Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Children and Work

Tonight, with two wonderful part-time employees in attendance at the Wed. night knit group, there was a fabulous, though troubling, conversation at Artisan Knitworks about minimum wage and children.   We all agreed that nobody on this Earth can survive on less than 16,000 a year.  But then one said -- she thought controversially -- that maybe kids ought to earn less than adults for their first job.  It seems wrong, she reasoned, for a kid with no experience to earn the same fifteen (proposed) dollars as an older, more experienced household head.  I wondered whether kids HAD to earn money most of the time, in the sense of financial necessity, or whether they just wanted 'stuff'; if the latter, I said, maybe they should read books instead.   No better chance to read books will ever appear in any of our lives than when young.  Later, time never appears.   Time has to be made.

So -- what do I really think about this?   The historian in me hears "child labor" in any mention of reduced wages for kids -- that's more or less what people said in, say, the 1890s when they hired kids to run looms or heavy machinery instead of adults ("Kids don't have the life experience, so why should they earn the same amount?") and then of course they'd hire nothing but kids and laugh all the way to the bank.  On the other hand: Kids don't have families to raise.  Moms and dads have greater responsibility ordinarily, unless children are working under extraordinary duress.   I think of the kids who had to get special work permits (all of which began at the turn of the 20th century) to get out of school when schooling became compulsory in order to earn money for the family.

I guess I think, finally, that flipping a hamburger, or running a loom, or washing a car, is the same for kids and adults.   If we pay people based on what they DO, then I think wages should be the same -- maybe a better minimum wage would help kids spend fewer hours working and more hours reading (or walking, or painting).   The real question is how to persuade employers and the citizenry to take THEIR responsibilities seriously:  Work deserves good pay, regular pay raises, and fair treatment.  If unions really bite the dust, then it will be up to policy makers (popularly elected, remember) to insist on it -- that's why we have unions, by the way.  If we want smart leaders, we need to support kids in every sense of the word.  They need to have time to become whatever they COULD become.

This was really the other person's point.  He had a lot of friends who worked in high school, as did he, and most of them did it because, otherwise, they would not have been able to pay for anything -- They had been made responsible for insurance, clothes, etc.   And he reminded us that, in Europe, kids are supported by community and family until they are DONE with their education; they also don't seem to need their own cars -- blare of trumpets -- because they have excellent mass transit and compact cities.

Much food for thought here.   I'm melancholy at the idea that kids are still having to work each and every day, not just as students, but as wage earners.   I did it at age 12 and every year thereafter; I have wondered more times than not what my life might have been like if I could have gone directly to university instead of taking 8 years off to earn money; if I had not had four jobs at age 14, two jobs at age 12.   How many more books could have been read?   How many more books would I have written later in life?   And so on.   What would have happened if I had been able to accept the offer at Yale-- which I turned down because (you guessed it) I needed to continue to help support the family.  And so I went to community college for a year.    What is youth for, if not to gather unto oneself the tools and habits of mind required for later years?   We have forgotten perhaps.  Or perhaps we have never really learned the value of a person's need for quiet, for contemplation, for doing nothing more frenetic than thinking.  If you guys are reading this:  I get it.  I do think the real problem, though, is that we don't support children (we really don't); to spoil kids, or to try to teach them the value of the dollar by making them work at an early age, without serious help from the community or schools, is not to support; nor do we take care of our workers.   It's a sorry condition all around.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Sarah Peasley!!!

Only a few short weeks remain.   Go to our website, or visit your last issue of the Purl Daily (the Artisan Knitworks newsletter) for information about the two fabulous workshops to be held on Saturday, June 6.....Sarah Peasley will join us to teach a morning workshop on Entrelac, and then an afternoon workshop on Intarsia -- an updated, very exciting version of Intarsia (not Santa on a sweater, though you still can do that if you want!).   Free lunch if you sign up for both, plus a nice discount for the double-header.  

Be clear:   I offer courses as do some other very good people at the studio.  But, when we have visitors, it's because they do things that we do NOT do, or, in Sarah's case, do them better than we do.  Visit her website.       She will return in July and August, but with different workshops.    svb   

Friday, May 8, 2015

Give Thought To This.....You? Your friends?

A Special Note for our Friends
We have been saddened to learn that our wonderful shop manager, Ellen Taylor, has been forced by personal circumstance to accept a full-time managerial position in another industry.  For the moment, Sandra VanBurkleo will be stepping in to assume some of Ellen’s responsibilities and to take care of everyone most of the time.  Larry, of course, will be available as usual.   But we also need to hire one or two part-time people to work one or two days a week.  Yarn-shop jobs are never particularly lucrative.   But they are rewarding, and we do offer not only a better-than-usual hourly wage but also a generous in-store discount.  In exchange, the person needs to be at least an intermediate knitter with equivalent crochet skills.  We are looking for someone possessed of both ambition and modesty.  We expect our sales people to be non-smokers, eager to sell and learn, well informed about yarn and tools, cooperative rather than competitive, willing to help us maintain the store without complaint (who likes to vacuum?), and prepared to work evening hours if needed.   If interested, please call Larry, Ellen, or Sandra at 248-427-0804.  Please don't respond on this blog; it's better to discuss such important things in person.    svb

Back from Maryland....

