Friday, February 29, 2008

An Hour From Mystic

And I'm camped out at a La Quinta Inn in New Haven. Life is good.

Jeeze, the roads are terrible, the drive wasn't fun, but I'm here and I averaged 45 mpg on the way. If there were ever a trip when I'm glad to have a Prius, THIS is it! I'm already 200 miles into my trip and have just passed the 1/2 tank mark.

Tomorrow up with the sun, then off to Mystic - an hour down 95 - to teach two classes. First, Combination Knitting (always a blast!) then in the afternoon Knitting with Wire, both are fun classes, and both are fun to teach!

THURSDAY TEACHING
I feel absolutely redeemed since my brain fart of Thursday morning. After a lovely cup of coffee with an old friend (Hi Linda!) at Panera's in Westfield (I haunted that place all afternoon - they were getting pretty darned tired of me...) we strolled over to Knit A Bit .

The Thursday evening class was wonderful - 18 happy students and 2 happy shop owners (I adore Harriet & Susan! I want to spend more time with them!!)

Then out to Long Island where I arrived at 11:30 and collapsed into a lovely, white bedroom in my friend Jill's mom's Sheryls house. I slept like a baby - what a delight - and slept IN! I didn't get up until I was awake - then had a delicious bowl of cheerios and some hearty union chat with Sheryl's husband.

The best part - I was able to just SIT and go through email. Yay! I caught up on stuff, I did some pattern editing, and I just centered myself. Thank you so much, Sheryl!

FRIDAY TEACHING
Then, off to Knitters Knitche for 2 classes. Darlinda is the owner, I met her this Summer in France when she attended the French Girl Knits Retreat. She was an absolute delight to be with in September, and still is. Her stop is just lovely with a good, solid selection of straightforward yarns.

But nicer than the yarn was the atmosphere - such a welcoming place! The students were funny and welcoming and made me feel immediately at home. I got to have a brief (too brief!) visit with Arlene (also a friend from France, and a gifted artist) who looks absolutely gorgeous after an unexpected illness this past Fall. It was so lovely to see them both!

The morning class was colorwork, and I worked everyone hard, hard, HARD! But the rewards were tremendous, and we ended with a little bit of plaid for all. The Celtic knitters circle - plaid and cables!

Then after dinner I taught a 4 hour class on the Universal Mitered Handbag and - although I thought we might lose a few folks briefly - everyone came through with flying colors and I even had enough time to toss in cabling without a cable needle at the end.

I feel as though the cable technique is my own personal Johnny Appleseed gesture - planting the seeds of how much ANY knitter can do with their own two hands - and then I scooted out a a little after 9:00...

AND TOMORROW...
I'm set with a 6:45 wake up call, a quick breakfast and a drive to Mystic tomorrow. Then, after classes are done, more driving (this time up to Saratoga) and - if all goes well - a very relaxing evening before two more classes on Sunday.

This is a nuts trip, but it's vital that I cram as much as I can into a brief period so that I'm away from home as little as possible. It's a trade off, but one that I'm happy to make as it means that I can have long, unbroken periods of time at home. And - the extra nice thing about this trip - it's filled with visits with old friends (and newer ones!) which makes it pure delight!
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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why I'm Never Lonely On The Road

I have a talking bag.
He keeps me company.
When I'm traveling
on the road
I'm never lon-el-ey!

Sometimes I'll answer back
(Folks think that I'm a nut!)
But when he starts an argument
I zip his pocket shut.

MEA CULPA
I can blame this on no one but myself - I have achieved full air-head status (at least temporarily...) and I throw myself on the mercy of Knit Knack (who, as it happens, are incredibly merciful and kind)

Today was my first teaching day on my schedule and I had done a bit of schedule changing, so I was more than a little confused. My first greeting of the day was my friend's little boy (to whom I gave a flip-knit set last night) asking me if I could teach him to "sew."

What an auspicious beginning, I thought, this is wonderful! Starting a day of teaching by TEACHING a friend's little boy!

So when I arrived at Knit Knack I was raring to go. But I was a little early, and the lights were out. I knocked but no answer. Then I peered inside and saw a flier with my name on it - and here's where my "other" brain took over.

Somehow in that brief moment, I entirely convinced myself that I'd CHANGED THE DATE of this class. That I was really offering it next week, and that I was in the right place at the wrong time.

So I left. I went and had a cup of coffee, then I drove over to a friend's house and we had just about the best chat ever (we both cried - both of us have husbands who went through sudden, unexpected health emergencies in the past 2 years) and then I drove over and visited ANOTHER friend.

Which is when I got the phone call.

Knit Knack called my next gig (Knit A Bit in Westfield) to see if they'd heard from me - was I okay? Was Gerry okay?

So Knit A Bit called me (Knit Knack didn't have my number, which is very possible - I thought it was on the letter of agreement, but apparently it wasn't...) and told me I'd missed my class. Oy.

I hightailed it over to Knit Knack, where Meera & her husband and son and I had a lovely chat - they were so kind and forgiving - and I left a set of flip books for everyone who came to the class.

What a maroon. I feel chastened (by me), and forgiven (by KK), and I feel a trifle more clear headed. Let us not speak of this again.

MOVING ON
Tonight I teach at Knit A Bit - it's going to be a big class and I'm REALLY excited. YAY!!

Then I drive out to Long Island to teach at Knitter Knitche, then after that I'll head off to CT.

As I said in the comments, I'd love to take the ferry, but that would mean arriving 30 minutes late for the class and the shop doesn't feel they could do that to their students - they have a tightly scheduled day and two instructors.

So I'll probably just drive part of the way on Friday night, then stop at a Hampton Inn or someplace and leave early to get to Mystic in time. The Ferries just run at the wrong times for me this time!

NY / NJ
My flight was great - I sat next to a lovely woman who works in a gallery and the exit row was, as always, a delight. I got a lot of knitting done, too!

When I arrived at JFK I was pretty thrilled to get a PRIUS from the rental car place (Priceline price, $20/day! Thank you, Negotiator!) especially with all the driving I'll be doing this trip! It took me a full 20 minutes to figure out how to turn the danged thing on, but I'm a better person now for that.

Driving over to NJ was kind of a thrill. When I lived here it was a slice of hell, but as a tourist it's thrilling...

The drive through the midtown tunnel alone was worth the price of admission!

Then arrival at my friend's house (late) just in time for a great dinner of soup & cornbread, and a nice-but-short visit before bed. It's very nice to be back in NJ!

NEW KITCHEN
After we moved to MN our friends Tomm & Holly redid their kitchen - and it's AMAZING! These folks are among my favorite in the world - just a stupendous couple with the most wonderful kids. Holly's a poet, Tomm a graphic designer, and their house is fun, fun, fun!

So, of course, they'd turn their kitchen into a diner! It's so well laid out, so thoughful and so COOL! I just love it - and Tomm did just about all the work himself. He's an amazing guy.

Every year he makes Holly another EXTREME Valentine; one year a bowling tableau featuring Art Linkletter and Holly; another year a billboard; another year an electric sign advertising "Madame Holly, Fortune Teller"

But this year he went a little more personal.

