A simple change of scenery

Occasionally, I lift my head and realize that there’s a whole, big world out there going on while I work. This week, our friend and knitwear designer, author, and technical knitting anthropologist Beth Brown-Reinsel was in town to teach a couple of classes. If ever there was a way to break one’s concentration on mundane life, it’s a visit from an energetic and interesting friend.

And if that weren’t enough, we held Beth’s classes in Lansing’s Old Town Neighborhood. Old Town was Lansing’s original settlement and its original downtown area. In recent years, it has seen a great resurgence of commercial and residential investment, and there is a distinctly artistic bent to many of the goings-on there.

Beth’s classes were held at Studio 1210 is the heart of Old Town, and the venue was delightful. With our current space in a strip mall on Lansing’s west side, I forget what it’s like to have a streetfront window. We spent most of the afternoon today with the front door wide open with the sounds of street traffic, a nice, warm breeze blowing in (it got up to 66°F this afternoon—WOOHOO!), and passers-by walking their dogs and saying hello. It was genuinely wonderful.

It was also great to run around the corner with Beth for lunch at Pablo’s Panaderia (311 E. Grand River Ave.). If you happen to find yourself in the Lansing area and would like a little bit of good, genuine Mexican food, don’t miss it. We always eat well when Beth’s in town. First, Rob loves pampering guests, and second, Beth and I share a lust for spicy and exotic foods. Now, exotic is a little difficult to come by in Lansing, but we did have Mexican twice and one meal of sushi, so I won’t complain. It was all delicious, and Beth is an absolute joy to have around. If you have a chance to take one of her classes, do. If you don’t have that opportunity, check out one of her books or patterns.

Duckie aside

When I got up Tuesday morning to run pick up Beth to get her to her classes at Studio 1210 in Lansing’s Old Town, I noticed that the Wood Ducks are BACK ON GRAND RIVER!!

We live on the Grand River on the south end of Old Town, and we have Mallards year-round. A week or so ago, the Canada Geese started coming back through on their way north; the honking definitely gets your attention. But the Wood Ducks are actually pretty quiet. Well, to be fair, they’re more few than quiet. If you’ve never heard a Wood Duck bray, you could probably get a similar noise cow-tipping. It’s a deep, lowing honk that is difficult to imagine coming out of a rather fancy looking bird about the size of a large coffee mug. But there is was this morning as I brushed my teeth. I stuck my head out the bathroom window, and there were two drakes and a hen bobbing around in our little cove-lette at the base of the deck.

*SIGH!*

It won’t be long before I look out to see the eight-to-ten-foot wingspan of a Blue Heron soaring down the river. Ah, spring.

UPDATE!!

I was wrong! These little guys are NOT Wood Ducks! I looked up Wood Ducks specifically to show you a picture, and boy, was I wrong! I’ll have to get a picture of my little visitors so you can help me figure out what they are. I thought they might be Baffleheads, but I think they may be too small for Baffleheads. They’re about half the size of the Mallards we have. Hmm… a mystery!

Life Lesson #38: Merlot and Voicemail Don’t Mix

I suppose the same is true for fatigue and Movable Type, but I’ll risk it. For those of you who didn’t get Rob’s newsletter (subscribe at ThreadBearFiberArts.com), I’ve spent the last… seven hours or so rearranging shelving after our recent Spring Cleaning Sale. The basic idea was to make room for spring stock, but I also wanted to apply a few pieces of advice that Rob and I have gleaned from our friend and customer from Australia, Stella—a retail usability expert who visited MSU and ThreadBear for a few months last summer (well, winter for her, but she was here, so… HEY! She spent her entire winter in a mild Michigan summer! That dog. I’ll have to look her up so I can avoid February in Michigan some time…. hmm… is this why one shouldn’t blog after a twenty hour day and major physical exertion? Eh, who cares? Hi, Stella!)

Anyway, Stella recommended some further reading, and then Rob saw a piece on CBS Sunday Morning re: retail usability, and well… we were surprised at how much we were doing right… and how much we’d succeeded despite so many things we were doing wrong. So we’ve just been waiting to implement some of what we’d learned. This was our chance. Unfortunately, these chances seem rarely to come with much warning, so I didn’t prepare. It just happens.

So, for those of you who are relatively local, beware. Hogwarts is in full affect at Chez ThreadBear. If you were in the store at close last night, it’s a whole other world, now. If you work for me and you’ll be in the store today, I offer my most sincere condolences. I truly don’t do this just to annoy you. It’s just a pleasant bonus. 🙂

But now, I’m home. The dogs are asleep on the sofas, and I heard Rob’s breathing when I walked by the bedroom door. I’ve been home later after one of these excursions, but I don’t recall too many times coming home any more exhausted. *YAWN!* Wish me luck. Maybe no one will revolt completely at the changes. With any luck, they’ll actually be as workable and as nice as I’d hoped they’d be. I, for one, couldn’t tell you. Be the time I was done, I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to tell. Maybe that’s not such a great thing, but when the store is open seven days a week, the opportunity to move things around doesn’t really present itself during convenient hours.

