Monday, June 18, 2007

New Books! New titles in the store include Pursenalitites, by Eva Wiechmann. Twenty crocheted and felted bags, easily made with a large hook, wool yarn and some novelty yarns grace this book. $19.95.

Romantic Style
by Jennie Atkinson is probably my favorite book of all time. Every single project in it is something I would love to do someday. There are several wonderful knitted jackets, a shawl of crocheted Kidsilk Haze grannie squares, lovely decorative things for the home, including a beautiful neck roll. I am a confirmed bed sitting reader and will definately make this for myself someday......I love it.

We are waiting for our new Rowan books to get in; there is Nashua pattern book that is all great bags. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

We are having a ball knitting the pi shawl and piR2 shawl. The pictures are as follows:
1. Anne still on dpns.
2. Debra, coming along just fine.
3. Suzie, ripped out for the last time. Now flying along without stitch markers or the chart.
4. Meghan, beautiful, beautiful. You can see lace!
5. Gwen, lovely and going quickly.
Not shown, Sabra tore her's out and left it home! We will see it next time. Everyone said it is so much easier when the double points come out. I found that I can follow the lace design without looking at the chart or having stitch markers. The markers were just confusing me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I've Got the Going Green Blues I'm a late bloomer in the recycling, ecologically friendly, planet protecting realm. Although the 'back to the earth' movement was an important concept to my family;( my husband and I took our newborn and four year old to a solar energy camp out in 1975), I think we did those things because they were cool to do and the participants had really good grass. We even added a geodesic dome onto our farmhouse in Michigan, heated our house with downed trees, grew our own food and raised animals for consumption. I had long braids, my husband had a beard and a ponytail , and there were two looms in our dining room back then, too. Unfortunately, when he graduated from college in 1979 and we moved to Philadelphia, all of that ended.

It takes me longer than most people to get on the ball. My friend, Hinda, recycled before you had to recycle. On trash day, she has the smallest trash pile in town because everything finds a place in the recycling bins. She encouraged me to try harder. Sabra, our employee and teacher extraordinaire, once took a pile of papers to her car to take home and recycle rather than see me throw them in the trash. Last week, I caught myself throwing empty water bottles and a glass ice tea bottle into my knitting bag to take home and put in the recyclables. My husband is becoming, though a little late, a fanatic about recycling. He asked me if I thought that the whole green thing is fleeting. I really don't think so.

We are striving to go green at Woolbearers. We use paper towels, but they are made of recycled paper. We don't use styrofoam cups, and we try to recycle plastic in the store by reusing plastic bags, bubble wrap, and styrofoam peanuts when we are unlucky enough to get them in a shipment. We use environmentally low impact dyes and only vinegar on our wool yarns. My sheep are on their way to being declared organic and I will like the day I can sell their wool as organic.

When we went to TNNA, we sought out organic products. Myra searches for interesting, beautiful yarns for our customers and found Vermont Organic Farms. Spun from luxurious 100% Certified Organic wool and processed in accordance with the Organic Trade Association's Fiber Processing standards O-Wool uses no harsh chemicals in processing making it durable, long lasting and a well-wearing fiber. O-Wool Classic, in the picture above, comes in gorgeous colors, is from long stapled wool so it resists pilling, and gets softer with washing. We should have it in stock, along with their two ply yarn, next week.

On the other hand, I'm not going to get ridiculous about this. Several years ago, I bought a large amount of weaving yarns, and part of the deal was that I had to take some acrylic yarns in the lot. I hate acrylic, but the truth is, the yarn is here, it's high quality (sounds like a contradiction), and to destroy it would cause a bigger impact on the earth than using it for something like blankets for the homeless, baby blankets, hats or scarves, whatever. So we continue to look for groups who need a yarn donation. I think part of the green movement is also using what we have and not being wasteful.

I keep hoping someone will come up with a use for another recycled product; 100 lbs of pink tricot strips, waste from a lingerie factory in PA that at one time I thought would make great rugs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Yesterday six women came to dye in my barn. Our ages ranged from 18 to 56. (I was the oldest...). Three of the students studied natural dyeing and three used chemical dyes. The day before, I took skeined yarns in one pound batches and mordanted them. Using iron and copper sulfate in tiny amounts, alum, cream of tartar and tannin, the skeins were ready to go as soon as the students got there. I chopped up Japanese willow; no color at all. Dyer's Coreopsis with a few pink roses and some marigolds thrown in yielded a deep olive color I think because the whole dye pot was contaminated by a skein of iron mordanted yarn. Just two nettle plants gave the most beautiful, soft yellow with alum, a soft green with copper, and a light olive with iron. Yellow onion skins gave a sunny gold yellow. Red onions dyed a phenomenal rose, deep rose with iron, grey rose with copper, lighter taupey rose with alum. The ratio of plant material to fiber is huge in order to get color. I chopped up at least a bushel of sorrel and boiled it for two hours. The color was negligible.

