Are you happy?

As I've mentioned before, I really enjoy reading magazines.

This week I was lucky enough to have a couple of days to go to a large trade show in Toronto, which would have been a shopaholic's greatest fantasy (except that it is strictly against the rules of the show to purchase and remove anything while on site.) There was everything from Royal Doulton china to the tackiest possible souvenirs; clothes to cradles; fudge to fine crystal and silver; anything that could be found in what is described as a "gift" store. I attended a seminar about identifying trends and being able to use this awareness to predict what colours, styles, options will make our customers comfortable...6 months to 2 years down the road! What a responsibility. The presenter did say something really interesting, which while being old wisdom seemed to fall on my ears with a new freshness: none of us actually needs any-THING, but we do need and want to feel good. And there in lies my job as the owner of a knitting store: to help my customers feel good...about the project that they choose, the yarn that they buy, about the support that we can offer if they need it, about their abilities and sometimes even about themselves.

And by coincidence, I had just purchased this month's copy of Psychology Today which featured a cover article about society's longing to feel happy. (You can link to the complete article on-line by clicking on the title of this post. It's very interesting.) This article got me thinking about what it is that makes the people that I see every day happy about being in the store (as most of them are, I hope.)

Many of our customers just come into the store for a colour/fibre fix...they need to replenish that feel-good quota within themselves with some hands on, eye absorbing experiences. But most need to commit by bringing something home to accomplish. I know, it's not every knitting project that brings us treasured bliss, some patterns can be an actual pain in the butt, for any of many reasons. But generally we look to any relaxing and/or creatively distracting occupation to take us away from concerns that we might be carrying around, to stimulate us if we're bored or tired, to comfort us if we're feeling sad. But there is no question that learning and perfecting any skill is a true path to what can be called happiness.

And of course, then I had to ask myself what it is that makes me happy, and I realized that just like all of you that I meet everyday, I love developing new skills...for me these are perfecting knitting techniques and pattern writing skills of course, but other skills that give me a real sense of having fun are writing this blog and putting together the newsletter, learning to kayak, learning more about meditation and yoga, learning how to be a good parent to young adults, learning how to run a profitable/sustainable business in difficult times, learning how to avoid being overwhelmed with trying to keep up with details, learning how to make the cardio and weight machines at the gym work for me, learning how to be a good wife in our empty-nester years, and being a caring adult daughter and sister, learning how to identify what I want to be when I grow up and working towards achieving those goals even if it means that I have to let go of some of the things that I've gotten into the habit of doing, or if it means getting up earlier, or going to bed later, or watching less TV, or having one of the staff work out a fun pattern that I'd like to do myself.

None of us can do it all, but we can choose what we really do want to do and hope that our family doesn't notice that they're getting leftovers or take-out dinners a bit more often while the afghan seems to be growing a bit faster than it had before.


Rugs and socks

Last Sunday we had a lovely get together.
I had asked the staff, regular volunteers, teachers and local suppliers to join me for a "Knit and Chat" lunch. The venue was booked months ago and the menu was set.

Then the venue went out of business and we had to throw something together at the last minute. And as these things usually happen, it turned out even better than the original plan.
The group ranged in age from early 30's to late 70's, all avid knitters except for our rug hooking teacher who is generally an all round fibre fan. And it was at this time that I was able to admit to her, and all the others at the table, that I've discovered that I LOVE rug hooking. I work with knitting and feel confident and secure in it; I really enjoy designing, writing and teaching; I run a business relatively well, but I LOVE rug hooking.

The piece pictured here (by the way, don't ever lose the usb cable for your camera. It's a major pain to work around or replace) is my first completed piece, which I literally drew freehand on a substandard piece of burlap that I had hanging around, and began working on just so that we would have a display to show customers what rug hooking was like. Well, it didn't progress very rapidly as I left the partially completed project hanging in the store for months on end, until I decided to take it home over the Holidays to give myself a different project to work on, and I got so into it that I finished it. Yesterday I bought some binding tape to sew on the back and I plan to use it as a table rug in our living room. The rust and gold are just regular Lopi yarn and the blue and aqua details are done of Briggs and Little "Super" 4ply wool.

Did I mention that I LOVE rug hooking. And it would appear that others are getting into it too. We are now carrying lovely designs on (fine quality) burlap which are becoming very popular and I'm having to reorder quite frequently. And the beginner's class in rug hooking, coming up on Feb. 14th, is already sold out and we're taking names for another proposed class later in the spring. I guess people just like the feeling of working with wool and playing with the fibres.

