Knitting Machine: Baby Steps!

I grew up watching my mom knit on her collection of eight knitting machines. I often thought I would have liked to play with them and explore their possibilities. I never got that opportunity. A while back, a customer popped in the store, set an old knitting machine on my counter and said, “If you want this, it’s all yours. We’re downsizing.” I happily accepted and until about two weeks ago, it sat waiting for me to be ready to play.

When I resolved that it was time, I opened the case and carefully removed it. There were envelopes in the bottom of the case. The newsletters in them were dated 1958 from “Knit King”. I grabbed a coffee and curled up on the recliner and began to read. Each newsletter contained short info-bites about clubs that were popping up all over Canada for the knitting machine enthusiasts who wanted to share their excitement with others. I could feel the passion!

Each newsletter contained a pattern. Very few had photographs or sketches. The instructions were precise as to what yarn to use, and economically written. I was fascinated. In the rare edition that had photos the styles were definitely of another era. One in particular was a matching vest for father and son, reminiscent of Bing Crosby’s wardrobe. The ladies’ tops were decidedly vintage. It was a fun glance into another time.

I came across one with “kids’ mittens” hand written across the front. I was baffled as to how you would even do that on a flat bed knitting machine.

I was game; but first, I had to get the basics down.

This particular machine can only work yarn up to DK weight. I pulled out the manual and carefully worked out how to cast on. I unsuccessfully experimented with some DK yarn and then switched to sock weight. That was better. After a number of false starts, I made a piece of fabric out of leftover sock yarn and decided that I could turn it into a little purse for one of the grand kids. I took it off the machine and bound the edge off. That was fun! And it went fast. So I thought I’d try out that mitten pattern next.

It required three colours. They suggested 3-ply yarn which is a little thinner than sock yarn but I figured it would give me an idea and I could adjust the pattern later if the size was off.

It was quite interesting. Moving needles in and out of holding positions as directed in the pattern, I had no idea what to expect.

I watched stitches collect on the holding needles. When the holding needles went back into action, the yarn was pulled through all that accumulated yarn and the pattern began to form. I felt a little bit like a kid opening gifts on Christmas morning. I ended up with some dropped stitches. Because I didn’t yet comprehend how the machine was actually making the pattern, I had no idea how to fix them yet. I hoped I could eventually anticipate what issues might happen so I could prevent or fix dropped stitches as I went along.

As the mitten started to take shape, I began to see how making everything flat requires a different mindset. What a paradigm shift for someone whose preference is to knit everything in one piece and avoid any seaming at all!

When I felt confident I chose some leftover yarns and cast on. That first “for real” mitten had a lot of starts and stops. I would notice a dropped stitch and realize that I had gone too far in the colour work to wrap my brain around how to fix it. I frogged it back and started over. In the process, I began to notice the nuances of what led to the issues. As I became better able to anticipate what might go wrong, I checked each row and sometimes manually worked the hooks to make sure all the stitches were right.

Then the pattern said, “turn as for heel”. Ummmm… thankfully there was another envelope with a set of tutorials. One of them was for sock knitting. I read that and quickly turned the top of the mitten. I was delighted to watch the little thumb appear as I faithfully followed the instructions. It would need to be seamed later, but with its own little “heel turn” at the top, it was a quick and slick way to get the job done.

This machine only does knit stitches.

The ribbing was made by leaving out every third hook and the cross threads spanning between the adjacent knit stitches gave the impression of ribbing. When it was all done, I really hated the way the ribbing looked. Especially once seamed. So, I frogged it off, picked up the stitches and knitted the cuff by hand.

Took some doing, but when the first mitten was done, man, I felt like I had learned a lot. The second mitten worked up more easily. I was able to prevent and repair the issues as they came up. I didn’t bother with the rib, just did that by hand afterward.

I stitched up the first one with yarn like a good girl. But remember, this is the president of the “I hate stitching my knitting together” club talking. I don’t like doing it, and so I never really put a lot of energy into getting good at it. I was unhappy with my results. After stitching one side of the second mitten in this way, I decided to sew the thumb and the other side on the sewing machine. Hey, if Arne and Carlos can sew their Norwegian sweaters together on sewing machines, I’m in good company here!

I’m very happy with the result and I’m feeling inspired to continue to play! Whatever your creative passion, I wish you joy in pursuing it!

