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Hand Dyed Yarn in Paradise

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The truth is, that while I love Hawaii (and the Island of Kauaii, in particular) I don't really go to Hawaii to knit or go yarn shopping.  It's warm, it's humid and I'm at the beach and knitting is only infrequently on the agenda - so yarn doesn't even seem like the right kind of souvenir from Hawaii most of the time.

That said, I was so surprised to find a nice little yarn store in Hanalei (Kauai's North Shore) in the local Ukelele shop, Strings and Things that I had to stop in and look.  Imagine my surprise to find not only Arucania, but also beautiful locally hand dyed yarn, Hanalei Hand Dyed.  Apparently the yarn originates from a rainy season some time back where there was 40 days of rain.  The owners of the store, who knew how to knit, thought it would be good to find something else to do and the dying business was born.  They have some yarns dyed with local plant-based dyes.

So, in spite of myself, I walked away with some souvenir yarn that would be completely impractical for Hawaiian use (the yarn on the left is 65% cashmere, 35% silk; the yarn on the right is a bamboo/merino blend) but will be perfect for Chicago.  The dusty muted tones of the cashmere silk blend remind me of Kauai rain showers (of which there are many) and the bright sunny tones of the bamboo/merino remind me of Mai Tais by sunset. 

The shawl pin is also a local product, from njm designs (I couldn't find a website). It's labelled as "copper mandala".

There's been a little bit of knitting going on (the scarf of my last post has grown longer) but mostly it's been about the beach and the pursuit of shave ice since arriving on Saturday.  This is our third trip to Kauai... and every time we visit it feels a little more like home.

Made in Pennsylvania

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I'm not a very good yarn store tourist these days.  While "a lot of stash" is a relative concept, I feel like I have gotten to a place where I don't need to accumulate at quite as rapid a rate (which is partly why there has been so little spinning in the past year, I think).  As a result, when I travel, I don't spend as much time seeking out yarn stores as I once did.  It's not that I don't enjoy the atmosphere of rooms full of yarn, it's that I have my own room full of yarn that fills up the psychic space that I used to put yarn store visits into.

But when I asked y'all to guess where I was, and so many people mentioned Loop and Rosie's Yarn Cellar (and then I realized that I had actually heard of those stores before) and I realized that I could walk to both of them from my hotel I decided that maybe I had a little space in my stash after all.  Besides, the stunning weather we had in Philly called out for a walk.  And if I hadn't taken a walk, I never would have had a chance to see some of the wonderful neighborhood around Rittenhouse Square.

However, I decided that I could only make yarn acquisitions if there was something special about the yarn that made it hard to find near my own home.  I thought that would limit my purchasing opportunities.  And it did, but it didn't keep me from bringing home some goodies  from Loop (I enjoyed Rosie's but didn't find anything that reached out and grabbed me).  The yarn on the left is a skein of Black Bunny Fibers Superwash Merino Classic in "Reptile" and the yarn on the right is a skein of Colorful Yarn Superwash Merino sock yarn in "Berry" (the color is just slightly more purple in person, really a stunning deep magenta).  Both yarns are hand dyed in Pennsylvania -- and the Colorful Yarn yarn is spun in Pennsylvania as well.  (The book is Socks from the Toe Up: Essential Techniques and Patterns from Wendy Knits -- which I can get anywhere, but thought it would be nice to support a yarn store with the purchase).

Nice mementos of a business trip!  Certainly beats all the post-it notes and pens that were my other options...

The Fold

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On Saturday, Julie and I took a much needed trip out for some fiber therapy and visited The Fold in Marengo, Illinois. Believe it or not, the Fold is probably the closest store to Chicago that focuses on spinning and spinning supplies -- and it's over an hour and a half away from where I live. This is one store, however, that would be completly worth the trip even if it were three hours away. You can't help but fall for the incredible fiber and the warm welcome that you get when you go there.

My first mission was to find another drop spindle -- something a little lighter than my two wonderful Bosworths. The problem at the Fold is that there is so much choice, it's almost hard to know where to start. However, on a recomendation from the lovely proprietress, I tried out a Charis Yarn spindle -- it's a 1.2 oz spindle with a padauk whorl and a birch shaft.

