Thursday, October 29, 2009


To listen to this blog post read by the author click here: /102909.mp3

Could the funk be fleeing?

I feel like I've been going back two steps for every step forward, it's been a hard couple of years - Gerry's health notwithstanding - and some days it's been hard to find the joy in what I'm doing.

I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining - please understand that I KNOW how lucky, fortunate, and wonderful my life is! But the past years have called for more work than any previous few years have.

Mostly, I think, it's been keeping up the "look for the joy" thing for the kids, and for Gerry, which is wearying (But ultimately the most satisfying thing a mom can do - teaching the kids to find the joy wherever you can!)

But I've found over and over in the past two years that when I do something it's just not right, and I end up starting over, rewriting, ripping out, or apologizing.
I clicked on the horoscope above on a whim, and it made me feel light years better. A good friend back in NJ who does horoscopes wrote me the same thing a few weeks ago.

Now, I know it will make me seem all oooky-spooky to say I believe this stuff (hey, it's Halloween!) but somewhere deep down I do. So there.

I've noticed definite samenessess (a word?) between myself and other Virgos, and the folks I tend to gravitate to are other Virgos and Aquarians (but I'll love anyone, I'm easy...)

Not that this is absolute proof, but I'll grab a lifeline when I see one, and I loved the horoscope above.

Case in point - Anne Boleyn. I'm working on a sweater based on the anonymous portrait of AB, and when I look back over my previous blog posts it's notable that I haven't posted many photos of it.

Why? I haven't been happy with it.

I love the yarn. I would marry it if I could. It's Tilli Tomas Milan and Beaded Milan, and it's just about the yummiest stuff I've worked with.

And the sweater has garnered oohs and aaahs from everyone I show it to. And it didn't look bad.

But it didn't look good. It looked silly and costumy, exactly what I did NOT want to achieve with this book.

Last night after trying Anne Boleyn on Hannah, I sent the sweater a Bill of Attainder.

I ripped the whole danged thing out. I didn't even bring over a French executioner.... It took 2 hours (beaded yarn is hard to rip) and I felt like a new woman when I finished.

I think the best route for this project is not to make it quite as literal as I was trying to do. I'm going to fashion it as a chanel type jacket, and it's going to be Crochet.

Yes, you heard me. That's what the yarn wants, and that's what the yarn gets. Making the yarn happy makes ME happy, too! Find the joy, baby!

I forgot to post about this, but I bought a wonderful Rhinebeck mug from Jennie the Potter (is it odd that we both drove cross country from MN so I could buy a mug from her?) and I adore it.

I have had many cups of tea from it already, and I think we have a bright and wonderful future together!

More Horoscope Stuff
I revisited the site after one of the comments suggested I check out my ruling planet. This is what it says - it seems pretty much on the mark (flattering - but aren't they always...?)

MERCURY was in Virgo on September 3, 1961

You may be well-studied and analytical, but youÕre no bookworm. Knowledge is useless if it canÕt be put to use, and you always make the most of your resources. And when others take stuff for granted, youÕll help yourself to the things they fail to appreciate. But youÕre not self-serving; others often make a profit because of you. The combination of your drive to survive, your thrifty nature and your nerve makes you a success. However, you realize that being clever doesnÕt make you wise. That comes with experience, and you really do get smarter (and richer) with age. YouÕre blessed in September, stressed in March.

To listen to this blog post read by the author click here: /102909.mp3

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Friday, October 23, 2009

The Better Part of Cross Country Driving

Discretion. I don't think of that as a hallmark of a long drive, but tonight - for me - it was.

I left Stitch DC right around 5:00 pm today and found myself in heavy, heavy traffic. Beautiful, last warm weekend, lets-get-out-of-DC on a Friday kind of traffic.

It didn't take long for me to sense that I would NOT make it to Pittsburgh tonight as I'd sort of planned. "Maybe I'll make it to Pennsylvania at least..?" I thought as I stared at the non-moving tail lights ahead of me.

