Friday, November 30, 2012

New fun here at Jimmy Beans!!!

By now you most likely are aware that Jimmy Beans is branching out into other aspects of fiber arts. Last weekend our first fabric newsletter went out which we are SO excited about! We're having so much fun being creative and learning all kinds of things about fabric and sewing! In fact, you can read more about our adventures in fabric by reading Jeanne's posts on Wednesday. She is chronicling all of the fun sewing projects we are embarking on in the shop.

Now, for what many of you have been asking and waiting for... Spinning and weaving supplies!!!!

We are now carrying Schacht spinning wheels and table looms.  Again, we are easing our way into this area and seeing what you like and want.  The first spinning wheel we are carrying is the Schacht Ladybug, a light weight, durable castle style that is easy to transport.  It even has a hand hold built right in! I've been spinning for many years and I have to say that this wheel has a lot of very nice features that make it very versatile. The Ladybug has double treadles (so you use both feet), adjustable leveling feet (for uneven surfaces and balance), the drive wheel is made of a composite material (so no need to worry about it warping and wobbling) and it comes with both a medium and a fast whorl.  One of my favorite things about it is that you can use either Scotch Tension or Double Drive (it comes with drive bands for each) so there is a wide range of what and how you can spin on this wheel.  The ratios go from 5:1 up to 16:1.  And Schacht has added a fun, whimsical touch, somewhere on each wheel is a ladybug.  It's in a different place on every single wheel so no two wheels are exactly alike!

Schacht telescoping Niddy Noddy's are available too!

We have top whorl drop spindles on order too!  They should be arriving to us in the next couple of weeks so keep a look out on our website for them!

For our venture into the world of looms we've started carrying Schacht's Cricket Looms in both 10" and 15" weaving widths.  These are nice little 8-dent rigid heddle looms that are a good introduction to the world of weaving.  I can see making purse and bag handles, belts, scarves, table runners and placemats in the future of many a knitter!

The 15" width is proving a big hit with knitters in our retail store!  Each one I put out for display is sold by the end of the day!

To get you started spinning we have Imperial Yarn's Sliver Roving (sliver is pronounced with a long "i" sound) and Bulky 2 Strand which is a pencil roving (prepared fibers drawn out to pencil thickness).  Both are very good for learning to spin.  Other "yarns" that can also be used for spinning are Cascade Magnum, Tahki Montana and Big Montana which are all technically pencil rovings as well.

We hope to add to our selection of spinning materials in the future.  Tell us what you would like to see!

We also have some excellent books to get you started learning to spin. Start Spinning by Maggie Casey has lots of basic information on everything you need to know to get started. The Intentional Spinner by Judith Mackenzie McCuin who is a much respected spinning teacher, this is an excellent book using a holistic approach to spinning that I highly recommend.

Once you have learned how to spin and want to begin to spin with objectives in mind, two other books we carry are Spin to Knit by Shannon Okey and Spin Art by Jacey Boggs.  Shannon's book is written as a guide for knitters who want to spin their own yarn and Jacey's book teaches you how to spin artsy, textural yarns.

Don't forget that we also have some needle felting supplies too!

And keep an eye on our class schedules for beginning spinning and weaving classes too!

We always appreciate your feedback so please let us know what you think!


PS. We now have a twice-a-month fabric newsletter in addition to our knitting and crocheting newsletter! Be sure to let us know if you'd like to start receiving it!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday fun...

We have been busy little beans around here and had the best Thanksgiving week ever! Some of us went out of town, some of us stayed here, but ALL of us had a great time! We hope that all of you had a wonderful holiday and are looking forward to some fun projects in the near future, as I know we are!

Huck landed in some super soft yarn!!
Huck went yarn diving in our hot tub here in the shop!! Stay tuned for more on the hot tub front, as we have something really fun going on and as you can see it involves yarn in the hot tub!! A small note about the hot tub, when Laura and Doug sold their house in Truckee they had a lot of their household items (including the hot tub) stored in the warehouse and some creative ideas started to spring forth as we looked at the hot tub everyday. Of course all of us would like to have it filled with water (hot of course) and a little cheese and wine on the side...ha ha, but I digress! 

