Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TNNA Reflections

I love going to TNNA because it's one of the few chances I can meet with sister designers, teachers and yarn company folks in a working environment. It's true that I usually need more than a few days to collect myself and rest up from the walking, but this time around I was sensible about my shoes and I have no residual knee or foot pain. I love my Keens and B¿rns, they are saving my arches!

I see shop owners more than any other segment of the knitting/crochet world, aside from my actual students and knitters, but I don't get to see other designers or yarn company folks as often as I'd like. So even when a show is a little slow, or I'm exhausted (both happened this time) it's a good decision to go to TNNA.

Like many folks, I just about broke even this show. Times are rough, edging onto hard, but worse things have happened and in my heart of hearts I think a dip in the economy won't hit knitting as hard as it might other industries. It was delicious to be in a warm place, though - very enjoyable - and makes me appreciate my own cold home all the more. That sounds tongue in cheek, it's not - I really do love it here!

We yarn folk are in a unique business - we can fulfill simple dreams, which are all that some of us are able to cling to when larger dreams go into hibernation. A new house, a more exciting job, a cool new car - these are all things that may have to wait for better times. But a new scarf or sweater is do-able, and in the long run may bring a deeper satisfaction.

The sense of joy when a student mistresses a new technique is so strong because it comes from some internal place where we cherish learning. And not just a new technique, but this satisfaction is also found when a new pattern is tackled, a new yarn is discovered, or an old friend/ pattern/ yarn is revisited.

This is what will carry the knitting world through rough times, and perhaps even allow many of us to thrive. Well, a girl can dream.

I suffered an emotional setback at this TNNA, I had a rough day on Sunday which ended with a minor meltdown. Even more embarrasing, I melted in front of folks I treasure - so messy, so troubling.

I'm thinking the culprit was mental & physical exhaustion, the kind wishes of so many folks plus my inability to process them as easily as I would have liked. I wonder if there's some kind of mental digestive aid, like Tums or Beano, that would allow one to take in so much worry and love and concern from others without choking on it.

Like a kid who keeps a brave face until the moment when she stubs her toe, I was getting along fine until I sat down to dinner and put a very spicy samosa in my mouth. The burning caused me to lose all ability to hold back my tears (spices affect me so deeply, I have such a Methodist mouth.) I did have the presence of mind to get to my car before I entirely lost it, and that made the entire rental worth it.

I'm so grateful to Amanda from Lorna's Laces for understanding. Oh, heck, I'm just in love with all of their yarns anyway - Beth and Amanda are just the icing on the cake!

Local Teaching
While in San Diego I taught at the Grove, which remains one of my favorite yarn shops. The stock isn't extensive, but it's VERY well selected and there is something there for everyone. No, what I love about the shop is the spirit of the place - all the books, all the other cool stuff (clothing, trinkets, jewelry) and I especially love the women who run the shop.

Here are two students from my first class - both wearing knit or crochet skirts. Cynthia, on the left, is evidently stunned by Julia's prowess in knitting her Habu skirt (tens of thousands of stitches, we're told...) Cynthia worked up her own beautiful skirt from a pattern in Interweave Crochet. I love knit and crocheted skirts (I'm designing one right now in Skacel Trekking for IC myself!)

It's always good to spend time with Susan, I only wish the timing hadn't been such that I had to run back to the convention center to grab my suitcase before the management shut the doors and turned off the lights. But the rushing took it's toll, and as afternoon eased into evening and I found myself mentally and emotionally exhausted, and thus the aforementioned melting.

Luggage seemed to be a leitmotif of this trip. I've developed a new strategy for dealing with the crowded, bumpy rental car bus and my bags. When I fly I have so many suitcases (samples, teaching stuff, etc.) but I just HATE lugging, pushing and pulling them, one by one, up onto a rental car bus and then off again.

So this time I parked in short term parking across from my terminal just long enough to check in and check my bags. Then I returned to the car rental counter and took the bus back to the airport with only my carry on stuff.

It took longer, and cost me $3 in parking, but saved me a wrenched back and sore arms.

