Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Yarn Harlot's Call to Action

So how many of you read The Yarn Harlot's blog on Friday? If you have not read it as of yet, go there now, read Friday, February the 16th's post and then come back. For those of you who read Harlot regularly, you know the post I am referring to, the one about representing. I posted a comment, which I don't think I did correctly, but since there's somewhere around 800 comments now, I might just be passing it by.

Anyway, she really struck a cord. Steve and I have experienced first hand what she is talking about. We travel to at least one or two conferences each year that are not industry related, but business related. Sometimes it's marketing, sometimes it's technology. The technology/internet conferences are the best example. Steve and I go to learn, there are work sessions, networking opportunities and the always dreaded "marketplace". The marketplace is where vendors set-up shop and try to get you to spend your money on their products that will supposedly help us make more money. There is no question that we are a small fish in a very large, scary pond at these events. So there we are, in the marketplace and we approach a vendor to discuss their products/services. We introduce ourselves and undoubtedly they hear nothing past "WEBS". We talk about what we are lacking/needing/hoping to find. They are smiling and nodding and then their eye catches our name tag and you notice just the slightest face crinkle. The vendor asks "What type of business do you have (they've read past WEBS) and we say "We own a yarn store". This is when their eyes glaze over and the nice smile freezes on their face. I swear if we touched their face at this moment, it would be like a clip out of a cartoon - their entire face would crumble into a million pieces. More often than not, the vendor hands us their card, a free pen and says "we'll be in touch". Not. They do not take us seriously and I'm sure they cannot possible envision a yarn store needing whatever slick product/service it is they are pedaling. This is their really big mistake.

So read Stephanie's post, the comments and her subsequent post today. If you can be in NYC on March 22nd, with a sock or any knitting for that matter, I urge you to go. Steve and I will be in Florida, otherwise we would be there in a heartbeat.

Although I am sad to miss, what has the potential to be an event of epic proportions, I am actually highly energized by the whole thing. I am working diligently with "Jayme-the-wonder-publicist" to get The Harlot back to Northampton and in a BIG way. For those of you who attended last year's event in March, you ain't seen nothin' yet! And if Stephanie's plans really start to take hold, trust me, WEBS will be on board and making it happen right here in Northampton. Stay tuned.

In other news, I am interviewing Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle tomorrow for this week's radio show/podcast. This is the first interview I've done that is outside of the industry and with somebody I don't "know". She is a big time author and I have to say that I am just a wee bit nervous. Steve is off at Stitches West (well, actually he's in Minneapolis on his way, but you know what I mean) so I will be flying solo. The book is really good, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. So tune in Saturday to the show or the podcast for what I hope will be a very interesting and in-depth interview.

And while we're talking books, just a reminder that Kate Jacobs, author of The Friday Night Knitting Club, will be at WEBS on Monday, March 12th at 12:00ish for a book reading/signing. We'll be serving a light luncheon and it promises to be a really nice event, so make your plans now to be there!

My next post will be from Stitches. I arrive on Thursday, just before the show opens. Had to hang back for some business reasons and to give the kiddly winks less "sitter" time and more "parent" time. We have an awesome sitter, but Steve and I are both harboring a bit of parental guilt. We have quite a bit of travel this year and we're trying hard to keep it all balanced.

Watch for some amazing pictures from the show. If you are in the Santa Clara area this weekend, do not miss the show! Remember, if we hit our goal, my darling, dark-haired honey will be getting some lovely blond tips. There will be photos. Please come and shop 'til you drop!

More knitting next time.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

What Valentine's Day Means to Me

Winter has arrived. . . .in the form of a foot or so of solid snow/sleet. Yesterday was wild. No school for the kids and we even had to close the shop early. You know it's got to be really bad for Steve to be willing to close up early. I was emailing back and forth with a customer (from Hawaii no less, is that not poetic justice?) and she suggested that in addition to the bad weather, maybe he decided to close early since it was Valentine's Day. Sitting here in my home office, I lauged out loud until I was nearly in tears. Steve Elkins, close the store, send everybody home, because it's Valentine's Day? No way! Now this is not to say he's not romantic, but trust me, it was all about the weather.

