Posts Tagged ‘yarn business’

My TNNA adventures continue…

FRIDAY, January 16, 2009

photo of a Peruvian knitter knitting Portuguese style. photo from beastlyadventure.com

On Friday morning, tired and very much sleep deprived (it was day 3 of 3 hours of sleep per night), I dragged myself out of bed and got ready for another exciting day.  I took another business class, which was about advertising and developing programs for shops.  But you don’t want to hear about that, right?

You want to hear about the wonderful class that I took that afternoon with Sally Melville, acclaimed designer, teacher and author of The Knit Stitch and The Purl Stitch.  I took the class “Two Colors, Two Hands.”

I’m not new to colorwork, but am by no means close to being an expert at it and I wanted to learn other possibilities.   I knit continental and I hold all the yarns in my left hand, by popping one color on my index finger, and another color on my middle finger.  When I do 3 colors, I hold 2 colors on my index finger and 1 on my middle finger. Holding your yarns on one hand is very fast and efficient when you are doing colorwork that requires equal and regular color changes of each color, such as a checkered pattern. My method does not work so well for something like argyle, as in my Aaargyle Skullcap, where the color changes are irregular.

Sally showed us some alternative ways to hold the yarn, including the way I do it, holding 2 in the right hand, holding a color in each hand, holding 2 colors in one hand while holding a third in another, and doing colorwork using Portuguese knitting.

I absolutely love Portuguese knitting…which probably should be called Portuguese purling because you are purling and working from the wrong side of the fabric when you work.  This is the same method used by those wonderful Andean knitters of Peru for those fantastic and colorful c’hullos.

This fantastic award-winning photo is from cusquenian's flickr.

My friend D. was in my class too, and she could a high wattage light bulb flashing in my brain as she caught a glimpse of the crazy ideas floating through my head when I realized that I could use a combination of all these techniques Sally was teaching for different applications.  Half-jokingly, I pondered aloud the possibility of even trying 5-10 colors. D. threatened to shoot me with a tranquilizer gun if I ever did that or developed ways to hold all those colors with my toes.

I think D. was just being nice about the tranquilizer gun. If  Aubrey or Zona caught me trying to knit with all those colors and/or my toes, they would not hesitate to get me 5150’d, and I fear that perhaps my former colleagues might even have to agree! In case you don’t know what a 5150 is, in California, it refers to the process or section of the law in which someone is detained involuntarily for 72 hours for an emergency psychiatric evaluation.

Later that night, Aubrey, Kristie, D. and I were invited to a knit night at the Marriot sponsored and hosted by the SWTC team, where I got go know Jonelle of SWTC, Michelle aka CraftyCupcake, and Rebecca aka ItSheKnits. From day one of discussions about our business, Aubrey and I had SWTC as a must on our list, because  we love that SWTC focuses on innovatvie products with a mind to sustainability, and the smaller family-run business is also something that we are attracted to.  We want to have products from companies that also reflect our lifestyles and personal philosophies.  

Anyway, luckily, while I was getting to know Jonelle, I hadn’t quite finished my martini (on an empty stomach), because she may not have wanted to talk to me about doing designs for SWTC over the next 2 days if I had! Poor Michelle got me when I was 2 very pricey martinis in (still no food). Michelle had to listen to me divert from a convo about nerdy significant others to talking about how the hubs has been dubbed “crazy cat lady” by my friends and how he sometimes treats me like a cat when trying to show affection. Now that people outside of my circle of regular friends know, I have to admit: Yes, I get scratched under my chin and neck, and I sometimes get stroked as if he was stroking the cats. Ahh, True. Love.

At 10pm, we finally headed over to Cafe Sevilla to eat some yummy tapas. They had a great live musician playing, although by then we were too tired and famished to truly enjoy it.  Apparently after all these years in SoCal pining for good tapas, I did not know that there was one in Long Beach. It’s closer than San Diego, but I still wish there was one that’s even closer. There are 2 tapas restaurants near me, approximately within a 12 mile radius, but the food at those restaurants suck. Really, really suck.


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Aubrey and I heart Cat Bordhi. How can you not love a knitting genius who is a little eccentric (in a good way)?  You have to be a little eccentric to be obssessed with knitting and trying to figure out new techniques and problems all the time.

At last year’s TNNA, we both took some of her sock classes.  I don’t particularly enjoy knitting socks and after taking Cat’s class last year, I do have some slightly increased interest in it.  I just have so many other things in my head that socks are in the very back of the queue.

