Black Dog

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

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The Power of Many

Well, it's the 20th, which means that the Knitbloggers Knitting Basket Project draws to a close today. I'll be very interested in seeing the final total and if we can make it to a ninth basket. Thanks to Martha and her mother Anne (HEY LADIES!) we were able to collect $104 and some change here in the shop, which Matt and I said we would match, so I just sent Teresa $210 on behalf of the customers and friends of ThreadBear. Thanks to everyone involved in this fantastic program--from conception of idea through management through donations. You've done a wonderful and giving thing for many underprivileged folks around the globe, and we were all able to leverage the power of our individual efforts into something much greater than what just a few of us could have accomplished. I mean come on, around $4,500 will have been collected in a very short time. Y'ALL ARE AMAZING!

Well, as expected, the hand-painted Opal arrived yesterday, and the colors are even more lovely than on the webpage at the distributor. See for yourself

Top row--Colorways 11 (turquoise/caramel), 12 (sapphires/purples), and 13 (chocolate/terra cotta)

Bottom row--Colorways 14 (blues/purples/green), 15 (greens/chartreuse), and 16 (russets/browns)

They're starting to move out the door in person and we have several pre-orders going out today and Monday, so grab some while you can. One of the colorways I was NOT impressed with online turns out to be just incredible in person and I'll begin knitting with it shortly (after I finish some #*@(#* commissioned knitting by Sunday night so they can be felted and finished and mailed on Monday). Maybe I'm just too obstinant, but I don't like having a deadline on my knitting and I really really resist it--to the point where I detest having to work on these projects and they're just felted clogs--nothing difficult (and before you ask, yes, we have a signed agreement with a variety of designers stating that we can knit and resell based on their patterns, remunerating them for each item sold--IT'S THE LAW, PEOPLE--you can't just sell stuff based on commercial patterns without the designer's permission, at the very least). Sheesh, where did that come from? (grin). Pent up frustration at HAVING to knit something, I'll guess.

As I've stated over and over again here, I was born in Chicago, but when I was 9 we moved to RURAL Southern Missouri (that's Mizz-ooor-ah, thank you very much), where I spent the remainder of my formative years. My mother, however, still sounds like she just stepped off the CTA bus that runs up and down Archer Avenue (about three blocks from the old homestead), despite having lived on the MO/ARK line since 1973 (sheesh, 30 years now). I grew up on Bull Shoals Lake, a fantastic fishing and recreation lake that straddles the state line with Arkansas and is about 40 miles east of Branson (mecca for the Wayne Newton, Tony Orlando, Shoji Tabuchi, and wind-suit wearin' types who stream off of tour busses). Since we were about an hour's drive east, we were far out of that madness, and my home town (Isabella, MO) has a recorded population of 10 (yes, as in 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10). Mom owns a six-cabin fishing/family vacation place called Ridgewood Resort. The area and the lake are very unspoiled and are a MAJOR difference from Lake of The Ozarks (in central Missouri) or Table Rock Lake (Branson area). Mom's place sits on 10 acres of woods and is about 2 miles off of a paved road (yes, I grew up on a dirt/gravel road). She's as close as you can get to the water and is still 1/2 mile from it (the "government take line" joins her property and works to keep the lake from being overdeveloped, which means you can boat from one end to the other of the lake and enjoy over 1,050 miles of shoreline and it's almost completely wooded with buildings studding the trees at a distance). If you're into getting away from it all, this is the place. It's quiet, there's deer in the yard almost every evening, and you're still an hour from major attractions (Silver Dollar City and a host of shows and shopping are just an hour away in Branson). Well, the old gal is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame, as she was quoted in a piece run in a recent issue of the Springfield (MO) News-Leader this week. Enjoy it and learn a little about the area I grew up in here. Mom's quoted twice--once in the middle and again at the end, and the piece is very accurate about the lake and the area. It's idyllic, especially for busy city folks. I enjoy visiting, but there's no way I could live there--for G*d's sake, you're an hour from a Wal-Mart store! And it's not even a Super Center! (but it is store #6, as in one of the first ever built, located in Mountain Home, AR). For a little bit of perspective, my 8th grade graduating class had 15 people in it, and when I attended the consolidated high school in nearby Gainesville, I was part of the largest class up to then to have ever graduated from there, as we numbered 63 (class of '81, thank you very much). And it was a 15+ mile ride into Gainesville to the high school. Yup, that's rural (700 people in Gainesville and about 7,000 in all of Ozark County).

