Black Dog

Just a little outpost on the web for me to ramble, post pix, share ideas, and be a part of the crowd.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Quick Hit And Run

Just a quick post to share a fun link with you. One of our great custo-friends is a columnist for our local paper and is syndicated in the Midwest. She's a hilarious person and a great writer (and she shares a birthday with Matt's mom, too, and they've met and get along famously) and she's a regular here at the shop. She's even survived one of my beginning knitting classes without too many scars.

This time around, she's written a funny column that was published in today's paper. Check it out and have a good laugh!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Creative Genius.....aka Madness

I've been looking at new goods from a variety of vendors and trying to sort out what to bring in at the shop ASAP, what to wait a little bit, and what to put off into the early fall. It's always hard, because summer tends to be a slower time for most yarn shops (us included) but it's also when new yarns and related goods start to become available for the fall/winter knitting season. It's funny--we're definitely in the fashion industry, as you're always working off a season (or more), making summer things in December and January and working on fall/winter things in July and August (and buying for the next season a good nine months ahead of time in many cases). So that causes me great consternation, as Matt and I have to make decisions about what may or may not be popular, what will be more popular, and what fits the needs of the shop in terms of stock, accessories, and patterns. Not an easy task (and one I sometimes suck at--ask me about my albatrosses ... albatrossi?....I have a few.....).

Then, there's another layer of "what next", in the form of models for the shop. While we have a number of trunk shows and other special garment displays on hand at all times (currently we have mini-trunks from GGH/Muench, Tahki/Stacy Charles/Filatura di Crosa, Classic Elite, and Unique Kolours, almost all of the shop models are knitted by myself (with some great help from Wendy, Laurie, Marcia, and an occasional other). So in addition to trying to figure out what to order, bring in, and when, there's the added pressure of having to decide what model garments will make y'all swoon for yarns and patterns and books, in what colors, and when to put them up. Plus (see, there's always more), there's also model garments to either request as loaners (see above--the mini-trunks we have are part of that from last month) or to make up to support or semi-regular Yarn Tasting events. Which brings me to the next part of our program.......

The shop closed at 5 p.m. yesterday (Sunday) after a rather busy day. Matt and I discussed the yarn choices for the next Yarn Tasting, to be held in late September, and we then started to think about model garments and pattern choices to support those yarns. I have been playing around with a newer yarn from Rio de la Plata called "Artista", which is a more painterly hand-dyed yarn from them (versus more "blop dyed" or sectionally dyed). The hank Mauricio (one of the principles in the company) sent to me as a sample was quite lovely and I wondered how it would knit up (shoulda taken a picture of it, prewinding...sorry). My shade is LA-85, which is one of the more popular ones. Well, I did knit on it a little yesterday afternoon, just to see how it works up into fabric and how the colors play when knitted.

And that was the jumping off point for Matt and I regarding models and ideas. In the planning of the next Yarn Tasting, we bantered about whether to include Manos del Uruguay or Rio de la Plata, as one of them was going to be included this time. I campaigned for Rio, as it hasn't been the strongest seller for us, and I can think of only a handful of folks who have used it to make a garment, versus a felted bag (it sells for felted bags, due to the bright, fun colorations that are very different from Manos, especially the multis and the faded line---I LOVE the faded line, which goes from a certain color all the way down to undyed yarn, not unlike a sunbleached fabric would). So then the task at hand became which yarn, which color, and what design. We walked over to the wall of Rio and looked for something beautiful.

As you probably know, I'm not the biggest fan of brown. I tend to be drawn to intense color, with my favorite shade of all being a purple-ish blue or a blue-ish purple, sorta like this. Yum. So for me to walk over to a wall of yarn and be drawn to this

you know something's amiss. But it happened. That's Brown Cigar and Burgundy. Next, we added another multi to the mix, along with the solid they share in common

From there, I started to go "outward" from each of the two multis, working with the solids NOT in common

and then finally adding the faded version of each of those solids

and we had a completed project, from a faded through solids through a multi, then to a solid in common through the faded version of that solid, then to the other multi and out to the other faded (kinda read the above picture from lower left up and around the curve and down to lower right). Now, we had the yarn progression and the gauge (about 4 sts/inch on a US 8 or 9), so now........what type of pattern would be responsive to this type of ombre shading. Enter Matt's creative genius, in the form of a pattern from an oft-overlooked designer, Carol Anderson of Cottage Creations, which is the Babies & Bears Sweater for Grown Ups pattern. It's constructed from cuff to center back, from other cuff to center back, and then you graft the back panels together to make a sweater (and add a little I-cord trim for a finishing detail down the cardi opening and around the base of the sweater) Here's a shot of the centerfold, showing a variety of these sweaters in various yarns

Now, imagine with me as you study this picture (that really shows off the construction in different shades of blue/purple)

and think about the colors progressing from one sleeve and the faded shade, into the solid, into the multi, into the common solid and its faded shade in the body of the garment, then to the solid again, out to the other multi, into the sleeve, and out to the other solid and faded shade. WOW. Now that's gonna be a stunning finished sweater that will be FUN to knit. Best of all, I'm making the medium size, which calls for 1,400 yards of yarn and I've taken out 12 skeins in total (1,680 yards), which is enough for up to a 1X (there is a 2X, which would need one additional skein).

Now, I've not even wound a single skein of this yarn, as I know it would consume my knitting time right now, given how fun the plotting and planning will be and what I've already gone through in my head. Of course, I will chronicle this project and its construction once I embark, but for now, I'm sworn to a couple projects with deadlines, right Kristi!?!?!?