As I got onto 270 the rain started. Just past Fredericksburg the fog began thickening. And then a truck began tailgating me and I realized I didn't have the nerve for this game.

Ironically, as the truck finally passed me I could just barely make out a big Bible-verse message on the back doors. HWJD (How would Jesus Drive?)

It became clear to me that I was dog-tired, and I decided the best thing I could do was find a hotel. So, thanks to wifi and Priceline, I'm snug at a Best Western in Hagerstown for a cool $50, and I'm hoping by tomorrow the sun will once again be shining and my drive will be easier.

I'm just SO darned tired.

I'm VERY glad I pulled over. I think it is a $50 well spent, and I feel much safer not trying to brave the dark, hilly MD/WV highways and struggle with the trucks in the rain.

Besides, there's SO much I need to get done this weekend (patterns outlined and sent off to Rockport Publishing, another pattern to go to a different book publisher, emails to answer, driving 1,500 miles) so I'll use this enforced rest to get some of THAT work done!

My other work these past 3 weeks - the teaching - is done!

Stitch DC was the last gig of my trip, and it was - as always - a lovely shop to visit! Maria does a beautiful job with her stock (and with her babies!) and I found it hard to pull myself away from the various lovely skeins and the very adorable Oona (I may be spelling that wrong...) to teach my classes!

I worked the students hard - maybe too hard - it was difficult to gauge. I know that I made some brains hurt. But I tried to present the information in manageable bits, and not too overwhelmingly fast.

Sometimes I find myself facing a situation where I fall into the trap of teaching to the lowest common denominator (e.g., allowing the student who feels they're not good - and it could be that they're actually QUITE good but they lack faith in themselves - lead the class down a path of low expectations)

I fought that a bit today. All of the students were good, some were very good, none were slow or poor knitters. But sometimes folks can convince themselves that they're not as good as they really are.

Convincing them of their latent genius, of their gift, is a skill I continue to try to hone.

In the mean time I make brains hurt. Mine included. But hopefully a king sized bed and some time getting work done will take care of that!
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Running On Empty

As I pulled into my friend's driveway this evening my headlights flashed on a fox running across the yard, and my gas gauge binged "empty!" No connection, and the fox was very lovely.

I'm very lucky in my friends. More than lucky, I'm blessed. And you know I don't use that word lightly.

I feel like the most fortunate person in the world tonight.

My knitting group - the Yarrn Pirates - met at Borders in Livingston, NJ tonight (much as always...) except I was there!

It was so great to see old friends - and new ones! - and to just spend an evening knitting and listening to folks discuss their patterns, design problems and yarn buying adventures.

My friend Athena is the organizer of the group, and they're lucky to have her! And she's lucky to have them!

I biked about 7 miles today - 3 miles over to my friend Ami's house for a great chat and lunch, then 3 miles back and another mile just wandering around Maplewood, NJ. I'm SO glad I brought my bike - SO glad that I get a chance to get out!

I used the bike to great advantage in Rhinebeck, it allowed me to run back and forth from my car to the teaching barn easily (especially when grabbing the steamer for Lily Chin!) and helped me keep the asthma devils away.

I did have a slight casualty - my diet pepsi got a puncture in the bike basket, but there was Jennie the Potter, ready with a piece of gaffer's tape!

The caliber of the students at Rhinebeck was absolutely AMAZING - folks were wonderful, confident, eager to learn and ready to work hard.

Each student was everything an instructor could ask for, I felt honored to teach the students I had!

The less said about the general teaching conditions of the class area - noise, temperature, car towing - the better. Of course, I made my feelings known, and I don't think I'll be asked back to Rhinebeck...

While teaching in Rhinebeck I stayed in Hudson with my friends Deb & Jeff. They live in a renovated school house and have built a bindery in the back up on a hill (Jeff's a book conservator)

It's like being in a different era when I spend time with them. I hadn't seen them for a few years, it was absolutely LOVELY to get to visit with them for a few nights.

