Mess Not

I only saw one “Don’t Mess With Texas” bumper sticker this time, and only one “W” window tag, which was light years different than the last time I was in Texas. That was back in May 2004, when my mom was sick. But then again, as I’ve been told numerous times this weekend – there’s Texas, and then there’s Austin

I have very mixed feelings about my last week in Texas. The students in Austin were among the most engaged and excited that I’ve ever taught; willing to try new things, happy to laugh and almost as happy to get misty with me, supportive, kind and able to stand high temperatures.

I usually don’t stay in folks’ homes (I’m so anti social, I either talk WAAAY too much, or I’m silent, not nice traits in a house guest) but Suzanne didn’t make me feel awkward about my silences – and I just loved being around such a sweet doggie as Miss Stella!

Good Shopping
The shops where I taught were wonderful – among some of the nicest I’ve taught at! I’m biased – I’m disposed to like a shop that hires me – but I continue to be blown away by the way that fiber, love, small business savvy and a good community can come together to create a livelihood and enhance so many lives.

It’s easy to lose sight of how hard it is to run a yarn shop. Like being a parent, it’s an incredibly difficult job that brings so much love & insubstantial rewards. When a shop is able to create a ‘safe place’ for knitters and develop it’s own unique personality, THAT is quite a feat! I feel very blessed to be able to count so many shop owners among my friends.

Hill Country Weavers is monumental and has a well deserved reputation among just about EVERY knitter in TX. I definitely had the feeling I was inhabiting an institution when I was teaching there. I found myself playing the “Do they have THIS?” game, where I’d think of a yarn, book or knitting/spinning implement and then go look for it.

Guess what? They had it.

Bluebonnet up in Cedar Park has a smaller selection of yarns (who wouldn’t? I’ve hardly ever seen more yarn than at HCW!) But what Bluebonnet does have is primo! I felt like a member of the family there – everyone was just SO lovely (and, let us not forget, the most excellent wifi courtesy of Austin Pizza…)

From the moment I stepped into the shop until I left, I just felt entirely embraced by the staff, the students and even the casual customers who wandered by. A beautiful atmosphere like that doesn’t just happen by accident!

I cajoled and pleaded, but I couldn’t get Pat to do any Irish Dancing. Dang.

Yarnivore in San Antonio is just so darned NICE! In fact, that when I got to my hotel room and found the bag of goodies Melanie’d left for me I thought, “This is so darned Minnesota…”

Included in the goodie bag was fine, fine Texas wine (yay), hot chocolate (yay for Gerry!) and a bag of cookies that I SWEAR my mother used to make every Christmas. Made with pecans, my mom used hazelnuts, but they’re crescent shaped and covered in powdered sugar.

What makes the store unique in fiber terms is the very good selection of yarns and fibers, a nice grouping of colors (it’s so good to see very usable neutrals in a yarn shop – they can be so hard to find!) Melanie has a good eye for blending yarns in an enticing selection.

I also found an excellent selection of Inox Express Circs (you KNOW I love those!) and – most important – just incredibly NICE people! Melanie is a doll – sweet, helpful, supportive – and her intern (whose name I can’t remember – I’m SO sorry!) is a doll, and an exquisite knitter (I was watching her knit a beautiful sleeve, I think, in nice green yarn.)

San Antonio is lucky to have Yarnivore.

The shop’s only been there a year, and it seems to be doing VERY well (which I’m so happy to see!) and the gathering of kind hearted knitters on Friday night – with Challah by Wendy, hearty and warm (the bread – and I guess Wendy, too!) – was a lovely rest after my drive down from Austin.

Missing The Beat
My visit to San Antonio was both amazingly good, and also confusing. I think I’m my harshest critic when I teach – I spend a lot of time post-morteming a class – thinking about where it succeeded and in what way it may have failed.

My classes evolve, I try to add new things that will seem to work well, retain the most useful stuff, and eject portions that may be confusing or not helpful. I don’t think I teach the same class the same way twice, I do try to tailor the techniques and my ‘patter’ for each group.

For some reason in San Antonio, though, I just wasn’t able to hit my rhythm. That’s the best way I can explain it – I felt that I couldn’t hear the beat. I just couldn’t make myself understood in the way I would have liked to.

It really did seem to be a timing thing. Like when you tell a joke one day and it’s really funny, then you tell it again and it’s SO not funny? That’s how I felt.

For me, being NOT funny is about the worst thing that can happen when I’m teaching. My classes rely on humor to ‘open up’ student’s minds & souls; to make them receptive to the huge amount of technique I end up shoving down their throats. Hopefully in a nice way.

The classes were fine – not stellar, not bad – and I’ve already heard from a few of the students that they went home and practiced a few of the techniques and have a new feeling of confidence about some of their knitting idiosyncrasies.

It’s wonderful to get those emails, but I also know there were folks who walked away without as much knowledge and confidence as I would have liked to have imparted to them. When one is tired, a feeling of failure can seem stronger than it usually might, I guess. Have I mentioned I’m tired?

Perhaps this is just the way it is after a long week of teaching? Maybe it’s my own reaction to heat when I’m not expecting it?

Homeward Bound
To get the fare I got (which was still SO high it almost made me faint!) I had to take flights on 4 airlines, with LOOOONG layovers. My 4-hour layover in Chicago has turned into at least a 5 hour one as my connecting flight to Minneapolis was delayed. Dang (as they would say in Texas.)

But I met some nice knitters in the airport, and gave the guy who sat next to me on the way to Minneapolis a flip book for his knitting mom. And now I have a MOUND of mail to wade through.

Seeing Gerry – getting home and seeing the kids & the animals – was exceptional. Huge, HUGE thank you to Amy for the amazing cookies (which I’m snarfing right now!) The family felt so touched by that – the kids are VERY impressed that someone brought cookies over. See how my kids have their priorities right?

Future Shock
I’m thinking it’s time for a pow-wow with myself about what I’d like to accomplish in the next year. I’ve put off thinking about it for so long, but I need to form a bit of a plan. I’ve heard from Potter that they may do a second printing of Romantic Hand Knits, and I’ve asked that the mistakes & unclear parts be corrected in this next printing.

Note: If anyone has written to me lately with a question about something in the book, I apologize for not getting back to you as quickly as I usually do. The travel is hard, and I find it very difficult to clear my mind enough to return to my designer mind-set and address a question when I’m on the road.

But tomorrow? Monday is my ‘tackle the questions from readers’ day. I promise. After all, tomorrow is another day…

Tease for tomorrow: I got a nice amount done on a sock for Maxie! And I’m using a new superwash hand dyed yarn that I am LOVING!

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