Thursday, June 23, 2011

Back from TNNA

The June TNNA show in Columbus was great! I left home on June 6 and just got home on June 21, so it was my longest time away from home since starting as a yarn superhero. It was a lot of work, but so worth it. I love TNNA! Above is my car knitting...working on another Stonewall Bonnet in Schaefer Yarn's Chris, this one in a nice pink. I think I left my green one at the Spinning Retreat in May. Luckily, it is a super-quick knit and you barely have to pay attention to anything. I am also working on a more summery version of the Horseshoe Lace Cowl, although one of the things that will make it summery is that it won't be joined into a cowl, it will just be a shoulder drape, for chilly nights and over-air conditioned buildings.
I apologize that I barely know how to format my blog. I don't know why this picture is so small. Anyway, this is Mary, who worked with Nora at the trade show. I was in the JUL booth the whole time. There was a "secret door" between the two booths, but I did not get to visit with Mary that much during the days, since we were so busy with customers. Mary is hilarious, and an overall treat for the senses. Also, she reminds us to floss twice a day. I imagine her floating above me and telling me how much longer I will live if I practice better oral hygiene. Mary cracked us all up at dinners. I hope I get to see her again soon.
Here are Karen and Valerie from Mountain Meadow Wool. They have new and gorgeous yarns and I may even get to go to Wyoming this summer to see them! It will be a big adventure for me for sure!
Here is a nice selection of the yarn in a handy display column. They are making these displays available to shops to help them sell more yarn. I think this is a great idea, since many shops have a tough time with creative, attractive, effective display.
Here is a view of the JUL booth showing how multimedia we were. I am using my tablet all the time to show my lines. It does not take the place of the real thing, but it lets me cover a lot of ground quickly. Look how cute the new colored resin pedestal buttons are!

Future posts (coming soon!) will include extra pics of the new JUL pattern support, an overview of my new yarn line Yarn Hollow, and my stop at Unicorn Fibre world headquarters.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A New Year

Well, it's been almost 2 years since I attended my first TNNA in Columbus. What can only be described as one of the peak experiences of my life up to that point was the weekend I began my new career as a yarn manufacturers' rep.

Two years later, I am still having fun, but am not anywhere close to where I want to be financially. Unlike many reps, I never picked up a commercial, "workhorse" line, due to lack of interest on my part and lack of opportunity. I have made a lot of changes with my lines and how I do my business, and I feel like I have found the right, manageable portfolio of boutiquey, independent lines. But I do need to make money--not a lot, but SOME--or this fun experiment is not going to be able to continue. I have some ideas I will be trying over the next few months, and I may end up concentrating on JUL, if that business grows to the point where it can pay me a salary, and I will be open to what might be there for me at the upcoming TNNA trade show in Columbus.
Here is a photo of my peonies at their peak, maybe a week ago. These were among the plants I inherited from our home's former owners, and I really love to see them, and that I was home this year to enjoy them is a big plus. We've also had lettuce, and not many strawberries, but the ones we got were very red and delicious. My theory is that they did not get enough sun when we were getting all that cold and rain earlier this spring. Or maybe they are just taking a rest this year.
A mid-range project of mine is to hand-process this bag of Coopworth Lamb fleece. I went to the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster, OH with Erica and Anne. Man, did we have fun! One nice thing Anne said was that in her old jobs, she had friends, but not people that you wanted to have sleep-overs with! I agree. I always had work friends at other jobs, but only a few of those people actually "stuck" and became real friends. How cool that I met Anne at the Spinning/Knitting retreat, and a couple weeks later, I was staying at her house and enjoying wonderful hospitality, food, and very silly inside jokes that were cracking us up! One of the neat things I noticed when I started traveling the region visiting yarn shops is that knitters, crocheters, and spinners (to generalize) are people who value connecting with others, they seem to slow down enough to really treasure their personal relationships, and they are always trying to play up the commonalities among their groups. I am so glad to be a part of this world, and to make new friendships where we can all be so real. And then there's the thing about being able to spill your most intimate thoughts more easily when you are sitting around fiber-ing and chatting, because of no eye-contact.
So, last weekend I started washing the locks, Beth Smith style, in very small batches in the tulle envelopes. I maybe have 18 or so done, with 6-8 locks in each one. I will be sharing the fleece (almost 5 lbs, unwashed) with Anne and Erica, and with whoever else is really nice to me and expresses interest. I still have 2 bags of cleaned Romney from MDSW 2010 and a gigundo pile of cleaned Romney-Bond cross to play with. And my mom gave me some of her last year's Pedro fleece. At least I am actually spinning the Romney-Bond. It is dark brown and kinda shiny. I am spinning it as fine as I can and will do either a 2 ply or 3 ply and try to make enough for a sweater, maybe Sprossling, or a modified Laar, since I really doubt I will be able to make plied laceweight!
Look how yummy and silvery this is, and it is not even washed yet! It really is clean and beautiful. I am just doing one wash in Unicorn Power Scour and two rinses, and it is coming out great. I really don't have time to play with it right now. June will be super busy. I am leaving for MD this morning to help Laura get ready for the show, then we will drive to Columbus and have TNNA all weekend (come see me in booth #539 if you're going!) and then I will go back down to MD to help fill orders and to see some customers, then home finally (poor husband and dog are going to miss me) around June 21. I'll stay home for a week, and then I'm off to Michigan for some sales calls and to start my new business strategy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What I've been up to...