Happy Crafting!

4 Fantastic Sewing Box Must Haves

I like a good gadget as well as the next person. But I have to be honest, I really have to be able to anticipate that it’s going to save me time, effort or money before I’m likely to nibble. I tend to be a bit skeptical of trendy things in favour of the tried and true, old-school stuff. But I have to be honest there are some really amazing products out there that are well worth considering for your sewing tool box.

Wonder Clips

I have seen these in my suppliers’ catalogues for a long time. Honestly, I thought they were a bit gimicky. After all, I’ve been using pins to baste things together for over 40 years now and they work just fine. Well, except when you are sewing leather, or vinyl, or heavy coated nylon fabrics…

A couple of customers specifically asked me to bring in some of these clips for them. I brought in some extra packages thinking that someone else would likely want them. Then I took on a sewing job that was exclusively heavy industrial grade waterproof fabrics that you couldn’t stick a pin through if you tried… (and you shouldn’t use pins on them anyway). I remembered the Wonder Clips and thought they’d be easier to handle than the bulldog clips I generally use for such jobs. I was skeptical that they would be strong enough for what I was working on but figured it would be a good test.

They surprised me. I used the regular sized ones. There were some places that I had to use basting tape because you simply couldn’t put the clips on those areas, but on anything else, they held strong. I came away feeling like I could truly get behind this product. I put the box in my drawer and there they sat for about a month. I started to wonder whether I really needed them after all. Then in the last week two jobs came in that once again were made of fabrics that you really can’t pin. I was really happy to be able to pull out my box of Wonder Clips to baste those projects. Even if I don’t use them all the time, Wonder Clips have earned their spot in my toolbox. Here’s Clover’s “Tool School” video link for Wonder Clips.

Clover Hot Ruler

The next product I want to talk about is Clover’s Hot Ruler. Again, I brought this product in as a special order for one of my customers. This is a ruler made of nylon fibre board. It’s thin, and measures 2-1/2″ x 10″. It has a grid marked on it with 1/2″ increments. Along the edges it breaks down to 1/8″ markings. There are a lot of different rulers on the market. I have a collection of quilting rulers for cutting and use with my grid mats. This is different.

This hot ruler is designed to be used with an iron. Let’s say you want to turn a nice even 3/8″ hem around a piece of fabric. You can place the ruler onto the fabric, fold the fabric up to the 3/8″ marks and press the fabric with the ruler still in the folded edge. Because the ruler remains between the fabric and the turned edge, you can confidently press that edge without having to constantly re-check the measurement. You can see it clearly at a glance. This also allows you to easily press mitered edges. The ruler has marks at 45 degrees from two of the corners to allow you to press your miter in place with ease. Even when you just had a hot iron on it, it will be warm to the touch, but not hot. It doesn’t slip and slide on the fabric, but it also doesn’t grab it.

Clover also makes a similar product called the Hot Hemmer. It has a curve (and a cut out to help measure button placement) as well as straight edges to accommodate many pressing applications.

These two hot pressing products are truly handy. Especially for some of those fiddly pressing jobs where you really want a nice crisp edge without a fight. I’m quite impressed with them.

Here’s Clover’s Tool School video covering these two products.

Precision Tools Wool Pressing Mat

Yet again, I bow to the wisdom of my customers. I recently brought these into the store. I have a few customers who rave about them. I haven’t had a chance to try one out yet but since I am on the topic of pressing, I thought I’d include this demonstration video so you can see how it works. Looks impressive!

Gotta say, it feels good to be doing a blog post again. Times have been pretty strange lately. I sincerely hope that you and the ones you love are doing well and staying safe and healthy. We’re hanging in there. I have reduced the hours that the store is open to the public in order to strive for better balance. I have a drop-off & pick up station in the entry way. This area is open Mondays through Fridays from 9am to 5pm and Saturdays from 11am to 5pm. The store itself is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11am to 5pm. Tuesdays are reserved for fittings and are by appointment only.

It’s been lovely to be able to sit outside in the morning with my coffee and my knitting. I’m grateful for the warmer weather and the lush plant-life with all its colour and scent.

Happy Crafting!

