So Many Needles!

Knitting is a fibre art that requires the use of two needle tips at a time to create fabric out of yarn. Sounds simple… until you get to the yarn shop and see an entire wall covered in different needles. How to choose?

Single pointed Needles

These long needles are sold in sets of two; they have a point on one end and a stopper of some sort on the other end. They are available in lengths ranging from 8″ to 14″. These are used for flat knitting. When you knit with these, the weight of the item you are knitting ends up moving from the far end of one needle to the far end of the other. It makes the fine muscles in your shoulders work very hard. If you have or have had a shoulder injury, you may find that this makes you quite sore. I can only last about 10 minutes with these before I can’t take the pain any more. Circular needles are better for the weak-of-shoulder knitter. The other thing to note about these is that if your knitting is too much wider than a single needle width, you may risk having stitches drop off the needle when you set the work down. If it’s only a few stitches wider, a point protector placed on the tip of the needle will hold the stitches on.

Double Pointed Needles

These needles come in sets of either 4 or 5 needles that are pointed on both ends. These are typically from 5″ to 8″ long each and are used to knit in the round. You divide the stitches evenly among all but one needle. The last needle is then your working needle. Using that needle you knit the stitches off one other needle. The needle that you just cleared off becomes the new working needle. You continue in this manner around and around the project. This is how socks were knit for generations. To begin with it can feel very awkward working with so many needles and figuring out how to navigate around them as you go. Drawbacks include something called “laddering” as well as the fact you have 6 to 8 needle points where stitches can potentially drop. Laddering is a column of loose stitches that forms at the juncture of two needles. It looks like a ladder. It is the result of stitch tension being uneven right at the point where you switch between needles. This can be avoided by tightening the last stitch on the previous needle and the first few stitches at the beginning of the next one. You can prevent stitches falling off by using point protectors.

Circular Needles

Circular needles are made up of two needle points and a cord that connects them. You can get them either fixed or interchangeable. Fixed needles have a set size and length that cannot be changed. The interchangeable needles allow you to switch out the cords and needle tips to whatever you need for the specific project you have in mind. Circular needles can be used for all types of knitting. They are available in a multitude of lengths. The smallest ones (25cm) have very short needle tips and cords to allow you to knit in the round on a single sock comfortably. These allow you to avoid any sort of laddering as the needle holds all the stitches. The next longer ones (40cm) are intended to knit hats in the round in the same fashion. Interchangeable needles allow you to set your needle up with as long a cord or combination of cords as you like. There are connectors that allow two or more cords to be connected. If you want to knit a blanket, you can make the cord long enough to hold all the stitches without fear of them dropping off. You don’t ever have to worry that you will be missing a needle when you pick up a project that’s been sitting for a while, both tips always stay attached. The weight of the project remains centered in front of your body at all times. You don’t get the stress on your shoulders like you do with single pointed needles. I can knit for hours (the longest I knitted in one stretch was 18 hours) with absolutely no shoulder pain when I use circular needles. I personally can’t think of any drawbacks… other than wanting to own all the gorgeous sets available!

What they are made of

Needles can be made of a number of different materials. Typically we see metal, plastic, acrylic, wood and bamboo. The material you choose is going to come down to the feel you like the best. A good yarn shop will allow you to try out needles in the store to see what you prefer.

Metal Needles

Metal needles tend to be very smooth. If you have concerns about dropping stitches, these may not be the best choice for you. Also, metal needles can be a little bit noisy: click, click, click…. Would that drive you or the people around you crazy?

Plastic Needles

Plastic needles are generally in the economy range. They can be quite flexible, so you’ll want to check that before you buy them. It can be maddening to try to knit with needles that want to bend as you work. They do the job, but they don’t feel particularly nice.

Acrylic Needles

Acrylic tends to be a little smoother than plastic. They usually are just grabby enough that your work doesn’t just slide off them. It has a different feel, some people really like them, some don’t. These can be colourful and funky… which makes them fun.

Wood Needles

Wood needles are usually finished to make them smooth. They still offer a little bit of friction, more than the metal ones do. This means that the stitches don’t tend to simply slide off on their own. Wood needles feel really nice in your hands. Bamboo are just a little grabbier and are a good fit if you knit with soft tension.

There you have it! Happy Knitting!

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So Many Lovely New Things!

