TNNA 2013

Rowan mannequin
Rowan mannequin Kidsilk Haze wrap

Lynne and I spent Saturday and Sunday in Columbus, OH at TNNA.  TNNA is the trade show where vendors large and small come to tempt retailers with their latest products.  It’s basically the yarn industry’s Fashion Week, and I always come away exhilarated and inspired.  some booths are dressed thematically and give you the sense of stepping into another world.  Rowan does an outstanding job of presenting their offerings. This year they had a masquerade theme, and all the mannequins were dressed as if headed to a masked ball with taffeta evening gowns and hand-knit sweaters.

At TNNA I like to see in person those vendors I mostly talk to on the phone.  I had a chance to meet Deb McDermott of Shepherd’s Wool,  Arthur Karpeteyan of Karabella Yarns, and Demien Savits of Blue Heron Yarns.  At his booth, Demian showed us several beautiful garments that will be part of our Blue Heron trunk show next month.  It’s so different to see the yarns and the samples up close and in person – to be able to feel the fabric and try them on. I’m so excited to offer you the same chance to see these lovely things!  Take a peek at some [**here**](


Sandra McGyver, Sally Melville, and me at the Knit, Swirl booth
Sandra McGyver, Sally Melville, and me at the Knit, Swirl booth

TNNA is also the place where we get to catch up with designers,teachers, and yarn professionals — to make plans for how to share their offerings with you.  Saturday we had lunch with Sally Melville and planned a weekend of wonderful classes for next June.  Then we met with Stacy Charles of Tahki Stacy Charles Yarns.  We ordered a bunch of dazzling sparkly yarns, as well as a gorgeous new cashmere tweed.  He has several sample garments he’s sending us – luxurious accessories you can do with just a couple of skeins.  We spent a lot of time in Sandra McGyver’s booth trying on different sizes and shapes of [**Swirls**](  That was really fun too.

Sunday we met with Chris Bylsma, tried on her new designs, and scheduled a brand new class event for this September.  We asked Claudia of Claudia’s Handpaints to join us and bring a gorgeous display of silks and merinos for you to see.

It was a long couple of days, but so worth it.  I have so many things coming that I think you’ll really love, and I can’t wait to share them with you.  The first is the Blue Heron trunk show July 19th and 20th.  Mark your calendar, because you do not want to miss this event.

Interview with Star Galler

Star, grand-daughter of the founder of Galler Yarns, has recently taken over the management and direction of the company.  I had the pleasure of talking with Star about the company and her yarns. 

EllenI love Galler Yarns  – they’re fabulous quality, and I’ve always admired the integrity of the company.  Tell me what it’s like to be at the helm of the company and how things have changed or stayed the same since you’ve taken over. 

Star:  I want to stress that it really is a TINY business. I am running most everything by myself. I have my Mom and Dad who help in the background still, and two part time packers, one of whom is 98 years old. And of course, invaluable Marie, who is my internet and social media guru. 
Many things have stayed the same, for instance, my relationships with the mills have been forged over generations, and those that I still do business with are those that have withstood the test of time and provide consistently superior products. They are mostly also all family businesses and I have a bond with these younger generation owners as we have all risen in our familial business lifestyles in the same way.

EllenIt’s wonderful that your family has been working with the same mills for generations.  Tell me about the mills you use and what makes them so special. 

Star: I am proud of our mills, their ethical treatment of both the mill workers the animals, and their charity to the surrounding communities. For example, our Alpaca comes from Peruvian Alpaca that are part of a special breeding program designed to enhance the species.  The animals are treated like gold and are well cared for and prized.  They are raised at elevations of over 10,000 feet in the Andes mountains which allows them to develop the highest quality hair. Animals born that do not match the quality of hair desired (which is still superior relative to the average Alpaca) are gifted to the local farmers, thereby enhancing the genetic stock of all the area Alpacas.  This is just one example of a charitable program our mills offer to their communities.  There are many other programs too numerous to list. 

Ellen:  Knitters and crocheters just hate running in to knots in their yarn.  I have heard from most vendors that one knot per 100-yard skein is an acceptable industry standard.  However, I rarely find any knots in the 600 yard skeins of yarn from Galler.  How do you control the quality so well?
Star:  As far as quality control, both my father and I are in constant communication with the mills (several times a week at least) to ensure that our products are always exceptional. Being that all our products are organic in nature, meaning that they are all coming from living creatures and can not be mass produced, it is very tricky keeping everything in stock. Especially when we have to deal with bringing it here from overseas (which adds its own set of problems). We do our very best.
I have refused to settle for cheaper quality to bring my prices down to competitive levels with luxury items such as the Belangor Angora or Pashmina French Cashmere. I could buy Chinese Angora fiber, but it can’t hold a candle to the true French rabbit hair. Same with the cashmere. Nothing out there is processed as beautifully, is anti-felt treated, or wears as long.

