Friday, June 29, 2007

Billie and little Lily.

Last weekend, we threw a shower for Billie Anne, whose little girl, Lily, is due in a little over a month. For those of you who don't know, Billie Anne is truly one of a kind. She is an expert crocheter (when you add the "er" to crochet, somehow it just looks wrong, and maybe a little obscene?) and it is common to hear crochet customers with Oops moments pleading, "Is Billie Anne in today?" Not only that, but she manages all the bookkeeping for both Loops and Branders, Inc. (the ad business) - and I tell you, this is no small task.

So, in a nutshell, this girl deserved a rockin' baby shower. And we think she got one. There were the huge Babies R Us equipment boxes (is it me, or do the manufacturers double the size of this stuff every year? The "travel system" aka stroller looks like a little aircraft carrier). But we know what you really want to see - the hand-stitched stuff. You guessed it - Lily is gonna be the best dressed little gal in Tulsa.

I'm just going to be quiet and let the pictures do the talking, along with some notes on the patterns and yarn. First, the establishing crowd shot:

Next, a darling dress made by Becky, in Filatura BonBon from a Filatura Baby book. Oh my!

Next, a little pair of "jeans" out of Rowan Denim from the book "Last Minute Knitted Gifts," made by Gina Y.:

And to go with the jeans, Emily made a tiny sweater out of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, from the book Baby Cashmerino 2 (just got some coveted cream and pink of this yarn back in stock - and by the way just bought a giant load of Debbie Bliss for fall with our rep, Darry yesterday, but I digress):

Gina Y. naturally had to make a pair of socks for Lily! They were so a-DOR-able! But I didn't get a good picture of them. Not to worry...Loretta also made an amazing little pair of baby-toe-warmers, in Lorna's Laces Shepherd sock. Here is a link to the free pattern she used. And here's the photo:

Of course, socks are not the ONLY thing you can make with sock yarn! Gina H. made this from some sock yarn in her stash. We have a pattern like this, only with horizontal stripes, by Black Purl in the baby pattern binder. It's just stockinette stitch, but it looks like you spent ages on some complicated colorwork. Check it out!

Gene, a terrific customer and all-around good guy, started on an afghan for Billie Anne months ago. He even let her choose the pattern and colors! It's from the book "Candy Blankies." We all oohed and aahed over the results:

All of you who have trouble getting projects done on a deadline (I think we pretty much all qualify here) will relate to this one. Here is Sherry, presenting her ALMOST-finished little Blue Sky Baby Dress. Sherry used Catania, a yarn we clearanced awhile back (Sherry circles the clearance area like a shark, looking for good stash fodder), but you can use Blue Sky Sport or Rowan Cotton Glace.

I made Billie Anne a Baby Bobbi Bear using Blue Sky Cotton in Shell. (I made one for my daughter a couple of years ago, and she is always hugging it while she sleeps, so that its neck is so long it is starting to resemble a member of that African tribe that wear multiple rings around their necks to stretch them out. Oops, digressing again...) Oh yeah, and the little scarf is my own addition, to help hide future "stretch-neck."

Now we have arrived at Miss Ingrid's gift. Never to be outdone, we have the special packaging, with fresh roses from her master garden:

And then we have the flawless sweater, again made from Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, from the Spring/Summer issue of Vogue Knitting:

And then, because she had leftover yarn (oh horrors!), she was compelled to make not one, but two adorable little hats:

Billie Anne held up the little hats with their little pointy tops, and several of us dirty-minded Loops Troops, in unison, noted the similarity to little Lily's future feeding sources:

...prompting Gene to feel like this:


- Shelley
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Monday, June 25, 2007

Head, shoulders, hips and toes, hips and toes.