Who doesn’t love to see new things? I’m excited to tell you about a bunch of new products that I recently added to my inventory.

Recently, I had a couple customers ask me to bring in a line of sock yarn from Lang yarns. Ooh! The colours are so YUMMY! This ombre yarn has lovely gradual colour shifts that allow for a nice tall sock. The balls are 50g, and each sold separately. One ball makes a nice tall knee sock. The colours make me think of ice cream and sorbet. I brought in nine different colourways. It is already proving popular; I didn’t even have a chance to get it onto the shelf before it started to sell. It is soft to the touch and did I mention that the colours are very pretty? I am determined to finish a couple projects before I cast on a pair of socks in this one. I know I won’t be able to resist the yellow!

Sudz cotton dish-cloth yarn from Estelle has been a big hit since I first brought it in. I initially stocked around 50 colours. Last week I added another big bunch of colourways. This economical yarn comes in 50g balls and the huge colour selection means that you will never have to be bored making dishcloths!

Knitter’s Pride Ginger Double Pointed Sock Needle Sets are in. Wow! The case is absolutely gorgeous! The DPN sets range from 2mm up to 5.5mm. If you love making socks or mittens on DPN’s you will adore this set!

Knitters are likely to be aware of the trend toward short circular needles. So the idea is that if you are making a hat, you use a 40cm (16″) circular needle for the body of it. The stitches all fit comfortably on it. You can switch to magic loop, 2 circulars or DPN’s when you decrease at the top, but the bulk of the hat is done on one short circular. This is a lovely way to knit. I now have 40cm knitting needles in both the Aero brand (which is quite budget conscious) and Knitter’s Pride Dreamz (which are an absolute joy to knit with and worth the extra investment if your budget allows).

Not only are we seeing short circulars for hats, but the latest trend is to use 25cm (10″) circular needles for knitting socks. It’s the same idea. When I first tried these out, I was determined to hate them. By the end of the first sock, I had fallen in love. It takes about a sock to get accustomed to these. The needle tips are very short and you do have to adjust the way you hold them a bit because there isn’t much tip length to anchor your hand against. I found that I needed to be very conscious of how I held them and where my hand felt uncomfortable so that I could be deliberate with what I needed to change in my hand position. This meant that I could relax my hand and the knitting went much quicker. I do find that the first 10 rounds after completing the toe (on toe-up socks) feels a little tight because the toe pulls against the stitches at first. Once you get those rounds done, that feeling goes away. I also found that if I do socks (4ply) with fewer than 54 stitches, it starts to feel a bit tight on the needles. So I only use them for adult sizes. I carry these in Knitter’s Pride Dreamz now from 2.25mm up to 5mm. Not everyone will love these, but they are worth giving a try.

I now carry a few new adhesive products. Sobo premium craft and fabric glue is a popular product that most crafters will recognize. I have it in the 2 oz squeeze bottles now. Patch Attach is another adhesive product that I have added to our line-up. I still carry Aileen’s Fabric Fusion pens and the old stand-by, Speed Sew.

I recently expanded my thread selection as well. I brought in 2 new thread cabinets that are filled with 500m spools of Mettler Metrosene 100% Polyester thread and Mettler Silk Finish 100% Cotton thread respectively. I’m excited about this. These cabinets have a really nice selection of the most popular thread colours in a nice big spool.

The expanding sewing gauge is another cool new product. This accordion style gauge allows you to easily adjust to locate where to attach buttons and buttonholes evenly on a garment or other project.

Pressing loops can be a real challenge. This set is designed to allow you to press them with ease. Whether you are making spaghetti straps for a top or a dress, or using them in your quilts or other decorator projects, this tool will make you want to think up projects just so you can use it! You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

Besides the typical rotary cutting tool, many crafters use the Xacto style crafting knife. I recently brought in replacement blades for this style of knife.

A new addition to our Schmetz sewing machine needle line up is the Microtex needle in 8 gauge or multipack.

When you knit a project as a gift, sometimes you just want to be sure people know that it was crafted by hand with love. I found a few new “handcrafted” cloth labels that are easy to stitch onto your hand knits and look fantastic.

Last but not least, I have brought in some new books. Most notably is “Sew and Play: Handmade Games for Kids”. This is a delightful guide to sewing games for children. It includes full instructions and patterns for games including: Capture the Tag; Monster Ball; Pancake Party; Snake Pit; Gone Fishin’ and more. With a total of 11 games, this book is a gem!

