Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Most Important Day

Today is the single most important day in January.

Today, January 27th is Jonathan's birthday. Today he is 7. He is just getting too big.

No, he did not get a cellphone nor does he have one - no worries.

This picture of him getting the update on Jackson's hockey game this morning just spoke volumes to me. . .

Then it was off to another bowling extravaganza:

Note the recurrence of the "hockey" theme:

Happiness is. . . a happy birthday boy:

Happy Birthday Jonathan!



Saturday, January 26, 2008

That's My Story and I'm Stickin' To It

Well, I guess we can check January off the list!

It appears that 2008 has no intention of moving any slower than 2007 did. At least we're one month closer to warmer weather. Has anyone noticed that the days are getting noticeably longer? Five o'clock around here isn't even dark anymore. Gives us summer people hope, despite what the thermometer says.

TNNA was a whirlwind all to itself. I went out a day early for industry meetings, which was nice. I love my work, I love my family and I treasure my alone time. Steve caught up with me the next day and we had the luxury of a dinner alone - no committments, no sitters to worry about. We were both exhausted with the time change, but we did get to enjoy a lovely meal together. Who cares that it was only 5pm "local" time - we were fashionably appropriate according to our internal clocks :)

After another day of industry stuff, TNNA finally kicked off with the fashion show. We had a dinner engagement that night so we were only able to stay for part of the festivities, but the garments we saw were breathtaking. I am looking forward to receiving the DVD and viewing it at home where there is much less distraction.

The next morning we attend the Tahki Stacy Charles breakfast. They host this event at each market for their customers. TSC previews all of their new yarns and designs and invites both Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits & Crochet to present their editorial of TSC products. I love this event, even though we've already made our purchases. It's a good chance to review things again and see if we've missed anything.

Then, it was off to market! We had an extremely full appointment schedule for most of the show. We are usually focused on filling in any holes we may have, looking for smaller, independent companies or new companies and of course accessories. In all honesty, there was not a lot new or super exciting.

Friday night we attended a reception hosted by Potter Craft. Many of their authors were there along with retailers, magazine folks, etc. Here's a shot of a pretty impressive gathering of who's who:

Saturday featured THE highlight of the show:

In addition to signing books, Melissa did a reasonable job of spending money for us. First, she helped us pick colors of Louet Gems, which is a gorgeous yarn and featured heavily in her book. Then, at various times throughout the show, we'd walk into a vendor booth and they'd say "Oh, you're from WEBS! People have been stopping in saying if you added XYZ product they'd love to buy it from you". Now this is weird because the show is full of OTHER shops - nobody who would be buying anything from us. This happened a couple of times and we were a bit perplexed. Then, we were nearly tackled in the aisle by the owner of Conjoined Creations with a similar testimonial. That's when we finally figured it out.


This is a shot of Long Beach from across the bay looking back at the city:

Thanks to Mother Nature for that last day of 75 degrees and sunny. The hour or so I got to enjoy sitting outside in the warmth of the sunshine was spectacular.

While we were gone, the renovations continued. Our office was packed, our furniture moved out and gutted. We're still in chaos, but things are coming along. We're living in the old shipping area, wrapped on two sides by plastic and functioning out of boxes. It will be worth the wait - saw the first coat of paint on the walls yesterday!

One of the major projects waiting for me when I was back was our next catalog shoot. The Spring Knitting catalog will be out shortly, as will our next weaving catalog. Spring knitting will feature lots of great new yarns and designs, including a few of our own. Here's a couple of behind the scenes shots:

We've had lots of new yarns and books arriving almost daily. I've got a lot of updating still ahead!


Monday, January 7, 2008

Check It Before You Chuck It

Steve and I are readying to head to California for TNNA's Spring Buying Market. We've already worked with our major vendors, seen their spring lines and placed our orders. There are many smaller vendors, both for yarn and accessories that don't necessarily have a sales rep or maybe are just now ready with new products.

The big trend for Spring '08 is organic, eco-friendly yarns. Just from our major suppliers alone, we saw many, many different organic cottons, some dyed naturally, some using the natural colors of the cotton itself. There were more bamboo and soy blends, which we had started to see last year. There's even a yarn coming out with jade fiber as a component! Need to see it and understand the process of getting the jade into the yarn before I can decide how I feel about it.

Blue Sky Alpacas has been offering an Organic Cotton for several seasons. To say they were ahead of the curve would be an understatement. They have several options in "natural" colorations and then a rainbow of colors that have been dyed commercially. We hear that their handspun organic cotton will be available in colors - we can't wait to see it at the show!

One of the first new arrivals of the season is Ecologico from Schachenmayr. It is 100% Untreated Virgin Wool. The labels are made from recyclable paper and the balls are packaged in recyclable brown paper bags as well - no plastic bags! The yarn itself is quite nice and comes in 5 colors and knits at 4 sts = 1" on a #8 or #9. Each ball has 58 yards and retails for $6.95. Here are three of them, the rest you can see on the web:

What I find interesting is the fact that the green "movement" is becoming more and more about the way we live. I like to think that we all do our part, in whatever way we can. What works for one person or one family, may not necessarily be something that the next person or family can incorporate into their lives at this time.

