Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Our local quilt guild, Centre Pieces, put on a beautiful show last week. We thought you would enjoy seeing a few pictures from it. This event happens only every 5 years! There were about 150 quilts, and we've only included a few here. These were the quilts that (1) were not blurry in the pictures and (2) whose owners we happened to see so we could ask permission to post them. Enjoy!

Let's begin with a gorgeous wallhanging that Irmgard made from Asian fabrics:

Kim's "Fire Lily":

Here is a beautifully detailed quilt that Pat made. People were raving about it throughout the show:

From Marcha--Scotties and thistles!

This quilt took Lena 6 years to make. It is all paper pieced:

Here's a beautiful batik quilt made by Sue, the guild's current president:

Here is a series of quilts done for our shop's mystery early this year. It's interesting to see how different fabrics create a different quilt. This first one is from Noreen (who is not shy):

This one from Lois:

This one from Cynthia:

And this from Peggy:

Finally, here is some black and orange since we're coming up on Halloween--Deb's fire bargello (unfortunately, the camera wasn't able to see the red metallic dragons that she quilted into the border):

If you ever see a quilt show advertised in your area, go see it--even if you're not a quilter. You'll love discovering the art of the quilt.

And maybe when you're there, you'll be inspired and see a special fabric that you just have to have, even though you have no idea what you'll do with it.... and, well, you do have that old sewing machine down in the basement... maybe trying quilting wouldn't be so bad... just something small.... a pillow perhaps....

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Knitters' Day Out

Cynthia writes:
This past weekend (two weeks after Stitches), our shop went as a vendor to Knitters' Day Out, near Harrisburg, PA. We have done this for two years, and the routine has already become that I go to the show while Kim watches the shop. It works pretty well. Although I am alone, vendors who are nearby can watch my booth when I need a break or lunch.

This Knitters' Day Out event was absolutely great this year.

Except for one thing: the rain. The rain was a torrent when the vendors unloaded, and it was a constant drizzle when we packed up. It is very, very hard to pack and unpack merchandise in the rain. If you get it wet--especially books--it is ruined. (As of this trip, I have determined that we are no longer going to take books to knitting shows. They are at once heavy and delicate. I will let other booths deal with them.)

I spent all Thursday afternoon loading the car. Kim was out that day, so my mother took care of people at the store while I loaded. By Thursday at 6:00, I was finished. I left Friday morning around 10:00, which was a civilized time to start. I got to KDO around 1:00 after stopping for lunch at the Red Rabbit for their famous Bunny Burger.

The Red Rabbit is a cool place to eat. You drive your car to the building, and the waitress comes out, takes your order, and then brings you a tray of food and hooks it to the car window. It's like going back to the 1950s or 60s. And the food is wonderful. Bunny Burgers are not made from bunnies (or if they are, then I would like to report that bunnies taste like beef). They are a hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and a special sauce. I delete the cheese, pickle, and bacon from mine, but those items also come standard on the Bunny Burger. Warning: The Red Rabbit is only open weekends during warm-weather months and is about to close for the season.

And so it poured the entire drive to KDO, and when I arrived, I wondered how on earth I would unload the car. I had brought along some plastic shoes to avoid ruining my good shoes. For some reason, I had packed plastic shoes just because I knew it was going to rain and I didn't want to ruin my good shoes, but I did not think to pack a raincoat.

I got a cart, and I started loading and unloading my plastic bags of yarn. Another vendor lent me her plastic bin so that I could bring in some of my things that were not protected enough.

I would like to record an official thanks to the Duponts, whom I suspect are the ones that have given us the invention of so much plastic in so many useful forms.

One hour later, most of the stuff was out of the car, and I was drenched and miserable:

(I love the saying on the mirror in the bathroom. The possibilities for pictures seem endless.)

A vendor looked at me and said, "I didn't think you could possibly get any wetter."

Not that she looked dry.

So the loading was finished. I had brought an extra shirt and socks (also in case of rain--but why--why no raincoat?), and I changed into those. My pants were still drenched. (I apparently had thought that only my shirt and socks could get wet.)

Okay. Kim is right. Even if you go away only overnight, you need to bring extra clothing in case something happens. There was no time to shop for new clothing, because the market that night was from 6 to 9, and it took until nearly 6:00 to unpack. I was doomed to stay wet.