Good night… or good day.

I’m out.

Knitting, Design, Spring Cleaning, and Life

No, I’m not reverting to my hermitting ways. It really has been that busy. If you don’t believe me, check out all the goings on at Rob’s blog. And that’s just a fraction of it. In the last few weeks, I’ve concussed myself, designed a new sweater, updated tons of new classes to the shop schedule, bought a whole bunch of new stock (including some YUMMERLY possum blend from New Zealand that I’ll be designing with shortly… just ‘cuz), put together a monster spring cleaning sale with Rob and Sabrina, blocked an awesome shawl that Rob knit, and generally just got a lot of stuff out of the way that has been back-burnered for a while.

As for the concussion, I’m just a dork. It had been a long day at the shop, and since my car was in the shop for not being winterized properly (yeah, yeah… I’m an idiot. I know.), I was loading all of my stuff, Rob’s stuff, and the pupperkins into Rob’s Explorer… in the snow… in the cold. Yes, I was doing it alone, but that’s SO not the issue. Rob does paperwork, and I don’t have to, so I’m glad to load the car. Anyway, I was truckin’. I was all wrapped up, and I’d already made a couple of trips out the car and had the rear glass raised so that I could just drop stuff into the back and run back in for another load. Well, the car was actually facing the store, so I had to go around the car to get to the back. In case you’ve never noticed, when there is something flat at eye-level, it all but disappears in the dark. At least, I’m telling myself that, because I came around the back end of the Explorer at a pretty fair clip and walked dead into the corner of the glass rear window that was less than an inch above eye-level… dead center… right in the forehead… between my eyes. For a moment, I thought I’d lost my eyes. I sure as shootin’ couldn’t see anything. There was just this monstrous buzz… and the most nauseating aurora borealis I’ve ever seen. Then there was the streetlamp over the parking lot… fuzzy, but there… and I could hear that there was traffic, but I couldnt’ have told you what planet it was on. Slowly, I noticed snow falling across my field of vision. Oh, yeah, snow. That’s what that is. Am I standing? Holy shit! I’m standing?!? I hadn’t fallen, but whoo! It’s a thousand wonders. What’s in my arms… oh, yeah, I was carrying my laptop bag. Oh, crud. I could have dropped my laptop on pavement?!?

I told this story to my mother, and the first thing out of her mouth was, “good lord, I bet you had a few choice words.” Um… no. No words. I couldn’t have thought of words if I’d had to. I got the last of the stuff into the car without saying anything to Rob and got into the driver’s seat of the Explorer (standard procedure– we’re old married folk). My head was ringing, but everything was clear. I just hurt. Everywhere. If you’ve ever met Rob, you know that telling him you’ve done something radically stupid is worth days of teasing, so I’d decided to keep it to myself by the time he’d finished paperwork and made it out the the car. It was already warm, and we headed out of the parking lot. Then it hit me (not, not again… I mean figuratively) that I might actually have really injured myself. Dammit! I had to tell him. Well, to make a long story short (too late), he’s been doll. We are all pretty sure at this point that I did have a mild concussion, but I’m a boy, and we do dumb shit like ignore concussions and stuff. I had a few days when I really couldn’t do much of anything and several when I could barely string a coherent thought together long enough to finish a sentence, but otherwise, I’ve just had some pretty nasty headaches. I’m planning on having a nice, long massage later this evening or tomorrow, so I’ll be right as rain come the end of the week.

I did have time, though, during my convalescence to design and knit most of the front of a very interesting men’s v-neck saddle-shoulder pullover. The front is done in panels, and despite what I think I’ll be tearing out later this afternoon to reknit, I’m happy with the design and think it’s pretty sure to make the book.

I’ve also recently acquired some awesome hand-painted possum-wool blend from New Zealand that I’m very excited about knitting into something yummy for myself. I don’t have the camera at home, or I’d show you. It’s definitely my colors. Deep, jewely secondary shades. It’s pretty regardless, but it’s also very complimentary against my Scottish Viking coloring (or lack thereof).

Oh, classes. Tons of new classes are on the schedule at ThreadBear. I’m particularly excited about an Argyle Sock class that I’m teaching in about a week and a garment design class that I’ve got planned for the summer.

Our Spring Cleaning Sale was a huge success. We cleared out of lot of older stock, and there’s a good bit of room now for all of the spring/summer stock that has already started arriving. Of course, if you don’t see it here with my shots of the displays, Rob will have pics up of the new arrivals at Black Dog. Oh, and check out his post of the shawl I blocked for him. It’s gorgeous.

Finally, I’d like to ask your help in a couple of marketing tasks for ThreadBear. I’d be very grateful for anyone who is willing to offer reviews of the shop at Insider Pages and Yahoo. I’ve been trying to get our listings updated wherever I can find them, but it’s one on a long list of tasks. If you see an old listing for ThreadBear anywhere online that you think could stand a bit of fleshing out, please contact me at webmaster@threadbearfiberarts.com.

Thanks, guys. Talk to you soon!
Matt.