Category Archives: Fiber Folk

But what about Matt?

Ok, ok. So what am I doing now?

Well, I’m currently officially unemployed, but as a dear friend and fellow entrepreneur commented to me recently, entrepreneurs are never unemployed. Thankfully, I’ve found that to be true.

I’m working on a major “saw-sharpening” project that will hopefully pay off in a marketable skill in the near future, and as it comes along, I’ll be excited to share it with you. Yes, it’s knitting-related, and yes, it’s a logical fit. But I’m a beginner, and I—like the vast majority of the people I’ve worked with over the years—don’t care to share my fumbling first steps with the world. Yet. At some point if I’m very, very lucky, it will be something I can share entirely, and oh, that would be fun for a whole huge lot of people. But I’ll stop teasing.

Something I am at liberty to share is a by-product of recently downsizing to more affordable accommodations. I’ve had to unpack, resort, and reevaluate all of my stash and unfinished projects.

Now, if you’re the kind of knitter that I was prior to opening a yarn shop, you probably have at least a room dedicated to your stash and projects. You’ve likely got stitch markers in every upholstered piece of furniture in your home and possibly some in your pet’s bed. It happens. You have a kit that’s literally within an arm’s length at least most of the day every day. Now imagine that same person had access to one of the largest inventories of independent-market yarns in the country for a few years.

When you’ve regained consciousness after the aneurism that thought caused, let’s just say that I was conservative. My collection was limited largely to yarns that I truly loved and were one-of-a-kind opportunities (frequently as products were being discontinued) and projects that I either taught as a class or had planned for either classes or my own patterns. Luckily for me, I suppose, I’m also notoriously non-project-monogamous, so I have a lot of projects on the needles. Some will most assuredly be finished, and some most assuredly will never be. But that also means I have yet more yarn to incorporate into stash.

In the coming days, I’ll share some of the treasures that I’ve unearthed and that I’m going to be using in projects moving forward. But since I haven’t yet gotten much of anything in enough semblance of order to want flash photography involved, I’ll just offer yet another tease.

For one thing, any visitors to my home in the last year or so would know about the three-and-a-half foot tall Collins glass of various shades of Koigu KPPPM that I kept at the corner of the kitchen and living room. I’m a collector. What can I say? I love that yarn, and I absolutely love their dyeing. I’ve been an addict for years, and I expect there are quite a few folks out there still sporting Charlotte’s Web Shawls for which I put together colorways in the early days of ThreadBear. My God, we must have been shipping those things a dozen a day at the height of the craze if not more. I definitely recall many afternoons standing in the post office with tub upon tub of small double-fist-sized envelopes going to every corner of the globe (except Antarctica—I suppose if you haven’t knit it before you get there, you’re kind of screwed).

There’s a similarly tall blown glass vase full of various shades of Mission Falls 1824 Wool. I’ve always loved that original Mags Kandis palette, and of course, this is old enough product to have seen her tenure. In any case, I’ve got a project in mind for that whole vase, and it’s going to be amazing.

There’s a bag of multiple shades of Jamieson’s Spindrift and Jamieson & Smith 2-Ply Jumper Weight in appropriate shades for an old Alice Starmore Fair Isle pattern that I’ve wanted to knit since before the shop ever got rolling. I’ve got the pattern around here somewhere, but that will also have to be unearthed.

I’ve got sweater quantities of Jo Sharp Classic DK Wool (my favorite all-purpose worsted-weight wool on the U. S. market until it no longer was), Blue Sky Alpacas Suri Merino and Alpaca Silk, Classic Elite Bazic, and even a fine-gauge red cashmere that I’m still deciding on a final use for. I’ve blown the dust off The High Helen Sweater, my decadent and damned-near-unearthly Pyramid Sweater, and my Colour-Your-Own Philosopher’s Wool sweater.

And sock yarn? Sweet Jesus, I’ve got sock yarn. It doesn’t hurt that I worked as a sales rep for some of the fastest-selling sock yarns (at the time) in the country for several years, but I already had an extensive collection. And that doesn’t even count the Koigu, and yes, if you want a truly luxurious experience, make yourself a pair of Koigu socks. No, they don’t have an iota of nylon in them, and they’ll wear through like butter if you stomp around in them. But they’re like sex on your feet while you’re sitting on the sofa or really getting dressed. Seriously.