Once I was unpacked, I enjoyed chatting with people at the market, and I got to do that all the next day. I also talked to a lot of vendors during the quiet periods. I particularly enjoyed chatting with the man who has a small fleet of alpacas and sheep, which he transports in a small school bus. (The bus was cheap to buy, he says, and it's air conditioned. The animals walk right in the door and up the stairs.)

While I worked on Saturday, I came up with a solution to loading the car back up in that evening's rain (and what had become the wind and the cold). It was this:

It wasn't glamorous, but I didn't much care (although I do enjoy wearing black). Starting at 6:00 when the market closed, I got our booth packed, going from this....

to this.... 37 minutes. It took another 40 minutes to load the car. I ate at the Red Rabbit again on the way home.


As you gaze at the picture of me dressed in a plastic garbage bag, and you visualize lugging those piles of plastic bags in the pouring rain, and you come into the store afterward to see Kim and me with glazed eyes, you may wonder why we would ever want to be vendors.

It is a good question.

It is not really for the money. Although we make a little extra, most of it is actually eaten up by expenses. And even if you don't count that, the extra work is enormous in comparison to the amount of money we do make. It is much, much harder to do a show than to run the store. But we keep doing it. Without a moment's hesitation, I signed us up to do Stitches and KDO next year, and I'm even looking forward to them. Why?

One reason is a break in the routine. I like going to other towns and meeting new people.

I like being able to talk to the other vendors. It's nice when you get to talk to someone else who runs a business. When I talk to other shop owners, I get ideas for what might work in our store, or I get confirmation about what works and doesn't work. There is a certain amount of camaraderie among vendors.

Being a vendor is like working backstage in a theatre. I like that.

I also like seeing new people from outside our town. Every place has its own culture, and it's interesting to see what knitters from other places are making.

People discover you. We're at Penn State, and a lot of people come here to visit. Some of them stop by our shop because they've seen us at a show. That helps us a lot.

I also get a kick out of staying in hotels every once in a while. It's a nice change of pace. I don't have TV at home, so I get a chance to watch TV.

But most of all, it's the excitement. At a convention, large groups of people are excited about knitting or quilting. It gives you yourself an extra feeling of excitement to be around all those people. They're all on vacation, they're learning new things about their craft, they are all carrying around yarn or fabric, and they are happy.

It is a good life when you are around lots of people who are especially happy about yarn or fabric.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sunday--The last day

The alarm went off. Tigger moaned quietly: “I think I’m getting sick.”

We had to get going early for a vendor meeting, so instead of eating at our good little breakfast diner, we did the drive-through at McDonald’s.

After the meeting (which was no more exciting than most meetings), it was time to open the booth. We were there from 10 to 4, and we were once again busy, which was a surprise for the last day. We seemed to have more families go by. It was a day of sweetness and charm. Cynthia became good friends with an adorable little girl who had just learned to knit; and she is hoping that the girl, whoever she is, keeps knitting and comes to Baltimore next year to say hello. There are some kids who just get to you.

We saw a little boy walking along, staring at the amazingly high ceiling. We had a man buy a Kimono kit for his 87-year-old mother to give her something fun to knit.

We sold a felted-hat kit to a woman whose eyes sparkled as we held a mirror up for her and she saw how beautiful she looked. (Ingredients for hat, pictured below: 2 skeins Manos wool, one skein Wool in the Woods boucle, Fiber Trends hat pattern AC-01, make the one that's red in the picture.)

By the end of the last day of any show, vendors are tired. They just want to go home. It is always a struggle for the show management to keep them from packing up early, but XRX did a good job of this: The rule was, Pack up early, don't come back. We all like being there.

Deep down, we really didn’t want to pack up anyway. It is a lot of work to pack. When Knitter's Magazine editor Rick Mondragon walked by, Cynthia dramatically fell to the floor of the booth and told him that she refused to leave.

But at 4:00, it was time. Out came the plastic bags, the boxes, the hammers to tear it all down. The air conditioning went off. Within an hour and a half, we were sweating and ready to load the van. We had to wait our turn, and by the time all was said and done, it was 6:30.

