Windsor Button Classes Extended Through April 13

It turns out that there will be one more week of classes than I previously expected. I will be teaching through the final store closing date of Saturday, April 13.  I hope to see you there on Thursday or Saturday!

The store is now in their final phase of markdown and clearance. While they have run out of some highly coveted items, they still have more yarn in stock than most other yarn stores I know of.  (I am told the back stock in the basement is still about equal to the stock they have out on the floor!)  So please come, allow lots of time for shopping, and help Susan and Stan during this difficult time by giving a home to as many of their beautiful products as you can – at an excellent price!

No Windsor Button Classes this Week – 3/28 & 3/30

I will not be teaching this week on Holy Thursday or Holy Saturday, but will return the following week for what may turn out to be our last week. Hope to see you there!

Windsor Button and the Yarn That Changed My Life

I stopped in at Windsor Button today, the third day of their clearance sale. The store was bustling with folks coming in not only to stock their stash for the fiber-lean times ahead, but to express their appreciation for how much a part of their lives the store has been. I was glad to see Stan and Susan getting such a show of support. I felt bad for the whole exhausted staff doing their very best to help everyone and remain cheerful, knowing that those who are losing their jobs are really the ones hit hardest by the closing.

I also noticed that the landscape of the store was already distinctly different for me.  Many of the yarns I had come to know as friends who kept me company whenever I shopped or taught were missing, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t need more yarn. I am not lamenting the fact that someone else got skeins I wish I had snarfed up. I am, in fact, relieved. But I will greatly miss the opportunity to be inspired by their drapey, cushy, lustrous, haloed, heathered, tweedy, space-dyed, hand-painted or self-striping fiber loveliness.  So I am prompted to pay tribute to Windsor Button by relating the story about how the right yarn at the right time changed my life.

I have already written about getting a job in Downtown Crossing shortly after my husband passed away, and how I would sometimes escape to Windsor Button when things got stressful.  I had already come to depend on knitting to help me cope with the changes in my life, but up to that time I had never bought any yarn I didn’t already have a specific pattern for and a reason to make it. Yarn for me fell into two kinds: Wool and Something Else.  And two price points: Discount and Are You Freaking Kidding? But as I browsed at Windsor Button without any preconceived agenda, a transformation was taking place.

In one particular instance, a new stock of Handmaiden Sea Silk yarn had been strategically placed near the registers. One colorway really caught my eye, who knows exactly why, and I was compelled to touch it. It seemed to snuggle into my hand. Then I saw the price tag and put it back on its hanger. But every time I visited the store, it called to me, until on one really stressful day I decided I deserved a treat and took it home with me.  But what to do with it? It needed a special project. Something worthy. I had no experience matching a project to a yarn, and I wanted this match to be perfect. The hunt was on!

(I also later concluded that to make something that I really thought was worthy, I would need to take the plunge and buy a second skein. But that’s it! No more! And I’d better not waste any of it.)

This is how it came to be that I found Eunny Jang’s tutorials on the structure of lace. This is how it came to be that I unearthed Lucy Neatby’s Faroese Flower Shawl pattern from my pattern stock, and scrutinized it for the details of shawl construction. This is how I learned that there is such a thing as stitch dictionaries, and checked out Barbara Walker’s Treasuries from the library so many times I finally had to buy myself a set. When a vision started to unfold in my mind, it was why I sat down at my computer to figure out how to use Excel to chart up the idea that was forming.

Feathers of the Phoenix - Close Up

And when I had miraculously completed my Feathers of the Phoenix shawl and it was everything I had hoped it would be, with only a couple of yards of yarn to spare, and I pulled the glorious creature off of the blocking board late one evening …. well, that is when I fully felt the emptiness of my house with no one to share my excitement with. So that is how I came to post a picture of my project on the yarn producer’s website. And how they came to ask me for the pattern. Which is never in a million years something I thought of myself as doing but I did it.  Then of course I needed to learn about on-line sales and PayPal and come up with a “business” name: A la Kisala Designs (fully aware that I might turn out to be a one trick pony).