We were back up and running bright and early this morning, despite the frigid temps. It's quite beautiful here now and looks like how New England should look this time of year. Doesn't mean I'm very happy about it, but there's not much I can do about it except count down the days until we head to Florida next month.

The big news of the day is that we have scheduled Kate Jacobs to make an appearance at the store. She is the author of The Friday Night Knitting Club, which was just published last month. It's also the book that has already been sold and will be made into a movie starring Julia Roberts.
I had the pleasure to hear Kate speak twice at TNNA and to meet her in person. She is lovely, engaging and a real knitter. She will be at WEBS on Monday, March 12th at 12:00pm for a book reading and signing. We're going to have a little luncheon - plans are still brewing, but mark your calendars. This is her only appearance in Massachusetts (and CT, RI or VT as well) so make your plans now to join us! I'm hoping to have her on the radio show as well on March 10th. I'll keep you posted on that.

Now onto some yarn. More new, new, new is just flooding through the door. Here's a quick summary.

First up is Debbie Bliss Pure Cotton. It's a lovely plied cotton, with a very soft hand. The yarn has nice texture and the colors are just what you would expect. I am interested to see how the swatch that is knit wears, although I think the twist of the plies will help minimize pilling. The dedicated pattern book is also in and it is signature Debbie Bliss. The yarn retails for $6.50 and the pattern book is $17.95.

Two new yarns from K1C2 have also arrived. 2nd Time Cotton and Ty Dy .

2nd Time Cotton is created from new textile waste originating in the apparel and textile industries. This 8 ply yarn is spun from this recycled cotton contributing to the conservation and global re-utilization of products. 2nd time cotton is made in the USA. It just doesn't get much better than this. I am personally not a fan of cotton, but this is on my short list of yarns to work with this season.
Now, Ty Dy is pretty interesting as well. Helene of K1C2 has put together stunning color combinations and it has nearly 200 yards for $12.99. It has a soft hand and to me, it's screaming "Spring Bag, Spring Bag, please make me into a Bag" or a cool t-shirt. It's also screaming "crochet me", but that's just me. . . . . .

New from Louisa Harding are Mariposa and Cinnabar. Mariposa is a cotton/viscose blend. Two solid cotton strands are plied with a variegated strand of viscose. The yarn is interesting on the ball and when knit up. It is worsted weight and retails at $5.95/ball.

Cinnabar has a little bit of everything in it, from cotton to linen to silk to viscose, acrylic and polyamide. This yarn has a bit more of a crunchy feel to it initially, but I'm confident that once it is blocked, it will soften up nicely. Cinnabar retails for $6.99/ball.

New yarns from Rowan are trickling in. Summer Tweed has arrived, which is very exciting. This is the first time we've ever carried the spring offerings.

We have a great new selection of Plymouth Yarns including Bamboo Garden, Linen Isle, Shire Silk (which we personally love because it reminds us of our own Everett Silk which we used to have) and Jean'nee which is a yummy cotton/acrylic blend that is priced at only $3.49/ball!
Last up is Noro Cotton Hill, which is a cotton boucle dyed in six spectacular colors. It's a cotton/wool/mohair and silk blend. Look at how lovely the yarn knits up in the swatch I've photographed!

(Ooo - two pics side by side. I'm feeling pretty darn impressed with my technical prowness!)

So, what's on the needles for me? Well, I finished the second Vermont Felted Bag, but not without a bit of a "finishing" disaster. As I have stated, sewing is not my thing. Melissa was helping me on Saturday and was determined to get me over my fear of finishing. Well, I had a lovely seam, but we managed to forget that (a) the bag was being felted and (b) the top was going to be folded over. So I felted the bag Sunday afternoon and I had the most hideous, bulky seam. Don't get me wrong, it was a technically beautiful set of seams - really, but not appropriate for this particular project. I thought I handled it pretty well, I really had nobody to be mad at but myself. Hey, it's a mistake I'll never make again. Linda our customer service manager was convinced she could save the day and she did. With a little TLC, restitching, refelting, the bag looked okay. We got the handles on and off it went for the book submission before I could even photograph.

