Category Archives: Events

Happy New Year

It’s odd, I think, that we talk about coming to crossroads. One of the things that becomes clearer to me with each passing year is that each moment is a crossroads. We choose in each moment what and who we will be. We choose where we put our energy and attention. We choose to dedicate all that we are to one thing or another. We choose to direct ourselves toward our truest purpose—any purpose—or we do not.

I’ll be direct about this. I lost my purpose.

I had a life that fulfilled me in a great many ways, and in that life I found purpose. I enjoyed building the community that supported a thriving and active yarn shop. My customers were—for good or ill—like family, and I was grateful every day for each and every one of them. My students especially gave me a sense that I was building a future for something I hold dear. And I enjoyed building the community that built that community. The staff and instructors that came through that shop were some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known. I know that a lot of people complain about sales reps, but I had some of the most wonderful and helpful sales reps; I had the other kind too, but I genuinely enjoyed seeing almost every sales rep that came through. The vendors that I met at TNNA and who made special trips to visit the shop were so good to us, and we had some of the most incredibly talented and wonderful guest speakers and instructors visit. I loved being able to do work that fed my spirit so much on a daily basis.

But there were issues.

Foremost, there were and had been monumental issues at home that only became exacerbated by working and living together twenty-four-seven. As suggested above, I’m pretty keen on choice. I stayed. I can make excuses, but the bottom line is this: I wanted to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’d given the man I loved every possible opportunity to save himself. And I disgraced myself in doing so.

I looked friends in the eye and dealt in good faith. I signed contracts. I incurred debt. And did so knowing full-well that the business ought to have been successful. There was no reason it shouldn’t. There were huge bills certainly, but there was income aplenty. Or so I thought.

I don’t know what happened. It was never really spelled our for me. While it stings to have benefitted from DOMA, we never married. I had no legal right to anything under common law. Nor thankfully some of the liability. Almost exactly a year before it closed for good, I walked away from ThreadBear. A couple of months later I found out my mom’s cancer was back and left Michigan for Georgia.

I had under $500 in cash, a storage unit full of what was left of my life, and a mom.

God bless mothers. And God bless my momma.

We got to spend about six month under the same roof, and I can honestly say that I’ve never had a better roommate. And not because she did my laundry. Well, not just that.

We could talk about anything. We’d both gotten out of relationships that weren’t working. We both had regrets and joys and faults and a truly amazing grace that somehow pulled it all together. We were friends. She was still a parent, but she became more. But she did really want me to find a job in Atlanta. I’d be glad to be corrected if I’m wrong, but there aren’t a lot of household-sustaining jobs in the independent fiber arts industry to be had in the Greater Metro area. I interviewed for web development jobs, but after the incredibly tempting third with the team that builds and manages websites for HGTV and Food Network, I placed a hopeful call to Rob Delmont. It wasn’t long before I relocated to Raleigh to take over a sales territory for Skacel Collection. I picked up other lines and built relationships with vendors and shop owners alike, but something wasn’t right. I thought it was the money, so I took another sales job on the chain side. As it turns out, it wasn’t the money.

I genuinely don’t enjoy or excel at sales. I’ve had excellent results for some products and some vendors, but the truth is that those were always—back to the days I was selling Mont Blanc pens and Tumi luggage—products and companies I believed in. I love many of the products that the various vendors I represented were selling, but selling to a hostile crowd is just not my strong suit. If you don’t want what I’m selling, you have your reasons. If you care to share those reasons, I may be able to help you find something you didn’t know I had. Beyond that, I’m more like a librarian than a salesman. (And trust me when I say that in general shop owners are a rather hostile crowd for every sales rep regardless of that rep’s skill, reputation, and history of successful interaction. I know there will be letters. Don’t get me wrong. There are exceptional shop owners out there; I just also admit to myself in hindsight that I wasn’t one.)

That’s why selling product to my customers at ThreadBear was so easy for me. I believed in the product. I was the one who’d bought it in the first place, and every rep who every wrote orders with me will confirm that I hate—and I use that word rarely—to spend money on anything I don’t think is good for the industry, my customers, and my business in that order. Yes, I sometimes chose to cut my own throat on a purchase because I thought it would be perfect for some group of customers. Yes, I sometimes chose not to purchase or discuss products with my customers that I thought were bad for the industry. And yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Let no one ever say that I didn’t do my very best to build that shop into one of the most diverse studios of media and libraries of learning for fiber artists I could make of it.

