A Response To Vogue Knitting

I received the latest issue of Vogue Knitting magazine last week, as I am a subscriber.  As I opened it up to take a gander, I came upon the Editors Letter entitled Does Size Really Matter…. so of course I had to read it HAHAHA!

Trisha Malcolm states that Classic Elite Yarns is closing down it’s operation, and ‘the knitting world is in a state of disruption’ right now.  She questions the size of companies; what constitutes an indie business and a big business.  She wants everyone to work together so businesses of all sizes can succeed!

I’ve been knitting since 1986, and have had America’s Knitting since 2007!  As a business woman myself and an entrepreneur, I have watched these changes occur and process all of it continually.  Since 2007, America’s Knitting has been tracking the status of the local yarn shop, and I have numbers that I will share at the end of this blog post.

I was shocked to hear Classic Elite was calling it quits, but really not surprised.  I want to start off by saying up front, there is NO bad guy here….there are simply changes.  I would like to break it down a little bit:

  • All businesses start off small…if they succeed, they grow
  • Magazines provide patterns and offer up advertisements so knitters know what’s new
  • The internet comes alive in our community and Ravelry is born, giving independent designers a fabulous platform for the growth of their creativity (magazines suffer)
  • YouTube videos are available for how to’s and bloggers are our new best friends
  • Amazon sells everything from needles to pom poms, and you can join the indie yarn of the month club
  • Huge venues come to town with every kind of vendor known to man and offer classes with the stars
  • Craftsy selling online classes and kits to be delivered to your doorstep
  • Designers have their own line of yarn selling direct to the masses

Where does the yarn shop fit into the new order of things?  At America’s Knitting we have an affinity for the small business of the local yarn shop.  I would agree with Trisha, there is a disruption going on inside the knitting world, and the changes have been steady with the local yarn shops AND our knitting magazines feeling those changes the most.

Typically speaking, the local yarn shop carries known brands just like Classic Elite Yarns, Cascade Yarns, Berroco, Rowan, Plymouth and the like.  The small batch indie yarns have hit the market in a major way, and along with a steady stream of yarn shop closures, these known brands have suffered.  Some continue to grow and expand their lines, Cascade Yarns is an example of that, others like Rowan have reorganized their business and brand.  Indie, as Trisha calls it, is not just yarn, but the independent designers as well. With the independent designers going solo, the magazines have suffered, and book sales are down.  Knitters don’t really have to buy a magazine or a book, because they can purchase the pattern they want right then on Ravelry.  The strength of ‘indie’ isn’t just yarn — most of the popular ‘have to knit’ patterns have been designed with these ‘indie’ special yarns.

Times they are a changing!  But you know what….fear not!  We are having this conversation and the indie dyers and the indie designers don’t want yarn shops to go anywhere.  They are now doing pop up shops inside of yarn shops, and yarn shops are getting together and having yarn crawls.  The yarn shops are now designing too and some are even dying yarn.  They are partnering with Ravelry to sell you patterns right there in the store, adding these patterns to your Ravelry library and printing them out for you in store.  Designers are showing up to launch new patterns right at the yarn shop where you can meet them.  A fair number of yarn shops have a store front and a strong online presence; I want to see more of that.  We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there.  I’m sure things will work themselves out, because the knitting community is a great group of loving and caring people.

Whether or not Classic Elite Yarns was a big company or a small business is either here nor there, they were a yarn company who’s yarn was purchased at the yarn shop!!  If yarn shops close, our major brands suffer!  Now for the numbers —

2008 1,444 yarn shops in total
2009 1,443 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 1
2010 1,442 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 1
2011  1,441 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 1
2012 1,387 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 54
2013 1,314 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 73
2014 1,177 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 137
2015 1,089 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 88
2016 1,034 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 55
2017 970 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 64

This year isn’t over, but as of today, the US has 984 yarn shops, so it appears we are up by 14 shops.  I do a mailer every year out to all the yarn shops in September (they fly out tomorrow).  If a yarn shop has closed, my mailer gets returned to me and I investigate to make sure that they haven’t moved.  The 984 number will be adjusted during this time.

