Meet Mim:


Mim

Mim Bird is the owner of Over the Rainbow Yarn and a knitting genius extraordinaire. In June of 2011, on her birthday, she opened this shop in Rockland, Maine in order to share her love of fiber crafts with the world. Mim is the creative mastermind behind almost everything that we do. She's a knitting history enthusiast as well.

Get to know Mim by reading her latest blog posts below.

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Classes, classes and more classes? We’ve got your back!

We’ve been looking through the results from our survey and have seen some interesting comments.  Since we’re always interested in feedback about how we can do better, we’re also thinking of ways we can follow the advice we’ve gotten through the survey.  At the same time, we’re realizing that asking questions about how we can communicate better are giving us results about how much we’re not effectively communicating now.  We had a lot of requests to start doing things that we’re already doing.  That lets us know that we need to do a better job of letting everyone know what’s going on. 

We had several respondents say that they would like more beginner classes, more, technique classes, more design classes, more free classes, more classes.  I want to take this opportunity to let everyone know what we’re already doing and what we’re going to be doing starting right now.

Pot O Gold

Our weekly newsletter is the best way to keep track of what’s going on at OTR.

For the downright beginner, we have a “Learn to Knit 5 Minute Guarantee” lesson that can be scheduled any time Mim is in the shop.  It takes a little bit longer than 5 minutes to learn to knit, purl, cast on and bind off.  That’s why we have Drop In Class every Monday and Thursday evening from 5-7 pm.  You can come in with any question, project, goal, or agenda and we’ll tailor instruction just for you.  We have so few people taking advantage of this time that you may be the only one there.  That means you get 2 hours of instruction all to yourself or maybe with one or two other people, then you can segue right in to Stitch and Spin night until 8:30.

If the Monday and Thursday evening time slots absolutely don’t work for you, we offer 15 Minute Mini-Classes any time you care to schedule one.  These Mini-Classes are also tailored to you personally and cover anything you want to cover.  The only requirement is that we be open and there be two people here in the shop (that way, one person can devote all their attention to you and the other can help other customers.)  From beginner basics all the way through to the most complex, advanced technique, you name it and we’ll teach it in one or more sessions.

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Our comfy chairs up front get a lot of use during classes, social groups and spontaneous knitting time.

Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the absolute basics, we offer Technique Classes almost every Saturday from 2-4.  There are single topic classes and series, there are project-based classes and classes that cover techniques only.  The more popular the topic, or the more important we think it is for you to learn it, the more frequently we offer a class.  For example, “Be The Boss of Your Socks” is offered at least three times a year because there are always more people who want to learn to make socks, and “Finishing School” comes around on the calendar at least three times a year because we think everyone can benefit from some attention to washing, blocking, and seaming.  We let you know what’s coming up for classes on our Events page here on the website, the Events page on our Facebook page, through the newsletter, with in-store signage and through community bulletin boards.

If we offer classes and no one comes, we assume the topic is of no interest and shuffle it to the bottom of our idea pile.  We’re always willing to expand our offerings or bring things back from the discard pile if there is interest.  In fact, most of our class ideas come from customer comments in the store.  You can tell us what you want through comments here on the website, or comments on our Facebook page, or in the shop. In addition we’ll be offering a paper evaluation form at each of our classes from now on, and one of the questions on that form will be, “What other classes would you like to take at OTR?”

Want to learn to make polymer clay buttons?

Want to learn to make polymer clay buttons?

We’ll also schedule a formal two-hour private class on any topic you like at any time you like if you and four friends want to come together.  Teens, retirees, families, veterans or circus performers who want to knit their own leotards, we’ll create a class just for you on any topic you like as long as there are five of you.  Call the shop or drop by and we’ll discuss the details and schedule your own private yarn party.

Because several people have asked, we’ll be offering Tuesday evening classes as well starting next week.  Beginner Lace will be February 9, 5:30-7:30 and Traveling Stitches will be February 23, 5:30-7:30.  In March, we’ll be offering “Finishing School” on March 1, 5:30-7:30, and “Be The Boss of Your Socks” on March 15, 5:30-7:30.  If those classes are well attended, we’ll expand the offerings. 

12WeeksofChristmasHeader

We offer 12 original free patterns with free instruction for 12 weeks of every year.

