Monday, October 31, 2011

Karaoke goes well with knitting...

Here, at Jimmy Beans Wool, we have a quarterly get-together which begins with a quick meeting about all the new things that we've been up to  (some TOP SECRET stuff, too - so exciting!). After our meeting, we get to go hang out for dinner and have some fun!

This time around, Amber set up pizza, wings, and a salad bar at Karaoke!!!

Now, as some of you may already know, Sandy and I are constantly singing around the shop. "I'm a Little Tea Pot" is just one of the several tunes we enjoy annoying all the other beans with. :) All day, we talked about getting up there and singing something together, but alas - when it came down to it, we both had some serious stage fright...sigh!

Instead, while the other gals sang and ate pizza - Sandy and I did what we do best - knitting! Sandy worked on her Fibre Company pattern  Frukttradgard (say that one ten times fast!) and is using some Lorna's Laces Sport in Gold Hill. I brought my Spectra shawl and worked on that for a few rows. I was so distracted by all the activity in the room, however, that I forgot to take a picture! I am using some stash yarn for this one, but am going to work it up again in some Mini Mochi...stay tuned on the project log for details! 

Kristen was amazing!

While Sandy and I were knitting, some of the other beans stepped right up to the Karaoke plate! Kristen and Sarah Lee both sang some solo songs and were BRILLIANT in their singing! I know a talent scout will be at their doorsteps soon.

We cheered everyone on and even Huck played a little air guitar and some table percussion, too. I love these quarterly events, as it gives us all time to have fun away from the shop and just be the silly little beans that we are!!! 

At one point in the evening, Tiffany, Shevawn, Kristen, and Sarah Lee all joined in for "Don't Stop Believing" and got the whole place clapping and cheering!

Sarah is one of our new beans and can sing like a songbird!!

Our quarterly team dinners are also a great way to connect with some of the new gals that have just joined our team! We have added so many great people to the team and, for most of them, this was their first outing with the JBW family - I think they all had fun!

Sarah (right) is so much fun to have around and is a fantastic shipper and packer!

Be sure you check out Team JBW and get to know all of us a little better.

Look at all those hungry beans,,,

Tons of fun was had by all, as you can see by all the smiling faces. We ate, sang and just generally let down our needles!

I flirted with Huck (Doug and Laura's little guy) all night and I know that even after Sandy and I left, the younger beans kept on rockin' out!! Oh, to be young again...LOL!

Out came the lighters to cheer on the brave
Here, the lighters came out to cheer on the brave souls who got up in front of the crowd which caused a big round of smiles and laughter!

I'm getting tired just talking about all this fun so I'm going to sign out and go knit a few rows of my Spectra! Woo-hoo!

As always, happy knitting and crocheting!

P.S. We'd be interested to hear what your co-workers do for team outings! Anything silly or unique? What's been your favorite?

PS if you aren't getting our twice monthly Newsletter you should check it out! It is jam packed with new products, projects, sales and more!! Remember we never EVER share you information with any outside sources, so you have nothing to loose!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Oct. 1-7 Chinese National Holiday – Dali

Dali is composed of two parts. The new city and the ancient city. Of course we head off to Dali Ancient City. No skyscrapers. Dali is a walled city with old Chinese style housing - family compounds with courtyards. It was a nice getaway from cityscapes for a little bit. When looking around it was pretty jarring to look up and your view wasn’t obstructed by tall buildings on any side. Sure, in Reno, we have the casinos downtown, but that is something different than the ubiquitous 8+ story buildings here. There isn’t really such a thing as suburbia in cities. Everybody lives in apartments and that is definitely a shift. For myself, I think it is kind of startling how easy it was to become used to the thought of building up rather than building out. I suppose that’s the only way that you can contain a country of 1.6 billion people.

But back to my trip, we are in Dali and find our way to our hostel where almost immediately we make a couple new international friends. That actually had to be one of the best parts of our holiday. Just talking to people and the reason for their travels. For a lot of them, it was just a whim. It still kind of blows my mind to think that it is possible to just up and leave everything that you’ve known to travel for several months. Just for the sake of seeing more of the world. It takes a certain amount of craziness and a lot of bravery to do that. We adopted a British girl into our adventures in Dali for 3 days and she turned out to be one of the most interesting and generous people I have ever met. At least for that 3 day period. But we do have an open invitation to visit her home in England if we are ever in her neck of the woods. I just might take her up on it one day.

