Trying to Buy: part 1

Did you know that there are many, many spellings for shyster?  That right there tells me that there are too many unscrupulous business people out there, maybe especially in sales.  “Sales” does not have to mean slimy.  Salespeople are not all liars, tying to trick you.  Sales can be about helping everyone get what they want and need.  That’s how I try to do things anyway.  I’ve been in sales since 2000, and I always try to do the Right Thing.  I know there are more out there like me.  But I’m trying to buy a car.  This means I will be face to face with the infamous figure, perhaps a shadow archetype–The Car Salesman.

My poor trusty 2001 Kia Sportage.

It started up for me every time (except the Cat and Vulture day, but that is another car-related post) and really never caused any trouble.  I have put 70,000 miles on it over the last two years, in my YarnSuperhero travels, and the Sportage is about done.  We bought it after renting one on a trip, and when I found one slightly used, it was the most I had spent on a car up to that point, but I felt like I got a pretty good deal.  It’s been paid off for several years–I love the absence of a car payment and wanted the Sportage to last forever.  Now, though, the gas mileage is pretty bad, I don’t really need an SUV, and repairs are getting more frequent and more serious…and more expensive.  So my husband and I “ran the numbers” and found that I would save money if I could get a newer, more reliable car with more reasonable fuel costs.  Now, to look for a car.  It had been a little while.  Kind of exciting, but kind of a chore, and really, kind of scary.  Is it really possible to get a fair deal when you purchase a car?    I’m finding the whole process fascinating, although not really in a good way.  So, here it is on the blog, what’s happened so far and the eventual outcome, which right now, no one knows.  How exciting!

Here’s how this works in my family.  Keith does the home work and I do the legwork.  Keith has not accompanied me to a car dealership since 1997 when we bought a new VW Golf.  I do not do so well with a lot of details, but I do actually like the “belly to belly” negotiation stage.  It’s a little thrilling.  Keith likes to have a very solid, and well-reasoned plan before he does anything.  I like to think of an idea and start doing it about one second later.  Keith seems to like to be able to predict outcomes as much as possible, and he’s quite good at it.  I like to see how things unfold.  Hmm.  Probably when it comes to a thousands-of-dollars decision, better to let him take the reins on this one.

I did manage to do a cursory bit of internet research and found I had a few choices that worked as far as price range, cargo space, gas mileage, and reliability.  We looked at used vehicles first, but then I learned that there were a couple cars in my range that I could get new, and then I would have the full factory warantee and would know exactly what I was getting.

Dealership One:

This place is nearest to my house and I had taken the Sportage there for service a few times and always felt like I was treated well and fairly.  They even have a shuttle van that would drop me at home or at happy hour at my local Belgian beer place.  My husband and I had met the owner of the dealership once or twice, and he seemed like a good enough guy.

Monday I sat down with Mike, the sales guy.  This was still when I was thinking pre-owned was the way I would go.  Mike was actually the person who suggested we think about a new car, and told me that he thought the base model Kia Soul would be a good fit for my needs.

I was happy to know that my credit is excellent and we worked up a deal that I thought was pretty good.  A note about me:  I always expect the best of people, and I believe that if I am straight with them, they will be straight with me.  I know this is naive, but even if I could change this about myself, I wouldn’t want to.  Also, I am very optimistic.  A friend once told me I was not a glass half-full kind of person, I was an overflowing glass person.  Sometimes I wonder if I annoy people by always looking for the bright side.  And also, I don’t like things to take very long.  Once I decide what I want, I want it to be mine already.   So, since I did not have my Sportage with me to trade (kind of a precautionary measure, so I did not do anything too hastily, without covering all of my bases) I went home and ran it by Keith.  A note about Keith:  He is not very optimistic.  He has told me more than once that people are all out to screw you over.  And he loves to weigh out every detail of everything in a very analytical, black and white way.  I guess you could say we balance each other out.

When I got home and outlined my deal to Keith, he hopped online and informed me that Kia was offering 1.9% financing for well-qualified buyers, and that I should have a Kia Loyalty bonus of $750, should get about $1500-$2000 for my trade, and any other incentives.  That’s not what my deal was.  Mike had offered me $1000 for my trade (now, he had not seen the Sportage, but at 160,000 miles, seeing it was probably not going to make it better!  Still, that was low,) and was giving me 3.9% on the financing.  He was giving me  the loyalty bonus of $750 and another rebate of $500.  I had not asked for anything off of the sticker price.  Once Keith told me what the number should have been, it did not sound like such a good deal.  Plus there was no base model Soul on the lot, and it wasn’t expected in until around Aug 4, and I didn’t find out the color.  Told you I’m not so good with the details.  Keith wanted me to look at other dealerships, and he found that there was a silver base model Soul being advertised as in stock at Dealership 2.

Dealership 2:

This place is not too far away from home, although less convenient for service.  I felt a little bit bad for Mike (after all, when I sold payroll services and felt like I had done my best to try to help someone, I never liked it when they shopped my price around, especially if I lost the deal,) so I called him and told him what Keith had found out and that I was going to look around.  He sounded mildly perturbed and explained to me that if I took the 1.9% financing, I would not get the $500 rebate.  But he had not even told me about the 1.9% financing, so he had lost a little of my trust.  Keith showed me some wonderful online car financing calculators, and made sure I knew what to ask for.