We also sent out our first EVER fabric related Newsletter and the response has been overwhelming!!! Thank you to all of you have let us know how enthusiastic you are for sewing, quilting and anything fabric related! As you may know we added some amazing fabric lines to our shop last year and wanted to get things in place before we really started to talk about it a lot and we are now comfortable with how it is going, so are pushing forward with some really fun stuff!

On the sewing front I just finished my first ever apron project and I am thrilled with the results. I learned so much about sewing and finishing a piece on this project. The pattern is a Freespirtt & Rowan free pattern and I know you would love the outcome!  I will be sharing my tips with some of the fantastic beans here at the shop next Wednesday evening, so stay tuned for more on that front. 

I used fabric from the Jenn Ski Mod Century line and chose a forest green thread as an accent. I had hoped to have it finished for Thanksgiving, but ran into some operator error, but cleared that up yesterday and I think it looks great; if I do say so myself.

For now I need to dash off and choose some fabric for my next one, as I am going to do this again along with the little beans next week! Now that I have flushed out my issues it should fly right off of the machine!! We'll be sure to post photos when we finish. :)

As always, happy sewing!!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Count down to the big feast...

The lips of the fish are the brim
We are all running around the shop like little beans with our heads cut off, as tomorrow is almost here! Wow I can't believe that another Thanksgiving day is coming up and I don't have my holiday gift creations done yet...what have I been doing since last season??

Shevawn is a great model, I can't wait
to get the fins, tail and eyes on
Well let me tell you, I have been knitting, sewing, gardening and working on various other projects too, but do you think that any of those knitting, or sewing projects are gifts? Nope!!!

Oohhhh wait! I just remembered a Dead Fish hat I am knitting for a certain young bean  (Huck TURN AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER!!!) using some fun stash yarn that I have. I think he will have fun playing with his Dead Fish hat and I think I am going to use some fabric for the fins and the tail to complete the whole look, what do you think?

Top skirt, red bottom skirt and bib

On the sewing front I currently have a quilt to finish, as well as this charming apron to complete. The apron is a gift, but I can't say for who at this point, as I am pretty sure they read the blog, hee, hee.  I will also be teaching some of the beans how to work up their own apron at the beginning of December, so I will be well prepared to share all my apron tips by then.
My pocket...isn't it cute?

In other news I just met with the neatest gal, Cindy and we are discussing the possibility of her teaching The Chameleon Hand Bag class here in the shop.  Perky Brouillette and Pat Lui are the designers and Cindy has their permission to teach this fun class! I am super excited to make one of these cute bags and would love to hear your feed back on this project.

Cindy is quite the sewer and quilter and she is also considering putting together a beginner class for us that would cover the very basics of sewing and quilting. Tools, fabrics, threads and what not! I don't know about you, but it is always nice to have a good foundation for any new skill.

At any rate I hope you enjoyed reading some of my ramblings and I hope you have a great family day tomorrow!

As always, happy knitting, crocheting and sewing!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Operation Turkey Trot aka. "Fit for a Feast!"

Well, some of you may have learned by now that the project we've been lovingly calling Operation Turkey Trot for over two months now is actually the code name for our Hand-dyed Holiday Collection called "Fit for a Feast!" Back in August, our fearless leader Laura, had the brilliant idea to ask some of our favorite hand-dyers and vendors if they would be interested in creating a special holiday color for us. Luckily, we were able to get an AMAZING group together!

"The Feast"
This year's first-ever holiday collection features colors from Malabrigo, Lorna's Laces, Jade Sapphire, Madelinetosh, Koigu, Fyberspates, Dream in Color, and Sweet Georgia inspired by their favorite holiday dishes. The collection also includes a special interchangeable set of Dreamz needles from Knitter's Pride in a gorgeous Onyx color (distributed by Muench yarns), an awesome beaded Mudra cuff from Nelkin Designs, and an exclusive scented LoLo body bar from the Bar Maids

These items are available for purchase individually (which includes our exclusive recipe book) or as part of one of our fabulous "Feast To-Go" kits! Here is the breakdown of what is included in each of our kits, for your reference:

"The Feast" 

