I’ve already told you about the yarn store where I work. Great little place. What I don’t think I’ve mentioned is that my boss also owns a sewing store right next door. They carry sleek Swedish machines that can do everything from smoothly threading your needle to fighting against fear, fire and famine. Well, that might be an exaggeration but they can sew pretty much anything you can name.
I’m not a sewer. I don’t sew. My mother sews and she’s owned various models of machines over the years. She was mostly self-taught. What she failed to do was pass on any sewing knowledge to her daughters. Mainly this is because my mother and we daughters tend to get along as well as a porcupine and a tar pit. We love each other but the romantic idea of passing on craftual knowledge to the next generation isn’t one that works for us.
So what’s that?
Earlier this year I took some basic sewing lessons at the store next-door. This was at my boss’s behest and why would I complain? I was getting paid to learn how to tame the Swedish Machines. It wasn’t until earlier this week that I seriously considered actually…making something. Then yesterday, I walked into work and there was a large box of fabric bolts for the other store. I started to paw through them and I fell in love. So I thought, OK. Maybe a pillowcase. They can’t be hard. They’re giant rectangles, right? Rectangles are easy.
I asked my boss about it and she was thrilled. I think she’s just been waiting for me to be infected. All I had to do was buy the fabric. Perks of being an employee: I don’t have to pay for the lessons and I can use sewing machines that I could never buy. So today, I picked out 3 fabrics. I had a vague idea of making it from just one fabric but oh no. Pat said she had just the cutest pattern ever and I admit, I liked the idea of variety. The main fabric was called Sparkling Paris. I liked that. I liked the kitschy cute combo and a few hours later, I’m still thrilled…
with my kitschy, cute TOTALLY SEWN BY ME OMG PILLOWCASE!!!
Yep. There it is. Sparkling away. It has fancy ‘French’ seams. I didn’t even know that seams had ethnicities before today. However, I am THRILLED. And also hooked. This is not good. This IS.NOT.GOOD. I have knitting. I can crochet, even Tunisian.
I do not need to sew.
I do not need a fabric stash.
I do not need stacks of adorable pillowcases with a different one for every day of the week.
Gee, that would be really cool…
Soft, cream-colored baby knits. There’s something ridiculously satisfying about knitting something so tiny and complete. Since I have no intentions of furthering my bad genes, I’m knitting for my future nieces and nephews. Two of my siblings got engaged within…mmm, two weeks of each other? This gave me the perfect excuse to knit the adorable retro patterns in my copy of Knitting Traditions, an anthology of all the knitting patterns that Piecework has ever published.
The bonnet still requires a crocheted edging but otherwise I’m quite pleased with it. Although it’s not newborn sized, I can live with that. Babies grow like crazy. The pattern is one of those patterns that tells you to cast on 8 stitches and then wrestle with 5 very angry, porcupine-like DPNs that are all working as hard as they can to discourage you from knitting. There’s a reason I avoid those tricky circular shawls.
However, I cleverly used Judy’s Magic Cast On and knitted the bonnet on two circulars. It made the entire experience that much nicer. After the bonnet was finished, I still had quite a bit of the yarn left. It’s Wollmeise Twin in the Natural colorway. IE: Undyed. I have to say that WM twin drives me straight up the wall. It’s splitty as hell and while that wasn’t a big issue with the bonnet, it plagued me the entire time that I knit the matching bootikins.
Altogether now: squeeeeeeeeee!
I admit, it might seem strange for a self-admitted child loather to coo over wee bitty baby knits. However, I coo over wee bitty baby knits in the same way that I coo over anything in miniature. Somehow, everything is cuter when it’s smaller. Well, most things. Ahem. Anyway, I am being a Responsible Auntie and am going to start a box to hold all of these little knits.
With all these lacy little retro knits, I feel a little like Franklin Habit, minus the stylin’ sheep. And the published book of comics. And the calenders. And the whole successful yarn career thing. Minor details, dears, minor details.
While I’ve blogged before about the odd experience of the Knitpicks package I received that wasn’t mine (not exactly the world’s worst event), my faith in their yarn has been restored. For my money, Knitpicks is about being able to get a cheap natural fiber fix and still not break the bank. One of their sock yarns, Felici, does just that. In fact, I’ve recently knitted two pairs of socks in this base and both times it’s because of the colorway.
