January 30, 2007

THE LEMONADE STAND

Scott took some time off from work on Wednesday afternoon in order to install the shelving and racks in my booth at the Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat. I loaded up my small SUV with yarn and met him at the Tacoma Sheraton where the retreat would be held. When I got there, I could not have been more delighted to see that Sheila and Michael Ernst were my next-door booth neighbors.

Scott and I had sketched out the floor plan for my booth at home, and had gone so far as to set up the shelves (but not the racks) in a mock layout. But I'll confess that the standard 8' by 10' booth size was much larger in my imagination than it turned out to be in real life. And we were not prepared for the disproportionately huge table (provided by the hotel as part of the booth). Although my visions of having a lovely traffic flow as customers would move around a small table and into the booth were never completely realized, I think that the booth was still pretty darned good looking for a first effort:

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After spending a couple of hours with me setting up the shelving and racks, Scott left me to filling up the shelves with yarn. One carload of yarn filled only about one-third of the shelving that afternoon, and I made a second trip back to pack more yarn and then to the market site to fill another third of the shelving. On the drive, I was thinking how my booth looked like a lemonstade stand . . . not that I'd ever had a lemonade stand as a kid, but I was feeling like what I imagined a kid would feel, making up her pitcher of lemonade and thinking about who might come along to buy a cup of it.

Another confession: Throughout Wednesday afternoon and evening as I was traipsing back and forth between my car in the parking lot and my booth space, every time I crossed the threshold to the room where we vendors were setting up, I always felt that heady excitement about being in a huge room surrounded by yarn!

There was so much to do to set up, but at 7:30 Wednesday evening when I gave myself the most amazingly wicked cut while opening a box of books from Unicorn and began bleeding all over the box (but fortunately not on the merchandise), I decided that my body was telling me it was time to go home. It was time to regroup, and finish setting up the next morning.

At home, Scott wanted to know what he could do to help with the last-minute packing. I'd bought a cash box, and asked him to please unwrap it from its packaging and fill it with some bills and coins so that I'd be able to make change the next day. So he was standing at the kitchen counter, using a steak knife to pare off the labeling from the cash box, and began chuckling. "Honey, this says -- 'good for garage sales and lemonade stands'," said he. "If the yarn store gig doesn't work out, you can open a lemonade stand!" And y'know, that was just the perfect echo of what I'd been thinking about earlier in the day.

Thursday morning when I arrived at the hotel I was shocked to see the line of people -- potential customers! -- lined up at the market doors, waiting to get in and shop. Although I've been a regular (as a student and market customer) at the retreat since 1998, I've never been aware that people lined up waiting for the doors to open! And I was so not ready. That last third of my shelving was still bare, waiting for me to bring in even more yarn, needles weren't yet hung on their racks, my computer wasn't yet hooked up -- egads. (There was at least one other vendor besides me who was completing her set-up at the very last minute, but at that point my booth looked far more chaotic than hers.)

I would especially like to thank Norma who helped to see me through that morning, the roughest period. Norma had a few minutes before her class started, and even more importantly, Norma has years of experience selling at art fairs. She went with me and a cart to my car, which again was filled to the ceiling with yarns and etcetera. Faced with all of the jumble of stuff and the time pressure, I would have made multiple trips back and forth, but Norma was able to sense the big picture. She said, "We can put this bin here, and that one will fit on top of it, and this box will ride along right here, won't it?" She piled the cart higher than my head, but got most everything that was important. Overloaded as it was, I couldn't see over the top of the stuff to steer the cart; overloaded as it was, the cart wanted to travel the slope of least resistance down the parking lot and away from the doors -- but eventually we made it inside. Then Norma did a beautiful job of arranging Kidsilk yarns on the shelves in an artistic way before she dashed off to class. Norma also was kind enough to help me out in my booth over her lunch hour. (And she even gifted me with a beautiful drop spindle -- she is much too kind!)

Special thanks also to Joy, who feng shui'd my booth by bringing me a vase of white, red, and pink tulips.

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(After the retreat was over, I looked up which corner of the bagua she had put the tulips in -- the corner for relationships. Perhaps we should have put them in the corner that's auspicious for money.) And I'm grateful also for help in minding the store from Lizabeth and Anne, and to Anne for trusting me with the loan of sweaters to display. (Check out Anne's blog for more photos!) Big hugs and kisses to Scott, too, for all his support -- couldn't have done it without him.

In contrast to the hours upon hours -- days! -- it took to set up my booth, Scott, Lizabeth and I managed to haul it all away in a mere 45 minutes. And as he was wheeling out the last set of cubes on a hand truck, Scott declared, in all sincerity, that having a booth at the Madrona retreat was fun.