The "Silverware"
This kit is the whole enchilada! Well, maybe not enchilada because it's Thanksgiving and all, but it definitely has everything all in one! In this kit, you'll receive 1 skein of each color in the holiday collection including Madelinetosh's Tosh Merino Light in "Turducken", Artyarns' "Corn Pudding" (my personal favorite dish) and Malabrigo's Worsted Merino in "Pecan Pie." This kit also contains a Lo Lo To Go Body Bar in the "Queen's Buns" color, a special colorway of Nelkin Designs' Mudra Cuff kit, a FREE Holiday Collection Project bag, and access to the recipe book containing all of the recipes that this collection was inspired by! The entire kit comes wrapped up in a fun to-go container. The Feast kit is also available with "Silverware" which is everything in the regular Feast kit but also with an exclusive set of Knitter's Pride Dreamz Interchangeable needles all in Onyx as well as a full size Bar Maids Queen's Buns Lo Lo bar.
"Favorite Leftovers"

"Favorite Leftovers"

This kit contains a sampling of some holiday favorites including Lorna's Laces "Pumpkin Pie" in Shepherd Sock, Madelintosh's Tosh Merino Light in "Turducken", and Koigu's KPPPM in "Fluffy Pudding". And, as with all of the Holiday Collection "mini" kits you also receive the free Holiday Collection Project bag, a Lo Lo To-Go in the Queen's Buns, and access to the awesome recipe book!

"Sweet, Savory, and Stuffing"

"Sweet, Savory, and Stuffing"
Who wants Turducken without the stuffing? Not this girl! I was the lucky one who was in charge of making Felicia's Truffles and Sage Stuffing Recipe for our test-run holiday feast we had here at Jimmy Beans. (After all, you can't give out recipes you haven't tasted for yourself, right?) It was such a fun party, and this stuffing was seriously some of the best I've EVER had! (Sorry dad, our Ashbaugh family recipe is really good too!) Anyway, I digress. Let's get to the good part! This kit contains the Madelinetosh "Turducken", Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in "Truffles and Sage", and Malabrigo's "Pecan Pie". Yum! You also get the Lo Lo To-Go, project bag, and recipe book access!

"Just Desserts"
"Just Desserts"
Would you rather skip the Turducken and get right down to the sweet stuff? Well then, the "Just Desserts" kit is the perfect choice for you! This kit contains Malabrigo's Pecan Pie, Lorna's Laces "Pumpkin Pie, and Koigu's "Fluffy Pudding", as well as all of the other extras! You really can't go wrong with this combination of goodies!
Bar Maids are the best!

Ok, so there are several other kits including "Scrumptious and Stunning", "The Tasty Trio", and "Tradition with a Twist", but I think you are starting to get the point! Check them all out if you can as they are each beautiful and unique, super fun in the spirit of the holidays, AND they make a great gift for your favorite knitter or even yourself! You can also purchase any of the items a la carte and even if you just buy one skein, you'll receive access to the recipe booklet!

I am actually thinking about building my own to-go container and here is what it would contain: Artyarns Ensemble Light in "Corn Pudding", Malabrigo Worsted Merino in "Pecan Pie", Sweet Georgia Tough Love sock in "Truffles and Sage", and Jade Sapphire Silk Cashmere 2-ply in "Cranberry-Orange." I'd probably throw in a Queen's Buns Lo Lo bar for good measure!


We hope you love our exclusive 2012 Holiday Collection- Fit for a Feast, and we wish you a VERY happy holiday season!

Happy knitting and crocheting!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Journey of a Quilt...

Mollie Makes Family Tree Quilt
What does it mean for a quilt to take a journey? For us at JBW it started with an idea, and that little spark is all it took to get the wheels moving around here. Usually Laura, aka Jimmy, can be counted on for the biggest and best ideas, and this time was no exception!

As some of you may remember Laura made her 1st quilt a while back from Joel Dewberry's Sewn Spaces book and it turned out so stunning in the yellow and gray prints she chose! Recently, she grabbed a copy of Mollie Makes magazine (Issue #18), and WHAM! The Family Tree Quilt project jumped right out of the magazine at her and she knew she had to make one for Huck who had been asking for a quilt of his own.

Fast forward a few weeks and we now have a customer, a sweet gal named Vanessa who had never made a quilt before (but sews up a storm), who has jumped on board with us for this project. We started at the very beginning learning how to choose fabric for your project, pre-washing (a super important, not to be skipped step) and ironing. So now we are onto cutting the strips for the project!

