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!

Greetings from Germany

After flight delays, missed connections, rerouting, failed messages and roughly 24 hours in transit, we may have arrived 6 hours later than expected; but we made it to Germany safe and sound.

It was a relief to arrive at my cousin’s house in Schlitz. We celebrated our arrival with some delicious wine from the area. Located about half an hour from Fulda, this gorgeous little town is the home of the biannual Schlitzenlander Trachtenfest. (Link to the website). With a rich textiles history what better place to start our German itinerary. The festival begins tonight (Friday July 12) and concludes on Monday. Obviously, I can’t tell you all about this year’s festival yet since it hasn’t started. But I can tell you about some of the things I found charming and interesting here.

On Saturday I will be checking out the local factory outlet for Driessen Leinen. They specialize in the weaving of fine linen fabrics, bed and kitchen linens and more. It will be difficult to stick to my budget! I absolutely love linen. Driessen also offers a cotton/linen blend. I’m excited to see what they have.

On Wednesday we went to see the Vorderburg Museum. It hosts a collection of items relating to weaving, shoe-making and local history. We went with the intention of hearing the glockenspiel and then touring the museum. We were told that the glockenspiel would play at 3pm. After taking the lift up to the top of the nearby tower and taking in the panoramic view, we visited the neighbouring church and then made our way to the Vorderburg Museum. We waited patiently for almost 20 minutes for the chimes to play a song. Alas, after chiming the hour… nothing. We waited a couple more minutes before heading into the museum. We paid our admission and after a little while we realized we could just barely make out the sound of the glockenspiel. If we had been patient just six or seven minutes more we could have heard it in the courtyard. Oh well. We were told it would play again at 5pm.

The museum is small but packed with interesting items. I was particularly interested in the artifacts directly related to textiles. The looms, spinning wheels, examples of hand crafted folk costumes and linens dating way back gave a sense of how incredibly long people have had a mastery of textiles. There were samplers of traditional redwork embroidery, typical of the region. The samplers were a way for women to perfect their technique before advancing to the embroidery of garments, bed and kitchen linens or decorative projects.

In the shoe making history display, I was delighted to discover a treadle version of the industrial sewing machine I have in my store for doing leather repair. If not for the patina that the passage of time has given it, and lack of a motor, it could have been my very machine! When something works well, why change it?

The folk costume display highlighted the wide variety of skills needed to complete these textile works of art. I was so engrossed by the array of techniques (tatting, cross stitch, smocking, knitting, embroidery, sewing, leatherwork and beading) that I left without taking any photos!

After viewing the last of the museum displays we decided to check out more of the local sights. The market place was bustling with carpenters setting up stages and booths in preparation for the festival. We walked through the park and checked out the music academy. We zigzagged between the medieval half timbered houses and headed back through the cloister garden. Suddenly we realized we could just make out the sounds of the glockenspiel in the distance! Yes, we missed it again! We were so carried away with all the beautiful buildings and surroundings that we had lost track of time.

Thursday morning we got up early to head to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Despite our train out of Fulda being cancelled, and clouds giving way to a steady, desperately needed rain (there had been a heat wave leading up to our arrival), nothing could stop us from having a magical time in the walled medieval city. Exhausted, we were happy for the comfort of the B & B at the end of the day.

Today we will be taking in the sights of Nuremberg… including at least one yarn shop and the museum and home of artist Albrecht Durer. Early Saturday morning we head back to Schlitz to visit Driessen Leinen and take in the Trachtenfest.

Happy summer!

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!

Kinda Like the 70’s

I have lots of great memories of the 1970’s. The clothes (well except for Fortrel, that stuff was nasty and don’t let anyone try and tell you otherwise) the cars, the television shows, the music… One of the great things that I loved about the 1970’s was how many fibre arts were in fashion then.

Knitting, embroidery, macrame, crochet, quilting, cross stitch, needlepoint and sewing were all common pastimes.

