The Natural Stitches Newsletter
Issue 26
May 1, 2009

Natural Stitches: Where Pittsburgh knits together
6401 Penn Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15206 * www.naturalstitches.com * 412-441-4410

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Sorry for the last minute announcement: 

We will be CLOSED Sunday, May 3rd for the Pittsburgh Marathon. 

We were trying to figure out how to get to work and realized NO ONE would be able to get to the shop...including us.  Please don't try to come and see us.  We'll miss you...especially if you're running the marathon and were planning on making a course diversion to pick up some Malabrigo.  It would really stink to realize we weren't around.

We will be open our regular hours on Saturday & Monday.

Top Five Reasons to Keep Knitting (or Crocheting) in the Summer

By Carla and Anna

Some folks stop knitting in the summer. We don’t quite understand how that can be. But we have been talking to people and have listened patiently while they explained this inexplicable phenomenon. In response, we offer the Top Five Reasons to Keep Knitting (or Crocheting) in the Summer.

Reason 1: You can’t garden at night (apologies to REM). For that matter, it’s bad for the skin to be out in the sun from 10-2. What are you going to do then? What will you do when it rains? Those are all great times to pick up your knitting and relax your body by knitting a few rows. Sitting on the porch knitting on a summer day is one of the great pleasures of life.

Reason 2: You have to have something to do while you schlep the kids all over the place to their summer activities. Knitting is a great way to fill the time waiting in the car for t-ball practice to be over, for example. Anna is fortunate enough that all her mom-friends knit, so they knit during playdates while the kids do their thing. While they don’t break out the Estonian lace projects during kid-time, it’s the perfect time to do something mindless, like plain socks.

Reason 3: Summer is a great time to try out different fibers. No, we don’t relish the thought of sitting with a lapful of wool during a Pittsburgh heat wave either. That’s why summer is the time to try out alternative fibers. Cotton is a natural choice for summer and a dishcloth is the perfect summer project (look here for pattern suggestions). Beyond cotton, check out the eco-friendly yarns at the store, the ones marked with the green cards. The choices are endless: bamboo, soy, hemp, milk, and even sugar! (Yes, really, Araucania Ruca is made from sugar cane!)

Reason 4: You can get a jump start on your holiday knitting. Think about how great you will feel when everyone in your knitting group is freaking out in December and your holiday knitting is completed! Imagine a holiday where your family doesn’t open up boxes of tangled yarn and half-completed scarves. Visualize a row of hand-knit stockings on the mantle this Christmas. This could be you if you knit during the summer!

Reason 5: If you want to have a new cardigan for fall, you have to knit on it over the summer. Sad but true. Depending on your level of focus and speed, it could take anywhere from two weeks (Carla) to four or more months (Anna) to make a sweater. If you’re one of those who fall into the two week category, congratulations! However, if you’re closer to the latter, your project will need time to marinate, time to breath, time for time-outs. If you want to wear it to Rhinebeck, you might want to have it in the works shortly after Maryland.

Besides, if you decide to knit this summer, there may be prizes for you at the end! Stay tuned…

Walk Softly and Knit Loud Socks

By Anna

If you’re anything like me, you are attracted to multi-colored hand-painted or dyed sock yarn like a magpie is attracted to that bright, shiny piece of tinfoil. When I see a skein in colors I like, my reaction is to say “Ooh!” and grab it, not think about what I’m going to do with it. I mean, it’s sock yarn, I’ll make socks, right? But then I get my shiny treasures home and get overwhelmed. How can I show this beautiful yarn to the greatest advantage? How can I make sure each individual color stands out and doesn’t pool or flash?

This article is inspired by our spinning teacher Carol, who eagerly grabbed our new exclusive colorway of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Steeler’s Pride to knit a pair of socks for her wonderful contractor. She emailed to let us know that she’d been frustrated by the yarn’s tendency to stripe (I believe the hilarious phrasing she used was “It looks like a hornet’s butt.”) and she’d been experimenting with stitch patterns to break up the striping. Carol finally settled on 2x2 mock cables alternated with ribs, but her efforts highlight the fact that sometimes you have to play a little bit – and be willing to rip your work out more than a little bit – to get the effect you want.

Pretty Socks
Melissa’s Coriolis Socks from
New Pathways for Sock Knitters

Carol isn’t alone in thinking about how to use variegated yarn. Fortunately, this is a subject with a number of resources that we can consult:

  • In a wonderful post called “No Pooling for You,” the Knitting Sutra blog offers an extensive explanation of how variegated sock yarn works and suggests a number of patterns to combat pooling.

  • FREE patterns written specifically for hand-painted yarns are being released every day. Check out Target Practice from the latest issue of Knitty.

