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Artisan Faire Nov 2nd
by Molly ConroyUngerecht
October 21, 2019

Have you noticed that retail is really changing?  Drug stores are testing using drones to deliver prescriptions.  You can have your groceries or meals delivered.  Amazon has become our go to place to find almost anything and even those hard to find items can be delivered to us in a matter of days - and sometimes even the same day!  And the convenience of these changes are fantastic!  But the one common theme is you never have to leave home.  And while that can be super convenient, if you do not have other reasons to leave your home, these conveniences can add to isolation, loneliness and a sense of disconnectedness.  And I fear that it may not be healthy for humans.

When I was in college I worked a summer as a cashier at a pharmacy.  I would have people wait for me, even though there were other cashiers open, simply because I would take a moment to ask how they were doing and have a short chat.  At the time I did not really understand how important this was, I was just being polite - just like my mom taught me!  But for some people, this was one of the few human contacts they had each week.  And as I get older, and my friends get older, I understand more personally how important connection is.

At our shop meeting the other day, our partners had a long chat about how to stay relevant in this changing world of retail.  And logic tells you to close your brick and mortar store and go on line - it is cheaper and more profitable and has flexible hours!  But for us, the entire reason to be open is the table.  Open knitting (read knitting, crochet, weaving, spinning) is core to our identity - it is HOKC's raison d'etre.  We love the fact that we have a business model that allows fiber fanatics to come into the store, seek help, seek knowledge, or seek companionship.  We love that people have worked into their schedules time to spend in our store and that time at the table has become an important part of our lives.  Thank you!

You might be wondering what the heck this has to do with the Artisan Faire...  The concept of the Artisan Faire was conceived at the table.  It was born out of the recognition that we have amazingly talented people sitting around our table every day.  And Sue had the inspired idea of opening the store for one day for people to show what else they make.  This is either our 8th or 9th Artisan Faire and boy has it grown!  Charla has done an amazing job this year of coordinating the event.  We will have around 25 vendors this year - some favorites will be back and we will have a few new vendors too!  So come in and connect with other crafters and artists and get a head start on your holiday shopping - or just find something yummy for you!

Doors open at 10 am on Nov 2nd.  Come check it out - here are a few pics to get you salivating...
     

 



Socktober - the Most effective Ideas are often the Simplest
by Molly ConroyUngerecht
October 1, 2019

I have so much respect for people who see a problem and rather than waiting for someone else to come up with a solution they just tackle it.  And right now, especially in SoCal, the rate of homelessness is escalating at an alarming rate.  The problem seems so big one could give up before starting to try to solve it.  But one tiny action can make a big difference. 

In 2011 Brad Montague looked around his hometown and saw too many people who were homeless.  In researching how he could help he discovered that socks were the least donated item to the shelter.   Brad started to carry socks with him and give them to people he saw on the streets and to encourage other people to help he began to wish people a "Happy Socktober."  And for many of us, October is now synonymous with Socktober! The movement is now bigger than Brad!  And the knitting community has taken to this movement likes ducks to water.

What I love about this so much is small acts of kindness often have the biggest impact.  So while we will be collecting socks all month to donate to a shelter, I also encourage you to throw a pair of new socks in your knitting bag or car and when you see someone on the streets, hand them out.  This small act of love says I see you and I care - and that has to brighten one's day a tad. 

Socktober is now a worldwide movement.  Last year all 7 continents were involved.  This year they hope to donate more than 2 million pairs of socks.  So feel free to drop a pair of new socks off with us.  If you would prefer to give directly to a shelter or want to start your own drive click here to see a find a shelter near you.  We will collect the sock for the entire month of October and make the donations in early November.

And we do have a thank you for you if you donate a pair of socks we will give you a 15% discount on sock yarn all month.

 



Having the perfect tool for a job greatly enhances our joy!  
Signature Needles Trunk Show Sept 23rd - Oct 7th
by Molly ConroyUngerecht
September 23, 2019

I am a fast knitter and I like my needles to work for me rather than against me.  Nothing (in knitting) bugs me more than a needle that slows me down!  So when I first heard about the "Stiletto" needle I knew I had to try one.  And it was love at first stitch!

