Today, I’m interviewing Cindy, the editor of a newish website called Yarn Places. Cindy is a bit of a Renaissance woman. She was an architect for the first ten years of her career. She then returned to school for a Masters in Social Work. A few years ago, she stopped working as a social worker. And, she’s written two children’s books: Joni and the Fallen Star: Helping Children Learn Teamwork and Harry the Happy Caterpillar Grows: Helping Children Adjust to Change. Somehow, she also made time in there to found Yarn Places with her husband, Mike. Oh, and Cindy is a multi-crafter, enjoying drawing, furniture painting, beading, mosaic, and knitting.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first become interested in yarn crafts?
Cindy: I am kind of a serial artsy craftsy person. I taught myself to knit in high school from a book. I made about four or five sweaters and then moved on to the next thing. Since then, I’ve knitted off and on, but took it up again in earnest when I became pregnant with my daughter, Zoe. It all started with a baby blanket, then I moved onto hats, sweaters, Christmas stockings… then scarves and sweaters for my husband, then me. I love it! It relaxes me- I find yarn very sensual.
UC: What inspired you to start Yarn Places?
Cindy: My husband has a website called Map Muse, which maps all kind of niche interests – everything from farmers’ markets to disc golf courses. One of interests mapped on his site is yarn shops. Over the years, the yarn shops page has been one of the most popular.
As I got more into knitting, I talked more about it – the yarns I liked, the local fiber festival, my problems with gauge, the knitting retreat I wanted to attend one day. I guess he was actually listening, because one day at a coffee shop, he suggested we develop a website devoted to all places yarn! I loved the idea! In no time, he had drafted me as editor, and set his staff to work on procuring info on LYSs, fiber farms, fiber mills, retreats, festivals, yarn crawls…you name it! (UC comment: You can read more about the founding of Yarn Places here.)
UC: Tell us more about Yarn Places. What are your current features?
Cindy: We see ourselves as kind of a one-stop shop for everything yarn. We map and provide information (photos, description, hours, reviews, etc.) on LYSs, fiber farms, fiber mills and knitting events including retreats, festivals, yarn crawls, conferences, workshops, cruises, farm tours, etc. I also write a blog in which I try to keep readers up on the latest events and happenings in the world of fiber – everything from upcoming festivals, to yarn bombings, to charity drives, to yarn shop openings and closings.
We feature a yarn place each week, which includes an interview with the owner of a LYS or fiber farm. Lastly, we have developed iPhone and Android apps of LYSs across the US and Canada, which folks find really useful on travel.
UC: How is it possible to keep all that information current?
Cindy: Keeping information up to date is definitely our biggest challenge. We used multiple sources when we developed our database and cross referenced those sources for inconsistencies. Then we contacted the yarn places and asked them to confirm or update their information. In addition, visitors to the site are encouraged to update information, report closings, and add missing shops through easy to use links. Visitors’ input is reviewed for accuracy then posted the next day. Meanwhile, I actively search the internet for LYS openings and closings on an ongoing basis.
UC: How do you envision Yarn Places expanding in the coming year?
In the next year (and beyond), we would like to increase the scope of Yarn Places. Presently we cover the US and much of Canada, but some day, we’d like to cover the world! Something else we have been talking about is creating a Worldwide Yarn Bombing Map with photos and info of major yarn bombings across the globe. We did a Map of International Yarn Bombing Day this year which was a lot of fun – it will be something like that but much broader in scope.
Thanks so much, Cindy, for stopping by to talk to us about Yarn Places! We look forward to seeing it expand.
This week I made progress towards two of my most challenging YOP goals.
My sister and I were able to decide on a motif for my mom’s milestone birthday blanket.
We both had a really hard time choosing a motif, so I made a hybrid. My hybrid pattern uses the center and final row from Afghan #9 by Valerie Vandergriff with the cluster-y inner border from Crown Jewels by Melinda Miller.