We are now focusing on designs for our next catalog, which will be all Valley Yarns. Anyone have any suggestions? It's funny the items that have done well vs. the ones that haven't. Not a whole lot of rhyme or reason. I am going to be making yet another Vermont Felted Bag, but using our Berkshire Solids. I am also swatching for a felted rug right now using Berkshire Bulky.
Hey, I was serious about suggestions - what would you like to see in our catalogs? What types of projects inspire you? Which Valley Yarn are you itching to use, but none of the projects we've offered have tickled you? I'm sure if we get some good ideas that we use, I could be swayed into sending out some yarn or something to those who have helped us!

Anyways, then the next thing is a top down raglan sweater. I have never made a top down sweater before, but Kirsten in customer service (and one of our amazing designers) swears by the technique. The sweater is for the next knitalong on the radio show and I'm going to be using this color of Silk Garden. Yum!

Speaking of Silk Garden, we knit up the Circle Vest from the new book Silk Knits by Elaine Eskesen. There was something about this pattern that just jumped out at me the first time I saw it. Berroco had a circle jacket created from Foliage last fall that our customers couldn't get enough of. I think this vest is a great next interpretation. Erin who works in the store knit the sample and she said it was an easy project. She is extremely partial to Noro in general, Silk Garden in particular, so somehow I think she might be a bit biased. Everyone who has tried this vest on looks great in it.

(So much for my technical savvy. . . . . )

Lastly, in reading many blogs yesterday, there was quite a bit of editorial about Valentine's Day and love. There were a lot of thoughtful posts and observations. Many people choose not to celebrate the day. Steve and I have certainly evolved our celebration from the early days until now. We often get lost in the day-to-day craziness of life and I like to have a day that makes me stop and remember. I like to remember those butterfly days. I like to remember the Valentine's when I was in Vegas for a tradeshow (which was common for many years) and I had the staff at one of the nicest hotels on the strip running around like crazy people trying to find the Fedex package that Steve had sent me. It was a card and stuffed bear. The overnight shipment cost three times as much as the contents. I still treasure the card and the bear. I am grateful for the day to day steadiness and consistency of what we have, but I like having a reason to celebrate as well. So yeah, we celebrate. But in all honesty, here's what Valentine's is all about for me:

What you can't see are the globs of pink sparkly glue - "because I know you love sparklies Mommy". . . . . . I am so pro-Valentine's Day. . . . . . . .How can you not celebrate?


Monday, February 12, 2007

Bowling Anyone?

Every year, Steve and I host a WEBS holiday party for our staff, which usually happens in January. We have it at our house, serve yummy food, good drinks and always have some fun. The first year, I cooked everything. Don't get me wrong, I love to cook - I can make a mean meal as long as the desserts are from the bakery or handled by someone else. Flour, baking soda and baking powder are not my friends. As the staff has grown, we hired a caterer who comes in and does it all. We've had an improv group come and entertain (all WEBS related and very funny), we've done Yankee Swap (everyone was way too nice) and Secret Santa.

This year, the party thing just didn't excite me - so Steve took matters into his own hands. His master plan - BOWLING. Most of us were a bit tentative, but the man had a vision and nobody was getting in his way. The big event was yesterday and guess what? Steve was right (note that on 2/12/07, Kathy gives Steve full credit). We had a blast! More than half of our staff, their families/significant others all convened for our Bowling Extravaganza. This wasn't just any bowling either, this was big ball bowling AND it was Disco Bowling - flashing lights, loud, pulsating music. Absolutely classic. We are actually a group of pretty talented bowlers - Nick our warehouse man even OWNS his own bowling ball! The flashing disco lights impeded the photo ops, but to the left is a shot of some of Team WEBS in all their glory. And Linda our Customer Service Manager had great form!

