Ooh! Christmas Ornaments to Knit!

Do you have a bunch of pretty leftover yarn that isn’t really enough to do much with? It’s just so nice you hate to get rid of it? Well, this very addictive little project will have you digging for all your leftovers and knitting up loads of Christmas tree ball ornaments. Once you start, it is really hard to stop!

Okay, so I’m all for full disclosure and so I want to give the back story to my newfound addiction. A few years ago, I started following Arne and Carlos’ YouTube channel. I love these guys. They are so creative and talented and skilled. If you aren’t following them and you love fibre arts, I encourage you to check them out.

They did a video on Christmas Balls back in 2015 and then again in 2017. They do the traditional stranded colourwork designs typical of Norway (that’s where they live). At the time I saw it, it was after Christmas and I just didn’t have the time or motivation to try them out. Since then, they have been hovering in the back of my mind, calling out,

“Knit me, Judy… you know you want to!” Yeah, since 2016 New Year’s!

So this year, I went hunting for the free pattern link so I could make some up out of my leftover yarn. The downloads are simply the colourwork charts and that’s it. I downloaded them and made a couple. As I was digging through my odds and ends I realized that I have a lot of bits of self patterning sock yarn leftover from socks I have knit. I thought, “why not just simplify and eliminate the colourwork and just let the yarn do the talking.

So I did.

After I made a bunch it occurred to me that this simplified version of balls is just too fun not to share with everyone out there. So I wrote up a really simple pattern for it. My understanding is that this pattern has been around since the dawn of time and isn’t anyone’s property. I am offering it as a free download (with no intention of every charging money for it).

Download the pattern

So let me give you a quick overview.

You have to do them on DPN’s (double point needles). You can use any weight of yarn, but you just adjust the size of the needles to accommodate it and realize they will be larger with larger yarn. I would encourage you to knit them a little on the dense side. So if you knit tight just do what you usually do; if not, go down a size with your needles from what the yarn suggests. I would stick to a finer yarn for making the little hanger thingie at the top though.

You’ll definitely want to use a set of five DPN’s as these are made up of 4 equal and repeating sections and that means you can have each section on its own DPN. I think dividing them onto three needles would take a lot of the ease and fun out of them… just saying.

I love the size you get from sock yarn. Also, the whole thing for me was to use the self striping yarn so it would give me an interesting result with little effort. I did one up in worsted weight. multi coloured, hand dyed yarn. It looks gorgeous. I’m not crazy about how large it is as I kinda just like my ornaments to be smaller. Arne and Carlos appeared to be using DK weight and I think I’d still be okay with that size. I personally wouldn’t want them any bigger, but if you like them bigger go for it!

A little tip. When you get about half way done, you might want to already take the time to close up the bottom opening with your cast on tail. It makes it really easy. Thread the tail onto your needle, pull it through each of the cast on stitches twice, put the needle through the centre hole. Turn the ball inside out and pull the needle through. Tighten it up really nice and fasten it off on the inside of the ball. You can just leave the tail there without trimming it. Or, you can do that at the end with the other finishing steps.

It takes very little yarn to make one of these. The ones I made using sock yarn weigh under 5 g before I start any of the finishing work.

A note about increases and decreases.

The charts that you can download from Arne and Carlos do not indicate any specifics regarding the type of increases or decreases to use. They do talk about it a little in their video. I played around with several different options on the first few balls I did. My pattern reflects the ones that gave the smoothest transitions and nicest overall look in my opinion. I found that using the exact same increase stitch all the way around (and the same decrease stitch all around respectively) actually gave a better appearance than doing opposite leaning ones on either side of a centre. So yes, this is on purpose. If you don’t usually knit projects with a bunch of shaping and that was confusing to you, just ignore it and trust the pattern. 🙂

Now, a note to locals in Revelstoke

As Social Saturday is up and running again, I invite you to gather up your leftover yarns, throw them and your DPN’s in your knitting bag, download this pattern and come on down to Judy’s Designs on Saturday, December 7th to make Christmas Tree Ball Ornaments with me. It takes me around an hour and a half to knit one (if I don’t get interrupted). Oh, and if you have the Knit Companion app, you might want to set the pattern up as a project. If you don’t have Knit Companion… why not? (No, I’m not a representative of them. I just love the App.) Feel free to print out the pattern. I include a grid that allows you to keep track of your rounds as you knit them and there is room to track 9 balls or something. 😀 You’re welcome! I hope to see you on Saturday.

