Round the Needle

Trend Alert! Chunky hats are the THING! January 11, 2018 02:36

Trend Alert!  Chunky cable beanies are HOT right now!

Wash those socks! April 02, 2016 17:07

Green sock

I make a lot of hand knit socks, and eventually hand knit socks get holes in them.  My usual method of darning is to say, “Oh darn!” and drop the pair in the trash, because I think it’s easier to knit a new pair than to repair the holes.

However, there are exceptions.

Last month Ray showed me a hole in the bottom of his current favorite pair of socks.  I was a bit puzzled, as they’re knit from a workhorse yarn that almost never wears out, they’re only two years old, and he only uses them as slippers.  I just didn’t understand how they could have gotten a hole in the sole this fast, if at all.

Then he said the magic words. “It’s not like I washed them a lot.”

Hmm.  I probed a bit to see what he meant by “a lot.”  Well, turns out what he meant was “never.”  As in, “I have been wearing these socks for two years and I have never washed them.”

Before you get carried away with “Ew!” and “Gross!” let me tell you that he is not alone.  I have heard this story before from friends about their husbands and socks.  They don’t wear them often (the socks, not the husbands,) sometimes only as slippers, and they are not smelly or visibly dirty (again, the socks...) Since they are hand knit, the men (and sometimes women) believe that it’s best not to machine wash them, and never think to hand wash them. Then the socks get holes in record time and everyone is puzzled.

The answer:  Wash those socks.

Dirt is abrasive and dirty socks will wear out faster than socks that you keep clean.  Even if you can’t see dirt, or smell a funny smell, your socks are picking up dirt, especially if you wear them as slippers.  That dirt builds up in the soles and begins to wear away at the wool fibers, like tiny pieces of embedded sand paper.  Then you get a hole.

When I took a good look at Ray’s socks I found the fabric around the hole was a bit stiff.  That’s what happens when it gets dirty, and the stiff fibers are more prone to breakage.  It’s easily remedied by a quick wash, and the beauty of most sock yarn is that it’s superwash.  That means even if you gently hand wash every hand knit you own, you can almost always machine wash your socks.  I lay mine flat to dry when I’m done, but I know people who send theirs through the dryer with no problem. (NOTE OF CAUTION: don’t try this with socks knit from non-superwash yarn. You will end up with small, felted shoes for elves.

You can hand wash your socks if you like, but the truth is that hand washing doesn’t really get them clean.  It works wonderfully for sweaters, cowls, and even hats, but socks get DIRTY.  A gentle soak and swish will result in dirty water, but it will also leave a lot of dirt behind in the fabric to chew on your wool sock fibers.  If those socks are knit from superwash yarn, toss them in the machine, set it on a gentle cycle with cold water and get those puppies clean!

Now, back to the hole in Ray’s socks.  As I said, these were a favorite pair.  I knitted them two years ago while he was in the hospital, from one of my favorite yarns that is now out of production.  Nicely cabled and very stretchy, he says they are one of the most comfortable pairs of socks he has every owned, so I conceded and agreed to fix the hole.  I located some matching yarn, and thanks to this knitted patch repair method that I find MUCH easier than darning, they are almost as good as new.  If he keeps them washed, they should last a long, long time.

You might want to run along now and check your sock drawer.   I think you might just find some things that need washing!


Happy Halloween! October 31, 2015 17:25

Yes, it’s Halloween. The happy fall holiday that for most folks means pumpkins, ghosts, costumes and trick or treaters. If you’re a knitter it also means, “hey, you better get some holiday gifts done.”

This Yellow Seed Stitch Beret is the perfect quick      holiday knit that still feels like fall. Chunky yarn,   lovely fall color, and an easy project. I’m headed out on a flight to Portland tomorrow, and I’m taking this project along. The yarn is yummy Julie Asselin Ankara in warm autumnal Jaipur.

We do a bit of traveling this time of year, and I always like to have a project to take along. Something easy to memorize, so I’m not digging around for my pattern, and relatively small, so I have a sense of accomplishment when I return. By Thanksgiving I plan to have a few of these hats finished up – one for me, and two more for gifts!

The story in your knitting February 16, 2015 09:00 2 Comments

SamanthaYou know the time of day; you've just come home from a long day of work, or maybe it's your Saturday "you-time." You put on your cozy clothes, those fuzzy socks you love, sit on the couch and turn on a good podcast, or music, or your favorite television show to listen along to while you work on your project.

Something phenomenal is happening - while you're working and you're memorizing your pattern, you're listening to your show and you find that the words begin to play into your work. Each pattern row is woven with the information from the voices and sounds you're hearing.

Your project becomes something special at this point. You listen as you figure out a tough spot in your project. You listen as you un-knit that row you totally messed up. You listen as you re-knit the row and make it look perfect again.

Then the project is done, and you give that sigh and force yourself from your comfortable spot on the couch to go make dinner. When you return to your finished piece and run your fingers along the cables and the slips, you remember the exact words and feelings of the voices from your program, and the project becomes a special bookmark in your life.

