Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I'm back from sunny San Diego and the winter TNNA show. I always forget how small an industry it is until I go to one of these shows where you can't walk more than 30 feet without stopping to talk with someone you know. Which makes trying to maintain any sort of meeting schedule impossible.

When I go to these shows I like to stay in hotels that are a wee bit removed from the fracas. What can I say, I don't want my colleagues to see me traipsing down the hall at midnight to get ice for my tea milk (how I mourn the loss of the mini-bar, not for the drinks but for the refrigeration).

So, while everyone else was downtown, cheek to jowl at the convention center hotels, I got to look out at the harbor and this quiet marina. The gross national product for at least three countries was floating there in boats I'm sure only get used twice a year.

Anyway, TNNA was interesting. The industry is clearly pulling back after a totally unsustainable period of growth, so things are a bit more tense. You know how it is when the pie starts to shrink, people become a little more competitive about getting their piece of it. I felt for the yarn store owners that were clearly struggling to make prudent buying decisions in the midst of it all.

While last year's TNNA shared the convention center with 20,000 skateboarders, this year we had 7,500 Mary Kay represenatives attending their leadership conference. Which is no big deal except that they all wear the same thing. Black suits (mostly knee-length flared skirts) with dark stockings and decidedly uncomfortable-looking black high-heeled shoes with pointy toes. Which probably wouldn't have stood out as much if they were meeting in some somber city, but this was San Diego. The land of palm trees and pink flamingoes. At one point I watched a marching band (MLK Jr. parade just finished) cross the street while a whole stream of Mary Kayers were crossing in the other direction. Superbowl halftime show choreographers take note.

At the convention center they even had a lifesize photo form of a Mary Kay representative behind which you could stand and have your picture taken. I didn't have the nerve to have my picture taken, but I did take pictures of others. (I now have good blackmail material for Tara Jon Manning and Amy Singer, should I ever need it.)

Probably the funniest moment was when Cat Bordhi and I were eating a delicious Indian meal and the woman next to us turned and asked, "Have you ever considered having a Mary Kay facial?" Cat brilliantly diffused her request and, within a matter of minutes, had sold the woman on going back to the lunch buffet for a bowl of the mango pudding even though she'd already paid her bill and was preparing to leave. Now that's an engaging personality.

Anybody who travels to Portland, Maine, will know that the slightest amount of weather anywhere will cause all flights to be cancelled. So when I woke up Monday and heard that a massive ice and snow front was hitting the entire East Coast, I called the airline and postponed my return. (And yes, the flight was cancelled and I would've had to sleep in Chicago.)

What a joy to have a free play day. I decided to spend it at the San Diego Zoo, the one place I'd choose were I forced to be an animal in captivity. While the "human beings" were probably my favorite exhibit, I couldn't get over the primates. I bet you anything if they were given yarn and needles, they'd be churning out Fair Isle sweaters in no time.

And what ho, knitters, look what we have here. Guanaco!

(Guanacoes? Guanaci?)

All that separated me from one of the softest, warmest fibers on earth was a wall, a deep ditch, and nearly certain jail time. Sigh...

And then it was time to return home and to the reality that winter has finally hit Maine.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who responded to my inner-struggle post about the nature of this blog and blogging in general. I promise to keep trying to walk the line.

Ooops, I almost forgot! Several of you have asked me how the book is doing. I'm finally seeing the first real dummies. I can tell you two things. First, I'm absolutely in love with this book. And second, Casey is a fantastic editor. See the dedication?

I can only compare this whole book experience to sending your baby off to boarding school. You hand the baby over after spending nearly a year lovingly assembling every cell of its body. And then, a year later, this handsome, smartly dressed little kid shows up on your doorstep calling you "mumsy." That's my kid? I made that? You feel astonishment, a hint of alienation, and a healthy dose of cautious optimism and pride.

So that's where it is now.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


I didn't mean to post again so soon. After all, that last post took nearly three months. I really should pace myself.

But today I received the most astonishing thing in the mail, and I had to share it with people who would understand why I'm still nearly speechless.

First, there was an express mail envelope from Japan with all sorts of official-looking boxes and checkmarks and forms and stamps that even baffled my postmistress briefly. And inside, a touching card and exquisitely perfect pair of handknit socks. Made from a wool/cashmere Posh Yarn blend I've been dying to try.

No, this was not a manufacturer's sample and it wasn't something I'd ordered online... this was a totally unexpected gift from someone who lives halfway around the world and has never met me in person.

We met through KR and have emailed over the years, sharing our love of yarn and our desires to turn this love into a career. She was a huge help to me when I edited Knitscene, and apparently I did something to keep her from disliking me immensely because she actually took the time and thought and care to make this lovely, lovely pair of socks, just for me.

For years I've given away handknitted gifts and preached the power of the handknitted gift to anyone who'll listen (or who can't get away fast enough), so you'd think I'd be ready to accept such a gift with composure and grace. But truth be told, this has left me a babbling mess of awe and gratitude and humility. Somehow a simple thank-you card to my friend doesn't possibly do enough honor to the gift. Her beautiful stitches deserve public celebration here.
Thank you, Jun.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Happy New Year!

This is Bunny, a Christmas gift for my niece. She refers to it as "he" even though he happens to be sporting a skirt—knit at her request, no less. So Bunny is a cross-dresser. Which is just fine by me.

I'm actually quite pleased with Bunny. Not because of any specific technical excellence (or lack thereof), but for the simple fact that I actually finished it. Last year was perhaps the busiest, most frenzied year of my life. In the midst of writing the book, coordinating the retreat, writing the newsletter, managing the boutique, running the forum, keeping the site functioning, flossing my teeth and desperately trying to maintain a reasonable degree of hygeine, I managed to create something truly special for someone I adore.

But one cannot give a handknit to one niece and leave the other unadorned, so I also knit this purple capelet for her older sister. Niece #2 is teetering on the brink of adolescence, so I wanted her to have something elegant but that would also somehow nurture or protect her as she enters a period of tumult, emotion, and moodiness.

And on another note, I've decided to share an existential blog crisis with you that I've been fostering for quite a while now. Specifically, what this blog is, what it isn't, what purpose it serves, what it should contain, and what should remain private.

I began this blog in 2002 as a place to share other aspects of my daily life that don't quite fit within my weekly writings for Knitter's Review. And that remains the ultimate purpose of this blog. Not to promote my business or create a falsely inflated online persona, not to improve my search-engine rankings, generate clicks or even adhere to any "I'll post every day even if it's just my grocery list!" resolution... but simply to share things with you that, I hope, you may enjoy reading.

Unfortunately there's quite a bit of knitting-related stuff I can't share with you - some particularly strong opinions, frustrations, hasty judgments, likes and dislikes, and of course projects that are still in the works. It's just no longer appropriate, no matter how much I long to do so. And I confess that this sense of restraint in what I can and cannot say sometimes keeps me from saying anything at all, which I regret.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. To the six people who haven't given up on this blog, I thank you.