Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Banner Day

NOTE: This post was started on 7/31 and never finished. Rather than start a whole new post, I am going to finish off the two drafts I have and then get things current)

We have received in so much yarn the past few days, it is mind boggling.

Besides yarn, we have books, patterns and magahttp://yarn.com/webs/0/1/0/4-0-1203/zines flying in at warp speed.

Two highlights - the two things that garnered squeals and general giddieness amongst the staff more than anything else. It has been hard to be focused, to say the least. The Vogue 25th Anniversary Issue is awesome and I suggest you get on-line or stop in the store asap to pick yours up. We had an out of town (really, out of country) visitor today and even that person, who is not a knitter, was thrilled to score a copy. THAT's how hot this issue is.

We are very disappointed to announce that our event on Sunday, August 12th with Adina Klein, editor of Vogue Knitting has been cancelled. We will hopefully be able to host Adina at the store at another time.

Then, Rowan Magazine #42. It.is.spectacular. I am particularly fond of the Kaffe Fassett design on the cover. For any of you planning to attend Stitches East, Kaffe will be in our booth on Thursday evening starting at 7:00pm to sign books, etc. He is giving a talk earlier in the evening, check out the Stitches schedule for more info at http://www.knittinguniverse.com/.

More later.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fall Sneak Peak

Note: I wrote this post last Thursday evening, before heading out to Cape Cod for a weekend getaway. I ran out of time to upload the pictures and put the post up. Sorry - some of the post is a bit past it's prime.

This weekend is Sidewalk Sale in Northampton. For those of you in the area, you know that this is a great shopping opportunity - lots of great deals from all the great downtown retailers. You may also remember that last year, we were up on Main Street. Not so this year and we are relieved! It was crazy driving yarn back and forth each day and then when the summer thunderstorms started popping up! It was madness. But, Steve is one to never miss an opportunity so we are participating by holding our own Sidewalk Sale this weekend right in front of the store! I guess that would be more of a "Parking Lot Sale", but use your imagination, okay? We're marking down yarns from the store that simply have got to go. We have received in so much new yarn this week, the store is about to explode! So if you are around tomorrow or Saturday or thinking of making a road trip, be sure to stop by. Steve has lost his mind with some of the rock bottom prices. This is an in-store only event (sorry on-line shoppers). But do not despair! This Sidewalk Sale is really just the prelude to our August Clearance Sale. Flyers are in the mail as we speak.

So in my last post I gave you a glimpse of one of our new fall yarns, Williamstown. It has certainly garnered some attention. Then just this week, the advance shipment of our other new yarn arrived as well.. . . . . .Oh! You want to know what that one is? Say a great big, yarn-loving hello to (drum roll please): Sheffield

Sheffield is just - beautiful. The colors are great, I really love them. The yarn itself is a merino/angora/silk blend. It is sophisticated and elegant. It only has 15% angora so it won't shed all over the place, but enough to give it a slight halo and terrific feel.

Steve and I really wanted to add a tweed to our line, but we didn't want a traditional tweed per se. What does that mean? I love tweeds, I love the tweeds, the donegals, we carry. But I'm not a scratchy yarn purist. I wanted a cuddly tweed. Who says tweeds can't be cuddly? Oh yes, the cashmere tweeds fit the bill I realize, but that's not in the cards for our line right now. (But the visual of me sourcing cashmere is quite pleasant, I must admit. . . . . ) Williamstown is wool/acrylic blend (65% wool/35% acrylic and viscose). It is soft and yummy and tweedy and I love it.

Williamstown and Sheffield will be available in about month or so. I love these yarns and I hope you all do to.

So that's the update. More details when the yarns arrive.

Be sure to check out the new yarns section of our website (there are a ton being updated tonight). Also, be watching for fall classes and events. More info to follow. One other programming note, our event with Adina Klein, editor-in-chief of Vogue Knitting had to be cancelled due to a scheduling conflict. We are sorry the event couldn't happen, but we look forward to having Adina at the store another time. So scratch "August 12th - Go to WEBS for Event and Shopping" off of your calendar :)

Happy Weekend.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Some Bunny to Love

What a week! I'm not sure if the planets were misaligned or if it was the humid, gooey weather and daily rainstorms, but nothing seemed to go right this week. I am so happy it is Saturday, the weather is perfect and the opportunity to start fresh again on Monday lies ahead.

