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May 29, 2019

Memory is a versatile word. We use it in phrases such as "in memory of", "memory foam", "short term memory", "memory loss", and "muscle memory" to name a few. Sometimes recalling memories is intentional, like when we have Memorial Day and we intentionally think of loved ones who gave their lives serving in our military. Sometimes we have a hard time pulling up a memory from our past, especially when we haven't thought about that memory in awhile. Some memories are forever lost due to illness, and some are so entrenched in our lives that they define who we are. Occasionally a memory we didn't even know was there surfaces when we hear a certain song or sound, or when we smell a certain smell. Smell has been most closely linked with memory, with sound coming in a close second. When I smell honeysuckles, for example, I am taken back to my younger days when my father and I would take walks around the block in our neighborhood, a very happy memory for me for sure. Or when I hear the Star Wars theme, I remember seeing the original movie for the first time at the Charlottetown Cinema that no longer exists, and standing in line at the Eastland Mall (also gone) theater to see Empire Strikes Back. Those memories come back without any effort from me. They are triggered by external stimuli, i.e. smell or sound.

There is another type of memory that can be surprising because we don't realize we are creating the memory at the time, and that is muscle memory. When we learn a task, like knitting, first our brains are engaged in figuring out how to move our hands and fingers to control the yarn and needles. Once we get the hang of the motions, the more we practice, our hands seem to work on their own without much intentional thought from our brains. (This also applies to typing or playing the piano or any other musical instrument.) This muscle memory doesn't happen immediately, and if we don't practice enough it takes longer for our muscles to cooperate when we want to work on a project. But just like riding a bike, if your muscles are already trained and you spend some time away from your knitting (or riding), it doesn't take long to pick it back up when you're ready.

Many people don't knit or crochet during the summer. Either they have other activities that require their time or they somehow think knitting is only for cold weather. There are so many luscious summer fibers, like cotton, linen, and bamboo, that it is possible to knit all year long and not have to take a break because of the heat. Plus there is always air-conditioning indoors to make knitting with wool more pleasant. For the busy ones who don't feel they can take the time to work on a big project, there are always small, portable projects that you can stash in your handbag to pull out when you have to wait at the doctor's office or sit through a child's soccer practice. I even worked on a very simple (stockinette) section of a sweater when I went to a movie last week. Once again, the more you practice, the more your muscle memory will kick in and you will find yourself knitting faster and with more accuracy, but if you have to take a break, no worries! Your hands will remember what to do when you get back to it.

Make time to knit this summer to help your memory! And if you need suggestions for small projects, stop by the Cottage and we will hook you up with some gorgeous yarn and a great project!

January 28, 2019


  

Tip Corner


Raise your hand if you know what a swatch is. Now keep them up if you like to swatch. How many hands are still up? My guess is probably 0-1 hands still in the air. And why is that?

I can definitely say that swatching was never my favorite part of a project. I just thought it was sort of a guideline anyway, once I even learned what a swatch is. But within the past year I have learned to appreciate swatching for certain projects, and even enjoying the process! What changed, you ask? I saw a video by Amy Herzog, knitwear designer, where she was stressing the importance of swatching, but also explaining better why and how to swatch. So here is my takeaway for what it's worth.

First and foremost, knitting a gauge swatch comes before casting on for a project to make sure you are matching the gauge of the knitter who designed the pattern. There are many different ways to knit and how loosely or tightly you tension your yarn will affect the size of your finished project. If you are knitting  a baby blanket or a shawl, matching the gauge is only important for making sure you have enough yarn, but if you are making something that needs to fit, like a sweater or hat, swatching is vital to the success of your project.

