My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day. And thank you to all veterans who have fought to preserve our freedom.


A good weekend, though the weather could have been a bit brighter. Still, it was unseasonably warm, and bright enough to actually get a decent photo of Fulmar. Will wonders never cease?

Here it is!

Wendy’s Old Knitting Stuff

Here is the old sweater du jour.

Caister Gansey

This is called “Caister Gansey” and it is a traditional design by Rae Compton. It is from a book titled The Traditional Sweater Book by Madeline Weston. I bought this book in the U.K. in 1987. I believe it was published in the U.S. under another title. I’m pretty sure this is the same book.

Of course out of print.

I knitted mine out of one of my old favorites — Bovidae Farm sportweight wool. See my November 7 entry for more info about Bovidae Farm.

Anyhow, this is knitted in the round to the armholes, when you divide it and knit the front and back separately. Then knit the shoulders together and pick up stitches around the armhole and knit down the sleeve.


Okay guys. Big favor. Would y’all think about a few questions and answer them in my comments (the comments below this entry, not the tag-board)? I’d be ever so grateful. Ta!

If you could design the perfect yarn shop:

1. What would the inventory of yarns be like?

2. What patterns/kits/tools would it offer?

3. What would it look like physically?

4. What hours would it be open?

5. In what type of area would it be located?

6. What type of services would it offer?

7. Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for you input. (No, I’m not opening a LYS!)


  1. Okay:

    1. What would the inventory of yarns be like?

    Lots of thin-weight yarns, sock and lace. I love that stuff. I’m not thinking of anything here but hwat I like to see as a knitter. A *full* selection of Lorna’s Laces, and lots of sock yarns, including the obscure stuff. Thin silk is also nice, and maybe some rovings.

    2. What patterns/kits/tools would it offer?

    Every needles under the sun, every size, circulars from 11″ to 32″. Knitting bags and caddies.

    3. What would it look like physically?

    Just a comfy place, with the yarn displayed and easy to see, not in drawers or shoved in hard-to-see bins. Out and visible. Airy so that it’s not too crowded or hard to climb around in.

    4. What hours would it be open?

    Weekends, and LATER THAN 6PM ON WEEKDAYS. Contrary to the popular view of knitters as stay at home moms and grandmoms, many of us with jobs love to knit, and can’t get to the shop unless it’s after work or on weekends.

    5. In what type of area would it be located?

    Someplace easily gotten to on freeways with LOTS OF PARKING, not in an inconvenient tiny littel side street that only lets one car down it at a time, and that has tons more traffic on it than it should. *grumble* Can you tell I likve in southern California? Aigh …

    6. What type of services would it offer?

    Just advice about how the yarn washes and behaves. Does this pill? Does it shrink? Does this soften when you use it? That sort of stuff.

    7. Anything else you’d like to add?

    Naah — cool survey!

  2. Okay, here’re my answers to your survey.

    1. My ideal inventory would have a good selection of basics–worsted-weight wools, sock yarns, some dressier stuff for shawls or fancier sweaters. A selection of novelty yarns, but I’d want the bulk of the inventory to be on good-quality wool. (I think I have yet to knit anything out of cotton…) Oh, and for some fun stuff, Noro yarns, Regia, and some fun laceweight stuff.

    2. I’m actually not a big fan of knitting kits, if only because I tend to change the colors of most of the patterns I do. Lots and lots of tools–needles in a few different materials (good quality circulars please!), scissors, row counters, stitch markers, tape measures, cable needles (for those of us who still use them )…Binders of patterns are always nice. I like Fiber Trends a lot. Plus a selection of books…I’m not as picky about the pattern or book selection at the yarn stores I go to, since you can find almost anything online. Yarn, though, I like to be able to touch, so I’m mostly concerned about the fiber selection.

    3. I actually love the way my LYS is laid out. The front is all glass, so there’s a display with a great wheel, and other stuff laid out that changes seasonally. When you go in, there are notions against one wall, then wire cubby-type boxes with all of the yarn set out. There’s a big wooden table in the middle of the room, with plenty of chairs around it, that’s always covered with projects and random yarns–very inviting. And then in the back is all the weaving and spinning stuff. It’s very informal and welcoming. (kind of like the owner, actually, which is why I think I’m such a regular!)