Making new friends.

The funny thing about Dali is that the morning we arrive, the ancient city is almost completely dead. There are hardly any people around. However, as the day progresses, it is just a madhouse of humanity. It was this way every day. Dali is one of those cities where tourism booms and very rarely do locals outnumber the tourists in the city. At first, I wasn’t a fan at all. But after actually giving it a chance, I grew to love the busy, enterprising, touristy Dali. It definitely had its own flavor. Dali is very much a hippy town with hippy tendencies and lots of foreigners. It was a lot of fun.

Venturing outside of Dali was really neat as well. Just like any other place, China has many facets that continue to awe me. Ethnic villages, mountains, lakes, temples. Short summaries for each place.

Erhai Lake – Got on a boat with the best Bai (local ethnicity) villager who good-naturally rowed us around, sang to us, tried to get us to understand his Mandarin. He was really cool.

Ethnic village, Xizhou – Harassed by a rickshaw driver who wanted us first go to Erhai Lake where we had already gone, then a Bai teahouse where the prices were a little too much for us. Got out of that by saying we would be back but actually didn’t. That might come back and bite us on the butt. But lots of souvenir shopping was done that day!

Three Pagodas Temple – So much more than just Three Pagodas. It was temple after temple after temple. You would exit out of one and see that there was another, thinking it was the last. We never got to the last one. As cool as it was, there was just so much more to see in Dali.

Cangshan Mountain – Some of the best natural scenery we’ve seen in China. Went up the wrong path and got a work out. Went on the right path and found that there was a landslide preventing us from completing the entire trek. A little bit of a bummer. But nice nonetheless.

Had to fight our way past the plants.

Since there were so many travelers (remember – Chinese National Holiday) we didn’t get a chance to do everything on our itinerary since transportation was iffy. But one day, I would like to go back. I feel like there is much left to do in Yunnan. But then again, there is a lot of China left to explore. I’ll remember, and hopefully, coming back to Yunnan will be in the cards later.

From Dali, it was back to Kunming to catch a plane back to Chengdu. We rode a sleeper bus one more time and that experience was really different. The beds were not clearly numbered so that was difficult to work through. The bus driver was chain smoking the entire time. And they told us to get out at two o’ clock in the morning. Which we have no choice but to get off. Groggy, a little bit grumpy, feeling a little bit grimy - we make our way to the airport and sit there for hours until check-in opens. Sent to several different lines. Through ridiculous Chinese security. And this is when I start to get homesick, where at least if I am inconvenienced, I can understand what the object of my frustration is saying. Honeymoon phase is over.

Still a little homesick and looking forward to the day when I am back on U.S. soil. But happy, nonetheless, and looking forward to the many adventures I still have before me. =)

Of course, I will keep you updated.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Rowan Renew and Revive-- Eco-friendly yarns at their very best!

Hello and happy Friday everyone!  I hope you all have fun weekend plans ahead!  Here in Nevada, October 31st is “Nevada Day” (and of course Halloween) so many of us Nevadans are celebrating our state’s entrance into the union which means many folks have a 3-day weekend!  (Nevadans get this holiday off instead of Columbus Day.) Super fun!  I know this weekend I will be hibernating a bit, doing some baking, and of course--knitting!  
I’ve got unfinished projects a-plenty, but I have recently become inspired by some of Rowan’s fantastic Purelife yarns!  Last year around this time, Rowan debuted the fantastic Renew and Revive yarns but somehow their appeal flew under my radar until just recently.  
And these yarns do not disappoint! Not only do these two yarns embody all that I look for in fiber-- beauty, gorgeous color palette, sublime softness and texture, but they also appeal to the sensible side of me that recognizes the impact that even the knitting industry can have on our planet.  

