Some time ago, on a trip to Austin, Texas, I visited several yarn shops – sort of my own mini yarn crawl. I wrote about the darling yarn stores I visited here. On that trip, I purchased this multicolored skein of Cross Creek Sock yarn in Africa Kente Cloth (Color 039/002).
This skein is 468 Yards / 100 Grams of 75% Merino (Superwash) / 25% Nylon.
I had knit several pairs of socks but none for my son. He told me he liked bold colors so this was the yarn for him. After a few rounds, I could see the swathes of color emerging.
I was still in graduate school so I carried the yarn with me and snuck in knitting time when I could. Those nifty knitting tubes are great! I never worried about losing stitches since there were long periods between my knitting sessions.
Things seemed to go faster once I cast on the second sock.
Just look at those rich colors!
As soon as I finished knitting them, my son tried them on and I haven’t seen them since.
I tried to get a photo of them on his feet but he was gone back to college before I had a chance. I guess he liked them.
Last year, in the middle of my graduate program, I needed a break. Luckily for me, Houston Fiber Fest was taking place over my birthday weekend. Perfect.
After the initial sensory overload of walking into a large space full of yarn, I started exploring. I was drawn to the sheen and colors of the yarns at one particular booth and was delighted to learn that they used only natural dyes. Wool Tree Yarn is a line of naturally dyed yarn made by fiber artist Casey Galloway and sold exclusively through Lucky Ewe Yarn in New Braunfels, Texas. They had an interesting logo – a small lamb growing out of a plant – and explained its significance.
The Wool Tree logo is based on a lithograph from medieval Europe. During the late medieval period, cotton became an imported fiber in northern Europe. Without any knowledge of how it was derived, other than that it was a plant; noting its similarities to wool, people in the region could only imagine that cotton must be produced by plant-borne sheep. John Mandeville, writing in 1350, stated that “There grew a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the ends of its branches. These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungry.” This image is retained in the name for cotton in many European languages, such as German Baumwolle, which translates as “tree wool” (Baum means “tree”; Wolle means “wool”).
I loved this super bulky wool cord at the Independence Farmstead Fibers booth. They had samples of gorgeous tapestries made from it. The fiber mill is located just outside Brenham, Texas. According to their website:
Our fibers are traceable – each labeled with a known “Pasture of Origin”- providing a strong sense of place for the handcraft artist.
There were countless booths tempting me with their beauties.
A booth from True Vineyard Ministries out of San Marcos, Texas, caught my attention with its colorful fabric yarns. True Vineyard Ministries provides “holistic support to Africa’s poorest through job creation, community building, and spiritual counsel.” Through the Handspun Hope initiative, women hand spin and dye yarn from the wool of local Merino sheep. While they had soft balls of Merino yarn, I could not resist these balls made from cotton fabric. Those colors!
And here are my purchases. The ball of 100% Cotton fabric in the upper left corner is from Handspun Hope (~30 yards). The regal purple skein is called Bevy of Swans by Alisha Goes Around, 435 yards of 50% silk, 50% Superwash Merino in a fingering weight. The blue/orange skein on the far left is a fingering weight 75% Superwash Merino, 25% Nylon from Kyla’s Lab (463 yards). The two center skeins in soft carmine hues from the cochineal insect are by Wool Tree Yarn (70% Superwash Merino, 30% Silk, 438 yards each). The skein across the bottom is a single ply 70% Superwash Merino, 30% Silk from Barn Owl Yarns. I bought it for the color – Monkey Business (400 yards).
Mostly to release tension during my MBA program, I started knitting a scarf. It took a long time because I only worked on it in short spurts. But the motion of the needles and the fusion of the colors gave me something to focus on besides case studies on Starbucks and Amazon.
I found this amazing free pattern called Born Trippy on the Hedgehog Fibres site. I liked that the samples used all sorts of funky color combinations and it had cool uneven edges. I started with a lovely skein I had gotten at Homespun Boutique during one of my MBA residencies in Ithaca. This is Serenity Silk Single, a fingering weight yarn from Zen Yarn Garden: 430 yards, 75% Superwash Merino / 15% Cashmere / 10% Silk in Fr. Vanilla Blurple (bottom ball).