So, I have not been the most committed blogger. I'm trying to put myself on a schedule. It's been 5 or so weeks since I posted about the stuff I'm growing this year. Now there is lettuce that is big enough to eat, and because of all the rain, everything in my garden is very green and lush. But that is for a different day.

I made the trip to MD Sheep and Wool again this year. Got to spend some quality time with my friend Steven. This picture of a cute man in a kilt is in homage to Steven's Bear(d)s of MD Sheep and Wool study.

My purpose for being here again this year was to help Ozark Carding Mill in the booth and sell the Unicorn Fibre Wash products. Gail and Jim White are my first Fiber Festival Friends, and I learn a lot about fiber and spinning just by being near Gail. Some of the perks of being a vendor at the show are: get in Friday to preview the entire show during vendor set-up, special stalls for vendors only in the ladies room, vendor discount on some purchases (I stayed within budget and stuck to items on my list--made it seem like I really needed all of the things I bought that way,) and easy access parking when you get to go through the vendor gate and park right behind the main building. The picture with the umbrellas is from when Steven and I first went to the wrong Thai restaurant. The right one did not have the umbrellas, but it did have wonderful food.

I went home from Maryland a little tired, and stayed home only for one day. Then I was off to Carlisle, PA for the long-anticipated spinning and knitting retreat. Ever since Beth Smith (of Spinning Loft, in Howell, MI) told me about it, last year, I knew I had to be there. I put it in my calendar and then kind of forgot about it (until it was time to pay and stuff.) The Pheasant Field Bed and Breakfast was a great setting. In the mornings, we spun for lace yarn. I was not the fastest, or the best, or even the funniest spinner there. Although I got a few good laughs. I was able to spin finer and more consistently than I ever have before, partly from the magic of being near Beth, who is the boss of me in many ways, and partly from making wheel adjustments and slowing down a little. I still have issues with too much twist in both my singles and my plying, but I will keep practicing, and I have a firm commitment to making sample skeins and swatching.

In the afternoons, ANNE HANSON (she rules!) taught us advanced lace knitting, and I worked on techniques and started the Pine and Ivy shawl. I really struggled with it in the class and had to start over about 5 times! Now that I am home, I am working on it, a few rows a day, first thing in the mornings and it is totally fine.

