Back Home In Minnesota (the place I love to go-ta!)

I love home. I can’t even begin to describe how deeply I’m moved whenever I walk through my door, see my pets and my kitchen, go upstairs and see the kids and Gerry asleep – a redeye is a rough thing, but the arrival home at 7:00 am is pure gold.

So now I’m home, I slept a LOT of yesterday away (and was incoherent the other part) but in my half awake state I got a buttload of swatching done. I’m feeling slightly feverish though, so I’ll be sitting and knitting quite a bit.

I‘m toying with the idea of designing a felted jacket that could also be a NON felted jacket, depending on what size you make (and the care you give it post finishing) I could just have my head up somewhere it shouldn’t be, but it seems to me that a LOT of folks felt garments without meaning to, and if I can work out the formula it would be cool to be able to write, “For a felted jacket in size X, knit size Y and then launder it and steam block it thoroughly after drying…”

Or not – maybe it’s a dopey idea, or maybe it’s really smart… Odd how many ideas walk that thin line between madness and brilliance, huh?

And now for some dirty details about things that I saw at TNNA. If I visited your booth, or ran into you, and I’m not mentioning it here – please, PLEASE do comment or email me and let me know! It’s not intentional, it’s not a dis, it’s just a foggy brain and forgetfulness!

I tried to get a business card from folks I met, and jot notes down, but I forget a lot (blame it on the gin… – damn you, Pam Allen, you with the siren song of demon gin!)

I’m obviously totally in love with Bonnie from Louet, and – next to Bel Canto from Yarn Place – I think it was my favorite yarn at the show.

That’s a purely personal and subjective call, though, just my own preference! Suffice to say I came home with enough Bel Canto to work up a surplice top…

Dos – The new yarn from
Malabrigo is exquisite, I cannot wait to get my hands on it! I got some laceweight malabrigo at On The Lamb (thanks Joe!) and I’ve been fiddling around with felting lace. It was also – as always – a delight to see the guys from Malabrigo, and Nancy!!

Studio Worsted from the Neighborhood Fiber Co in DC was just lovely – I fondled it, and had a blast chatting with Karida (nice makeup, girl!) I especially loved the Cooper Circle and leDroit Park (at right) colors – yum!

Beaded Ensemble from Artyarns is exquisite. The blend of the sequins and the glitzy yarn makes an erratic and enchanting sparkle in the finished fabric. I cannot wait to do something with this, baby! My favorite colorways were 170G and 164G – I’m in love!

Buffalo Gold BAMBOO – Damn! I’ve lost the label from the skein of this fabulous yarn from the Buffalo Gold Fibers Co, and I can’t find this product on their website, so instead I’ll put a photo of the fellow who I drunkenly chatted up, with a variety of cowboy hats.

The yarn, though, is absolutely ASTONISHING as I knit it up. It knits beautifully (I’m doubling it with size 6 needles) but even more lovely is the sheen and the lightweight feeling of the fabric. Unlike anything else I’ve knit – different from Quiviet, not quite like silk alone, it’s really stunning!

But definitely not firm enough for a cowboy hat. Click on the pic to see hats…

I just read Clara’s post on Knitter’s ReviewClara doesn’t lose labels like I do – and here are the details:

25% American bison down and 75% bamboo. This silky yarn with a fuzzy halo is a striking example of what happens when you properly blend two very dissimilar fibers.”

Fiesta Yarns – I’ve loved their yarns for a while, but haven’t used them much. I was very much taken this time with La Boheme in Rainforest, Verandah in Navajo Silver and the Rayon Boucle. Simply lovely yarns.

As always Lana Grossa and Muench were lovely – I’m dying to start a jacket with a blend of some of their yarns, and really fell in love with Bingo Chin
e – after all the hand-painted yarns, it was a bit of a relief to see measured c
olorwork in a yarn.

Bijou Basin Ranch – they had a lovely selection of yarns worked up with yak, in natural colors, and I’m going to fiddle around with some of them and try my hand at a little dyeing. Very cool stuff.

River Silks had some nice rainbow collections of silks, and I’m going to try some ribbon embroidery on felted work, some pre-felted embroidery and weaving the silk ribbon into lace eyelets to see how I can add a little shine to a matte felted surface. The booth girls waving wands of silk ribbon added a nice Old New Orleans flair to their aisle, too…

It was really kind of cool to be at TNNA this time with NO commitments except things I’d set up myself. Very freeing! I hardly felt I needed to rush at all – although I would have LOVED more time with Iris at Artyarns and would have loved a chance to sit with Kris from French Girl Knits.

As it was, though, I think I saw more this time than I usually do, and I’m considering taking a booth at a future show to push my own books. That is, if I can get my butt and head (and soul) wrapped around my idea for a new self published book.

On Saturday late afternoon a group of designers got together to discuss the concept of a union or guild, and with the exception of one objection in the Designer/Teacher TNNA meeting, just about everyone I spoke with was in agreement that SOMETHING must be done to address the low pay scale of hand knit designers. And I impressed everyone with my ability to sign the entire Union Label Song.
I’d envisioned it as being a very small group, and was surprised to see editors from two magazines there. But they were welcomed and we appreciated their perspective on the situation. I truly believe that we can creatively work together and find a solution for this low fee situation that will benefit EVERYONE!

