Two Artists

It is unfortunate that when I was in art school, we did not spend much time studying current artists. Of course I love the classics, but Jackson Pollock was probably about as recent as we came. My friend and I spent Friday touring Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky at LACMA and were talking about how sad it is that some of these talented and now-famous artists never lived to be valued in their own time. Van Gogh created a few thousand works, but only sold one in his lifetime. I certainly do believe in studying the classics, but I would like to show more support to current artists by visiting their gallery shows when possible, even if I can’t afford to buy their works. Here are two of my recently-found favorites, one of whom is local to California.

Mark Grotjahn – especially love his Butterfly series!

Damien Hirst – I love pop and op art, so I relate to his Spot series and also his Spin Paintings.


A Tasting…of Yarn

A few weekends ago, I spent a lovely afternoon at the shop participating in a yarn tasting. Of course it was fun to hang out with my fellow knitters and crocheters instead of working, but I wanted to share it with all of you because if you ever have a chance to go to one at your favorite shop, you should jump at the chance!

For anyone not familiar with what a yarn tasting is, allow me to give you the lovely details. We were tasting yarns from Kelbourne Woolens, who distribute the luscious Fibre Company line. For a minimal fee, which was applied to our purchase, we received a little drawstring bag with a generous sampling of each yarn and a pattern to knit incorporating all the tasting yarns. We even got to try Knightsbridge, which is not even listed yet on their main yarns page. Each sample was wrapped around a card that gave all the details about that particular yarn – yardage, fiber content, etc. The event was 3 hours long, which was just the right amount of time to enjoy knitting through the samples, and ponder projects in our heads…or with each other!

Yarn Tasting Kit for an afternoon of play

Yarn Tasting Kit for an afternoon of play

Aside from the pure relaxation and enjoyment of experimenting with yarn for a few hours, the top reason I would give for going to an event like this is that it’s a great way to get an overview of a line of yarns. Of course, the minute I opened up the kit, I wanted everything, but after knitting with each sample, I was able to think more clearly about what projects I might make with which yarns. I knitted with the tweedy Acadia, and decided I’d like to make a cardigan out of it. I am not usually drawn to tweedy yarns, so this is a classic example of trying something I wouldn’t have usually. I also realized that as lovely as the single ply yarns are, I could rule those out for right now because I already have so many in my stash. And when I started knitting up Tundra, I decided I absolutely MUST design myself a chunky knit dress!

Some of my fellow knitters started making projects out of the tasting samples, but I decided to spend the afternoon playing, and even though I don’t have a FO to show, I’m so glad I did! I highly encourage anyone to try a yarn tasting. If your shop doesn’t have any events like this in the works, set one up for yourself at home. Go through stash, wrap yourself off some yards of yarn, knit different stitch patterns, try new colors together, switch up needle sizes, and just play. I realized in this experience, that I almost never take the time to play with my yarn! I swatch when I’m making garments, but I rarely, if ever, just play. I left feeling relaxed and inspired, and from now on, when I finish a project, I plan to take a little time to play and experiment before starting the next.


Stories of Yarn Store Etiquette

Those of you who’ve read my blog for any length of time know I work parttime at my favorite yarn shop. I love it and feel privileged to be part of it. However, like any retail job, there is the downside of dealing with rude people. Yarn shops have their own special set of etiquette questions, so in most cases, I like to think people may do something rude without intending to. In the interest of helping to clear up questions about what’s appropriate, I thought I’d share some of my experiences and what those of us who work in shops would consider good etiquette.

But first, allow me to dispel what I call the Friday Night Knitting Club myth. A yarn store, while indeed a wonderful place, does not have magical potion hiding in the corners to guarantee that you will find the social life of your dreams, become best friends with everyone who walks in and receive solutions to all of life’s problems. There is indeed much evidence to support what all of us crafters already know, which is that knitting and/or crocheting do HELP us deal with life. But people need to keep their expectations reasonable, and understand that the general rules of how to build good friendships still apply.

One weekday afternoon when I was working, someone whom I’ve never seen came in and was not happy the shop was so quiet. She wanted to knit with a group and left a bit huffily when I couldn’t guarantee she’d have company for the afternoon. I’m sorry if she was having a lonely day, but did she really think it was my job to provide her a social gathering? I made polite conversation, but that wasn’t enough, which begs the question of what she was looking for. Whatever it was, I don’t think it was anything we as a yarn shop could have provided. I’m not criticizing anyone looking to build friendship around a common interest, but people do need to get over the fantasy that they can just walk into a yarn store and order up a best friend.

Along the same lines, it should also be noted that customers should not treat yarn store staff as their personal (free!) psychologists. I’m shocked at some of the things people expect me to listen to for hours at a time, and to be honest, I find it disrespectful. I’m not trained to help someone solve their family issues, medical issues or whatever the case might be. My job is to help people  find the right yarn for a project, to answer questions about the yarns WE CARRY (more on that in a moment), and to offer knitting and crocheting assistance. In fact, most of us live to help people, and because we love our craft so much, we enjoy teaching and sharing it. But just as in any industry, we are instantly turned off when people have unreasonable expectations or are just plain rude.

