Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Annual Crafters' ME Time Festival.

The earliest that I've had people purchasing yarn for Christmas projects was last year, on December 5th, 2015, for gifts that will be given next weekend - 12 1/2 months later. All year long, customers are planning their Christmas knitting: socks, mittens, a family set of sweaters, and so on - with dedication and love for all recipients.
But around this time of year, about a week to 10 days before the Holidays, we start to see the sweetest, most mild mannered customers arrive with a driven purpose in their eyes - they are coming to shop for their post-Holiday ME projects. It's the time of the year when they don't have to rush to a deadline and/or postpone the projects that they've perhaps cherished all year in the secret cubby of their creative mind; they've found a project that they want to make for its own sake and for their own pleasure. It's delightful to see how much these projects, and the time that people allow themselves for the shopping, mean to the purchasers.

This year, shopping for the ME Festival began in earnest this past week. Some of our glorious skeins of local, hand-dyed baby alpaca from Silver Cloud Alpacas found homes among these shoppers. Also a few of our Colour Your Own Infinity Scarf kits as well as the Felted Mitten kits jumped into shopping baskets. Baby Bamboo by Sirdar in a vibrant blue was purchased for a knitted chemise, but the next day the customer returned to the store to get more as the yarn told her it actually wanted to be a crocheted bolero jacket. What's that you say? Your yarn has never spoken to you to tell you what it prefers to become? All I can say is that someday it will and believe me, you'd better heed the call - beautiful fibre does not like to ignored nor contradicted.

Some folks want knitting that will absorb their concentration and refresh their brain over the Holiday Week. Others (most?) would prefer a mindless treat, something that simply occupies their hands while (binge?) watching TV. I've had lots of requests lately for "Bun Hats". Pictured here, they are simply a toque with an opening to allow a ponytail or "bun" to protrude. This one is called the Holey Hat and it's a free Ravelry download from Slip Stitch Designs. 

Last year, I fell into the mindless knitting groove and produced enough of these Tawashi knots to share with everyone I knew (including a full set of 7 for myself). They are delightfully addictive to make, and those who have seen mine will recognize the added value of the 4 rows of Scrubby yarn, as it gently but firmly removes the bits from most non stick surfaces.

This year, I was taken by our newest product from local indie dyer, H'ewe Phoria. At right I've begun a Feather and Fan scarf using Quint Essentials - 5 x 25g skeins of wool (and in this case, sparkling Stellina) fingering weight yarn, hand-dyed in 5 different values of the same colour. I'm beginning with the darkest and plan on working my way through these amazing tones to the lightest to create a sample scarf for the store. I love working the Feather and Fan pattern. I consider it to be one of the easiest lace patterns available: 3 nice boring rows and 1  row when you have to pay attention. Those are ratios that I can get along with.

And at the risk of sucking you all into the vortex of crazed popularity that the  Azel Pullover  has generated, this is another perfectly mindless knit that looks fabulous not despite its simplicity, but because of it.
The pattern ranges from size 2 to XL ladies. It can be made in any of the super bulky yarns that we carry, and each colour and texture of these yarns gives the garment its own flavour. This poncho/sweater continues to be one of the most frequently bought for patterns among our customers, and several have come in already to pick up the yarn to prepare for their down/ME-time over the Holidays.

No matter what your plans, whether you're traveling , hosting, or stay-cationing over the next few weeks, be sure to take time for yourself and enjoy whatever you are doing, honouring the gift of time that we are given during this season.
All the best. See you in 2017.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

A Brief history of our "Award Winning" e-newsletter.

Since January of 1997 I've been regularly putting out some sort of newsletter under the banner of WOOL-TYME Kingston and then KnitTraders of Kingston. In the early days it involved much  cutting and pasting (literally) to make the different articles fit on a single sheet of 8 1/2" x 14" paper to cut down on printing costs. The only visuals were a few small pieces of clipart and everything was kept to a minimum. When the legal size pages were done, off I went to Staples for the 1 000 double sided copies which were then folded and prepped for envelopes by my kids (for a fee of course).

The envelopes were a whole production in themselves: hours each month collating and updating addresses, wrestling with the home printer that didn't like the brand or size of address labels I was using, printing and pasting the labels on the envelopes. (Repeat the process for return address labels.)
Then there was the time when I sent out a "postcard" announcing our Annual Inventory Sale only to have all 600 cards returned by the Post Office as they were 1/4" too wide: 600 wasted stamps! not to mention the fact that no one knew about the sale for a full week.

