Getting to know you, getting to love you, Soja

Last winter I had a meeting with a very nice rep named Matt.  I was planning on looking at Trendsetter yarns, but when Matt arrived, he had Vincent, owner of Bergère de France along for the appointment.  I had met Vincent several times before.  He’s genuinely friendly, kinda cute, and very French.

I had considered Bergère for a while because they have such great patterns – very French and very chic.  I was especially impressed with their Origin line of luxury fibers.  One of my favorite customers, Deborah, had fallen hard for this cute vest in Soja, so I decided to order Soja for the spring. 

With the exception of yarn that comes in half pound skeins, I  order yarn in bags of 10 or 20 skeins.  Vincent said that we could order any amount because each skein is packaged individually.  What?  It took me a minute to process this concept.  Then he produced this little packet with a skein of Soja tucked safely inside and the ends securely sealed.  This is yarn ready for a voyage on the Titanic. 

Vincent said that the packaging was meant to emulate high end cosmetics.  Um, okay. It made Lynne and me think of Cheetos…or sanitary products. Yeah, I know…sorry. 

I told Vincent that customers like to touch the yarn.  Ah, yes, well there is a handy little display case where interested parties can see and touch a sample skein of the yarn.  Well, maybe that works en France, but here in the good old US of A, we like to see all the colors piled up on the shelf.  We want to touch it – every color.  I want you to touch it.  So I spent a couple of hours opening up every single plastic pouch, moving the price tag from the pouch to the ball band, and shelving the yarn. 

You know, I’m really glad I did, because outside the sanitary wrapper, Soja is a gorgeous yarn.

I asked Jenny to knit a swatch using several different needle sizes.  The ball band says 5 stitches to the inch, but I think it’s a little firm at that gauge – much better at 4.5 stitches.  It’s a nice crisp fabric, and I wondered how it would fare in the washing machine.  Here it is after a trip through the washer and dryer.  On the sturdy cycle.  With Johnny’s jeans.  It’s perfect.  This swatch didn’t change one spec.  It looks exactly like it did before the machine.  That’s super good news.

I still thought it was a little stiff at 4.5 stitches to the inch, and I wondered if it would work at the 4 stitch/inch gauge of the Krista Tee.  Lynne kindly offered to swatch it in the Krista lace patterns.  Looks fabulous.  I think this yarn was made for this design!  I am so jazzed.  There’s a Krista Tee in Soja in my immediate knitting future.  I cannot wait for First Friday!

Thoughts and lessons learned from the Bedouin Bag

Felting and felted bags are something I’ve been in and out of love with ever since I opened the shop. Currently, I am in love, mainly because of my new Bedouin Bag, which I think is an unqualified success. 

Felting is a magical process that completely transforms knitted fabric.  It can be rustic and earthy, fun and frivolous, or elegant and chic.  The difference is in the design and the details – finishing, embellishments, and hardware.  Here are a few important lessons I learned from the Bedouin Bag.

  1. Nora Bellows  (Noni Designs) is an extremely talented and meticulous designer.  Her patterns are carefully written and tested, and she understands that a felted bag without interesting details is just, well, a felted bag.  Her designs are really without equal.  Anywhere. If you don’t believe me, take a quick tour of the other felted bag designs on Ravelry…
  2. The right hardware is an essential component.  Whether a focal feature of the bag or a well placed detail, without great hardware, it’s just a felted bag.  With great hardware, it’s a signature piece that shows your style as well as your skills. 
  3. Laura Bellows, (Jul Designs), is also tremendously talented.  Her pieces are interesting and different, and they are hand crafted with great attention to detail and quality.  She and Nora often collaborate – Noni bags and Jul handles seem so perfect for one another because they were designed to work together beautifully
  4. If  you are felting something with a wide opening, baste the opening closed with sewing thread so that the edges of the opening don’t stretch out and splay unattractively.
  5. Heather yarns make a slightly different fabric than non-heathers. Heather felt is more dimensional and textured, non-heathers are more crisp. Both are really lovely – it just depends on the look you want. 
  6. Felted fabric heals itself, if you make openings with a knitting needle rather than with scissors.  That means that if you put a Jul handle on in the wrong spot, you can move it, and chances are good that no one will be able to see where you changed your mind.  
  7. Good quality hardware – and I mean snaps and feet – not just straps – make a real difference in form and function.  The Noni Amazing Snaps, are pricey, but they are mechanical and will hold together, while simple magnetic, or pressure snaps may not.  
  8. Noni bags and Jul handles are one piece of the creative process.  You add your creative energy to the bag as you choose your own colors, and felt the fabric to the texture and size you like.  It’s your bag – make it how you like it.  

