September 2016 was ‘Hat Month’

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Pandemonium, a free pattern on Ravelry knitted in Hedgehog Fibres Sock

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More Pandas, this time knitted in Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumper weight

Just for something different, I knitted beanies for a month.

We do lots of knitting for the shop, Convent & Chapel Wool Shop, often simple beautiful items to sell such as beanies, mitts and scarves, but we’re trying to build up shop samples to give people inspiration for projects and see how the yarn knits up. We’re also planning an exhibition next year and would like some interesting displays. These beanies are planned to be on show in the shop and not for sale (which we know will frustrate the non knitters – but maybe it will spur them to pick up the needles for themselves).

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Elephants this time, using Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumper weight

I’m not an experienced fairisle knitter but the beanies are great training ground – not too big, knitted in the round… and I was happy with the results.

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Elephants on Parade in Hedgehog Fibres Sock

Anyway, October is likely to be taken up by another Stephen West Westknits Mystery Shawl KAL 2016 and lots of gardening as the weather hopefully takes a turn for the better.

Pattern details can be found on my Ravelry Projects page.

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Able Cable Hat in Hedgehog Fibres Aran

 

 

 

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Bylong Baby Beanie in Opal Sock (with sparkles!)

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Sockhead Slouch Hat in Zauberball

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Sockhead Slouch Hat in Hedgehog Fibres Sock

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A touch of Lace with Picacho Peak in Hedgehog Fibres Sock

 

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Loved this one – Grenoble Fairisle Hat

Bunkering Down

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Why not have a knitted sign for a wool shop? One of my Winter projects finished.

Apologies for being away from the blog for a while. Winter here tends to lend itself to bunkering down – it’s cold and the gardening winds right down with bitter frosts. However it’s also a good time to drop the pace of activity and a great time to knit (as if I need an excuse!)

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Cable beanie sample

That being said, I’ve been knitting up a storm and also made some improvements to the Convent. Knitting has included shop items (we sell beanies, mitts and scarves at Convent & Chapel Wool Shop), shop samples (it’s great to show customers ideas for patterns and how the yarn looks knitted up) and some fun knitting as well.

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Cabled scarf over the shop fire

The fun items include Shockwaves in Hedgehog Fibres as well as Fringed, a Stephen West pattern also knitted in Hedgehog Fibres. This one is still on the needles. I’m usually a black/grey/brown person in terms of colours I wear but these gorgeous hand dyed yarns have tempted me to use a broader palate that will all happily sit over my black attire!

For something a bit different, I’ve used my love of knitted blankets into making a knitted sign for the shop which happily hangover our balcony at the gorgeous historic Bridge View Inn in Rylstone.

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Shockwaves knitted in our beautiful hand dyed Hedgehog Fibres from Ireland

Over the last last week or two the weather has started to warm up, so I know I’ll be spending less time during the day with needles in my hands and more with the shovel, whippersnipper and hose.

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A yet to be named scarf in Adagio Alpaca.

 

 

 

 

Click Go Those Needles…

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Although this year has been chaotic, there’s always been lots of knitting. Over the past month or so, I’ve been working on more solid pieces, as opposed to beanies, mitts and scarves for the shop. No doubt most of this will end up in the shop as samples, but they’re a chance to play with different projects.

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The Doodler helped me master icord and understand a number of ways I could use it.

First cab off the rank was the Westknits Mystery Shawl Knit-Along on Ravelry which turned into the Doodler Shawl, made in our beautiful Hedgehog Fibres – a fun knit and a chance to socialise online with other knitters. A month of pretty solid knitting and a few new techniques now mastered (I hope!) Very pleased with the result and, whilst it’s hanging in the shop, I hope it will get lots of wear.

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Owlet – such an appealing pattern, this one in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran

Next was trialling Owlet, a cute jumper that goes from baby to adult (OWL) size – clever little cables that look like owls around the yolk – knitted in one up to the armholes, then you pick up the sleeves and knit the yolk in circular with the cables.

IMG_1840Buttons for owl eyes are optional – I put them in a few spots without becoming overwhelming. I wanted to include a few more baby/child jumper samples in the shop. Samples help knitters make decisions on what to knit and are a good way of displaying how a yarn behaves. I’m hoping these will inspire some of our customers. A smart and rewarding pattern – two are already off the needles and in the shop.