Signature Needle Arts is a WI company and all of the needles are made in the US.  They were born out of need.  The owner of the company was using a dull pointed needle and knitting with fuzzy yarn (yikes).  She was so frustrated that she wondered out loud why no one made needles with a sharper point.  And her husband suggested she just make one at work.  And when you own a precision metal shop you get to!  She was so in love with the result that a business was born.  And they still make these amazing needles in the US!

The needles are crafted from a solid chunk of aluminum.  People who tried the needles yesterday were amazed that they did not clink and make noise and that they did not feel cold.  That is because the needles are solid and not hollow or fluid filled like less expensive aluminum needles.  And they are not made in parts - the needle tip is part of the needle!  They then anodize the aluminum so the color will never come off - and they are color coded by size!

The circular needles are convertible but not interchangeable. The coolest thing they do is make the cables specific to each needle size!  This means there is not annoying join.  When you choose a size needle you can choose any length of cable - or multiple cables.  I have never had my needles come apart - and I am really, really picky.  One of the reasons the needles and cables do not separate is they are size specific.  The other reason is the cables twist independently of the needle - the the constant turning that can happen in knitting does not impact the needle.  The cables and needles both have the sizes lazer cut in so you will always be able to find your match.

They were the originator of the stiletto tip - a super long, very sharp tip ideal for lacework or just fast knitting.  They do have shorter tips as well but I only brought in the stilettos because I think that is why we want these needles.  But since not everyone always agrees with me, we can definitely order the shorter tips as well.

I am a recent convert to magic loop knitting.  They have fixed needles in the sock sizes - US 1 and US 2 with 32" or 40" lengths.  They are amazing!!!  It has a very flexible, lightweight cable that makes magic loop a breeze.  The needle tips are a little shorter helping to avoid ladders in your knitting.

Still love the double pointed needles?  You are going to love these!!  They added a slip grip finish.  You cannot feel it or see it - they look and feel just like the circulars.  But you can hold your needle by the tip and try to shake the yarn off and your stitches magically stay right where they are!

Now, I will say, that most of us are not going to buy a whole set of these lovely needles!  They are precision-made and hand finished and they have a price that matches their quality.  But you will want to pick up a pair in your favorite size for shawl knitting - especially for lace patterns - and for sock knitting.  Our goal is to do an annual Trunk Show so you can add to your collection every year!

Signature Needles also has cases made in the US.  They are well sewn with lovely fabrics and are designed specifically for their needles.  My favorite little detail is the dpn case that was sewn to hold the tubes rather than just the needles - this makes keeping your dpns safe a little easier.  So clever.

Come in anytime between Sept 23rd and Oct 7th and try a pair!  But I will warn you - you will fall in love!
Coping with Cancer by Molly ConroyUngerecht
September 9, 2019

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I was in a state of shock - actually it was really a state of disbelief.  After all, I was hardly at risk - I exercised regularly, was not overweight, had a great diet, did not have a lot of stress in my life.  So I simply did not believe them.  I told my husband and luckily he did believe it.  I was so fortunate to have a wonderful, supportive, loving, and capable husband.  He gave me a big hug and told me we were going to beat this and not to worry.  And her immediately got on the phone with City of Hope and made an appointment for us.

I later told my mom who had just moved into the area.  She also believe it and gave me a big hug and told me that we were going to beat this together and not to worry.

I then told my business partners and they too believed it.  They gave me big hugs and told me they knew I would beat this and asked what they could do to support me.  As I told customers and friends I got the same - a big hug, I know you can beat this, and what do you need.  The outpouring of love, support, and prayers was mind blowing.  And I never felt luckier in my entire life.  And I did have the coolest chemo caps ever and Wonder Woman shawl thanks to a lovely group of people!!

My husband and mom went to every appointment with me.  I was never left alone.  They took care of all of my needs and pushed me to do things I did not want to do - like get out of bed when all I wanted to do was curl up and moan.  

And while they were at the hospital with me for every big or small event I would often look around and see just how many people were alone.  And I wondered how on earth they were dealing with all of this.  We met a man who drove more than 100 miles to bring his wife to the hospital for a double mastectomy and he did not know if he had enough gas to make it home much less drive back the next week for the follow up appointments (of course mom and Lyle helped him).  I heard from my oncologist, while discussing how lucky I was to have the support I had, about other patients who would sit through these appointments and argue with their spouse, and the number of couples who divorced through this process. 