And it was fun -- especially for the opportunity to see friends (Vanessa, Denise, Sam, Sheila and Michael, Lizbeth, Ryan and TMK, Janine, Devorah, Naomi, Kathleen, Betts, Pat, and I know I'm forgetting others of you) and to meet in person people who've bought from me through my website (Karen H., Gail, and others) and to meet all the other people who came by who share my appreciation for traditional knitting. Can't wait 'til next year!

Posted by Karen at 01:32 PM | Comments (6)

January 23, 2007

IN THE THROES

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I'm in the throes of planning my booth space for the Madrona retreat. I think I'm going to go with organizing the Spindrift by color. I think the range of colors will make a dramatic display. What do you think?

New products are pouring in, too. I've got Crystal Palace bamboo needles: the 6-inch double points (which come in some of those really nice in-between sizes for sock knitting), the 8-inch double points, 16-inch circs, 26-inch circs, and 35-inch circs. Because Two Swans has never carried any chunky or bulky yarns, I haven't been carrying larger sizes of needles. But the popularity of felting, from Nicky Epstein's Fabulous Felted Bags book to the Fiber Trends hedgehogs and squirrels, has made me realize that the larger needles still have their uses. And the Diamanta Shawl pattern brought Two Swans right up to this:

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Size US 15 circular needles, 35 inches long.

Posted by Karen at 12:16 PM | Comments (5)

January 19, 2007

USING MY HEAD

Continuing with this theme of blocking -- On Tuesday, I finished a Tierra cap that I'd started the Saturday prior. (That's right -- a 4-day project -- hooray!) Because the cap has cabling, the finished project right off the needles was lumpy. I remembered that one of the Feral Knitters always talks about how her husband will wear the Fair Isle hats that she knits for him, still damp from washing, in order to block them. I thought that sounded equally good for even a non-Fair Isle cap, so all of Wednesday afternoon I wore the damp Tierra cap on my head.

Imagine taking a picture of the back of your head:

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Project: Tierra Cap
Pattern from: Simply Shetland Book 3
Yarn: Jamieson's Shetland Heather Aran, color Horizon
Needles: Size 7

A note about the needle size: A couple of the Feral Knitters have knitted these caps, too. I already knew from their experiences in getting gauge that the needle size listed in the pattern, i.e., size 5, must be for a very loose knitter. Knowing that I am a tight knitter, I didn't even consider starting out with anything smaller than a 7.

Want to see this cap in person? Come by Booth #7 at the Madrona Fiber Arts retreat, where you'll find it on display!

I'm continuing to gather materials for my booth. Everyone left me great suggestions in the comments after the last entry. And yesterday I met with my little group of Master Knitter Wannabes, and they gave me even more great suggestions. Onward!

Posted by Karen at 11:28 AM | Comments (2)

January 15, 2007

NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION

Watch, my friends, as these ordinary household hangers

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transform

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(presto chango!)

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into frames for

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blocking mittens!

My first FO of 2007 straddled the change from 2006 to 2007. It was a pair of mittens that my friend Terri asked me to test-knit for her book on Selbu mittens. I finished one mitten in '06, the other in '07.

When I finished the mittens for Terri, as darling as they were, I knew they would look better if blocked. After casting around for, and rejecting, a bunch of different items (everything from dishrags to plastic used for cutting templates for quilting pieces), I hit on the enamel-coated hanger idea. It worked swimmingly, as I could shape the wires however I wanted. And, as a special feature, I could hang the mittens in a sunny window to dry:

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(Notice the snow on the roof?)

Disclaimer: Because the design, the pattern, the mittens themselves of my First FO of of 2007 all belong to Terri, I'm not going to spoil her surprise here on this blog by showing a photo of them. What you see in the photos above are the mittens I finished last June for the Dulaan project. I just hadn't yet blocked them, nor sent them on to FIRE for their ultimate destination in Mongolia. (Sorry, Ryan! I'll send them in 2007, I promise!) I was bothered by the buckling I had on either side of the top of each mitten. Over the weekend I blocked the mittens I knitted for Terri, then today I blocked the mittens for Dulaan.

I was able to shape the coat hangers as widely as I needed to, in order to stretch out that buckling effect. After blocking, the buckling entirely went away. And I was so proud of my ingenuity, I wanted to share it with all my Ideaphoria readers.

Posted by Karen at 06:08 PM | Comments (7)

January 12, 2007

I HAVEN'T YET MADE UP MY MIND....

I'm still deciding as to whether procrastination is a good thing.

So there we were, movng back into our house on the Wednesday before Christmas, faced with a lot of clean-up (remember those refrigerators and freezers?) and trying to pull together our celebration. At that point, the only gifts that had been bought were a few things I'd ordered from Amazon.com. So the major shopping was done in the four days prior to Chrismas. There were a few gifts that, as the inevitable result of shopping at the last minute, I couldn't get, so I'm sure that led to disappointment for a recipient or two.