There were a few highlights:

Lisa (gosh, I hope I got that right and my apologies if I didn't) and her gorgeous Bohus:

The level of detail is incredible and my shot does not do it justice (the color is definitely off - ugh). The yarn is so skinny and the needles so tiny! But it is oh, so, luscious! Can't wait to see it when she's done. She promised to bring it in to show us.

There was the shoot for our weaving catalog that will mail this fall. It was only for one picture - the inside front cover which will feature Barbara and my son (and weaver) Jonathan.

The actual shot we chose is, well, you'll see. . . . . . .

Then there was new yarn. First, from Reynolds, their new kids' collection:

There are four yarns in the collection and the palette is not your typical kids' collection. Think "Gap" meets "yarn".
The pattern book arrived as well and it's oozing with cuteness and each pattern can be made using one of two different yarns.

(Note: I will add the links to these products on Monday once they are on-line. The product arrived late on Friday).

We also received the lab dips for one of our new fall yarns, Williamstown. I love this yarn. Steve and I developed this one from scratch and we are really tickled with it. More info will follow once it arrives, but here's a sampling of the colors:

Then, last, but not least. I've often mentioned that we have a phenomenal staff and we truly mean that. We have great, great, people working with us at WEBS. Mike, who works in shipping walks part of the way to work and on Thursday morning, noticed a bunny in our parking lot. Now, this is not uncommon. Northampton is pretty built up be we still have our fair share of critters. He continued on towards our building, but decided to go back. Something just didn't seem right. Sure enough, the bunny was moving towards the main road, so Mike scooped her up. Right there that tells you something - this was not your average, wild bunny. In fact, it was quite the opposite. He brought her in, a box was set-up, grapes were given and it was evident that this bunny belonged to someone.

So Mike took it upon himself to contact our local Animal Control. Somebody had reported a bunny missing 4 days earlier, but they lived quite a ways from the store. And it had been four days. Nevertheless, the person who filed the "missing bunny" report was contacted. She came over and sure enough, it was hers! You could see the difference immediately. Bunny (which is her name) perked right up and looked so happy to be going home. Big, huge kudos to Mike for taking the time to go back and do all of the work to get Bunny reunited with her owner.

I love a happy ending.


Monday, July 16, 2007

TKGA or Bust

Unfortunately, the operative word in the title is "bust". I am not usually one to complain or be negative, but at the same time I have to be honest. I know the attendees that were there enjoyed their classes immensely and seemed to have a good time shopping the marketplace. The problem seems to be there just weren't enough people to make the show worthwhile for those of us vendors.

It didn't help that one of our favorite vendors, Brooks Farm, did not end up attending due to the floods they have been dealing with back in Texas. Both Cirilia and I were crushed before the show really even started. Although I think our budgets are better for it.

Here's our area before and after set-up:

One of the highlights was catching up with friends. We had a great Western Mass contingent there with Lexie Barnes and Barb Parry from Foxfire Fiber & Design. We made new friends with Jedd from the Nantucket Bagg Company. That boy can really sell! He was "unleashing the magic" throughout the weekend. This was his first knitting show and he's planning to attend Stitches Midwest - watch out knitters! I have to say, it is a pretty cool bag. It was funny when I spied Norah Gaughan listening to Jedd's pitch. I popped over and pointed out to him that she is knitting royalty. Turns out he didn't believe me until another customer came along, noticed Norah and said "Oh my gosh, YOU'RE NORAH GAUGHAN!!"

Then there was Kim Werker, one of my most favorite people ever. She is always so upbeat and full of energy - it's really contagious. Kim will be at WEBS in October to launch her book Crochet Me - Designs to Fuel the Revolution. Trust me when I say, this will be the party of the season!

Jess and Casey of Ravelry made the trip up. We hung out and talked a bit and then Cirilia and I realized we hadn't taken a picture so then it was time to stalk them. We got the picture though!

I also got to catch up with Dianne from Creatively Dyed Yarns. She was trying to sell off the rest of her inventory from her shop that she recently closed in order to focus on her hand dying. For anyone planning to attend the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair in Crystal Lake, IL this weekend, be sure to stop by, check out her yummy hand-dyed yarns and say hi!

We also met Becca Smith, owner of Bagsmiths Bags. Lovely, lovely lady, as is her mom and Janette with beautiful products. (That's a hint to watch for them in our store).

