Crochet Summer 2016: Throwback Thursday Mason Jar Cosies

This tutorial by Maura Kirk is originally from 2012 - before we even dreamt up Crochet Summer! - so I wanted to bring it back as I imagine many of you missed it when it was originally on the blog. Enjoy! - KGO
-----

A handmade gift is one of intention. It says to the recipient, you were on my mind when I chose this project, this yarn. When you hand someone a finished object, you’re handing over the tangible product of this thought and consideration.

These mason jar cozies are a perfect little handmade gift, as they use a small amount of yarn and take no time at all to make. The possibilities for their use are endless: use a large jar to hold a bouquet of flowers, to store a handful of vintage buttons or knitting needles, or fill them with loose-leaf tea, hot cocoa mix, or another delicious treat to be given as a gift. If you find your stash of mason jars to be lacking, they can be found just about anywhere in any size and your hardware store is a good place to start. If you're looking to add even more color to your project, the bright blue ones are vintage and are easily found for cheap at most antique stores.

The tutorial below is adaptable to any sized jar, so use it as a jumping off point for creating a beautiful last minute gift for someone you love. - MK

CROCHETED MASON JAR COSIES:

SPECIFICATIONS:
Yarn:
The Fibre Co. Organik in coral reef (color A), arctic tundra (color B), lichen (color C) and oahu (color D), 1 skein each. (One skein of each color made all five of these cozies and could easily make five more.)
Hook: US I (5.5mm)
Notions: Tapestry needle

ABBREVIATIONS:
ch:
chain
dc: double crochet
hdc: half double crochet
sc: single crochet
sl st: slip stitch
st(s): stitch(es)
trc: treble crochet

SPECIAL TECHNIQUES:
Double crochet foundation-less chain:
 
Ch 3, YO, insert hook into the first ch, pull up a loop, *ch 1, work a dc, insert hook into the ch just made, pull up a loop; rep from * until desired length is reached.

Small Heart:
Ch 4. Working all sts into the first ch, work 3 tc, 3 dc, ch 1, 1 tc, ch 1, 3 dc, 3 tc, ch 3, sl st into center. Fasten yarn and weave in ends.

Large Heart: 
Work a small heart without fastening off. Ch 3, 1 sc and 1 hdc into the first trc, 3 hdc into the next st, 2 hdc into the next stitch, 1 sc into the next 3 sts, ch 1, 1 dc into the trc, ch 1, 1 sc into the next 3 sts, 2 hdc into the next st, 3 hdc into the next st, 1 hdc and 1 sc to the next st, ch 3, sl st into center. Fasten off and weave in ends.

DIRECTIONS:
Coral, Lichen + Arctic Tundra Stripes:
 
Work a double crochet foundation-less chain in color A to snugly fit around your jar. Sl st into the top of the first dc to join in the rnd. Fasten off. Weaving in ends as you go, work single rounds in dc in the following color sequence: color C, color B, color A. Repeat this sequence until cozy is the desired length. Work one rnd in sc in the last color used. Fasten off.

Arctic Tundra with Lichen Stripes: 
Work a double crochet foundation-less chain in color B to snugly fit around your jar. Sl st into the top of the first dc to join in the rnd. Continue to work dc rounds in color B until 4 dc before desired height. Fasten off. Weaving in ends as you go, *work one dc rnd in color C, fasten off, one dc rnd in color B, fasten off; repeat from * once more.

Oahu with Coral + Arctic Tundra: 
Work a double crochet foundation-less chain in color D to snugly fit around your jar. Sl st into the top of the first dc to join in the round. Continue to work dc rounds in color D until approx. 1 inch from desired height. Fasten off. Work 1 sc rnd in color A. Fasten off. Work 3 sc rnds in color B. Fasten off.

Coral with Arctic Tundra Heart: 
Work a double crochet foundation-less chain in color A to snugly fit around your jar. Sl st into the top of the first dc to join in the rnd. Continue to work dc rnds in color A until just shy of desired height. Work 1 sc rnd. Fasten off. Make 1 small heart in color B. Sew heart to front center of completed cozy.

