Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dream Knitting

I am dreaming about knitting. I see myself designing flowing capes and stylish hats. My hands are busy with beautiful yarns, and I stroke them and sort through them, letting each inspire me with a new creation. This is my dream, but it is also my daily life. Taking the yarn from bags and arranging it on shelves and in bins has been a spiritual experience. The beautiful colours and assorted textures take away my breath and make me sigh with contentment.

There are wonderful products on my plate, some for my store, some as custom orders. Handling all those balls of beautiful, randomly striping Noro made me fall in love with it again. I am halfway finished with a Silk Garden loose cowl which has a feather-and-fan lace bottom and ribbed neck. I'm crocheting some heavy wools, mostly Brown Sheep Burly Spun but also some Artyarns hand-dyed, into a rug. That will be a fun felting project, probably in someone else's washing machine. A friend wants a ruffle scarf appropriate for Miami weather (my choice is a silky bamboo). I just finished a custom scarf knit from cream Burly Spun with two strands of Mini-Mochi in a gorgeous red/purple/rust colorway. I've ordered yarn for a custom pink and black striped baby blanket that will have the little girl's name duplicate-knit in the center. I'm using two strands of Knitpicks Crayon to make it fluffy and soft. My second order of Therapi has arrived, so I'm finishing a salmon-pink cap with cables all around. I made myself get out of a right-cable rut and learned to make left-cables without using a cable needle.

Lately I've come to think of my Chattanooga Market booth as a real store, not just a place where I tote my wares and set up a make-shift sales venue. I requested the same location for the remainder of the season, wanting to be associated with a specific place in the minds of our regular shoppers. I cried when I was too sick to attend Market this week. I had repacked my car the day before, making everything more efficient, assuring that I had the maximum number of products that are appropriate for the season. I woke on Sunday with coughing and wheezing. Still I bathed and dressed in warm "work" clothes and went out in the rain to sit in my car. I was so uncomfortable that I knew I couldn't go, but I sat behind the wheel for a while, savoring the feeling of being ready for market day. I have three more days-November 29, and the December 4-5 special holiday weekend.

Today is the day that I finish getting yarn on shelves. I'm off to Office Depot for a few more small, clear bins.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Ruffled Scarf and Other Market News

I am writing at 3:30 a.m. because I fell asleep before 9 p.m. My brain thinks it is morning, so I'm taking advantage of relative alertness to make this update.
Sundays frequently end early, as I'm up by 6 to start the hectic market day. I begin by loading equipment and products into the car, if I haven't completed that task the night before. Then I have a quick breakfast and get cleaned up and dressed to present a nice vendor image. After I drive downtown, I check in, get a cup of coffee, and unload my equipment. It takes about two and one-half hours to put my booth together and get all my products displayed.
Yesterday was a milestone, my first run of three consecutive market weeks. Now that I know I can do it, I have prepared for the rest of the season and the coming spring by upgrading my equipment a bit. No, I didn't hit SmartFurniture.com for a fancy display setup (think $3000). I spent a few bucks at Bed, Bath and Beyond on snap-together cubes made of metal grids, a reduced flat bedsheet and two rolling hanging clothes racks. For less than $130, I now have a nice cube system that sits on top of my table and holds items like hats and wash cloths, plenty of hanging space for scarves, baby sweaters, baby blankets and adult clothing. I was thrilled to have a more professional looking, organized store yesterday.
With a proper display system, I attract more lookers and shoppers. People were stopping in awe just to say "Did you make all of these yourself?" and I could proudly say that I designed and knitted or crocheted everything in the shop. It was much easier to show what I had and help buyers select things for themselves and for gifts. I even had a proper packaging station set up, and room to write down my credit card purchases and special orders.
One of the most fun events of yesterday's market was recruiting neighboring vendors to help me sing "Happy Birthday" to my mom. It was her 90th. I knew I would be exhausted and that call would have to do for the day. We sung with enthusiasm. No one would have special-ordered that performance. I asked my mom how it felt to be 90, and she said "I feel old." She's entitled.

Special orders have increased lately. Last week I had three from the market, and I completed the pair of extra skinny fingerless mitts, the green ruffled scarf you see below, and an entrelac organic cotton wash cloth this week. The holiday hand towels you see were knitted for another special order, and I finished Valentine's Day and blocked them both for mailing tomorrow. The little Christmas trees and heart are duplicate knit. Simple patterns like that can be free-handed, but if I have any requests I will publish the diagrams.

