On the Needles | West Coast Cardigan (#1)

I'm on vacation. Really, I'm ON VACATION! Well... technically, it's more of a 'staycation' but it's still pretty fabulous and I'm enjoying myself. As I'm a little past the halfway point of my time off, I've been spending time getting caught up around the house, cooking A LOT (food adventures are coming soon), knitting and I've been doing a little work - including what I'm sharing today, but it hardly seems like work. 

A year ago, Jane Richmond was experimenting with a Cowichan-inspired sweater in a super-bulky roving yarn and my needles were itching to cast on as soon as she started posting photos of her WIP prototype. In September of 2016 the West Coast Cardigan pattern came to life and the final version blew me away. Just look at this gorgeous sweater... 

© Jane Richmond

© Jane Richmond

As I was wiping the drool off, I purchased and read through the pattern and, well... my wheels began turning because my inner knitting-geek (well, really, my knitting-geek is pretty much front and center) was TOTALLY geeking out with the techniques Jane has packed into this single design. As you may know, I LOVE technique, so as I was planning the winter class schedule at Firefly Fibers I knew I wanted the West Coast Cardigan on the schedule because I *needed* to share all of the fun techniques with other knitters. But... planning a class isn't just deciding on a project, one of the first tasks is to decide on the class yarn and this proved to be quite challenging.

I really didn't want to bring in a new yarn line at the shop *just* for one sweater, so I tried to find a suitable substitution... my available options were going to be costly for a super-bulky project requiring so much yardage and one of the things I appreciate about Jane is her use of affordable yarn and that just wasn't happening. Also, the yarn in her designs is (generally) easily substituted, but after running numbers (spreadsheets and all that nerdiness) to compare cost and the overall weight of the sweater (because pencil roving is light and airy, so it therefore weighs less and no one needs a 10lb sweater), I decided to reach out to Jane...

After much discussion and enthusiasm on both our parts (many thanks to Jane for taking the time to brainstorm with me), it became clear that the Briggs & Little Country Roving is a unique yarn and perfect for Jane's sweater because of cost, the physical weight, and it's just quite lovely in its sheepy goodness. I contacted Briggs & Little and they are lovely folks at a small mill in Canada that's been operating for 100+ years and I'm so happy to be working with them. As soon as the yarn arrived, I understood why the math was telling me that I wasn't going to find a suitable substitute - there are other yarns that *will* work, but in this case, I strongly feel that the yarn and design go hand-in-hand. Now, I'm smitten with the Country Roving and I can't wait to try it in other projects, but for now... it's all about the project that introduced me to Country Roving and here's mine in progress:

 
 

I'm wrapping up my West Coast Cardigan #1 this weekend and getting ready to cast on #2 because clearly, Firefly Fibers can't be the only one to enjoy a new sweater this winter (besides, it's been in the negative and single digits here in Wisconsin and that's COLD). This first one (in Sheep's Grey and Dark Grey) was intended to be a shop sample, but I think it will be for me. So, I *have* to knit a second one. This sweater has been so much fun to knit that I'm excited to knit another version and I hope you're inspired to knit your own West Coast Cardigan.

As luck would have it... Jane is hosting a KAL for the West Coast Cardigan! Woot! AND... Jane is offering 25% OFF the West Coast Cardigan pattern now through the cast on date of January 10th with code 'WCCKAL' on Ravelry! Full details are on Jane's blog right here. I hope you'll join the fun!

Need yarn? As I'm sure you can guess, I highly recommend the Briggs & Little Country Roving and we'll be placing an order at Firefly Fibers this next week. If you want to make sure you get the colors you want, you can special order from our online shop through Monday, January 9th at noon CST. We anticipate the yarn will arrive on Saturday, Jan 14th or Mon or Tues of the following week and we'll ship orders out as soon as it arrives (really, we'll have it out the door super fast) so you can cast on. Yes, it will be a week or so after the cast on date, but this sweater knits up quickly, so there's plenty of time and it will be worth the wait. And the yarn ships to us like this, and this is pretty cool:

So... are you in? I hope so! 

CHEERS!

Rambling in the New Year...

Truth be told, I'm not much for New Years resolutions or even much for reflecting on the past year. I do, however, enjoy looking forward and I feel like rambling a bit today, so you may want to grab a cup of tea (or whiskey or wine, if that's your preference) as I share some of what's on my mind... 

This time of year is especially busy at the shop, so taking a moment to slow down can be challenging, but with encouragement from Mr. Yarnista, I'm on day 2 of a 9 day Winter Break that is very much needed. With our brick-and-mortar shop closed for a few days, this time is for me to slow down a wee bit, get caught up on a few things that have been looming over me, take some time to really focus on some work stuff that needs undivided attention, but (under strict orders from Hubby) I will be taking a fair amount of time just for myself to re-energize. I have plans for knitting and binge tv watching and I can't wait! Yay me!

