DIY Magic

My sister and I went to the CGOA/TKGA Fall Knit and Crochet Show in Portland, Oregon, earlier this month. We have plenty of stories to tell from the trip, but by far the most exciting is the one about how we entered a little door underneath a nearly hidden stairway and found ourselves in a magical place called Yarnia.

First, I'll show you what I got. Then, I'll talk more about the shop and its way-cool DIY concept.

We have here 1-1/2 pounds of gorgeous wool—designed by yours truly. The yarn is destined for a cardigan for J—Ann Budd's Cambridge Jacket from The Best of Interweave Knits—and I got enough extra for a hat or mitts. J mentioned that he would like this sweater in a green, tweedy look. I took my own, creative approach to his request. Here's a close-up of the yarn construction:

Six strands of wool in all: dark grey, navy blue, 2 strands olive green, hunter green, and—to add periodic hits of color—a 2-ply variegated in grey, royal blue, and turquoise.

I picked the fiber and color combination from the cones lining the walls at Yarnia.

We're talking hundreds of cones of all types of yarns: wool, silk, mohair, cashmere, cotton, bamboo, boucles, nylons, metallics, acrylics. You name it, it's there... except elastic... but we overheard one customer ask if she could bring in her own cone of elastic to blend with yarn from the shop, and she got the green light. You determine how many strands of fiber you need according to the weight of finished yarn you're after. In my case, I wanted a worsted.

Never fear the calculations. The owner, Lindsey, helps with all the math and has plenty of resources on-site to help you articulate what you want. Once you've selected your fiber combination, she checks out your intended project (if you brought it) to confirm you're making a yarn that will be compatible. You can even knit up a little swatch to see what you think before she makes up the cones! She then cuts off a length of your yarn and uses a McMorran Yarn Balance to determine the yards per pound for your blend so she can calculate the amount of yarn you will need to complete your project.

You purchase the yarn according to weight. After making all the calculations, your cones get lined up on a tensioning rack and wound onto cones using a very industrial-chic cone winder that's so fascinating to watch it's housed near the front window for passers-by to see. I wish I had a picture to show you. If I didn't recognize it would be spectacular overkill, I'd say I must have one of these machines for myself!

I love the way the cones come out. They're like works of art in their own right! The strands of yarn are not plied when they're wound on, so you end up with distinct banding at this stage. Also, because of the way it's wound, the overall color can look very different depending on light and angle.

In case you're wondering how the yarn will work up, I saw many sample garments at the shop, and I can tell you these DIY blended yarns knit up beautifully. I can't wait to see how J's Cambridge Jacket comes out!

And what about price, you ask? Happily, the price also exceeded my expectations. Each cone has a per-pound price tag. Lindsey calculates everything up before she actually winds the cones. My 1-1/2 pounds of wool cost just over $50. Compare that the to Urban Aran I made J last winter out of Cascade Eco wool—which was my most economical option at the time—for just under $50. We're talking about a $4-$5 difference. Pretty amazing given that this time the yarn is custom-designed, don't you think?!

Yarnia is definitely worth a periodic train ride from Seattle to Portland! If airfare doesn't fit your budget, you can purchase pre-made cones online.

Lindsey got her inspiration from a shop in Montreal called La Bobineuse de Laine, which also takes a DIY approach. Read all about it on the Yarnia website.


Anonymous said...

Wow! That is so awesome. I've never been to a shop that was set up for something like that before. It allows you to get exactly what you want. Definitely worth $5 more dollars.

cici said...

This sounds awesome. I think this could become very popular.