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The Loop has been on Barrington Street for over five years now, and from the way some media outlets talk about the street, you’d think that was a miracle of longevity. But I would like to contrast that with one of our local suppliers we’ve relied on since before the store even opened in 2005. I’m talking about a company that has been active in Halifax since 1884. If you are racking your brain to try to figure out who could have been supplying yarn or craft supplies since that long ago, never mind: I’m referring to London Rubber Stamps.

Since November 2005, thousands of paper shopping bags have been carried out the door of The Loop, and each one was stamped by hand by us, using custom stamps made by London Rubber Stamps. LRS is currently located out on the admittedly dreary industrial stretch of Kempt Road in north Halifax. But back in the 1880s, they were located in downtown Halifax. On their website they have a well-written and fascinating account of the business’ history, with a couple of nice vintage photos of their former downtown locations. (Can you recognize either location?)

http://www.londonrubber.com/stamps/about.asp

When we were planning to open the store, we considered what kind of shopping bags we would use. We chose paper bags in part because they are more environmentally friendly than plastic, and also because we knew they would fit with our “DIY” ethic since we could hand-stamp each and every one. Sometimes when we are tasked with stamping a big pile of bags, we might wish we had taken a different approach – but when it comes down to it, we are glad we chose this route. We’re also glad that the small amount of business we provide to London Rubber Stamps is a part of their long history in this city.

The Partridge Family, “Shopping Bag”
The Loop, “Deluxe, Locally Sourced, Hand Stamped Bags”
Connexion: Highly Collectable Shopping Bags

Display showing Gauge Swatches of Featured Loop Yarns worked over 24 Stitches

Confused by Gauge? Think you can get by without it?  Well, you can’t.  You can conquer it though, and perhaps even learn to love it as we do.

The Loop offers several workshops which cover finding, getting and keeping gauge in knitting.  In truth, we’ll chat about it at any opportunity.

Workshops:

Knitting for Absolute Beginners
Beyond the Basics: A Refresher clinic
Understanding Patterns
Knit a Hat – an introduction to circular knitting

Don’t forget that The Loop offers Private Lessons during store hours. Phone to arrange a time (We remind you that Ciboulette Cafe – is closed Saturday and Sunday)

FACT: Canadian, U.S. and British security agencies DO allow knitting materials on board.

With summer here and travellers from all over the world dropping in to The Loop, we are hearing more questions about whether you can fly with your knitting. Opinions and stories vary, but the facts are available on the websites of the agencies that control security. Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. all permit knitting needles. Of course, a traveller will always be subject to the discretion of the individual security officer on the day of travel.  Common sense suggests you opt for smaller-sized needles in bamboo, wood or plastic, rather than 12”-long steel needles or 36”-long circulars. (Socks are the perfect, compact airplane project!)

On occasion someone will say to us, “But I asked and they said no” and it turns out they asked the airline ticket agent or another staff person who is not part of a security authority. We suggest it’s better to ask security staff, if you must, but – since the items are not prohibited – why ask?   Below is a sampling of links to national security agency sites that provide guidance for the crafty traveller, explaining what is and is not restricted from your luggage (checked and carry-on). We hope you will find this little guide helpful. Bon voyage!

Don't lock me in here without my knitting!!

In Canada, it is not the individual airlines, but CATSA – the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority – that determines what can be brought on planes. You know, the same people who have become obsessive about the dimensions of the toiletries you have in your carry-on. Here is a link to their searchable database clearly indicating that knitting needles and crochet hooks can be brought in both carry-on and checked luggage. Thank goodness! Because it’s bad enough to be crammed in that little seat having to watch bad movies. Knitting is what makes it bearable.

The U.S. Transportation Security Agency has an equally civilized policy – you can bring your knitting and your needles, but NOT circular cutters with hidden blades.

Flying to the U.K.? This page tells you the items you can NOT take on board, and there is no mention of any knitting equipment on there. You may be disappointed to learn that you can’t take your meat cleaver on a plane in the U.K. though.

How about New Zealand, the home of so much delectable merino wool? Here is a link to the Kiwi Aviation Security Service’s list of prohibited items, and it contains no mention of knitting needles.

It is harder to find this information for the European Union.  Some EU countries have tighter restrictions and in fact do prohibit knitting needles, while others allow them. Here are two examples of European sites with some info on the topic, showing this variety:

Bratislava, Slovakia (an EU member state) – no inclusion of knitting in their prohibited items list.

Ireland (an EU member state) – specifically states no knitting on board.

So when travelling to Europe it may be important to check with the individual countries’ security authorities.

You may have heard reports of dramatic goings on downtown yesterday. First, a broken water main at the corner of Argyle and Prince Streets flooded the basements of neighbouring businesses and paved adjascent streets with ice and debris. Then, a fire broke out in a historic building on South Street.  Dozens of  firefighters worked for much of the day to contain and extiguish the blaze.

On my way to The Loop today, I dropped in on Sydney Hansen at The Jade W.  This lovely bookshop was at the epicentre of yesterday’s flood: the sheared-off hydrant that started it all was  at the store’s doorstep. Happily–miraculously, even!–flooding at the Jade W was minimal, and limited to the basement.  Sydney was happy to inform me that the situation at the Jade’s sister store, John W.  Doull, down the hill on Barrington, was similarly good.

City crews did a remarkable job of restoring the intersection to working order, and both The Jade and John Doull are open for business.

