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    The Hazards of Working in a Yarn Store

    Thanks for all the comments on the last blog post. I suppose that that is a battle I will just have to fight periodically, but I don't have to like it. 

    I worked at Camas Creek Yarn on Saturday. I really do enjoy my days working there. So many times as a designer I am working in a vacuum, so it's good for me to get out and see what kinds of things knitters want to make, which of my designs are the most popular and why, etc. And I love to see all the new yarns. Bonnie, who usually works with me, is great fun and I enjoy working with her. 

    However, when I get home at the end of the day I am just exhausted. It's the same kind of exhaustion I feel at the end of a day of teaching knitting. (I feel it at the end of a day of subbing, too, although interacting with little kids doesn't drain me nearly as much as interacting with adults does.) I know the limits of my ability to be an extrovert. I can turn it on for limited periods of time, and then I need to go back to my house and be by myself for a while. Thank goodness the husband is the same way. He doesn't think it's weird for me to sit, knitting, and not say anything for a couple of hours. 

    (I'd like to think we communicate telepathically.)

    A couple of skeins of this came home with me on Saturday:

    It's Helen Hamann Luxury™ Alpaca yarn. The color I got is called Pearly Pink—no surprise, really, because for some reason, the pale pink yarns all were speaking to me that day. This yarn is destined to be a cowl, I think. I played around with "unventing" a stitch pattern last night. This yarn has been selling really well at Camas Creek. 

    I am off to get a haircut this morning. I am about two months overdue, but I just haven't been able to shoehorn an appointment into my schedule. And tonight is my cast-on and bind-off class. I've got all my class samples knitted and the handouts ready to go. All I need now is a group of interested students! I am teaching a toe-up sock class next Saturday afternoon. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not a big sock knitter, but no one else really wanted to teach this class and there was a fair demand for it. I offered to do it. So this week's knitting will consist of making toe-up sock samples. 


    What Would You Do If You Had a Full-Time Job?

    I thought that after 10 years or so of "training" friends and neighbors to understand that I am not sitting home all day eating bon-bons and watching soap operas that I had made some headway. Apparently not. Let's start with what the past week looked like:

    Thursday, September 30: I got up at 5:00 a.m., came downstairs, ate breakfast and drank coffee, showered, got dressed, filled a stack of pattern and book orders, made my lunch, and was out the door by 7:30 a.m. I spent all day subbing in the office at school for our regular office lady who planned to be out for a few days. At 3:30, DD#2 and I left school and headed for town where we ran errands. Got home about 5:30 p.m. and threw something together for us for dinner before the husband left for fire training. DD#2 and I watched "Bones" and I worked on getting the Christmas stocking done. Made a batch of bread so the husband could have sandwiches for lunch. 

    Friday, October 1: Repeat of Thursday, although I came home after school instead of going to town. Finished Christmas stocking and got it washed and blocked. 

    Saturday: October 2: Weeks ago I had promised DD#2 that I would take her to Missoula for a day of shopping. It was also DD#1's 18th birthday, and I wanted to get her something. DD#2 and I left at 7:00 a.m. and headed to Missoula via way of the main fire hall, where I had to leave a check for someone who needed to go shopping for some fire dept items. Spent the entire day in Missoula and left for home about 3:00. We stopped halfway to check out a new Amish surplus grocery store—great place! I'll be heading back there. Came home, unloaded the truck, cooked dinner, started an afghan for the Winter issue of the newsletter.

    Sunday, October 3: Got up, came downstairs and drank coffee and ate breakfast, showered, then spent an hour trying to figure out what I should play at church. Headed to church at 9:15, played for the service, came home at 1:00 p.m. Cleaned up the garden and put all the supplies in the gardening shed for the winter. Took in three baskets of tomatoes to ripen in the house. Sorted the fire department financial records to take to the accountant (got about halfway through). Spent some time cleaning the house, which was a complete disaster area. Made dinner and sat and watched Sunday Night Football with the husband and worked on the afghan.

    Monday, October 4: I got up at 5:00 a.m., came downstairs, ate breakfast and drank coffee, showered, got dressed, filled a BIG stack of pattern and book orders, made my lunch, and was out the door by 7:30 a.m. Worked all day at the school office where I mostly babysat a 2nd grader who threw up in the morning and thus couldn't go back to class, but whose parents couldn't be bothered to come and pick her up until school was over (don't get me started on that one). DD#1 and I left school and headed to town for eyebrow waxes and a stop at the grocery store; home by 5:30, cooked dinner, sat and watched Monday Night Football with the husband and worked on the afghan.