And now, the list of etiquette questions that I’ve noticed keep popping up and my thoughts on how to answer them. Unfortunately, it’s usually the worst examples of rudeness that stick in my mind, so I apologize in advance if any snark comes into play here. Please just take it as what NOT to do if you would like to build good relationships at your local yarn shop.

Can I sit and knit in the store, even if I don’t buy yarn?

Every shop owner has the right to make their own rules about this, so you may receive varying replies. At our shop, the short answer to the question is yes. The long answer is, even though my boss cultivates a friendly, open atmosphere and generally does not mind, there are a few caveats. The bottom line is that yarn stores are businesses. Because we have to compete with all the discount stores, plus huge online retailers who can afford to sell the same yarns for a few pennies less, it is a hard business. If you plan to hang out in a shop all the time, or to ask for lots of help, then you should also be buying yarn there. A shop cannot stay open if people don’t support it. Also, if you want to sit and knit for a few hours (or all day), please don’t torture the staff. Sitting there ALL DAY LONG talking nonstop makes it hard for me to do my job. As mentioned above, staff is not there to be someone’s best friend/significant other/psychologist/therapist. Which brings me to a question I just heard the other day and hear pretty much every day in some form…

Do you help people with their knitting? I didn’t buy my yarn here, but I ran into a problem and can’t figure it out. (There’s about a 100 ways to ask this question, and I’ve heard them all.)

I have all kinds of stories about this question. There was the lady who came in with a cheap ball of specialty yarn from Michaels who wanted me to help her figure out how to use it. On a VERY BUSY day. In this situation, let’s be honest. Either Michaels does not offer support, or she knew what top quality help is but was just too cheap to pay for it. I had to send her home to look at Youtube videos because: a) it was a busy day, and b) I don’t work for Michaels or buy my yarn there, so if they’re offering a specialty item, no, I don’t know how to use it.

Aside from situations like this, the answer is yes, we help people all the time, and usually, we LOVE doing it! Just be aware that even if you buy yarn at a shop, you still need to respect the difference between asking for help and taking advantage. Here is asking for help: A customer who buys yarn with us came in the other day for more assistance on a pattern she’s had lots of trouble with. She was very apologetic for coming in again, and I helped her. I told her not to feel bad about asking, and I meant it. We are very happy to help out with things like this, and especially if you bought yarn with us, we will not begrudge you the time if you’re really struggling. We all have been there before ourselves, and the knitting community exists to help each other grow and learn. I never feel taken advantage of when I know someone supports our store and is in genuine need of help and willing to learn.

But, so we understand what it means to take advantage, consider Exhibit A: The customer who asked me to untangle a big mess she’d made out of her ball. And Exhibit B: Another customer who expected me to sit there and do 3 hours of ripping out. Both of these illustrate what it means to take advantage, because both customers were asking me to do something they were perfectly capable of but just didn’t feel like doing. Sorry friends, but dealing with tangled yarn or ripping out because you made a mistake are YOUR responsibility, not the yarn store’s. There is no “expert” trick to untangling yarn, and even if it’s not a busy day, it’s still not my job to clean up someone’s mess. As for ripping out, I am happy to teach customers how to do it, since fixing mistakes is part of becoming a better knitter/crocheter. But customers need to be willing to learn to fix their mistakes because unless they’re paying the yarn store to do it, it is their responsibility. It’s not fun to fix mistakes or to deal with tangles, but neither takes any special skill, and neither is the responsibility of yarn store staff. Speaking of messes…

Can I bring in food, drinks, snacks…?

Short answer, at least in our case, is yes, but DON’T LEAVE A MESS. That is all.

Where is Employee A, when will she be in, why wasn’t she here when I came in, and all similar questions.

There was a lady who got mad because I didn’t know what one of the other staff members did over the weekend. She wanted to know why I wasn’t there certain times of the week, and why the other employee wasn’t there. She got very unpleasant when I told her I have kids and can’t just sit in the shop knitting all the time. (Trust me, I WISH that were possible sometimes!) And then I realized, I don’t need to explain to any customer why I’m there one day and not the next! I’m not sure why she felt entitled to information, but the etiquette here is the same as everywhere else. The yarn community is friendly and warm, which is one of the greatest things about it. But personal privacy and safety still apply, and friendliness should not be confused with expecting someone to be on call.

May I use the ballwinder and swift to wind my yarn if I didn’t buy it here?

This is another question each shop owner will answer differently. My boss is not overly strict about this, and as long as we’re not busy, I’m usually happy to do someone a favor. But a customer that receives this sort of favor should be respectful that it IS a favor. Ballwinders and swifts are expensive and they do wear out. The best etiquette tip I can give in this instance is to just always be mindful that the only time you’re ENTITLED to use a store’s equipment is when you spent money in the store.

Good etiquette really just equals being polite and considerate. I tried to answer questions here that are specific to yarn shops, and I hope this post clears up some of the confusion about what is appropriate.