Meanwhile, on South Street, there were no casualties reported, but a number of residents have lost their homes. The three affected restaurants–The Taj Mahal, Cafe Chianti, and Tomasino’s, will remain closed until further notice, while they assess damage and undertake repairs .  Kudos to the staff of the Westin Nova Scotian for the support they offered to evacuees and emergency responders throughout the crisis.

hbc cowichanThis week saw the launch of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s line of Olympic-themed sportswear in honour of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. But one garment in the collection–a Cowichan-style sweater (pictured above)–has attracted criticism. Coast Salish elders have called into question HBC’s decision to contract the manufacture of the sweaters to a non-Cowichan company. Cowichan Tribes chief Lydia Hwitsum claims that the traditional Cowichan design (like the one pictured below) is the intellectual property of her people.

Traditional Cowichan sweater

The discussion brings up interesting questions about who “owns” traditional designs, and how handmade things are used as cultural symbols.

You can read more about the Cowichan sweater tradition here, and here. There is also an NFB documentary on the subject, called “The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters”. Interested in questions of intellectual property and clothing, check out intellectual property lawyer Susan Scafidi’s excellent blog, Counterfeit Chic.

jazz window moon

Every year, organizers of the Atlantic Jazz Festival invite local retailers to decorate their windows in celebration of the event. The request came to us around the time of our WorldWide Knit in Public scavenger challenge, so I immediately thought it would be fun to make our display both a tribute to jazz and a skill-testing game!

Morgan and I have created a felt and fibre vignette that depicts the titles of classic jazz songs. There are ten titles so far (there are elements of four in the detail photo above!), but we’ll be adding a few more over the coming days.

Drop by and see how many you can find! Don’t know much about classic jazz? Here’s a great resource that may help you: Jazzstandards.com .

Revolution baby blanket

Revolution baby blanket in progress

My friend is having a baby this summer and I wanted to make a blanket that was quick and easy, without being too boring. Too much to ask? I was looking at the fun designs of British math geeks Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer (Woolly  Thoughts). I had a hard time deciding which of their intriguing patterns to go with, but thanks in part to the projects posted on Ravelry, I chose “Revolution”.

A couple of dozen people had posted Revolution on Ravelry and many talked about how easy it is. Looking at the images I felt that it must be fairly simple, but my mind just couldn’t grasp how exactly the funky jagged spiral effect was created. I  purchase and downloaded the detailed, colourful pattern booklet and began to study it. Indeed once you read the instructions and get started, it’s blessedly simple to do. This is a fun pattern, a way to make garter stitch interesting! I’m using Estelle’s organic Cloud Cotton, which itself is a delight to work with. This is going to be a lucky baby, if I may say so myself.

Denise Interchangeable needles are made for this project!

One of the things that is making this project so enjoyable for me is my Denise Interchangeable Needle set.  It’s like the Denise kit was made for this kind of project. The blanket is a circle but you are only ever knitting one “wedge” at a time. Stitch holders are important, and as the segments of the blanket get bigger, you would need to use multiple circulars or lengths of yarn as stitch holders. With the Denise set, I just add lengths of cable and carry on. Most of the time the same needle I am knitting on is acting as a stitch holder for another part of the blanket.

Denise needle sets

We love the Denise Interchangeable company not just because of their products, but because they are a small company with a great customer service ethic.  The product itself is made with a conscious effort to support local (to Denise) manufacturing. We are always delighted to chat with them and they are incredibly friendly and helpful. And how many big corporations would send a package in the mail looking like this? (Yes those are individual postage stamps.) We love Denise.

Simpsons stamps

If you have attended ‘Loop Group’, our drop-in knitting night on Thursdays at The Loop, you might have met Tina B.  She is in the ninth grade and a devoted knitter – pictured below knitting the Cobweb Doily from A Gathering of Lace.

Tina knitting the Cobweb Doily from A Gathering of Lace

Tina knitting the Cobweb Doily from 'A Gathering of Lace'

Now we’ve learned she is also devoted to bringing happiness to other people. Tina approached us recently to ask if The Loop would make a donation to help cover the costs of a trip she wants to make this June.  This is no average summer holiday – she will be travelling to Poland with a group called Coalition for Kids, to visit terminally ill children to help make their short lives a little bit more pleasant.  The children helped by the program suffer from diseases like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. As Tina explained it to me,  many of the kids’ wishes are as simple as an iPod or a good bed. Check out the Coalition for Kids website to learn more about the program and its “Journeys of a Lifetime”.

I was impressed to learn about the funding structure for the program. Each teenagers’ trip costs $36oo and the fundraising structure employs a ‘pay it forward’ philosophy. Each participant raises half of the money for their own trip, and when they return they commit to raising another $1800 to cover half the cost of another student’s trip. One participant helps pay for the next one’s trip, and so on.

This is not something we normally do with this blog space, but I wanted to tell our community about this program  in case anyone would like to support Tina’s trip. The Loop will be making a donation and I will make one personally too, because I think it’s so important for young people to look outward and take an interest in the world.

If you are a knitter reading this, you know that non-knitters hold stereotyped ideas of who and what knitters are. We know better. Similarly, I think Tina – as a young knitter preparing to make this remarkable trip – does not fit the stereotype of a self-centred teenager.

Please feel free to contact us at The Loop if you would like to make a contribution to Tina’s “Journey of a Lifetime” by May 1st 2009.

This year’s NSCAD Wearable Art Show is scheduled to take place next Wednesday evening on Granville Square.  The square will be transformed into a canopied gallery and performance venue. The show promises to be a fabulous and fascinating evening of avant-garde fashion and art. Tickets are $15 in advance (available at Venus Envy or on the NSCAD art supply store). Proceeds from the event will go to the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia and to the Wearable Art Scholarship Fund. See you there!

Cathy is merriment
Mimi is starlings
Morgan is pomoboho
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