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October 2007 Newsletter!

In this issue:

  • Shortcuts for the Lazy Gauger
  • Limited Edition Shepherd Sock November Color: Autumn Leaves!
  • More Limited Edition Yarn: Introducing Worsted and Lion & Lamb!
  • November Kit of the Month: Great American Afghan
  • Turning Scarves into Throws
  • Meet the Manufacturer: Lantern Moon
  • Monthly Pattern Contest Winner: Buster Sweater
  • Just Arrived: Misti Alpaca and Great Gifts!
  • October Sale: 40% OFF Beatrice and Zara!

Click on any highlighted text to view the item in our online store!

Shortcuts for the Lazy Gauger

Ok, I admit it - I'm lazy. Of course, that admission is not really a big surprise to anyone who knows me. In fact, I read recently that most successful business owners are lazy - that they are constantly trying to come up with new ways to reduce their workload! That fits me to a "T". But unfortunately for my knitting, my lazy tendencies aren't limited to work. Like many of you, I hate to do gauge swatches... when I start a project I want to start knitting on the real deal. I want to get going! And, more often than not, even when I do take the time to do a gauge swatch, my gauge changes once I start knitting (my tension typically loosens as I go). If this sounds like you, keep reading to find out what I've done to rectify the situation (and to facilitate my laziness):

As I've probably mentioned a thousand times, my favorite sweater patterns are from Knitting Pure and Simple. Because they are knit from the top down - and on circular needles - I don't need to sew the pieces together at the end (again, lazy!). And it just so happens that raglan sleeves are some of my favorites. I love being able to take her basic patterns and change them up a bit - I can add cables, ribbing, shaping at the waist and just about anything else you can think of. I guess it's like buying clothes from a catalog. Once you know what size you are - and what fits well - it kinda makes it hard to experiment with anything else...

That said, I typically start my KPS sweater on the needle size recommended by the pattern (we'll use US 8 as an example). After knitting for about an inch, I measure my gauge. If my gauge is too tight, I know I need to use a larger needle (and a smaller needle if my gauge is too loose). So, I grab my larger needle (e.g., US 9) and knit a row with it. Then I knit a row with the smaller US 8 again. Then I knit a row with the 9 - and then another with the 8. By alternating needle sizes for a few rows, I've found that you can't see much of a difference in the texture...

Then I knit for another inch using only the larger US 9 needle. After that inch, I again measure the gauge and compare it to the pattern. If my gauge is still too tight, I'll repeat the above process. Pretty soon, I've found a needle size that provides me with the correct gauge. Note also that my gauge changes as I knit - so it's critical that I check it every few inches - and make adjustments as necessary.

Now, this technique works for me only if I'm pretty close in gauge to begin with... you don't want to start with a US 6 and end up getting gauge with a US 11. I'm pretty sure you'd be able to see those changes in the finished garment.

I hope that this article will be of use to you in the future - just remember, by employing techniques like this one, you too can be a LAZY GAUGER!

Limited Edition Color - Autumn Leaves

Yes, i know - we should have come up with a more unique name for this color, but you'll just have to forgive us this month. Boring name notwithstanding, I think you're going to love it. So here is the Limited Edition color for November, Autumn Leaves! Remniscent of, well, Autumn Leaves... you can't go wrong with the shades of gold, brown, and rust. So grab 2 hanks today - and use them for a pair of socks designed by Wildhorse Farm Designs

Rococo Socks Rococo Socks Rococo Socks

Limited Edition Lornas Laces Yarn - You Asked For It!

After numerous requests from many of you, we're pleased to announce the addition of both Shepherd Worsted and Lion and Lamb to our Limited Edition Line. For November, we're going to dye enough of the Worsted to make 1 baby sweater per state... and only enough of the Lion and Lamb to supply each county in Nevada with 1 scarf (ha ha - you get the picture).

Now, it's pretty obvious what one knits with the Shepherd Sock: socks (or sometimes a lace-weight shawl), but the uses for Shepherd Worsted and Lion & Lamb are a bit more nebulous. In an attempt to narrow down your options, we thought you might be interested in seeing some of our favorite patterns for those yarns. And, of course, if you don't see something you like (but just love the Limited Edition color) shoot us an email and we'll help you find something else!