Once armed with Keith’s notes, I called and got Tom at Dealership 2.  Even on the phone, I was not so comfortable with Tom.  I told him I was interested in the silver base Soul and that I had a pretty detailed idea of what kind of a deal I would need for us to easily do business. He kept talking over me, kind of fast, and kept saying he would do whatever it took to give me the deal I needed, but I should come on in and bring my Sportage.  He said he was off the next day but he would be there until 9 that evening.  It was around 6:30 so I decided to go see him. I felt pretty hopeful that I would be driving home in my new car.

A few minutes down the road, I called him to tell him I was on my way, and he told me that the silver car had just been sold.  What?!  Sounded kinda fishy.  I told him I was not sure if I should still come up but he said we could agree on figures, at least.  Fine.  As I neared the exit, Tom called me back, and said that he had a Soul Plus coming in the next day, black, and he thought it was a better deal for me with all of the additional features, even though the price was a couple thousand higher.  I started to feel like I had touched something slimy, but I kept on.  I tried to call Keith to tell him all of this ridiculousness, but he did not pick up.  When I got there, I asked some salesmen if they could tell me how to find Tom.  They said Tom J or Tom D?  I said I did not remember, and they asked if my Tom was a rather “spirited individual?”  Yes, he was, and that meant my Tom was Tom D.

In talking with Tom, I finally relented to getting a price on the Soul Plus.  He said it would be in the next day, and they did not know when they would get in another base model–it could be 10 weeks if they needed to order one.  Oh boy.  He asked if I would be willing to share Keith’s notes on the deal’s numbers and I said sure, if you can do this then we are all set.  Typically, he took the paper to his manager in the other room, then came back and showed it to me, and even let me copy down the figures to share with Keith, saying he really was not allowed to do that, but for me…  Although they said they did what I wanted with the trade value, rebates, loyalty incentive, and downpayment, the monthly payment number did not come out as low as it should have.  I questioned this and they told me it was because they used a computer.  Really?  Tom also said things like he “was there for me,” “he worked for me, not for these guys” (the dealership,) and even said there was “nothing up his sleeve.” It was easy to test the veracity of this statement, as Tom was rocking the short sleeve dress shirt and cheap tie classic sales guy look.  He also told me he made $100 on any car he sold, no matter what, and he did a marginally offensive impression of a Korean company executive.  Good times.

I gave them a small deposit check and filled out the credit app, with instructions not to do anything with either until they heard back from me by phone, since I needed to discuss with Keith again.  Mysteriously, I was now leaning towards a preference for the Kia Plus.  At least Tom had done one part of his job well.  And I did not want them to sell it out from under me, as I felt had happened with the silver car I had seen on the internet–the Bait, if you will.  The black Soul Plus was supposed to be in on Tuesday.  It’s now Thursday and there is apparently no car for me, and I have had to call 3 times to get any updates.  Very poor follow up on their part. And I am not feeling the same friendly “I’m here for you” vibe from Tom or from his manager.  Thanks to the car payment calculator, Keith was able to figure out that although they said they were giving me $1400-$1800 for my trade, when they actually did the math, they did it as if they were giving me ZERO for my trade.  Unlike people, numbers don’t lie.  Here’s what I am wondering.  Is this a normal tactic?  When they say, yes we will do this, and then do not do it at all, is that seriously how they want to be in the world?  It’s like if I told my customer she was buying so much yarn at $10 a skein, but then when I wrote the order 5 minutes later, I wrote it up for $12.75 a skein, and expected to get away with it.  Was Tom really taking his day off on Tuesday? If people do not have access to online calculators, are they saying yes to bad deals that are taking advantage of their trusting nature or lack of information?  Where is the black car?  Did they get it in Tuesday and sell it to someone else, even though they said my deposit gave me right of first refusal?  Is that legal?  Does this happen to everyone, or am I getting “special” treatment for being a woman?

When I called Tom last night, he said his manager must have made a mistake on the numbers because he’s new.  The manager had told me that he forgot to account for my downpayment, but I know that is not true and I know from the numbers exactly what they did and didn’t do.  I told Tom that I was not sure I could believe anything they were telling me, and I did not feel good about doing business that way.  I had to yell at him a little bit and tell him to stop interrupting me in the middle of my sentence, that it was nice to take turns and I was surprised he didn’t know that.   It felt good to listen to the little bit of silence that followed.  Is Facing The Shadow helping me find my strength a little bit? I’m looking for the bright side, and feel that every situation can teach me something.  I will be interested to see how the rest of this saga unfolds.  Right now I’m waiting for a call back from Mike, and from Tom.

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The Cowl in Horseshoe Lace

I figured I would blog about some of my new designs–what I like about them, how the patterns can help my LYS customers, and some of my design inspiration and process (such as it is.)  All of these designs can be found at your LYS and at some online retailers’ sites.