I picked the yarn, Cascade 220 Superwash, and my sister picked the color, Banana Cream.
I special ordered a whole bunch of it from my LYS, Knitty City. I know that the top of the bedspread will be in this color and with this pattern, but I’m still deciding on whether the side drops will be in the same color and pattern. I’m going to wait until the 42 squares I need are finished and joined before even thinking about borders :).
And now we interrupt this blog post with a customer service rant. You may remember that Knitty City is my favorite NYC yarn shop. I have five stories from this week to demonstrate why! My week started out on a high note – I was able to easily put in my special yarn order to Knitty City via email, and I received all responses via email in a timely fashion. This shows that the folks at Knitty City are not only responsive but also that they understand that if you send an email, you would likely prefer an email (not phone) response.
I spent most of the week in training for the Ravellenic Games, and I wanted to get a set of size 1 40″ circular needles in case I wasn’t able to get gauge with the needles I had at home. I had four bad customer service experiences at four different Manhattan yarn shops while trying to get a set of needles!
- I stopped at a new-to-me LYS after work on Tuesday. I arrived in the store to see three women knitting away feverishly in complete, perhaps tension-filled, silence. One looked up and said to let her know if I needed any help. The shelves were a mess and only partially full, and with all three women sitting on the same side of the table, it wasn’t easy to get access to the patterns located behind them. (I wasn’t looking for patterns, but you get my point.) There were very few notions in stock, but I decided to pick up some needle point protectors anyway. (Side note: I come from a family of entrepreneurs and run a small business myself, so I really try to support small businesses when possible.) It was only at this point that I realized that all three women actually worked there. When I mentioned I was looking for a specific needle size, no one offered to order it for me.
- After work on Wednesday, I decided to stop by a different LYS that usually has a broad selection of needle sizes. I didn’t see any 40″ circulars in the display, so I asked if they had size 1 in stock. After being asked about what type of needle I wanted (wood, metal, etc.), they realized they didn’t have any size 1 needles anyway. Again, no one asked if I would like them to order it for me and by now I was getting really down.
- I called a third LYS in another neighborhood and they told me they did have size 1 needles in stock. Unfortunately, due to commuting times, I wasn’t able to get there before closing. I decided to stop by the next day (Thursday), and went by about 25 minutes before their listed closing time. The shop was closed with the gate pulled down. And, of course, there was no sign indicating they had closed early.
- On Thursday morning, I had also emailed a fourth shop to see if they had size 1 needles in stock. After receiving no response by Friday morning, I stopped by this shop after running errands. The clerk asked, “Didn’t you call yesterday?” to which I responded that I had sent an email. Even though she knew someone was looking for this particular size, the woman didn’t know if the needles were in stock. So I waited while she looked through several disorganized piles of needles before determining there weren’t any in stock. Again, no one asked if I would like to order this size. And, about two hours after I got home, they left a voice mail in response to my email saying the needles weren’t in stock.
After all of this, I figured size 1 needles must be extremely rare. With only the slightest of hope, I dropped by Knitty City on the way home. Not only was I treated warmly, but there were FOUR different brands of size 1 40″ needles for me to choose from. I guess the moral of the story is just go to Knitty City every time and don’t even bother with the other places!
And now back to my YOP post :). I did end up needing the size 1 needles to get gauge. I finally chose the Graphic pattern from Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. My thought process went this way: according to The Knitter’s Book of Socks, I should have at least 10% negative ease for the circumference of my sock. After convincing MC to measure our feet based on the chart in The Sock Knitter’s Handbook, this pattern seemed to be the right size. And, with my brand new needles, I was able to get the right gauge!
Unfortunately, my first several attempts at making this sock were disastrous. Let’s just say the combination of poor lighting in my apartment, the small needle size, and my lack of familiarity with knitting socks led to a few issues. Yesterday I restarted and things seem to be going much better now (perhaps because I have knit this very same section four times already?).