The last year has been amazing, humbling, and more than I could ever have hoped for professionally. It's been an awesome experience to see Firefly Fibers grow over the last 6+ years and I hope to continue enjoying this for many years to come - many thanks to all of you that have supported me and our shop over the years. We're also into the second year of the Alisa the Yarnista Podcast and I've really enjoyed this endeavor that once seemed so terrifying to me.

Personally, I know I've neglected myself with my focus on work and all 3 of my boys have been neglected. I'm always looking to improve and challenge myself and a few months ago I started the huge undertaking of implementing a new point-of-sale and I'm currently in the process of building a new website - alone, these are both huge projects, but I'm doing both at the same time *and* during the busiest time of year. I'll try not to bore you with the technical details, but basically... when completed, our brick-and-mortar and online shops will be integrated and that means some time will be freed up for me, along with relieving a lot of stress as I say "goodbye" to the current (very) manual processes. I'm so very thankful that I have a supportive partner that understands the end goal of working smarter, not harder and why I've been absent for many weeks. It's nearing the end, but WOW, this is a big project!

Owning and operating a yarn shop is about the knitting (that's why I chose the business of a yarn shop), but it's definitely not about knitting all day. I wish that were the case. Most of my days are spent doing bookkeeping, ordering, correcting incorrect orders (always a not-so-fun task), maintaining the website (I do geek out over this a bit), packing online orders, checking in orders, doing inventory, researching new vendors and products, planning classes, teaching classes, sorting through emails, marketing (facebook, instagram, ravelry...), and this is just some of what I do. And, all that is in addition to working with the lovely knitters and chatting with my awesome vendorsReally, if something needs to be done, I do it. Mr. Yarnista helps out when he can, but he already has a full time job, so he can only do so much. To be clear and very honest, these aren't complaints, this is just what I do and I absolutely LOVE everything (well... maybe not needle ordering, because that really just sucks). This is the best job that I've ever had and I'm so thankful for the opportunity to do something I love. Again, thank YOU for being part of this success.

As I look forward, I see the day where I've achieved balance between professional and "me" time (again, I'm taking steps so I can work smarter, not harder going forward). I'll be sharing (in detail) some of what I've been doing to maintain the crazy (and my sanity) in upcoming posts right here and I hope that at least some of it will be inspiring for you. I'm focused on continuing what's been working well for me and cutting out the excess "noise" and having a few days off to focus is going to be absolutely wonderful. It's only day 2 and I feel more like myself already and I hope that just improves over the next week.

I hope you're finding time to slow down and work on you, because we all deserve it.

CHEERS!

 

SIMPLY HANDMADE-Along | Wrapping Up

With only 2 weeks left in the year and a week and a half until Christmas, the pressure is on. I'm feeling it and I'm sure you are, too. So, to wrap things up with the Simply Handmade-along, I'm focusing on 2 quick and simple projects that are fun to make and perfect for gifting. 

WRAPPING UP | THROUGH DECEMBER 31st

The first project is one of our newest additions at the shop, the popular Katrinkles Sweater Ornaments:

I adore these wee ornaments and, in addition to looking adorable hanging on a Christmas tree, they're also fabulous for dressing up gift packaging. With the hustle and bustle this time of year, I appreciate these quick projects because 1) they're pretty awesome, 2) I'm sure at least one can be completed in an evening (really, several could be stitched up if I can take a deep breath and not overthink it), and 3) they're handmade by Katy at Katrinkles and when they're stitched up with love (and some pretty floss or yarn), I'm sure they'll be well-received. 

We're stocked at Firefly Fibers here as the blank only or as a kit with a variety of 6 colors of floss and a size 24 tapestry needle (both include the cord for hanging). There have been some super fun versions posted on Instagram and one of my favorites used variegated sock yarn, so you can even stash dive for some fun bits of fingering weight yarn for stitching. Fun, right?!

I did say I had 2 projects this month, so we also have one of my all-time favorite projects from one of my all-time favorite designers... Marian by Jane Richmond:

I've knit several of these cowls over the years and several have made the rotation as a shop sample. When the new Sugar Bush Chill arrived a few weeks back, I had grand dreams of knitting Jane's new Entwine Scarf (you know, in all the free time I have), but reality set in with looming deadlines, so 2 balls of Chill and some big ol' needles seem to be just perfect for an "instant-gratification" project. 

I've got 2 balls of Chill in Grey River stashed in my knitting bag with a set of needles. Maybe I'll cast on tonight?

So... what do you think? Do you need to whip up a couple last-minute projects for gifts or do you just want to knit up a cozy, squishy, soft cowl for yourself? After all, it's cold outside now and we're expecting a BIG storm this weekend.

We love seeing your projects (and they get you chances to win), so be sure to share on social media with #HandmadeAlong and also here on Ravelry in the Firefly Fibers group. We'll have a final giveaway to officially wrap up this year's Simply Handmade-along, so be sure you're signed up here, share photos, and stay tuned for details... 

psst... you can use any yarn for Marian, but if you want to try Chill and order from the Firefly Fibers online shop on or before Sunday, December 18th, we're working hard to ship ASAP, so your order will be shipped out no later than Monday, December 19th. 

CHEERS!