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    Sunday
    Oct242010

    Have You Hugged Your LYS Owner Today?

    Being a yarn store owner is difficult at the best of times. I have a great deal of admiration for Melanie, who has done a superb job with Camas Creek Yarn. I love being in that store, whether as a customer, a clerk, or a teacher. And I get such a kick out of the knitters who walk in for the first time, stop short in the doorway, and just stand there, speechless. It really is an amazing store. 

    One of my assignments is to teach beginning knitting on the Saturdays when I am working. We offer free beginning knitting classes from 10:30 a.m. until noon. It used to be that a person would come in and ask to learn how to knit, and we would set them up with yarn (a skein of Cascade 220 for $6.50) and needles ($7-15, depending on the ones they chose). So for about $15, we could get a newbie knitter off and running and hopefully make a return customer out of him or her. 

    Lately, though, people have been coming in for free lessons and bringing with them a skein of Red Heart yarn and a pair of aluminum needles purchased at Wal-Mart. I'm really struggling with this. On the one hand, it's always been the store policy that we welcome all knitters to the store, period, no matter what they are knitting or what yarn they are using. We hope that our actions help to foster an environment where those knitters will look to us for supplies for their next project, and I think to a large extent, that has been a successful strategy. 

    On the other, I wonder when it became acceptable to take advantage of merchants by picking their brains and taking free information without supporting that merchant in return. (Maybe that shift happened a while ago and I just wasn't paying attention.) Once we teach some of these people to knit, we never see them again. They never buy anything else from us. Others think that we're available for free knitting help on any of their projects, even the ones being made with yarn purchased elsewhere. We try to steer those people toward a class (we offer lots!) or let them know that we're available to help at the private lesson rate.  

    A few weeks ago I stopped in at a local gun store to ask the advice of the owner about a rifle for me (if, perchance, I turn out to be good at this hunting thing). I told him right up front that I was there mostly for information and recommendations, but I didn't leave the store without buying some ammo for the husband's rifle. I figured it was the least I could do in return for him spending 15 minutes with me. 

    I've shared my concerns with Melanie. She's not ready to move to "free lessons with purchase of yarn and needles" yet—and that's fine, because it's her store—but she did suggest that the next time someone comes in with Red Heart yarn, we simply say to them, "We have a wonderful selection of yarn here, and we hope that you'll think of us the next time you purchase yarn for a project."

    Mostly I enjoy my Saturdays at the store. Time flies, and I get to meet and talk to lots of great knitters. Yesterday the wife of the doctor who diagnosed me with leukemia 16 years ago came in and I spent a few minutes chatting with her—she's taking my Christmas stocking class in two weeks. But what I really want is for Melanie to succeed and for Camas Creek Yarn to be around for a long time.

    Have you hugged your LYS owner today?—or better yet, bought some yarn from them? 

    Friday
    Oct222010

    The Brittany Jumper

    Sometimes I'll stop at Camas Creek and they'll be busy enough that I will pitch in and help customers even though I am not on the clock. I was there yesterday when the door opened and an acquaintance of mine walked in. She is the mother-in-law of the kindergarten teacher at our school, and she attends the Lutheran church where we used to be members. (It's a small town. Still. I handed my purse to DD#2, who rolled her eyes and said, "Do you know everyone in Kalispell?")

    Me: Hi there, can I help you with anything? 

    S: As a matter of fact, yes. I want to make this for my granddaughter (and she pulls this out of her purse):


     

    Me: Oh, the Brittany Jumper! I made that for my older daughter when she was two! It's a great pattern.

    S: Well, my granddaughter's birthday is coming up—

    Me: I know! It's the same day as mine! 

    S: Well, then you know I only have a few weeks to get this done. Do you think I can?

    I assured her that I thought she could get it done, so we went and found yarn and needles, and she left ready to start a new project. 

    I made that dress from a pattern in Cast-On right after we moved here to Montana in the fall of 1993. Jil Eaton designed it for Minnowknits. DD#1 wore the dress in a fashion show at the aforementioned Lutheran church. It's still up in her cedar chest. I can't wait to see my friend's version on her granddaughter. 

    Ahhhh, what a wonderful knitting reminder from the past.

    Tuesday
    Oct192010

    Scoped

    The husband and I went to the gun club this weekend so I could shoot the hunting rifles. Hunting season opens Saturday and this year I am going with him. 

    His hunting rifle of choice is a .30-06. It's a heavy gun, but I was able to shoot it reasonably well (one shot even hit the target—100 yards away—dead center). 

    The next gun he handed me was his grandfather's .35 Remington. It's a slightly smaller gun, so I thought it would be easier for me to shoot. Wrong. It kicked so badly (and I was unprepared for the recoil) that the scope came back and caught me in the forehead. It hurt! And I didn't even hit the target! I won't be shooting that gun, I can tell you that. The husband said that I had been "scoped," and that he's seen guys get black eyes and even lacerations when that happens. Lucky me, I only got bruised ::insert eye roll here::

    It would be nice for me to have my own rifle which is sized to fit me, but I think that will have to wait until I see how this season goes. 

