Sunday, 20 December 2009

Borders UK in Administation :(

Probably most of you know of this already, but the book store Borders has gone into administration (at least, the UK division has, I don't know about other countries) :( Another casualty of the recession, I suppose.

I didn't actually hear about it till last week, and I didn't actually believe it till I went down to my parents house and passed the Borders store in Glasgow and saw all the closing down sale signs. It made me feel really sad. Whenever I go to my parents house to visit, it involves a long bus journey, and I have to change at Glasgow. So I would always pop in when I passed, and more often than not, buy a book (usually a knittng book) or a magazine or two or three. ;)

I went in to look at the sale, and it was so sad to see all the half-empty shelves. I felt like a total vulture looking round them all. The knitting and crochet section, which is where I went first, was totally decimated.

I bought a couple of books in the Glasgow store: Favorite Socks from Interweave Press, and Wrapped in Crochet by Kristen Omdahl. I'd been very interested in Wrapped in Crochet for ages, but it hadn't actually been on the shelves in the Glasgow store till then (I'd been looking for it specifically). Favorite Socks, well that was a bit of a vulture purchase. I'd seen it before, but hadn't been that interested when I flicked through it. But I figured with 30% off, it would be worth it. Then I looked at it more in depth on the bus home.

OMG, I want to make everything in that book! Seriously. I think next year I'll be doing my own Favorite Socks KAL - I guess it's not really a knit-a-long if you're the only one doing it though ;) and knitting through all the patterns in this book. I think this is the first book where I've actually seen the potential in all the patterns. Even with Cookie A's book, I love most of the patterns but there are a few that I'm not so interested in, or just plain wouldn't wear. But with Favorite Socks, I think I would knit and wear all of them.

I went to the Dundee store with some friends as well, and bought some other books, but they're not knitting or dance related. One was about lighting in photography, something that I'm realising I need to understand much more in depth. One was a book with Japanese patterns, and one was a book on Japanese death poetry. I thought the bf would like that for his Christmas ;) Yep, he's almost as weird as myself!

Anyway, Borders shutting down made me think about how different the high street in the UK looks compared to ten or even five years ago. There are almost no cd or record stores now. There used to be about 3 in every town that I can think of. There was space for HMV, Our Price, Virgin and loads of others to compete. And the pattern of them closing and being replaced by online stores seems to be repeating with book stores. It's really sad. I know that online stores like amazon have a lot more choice, and cheaper prices in general, but it's still sad that the options for high street purchases are rapidly diminishing. Sometimes it's good to just go into a store and look about to see what catches your eye, but that's becoming ever more impossible. I think you can stumble across some really interesting things in brick and mortar stores, that you just wouldn't come across on the internet. Of course, that argument works both ways, you can come across interesting things on the internet that stores just wouldn't stock, but I think it's important to have choice.

I guess what I'm saying is: whenever you can afford it, please buy things from brick and mortar stores. I buy a lot of things online because prices are cheaper, some things are easier to find online, and it's convenient. But is convenience a good reason for encouraging losing choice? I'm beginning to re-evaluate my own shopping behaviour, and I think I'll be changing some of it soon. For instance, Woolworths used to be the main store to buy a lot of household items, and now that's gone, I find I need to buy a lot of small things from ebay sellers because they're just not in the stores. Sewing equipment for example. So whenever I see something online that I could buy from a local store, I'll be going to the local store, if I can afford the increased price at that time (and the increased price isn't too much more)

To be honest, I'm not sure if anything can slow down this trend of high street stores closing, or if it's just a natural consequence of the internet. Things do change in life, after all, and maybe this is just the way shopping in a capitalist culture is evolving. But I do know that I think choice is important, and I think I'll have to look at my own behaviour to see how I can encourage choice.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Yarn Review - Stylecraft Baby DK

This was the yarn I used for the socks I just wrote about in my last post, and I thought I'd write a little review of it, since some things came to mind when I was knitting with it. I used it to make the socks that I made my Mum for Christmas, and also made a pair for myself. I knit it pretty tight, on 2.75 needles (4mm are what are recommended on the ball band), to make a thicker fabric for the socks.

