Thursday, September 29, 2011

Weekend Hats.

Knitted hats are wonderfully useful things. For the knitter, they work on several levels. We often recommend a hat as a second or third project for beginners, as they give the relatively new knitter the opportunity to learn a few new skills: decreasing and working in the round, both with a circular needle and double pointed needles. For more experienced knitters, hats are wonderfully small canvases on which to play with different kinds of designs, from colorwork to cables to lace. Designer, innovator, and all-around knitting heroine Elizabeth Zimmermann often suggested using a hat as a swatch for a bigger project, so that one might find out their honest-to-goodness in-the-round gauge for that project. Another thing about knitted hats is that they make great gifts. They are substantial and happily received, yet small enough that the knitter can give one away without feeling too sad to see them go. 

This week, we got a new collection of hat patterns which show off all the fine qualities of knitted hats. Weekend Hats is compiled by Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Melissa LaBarre, authors of last year's New England Knits, and features patterns from a bunch of other great designers, including Jared Flood, Mary Jane Mucklestone, Kate Gagnon Osborn, and Kirsten Kapur. Here's a peek inside:

All three of these hats were made with yarns that we carry, by the way--Berroco Ultra Alpaca, Malabrigo Worsted, and Schoppel-Wolle Crazy Zauberball, respectively. Come by the shop for more hat inspiration!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Knit Simple.

What's that? Another new magazine, flush with cold-weather knitting inspiration?

They just keep on coming. Check out the holiday issue of Knit Simple, which can be found on the teacart.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cascade addendum.

Along with all of that yarn from Cascade, we also got a beautiful sample sweater, the Cable Lovers' Pullover, knit in Eco +.

The pattern is available as a free download from Cascade's website, along with a handful of other patterns for Eco +. In fact, Cascade offers a selection of free patterns for nearly all of their yarns, including those that I mentioned here yesterday, Lana d'Oro, Eco Duo, and Magnum.

If you've been considering making a sweater in Eco +, come by and examine this sample to get a sense of the weight, stitch definition, or size. You're always welcome to try on any of our samples--just ask, and we'll be happy to pull one down for you. See you soon!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wintry wools.

If you've noticed a leaning towards finer-gauge yarns around here, that's astute. Marion Foale, Kauni, Malabrigo Sock, Isager... these and other thin yarns get a lot of attention on the blog as well as in the shop. Both Anne and I are often happiest working with fingering or lace weight yarns and tiny needles. Don't let that fool you, though. The Hillsborough Yarn Shop is well-stocked in heavier weight yarns of many kinds. We are even more well stocked this week, having received two 40 pound boxes from Cascade. Some of those pounds can be attributed to the worsted weight Lana d'Oro and the aran weight Eco Duo, both of which are soft and fuzzy blends of wool and alpaca.

Most of the weight in those boxes, though, is due to these chunkier yarns: Eco + and Magnum. Each one thicker than the last. The Eco + is a bulky weight wool with a gauge of about 3.5 stitches to the inch on a size 10 needle. It comes in enormous skeins of 478 yards, making it possible to knit an adult sweater in just 3 or 4 skeins, depending on the size.  Eco + comes in a wide spectrum of solid and heathered colors, a spectrum we had only barely dipped into before this last reorder. Now we have about 18 different colors to choose from.

Meanwhile, the super bulky Cascade Magnum is easily the thickest yarn we carry, at 1.5 stitches per inch on a size 15 needle. This is a yarn for serious instant gratification knitting. Want to knit a hat in an evening? Reach for this yarn.

Come by the shop to say hello to these wintry wools from Cascade, and to begin dreaming up projects for these cozy, thick yarns.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Knitting Traditions.

All of the fall knitting and crochet magazines are full of project ideas, cozy sweaters or shawls that you want to cast on for immediately. Not every magazine, though, is packed with great reading material. Knitting Traditions has that advantage over all the other knitting magazines. Pick it up if you're interested in reading about the history of knitting, learning more about techniques from different eras and many parts of the world. The fall 2011 issue just arrived, and a stack of them has made a home on the teacart.

Come to the shop to take a look!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hello, Swans Island.

