Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mosaic Socks

Serenity Knits Newsletter readers and regular visitors to the store, know that I, Beth, am not fond of winter. A true Canadian, I often complain about the weather. We had a recent visitor to our plaza who most definitely does not share my opinion of snow and cold. Dakota is the faithful companion of the window washer at our plaza. In the summer Dakota usually hangs out under the bushes. Last week, during a class, one of the students glanced out our front window and with some degree of shock asked, "What is that????" I should mention here that Dakota is rather large. Dakota was perched on top of the ever increasing snow banks in our plaza parking lot, enjoying the snow and sun, reminding me very much of the childhood proclamation; "I'm the KING OF THE CASTLE".

Could he look more comfortable? Nice to see someone enjoys the snow.

My idea of winter fun is a warm fire and a new ball of sock yarn. Sock yarns and sock knitting classes continue to be popular at Serenity Knits. We have an amazing selection of sock yarns if I do say so myself; self-striping, solids, semi-solids, handpaints, wool, bamboo, alpaca, fine & DK weights. We will soon be carrying an amazing cotton/elastic DK weight sock yarn from Cascade which is a lot of fun to knit with and perfect for the "no-wool please" knitters.
During an afghan class with Karen, one of the students, Julie, was happy to show off her most recent pair of socks.
Julie taught herself to knit socks guided by our favourite beginner sock book, "Getting Started Knitting Socks". On sabbatical this year from teaching, Julie has been treating herself to a few knitting classes. She is already an accomplished knitter but is having fun learning some new and advanced techniques. She took a class with me in the late fall on MOSAIC knitting. The socks below were class samples I knit out of Koigu.

The magic of mosaic knitting is that you are actually knitting with only one color at a time, but the results mimic a complicated two-color pattern. The trick is in the slip stitches and the technique. In addition to being simpler than Fair Isle, because you are not stranding or carrying the two yarns at once, it is not as thick as Fair Isle and uses less yarn. The pattern Julie used for her socks is exactly the same pattern I used in mine. The two pair of socks show very effectively how different the same pattern can look with different yarns. In case you are wondering, yes I did mean for the pink and yellow socks to be a pair. Knitting the background of one in pink, with yellow contrast and one in yellow with pink contrast allowed me to still get a complete pair of socks from two skeins of Koigu. I call these my "dare to be different" socks inspired by my daughter Addie. As a child Addie would purposely wear two different socks. At 21 she still does but these days it is more often an indicator that clean laundry is low.

Julie quickly learned the Mosaic technique in the class. Her yarn choice was inspired by another sample sock I had knit. The above sock uses a very simple mosaic pattern. It is knit using the fabulous new Noro Kureyon sock yarn and solid black Aracania Ranco. For those of you not familiar with Noro Kureyon, it is a Japanese yarn best known for its beautiful, wide, self-striping colour patterns. Each skein of Kureyon gradually and subtly progresses through several colours. Many Kureyon colourways consist of rich jewel tones. When used in Mosaic knitting with a black or very dark solid, it produces what I have decided to call Stained Glass knitting because in my opinion it is the knitting version of stained glass.
Julie's sock were knit with Noro Kureyon, colour S180 and black Lana Grossa sock yarn.The Mosaic pattern for both hers and mine came from the book on Mosaic knitting by Barbara Walker, the definitive collection of mosaic patterns.If you are tempted to try mosaic knitting, we have the yarns and books you would need. Classes are also available.
One last look at Julie's Stained Glass mosaic socks.

Well done Julie.

Posted by Beth

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Spring will soon be here

Here in Newmarket, Ontario, we are totally immersed in a true Canadian winter. I am actually one of the few people who enjoy the season, just as long as the snow conditions are great for skiing and that driving is safe enough to actually be able to reach the ski slopes. Below is a picture taken from my knitting room window at home.
This last week has run through the many facets of our winters from freezing rain, slush, heavy snow accumulations with poor visibility, high winds (translates to drifting snow) and bitter cold temperatures. Not one day was what I would consider a good ski day possibility.
During this cold spell, Beth and I have taken great comfort in choosing the new yarns for spring. Our sales representatives have braved the weather to bring us the newest selection of beautiful yarns and patterns. The colours are so bright and refreshing. We are amazed at the vast array of fibres that are available. Adding to the ecology collection of soy, bamboo and seacell are new additions such as sugar cane! Knitted fashions continue to follow the runway trends (as well as keeping some traditional favourites) and the pattern books and leaflets are right up to date. The tank and t-shirt type styles are such quick knits and use only a few balls or skeins of fibre compared to their winter counterparts.
Of course we have ordered extras of our favourite colours and fibres so that we can knit plenty of store samples to showcase the new yarns (we know - it's a tough job - having to spend so much time knitting, but we do what we need to do! - just ignore our big smiles when you see us knitting when you come to visit the store).
The yarn will be arriving the middle of February so that you can have a head start on your springtime fashions and gifts. It should provide that needed break from the winter woes.
Posted by Karen

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back to my Routine

These last few days, I have been feeling the same way that my black lab, Sierra usually does. Like most dogs, she thrives on routines. Her morning schedule starts with breakfast which should be served promptly every morning at 6:30 (and don't even think about sleeping in on weekends!). A walk to retrieve our newspaper at the end of our lane way follows. For being such a great helper, she receives a biscuit. The cat then needs a proper greeting (not that the cat thinks that a sniff, lick and chase is a proper greeting). By then, I have finished my own breakfast and the cereal bowl is empty and needs to have the final droplets of milk cleaned out with that efficient slurp of her tongue. It's not pleasant to face those sad eyes if Sierra ever misses a link in the morning routine. She's certainly not opposed to some added excitement in her day - she has never refused extra walks or treats, but it is just comforting for her to have some measure of order and predictability.

