Category Archives: Writing

Confessional

I write every day, and yet people continue to tell me that I need to write. I do write. I need to write. I’m compelled every day to speak my mind, and people listen. People seem to get something out of what I write, and I …

I want to say that I enjoy doing it, and I do. I love it. It’s cathartic and wonderful and connecting on a level that I don’t think very many people get to experience for themselves on a daily basis. It’s breath-taking. Preachers get it, I imagine. And politicians. But writers? Yes, all of us. We get it. As we’ve all become writers in our pockets, we’ve come to know. Like. It feels good. You know you’ve connected. Pleasant little instant feedback loop. (Until it isn’t. You get to control that, you know.)

I want to say that it feeds some part of me that I can’t explain. But I think I can. I wasn’t an only child, but my only sibling, my sister Debbie, was nine years old when I was born. I had a cousin who lived next door who was only six years older, but for the most part, there just weren’t a lot of kids around my age who I got to share with. Share toys. Share experiences. Share explorations of the world. And thoughts. Big thoughts. And little ones.

We’re the sincere ones. The raw nerves. We’re those people who feel passionately about little things and really just want to share with you some of what we see. But we can be tender. That, among other things, makes us strong over time. We’ve seen much, and we’ve learned. We’ve been alone often, but we have much to share and love sharing it. You’ve known us. We’re in the core of every specialist community.

And some of us—many of us—write. #sincereones

But ultimately, I write because it’s a part of who I am. I’m not a half bad speaker, but I do my best composition alone in a quiet and comfortable space. Coffee. Home. This is where I write best to the world at large. At home. In my space.

Awry

I was born to be an evangelist.

Look at me. Those were the first words out of my mouth. I’m sure of it.

I love to talk. I love to be engaged. I love to interact with other people.

Over here. That was another big one. Come look at this.

I’m full of them.

I’ve always wanted people to see the things I see. It’s maddening for people around me. I get that. I can spend a good fifteen minutes on a really good yarn pic. And I have to repost that shit. It’s required. You spend fifteen minutes drooling over something? You repost. Porn rules apply.

Right. We were speaking of evangelism.

You can probably see where this went awry.

I’ve always questioned everything. It’s in my nature—sometimes very much to my own amazement. How many of you know how to tat? (Hush. Hush. I know. A bunch of you. I’m making a point to the Muggles.) I get involved in things. I metaphorically wallow around in them. Make them mine. Get my stank on them. And theirs on me.

It’s what we do. Car nuts? Gun nuts? Yarn nuts? Color nuts? I’m not saying it’s all the same, but it possesses some similar traits. Ok?

Well, I do that with pretty much everything I touch.

Right now, those things are primarily centered on things that I have to have. Food, shelter, clothing, and entertainment. And yes, I firmly believe that joy is a fundamental requirement of life.

Oh, and there’s one other really big thing. Thing, I say. My boyfriend who will remain nameless on this blog. I want you all to come back, he’s in a place where it’s dangerous to be gay, and I want him around long enough to be able to join me in The US. Also, I’d like The US to be a welcoming place to him when he’s ready to immigrate.

I have a tendency to talk about queer, liberal, geek shit as well as shit of various flavors in myriad combinations, so I sometimes get flamy comments. It’s cool. Ignore them. I’ll delete them as I find them. That’s not what this platform’s for.

And no, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to automatically delete anything I don’t like. But I reserve the right to do exactly that. If you want an open forum, go someplace else. I’m not having it here. My house. My rules. And generally, my rules are pretty liberal. (Get it?!?)

So, Crowing Ram’s back. I can’t say that I know exactly where this is going. But I’ve had friends tell me that I need to be doing more writing. When asked, they said I needed to be doing it someplace other than Facebook. I totally respect that. So, this.

When we were last really here together all at once, things were very different. Hell, it was most of a decade ago. Life’s gone on. The archives are here if you want to look back. I do from time to time. There’s some good stuff in there.

There’s also a lot of bad stuff, and I’m not being maudlin about this. I’m delighted to see how much I’ve grown. How much I’ve improved. One of the lessons that I’ve tried to offer all of my students, customers, and patrons is that one of the most difficult things for an adult to be is a beginner. We’re used to knowing how things work, and we pride ourselves on it. So, being fumble-fingered at anything runs against the grain. I believe it’s one of the fundamental reasons that knitting communities form. The shared experience of overcoming one’s fear and vulnerability in that moment of learning is emotionally charged. People see and honor each other’s journey. That’s powerful.

So, seeing my own mistakes laid out behind me isn’t as disheartening as it might be. They got me here. They taught me thousands of ways not to do things in the future. And ultimately, I’ve gotten a hell of a lot right, too. Maybe not men or money, but I’m still working on those.

I expect that this will be a broader stage than what I’ve played on before. I intend to share cooking, fiber stuff, books, and living in a really cool place when you don’t have children or pets. Is this going to be a daily thing? Maybe. If not, that’s cool too.