SATURDAY, January 17, 2009

Aubrey, Cat Bordhi and Me

This year, Aubrey and I took a Cat class together. It was more business oriented, and she talked about writing and kitting up patterns.  After showing her a Handicraft Café pattern (Threesome) and one of my Crafty Diversions patterns (Twister), I felt all warm and fuzzy because she complimented me on the layout and layout design.  However, really can’t take all the credit because the very talented Anna of Anaphase Studios did the logo and layout design.

Saturday was the first Market day. So, after our class and photo-op, Aubrey and I headed to the exhibit floor. We first made a beeline to get a ticket for a book signing.  In some of the booths, in order to get an autographed copy of a book, you have to get a ticket an hour prior to the scheduled signing.  The tickets are limited in number and the rule “you snooze, you lose” definitely applies.

On the way down to the market floor, the extraodinarily talented Stepfanie Japel of Glampyre Knits, and author of Fitted Knits and Glam Knits, was in front of us on the escalator and she commented on my Morgan.  She said that she hadn’t see one made as well as the one I was wearing.  Well, I had to fess up that though it was my pattern, the sample I was wearing was knit by a good friend of mine.  (I had Zona knit my orange Morgan in a medium size. The one I made and was shown on Knitty was a large and a little too big for my head.) Nonetheless, I felt lots of warm fuzzies after the escalator encounter.

One of the book signings we attended was for Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard of Knit and Tonic.  As she was signing my book, she said “Hey, I recognize that hat,” and proceeded to tell me that she had my hat in her queue. As a new designer, I cannot express how exciting and wonderful it feels to have established and well-known designers like Stefanie and Wendy compliment your work.  Squeeee!

with Chrissy Gardiner

A must-visit booth on our list was Gardiner Yarn Works, the booth of fabulous designer Chrissy Gardiner, who has designed for yarn companies and has been published in many magazines such as Interweave Knits.  Kristie, who also tests and sample knits for Chrissy finally was able to meet her in person.  We purchased some of Chrissy’s new patterns for the shop, such as her Kiwassa shawl, to add to some of our other favorite Gardiner Yarn Works patterns, such as the Autumn in Oregon Socks and Ballerina Slippers. One of the more exciting developments is that Aubrey will be working with Chrissy to see about getting her patterns and other patterns from her pattern line on our site as downloadable PDFs!

One of the cutest things in the Gardiner Yarn Works pattern line is this cutie:

Whoot! Whoot!

Whoot! Whoot!

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The “official” days of the TNNA trade show are marked by what they call “Market Days.”  This just means that they open the exhibit halls and buyers can shop all the booths.  However, usually there are 2 days prior to the Market that are just solely education.  Members of  TNNA are able to take classes taught by a variety of experts and nationally recognized teachers.  The classes are wonderful and not too pricey, so I find that they are definitely worth the cost, especially since I’m still pretty green to all of this.

THURSDAY, Jan. 15:

On Thursday, I took a class on customizing sweaters for just about every shape and size with Leslye Solomon. Leslye was a good teacher – she was interactive, responsive and very approachable and is the person behind those wonderful stainless steel lace blocking wire sets that we all love. (I ordered some for Handicraft Café.) If you plan on going to Stitches, she teaches there too.

I was pretty quiet throughout most of the 6 hour class, just absorbing everything  discussed, including side conversations and things off-tangent.  I am all self-taught in sweater design, so it is nice to hear and learn from other people because there are always different ways of doing things.  I learned quite a bit from Lesley and from all the off-tangent and side convos (sometimes those are the best).  I sincerely hope that Leslye did not think I was bored though. At one point, she asked me if I was okay.  LOL. I wasn’t bored, just observing and absorbing. If anything, I was slightly (okay, maybe a little more than slightly) annoyed at one particular woman. She interjected a lot and some of her side convos were not related to the class, but rather about herself. I have to admit that I was relieved when I didn’t see her in my other classes.

Later that night, thanks to Aubrey’s excellent exploratory skills, D., Kristie, Aubrey and I went to a little cafe called Chocolat, located in the Gaslamp District of San Diego.  It was a creperie, a gelaterie, a chocalaterie and a cafe all rolled into one! The only thing it was missing was a wine bar!  I am a sucker for crepes, so I ordered a fantastic portabello mushroom crepe followed by some yummy dark chocolate grand marnier gelato.  I was not overly sinful at all because I had all my food groups covered. 🙂  Plus, grand marnier is made with orange, and chocolate comes from beans.