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Baby beanie and booties striped with a plain blue. 

Next is the continued love affair with Zauberballs, with seamless booties (I’ve actually knitted half a dozen pairs) and spiral baby beanie. I love the Tropical Fish colour way so much that it’s now also making its way into an experimental Entrelac baby jumper. We stock a good range of Zaubers and colours in the shop and customers are always surprised with what you can complete with just one ball. However I’m anticipating the Entrelac will be using substantially more!

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Not the fastest knit, but lots of fun watching this develop. Another baby jumper – this time Zauberball Tropical Fish being worked in Entrelac.

After this? Well, I have my name down for another Knit-Along – and it’s another Westknits one – this time Exploration Station with the Hedgehog group on Ravelry. Oh, and there are two cream lace shawls that need to be finished for Show season. Plus a never ending list of the “I’d Love to Try That” projects. Looks like those needles show no signs of slowing down.

Cyber Knitting

KAL

It was probably about eight years ago that I discovered knitting worlds other than sitting at home and knitting in my own company. Once I was brave enough to venture out, I found communities of knitters, both real and virtual. Many social knitting groups exist and meet at cafes, libraries, other public venues as well as people’s homes. Others exist on the internet and have the potential to expose knitters to an entirely new universe.

Once introduced to a wider community of knitters, I found myself joining ravelry which is a sort of Facebook on steroids for knitters. Not only can it be a desktop for knitters to record their knitting projects and stash, but it also is the best and biggest source for finding patterns. Possibly the most important aspect, though, is the social one where knitters worldwide can connect over wider interests, share learnings and help each other.

A great example of the latter is the concept of ‘Knit Alongs’ or KALs, when knitters commit to finishing a project, preferably all starting at the same time. Members post photos and information on what yarn they are using, photos of their progress and can ask for help from other participants as they go. It’s a great way to challenge yourself and learn new skills. A much more social, interactive and challenging way to knit.

One of the more extreme versions of this is occurring as we speak. A popular designer, Stephen West, AKA Westknits, has organised one of his popular KALs titled ‘Westknits Mystery Shawl KAL 2015’. Why a mystery you may ask? Well a mystery KAL has a twist – you can’t see the final outcome until you finish. All you know is that it’s a shawl and the yarn you will need to knit it. Clues (parts of the pattern) are released online in order over time and participants just go for it. This challenge, we have about one month to finish the project. Of course you can take as long as you want but many aim to keep up weekly.

My Hedgehog Fibres colours - Graphite, Monarch and Pollen.

My Hedgehog Fibres colours – Graphite, Monarch and Pollen.

This KAL recommends Hedgehog Fibres which is one of our Convent and Chapel Wool Shop favourites and combined with one of our favourite designers, it was too good to pass up. Lots of our customers are also participating. In fact it seems a lot of knitters worldwide are joining in. The Ravelry Group started for the Knit Along now boasts over 4,500 members worldwide and growing, with separate groups for Norway, Denmark,  Sweden, Germany, France, Spain and even and Aussies Down Unda group, all working on their ‘Doodler’ shawl.

There’s also heaps of drama, those tackling new techniques for the first time, the dramas of colour selection, mistakes by the million (I’ve unpicked more than I’ve knitted) and not to forget, those running out of yarn part way through the pattern. We’re all following each other’s challenges – better than ‘Days of Our Lives’!

This is a wonderful example of the power of the internet to connect likeminded souls and create virtual communities. It also challenges the concept of knitting being a dying art – far from it. It has now moved into a new realm, keeping up with technology and society, providing expanded creative outlets and connecting people worldwide. Younger knitters abound – no longer dependent on Mum or Grandma to teach them – you can learn so many techniques via YouTube for free. In fact, experienced knitters in this KAL are referring to the internet to learn or brush up on some of the new techniques required to progress their shawls. It’s a great way to push your knitting to another level and lots of fun along the way.