Happy Knitting!

Social Saturdays are Back!

The season to curl up with your favourite fibre art projects is back. YAY! Since the frost hit, I’ve had many people asking when we would be starting up our Social Saturdays Stitching Circle. As of this weekend (November 30, 2019) we’ll be back at it.

If you are new to Revelstoke, or if you are just visiting and you aren’t familiar with Social Saturdays, here’s the scoop.

Social Saturday is a free, drop in group that meets every Saturday throughout the winter months (until around the middle of April) at Judy’s Designs at #103 – 217 Victoria Rd. East in Revelstoke, BC.

Feel free to bring any portable fibre arts related project. It could be anything from cross stitch or embroidery to knitting, crochet, needle felting or needle punching, hand quilting, you name it. We will have the coffee on and a kettle nearby if you prefer to drink tea.

These are not classes, just gathering opportunities so you can hang out with other fibre enthusiasts and spend some social time while making some progress on your projects. (If you are looking for actual instruction, pop in and ask Judy about signing up. There will be classes offered in January, 2020.) However, if you have hit a bit of a snag and you need some fresh eyes to help you figure out how to continue on, we’re happy to help you. Judy is experience in most fibre arts and can usually help you if you are stuck and need some help.

Social Saturdays start at 10:30 am and run to 3:00 pm on all Saturdays that Judy’s Designs is open. (We close on the Saturdays of long weekends and between Christmas Eve and New Year’s.) You don’t have to call ahead and you don’t have to hang out all day. Pop in for the day or for an hour, whatever works for you. We’ll be happy to see you.

Hope to see you!

Tips for Tardy Gift Makers

Every year I have good intentions that I’ll start making gifts early in the year; you know, so that there isn’t a grand panic when fall shifts into winter. (Now what was it my dad always said about good intentions?) There have been one or two years when I managed it. Sadly this year isn’t one of them. Let me share with you some ways I have found to be more efficient at this gift making time of year.

As we sail along the rails of the Pinterest and Instagram inspiration rides, it’s important to be more than just a little ruthless in your search. Personally, I have found that sticking to Ravelry.com is more efficient. There will almost always be a pattern available for the search results. At this time of year, you really have to have a clear mission in mind.

First off, you have to know what your end-game is. How many gifts do you want/need to make. Being clear will save you resources on every level. As I search in Ravelry (using the advanced search function), I like to open each project that catches my eye in a new tab. I’ll systematically do this first, working through my search results. Then I’ll go through all those tabs and eliminate the ones that don’t live up to my current needs. I bookmark the ones I’m seriously considering by adding them to my favourites or immediately downloading the pattern.

Make notes and keep them in one place.

What is it, who is it for, what materials do you need, when does it have to be done, what’s the budget?

I see people getting lost in their phones trying to find the information they need so they can buy their supplies. Often, they are unable to find the pattern at all. I like to use a free app called Knit Companion to organize my patterns. Minimally, this allows you to have those patterns all in one place for easy access on your devices. Printing out the patterns can also be helpful.

Stash-bust before you go shopping.

Once you have that list, go through your stash to see what will work for those projects. Bundle the pattern and supplies together and label them so you don’t have to try and remember what you did. Check those off your list and make a note of what you decided to use. Spending a little time to organize this information will save you a lot of time, money, energy and frustration later.

Keep it simple.