He got a tattoo!

It's some art that he did for a poem he wrote to Holly for their wedding day, and he said the tattooing session took FIVE HOURS. He did a ton of research to find a tattoo artist who specialized in old-time pin-up artwork. I forgot to ask if Holly dances when he flexes his muscle...

I can't even imagine the pain. I'm toying with getting a knit symbol tattooed somewhere on me, but I can't decide where...

I stupidly didn't photgraph Meera's tattoos at Knit Knack - I'll do that next week. I can see I'll have to start a gallery of friend's tattoos - they are so interesting!
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Waiting at MSP

I'm feeling as if I should get an apartment here at Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. I love it here - I can get a haircut, dinner, buy a computer or an i-pod, clothe myself and my family and I think I can get glasses. I could be wrong about that last one.

But I'm habitually early for flights because - well, because that's how I am. I had a nail file taken away from me today, which was exciting. Because the terrorists hate our well manicured hands.

Now I'm settling in for my pre-flight salad, a little reorganizing of the carry on bag, and some calming breathing before I board for my flight to JFK.

Gerry had a hard time getting out of bed today - he has great pain in his hips and lower back - and I could tell he was sad that I'd be gone. Guilt-wise, this is the hardest part of the trip - while I'm still in town, but "gone," and I think I miss everyone the most right at this point.

Gerry's written for more info on a few drug and treatment trials he found at the Multiple Myeloma Research Fund website. I can tell he's feeling antsy - on edge - and doesn't like feeling that adopting a 'wait and see' attitude is the best we can do.

Basically we've been told to go home, have a good life and wait for the cancer to come back. At first we were both just so happy that he's still here (when, a year ago, we quite frankly didn't know if he'd still be around...) that it sounded like a good plan. But now Gerry seems to want to move toward a more pro-active place, and that's fine with me!

I'd rather go down fighting than give in easy! But that's often been a problem for me, too...

So we're interested to hear back from these trials - to hear if Gerry's good for any of them, and what sort of new protocol it might involve. We try to be as open, honest, and at the same time retain a sense of humor about this whole nutty situation. I say nutty because I don't want to use another word that starts with an s.

We were having lunch yesterday at the Louisiana Cafe, reading our respective newspapers, and I noticed a LOT of stuff going on in the next few weeks. Without looking up I said, "You know, Gerry - there's SO much to DO around here!"

He replied dryly, "Funny, I'm not seeing that..." I looked up - he was reading the obit page. We both read that more than we ever have before.

It was funny, and bitter - and then we went to the YWCA and got a family membership so that he can swim and get into the whirlpool (and have a place to take the kids on the long weekend days) and we all felt better. Yay, pools!

Folks are getting ready to board, and I purchased an extra-special EXIT ROW seat (I'm happy to pay the extra $20 if I don't have to "kneel" against the seat in front of me for the whole trip!) so I'm in the first group to board. I think they want to make sure we in the Exit row can all walk.

Tonight I see friends I've not seen in a year, and I will cry like a baby.
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Prep & Driving

Since I'll be gone for almost 2 weeks, we've been prepping for this trip. We're pretty well stocked (and we dusted off the Simon Delivers account so Gerry and the kids can easily restock), a lot of laundry's been finished and put away, and the kids are caught up on their allowances.

There's also prepping for the trip itself, and Gerry's great to help with this; packing up books, electronics, clothes, teaching handouts, etc., and shipping a few boxes of books for me to pick up along my route (it's just too heavy to carry everything on the plane!)

And my most important prepping? Rest.

I'm forcing myself to mentally and physically give myself a bit of a break so that I don't start this trip on shaky ground. Finding a good traveling project is important prep, too, and I think I've found one. My O-wool colorwork, which is coming along nicely!

I had to rearrange my flights when I rescheduled, so now I'll be arriving and leaving from JFK. My flight was supposed to be on Delta, but when I went online to secure my seat it said "Flight operated by NWA" - which ended with me calling NW to get my actual flight numbers.

I hate to talk on the phone, and avoid customer service episodes whenever possible, but my chat with "Maddie" from NW was just about the most pleasant I've had with an airline employee! She was able to help me quickly and easily. Tomorrow I should be able to pick an exit row seat when I check in.

Such a pleasant and helpful customer service rep is a sign for the trip!

Follow That Car!
My trip can be summed up thus:

On Wed I fly in to JFK from Minnesota.
On Thurs I teach in NJ (Knit Knack & Knit A Bit), then I drive to LI in the evening.
On Friday I teach all day(Knitters Knitche), then I drive out to Mystic CT (3 hours...)
On Saturday I teach at Mystic all day, then that evening I drive to Saratoga (3 hours)
On Sun I teach all day (Saratoga Needle Arts) and I don't drive ANYWHERE.
On Monday I drive back to NJ (3 hours)
On Tues I teach 2 classes in NYC (Knitty City)
On Wed I drive to Harvard, MA (3 hours) and lecture at the Nashoba Valley Knitters Guild.
On Thurs I drive down to NJ (Knit Knack) and teach that evening
On Friday I don't teach - huzzah.
On Sat I teach 2 classes (Knit Knack & Angelfire)
On Monday I fly home...


Then on Wed I leave again for Knitapalooza.
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Saturday, February 23, 2008

This is BETTER?

We're all still pretty tentative around here. I was taking Maxie to fencing (Hannah stayed home) and on the way he felt as though he were going to be ill. Truth to tell, so did I. So back home...

Gerry actually seems to be faring better than any of us. He's thinking that some of the meds he's on for the cancer have prevented some of the more unpleasant fun bits that the kids and I experienced. Lucky dog. So now we know the silver lining of Multiple Myeloma...

Schedule Change
Because of our house of plague (bring out the bodies!) I'm delaying my trip east by a few days. It won't affect every engagement, but it does affect some. I've tried to move the affected classes to weekends or evening to make rescheduling for the students easier. You can see the changes to the schedule here.

I'm sorry about this - I apologize if it really messes up anyone's schedule - but I'd rather take two more days here to get the kids back up to speed (and me, too) and to get past the point where I'm a walking contaminant because it's just hard to knit and hurl. Yes, you can quote me.

Future Talk
And, while you're looking at my website, you could always look at my appearances page to see where I'm teaching next.

I've been saying "no" to a lot of engagements for about 6 months, and today I suddenly realized, "Hey, I've been turning down engagements..." I feel like I put aside planning things for an extended period, and I've lost the habit of setting up a class schedule.

To paraphrase Lennon, "Life is what happens to you while you forget how to make other plans."

I guess I just wanted to get to a place where I felt really good about leaving G & the kids for successive weekends while I go teach. I'm not sure if that will happen, though - and the bank is not waiting for a time when they feel "really good" about sending the mortgage notice.

The fact that I love what I do so much makes me hesitant sometimes, almost as if I should be a little ashamed to be having so much fun when I 'go to work.'

But GO is the operative word, and I must go - travel - to get to the folks who want to take the classes. So it's time for me to start lining up more engagements for late Spring / Summer and into next Fall. If you know of a shop or guild or venue that might like to host me, I'll be happy to hear from them!