Then I went through my stash and looked for complementary and contrasting colors. This is what I came up with:
Leftover yarn from Copenhagen (the shimmery solid blue and gray): Duo Silk/Merino from Design Club DK, 65% Merino Wool / 35% Silk.
A partial skein of Fine Sock yarn (the minty blue-green): Spud & Chloe, 80% Superwash Wool / 20% Silk in Color 7806 / Calypso.
Another purchase from Homespun Boutique (yellow/green variegated): Ty-Dy Socks from KNIT ONE, Crochet Too, 436 yards, 80% Superwash Wool / 20% Nylon.
Here’s a close-up of the Ty-Dy ball.
As I made progress on the scarf, I introduced the variegated yellows and greens, the solid blue and gray, and the minty blue-green. It all flowed nicely and those uneven ends were easy to make.
It’s important to block this piece so that the ends are nice and sharp.
Here is the FO (finished object) with its refreshing colors in the sun.
Someone wanted to hang out with me while I took the photos.
I am very pleased with the fusion of the colors.
The combination of wool, cashmere and silk give the scarf a lovely drape.
This is a great pattern to use when you have a single skein and leftover yarns in the same weight. You can repurpose those bits and pieces and make something beautiful.
If you follow my blog, you may recall that I started an Executive MBA program in the Summer of 2016. I am happy to report that this past February, I submitted my final assignment and graduate this May! It took me almost 20 years, but I finally accomplished a goal I’ve had for a long time. It’s never too late to refresh and sharpen your skills. If you are interested, I was interviewed for an article on why I chose to do an MBA at this stage of my career. A student currently in their first year of the program was also interviewed.
Here I am with my cohort.
As you might imagine, the MBA curriculum left little to no time for blogging or knitting. Nonetheless, I did sneak in a few skeins here and there. On a trip to Austin to see my son (who is an undergraduate there), I went in search of my fave LYS (local yarn store) which had moved to a new location. Hill Country Weavers was formerly housed in a quaint Victorian on a hip strip on South Congress. After visiting my boy, my husband drove me to their new location at 4102 Manchaca Road, Austin, Texas 78704. It’s a much larger space than what they had previously and with the same incredible selection of gorgeous yarns.
I had seen enticing photos of FOs (that’s finished objects for the uninitiated) using yarns from Hedgehog Fibers, but I had never purchased any. After walking around their new digs, I headed over to the Hedgehog Fibers section and ogled all the color combinations. Even though I would not have time to do anything with it, I purchased this lovely skein. It’s called Boombox and it’s 437 yards of fingering weight yarn made of 90% Superwash Merino Wool and 10% Nylon for a bit of stretch.
I also could not resist this Sock Mini in Banana Legs yellow. It’s 87 yards of the same soft 90% Superwash Merino / 10% Nylon and perfect for adding a splash of color.
I haven’t decided what these beauties will become but I’m looking forward to wrapping my fingers in this yarn and going at it with my needles.
Where else would one find a barn full of yarn but in Texas? In actuality, the Yarn Barn is housed in a sweet cottage with a porch and old wooden floors. You walk through the various rooms realizing that this was someone’s home once upon a time. It is a quaint cottage full of beautiful yarn.
Today’s Yarn Barn is under new ownership. When I lived in San Antonio, the old Yarn Barn was my LYS. I remember when they were closing – their lease was up and they would have to find a new location – so the owners decided to retire. I was so worried that the Yarn Barn would cease to exist! But not to worry. Enid came to the rescue and kept its doors open.
The new Yarn Barn has a wonderful selection of yarns in all fibers and colors.
The Yarn Barn also caters to needlework beyond knitting and crocheting and has an extensive selection of canvasses and threads for needlepoint, cross stitch kits and some weaving supplies.
