Monday, January 14, 2008

Back Home In Minnesota
(the place I love to go-ta!)

I love home. I can't even begin to describe how deeply I'm moved whenever I walk through my door, see my pets and my kitchen, go upstairs and see the kids and Gerry asleep - a redeye is a rough thing, but the arrival home at 7:00 am is pure gold.

So now I'm home, I slept a LOT of yesterday away (and was incoherent the other part) but in my half awake state I got a buttload of swatching done. I'm feeling slightly feverish though, so I'll be sitting and knitting quite a bit.

I'm toying with the idea of designing a felted jacket that could also be a NON felted jacket, depending on what size you make (and the care you give it post finishing) I could just have my head up somewhere it shouldn't be, but it seems to me that a LOT of folks felt garments without meaning to, and if I can work out the formula it would be cool to be able to write, "For a felted jacket in size X, knit size Y and then launder it and steam block it thoroughly after drying..."

Or not - maybe it's a dopey idea, or maybe it's really smart... Odd how many ideas walk that thin line between madness and brilliance, huh?


And now for some dirty details about things that I saw at TNNA. If I visited your booth, or ran into you, and I'm not mentioning it here - please, PLEASE do comment or email me and let me know! It's not intentional, it's not a dis, it's just a foggy brain and forgetfulness!

I tried to get a business card from folks I met, and jot notes down, but I forget a lot (blame it on the gin... - damn you, Pam Allen, you with the siren song of demon gin!)

I'm obviously totally in love with Bonnie from Louet, and - next to Bel Canto from Yarn Place - I think it was my favorite yarn at the show.

That's a purely personal and subjective call, though, just my own preference! Suffice to say I came home with enough Bel Canto to work up a surplice top...

Dos - The new yarn from
Malabrigo is exquisite, I cannot wait to get my hands on it! I got some laceweight malabrigo at On The Lamb (thanks Joe!) and I've been fiddling around with felting lace. It was also - as always - a delight to see the guys from Malabrigo, and Nancy!!

Studio Worsted from the Neighborhood Fiber Co in DC was just lovely - I fondled it, and had a blast chatting with Karida (nice makeup, girl!) I especially loved the Cooper Circle and leDroit Park (at right) colors - yum!

Beaded Ensemble from Artyarns is exquisite. The blend of the sequins and the glitzy yarn makes an erratic and enchanting sparkle in the finished fabric. I cannot wait to do something with this, baby! My favorite colorways were 170G and 164G - I'm in love!

Buffalo Gold BAMBOO - Damn! I've lost the label from the skein of this fabulous yarn from the Buffalo Gold Fibers Co, and I can't find this product on their website, so instead I'll put a photo of the fellow who I drunkenly chatted up, with a variety of cowboy hats.

The yarn, though, is absolutely ASTONISHING as I knit it up. It knits beautifully (I'm doubling it with size 6 needles) but even more lovely is the sheen and the lightweight feeling of the fabric. Unlike anything else I've knit - different from Quiviet, not quite like silk alone, it's really stunning!

But definitely not firm enough for a cowboy hat. Click on the pic to see hats...

I just read Clara's post on Knitter's Review - Clara doesn't lose labels like I do - and here are the details:
"25% American bison down and 75% bamboo. This silky yarn with a fuzzy halo is a striking example of what happens when you properly blend two very dissimilar fibers."
Fiesta Yarns - I've loved their yarns for a while, but haven't used them much. I was very much taken this time with La Boheme in Rainforest, Verandah in Navajo Silver and the Rayon Boucle. Simply lovely yarns.

As always Lana Grossa and Muench were lovely - I'm dying to start a jacket with a blend of some of their yarns, and really fell in love with Bingo Chine - after all the hand-painted yarns, it was a bit of a relief to see measured colorwork in a yarn.

Bijou Basin Ranch - they had a lovely selection of yarns worked up with yak, in natural colors, and I'm going to fiddle around with some of them and try my hand at a little dyeing. Very cool stuff.

River Silks had some nice rainbow collections of silks, and I'm going to try some ribbon embroidery on felted work, some pre-felted embroidery and weaving the silk ribbon into lace eyelets to see how I can add a little shine to a
matte felted surface. The booth girls waving wands of silk ribbon added a nice Old New Orleans flair to their aisle, too...