As for Classic Elite Yarns — I remember them well and fondly.  They were one of the big dogs.  What I remember was the amazing pattern support that went in concert with their lovely yarns, in all the perfect shades of the season.  They were quality, and yes, they will be missed, as are all the yarn shops that have closed their doors!

 

 

It’s Been A While

I’ve actually had a pretty busy year, but haven’t posted in a while!  My latest event that I have attended is an annual event held in my area.  It’s actually one county over from mine in Allyn, Washington.  It’s the Knit In The Park annual event held at the Waterfront Park every summer.

It’s a wonderful event in a great setting!  Vendors come and set up to sell their wares under the huge gazebo.  It goes from 10-4, and knitters and crocheters gather.  It’s a potluck, so everyone brings food to share.  You bring your own chair and your knitting.

Folks gather in their collective groups and knit and visit the day away.  Because it’s held in July, the weather is always very nice and there’s a breeze that comes off the water.  This year was very hot with temps up over 90*!  Everyone is so friendly — knitters walk around through the groups to introduce themselves and see what everyone is working on.  There are always demonstrations, I saw weaving this year.  

Lois from the Allyn Knit Shop always organizes the event every year and conducts the door prize drawings.  Her store is located down the road a piece.  You can follow Lois and her business on Facebook!

It’s very relaxing to get away for the day, enjoy the summertime weather, and gather with your knitterly friends and get some knitting in.  You can hear conversations of gals talking about what their next class is to be, and you will often see families there as well with their knitter family members.  I go every year and always enjoy myself.  It’s an event I always look forward to!

As always, you can click on any picture to see it’s larger form~

Knit City 2017

Where can you go, where you run into The Grocery Girls around every corner, see The Yarn Harlot going out for a run, or see Stephen West crossing the street? Where could you go to have breakfast with Andrea Rangel?  Where would you have the opportunity to talk with Shannon Cook or Jane Richmond, or take a class from Felicia Lo, or have the opportunity to meet and talk with Julie Asselin?  Well, you have to go to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and attend Knit City.

I had heard of this event before, but I had never attended.  This year, a good friend of mine sent me a text as suggested we go.  She booked the hotel, and it’s a good thing, because it quickly sold out.

The vendor lineup for the marketplace was beyond imaginable.  The class list was impressive, the hotel was so close with the event not even a block away, and a Starbucks a block away in the other direction.  Complimentary breakfast in the hotel with a bar right next door.  The event even invited food trucks parked right out from with a great selection of food for our convenience.

As we stood outside in line to get into the market place on Saturday morning, bright and early, everywhere you look, are knitters wearing their hand knitted wears.  Everybody in a great moods and happy to meet you.  My friend and I are from the Kitsap Peninsula, located in western Washington, but we met people from Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, tons on Canadians, and there was even a lady from Iceland.  Those are just some that I met.  It was a well attended event.

Whenever you walked into the hotel, there were knitters knitting in a sitting room off the lobby.  There were knitters in the elevator, and in the bar next door.  We totally took over the place.  I didn’t take a class, but my friend did.  I’m so busy working, running America’s Knitting and babysitting my grandson, that I just wanted time to hang out and knit, and shop.  That is exactly what I did.  I knit a fingerless mitt while I was there, and I bought yarn that I don’t have access to in my neck of the woods.

