Still Life from Quimper

Still Life from Quimper
A shot of an almost-completed still life needlepoint

Welcome to my Blog

So very happy you came to visit. Now, pull up a chair, pour a glass of your favorite beverage, and read on about adventures in needlework.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

So, How's the Website Coming?

I'm hearing this question a lot, especially as I've taken some time off this summer to work on my website. My website exclusively, maybe some part-time work for my bank account's sake, but my website that I initially saw as a representation as my retail shop. For the most part, that has been the case, until I've walked into my storage unit (a 10 x 30, climate controlled space) and seen a box of kits . . . and some cases of fabric . . . and two huge boxes filled with stuff . . . and all those things that we grabbed and packed and marked with names like "top shelf in the cross stitch room."

Well, 3 years have passed, and many of those items are still in their boxes, and I kind of remember what was on the top shelf of the cross stitch room, but not completely. So what occurred to me while I was there last week was, why not re-pack? There's no great rush now, those office packing boxes have worked just fine, and one of them fits nicely into my car and next to my chair in my office, and if I had all of them labeled "Stitcher's Aides" and "Pillows and Band Fabric" and "Baby Items," it would make all the difference between being able to find the item a customer has ordered on-line, pack it neatly, and go onto the next project, than having to go through 4 different boxes to find which box item X lived and where it might be found. Quite the difference between a quick and pleasant packing experience and one that is quite frustrating.

So I did that - I dressed in T-shirt and shorts last Friday and spent a good 3 hours just making up those boxes (you know the ones I mean, the boxes that are all-in-one with the sides you fold up and pull the bottom up, and put all of your office's papers into) and pulling and packing and organizing. And you know what? It's worked. I can now take the box of baby things home, upload all of the baby things in that box onto the web, at one time, and take pictures of what I need while the box is in my possession. It makes the knowledge of "On the Web" so much cleaner both mentally and visually, and gives me the impetus to continue with this good work. And on the flip side, in a few months, when a baby item sells on the web, I know exactly which box to go into, pull the item, and pack it for my on-line customer.

Another thing that has made my uploading so much easier is the realization that I can add an item to my website, then make a corresponding list of what needs a picture, and taking a series of pictures all at once. Strangely enough, writing down an item that needs a picture and then taking a picture is such a huge time-saver, compared to sitting for huge amounts of time in front of the World Wide Web and trying to find one picture among thousands. This new way of doing things means that I upload everything in a box or folder all at once, then take all the pictures all at once, then work on the pictures, all at once.

So, that's where I am with my website - hope it's not too geeky for everyone out there!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beach Sweater in Asheville

I call it my Beach sweater because its colors are, well, beach-like. Bright blue and green, and it's not often that I can find a shade of green that a) I like and b) does not make me look like I'm sickly and ready to fall over in a dead faint. I found two shades last year when I went to help with the tiny house on Mt. Matt (see "Life in 120 Square Feet" blog next door for additional information about my friends' adventures). Since I'm their friend I get to indulge in their hospitality over July 4th weekend and help with whatever odd jobs are on the docket for that weekend.

Two years ago we were only there for a night and one full day due to work schedules (or maybe it was two full nights, one full and two partial days - all I remember was the incredible amount of RAIN that weekend and how dry our new tent kept us). Last year we drove up after work on Friday and took a road we had taken in years past when going to Hickory for furniture shopping, a road called White Horse Road. We hadn't remembered it being as industrial in 1996 as it was in 2010, but then we got past all the "development" and WOW! There was a sunset between two mountain peaks and we realized we had taken the most beautiful scenic route we could have hoped for.

On the morrow last year we spent some time in downtown Asheville. I had heard about this wonderful shop from customers who had been there (*grumble*) while I had to stay in Atlanta and mind my shop while they went galivanting around the country. The shop is called Earth Guild, and it was supposed to be fantastic and full of great yarn and creativity, so I asked directions while in Asheville to it. We walked uphill and down, saw the marvelous fountain park in the downtown area, and finally went into Earth Guild. Oh my.

Really. Seriously. Oh my.

They had everything there - basketweaving, leatherworking, clay, and knitting. Their colors were inspirational and of course I just had to buy. I had been working for almost a year, after all, and wasn't part of vacationing visiting the yarn and needlework shops??

So I found this blue Ironstone yarn. It was a thick-thin cotton construction that called for a size 6 needle. Size 6? Were they kidding? I would have had to wear a shirt under my knitted sweater, and what's the point in that? So I discovered some green, and twisted the two yarns together. WOW. Just wow.

