Friday, June 27, 2008

Local Support

For obvious reasons, we believe in supporting local businesses. We try to do so as much as we can. But sometimes you don't even know that certain businesses are out there. To help everyone support local business, there is a new website for Centre County.

Check it out:

If you discover one of these businesses through this site, let them know you found them on Sustainable Local! And of course be sure you bookmark the site for future reference.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Anniversary Memories: Scarf Fest

The first and second years we were open, scarf knitting was a huge trend. The number of people knitting scarves was breathtaking, and this was true not only in our shop, but across the country. Bamboo needles were in short supply; we heard that it was because there wasn't enough bamboo to make them fast enough. (Anyone who knows anything about bamboo growth rates would find this statement astonishing.)

So we decided to have an event around scarf knitting. We would call it "Scarf Fest."

We decided to buy extra yarn for this event. It was hard to find yarn at that point because novelties were so scarce, so we bought what we could. We weren't sure how much to order, but we knew we needed a lot. It arrived....and arrived....and arrived, in amazing amounts. We put it in the back room, in anticipation of the Big Night.

That, too, arrived. We closed at 5:30, our usual time, and then we had a half hour till Scarf Fest was to commence. One person wanted to come in early, but we wouldn't let her. We were sure she was trying to get a leg up on the other customers. (Later, she would tell us that she only had a few minutes between work and another appointment, and she was sorry she missed the event.)

In that half hour, we opened bag after bag of yarn. We piled it on our back table. The amount of yarn was amazing. We apologize for not having a photo. Words cannot do this story justice.

And then we opened the doors.

Our customers arrived--lots of them. They all looked at the heaps of yarn on the back table, got a glazed--or confused--look, walked past the table, and went to the familiar types of yarn they had been buying.

It took us years to sell all that scarf yarn.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

To Market, To Market...

Greetings from Columbus, Ohio! While Misty watches the shop at home, we've been here since Thursday indulging in the fiberlicious annual event that is TNNA's Fall Market. Each June, we head to Columbus for a long weekend of browsing, comparing, and eventually buying great yarn, patterns, notions, and other goodies to fill our shop.

It is always summer-hot when we are in Columbus, right when we're purchasing warm, cozy yarns to keep you knitting all through the fall and winter. (Although buying winter yarns while wandering around in flip-flops sounds difficult, it's not nearly as painful as what quilt manufacturers put us through. Our sales reps arrive in February laden down with suitcases full of Christmas fabric swatches.)

We left on Thursday because we had an important and exciting event Friday lunchtime: the Retailer's Luncheon. As yummy as the Asian Chicken Salad was, that wasn't our reason for attending. Our main motivation was the lunch talk by the Yarn Harlot herself, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Stephanie taught us the interesting statistic that knitters outnumber golfers by 2 to 1, which got us also to wondering how many quilters there are in the world!

After Friday's lunch, we attended a class on making better use of our retail space. Basically, that meant helping us learn how to fit into our shop all the fabulous stuff we were planning to buy. (This is always our annual concern. Kim more than Cynthia.)

After a quick dinner, we headed to the main ballroom for the Fashion Show.

Now, maybe we shouldn't admit this on a public blog ... but the truth is that we are both fairly sneaky. (Hildegard--that's Cynthia's mom--if you're reading this, you can skip next couple of paragraphs.)

There was an enormous line of knitting shop owners snaked around the convention center waiting to get in. That seemed just too long. So we figured out where the door was and then just stood near the entrance in a nonchalant, "we're just chatting" kind of way. Just before 7:00, the doors opened and the line began slowly moving in. We sidled our way in with the early crowd.

The ballroom was setup just like a New York runway show. The runway ran out into the middle of the ballroom with rows upon rows upon rows of chairs heading out from it. Because Cynthia is short, she always likes being right up front. We immediately headed to the front rows closest to the stage. Just as we were taking our seats in the second row, Kim noticed that the front VIP row had two unreserved seats. So we moved up.

After viewing 130+ garments, we noticed a few trends for fall and winter. We saw lots and lots of lace, both in shawls and as detail work added to sweaters. Sweaters were fitted to flatter, moving away from oversized, and the general gauge of the yarn used was smaller. Thinner yarn may take longer to knit, but it creates a fabric that drapes better and is more flattering. Fair Isle is resurging, both in traditional patterns that reflects its Scandinavian roots and in updated designs that suit a casual, modern sensibility.

