I Love a Good Yarn

Yarn, stories, and sometimes stories about yarn

This past March I spent a long weekend in Montreal with the family to celebrate my birthday. At the end of the trip my mother and I took a side excursion to the city’s southeastern suburb of to visit Les Laines Biscotte.

Though the store carries a wide variety of yarns from diverse producers, it may be best known for its sock yarn. On the website, you can join Biscotte’s Mystery Sock Club to receive a skein of sock yarn and a pattern every other month. In-store, however, when you see the vast selection of sock yarns all in one place, it’s truly staggering. I think I experienced palpitations when beholding this display:

 

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Just look at those colors! It was so hard choosing just half a dozen of them to take home with me. There was a great selection of speckled yarns and self-striping yarns in beautiful and often whimsical color combinations. Some of the Bis Sock colorways you can currently purchase online include watermelon, flamingo, witch underpants, and Dark Side (think Pink Floyd). There are also kits and a Harry Potter-themed line of yarns, plus over two hundred patterns on the website, many of which are free, including this adorable sheep pattern, which I’ve seen someone at my local yarn store making. The finished product is extremely cute and can be jazzed up or down depending on the main and contrasting colors you choose.

My haul was pretty impressive:

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One of these is currently in the works as one of my toe-up, two-at-a-time projects for a Christmas present. I may have to reserve the rest for socks to fill out my personal collection, as I don’t know that I could part with any of them.

If you can make it up to Montreal to visit the store in person, I would highly recommend it. For the amount of time I have been spending in Montreal lately, it’s an embarrassment that I don’t speak French yet. The store staff spoke limited English, but we managed to get by, and they were very patient and accommodating with me. Don’t let any lack of French knowledge keep you from visiting, as being able to browse that kind of inventory in person is a real treat. I stuck with the Biscotte line, as there was so much to choose from, and I do love buying yarns with as much local character as possible when traveling (the yarns are all hand-dyed in nearby Saint-Bruno). But as mentioned, the store does carry other brands as well.

And if you can’t make it to Montreal any time soon, check out the Biscotte website. I find the yarn very nice to work with, and the colors are outstanding.

Happy knitting!

I’m brand new to the “Once upon a sock” posts, but as an avid sock knitter, I’m thrilled to join in the fun.

This year for Christmas my mother requested knee socks. Actually, I had to coerce her into it. You’d never meet someone less enthusiastic about receiving hand-knit socks than my mother. She’s an extremely thrifty, practical person, and the fact that she doesn’t technically *need* any socks means that she’s reluctant to have me knit them for her. I’ve tried to explain that need doesn’t even enter into it. Hand-knit socks are a luxury, and if someone offers to make some for you, you should say, without hesitation, “Yes please, and thank you!”

I’m also brand new at knitting toe-up socks, which I thought would be the best-suited method for knee socks. And I’ve also recently discovered how fun it is to do socks two at a time on two circular needles. I love practicing new-to-me techniques, so I’ve been on a sock kick lately. However, being that I’m still practicing, I found that the first pair of toe-up two-at-a-time knee socks I started were too big for my mother, so I’m now in a mad dash to finish another pair by Christmas that will hopefully fit better.

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I’m making that first pair with leftovers from my Find Your Fade shawl, and the smaller pair is coming together with Bis Sock by Biscotte Yarns. Luckily the larger ones should fit me, but now I’m concerned that the second pair may be a little too small for my mom. I do have a tendency to overcompensate when I’m having a hard time getting sizing right. But a very well-timed post by Katherine at Fiber and Sustenance has put my mind at ease somewhat. I think blocking will get that smaller pair to just the right size to fit my cute little mom’s cute little feet.

And just an aside, those petals you see in the photo above are from this plant called the Euphorbia milli or Crown of Thorns:

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It puts out these lovely blooms year round, but its stem is what makes it live up to its name:

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The cats and I have learned to admire, but don’t touch!

 

Many times when I’m planning a vacation or work trip, I’ll do some research ahead of time to locate the yarn stores and decide which ones I want to visit. And other times, I consciously steer clear of the temptation to fill any spare room in my luggage with yarn by not doing any research at all. But, even when I’m trying to be good, the yarn sometimes finds me.

For a number years I didn’t travel much. It seemed like I was constantly changing jobs or moving from apartment to apartment in New York City and then finally to my home upstate. All that jostling about in my daily life made me want to stay put whenever I took vacation time from work. But I’ve been striking out again recently and have rediscovered how much joy I derive from traveling. Getting to shop in new and interesting yarn stores is just icing on the cake. I reported in earlier posts on a few wonderful shops in Montreal and London. I’m happy to say that I’ve also found some real gems in Ireland, Berlin and a suburb of Montreal.

Last year in late September/early October my family and I did a 10-day self-guided tour of Ireland, starting in Dublin in the east and making our way west to Galway and Connemara. It was there that I started and then eventually had to rip back my Waiting for Rain shawl. Lesson learned: don’t pick a project with a somewhat complex lace pattern when traveling with family. The distractions made for more errors than I could overlook. Once home again though, I did manage to wrap the project up, and I was thrilled with the results. So, even though I didn’t actually keep a lot of the work I had done on it while in Ireland, I still think of it as my Ireland shawl.

