How the Pandemic Ended My Yarn Snobbery

I was a “yarn snob” for about two years. After discovering the joys of buying high quality wool, alpaca, and even silk yarns online, I gleefully knitted cardigan sweaters, pullovers, shawls, and small blankets out of the finest yarns on the planet. Of course, I also had to discover hand washing of all these lovely fibers. My crafting budget took a hit, too.

Then came the pandemic. Within a couple of months, supply lines to all these wonderful all-natural yarns came to a screeching halt. Two companies from which I had previously bought wool yarns closed or sold out. Another subscription service supplying all kinds of wonderfully squishy yarns struggled to get products out of South America. I bought up lots of yarn on clearance or going-out-of-business sales, but my days of buying wooly goodness in the form of knitting yarn were clearly over.

But my knitting was still in high gear. With reduced schedules and lots of free time around the house, I imagine I wasn’t the only one doing more knitting than usual this past year. I imagine many people took up knitting as beginners, too.

My own demand for readily available yarn quickly veered off towards good old-fashioned acrylic. Frustrated with shipping delays for the so-called “luxury yarns,” I found that I could click a couple of buttons or swing by the big box craft stores and get all the synthetic yarn I wanted. 

And is acrylic so bad, after all? I think not. It’s affordable. It’s durable. Projects I made from acrylic yarn twenty years ago still look great. And I can throw them in the washing machine AND dryer without experiencing total disasters. Yes, acrylic yarn is a by-product of the oil industry, but at least it’s used for a good purpose. Right? 

I still love to wear my warm wooly sweaters, especially during these Dogwood and Blackberry Winters of our Appalachian Spring here in Tennessee. I don’t enjoy hand washing the things. But I sure do like going out to the mailbox and getting new acrylic yarn just days after I order it!

Happy Knitting, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Pandemic Knitting – How it’s Changed Us As Knitters

Hello Knitters! Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this blog. When the pandemic hit, I took a break to relax and live a very quiet life in lockdown. Then, my beloved husband was diagnosed with a rare and advanced cancer in the spring of 2020 and passed away in December. My knitting kept me sane and relatively calm, but I found myself with writer’s block for the first time in my life. It’s time to get back to writing again, so here goes. 

It’s been quite a year. Just about everything we do has been affected by the pandemic, and knitting is no exception. Here’s just a few areas where the practice of knitting has changed:

Learn-to-Knit Opportunities

Have you recently taken up knitting? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Lots of folks have taken up new crafts or sought to improve their skills. At the beginning of the pandemic, I signed onto the online learning platform Bluprint and learned to pick up stitches neatly, make button bands for cardigans, and tackle the art of short rows. Sadly, Bluprint was sold in mid-2020 and re-emerged as a new version of Craftsy. Other online learn-to-knit platforms advertise heavily on the web, reaching out to new and intermediate knitters. I just signed up for a “learn new knitting stitches” kit with Annie’s Kit Clubs. It appears that learning to knit via video is here to stay, with readily available, affordable, high quality platforms.

The Yarn Supply

Even as we have more time than ever before to knit, our collective stash may be dwindling. Sources of high-quality, all-natural yarns have been moving targets. I previously bought several kits from Kitterly, but they seem to be scaling way down (what little they offer is on deep clearance). Bluprint offered wonderful yarns, but their stash didn’t transfer to Craftsy. Knitcrate, however, has managed to keep the luxury yarns coming, despite delays in shipments from Peru and challenges with the U.S. postal system. 

If you want acrylic or other synthetic yarns, however, the big box stores seem to have plenty on offer. From my own personal experiences, the “order and pick up at the curb” services did not work. One understaffed big box store left me waiting at the curb for a half hour and never did come out with my order. (I had to go inside and stand in line.) Another big box store cancelled my order, saying they didn’t have in stock what their website said they had. But if you actually go in the big box stores, they will have plenty to choose from. 

The End of Local Yarn Shops?