A couple of us are knitting together here in Kandos, as we participate in an international event, and are sure to meet lots of others online doing the same over the next month or so. Mine is not racing ahead after a few false starts and I hope I don’t drop into the ‘Slowpoke’ lane. In the meantime, we’re just all enjoying the mystery, anticipation and collective enthusiasm of our fellow knitters.

Clue one - still a few more 'wedges' to go. I've actually knitted about three times this amount but have undone so much along the way!

Clue one – still a few more ‘wedges’ to go. I’ve actually knitted about three times this amount but have undone so much along the way!

Cute as a Button Baby Jumpers

IMG_3473It’s not a hard life having to knit for a living. At Convent & Chapel Wool Shop we like to knit up our yarn as much as time and our fingers will let us. We find shop samples help people decide on projects and makes the yarn buying process easier and more enjoyable – it certainly helps to sell the yarn as well!

A cutie in Zauberball Crazy.

A cutie in Zauberball Crazy.

One of our favourites has been our little raglan sleeve baby jumper with a buttoning raglan opening for the neck. A few of these have made their way off the needles so far and are a crowd favourite.

An Opal Sock version.

An Opal Sock version.

Yarns used so far have been Zauberball (of course), Opal, Hedgehog Fibres, and Noro Silk Garden Sock. So far the pattern is for 6 – 9 months old and knitted in 4ply/sock weight yarn, although we are now working on larger sizes and upping the yarn weight, due to popular demand.

We love the Noro Sock for this jumper.

We love the Noro Sock for this jumper.

Another Opal version.

Another Opal version.

 

 

Next off the block is one in hot Indian Pink Zauberball Starke 6 and I’m also thinking of playing with JaggerSpun Heather Sport for another colour work version.

This one was in Claudia's Handpainted Yarn.

This one was in Claudia’s Handpainted Yarn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a cute, simple and effective pattern. With warmer weather approaching, we’ll ease off creating our beanies, mitts and scarves and move to lacy lighter weight yarn and some baby outfits. It’s a hard life!

And yet another in Zauberball crazy. The Olive version has been very popular.

And yet another in Zauberball crazy. The Olive version has been very popular.

Zauberball Love

Our display in an old pigeon hole cabinet.

Our display in an old pigeon hole cabinet.

The Ten Stitch Blanket - a favourite.

The Ten Stitch Blanket – a favourite.

I’ve used Zauberballs for some years now – well before I ever envisaged having a yarn store. One of my first forays was an ambitious Ten Stitch Blanket. Not so much as it was ambitious hard – it’s actually an easy and rewarding project. Just that it took ten 100 gram balls of sock yarn.

Anyway, now we have Convent and Chapel Wool Shop, we are now well versed in the wonders of Schoppel Wolle Zauberballs and their allure. Most balls can do a really good project – whether it’s a fine lace shawl, a scarf, beanie or mitts or something way more ambitious if you want more than a ball! The yarn base itself is wonderfully soft and drapes well and the colours change in long waves.

Zig Zag Scarf representing us at the Show

Zig Zag Scarf representing us at the Show

This little fella takes one ball of sock yarn.

This little fella takes one ball of sock yarn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far we’ve used lace, sock weight and Starke 6 in a number of projects including the Kandos Classic Beanie, the Rylstone Ridge Scarf, a Fluidity, our own baby raglan jumper (which is much admired) and of course, the Zig Zag Scarf. We’ve also had reasonable success in Shows with our Zaubers (although I think the judges may have been a little taken aback with Fluidity knitted in Tropical Fish coloured lace!)

I think the judges prefer cream or white for lace shawls.

I think the judges prefer cream or white for lace shawls.

Anyway, as I speak, we both have Zauberball on the needles making more shop samples and with more patterns in mind. So much yarn, so little time…

A collection of our Zauber projects.

A collection of our Zauber projects.

 

Winding Down in Winter

We always have the fire burning in the shop -  knitting and an open fire seems like a great combination.

We always have the fire burning in the shop – knitting and an open fire seems like a great combination.

Winter is well and truly here – and it’s a real Winter. Snow on the escarpments, roads closed due to ice, minus temperatures. Such a change from temperate Sydney weather of the past but so welcome in the country. And maybe some serendipity after opening a wool shop in Summer.

