Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Why I'm Driving

Thank you to everyone who has sent your good wishes and kind thoughts. My brother was a big guy - truly larger than life - and will be missed terribly by our entire family. I am especially concerned about his son, Alex, who he loved dearly and who was adopted from Russia last year at age 12.

Airfare is just too expensive, especially considering how cut up my travel plans will be in the coming week. I am planning to be at the VFF (I'll drive there on Friday after the funeral on Thursday, then return to TX to be with my mother and sister in law on Sunday or Monda for a week.)

Lots of driving. Good thing I like it. White line meditation.
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Monday, September 29, 2003

Shock & Sadness

Shock is the only word to describe how I feel. My brother has died. He was 44. He had a heart attack this morning in Dallas.

The scarf I knit him last year

James Charles Modesitt
April 3, 1959 - September 29, 2003
Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Friend

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Sunday, September 28, 2003

Dialogue with Hannah

Mother and daughter watching TV. A GAP ad comes on.

Han: Mom, do you think that guy's good looking?
Mom: Yes, I do think he's attractive.

Han: I think dad's handsomer.

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Friday, September 26, 2003


Thank you so much for your kind comments and encouragement. Your thoughtful (and complimentary comments) really do keep me going on days when it would be easy to hang it up.

I especially agree with all of Georgiana's points and came to the same conclusions myself in my last incarnation as a knit designer (15 years ago). When I returned to knit design 3 years ago it was with the understanding that designing was the easy part of the job - marketing, placement and follow-through are the hard parts. I, too, approach hand knit design as a more-flexible-than-the-average part time job (even though the hours I put in set me WELL below the minimum wage in my state)

Contrast knitting, though, with something that is more traditionally 'male' oriented and you'll see that those who turn their hobbies into a job are much better paid when the customers are mostly men. I think men are trained to be more realistic in asking for what they're worth and in paying for something that is important to them. Not that women can't be this way, but we get an awful lot of societal conditioning to be 'nice' and 'sweet' and give away what a man would sell.

Hence the HUGE amount of knitters who are so happy and proud to get a sweater accepted by a magazine that they'll take peanuts (or nothing!) for their work. It's difficult when you're so flattered that you'll be in print to think about the folks who are trying to earn a living designing and will lose out when you accept very little money, thus lowering the base price for all designers. This is not a slam on internet mags like Knitty - which is tremendous and a wonderful boon to the knitting world! Knitty's designers aren't paid, but that's a choice we all make (and are happy to make) to have so much control over our designs when Amy publishes them.

As a matter of pride I have set prices on my designs. If a magazine is interested and can't pay my fee (and this fee includes the rights to the design for a set period of time, a sample garment, and - most important - instructions written in at least 3 sizes) I will work with them - I realize that not all magazines have large budgets. I don't mind giving folks a break on my prices when they need one, but I want them to KNOW it's a break and not think that I'm a pushover or selling my designs too cheaply out of ignorance. I'm happy to be generous - but I don't want to be a patsy.

This is yet another reason that an active guild for published designers (with an internet presence and a set of guidelines for magazines to follow in relation to pricing and expectations on designers) would be a very welcome addition to the hand knit design landscape.

I have thought about selling my patterns and kits (note the list of links above to my website...) but I haven't been as dilligent as I might be in marketing my stuff to yarn shops and providing new items in my product line. Your comments have me thinking that I should:
  1. Take a few of my designs that haven't had any interest from editorial and break down, purchase the yarn and knit them up (finances have prevented me from taking this step, but it's necessary.)

  2. Perhaps hire knitters - something I've been loathe to do because it's by working up my samples that I really develop a good understanding of the tips and tricks that make a design fun to knit. Also, I knit so quickly - but I'm becoming overwhelmed with the amount I need to do.

  3. Somehow hire a technical editor to review my patterns so I feel comfortable offering them (I'm a good designer, but a BAD proof-reader!)

  4. Develop a marketing strategy that allows me to reach the potential audience of yarn shop owners (so far I've been concentrating on the wide world of internet knitters, but I see that I must branch out.)
In the past 3 years I've been working on raising my profile, developing teaching techniques and trying to determine exactly WHAT it is about my designs, knitting & style that sets me apart and prevents me from being superfluous.