As much as the intricate patterns with amazing detail are attractive and dazzling, be honest. You don’t have time for that! It’s the end of November. But, that doesn’t mean that your gifts have to be boring. For instance, let’s say you are making a scarf or a cowl. You can make a plain knitted or crocheted long rectangle, put a knot in it and then attach the ends together. Presto, you have a funky cowl and all you did was knit or crochet a rectangle. Use chunky yarn and it will work up quickly. Funky buttons, simple embroidered motifs, tassles, pom-poms, using a mini stuffed toy instead of a pom-pom, “hand-made” labels, adding a crocheted rosette or square in a complimentary yarn are all ways to take a simple design up a notch.

Sticking with the super simple theme, there are all kinds of self-patterning yarns available that come with instructions. The yarn does the work for you. For instance, Magic Diamonds from Katia will give you an argyle (diagonal plaid) design and with one ball (and a bit of a contrasting yarn for the border), you can make a cowl. Katia Big Paint is a self striping yarn that comes with a pattern to knit or crochet a hat or to make a scarf. One ball makes a hat with a pom, whether you knit or crochet it. The knit scarf takes 3 balls, but the yarn is thick and works up fast. How cool is that? Cascade Curiosity is typically used for shawls, but, you can get three toques (beanies for non-Canadians) out of one ball. The colours shift subtly and each hat is different. Throw a faux fur pom on there and you have a gorgeous gift that is easy to make while you’re watching television.

But, you don’t necessarily have to do it all yourself. If your recipient is crafty, why not consider giving them a kit? Got a friend that loves to knit? Pick out a knitting pattern and the yarn to go with it and bundle it up with a “some assembly required” note card. Has your sister been talking about how much she’d love to learn how to needle felt? Buy a kit that has everything that you need to make it. Got a crafty niece or nephew? How about a knitting loom and enough yarn to make a hat or a scarf? I brought in crochet kits that include the hook, yarn, instructions and finishing notions for making bags. We have rug kits from Spain that include all the self patterning yarn, the pattern and the crochet hook. There are lots of options. Ask for help from the staff in your local yarn and craft shop.

And then, you can also check out the craft sales. Take advantage of the many talented makers who have already created hand crafted items. The nice thing about this option is that the items are ready made; you know exactly what you have. Makers pour their heart and passion into each piece they sell; and you get to give a hand made item without having to make it.

Every year I think I’ll start earlier, but I don’t. And that’s okay. The main thing is to remember that the whole point of making gifts from scratch is to have fun and give gifts that come from the heart. So keep it simple and keep it fun. Put up your feet and enjoy every stitch and you can’t go wrong.

Happy Crafting!

November Knitting Classes

Growing a business takes time, energy and a lot of hard work. It’s been five years now that Judy’s Designs has had a brick and mortar store front in Revelstoke, BC. Isn’t it funny how it can feel like something only started yesterday and yet feel like it has always been at the same time? It’s been pretty hectic since I got back from Germany. Our new expanded and renovated section is open and all the new product is out on display. The cold weather has prompted a whole lot of sewing jobs to come in the door and life is good.

Despite being down for a while with pneumonia, I’m on the mend now and feeling so much better. I’m still working on getting my energy level back up to normal but it improves every day, a little bit. Now that all the new stuff is out on the shelves and racks, and the anniversary celebrations are over there’s a sense of routine returning (for which I’m very grateful). I hired new staff to help out with the “front counter” work to take some of the pressure off me.

I had hoped to have a schedule of classes up by the beginning of October, but falling ill put a monkey-wrench into that plan. With staff in place, I will be freed up to offer classes. Originally, I planned to do an 8-class beginner workshop, but I have decided instead to offer those concepts as individual stand-alone classes. I’ll see how it goes and maybe in the future I’ll do it differently. But for this season, I will set it up as separate classes for each technique that I will be covering. Depending on how quickly the attending students pick up, I will adjust the amount of information to accommodate what they need and are up for.

In November I will focus on Knitting Technique. All classes require advance registration. Classes will be an hour and a half long. Fees will be $25 per class per person plus any materials required and taxes. Minimum of 4 students per class, maximum of 6. Class times 10:00am to 11:30am and/or 6:30pm to 8:00pm. This will be determined by what fits best with each group that has registered.