Speaking of patterns, here's the ruffled scarf:

The scarf is worked back and forth on circular needles. The final length is about 74 inches. Gauge is unimportant.
Materials: approximately 220 yards of worsted weight yarn (I used Superwash Worsted from elann.com, but their Wool/Bamboo would have worked nicely, too.), a long circular size 6 needle, a long circular size 7 needle, and a yarn needle for weaving ends

With smaller needle, cast on 180 stitches loosely. You don't want a tight, uncomfortable edge around the neck.
Row 1: Knit.
Row 2: Knit into front and back of each stitch. (360 stitches)
Row 3: Changing to larger needle, knit.
Row 4: Knit into front and back of each stitch. (720 stitches)
Rows 5-7: Knit. You can make the ruffle wider by adding more rows here.
Final row: Cast off loosely.
Weave in ends.

A note about the hand towels. They are knitted from knitpicks.com Cotlin, 50% linen, 50% cotton. It handles beautifully, softening as you knit. Most of my series are knit on size 5 straight needles with a fairly simple block pattern. The Valentine's towel is the exception, as the lacy pattern suited the theme. Keeping in mind where the center fold would be, I knit a section of stockinette into each towel to serve as a background for duplicate knitting motifs. You want this in the lower half of the towel so that it shows when you fold it over a towel bar. I have two more to complete this custom holiday series (I began with Halloween and Thanksgiving, and St. Patrick's Day and 4th of July will complete it.) I'll publish stitch counts and basic construction as I work on the final two.

My early morning awake time is fading fast. I think I can manage two more hours of sleep.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Am I Moved YET?

Holy cow. No, that's not it. HOLY COW! That's better. I've had three reschedules from my mover, followed by an incomplete removal of the last few items from my house. The trunk of my car (a rapidly aging Volvo sedan) contains ten cans of paint+kitty litter (don't ask). There is only a two-foot wide path through my new garage from the door to the driveway. My piano is in the garage. I've checked here on HGTV but there is no "how to" that will fix this.

On the bright side, this is the end. The End. Closing is this week. I will take a break before closing on the new house, which I have leased til now. I have no deadline for hanging pictures, unpacking winter clothes, getting the remainder of the books onto bookshelves. There is only what my sensibilities will tolerate, and I am feeling pretty darn flexible. I won't cry if I can't get Ringgold and Joysmith and Ali on the walls today. No, I am not hallucinating. I have a Mohammad Ali limited edition print from his art period. He hadn't moved much past keeping it in the lines, but the idea that he attempted it charms me.

Oops, relaxed too soon. I went back to the new house this afternoon to deal with a pile of stuff shoved in the attic by unnamed young people staying in the guest room. It includes enough hangars for the Russian army and some used sheets which were "stored" there instead of washed. 'Nuff said. There is nothing in Spock about this.

So...I'm on a first name basis with the receiver at my favorite center to donate unwanteds. He saw me coming today, waved and almost smiled. An almost smile is the max for him. When you see him collecting things from your car one bag at a time, you know that he doesn't waste any muscle movement. We're starting to get very real about the things that can go. I had a carload today and I'm sure I'll have another tomorrow. I am all about knowing that the memory will be with me always. I don't need any more physical reminders of anything.

Mary Z reminded me the other day about using professional shredders. They'll be here tomorrow. I see 10 more cubic feet of space becoming available!

I met my buyers today. That ordinarily doesn't happen until closing, but I've let them out of motel hell with their young baby to live in the house a few days beforehand. I think the baby likes me. He was all red hair and smiles. Me and mom talked about knitting.

I did a good bit of knitting in the drive-through pharmacy line just now. I've never seen the lines so long, wondered if it is an H1N1 epidemic thing. Glad I started a hat from my pink Therapi (the yarn with merino, silk and jadeite fiber). I managed to do all the increases that will go from the head band to the start of the flare for the kind of beret shape (knit 1, yarn over, knit into the front and back) and repeat all the way around. Turn on the car, move one spot, pick up your needles.

Keeping up the surviving. Peace.