Monday, March 30, 2020

Creativity and baking

So ... who else has been baking up a storm?

We're all creative people here, and we all know that being creative is what keeps us sane.

I was at the post office last week and ran into a retired businessman I know who said he had been trying to convince the man who had bought his business to close during the stay-at-home order because he knows the business is not essential. I said I was at the post office because I was delivering sanity to a customer so I know mine is an essential business. He agreed because his wife is one of us. He knows  the consequences of NOT having something to do to relieve the stress, especially right now.

But even with all the lovely yarn I am surrounded by on a daily basis, there are times I just can't knit or crochet another stitch. Sacrilege, I know!
So Mom and I have been scouring the internet (me) and hard copy books (Mom) for new recipes - mostly breads - that can be made with or without yeast (it was hard to find the first couple of outings to the grocery store) and with or without a bread maker (we have two). We have determined that the bread maker is great for making the dough but it just doesn't make a nice loaf for sandwiches so we throw it into a regular bread pan and into the oven it goes.

We've made regular white bread, coconut flour bread which is more like a pound cake, (if we'd had crushed pineapples to throw over top, they would have made it taste like a Pina Colada cake! Next time 😋) and Irish soda bread so far. We even tried these peanut butter chocolate chip cookies! Sadly, they didn't last long ;) Because of that, we're trying to stay away from the sweet baked treats but when the banana is too ripe even for me and the sour cream is past due, you gotta make a banana loaf and a mahogany cake - and pop them in the freezer immediately! Okay Mom and I shared one piece to make sure it was okay before gifting some to one brother and my mom's 'other daughter'.

So glad I am getting some work done on the rv (sorry, no pictures yet) or I would be needing to buy a new wardrobe after this social isolation thing we're doing.

I don't normally ask for feedback, questions, etc on this blog, but since I no longer get to see everyone at the store, I would love to see what projects you're working on or have finished, or even some of the baking you've been experimenting with just to keep your hands busy. So, please leave your comments below and I will leave you with one more 'recipe' I am going to try next time I can't find yeast. Use this yeast 2:1 compared to regular yeast.

written by Lori, happy TCL owner, who obviously won the recipe race since I have links for all the recipes 😉

Monday, March 23, 2020

And the people stayed home.

I've been seeing this posted in many different ways on Facebook and it is a good reminder for people to slow down and just start to live again. I also was fortunate enough to be able to read this below.

Remember when we used to say, "I wish I had time to ....."?
Time for action my friends.
So let's share what we are doing that we never had time for before ...
I will start doing mine tomorrow!
- Corinne Nowoczin (a wise woman I just happen to be related to)

She's right, you know. Now is a great time to hit that To Do List with fervour. I personally am getting around to finishing my Christmas 2019 projects when I'm not fulfilling orders from the online store, working on the website, the warehouse, or the RV. Two are done (shown in part below) and I have three more to go.

If you're like me and leave Christmas presents until it is (almost) too late, now is a great time to start. I know you have patterns and yarns and buttons, etc. that have just been waiting patiently in your stash hoping to be used sooner rather than later.

We're probably going to have a lot of babies born before the end of the year and they're all going to need blankets and sweaters and hats. What a great way to use up those finer weight yarns.

For those bits and bobs that you just can't bring yourself to throw out, making Temperature Blankets is an option but most people say they get too big if you do a full year size. So do a Vegas Blanket instead. I used to be able to find all sorts of images and patterns for these until Temperature Blankets became popular. Now, nothing. So here's the gist of it. It can be either knit or crocheted. It uses up stash at an amazing rate and the pattern changes every single row so you don't have to memorize a pattern.

One die and one coin
Six different colours or colourways of yarn (numbered 1 through 6)
(use a favourite afghan pattern to determine how much yarn you will need)
Needle or hook the proper size for your yarn

Knit Recipe 

Again, gleaning information from a favourite afghan pattern, leaving a 6" tail, cast on your preferred number of stitches with yarn colour of your choosing. Cut yarn leaving a 6" tail. These tails will form a fringe so make sure you are casting on enough stitches for the full length of your afghan.