Whilst the garden looks like The Desolation of Smaug, it has also provided a break from gardening which has been substituted with shop work and lots and lots of knitting as the hand knits are snapped up almost before they come off the needles. Open fires, both at home and in the shop, have added to the atmosphere and a slow cooker (KitchenAid) is a welcome addition for meals, having already tackled beef spare ribs, lamb, and pea and ham soup made with a ham hock. I think it will clock up a few more meals before the Winter is out.

It’s also a popular time for guests – we always like Winter getaways – I suppose it’s a great time just to relax in front of a fire and, well, knit… So the Convent is having lots of lovely and welcome guests. It’s a chance to host old friends and make some new ones, which can only be good.

Beanies and mitts on sale for the shop.

Beanies and mitts on sale for the shop.

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Alpaca ribbed beanie and Rib Panel Mitts.

 

 

The shop is going well and keeping us busy, making sure we have lots of hand knit beanies and mitts, our best sellers, well stocked for non-knitters. I’ve finally bitten the bullet and seriously started some non-selling knitting. This one is Eugen Beugler’s Feather and Fan Shawl from ‘A Gathering of Lace’ knitted in 50% silk/50% wool undyed in fingering weight (4 ply) from my stash. I’ve made it once before and loved it so will do it this time and put on display in the shop as a sample for lace knitters to tackle. I may manage another version in 2 ply as well. I’m also hoping this may make it to a few Shows, so it ticks a few of my ‘Knitting Category’ boxes.

In the meantime, life is surprisingly busy. We also have the Kandos Gardens Fair preparing for kick off first weekend in April 2016 – an Autumn event this time – and the Convent will need to look her best.

The latest lace project. I almost forgot how much I enjoy lace shawls.

The latest lace project. I almost forgot how much I enjoy lace shawls.

I Knit Therefore I Am

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Our new baby jumper in Noro.

This one in Zauberball.

This one in Zauberball.

 

 

 

The shop is going well. We’ve been delighted with the reception of both locals and visitors to the area (as well as the general knitting community, which also contains members of both aforementioned groups).

Knitters are genuinely delighted to find a unique yarn shop so remote and unexpected in our little town of Rylstone. And they find yarns that have great PR and almost legendary status but are so hard to find – such as Hedgehog Fibres, Madelinetosh, JaggerSpun and Jamieson & Smith. But we also get lots of non-knitters (as hard as it is to imagine, but they do exist). They love looking around the shop and like to buy something, so the hand knits are a great shop feature. Sometimes it’s hard to balance expectations that we are not a “hand knit shop” – we don’t sell a great range – we don’t try to. We want to encourage people to create their own and buy yarn, but the hand knits do well for us as an additional line.

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Wee Willie Winkie Cap in Opal

Elefantes in Claudia's Handpainted Yarns

Elefantes in Claudia’s Handpainted Yarns

The hand knits are very labour intensive, so where possible we try and also make them shop samples – our patterns and our yarn – to inspire people to knit and give knitters ideas on how to use our beautiful yarn. Some of our knits are just shop samples and not for sale. At present, we are working on various versions of a baby jumper using a few different options – Noro, Zauberball, Hedgehog or Opal. We’ve done the same with a Wee Willie Winkie Cap.

In Zauberball.

In Zauberball.

And, finally, in Noro.

And, finally, in Noro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week, additions include the always popular Spiral Beanie in various Noros, a Fishnet scarf – a popular seller both as a hand knit for sale and for knitters to make themselves usually made out of a Kidsilk lace weight yarn such as Debbie Bliss Angel, Rowan Kidsilk or Hedgehog Kidsilk, and hopefully another finished baby jumper. G will have her own additions for the shop this week as well.

There’s always a frenzy of knitting and it’s hard to believe that although we knit so much, there always seems to be a list a mile long of patterns we want to do and yarn we want to use that we don’t seem to get time to … Not the worst problem to have.

Anyway, the shop is open Friday to Monday, making the most of tourists in the area, which means tomorrow is another “work” day (although it seems a little unfair to call being at the shop “work”). More knits will go on display, more knits knitted, yarn sold and new yarn ordered. G and I will think of a zillion things we should be doing, have fun, meet people … and then go home and knit some more.