I’m not too confident that I’ll finish this pair before the end of the Ravellenic Games, but I really hope I do. Because I have the feeling that if I don’t, these will sit as a WIP until the 2014 Ravellenic Games.
I also forgot to declare how many motifs I wanted to make for the Games, so I couldn’t participate in the Modular Relay :(. Instead, I dug out stash wool that is over 1 year old, and decided to make more squares for the felted wool blanket I’m making for myself as part of the stashbusting event. I finished these three yesterday.
For more Year of Projects posts, visit Come Blog-a-long on Ravelry.
One of the yarn shops I planned to visit during my trip to Pennsylvania was out of business, so I decided to add another shop to my list. Since I was staying just one train stop away from Swarthmore, I planned a visit to Finely a Knitting Party on my way back to New York.
The shop is conveniently located about a block and a half from the Swarthmore train stop. Finely a Knitting Party feels quite different from the three yarn shops I visited in Philadelphia. You can tell it is the only yarn shop in town, because it doesn’t seem concerned with establishing a particular niche.
The yarn is sparsely arranged on cubby shelves and there is plenty of space to walk around. The selection is dominated by a few brands like Brown Sheep, Classic Elite, Crystal Palace, and Plymouth Yarn. There was a good range of fiber types, but most of the yarn seemed basic and no frills – the kind of yarn that most people would want access to if there was only one yarn shop in town. Anything that was slightly unusual was also pricey. The one skein of yarn I was really drawn to was Mushishi but it was outside of my strict travel budget.
I didn’t see any crochet hooks or other signs that the shop might be crochet-friendly. There was a selection of knitting needles in a few brands behind the counter. The shop has a large table in the center of the store’s main room for classes. The schedule online shows that there are daily classes, and there are pictures posted throughout the store of cheerful students holding up completed projects. This looks like the type of LYS where you can meet new knitting buddies and hang out.
I love handmade soap, so I decided to buy some Sioux City Soap instead of yarn.
but I can’t understand why the brand is called Sioux City, since it is made locally in Pennsylvania?
Since I was on a skin care kick, I also bought this lotion.
As I mentioned, this shop carries a solid selection of basic yarns and looks like it has a lot of fun classes. I’m not sure it is worth a special trip to visit, but if I’m in the area again, I might stop by.
Last week, I took my dream vacation and spent a few days at Pendle Hill in Wallingford, PA. The main purpose of the vacation was to relax, enjoy the silence, (wait, what is this? some kind of retro pop music playlist??), spend some time outdoors, and live an unscheduled life, and what’s more relaxing than a trip to the yarn shop?
I’ve been on a pretty severe yarn diet since December, so I planned to splurge during my trip. On Tuesday, I decided to spend the day in Philadelphia visiting yarn shops. I gave myself a budget of $25 per shop. Since I wanted to spend time outside, I actually walked from shop to shop and back to the train station (about 5 miles, according to Google Maps, plus the mile to and from the train station in Wallingford). It was one of those days when it alternates between pouring rain and sweltering heat, so I thank all of the shops I visited for allowing my presumably stinky self inside!
How did I develop my list? First, I stopped by the Crochet Liberation Front Headquarters group on Ravelry and looked at their list of Crochet-Friendly LYSs. Though I now knit also, I want to spend my money where crocheters are respected and appreciated! Then I got directions from Google Maps and wrote them down on a piece of paper. (Then, I got lost and ended up using the Hop Stop app on my phone, which actually seemed to provide more concise routes.)
Stop 1: Rosie’s Yarn Cellar
Rosie’s Yarn Cellar is a small, quiet shop that’s down a short flight of steps. The staff are very friendly and helpful, but in a quiet way. There is a store dog (a pug, if memory serves), who makes some very cute little sounds while trying to kill his toy duck.
The store has a great selection for a shop of its size and a broad range of prices. I saw yarns for $5 as well as yarns for $30. The prices seemed the least expensive of all the shops I visited, and were certainly lower than NYC prices.
