Thursday, July 30, 2009

V A C A ... (you know the rest...)

I'm too lazy to finish the word.

I've been a lazy blogger recently - sorry - but I've been a BUSY designer, and that's why the radio silence!

Busy #1 - New Crochet Pattern
I have had a wild hair for a few months to work up a new crochet lace shrug, rather like my Lattice Lace that was in Interweave, but worked on a universal pattern format so that it can be made in any yarn for any size person.

So I did the math and worked up the Poppy Lace Crochet Cocoon, which makes me very happy! It was a blast to work up, and went very quickly.

The pattern's up for sale here, I hope you'll give it a try!

And for reading my blog you get 20% off when you buy it, just use the code "modeknit" when you check out...

The sample's worked in Artyarns Ultramerino 4, which is a pure delight for crochet (and knitting, too!)

Busy #2 - Visiting Friends
Yes, that's an important thing to do. If we've learned nothing from the past few years, it's that time is short and when you have the chance to see some good friends, TAKE IT!

We traveled up to Pelican Lake to visit my friend Myrna & her husband, talk knitting, swat mosqitoes, eat some excellent food and watch Atticus get more love than he's had all year!

On Saturday we stopped in Little Falls to visit the Lindbergh Homestead, took the tour and listened to the actresses depicting Lindbergh's Mother, Grandmother and neighbor. At right is a photo of Lindbergh's fly swatter.

It was interesting, but the highlight for us was when Hannah got to play Lindbergh's piano! She did us proud! She also asked Lindbergh's "neighbor" if there was a large Jewish community in Little Falls.

Then on to the Grant County Fair - which I call Herman Days - to meet up with Myrna and enjoy some lovely Irish music. Hannah petted chicks, Max ate hot dogs, Gerry slept and I hit my head. What a glorious weekend!

Myrna and I snuck up to Fargo on Sunday to go to the Fiber Arts Fest at Bonanzaville where we chatted with knitters, signed some books and listened to the drone of a knitting machine

(I swear if I'd had to hear that "Rrrratch, rrratch, rrratch" for 2 days I would have hung myself from one of the historically accurate rafters - it really set off my tinnitius!)

But, machine noises aside, it was a lovely fiber show and I was able to meet folks from 2 shops in the Fargo area (Boucle & Prairie Yarns). It was my first trip to either Dakota, and I'm hoping to get up there again soon to teach!

And I bought some buttons...
Aren't they pretty?

Busy #3 History on Two Needles
I've finished the Black Prince Mini, but now I'm working on the hood (which is, ironically, more difficult and taking more time than the dress!)

I want to use elements from the original (pointy hood, square face opening) and I want to size it for 4 different head circumfrences. That's the rub - figuring the decreasing for all the sizes.

So far so good - it's going well - but not as quickly as I'd expected. I'm almost done...

Busy #4 - Scheduling
The response to my plea for venues to teach at while on my way out to Rhinebeck was pretty good, and I've been spending a lot of time getting classes arraged, figuring out my schedule and trying to fill in the holes.

Busy #5 - MORE History on Two Needles
See these boxes? They're FULL of yarn and I haven't even opened 3 of them. How's that for gratitude.

They're for 4 pieces for HoTN and I need to get crackin' I want to get each project to a 'traveling stage' where I can take it on the road with me while I'm in the UK and the East Coast!

Busy #6 - 1,000 Fabulous Hats
Allow me to just say, KEEP THOSE HAT IMAGES COMING, FOLKS!!
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Monday, July 20, 2009

I am Complete

I feel like I've been firing on 3 pistons the past few weeks - I've been missing 2 of my favorite tools, and I've been bereft.

Somewhere in my ramblings around St. Paul I lost a knitting needle. Not just any needle, but one of my size 9 stilleto-point Signature needles. My beautiful, shiny, size 9 purple needle...

I had not realized quite how addicted I'd become to these needles until I tried to finish my current project with my old needles.

I'm working on the Black Prince Mini Dress, which is chock full of twisted stitches as part of the jacquard stitch pattern, and NO needle will twist a stitch as well as my Signatures.

They're pricey, that's the down side. They're metal, which is not everyone's cup of tea. But aside from those two points, they're the best needles I've ever used.

So I wrote to my friends at Signature (they've become my friends, I'm VERY lucky) and - feeling my intense pain - they sent a replacement 14" size 9 stiletto in the next mail.

And I finished the dress, so quickly my head was spinning!

Sometimes I hesitate to write much about friends' businesses because even though I don't have a financial affiliation, I do have an emotional connection - an investment - in my friends doing well.