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Charis Yarn Spindly and Matching Niddy Noddy

In case you're wondering, I've been spinning up some BFL on this spindle and it spins like a dream. It is very well balanced, at least in my hands.

I also decided that since I was spinning a bit larger batches of things, that I could probably justify a second niddy noddy. This niddy is also from Charis Yarns and has bloodwood heads on a maple body. Simple and beautiful. And it almost matches the spindle!

Did I get any fiber?

Of course I got fiber. Lots of fiber.

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Blue Moon Handpainted Goodness: (starting top center and moving clockwise: Wenselydale in Jewel of the Nile, Cashmere and Tussah in Cobalt Bloom, Cashmere and Tussah in Alina, Undyed Superfine Merino Top and Targhee in Mermaid

I did focus on one specific handdyer. I hadn't planned on this, but all the types of fiber I wanted to try were present in her collection. After knitting Sigil in Targhee, I really wanted to see what it was like to spin. That very large roving is 7.25 ounces and should give me enough to do something special with.

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Mermaid Targhee

A blog reader recommended Wenselydale as a good fiber to try if I liked BFL, so how could I say no when I saw some dyed in colors that I adore? I have 6 ounces to play with, and I'm imagining a lovely winter scarf.

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Jewel of The Nile Wenselydale

The cashmere and tussah skeins are just a little treat. It's really too bad that you can't feel things through the internet. Just one touch would tell you why I bought those two special little hanks!

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Cobalt Bloom Cashmere and Tussah
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Alina Cashmere and Tussah

The undyed superfine Merino Top was a special gift that both Julie and I got to take a little of to try spinning. This stuff is almost like silk, it's so incredibly soft and fine. It will be a while before I even attempt to think about spinning it.

And for those of you who might be wondering when I am going to get to that incredible Spinner's Hill top that I bought at MS&W... well, as soon as I get that piece I need to fix my mom's Ashford traditional, I'm sure it won't be too long... I'm supposed to get a phone call as soon as the order arrives at the Fold.

In the meantime, I've gotta run. I've got an awful lot of fiber I want to play with!

A Weekend with Friends and Family

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What could be better than a beautiful spring day in Michigan? A beautiful spring day that included a trip with my mom to one of my favorite yarn stores of all time to see two guys who have long since gone from being great folks to buy yarn from to great friends. Where else could I get a personal tour of all the best goodies in the store, a sneak peek at some great new stuff soon to arrive, an in depth discussion and demonstration of double knitting and a lot of friendly conversation?

While sitting and knitting, I also realized that both Rob and Matt had the most fabulous knitting/messenger bags that I've ever come across. I have a hard time passing by a wonderful bag -- especially one that can carry both my knitting and my widescreen laptop. Meet my lovely new knitting bag from Dancing Cat Bags.

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Dancing Cat Messenger Bag with Ohs!

This bag has a lot to recommend it -- not the least of which is the fact that it is all hand made in southern California. The bag is solid like a rock, and has no problems toting around a heavy laptop or collection of knitting goodies. I can definitely see this bag becoming part of my everyday experience.

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Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

The big center pocket is just perfect for carrying around a larger project or a couple of smaller ones (or a laptop!) while the back compartment is large enough for a nice collection of magazines (new Rebecca, anyone?) I slipped the Yarn Harlot's wonderful book into one of the front pockets to give a sense for how nice and big they are. (And also to say that if you don't have a copy of this lovely little book, you are really missing something -- it's true, and wonderful and funny all at the same time).

There's also something else hiding in there that I'll show off tomorrow. After all, you didn't think I could go to ThreadBear and not buy any yarn, did you?

Blog of the Day
Given my recent trip to Michigan, I thought it only appropriate that today's shout out be to someone who lives in an area where I spent a lot of time growing up in -- Ypsilanti, Michigan. Not too long ago, Jen published a free pattern for a yoga mat bag on her blog. Looks like a nice easy pattern for a practical and handy item!