Here Vanessa and Laura with a little bit of Huck are cutting

Saturday was so much fun choosing fabrics and colors! Vanessa brought her sweet little girls and Huck was there as well to help Laura choose colors for his quilt. You can see how excited he is in the corner of this shot. Vanessa is making her quilt for her sweet daughter Billie, and she is super excited too as well! 

The idea behind this quilt project is to create a story within the quilt which can be the center fabric strips (gathering them from family and friends), or writing/embroidering sayings, quotes, or inspirational bits on the sides next to the center strips. We have opted for the embroidery route and I can’t wait to see where that part of the process leads us. I am a little ahead of myself though, so here are some pictures to tell the story and I will keep you updated as we move forward in our learning process.

Buddy helped choose fabric

Here are the initial fabric choices from Laura, which we ended up trimming them down a bit in the final choices but were very pleased with the combination of fun prints. This also happens to be the last photo we took of sweet Buddy before he joined Wiley at the Rainbow bridge. Those two are never far from our thoughts around here and they are sorely missed.

So now that the strips are cut and ready to be sewn we will be getting together soon to start the piecing process which is my favorite part of quilt making. Do you have a favorite part of the process when quilting, or sewing?

Stay tuned for the next step in 'The Journey of a Quilt'... coming soon!

As always happy knitting, crocheting and sewing!!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Knitters, Crocheters, Crafters, and Hurricane Sandy Relief-- A Resource Guide

Hi Everyone!

Over the last few weeks, we've been watching the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and have been trying to help promote any of the relief efforts that we see come our way. There are so many folks that have gotten involved in so many different ways that it's been tough to keep track of them all! We thought maybe you all felt the same way, so with that in mind I've done a little research and created a list of various efforts being made within the knitting community to make your efforts to help a little easier!

Also, I am sure that I've missed some folks, so please, if you are doing a promotion for Hurricane Sandy Relief (ie. selling one of your patterns and donating the profits or collecting hand knit items to donate) please let us know by leaving a comment on this post with the link to where people can buy your pattern or find more info. We invite you to continue to add to our list as we want this to be a resource! (If you have any issues posting your link, feel free to send me an e-mail with the info and we'll post it for you-- kristen(at)jimmybeanswool(dot)com -Thanks!)

Here are the efforts I found in my research (click on the name to link to the Ravelry page):

1) Lorna's Laces: Feeding America Hurricane Sandy Relief- the pattern you get is a digital download containing 4 different sock patterns! Lorna's will donate 100% of the $5 purchase to Feeding America. They have raised over $2,500 so far!

2) Iris Schreier: From Artyarns (who has been without power herself for 2 weeks now) is donating 100% of the proceeds from the "Wispy Cables Scarf" pattern ($2 each) to the American Red Cross. She's raised almost $500 so far!

3) Diane Edgerly Designs: Diane is one of our customers who designed "Winter Wedding", a lovely capelet earlier this year. She recently contacted us and asked her to help her get the word out that she is donating 100% of the profits of this pattern to the Salvation Army for Hurricane Sandy relief. She and her family have fond memories of vacationing at the Jersey Shore, and she wanted to do what she could to help!

4) Knitting Fever International: Also known as KFI, the US distributor of Debbie Bliss, Noro, Elsebeth Lavold, Euro Yarns, Knitting Fever, Circulo, Sublime yarns, Arucania, Mirasol, and Louisa Harding to name a few, has decided to go a slightly different route in getting involved. They are accepting donations of warm clothing and blankets to distribute to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Hand-knit items are welcome, but not required. They are encouraging LYS's to get involved and have asked them to be a hub for the donations. Once a shop has received all of their donations, Knitting Fever is covering the shipping costs for these items. If you know an LYS owner who might be interested in getting involved, let them know about this program!

5) Brett Bara's Craft-a-long for Hurricane Sandy Relief: In a similar vein to KFI, Brett Bara has organized a craft-a-long to create warm items to donate to Hurricane Sandy Victims. Donations are being accepted until Friday, Nov. 16th, which is a quick turn-around, but if you've already got something you can donate (they are accepting gently used items as well) there is still time to mail it. :)

6) Alexis Winslow: Designer and blogger (Knit Darling) is donating 100% of proceeds from her "Caring Cowl" pattern until the end of the year to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts (to the Red Cross). She's donated $800 so far!

