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!

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!

Reminiscing

This past week has been a whirlwind. I feel like I only just wrote last week’s blog. It’s Friday now and I have one more day in the store before I head to Germany for three weeks. It feels very strange to think that I won’t be in my store for three weeks. In anticipation of my trip, I’ve had so many memories bubbling up; I thought I’d share some with you today.

At eleven years old, I quite honestly didn’t understand the magnitude that living in Germany for a year would have on my life. I was definitely aware that this was the opportunity of a lifetime — as much as you can at that age, at least. And I was deeply grateful for that opportunity. In the week leading up to it, I remember laying awake at night, giddy with excitement, to the point that I would burst into tears and giggle fits. I had never been on an airplane before; I had never been away from my family before. And before Aunt and Uncle arrived, I had never met them. I had met my grandmothers though: Friederike (Friedchen) and Amalia. They had each been to Canada to visit us on multiple occasions.

Friedchen was a yarn lover. Every year she would send us crocheted dresses for Easter and knitted pullover sweaters for Christmas. There would be delicious little treats scattered throughout the parcel and it was so exciting to watch Mom unwrap it all and figure out what was intended for whom. The contents of the parcels had a particular scent that I associated with Oma.

Isn’t it funny how we can remember scents?

I can remember when my aunt took me to Oma’s house for the first time. We walked through her beautiful flower garden to the door. I remember the peonies and roses most. She opened the door and I breathed in that familiar scent. She stood there with her arms open wide and it was all so much to take in that I burst into tears. I threw my arms around her and although I had never been in her house before, I felt like I was coming home. She had baked a cake, and was shocked to learn that I didn’t drink coffee. She insisted that I try it. She served it in a teal and gold fine china demi-tasse. It felt like a fancy tea party. Man, that coffee was strong! It wasn’t quite as strong as espresso, but just about. I must have made a memorable face, because she and my aunt almost fell off their chairs laughing. When the cake was polished off, she insisted that I sing her a song. I happily complied, and her dachshund, Benny, joined in. I considered it a compliment!

I wanted Oma to show me how to knit, but we didn’t have time.

It was only a long weekend jaunt. She had a number of projects on the go and she showed them to me one by one. As a way of quelling my disappointment that there wasn’t time for her to teach me to knit, she pulled out the patterns she was knitting and had me try to read them. I did my best, but they were terribly confusing. She assured me that one day, I would understand them and be making beautiful things out of yarn. She was right.

Oma loved animals. She had two dogs (a German Shepherd that would not have hesitated to take a grizzly bear down, and Benny, the dachshund) she also had two angora rabbits. The small vegetable garden in her back yard hosted a tiny chicken coop and a number of chickens that happily wandered through the fenced yard and garden behind her house. Her front yard was a beautiful flower garden. When I was there it was warm and breezy and the scents of the flowers would tease my nose every so often. You could hear the insects buzzing and the birds singing. (The first time I heard a cuckoo was on a walk through a beech forest in Germany.) Being at her home gave me a sense of where I had come from. I discovered that I had a lot in common with her. More than I had ever realized.

I found that deeply comforting.

Sadly, Oma has been gone for many, many years. So I won’t be able to sit and knit with her in Germany. But that’s okay. I like to think that she sits with me sometimes when I knit. Perhaps I’m sentimental, but I like to think that. When I feel sad that my children never got to meet her, I have to remind myself that they do get to meet her. When I share my memories of her with them, they get to meet her. That’s pretty wonderful.

There will be so many interesting things to do and see in the three weeks that we are in Germany. The challenge will be to make certain there is enough quiet time in between the activities to ensure that we can really take it all in. I want it to be more than just a big blur of busy. What a gift that I can share this trip with my daughter.

It’s easy to get so caught up in day-to-day tasks and working that we forget why we work so hard.

It’s good to take some time to reminisce and remember — and appreciate. All those experiences built the context through which we now navigate. They built us into who we now are. Sometimes we need to take time to set the business of life aside and remember the path that brought us to today. In doing so, past, present and future exist all together in one moment: now.

