Why celebrate Friday the 13th?

A few years ago, I heard about the regular gathering in the small town of Port Dover, Ont. where bikers from everywhere meet each and every Friday the 13th, no matter the month or time of the year.

I really liked the idea of the unpredictability, yet the resoluteness of this non-occasion which brought old friends together on a less than regular but at least an annual basis. And again I thought, WHY NOT?

So at WOOL-TYME Kingston, I'm hoping to establish this very groundless tradition of keeping the store open on each Friday the 13th beginning this month of November to welcome one and all to a pot luck treats, knit and chat night, when we can use it as an excuse to finish those UFO's that are haunting the bottom of project bags and the backs of closets, or just to work on anything that we have going.
Now, don't waste this opportunity...in 2010 there is only 1 Friday the 13th and it falls in August when many of us can be quite busy.
Please join us at 6:30 and feel free to bring treats to share. We will provide the apple cider and decaf.


You know you're in the right business when...

There are times when I have to wonder about myself. But then again, who is going to look the gift horse of a job that still thrills me with something as simple as an invisible seam...every day.

I love knitting. Not so much the actual formulation of each individual stitch, as I've done more than my share of that over the years, but I love what the knitted fabric can do, and what we can do with knitted fabric. Consequently, I often will reserve interesting finishing and repair jobs for myself, just for the enjoyment of it and the learning factor.

Earlier in the week I was putting together a sweater made of Sirdar's YoYo boucle yarn, and was once again struck by how fun it is to pull the strand of yarn that I had used to sew the seam, and PRESTO! It's invisible!!

I've been doing this regularly for 13 years now, you would think that I'd get used to the fact that the mattress stitch actually works and easily creates a seam that is virtually undetectable to the eye. But although I know what to expect, I still love it. I'm like a new baker whose bread actually rises in the oven, or a kid who makes 5 out of 5 succesful jump shots in the basket. I'm amazed and excited.

Okay, now that I've embarassed myself with my confession, I stand behind the belief that this is the one area where I've been blessed with a perpetual "beginner's mind", which continually delights in the marvel of life (in the knitting lane, at least). And how lucky am I that it's part of what I do to make a living!

But look for yourself. Can you see the seam on the side of my husband's sweater in the picture above. Isn't that cool? Here is a picture with the pen pointing to the seam.

SO, earlier in the week when I was marvelling at the simplicity of my thrill reflex, and thinking that it would be something that I'd like to share in the blog, I also remembered that we have a class scheduled on Sat. Dec. 4th, to give people a chance to learn this great little finishing trick.

Call early to sign up if you're interested in joining me, as there is a bit of homework needed (just a few little squares to practice on.)

The best thing that I can say for the mattress stitch is how many beginner knitters who have learned the technique with me and used it on their first sweater come back to tell me that co-workers, moms, grandmothers, and other knitting friends of theirs remark immediately on the finishing of the sweater. "How did you do THAT?" is the most common comment they've reported with great pride. And to think it's so easy.


A definition of Luxury that I can live with.

The Oxford Dictionary describes a luxury as an inessential but desirable item.

I do believe that this Murano glass bowl, at $2 690 (available on-line from Birks Canada, in case you're interested) would fall into that category. It really is lovely, and I'm sure even more exquisite in real life. But it's also obviously out of reach, and probably not even that desirable for most of us.

But I've been thinking lately that luxury can come in many forms beyond extravagant living and inessential things. A bit of extra time, for instance can be a great luxury. I remember telling my sister this summer about what a luxury it was for me in my new empty nester life to have the time to hang the clothes out on the line. I'm not kidding. I like to hang clothes outside to dry, but when the kids were all home, there was so much more laundry and less time that I'd never quite get around to doing it; it was so much easier just to throw everything in the dryer.

Another example is that I've finally decided to take the time to learn how to make pie pastry properly and not just rely on my adhoc method of throwing everything into the mixer until it stuck together enough to role it out and get it into the oven. We all have time involving activities that we can consider luxurious if/when we indulge in them.