I've also been working on a series of booklets on Finishing, Borders & Edgings, Colorwork and Cabling. I started making them up so I'd have good teaching resources, but they're turning into much more than I could teach in a 2 hour class. Trying to give them a uniform look and create swatches and charts to illustrate all of my points has been a challenge, but an excellent learning experience, too! I'm currently writing an article on creating lace edgings for Cast On and that may turn into part of a lace booklet, too. And, as always, I'm trying to put together a good book on knitting millinery and another on knitting handbags (the latter seems overdone in the past few months...)

And yet I sit here wondering if another set of books on knitting is really necessary.

If any of you are interested in seeing advanced pdf copies of these books so you can offer suggestions I'd be happy to send them to you. Email me to let me know which you'd like to look at.
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Thursday, September 25, 2003


This is the 4th or 5th straight go-round when not one thing has been accepted by Vogue. I've been fortunate to get a lot of sweaters accepted by a variety of venues this past year - IK, Knittes, Cast On, Family Circle, various yarn companies, and of course, KNITTY - but never Vogue. Oh, well...

I worked at Vogue in the early 80's when it was under the editorship of Lola Erlich. In my worst, most paranoid moments I feel like I'll need a beard to get past the screening process and have my designs taken seriously.

As always, I tell myself that it's not a measure of my talent as a designer but more a matter of editorial need. My designs just didn't fit the need. It's getting harder to tell myself that, though.

If any of you are interested here's a PDF sample of what I submitted to them. All designs are copyright, my property (of course!) so any untoward use of them will be dealt with by my Yarrrn Pirates (Avast!)

NOTE: It's a pretty big file, and it's a PDF file. Be warned. Prepare to be boarded.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Have bull, looking for horns...

Sadly, so many knitting teachers I know have been telling me that their classes are going unfilled this fall. I don't know if it's the sluggish economy, or whether folks are just reluctant to give up Summer when it seemed so short (and wet!) but it makes me sad to hear it!

My own outside classes (not taught in my home) have had slow registration this fall, too. Several have had to cancel. Each class has had a few knitters in them, but not enough for a class. It seems a waste when - if I put all of the classes together - I'd have at least ONE good class between them!

I'm taking the bull by the horns and I'm offering a new class in my home on Tuesdays evenings from 10/7 - 11/25, 7:30 - 9:30pm. It will be an 8 week class ($80 per person) and will be GOAL oriented. So far I have three folks signed up and I have room for 7.

I want to try a new tact this time - I'd like to have each student tell me what their own goal is for the class and together we'll work to achieve it. So bring your half finished sweaters, projects you've been longing to tackle, and your desire to master lace and we'll send you out the door with your goal (hopefully) realized by Thanksgiving!

I've always hated synchronized knitting, so this may work out to be the best kind of class. It sort of is how I have been teaching for the past year, anyway!

An older friend asked me today if I'd start an afternoon class because it's so hard for her and her friends to get out at night (driving is difficult for her after dark). I'm kicking this idea around, too - and thinking that Thursday or Tuesday afternoon around 1:00 might be a good time for a day class. Que pense?

If you have any questions or suggestions I'd love to hear them!
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Monday, September 22, 2003


I love finishing things - in both senses of the word! I love to have a project complete (assuming that I'm happy with it...) and I love to take an evening and put it together piece by piece, steam block what needs to be steam blocked, weave in ends. Really, I do enjoy it!

When I was in orchestra in High School our conductor used to tell us, "You like to play what you're good at!" He would make us practice all of the music we hated twice as much as the 'fun' stuff, and thus it would all become fun stuff. We didn't like him very much, though. When I look back on the experience I'm glad that he sacrificed an easy comaraderie with his students in order to teach us an important lesson - and I wonder if it would have been possible for him to have the best of both worlds. Students who loved him and learned an important lesson about perserverence.

Back to knitting. I finished three projects this weekend and spent last night finishing them. A cute hat & matching drawstring bag for Berrocco (crocheted) and a very easy sweater, also for Berrocco. Of all the pieces I'm the most happy with the bag, especially with the closure (a double drawstring - I used the twisted cord technique I like so well) It's pretty easy - single crochet - and would be a great first project for a knitting who wants to learn a bit about crochet to expand their reperatoire.
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Saturday, September 20, 2003

Annie Who?