The other highlight of the weekend was one of our dinners. Should you find yourself in Manchester, NH I highly recommend "Z" which is located right downtown at 860 Elm Street or on-line at http://www.zfoodanddining.com/. Tom and his lovely wife (also a knitter) are the owners. The restauarant is only 3 months old and the food, service, EVERYTHING is yummy. Steve and I eat out a lot and we're pretty fussy. We'd go back to Manchester just to eat at Z again.

Finally (and I must emphasize finally), it was time to breakdown and head for home. The trip started with a severe thunderstorm and then an accident that required Cirilia and I to "detour" in to the back woods of New Hampshire. We drove and drove through woods, past a lovely lake that was a bit too high for our comfort level. We kept driving and we ended up here:

Pretty funny, don't you think? Only two over-tired, yarn crazed gals would get lost in NH and end up in Harrisville. I am convinced my car smells yarn. The irony is even more glaring when you take into account that (a) I've never been to Harrisville and (b) Barbara started WEBS using Harrisville Looms. Cirilia and I giggled our way all the way back to the main route we were suppose to be on.

As for knitting, I have no pictures, but a report. So I finished the leg of Jonathan's sock and started the heel flap. I was 2/3 of the way done at the show (this tidbit is important) and realized I was knitting it backwards! The smooth side was on the inside, bumpy on the outside. I thought about just turning the sock inside out, but the leg pattern was not nearly as nice. So, rip, rip, rip. That through me off. After a couple of attempts and adding stitches, losing stitches, I just put it away. The TKGA karma was doing nothing for my knitting. Thank you Cirilia for salvaging the sock.

It's good to be home. I arrived to see this off my back deck:

The pictures truly do not do it justice.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Don't Rush to Be Nine

We're off to the TKGA Show in Manchester, NH at the crack of dawn tomorrow. We're looking forward to the show and to take a breather from the day to day at the store. It's been intense and both Steve and I are feeling a bit frayed around the edges. Not like this weekend is going to be a vacation or anything, but the change will do us good. Be sure to come to the show if you can - lots of great vendors, classes and knitting/crocheting fun. We're in booths 409, 411, 413, 415. The lovely Cirilia will be hanging with us this weekend as well.

My sock is coming along quite nicely. I need to check the length with Jonathan, but I think I'm close to starting the heel flap. I need to make sure I have my instructions with me.

I started with a k2, p2 rib for the first few rows and then started alternating that with a round of knit. It changes the look oh so subtly, but you can see it in this closeup.

The top definitely has a more pronounced rib to it.

Also, don't forget that this Sunday is our big Harry Potter event with Alison Hansel, author of Charmed Knits, The Blue Blog and founder of Sockapalooza. She'll be at the store from 1-3 (we're open 1-4). She'll be signing her book, doing some knitting, we'll have giveaways, great snacks as always and some Potter fun.

Lastly, but most importantly, this post is for Jackson. Today is his birthday. Somehow, someway, eight years have flown by. The thirty six hours of labor seemed to take an eternity, but eight years - gone in the blink of an eye. I know, experienced mothers always warn the new ones that it goes fast. You don't believe it will happen that way, you just don't until it does. I know I didn't. It didn't seem to go fast through the first nine months of projectile vomiting after every feeding. I did get smart and learned to put him in his bouncy seat, in the bathtub after every feeding and just wait. Then I'd change him, throw the seat cover in the wash, put on a fresh one, rinse out the tub and move on. It didn't feel like time was moving fast as I logged miles of walking and rocking in the middle of the night, trying desperately to get him to sleep. Time stood still as I tried each day to get him to eat some solid food. That first banana, at eight months old, sitting under the kitchen table with him, was such a victory, but boy it felt like it took forever. And now he's eight. I'll spare you from more stories, but trust me when I say they've all been in my thoughts today. I'm horrified to think that the next eight will go by as quickly (and what it means to have a 16 year old), but I am realistic enough to know they probably will.

Happy Birthday Jackson. Take your time getting to nine, okay?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

I've Been Ravelry-ed

This is so good and so bad all at the same time. I received my Ravelry invite awhile back but have not had much of a chance to really get going on it. Please - I know there are THOUSANDS of you out there waiting patiently all the while I've been doing other things. I know it seems wasteful, but since mid-May things have been non-stop action.

Well, I took sometime the past few days to really get to know the site and all I can say is I.AM.ADDICTED. Seriously, this is not good at all - but awesome at the same time. The site is truly amazing and Jess and Casey have really thought through the functionality and the ease of use.

