Black Dog

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

Friday, July 27, 2007

How To Make A Grown Adult Cry

In a good way.......

This post will be filled with a number of things that have made grown women "weep" over the past few days. Not weep in a bad way, but in a sort of lustful, covetous way. Some say I specialize in that. Me, I think it's just good buying habits. Others would argue, however.

First off, I have progress shots of the Iona cardi I'm working on (I've recently found out that it's called "Tully" in the book, so at least she has a name now). Here's the completed back

which is lovely and soft and has all the nice characteristics of a yarn spun of silk, mohair, and wool. It's also just BEAUTIFUL in terms of color (colourway is Blue Parrot, and it's one of my faves from Colinette). I also have a good running start on the left front

As of this writing, I'm above the armhole shaping and working towards the shoulder--maybe an hour of knitting left until this side is completed and I can start the right front. It's coming along nicely, the fabric is DELICIOUS (even at this firm gauge, I still like it), and it made a friend of ours weep with lust on Wednesday. We don't have the yarn in stock just yet, but she's laid claim to some when it comes in shortly.

Overall, I'm REALLY enjoying this project and look forward to watching the pieces come together, as there are several small details in the design that should make for a lovely finished garment.

How to make your staff cry

Order and have delivered "entirely too much yarn in one day" (their words, not mine). Thursday was a big day for deliveries at the shop from several vendors (I think the final box count for the day was twelve, but I could be wrong). Four HUGE boxes (about two feet square and about three feet tall--EACH) were packed with Colinette yarns of various types

That's parts of four different staff members winding their arms off on Jitterbug (and Tate under the right table, supervising). We have EVERY SINGLE shade in stock (save Tuscany and Castagna) in sweater amounts (we were down to one to three skeins on several shades), with the new Dali-inspired solids arriving as soon as they're in stock at the US distributor.

Also in the shipment--tons of Cadenza (dk-weight superwash merino) and Banyan (cotton/viscose dk), which are completely substitutable for eachother in patterns, as well as a ton of pattern books. All of this is in support of our big "Colinette Mega Model Extravaganza" going on at the shop this weekend. We have over three dozen garments on hand for the event, plus the bonus of having our fab sales rep Mary B on hand (complete with "color rings" for all Colinette yarns). The models that are here focus in on six yarns--Jitterbug, Cadenza, Banyan, Tao, Parisienne, and Giotto--and there will be in-store specials and other suprises.

Come on by to check everything out.

Next up (and still in the "staff weeps" arena).....three boxes packed with Garnstudio yarns.

In part, it's a stock-up for cooler-weather knitting, and in part it's making sure we have sufficient supply of these fantastic Norwegian yarns while there's a slight "changing of the guard" with respect to distributors. Three boxes packed with goodies (yarns, pattern books, and more) arrived yesterday, and suffice to say that our shelves are now packed with Silke-Tweed (one of my absolute all-time favorite yarns) and Cotton-Viscose, with more arriving shortly. Our morning crew today is wading through the task of stickering all of this yarn.....given how beautiful this stuff is, it's not really a chore, in my estimation.

How to Make Laurie W weep

When we get new yarn in that's in her "covet zone", Laurie makes the most pitiful whipmering noise you've ever heard. Since she's a complete whore for lace projects and a mega-fan of silk, can you imagine what this did to her?

That's a big bag of Tsumugi Silk (A-1) from Habu Textiles, an interesting Japanese yarn distributor we recently started working with. We now have over 30 colors on our shelf (I should have taken a picture of the cones on the shelf--they're just BEAUTIFUL all lined up in neat rows--GREAT JOB, SABRINA AND COMPANY!). It's 100% raw silk, lace weight, and a cone is 450 yards for $13.30. That means you can get enough for a rather large shawl for under $50 (three cones should do it, but even if you need a fourth, we're still only around $60). We should have the remaining ten-ish shades in just over a week, according to my contacts at Habu. YES! A full colorcard may be found here.

Also in this shipment, a tiny bit of their beautiful lace-weight mohair

which is just lovely stuff! There's like 330 yards in a single half-ounce skein and they retail for under $8 from us. I can see shawls, ethereal scarves, or this yarn used as a component with other yarns (kinda like in the Nanako jacket I've got in progress). Look at the picture again, closely.....that's Tate's head in the lower right corner--peeping out from under the tables and supervising, as he's so often doing.

Also in this shipment, Paper Moire from Habu.

It's a curious yarn, as it's a nylon binder (string) with linen paper bits trapped in the binder. It's definitely a "component yarn" (hold with others) that's used for effect, but at over 300 yards for just $6.40, it's a nice option. We have every shade in stock right now, and once again, it's used in my Nanako jacket project.