I'm also seriously considering in the locations where no shop seems inclined to host me simply renting a conference room and teaching a couple of classes (maybe in conjunction with a 2nd or 3rd teacher.) I've been thinking of this for a while, and have been bouncing the idea off of Shannon Okey (knitgirrl) It's bouncing...

Funny Picture
I loved the comment about Rosie the Riviter, so here's some adulterated Rockwell artwork which I hope makes you laugh! Obviously I could teach Rosie a thing or two.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

6:00 am and He's Got It.

It looks like Gerry's joined the ranks. This is far more serious than me being ill (and I tried to be so careful about washing my own stuff, cleaning up after myself with bleach, etc.) but now Noro has claimed another victim.

If we're lucky he'll have the Maxie-brief version. I'm getting him into the doc immediately, though - we just can't afford for him to lose any more weight.

Dang. The cats are beside themselves - he's their hero.

[Just before he became ill I woke from a very bad dream where I had dropped the F-bomb in front of a class and was an hour late for the next class... What a nightmare. I think it's because I used the word Damn (as in "Damn your eyes!") in my last post. The things our subconscious frets over...]

7:30 Update:
Hannah has it. She was all dressed for school, flute in the backpack and shoes ready to don, and the next thing I knew she was paying homage to the porcelain goddess.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Noro Virus

Argh. It's still hard to stand for more than 30 minutes, sitting is rough and I'm not keeping food down. Still.

Someone said it's called the Noro Virus. I looked it up, and that seems to make sense.

I'm changing colors for regular, long intervals, so it sounds like Noro...

How Max recovered in 1 day is beyond me, but you know kids - anything to humiliate their parents...
Here's my 15 minutes of local fame (photoshopped, I'll admit...)
BTW, The needles I'm using in the photo are Extreme Knitting Needles by Rachel John from The Bagsmith


A friend who works for the local paper (Thanks London!!) sent me a pdf of the piece that ran in the Trib this weekend. And our contractor brought over a copy (his respect for me has increased exponentially) and - as soon as I'm able to walk more than 30 feet - I'll go pick up a copy that someone has kindly left for me at the Yarnery.

In the mean time, I'm going back to bed.

I'm going to make Gerry switch sides with me tonight so I'm closer to the bathroom. TMI, I know...
Oh, I feel like hell.

Damn you, mystery person at the MOA - probably on one of the rides - who didn't wash your hands and gave this evil plague to my son and thus to me (that's my theory...)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

V I C T O R Y

So, remember the whole Interweave Knits thing where they wanted designers to sign an agreement assigning them electronic rights so they'd be allowed to sell (or give) our patterns at their online store for a pretty low percentage (10%?)

And remember that I wrote about it - respectfully, I hope - and said that I really love IWK because traditionally they've been one of the more designer-oriented entities out there, supporting new designers and in some cases bending over backwards to make things work well for the designers they use?

Well, after a few very good-willed emails back and forth, an impromptu meeting at TNNA and input from many other designers (I'm not alone here!) I received a new contract from IWK last week to peruse

It's so much more fair that I almost cried.

The main change is that the designers retain a sense of choice:
  • We CHOOSE whether we want our designs sold (or given away) at the IWK website
  • We CHOOSE whether IWK will be the exclusive distributor of our online patterns (aside from distribution from the designers' own site)
  • We CHOOSE whether we'll affiliate with IWK (and thus earn a higher percentage on our pattern sales.)
The shorthand is that the percentage we can earn from our patterns has gone from 10% to 20-50%, and 50% was the figure that always seemed most fair to me. I'm glowing about this - I'm so happy that IWK responded in such a positive and sensitive manner. Thank you, IWK!

So - it's one step - but it's a step in the right direction! And it gives us a precedent when other entities want to use our for-print designs online. So if you've let your IK subscription lapse, why not pick it up again now?

The Next Step
For me, that involves teaching.

As most of you probably know, I consider myself a triple threat; I design, I write and I teach. Most of my writings these days are on my blog - but that's good because it keeps my mind working and allows me to stay 'in touch' with the world while I'm working in a very lonely occupation (designing)

My designing has taken a back seat to Gerry's illness, but I'm getting more and more done - and now that IWK has a new contract I'll DEFINITELY be submitting to them this time around because I'm just SO thrilled that I'll have more control over the final disposition of my patterns.

I'm also joining with some other designers who are starting a Stitch Cooperative, a place where indie designers can offer patterns online (as pdfs) and also to yarn shops (as printed versions.)

This is something I've shied away from because the whole printing thing is just so hard for me (being selectively lazy, and all that...) So I'm hoping that will get the design juices flowing, too.

And, of course, the buzz at Ravelry is that they'll be offering an online pattern sale function, which is VERY exciting, and I'll probably be a part of that, too!

It's a wonderful thing when small businesses are able to band together to create an atmosphere of healthy exchange. I've long believed that small businesses are much better for our economy than just a few monolithic giants - it feels good to be able to put my money (and my skills) where my mouth is. I'm very lucky.

Oh, yeah, the TEACHING...
But the teaching is the place where many of us are still feeling a bit jerked around. There, I've said it...

I'm entirely aware that in this next paragraph I may be cutting my throat regarding future teaching engagements at larger venues. However, as it stands I'm facing the lingering illness of poor pay and not-great conditions, so I'd better speak up now.

When I teach at a small yarn shop, I try to bundle a few venues into one trip. This means more work for me (all that scheduling - all that hand holding to convince a new shop that yes, if all goes well they WILL make money on my visit...) but it's very satisfying because I get to see the engine that keeps our industry pumping along - the knitters & crocheters.

For this reason I don't do exclusives. I've found that when I teach at several venue in a town, the buzz from one shop carries over into another. We're facing fearful times, so it's understandable that any shop would look for as much advantage as they can get - but financially, though, I just can't do an exclusive.

My terms and fees are up online for yarn shops and venues to visit - I'm very transparent about it, and do my utmost to keep costs down for shops (I find cheap flights, inexpensive car rentals and stay at discount hotels.) But after traveling and teaching for 4 years now, there are things I will not do without:
  1. A private room in a smoke free hotel with wifi or high speed internet
    If I'm teaching 6 hours (which, let's be honest, is more like 8 hours after the pre and post class chatting and book signing) then I need, deserve, require, and cannot function well without a full nights rest in a PRIVATE room.

  2. Full airfare & travel costs
    I usually cover my meals, I don't eat much on the road, but I do ask for one meal for every 6 hours of teaching at a venue so I don't have to go out looking for lunch. If I get a rental car, I bundle that into the airfare costs and it's usually a savings because I'm able to teach at more venues and thus reduce each venue's portion of the travel expenses.

  3. Non-exclusivity - ie, the right to teach at more than one venue in an area
    Once again, this way I can earn more with each venue being responsible for their percentage of my actual teaching hours on a trip. More shops = less expense for each shop.
After applying to a certain large knitting convention (let's call it "S") several years ago (and, to be honest, after being rejected by them) I discovered a dirty little secret: folks who teach at S quite often, barely break even. Forget about paying the mortgage.