    [During various small moments here and there, I also managed to complete some medical transcriptionist coursework (anatomy) and write a mitten pattern for Melanie.]

    Tuesday, October 5: Repeat of Monday except came home after school. Spent an hour dealing with some scam artist who found us through the vacation rental house; had to send copies of all his e-mails to the vacation rental website company. Typed up a bunch of proposals for the husband, dealt with various mundane tasks like paying bills and sorting laundry, answered a bunch of e-mail in the backlog, cooked dinner, watched "Glee" with DD#2 and worked on the afghan, then watched "Stargate Universe" and worked on the afghan.

    Wednesday, October 6: Last day working at the school this week. Wednesdays are a short day when we get out an hour earlier than usual. Principal asked me if I would fill out the term of one of the school board members who had to resign. I politely declined. Was busy cataloguing all the things I had to do when I got home when I got a call at 2:00 p.m. asking if the Executive Committee of the Firefighters Association could get together for a special emergency meeting. Left school at 2:30, drove DD#2 home, fed the dogs, took stuff out to thaw for dinner, got the mail, drove to the meeting (which involved a conference call to the accountant who asked me when I was planning to deliver the financial records that are still sitting on my kitchen table). Left the meeting at 5:00 and went to the church because I had a meeting there at 5:30 and there was no point in going back home. Knit for a little bit until everyone else arrived. Realized that it was my grandmother's 93rd birthday and that I hadn't yet called her. Ate some trail mix and hoped the husband would make some dinner and have it waiting when I finally got home (he did). 

    At the end of the meeting I was discussing my week with the pastor and one of the other women there said to me, "And what would you do if you had a full-time job?" I turned around and said, "I DO have a full-time job." Apparently I must have sounded angry, because she backpedaled a bit and said, "Oh, I meant a job where you had to get up and drive to town every morning." I responded, "It doesn't matter—what I do is still a full-time job." This is the same woman who asked me a few weeks ago if I would come and give her and her husband piano lessons once a week because they just got a new piano. I don't think she believed me when I said no, I didn't have time to do that. 

    That question—"and what would you do if you had a full-time job"—has irritated me for two days now. I get so tired of people assuming that because I don't drive to work every morning that I don't have a "real" job. I looked at my planner yesterday and realized that 1) I am working at Camas Creek on Saturday and 2) I won't be able to attend the fire department BBQ after church on Sunday because I am teaching a class on cast-ons and bind-offs at Camas Creek Monday night and I don't have any class handouts or samples made up. I've got today and Sunday afternoon to get the handout and the samples done, and the first half of today needs to be devoted to writing up some patterns. (Obviously I need to look at my planner more often.) 

    It may not look like it, but I am getting really good at saying no and setting boundaries. I've established that I won't sub for anyone except the office lady and the first-grade teacher at the other local elementary school (because she called me in August with a list of all the dates she would be out and said she really wanted me to be her only sub, so all the dates are already in my planner). The husband has had a burst of building contracts lately, so I feel a bit less stressed about having to sub to help make up the deficit in the household income. But the bottom line is that *I* need to be the person setting the boundaries based on the time I have available. I think it's the height of arrogance for me to assume that someone has plenty of free time just because they don't get up every morning and drive to town to a "real job," and I don't appreciate it when people do that to me. 

    And here is the finished Christmas stocking. I'm writing the pattern for this one today. Enjoy the eye candy.




    A-Camping We Went (Again)

    Yes, it's been a while since I last posted. My FIL was here for a visit last week, and this past weekend DD#2's Cadette Girl Scout troop hosted a Junior Pow-Wow. The mothers went along to chaperone and help out. My friend Susan (DD#2's other mother) is the troop leader. My friend Libbie (who is on the fire department with the husband) came along because her daughter and Susan's daughter were in charge of the Pow-Wow, for which they will receive their Silver Award.