On the other hand, though, I think there was a real benefit to procrastinating when it came to decorating the house. For the Christmas table decorations I was going to use my usual red-and-green velvet table runner, and place randomly along it my collection of Santa Clauses. Some of these are folk art Santas, and some of these are ceramic figurines -- it's just a random collection of Santas, each one purchased because I thought it was cute. We were so busy that Scott was the one who put out the centerpiece. He came to me and said, apologetically, "Three of your Santas were broken so I threw them away." And my response was, "Oh. Too bad. Now what do I need to do next?" If we'd been putting out that centerpiece earlier, I probably would have devoted time -- precious time -- to finding replacement Santas and driving myself crazy over it. But you know, it really did not matter that there were three less Santas on the table.

And the best moment was when I made the trek to Molbak's to buy poinsettias. (Here's a Christmas decorating tip: Buy lots of poinsettias, and place them all over the house, and it will look like you knocked yourself out decorating.) Molbak's is a fabulous nursery, and every year I go there to buy poinsettias. I'd even thought of going as early as the day after Thanksgiving. But, noooo -- procrastinating as I did, and knowing that Molbak's was in an area hardest-hit by the windstorm and power outage, I didn't make the long drive there until a couple of days before Christmas. It happened to be the same day that Molbak's marked down all its poinsettias to $2 each. Where's the incentive to give up procrastinating, when they reward you like this?

* * *

This past Monday at Feral Knitters a new person joined us:

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Left to right: Baby Felix, Wendi, and Andrea. (I think every time I post a picture of Andrea, she's wearing yet another wonderful Fair Isle vest that she's knit.) It was my first time to meet Baby Felix, but I'm sure he'll quickly be a regular at Ferals.

We had an excellent turnout -- so much so that as the evening progressed we had to keep pushing more tables together as more knitters showed up and we had to increase our space. I think everybody's ready to put the holidays and the power outage behind us and to re-focus on knitting.

* * *

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In Two Swans Yarns news: The Playful Penguins, the latest from Fiber Trends, are here. I've listed them as my January special.

And, it's official: Two Swans Yarns will have a booth in the market at the Madrona Fiber Arts retreat later this month. Since I haven't ever done anything like this before, I'm starting from scratch: How to make a booth? How to display yarn, books, magazines, needles?

Posted by Karen at 11:37 AM | Comments (5)

January 06, 2007

JANUARY 6, 2007

Christmas and New Year's have come and gone, but here I am, still dwelling on the past with a few more things to say about the Wedding Anniversary Storm.

The morning of the storm I was listening to my favorite local radio talk show host, and he dropped into the conversation several times, "Be sure to fill up your gas tank on your way home tonight." I really didn't know why he was giving this advice, and since my car had a half a tank of gas, I didn't act on it. The storm blew in in the late afternoon, and our power was out by 5:15 PM. You'll recall that Scott phoned me as he was leaving work, wanting to know if he should stop to buy me an anniversary card. I just wanted him to get home and build a fire -- so he didn't stop to buy gas, either, and coasted home on fumes. Coincidentally, Jennie's little Honda Civic happened to have a full tank of gas. Friday morning we awakened to the news of hundreds of thousands of people and businesses without power -- including many gas stations. Lo and behold, we were now a household of three adults needing to go places and with only two usable cars and figuring out how to coordinate all of our trips to be the most efficient with the gasoline we had in those cars' tanks. Over the course of the day, I heard on the news of lines at gas stations that were one hour and two hours long. You had not only the usual number of people who'd be filling up their cars anyway, but also people who were filling their gas cans to use for their generators -- and all of these people congregating at the very few gas stations where the pumps were working. I got the talk show host's advice, big time: You can't pump gas at a gas station if there's no electricity to run the pump.

It was a concept that should'a been familiar to me. Living in a rural area, we get our water from a well, and when the power is out, the wellhouse pump won't run. When our power goes out, we have no running water.

Despite not having full tanks of gas, we were okay in terms of emergency preparedness. We always have what I think of as Earthquake Water stored in the garage: 5-gallon containers full of water. We had about 40 gallons on hand. And when a big storm is blowing in, I will usually fill the bathtub with water, too. My family usually makes fun of me for doing this -- but at least twice in the three years we've been living in this house we've made good use of the bathtub full of water. And when our power was out for six nights during this Wedding Anniversary Storm, we used almost all of the bathtub water. 40 gallons of Earthquake Water was not enough, either -- we were fortunate in that we were able to leave and replenish supplies, and one day a neighbor came over with buckets of more water and filled the horse trough. Had the situation been different and we been unable to leave our house, we would have needed more water. Next time, I'll be filling two bathtubs.