So when Brigid said she wanted to start a team for the Believe Walk and that all of the monies raised went to support and was all spent locally I was in.  I so appreciate the hard work of these volunteers to help people and families going through really difficult treatments!  And I am thrilled that we could be part of it this year.  Thanks for joining our team or supporting our fundraising!  Here is the link to the Team Page if you want to take a look!

http://sbc.convio.net/site/TR/Events/BelieveWalk?team_id=12258&pg=team&fr_id=1140


Introducing Spinning Wheels
September 1, 2019

When we first opened Hands on Knitting Center it was with the goal of providing the best possible instruction, support, and yarns for knitting.  While we welcomed crochet, we were not especially skilled at it.  Over the years we have worked to be more inclusive of all fiber arts and at 5 years in business we re-branded our logo to show that we supported knitting, crochet, weaving, and spinning.  At the time, that inclusion was a bit more aspirational than real.  We first added crochet classes and have continued to expand that category.  In fact, this month we are adding crochet thread and we have a visiting instructor teaching an Amigurumi class. 

About three years ago we introduced weaving for the first time.  We realized quickly that if we wanted to successfully grow a weaving community we would have to rent looms.  And we were very lucky to have  stumbled upon Peggy McIntosh as our weaving instructor.  She is generous of time and spirit and is so willing to share her knowledge - we would not have the thriving weaving community without her!

So we decided that this was the year to introduce Spinning Wheels and round out our fiber world.  When we searched for a weaving loom company we chose Ashford.  We chose them not only because of their quality and amazing customer service but also because they make some of the best and most popular spinning wheel out there and we new at some point we would add wheels.

We have taught drop spindle spinning for some time now.  And we so appreciate Felicia with BahBah Fibers as our teacher.  She gives each student a taste of her yummy fluff to learn on.  She will take over teaching spinning on spinning wheels as well.  Just as we did with weaving, we will rent out the wheels to use in store - for more than just a simple try out which will always be free!  Check the class calendar for spinning classes this month.

 

 

Kiwi 3 with Bag         
E Spinner with Bag and Pedal Ashford Joy with Bag


Tencel Yarns
August 15, 2019

Tencel is made in an environmentally award winning "closed loop" technique.  While harsh chemicals are required to make the yarn, they are reused and are not flushed into the world.  Tencel is considered more environmentally friendly than cotton as it uses less arable land and significantly less water.

Tencel is a highly breathable fabric with super absorption properties.  More and more atheletic companies have discovered it - just like they discovered the joys of Merino Wool!  The fabric is lighter and stronger than cotton and breathes better.  It is considered a luxury fabric because it is more expensive to make but also because it is highly coveted.  Unlike rayon that gets weaker when it gets wet, tencel gets stronger. 
It is ideal for weaving in addition to knitting and crochet. 
We have two fantastic hand dyed tencel yarns in store - Teresa Ruch and Trail Head Yarns. 
Come in and check them out!


Think Globally, Shop Locally:
August 3, 2019

CA Yarn Company Day

I have always been an “environmentalist” -- after all, I love to run, hike, and dive!  In my everyday choices I have tried to be more cognizant -- reducing plastic, reuse and recycle, etc.  And one of my favorite trends is the Slow Movement.  This is the deliberate sourcing of foods and apparel from local companies (preferably within 100 miles).  I think this appeals to me because as a small business owner I also love to support others in my area.  And as a maker of things I love the Slow Movement for encouraging less mass consumption but more making things yourself.  As knitters, crocheters, weavers, and spinners we are already naturally drawn to this concept.
 
When Lacey with Yarning for You in San Marcos reached out to me with the idea of celebrating and highlighting local yarn companies I was immediately on board.  I wanted to take the concept past just yarn so we invited in other local makers of accessories that support our yarn habit.  We hope to make this the First Annual CA Yarn Company Day!  Read on form more detailed information on the companies we will be working with.


