Saturday, May 30, 2009

Top Shelf Yarns

In a surge of Spring fever, I decided to tidy up and wind all these exquisite hand-dyed yarns. They were in loose hanks (which many finer yarns are) and understandably handled and ewe'd and ah'd over, until they were tangled. As you can tell by the size of them, these are hefty hanks with hundreds of yards in each one. Tedious as it could have been, winding silks, Egyptian cottons, and rayons, while watching these gorgeous colors wrap around each other, is never a chore. When the job was done, it felt as if a tiny part of this world was in order. I got the same feeling I had when I was a kid, standing on the white-washed porch of my grandfather's childhood home, high above the orchard, looking out over countless rows of perfectly alligned apple trees. Such order and peace.
It's funny where we find order and peace these days. It seems like the less there is in the Big World, the more we have to find it in our Little Worlds. It can almost always be found in the yarn orchard of the Grove. So when you're feeling in the need to be surrounded with beauty and peace, remember us. It's one of the reasons we exist.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


At the close of business today, we drew two names from a hat (okay, it was a basket) and gave away the Louisa Harding prizes (Knitting Little Luxuries and three beautiful skeins of yarn) to customers who spent $25 or more on yarn during the month of May. How lovely to be able to call these customers and tell them they are winners! And it's really a wonderful feeling to be able to reward our good customers for their loyalty. Stay tuned for the June drawing!

Monday, May 25, 2009

An Urban Tree

On this morning's walk, we passed the Urban Trees that "grow" along the water's edge on Harbor Drive. One of them is this amazing kaleidoscope.

And this is but a pale copy of an image seen through its amazing lens.

Posted at the base of the kaleidoscope, were these words:
We are fixed in a time, place and scale in the Universe somewhere between the microcosms and macrocosms of everything that exists physically.

We are all governed by the same physics but experience them in many different ways, energy - positive/negative, magnetism, light, speed, sound.

But there is another creative energy, non-physical, that exists in the other.

Tap into that energy and transport yourself to another time, place and scale in the Universe of your imagination. Have Fun, Play, Experiment and Enjoy the infinite possibilities.
Signed, Vicki Leon, Harmon Nelson, Steve Riggs

Note to self on Memorial Day morning: remember to live fully, creatively, and with hope, knowing that there are infinite possibilities.

Friday, May 22, 2009

It's Only Natural

You know that idea Judy and I had to combine knitting and sewing, starting with natural fibers? We thought it would be helpful to create sample outfits complete with jewelry ... just like you see in department stores. This is the beginning of one outfit that will be on display at the Grove after June 1st with all materials available for purchase. The free pattern for this 100% Belgian linen top is located at Coiled. (When at all possible, we'll be using free patterns to minimize costs and simple ones to start with). Judipatuti is sewing a linen skirt and silk camisole to go with this cropped top. We are naming this collective endeavor, our "It's Only Natural" line. Can't wait to share more as this project unfolds!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Knitter's Block

I am tied to my desk chair this morning which seems to be the only way I'm ever going to get organized. I have not picked up a needle yet (which I usually do while waiting for coffee to brew), bound and determined not to lose track of time once again and blow through the morning without doing paperwork. While searching on my computer, I saw this Knitter's Block piece stored in my "Yarns" folder. Now I know I personally saved it (no one else would) but I haven't the faintest idea where I found it or who wrote it. My apologies to its thoughtful author for printing it here without credit, but this is too good not to share.

When the Needles are Silent: Surviving Knitter's Block
Nearly every knitter has experienced a slump at one time or another. Knitting slumps can be a result of stressful circumstances, over-involvement in other activities, or simply a lack of inspiration for whatever reason. For many, stressful moments inspire a rush of knitting activity. Others find that stress stifles all desire to knit whatsoever.

If you're experiencing knitter's block, the most important thing to remember is that this, too, shall pass. While you're waiting, here are a few techniques that may help you kick-start the knitting process once again.

Sort Your Stash: Go through your yarn stash, pull out any yarns that don't inspire you, and either give them away, sell them, or place them in storage out of sight. If you're uninspired, the last thing you need is a dusty stash filled with good but unfulfilled intentions.

Whip Your WIPs Into Shape: Do the same thing with all your current works in progress (WIPs). Take them out from their hiding places and try to be as realistic as possible. Will you really ever finish them? Does the mere idea of looking at them send dread down your spine? Do you like the yarn but dislike how it's turning out?