But enough for now. I’ll have the camera up and running before much longer. And I’ll have to toss in some gratuitously cute dog pics for those of you who know my penchant. I may have lost my own beloved mutt, but my roommate is the proud papa of four—count ‘em, four—adult Chihuahuas.  Life is never boring.

Social Interaction and knitting

I’ve frequently suffered from hoof-in-mouth disease.  I say the wrong thing at the wrong time in the presence of the wrong person, and thankfully, I get politely called on it.  Recently, I made the comment that many women over thirty have few social outlets.  It wasn’t intended to be pejorative, and I definitely didn’t mean any offense.  I’ve just been told repeatedly by staff, customers, and friends, that there’s no place in the lives of women like a yarn shop in terms of a place to interact socially with other women.

Now, to be frank, I probably wouldn’t have made such a comment prior to operating a yarn shop for several years, but I’ve got to say that this is something that I’ve heard a lot… from numerous unrelated sources.  I’m not trying to prove anyone wrong.  I’m just curious.  Where do women interact?  If I’ve not offered your best response, please, leave a comment.

[polldaddy poll=2168750]

Good morning

Sunrise over the Grand River in Lansing's Old Town neighborhood
Sunrise over the Grand River in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood

My view from the sofa is of the sun rising over the Grand River in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood. K. D. Lang is crooning Save Me on XM Radio, and I’ve got a nice, hot café mocha with a shot of orange syrup sitting beside me. Rob and the dogs are still sleeping peacefully upstairs, but I just got in from running Franklin Habit to the train station after another wonderful visit. He was at ThreadBear over the weekend teaching Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket and signing copies of his book of cartoons and essays, It Itches, but it’s always just nice to have him here. Watching him go is a bit like saying goodbye to family.

Obviously, with Franklin here, the shop was a delightful madhouse all weekend, so I only got as much knitting time as was left over at the end of our long days, but I’m almost up to the cap on sleeve two of the barn coat. If there’s time this morning, I may finish that off and have a new coat by the end of the day.

I’ve also got some photos for you. Those will have to come later in the day, but I have shots from the weekend with Franklin as well as the shots of the living room that I promised my Mom at the end of last week. I haven’t forgotten her projects, either. It’s off to work on this end, folks. Have a great week!

My cozy little morning nook
My cozy little morning nook

Sleeve two of my barn coat
Sleeve two of my barn coat

A visit from the Bourgeois… -es

Ann & Eugene Bourgeois are coming in this evening for a workshop, and Rob and I are looking forward to having a nice dinner with them at Taste of Thai, a wonderful local restaurant. The Bourgeois… -es are always a delight to have around, and I, for one, and really grateful to have the time to actually relax with them a bit. Frequently, they’ve been in Lansing when Rob and I have been so utterly swamped that even during the times when we were supposed to be relaxing, we really weren’t.

Of course, tonight is also my typical Wednesday night in that the ThreadBear newsletter will also need to go out, but someone (them, I suspect) was smart enough to suggest dinner before their workshop. We’ll be off to dinner, come back, they’ll teach while we get our work done, and at the end of the evening, we’re not scrambling—hungry—to figure out who is still open. And which, of those is actually going to be good food for everyone? Much smarter. Sounds like Ann to me. I like her.

I like Eugene, too. He’s a genuinely nice guy who also happens to be very bright, funny, and conversationally astute. He alone can keep the table entertained for hours. Hmmph. Maybe having dinner beforehand wasn’t the best choice. It does, however, make the most sense for them. I feel fortunate to have guests here; it’s just that I’m greedy enough to want to get my work done and spend more time talking with all of the fun and interesting who come through Lansing.

Coat progress
I’m six rows or less from the top of sleeve one, and I can actually see the finish line. I want to install one sleeve immediately to make sure that it fits, so you may get to see that as early as tomorrow.

Sock progress
Nowhere. I’ve not picked it up since the last pic here.

Morgan progress
Ditto.

Other knitting
I did swatch with Classic Elite Cotton Bam Boo a couple of weeks ago, and I’d been carrying the swatch around on my addi Click needles in my bag since. Today, I showed three staff members to Magic Loop. I had no idea they didn’t know prior, or I’d have show them then. Anyway, the swatch and different needles are now on the Cotton Bam Boo shelf for anyone interested in trying out the yarn or Magic Loop technique.

