Monthly Archives: May 2015

One Thing Leads to Another

This is part of Stitches South Debriefing and Spring Mad Dash. Weird that I can combine them into a single thought of which I have mixed emotions.  The ugly term is lifestyle creep. The more pleasant term is aspirational lifestyle.  I think of it as upgrades. 

Example A:

We finished the outside home improvements, doors and windows. Yeah!  The practical justifications of better sound and weather insulation, security and easier long-term maintainence was worth the expense.  But…but…NOW the entry areas connected to the doors look really shabby.  

Which lead to:

I HAVE to the clean and organize the breezeway (as if Martha Stewart is coming for a photo shoot. Not really.  Just so it’s no longer a dump site and frustrating).  Got rid of 3 old door mats and runner. Replacing it with the one in the front hall. (Now I need a runner for the front hall.)

I HAVE to spruce up the front entry and the adjacent dining room. And maybe the stairway. Paint is the easiest solution here. And maybe….the list could go on and on. 

Creep, creep, creep


Dishwasher in repair starts a new upgrade creep

Example B:

Then the dishwasher leaked. The runner had to be dried outside. 

Which lead to:

Clean the runner while it’s outside. 

May as well replace the runners, so more of the floor is protected. Two longer and wider runners for under $100. Worth it. 

I can use the old cleaned kitchen runner in the front hall. It was a scrap from the dining room rug. 

The bare stone floors now look really dirty, so need to a deep cleaning and seal. 

Yeah, sisal will make a great background for summer settings. You might see sisal and stone floors as photo background.

Creep, creep, creep

Back to example A, I’m looking at paint swatches for the entries. And dreaming of fresher walls and ceiling. My version of the upgrade multiplier. Elbow grease, a couple of cans of paint and two new runners. 

Dreaming of clean white and sky blue ceiling contrasting existing wall colors

Creep, creep, creep

Backtrack to Stitches South:

Stepping into these vendor booths was like walking into a yarnie version West Elm or Anthroplogie or your dream LYS. 

  • Plucky is luxury color (bright colored walls, vignetted shelves, cashmere). Too much of a feeding frienzy. Too crowded for me. 
  • YOTH is subtle luxury (barn wood panel walls and floor, black metal fixture, tonals). Also to crowded and sold out of many items. 
  • Fringe is simple, clean, fresh, earthy & natural (cotton muslin, natural woods). I did by souvenirs there. 

Hmm….I understand the social media buzz around them now. They also were the most popular vendors at the market. 

Then I read this: Where Are We Heading? Knitting as Lifestyle Brand?  Karie laments the transition of the knitting world being tainted by the commercial world of marketing and branding. She sites Gweneth Paltrow’s Goop and Blake Lively’s Preserve as the celebrities lifestyle setters.  

I thought I was immune to this idea of lifestyle creep.  No such thing. My triggers would be Eileen Fisher and Alabama Chanin with a touch of Issae Miyaki. What can I say, I like it a little simple, funky, & asymmetrical. 

Even though those vendor booths were crowded, I enjoyed being there. I can imagine each as a wonderful ideal upscale local yarn shop. A great place to meet friends, visit, discover something new, spend money…

Seems inevitable, as more vendors enter the fiber business, how else to standout when everyone has similar products?  You have to distinguish yourself by something, a unique product, limited quantities, higher price, a luxury item…. conveying your intent by the atmosphere you are creating quickly send a message to the customer. 

The CreativeLive workshops definitely stress the idea of knowing your customer, focusing your brand, & creating an experience. None of what I do right now with the Etsy shop. But since I am the chief cook and bottle washer, priority was on the product itself. 

It wasn’t that I was fighting this whole idea of branding and focus.  Keeping things simple and easy has been for my sanity. 

The easiest thing I can start with is the photography. It’s time to start playing around with the background. Now, I need the lights and reflectors. Almost everything else, I can borrow from around the house. 

Now that the house is starting to look better. 

SSK 2015 Competitions

SSK: Super Summer Knittogether is a knitting retreat going on it’s fifth year. The event is organized by the Knitgirllls podcasters, Laura and Leslie.  Attendance is limited to 150. Acceptance is by lottery. 

If you made it through the lottery, you would know a few weeks after the lottery is posted September or October.  Since people usually drop out for various reasons, you still have a chance with the wait list. 2014, I had to wait until Feburary before I was in.  I had a great time considering it was my first retreat.  Last year someone dropped out the day before the retreats started, and someone was available to come.

This year, as of May 22nd, I’m STILL on the wait list. And my heart is still racing from what just happened a few minutes ago. There were a few openings after the deadline of their full financial commitment. Today at 12:00 Eastern Standard Time, those spots were opened up on a first come first serve basis on their Ravelry forum. I am so glad I asked Eloise for tips.  I was ready at 11:00 central time. Even checked my download and upload speeds.  (T-mobile rocked at 50 Mbps versus 10 on my home network.). 