I was so dead tired after each day of teaching it was all I could do to drive the 30 miles back to Hudson, eat a little something and crawl into bed before leaving at 7:00 the next morning. I was WORN OUT by the time my 4 days of classes were over.

Webs was, as always, tremendous! I arrived on Monday for a private lesson (I seldom do those, but they're SO much fun!) and who should I run into but Jess, Mary Heather & Sarah from Ravelry with Ysolde in tow!

It was wonderful to see them, they made me feel a bit more "real" after 4 days of shouting in a fog-horn voice (what voice?) Surrounded by so much noise, I felt as though I had been through an out of body experience.

Tuesday I took my bike into a local repair shop for a brake tuneup and taught a cabling class at Webs - what an excellent group of folks that was! They worked hard, we did a lot, and everyone left happy! Yay, happy students!

Then off to NJ, driving through CT in the evening rush hour (NOT one of my favorite things, and a weird reminder of my days working for Martha and driving back to NYC with the crew) and finally arriving at my friends home in NJ around 8:30.

And what would be waiting for me but the coziest, loveliest, most wonderful little nest a friend could ask for. TV, water, internet, a gabled bead-board ceiling and good lighting for reading.

Am I not the luckiest person alive on this fine, fine fox-and-friend-filled evening?
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day Off

Yesterday I took a ME day.

First, I had an amazing breakfast of oatmeal and hash.

Then went for a nice, long bike ride in the CT countryside.

Then I knitted a bit.

Then I drove around.

Then I had lunch.

Then I came back to the hotel and rode my bike a bit more.

Then I watched TV and played Tetris.

Then I knit

Then I had a bag of trail mix.

Then I went to bed.

Then I read.

Then I slept.

I don't know if I mentioned that I saw a buzzard...
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Finally Wired Up!

The hard part about traveling (aside from missing Gerry, the kids and Atticus & Shiloh) is the iffy wifi and internet connection.

I've been staying with friends, family, friends of family and family of friends, and I've been having a wonderful time! Visiting my alma mater, Denison University, was a lovely little side trip - I really enjoyed speaking with (and confusing) the students there.

A HUGE shout-out to Mary Ann (family, in absentia), Diana (& her wonderful veggie growin' husband, friends of family!), Lisa & Ian (friends, in absentia, again...), and Sheryl (and her wonderful biking husband, family of friend!)

Staying with these folks, sometimes in an empty house, sometimes with good company, has made me feel a bit less lonely on the road, and I'm so grateful!

I stopped into the Big Apple Knitters Guild Presentation on Saturday on my way out to Long Island - I had, literally, 20 minutes to say "Hi!" to an old friend - and then drove out to Miller Place, Long Island.

There the lovely Darlinda of Knitters Knitche (you MUST stop by this shop, it has some wonderful yarns!) treated me, my hostess and a one of the wonderful students from my workshop to a delicious dinner and some very homey conversation. Thank you, DD!

My classes on Sunday were great - I had such a wonderful time, the students were so active and smart, and I really worked them hard! It's always a delight to see the beauteous Arlene, and this time she had brand new colorized upper arms! Nice tats, A!

Entrelac can be mind-bending, but I'm feeling confident that most of the students had a very firm grasp of the technique by the time I'd run them through their paces. Thank you, ladies, for your VERY hard work! And thank you for putting up with my charted entrelac!

I drove to CT Sunday night and helped myself to a priceline room at the Hilton for $50. Cheap room, yes, but - in the way of the Hilton - wifi was $10 and my hamburger/beer cost more than I'd spend on dinner for my family at our local cheap dive.

I think I'm a cheap dive kind of gal. I thoroughly enjoyed my wonderful oatmeal / bacon / tea breakfast at Dimitri's Diner in Ridgefield this morning - that's just about my speed!

Today I was at the Ridgefield Library in Connecticut, teaching two classes to the Fairfield Machine Knitters Guild (a very fun and funny group of women!) and - once again - I worked folks hard.

