Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hello, Coast.

There are a lot of things to look at in the Hillsborough Yarn Shop. We have a small space and a large inventory, with many yarns, projects, and books fighting for attention. One of my hopes for this blog is to highlight some of those yarns, projects, and books, one at a time, so that they can get the attention they deserve. So far, I've been writing mostly about the newest yarns we've received, but the yarn that was here before the blog is equally blog-worthy. To that end, I'll be profiling those yarns with a series of introductory-type posts which I'll tag as "Hello" posts.

Today: Coast.

Coast is a worsted weight blend of cotton and wool from Takhi Yarns. Because of the fiber content, the colors have a heathered quality, making even the brighter colors look subtle and sophisticated without losing stitch definition. The advantages of cotton and wool blends are many: with cotton comes lightness, perfect for our climate, and with wool comes elasticity, making this yarn a bit easier on the knitter's hands. The wool content of this yarn also gives it some memory, meaning that sweaters knit in Coast shouldn't stretch out the way 100% cotton sweaters sometimes do. 

What to knit with Coast? Any pattern that calls for a worsted weight yarn should work well with Coast, which gives you a lot of options. It looks to me like it wants to be a cardigan, the kind you bring to restaurants in case it's cold in there. A spring cardigan, for overcast days or aggressive air-conditioning. My own knitting hunches aside, Takhi put out some pattern support for Coast, which is worth browsing if you're looking to knit with it.

As always, Ravelry is a wonderful resource for exploring the possibilities of a yarn you've not yet tried. Check there to see what other knitters have done with Coast. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Familiar cottons.

Getting a box in the mail is exciting. I think we can all agree on this. Getting a box in the mail at the shop is just as exciting, it turns out, even though it happens very frequently. It's even exciting to get a box in the mail when we already know what will be inside, because we ordered it. Even when what's inside is an old, familiar yarn, ordered simply to restock, somehow it's still exciting enough that I feel like documenting it.

Part of the excitement is in the unpacking: cutting into a box and glimpsing its contents for the first time. Also worth photographing, apparently.

The best part, though, is the satisfaction that comes with seeing all the colors together--the old colors that haven't sold yet and the new old colors that we're welcoming back. The yarn just looks happier when its full range of colors is represented. 

So: welcome back, Takhi Mia, whose swatch I just finished last week. And a special welcome to the new Takhi Mia Handpaints, pictured above in plastic, and below in its new home on the cotton tree

Welcome back, Fantasy Naturale. This Plymouth yarn is one sturdy, worsted weight, mercerized cotton. A basic, inexpensive yarn with many possibilities. I've seen sweaters for adults as well as babies made from Fantasy Naturale, and hats, and blankets, and washcloths. Look for it on the bottom of the cotton tree.

Welcome back, Soft Cotton. Like Fantasy Naturale, this yarn is sturdy and inexpensive, but it does tend to be a little bit softer. Hence the name. Soft Cotton used to live in the front room of the shop in a little basket near the window, but since we replenished its colors it graduated to a larger basket near the other cottons. 

Welcome back, Mandarin Petit. This fingering weight yarn is, like the rest, 100% cotton, and is thus very versatile. Washcloths, baby things, summer tops, even socks. 

We've seen Mandarin Petit put to particularly good use with Lucy Neatby's Celestial Sweater for Small People, a pattern you can find in our "Babies" pattern binder. We also offer a class on this sweater, taught by Carol, which begins on April 3rd. As of now, there are still two spaces left. If you want one of them, sign up on the shop website. Come by the shop to see a sample Celestial Sweater hanging in our window, and to welcome back these familiar cottons.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Lately I have been knitting swatches for the shop.

Takhi Mia.

We try to have a sample of every yarn we sell, whether it's an elaborate sweater hanging on the wall, or just a few inches of garter stitch tucked into the basket with the yarn. A swatch can tell you a lot about a particular yarn. How's the stitch definition? How will it drape? Where will the colors fall in a variegated yarn? Does it soften after knitting? Sometimes we knit up an entire skein, which can give a tangible sense of how far a skein goes. Most importantly, but hardest to describe, swatches can give you a sense of just how it knits up.