So now I’m officially unemployed. Fortunately for me, entrepreneurs are never truly unemployed.

That said, if I’m to draw unemployment insurance, I must search in person for work locally. I can get behind that. No, I won’t be abandoning my purpose. In fact, I’m doing quite the opposite.

Sure, if I find something that pays the bills here in Charlotte, I’m game for that. Where the money comes from isn’t terribly important to me. What’s important to me as I hear fireworks going off in the first hours of 2014 is that I have a purpose that needs serving. And as I said, I lost it.

Happy New Year, folks. I think I’ve found it again. Who’s with me?

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.

Inspiration

I’ll have to motor through today, but I’m frantic to get a post up. We’ve got company in from Atlanta/Baltimore in our old friend Crystal B (Sister Paul, to those who know her well), and it’s been a busy week to boot.

There’s tons going on at the shop as we continue to bring in summer fibers and work on bringing in fall stock. We’ve pushed out our next Yarn Tasting since several of the yarns that we wanted in either weren’t in the States yet or needed models knit and weren’t yet in the store. Every yarn has to have at least one model for the event to make sense, and if the yarn’s still on a boat, then nothing’s on the needles yet. EEK! So that’s pushed back.

Yarn’s still pouring in, though, and we’re very excited to be working with Alchemy again. We’d tried a bit out when we were still in Indiana, but A) we didn’t have models, and B) we never reordered, so that went the way of the dodo. We had a long, wonderful conversation (if an hour or so of giggling and being generally evil with Austin and Gina constitutes a conversation), picked out tons of patterns, got offers from them to supply us with some fantastic models, and we’re back in the game. They’ve got beautiful product, and I’m really happy with what’s come in so far.

So much so, in fact, that you’re soaking in it. Yup. The swatch from my last post is Alchemy-based. What is it? Oh, silly reader. You know better than that. I’ll get there eventually. But not today.

Today, I want to talk about inspiration. As corny as it sounds, my family has been much of my inspiration lately.


Ailing Connor resting her weary head on Tate’s back.

Well, yeah, they’re my inspiration, too, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about Rob. When we’re together and talking and generally relaxed, I see things that just make me want to design something. Sometimes it’s an architectural thing.


Stained glass dome inside Houlihan’s Restaurant. Lansing, Michigan.

Every time we eat at Houlihan’s not far from the shop, my eye is drawn to this dome. How it’s going to show up in a knitted piece, I have no idea, but it’s in my head, and it won’t go away.


Decorator pillow from a recent visit to Pier 1.

Sometimes it’s a combination of colors or shapes that catches my eye. This decorator pillow didn’t leave Pier 1 with me, but it’s with me constantly. I can’t get the multiple tones of each color our of my head, and the sections of colors over multiple blocks is making my teeth itch. I want to translate this into fabric… badly. My own fabric, I mean. Knitted fabric!

How will it happen? Hell if I know. When will it happen? Ha! That’s funnier than the first question. The point is that it’s in the cooker. It’s rolling around, banging into the sides of the pot with steam roiling around it. Eventually, it’s going to hit something and stick. Hopefully, it won’t be cauliflower. I’m not a big fan of bland design, and cauliflower doesn’t particularly excite me.

What does excite me, though, is happening. Change. I don’t know how, but my life appears to be changing. I’d like to say I’m at the helm of this boat, but I think I might not be. But I can feel the engines. And they’re rumbling pretty hard.

And on a final note, this is me. First of all, the rest of the picture was horribly overexposed as many of my images lately have been. Why? I’m using my phone to take pictures. They suck, in my less than humble opinion, but that’s what I’ve got at the moment. We keep the good camera at the shop, but I’m looking strongly at having a nice, new camera soon. Why? Well, because I’m a raccoon, and I like new and sparkly things. But more realistically, I see wonderful things all over the place very, very frequently, and I sincerely want to share them with you. And if my camera sucks, you might not see the beauty that I do. And we simply can’t have that.

P. S. What I’m working on: updates to the website. Here’s yet another teaser:


Screenshot of new ThreadBear main page under construction.