Anne Hanson is an incredible designer, teacher, knitter, and spinner. One of the best things I took away from her teaching is the importance of making good decisions about yarn and pattern for a project. It's more than just the weight of the yarn and gauge. Like a lot of creative people, Anne is good at a lot of different things. She is also very funny. She is a terrific blogger, and she did some nice posts on the retreat. Check out her blog and Beth's too. Bottom line: if you were thinking of going on this retreat and didn't, too bad for you--you missed a great time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

This year I'm growing stuff!

Spring/Summer growing season 2010 was the first year since we've lived in this house with a yard that I did not do any gardening whatsoever. No planting, transplanting, dividing, or weeding. Nothing. To the extent that several of my weeds grew tall as trees. One grew in front of the house and blocked KF's satellite dish, so I had to buy a scary-looking saw and cut the thing down. Last April I still had several more yarn lines than what I carry now, I was still calling on Whole Foods stores in Eastern PA and NJ, and I really had made no attempts to limit my traveling. Sometimes I would get home from a sales trip and just stay for one or two days before repacking and taking off again.

Not only was I tired, and probably not as effective as I could have been, but since everything was early last year, I didn’t notice the plants and flowers like I usually do. I remember, late in May, wondering when the purple iris was going to do its thing. I must have missed it. That sucks. I missed my husband and dog (and I guess cats too) because I was away so much, and I also missed the days where it was enough action just to sit on the deck, watch and listen to birds, and check out and appreciate my flowers. I did get some strawberries last year, and they were gorgeous and delicious.

Later in the summer, I discovered Twitter. Many of my real and virtual fibery (the yarn kind, not the nutritional kind) friends were eating fresh picked stuff for dinner and making it sound incredible, and the really cool people were spending whole days in their kitchens and canning, for gosh sakes. I found bad-ass pickle recipes online, and I was kind of embarrassed to have to buy the cukes at the farmer’s market. I didn’t like the feeling of regret I started to notice.

Now, I am not the greatest gardener. My mom is a Master Gardener and runs her own organic CSA. My deal is, I dig a hole or sprinkle some seeds and say good luck. I don’t water. I am always slack with weeding. So some of my plants don’t make it. But what I really like is to look around and see pretty sights in my surroundings. I like to get up in the morning and harvest strawberries or beans and figure out what to do with them, or bring them with me when I go see friends. I used to bring food and flowers into the office, when I went to an office. So I guess I was pretty into it. Many of the perennials were given to me by my mom, or my Aunt Fran (another great gardener) and I think both of them had plants that had started out in the ground at my two grandmother’s gardens. I scored some new iris from my friend Michelle this fall.

Some of the stuff was here when we moved in. there was only one planted bed then, now there are 5, plus some stuff squeezed into corners of the yard and a little bit in the front of the house. My neighbors do a lot of flowers, and some of those plants have crossed the property line. I like that.

The theme of 2011 for me is How Not to Work Too Much, even though my job is fun. One thing that I have discovered is that most of the things I like to do involve making stuff. I like doing craft projects. I like to cook. I like to garden. I like the process as well as the results. So this year I’m growing stuff, dammit. And I’m going to be home enough to take care of and enjoy my flowers and food crops. And I will try to blog about it, since in showing off my stuff, I will be “forced” to take time to notice it more. I may even dig a new bed.

I almost titled this post “City Mouse Plants a Garden,” because I have been thinking about City Mouse a lot this week, ever since we bought seeds and starter mix, and I am sprouting some things inside. So I googled the story and was surprised to see that it was an Aesop’s fable, not just one of my favorite groovy 70’s kids’ books, like Harry the Dirty Dog. I will keep thinking about the lesson of The City Mouse and the Country Mouse and how it can help me work on my theme for the year and enjoy myself more.

Today I noticed my violets.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

David Loom arrives at a Michigan Shop

Look how cute these new Jul Pedestal Buttons are, patent leather with different colored centers! We have a lot of great new products coming out for next season. I can't wait to see everything myself!