.....Well, I went to Maryland.   I left on Friday in mid-day, and successfully navigated between all of the semis and potholes and construction zones on I-75 and I-80 and I-70 and goddess knows which to Somerset, PA, for the night, and then to  the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival at West Friendship, Maryland, more or less without incident.  This is one of two of the nation's largest fiber festivals; the other is in Rhinebeck, New York, in the autumn.  (And don't forget about our smaller but wondrous festival in the near future at Allegan, Michigan -- check out the events list at ) 

In the past, I have driven to both -- but in recent years, I skipped Maryland.  I had thought that the vendors were looking pretty much the same.  So, while there are wonderful artisans in the Maryland event, not to mention HUNDREDS of them, I thought I'd give it a rest for awhile and see if the vendor list shook out in some way.  Rhinebeck has also seemed to me to be a bit edgier, a bit more innovative, though that could have to do with taste.

Now, I'm less sure.  This was a wonderful, varied festival -- and I did notice signs on some vendors that said "New Vendor."  So perhaps the organizers had much the same idea......

The problem is that I had trouble with my camera.  So -- here is what I got before it no longer worked (the lens cover wouldn't uncover -- stuck in some bizarre way).   When you come into the event, you are guided by a fairly large number of cops with lights lanes, which can take up to an hour, particularly if you are silly enough to come early on Saturday morning for the first day (and the best pickings).  I learned that lesson, so I showed up a bit later, hung around in Somerset, PA, for a couple of extra hours.   I arrived at maybe 12:30.   And STILL -- acres and acres of cars.  The license plates indicate that the place is a magnet for every state east of the Mississippi, including the deep south -- and I did spot a Wisconsin plate.   I'll bet I could have found more, had I made a study of it.  Here is a sample -- you would need a panoramic camera to capture the whole thing:

.....Along the LOOOOONG path to the gate, some brave souls had yarn-bombed the railings in strips and pieces and both knit and crochet:

....and here is the rather uninspiring area just inside the entrance gate -- a number of small booths in tents -- cheaper than any of the many big buildings, but also less protected (it rains in Maryland!). 

After that, no camera.   If you look hard and long at the end of the path shown here, you will see a large building.  To the left of it is a lower road lined with yet more booths and dozens of food vendors -- and then there is an upper tier composed of very, very large exhibition buildings (this is the Howard County Fairgrounds).   I think there might be eight such buildings.   My good friend from way back, Dalis Davison of Dancing Leaf Farms is in one of the tents in the photo above, with all of her gorgeous handpainted yarns.  I bought a large number of her big, multi-yarn skeins (called "Biggie").  She has a cult following in Maryland, and for good reason.  When I lived in the District of Columbia, I could visit; now, I'm just too far away.  But she's still turning out beautiful stuff. 

In the very farthest (and biggest) building was my wonderful Ellen Minand of Half-Pint Farm in Norwich, Vermont -- and of course I stocked up.  I got some really lush, saturated skeins of Tencel and Wool in sport weight, 1100 yards to the skein -- enough to do up a Vitamin D cardigan or a lacy alternative (we have patterns downloaded from Ravelry).  I got some of her new colorway, Pretty Bird, in Falkland Wool -- very bright, the kind of colorations that can wake you up.  Some other things stuck to my fingers as well as I made my way from building to building -- and, because I am trying to help artisans stay alive, I passed up some things that I will talk to artisans about later.  It's always better if small small small producers can try to sell at full price; I need to secure at least a modest discount to resell (which can be as low as 20 or 25%).  

Anyway:  That's the report.  I drove home, avoiding the same array of potholes and semis and lane closures.  Americans ought to be MORE ashamed of their highways than they seem to be, and MORE willing to step up to the plate to put things right.   I tried to find antique shops in New Market and Mt. Airy (I was assured they were hotbeds of such shops), but the fact of the matter is that both towns looked to be hollowed out -- it was pretty depressing.  So I gave up the hunt for vintage buttons, at least for this trip.  I confess that I also was a bit TOO tired -- you start to feel  your age after long hours at the wheel.  Pulled into the shop late on Sunday and unloaded my treasures to much applause.  Had the idiotic camera performed properly, I could have had some really cool images.  I think it's time for a NEW ONE.     Hugs to everyone.     svb

Thursday, April 30, 2015

OFF TO BALMORE, as they say in Baltimore....