Once upon a time, I went to a tiny little knit shop in Knoxville called the Knit Wits, where two sweet elderly ladies taught me to purl and how to make a sweater. They carried lovely yarns from Europe. I remember them fondly. And I may remember more local yarn stores as something I “used to frequent” before this pandemic is over. The local yarn store in my community of Farragut closed early into the pandemic. Though I’m aware that other yarn stores in the greater Knoxville area have offered curbside services and online Zoom knitting circles, I haven’t participated or taken advantage of these offerings. To stay connected to the knitting community, I’ve veered more towards large online groups on Ravelry, where’s there’s always someone online, day or night, to chat about yarn, fuss about supply issues, dream together about planned projects, and show off your finished work.

While I do support the notion of local yarn stores, I wonder if they will be able to survive in the future. The online stores offer plenty of wonderful yarns, and they almost always have all you need to finish even the largest of projects. I’ve found local yarn stores in South Carolina and North Carolina that sell their inventory on Amazon. They sent my yarn quickly, beautifully packaged, and with free shipping. Perhaps this hybrid model of “local yarn store that ships all over” is the new model that will keep the locals in business? 

All in all, the craft of knitting is in great shape, with more enthusiastic knitters worldwide than ever before. With incredible opportunities to try new yarns and connect with knitters all over the world (and more time on our hands for many of us), there’s never been a better time to knit. 

Blessings to all my knitting friends, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Knitting Luxuries – Let’s Talk Stitch Markers

In my continuing quest to master the art of Cardigans, I suddenly find myself in need of more stitch markers. Lots of them. After conquering (at least in my mind) the art of yoke sweaters, I’ve moved on to raglans. Lesson Number One before starting a raglan sweater: you need a whole handful of stitch markers, at least 8 of them. 

Recently, I’ve bought several types of stitch markers. Have I simply bought the plastic ones sold at the big box craft stores? Oh no. That’s no fun. The prettiest ones are handmade and come from woman-owned small businesses. If you need a rationalization for your purchases (you don’t), you’re helping out small businesses owned by kindred spirits by buying the fancy ones.

My favorites have tiny mandalas and sparkly crystals attached to them. I must confess, I match my stitch markers to the colors of the knitting project I’m working on. (It gives me a sense of balance and harmony, and in this crazy time, that’s something.) For lightweight yarn – or if using a lot of markers – I like the ones with fine, ultrathin wires that barely weigh a thing. In my mind at least, they’re easier on my hands and wrists. 

Sure, you can make stitch markers out of spare yarn. I’ve even heard of knitters using the pop top from a canned drink for a stitch marker. But me? I need stitch markers that are pretty and make me happy. Lovely tools for knitting are a luxury, I know. But in the great scheme of things, it’s a small investment for the craft you love. 

Here’s what I’ve bought recently, after lots of browsing online:

I’ve bought a number of stitch markers from Jill’s Beaded Knit Bits, both on Amazon and Etsy. Her work is high quality, useful, and she ships quickly from Pennsylvania. She also offers row counting chains and other knitting related jewelry. 

I’ve also bought stitch markers from Crafty Cat Knitty Bits in the U.K.  She offers the ultrathin wire stitch markers I prefer when using multiple markers. Even though my order was shipped from England, I received it quickly AND got postage stamps with pictures of the Queen for the husband’s stamp collection. Double win!

What are your favorite stitch markers? Feel free to comment and share your faves!

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Knitting Through Times of Crisis

I’ve never understood why anyone would willingly work on a tedious, difficult, and mentally taxing knitting project. Until now. 

Since my teen years, I’ve always been a “meditative knitter.” Give me a project that’s easy to memorize, not too difficult, and lets me zone out. I love to make prayer shawls, easy pullovers, and straightforward yoke cardigans. 

As I’ve tried to up my knitting game, I’ve tried more difficult patterns and techniques. This past fall, I took a course in double knitting at the Vogue Knitting Convention in Ohio. Double knitting took every bit of concentration I could muster. I found myself thinking, “if I’m ever in a situation where I want to block out every single thought in my head, I’ll do this kind of knitting.”