But, I figured, I can live without teaching at S. When folks would ask, "Are you at S this year?" I'd say, "Nope - can't afford it!"

Imagine my deep, deep sorrow when I see a race to the bottom among other large needlework conventions in terms of their compensation for teachers. Looking at a contract I just received in the mail, I was stunned to see that they only want to cover:
  • Half of my hotel room so I'd be required to share a room
    I'd be teaching 6-hours a day,
    I like to set my thermostat at 60
    AND I need to sleep from dinner through to breakfast
    in short - I'm a terrible roommate!

  • $350 in Travel & Meals
    Airfare alone to this venue is $470
    forget about taxis or any meals...
    there's at least $250 in uncovered travel & meal expenses...

  • Exclusivity Clause
    Preventing me from teaching the same classes within 250 miles of this convention for 2 months both before AND after the date of convention -
    that's 1/3 of the year that I couldn't teach in this LARGE town!

This is a marked change from the last time I taught at this venue (let's call them "T"), and I will admit that I didn't notice the change in the "terms of agreement" - my bad. I glanced at it, but never dreamed that T would be changing their compensation structure so dramatically.

I was stunned, though, that in a response the coordinator of the event referenced the fact that only pays $100 in travel expenses, concluding that T was actually being generous. Actually, they said they were being "very generous..."

I don't agree - generous would be paying for all travel expenses (within reason - but AIRFARE, c'mon!) and paying for a private room (or offering a stipend so the teacher can find a cheaper private room elsewhere if that's important to them - as it is to me - I'm happy at a Motel 6, but I need to be alone...)

When I sat down and did the math, I became even more irritated. I'm scheduled to teach 4 classes with a class limit of 28. That's fine - I regularly teach over 30 students per class at larger venues. In 2006, T charged each student $70 per 3-hour class, I'm not sure if that's going up this year.

My classes habitually sell out. Recently in Pittsburgh (which was a LOVELY place to teach, and I was treated beautifully by the Knit & Crochet Show there!) I had one low attendance class, but I chalk that up to the time (Sunday morning at 9:00) and the topic (embellishments - not my most popular class) but I averaged 18 students per class. It's much more common for me to sell out than not.

So, let's say I have 26 folks in each class, at $70/head, that would be a gross profit of $7,280 for venue T.

The amount of compensation they're offering equals $1,565 (21.5% of the gross)
The amount of compensation I'm seeking is $1,930 (26.5% of the gross)

It breaks down to an additional $350 to offset airfare, taxis & to help cover an upgrade to a single room (at a different, cheaper hotel) If they paid me what I want them to, they would STILL earn $5,350 on my classes (as opposed to $5,715.)

I understand that they have operating expenses, but 73.5% seems MORE than fair compensation for venue T.

In a follow up email they did offer to pay me an additional $10 per hour = $120 more for the weekend. It's a step in the right direction, but it's too little (and EVERY teacher should be treated with respect - not just those who make a noise, or have a certain visibility...)

I hate that it's just EXPECTED and ACCEPTED that teachers are treated so disrespectfully. I, for one, can't accept it.

So I'm doing this mostly for me - but also for the teachers who feel they have no room to dissent, to complain or to withdraw an application to teach if the terms are so unfavorable.

I'm in a unique situation that - for the present - I can fill just about any weekend I want by teaching at smaller yarn shops around the country. We all make money, but neither of us walks away with 73% of the gross receipts.

I'll be writing back to venue T and bowing out. I don't expect to be teaching at T again, which makes me sad because I like teaching for T (heck, I'm a dues paying MEMBER of this group!)

But I cannot put myself in a position where I'm LOSING money to teach somewhere. I know that there's an argument to be made that it's worth it for the visibility, but that still does not make treating teachers unfairly easier to swallow.

For those of you who like to visit the large needlework conventions and take classes, stop and ask yourself "Are they treating their teachers fairly?"

Political Rant
I don't shop at WalMart because I disagree with their policies toward their employees and their use of cheap, imported labor. I feel I have to make this stand in my own industry - I cannot be a party to my own hanging!

If a small yarn shop in middle America can afford to bring me out, pay my airfare and a hotel room and MAKE MONEY, then there is something dramatically wrong with the business model of the larger venue. It's a false economy to make money by shorting the folks who are bringing in the customers.

Evidently There Was A Bar Fight, Too...
There must have been, because I feel like my stomach's been kicked repeatedly by a pair of biker boots. Perhaps the boots from my post 3 days ago about the MOA Knit Out?

At any rate, I'm definitely on the mend. Thanks so much for your good wishes - being sick is NO fun.
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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Did Anyone Get the Number of that Truck?

Oh, baby, am I sick.

On Monday I was driving to pick up some Knit Out friends who were in town so we could have breakfast before their respective flights. I had Max with me because we had no school on Monday.

Just as we pulled off the highway, Max informed me he was about to be sick. And he was. Several times.

So - no breakfast. Home and bed for the boy (is there any rip off worse than being sick on a holiday?)

I did a LOT of cleaning yesterday - the usual stuff you'd imagine with a sick kid, and then Hannah seemed to be ill, too. Not to the extent Max was, but not at all well.

This morning was my turn. Both kids were better (Max insisted on going to school - he was much better, and he has the School House Rock play he's in today - he's "Max The Brain...")

I, however, feel like I must have had the best time in the WORLD last night. But apparently no one told me.

I have never felt so 'hung over' - with no good reason - in my life. It's been years since I've had the stomach flu this bad.

Finally at 2:30 I could keep some Pepto Bismal down, and now I'm more myself. YAY PB!

I'm sitting up now, at least, but there's no way I'll make it to Max's play tonight. Gerry and I have switched rolls today - an odd feeling - but if the PB follows through with it's promise, I'll be my old self again by, oh, April.

Code Void
For those of you on my email list, last night you received an email from me announcing the sale of my Sideways Spencer Redux (similar to the pattern that was in IK Fall 2004, but now in 8 sizes and - for better or for worse - written in "Annie Speak")

Here's knitter Katie, from the beta group. She took such lovely photos of herself in the garment that I purchased the rights from her to use 2 images in the pattern. They're so much better than I could do - and I love the fact that the model (and photographer) also KNIT the garment!

I also announced a code my mailing list folks could use to get 15% their entire pattern order from my website until the end of Feb. Then I went to bed.

Apparently I didn't do the code the right way - this is NO reflection on e-junkie, which I'm liking quite a bit, it was entirely me.

So for those of you who purchased anything from my site and tried to use the darned code, I'll be crediting you 15% via a partial refund on your purchase. I should have all those processed by the end of the week.

And now I THINK I have the problem fixed. As I've said before, I know just enough techno stuff to make myself dangerous.
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Sunday, February 17, 2008

One Year

NOTE: If anyone in the Twin Cities has the Star Tribune from MN for Sunday, can I get a copy? I heard I was in it, and looked in it at the newsstand but I didn't see me (so I didn't buy it...) but I guess I should have!

