ARE YOU OPEN ON GAME DAY?
We're open every football game day except University of Alabama Homecoming. That date varies from year to year. On regular game days we've got intrepid Boy Scouts guarding our parking lot so our shoppers always have room to park and stitch with us. (If you're heading to the game, the boys will be happy to take your donation in exchange for a great spot, as well!)
WHAT IS YARN WEIGHT AND WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW IT?
Yarn comes in different weights, from very fine yarn all the way up through super-bulky. You use the different weights of yarn to create different weights of fabric. You can also combine yarn to create a new weight. So for example, if you had two strands of fingering weight yarn that would be very similar in gauge to worsted. The different weights have to do with the weight of fabric you’re going to end up with once you’ve knitted, crocheted or woven the yarn up into an actual finished piece.
We have a nifty video on our Hints & Tips page about yarn weight. We'll show you how to identify the different weights and the types projects they’re used for. Check it out!
WHAT IS GAUGE? IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM WEIGHT?
Gauge is the number of stitches and rows in an inch of knitted fabric. It helps you to determine whether or not your project is going to be the right size according to what the pattern specifications are.
So for example, if you have a pattern for a sweater and the pattern says that the gauge on the sweater is supposed to be 4-1/2 stitches to the inch on a US 8 knitting needle, your first step is to do your gauge swatch. You'll knit a little 4-inch sample of fabric using the yarn and the needles you plan to knit the project with. When you've finished, you’ll use either a gauge ruler or a tape measure and count how many stitches are within an inch of your knitted fabric. The number of stitches should match what the pattern says you should have, so if you have 4-1/2 stitches in an inch of your sample piece, then you’re spot on. When you finish your project, it's going to fit.
If you end up with not enough or too many stitches per inch, you'll need to adjust your needle size to get that number right. (If you have too many stitches per inch, you'll go UP in needle size. If you have too few, you'll go DOWN in needle size.) If the number’s off, your sweater is either going to end up being too big or too small. That’s why it’s always important to check your gauge. You always, always, always check your gauge.
The only time we fudge on that is if we're making something that doesn’t have to fit. Things like a scarf or a baby blanket, we don't have to be so concerned with the gauge.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CROSS-STITCH AND NEEDLEPOINT?
Good question! Cross-stitch is executed by making an X on linen or cotton fabric. Needlepoint is worked on canvas (usually monocanvas) and is half of a cross-stitch - or half of an X.
If you’re doing painted canvas needlepoint, it’s really very relaxing. There's no counting involved, and some people equate it to paint-by-number with thread. There are things you can do to fancy it up, but if you’re just doing the basic tent stitch, you simply cover the color on the canvas with a thread color that matches the paint on the canvas.
WHAT NEEDLEPOINT MESH SIZE SHOULD I CHOOSE?
Well, it depends. 13-mesh and 14-mesh is really easy to see. It’s really not a matter of whether or not one is easier to work with over the other, it’s a matter of your vision and your ability to see the small holes. You get more detail on an 18-mesh canvas than you get on a 14-mesh canvas but that’s strictly because you have the opportunity to put more stitches in 1 square inch on an 18-mesh canvas as opposed to on a 14-mesh canvas. 13 and 14-mesh are going to stitch up faster because you have fewer stitches per square inch and because it’s easier to see.
Now, 18-mesh is not hard to see, and if you have any trouble seeing detail and wanted to use an 18-mesh, there are plenty of tools out there you can use. We carry magnifying readers by Scojo and they're really terrific. There are also clip-on magnifiers that magnify the area of canvas that you're working on, and there are magnifying lights that magnify and light up the surface at the same time. But some people simply prefer doing the larger mesh canvas because it goes faster and because it’s a little bit easier to see.
We have plenty of wonderful stitchers who love to do needlepoint, but their eyesight just doesn’t allow them to use the small canvas. If they want to use a 10-mesh, I’m all for it! There’s not one (mesh size) that’s any better than another. It’s strictly a matter of personal preference.
To us, if you like it, that’s what counts. Do it for yourself, because the only person that matters is you. We’re here to guide you with the best information, but we don’t judge around here.
CAN YOU HELP ME FIGURE OUT WHAT TO MAKE?