Of course, Rowan isn’t the first company to create environmentally friendly lines of yarn, but to me, they were the first that paired their yarns with knits that I couldn’t wait to wear.  The pattern support featuring these two yarns is nothing short of stunning and full of sensible wearability.  That combined with gorgeous colors, these yarns can virtually be worn with just about anything in your wardrobe!
Renew is a blend of 93% recycled wool and 7% polymide and comes in 10 gorgeous muted shades.  It is a heavy worsted or aran weight and makes great warm and cozy accessories, sweaters, and jackets that are perfect for winter.  It can be knit on a size 9 or 10 needle, making it perfect for quicker knits and last minute gifts!  

Revive is a textured blend of 36% recycled silk, 36% recycled cotton, and 28% recycled viscose and comes in 9 similar shades.  It is a DK weight and makes perfect summertime garments and accessories.  It can even be a great yarn for shoulder seasons like Fall or Spring depending on what part of the world you reside in and how you layer it.  I think Revive is the perfect year-round yarn here in Reno.  Even though it does get quite cold in the winter here, I find that layering is often the way to go.  We do have 300 days of sunshine per year, but the weather can change at the drop of a hat!
Some of my favorite designs in Renew and Revive are in the Rowan Purelife Autumn and Rowan Purelife Recycled Collection’s.  The Purelife Autumn Collection features lovely cold weather garments that include the lovely “Aconite” Coat-- perfect for those chilly fall mornings and the “Cyclamen” Shrug-- perfect for layering over long sleeves.  I also love the super cozy “Snowdrop” Wrap and the “Winter Sweet” Cardigan.  All of these designs seem to embody the perfect fall-winter wardrobe with their cozy nature and sensible-chic appeal.  

The Rowan Purelife Recycled Collection features garments that I would wear year-round including the “Asparagus” cardigan and the “Parsnip” tunic.  I also love the "Pumpkin" striped tunic, the "Cardoon" shrug and the “Shallot” cropped lacy cardigan.  I actually bought this book the moment I saw it because I loved so many of the designs.  There are even some dashing men’s sweaters in this one!  

Of course, Rowan has several other books to inspire knitting with this yarn.  The Purelife Winter Collection and the Purelife Classics Collection are just two such examples.  These books have just a little something for everyone in them--and if you don’t find what you are looking for, these yarns would work beautifully for a number of other patterns as well.  

Try Hannah Fettig’s “Effortless Cardigan” out of the Revive for a perfect warm weather wrap sweater.  Or Cecily Glowick McDonald’s “Idlewood” tunic out of the Renew.  Whether you use these yarns for a Rowan pattern or “go your own way” (in the words of Fleetwood Mac) and find another pattern you love, you’ll certainly be thrilled with the result!
Hmm...and now to get started on something of my own...I’m thinking I’ll start with the “Asparagus” cardigan so that it will be ready to wear by spring!
Happy knitting everyone!
P.S.  Want to be the first to find out about new products and sales?  Then sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter and get all the exciting new info first! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Springtime Bandit KAL Kick-off--Better than the Super Bowl! :)

Hello and happy Wednesday everyone!  I am so excited about today, I am positively bursting with energy!  For one, I am thrilled to be kicking off this super fun KAL for the Springtime Bandit Shawl from the Fibre Company.  Other reasons I am excited may include; this pattern is super fun to knit, Courtney and Kate from The Fibre Company are going to be joining us on the Ravelry group throughout this KAL, and lastly...the yarn. It’s AMAZING!!!

The Original "Bandit" by
Kate Gagnon Osborn
Terra in Mint

For those of you not familiar with The Fibre Company’s Terra yarn yet, now’s the time to check it out!  Terra is a ridiculously soft blend of baby alpaca, silk, and wool and it’s absolutely to die for!  I chose the "Mint" color which combines light, cool green with a more intense sea foam for purely stunning color.  If you are interested in testing out this luscious stuff, the Springtime Bandit Kit is currently the Jimmy Beans Wool Kit of the Month and it’s available for 20% off!  That’s basically like getting an employee discount!  Woo-hoo!

Ok, now for the KAL part.  Some of you may be wondering why we chose the Springtime Bandit pattern.  “But it’s fall-- this pattern is inspired by spring,” you might be thinking.  True story.  But the Springtime Bandit pattern is super warm and fuzzy and perfect for wearing in cold weather.  Not to mention that it consists of a lovely leafy pattern that works equally well for fall.  I think it’s perfect.  I hope you do too!

