The Natural Stitches Newsletter
Issue 48
June 7, 2010

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

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The Fiber Issue

Spinning Returns to Natural Stitches!

We are thrilled to welcome Nora to our Natural Stitches family. Nora will teach Beginning Spindle and Wheel Spinning at Natural Stitches in July, and she’s planning to offer a variety of classes for the beginner, intermediate, and advanced spinner as the year progresses.

In August 2003, Nora learned to drop spin in Avella, PA at Weatherbury Farm’s Sheepfest. Her first drop spindle was a recycled CD on a dowel rod and freshly shorn wool. She now has over thirty spindles! In 2004, her father gifted her with her great-grandmother’s spinning wheel, as she is the last family member living on Butler County property that her family settled in 1816. Soon thereafter, Nora took spinning wheel classes and promptly purchased her first modern wheel, an Ashford Traveler. Her next wheel was a Louet S75, and she is eyeballing her third wheel. Nora enjoys spinning on almost every wheel she tries. She spins solely for pleasure, not production!

Nora is an avid knitter (over 20 years) and recently completed her term as the Vice President of the Three Rivers Knitting Guild. Nora loves lace, shrugs and cardigans, and Fair Isle--including the steeking portion--but Nora does not do socks! She hosts a Stitch ‘n Bitch called CranKnitters (on Yahoogroups) at the Cranberry Barnes & Noble.

Information about Beginning Spindling and Beginning Wheel classes is available on our website. Our July class calendar is here. Spinning classes begin July 17. Class size is limited, so call the shop at 412-441-4410 or stop by to register!

Summer is for Expanding Your Skills!
Our theme for 2010 is to expand your fiber comfort zone. Why not expand your horizons by taking a class? In addition to spinning, we offer a full range of classes for beginning to advanced knitters and crocheters.
  • Our crochet teacher Annette offers a number of classes for the intermediate crocheter designed to allow you to learn a new skill and complete a project. Make an Amigurumi Penguin, crochet some tie-backs for your curtains, or design your own necklace. Annette’s full list of classes can be found here.
  • Let Carla take you through the classics of knitting with one of her many sock classes. Celebrate Elizabeth Zimmermann’s 100 birthday by learning how to make a Baby Surprise Jacket. Or learn the joys of seamless knitting with Carla’s Top Down Sweater class. All of Carla’s classes are listed here.
  • David’s Lace Triangle class was a great success! Look for this intermediate-to-advanced workshop to run again this summer.
  • Finally, as we mentioned in our last newsletter, Yvonne is offering a one-time workshop guiding you through the new method of sock knitting invented by Cat Bordhi in her Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters. Yvonne’s class is scheduled for Sunday, July 25.
Interested in taking a class? Call us at 412-441-4410 to register.

What Else is Going On Over There?

Summer of Socks and Lace is ON. It’s not too late to join in! Find out all the details here. Participants are tagging their projects with “summerofsocksandlace2010” on Ravelry. Click on that tag (here’s a link) to see all the entries so far, and make sure you tag your own projects to share.

We are still working on our Stora Dimun KAL from Folk Shawls. There’s still plenty of time to join in (is this where I confess that I haven’t gotten beyond the lace portion yet? See, still lots of time). Check out Monica’s completed shawl on our blog.

Did you know we are in a book? Adrienne Martini writes about visiting Natural Stitches in her Sweater Quest. Adrienne will be visiting us at Natural Stitches for a reading on Friday, August 27. Look for details to come throughout the summer.

Visiting with Sheep and Other Musings

By Diane L., two-time winner of Summer of Socks and Lace

Before moving to the country north of Pittsburgh from a strictly suburban setting, I never gave a thought to where wool came from. Walking into my favorite yarn store (Natural Stitches, of course) left me amazed at the colors, the softness, the durability, the blends and the many gauges of wool. I rarely thought about the animals and the processes needed to put those lovely yarns on the shelves.