Unsurprisingly, knitting and geekery often go hand in hand and one of my obsessions happens to be Doctor Who. The Time Traveler colorway is a cheeky nod to the colors of the old Doctor Who scarf while avoiding copyright issues. The text of the colorway slyly informs the buyer that, “While you can knit some really really long socks, this colorway will not create socks that are larger on the inside than they appear on the outside.”
Stripes? Check. Doctor Who tie-in? Check. Sense of humor AND low prices? Check and check.
I ordered enough for a pair of socks and knitted a pair of plain stockinette socks while I was backstage during Romeo and Juliet. I played Lady Capulet so while I was busy, I still had a little downtime. One of my cast members was an obnoxious teenage boy who also happened to be a fan of the Doctor. He pestered me constantly to knit him the actual Doctor Who scarf. I laughed in his face and told him that if he wanted it that badly, he could buy the yarn himself and I’d teach him how to knit. He cast many envious glances at my socks and I don’t blame him.
My only problem is that I didn’t realize that I knitted the heel flap too short on these socks and so they like to pull themselves down around my ankle. However, if I’m allowed just a bit more geekness today, I still think they give me a +2 to Dexterity!
So when I knit the first pair, I got to know the yarn base and I thought it was worth it for the money. Felici is very soft, refined merino and you can barely feel the nylon. The powdery soft skeins are so soft that wear is actually a concern. Because of the low cost, I don’t mind if they wear out quickly. However, I wouldn’t try to knit heirloom quality socks from this yarn. It just doesn’t seem like it will hold up over time.
Nevertheless, I fell in love with yet another colorway. The obnoxiously bright Rainbow colorway. It’s stunning. Delicious. Rainbow. It also happened to be sold out by the time that I became aware of its existence. I crossed my fingers and posted on the ISO/Destash forum on Ravelry. I didn’t really expect much because it was very popular. To my surprise, a very sweet Raveler sent me a PM and sold two skeins of Felici Rainbow to me for exactly what she paid and no more. I know that she must’ve spent at least a few dollars of her own money on the postage and so I was so grateful. She was so nice about it.
When it arrived, it was a religious experience. A transformative experience. I knew I had to use up every scrap of this yarn and the only way to do that was to finally learn how to knit toe-up socks. Don’t laugh. I’ve knit dozens of pairs of socks but there was one huge barrier to learning how to knit socks from the toe-up.
Judy’s. Magic. Cast. On.
That name is a lie. A base, unfair and scurvy lie. And while Cat Bordhi may be the world’s foremost sock genius, her video of how to use Judy’s Magic (not) Cast On is…well, let’s just say that I’ve been knitting socks for 3, 3.5 years now and I still remember the trauma of watching that video and screaming out, “PLEASE JUST SHOW ME HOW! STOP TALKING! STOP.TALKING! SHOW ME THE MAGIC!”
I, um, may have issues with toe-up socks. I’m so sorry Ms. Bordhi.
Anyway, I fought my way through my trauma for this yarn. That’s how much I loved it. My new knitting BFF, Corey, kindly demonstrated it to me. More than a few times. We sat next to each other at the local knitting guild meeting and she helped me. Oh, because I’m crazy, I also threw in a new element to the mix. I bought two Addi circular needles, size 1, 24 inches long. One was lace and the other was a turbo. The reason for two different needles is because the needles are different colors, silver and gold. That way, I could remember not to knit all my stitches onto one needle. It’s a neat trick and I figured that I needed all the help that I could get since I was mostly teaching myself.
And guess what?
I now possess the magic. Really. I could cast on forever. Furthermore, I bought a really excellent pattern. Laura Chau’s Delicious Knee Socks was exactly what I was looking for and I highly recommend it. For the price of 6.50, you get tons of different sizes and detailed instructions and tables on how to knit beautifully fitting knee-high socks. Armed with shiny new needles, soft new yarn and a shiny new PDF, I plunged into toe-up socks…
And I might not leave. Yep. Lookit ‘em. Beautiful. Rainbow. Socks.
“Well, we’ve just run out. We only had the three bits and we didn’t expect such a rush”
“So my choices are ‘or Death?”
