Thursday, May 23, 2002

Ever wondered how much space 5,000 notecard boxes takes up? Here's your answer.

It wouldn't have been that bad if I hadn't had to lug each one up a flight of stairs. Meanwhile the delivery dude, who'd only plopped this 1,000-pound elephant on the sidewalk, had the nerve to linger around expecting a tip.

Note my cunning use of furniture to distract the eye. Verrrrrrrrrry effective.
boxes aplenty

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

sunset over the pondWell folksies, May 20th marked my mid-30-somethingth year here on earth. Whereas past birthdays have been spent lunching at some terrible suburban mall restaurant with co-workers whose best intentions didn't always mesh with mine, this was a model for how birthdays should be.

I took a picnic lunch down to the beach and sat on the very same rock I've sat on since my mother first dared set me loose in the world. The sun was shining, the water was intensely blue, all sorts of birds were out, and I had that uncomfortably nice feeling of being completely and totally satisfied with life. (Of course it's usually followed by worries of gloom and doom because as we all know, nothing good ever lasts, etc. etc. etc.)

Then I headed to my favorite garden store and went totally berserk, bringing home 26 beautiful plants. I spent the rest of the afternoon prepping a large area of topsoil with manure (oh YUM!) and peat moss before tucking in each little plant for the evening.

Many times I've doubted the wisdom of my decision to leave San Francisco and pursue a quieter, more grounded life. People near and dear to me just couldn't understand. Those in the technology publishing industry thought I was totally insane. "Maine?" they'd snicker. "Do they even have electricity there?"

But now I'm here, time has passed, and I can honestly say that every ounce of difficulty was worth it. Don't be afraid to rock the boat now and then. Life is short, and the world amazing.

That's my profound statement for the day. Stay tuned for more information about my motivational videotapes and cassettes, available soon at a Home Depot near you.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Operation Freedom update: Inventory is arriving! We're making progress!

Each day brings us one step closer to launching the boutique. Our Portland warehouse is now nicely stocked with 20,000 beautiful notecards (a small portion of which you can see here). The actual card boxes are due to arrive this week, ditto for several other items.

I had to take a work break today, however, to play with my birthday present: a mandolin! No, not the ones you use to slice super-thin potatoes (that'd be a mandoline), but the adorably cute little stringed instrument that features so prominently in bluegrass music. I figure I've done my Beethoven time, now I can have some fun.
Knitter's Review Gets Official XXX Rating?

In this week's newsletter I mentioned the publication of a new calendar featuring women in their birthday suits surrounded by knitting/spinning fiber, tools, garments, etc. in various discrete poses.

It's the same idea as Ladies' Auxiliary calendar from England that was oh-so-popular. Only this comes from a group of women who've been meeting here in Maine for over 25 years. They're mostly spinners, but they also knit and weave. They'll be donating 10% of proceeds to charity.

It's a positive, diversity-friendly, women-positive, embrace-all-body-types-and-sizes type of production, just like the British one was. It features no brawny men named Helmut and Thor, no bear-skin rugs, no roaring fires.

However, apparently the mere mention of the calendar trashed the otherwise pure and innocent image of Knitter's Review. A distressed reader wrote,

"This idea is without merit and in very bad taste. We are committed to clearning up porno on the internet and this is porno and unappreciated. If this is an example of the types of things you are offering on what was a clean site then please delete my name and URL."

Knitting yarns? Porn? Would it be possible to find two less connected things?

In fact maybe that's what this industry needs. A little smutty scandal could do the knitting world some good. I'll call up some Hollywood agents and get on it ASAP.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Have I mentioned what a bounty eBay can be for old knitting needles in funky colors and shapes and sizes? Just do a search on "vintage knitting needles" and you'll see what I mean.

But beware, there are a few sellers who must think the average eBayer has the IQ of a popsicle stick. Take this listing, for example: Three pairs of rosewood circular needles described as "extremely hard to find." To snag these collectibles using the Buy-it-Now option, you get all three for the bargain price of $65. These are the same circular rosewoods you can get at any good online yarn shop for $17.50 apiece.

