March 01, 2006


In the I-Can-Resist-Everything-But-Temptation Department:


It has never been the mission of Two Swans Yarns to encourage people to knit novelty yarn scarves. (There are plenty of yarn stores out there encouraging this, already.) Rather, it's always been the mission to promote traditional knitting using natural fibers.

So, in January, when Fiber Trends published its Huggable Hedgehogs pattern, I was captivated by the charm of the little critters -- even if their spikes are knitted from polyester fake fur yarn. You see, chez Campbell, we used to have a pet hedgehog named Zoe. When my daughter Allegra was in the first grade, she loved the books written and illustrated by Jan Brett. (You remember The Mitten?) Often these stories will have a hedgehog in them; even if the hedgehog isn't an active character in the book, you'll be able to find a hedgehog (or two) within the page's illustrations or illustrated borders. Jan Brett even has a website and Allegra wrote to her (via that website) to ask about the care and feeding of a hedgehog, and Jan Brett wrote back! And Allegra and I attended a 4-H Super Saturday presentation about hedgehogs and the hedgehog 4-H club. So it was only a matter of time before Scott and I were driving out to Auburn, Washington, to buy a baby hedgehog. (The more the merrier -- our menagerie at that time was three dogs, three cats, three horses.)

To be successful as pets, hedgehogs have to be played with and carried around a lot, so that they are used to being handled. (Otherwise, they will hiss, stay rolled up in a ball, and be disagreeable.) I didn't mind handling Zoe -- she wasn't prickly when you handled her, but my hands would tingle for awhile afterward. But after a few months, the novelty of playing with her wore off; Allegra had never been that keen on handling her pet. Zoe had a tremendous will to escape her cage, and would go running around the house at night (hedgehogs are nocturnal). It was quite frightening to be startled awake by what would seem (to the half-awake mind) to be a rat rummaging through our bedroom. And, what was the worst part: hedgehogs eat about one tablespoon of hedgehog food per day, but they produce about three times that much poop. Stinky poop. So I gave Zoe to a sixth grade teacher I knew, and Zoe became the classroom pet; this teacher had had hedgehog class pets before, and that was a happy resolution for all of us.

We still like the romantic idea of pet hedgehogs; we still like those Jan Brett illustrations. So, the instant that I knew that Fiber Trends was publishing the felted hedgehog pattern, I ordered them. I thought the pattern might not be the best fit for my store, but I couldn't resist. Gratifyingly, I sold out of the first shipment of patterns right away -- which meant that the pattern was indeed a good match for my customer base. I toyed with getting in the polyester fake fur yarn, in a cycle of thought that went: But the hedgehogs are so cute! But Two Swans carries only traditional yarns! But those cute little faces -- even you, Karen, you want to knit and felt one of these irresistible little critters!

And, as one thing leads to another, it was only a matter of time before customers who'd bought the pattern from me then started requesting the Temptation yarn. So, here it is -- the authentic, genuine, dyed-in-the-polyester yarn to make your hedgehog with, kitted up with the wools used for the body and paws.

In other Two Swans Yarns news, I think the just-published book by Fiona Ellis, Inspired Cable Knits, is my new favorite knitting book. The display fonts used for chapter headings are beautiful (like calligraphy); the text layout and photographs are a feast for the eyes. Fiona Ellis writes about what inspired each of the designs -- this cable looks like tree bark, that cable looks like a yoga pose -- so the book is a feast for the imagination, as well. And her target audience is those of us who come to knitting as a contemplative, meditative activity, so, sprinkled throughout the book, are little moments of philosophical insights about the process of knitting, about the relationship of knitter to knitting. Yes, there are instructions and techniques included in this book (you could be a complete newbie to cable knitting and be off to an excellent start, following her instructions), but I'm finding that her pointers of what to focus on in the process of knitting this cable or that are what stay with me. And, it probably goes without saying, with her focus on yoga and knitting as meditation, Fiona Ellis's patterns all use natural fibers.

There was a time when I devoured every new knitting book and magazine that came along. I wrote reviews of books for the Guild newsletter, I practically memorized the patterns in the magazines. When I was an employee in a retail yarn shop, I was a veritable fount of info for the customers ("Oh, you can find this kind of pattern for this yarn in such-and-such issue of Knitter's;" "Oh, you can find that kind of pattern in such-and-such issue of Interweave Knits.") These days, I'm busier and I just don't have that same routine of soaking in a hot bath reading a knitting publication every evening that I did five years ago. However, Inspired Cable Knits is definitely re-inaugurating that routine for me -- there is just so much in its pages that I want to spend time savoring them.

Two Swans Yarns has some yarns for some of the projects in this book, including the cover sweater. I'm working on getting all of the information listed on the website.

Posted by Karen at March 1, 2006 03:34 PM

I'm so relieved to know that my hedgehog will be sans stinky poop. Three cats are enough chez Miller! Wow. Two French words in one post. Aren't you impressed?

Posted by: Jewel at March 1, 2006 09:58 PM

Mais oui!

Yes, your little hedgehog will be The Perfect Housepet. No poop, no escaping his cage, no nocturnal visits. I'll bet Mia will cuddle up to him, too.

Posted by: Karen at March 2, 2006 08:00 AM

I have no doubt she will groom him. She grooms the other 2 cats and whatever else she thinks needs grooming.

Posted by: Jewel at March 3, 2006 01:26 PM