We also used Earth Hues dye extracts and they worked wonderfully. Something called Quebracho, an extract from the bark of the Quebracho tree yielded a rich brown rose. Lac Madder extract gave a dark rusty red. I think this dye pot was contaminated by the iron mordant, as well. We also used Turmeric from the Acme; just two scant tablespoons gave a rich gold in varying shades.

The chemical dyers had the primaries to mix; blue, turquoise, magenta, red, sun yellow and clear yellow. I presoaked the skeins in a strong vinegar solution for about three hours. Using graduated cups, the students measured out the dyes and funneled them into small squeeze bottles, applying the dye to the skeins in any and every combination. We wrapped the skeins up in cellophane wrap and steamed them for half an hour. The skeins look like a work of art drying on the fence. The yard looked beautiful with all the color. The sheep were not impressed.

We had a great time and agreed we need to do the dye day again, soon.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I am a lucky woman in that we have six acres in New Jersey and I can grow whatever I want. However, sometimes your eyes are bigger than your brain, or whatever that saying is. My first foray into gardening on our 'farm' was to have a friend with a rototiller throw it into the back of his pick up and come to my new house to dig up a huge portion of grass along the 150 foot driveway. That was ok, except we didn't know at the time that a little weed called maybe sheep sorrel would grow like wildfire if the little pieces of it's roots were chopped up......that was about 12 years ago, when I was younger, healthier, and a regular five day a week job. Back then, a 20'X150' garden seemed small. I dreamed about digging up all six acres and becoming a perennial plant grower. Now, after hip replacement, opening a store, getting tired and middle aged, I can just barely cut the thing down in the fall. A landscaper suggested we dig up the plants we wanted and let him bulldoz the rest of down. I just can't. Now, I may be the luckiest woman alive because I have the opportunity to do some real natural dyeing and some of the things in the garden will make wonderful dye plants. These pictures are of dyer's coreopsis gone rampant, two kinds of lycinis that are just pretty but may not yield color, about 100 square feet of black eyed susans, invasive rosa rugosa that are covered with bright pink flowers, acres of bea balm, Russian sage, artemesia, joe pye weed, St. John's Wort, day lilies galore, nettles, poke berries, black berries, Japanese willow, wild cherry, wild yarrow,sassafras and sumac. Most of the stuff can be used as dyes and rest smells nice. I think the sorrel may also be a dye plant.

I'll post pictures of our First Annual Dye Day which is happening Monday. Tomorrow, I plan on mordanting all the yarns we've skeined. We are trying to be good stewards of the planet and will use just alum, cream of tartar, and the liquid from a copper pipe I soaked in ammonia for six months as the mordants for wool and the sumac leaves chopped up and soaked as the mordant for the cotton yarns. The sumac leaves contain tannin. I'm going to try to get to the farmer's market in the morning to get some rhubarb so we can use the leaves, which contain oxalic acid, as an additional mordant.

In the meantime, some of the issues I'm researching are ways to recycle the water I use in dyeing. Anyone have any ideas, let us know. Leave a comment, for crying out loud!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Books, Glorious Books, Hardcover and Softbound!