Even so, I am number 21 on this list. I’m staying on the list. But am not hopeful that 20 people will suddenly drop out.  I suppose I’ll know in a few days if I made it or not.  I wonder if I’m going to be THAT person this year, getting a notification the day before. 

If this is what indie yarn acquisition is like, I was right to stay away from their updates. I’m not desperate for any yarn. And I don’t need the stress of a feeding frienzy


SSK KALs (Knit ALongs) are not really competitions. I think they are wonderfully planned to get acquainted with the instructors’ and other attendees’ designs, as well as the vendors’ wares. You are working for door prize tickets drawn at the opening and closing ceremonies.  So it’s not a direct competition. 

Even so, clearly competition must be some people’s main motivator. 

I am participating in the KALs.  Just in case I do get in. Ok, so maybe I am just a bit competitive. But but but there are some who’ve knit 10,000 yards!  I might have totaled 3,000-4,000 so far. 

 Always hopeful. 


in progress My Love shawl by Laura Linneman,


Little Arrowhead Kace shawl by MJ Mucklestone. i joined the ends for a mobious cowl


Hayward shawl by Susan B. Anderson


Apple hats by Susan B. Anderson


Quaker Ridge shawl by Susan B. Anderson


Hayward shawl by Susan B. Anderson. yes, I knit it twice. the first time as a cowl.


Failure Is Not The Opposite of Success

Yes. You probably hear or read business books authors talking about this. 

Here are three examples: (I’ll probably add more links as I find them)

Very entertaining Freakonomics Radio, Failure Is Your Friend

Why the Best Stories Often Begin with Failure, Smithsonian Magazine 

What If the Secret to Success Is Failure, NYTimes

I wish it were taught in public schools instead of the current ‘teach to the test’ process or when I was in school. It is a skill that I had to learn the hard way with time and slow change. 
I’m just glad it change. 

I love my first purse, the linen cross body bag. It did need improvements, better pockets for the smart phone, keys, wallet, 3 pairs of glasses, and ideally enough space for a knitting project.
A bit hubris, I thought just enlarging it and making it in leather. Total fail.  Fortunately, I was sacrificing a black leather skirt from the thrift shop.  The issues, I couldn’t solve the strap connection, yet again. So I gave up. Tossed in the (UnFinished Object) UFO bin. That bin is getting full. Sigh. 

Failed leather bag

So I moved on to another idea. A big slouchy bag.

The bag is too big, too slouchy. Again I’m having problems with the connection to the straps. But at least it’s done and I can road test.  Using it brings up ones issues. 

In the meantime, I found a source for leather straps, eyelets and rivets. My salvation! I can fix the connection issue!

Iterations begin:

  • Lower exterior slope (for cross body option)
  • Add an exterior zipper
  • Add a lining
  • Add better inside pockets. 

Then I figured a way to convert it to a backpack. Have decided this is not worth the extra work.  

I gave the three to my knitting friends, Eloise, Gail and Maggie to road test. 


3 versions prototype bags

They like the last two iterations enough to keep them after some changes. Woo hoo. Success!

More experiments. Maybe something smaller. Better inside pockets. 

But oh….I love the newest bag. I’m going to road test this one. I think I’ll need another one in faux leather for winter. 

Now the question will be, do I make them for the Etsy shop?  

This one is NOT a failure. Slouchy Hobo bag

Road Trip: New England, Boston


Boston across from the snow covered Charles River

Riding the T, I felt like such an urban warrior.  Got on the right line, knew which station I’d get off, even had the ear buds and phone.  I was just missing that back pack to fit in as a native. 

I had only two agendas in Boston. Bring Memphis BBQ (sauces and dry rubs from my favorite places) to my knitting friend and to see what she was doing at the Museum of Fine Arts.  And if possible visit the John Singer Sargent painting, Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.  We had a great visit.  She is working on the restoration of this large painting by Benjamin West, Devout Men Taking The Body of Saint Stephen.

Benjamin West, Devout Men Taking The Body of Saint Stephen.

The museum is not what I remembered from 25 years ago. I think it tripled in size and scope.  I had to see ALL of it.  But I tell you, 2″ heeled boots was not a good choice after six hours and 11,000 steps. 

Found a new favorite in the contemporary arts.  

This is a detail from a large installation of mirrored blown glass vessels in mirrored cases. You don’t see your own reflection. I know nothing about the artist. 

detail of Josiah McElheny, Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism, 2007

Plus the most pleasant, helpful, knowledgeable volunteers I have ever met. I’ll ask for specific artists. Bosch? No…but we do have a David Teniers the Younger, The Temptation of Saint Anthony.  I didn’t know about this painter. They even offered to walk me to the suggested painting! Unheard of!  But I hadn’t lost all my directional skills and found it. 


David Teniers the Younger, The Temptation of Saint Anthony, detail, MFA, Boston

Why Bosch?  His paintings are just weird. So is Teniers! 

I’m just copying an idea from an old movie about seeing all the Vermeer paintings in the world. Oops, it’s actually All the Vermeers in New York.  I have a mental checklist of artists I would like to see where ever there’s either a contemporary or fine art museum. It’s fun to ‘test’ guards’ and docents’ knowledge (You know they’re bored just standing there). By the way, Smithsonian museums weren’t as much fun, playing my little game. 

