Thursday, October 29, 2015

Have you discovered Nature Spun?

I've noticed that most Brown Sheep fans are all about Lamb's Pride. . . in fact, many knitters out there only think of Lamb's Pride when they think of Brown Sheep yarn! Don't get me wrong, I think Lamb's Pride is awesome but. . .  Nature Spun deserves more attention that it has been getting.
Nature Spun is a classic, 100% wool 3-ply yarn. The wool is U.S. grown and comes from the Front Range of Colorado and into Wyoming. All of our wool here is tested for fineness (micron count), and only the softest fibers go in to Nature Spun. Nature Spun is made in fingering, sport, worsted, and chunky weights in 80 different colors.
 Let me convey an experience I had trying to knit colorwork recently: I began the project using several colors of Superwash wool in sport weight. This was a stranded, Norwegian style hat for my husband and my first attempt at the project turned out to be too big. I decided to re-do the project with a new gauge: Nature Spun Fingering and smaller needles. Something unexpected happened on this go-around: my colorwork looked WAY better in Nature Spun! The stitches were so much more even and better defined. After some pondering I concluded that, of course, non-superwash wool is much better suited for intricate colorwork because the barbs in the wool fiber stick together better.
Here is my hat in Nature Spun Fingering, blocking. The first version of this hat ended up in Newfoundland.

So now as I progress further and further into fiber snobbishness, I realize that I much prefer knitting with natural wool fiber as opposed to superwash treated fiber. Not only do the stitches cling together better, the stiches are more forgiving if you happen to drop a stitch or make a mistake. Stitches actually stay in place rather than slipping undone, which is a major plus for a knitter who depends on being able to fix my mistakes as I go. This is especially helpful for lace or openwork styles of knitting.
There's certainly a time and place for knitting with Superwash--socks and kids come to mind. But for making an adult sweater or accessory-- Nature Spun is the way to go. Nature Spun has been making an appearance in many of the knitting magazines and publications lately.
Here is a project that is definitely on my queue. This pattern is called Polonaise by Ashwini Jambhekar.
This gorgeous sweater in Nature Spun worsted was inspired by Romantic era dresses

This comes from an online subscription-based magazine called Holla Knits! Check out their website and blog (featuring yarn giveaways!)

This site features fun patterns that are SO not frumpy! I'm having fun following this new site and I think you should check it out, too.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Story of Jimmy Beans Wool

Our latest yarn shop highlight is Jimmy Beans Wool. Chances are, you've probably heard of this store before as they've done a great job bridging the gap between traditional yarn shop and online sales.

Jimmy Beans Wool began in 2002 as a teensy little yarn shop in the mountain town of Truckee, CA. The owners, Laura (aka Jimmy) and Doug Zander were Silicon Valley expats looking for a change of pace (and good skiing)! when they moved to Truckee in 2001.  this time, Laura learned to knit and loved it... which is how she met Lorna - owner of a local hand-dyed yarn company (Lorna’s Laces) who she built a website for. Lorna encouraged Laura to follow her true passion (knitting!) and voila! Doug and Laura emptied their savings account and Jimmy Beans Wool was born!

Laura and Doug just after we moved to the warehouse, Laura and Huck, Laura in the new retail space before the renovation, and Laura and Doug Skiing

They took their business online the following year and soon they realized they were going to need more space (they had yarn coming out of their ears…and in their guest room)! In 2004 they opened a shop in Reno, NV about 30 minutes away, and the rest is history… the Truckee store closed a year later and the Reno shop and online business has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, and in 2011, they moved to an official warehouse space. Doug continues to be the technical backbone of JBW by managing all-things web related with a small team of experts that he has personally trained (both women & knitters!) Laura is our head business maven full of ideas and energy. Her entrepreneurial spirit drives us, and keeps us moving forward and growing. If you can’t tell, we have a lot of fun around here! 
The original Truckee shop, a guest room full of yarn, and the new warehouse and Reno shop

If you'd like to learn more about our team, you can read about them here:

We pretty much live and breathe fiber arts around here. Almost every one of our employees knits, crochets, weaves, or spins…or some combination of these. And if they don’t when they start working here, they quickly pick up something…it’s contagious! It’s in our blood! Most of us find it to be the most relaxing part of our day, and we get more energy just being around great yarns all of the time. Several of our staffers are up-and-coming designers, and being around yarn every day certainly helps to fuel that creativity. That’s really the key right there, for us, it’s how we express our creativity…and we love sharing knowledge and ideas with others so they can express theirs!

We’ve done a lot of little things over the years to make the shop experience unique and fun for people. For example, we used to have a big hot tub full of yarn in the back of our warehouse that people could get their photos taken in when they visit. We regularly let folks “shop the warehouse” and give warehouse tours when people visit us from out of town. We try to make it fun for them!


Some snapshots of the shop and the famous yarn hot tub

We really try to offer a lot of FREE learning opportunities to our local customers. We host 3x weekly free Walk-in Help Sessions (although anyone can come in any time for help) and we’ve grown quite a group of followers! We rarely have less than 8 or 10 people that show up for these sessions and many of them just come to chat and knit. We also have twice monthly knit nights and everyone puts $5 in a pool to win a gift card. It’s tons of fun. We also have special retail shop only “Flash Sales” that you must be physically in the shop to take advantage of. Being an online business, we try to be really cognizant of making our local customers who we have face to face relationships with, feel special. It would be really easy to lose sight of them, but they are our #1 priority!

Book signing event with Romi Hill

We’ve also started hosting retreats where we bring in some widely known designers and head for the nearby mountains for some awesome bonding, scenery, and learning. It’s a blast. Because our business has such a large online component, we get customers coming to these retreats from all over the world! It’s fun to meet our online customers in person and get to know them better!