It was really kind of cool to be at TNNA this time with NO commitments except things I'd set up myself. Very freeing! I hardly felt I needed to rush at all - although I would have LOVED more time with Iris at Artyarns and would have loved a chance to sit with Kris from French Girl Knits.

As it was, though, I think I saw more this time than I usually do, and I'm considering taking a booth at a future show to push my own books. That is, if I can get my butt and head (and soul) wrapped around my idea for a new self published book.

On Saturday late afternoon a group of designers got together to discuss the concept of a union or guild, and with the exception of one objection in the Designer/Teacher TNNA meeting, just about everyone I spoke with was in agreement that SOMETHING must be done to address the low pay scale of hand knit designers. And I impressed everyone with my ability to sign the entire Union Label Song.
I'd envisioned it as being a very small group, and was surprised to see editors from two magazines there. But they were welcomed and we appreciated their perspective on the situation. I truly believe that we can creatively work together and find a solution for this low fee situation that will benefit EVERYONE!

One doesn't see editors working for what they earned in 1986. Photographers or models or stylists don't earn what THEY earned in 1986. When I worked at Martha Stewart Living, a stylist earned about $600/day, and that was 10 years ago.
We were told that a model works for the "ridiculously" low sum of $350 for a day's shoot because knitting mags are considered catalog work - to which one designer said, "Yeah, and that's about what the designer earns to create the sweater and write the pattern!"

If we can do nothing else we need to get the following information out to the knitting world:

Knit & Crochet Designers earn the same rate they did in 1986.
Lower, in some cases.

I did hear the comment, "What do you think you'll be able to do - do you REALLY think you'll be able to raise designer's fees?" - and I'm not sure if we will. But I believe that putting together a forum to determine a fair minimum compensation for designer's fees will not HURT us.

We discussed a few different scenarios, and the idea of a sliding scale for designers which will allow a designer to retain all rights for their pattern in exchange for a portion of the upfront fee seemed to resonate with many designers. The down side of that is that some designers DON'T have the desire or the ability to sell their patterns, so retaining copyright doesn't mean as much to them as to someone like me. Which is why the sliding scale might make sense.

One person presented the scenario that other, less experienced and cheaper designers will flood in to fill the void created by guild designers who promise not to work for peanuts. And this may happen.

But I believe two things will prevent this from affecting hand knit designers strongly;
1) Established designers have a proven following. Having a Nicky Epstein or Deborah Newton design in a magazine does make a difference in sales - and therefore in ad rate base.

2) Established designers can write a pattern. I've heard the editors say over and over how despondent they get when faced with non-existent or badly written instructions, which are more likely to come from new and inexperienced designers.

Using designers who know how to put a spreadsheet together and size patterns (and provide a sample on time) is more efficient, and a pound-wise investment for the editor who doesn't want to be pulling her hair out at the 11th hour before a shoot.
And - you know what? If it happens, it happens.
I can't really see where that would be any different than it is now, with the exception that any designer who would choose to band together with a guild WON'T undercut other guild designers. And in that position is power, I think.

It can't hurt for us to take ourselves seriously as designers and NOT as hobbiest who just got lucky.

If new designers want to become established designers, they'll soon learn that making ends meet doing this work is practically impossible, especially if there are some who can afford to and choose to work for peanuts.

Paying the mortgage doing this is hard, hard work. And I love it. And I want to continue. But I'm not supported by a spouse with a good income, and it's not a hobby for me, and as long as I'm taking myself seriously why not invite other designers along for the ride. We CAN come up with a solution to this that will benefit us all.

Speaking of self respect and dignity, folks who know me know that I really hate exclusivity.

I hate people who try to use rules or policies or money to make themselves feel that they're better or higher than someone else. The truth is, we are ALL special cases.

Today we had an experience with exclusivity that really surprised me - and troubled me, too.

Gerry's received the OK from his doc to get into a pool, and with his terribly painful back I've been thinking that water aerobics classes and perhaps time in a heated whirlpool would be great for him.

We'd heard that the local JCC (Jewish Community Center) has a nice, private whirlpool (for adults only) as part of their membership, so I emailed to get info on joining. They have a tiered membership, it's only possible to use the whirlpool for an additional 'special locker room' fee (or if you can get an existing member to bring you as a guest.)