Next row: Roll your die to determine which colour to use
Flip your coin to determine which stitch to use.
Heads = knit     Tails = purl
(or whatever variation you want to use)

Continue in this manner, remembering to leave 6" tails for fringe, until your afghan is your preferred size or until you run out of yarn. You can always add more fringe the traditional way if you have just a smidge more yarn to use up.

Crochet Recipe

Again, from a favourite afghan pattern, leaving a 6" tail, chain your preferred number of stitches with yarn colour of your choosing. Cut yarn leaving a 6" tail. These tails will form a fringe so make sure you are chaining enough stitches for the full length of your afghan.

Next row: Roll your die to determine which colour to use
Flip your coin to determine which stitch to use.
Heads = single crochet     Tails = double crochet
(or whatever variation you want to use)

Continue in this manner, remembering to leave 6" tails for fringe, until your afghan is your preferred size or until you run out of yarn. You can always add more fringe the traditional way if you have just a smidge more yarn to use up.

Even though this is a random pattern, the results are always gorgeous.

Hope this free pattern helps to keep you sane through your self imposed isolation and I want to see all your finished projects on my Facebook page.

If you get really adventurous, you could use one of these. 😁
written by Lori, happy TCL owner, who has a cat that never sits on my lap, has a cat sleeping on my lap while I work at the computer.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Serendipity or just good timing?

ser en dip i ty

the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way

Or as I like to describe it - a happy accident. 

Way back in November when I made the hard decision to close the brick and mortar store, I never thought I would be looking back on that day and thinking, "Wow! Sure glad I did that when I did!" Who knew we were going to be inundated with a pandemic? Who knew people were going to be hoarding toilet paper? TOILET PAPER!!! I don't know about you but if I am forced to self quarantine for a minimum two weeks, I'm hoarding food and yarn, NOT toilet paper!

Food and yarn are two of the most important things to have on hand if I have to hunker down with Mom and Myles (the cat) for an indeterminate amount of time. Mom is an avid gardener so we have canned and frozen food to get us through virtually anything and, while we don't stockpile as a habit, since Mom and I recently became roomies, we have two households' worth of dry goods that we are still trying to make our way through before they go stale. We also have three freezers full of food. Yes, I said three freezers. Don't judge. One is full of homemade pies just waiting to be baked from frozen. And if we run out of cat food, we can cook some of our meat without onions or garlic and Myles will never want to go back to canned. And I must have had a premonition of this outbreak because I DID stockpile coffee just recently. I thought it was so I could always have some on hand in the warehouse but who knows?

Honestly, one thing I do know is that it will be years before I run out of yarn. If things shut down to the point that I am unable to even go to the post office to ship out online orders, I can use my personal stash as well as the store yarn to play with the floor loom and knitting machines I have inherited over the years that are housed in the warehouse so that I can start selling finished goods once all this silliness is past. They don't call knitting a post-apocalyptic life skill for nuthin'. 😜

*edit* Since writing this blog two days ago, things have changed in the province of Alberta and we are choosing to be homebodies, only going out when necessary. That also means knit night has been cancelled indefinitely. I don't think I'm smart enough to be able to take credit for this being a case of good timing. At this particular point in time, I am all for calling my decision serendipitous.

written by Lori, cautious TCL owner, who was going to use this blog as a warehouse update but got sidetracked so here are a couple photos.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Progress, I think ...

This past Saturday, exactly a week after locking up the brick and mortar for the last time, ALL the yarn has found its permanent home in the warehouse. If you don't look at all the boxes of non-yarn craft supplies around the perimeter of the room, it looks quite impressive (if I may say so myself).

Mom and I have been working 9 to 5 daily filling bins, loading pegboard, watching two bins - at different times - collapse, rebuilding sturdier bins, filling them again, and finally, success. I even managed to find space for one of my small Ikea sofa beds that you may have seen in our knitting area so that I have a place to design more of my out-of-the-box patterns. I may even finish the pair of Lorigami Socks my 91 year old aunt commissioned back in September (when she was only 90).