I have finished three, count 'em, three projects this week! First, the Louisa sequin sweater (now hanging toward the back of the store - LOVE how it turned out, and it fits perfectly). Second, the Bobbi Bear for Billie Anne, complete with its own scarf (hey, if I count the scarf separately, that makes four finished projects) - look for a full blog on BA's shower later this week. And third, my second hat from the "Itty Bitty Hats" book, for the superwoman on my tennis team who has been playing (and kicking booty!) well into nigh her 7th month! Our team is presenting her with a Babies R Us gift card after our last match this week, and it just felt too empty giving her a gift card, so I whipped up this little cutie:

It's called Little Pumpkin, for obvious reasons. Gee, I hope she doesn't read this blog before Wednesday! I love the "Itty Bitty Hats" book. These hats are so cute, they give me an excuse not to knit a sweater or blanket. Guilt, be gone! Plus, the instructions in this book are so detailed as to be almost insulting. For example, instead of saying simply "attach leaf to stem," you get a full paragraph of exactly how to attach it. This pattern was two pages long, but if it was a Rowan or Rebecca pattern, I bet they could have edited it down to about 6 sentences.

So that was the "head" (see title), now on to the "shoulders." We have all been salivating over the luscious Tilli Tomas silk yarn with Austrian crystal beads worked in. My infamous black Tilli dress has sequins, but these beads are completely TDF. Gina just finished a quick shrug that is so very hard to capture with my crummy camera - you really must see this one in person. However, it is traveling with Gina this week so the photo will have to do for now:

And a front view:

And a close up:

The beads are larger than they look in the photo, and color-matched to each yarn. My friend Kristin is finishing up another Tilli in a Stitch Diva pattern using yarn with actual turquoise chunks woven in! Photo coming soon...

Now for "hips," we have an ingenious use of a felted cell phone pattern. Lee Ann used a free pattern and Crystal Palace Taos to felt this darling little pouch - love that Loops button!

But what is so brilliant is that it's not holding a cell's holding an insulin pump! What a cheerful way to deal with what could otherwise be a drudgery. It doesn't surprise me that Lee Ann came up with this - she is such a positive person, always smiling and full of energy.

Now for the toes...ta da! The new Trekking sock yarn has arrived!

Within a few hours, we were already sold out of the green one that I call "Lizard" (upper left in photo). According to the distributor, this is their best-selling color! Neither Gina Y. nor I really believed it was their best-seller - we were sort of scratching our heads over it - and then lo and behold, it flew out the door! Just goes to show, it always pays to ask the distributor. Anyway, we also have some great "man colors" - if you want to see how they knit up, just look around at the Troops who had their socks cast on about 10 minutes after the UPS man left!

And here are two more "toes" photos:

These are the Christmas stockings you can learn to make in Gina H.'s July class. Click here to check out the new class list.

And what do Loops employees do to combat being on our feet all day on our lovely concrete floors?

This is a plug for MBT sandals. Ugly, yes. Hideously expensive, yes. But incredibly comfortable, good for showing off hand-knit socks or a pedicure, and proven to decrease cellulite, to boot. The feet belong to me, Ingrid and Gina H. You can get the sandals from Kathy at Foot Solutions in Tulsa.

See you this week for the last week of the Prism trunk show!

- Shelley

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Boob Tube and Dred Tamer.

Here are two very current project ideas. If you're not quite brave enough to wear them yourself, you'll at least feel extremely hip while knitting them for the fashionistas (and/or rastafarians) in your life.

The first is a an updated "boob tube" knit by the fabulous Kendall.

And check out the very victorian back:

The pattern is from Magknits, a great free pattern website ala Knitty. Click here for the pattern. The pattern calls for Rowan 4 Ply Cotton, but Kendall used Rowan Cotton Glace instead. According to Kendall, "From what I can tell, the yarns are the same except Cotton Glace is mercerized. It took seven skeins. Six different colors, and an additional skein of the main color. The patern has optional straps if you want to add them."

Kendall also came up with an unconventional, yet ingenious way to carry the different colors. click here to read all about it.

Next up is Karen R.'s "Panta" - the Finnish word for headband. Karen made this for a friend who wanted a neat way to dress his dreadlocks. But wide headbands have made a big comeback across all demographics, thanks to Desperate Housewives and Nancy Drew (I saw the movie this past weekend and even my 9-year-old recognized the bad editing and lackluster acting - but boy, the fashions were cute. Too bad I didn't spot any handknits to replicate). Anyhow, here's Karen's Panta:

Karen was kind enough to provide yet another free pattern link! She used Muench/GGH Safari, a terrific linen blend in a gorgeous subtle multi green. FYI, Safari is a great substitute for Louet Euroflax Sportweight Linen, which we also carry in-store.