Sometimes the circumstances surrounding an unfinished project can hinder your ability to finish it, especially if they bring up painful memories. For example, I was simply unable to return to a baby sweater I was knitting when my grandfather died.

Don't Be Afraid to Recycle: If any of these apply to your projects, it's time to do some recycling. Grit your teeth, rip out the yarn, and save it for something else. If you'll never be able to look at the yarn without thinking of the failed project, see if anyone else would either like the unfinished project or the yarn. If you can't quite declare the projects dead, you can still pack them up and get them out of your sight.

Hit the Books: Treat yourself to an afternoon of browsing any old knitting magazines and pattern books you haven't used lately. Slumps can often occur if you've been repeating the same type of project and not challenging your knitting skills. It's possible that your mind has moved on from your previous projects, and looking at new designs will open up the floodgates of inspiration.

Dump the Discipline: Slumps can also occur if you're stuck knee-deep in an intricate, complicated project, especially if you've tried to discipline yourself by saying, "I can't do anything else until I finish this." Nonsense! Pick a quick-knitting project so you can experience the gratification of a finished project. I can't count the number of bulky sweaters that have gotten me out of slumps.

Teach Yourself Something New: Find a knitting technique book and pick something that has always intrigued you. Is it entrelac? Fair isle? Or perhaps simply different cables? Try the techniques on small swatches without assigning them to a brand new project. Just getting the yarn in your hands again and discovering something new can kick-start your creativity. Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns and Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns contain endless assortments of great new stitches and techniques to try.

Broaden Your Yarn Horizons: Try new yarns.

Break Loose from Obligation: Are you bogged down by a long list of gifts you intended to knit for other people? Sometimes this sense of obligation can suck the fun out of knitting. Take a break and do something for yourself -- perhaps a pair of soft booties, a small pillow (this is also a great way to try new stitches), or a quick sweater. Trust me, the world won't come to an end if your gifts never get made.

Take it Easy: Most important of all, be gentle on yourself. If none of these techniques inspires you, don't push it. Nothing can sap your creativity like forced knitting. Just relax, try to engage in other activities you enjoy, and trust that your knitting muse will return when it's ready.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

La Vie Claire

Yesterday, my friend Marcia introduced me to La Vie Claire magazine. It is take-your-breathe-away beautiful. In the Inspirations by the Sea section there is a stunning photo spread and story about a sterling silver wire knitter, Genevieve Hunt. She uses pearls, crystals, quartz and other gems to weave bracelets that glitter like the sun off the Atlantic at noon. While there are no instructions, it appears that she uses garter stitch, a fine gauge sterling wire, gorgeous beads, crystals, etc. and metal needles.

Today, I think I'll dig out the materials I have from Annie Modesitt's class on wire knitting and try my hand at one of these beauties. Now, if I can just find my childhood metal needles!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Morning Inspiration

This morning, Judy and I were at the J Street Mission Cafe, bright and early. 7:45 a.m. to be precise. Now for me to be out and about that early means I am highly motivated. Highly motivated to score pancakes and highly motivated to be with Judy who is my creative muse. I've got paper napkins (somewhere) with handwritten notes from more than one breakfast meeting. We just seem to ignite each other with ideas. Part of our routine is to walk off those big breakfasts at Seaport Village,
which we did this morning. 2 miles along the harbor. It is heaven. Gratefully, there are still fishing boats moored along the way. Workin' men's boats. Once in a while we see one offloading fish which is always fascinating. We walk past the Fish Market and the tribute to the Greatest Generation, of which my dad was a member. Past the U.S.S. Midway, the Cruiseline Terminal, the ferry on Pier 4 that runs to Coronado and back, the infamous Anthony's and finally, the Star of India. That's our turn-around point. This morning, we came up with some wonderful ideas for the Grove (which we hope to put into effect in early June). There will be more to come on these plans which combine fabrics and yarns.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Volunteers Needed

These sweet little violas are volunteers. They weren't planted. They just popped up from a seed that blew into my front yard and landed next to the blooming coral amaryllis. So they're all the more a miracle.

I'm in need of one other small miracle. Every sample in the Grove has been knit by me or given to me by one of the yarn companies I do business with (those, however, are few). And I would love to have more samples but am at a loss for time. So, I'm looking for some volunteers who love to knit and wouldn't mind knitting samples in exchange for eventually keeping whatever they knit. The garment will bear your name. If you are interested, please email me at with the subject heading "Volunteer Knitter" and I'll contact you shortly with more details. Thanks to all for supporting the Grove and continuing to in these rather uncertain times!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lovin' Linen

Cia, who represents Louet Yarns, visited the Grove yesterday. She designed this beautiful sweater, appropriately named "Cia", made of Kidlin (a linen, mohair blend) which has to been seen in person. It is beautiful and is now being translated for up to 2X so it will fit anyone.