In addition to formal classes, we offer The 12 Weeks of Christmas small project knit-alongs from the first week in October through the middle of December.  The patterns are free and so is the instruction.  We only ask that you buy your yarn from us as we’ve designed the projects around specific yarns.  Many weeks during the season we have no one there.  This leads us to think that there is no interest.  But I promise, if folks really want to show up, we’d be willing to expand 12 Weeks of Christmas to 12 Month of  Christmas with small project knit-alongs, free patterns and free instruction if you get your yarn at OTR.  Get back to me on when would be a good time to start and how many of you are willing to be here.

If you just want to be around other knitters to ask and answer questions in a social setting, we have Stitch and Spin circles on Monday and Thursday evenings from 6-8:30 pm, Wendesday morning from 10 am-Noon, and a new group that has spontaneously started coming on Thursday starting at Noon-ish.  You can come in at any of those times and be assured of lots of companionship and support.  Or the comfy chairs are always here, and the staff is always willing, so you can come in and just sit and knit a spell and ask quick questions on the fly whenever you have the time and feel inspired.

For those of you who live far away and can’t make it in, we are looking into webinar formats to be able to offer online classes.  We’ll be getting our first on-line class up and running by the end of March.  Watch the Events pages for times and details.

Daniel_Winding_Yarn

A customer winds his yarn into a ball at Over the Rainbow Yarn.

As a side note, we had several men comment that they felt awkward or unwelcome being the only guy around.  Notice I said “several men?”  Well, there are more of you than you think, and if only one or two of you would come hang out, the others would no longer feel like they are the only ones.  Paul?  Daniel?  Cliff?  Steven?  Chris and Cooper?  Bill?  Any of you want to sponsor a manly contingent and give the other guys permission to come out of the shadows?

We consider ourselves fiber evangelists.  We want to do whatever it takes for you to start, commit to, or sustain a fiber lifestyle.  If you have a idea that we are not already doing, please let me know and we’ll bend over backwards to fulfill your fiber dreams. 

9 Knitting Needle Materials:How To Pick A Favorite Part 1

We get questions all the time about what kind of knitting needles to choose.  The answer gets quite complex when we factor in types of projects, yarn, experience level, changing gauge over time, etc.  To simplify the choice, let me tell you a little bit about a a bunch of needles and why you might have a preference.

Knitting_Needles_3_Kinds

First let me explain a little bit about what knitting needles actually do.  In other crafts, like wood working or jewelry making, artisans use jigs.  What is a jig, you ask?  Let me tell you.  A jig is a tool you use to make a large number of components precisely the same size and/or shape.  If you are making a set of 10 dining room chairs, you’ll want to legs to be all the same length, right?  And the chances of making 40 individual hand cuts precise enough?  Slim to none.  So a fine carpenter will build a back stop onto her table saw, line up all 40 piece of stock firmly against the back stop, clamp them all to the table so they can not shift, and make one pass with the saw blade.  Voila!  40 identical chair legs.  How about 1000 identical gold links to make a twisted chain?  Use a metal rod of the precise diameter to make a jig.  See how handy jigs can be to make a bunch of things all precisely the same?  Oh, if only we had some sort of jig that could make all our knitting stitches the same diameter and uniform height.  But wait…we do!  Our jigs are called knitting needles and we use them for precisely the same reasons other artisans do.  They even come in a variety of sizes so we can make a variety of precisely sized stitches.  Clever, clever knitting foremothers to have invented such a wonderful tool.

The idea of a stitch jig, also called a knitting needle, is that we get as smooth and rhythmic as we can with our hands, and let the needles do the work of making the stitches all the same.  The accumulated size and shape of our stitches is called gauge (number of stitches and number of rows per inch).  The interplay between our hands and our needles determine our stitch gauge and, if the size and shape of our stitches change over time, it is almost certainly because of our hands, not our needles since our needles don’t change and how we move our hands may.

To help make the movements of our hands as smooth and uniform as we can, we can understand the properties of different materials, types and styles of needles, and choose accordingly.  First, the big three…

#1 Metal

This a pretty broad category all on its own.  It includes aluminum, stainless steel, brass, powder coated, nickel plated, etc.  In general, metal needles are inflexible and some folks find that they can cause hand fatigue.  On the other hand, they also have less surface friction so your stitches will slide easily and quickly along the needle.  If you want to knit for speed, metal is your friend and the slicker the better.  Powder coated aluminum and brass are the least slick, stainless steel is in the middle, and nickel coated surfaces are the slickest and fasted of them all.  Metal is also stronger than some other materials and can hold up to greater torque (which is force applied in an arc) and the weight of large heavy projects without bending or breaking.  If you want to achieve a tight, firm fabric, like for a coat, you may want to use a slightly smaller needle than the yarn would usually call for to keep the stitches small and tightly packed.  This will add to the force you need to use make each stitch.  All that torque requires a strong needle.  Holding the weight of an entire heavy Aran style sweater while you add the neck band can put a lot of weight on your needles and more fragile materials may not hold up to the stress.  So, metal needles are what you want if you need speed and/or strength.

