Saturday, December 30, 2006

Pictures at Midnight

So it's December the 30th and only a day and a smidge left of 2006. Except for the wreaths on the doors (and the tree waiting for Steve to get home to lug it out) all of the decorations are packed up for another year. I love getting everything out, but I also love getting it all put away. I love the fresh start that each New Year brings. I find it very invigorating for the most part.

We have a tradition here at the Elkins house on New Year's Eve - every year, since the boys were born, I have either stayed up or gotten up to take pictures of them at midnight. Now, thus far in their lives the only thing they are doing at midnight is sleeping - so I have a series of pictures of them, from infant on - sleeping, at midnight. I don't know why I do this or why it is important to me - it just is. Very important. Jackson was born in July and was 5 1/2 months old when we rang in the year 2000 - this might have had something to with the urge for the photography (and slightly tipsy video). Document what he was doing at the turn of the century (I know, I know, it was "technically" not the new century until the change from '00 to '01, but just work with me). I figure someday - it will be incredible to document the first year they stay awake and eventually - where they are at midnight when they are grown enough to be gone (okay, now I'm queasy). This year, the duty will be in the capable hands of my ILs, who have graciously agreed to have the boys for a sleepover. (Note to Art & Barbara: I will never know if the pictures were taken at 10pm or midnight - just tell me it was midnight). Steve and I will be spending about 30 hours in Boston - a wonderful gift that was under my tree. Hotel, dinner, shopping and as much as I love them, no kids. We will still probably not make it until midnight, but that's okay. It has been a wonderful year here in Elkinsville - it's a year worth celebrating and building on.

As for yarn - it has also been quite a year. Our Valley Yarns have taken off and our in-house designing has reached new heights. We added many new vendors and effectively shifted our inventory away from novelties and into classics. We have a bit of a duplicity problem, but we'll work through that. We did four retail shows, hosted two major sales events, a Superbowl party, a Breast Cancer Awareness event and knitting notables Stephanie Pearl- McPhee, Jo Sharp, Debbie Bliss, Norah Gaughan, Sharon Okey, Kim Werker. . . and so many others. Each of these events was tied to a charitable organization who beneftted from these folks appearances and the generiosity of our customers. We met so many new customers who made their first trip to the store and even more long-time customers at the shows. I finally made it to my first Stitches Show and it was a blast! We taught I don't know how many people to knit this year - it was a lot. We ran over 140 classes and had more visiting teachers than ever (thanks Pixie!). We've improved our delivery time dramatically. We launched a new website - which was harder than birthing either of my children. We produced 4 catalogs, including our first ever Valley Yarns catalog and have the privilege of working with a designer who sees our vision and challenges us to be even better. We donated upwards of $15,000 worth of yarn to charitable organizations and individuals across the country. We launched a radio show/podcast (WHMP 1400 or 1240 AM locally and on iTunes everywhere) and finally, this blog. We got screwed out of the factory that used to make our bamboo needles - we are working on a new source, bear with us. And we made our own fair share of mistakes - hopefully none of them were too visible.

We have a lot of exciting plans for '07 and beyond. Steve and I are not ones to let things remain status quo. We are grateful for everyone who took the time to shop with us this year. We are also lucky to have an amazing staff who puts up with us.

The sale is winding down as well - here's a snapshot from our shipping room yesterday. They were all in again today, getting as many orders out as possible. We're a couple of a days behind, but we're shipping as fast as possible. We know you are all anxious to start your new projects!

My crochet scarf is zipping right along and I am anticipating finishing it on the drive to Boston. I've swatched the Lusso for the handwarmers and I was able to get the gauge I needed and still have a nice fabric. The yarn has a wonderful spring to it. I'm also going to start working on a hat for Jackson out of our new Lenox (60 baby alpaca/40 merino) and I've got a design in my head that isn't quite figured out yet for one of our new spring yarns.

Happy New Year to everyone. May it be everything you hope for.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Quote(s) of the Day

Today I spent the better part of the day picking orders. The on-line portion of our sale has had a tremendous response and we are way behind. So I donned casual clothes, comfy shoes and my iPod and a-picking I went. In doing so, I was somewhat "incongnito", which proved very interesting. Here are some memorable quotes from today:

1. (Older woman walking from the store into the warehouse and seeming to speak to nobody in particular) "This is my first time here and I don't know what's going on. . . . "

2. (Gentleman in the warehouse, carting about a good selection of yarn, speaking to two woman) "The absolute best deals are out here in the warehouse - the farther out you go, the deeper you dig, the better the deal - really. . . . . "

3. (Woman in aisle 300 of the warehouse dialing her cell phone and speaking to a "friend" who is not with her an her other friends on this trip) "Hi!. . .Guess where I am?. . . WEBS!. . . .I know, I can't believe it either!. . . .There are cars in the lot with plates from NY, CT. . . it's unbelievable. . . Yes, I know, I'm sorry. . . . Tell me what you're looking for, I'm not shopping, really, but the others are. . . . . (she now looks about, as if searching for something and we make eye contact) Do you have a piece of paper? (I tear the bottom of a pick list and hand it to her along with my pen - she smiles and goes back to talking) The nicest young girl just gave me some paper and a pen - I've got to tell the owners what a nice staff they have here - okay, what are you looking for?"