In addition to carrying Euroflax, Kidlin, Gems, Merlin, etc. etc., Louet now distributes "Soak", a gentle no-rinse
liquid soap designed to clean hand knit garments without stripping them of their natural oils. Also, Soak also makes these very cool labels to sew into hand-knitted garments that say a variety of things. MUST HAVE THEM, is what I told Cia.

We decided that it would be great fun to have a 1-day trunk show of 7 or 8 garments knit in the above-referenced yarns that everyone could try on. We'll have the color cards available, so if we don't have the color you want, you'll be able to special order any one you desire. And, we'll be giving out free samples of "Soak". Hopefully, we'll have the tags in by that time also.

Drum roll...the date is Sunday, June 14th from 1-5 pm. For those of you on our email list, you'll get a reminder in our June Newsletter. If you're not on our email list and want to be, just clink on the Grove link on my blog.

A Well-Dressed Visitor

Melody is dog sitting this week for Peanut, South Park's infamous chihuahua. While Mel was knitting this gorgeous Brilla project, Peanut jumped onto her lap. Tiny as she is, this did not make knitting easy. So Mel put the project over her. She soon worked her way out and this is what she looked like. I thought of editing out her red eyes but they match the Brilla so well.

Wearing knitted garments well is not Peanut's only claim to fame. Check out her ears!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why I Was Late for Work This Morning

While the coffee was brewing and the DH and pup were still sleeping, I sat in my knitting chair inhaling the jasmine and knitting the last 4 rows of this Grandma's Lace Shawl from Faith, Hope, Love, Knitting by Lorna Miser. Each row took more than 20 minutes to knit since by the time you get to the bottom of the lace edging, its hundreds of stitches. As you can tell, I'm not a very good photographer and have no idea about lighting. But this Chilean yarn, is a lovely cotton/rayon blend called Olmue and only costs 12.50 a skein. This wrap only took two so the shawl only cost $25 to make. Now that's a bargain!

If you look at the left-hand side of the open book you may be able to decipher the edging. (I know it's really hard). It's a beaded, crocheted cast off. In between customers, I'll be stringing 300 beads on for that part!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

When Jasmine Last in the Doorway Bloomed

This intoxicating jasmine greeted me this morning when I opened my front door. I use the word "intoxicating" literally because I was drunk on its beauty and scent when I made the decision to move from Boston to L.A. in 1989. I was madly in love and on my first real vacation in several years. I had heard so much about L.A....mostly negative, of course...and I was shocked to the Spring... that L.A. is a lady. And she wears perfume from night-blooming jasmine. That smell is forever imprinted in my mind and I blame it for my rather sudden decision to move from Boston to L.A.

Turns out it was a rather rocky beginning for my new West Coast life and at times, I'd think - what on earth was I thinking. And my next thought was...if I hadn't gotten drunk on that damn jasmine, maybe I could have seen BD for what he really was. And L.A. too. Not such a good fit.

Now I live in a house with a front porch thickly draped in jasmine, with a devoted husband, a puppy named Scoutie, so many good friends, and as much yarn as anyone could want.

And I thank god for jasmine.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Husband's Love for His Wife Who Has Given Him 4 Children & 1 on the Way.

Yesterday, a man in his 30's came in looking for a Mother's Day present. He spent some time examining Bea and Carol's jewelry cases. When I asked him if I could show him something, he said the present was for his wife. I heard reverence in his voice when he described her. She is simple and elegant. He sifted through every piece, thoughtfully, looking for the one that was her. He finally chose a silver bracelet with eggplant-colored stones saying it would go with most of the clothes she wears (geeze, a man who knows what his wife wears).

Before he left, he told me that the Grove was his wife's favorite place and that it wasn't a far drive from the Union Trib where he works. I asked him if he survived the layoffs and he said he had. He was relieved because they are expecting their 5th child next week. Relieved he said, but not feeling any better because of all the others who lost their jobs. 200 of them. What we always have to celebrate is each other and being in the world at the same matter what.

Friday, May 8, 2009

You can't tell a book by its cover.

