Sample Sale

      Last year, when I attended a class at Vogue Knitting Live, a fellow student, who was also a yarn shop owner, said that only about 30 percent of knitters who entered her shop came in with a plan in mind. The rest were happy to find inspiration from shop samples and eager to join other customers who were making the same project.  Another shop owner in the group concurred with this estimate. 

     In typical fashion, for me, I’m not one of the majority.  I always seem to be on the edge of things—uneasy in my acceptance in cliques or clubs.  And that sense of never quite fitting in applies to making projects displayed in yarn shops or in joining thousands of other individuals knitting the same wildly popular garment found on Ravelry.  I see knitting and fashion as intertwined, and believe that a person’s fashion choices should be based on the considerations of height, weight, body shape, coloring, personal aesthete, etc.  I’m five feet two inches tall and know that if I knit up and wore the popular Outlander-inspired cowl on display at my local yarn shop (a large, twisted piece created using three strands of bulky yarn held together and worked with size 50 needles) I would look like a mouse peering out of a man's knit cap or a top-heavy load ready to tumble.  For me, the effect would be overwhelming—the same way that sporting a wide-brimmed hat would make me look—in the words of my late grandmother—like a “bug under a cabbage leaf.”   Unlike tall women, the only statement I would make when wearing an over-sized cape or shawl (especially one in bright colors or with bold geographic shapes) is to resemble a swaddled traveler on the steppes of Siberia (before the days of Thinsulate jackets). 

     So I know it is important to create flattering, individually suited garments, but, by the same token, I love the infectious enthusiasm shop samples evoke in patrons and have enjoyed being an amused onlooker at my local yarn shop, witnessing groups of women choose skeins to make the same design, sharing camaraderie and a sense of adventure.  And I have to admit that while I enjoy my quiet early-morning moments spent perusing knitting books and magazines to find the perfect pattern just for me, I sometimes enjoy a knit-along (organized or informal) inspired by shop samples.  

I was inspired to knit this when the yarn shop owner's daughter was selecting yarn to make this for herself.  On Ravelry there
are 149 projects posted of this design.  I haven't finished or blocked this yet.

     While the shop sample isn't finished and on display yet, I was snared when Lynn, the owner of Cottage Yarn, recently showed me a pattern for an upcoming January knit-along of the All Colors Sweater.  By local designer Amy Gunderson of Universal Yarns, this item incorporates 137 colors of yarn.  Yes, 137!  The strands are spit spliced together. (I looked up this technique and surmised that I will have to stay well hydrated when working this cardigan.)  I can’t wait to make this beautiful garment that not only offers the challenge of working with so many colors but also involves another daring task I’ve experimented with only once before—steeking.  I wonder how many other victims will fall prey to the lure of this ambitious knit-along, especially if they have a chance to see a sample of this item on display!  I am sure I won’t be alone.  Luckily, yarn shops will be making up and selling kits for this project, so that individuals in humble circumstances like my own won’t use up two years’ worth of yarn shopping funds on one garment.  This sweater is also simple in its shape and should look flattering on a variety of heights and figure types. 

I've been wanting to make a project with Liberty Wool for ages and a Debbie Bliss pattern for Fair Isle Legwarmers should work well with these colors.  I'd better get these done before the All Colors knit-along.

     Ultimately, a knitting hobby provides the opportunity to carefully consider personal style and tastes, wardrobe needs, and preferences for yarns and knitting techniques.  But it also allows for succumbing to seductive sample temptation—like the time I was enticed by an item on display at Vogue Knitting Live, inspired to make a cape with bulky yarn—an outer-garment that dwarfed my frame and triggered profuse sweating.  I’ve now frogged this item and am using the beautiful Debbie Bliss Como yarn (a cashmere and wool blend no longer manufactured) to work up a more modest-sized Cabled Cowl I found in The Art of Seamless Knitting.  I hope this garment becomes one of my wardrobe staples.  At present, only nine other people have posted this project on Ravelry, but maybe when I wear my completed work I’ll inspire some others to join in making this quick knit.  

This is the start of the Cabled Cowl.  
I have to admit that I enjoy when other people see my works in progress and decide to knit the same item.  At a recent Tuesday night knitting group, I proudly displayed the Fair Isle Cowl on my needles and waxed poetic about my new-found passion for the Fair Isle technique.  I could tell that I'd piqued an interest in one woman.  Her eyes looked wider.  And brighter.   I later found out that she’d returned to the shop several days later to buy numerous skeins of yarn to make the same cowl. I'm happy to have a companion for this project.  And maybe someday with time to create original designs, I can enjoy a similar satisfaction by watching other knitters create them.   

Yesterday, during a trip to Barnes and Noble, I was lured by a British magazine packed with a
 kit to make this tape measure cover.  This little bear knit up quickly.


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