Category Archives: Northampton Wools

The Tale of the Lost Shawl

I have been graduated for exactly four weeks now, and so far, it’s…alright. I had a lovely two-week vacation from work, which caused me to decide that my new goal in life is to become rich enough to not have to work anymore (Brandon: wow babe, that’s a really original life goal. I don’t think anyone else has thought of that before). I have now been back at work for two weeks, and it has been hectic, to say the least. We have driven down to Massachusetts with my friend Andy so that he and I could perform at the annual Crane Concert to benefit a scholarship for seniors at my high school (have I ever told you guys I’m 1/2 of a folk-singing duo?) We have moved apartments and somehow condensed everything from our previous place into one bedroom at the new place. We once again have roommates (which, as awesome as they are, is a big adjustment). We have had to find a temporary home for Skipper and Boots because they cannot stay at the new apartment (we’re only here temporarily and will hopefully get them back from Brandon’s mom soon). Brandon was flown out to Frankfurt, Germany by a company that we are anxiously waiting to hear back from in regards to a sweet job for him. And I have been trained on approximately 50,000 new things at work in 1 1/2 days and now am supposed to be responsible for all of them starting Monday. No pressure.

Despite all of this, there are a lot of things I have not done: I have not written out my thank you cards from graduation, or my graduation announcements (sorry everyone – I promise I appreciate everything you’ve done); I have not called to shut off the electricity at the old apartment – actually, correction: I have not successfully called to shut off the electricity. I have called roughly 10 times, and each time I get a busy signal. What business still has a busy signal in the 21st century?; I have not finished unpacking from the move; and I have not written any new blog posts about any of these wonderful things: until now.

Side note: Brandon, being the wonderful human being that he is, has just brought me a glass of wine. This could get interesting.

The story begins almost exactly two years ago, when Brandon and I had been dating for a mere three months and decided to move in together. He was 21 and I was 20, and we felt like this was a good idea for three reasons:
1. we were crazy about each other and being in each others’ space 24/7 sounded, frankly, heavenly.
2. Our new apartment was big enough that we each had our own room and our own bathroom.
3. After four months we would be starting our year apart due to him studying in Montreal for the fall and me in Dublin for the spring, so if we ended up hating each other we only had to live with it for the summer.

Luckily for us it seems to have worked out so far.

My dad came up to help us with the move and he, Brandon and I set about the task of packing up my books, yarn, and spinning wheel and moving me from my dorm on campus to the school apartments one town over. At the time of the move, I had been working on this shawl:

You can find the blog of the knitter who completed this one here.

It’s The Cap Shawl from my #1 favorite knitting book of all time: Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby. This book was my introduction to lace, which is now my absolute favorite thing to knit. At the time I first laid eyes on it I was unsure of spending $30 for a knitting book. I was working at Northampton Wools, and I now shudder to think what my life would be like if the other ladies working there hadn’t convinced me it was a worthwhile purchase. I had been working on the shawl for about four months, and was a decent way through it. The shawl is circular, starting in the middle and working slowly outwards with each row becoming longer and longer, so even though it looked like I was most of the way done, I still had many hours of knitting ahead of me. The pattern was complex, hardly even a pattern by the strictest definition of the word; this was a piece to work on without a tv show or conversation in the background – just you and the wool and your thoughts.

My hand-drawn pattern notes

At the time of the move I was keeping the shawl in a regular plastic grocery bag, as part of my ultra-sophisticated knitting project organization system. In direct violation of my ultra-sophisticated knitting project organization system, I left the bag very near to a pile of trash piled up in the room.