After dinner, we found a Trader Joe’s (and almost got lost – stupid iPhone GPS) and stocked up on cheese, fruit and snacks to go with the wine that I brought from home.  We “partied” in our room, and after everyone left, I decided to finish my champagne without using anymore cups.  Classy, eh? Aubrey was thoroughly impressed.

(Coming in My Next Few Posts: Classes with Sally Melville, Cat Bordhi and Stefanie Japel; a wild sample sale and strange needlepoint; walking the market floor; knitting with SWTC; seeing my design hanging at the Lorna’s Laces booth and the mock up of Knitting in the Sun; book signings)

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After lots of hard work and some delays, Aubrey and I are proud to announce the Beta launch of Handicraft Café!!

Homepage screenshot 7-9-08

The launch means that we are open for online shopping! We’re still constantly uploading and entering inventory and photos. And of course, some tweaking to the site here and there. There are still some missing photos and some photo distortion in the thumbnail view, but everything else seems to be in working order.

One of the most exciting features of the site for me is the multiple search functions and options. You can search through the customizable drop-down menu (pink), the keyword search (green) or through our detailed category lists (purple):

Another feature of the shop that we’re very excited about is that we’re going developing symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationships with artists of all kinds, with the majority of artists located locally to us. Zona Sherman, aka TwirlGirlFibers on Ravelry, has bravely volunteered to be our guinea pig first fiber artist tester. So far, we have uploaded and processed 6 of her yummy yarn creations. Future developments for the consignment section include adding more artists and bios of participating artists.

consignment screenshot 7-9-08

Acknowledgments: Many thanks to our friends, especially the wonderful local knit community and our special friends at All Things String for their constant support and encouragement, to Ben for helping Aubrey with all the Photoshopping, to Anna for our logo and to Mike and Derek for all the hours of web design programming and debugging! And of course, extra thanks to our significant others for supporting us in doing our own thing (and continuing to write those mortgage checks).

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Woohoo! After much anticipation, sweat and hard work, the beta version of Aubrey & my side project is finally launched!

Check out the Handicraft Cafe Shop! There are still things that we’re fixing, tweaking and editing, such as the search menus and some of the icons. We are also continuing to add products and photos, but it is definitely functional.

We are also still working hard on finding a storefront for our physical store, which will be a even bigger event and accomplishment. In the meantime, it really feels great to finally have something tangible to show for all the time, research and sweat we’ve put into making our dream a reality.

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Technically, this was not my first TNNA attendance. Aubrey and I went to the one in Phoenix this past summer. The summer one is much smaller and there seemed to be way more needlepoint than yarn. We did meet some really nice and fantastic people in Phoenix though, including David and Terri of Ozark Handspun, Janice Rosema who does some fantastic freeform crochet, and Karin Skacel of Skacel Collection.

We ran into all those folks at this TNNA, which is a stark contrast and a much much much larger event compared to the Phoenix one. We also met some new and very nice people, including knitting and crochet celebs and LYS owners from around the country. I’ll start with the celebs, because that what y’all want to hear, right?

For me and Aubrey, TNNA started on Wednesday morning (Jan. 9). TNNA had some educational classes scheduled from Wednesday through Saturday morning, and the market opened from Friday through Sunday. I am so glad that I registered us early, because I got to take 2 fantastic sock classes with Cat Borhi. If you know me, you know that I am not a sock knitter and was not very happy knitting my first sock. And even though I wrote and knitted Buccaneer’s Booty, it was only my 2nd pair of socks ever. Anyway, because I am not a sock knitter, Aubrey and I thought that I should hone my skills and take Cat’s classes. I truly am happy that I did. Cat is a fantastic, dynamic and fun teacher! She structured the classes very well, with lots of tips, tricks and stories. The first class I took was a Coriolis sock class, where we made baby versions of her Coriolis sock.

The second class was more geared towards making up your own sock pattern by combining different forms of sock architecture. The techniques covered in the class are covered in Cat’s book, New Pathways for Sock Knitters and in the supplemental You Tube videos Cat put out to support the book. But of course, sometimes learning in person is very different and better than learning from a book. In the end, I walked away thinking that sock knitting can be fun and enjoyable, especially teeny tiny baby socks. Now I don’t know if I’ll ever make a pair for myself, since I personally don’t wear socks that much, and would feel bad trampling on my own work, so to speak, but I think if my sister the sock lover or my hubby asks me to make her/him another pair, I think I would say yes with enthusiasm instead of mild dread.