Before the snowfall this weekend, I was even hopeful that I would be able to get into the motorhome and start tearing apart the kitchen counter to make space for the yarn, etc in the pop up store. Yeah, that's not gonna happen as soon as I'd hoped. But that's okay. I still have buttons and tapestry yarn and floss and beads to hang on the pegboard. That should keep us busy for the better part of a week. Maybe then I will even have pictures for you to help you appreciate all the work I've been doing now that I've 'retired'.

It still boggles my mind how many people think changing from a retail storefront to an online retail business means I've retired. With the brick and mortar, I had days off. With the online store, my phone rings every day because people want to check if I still have something before going onto the computer to order it. Or they want to pick something up rather than order it through the computer because they don't want to pay the shipping. When I politely tell them that they can both check availability and choose pickup on the website that's when I realize that they still want the personal touch - which I happily give them. Having said that, don't expect happy cheery greetings if you call at 3am. You will be waking up three people (one of them furry) and none of us wear our happy pants at that time of the day. Where you absolutely will receive the happy cheery greetings is in the pop up store when I finally have it up and running.

Speaking of... I made my first foray into researching markets for the pop up store. It was a bust. The venue is still in the planning stages but the cost was formidable. The smallest space was over $1300/month with a three year minimum contract and the booth was expected to be manned every Saturday and Sunday from 9-5 year round. That doesn't work for me for so many reasons, but most importantly, I am a church musician and I can't be there every Sunday. Besides, I would not be making use of the motorhome, so, no go. Next.

written by Lori, happy TCL owner who has not slept in a single day since closing the brick and mortar and is looking forward to the Farmer's Market days when the first venue starts in the afternoon.

Monday, March 2, 2020

K.P. Interchangeable Needles, what's not to Lykke?

Please note the following blog is based on my experience and percentages used are more arbitrary than being an exact quantity.

When I was first introduced to Knitter's Pride interchangeable needles, I was blown away!
The birch needle is SO smooth because it is resin infused instead of just varnished. It quickly became my needle of choice. I later learned that, at first, any needles with the initials K.P. were all made in the same factory in India. So, in Europe they have KnitPro,
and here in North America, we have Knitter's Pride and KnitPicks. That means two things - the quality of the needle is the same and, more importantly (to me), they all play together!

Later on, KnitPicks decided that since they sold directly to their customers instead of wholesaling through retailers, they would move their production to China to lower the cost of said production. Still the same process but now on different machines. Here's where the arbitrary numbers come in. If you know anything about factory defect percentages, it is more common to have defective materials produced on a Friday than on, say, a Tuesday because the focus on Tuesday is work. The focus on Friday is 'how long before quitting time? I have a date I need to get ready for!' There are still quality checks going on, but if something slips through, its usually Friday.

So - nothing is always perfect. So for the number of Knitter's Pride items I had returned because of defects, I give them a 99% fit rate. In other words, 99% of the time the cord and tip of an interchangeable needle will work together. Similarly, I give KnitPicks a 95% fit rate. 95% is still an excellent fit rate, its just if we tried to put Knitter's Pride and KnitPicks together and there was a problem the fault always fell to the KnitPicks.

For those of you who have been paying attention to stock in the store, you're asking "So why carry KnitPicks instead of Knitter's Pride?" I'll tell you. The supplier I had for my Knitter's Pride needles was into some unethical business practices so I dropped them like a hot potato. For future reference, the company from which I have been ordering KnitPicks is now carrying Knitter's Pride and I will slowly be phasing out the KnitPicks in favour of Knitter's Pride because you can order KnitPicks needles directly from KnitPicks.

Enter Lykke.

When my sales rep mentioned that she had these amazing new interchangeable needles to show me, I shut her down. Don't need another one. Already have two K.P. needles and ChiaoGoo needles. I don't have room on my wall for another brand. But they're really lovely , she says. I counter, unless they play with one of the brands I already have... She whispers, I'm not supposed to tell you this, but they're made in the same factory as Knitter's Pride needles. I'm sold and, to date, they maintain a 99% fit rate.

If you haven't felt any of these needles yet, I will do my best to always have a project on the go in the pop up store so that you can fondle the beautiful wood.

written by Lori TCL owner who absolutely loves her Knitter's Pride needle set, her KnitPicks needle set and her Lykke needle set. Don't judge me! 😉