7) Ravelry Groups: A little search on Ravelry turn up several groups dedicated to the efforts of Hurricane Sandy Relief. Sift through and see which one you want to join!

8) NextStitch: A crochet designer on Ravelry who has pledged 50% of all pattern sales through the end of November to Hurricane Sandy Relief for the city of Union Beach, NJ.

9) American Red Cross: If you'd like to donate directly, the Red Cross is always a good bet and is doing tons of relief work for Sandy victims.

10) Salvation Army: Another great place to donate is directly to the Salvation Army Disaster Relief fund.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to get involved! Again, please use this as a reference and let us know if there are other designers out there we should add to this list! I am sure I missed some and we want to make sure to include everyone who is helping in this list! Feel free to leave a comment with a link to more info.

If you were affected by Hurricane Sandy, we at Jimmy Beans wish you all the best and hope that you are warm and safe tonight.

Happy knitting and crocheting everyone!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Knitting, How Much do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Projects!

One of the most frequent questions I'm asked in the store is how many projects do I have going at any one time. I usually just rattle off whatever I'm currently working on but a couple of days ago I looked around and realized I just have way too many projects going. No wonder I'm not finishing any! LOL!

I thought I would share some of them with you.

First there is my A-line Hoodie from our recent Knit Red Knit-A-Long.  The pattern is by Diane Soucy and can be found in Knit Red by Laura Zander.  I'm using Berroco Vintage in color 5150 Berries.

I'm using my new favorite needles, Knitter's Pride  Cubic circulars size US #8.

I'm knitting on this project just as fast as I can so I can wear it now the weather is getting cold!

 When I first saw the Wingspan Shawl by Maylin Tri'coterie Designs on Raverly I knew I had to make it.  I love the way bold, self striping yarns look in this pattern. I've chosen Schoppel Wolle Crazy Zauberball in color 1507 Herbstwind and Addi Lace circular needles.  This is a wonderfully soft yarn and the colors are so vibrant!

I have been trying to knit socks for myself for the past couple of years.  I have about five different pairs in different techniques started.  My problem is, they keep getting preempted by gifts for family and other projects.  I'm promising myself that I will finish them this winter so I have warm and toasty toes!

This pair is Never Not Knitting's Amelie Socks.  I'm working this pair according to the Magic Loop instructions. I love this pattern and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn each of the three main methods for knitting sock because the pattern has instructions for double points, 2 circulars and Magic Loop.

The yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Tuscany on Addi Lace circular needle.

I often like to have several projects going of different skill levels.  Seems like I've been mostly needing mindless, cruising knitting lately so these wonderful socks have take a back seat.  This is quite a challenging pattern. It can be found for free on Ravelry at Neko Knits.  The pattern is Seriously Southwestern Socks.  Mary, the designer is a local customer and a great sock designer! She designed this sock specifically to use one of our Lorna's Laces Limited Edition colors.  Since that color was no longer available when I started my socks I chose Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Gold Hill and Charcoal.  To further complicate this mosaic knitting pattern I'm working them two at a time on two Addi Lace circular needles!  So this most definitely is a "need to concentrate" project.

 I've been working on this little sweater for my now 10 month old granddaughter.  It's Knitting Pure & Simple New Born Layette Pattern #121.  I'm knitting the 12 month size and I'm getting nervous that she'll have outgrown it before I finish!  The yarn is again Lorna's Laces Sock in one of our Limited Editions colors - Wonderstone.  I've been knitting this project on Knitter's Pride Cubics too.

This is lonely project is my Knitbots Featherweight Cardigan in MadelineTosh Prairie.  The color is Earl Grey.  I started this one last year and it has been laying around looking forlorn so I will get back to it after my holiday knitting so it will be done for next spring.
Now for my holiday knitting!  I'm working on a throw for my very special someone.  I'm making the Cabled Afghan, pattern #30 from the Holiday 2012 issue of KnitSimple Magazine. I'm using Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky in the discontinued color of 621 and again the Knitter's Pride Cubics US #11.

And my latest start is the Knitting Pure & Simple Little Girls Top Down Dress for my granddaughter. I'm making the 18 month size and I'm using Berroco Vintage Colors in 5219 Purple Haze. This time I'm using Knitter's Pride Dreamz in size US 6. I've been knitting so many top down sweaters lately I thought that instead of a plain stockinette skirt I'd do a Feather and Fan pattern.  So far it looks great and think it will be very cute.