When Laura and I dreamed up the Pedestal Buttons, we realized that we needed to show them in action, and that meant we needed some pattern support.  While I would welcome other designers to work up garments that highlight the new Jul closures (in fact, the pieces have been featured in Norah Gaughan Volume 9 for Berroco and also will be in the Kollage Fall pattern line,) the responsibility for creating pattern support especially to showcase the hardware has fallen to me.  Luckily, I have a lot of yarn around.  And designing in the yarns that I sell makes my life easier, so that’s where I started.

The Cowl in Horseshoe Lace for the Jul Topografie Collection is the first design we released.  It uses up just about every inch of 2 skeins of Terra or Organik from The Fibre Company.  I love the luxurious yet rustic nature of Terra, the best-selling yarn in this line, and the color and texture of the silk slubs work well in the horseshoe lace.  I like how the unpredictability of the yarn, used in a very regular, symmetrical pattern, throws off the symmetry just a little.  But the Organik has such great stitch definition.

I’ve used it for several designs so far and it is right up there in my top 10 yarns now.  That list changes a lot, because I have so much great product to choose from.  Really my favorites are changing all the time, depending on what I am using.

We finally settled on Topografie for the name of the pattern collection.  It is an alternative spelling of topography.

to·pog·ra·phy

 [tuh-pog-ruh-fee] 

–noun, plural -phies.

1. the detailed mapping or charting of the features of a relatively small area, district, or locality.
2. the detailed description, especially by means of surveying, of particular localities, as cities, towns, or estates.
3.the relief features or surface configuration of an area.
To me, this brings up the idea of  working with what is already all around you.  For our models we have used friends,
friends of friends, neighbors, and even the random friendly stranger.
 The settings where we took the photos are within a small radius of where these people work, live, and hang out in real life.  We did not do hair or makeup.  I like the look of people in their natural state, in their natural habitat.
I loved noticing the textures of walls, roads, and doorways, and this reminded me that knitting is a lot like constructing a building or a bridge.  You keep putting row on top of row, and the structure starts to take shape, until it becomes what it is going to be.  And there are many paths to achieve your desired result.  This kind of creating, for me, is using hands to describe what is in the mind by making something real that we can see, feel, enjoy, and use.
 I like how this cowl can be styled many different ways with the Pedestal Buttons and other Jul closures.  The hardware can be just decorative,
or functional (for instance, to “snug it up” if you really need the cowl to protect you from cold,) or both.  You can choose not to join the cowl into a cylinder, and you can decide to change the function of the piece altogether.
I love experimentation and flexibility.

Anyway, this cowl represents about 8-10 knitting hours for me, a fairly fast knitter.  Horseshoe lace is one of my favorite basic lacey patterns, since once I’ve done a couple repeats, I pretty much “get it,” and don’t need to keep track of rows any longer–I find it an easy pattern to “read.”  Lately I am really into knitting projects that can be picked up and put down, since I am trying to knit only in the evenings and when I have spare moments.  I want something that can go with me to a doctor’s waiting room, a car ride, and even happy hour.  I want to be able to chat or watch a movie and knit.  I think a lot of knitters like the same sorts of projects.  My goal is to keep my designs accessible to a wide range of knitters, simple, yet engaging.  Because of the construction of the cowl, the pattern is oriented vertically for this piece, where normally you see horseshoe lace done horizontally, like this and this.

I really think this pattern will work well in a big chunky yarn, and I am doing a reinterpretation of the design now in a fluffy DK weight–a shoulder drape, rather than a cowl, for a shop in a warm weather area, where you don’t get much use for a warm wool neck cover.  My friend Yvonne tested the pattern for me, and her version works really well in a beautiful, smooth Tosh DK.  And I like her model, too.  And here’s a link to my Ravelry designer page, in case you’d like to see the collection or “like” any of my designs.

The Story of Poomboy–the long version

I have told this story to knitters and non-knitters, and it gets pretty big laughs.  Here is the very wordy version.

At least a year ago, I was in a yarn shop doing a trunk show event.  It was not that busy, unfortunately, so I had plenty of time to browse around the shop.  I happened upon a lovely skein of laceweight superwash merino from Madeline Tosh, in a yummy smoky purple color.  I carried it around the shop with me and even put it in a Safe Place, because I did not want anyone else to buy it, or touch it, for that matter.  I was deciding if it would be mine.  I for sure didn’t need more yarn (still don’t) but it really was beautiful.  At the end of the event, I was packing up my stuff and decided that since I did not take a lot of orders, I could not justify the splurge on unneeded yarn.  But it sure was pretty.  I hugged it one last time and put it back on the shelf.  The shop owners must have taken pity on me, because they gave it to me on my way out.  That was pretty nice of them.

I took the yarn home, and added it to my stash.  I had no plan for the yarn.  I am not that kind of yarn customer.  I just wanted to have it.  I fall in love with yarn–usually the color is what does it for me–and I take it home, let it hang around and make friends with my other yarn, and figure I’ll do something with it someday.  It kind of shocked me when I started meeting the other kind of people…those who don’t buy yarn unless they have a Plan for it.