Lichen with Oahu Heart: 
Work a double crochet foundation-less chain in color C to snugly fit around your jar. Sl st into the top of the first dc to join in the rnd. Continue to work dc rnds in color C until just shy of desired height. Work 1 sc rnd. Make 1 large heart in color D. Work 1 additional sc rnd in color C. Fasten off. Sew heart to front center of completed cozy.

Finishing: Wet block cozies and gently put on jars while damp. Allow to air dry.

Additional Notes: To work up to a sloped neck, such as in the Oahu with Coral + Arctic Tundra cosy, working two evenly spaced decreases should tighten the top sufficiently to fit around the neck of your jar.

* Note: Organik has sadly been discontinued. You could easily work the cosies in The Fibre Co. Cumbria or Canopy WW as well.

Five easy steps to building small business success

In order to maintain a successful brick and mortar shop, one really has to think outside of the box. Competition with online shopping and large "big-box" stores can be brutal, as the downsizing of Main Street across the country has shown. People are busy. Amazon has built their business based on relieving some of the stress of "getting it all done." Some shopping districts thrive, and some struggle - and the same is true for shops within those areas. Why the discrepancy?

At the end of the day, it's about how you engage your audience - whether you are making policy decisions for your city, or are a small business owner, it's your job to encourage consumers to support retailers, and how you do that can make all the difference between just surviving and really thriving.

Customer engagement is an issue with no easy solution. It's a large, nebulous web of interlocking pieces of your community. But, the bottom line is, if you're losing customers you have do something, and it may be something bigger than you think. Is there a magic formula? No, but there are a lot of little things that can get you started on the right track. 

VOLUNTEER LOCALLY. 
I cannot stress enough the importance of being involved with your local community chamber of commerce, city council, or small business district. They are creating policies that can make or break your business, and if you don't know what their priorities and plans are for your town or neighborhood you will miss out on opportunities to grow your business, or risk the possibility of going down with a ship you didn't even know was sinking. Local business groups like our Manayunk Development Corporation create programming that brings people to Main Street (the primary shopping district) for food festivals, art walks, music festivals, and more. They also have a website and magazine that features local businesses and events. Piggy-backing onto local events with a sale, or a free teach-in are great ways to get new customers and generate more word of mouth. Finding an organization in your town and getting involved is a great way to build your business. 

USE THE INTERNET.
No, you don't have to sell yarn online (and many recommend you don't), but you do need to have a cohesive online presence. As yarn shops, maybe it used to be enough to buy yarn and put it on the shelf for knitters to come and purchase. You had an ad in the yellow pages, so people knew you were there. This is how I found my local yarn shops when I moved to Chicago for college in 1997. Now people turn to Google to find what they are looking for. But, once they found you (if they're even able find you online) do they like what they see? From blogs, to Instagram, Etsy stores, and Ravelry, today's knitter can get it all from the internet. Customers go online to comparison shop, look at inventory before they visit, and research reviews on products while they are in the store.

Studies have shown that the concept of "showrooming" (looking in-store and buying online) is not as prevalent as we thought it would be, or that many still claim it to be. In fact, the opposite is true. Many more people "reverse showroom," (looking online and buying in store). If you want people to buy the thing they see online from you, they have to be able to find you first. Take a deep look at your online presence and commit to cleaning it up. Search for  your shop and see what is there.

As an experiment, I took a look at our local yarn shop, Hidden River Yarns.

Hidden River does a nice job of branding their shop across all of their channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google because all places use the HRY logo and many of the same images and taglines. The website is the first link to come up, followed by Yelp, the shop's Facebook page, and various articles from local publications. The Google business details are updated, and include shop hours, phone number and address.