So here’s what I am offering:

Wednesday, November 13th
Knitting Basics: Casting On (Beginner) Non-stretchy and stretchy methods.

Thursday November 14th
Knitting Basics – The Knit and Purl stitches. I will demonstrate both continental and English techniques. (Beginner)

Friday November 15th
Knitting Basics: Knitting in the Round – (Demonstration will include: DPN’s; Magic Loop; 2 circs; 1 circ). You’ll begin knitting a hat.

Wednesday November 20th
Knitting Technique Builders: The Art of the Decrease. I’ll cover as many techniques as possible in the time allotted. There are a lot of methods.

Thursday November 21
Knitting Technique Builders: The Art of the Increase. I’ll cover as many techniques as possible in the time allotted. There are a lot of methods.

Friday November 22
Knitting Basics: Binding off. I’ll cover both stretchy and non-stretchy methods.

Wednesday November 27th
Knitting Basics: How to Read Patterns. This will focus on how to approach different styles of written patterns, what to look for and pitfalls to watch out for.

Thursday November 28th
Knitting Basics: Chart Reading (Cowl Project) Learn how to read a chart within a pattern for flat knitting.

Friday November 29th
Knitting Basics: How to Read Patterns: Chart reading (Hat Project). Learn to read a chart within a pattern for knitting in the round.

The reality is that December gets exceedingly hectic for most people. I don’t plan to run any classes in December. If there is enough interest, I may run a needle felting class between Christmas and New Year’s. I will definitely need to have people let me know if they want to commit to that as I would be bringing someone in to run that class for me.

I’ll get a schedule up for classes for January, February and March. Included in those will be 4-session workshops both on Toe-up Sock knitting and Mitten knitting. Stay tuned for details on those. Embroidery basics, crochet and other fibre arts classes will begin in January. I will have sign up sheets available November 1st. Be sure to get signed up as soon as possible. What I offer will depend on whether I have enough interest. It takes a great deal of effort to organize a class and I have a lot going on. I don’t want to spend a whole bunch of time setting something up if there isn’t enough interest to justify it.

I’m excited about this! Come on out and build your skills!

A One Day Pop Up Store – Here on Saturday!

I raised my kids out in the country. For seven years of that time we home schooled. I ran a home based business that allowed me to supplement the family income using my creative talents. It takes a lot to build a home based business. At that time, of course, there weren’t the same opportunities to get your products or services known that we have now. It’s a very different landscape these days. Social media, online platforms like Etsy, Craft markets and Pop up Stores give home based makers a variety of ways to let people know what they have to offer.

Online platforms are fantastic. You can definitely get traction using them. Lots of people order yarn and other fibre related items online. (It’s one of the big challenges to brick and mortar fibre shops, to compete with the effortlessness of buying online.) And yet for those of us who love the oh-so-very tactile nature of fibre arts, there’s nothing like seeing those items in person. After all, isn’t it really all about the squish factor and seeing the richness of the colours in person? I don’t know anyone whose computer screen gives that true sensory experience. 😀

The first time I heard of a pop up store was about a year and a half ago. What a creative idea. Boy, that would have been such a wonderful thing back when I was doing my home based thing all those years ago. To be able to show up, just for one day, in an established business location to offer my wares to the public. To be able to take advantage of their debit machine so people could pay in whatever way they chose to. To have the benefit of extending my reach to include the customers of that sponsoring business. To not have to commit to a full season at a farm and craft market. Yeah, that would have been fantastic. What a great idea!

A while ago I was chatting with the owner of another yarn shop and the topic of Pop up Stores came up. I mentioned that I thought it was a great idea and when she was approached, she shared my contact information with some interested folks. I have a soft spot for makers facing the challenges associated with working from home. There are so many brilliant and creative people designing so many gorgeous things in the fibre arts arena right now. What a wonderful way to bring something a little different into my store. It’s a win-win. I’m so excited!

Judy’s Designs’ first ever Pop Up Store event is coming up this Saturday, October 26th from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm, We’ll be hosting Fat Marmot Knits of Kelowna. How cool is that?