Wow, this entry has been chock-full of freebies and goodies and other "ies." Do you have a friend who would enjoy our blog? Send them a link today so they can join in the Loopy-ness!

- Shelley
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Friday, June 15, 2007

This knit-in is your bag.

I sent out an e-newsletter last week (hope you got it - if you didn't, e-mail me so I can add you to the list) and I mentioned our next knit-in. It's scheduled for next Friday, June 22, 6pm-midnight. We're making this one later because Sarah C. asked for it. "I'm a scrapbooker," she said. "We're used to all-nighter crops!" So in that spirit, and the later nights of summer, we're burning the midnight oil.

That means we have enough time to finish a complete project! And since we're promoting the Prism trunk show all through June, we decided to offer an optional Prism project. This little Opa! bag was designed by Gina using Prism yarns she already had in her formidable Prism stash:

You can get one, maybe even two, of these bags out of one half-skein of Prism "Stuff." They make great gifts and the bag is a nice introduction to knitting in the round. Plus, you should be able to get most, if not all of the bag done during the knit-in! If you buy some Prism to make the bag, the knit-in is free. Otherwise it's $5 to cover "refreshments" - oh what the heck, this is a blog so I can go ahead and say WINE AND BEER plus munchies. Not sure what the munchies will be. I'd like to say I'll whip up some fabulous family recipe but it'll probably be whatever looks good at Lambrusco'Z that day.

My cooking is sorta like my knitting. I always have such grand plans for this or that, but then we end up at Mazzio's and my closet fills up with partially finished projects. Ugh.

Anyway, if you want to come to the knit-in, call, come by the store or e-mail and let us know you'll be there, so we can get plenty of WINE AND BEER. Did I mention WINE AND BEER? ;-)

- Shelley
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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Finished! Prism, Koigu, Blue Sky, Louet and more.

I personally have gotten a little behind on my knitting. Really thought I'd have that Louisa sequined cardi and the infamous Tilli Tomas black lace dress done by now...but the kids are home for the summer, I'm super-busy with fall buying, the ad biz is busy as usual, and then there was that tennis tournament this weekend...

Anyway, the rest of you seem to be on a roll, finishing projects left and right!

Check out this gorgeous shrug Gina just finished and wore yesterday! When the Prism trunk show arrived (yea verily, just 12 days ago), Gina spotted this shrug design, and picked out her own colors. She took Marisa to freshmen orientation packing 3 different colors for the trim, then made her choice while on the trip - great choice, Gina!

And, true to her vampire reputation, Gina has also completed this stunning wrap in Louet Euroflax Sport. This is a color she had in her stash, but it is now on the way to us from Louet because everyone has seen this beautiful piece on Gina's needles.

Emily, our "super seamer" has finished another sweater. This is her first piece in Koigu, and she is in love! She can wax so eloquent about Koigu's charms, you'd think she was reciting a Shakespearean sonnet. This cardi, in Kersti DK, is from the fab book "Modern Classics" by Louisa Harding.

I took this photo weeks ago and have been looking for a good time to use it. Here is the lovely Janet in a top made from Aurucania Patagonia, one of my favorite cottons. It's organic and vegetable dyed using an ancient Chilean handcrafted process. Also, it's a chunky thick-and-thin weight that knits up super-fast!

Here is Stephen, displaying a little hooded jacket he made for his new nephew, Dakota. The pattern is from Blue Sky Alpacas and he used the Blue Sky Dyed Cottons. (Stephen is like the "Where's Waldo" of the Loops blog - peruse back through the old postings, you'll see his face popping up almost everywhere!)

Now for a different type of show 'n' tell...Billie Anne is really showing 'cause baby Lily is really growing! Here she is "modeling" a book we just got in, "100 Baby Bootees to Knit" by Zoe Mellor. If you've made every hat in "Itty Bitty Hats," it's booty time!

And along with the bootees book came Nicky Epstein's latest, "Knitting Never Felt Better." It's got incredible Epstein-esque patterns, plus some great step-by-steps on felting. Not to be missed!

- Shelley
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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Ladies, start your engines! and other tales from Market.