  • Cookie A’s new book, Sock Innovation, shows how her patterns work in both solids and variegated yarns and empowers you to make the choice for the best pattern for your yarn.

  • Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn explains the principles of how color and pattern combine and includes 21 original patterns.

  • Cat Bordhi’s new classic, New Pathways for Sock Knitters offers unique constructions, many designed to work with multi-colored yarn.

If your reaction to all this is “gosh, I just want to make socks and not think so much about the pattern” and you still want color and depth that solids just can’t provide, try Ranco Multy variegated yarn or Dream in Color Smooshy semi-solid yarn. In our experience, these yarns don’t pool when used for socks and still provide a lot of interest no matter what pattern you use.

So go forth and make brightly colored socks without fear!

Pretty Socks
Carol’s Steelers Socks

What’s New?
  • Classic Elite Sprout, a chunky organic cotton featured in Kathy Zimmerman’s latest design in the Summer 09 issue of Interweave Knits.

  • Classic Elite Premiere, a beautiful worsted Pima cotton and tencel blend.

  • Sirdar Snuggly Kisses, a DK acrylic/nylon blend that produces a “delicate stripe effect” and works as a semi-solid depending on the pattern.

  • Flat Feet Socks: the shipment this month is particularly interesting with animal and bird prints.

How did you learn to knit and/or crochet?

By Anna
In this blog post, I wrote about choosing purple yarns in honor of my grandmother who taught me how to knit when I was a child. I asked other staff members who taught them, and here’s what they said.

Carla: I learned to crochet by watching my Aunt who was making an afghan for me. I had watched her so intently that one day I just picked up her crochet when she set it down and worked a round of it. She sure was surprised. I was, too! Lol

Carol: Grandma taught me to knit/crochet when I was little. Those German Grandmas felt that you couldn't grow into a proper lady without needle skills. She passed away when I was 9 and Mom took up the teaching mantle from her. Mom and her sister Marie taught me to embroider and cross stitch. I learned spinning in 1977-ish as an adjunct to weaving. I spun the yarn for my handwovens back then, including a full linen skirt that I wore till it fell apart!

Charissa: This is terrible coming from one of the teachers, but I'm totally self taught. I picked up a $1 clearance how to crochet booklet at Wal-Mart on a whim years back and it was all downhill from there.

Melissa: I learned to knit during my 6 month stint with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. One of my housemates taught me how to do a knitted cast-on, then how to do the knit stitch. When I wanted to purl, she said, "oh, I don't know how to do that." So we went down to the lys to see if anyone could translate the directions we got off of the internet. We were told that we were knitting all wrong (we were knitting English, not Continental), that we needed to sign up for classes to correct all of our "bad habits," that Continental was the only way to knit. Then we left and never went back. Luckily, fate led me to the first Deb Stoller book and I learned everything else from there.

Monica: My mother taught me how to knit when I was about 7 or 8 (she learned how to both knit and crochet when she was in elementary school in Finland - it's part of the school's home-ec curriculum for everybody starting in 1st grade). She only taught me the basic knit stitch, though. I didn't know how to cast on or off, purl, or anything else. So knitting wasn't really something I did on a regular basis, at all. Around 2001, after I had graduated from college, a friend of mine started going to a knitting club at our University, just out of curiosity. That pretty much started me back up, along with a whole group of friends of mine. I "re-taught" myself how to do things both by reading the Stitch 'N Bitch book and through my friends' little support circle.

Teri: My Jewish grandmother got a hold of me first and taught me to crochet by age 5; my Scottish grandmother tried to teach me to knit shortly after that but I suspect it was English and I didn't get it until Martha taught me Continental some fifteen years ago.

Mother’s Day is coming soon…

…which means for many of you, it’s time to think about what you’re going to get your mother, or what you’d like to receive from your kids, or both. This seems like a good time to remind everyone that we have gift cards, and if you can’t get to the store, you can order them over the phone. Just call us at 412-441-4410 and we’ll take care of you.

If you, as I do, have family members who feel gift cards are “too impersonal” and like to buy something tangible for you to open, we have a registry! The next time you come in, you can register for specific yarn, books, tools, etc. Swifts, ball-winders, and interchangeable sets like Denise or Addi Turbos are great things to register for.

For those of you who are doing hand-knitted or crocheted Mother’s Day gifts, don’t panic, there is still time! We’d love to see what you’re working on, so leave us a comment or stop by the store for show and tell.

Happy Mother’s Day
On behalf of all of us at Natural Stitches, we wish all you mothers a very happy and restful day!

From the entire staff of Natural Stitches, we wish you happy knits, creative crochets and splendid spinnings. LogoAnd, as always, if there’s anything we can do to help, just let us know!

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