Yesterday, Lisa Limber, a Schaefer Yarns rep, came into the shop wearing this terrific-looking Interweave sweater made up in Susan, a variegated pima cotton from Schaefer. Lisa is a prolific knitter and is always introducing me to the latest designs. This cover pattern, Diminishing Rib Cardigan, has been an instant hit on Ravelry and is currently being knit by over 200 Ravelers even though it just came out this Spring. That was surprising to me because I did not give it a second look, dismissing it as being sort of country looking (and not in a good way)! Shows you what I know!

As I view the photos on Ravelry, I'm thinking that part of it's appeal is that it looks as good on full figured women as petite women. While not designed to close in the front, several knitters have chosen to put a closure at the neck or at the waistband for a little more pizazz. The yarn choices for this pattern are endless. The first thoughts that come to my mind are Cotton Fleece (Brown Sheep), Skinny Dyed Cotton or Sportweight Alpaca (Blue Sky Alpaca), Merletto or Hand-Dyed Grace (Louisa Harding). If you are going to knit one summer sweater this year, take a close look at this one!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Lovely Knitting Story

Barbara was working on this scarf while sitting vigil during a family member's surgery. She had bought "cheap yarn" to do a practice scarf before using the Misti Alpaca Chunky that we sell. The guard, who sat outside the recovery room, was so impressed with her knitting. And, he just couldn't believe that she started and finished this scarf in the waiting room. He liked the scarf so much that Barbara decided to give it to him. She left the room and returned later to find him sitting at his post outside the recovery room wearing the ruffled scarf, tail hanging and all. How sweet is that?!#
P.S. The pattern is free on Misti Alpaca's website and is made from Chunky alpaca.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Crazy Looking Cat

Lesson learned from my first post ... never promise to share a completed project in the near future! If I hadn't promised all of you (who I am sure check this blog regularly looking for the kitty..not!), I probably wouldn't have finished this.

Lesson #2: I am not a big fan of making animals and vow to not attempt another one, no matter how cute the pattern. I tried making a monkey once because my friend thought it would be a fun knit along. I got through the first striped leg and decided it was the last thing I wanted to be working on. I was quite over it ... quite quickly. Luckily, a customer of mine discovered the same darling pattern and wanted to make it for the baby in her life. I convinced her to take the damn leg along with the yarns and, don't you know, she made a wonderful stuffed monkey, destined to become a fond childhood memory.

Now that this project is happily behind me I can return to the other three I have underway. For obvious reasons, I am not going to share these works in progress with you!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Talmadge Art Show

Although I've heard about the Talmadge Art Show, the Spring show held this weekend was the first one I've been able to attend. Many wonderful jewelers, glass artists, ceramic artists and fabric purse designers were there. I was most impressed with these gorgeous Nuno felt pillows, with saturated, vivid colors and a myriad of textures. Turns out they were Arlene Watson's, a Grove customer, knitter, and beader. I knew Arlene's beautiful scarves but hadn't seen her pillows before. I'm just sorry that I wasn't able to get better pictures, because these don't do her work justice.

Arlene has Nuno Felt Workshops scheduled in May and June. To see her work, go to For information, email her at Support your local artists!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lemon Tree Very Pretty

This is the view directly outside the window of my little studio/office. And when I say directly, I mean directly!
If you squint, you may be able to see the top of my computer screen and the wall calendar to the right. I can literally pick a lemon by leaning over my desk and reaching out the window! Ah, the pleasures of a small space and the magic of Spring.

My gardener tells me that the hole in my birdhouse is too small for any bird to fit. That's okay by me. I just love looking at it there among the lemons.

Friday, May 1, 2009

An Idea Hatched at the Textile Show!

The best part of the textile show was seeing the 2010 fashion forecasts which highlighted a subdued palette of natural colors, smokey blues and dusty roses. I was exclaiming that we have that exact color palette in a couple of yarn lines we carry. Light bulb idea...Gasp... what if we brought in a few bolts of natural fabrics to go with the yarns! Linens to go with the organic line! And, maybe my dear friend Judy can design some simple patterns to match the sweaters, tank tops and cami's. Like Blue Sky's cropped cardigan pattern in bone with ivory Capri pants!

Well, I'm here to tell you that Judy's one to act. We left the show for L.A.'s Fashion District where we saw THE palette in linen! Judy bought enough fabric to do samples. We spent the 3-hour train ride home brainstorming ideas, with Judy sketching. We're hoping everyone likes this idea as much as we do and we're also hoping we can pull it off! What do you think?

P.S. The textile show was a bust for notions.