Use 9-10 hanks of the Shepherd Worsted to knit this feather and fan throw (Ann Norling Pattern #35). Since it's machine washable, it makes the perfect gift for those in your life that appreciate easy-care knitted gifts. And, if you get started in early November, i bet you can have it finished by the holidays!
I personally have knit these socks at least 10 times (Knitting Pure and Simple Sock Pattern 9728). Using 1 hank of the Shepherd Worsted, they take me less than a week to complete - and are perfect for the snowy days here in Tahoe.
Though I haven't knit this myself yet, it's been a popular one in the store and with all of you outside of NV. And, how can you go wrong knitting with Lion and Lamb for 75 inches??? The pattern is Lorna's Laces Karenlee Shawl.
You might remember this pattern from a few newsletters back - i knit a version out of the Gold Hill - and used 2 hanks of the Lion and Lamb. It was a blast to knit - and you can see my results here! The pattern is Open Waters by Ilga Leja.
Knit also out of Gold Hill, this scarf pattern was designed for us by a local customer (the pattern is free on our website). Optionally embellished with beads, you only need 1 hank of the Shepherd Worsted to finish it. We recommend this pattern to those interested in starting their first lace project. This scarf would also be gorgeous in the Lion and Lamb.
Another free pattern on our website, you can knit these sweet set using 2 hanks of the Shepherd Worsted. Find some cute buttons that match or skip the buttonholes all together and just leave the front open (ha ha - we're going back to my laziness, aren't we??).
My all-time favorite sweater pattern, I have probably knit this up more times than anything else. Sometimes i'll add a cable to the front and sleeves, othertimes i throw in a lace pattern (that's why i love the Vogue Stitchionary books). I love this pattern because it's simple yet classic and it always fits exactly the way i want it to (i do make the sleeves a little more narrow, as well as shape the waist - to add shaping to a top down sweater, you want to decrease about 2 inches worth of stitches (at each side seam) gradually to 1.5 inches above the waist, knit 3 inches plain, then increase them again gradually. Standard waist to shoulder measurement is 17 inches.)

That's it for now, but we welcome your suggestions for patterns that work best for these yarns. And, if you ever have an idea about a product that you'd like to see us carry, don't hesitate to email us. Although we obviously can't carry everything (and some months are more budgeted than others), your comments and suggestions are what keeps our site fresh. Plus, we love hearing from you!

Order Autumn Leaves Shepherd Sock here. Order 2 hanks for a pair of socks.

Order Autumn Leaves Shepherd Worsted here. We've already sold out of the first shipment, but will receive 1 more shipment next week. Order 1 hank for a pair of boot socks, 2 hanks for a baby sweater, 5-8 hanks for an adult sweater, or 10 hanks for a machine washable afghan.

Order Autumn Leaves Lion and Lamb here. The clapotis from knitty.com calls for 4 hanks, but you can get away with 1-2 hanks for a simple scarf.

Kit of the Month

Every month we feature a new yarn + pattern combination at a special kit-of-the-month discount...

It's back, better than ever, and You Save $45.71! Our kit of the month for November is the Great American Afghan Kit, knit in Cascade 220 Superwash. Published by XRX, twenty-five designers each contributed one 12" knitted square. With this book, you can duplicate the afghan, learn new and unusual techniques, and/or design your own. The squares range in difficulty from easy to challenging. The complete afghan and each individual square are shown in color. What could be better than having fun and leaning at the same time? Saving $45 while you're doing it (i don't know about you, but that much will buy me a pretty decent dinner!).


Usually $228.55, this kit is On Sale for $182.84

Breast Cancer Kit Update! Thank you all so much for your participation in our Breast Cancer Support Kit of the Month. We sold almost 70 of these and will be donating close to $350 as a result. Thank you all for participating - and stay tuned for similar kits in the future (if there's a cause that's dear to your heart - and you think would be a good fit, just send us an email!).