Well, here we are. On the evening of March 12, the school system closed for the year. By the next afternoon, the shelves of my local grocery store were cleared by panic buyers. Then, six weeks later, my husband was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer and given only months to live. 

Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time knitting my way through these crises. During the worst moments, I’ve sat in my home office, working on an extremely intricate pattern with tiny needles and ultra-thin yarn, blocking out every single thought and emotion running through my body. I still work on a meditative project each and every day as my personal self-care and spiritual discipline. But I’ve also added a half hour of knitting that vanquishes thoughts of everything else going on my life, if only for a few minutes. And this has helped me simply get through each day, taking me away from the huge responsibilities suddenly placed on my shoulders.

So now I know why knitters work on all those difficult, intricate patterns and stitches. For me, it’s a more hard-core form of the meditative knitting I’ve always done. At times like these, I value my knitting for giving me peace, for giving me something tangible and constructive to do, and for helping me keep my sanity in a time of crisis. 

Blessings to all my fellow knitters facing times of crisis, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Knitting on Vacation: What to Pack?

Finally! I’m getting out of the house and going to the beach. I’ve knitted my way through quarantine, making 3 cardigans, an intricately patterned lace scarf, and a fun mosaic shawl. I’ve made a good-sized dent in my yarn stash and filled it up again with summery yellows, oranges, and taupe colored cotton and linen skeins. 

So why am suddenly perplexed as to which yarns to pack for a trip to the beach? Travel poses certain challenges to one’s knitting life. You certainly don’t want to find yourself hundreds of miles from your yarn stash, needing that one more skein to finish a project. Worse yet, you don’t want to find yourself with several days of vacation left and nothing left to knit. On the other hand, you really don’t want to drag everything skein you own to the beach, taking up precious room in your suitcase, only to find you didn’t even touch most of the yarn you took.

What to pack to knit at the beach?  After switching off umpteen items in and out of my suitcase, here’s what I’ve finally settled on:

  • A small cosmetic bag of tools (scissors, tape measure, tapestry needle, stitch markers)
  • Inexpensive cotton yarn. With so much illness everywhere, I want to be able to wash my project when finished. If it gets stained en route, no big deal.
  • Easy projects. I have in mind to sit under an umbrella and mindlessly knit, possibly while listening to an audio book. I don’t want to think.
  • Projects I Can Wear or Use While on Vacation. There’s nothing more fulfilling than immediately wearing or using something you’ve just knitted. I’ve packed yarn to make a loose beach cover-up and coasters to use under cold drinks while lounging in the sun. 

What did I leave at home? The expensive wool yarn imported from South America is staying home, safe and sound from getting lost or destroyed. I also talked myself out of taking projects using advanced techniques that would take my attention away from family and friends. And the sheer number of projects has dropped as I pack. Though I like to be prepared, I know I realistically won’t go through more than two – possibly three – knitting projects during the entire vacation.

What’s your go-to knitting supplies for beach vacations???

Safe Travels this Summer, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

The End of the Knitting World as We Know It?

Last fall, my knitting world was at its best. I attended a knitting convention with an abundance of yarn on offer. I had a terrific subscription service sending me luxurious yarns from Peru every month, and if I wanted anything at all knitting-related on short notice, I just jumped in my car and headed to a lovely local yarn store or took my pick from three big box craft stores near my home.

That was the best of times – knitwise – and now it’s looking like the worst of times. I can certainly place orders for yarn, but will I actually receive it? Who knows?  Some of the yarn I ordered during this quarantine took a month to arrive; other yarn has yet to arrive. One of the big box stores flat out cancelled my order. My go-to source for looking up unfamiliar techniques I needed for advanced projects, Bluprint, announced a shut-down in late May. Then, boom, yesterday the local yarn shop in my community announced its closing. 

Will we ever get back to the “normal” ways we purchased yarn and learn new knitting techniques? Even in the last two weeks, I’ve changed how I buy yarn and from whom. Most of my yarn purchases had moved to online purchases anyway, but I’m finding myself looking closely at which sellers actually have yarn in stock and which do not. I’m delighted to have found a yarn store in South Carolina that seems to have lots of yarn on hand and gets my yarn shipped to my door in two days. If it weren’t for all this change, I would never have ordered from them.