 

I’m so glad that my friend suggest we go.  We had a blast hanging out, laughing, knitting, going to happy hour, eating out, knitting in our room at night while watching podcasts, going out for coffee, and shopping for yarn and taking pictures.  I really needed a vacation.  Thanks Vancouver, it was SO fun…I hope to be back next year~

**  please click on any photo to see it larger form **

Hurricane Harvey – Labor Day Weekend – Back To School

There’s so much going on! As I watch the aftermath of Harvey, and see hospitals evacuating because they don’t have any potable water, and wells breaking down, and families being held up in make shift shelters in convention centers.  My head swirls with the good fortune at every turn; the grocery chain HEB sending convoys of trucks with food to serve everyone, Anheuser-Busch pausing their beer production to send bottled water to Harvey victims, and neighbors helping neighbors to evacuate even the pets.

The same holds true within our own knitting community.  There are three yarn shops in Houston, with two more within a 24-mile radiance, not to mention the yarn shops affected in Louisiana!  I’ve seen a couple of fine offers coming from the knitting community to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey.  Here is a letter from Lauren & Trey of Lolo Did It I’m sorry this offer ran out….I’ve been experiencing computer and internet issues and couldn’t get this out any sooner – I AM SO SORRY!  Please follow Lolo Did It on Instagram, to get to know her lovely products.

Huge Thank You To Everyone

I realized this evening that I have quite a few people who do not follow me on social media, so I wanted to make sure to tell you everything that’s been going on over here.

Sunday night Trey and I decided we wanted to do something that had more of an impact on the relief effort than we could do all by ourselves. So we are dyeing a surprise colorway and all proceeds are going to the American Red Cross for the Hurricane Harvey relief effort in Texas and Louisiana. We have had an amazing response from our beautiful fiber arts community and I’m so proud and thankful to be a part of it!

Click “Shop Specials” for the Hurricane Harvey colorway, there is a link in the listing if you would like to donate directly to the Red Cross instead of purchasing a colorway. There are tons of local charities and relief projects to donate to directly as well. The sale of this colorway will end on Thursday 8/31 at 10pm PST. I have left the quantities unlimited except for 2 yarn bases, which I have completely run out of and can’t get re-supplied in time. Everything will be shipped by 9/18 – wish us luck dyeing it all for you next week! We are so ready and excited to take on the challenge for a good cause!

There are other amazing makers in this community who are also giving their time, donating proceeds, and making items for those in needs. Every little bit counts! Money isn’t everything, as always: a smile, a word, a gesture, a post, or a small gift will help someone whose life has been torn apart by this tragedy. I have had people tell me they will be knitting Roxie the Hippo and other stuffed toys for kids, which is just crazy generous! So don’t think you can’t make an impact if you can’t give money, make a donation, or make a purchase. All of our hands can make a difference!

Thank you all again!

Love, Lauren and Trey

Also, another offer in from WEBSOur hearts are with all those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Through 9/4/17, WEBS will donate 5% of sales to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief (up to $20,000). 

This is from their facebook page, and there is also a note on their website.  Speaking of facebook, they are also matching funds donated through their site to the Red Cross I believe.

Please consider helping out, and don’t worry, helping will be going on for quite some time.  The problem in Texas will take a long time to recover from.

While, we have our own problems, like computer and internet issues, and things coming up in our lives, with kids going back to school, and as we enjoy the long holiday weekend of Labor Day, please remember our friends in Texas & Louisiana. They will be needing lots of help to get back onto their feet for quite some time to come.  Texas, and Louisiana, you are in our hearts!

2017 Seattle Mariner Stitch ‘n Pitch

Every year, I attend the Stitch ‘n Pitch event with the Seattle Mariners.  I love to go, and always feel like it’s the perfect summer evening.  It’s always on a Thursday night, so of course I have to work the next day.  It totally cramps my style, as I have to leave early to go and catch a ferry home.

Every year, it’s a little different, in who we play, and who I go with.  This year, we played the New York Yankees, and I went with my daughter in law, her best friend, and a good knitting friend of mine.  We had the pleasure of meeting another knitter, blogger, that I met on Instagram, Evin O’Keefe of Evin OK!