My socks

It knit up into the socks quite nicely. It's soft and comfortable against my feet, and they make a nice pair of house socks, being relatively thick. I don't know how they'd hold up in shoes, but my intention is just to have a thicker pair of socks for the house, to keep my feet warm in winter.

The yarn comes in 200g (590m/645 yards) balls, which was enough to make 2 women's socks with approx 10" cuffs, and one with 8" of cuff. I bought another ball to finish making Mum's socks, but I'm going to use the rest for yet another pair of socks (but probably patterned this time).

I really liked working with this yarn. It's really quite soft, and if I was making something for a baby that had to be machine washable, I'd definitely consider using this yarn. I think it would be soft enough, and the lilac I used is a really pretty shade.

Actually, when I was knitting with it, I got this strange feeling that it didn't actually feel like acrylic. It just felt too soft, and shiny, like cotton. In fact, I actually felt this way so much that I had to check the ball band to see if there was any cotton in it. I was pretty sure it was 100% acrylic (which is turned out to be), but it just felt like cotton in my hands, you know? And it has a slight sheen, just like some cottons that I've come across. It is 100% acrylic, which is what I had thought when I picked it up in the shop, I just thought it was odd that in my hands, it felt like cotton. Not bad odd, in fact I really liked it. It might even be a nice yarn for a scarf or something. Being acrylic, it won't be as warm as a wool pair of socks, or scarf, but it feels nice against my skin. I think it would make a nice scarf for the spring season.

The stitch definition is very clear too, again, like cotton. You can see it in the photos of the socks.

Mum's socks

One problem I had was that the yarn was a little splitty. I've had this problem with other Stylecraft yarns (Special and Life, which I mentioned in this post) It was probably exacerbated by the fact that I was using smaller than recommended needles, but overall, I think it's just the way Stylecraft yarns are spun. With the Baby DK though, it behaves so much like cotton, that any splitting is quite visible. In fact, the way that the yarn split and behaved was another thing that made me think it had some cotton in it.

Overall, I really like this yarn, and I think I'll defintely use it again. It's soft, and I think makes a nice alternative to cotton, because it behaves so much like it. Like I said, I think I would use it in a spring scarf, or a baby sweater or something. Next time I'm in the yarn store actually, I think I'll have a look and see what other colours they have ;)

The Obligatory Christmas Preparation Post

This year I hadn't really planned to do much Christmas knitting (kind of like last years actually), but I did a couple of things. Of course, for one of them, I didn't actually get the idea until December had already arrived (again, the same as last year!)

I thought I had posted about these when I made them, but evidently I didn't. I think I must have avoided it because I didn't want to upload the pics to Flickr as my sister is on there and can see my account. So I apparantly just uploaded the pics to ravelry. Now I'll have to upload them here directly. So anyway, they're socks for my sister. I made them waaaay back in June, and it was kind of an accidental Christmas present. I made a pair for myself out of the James C Brett Magi Knit DK

(on 2.5mm needles) (it took 68 sts to get the pattern to line up correctly) and when I was about half way through them I realised my sister might like them. Being very selfish, I didn't want to give those ones up, so I made another pair for her. So that was the first Christmas present out of the way, bought or made.

My socks

Mum is getting a pair of socks like these, but with slightly smaller (length ways) cuffs.

Mum's socks

Mine (I had to made a pair for myself of course!) are 8" after 20 rows of ribbing, Mum's are 6" after the ribbing. I just made the feet the same for mine and hers (and my sister's) because we all have the same size feet. I hope they fit OK! :)

I knit these with Stylecraft Baby DK in lilac, with 2.75 needles. Just a plain sock with a heel flap, 68 stitches around so they're comfortable house socks and not too tight. Using the DK made a thicker fabric, so even though they're acrylic, they'll be quite warm in the winter.

And actually, that's all the Christmas knitting that's been done around here.

I've done most of my Christmas shopping as well. I only have one Christmas gift to buy, and a birthday gift. These people who have birthdays around Christmas!!! :D I was very organized this year, usually I'm rushing around the week before Christmas trying to find something. But this year, I ordered half of the stuff off the internet, and got the rest in 2 shopping trips. Not bad!! I still have to order the Christmas food off of Tesco's site for delivery, but other than that, Christmas here is organized! Yay!! Now if I can just wish hard enough for some snow it would be perfect! ;)