Fat Marmot Knits is a small batch yarn and fibre dying company based in the colourful Okanagan. Nikki first started experimenting with dying wool in 2012. At first it was just a curiosity, but it quickly turned into an obsession. In 2018 Fat Marmot knits was born and Nikki was able to start sharing her passion with the world. Everything is hand dyed in small batches in her kitchen located in the beautiful Okanagan valley. Nikki has developed some repeatable colourways, but often gets distracted by all the possible colour combinations resulting in unique one of a kind skeins and fibre. Fat Marmot Knits was born out of a desire to play with colour on a medium that Nikki has loved for many years!

I love that a lot of what Nikki does is truly one of a kind. There is something refreshing about that. Let’s show her a big warm Revelstoke welcome on Saturday, October 26th!

Assessing the WIP Basket

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a bunch of work-in-progress projects that have piled up in a corner or a basket or maybe on the chair in the bedroom. I find that at this time of the year I start to feel those unfinished objects (UFO’s) calling out to me. Unfinished projects have a way of pulling at my energy. It may not be a very big pull, but whenever I walk by them I have that subtle sense of “oh yeah, I should finish that”. And that takes a little bit out of me, every time. Maybe it’s time to make a plan to tackle some of those.

Going into the fall and winter, I really want to be able to work on new and exciting things that will inspire me: new yarns, new patterns, new challenges. I want to knit up samples with the new products I’m bringing in. But I also know that I really need to minimally assess my pile of WIP’s and come up with a plan to make that pile smaller.

Over the next 4 weeks, I want to pick through those things and determine whether there are some things that I know I simply won’t finish. Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple started pairs of socks that are most definitely too small. They were both really complicated patterns and I knitted a lot on them. I just couldn’t bring myself to frog them even though I knew I should. I think I need to sacrifice them. Time to sit down at the yarn winder and just wind them into a new ball with fresh potential. I won’t get back the time I knitted either way. So instead of feeling sad every time I see them, I can think about using that yarn for a new project. There, that wasn’t so bad. That’s two projects that can leave the basket and go back into the stash.

I have at least one project that I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to change colours part way through, or if I should order more yarn and just finish it in the colour I started with (before the yarn isn’t available any more!) I guess the fact that it has been sitting for a whole year is a good sign that I’m not going to change colours. Best get that yarn on order. Maybe that will motivate me to get back at it and finish it. 🙂 That’s one more that can move forward!

Then there are the ones where I lost the pattern, or the pattern had mistakes and continuing on will be more headache than fun. That should eliminate two or three from the pile in the corner of the living room… More frogging ahead!

I know there are a couple that really won’t take that long to finish if I just got back at them. I just kind of got tired of looking at the yarn; or the yarn wasn’t as nice to work with as I’d hoped and I lost interest. I’ll have to make a decision about those. It’s only a few, I can decide on those.

Funny, just thinking it through, I feel a little lighter. I feel like maybe thinning out the WIPs won’t have to be as hard as I was thinking it would be. I’m already feeling more motivated to take action and get some things done. Isn’t it amazing what a plan can do?

With all the new yarns coming in, it will feel good to clear the slate and make room to knit up some samples. I think I can maybe alternate between finishing an old project and making a sample out of something brand new. Little by little I’ll get that pile under control.

How about you? Are you ready to tackle your pile of UFO’s?

Happy Knitting!

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!

Back Home & Inspired!

After three amazing weeks in Germany, I’m back in the store and working on hitting my stride. Over the final week of the trip I had an unofficial tour of Mey in Albstadt and I met with the owners of Rohrspatz & Wollmeise in Pfaffenhofen (Ilm). Both were wonderful experiences.

My cousin and I were born 10 days apart. I was born in Canada, she was born in Germany. When I lived with my aunt in Bavaria, we met for the first time. We hit it off and became good friends. Every opportunity, my aunt would make sure we had the chance to spend time together. Even heading into the mountains to learn to ski… that’s a story for another day though. Each time I was in Germany, she was one of the first people I sought out to visit. She even managed to come to Canada for a while.