What if you do a search and details are incorrect, images or dated, or nonexistent?
Maybe it's time to update your logos and graphics. Buy a new URL if your old one makes no sense (philadelphiaflyfishing.com is going to get you many more hits than bobsflysphl.biz). If your site is dated, or was built by someone else and you're not capable of doing regular updates, use one of the many cheap and easy to use tools such as ShopifyWix, or Squarespace to create a new site that you have full control over.

Keeping up with all of these various outlets can be time-consuming and overwhelming, but it is crucial to maintaining a presence and to reaching new customers.

Need help? Reach out to your local college or high school and find yourself an intern, or hire a company like Stitchcraft Marketing to help. You don't have to do it all yourself. 

HIRE FRIENDLY STAFF.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough. At the recent TNNA Yarn Group Meeting in DC, we had a great panel of yarn shop owners help us decipher some key findings of the State of the NeedleArts Industry report. When speaking about hiring staff, Jaime Jennings, co-owner of Fancy Tiger Crafts said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I can teach a new employee to be a better knitter, but I can't teach them to be nice." This might seem counter-intuitive - you may think hiring an expert crafter would make a better employee, but if said expert doesn't have the patience, people skills, and desire to socialize, they're not going to be a good long-term asset to have on staff. Employees who feel confident and like they are a part of your shop will go a long way to help you build customer loyalty.

Hire people you like, who know retail, who love customer service, take the time to train them well, and don't be afraid to let them go if it doesn't work out. Knowing both knitting and crochet skills is a key aspect of the job, but if your staff isn't friendly, customers are not going to want to ask for help in the first place. 

One of my favorite quotes is from American Express Small Business, "Look at your team. Make sure it's filled with people who can explain, 'This is why we're here' not 'This is why I'm here.'" Your staff should see themselves as an intrinsic part of your business, and you as their mentor. Be there for them, and they'll be there for you.

STOP COMPETING AGAINST THE COMPETITION. 
Yarn shops come and go. It's sad, but it's true. They close due to retirement, family responsibilities, or business in their area is bad (see Item 1). Sometimes we hear they close because of competition. Does it stink when a new shop opens close to you? Of course it does! Does it stink when you realize they are trying to compete with you? Of course it does! Take a deep breath, and relax. It's okay! Let this be your mantra, "If you find yourself alone in a market wondering where all the competition is, you very well may be standing alone with no customers." You don't have to fear your competition

For better or worse, our economy is built upon the principle of competition, and it's not always a bad thing. You keep on doing what you do best, and let them try to figure out what they do best. In the end, you'll both do better by working together.

Have a customer who needs one more skein of a yarn you're out of? Foster good will with that customer by calling your competition, and maybe your competition will do the same for you in the future. Both will remember your actions, and think highly of you. Have a customer who comes in with yarn you don't carry looking for knitting help? Help them. Heck, offer them a coupon for 10% off their next purchase. You may be out a bit of time, but the end result is a sale that maybe wasn't going to happen otherwise and a new customer that will be committed to you and your shop. Working well with the other shops in your area also allows you to have successful events, like Shop Hops. Combining your efforts and resources to bring high profile teachers to your town is a net benefit for your whole knitting community. And if you encounter a shop who doesn't play nice with you, odds are they aren't playing nice with their customers, either. Just remember, more shops = more knitters and crocheters. 

DO WHAT ONLINE AND BIG BOX CAN'T DO.
While online and large big box stores seem to have the upper hand, you can still beat them on price, immediate gratification with in-store pick-up, a great return policy, a rewards program, specialized help, friendly service, classes, events, special orders, exclusive colors, and trunk shows. All of these are things they cannot do in the same way for customers. While it is all hard work, you should also be taking time to think outside the box and do more.

As wholesalers, we are constantly thinking of new ways to encourage knitters to go to their local yarn shops. Our Year of Mittens is just one example of this.

Knit-a-longs are just one reason for customers to visit your shop each month, but as a retailer, it is important you find fun and creative ways to host your own events in conjunction with the project based on your customers needs.