Turning Scarves into Throws

Scarves to Throws Month 1 Scarves to Throws Month 1

I love knitting throws, blankets, afghans... i really do! I love that i can 'wear' the finished product every single day of the week - and no one gets offended! The only problems with knitting them is that they can be expensive, take forever to finish, and that, until they are finished, you have parts of them lying uselessly around the house. I certainly don't claim to be able solve all of the world's problems, but i think i might have just solved one of them here...

You've heard of 'sock of the month club', the afghan 'block of the month' club, and maybe even the 'sweater of the month club', but have you heard of the 'scarves of the month that then get sewn together to make a throw at the end of the year CLUB'? Well, now you have!!

Each month, i'm selecting a different color of Lornas Laces Shepherd Worsted (super soft, machine washable) and knitting a scarf with it. And at the end of each month, Doug (and buddy and wiley) will have a new, different scarf to sport around town. At the end of the year, I'll have 12 scarves (that i've reclaimed from my DH) that i can sew together to create a machine washable, super duper soft throw.

So, feel free to join me in this quest... I'll share the patterns and colors that i'm working on each month - and I look forward to hearing ideas from all of you! Just remember...

  • No more useless blocks cluttering up the house - we'll be wearing the pieces each month!
  • I've just created a payment plan for myself!! I can't resist only spending $17 a month when i know i'll end up with a hand-dyed machine washable heirloom throw at the end.
  • I'm not one to just sit down and knit 2000 yards of worsted weight yarn - the prospect scares the heck out of me (remember, it takes me a year to knit a pair of socks). By breaking the project up into smaller, distinct projects it doesn't seem as scary.... and i'll have a finished product at the end of each month! Talk about gratification!

I have to tell you, i didn't realize how much the Shepherd Worsted changed shape and texture once it's been washed. As you can see from the photo above, the first section of my scarf has been blocked - meaning that i put it in the sink with a bit of dishsoap and warm water. After rinsing with cold, i flattened it out and let it dry in the sunlight on my kitchen table. The color faded slightly, the edges stopped curling, and the texture turned to butter. I'm not sure if the fading is because of the intense sunlight up here at 7300 ft above sea level - or if it because the fibers are all fluffed up (not a technical term!). Oh! I just spoke with Diane from Knitting Pure and Simple and she told me that one of the cardinal rules of wool is "do not dry it in the direct sunlight." Oops! So, as your mom always told you, do as I say, not as i do. Either way, the result is incredible.
Also - i picked up a copy of the book Cable Needle Freedom - and tried it out on this scarf. If you like to cable, and have given this book a read, i highly recommend it. I'll never use a cable needle again!

Meet the Manufacturer: Lantern Moon

Each month, we're featuring the owner of one of our favorite knitting companies. In addition to the standard photo and bio, we'll be publishing their take on 3-5 questions posed by our readers. If your question is selected for the newsletter, you'll receive a special gift from that company (a pair of needles, a hank of yarn, etc...).

Next month's manufacturer is Crystal Palace... the source for Maizy, Panda Cotton and more! If you have a question for Susan - or any of the crew there - email it to support@jimmybeanswool.com by Nov. 10th (please email your name, mailing address, and question- and don't worry, we won't use that information for anything other than possibly sending you a gift). So, let's get started...

Introducing Lantern Moon - (a.k.a. Sharon, Joel, and Bruce)
Here are photos of a recent trip they took to their manufacturers in Vietnam:

Transporting the Materials Handcrafting Fiber Drying

Jane from Hilmar, California and Sheila from Grafton, Wisconsin both wanted to know:
"What inspired the owner of Lantern Moon to import products made in Vietnam and are you seeing the effects that you were striving for there?"


Sharon's response:
The seed for Lantern Moon started small, with the intention of sharing the traditional rice basket with a few people who could appreciate its simple beauty. I've loved baskets for as long as I can remember, so sharing my enthusiasm for it was easy!

Lantern Moon essentially began with a promise. While living and working for a few years in Vietnam with my husband Joel, I became friends with two Vietnamese women who are the founders of a women's social work program. The program began as a small but serious effort to locate job opportunities for women throughout Vietnam, but most especially in remote rural villages where jobs are particularly scarce. The rice basket that I fell in love with is made through the program by a small group of women who live in a village challenged for years by unemployment and the flight of its youth to bigger cities in search of jobs. I promised my two friends that when I returned to the States I would do whatever I could to help them find a market for their beautiful baskets.