Saturday morning is when the market opens. This is our entire purpose for being here. From the moment the market opens on Saturday until we leave sometime on Monday, we are consumed by the enormity of the task before us. Hundreds of vendors set out their stalls offering their wares. It takes almost all of Saturday just to walk the entire floor, browsing in various booths, picking up literature and samples, and talking with representatives.

One walk through is never enough because there are always booths we miss. Very often, after leaving one booth, we are so engrossed in discussing what we saw that we walk down an entire row without even noticing what is around us. This leads to confusion as to whether we've actually been down that row or not.

Generally, we buy very little on Saturday, knowing that we can come back on Sunday and Monday. But this year we had a mission! We knew that we were in dire need of more buttons. So we decided to order them while we were fresh on Saturday. We ordered lots and lots of buttons from two new vendors. You can expect to see them in September. (Remember, we're always working 3-6 months ahead. There is no instant gratification allowed for shop owners.)

The rest of Saturday, we walked and walked and talked and thought and then walked some more. We petted yarn and tried knitting needles, sniffed some wool wash and tasted chocolate-covered huckleberries from Mountain Colors, and managed the bulging piles of order forms and brochures we were collecting.

Usually, Saturday night is full of comparisons and prioritizations as we evaluate and consider everything we saw that day. But this year, we got a bit of a reprieve as we met our friends Suzie and Myra from Woolbearers for dinner at BD's Mongolian Grill. (Highly recommended if you need to eat in Columbus.) After dinner, we took the hotel shuttle to the Columbus Arts Fest, where we coincidentally learned local quilter Sandy Garris had a booth. Of course we had to visit her!

Sunday was much of the same. One highlight for Cynthia was talking to Nicky Epstein about Nicky's new book, Crocheting on the Edge, along with an upcoming gorgeous new knitting book due out in November, Knitting on Rop of the World. (Nicky doesn't sleep much. We asked.) Nicky made Cynthia try on a shrug, and then Kim took their picture together. Nicky said that the picture may appear on her blog. We don't know if the picture will have turned well out enough to make the blog. But even if it doesn't, read her. Buy her books. We absolutely fell in love with Nicky. There is no one sweeter or more enthusiastic about knitting and crochet.

We walked some more and thought some more, and by the end of the afternoon began to have a plan for fall. We placed some orders right before close and then came back to the hotel where we've planned the rest of our orders. Tomorrow we will return and if all goes well, we'll be back on the road to State College by 2:00 Monday afternoon and arrive by bedtime.

And we'll see you Tuesday for the first day of our anniversary sale! (If we look a little tired, you know why! Who planned this crazy schedule?)

Monday, June 02, 2008

June 2: Our Birthday

Today is June 2. Exactly 5 years ago today, we opened our doors. It is a date that will remain with us, like any other birthday or anniversary in our lives. If you knew us that summer, you might remember a store that looked like the above picture.

We'll actually be celebrating our anniversary next week, from June 10 to 16, because of scheduling convenience--but there is no better time to reminisce about our opening than today, our real birthday.


We said in our newsletter that we started with just a broom, a roll of toilet paper, and a dream. That much is true.

Reality soon hit that dream smack in its head, and the scrambling began. We had to figure out who our vendors would be, call them, and get sales reps to our doors so we could buy things to fill the store.

It seems incredible, but just 5 years ago, companies did not show their lines of products on their websites. Today, we would be able to hit the Internet, figure out what we wanted, call the companies, and wait for the UPS delivery. (Well, it's not quite that simple, but you get the idea.)

Way back then--all of 5 years ago--we had to wait for reps to come to us with their samples so we could see what we wanted to buy. (By the way, we still prefer seeing reps to buying on the Internet today. As everyone knows, with fabric and yarn, it's better to see the colors and textures in person.)

We scrambled hard, and lots of things fell our way. Within a month, our store looked like the top picture. That was looking in from the front. From the back, we looked like this:

We had so much empty space that when the quilt guild asked us if we would like to have a quilt frame set up so that people could come in and quilt, we happily accommodated them to make the store look more full. It was pleasant having the quilters in there working. We still love that the best about our classes--the store is full of happy, busy people.

We kept going. By September of 2003, the store looked like this, and we celebrated with a Grand Opening:

Looking at the short transformation in these pictures, even we're amazed. But the best part is that we kept at it, and we're still here. And now look at us:

We admit it. We like having grown up.