It took me a while to figure out how this store got its crochet-friendly reputation, but it does have an entire shelf of crochet books, and crochet hooks behind the counter. I was super amazed that knitting needles are out on display for you to browse and right next to the door. (You can tell you’re not in New York City!)
My favorite feature of this shop is the little signs by each yarn that tell you the details you would find on the label (e.g., fiber content, suggested gauge and needle size, brand name) as well as the price. This made for much easier browsing. For people who like to buy patterns in the shop, there had tons of binders listed by project type.
It was great to see yarns that I haven’t found locally like Araucania, Bijou Basin Ranch, Mountain Meadow Wool Mill, and O-Wool. In the end, I decided on a skein of Ella Rae Lace Merino that was on sale.
I still haven’t decided if I think it is more black or more blue. I hope it will one day work itself into a project for me – perhaps a pair of socks? (Sock people, tell me now if this is a good choice or if I should move on to another project idea!) I’m still dreaming about that Mountain Meadow Wool Mill yarn, but I didn’t want to go over budget by getting two skeins.
I was somewhat bewildered by this sign in the window.
Stop 2: Sophie’s Yarns
I decided that my next stop should be furthest from the station and that I would work my way back. I guess I should have done more research, because after a very long walk, I discovered this shop was closed. I was surprised because usually Yelp seems to be updated when a shop shuts down, but it was still listed.
Stop 3: Nangellini Gallery
After briefly mumbling to myself, I continued on my journey and went to Nangellini Gallery.
This shop is in an artsy looking area and has a very funky vibe to it. When you enter, the first room is more of a gallery space with freeform, funky, artsy wearable projects on display. I’m embarrassed to say that I had a great picture of this room, but I accidentally saved over it. (D’oh!) You can find hooks and needles on a display rack on this floor as well as some notions like shawl pins and stitch markers.
On the upstairs level, you can find yarn as well as some spinning supplies like drop spindles and batts. The yarn selection completely fits the vibe of the store, and there is a lot of novelty and highly textured yarn, as well as chunky, multicolor yarn. There is a very small collection of crochet books, but it includes some freeform books that really fit into the store’s theme. There’s also a section of crochet cotton.
I don’t use novelty yarn or very bulky yarns too often, so for a while I was debating whether I should buy anything. And then I saw this.
I ended up with a skein of Nancy’s Hair by No Two Snowflakes. I confess I picked it because it was superwash merino and had the most yardage of anything in the local section.
I think this will probably end up as a gift for my best friend from high school, CG. She is an artist and wears a lot of bold colors. Also, she would actually find the story of how I got the yarn entertaining. (And, she’s already on my Holiday Stashdown Challenge list.)
The staff at this shop are very friendly in a more conversational way. While I was in the shop, an older customer came in with a wedding dress her mom had made her in acrylic yarn (insert large number of years) in the past. Everyone oohed and aahed and I could tell you can get as much attention as you want in this shop. There are also some comfy chairs in the gallery area.
Stop 4: Loop
By the time I arrived at Loop, I was tired and a bit nervous about catching the train back in time for dinner, so I didn’t browse for as long.
Loop reminded me the most of a New York City yarn shop. It has a large table in the center (presumably for classes and hanging out) and I was familiar with more brands of yarn being sold in the shop, like Berroco, Brooklyn Tweed, Malabrigo, and Spud & Chloe. It was a bit pricier than the other shops as well.
When I saw the display of Addi Swing hooks near the counter, I immediately understood why this shop was labelled crochet-friendly. And, I gave myself permission to go $13 over budget since I only visited three (instead of four) shops.
This should match my winter coat, so I see some winter accessories in my future!
Loop also has a rewards program and $5.95 flat rate shipping for web orders.
Do you have a favorite Philadelphia yarn shop?
I surprised myself this weekend with the sudden desire to buy yarn. I had planned to make a bag for my mom for Mother’s Day, but I had a sudden urge to make her a pineapple shawl on Saturday afternoon. I looked through my stash, but I didn’t have enough of any light weight yarn in a color that would suit her. I decided to break my month’s old yarn diet and head to Knitty City on Sunday afternoon.