    4. I agree, a store open past five or six would be nice…I also would want it to be open at least one day out of the weekend–open Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday seems reasonable to me.

    5. Type of area isn’t hideously important to me. Oh, except near a coffee shop. Then again, I wish everything was near a coffee shop. Addicted much?

    6. Someone to help you out if you’re lost in a project! I remember when I first started knitting, I brought about an inch of a shawl in and basically said “I’m off on my stitch count and can’t figure out where. Help!” And Meg, the woman who owns my local, actually did–and fixed it!! I also like classes and occasional workshops. I don’t need too many…just a few a month is fun for me. I can usually find one or two I’d like to do.

    7. And, of course, this hypothetical yarn store would be a communist yarn store, so I wouldn’t actually have to pay for my wool, right? Right guys??

  3. 1. Variety of weights. No acrylics! Most important: “Sure, I can special-order that for you.”

    2. Wide selection of needles (size, type & material). All the gadgets. Books for browsing. Mags – back issues are a great find.

    3. Cozy. Lots of yarn on display (natch). A table for knitting classes/help sessions, and some easy chairs for just hanging out.

    4. Evenings & weekends!

    5. If not across from my house, then a place with good parking.

    6. Advice, lessons, camaraderie. Maybe a mentor program, and lists of knitters-for-hire ๐Ÿ˜‰ And long lists of yarn substitutions, weight, yardage & WPI, etc.

    7. Spinning stuff would be nice – some spindles, a little fiber.

  4. Lindsey-Brooke says:

    I’ll have to think on all those questions later, but I wanted to thank you for the photo of Fulmar today—great detail this time! When I received the yarn samples, I was surprised at how dark the Olive is when it shows the patterns so well! That makes me more confident now about ordering the Cedar color. Thanks,Wendy!

  5. 1. What would the inventory of yarns be like?
    Unlike Wendy, I would have acrylics, and a wide selection of other affordable yarns, since there is a hardcore contingent of working class grandmothers out who could knit circles around me and I would love to add them as a clientele. I haven’t seen a huge difference in yarn stock among the stores I’ve visited, the usual stock list would do, along with sample cards for expanded inventory upon request.

    2. What patterns/kits/tools would it offer?
    In addition to a proper library, patterns would be cross-stocked with samples placed next to the yarn. Possibly a used section of patterns people took home with them, made and decided not to make again, could return them and receive credit towards a new pattern book?

    3. What would it look like physically?
    I’ve thought about this a lot lately, because I am very unhappy with the layout of my current yarn shop, it is in an industrial park, right off the highway, but the parking situation isn’t great, and the inside is crowded, dark and yarn frequently falls on your head when you are browsing. I want a big space, with wrap around polished oak shelving, sample skeins at eye level, patterns at hand level and inventory in pull out deep drawers underneath. Two rather large tables which should never be filled with stock waiting to be shelved, but a small basket of notions, inviting knitters to sit and make a gauge swatch or get help on a project. In my dream world, I would also have a small play space for kids, so that moms could browse without juggling a child or two on her hip. Maybe a knitting group/playgroup during the day?

    4. What hours would it be open?
    10:00-8:00 with workshops from 8:00-10:00 a few nights a week. Seven days a week!!

    5. In what type of area would it be located?
    I am in New England and I love small town centers, strip malls are killing them, but there is a resurgence to revitalize these dying old downtowns, you can now find a hip coffee shop and a hip restaurant with a bar in every town, I would to be the shop in between the two (or next to a record store would be cool too). Plenty of parking in the back, and a real neighborhood feel.

    6. What type of services would it offer?
    Weekly workshops, an ongoing knit-along project, seasonal contests, my local yarn shop offers finishing (blocking and sewing up seams), which I find kind of appalling, but if there was a market for it, I’d enlist the aid of local knitters and again, give them credit at the store.

    7. Anything else you’d like to add?
    Can you tell I’ve thought about this? I really don’t want to create an environment that encourages yarn snobbery or one-upmanship, which I’ve encountered on my journeys to yarn shops and the absence of that keeps me going back to the dark and crowded store down the street. There is no need to cop an attitude and I cringe when I hear yarn store clerks hop on their horses and get all high and mighty, knitting is a hobby, passion even a profession for some, it is not something to make one feel righteous.