Other projects
I got a call from my mom this afternoon, and I’m to show her photos of my new living room furniture arrangement and pick out three new projects for her. The photos are taken (oh, I’ll show you, too, if you promise not to make fun of my lived-in—by dog and bear—living room), and the projects include:

  • her second time around on Fetching from Knitty. Her first go-round was using Needful Extra Stampato, but she had help on her thumbs. She was here for me to do the first, but she shipped the second one to me to do. This time, I intend to walk her through the process here,
  • the Shape-It Scarf from Sally Melville’s The Knit Stitch, and
  • a cabled scarf.

These shouldn’t be too challenging for her, but usually, she’s here in Lansing visiting when she starts new projects. Since ThreadBear’s a fifteen hour drive from her home in LaGrange, Georgia, we thought this way might be more cost effective.

Whirlwinds, Ruby Slippers, and Friends of Dorothy

Ok, yes, I did notice this week that Oz is back on HBO, and while there’s nothing quite like a men-in-prison serial for mature audiences to get my attention, that’s really not what I intended to talk about. After a few beers, oh, yeah. But not today.

Chaotic is a polite way of describing the last few weeks. A lot of it is boring technical stuff for anyone but the most die-hard web developer, but there’ve definitely been a few notable breaks. Most particularly was a visit and classes with Lynne Vogel of Twisted Sisters fame.

I do spin. I’ve been doing it for several years, off and on. But I’ve never really considered myself a spinner. It was a fun thing I did occasionally, but I didn’t really feel like I had the bug.

I got the bug.

My handspun from the Lynne Vogel classes

After two days of classes, a few very pleasant dinners, a wonderful visit to Elderly Instruments, and a little musical bonding, I have made a delightful new friend and gotten the spinning bug bad. God knows there’s no extra time for it, but my wheels (yeah, I actually have two already, though I supposedly didn’t quite have the bug) are out and loaded for bear. This bear, as a matter of fact. And I’m strongly eyeing a third wheel that I’ve had in the corner of my eye for about a year, now.

DOH!

I also spent a day totally rearranging the main floor of the house. We live in a two-story house right on Grand River in the middle of Lansing, and during recent (about six weeks ago, now) flooding, we had warnings to get everything we could out of the basement. That meant that for a few weeks, I had a dining room full of boxes of yarn, old patterns, and unfinished projects. On top of that, we’ve had unfinished projects behind both sofas, stacked in corners, and on shelving in the living room for the four years we’ve been in the house. All of that’s changed.

In anticipation of Rob’s upcoming birthday, a friend and I rearranged the furniture so that both the living room and dining room furniture are in our long open riverfront room, and what was once the dining room is now our yarn/project room. I still haven’t touched the upstairs, but we take our victories where they present themselves.

On the needles

Cookie A teaching at ThreadBear
Cookie A teaching at ThreadBear

We had a great visit with Cookie A last weekend. Her classes appeared to go well from the outside, but we had genuinely glowing reviews from the folks in the chairs. From my own perspective, it was wonderful to actually get to spend a little time with her. We’ve met several times at busy industry events where one seldom has more than a few minutes to get what you need, make a little small talk, and move on, but this was the first time we had a real conversation. I hope she had fun. For myself, I was charmed.

One of the things that we discussed was her great regard for Cat Bordhi’s Visionary Retreat for prospective authors. Cat had suggested the retreat to me over sushi during her visit to ThreadBear in August, and while I was certainly intrigued, I’d back-burnered the idea in the face of the heavy-duty workload that I’ve set for myself at ThreadBear over the year or so. Cookie’s obvious reverence for the experience, though, gave me the incentive to pull that idea back onto high flame. No, I won’t be headed to the island this year, but I’m definitely blowing the dust off the designs and concept.

Along those lines, I’m pleased to say that I’ve finished the School Days Pullover pattern that I wrote for the CAYSC Back-to-School Shop Hop that ThreadBear participated in at the beginning of September. We’re in the process of culling the e-mails from the backs of everyone’s passports, and they should be sent out next week. I’ve already got a couple of people knitting from the pattern already, so if any problems crop up, I’ll be sure to let you know here.

Since this is supposedly a knitting blog, I suppose you might like to see what I’m working on.