Needless to say, in those days it was not a monthly newsletter. Usually 3 times a year maximum - September, January and the end of May. Then in 2006 I was introduced to the wonders of the e-newsletter via a third party delivery system. This takes 98% of the drudgery and the cost out of newsletter distribution, leaving much more time for researching content and enjoying the process of writing. When describing a new yarn I can put in a digital link to the colour chart or to the Ravelry project page for that particular yarn. Fun stories can include videos, like the crew of shepherds who outfitted their sheep with vests of LED lights and trained their border collies to run the sheep into formation to create Light Up Sheep Art.

As knitting and creative fibre arts in general have become more popular, there is more media mention of stories that are of interest to our newsletter readers, not to mention the army of bloggers, both private and company sponsored, who are also mining and presenting fabulous stories to keep us all interested and amused. Once the newsletter started being published monthly, I would sometimes worry as the deadline approached about where to find my next general interest piece, or a cute cartoon or quirky project. Now I have a list of ideas that I've squirreled away that haven't had the chance to make it in to the regular newsletter so here they are for your pleasure. Enjoy!

   A 3000 year old ball of yarn found in England.
I wonder where the rest of the stash is?

Did you know that some of the biggest names in swimwear got their start knitting wool! Fashionista has an interesting article about that history.

Have you ever dreamed of a whole weekend of knitting with people who are as interested in the rich traditions as you are? Read the blog post from North of 49 from last month as Kristie joined Sylvia Olsen's workshop to learn all about Coast Salish Knitting (sometimes referred to as Cowichan Knitting) which is considered to be the only truly Canadian knitting tradition. Kristie's report makes you feel like you were there too.

This Baa-ble Hat from the 2015 Shetland Wool Week is any sheep fan's dream. Find it on Ravelry.

If you aren't a regular subscriber to the newsletter, you can link here to sign up now and avoid missing any more news from KnitTraders and the outside fibre world. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The pattern (and magazine) that I still love - after 39 years.

In the fall of 1977 I was working in Montreal at a shelter for  pregnant teens. My boss and her flat mate had recently bought a hobby farm just over the Ontario border. We enjoyed a beautiful fall weekend raking leaves and putting the garden to bed for the winter. During a shopping break, I, an avid knitter for at least 1/2 of my life at that point, found this magazine at the checkout of the grocery store. I fell in love with the French flavour of the Irish patterns that were featured throughout this issue; Mon Tricot was  1977's version of Ravelry, bringing together knitters, traditions and patterns from all over the world to its monthly publication. 
It was love at first sight - I've been a sucker for the challenge, the beauty and the intricacy of cables ever since. I could feel the rich warmth of each of the garments, from the "True Aran Knit" pullover, which was the first and only Top Down constructed sweater that I'd ever seen until about 15 years ago, to this stunning rust coloured, hip length cardi with the wonderful collar that could almost go up over your head. There were cables on everything: pillows, a cloche hat and scarf, a poncho, a full baby ensemble, a gorgeous pieced afghan, even lacy curtains. 
But it was the cardi that got me. Can't you just see yourself even today, with this lovely piece thrown on over a little sundress, prancing on the sandy beach of an Irish coastline, with an Irish cutie at your side?

 It took me a bit of time to get the knitting started,  the spring of 1980 as a matter of fact. I was expecting our first child and while more practical and devoted mommies would be knitting sweaters and booties for the wee one, I treated myself to this project. I'm sorry to say that in those days I felt that I had much more time than patience and did not see the need to measure the pieces as they came off the needles. Alas, the magnificent cardigan would have easily wrapped around my 200 pound pre-delivery self, but looked ridiculous after the birth. I was not actually all that upset. I loved the experience and tore it out and made a simpler sweater from a Canadian Living pattern. 

Zoom ahead with me 35 years as my daughter (the one whose birth and the completion of the sweater came within the same week) mentions that she would like a sweater for her birthday. She showed me a pattern of a rather long and large, intricately cabled cardigan with curved edges, which to me looked like it would date an otherwise timeless garment. I looked for a similar but more traditional style among the books at the store and found a few contenders. 

Do you know that time when you're just falling asleep or waking up? A time when the most brilliant ideas, recollections or solutions jump out of the subconscious and right into the pit of things forgotten? Well it was at such a time that I remembered IT! My favourite pattern of all my 50 years of knitting. I realized that it was exactly what I wanted to make and appeared to be just what she wanted to wear. She gave her approval and I jumped in. 