The Yarn Barn is located at 1615 McCullough Avenue in San Antonio, Texas. Parking is a challenge, especially if you park out front, but they do have overflow parking across the street. The location is a bit off the beaten path – not much retail around it – but accessible from IH35 and the McAllister Freeway (U.S. 281).
Visiting an island with such a rich history and with its very own breed of sheep, yarn was unquestionably on the itinerary. Everywhere we walked in the old town of Visby, there were statues of sheep in recognition of the role that sheep have played in the island’s history. Farmers kept sheep and used their fleece to make clothing to keep warm during the snow-covered winters.
Nothing was wasted. The curly fleece could be found on bags, pillows, clothing, seat cushions and phone cases.
One place to get all sorts of sheepish goodies was at Kvinnfolki. The items at Kvinnfolki are the handiwork of a women’s collective. They make everything by hand in their homes or studios, such as casting pottery and spinning their own yarn. They are located on Donners Plats, Visby’s town square.
These sheep pelts were oh-so-soft to touch and so warm! They even smelled sheepish. And see those fluffy slippers to the left? I brought Mom a pair. She says she puts them on as soon as she gets home every day and loves how they keep her feet warm and cozy.
Before moving on to the next shop, we required sustenance. At an adorable little place called Ett Rum För Resande Café (Room for Traveler’s Café), I had the Gotland island specialty – saffranspannkaka, a saffron pancake with red berries and cream. Paired with a cappuccino to warm up my bones, it was the perfect afternoon snack. The chef/owner of the tiny café was so down to earth. Customers of all ages would come in and catch up on the latest news. He must know everyone in town! We spent a while talking with him – he prepares and cooks everything himself using fresh ingredients. He always had some very cool music on and he made a killer pasta dish when we returned the next day for lunch.
Right across the cobblestone street from the café is an antiques store named Akantus. The middle and back rooms of Akantus are filled with wonderful antiques that included furniture, glassware, pottery, paintings and other decorative items.
In the front room, they stock all sorts of whimsical pretty things, like these mice in their cigar box bed – complete with knitted blanket!
Further down the street, there are no less than three yarn shops next to each other. One of them was closed for the season but fear not because the other two were open for business. The first stop was at Design & Hantverk Gotland which features yarn and many other hand crafted items from local artisans such as ceramics and glassware. The owners themselves design and make items in pewter, iron and wood.
Of course, my attention went straight to the beautiful yarn displays.
The owner told me that she hand knit all of these socks! They were thick and colorful and showcased the sock yarn in her shop.
The owner, Frida, is a lovely young woman who inherited her love of yarn from her mother. Her mother used to export yarn spun from Gotland sheep. Now Frida is at the helm. She sources the fleece locally on the island and has it spun in Finland. She explained that the fleece of the Gotland sheep is very fine, more similar to mohair than wool. She found a spinnery in Finland with the right equipment for spinning the long, delicate fleece. She personally selects the dyes and sells the yarn under her own Yllet label. She is living the life I imagine!!
In addition to fabulous yarn for hand knitting, she has the yarn machine-knit into sweaters and other clothing. Local women assemble the machine-knit pieces. My husband liked a simple sweater with clean lines but they did not have his size available in the dark gray color he preferred. Frida made a phone call and a local seamstress assembled the sweater in his size and color of choice. It was ready the following day.
Toward the end of our stay, I decided to photograph my purchases in Gotland rather than waiting until I got home. Across the street from our hotel were the Botanical Gardens. Even in the Fall, the gardens were lush and verdant.
The gardens had their own particular history.
In 1814 a few young men gathered to bathe in the sea, drink punch and socialize. They decided to form the Society of the Bathing Friends (DBW). After a short time they wanted to combine pleasure with usefulness… (Sign posted by the Friends of the Botanic Garden)
Among its contributions, the Society established a school for poor boys in 1815, a savings bank in 1830, and the Botanic Garden in 1855.