Other things that I would consider luxurious, perhaps by virtue of their inessential quality and desirability if not their extravagance would be stretch jeans that fit really well, good sharp garden shears, silicone liner sheets on cookie pans, lots of good pens that write well. I remember hearing Stuart McLean of the Vinyl Cafe describe the luxury of having a whole box of new socks so that he could indulge in opening up a new pair every day until the box ran out.

None of these comes close to the Murano glass category of luxury but they all make me smile and feel grateful when I use them.

At the store, I recognize every day how knitting affords so many people the opportunity to enjoy a bit of real luxury in their ability to choose a seductive sock yarn, or a couple of skeins of cashmere lace yarn, or the amazing colours of Noro yarn for a felted bag. Each of these choices allows the individual to be decadent in a most positive way, basking in the sensuous beauty of the yarn.

This week we received a 3 box shipment of pure luxury: FOOTLOOSE, a merino sock yarn in drool provoking colourways; LIMA, pictured here, is lightly spun 100% Peruvian highland wool and is as soft as can be;
and PILLAR, a blend of llama and silk. Each of these new yarns had customers fawning over them before we even got them on display.

We all have our own examples of luxury in our lives. I guess the trick is to remember to recognize them and appreciate them.


Looking at the Positive Side of Failure.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of hearing CBC's Bill Richardson interview author, Anne Michaels at Kingston's Writersfest. During the Q&A afterwards someone asked her what advice she might have for aspiring authors who were trying to get their work published. She sighed heavily and admitted that no one was going to want to hear what she had to say on that subject. She then went on to say that they should learn to embrace failure, which seemed self-evident if not very positive, and distinctly not encouraging.

She went on to explain that it's only by learning the lessons that such long, hard slogs of being repeatedly rejected can teach us, do we find the way to success for each us as individuals. Needless to say, this wasn't a recipe for getting published but for living a satisfying life, no matter what success turns out to look like in each of our lives.

I had arrived at the Writersfest directly from having spent the day teaching our very popular: Sock-in-a-Day class and started thinking about what it meant to "embrace failure" in other contexts. It occured to me that although everyone of the class participants left that day with a completed sock of some sort, each sock looked very different despite the fact that everyone had followed the same set of instructions. They all had their own design features that were born of mistakes or misunderstanding the directions; each sock was a different size, had impromptu eyelets at different places, and more or less frilly tops while tension was being worked out.

It occured to me that one of the most important factors that makes all of my classes more productive and enjoyable is how we learn to laugh at our mistakes and what some would call failures. How boring it would be if everyone sat down with needles and yarn, and following the template before them, each participant created a perfect sock.

No one minds that the others are laughing at a mistake that they've made, as everyone knows that within a few minutes it will be someone else's turn to run into such a problem. From a teaching perspective, one person commiting an error (like knitting 2 needles worth of stitches on to a single needle to create a very awkward non-triangle) is a perfect opportunity to show everyone what to avoid. And mostly, I can use anecdotes of my own halting experiences over the years to warn them away from certain knitting potholes.

Anne Michaels was right, no one wants to hear that failure is the route to success, but it is true, none the less. Life would be extremely boring without mistakes, and consequently our successes would have very little meaning

On another note: on CBC news this morning, they were noting that the Cowichan knitters were claiming that HBC had ripped off designs of their traditional sweaters to create knitwear for the Canadian Olympic Team. Some of you may know that I began my commercial knitting career in the Cowichan Valley of BC and am a great lover of their designs. But in the spirit of embracing one's failures, I think that the Cowichan knitters should take heart that they were not awarded the contract and forced to produce these sweaters that would not have allowed for an ounce of creativity nor authenticity away from the designer's drawing board.

The sweater in this picture is not very authentic anyway, using raglan sleeves and a square collar and chemically dyed red yarn that never would be incorporated into a traditional Cowichan sweater.

Looking at it positively however, the fact that the Canadian Olympic team will be wearing knitted sweaters that somewhat resemble the traditional Cowichan sweater (which Vogue knitting has declared is the only true example of strictly Canadian knitting), can only invite excitement for their designs and for knitting in general. Long live the mass market that tells us what we want to wear.

One last point: I want to know how much they had to pay that girl to wear that dorky hat.