I cast on last weekend and was able to get through the first chart and twice through the 2nd chart before running out of yarn on the first hank.  On size 9 needles, I am amazed at how quickly this project is progressing!  It’s simple to follow, and really fun as well.  I've Raveled my progress here.  What a great pattern.  Kudos to Kate over at The Fibre Company for dreaming this one up!   
Never-mind the festive
tablecloth... :) 

Like in our last KAL--the Larch Shawlette in the Lorna's Laces Endless Possibilities yarn, once again we find ourselves mainly following a chart.  This chart in particular is very well mapped out and easy to understand.  It has an awesome, very detailed key with it as well.  If anyone gets lost or stuck, please remember that you can reach me for technical stuff on the Ravelry thread or at my e-mail: kristen(at)jimmybeanswool(dot)com.  I am happy to help!

This yarn has amazing
stitch definition!

If anyone participating in the KAL is going to be in the bay area (California) next weekend, I’ll be at the Interweave Knitting Lab in San Mateo at the Jimmy Beans Wool/ Muench Yarns Booth!  Feel free to stop by for some one-on-one advice.  We’ll be filming our fun Jimmy Beans Videos while we are there, so if you are feeling brave maybe you could jump on camera too. :)  It’s going to be a ton of fun! 

Good luck getting started on your “Bandits” and welcome to the Jimmy Beans Fall KAL!
Happy knitting,
PS.  Want to be the first to find out about our sales, new products, and other fun events (like the KAL’s) with Jimmy Beans Wool?  Then sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter for all of the most recent updates! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Is My Favorite Season...

My Hawthorne trees are making a lovely yellow carpet

We are having the most spectacular fall here in Reno and since it's my ALL TIME favorite season of the year, I thought I would share a little Reno fall with all of you!

My grapes were yummy this season!

My favorite part of fall has to be the crisp mornings and warm afternoons. I love to walk through the leaves in my yard and hear them crunch under my feet. Of course, we have about 65 trees on our property, so we pretty much rake leaves year round. In the fall, however, we should rake just about everyday to keep up with the flux of fallen leaves.

Here in Reno, we don't get lots of bright colored leaves like in New England, but we still have a lovely high desert fall here 'bouts! 

Of course, I have knitting on my mind (hmmmm...that's all the time not just in the fall...sigh:) and Sandy and I are going be working up Kate Davies AMAZING Sheep Heid hat!! We are not exactly sure yet what yarn we will be using, but I will keep you posted on that front! 

The issue on this one is getting all 9 natural colors in the same line...or wait...maybe we could mix and match textures?? What do you think? 

We have been discussing the new Rowan Fine Tweed and possibly adding some of the Isager Alpaca 2 to fill in some of the gaps. I like the idea of some texture changes to bring out some of the charming details in this great design. Baaaaaaa....what's not to love?? 

I hope this whets your appetite for some fall knitting fun and for those of you who prefer another season, hang in there...three more to go :)

As always, happy knitting and crocheting!!


P.S. I can't keep up with all the new happenings around the shop anymore (yes there was a time that I knew everything there was to know about everything around here), so I read out twice monthly (FREE) Newsletter to keep up to date on everything JBW!! Remember that we never, EVER share your information with check it out...I know you won't be sorry!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Oct. 1 – 7 Chinese National Holiday - Kunming

For the holiday, a few friends and I went down to Yunnan, a province south of Sichuan. And it was pretty amazing. First, the train ride. 20 hours of sheer awesome. And by awesome, I mean some awesome and a lot of exhaustion. We met a lot of really neat Chinese people who were traveling or going home for the holiday. It definitely forced me to speak my faltering Mandarin, but I did it and it was actually really cool that you could do so much with so few words (and hand gestures and some pictionary). That part was really great. But the worst part was just not being able to sleep. We bought our tickets a little late in the game, so instead of getting sleepers we got seats. Just about the worst seats that you can get before you only have standing room. No comfortable way to sleep on a twenty hour train ride. Sitting up, leaning against people’s shoulders, trying to curl into a tiny ball of misery. That was me. Good news though! No squatty potty for me on the moving train. That part was a complete and total success.