In other departments of emergency preparedness: We had batteries, all shapes and voltages. We had firewood. Because the power was out for such a long time, we actually exhausted the batteries in our flashlights and had to buy more, which became a little challenging because we were trying to buy batteries at a time when the stores were sold out -- everyone else had been buying batteries, too.

Similarly for ice. The second day with no power, I sent Jennie to buy ice so that we could move perishables from the non-working refrigerator into an ice chest. She went to a couple of stores but came back empty-handed. One store had sealed off all of its cold and frozen items and would not sell those -- trying to keep the cold stuff cold and conserve it. Another store that would sell its cold items had completely sold out of ice. The same neighbor who filled our horse trough had been out shopping ahead of us and gave me two bags of ice, which was plenty to keep the milk, cheese, etcetera, cold out on the porch in a cooler.

We spent the first two, power-less nights at home. We had a fire in the fireplace and were able to cook and heat water for washing on the gas stovetop. The third night, Scott and I had had long-standing reservations to spend the night at the Hilton at SeaTac airport; it was the night of Scott's company's Christmas party and we didn't plan to come home afterward. So the only thing that we did differently was to pack up our two kids and take them along with us. The kids ordered burgers and fries from room service, watched TV, charged up their cell phones and I-pods, took showers . . . in short, they felt they were living in the lap o' luxury.

Ironically enough, the power went out at the airport and surrounding area (including the Hilton) that night at 10 PM and didn't come back on until 3 AM. I'd done something I'd never done before: I happened to pack flashlights in our suitcases, so our kids had those in the pitch-dark hotel room and were very content to read books and just hang out. It was still warmer in the hotel than at home, after all.

Once that door had been opened, so to speak, we spent the following three nights in hotels in Tukwila, near Scott's office. Now, you might have visions of this being like a vacation: Karen could address and send her Christmas cards and get lots of knitting done, and not have the burden of cooking meals and cleaning up afterward. In actual fact, I spent time each day driving home, attempting to keep a fire going, feeding and watering the animals, and filling Two Swans Yarns orders. Allegra's dance school had several Open House performances, too, so I spent time driving her to those and either watching or waiting. It didn't turn out to be any mini-vacation, but was a typical hectic season -- and we weren't even getting ready for Christmas, yet. We were two nights at home, four nights in hotels. Scott began to call 2006 as "the year we spent Christmas in Tukwila." The girls started to call each other 'Eloise.'

Let me wax didactic for a moment and share with you what I've learned:

Lesson #1: Fill your vehicle's tank with gas, if there's going to be an impending disaster.

Lesson #2: Store more Earthquake Water than you think you will need.

Lesson #3: Ditto for batteries.

Lesson #4: It would not hurt to keep a spare block or two of ice in the freezer (something we usually do in the summertime but aren't in the habit of, in winter).

Lesson #5: Just as there was a run on gasoline, batteries, and ice, there was also a huge demand for cash as most banks were closed and ATMs not working. If you think you'll need it, get cash before the power goes out.

Lesson #6: Always pack a flashlight in your suitcase when traveling. It would even be good to carry one in your knitting bag.

Indian Summer of 2004, Scott took this picture of me outside of our house:

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Here's what that horse statue looks like today:

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The top of the tree next to the statue blew off in the storm and landed on top of the statue. In all, we lost six trees and have been too busy to even begin the yard cleanup.

By Saturday (third day without power), Scott was saying that the inside of the refrigerator was the warmest spot in our house -- and, despite the fire in the fireplace, that was undoubtedly true. We lost everything in our refrigerators and freezers. Well, I did salvage the unopened bottles of champagne and white wine as I don't think those were hurt by standing at room temperature for a few days. But we've thrown everything else out. I was especially sad to lose the salmon fillets and lamb chops that were in the freezer.

I hope this doesn't sound like too much whining. This wasn't Hurricane Katrina, this wasn't what those folks in Colorado are going through. But being without electricity and water for six days was inconvenient. We voluntarily go without electricity and running water when we go to our cabin in the San Juans . . . and there we have routines we've set up for doing without (and are on "island time," too, not trying to fit into the usual 9-to-5 workday schedule). It was. . . um, interesting . . . to try to translate those routines into our regular home life. Had we been at our cabin, we would have been more comfortable.

On the brighter side, I did finish the scarf I was knitting for my friend's college-age, wool-allergic son, my last FO of 2006:

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Yarn: Rowan Calmer, colors Onyx and Coffee Bean
Length: 60 inches
Stitch pattern: 3x3 rib

I didn't get any really good photos of Allegra's dances, but she was adorable! Well poised, and happy to be dancing:

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(She's the brunette in the center. Most of the time she had a beaming smile on her face, although not at the moment this rather blurry photo got snapped. "Open House" performances happen in the dance studio rather than on a stage, and that's why you see the barres in the background.)

Posted by Karen at 11:05 AM | Comments (8)