The other fun that I've been having lately is preparing the class in advanced sock knitting techniques using Cat Bordhi's book: "New Pathways for Sock Knitters." The lady is quite amazing: in an experience that was a lot like when Newton got beaned on the head with the apple, Cat discovered that it truly doesn't matter where you add stitches around the foot to accomodate the enlarged area around the heel and instep, and so has used this knowledge to play with possibilities that this discovery opens up.
This is my demo sock using the "Little sky sockitechture".
On a typical sock, the diagonal lines that return us to the original form of the foot begin at the ankle and work their way on either side to about the middle of the foot. Notice on this sock that that line begins at the top of the foot and goes down in a straight line towards the bottom of the heel. This gives some nice room for an interesting design on the top of the foot, or on the side of the heel.
There is still some room in this class that I'll be teaching on Feb 28th when we'll be covering toe-up techniques, different "expansions" to accomodate our 3 dimensional feet, custom fitting, knitting socks on (a) circular needle(s), and lots of other great features for sock knitters who want to go on to the open a whole new world of possibilities for themselves.


Faces of "Art"

"Not everything you do is going to be a
masterpiece, but you get art there and you try,
and sometimes it really happens. The other times
you're just stretching your soul."
by Maya Angelou

I love the wisdom of Maya Angelou.

This is a picture of a sock that I just started knitting one day with Cadenza from Estelle Designs. It's a wool and silk blend and I wanted to play with the colour spiral going opposite to the eyelets. My fingers just kinda took over and I really enjoyed the freedom of the whole experience. This was a sock design to play with, to see what would happen if...

Then about 3/4 of the way through the sock my disciplined self took over and I realized that in order to make this a practical exercise - timewise - that I should write out the pattern down and offer it on our free pattern website some month. So I finished the sock and loved it. Took pictures of it and began the 2nd one, dilligently writing out directions as I went along. I really didn't have any trouble until it came time to describe what to do at the gusset to incorporate the eyelet pattern, and then I was stumped.

I know that these are absolutely not difficult socks and writing the pattern really isn't rocket science, and I've certainly written more complicated patterns than this for myself, but I just simply ran out of time, energy, motivation, whatever else you want to add to this list to keep perfecting and reviewing the pattern so that I wouldn't be leading my lovely customers into a quagmire of knitting confusion.

This experience had me thinking about all the different levels of at which we can create and appreciate "art", and that each level has its value and each has its lessons to teach us. Writing a perfect pattern that is clear and rich in how it conveys the designer's intention is a work of art in itself, and one which I've always admired and I strive to work towards it. Needless to say, the spiral eyelet sock pattern was not one of my successes in this journey.

It is however in this way that I came to truly recognize the genius of Debbie New, one of the most truly awe inspiring knitting designers working today. Check out this website if you don't know her work: http://www.philosopherswool.com/Pages/DebbieNewCards.htm

Some of you may recognize her Madonna and Child, as we have a copy of the picture at the store. An amazing aspect of this piece is that it is life size, with Mary being about 5 feet tall. And from a knitter's perspective, an even more amazing thing is that the artist has woven in all of those ends (how many hundreds do you think that there are?) on the good side of the work, to amazing effect.
Very sensibly, I don't believe that Debbie ever published a "pattern" for this piece, but if you check out this site, you will see her award winning socks that defy the imagination of most knitters. http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0964639157/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link

Obviously, the challenges in creating these socks were many. Not only did she need to conceive and complete the design, which most of us can admit comes from another knitting galaxy, but by virtue of the fact that they would be published in a book the pattern needed to accompany the project. Debbie had to invent an entirely new system of knitting notation to explain how to "recreate" them for the bravehearts who would take on such a challenge.

Debbie is my hero, (along with Elizabeth Zimmerman, of course) for her commitment to her art, to the earth, to peace and to beauty - whether her work is comfortable for us to observe and reflect upon or not. (Please take a moment to look at her piece called "Dancing in Chains" from the 3rd set of cards on the Philosopher's Wool Site, linked above.)


Important news re the Kingston Knitting Circle meeting in January

Please excuse the woefully inadequate posting after such a long absence, but I promise that I'll be back to the keyboard soon.
I did want to let people know however that the January's meeting of the Kingston Knitting Circle is on the 3rd Tuesday of the month as usual, but unfortunately Chapters is not able to accomodate us this month (I'll keep you posted if this continues on to future months). So the details of the meeting are as follows:
When: Tues. Jan 20th. 7-9pm
Where: Isabel Turner Library, (behind the Cataraqui Town Centre) on the lower level. (The stairs are in the middle of the building, beside the elevator)
WHO: All are welcome. Please feel free to join us.

By the way, those who have come out in the past will remember that we each toss a twoonie in the pot when we meet. At the end of the year we look for a worthy cause to support, and this year we bought 24 pairs of warm socks and 8 hat/scarf/mitten sets and brought them to Martha's Table to be distributed over the Holidays.
Thanks to all who've come out.