befriended me and traveled home with me. It is a beautiful addition to the memories of the vacation.
Posted by Karen