Saturday, April 28, 2007

Details on St. Enda construction

For those who are curious how I modified St. Enda for DH, and coming this fall one for myself, here is some info.

I used Janet Szabo's FLAK outline, starting with measuring DH, then studying the schematic for St. Enda and comparing measurements. He wanted a v-neck cardigan, the pattern originally is a round neck pullover, I wanted to knit from the top down with no seams to sew. I redrew the front cable pattern, then ended up not using the whole chart I came up with as it didn't work the way I thought it would on paper (swatch, swatch, swatch!). But I have to confess that I made changes on the fly as I was knitting, which means taking copious notes along the way, so both sides match and so mine later will look close to the same.

I knit the shoulder straps first, then put those stitches on pieces of yarn while picking up the fronts and working down to the armholes. I did the left front first, being for a man, as I made the buttonholes in the cable section, between the cable repeats. They don't show very much in the pics and don't stand out in person, which is what I was aiming for. I didn't do one at the very bottom of the front as it just didn't work out well. In doing the front, the center cable became the buttonhole band and I knit a section of sand stitch after the body was done, sideways, for the right button band. I did a sort of I-cord on the left front as I knit it, using 2 knit stitches and a purl to make the cord-look edge. DH was careful when he blocked it not to flatten that edge out, running his blocking yarn just inside it.

DH likes his sweaters to fit snugly, more than I do, so I tried it on him more often to make sure it stayed as snug as he likes. That's the beauty of working from the top down, and joining as you go, you can try it on and adjust immediately if needed.

Anne commented about the sleeves being set in - actually it's a square armhole ala FLAK, no having to match decreases, whew! Janet has instructions on her site for doing that. I am so grateful to her for leading the FLAK KAL, now I feel free and competent enough to take any pattern I like and make it my own in this way. And Janet's new book has even more info on doing this, what a gold mine!

Anyway, now back to the armhole ribbings on his Forest vest. I'm hoping to get it done this weekend, then run ends in during the week so it can be washed and blocked and be ready to go to Portland for my Mom to see next weekend.

If anyone has any questions on how I modified his sweater, just drop me a comment and I'll answer the best I can.

Happy knitting!

Minor correction for something that makes my ears itch

Just wanted to point out that DH's red sweater is my modification of Alice Starmore's St. Enda pattern, not St. Edna. The pattern is named after a Scottish saint, although I don't have more info about her available at hand. If folks try to google for other info on the pattern, misspelling could prevent you from finding what you're looking for. Just a short FYI post!

Happy knitting!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Some new pics and a great yarn sale coming up

This first pic is DH's St. Enda sweater drying on the wooly board. You can see the bottom ribbing, where I added some plain ribbing after decreasing 3 out of 7 stitches to make it snugger, as per DH's request. Now it's still waiting for him to sew the buttons on, but he's got until the middle of May, when we go on vacation. He's planning to take everything I've made for him since our last visit to his Mom along to show her. Neat guy, a definite keeper!

This pic is his Forest vest with the body knitting done. I'm hoping to start crocheting the steeks this morning, if I ever get off the computer that is! You can see the front checkerboard steek and the two striped armhole steeks. From now on I'm going to be using striped steeks, as they are much easier to see where to crochet and where to cut, while still alternating the working yarns across the steek. They give a nice firm steek tension. His birthday was yesterday so I'm still in the ball park for getting both projects done for him.

Below I have copied a sale ad I got from an eBay seller I've bought a lot of yarn from. This is a great price on Cascade 220, since here in Salem the Craft Warehouse sells Cascade 220 for around $9.00 per skein, even when you factor shipping in. Just do a search on eBay for her store to find the colors she still has in stock. I've had her cram 14 skeins in a Priority Flat Rate box and add insurance for me. I've used it for my FLAKs, St. Enda, St. Brigid, and others. It's a great worsted weight yarn!

Happy knitting!

Over the next few weeks I will be listing all of my remaining inventory of Cascade 220 100% Wool Yarn at the low price of $4.50/skein. Also included in the sale are the KA Classic Bamboo Knitting Needles at a 40% savings and some odd lot auctions of yarn, buttons, and patterns.