So those are the projects that I have going right now that were most accessible as I was planning this post.  I'm almost embarrassed to say that I do have lots more UFOs that I really need to finish.  Maybe now that winter is arriving I'll be able to get caught up on my knitting.  Of course, there are the new projects that are tempting me to start them... What's a knitter to do!?  (Cast on a new project of course! Silly question!)


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Bar-Maids' Guide to Surviving the Holidays

Bar-Maids is a small family fun business. Though quite a few of us are together all the time, location aside, being with this fun-loving group of individuals during the holidays is what matters most. Our group of individuals happens to average about twenty. As you can imagine, when twenty or more people get together under one roof for at least a week, you need to have some rules. If you ever venture into something like this we offer up our list of rules, referred to as the 12- step program.

1. Travel Light: 1 suitcase per person. Diva’s – you can do this!
2. Minimal Mess: Shoes off at the door (Except for Santa. His footprints are a highlight as they make a path from the fireplace, to the cookies, to the tree. Boot bottoms dipped in flour (easy to vacuum).

3. Comfort: Beds for the oldest, kids in sleeping bags.

4. Ghosts of Christmas Past: Better than TV, we share a lot of family stories that seem to grow over time. Like the time that our Great Grandmother told our Grandma Pat (“The Queen”), “Remember, Priscilla, you have blue blood in you”. After hearing this one, Alec was caught in the bathroom sticking his finger with a pin to see if he had “blue blood” too.

5. Holiday Magic: The kids drift to sleep as stories are being read. One story always includes fairies.  They wake up in the morning to find fairy dust all over their sleeping bags. (Mica glitter).

6. Morning Mayhem: The first one up starts the fire, then the coffee. When you smell coffee, time to get a move-on.

7. Karate Kid showers: To make hot water stretch:  turn water on, get wet. Turn off, soap on. Turn on, soap off.

8. To Close for Comfort? If the house comes with a fireplace, chopping wood is a great stress reliever. So is taking a walk or play hide and go seek. U hide, they seek.

9. Life’s a puzzle: We always have a puzzle or two going. The harder the better. Teaches you a lot about an individual….really!

10. BIG functional kitchen. As we all cook together, there is a lot of chopping, stirring, and taste testing going on. While each meal includes at least one dish that is new, we always include something we call the “Queens Buns” (in honor of Grandma Pat) at each breakfast. We have many “Queen’s Buns” recipes, some quick and easy, some more time consuming. They are the best! (Stay tuned for more info on the "Queen's Buns" with Operation Turkey Trot!)

11. Making Memories: We have at least three people taking pictures. Crazy cousin Carol Ann always takes a picture of each meal set on the table awaiting the masses.

12. Kiss and Tell: Kiss everyone goodbye and tell them you love them. 

Happy Holidays everyone!

The Bar-Maids

Monday, November 5, 2012

Crochet Corner- Swatches that Lie!

Not long ago there was a discussion in my Ravelry group (Crochet Insider) about swatching or not swatching before a project.  These days, just about every dedicated crocheter knows they are supposed to do a swatch first, especially when making garments, but often they still don't.  I have to admit that I  ranted in rhyme about it on a thread, as follows:

Crocheters, can you please get on the right page
You can’t make it work without getting gauge.
Don’t be lazy, it’s a good thing to do,
Practice the stitch before you make a boo boo.
You have the nerve to complain about fit
But you can’t be bothered to first swatch it?
It’s an insult to people who work hard and long
When you post here on rav and say it’s all wrong.

OK, maybe I went overboard here, but my group is very supportive.  This touched off a discussion about why people don't swatch, and one of the group responded with a rhyme of her own:

Making a gauge swatch is certainly wise.
But what do you do if the swatch just lies?
To get the gauge that the pattern advises,
I might need to go down three hook sizes.
If I do manage to get the width right,
I can’t get the row gauge, try as I might.
Then washing and blocking and hanging -- oh heck,
I end up crocheting the pattern “on spec.”
So it’s sometimes less frustrating just to plunge in
And use trial and error - it’s not such a sin.
But rather than match the designer’s own hand,
I wish there were a formula we could all understand
For converting the gauge to any yarn we want
So we could all be flexible, and save Dora the rant. (!)