I love being able to bring in new and interesting things to expand the selection for my customers. I especially love it when I find something that enhances my knitting or sewing experience.

Happy Knitting!

Gearing up for Winter: New Products

Every day as I fill in work orders, I look at the calendar. I am surprised (though I shouldn’t be) at how quickly October is disappearing.

The snow is creeping its way down the mountain and there is a definite chill in the air. In my store, I’ve been busy stocking up on the products that I know my customers will be looking for, what with cold weather coming on.

It’s always exciting to see new things. As I do every year at this time, I find myself either feeling really excited about the new things I’m bringing in or hyperventilating about the cost of doing so. I just never know for sure whether customers will be as excited about the new things as I am. I’m pretty sure it will be worth it, though.

So, here’s what I’m really excited about.

Estelle Chunky Yarn

estelle worsted and chunky

I’m being either brave or insane, but I am bringing in the entire colour line of this amazing, gorgeous, super-soft yarn. I initially brought it in only in the heathered colours by special request for a customer who wanted to make a Chunky Fair Isle sweater. When it came in, we both went crazy for how exquisite this yarn is. With the taxes in, it’s a $10 bill per 100g skein. You just can’t beat that price. It’s a blend of wool, acrylic and nylon; an excellent combination for long wearing and easy care.

47 colours, my friends! I’m STOKED!

Estelle Worsted Yarn

Okay, all those things I just said about the Chunky apply here but in worsted weight. I’m bringing in 40 colours of this one as well. These are set for a ship date of November 1st. (Keep breathing, Judy!)

Estelle Bulky Yarn

This one, I only ordered in Hudson’s Bay colours. I feel blankets coming on!

King Cole Big Value Baby DK

40 colours of this lovely yarn as well. I don’t remember specifically where the price point lands on this, but it will make customers happy!

King Cole Comfort Kids DK

I just brought a few colours of this one in. It’s already here. So soft, such an excellent value and lovely colours. I brought in a few solids to go with the multi colourways as well.

King Cole Drifter DK for Baby

this one is really cool. The colours are a little more sophisticated. It gives a sort of Fair Isle effect. The balls are 100g.

Rico Creative Bubble

SCRUBBY YARN! This is the actual yarn for making scrubbies for doing your dishes. How cool is that?! I have 3 colours on hand right now, the others are on back-order. They will get here when they get here. I brought in a pattern for pot scrubbers that look like emoticons. I also have a pattern on order to make scrubbies that look like watermelon slices. Too cute!

Black Cat Custom Yarn

I’m bringing in a selection of both their sock weight and their “Let’s Get Worsted” (British Columbia dyed) yarns. If you know and love Malabrigo yarn, you will adore Black Cat Custom Yarn! I can hardly wait!

I ordered other new yarns, but they get to be a surprise. 😀

Nostepinnes

Now, other new things include Nostepinnes. Noste-whosie-whatties, you say? Nostepinnes. These are beautiful turned wooden tools that originate (from what I’ve been able to gather) in Norway. You use them to hand wind yarn in such a way that it gives you a centre pull ball. Here is a link to how you do it. I haven’t had a chance to try one out yet, but I will.

Needle Keeper

Next up on the new items list is the “Needle Keeper”. If you knit with circular needles, you need this amazing little gizmo. I don’t believe I ever lived without it. It protects your needle tips and connections from breakage while also preventing stitches from falling off the needles. They also help to keep your knitting bag tidier. Your needles won’t get tangled with all the other stuff in your bag. If your cat likes to chew on your wooden or bamboo needle tips, you can foil their evil plans with a Needle Keeper! There’s no way your cat will chew through this puppy! This is my favourite new thing. Here is a link to the video that the inventor has up on YouTube:

DPN Tubes

Another cool product along the lines of the Needle Keeper is Knitter’s Pride’s DPN Tubes. These do for double point needles (DPN’s) what the Needle Keeper does for circular needles. I found a review of this product. Here’s the link:

Eucalan

After all the endless hours of knitting or crocheting your beautiful garments with exquisite yarns, you need to be able to take care of them. Eucalan makes a lovely rinse-free wash for delicates. I brought in 4 scents of this in 500ml bottles: Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender and Natural. If there is enough demand, I’ll bring in jugs to allow us to refill your containers. A little bit of this product goes a long way. It contains lanolin, which acts as a fibre conditioner and keeps your items soft and lovely. Here is a link to Eucalan’s demo of the product.