(An aside) These days I have so much work yarn and so many work samples to knit, it is not very often that I let myself do any personal or gift knitting.  My husband got a pair of half-finger gloves last fall after asking for them for a year.  They were from my first Romney fleece that I washed, carded, and spun.  Then I designed the gloves to custom fit his hands.  There is a lot of love in those gloves, and he wears the heck out of them in the winter, and proudly tells his friends that ask “what’s with the half-finger gloves, dude?” that his wife made the “string” for them and everything.  I sent my friend a handspun scarfy thing, and my mom got a shawlette made out of a luxurious bison blend yarn, that unfortunately got discontinued.  I made a couple pairs of socks out of handspun.  Every other knitting project was for work.  But this purple yarn would surely be something special for someone, someday.

Back to the story.  So every once in a while, I visited this nice purply lace yarn in my stash.  I would look at it and fondle it.  I pored over the label, minimalist that it is.  I was struck by the strangeness of the name of the color.

Poomboy.  I wondered if it was some kind of slang that I was getting too old to know about.  I may have checked Urban Dictionary.  Was there a Poomgirl?  I wondered what I would knit someday with this lovely Poomboy.  I looked and wondered periodically for many months.  Every time I petted the yarn, I shook my head and thought, “Hmm.  Poomboy.  I really don’t get it.  How did I get to be 43 years old and never hear about Poomboy before, and now here it is on a yarn label?  Weird.”  I finally resigned myself to the idea that I would not understand this funny name.  I shrugged and thought,  “Those crazy indie dyers.  So creative.  What will they come up with next?”

I eventually wound the skein into a center pull ball on my gorgeous, hand carved, some-kind-of-fancy-wood nostepinne that I gave myself at Rhinebeck last year.  I kept the label, like a good knitter, and then one day, during a routine yarn visit, I looked at it “upside down.”   It said Logwood.  A perfectly normal purple colorway name.  I laughed and laughed.  It will always remain Poomboy in my heart, although now I see it was Logwood for all of those months.

Here’s what I take away from this.  I am glad that I can laugh easily at myself.  I am also glad that I can tell this story to my friends, even new knitting friends, and let them laugh at the way my mind works.  Even 5 years ago, I would have been embarrassed and probably never told anyone about it.  It makes me happy that I get really loud, good laughs from this story, from people who are very funny themselves.  I told the story last night at dinner and a few people shared similar mistaken-perception, Of Course That’s a Real Word stories.  And now, I have joked with people that Poomboy should be a word, and have thought about adding it to Urban Dictionary myself.  Maybe its definition is someone who only looks at a situation a certain way for a long time and assumes it’s one way, but it’s actually the very opposite way.

The happy ending to this story is that Poomboy is now being knit into Anne Hanson’s challenging and lovely Pine and Ivy Shawl.  I started it a bunch of times at the Knitting and Spinning retreat in May, was not able to get the beginning chart right until I got home, and now I knit a couple rows every couple days.  Someday, when it’s finished, I’ll put it up on Ravelry as the Poomboy Pine and Ivy.

Easily Amused

I have a lot of great LYS customers in Michigan.  So I make the trip across northern Ohio about every 6 weeks or so.  At first, I thought this would be quite boring–but it’s not!  At least, not when you make your own landmarks, so that you are happy to see them (or they tell you how far you have come, and how much longer it will be until you get where you’re going,) and not, when you are, like me, Easily Amused.

I don’t usually start wondering “are we there yet?” until I am out of PA.  I don’t listen to the radio or audio books when I travel (as Steven can attest, I not only do not have a fancy iPod dock in the ’01 Kia Sportage, I don’t even have a CD player.  I used to listen to Pandora on my smartphone, but I dropped my data plan so now that’s out.)   I usually enjoy being alone with my thoughts and seeing what there is to see.

Pretty sure they make the Chevy Cruze here.

This is my first marker on I-80 Westbound, about 1.5 hours from my garage.  The Lordstown Chevrolet plant.  It is pretty big, although not the biggest auto facility I’ve seen, since I do get to Greater Detroit often.  I think it is a mile or so long, though.  I feel like I have seen more activity there over the last 2 years.  More new Muscle Cars in the parking lot.  Good barometer for the economy?

About 5 minutes later, there is a very interesting, small, run-down house.  I call it The Boogie Man House (although I believe the correct spelling would be Bogey Man, if we’re talking about the creepy monster/guy who may or may not be in your closet, waiting to “get” you.)  I don’t think anyone does live there.  I could not stop to get a picture of it, because I forgot it comes up so quickly after the car plant and it was not safe to stop with the traffic.  Maybe next time.

The house that really intrigues me, and was my first established landmark for this trip, is this one.

 The Brown House by the Little Pond.  I have seen it in every season, and it always is cute.  I have seen a big yellow dog there, and wondered if he ever swims in the pond.  I have never seen anyone using those little boats, so if this is your house, I think you should enjoy your pond more!  The only downside is that it is so close to the highway, but I guess if I lived here I would sit on the edge of the deck and put my feet in the water some mornings while I drink my tea.