Speaking of projects with's a progress shot on my version of Sorbonne (mine's the cowl version).

Yup--that's a completed back. And I have a little progress to show on the front, but its much the same and I won't bore you with that. I do love knitting with this yarn and the lace detail in this piece is gorgeous

I have been alternating between the above project-with-deadline and this other project-with-deadline

which is also quite pretty

and yes, that's my Mini-Pak in Citrus Lime with a few more rows on it. Ah, progress!

I have been a little bit distracted by another project cooking in my a great design by Chris at Knitting at KNoon designs

That's her Jersey Shore Weekender pullover (for men and women), which is just like her Jersey Shore (for kids) and Little Jersey (for toddlers). We added nearly every pattern Chris markets to our shop last month, and we're thrilled to have this fellow Michigander as part of our family (she's going to do an in-store event for us later this fall, in conjunction with a trunk show...details will be in the weekly newsletter this week or next, once we iron out specifics, but it looks like early October right now).

I spent part of the last couple days making swatches in various yarns for this project. The initial impetus for this was this shipment of new yarn

which is Filtes King Stampato (also known as Australian Merinos). It's a dk-weight multi-plied merino that's ultra soft and has great colors (we stock all eighteen shades, as seen on the sofa above) that knit up into a beautiful tweedy fabric. I decided that it would be the perfect yarn for a Jersey Shore (in any size), and would be perfect for my weekender version that will be a shop model. (I'm also going to make this v-neck design, at a later date...we have only a few men's garments as models and this one is quite striking, especially in this yarn). So here's my swatch, along with the skein of the color I chose

which is shade #1006. It's incredibly soft, amazingly beautiful (again, me with the brown....what's up with that?), and was a dream to knit, as the stitch pattern is quite simple and a fun texture. The label says hand wash, but it also has "irrestringable" and "resists shrinking", so I think it might be machine washable on DELICATE in cool water, no? That nice swatch led me to another swatch, this time in a more kid-friendly yarn

That's SMART Yarn from SandnessGarn. We carry the full complement of colors in that, too, and it's a superwash wool. I love a good tweed, so I chose this shade, with bright color flecks. Fun, great stitch definition, and good to work with. After a kid's swatch, I went very adult/grown-up with the next one

The ever-popular Silke-Tweed from GarnStudio. Great yarn from great people (HI FREDRIKA, HI JENNY, HI PATTY) at Aurora Yarns. I love this yarn (it's what I'm using for my Moderne Log Cabin, if you remember that far back). Great drape, awesome yardage (220yds each), and great colors in a silk/lambswool blend. Which led me to my next choice

Jo Sharp Classic DK, in a heather shade that's just beautiful knitted up. I think this one would be beautiful knitted up, given the nice stitch definition and fab hand of the fabric. I love Jo Sharp yarns and it was a pleasure to spend some time talking shop with her at the trade show last month. From one Aussie yarn to another

this next swatch is out of Heirloom Easy Care 8, which we're bringing in for fall sometime early in August...all 45+ shades! This stuff has an amazing cabled construction, is made of machine-washable merino wool, and comes in a varied color palette (click here and here to see it)....and is affordable! It's $5.50 for 107 yards....WOW!

Everything above was a wool or wool blend yarn, so I figured I have to do one out of a suitable non-wool fiber, so in comes this next swatch

That awesome stuff is Bali, part of the GGH Yarns family, from Muench Yarns here in the US. Soft, machine-washable, and cotton/microfiber blend, this one gives AWESOME stitch definition and is nearly weightless. It would be PERFECT for one of the children's sweaters, and it's only $7 for over 150 yards. WOW...a bargain, too!

All of these swatches, along with copies of the patterns, will be appearing on the wall of the shop in a big display, to showcase the designs, the yarns, and some of the options available (I thought of several others, both in animal hair and cotton fibers, as well as a wild hair in 100% silk, but I'm curious about the drape on that one).

Over the course of the evening, yet another idea got to brewin' in our little minds, given one of the other yarn selections for Yarn Tasting in September. While I'm in no place to reveal too much right now, suffice to say that this bundle

is serving as inspiration right now (it's probably the final color combination for the proposed garment), but this little darlin'

is running a close second (and again, look at all of the brown in there, along with other colors I've been known to malign over the years). I talked over the design ideas in my head with Kirstin over at Muench Yarns and she's curious about what I'm proposing. It will turn into a ThreadBear-specific pattern when it's finished, and it will be a men's garment, but it will have some non-traditional details involved in the construction. You'll just have to come back to see what's up, but you won't have to wait too long--it's going to be ready for the late-September Yarn I'll be getting busy shortly. Patience, my friends...patience (not my virtue, so why do I ask y'all to have it? idano).

And with that, I'm outta here, with just 13 minutes to spare (I promised this post to be coming today/Monday, and it's 11:47pm here...WHEW!). We're buying yarn again tomorrow (on our day off), but it should be a light day. And I have TONS of knitting to attend to! HOORAY! Be well, and do be in touch if anything picqued your curiousity.

What The Heck Has He Been Up To?

I've got a major post cookin', complete with 21 photos. It's a little bit of a progress report, worked together with a photo essay on inspiration and how we get to where we're going with a project, along with some swatch shots for a second project, and more inspiration for yet another project. The photos are all taken and cleaned up in PhotoShop, but I don't think they're "up" online yet, based on what I just found.

Since they're on Matt's computer in the back of the shop, I'll need to wait until later today for him to upload them (I don't nose around on his machine).

Look for a good-sized post by this evening--PROMISE!