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is amazing in that’s it’s never too hot and sticky, but always blue skies.  Our Stitch ‘n Pitch event is amazing with all the yarn vendors.  It’s hosted and organized by Pacific Fabrics.  The doors open a couple of hours early so you can shop, and eat and have a great time.

So, all of us had to work that day, except Evin, being on vacation.  Yep, that’s how we were able to meet up.  She was visiting our fair city, and contacted me.  ANYWAY, we took off early, and all met up in front of the stadium.  Jana, my knitting friend works in Seattle…actually, not far from the stadium, Dionne, works in Kirkland for Microsoft, my daughter in law Kim & I had to catch the ferry.

We all met up at 5, when the doors open and enjoyed happy hour down in the Pen where the pitchers warm up.  Safeco Field has really turned into a foodie stadium and we all chose different things for eats!  We looked at all the yarn, found our seats and had fun knitting, talking and watching some baseball as the sun went down.

All of a sudden, it’s time to evaluate the ferry system and make a judgement call as to when to leave, and get back to the ferry for our journey home.  The Yankees beat the Mariners, but we still had a great evening.  Until next time Seattle, and it was a pleasure to meet you Evin~

*you can always click on any picture to see it’s larger form

World Wide Knit In Public Day

World Wide Knit In Public Day is a notion that is already, mostly a common practice for knitters, I believe.  Never the less, it’s fun to have a day during the calendar year that knitters can plan to spend, doing what they love.  For me, I guess, the most astonishing aspect of this special day, is that it’s a world wide concept.  That is significant!

I think the development of Ravelry has really brought the world together…the stitching world.  With all the groups, designers, focus on yarns, and patterns, and a way to organize your projects, and even your stash, you search for a project made with a certain yarn and find that the person that knit that project lives in Canada, or New Zealand, or Ireland, Japan or Norway.  It’s an amazing world wide thing!

Back to the concept of knitting in public, it is in some regards what knitting is all about.  It’s a great creative outlet for sure, but it’s a way to keep hands busy.  If you hate to just sit on the ferry boat on your way to work, or the bus or train.  If you hate to just sit there waiting for the doctors appointment (my all time high was 2 hours, and that was pre-knitting).  In those instances, we are knitting in public.  I have to admit though, when I am knitting in public, I could look around and not see a single person knitting, or crocheting.  It has made me wonder, with 7 million members on Ravelry (that is a world wide figure, and not every knitter is even on Ravelry), and 1,044 yarn shops in the USA alone, why don’t you see more people knitting in public?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that World Wide Knit In Public Day is every year in June.  Even though it’s a busy time of year with kids getting out of school and graduations and Fathers Day around the corner.  I always go to the event that the Churchmouse Yarns & Teas holds.  Cold or warm (yes, sometimes it’s cold in June in the Pacific Northwest), we have a great time.  They serve us tea and cookies, we shop, visit, knit and the passers by look on and notice what we are all doing, and some even stop to say hello and look at our work.  I think it does help the craft.  It’s like a small planted seed into the minds of others.

If you know of a World Wide Knit In Public Event or get invited to one, you should strongly consider going.  It’s fun and part of the wonderful community of stitching.  These are pictures from this years event held on Bainbridge Island, at Churchmouse Yarns & Teas!  If you have any pictures you took, email them to me and I will add them to this post.  Calling Alaska, California, Texas, New York, Idaho, Vermont and all the states – we’d love to add your photos.  You can click on any of these photos to see their larger form~

Yarn Crawl Season

Where I live (which is in the Pacific NW) there are 3 major yarn crawls; one down in Portland called the Rose City Yarn Crawl, the LYS Tour on the Seattle side of the Puget Sound, and the PNW Yarn Crawl in the south sound (which happens twice a year).  The Rose City Yarn Crawl happens in early March every year, the LYS Tour is mid May and the PNW Yarn Crawl happens in early May and again in October before the holidays begin.

