LYS: Purl Soho Warehouse

Having visited the Purl Soho website any number of times and for the most part held back from going wild, I was excited to find their warehouse in a search of LA-area yarn shops. At home, I have a copy of their Botanical Yoke pullover waiting to hit the needles, all queued up in my Ravelry 2019 Challenge list.

A rack of beautiful project bags, including Purl Soho signature bags.

Perhaps the Purl Soho Warehouse is not technically an LYS? I assume they do a lot of order fulfillment for the Purl Soho online business. Somehow I convinced my brother to take me there on my first full day in town, before we set off on a whale watch from Dana Point.

Gratuitous terrible photo of what is actually a giant pod of Risso dolphins

This storefront in Irvine, CA doesn’t even have a sign hanging out front to announce its presence, but it was open for business as promised by Google maps! Upon entry, there was a lovely table adorned with suggestive samples that begged to be stroked.

A few shelves bordered the entryway, making the front area feel like a retail establishment. But beyond – oh, my – there were shelves and shelves of gorgeous textures and colors to explore.

Basically everything you’ve ever drooled over on their website (and more) was available here. The yarn is organized by weight, and then within that I’m sure there is some clever color or number system. Much of it appeared to be pleasingly gradient- or rainbow-oriented. All of their luscious kits were also available here (of course), including throw blanket kit colorways I didn’t even see advertised online.

One serious weakness I have is Liberty of London Tana Lawn cotton fabric. It’s amazing that I even still have money in the bank and haven’t purchased yards of every single print they have ever produced. Astonishingly, the Purl Soho warehouse has a very complete and up-to-date collection – in fact, this is the most variety of Tana Lawn I’ve ever personally seen in one place, perhaps with the exception of Lil Weasel in Paris, but I suspect not.

My not-so-effective willpower has held out against spending down my retirement funds many times, and in particular I have not purchased any colorways of William Morris’ Strawberry Thief print approximately 137 times. That may be an underestimate. Guess what – you’re right. I gave in this time. Only one colorway was available at PSW, but it was the right one – such gorgeous rich blue hues and complementary jewel tones.

While I was tempted to pick up the eggplant/ecru manta ray print (!!), or the ecru/greys lovely sailing rope motif, my brother voted for this one as I held each one up to my face. (Who knew he’d be such a good shopping companion? He also had a number of perceptive fiber-related questions as we explored, including regarding an alphabet worth of cute embroidered animal kits.)

Over the past few months, I’ve been attracted to unusual (for me) colors, and my selections from PWS were in line with this left turn. While I doubt I will be saturated with speckles or space-dyes any time soon, I relished the opportunity to bask in some of their brighter and deeper solids, keeping in mind that there are some burgeoning textured designs in my mind that require some silky fluff as well as plush drape.

My final yarn selection included two colorways of Posy (sw merino, cashmere, nylon) and two colorways of Tussock (mohair and silk).

Now if only my day job included knitwear design…

More about gauge

Last month, I had some thoughts about a post on gauge by Kate Davies. My general feeling is that even though some of us are accomplished knitters, we still like a hint of where to start on needle size. We must acknowledge that not everyone automatically knows how to get eight stitches to the inch in fingering weight, or 4-5 stitches to the inch in worsted. Perhaps I could figure that out if I thought about it, but it’s not automatic, I also know that humans are lazy.

For a new design I’m developing with Biscotte DK Pure, because I can’t be lazy, I started with the recommended needle size on the yarn label. Three swatches later, I have retained the smallest needle size as one of the two for my pattern, but I sized up twice to get the fabric feel from this yarn that I wanted.

This take-home message is important: although there may be a recommended needle size, and although you may always “get gauge,” the designer has figured out what the best fabric is for her design, and set the gauge there. I admit that I am notorious for going straight for the needle and casting on without swatching, but this is a strong reason to avoid my typical approach.

What I appreciated about Kate Davies’ post was her comment that in Milarrochy Heids, designers all used the same yarn, but not only had varying tension, they also created different fabrics.  If I were designing mittens, I would size down at least twice in the Biscotte yarn, because I want a tougher, more water- and windproof fabric. For a baby sweater, I want something more supple and welcoming, with some stretch to accommodate baby’s growth if you’re lucky enough to get more than one season out of the garment.

This is obviously the back side – the sweater is all but finished now, and I’ve gotten some nice compliments from the knitting guild, which has seen it in progress. More photos to come soon!