With all these new products coming in, I guess I’d better get busy rearranging the store!

Happy Knitting!

Needles: Old, New, and Different

The final stage of Tour-de-sock features a very unusual sock pattern by Kirsten Hall called Sidetracked. I am determined to complete this round, despite my flagging motivation. I have tried a number of different needle combinations hoping to stumble on the ideal combination. I’ve tried some old, some new and some very different.

To put it into perspective, here’s a picture of this round’s socks.

 

The pattern dropped last Saturday at 4:00 am, my local time. I was printing off the pattern and had my first sock underway by 4:20. We planned a trip to visit grandchildren for the long weekend. I was determined to get as much done as possible before we hit the road around 11:00 am. I was grateful that the construction, although strange, was actually pretty fun.

I had the sock on a 60cm circular needle to start and worked the 12 active stitches with a DPN. It was awkward. I ended up with one circular and 4 DPN’s at one point. It was a very strong reminder of why I really prefer not to knit with DPN’s. It’s so easy to drop stitches off them. You don’t want to drop stitches on this pattern! By 4pm, I was feeling pretty done. With one sock barely half way done, I set the project aside and watched the scenery go by until we arrived.

I really struggled to determine how far to knit before beginning the heel and I have to say that I should have stopped a full wrap earlier than I did… which I couldn’t have known until after the heel was complete. By then, there was absolutely no way I was frogging anything. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take the wind out of my sails. They’ll take longer to finish but they’ll fit my very tall son when they are done.

 

I came home to a big pile of work. I’ve been plugging away in the evenings. I still haven’t finished the first one. I’m ready to begin the cuff, so I’m on the home stretch and the second sock will go easier since I’ll know what to expect. I have until Thursday at 10:00 am to finish.

So yesterday, I was feeling pretty desperate to come up with some way to infuse some fun back into this project. I had a shipment of needles come in and in that order were 25cm circular needles. My supplier was a bit short on numbers and there was one lonely 2.25mm needle among them. That’s the size I’m using for these socks. I’ve had customers tell me that these teenie tiny circulars are God’s gift to sock knitters. (I wasn’t convinced.) What with all the new stock, I had to rearrange the wall in the store to accommodate all the new stuff. In the process I stumbled on the sets of curved DPN’s I had all but forgot I brought in. I figured I’d try these out too.

I pulled out the Neko curved DPN’s. I was immediately disappointed. They are plastic. Sigh. So bendy! I am not crazy about bendy needles. I took a deep breath. I was determined to give them a fair shake despite my initial feeling. I looked at my Sidetracked sock-to-be: didn’t even pick it up. My daughter had requested a pair of socks out of some Lana Grossa Scandic yarn and I had that ball handy. I figured I’d cast one on to try the bendy needles out. These needles look like someone took their DPN’s and tried to bend them to 90 degrees. They are definitely different.

I began my Twisted German cast on, over two of the three needles; I usually cast on over two needles. It was awkward, although in all fairness, it takes getting used to something that is this unusual. By the time I had 15 or 20 stitches cast on, it got easier. It was challenging to get started on these. I found that no matter what I did I kept jabbing myself in the palms of my hands with one end or another. I’ve been knitting long enough to know that the first few rounds are always a bit of a pain and then it’s fine after that. So I continued. My yarn kept getting caught on one of the ends. I really don’t like bendy needles and found that the flexibility of these really irritated me. I assume that the point of these needles is to be an improvement on DPN’s. I’m not convinced. But bear in mind that I abandoned DPN’s for sock knitting a long time ago in favour of circulars. I got about 4 rounds of twisted rib knitted and I had to set it aside. I tried having the tips of the passive needle above the active needle, then below; I tried flipping it toward the back. I don’t know. I didn’t see any videos with continental knitting on curved DPN’s. Perhaps that’s the issue. I will pick it up again after the Tour is finished and see if they’ll grow on me. For now, the jury is out on these.