Tubularly-knit sock in progress
Totally Tubular Sock Construction in Opal

Tubularly-knit sock in progress
Totally Tubular Sock Construction detail

This is a model for a class that I’ve just scheduled called Totally Tubular Sock Construction. The idea came to me as Rob and I were packing to go to Long Beach this January for a trade show. Since Rob and I tend to be squeeze in pretty tight on planes, I thought a very compact project that didn’t require a lot of thought would be ideal. I also had a beautiful skein of Colinette Jitterbug that everyone had told me wouldn’t make a pair of socks in my size. So, I cast on the number of stitches that I’d normally use to make socks for myself, and just started knitting. I didn’t worry about cuffs, heels, or toes. I just knit.

Over the course of the trip and trade show, I had a very simple project that I quite literally was able to walk the trade show floor working on. I had tons of people within the industry—designers, vendors, and other shop owners—ask me what I was doing, and when I explained, it was as if I’d told them the sky was falling. “Why go to all that trouble?” they asked.

Well there are a few reasons not the least of which is that I don’t own a pair of my own hand-knit socks. I own several individual socks, and I have no compunction about wearing any two of them. I’ve had more than one person genuinely delighted to see my mismatched hand-knit socks, and frankly, I enjoy the silliness of it. But I really would like to have pairs. And I do suffer from Second Sock Syndrome. If I’ve already knit one sock in that yarn, casting on a second one sounds like the soul of boredom.

This way, I only cast on once, and by the time I’m done with the original tube, I have all of the basic fabric for both socks, and all I have to do is the fidgety bits that are really the most fun for me, anyway. Where’s the downside of that? Yes, I wind up picking up stitches, but if you’ve ever worked an afterthought heel, you can work an afterthought toe and cuff. It’s not hard work, and it doesn’t require a lot of brain power. Yes, in the pair that I’m currently working on, I did start off with a cuff, because I hadn’t intended to make this pair tubularly, but as it happened, it became convenient to do so. I also added some calf shaping, but the essentials are there. As for the Jitterbug socks? Well, I had more than enough of the Jitterbug for the body of both socks, and decided to use another technique to jazz up the cuffs, heels, and toes, but that’s for another post.

Chris Bylsma's Symphony Jacket
Detail of Chris Bylsma’s Symphony Jacket in autumnals

Chris Bylsma's Symphony Jacket
Working ball of yarn(s) from Symphony Jacket

Also on the needles, is Chris Bylsma’s Symphony Jacket. I saw this garment on Chris, and I was immediately smitten. I love blending yarns anyway, and this project is the perfect canvas. The basic idea is picking a palette of yarns in various colors, textures, and fibers that suit the project and chopping them into bits and tying them back together. It sounds a bit crazy, but the results… well, judge for yourself.

Chris Bylsma's Symphony Jacket
Progress on Chris Bylsma’s Symphony Jacket in autumnals

And finally, I’m knitting Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket as inspired by Franklin Habit. Franklin’s coming to ThreadBear in January to teach the class and for a book signing for It Itches, a collection of his knitting-related cartoons. I’m loving the project, and I’m having a lot of fun watching the Jojoland Rhythm migrate through colors.

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Tomten Jacket
Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket in Jojoland Rhythm

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Tomten Jacket
Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Tomten Jacket in Jojoland Rhythm

Cookie monster

Ok. I’m a fan.

I’ve always liked Cookie, but actually spending some time with her last night in the car riding back from Grand Rapids and today in the store, I’m hooked. It’s amazing to me having worked in academic and corporate offices to be in an industry so incredibly packed with wonderful, creative, and both wonderful and creative people.

I flipped through the calendar for the next several weeks, and I’m excited to meet Lynne Vogel next week. Meg Manning’s here a couple of weeks later with Chris de Longpre here immediately on her heels. The following week, we get to spend Rob’s birthday (All Saints Day) with Robyn Chachula. Arnhild Hillesland is here the following week (YAY!), and Jillian Moreno is here the week after that! AH!!! I’m on awesome people overload! I look back at my corporate life and wonder how they do it. How do people get this fortunate?

We’re headed out for Thai tonight, but in the meantime, I’m trying to get my pullover pattern from the recent shop hop finalized so I can get that out to the participants who’ve been waiting for it for three weeks now. Fortunately, the dogs are sleeping, and Rob’s busy, so I should be able to get it finished without too much interruption.

Substitute goods

Um… WordPress ate my blog. I’m currently going through the nasty experience of trying to get help from my service provider, but at the moment, about six years of Crowing Ram are in limbo. I have faith that everything will be fine shortly, but until then, I’ll keep you posted.