And with that little history and demographics lesson, I leave you for the weekend. Be well, work hard on those last few knitting projects (I know that I have to....urgh!) and we'll be back soon. Promise!

Friday, December 19, 2003

What a Week!

I look back over the past seven days with wonder. Starting last Saturday, we had a busy day at the shop and then a fantastic visit from Theresa and Bonne Marie. Time was too short in my opinion, as I wanted more with these great folks from Chicago. Just sitting around the table and talking with them made me think about how much I do miss Chicago (and living in a metro area in general). There's just something really special about that city--granted, I was born there and we moved when I was 9, but it's a unique city in my opinion, given all of the different resources, ethnicities, and opportunities around. Then when these two talk about riding bus #66 or going to a knit night or something about the Cubs (tho, being "southies", my family followed the Sox), it makes me wax nostalgic. I know that my grandparents, on both sides, are gone now. I know I haven't seen my extended family nearly enough in the past 10+ years, but I still remember certain things and smile--deeply. Thanks, Theresa, Bonne Marie, and all you Chicagoans who read this blog for that.

One of the really neat things about Saturday's visit was getting to see Bonne Marie's Mrs. CBs Camp Jacket, a fantastic aran knit that she recreated based on a sweater of her mother's design a few years ago. I love the detailing, especially the way the large collar turns and how the cabling detail on the collar perfectly matches the cable down the back. This is one talented knitwear designer and it shows in her work--either something she's created/designed or something she's knitting from a commercial pattern she's adapted to her style. I'm seriously considering making one of these sweaters as a shop model using some of the Sweet Grass Wool Montana Mohair, that's on the shelves, which is the perfect gauge for the project and a beautiful combination of 70% targhee wool and 30% mohair in a natural/aran color. I'll just slip on over to the ChicKnits commercial site and pick up the pattern and get knitting shortly. I bet it's a fun knit (I think Jill has made it recently, no? I was snooping on her blog yesterday).

Via Mariko I found a link to some disturbing knitted fashions (see her post on the 15th, just beneath the trifle picture, for a link to six pages of "fashion"). Um..........when you see this

Does anyone else think "now is de time on schprokets ven ve danz". Or am I just twisted?

Tate, he cannot be bothered

He was under the weather yesterday morning and I had to handle it (I'm in charge of any/all animal matter found inside the house). Poor little guy had an upset tummy. He was fine by evening, however, after sofa surfing all day long. He did lap up his second bowl of dinner (Connor got his first one, pig that she is). With all of the preparations for Third Thursday last night (a quiet one, indeed, due to holiday madness), I needed cooked chicken for casseroles, so I boiled some and I give the dogs the chicken-water over their kibble. Tate wasn't around when I put the food down at dinner, and Connor came out from the back of the house swollen like a tick and smiling. So I re-fed Tate and locked Connor out of the room while he ate. She's such a pig.............or is it just doggie nature? My charming little girl....................

On to the meat of the post....I swear!

Wednesday night we had a felting party, so everyone who was making holiday gifts could come by and either learn how to felt by watching or just bring things by, knit a bit on a sofa or at a table, and then leave with finished items. I need to share a couple photos of things with you (just a small part of several dozen items that got felted that evening, including tons of clogs, many fuzzy feet, lotsa slippers, a few hats, and many bags). Behold the beauty of the BoogaBag from Julie, knitted by Christie en mass for her neices

And behold the Big Kureyon version, by a local Julie

That's a skein of her colorway (#4) as an example of how nicely this yarn knits up (and felts), yet looks hideous in the skein. Wendy recently felted her precious Lucy a catbed using Big Kureyon #7 (check her entries this week for actions shots) and it looks fab in the neutral colorway. I'm gonna have to make stuff with this yarn. After I finish my Manos del Uruguay version, I'm going to make a second French Market using Big K. That should be fun!