I think one of the reasons I didn't jump in full throttle is truly because it requires me to face some "issues". Such as organizing my stash and the pure volume of needles that I have. I think as knitters we all tend to keep our stash and the idiosyncrasies of it pretty close. Although Steve thinks I have an outrageous stash both in volume and content, I have to disagree and I have another knitter supporting me on this (yes, I realize this sounds like we're both ripe for Knitters Anonymous). Here's some of my stash:

Now needles, that's another story. My needle inventory is, how shall I say this - out of control? Even Melissa, GASPED when she saw a PORTION of my needle inventory. Please, be kind in your comments, I know I have a problem:

Ravelry is making me face all of these issues, which is ultimately a good thing. I have inventoried all of my needles and hooks, except those attached to projects, which I will add when I get to my WIPs. Today, I started to sort out my stash, truly inventory it and photograph it. This required that I set-up a Flickr account, which I can't say I was thrilled at doing, but I did it.

The inventory/photograhy process is time-consuming and will be something I work on throughout the summer. I also want to start working in some WIPs and designs.

For those of you already on Ravelry - I hope you are embracing it as much as I am. For those of you on the waiting list, please be patient. They have some crazy number of people in the cue - something like 9,000 or 7,000. Both Jess and Casey are now full-time, 120% on nothing but the site, but this all takes time. If you have not signed up for an invite - I urge you to do so now!

Steve and I are off to the TKGA Show in Manchester, NH on Thursday. Show runs Friday, Saturday & Sunday July 13-15. The marketplace is open to the public. Click through the link to get all of the info. Lots of great yarn stores, designers, hand dyers, etc., will be there. There are classes and all sorts of fun things going on, so please be sure to come on by. We'll have four booths (409, 411, 413, 415), primarily filled with our Valley Yarns. This is a great opportunity to not only check out the yarns in person, but to also see all of the great garments.

Lastly, I leave you with "The Boys of Summer":

Friday, July 6, 2007

Knee High by the Fourth of July

I had never heard this saying before I moved here to Western Massachusetts. Steve couldn't believe it. Am I the only one who was oblivious or are there those of you out there you who don't know either?

Our 4th was rather uneventful. We took in the parade in Amherst, which is not the greatest of parades. It could use a marching band or two and maybe some floats. But it's the only game around.

Thank goodness for the bagpipers!

It started out to be a nice day, but ended up chilly and rainy - very atypical for this time of year. But then again, atypical and New England weather are pretty much synonymous. The balance of the day's festivities were a washout. The local fireworks did go off, much to our surprise and the boys' chagrin. Another town is having their fireworks tomorrow night and it's been made very clear to us that attendance is "required".

I've been basking the glory of my sock. Our next podcast knitalong which we kick-off with tomorrow's show will be a sock from measurements. I am making a pair for Jonathan, since he declared Fixation, soft and "not spikey". That is his lithmus test for yarn and trust me when I say, he is very fussy. I've already cast on and have the cuff completed:

I've been working in a k2, p2 rib, which I plan to continue down the leg, alternating with a knit row. I am looking forward to going through the heel flap, heel turn, gusset again. I'm sure I"ll stumble a bit and need some guidance, but getting the mechanics down solid is definitely a goal.

I am also determined to make everyone out there who has been nervous or scared or intimidated by sock knitting to give it a whirl. Seriously, as I have said a hundred times, I am not the end all be all knitter. If I can knit a sock, ANYONE can do it. If you can knit, knit two together, slip, slip, knit (really, this one is fun, fun, fun) and count, you can knit a sock. Yes, kitchener is funky, but that too can be figured out. Plus, they really are fun - there really is a "socknitters high". . . .

On another note, I'd like your input on something:

This is a project one of our dear customers, Barbara D. is working on. I meant to write down the specifics, but I didn't (bad blogger, bad, bad blogger). It's a vest, side to side and uses the domino knitting technique. She's using Harrisville Shetland so the gauge is small, but I am loving the look and want to come up with something in one of our Valley Yarns that incorporates the technique. I haven't had much time this week to do a lot of reading about domino knitting but it definitely intrigues me. I'd love to know your thoughts and if you think one of our Valley Yarns would work well with this technique, now is your chance to let me know!

Happy Weekend! Happy Knitting!


Monday, July 2, 2007

This is Not Just a Swatch

Melissa emailed me on Sunday to tell me that the work I had done so far was only for gauge and that once I had my gauge, I was to rip out and cast-on for whatever size sock I was going to knit. WHAT? Now don't get me wrong. I am a BIG proponent of swatching. I am a swatcher, even at times when it is a bit overkill (even when the Harlot looks at me like I must be an alien because I swatched for the BSJ). I am a tight knitter and although I usually have to go up a needle size, sometimes, for whatever reason, I don't. So, I swatch.