So I make obtuse mention of Signature needles, but don't come right out and say, TRY THESE NEEDLES!

Realizing what a difference they made in my knitting when I lost one has encouraged me to toot their horn, though!

I'd always used Inox needles, which I also love, because I love a long, metal needle. I'm odd that way - I realize that many folks like softer, warmer wooden needles. But I wear those out in one project (seriously) so I stick to my metals and knit like the wind!

But the points on the Signatures are so far superior to anything I've found on any other needle.

I write this knowing that each knitter is different, and some folks prefer a blunter tip - we all have our unique likes and dislikes.

Happily, Signature offers 3 tips; blunt, middy and stilleto. I'm a stiletto girl, and it's as close as I'll ever get to 4" heels.

If you're at an event where the Signature folks have a booth, PLEASE give these needle a try! Or if you take a class with me, I'm happy to lend mine out during class so folks can see what they're like.

Block Head
I like to steam block; it's faster, easier, and it works as well as any other blocking method I've used. Better than some! It's true there are some fibers that require care when dealing with heat, but if one is circumspect, anything can be steam blocked.

But my Scunci steamer - my favorite (and I've tried a few) had met with an accident. I dropped it. Many times. And after much abuse the bottom was coming off and it wasn't steaming anymore.

So with regret I put it aside (in the trash) and turned to the internets for a new one. And I found a BLUE ONE!! YAY! I love blue!

So now with my new (used) Scunci and my replacement Signature, I'm ready to knit and block myself into oblivion - hooray!
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Creating A Professional Teaching Environment

Once again, it's time to think about submitting classes to some of the larger venues, and once again I think I may pass.

I feel it's important to make public my reasons for not submitting classes to venues like TNNA, Sitiches, or Knitters Connection, because the reasons are clear and have an impact on anyone who teaches knitting or crochet for a living.

I also believe my reasons could have an impact on the consumer - those students who take classes at the larger venues - but that's a personal decision each of us make.

Let's just say that if you're at a large venue and your teacher seems stretched to the end of their rope, a little tired, a little overwhelmed - well, it may be because they didn't get a good night's rest because their roommate snored, or they're a little worried about covering their airfare home.

Let me explain...

1) Teaching Fees
In many cases the fees offered by the larger venues are smaller than the fees I get when I teach at fiber shows and yarn shops. This, in itself, isn't enough to prevent me from teaching at these venues. Compensation comes in many forms and the visibility and sense of camaraderie at the larger shows can offset a fee that's $15 less per hour than I'd usually get.

I've been told by many big-name teachers that I should raise my rates. Maybe I should.

Right now I charge between $480-600 for a full day of teaching, which is on the low end of the scale. Most big-name teachers usually charge a flat $600 - $800 per day. (Hmmm, I probably should increase my fee.)

I prefer to use a sliding scale so that a small yarn shop that can seat only 10 folks can still afford to have me, and so I won't be teaching a class of 34 for the same rate I teach a class of 12.

Currently my teaching fees are online, but here's a comparison of my fees vs. TNNA fees:
Up to 10 students - TNNA Fee: $65 per hr Annie's Fee: $ 80/hour
10-15 students - TNNA Fee: $65 per hr Annie's Fee: $ 85/hour
16-20 students - TNNA Fee: $75 per hr Annie's Fee: $ 90/hour
21-25 students - TNNA Fee: $85 per hr Annie's Fee: $100/hour
26-30 students - TNNA Fee: $95 per hr Annie's Fee: $100/hour
31-35 students - TNNA Fee: $105 per hr Annie's Fee: $NA*
36+ students - TNNA Fee: $110 per hr
Annie's Fee: $NA*

*I call classes larger than 30 students a lecture, and have a separate scale for that.
Before you go thinking this sounds like a lot of money, remember that it represents a LOT of work to create and streamline the classes, and I'm not paid for the travel time it takes to get to and from the venue. One day of work may actually represent 2 or 3 days of travel plus one day of teaching.

2) Travel & Accommodation Compensation
A few years ago a trend started to only pay half of a craft teacher's room, thereby forcing them to either share a room or pay the balance out of their own pocket. I believe it began with Stitches, and when other large venues saw this, they jumped on the band wagon. Teachers have accepted this because they feel they must.

I won't.

For the record, I don't mind sharing a room, in fact I rather enjoy it. But that's when my time is my own and I'm not required to be "on stage" for 6 hours the next day.

When I'm teaching (and I have many individual experiences to prove this point) I am a more patient, more well-rested, more balanced - simply a BETTER teacher - than I am when I must share a room.