I think the opportunity to live and work in a developing country gives one a perspective about poverty that's impossible to appreciate until it's experienced firsthand. I witnessed how people's basic need for food and shelter was a daily struggle. Although these conditions of poverty are difficult for most of us to grasp, it became readily apparent to me that to have someone in the family with skills and a job make THE difference in people's lives.

When we returned to the States, the only thing we knew for certain was that Vietnam and its people had affected us deeply and we wanted to share the culture and the magic of the country with others. We teamed up with our neighbor Bruce Feller to help bring the rice basket to an appreciative audience and found it was well received.

Much of Lantern Moon's success can be attributed to our involvement with compassionate and caring knitters and other needle arts enthusiasts who truly appreciate the handcrafted value of our products. Over the years, Lantern Moon has continued to evolve organically, matching knitters' requests for products with groups in Vietnam possessing the particular handcrafting skills and resources to make them.

Making Rice Baskets

Marjorie from South Portland, Maine asks "How has the popularity and success of the Lantern Moon Company affected the lives of the women (and men?) who handcraft the products in Vietnam?"

Joel responded:
Yes, most definitely. Most of our work in Vietnam and Cambodia involves getting people started on the first rung or two of the economic ladder. Some really catch on and become quite well off. There are between 75-100 highly skilled people (mostly women) making our knitting needles. We have 500-600 families that weave baskets and silk, sew linings and embroider our products.

Each of these lives touches many others and the numbers get impressive. We're happy about the numbers but their personal stories are most meaningful to us. For example, during a recent visit one young man insisted that I accompany him on his scooter. We rode down a winding dirt road and as we approached a very modest house he said this is the house made possible by Lantern Moon. Several years before he had told me that it was his dream to build a house so that he could take care of his family, wife, children, mother, father, grandparents and 2 disabled and elderly uncles. He thanked us for making it possible.

Most recently, we began developing a program with a women's group whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS. They are skilled in cross-stitch and do the most beautiful handwork. They come together for support and encourage each other. They provide and receive education and find ways to take care of their children, many of whom are also HIV positive. It is an incredible program that we are helping to develop business for both locally and for export. The social worker in charge of the program spoke about how the spirits of these women came alive through the expression of their needlecraft. This group has about 72 women involved, each with their own personal story.

We work hard to offer quality products that honor the handcrafting traditions of Vietnam, which is another goal of the women's social work program and one we particularly support in this age of shifting and disappearing cultures. Our producers partner with us because we offer them the opportunity to showcase unique basket weaves, embroidery and other handcrafting skills which have been passed down from one generation to the next. We want to help develop their businesses and provide a market for the goods they produce. One of the first questions I always ask our producers is 'Are you sure you are charging us enough?' We want to pay a wage that's fair for the quality of work we are asking for. And gradually our suppliers have come to learn that we will pay more for them to take longer to make something of real quality. For example, we realize our needles are not the cheapest out there, but when you consider the time and human energy involved in the 29 steps to make each needle, we think they're an amazingly fair value.

HandCrafted Needles

Kathleen from Annapolis, Maryland has a 3 part question:
"From how many different sources, both organic and non-organic, are your products made? Also, do you harvest from locally grown trees for your wooden needles? Oh, and another one (sorry--there are so many), how did you come up with the idea of this particular area of manufacturing??"


Joel answered:
Regions of Vietnam vary quite a bit and each province is known for its specialty, such as coconut trees, bamboo, sea grass and many others. We use over 20 different natural fibers in the creation of our products and nearly all are made into finished products near where they are grown. We have sought out organic sources but they are very difficult to come by in bamboo forests, silk farms and fields of sea grass. Some of our products are certainly organic but none can be certified as such. We are looking into a multi-year project to create what we think would be the world's first Certified Organic Silk. The ebony and rosewood that we use is certified as reclaimed or second usage wood. We are continually seeking and testing new woods and are making progress towards our goal to use only 3rd party certified sustainably managed forests or plantations. We plan to accomplish that goal before the end of this decade.