Jane (Cedarville Landing Yarn)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Contact info for Mr. Henry at J & S

Wren asked for Mr. Henry's contact info. You can send him a message at this email and it will be passed on to him. I really appreciate all the folks who are taking the time to make the effort to write to him to let him know our feelings on this matter. As I wrote earlier, this is a special opportunity to possibly have an effect on a corporate decision that affects thousands of knitters around the world. I can understand that in our modern world change is a fact of life, but such an arbitrary, non-customer supporting change such as has been proposed is something we have all experienced from time to time and it's very frustrating to deal with. There are enough things that have to change for more important reasons - traffic patterns, health care, taxes, etc. and I think a lot of us feel this is one more example of big business looking out for itself instead of the customers who patronize the business.

I know the J & S folks don't seem all that happy with the proposed change, at least that is what I pick up in my communications with them. But then they are on the front line of this matter and get all the flack from disgruntled knitters.

What I don't get is why they picked these colors, especially the ones that are used in lots of AS and 'Sweaters From Camp' patterns? They are classed as 'slow moving' but I haven't yet asked what criteria were used to make that decision. Possibly Curtis Wool Direct, the parent company, is using worsted weight yarn sales to measure Shetland yarn sales. It's not a good comparison, for several reasons.

First, worsted weight yarns are knit up faster, since one uses larger needles so fewer stitches to the inch, and often they are used on knitting machines, which uses the yarn up even faster. Second, there aren't the array of colors in a garment that are in FI garments, unless one is doing intarsia, so that spreads the quantity of yarn used for the garment among several different colors instead of just one or two. And three, FI knitting takes more time, generally, because of the color changes, following sometimes intricate charts, and the detailed finishing steps.

So I think a lot of the problem is Curtis Wool Direct managers don't have much experience with FI knitters and may not care to support us as J & S historically has, since it doesn't produce such large money amounts of sales. I wish they would look at the historical nature of what we do, and the personal pleasure we obtain doing it. Fair Isle knitting is a part of knitting history and culture that is very worth passing on and enjoying. A friend wrote me the other day and said that when she visited Fair Isle, the folks were surprised to learn she knitted her sweaters in the traditional style, even cross stitching the steek stitches. Nowadays most of the FI folks use frames to do their knitting as it is faster, but it loses so much of the human touch. They do it for income, I understand, but they weren't aware that there is a community of knitters around the world who still maintain the old ways of doing it.

What we need to do is encourage Curtis Wool Direct, through our messages to Mr. Henry, to continue to support the designs we want to make while at the same time introducing their new products, which are unknown at this time. I, for one, would make the effort to get the word out about their new products, if they do me the favor of supporting the colors and yarns I want to use. Being in customer service, I am very well aware of the bottom line in all this - costs continue to rise, sales get flat or sink, and cuts have to be made somewhere.

I still like the idea I proposed to J & S in one of my emails to them - to do as my dish company, Pfaltzgraf, does. They have a Special Order program once a year where they publish a catalogue for the discontinued patterns and you order the pieces you want from those they are offering in your pattern. You have three months at the beginning of the year to do this, then they close the ordering and start making the dishes. The finished dishes are shipped at the end of summer. They only make enough to fill the orders they receive, so no stocking odd pieces of discontinued patterns. J & S could offer half the discontinued colors one year and the other half the next, so they don't have to do a huge lot of work. And if they had orders for, say, 1500 skeins of one color and a run is 1750 skeins, they could have a list of folks to contact who run lists, like my Mara_class on yahoo, who would publicize the orphan skeins and get them sold. That way J & S wouldn't have to worry about storing a few skeins of 'slow moving' colors.

If anyone else has another idea to help them out, they really want to know about them, so please send it to them. We need to be proactive on this to have any chance of saving these colors. 56 colors at one whack is a lot to lose from a palette of yarns and it happens to contain several that I have used in multiple patterns, so it really has me upset. Get those keyboards and pens moving, folks!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Death in the family

One thing I didn't mention yesterday was my friend Peggy passing away Friday morning. She was 94 and living in a nursing home at the time. I had this dream Friday morning where a young couple had died and their baby as well. I was trying to make it to the funeral but kept getting delayed. When I finally got there, I wanted to hold the baby before they put it in the casket, why, I don't know. It was a very strange dream but I've learned that things I dream about and remember when I wake up are important in some way so I kept the dream in the back of my mind and went off to work.

At lunch I had a voicemail from a mutual friend and he told me the woman who is living in my old house, which is next to Peggy's old house, had called him and told him Peggy had passed. Then the dream made sense to me - Peggy was my late first husband's first baby sitter and his parents were young when they adopted him. They are all dead now, hence the young couple being dead and their baby dead. I know some folks don't believe in messages from people after they have passed over but I know this was Peggy's way of trying to tell me she had passed away, in her usual gentle way. It's easiest to pass messages to a person's subconscious when they're sleeping, which is why we learn things in our dreams. My mind just had trouble getting the message clear but it received it from her just fine. Now I know she is with God, her late husband, my late first husband, his parents, and all their friends and relatives and is safe and no longer suffering. It will be very hard to go to her funeral but I will do it, for her family and for me. I need the closure and so do they. Her daughter has been in a race with her for several years now to see who would die first and Peggy just won.

