Welcome, September

After a fairly wet summer, everything here is still so lush and green you would think it was still the end of June. Yet the beginning of this month saw the children head back to school. Each day as I am forced to acknowledge that September is solidly here I find myself very busy getting ready for the cooler days that are quietly on their way. As the kids go back to school I find myself focusing on scheduling classes and workshops.

The beginning of fall brings with it the anticipation of renewed excitement for knitting, crocheting and other fibre related activities. There is still so much to do outside before winter arrives it can be hard to find the focus to knit in the evenings. But there’s something about the shortening days and the cooler evenings that make me want to curl up in my comfy chair with my knitting. Soon!

New stock is arriving every day and my office is bulging with bags of yarn that have to wait to be put out on display. We’ve been plugging away working on expanding the store. We will be ready to reveal the changes after the Thanksgiving weekend in October. Stay tuned for details on that. I’m so excited! The expansion will allow space for me to comfortably hold classes.

I’ll be offering both daytime and evening class times with longer classes on alternate weekends. The daytime classes will (most likely but not etched in stone) run from 12:30 to 2:00pm so that class will be finished in plenty of time before school is out for the day. That way parents or grandparents who need to pick up youngsters can head out without having to rush. Evening classes will run from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Weekend classes will be announced and determined as they are scheduled in.

So here’s what’s happening. I will offer a knitting course for absolute beginners. I’m talking about folks that have no idea how to hold the yarn and want a human there to guide them as they learn. It will be taught over eight sessions, an hour and a half each. Each class will focus on just one concept and allow time to get really comfortable with it. I remember how clumsy I was when I first learned to knit. I had to be shown each step over and over again before I finally internalized what I needed to do. I will always be grateful to the lovely woman who patiently encouraged me and I want to offer that patient encouragement to others. So if you think that you might fit into this category and you’d like to learn to knit, come into the store and sign up. You’ll have lots of one on one attention to make sure you are feeling comfortable with the new skills you’ll be learning. By the end of the eight classes, you’ll have a solid foundation to build on. This class will be held on Wednesday and Thursday evenings beginning October 22.

I will also offer technique sessions for novice knitters. These will be single sessions of one and a half hours. Each session will focus on one aspect of technique. For instance, methods of casting on; ways you can increase stitches; methods of decreasing; stranded colourwork and so on. If there is a particular technique you’d like me to cover that isn’t on my list, please let me know and I’ll put something together.

Project based knitting classes will include: toques (beanies); mittens; cowls and socks. Some of these will be one day workshops and some will have multiple classes. I’ll be offering the toe-up sock knitting workshop again as well. This is taught over 4 weeks to allow lots of time for homework in between. The goal is to have a pair of socks completed by the end. The mitten class will be a similar set-up.

More than just knitting classes

I’ll also be offering short-classes to cover the basics of other fibre arts skills. Beginning in October, I’ll offer 1-1/2 hour classes on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Once the beginner workshop is completed I’ll offer these in the evenings as well. I am currently still sorting out the “what and when”. Best thing will be to come and talk to me to let me know what you are interested in and get your name on the sign up sheet(s). Which classes move forward will depend on the level of interest shown.

Here are a few of the offerings planned:

Weaving
Interested in weaving? Learn the basics of weaving on your own student table top loom. It’s downright addictive. There are two sizes of looms available. Pre-registration is mandatory for this class, so I can be sure I have enough looms for everyone.

Embroidery
Want to learn some embroidery basics? Come to a short class and learn a few basic stitches and then put them to work embroidering a small motif on your jeans, shirt, tote or jacket.

Felting
Needle Felting with Niina! Learn the basics of making adorable wee felted wool animals using needle felting techniques.

Macrame
Cover the basics of macrame and make a plant hanger for your home.

Punch Embroidery
With enough interest, I’ll set up classes for needle punch embroidery (used also for making rugs), cross stitch, sewing and serging.

Moccasin Making
A local First Nations instructor has approached me about running a moccasin making class in the store. Once enough people have signed up, we will set a date for that. The suede is already here and waiting!

I’m looking forward to offering these many and varied learning opportunities here in the store. I’m excited to pass along these skills that have brought me so much enjoyment over the years.