Not only did Woolbearers go all out for yarn at TNNA, we ordered books galore. I can't remember when there have been so many exciting new titles to look forward to. I'll start with Interweave Press.
First, The Best of Interweave Knits, Edited by Ann Budd and due out in September, includes designs from the first ten years of the magazine. Showcasing 26 designs of more than twenty designers, this looks like it will be a favorite for years to come. At $24.95, it is a bargain with more than 100 photographs.
The Harmony Guides are updated versions of reference books of thirty years standing. Edited by Erica Knight, author of the Simple Knits series. Included are Knit & Purl, Lace & Eyelets, and Cables & Arans. Due in October, they retail for $22.95 per guide.
Folk Style edited by Mags Kandis, designer for Mission Falls Yarns is packed with global designs interpreted by designers which include Annie Modesitt, Pam Allen, Leigh Radford and Kate Gilbert.
Bag Style, yet another book in the Style series, is packed with twenty two exciting bag designs.
Lynne Vogel of Twisted Sisters fame has outdone herself with The Twisted Sisters Knit Sweaters, A Knit-to-Fit Workshop. The sisters illustrate how to adapt the same basic pattern. Myra and I are discussing the possibility of using the book as a guide for a sweater fitting knit along. Let us know if this has interest for you. The book will be out in August.
Getting Started Knitting Socks is another wonderful sock book by Ann Budd. With basic instructions for socks, the novice knitter will find step by step fundamentals of sock knitting with clear illustrations.
Knitting Little Luxuries Beautiful Accessories to Knit by Louisa Harding is filled with quick and easy projects that are beautiful and use a small amount of yarn. If you are familiar with Rowan Magazine, you know Louisa Harding's designs. Wonderful. November release.
Several felting books include How We Felt by Carol Cypher, and Felt Forward by Maggie Pace. Cypher documents the felted works of more than twenty artists. Pace' designs for her company, Pick up Sticks, are fun, knitted felt and this book contains twenty projects to inspire you.
Crocheters will be inspired by Crochet Jewelry and Crochet Me. Chock full of techniques and projects that are trendy, stylish and beautiful, these books will excite even confirmed knitters to try their hand at crochet.
All time favorites new to Woolbearers include Fleece Dog, one of the cutest books I have ever seen. I bought it when it was only available in Japanese, but loved the little felted critters so much that I got the book just for the pictures. We also got one of the companion kits to try.
Fast Fun and Easy Needle Felting, and Indygo Junction's Needle Felting both give clear directions and great projects for needle felting.
Martingale, Potter and Sterling also have exciting new titles that I will list at another time. This is enough to meditate on now!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More TNNA pictures
1. Sally Melville
2. Lily Chin
3. Cherry Tree Hill folks (we got tons more of their lace weight hand paint, and lots of bulky and worsted Pot Luck wool.
4. Donna, our Skacel rep with Frog Tree Alpaca folk.
5. Gals from Swallow Hill. Remember those wonderful beaded scarves we couldn't keep in stock? More are on the way!

Lace Knitting is something that I tried with worsted weight yarn a while ago, but suddenly have an interest to knit lace in something much lighter. Meghan and I are knitting the Pi Shawl in the XRX book, The Best of Knitters Shawls and Scarves. Meghan is using a gorgeous, pink merino cashmere blend called Mericash from Punta Del Este. I'm using Woolbearers fingering weight hand dyed. Sabra is knitting the Pi R2, also by Elizabeth Zimmerman, and using Cherry Hill Tree Lace weight. Lace knitting customers include Gwen, Debra and Cate.

Lace weight yarn was everywhere at the TNNA Convention in Columbus, Ohio. We bought a lot of it, from old timers like Cherry Tree Hill and others, and some beautiful hand painted silk from a new Australian company.

The above pictures are of Peggy Wells from Brown Sheep. She is modeling the shawl named after her and designed by Jackie of Heartstrings. It is done with one skein of Wildefoot Sock yarn.
We had a great time at TNNA and one of the reasons was getting to spend time with old and new friends. Cindy and Kim are fellow yarn shop owners who happened to have a booth next to us last summer at the TKGA show in King of Prussia. They were so helpful and friendly to Myra and I. It was our first show together as Woolbearers. They gave us advice about things like processing credit cards and what to do with the cash box during the show.

We hoped we would see them in Columbus, and not only did we see them, we spent two lovely evenings having dinner with them. It was great fun and also therapeutic having other retail buyers to talk to. Their shop is a combination knitting and quilting shop! I cannot even imagine the work involved. Anyway, meet our friends.

Loads of New Yarn are coming to Mount Holly. Here is yet another rare photo of my partner Myra sitting among the many catalogs, samples and order forms that we picked up as we traveled the isles of TNNA (The National Needle Arts trade show) this past weekend. In the picture, it is about 11 pm Sunday night in our (seedy) hotel room, sorry Red Roof Inn, and she had just added up our total for the day. Gulp. Monday was yet to come. And we found even more wonderful things to buy on Monday.

In the coming days, I will attempt to describe in vivid detail all the yarns, books, kits, needles, fibers, you name it, that we saw. We came, we looked, we bought. It was unbelievable. Add to that the fabulous classes we took with Lily Chin, Lucy Neatby, Sally Melville and Margaret Fisher.

Just to titillate you, we will be loaded up with all the new sock yarns and hand painted lace weight yarns that are being released soon or this fall.

Opal, probably among my favorites, is now being distributed by my favorite yarn company, Simply Shetland. I LOVE the yarn and books, and now add Opal Sock Yarn to our stash. It was next to impossible to choose which colorways we would buy. My favorite is Peacock in the Rainforest line. See pic up next to Myra.

I have to stop now but will write more later. In the meantime, make sure that we know which yarns YOU want us to look for now that we have the most current color cards and catalogs.