Review: ChiaoGoo part 1 plus Distraction in Katia Camel Sock Yarn

I have been hearing lovely things about ChiaoGoo premium stainless steel knitting needles for some time now. My rep knows I’m a sock knitter and he has been encouraging me to test out the wee sock needles for over a year now. A few weeks ago, I had someone ask me about 40cm circular needles in fine gauges. Since Knitter’s Pride Dreamz (the main brand I carry) don’t come in those sizes, it leaves a gap; that sent me hunting. Today’s blog is part one based on the results from that search and a review of what I found.

ChiaoGoo makes those in-between needles that fill the gap that I just mentioned. So I figured I would order in the wee sock needles to try, as well as the sizes of 40cm circs to fill in the fine gauges that are not available in Dreamz. I figured I would test them out to see how I like them. I’m still in the process of testing the 40cm ones and I’ll fill you in on them in my next blog.

Today I want to talk about the sock circulars.

These needles are surgical stainless steel circulars. They have a smooth, satin-sheen finish and memory-free, multi-strand, steel cable cord coated with red nylon allowing yarn to slide right over the cord with ease. (…mostly a quote from ChiaoGoo)

I have a sock knitting customer in particular who brought in her Dreamz sock needles (the wee circs) to show me that she is actually wearing grooves into them. She knits a LOT of socks. I was astounded; I haven’t worn any of mine down so it surprised me to see this. I brought her in some Knitter’s Pride Nova Platina in the same style and she wore off the silver finish. That’s been floating in the back of my mind for a while. When I was looking at these ChiaoGoo needles it occurred to me that they may just fit the bill for her. Surgical Stainless Steel ought to be enough to stand up to this avid knitter. If she is wearing out wood needles, chances are other folks are as well. I haven’t called her to say these are in yet since they only just arrived. So I don’t have feedback from her yet.

Today is about my impressions of ChiaoGoo 23cm sock circs.

I cast on “Distraction” by Michelle Leanne Martin using Camel Sock yarn by Katia. The cast on was just what I would expect on this style of needle. It’s always a little awkward. No surprises there. They are very smooth. When I’m doing a complicated pattern with cables, twists and traveling stitches, I like to knit the socks one at a time on a wee circular. (Especially if they have a different chart for the front and back of the sock.) It’s just less confusing.

I truly have only good things to say about this needle. I used the 2.5mm. The cord is supple and moves nicely. The stitches never caught on the junction between needle and cord. I was anticipating that the stitches might slide a little too easily on the metal needle, but that was not the case. I did find the cord a little grabby on the yarn and maybe that’s why I didn’t find them to be as slippery as I expected. I was doing a lot of traveling stitches and I like a nice sharp tip when I’m doing this type of knitting. These were perfect for that. The length of the needle tip was what I expected for a product of this type. It was an absolute joy. I completed the sock on that needle and cast on the second one. Obviously, stainless steel needles don’t have the same warmth that wood needles have. I’ll continue using my Dreamz and I’m definitely adding this little beauty to my tool box!

Whenever I do complex geometric socks, this will be my new go-to.

Distraction is a well written pattern. It’s available on Ravelry as a free download. It is straightforward and easy to follow. As with any pattern of this complexity, I was grateful for my KnitCompanion App which allowed me to slide my vertical marker along as I worked the foundation rounds until the pattern began to emerge. Of course since I was knitting in the evening, that didn’t stop me from missing the cables in the ribbing on the first sock. Oops… I realized my error when I started the second sock. There’s no way I’m going back to change it. I figure: do like the Amish quilters who leave a mistake in their hand stitched quilts since after all, “Only God is perfect”. 🙂 I’m enjoying this project enough that I was inspired to check out Michelle’s other patterns. She’s got a lot to offer and I encourage any sock knitters to check her out.

Katia Socks – Camel is a blend of 55% wool, 25% polyamide and 20% camel. It comes in 100g balls with a gauge of 42 rows by 30 stitches in a 10cm square. It comes in a range of neutrals including grays, browns and blue. I chose gray (colour 74) for this project. I brought this yarn in because these are all the classy basic neutrals that you could want for men’s hand knit socks in one line of yarn. Katia yarns have never disappointed me and this yarn is no exception. It’s smooth, easy to knit and strong. The stitch definition is excellent and it gave me the result I expect from a high quality sock yarn. I love the resulting fabric. It has depth and personality despite being a neutral. And it’s soft. It feels so good. Full marks on this yarn!