We began the drive home, stopping for Burger King at a rest stop. Kim was indeed suffering a full-blown cold. Cynthia was simply tired since she was driving. The drive got longer and longer and longer.

The conversation deteriorated to the point where we traded cat songs because that’s just about all there was left to talk about. You know—cat songs. All cat owners have them. They’re those little private songs that we sing to our cats:

Kim’s Cat Song for her two Cats, Callie and Max

Kitty cat friends who live in my house,
Kitty cat friends who live with me.

Kitty cat friends who live in my house,
Kitty cat friends who live with me.

Cynthia’s Cat Song for her 18-year-old cat, Gizzy

Gizzy Gizzy Gumdrop,
He’s our Gummy Cat.
He’s our Gizzy Gumdrop,
He’s such a Gummy Cat.

He’s our little Gizzy Gummy cat.

Chorus (optional) (spoken):
He’s a Gummy cat!
Thank of that!

He’s our little Gizzy Gummy cat.

Cynthia’s cat song for her cat that passed away two years ago

Buckley boo, Buckley boo,
We love you.

We drove and we drove and we drove. We called the Kevins ahead of time, and both were there to help unload. The store was pristine when we arrived; our Saturday helper, Kirsten, had cleaned it from end to end. It was the best it has ever looked. So we dumped bags and bags of yarn in all the cleanest spots. There was no way we had the energy to put it back. Even with just dumping it down, we were home at 1:00 a.m.

Alas, Stitches was over for the year.

Except for all the yarn that had to be put away.

And taken out again two weeks later for Knitters' Day Out.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Saturday at Stitches

The alarm went off. Tigger groaned. We got up, ate breakfast at the diner, and were much, much busier at the market all day. Saturday is the big day at Stitches. Literally busloads of people come to the buy yarn. Our favorite moment in the day, however, was not the shoppers. It was when one of the maintenance guys came by and raved about our Kimono. He stood and stared at it, and kept telling us how beautiful it was. It is touching when a man truly cares about something that a person has knitted. This does not happen often.

We were also touched that many people had marked their the fashion-show program and had come to our booth specifically to look for our Kimono.

Kim was looking progressively more tired, so Cynthia sent her to the hallway to recuperate. She came back about 20 minutes later and said that she was lonely out there without Cynthia.

We are joined at the hip.

We decided to go to the casinos that evening since it was our last evening in Atlantic City, possibly forever. (Stitches will be at the Baltimore Inner Harbor next year.) We asked a couple of locals, and they recommended Harrah’s reef buffet. We got there around 8:00 and had to wait for the 9:30 seating for dinner.

When you have worked in a booth all day talking to lots and lots of people and have had very little lunch, you do not want to eat at 9:30. You want to eat NOW. We went to a coffee shop in the casino to get a snack. We chose to split an ├ęclair, and as we were sitting there, the couple next to us offered us their extra ham sandwich and two bags of chips. We couldn’t pass up extra food and kindness, and thanked them.

As we were eating, the man suddenly tapped at Cynthia’s leg with his cane. He pointed to his wife. “We’ve been married 63 years as of the 24th,” he said proudly. We were delighted to fuss over this news. You can't resist loving people who give you food and who are so dedicated to each other.

There was still an hour till dinner, so it was time to gamble. We had originally intended to spend at least $10.00. It turned out that the slots were incredibly confusing. We didn’t understand what the symbols meant, what it meant to play more than one line, what the buttons did. And they have done away with putting real money in and letting you pull a lever, in favor of a paper token and pushing a button. The levers didn't even seem to work. We were saddened by the lack of cups clinking with quarters, and it seemed more boring to push buttons with only paper tokens. And how would we play the two quarters that our friend Deb had given us when we couldn't put quarters in?

Everyone around us seemed to think playing was simple and fun. They were all so intensely watching the screens that we felt uncomfortable asking anyone any questions.

So we put in $5.00 without having a clue of what we were doing, other than we could see our “credits” fall like a rock. They fell even faster when Cynthia accidentally pushed the “max bet” button and couldn’t find an escape key.