A year ago yesterday we MOVED here to St. Paul. What a year, huh? We are SO glad to be here - we love it, and feel loved and welcomed into the Twin Cities.

So here's a little knitting tip to thank St. Paul for having us - I hope you find it helpful! Unlimited tail - and they guys love it, too...

I want to write more about our year this week, but right now I need to report on the doings at the Mall of America.

Out Knit
The Great American Knit Out was this weekend here at the MOA - right in my own backyard in Bloomington, MN - and I am so tired my feet could fall off and I wouldn't even walk over to pick them up

(huh? I'm tired, I can't make a decent analogy to save my cat.) Harley Davidson boots & Patons needles, that's what I saw a LOT of this weekend!

Lots of folks came from in all over the place - they drove, flew, a few even swam up the Mississippi from Iowa (we're hardy stock here in the midwest) and the lines were absolutely amazing.

One woman in line, when asked what she was waiting for, answered, "I don't know - something free..."

I was asked to do a demo on Saturday - which was fun, but I think the organizers of the event (the CYCA) didn't figure on how many folks might want to hear me.

There was a table and 16 (sixteen) chairs set up for my combination knitting demo. Sixteen.

By 10:30 there were already over 40 folks waiting. So much for the 16 chairs.

I decided to start early, so I gave one demo at 10:30, then did another demo for at least 50 new folks at 11:00 (my assigned time.)

I know there were at least 100 folks because that's how many flip books I brought (and gave - personally - only to folks who STAYED for either demo...)

My voice was totally gone, though. I had to do a sort of throaty yell to be heard over the Mall crowds (and over the 4-sided video extravaganza that was going on behind me - sheesh!)

I had been under the impression that I'd be doing a demo on a raised platform, in front of folks with some kind of microphone - silly me...

It's a shame they didn't offer classes, I think they would have SOLD OUT!

Then there was an author's panel discussion (once again, it was SO hard to hear - that's one loud mall...) but essentially it was fun. After that the authors settled down and signed some books and talked to folks who'd come in from out of town.

It's always a delight to see friends in the yarn biz that I don't get to see on a regular basis - Kristen Nicholas, Edie Eckman, Vickie Howell, Nicky Epstein, Kim Werker, Karen Thalacker (my first time meeting her - she was lovely!)

The big event for me was later in the afternoon when they had the fastest knitter contest. I wasn't competing in the international competition - I'm not in that league - I was just doing the anyone-who-wants-to-compete amateur heat.

170 in 3 Minutes

I almost missed it! (I ran to the bathroom - more lines - and when I got back the amateur contestants were already on stage...) So I rushed up and took a seat on stage in the back.

They had everyone use the same yarn, and it was my first time with it, so I didn't do as well as I hoped. I did, however, knit a total of 170 sts in 3 minutes, which was the best among our little group (2nd and 3rd place were 125 and 105 - I think - I may be off with that...)

It's nowhere near the international speeds, but I was proud! I did so well, I'm certain, because of the Signature Needles I was using. They're amazing - absolutely stunning. I'm sort of a long, metal needle nut (I know they're not everyone's cup of tea) and the goal of knitting is NOT to knit fast.

But this is what I do for a living and I'm very much in love with my new metal needles. Mwa.

Then they had the REAL competition - and it's no secret I was cheering for Miriam Tegels. (I was cheering for everyone, but Miriam is a dear friend and I really wanted her to do her best!)

There were 3 heats, each contestant took their best time out of their 3 attempts, and each contestant got a bit better each time. Hazel Tindall (far right in photo) from the Shetland Isles won - she had 265 sts in 3 minutes and blew EVERYONE out of the water! Miriam (center) was next with 247 sts, and Wannietta (Wan-ee-ta) Prescod (left) came in third. And, get this, Hazel had her own specially made needles and Miriam and Wannietta both used Signature Needles. Coincidence? We think not.

It was SO much more exciting than it sounds - and folks were holding their breath. A fight almost broke out between rowdy fans of Hazel & Miriam. Not really... but I like to think so.

After the fastest crocheter contest (Lisa Gentry won that one - she must have been ONE tired woman with exhausted digits!) Miriam, her husband, Franz, Jennifer (Dominitrix) and Gerry and the kids and I all went out for a nice St. Paul dinner and I got to show off my new home town.

I returned briefly Sunday for lunch with Nicky and her great husband - she's such a doll - and got to visit a bit more with fiber friends. Now I'm home - so tired - and ready to knit.

O Project!
I'm starting on a colorwork using Vermont Organic Fibers OWool & Balance. I'm using both of them together in a tone-on-tone fair isle look, in bands of color.

I'm so excited - I was inspired by a button. Now let's see how fast I can knit this up...

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Warm Glow

We've decided to forego any kind of VD dinner so we can just spend some time here at home with the kiddies - maybe we'll order pizza? The best Valentine's Day ever!

Feb 13th is the anniversary of the day that Gerry actually fell in love with me (I held out for another week or so...) so it's a sweet time for us. I fixed him some chicken, he was won over! Maybe I'll just make him chicken tonight...

While at the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Out, I ran into a friend of a friend (Annie Adams - she makes the most beautiful jewelry and knitting notions) and she gifted me with some knitting accoutrement to use in a new design.

And the earrings - well, I'm totally in love with them. Hannah immediately noticed them at the airport, which made me feel very - well, oddly special and quite "hip" (as the kids say these days, "dawg"...)

It's very inspiring stuff, and - having just received the IK Winter Themes and a box of Vermont O-Wool for another design - I'm in inspiration heaven!

I had such a wonderful time with my cousin - it's such a delight to spend time with her! Aside from being one of the kindest folks I know, she's funny and we get each other's jokes - we have the same sense of humor.

After her chemo (not radiation - I misspoke in my previous blog post) she was feeling good enough to have lunch so we met her sister in law and laughed and laughed all through lunch!

Another cousin (My dad's sisters' daughter, who - because of our odd family and my mom's late childbearing years - is more like an aunt) joined us and we laughed some more. I think in my few days there I was able to stop by and visit with just about everyone with whom I still have some kind of tie - that would be 4 - but mostly I got to spend some time with my cousin.

I spent a lot of time on this trip photographing the ground.

I took photos of my parents markers at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Parkersburg.

Everything was snow covered, but I found their graves immediately.

My mom's looks so - bare - compared to all the info that's on my dad's. I'm wishing now I would have put "Mother, Wife, Daughter, Aunt, Patriot..." or something like that on hers.

Then I found some beautiful street bricks in Marietta (pre-asphalt all the streets were like this in town) I found a place where I could get a shot of all 4 types of bricks. Yes, I'm a very exciting person with whom to spend time.

During one of our long drives to Marietta I casually mentioned that I'd read a few years ago about an outbreak of "Mad Squirrel Disease" in Kentucky - a series of symptoms they'd traced to the eating of Squirrel brains. We were smug.

In WV there's a totally unearned superior attitude about Kentucky... I'm sure it goes both ways.

