close knit: the neighborhood yarn shop

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Au Naturel

Most of us are concerned about making green choices - from the food we eat to the mode of transportation that we choose. Fortunately, there are socially responsible fiber choices as well. Here at Close Knit, we carry an increasing number of organic wools and cottons and naturally dyed yarns so that you can feel good about the fibers that you use.

One of my favorite companies, Rowan, based in the UK, produces Purelife Organic Wool Naturally Dyed. This is a classic DK weight yarn - 5.5 stitches per inch, and is soft and comfy in both subdued and festive shades, all dyed with natural dyes.
We also carry a naturally dyed bulky wool by local dyeworks Pico Accuardi. The colors are subtle and gorgeous - especially Partly Cloudy and Stumptown, dyed with local favorite Stumptown Coffee. Leah made an easy, slouchy hat with the Johnny-Wog colorway. Stop by the store to check it out.
We have many organic cotton choices from DK to bulky. Conventionally grown cotton is dependent upon the heavy use of insecticides. Organic cotton, however, is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment.

As part of their Purelife line, Rowan produces an organic, naturally dyed DK cotton in muted, springy shades.
Debbie Bliss produces Eco Cotton, an Aran weight yarn in lively, cheerful colorways. This yarn is produced using fair business practices as well as ecologically sound farming techniques. Farmers are equal partners with textile producers and the cooperative ensures fair and humane business practices. The dyes are non-toxic and water is recycled after production. We will receive our first shipment of Eco Baby, a a sport-weight cotton, this week. Sally has ordered all sixteen shades, along with the accompanying pattern book.
Blue Sky Alpacas produces several different organic cotton yarns. There's Hand-Spun Organic Cotton, which is spun on drop spindles by a women's cooperative in Peru, as well as Worsted Cotton, an organically grown cotton in a variety of vibrant shades.
We also carry Skinny Cotton, a plied, organic DK weight yarn dyed with low-impact dyes.
Finally, we carry Classic Elite Sprout, a bulky organic cotton perfect for spa cloths as well as garments in colorways that range from delicate to fiery.
So, if organic, natural products are important to you, ask about our options here at Close Knit. We would be happy to show you socially responsible, organic yarns that help you to feel good about your purchase and your impact on the world.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Knitter's Toolkit

After many years of knitting, I find that I’ve collected quite a few knitting tools and gadgets. Since the Close Knit staff is a group of seasoned knitters, I thought it might be interesting to find out what we all carry in our knitting bags.

There are a few crucial items that should be in every knitter’s toolkit. While a crochet hook, darning needle and stitch markers will get you through most knitting emergencies, many of us have much more than that in our little notions bags. We also tend to carry a measuring tape, row counter, scissors, cable needles, stitch holders and a knit check for sizing needles and checking gauge. I like to have a calculator close by and Elizabeth keeps a sketch book on hand for designing and jotting down ideas and inspiration.

Adrienne can’t knit without her row counter and stitch markers. She likes to “think as little as possible” when she knits, and these tools allow her to do that. She also swears by Addi Turbo needles to make the process as enjoyable as possible.

Sally, the minimalist among us, carries very few tools and prefers to make hash marks on her patterns over using row counters. She is a fan of interchangeable needle sets - just in case.

Nancy and Jenni both love the Lantern Moon measuring tapes and the fabulous Offhand Designs bags and needle cases.

The Pretty Cheep Bags from Blue Sky Alpacas and the silk bags from Lantern Moon are great for keeping smaller projects in their own little homes. A lot of knitters also like to use baskets, such as Bolga baskets and the rice baskets that we carry at Close Knit.

Of course, there are so many fun toys that can make the knitting process even more enjoyable. Elizabeth has her sights set on blocking wires and a fabulous wooden swift and ball winder, and Jenni would love to have a motorized ball winder for the shop.

What’s in your knitting bag? Earplugs? Wine bottle opener? Emergency contact numbers? Leave us a comment and tell us about your favorite knitting gadgets and tools!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Add Some Sparkle

The weather is often dreary here in Western Oregon, even on the second day of spring. So, why not add some sparkle to your life?
Here at Close Knit, we carry many fun, festive, sparkly yarns for your spring projects.

We've got subtle
and not-so-subtle
and everything
So, if the clouds are getting you down, stop by the shop and check out some sparkly, shimmery yarns that will brighten your day.