Happy Learning!

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Trachtenfest!

It has been a very full week here in Germany. Since my last blog we attended the Schlitzenländer Trachtenfest, checked out Driessen Leinen Fabrik, saw the Gutenberg museum in Mainz and moved along to St. Goar on the Rhine.

Trachtenfest, or “folklore festival” was a lot of fun. We watched traditional dancing by groups representing Hamburg, Hessen, Czech Republic, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, Potugal and Greece. Although not all of them donned their traditional cultural costumes, it was wonderful to see the joy and the themes that spanned every culture.

We watched dances that expressed themes including courtship and marriage; seeding, crop tending and harvest and the celebration of these themes. From earnest to cheeky the variety was delightful.

If we didn’t get a good enough look at the costumes during the dance performances, we certainly got the opportunity during the parade. There were no motorized floats allowed. We saw horses, goats and oxen though.

The local Schlitzer costumes are very complex in their construction. The heavy skirts are smocked at the waist down to the hip. This affords a very good fit. There are multiple layers underneath that give the skirt fullness. No worries about being cold! Over the blouses the women wear a shawl that wraps in a criss cross fashion. These are cross stitched with wool in floral themes and decorated with fringe along both edges. In winter the underskirts were made of felted wool. The socks worn were hand knit of lace weight yarn. Many are heavily embroidered along the sides. Some of them wore shoes onto which the uppers were knit. Lace caps top it all off.

To me, the big thing that stood out about these costumes was how many textile techniques were required to make them.

Some of the fabric is woven while some is felted and still other is knit or crocheted. These days people buy ready made lace but generations ago the lace would have been hand made as well.

The men wore short pants (knicker bockers) with woven shirts and suspenders done in the same style as the women’s shawls. Their shoes and socks were one piece, knitted together. They wore small fur caps. At first glance I would guess they were made of beaver or something similar.

In contrast, the Mexican and Brazilian costumes were bright, colorful and made you want to celebrate. Their lively dance styles were quite a contrast to the German folk dances. The Brazilian dance costume were covered in brightly coloured feathers, mimicking the exotic birds of South America. The Portuguese costumes were more earthy and less fancy.

I suspect that most North Americans think of the dirndl and Lederhosen when they think of German traditional garb. Truth is that each region has its particular spin. I was hoping to see some Black Forest outfits with the big pompoms. Sadly there weren’t any at this year’s festival.

I didn’t take any photos of the linen factory. I was completely self indulgent and shopped for myself. The owners were lovely. We had a nice chat. Later that evening when we were looking for seats at the final dance performances, we ended up sitting with them. Turns out one of the owners grew up in the same southern German town where my father grew up. Small world.

I feel like I have babbled on enough for today. I hope you find a reason to celebrate and dance.

Happy Summer!

Countdown to Holidays!

The summer of 1976 was a big deal. That summer my aunt and uncle brought their son to Canada to stay with my family, and I got to go to Germany with them. I stayed with them for a year of school, exploration and language immersion. It changed my life.

At eleven, I was the perfect age to be immersed in a different culture and language.

Having been primed in my early formative years by hearing nothing but German at home, within 6 weeks of attending school in the small Bavarian town I was already speaking fluently and cracking “Häschen Witze” (bunny jokes). They were the big thing that year. I was reading and writing and excited to be given such an amazing privilege. My aunt and uncle made sure that they took me to see examples of all the important forms of architecture: cathedrals, castles, fortresses, city halls… breathtaking examples of the advancement of engineering and design through the ages. Frescos ranging from early Medieval to Rococo. They took me to museums and galleries and beautiful areas where nature still shines bright in all its glory. They spent time helping me to understand the nuts and bolts of the language and enrolled me in the children’s choir to sing my heart out.

Some of the places we went to were so memorable that I shared my stories about them over and over with my own children years later. One of my daughters took German in high school. We always talked about going there together. When she was studying art history, I was studying music history. We were studying the corresponding eras at the same time and would spend hours at night comparing notes — sharing the scandalous stories that made those long ago composers, painters and sculptors come alive as real people.

It reinforced our desire to go to Germany together.