Holiday knitting swap

Last week, our knitting group had a Yankee swap with about 15 participants. I wish I had taken photos of some of the delightful items that people brought, which were amazing considering our $10 limit. One person knit a gorgeous lavender colored slouchy hat with a braided brim; another made a knitted ball ornament with sheep on a grassy green background. Some people brought knitting notions and tools, and one found a copy of Alice Starmore’s Glamourie when it was at bargain basement sale prices on Amazon.

I haven’t participated in a swap in a while, the last time being with my family, and they did not implement the “steal or take a gift rule;” rather, they implemented the “open a gift and then steal if you want” rule. This time, we instead had to decide whether to steal first, or take a new gift from the pile. I ended up with these absolutely gorgeous handmade stitch markers, all in blue beads, and blue is my favorite color. Nobody tried to steal these from me, which is just fine!

The Glamourie book was the hot-ticket item, and got stolen three times, which was the limit according to our rules: then it gets “frozen,” or taken out of the running, and the third stealer gets to keep it.

The gift I brought also got stolen twice, which felt good – especially since nobody selected it from the pile at first. Again, I neglected to take photos! How did that happen? Well – here are some images to give you an idea. First, I found these lovely yarns at La Droguerie and thought they would make fine mittens.

Then, I made a simple drawstring project bag out of this flannel. If you hit Joann at the right time, you can find this stuff for as low as $2/yard, so this was about $0.50 of fabric.

Lastly, I searched for a free pattern from Ravelry that would give a nice suggestion of mittens that could be knit from this yarn. Although I tried to find one that wouldn’t require adding any yarn, I’m not sure I succeeded. In the end, I think the recipient will use a background neutral to show off these lovely colors. If you’re looking for a free holiday-like mitten pattern, this is the one I chose: Jorid’s Christmas Heart mittens.

I love this kind of experience, which is focused on fun and creative giving, rather than acquisition. Way back in the day in Girl Scouts, we were challenged to design a package that suited our Secret Santa recipient, with a $1 or $5 gift inside. Obviously that made an impression, as over 25 years later I still recall creating that gift.

What have your holiday swap or Secret Santa experiences been like?

Rainbow throw #2

It is pouring rain out today, diminishing our chances of a white Christmas, and I think the weather forecast is the same for tomorrow. If we’re lucky, the sun will come out and give us a rainbow or two, but I am not confident the grey skies will fade.

Over the past week, I’ve cranked out 80% of one of my remaining holiday gifts on the knitted gift list, and shipped out gifts to family members out west possibly even on time. The only reason I’ve been able to make so much knitting progress is that I’ve been suffering from what I’ve been calling the Sinus Plague, which has also been affecting my brain. Since there always seems to be a natural slow-down at work around this time, I’ve taken advantage of my sick leave bank to care for my slow brain. All it seems to be able to handle is this repetition, and sometimes not even that!

On the left is the original throw. On the right is the new one, approaching the finish line – one color block left to go.

Ravelry page for this throw: Rainbow Throw

The yarn is originally from Ward Brook Farm in Candia, New Hampshire. My mother used to go on the annual Wool Tour around New England each fall, but now she’s moved out west. I’m fairly certain my mom’s cousin purchased this yarn the year that I went with them, and I still have a large quantity of natural brown wool that I had knitted up into a potato sack like sweater before deciding it wasn’t a flattering silhouette. My mom’s cousin willed me a lot of yarn when her rheumatoid arthritis began to seriously interfere with her knitting, these beautiful colors among them, so she is the intended recipient of this throw.

My sister found the cutest advent calendar for me this year – I haven’t had one since I was a child, but had been admiring some here and there on my travels. Yesterday’s window revealed the sheep knitting the stocking in the bottom window of the Knitting Supplies store. We visited a cute New England knitting shop in a cute New England town over Labor Day, and this reminds us both of that weekend!

Happy advent!

LYS: Fiber & Vine in Norway, ME

Last weekend, when I was in Maine for the weekend, my sister volunteered that we should visit the local yarn shop called Fiber & Vine.  I was delighted, since she has her crafty side, but it does not tilt toward knitting.  The shop is situated in the Norway Opera House building, which is a lovely historical structure in the middle of the cute downtown, and which also houses an artisan co-op, among other merchants.