After we were all settled in to our new apartment, I began hunting around for my shawl, wanting to continue working on it. Huh. It wasn’t with my other knitting stuff. Hmmm….it wasn’t with the kitchen stuff. Nor was it with my clothes, books, or any of Brandon’s stuff. Uh-oh…..I thought back to the last time I remembered having it: when I placed it down on the floor, semi-close to the pile of trash. I thought about Brandon and my dad, each of them having gone out on several trash runs to the dumpster throughout the move. I thought, and thought, and then very quickly worked hard not to throw up. Oh god….it had been thrown out. My beautiful shawl, months in the making, each of the 66,000 stitches lovingly handcrafted by my nimble fingers, gone, forever. Face ashen, I stumbled into Brandon’s new room and tried to keep my voice steady as I told him the news. Then, I broke down and sobbed.

Brandon and my dad both felt terrible about what had happened, and, not knowing which one of them was responsible, I couldn’t bring myself to be angry with either of them. That hangdog, guilty look gets me every time. Slowly, I moved on from the loss. I took the Jane Sowerby book down off the shelf and flipped through the pages, imagining which shawl I might start next. I fingered lace-weight alpaca in my new LYS, Kaleidoscope Yarns, and began to see new projects coming together in my mind. I have made two more shawls since then, and am working on a third.

This picture of an adorable ferret sleeping in bed like a
human is here to break up the tension of this terribly sad story.

Flash forward two years, to last weekend. Brandon, Andy and I had a lovely 3 1/2 hour car ride down to Massachusetts and arrived just in time for sound check at the Crane Concert. We opened the show with four songs, one of which I wrote last year, and had a lovely evening listening to all the acts that followed, including my mom’s band which featured a song with my dad on the trumpet. We had a blast, and went home sleepy around midnight. The next morning Brandon and I had brunch with my parents and then began packing up for our trip back to Vermont – we had to move out of our apartment that weekend and needed to get back. I looked over my home yarn stash, thinking I could use a new mix of yarns to throw into the stash I keep in Burlington. I grabbed some baby alpaca I bought years ago for a super secret project that may or may not be featured in a later post, some baby alpaca lace in case I want to start any new shawls this summer (sensing an alpaca theme? Good, you should be), and then my eyes fell on something right in the front of one of the cubbies. It was a little white plastic bag that I hadn’t noticed before. Curiously, I picked it up, untied the handles, and looked inside. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was my beautiful, half-finished shawl! I ran out to Brandon and my dad and shouted the news in both of their faces. Their expressions quickly changed from confused to elated as they realized that they were not horrible people after all, but good and wonderful people once more.

I have no idea how this miracle occurred, but I am too excited to care about the particulars. Now that we’re moved in I have begun working on it once more, putting all other projects on hold. Unfortunately, circular lace-in-progress looks kind of like some sort of weird hole-filled bag, but I promise I will post a better picture when it’s completed!

Have you ever lost a precious project? I’d love to hear your lost and/or found stories!

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Filed under Brandon, Crane Concert, Jane Sowerby, knitting, lace, Lost shawl, Northampton Wools, shawl, The Cap Shawl, Victorian Lace Today, Wine

The Sweater From Hell

Like most relationships, it started out so well. We hung out together every day for several hours, we went on trips together, we made memories and watched movies and spent quality time with friends together. We were inseparable. But then, about five months after we met, everything went horribly, horribly wrong. I am speaking, of course, about this:

I hate you.

Let me back up. This time last year I was studying abroad in Dublin freaking Ireland, and it was amazing and wonderful and I miss it every single day (for more info, visit my other blog, The Fair Green Isle). When packing for my trip, the amount I could bring was very limited, so alas, most of my knitting supplies had to remain behind, scared and lonely in my childhood bedroom. But I was going to be there for four whole months; I couldn’t just NOT knit for that long! So one of my first orders of business upon stepping foot on the sweet, winding streets of Dublin City was to scope out a potential temporary LYS (Local Yarn Shop). And boy, did I strike gold. In the Powerscourt shopping center off of Grafton Street, there was a small yarn shop charmingly named This Is Knit. It was bright, cozy, and had very friendly and knowledgeable staff: I quickly made myself at home.

Doesn’t it look inviting?