Well, summer is officially here! WOOHOO! Canada Day weekend is upon us; kids are out of school until fall; and for many, t’is the season for vacations. For the first time in a very long time, I’m taking time away. I’m heading to Germany for three weeks with my daughter and I’m closing the store while we’re gone. As you can imagine, I’m getting pretty excited.

Before I leave, I’m increasing the opening hours of the store to give people a better chance to pick up their completed sewing jobs and to stock up on supplies they may need for July projects.

Under normal circumstances the store is closed on the Saturday of long weekends as well as Sundays through Tuesdays. But for the Canada Day weekend, the store will be open Saturday 10am to 4pm and on the Tuesday after the long weekend from 1pm to 4pm. The rest of the first week of July will be regular hours. So it looks like this:

Saturday June 29: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Sunday June 30 – Monday July 1: Closed
Tuesday July 2: 1:00pm to 4:00 pm
Wednesday July 3 to Friday July 5: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Saturday July 6: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (a little later than usual)
Sunday July 7 through Tuesday July 30: Closed
Wednesday July 31 to Friday August 2: regular hours
Tuesday August 6: 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm

From Wednesday August 7th on we are back to regular hours

I’m looking forward to taking a break from being in the store every day. I have good intentions to do some blogging while I’m away. I won’t promise a lot of posts, but I do hope to minimally keep up with my weekly blog.

I plan to check out yarn shops along the way to see what they are doing differently over there and to seek out some inspiration for my store. I look forward to meeting with the folks at Rohrspatz & Wollmeise in Pfaffenhofen, Bavaria.

With less than two weeks until I head out, the time will fly and next thing I know, I’ll be flying too! My lists are slowly getting checked off, including the contents list of my abbreviated knitting bag. I want to have something to work on during the flight and train rides between cities. No point taking too much, mind you. Since I’ll be visiting as many yarn shops as possible, I anticipate purchasing some treasures. Between my Ravelry library and my Knit Companion app, I should be able to come up with something to make those treasures into as well. For now, it’s back to work though.

And in the meantime I wish you: Happy Crafting!

Tour-de-Sock: We’re half way there!

Tour-de-sock is well underway. Stage three of six is about to close and mark the half way point of this sock knitting competition. As I have mentioned before, this competition is a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders. It’s a great opportunity to knit some gorgeous patterns that you might not have otherwise knit. And for me the part I love is that each round usually gives you something new to learn.

As was the case last year, we started the tour with a warm up sock. This year’s warm up sock was Miriam by Eeva Kesäkuu.

Miriam

 

I personally love to knit stranded colourwork. This pattern was a treat. The unusual heel and gusset made it interesting to knit… in a good way. At first when I saw how the sock looked, I questioned whether the fit was going to be any good. But when I put them on, I was pleasantly surprised. They hug my feet beautifully. I used OnLine Supersocke Graffiti yarn with Cascade Heritage Sock yarn for these. Here are mine:

 

Next on the Tour we knit Adrienne Fong’s Plan A socks.

Fong’s Plan A Socks

I don’t usually bother to knit a test swatch for gauge when I knit socks, since most socks knit up great with any old sock yarn. This pattern recommends a “light fingering” yarn. Note to self: yes, there is a difference between fingering and light fingering. I used Admiral Cat yarn for this one. I wanted a bright and happy yarn to knit. If I had really paid attention, I would have knit the ribbing as I did and then switched to finer needles for the leg. Mine came out quite large and slouchy. They fit around my feet well, so after I submitted my completed sock, I frogged them back by two pattern repeats, reknit the toes and “Ta dah!” they fit me now. These were a fun and relatively quick knit. I enjoyed them very much. Here are mine:

 

 

Stage two was a gorgeous cabled pattern called Odensjön by Suzanne Sjögren.

Odensjön

 

Having learned my lesson about light fingering yarn in stage one, I chose my yarn carefully for this round. I used CoBaSi Hikoo, a light fingering yarn that I wrote about a few weeks ago. First of all, I’m in love with this yarn. The results are just so pretty… what can I say? I’m hooked. This pattern was a perfect blend of interest and memorize-ability of the pattern repeat. It still took some focus, don’t get me wrong. The resulting sock is impressive without it feeling like I gave birth to it. (Hey, if you knit enough different sock patterns, you’ll stumble on one that will make you understand what I mean!) I enjoyed this pattern enough that I can see myself knitting it again and again. That’s saying something. After all, there are enough gorgeous sock patterns out there that I could knit a different pair every week, never knit one twice and yet never run out of new patterns for the rest of my life! Here are my completed ones:

And then there was Stage Three! I talked about these last week. Heidi Nick’s Bicycle Race.