Our boys' school is doing a year-long study about the environment and during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they do what is called "mini-term" which is when the entire school focuses on one topic and most of the academics are geared toward that topic. Jackson and Jonathan are now extremely aware of different types of energy - I had to go and change out all of the light bulbs in our house to the energy efficient ones, it was my compromise with Jackson as he stood in our kitchen freaking out because I told him we couldn't get solar panels. If they see me throwing something out that should be in the recycle bin, they let me know so in no uncertain terms. I think this is all great, except when I've accidentally discarded a recyclable item into the trash and they find it. To them, it's a hostile act against our planet and all humanity, for me, it's simply an honest mistake and "Yes honey, I will dig that yogurt container out from under all of the icky trash, rinse it and put it into the recycling". The mantra in our house is "Check it before you chuck it". Check what it is, can it be recycled and if so, rinse it out and then chuck it into the bin".

Getting back to yarn, just as last year was focused on "knitting from stash" for many folks, this year appears to be the year of "going green". As I said before, what works for one person may not be right for the next. There's already a group on Ravelry devoted to purchasing only eco-friendly, locally grown yarns this year. They are also committed to knitting from their stash before buying yarn. Some are opting to not use corn or soy based yarns, others are open to shopping at their LYS but only if they are owned by women or if they are buying products that support women's cooperatives, etc.

Now, don't misunderstand, I think this is all wonderful. I too am looking forward to the sheep & wool festivals that will be happening in the months to come. The pure uniqueness of the yarns just tickle me to no end, along with the incredible craftmanship. Some of the new organics we've purchased for the shop are on my list of must-haves too and project ideas are already swirling.

At the same time, there are some great yarns coming out that are not "green" but are still wonderful in their own right. Many of our old favorites are still around with new colors and pattern support.

It's going to be fun season - spring is always interesting, especially here in the Northeast where we often go from winter to summer overnight. Keep an eye in the store and on the website. The parade of new products should be starting in the next few days! I can hardly wait!

I'll try to update from California. Our laptop and my camera are not the best of friends so it may be pictureless posts until we're back.

One final note, the wonderful Sandy asked about the "charity" project that I am working on. Sandy is one of our local customers and one of the most giving, philanthropic folks I know and knits non-stop for many organizations. I have to correct myself and will edit that blog post as well. My project is for a "promotion" and not a charity, per se. I stand very much corrected and didn't even realize the faux pas until Sandy asked about helping out (see what I mean about her!). We are working to knit 100 scarves (might turn out to be less, we'll see) to be given away at a UMass hockey game. We often attend the games with the boys and during each game, the alumni association gives away two fleece scarves. Well, we thought they should be giving away hand knit scarves instead and that's exactly what they are going to do.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

And the Beat Goes On

As the holidays came and went with the sale taking center stage at the store, there were other happenings going on all around us and not just minor ones.

There was the arrival of SOME of the Kauni yarn. I must emphasize the "SOME" part of that statement. Not everything we ordered initially was ready to ship and what did ship was far from consistent in terms of put-up. We received balls, hanks and cones, all of varying weight. Steve has spent quite a bit of time shaking his head at me.

Even the box arrived looking pretty tattered.

We've shipped what we could so far and have a fair amount of winding and combining to do, plus we are still waiting for several other colors from both our initial order to arrive and from the second order we placed. Please have patience - we'll get everything out, just know this has not been the easiest undertaking.

Over the past few months we've been working on two projects. The first of which has achieved a few milestones that I'd like to share.

For those of you who are local, you know that the building we are in used to house 3 separate businesses. As each one moved on, we acquired the space until the entire building was all us. The amount of space was great, but the layout of it was nothing short of a mess. We had our "Hallway of Death" which connected warehouse 2 and warehouse 3, was icky and had flickering lights. We used the space in these warehouses terribly inefficiently to boot. Plus, the back of the house operations (shipping, receiving, customer service, admin and our offices) were becoming a bit crowded. The shipping dept had a staff of 2 when Steve and I started. Today we have 8 plus a manager - all squeezed into the same space. Again - not very efficient. Starting to see a trend? In early 2007, Steve and I decided something had to change. Was it time to move? Separate the retail store operations from the on-line operations? Renovate? Well, renovate was the final decision after months of analysis, sleepless nights and dart throwing.

Warehouse 2 and 3 are now connected into one beautiful space (as warehouses go) and are fully racked the way a warehouse should be. We have created a brand new space for shipping that not only will fit our current staff but has room for growth. Customer Service has a beautiful new space:

What I missed photographing was the moving of the cubicles, piece by piece, through the store, during the sale. Literally, I'm not sure anyone even gave it a second thought given the circus environment that was already happening.

Renovations will continue. Here is where Customer Service used to be:

Through the doorway is our office. The wall will come down and Steve and I will have a much larger space with two major improvements. (1) The outer walls will be insulated so I won't freeze to death anymore and (2) we're getting our office carpeted. Now I know that doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but it is to me.