A big thumbs up to this entire project. The needles: 2.5mm x 23cm Chiao Goo premium stainless steel circulars. The pattern: Distraction by Michelle Leanne Martin. The yarn: Katia Socks – Camel by Fil Katia of Spain.

I hope I have inspired you to try something new. See you again in 2 weeks. 🙂

Happy Knitting!

Knitters, Organize!

There are a lot of cool tools and gadgets for knitters these days. Most of the knitters I know have amassed a bit of a collection of very useful and handy tools. Interchangeable needle tips and cords, stitch markers, stitch holders, cable needles, DPN’s, single points, row counters, finishing needles, crochet hooks and the list goes on. And mostly, those tools end up in a bit of a mess in project bags, on the coffee table, night stand and goodness knows where else.

Guess what? Help is on its way!

I like to be organized. Mostly, I like to be organized because I’m kinda lazy. I’ve learned over the years that staying organized saves a lot of time and energy. I made myself a sewing tool-belt so that when I work, I have all my most important tools right at my fingertips. If not for that, (and sometimes even with that) I would be leaving my tools sitting wherever I happened to use them last. Before I made the tool-belt I wasted a ton of time trying to remember where and when I last used whatever tool it was that I needed next. Although from time to time, I still set my scissors down and forget to put them in my holster, for the most part it does keep me organized.

I can truly relate to having my knitting tools all over the place. I have a main knitting bag that I generally keep my most current projects in. I had tins and zipper pouches and baskets. I just found that I was constantly hunting for what I needed. I knew I owned what I was looking for but often simply couldn’t find it. (The nice thing about the tin was that I could keep my extra magnets for my pattern holder in the lid and I managed to not lose my darning needles by attaching them to that magnet.)

Thing is, I always have a number of projects on the go. They don’t all fit in one bag.

So that in itself can create a bit of a challenge. I really did try to keep everything together but this whole being human thing is just messy by nature. I don’t beat myself up too much about it any more. I try to take it in stride. However, as a small business owner, my down time is super-duper-ultra precious to me and in short supply. So when I want to sit down and knit, it irritates me if I can’t find what I need quickly and easily.

Last summer Stephanie Cookhouse of Cookhouse Wares in Calgary, Alberta, popped in my store. We chatted and she told me about this cool thing she makes. She makes organizers designed for creative people who have lots of do-dads that need a home all together. These sturdy felt binders have plastic ziplocky type pouches in them. She makes them in two sizes. I only brought in the larger size because I know myself and the small ones would be a tease for me. Immediately when she showed me the samples I knew this creative woman was on to something fantastic. They are attractive and oh so very practical.

So, I’ve been using mine for a few months now. It took me a little while to kind of get my groove with it. I took some photos to give you an idea. Mine is absolutely stuffed. I can close it, although in complete honesty, mostly I don’t bother trying to. Because I access it a lot for my tools that I use all the time with my knitting, it doesn’t really matter if it’s too full to close. I wanted to show just how much stuff I pack into this little book. It’s the size of a half size binder; the sort that takes a letter size page that’s cut in half.

Now granted, I’m sure that the way I use this organizer will evolve over time. Right now, I’m using one. As you can see in the photo it’s absolutely bulging with knitty awesomeness. I can imagine using two of them. A lot of my tools are currently in projects. When those projects are completed, (or scrapped as the case may be) I will need a place to store the needles where I can actually find them when I want to. So what I’m imagining is that I would have one for all of my interchangeable needles and cords. I don’t use a lot of DPN’s as I really love my circular needles, both interchangeable and fixed. So I can easily keep my DPN’s in the main organizer along with the important stuff that I use with most every project. That would include my tape measure, stitch markers, finishing needles, pencil, eraser, highlighter, scissors, stitch holders, cable needles and a few crochet hooks for the odd time when I need them. (My needle keepers are almost always in use on my projects) I imagine that the main one would be where I do most of my knitting but float wherever I take a project. The other one would likely stay with my stash. When I start a project I see myself grabbing whatever size needle tips I’ll need for the project and transfer those into the main organizer so they are handy when I’m ready for them. We’ll see how it goes.

I absolutely love this organizer.

