Monday, January 16, 2006

What's the Matter with Patons Classic Merino? (More swatching, a yarn store visit, and computer rant)

Patons Merino: So I went to the local A.C. Moore on Saturday and bought a whole bunch of their Patons Merino Classic, because a) it's a decent, 100% wool yarn, and I like the texture and color, esp. the medium denim blue and "rich red" colors, and b) it was on sale for $3.99/skein. I've already got odds and ends of that sitting around the house, and have been thinking of buying some of the colors I like before they get discontinued or the store quits carrying them, which is sure to happen eventually.

I don't understand what people have against yarn from "box stores" except that they think it's all Red Heart -- which used to be true, I admit. But since the A.C. Moore moved in, they have yarn that's much more interesting than what used to be available around here -- and their competitors have been goosed into expanding their own yarn selections. Now, granted, a lot of the stuff that these stores carry is still crap; the Red Heart is still there in large quantities. But at least they're now carrying SOME decent yarn (I saw the same mohair yarn at both A.C. Moore and the snooty yarn store I visited, for instance) that I don't have to either drive 45 minutes to buy or order online. See the rant at the bottom of this post about visiting a "real" Local Yarn Store, at which I couldn't find anything much to buy, either.

FLAK: I'm done with one of the saddles for K's FLAK Aran (pics when I'm done with both), but am thinking I might as well either knit one for myself too, or start a similar sweater with different cables and (possibly) a shawl collar, since I find I don't really wear sweaters with crewnecks. I might use some of the yarn I bought this past weekend, or buy something completely different, but a little swatching doesn't hurt. So here are the swatches, using a size 4 needle (the blue) and 5 (the orange). Going to do a swatch using size 6 needles shortly.

I've been thinking of knitting a gansey for a long time now, and have started and ripped out on this project a couple of times already. I have some goldenrod-colored yarn that's (maybe) earmarked for the gansey... but I may decide to overdye it first. I like the yellow when I'm looking at it, but when I'm not, I wonder why on earth I bought it. If I overdye, I'll use dark blue, so the yarn will be dark green/olive, a color I tend to wear quite a bit.

Overdyeing: I bought some Knitpicks Shimmer in "Morning Mist" a while ago, and after trying some lace knitting it, I decided I really didn't like the abrupt color changes (it went from white to medium blue very quickly), and it's been sitting in the stash for a while. This weekend, I got some RIT (Evening Blue) and overdyed it. Here are before and after pics. (Gee, think I like blue?) I'm much happier with the results.

Computer rant: I recently got a new laptop, so decided to give my mom & dad my old PC, which worked just fine but wasn't being used (I found I prefer to use a laptop at home to sit on the couch and read email, instead of cloistering myself away in my study). Well, easier said than done. Mom & Dad are still on dialup, and my PC was on a broadband connection, so we had to go get a modem and install it. The modem is fighting us. Or, rather, K., since he's doing the installation. We've returned one modem and are about to return another in exchange for a USB modem -- I sure hope that works. We've been on a broadband connection so long that troubleshooting the modem (which we both tried to do at various points) was just painful. It's tempting to spring for a better connection for them. Will have to think about that... Might be worth it, since Dad wants to get into the whole genealogy thing. (We worked on transcribing and scanning some family journals to CD a few years ago, and he wants to do more of that sort of thing.) In the meantime, it's all we can do not to drop-kick the darned PC out the second story window.

Yarn store: After visiting the 'rents, and NOT delivering the PC (I took it back home with me when the modem wouldn't work), I dropped by the yarn store near their house, which I won't name at this time. Now, this store has been in business for several decades. It's a mother-daughter business, and used to be at another shopping center in the area when I was a teen -- I'd go in and drool over the yarns I couldn't afford to buy. So it was interesting to see them in their new location. The owners must know their market to stay in business so long, but it's pretty clear to me that I'm not their target audience. They're selling lots of expensive, "boutiquey" yarns -- Debbie Bliss, mohair, Kidsilk Haze, lots of fuzzy artistic types of yarns. Not much in the way of "real" yarn (i.e., plain ol' worsted wool), so if I'd wanted to pick some yarn up to knit, say, another Aran sweater, I'd have been SOL. They had about five (?) skeins of Guernsey yarn (tempting, since I want to knit a gansey), but didn't seem to have enough on hand to knit an actual sweater, though maybe I missed seeing where they had the rest of it; I didn't want to interrupt the owner's scarf knitting class to ask about it since I had just bought a bunch of yarn and didn't want to spend $100 or so more on yarn right then. I may go back later for some gansey yarn, though. They had some sock yarns, but not enough for a really good selection. The knitting needle rack was embarassingly small, and had only Crystal Palace and Addi Turbos (and not in a size I needed at the moment).

I asked the owner whether she had any Inox double-pointed needles (I think I'd seen an Inox poster in the window), and she said that they weren't carrying small-gauge dpn needles, since they were teaching a class on knitting socks on two circular needles. I probably made a disappointed face, since she said they did have DPNs in larger gauge bamboo. I made some polite noises, bought two skeins of sock yarn, and went away. I haven't tried the "two circs" method, and I suppose I should, but I like my DPNs, so why switch? Is knitting socks on small-gauge DPNs a dying art or something? Well, as I said, I suppose she knows what sells in her market.

I think this store mostly caters to people who want something "artistic" to knit without having to work too hard at designs or patterns. It strikes me that most of the yarns this shop carries do all the work for you -- you can knit a very plain pattern in fancy yarn, and the yarn is so interesting that you'll wind up with something fun without a lot of work. (Like Opal sock yarn, which, I admit, is fun to knit.)

That's fine, and has its place, but I want more than just that... I'm still exploring what I can do with various stitches, and yarns that distract from the stitches used aren't interesting to me right now. So I prefer Springwater. Or Knit Happens. They have some of the same "artistic" yarns, but their selection of regular yarns (stuff like Brown Sheep Worsted) is much better, and ditto their selection of knitting needles. For that matter, the selection of needles and other knitting tools is much better at A.C. Moore -- they're not Addi Turbos, but you have a better chance of finding the size or style you need.

Ah, well. I guess it takes all kinds (of knitters, and yarn shops). But, having seen this shop, I think I'll tell my mom to go to A.C. Moore (or Springwater, if she feels like driving that far) when she needs needles or yarn, especially given her budget and experience level (beginner). So much for the Local Yarn Shop.


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