May 29, 2016
Pushing the Envelope
Although I’m politically and ideologically liberal, in other ways I’m conservative: I’ve never touched drugs (not even the wacky tobaccy); the last time I had a drink was, oh, 20 years ago (and probably had one sip and slept for the next 24 hours); I’m not a partier (granted, partly from lack of opportunity); I dress modestly; I’m careful with my money... This conventional approach also bleeds over into my knitting. I knit the standard stuff: Ribbed scarves, rolled-brim hats, baby sweaters, your basic top-down socks, simple stranded things—nothing bold or new in yarn or method. And, no surprise, I generally use middle-of-the-road colors (except, you know, for that one time). For over-the top excitement, I make things that are striped. Or I use self-striping yarn. On a really crazy day, I do slipped-stitch color-work. Wheeeeee!! The roller-coaster ride of thrills!
Which’all I had to put aside when I was asked to knit a shop sample for an in-shop fashion show, specifically, FoolProof in silvery grey and a dark plum. Grey? Dark plum? Together?! Moi?! Plus, the pattern itself combines four different angled stripe designs. It’s geometric, modern, vogue, very now. Very not me. And here are the results. I must say I’m chuffed.
I also say, whatever you have on your needles now, put it aside and knit this. It is a blast and the results are wonderful. Plus, it’s garter stitch. And there are no seams, just some live-stitch finagling. (It’s like knitting a Baby Surprise sweater or turning the heel of a sock—you never believe it’s going to work until it does). And, oh, the color possibilities!
May 27, 2016
Last time, I promised a secret confession, the revealing of a secret shame…at least as among experienced knitters. I wind my yarn by hand. So what?, you ask. What that means is that when I walked into Acorn Street for the first time as an employee, despite my 15 years of knitting experience, I had absolutely no idea how to use a swift. None. (I did use a friend’s swift once but I didn’t inhale. She arranged the yarn on the swift and got the whole contraption started for me so I remained oblivious to the set-up process. Then, because her winder was old and wibbly-wobbly, half-way through the winding, the cake flew off the winder and launched itself across the room, scaring me, my friends, and their dogs, so I gave up. Not the most enlightening of experiences. Funny, very funny, but not enlightening.)
Thank God for YouTube. The night before my first day, I spent a good 45 minutes frantically looking up every video I could find about how to use a swift and even mimed the steps along with one of the videos. And thank goodness I did because, given that there wasn’t much I could be relied on to do on Day One, sure enough, I was promptly handed a skein of yarn to wind. As a precaution, I blocked everyone’s view of what I was doing—shuffling to the left if they moved to the left; shuffling to the right if they moved to the right—as I whispered my way through what I had gleaned no more than 12 hours before: Open the skein. Snap it a little so all the strands align. Put the skein around the swift. Lift the base of the swift up so the “umbrella” moves up and out and lock it in place. Cut all the ties without cutting the actual yarn. Find the yarn end that is located on the outside. Make sure the other end is tucked on the inside. Spiral the end of the yarn through the little metal spring. Put the end of the yarn through the notch at the top of the yarn winder. Grab the handle and twirltwirltwirl. Take off the cake. Attach the label. Close the swift. (Remember, now, that my only experience was of a yarn cake that flew across the room so at any minute I expected the yarn cake to bean one of the customers. That might have fed into the anxiety a little.)
I laugh at this now because, oh, my God, the number of skeins I have wound since! Which means, however, I can’t blame inexperience for what happened with the CoBaSi. CoBaSi has some elastic in it which gives the yarn a certain intransigence. By the half-way point, the yarn was everywhere except on the winder. It looked more like Silly String than yarn. Eventually I gave up and just stood there flapping my hands at the swift (Big Sister will recognize this gesture from our youth). A co-worker came to the rescue and literally had to take the entire swift apart, pull the yarn out from inside, outside, top and bottom, gather some up from the floor, and get everything back in order.
I have learned my lesson since. CoBaSi is now my bitch. Because the alternative, yelling at the customers, “Don’t buy that yarn!,” and tackling them to the ground, is frowned upon.
May 26, 2016
Hello from Behind the Yarn-Store Counter!
So…it’s been three months since I started working at the yarn shop. Or, looking at it another way, 24 days, give or take, since I only work Mondays and Fridays and sub as needed.
Despite the little pay, no bennies, and the occasional ups and downs, overall I would say I have the world’s most perfect job. It’s part-time; it’s only three miles from my little cottage; my co-workers and boss are friendly, supportive, and patient; I’m frequently greeted with a warm hug and smooch on the cheek in the morning; we have lots of giggles; spontaneous dancing sometimes breaks out, especially at the end of a long day (last time it was something along the lines of the Jets and Sharks in West Side Story); there’s an independent, self-determining, strong-woman energy that I’m enjoying—although it absolutely makes my day when a male knitter comes in, which happens about once every couple of weeks—and I get to spend hours and hours playing with, talking about, and learning about yarn.
My feet, on the other hand, would disagree with my assessment. Holy frickin’-frackin’ Mother of God. The solution has been to take three or four pairs of shoes with me a day and swap them out frequently, depending on which part of my feet are giving up the ghost.
Occasionally you DO have moments like this one from last Friday: You’re helping a customer, the phone is ringing, there’s a dog barking in the store, and there’s a baby screaming in the store because there’s a dog barking in the store. But that sort of chaos happens only occasionally.