Unintentionally Teasing a Nice Lady

Something wicked and wonderful arrived on Thursday

That's two different colourways in the Studio Sock line from Neighborhood Fiber Co., a Washington DC-based indie dyer we connected with at the recent TNNA trade show. The fabulous Karida sent along these two hanks for me to use for design purposes, and our order should be leaving DC shortly, in plenty of time to be here for our August "Sock-It-To-Me" (sock group) meeting. I'll be creating another pattern or two with the yarn that will be included with the purchase that evening, as a little spiff for those who attend this free group that meets on the fourth Monday of every month. They'll get first crack at the yarn (and patterns) and then we'll make it available to everyone that evening or the next day (just like this week's Sleeping Dragon goodies).

I think I know which one I want to start with first

as it's just amazingly beautiful--bright greens, purples, and other lovely shades work together to make a smashing yarn she calls "LeDroit Park" (colourways are named for DC neighborhoods). But there's also this one

that didn't photograph well (Matt is all but demanding a new digital camera so we don't have this problem). It's called "Cooper Circle" and is a combination of truly rich bricks and oranges and persimmon and other shades and simply amazing to take in. How do I tease a very nice lady? Major sock enthusiast Paula D was in on Thursday night and I had to taunt her with this yarn (I'm's true). She does attend sock group, so I know she'll score some of it that night. But she fell in TOTAL lust/love with this yarn last night (and oddly, I thought she'd go for the LeDroit, but she was smitten with the Cooper). When it arrives, it will be $21 a hank for 430 yards of superwash merino--helluva deal!

And what makes me weep?

I'm still working on model number 3 for the US Colinette distributor (the fabulous Suann took #2 for me), and they send me this

That's three more bags of fiber and patterns--this time to be turned into vests of various sizes out of Jitterbug. I hope they go quickly, as I have a finish deadline of August 31st for them. EEEEEEeeeeeek! I may have to call in reinforcements, as I have knitting of my own to do for the shop.

Also in Thursday's deliveries--a big wad of ADORABLE patterns from Mac & Me, cute buttons from Bullseye Buttons, and something else that escapes me now. Today brings us more wool and pattern books from Manos del Uruguay (just in time, as my Block-of-the-Month group meets at 11 a.m. tomorrow morning) and quite possibly something wonderful from another of our vendors. And I'm probably making our shop manager, Sabrina, cry because there's so much new stock rolling in and not much room on the shelves. Best of all, that's what makes her put specific yarns on clearance, as she did just that with some Classic Elite Wings (alpaca/silk/wool) that we had from last year and she needed the room for the Lush that arrived this week. So now all remaining stock of Wings is just $6 (originally $9.95) while supplies last!

Questions or ??? about the above-mentioned stuff? Just be in touch by phone (toll free) at 866-939-BEAR or slip us an e-mail and we'll do our best to take care of everything for you.

I'm off to go knit for about an hour prior to heading in for the day. Be well!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Monthly Maintenance Day

I'm not an overly-high maintenance kinda guy (shut up, Matt), and I don't indulge in too many personal luxuries. But about 16 months ago I was strongly urged to wander to the other side of the salon where I got my hair cut and try a pedicure.

I often joked with folks that I had "hillbilly feet" (and yes, I can say that--I grew up in rural southern Missouri, right on the Arkansas line, just outside a town of ten people), due to a couple unfortunate incidents with my big toes (slipping on a wooden floor and my toe going under the sofa...almost..and pulling up a nail, for one) as well as just mistreating my feet. I'm on my feet for HOURS a day with the shop and all, and I'm prone to dry heels in general (thanks, Mom, for those genetics!). It was a wicked combination of factors that made me feel like my feet were rather nasty, so I did decide to try an hour in the pedicure chair.

Cut to over a year later, and I now deeply look forward to my monthly visit with Brenda, who not only takes good care of the nails and such, but is also rather adept at reflexology and working out the trouble spots in the bottoms of my feet. Instead of polish and other traditional finishes, I get 15+ minutes of heavy-duty massage work on my feet, ankles, and lower calves, and sometimes I get a little vocal about her prowess. (blush) Suffice to say it's some of the best money I spend on myself every four weeks, and that's how my day started out today. Mmmmmmm

I do take a project with me and work on it while Brenda's attentive to my hooves, but when she starts that deep tissue work, it's needles down, head back, and eyes closed....sheer enjoyment. I try to take simple knitting stuff in with me, but I didn't have anything in my current rotation that fit the bill--the Iona cardigan uses two skeins at once (I always color blend) and is at the armhole shaping (decreases to keep track of)...nope. The Torino cardi front that I'm working on is near the same point--measuring would be involved prior to doing the armhole cut in, so that was out as well. So I took a trusty sock project....that I needed to get started on

Not overly impressive (maybe a dozen rounds), but that's sock #2 of my Dad's socks (sock #1 was completed a couple weeks ago) and I needed to get it started so I could have some "waiting in line" knitting to take with. It was the perfect project, and I feel really good about getting it started. Good karma day!