Thus was I educated by my fans that the reasons for not swatching go beyond laziness, and are worth discussing.

Several folks mentioned how difficult it is to match gauge in crochet.  My theory is that it's actually harder than in knitting;  there are many small maneuvers in each crochet stitch, and therefore more ways for stitches to vary in size.  People often find that even if they match stitch gauge, they can't get row gauge.  Even more problematic, once you make a larger piece of crochet fabric, the weight of the fabric often causes gauge to change, and next thing you know, you're calling the swatch  a liar!

Let's look at the row gauge issue first:  the problem people usually have is that row gauge is shorter than the designer's.  The height of stitches is controlled by how much you lift the first loop that is drawn through the stitch -- in a single crochet, right after inserting your hook under the top loops; in taller stitches, there are yarn overs first, but it's still the first loop after inserting your hook in the stitch you're working into. Even if you're working around a post or elsewhere, it's still that first loop that comes through the stitch, and how high you draw it up, that determines the height of the stitch.  If you generally work very tightly, you'll be amazed how loosening up right at that spot will not only help you achieve row gauge, but will open up your stitches, make a prettier surface, and improve drape.

OK, so you've got row gauge licked, but you still may face the issue of the swatch that lies -- in other words, gauge changes when going from swatch to actual item. This impacts on my own design process quite a bit.  I start out on a design with a gauge swatch, and use it to compute how many stitches and rows I'll need for the design.  But very often, as I work the project, I redo all those counts in light of the somewhat different gauge I'm getting now that I'm actually making the project.  So my original swatch is more like a "draft" gauge, not the real thing. 

Where does this leave the poor crocheter though?  Even if they get gauge on their swatch,  what if it doesn't carry over into the item itself?

There is a solution, and that's what I want to share today.  This is applicable only when you are close to gauge, perhaps one or two stitches more or less per 4", or one row more or less.  DO make a gauge swatch and see if you can get close to the designer's gauge.  Then, start making the piece, and after you've got several inches of work, measure it again for gauge. This is your REAL gauge. Finally, based on the dimensions of the item you're making, adjust the stitch and row counts so that you can make the item at your gauge, not the designer's. 

Here's an example:  say you are making a sweater, starting with the back piece at the bottom.  If your gauge is a little larger than the designer's, your piece might be coming out an inch wider than you thought.  At the bottom of a sweater, an inch is no big deal, so there's no need to start again.  But you do want to account for this difference in gauge in areas where the garment needs to be more fitted, such as at the shoulders, neck, or sleeves. 

Take a look at the sweater schematic and see how many inches it should be across the shoulders.  Let's say the desired width there is 15".  On your stitched up back piece -  how many stitches are in 15"?  You can figure it out using math, but hey, why not just count them on your work? Just lay the piece down flat with a ruler and count stitches and rows. Easier, right? 

Now, to get the stitch count right for the shoulders, when you get to the point in the sweater where stitches are decreased for the shoulders -- this usually occurs at the armhole -- adjust the decreases so you end up with the correct stitch count for your gauge.  You can also count the number of stitches and rows you'll need for the correct dimensions at any point in your sweater and adjust the pattern accordingly.

This is all easier than many people think, trust me.  On the other hand, I have found that many sweater fit problems are less about gauge, and more about people not knowing their measurements.  But that's for another post on another day!

Happy Crocheting!

Dora Ohrenstein is an author, designer and writer whose most recent book is Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments that Really Fit.  Her website  is a great source for articles, interviews and techniques, and where she teaches online crochet classes.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sterling Inspiration

Kirsten Muench is one of our long time friends here at Jimmy Beans Wool. She owns Muench yarns, which produces the delicious Touch Me yarns (she actually created the yarn herself), as well as Muench Family and Big Baby, two of our go-to kid friendly yarns. Muench is also one of the main distributors of Knitter's Pride Needles in the US. In this lovely post, Kristin tells us the story of what inspired her's and Knitter's Pride's contribution to Operation Turkey Trot:

This story starts in a small village near the Baltic Sea, before WWII, where my people come from. It was a Part of Germany called East Prussia, what is now Northern Poland and Russia. My mother’s whole family was from this area… They lived there for hundreds of years; they were doctors, professors, and farmers. The Russians invaded towards the end of the war and my family fled their homeland. They left with the clothes on their backs and a few suitcases hastily packed.