But not all swatching is equal. When reading a pattern, there is usually a Gauge listed that looks something like 21 sts x 28 rows = 4" (10cm). That means that when you knit in stockinette stitch for this pattern, you should have 21 stitches and 28 rows in a 4" square. What it does NOT mean is "cast on 21 stitches and knit 28 rows and you WILL have a 4" square." The best way to measure your gauge is to start with the recommended needle size and recommended yarn or an equivalent substitute. Amy Herzog suggests casting on anywhere between 35 and 50 stitches, knit a few garter rows for an edging, keep a couple of stitches on each end in garter stitch, and knit in stockinette until you are fed up with knitting on this swatch. Then knit a few garter rows and bind off. The reason for this is that by the time you are tired of knitting those 35-50 stitches back and forth, you are finally working to your normal gauge. At the beginning of the swatch you are trying to be careful and match the gauge in the pattern. After about 2" or so, you will relax and settle into the gauge you would be knitting that 195 st sweater that you are swatching for. She also recommends when you start the stockinette section to knit in the number of eyelets that represents the needle size you are using for the swatch, i.e. (k2tog, YO) 5 times if you are using a US 5 needle. After binding off, wet block the swatch and let it dry flat without stretching it out. Once it is dry, pick the area of the swatch that is a little closer to the bind off end that looks like a good representation of your gauge. You can measure just 4" across, or you can measure a wider area of even stitches. Either way, divide the number of stitches by the total measurement you took with your ruler or knit gauge. If you are lucky, your gauge will match the pattern exactly and you can now cast on. If you have more stitches than you are supposed to have, you need to try again with a larger needle. If you have fewer, try with a smaller needle. Do not try to knit tighter or looser. You will eventually fall back into your regular gauge and your project will not end up the right size.

So all of this is a sort of tutorial on HOW to swatch. But I really want to tell you WHY to swatch. One reason is what we just went through - to match the gauge in the pattern - but there are several other, more fun reasons to swatch.

1) I'm not supposed to start my KAL project until Tuesday, but I really want to cast on NOW! Hey, why don't I do a swatch! (True story!)
2) I've never tried this stitch so before I cast on 186 stitches and knit 4" of ribbing and then TRY the stitch, maybe a smaller swatch would be a good idea.
3) I wonder what these colors would look like together (see colorwork swatch above)
4) I have never worked with this yarn before. I'm not sure if it will shrink or grow, or drape, or be stiff, or if it will even look good in this stitch pattern.

I'm sure there are probably lots more reasons to swatch, but of the 4 listed here, I have used 3 of them just in the past week. I found it exciting to see how my colors looked together for a sweater we will be teaching later this year, and to see how the Rose Plank stitch pattern would look in my chosen yarn. Tonight, while I was supposed to be writing this newsletter, I started swatching a Bamboo Pop sweater to check my gauge and see how the colors will look together. I got a pleasant surprise in the process. While I have worked with Bamboo Pop several times, I have never worked with one of the heathered colors before. I am using the Granite colorway as the main color in the sweater and found that the yarn just shines in the broken rib stitch pattern as well as in stockinette. Now I'm even more excited to cast on my sweater! (If you're counting, yes, that is 3 different projects I'm casting on at the moment. No judging!)

So even if swatching still isn't your favorite part of a project, I hope that this information at least helps you understand the importance of taking the time to make a swatch before casting on your project.
November 30, 2018

Time to make some gifts! I recently read an article about a woman who wrote to Dear Prudence complaining that her daughter-in-law had made a blanket using yarn purchased with a gift certificate the woman had given her, and gave the blanket to the mother-in-law. The mother-in-law somehow thought it was rude. Never mind that the daughter-in-law, instead of picking yarn for herself, chose to select a high-quality yarn and spend 6 months hand knitting a large gift for her mother-in-law. Any of you out there who have spent that long working on a gift for someone will recognize the labor of love that went into that gift. Here's hoping you are not the mother-in-law or the daughter-in-law in this story this holiday season!
November 1, 2018



“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”― Mark Twain


There is nothing like leaving your safe home, your comfortable routine, familiar places and faces, and traveling halfway around the world, only to find beautiful faces, comfortable places, and realize the exotic locations you've only dreamed of feel just like home.

Craig and I spent the month of October traveling with Craig's parents to Seattle to cruise across the Pacific Ocean, stopping in Hawaii and several South Pacific islands, before reaching Sydney, Australia. Hawaii, Fiji, and Australia have always been on my list of places to see, but we also visited a couple of beautiful islands I had never heard of - Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Everywhere we went the people were very friendly. We had pleasant weather and we had rainy weather. We made friends on the ship that we will never forget and met friends we had not seen in 10 years. We went to a luau, tried new foods, learned a little about the places we stopped (ask me what happened to the losing warrior on Vanuatu when he challenged the leader), and made memories that will last a lifetime.

