Sifu Design Studio & Fine Yarns

Sifu is Chinese for “Master” or “Teacher.” In Mandarin it is pronounced like “sure foo”, whereas in Cantonese it is more like “see foo.” However, no matter how you vocalize it, it is used to express the speaker’s utmost respect with regard to the addressee’s skills and experience.

A Japanese friend (when taught how to knit) called Lisa her Sifu. Understandably, Lisa would feel very honored and when starting her business the Sifu became her mission statement: “You, too, can be a master of your craft.”

When asking where and how to get a copy of Chicago Knits Magazine’s first issue I was told to buy it at Sifu Design Studio & Fine Yarns in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. And this is where I went.

IMG_1160IMG_1163To cut a long story short: it is a store with a soul! Does that make sense? I so wish it would be in my neighborhood!

There is that huge table in the back, where probably ten people of all ages would sit, knit, work on computers, laugh and chat away, while one was trying to refloat a knitting machine (or loom?). The center of the store (if there is a center) is an old counter, surrounded by mostly antique furniture along the walls, such as drawers, suitcases, shelves, boxes and dressers, brimming over with yarn of all colors imaginable. The walls are covered with paintings, thread spools, and other decoration. There are books, magazines, postcards, all sorts of hooks and needles, ribbons, buttons, stitch holders in little drawers, trinkets everywhere.

IMG_1153An amazing store, punishing me for every time I had been (too?) strict with J: “You’re supposed to look with your eyes, not with your hands. Don’t touch it! Put that down!” Well, here I was, in knitting wonderland, wanting to touch everything, as everywhere was something to see, to admire, and – yes – to desire, to long for …

IMG_1154As the world is small, my friend Mamie has known Lisa for quiet a few years and when I told her that I wanted to go to the store, Mamie left a gift certificate for me behind Lisa’s counter. What a treat!

IMG_1155No doubt – M and J needed quite a bit of patience until I was done choosing from all the lovely yarn and stuff that was there … Here is what I (finally) picked: Four skeins of Cascade 220 sport in “Lake Chelan Heather” and the most beautiful handmade little stitch markers in turquoise and orange. Again, thank you so much Mamie – once I have decided what to make out of it I will let you know!IMG_1882

And guess who I met while there: Kim Richardson, the Chicago Knits Magazine‘s “mother.”IMG_1157If you like to know more about Lisa and her Sifu Design Store – she is featured in the magazine. If you get a chance to visit – GO!

 

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The Windy Knitty

In Southern Illinois (the night before we left for Chicago) my circular needles would break! Have you ever experienced that? They would break right above the point where needle and cord meet. Knitting garter stitch (while holding the broken needle in my right hand), I had been lost in thought, not paying attention to what I was doing. Consequently, I would not even realize what had happened until J pointed it out (“Mami, are you doing this on purpose? They’re all falling down …”). Very weird experience, that has never happened to me before – fortunately easy to fix (the knitting, not the needle).

However, the next day, literally right after dropping our luggage at the airbnb-place we had rented, all three of us went to the Windy Knitty.

Windy Knitty ChicagoThere we would not only get the circular needle, but so much more! The ladies were extremely helpful – with regard to all sorts of gorgeous yarn and when it came to Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood in general: they would provide us with addresses from breakfast to dinner, from yarn makers to book stores, from basketball trading cards to public NBA broadcast, writing everything down or encircling it in the map. In no time, three days were packed, every minute planned :).

We were all set! Plus, I had bought a book, that had been on my list for a long time (Amy Herzog: Knit to Flatter, signed by the author), and a beautiful pattern for a summer wrap.

Windy Knitty ChicagoThe store itself is really nice, very well-assorted, with a lot of space and a lot of light, and a super-wide variety of yarn for every budget, which made it pure pleasure to examine (eyes & hands) their specialty yarns as well as affordable skeins and quite a few “must-haves” (Cascade 220, Malabrigo, Louisa Harding, Madelintosh).

Windy Knitty Chicago Windy Knitty ChicagoUnfortunately, we would not stay long enough for me to take part in one of their meet-ups for yarnies or a knit-night. I’ll have to come back I guess …

Thanks again for recommending the store in your comments!

Chicago Knits Magazine

The first issue of Chicago’s “irreverent quarterly yarn craft magazine … devoted to the irreverent Chicago yarn arts” was released in early April. I had read about it beforehand and got my very own copy when visiting Chicago.

Don’t you just love the cover? (Highlighted by a tablecloth on my garden table …).

IMG_1658It’s a first issue, a baby quarterly, and you can tell this baby is loved. Kim Richardson – the editor-in-chief, photographer, graphic as well as contributing designer, and ‘the baby’s mother’ – put together 56 pages, packed with information, interviews, reviews (books, yarns, gadgets), patterns, and more with regard to knitting, crochet, and spinning.

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The magazine is her attempt to bring Chicago’s knitting and crochet community “together in one place, to share patterns and stories about knitting in the city, to talk about upcoming events, to learn new things, to meet new people, and to make … knitting circles larger.”