There are family stories of how my grandmother vowed that the Russians “ Would not get any of her porcelain” so she put everything in a wooden crate and buried it in the potato patch. There are many other things that were planted in the yard, and they are still there. I went back in 1995 - the house is gone, flattened by war, but I found the foundation and, with my aunts help, found the area in which Omi had buried her treasure. There is still a potato patch in the same place but we could not find the farmer who now owns the land, so it’s still on my list to dig up the past. I do, however, have one thing that was brought from the old country: a set of large soup spoons in sterling silver which belonged to my great grandmother. They are my pride and joy!
Thanksgiving time is my favorite time of year. It’s time to get together with family and eat a lot, and I’m good with that! Like most families we have the tradition of turkey soup a few days after the T-day, and I always bring out the soup spoons from my family and we dig in!

Sterling silver cutlery is what came to mind when, together with Knitters Pride, we developed something extraordinary for Operation Turkey Trot brought to you by JBW. It lays beautifully in your hands, and feels dreamy!  Wait ‘till you see!

Hope you all have a great weekend and happy knitting!


Friday, November 2, 2012

We're having a Charity Knit/Crochet/Sew Night and a Special Surprise!!!!

Jimmy Beans and Stitch Red are joining together with Random House and the Red Scarf Project to hold a Knit For Charity Night on Thursday, November 15, 2012 6-8 pm.

Come join us to knit, crochet or sew a project for charity!
Random House has put together a nationwide knit night event presenting Nicky Epstein's new book, “Knitting in Circles”, knitting for charity and support for Stitch Red. They are offering a free red scarf pattern from Nicky's book and exclusive knitting tips from Nicky herself for attendees, plus an exciting drawing for all participants of all the knit night events around the country.
You can knit for the Red Scarf Project sponsored by Foster Care for Success which gives red scarves on Valentines Day to college students that have grown up in the Foster care system. We are offering to collect and send in the scarves knit or crocheted before December 15th. Or, choose your own favorite charity and project.

Size: approximately 60” long and 5” to 8” wide. Scarves should be long enough to be wrapped around the neck, with tails long enough to be tied in the front.
Style: Think unisex collegiate. Fringes are optional. Your scarf should drape, tie easily and be soft.
Color: Red! However, this could mean burgundy, cherry, russet, red stripes with other colors, or multicolor hues including red.
Finished & tagged: Yarn ends should be securely sewn in. For a personal touch, attach a tag saying “Handmade for You” with your first name, city, and group affiliation, if any. Donors have also included washing instructions, messages of encouragement, gift cards, and more.

Double your charity giving this season by purchasing the Stitch Red book and by using Stitch Red products in your charity knitting and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Heart Truth to support awareness of heart disease in women! To see all the available Stitch Red products go to the Stitch Red website.

Enter 3 free raffles! Two raffles will be drawn during the event. Each the winner of each raffle will win copy of “Stitch Red” by Laura Zander or “Knitting in Circles” by Nicky Epstein.

The third drawing sponsored by Random House will be randomly drawn after December 15, 2012 from all entries received from all shops hosting a charity knit night! There will be two grand prizes and two runner up prizes given away!

Grand Prize will include:

  • Potter Craft Tote Bag stuffed with:
  • A *signed* copy of Nicky Epstein’s Knitting Block by Block
  • An exclusive project knitted by Nicky Epstein herself!
  • A skein of red yarn, compliments of Cascade Yarns
  • 2 Potter Craft knitting books
  • A sock knitting “deck”
  • Chocolate!

Runner Up Prize will include:

  • Potter Craft Tote Bag stuffed with:
  • A *signed* copy of Nicky Epstein’s Knitting Block by Block
  • A skein of red yarn, compliments of Cascade Yarns
  • 2 surprise Potter Craft knitting books
  • Chocolate!
And if all this isn't enough, everyone who attends this Charity Knit Night will get a special preview of our Friday Before Black Friday surprise aka "Operation Turkey Trot!"

Tours will be given to those who haven't had one and refreshments will be served. 

This is going to be so much fun so come join us!!!