But in this instance I was rather indignant to learn that the work I had accomplished so far was just to be tossed aside. Knitting on dpns has never been a strength or much fun for me. I was pretty darn pleased by late Sunday morning when I had successfully knit my required lenght without completely losing control of the dpns or injuring myself. Plus, I was not interested in my first sock attempt being for anyone, I just wanted to understand the mechanics. As I'm emailing this info to Melissa, I get an email back from her saying she's off for the day. WHAT??? I am ready to knit a sock and you are leaving me?! Well, I guess it and I would have to wait for further direction later.

But I couldn't.

The sock was staring at me.

I know it was sneaking around, trying to get my attention as I moved about the house, trying to work, trying to get some chores done.

I was getting twitchy.

I couldn't wait for Melissa.

Despite my large stash of knitting books here at home, I do not have a single sock book. Hmmm. Then it hit me. I decided to Google "how to knit socks". (Yeah, that first class education really came in handy coming up with that thought).
First up for me - a complete guide to knitting socks, in beautiful, plain english published by the wonderful Clara Parkes on Knitters Review. I was beside myself. I was ready to start the heel flap and her instructions were clear and straightforward. Woohoo! I was back in business. I set about working the heel flap. Look at me go:

Then it was time for the scary stuff. Turning.The.Heel.
My mother-in-law has always said "You are not a real knitter until you can turn a heel". I have built this up in my mind to be a daunting task. I've had other knitters talk about turning the heel in equally scary terms (at least that's how it always sounded to me). I read through Clara's instructions and although I understood them, I could not visualize where I was going or what it should look like. I decided to hold. I know myself well enough to know that if I made a mess at this point, I may ruin my chances of ever completing the sock.

Melissa emailed me mid-afternoon from one of her stops along the way of her family-day and was quite supportive of the progress I had made. She was also adamant that I go no further without her. I was not allowed to get any guidance at WEBS today. Luckily, I needed to be home this afternoon to become "Comcastic", so Melissa came over to give me a lesson.

I did the decreases and the rounds and will hopefully remember which slant which decrease will give me and when I need to use which one. I think if I incorporate a line from Jimmy Buffet "Fins to the Left, Fins to the Right". . . I can get this to stick with me.

Look what I did:

I, Kathy Elkins, turned a heel.
For anyone reading who has never attempted this - it is not nearly as hard as it reads in a pattern. Seriously. You all know I am not a capital 'K" knitter and this was not hard - it's knitting, knitting two together and slip/slip/knit. Honestly, keeping track of where you are is harder than the actually knitting.

Onto the gusset, which is not really an instep gusset since your instep is at the top of your foot, not the bottom, but that's really neither here nor there. As with turning the heel, the gusset was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

Once the gusset was done, I needed to knit a few rounds until it was time to shape the toe (again, same types of decreases as with the heel turn and gusset).

Finally came the Kitchener. Melissa has created a handy cheat sheet, in plain English. Even with that, I think this is the one thing that would be hard to complete without someone assisting you. If you are a visual learner, diagrams or a video might work, but there is no way I would've gotten this without Melissa's help. In fact, I'm sure I will need supervision on this final step for many forseeable socks.

Here it is everyone, I am proud to introduce MY FIRST SOCK:

It's really quite cute and really looks like a sock. It was incredibly fun and I am hooked. I've got the sock knitters' high. . . . .

Here is Melissa, teacher and cheerleader extraordinaire with my very cute sock:

Here's it's adorable little toe. Not a bad Kitchener for the first time out:

I must reiterate, I would not try Kitchener without a net just quite yet.

Thanks for pushing me Melissa. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. I've already got yarn for a full pair of socks for Jonathan - he's even approved the color.

I think I know what our next knitalong on the podcast is going to be. . . . . . .


Sunday, July 1, 2007

Don't Get Snarky with Melissa

Your penance will be something outside of your comfort zone. Something you KNOW you need to be able to achieve, but somehow just don't think it's possible. Here's what I accomplished yesterday afternoon before heading out for "date night" and this morning:

It's not much yet, haven't gotten to the hard parts yet. Have a small, unplanned "design detail" but it's a start.

More later on how this came to be, but got to get the kids to a play date before they take the car keys and drive themselves.
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