The JCC dues for our family would be about $700/year, which is totally out of our range, and the price to use the whirlpool is $230 on top of that. We would, however, be eligible for a reduced rate because of our situation, and Gerry's disability. Unfortunately, if we receive a reduced rate, we wouldn't be allowed to pay the extra fee to use the whirlpool because that's only available for folks who can PAY THE FULL MEMBERSHIP FEE.

It's a perfect way to keep anyone who requires financial assistance from climbing into their special whirlpool.

We told them that we're really only interested in the special locker room / whirlpool for Gerry - I certainly don't need it - but their POLICY is that if anyone is getting a break in their membership, they are NOT be eligible for the private locker room.

I told the woman who showed us around that we're not prideful people, but we do have a healthy self respect and this arrangement seems to ignore the fact that folks who may not be as financially well of as others STILL have dignity and might like to experience a "nice" locker room.

Their point is that if a family has money to burn on a "nice" locker room, then they should be paying the full rate. Or, how dare those poor people think they deserve the niceties that we have! Eh. We'll keep looking...

For those of you who wrote with tax info, thank you so much! It will just be outside of our reality to pay upwards of $1,000 to have our taxes done, though - which seems to be the fair going rate. So I think I'm going to take a crack at Turbo Tax and see if I'm able to work around that beast!

I'll be sure to blog about my adventure - but even if we end up going with an accountant in the end, doing the Turbo Tax route to wrap my mind around our current tax state can't hurt!
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posted by Annie at


Blogger Cindy G said...

"There once was a union maid,
Who never was afraid..."
You go girl.
I have a friend who does garment prep work for a big Wisconsin based catalog company. Even for catalog shoots with no models involved (like stacks of turtlenecks) the stylists are making more than $600 a day.

January 14, 2008 3:15 PM  
Blogger Stephanie M said...

I am both an inadvertant felter and an underpaid designer (sewing) and appreciate your efforts. Sure, you might not make a change by yourself. However, if no one gets up to say something, NO ONE will get better pay or recognition.

Back to the felting: I can usually predict what shrink rate I will get with cotton and wool fabrics off the bolt(horizontal vs vertical). Any general rule of thumb in the knit world?

January 14, 2008 3:19 PM  
Blogger OfTroy said...

It could be a guild could black ball zines that hire knitters/designers outside the guild.

if the guild 'sets a fee' and zines want to pay less, fine.. but then the guild set the rule, no dealing with the publisher for X issues.

if Nicky and Debbie, and annnie, and all keep there design out of zine X for 2 issues, zine X is going to feel the pain..

no "big name designers" no quality designs (well written, well made, and well scaled from sm to lg or xl)

and no ad revenue!

They pay guild rate.. (even if a new knitter/designer isn't a member of the guild, (or they don't get patterns from guild members.)

and the guild has to offer something more (maybe become a 'legal' group and qualify of for member to buy group health insurance or other benefits)

then New designers will want to join the guild (to get guild rates, to get guild benefits) and magazines would respect guild members,

one only has to look to barbers vs hair dressers..

barbars tend to unionize (and make enough to support a family)

hair dressers tend to be 'free lancers' and earn 1/2 what barbers do (and have harder jobs, (ie dye and other chemicals make job harder, and each 'customer' takes more time to service)

January 14, 2008 3:49 PM  
Blogger Mary Lou said...

This discussion over the past few weeks here and elsewhere had me remembering Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi and how the pilot's union was formed:
for the chapter. Afer all, you are now living (me, too) right by the Mississippi.

January 14, 2008 3:58 PM  
Blogger Joyce said...

Check out Sister Kenny Sports & Physical Therapy Center and the Wasie Center at Abbott Northwestern. They have a wonderful therapy pool.

January 14, 2008 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Annie, Check out the Midway YMCA -- great water aerobics instructors and nice men's steam room.

January 14, 2008 4:36 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

I find the lightly felted look (i.e. the recent Louet ad) also very attractice.

January 14, 2008 5:07 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

annie- do check out turbotax. I've used it for over 10 years--through cross country moves, job changes, medical issues, termination clauses, early 401K distributions, "s" corp flowthroughs and LLC filings. Never had a problem. It's really really user friendly. Never took me more than 2 hours once I was organized. And I'm a fine arts type (technical theatre stuff) like you, not some financial numbers-crunching wiz-kid. If I can do it, you DEFINITELY can... Cheers- Elizabeth

January 14, 2008 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck finding a pool/whirlpool setup. Does Gerry qualify for physical therapy? Some offices have at least the maybe he could use that at a reduced rate...