Dana (our across-the-street neighbor, of crocheted pumpkin fame from earlier this fall) came over last night late to show off her first finished knitted project

She made her neice a holiday gift using Shepherd Color 4 Me in the pink and Splash from Crystal Palace for the trim. Ain't it purty! Not too bad for a reformed crochet-only kinda person. Of course, no picture of Dana on my blog is complete without the obligatory butt shot

She posed for it........Matt took it........who am I not to post it? We're so lucky to have such a fun neighbor across the street! HI DANA!

Today's the day our handpainted Opal arrives (the box is out for delivery, as of 6:54 this morning--thank you, Brown). Several have pre-ordered some for themselves, so we'll be mailing those out Saturday (need some? drop me a note).In an e-mail to shop owners yesterday, the US distributor announced an immediate price increase on "regular" Opal to a level that makes retail pricing $14.99/skein ($13.49 ThreadBear price)--you can thank a stronger Euro for that, she says. Our price on current inventory stays at the old/fair level ($12.99 retail/$11.69 ThreadBear). But anything new that comes to us after the first of the year will be at the new prices (including the new collections, available near the first of February). Stock up, folks, to save about $2 a skein!

We did receive books yesterday

which always makes me happy. I've heard several compliments on our knitting and crocheting book selection, and I've been trying to bring in more and more patterns for children and babies (see the far left). I'm more of an ethnic/color/texture knitting fan, so it's easy for me to buy those types of books (the Jamieson series, Sweaters from Camp, and the new Arans & Celtics book that came in last Friday). Speaking of that book, a couple of you asked for a review of things--so here's my take on the book.

Cover price--$19.95. ThreadBear price--$17.96. With media mail postage inside the US, your total is $19.80. Inside you'll find 30 different patterns for a variety of aran, celtic, and texture knitting projects. That's about 60 cents per pattern---already it's a steal. Plus it's beautiful photography, all of the patterns in one place, and eye candy for several of you out there. (admit it--you know it is). So here's some sweaters that I think are particularly notable. First off, this woven cable design from about three years ago

I remember that, because I know someone who made it and used a Berocco yarn that's no longer available (their Blueface Leister) and it was amazingly beautiful when knit up. For a little bit of holiday cheer, here's some red and green for ya

Another more recent design is on the right here--I believe it was about three years ago as well (I remember good patterns). The one on the left is a little too "bobbly" for me (I hate knitting bobbles), but its a nice design. I have to admit to having a bias towards using natural-colored yarns for textured designs, so I think these two are particularly nice projects

as is this vest

This cardigan is a great design with some amazing stitchery going on

It's such a nice design that Low Helen (HI HELEN) fell in love with it twice (it's pictured two ways in the book and she made very strong positive comments on both). Of course, if you're a fan of Celtic designs, there are plenty in the book. The two shown here

are by Melissa Leapman (left) and Elsebeth Lavold (right). Melissa is one of my favorite "people I've never met in person" (HI MELISSA, I owe you an e-mail), and I really respect her designing in both knitting AND crochet. Supposedly she has a couple new books coming out after the first of the year--you KNOW you'll see them here. As for Elsebeth, she's got some stunning things out right now (the past two issues of KNITTERS' have had designs by her, plus there's her book that's new this fall that uses her Silky Wool--there are new colors in it for 2004, as well as a cotton line coming out shortly, too!).

Back to's all about me (sometimes......). I really like this sweater (I warned you, I'm very traditional)

I wonder if the Sweet Grass Mountain Mohair would work--again, back to that aran-colored yarn fascination I have. Matt fell in love with this sweater vest

Given the chance, he'd dress "uptown" every day of his life--he enjoys wearing shined shoes, pressed shirts, and a sharp watch (other items of clothing, too, mind you). And when we turned the page to that cabled loveliness, he gasped audibly. I suppose I know what he wants.......right? Vests suit him, also, so there's two nods towards that being a good idea for a gift for him.

The book also has gansey/guernsey patterns (one is a set of four for men/women/boys/girls that's quite nice), cotton-yarn arans, a top-down design, and more. I've been waiting for this one to come out since they announced that it was in the works, and I'm really glad that it's here. XRX did a great job with the book and it's exactly the type of knitting I thrive on. If you haven't guessed already, it's a big-ol' two thumbs up from me.