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I checked out two yarn stores while in Dublin. One was a dud from my experience, so I won’t even mention the name of that one. The proprietor or person working there that day was not in any rush to be helpful or welcoming, so I spent all of a couple of minutes looking around and then left. But tucked inside an indoor shopping center just around the corner from Trinity College was the lovely This is Knit. The proprietor was charming and gracious, giving me a tour of the shop and explaining how the yarns were organized. I always like to buy yarns from local producers when I travel, and the hand-dyed skeins I brought back from Dublin are simply gorgeous.

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I would highly recommend this shop to anyone making a stop in Dublin. If you’re traveling with non-knitters, the rest of your party can stroll the Trinity campus or take advantage of the multitudes of other shopping options in that area. Don’t let them rush you, though, as there is much to see in This is Knit, and you’ll thoroughly enjoy your conversations with the proprietor and staff. It turns out that even as far away as Ireland, mention of the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival elicits sighs of envy from knitters and yarn enthusiasts.

And though it wasn’t strictly a yarn shop, I have to give honorable mention to this gift shop in County Galway on the rugged west coast:

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I bought a somewhat coarser black wool here in a quantity that I hope is enough to make a cardigan some day. The wool in Ireland, I was told at This is Knit, does tend to be on the rough side, so many dyers will get their wool from outside of Ireland (think: Hedgehog Fibers in Cork, which sources its wool from South America). But the thick, hearty stuff I bought on the west coast will definitely make a lovely garment – one even suitable to the chill climate that assaulted us with while we there in late September/early October. While in County Galway we were often lashed with a very cold rain, but we tried not to complain, because we were rewarded for any discomfort we endured. Turning 180 degrees from the front door of the shop pictured above, we were greeted with this scene:

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And the pub just down the way took care of removing any remaining discomfort with pots of tea and a delicious potato soup accompanied by brown bread and Irish butter. Though Ireland’s weather may chill you to the bone, its people will more than make up for it with their warmth.

 

Today is November 30th, which means that writers and knitters around the world are making a last frantic push to reach their 50,000 goal.

Eight years ago I successfully participated in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Every November, would-be novelists sign up on the site and pledge to write 50,000 words during the month. That’s an average of just under 1,667 words per day. It seems a relatively reasonable goal … until you miss a day and realize you have to write 3,333 in one day to catch up. For anyone trying to hit that magical 50,000-word mark while working a full-time job, shopping for holiday gifts and taking part in any kind of Thanksgiving ritual, that daily goal can be rough. Twice since 2010 I’ve tried and failed to get to 50,000 words in November.

But, taking part in NaNoWriMo is something I think about doing every year. It was exhilarating. Back in 2010, I’d had a story looping through my head for months. I thought constantly about how it would develop, what my characters would do next and how I’d resolve the conflicts they encountered. I can’t remember how I first heard about NaNoWriMo, but I was so glad to have learned about it right when it seemed most appropriate for me to make a lifelong dream of writing a novel a reality. In May 2013, I self-published my novel on Amazon as an e-book. It’s a love story, in case anyone is curious.

Just before Thanksgiving, while browsing patterns on Ravelry, I came across the acronym NaKniSweMo. It appears to have started in 2007 as a companion to the writing challenge, but what NaKniSweMo requires is 50,000 stitches (in the form of a sweater) in the month of November. My idiot brain immediately leapt to, “Wow, I wonder if I could do BOTH in 2019!”

I will not be doing both in 2019. November is already a busy month, so even taking on one of these challenges is … well … challenging. But I am itching to write another novel. I have a deep and sometimes obsessive love of knitting, but writing is my greatest passion. When I was writing my novel, I became so fixated that I would lose track of time, forget to eat, couldn’t focus on mundane things like my job, the dirty dishes or anything else that stood in the way of me pushing the plot forward and fleshing out my characters. I really want to experience that again. At the moment I don’t have the makings of a great story constantly tugging at my ear as I did in 2010, but I have no doubt that if I were to sit down and start writing about some of the little ideas that have come and gone over the years, I could produce more works of fiction that would give me a similar sense of accomplishment.

 

Winter is always a strange time when it comes to being creative/productive. Last winter I made it through the rush of Christmas-present knitting and finished everything on time. Christmas Eve I cast on a gorgeous forest green, lightly variegated, heavy Aran-weight yarn from Briar Rose Fibers to make a hooded cardigan, and that project is still not finished. All the inspiration gained from attending fiber festivals in the fall and the thrill of the first chill in the air is often no match for what is always a long winter in upstate New York. Once the holidays are over and I’m back from my obligatory mid-winter trip to a warmer climate, I’m faced with the reality of many more weeks of cold, dark, dreary weather (no matter what the groundhog says on February 2nd!). I lose steam and become an inert lump in front of my TV watching endless reruns of shows I’ve already seen a hundred times.

But, not this year and not in 2019! … she says optimistically. I resolve not to fall victim to the winter slump, because that leads to springtime malaise and then the limp summertime feeling that makes it oh so tough to pick up the needles again.

I haven’t been completely unproductive though. The image in the header includes not only my sharp new short haircut but also the lovely On the Spice Market shawl made with a bamboo/merino blend called Bam Woo from Whole Knit n’ Caboodle. I’ve knocked out a great little slouch hat that became the first article I used my new Etsy-supplied, personalized tags on:

I indulged my predilection for binging on sock knitting:

and I wrapped up a couple of UFOs:

I’ve also got loads of stuff I want to write about, so here’s to hoping I can keep at it more regularly than I’ve done so far in 2018. Oh yes! I’ve also moved all my knitting-related photo posting to a new Instagram account, @iloveagoodyarn, so if you’re on Instagram and want to follow along, that would be super.

Happy knitting!

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