Bicycle Race

These ones felt like they took me forever to knit. However in all fairness, my work  schedule really did get in the way of my knitting time for these. That having been said, I was able to work on all of the previous socks and still be social or pick them up and put them down mid round without it being a problem. Knitting these ones demands your full attention. They are absolutely stunning. I think as finished socks go, these may be my very favourite socks I’ve ever knitted (other than the Bintje knee socks I gave my daughter). I absolutely love them. I won’t knit a second pair of them, but I will wear them with pride and delight for as long as I can. Here are mine:

 

And now, I find myself anticipating the next pattern drop. I love not knowing what we will be doing until the stage officially begins. Three more stages to go… On the forums there can be a lot of chatter in anticipation of each new round. Photo hints are given, yet they really don’t tell you anything until you see the pattern itself. It can be fun to read people’s guesses about what we might be doing next. I don’t get too caught up in that, because it’s too easy to get worked up over what technique might come up that I know nothing about. I would rather just take it as it comes and figure out what I need to when I need to. I’m excited to see what will be next!

Are you excited to knit some socks yet?

Happy Knitting!

In Pursuit of Balance

There’s no doubt that building and running a small business is a lot of work.

Anyone who has done it knows that if you aren’t careful, the business starts to run you, instead of the other way around. Without maintaining a constant pursuit of balance, burnout is tough to avoid.

Over the past 3-1/2 years, my business has taught me a lot about myself. I knew coming into it that the first 5 years would be a lot of hard work. I knew it would take about 5 years to really establish the business. Knowing it and living it are two very different things.

When I first started, I had a part time job in a neighbouring community one day a week. I set up my store schedule around that job and for quite a while I kept doing both. I remember the day when I realized that there was enough demand for my services that I was better off to let go of that part time job and use that time to sew for my customers. It was a benchmark moment. At the time, since people were accustomed to the store being closed on Fridays, I kept it that way and I used my Fridays to catch up on the work that accumulated over the week. The pursuit of balance had begun.

As my business grew, I was busy enough during the hours the store was open that it was getting a little tougher to keep up with the sewing. Between trying to do paper work and sewing on Fridays and Sundays,

there was no continuity for me on the days when the store was closed.

I would get to a point on Friday and have to leave it all hanging to be open on Saturday and then pick up where I left off on Sunday. The frustration this generated motivated me to do something different. So I changed my hours and opened on Friday but closed on Sunday and Monday to allow better flow on the days I was working uninterrupted. And that worked pretty well for the better part of a year. Except that the growing needs of the business meant that those two days became absolutely packed with work. There really wasn’t any room for me to recover from the pace of work. The pursuit of balance continued.

Revelstoke is a gorgeous small mountain city.

We are tucked in the mountains and no matter what time of year, it is an outdoor lovers’ Mecca. My husband and I love to ski and with Revelstoke Mountain Resort less than 10 minutes from our door we consider ourselves lucky to live here. Last year, in spite of having season’s passes to RMR, we skied a total of twice all winter… because I needed to keep up with the work in the store. So the pursuit of balance moved along.

My MIL helps out in the store with what she can and that has taken quite a bit of pressure off me.

We get along great and have become very close.

Even though her stamina limits how long she can help out each day, I’m very happy and grateful that she enjoys helping out. I thought long and hard about hiring someone to help with the sewing. You know, there’s only so much you can charge to fix clothing for people. And what with the nature of Revelstoke, a lot of what I fix is outdoor gear. It’s not the sort of thing that the average sewing enthusiast would want to do, or have the skill to do. It definitely requires the power of heavy industrial sewing machines. It’s a lot more physically demanding than a lot of people would expect. And once you hire someone, you have to be able to keep them busy.  Yeah, there’s a lot of work, but not enough to justify hiring someone. At the end of the day, you have to have the cash-flow to pay them. And after all the work you put into your business, you kind of want to be able to pay yourself at some point too.