Thankfully, now that I'm back in the Great Frozen North I'm not melting as easily, and that's a mercy.

The flight back was wonderful - I was bumped up to First Class (the reward for so much flying over the past 2 years) and thoroughly enjoyed my free gin & tonic. The view looked better, too - flying away from the sunset was pretty.

Yesterday Gerry and I - and about 1,500 of our closest friends - stood outside the Riverview Theater hoping to get in to watch the inaguration. We didn't make it in, so we drowned our sorrows in coffee and breakfast at the Louisiana Cafe then returned home to watch the big event in the privacy of our living room. It would have been fun to have been in a crowd, though...

Looking Ahead
The Stitch Coop, the group of designers with whom I've joined forces (we're in the market for a Fortress of Solitude) is moving along well. Shannon's had such a great idea, and the members of the coop continue to come up with remarkable ways to market and present our patterns.

It was very exciting to see yarn shop owners stirred by the idea of presenting a hundred patterns and earning money on pattern sales with no initial outlay of funds. Shannon explains it much better than I am in her current blog post.

It looks as though we may be welcoming some yarn companies into our fold, which is brilliant. That's still in the works, as details become firm they'll be posted at the Stitch Coop website.

New Yarns & A New Book
I picked up some balls of new yarns - well, at least new to me - that I'm anticipating using in my new book.

I've made the decision to keep the process of researching, writing and creating the book entirely transparent, discussing the whole thing on my blog as I work through it. I'm hoping it will be interesting for my readers, and will allow me to avoid the annoying phrase, "secret project" that creeps into so many designer's blogs. I have to keep some projects quiet, but I want this one to be more visible.

I'll be self publishing - I had a wonderful discussion with Cat Bordhi about this at TNNA - so I have no overseer to get upset if I publish sketches or swatches en route to the finished design. The working title is History on Two Needles (or HOTN, which may or may not end up being the actual title.)

The premise of the book is the use of paintings, sculpture, mosaics and other artwork as a jumping off place for modern hand knit designs.

I had the idea several years ago, based on an assignment I was given in a design class in grad school. In that class we tackled the same concept, but without the knitted angle.

If I accomplish my goal, the modern designs won't look 'costumy,' but they will reflect the general feeling of some garment or detail in the chosen work of art.

For example, here's this statuette from the Museo Civico in Bologna reinterpreted as a ruana and ribbed top. I've received permission from the Museo to use the piece, as well as permission from several other museums.

Some of the artwork I want to use is available through Wikimedia in the public domain or through creative commons - that's going to be an interesting part of the process to wade through and learn about!

I collected many balls of yarn on Monday at TNNA to swatch up and - hopefully - use in the book. I'll be writing about them as I swatch them up, some of them are incredibly interesting!

The first step is to do the swatching and get a sense of what each yarn can do. The second step - which pretty much runs neck in neck with step 1 - is to determine what type of yarn I'd like to use for the various designs.

The actual designs will - if all goes well - organically just come together as I work through yarn choices and ponder my chosen artwork images. Yeah, right.

Well, that's the plan. Now let's see if I'll be able to deliver!

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Blogger Molly said...

As an art historian and a knitter, I can't WAIT to see your new book! Much luck to you in the creative process.

January 21, 2009 9:06 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

HoTN sounds wonderfully intriguing. I am always fascinated by the design process...more than the product at times.

January 21, 2009 10:46 AM  
Blogger OfTroy said...

Well you'll have to do something vaguely military or early victorian.. (for Cardigan and Raglan--or something eastern for the crimean war..

and something african (south african)for the boar war (lord Kitchener..)

and something with buckles.
(The pilrgrams didn't use buttons as fasteners, only buckles..(like the amish in a way) and came to new world with master knitters (members of the dutch knitting guild--since the puritans were not members of the Cof E, and couldn't be members of the English knitting guild)

and Rose Wilder Lane (daughter to Laura Ingalls Wilder) has some great american knitting in the (out of print) Woman's Day book of American Needlework..

(that just about exhausts my 'knitting history'... )

January 21, 2009 11:42 AM  
Blogger mm said...

