Monday, August 18, 2014

Scifi Chris here with another post.

First off, there were more comments!  That’s always exciting to see.  Thanks again for reading and commenting.  I’m glad that there was some use to be had from my yarn crawl description.   The yarn crawl was much fun and for the most part a very positive experience.  I’m looking forward to next year’s Steel Valley Yarn Crawl.

I’d also like to remind everyone that Three River Crochet meets every Saturday, from 2 pm to 5 pm, at the Panera’s near Magee Hospital.  New folks are very welcome, no matter what your skill level.  Knitters are welcome, too.  As are spinners and weavers and felters and dyers.  Despite the name being Three River Crochet, all types of yarn users can be found in our group. 

Besides lots of yarn, I also picked up some new books on the yarn crawl.  One of the books is the subject of this week’s post.  (Aside:  I’m trying to get something posted here once a week, although no promises.  Any suggestions for what topics you’d be interested in reading about would be welcome.)

I bought Creating Crochet Fabric: Experimenting With Hook, Yarn, and Stitch by Dora Ohrenstein at Natural Stitches.  It is available on Amazon.  Your local yarn shop or book store might have it or be able to order it for you. 

There are very few patterns in Creating Crochet Fabric, although it does have several samples in the stitch dictionary at the end of the book.  The primary purpose of this book is to show the way yarn type, hook size, and stitch pattern interact to create different types of crochet fabric.  Ohrenstein created dozens of swatches, pictured in the book, showing how the stitch pattern and drape changes depending on the type of yarn used.  She goes into detail exploring the many different types of yarn available, their texture, and the type of projects that tend to go well with specific yarns.  I also like that she includes blueprint patterns (diagrams and symbols) in addition to the normal abbreviated written directions.

So why get excited about that?  After all, patterns tell you what type of yarn to use and what hook size.  However, what about those of us that have a tendency to use patterns as just guides or ideas?  Or folks that want to take the jump into designing their own patterns?  Or even just folks that happen to have all this yarn piling up in their stash from a recent yarn crawl that they need to figure out what to do with?  This book helps out with that.  It helps answer the question – what can I make with this yarn – by showing the type of stitch patterns that look best with a given type of yarn, taking into consideration the fiber its made from, the weight of the yarn, its texture, and even its color (solid vs. variegated, long color changes vs. short changes). 

Creating Crochet Fabric has been an interesting and informative read.  The many color photos give excellent comparisons of the same stitch pattern done up with different yarns.   It’s a great guide to understanding why yarn functions the way it does.  The stitch dictionary in the back of the book has given me lots of ideas for possible projects, along with the actual patterns included in the book.  I’d definitely recommend reading this to anyone interested in picking their own yarns for projects or creating their own patterns.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hiya!  SciFi Chris with the second part of my adventure Steel Valley Yarn Crawl.  Before I get to the details of the final three shops, I want to take some space to reply to the comments from the post on the first part of my yarn crawl.  If you just want the stuff on the Yarn Crawl shops, just skip down a bit.

 Reply to comments – First, thanks for taking the time to read the blog and make some comments!  Sorry about taking so long to reply, but this past week I was away on vacation and didn’t check to see what was happening on the internet while I was away.   The comments were focused on my experience at Dyed in the Wool.  Two of the commenters didn’t agree with what I posted.  It’s very understandable that folks would want to defend their favorite yarn shops, especially when someone new doesn’t share their enthusiasm. , in her comment, pointed out that Dyed in the Wool, which I was not impressed with, had weaving and spinning items, in addition to knitting.  I admit that I’m not a weaver or a spinner, so even though I noticed the loom and spinning wheels, it didn’t really register.  When I go into a new yarn shop, I look for crochet items, since that’s what I do and what I post about on the 3RC blog.  There is a definite lack of crochet in Dyed in the Wool.  I did appreciate the tone of annschelbe’s comments, which seemed to be trying to point out things I missed in my first impressions of the shop, pointing out the positives that she has experienced, and encouraging me to give the shop another try. 