I'm an odd one, I like the temperature very low, and I fall asleep to the TV. I also avoid going out to dinner, I just stay in my room preparing for the next day's classes, reading or catching up on sleep. These aren't impossible to do with a roommate, but it certainly makes it harder.

I've been asking folks in other industries (mostly men) if they have to share rooms when they attend conferences and teach group classes. I'm usually met with laughter or an, "Are you serious?" look. These guys do NOT share rooms.

Or, as a yarn shop owner recently wrote to me, "After childhood, room sharing should be optional!"

And the option should NOT be that the balance comes out of the teacher's pocket.

#3 - Exclusive Engagements
Often the larger venues have pretty severe "Thou shalt not teach nearby" clauses in their contracts. Knitters Connection insisted that teachers not teach in a 300-mile radius, which excludes Pittsburgh, Toledo, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cinncinati and all points between. That's a LOT of area to exclude from a non-local teacher's territory.

Why do the venues do it? They feel that this dilutes the area, that more classes will cut down on attendance. I feel it's an unfair advantage, one for which they should pay.

If a venue wants to prevent a teacher from holding a second class 50 miles away, they should pay that teacher a premium to agree to an exclusive engagement.

I don't do exclusives at shops, it's not something I feel is fair. I try to find other venues in the area (not too close) so that I can teach more classes (not the same classes) while I'm on a teaching trip.

For instance, when I go out to Rhinebeck in October I'll also look for venues not-too-nearby, but close enough so I can drive there. I'll offer different classes than I'm teaching at Rhinebeck (they got first choice) and the final result should be good attendance at all classes and travel fees reduced for all the venues. I hope.

I've found, counter-intuitively, that when I'm at 2 or 3 venues, class numbers actually increase at ALL the venues where I'm teaching.

Why is this? I think it's the buzz factor. If 3 shops are advertising my visit, more folks hear about it.

Or it may be that the class times at one shop aren't good for a student, but a time at a different shop is perfect. Or a knitter may be able to convince a friend to attend with her if there's a larger option of classes.

I've found this over and over again, so often that it can't just be a fluke.

The wise shops are on onto this, and will band together with other shops in their area so they can bring in more teachers more often. ALL benefit from the excitement - once folks are at a shop for a class, they tend to buy yarn and books, too.

Professionalism
I take what I do very seriously, and I love doing it. Teaching - for me - is not a hobby, it's my career, my avocation, and it's also my mortgage.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with teaching as a lark - that's fine! I hope that everyone has a good time with teaching - it's a wonderful adventure!

However, it is incumbent on all craft teachers, whether this is your income or you're just doing it for fun - for butter-and-egg money - to consider what taking a low fee may do to fees across the board.

Even if you don't see yourself as a professional, treat yourself as a professional, which means agreeing to teach at venues that treat you professionally.

When we undersell ourselves (which - as women - we are sadly inclined to do) we allow the venues to keep fees low, and tack on ridiculous restraints allow a teacher to barely break even. This is wrong, no matter how you look at it.

Why is it that Fiber Shows and yarn shops can cover my fees & expenses, but TNNA, Stitches, Knitters Connection, and other larger venues can't? I don't think it's because they can't.

I think it's because they WON'T.

Who doesn't like getting a bargain? If a show scheduler can demand a teacher at a bargain rate, why not go for it? I'll tell you why not - it's not fair, and it's not right.

Note: I didn't mean to imply in the following sentence that TNNA forces anyone to get a single room, what I mean is that in the guidelines the TNNA Designer/Teacher subcommittee drew up last year it was agreed that the least a teacher should accept is a single room - that's the irony!


It's especially egregious when TNNA offers poor travel and accommodation compensation because professional teachers and designers pay DUES to TNNA, and TNNA's own Teacher and Designer guidelines require full hotel for a teacher for each night before the day they teach.


I'm silly and old fashioned (and liberal) enough to feel that fairness has a place in business. Underpaying the folks who are a large part of the knitting resurgence is bad policy and bad business. Treating folks fairly is the professional thing to do.

Going Forward
How can all of us work to create a more professional environment for Craft Teachers?

I feel there are creative ways to deal with this that will leave everyone in good shape financially and professionally.

LARGE VENUES
  • Don't require teaches to share a room
  • Don't require teachers to attend unpaid events (dinners, shows)
  • Allow teachers to offer other classes locally (unless you pay extra for an exclusive arrangement)
  • Devise partnerships with other venues or vendors to cover initial costs.