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I then picked up the Knitter’s Pride Dreamz 25cm circular and transfered my Sidetracked sock onto it. The sock fits nicely. The needle tips are short. I thought they’d put up resistance as I’d knit with them because the cord is so short, but honestly I didn’t notice once I started to knit. This needle is a huge improvement over what I was doing. Heavens! What a relief. I like a longer needle tip so I can use my pinkies to anchor my movements against the needles. These tips are too small to do that without scootching my fingers close together. That will take a bit of getting used to. But you know,  I was quite surprised, but I really do like these… a lot. The only downside is that they’re too small to try the sock on, unless you were to use two of them.

Happy Knitting!

Sewing Machine Needles

Recently, I have seen quite a few people who just bought their first sewing machine. They are excited to get started and come in looking for  advice to get them started. One of the items that I try to take some time to go over with them is sewing machine needles. There are a variety of types and gauges to meet whatever your sewing needs might be.

First of all, no matter what type of needle, they all have a particular gauge.

The gauge refers to the girth of the needle; how thin or thick the needle is.

You will see numbers like:

  • 70/10;
  • 80/12;
  • 90/14;
  • 100/16;
  • 110/18.

70’s (10’s) are fine, 110’s (16’s) are thick. When choosing a gauge think of it being relative to the weight of the fabric.

Sewing chiffon? Use a fine needle. Sewing many layers of denim or canvas? Use a heavy needle.

For most sewing a 12 gauge will do the trick.

Needle tips vary depending on what they are designed to do. There are three main varieties:

  • sharp;
  • ballpoint
  • and leather.

Sharp tips are used for woven fabrics. It’s best to avoid these if you are sewing knits. Think of pantyhose; they are knitted. If something damages one of the threads (imagine a sharp needle cutting a thread as it sews) you get a run in the fabric. How do you know whether needles are sharp? You can be sure that packages labeled either Universal or Jeans will have standard sharp tips.

needles

Jean Needles

Jean needles are sharp needles with a heavy gauge. These usually range from a 14 gauge to an 18 gauge. On my industrial machine, I use a 16 gauge for this type of work. If I were using a household machine, I’d probably go with an 18. Jean needles are rugged, because it takes a rugged needle to sew through heavy jean seams.

Quilting Needles

Quilting needles are sharp and have a particular taper to them that minimizes skipped stitches when either piecing or quilting. These can range in gauge from 10 to 14. In my store, I carry a multi-pack of quilting needles that has the entire range of gauges. In a dedicated quilt shop, you would find full packs of each gauge. Many quilters have a specific gauge that they like to use. Some prefer on gauge for their piecing and a heavier gauge for machine quilting.

Topstitch Needles

Topstitch needles are designed to be used with heavier topstitching thread. They are a heavy gauge needle, usually 16 or 18. What sets these apart from jean needles is that they have a large eye to accommodate topstitching thread. Assume that these will be sharp needles.

Ballpoint Tips

Ballpoint tips are used for knit fabrics. These are pretty cool. They look and feel sharp when you touch them. But the tips have a very fine ball point that allows the needle to gracefully move between the threads that makes up the fabric, rather than piercing through, like a sharp does. Because most people use their serger for knits, needle packs that are specifically labeled for a serger are safe to use for knits. Ballpoint needles are usually labeled as “stretch needles”.

Twin Needles

Twin Needles are a form of topstitch needle. This needle has a single shank that allows you to install it as you would any other needle. Then it has a bar into which two needles have been embedded. Your machine must be able to accommodate two spools of thread to use this type of needle. It only needs one bobbin for both. Many machines have a hole on the top of the machine, and a secondary thread holder to fit into it. You would find that in the accessory kit that came with your machine. If it was lost, you can order one specific to the make and model of the machine. Twin needles come in both sharp and ballpoint. The packages will indicate whether they are intended for stretch sewing, for jeans or are simply a universal needle. They come with different distances between the needles as well. If you are using these for the first time, definitely take the time to practice before sewing your garment. These will have a decent sized eye, depending on the gauge of the needle.

Leather Needles

Leather needles mean business! The ends of these needles have three sides that come down to a point. Each of the three sides cuts through the leather. There are no “take backs” when you sew leather. Once you make a hole, you’ve made a hole. It is there forever. You really don’t want to use these for any fabric that isn’t leather. Don’t even use them on vinyl. (If you are sewing vinyl, use a universal needle in a gauge relative to how heavy your vinyl is.)