#2 Wood

I can’t prove it, but I think wood was probably the material of the earliest knitting needles.  Like metals, the wood used for knitting needles is also a broad category.  Hard woods, soft woods, birch, rosewood, oak, pine, ash, etc., all have their properties.  Also keep in mind, how or if the wood has been finished and with what.  Wood, by its very nature, is more flexible than metal and this contributes to wood needles being, in general, not quite as smooth nor as strong as metal.  It also contributes to wood needles being a little bit easier on the hands than metal.  The wood will flex a little bit to conform to the hands, rather than the hands having to conform to harder materials.   Weight, grain, hardness, finish and whether the wood is a single solid piece or laminated (which means many layers have been glued together before the wood is shaped into a needle) will all play a part in the strength and smoothness of knitting needles.  The finer the grain of the wood, the finer it is sanded and the more satiny the finish, the slicker and speedier the needles will be.  Finely finished rosewood needles may be comparable to powder coated aluminum for slickness and speed.  Unfinished softwood will have much more surface friction and will be “grabbier.”  Wood needles also need care and maintenance.  Wood can dry out and the friction of yarn rubbing on your needles can rough up the surface.  Oiling, waxing or otherwise conditioning your needles will keep them smooth and strong for a longer time.

#3 Bamboo

Moving up the grabbiness scale, we come to bamboo.  Bamboo plants are giant grasses rather than trees.  They grow with such amazing speed that you can almost watch it happen with your naked eyes.  Bamboo is considered an invasive weed in some places, but is so quickly renewable that it continues to be used for more and more things.  While trees grow in more or less heavy, dense concentric circles in all their parts, bamboo grows with a lighter, airier, linear structure.  Bamboo needles are easy on the hands since they bend and flex with our fingers and cause less fatigue with their own weight.  But the surface friction is much higher.  Bamboo is the grabbiest of all the surfaces.  While this makes for much, much slower stitch formation and movement, it also helps keep stitches in place.  When using a slippery yarn, like silk or viscose (also, by the bye, made from bamboo) or when starting circular knitting with very few stitches and many double pointed needles (like in the middle of a circular shawl) bamboo needles can help keep your stitches from sliding out of your control.

Metal, wood and bamboo are the most common and readily available, but they are not the only materials we can make needles out of.  In our second section, we’ll be able to compare other materials to the big three.

#4 Plastic

Plastic needles are generally light weight, warm, and often super flexible.  They are very easy on hands, especially in the smaller diameters, and are favorites among folks with arthritis and other sources of joint pain.  They vary a bit in smoothness but are usually comparable to the slicker end of the wood needle spectrum.  They require no care and feeding.  They are not as strong as metal and don’t work especially well for high torque or heavy weight projects.

 

#5 Acrylic

You may be tempted to class acrylic and plastic together because they are both synthetic materials, but their constitution and performance as knitting needles are quite different.  Acrylic is more brittle and far less flexible than plastic.  In the smaller diameters, they can snap in two with too much torque, though they can carry heavy weights.  Acrylic needles are warm and light, and have a slight give to them that makes them comparable to wood with regard to hand fatigue.  But, no matter how smoothly they are finished, they have a grabbiness comparable to bamboo.  The best thing about acrylic needles is that they can be                                                  very, very pretty.

#6 Ivory

Ahh…ivory.  Ivory is strong like wood, slick like metal, warm like acrylic, light weight like bamboo.  The surface gets smoother from yarn passing over it.  Ivory can dry out and should be waxed or oiled every now and again, but can last for years, decades, millennia even.  The trouble with ivory?  Well since the world has cracked down on hunting the animals that produce ivory, new ivory items are almost impossible to find.  Which means that old ivory items are rare as well and very expensive.  If you find genuine ivory knitting needles, try them out.  If you don’t love them, send them to me!

#7 Bone

Bone needles are medium weight, warm and slightly flexible so they are easy on the hands.  When the surface is properly cared for, they can be as slick and fast as rosewood on the high end of the wood scale or brass on the low end of the metal scale.  Bone is much more porous than ivory, and is much more likely to dry out and splinter so they need to waxed to keep them smooth and pliable.  The materials, the bones of animals, are not as readily available or, rather, the availability is not taken advantage of by needle manufacturers.