TEACHERS
  • Hone your skills and be prepared to offer more than 1 or 2 classes.
  • Devise 3 or 4 DAYS of classes (if a venue pays to bring you in, offer enough classes to make the investment worthwhile!)
  • Consider renting a car and taking a room at a less expensive hotel (I do this quite often!)
  • Promise not to teach the same classes within a 50 (or whatever) mile radius
  • Devise partnerships with other venues and vendors to lower the initial costs for everyone!
STUDENTS
  • Let the venues know that you do care how the instructors are compensated.
  • Let the teachers know you appreciate what they do.
Note to students: I can't promise that paying teachers better and covering full hotel won't increase the price of classes. But as yourself - do you really want a bargain on the back of someone else?

This "Wal-martization" of our industry is a race to the bottom that no one will win. The choice may not be cheap vs. expensive classes, but cheap vs. NO classes.

This is how WE, as teachers, can create a more professional atmosphere.

I honestly feel by working together we can raise every one's bottom line. Right now it's just too easy for a large venue to say, "Business is bad, we'd better pay the teachers less and not cover their hotel..."

And if we let them do this to us as teachers and students, shame on us.

I want - desperately - to teach again at TNNA. It's a wonderful venue and I love teaching to my peers and meeting so many yarn shop owners. But I can't be a party to my own hanging, and if not me, then who?

It's my choice - my duty - to try to raise the standard of living for craft teachers. I know I'm not alone.
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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Remember Me?

Life is going well, interesting stuff is on my needles, the kids are well and happy, it's a beautiful Summer. We had our first harvest of our first-ever crop, peas, and almost had enough for a full side dish. Yay!

Gerry is getting out every day on a sort of trial/temporary minimum wage training wheel office job (he's filing and making phone calls) arranged by an agency that places disabled folks.

The idea is that this is a way to test the waters and see if he has the stamina to do a "real" job. He's only in for a few hours a day, but it's a month-long commitment and I can tell he really enjoys having a reason to iron a shirt.

I love having the alone time (Gerry's a quiet guy, but when he's here and he has an idea, or runs across something interesting online, I hear about it IMMEDIATELY!)

I sit out on the back deck with my baby tomato quite a bit.

Hannah has Breakthrough every day - the first 2 weeks were rough (she catches the bus at 6:45 and doesn't get home until 3:15) with homework every night, but now she's in the swing of it and she's LOVING it.

She wants to be considered as one of the few 9th graders that are chosen to continue, which I take as proof that she's fully engaged in it.

Today Max starts a 2-week theater camp with Steppingstone Theater. A good friend's daughter did the same program a few weeks ago, we went to her final day- the performance and it was delightful! Max is very excited (although he's sad to be missing the last week of Urban Tennis) and we'll be riding our bikes over for his 9:00 in time.

Have I mentioned lately how much our family loves living here...?

Then I will have hours - literally HOURS - when I'm alone in the house. What a concept. I'm not sure that this has happened, well, since we've moved here!

And just in time, too! I have a full day of work ahead of me...

1000 Fabulous Knit (& Crochet!) Hats
I have MEGA work to get done on the hat book. It's in a tenuous place right now.

I've received hundreds of submissions, so many of them are just exceptional!

Unfortunately, many of them are either missing the Grant Of Rights, or the photo quality isn't high enough. It isn't so much that the photos aren't beautiful, it's that the resolution is too low...

So today my task is sorting through the 1000+ photos, making a nice selection, categorizing them into "chapters" and creating a dummy to send to my publisher.

Rockport Publishing KNOWS that the deadline and time frame is a little insane. I took this on from a good friend who became overwhelmed with several new and unexpected projects, and I had my doubts from the first about the ability to obtain images of 1,000 Fabulous Knit (and Crochet) hats.

My sense - and what I will argue - is that this can/will be an amazing book, but a little more time is required.

The deadline for entries was ridiculous (which is why I extended it to 7/15) but even THAT is nuts. I'd love to extend it to the end of August and push the whole time frame of the book back. It seems like it's either that, or have no book at all. I'm not sure if this is do-able, but I'll try...
Rockport's been VERY receptive to any suggestions so far, so I'm hopeful that I'll be able to convince them of this. But if I turn in a stellar first quarter of the book and dummy, they'll be even MORE inclined to respond positively.

So those of you who felt you didn't even want to try to submit - reconsider! C'mon! Make a litle guinea pig happy...

All of the information is up at http://1000fabulousknithats.com, along with log in info and facts about image size. You can also download a blank Grant of Rights form, which I'll need in order to use your hats.

You can choose to be anonymous, or you can tell the world it's YOUR hat (or, at least, YOUR mad knittin' skills) when the book comes out.

