Category Archives: yarn store

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

Random Ideas

This blog has many purposes, most of them selfish:
– To keep my friends informed about my dreams and goals.
– To inflate my ego by making me think people other than my six followers give a crap about
what I’m saying.
– To inflate my ego by making me think that my six followers (amazing people that you are)
give a crap about what I’m saying.
But it’s also a place for me to keep all of my ideas organized in one place. It’s my public diary where all of my dreams and crazy, stupid thoughts are kept for all the world (who wants to) to see. So I thank you for not laughing.

When I get an idea in my head (like opening a yarn shop, for instance), it consumes most of my time and energy until either 1. it becomes a reality, 2. I get tired of it. Therefore, over the last week and a half or so, my brain has been working overtime with plans, ideas, and dreams, a lot of which I neglected to write down and have subsequently forgotten. So, every now and again I am going to put up a Random Ideas post that will have some idea(s) I’ve had about the shop. These ideas could be a sentence or six paragraphs, brilliant or completely crazy. But they will all be in one place where Karen and I can sift through them later.

*Side note to Karen: Feel free to add in, disagree, comment, argue, tell me to shut up, or engage in any way you see fit! *

So here are some of the ideas I wrote down tonight, most of which were inspired by a seminar I went to on success in entrepreneurial enterprises featuring the man who started Lake Champlain Chocolates:

1. Creating a sense of community is huge, and one thing LCC does is use local people for as much as possible. This includes the photography for their catalog, the marketing, etc. To this end, I think it would be great to have a section of our store dedicated solely to local and/or small, independently-owned people and shops. For instance, our own spinning could be there, roving and yarn from the alpaca farm my friend Jordan works at could be there, the divine blue-faced leicester top roving from that farm we went to in Stratton, Karen, and my friend Patience’s sheep’s wool could both be there. In other words, something other than Misti Alpaca, or Cascade Yarns, or Rowan, and all the well-known brands. Let’s discover the next big thing, and help out other small businesses like ourselves!

2. Connect emotionally with the customers. One thing the guy tonight said that I thought was very interesting was that he spent a very long time picking out the colors, fabric, texture, wording, and style of the sign with his company’s name on it. He said that all of this things have an unconscious affect on the emotional reaction the customer has, and it’s important to make sure it’s the one that you want. In my opinion this should be applied to EVERYTHING. The colors in the store, where things are arranged, the type of wood used on the floors – every last detail should be consciously decided upon to have make the correct impression.

3. Sustainability. Figure out a way to help ourselves out by: going green, buying local, fair trade. Make sure our sources are reliable/have the same standards as we do.

4. Location. This is something Karen and I have talked about, briefly, but I sometimes worry about. One (really awesome) idea Karen had was to use the space that will be opening up for retail purposes in the old nursing home in Montgomery. That space could become available before I leave school, which would put A LOT of stress on Karen, as I would have to be helping from afar.
Some pros to this location would be that
1. we could both live at home and have a very easy commute.
2. It would be a great place to start out – small, surrounded by other retail stores that would help us draw in customers.
3. It’s right on a main road – through Montgomery, it’s true, but still…
4. We have our knitting group right in Montgomery that I’m sure would be willing to give us their business if our prices were right, and I’m sure there are people in the hilltowns who would love to support locals.

Some cons would be that
1. Who goes through Montgomery? (no offense Karen).
2. What if we never grow from that location and I live with my parents forever? (as much as I absolutely love them. But, really, who wants to be that person?).
3. it may be difficult to get financial backing when we’re located in such an unpopulated area.

My dream would be to stay in Burlington, or somewhere in Vermont, and to live someplace new that I can make my own instead of going back to the hilltowns. I just never saw myself living there forever, as much as I love it. But I know it would kill Karen to leave her family, who are all in the Westfield-Montgomery area, and I don’t think I could do that to her. So, that is definitely a conversation we are going to have to have.

Ok, so this post has become much longer than I ever intended for it to be, and I apologize for that. I’ll put up a nice picture of my old angora rabbit, Tara, to make it up to you. How about that? And, as always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about any and all of the goings-on around the blog – especially you, Karen!