What better place than the botanical gardens for a photo shoot? I took my yarn lovelies to the gardens and arranged them in various poses for the camera. We had so much fun!
I call this one, “yarn among the leaves.”
Walking around the gardens scouting good places for the photo shoot, there was this lovely sheep statue next to a fallen tree.
Also on the grounds are the ruins of S:t Olaf’s Kyrka.
In its day, St. Olof’s Church was among the biggest and most sumptuous churches in Visby. It dates from the early years of the 13th century. The church was named after the canonised king of Norway, Olof Haraldsson.
This church was a basilica, i.e. had a tall nave and lower north and south aisles. Parts of the west tower are all that now remains. The walls of the church were demolished after the Middle Ages and the stone was used for buildings in Visby.
Behind the church, the sun was filtering in through the trees.
I call this series, “yarn among the ruins.” (LOL)
Just a few meters outside the medieval wall surrounding the gardens was the icy Baltic Sea. Even though the air was cool, the sun was shining on a magnificent day.
This past summer, the Knit at Night Guild (KANG) organized the first ever Houston Fiber Fest. The event took place the weekend of July 17-19, 2015. That very weekend, I was on my way out-of-town on business to South Africa and almost missed it. On Friday after work, I raced over to the Berry Center located in a suburb of Houston for about an hour before they closed. The exhibit area was large but very doable. Many yarn shops from the greater Houston area were there with their wares.
At Little Monkey’s Stitch and Spin, they had hand dyed two-stranded sock flats (those little bags hanging from the sides of the display). Each flat is already knitted together from 80% merino and 20% nylon. As you knit up your socks, you are basically, unraveling the flat. The result is two socks or mittens whose stripes or color patterns will match perfectly – very clever! You can find this shop on Etsy.
I thought the booth for The Barbed Dragon was a lot of fun. According to their website, the shop is “a Texan’s flight of fancy into the fiber arts.” The dragon motif carries through to the names of their gorgeous hand-dyed fibers and yarns such as Dragon’s Indulgence and Dragon’s Treasure. They are located in Burleson, Texas (had never heard of it) but you can find them online. I think this shop partnered with another called Brazen Stitchery because they had this wonderful sparkly yarn in the booth. The names of these yarns were also so creative like a sparkly hank of Zombie American Princess variegated sock yarn.
The Purl & Loop booth featured needlecraft kits by yet another Texan. I love Angela’s (the owner’s) story. As a career woman, she had little spare time to devote to crafting and would order kits that had all the materials needed to complete a project. Out of that need, she launched her shop primarily devoted to kits for the busy modern person who wants to create but has little time. She even features how-to videos on her website for weaving and needle felting.
Park Avenue Yarns lived up to its name with tastefully curated yarns and these lovely silk braids. The sheen is gorgeous and they are oh-so-wonderful to touch. They also carried packets of precut quilting squares in fabrics with modern designs and vibrant colors.
Finally, the members of the KANG yarn-bombed the area outside the conference center with smile-inducing knitting and crochet. Trees, benches and even trash cans were covered in yarn! I particularly liked the crocheted mandalas hanging off the trees like ornaments. And no yarn-bombing in Texas is complete without a crocheted Texas flag!
It was one of the most delightful hours I’ve had. A bit rushed but very much worth the effort. Kudos to the KANG for a wonderful festival. The 2016 Houston Fiber Fest is scheduled for June 24-25, 2016. Mark you calendars!
During the few hours that we were able to do some sightseeing in South Africa, we did attempt to visit a couple of yarn stores. Unfortunately, we struck out because either the store was closed or non-existent or we simply did not have the correct address, and we had very little time. Knowing how disappointed I was, my husband decided to try again and found this gem in Houghton. So I give you The Yarn Tree, a yarn store by proxy.
The Yarn Tree started off as a calligraphy studio and is located in a beautiful residential suburb of Johannesburg. The Yarn Tree is a labour of love for a British ex-pat and two South African women who met volunteering for 67 Blankets for Mandela.