I think I'm a bit like a trainer; if you pay to take a class with me, I don't want you to go home feeling as if you haven't sweated a teeny bit.

I don't feel that I require mad knitting skills in my students as much as I like to encourage them - WHATEVER their level - to challenge themselves and find the knitter they'd like to be deep within their souls. Drop and cast on 20!

It's my honest opinion that by taking your passion and pushing it a bit, you can discover new things about your self - and new ways to deal with stresses, disappointments, joys and challenges.

For folks like me, fiber is our passion (among other things) and I love to see the connections going off in my student's minds as they realize how much power they have over their needle and yarn.

I'm price-lining it again tonight - this time I lucked out with a room at a beautiful Crowne Plaza in Middleburt, CT for $45/night, with wifi and a lovely bed. And cable with MSNBC.

I'm holing myself up here for a few days to recover after my extrovert few days of schmoozing and teaching. I tend to waffle between periods of introvert and spurts of extrovert, which suits what I do for a living - I'm lucky!

So for the next 2 days I'll knit, I'll answer emails and get some patterns written up and cataloged, and I'll have my own little "weekend" of rest before my first Rhinebeck class on Thursday. Yay!

I can think of few places as beautiful to rest as here in CT - and I'll ride my bike a bit, too! I rode around Ridgefield before class today, it felt WONDERFUL!

And now to bed, to sit and knit and listen to a book on CD. And I promise I'll have some beautiful photos of Rhinebeck and this gorgous area! Here's what I'm missing right now in the Twin Cities...

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Hell. No.
New Clarification at Bottom of Post

A Vogue Designer earns 6% per pattern sold on their website. (6% is Vogue's idea of "10% net", which is the figure they dictated in a mass mailing to Designers earlier this year.)

By comparison, Interweave pays between 20-50% (which would be $1.80 - $3 on a pattern which retails for $6) Interweave pays their designers on a sliding scale*

Interweave sends out clear quarterly statements outlining how many patterns have sold, what they retailed for and what percentage was paid to the designer. Vogue just sent me this:

Seeing the actual check (which I intend to frame for it's comedy value) which accompanied the letter from Vogue relit my fire.

Folks, it is damned hard to earn a living at this. While the prez of Soho flies down to the Bahamas to pick up his yacht, I head to Goodwill to get school clothes for the kids.

Here's a table that breaks down the % on a pattern that retails for $6

The facts bear repeating: Interweave Knits pays between 20% - 50% of the retail price of a pattern, Vogue pays 6%.

IK's more fair policy in paying designers for internet sales didn't just happen. I am proud to say that I had a hand in it.

At first IK offered a much smaller amount. Through commentary on my blog and other designer outcry, Interweave was wise and far-sighted enough to sit down and discuss a sliding scale which is much more fair in terms of payment.

Vogue won't even discuss their policy, end of story.


Professional photographers and graphic artists have a guild
- we need one, too!

And we need to let Vogue know that this is not acceptable.

When I submitted my designs to Vogue and signed my initial contracts, I certainly never intended to give Soho Publishing the full rights to sell my patterns online and only pay me 6% of each sale. I'm certain no one else did, either. Heck, online sales weren't even on the radar at that time!

I've vowed not to design for them until this policy is changed (and let's be honest, if it ever does change there's not much chance they'd use my designs again...) But as long as I'm out, I can be as loud as I want!

If you're a designer, I urge you to LET VOGUE KNOW that you will not be designing for them as long as they keep this very hurtful-to-designers policy in place.

Ask yourself: Would there be a Vogue Knitting without designers? Hardly.

Then ask: Is there a marketplace for handknit designers work outside of Vogue Knitting? Definitely.

Folks, we CAN change this if we work together. Who's with me?

If you're not a designer, if you're a consumer, I'm not asking for a boycott of Vogue. But I do think it would be beneficial (and the right thing to do) to write to Vogue and tell them that as a consumer you are unhappy with their policy.