P.S. My friend from home, Amy, requested that I put up a knitting tutorial on the blog, so look for that to be coming soon!

P.P.S. Another random idea – music is important. One thing I can’t stand in some yarn stores is when there’s just one or two customers walking around and the person at the register sitting and watching, and it’s super quiet and awkward, and the customers almost feel like they are taking too long to look and should be wrapping things up because it’s so quiet and weird. Music fixes this nicely.

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Filed under Random Ideas, yarn store

The Dream

Most people probably don’t know that I became a business major so that I can start my own yarn shop when I graduate, but that is indeed my plan. With all of the classes I am taking and all that I am learning, my dreams are becoming closer and closer to reality, and I like to think that I am only 3 years away from realizing this goal. My amazing friend Karen and I have been talking about starting our own store for years now, and tonight my noggin is working full force on ideas for this amazing place that we will own and make awesome. Hopefully this blog will be a place to expand my thoughts and ideas, get feedback, and talk about all things fiber! 🙂

When I close my eyes, I see a picture of the store in my mind. I know where the doors are placed, and what they look like. I know what kind of wood it has. I see squashy armchairs surrounding a coffee table that has knitting magazines and a bowl full of needles and spare yarn for customers to fool around on and figure things out. This table and chairs ensemble is in front of a stone fireplace (whether or not it will be a working fireplace remains to be seen). When you walk in the door, the cash register is to the left, the yarn is up and to the right, and the whole place has an open, sunny, light feel. In the back there is a door leading to an office, another to a bathroom, and stairs leading up to the small apartment that I will occupy. Out front there is a porch with a rocking chair or two on it, and baskets full of our sale yarn, while in the back there are french-style doors leading to a small grassy, out-door area with a bench where customers can relax and knit outside. This is where we could grow our dye plants. We could also have some of Karen’s bunnies out there in outdoor hutches (or inside on rainy days), and customers could feed and pet them. We could sell the babies from the shop as well.

Karen and I would both teach classes, of course, probably with me teaching the basics and Karen teaching advanced techniques (she’s a way more advanced knitter and spinner than I am). We have also been kicking around an idea for a Breast Cancer Knitting Retreat, where women who are battling/have battled breast cancer can come for a relaxed weekend of knitting, spinning, group/individual therapy, and general wellness with other women who know what you’ve been through. There are many reasons why this is a great idea, but two of my favorites are: 1. knitting is a great past time for anyone who will be spending a lot of their time either waiting in doctor’s offices/hospital rooms, or resting at home incapable of much activity, because it gives you something repetitive to do to take your mind off things and keep your hands busy, and you have wonderful, beautiful things to show for it at the end. 2. the motions necessary for using a drop spindle require you to stretch out your arm and chest, which could be good exercise for someone who has had reconstructive surgery in that area (note: we should probably do more research on this to make sure it is helpful instead of harmful before we advertise it as such). This program is something that really excites me and I think would be very rewarding and wonderful to set up.

Other ideas:

Knit for the homeless – this is something my roommate and I are planning on starting this winter. The two of us are simply going to knit plain scarves, hats, mittens, etc. and then walk around in downtown Burlington and distribute to those in need. Depending on how it goes, I may want to look into starting something on campus where we get involved with COTS or something, but we’ll start small.

Selling local yarn – in addition to selling commercial yarn and our own yarn, I think we should have as large a supply of local input as possible. Everything from dye plants/dyes to handmade shawl pins to yarn to roving from local animals. Make our shop a place where the community can support us and we can support them!

Customer Input – Allow customers to fill out a survey telling us what products they would like us to sell. If they have a favorite yarn, needle, or notion that they would like us to provide for them, they can let us know and we’ll do our best. I have also been thinking about how cool it would be to give our phone numbers to our regular customers (such as the knitting group if we end up starting out in Montgomery), and if the inspiration hits them or they really need something at a time when we’re not open they could call us and we could open the shop for an emergency session.

So many ideas are swirling around in my head, but that’s enough for the first post. Please feel free to comment with any ideas or thoughts you have!

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Filed under goals, knitting, yarn store