So far this week - going into the shop tomorrow - 3 spiral beanies and a fishnet lace scarf. Two baby jumpers are currently on the needles.

So far this week – going into the shop tomorrow – 3 spiral beanies and a fishnet lace scarf. Two baby jumpers are currently on the needles.

Selfish Knitting

My yarn selection - Hedgehog Fibres Copper Penny and Pod in Twosted Sock Yarn.

My yarn selection – Hedgehog Fibres Copper Penny and Pod in Twisted Sock Yarn.

And now something for me…

Cementa_15 has been great but it has been one of those epics that has for months been landmarked by “After Cementa…” for putting off activities and commitments. Now it’s over, it’s time to plan “Post Cementa”.

Since opening the Convent & Chapel Wool Shop, I’ve done masses of knitting but it’s all been for the shop. Now I’m about to do something for myself. Yes, it’s with shop yarn and will be worn in the shop, but it’s a pattern I’ve made before and love and with yarn I’ve fallen in love with.

The pattern is called Daybreak by Stephen West and the yarn I’ve chosen is Twist Sock by Hedgehog Fibres in Pod and Copper Penny. As usual, it will be overly generous and I’m endeavouring to make it into more of a cape size than a wrap/shawl.

Pictures will be posted as it progresses. Timing will depend greatly on beanie, mitt and scarf demand at the shop, which has been substantial over the past few weeks. Time we taught everyone to knit for themselves!

Knitted a few years ago but a well-worn favourite and due for an encore!

Knitted a few years ago but a well-worn favourite and due for an encore!

Beanie Binging

The Roll Brim Beanies in Noro are one of our popular sellers with both adults and kids.

The Roll Brim Beanies in Noro are one of our popular sellers with both adults and kids.

Zauberball Starke 6 works well with the spiral beanie adding texture with the knit and purl contrasts.

Zauberball Starke 6 works well with the spiral beanie adding texture with the knit and purl contrasts.

We are finding that the hand knits in our shop are incredibly popular – it’s both a blessing and a curse. Whilst it’s great to sell them and they are good little earners, they are also very labour intensive and sell much faster than we can knit them. Sometimes we’d like to see them sit in the shop for a few weeks and we don’t know whether to laugh or cry when a new item comes up to the counter for purchase an hour or two after we’ve just put it on display.

With a bit of a nip now in the air some days, we’re expecting greater demand for our knits. In choosing what to create, we try to mainly use shop stock and patterns that are either our own or can be easily accessed online, so they double up as project samples for keen knitters. We are also fussy with the quality of yarns we use and try to utilise patterns that offer interest in texture and colour (whilst not being overly time-consuming to knit).

Noro beanies - the colour and textures of Kureyon work particularly well.

Noro beanies – the colour and textures of Kureyon work particularly well.

The last few weeks, now Show knitting is over, has been beanie knitting time. I’ve put together very basic patterns for spiral beanies in 6 and 10 ply – simple but effective with a banding effect being emphasised with different stitches and colour waves in the wool. I’m mainly using Zauberballs and Noro for these and they’ve been incredibly popular.

Blokey beanies in cashmere wool blends and alpaca.

Blokey beanies in cashmere wool blends and alpaca.

I’m also using Cashmere/wool blends for beanies – the texture is so beautifully springy. Basic ribbed beanies are particularly popular with the blokes and look natural and rustic in earthy colours.

Twisted Slouchies with a travelling stitch and knitted in luxury blends.

Twisted Slouchies with a travelling stitch and knitted in luxury blends.

Adding to the collection is more of a Slouchy style with an interesting travelling stitch which looks a bit like a cable effect. I’ve tried this in a few yarns and they are all coming up well.

I’m sure there will be a few more styles in our near future – we’re working on berets and more slouchy versions –  and also using some of the gorgeous local alpaca yarns.

Our Lace Scarves sell well year round and we can practically knit them in our sleep (I wish we actually could!). Once the beanies supplies have been topped up (if they stay in the shop for long enough), it will be mitt time again.

Ever-popular Fishnet Lace Scarves.

Ever-popular Fishnet Lace Scarves.