Re the taxes, you might consider doing them in Turbo Tax or other tax software, then asking a tax professional to look them over. A review should be a reduced rate since they aren't doing the nuts and bolts of a complete return. Since you have a lot of events with potential tax consequences (move, multiple state returns, medical - on top of being self employed) - it would be worth asking around to find someone who would do a review (although I would stay away from the tax franchises - our local ones aren't really set up to handle complicated returns).

Jean Marie

January 14, 2008 5:20 PM  
Anonymous Jess said...

Either Arlington or Como Senior High has a therapeutic pool and more than likely offers water aerobics classes through St. Paul Community ed (if you didn't get a catalog, look on We go to the YWCA on Selby and there are most definitely water aerobics classes there, as well as a whirlpool and sauna. I haven't been in the pool, but my husband says the water was pretty warm. I do know they offer some scholarships and there's none of that discriminatory stuff. I am appalled by the people at the JCC on that subject.

January 14, 2008 5:46 PM  
Anonymous tracy at said...

Something else to think about, perhaps--if what Gerry really needs is the heated whirlpool, you might consider buying a hot tub. (It's actually much more affordable than you might think.) With financing, the monthly cost of a small hot tub could be less than the cost of a gym membership, and it would be available to Gerry (AND you and the kids) 24/7. We bought a small 2-person spa a couple of years ago because of my bad back, and it has done me the world of good. Plus, the kids love it!

And though I'm not a knitwear designer, I support your goal for better pay. I've watched fees for freelance writers in my business (educational publishing) actually drop over the years. In 1993, the company I worked for paid $5K per chapter. In 2007--14 years later--they paid $3500 for the same work. I've been working from the inside to try to change that, but it's so hard to do. Without content, though, the publishers have nothing.

January 14, 2008 6:22 PM  
Blogger Dawn Brocco said...

Hi Annie,
We're in the mid-Hudson of NY state and have been using a CPA (from a largish firm) for years. He charges $290 to do my biz and our household taxes. A grand is highway robbery! There's gotta be someone local to you who is reasonable?

January 14, 2008 6:30 PM  
Blogger Farm Groupie said...


Hang in there and I hope that when you find a whirlpool it will give him the relief that he needs.

As for the organizing, maybe we'll all start calling you 'Norma Rae' and help you carry your signs up around the blogosphere. It's important work getting the respect that you deserve and fighting for what is right. I am sure it's not worth all that much, but I support you 100%.

Do designers get paid a decent wage when they publish books as opposed to magazines?

January 15, 2008 7:19 AM  
Blogger Andi said...

Our local Amerihost lets residents pay a monthly fee to use their pool/hot tub. When we were using it it was only $30/month. Maybe you can call around and see if that is an option for you (I am not sure if other hotels do this or if it is just an Athens thing; being rural, places have to offer options they might not in a real city---for instance our Hillel is the ONLY Hillel who offers services to students AND community).

January 15, 2008 7:46 AM  
Blogger Cursing Mama said...

I hate to say it, but a family membership at the local YMCA is going to cost upwards of $88/mo; so the JCC is actually more cost effective. There is an alternative that you may want to look into - most of the colleges in your immediate neighborhood have excellent athletic facilities & offer "memberships" to people in the neighborhood. I'd check UST 1st.

I've been using H&R Block software to do my taxes for years & find it much more user friendly than turbo - that and the support is better.

Good luck & welcome home :)

January 15, 2008 9:57 AM  
Blogger Jena the yarn harpy said...

I think it's horrible that they say they understand your situation enough to offer you a reduced rate but can't be sympathetic enough to see that their whirlpool would benefit Gerry's health. I thought that religious groups were supposed to be charitable. *sigh*

Unrelated, I just wanted to tell you that I taught my husband to knit yesterday, since he wanted a pair of convertible mittens-to-fingerless-gloves and I started grad school this week, so I won't have time to make them before winter is over. He's a lefty and after I started showing him, piped up with "isn't there a left-handed way to do this?". He now has my copy of Knitting Heretic in hand and is going to reteach himself, he says. :)

And hell, since I'm on a roll, I like the idea of a felted or non-felted coat. I'm working on losing a lot of weight and I don't make garments for myself because I want to be able to wear them even once I've lost the weight. That way I could intentionally felt it smaller.