 

CA Yarn Companies:

 

Lazer Sheep Yarns: 

Many of you have met Leslie or have petted her yarn in our store.  Leslie is a mom of two in the San Diego area and has been dying for about 5 years.  Back in highschool she doodled a sheep with a lightening bolt and years later that little sheep became her logo.  For each new colorway she dyes Leslie draws a new sheep and you get that button with the skein.  If you are anything like me you probably bought a skein just for the button – like Stuck in Gum Sheep!  Leslie’s yarns are mostly vibrant happy variegated colors often named after popular culture and SciFi themes with lots of names that make her kids happy. 

 

Elevate Fiber Arts: 

Barbara has only been dying for a couple of years.  I remember when she called me to see if she could come in and get some opinions on her yarn.  It was love at first sight/touch.  It was right before one of our TrunkShows and we immediately invited her to join.  It was a bit crazy because she could have sold out her stock in store that day. One of the things we loved is that Barbara sewed super cute knitting bags to go along with her yarns! Barbara’s daughter does all of the graphic work.  When you come in, ask Barbara about how she and her daughter became interested in dying!  We also love that Elevate has a commitment to the environment on a local level.  For every skein you buy they donate .50c to ROWIA a non-profit that helps the San Bernardino National Forest. 

 

Wanderlust Hues 

Charlene spent most of her life crocheting and learned to knit recently in 2015.  Knitting made her want to explore color and what better way than through dying!  She has a fun “stitch-to-wear” philosophy that keeps her yarns warm and lovely in timeless colors that are easy to mix and easy to wear with bases that are easy to care for.  To enhance this collection she also creates some fun speckles and vibrant variegation.  Charlene has only been dying for 2 years so this is your chance to meet and develop a relationship with an emerging dyer.

 

Trendsetter Yarns: 

Trendsetter is not an Indy-Dyer and most of their yarns come from Europe.  They are, for the specialty yarn industry, an older, well established company.  Barry Klein’s mother owned a yarns store in LA and he grew up in the business as they transitioned from LYS to Yarn Company.  They are very ethical about where they source their yarns – most come from Italy and Germany which as part of the EU have great environmental and labor ethics.  They have a HUGE variety of yarns from trendy novelty to super yummy cashmere and luxury fibers.  They also have quite a few yarns that are organic and natural.  We adore them as a company and they are fabulous to work with and one of the few Yarn Companies based on the West Coast.  We are thrilled to offer kits for weaving and knitting at this event.
 

CA Accessory Companies

 

Becky Caraco 

We have long loved Becky’s stitch markers and buttons and have carried them over the years.  All of her products are lampwork glass.  We have several hand beaten metal necklaces that are designed to hold her stitch markers – not just for convenience but because each marker is a work of art.  We will only have these for today!

Lickin' Flames
We are excited for the first time ever to have Lickin's Flames in store.  They are a ceramic company that makes some of the most lovely shawl pins and yarn bowls right here in CA.  When I first saw the shawl pins I thought they would be too heavy... boy was I wrong!  They have amazing staying power.  And each is a work of art.  We only have a few yarn bowls and they will only be here today.

 

Slipped Stitch Studios 

I met Laura fairly early on in Slipped Stitch Studios life span and immediately fell in love.  Since 2009 she has been making some of the most fantastic knitting bags.  Her specialty is sourcing fabrics that make you want to buy many – possibly even collect them – and buy the whole series!  You will find many that based on popular culture.  The bags are well sewn and well thought out.

 

Go Knits Bags 

I love these bags.  They are lightweight, strong, and easy to care for.  If you are more subtle in your design aesthetic, you will like the simplicity of these bags.  They are well made and will last you forever!  We are excited to carry them for the first time.

 

Lil Sister Kit
I have long searched for blocking wires that work well.  These are amazing!  They are made of titanium, are very flexible, lightweight, and will not rust!  You can wet block with no fear.  They come in a little bag for easy storage. 

 

EZ PZ Gauge
I did not realize I needed this until I saw it.  This gauge ruler makes your stitches twice as large so you can easily see them!  Even better, it has one inch and half in segments already built in without annoying numbers and symbols to block your view.  You will never have to ask for help reading your gauge again!


CA Designers

Nancy Bates
We are so happy to have Nancy back with her array of National Park Hats.  She will have all of her patterns with her - and if you have not kept up you will be amazed at her range!  We have long loved Nancy's designs and every time she publishes a new one it become my favorite!  We also kitted up the CA park hates using Berroco Vintage or Cascade 220 Wave/Effects.  All of the kits have the right amount of yarn so you will not have to buy full skeins for tiny bits of color.  And all of the yarns are easy care.