    I was only a Girl Scout for a couple of years, if even that long. I remember going to day camp during the summer, where we learned all sorts of useful skills like making necklaces out of dried potatoes. I went on exactly ONE overnight camping trip, and I remember being irritated at wanting to go to sleep and being surrounded by a tent full of giggly girls who didn't. I am rather surprised that DD#2 enjoys Girl Scouts as much as she does, but maybe it's different now than it used to be. 

    On Friday afternoon, we headed up to the Girl Scout camp about 50 miles NW of here. It's in a beautiful spot right on Stillwater Lake. (Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera with me.) After a few glitches having to do with the access key, we got into the lodge, unloaded our gear, and started a big pot of macaroni and cheese. The original plan called for sleeping out under the stars in one of the camping spots, but because we got there so late, we decided to sleep on the floor of the lodge instead. 

    All week I had been wondering how we would manage if the weather continued to be as cold and rainy as it's been for all of September. Luckily, the forecast called for sunny skies and 70-degree temps and we were not disappointed. We got up Saturday morning and began preparing for the day. Susan's daughter planned to do a "survival seminar" for the visiting Juniors. I got a giggle out of DD#2 when I overheard her say to Susan's daughter, "Ask my mother about survival situations, because she's really into worst-case scenario planning." Apparently the fact that I always like to have contingency plans has been a great source of amusement to my children for the past 18 years. (Isn't the Girl Scout motto "Be Prepared"?) Susan put me in charge of tie-dyeing, so I got 40 T-shirts soaked in soda ash (lye water, basically) and ready for dyeing. Then we headed out to prepare the campsites.

    After taking a look at our planned sleeping accommodations for Saturday night, though, I went to Plan B. Plan A called for us to spend the night on wooden bunks in a three-sided cabin out in the woods. The bunks were covered with mice droppings. I've camped outside before. Wilderness does not usually bother me. Cold doesn't even bother me that much when I am wrapped up in a mummy bag. The idea of mice running around my head while I am sleeping—not to mention the very real possibility of Hanta virus—sends me over the edge. I. Don't. Like. Mice. I would much preferred to have brought our own tent. I chickened out and told DD#2 that we would sleep in the truck that night, instead.

    The rest of the Girl Scouts (from troops all over the county) arrived and the seminars went swimmingly. Each group (there were four) of about a dozen girls cooked dinner over their campfires. Only one group spilled their pot of stew. After dinner, I went out to the gathering site on the shore of the lake and built a campfire there while everyone else cleaned up and attended the closing ceremony. I was out there by myself for about 45 minutes, watching the sun set over the mountains, seeing the beavers swimming in the lake, and thinking again how incredibly lucky I am to get to live in such a beautiful place (and wishing I had remembered the camera). 

    After skits and S'Mores, we retired to the truck. I put the back seats of the MegaCab down and they made a nice, flat, 5' x 5' surface for DD#2 and her friend to lay their sleeping bags on. I took the front seat. While I wouldn't want to sleep there every night, it was fine for one night and there were no mice. And when I got up, I noticed that several other groups had also elected to sleep in their vehicles. 

    I left early yesterday morning to come home and shower and be the pianist at church, then went back up and helped Susan load up girls and gear. It was a fun weekend, but I am glad that it's over. 

    I finished the toe of the Christmas stocking last night, but I don't like how it looks. I was tired when I did it and I should have just set it aside. I need to take it out today and redo it. The toe notwithstanding, I am so pleased with the way the stocking turned out. 

    Debbie, I am still thinking about the idea of a class on Brioche stitch. I am going to try to work on that this month, and I'll keep you posted. The class itself is the easy part—getting it set up as an online class with password access is where I am getting hung up at the moment. 


    Head Blind

    It's very rare that I "see" a design in my head, so when that happens I want to take full advantage of the opportunity. I was flipping through Nicky Epstein's book Knitting Over the Edge when the pattern for the appliqued holly leaves and berries leaped out at me. I spent a few minutes musing about how they could be incorporated into a Christmas stocking with cables. All of a sudden—boom!—I had a clear idea in my head of what the stocking should look like. 

    Having an idea is not the same as having a finished object, but being able to hold the idea in my head while I translate it into reality is a huge help. I was able to try and discard three or four ideas without getting discouraged, because I knew it was simply a matter of finding what worked. And find it I did! I am now about halfway through the stocking; it's flying along because I am having such fun working on it and watching it develop. That hasn't happened with my knitting in quite a while. 