I could not possibly be more excited to introduce you all to this thrilling new yarn, an organic, hand-dyed merino from the Maine-based company Swans Island.

If you've been in the shop in the past two days, then you know that our excitement for this yarn has been obvious, reflected not only in our squeals of delight and our ear-to-ear grins, but also in its placement: front and center on the teacart.

Swans Island Organic Merino is spun and dyed in Maine, and comes in two weights, a worsted and a fingering. The worsted is put up in 100 gram skeins with 250 yards each, while the fingering boasts 525 yards to the skein. These details blur into the background, however, when you touch this yarn. Immediately, the yarn's main feature is obvious: it is incredibly, amazingly soft. The secret to this softness is in the gentle, minimal processing that comes with ecologically-friendly natural dyes, which you can read more about on the Swans Island website. My new hero, Clara Parkes, author of the Knitter's Book of Wool, wrote a characteristically in-depth review of the Swans Island Worsted on her blog, Knitter's Review--a great resource if you're thinking of giving this yarn a try. And if you're thinking of giving it a try but don't know what to knit, check out the first wave of Swans Island patterns, which can be found in a binder between the two Swans Island baskets.

Myself, I'm the lucky girl who gets to knit up a shop sample with this wondrous stuff, a hat, which I've just cast on for. Only four rows in, I can already tell you that this yarn is a dream. I have several Swans Island sweater daydreams floating around in my head, competing with one another. I'm so excited, I have no idea which to cast on for!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Knitter's Book of Wool.

Though I breezed right past it in last week's round up of the shop's newest books, there is one book in particular that I am really excited about: The Knitter's Book of Wool, by Clara Parkes. I flipped through it once or twice at the shop, and quickly realized it was the kind of serious resource I'd have to take home to add to my own knitter's library. I spent the better part of a Sunday with this book, learning more about yarn in general and wool in particular than ever before in one sitting. Though I am a serious and devoted lover of wool, and though I consider it by far my favorite fiber for knitting, I realized as soon as I began reading that I actually don't know as much about it as I thought I did. Different spinning and dyeing processes, different breeds of sheep and respectively different qualities of wool, the variety of ways and reasons to combine wool with other fibers--all of these pieces of the puzzle I had only a vague understanding of.

The Knitter's Book of Wool brings specificity and clarity to these issues, which only makes sense, given the author. Clara Parkes is the author of The Knitter's Book of Yarn, a similar tome which tackles fibers of all kinds, and of Knitter's Review, a weekly e-newsletter where she reviews yarns, knitting books, needles, and other knitter's tools. For each yarn reviewed, she describes not only the experience of knitting, but also the washing and wearing, making sense of the fiber content and best uses for the yarn along the way. Parkes brings this same thoroughness to every aspect of wool, from sheep to skein, in this book. And then there are patterns, of course, from well-known designers like Cat Bordhi, Pam Allen, and Nancy Bush, for sweaters, mittens, shawls, and scarves, among other things. The patterns, too, are full of helpful information regarding the behavior of wool yarns.

I reached for The Knitter's Book of Wool because I wanted to know more about wool, and now I do, of course, but what really excited me about it is that it made me aware of how very much more there is to know about wool, and how much can be gained from looking more closely at each skein. It is the kind of book that makes you want to read more books, and I know I'll return to it regularly, for information as well as inspiration.

Come to the shop to peruse Clara Parkes' books for yourself, and in doing so, become a more informed lover of fiber.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Misti Alpaca.

A while back, I wrote about our cotton tree, a twirling stand which holds most of our cotton yarns. What I didn't mention then was that the cotton tree has a cold-weather cousin, the alpaca tree, another twirling stand that is home to most of our alpaca yarns. This week, just as the temperature dropped outside, the alpaca tree got some attention. I moved one alpaca blend, Berroco's Ultra Alpaca Light, off of the tree to make room for some of the other alpaca yarns that were crowding it. 

The Ultra Alpaca Light, a favorite of mine, got a nice new home by the other sport-weight yarns, and an armful of new skeins from Misti Alpaca took its place. We've carried Misti Alpaca yarns for some time now, but the skeins were dwindling in number, so it was time to replenish. We got a handful of new colors in the Tonos Worsted, a semisolid blend of merino and alpaca, which fills out the selection nicely.