Suzanne Nielsen
Suzanne is a designer and Sales Rep in our business.  She will be here with some of designs and samples to try on.  She has also brought with her pattern books by the Fickle Knitter!



First Annual Local Yarn Shop Day
April 21, 2018
By Molly Conroy- Ungerecht



Today is the First Annual Local Yarn Shop (LYS) Day. We hope that if you have not already been in to celebrate with us that you will pop in today! 
TNNA, The National Needle Arts Association, initiated the day not only to celebrate the LYS but also to help us combat on-line shopping.  They asked all participating yarn companies, designers, and stores to make the exclusive LYS Day items available only in brick and mortar stores.  And doing so, it made me wonder, do we really have to fear on-line sales and big box stores?  I would say yes and no.
The news is constantly shouting, “Retail is Dead!”  And seemingly proving the point, 2017 was a record year for retail store closures with more than 7,000 stores closing and it is expected that 2018 will meet or exceed that number.  Indeed, already this year we have seen the loss of Toys R Us - a chain that put many a Mom and Pop toyshop out of business.  This loss has the toy industry panicking — where will they sell their toys now?  Are they stuck with discount chains and Amazon only?  
And then we think, can this happen to our industry.  Well, in the 7 years we have been open we have seen 9 Yarn Shops within a 40-mile radius close with only one of them replaced with a new store.  And there was some serious panic at the Winter Buying Show because buyers from Amazon were there and we heard from many a retailer that Amazon selling yarn will be the death nail in our coffin.

OK, are you depressed yet?  Take heart!! I do not believe that the situation is nearly as bad as that for our industry.  But I will say that as LYS owners we have to give you a reason to come in!  If we do not differentiate and create an experience for our customers we have only ourselves to blame if you stop coming.

Early on at HOKC we realized that we could never compete with Michaels, JoAnn’s, Wal-Mart and now Hobby Lobby on price.  Think about it — all of those stores are within 5 miles of our store!  We needed to be able to offer yarns of a better quality but still at a good price as well as some amazingly yummy yarns.

But even more importantly, we needed a reason for being.  And our goal, from the very start, was to be a store where people could get a “hands on experience.”  We knew we wanted a space that would allow us a large table in the store where people could gather all hours we were open.  We knew we wanted to offer free help at that table during all of those hours.  We knew we wanted a separate classroom and to offer quality classes at really affordable prices (our classes, taught by us, are still only $15 compared to the industry standard of $65) and to always offer quality tools, great basics, and some fun things too!

So, yes, Amazon has impacted our business.  For the most part, we no longer carry books because Amazon sells them for about the same price as our distributor.  But we do not necessarily see this as a bad thing — it has freed up both money and space for more yummy yarn!  And Ravelry has had an even larger impact on how our customers shop for patterns and books.

And even with all of the changes with online sales, our store continues to do really, really well.  We are strong, healthy, and growing.  And thanks to all of you, we plan to be around for a very long time!

I think the future of the LYS is in providing fantastic in-store experiences.  We plan to continue to do that and we also plan to add an on-line segment to our business.  We realize that we service an ever-expanding area and want to make it more convenient to get our products into your hands.  We added a YouTube channel last year to support our classes and reinforce the information we teach.  We are exploring ways of providing distance learning — so the classes we teach in store can be watched on line in an interactive format.  We want to continue to expand our selection - sourcing both great deals and also ethically produced yarns that help our larger community and to continue to support and build our local artists.

It is interesting for LYS owners to stop for a moment and reflect on why our stores are so very important to our communities.  Those of you who have suffered a loss of a favorite LYS have keenly felt that loss.  I believe the LYS is not just a place to buy yarn — you can do that anywhere — but when done right, the LYS is an integral part of our lives allowing us to meet new friends and find our tribe, explore our creativity, find a shoulder to cry on, a place to celebrate our successes, to learn new things, and find some yummy treats, and so much more!

So while this day is designed to celebrate the LYS, we want to also take the day to celebrate you — our very reason for being.  Thank you so much for all of your support over they years and allowing us the chance to thrive as a store and community.