As a young girl I found inspiration in all things fibre.

I loved to sew and I loved the peasant style blouses that had hand embroidered necklines in bright colours and designs that spoke of rich ethnic connections. I loved knitting and crochet, cross stitch and spinning. I wanted to do it all. I drove my poor parents batty in my quest to understand how it was all done and to try it all. I had a passionate drive to get to the bottom of every process. Once I was convinced I had grasped it I dove into the next challenge with a single minded fervor that simply could not be quelled. I absolutely thirsted for it!

I can hear my parents complain that I never settled into any one thing. In a way they were right.

I settled into two things: music and fibres. Everything I loved most involved those two things.

I still love all that stuff today. It just sucks that there are only 24 hours in a day. There are choices that have to be made in order to be able to enjoy the experiences I love and keep the bills paid and keep up with all that other stuff adults have the privilege of being responsible for.

Many of the skills and passions I nurtured and developed throughout my life have become all but lost arts. There was a time when sewing was considered a vital life skill. They don’t teach it in school here any more. What passes for an introduction to sewing is, shamefully, barely a glance in the direction of a sewing machine. I suppose I should be grateful, since that means my skills are actually valued now. My business relies on people wanting their items fixed but being unable (or unwilling) to do it themselves.

And yet I see and feel a resurgence of those beautiful practical activities.

The fibre arts are making a comeback in a big way.

I couldn’t be happier. And it’s exciting to see the growth of it all.

I love it when people come to my store and tell me they are just learning a fibre art. It’s exciting and I am thrilled that I have the privilege and opportunity to share my extensive experience and knowledge with them. I want to do what I can to help them to have the kind of experience that will make them want to grow, nurture and sustain these interests too.

I have been responding to this shift by expanding my selection in the store to greet the need. Little by little, what I carry is reflecting how public interest in fibre arts is growing.

It’s exciting!

It’s flint to a fire; it makes me want to embroider and cross stitch again. Perhaps it’s time for me to plan out some beginner classes to teach these methods and be the spark that ignites a passion for fibre arts in a whole new generation; even if only a few people at a time.

There are so many things now that are reminiscent of the 1970’s. The “neo-hippies” share many of the same desires of the hippies from back then, but they have so much more at their fingertips than folks did back then. There is an idealistic spirit that has persevered all along that I can relate to. Today’s hippie-leaning folk have incredible technology at their fingertips. Yet there is still the desire for simplicity, practicality, accountability and sustainability that I remember and hold dear.

I try to keep up with what’s going on, but I have to be honest. As much as I love technology, I find that the pace of change of it has begun to feel like a rat-race to me. The shifting trends can start to feel excessive and superfluous. Don’t get me wrong. I love that social media and the internet have allowed regular people like me to have this kind of platform to connect with others (many of whom we will never meet in person). As the context of our lives changes along with our new technologies it’s easy to feel out of touch with it all. It’s interesting to me, to see how differently the newer generations are with technology. It is such a natural thing to them and they don’t even realize it. The marketplace is changing. How we do business is changing. Business models that were in place since the industrial revolution are disappearing completely. Back in the 70’s there was no internet. Computers took up the entire floor of a building. If you phoned a friend and they were not home, you couldn’t leave a message for them and they had no way of knowing you had called. Back then, you could tell someone you called them 10 times without an answer and no one would know if you were exaggerating or not. LOL

In this fast-paced and ever changing world, when I find myself frustrated with all the intangibles that I have to try and keep up with, I know I can count on my wonderful fibres. (In the back of my mind, I know and I’m truly grateful that I can login to Ravelry to find patterns.)

But, I can pick up my knitting and it will be there like a solid friend. The knits will be knits. The purls will be purls. My embroidery thread will always be 6 strands thick in an exquisite rainbow of blissful colours.

And I can pick up my fibre arts project and escape to the “touch-it, feel-it” things that have remained kinda like the 70’s.

Happy Crafting