One doesn’t see editors working for what they earned in 1986. Photographers or models or stylists don’t earn what THEY earned in 1986. When I worked at Martha Stewart Living, a stylist earned about $600/day, and that was 10 years ago. We were told that a model works for the “ridiculously” low sum of $350 for a day’s shoot because knitting mags are considered catalog work – to which one designer said, “Yeah, and that’s about what the designer earns to create the sweater and write the pattern!”

If we can do nothing else we need to get the following information out to the knitting world:

Knit & Crochet Designers earn the same rate they did in 1986.
Lower, in some cases.

I did hear the comment, “What do you think you’ll be able to do – do you REALLY think you’ll be able to raise designer’s fees?” – and I’m not sure if we will. But I believe that putting together a forum to determine a fair minimum compensation for designer’s fees will not HURT us.

We discussed a few different scenarios, and the idea of a sliding scale for designers which will allow a designer to retain all rights for their pattern in exchange for a portion of the upfront fee seemed to resonate with many designers. The down side of that is that some designers DON’T have the desire or the ability to sell their patterns, so retaining copyright doesn’t mean as much to them as to someone like me. Which is why the sliding scale might make sense.

One person presented the scenario that other, less experienced and cheaper designers will flood in to fill the void created by guild designers who promise not to work for peanuts. And this may happen.

But I believe two things will prevent this from affecting hand knit designers strongly;

1) Established designers have a proven following. Having a Nicky Epstein or Deborah Newton design in a magazine does make a difference in sales – and therefore in ad rate base.

2) Established designers can write a pattern. I’ve heard the editors say over and over how despondent they get when faced with non-existent or badly written instructions, which are more likely to come from new and inexperienced designers.

Using designers who know how to put a spreadsheet together and size patterns (and provide a sample on time) is more efficient, and a pound-wise investment for the editor who doesn’t want to be pulling her hair out at the 11th hour before a shoot.

And – you know what? If it happens, it happens. I can’t really see where that would be any different than it is now, with the exception that any designer who would choose to band together with a guild WON’T undercut other guild designers. And in that position is power, I think.

It can’t hurt for us to take ourselves seriously as designers and NOT as hobbiest who just got lucky.

If new designers want to become established designers, they’ll soon learn that making ends meet doing this work is practically impossible, especially if there are some who can afford to and choose to work for peanuts.

Paying the mortgage doing this is hard, hard work. And I love it. And I want to continue. But I’m not supported by a spouse with a good income, and it’s not a hobby for me, and as long as I’m taking myself seriously why not invite other designers along for the ride. We CAN come up with a solution to this that will benefit us all.

Speaking of self respect and dignity, folks who know me know that I really hate exclusivity.

I hate people who try to use rules or policies or money to make themselves feel that they’re better or higher than someone else. The truth is, we are ALL special cases.

Today we had an experience with exclusivity that really surprised me – and troubled me, too.

Gerry’s received the OK from his doc to get into a pool, and with his terribly painful back I’ve been thinking that water aerobics classes and perhaps time in a heated whirlpool would be great for him.

We’d heard that the local JCC (Jewish Community Center) has a nice, private wh
irlpool (for adults only) as part of their membership, so I emailed to get info on joining. They have a tiered membership, it’s only possible to use the whirlpool for an additional ‘special locker room’ fee (or if you can get an existing member to bring you as a guest.)

The JCC dues for our family would be about $700/year, which is totally out of our range, and the price to use the whirlpool is $230 on top of that. We would, however, be eligible for a reduced rate because of our situation, and Gerry’s disability. Unfortunately, if we receive a reduced rate, we wouldn’t be allowed to pay the extra fee to use the whirlpool because that’s only available for folks who can PAY THE FULL MEMBERSHIP FEE.

It’s a perfect way to keep anyone who requires financial assistance from climbing into their special whirlpool.

We told them that we’re really only interested in the special locker room / whirlpool for Gerry – I certainly don’t need it – but their POLICY is that if anyone is getting a break in their membership, they are NOT be eligible for the private locker room.

I told the woman who showed us around that we’re not prideful people, but we do have a healthy self respect and this arrangement seems to ignore the fact that folks who may not be as financially well of as others STILL have dignity and might like to experience a “nice” locker room.

Their point is that if a family has money to burn on a “nice” locker room, then they should be paying the full rate. Or, how dare those poor people think they deserve the niceties that we have! Eh. We’ll keep looking…

For those of you who wrote with tax info, thank you so much! It will just be outside of our reality to pay upwards of $1,000 to have our taxes done, though – which seems to be the fair going rate. So I think I’m going to take a crack at Turbo Tax and see if I’m able to work around that beast!

I’ll be sure to blog about my adventure – but even if we end up going with an accountant in the end, doing the Turbo Tax route to wrap my mind around our current tax state can’t hurt!

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