The Popularity of Breed Specific Yarns

Whilst hand spinners have always enjoyed spinning yarn from just one breed of sheep, larger spinneries have been developing Breed specific yarns. My first encounter was in England at the Yarntopia event in London. There I met Blacker Yarns, who have their standby’s—Blue Faced Leicester, Gotland, Jacob, and Shetland—but also have limited edition rare breeds, like Hill Radnor and Oxford Down. Cultivating breed specific yarns has been a growing interest in the United States. Right now I carry American Shetland from Montana and Colorado, Navajo Ramouillet, Cormo from Wyoming, Merino from Virginia, and Jacob from Vermont, so I was happy with Katie Sullivan of Bobolink Yarns in Vermont contacted me to carry the Breed specific yarns she is producing from local, mainly meat farms who do not use their wool: Cheviot, Coopworth, Clun Forest, and Romney. Katie is also interested in capturing wool which is going in the dump. She has upcycled mill ends from Darn Tough Socks that she has spun and dyed into beautiful and vibrant lace weight yarn. In addition, she is interested in figuring out how to put to use wool that is not appropriate for spinning but can be used for other purposes: mulching, soaking up spills, heat-resistant fabrics, etc. She will be speaking at the shop on Friday, March 11th, at 5:00 when we’ll be able to knit with some of her yarns. Join us!

Katie Sullivan from Bobolink Yarns with some of her upcycled yarn.

Post-Covid (?) Small Business

Why am I writing this now?  I notice more businesses being less able to keep the hours we expected them to keep in the past.  Post-Covid (not that we feel quite “post” yet) small businesses seem to be saying, “Things are different.”  They are opening fewer hours, offering fewer menu items, and providing fewer seats.  Being closed during Covid taught small businesses a few lessons.  One:  life is better when you are not working 24-7.  Two: you can often make just as much money with take-away as with in-house seating.  Three:  You are the boss.  The rules for what was once common practice in providing a service (operating hours, staffing, in-person interaction), no longer apply.

Unfortunately the customer is out there in the parking lot saying, “Geez, I miss sitting inside and socializing with my neighbors.”  

Therein lies the rub.  

Small coffee shops and bars and,  yes, even yarn shops, offer the opportunity to socialize with neighbors that other retail shops don’t offer.  The onus is on these neighborhood shops to provide a milieu for the community.  Who would have known that they had the burden of the entire community spirit on their shoulders?  And yet they do.  What is Main street without a coffee house?  Nada.  What is an afternoon without lunch at a brewhouse?  Boring.  Who visits a town when all the stores are closed?  No one. Absolutely no one.  Drive around and you’ll see  small downtowns that didn’t make it and it is a sad sight…all those empty storefronts staring woefully at you.

So be mindful, my friends.  Cultivate your community.  Support your local businesses and community events. Don’t take anything for granted, because you may turn around and it will be gone.  Then all you’ll have left is, “Remember when…” We all love the idea of the quaint Main Street, but if we all buy from on-line sites, because we got so used to not leaving home, and we don’t support that Main Street we love, guess what?  Like all things neglected, it will go away.

That being said…I’m reducing my hours in September to Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 10:30-4:30.  I’ll be back to Wednesdays through Saturday come October, when I’ll also re-start classes and events.

Great Northern Yarn Haul!

The 6th Annual Great Northern Yarn Haul begins July 9th and goes to August 1st, with the most ever participating yarn shops–28–spanning from the coast of Maine to Lake Champlain! Love.Yarn.Shop. has their kick-off event on Friday, the 9th at 5:00. With a $20 purchase, participants get a free shopper tote (while supplies last). All the shops are contributing $25 gift certificates, which will be awarded to randomly drawn eligible contenders. Plus, many will have give-aways and door prizes!

Inter-Net or Inter-Knit?

As knitters and crocheters, we know all about interconnectedness, as we gather regularly with other knitters in our local shops, streets, parks, and libraries or on-line on our craft websites.  Kathie Lovett is creating an interactive sculpture on the Art Walk in Franconia which speaks to us.  With red wool, knitters and crocheters will be creating a giant scarf that will be woven through the trees along the banks of the Gale River.  Knitters and crocheters are invited to knit pieces with others in advance of the opening on June 19th either at a knit-along on June 6th at 2:00 at the river site (park at Woodsville Bank in Franconia) or at Love.Yarn.Shop. at 5:00 on June 11th, or to knit at home and drop pieces off at the site or at the shop.  If your stash doesn’t have red wool, we will have yarn available at the site and at the shop.  The 100% wool will enable Kathie to felt the piece after dismantling the site and make warm hats and mittens for those in need…extending the interconnections even further.