Just when you think you're making a name for yourself in knitting, reality rears it's ugly head...
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Wednesday, September 17, 2003


I be thankin' the fine, fine grey-eyed wench Athena for sendin' me this grand an' glorious link Arrr. Yarrr. Arrgh.

Well, now that my throat's clear, I'm happy to announce that the nautical sweater (arrrgh) was well received by CO.

It's funny - I make the design, get the commission from a venue, receive the yarn, write the pattern and knit the garment and send it off. Then I worry. I worry that the editor won't like the finished garment, that there are details that aren't what was expected, or that the editor is having a bad day and hates everything that comes in that afternoon.

It's nice to get a "your sweater's cute" note along with a request to purchase another design and an article. Woo hoo!

And, as I was just discussing with fellow parent and free-lancer Tomm at the bus stop, waiting for the money is murder. One can feel so rich when selling the designs - then my checks start bouncing...

Generally the rule of thumb with most magazines is they won't pay until the sweater runs (usually about a year after they purchase the design). And many magazines have a 'no run' clause that states if the sweater doesn't run for ANY reason (lack of room in the mag, editors choice, etc.) then a reduced fee is paid.

The upshot is until a magazine actually goes to press I can't count on receiving the fee - and even then it may take months and months to actually get the check in my hot little hands. Glamorous, no?
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Monday, September 15, 2003

Have Fun!

We laughed so much that I'm surprised all of us didn't have stomach stitches by the end of the weekend! Knitting got done, but it was really more about getting away from daily life, exchanging stories and having our batteries recharged!

I think I'd definitely love to do this again - perhaps next time it would be worth it to actually rent a beach house for a weekend or week so we could cook our own meals and save money that way (not that the food wasn't good, it's just pricey to have to pay for each meal out!)

Now I'm home and I have to slip back into the daily grind! I have deadlines of all kinds, lessons to plan, books to put together, orders to fill - life goes on! I'm going to start by vacuuming the entire house, washing the windows and mopping the floors. Yes, I'm a Virgo. I may even slip cover the love seat before the day's out (check back tomorrow to see if I succeed!)

The kids were so happy to see me - I showed up about 1/2 way through Hannah's first organized soccer game (her team, the firebirds, won!)

Hannah on Defense

I'm absolutely dead with exhaustion, though - I think I was running on adreneline over the weekend and now I have to fill the tank again
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Sunday, September 14, 2003


I'm too tired to do much besides just sign on and promise more details later, but the retreat was amazing. I can't figure out WHY I'm tired, it's not like I did a lot - perhaps it was the late hours and the G&T's ladies...?

At any rate, what an amazing and fun bunch of women we were! And thank you all - EVERY one of you - for taking the trouble to make the arrangements, find folks to hold down forts at home, travel to Ocean Grove and spend such a wonderful weekend with me! Thank you!!
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Friday, September 12, 2003

Johnny Cash & Tex Ritter's Boy

I wasn't really surprised to hear that Johnny Cash had died - I figured after June passed on in May he was just marking time. But what a shock to hear that John Ritter died suddenly on the set of his TV show!

I always felt a little bad for John Ritter in that he had to live down (or, in terms of success, live up) to Three's Company. But whenever I'd see him interviewed or see him in something that wasn't slapstick, I was astounded at how personable and non-schticky he seemed.

He was 54, which is terribly young. Johnny Cash was 71 - I could have sworn he'd been 71 for the past 20 years...

On the knitting front - I sent in a sweater to Cast On yesterday - look for it next Spring - a nautical number! I think it's a style that would look good on a VARIETY of figures and shapes, which makes me happy!

I'm just finishing up a cardigan for IK, the 2nd half of a 2/C twinset that is one of my favorite designs. I'm so psyched to see it in PRINT finally!

I'm not sure when the Winter IK comes out - they seem to come earlier and earlier these days - but my Morris Fern Cardigan is in it and I'm very excited to see it!

And, of course, I leave today for the Ocean Grove Knitting Retreat - socks for everyone! I believe there's still room at the hotel, so if you've been toying with the idea of coming, click here for more information!
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Wednesday, September 10, 2003


Lynn, of the blog Color Joy, has agreed to dye us up a mess of beautiful hand-painted MERINO that is an amazingly fine yarn! I know this yarn intimately, friends, and it's astounding!