Maybe this means teaching a class on reading charts (a common hiccup), hosting an extra knit night for anyone participating in the knit-a-long (people love feeling like they're part of something), or a Wine and Wind party so people can hang out, wind their skeins, and share their project ideas (it is amazing how customers can encourage others to buy more). Have you noticed all of these painting and pottery shops popping up in your area? Painting With a Twist and Wine and Design are two franchises that specialize in a party model of teaching crafts. A number of independent pottery and art studios have the worked with this trend, offering one-time after work classes with a BYOB or free wine element. Instead of looking at online stores, or franchises/chain stores as a problem, make sure your shop is the place people want to visit. Online stores don't know their customers by name, and they for sure won't give their customers a glass of wine, put yarn and needles in their hands, show them how to knit, and make them feel as if they're part of a community. 

While these five steps may seem like a lot of work, owning a successful business is worth the effort and long-term benefit to you and the community at large! - CK

• Looking for more Business Sense posts? Check out the full series here!

LOKO: Life of a Knitting Office / Notions

We crafters love our notions! They are the tiny tools of our trade and make our projects infinitely better. And because we use them constantly, we like them to look cool. On the flipside, we only use the notions that actually work well, no matter how pretty they are. 

We designed our stitch marker packets to reflect what we actually need: an end-of-round marker and plenty of markers for all those special stitches we need to remember. And, of course, we wanted them to be in our favorite color: teal. We added a dash of gold for good measure. 

Our Keychain Needle Gauge is a tool that I constantly reach for as I don't have a sorted circular needle carrier. This tool, along with the large Knit Check and the Ruler, were designed in-house by Leah McGlone.

After compiling the notions that we use the most often, we decided they should be packed together as a pack. The Crafter's Supply Pack is an easy grab-and-go kit that fits in your bag and contains the essentials.

The notions that go into our Crafter's Supply Packs are pretty obvious. What may not be so obvious is the work that goes into both producing and assembling all of our custom branded notions. As most of you are well-aware, we are a small company with less than 5 full-time employees. And when a company is that small, teamwork is everything. As I mentioned before, Leah designed all of the laser cut wood pieces based on her experience as a seasoned knitter and recent graduate of design school. For all the notions, we had meetings and went over the prototypes, correcting small errors and finding ways to improve the notion's functionality. Kate applied her design sense to the packaging and branding.

Once all of the items are in-house, some assembly is still required: we count and stuff all of the stitch markers and darning needles and we hand stamp the Crafter's Supply bags per order. We even attach the small metal carabiners to the keychain gauges by hand. Unsurprisingly, this is pleasant work. It's been a creative outlet to think about ways in which we use our tools and how we can improve that experience. The activity of stuffing tiny envelopes and stamping small muslin bags is kind of zen-like and gives us a chance to step away from the computer screen and work with our hands. It's also another way to remind ourselves of our love of craft and the community of crafters.  

Who knows, maybe I have stuffed the envelope full of stitch markers and maybe Courtney stamped the Crafter's Supply Pack that is in your knitting bag right now?  

Happy Crafting! -MK  

Weekend Wraps / Cecily Glowick MacDonald & Melissa LaBarre

Knitwear designers Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Melissa LaBarre have released yet another fabulous book with Interweave Press! It's full of lovely projects you could knit over a weekend, with patterns for knitters of all skill levels. 

We are excited to have two of The Fibre Co. yarns showcased in the book, with designs by Bristol Ivy and our very own Kate Gagnon Osborn. 

Bristol Ivy designed the Nonotuck Wrap using The Fibre Co.'s Tundra. Described in the book as 'a generous wrap which uses the classic stitch Vine Lace in an interesting way', this accessory would make for a perfect project for those new to lace patterning.