What this all means to you is that we will be better, faster and more efficient when picking, packing and shipping your orders. We're pretty good now and we truly appreciate all of the lovely emails we receive each day, but there's always room for improvement.

Oh, and the Hallway of Death? G.O.N.E. We built a connecting hallway between shipping, the warehouses and the new knitting yarn stockroom that we have aptly named the Hallway of Life.

Getting back to yarn and such, I was walking through the store during the holidays and this lovely sample popped out of nowhere:

It's the Henley Perfected from Interweave Knits Winter '07 issue. Knit in Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca Silk, it is simply yummy. Even Jackson commented on it, saying how soft the yarn was and how perfect it would be for a charity scarf project we are working on. The boy has good taste.

For those of you who listen to the podcast or I guess especially for those of you who don't, our next KAL will be starting in two weeks. This time, we've selected Brooklyn Tweed's Hemlock Ring Throw. There has been a ton of buzz about this project and it fullfills two different goals for the year - lace knitting and "current/hot" projects". Now there is no arguing that this is not lace knitting in it's purest form, but it's a first step for those who have yet to jump into the pool. Secondly, no worries that every project we tackle will have to fit into the "current favorite".

Other things Pixie and I plan to tackle are colorwork, mittens, another Elizabeth Zimmermann project, crochet, just to name a few. If you have suggestions, please email me at That's how we decided on the Hemlock Ring!

Oh and remember just yesterday how I said I'd be trying to work on one new and one old project and that I had both already queued up for my trip to California? Well, my yarn-ADD kicked in as I innocently waited to use the ladies room today. There, sitting on the shelf where it's probably been for awhile, one I've probably seen numerous times, was a yarn. Today my friends, the yarn spoke to me.

It's a Gedifra closeout called Tiago, 50% silk/50% viscose. It supposedly knits at 3.75 stitches on a #10 or #10.5, but I'm skeptical. Each 50gm ball has 93ish yards and it has a lovely, natural look to it thanks to the way the silk dyes and the colors are softed and muted.

As I returned to my office, I passed by Steve and said "this Gedifra closeout is REALLY nice". He just smiled that "well I don't intentionally buy UGLY closeouts" and then said "yes, it is a really nice yarn". One bag of color 6867 is sitting here just waiting for me to stop typing! I'm thinking crochet rather than knit, but we'll see.

It's going to be a long yarn-filled year I think.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Plan

Happy New Year! As frantic as the holidays can be - especially when you own and/or work in a retail store, I do love the fresh clean slate the New Year brings.

2007 has been a great year - certainly not without it's issues and such, but as I reflect back the issues truly seem minor in the grand scheme of things. It's certainly been a great year for fiber arts! Knitting has stayed strong and everyone's enthusiasm both in the store and on-line has been simply awesome. So many great new yarns, so many new books and what I think has been the biggest influence - the on-line community. From indy bloggers to forums to the world known as Ravelry, there is no question that the internet has had a significant influence and will continue to do so. The simple fact that we can all communicate, share ideas, discuss patterns, resolve problems and just simply enjoy communicating with others who share a similar passion, despite where we live, is simply awesome. That's not to say this mode of communication is perfect. Those "send" and "post" buttons can sometimes be clicked so quickly that we sometimes "type" before we "think".

As Pixie and I discussed on last week's podcast, I am pretty pleased with some of the new skills I've developed this year as a knitter, but I'd have to say that overall, I'm disappointed with my FO's or should I say, lack there of. There is no question that I have a finishing issue. I could resolve to not start another project before I finish the ones already in progress, but quite honestly, that is simply setting myself up to fail. There are enough things in life that don't go as planned, I don't need to add to that knowingly. I am going to try to concurrently work on something new and a WIP. I leave for TNNA next week and I'll be bringing along a long-in-the-works sweater and a new project for an event we're doing next month. I honestly get the best knitting/crocheting done when I'm flying - even more so than in the car.

Pixie and I also talked about some of the projects that we are going to work on this year on the podcast and they are definitely centered around skills I want to work on such as colorwork and mittens. I also want to get more competent with socks - yes I knit them this year, but I still really have to think about what I'm doing with a lot of stops and starts and double checking notes or with someone at the store. In general, I'm most interested in just knitting and crocheting more. I also want to dabble a bit more in designing both for our catalog and beyond. Please know, I use the word "designing" very loosely, but that little Vermont Felted Bag certainly held it's own this year.

What about all of you? What's your plan for the year? What are you hoping to accomplish both skillwise and project wise? Do you even have a plan or are you just going to go with the flow?

I've got some pictures to catch you all up on - a great sweater that appeared during the mayhem, some shots from our after Christmas pandemonium, I mean sale and a few other nuggets, including a few behind the scenes shots of one of our big projects that we've had in the works. I'll get to all of the that in the next day or so. I'll simply leave you with what truly the past couple of weeks have been all about, no matter how chaotic work and such have been:

Treats for Santa and the reindeer and Christmas morning.


P.S. How is this larger picture format?

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