I had an idea for a project while I was in Ireland: to make myself an “Ireland” sweater. Knit with wool from Ireland, needles from Ireland, I would make myself a long, thick, warm, cowled, cable-knit sweater, and I had found the perfect pattern several weeks previously in a European knitting magazine back at home. I was undaunted by the fact that the needles were from England. I was unphased by the fact that I had never attempted a sweater of such complexity before. I was in Dublin freaking Ireland, and I could do anything. How wrong I was.
By the time the semester was half over, I had the front and back of the sweater completely finished. It was a little odd with its variegated brown colors, but I was love with it, and I was euphoric in my triumph. Only the sleeves left to go! I would have it finished by the time I got home, and then have all summer to worry about blocking it and sewing the seams before it got cold again. Hooray! Then, approximately 30 rows in to the first sleeve, I did a small double take. There were five edge stitches on one side, and six on the other. How could that be? I went back through the pattern, scrutinized every stitch I had made. They matched up. But I MUST have missed something, so I frogged the sleeve, gave it a few days to give me fresh eyes, and tried it again. This time 18 rows in, I had seven edge stitches on the right, and eight on the left. What was going on? Five tries later, I had had enough. I was defeated. About the third attempt, I began trying to just fudge the pattern, make it work, cast on an extra stitch, something, anything, to get me through this stupid sleeve. It all ended the same way: a pile of crimped yarn, cruelly unbound, lying in a puddle in my lap.
The Debbie Bliss yarn, Glen, pre-puddle.
After I got home, I took this pesky pattern to my real LYS, Northampton Wools in Northampton, MA. The owner, Linda, sat with me for a half hour, looking it all over with a practiced eye. Eventually, she told me there was simply a mistake with the pattern and that I would just have to fudge it. A mistake! I’m not crazy! The person writing the pattern (upon whom I now wish great personal ill (just kidding)) made a mistake, and made me waste tens of hours on an asinine problem – but I’m not crazy! I quickly went to the magazine’s website to let them know of the mistake and see if there was anything on the forums for solving this problem – finally – FINALLY – I might get some answers! And then, after all my agonizing, all my searching, when I thought my pain was finally at an end, I got a tiny little email, letting me know ever so sweetly that the editor’s inbox was full, and my request for access to the forums could not be delivered. After much cursing and a small (read: large) temper tantrum that was awesome to behold, I threw the stupid thing in a bin and hoped to never look at it again. 
Early this semester, nearly a year later, I briefly picked it up again and tried to figure out where I was, remember the pattern again. It felt brand new again, and for a bit I thought I might actually make it. However, finding myself becoming immersed in the old frustration, I quickly allowed myself to get distracted by an awesome lace shawl (to be featured in an upcoming post), and here it lies, still, to this day, a sad little unfinished sleeve.
I still want to finish this sweater – very much so. Maybe some day after graduation, when things calm down a little bit (yeah, right), I will take another crack at it. For now, anyone who has any knowledge of the Charlotte pattern from Verena magazine’s Winter 2010 issue, please let me know.

What knitting – or writing, crafting, painting, etc. – skeletons lie in your closet? 

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Filed under Ireland, knitting, Northampton Wools, Sweater from Hell, This Is Knit, Verena Magazine, yarn, yarn store

Northampton Wools

Working at Northampton Wools is like being a kid in a candy store. I walk around in a daze of yarn-induced ecstasy, touching everything within my reach and losing myself in the swirl of color that surrounds me. I have been known to leave the shop at the end of a work day owing them money, and most days come home with only a portion of my earnings, but with gorgeous wools in my bag. Like today, for instance. I left with only $14, but also three skeins of divine Mulberry Merino in three stunning colors. This is a 52% Mulberry Silk, 48% Merino blend that is incredibly soft and has a lovely silky sheen.
Any ideas for what I should make with it? It’s only three hundred yards, so I was thinking a complex scarf pattern incorporating all three colors would be interesting. Send me any ideas you have!

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Filed under Northampton Wools, pattern ideas, yarn store