Please read my earlier posts (Unionizing, Interweave Knits & Vogue) on this for background on this story. I'm sick to death of repeating the scenario over and over, and I'm a little angry at my own sorry self for allowing myself to be quieted by nasty comments about how terrible it would be to unionize knit designers.

Terrible or not (and it wouldn't be) I see no other way to begin to treat ourselves with the respect we would like others to show to Hand Knit and Crochet Designers. I'm not doing this for butter-and-egg money, this is my MORTGAGE, and I'm not alone.

[Union Rant Warning]
Well, hear this. If you like a 5 day work week, 8-hour work day, paid vacation, workers compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, and the family medical leave act (not to mention child labor laws) then you can thank a union member.

No entity is perfect, and I've done my share of grumbling at what seem to be imperfect union rules and policies. But overall a worker has NO voice if we do not band together, and the standard of living of the average working class American (union member or not) has steadily declined as union membership has declined in the 80's and 90's.

An insidious campaign of disinformation about exactly what unions do, and how they've changed America for GOOD, has been in place since the early 80's. Each of you has felt it's sting in the steady lowering of wages, working conditions and benefits, whether you realize it or not.

Hand knit designers are no different. We earn essentially the same amount as we did in the 1980's for a published design in Vogue Knitting.

I'm writing this in my third cousin's driveway - internet on the road is hard to find! I wanted to clarify a point that Jolene brought up in the comments.

To clarify: The 6% fee that I'm so miffed about is on top of the initial design fee. The 6% is not the only amount that the designer is paid.

I thought I had been clear about that (I've definitely gone over that many times in previous posts on this issue) and I didn't mean to imply that the 6% was the only bit of money a designer sees from a garment. That would be unbelievable.

But, as I stated in my above post:
A Vogue Designer earns 6% per pattern sold on their website. (6% is Vogue's idea of "10% net", which is the figure they dictated in a mass mailing to Designers earlier this year.)
The fee VK pays is in line with, but slightly less than, Interweave's fee range. In my case, the VK scale seems to run between $100 for a small item to $500 for a large item. (as a reference point, I received $500 for the Twisted Float Cocoon that was on the cover of the Fall '05 issue, the high end of my payscale from Vogue. If you're interested, here's a pdf file of what I've designed for Vogue and how much the fee was for each piece.)

This is just slightly more than the scale that was in place when I designed for Vogue back in the mid 80's. I remember one designer receiving $800 for a three piece outfit at that time.

Personally, I feel theses fees are small for the amount of work that goes into a design (up to 3 weeks for a larger piece) But that's a different blog post.

What the above post is about are patterns that have already been published in Vogue, and are being resold online. In Vogue's case, 6% of the fee is going to the designers, I don't think that's fair.

When I signed my contracts with Vogue in the 80's and again in the early 2000's, the idea of reselling patterns online wasn't on anyone's radar. It certainly wasn't on mine, which is perhaps a mistake on my part. (However, greater minds that mine are running into this same issue of intellectual property being resold with scant percentages being paid to the intial author / designer.)

The fact that Vogue offers only 6% per pattern sale, AND won't discuss the issue with designers** is the source of most of my anger.

As far as fee fairness, if you compare what a hand knit designer gets for a piece compared to what the photographer receives for shooting that same piece (and which the photographer deserves!) the difference is alarming. I don't have hard facts on this, just anectdotal information from photographers and other designers, but from what I can glean a photographer earns about three times what the designer earns.

As I said, the photographer deserves it, but when you break down a $500 fee for a hand knit garment into the time it takes to design, create and write the pattern for the piece, we're talking McDonald's hourly wages.

*In full disclosure, I currently earn 40% on each pattern sold at Interweave Knit's website. IK's sliding scale is based on how many other venues carry the pattern online, and whether the designer has a link to the IK pattern store at their website. The link to the right for my cocoon crochet shrug earns me a cool 10% additional on each pattern of mine IK sells.