We sell individual knitting patterns; we sell individual crochet patterns; we sell books that have knitting patterns and crochet patterns in them, and we have a small cross-stitch department that has a few cross-stitch patterns and books.
We stock the best needlepoint stitch books and the most gorgous painted canvases you can find. Stop in or give us a call, and we would be DELIGHTED to help you figure out what you'd most like to make. (The only rule is that you have to come back and show it off after you finish! We love giving your finished work the ooohs and ahhhhs it deserves!)
DO YOU PROVIDE FINISHING SERVICES FOR NEEDLEPOINT?
Yes, we do. Our finishers are AMAZING.
We provide finishing services for anything you can dream up in needlepoint.
While we can make anything your heart desires, there is a turnaround time of anywhere from 8 to 14 weeks.
WHAT IS BLOCKING? DO I NEED TO DO IT?
Needlepoint needs to be blocked to get it back to the right shape so that it’s squared up. When you block your needlepoint canvas, it can be made into something that looks professionally finished. Some people stitch too tightly and it causes their canvas to get skewed and if you don’t use stretcher bars or a scroll frame, your pieces are going to get all wonky. (That’s the reason we just about insist everybody use a frame - it prevents a lot of that distortion of the canvas) The blocking gets everything back in line so that you can make it into something that looks really nice.
With knitting and crochet, there’s an amazing difference between a blocked piece and a piece that hasn’t been blocked. You pin the piece into the shape that the pattern tells you to - for example if you have a scarf with finished dimensions of 24 inches by 60 inches, you lay your piece down, pin it to the appropriate dimensions, and then you mist it. When it’s dry and you take it up, it looks so much more professional and finished. You put an amazing amount of work and creativity into making your piece - blocking gives you a finished product you will be just so proud of.
We offer regular classes on how to block your knitting and crochet, and we are spoiled by our Needlepoint finishers because they do the blocking for us! We can also recommend local frame shops that are experts at framing and blocking needlework, and we're happy to share those resources - just ask!
WHAT YARN SHOULD I USE FOR THIS PATTERN? DO I HAVE TO USE THE EXACT YARN LISTED?
No, and quite frankly, the chances of us having the same exact yarn that’s used on a particular pattern are pretty low because we can’t carry everything, and you may find a wonderful pattern that's many years old with the yarn no longer made. What a shame if you couldn't make the item without the exact same yarn.
We are experts at substituting, and we love helping you determine which yarns are going to be suitable for a particular project. To do this, we don’t just take into consideration the weight of the yarn, we consider the fiber content and how each particular yarn behaves when it's knitted up. We have an extensive knowledge on how a yarn knits up because we test knit every yarn that comes into the store.
Ellen won't buy any yarn that she hasn't personally knitted, and each employee tests the yarns as they come in. So if you show us a pattern you want to make for a hat, even if we don't carry that particular yarn, we can find you a wonderful yarn that will work well and that you really like. (We'll always tell you the truth - if a yarn you love is not going to end up looking or acting like the picture in the pattern, we're going to tell you the truth! Knowing what's NOT a good substitute can be just as important as knowing what IS!)
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN METAL AND BAMBOO NEEDLES?
Metal needles are slippery and bamboo needles are not nearly so much. We carry Addi needles here in the store – both Addie Natura and the Addie Turbos – and we never start our beginning knitters on metal needles. Why? Because it's so much harder to control the yarn and to control your work when you’re working on metal needles then it is when you’re working on a wood or a bamboo needle. This is especially true for Addi needles – they’re called Turbos for a reason!
Anyone with arthritis or difficulty using their hands should always work with bamboo needles. They have more give, and are kinder to the hands than metal.
I MADE A HUGE MISTAKE. THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG HERE. I CAN'T FIGURE IT OUT, AND I NEED HELP. CAN YOU HELP ME?
Absolutely! We have two Knit Doctors that are both very experienced knitters and they’re on-call Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 12 until 2. We take appointments in 15-minute increments, so you just call the shop and schedule an appointment for a time with the Knit Doctor and we’ll get you all fixed up. If it’s a project or if it’s something that will take longer than 15 minutes to get you straight on, then we also have private lessons. We're happy to schedule a private lesson with one of our Knit Doctors, and she will get you back on track.