Ellen :  Yes, indeed, your yarns are incomparable!  Is there anything else you’d like to share with your fans at Crazy for Ewe and the wider knitting and crocheting world?

Mostly, I want to express that I sincerely care about the yarn I carry and the stores who buy from me. It’s very hard to compete with the big brands and the huge budgets. I can only hope that people will recognize the absolute quality of and love that goes into everything I carry and that my yarns will stand out in the sea of choices.

From Runway to Your Way

This was the topic from the February 20th newsletter.  Several of you have asked for it again, so I thought I’d post it here.

It’s interesting to think about what business we’re really in. Every time I have to fill out a retail business form it lists me as “craft/hobby”. Craft/Hobby? Really? I so don’t think so. The hand-knitting business lies smack in the middle of the fashion industry. The textures and colors shown on the runways of Paris, New York and Milan translate directly into the skeins you fondle on the shelves at Crazy for Ewe. How can this be? Well, it all starts in Florence, Italy at Pitti Filati where they showcase all the new yarns from the Italian mills. Pitti Filati is a research lab that tracks and interprets global lifestyle trends and translates them into new yarns that influence and direct fashion knitwear all over the world. More than 4000 buyers, designers, and executives for major fashion brands come to Florence twice each year to see what’s new, get inspired, and choose materials for their season’s collection. Pretty heady stuff, huh!

Vogue Knitting does an excellent job of helping knitters see that movement from runway to project, with garments by real life ready-to-wear designers. But there’s more to it–you can actually see how runway looks are interpreted in hand-knitting yarns on the shelves. For instance, a major theme across many of the Paris Spring 2012 fashion shows is “Underwater”.

Chanel’s Spring 2012 “Underwater” show
Photo courtesy of

 The fabrics are subtly reflective and shimmery – like creatures under the sea. This theme runs through many of the shows, and we see it in several of our new spring yarns. First is Reflect, a cotton blend yarn with glistening rayon filament. Reflect is an elegant yarn with a smooth silky hand that knits up into a subtle, luminous fabric with fabulous drape. Next is Captiva, a soft cotton fiber wrapped with an iridescent strand that shimmers like a mermaid’s tail. Pertinio, is constructed much like Captiva, with the addition of an elegant metallic strand running through it. All three yarns come in a gorgeous palette of rich neutrals, well as stylish watery shades, and fun brights. I can see any of these three yarns in beautiful warm weather cardigans, flowing wraps, or dressy summer tops. Come by the shop, choose your favorite shimmery yarn and bring a little Paris runway to your wardrobe this spring.

Ginni is starting a knit-along for this lacy top in Pertino – it’s an easy 4 row lace pattern that looks much harder. Begins Tuesday, Feb 28th at 2:30 in Leonardtown.

Swatch like you mean it

There’s a really great blog called Color Me Happy. It’s written by a talented decorator with an amazing color sense and a special gift for choosing just the right neutrals. She recently wrote about these enormous color cards she brings to her appointments to allow clients to see what a color will look like on their wall. The card is painted with the actual paint and covers 12 square feet of wall while a paint chip is printed with ink and is no more than an inch and a half square. It’s crazy, but we often choose a color for our entire house without really knowing what the color will look like with our furniture, our flooring, and our lighting.

Same thing happens when you set out to knit a sweater. Unless you’ve knit a really large swatch – 8”x8” minimum—you don’t really know what the fabric looks like or what your gauge is going to be once you get going. I tell customers to knit a swatch large enough to allow them to fall into their normal, ordinary knitting style. A tiny swatch is like a first date where everyone is on his best behavior. You can knit tightly or loosely for a 4” swatch, but you need to know what your knitting will do when you’re just being yourself and not focusing on the swatch.

You’ll also want to swatch the yarn in the stitch pattern your designs uses. While the gauge may be given in stockinette, and that gauge will be the metric for determining your needle size, you’d be very remiss if you didn’t swatch the pattern you’ll be knitting. You may find that the yarn you’ve chosen is too springy for the lace pattern – or too busy to for the cables. You need to know how the yarn behaves in all the stitch patterns you’ll be using for your project.

Ideally, you’ll give your swatch a little bath and block it out to see what the fibers when they’re washed. Does the fabric grow? Does it become limp? Does the dye bleed? This essential data you’ll need before you work up a large garment in multiple colors! Often, in the little bath, you’ll discover a glorious side of the fabric that simply doesn’t show up in the skein. Some of the best yarns are not flashy on the shelf – they don’t cry out for attention, but when you knit them up and give them a little bath they’re the kind of yarn you want to use for everything!

