Black Dog

Just a little outpost on the web for me to ramble, post pix, share ideas, and be a part of the crowd.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Finally Friday!

Whew! Almost through another week! And not a minute too soon, mind you. Tonight, the effervescent Sarah Peasley, Handknitter, arrives with Irene, whom we know from our days in Lansing (MI)...sidebar--Irene's a fellow Lithuanian! As is Theresa, as is Sandy, and probably a few others of you out there. And as a hail to the Baltics, Taiu and her mom, Maia (both of Koigu fame) are Estonian and Lizbeth Upitis (of Latvian Mittens fame) married a Latvian gentleman and wrote her fab book. So there's your geography lesson for the day, along with a little bit o'geneology. You just never know what you'll learn around here.......lawdy, I can't pass up a "teachable moment".......I'm such a teacher (I guess it never've been warned).

First off, you've asked and asked about the derivation of the nickname Low Helen. Truthfully, the story is Matt's, but I was present for the event, so I'll share it with you here (and he's somewhere on I-75 headed north from Georgia about now--or had better be!). We used to live in Lansing, Michigan, and patronized (probably too much for their tastes...almost daily) Yarn for Ewe (sidebar--website managed by LynnH of ColorJoy! fame), along with many other shops in the area. One Saturday we were seated around the table and knitting, and one woman in the group had on a fantastic sweater--stripes in great colors, fun tweedy yarns--and Matt fell in love with it. The woman wearing the sweater was Helen (different Helen), and Matt made her wander around the yarn shop and matched yarns and colors to her sweater, so he could recreate it. In conversation around the table, it came up that she was an artist, and that sometimes she experiences "block", so to get around that impediment to her art, she said she would go and get just absolutely baked and just heave paint at a wall or a canvas, which would free up her creativity and then she'd be able to make her art again. So, as you can probably guess, she became known as "High Helen" (and the project became the "High Helen Sweater").

Fast forward two years to our time here in Indiana, when through another local yarn shop that we patronized and I taught at, we met a completely different Helen (different person and yes, she's different alright....Love ya, Mean it). Well, Matt would be knitting on the sweater, he would share the story of it's name, and immediately anyone who knew us and knew Indiana Helen would ask if she was the one that ..... would partake. So to differentiate herself from the Helen in Michigan, the Helen you've seen here (and met, if you're at ThreadBear at all) took on the name Low Helen. And yes, the story is that simple.

I promised a host of other things on the blog today. How about a little surprise for Matt? (this entry delayed because he took forever to get on the road this morning). If you've been here in person, or you've followed Matt's blog where he's chronicled the physical space modifications, you may know that we have "live above" space and a room in the back that will eventually become a dyeing studio (and guest space, according to Denise). Well, as we converted more and more rooms to shop space, our random boxes of junk and personal affects were crammed into smaller and smaller spaces, including the upstairs space that was to be renovated, expanded, and turned into our little retreat. Well, the work is semi-completed on the big room, and we can now move out of a 10 x 8 hovel packed with boxes and into the large and SUNNY upstairs room

That's a bad shot of the main area of the living quarters, where the bedroom set and things will end up shortly (right now we have a highboy dresser crammed in a corner upstairs and the other serving as a "buffet" in the kitchen--far from ideal!). And this is a shot of the little alcove off to the south end of the room

OK, so it's a little rough (needs new paint, needs something done with the abused hardwood floors, needs to have those HEINOUS blinds removed and burned/melted), but I have vision (right Amy?). It's going to be wonderful sometime in the near future, and we can't wait. So THAT is Matt's surprise--he has no idea they have accomplished so much upstairs.

Ok, I've been inundated with visitors and with the UPS deliveries today, as well as putting out spot-fires (our Manos del Uruguay order landed in Nebraska today, at a yarn shop that closed two years ago and is now a pawn shop; our Plymouth is coming Monday, not today; and I just found out that a batch of 43 hanks of BearFoot left Montana Wednesday--incoming MONDAY). We did get Jamieson (one yarn has been backordered since MARCH--I kid you not) and more needles and accessories. But yesterday was a banner day...........lookie at some of the fun stuff I got

Look at those amazing new frootie-tootie colors! We have those and a bunch of others, both new and old. We also got the same new shades in Fizz

Such fun new shades..........and other ones too! Great for a furry Bucket-O-Chic hat, should you be so inclined.