Have a good Monday everyone.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

An FO, a steek discussion, and racing to the finish line

I finished the knitting on DH's St. Enda the other night and last night I took needle in hand and finished the buttonholes, yea! Because of the cable cross being so close to the buttonhole, there was a loose strand that could have been twisted when DH buttoned his sweater, so I used good old buttonhole stitch around them to stabilize them and anchor that strand down. Today we'll wash it and put it on the wooly board to block and dry. Ah
, what a nice feeling when he put it on last night and said it really fit the way he wanted it to, made all the ripping and reworking worthwhile! And I took notes so when I make mine this fall I can make some of the same adjustments to it. Mine will be looser because I don't like skin tight sweaters like he does, guess it's from being plump most of my adult life, lol.

Even though I'm trying different steek techniques on my LLV (Lovely Leftovers Vest, which is now on the back burner while I decide which patterns I want to knit and pull out the balls of the colors J & S might stop making), I decided to go ahead and try them on DH's Forest vest, also. The center front is the traditional checkerboard effect, where you stagger the colors from row to row.

The armhole steeks are in stripes, very easy to see as this pattern has only one design color used through out and the background colors change in a matrix. I definitely have to say that I prefer the stripes to the checkerboard now. It will make it much easier to crochet the steeks by being able to see exactly which row to work in. I didn't try it on this vest but, when I remember to, I'm going to work the center steek with both colors on Erin so the ends are well secured. Meaning when I start a new color I will start it at the beginning of the steek and carry it forward, while using the old colo
r across the full width of the steek as well. On my Oregon vest I had some problems figuring out which end went to which side of the steek and some ends were cut that hadn't gotten caught in the crocheting, which made me very nervous. I know good Shetland wool felts to itself but I have three little doggies with long toenails who love nothing better than to sit in my lap and wiggle around.

On DH's Forest vest, I started the final 41 rounds last night which ends off the pattern by tapering the design out. I'm running out of the J & S gold I've been using as one of the colors, and I also need it for Erin, so I'm going to use a Scottish Campion gold I have left over from my FI socks on this last time through the colors. It's a little darker than the J & S skein I was using but it's far enough away and there is so much color acti
on going on no one will notice it. With his birthday this coming Wednesday, I'm getting close to getting his two projects done on time. If I can finish his vest by the end of the week or so, I'll count it as good and move on to my projects totally, at least for a while, lol.

It really feels good to be getting some projects done at last. I started his St. Enda in October and his Forest vest over a year ago with the 'Sweaters From Camp' KAL group, I'm embarrassed to admit. But in my defense I have to point out that I finished both of our FLAKs and my Aran Pullover last year, and my Mara this year, and also started my St. Brigid for another KAL. Now I can go back to my St. Brigid and focus on her and Erin to get them done. St. Brigid is done up to the armholes and I'm working on the front up to the shoulder
strap. Then I'll do the back to the shoulder strap, pick up and knit the straps down in to the sleeves, do the sleeves, run ends in, wash, block and she will be done.

I have to say, for those new to FI knitting who are absorbing all the info they can, that I have machine stitched steeks on several garments, FI and Norwegian knitting, and much prefer the crocheted steek method. I'm not fighting with my machine to make sure I catch all the stitches, worried about stitching over an end that needs to be cut and leaving a loop, and struggling to ease the garment under the presser foot evenly. I can crochet anywhere I can knit and it's just so much calmer to do. However, for a Norwegian garment knit with Norwegian wool, machine stitching will still be my technique of choice, as Norwegian wool doesn't felt the way Shetland wool does.

I have an excellent sewing machine, please don't get me wrong. It was my mother's Singer 401A, in the beautiful cherrywood desk, and it still stitches perfectly even being made in 1959 (egads!), it's just that for this task I have come to prefer crocheting to stitching. And it's not exactly crocheting, it's actually doing a chain stitch up the steek on each side of where you plan to cut. I think it's part of the maturing process, where when one gets to a certain age (different ages for different things!) one decides not to be bound by alleged tradition but to do what one prefers and ignore the critics as amateurs. I have to tell you all, it's so freeing to just do what I prefer to get the results I want and keep my stress level down to a manageable level in the process!