There were others - the woman from Connecticut via the Berkshires who I helped carry three garbage bags of yarn to her mini-van and had to review all of her yarn purchases and reassure her she got really good deals.

All of the first-time visitors and they were out in droves today! I love it when people are in for the first time - it's always so fun to see their reaction.

Today was fun not-being-me.

Okay - Brooks Farm, I've promised to talk about Brooks Farm for a few days now. You can visit them on-line at They raise their own herds and dye their own yarn. Only available on their website and when you visit them at the many shows they travel to (their schedule is posted on their site). They are based in Lancaster, TX (approx 1/2 way between Dallas and Houston). It's family owned and run by Randall and his lovely wife. Their yarns are un-be-liev-able - really. I see ALOT of yarn and theirs is special beyond belief. The colors are breathtaking and if you visit them at a show - their booth display will hurt your head it's so gorgeous - hundreds and hundreds of 1/2 lb skeins, beautifully dyed, hanging all around.

I purchased three skeins at Stitches East - 2 skeins of Riata and 1 skein of Harmony, which has basically my entire staff mesmerized. I am currently crocheting a scarf out of one of the skeins of Riata, which means "rope or lariat" in Spanish and that's sort of what the yarn looks like. It's three strands, plied together. One each of fine wool and kid mohair and another of fine wool/silk. The 1/2 lb skein has 365 yards and is considered worsted weight. I'm using a size "I" crochet hook. They have 10 colors available on-line, which I am assuming are their best sellers - they have LOTS more colors when you see them in person. Riata runs $34/skein. When I decide what I am going to do with Harmony, I'll talk more about it, but both yarns are well worth you time and money! Here's the color I'm working with:

I decided for my scarf on a "Peep Hole Chevron" pattern from The Harmony Guide 300 Crochet Stitches. I only just got going yesterday and it is moving very nicely along!

I have so many projects on my "to-do" list. Next up is getting projects lined up for our trip to TNNA (2 weeks from right now I will be in San Diego). I think it will be a combination of one WIP and one new project. The new one is likely to be our Wave Handwarmers which were designed by a former employee and knit in both our Berkshire and Berkshire Hand Dyed. I have a bunch of Lusso (Fiesta Yarns cashmere - delicious colors - closeout last fall) in my stash and I think I can either get it to the gauge I need or modify the pattern slightly to fit the gauge of the yarn. Need to do a swatch and decide. Need to decide on a color.

Another piece of business news - for those of you who don't know - in addition to launching this blog, Steve and I are also doing a local radio knitting show and it is available as a podcast! The show is called Ready!, Set!, Knit! and can be heard locally on WHMP, 1400 or 1240 AM or go to our website at and you'll see the link on the right side of the homepage. We've done 6 shows so far and spend part of the show interviewing someone who you'll hopefully think is interesting, part letting you know what's happening at WEBS, Pixie, who is our Education Manager, joins us for either a knitalong or Q&A (next knitalong starting in January). The first one was a hat from measurements - very fun! Coming up we have Clara Parkes (Knitters Review - this Saturday, we have Lily Chin the first Saturday in February and we are about to finalize (I can't even believe I am saying it/typing it) STEPHANIE PEARL-MCPHEE!!!!! I am so excited I can barely stand it!!!!! You do not need to have an MP-3 player or iPod to listen from afar - just speakers on your computer. If you don't have them built in - go buy a pair - they are cheap.

Okay - that's it for today.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

If You Put It On Sale, They Will Come

I'm officially tired. Yesterday was the first day of the sale and it was crazy! Not out of control crazy - we actually managed the lines quite well. Running four registers definitely made a difference. We were ready to go as our anxious customers began to gather outside.

Besides all of the great deals we had set-up in our classroom, we have many, many yarns throughout the store and warehouse on sale. We've got to make room for spring!