Talking with Julie Asselin June 14, 2014 16:06


Have you ever been to a really big yarn show?  You know the kind I mean - the kind with acres of booths full of fantasitc yarn you've never seen anywhere else.  You know that feeling you have when you stand in the doorway, really excited and wondering just how you'll choose the perfect yarn to take home with you?  That's kind of what it feels like to choose yarn for our store.  Sometimes I seek it out.  Sometimes you tell me what you like.  And sometimes it just kind of arrives right on my doorstep.  That's the case with our newest yarn from Julie Asselin.

One morning in June I got this message on our Facebook page:

My name is Julie and I own a small hand dying company in Québec Canada.
I'm contacting you because your shop seems really lovely and full of things I would have picked out myself!!!!"

Really, how could I resist an opening like that?  I'm always looking for something new and unique.  Plus, I have some relatives in Quebec, and the yarns on her Facebook page looked nice, so I said I would take a look.  Boy, am I glad I did.

In the coming weeks we learned a number of things.  First, Julie is the only person in years to be able to spell and pronounce my name without assistance (In case you didn't know, I was named after the French woman my grandfather brought home from Paris after WWII.  She was not my grandmother.  Ask me about it some day and I'll tell you the story.)  There aren't many Michelines here, but it's a rather common name in Quebec.  That point alone might have moved me to buy her yarn.


Next, we learned that although Samantha has had two years of French, she has not learned any useful words pertaining to knitting or yarn. I was hoping there was an opportunity for extra credit, now that she can translate phrases like "fingering weight" and "superwash" into French, but there isn't.  I think her school should seriously take a look into their curriculum.

Finally, we learned that Julie is producing some seriously sweet yarn up there in Canada.  We engaged in copious oohing and aahing over the samples she sent, both because of the color and the feel. Her semi-solid colors are softly heathered, and when you look close, have a myriad of subtle hues.  The sample skein in Ancient Gold looked like a golden yellow at first glance, but closer examination showed variations from a warm bronze to a pale gold, with some green and brown tones thrown in.  I was captivated by her single-ply offerings.  I've come to love the stitch definition single-ply yarns give your projects, but they tend to be delicate and break easily without the structure of multiple plies.  Not Julie's yarns. They hold up every bit as well as a multi-ply yarn, while still showing off your stitches with the smooth single structure.

I really love Fino Simple, her fingering-weight single-ply merino/cashmere/silk blend, so it's one of the two I chose to debut on the website. It's hard to describe how it feels.  Light, soft, magical, like knitting with butterflies or kittens.I'm working on a pattern for a textured cowl that shows off that the lovely color and structure.  I'll post it here for you when it's done.  Meanwhile, I suggest Geology Shawl. The skeins are a generous yards, meaning you could make a pair of socks and some fingerless mitts, a hat and gloves, a large scarf or small shawl.  It also means crocheters can complete a hat, scarf or mitts with only one skein.

Since creating beautiful yarn is such a personal effort, I thought I would let Julie introduce herself, and her yarn, to you in her own words:

Tell us a little about yourself and your yarn

I've been a knitter for most of my life. I started at four being taught by my mother and grandmothers. I am always curious about learning new techniques and making projects that teach me something. Aside from knitting I also like to cook. It's a passion I share with my husband Jean-Francois (I often share recipes I like on my FB page!) and I'm a big music fan.

I made a lot of research about fibers and the yarn making process when starting my yarn line. Quality is really important to me. All the yarns that I use are spun in Canada and in the US. I'm constantly collaborating with the mills to create great bases. I like to be involved.

How long have you been dying yarn?  How did you get started?

I've been dyeing yarn for three years now, selling it more seriously for a little more than one year. I started because, like a lot of dyers, I wanted colors/fibers that I couldn't get anywhere else. I started looking online at tutorials and took a shot at it. Soon I started making some for my friends and eventually my LYS started carrying it. I started receiving calls from other stores and decided to invest more time in this business. It is now my job.

What do you think makes your yarn special?

I come from a fashion backround so I'm always thinking ''Do I want to wear this?'' ''Would that make a great sweater?'' I want my colors to mean something . When I look at a color I have to think ''This is exactly what I was looking for!'' I want that to translate to my customers.

What are your favorite colors and what inspires you?

Quick answer would be: All of them! But that's too easy. It changes with seasons and with what inspires me at a certain period. I'm definitely more of a black person in terms of neutrals, and right now i'm big on reds and blues...but ask me again in a couple months and it could be green or pink! My inspiration comes from nature(because where else do you get better color combinations?) and from food. A lot of my colors have food names! Also sometimes, I just sit and like to look at pictures/art, listen to music and some colors will come to me.

We have Fino Simple and Hektos in six colors each, including the lovely Ancient Gold. We're looking forward to adding more of Julie's yarns and colors in the next few months.  Keep your eye on the store, but better get some of er yarn to knit while you're waiting.