The texture, on size 6's, getting 5 sts to the inch.
Which is why you always knit a gauge swatch.
Yarn is doubled; mfg. gauge for single ply is 5 sts/inch. Who knew??

Just the perfect combination, and surely I could create something out of them. I selected an amount of yarn that I thought would be suitable for a sweater, and then the owner said the magic words and I knew I was succumbing: "Those yarns have been discontinued." *Sigh*

What that means is "the manufacturer decided/sales weren't enough to/they had a disagreement with the mill" and there is no more of that yarn. It means "you better buy more yarn than you think because I can't get any more in for you." It means "get out your checkbook, and you might as well stay for a spell cuz you're gonna be spending money, girl."

I saw two sides of this when I was a shopowner. The first was the reaction I had, above, the "get out your checkbook, honey" where you know, you just know, you're going to sell that very last skein of discontinued yarn and not have to worry about telling the next person that you can't get any more of THAT yarn for them. Ever.

The second reaction, which almost always ended in bad feelings all around, was the "Well, I really don't need that much yarn, I'll leave with what I want to/intended to leave with" that came back to haunt them a few months later when, guess what? they didn't have enough yarn to finish their project and were just out of luck. I learned early on that it was my responsibility to advise them of a yarn's discontinued status; it was not my job to feel responsible for their inadequate purchase when they came back and were upset at me, my shop, my suppliers, etc., etc. A very good learning experience for this shopowner, that was.

So anyway. I went back to the Ironstone cubicles, grabbed more yarn, and decided that since they had some Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece yarn in colors I had not yet seen at Sheepish, by golly I'd have to buy sufficient quantity to make that 3/4 sleeve summer cardigan that I had always envisioned as a use for Cotton Fleece, the one you wear in an office in the summer in Atlanta because the air conditioning is just too darn high. And again, there was one color they didn't have quite enough of . . . so another, darker color became the trim. But that's another posting for another day.

So with Cotton Fleece and Ironstone Solo in hand (both arms, really), I went to the cash register. Where I was told that I was close to point A on their discount level, and didn't I need some needles with that? Of course I did! I needed to knit a gauge swatch, now didn't I? And being a North Carolina yarn shop, lo and behold they had Twin Birch needles in stock! I had always loved Twin Birch needles - they were a local company, they put other people to work in the community making needles and other knitting accessories, they used mill ends of wood, etc., etc. Their points were very, very sharp, and while they didn't make circular needles, their straights were just smooth, wooden, warm, and one of my all-time favorite products. So I bought needles in the appropriate sizes for both products (I worked with the owner to determine what size to use for this doubled yarn; size 6 was the answer) and again, went proudly back to my growing pile on the counter.

Where I was gladly told that I was almost at the point on their customer discount level that if I bought $X more, I could get a nice Earth Guild bag. Into said pile went two different skeins of sock yarn (including this, shown on the post about sock knitting at The Mountain, and shown here) and I received a nice blue bag in which to place my larger-than-expected purchase. Oh, and Webmaster Bill decided some woodworking tools would be just the thing, so we got an even larger discount for our even larger purchase. *Sigh*

I decided to use a pattern I had used before called the Bistro Shirt by Oat Couture, a fantastic summer sweater with a nice open collar. I had knit a bulky cotton yarn called Rasta into said summer sweater pattern a few years ago, and realized that this yarn with its thick-thin texture and twisted together would be perfect. The pattern is strictly stockinette, so fancier yarns help bring more jazz to it.

(Sorry - forgot to rotate it!)

But, here it is, the day after our annual weekend at Mt. Matt, and said sweater is almost finished. The back I finished before The Mountain venture, and for some reason (maybe after two very complicated socks for the Ravelry Cookies KAL??) I just wanted some easy, mindless, in-front-of-the-TV-to-watch-movies knitting. So the front is done, and all it needs is the 3-needle bind-off to sew together the shoulder seams, and then knit up the side seams. Here are pictures of the finished back and almost finished front:

Back, with yarn instead of metal stitch holders,
to allow the live stitches to "relax" better

Front, with Twin Birch needles quite visible,
and the front RH and LH sides yet to be knit

Oh, and I have tons more yarn left over. Guess I was the other end of the purchasing spectrum, eh? Will post extra yarn on Ravelry - someone is probably looking for it so they can finish their sweater!!

Happy after 4th week!