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    The Woolly Thistle

    Shopcast 126: Socks and Shawls

    Shopcast 126: Socks and Shawls
    Thank you for joining us this week. If you are enjoying this Shopcast, please be sure to subscribe and invite a friend to watch with you!

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    Being a Shopkeeper...

    Being a Shopkeeper...

    Here's a recent post from Instagram that I wanted to include here on the shop blog.  

    Being a Shopkeeper is in my blood.  My Grandfather was a POW in Italy during WW2 where he lost an eye.   Years later when visiting us for a few days he would pop it in a glass of water overnight.  I loved running into my Grandad first thing in the morning whenever he would stay with us so I could see his eye bobbing in the glass.  

    After the war he became a Shopkeeper.  He once owned a general store in the Scottish borders, then he owned a petrol (gas) station and by the time I came along he was running his own antiquarian Scottish books business from his home.  Every month he would crank out a newsletter with all the titles on offer and send the newsletter out to his list of customers from all over the world.  He was doing e-commerce before there was such a his day it was a good old catalog business where he’d niched down to specialize in something very Scottish.  

    As a child, I loved visiting him in Fortrose on the Black Isle where I would walk through the shelves of books that had taken over his dining room.  I’d breathe in the dust and hold the old books up to my nose (I guess I've been a sniffer all my life! #yarnsniffer).  I would stamp lots of dates on old envelopes and bash on his typewriter.  I wanted to do what he did when I grew up.  

    Decades (and decades!) later I am reminded of him because my business is very similar to his.  My monthly newsletter is a most important part of what makes TWT tick and it is sent out to my customers all over the world.  Instead of (purely) Scottish books, I specialize in yarns and knitting books from Scotland, England and Europe. 

    I think of myself as a Shopkeeper (it’s what I put on my tax return) and although everything we do is online and we don’t have a brick & mortar store, neither did my Grandad.  Yet he had lovely connections all over the world as well as a great relationship with his local Post Master!  This work that I do feels the most natural thing in the world to me, because it was always there, in my blood. 

    ShopCast: Vanilla Sweater #4 & Sock Sprint starts today!

    ShopCast: Vanilla Sweater #4 & Sock Sprint starts today!

    There's a brand new ShopCast on Youtube so start your Friday night right with a catch up and a blether with me in the shop!

    It's Cast On day for our Summer Sock Sprint where we'll be knitting socks for 2 weeks.  We invite you to join us and knit any socks you want in any yarn you want (it does not need to come from TWT!) 

    We are hosting our Sock Sprint in our Ravelry group and also in our Facebook Group so you can choose where to join us. 

    I am casting on the Before & After Socks by @heybrownberry and will be knitting them in Rauma's Merino/Yak sock yarn.  But that's not all!  We have a full show for you today (full of blether anyway!!) about what I'm knitting on currently, my finished Vanilla #4, and the completion of my Rauma sock experiment. 

    It's a full episode so I do hope you join me and enjoy it.  We have a giveaway and as usual to enter be sure to leave a comment, give us a thumbs up and subscribe to our channel. 

    Have a great weekend!! Corinne

    Maker Q&A!

    Maker Q&A!

    Maker Q&A is a monthly feature here on TWT blog. We'll answer questions from our customers and explore all things yarn, fiber & knitting in an effort to better understand our yarns and knitting to help us all grow as makers.

    Question: Is there something specific that one does to cause pilling? Or does it just occur naturally on its own over time?

    Pilling is the result of fibers pulling up out of the yarn due to contact and abrasion. A certain amount of pilling is quite normal and happens with both store bought and hand knit items. One way to address pilling is to use a fabric shaver, like the Gleener to periodically tidy up the garment. 

    Some yarns pill more than others.  Fiber content, yarn structure and fiber preparation all play a role in how much a yarn pills. Understanding how these factors work together can be helpful when trying to estimate how a yarn will hold up in your project and whether you can expect a lot of pilling. 

    Simply put, yarn is made by taking fibers, drawing them apart and adding twist. How much twist a yarn has contributes to how much abrasion it can withstand. A loosely spun yarn is more susceptible to pilling because the individual strands of fiber are under less tension and are able to come loose. Adding more twist and plies can increase the hardiness of the yarn. 

    Fiber content and yarn structure (single, 2-ply, 3-ply etc) also contribute to how much a yarn will pill. Knowing whether the wool used in the yarn is a fine, medium or coarse breed wool can be helpful in choosing the right yarn for your project. The more plies a yarn has the more each individual ply is protected, because less surface area of each ply is exposed. That added strength will help it stand up to abrasion and will help it pill less. 


    Fiber preparation also contributes to how a yarn will wear and how much it will pill. Some yarns are worsted spun, meaning that all the fibers are aligned in the same direction during the spinning process. Other yarns are woolen spun, meaning that the fibers are carded and mixed up prior to spinning. Worsted spun yarns can pill more since those fibers are just laying flat next to each other making it easier for the individual fibers to work loose. Woolen spun yarns with their fibers going in multiple directions means that smaller areas of each individual fiber are exposed to abrasion and tend to pill less because of it.

    Another good way to get a sense for how much a yarn will pill is to knit up a swatch and carry it around. Throw it in your purse or tuck it under your bra strap. A perk to tucking it into your bra strap is that you’ll also learn whether or not you find a particular yarn soft enough to wear next to skin. Keep in mind that if you knit a swatch and after toting it around it has an abundance of pills that you can’t live with, that yarn might be best for a project that would get less abrasion, like a shawl. It doesn’t mean it’s not a good yarn, it just means you need to match it to the right project. There are so many yarns and so much possibility in them!

    There are a number of excellent articles and videos which discuss the topic of yarns, hardiness and pilling. One we recommend if you’re interested in learning more can be found here on the Interweave website. 

    Maggie Nichols is an avid knitter and hand spinner as well as an employee of TWT. She can be found on Ravelry & Instagram as Nestingmag. If you have a question you'd like answered on the blog, email us at with Blog Question in the title. 

    Summer Sock Sprint!!!

    Summer Sock Sprint!!!

    Last Summer Maggie and I knitted socks for a fortnight and invited you to join us.  You did, and we all had a mad-dash-sock-knitting-spree for 2 crazy weeks.  We want to do it again so we'll be knitting socks for 2 weeks starting August 14th.  Please join us and share what you'll be knitting in our new Facebook Group here. 

    Noteworthy designs for your consideration include: Earthtones Girl beginner socks found here and Dawn Landix' socks I knitted last year as well as the lovely brand new socks from Heybrownberry!  

    Edited to add: Due to your valued feedback we will now host our Sock Sprint on Facebook AND Ravelry.  So pick your location (one, the other, or both!) and see you there!!!