And this is where my Erin is, this Sunday morning, while I'm taking care of other tasks on my day off. Hopefully I will get some time to sit down and knit with her today, in between washing St. Enda, washing new fleece, maybe spinning some fleece, working on the Forest vest, and spending time with DH. I ordered two skeins of Poppy from Anne from She Ewe Knits, a really wonderful person and terrific knitter, in Canada. She tempted me with mention of a discontinued J & S color she puts in kits only, so now I need to find out what design she meant and if it's on my to-knit list. If so, I'm going to be saving up for another kit as fast as possible!

Happy knitting!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Upcoming Fiber Events in the Salem, OR area

I wanted to let folks know about two upcoming fiber events in my area. First is the Aurora Colony Fiber Sale next weekend, April 28th, from 9:30 to 4 at the American Legion Hall in Aurora, on Hwy 99E. It's small, fun, and there are door prizes all day but you have to be present to win. And luscious fleeces, too!

Next is the Mission Mill Museum's Sheep to Shawl Festival, from 10 to 4 on May 19th, a Saturday for those who are calendar challenged. Free admission to the Mill, free parking, sheep shearing every hour, fiber animals to see and pet, handcrafted items for sale, kids events, garden plants for sale. Bring a picnic lunch or eat in the restaurant on the grounds while you watch the fun. I'll be wandering the grounds with a drop spindle chatting with folks and answering questions.

Happy knitting!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fair Isle knitters, unite! Urgent info!

I got my bag of knitting yarns and the 2006 color card from J & S in
the mail today so will post the numbers of the colors they are
considering discontinuing so folks can order them before they're gone.


I don't know if the colors of 2 ply Lace Weight that are on the loose
card are also up to be discontinued or not but I'll list them here
just in case.


Also, all the colors of Double Knitting yarn are on the loose card so
check your project list for that yarn, as well.

In my discussions with J & S they have told me that these are the shades they are planning to discontinue if the demand stays low for them, which puzzles me because several of them are used in quite a few AS designs and I know I personally have bought almost a dozen FC41 in the last year or so. The Oregon Vest and Mara both use it, and now I'm using it in Erin.

Don't forget that J & S was bought by an English company a few years ago, Curtis Wool Direct, and the parent company is making changes in stock and business practices. My contact at J & S suggested that list members write to the manager and I have included quotations from two emails below to give the group more info.

"We would appreciate if you could ask your list members, to put their concerns in writing to our manager Oliver Henry, he will then forward them on to our employers and discuss the situation with them.We look forward to your list of colours we then will have a clearer picture of the problem."

"There are some shades that are now being discontinued. We have been undertaking a review of our yarns and have decided to reduce our range to an economically viable level.

If you have our current shade card (released in 2006) these shades are on the loose card in the shade pack. These shades are being discontinued because they have been classed as “slow moving yarns”, and as we have new products and yarns being developed for new designs, we must make way for these.

During the next year, we will be reviewing these colours and yarns to see if they are viable. All of the colours will be available to order subject to stock levels. For customers buying in bulk, if you need a particular shade which we intend to remove, a minimum order of 1750 x 25 grams will secure your shade for you, and this yarn would be non-returnable."

So please look through your list of projects you want to make in the future, note which and how many of these colors you need, and order them so you won't be trying to find substitutes for them later. And please write to Mr. Henry and express your concerns about the colors being discontinued, the English company may not understand the devotion of knitters to having certain yarns available.

I made a suggestion to them that they do as my dish company does, have a program where once a year they take orders for the discontinued colors, say before Christmas, and make them in just one run, not to be kept in stock but to be shipped out in, say three months' time. Pfaltzgraf, my dish company, has a special order program where the discontinued patterns can be ordered once a year in spring, but not all the pieces in the patterns, then they close the orders after three months, make just the dishes ordered and ship them out at the end of summer. Each year they rotate which pieces are ordered, based on what customers request and what sold the previous year. So with the slow moving yarn colors, they could offer, say 25 of them one year and 25 the next, and hopefully decide not to discontinue the rest of them. If anyone else comes up with ideas on how to keep these colors available while not bankrupting J & S, they would love to hear about them. Notice that the minimum number of skeins in a color run is 1750, and since most of us only order a few skeins of each color at a time, it would take quite a few orders to support each color.