I was interested to learn about 67 Blankets for Mandela and looked them up online. It turns out that in April of this year, volunteer knitters, crocheters and quilters covered 3133 square meters with handmade blankets and broke a Guinness World Record for the largest area covered by a blanket. The meaning behind the number is a call to devote 67 minutes to community service in honor of Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of service to South Africa. (Source)
As the story unfolded, I became even more excited to learn about The Yarn Tree. The selection of yarn is carefully curated by Adrienne, Kelly and Anne-Marie with an eye toward eco-friendly materials sourced in South Africa. With Kelly’s help, my husband brought me some yarn called Eco-Fusion, a 50% cotton, 50% bamboo blend by Nurturing Fibres. Nurturing Fibres is an eco-friendly yarn brand, hand dyed near Cape Town.
Nurturing fibres strives to conserve as much energy and water during their production process. They make use of borehole water which is heated by solar power for the dye baths. After dyeing, the PH levels in the dye-baths are neutralized and the water is then used to irrigate an olive grove near the dye studio. (Source: Placard at The Yarn Tree)
The next gift was also specially curated for women who have had mastectomies. With the Knitted Knockers kit, you can knit a prosthetic breast for mastectomy patients. The kit contains a 50 gram ball of organically grown cotton yarn by ColourSpun and 25 grams of pure merino for the filling. Each skein is hand wound and hand dyed.
Even though I was unable to visit in person, I learned a tremendous amount about these mission-driven ladies and their beautiful shop. You can follow The Yarn Tree on Facebook or contact them at theyarntree (@) yahoo (dot) com. The Yarn Tree hosts Charity Afternoons on Mondays and a Coffee Club on Friday mornings. They also have various workshops including a Knitting for Knockers Charity Day. Look them up if you are in Johannesburg. I know I will!
I only had a couple of days in New York City and had little hopes of finding yarn, but yarn I found. I googled “yarn” and Seaport Yarn came up only a few blocks from my hotel. You really have to be looking for it. The shop is on the fourth floor of a large building. You walk in through a nondescript door at street-level and walk or take the elevator upstairs. It’s not a very inviting entry area, even a little scary. Not the kind of place that will get street traffic. Once inside though, the place was bursting with yarn. There were cubbies of yarn practically floor to ceiling.
I was the only customer and was able to take my time looking through all the inventory. The proprietor, Tom, was a kind gentleman who seemed to know his yarn. He was very sweet and was watching the shop for his wife. He had spent so much time around yarn and knitters that he was quite knowledgeable about the brands and fibers. Since it was just him and me, we had a lively conversation as I walked around sampling the yarn.
I have been on a sock kick of late. For years, I have avoided knitting socks. Not being a patient person, the idea of finishing a project only to have to start all over seemed exasperating. But recently, I saw a photo of a knitter’s sock drawer. It was filled with socks in many colors. I was so entranced that I had to start a pair so I spent quite a bit of time in the sock yarn cubbies. There were a number of options and I finally settled on this Aussie Sock by Oasis Yarn. It’s 400 yards of a fingering weight merino blend called “Blue Dream.”
I selected this sock yarn by Malabrigo for my husband. The skein has 440 yards of fingering weight yarn in subtle greens and browns called Primavera. Primavera means “Spring.” In my opinion, a more appropriate name would have been Otoño or “Fall.” But it’s still a very nice yarn.
As I paid for my skeins, the proprietor threw in this handy measuring tape and fun pen. I think the funky hair is meant to dust small areas, like a keyboard. While I was happy with my purchases and the great customer service, I did find the store a bit messy. There wasn’t a clear surface anywhere and no place to sit (other than an old couch). It’s not the kind of yarn store where you can take your knitting and sit for a spell but it does have a good selection.
That blue dream skein is already on my needles and I’m almost done with my first sock. I’m enjoying the process more than I thought I would!
Seaport Yarn is located in the Financial District at 181 Broadway, Fourth Floor, New York, NY 10007, tel. 212-220-5230.