Here’s where things start to get a little lean in the interesting landmark department.  It’s still a little while until I get to the junction for 77 and then 71, when I know I’m in the middle of Ohio.  Here’s a golf course.

Not too thrilling, but something to notice.  I guess it’s nice.  I don’t golf.  My dad does, and he recently got his first hole-in-one.  Here’s the poem/email he wrote about it:

Effective today there is a second reason to fly the flag on flag day…

 June 14, 2011, Toddy Brook Golf Course, N. Yarmouth, ME.
It’s a cool, drizzly day, a bit foggy.
After a grueling 10th hole,
It’s approximately 145 yards to the pin from the tee; 
The ball is off the tee, a reaction to a trusty 9-wood;
The ball is in flight, a beautiful arc;
The ball soars over the no-mans gulch;
The ball hits the green about ten feet in front of the pin;
The ball disappears after the first bounce. 
Where is it?
Did it bounce over the green into the trap? 
Noooo.  IT’S IN THE HOLE!
It’s the first of my long career…a great feeling. 
I thought that was really cute, and was so happy for how happy he was.  I wonder what an equivalent achievement would be for me in my life.  Spinning my first really gorgeous, intentional yarn?  Still working on that one.
Gratuitous Yarn Shot.  This is a cute 2-ply merino from some Yarn Hollow roving from last year.  I think the colorway is called Olive You.  I really should knit something with it, and I think I will when I get home.  I bought it at Beth’s shop in Howell, MI.  She told me a long time ago that I should rep for Rita at Yarn Hollow, and now I do!  It is great, because I have always loved her stuff, and now I can introduce it to other knitters and spinners, through my best LYS customers.  Beth is the boss of me in many ways.  She has not been wrong on any of her recommendations yet.  Here’s another one.
Now, where was I?  Oh yeah, Ohio.  Here is a rest stop.  I usually do have to make at least one stop on the way to Michigan.  For gas or food or a rest, you know.  The Service Areas are fine, and I have my favorite because of the name–Blue Heron.  I almost always see a Blue Heron when I drive across Ohio in the warmer months, and I love to see them flying over the highway or standing in some water in my sight range as I drive.  I get a sense that someone is watching over me.
What you see here is a gigantic truck.  What you are supposed to see is Bittcher Industries.  Funny how the camera on my tablet stops everything.  Remember how in the old days if you took a picture of something moving it was blurry?  It’s really an amazing world, isn’t it?  Anyway, Bittcher Industries is in a big red barn-looking building and they do something with food processing equipment.  I feel like knowing too much about what exactly they or their customers do to food might bum me out, so I have never even looked up their website.  Some things it’s better not to allow into my consciuosness.  I do give the building a wave as I go by, and wonder if it is a nice place to work.
Then there’s this place.  Again, the title of the post is Easily Amused.  I call this the Giant Tire.  It does not look so giant here.  Some people have Route 66, with Ghost Towns and canyons, some people have the Silk Road.  I have I-80 in the Industrial Midwest.  Looking for the Bright Side, the sky does look cool in this photo.
I do enjoy a good road name, and here is my favorite.
I laugh and say Pickel Street (yes, out loud, to myself) every time I pass the sign, like a little kid.  I like pickles as much as the next guy, and it also means I am about 1.5 hours away from Greater Detroit, or 3.5 hours from home, if I’m headed east.
Then I go through the Toledo area and head up 75.  Here is the Pure Michigan Sign.
Not the greatest picture.  I may or may not have been moving when I took it.  I have grown to love the natural beauty of the state, and the people are really nice and fun, although they drive way too fast.  Usually that is my big indicator that I’ve reached Michigan, if I forget to notice the sign.
Then there is my favorite, favorite landmark, maybe ever.  This sign just cracks me up.  First, it is for Beef Jerky Unlimited.  Is there really no limit to beef jerky?  I should be a better blogger and stop at some of these joints and see what they are all about.  I’m sure I would be quite amused by this place.  And the subtitle of their billboard (which is ALWAYS up, by the way.  I wonder how much they pay for it.  They must be doing pretty well,) is “We are NOT a gas station.”  It makes me want to go there and ask someone, “Is this a gas station?”
Anyway, that’s it.  The moral of the story for me is that there are things to appreciate all around you, if you will only look for them.  I always wonder when I am on a trip, “What am I meant to see on the way to where I am going?  Who will I meet and connect with?  What will I learn about the world or about myself?”  Does anyone else have these sorts of nondescript yet friendly and familiar “landmarks” of their own for a drive you do often?

