Friday Gauge Check: Reorganization and Discovery (with bonus yarn store review!)

Friday means it’s time for our Friday rituals, the ceremonies of escorting one week out and preparing the next one. Which, around here, is the Gauge Check, where I take a look at my week and figure out where I’ve come from and where I’m going. Sometimes there are goals, sometimes I just talk about what’s going on in my life and my crafting. You are all welcome to join in in the comments.

So I rearranged my craft room today.  The sewing table is now against the back wall, under the outlets, with my yarn and fiber stash tidily clustered around it in plastic bins.  My spinning wheel is tucked into the front corner by the doorway.  I have obtained a new piece of furniture that serves as additional workspace and storage for my fabric stash, allowing me to (finally!) empty out the boxes and bags it had been living in until now.  Everything is organized in a way that makes it easy to get to, but doesn’t feel crowded or overwhelming, and it makes me want to sit down and get work done.  I suspect that some things will be tweaked as I work, but for now, it looks good and it feels fantastic.

The only thing missing at this point, I think, is a corkboard.

In other crafty news, I decided on a pattern for the hood.  After spending hours combing Ravelry and not finding anything I really liked, I ended up back at the pattern that inspired me to look for a hood in the first place – Through the Woods, by Kalurah.  Erika over at Redshirt Knitting made a beautiful one, and I really just love it.  As a bonus, it calls for bulky yarn, which means I should be able to have a hood before too much longer.

The drawback to that is, that since I don’t generally knit with bulky yarn, I don’t have any in my stash.  Off to the Knit Picks website I went.  KP does carry some bulky yarn, but nothing that really jumped out at me, and nothing that matched the listed gauge for the yarn the pattern called for.  Again, since I don’t knit much with bulky yarn, I don’t have (any) large circular needles.  I’m pretty sure the biggest needle I have is the size 9 Zephyr that came with my Knit Picks tester set, and the last thing I wanted was to order yarn and a needle and discover that I couldn’t get gauge.

Option 2: look locally.  Last weekend I ended up visiting Urban Fiber Arts, in the Pearl District.  This is the second shop I’ve found that carries fiber (the first being Anderson Fiber Works in Gresham), but while they had a lot of beautiful stuff from local indie dyers, their selection of bulky yarn was very limited.  After browsing Knit Picks, though, I decided that I wanted to take a look at the yarn the pattern called for, Cascade Eco.  Eco is the only bulky yarn I’ve run across that comes in absolutely gigantic skeins – Through the Woods calls for 350-380 yards, which is one skein.

Cascade has recently raised their prices, however, and Happy Knits stopped carrying it as a result.  Fortunately, there was a thread in the Portland Metro Area Ravelers forum talking about which other shops still carried Cascade.  One of the recommendations was Close Knit in the Alberta District.  After having driven down there, I’m pretty sure that it’s my closest yarn store.

I’ve been to more than half a dozen yarn shops in Portland and its environs (at least eight).  All of them carry slightly different products, with some overlap, and I like all of them for different reasons.  None of them, though, has really felt like a place I wanted to make my “home” LYS, the kind of place where I just wanted to go.  I hadn’t, in other words, found a replacement for TYF.

Until now.

The folks at Close Knit were friendly and welcoming in a really honest sort of way, not the false friendliness of customer service.  I walked in the door, and one of the gals was giving the standard hi-and-welcome greeting, and the other one interrupted her to tell me how much she liked my hat!  (The Gretel tam, natch.)  They were helpful without being pushy, and it was just a very nice experience.  The other thing that sold me on the place was the yarn.

There’s a lot of indie dyers represented in Portland yarn shops, which is fantastic – but not exactly easy on the budget.  The commercial yarns seem to be largely on the luxury end of the scale.  While Madelinetosh is beautiful and has absolutely breathtaking colors, and one day I will purchase some, there’s no way in the world I could buy a sweater’s worth of yarn at $26 a skein.  Which leaves me buying from Knit Picks, which, while technically local, isn’t nearly as satisfying as going to my LYS and walking out with a project in hand.

The shops that don’t cater to the luxury-yarn crowd seem to focus on the suburban-housewife crowd: lots of the novelty yarn of the season, a sprinkling of sock and laceweight, lots of superwash and acrylic blends in pastel colors.

Close Knit, on the other hand, seems to be aimed at the budget-minded knitter whose projects are generally practical.  Lots of Cascade, Rowan, Debbie Bliss, and Malabrigo, with just enough luxury yarn to be interesting.  It was here that I found Cascade Kid Seta, the yarn that was recommended as an affordable substitute for Kidsilk Haze.  It was here that I found a beautiful blue-green colorway of Cascade Eco+, and a skein of Cascade Superwash Sport for a hat I’m going to test knit.

I’m definitely going back.  It didn’t hurt, either, that I discovered a charming little fabric store just next door, which I didn’t have time to fully explore.

So next week I’ll be casting on a hood, a hat, doing some sock repair, finishing a heel, working on another pair of test knit socks (I’m doing this one two-at-a-time), and maybe putting some more rounds on my neglected SpillyJane mitts.  Oh, and blocking the Sneaky Mountain shawl.  I’ve also been thinking about the Beekeeper’s Quilt again – this time in the context of “I bet those would be perfect work knitting.”

This week?  I knit some dishcloths, finished the toe on the vanilla sock, and cast on the aforementioned pair of test knit socks.

How’s your week been?  Check your gauge in the comments, or let me know what you look for in a good LYS.

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~ by Amber on January 28, 2012.

One Response to “Friday Gauge Check: Reorganization and Discovery (with bonus yarn store review!)”

  1. Puffs are very good mindless knitting. 🙂 I should get back to mine soon… -shifty eyes- Oh- Your Niddy Noddy is in the mail, and should probably get to you tomorrow, Monday at the latest.

    I am not fond of the LYSs here in SoCal. They just don’t carry a lot of things that I like (or can afford). A couple of them cater to the rich hobbyists who will knit a garter stitch scarf they’ll never wear out of a skein of $60 yarn. Not that this is necessarily bad, but that means less of the basic staple yarns and more of the high-end art yarns that you just can’t knit something useful out of. I miss TYF. 😦 Aaaaanyway…

    We’re doing a huuuuuuuuge apartment-wide re-organization/purge this weekend. Some day I hope to have a normal couch that will make furniture arranging easier (the day bed can go live in Chris’ office.). Until then, I will find ways to make project bags or cushions I can button around some of the metal bits. 🙂 Actually, I should get back to work on that.

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