I hope even if it is a shorter distance, that you will make time to travel and see new places, meet new people, and try new things. It is like taking a breath of fresh air that helps us see our routine lives from a different perspective. It expands our ability to care for others since they are no longer "others" but "us". It helps us understand our history and opens our eyes to how easy we have it compared to some. It shows us that there are other places in the world who live almost exactly the way we do, even though we thought we were the only ones with convenience stores and fast food on every corner. It humbles us to be a foreigner in a new place. When we step out of our comfort zone, we become better.

Just don't forget to take your knitting with you! ;)

September 30, 2018

Pink Lady ~ Pink House


  
The Pink Lady Fire Truck stopped by the Cottage on Sunday to pick up the 118 Knitted Knockers that you all donated and deliver them with the Knockers collected from the other shops on the crawl to the Pink House/Carolina Breast Friends on Morehead Street in Charlotte. What a great day!

September 29, 2018

We had lots of fun during the 10th Charlotte Area Yarn Crawl! Thank you to everyone who participated!

Happy Anniversary to Anne and Josh! They spent their 5th anniversary visiting every shop on the crawl, all in one day!   Shelia was the first to turn in a completed map at the Cottage!

 

August 22, 2018

People out in the world often see my knitted or crocheted garments and accessories and say, "Oh, I could never do that!" I usually tell them it just takes patience and practice once you have learned the basics. The more you practice a skill, the better you will become.

Butterfly Shawl in Uneek Fingering and Harvest Fingering

I have very recently had the opportunity to be on the other end of that sentiment. I have been working for a couple of months on changing over our Point of Sale (POS) system, as well as setting up this new website. Learning how to set up the POS was just a matter of someone showing me how to enter new products or customers and how to add photos and descriptions (still working on this part, by the way) and I was good to go. But designing a new website and trying to make it look pretty are just not something I am good at. Fortunately, I have a very patient account manager helping me and an ace up my sleeve: my husband. Craig is very knowledgeable when it comes to manipulating html and other acronyms that elude me. He has actually taken the time to show me how to add space between columns of text and how to make sure I'm using the same color from one place to another, and with a little practice, now I know just enough to get me into trouble!

For right now, I just wanted to get the new website up with the basic information about the Cottage, a calendar so you can see what classes we are offering in September, and a way for you to sign up for those classes right from the comfort of your own home (or car, or even from a cruise ship!) I have included information on what supplies you will need for each class, what level the class is designed for, and who is teaching. I'm really excited about class sign-ups online, not just because it is convenient for you, but it also means we will have an up to date list of students that I can access from anywhere with a wifi connection. So if we have to close for snow and ice (dreaming of cooler weather here in the middle of summer), or if we lose power at the Cottage and need to postpone a class, or if I just forgot to tell you something before your next class, I can pull up the list of students with their emails and phone numbers from anywhere and get in touch!

And even while the new website is just getting off the ground, I am still working diligently during every free moment to get all of our products uploaded with photos and descriptions so that we will be able to offer them for sale online soon! Of course, all of this computing stuff is limiting my knitting time, but it is worth it because I think you're going to love being able to buy yarn, needles, notions, books, magazines, and everything else we carry ONLINE in your PJs. Even better, you will have the option to request that we hold it for pickup at the Cottage or ship it to you. That doesn't mean you can just stop coming in to the Cottage! I still love to help you in person to find the perfect yarn for your next project, as well as see your smiling face, but sometimes we all just don't feel up to getting out, whether because we are ill or we don't have enough time, and shopping online can be a relief when we really need size 6 needles but don't finish work in time to stop by the Cottage. All of this is to let you know that our Online Shopping is Coming Soon! Keep checking back, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter while you're visiting!
CONTACT US
Cottage Yarn
7717 Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Mint Hill, NC 28227
lyn@cottageyarn.com
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