I learned the word “swatch” which I had not heard before, together with a fabulous new stitch in crochet (the window stitch), I read about the “German twisted cast-on” to realize that (even though I am German) I have never used it (but will now – Kim says it looks bad-ass 🙂 ), the knitting memory game made me laugh, and I could not agree more with the presentation of the featured store, Sifu Design Studio and Fine Yarns. And I love the chart with all symbols and abbreviations one could possibly think of. It is neatly arranged and very convenient.IMG_1665

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What is left to say? I wish for Kim and her magazine that a lot of people in the Chicago area like the magazine as much as I do, so that hopefully the second issue’s volume will be twice as big!

IMG_1667Good luck to everyone involved and please keep me updated!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spending Money

Did you ever wonder what a German yarn addict (like me) might buy in the land of unlimited opportunities?

Well, so far I got: little rings to use as stitch markers, DPNs in different colors, and a size 50 hook to crochet chair pads (for the kitchen chairs at home).

IMG_0942However, still looking out for Self Striping Sock Yarn. Any suggestions anyone?

Pompom Advent Calendar

It’s not too late for an Advent Calendar (yet). Here’s what Pip came up with:

I’m making one pompom every day of December! I’m hanging them from a stick. I found this stick in the park. As I crossed the road to get the stick, a taxi driver yelled at me… If he’d known I was going to get a stick he wouldn’t have been so fresh, right? Sheesh.

Anyhoo. Maybe this is something you might want to do at your place too? A pompom every day? With a stick? Without a taxi driver?

So easy and cute, right?

Festiveasaurus Rex!

x Pip

Don’t you just love that?!

Yoga Socks

Next week, a very close friend of mine will start a new job. She is very much looking forward to it. And as if the job wasn’t enough – her new employer arranged for all his employees to take part in yoga classes twice the week for free. Isn’t that foresighted, thoughtful and nice?!

Hence, early this week the friend sent me a very sweet postcard asking me to knit yoga socks for her.

Yoga socks … ? Between you and me, I have never heard the term before, I didn’t even know it existed and had to search the net to get an idea. Fortunately, Rebecca’s easy (and free) pattern for “Double Duty Yoga Socks and Boot Toppers” was right there.  Aren’t they pretty?

What can I say other than: a new project that needs to be finished by Christmas (I am sure you’ve noticed the slightly desperate untertone in this sentence) on my needles. This is how far I am:

Yoga SocksAre there any yoga people out there to tell me whether I am on the right track with this pattern? I have never taken part in yoga classes … (Maybe I will if the socks turn out nice).

The Blue Cowl

Sunday night I really wanted to knit a cowl (infinity scarf, loop, whatever you may want to call it. By the way: is there a difference?).

The yarn was there – 2 balls of Lana Grossa’s “Mille II” in dark blue (thank you YarnCamp) – and the presentee-to-be, but no pattern. Fortunately, Jessica posted a link to the perfect pattern on her blog one year ago.

blue cowlPurl 4 rows, knit 4 rows until the end of the yarn – I love it and so does M.

blue cowl

woolly hats for innocent

It was at the Frankfurt YarnCamp when I saw innocent‘s little brochures, asking for wooly hats, first. (Before that, I didin’t even know innocent existed, not to mention they care about people – but that’s another story). And it was love at first sight!

The idea is to sell those little hats with innocent’s smoothies. For every woolly hat sold, they make a donation to support the elderly and old, who are cold in winter, lonely and isolated.

So far, 11.965 hats were knitted in Germany this year. Quite a few of them are real masterpieces! Second only to the amazing hats knitted by people in Great Britain.

So last weekend my mom and I would knit little woolly hats for innocent too. Rather hands-on than design, made of bits and pieces of stash, my mom would knit each basic hat and I would weave in the ends and take care of extras like pom-poms, flowers, and the like. You know how much I like to make flowers :). At the end of the day, there were 31 hats.

innocent woolly hats innocent woolly hats innocent woolly hats innocent woolly hats innocent woolly hats innocent woolly hats

For those of you who would like to join in (please do!!) – deadline is December 1, 2013; please see the (German) innocent homepage for more information (requirements, patterns, ideas) or watch the (English) film.

I need to go to the post office now to mail those hats 🙂

Crocheted Daisy

Knitted Art presented Cherry Heart‘s lovely crocheted Daisies and I had to make one on the spot. Lazy (and impatient …) as I can be, I used yarn and hook that were closest to me.

Well, this first little flower didn’t turn out as “bumpy” and haptic as the ones Sandra made (plus, it looks like a fried egg) so I may have to give it some more thought. My guess would be that (1) the crochet hook I used is too thin or (2) cotton is not the best choice of yarn (too “stiff”). Still, it’s a pretty little flower. I will definitely make more and post better pictures within the next days.

crochet flower

Interviewing David Wasser

David Wasser and I met briefly at the YarnCamp last Sunday, when he would hold a session on Kaffe Fassett‘s colorful designs. Believe me, David’s own creations (“knitted garments” would be an expression way too mundane) are nothing short of amazing and I knew right there and then that I really wanted to write a blog post about him. But – to quote the German Wilhelm Busch – “first, things turn out different and second, than you might have thought” …

© David Wasser

The story I wanted to write became an interview. Here it is, framed with the pictures I took in Frankfurt during the session.