Those of you who HAVE submitted, but haven't sent in a Grant of Rights - I need it!! You can just dump it into the main folder, be sure to put your name in the document name, otherwise I'll have 50 documents all titled GOR! ( There are just a few of you, Powers, M; Thorstad, L; Hughes, S; Liesspain, K - but if you could upload a GOR I can include your lovely work!)

Note: I know the box.net setup has it's limitations, but it's just about the best way to wrangle a huge task like this. One of the annoyances is that when two folks are trying to log in at exactly the same time one is blocked. But instead of getting an error message that says, "Another user is logged in, please try back in a minute!" a message is put out, "There is no box by that name" or "You are unauthorized" - which is counterproductive. Grrrr.

Down on the Farm
I visited a new friend this weekend, took the whole family and the dog, and we had the BEST time!

A few days ago at a Public Health Option rally at Senator Klobuchar's office, I noticed a friend knitting with a lovely white wool - it felt almost as soft as merino. I asked about it, and it turns out it was from the farm of a friend of hers who grows sheep for meet, and just shears them as an afterthought.

This was lovely stuff, though, so my friend put the two of us together (Thank you, Kathleen!) and we met up this weekend.

ALL of us had an amazing time! Gerry loved getting out to a 'real' Minnesota farm and was interested to see the farm's resident baby Pigeon. Hannah hula-hooped and amazed us all (then settled down with a book - she's our reader)

Atticus ran with their 3 dogs (and got a little too friendly with one, he had to be curtailed...) and I had the loveliest chat with my new friend, Catherine.

Max, though, had the BEST time! He scored a ride on a tractor with Melissa, visited farm animals, got to take an egg out of a hen's nest and pet a cow. He's been going on about it since we drove off, he's in love.

Apparently a wasp flew into the cab of the tractor and Max deemed it, "Cool!" - which just goes to show how much he was enjoying himself. Me, I would have taken the cab OFF of the tractor in my scrable to get away from the tiny beast.

Catherine mentioned that she's been looking for a sort of fiber coach who could help her develop the fiber side of her farm. I told her I had NO experience (and precious little knowledge!) of fiber, but I'd put the word out on my blog and see what comes of it!

Her yarn is really lovely! Right now she has it processed and spun at a mill in Montana, and they do a lovely job of it. I will definitely use some of it in History on Two Needles - in fact, I've already started a project with it!

Miracle Picnic
We continued on to Rochester for a Transplant Picnic that the Mayo was hosting. The place was filled with folks who had been the recipients of Livers, Kidneys, Hearts, Pancreases, and in Gerry's case, Stem Cells.

It was quite moving, all these folks who wouldn't have been here but for the skill and imagination it took to conceive of organ and blood/marrow transplants. Every person was proof of a medical miracle. Gerry's transplant is officially called a BMT, Blood & Marrow Transplant, but just about everyone referst to it as "stem cell transplant"

Senator Franken
Then home, where we rested briefly before heading out to Senator Franken's Victory Celebration for everyone who'd worked on his campaign. And BOY, was that a crowded room!

There were a few speakers, it was impossible to tell if they were any good because they just wouldn't speak up clearly. What a shame - if you have something good to say, make sure that folks can HEAR YOU! Finally Al's 4th grade teacher got up to introduce him and we had a speaker who KNEW how to command attention AND speak clearly. Yet another reason why teachers rule!

Warning: Emily Latella Rant Alert!
There are few things more annoying - and few things that kill the buzz of a room - than a speaker who is incomprehensible. The difference in the feeling of the room between the 'professional' politicians who couldn't make themselves heard and the retired teacher, who had EVERYONE's attention, was amazing. Everyone stood up straighter, everyone felt like a vital part of the adventure.

There's some odd feeling - and I will admit it seems more prevalent among progressives - that it's somehow appropriate to be soft-spoken, non-aggressive. Well, that may be fine in daily life, but if you find yourself on any stage, speaking publicly for whatever reason, please SPEAK CLEARLY!

I swear, I should just rename the blog, "Get off my lawn!" and have done with it.

And now, back to work!

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Grand Week!

It's been a wonderful week here - culminating in a great concert at the Taste of Minnesota last night, just fabulous!

We'd toyed with the idea of going up to Avon, to the Lake Woebegone Park to hear the 35th Anniversary show of A Prairie Home Companion. But in the end we decided to stay here because of financial considerations - and because of all the work I need to get done. Hard to work while driving (or sitting in traffic) It was probably the best decision!

HATS!
I've been working on the 1,000 Fabulous Knit Hat book - the submissions are coming in SO fast and I've been a bit overwhelmed. I'm in the unusual position of not having enough time to log them in, and also worrying that not enough will arrive to make 1,000 hats. Dang.