I don’t know how I ever lived without it. With the help of some small ziploc bags and my Dymo LabelWriter printer, I feel like the size of the pouches is perfect to keep my knitting tools together and easy to sort through. I highly recommend this organizer! Congratulations, Stephanie Cookhouse, on a fantastic product!

Happy Organizing!

Tools I Can’t Live Without

Anyone familiar with my shop knows that I sew pretty much anything and everything for people. My rack currently contains formal wear, tents, boat covers, winter coats, ski pants, summer dresses, jeans, curtains, uniforms, a leather motorcycle vest, helicopter covers and a prototype in progress. I sew a lot. I sew a considerable variety of items every week. There are certain tools that I simply couldn’t live without.

My custom tool belt

When I was small, my dad was a framer and wore a tool belt pretty much all the time. As my business grew and I got tired of trying to remember where I set my tools down, I figured it was time to make one for myself. I spent a couple days developing it and building it and over the next week or so, I fine tuned it. I couldn’t function effectively without it.

Stitch Ripper

As someone who does a lot of repairs and alterations, many jobs begin with taking seams apart. I have two seam rippers. A large one that I use most of the time and a very fine one. My main one is a large sturdy and inexpensive tool. The second one is small and has a very fine blade, perfect for working with fine fabrics like silk, chiffon, crepe or satin.

Scissors and snips

I have several pairs of scissors. I have a couple scissors that I have had for 20 years. These lightweight 7″ shears have been relegated for the jobs that I don’t want my new shears used for. I have 3 pairs of Xsor scissors, 8″ and 9″ long that I use every day. I keep one pair in my tool belt and I have others hanging up at my two main work stations. These have plastic handles and are sturdy but light enough that my hands don’t tire out. I have a small pair of embroidery scissors as well, though I don’t use them very often for my sewing jobs. I have a pair of thread snips hanging in each work station.

Rotary cutter; cutting mat and grid rulers

I have two rotary cutters. One always has a fresher blade than the other. Whichever blade is fresher is used on fine fabrics, the less fresh one is used on the heavier fabrics like denim, canvas or Cordura. Cutting chiffon and similar requires a pristine, razor sharp blade!

Without my cutting mats, the cutter would be useless. I have a set of three mats that are designed to be aligned together on one table. The measurements reflect this. This is fantastic when I’m trimming curtains.

I have three different grid rulers that I couldn’t live without. One is 6″ x 24″; one is 3″ x 18″ and one is 4″ x 4″. Used in combination with the cutting mat, which has a grid printed on it and the rotary cutter, this allows me to align items and trim them with precision and ease. These tools were quite pricey to purchase initially, but they are worth every penny.

Leather coin thimble

My leather coin thimble has its own little pouch in my tool belt. I first began using this when I was in my hand quilting days, many years ago. I have been using the same thimble for around 25 years and it’s still in just as lovely condition as when I bought it. It’s the only thimble I ever use.

Long quilting pins and safety pins

I love my long pins with plastic heads. For most everything, these are my go-to. The bright yellow plastic heads are easy to spot. Because I work with a lot of very robust items and forms of gear, the pins need to be very long or I can’t hold the layers together effectively. For slippery fabrics or to mark where a hem needs to land I generally use safety pins. They are handy and they don’t fall out.

Seam gauge and retractable measuring tape

I use the seam gauges so much that I wear all the printing off them! I keep one in my tool belt and one in my hemming area (with 3 designated machines: a coverstitch, a blind hemmer and a 3-thread rolled lingerie edger). The little slider means you have a way to indicate your measurement with less risk of error. When the measurements go into the 16ths of an inch it’s very easy to misread the ruler. And yes, for some things I do measure it in 16ths. I sewed a bridal hook onto my retractable measuring tape so I can keep it hooked on my belt. I prefer this over the old yellow tape measure because it is compact and doesn’t get in the way. I used to have a tape measure around my neck when I worked, but it would constantly slide off and fall on the floor. That irritated me. So this is better

Tweezers and serger threader

Between these two gadgets I can thread all my machines without any cursing required.

Pliers and Screwdrivers

When customizing zippers (brass, aluminum or plastic) pliers are indispensable! I use needle nosed, side cutters and electrician’s pliers. The screwdrivers allow me to change needles and feet on my machines.

Specialized Feet

On my straight stitch machine I have a few feet that I absolutely couldn’t live without. These include my basic 1/4″ foot; my rolled edge foot that results in a 1/8″ hem and my zipper feet. (The rolled edge foot took me years to master; I’m glad I persisted!)