One of things that has become increasingly clear is there is increased pressure from other countries on resources in Vietnam. Other countries, like China, are purchasing fiber and other basic raw materials and exporting them to manufacture baskets and factory produced crafts. In the short term this is good for the individuals who sell the raw materials but in the long term it deprives the local community of the economic opportunity to consistently make and sell higher value products for export. When the size of our orders increase over time, we are able to reserve larger quantities of natural materials to make our products and ensure reliable and consistent employment within a particular community.

As far as how we came up with the idea for manufacturing, at our very first TNNA show I overheard a comment from a vendor about needing to "beat up on someone" to get more knitting needles. I knew it was just a figure of speech, but I asked them if it was difficult to get needles. The answer was yes. We only had one product (the rice basket) but one of the things I had done while we lived in Vietnam was work with some wood factories to increase their quality so I had a decent working knowledge of how to get things done there. After getting more input from retailers, sales reps and many knitters we spent the next year trying to develop a great needle. I spent a very intense 6 months finding woods, working with the ministry of forestry in Vietnam, developing equipment and training people. Exactly one year after overhearing that comment, we showed our first needles.

Pattern Contest: Buster

Please help us to congratulate Ruth for this month's winning entry! Ruth calls this design "Buster - A Deconstructed Argyle Sweater." We think you're going to love it!

Buster Buster Buster

Ruth Homrighaus is an editor who uses knitting as a creative outlet. Her first published pattern was Sheldon the turtle, available from Knitty.com. She blogs about knitting at Ruthless Knitting. (http://ruthlessknitting.ruthlessediting.com).

Thank you all for your participation in our monthly pattern contest! We had a wonderful turnout - and have seen some amazing patterns created as a result. Thank you! In light of the upcoming holiday season (have i already mentioned we've had multiple snow storms so far at our house), we're going to take a break - and let everyone focus on knitting for themselves and for their loved ones (or their loved dogs, in our case)!

Just Arrived :: Misti Alpaca and Alsatian Soap Gifts!

Misti Alpacas Hand Dyed Worsted

If I were only to take into account color and softness, I would have to declare this Hand Dyed Worsted yarn as my all time favorite. For the last 2 months, I haven't been able to walk into the shop without petting - or hugging - the hanks of this yarn... I love it so much, i honestly can't even think of anything else to say about it. Does that make me a yarnophile? If you think you might be afflicted with the same touchy-feely fiber disease as me, check out a few of the projects that we've been working on... (and i promise I'll be knitting a sweater by the time the next newsletter rolls around)

Mittens
Double Stranded Mittens

Since I tend to stay away from strongly variegated colors when knitting for myself, I searched for solid colors to strand with the Misti Alpaca. The colors of Blue Sky Alpacas' Sportweight yarn were perfect - just slightly heathered - and then blended perfectly. And the 2 together are luxurious on US 10 needles. I've been planning to knit a sweater (at 4 sts/inch), but then decided to knit a pair of mittens for myself - considering it's barely October and we've had 4 snowstorms!!

Cowl
Sandy's Balsam Cowl

Wrap your head and neck in comfort with this spiral cowl. Sandy scooped up this yarn the day that it was delivered! She knit it in the round from the top down - it grows in width at the neck and shoulders. Again, this Misti Alpaca yarn has to be the softest yarn i've ever touched in my life. It borders on ridiculous!



What gorgeous colors!

Alsatian Soaps & Bath Products

Locally owned and operated Alsatian Soaps & Bath Products has just created and dropped off a few new products for the upcoming holiday season... these make great gifts and i think Kathy (the owner and soapmaker AND a jbw customer) has done a terrific job!!

Soap
Knitters Soap - $8

You might remember these cute Knitters Soaps from last year - they were a huge hit in the store and online.

Cowl
Vintage Knitters Soap - $8

Made with shea butter for extra moisturizing, this soap is handmade using natural ingredients that are as fresh as possible. Fragranced with pure essential oils for a fresh minty scent and accented with a delightful vintage image of mother and daughter knitting together.