Have you seen this new project, in the latest issue of Interweave Knits?

It's a great one-skein wonder of a project, knitted with Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille. Yesterday's delivery included these fun colors

and these

And of course, Low Helen ran off with a skein and just HAD to start something new again. Imagine that........starting a new project before finishing something. I'd never be accused of doing that

Nope, not me. I'd never be seduced by yarn

Yup, I just had to start something new this week, despite having 4,593 projects on the needles around the house. I blame Low Helen. It's all her fault. By the way, if you're curious about how those skeins of sock yarn knit up, check these out

They're 100g balls, so one makes a pair for most feet. I'm glad I started mine, and I think I'll break open another one (probably bottom right one) over the weekend to try something fun from the new Lucy Neatby book (see below) that arrived yesterday as well. It's JAM packed full of information--I was concerned, as it has just six patterns in it, but it has 128 pages. What she's done is give you six variations on socks that you can make using the fun striping, patterning, printed yarns, as well as TONS of tips on knitting socks, a variety of heel options, different top treatments (including a Latvian Braid topper that's fab---see, it all comes back full circle around here.....I opened with the Baltics and I'll close with the Baltics). For the price, it's well worth it ($19.95 retail, or $17.96 from us). Even at $18 for six patterns, that's only $3 each, which is WAY less than you pay per pattern--plus you get the great wisdom of a fun knitter who is a genius with needles and yarn (in my humble opinion).

So........Matt is due in around 9 tonight, Sarah and Irene are due here in about four hours (yes, it's now 3 p.m. EST---I've had a torrent of customers and a couple other yarn issues to deal with, as well as order more Lucy books and some additional trunk shows to come in next week). Ah, the joys of running a yarn shop. I WOULDN'T TRADE IT FOR THE WORLD. Have a great weekend, and do hurry back!

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

What's That Saying?

The Good Lord takes care of drunks and idiots? Well, as I don't really imbibe much any more (just don' real reason........), I guess that makes me the latter, not the former. And I'm running with it (and not scissors)...........

Yesterday was a bear, and I knew it would be. I stayed up late (way past my normal bedtime), I didn't sleep well overnight (Matt was gone, so I slept with the dogs around me on the sofa and ottoman), it was my first day to have to run the shop truly alone, it was a Brunch Bunch Tuesday (second and fourth of every month!), a couple challenging folks came by that afternoon, I was backed up on replies to inquiries and such, and we had an evening function scheduled that would keep me busy into the night. That's what's called "stacking the deck against yourself", I do believe. Don't forget to add in that it was wet and grey all day.........ick. So it was a long day, and I nearly fell asleep sitting in front of the computer around 3 p.m., after the hubub of the day settled down. I did truly enjoy the folks that came by for Brunch Bunch (just a simple nosh and knit thing we do during the day for those who typically can't get away for evening functions)--Martha and her mother Anne brought a Pannetone from the east coast (demon in a box, I tell you) and several other really fun folks were here--over a dozen at one point! And the casserole thingie I made was interesting---very savory, versus a typical breakfast/egg concoction. The company was great and I actually snuck in about half a row on my Koigu Rainbow Wonders Throw (pictures later....progress is slow). But as I mentioned above, you get handed something like yesterday for a reason.

Wonderful, reliable, incredible friend Low Helen dropped over after her full day at work (THANK YOU, HELEN!). At 6:30, the door started opening and closing and in came a group of energetic, inquisitive, and very open-minded young girls (teens) and a few adults for good measure--it was a pre-arranged gathering put together by Yvonne, a wonderful woman who has a fantastic knitter for a mother (whom I get to meet this weekend--YEAH! Dorothy's coming!). The energy in the shop spiked, the "OOOOHs" and "AAAAAHs" of new knitters (and some non-knitters who are now going to become knitters) were flying around and the excitement was amazing. Everyone was enjoying looking at all of the possibilities in knitting, and Low Helen was showing them all sorts of projects--felted clogs, Madeleine bags, Perfect Pouches, scarves of all types, and even sweaters. Talk about just what the doctor ordered---I was completely amazed at their enthusiasm for knitting and how they embraced everything and were so genuinely excited about learning to knit, about expanding their current skills, and about planning a regular after-school knit day once a month or so when they could drop by, hang out on the sofas, work on projects, and just be around eachother for awhile. This was WONDERFUL and exactly what I needed after a long day---so to all of those involved (Helen, Yvonne, Michelle, and all of the young ladies)---thank you so much for making my day special. I mean that!