Bedouin Bag final felting

After Nishaya brought in her Bedouin Bag, I realized that mine was not finished felting.  I had run it through the regular cycle once, but not the rinse.  It was felted, certainly, but not enough.  See how much bigger mine on the right is.

We put the handles on her bag, and it looks just fabulous!


Nishaya’s Bedouin Bag in three colors

So I went home and put mine through another cycle.  I pulled it out of the machine before the first spin started because I didn’t want it to adopt some twisted shape as it spun, so after the water had drained from the machine, I laid the bag in against the wall of the tub and let it spin.  When the spin was nearly over, I opened the machine and pulled the bag out.  It was nearly dry and quite firmly felted.  Just for fun I let the bag go through the rinse cycle and repeated the spin process with the bag against the wall.  It hadn’t felted any further, but it looked smaller and more manageable.

The additional handles arrived Friday, and I put them on my bag, as well as the mechanical snap closure that I decided I really did want after all.  (I have a few in stock if you think you would like one on yours as well.

 I’m SO happy with it now!  

Here are the specs of this one – I used the Berries colorway of Shepherd’s Wool, made the smallest size, and attached the 26″ Jul handles so that the circle of the handle (at the top) is just above the top of the bag, and the bottom of the handle tabs is just above the first welt.

I learn something with every project, which is as it should be.  I’ve put together some thoughts/lessons learned from this project which I will post soon. 

And so it grows

The Bedouin Bag is moving steadily along – completing the sixth of seven welts and then it’s just round and round for several more inches.    It’s a quick knit because it’s so simple.  I can grab it for a few minutes her and there, and those minutes add up fast.  It’s a comfortable sort of project to have around when you’re chatting or watching tv because it demands only the most minimal of attention – a perfect knitting group project. 

Minimal attention…yes…but no attention can get you into trouble.  Ask me how I know this. 

After today’s staff meeting I was knitting along and got to a place where things didn’t look right.  Thinking that I’d forgotten to knit one of the stitches together with its partner four rows down,  I tried to pick it up, but for some reason it still didn’t look right.  After dorking with it for a few minutes I finally put on my glasses and realized that I hadn’t finished round 13 and had picked it up and started knitting in the opposite direction.  Rats. 

Fortunately it was just about a round and a half, but grrr, do I ever hate going backwards. 

Comfort food

Elizabeth, my DD has quickly found the goodness of French café food in Grenoble.  She sent me a picture of a croque-monsieur she had the other day, and I was jealous – it’s one of my favorites.  Chef Loic at Café des Artistes in Leonardtown makes the best I’ve ever had.  Friday afternoons at the shop, we often order in lunch from the Café, and croque-monsier (avec frites, bien sûr) is a popular pick.  These decadent treats are so huge that two of us often share one – it is only lunch, after all.  I could probably eat one by myself, but then I wouldn’t want dinner and my family would be, um, rather disappointed. 

I haven’t had a croque in quite a while.  I’ve been good, ordering a house salad — sometimes with a salmon fillet on top.  Loic’s perfectly cooked salmon and delicious mustard vinaigrette keep it from feeling like you’re being good, but I digress.  So I want a croque monsier at home – I want to share it with my family.   Tonight, I’m thinking it’s perfect for an early pre-pro-bowl dinner.  Here’s the recipe I’m going to use.  I have gruyère cheese in the fridge and am headed out for some Black Forest Ham.  Do you think fries would be over the top?  Yeah – might as well go for broke. 

Then I’m going to sit and knit my Bedouin Bag, and try not to think about calories and cholesterol.