And - how often does THIS happen in a week - I just turned on the radio to hear a live national show from LA discussing the same thing. Once again, my finger is firmly on the pulse of the Squirrel eating nation.

The drive up to Pittsburgh felt long - but I gauged the gas perfectly and as I pulled into the rental garage the "Low Fuel" light came on. I hate doing the pre-pay and then returning the tank full.

I slept more on the flight than I usually do, resting. Rest is very good. And knitting a little, and taking photos of the scary snow out the window. And I read.

And then the kids - the husband - all at the airport and all wonderful!

Knit Out

This weekend is the Great American Knit Out at the Mall of America. I'm doing a free demo on Combination Knitting at 11:00 on Saturday (by the Sears, where America Knits) and - perhaps - competing in the fastest knitter. They don't make it easy to figure out the times for that competition...

If you'll be near Bloomington, I'd love to see you! If it's a really big crowd I'll probably just stand and yell at people, that should be amusing...

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Cousins

10 Truths Jan & I Determined
While Sitting at Panera's This Evening

#1 - Cancer Sucks
#2 - Coffee makes Annie speed
#3 - Our great grandma, Matt, (born 1860's and who didn't quite believe in Radio) would be blown away by the internet.
#4 - Jan's mom was the prettier sister
#5 - My mom was the more beautiful sister
#6 - Gerry's the best dad in the world
#7 - Jan is well loved
#8 - Free Wifi at Panera's is the BEST
#9 - My lungs + Jan's 7 dogs = bad breathing
#10 - Microtel is the most inexpensive hotel around Parkersburg

Tomorrow Jan has two radiation sessions, she starts early in the morning and when she finishes - depending on how she feels - we may have an early dinner with her sister in law (Jan's brother, my cousin Tommy, passed away a few years ago from cancer, too.)

But now I sleep. Tired, tired, tired.

Driving down from Pittsburgh I felt much more tired than I thought I was - driving during the afternoons is always hard for me (it must be the sun) because I just want to close my eyes! There will be a LOT of driving when I'm teaching in the NYC area at the end of the month - time to stock up on Red Bull.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thanks, Peanut Gallery!!

Hey Guys - Thanks so much for the positive vibes (especially you, Marcy, I felt so calm after I read your comment! THANK you!)

It just seemed totally absurd to me that a customer service department would be so involved in taking the time to threaten a customer with legal action (and in such an offhanded, casual way.) Especially on a SATURDAY (wow, that must be some legal department they have! In on Saturday to read negative blogs by customers!)

I've switched to e-junkie - so if you order a pattern, let me know how you like the service!

Rest
I am SO darned tired I hardly know what to do! Sleep seems the intelligent choice...

I taught 2 classes yesterday - they both went really well and I just LOVED my students! They were so engaged, so full of good questions and SO ready to challenge themselves!

Afterward I had a book signing - or singing...
(T
hat Angie Modesitt has SOME voice!)


After teaching all day, Saturday night Robyn Chachula and I went out for dinner - it was so great to spend some nice time with a 'girlfriend' while I'm on the road, just chatting! We had to wait a while for a table (apparently one of the high schools was having a Valentine's Dance - the dressed-up kids were SO sweet and unsettlingly sophisticated!)

So we strolled around and shopped. I got to meet Robyn's husband and in-laws, what nice folks (and her husband is adorable!)

Today my first class was at 9:00, then a book signing at 2:00 and on to Knit One in Squirrel Hill for a lace class at 5:00.

I was worried that the class would be small (my classes at the festival had 31, 13 and 6 participants - quite a spread!) but there were about 18 folks at Stacy's store, and they were ready to KNIT!

It was a hard class - in the good way. My job with this group was to bring everyone to the place where they realized how much they already know about lace. It's harder than just pouring info into them and hoping it sticks. But it's more satisfying because I feel like the knowledge is really ACTIVE, it sticks to them and encourages more.

The students really ROSE to the challenge. It was pretty rough for the first hour - I really demanded a lot from them - but by the end of the class 16 of the 18 were well on the way to having the motif memorized (and the other 2 were almost there - they'd just worked SO hard they needed some space from it!) and we had a spectacular i-cord bind off finish.

True to form, halfway through the class I was told sotto voce by one kind student that I had an - ahem - huge RIP in the seat of my pants! Evidently I caught it on a nail or tack somewhere in my travels (hmmm, now how in the work did I catch my fabulous self on anything..?) and rrrrrrrip!

I'm very sad because I LOVE these pants - they're yoga pants, but with pockets and a nice enough fit that I can teach in them AND fly in them. Not any more - the hole is entirely UNfixable. And I am sad. I mourn my pants.

The view from my Tom Tom leaving Knit One

I was SO pooped when I left Knit One - thank heavens for the Tom Tom (I don't think I could have BEGUN to find my way back to the hotel without it!) And now in my room, having a beer and a fish sandwich, a cup of tea and then into bed. I wonder if Forensic Files is on - for some reason I find it comforting to fall asleep to that show... Odd...

I miss Gerry.

The drive back to the hotel from Knit One
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I apologize to anyone who's tried to purchase a pattern in the past day. There's been a bump in my pdf pattern delivery system (see below) but now I've moved to another service so everything should be fine!

Email from customer service dept of from former pdf download service
We have disabled your account until the blog post is edited to remove any and all references to our system. We have downloaded a copy of the original blog post including user's response which demonstrates a material negative impact to our brand image and is sufficient to move forward with legal action. You need to contact a lawyer immediately regarding this matter. Once we receive confirmation that all references have been removed, the account will be placed back online.
Just a heads up! I guess I should go call my lawyer...

And thank you to everyone who wrote with such lovely posts and email. It meant the world to me, and I feel like my old self again!
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Friday, February 08, 2008

Bizarro Day

I'm blue.

Everything just feels slightly off kilter today. Wha'dup?

I arrived in Pittsburgh today after what felt like a VERY long flight - one of those time/space relativity things, evidently, the flight was no longer than normal, but it felt like it was 7 hours.

Einstein used to take this MSP to Pittsburgh flight.

But I was SO cramped in my seat, my knees digging into the seat of the guy in front of me (who reclined... c'mon dude - it's DAYLIGHT, you can't be that tired!)

I got almost the entire brim of a hat I'm working up in Schaefer Susan (cotton) and I'm liking it, but I didn't bring the millinery wire I'd set out to pack.

The rental car went smoothly (I have an HHR this time - my first time in one of those), my luggage was waiting for me, and after one false start I found the hotel (I'd forgotten what it's like to drive in the hollows of Appalachia - I'm glad it's not snowing!)

After check in I settled in for a shower, and was pretty surprised when an odd woman popped into my room. "Helloooooo?"

When I called out, she apologized and left, but I didn't see her so I don't know if she was a confused guest or housekeeping. There was a broken glass in the bathroom - I'm thinking maybe she was coming in to get it?

Payschmoadz* Frustration
Then I opened my email and started an infuriating session with my pdf pattern delivery service (I don't think I've ever received such sarcastic and nasty customers service from any company. From the emails I've received, it feels like it might be run by a bunch of frat boys.)