So after they took off for the evening, I decided I needed a sugar and caffeine buzz to get me going on packing boxes, responding to e-mails, and getting busy. So I loaded up on my beverage of choice (Diet Mountain Dew, of course) and found this to be the devil incarnate

I found them at Kroger yesterday and there's way too many empty wrappers in the trash next to me. They are addictive. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. You have been warned.

In totally unrelated fun news, I found out about a new book last week and I've had ten copies of it sent to us that I expect any day now. Lucy Neatby is a very fun, very interesting designer from Nova Scotia. She has fantastic patterns for socks, mittens, hats, sweaters, vests, and so much more (the Fiesta Mittens I mentioned previously are one of her designs). Well, she now has a new sock book that focuses on new stitches and designs for self-patterning's a cover shot

It's 128 pages of her knowledge and whimsey for $19.95 retail (so $17.95 from us) and I expect it any day now. But this isn't the only new and fun thing around these parts.

I had an hour-long phone conversation with Janet Scanlon on Sunday evening. You may know her from her website or from her very popular patterns. Well, we spoke about felting, about fabric, about different yarns and how they finish in the washing machine, and how she uses silk/wool blends to make stunning fabric (and I'm gonna felt some of the Noro Shinano that's on our shelves in the very near future based on her wisdom). But even better yet, I got to know the person behind the wonderful patterns we recently added to our line up of great projects to knit, as well as AWESOME felted bags......take a gander at these (and a STEAL at just $5 retail each)

Those two are probably her most famous designs--the Constant Companion was in Knitter's Stash and tons of folks have made it. The other is a smaller version that's too fun! She also has a couple other designs that are tote-like in shape and look like great projects

Some of the girls last night were interested in those two, especially PackySack. I think that these two are VERY attractive and VERY dressy, yet still a little casual and fun

The checked design on Flattery makes it fun and the clean lines of Simple Flattery, as well as the Asian-influenced adornments you can add, turn that into a really sharp bag.

If you're into something a little more fun, how about a non-traditional shape like these two

Again, the young ladies from last night like the "Tote Around", and I enjoyed reading some of the finishing tips on the bag on the right--especially how you cut the tube of fabric open to gain access to the inside for use. Excellent directions, Janet!

Felter extraordinaire Mare recently toyed with this design and some of the colorwork in the one on the left here

And many folks have been drawn to the shape AND the color involved in the Mezza Luna bag. Best of all, it was knitted using Manos del Uruguay yarns, which I have ordered and are already in the UPS system headed this way--they may even arrive today! No matter, they will be here by the weekend. I've actually heard rumour of some shops getting upwards of $15 a hank for that stuff (robbery without a gun, folks). Our prices will be our usual 10% off of regular retail of $11.50 and $13.50, or $10.35 for the nearly solids and $12.15 for the variegated colorways. Sure, it's a more expensive yarn--but if you've ever handled it or knitted with it......mmmmmmmmmmm. There's gotta be an addictive substance spun into that yarn.

And back to these new's two more very ingenious designs--look at how the one on the left assembles/folds up to make a great bag, and how the one on the right has some great colorwork and a pocket on the side. That Janet.........such a mind. And, she has a new design called Mercury that's due out very very shortly---based on something stellar, I hear. (Thanks for that hot tip, Bev in IL......I've already pre-ordered some!).

With that, I'm outta here. It's time to make a postal run before getting the shop open today. I'll be back in a little bit, so play nice and slip me a note if you care to. And HAPPY WEDNESDAY. It's rainy again here today with a high of 67F forecasted. Tomorrow's expected high---41F. Gotta love that Midwestern weather!

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Tuesday Madness

Just a quick note to check in and beg off for the day.

Matt left for Georgia (yesterday evening) for a few days (to visit his Mama--she's doing quite well, thanks for all of your good thoughts and kind messages of concern). He's arrived safe and sound (he called at 6:30 this morning to let me know) and they're enjoying each other's company. But, that means it's just me and the kids around here, so time's scarcer than hen's teeth.