This is not only an LYS, but also an LWS: there are shelves of handpicked wines on offer in their own conspicuous section between spinning fiber and notions.  Unfortunately we were not there on a Friday between 5-7pm, which is when they offer free wine tastings!  Maybe next time.  I was happy to see several varieties of petite syrah from California, which is one of my favorites in addition to Lodi old-vine red Zinfandel.  I also selected one bottle from at least three Viognier options on the shelf, one of my favorite varietals among the whites.  They also had a rosé section and a bubbly section, and a few very unusual options tucked in there, especially on their South Africa shelf.  Plus, a whole shelf of vermouth!

Then, yarn.

The breadth of their offerings was delightful, and they had a broad color selection of several popular lines, such as Juniper Moon Herriot (which I carried around with me for awhile just to feel it, and also made my sister touch), Cascade 220, Manos del Uruguay, The Fibre Company, and Noro.  A few local options were nestled in as well.

Beyond yarn, they have a great button selection and a trove of tiny rainbow roving or needle felting fiber balls.

F&V is also featuring some fun handmade crazy-spun textured yarn necklaces, as well as hand woven and hand knitted gifts.  The gift section included other interesting items such as hand-felted, hand-sewn pouches (conveniently sized for a pair of glasses), felt-covered soaps, and cute embroidery-embellished baby blankets.

When I was there, a knitting lesson was happening, and I was visiting with a non-knitter, but otherwise I certainly would have been tempted to sit down at the table in the back and pull out a project.  For the ambitiously creative, F&V also offers folk art workshops through their Folk Art Studio.

Since my stash is approaching StABLE,* but I still think it is important to support our LYSes, when I visit a new place, I focus on choosing something locally produced or enhanced (read: dyed).  This time, I left with a gorgeous speckly skein in a pastel green-blue-purple colorway from Wool is Why, as well as Fiber & Vine branded “Splendid” yarn, a delicious blend of merino, silk, and yak which was also dyed by Wool is Why.  If there had been more available, I surely would have purchased more of both.

*I like the notion of stable, so I have added the “t” into this acronym for my own use.  Does it mask the import of exceeding life expectancy, though?

LYS: Green Mountain Yarn and Fibers

The Green Mountain Knitting Guild is hosting monthly yarn trips to shops within the state of Vermont, so I hopped on the bandwagon and joined them last weekend.  We went to check out Green Mountain Yarn and Fibers in Rutland.

The shop has a nice cozy feel with a large table in the back, and while they do have a scheduled knitting window each week (all afternoon on Sundays), they welcome knitters any time, which just makes it feel that much more cozy.

The entryway features fun project bags and larger functional bags, some of which are stitched from beautiful embroidered cloth and ribbon.  But the main feature as you walk in the door is a wall of shelves dedicated to local fibers.  There is a plethora of colors and textures to stimulate the senses, including a variety of weights and fibers.  The yarn in highest supply was a handspun bulky from Mount Nickwackett Sheep Farm that goes for $15 a skein – a steal for handspun as far as I’m concerned.  [In fact, Marilyn Brandner of the farm is apparently teaching a Navajo weaving class at the shop on September 15, for 3 participants only!]

Another wall of the shop features Noro brand yarns, in a quantity and selection that I have not seen anywhere else recently.  Since I have been a fan of Noro since 1997 when I was an exchange student in Japan, I was tickled, and brought home some Silk Garden in a solid and a coordinating stripe to make a large cushy scarf.

The shop also had a nice collection of hat kits, featuring several of Nancy Bates’ National Park Beanies.  I’d never seen these before, but I am certainly a fan now!

The shop was also able to fulfill my Addi Turbo Flexi Tips needs.  A fun time was had by all!

LYS: Ovelha Negra, Porto, Portugal

I visited this shop in late June and am only now starting to sift and catalog all my photos from my Portugal trip!  Even though I learned some Portuguese last year, I had to look up the meaning of the shop name, Ovelha Negra, in English, which is Black Sheep.

(Notice some knitter’s male partner waiting outside?? Heehee!)

The one-room shop is located in a well-trafficked area populated with other fun shops and restaurants.  Inside, I was mesmerized by all the colors and gradients lining the walls.

Because I have such a large stash, I was trying to focus on something special from this shop and/or from the region.  Ovelha Negra has several of its own yarn lines, and carries a few other commercial brands.  The shop owner shared several samples with me as I agonized over my selections, and the drape and hand of these yarns were fabulous.