    My sock class at Camas Creek on Saturday went reasonably well. We experimented with different cast-on methods for toe-up socks. I may even become a sock knitter—probably not an avid one, but a less reluctant one, certainly (JC, stop laughing). Heaven knows I have enough sock yarn in my stash, bought back in the day when I thought I might like to knit socks. 

    While I was in town on Saturday, the husband did this for me:

     

    This is the new garden, all nicely tilled. It's huge. I will have great fun next year. The husband said there are still a few places with rocks, so I'll need to get those out of there. And it needs more robust fencing. 

    Yes, our weather has been gorgeous—in the 20s overnight, but warming nicely into the mid-50s during the day. My days begin now with a trip to the woodshed to fill up the woodbox. 

    Our fire chief is giving a presentation tonight at our community library about living safely in rural Montana. I'm looking forward to it. He always has good information to share. 

    Wednesday
    Oct132010

    The Personal Space Bubble and Hyperbole and a Half

    Every so often when I am teaching I will say something without thinking and it's funny how the kids pick up on it. There is a rocking chair in the first-grade classroom and it's where I sit to read to the kids. Yesterday the kids kept getting closer and closer and closer until a few of them were almost in my lap. Kids that age have no concept of personal space. I spread my hands and waved them in front of me and said, "This is Mrs. Szabo's personal space bubble and she would really like it if you didn't get too far into it." 

    [My own kids are well-acquainted with the concept of Mom's personal space bubble. DD#2 is a frequent violator.]

    Today I got settled in the chair and the kids arranged themselves on the floor in front of me. All of a sudden one of the boys yelled, "Get back! You're going to pop the bubble!" and it was all I could do not to dissolve into giggles. 

    A little bit later another one of the boys—a cute, slightly pudgy little guy who I think may be slightly autistic and extremely bright—sidled up to me to me and said, "I think your personal space bubble should go around you AND me." I just love that kid. When it's time for "read to someone" time, he always picks me to read to. For the past two days we have read the same book about plants over and over and over. 

    One of the little girls was just fascinated by my knitting. She made me knit very slowly so she could watch what I was doing. I'm subbing for that class again in two weeks, so I promised to bring needles and yarn and teach her how to knit during free time. I'll probably end up having to teach all 15 of them. 

    I found this absolutely hysterical blog (hyperlinks lead down some really interesting rabbit trails) called Hyperbole and a Half. The husband is fond of reminding me that one of the things my father told him before we got married was "Janet's middle name is hyperbole." (Personally, I don't think that's true, but whatever.) So I decided that I should investigate this blog and people, it is the funniest thing I have seen in a long time (some adult language, so beware). Please go and check it out. Not only are the stories side-splitting, they are illustrated with absolutely wonderful cartoons. I think the author lives here in Montana, because the Rural Montana Survival Guide is just priceless (and more true than you know). Enjoy.

    Tuesday
    Oct122010

    Patterns (the Repeating Kind)

    My knitting goes with me wherever I go. I have a bag that stays in the truck, and one that usually heads out the door with me with whatever project happens to be in the queue. And I even put an "emergency knitting project" at the church for the times when one of us happens to arrive with no knitting. That emergency project was a stroke of genius. It's a prayer shawl and no fewer than four of us have knit on it at one time or another because we arrived with no knitting. Truly, there is nothing worse than attending a meeting with nothing to knit. 

    So—no surprise—I had DD#1's afghan with me at school today. The first-graders' lesson was on patterns. We started out with triangles, circles, and squares, and then I moved them on to knitting and purling. Within five minutes they were reciting ribbing and seed stitch right back at me. I got out the afghan and we looked for the pattern repeats (it helps that there are diamonds in this afghan). I love how knitting fits itself so seamlessly into math class:

    For seventh-graders studying number sequences, I always talk about Mr. Fibonacci and his contribution to striped knitted scarves.  

    Eight-graders studying geometry (we have a few) get a look at shaping sleeve caps and how to figure out the surface area in square inches of a sweater and how to translate that into the needed yardage.

    Fourth- and fifth-graders get a sermon on the wisdom of showing each step of one's work, because if one combines too many steps in one's spreadsheet when grading a pattern, one's tech editor cannot figure out where the math went wonky. 

    I did a bit of knitting on the afghan while the first-graders had free play time at the end of the day. Quite a few of them were really intrigued. I may have to ask their teacher if we can do some finger knitting. 

    My casting on and binding off class at Camas Creek last night was a lot of fun. It's always great when students get excited about learning something new. The toe-up sock class is Saturday, so that's what I'll be working on tonight during "Glee" and "Stargate Universe." I love Tuesdays.