>Back from TNNA

>The June TNNA show in Columbus was great! I left home on June 6 and just got home on June 21, so it was my longest time away from home since starting as a yarn superhero. It was a lot of work, but so worth it. I love TNNA! Above is my car knitting…working on another Stonewall Bonnet in Schaefer Yarn’s Chris, this one in a nice pink. I think I left my green one at the Spinning Retreat in May. Luckily, it is a super-quick knit and you barely have to pay attention to anything. I am also working on a more summery version of the Horseshoe Lace Cowl, although one of the things that will make it summery is that it won’t be joined into a cowl, it will just be a shoulder drape, for chilly nights and over-air conditioned buildings.
I apologize that I barely know how to format my blog. I don’t know why this picture is so small. Anyway, this is Mary, who worked with Nora at the trade show. I was in the JUL booth the whole time. There was a “secret door” between the two booths, but I did not get to visit with Mary that much during the days, since we were so busy with customers. Mary is hilarious, and an overall treat for the senses. Also, she reminds us to floss twice a day. I imagine her floating above me and telling me how much longer I will live if I practice better oral hygiene. Mary cracked us all up at dinners. I hope I get to see her again soon.
Here are Karen and Valerie from Mountain Meadow Wool. They have new and gorgeous yarns and I may even get to go to Wyoming this summer to see them! It will be a big adventure for me for sure!
Here is a nice selection of the yarn in a handy display column. They are making these displays available to shops to help them sell more yarn. I think this is a great idea, since many shops have a tough time with creative, attractive, effective display.
Here is a view of the JUL booth showing how multimedia we were. I am using my tablet all the time to show my lines. It does not take the place of the real thing, but it lets me cover a lot of ground quickly. Look how cute the new colored resin pedestal buttons are!

Future posts (coming soon!) will include extra pics of the new JUL pattern support, an overview of my new yarn line Yarn Hollow, and my stop at Unicorn Fibre world headquarters.

>A New Year

>Well, it’s been almost 2 years since I attended my first TNNA in Columbus. What can only be described as one of the peak experiences of my life up to that point was the weekend I began my new career as a yarn manufacturers’ rep.

Two years later, I am still having fun, but am not anywhere close to where I want to be financially. Unlike many reps, I never picked up a commercial, “workhorse” line, due to lack of interest on my part and lack of opportunity. I have made a lot of changes with my lines and how I do my business, and I feel like I have found the right, manageable portfolio of boutiquey, independent lines. But I do need to make money–not a lot, but SOME–or this fun experiment is not going to be able to continue. I have some ideas I will be trying over the next few months, and I may end up concentrating on JUL, if that business grows to the point where it can pay me a salary, and I will be open to what might be there for me at the upcoming TNNA trade show in Columbus.
Here is a photo of my peonies at their peak, maybe a week ago. These were among the plants I inherited from our home’s former owners, and I really love to see them, and that I was home this year to enjoy them is a big plus. We’ve also had lettuce, and not many strawberries, but the ones we got were very red and delicious. My theory is that they did not get enough sun when we were getting all that cold and rain earlier this spring. Or maybe they are just taking a rest this year.
A mid-range project of mine is to hand-process this bag of Coopworth Lamb fleece. I went to the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster, OH with Erica and Anne. Man, did we have fun! One nice thing Anne said was that in her old jobs, she had friends, but not people that you wanted to have sleep-overs with! I agree. I always had work friends at other jobs, but only a few of those people actually “stuck” and became real friends. How cool that I met Anne at the Spinning/Knitting retreat, and a couple weeks later, I was staying at her house and enjoying wonderful hospitality, food, and very silly inside jokes that were cracking us up! One of the neat things I noticed when I started traveling the region visiting yarn shops is that knitters, crocheters, and spinners (to generalize) are people who value connecting with others, they seem to slow down enough to really treasure their personal relationships, and they are always trying to play up the commonalities among their groups. I am so glad to be a part of this world, and to make new friendships where we can all be so real. And then there’s the thing about being able to spill your most intimate thoughts more easily when you are sitting around fiber-ing and chatting, because of no eye-contact.
So, last weekend I started washing the locks, Beth Smith style, in very small batches in the tulle envelopes. I maybe have 18 or so done, with 6-8 locks in each one. I will be sharing the fleece (almost 5 lbs, unwashed) with Anne and Erica, and with whoever else is really nice to me and expresses interest. I still have 2 bags of cleaned Romney from MDSW 2010 and a gigundo pile of cleaned Romney-Bond cross to play with. And my mom gave me some of her last year’s Pedro fleece. At least I am actually spinning the Romney-Bond. It is dark brown and kinda shiny. I am spinning it as fine as I can and will do either a 2 ply or 3 ply and try to make enough for a sweater, maybe Sprossling, or a modified Laar, since I really doubt I will be able to make plied laceweight!
Look how yummy and silvery this is, and it is not even washed yet! It really is clean and beautiful. I am just doing one wash in Unicorn Power Scour and two rinses, and it is coming out great. I really don’t have time to play with it right now. June will be super busy. I am leaving for MD this morning to help Laura get ready for the show, then we will drive to Columbus and have TNNA all weekend (come see me in booth #539 if you’re going!) and then I will go back down to MD to help fill orders and to see some customers, then home finally (poor husband and dog are going to miss me) around June 21. I’ll stay home for a week, and then I’m off to Michigan for some sales calls and to start my new business strategy.

>What I’ve been up to…

>So, I have not been the most committed blogger. I’m trying to put myself on a schedule. It’s been 5 or so weeks since I posted about the stuff I’m growing this year. Now there is lettuce that is big enough to eat, and because of all the rain, everything in my garden is very green and lush. But that is for a different day.