 I diligently wrote out each pattern row on a separate recipe card so that I could work on it during the long days of traveling that I knew we would be enjoying during this spring and summer. The cardigan traveled with me from Portugal to Cape Breton and back again, and I loved every stitch of it. I did have to redesign the sleeves and re-knit the openings both front and back as (to be quite honest) I couldn't figure out what the pattern wanted me to do?
Anyway, here it is, the first sweater that she has had made for her in 20 years. How precious that we both will get to enjoy one of my favourites: she gets to wear it and I get to look at it. Sometimes I think that one experience is as enjoyable as the other. 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

From Arraiolos to Evora to Castelo de Vide to Guarda to Covilha

It's Friday morning and I'm writing from Guarda in the northern interior of Portugal where the landscape is much more rugged than the rolling planes that we drove through from Lisbon to Evora in the South. Here is a picture from our hotel window in Guarda, which, despite the pastoral scene in front of us, is built in the middle of a relatively large city on the side of a mountain. There's a horse grazing by one of the roads at the bottom of the picture who seems to be perfectly happy to coexist with the traffic going by.

On Tuesday morning we left Lisbon for Arraiolos (the final s is pronounced like the s in pleasure,)
 What a delightful town, with a stunning museum to the local and revived craft of rug stitching. It is essentially a variation of cross stitch on burlap of traditional oriental patterns. This is mine although it can hardly be considered a rug by virtue of it's 8x11" size.
 On our way to Evora, we stopped for a "health break" beside a park of cork trees, one of the symbols of Portugal. This is a picture of a branch that has not been harvested. Up to 75% of the bark is harvested every 9 years from the main part of the tree.

Evora is stunning city, a UNESCO Heritage site for it's walled fortifications and the Roman ruins of the Temple to Diana. We also visited the church of St Francis which took 103 years to build in the 13th Century and featured a richly painted wooden statue of Mary when she was pregnant with Jesus. (I do hope I have my facts right - after a couple of days of nonstop touring, details do become a bit fuzzy).

On Wednesday, we made our way north to Castelo de Vide. What a treat to walk through the centuries of living history. A large Jewish community with the first Synagogue in Portugal was an important feature of the tour, leaving very distinctive remnants of their passing through although most were forced to convert to Christianity, taking on family names from Nature which are still present to this day..

 Castelo de Vide is the town where we were most able to meet and observe people as they have lived for many generations. These folks are passing the time in front of the house at the foot of the ramparts of the castle.

 How fun! As we got off the bus in Castelo de Vide we found this tree which had been yarn bombed by meters of fashion scarf knitted of what is often called "ladder" yarn for it's construction of squares held together by 2 threads on either side.
 Thursday brought us to Covilha, in the mountainous wool region.
Here is our guide from the University's museum of wool production. What a stunning blend of ancient tradition and new ideas.
 THEN came the roller coaster part of our journey as we crossed over the mountains via switchback roads that led us through the national park area, well above the tree line to a landscape that featured boulders the size of a small house strewn across the territory by glaciers. For those who have read Yann Martel's latest book, The High Mountains of Portugal, THIS is the geography where part 3 takes place.

Our final visit was to the world class Burel factory where traditional wool spinning, weaving, dyeing and fulling meet new, fashion forward designers for creations that can be found everywhere from the walls of the new Microsoft offices to classic throw blankets on the lounge chairs of discerning customers. Here we have wooden footstools covered to look like a mama sheep and her baby lamb.

That's all for now, I'll be back next week to finish up.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Lisbon Days 1-2,

Greetings from Lisbon, Portugal on this 4th KnitTraders European Fibre and Knitting tour and I'm here to share  some of what we have been up to. We arrived on Sunday morning at 6:40am local time, but 1:40am our time - to be greeted by the longest Customs line up I have ever seen in my life. Likely well over 1 000 people waiting to go through security, slowed down immeasurably due to a job action by the customs officers union. Never mind. We were soon on the road, with a day of discovering Lisbon ahead of us. Above is a detail picture of an exquisite button from a 16th Century man's waistcoat backed by the richest silk embroidery on the fabric surrounding the button hole. At Lisbon's Costume Museum, housed in a country home including  the acres of surrounding gardens in the centre of the city were such a treat. These country homes became principal residences of the wealthy families after the earthquake of 1755 destroyed and seriously damaged the central city homes of these families. 
Making our way to the hotel we saw these stunning walkways. Lisbon boasts some of the most beautiful sidewalks in the world. Basalt (black stone) and sandstone are everywhere in stunning designs throughout the squares all over the city. 