How, when and why did you learn to knit? What was your first project?

My mother owned a yarn store (in Providence, Rhode Island and Schenectady, New York) for several years when I was growing up. She was often knitting or doing needlepoint and I learned from her. She also taught me to cook and bake for which I am very grateful. Often on weekends or during school holidays I would work at the shop putting price tags on items and stocking shelves and sometimes teaching little old ladies to knit ;-).

I think the first thing I knitted was a stuffed toy (a snail, if I recall correctly). I also remember a huge bright orange and green scarf as an early project. Unfortunately the moths got to it and I had to throw it away recently, but I must have had it for 40 years or so. I probably did a few simple things (mittens, hats) and then stopped knitting and needlepoint about the time I was 15.

About 10 years later I saw a really great Perry Ellis sweater in a magazine which I couldn’t afford to buy, but I figured I could probably get Mom to help me knit it. You can see the pattern here. And that’s when I got really really interested in knitting again. Since then I’ve always got several projects going in parallel.

Compare to book cover below

Do any of your family members knit? I envision you sitting there between wife, children and grandchild, being the only one who knits …

Oh, no. My mom of course. My sister in Seattle knits and crochets. My wife knits. All 4 of my daughters knit (some more than others). The grandchild is only 4 – she needs a bit more time ;-).

Kaffe Fassett

What is it that you like best about Kaffe Fassett? The challenge? The patterns? The colors?

The idea of knitting a sweater using 10 balls of the same yarn in stockinette stitch makes me yawn. The Perry Ellis sweater was pretty complicated. It contained a lot of vertical panels in about 5 different colors and each panel was a different cable knit. I found the complexity interesting. My mother kept sending me or showing me patterns and books and one day she showed me Glorious Knits (Kaffe Fassett’s first book). We both drooled over the pictures. I’m sure the combination of color (lots and lots of color) and (perceived) complexity was what hooked me. I bought the book, started reading and couldn’t decide which thing to make first.

open admiration at the YarnCamp

open admiration at the YarnCamp

What’s it like seeing your family wearing the socks or sweaters you made?

I love it. I’ve knit a lot of things for myself, but also for my own family. I love seeing things I made for my children get passed down to my sister’s children and now my grandchildren. We still have a number of sweaters and things that my mother or my grandmother made that have made the rounds. Most of my knitwear is very colorful and the kids usually get a lot of compliments when they wear it. I think they also like to be able to say “My dad made this for me!”.

David Wasser

What is currently on your needles?

Wow, what a question! I tend to have a ton of half-finished projects laying about the house. I always have a sock project in progress. Since I just finished a few projects recently I’m actually debating about whether to pick up a half-finished project and finish it (for example, my rainbow-back vest keeps begging to be completed) or start something new.

David Wasser

We’re pretty much through 2013. Did you have a knitting goal and did you achieve it?

I don’t really work like that. I have my own company (we develop mobile applications – “Apps”) and that keeps me pretty busy. Knitting is only one of my other favorite things to do. I read a lot. I weave. I have been building a brick wall in the garden. In 2012 I got interested in Steampunk and so I’ve been creating Steampunk gadgets and sewing Victorian costumes and things. I knit when I feel like knitting. There are periods of time where I do it a lot, and other periods where I do other things.

David Wasser

What made you go to Frankfurt (out of all places? :))

That’s kind of a complicated story 🙂 The short answer is that my wife and I wanted to spend some time living in Europe. I had a business relationship with a company in Offenbach and they hired me in 1990. Since then I’ve changed jobs several times and now have my own company, but I’m still in Frankfurt. I like it here 🙂

Kaffe Fassett

And – last but not least – talking from monster to zombie designer: why zombies??

Heh heh. I have a 13-year old daughter. She is very crafty and is always making things – doll furniture, costumes, jewelry, hats, etc. She also really likes “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Doctor Who”. I saw this book “Knit Your Own Zombie” that I thought she would like, so I got it for her birthday earlier this year. She started making some of the Zombie parts and then got distracted with other things. Fast forward to August this year. We (daughter, wife and I) decided at the last minute to go to the Black Forest on vacation for a week. House on the lake with nothing to do. We would read and knit and play games and take walks and stuff. I realized that I had no suitable project to take with me, I didn’t want to pack an entire suitcase full of yarn for one of my many-color projects and didn’t feel like knitting socks. Then I remembered the Zombie book. So I grabbed that and a small bag of appropriate-thickness yarn and tossed that in the suitcase. During that week all three of us ended up knitting Zombie parts. It was great fun. I started with the Dracula, and when he was done I just needed to do another. They knit up quickly and are fun to decorate. It was very therapeutic :-).

© David Wasser

Thank you David for answering all my questions to such an extent!