I made the trip to MD Sheep and Wool again this year. Got to spend some quality time with my friend Steven. This picture of a cute man in a kilt is in homage to Steven’s Bear(d)s of MD Sheep and Wool study.





My purpose for being here again this year was to help Ozark Carding Mill in the booth and sell the Unicorn Fibre Wash products. Gail and Jim White are my first Fiber Festival Friends, and I learn a lot about fiber and spinning just by being near Gail. Some of the perks of being a vendor at the show are: get in Friday to preview the entire show during vendor set-up, special stalls for vendors only in the ladies room, vendor discount on some purchases (I stayed within budget and stuck to items on my list–made it seem like I really needed all of the things I bought that way,) and easy access parking when you get to go through the vendor gate and park right behind the main building. The picture with the umbrellas is from when Steven and I first went to the wrong Thai restaurant. The right one did not have the umbrellas, but it did have wonderful food.
I went home from Maryland a little tired, and stayed home only for one day. Then I was off to Carlisle, PA for the long-anticipated spinning and knitting retreat. Ever since Beth Smith (of Spinning Loft, in Howell, MI) told me about it, last year, I knew I had to be there. I put it in my calendar and then kind of forgot about it (until it was time to pay and stuff.) The Pheasant Field Bed and Breakfast was a great setting. In the mornings, we spun for lace yarn. I was not the fastest, or the best, or even the funniest spinner there. Although I got a few good laughs. I was able to spin finer and more consistently than I ever have before, partly from the magic of being near Beth, who is the boss of me in many ways, and partly from making wheel adjustments and slowing down a little. I still have issues with too much twist in both my singles and my plying, but I will keep practicing, and I have a firm commitment to making sample skeins and swatching.
In the afternoons, ANNE HANSON (she rules!) taught us advanced lace knitting, and I worked on techniques and started the Pine and Ivy shawl. I really struggled with it in the class and had to start over about 5 times! Now that I am home, I am working on it, a few rows a day, first thing in the mornings and it is totally fine.
Anne Hanson is an incredible designer, teacher, knitter, and spinner. One of the best things I took away from her teaching is the importance of making good decisions about yarn and pattern for a project. It’s more than just the weight of the yarn and gauge. Like a lot of creative people, Anne is good at a lot of different things. She is also very funny. She is a terrific blogger, and she did some nice posts on the retreat. Check out her blog and Beth’s too. Bottom line: if you were thinking of going on this retreat and didn’t, too bad for you–you missed a great time.

>This year I’m growing stuff!

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Spring/Summer growing season 2010 was the first year since we’ve lived in this house with a yard that I did not do any gardening whatsoever. No planting, transplanting, dividing, or weeding. Nothing. To the extent that several of my weeds grew tall as trees. One grew in front of the house and blocked KF’s satellite dish, so I had to buy a scary-looking saw and cut the thing down. Last April I still had several more yarn lines than what I carry now, I was still calling on Whole Foods stores in Eastern PA and NJ, and I really had made no attempts to limit my traveling. Sometimes I would get home from a sales trip and just stay for one or two days before repacking and taking off again.

Not only was I tired, and probably not as effective as I could have been, but since everything was early last year, I didn’t notice the plants and flowers like I usually do. I remember, late in May, wondering when the purple iris was going to do its thing. I must have missed it. That sucks. I missed my husband and dog (and I guess cats too) because I was away so much, and I also missed the days where it was enough action just to sit on the deck, watch and listen to birds, and check out and appreciate my flowers. I did get some strawberries last year, and they were gorgeous and delicious.







Later in the summer, I discovered Twitter. Many of my real and virtual fibery (the yarn kind, not the nutritional kind) friends were eating fresh picked stuff for dinner and making it sound incredible, and the really cool people were spending whole days in their kitchens and canning, for gosh sakes. I found bad-ass pickle recipes online, and I was kind of embarrassed to have to buy the cukes at the farmer’s market. I didn’t like the feeling of regret I started to notice.

Now, I am not the greatest gardener. My mom is a Master Gardener and runs her own organic CSA. My deal is, I dig a hole or sprinkle some seeds and say good luck. I don’t water. I am always slack with weeding. So some of my plants don’t make it. But what I really like is to look around and see pretty sights in my surroundings. I like to get up in the morning and harvest strawberries or beans and figure out what to do with them, or bring them with me when I go see friends. I used to bring food and flowers into the office, when I went to an office. So I guess I was pretty into it. Many of the perennials were given to me by my mom, or my Aunt Fran (another great gardener) and I think both of them had plants that had started out in the ground at my two grandmother’s gardens. I scored some new iris from my friend Michelle this fall.




Some of the stuff was here when we moved in. there was only one planted bed then, now there are 5, plus some stuff squeezed into corners of the yard and a little bit in the front of the house. My neighbors do a lot of flowers, and some of those plants have crossed the property line. I like that.