Mirasol Sawya.

Swatches teach the knitter other important lessons, too, which are not immediately apparent from a finished swatch. Does the yarn have a tendency to split? How does the skein behave on the ball-winder? Is it a more delicate yarn, or a tough one that can take a few rippings-out? Another big reason for us to swatch our yarns is to answer these kinds of questions for you. I can't have knit a sweater out of each yarn in the shop, but most yarns either Anne or I have at least swatched with, so we can tell you a little something about it that you might not otherwise know.

Queensland Haze.
The triangular kerchief above is one I knit as an oversized swatch of Queensland Haze, a dk weight blend of cotton and corn viscose. One 100 gram skein goes quite a long way, as you can see. It's a simple construction, but for whatever reason I started and ripped out at least five or six times before I got a shape I liked. Haze more than survived all that ripping out. On the sixth start, the yarn was just as smooth and sturdy as it was on the first. It's these kinds of things we learn from swatching. If you're curious about a particular yarn, don't hesitate to ask one of us just how it knits up.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reading material.

It hasn't been a huge week-or-so for new yarns, though I do have a few to share in the coming days. There have been new books arriving, though, in their trademark smaller, heavier boxes. New yarn is exciting, of course, but I must say, I get a particular thrill opening a box of knitting books. My fondness for resource-type knitting books having already been expressed, this may come as no surprise. Join me, then, in welcoming a smattering of the latest books.

60 Quick Baby Knits: Blankets, Booties, Sweaters & More in Cascade 220 Superwash, from Sixth & Spring Books. But why, you might ask, do we carry this book, when we don't carry Cascade 220 Superwash (at least, not in the worsted weight--we've got sport weight)? The answer: we are all about yarn substitution. We have at least eight worsted weight washable wools that I can think of off the top of my head, not to mention worsted weight cottons, which are also popular for baby things. A good pattern is a good pattern, and there is no one right yarn for any given pattern. Confused about how to substitute yarn? Just ask. Figuring out which yarn to use for a pattern is one of my favorite pastimes. 

The Knitting Answer Book, by Margaret Radcliffe. A small but thorough reference guide, perfect for a new knitter, or anyone who has ever wanted a knitting reference right in their knitting bag.

Fresh Vests to Knit, by Edie Eckman. A booklet for those knitters that seek only vest patterns.

A trio of toe-up sock books came in to join the other sock books: Socks From the Toe Up and Toe Up Socks For Every Body, both by Wendy Johnson, and Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks, by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. Marion's magic loop sock class has inspired many knitters to work socks from the toe up, rather than cuff-down, and our growing collection of toe-up sock books reflects this. If you're looking to choose between these titles, Marion is a wonderful source, as I'm pretty sure she's read and knit from nearly every one. As of now, there are still three spaces in Marion's next magic loop sock class, by the way. Interested?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Noro corner.

In the second room of the shop, one corner is devoted almost entirely to our rather extensive collection of Noro yarns. Kureyon, Silk Garden, Iro, Yuzen, Maiko, Taiyo, Kochoran... the list goes on. From fingering weight up through bulky, with fibers from wool and angora to cotton and silk, there are many kinds of Noro yarns in that corner. Regular customers may remember the Noro corner as a tempting array of baskets arranged prettily on an antique ladder. As the shop grew, so did the Noro collection, at such a rate that it outgrew its pretty display. Recently, the Noro corner had become a precarious, overwhelming display that seemed about to topple. Those days are gone. It was a big week for big changes at the Hillsborough Yarn Shop, first the cotton tree and now the new, improved Noro corner. Now, for the essential, incredible before-and-after.