My First Love – Craftwise

Where knitting can have a negative connotation, crochet can end up receiving the same in double. I learned to crochet before I learned to knit, and I still love it. When my friend first taught me, I came straight home, put my kids to bed, and sat up until 3 am practicing so I wouldn’t forget how to do it before I saw her again!

It is often alot easier to find knitting patterns that inspire me, but every once in awhile, I find a crochet treasure trove. This is a shame, as both crafts are equally satisfying and are art forms in their own right. Props to this site for having some great crochet and free patterns!


Unfurled

Inspired by an orchid, this shawl unfurls color as you knit it. This baby goat mohair is as close to the softness of flower petals as I could get!

Inspired by an orchid, this shawl unfurls color as you knit it. This baby goat mohair is as close to the softness of flower petals as I could get!

Just want to share my latest pattern, which I am also honored to have on display at Unwind! I hope you will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed designing it. Colinton Australia is a total luxury, and I truly hope my design does it justice! Flowers are so full of color and texture, I can promise with certainty that this will not be the last pattern I design inspired by them!


Back to Styling

Not too long ago, I posted about learning to style your knitwear. It has been on my mind to follow up that post with ideas and tips for my own patterns. To begin, I will start with the free chunky fringed scarf I posted last week.

People come in the shop all the time saying they always buy the same yarn colors and need “to break out of their rut”. And while I am all for constant experimentation and expanding my horizons, I have to say that I don’t like to see people feel ashamed of buying their favorite colors. When you crochet or knit with your favorites, you are guaranteed to end up with lots of pieces that work together that you will love year-round. Styling is all about being able to swap items in and out of different outfits. As you may have already figured out, I am very drawn to reds (although that could change). This scarf is now going to serve me well no matter what season it is (and if you’re wondering, yes, it was about 95 degrees the day I shot these photos, so the winter look is here just for your benefit!) Hope you enjoy!

My go-to look so much of the time! Printed tank top, denim shorts, metallic sandals and a hand-knit accessory!

My go-to look so much of the time! Printed tank top, denim shorts, metallic sandals and a hand-knit accessory! And a pedicure, of course!

Yes, that's my knitting bag! I often wear a plain tank top because I don't like to detract from the handknits, but in this case, I think the black and white print sets off the bright color well.

Yes, that’s my knitting bag! I often wear a plain tank top because I don’t like to detract from the handknits, but in this case, I think the black and white print sets off the bright color well.

I never get tired of a winter whites look. In Los Angeles, I can only wear this much warm about 1 month out of the year, but I always get compliments when I do a winter white look.

In Los Angeles, I can only wear this much warmth about 1 month out of the year, but I always get compliments when I do a winter white look.

Varying shades of cream with a shot of color is a simple way to look pulled together.

Varying shades of cream with a shot of color is a simple way to look pulled together.

 


Free Pattern: Chunky Rib Scarf

Now that you all know how to do fringe, here is the scarf pattern I designed that includes it! This is a fun, easy, summer knit – since you are just doing simple ribbing, you don’t need to think that much. I used up some acrylic from my stash, but you can pretty much use a bright color in any fiber and still have yourself a fun knit and bright accessory when you’re done!

Scarf

Measurements
With any scarf, you can make it as wide or skinny as you want, and as long or short as you want. Customize! But if you want the finished measurements for mine, it is approx. 82″ long and 6″ wide. These measurements do not count the fringe, so if you have a particular length in mind, account for an extra 10″ in length with the fringe.

Materials
US 17 needles
536 yds. of worsted weight yarn
Darning needle
Scissors
N – 9.00 mm crochet hook

Pattern Notes
I advise cutting the fringe first, because you can then knit until your yarn is gone, if you so choose.
To get the chunky knit look, I knit the scarf with two strands of worsted weight yarn held together. However, you can use half the yardage in a super chunky yarn like Malabrigo Rasta if you don’t like working with two strands.

Instructions
There are a total of 10 groups of fringe on each end of the scarf. Each group has 8 strands. Cut each fringe section by measuring 10″ lengths of yarn 8 times. (This adds 5″ to each end of the scarf, because the fringe will be folded in half when you attach it.) I recommend using hair scrunchies or bands to keep each fringe section grouped together and place in a Ziplock bag until you’re ready to attach them. You may notice that no matter how careful you thought you were in measuring, that all the ends just do not seem to be the EXACT SAME length, and I want to encourage you not to drive yourself nuts about this. Mine were not exact either, even though I tried to measure carefully. When you attach it and it all hangs together, it looks the way it’s supposed to, and if you happen to notice one piece that really stands out from the others, snip it to a length that allows it to blend in.

Once your fringe is cut, CO 22 sts. K1, p1 every row, until your scarf is 10″ shorter than you want it to be. BO in pattern. You do not need to weave in ends, because once you attach your fringe, you may simply hook the ends into the fringe and snip to the same length.

Check my tutorial on adding fringe if you’re not sure how to do it. Aside from cutting the fringe, which may be easiest to do at home, I advise making this a beach/poolside/airplane/gift knitting project because of how simple it is! Happy summer knitting!

 


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