P.S. Posting may be erratic for the next few days or so. Lots going on at work right now. But I am still working hard on that spongy pink number.

Side Trip to Lansing

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One of the very nice side effects of Rob and Matt moving to Lansing is that it is not so hard to pay them a visit whenever I am in Ann Arbor. Last Friday afternoon, my Mom played hookie from work and while my Dad and John trolled electronics stores, Mom and I paid a visit to the new ThreadBear location. The store is really looking great and there's almost too much yarn to really take it all in.

While I was there, I got to model one of their most recent Dale sweater arrivals:

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Y'All Know I Didn't Knit This... Right?

That sweater is in one of the new Dale books (don't ask me which one). It's almost enough to make a girl want to get serious about doing some two color knitting. I even liked the scary little flowery hat.

While I did do some stash enhancing, I think I was actually pretty good. I came there wanting to find yarn for Rogue (I've decided the All Seasons Cotton is just going to be too heavy), socks in U of M colors for my Dad, and a couple of scarves worth of yarn for myself. And I pretty much kept to my list.

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Top Left: Bartlett Yarns, 2-ply in Larkspur, Top Right: Diakeito Diadomina, Color #301, Bottom Left: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in UMich, Bottom Right: Lorna's Laces Lion and Lamb in Tahoe

The Bartlett yarn is a wonderful purply-blue heather with flecks of pink that I hope will make up a beautiful Rogue. Not only is this yarn lovely and wonderful, but it's very affordable, too! A whole hooded sweatshirt for less than $40! The Diadomina hopped into my basket, inspired by Julie's version of Karen Baumer's scarf.

For anyone from Ann Arbor, I don't need to even explain the reason why my Dad, the U of M College of Engineering Alum needs a pair of maize and blue striped socks (I never went to a Division 1 football powerhouse school, so I still consider Michigan to be my alma mater when it comes to watching college football -- Go Blue!). And the Lion and Lamb? Well, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that there is actually one more skein -- I just couldn't keep my hands off the stuff (it's a wool/silk blend and I am a complete sucker for silk yarns) and got Clapotis started on Saturday night.

All in all, I think I was pretty good. But I really am going to have to get serious about knitting some of the yarn I've been stashing lately. Good thing it looks like Butterfly is going to be a relatively fast knit!

Adventures in Central Michigan

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After a lovely breakfast of waffles with strawberries on Saturday morning, my mother and I headed in a north-westerly direction from Ann Arbor to see what was going on in the new location Rob and Matt have selected for the new home of ThreadBear. I can't even begin to express how happy I am for them to have found a wonderful new space and to be surrounded by friends. The fact that they are now so close to one of my personal favorite staging areas is certainly an extra added bonus.

Here's a little visual tour through the new digs:

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Rob Works on Inventory and Keeps an Eye on the Front Door
from in Front of a Big Wall of Crystal Palace Yarn
Sara Peasley is Hiding Back There Somewhere Valiantly Counting and Lana Grossa Yarn


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The Biggest Wall of Cascade220 I've Ever Seen
Somehow it Seems Even Bigger than it Did in Columbus


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The View Down the Center of the Store
Featuring a Lovely Assortment of Manos del Uruguay Yarn
This Room is Just Huge!


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One of My Favorite Zones of Color:
The Lorna's Laces Collection


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View from the Back of the Store
More Sock Yarn than You Can Shake a Stick (Or a Knitting Needle) At

While it's easy to take pictures of yarn and the store, what's hard to capture are the good vibes and wonderful people who are helping Rob and Matt make the transition from Columbus to Lansing. I got to meet the very handy and well organized Sarah Peasley (if you don't read her blog already, you should! She was the inspiration for trying the short row shaped shoulders of the Lucky Top), and later on in the day, another blogger, Sharon, also dropped in to help. It's always a treat to meet knit blogging people in real life!

Although I did have a mission to do some stash enhancement (more on this tomorrow), it was hard to be completely focused on my own needs with all the store activities going on around me. Mom and I had to get in on the act too! We didn't have time to do very much, but we did help count and sticker a couple of boxes of fibery goodies. Sharon actually caught me in the act if you want proof.