Although for most things you can get away with using a mid-gauge universal needle, the many specialized varieties of needles allow you to have confidence in a consistently successful result.

Happy Sewing!

 

With This Ring, I thee Strand!

Sometimes you see something and your immediate reaction is: “Well that’s hokey.” Sometimes you’re right. But sometimes you need to set your first impression aside and give it a chance to prove itself. My “Well that’s hokey” moment was with a ring designed for use in stranded knitting. I gave it a very skeptical try, and now I wonder how I ever lived without this clever little device.

A year ago, I entered the 2017 Tour de Sock competition.

The warm up pattern was my first experience with stranded colour knitting. In the chatter thread on the forum, people were talking about devices they used to manage their yarn. Some people used rings or springs to separate the strands, yet hold them in one hand. They swore by them. I looked for these products but my catalogues never had them. Then one day, I got an email from my supplier about new products they had brought in and the “Boye Finger Guides” were among them. I ordered them thinking that at least I would be able to offer something of this nature to my customers. When they arrived, it was busy. So I didn’t think about them much; I just got them into the inventory and onto the shelf. I then promptly forgot about them.

Tour de Sock 2018 is in now underway (registration ends July 7, 2018). I’m working on this season’s warm up sock; a stranded project. I got to the point that I was ready to turn the heel, and I remembered about the finger guides I had brought in. I took one out of the package, took a good look at it and I will be completely honest. I was fully prepared to expose this stranding ring for being silly.  It comes with no instructions. There is a photograph on the package that shows someone combining 3 strands of light yarn together to make one strand of thicker yarn as they knit a project. Of course, the image is set up to make the yarn look pretty. So you can’t use that image as any guide to how you should hold your yarn or use the product (in the real world).

First off, my preference is to knit in continental style. I tension the yarn with my left hand and I pick the thread with my right hand. Up until now, when doing stranded colour work, I carried my main or dominant colour in my left and my contrast colour in my right. I picked the main colour from my left hand and I threw the contrast colour with my right hand.

When I first learned how to strand, it took me a little while to get past the awkwardness of carrying two yarns at once.

Throwing the yarn with my right hand was very cumbersome at first.

Once I got accustomed to it, I found that I was almost as fast knitting with two colours as I was with one. Remembering this, I gave my attitude a shake. Trying anything new is going to be awkward and I really did want to be fair in my assessment of this product. I decided I would keep on trying long enough to get past the awkwardness of it being new to me.

So the ring itself is rubbery. It stretches and I would guess that it should fit most adult hands. The top of the ring is flat with a couple little holes.

There are three platforms that each have 3 hooks.
These are designed to accommodate

  • light,
  • medium or
  • heavy yarns.

Now, the heavy one looks to me like it would accommodate a worsted yarn. It might be okay for a chunky, but definitely nothing heavier. On the bottom of the platforms are a couple pegs that fit nicely into the holes on the flat top of the ring.

20180614_091747[1]

I selected the platform that was right for my yarn. I had to fuss around with it to figure out how to hold my yarn and which direction to have the hooks facing to get a sense of what would actually work and not end up slower than what I was already doing. I spent about half an hour with very poor results before I had a brain-wave. I won’t bore you with the details of all the things that failed.

In the end what I found to work well for me was to have the hooks face toward my left wrist. I brought the two yarns together, wrapped them around my pinky (as I always do to manage the tension),  and then I hooked the yarns in from opposite directions. So the main (dominant) colour I brought from the front of my hand over the top of the ring and into the far left hook. The contrasting yarn, I brought from behind my index finger, across the top of the ring and into the far right hook. I hold my index finger relatively high. Some folks hold it lower. I don’t expect that this would make much difference. This puts your index finger between the working yarns. You can easily choose the one you want from the correct orientation.

It’s important that you always keep the two yarns in the same position relative to each other in this type of knitting. One will always be taken from the left, the other always from the right.

Inconsistency results in sloppy colour dominance in the finished work.

On this particular pattern, the heel turn requires stranded purling. I am delighted to report that it was just as easy to purl using this ring using this set up, as it was to knit. Although it was very awkward to figure out what would work, once I found it, it was great, and fast. I love it!

Happy Knitting!

Variety: Boredom’s Foe

In my business altering and repairing garments and outdoor gear, I get a wide variety of sewing jobs.

It’s great because it means that I never get bored!