Last summer my daughter and her husband acquired four lambs for their family farm. Violet (Romney), Daisy (Blue Faced Border Leicester), Iris and Cosmo (Suffolk crosses) have become beloved family members. We visit them daily in the pasture. My three grandsons spend time with them each day; filling their water buckets and feeding them their favorite grain by hand. My respect for sheep farmers has increased as I have experienced firsthand all the time and love that goes into the raising of these lovely animals. On one of my favorite knitting blogs, (http://getting-stitched-on-the-farm.blogspot.com/) Kristin Nichols does a wonderful job of explaining the sheep-raising process. She is a talented designer and knitter as well.

A couple of months ago “our” sheep were shorn. I began to think about the wool as the fleeces were lying in a big pile on the barn floor. My daughter put each fleece into a big bag and we pulled one out a couple of weeks ago to begin the process of turning it into knittable yarn. We hand-pulled and discarded the really dirty pieces (skirting), then submerged the rest of the fleece in hot, soapy water a couple of times to release some of the dirt and lanolin. The fleece then dried in the sun for a week before we began the combing, drafting and spinning process. I still have so much to learn and I need a lot more practice to be able to do it well.

I no longer wonder why 4 oz. of sock yarn is expensive. Seeing the process up close and realizing all that goes into bringing that skein from the back of a sheep to the shelves of Natural Stitches has been an eye opener. My thanks and hats off to sheep farmers everywhere. I love the hands-on experience. And I love our sheep! A couple of weeks ago Cosmo gave birth to a lovely lamb. She has been an awesome mama and the baby is growing by leaps and bounds and bringing much joy to all of us!

Wonderful Sheep Pictures, Click to enlarge
Sheep Sheep
Lamb Shearing

DVD Review: Judith MacKenzie's Popular Wheel Mechanics

By Rachel A.

I have never bought anything either at Natural Stitches or another yarn shop, be it in person or online, that saved me money. Not for knitting, not for spinning and not for crocheting (and I actively do all three.) In fact, if you had told me that I might one day do so, I would have laughed at you. Now, sure, through buying on sale, not overbuying for a particular project, and effectively using the right yarns and tools for the job, I have been able to spend less money, to “save money” on a particular thing, but when I purchased Popular Wheel Mechanics by Judith MacKenzie I can truly say that I have finally managed to buy something that will save me money. Before purchasing these DVDs, I was convinced that I needed a new spinning wheel. My spinning wheel wasn’t good enough, wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do, and everyone on Ravelry who claimed that they loved this wheel and felt no need to replace it were perhaps a bit addled by the wool fumes. About 10 minutes into the first DVD, however, I could be heard exclaiming, “It’s not the wheel, it’s ME!” Turns out that my wheel is absolutely fine, but I wasn’t utilizing it effectively to achieve the type of spinning I wanted. The tagline of “Is it you or is it your wheel?” adorning the front cover of the DVD box isn’t just there for decoration, Judith will truly demonstrate what all types of wheels can do, and what you, the spinner, can do with your wheel.

While this is not a “how to spin” video, I would say that it is a MUST HAVE for any new spinner, especially a spinner who might be in the market for a new wheel, if for no other reason than that so many different wheels are demonstrated during the different example sessions. These DVDs should also be on the must have list for any self-taught spinner, as they visually demonstrate the ins and outs of wheel construction that are not necessary to understand when learning to spin, but are nevertheless components that are key to adapting your spinning technique and getting the most out of any and every wheel. I would also say that even for more experienced spinners, it is useful to keep a copy of the DVDs around, especially if/when considering the purchase of a new wheel. If nothing else, the DVDs showcase nearly all of the readily available wheels currently on the market and watching Judith spin on many of them gives you a good idea of how they work ‘in action.’

I’ve long been skeptical about “how to” DVDs for fiber-related hobbies, but these have absolutely changed my mind, enhanced my spinning and, with all the money I’ve saved by keeping my current wheel, increased my fiber budget!

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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