What I’m enjoying the most are the people and their stories, like the young woman who came in to find a project to work on during a stint on a fish-processing boat in Alaska (she took a crocodile-toy project for a friend’s baby); the family consisting of dad, mom, and two kids that came in because it was dad’s birthday and he wanted yarn (he left with some nice Malabrigo and a beautiful pottery yarn bowl); the two older, retired Dominican nuns (they were giggly; I could've talked to them all day); the professor of drama at Yale and Juilliard.… This, this I just eat up.
Next up, a secret confession, and my first shop sample!
March 22, 2016
Here is something I don’t understand: People who can actually answer the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” For me, the last five years—couldn’t have planned for them worth a damn. And things just took yet another unexpected—but this time more positive—turn. I now work here:
This place has always held a special place in my heart because it is was my first LYS*. I distinctly remember stepping through its doors 15 years ago and suddenly feeling calm, content, at home. Granted, over the years I’ve learned that I feel that way in all yarn shops but, still, this was my first. I also distinctly remember picking up a ball of yarn that was so soft and light that I literally checked my hand again to confirm that I was holding something. (And so began the slippery slope into yarn snobbery. However, it was also during the eyelash-yarn craze so I could just as easily have gone screaming from the store, never to return.)
A couple of years ago, the shop was sold and underwent a top-to-bottom renovation. Gone was the looming, dark shelving; gone were the cramped aisles; gone were the chairs placed awkwardly and inconveniently in front of the books; gone were the stained, tattered binders of patterns; gone was the dusty, musty feeling (none of which I noticed. Heck, it was my LYS!). However, the new store is markedly lighter, brighter, cleaner, more welcoming, and has a large table where you can sit and knit:
About a month ago, I was in the store and met the new owner, Fenella Raymond. And all of a sudden I heard a voice—it couldn’t have been mine. I’m extroverted, yes; forward, no—asking her, “Are you hiring?” Surprisingly, her answer was “yes” so I sent her some information about my work history, we had a lovely, informal interview that was more like girl-chat over tea and cookies, and the next Monday, there I was, working part-time in a yarn shop! What the…? My head is still spinning. (“Spinning”—see what I did there?)
Fenella has been extremely patient with me because on Day One, a truly over-the-top episode of anxiety kicked in—the medicine-induced insomnia is wreaking havoc with my endurance; I haven’t worked in a couple of years; I’ve never worked in retail; and I practically faint at the thought of making newbie mistakes—but things have improved over the couple of days I’ve worked there and I’m determined to do well.
My hat is newly off to cashiers. Who knew it could be so complicated? Cash transactions; regular credit-card transactions; microchipped credit-card transactions; debit cards versus credit cards; returns; discounts; processing gift cards; tracking rewards points; applying rewards points; sometimes many events in one transaction. And the other employees make it look so easy! That being said, a picture I never imagined I would post, the view from behind the cashier counter:
But the most important thing I’ve learned? Don’t stand too close to the cash drawer because when it flies open, it squashes the hell out of the “girls” and sends both me and the drawer staggering back a fair bit. The laughter the first time that happened!! My nemesis:
Locals, ex-Dulaaners, come on by the store and see its new incarnation and fresh, new yarns! (I promise the eyelash yarn has been banished to the basement. I poked it myself with a stick the other day and it didn’t respond. Good sign.) I currently work Monday mornings and Fridays and would love to see you!
* Local Yarn Store
February 23, 2016
15 Years and Counting...
On a lesbian social group on Meetup, I posted an invitation for a knitting get-together, making it clear that all levels of knitting skill were welcome. (I don’t know why I keep doing this. The women are always bordering on psychotic (not exaggerating here. One woman at the last meet-up I hosted…holy frickin’ moly), are boring, overly political, argumentative, or are baby-dyke snotty and self-absorbed, or the group disintegrates after, oh, two or three attempts at meeting. Sigh...this community can be lonely for someone who is essentially mainstream and comparatively conservative. (Huh. maybe my 'tude explains why I’m still single after eight years.) But I hold out hope that I can one day form a good and lasting group, ideally a group of men and women.)
Aaaaaanyway, after those few moments of woe-is-me navel-gazing, back to my story. A woman who is interested in attending asked if she could come even if she doesn’t know how to knit. I said, heck, yeah!, and that I would be happy to bring practice materials for her and get her started.
I was thinking about what I would say to her and thought, to encourage patience, I could say that knitting is like chess—the basic moves are straightforward and easy to learn but you can spend the rest of your life learning new things*. And today, as I was finishing this sock, I realized how true that analogy is, especially given my 15 years of knitting experience:
To underscore my experience with sock-knitting specifically and knitting in general, take a gander at this:
That large basket is entirely filled with socks I have knit. And I have given away as many more. And quite a few are in the laundry. And one pair is on my feet. So you do the math.
I knit socks without patterns; if I’m bored, I just throw in some stitch or pattern to liven things up a skosh. In the case of the blue sock, for the cuff I decided to use double-moss/double-seed/double-rice stitch—whatever you want to call it:
When I finished the cuff, I went to test it on my foot…and was thoroughly double-take confused by the amount of stretch. Wait…was that stitch behaving like ribbing? Ribbing doesn’t have to look like ribbing? It just has to be some form of regular, juxtaposed, columnar knits and pearls?! More importantly, why didn't I know this? Aaaaaand checkmate.
*I have found other similarities: They have both been around for a long time, involve (or can involve) two colors, are mathematically based, can be done by machines, require you to move things from one place to another, sometimes straight up and down, sometimes diagonally, sometimes by jumping over two things, they can both take a long time, and someone always wins, says neener-neener and does some kind of inna-you-face, fist-pump jig. Oh, wait; that’s not right.