Well, sometime in the morning I'm driving off to West Friendship, MD, which is maybe 25 miles to the west of Balmore.......yup, that's how it's said.  The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is held annually at the Howard County Fairgrounds in, well, Howard County.....gorgeous rural area, lots and lots and lots of fascinating fiber artisans, thousands of visitors, tons of handcrafted yarn and roving and buttons and so on.   I am dying to see old friends.  I have not been back to the Maryland festival, which is one of the two biggest (the other is NY's festival in the autumn) for three years, and it's time.   Stay tuned.   I get to drive through SPRING again -- here, the leaves are barely showing; as I move toward Maryland, spring will HAPPEN.  There will be baby green, then real leaves and flowers.  I can hardly wait.   I will take picture.    svb

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Back from the Carolina FiberFest

Well, I drove to NC -- a feat never to be undertaken by the faint-hearted if the weather people predict thunderstorms.  What a mess.  HUGE rainfall, heavy winds, in waves..........but I got through, all the way to Sanford, North Carolina.  En route, I stopped (of course) at antique centers -- some of them in Amish Country (Ohio).   Here is a fun mall that I found early on: 

and then, of course, the Amish part began:

Presiding over this wonderful shop (Herschberger's) was an Amish woman with a beautiful daughter, the latter possessed of a horse-drawn cart.  I have to say I have NEVER seen an antique mall with such shiny, dust-free floors:

In Sanford, NC, I pulled into a very nice iteration of Holiday Inn Express -- my newfound fave motel chain (I think that my old standby, Hampton Inns, are getting a bit dated and old -- someone needs to get after the now-matted down comforters).  The next day, the Carolina Fiber Fest opened.  Here are some interior shots, with one of the makers from whom I bought some gorgeous handpainted yarn:

and here is my wonderful old friend, Jane the white tunic.  She's from Greensboro.  I had plotted to surprise her, and I guess I did.   She hardly knew what to do when this white-haired lady screamed, "Hey JANNNNNE" across the show floor.   We then went out to dinner -- a real treat.  Jane runs Emerald Isle Designs -- we met years and years ago at a Stitches Camp in upstate New York, when both of us were new widows. 
I found another delightful antique mall in downtown Sanford (here are some shots) and yet more wonderful antique buttons and buckles (really fine, in fact -- lots of Bakelite and celluloid, plus a set of mint crystal and gold buttons still on the card from "U.S. Occupied Germany") (!).

After that, on Saturday, I was off to Asheville, NC -- the home of my dear, dear old buddy, Stacey Budge, who makes Urban GypZ yarns and rovings and spinnings.  She also offers on-line classes and occasional, live workshops with the inventive Canadian, Jane Thornley.  I found her on Hendersonville Road in her delightfully messy little basement studio, made un-basement by huge windows.  Here she is!   I was her first wholesale customer, she once told me.  And she still has only three.  Take a look at her Etsy shop.  I bought a BOATLOAD of really interesting fingering-weight wool (single-ply, saturated), some lace weight Merino in hot pink and deep reds, and some idiosyncratic fingering (an experimental dying technique involving immersion dying and spatters) that she called Magical Snow (we made up some names for newly dyed lots while I was there).  We had lunch at a really nice place in the Biltmore district, across the street from where a good yarn shop used to be.  We talked about how tourist-y Asheville has become, how the rents are driving out artists who don't make stuff primarily for tourists (including Stacey and her husband, a therapist, who are looking around for a less pretentious and more authentic art district).  The situation is not helped by the fact that Stacey is also politically progressive in reactionary NC.  I bought the kind of things you see on her desk, in embarrassingly large quantities.  
..........and then I drove home.  Tennessee countryside still takes my breath away -- and then I stopped (do not laugh) at the Berea, Kentucky, craft center to buy Larry some dry-cured bacon (also in large quantity).  No accounting for what some people want most!  Here is the craft center and its interior:

Home mid-day Sunday -- tired, but greeted by some of our best customers who proceeded to buy lots of Stacey's yarn.
Why do I do this?   First, and the storms notwithstanding, I love to drive -- though I have to say it's much less fun with the number of highways under construction (what a mess in America!) and multiplications of huge semis.  Second, and more important, Artisan Knitworks continues to support small producers, the largely female artisans who sell their wares mostly at fiber festivals.   So.  Next up will be either Greencastle, Indiana, or the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.   Stay tuned.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Off to North Carolina

I feel the need to get out of Dodge, as we used to say, and so I'm going to drive to a new festival (at least new to me) in Sanford, NC, this coming weekend.  That's roughly southeast of Greenville, and (if it's not raining) a reasonable distance to the oceanfront, if I decide to keep going.  I do not recognize very many of the vendors at the festival --though one of them is my dear old friend, Jane Schwartz, who runs a small design company.  I'll surprise her.   I'm a little bit worried about the weather; long-term predictions are for rain and maybe some thunderstorms.  But who knows.   If the weather is bad, I'll hang around and save my gas money for the festival later in the month in Greencastle, Indiana, and of course for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival on May 2-3.  I will take lots and lots of pictures, especially if I go to Carolina.    I say with a red face, by the way, that I did take pictures beyond the ones I posted previously at Bowling Green, but I can't figure out how to get them from phone camera to computer (!).   Nor can Larry.  The cord doesn't fit.  I'll be sure to use a real camera the next time.   I'm also working on some embellished modular squares that I will organize into a jacket; I'll post pictures of that one when it's done.   svb