The comments by, on the other hand, basically tried to defend her favorite shop by attacking me.  The snarky comments about my lunch that day, implying that I was drunk and therefore wasn’t able to make a sound evaluation of the shop, only reinforced my feelings about the unwelcoming atmosphere of Dyed in the Wool.  Disagreeing with another person’s opinion is one thing.  We all have our own preferences.  However, if the only way you can do so is by personal attacks and snarky remarks, rather than relying on presenting an opposing opinion (such annschelbe did) then perhaps the evidence supporting your side of the discussion isn’t that strong.  Instead of making me think that perhaps my first impressions of the shop were inaccurate, all those comments did was reinforce that first negative impression and made me feel that I was correct that Dyed in the Wool was not the place for me. 

For my third commenter, I hope you make it out to Kid Ewe Knot and have a nice experience there!  In this post, I’m including my visit to Yarns Unlimited, which I very much enjoyed.

THIS IS THE PART THAT HAS THE YARN CRAWL DESCRIPTION, just in case you were scrolling down to skip over the comments on comments.

The last of the yarn crawling I did solo.  The next day after going to the first four shops, I headed up to Grove City and Wolf Creek Yarns. The shop is in the town itself and not in the outlet area. I had been there a few years ago for a yarn tasting. Wolf Creek has expanded the size of its store, significantly.  They have taken the back of the shop, which used to be the office area and storage, and turned it into more retail area.  This is a store where you keep walking back and back, and it seems to just keep going. 

It has a great selection of yarns. Sadly, it does not have much in the way of crochet related items. The staff was friendly and included a shop dog, Eugie.  I hope I spelled that correctly.  Eugie is a very low key shop dog, he came over to me when I entered the shop, acknowledged my presence with a couple of tail wags, and promptly lay down for a nap.  The human staff was more energetic.  Another customer in the shop was looking for a particular pattern.  The woman behind the counter (I believe she was the owner) took some time in helping her locate the pattern on Ravelry and explaining to the customer how buying Ravelry patterns through a local yarn shop worked.  Very helpful.  One of the items I bought at Wolf Creek was a yarn spindle.  It is designed so that a ball of yarn can be slid down over the spindle and unwind without rolling all over the place.  Three Rivers Crochet member Doug had picked up one on a trip to Denver.  I had admired the gadget and was very pleased when I was able to get one at Wolf Creek.  I currently have a ball of "Sea Star" superwash merino yarn from Unplanned Peacock Studios on it, being crocheted into a lace scarf.  That's not what is shown in the photo, by the way.  The photo is the yarn spindle on display in the shop.

I think going to Wolf Creek yarns would make a fun day trip, stopping in the shop then wandering around the town of Grove City. Wolf Creek Yarns had a small gift bag for crawlers, which included knitting needle size gauge and a 10% off coupon for the coffee shop/cafe Beans on Broad, around the corner from the yarn shop. I am very glad I took advantage of the coupon. The folks who were working there were also yarn crafters! They were very friendly and the food was good.  The gentleman behind the counter in the one photograph is the person who knitted the pink elephant, which is shown in another photo. 

The second shop I went to was Yarns Unlimited in Sewickley. This was one of my favorite shops of the crawl. When I told the person working there I was a crocheter, she immediately said that the shop was very crochet friendly, rattled off the names of staff that were crocheters, that they had crochet classes, a crochet group that met there the first Saturday of each month, and would I like to see the new crochet hooks they had just got in. I also noticed there were crochet magazines on display on the counter, along with the knit magazine.  It’s easy for folks to say that their shop is crochet friendly, but it’s actually having crochet related items prominently displayed that demonstrate that a shop really is crochet friendly.

Yarns Unlimited had a good selection of yarn, but then just about all the shops on the crawl have had lots of great yarn.  Which is why my yarn stash is now much larger and my bank account is much smaller.  What really stood out at Yarns Unlimited was the massive amount of buttons.  A huge wall display of an amazing variety of buttons, made of many different types of materials and many different styles.  From playful kids buttons to sophisticated stylish buttons.  This is definitely the place to go for buttons. 