After we lost our $5.00 so quickly, we were discouraged. We walked around and watched the people and the mirrors and listened to a loud band. We were able to get seated a little early for the buffet, and were greeted with an overwhelming choice of foods and desserts. It was a good buffet, but by the time we were finished, we were too tired to try to figure out anything more about the slots.

As we left the restaurant, all the employees kept telling us “good luck.” As we left the casino, we realized what it meant to us. We took a wrong turn and drove over a bridge to nowhere. We decided that they were saying, "Good luck getting back to Atlantic City!"

As luck would have it, we easily found a U-turn area, and got back to our hotel by 11. It was well past bedtime.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Friday at Stitches
Tigger was just a little quieter Friday morning. She got up only after the alarm rang, and we were feeling tired as we ate breakfast. We perked up a little when we got to the Stitches market. It's hard not to get excited walking through the wash of color and texture.

We had a booth in the back, so we spent the first hour waiting for people to get back to us from their beginning in the front. We admit that it's a little unnerving to be in the back and watch all the people up front at other booths. But we knew that they would eventually make their way to us. As we waited, Kim knitted on our Steadfast wool, playing with ideas for a scarf, and Cynthia knitted on her Wool in the Woods poncho (type: Pizazz wool.... color: Uptown), working on the goal of finishing it by the end of the weekend. Goal met, by the way. Here is the finished poncho:

The day got a lot busier as the morning went on, and we sold a lot of our Laurel Burch bags and socks, MagKnit necklace clasps, and Oceania yarn. We had taken out a section of our gridwall, and that helped open up our space a little, but the booth still felt a little too crowded and small. Only one of us could work in it at any time. The other would stand in the aisle and greet people. We decided that it was best just to leave it as is, and get a bigger booth next year. So that problem was solved.

After the market closed at 6:00, we headed to the fashion show. This is always fun! At the show, most of the vendors prepare some sort of garment to show off on beautiful models. Everything looks good in the fashion show, and we know this. Still, as garment after garment paraded by, we became progressively more nervous. Our Kimono was number 68 on the program. When the model came out wearing it, we were relieved to see that not only did it look good, but people in the room actually applauded (particularly the nice people who were sitting with us at our table). We felt a little like rock stars.

After the fashion show, it felt late. We went back to the hotel and sank into bed, exhausted.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Thursday at Stitches:

Preparing for Opening Night

Cynthia was awoken Thursday morning at 5:30 a.m. by what sounded like Tigger bouncing around in the next bed over. She ignored it for an hour. Then she made the mistake at 6:30 of looking up to see what was going on. Through bleary eyes, she saw Kim enthusiastically say something like, “I was just thinking! I think that intarsia is too restrictive! I would use large pieces of foam…pull the yarn through many holes…create an installation piece….” Cynthia could not understand any of these statements. She asked, “What is insulated?” and then turned over and fell back asleep.

An hour later, the alarm went off. Kim greeted her: “GOOD MORNING!”

It was time to start the day. We got some breakfast at a pleasant little diner, and headed in to Atlantic City.

The convention center was hot again as all of us vendors continued to unpack. We were all dripping with sweat. At 10:00, an announcer got on a loudspeaker and said that if everyone moved their vans out, they could close the large back door and we could cool the place down. Cheers rose across the room. It still took a good two hours for the room to get comfortable.

We spent the rest of the morning getting set up, had some lunch, and then worked a couple more hours. By about 3:30, we were finished. We had a free block of time until the vendor reception at dinnertime. We decided to go shopping at the outlets that are a block away from the convention center. Kim didn’t find anything, but Cynthia bought two pairs of pants and a purse.

We went to the vendor reception at 6:00, where we got some pasta, a salad, bread, and dessert. Probably we should have hobnobed with the other vendors, but frankly we were too tired. We huddled in a corner and ate.

The big news from Stitches this year was the release of Book 3 (Color) from Sally Melville’s Knitting Experience series. We got a whole case of the new book (and the other case has already arrived at our store). It was another wonderful book from Sally, and Cynthia immediately decided which sweater she is going to teach this spring for an intarsia class. It is on the back cover and looks a little like puzzle strips. Our Harrisville Highland yarns will be perfect for this project.