I’ve never used madelinetosh yarn before, but it seemed suitably fancy for a Mother’s Day gift. I only had two skeins wound, since I’m not sure I’ll need the third. But with such a short project deadline, I have to be sure about supplies!
What’s that little bag inside the bag, you ask?
I’m feeling good about this combination. Now let’s just hope the shawl can come together in seven nights!
Today’s topic is knitting and crocheting heroes, and I think it is well known that mine is my grandma. However, I’ve been under a lot of stress at work these days (still on that 10-12 hour a day kick) so I decided not to write a dramatic post about missing my grandma and instead fantasize about the wild card entry: crafting a perfect day.
I’ve been thinking for a while about taking some time off from work and getting away from the City (and the commute, and the daily grind, and the lines of Allman Brothers or Further fans who have been invading the neighborhood to party near the Beacon Theater for the last two months). MC thought I should take a few days alone, without my phone, away from it all (even from him!).
Back in my first round of grad school days, I had a scholarship from the Roothbert Fund. We were invited each year for a meeting at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat center near Philadelphia. I think a short retreat to Pendle Hill would mark the start of a wonderful crafty getaway. It would be easy for me to get there, via public transportation, so I wouldn’t have to stress about flying or spending tons of money on cabs or anything outlandish. I remember the rooms being simple yet comfortable, and the food as being healthy and tasty. The grounds are also beautiful. I imagine myself bringing up a few stitch dictionaries, some of the unusual yarns in my stash that I haven’t yet dared to experiment with, and a full selection of hooks and needles.
Each morning, I would rise naturally, instead of in response to the alarm. After breakfast, I would take a brisk walk on the grounds and look for the ideal place to crochet for that morning. I might attend a Quaker worship service if I felt moved to do so. And then I would spend a few hours working on a spontaneous project.
In the afternoon, I’d take another walk, and then I’d venture into Philadelphia to (what else?) check out the yarn shops. I’ve been pretty good about my yarn diet so far this year, and I’d only buy something which seemed appealing for an immediate project. I haven’t been yarn shopping in Philly before, but it seems like there are quite a few options (suggestions, anyone??).
In the evening, I’d settle down in my room for writing. I’d use the time to work on some book ideas I’ve been trying to write up into proposals. I would have my laptop with me, but I’m not sure yet if I’d allow myself internet access. As much as I love blogging and reading other blogs, sometimes you just have to turn it off! I’d also bring up my Kindle Fire loaded with books, so that I could spend some time reading.
After a few days, the joys of solitude might wear off (at least in regards to missing MC and my cat) and I’d venture back to New York City. But until then, I’d explore my creativity in a beautiful environment with healthy inspirations at every corner.
The backstory: I usually schedule my posts during the week, but I thought it would be more fun if I posted during each day for Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. Photography is something that I’ve been working on since I started this blog, and today’s challenge definitely had me stumped. (I’ve already seen some great, elaborately staged pictures like Faith‘s, and wonderful collections like this one of awesome crochet fashion photography from Crochet Concupiscencethis morning.)
After following yesterday’s theme around the blogosphere, I started to notice that quite a few people were reluctant to use (or even fearful) of orange yarn. Naturally, my stash hoarding self wanted to run out and buy some orange yarn to rectify that, and that’s where the orange monster (formerly of Weight Watchers fame) came in. You see, I actually had my very own orange yarn that I’ve never even used sitting in my stash. Yep, that’s a skein of Malabrigo Rios in Glazed Carrot that I bought at Knitty City last year. So there’s no need to buy any more – yarn diet preserved.