Crochet hook

When I complete a serged seam, I like to use a fine crochet hook to pull the ends into the serged seam. It’s nice and tidy and it keeps the end from unraveling.

Stop watch

This allows me to accurately track the time I spend on sewing jobs.

Other specialized tools are nice to have for occasional use. The ones that stay on my tool belt are there for a reason. Each has its own spot. When I need them, I don’t have to look. I reach and there they are.

Happy Sewing!

It’s Here!

One of the things I love about owning a business is that I get to choose what goes on the shelves and racks. In February I met with the rep from Katia Yarns of Spain to take a look at what they have in their Spring and Summer line. It’s exciting that their entire line of yarn and fabric is now being distributed in Canada. This is exciting! The yarn I ordered just came in and as of today it is on the shelves. As much as I really wanted to order a whole lot more, I resisted temptation and limited my order to three different yarns. I’m excited to tell you about them though!

Fair Cotton Craft

This fair trade organic cotton is DIVINE! It’s put up in 200g balls and the “mileage” is superb at 620m! Katia has a number of patterns for this yarn as well; gotta love that. It creates a striped border to a lovely neutral colour. It’s available in four colourways and I have them all in stock now. With a single ball you can make a large child’s sweater. You could get a small to medium ladies’ top out of one ball if you made it with wee cap sleeves or sleeveless. They have a lovely baby blanket pattern and it takes a single ball to complete it.

The price does reflect the fact that it is fair trade and organic. And when you feel it and you see what you can make with a single ball, you won’t care about the price. It’s worth every penny. Since it arrived, I’ve been obsessing over what I want to make with it… as soon as I clear off some of my currently occupied knitting needles. If you scroll down on the link below, you will see the patterns they have for this yarn.

See them here

Scuby Cotton

I have had a lot of people ask me about macrame supplies. My sisters and I did macrame back in the late 1970’s. It’s a lot of fun and easy to get the hang of. Over a year ago I spoke to my suppliers and at that time, they told me this “flash in the pan” fad was on its way out and all they had in supplies were the colours no one wanted any more. Yet, I still had people asking me for macrame supplies. I kept hounding my suppliers and clearly other people did too. Katia’s answer to this demand is Scuby Cotton. They even have a free pattern for a plant hanger that you can download off their website! They have patterns for bags and purses, pillows, a lamp shade and an artistic wall hanging. I am working on carving out time to put together a macrame workshop. (It is likely to be toward the end of May.) This yarn is available in a large range of colours. I only brought in six, and I started with neutrals. If I get enough people interested, I will expand the selection to include other colours. Here’s a link to the yarn and again, if you scroll down, you’ll see all the patterns available. (The free plant hanger pattern is called Kayseri.)

see them here

And last but definitely not least is the Rainbow Big rug kit. Oh MY! This is just so fantastic, I’m bursting with excitement! This gradient yarn comes in a kit with one 700g ball of yarn (YES, you read right!) It seamlessly shifts from one colour to the next. A crochet hook and an easy pattern that will result in a 48″ rug are included with it. That’s a decent size. The yarn is presented in a clear zippered pouch with a grommet in the centre so you can leave the ball in the bag and pull it through the hole to minimize risk of tangling. (If you’re anything like me, you’d be hanging onto that zippered pouch when the rug is finished, to use with other projects.) Think about it. No need to change colours; no big pile of skeins or balls of yarn to manage; an easy crochet pattern; the colourway shifts without any effort and just two tails to weave in when the project is done. It will make anyone look like a genius! I only brought in four of these to begin with, each in a different colourway. If enough people get as excited as I am about these, I’ll happily bring in more. Here’s a link.

At the end of April I’ll be attending Katia’s open house to view and pre-order yarns for next fall and winter. I’ll be checking out their fabrics and sewing patterns too. We’ll see whether or not I’ll dive into that pond when the time comes.

Happy Crafting!

Embroidery’s Coming Back!

Over the past five years, I have been delighted to see a resurgence of fibre arts.

Back in the day, I did a lot of cross stitch and embroidery and I’ve been quietly hoping that those arts would come back too. And guess what? They are!