We also got Misti Alpaca's Tonos Chunky, the bulky weight version of the Tonos Worsted.

Come by the shop to pet these and other lovely, fuzzy yarns on the alpaca tree. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hit the books.

We got lots of new books in this week at the Hillsborough Yarn Shop. Some of them ended up on the teacart, where they're sure to capture attention, but not all new books are so lucky. The teacart is small, after all, and can't show off everything at once, so some new books get tucked on the shelf with little fanfare. Here's a round up of the newest titles available at the shop, so these books can have a proper introduction. 

  • Entree to Entrelac: The Definitive Guide from a Biased Knitter, by Gwen Bortner
  • Wonderland: Modern Baby and Children's Knitting Patterns 
  • Knitting for Little Feet: 40 Booties, Socks, and Slippers for Babies and Kids 
  • Cute and Easy Baby Knits: 25 Adorable Projects for 0-3 Year-Olds, by Susie Johns
  • Crochet So Fine: Exquisite Designs with Fine Yarns, by Kristin Omdahl
  • Crochet Master Class: Lessons and Projects from Today's Top Crocheters, by Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss
  • Crochet Lace Innovations, by Doris Chan
  • The Knitter's Book of Yarn: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn, by Clara Parkes
  • The Knitter's Book of Wool: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Using, and Loving this Most Fabulous Fiber, by Clara Parkes
  • Double Knitting: Reversible Two-Color Designs, by M'lou Baber
  • My Grandmother's Knitting: Family Stories and Inspired Knits from Top Designers, by Larissa Brown, featuring Ysolda Teague, Jared Flood, Meg Swansen, Cookie A., and many more

If any of these books strike your fancy, come to the shop to check them out in person, and if you're having trouble finding one in particular, just ask us where we've hidden them!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Interweave Crochet.

The Fall magazines keep on coming, and with them, the promise of cooler weather soon. Here's one for the crocheters.

Look for it on the teacart!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Namaste. Again.

New to our collection of Namaste bags: Cali Zuma in lime green.

Even newer: Skinny Mini notions cases. Small, sturdy, cute. Tuck a little pair of scissors in there, a handful of crochet hooks, a pack of stitch markers, a measuring tape; whatever you need with you.

And they come (of course) in the full range of Namaste colors. Find them near the Zuma bags in the second room. See you at the shop!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The sock wall.

When you first enter the shop, the wall facing you is the one with most of our sock yarns. Over the past month or two, I've been slowly going through this corner of the shop, trying to bring more order to the sock yarns and getting as many baskets off the floor as space allowed. This past Thursday brought the biggest change for the sock wall: a new set of cubbies and a new shelving arrangement. What do you think?

Our intent was to make a little more room for movement, and to make it easier to see the embarrassment of riches that is our sock yarn collection. Anne and I keep drifting over to this part of the shop and just staring, then saying simply: "We have a lot of sock yarn."

Come by the shop to check out the new set-up, and see all the sock yarn that was hidden in the corner, now brought to light!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

60 More Quick Knits.

Since I first wrote about Cascade 220 Superwash Sport back in February, it has become one of our best-selling yarns, in spite of the fact that we had no pattern support for it. It's been a go-to for both knit and crocheted baby things, due to its stellar washability, and used for colorwork of all kinds, due to its wide spectrum of colors. Those who are comfortable designing their own sweaters, socks, and hats have used Cascade 220 Superwash Sport, and those who like to work from patterns have found that it makes a good substitute for yarns of all kinds, between a sport and a dk gauge. There have been many excuses to work with this yarn, and this week, we received a new book which promises 60 more.

Hats, mittens and scarves of many kinds, all made from Cascade 220 Sport, the hand-wash-only fraternal twin to Cascade 220 Superwash Sport. We actually don't carry the 220 Sport, but as is so often the case, the 220 Superwash Sport makes an excellent substitute. The 220 Sport has slightly more yardage, so you'll want to do a little math when you're choosing 220 Superwash Sport yarn for these projects, but that's the only caveat. Knit with Superwash Sport and your mittens wont felt onto your hands, and neither will your hats when they are accidentally thrown in the washing machine.