The last few weeks at our store have been anything but routine. As usual, it's been a time full of fun and excitement - just all at a much quicker pace. There have been customers racing to finish knitting their Christmas gifts. We met many family members and friends of our knitters who wanted to buy the perfect yarn and patterns for a new holiday project. We laughed along with the customers who bought themselves special yarn luxuries to guarantee that they would have the right gift under the tree. Then there was the Boxing Day frenzies with "stash enhancement" goals in mind. Some knitters were organized with lists so they could start on next year's Christmas gift knitting. Still others were planning their traditional "New Year's New Project". We saw hundreds of customers, but I must admit that I missed the chance to talk to many if them in all the hustle and bustle. I always like to hear about the plans for the new yarn and to discuss their latest finished projects. The store started to show signs of disarray (a horror for someone like me who craves organization) and many of the shelves had bare spots where colourful skeins should have been. The entire "holiday" ended with inventory - our day full of all counting and no knitting!

This week has been a return to routine at the store. The pace has slowed down so that we can once again visit with our knitters. The shelves are restocked and inviting with their kaleidoscope of colours and beautiful textures.

And just like Christmas all over again, we received a new shipment of yarn from Fleece Artist. It is a vibrant selection of Hand Maiden Casbah. This is a luxurious blend of merino wool, cashmere and a little nylon for durability - perfect for pampering the feet on these cold winter days.
Another little part of my dog's routine that would be so nice to embrace - a nap would be perfect about now!
Posted by Karen

Friday, January 2, 2009

Oh It's the Most "Dreaded" Time of the Year

I usually look forward to my days at work. What knitter could complain about a day filled with beautiful yarn, enthusiastic customers who love to knit and our classes full of students eager to learn more about the joys of knitting. We can order whatever yarns we want. We are the first to see the newest knitting books, magazines and accessories. Part of our job is of course knitting. Most of the time it is a dream job. Gabriela even says that she comes to work to play.

But, one day a year we dread coming to work. Sure, the day is spent holding ball after ball of the wonderful fibres - it's just that all we have a chance to do is count the yarn. We are required to do a year end inventory and there is no knitting time possible. What a challenge - more of a temptation - holding and feeling all our favourite yarns, thinking of all the possibilities and then not being able to knit a single stitch.

Above, Gabriela patiently counts the hundreds of balls of Rowan yarn.

Beth has tackled the books - so many pattern ideas and each one becomes another number...

It has been a long day, and we are glad that inventory is behind us for another year. We are exhausted and can only think of heading home and relaxing for the rest of the's knittting time!

Posted by Karen

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Knitter's New Year Tradition

Happy New Year! We hope that taking time for yourself to knit each day is part of your new year's resolutions.

Serenity Knits would like to thank our wonderful customers for their loyalty, support and encouragement throughout the past year. Your knitting projects have amazed and inspired us. You have been generous in sharing the results of your many hours of work to make so many others happy. The garments that you have made for yourself look fabulous! You should be proud of your creativity, whether you are a beginner or an advanced knitter.

Strive to learn some new knitting techniques this year. Play with colour, discover new fibres, tackle cables or lace. The possibilities are endless - which is part of what makes knitting so much fun.

A New Year's tradition for many knitters is to celebrate by choosing a new knitting project. It doesn't matter that you have several other projects on needles waiting to be completed. A fresh beginning with new yarn can make a perfect start for the year. It can inspire and motivate you for a creative year ahead.

I was a little concerned about following the knitter's New Year tradition myself this year. I inventoried six UFO's (unfinished objects) that were each within a day's knitting of being complete. Most of them are garments for me and would be welcome for wearing in the store when we have a cold day.

As I was about to sit in my knitting chair to work on one of the garments, I was greeted by a familiar sight. My cat, Whisper, had taken over the chair, again. The only compromise that he accepts is to sit on my knee and "help" me knit. Beth has made an adorable cat bed for our resident store "cat" from Cat Bordhi's pattern in her "Second Treasury of Magical Knitting". It was time to make one for Whisper and my stash even had the required Manos del Uruguay waiting.

The feline bed starts as a mobeius band and then picked up stitches are knit into a bowl like shape. The project is then felted and shaped into a comfy cat retreat.

I tackled my list and finished the "Tucson" caplet from one of the new Manos Classico Wool booklets. It is now spending the next day or two on the blocking board.

That freed my conscience to start the new - New Year's project. It should be a quick and easy knit and hopefully Whisper will have his very own version soon.

However, when I went back to the blocking board to place the damp towel over the caplet to let the moisture do its magic, I found Whisper - off my chair and onto the knitting. I guess I could save myself the knitting time of his new bed and just give him the capelet - it's obviously already been approved.
Posted by Karen