On the knitting front, I've been working on a second Vermont Felted Bag as part of our knitalong on the radio show/podcast and to use as a project submission for a book. I was right on schedule until I HAD TO SEW IT TOGETHER. I do not sew well - finishing is the bane of my existence. I got it done, felted it and had a big problem with the seams. Don't ask, it's too horrifying to discuss and not very bright on my part. The bag is currently in the OR and will hopefully be photo ready tomorrow. I'm just finishing up the handles and will felt these tonight:

I'm using Berkshire Hand Dyed in Chili Pepper. Not a color I would usually pick, but I think it works nicely. I want to do this same project again, but in solid Berkshire - striped. I had already decided on the colors, until I saw one of our Expert Knitters at a meeting on Saturday. She was working on an entrelac bag in black/cream/sage and I cannot get the colors out of my head. I've also got a felted rug swimming around in my head for our June catalog.

Here are some projects from the store that you might find inspiring.

First up, is this lovely 2 skein scarf knit in Road to China from the Fibre Company. Cast on an odd number of stitches, k2, p2 across to the last stitch then k1. I believe Karen our Store Manager cast on 25 stitches to make this handsome scarf. Road to China is a scrumptious blend of alpaca/cashmere/camel/yak and soy. We love this yarn and this simple, but elegant rib is perfect for it. A mock or simple cable pattern would be nice as well.

Next up is this darling shawl that just magically appeared one day (I love that - walking out into the store and finding a new model garment. It's like a mini-Christmas morning surprise! Knit in Ambrosia from K1C2, the pattern is Sensual Scarf #7320. Ambrosia is another yummy yarn made of baby alpaca/silk and cashmere. The finished wrap is very lofty, but the fiber blend will make it warm and cuddly. Our own Megan Mc (pronounced Megan Mick) did the knitting for this great store model.
Crocheters do not despair, there is something for you too! This is Blue Sky Alpaca's Cap Sleeve Wrap. It is crocheted using their Alpaca/Silk doubled. I have to tell you - the yarn itself is incredible, but doubled, it feels like velvet! Sharlene (who is out of solitary confinement as she has agreed to work up the pattern for the wrap shown in the post below) crocheted this in no time.

Last for today is a photo of the Karaoke Hat Trunk Show from Southwest Trading Company. Jonelle put out a call to shopowners last fall for hat designs using Karaoke. I asked our own Melissa if she was interested in submitting a design. She came up with a faboo creation. Jonelle was so thrilled with the hats, she decided to create a book of all the patterns that we could all carry and sell. Melissa's hat is included and it's even featured on the cover! Karaoke is a wonderful, wonderful yarn that is a 50/50 soysilk/wool blend that is self-striping. It is soft and the colors are great.

Thanks to everyone who has left such nice comments about the blog and our radio show/podcast. The latest show features an interview Jonelle of SWTC - she is the President. We had a great conversation that I think you will enjoy, especially if you are a fan of her yarns. If not, you will be after listening to the interview. The woman is an inspiration. If there is anyone you would like Steve and I to interview, please just email us at readysetknit@yarn.com. We'll do our best!

Be sure to stop by the store or visit the website often! We have so much new yarn flying in, I can't even keep up. Fortunately the rest of the staff can and we're getting it out and up as quickly as possible.

P.S. Sorry if I've given anyone a headache with my "left, right, center" photos. Just trying to make things look a bit more interesting, but I think I need to work at it a bit more :)

Monday, February 5, 2007

Super Duper Sunday!

Well, I was just finishing up this post, adding the last of the pictures when POOF! It was all gone. . . . grrrr. So, here we go again. . . .

First off, the weather has to be mentioned. It is so cold here! It's 14 degrees with windchill of -1. That's in the MIDDLE of the DAY! In case I haven't previously mentioned it - I hate winter, the cold, etc. I'm a born and bred New Englander, my mom is Canadian, you'd think I'd have some level of tolerance, but no. Anything below 70 and I am not a happy camper. WEBS - Aruba's Yarn Store sounds just perfect to me right now.