SPECIFICATIONS
Yarn: The Fibre Co. Tundra: Taiga, 6 skeins.
Gauge: 13.5 sts + 16 rows = 4" (10 cm) in reverse st st, after blocking.
Needles: US 10 (6 mm) straights or 24" (60 cm) circular.
Size: 20.5" (52 cm) width, 67" (170 cm) length.

Below is the Gansey Shawl, inspired by traditional fishermen's gansey sweaters. Designed by Kate Gagnon Osborn, using The Fiber Co.'s Cumbria, this is a classic shawl shape worked up in a worsted weight yarn. 

The shawl begins at the center neck, and increases are worked in a traditional fashion to the point. The four stripes of knit/purl patterning alternate down the garter stitch edge, finished using the Channel Island bind-off

SPECIFICATIONS
Yarn: 
The Fibre Co. Cumbria: Scaffel Pike, 3 skeins.
Gauge: 16 sts + 33 rows = 4" (10 cm) in chart pattern, after blocking.
Needles: US 6 (4 mm) 60" (150 cm) circular.
Size: 56" (142 cm) width, 25.5" (65 cm) length at center.

While it is still quite hot here in Philadelphia, fall is just around the corner, and these pieces would make a lovely addition to any cold-weather wardrobe! 

Tips + Tricks: Picking Up Stitches From Waste Yarn

On Friday, we announced the Year of Mittens, a year-long Knit Along featuring Cumbria Fingering. (You can read more about it here.) By subscribing to the full year, participants receive a bonus Basic Mitten pattern featuring three different mitten thumb constructions. One of the methods has you knit the thumb stitches with waste yarn and pick them up afterwards. Below is a tutorial for working this technique. Enjoy! - KGO

This technique is most commonly used when knitting thumbs on mittens or gloves using the Afterthought or Gusseted styles. It is worked by first knitting the future thumb stitches with waste yarn. Once the mitten is complete, you’ll remove the waste yarn and place the live stitches onto double pointed needles to work the thumb. If a pattern has you cast on stitches over your thumb stitches (as in the Gusseted Thumb in our Basic Mittens pattern), you can elect to use this technique instead (and vice versa).

The great thing about this kind of thumb is its versatility. It can be easily placed anywhere, and it’s perfect for not interrupting the flow of mittens with colorwork knit/purl or cable patterning.

The trick with this technique is to be sure to pick up the right “leg” of each stitch above and below your contrast yarn. Once you’ve done it, it makes total sense, but it can be an intimidating process.

KW Tips and Tricks: Picking Up Stitches From Waste Yarn

Step 1 / Using the same size double pointed needle you used for the mitten hand, start to unpick the first stitch of waste yarn.

KW Tips and Tricks: Picking Up Stitches From Waste Yarn

Step 2 / Insert the tip of one double pointed needle into the first stitch that the waste yarn releases.

KW Tips and Tricks: Picking Up Stitches From Waste Yarn

Step 3 / Repeat Step 2 for the bottom stitch, using one double pointed needle for the top row of stitches, and one for the bottom row of stitches.

KW Tips and Tricks: Picking Up Stitches From Waste Yarn

Step 4 / Continue to unpick the waste yarn, one half stitch at a time.  Each time a new stitch is released from the waste yarn, place it on your double pointed needle. 

Step 5 / Once all stitches are released, you should have equal numbers on the top and the bottom needles.

KW Tips and Tricks: Picking Up Stitches From Waste Yarn

Step 6 / Divide these stitches evenly onto double pointed needles. In the image above, the stitches were divided onto 4 needles, and the 5th will be used for knitting. You may also divide the stitches onto 3 needles, and use the 4th for knitting. 

KW Tips and Tricks: Picking Up Stitches From Waste Yarn

Step 7 / Using your additional dpn and working yarn, pick up and knit one stitch in the vertical space between the top and bottom rows of stitches. In the image above, the yarn is joined at the hand side of the thumb, with the top row of stitches on the left and the bottom row on the right.