You asked/commented:
I wonder if there's some kind of mental digestive aid, like Tums or Beano, that would allow one to take in so much worry and love and concern from others without choking on it.

As a fellow-blubberer, I'm happy to recommend Rescue Remedy. This is an herbal (possibly homeopathic, but I'm ignorant about this) concoction that allows me to maintain my feelings of sadness or stress, but not have them overwhelm me. I can maintain a more appropriate balance and don't "lose it" -- even if I'm feeling a bit down.

I can get it in the health aisle at my local grocery, but it's a sort of woo-woo grocery (we live in Eugene, OR). Any proper health and nutrition outfit should carry it. Rescue Remedy -- NAYY.

January 21, 2009 2:16 PM  
Blogger twinsetellen said...

I am looking forward to watching this book get birthed.

January 21, 2009 8:44 PM  
Blogger A said...

I've been reading your blog for a while (you're a great writer, and I like hearing about your creative process). You said "I'm thinking the culprit was mental & physical exhaustion." A lot of what you've been saying about feeling spread thin and worn out reminds me of my mom, before she figured out she had adrenal fatigue. She now feels a million times better, so I thought I'd pass that along, in case it's something you want to look into.

January 21, 2009 10:49 PM  
Blogger Cynth said...

Yay! My big mouth made it into Annie's blog! I'm gonna tell my mom I'm famous.

Julie's skirt was Teh Awesome! 4 gores, separate yoke, itty bitty gauge. (The skirt pattern I used is from the Fall 2005 issue.) Can't wait to ogle your upcoming skirt pattern.

I had such a great time in class and adored meeting you again. You have such a wonderfully "nerdy" approach to teaching -- you engage both hemispheres of students' brains and guide the cognitive process. Some knitting teachers focus only on the motor skills part (admittedly, some students can't process anything but manual instruction...) and it's refreshing to encounter a teacher who doesn't dictate conformity of hand motion.

Such a delight to see the bullet-speed motions of your combo knitting technique, too. I'm so glad that Debby, the combo knitter in both of your classes, had a chance to learn from you.

How 'bout that awesome sunset as you rushed back to the SD Convention Center Sunday after class? I hope it portends lots of rain here in San Diego.

Oh, we Ravelry volunteer editors are totally talking about you (mainly regarding editing & photography permissions). We need your consent to "slurp" the photos in your books to display with the corresponding Rav Pattern entries of your designs. Not sure if Jess & Casey hooked up with you at TNNA for any nitty-gritty permissions and stipulations you'd like to specify.

Sorry about the blarging all over your blog. LOLZ!

Take care, and see ya next year -- or sooner, at Stitches West!

January 22, 2009 12:36 AM  
Blogger Annette said...

The book idea sounds wonderful! Really looking forward to seeing it grow and blossom!

January 22, 2009 10:22 AM  
Blogger Miriam said...

Annie, you know we all love you, and support you whether you're melting down, or peppy and chipper. We understand and are not offended at all! My thoughts and prayers are eternally wending your way.

Also, your book sounds SO AWESOME! I'm really excited about it and will follow what you're doing with great interest :)

January 22, 2009 2:00 PM  
Blogger lookinout said...

Regarding luggage, I saw a TV clip where someone recommended shipping your luggage entirely via UPS or whomever and not carrying anything on a flight. He said it generally comes out cheaper than paying the extra costs the airlines are imposing, and it saves your personal effort.

January 22, 2009 7:04 PM  
Blogger knittingwoman said...

HOTN sounds great, I look forward to reading it. I wonder like the other poster said if shipping your luggage would be easier and cheaper too. as you do this for a living, isn't this a business expense meaning that you can write the costs off your taxes too, at least you could in the country where I live, don't know about the US.

January 23, 2009 7:40 AM  
Blogger WackyAuntie said...

Can't wait to see your progress on HoTN! Sounds fabulous and unique. My background is art history (Jan van Eyck, and anything with the Danse macabre...I'm your gal...not to mention a life-long fascintation with all things Anne Boleyn!) Good luck and I'll be silently cheering you on as you swatch until your heart's content.

January 24, 2009 9:53 PM  

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