On to these sidewalks and through every street in the vicinity of our hotel poured tens of thousands of local fans  on this Sunday night as local football (soccer) favourites, BENFICA, won their division championship to move on to the finals...(go Raptors, too). The police lined up their motorcycles in front of our hotel, and security/paddywagons were everywhere.  3 layers of security checks per entrance to the stadium kept things relatively safe, but fireworks going off randomly well into the night did create an uneasy feeling. All very exciting.

First thing Monday morning we had a most scrumptious time learning to create traditional Portuguese pastries. We were greeted at 10am with a choice of beverages including wine - all very continental. And the pastries were delicious and deceptively simple to make. Diane and Karen, from Ottawa were rearing to get down to the business of baking.
And here is a sample of one of the recipes, a traditional custard tart that is representative of Portugal all over the world.

The afternoon was spent discovering a local knitting shop at the top of a delightfully darkened stairway. RETROSARIA, owned by Rosa Pomar who we were to meet with later in the afternoon, and staffed by wonderful Philippe, was a real treat. Yarns from all over the world including several lines designed by Rosa herself, using locally sourced fibres were available and bought up by all who made it to the top of the stairs
After an afternoon of shopping and hill/mountain climbing to the Castle Sao George, we returned to the hotel for a workshop in the Portuguese style of knitting. Rosa Pomar is the Doyenne of knitting in Portugal, having written the definitive book on traditional techniques and the history of the craft. She is also a great teacher; and along with her friend and helper, Zelia,  we all learned the technique of creating tension in the yarn by hooking it through a "knitting pin" attached to the left shoulder, as Ginger is doing above, or by wrapping it around the neck as Rhonda, one of our KnitTraiders  blog contributors and teachers, is doing below. It was a thrill made even more special by the appearance of Rosa's precious 3 month old, Augusto - and husband, Ricardo too of course.

Dinners each night of the trip are provided by the hotels where we are staying, and long  evening chats over a glass of wine, with some knitting in hand are just the ticket for the end a busy and exquisite day.

Check back later in the week (probably Thursday) to see what we've been up to as we pass through the regions of Evora and Guarda.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Just a few more sleeps to Portugal

It's here! The trip that we've been planning since January 2015 has finally arrived. 33 knitters (and 4 hubbies/partners) are setting off on Saturday, the 14th from Pearson airport to arrive in Lisbon on Sunday 6:35am!

As well as Kingston, participants are coming from Alberta, New Brunswick, Pennsylvania,Toronto and Ottawa areas to join in the fun. Follow us here on this blog until May 23rd when we head back to Canada. I'll be posting every few days about what we've seen (and eaten, and experienced) as we make our way through Portugal from Lisbon to Evora, to Garda, to Porto.

And don't forget about our 2017 tour to the northern part of Ireland, tentatively scheduled for September. We've just finalized the itinerary and are awaiting confirmation and pricing. You too can join us for one of these delightful experiences with other crafters and friends. To get on the email list to receive further information about Ireland 2017, contact Pam Franklin at Marlin Travel.


Monday, 1 February 2016

Rhichard Devrieze - Indie dyer, coming to KnitTraders

Mark your calendars everyone - Saturday March 5th from 1-4pm, 
is very proud to welcome Rhichard Devrieze, the creative mind behind these beautiful yarns. 

Fibre artist and master dyer, Rhichard Devrieze began his career about twenty-five years ago, when he first became interested in hand-spinning yarn and importing and selling fleeces of foreign breeds of sheep.  When he and his partner purchased a flock of merino sheep, Rhichard took up hand-weaving and got into the production of one-of-a-kind coats, jackets, vests, scarves, mitts, and twice-woven rugs, including the hand-dyeing of some of the yarns used in these creations.  That lead to his association with Koigu, quickly becoming their principal dyer.
In 2011, Rhichard and his partner started their own company so that Rhichard could pursue his passion for creating new colourways using carefully selected yarns produced by the best mills, working with designers keen to use his products, and engaging with knitters directly through social media sites and visits to stores carrying his yarns.  

At KnitTraders, we regularly carry Rhichard's Peppino, pictured above in the Stippled colours. 
 But for this special event, he will be bringing with him a selection of colourways in all 3 lines of the Yarns of Rhichard Devrieze. There will be mini-skeins for customers to knit up swatches, as well as  yarn that can be sold exclusively during this special event. In addition, we will get to see sample garments and projects from these magnificent yarns, and patterns will also be available.