The theme of 2011 for me is How Not to Work Too Much, even though my job is fun. One thing that I have discovered is that most of the things I like to do involve making stuff. I like doing craft projects. I like to cook. I like to garden. I like the process as well as the results. So this year I’m growing stuff, dammit. And I’m going to be home enough to take care of and enjoy my flowers and food crops. And I will try to blog about it, since in showing off my stuff, I will be “forced” to take time to notice it more. I may even dig a new bed.


I almost titled this post “City Mouse Plants a Garden,” because I have been thinking about City Mouse a lot this week, ever since we bought seeds and starter mix, and I am sprouting some things inside. So I googled the story and was surprised to see that it was an Aesop’s fable, not just one of my favorite groovy 70’s kids’ books, like Harry the Dirty Dog. I will keep thinking about the lesson of The City Mouse and the Country Mouse and how it can help me work on my theme for the year and enjoy myself more.

Today I noticed my violets.














>David Loom arrives at a Michigan Shop

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Look how cute these new Jul Pedestal Buttons are, patent leather with different colored centers! We have a lot of great new products coming out for next season. I can’t wait to see everything myself!
I was so excited to see this post from Nancy at Woven Art in Lansing. I am not a weaver (yet!) but I still love the tools, looms and creative projects. The David Loom from Louet is assembled and ready for visitors at Nancy’s wonderful shop. Last time I went to see her there were two weavers working on gorgeous projects in the back room. Very impressive!
I finally put all of the new patterns up on Ravelry. There are 5 now, with more on the way very soon! The Rivulet shrug is being test knit, and I will be starting a shawlette soon, and then getting back to more designs for fall. When I was in Maryland this week, Laura got an email from a famous-name designer with sneak peek pictures of pieces featuring the new Montreal Closures and Pedestal Buttons. Can’t show them, but look for them at TNNA in Columbus in June if you are in the biz, otherwise they will be in your LYS for Fall 2011. So exciting!

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Lately I have been thinking a lot about my “new work.” I have been reading some articles about work habits and personality traits of creative types, and following some excellent blogs. I think I am looking for clues to help me get used to the different pace, and maybe figure out how this all might make sense.

Because I am doing so many new activities, and am trying to get quite a lot done, it has been difficult to know what is the best thing to be doing at a given time. And is it really okay for work to feel so fun? And when should I stop working? And what should I do when I am not working? And is there a better way for me to learn some new tricks besides trial and error? A lot going on up in the old noodle.
Juggling multiple projects, even fun ones, is hard. Sizing the new Rivulet Shrug pattern REALLY is hurting my brain, although I kind of enjoy it at the same time. I am learning a lot. I love novelty and the unknown, yet I feel a little queasy when I admit to myself that I don’t quite have the pattern all worked out yet. There is no “powering through” this design, in fact, I decided today is an official “day off” and I am going to try not to do any work, so that I can come back to a few important tasks tomorrow and hope to be more effective.
With the designing, and working on a new business model for my yarn repping, I am working right past the edge of my comfort zone, the place where I feel like I have paid my dues, put in my 10,000 hours, and know what is supposed to come next. In my old sales job, I knew from experience what I should or could be doing to get the results I wanted. Now, not so much. Some things are taking longer than I would like. And a very strong and surprising sense of perfectionism is making itself felt, in the form of really worrying about the Rivulet Shrug design. It was hard to get started with it (since I don’t love shrugs) and I struggled with every aspect–stitch pattern, construction method, writing clear enough instructions–all the while, ruminating over whether I would get it done in time, and once it was done, what if it sucked? A lot of unhelpful worrying that didn’t feel good at all. I did not have much confidence in the success of this project until I saw it modeled by a person who looked great in it. I will post pictures once it is published. What a relief to see the garment look good on someone, and several people have said they liked it and would wear it “in real life.” I don’t consider it a masterpiece, but I do feel more satisfied that it seems to work as a design. I am still working on it, and still worrying, now that a test knitter will be trying to walk the path I lay out for her.
What is really strange is my assumption that I should be able to do something perfectly on the first try. Or that if my first effort is not the most fantastic thing ever, that it is the end of the world. Really, what would be so bad if the design (or whatever I am trying, especially if it is for the first time) didn’t work? My mom reminded me that I always felt like I had to know everything. Kind of a strange contradiction–the person who says she loves the unknown but feels uncomfortable if she doesn’t already know something. I guess the lesson I will take from all of this is to give myself a break if it doesn’t always feel terrific as I keep tackling new challenges and exploring new ideas.
When I was a little kid, in first grade maybe, I became conscious that I was one of the people who regularly got gold stars on homework assignments. I have a visual memory of being a very small person, and looking out of those eyes at the paper with the star and a nice little note “Excellent Work!” from the teacher. I think it felt good to get those, but I also felt anxious. What if one time I didn’t get the sticker or the “Great Job!” or even the check mark? Also, the schoolwork was usually pretty easy for me, and sometimes it felt like it was weird to have a big deal made of something that did not feel like such hard work. So I thought it was funny when I noticed these two gold stars that are hanging in my house. I think I will use them as a reminder that work does not always have to be so grueling, and that I am doing good work by trying new things, even if I don’t get perfect results on the first try.