I hope you are able to take some time to set the busy stuff aside and just be this summer. Even if it’s only for brief moments here and there.

Happy Summer!

Countdown to Holidays!

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

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

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

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

It reinforced our desire to go to Germany together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in the meantime I wish you: Happy Crafting!

Keeping out the Evening Chill

Heading to the lake? Evening barbecue in the backyard? Camping for the weekend?

It may be hot during the day, but when it cools off in the evening (if you’re anything like me) you’ll be reaching for something to throw over your shoulders to keep the chill away. Summer wraps are the perfect thing! With all the gorgeous patterns available to hit every skill level and every taste, add in all the lovely yarns… and the possibilities are endless.

I love shawls, wraps and ponchos. They fill that gap when you need a little something to throw on, but a sweater or a jacket are just a little too much. They are practical, cozy and can be as casual or as fashionable as you want. With the help of a shawl pin, you can clasp it to keep it right where you want it. No fuss or bother required.

Depending on the design you choose, you can challenge yourself, you can “Zen out” with something “brainless”… or you can hit the scale somewhere in between the two. As much as there are some highly complex lace shawl patterns out there, there are just as many easy ones that allow you to sit back and relax as your hands auto-pilot you to a lovely summer wrap.

Some of the designs that are referred to as cowls nowadays are really more like mini-ponchos, or capelets. These are really cute and don’t need any fasteners. If you’re going for an evening walk, they are just enough to keep you from getting goose bumps from that chilly breeze. Ponchos are a great and easy cover-up option too. Look for a pattern that starts at the neckline so you can simply keep on knitting or crocheting until it is as long as you want it to be.

Triangular shawls can be made in any weight of yarn and usually, you can simply keep on adding to them to make them as large as you would like them to be. You can tie them or use a shawl pin to fasten them where you like them. You can wear them in a few different ways so that they cover more or less of you.

Rectangular wraps are essentially just a really wide and long scarf. Using bamboo or cotton and a very simple stitch pattern can turn something we normally associate with winter into our “go-to” cover up through the summer months and during the “shoulder” seasons (pun definitely intended).

There are some lovely summery yarns available that can give you the perfect texture and weight for your shawl or poncho. Whether you prefer cotton, viscose, bamboo or linen blends, or you are a die-hard Merino lover, we are fortunate to have access to many options in a vast array of colourways. If you work up something in a worsted weight, it comes together quicker than you might think. I have a lovely gradient cotton/wool blend in DK weight (Rainbow Autumn) from Estelle Yarns that makes a gorgeous cover up that would be perfect for summer evenings at the campsite or beach. Looking for something with a bit of shine? Cotton/Viscose blends are what you are looking for. Bamboo is very strong and durable. CoBaSi gives a gorgeous summer fabric comprised of Cotton, Bamboo and Silk. The possibilities are endless!

I adore Knox Mountain Knit Co’s patterns; that’s why I sell them in hard-copy in my store. Her patterns are gorgeous and easy to follow. Once I start one, I can’t put it down. If you’re local, pop in and check out my binder full of Knox Mountain shawl patterns. If not, here’s the search result for her shawl patterns on Ravelry.

Here are a few pretty crochet designs I found on Ravelry:

Secret Paths by Johanna Lindhal (© Johanna Lindahl)

Shawl for Rachel by Hilda Steyn (© Hilda Steyn 2015)

Maple Leaf Shawl by Kirsten Ballering (© Kirsten Ballering)

Klaziena Shawl by Kirsten Bishop (by mola1971)

Striped Poncho by Crochet – Atalier (© Luba Davies Atelier)

These cover-ups make great projects to knit or crochet at your campsite. After all, that is what camping is for, right?

Happy Knitting and Crocheting!


Cobasi

Rainbow Autumn

Summertime

Tropicali

Mulberry

Nako Fiore

Baby Bamboo