They've been overcharging me, it's functionally impossible to downgrade to a lesser service level, and I'm getting a lot of emails from folks who've tried to download patterns and are having a very hard time.

One very sarcastic email prompted me to write back that I felt like posting the whole darned correspondence on my blog. I got this reply,

"I wouldn't post any of our communication if I were you. Read our terms of service."
Translation:
"This is a nice little website you've got here, it would be a shame if something happened to it..."

Oooh, I'm shaking...

Jerk.

*update: I received an unsigned email from the customer service stating: "This post must have all references to P------z removed immediately. Not only is it defamatory, it is libelous and has material inaccuracies." So they're removed.

Show Horse or Work Horse?
This is one of those rare trips where - before I have even walked into a class - I'm feeling like a disappointment to the folks who've hired me.

Perhaps it's a commentary on the fear everyone's feeling about the economy, or perhaps I'm a dud, but my classes did NOT sell out this time (so far) and it's making me feel very apologetic. I guess there's still a chance for folks to fill up the classes tomorrow.

When I saw the broken tumbler in the bathroom I thought, "I feel like that glass..." Fragile and transparent.

WHY AM I BLUE?
(or, if you're going to whine, you may as well do it up red!)

Is it because I'm traveling again?
I like to travel - really! I like visiting venues, teaching folks, interacting with knitters. I get energy from it - inspiration - and I enjoy the time alone while I'm settling into a new hotel or waiting at an airport (excellent people watching...)

Is it because it's February?
I've heard this is the hardest time of the year for a lot of folks, and I'm definitely living in a place that has less sunlight than I'm used to.

Is it too much work?
The basement, after moving a wall because we had to add a drain, is a MESS and there's DUST all over the place. Don't worry, I'm wearing a mask... But the mop-up is excruciating.

Is it too little work?
No designs currently in any mags, no current books - everything I'm doing right now is entirely independent. I'm a wildcatter hand knit designer.

Is it Gerry's health?
It's true he's in a LOT of pain - and that affects all of us. But his movement is pretty good. Physical therapy is going well and we're sort of in a holding pattern. A to-have and to-holding pattern, evidently.

Is it my cousin's health?
I'm visiting her in Parkersburg after I finish teaching here in Pittsburgh.
The recurrence seems to be more serious than we'd hoped.

I wrote in late December:
But the best gift by far? This line from an email from my cousin in WV whose breast cancer had recurred. I shoved it so far out of my mind, I didn't write about it (although I couldn't help but dwell on it...) Here's what she wrote in an email this week:
The best news is that my surgeon said the lymph node and where it had metastacised was encapsulated so he got it ALL in one swoop!!!! And I only have to have a few radiation treatments to clean up what might be left.
She called to tell me she'd be here to boss me around for as long as I can stand her. She's more like a big sister than a cousin, so I can definitely stand it.
Once again, I'm residing in one of those 'in between places' that are so hard to inhabit. When I finish teaching here on Sunday I'll drive down and spend a few days with her - we'll do lunch, radiation, a girls day out. Stupid old cancer.

I'm happy she's here, happy I'm here, I'm happy we're ALL here (damnit!)

But I'm fearing the future, terrified of the empty spaces (all those holes that have cropped up around me in the past few years. Something I said? My breath?), and I'm not sure about my ability to handle the bridge between where I am and where I need to travel.

Geeze Louise, who died and left me in charge of being in charge.

Wait, that's not funny.


Is it my weight?
I wish I were thin and I wish I were short(er).

But I'm not.

I am walking a lot, eating okay, doing better than I have at some times in my life - not as well as I'd like - but not badly enough to beat myself up over. And I won't beat myself over the fact that I end sentences with prepositions, either.

And I'll never get my legs to fit into the space they give you on a plane.

But I just saw on TV that Queen Latifah's doing Jenny Craig
(oh, get your minds out of the collective gutter!)

I promise tomorrow I'll be cheerier. I really need to see some students, dang it.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Cluster-Cus

Wow - what a night!

Being our first Caucus, we had no idea what to expect. Apparently this year there were more folks showing up to Caucus than there'd been - well - ever in some precincts. We heard folks saying they hadn't seen a turnout like this since the 70's, but I haven't seen any hard data on numbers.

It was CROWDED, though.

It was interesting, it was a chance to see democracy in action (resolutions posted, seconded and voted on) but it was quite a bore for the kids. Both brought books, but Max was more than ready to go. Hannah loved being in what will be her new Jr. High - it was a thrill for her.

Oddly, we didn't get to caucus for our senate picks - delegates just signed up and they'll vote for that in March. I still feel rather confused about that - how do I make my own voice heard? I would have preferred a straight up and down vote, to be honest.

It also felt odd to be voting - caucusing - with such a large group of only Democrats. Back in NJ the polling place is where EVERYONE votes, regardless of their affiliation, not that there's a lot of chatting about who one is voting for going on...

The lines, though - good heavens! It was like waiting to get through security at the airport, or waiting in line at an amusement park. Or the returns desk at Target after Christmas.

The group was a bit in awe of itself. We each felt so powerful, and at the same time we were each such a tiny part of a bigger thing.

After we'd heard the results of our own precinct (Richardson - 1, Kucinich - 2, Edwards - 3, Clinton - 86, Obama - 249) Gerry, the kids and I drove around until we found a place where Gerry could get a piece of birthday cake and some Irish coffee (it was all he really wanted - and Fabulous Faye's delivered!) and we all had a had drink and a dessert.

Waking up this morning was HARD!

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Can YOU Feel It?

I've never Caucused, but tonight we're off to Ramsey Jr. High, to stand in a room with other citizens, and make democracy work!

To say that Gerry and I are excited is an understatement. It's Gerry's birthday - he's pretending the caucus is his own, personal birthday party, but I'm not sure if we can get everyone there to sing Happy Birthday...

The kids are giddy with excitement - who knew? - and we'll probably get ice cream or something on the way home. Birthday, you know...

Family black humor for the birthday boy...
Max: Dad, are you sad because you're not getting any younger?
Dad: No, I'm sad because I'm not sure if I'm getting any older...
Once we get a few more jokes for the act, we're taking on the road. Maybe we'll try it out at the Caucus tonight.

The kids are asking who we'll vote for - and aside from Al Franken for Senate, I'm still up for grabs. It doesn't get much more exciting than this!

Sideways
I'm finishing up the Spencer - the body and sleeves are done, I'm adding the waist ribbing and then I'll be doing the buttonbands.

Photos of the finished project to come, but here's a daily shot of the waist ribbing sts on the beautiful knitpicks wooden needles!

In the mean time I've been knitting along to a metronome because I've decided I'm going to compete in the CYCA fastest knitter competition when I'm at the Knit Out in Pittsburgh this weekend and/or here in MN in 2 weeks.

I'm nowhere NEAR as fast as some of the international competitors, but I think it will be a lark, so I'm going to go for it!

I'm teaching in Pittsburgh - at the Knit & Crochet Out on Saturday and Sunday, AND at Knit One on Sunday evening. It's a lovely shop in Squirrel Hill where I taught last year. It's one of the nicest shops I've visited.