  6. I will only answer one question, and that is regarding hours:

    Please, please, please stay open past 6pm at least 2 – 3 nights per week…we working stiffs (those who are not paid $100,000 per year to stay home to knit) generally can’t get to a yarn store on our lunch hour – so we need some time after work. Oh, and at least one night open until 8pm.


  7. 1. What would the inventory of yarns be like? I would like to see a store that actually carries a complete range of weights in many colours, instead of just picking their favorite colours for the shop. I would also like to see less “Novelty yarns”… they are taking up way too much room at my local store. This shop actually got rid of Lopi and Candide to make room for novelty yarns….Also, they carry absolutely nothing to use for Fairisle jumper weight knitting.

    2. What patterns/kits/tools would it offer? I think a good selection of needles in both wood and metal, in a couple of price ranges would be nice.

    3. What would it look like physically? Clean and organized, not overstuffed where there are bugs breeding in the woools and dust over everything! Truly, I have seen this! Also, a nice comfy couch and a round table or two for folks to gather round. And good lighting! As in not florescent!

    4. What hours would it be open? I think 6 days a week, from 10 – 5, and one or two nights stay open later.

    5. In what type of area would it be located? Well, if we are talking ideal…. I think settled along a lake with a big porch and lots of rocking chairs sounds pretty ideal!

    6. What type of services would it offer? Basic lessons, help sessions, and if you buy your yarn and/or patterns from them they would see you through the project!

    7. Anything else you’d like to add? I would also like to ad: a friendly staff. I have been in too many stores that the women are more interested in their gossip, etc, than actually taking the time to ask you if you would like any help. This definaltey not a majority of shops, but they are out there! There is one shop in Colorado that I visit becasue they have the most wonderful things! But the women there are nothing but downright rude, and I am not the only one who notices this. I have found another shop to spend my money when in Colorado. A knowledgeable, friendly, approachable staff is so very important!

  8. I have strong opinions about yarn sources. I’ll make this short – the perfect yarn store would be patterned after my favorite book store (I see so many similarities – so much to choose from and no way to have everything, and yet such an intimate choice): Tattered Cover. They have several rooms with comfy chairs and encourage reading. They have friendly people who are there just to help and have expertise. They have a lot but can get you anything they don’t within days and will cheerfully ship it anywhere. They have a website that works well and take phone orders long after they close. They gift wrap for free because they think every book is a gift. There is never a reason *not* to buy books from them. In short, it’s the people and their approach that would be important, not the hours or the stock.

  9. 1. All of the basics, with some novelty and fun stuff thrown in. Ability to order other colours/yarns.
    2. Good selection of quality needles & other notions. Pattern support for many of the yarns, but also encouragement to make own pattern such as simple raglans, etc.
    3. Clean, organized and inviting. A table to sit at and everything else well displayed.
    4. Open past 5 p.m. 2 nights per week. Open at least one day on the weekend.
    5. Here in Toronto I would prefer a location on a major street easily accessible by car or public transit.
    6. Help available to customers who run into a problem with something purchased at the store. Staff should be very knowledgeable. Someone tried to sell me wool once who did not know the difference btwn worsted and dk weight.
    7. Friendly and knowledgeable go a long way. I will go out of my way to a good shop. Knitters are loyal.

  10. nordic nicole says:

    first of all, thank you for your splendid site wendy. i’ve long admired it and recommended it widely. i simply can’t resist the vision of an ideal yarn shop:

    1) inventory, strictly rowan. everything.

    2) needles fancy & simple full range incl circulars. all knitting accessories including especially those magnet boards and magnifying bars. maybe some store original baby sweater kits but otherwise not. complete libarary of: all alice starmore, d.bliss, s.kagan, j.moss, seaton,e.roynay, poetry in stiches and especially the 4vol set of b.walker, plus s.duckworth, e.lavold. a section of old vogue patterns from the 50s & earlier would be icing on the cake.