We arrived in Kunming (the capital of the province) and one of the first things we did was go and get food. Train food just wasn’t cutting it. It was just about the best fast food ever. Or at least pretty good. And then on to the hostel to put down our things and get on with our day so our adventures could really start! After getting transportation to the next city taken care of, we went to the Bamboo Temple in Kunming. To be honest, temples are starting to run together in my mind since we have seen so many. But this one in particular just had something a little special. (Other than being at the top of a mountain with winding roads that are faintly reminiscent of the winding roads in Yosemite.) We arrived towards the end of the day, so there actually weren’t too many tourists around. This particular temple felt like a sanctuary, not necessarily a tourist destination. After wandering around a bit, we saw some construction – a nice representation that everything moves forward – some really nice quiet spots, and got to catch the chanting of the monks at the end of our visit. Peaceful. Soothing.

Really neat stone cauldron, wishing well type thing. =)

Because it had this inside. Get a coin in the dragons mouth and you get good luck! Hopefully.

Courtyard in the temple.

Roof of temple through the trees.

From that to chaos of Wal-mart in China, but I think the pictures from my last post can pretty much speak for themselves.

While a few of our classmates went forward, four of us stayed behind and enjoyed Kunming for a little longer. It was worth it. The next day, after being properly rested from that train ride, we went to Shilin, the Stone Forest. It was probably one of the most unreal things I have ever seen in my life. It just didn’t seem possible that these stone formations exist. It also didn’t help that there are paved walkways winding through the forest, lending to the surreal feeling to the experience, like it was all manmade and we were in Disneyland (felt like Disneyland because of the tourists). Wandering among the stones, it is kind of cool, but you don’t really get a feel for how vast it is until you reach a viewing pagoda. And climbed up to one, and just seeing it all just took your breath away. We just had to sit there in silence and just overlook the park. It changes your perspective, seeing these enormous stones rising from the ground. Overwhelming. We only uncovered a very small portion of the Stone Forest that day.

So we head back to Kunming after a really good day and decide to go to one of the popular streets in Kunming. One of the first things we see is a bookstore. Where there is no possible way that we are walking out without buying books. And we get to know a nice Chinese girl with exceptional English. Meeting new people. Usually pretty rewarding! Ate locally, walked around looking at all the stores, people watched. It was a small lesson in Chinese nightlife in Kunming.

That night, we head out on a sleeper bus to Dali, a popular destination for many tourists. Sleeper buses. Wow. Like the train ride, just one of those modes of transportation that you will never forget. It is kind of hard to describe, but lying down while you are in a moving bus is completely disorienting. For that sleeper bus we were assigned 4 bunks in a row, and I kind of assumed it would be a double decker bus of Harry Potter proportions. Not the case. At all. =P There is 1 bed across the aisle, but literally 3 very narrow bunks are pressed together on the other side. It was lucky that 4 of us decided to travel together. Otherwise, any of us could have been sleeping next to a stranger. Which, I guess in the Chinese mentality is normal and just take it as it is moment…but for the Western mind it was really bizarre. I am Western enough to still think that I won’t be getting on a sleeper bus again unless I am assured that I have my own bunk. We left Kunming at 10 pm, reached Dali at 2 am. They let us sleep until 6. Not the most restful night we have all had, but like I keep on saying…it was an experience.

Top bunk of the sleeper bus. No head room, but decent!

So this is turning into a two post blog. I’ll split it up between cities. Next part will be Dali!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fibre Co guest blog and giveaway!

Oh, goodness! Do we have a treat-ski's for all of you readers out there! As you may have read in our Newsletter, we are now carrying Fibre Co. yarn and patterns!!! We've had it for about a week now and can't keep our hands off of it - that is...until we have to ship it to you! Don't worry...we've stashed a bunch for ourselves! :)

We were lucky enough to chat with a couple of sweet gals, Courtney and Kate, who happen to be responsible for all that happens over at the Fibre Co. They told us some really fun stuff. Like, did you know that The Fibre Company started in 2004 as an alpaca processing and spinning mill by Iain Stanley and Daphne Marinopoulos?  The line of yarns they created were entirely unique in terms of their fiber blends and color and soon their yarns were known for their incredibly soft hand.