Soap
Knitters Basket - $15

Packaged for gift-giving, this little basket contains 1 tube of Knitters Hands Verbena Lotion Bar and 1 Vintage Knitters Soap with Shea Butter.

Soap
My Dog Spot Basket - $15

As you might have guessed, this doggie soap basket is my personal favorite. It contains 1 Carpet Fresh Deodorizer Tin and 1 Shampoo Soap Bar (good for people too). What does this have to do with knitting, you ask? Absolutely nothing!!
(Of course, i do enjoy knitting more when my carpet smells fresh... )

AUGUST SALE - Classic Elite Beatrice and Tahki Zara - 40% OFF

Both of these yarns are due to arrive to us on Thursday, October 25th. As such, the current photos aren't that great (or don't exist) - we'll have better ones up in the next few days!

Classic Elite Beatrice is 40% off - until we run out. This yarn has a wonderful, soft hand and lots of "body". Made in Italy of 100% Merino wool, Beatrice has so many beautiful tweed effect colors, it is hard to choose a favorite! Patterns are available in the Tweed Four and Family Knits Booklets, but you can also stick to Knitting Pure and Simple (or Ann Norling) patterns that knit at 4 sts/inch.

Discontinued colors of Tahki Zara and Tahki Zara Plus are both 40+% off - until we run out. If you know Tahki, you know that Zara combines the finest quality Merino wool with the total ease of Superwash care... both of these yarns are perfect for kids items as well as adult garments. And you can't beat the prices.

What we're working on

Even if i'm not working at the computer, my fingers are still going... they're just knitting instead. Below is a sampling of what we've gotten accomplished lately (on the knitting front, that is).

Fingerless Gloves
Kidsilk Haze/Manos Fingerless Gloves!

Just the other day, one of our customers was on the phone and gave us the greatest idea: Kidsilk Haze and Manos mittens. She said that the Kidsilk Haze provides just enough softness and sheen to the kettle dyed Manos - and the results are incredible. It took us about 5 minutes to pick out some complimentary colors - and about 2 days for me to knit them up! We decided on fingerless gloves (instead of mittens) because i wanted to be able to use them at the computer. In fact, i'm wearing them right now - as i type. (And, of course, they are great for giving Wiley a pet on the neck.)

Favorite Sweater
My Favorite Sweater!

This is the 2nd time that i've knit this sweater - the first time was 6 years ago - and i vividly remember finishing it on our 1st anniversary trip to Paso Robles. I'll never forget it - this was really the first sweater that i had finished... it was quite exciting! I've pretty much worn that first sweater out, so i started knitting a 2nd one... it's so easy to knit - and i love the way it fits.

Socks
Panda Cotton Socks!

I did it!! I knit a pair of socks (yes, 2 complete socks) in less than a year!! I never thought i'd be able to do it, but i'm glad that i did... I've got to tell you - i really, really enjoyed knitting with this Panda Cotton yarn.

Touche Cardigan
Jeanne's Knitting Desiree!

Jeanne wrote: "Needing a diversion from some socks I am designing, I chose 'Desiree' by French Girl in Rowan Big Wool. It is so much fun doing this quick knit beautiful sweater. The pattern is super easy to follow and the yarn is so soft, with rich strong colors. I chose the color Cassis, which is a strong rich fuchsia. The cuffs are knit first and then put on waste yarn to hold the stitches while the body is knit. When my husband saw me knitting it he commented on the fact that the wool was such big wool! I just laughed since he didn't know that was the yarns name, but he had clearly seen what the yarn makers had seen in the yarn too. It is so yummy that I can't wait to wear it."

Knitting Night at Truckee Book and Bean!!

Beginning on Thursday evenings in November, Jimmy Beans very own Dannette Arney will be hosting a Knitting Night. From 6:30-8pm we will gather in the parlor of beautiful downtown Truckee's Book and Bean. This is a time to hang out, chat and sip some warm tea on the cold snowy nights. Instruction is available for a $10 drop in fee, but if you want to hang out... well that is just for FREE!



Thanks for reading and Happy Knitting!

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