Today is Brunch Bunch, so I'm working on getting to the grocery and get some light cooking done. As I'm flying solo until the weekend, I may need a little more time to get back with everyone when you have questions and things. I plan to stay up tonight (after close at 6 and a "knitting for teens" session until 8:30 tonight) until I get caught up again, so please bear with me while I am that guy that used to be on "The Ed Sullivan Show" with all of the plates spinning in the air and frantic attempts to keep them all whirling around. I'll probably not turn in until I've gotten back with everyone!

Thanks for's going to be a long Tuesday.................

Monday, November 10, 2003

What a Fun Weekend

Happy Monday! As the sun rises outside (it's just before seven here) I see a few clouds on a chilly morning. The pups have been out (but came back in VERY quickly and are both crashed again) and it's 32F right now, headed to 57F. What a great day in mid November! And what a great weekend we just had!

But first...........a debut. I hinted about it on Saturday, and here we go. Behold.............the revelation of the Sari, Charlie

It's a GREAT hat and mitten combination that is a very quick knit that uses Mango Moon's Recycled Silk yarn in combination with Classic Elite's Waterspun, a fun worsted-weight felted merino yarn. Get it? Sari, Charlie......Recycled Silk...... This is the first in what I know will be a fun collection from a new face on the design front--the line comes from "Cheaper Than Therapy", the brainchild of our good friend Eva. She's already knocked out another one that we'll have in a little bit, but in the mean time......ya gotta love Sari, Charlie. So, you might ask how you might acquire the pattern and supplies for your very own ensemble. Me? pass up an opportunity to enable........never.

Sari, Charlie uses a hank of Mango Moon Recycled Silk and two skeins of Classic Elite Waterspun. The pattern will retail for $6, so we'll offer it for $5.40. The silk retails for $20, so it's $18 from us, and the Waterspun is typically $6.60 each, or $5.94 ThreadBear pricing. Full retail on the entire package would be $39.20, but the ThreadBear price through the weekend (ending Sunday evening, 11/16) will be $32, plus shipping. Just for the record, you'll need about 160g of silk (according to Eva), and all of our hanks are at least 180g, so you're safe. As for the Waterspun, here's what you can pick from

(oh, and that's Koigu Kersti on the left......hubba hubba!). If you're interested in the kit, drop me an e-mail and we'll start the process.

In other news........I received a fantastic surprise on Saturday--emphasis on the surprise part. One loyal reader has decided that we need a little spice in our lives here, so she decided to send this thoughtful and terribly fun gift

That is one ultra-cool cocktail shaker, complete with a "dial-a-drink" section on the side

You turn the sides to the beverage of choice and the ingredients and portions are right there for you in the little windows. Said reader is a terrific person who's already brought much joy to our world with her love of life and fantastic spirit. This is my very public way of thanking her for stopping by and adopting us. (blush). Plus, it makes having turned 40 all that more tolerable--I'm officially a hepcat.

Lest you think it was all fun and games around here this weekend, I present a fab finished project to you...check out Judy and her wonderful new Harriet handbag (a Two Old Bags design she got from us)

You may remember this shot, from a couple weeks ago

Well, a trip through our washing machine and some hand-stained dowels and beads, and look at what she's got. A fantastic and unique handbag--and she things she can only knit warshcloths. HAH! She picked up some new Cascade 220 in this shade and a new pattern, amd off she went to start her next project. So much for warshcloths. And Judy's daughter, Beth, finished her first bag and starts a new one this week as well (coincidentally in the same shade as mom picked). They're really fun ladies and I'm glad they're addicted to felted bags--they are part of the felt-borg now........mwahahahaha.

We had a busy weekend, but I snuck in a little bit of knitting on Saturday evening, before passing out on the sofa in the library (where we have books, patterns, and the entertainment center). I finished two color repeats on my Koigu Watercolor Throw and started a third....see

It is very soothing knitting--all garter stitch and incredibly soft texture and awesome depth of color. I'm looking forward to more knitting on it in the near future, but tonight is sock knitting night. We're in Bloomington for Sock-It-To-Me this evening, where the group project is the Strong Heel Sock from the Fall 2003 Knitter's Magazine and those not making this sock will bring whatever sock project they're working on currently. I love this group and I look forward to seeing our Bloomington friends. We're also starting a similar group that meets second Wednesday here in Columbus, which means it starts THIS Wednesday evening.

With that, I'm done for the day. Have a great Monday, get in some knitting, and be in touch. You never know what we'll have going on around here--including our first Manos del Uruguay shipment's arrival later this week. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.