Traditionally, Matt and I take Tuesdays as our day off each week. He's alot better about not going by the shop than I am on our day off, and if he does go in, it's typically at my urging or while we're out running errands and I decide to stop by. Today is no different, as he's out running around with our friend Janeen, on the cusp of making a semi-big purchase for him (and no, it's not a Harley as some of you surmised based on a couple blog posts he made last week). I won't steal his thunder if he's going to talk about it here, but suffice to say that he's taking steps towards doing some fun things for himself, and he's out with a major enabler today--in a good way!

Me.....yup, I'm writing this from the desk in the offices in the back of the shop. I came by to drop off some change for the till and to take some photos.....and to sorta wait and see what our adorable UPS driver brings us. I think I know what's arriving today, and if I'm right....oooooooooooooooooooooh-lah-lah!

Pictures....I mentioned regular readers are well aware, the Sleeping Dragon hand-dyed sock yarns arrived on Friday but were sequestered in the back storeroom until last night, for our monthly sock knitting group. In addition to the regular show-and-share that goes on at the beginning of the night, Matt led a discussion of interpreting and reading lace charts, as well as providing some tips on keeping your place in a chart. This was all leading up to making the yarn available, as well as a free copy of the beta version of my lace sock pattern called "Fallen Arches". The pattern will be available somewhere (for purchase or download) in the near future, but for now I'm glad to include one with the purchase of the Sleeping Dragon yarn at no cost, if you're interested. But wait...I said there was going to be yarn shots...

Sleeping Dragon sock yarn is a "typical" sock-weight yarn (7-8 sts/inch), but that's where "typical"'s 100% merino superwash and utterly delicious in hand. There's 450 yards in a hank, and they're priced exceptionally well at just $20US per skein (or skank, right Kristi? addition to being a great knitter, a good friend, and the mom of two new twins, she's setting up her own business so as to be able to spend maximum time with her family...check it out!). And the yarn comes in sixteen amazingly beautiful colourways...

You'll recognize the Spring Fling as the colourway I designed "Fallen Arches" in, and the Roses and Chocolate was quite popular last night. I'm gonna score me a skank of Mallard for socks for's fab!

The Indian Corn in the above shot is what I'm using for my other lace sock design that's still somewhat embryonic, as there was a error in the chart I was using and it took the publisher just a little bit of time to get back with me. The Candy Apple isn't quite that angry looking in person (nor as orange, but there are shots of fuchsia in it), and the Purple in the Sky was very popular last night as well (someone bought enough to make a shawl out of).

I'm sorry to report that the Mahagony doesn't photography well--this is the best of four shots I took (maybe I should have used the light-colored floor....DUH). It's really a ruddy brown with reddish overtones and nearly solid, save some light/dark places--truly lovely! Island flower is the ever-popular purples/blues/touch of greens that everyone loves, and Meadows, despite being "non Rob" colors, appeals to me.

This group is quite beautiful and varied...the Parade was quite popular, but much to my surprise there's a good bit of Purple Night and Tequila Sun still here (those colors tend to move well here, always!). I love the colors in Winter Thaw...a sort of Neapolitan with Sky thrown in for good measure.

No matter...there's good stock in all shades as of this writing, and you just need to contact the shop at 866-939-BEAR (toll free) or slip us an e-mail and anyone here can help!

OK--no UPS delivery yet (1:40 p.m.), so I'm gonna head out and go relax on the back deck and knit for a bit. The perfect day off!

Monday, July 23, 2007

And They're Off!!!!

It's another week "at the races" for us, as the shop has been quite busy, Matt has a head full of design ideas just itching to get out, he's been working on a total rehab of our website (it's going to be AMAZING--there's a screen shot of it on his blog), and we're both teaching quite a bit of late. I finished a beginning sock class yesterday afternoon and I start another tonight and another on Wednesday day (people 'round these parts can't get enough socks!) and Matt is running our monthly sock group tonight (they're getting first dibs on the Sleeping Dragon sock yarns you saw here previously, plus a pattern that I designed for a really interesting lace sock).