Now onto our faboo Super Bowl event! What a great day we had. This is one of my favorite events of the whole year - I just love everyone coming to the store to hang out, knit, spin - it creates such an awesome vibe. We were packed from the minute we opened the door (20 minutes early, by the way) until we finally pushed (gently and with much thanks for coming) the last person out the door at nearly 4:45pm! At one point, we had people double parked in our parking lot (and for those of you who have been to the store, you know we have a good 70+ parking spaces). We reconnected with lots of old friends and made some new ones. I felt particularly badly for the two ladies who had never been to the store before and chose yesterday to make their first pilgramage. I think they were a wee bit overwhelmed and I assured them that we normally don't have 150 people hanging out at the store, on the floor, etc. Not that I would mind that, but I had to emphasze to them that yesterday was a bit above average, even by our standards! Here are a few pictures:

We even had a few men join us - we always love that:

And a great big thanks to the staff - who are not all pictured. Thank goodness you were all so willing to work!

A few other personal highlights for me were actually getting to sit in the classroom with several of our regulars and knit! Yes, I sat, in my store and I KNIT! It was - awesome. Then there was the customer who I was checking out and chatting with and she said "Oh, your Kathy!" and I said "Yes" and she said "I recognized your voice from your radio show!" That was cool and freaky all at the same time.

One of the true highlights of the day, was a shawl/wrap that Sharlene, our receiver, crocheted for Gail, a.k.a. the Kangaroo Dyer. Sharlene is a crocheting goddess - her stuff is un-be-liev-able. This little number was crocheted using our 2/14 alpaca/silk, hand-dyed by Gail. Isn't it drop dead gor-ge-ous?

We are working on getting Sharlene to write up a pattern. She's not one to take notes and wings it when she is designing. We've put her in a closet without yarn and hooks, so I dare say we'll have the pattern very shortly :)

I've got lots of other stuff to show you, but I need to get this posted and move on with my day, now that it's taken me twice as long as it should've to get this done. Tootles!


Saturday, February 3, 2007

Industry Housekeeping

Tomorrow is our annual "Big Game Event" at the store. From 12-4, we invite everyone to come and hang out, work on their latest project, plan a new one, bring their wheel and spin - whatever - just come and hang out with us! It's always on of the best days of the year in terms of the vibe that is created. I love looking around and seeing everyone sprawled all over the store, talking, sharing, knitting, crocheting, spinning. . . . .I love that our regular drop-in ladies take over "their" space in the classroom with a groupie attitude - plus we have munchies! So Steve will hang with the boys and I'll hang with all the WEBS peeps - very cool. Count on lots of pics tomorrow.

I have not been feeling well the past couple of days. Definitely fighting something off. We were suppose to be at a swanky black-tie thing tonight, but I knew I'd be sleeping on the crudite by 7:30, so we passed. Steve is off at a UMass hockey game with J1 and J2 is working on his new 1,075 piece Lego set that he bought with allowance and b'day cash (yes, the box is for 8-14, he's 6 and doing just fine). I have some general industry info to pass along, so I thought this would be a good time.

So, first, some of you may have heard of Stitch N' Pitch. It is a collaborative program between Major League Baseball (MLB) and The National Needlearts Association (TNNA) that brings together two American traditions — Baseball and the NeedleArts. Go to a ball game and knit, crochet, embroider, cross-stitch and needlepoint. Sit among friends, family and colleagues and cheer on your favorite Baseball Team. This event is for ANYONE who has an interest in the perfect double play — NeedleArts and Baseball; beginners, intermediate and experts are all welcome. (TNNA) and your Baseball Team are providing fun giveaways and surprises that are included with special Stitch N' Pitch game tickets. By clicking on the link above, you will see all of the major league teams that have signed up for this event.

So, Steve and I were told at TNNA that our beloved Red Sox were participating this year. We were thrilled and a bit surprised - it's not like they have trouble selling tickets. We had a complete program put together by the time we landed back home from San Diego, told the staff (who were even more thrilled than us) and we were ready to start rockin' and rollin', just needed the game date. Well, there isn't one. It's a no go. We are (insert really loud, screaming profanity here) unhappy with this development. But for those of you in an area that is having an event - GO!! Even if you don't like baseball all that much - GO! This is a great opportunity to hang out with fellow stitchers and promote the joys of needlearts to those who have yet to discover it - plus you'll be supporting your LYS who has worked INCREDIBLY hard to pull off the event. Plus, we'll be sending special savings coupons and yarn to most of the games' goodie bags!