Another positive thing about Yarns Unlimited, at least from my point of view, was one of the staff noticed the Doctor Who shirt I was wearing and exclaimed she was also a fan. We had a marvelous conversation about Doctor Who.  Always nice to chat with a fellow geek.



The last stop on my yarn crawl had to wait for a week, since I went off to Niagara Falls.  Once I had returned to Pittsburgh and recovered a bit from my journey to Canada, I got back in the car to make the hour drive out to Kathy’s Kreations in Ligonier.  This is another shop that would make a good day trip activity. The yarn shop is down the road from amusement park Idlewild and the historical attraction Fort Ligonier. There are also lots of 'quaint' little shops. The Steelers’ training camp isn’t far from Ligonier, so there was lots of black and gold yarn and projects on display. 

Kathy's Kreations is worth the trip, it’s a nice shop with a good variety of yarn. The staff was very, very friendly. When I said I was a crocheter, one of the ladies showed me where the crochet patterns and books were. I was also invited to sit and crochet, since it was 'open sit and stitch Saturday.' This was also one of only two shops that included crochet items in their raffle baskets, Kid Ewe Knot was the other. Even better, they were the only shop that had a crochet alternative to the free yarn crawl knit pattern. There was also a free gift of a 'handi tool' which I'm told is used by knitters to pick up dropped stitches. It has a small crochet hook on one end and a point on the other. Also included was a coupon for 20% off regular priced yarn on the next visit.

The trip to Kathy’s Kreations was a very pleasant end to the 2014 Steel Valley Yarn Crawl.  It was quite an adventure and I enjoyed getting to visit so many new yarn shops, chat with fellow yarn enthusiasts, along with getting some spiffy new yarn for my stash. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Steel Valley Yarn Crawl Part I

On August 1, Diane and SciFi Chris set off on the Steel Valley Yarn Crawl.  Seven shops are participating, from August 1 to August 10.  Details can be found on Facebook and Ravelry.  I've listed the shops at the end of this post.  At any of the shops, a ‘passport’ can be bought for $10, which includes a tote bag and raffle tickets.  At each shop, you get a stamp on the passport.  If you manage to get to all seven shops, then you are entered for the grand prizes, seven $25 gift certificates – one from every shop.  The runner up prize is $10 gift certificates from every shop.

Every shop also has their own raffle baskets.  The tickets that come with your passport can be used for these raffles.  Also, when you buy a given amount at each shop, you can get extra raffle tickets for that shop.  Each shop also has part of a shawl pattern.  I think that was a neat idea, to have a Yarn Crawl pattern.  The only downside, at least to crocheter me,  is that its a knit pattern.  It would have been nice for them to offer both a knit and a crochet version. 

Diane picked me up at 9:30 and we headed off to the first shop of the day.  Our goal was all five shops in the Pittsburgh area.  The other two shops are in Ligonier and Grove City, which we decided were better as day trips by themselves.  Ultimately, we only managed four shops before we decided we’d had enough driving for the day.

First stop, Yarn By Design in Oakmont.  We weren’t the only ones there waiting for the shop to open.  It was the same at the other shops, according to the folks we talked to in our travels.   I’d only been to YBD once before.  It’s a nice little shop, with a decent selection.  Many samples of knitted items hung on the wall and were displayed throughout the shop.   Several different types of yarn were on clearance sale, but strangely the sale items were cash only.  Regularly priced items could still be paid for with plastic.  Diane picked up some antique gold and olive green fingering weight yarn for a motif sweater.  I picked up a pattern book (Mission Falls Goes Crochet)  by 3RC’s own Robyn Chachula.  I didn’t realize it was Robyn’s designs until Diane pointed it out and showed me the sample that she had crocheted. 

Second shop was Natural Stitches.  I’d been there a few years ago and had not felt particularly welcomed as a crocheter.  There had been very few books, tucked away in a corner, and most of them were of the ‘arts and crafts’ type.  Crochet I was told, when I asked about books on that previous visit, didn’t have very many good patterns for clothes.  Therefore I was not expecting much.