 Link to Rhichard's website to see more of the 3 featured yarns:
 Peppino (superwashed merino yarn, fingering weight, in 225 yard skeins),sturdy enough for magnificent socks.
Phantom (superwashed, superfine merino yarn, fingering weight, in 225 yard skeins) for stunning shawls and scarves
Fynn (superwashed merino yarn, worsted weight, in 175 yard skeins) for everything that you can imagine in a medium weight yarn.

 Browse through the 3 magnificent dye styles available in each of these yarns:

Let your fingers and your digital device do the prep work to take part in this special event.
1. Check out and choose your favourite yarns and colourways from the website.
2. Email KnitTraders ( to RSVP.
3. Give us some idea of what yarns and colourways you would like Rhichard to bring for us to sample. 
4. If you know what yarns you would like to purchase in advance, please email us your order and we'll be sure to have Rhichard put some aside to bring to you.

BRING YOUR NEEDLES AND YOUR SENSE OF FUN and join us for an afternoon of knitting, crochet and yarn tasting.    

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Further Results of the Working Bee - Jan 23rd, 2016

I continue to be amazed at the donations that we are receiving every day. About 10 days ago a lady brought in a large bag of knitted items that she said was “just from a group of knitters”. When we got to sort it on Saturday, we discovered over 100 pairs of mittens of all different children’s sizes plus a huge assortment of other knitted goods. Another women had purchased one of our Thrum Mitten Kits and kindly brought the completed mittens in last week for the donation basket. The batch of donations that we sorted on the weekend even included blankets received from a wonderful group of afghan crocheters in Sedona, Arizona, going to the extra effort and expense to ship them to us here in Canada. You are all wonderful.
When I was presenting our work to the meeting of Private Sponsor Refugee Groups a couple of weeks ago, I boldly (yet with fingers crossed) announced that we were aiming to receive 1 000 donations of handcrafted accessories and blankets to offer the Syrian refugees coming to Kingston. At the time it seemed hard to comprehend what 1000 donations could look like, and where would they all come from?
Well with a drum roll, I’m here to announce that as of Saturday’s count we have 601 articles donated and ready for distribution. And that does not yet include more that we know will be arriving from Lindsay ON later in the week, and another batch from NY, nor does it count the 30 or so blankets that we didn’t have time to finish processing on Saturday. All this to say that it’s a safe bet that we will be needing another sorting day in a couple of weeks and that we are very likely to reach our goal of 1 000 donations, and beyond.
Next Sorting Get Together is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6th from 1-3pm but please remember to RSVP to avoid disappointment as we can only take so many willing hands.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Donations pouring in...Keep 'em coming

Just an update to let you know how things are going for the  Kingston Stitches for Syrians campaign.
We've had an unbelievable response from the local community, which was to be expected as the Kingston area crafters really do seem to step up to support any of the causes that we've shared with them in the past. But more suprisingly,  via internet connections, we will also be receiving donations from 4 American crafting groups and a group from Lindsay ON.

Last week we had a visit from Mandy Marciniak from the Kingston Heritage newspaper and she wrote an excellent article about the project. We're hoping that this spreads the word even more to help us meet our target of 1 000 hand knitted items that we can hand over to the folks at the Kingston Immigration Partnership who are coordinating donations.

Hats for children and adults seem to be the most popular donations but we still need a good number of all articles: mitts, scarves and neck warmers, socks and slippers, Izzy dolls, sweaters and blankets.

Last Saturday we had our first of 2 (or maybe 3) working Bees to label and package the knitted donations we've received. We had 4 super workers (I would never call them drones) who helped out with sorting and bagging. Thanks a million to Gail, Cheryl, Amelia and her Mom (sorry, didn’t get your name).
We processed and bagged a total of 242 donations  with another 22 blankets left to go with the next group.  In fact the system and the workers who made it happen were so efficient that we decided that it would best to move the next Working Bee until Sat. Jan. 23rd with another one in early Feb. if necessary.
If you wish to join us, please RSVP as more than 5 people working around the tables would be cumbersome. Keep those donations coming in.
We are hoping to have the bulk of the donations received by the end of January but will certainly continue to accept until the end of February (with an extra day this year too!)
We’ll be dropping off our first load on Wednesday, Jan. 13th when we  meet with the Kingston Immigration Partnership. We're hoping to have a more precise idea if anything else is required after that. We’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for all the support so far. 
Anne (for Jean and Sally, too)