A cooperative yarn venture

The yarn community is full of many small vendors who are particularly vulnerable to the current situation.  You might think that this would lead to a cut-throat approach to marketing; they are, after all, in competition for spending dollars in a time of great economic uncertainty.   What I have seen is very different, with a number of incredibly supportive and cooperative ventures that have sprung up among small vendors and producers, whose goal is not just to survive in this chaos, but to help the entire community weather the storm.  By helping the community, they help each other.

You may be aware of any number of examples of this community spirit, but I am going to point out one that has captured my attention.  iknit7 is a cooperative venture among seven small independent yarn shops in the UK and Ireland – A Yarn Story, Emily Foulds, Ginger Twist Studio, Knit with Attitude, This is Knit, Tribe Yarns, and Wild and Woolly.  They say: “We know that the best way to survive and thrive in the face of crazy unprecedented odds is to work together. When all of the madness kicked off and we were confronting circumstances beyond our wildest worst-case scenarios we banded together for support, ideas and way forward.”  They have organised an event – Virtual Yarn Extravaganza – from the 25th -30th of May, with discounts, prizes, gifts, and a chance to virtually experience these small shops, meet their owners, and discover what makes them unique.

It is this last point which really struck me – each of these shops has a personality and the collaboration so far seems to be a celebration of the unique character of each shop, presented with such good cheer and honest enthusiasm, its left me very impressed.  I especially loved their video – iknit7 Who We Are – Pass the Mic, in which they each told why they loved another’s shop.

I already know four of these shops, although only one in person.  Anna, of Wild and Wooly in Hackney, London, fielded multiple phone calls and emails and was a fantastic sounding board when she helped me to pick out the yarns for Leah’s Snow Flower.  I bought the yarn for this sweater from Knit with Attititude, who were especially helpful when I had to totally re-envision the project and introduce a second colour of yarn.  I heard Carmen, from A Yarn Story, speak at a yarn festival, and then admired her beautiful stand and bought a range of haberdashery from her.  (I am also signed up to attend a knitting retreat with her in October!)  Doug and I have visited Tribe Yarns in Richmond, London, both in their old digs and their brand new digs.  The owner, Milli, convinced me to buy the gorgeous yarn I used in my Cool Boots shawl (the neutral version).  She also gave us great advice on where to eat and shop and wander locally.  The other three shops look very cool.  I will seek them out when travelling is allowed again, and until then, I plan to enjoy this event.  (And likely buy some yarn.)

When the world gets crazy, its nice to see the yarn community getting together, supporting each other, and being creative.  I know there is a lot of virtual knitting goodness going on world-wide; I hope that you have had a chance to participate in some.  Keep knitting and stay safe.

The “Cool Boots” Shawl goes Neutral!

Here is my finished version of the Cool Boots Shawl in neutrals:

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I designed this pattern a few years ago and offered it for free on the blog to celebrate my 300th post.  The original was knit in shades of red, coral, and fuchsia in fingering weight wool:

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I am a bright colours kind of girl and I love this original version – I have worn it everywhere – but I had an inkling that it would also be great in neutral tones.  I had some beautiful skeins of Blue Sky Fibers Metalico in Opal, Gold Dust, and Silver, and decided to give them a try.

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I purchased the yarn at Tribe, a lovely yarn store in Richmond, London.  Doug and I wandered in there last summer, and I spent at least an hour picking out yarn, and then just as I was checking out, I spied these beautiful skeins of Blue Sky Metalico.  Milli, the very charming owner of Tribe, told me of a lovely shawl she had made some years ago from these same three shades, and I ended up putting away the other yarn and buying three skeins in each colour.  They then sat in a box at home for quite a while before I had the idea to use them to knit another Cool Boots.

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The yarn is gorgeous.  It is a sportweight yarn, 50% alpaca and 50% silk.  It is soft and silky, and has lots of bounce.   It is a bit splitty to work with as it is unplied, but so soft on the hands, and it is truly luminescent.  Notice the way the colours change dramatically against the white background of the top photo and the warm beiges of the photo above.  (The fantastic Gold Dust really pops against the white wall, while the Opal takes prominence against the warm bricks and stone.)  Notice also how transparent and airy the yarn looks against the light:

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While I was knitting this, I became fairly skeptical about it.  It looked so plain and unexciting compared to my more usual brights, and in particular compared to the original Cool Boots Shawl.  But I must say that my opinion changed dramatically (as did the shawl) once it was blocked.  The texture, post blocking, is so fantastic; its hard to describe but it is bouncy and springy.  It has weight to it, but it also flows and drapes and catches the breeze:

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The shawl is knit sideways, with long triangles formed by short rows; it leads to the lovely assymetry of the two sides as above.   (You can see the shaping clearly if you look at the pattern post.)  The only changes that I made to the pattern were to accomodate the sportweight yarn.  I used a US5 needle instead of a US4, and I cast on 348 stitches instead of 380.  It turned out almost the same size – it blocked out to 19″ x 70″.

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There is a storm battering the UK today, but yesterday we took these photos in the lovely town of Watlington.  The sun came out and the town made a perfect backdrop for a photo shoot.  It even provided the answer to life, the universe, and everything:

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Nevertheless, I was very happy to get back into my coat afterwards, and enjoy a coffee:

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While I love the original shawl, I must admit that I do find it a bit itchy on my neck.  It was knit with a very wool-y wool, and while I love the way the wool holds the garter stitch so beautifully, I have found that I am wearing it less often because of the itch factor.  This shawl is cozy and soft with zero itch.  So it not only looks fabulous, but it is very comfortable.  Even this guy thinks it deserves a toast:

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I am now cozy inside while the storm rages.  I have been working on a hat this week, and it has turned out too small, but there is something rather fitting about ripping out a project during a storm; don’t you think?  I have a box of homemade truffles and a cup of tea.  Bliss.