The sample she showed me of Isabell Kraemer’s “A Girl’s Best Friend” in a rich goldenrod, light heather grey, and natural ivory in her “Victoria” single-ply wool yarn.  This yarn is 100% Portuguese wool, and the primary yarn in her shop that is Portugal-sourced.  The result was a substantial but not too heavy garment that looked as though the design were made for this yarn.  There is a photo of the finished object on the shop’s website, and it looks even more vibrant in person.  I was smitten, and some of this yarn would have come home with me if they had had that beautiful gold color in stock.

I’ve been thinking about designing shawls and stoles that incorporate interesting color transitions and a mix of lace and textured stitch patterns, so that was the driving force behind my selections.  This group is Amélia yarn, which is 100% merino, and I was thinking about denim / indigo shades when I selected these.


This group of Olívia shades will be some sort of experiment in light/dark of these two color families.  It is a 2-ply blend of 55% merino and 45% cotton.


And this group of Ofélia cakes was to indulge my love for pinks and greens together.  Ofélia is 100% wool from Ireland.  This yarn especially had so many colors and shades that I agonized over my choices for a Long. Time.


My somewhat extensive purchase was packaged up in this adorable tote bag!


One skein of Freia Handpaints Ombre Sport will get you…

I’ve knitted a shawl and a couple of diagonal scarves in Freia Handpaints that will appear here post-blocking, and now I tried the Ombre Sport for the first time with the Lunar Eclipse pattern.

I think this is the sixth version I’ve knitted so far, and the first one with shifting color.  The arc gives it the familiar stripe going in one direction, shifting from top to bottom, and the edging turns that perpendicular so the shifting color direction is more side to side (sort of – with a crescent shape, all bets are off, as anyone that has tried to drive around New Orleans without a map can tell you!).

Here is a gallery of photos of the hottest off the needles Lunar Eclipse!




Dyeing a little inside

The other day I attended a workshop at The Scrap Exchange, with artist Katherine Soucie, who specializes in (among other things) acid dyeing pre-consumer industrial waste.  I wasn’t sure what all that meant, but essentially we ended up with a giant pile of white nylon hosiery in various manifestations that we tied, scrunched, clamped, and otherwise threw into dye pots of all colors of the rainbow.

We learned how to mix up our dye solutions from powder and water and a little bit of Synthrapol (industrial soap), heat up our dye pots, and watch the magic happen in a no-waste method including re-using dye pots multiple times for different colors.

Fortunately other workshop attendees were experienced creative types that pulled out PVC piping and tie-dyeing techniques to produce some really interesting results!


The artist dyed a wall full of industrial waste fabric in the week leading up to the workshop and used it to create an exhibit in the Scrap Exchange’s Cameron Gallery.

I’ve been intrigued by her use of this material as fabric from which she has created amazing patchwork fabrics that have been sewn into wearable fashion.  Check out some of her fashion portfolio here.


Generally speaking I am not on the cutting edge of the new patterns that come out.  Occasionally I will finish something within a month or two of its release, but that is very rare.  This hat is not an example of one of those rare occasions.  “Shwook” came out in honor of the 2014 Shetland Wool Week event, so probably all the other Shwook knitters posted their goods long ago.  Lately Ravelry has been filled with the new 2015 pattern, which is adorable and features sheep.

I am thinking now that I should have looked up what a shwook is before posting this.  Any guesses?*


This hat is using overly-long-stashed yarn in colors that probably went out ten years ago.  At one point, I had an online sale problem and purchased yarn willy-nilly with no project in mind.  In time, with experience and a non-shrinking stash, my habits have changed.  But this yarn was still hanging around: Rowanspun 4-ply, in Sugar, Stone, Squirrel, Temptation, and Turkish.  The yarn was thinner than required, but the end result is a perfectly-fitting beanie.


I think this is only the second stranded hat I’ve completed.  And it’s definitely the first time I’ve blocked with a dinner plate.


How do you like that?  Makes the center cap portion look mighty fine, if I do say so myself!


More specs on my Ravelry project page.

I have almost 600 yards of yarn left (of around 810 total), so I’m now making a garter-stitch shawl that I’ll edge with feather-and-fan.  I’m using the lighter colors for the main garter triangle, and the purples for the edging.

* OK, my curiosity got the better of me and I consulted The Google.  If you want an answer before guessing, visit this link