Yarns top to bottom:
1. Plymouth Yarns Dye for Me Baby Llama Glow - a worsted weight llama and stellina blend - can be dyed or used as is - a creamy natural with silver flecks. Use Baby Llama Glow for a slouchy hat or beret or a cozy cowl.
2. Artyarns Silk Mohair Glitter - a laceweight mohair/silk blend - perfect for an airy lace scarf or shawl
3. Rowan Shimmer and Lurex Shimmer - a metallic yarn used for embellishments and fine decorative accents
4. Be Sweet Ribbon Ball - a mohair yarn with hand-tied ribbon and spun with a thin metallic strand. This yarn looks wonderful coupled with a solid mohair yarn.
5. Louisa Harding Jasmine DK - a versatile blend of cotton, silk and bamboo that comes in a wide range of cheery colorways and is lovely for a camisole, spring top, capelet or cloche.
6. Karabella Gossamer - a blend of mohair, nylon and polyester perfect for a festive wrap

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Bunny

While I always have such high hopes for handmade holiday goodies, I never seem to start my planning until right before the big day.

This year, I am going to try to motivate myself to create some little items with time to spare. Since spring is creeping up on us, I decided to start with a knitted bunny. I think he’ll make a sweet (sugar-free) treat tucked into an Easter basket.

We have several bunny patterns at Close Knit: Little Rabbit Foo Foo from Heirloom Stitches, Hop from Blue Sky Alpacas, and Bunny Fun from Fiber Trends. If you are looking for an alternative to the bunnies, we also have patterns for a variety of animals, including alpacas, hedgehogs, chickens, and squirrels.

As for yarn, angora seemed most appropriate. I chose to knit Little Rabbit Foo Foo in Karabella Chloe, a cotton/angora blend. Since my bunny is stuffed, I knit him on a size 7 needle rather than the 9 suggested on the ball band. Knitting the fabric a little tighter keeps the stuffing from showing through the stitches. If you decide to make a bunny and need help with the tail, bring your yarn into the shop on any Sunday, and I'll help you make a pompom.

Stop by the shop to see Little Rabbit Foo Foo and choose a pattern for your own little springtime critter!

Edited To Add: Spud & Chloe just posted a fabulous free pattern for a Mini-Reversible Duck to Bunny using their Spud & Chloe Sweater. We have this yarn in a wide range of colors, so come on by the shop this weekend to get started!

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Yarn from Manos del Uruguay

Manos del Uruguay, spun and dyed by rural craftswomen in Uruguay and known for its rich, hand-dyed colorways, is one of our most popular yarns here at Close Knit. In addition to Wool Clasica and Silk Blend, we now carry the new Rittenhouse Merino 5-ply.

Rittenhouse is a bit more refined than other yarns from Manos. A worsted weight yarn, it knits up at 4.5-5 stitches per inch, with 241 yards per skein. With this generous yardage, you would only need four or five skeins for most medium-sized women’s sweaters.

The extrafine merino would be perfect for smaller projects, too - the ever-popular Felicity hat from Wanett Clyde of Knitology, the free legwarmer pattern from The Purl Bee or Nancy Ricci's long fingerless gloves in stripes of Manos Rittenhouse.

So, whether you're looking for a large project or a small one, stop by Close Knit and check out our selection of vivid Manos Rittenhouse colors today.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Goodbye and Good Luck...

On Sunday, Close Knit will say goodbye to Nancy Ricci, our longtime friend, employee and resident designer. Nancy, a self-described “city girl”, is off to San Francisco and New York to be closer to family and pursue her dreams. Nancy has worked at Close Knit since Summer 2007 and she has been an inspiration to staff and customers alike.

Nancy was born in Suriname and grew up in Amsterdam. She studied economics and worked in marketing and business before discovering her passion. During the summer of 2001, at a sort of crossroads and feeling that she was not on her true path, Nancy traveled to Bali for a vacation. While there, through a series of chance encounters, Nancy met her husband, an American from New York. For a while, they maintained a long-distance correspondence. However, Nancy’s future husband was in Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and, deciding that “life is too short”, flew to Amsterdam to be with Nancy. The rest, as they say, is history, and in 2005, they were married and Nancy moved from the Netherlands to the U.S.

Nancy spent most of her first two years in the States traveling to cities where her husband worked. She likened her situation to that of Scarlett Johansson’s character in Lost in Translation – feeling a bit aimless, stuck in hotels in strange cities, with no real purpose.

Finding Her Passion…Knitting!

In February 2006, a coworker of Nancy’s husband, Mary, taught Nancy to knit. She gave Nancy some black worsted weight yarn, US 7 needles and taught her to cast on and knit in a hotel room somewhere in Pittsburgh. Nancy remembers her head throbbing in concentration, trying so hard to “do it right”, and afterwards, Mary taking the yarn and needles from her, inspecting the stitches, and proclaiming, “Girl, you are a knitter!”