Despite this rapidly changing economy, the knitting world will eventually settle out. There WILL be changes, and some of those changes WILL be for the better. Though we’ll mourn the loss of our favorite local stores, we may well celebrate finding new purveyors of yarn we’d never heard of before. 

Knitting has been around for hundreds of years, if not longer. Whatever happens to our favorite knitting suppliers, we will still manage to get hold of some kind of fiber and make something beautiful with it. The world will go on, change and all, and we will keep on knitting through the good times and the bad. 

Blessings, Cindy

This is my first blog post in a couple of months. I’ve been homeschooling and caring for a family member with a serious illness. Thanks to everyone who has checked out my older posts and read my books!!! Much appreciated!!!

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

We’re All in One Big Knitting Guild Now

Life has changed, yet we suddenly are all connected in ways we never imagined. Like yarn spun out of the same fiber, we all share a commonality that binds us together, even as we are cut into separate skeins of yarn and knitted into individual garments.

These past few months, I’ve worked on a sequel to my book, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles. In that book, members of one small community find that they are connected in ways they never imagined. They become close friends and give to each other, both anonymously and within intimate relationships. 

In my book-under-construction, The Knitting Guild of All Saints, this community has fizzled out and collapsed. Members of the local knitting guild have gone their separate ways, found they need to take care of small children or move to be near family. They’ve retired or found new community or just don’t attend any more. Yet as they all move out into different communities, the love and connections they made as part of the knitting guild move out into the world to form new loves, new communities, and new life. It’s as if the whole world of knitters and those they love have become one big knitting guild. 

In writing this book during the pandemic, I’ve realized that that’s what has happened to all of us knitters in the real world as well. We may not get to socialize in person at our local yarn shops or knitting groups. But we’re still connected. And lately, many of us have sought out our online knitting communities like we never have before. 

We knitters are all in one big knitting guild now. We’re all still there – virtually – to ask “what are you making?” or “what pattern should I use with this yarn?” We’re still there to cheer each other on in our knitting lives…and in real life as well.

Blessings to all my knitting friends, everywhere, 

Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Want to Learn to Knit? There’s Never Been a Better Time

It’s never been a better time to learn to knit, crochet or any other craft you can do in your home and by yourself. Fortunately, with a few clicks of your fingers, you can get all the supplies you need delivered to your door AND take classes from top notch instructors right in your own home. If you’re already a knitter, you can take this time to bump up your skill level or just try something new. 

As I check my emails, I notice many craft related companies have stepped up to the plate to offer “something to do” for those of us with too much down time on our hands. Here’s a selected list:

  • Bluprint just announced they will offer a free 14 day trial period for new potential subscribers. They’ve also slashed their annual fee to $39. They offer LOTS of family friendly crafting classes, along with advanced classes for those of us wanting to up our skills during this long break. Also, they ship supplies (including yarn, needles, stitch holders, everything). Bluprint helpfully offers “start-up kits” for newbies, with everything you need to take a class and get started with a craft. 
  • KnitCrate ships two skeins of yarn and a little booklet with patterns for the yarn each month for only $25. They also have a very active Ravelry group for online chats with other knitters. Knitcrate is great if you want to improve your knitting or crochet skills. By making the project you’re sent each month, you’ll learn lots of new techniques. Perfect for those who “learn by doing.” 
  • Michael’s Craft store is sending out emails about every day with crafting projects for kids they will ship to your house. They are currently offering a nice discount on purchases. Update: Michael’s is now offering curbside pickup.
  • JoAnn’s offers online shopping for yarn and other crafting projects. As of now, they offer curbside pick-up. You can also have your purchase shipped to your home. Emails have offered generous discounts for online orders. If you knit a lot and need an affordable option, the big box stores are great options. 

We’re facing an unprecedented disruption of daily life. With all this extra time on our hands, it’s a great opportunity to learn or improve a craft that will calm us down, give us a sense of accomplishment, and help us connect with other crafters while doing something we enjoy. 