    This stocking pattern will be in the Winter issue of the newsletter, and it's also going to be a class I teach at Camas Creek in November. Stay tuned.

    DD#1 asked me to make an afghan for her dorm room. She wanted something in "raspberry." I liked working with the Berroco Vintage Worsted so much that I ordered some of the Vintage Chunky in the color "Dewberry." That will be the next project to go on the needles, and it's also destined for the Winter issue. 

    The husband had his picture taken at a fire the other day:

    I feel so much safer with him around. 

    My friend Debbie stopped me in the hallway at school the other day and said, "Wow, your chicken coop looks like the Hyatt Regency! I am worried that my chickens are going to want to go and live at your house!" The husband does not think it is funny that the entire community is commenting on his chicken coop project. He takes his building projects very seriously. 

    I went down to the storage room in the basement the other day to get some meat out of the freezer. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something moving along the shelving. It was a mouse! A big, fat one! The husband immediately put down four traps and the next morning we caught the little bugger, and the next day we caught one of his friends. I hope word gets back to the others that they should just stay out. Rusty and Lila are actually very good mousers (Rusty catches them and Lila eats them), but they have a tendency to be pretty destructive while looking for vermin. Rusty once completely dismantled the woodpile in an attempt to catch a mouse. I would rather they didn't dismantle my house, so we'll stick with the traps for now. 

    I miss the black rat snakes we used to have living in our house in Pennsylvania. I'd be happy to have one or two in my basement. Snakes don't bother me. Mice bother me. 


    A Huge, Gigantic Errata and a Fun Book

    When my friend Robert and I played trombone together in the high school band, he used to tell us (the rest of the section) that if we were going to make a mistake, we should make a big one. Really? I used to think he was nuts, but now I know what he meant. 

    This mistake is a big one. The Shifting Sands Afghan, which appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of Twists and Turns®: The Newsletter for Lovers of Cable Knitting, is unknittable in its current format. Well, it's knittable, but what you get when you try to knit that pattern bears absolutely no resemblance to the finished object in the picture. As far as I can tell, the mistake crept in when I did the layout, because my test-knitter Jamie knit the actual afghan and did a lovely job with it. She would have told me if the pattern was hosed.

    So—if you've tried to knit the afghan and couldn't figure out what was wrong (it wasn't you), or if you want to include the errata with your back issues, you may download the errata PDF and print it out. 

    A thousand apologies if you tried to knit that afghan and I ruined your day. I really didn't mean to.

    And now, on to something fun.

    I was at Borders the other day getting a book for DD#2's book report when I found this book in the knitting section. It had Ohio—my home state!—in the title, so of course I had to buy it. What a find! And how educational for me, who grew up right outside of Cleveland. From the inside cover:

    Paris, Mila, London . . . Cleveland? Yes, it's true. For decades, this Midwestern city of grit and steel remained at the forefront of American fashion. Cleveland was home to such garment makers as the Ohio Knitting Mills, which created knitwear designs for department stores from Sears to Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as for hundreds of labels, from Van Heusen to Pendleton.

    Oh. My. Goodness. Who knew? I had no idea. 

    Author Steven Tatar discovered a treasure trove of mint-condition knitwear and patterns when he acquired the mill's archive in 2005. Now, working with the original garments, from the 1940s through the 1970s, he has painstakingly adapted twenty-six colorful knitwear projects for the home knitter. 

    The patterns are interesting and I could see myself knitting some of them (I love the dress on the cover), but what really fascinates me is the history of the mill and the garment industry sprinkled throughout the book. I'd love to tour the mill, but unfortunately it's closed now. But can you imagine what it must have been like in its heyday? Thank goodness for people who are making an effort to keep this history alive. 

    The chicken coop continues apace.

    You should hear the questions I get from our neighbors, the UPS man, etc. Someone thought it was a new in-law house. Everyone wants to know how many chickens we're getting. I told the husband he is going to have to change his name to Frank Perdue (those of you from Maryland will get that joke). 

    We're enjoying a bit of Indian Summer now. I'm still picking tomatoes, and I'm hoping that it will stay warm enough for the green peppers to get a bit bigger. I will definitely do peppers again next year. They've done well—but like everything else, it just wasn't warm enough this year for them to ripen. I'm already planning next year's garden.