Like most knitters, I have a fantasy about opening a yarn store -- but I no longer have any fantasies about it being easy! It's a lot of work to keep track of a store full of yarn. Stickering just a box full of yarn took me almost an hour. It's really hard to appreciate what it takes to keep a business up and running until you have a chance to try out yourself.

I feel like there's a lot more I should say -- Rob and Matt have wonderful plans for the store. But I think I'll leave that for them to talk about. Suffice it to say, it's going to be wonderful place that I wish was in Chicago.

Good Luck with everything, guys! I can't wait to come back and see how things have grown!

Note Added Later: For those of you who are wondering What about the Koigu? Where's the Koigu? Why no pictures of Koigu? -- have no fear! There is definitely no Koigu shortage in Lansing -- most of it was just being inventoried and shelved while I was there and it wasn't really ready for it's photo op! But a small selection of it will feature prominently in my next post...

Yarn Diet? What Yarn Diet?

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Bonne Marie and I headed down to Columbus on Saturday in search of fibery adventure. There's just nothing like a good road trip. And when you've got good company, the distance between Chicago and Indianapolis just doesn't seem that great.

I must say, you just can't go visit Rob and Matt and be on a "yarn diet". That would be like going to Disney Land and having an allergy to Mickey Mouse. Walking into ThreadBear on Saturday was like walking into my dream yarn store -- the place I would want to open if I had a store of my own. Wall to wall wonderful wool and fibers of every blend and color and people who make you feel like you've come home. That whole yarn diet thing went out the window as soon as I saw the front door. As my dad would say "Yarn diet? We don't need no steeeenking yarn diet!"

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Just a Small Part of What I Wanted to Bring Home...
  1. Cascade 220 in 9448 (dark olivey green) and 9460 (light)
  2. Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Evergreen -- Socks for John
  3. Cascade Indulgence in 507 (white) -- Headband for John
  4. Cascade Fixation in 9843 -- Special Delivery for Emma
  5. S.R. Kertzer Fizz in Shade 21 -- for Mom's felted hat
  6. Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille in 2615, 1317 and 1404 -- flower face cloths
  7. Manos del Uraguay, Color 109 (woodland) and Color 54 -- Knit Kit felted bag
  8. Lamb's Pride in black and green for Marie
  9. Noro Kureyon, #52 for Chicago Bag shop model
  10. Noro Big Kureyon, #7 for test felting
  11. 10 skeins of Sweet Grass Wool -- Sweater for John
  12. Cascade 220 in 9336 (dark blue with purple accents) and 9324 for Chicago bag shop model
  13. Not pictured: special goodies for a certain rabbit...

So many good things -- and most of them have purposes! I'm particularly pleased with the Indulgence -- an incredible blend of alpaca and angora -- and the Sweet Grass wool. Sweet Grass wool comes from Targhee sheep and it's an unscoured wool so it has a soft quality that you wouldn't expect from just looking at it. It's also got an incredible springi-ness. And since it was in a perfect manly color, I just couldn't pass it up. I'm going to use it for a sweater for the hubster... he has a pattern he likes, but I decided it would never get finished if I made it out of DK weight yarn. So I am going to modify the pattern I have to use the Sweet Grass.

Hiding in the back where it is hard to make out the incredible colors is some of the most stunning Manos that I have ever put my grabby little fingers on:

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Woodlands

It is destined to become Janet Scanlon's AllAround Companion. As a felter, I am fascinated by Janet's shapes and construction techniques. I'll probably do the bag with the variagated skeins in the center and the solid color for the top and bottom. When I told John I was going to felt this yarn he got this horrified look on his face and told me that I couldn't felt something that beautiful. And I sort of feel that way about it, too. But I hear it creates a wonderful boucle like fabric. And it would make a perfect little winter bag.

While I had great fun picking out the goods, probably the best part of the afternoon was hanging out with Rob and Matt and Bonne Marie at the table in the back and just working on our respective projects together. You'd have thought we'd all known each other forever. It was such a pleasure to meet Rob and Matt in real life after so much electronic communication. Rob was a great source of encouragement as I workeed on Chicago and Matt has done some fabulous color work for two Charlotte's Web shawls for me. I wish these guys were closer to my home stomping ground! In spite of there being so many stores to choose from, I still haven't found one that I would want to hang out in . ThreadBear has a warmth that comes from more than all the wooly goodness.