What J & S is giving us here is actually a pretty rare and special gift - we can help find ways to keep the colors we want available, possibly, and support a small local business at the same time. All too often nowadays large holding companies send down edicts to the small companies they buy and the customers are helpless to have any impact. So instead of complaining about the lack of colors and sitting on our bums, let's take keyboard in hand and see what we can do to preserve the colors we want to use in our projects. Please pass this info on to all the FI knitters you know and encourage them to write to Mr. Henry, politely, of course, since this was not his decision. Let's see just how many knitters can put down their needles long enough to support their love of FI knitting!

Happy knitting!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Disgusted and Some Progress to Show

Here is the disgusted part, DH doesn't like the bottom ribbing of his sweater. He wants it to gather in more, but this is the way AS designed it to look. So later, after I've lost the grrrrr feelings over his reaction, I'll rip it out and start over. But this time (oh, and not the whole sweater, just the bottom ribbing will get ripped) I'll do the right front band first, then the collar in plain ribbing, then the bottom in plain ribbing so it will pull in the way he wants it to. The beautiful honeycomb ribbing AS put in the pattern doesn't pull in, it lies flat and looks great. Ah, well, into every life some rain must fall, as they say.

This is DH's Forest vest. Saturday on the way to Portland to see my Mom I divided for the front v-neck and the armhole steeks and am working away on it now. I still have hopes of getting at least this project done for DH's birthday in two weeks from tomorrow but we'll see. I'm going to make a good effort but not get locked into it like I did with his St. Enda, and then hear negative comments about it. He already knows the bottom won't snug in, because I did 1x1 corrugated ribbing instead of 2x2, to see how it looks and works on a garment. Since I put 36 stitches at each armhole on yarn strands and am decreasing every other round on the front neck, it's going pretty fast.

Then we have Erin, my Mara_class yahoo group project for spring. I've started the large chart but have to stop until my next yarn order comes from Scotland because I don't have any of the color called for and neither do any shops around here. Anne from Maine picked the colors as she has the original chenilles used in the book and found crosses for them in J & S yarns. She changed hers a bit as she didn't like the light brown in the ribbing and didn't like the neon colors in the body. I'm going to use the colors she came up with as I like them so far and prefer brighter colors. It's funny, when I was younger I generally wore quieter colors, now that I've gotten a bit older, I prefer the brighter ones. It's like I've given myself permission to be seen now, or something.

In a similar vein, I had a conversation with a customer yesterday at work and she thought I was 10 years younger than I am, goes to show what drinking a lot of water and staying out of the sun can do for a woman, lol. Also working nights for most of my adult life probably has something to do with it. You know, vampires don't show their age so much, lol.

Now that spring is here DH is spending more time out in the yard, at least when it's not raining. He went to mow the lawn a few weeks ago, got the backyard done and part of the front and the mower quit, leaking gas all over. He took it to the shop to fix it and discovered a plastic part had cracked through. So he called Lowe's, where we got it, and they didn't have the part but referred him to a repair shop to order it. So he did, only to find out it's on backorder with the factory. After waiting over a week and a half with no calls, he called the shop back. Still on backorder. We talk about it and he goes to the Briggs and Stratton website, the makers of the engine. No parts available for the mower. Hmmm, this is prime fix-the-lawnmower-so-one-can-start-mowing-the-yard time and no parts available for this mower?????

We checked with a large shop in Portland and they showed the parts on backorder from the factory. After waiting another two weeks, we had a serious discussion. If Briggs and Stratton doesn't have the part available for a three year old mower at this time of year, they are no longer supporting the mower. So DH left the order at the parts shop here in town, just in case, and bought a new mower. This time we got a Troy-Bilt, since we didn't like the lack of support on the three year old Bolin. The old mower was great, started right up, mowed great, easy to push, and all. But lack of support for a mower only three years old is not the kind of customer service we want from a company, so we won't buy their products anymore and we will tell our friends and neighbors about our bad experience. We've already let Bolin and Lowe's know how we feel about this. I don't know if I'm spelling Bolin right or not, but you can figure out what brand I mean, I'm sure.

I know that since I've gotten into customer service at work, I don't put up with poor service at other places like I used to. I speak up, speak to a manager or owner, make constructive suggestions, and take my business elsewhere if needed. I think it's time for more of us to do this, money is not getting any easier to come by and businesses who want to stay in business need the feedback. But don't just stop going to a business if you get bad service, let the manager or owner know what the problem is, give them a chance to correct it if possible, then if they don't or won't, take your business elsewhere. As they say in California, money talks.

Now to get some knitting done before breakfast.

Happy Tuesday everyone!