#8 Glass

Glass is heavy, brittle, and notoriously fragile.  Glass knitting needles are inflexible and hard on the hands.  They are strong enough to hold heavy weights, but do not tolerate high torque.  And, though glass itself is smooth and satiny, glass needles have a surprising amount of drag.  They are comparable to bamboo on the grabbiness scale.  They can shatter if dropped and chip if banged against something hard.  Why would anyone make needles out of glass?  Because they are incomparably beautiful.  If you love beautiful, fine tools, and if you can take great care not toss them around or put them in danger, they are delightful to look at and                                                      watch as you use them.

#9 Carbon

Hmmm…I don’t know what to tell you about what carbon knitting needles are made of.  Carbon, obviously.  But so is coal, and the lead in your pencil.  So are diamonds.  The best I can tell you is that the manufacturers call it a “high-tech carbon fiber.”  Could be swiss chard for all I know.  I can tell you the properties of carbon knitting needles.  They are strong yet a bit flexible, light weight and warm.  Because the material is fibrous in nature, they can split and shred like bamboo, especially in the smaller diameters.  As a result, the tips are adapted with metal, usually nickel coated brass.  They are easy on the hands, stand up well to heavy weights, perform admirable with high torque and have a smoothness comparable to the slicker woods.  The join between the metal tip and the carbon shaft may be quite pronounced or so subtle as to be nearly undetectable.  You’ll have to try one and see.

In addition to the material that knitting needles are made of, length and style of needle, sharpness of tip, and other factors can go into making a knitting needle so comfortable that your hands can make precisely uniform stitches.  We’ll move on the Part 2, next week.

 

Pantone’s Color Of the Year: 5 Things To Remember About Color Forecasting

press_coy2016Maybe you’ve heard, and maybe you haven’t; Pantone has announced its Color Of The Year forecast for 2016.  This year, they’ve actually named two colors.  We’ll be seeing Rose Quartz, a pink the color of the softest rosy blush without a hint of cloying sweetness, and Serenity, a blue that looks like the love child of Sky and Cornflower.  These two colors will be everywhere from the subtlest  hints (think about the capital letters at the beginnings of paragraphs in your favorite magazines, or the color on the walls of the kitchens in the TV ads for breakfast cereals) to the most blatant displays (think dominating ready to wear swim suits or raincoats as well as everything from home accessories to shoelaces)

But what does it all mean to us, my lovelies, my yarn-ies, my fiber art compatriots?  Well , we’ve had some questions and some lively discussion about it here at Over The Rainbow Yarn and I’ve some up with some things you should keep in mind.

• How do they come up with that?  Do they have a crystal ball or do they just pull something out of a hat and it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy?

pantone-colors-spring-2016-swatches-sized-w724The first thing to answer is, “who are THEY?”  Pantone actually has a group of professional forecasters who come from all over the world.  They meet twice a year and work in breakout session and as a whole to asses a huge range of factors.  They look at what is happening in the world from a bunch of different angles and perspectives.  They watch trends in global politics, social media, economics, publishing, entertainment industries, art, craft and buying habits of small Asian island cultures.  They pay attention to themes in popular television sitcoms in Argentina, cartoons in obscure (or not so obscure) French newspapers, which smart phone operating system is selling best, how many Etsy sites are featuring Ancient Norse inspired jewelry for men, and a million other tiny details that you and I can’t even imagine.  Then they distill all those tiny details into a coherent assessment of what we could call, for lack of any better term, the global mood.  Even then, they are not done.  They proceed to look at the global mood as indicated by all the details, then look back at other times in our history when our mood has been like that and what we as a group did about it.  Then they look at what they know about color theory and make a prediction about what we’re going to want next in the way of color.  Exhausting right?

• So what does mood have to do with color?

Slide1Well…there have been studies done for decades on how color affects mood.  Just try doing a Google search for color and mood and you’ll find thousands of articles, some based on hard science and some based on market research, some based on ancient or New Age spiritual traditions.  The color around us can affect everything from our appetite to our ability to sleep soundly.  Color can affect how and with whom we fall in love, when and how much we listen or talk, all of our emotions, their intensity and our ability to express them.

And our mood can affect our color choice.  Have you ever noticed how people who are feeling depressed really do choose drab colors to dress themselves in, and there’s that one aggressive woman in your book group who always wears the brightest shades of shocking pink and electric blue?  People choose colors based on their mood all the time.