We each developed a passion for nature, music and fibre arts. Fast forward and here’s me, running a yarn and sewing/alterations/repairs shop in a small town in the mountains, and she is part of the administration office that oversees the cutting department in a clothing/intimates factory (in the mountains) in Germany. Both of us ended up working with textiles, but on opposite ends of the spectrum. While in Germany, she graciously gave me an unofficial tour of the Mey factory where she works. Obviously, taking any photos was out of the question. It was exciting to be able to see the huge knitting machines that they employ to generate the exquisitely fine fabrics for use in their intimates line. So fine, they are like a second skin. There were machines that manipulate the fabric to prepare it for cutting and machines that cut out the pieces in various ways. They had some robotic stations where several machines are overseen by one individual and other stations where sewists operated stations in a form of production line. The machines were set up with specialized jigs that made the work fast and effortless. It’s a far cry from they type of work I do.

As much as it was truly interesting and exciting for me to see, it’s not the way I want to relate to textiles and fibres. But it sure works for my cousin. And really, that’s the important thing.

In my shop, I have 7 industrial sewing machines that each do a specialized type of operation. Over the years I have collected them as I encountered work that I wanted to be able to do, but that my existing machines wouldn’t allow me to do very easily. I plan to purchase one more in the near future as I find myself, one again, faced with jobs that are very difficult to complete with the equipment I have. I can do them, but with the new machine, it will make doing them easy and fun compared to what I have to do now.

When people come into the store for the first time, they are often quite surprised at my work station area and the number of machines I have set up. I’m often asked how many people I have sewing. When I tell them it’s only me, they’re pretty shocked. The thing is that industrial machines are not like domestic ones that home sewists use. They are designed to do one task, at speed, perpetually at high volume. The motors are almost as big as an entire home sewing machine. It’s a good thing too, I’m very hard on my machines. I ask a lot of them. When I’m working on industrial goods for helicopters, or heavy packs and gear, the machines have to be able to take it. And the ones I have, can and do. They are my work-horses.

But of course, sewing isn’t all that my shop is about. It’s also about fibre crafts and yarn. Over the almost five years that my shop has been open, my inventory of yarn has grown to meet the needs of my customers.

Hard to believe that I started with one type of yarn in 11 colours.

But you have to start somewhere. Over time, little by little I have brought in new yarns based on what my customers were requesting. I don’t even know how many different yarns I carry any more. Lots.

Over the past couple years I’ve seen a significant increase in the number of people looking for high quality hand-dyed yarns. Many want natural fibres and as earth friendly a product as possible. I tentatively started out with some items from Sweet Paprika Yarns out of Ontario. Many people insisted they wanted something more “local”. Last year I added Black Cat Custom Yarn to the mix. This line was embraced enthusiastically. Of course, small independent dyers are not necessarily able to keep up with demand until their businesses mature and ordering from them has its own learning curve. This fall I’ll be bringing in hand dyed yarn from Ancient Arts out of Calgary. They have a number of gorgeous colourways that were inspired by Revelstoke and our direct surrounding area. I’m thrilled to build a relationship with this company!

And now, a big reason for my trip to Germany was to meet with Rohrspatz & Wollmeise to discuss bringing their absolutely gorgeous hand-dyed yarns into my shop. They put so much care and attention into everything they do. Meeting them was a joy. What sets them apart is that they only use natural food-related products to get their vibrant colour-fast colours. They don’t use any chemical products. You can’t get any more earth friendly than what these people do. Claudia and Andreas are lovely people. It’s clear when you meet them and their staff that the company has a warm and caring atmosphere. I’m very excited and very proud to be able to provide their exceptional products to my customers. It will likely be the middle of October before they’ll start showing up in my shop. I can hardly wait!

In the meantime: Happy Summer!

History Inspires!

It’s been an incredibly busy week here in Germany.