The publisher's agreed to an extension, and I'm happy to take images of hats right up until I can't take any more! If you'd like to submit an image of a hat, please check out the information page at http://1000fabulousknithats.com, and follow the instructions to set up a folder at box.net to hold all of your files.

Remember, if you don't upload or send me a Grant of Rights (GOR) then I can't use your images - so don't forget that important step!!

FUR WRAP
I've also been carrying around the fur wrap for History on Two Needles, looking for all the world as if I were dragging road-kill in my Squam Arts Workshop bag around St. Paul. The Spash from Crystal Palace is frightening realistic when knit up...

We had a great day at the MN Historical Society on Friday where I heard a little presentation on fur traders in early MN history.

I took the opportunity to photograph my fur wrap next to a real muskrat fur - knitting will never replace the genuine article, but it's a bit easier on the woodland creatures.

I worked on it all through the concert last night, and finished it today. I think it's finished... It looks good to me, and it's a surprisingly simple knit.

The "scarf" piece is picked up and knit onto the wrap, creating a strong neck shape that will keep the whole piece wearable for a long time.

While at the museum we cavorted in some of the great exhibitions. I sat and knitted in the "house" for a while, the kids visited the WWII era soda shop (where radio reports alerted us that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor - ironically my own mom was in a drugstore having a soda when she heard the news...)

The boys had a minor traffic accident (Gerry's such a bad driver!) Max was happy to toss his friend under the bus. Nice.

Max was fascinated by an article in a 1943 magazine on Wind Power. Why has it taken us 50+ years to get around to this?

The high point was the Taste of MN yesterday. Max and I rode our bikes down to Harriet Island in the afternoon, Gerry and Hannah following in the car, and we all met up at the Burt's Bees tent.

While the kids ran around eating anything they could get their hands on, Gerry and I scoped out great free seats for the concert and set up our folding chairs (and his walker- he's had a lot of pain lately) I sat and knitted, the kids brought me tid-bits of food they'd scoped (my favorite: bacon wrapped shrimp - and on Shabbat!)

It was a long day - and Max and I were a little worn out by the (short) bike ride and the (long) walk from where we'd parked the bikes - so sitting and listening to bands was a phenomenal joy.

When Elvis took the stage I wasn't sure what to expect. I've seen him more than I've seen any other act, I think this was my 5th or 6th time seeing him live, I love his shows. They're not showy, not big, just good.

He was WONDERFUL. It was one of his best, and if I thought he seemed slow during the 2nd song he made up for it by playing pretty much NON STOP for 90 minutes. Amazing. No breaks between songs, no pattern, just good music. Lots of old stuff, some great songs from his new album (and I got to embarrass my kids by knowing all the words to Alison.)

I was closer than I've ever been at a Elvis Costello concert - all free, baby! The pic is from my cell phone and it's bad, but the view was great!

I'd told Max over and over that EC had song Nick Lowe's (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love & Understanding, but it didn't sink in. It's one of his favorite songs, he was introduced to it on the Colbert Christmas Special, and it was very cool to see his face as he heard it live.

We watched the fireworks from the Wabasha bridge, Hannah and I listened to Elvis on my ipod and we oohed and ahhed along with the Hmong family we were sitting next to. What a great night.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July!!


Due to the amount of work I need to get done this weekend and our budget in general, we decided to stay close to home instead of going up to Avon this weekend, and we'll be attending the Taste of Minnesota on Harriet Island in St. Paul. We even visited Snyder Drug and got the discount tickets! $10 worth of food for $8!

Elvis Costello is playing at 8:00, I love me some Elvis!

I think I've seen him in concert more than any other performer, and with the recent A Colbert Christmas, the kids are big fans now, too!

So we'll go and fill up on some good MN eats, ride some rides, and hang around long enough to hear Mr. C and see the fireworks!

I want to ride my bike down, Gerry needs to drive. We're going down early to park the car, then he and the kids will take the shuttle bus down and we can drive back home. I'll toss the bike on the car - I don't like the idea of facing the Summit Hill after a day of celebration (in the dark with lots of celebrants on the road...)

Life is good, and I'm - as always - very happy to be an American.

I can't shake the, "pride is a sin" training from childhood, so let's just say that I'm filled with a healthy self-respect, and I'm happier about the direction of my country (and STATE!) this year than I have been in a long time.

And everyone - take a moment to remember - Our "worst" is better than much of the world's "best" - we're very lucky! We could do things smarter, we could do things better, and we're working toward that. But don't ignore the distance we've come by focusing entirely on the length of the road ahead of us.

There will ALWAYS be miles to go. The poor will always be with us.

See, all that training, those memorization of 2 verses a week, never goes away...