•So should I use pink and blue yarn for all my 2016 crochet projects?

img_pantone_color_of_the_year_2015_press_releaseNot necessarily.  Forecasting is not about telling you what you must do.  It’s about making educated guesses about what you may want to do without even knowing why yourself.  Forecasting also in definitely not about telling consumers what they should like.  It’s about giving manufacturers, publishers, designers, etc. a sneak peak at what many of us are going to be in the mood for soon.  Look around your local department store.  Do you think you could find a pair of rain boots or a bathing suit today?  “Of course not,” you say.  “That’s a spring item.”  Well, and you’re right.  There’s nothing in the world to stop me from wanting a bathing suit in January, but my local department store can’t stock everything all the time and they have their seasonal cycles.  We’ll start seeing bathing suits again just as soon as the Easter stuff is cleared out, right?  And they’ll also be stocking lots of things in Rose Quartz and Serenity, and the rest of the Pantone 2016 palette, because the smart folks at Pantone have told them that that’s probably what most of us are going to want.  Not all of us and not all the time, but most of us, at least some of the time and for some things.

We also have to keep in mind that we are part of the slow fashion trend.  Most of us are going to take our sweet time finishing a sweater and by the time we’re binding off, there may be a brand new Color Of The Year.  We are also hoping that the sweaters we knit will not be abandoned after a single season, or even a single year.  We are knitting and crocheting for the ages and should choose colors based on many, many things that have nothing to do with the seasonal trends.

• Are these colors going to dominate everything?

633ca37eb205ed72523ac47509a60e10Um…it depends on what you mean by everything.  In real life, very few of us replace our entire wardrobe every season, or even every year.  We definitely don’t repaint our homes even every decade.  Forecasting takes two parallel approaches, short term and long term.  Short term forecasting is great for things we think of as disposable or nearly disposable.  When you upgrade your phone, you get a new protective case, right?  Want to take a guess at what the popular color for phone cases will be this season?  I bet you’re right.  But should Sherwin Williams double their stock of soft pink exterior paint?  Probably not.  Folks who are buying and decorating their first home this season may be affected enough by the global mood to paint their downstairs powder room baby blue.  They are more likely to choose towels in shades of Indigo, and the most likely to grab that pretty Serenity liquid soap dispenser and matching shower curtain rings.  When the time come to get a new shower curtain, they may wonder why they ever chose that shade of Emerald two years ago, and opt for the Lilac Gray and Peach Echo one they saw and the big store last week.

It may also mean that finding your favorite colors may be a little more difficult, this year.  Not impossible, just a little more difficult.  A true holly berry red may not be upper most in everyone else’s mind, but it’s my favorite color.  This spring, I may have to settle for a new pair of rain boots in Fiesta.  The ready to wear shoe makers are going to be banking on me wanting it that way, at least this year.

• But what If I don’t look good in this year’s color?

n83pbj-iNothing says you have to wear it.  What we like to look at and what we look good in are two different things.  I already mentioned that a cool, rich, holly berry, Christmas red is my favorite color.  I should amend that to “…for some things.”  As a color I love to look at it.  It makes me feel all warm and energized inside.  It’s the color of my car.  But I would never in a million years paint my house that color.  I like to wear that color, mixed with other bright jewel tones and I have a lot of it in my wardrobe.  Still, I get the most compliments on my appearance when I wear soft yet bright blues, like cornflower, like periwinkle, like Serenity.

If you didn’t already know it, let me tell you now; you are the boss of your wardrobe and can wear anything you like for any reason you like.  If getting compliments is what you’re after today, then dress to please someone else.  If you feel like putting on that pumpkin orange hat that your mother says makes you look like you’re decomposing, but make you feel sunny and creative, dress to please yourself, and too bad about your mother.

And remember that your favorite colors will come around again.  They always do.

The bottom line is, you are the boss of your knitting and crochet.  You know yourself best and you know the people you love best.  Go with what you know about what you and they love.  If you want to work with this years colors, try a quick accessory that will work for the season, then go into rotation later.  If you know your niece’s favorite color is a dusky olive, by all means, knit her graduation afghan in her favorite color.  You know better than Pantone what’s going to work for you.

And do please send me pictures of what you decide to make.  I love seeing all your color choices as much as I love seeing the patterns you choose.  In fact, my lovelies, my yarn-ies, my fiber art compatriots, you are my forecasters.