Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snap-On Yarns!?!

The Snap-On Tool Guy, bringing tools to happy mechanics.
   When I was growing up, I worked in the office of my dad's race car manufacturing shop in Southern California. It was working there that I discovered that buying and then taking care of good tools was important (you can't work without tools), and that time very definitely was money, so don't waste it chasing all over town for tools and supplies. Some salesmen and delivery guys were so regular you could set your watch by them: Frank (the UPS guy) stopped by every morning with deliveries, then came by in the afternoon for pick-ups; the Ziegler Steel truck came by once a week to deliver tubing; and the big, white, Snap-On tool van pulled into the driveway every other week. While my dad didn't often buy tools from Snap-On when I worked for him (hand tools were always Craftsman and came from Sears), I was fascinated by the idea that an entire automotive shop's tools could be neatly and attractively stored inside a large step-van.
The Yarnover Truck, bringing yarns to happy knitters.
   Good ideas don't ever go completely away. Last year at Stitches West, I came across the modern fiberista's version of the Snap-On guy: the Yarnover Truck. According to their website, the idea came about when two women (Maridee and Barbra) talked about opening a brick-and-mortar yarn shop in Los Angeles, but realized that rents, schedules, and everything else associated with a real, live, store were too much. After some market research, they settled on recycling an old idea: open a mobile yarn shop in a large step-van. In mid-2012, the Yarnover Truck hit the road, much to the delight of yarn-starved knitters throughout Southern California. They have a regular schedule of stops (see the calendar on the website for specific dates, times, and locations), so a visit to a regularly-scheduled "stitch night," can also provide an opportunity to pick up needles, small tools, and some pretty tasty yarns from Anzula, Zen Garden, and Indigo Dragonfly. While the Yarnover Truck can't carry quite as much stock as the Snap-On vans carried--skeins of yarn take up more room than screwdrivers--it has enough to be tempting.
   At Stitches this year, I picked up one of their flyers: the Yarnover Truck is making a road-trip to Central and Northern California. From April 25 to May 17, the truck is making a dozen stops along the Central Coast and in the Bay Area. Admittedly, it's not quite as convenient as having the yarn truck roll right up to the studio, but perhaps some enterprising young weaver might decide to outfit a step van with tools and yarns and start making a circuit of Northern California.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Which Needles With What Yarn?

My tiny pattern swatch.
   I am making a serious attempt at reproducing (in my size) the sweater I blogged about last August. The sweater, from a pattern published in Women's Weekly (an Australian women's magazine) on July 13, 1940, was made available by the Victoria and Albert Museum on their website a while back, and I really like the design--a long-sleeved, V-necked cardigan in a lightweight yarn with lots of cables.
   I did some work on redacting the pattern last August, but didn't get very far because I didn't have the yarn on hand for swatching. I gave the yarn some serious thought: I wanted something soft, relatively sturdy, and not too expensive, as I need a lot of yarn (about 22 ounces). DROPS Baby Merino wasn't available in colors I liked, and Cascade Heritage 150 just didn't "feel right." I finally settled on an old friend--KnitPicks Stroll sock yarn--in the "Indigo" colorway--a soft, dusky blue that looks a bit like worn denim, and a lot like the old sweaters from the 1940s that I remember from childhood.
   Once I got the yarn, swatching was in order. I started with the needles recommended by's needle conversion chart, and the gauge was off--either I now knit loose (not likely after a lifetime of knitting tight), or the chart is wrong.
   Time to break out my prized Walker bell gauge. I have a beautiful, brass, bell gauge from just after World War I that is wonderful for redacting old British knitting and crochet patterns. According to the Bell gauge, a "number 8 pin" is the same size as a modern US#5/3.75mm needle, while a "number 12 pin" is the same size as a modern US#1/2.25mm needle.
A close-up of the swatch. The cables are pretty cool.
   I created a second swatch with my yarn. In stockinette, I came up with 27 stitches across 4 inches--a bit larger than the "8 stitches per inch" recommended in the instructions. But wait--could the gauge in the instructions be in the pattern? I started working the pattern--a 6-stitch cable surrounded by ribbing--and by the second repeat, it was pretty obvious that, in pattern, the #5 needle was right on gauge.
   So, now I have my yarn and my gauge, and I'm going to order a couple Addi Rocket circular needles in #1 and #5 for my knitting. Why Addi Rockets? I like the super-slick nickel-plated finish and the lace points. I got a set last year for sock-knitting, and love them, so knitting this sweater, with all its cables, will be a lot more fun on really nice needles.
   OTN: I'm on the last square of the stash-buster afghan. Once it's knitted up, I have a lot of crocheting to put all the squares together, but the first quarter of the afghan is assembled.