In addition to Cat’s classes, I also took some business classes and a technique class taught by Melissa Leapman focusing on pleats and gathers. I’ll talk about that class in my next post.

One really fun aspect of TNNA is running into knitting celebs and all the book signings. (We tried to go to as many as we could, but we weren’t able to go to all the signings because we had to shop and purchase inventory.) There’s no dirt to spill on anyone because everyone we met were very friendly and nice.

The first knit-celeb we met on the show floor was Wenlan Chia of Twinkle. We had stopped her booth because we want to stock Wenlan’s Twinkle yarns by Classic Elite. She was also there to promote and sign autographs for her new book, Twinkle’s Weekend Knits. On the day of the book signing, I wore my Twister cap. Wenlan complimented me on the hat and seemed quite interested in how I made the twisted stitches — she said she didn’t know this technique. So, as to not hold up the line, I promised to stop by her booth again later to show her, but alas, she was busy talking to some people the two times I attempted to stop by and teach her. And on the last day of market, Aubrey and I had to finish some business and did not have time to stop by again. Though I tried, I was disappointed that I didn’t fulfill my promise to show her how to do the twisted stitch. I guess I will email her the instructions later and if she likes it a lot, maybe she’ll buy my pattern (which will be available after I get feedback from all my test knitters). 😉

In fact, I was so elated to have received so many compliments on Twister from various show attendees, including vendors, other designers, Cat Bordhi and other people from whom we received autographed books, that I felt all warm and fuzzy inside for the rest of the weekend.

While standing in line for one of the book signings, (was it for Debbie Stoller‘s Son of Stitch n Bitch?), we spotted Cookie A., who we flagged down to ask about buy and selling her patterns for our soon-to-be business, and about possibly teaching a class or two when we do open. It turned out that Cookie was lurking in the vicinity because she was looking for a ticket for the book signing, but there were no more tickets available. (The vendor that sponsored the book signings would hand out a limited number of tickets on a first come, first serve basis.) So, Aubrey, being the kind and generous person that she is, offered hers to Cookie, who was reluctant and hesitant to take it, but Aubrey insisted. It wasn’t a big deal to us, since I was getting book too, and we were requesting that the authors sign the book to Handicraft Cafe. I found Cookie to be very cool, nice and down-to earth, and we had a nice chat with her in line.

Yeah, I know this is getting boring because everyone was nice and there’s no dirt or gossip to share with y’all, so I’ll share the rest of the TNNA details in another post. Next post: more swag, Shannon Okey, Melissa Leapman, etc.

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Excuse my recent absence from blogging. For the past 6 weeks, I’ve had a variety of visiting relatives from out of town, including in-laws from overseas. So, I’ve been playing the nice dutiful daughter-hostess. I haven’t done much knitting during this time, and I only managed to sneak off to my knitting group once. I was getting serious withdrawals from not seeing my knitting friends. Having some sort of routine is actually refreshing, especially when it involves a wonderful hobby like knitting, and good people like the folks in my knitting group. Also, seeing my knitting friends always cheer me up, even when sometimes I feel so down that I don’t want to leave the house or go. It’s especially helpful this time of year, when I am reminded by my mother’s passing and the passing of my childhood best friend, who died very tragically shortly after her birthday and right before Christmas when we were in 9th grade.

Anyway, my relatives have left and I can now resume my weekly knitting group meetings. Yay! And, I can work on my crafty things! Well, I was not totally devoid of crafty activities during these few weeks, I’ve been doing stuff like preparing for me and Aubrey’s business ventures like ordering yarn (yay! how exciting!) and writing business operations policies (okay, not as fun). I will post some photos and share with y’all all the yummy yarns that have come in fairly soon.
For some time now, I have been talking about a pattern that I had submitted to Magknits, to which the editor had emailed me and said that she wanted to publish it in February or March 2007. When it didn’t publish, I emailed the editor, who said that she was going to publish it in April. April, May and June came and went. After that I emailed the editor 2-3 more times — all those emails were ignored and I received no response. I have no idea why she did not respond, and I certainly understand her perogative to change her mind about publishing my pattern, but all I wanted to know was whether Magknits had changed its mind and/or when my pattern was going to be published. Anyway…I think I will self-publish this pattern. I already formatted it and everything, but I think I want to test it on a different yarn. Here are photos of the lantern purse. I call it “Fu” for the character depicted on the lantern. Fu means fortune or luck in Mandarin Chinese.

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