Saturday
we went on a 40km long bike tour through the Danube valley,
Sunday
we caught up on mundane stuff like laundry,
Monday
we traveled through the mountains to see castles,
Tuesday
we visited my elderly Aunt in the country and made our way to Ulm,
Wednesday
we toured the Ulmer Münster, (climbing up and down all 786 stairs of the the tower), walked the Altstadt and toured a couple convent churches,
Thursday
another Convent church and a museum tour of artist Kuen and travel to Munich… whew!

Add to that the scorching summer temperatures and yeah, we are very tired now. The highlight of this crazy busy week, for me, came through in the form of royal textiles.

So, let’s backup to Monday. With my cousin driving, we headed out in the morning to take in a marathon of castles. We started with Neu Schwangau, where we were able to see both the Neu Schwangau and Neu Schwanstein castles. They are located in relatively close proximity to each other. Without booking months in advance, it’s pointless to try to get in for the tour. We had to be satisfied taking some photos and appreciating the gorgeous setting. Neu Schwangau is the yellow castle and Neu Schwanstein is the one you’ve probably seen on about a gazillion puzzles and posters. (Think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.)

Next stop was at Linderhof. This was the favourite castle of King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 1800’s. So in a nutshell: Ludwig was the second son in line for the throne, his dad died, his brother died and at around 18 years of age Ludwig was crowned King. Buuuuut… because he was so young, a Prince Regent was assigned to rule. Ludwig was a soft sort who really wasn’t suited to the hard job of running the country. The Prince Regent held onto the power and Ludwig was simply a Royal figure head. Now what was an essentially powerless king to do with all that spare time? Why, build fairytale castles and run the country into bankruptcy along the way, of course.

“Get to the textiles already!” You say? I’m getting there, honest.

Ludwig had a love of artistry and longed for the power that absolute kings like Louis XIV of France had. So he fashioned his castles to give the appearance that he had real power. The rooms were fashioned to reflect the Baroque era with gold leaf, crystal and fine porcelain chandeliers, exquisitely crafted inlaid furniture, a cabinet made almost exclusively of tortoise shell and gold and yes, luxurious textiles unlike anyone could even imagine.

Sadly, we were not allowed to take photos inside any of the castles. We toured Linderhof and the castle at Herren Chiemsee. Where Linderhof was a residence (we were told he spent 2 weeks each month there), Herren Chiemsee was a tribute to Versailles and the French absolute kings of the Baroque era. There isn’t any hint of German or Bavarian anything anywhere in this incredible structure. The castle was never completed but the rooms that were, will take your breath away.

There were two main forms of tapestries that really stood out. There were drapes and the coat of arms textile hangings.

The drapes were primarily velvet; the colour was determined by the room they were in. From softest lilac and rich scarlet to the king’s favourite, blue. Rich, thick, gorgeous velvet. But wait, they were so much more! Depending on the room, they were richly embroidered with strands of silver and gold. Yeah, real silver and real gold. The motifs that resulted were three dimensional because of the thickness of the threads and the density of the stitching. Fringes of silver and gold adorned the edges of the valances, drapes and pull backs.

The wall hangings that displayed the coat of arms (usually French), we’re stitched using a technique referred to as “needle painting”. Each square centimetre held 100 stitches. That’s 645 per square inch! In fabric terms that’s 25.4 count… we’re talking petit point here. These hangings are massive and were as much as 4 feet wide and 8 feet high. They portrayed life like human figures showing off the symbols that related to that room’s heraldic theme.

One room alone took 30 highly skilled needle artists working full time seven years to complete. Imagine the cost! That was just the textiles from one room in one castle.

If you are familiar with Baroque and Rococo decoration you won’t be surprised that everything was very busy, flashy and well, kinda gaudy. However there is no denying that these resplendent displays of wealth, desired power and station are a testament to the legions of exquisitely talented craftspeople who pushed the boundaries of their respective arts to create these historical monuments. Whether King Ludwig II was a little crazy and self indulgent or not, the legacy he left to Bavaria is undeniable. I walked away feeling deeply proud of my German heritage and inspired to grow in my own creative avenues.

Here’s to what inspires us!

Happy Summer!

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!