As for the rest of the day today, it's on to packing TYVEK envelopes and handling matters here in the shop. We expect the above-mentioned Opal and there's Brown Sheep and other yarns in transit to us. I even splurged yesterday and ordered a little something from Needful Yarns on the advice of a new-to-us yarn rep, and the yarn will be here in about a week (Monday the 29th, I believe). The snow has finally abated here (it started around daybreak and picked up as the morning progressed). Everything's covered in a blanket of white and looks quite nice, so I'm over and out for now. Be well, stay warm, and get those holiday gifts finished!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Sinful and Other Forbidden Things

When we're behind on things, I have a problem taking 60 to 90 minutes out of the morning to post (and pimp) and interact with everyone via the blog. Yes, we have my (Catholic) guilt working here, but sometimes I need a fix and have to share. This is one of those mornings.

Please know that we are getting caught up, and that we are trying. Making yarn dreams come true is important to us, and we're still trying to devise ways of operating more efficiently, keeping in touch better, and getting things taken care of in a timely manner. The computers remain an issue (they're not networked yet, and the monitor on the old machine has been sizzling and popping for a week--and last night it made a weird BUZZ noise, popped, and died--it's in the alley), walk-in business continues to grow, and other issues have had us a little distracted (we have a zoning issue that may necessitate our securing a different location in the coming months--don't get me started on this right now, has consumed us for a week now, and there's a planning/zoning meeting on the 23rd that we'll be attending). When I first moved to Atlanta in 1998, I used to joke about wanting to live my life in the DFZ--the "Drama Free Zone". Fat chance of that! (grin).

Another thing taking a chunk out of our days was Monday's meeting with a yarn rep (personally, she's my favorite of the ones we meet with--she's exceptionally thorough, very good at directing us to good/bad lines, and just a darlin' of a person to work with--JUDY ARE YOU LISTENING/READING?). So, we spent the afternoon and evening looking at the spring/summer offerings from Classic Elite, Lana Grossa (check out their monthly free pattern--link is over to the left on their site), SR Kertzer, Mango Moon, and more, as well as the patterns from Lucy Neatby and Cabin Fever, and reconsidering some of the other yarn lines she handles (Harrisville and Jamieson). It was a phenomenal and very productive visit--you'll see the results of this starting in January (the yarns start arriving after January 15th), but we are stocked to the gills on Lucy Neatby and Cabin Fever patterns right now. YEAH!

The highlight of my time away from y'all had to be Saturday, which included a visit from Theresa and Bonne Marie. While we had never met them in person, extensive e-mail conversations with Theresa (and a shared heritage of us both being Lithuanian) had me feeling like I knew her fairly well. I've only traded a few e-mails with Bonne Marie, but I did enjoy the conversations we had had over the net, and I do adore her blog (her "Monday Morning Mirth" and "What The F..." are not to be missed, and WHAT A DESIGNER!). Both of these creative and wonderful spirits headed our way on Saturday morning and arrived right at 3 p.m. local time...I heard the clatter on the porch and then saw a couple faces pressed to the glass on the front windows.........and heard the gasps. I knew they were here. What ensued were hugs and loud conversations (we Chicago gals....LOL.....always the vocal ones) and an amazing afternoon of knitting and sharing and conversing with friends (Eva and Low Helen were here as well....hooray!). I felt like we'd known each other forever and I was very comfortable meeting a pair of blog celebrities. Matt snapped a couple disks of pictures, so we'll hope he blogs sometime soon and shares those.... Suffice to say that I hated to see them leave, but given the snowfall and the hour (9:30 p.m. by the time we finished with the tacky Mongolian BBQ restaurant) I understood their need to get on the road home. They made me yearn for the city of my birth and yearn for having a wider circle of friends and for being able to just "do" things now and then (I've gotten very un-spontaneous of late). THANKS FOR A GREAT VISIT, LADIES! (see a great recap on Bonne Marie's blog, including many pictures). And don't miss me in THE hat.