I was so excited to see this post from Nancy at Woven Art in Lansing. I am not a weaver (yet!) but I still love the tools, looms and creative projects. The David Loom from Louet is assembled and ready for visitors at Nancy's wonderful shop. Last time I went to see her there were two weavers working on gorgeous projects in the back room. Very impressive!

I finally put all of the new patterns up on Ravelry. There are 5 now, with more on the way very soon! The Rivulet shrug is being test knit, and I will be starting a shawlette soon, and then getting back to more designs for fall. When I was in Maryland this week, Laura got an email from a famous-name designer with sneak peek pictures of pieces featuring the new Montreal Closures and Pedestal Buttons. Can't show them, but look for them at TNNA in Columbus in June if you are in the biz, otherwise they will be in your LYS for Fall 2011. So exciting!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lately I have been thinking a lot about my "new work." I have been reading some articles about work habits and personality traits of creative types, and following some excellent blogs. I think I am looking for clues to help me get used to the different pace, and maybe figure out how this all might make sense.

Because I am doing so many new activities, and am trying to get quite a lot done, it has been difficult to know what is the best thing to be doing at a given time. And is it really okay for work to feel so fun? And when should I stop working? And what should I do when I am not working? And is there a better way for me to learn some new tricks besides trial and error? A lot going on up in the old noodle.

Juggling multiple projects, even fun ones, is hard. Sizing the new Rivulet Shrug pattern REALLY is hurting my brain, although I kind of enjoy it at the same time. I am learning a lot. I love novelty and the unknown, yet I feel a little queasy when I admit to myself that I don't quite have the pattern all worked out yet. There is no "powering through" this design, in fact, I decided today is an official "day off" and I am going to try not to do any work, so that I can come back to a few important tasks tomorrow and hope to be more effective.

With the designing, and working on a new business model for my yarn repping, I am working right past the edge of my comfort zone, the place where I feel like I have paid my dues, put in my 10,000 hours, and know what is supposed to come next. In my old sales job, I knew from experience what I should or could be doing to get the results I wanted. Now, not so much. Some things are taking longer than I would like. And a very strong and surprising sense of perfectionism is making itself felt, in the form of really worrying about the Rivulet Shrug design. It was hard to get started with it (since I don't love shrugs) and I struggled with every aspect--stitch pattern, construction method, writing clear enough instructions--all the while, ruminating over whether I would get it done in time, and once it was done, what if it sucked? A lot of unhelpful worrying that didn't feel good at all. I did not have much confidence in the success of this project until I saw it modeled by a person who looked great in it. I will post pictures once it is published. What a relief to see the garment look good on someone, and several people have said they liked it and would wear it "in real life." I don't consider it a masterpiece, but I do feel more satisfied that it seems to work as a design. I am still working on it, and still worrying, now that a test knitter will be trying to walk the path I lay out for her.

What is really strange is my assumption that I should be able to do something perfectly on the first try. Or that if my first effort is not the most fantastic thing ever, that it is the end of the world. Really, what would be so bad if the design (or whatever I am trying, especially if it is for the first time) didn't work? My mom reminded me that I always felt like I had to know everything. Kind of a strange contradiction--the person who says she loves the unknown but feels uncomfortable if she doesn't already know something. I guess the lesson I will take from all of this is to give myself a break if it doesn't always feel terrific as I keep tackling new challenges and exploring new ideas.

When I was a little kid, in first grade maybe, I became conscious that I was one of the people who regularly got gold stars on homework assignments. I have a visual memory of being a very small person, and looking out of those eyes at the paper with the star and a nice little note "Excellent Work!" from the teacher. I think it felt good to get those, but I also felt anxious. What if one time I didn't get the sticker or the "Great Job!" or even the check mark? Also, the schoolwork was usually pretty easy for me, and sometimes it felt like it was weird to have a big deal made of something that did not feel like such hard work. So I thought it was funny when I noticed these two gold stars that are hanging in my house. I think I will use them as a reminder that work does not always have to be so grueling, and that I am doing good work by trying new things, even if I don't get perfect results on the first try.