This morning started off with a bang--we were both here prior 9 a.m. (when staff arrives to open up). We had good reason--Mary B was here (our good friend and sales rep) and we were ordering...Colinette yarns. It's no small secret that I'm a total pushover for their yarns--color, texture, design...the whole enchilada (oh, speaking of that, she bought lunch...Mexican! YUM). We have a BIG function coming up this weekend, with over 30 models coming in made with Colinette yarns--from sweaters and cardigans to shawls and throws. We're also doing a little bit of fun with some surprises for in-store shoppers this weekend (tied in with the Colinette function), so it's going to be a great week planning and then several fun days of our typical nonsense for the weekend. HOO-BOY!

You saw my Iona sweater, such that it was

last time I posted. Well, I managed to knit a little bit yesterday morning on the Iona cardigan

That's a significant amount of progress, given what time I had for knitting over the weekend. I'm really enjoying this project, as the welt is interesting

It's a 1x1 rib and cable combination that then turns into stockinette fabric for the body of the cardigan. I like this project alot, and the finished garment has a deep ruffled around the opening (up and around the neck) that looks to be like 4 x 2 ribbing--a dramatic finish for a close-fitting jacket/cardigan. It's a great design and I look forward to seeing move along towards finish.

Iona is a yarn that I really am enjoying working with, but it also is one I'm not CRAZY about. There's something about British/Australian gauge that kinda irks me, and since Colinette is a UK-based company, it falls under this umbrella. To me (and this is strictly opinion here), yarns and designs from "British Empire" companies tend to be knit at a very firm gauge. Jo Sharp does this with her yarns, Colinette does it with theirs, and I've seen the same thing with others as well (Rowan, Twilley's of Stamford, and more). Granted, the recommended gauge and needle size on a label is only that....a recommendation. But using Iona as an example, the label recommends 4.75 sts/inch on a US 7 (4.5mm) needle. At that gauge, it's FIRM fabric--very jacket like. I'm knitting it at that gauge for this design, and to me, it isn't as supple and drapey as it should be. I've also swatched this yarn at around 4 or 4.5 sts/inch and I like the hand of that fabric much better (using a US 8 or 9/5mm or 5.5mm needle). Other yarns are very similar--Jo Sharp recommends 22.5 sts/4 inches for her Classic DK, and it's very happy at 5 sts/inch in my estimation.

So, for me to get totally behind this yarn, I'm going to have to get some and work it up into a non-Colinette design and see what I think about the fabric and finished garment (and that's already happening). I have an idea of using it for the "Swingin' The Blues" jacket from Knitting at Knoon Designs (a semi-local designer, from Grand Rapids, MI). Yes, you'll see it here.

I don't know if anyone else out there feels the way that I do about some yarns, we all know that you're free to knit whatever you want with whatever yarn you want at whatever gauge you want. There are no knitting police at ThreadBear....and I'm FAR from a knitting purist! Does anyone else share my opinion on "too tight" recommended gauge?

Now for some shameless commerce.......

We received a nice box of fun from Lorna's Laces today. Inside I found a few skeins in beautiful shades of Helen's Lace

I'm madly in love with the Mother Lode, as that's a stunning colorway in any of their yarns (especially Helen's and Shepherd Sock). They're $56 a hank if you need any...and it's more like want than need.

Also in the box---some special dyeing just for us (yes, two are exclusive colourways)

The green and white is in honor of Michigan State (our local university) and the blue and gold are in the colors of the University of Michigan (another nearby institution). The Flamingo Stripe is an awesome yarn, as the good folks at Lorna's make bigger donations for Breast Cancer research the more you purchase. Shepherd Sock is $11 a hank, and two will make a pair of socks for almost all feet. We received full dye lots of the two school colors combos and three bags of the Flamingo Stripe, so order up!

Also in the box--the three brand-new designs from Diane Soucy at Knitting Pure and Simple

That's a men's cardigan vest, a ladies' neckdown cardigan with a scoop neck, and a children's bolero knitted from the top down (and just too darned cute). I've already decided that the ladies' cardi has to be knitted up as a shop model NOW, and that I'm going to do it in Colinette Cadenza, a dk-weight superwash merino wool--most likely in Raspberry. It's the perfect gauge (pattern calls for dk or light worsted knitted at 20 sts/4") and will be just striking in that pattern. The men's vest and the bolero are to be made with worsted-weight yarn that you knit at 18 sts/4", so there's TONS of options for those (imagine the bolero knitted in Dream in Color....TOO CUTE!). These patterns are in stock and just $4 each, so HOLLA and we can get some off to you right away!

Got a hankerin' for anything you see above (or in previous posts)? Phone us at 866-939-BEAR (toll free) or e-mail us--either way we'll take good care of you!