A part of the conversing on Saturday included some knitting time for me (SHOCKING!), so I hammered out a new quickie scarf I'm calling Fizzy Fuzzy, for now. It's two strands of Crystal Palace Fizz on a bigger needle and it looks like this

That's Berry Parfait and Carnival (two different colorways) and the scarf is about four inches wide and six feet long and has been getting a lot of love and petting since I hung it near the wall o'Fizz on Sunday. Next on tap for this idea is a combination that's very VERY Mariko, in my opinion. Hopefully she's reading and will see this note and/or the completed scarf shortly. Here's the chosen colors

And then last night, while we met with our landlord about the zoning stuff (shudder), I did knit to keep my blood pressure a tish lower. I started another Recycled Silk scarf and made some progress

I was entranced by this wound ball of the yarn

Oh, the colors in this one. And the very outside few wraps are VERY bright turquoise and VERY bright pink. Big fun. And Big Color. Ah, a bissel of knitting (as Yentala would say).

Those of you with a keen eye (and a shred of memory) will note that I promised to be sinful and forbidden in this post. OK OK OK. I'll cave in to your desires (I'm like that). Behold .........Behold...........Behold..............

Yes, that's the 100% cashmere luxury yarn known as Forbidden, by Classic Elite. We ordered a little bit of it on a whim last week. What you see, left to right, are these colors--a cranberry and browns marl, black, navy, latte, and an all-brown marl (other shades are available, but we have these right now). Here's a better closeup of the two marls

Mmmmmmmmmm, tweedy-knitting goodness. But, the yarn is not for the faint-of-heart, as Forbidden is 65 yards per hank (2 3/4 sts per inch on US 13 needles) and retails for $45 or more. Our per-hank price is $36, if anyone is interested. They estimate six hanks for a ladies' sweater (they sent free patterns for these, and there's a scarf/hat pattern on the label), but what would you pay for a cashmere sweater in an upscale department store? (and you get the pleasure of this stuff moving through your hands.....). But wait--that's not all. I also promised you sin

That's the yarn known as Sinful, which is again 100% cashmere and a suggested gauge of 3 1/2 stitches (US 10/6mm) and 65 yards per hank (estimated six for a sweater). Suggested retail starts at $47 each, and we have it for $37.60. Right now, natural is the only shade we have on hand of Sinful. There are many other luxury yarns available from Classic Elite at various gauges, so if you're interested in something, do let me know. Same for different colors of these yarns shown here. If it is on hand at Classic Elite, I can typically have it here in the shop in two days (three if we call them late in the day after they've shipped). Me? An enabler? NEVER!

Many of our local folks and tons of you out there are getting the Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille from us to make the reverse-bloom face cloth that was featured in the latest issue of Interweave Knits (copies available from us, but the issue is out of print). Our delivery from them last week brought us all new colors, so I present them to you here (it's difficult to send a list of every color on hand now that we have so many of them). Cube number one

Cube number two (with Low Helen's Fuzzy Feet made with Cascade Pastaza sneaking in the picture)

Cube number three

These wonderful colors are being snapped up left and right, and one of our mail order folks (HI DEB!) got a chenille and a Waikiki combination to make a great two-in-hand sweater using this free pattern. Matt has his eye on knitting this free pattern with the cotton chenille in a few weeks.

I went on a tirade on Friday about a certain nearly-evil empire. This

is a perfect example of what I ranted about. This is seven of the eight colorways available in this yarn, which arrived on Monday, December 15th. They were ordered in April of this year, and one colorway appeared back in late August, and the rest this week. Those of you who are dedicated readers may remember Minty Freshness that I knitted with the August yarn and some eyelash. It, along with a second one using purple eyelash, were sold at the recent Tis the Season Art Fair up in Indy. Pretty much anything that was sparkly or garish in color (or both) was a big hit at the fair. Fine with me, I gots lots of sparkly stuff.

That's it for today..........I've got to open the shop in a few minutes and there's a busy day ahead. Be well, knit tons, and do be in touch. Have a great Wednesday, and if you're in the area (or need an excuse to take a roadtrip), tomorrow is Third Thursday and the menu is rather pedestrian (after a couple months of Persian and other things)---it's casserole-a-go-go, baby! I have a couple that I'm making for sure and Matt's looking through a great cookbook that his sister-woman (his term) Debbie gave us for Christmas a couple years ago. Think good comfort food, an evening of knitting, and some decadent desserts. Come on down! Just be here any time after 6 p.m. tomorrow.........we'll leave the light on for ya!