    3. it would be in a barn. in a field off the beaten path. knitters who knew where they were going & what they wanted would end up there. it would open and inviting with high ceilings and plenty of light. there would be big work tables and yarn spinners to use make skeins before leaving, if anyone wanted to stay a while. the yarn would be easy to identify. the staff friendly and informative. there would be a color copier that could enlarge any chart to any desired size font.

    4. hours would not kill the employees, and also accommodate the client. noon-7p. closed sun+mon.

    5. bordering the arctic circle (not kidding.)

    6. classes galore based on customer interest, small enough to let diversity in knitting level feel welcome. architecture split from color work; otherwise mixed up to introduce clients to new techniques they might not otherwise be exposed to. the only thing barred being perfection or the unasked question. a sort of wendyknit blog milieu (!) where no one is intimated and everyone is encouraged. also a terrific but simple net site.

    7. what motivated asking us?

  11. Yarn Shop (IMHO):

    1. There should be a variety of nice, boutique yarns as well as less expensive yarns. Enough to dream about and splurge on, but also the stuff that we have to settle for and by lots of to get through less fancy projects.
    2. There should be a nice selection of patterns. Maybe have a mini library of magazines, current and past issues as well as popular books. Maybe there could be a lending process for out of print books (i.e. Barbara Walker Treasuries). The selection of needles should be complete (all sizes) of all the quality brands. Please have buttons and other notions. I hate having to run all over town to find buttons and zippers.
    3. Ideally, it should be spread out. There should be space to browse through the shelves and fondle leisurely. There should also be space for knitting (a large table or separate, but not too separate, room) and lessons. Maybe have a separate space just for tools and patterns.
    4. The hours should definitely include the after work hours. Maybe 10AM to 8PM. Weekends are important to have plenty of open hours.
    5. The area I would choose would be the area I am in, of course. It should be easily accessable but not too busy of a location.
    6. There should definitely be classes available, private and group. Maybe also delving into the other fiber arts; spinning, crochet, weaving, tatting, etc.
    7. The most important thing about a good LYS is the staff. They need to be friendly (I know it’s not always easy), helpful and knowledgable. There is nothing worse than getting advice from someone who is mean or doesn’t know what they are talking about.

  12. Lindsey-Brooke says:

    1. Wool,wool and more wool…yarn and fleece for spinning. Some mohair/wool blend and angora. Handpainted yarn in long color changes for entrelac and patchwork-type knitting. 2.Needles in all materials(love my bronze #1 dpns), wooly boards. 3. A combination knitting shop/bakery/tea-coffee shop with skeins hanging from the rafters. A room with overstuffed chairs, a large wooden table and a fireplace and pillows for sitting on the floor. Cats in every room! 4.Specific hours aren’t important to me. I’ve been known to use vacation hours when I’m desperate for a knitting shop “fix”. 5. There’s an empty suite across the hall from my office….. Otherwise, just outside of town on acres of land with grazing sheep and goats. 6. knitting video rentals and a lending library of out-of-print knitting magazines and books. 7. Serve as an exclusive outlet for A.S. with herself giving annual workshops!

  13. P.S. Is this a Knitty project???

  14. 1. What would the inventory of yarns be like? Most important: enough on hand to knit a sweater out of any given yarn. I hate finding what I want only to then find that I have to special order to get the amount I need.

    2. What patterns/kits/tools would it offer? Unusual, smaller self-published patterns. I do enjoy kits – but again, typically those that are from smaller companies.

    3. What would it look like physically? Inviting. Seating for several, a knitting pit, no smoking, no pets.

    4. What hours would it be open? noon to 8, daily. Er, but they could have a day or three off if necessary – but one weekend day open, please.

    5. In what type of area would it be located? Anywhere where there is parking.

    6. What type of services would it offer? Retail. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m not looking for services in my LYS.

    7. Anything else you’d like to add? Friendly, knowledgable staff.

  15. 1. Fabulous designer yarns in wool and cotton. Fact: you can have too many novelty yarns. And can I just say Phildar yarns, please!
    2. Loads of patterns from designers, yarn companies, magazines and of course, Phildar! And every little notion imaginable.
    3. Rows and rows of open cubbyholes filled with yarn.
    4. I’m not too picky here: some normal operation times and at least one weekend day and one weekday evening.
    5. In a funky little neighborhood right by all the other shops I want to visit.
    6. Ordering items not in stock. Classes, classes, classes. Maybe a weekly knitting group.
    7. Did I mention that they should have Phildar stuff?