Wait, it gets better. Our eager seller also lists a pair of equally "rare" rosewood DPNs for a buy-it-now price of $25. Has she forgotten that they sell everywhere for only $15 a set? Does she not think we know this? Grrrr.

Friday, May 10, 2002

Aaaaah. Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I can tell you what my new obsession is.

First, the miniature yarn shop is still in its box. This is because I vowed not to open it until I'd gone through all the boxes cluttering up our soon-to-be-stuffed fulfillment center. The boxes remain undisturbed, and so does the yarn shop. Its time will come, and you'll be here to witness it firsthand.

Today I was reading the marvelous Urban Spinner's blog and marveling at her stupendously vast production capabilities. What should I see in one of her pictures but an Alden Amos spinning wheel. There's a 6- to 18-month wait, so if I ordered one, it wouldn't really be all that indulgent of me, would it? With 18 months to save, it'd cost only $67 a month.

(Boy do I love math.)

In other news, a Knitter's Review get-together is beginning to take shape. It began as a low-key, BYOB (bring your own brownies) weekend sitting around on a porch knitting. And now suddenly we're talking about catering, workshops, and airport transportation.

For whatever reason, it's going to be at a y'all-come-back-now-ya-hear lodge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. There's a porch with rocking chairs, and apparently they stuff you to the gills at breakfast, lunch, and *burp* dinner.

(People felt that the Maine coast was simply too far to travel for a mere weekend. These were the same people who already live in the Virginia area and don't mind forcing everybody else to board an airplane for the weekend. I shall prevail next time.)

If you're interested in joining us, read the details here.

It should be an interesting blend of self-dubbed "old-timers" and disenchanted 30-somethings like me who feel no kinship with the HYUK movement and don't really know where we fit in, yet we love knitting and spinning too much to let it stop us from enjoying ourselves.

I'll make sure there's a nonstop supply of tea and chocolate.
Rule number one in business is not to take criticisms personally. My rational mind knows this, but every once in a while a particularly grumpy reader manages to sneak through my defenses and push me over the edge into serious annoyance. Lately this has been happening a lot. Since Clara's Window is about everything that goes on behind the scenes with Knitter's Review, I've decided to share a particularly annoying example with you. Misery loves company.

The star of this month's crisis is a woman I shall refer to as Hagtilda of the Canadian Plains. Quite out of the blue, she wrote me, "I am very disappointed in you. When I first started receiving your emails they were informative. Now all they do is push different yarns. You have become nothing but an advertisment for yarns. I am not impressed."

After a moment of initial indignance ("Our tagline is 'experience the world of yarn,' helll-oooo?!!") I began to wonder if, indeed, I'd become a totally useless resource. Worries compounded upon worries, and pretty soon I was doubting the merits of Knitter's Review (all 20 months of it) altogether. I felt somewhat better when I discovered that Hagtilda had only joined us a month and a half ago. Nothing like a seasoned veteran to tell you how you should do things.

So I finally worked out a kind, informative, helpful, understanding, thoughtful email back to her. "Was my series on knitting-related careers not useful to you?" I asked. "I did criticize this week's yarn, but perhaps I wasn't harsh enough on it?" And on and on.

I then went out into the garden and hacked away at the dirt with a shovel. Scenes from "Fargo" played in my mind as I worked out my frustrations. Hagtilda hadn't given me a penny for all my hard work, yet she felt entitled to complain that I wasn't giving her what she wanted.

Days passed, I'd almost put Hagtilda out of my thoughts, when an email from her popped up again. "Thank you for your reply. When I first started receiving your emails, they had tips for knitters in them. Now I have a request for you. I am trying to buy a vest pattern for hand knitting or machine. One that has the pointed front and does not close, but hangs open."

And that was it.

No, I didn't spend hours searching through my pattern archives to find her the perfect vest pattern, one with a pointed front that does not close. (I'd do this for any of you, but not Hagtilda.) Furthermore, even if I'd found one, Knitter's Review doesn't sell patterns. Sigh...

Now that I've gotten this out of my system, let's get back to the world of knitting, topsoil, and... cross fingers... the arrival of black fly season! Ahhhhh, life in Maine.