Project Restart

At the beginning of every year, I make a list of 20 goals:  short-term, mid-term, and long-term.  The top of my short-term goals this year were my UFO’s (unfinished objects).  Finish, rip, or re-envision.  I may have more UFO’s than many because when I teach a class, I’ll start the project, but not always finish it.  So far, I bound off a lace-work shawl to make a doll’s shawl.  I finished a skirt—it only needed 1/2 row of knitting, binding off, and an i-cord!  I finished two half-completed second socks.  I took a two-color brioche scarf, bound it off, made a cowl and put two great buttons on it.  This is a partial list of UFO’s to finish:  second mitten, fair isle vest (back finished), summer top (back finished), baby sweater (up to arms), baby blanket in DK weight (into middle of second skein), cable throw blanket bulky (into third skein), lace weight cowl (3/4’s done), mitred-square baby blanket (into second row of squares), multiple single socks…you get the picture.  I know I am not alone in having multiple unfinished projects, and that I am not the only one picking away at projects and stashes.  I just received an email from a customer with this line, “I’ve been doing some “stash busting”- making a shifty cowl.”  This slip-stitch cowl uses three colors, so it is a great stash buster to use three single fingering weight skeins

These are four road-trip UFO’s: baby blanket, baby sweater, sock, and mitten.

Gift Certificate Math

I always say to customers who order a gift certificate, “Thank you, you have made two people happy:  me and the recipient.”  Gift certificates to small local businesses are a great way to  give during the holiday season.  Sometimes I think, “That business may go out of business before this person uses it, or loses it.”  A is they lost it, B is they can’t find it = C I helped that business stay in business.  The nice thing about buying a gift certificate to a local business is that, no matter what, you contributed to a business you like and want to support.  Whether the recipient used it is really unimportant, because you made the contribution to that business.   You told that business—you are important.  You didn’t buy a gift certificate to a box store, or a chain coffee house or restaurant, you put your money into a small shop on a Main Street that is the life of a town, in a town that you love.  So as you are wondering what to get for this person or that, consider buying a gift certificate to a local, small business…and this season, make two people happy.  Happy holidays.

End of the Row Yarn Exchange

I’m on a mission…for a phone box.  I’ve been moving yarn and needles along at the shop.  People donate from inherited stashes to abandoned library and school clubs, and I put a cardboard box outside the shop with “free yarn and needles.”  The problem is that the cardboard box is only out when my shop is open and the weather is good, so the access is limited to those days and hours, and I wonder if people might be too shy to poke around in the free box while the shop is open.  I’ve been inspired by the little free libraries that are popping up all over the world.  Then my friend sent me a picture of a jigsaw puzzle exchange, and I got to thinking, “Why not have a yarn exchange?”  Not just yarn, but needles, accessories, patterns, books—all things fiber related.  I came across a phone box little library in England and thought what a perfect structure! Made for the elements, water-tight and mouse-proof, with glass for viewing, the phone box is the ticket.  So I’m putting the request out there, requesting that you move it along, just like the yarn and needles.

Little library in Fritham, England.

Size B, No Nipple

What strikes me as most heart-warming about the Knitted Knockers project are the notes knitters put on the breast prosthetics, and the creativity that goes into some of the “knitted knockers.”  With Covid-19 restrictions, we aren’t delivering them to Norris Cotton in St. Johnsbury, but have them at the shop for women to look over and choose.  So please come in on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday between 10:30 and 5:00 if you’d like a soft, knitted, breast prosthetic.


Settling in to a Sweater

Now that the cool weather is circling around us, my thoughts turn to which sweater to knit.  Not that I don’t have a large variety of unfinished projects, from skirts to vests to summer tops to baby blankets, but I don’t have a sweater on the go, which for me, is the most satisfying project to knit when autumn comes.  Last year I knit Pam Allen’s “Larch,” from her book Plain & Simple.  This year I have pulled a selection:  “Whole Weekend,” by von Hinterim Stein is right up my alley—attractive details at the cuffs and turtleneck collar, i-cord bind offs, raglan sleeves—simple, but enough flair to make it stand out.  Then there’s the “Essential Sweater Dress” from  Anna Cohen for Imperial Stock Ranch.  Once again, turtleneck, but loose like a cowl, with an interesting wide garter stitch band down the front to mid-thigh.  Yet, I am drawn to another Pam Allen, this time a cardigan, “Chestnut,” which has an overall cable pattern, the decreases occurring in the side stockinette band.  Another cardigan under consideration is “Emma” in Julie Weisenberger’s Cocoknits Sweater Workshop.  This open, long, and loose cardigan is perfect for throwing on in when the temperature’s drop in the evening.  I like the extension of the ribbing up the back of the arms and the fabric side pocket construction.  Plus, I’ve been wanting to try to the Cocoknits Method for a Tailored Yoke.  That may be what sways my decision (and the fact that it is knit in bulky yarn on size 11 needles) but for now, I’m still reading over the patterns and wandering around the store looking at yarns.

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