Hot Bags and Flowers In Coral Gables, Florida

The Knitting Garden is the name of the shop owned by Annie and Virginia where I spent the weekend of October 3rd and 4th.  Instead of the usual weekend-long bag finishing class format, we spent the first day working on making, felting, and finishing bags and the second working on making and assembling flowers.

The shop itself is filled with delicious fibers, colors popping against dark wood.  The shop is long and slender with a surprisingly airy feel for how full it is of every fiber you wish for. . . they’ve thought of everything.  And there are comfortable chairs to sit and knit in as well as a long farm table in the back.




Here is “Bob” with felted dreadlocks and the beautiful Spanish architecture of the Coral Gables area reflected in the window.  Our class took place in the back of the shop (see below)–the spiders hanging from the ceiling are a nod to October and it’s culmination in Halloween.


On Saturday, we focused on felting techniques to make bags of all shapes and sizes turn out well.  For example, it is common mythology (still!) that no matter what the bag size, you should it in the smallest load size.  For small bags and flowers this is fine, but for large bags, you risk creases and uneven felting.  All bags must be able to move freely in order felt well–so, the rule of thumb for felting should be that you use the smallest load size that allows your project to move freely in the washer.  For a very large bag, that means the largest load size your washer has.

Another common myth is that your bag or other item will get creases in it if you put it through the spin cycle.  As I emphasized to the workshop participants at The Knitting Garden, I have never seen a crease in a bag that didn’t get in there during the agitation cycle (wash or rinse, if you let it go through the rinse cycle).  Creases find their way into your bags and hats because it gets folded up in the water and felts harder on the folded parts and felts less (sometimes hardly at all) in the crevices/creases created by those folds.

We talked for a long time about the importance of checking your felting:  too often I think folks wait until the washer turns off at the end of the spin cycle even to look at what has happened to your bag or hat or slippers. . . Instead of this hand-off approach, I recommend watching your felting, being involved in the process: manipulate the bag periodically to check the felting process, unfold any folds, stretch out places that are felting faster.  And if you have a top loader, put back in the water places that need more felting–not the whole bag, but just the top, for example, if it is flaring too much.

On Sunday, we were all flowers all the time. My objective for this day was to show that multiple flowers of the same type or different flowers together could be arranged in wonderful combinations to fabulous effect. We all worked on Noni Camellias first in Tilli Tomas Flurries.  The ladies made either five-petal or 9-petal flowers.  Then we made Rosettes and Stephanotis.  To make the point about arrangement, I showed what the flowers looked like on the back of a rather huge carpet bag, even trying out my new Sunflowers (coming soon in March 2010!)  See below!


The large sunflowers on The Rather Large Carpet Bag.  I’m wearing a red camellia with a JUL shawl stick through it to keep it on. Below is a picture of unfelted Camellias and rosettes clustered together in the center of the bag. I’m afraid the picture just doesn’t do it justice!

img_5054Everyone fell in love with the Peony flowers.  We tried them on the Carpet Bag also, but I don’t seem to have a picture.

I had a blast in Miami.  Virginia and Annie were not only perfect hostesses for me during my stay there but they are a great team, and perfect hostesses for the people who come to their shop. You’ll love the selection, the wonderful energy of the shop, and sitting and knitting there for a spell.  A wonderful place to visit if you live in Miami or if you are just there visiting!

Workshop in Mackinaw City: Fabulous Bags!

Last month (September 2009) I traveled to Mackinaw City Michigan (at the tip of the mitten) to teach a two-day intensive workshop on finishing bags.  The premise of the class is straight-forward:  pick any Nonibag pattern, do the knitting ahead of time, felt the bag and bring it to class damp.  Participants can bring as many bags as they want.  Some of the Mackinaw ladies brought as many as FIVE!  The workshop, then, is centered around teaching folks how to finish the bags they have made so they look as fabulous as possible.  I want your bags to stop traffic, or at least stop people in their tracks to get a better look.  Lots of the bags that left this workshop will, I think, do just this.

But first a little about Cynthia’s Fine Yarn & Gifts, a shop owned by Cynthia herself, and the shop and hostess who invited me to Mackinaw.  The shop is picturesque, a brightly painted bungalow surrounded by pots upon pots of gorgeous flowers that seem to love the cool weather afforded by northern Michigan.


Unlike the flowers in more Southern climes such as my own Maryland, the petunias, impatiens, celery (for the foliage), geraniums, and others less common blooms (I mean, there were still foxgloves blooming in mid-September!), seem more luxurious in front of Cynthia’s shop.


The flowers overflowing the pots outside give you a sense of the lusciousness you will encounter within the shop.  Every available space is just a feast for the eyes and other senses.  Bins and shelves full of yarn, windowsills covered with beaded baubles and lovelies all for sale.  Wonderful books, samples of sweaters, scarves, bags.  You can wander through the shop for hours and never tire of looking at this, and that, and yet something else you hadn’t yet noticed (but why not!?).


For such a tiny shop, there is scarce anything lacking.  You will want to make the special trip to Cynthia’s if you are anywhere close by.

The workshop itself was held in the spacious conference room of a nearby hotel.  The room was beautifully lit by huge windows and had the added bonus of a laundry room nearby–we took good advantage of this and felted or re-felted a number of bags.  Cynthia outdid herself, too:  goodie bags, chocolate at every participant’s work-station (great big tables set up as a large horseshoe with lots of space for everyone), catered lunch both days, dinner included at a local restaurant (delicious!), games, give-aways–you don’t just leave workshops at Cynthia’s with your project!

The two-days were packed with information and work.  Participants learned how to structure their bags using stiffener for a crisp profile, how to put on bag feet, handles (knitted an purchased), make fabric handle tabs, apply magnetic snaps, zippers, and embellishments.  Many were on their way to taking home several finished bags by the end of the workshop.

I’m not finished with this post:  I’ll be adding some before and after shots soon and adding other pictures.

We had a great time!