Probably the only "down" point of the day was that in spite of my best intentions, my Chicago bag stayed in Chicago instead of coming to Columbus (that'll teach me to name bags after locations). You see, I set it on the roof of my car as I was loading things in it... you can probably guess what happens after that. Fortunately, I noticed while we were getting gas and John was able to go out and rescue it from my alleyway.

(While the felted model didn't make it to Columbus, a few printed copies of the Chicago pattern did. I'll be knitting up a store models in Cascade and Kureyon -- stay tuned this week for pictures of the Kureyon test... and if you want to see another Chicago knitted, check out Steph's version in Patton's Classic Wool -- she kindly volunteered to do a test felting for me, and so far I think it looks very fab!).

I had planned to take lots of pictures so that you could be amazed by the fabulous walls of Koigu, Cascade, Lana Grossa, Noro and sock yarn, but somehow I managed to not even pick my camera up except for one picture. Fortunately, that one picture turned out to be a good one. Bonne Marie's furry Bucket-o-Chic came along for the ride -- and I got this pic as deep discussion of bucket hat technique and architecture ensued.

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Rob and Bonne Marie and a Furry Bucket-o-Chic

Happy Monday!

I Couldn't Leave with Nothing...

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Hooray! I'm back in Chicago! I loved seeing my friends and seeing some new yarn shops, but Dorothy definitely had it right: there's no place like home.

I did get to check out both stores: Linden Hills Yarns and Creative Fibers. The little treasure trove you see above is from Linden Hills Yarns. I had a great time meeting Jan Walkovets who owns the shop. She was friendly, helpful and was encouraging people to think beyond patterns, which I love. She also had pretty decent prices. She was clearing out a bunch of Mission Falls 1824 wool ($3.75/skein), so picked up a few skeins in a "manly" color to make John another pair of simple socks for winter.

The lovely All Seasons Cotton (how much cotton can I buy this summer...) is for Smooch! All the wonderful Smooches out there finally got to me. When I saw this color I decided I needed to do it.... and at $5.25 (I think) a ball... it seemed reasonable enough. Now I just have to find a copy of the book...

But the real find for me is the two balls in the middle. Here's a closeup of one of them (colorway 17);

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This is Plymouth Yarn's Electra from their Italian collection. The little tufts of color feel a lot like Muench Touch Me, but the yarn is 100% nylon. There's 125 yards on the skein, so I am thinking great garter stitch scarf for fall using a very similar pattern to the one I used for the EROS scarves. Jan was knitting with it when I got to her store, and said it had literally just arrived in the store.

Linden Hills Yarns is cluttered but wonderful. She carries a lot of Rowan -- and has enough stock so that you can find enough for a sweater. She also had a great selection of Jo Sharp, Noro, Berocco and Collinette (more Collinette than I have seen almost anywhere else). Lots of buttons and sock yarn, too. Best of all, I felt very welcome in the store, and everyone there was willing to talk to me (my felted daypack was a great converstaion starter).

Next time I hope I will get to check out the Yarnery... I was mostly on the west side of Minneapolis and in Minnetonka.

I'm still working on the top of the front side of my tank top. Hopefully I'll get it to where I can block it tonight... and assemble it tomorrow (our plane doesn't leave until 5 pm). If not, it will stay in the US and wait for me, because I've promised myself I'm only going to slog one project back and forth from France...really (and my Denise needles, and my Knitter's Companion, and maybe a skein of that Electra...)

And as to travel knitting.... I think Charlotte is definitely going to win! I keep looking at the colors and wanting to touch them. Tonight I'll use my swift to create suitcase-sized yarn pucks. I think I am going to use them in the order you see them in the picture below with the p508 being the dominant color. Unfortunately, that picture doesn't truly capture all the rich and wonderful tones. I like the p334, but the p508 has a lot more depth.

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