I have had more and more people asking me about embroidery supplies. Embroidery is a precise and time consuming activity. Because of the amount of time that you invest in a piece, it’s important to use good quality supplies that you know will last and will be a solid and beautiful foundation for your work.

High quality thread that will remain colourfast is essential.

DMC has recently added a lot of new colours to their line up. I’ve beefed up my selection of DMC embroidery floss (although I have a long way to go before I have all 500 colours). My gut has been telling me that it’s time to start thinking about what to have on hand for those wanting to explore embroidery and cross stitch. I do plan to expand the colour selection more. The six-strand embroidery floss works well for cross stitch and many other forms of embroidery. If you are familiar with the gorgeous embroidered blouses typical of Ukranian ethnic costumes, those are typically done with a spun embroidery thread that we refer to as “Perle Cotton”. I don’t plan to expand into the perle cotton embroidery thread just yet.

Zweigart is the name most associated with high quality embroidery related fabrics. Their fabrics are top notch and you will never go wrong choosing them. I brought in “quarters” of a number of popular embroidery fabrics in a few colours.

Here’s what we have now:

Aida cloth, is an embroidery fabric woven in a way to make cross-stitch very easy. I have it in 11 and 14 count for now. If there is enough demand I’ll bring in some 18 count. I have this in antique white, black and ivory.

Hardanger is a close relative of Aida cloth. I brought in 22 count in antique white and ivory.

Lugana cloth is a form of even weave fabric in a blend of cotton and viscose. I brought in both 25 and 28 count.

Cashel Linen is another even weave embroidery fabric made of 100% linen. I brought in 28 count in black, antique white and cream.

Belfast Linen: I brought in 32 count in black, antique white and cream.

Waste Canvas: now this stuff is cool. Let’s say you make or buy an outfit or other fabric gift for a baby shower and you want to personalize it a little. Choose a small cross stitch pattern. Once you know how many stitches across it is, you can cut a piece of waste canvas that is a bit bigger than you need. Baste it onto the item where you want the design to be; use the grid of the canvas to guide you to cross stitch directly onto that item (tote bag, clothing… you name it). Once you complete the design, you take a pair of tweezers and pull the individual strands of the waste canvas out. This is very fun to do. I used to do waste canvas projects just so I would be able to pull the strands out of the project. (I absolutely own my weirdness on this! LOL) This is a quick way to make an ordinary item into something very special. Everyone will think you’re a genius! and quite honestly, of course they will! Because you are!

Iron on Transfer Patterns!

Oh my, I remember these from the 1970’s! When I was a kid, there were a couple typical ways that people could practice their embroidery skills. One was to stitch designs on the ends of pillow cases, the other was to embroider tea towels and serviettes or handkerchiefs. We used iron on transfers to place the design onto the fabric and then we would embroider over that design. You could go as simple or as complicated as you wanted to. I brought in one of each of 14 Aunt Martha’s Iron on Transfer Booklets. These themed booklets are packed with small and very do-able embroidery patterns. (I wanted to see them before I stocked multiples.)

Back in the 1970’s there was a product available called Artex. It was a fabric paint that was packaged in tubes. Many people would use the iron-on transfer patterns (like those from Aunt Martha’s) as a guide to paint the picture on their pillow cases, tea towels and other items. You squeezed the tube and that would give you a fine line of paint on the fabric. I had forgot about this product. Aunt Martha’s markets this product now. I didn’t order any this time around. I thought I’d wait and see what sort of response I get first.

We have embroidery hoops, needles and all that stuff. And, when your project is complete and you want to block it, you will need some wooden stretcher bars. We have those too. They are sold in pairs. The idea is that you figure out what size you need and buy a pair for each length of side. So if your project is 10″x 14″, you would buy a pair of 10″ bars and a pair of 14″ bars. They are designed to lock into each other with ease. Use them as the structure to stretch the embroidery project and prepare it for framing.

Little by little, I’ll be adding things to make it easy for embroiderers and cross stitchers to be able to find all their supplies right here, locally. Once my busy winter season settles into spring, I want to start planning some classes for the fall. When the time comes, I will probably bring in blank pillow cases and tea towels and offer basic embroidery classes so folks can try it out and discover just how much enjoyment and satisfaction this wonderful art form has to give. I hope to offer classes on cross stitch and the use of waste canvas too.

Happy Crafting!

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!

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!