Here's a peek inside the book:

And that's only a tenth of it. Find it on the teacart, which is just brimming with fall knit and crochet inspiration.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Helen Hamann scarf kits.

The season of shop sample knitting continues unabated. As soon as the Linen Stitch Scarf sample was completed, I cast on for this next piece, a sample to show off two new things at once. The yarn is a new dk weight washable merino from Plymouth, and the pattern, Retro Scarf, is one we have both on its own and as a kit from designer Helen Hamann. Because of the scarf's interesting construction, I thought I'd better show it in progress as well as finished. As of today, I'm about halfway done, and it looks like this:

Those three long strips will one day be braided, then joined together for a stretch, then separated again at the other end of the scarf. Interesting, no? The yarn is a pleasure to work with, a springy merino with excellent stitch definition.

I'd love to see the Retro Scarf made up in Helen Hamann's alpaca yarn, for which the pattern is written--I bet that would make a lovely scarf. Check out the kits for yourself, if this project appeals, or if you'd rather substitute yarn, as I did for this sample, I'd be happy to show you a few options.

See you at the shop!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


A customer and I were chatting recently about the joys of sock knitting. Specifically, we were waxing rhapsodic on the joys of simple sock knitting--not the intricate colorwork socks that I often daydream of, nor socks adorned with various combinations of cable twists and lace, but basic stockinette or ribbed socks. "Socks are friends," she said, and by that I think she meant that socks need not be impressive to entertain and comfort the knitter. Simple socks can be worked up while watching a movie, or waiting at a doctor's office, or any of the many other places we end up waiting, for that matter. When you reach for knitting to keep your hands busy, but not necessarily your mind, simple socks are often just the thing.

Interrupted is a sock pattern of my own design, which I hope will satisfy knitters looking for simple socks. Knit with the tempting Claudia Hand Painted Fingering yarn, these socks are simple enough to allow variegated colorways to shine and interesting enough to support a more subdued color.

The brightly-colored sock pictured above can be found at the shop, tucked into the cubby where the Claudia Hand Painted Fingering yarn lives. Come by the shop to inspect the sock in person, which should give you a good idea of how the yarn knits up: soft but sturdy. Download the pattern for free on Ravelry, and please let me know what you think!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Linen Stitch All Knit Scarf.

For the past month or two, Anne and I have been working on shop samples at an accelerated rate. As new yarns and kits arrive for fall, new ideas for showing them off are coming to us faster than we can knit them up. Eventually, though, we do finish them, and then proudly display them with the yarn, offering a tangible example of that yarn's potential. Here is one such project, the Linen Stitch All Knit Scarf, which Anne and I passed back and forth, each knitting a few rows here and there until it was completed.

The Linen Stitch All Knit Scarf is available as a kit from Schaefer Yarn, and includes the pattern and three 2oz skeins of Schaefer Heather, a fingering weight blend of superwash merino, silk, and nylon. Worked in linen stitch in the round, this scarf has a woven look to it and a simple but unusual construction.

Around and around you go, never having to purl, and then at the end a small portion of your knitting is unraveled and braided to create fringe.

As I've mentioned here before, Schaefer Yarn names their variegated colorways after memorable women, from Elizabeth Zimmermann to Gloria Steinem to Jane Addams. Not only does each skein honor a memorable woman, each of the six color combinations honors a memorable female fiber artist: Sheila Hicks, Anni Albers, Diane Itter, Lenore Tawney, Magdalena Abakanowicz, and Claire Zeisler.

Come by the shop to try on the scarf and see these beautiful colors in person, and don't resist the urge to get lost on google image search, exploring the work of the incredible artists these kits are named for.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Interweave Knits: Holiday Gifts.

New to the shop this week: Interweave's yearly reminder to start working on holiday gifts before it's too late. The 2011 issue of Holiday Gifts is full of ideas, from hats and mitts like those pictured on the cover to socks, scarves, shawls, children's things, and other garments. Here, take a look inside.

Find it on the teacart!