And after:

Everything that was crammed into that corner is still there--not only all the Noro, but also all the pattern booklets that go with the Noro yarns, the Lantern Moon and Hiya Hiya exchangeable circular needle sets, the Great Adirondack roving, the silk yarn-out boxes, and a handful of Ella Rae yarns. The same large quantity of things in the same small space, but neater, easier to look at, and with more space to walk.

We can hardly believe what an improvement this is. Come to the shop and see the difference!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Anna Zilboorg.

About a month ago, on Valentine's Day, the Hillsborough Yarn Shop hosted designer Anna Zilboorg for a special workshop on embellishing knitted garments with embroidery. As the class was much larger than our usual groups of four to six, we met at the public library to learn embroidery from Anna.

The workshop was inspired by an incredible embroidered sweater that Anna wore into the shop one day. Anne and everyone else who happened to witness this sweater requested a class from Anna, and happily, she agreed.

Anna's sweater features a twisted stitch pattern from one of Barbara Walker's stitch dictionaries, striking embroidery along the traveling stitches, and the most perfect handknit buttonhole I've seen. The directions for this buttonhole are in Anna Zilboorg's Knitting for Anarchists, a fantastic resource.

It was a truly wonderful day, spent learning new techniques and admiring the talent of not only Anna Zilboorg herself, but also all of the knitters gathered to learn from her. I have no doubt that everyone left newly inspired, ready to embellish, experiment, and invent. Myself, I left inspired to pull a few favorite knitting resource books down from the shelf. Anna's sweater construction has really stayed with me since the workshop, and design ideas are percolating...

Those of you who are sorry to have missed the workshop can still get in on the Zilboorg craze that has swept the Hillsborough Yarn Shop. We carry Anna Zilboorg's books, Knitting for Anarchists and Magnificent Mittens & Socks, as well as the Jan/Feb issue of PieceWork, which features Anna's pattern for embroidered socks. Additionally, Nancy will soon be leading a knit-along at the shop for those interested in designing a sweater using Anna Zilboorg's method, a truly unique construction that wowed us all at the workshop. Check out the course description on the shop website if you're interested.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Interweave Crochet.

The Spring 2011 issue of Interweave Crochet magazine is here. It joined the spring issues of Vogue and Interweave Knits on the teacart today. Check there to browse three magazines worth of new spring patterns.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The cotton tree.

For a moment, between closing on Thursday evening and opening on Friday morning, there was an empty space in the Hillsborough Yarn Shop.

As regular customers likely know, an empty space doesn't last long in our shop. This particular space was filled with a new display, built for the shop by John, husband of friend-of-the-shop Rosi. We call it the cotton tree.

The cotton tree helped us to get many baskets of yarn off the floor and into view, and also created a specific space for yarns with cotton as all or part of its fiber content. Just in time for spring. We couldn't be more pleased with our cotton tree. Come to the shop and give it a spin!

Thank you so much, John and Rosi!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

From Plymouth.

A 48 pound box of yarn arrived from Plymouth this week, with three kinds in many different colors. Plymouth Select Worsted Merino Superwash is not a new yarn to us, but its easy care and bright color palette have made it popular at the shop, so we were in need of refilling. Composed of soft, springy merino, this yarn also boasts excellent stitch definition. There are many reasons to recommend it, but I'm particularly likely to point it out to someone knitting for babies or children, as it can be thrown in the washer and dryer with no problem.

We also received the new Kettle Dyed version of the same yarn, which is tonally variegated. There's only one color in each colorway, but that color is darker in some spots and brighter in others, giving it some texture. While the solid Worsted Merino Superwash yarn comes in 218 yard skeins, its Kettle Dyed cousin offers a whopping 436 yards per skein.

We also replenished our supply of Plymouth's Trabajos Del Peru, an aran weight single ply yarn which comes in semi-solid and multi-color variegated colorways. It's made to be hand-washed rather than machine-washed, but don't let that intimidate you if soft, fuzzy, slightly thick-and-thin yarn is right up your alley.