January 15, 2008 10:49 AM  
Blogger Patricia said...

you really should look into Turbo Tax. My brother-in-law use to have his done and found that he got the same results with turbo tax. He has a unique situation where he is in the military, plus has ex-wife so there is child support, etc. good luck

January 15, 2008 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Jan said...


We've used TurboTax for years. One regular job, one self-employed, with an additional business on the side together.

If you're organized, you'll have no problem!


January 15, 2008 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Annie, I live in a hotel suite because it wheelchair accessibility and pool/whirlpool access. The manager gave us a huge discount for long-term rate. Have you thought about a local hotel? Some of the mid- to high-end hotels that have heated pools and whirlpools will let you pay a small fee to have daytime access to them for so many days per week. Check it out.

January 15, 2008 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm self-employed (with a couple of non-self-employed [can you use that many hyphens?] fill in bits and I've been using turbo tax for the past ten years. And it's gotten a _lot_ better. I used to have to do the 2210-AI form 'on my own' on turbo tax, and the penalty calculation form, but a great deal more is included now. Only remaining drawback is that the last minute updated to the 2210 forms (annualized or not) are only released in April - so I do them early, and then recheck everything before I send everything in. Good Luck! Holly

January 15, 2008 1:34 PM  
Blogger wyldthang said...

to put a little perspective on the designer wages, I can make more money scrubbing toilets. (really, my family runs a maid service). ;0) just sayin'

January 15, 2008 3:26 PM  
Blogger Ellen said...

On the Workoutfront, check out the family rates at the YWCA of Saint Paul. I think a family rate is less than that at the YMCA and they have lots of water aerobics classes, some very nice private family/handicapped changing rooms and a hot tub. I think the diff is that more specialty classes are free at the YMCA while you pay for individual classes at the YWCA.

As for the training of pattern designers, it seems that would be a good bit to be included in the Master Knitter course work. I know I would be hopeless!

Taxes - Turbo Tax. My husband quit his job, started a business, finished grad school and we had a baby all in one year - and TT managed it all.

January 15, 2008 10:28 PM  
Blogger cmtigger said...

Sheesh, most public school TEACHERS don't even earn $350 a day. And they have college degrees and often graduate work or degrees as well!

January 16, 2008 12:44 AM  
Blogger cmtigger said...

just an addition to my previous post.

It's kind of sad that so many parts of this country respect looks more than the people with the skills to get to that point.

January 16, 2008 12:45 AM  
Anonymous Alexis0509 said...

Annie, you may want to check with hotels in your area. My grandparents used to swim at the hotel near their house for a monthly fee. It was a lot cheaper than a gym membership.

Good luck!

January 16, 2008 4:35 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Yes, indeedy. I understand the JCC business. It's true in CT, and by golly, in NJ also. The local JCC in West Orange is so out of the range of normal people, that I've opted out and joined the Y in Madison instead. Affordable, with a menorah present at Christmas time. And I can use all the facilities.

January 16, 2008 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Karida said...

Thanks baby! And by the way, I've been loving your designer discussions. You inspire me to want to self-publish.

January 18, 2008 10:37 PM  
Anonymous Riin said...

If you go to, there are links to different sites for software that will do your taxes for free if your income is low enough. I've been having TaxAct do mine for the last couple of years. It's very easy to use. I can't go directly to TaxAct's site though if I want it for free. I have to go through the IRS site. I have to pay to have my state taxes done (something like 12.95), but the federal is free. Not bad.

January 19, 2008 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Annie, please keep speaking out about the designer wages. I'm a knitter and (former?) fan of Interweave Knits, and I never would have imagined that the rates for designers were so ridiculously low. Please keep us non-designers updated and let us know how we can support you (is it better to buy patterns directly from designers' websites? what weight do subscibers have with magazines? etc)

I think I speak for thousands of knitters when I say: we're behind you!


January 20, 2008 4:09 AM  
Blogger Chrispy said...

I think the idea of a guild or union of some sort for designers is a great idea.

I have been looking at the viability of it all since I had a design opportunity fall in my lap. I loved it and now want to do more but I am happy knowing that right now I don't support myself but that might change such as if someone was in your situation.

I have realized that a person should not allow themselves to be cheated out of their hard work. I have become smarter in the last few months because of Ravelry and a few other places of what is acceptable and not.

Now I am taking what I learned and branching out on my own.

January 22, 2008 7:57 PM  

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