Recalculating…

With considerably more time on my hands than has been usual for a while, I’ve been able to kind of splash the road grime off my brain and look around a bit. Man, have I been doing stuff wrong or what?

First off, let’s be straight. I hate sales. Or perhaps I should say that I hate the active participation in sales as I’ve learned the concept within this industry. Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the services that good sales reps provide, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with most of the sales reps who visited me when I was buying for ThreadBear. I just hate doing it. And it’s not a judgmental thing in any way. But I’m only good at selling what I honestly believe wholeheartedly will be beneficial for my customers, and I’m not the kind of person who can abstain from offering an honest opinion if one is requested. Depending on the depth of the belief and the importance of the question, one really shouldn’t be surprised that I’m going to offer an opinion whether I’m asked or not. Fairly obviously, I have at least a healthy respect for my own opinion.

I do so because I know me. I’m willing to listen. I’m willing to shift my perspective long enough to hear the other guy’s side. And if the other guy’s side has merit, I’m willing to incorporate new beliefs and methods with relative ease. Having never—as an adult at least—been particularly dogmatic, I can respect sales as a calling while acknowledging that selling a full assortment of other people’s products is never going to be an arena at which I excel.

That being said, I know I did an excellent job for some of my customers. And yes, I know that I also did a crummy job for some others for the most part out of no malice whatsoever. Generally, the issue was more economic, but I digress. Several of my wholesale customers have remained very friendly with me since I stopped repping at the end of last winter. We chat a bit, and a few truly have become friends. But for the most part, the relationship of mutually interested colleagues didn’t change much.

We talk about their shops. We talk about new yarns, designers, market influences, promotions, industry gossip, and all the things I talk about with people who share a love for something that 90% of the people we interact with on a day-to-day basis don’t get. I help them. They help me. That’s what I did when I was a rep with those who would let me, and I continue to do it for free with just about anyone else who will let me. Only now, there’s little profit in it for me beyond personal enrichment and professional networking.

So with time on my hands, that’s a lot of what I’ve done. I’ve talked to people. And one of the things I’ve realized is that I really don’t need a job to be a professional. I am a professional. I have marketable skills and monetizable talents. I know these things. I’ve just been so busy trying to make a living that I forgot what my life was about.

I’m not going to go all schmaltzy. I’m a yarnie. That’s what I do. I love knitting. That’s what I do. And I freakin’ balls-to-the-wall LOVE what the fiber arts industry can bring to their—or rather our—market. That is what I do.

But let’s be specific. I was a corporate web developer looking for work in the Indiana boonies when Rob and I started ThreadBear. I worked in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, CFML, ActionScript, and PHP and used Flash, Dreamweaver, ColdFusion. I’ve also done some work in Drupal and WordPress installations and theming. So, I’m blowing the dust off my web developer’s hat. I’ve always kept a toe in, but I’ve been surprised at how easily I’ve been able to shine lights into dark corners of my memory. I’m not sure yet exactly how I’ll market that skill, but that makes one.

A very dear friend has graciously offered her services as a writing mentor. That might seem like a much bigger deal when I tell you this is a published writer who makes her living at the craft and business of writing. I’m ecstatic. I love to write, certainly, but this blog is likely the least planned repository of writing ever to grace the Internet. And Miley’s on the Internet. So—maybe not.

Also, yet another dear friend who is also an established professional in her field has offered to mentor me in the mysterious science of tech editing. Squee!

If you’re not aware, I’m a puzzle fan and always have been. Nothing terribly ostentatious: crosswords, logic problems, Sudoku. The usual fare. But nothing tantalizes like a garment pattern. Well, nothing tantalizes me like a garment pattern. I expect those little amigurumi characters have some interesting geometry, but personally I’m not interested in making them. At this time.

Furthermore, I’ve been ripping apart patterns and putting them back together as a shop owner and teacher for years. I’ve even dabbled however slightly in pattern design myself. So for someone I truly love and trust to offer that kind of assistance was tantamount to deus-ex-machina.

And finally, deus ex machina. Another dear friend who is an accredited professional in her field despite now working in yarn has agreed to work on a project with me that surrounds her background: theology. Maybe nine months before I stopped repping, she and I had a private conversation in which she began asking me probing theological questions to help me pin down or at least consider my own belief system. I have to say that it was one of the most empowering evenings of my life, and we barely scratched the surface.

Each of these projects will be explored further here. I’ve missed you. And I’m eager to play.

Shall we?

Streamlining

I offer this suggestion to the world at large as someone who suffers from often having too much to say. If it doesn’t work for you, ignore it, but I can attest to how much it has helped me in the last few months.

If you’re like me, most of the people that you contact are stressed for time and manage their lives via their Inbox. Keep messages short. Say what needs to be said, and get out. Lose adverbs. Ignore explanation unless it’s critical. If someone has a question or needs clarification, allow them to be responsible for getting that information. Break multiple messages or issues into separate short e-mails.

It’s made my own correspondence much more efficient and given me more to talk about and more time to interact with the people I’m e-mailing when I do get to see them.

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