And believe it or not, orders came in. How the heck did they find me? But some of them did, enough for me, anyway.  Which is how a lovely woman named Dixie came to knit my shawl and kindly point out the handful of errors in my chart, unwittingly serving as test knitter and tech editor before I ever knew there were test knitters and tech editors.  When she contacted me, she told me about, so I checked it out (after first waiting patiently for my invitation to join).  That really opened up a whole new world for me!

After that, life was never the same. I read and studied everything I could about knitting and discovered I had a pretty darn good head for it.  I became a technique junkie. I became crazy for unique and quality yarn to the point that my stash is now the size of a small yarn store itself. (Even if I never knit them all, I am happy to live in their company.)

I  discovered I have a passion and some skill for helping others learn to knit and take it to whatever level they choose. Which is eventually how I came to teach at Windsor Button, and then came to write for the newsletter, and with their closing, to write this blog and whatever else happens from this point on in my life.

So yes, a skein of yarn changed my life. It might have been any yarn, really. But it was the right yarn in the right place at the right time.

Thanks, Windsor Button! You will be missed!

Pinstripe Mittens

I am working on my third pair of Pinstripe Mittens.

mittens 008

Those who know me know it’s rare for me to do the same thing twice, so I must like these! That’s a combination of the pattern, which is a neat design, and the yarn.  I got these three kits at Stitches East in October. The yarn is called Bertha from Dirty Water Dyeworks and it is rich and luxurious. Strangers on the bus have come over to ask if they could look closer.

knitting 272

Those who know me also know it’s rare for me to approach any pattern without deciding to change something somewhere. I’m a technique junkie!  I collect different ways of doing things with yarn and needles the way some people collect Hummel figurines or postage stamps. It’s no good to collect them if I don’t get to display them, so I am always on the lookout for opportunities.

My tweaks to the Pinstripe Mittens are relatively minor, and one of them uses a technique developed by Lucy Neatby herself so it seems very appropriate to apply it to her mitten design.

  1. Instead of casting on 144 (the number of total front and back stitches), I cast on 72 using the Old Norwegian Sock Cast on, which is pretty and elastic and I love using it on sock and mitten edges. (Your own favorite cast on would also work.) Then I worked one row around as K1 YO, bringing me to the total needed.  On the next round, in double knitting following the pattern, the knit stitches became the stitches to be knit for the front, and the yarn overs were the stitches to be purled for the back.  Smooth!
  2. On the casing, I used Lucy’s Threading technique for Double Knitting for the first and last rounds, instead of using rounds of knitting and purling in the main color as the way of closing off the top and the bottom of the casing. Note that this results in a contrasting stripe that is wider than the original pattern on one side, because all the rows of the casing are worked in contrast, whereas the pattern had the first and last rows in the main color on the right side. I also worked one more row in contrast than the pattern specified to create a casing of the right width before threading the top closed. I love this technique, and the quilted look it gives to the casing.
  3. Cording. Nope. Not a fan. I put a loop of 1/4″ elastic through the casings, slipping it through the shank of a big attractive button before sewing the loop closed. (Oh, Windsor Button, what are we going to do without you!) The button can be pushed through from one side to another if the wearer wants to put the reverse side out from time to time.

knitting 274

Boston’s Windsor Button to Close

One day about six months after I lost my husband, I found myself heading to Downtown Crossing to interview for a job after a couple of decades as a  mother and homemaker. Not being used to taking the T I allowed more than enough time before my appointment, so I started to wander around the vicinity.  The first store I came to on the street was Windsor Button!  I took it as a sign that this job was meant to be.

I was hired, and often after I would dash over for mental health breaks to pet the yarn.  Many a beautiful skein that might never have had occasion to tempt me successfully pleaded to come home with me. Eventually I came to teach the knitting and crochet classes there, which I have enjoyed tremendously, and also to write for their e-mail newsletter.

But nothing lasts forever.  Thanks Susan and Stan for giving me a creative home and voice for the past few years! Thanks for all the beautiful products you have made available, and all the beautiful projects you have made possible. All the best to you in the future.

I am hoping that many of those who have taken my classes are finding their way over to this blog.  Welcome!  I’d like to keep in touch! I don’t know what might be possible for me next, but I do know that I want to continue to teach somehow.

(And also to keep that job!)

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