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Extension Relief, Bas Relief & Pain Relief

NEWSFLASH: I received an email from my sister in law, Karen, last night. It read, in part: "Alex's scans show no remnant of a tumor at all - it is gone!"

My nephew, Alex, had been diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma last year and the tumor was in a very difficult place - right in his hip joint - which made surgery almost impossible.

He's been so brave, so strong, and we're SO proud of him and Karen. We are beside ourselves with glee! THANK YOU to everyone who sent good thoughts, kind wishes, prayers, donations or any other positive energy to my nephew, Alex.

He's a singular kid, he and his mom are a great TEAM, and now he's clean. Hallelujah!

Hat Extension
All of you hat creators, I got permission yesterday from my publisher to extend the deadline to July 15! YAY!!

If you've already uploaded your hats and want to load more, please feel free. If your folder is missing it's because I've logged in what you've submitted, so just start a NEW folder and I'll deal with it!

Here's the link to the submission guidelines and a full explanation of how to use box.net If you try to log in and it won't let you, it's probably because two folks are trying to log in at exactly the same time. Wait a few minutes and try again, it should work then.

If you are submitting, PLEASE be sure to include the Grant of Rights and Image List. Without these I can't log in your work, and we can't use your images.

About the deadline change, I know, an equal number of you want to either kiss or kill me, I've been in your shoes! There're few things more aggravating than struggling to meet a deadline, then being told the deadline has been advance.

Please know that if you got your hats in early, you get EXTRA karma points. What this actually means, I don't know, but please know that I am grateful!

The main reason for the extension is that the setup at box.net, as well-working as it is, was TOTALLY overwhelmed with all of the last minute submissions. Folks were having a hard time logging in, boxes were disappearing, forms were ending up in other places and some people were freaking out. I'm not naming names, but one red-headed editor who lives in St. Paul just about had a kitten when half of her work mysteriously disappeared for about 15 minutes. Just sayin'

So you have time, babies, and I really WANT to see your hats! I'm blown away by the quality of what's come in so far - this will be a VERY hard decision!

A good friend sent me this, and it made me laugh out loud. (I think these are extras from that beloved soft-core porn video, "The Mad Naughty Hatter")

Visit Toast, where I grabbed this photo, for a hysterical walk down the memory lane of scary crochet...

A Knights Tale
Work progresses apace on the Black Prince's Mini Dress. (I need to change the name, mostly so I can call it, The Piece Formerly Known as "The Prince's Dress" )

Why? Because I am foolish and giggle easily. And I live in the Twin Cities.

I had a bit of worry when starting the jacquard (brocade) section, creating a bas relief of the fleur de lys and lions from the Black Prince's coat of arms.

I've tried this technique before with mixed results, and had stayed away from it because I thought I was cursed. But I was wrong!

I'm fortunate to have a perfect mix of 2 factors that I believe is making the technique work better for me this time.

1) I'm using a well suited yarn (the Berroco Pure Merino has a nice sheen that reflects light well and creates a strong, beautiful contrast between knit & purl)

2) I'm utilizing a technique whereby I twist each transition stitch (Transition stitches are the sts that are knit into an existing purl, or purled into an existing knit st)

I'm pretty thrilled with how it's looking! I can actually SEE the lion and the fleur de lys - YAY!

I tried to choose colors for this dress that referenced French Blue and English Red, without being too 'on the nose' about it. Working in parti-colors (check out the garment the servant is wearing in this painting) can be off-putting, I wanted to do it subtly.

I've been thinking about the Knight's Dress sleeves - I think I'll work them in King Charles Brocade, with a cool diversion on the elbow that references the join in a suit of armor.

I love this book. Is that obvious?

The fur stole hit a snag. I got carried away and had made it WAAAY too big.

I tried it on my mannequin and it looked more like a fur burka than a sassy collar, so out it ripped it while sitting at Max's baseball game and I look like I was dressing road kill.

Speaking of road kill, I was reminscing with a friend the other day how my mom would pull over whenever she saw a pheasant which had been hit by a car (aaah, Autumn in Northern Ohio!) to show us kids how beautiful a pheasant was. Yeah - gorgeous, mom.

We called it 'road kill zoology'

Pain? What Pain?
I visited my accupuncturist, who I see for asthma and back pain, and had another excellent session. I can SERIOUSLY feel the change in my breathing, and her ability positively affect my aches is amazing. That shoulder I hurt when I fell trying to ski? It's just about 100% again.

I mentioned that my lower back was hurting (the pinched nerve is awakening again) and she did some madness with pins in my hands that was miraculous.