The next day, Nancy found a local yarn shop a short walk from the hotel called Ewe Can Knit. A woman named Marleen made Nancy feel welcome, taught her to purl and inspired her to experiment and use her intuition, rather than simply following a pattern or someone else’s rules. Nancy discovered and fell in love with swatching as a result of Marleen’s sage advice.

From that point, Nancy sought out local yarn shops in each city she visited. In Philadelphia, she made a poncho from a pattern and learned to decrease and block. She also discovered that she didn’t care for double-pointed needles. In Providence, Rhode Island, she decided to make fingerless gloves and looked for a pattern, but couldn’t find what she wanted online. So, inspecting some fingerless gloves, she decided to design some for herself, meticulously taking notes in Excel. This was her first original design.

Falling in Love with Portland and Finding Close Knit

When Nancy’s husband’s job brought them to Portland, Nancy fell in love with the city. And, after years spent on the road, she decided that she would like to settle here. So, in February 2007, Nancy and her husband bought a house in Northeast Portland. She recalls a conversation with her realtor in which she lamented the fact that there was no yarn shop in the neighborhood. “But there is one,” the realtor said, "within walking distance of your new home."

Nancy remembers the first time she walked into Close Knit and the infectious laughter of the woman behind the counter. She soon met Sally, the owner, and Close Knit became her new home away from home. Nancy wanted to learn everything about knitting, and having lots of time on her hands, she signed up for every class on the schedule. In fact, she signed up for so many classes, her bill was over four hundred dollars! She remembers Sally saying that no one had ever signed up for so many classes at once.

She regularly attended Close Knit’s knit night and remembers that everyone was working from patterns - everyone except for one woman, Melinda, who was designing her own garment. “It’s easy,” Melinda told her. So, under Melinda’s tutelage, Nancy designed her first garment: a choli, a shirt worn under a sari. There was lots of ripping and reknitting, but Nancy was empowered, realizing with this project that she was capable of designing anything.

On to New Challenges and Pursuits

Two years later, Nancy has become a well-known and respected member of Portland’s knitting and design community. What is next for Nancy? She is working on the development of her blog as a source of inspiration and a support for the craft of knitting. Her goals are to share the craft, extend the joy and passion and encourage all knitters. And, she will continue to design, as long as she is having fun and feeling passionate about the craft.

Stop by the shop today or tomorrow, say goodbye to Nancy and wish her well in her future endeavors. We know that many of you have been as inspired by Nancy as we are. We will continue to stock her line of patterns at the store and you can follow Nancy on her blog, Getting Purly With It. We will miss her greatly, but are excited for her and can’t wait to see what she creates next. We know that Nancy is made for great things.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Inspiring New Patterns from Kim Hargreaves

We recently received several new Kim Hargreaves books at Close Knit and they are amazing.

Gorgeous designs and beautiful styling make these books truly inspiring. As a lead designer at Rowan for decades, Kim Hargreaves was instrumental in making Rowan what it is today. The designs in her books feature fabulous Rowan yarns and the pieces are classic, yet modern. Each collection includes both small and large projects appropriate for knitters of all skill levels.

Her fall and winter books include Winter Blooms, Precious, Thrown Together and Heartfelt. They are full of cozy sweaters, refined tops, wooly hats, and comfy wraps in a wide range of Rowan yarns. Breeze and Nectar contain lightweight summer cardigans, elegant pullovers and slouchy caps in Rowan's cottons and bamboos.

If you enjoy fashion, photography and classic, well-written patterns, the Kim Hargreaves books will be a wonderful addition to your knitting library. We have a large selection of Rowan yarns to get you started on a beautiful new project, so stop by the shop and check out these books today.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Portland Yarn Crawl

The first ever Portland Yarn Crawl is happening this weekend - March 5, 6 and 7 - in our fair city. Sixteen local yarn shops will participate in this exciting event and Close Knit is one of them.

Participants sign in at each shop, enter a raffle to win a basket full of knitting goodness and search for a scavenger item. This year's scavenger hunt has the theme "Hats Off to Portland's Knitting Designers" and Close Knit will feature a Getting Purly With It design.

During the crawl, we will also host a trunk show from one of our favorites: Blue Sky Alpacas and Spud and Chloe. This is an opportunity to see (and feel) some beautiful garments knit with Blue Sky and Spud and Chloe yarns. Even better, there will be a Blue Sky and Spud and Chloe drawing as well.

Lastly, when you stop by Close Knit anytime during the Yarn Crawl, mention the code words "knit close" and tell us that you read this blog post, you will receive ten percent off your non-sale yarn purchase.

Events like the Yarn Crawl remind us of how lucky we are to live in this city of fiber enthusiasts. Come to Close Knit this weekend during normal business hours for an opportunity to check out the trunk show, try your chances at winning some wonderful prizes and soak up the knitterly excitement and love!