It’s so much fun crawling from shop to shop.  Each shop comes up with a pattern, that they are offering up for free.  You get your passport stamped and they offer the yarn for that project at a discount.  They have daily prize winners and a gift for finishers, plus one grand prize winner.  It’s a great way to get inspired if you are in a knitting funk.  The yarn crawl is also a fun day out with friends, doing what we all love, ‘going to the yarn shop’.

I first heard of this concept years ago from a quilter friend of mine.  I’m so glad that the yarn shops are now on board.  It’s a fun outing to look forward too.  We can get so mired in our daily routines of life… work, the kids, homework, meals, errands… that’s its fun to plan a fun day out or a weekend away possibly.

This year, my friend Jana and I charted our route and hit the road – she drove.  We did the PNW Yarn Crawl, made it to all the shops in one day, and even stopped for coffee and lunch.  I think I bought something at every store, but you don’t EVEN need to do that.  It’s so fun to see what each shop comes up with for a pattern.  We took some pictures, and posted on social media – it was a blast.  We even ran into a few friends at one of the shops.

If you are wondering, if your area has a yarn crawl, get to know the folks at your local yarn shop.  Use our shop finder to find a yarn close near you.  If you knit solely on-line, you are really missing out on a wonderful and fun community, just waiting for you to join in.  Your best friend is waiting!! *You can click on any of these photo to see a larger version~


Brioche Knitting 101

HUGE in the knitting world now…Brioche!  Not to be confused with the bread!  Brioche knitting is not new, but it certainly has had a great resurgence.  I believe in large part, it’s popularity could be due to designs by Stephen West, and his way with color.

Now, yarn shops are jumping in with classes to support this popularity.  I have even seen some retreats surrounding this technique accompanied with some notable knitterati teaching.  These retreats go for big money.

To be honest, when I first saw Brioche knitting, it sort of scared me.  I thought, no thank you, I’ll just sit here and finish what I’m working on.  But, as more patterns were introduced, my interest peaked.  I wasn’t in a position to spend big money on a retreat weekend for this, but Pinchknitter yarns advertised a class on Facebook for $30, and I said “SOLD”!

I thought it would be a fun team activity, so I signed myself, Diana and Carmel up to take the class.  It’s winter here in the pacific northwest, and that translates into gray skies, chilly temps and rain.  Carmel drove — we got there early and all had lunch together.  We arrived for our class, and met our instructor Sarah.

The class wasn’t project based, it was swatch based.  Now, I know why.  There was a lot to unpack for this new technique.  There were four of us in the class which I think was perfect.  Anything larger may have required a second teacher.  We got handouts and great instruction, and I believe we all ripped out and started again.  Carmel was the advanced student, as she was able to proceed to increases and decreases.  I learned a lot and am just working my rows for practice.  It may turn into a scarf, I just don’t know for sure.

After class, I took some pictures of the store, because, you know me.  I’m all about the yarn shop and I am sure you want to see the store.  Pinchknitter yarns is located in Stanwood, Washington and owner Sirkku Bingham is a lover of baseball, hence the name Pinchknitter.  The store used to be a clock store/repair business and there are clocks around the store including a cuckoo clock that sounds off on the hour.  There is also a nearby train track with trains bustling through town not far away.  It’s like a step back in time.  And these days, a slow down is lovely and soothing, right along with our yarn and knitting….brioche knitting!  …you may click on any photo to see it’s larger version…

Pinchknitter owner Sirkku Bingham with America’s Knitting owner Mary Neill

Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year to everyone!   New years is a time of reflection and new beginnings.  We moved into a new house back in August.  We actually down sized into a smaller home.  With small square footage comes less storage.  This is where one realizes that there is a problem with lots of yarn, and lots and lots of projects, and project bags.  Projects in various stages of doneness.