You know, I’ve heard quite a few crafters talk about their negative experiences at yarn stores. I knitted long before I ever worked at my LYS so I was sensitive to the issue. Even now, with roughly 7 months under my belt, I try to remember to be thoughtful. I leave the browsers alone because they just want some peace and quiet. I chat with the people that need their hands held. I treat everyone as a potential crafter, even though male customers are rare and any men in the store usually are, indeed, the spouse of a female customer.
When threads about bad yarn stores surface, people with tattoos talk about being followed, men are ignored, and young people are treated as a nuisance. Although I first visited my LYS-now my place of work-when I was 16, I never felt that way. Maybe my first purchase established me as slightly different. It was two skeins of Shepherd Sock and a set of size 1 DPNs. Not exactly “Super Fun Crafty Bulky Knitz for Hawt Teens” material. Anyway, I was lucky to never felt put down because of my age.
But now, on the other side of the counter?
Most customers I deal with are amazing. And most of them seem pretty satisfied with the help that I give them. Unfortunately, I have a huge, huge disability that prevents me from helping a select few customers.
I’m young. Too young, apparently. Some customers, usually older, distinguished and conservative, just don’t feel comfortable being waited on by someone my age. I didn’t realize at first that it was my age. I offered my help. They politely declined and I assumed they wanted to browse in peace. However, the moment that my boss appeared or spoke to them, they lit up like a Christmas tree and they had a nice chat while I stood there and felt like a schmuck. I’m using generic terms because it’s happened multiple times by now. And it wasn’t because they knew my boss. Often they are out of town visitors that have never been in the shop before.
What’s frustrating about all of this is that all of their questions were basic ones that I could easily answer. They ranged from gauge to if we had more of a certain color of yarn but none of them were that baffling. When I described them as conservative, I didn’t just mean dress. Usually they’ve knitted a very small range of patterns with a limited range of yarn. They found a niche and they don’t stray from it. Waiting on this kind of customer takes patience because they usually have very specific and exacting demands but it’s simply because they know what they want. This can be frustrating for me if I can’t find the exact shade of fingering weight unicorn yarn that they want but the pay-off comes at the register. They usually spend well.
So what continues to baffle me is why on earth being young is such a bad thing. I’m young so I can run (well, not literally) all over the shop and fetch and carry and find what they need. Still, they remain visibly uncomfortable with my youthful appearance.
I certainly don’t understand this. Maybe some of you do?
In the months that I’ve been missing, quite a lot has happened in my life. One of those things is being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. There’s nothing quite as surreal as sobbing while knitting a sweater because the suicide hotline hung up on you. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and an excellent therapist, I’ve managed to work down the crazy into a mostly manageable level.
When I use the term crazy, please understand it’s my own way of reclaiming…myself. There is no subject that makes people more timid and shy. Well, that’s not true. Mental illness is usually met with incredible rudeness or political correctness that’s so extreme that you feel bad admitting that being mentally ill is actually a problem and not just another step on the road to creative greatness.
Another interesting development is that I’ve been working at my local yarn store. Yep, true story. I came in around December and found out one of my favorite people had to leave the job for her own reasons. This made me sad but it also created a great opportunity for me to get a part-time job that I could work while also maintaining my grades at school. It’s very fascinating to work on the other side of the counter, so to speak, and I expect I’ll probably post a little about that in the future. What surprised me most is how my views on what makes a good LYS have mostly remained the same..but my views of what makes a good customer are a little different.
Tonight, I attended a meeting of the local knitting guild for the first time. I’ve always managed to miss it, for one reason or another, even though I’ve resolved to go many times. It was fun. We agreed to knit scarves for the Special Olympics and I agreed, even though it entails knitting with Red Heart, BLECK. Maybe I can get away with helping to fund the yarn purchases, rather than knitting with it myself? It probably makes me sound disgustingly elitist but it’s very sticky and harsh feeling to my hands. Still, I voted aye so I’ll help, even if it does mean adding Cherry Red and White acrylic to my stash.
Today, I also began knitting a sock toe-up for the first time. Corey, a knitter who is new to the area, kindly demonstrated the mysterious Judy’s Magic Cast On to me until I finally got it. Not only am I trying toe-up socks, I am doing it on two circular needles. All of this is completely new to me and I couldn’t be more excited. This feels like a renewal.
It feels good.