The market opened from 7 to 9. We were in the back of the market, and it was fun to stand at the aisle and watch the crowd of knitters pouring in and scattering. Most of them looked dazed by the time they got to us. It is hard to believe this, but they had actually seen too much yarn.

Most people just look around on Thursday night, thinking about what they might want to do. We got quite a few comments about our three Johnny Depp pirate posters. (Two are shown in the photo below.)

One of the people from the XRX staff was taking photos and came running to our booth, shooting it and saying, “Oh, I have to do something with this.” We do not know what will happen to these photos.

Some people were amused, and others thought we were weird. But we had the feeling they would remember us. That was the idea.

On the way back to the hotel, our conversation was intense. We talked about what we might want to do to rearrange the booth. Although we liked the way it looked, it had felt too small and closed in, and we needed to figure out a way to open it up before the bigger crowds on Friday. As we discussed different ideas, Kim saw a green road sign and said, “Our exit must be next” at the same time that Cynthia realized that they had been driving much too long. We were at exit 9, when we should have gotten off at exit 5.

In the panic of exiting and looking for the entrance ramp that would go back toward Atlantic City, Cynthia blew right through the dark toll booth without paying the toll. We couldn’t back up because there was another car behind us. So we had to go the entire way to Atlantic City to a manned toll booth, pay the man, get a receipt to prove that we had paid in case we got the $200 failure-to-pay fine in the mail, turn around, and go back to exit 5.

The only thing we could think of to do to comfort ourselves for being so dunderheaded was to go back to the Berkshire Grill for a snack. Kim got a Chinese beef appetizer, and Cynthia got the chocolate truffle dessert. This comforted us.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was 11:00. We watched TV and knitted for a half hour, then crashed.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Stitches Adventures

Over the next few days, we will tell you what our time at Stitches was like. Stitches is a huge consumer knitting convention; it was in Atlantic City this year and will be at the Baltimore Inner Harbor inNovember 2006.

We will begin with our travel day on Wednesday, September 21. It is 8:00 a.m. The rental truck is loaded full. We have made an emergency trip to Target and Lowe's for a few things we forgot. Cynthia needs to stop by her house again because she accidentally took Kevin's keys as well as her own (but at least she remembered to bring along her suitcase on this trip...and her cell phone so that Kevin was able to get ahold of her before she got too far). And so we began our 5-hour drive together toward Atlantic City.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is long and boring, and the van had no air conditioning. Enough said about the drive.

We arrived around 2:00, and the Union Guys were there to unload the van. They took one look at our enormous pile of plastic bags filled with yarn...

...and burst into laughter. “Hey, this is the best packing job we’ve ever seen!” said one. The other said, "I usually try to take the day off when the yarn people come." They piled the bags at the booth.

The union guys then looked at the pile at the booth and said, “Thanks for the good laugh!”

Mary, the vendor next to us, wandered over a few minutes later, looked at the pile of plastic bags at our booth.....

....and said, “Is this your first show?”

Believe it or not, it wasn’t. We have discovered over two years of doing quite a few shows that large, clear plastic bags have several advantages:

1. They hold a lot more yarn in a smaller space.

2. They are easier for us to lift and move than a box.

3. You can see the yarn through them. We can look for all the Manos, or all the Oceania, and organizing is faster.

By 6:00, after working for 4 hours with no air-conditioning (we looked forward to the next day when they were to turn it on for the convention-goers) our booth started looking finished.

Mary said, “You girls are amazing!” We did not feel amazing. We felt hot and tired. It had been a long day. We were allowed to work only until 6:00 that evening before they locked the doors, so we left for the night.

We have found that is is best to eat well when we are doing this kind of work, so we had a great meal at a place called the Berkshire Grill. If you ever go to Atlantic City, we recommend this restaurant.

After dinner, we wanted very much to relax in the hotel, but the day was not quite done. We needed to pick up a few things from Lowe’s: a hand-cart to take our overload yarn to the truck, which was going to be parked far, far away from our booth, a plastic box to put the yarn in, bungie cords to keep it all together. While we were at it, we also found a box for displaying fabric in the shop. And Kim found a rug and some worklights for home. It was a successful side trip.

We were back in the hotel room by 10:00, and after calling the Kevins and knitting a bit, we collapsed and fell asleep.