For the moment, I’m finalizing my tasks in the office in preparation for a trip to Grand Rapids to pick up Cookie A from the airport. WOOHOO!! She’ll be in the shop for classes over the weekend, and we’re delighted to get to spend the time with her.

Back with you soon with pics and projects. You won’t believe what I’ve done to my poor unsuspecting socks.

Wait. What August?

Yeah, as a matter of fact, I did miss the entire month of August. Yup, I even missed most of September. But guess what. I got to go see my mom. That made a whole lot of issues seem not quite so important. Love you, Moma!

I’m back at ThreadBear, now, though, and we’ve been through a series of classes with Modeknit star, Annie Modesitt, a blowout summer clearance, a phenomenal Yarn Tasting, and a whole heaping pile of catch-up. No, not ketchup. Catch-up. As in dragging my ass out of the fire back into the frying pan for a change. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like I’ve had my head up ass for the last several months, and I feel like I’m just starting to get that crick out of my neck, when low and behold, the weather’s starting to cool off. That means our season’s a-comin’, folks. We’re wool people. And it’s looking like a seriously major season on the horizon.

I’m just now catching up on getting classes scheduled and published. Rob, Sabrina, our independent instructors, and I are being joined this season by staff Malabrigo monster, Suann, and our friend and regular face (and laugh) about the shop, Jean, for a few interesting offerings of their own. Amy Singer of Knitty and Jillian Moreno of Acme Knitting Company (co-authors of Big Girl Knits) are rolling in come late November for a series of weekend classes, and we’re gearing up for a blow-out weekend. It’s never a dull time with those two around, and this time, we’re doing pajama parties on the river all weekend. Lord, Old Town won’t know what hit it.

As of today, I am thirty-eight years old, and I am morbidly obese. That’s the medical term for it. I’m so overweight that it could literally kill me. No, I’m not going on a crash diet. No, I’m not having liposuction or joining a cult. What I am doing is getting things under control. ThreadBear is a big boy, anymore, and while it still needs constant supervision, it doesn’t need every moment of our time and energy. And we… I, in particular, need to spend some real time getting life back in order.

For now, though, I’m back to work to get yet more on the calendar that’s already been scheduled. Like I said: catch-up. But there are lots of site updates and other such projects looming. And today, we finally replaced the trusty Sony Mavica that has been our stock and trade for the last six years at ThreadBear. It was a workhorse, but I’m very happy with the quality of the images we’re turning out with the new camera. I’ll leave you with a few samples shot in the shop this afternoon.


Shop shot… click for enlargement


another


another


Her highness, Connor. Our own dowager queen.


And his highness, Tate. The beautiful but oft daft prince.

See you soon.

Getting there

I don’t have a huge amount of time, but I did want to update everyone on the progress on ThreadyBear.

The local class started Monday, and of course, I’m well ahead of the class, but I’ve also put them on a time table to catch up with me very quickly. It’s so much fun to be teaching this class again, and I’m very excited to have the first shipment of Spindrift in stock.


Jamieson’s Spindrift

Yes, that means kits will be forthcoming. Yes, that means I have to finish writing up the tutorial preceding the actual knitting instructions (this is, after all, a beginning Fair Isle project). And yes, there are still about four million other things that I also have to keep up with in the meantime, but man, I love this stuff.

As for the class, though, I’ve got five, and one sent me a photo today of her progress to date. She’s already hit the first mile marker: the underarm steek cast-on.


Laurie’s ThreadyBear just after the underarm steek cast-on.

As for my own, I’ve cut my neck steek and finished the neck ribbing, cut open the first of the arm steeks, and started down the first arm.


Matt’s ThreadyBear a quarter of the way down one arm.


Matt’s ThreadyBear neck and arm detail.

Class won’t meet again until the Monday after the Fourth (that would make it the eleventh, yes), So I’m hoping everyone will be able to make it at least as far as Laurie has. Good job, kiddo! You’re officially teacher’s pet. 😉

Oh, and before I forget… the absolutely fabulous Colinette Absolutely Fabulous Throw Kits are on special for the Fourth of July Weekend for 10% off suggested retail. They’re one of the items we aren’t able to discount on a day-to-day basis, so this is a special treat for anyone interested in one of these monsters. They’re gorgeous knit up, and I’m working on one that I haven’t pictured yet in mitered square diamonds. I’ll post as pic if I’m able to before the weekend.


Colinette Absolutely Fabulous Throw Kits.

Much love, folks.
-Matt.