I think they still have spots available in some of my classes at either event - usually folks wait and sign up the day of and then they get sold out really quickly - so if you're interested, contact them now!

And then in MN the following weekend I'll be doing a free demo at the Mall of America at 11:00 on Saturday as part of the Great American Knit Out - I don't think I'm doing a booksigning in MN, but I'll be around so say, "Hi!" if you see me!

That is, unless I'm too scary looking in my knit mask... Boo!
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Monday, February 04, 2008

Trusting;
Myself, My brain, My soul, My Readers

P2tog Through the Back Loop/Leg
Further Clarification
I hope it helps!
Letting Go
There are SO many ways to understand a concept. Our minds all work differently, and it's quite possible - as I explain something to one person - to confuse the issue for someone else. I'm constantly striving to find illustrative stories and images to help explain my points. I hope the above images help some of the synapses connect!

But ultimately I have to trust my readers to trust themselves. That's a lot of trust for someone who has been known to be the teeniest bit controlling.

Boy, if this year didn't knock the insane idea that
I can control life out of my head ...

Trusting means giving your mind a chance to work through concepts - to let them simmer. NOT to insist that your brain has to come across with total and perfect understanding THIS MINUTE. Trust is hard, but it's vital to reach that point where you can just let the knowledge flow (from your hands? from your soul? from your past? from your future?) into your brain.

Trust = Time

Enlightenment seems to hate being forced. Don't we all?

Trusty Lungs
I've been trusting my lungs to tell me when they're worried, and the more I listen the better they get at talking. Talking lungs - great.

This weekend we went to the Science Center, not intentionally, and had a wonderful time. We were ACTUALLY going to the School Choice Fair in downtown St. Paul (we saw some GOOD schools!), but the entrance ramps for the River Center parking and Science Center parking were right next to each other - and the SC was cheaper. Plus, we'd been debating getting a family membership for a year. Happy Birthday, Gerry!

So, with the membership our parking was free (plus we get free tix to the Omnitheater Movie) and now I have a new place to go knit - or walk with the kids and Gerry - and when the weather gets warmer it will be a nice bike ride away.

As the woman was enumerating all of the benefits I told her, "You had us at Free Parking..." She laughed.

While we were at the Science Center, there was a blackout in St. Paul, and for about 40 minutes the SC was on backup, emergency power. My lungs began complaining that the air felt different - more moldy? - and within about 10 minutes I just felt exhausted. The air circulation system must not have been on the backup power.

It was odd how quickly I sensed the change, odd how tuned in I felt to my body.

So I sat while the kids ran from exhibit to exhibit, trying to find the ones that didn't require electricity, and Gerry tootled around. The power came back on, the air seemed to magically clean itself (I wonder if anyone else was so sensitized to the phenomenon?) and the day went on.

It was striking, though. As silly as this sounds, I feel such guilt to be 'the sick one' - Gerry is the one who needs, deserves and requires more attention now. But guilt is no good unless you put it to work, so I came home and did some breathing exercises and had a nebulizer treatment and felt like a better person.

Taking Stock of the Waiting
My thoughts are very unclear these days.

When G first became ill, we were overwhelmed with how little we knew. As we learned more, we grew more fearful - working hard to overcome the fear and finding ways to navigate this surprise (!) life change. All of the work and education gave us a direction.

After the transplant in September, we were focused on the 100 day appointment (oh, and earning a living, etc.) Dealing with the meds, finding joy in small things, and measuring how much Gerry's beard had grown back - all were compass points.

Then the holidays, then the birthdays (Gerry's is tomorrow, Max's was last week) and now we're looking at our 1 year anniversary as Minnesotans. Gerry's back on Zometa for his bones, and his Physical Therapist has been a great boon to his body AND his mind. We're finding a rhythm to our lives as they stand.

And I'm feeling oddly direction-less.

We're deeply, firmly entrenched in the wait-and-see portion of our adventure. Waiting for a wind, praying it won't be a nor'easter.

Who knew waiting would be such a hard part? (Just about everyone who's gone through it, that's who...) It's almost as hard as Minihaha Falls on Jan 31st - Max's Bday. I know the "How" is totally un-PC, but dang it was funny!

Offhand comments by the kids clue us in that they know and understand more of this situation than we've overtly explained. Perhaps they're absorbing the unwelcome knowledge in the same way that knitting enlightenment seems to come to my students? Without really trying, just by letting it sink in?

I want them to know they can ask anything, and I want to be strong enough to answer everything. That takes a lot of trust on both sides.

Trust = Truth

The knowledge that we're in a golden time for our family - a time which will inevitably have an end - seeps in to my subconscious. Little waves of grief and fear wash over me in that pre-waking, early morning time (right before the radio goes off , while the cat is nibbling on my toe.)

How lucky that we have an inkling of how lucky we are.

GO GIANTS!
We were pretty danged psyched here last night - I only wish Gerry had some buds to watch the game with. Max and I tried to fill the void...
Some comments on comments:
Maria - you have a brain! Don't make me get all mom on you!
kmkat & Lisa - I can't figure how to do it in the round - still contemplating!
Everyone - Max is thrilled with the good wishes, thanks!!

Advantage
I've been beta testing a few of my patterns, as most of you know, and I'm thinking of doing again with a new pattern. I think it's been a good experience for the beta groups - they seem to be enjoying it. But a comment by another designer made me wonder if folks might feel that I'm taking advantage of them. This is not the only pattern testing / sample knitting I do, but it's a good way for me to get feedback from 'real' knitters. Que pense?

And how's THIS for a frightening test pattern, eh? Who knew Jason knitted?

More later...
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posted by Annie at 15 Comments Links to this post

Friday, February 01, 2008

Imagine that these happy children are stitches.

The girl stitches on the left are happy Left Slanting Decreases

The boy stitches on the right
are happy Right Slanting Decreases

The boy in the middle is an unhappy Left Slanting Decrease. Poor kid.
For a decrease to be happy, it must be supported by it's friends.
Right Slating Decreases are supported when they lean against existing stitches in the same row. Left Slanting Decreases are unsupported if they don't have friends to lean against.

So the
trick is to work Left Slanting Decrease in the following row, so that the decrease can lean back against stitches that have already been worked!
Here's how I do it:

Step 1: On the Right Side, knit the stitches to be decreased singly (not together), wrapping the yarn in the opposite direction (counter clockwise) to seat them correctly for the next step.

Step 2: On the Wrong Side, work to the sts to be decreased. They will be obvious because they'll be seated differently on the needle (due to the way you wrapped them in the previous row.) Thus, they will be perfectly oriented for you to go on to Step 3...

Step 3: Purl these two sts together through the back loop. Insert the right needle into the stitches from the back as foll: Insert needle into the second stitch from the point (pink st), then insert it into the stitch closest to the point (yellow st). Purl them together. (Click on image for animation)

You have just created a much happier decrease that is Left Slanting when viewed from the Right Side of the work.
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posted by Annie at 12 Comments Links to this post

Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf


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



Chullo-licious


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