A little out of the way, in that bottom cubby, but worth finding. As for the Worsted Merino Superwash, it can be found on the right hand side of the door to the shop, with fellow washable wools from Dream in Color and the Unique Sheep. Come and find them!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Getting our sock yarn fix.

It's been a big week for sock yarn here at the Hillsborough Yarn Shop. First, our dwindling collection of hand-dyed sock yarn from Pagewood Farm was replenished. We carry both Denali, which is a sturdy combination of 80% superwash merino wool and 20% nylon, and Alyeska, a soft blend of 80% superwash merino, 10% cashmere, and 10% nylon. Here they are snuggled up together in their basket.

I had just arranged the Pagewood Farm sock yarn, it seemed, when the next box of sock yarn arrived. From Crystal Palace, a brand new yarn named Sausalito. It's an extremely soft blend of 80% superwash merino wool and 20% nylon. Sausalito also self-stripes, much like Crystal Palace's Mini Mochi, but with a slightly different effect because Sausalito is 2-ply while Mini Mochi is a single ply. Where one color begins to fade into the next, the two plies are different colors for a stretch, looking rather marled.

We were also pleased to receive a box from The Alpaca Yarn Company, filled with their Paca-Peds sock yarn as well as Paca-Paints, a worsted weight yarn. These yarns aren't new to us, but like the Pagewood Farm yarn, we had been running really low on them until this week. In fact, we were down to one lonesome skein of Paca-Peds. Those days are gone now. Welcome back, Paca-Paints and -Peds!

All this is to say: if you're looking for your sock yarn fix, it's probably here. See you at the shop!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More Kauni.

We couldn't resist. More Kauni, in more of the self-striping colorways, and more solid colors, too. Also: more Kauni patterns, enough to start a "Kauni Patterns" binder. Look for it with the other binders to see what kinds of things you can make with this yarn. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Habu cotton.

Many visitors to the shop have admired the two kits that live on the teacart: the Kusha Kusha scarf kits from Habu Textiles, and the striped shawl kits from Be Sweet. Last week, these two kits were joined by another yarn from Habu: a lace-weight cotton boucle, which can be seen in the basket in the above photo. The juxtaposition inspired Anne to cast on for the striped Be Sweet shawl with the Habu cotton, suitable for those knitters who have the misfortune of being allergic to the mohair yarn used in the Be Sweet kits. I haven't snapped a picture of the shawl yet, so you'll just have to come to the shop in the meantime to see it, or better yet, feel it. It is extremely lightweight, elegant and delicate. A shawl for all seasons, but particularly those that make wool and mohair less than comfortable. I'll post a picture soon, but I'm serious about coming in to feel it: you should. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The pattern binders.

They're not flashy, the pattern binders. They're heavy, filled nearly to bursting, and are tucked away at the bottom of a shelf by the window where you may never notice them unless you're looking for them.

The binders are stuffed with single patterns, which are perfect for those seeking an inexpensive alternative to a book filled with patterns. Suppose you want to knit a baby sweater, but you're not looking to knit ten baby sweaters, or a book's worth of baby hats and blankets. While a book of baby patterns might overwhelm you, a single pattern may be right up your alley. This same logic may be applied to any number of knitting or crochet scenarios, which is why the binders are brimming with patterns and the shelves are brimming with binders. Don't see what you're looking for on the shelf? Ahem: check on the floor.

Last week, I put out so many new single patterns that we were forced to add a new binder to our collection. What was formerly one binder, labeled "Shawls and Scarves," is now two: "Lace-weight Shawls and Scarves" and "Scarves, Wraps, and Shawls," whose patterns make use of thicker yarns, from sport weight up through bulky. There are plenty of new patterns in just about every other category, as well: hats, gloves, blankets, vests, and sweaters for men, women, and children. Some are beginner-level and some are advanced, and the rest are somewhere in between. Give the binders a try next time you're in the shop--there are many wonderful patterns hiding there.