Steve and I are not ones to wallow in what could've been - we've got a plan "B" in the works (trust me - there is always a plan B). Stay tuned for more info once we get a our proverbial ducks in a row.

Next up is the fight against breast cancer. As those of you who are regular shoppers know, this is a cause that is near and dear to us. We host our Breast Cancer Awareness Event every October and do what we can to financially support local efforts. TNNA has also embraced the cause on multiple levels. You can read about their efforts at the TNNA website. There is one program that I want to take a few moments to bring to your attention, which is One Pixel At A Time. The goals of this effort are as follows:
  • Raise awareness of the Breast Cancer Research Stamp, a semi-postal stamp issued in 1998 by the United States Postal Service. To date, this stamp has raised over $50 million to support important research in the fight against breast cancer. Click here for more information about the stamp.
  • Raise funds for Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC), a national non-profit organization providing direct support to those whose lives have been affected by this far-reaching disease.
  • Expand the reach and impact of Stitch to WIN Against Breast Cancer, a country-wide, outreach program of The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA).

So, why am I telling you all about this? Because you can participate in this effort:

Play Stitch to WIN Against Breast Cancer!

As part of The National NeedleArts Association’s Stitch to WIN Against Breast Cancer Campaign, the Breast Cancer Research Stamp was recreated in each of the five hand needlearts. Play Stitch to WIN and add your stitches to the thousands of others who helped complete these wall hangings, presented to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, October 4, 2006.

* Living Beyond Breast Cancer receives 80% of net proceeds from the sale of the pixels (3 million total). “Net proceeds” refers to all money received minus hosting and processing fees.

How do you Play?

Go to the One Pixel At A Time website and help to complete the Breast CAncer Research Stamps by purchasing a Pixel - think of it as a stitch. When you get to the site, you can purchase 4 pixels for $20.00 - 80% of your dollars go to the organziation Living Beyond Breast Cancer. What is a pixel? Well, a pixel is a tiny square of color that, just like a stitch, in combination with thousands of others, creates a complete pattern or image on a screen.

Besides helping the fight against breast cancer and receiving all of the cool stuff mentioned above, there is a bit of WEBS pride involved! For every person that signs up as "WEBS", Steve and I get a chance to win a free hotel stay at the next TNNA market in Columbus, OH this June. In all honesty, as nice as the free stay would be, I want the world to know what incredible customers we have - I want WEBS to win not for the prize, but because the issue is important. If you can, we ask that you go to the site and fill in your pixels. Together, one pixel, one stitch at a time, we truly can make a difference!

So there you have it - two great endeavors by our industry that we hope you will consider participating in.

Check in tomorrow for a BIG GAME EVENT Update and I hope to see you all there!


Friday, February 2, 2007

Bloggers and Silent Poetry

So today is blogger silent poetry day, which I had read a bit about and pretty much dismissed. I'm not a big literature person and poetry, well, not ususally my cup of tea. I can appreciate a good poem as much as the next person, but it's not something I normally read.

But many of the blogs I peruse have posted poems which started me thinking. First, I thought I'd be a bit glib and pull something from J1's poetry journal, but it did not come home with him. Then Dr. Seuss came to mind. Then I thought maybe I could find something in song lyrics. Then I thought, I can do better than that. I sat here for a bit and then suddenly "schzam!" I had the perfect poem and probably one of the very few that actually mean something to me. This was read at our wedding and was very symbolic of our ceremony and how we felt about marriage. After almost 12 years of mostly wedded bliss, I can still say these words have a lot of meaning and symbolism in terms of being husband and wife, but not letting that erase the fact that we are still individuals. So, here is my poem:

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

- "Marriage" from The Prophet by Kahlil Gilbran

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