Here are the skeins for our retreat
drying on the porch!

225 yds per skein
(enough for 2 short socks)
Pre-order via paypal

Click Here to
Pay Lynn Directly for the
Yarn ahead of time
to guarantee delivery

Or you can just email me and I'll hold a skein aside for you (you can pay me at the retreat). Pre-ordering ends on Thursday night - after that you'll have to buy what's left from me at the retreat!

Supplies are limited (as you can see) so it's first come, first served!
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Monday, September 08, 2003


What a great party! Gerry, the wonder-mensch, contacted a bunch of my friends and arranged a girls bowling party at the seediest (but most atmospheric) lanes on Rt 22!

It was a toss up whether we'd bowl, go to the strip club adjoining the alley, or get a few checks cashed at the WE CASH ALL CHECKS operation next door. We finally opted for bowling and beers. Yes, sadly, it's about the most physical exertion I've had all week, but it was FUN!!!

Thanks to everyone who slummed it to the lanes - and thanks especially to Gerry for getting the ball rolling (heh heh)
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Sunday, September 07, 2003

Gorgeous Day!

This weather is absolutely amazing - if only all year could be like this!

It's about 78 and sunny - breezy - beautiful! Last night we had a blackout in our neighborhood. Actually, only one half of one side of the street seemed to be out, but we were part of it. Apparently a transformer in our backyard blew (it make a loud BANG before the lights went out) and we were without power for the evening. We'd just put the kids to bed, but the excitement of a huge power truck was too much for Hannah who sat with Gerry watching the flashlights play around the backyard while the guys fixed the problem.

I went to bed and read by my trusty Coleman battery powered lantern. The same one I'll take to the knitting retreat next weekend so we can sit at the beach in the evening and - perhaps - imbibe a bit of the grape refreshment.
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Wednesday, September 03, 2003

The answer is 42

Today we're in celebration mode! The kids have their first day of school (Hannah's in 2nd grade, Max's in Kindergarden) and it's also my birthday (woo hoo!) a day I share with Louis Sullivan, my favorite architect. Love that romanesque revival ornamentation!

No big plans for the day - aside from a celebratory dinner with the family and then on to a knitting group (quasi-meetup - we meet once a month at the same location as our Knitting meetup.)

I have to say that 42 is damned better than the alternative! And I'm STILL younger than my mom was when I was born!!

And, it wouldn't be my birthday if I didn't do something remotely political. Check out this link for the most asinine action by the NY State Unemployment Office.
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Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Thank you!

I spent most of yesterday and a good part of this morning trying to track down a low cost clinic in my area. I found out they're not called clinics anymore, but Community Health Centers - wahoo! Thank you to Lisa, Lizzy, Beth, Larry, Alison, Ann, and everyone else who urged me to visit a doc.

Based on our income (income?) the fee for service for us is $30. Yes, $30 (lab fees are additional, but a fraction of the $200+ I spent on ONE TEST last summer.) The doctor made a comment about the gov't picking up the lion's share of the test costs and I replied - "Yes, government BY the people - I'm one of those people. I contribute by paying $10,000/year in property taxes in South Orange..." The excessively high property taxes that are unfairly loaded onto Essex county non-urban areas is common knowledge. The doctor just nodded.

I went this morning and saw a doctor, got a blood test for Thyroid, found out my blood pressure is HIGH (yikes) and was given some samples of meds to take to reduce it. I'll be going back on Thurs to see the nutritionist, on Fri so the nurse can check my TB test and take my BP again, and on Mon to see the eye doctor so I can finally get a new pair (my old pair broke months ago and are pretty pathetic.)

I'm pretty psyched - the experience was overall very good, but there was an odd feeling of 'not belonging' that I think wasn't entirely in my head. Apparently my sinuses are also out of whack, which might explain why I haven't smelled anything in months. So off I go on my adventure in Community Heath.

Knitting wise I finished two GREAT sweaters this weekend - one for Interweave and one for Cast On - and need to spend some time polishing up the "socks from the toe up" booklet that I'll be printing for everyone who's coming to the Seaside Retreat. I'll include a basic toe-up sock pattern, plus add extras like putting lace in the socks and maybe some funky bind offs and cast ons. Socks are a perfect weekend class because I can work individually with everyone on an ongoing basis - I'm very excited!
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Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf

Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho


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