What always strikes me about days like yesterday, is the ebb and flow of the crowd. The parking lot filled quickly. This picture was taken about 15 minutes after opening and truly doesn't do the scene justice:

A few customers came and went quickly, but those of us manning registers were idle for a bit and then all of sudden we were swamped and it stayed that way until the lunchtime lull or as I call it "the eye of the storm" passed over us. That gave us a chance to eat, run to the restroom,etc. And then as quickly as the lines dissipate, they form again. I never even got a chance to take pictures!

So, we're onto day two. The parking lot is packed again already, so I better get out on the floor.

I know I owe you all more info on Brooks Farm. I did a little test swatch of a crochet stitch I found in The Harmony Guide 300 Crochet Stitches:

I don't love it. I found another stitch pattern that I'm going to try. I think when it comes to beautiful variegated yarns, simple stitch patterns are better. I don't want to do a v-stitch, so I'm hopeful my second choice will work out better. I will let you know and I promise more info on the yarn and Brooks Farm later.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Santa Has Left the Building

But did he sure ever take good care of us! What a day! Started nearly 12 hours ago. The boys were under orders "Not before 6:30". Well, Jackson only arrived about 6 minutes early. Jonathan, the ever precise one, came in just on time. Not sure how long he had been sitting on his bed, watching his digital clock change, one minute at time, but as soon as the bright red numbers read 6:30 - he was down the hall to our room.

Here's a snapshot of some of this morning's mayhem.

The boys are now happily working on individual Lego projects, albeit Dad is helping J2. We've hosted family, eaten 'til we've nearly passed out, cleaned up and sent everyone on their merry way. Dishes done and put away, gifts somewhat organized - not bad. Now, onto THE SALE!!!

Being in retail does not allow for much down time and the week between Christmas and New Year's is one of our busiest of the year. Steve spent a couple of hours yesterday putting the final sale signs up, making sure all 4 (yes, that's FOUR) registers are ready to go and stocked with all of the necessary supplies (read: lots of trash bags and plenty of tape for the registers and credit card machines).

If you can't visit the store over the next 7 days (well, 6, we're closed on New Year's Day), be sure to check out the on-line version at There are definitely additional steals and deals in the store, but I don't think anyone will be disappointed with the on-line sale.

I finished a never ending knitting project just before Christmas, so now, I am off to start a crochet project. Probably just a scarf or small wrap. I have a skein of Brooks Farm Riata that has been burning a hole in my Lady B bag since Stitches East. It served as the "carrot" I needed to finish a shawl project that was needed for a photo shoot. I was under strict orders "no crochet until the darn shawl is done!". So now, my reward will be flipping leisurely through my crochet books and deciding what to create with this luscious yarn.

Tomorrow - pictures of the sale and of my yummy Brooks Farm yarn and more info about them. If you can't wait, be sure to visit

My family is telling me they are hungry! How can this be???


Friday, December 22, 2006

We Finally Have a Blog!

Yes, it has finally happened, WEBS has a blog! I have been wanting to do this for awhile, talking about it, thinking about it and now it's finally done. Very exciting. My husband Steve and I are the owners of WEBS - America's Yarn Store. We have a brick and mortar store in Northampton and we're on-line at

So, why another knitting blog? 'Cuz I wanted one. And because I think there's lots of stuff going on here at the store, that those of you around the country miss out on and I'm hoping this will be a great vehicle to share.

I'm planning to introduce new yarns, books, patterns, products to support what's happening on our website and in the store. Share projects, etc. Generally, share with all of you this crazy yarn adventure Steve & I are taking.

I do want to be clear what this blog isn't about - politics for starters. Steve & I have strong opinions but have been known to play boths sides of the fence in hopes the best person, regardless of party affiliation, gets the job. There are lots of blogs out there to share your point of view.

Religion - I was raised Catholic by a Catholic Dad and Protestant Mom. My mom often "snuck" me to her church on Sundays, which I quite honestly preferred. Steve is Jewish and I did not convert when we married. What ever works for you is great - enjoy.

Keeping it clean - we have two boys Jackson (who will often be referred to as "J1" is 7 1/2 and Jonathan (J2) is almost 6. They can read - really well and are often sitting nearby when I am on-line. If it's not suitable for their eyes, it's not suitable for this blog.

I am also hoping this blog will be a place for sharing knowledge, opinions and such. But please do so nicely. There is enough nastiness in the world, so what little piece of it I can control will be as pleasant as possible. Doesn't mean we always have to agree (now that would be boring) just show reasonable manners and a bit of kindness.

Lastly, I am pretty new to all of this and learning as I go. I am also not the most technically adept person on the planet, so if I makes some goofs along the way, just laugh with me.

Oh, one other thing, these first few posts are known in the retail world as a "soft opening" - sort of a "practice" before the real deal. There probably won't be a link on the WEBS homepage until after the holidays.

So, here we go!

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