Wow, was I wrong!  Somewhere along the line Natural Stitches figured out that crochet was more than toys and afghans.  There were many crochet books and they were no longer hidden away in the corner.  There were also other yarn arts represented throughout the store, such as spinning and weaving.  The staff was very friendly and eager to be helpful.  There is a huge selection of yarn, including yarn that is very reasonably priced.  The wall of Cascade yarn was amazing.  Another nice feature is the information cards that are posted for all the different types of yarn.  The cards not only describe the yarn, they give approximate amounts needed for various projects.  The amounts are for knitting, but those amounts can still be used to estimate the amounts needed for a crochet project.  By the way, the whole crochet uses 3x the amount as knitting isn’t that accurate.  It just depends on the stitch being used.  Basic double crochet uses just a slight amount more than knitting. 
Diane picked up some very pretty pink yarn and she finally got a copy of The Book - Crochet One Skein Wonders, a favorite of 3RC.  I picked up the book Creating Crochet Fabric by Dora Ohrenstein.  The focus of the book is examining how different yarns create very different looks and textures.  Very informative and useful.


At this point, Diane and I were starting to think about lunch.  Natural Stitches had made a deal with some local restaurants, 10% discounts for yarn crawlers.  On the recommendation of staff at Natural Stitches, we headed to Union Pig and Chicken, a BBQ place.  The food there was fantastic!  Because Diane was doing the driving, I decided to get really wild and have a beer with my ribs. 


Full and well fed, Diane and I headed off to shop number three, Dyed in the Wool.

The trip to Dyed in the Wood didn’t go very smoothly.  My garmin went a bit wacky, recalculating at random and taking us on a bizarre round about route.  At long last, we found our way to Dyed in the Wool.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it was worth that much effort.  The shop is very small and cluttered.  Small doesn’t have to be a bad thing in a local yarn shop, but small does mean that its important to use the space you have wisely.  Placement seemed a bit haphazard.  It also contributed to a grungy feeling, as if the shop needed a good cleaning.  The woman behind the counter seemed far more interested in the knitting project she was working on than us.  Speaking of knitting, this is a knit shop.  Other yarn crafts aren’t really represented.  On a wall of knitting supplies, there were two pegs with just a few crochet hooks.  If there were crochet pattern books, I missed them.   On a positive note, the women who were sitting in the shop working on projects seemed to be regulars, enjoying themselves, chatting and knitting.  Diane bought a few skeins of yarn, I didn’t buy anything.


Our final stop of the day was Kid Ewe Knot.  Full disclosure, this is my regular yarn shop.  Its crochet friendly.  For example, they were the only shop so far that had crochet items in their raffle basket.  From my very first visit, I felt welcomed and the staff is knowledgeable and cordial.  Unfortunately, the person who created the unique hand dyed yarn for the shop is no longer doing so.  Kid Ewe Knot is making up for that by bringing in other lines of hand dyed yarn, some of them locally produced.  There is a great selection of yarn, with a nice range of prices.  Its very possible to get lovely yarn for a reasonable price.  There’s also higher end yarns for when you want to splurge a bit.   Despite having just been there last week for their Christmas in July event, I managed to find more yarn to buy.  Diane also found some yarn to add to her stash. 



Tired but pleased with our yarn crawling, Diane and I ended our day.  Four shops down, with three shops left for another day.

Shops are listed in alphabetical order:

Dyed In the Wool
3458 Babcock Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15237

Kathy’s Kreations
141 East Main Street
Ligonier, PA 15658

Kid Ewe Knot
429 Washington Ave
Suite 4
Bridgeville, PA 15017

Natural Stitches
6401 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15206

Yarns by Design
622 Allegheny River Boulevard
Oakmont, PA 15139

Yarns Unlimited
435 Beaver Street
Sewickley, PA

Wolf Creek Yarns
112 Blair Street
Grove City, PA 16127