Of course, the pain came back the next day - but not quite as bad. I'm doing a series of exercises over a big red ball that my chiropractor gave me, those seem to be helping, too.

But Gerry's pain continues unabated. He has terrible pain in his hips and back, and I can tell how troubling it is for him. Ceaseless pain was the entry into our Multiple Myeloma adventure, and whenever there's an upsurge in it we both hold our breaths.

Some days it's hard for him to get up, to walk, to do anything.

Then there are the days that he pushes himself (and pays for it later...) He suffers quietly, he's a brave guy. I need to convince him that HE could benefit from my accupuncturist, too!

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Independence

The 4th of July is coming up - our family has decided to trek up to Avon, MN for the outdoor 35th Anniversary show of A Prairie Home Companion - and while we're up there we'll bike on the Lake Woebegone Bike Trail. We're looking forward to it - we're taking the dog and staying overnight in St. Cloud so we don't have to rush.

APHC has a soft spot in my heart. Yes, it's corny much of the time, but I love it. When I first moved to NYC from Ohio in 1982 it was Winter, I was lonely and missing home dreadfully. I worked alone on weekends in an office cataloging and filing, and while I worked I had the radio on and stumbled on A Prairie Home Companion. It was, seriously, like a trip back to the midwest, and I fell in love. How odd that here we are - right in MN - huh?

[Speaking of MN, I'm not ignoring Al, I'm SO proud and happy for him! Another Midwest / NY / Midwest traveler, he will be a spectacular senator. He's intelligent, clever, has a big heart and a clear eye. I'm hoping for big things from Mr. Franken.]

Independence - freedom - liberation - are words that get knocked around a lot for various political purposes, but here's something I ran across that moved me tremendously.

If you have a daughter - as I do - think about what you would do in a similar situation. If you can help out, excellent. If you can't, you can still help by spreading the word. In the same spirit of Greg Mortenson (3 Cups of Tea) we can each add a drop of love to the cup.

Let's create an ocean of compassion.

I think of these girls and I want to bring every one of them home. And teach each one to knit.

Give vulnerable girls in western Nepal the chance for an education and a future instead of a life of indentured service.

In the Dang District in western Nepal, many indigenous families from the Tharu ethnic group subsist as farm laborers. Unable to make ends meet, they have been forced into a desperate trade -- selling their daughters to work far from home as bonded servants in private homes or as dishwashers in tea houses. Some of these children are as young as six.

Alone and far from home, these "indentured daughters" have no knowledge of the ways of city people or of other cultures. Most speak only the local dialect. Their living conditions are entirely at the discretion of their employers. The bonded girls seldom attend school and have no prospects for a decent future. Some are ultimately forced into prostitution.

Working closely with local communities, the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation (NYOF) and its founder, Olga Murray, provides a creative, humane alternative for these families, by compensating the families for their daughters' lost wages and by supporting the girls as they attend school.

Seven years after the launch of the program, almost 3,000 young girls and their families are participating. Of these, about half have been rescued by NYOF and the remainder by another charitable organization it trained in its methods. This means that 3,000 little girls have been brought home to live with their families and attend school instead of working in the homes of strangers.

Almost as important as the rescue of the children is the vigorous awareness campaign to turn the community against the pernicious practice of child bonding. NYOF's greatest allies are the returned girls themselves. They have organized themselves into clubs that actively discourage parents from selling their daughters. They have written street plays that describe their suffering while they were bonded laborers, and perform them in the villages, especially during the Maghe festival, the traditional time for bonding child labor. In the Deukhuri Valley of the Dang District, whereas in prior years hundreds of girls were sent off at Maghe, to NYOF's knowledge, not a single girl went off to work last year.

It takes only $50 to rescue a girl from virtual slavery, bring her home to live with her family, pay her school expenses for six months, and compensate her parents for her lost wages. $100 pays these expenses for a year, while $350 rescues a girl and supports her education for six years, so that she can graduate from the 10th grade and have the necessary tools to support herself. Your donation covers her school uniforms, books, school fees, and a kerosene lamp and kerosene -- highly valuable items in a region lacking electricity.

In the meantime, however, NYOF is in the heartbreaking position of having to turn away girls who want to enroll in the program simply because its budget will not stretch far enough.

Give a girl a new life. Support a rescued daughter for six months ($50), a year ($100), or for six whole years ($350), taking her through 10th grade and the start of an independent life.

The Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation (NYOF) is a U.S. based nonprofit organization devoted to bringing hope to the most destitute children in Nepal. With a personal touch, NYOF provides them with what should be every child's birthright -- education, housing, medical care, and loving support.

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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



Chullo-licious


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