Felted Tweed is a perfect example of such a yarn. I asked Lynne to swatch up the sample skein, and she produced a large piece of fabric with a spectacular feel. It was light and delicate without being fragile. It had a hint of bloom brought out by a little bath. Who would have thought that the unassuming Felted Tweed would produce such a rapturously beautiful fabric? To think we almost missed bringing in this lovely fiber! Silky Wool and Silky Wool XL as well as Felted Tweed’s big sister, Felted Tweed Chunky, are similarly shy on the shelf, but so delightful to knit.

Whether you choose one of these standout yarns, or other lovely fiber, be sure knit a nice big swatch and see what it does for you.

Variety is the spice of life

The very lovely Mary, who owns Waldorf Pottery, has been helping me with my gardening lately. I love plants, especially flowers, and I am working on creating several large gardens for my yard. While I know that I should focus on one area at a time and create and implement well-thought-out garden bed, I am impatient…I need flowers NOW. It sounds kind of ADD, but while I’m planning and waiting, I am totally obsessed with gorgeous pots of colorful flowers. I know that this blast of color will help me get through the slow and steady work it takes to create a large garden bed. Mary is so sweet, and she understands where I’m coming from. She listens to my litany and calmly points me to a beautiful camellia that will grow slowly into a wonderful flowering evergreen shrub, and she eases my immediate flower craving with a spectacular overflowing planter for my deck.

My knitting style tends toward the same kind of ADD. If I’m working on a large project like a sweater (which I nearly always am) I need something small, colorful, and really interesting to work on as well. So, I usually have a scarf or a hat in Noro or some fabulously colorful hand-painted yarn. I’m totally okay with this approach because everything always gets finished, and all in all, it’s a much better experience for me. Most knitters share the slight tendency toward ADD, but only the highly enlightened ones actually embrace it. Most experienced knitters know that having two or three or even four projects going at once mean that you’re rarely bored, and each is a pleasure when you choose to work on it.

This need for variety is one of the reasons we offer so many small project get-togethers like Sandy’s Booga Bag group Friday mornings, The Thursday Afternoon Scarf Club, and the First Friday projects. It’s really satisfying to make great progress on a fun and fast little scarf or hat while you work steadily on something larger and more involved. It’s like a weekend getaway – you come back refreshed and reinvigorated, ready to work on your large project with renewed interest. So when you are attracted to something new and colorful, give in to the temptation, and don’t feel guilty – know that it’s a temporary diversion that feeds your soul and refreshes your knitting experience.

We’re doing the Booga bag Friday mornings. Feel free to join us. We’ve planned a fun new project for September’s First Friday, and don’t forget the Dream Club coming up with a fabulous new one-skein project coming each month. There is always lots going on, new things arriving, and fun and laughter around the table. Come join us – you are always welcome here.

Class is cool

When I was in high school my father wanted me to study engineering in college. I wanted to study English Lit or French, but he assured me that I should focus my education on really hard things that I probably couldn’t learn on my own. He reasoned that when I was well-employed as an engineer that I could devote my free time to reading great literature, and learn all about it on my own.

In theory, he was right. I could have read all kinds of great literature, pored over the web, and studied various analyses of these works, thereby forging my own education in literature. However, I don’t think I would even have known how to begin. And honestly, the truth is that most of us simply don’t hunker down to study and learn things on our own. The time constraints of daily life typically prevent us from lavishing that kind of time on intellectual pursuits. It’s hard to do, we’re busy, and so we don’t do it. This truth holds whether you want to learn about literature, or you want to become a better knitter. If you want to really learn something, you probably need to take a class.

A class is taught by someone who’s a recognized expert in his or her field. You could certainly seek out a variety of books, search a host of sites on the internet, and talk to every knitter you know, but it would be a real challenge to craft for yourself a class on what you want to learn. It would take as much, if not more, effort than the actual learning. Bottom line is that a class is a significantly more efficient way of increasing your knowledge and skill. Certainly trial and error is a very effective way to learn about knitting, but it is not efficient in the least – just ask me how I know this!

In our project classes, at Crazy for Ewe, we strive to teach you exactly what you need to know for a specific project, as well as give you skills and insight that will help you with other projects. You’ll learn why a particular cast-on is used for one project while a very different method is required for another. When we offer a project class, the instructor has already knit the item, identified the sticky bits, and will guide you smoothly through the project so that you’re absolutely successful.. If there are mistakes to be made, or errors to be identified, we’ve done it, so you don’t have to!  Join us for a class – we think you’ll learn a lot, and we know you’ll have fun!