KW Tips and Tricks: Picking Up Stitches From Waste Yarn

Step 8 / Continue and knit across the first row of stitches. (In the image above, since the yarn was joined at the hand side of the thumb, the top row will be the first row worked.) After knitting across, pick up and knit one stitch in the vertical space between the top and bottom on the opposite side.

KW Tips and Tricks: Picking Up Stitches From Waste Yarn

Step 9 / Continue and knit across to the beginning of the round. You now have all your thumb stitches ready to work!

KW Tips and Tricks: Picking Up Stitches From Waste Yarn

Year of Mittens

We're delighted to introduce Year of Mittens, a year-long knit-along featuring The Fibre Co. Cumbria Fingering!

We love knitting mittens, and with the introduction of The Fibre Co. Cumbria Fingering, we have a mitten yarn we can really stand behind and believe in. 

Launching August 1st, we will be releasing a new mitten pattern on the first of each month through July 2017!

WHAT TO EXPECT
While the mitten released each month will be a surprise, you won't see anything that you haven't already come to expect from Kelbourne Woolens patterns. There will be classic cables, interesting colorwork, and unique lace applications, all with a heavy dose of classic inspiration and historical information. Any new techniques will come with detailed photographs and clear step-by-step instructions conveniently linked in the pattern to our Tips and Tricks page.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
Option 1: à La Carte
Purchase only the patterns you want from our website or Ravelry, for $7 each. On the 1st of the month we'll announce the new mitten on the blog, along with some helpful info about the construction of each design.

Option 2: Subscribe to the Year of Mittens
Subscribe to the full Year of Mittens and you'll receive a special bonus pattern, a basic mitten with three different thumb constructions, right away! Subscribers will receive each month's pattern as a Ravelry Pattern Update. At the end of the year, you'll receive an eBook of all of the Year of Mittens compiled into one document, along with an exclusive gift as our way of saying "Thank you!"

Option 3: LYSO Subscription
Host a year-long knit along at your local shop! Yarn shop owners who are Fibre Co. stockists can sign up for the Year of Mittens subscription through Ravelry In-Store Sales, enabling them to utilize the valuable exclusive content to host KALs and teach classes in conjunction with the Year of Mittens. LYSO's will be able to purchase both individual patterns and subscriptions through In-Store Sales for participating customers. Shop owners will also receive all of the color and skein requirements in advance via our Stockist Newsletter in order to prepare kits if they so choose. Each month we'll also be hosting a LYS Instagram contest, so if you're a stockist be sure to follow us on Instagram! For more information on how the Year of Mittens can be a success for your shop, be sure to sign up for our Stockist Newsletter!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE
Purchase a subscription to Year of Mittens via our website here, or on Ravelry here

You'll automatically be added to our Year of Mittens mailing list, and will receive your free bonus pattern right away.

If you're not quite ready to jump into a year long subscription, no worries, just wait until August 1st for the first mitten to be released. You can always purchase the patterns individually, or subscribe at any time throughout the year.

We hope you'll join us for a crazy year of mitten knittin'!

Independent Designer Feature: Two Grey Hills by Bonnie Dean

Bonnie Dean has designed a lovely new shawl, Two Grey Hills, a garter stitch shawl with a geometric edging inspired by New Mexico tapestries. The shawl has two yarn options-you can knit it in Road to China Light or Meadow held double. 

We love the clean geometric lines and the added flair of the picot edging. It's perfect for summer knitting with its big sections of garter, and a few new techniques that give the opportunity to pick up a new trick or two. 

SPECIFICATIONS
Yarn: Road to China Light in Carnelian, 5 skeins, or Meadow in Aster, 3 skeins. 
Gauge: 19 sts and 38 rows = 4" (10 cm) in Garter Stitch
Needle: US 6 (4.0 mm) and US 7 (4.5 mm) 40" circular
Size: 37 (41.75)" [94 (106) cm] motif edge, 45 (49.5)” [114 (126) cm]. longest edge.

For more information about the Two Grey Hills Shawl, visit the Ravelry Page here.