Blessings during this difficult time, Cindy

If you need something to do while sheltered-in-place (besides knit), please take a look at my two novels, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles and Ginger’s Reckoning, both available in e-book and paperback editions, both available worldwide.

Staying In to Knit? Count Me In!

As the corona virus threat looms, many of us are at least thinking about – if not outright preparing – for a long period of hunkering down in our homes. Here in Tennessee, only one case has been confirmed, but we know it’s only a matter of time before it hits. 

Those of us who knit may be more prepared than most for a couple of weeks of staying home and entertaining ourselves. In fact, some of us may even look forward to a quiet period of sticking close to home. As long as we have a good supply of yarn and knitting needles, we’re good to go.

Knitting has always been something of a survival activity. In times past, people knitted to provide clothing for their families and to stay warm. In times of war, women knitted socks, mittens, and sweaters for the troops on the front line. 

Experts have long predicted a pandemic that would disrupt normal life as we know it, and here we are.  For those of us who knit and do other handicrafts, I’d like to believe we’re a bit more prepared than most for this time in our lives. We have something to do with our time. We have something to do with our hands to keep them from touching our faces. We have something to do that will give us peace and a sense of calm, no matter what calamities take place.

And now, we finally have the perfect rationalization for hoarding all that yarn. It’s time to knit that stash, fellow knitters!

Blessings and prayers for good health, Cindy

If you need something to do while sheltered-in-place (besides knit), please take a look at my two novels, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles and Ginger’s Reckoning, both available in e-book and paperback editions, both available worldwide.

My Season of Knitting Cardigan Sweaters

I wear cardigan sweaters all the time. Here in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, we rarely have bitter cold weather. But in the pastel beauty of the Appalachian spring and among the yellow and orange leaves of autumn, we have cool mornings and crisp evenings perfect for a light sweater. During the heat of the summers, cardigans are perfect for peeling off by midmorning or to cope with excessive air conditioning indoors.

This year, I pledged to learn to knit my own cardigans. My closet is full of fairly inexpensive, store-bought cardigans, but I didn’t have a single cardigan sweater I had made myself. As a longtime knitter, I found this situation embarrassing and unacceptable. I admit, I found all the shaping, button bands, and tricky necklines highly intimidating. 

But I resolved to learn the skills needed and become a Cardigan Queen. Two months into the year, I’m pleased to say I’ve completed two cardigans and have another well under way. I started with a yoke-neck cardi. Much to my surprise, my first cardigan took less than two weeks to complete, fit perfectly, and is now a “go-to” part of my wardrobe. 

The verdict is still out on the “saddle” neck cardi I’m making, using a kit from Kitterly. It’s complicated, using German short rows, make-one-lefts and rights, cable cast-ons, and some other techniques I hadn’t used before. But I followed the directions and somehow got several indescribable shapes onto one set of needles to form a corset shaped garment that is starting to look like a sweater. 

Will my season of cardigans come to a successful conclusion? Probably. Though my season of cardis is not yet in full bloom and I still have a lot to learn, the seeds of a fruitful harvest of all new cardis is firmly planted, taking root, and in a promising growing season. 

Here’s What I’m Using to Make Cardigans

Margaret Hubert, One-Piece Knits: Essential Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges for Sweaters Knit Top Down, Side Over, and Back to Front (This book of charts proved easier than it initially looks. I’ve easily adjusted the charts slightly to fit me. Several techniques are included. Highly recommended.)

Yarn: Knitcrate offers very high-quality yarns at very affordable costs. If you subscribe to the “member crate,” you’ll get enough yarn for a small project (patterns included). At the end of the month, you can get fantastic deals on the featured yarns (and get enough yarn for a sweater). Buy early – they sell out! Click this link to get a crate for only $5.

Kits: I’m using kits from Kitterly. These kits are pricey but include high quality yarn and well-designed but complicated patterns. They work, but you’ll need to pay close attention to the directions. 

Blessings on you own season of knitting, 

Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.