  16. 1. Not just pricey unusual stuff, but also some ordinary yarn for the new knitter. I don’t mean Walmart yarn, but stuff like Galway and Brown Sheep.
    2. Really good classic patterns, not the trendy stuff (those GenY knitting shops have that covered) – copies of new books as well as the classics – several lines of needles including Inox for people that aren’t ready to invest in Addi Turbos! my biggest gripe with my LYS is that the cheapest needle they carry seems to be Crystal Palace bamboo!
    3. I agree with the open cubbyholes. That seem sto be standard with most shops. A corner to sit down in with a couple of couches or big chairs.
    4. Something like noon to 7 or 8pm, closed Sunday and Monday.
    5. Someplace easy to get to and park in, not off in the middle of nowhere or in a place like downtown Baltimore with no parking.
    6. Drop in knitting groups; occasional workshops with designers or experts.
    7. Tea when there are drop in knitting groups! Also, don’t try to be all things to all people – have a separate shop for spinning stuff, it’s an art form all its own.

  17. 1. What would the inventory of yarns be like?
    Huge :-). Apart from that, a wide range of colors, because I usually like some colors that aren’t popular at the time. Lots of novelties, because they’re fun. Some good basic stuff, because sometimes basics is what we need, and in any case it can always extend the novelty stuff. Sock yarn. And some good quality acrilyc stuff, ie Paton not Red Heart, so we can do baby stuff for the harried moms.

    2. What patterns/kits/tools would it offer?
    Rebecca. Rowan. Vittadini. VK. Not Cast On :-). Plenty of circular needles, and both fine ones for socks and huge ones. Not just Turbos, many people are allergic to nickel, but bamboo and Inox.

    3. What would it look like physically?
    Natural light if possible. Halogen for night, or those dark corners. Vertical storage, not piles of baskets on the floor. At least one comfy couch.

    4. What hours would it be open?
    Late at least one night a week, like to 9pm. We need to work if we’re going to be able to afford yarn. And one weekend day at least, of course.

    5. In what type of area would it be located?
    Downtown. Next door to the library and a coffee shop, or better yet to a laundromat. Good public transportation.

    6. What type of services would it offer?
    Classes. Preferably one-shot ones with focused subjects, for me. Friendly but most of all knowledgeable staff.

    7. Anything else you’d like to add?
    Are you sure you won’t open one :-)? pretty please?

  18. 1. What would the inventory of yarns be like?

    Does not have to be large, but does need a nice mix of high end and low priced yarns.

    2. What patterns/kits/tools would it offer?

    Good selection of tools is a must–my LYS always seems to be out of the size needle I want. I’m not a kit person, so I really don’t care what they carry.

    3. What would it look like physically?

    I prefer shops in houses, rather than standard store buildings. I also prefer small cozy shops, rather than big warehouse types. It needs to have some comfortable seating, as you want to encourage folks to stay awhile.

    4. What hours would it be open?

    After work and on the weekends would be enough for me. I normally visit on Saturdays.

    5. In what type of area would it be located?

    Some place that you would feel comfortable visiting. I like shops that are in sort of eclectic neighborhoods, where there are other shops to visit.

    6. What type of services would it offer?

    Isn’t yarn enough?

    7. Anything else you’d like to add?

    The staff is absolutely the most important thing. If you have staff that looks down their nose at you, you won’t spend money. If you have opinionated people who are clueless running the place, you won’t spend money. It’s really important to have warm, understanding folks.

    One last thing, I visited Quarter Stitch in New Orleans because the way they package your purchases is so spectacular that people remember the place as a result. Kim Salazar told me a story about them, when I asked about New Orleans yarn stores and that story is the reason I visited them. It wasn’t expensive to do–yarns wrapped in colored tissue paper and put in a clear plastic bag, a few tissue paper hearts added and the whole thing tied up with curled gift ribbon. Make the place memorable and people will visit!