Category Archives: Guests

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?

News from the back office

Believe it or not, I do still exist! And not only do I exist, I’ve actually been doing things. I know. It’s mystifying.

Ok. I’ve been doing lots of work on a new website for ThreadBear to be announced soon with lots of new features and LOTS more product. Of course, I’ll get more details to you as soon as we’re in a position to make things public.

My mom did wind up having surgery for the cancer that I mentioned in a recent (stop laughing… it’s still on the screen at the time of this writing) post. She did not, however, require chemo this time, so BONUS! Go Moma! She’s since been to a seafood festival in Panama City Beach FL, an anniversary party in Brenham TX, and… Oh, wait. That’s not happened yet! She will be going to ThreadBear Fiber Arts Studio in Lansing MI in a couple of weeks to visit yours truly! WOOT! Yeah, that’s a good one.

She’s finished the baby blanket that we decided on for the new baby that’s due in October. My niece does appear to be having some issues with the pregnancy, but everything seems to be under control. For my own part, I finished a baby jacket from my own handspun yarn for the new addition, and I’m working on a jacket for my great nephew who just turned three. I can’t make something for the baby without giving him something! Good Lord! I can’t start sibling rivalry right off the bat. I’ll have pics tomorrow.

As for today, I’ve just finished getting photos up of Rob’s hand-dyed sock treasures at the main site.

What else? I guess you’ll just have to stop back by to see. Me? I’m headed home for some much needed R&R. Later!

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.