Although I do get some straight-forward jobs like hems, a great deal of my work requires considerable skill and ingenuity to complete. It also helps to have a variety of equipment to make the work easier.

Before moving to Revelstoke I had never been asked to repair backpacks. You’d be surprised how many different styles of backpacks there are. This is a very specialized type of gear. I remember one customer who had a collection of over 20 backpacks. She brought them all in one day because she wanted all the excess webbing shortened to eliminate what would otherwise dangle off the pack. It was both entertaining and informative as she explained the reasons she chose to possess so many packs. Each one was distinctly different and specific to a particular purpose. Until opening my store, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an “Avi-pack” (a pack with an airbag that is designed to keep you above the snow if you are caught in an avalanche). Since opening my shop I have seen a lot of them.

I see gear that is specific to

  • skiing;
  • snowboarding;
  • snowmobiling;
  • motorbiking;
  • hiking and more.

There are some repairs that I see very frequently.

In ski pants, if it isn’t the edge guards needing to be replaced, it will likely be either a crotch blow-out or a hole from catching on a branch in the glades. I’ve reconstructed powder-skirts, I’ve hemmed ski pants, I’ve replaced snaps and zippers on them and at times I have advised customers that they are simply better off to buy a new pair. Snowmobile gear usually comes in because the exhaust has melted holes into the legs of the pants. I don’t see a whole lot of motorbike gear because it tends to be built very robustly. It has to be, as it acts — essentially — as body armour. When I do see it, it may be because a zipper slider has broken, or a snap broke. Usually it’s to sew on badges though.

Jackets usually come in because the zipper is no longer functioning.

Sometimes I can just replace the slider and they are good to go.

Often I do have to replace the whole thing. I have actually come up with three different levels of zipper replacement to accommodate people’s budgets. One of the things I see a lot, is down jackets on which the fabric is so light and delicate that you can’t so much as lean against a wall or tree without putting a hole in them. It’s all good and fine to want your gear to be lightweight, but honestly, they should stand up to the terrain they are supposedly designed for. Things like that irritate me. I like things to be built to last.

Someone talked me into replacing the zippers in their boots one day.

Since then, I have done many boot zipper replacements; often in Nordic ski boots. It’s not my favourite job by any means, and not every boot allows machine access all around the zipper. But it’s satisfying to know that they don’t have to end up in the landfill.

But it isn’t just gear that I work on. I do alterations on clothing and although I don’t do wedding dresses any more (one too many Bridezillas) I do alter prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses. I have altered suits, jeans, shirts… you name it. I have done all sorts of custom sewing jobs too. One memorable one was a cot foundation where the frame was made of PVC pipe; it was intended for a toddler. I have made many cushion covers as well as slip covers for helicopter seats, and cushions for kitchen nooks. Besides all that I have done a considerable amount of adaptive clothing for folks who are restricted to a wheelchair.

When I started out sewing for people, 30-some years ago, I had a typical household sewing machine that I used for everything.

After a while, I invested in a household serger. Then, as I took on larger contracts, I took the leap and purchased an industrial straight-stitch sewing machine and an industrial serger. Once I got used to them, I couldn’t believe that I had ever lived without them. Because I was getting more and more costuming jobs for skating, dance and gymnastics and was doing more with stretch fabrics, the next machine I bought was a convertible Elna serger that allowed me to do coverstitching. This meant that my work took a leap forward in looking professionally done. Unfortunately, the volume of work I was doing was just too much for it for the long term. It broke. I was able to get it repaired but now I have it dedicated for doing lingerie hemming only.

So next I invested in an industrial coverstitch machine and an industrial blind hemmer.

That’s what I had when I opened up my store in Revelstoke. After about a year, it became obvious that I was not going to be able to meet the needs of the community without investing in more specialized equipment. So next came the roller post machine and the leather patcher. These allow me to access areas on most packs and heavy gear. The snap and grommet press followed shortly after, allowing me to apply industrial quality snaps to clothing and gear and to smoothly apply grommets. Although there are some jobs that are iffy, I can take on most tasks. The one thing that I generally cannot repair is suitcases as I simply can’t work them around the machines to access what needs repair.

I had no idea how much of a demand there would be for my services when I opened my store.

I am grateful to the community of Revelstoke for embracing me and supporting my business… and keeping me from ever being bored!