I have mitts, socks, socks, and lots of socks, scarves, stoles, shawls and cowls.  I have hats, berets, boot toppers, shrugs, tank tops, ponchos, sweaters, and a Christmas stocking.  I have baby blankets, baby hats, and baby sweaters.  Some of my projects are in the beginning stages, some are a third of the way done, some are half done, some have beads, and some are fair isle.

When a project is near completion, I finish it.  It builds momentum, it’s fun, and I finish.  Most all of my projects are knit with nice yarns, and I love them all.  When I moved, I did get rid of a few and I also gave away a little bit of my stash.  The stash is a whole other story.  I have a representation of all the weights and all the colors, but I don’t have huge quantities of anything.  So, if I want to knit a sweater or an afghan, I’d have to go purchase yarn.  I don’t have a lot of sport weight and I don’t have much chunky weight or bulky.  But, I have mohair, alpaca, new wool, merino, silk, cotton, wool/alpaca blends, wool/cotton blends, some metallics, and even a bit of cashmere.

My husband and I had the retirement talk over the weekend, so the situation needs to reduce further.  All the time, the designers are coming up with fun sweaters that are hard to pass up, baby items that are beyond cute…the yarn companies are coming up with yummy colors, tweeds, heathers, halos and marls.  I’m going to have to down size some more.  I’ve just let it get out of control.  I want to knit everything, and I don’t want to miss out on anything.  Yes, I know some knitters that don’t have to purchase yarn, that don’t really care what everyone is knitting, that aren’t on Instagram; that just finish what they’ve started — but that’s not me.  I love yarn, I love knitting, and I love yarn shops.

 

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

I must work hard this year of 2017 to wrap up some projects, finish what has been started.  I will start each month with projects planned.  I will try to finish a few things, and if I’m successful and feel the need to purchase yarn, or cast on a project I will let myself, but only one, if two have been finished.  If I’m not really feeling it I will continue to finish projects and just keep going.

I’m planning to blog it through, and I hope it will inspire knitters to carry on with their projects.  I also want to mention, that if you want to spotlight your yarn shop, if you are a knitter, or a yarn shop owner, let’s do it.  Just email me over some digital pictures and a few lines and we’ll talk about your shop, and your town.

The yarn shop ally in the Pacific Northwest~

Yarn Crawl…do you crawl?

They are pretty much nation wide now!  I love the concept of an organized event, created towards a fun outing for all the enjoy!  Knitters plan and plot out their course, and sometimes even take a husband, a non-knitting friend, or pups for company.  Most do I think, crawl in groups…but there are even some loners out to crawl.  It could take a day or a weekend, for all this fun to take place.  I say knitters, but these shops also create a free crochet pattern for crawlers as well.

The premise is that the shops come together with meetings all year long to come up with a theme, a set of rules, free patterns, and some prizes to make it super fun!  We have a couple of these crawls in my region of western Washington state.  I’ve done the crawl over in Seattle one time.  The crawl in the south sound I do every year….so far.  The crawl in Seattle is too big for me.  If someone wanted to drag me, I could be persuaded, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Sometimes, life’s circumstances veer knitters off course.  Knitters almost always come back, and this is always a great outing.  Visit all the shops, check it out, see what’s happening.  The first thing you do is print out your passport. There will always be something in one of the shops that really speaks to you.  Each shop has a project and free pattern.  They typically have a yarn that goes with the project that they are offering at a discount, and then decorations and other items that coincide with their theme.  Each shop has snacks to offer the crawler.  Then, there are daily prizes and something for the finishers.

Because it takes all day, or in some cases all weekend, you have to have coffee out or lunch.  It’s Fun!  I think knitters know how to have fun….from KAL’s, to joining yarn clubs, to going to events, to going on yarn crawls.  Personally, I love all things that include and support the yarn shops, that’s my favorite.  This weekend is KnitFit in Ballard, Washington.  I’m not taking any classes, but I will be going to just check it out and go to the market.  Out of 28 vendors, only 1 is a yarn shop.  So, does a sale from an indy business take away from the business of a LYS?