**or, Vogue wouldn't at the time of the announcement in Feb 2009. I've just received an email from David at Soho asking me to call him. I'm hoping this will be the start of a discussion about percentages of pattern sale fees paid to designers, and how to raise it to a more fair level.

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Packing and Wrapping Up

I've pretty much decided to drive out to Rhinebeck for my teaching engagement. There are several reasons for this craziness:

1) It's cheaper.

Flying, although not quite as expensive as it was a year ago, is still pricey.

But even more pricey are the rental car fees. Sometimes I can find a real bargain, but not this time. And the fact that my trip spans the East Coast from Mass to DC means either driving back and forth from a centrally located airport (NJ/NY) or arriving at one airport and leaving from another ($$)

So, all things considered, driving is much cheaper.

2) It's easier.

Really. I like to drive, I hate to fly. I hate being cramped into a knee-crunching position for 3 hours, I hate waiting in line (not so much the lines, but the stomach turmoil as folks try to cut in line, etc., it just makes me nuts...)

I hate going through TSA, I hate dragging my suitcases over what seems like miles to and from carousels, gates, rental car agencies. Sorry, don't mean to sound so hate filled today.

3) I can take more.

I can take many more books to sell to shops, I can keep my clothes hung up and nice looking, I can listen to my own library on CD, and I can TAKE MY BIKE! I have my own space to retreat to when I'm low or need recharging, and if necessary I can pull over and just rest (or ride my bike) for an hour.

Yes, it will take longer - I'm down with that. I have guilt - I should be home - but weighing all the options this seems the best route. No decision is ever perfect, and many aren't easy. Once I'm back from this trip I'm not leaving again until January, so that's a relief!

I'm going slow, stopping at various resting places on the way out and back, trying to drum up some interest in a 'college tour' next year. I would love to visit colleges (Hi Denison!) with knit clubs and do lectures (comedy routines) for the folks. It's a well known fact that kids love yarn humor.

I'll be in some of the most beautiful parts of the US in the most beautiful time of the year, and biking around Ohio, NJ, the Hudson Valley and Maryland will be a huge bonus in my trip - something I'm really looking forward to!

Gerry's seeing his doc about upping his main medication, which is dandy with me. Winters are harder for him, the pain is more severe and he wants to crawl back into bed as soon as he gets up in the morning.

When I'm not here, that's exactly what he does - and then he's a night owl all night.

So we're hoping with a bit more pain med he'll be able to get through the days easier. I hate leaving right now, but this is a few months of mortgage, and that's NOTHING for anyone to sneeze at these day's, huh?

I'm devoting today and tomorrow to getting all my handouts in order, working up new swatches for some of my classes (I usually work up swatches right before I teach to re-acquaint myself with the class techniques) and just getting organized for a multi-venue teaching trip.

A year ago I was leaving for a different trip - to see my cousin at the end of her days - and that rainy, stormy 16-hour drive down to WV will remain in my mind forever as one of my darkest days. I miss her.

And with the dark is the light - this weekend was Hannah's 13th birthday (13!) and she had a very FUN roller skating party! The kids had a blast, Hannah's friends are SO wonderful, and it was a great success! Yay, Dad, for organizing it!
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Thursday, October 01, 2009

1000 Hats!

The winners and runners up for 1,000 Fabulous Knit Hats have been selected, they are listed at the website,

THANK YOU to everyone who submitted an original hat for consideration in the Top 10!

Notifications of acceptance of the other 990 hats to be included in the book will be sent out by the end of the month, but please know that the chances are very good that if you haven't heard from me yet that there's a resolution problem, your hat is mostly likely in. We're still going through the images, and they're all very lovely!

The main reason a hat may not be included would be poor image quality, or a problem with the Grant of Rights form. We're working hard to clear up any of these issues right now so that no one is excluded due to an easily fixable problem.

Stay tuned to for information on publishing dates and more book information. Because of the erratic hat submission schedule, the publishing schedule isn't yet as firm as it might be, so I hesitate to post any projected print date. Please know that the publishers are aiming for Fall 2010, but this date may change.
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Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf

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


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