Well, we didn't have a Code 4 this time, but our trip to TNNA Market in Columbus, Ohio, started with what I will forever call a Code 3.

"Little Gina" and I arrived at the Tulsa airport at 10:30am Friday, a conservative 2 hours before our initial flight to Chicago was to take off. Now ya'll know I'm a nervous flyer, plus I was feeling the pressure of what would no doubt be a whirlwind trip - fly to Chicago, one hour layover, fly to Columbus, do the entire TNNA Show (the biggest market of the year, by far) in just one day (normally takes 2-3), and get up before dawn to fly back first thing Sunday.

We sailed through security, even with our enormous supply of long, very sharp pointy objects. We got to the gate with oodles of time to spare. It looked to be a very crowded flight. Then, minutes before we were to board, they came over the PA system: "Ladies and gentlemen, this flight will be delayed. We have a little mechanical problem..." Okie dokie, I'm thinking. I can handle this. "...with the engine."

I know it's 10:30am, but is the bar open?

Gina and I both opted for a nice glass of wine (and let me tell you, we were not alone - the bar quickly became packed). They delayed our flight another 30 minutes...then another. A huge line began to form at our gate, as flyers began to realize they would no doubt miss their connecting flights. Brilliant Gina snuck over to another empty gate, where there was a worker, but no line. She quickly got us onto another connecting flight. Shelley, not so brilliantly, opted for glass of wine #2.

Engine problem? What engine problem?!

Finally, we boarded and took off. Somehow, I managed to work my way through a little lace Vickie Howell scarf while also working my way through little airplane glass of wine #3. That's where the Code 3 comes in. Because when we arrived in Chicago, since we had re-routed from an American flight to a United one, we had about 15 minutes to RUN at least 1.5 miles to another terminal at O'Hare. In my state, not the best idea. We barely, barely made it...and in that moment, I resolved to myself, engine problems or no, NO wine or alcohol of any kind on the returning flights to Tulsa!

And that was just the beginning of our Columbus marathon. We planned out our one day like military strategists, tactically identifying the booths we would visit (no way to visit them all in one day), and plotting our marching orders. We saw tons of sock, lace and alpaca yarn (even alpaca sock yarn!). There were plenty of the hot new colors for fall - inky, sea blues...bronzes and deep purples...and "no color" - greys, black and winter whites.

I especially loved the Offhand bags for fall - this new, cool shape is big but not unwieldy and has a big divider up the middle, making it the perfect purse/knitting bag:

We were excited that our friends at Alchemy are introducing new, lower-priced versions of some of their best luxury yarns (they're not hand-dyed but still gorgeous colors, and about half the price). Our friend Gina Wilde from Alchemy looked gorgeous as always - and her designs for fall were knockouts, too. Here she is in one of her designs from the current season.

We also saw our friend Helen Hammann, Nicky Epstein, Debbie Bliss and all the other fab designers. We found some really fabulous goodies for fall - you will not believe some of the great new things! - but no cameras were allowed on the show floor, so you'll just have to take our word for it. Afterwards, we dragged ourselved to the hotel next door and, posing as guests, asked the concierge for a restaurant recommendation. He sent us to an Italian place named Marcella's that, as it turns out, had just opened the week before.

They said it would be a 1 1/2 hour wait! But we turned on our Oklahoma charm and the hostess found us a table in less than half an hour. Maybe it was the marathon shopping, but Gina and I agreed it is the best meal we've each had in YEARS.

Then we walked out onto High Street and marveled at how crowded it was! Columbus has undertaken a five-year plan to revive their downtown, and boy has it worked. It was like Mardi Gras! Shops were still open even though it was past 9pm. People were everywhere.

We were feeling wowed by the cosmopolitan air of the city, and were planning to walk the 4 blocks to our hotel, when a vendor warned us about a recent rash of we cabbed it back home and spread out our show tchotchkes - the little loot the vendors hand out for free:

The little sheep came from the last booth we visited - a gift from a new vendor - and on our way back to the hotel, people were literally accosting me, wanting to know where I got it. I'll never tell...until the new Hot Loops wall debuts this fall!

- Shelley
P.S. No Code 3's on the way home - just a lot of sober knitting! ;-)