As the winter settled in this year, I vowed that our season’s passes would not go to waste.

Yet, when my husband and I had the opportunity to ski, I was so tired that I was afraid for my safety on the ski hill. We have had a lot of snow this winter. Powder days have come and gone, without us skiing yet. I am very aware that this is a direct result of the success of my business, and even as I work toward a solution, I’m deeply grateful for it. Isn’t it interesting that it takes being uncomfortable enough, long enough to be motivated to change things up? So DH and I began batting ideas around as to how I could shift things to create the space for us to be able to get out once a week; and yet still accommodate my customers and the work I need to get done.

In the pursuit of balance, in the ever-changing landscape of my business, I have decided to rearrange my store hours. I have allowed for one day off a week for myself: Sundays. Mondays and Tuesdays the store will be closed to allow me to work uninterrupted on sewing jobs and administrative duties. I will be on call for visitors to Revelstoke who find themselves with a sewing emergency (yes, there is such a thing as a sewing emergency) on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays I’ll open up at 8:30 am and close at 6:00 pm. My hope is that this will accommodate most people’s schedules. Saturdays the store will be open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Social Saturdays will be extended accordingly. I will be taking an hour break (MIL will cover me) from 1:30 to 2:30 each day. We won’t offer any fittings or consultations during that time. In the event that I have to be away (which doesn’t happen very often), my MIL will hold down the fort and the hours will be reduced to: 10:00 am to 3:30 pm. I’ll make an announcement on my website, on Facebook and on the door any time this is going to happen.

It is my sincere hope that these new hours will shift things around enough that I’ll be able to maintain a healthier balance while still serving my customers’ needs.

 

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Summer Hair-Band #1

I have a new pattern for you today. I got tired of doing dishcloths so I thought I would shift to something different. I have long hair and it is always coming loose and getting in my face when I’m trying to work. I thought I would make a series of hair-bands out of 4-ply yarn for summer. I wanted the first one to be super easy so it can be knitted up in front of the TV once the pattern is established.

The hardest part about this pattern will probably be choosing the buttons to coordinate with your yarn. It features a staggered eyelet pattern that will allow you to adjust the size to your needs. It does tend to curl along the long edges, although blocking helps with this.

This is a great project to use up little odds and ends in your leftovers bin.

I had some self-patterning cotton sock yarn leftovers that I used. I’m very happy with the way it turned out. As a summer item, I’d suggest using cotton, linen, bamboo or any combination of those fibres. Obviously you can use wool if that’s what you have. I used sock weight yarn (4-ply/fingering) but you could use thicker yarn if you like, it would just come out wider. You work the patterned section to your head measurement and then add a section to sew the buttons onto. Because of this as long as you are happy with the width you get with a thicker yarn, you can absolutely make it work. If you use a thicker yarn, the amount (weight) of yarn you need will be different than what I have listed.

What with finishing up projects, gardening, work and the upcoming sock competition, I don’t know how many patterns I will be able to create this summer. I will play it by ear and see how it goes. I want to have a variety of hair-bands for myself, and that may be what motivates any new patterns that I come up with. 😀 I have a few ideas in mind; it’s just a matter of the time to do them up.

I hope you have fun with this pattern.

And here is the pattern!

Merry Christmas

I want to send out a “thank-you” today.

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my loyal customers, my friends and my loved ones. I am resoundingly fortunate to have your support.

It’s been a year of growth, of learning curves, hard work and challenges, and a whole lot of connections built of yarn, friendship and laughter.

However you celebrate, whatever you celebrate I wish you love, peace, joy and abundance. For those who are lonely and missing loved ones I wish you comfort and love. For those who are struggling with overwhelming challenges I wish you strength and support. For those suffering health challenges I wish you healing and a vibrant recovery. For everyone that I connect with, whether in person or through technology, I wish you all the very best of the season and a wonderful, prosperous and love-filled 2017.

I will be closing the store over the holidays from December 24 through January 2. I look forward to serving you again in the New Year. I will take a respite from my blog next week. See you in January.

Merry Christmas!

Sincerely,

Judy