Kelbourne Woolens was established in 2008 by Kate Gagnon Osborn and Courtney Kelley. Since then, they have been in charge of all of the distribution - as well as product, pattern and color development, all the while maintaining the original vision of unique artisan yarns that Iain and Daphne created.

Currently, Fibre Co. has just two employees! As the owners of Kelbourne Woolens, the sole distributors of the Fibre Company yarns, Kate and Courtney handle pretty much everything that is required in regards to running the business. They have a wonderful hard working group of sales reps that help introduce their yarns to the shops in their area, but pretty much everything else – packing, shipping, invoicing, bookkeeping, ads, web and blog development, advertisements, trade shows and the base of pattern support are all taken care of by Kate and Courtney. Phew!

And as always, we asked them about the fun stuff, too! Now for the fun part!

JBW: Where are you two from?
Kate: Amherst, Massachusetts.  Courtney: Washington, D.C.

JBW: What's your favorite meal to cook?
Courtney: Campfire cooking. I love any excuse to cook outside, especially if there is pork involved. My one crowning achievement is the time I made a cake while we were camping. It was actually really good!

JBW: Why did you want to own a yarn company?
There was something about the Fibre Company that really appealed to us. We really wanted to continue the company that Daphne and Iain started, and love everything that goes into running the company. Not just the knitting and yarn (which is awesome), but the product development, marketing, working with customers and business side of things. Every day is different, and never boring.

JBW: Coffee or tea?
Kate: Tea. All the way. I have a very impressive collection of loose leaf teas from a small shop in Philly, Premium Steap and love making odd blends from them. My current favorite is Milk Oolong paired with “Orange Cookie” flavored black tea.

JBW: What's your least favorite candy?
Kate: Dark Chocolate   Courtney: Sour Patch Kids

JBW: First album you ever bought:
Courtney: Linda Ronstadt, Pacing Down the Wind  Kate: Wilson Phillips, Wilson Phillips

JBW: Do you have any pets? (I mean, really, we are practically a farm here at JBW!)
Kate: Yes! A three legged cat, Margaret “Peggy” Peg-Leg, an 8 year old cat, Desmond, an 8 year old Corgi/Shepherd mix, Rollie and a 3 year old Chow mix, Opus. I’ve also fostered 12 dogs and 9 cats from the local city animal shelter over the last 2 years.
Courtney: Yes! A 12 year old mix, Queenie and an 8 year old Norwich Terrier mix, Scrappy.

JBW: Little Known Fact about you:
Courtney: I don’t actually know how to knit....just kidding!...hmm...I studied ballet and voice very seriously as a teenager and went as far as to attend the Professional Performing Arts School in New York, but the only real end result from all that training is I am very good at public speaking!
Kate: I am woefully inflexible and even at my most fit (circa 1998) I was never able to touch my toes.

To celebrate the arrival of this wonderful company to the JBW family, we have a couple surprises for you! The first is that Kristen will be leading a super fun Knit-A-Long starting next week, right here on the blog. Be sure to check back next Wednesday for the first installment.

And what KAL and celebration would be the same without a giveaway? We will be doing a kit giveaway for the same project that Kristen will be leading in the KAL! How exciting!! And what is the pattern? It's the Springtime Bandit Shawl using Terra! And how can you win the kit?

To enter, leave a comment on our blog telling us what your go to quick knit is for the holiday season (truthfully, I just need some ideas! hehe) before Sunday, October 23rd at midnight PST. The winner will be contacted Monday so that she (or he) can receive the kit in time to start with Kristen! Only one comment per person, please.

Also, to find out more about The Fibre Co., check them out here:

Thank you to Courtney and Kate! Good luck everyone!!

Happy knitting and crocheting!

PS I know you would love to get our twice monthly Newsletter! It is full of all the news here at the shop, what we are working on and great product updates, of course it's FREE and your information is secure!! We never sell, share or trade your information, so check it out!