Last fall, I bought a skein of Cascade 220 Superwash in 817 at Knitty City with the intent of making my dad a cable hat for the winter solstice. My dad has a really awesome handmade, wool, cabled sweater that he purchased from Ireland via mail order way back when. I thought a complementary hat would be a great gift. Of course, in November and December, I was totally wrapped up (pun not really intended) in making the blanket for my sister (still unfinished, sob), and didn’t have time for any other handmade gifts.
Then in December, I joined Revelations of a Delusional Knitter‘s challenge to Surmount the Stash in 2012. By chance a few days later, I read about creating your own yarn stash kits, and I immediately set out to look for a pattern to match this yarn. I picked this pattern because the cable patterns were a bit different and interesting and because it seemed like it would actually work as a unisex design. (It didn’t hurt that there were already a ton of projects posted on Ravelry.)
I started this in mid-February, but for the first ten days or so I was driven mad by the needles I was using. I actually ripped the whole thing out and started from scratch with a set of 40″ Chiaogoo RED Lace Circulars (also purchased at Knitty City) in US size 9. After that it was pretty much smooth sailing.
In terms of the pattern, I found it easy to read and follow, and I like the way the cable positioning alternated. If I were to make another, I would probably make the ribbing for 2.5″ instead of 3.” I also made a bunch of mistakes while knitting on the subway (like doing a right leaning cable when I was supposed to do a left leaning cable) and to avoid ripping it out, I kept repeating the mistake. (I’d try to avoid those mistakes if I were to make another – at least, I should make different mistakes!)
The hat actually ended up being a great sample to bring to my beginner knitting class on Saturday. Several of my students begin the show and tell portion of each class by showing us each and every mistake they’ve made in their knitting. I always tell them not to point out your mistakes and it is unlikely that anyone will see them. I showed them the hat, told them there were mistakes, and asked them to find them. Even once they did find the mistakes, we all agreed you couldn’t really see them when the hat was actually on my head, only when holding the hat right up to our eyes ;).
Now, the only problem is that when I asked MC to try it on, he didn’t seem to feel that the hat was very masculine (perhaps because of the color). But, he thinks it will work on my dad (or maybe he is just trying to make me feel better…). Either way, I’m glad to have made it – my stash has one less ball of yarn, and I have my first bit of holiday crafting for 2012 finished!
For more Finished Objects, visit Tami’s Amis.
Although January was a hectic month, I did manage to reduce my stash a wee bit.
- I sorted through my crochet and knitting magazines, and donated 50 to a local guild.
- I completed my secret project, which used up 8 skeins of yarn.
- I went to my favorite local yarn shop with my birthday cash and managed not to buy any yarn.
- I donated 12 crochet hooks to a children’s crocheting group.
- I shopped the Vogue Knitting Marketplace, stayed within budget, and didn’t buy any yarn. I also used stash yarn for my VKL class project.
- I’m using stash yarn for my Irish rose project.
- I’m making definite progress on the New Orleans Saints blanket for my sister.
- I’m playing around with a stitch sample from stash yarns that looks like it might become a full blown project.
On the “not so great” side:
- I was working against a deadline and thought I might run out of yarn. Since only one shop in the City had the right colors in stock, I bought one skein in each color. I didn’t end up running out of yarn, and the skeins are only returnable for store credit. (Don’t worry, I will bring them back before they become part of the permanent collection.)
- I joined a birthday swap on Crochetlist. This has been oodles of fun, but now I have yet more skeins of yarn in my stash.
- Stash 2, Marie 8. Yay! I think I am victorious for January.
Goals for February:
- Stick to my yarn diet: I’m participating in a few swaps that will bring in some new fibers, so there is no need to hit the stores right now. Besides, it’s a short month.
- Finish the blanket!: I will free up an entire plastic tub as soon as I finish and mail out the Saints blanket for my sister.
- Keep shuffling the stash: Every time I bring out yarn from within my stash, I find some skeins hiding that were long forgotten. I need to work up a bunch of swatches for the Craft Yarn Council Certified Knitting Instructors Program class at the end of the month, and I plan to use yarns from several different bins. This way, I will “re-discover” more yarn.