Here’s my usual list of works I would love to see:  

Hmmmm….I’ve never written this list down. What a strange mix. No longer a mental checklist, but it still looks mental

This is the last post about our New England road trip. 

Previous posts were about Cambridge and Portsmouth, NH. 

Road Trip: New England, Portsmouth

Theme: Bridges

Had a great day walking around Portsmouth. My best pictures were of bridges or on bridges. Otherwise, the olde town area is a quintessential   picturesque New England village port. I can image the throngs of tourists in high season. 

Keeping this posts simple with fun pictures. 


Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge


shadow selfie from New Castle Ave. bridge


New Castle Ave. bridge, view on the east side looking at the Piscataqua River



World War 1 Veterans Memorial truss lift bridge


same World War 1 Veterans Memorial truss lift bridge



Road Trip: New England, Cambridge

People Watching Observations, Winter 2015

  • Indigenous attire is gender neutral: water proof shoes or boots, jeans, heavy winter jacket, hipster big scarf, slouchy knit hat and back pack (must use back pack). Substitute a tweedy jacket with classic elbow patches and you could pass as a professor.
  • Must walk with a purpose, no doddering, always in a hurry to the next task. Don’t forget to be deep in thought or texting.  Weather (at record snow levels) will not stop you. 
  • Ear buds and smart phone at the ready to avert any human interaction. Most important on the T (the local rail transit).

Taking a picture of the natives felt intrusive. 

3 am, someone is walking in the fresh snow

Except this incident where a young neighbor had just shoveled out the elderly gentleman’s car.  I wonder how long that took?  Only the top foot above is snow. The cars are really encased in ice. 

Cambridge 2015 snowmagedon, neighbor helping neighbor

Enough of people watching. 

My all time favorite place: the Harvard Natural History Museum (also known as the Peabody).  I just need to remember to go in the afternoon. All the galleries are swamped with school kids taking selfies in the morning. 

There are the amazing turn of the century glass flowers, by Leopold Blaschka (1822-1895) and his son Rudolf (1857-1939). I have loved them ever since I was a kid. Impossible to photograph because of their protective glass cases and low light.  They were used for botanical studies, so are an accurate representative.  

The best part were the newly discovered works, tucked away in other biology departments’ specimen drawers, other glass models by the same father and son artisans. Theses little creatures are much more photogenic. Aren’t they cute!


Sacoglossan Sea Slug glass model, Ercolania viridis, Peabody Museum, Harvard,

picture of Sacoglossan sea slug, Peabody Museum, Harvard

Sacoglossan sea slug glass model, Stiliger ornatus, Peabody Museum, Harvard

Stitches South Debriefing

I knew it was going to be big. But I was not prepared. 

I’ve watched Instagram long enough to know that some booths will be swamped (Bliss had Miss Babs yarns, Plucky Knitter & YOTH). 
I have no agenda except to say hi to Deb at The Bliss booth, buy a souvenir with Karen at Fringe & Co. And see what other knitting bags were out there in the world.  All I really planned was to tagged along with experienced SSK friends.


Before Saturday opening of Stitches South 2015

We got near the entrance around 9:30. We expected to be there at 9:15 but it took much longer to park and walk. In the 30 minutes we waited, I couldn’t see the end of the line. I’m guessing there were a few hundred. 

While waiting I learned a strategy that makes sense. BEFORE coming, get the booth map, check each vendors’ website and Instagram to understand who they are, start selecting your yarn choices before you show up at the entrance. 

I’ve heard others were more methodical color code vendors locations, yarns, color ways, & needed yardage/weight. There were serious knitters, more serious than me. 

Others in line clearly had objectives.  

I was casually looking for linen. The cotton shawl or cowl I’m currently knitting is heavy. I want something light for summer.  I never found it. Instead, while others were discussing which KnitPicks needles to buy in the LostCityKnits booth too long, I fell in love with a scarf knit with the Jamison & Smith Shetland lace yarns. (Check this off my stash bucket list.  Yeah, it’s a mental list. I guess I should write it down.)


Jamieson & Smith Shetland Supreme Lace, shade white


The same thing happened at The Buffalo Wool Company. I did not know they were going to be there. And it was on my long term stash bucket list to knit one of their yarns.  I’m still in shock what I paid for one skein. I’ll have to find a project quickly.  Otherwise, I’m afraid it will become too precious to knit. 

Sexy base, The Buffalo Wool Co., Baby Makin’ Blue

But the thing that gave me a sore arm: a new steam iron for the business. I’m excited. A percentage of my original bags were damaged from the old iron. I finally gave up using some materials because of it. There’s a DVD that I have to watch before using it. Hope it’s not too complicated. 

So I am set. 

How many times am I going to say that and still buy yarn?  About 3 weeks, as it turns out, I just signed up for a Shubui yarn tasting at KnitOneOxford.