Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The MAD HATTER Initiative.....!

ANNOUNCING THE MAD HATTER INITIATIVE and some wonderful spin-offs! 

This year at Artisan Knitworks,  I’m going to play around with the idea of warm and wonderful hats.

First, hats to buy:  As some of you already know, each year I go on a hat-making binge and try to fill the shop with knitted and crocheted hats – a few of them with scarves, though I don't much like matchy-matchy hat/scarf sets.  Buy 'em for yourself, or buy 'em for gifts.  This year, I’m going to make OOOOODLES of them.  They will be ready by Thanksgiving – so (ready for a bad joke?) hold onto your hat.  In the meantime, I’m leaving one or two around the place for everyone to contemplate.  Some will be slightly insane, as hats ought to be.  They will be made up in all kinds of patterns, colors, and weights – though probably not in fingering yarn.  Nobody would want to have to pay for the labor!

Second, hats to make:  I am going to organize a couple of special hat-making sessions on Sunday at about 2:00.  I hope to persuade Judy Champagne to run one of them.  You may have seen her wonderful top-down I-cord hats in the shop.  She will show you how to do it in any weight yarn during one of the Special Sunday Sessions (Larry will think of a name for them).  In another such session, I will show you what fun you can have with the Mad Hatter pattern (bottom-up knitted hats, sometimes with big flowers).  And in yet another, I’ll show crocheters how to create fabulous crocheted berets with free-form tops.

Third, hats to make you rich (well, sort of ...):  We are going to have a hat contest.  The deadline for entry will be December 10th.  Pick up an entry form anytime after Labor Day.  Hats will be on display from December 10 through about December 15th or thereabouts, so that you can give them as gifts if you wish.  The contest has two divisions (children, adult) and several gift-certificate prizes.  We ask only that you invent the hat yourself (you can base it on one of our patterns, but it has to be inventive, original and well crafted – no internet or published designs allowed).  And we ask that you use our yarns for the hat.  All winners will be published in our newsletter.

How’s that?

Fall is coming!!!!!!!!!!   I will go to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in early September – a really wonderful regional festival that is growing by leaps and bounds – in search of yet more fabulous materials for everyone.  In the meantime, KNIT AND CROCHET YOUR WAY TO GOOD HEALTH!!!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Allegan Fair, continued!!!!!

As promised, I have some images of the annual Michigan Fiber Festival at Allegan -- though, because I'm the photographer, they're not exactly elegant.  It's a wonderful event -- one of the best middle-sized fiber expos in the nation -- though, lately, I confess that I think the very best fiber festivals are the smallest ones, as with the wee gaggle of vendors at Sandhill Crane Winery a few weeks ago.  Has to do with table costs (lower!), and so the newest artisans can actually afford to attend, often for the first time -- so I get to see them at the outset, before they've actually gone big-time.  I also get to follow them over time to see if and how they develop! 

But Allegan is a good, good show.....Here are some indoor and outdoor scenes:

...and here is Lois about to SIN ......

.... and here is HUMPHREY the Camel (I have  never been this up-close-and-personal with a camel! 

  ....and, finally, here are the lovely people from Mohair in Motion, from whom I bought oodles of holiday-ready mohair with glitz -- shawls, shawls, shawls!!!!

More sometime soon.....time to get to work!     svb

Monday, August 22, 2011

To Allegan and back.....and back....and back....

Well, my wonderful studio employee Lois and I took off for the Michigan Fiber Festival this past Friday, very early in the morning -- too early, if you ask me! -- and had a wonderful, sunny time driving along the freeway (which can be prettier than in other parts of the state) and back roads to Allegan, a sweet little town almost to the western shore of the state, but not quite.  The festival is now a fixture in the lives of fiber fanatics in Michigan and surrounding states.  I have noticed with interest the growing number of non-Michigan vendors from neighboring states such as Wisconsin and Indiana -- but also the absence of vendors who used to travel long distances.  No doubt this has to do with travel costs.  In my little rented car, it cost about 50 bucks just to drive across the state and back.  Imagine if you were driving a truck or an RV full of merchandise!!!

We briefly met up with some other friends of Artisan Knitworks, and then prowled the one big building and then a second, smaller one in search of wonderful things for the studio.  I also talked for awhile with Ellen (Minand) of Ellen's Half-Pint Farm, whose gifted sister Carol Buskey has been diagnosed with cancer and is slated for additional surgery on September 16th.  Ellen has a darling little pink book that people are signing for Carol's pleasure -- we all wish her godspeed, and if there is justice, she will be FINE.

I will publish a small boatload of photographs tomorrow or the next day, once Larry has loaded them into the computer (I can't figure out how to do it -- I do NOT know why my once-formidable mechanical skills are slipping away, but they are).  For now, let me tell you that Lois and I found wonderful, wonderful yarn.  One bundle is made of Merino Wool and DOG -- yes, as in puppies -- the kind of wool found in double-coated dogs, the down only, not the upper hair.  Lois was, shall we say, unsettled by the whole thing.  I think it's wonderful.  Maybe you have to like dogs.  I bought ten skeins of lovely undyed, fluffy doggie and wool-blend yarn as an experiment.  I also bought thirty cookie cutters in the shape of sheep (Lois again was unsettled -- "This isn't yarn!!!!!") -- an armload of Bag Smith's wildly expensive but wonderful mega-crochet hooks for Tunisian and other varieties of big-gauge stitching (think 5 strands at once!).  I'd love to play around with wide strips for coats, jackets, ruanas.  And I will, when time appears -- maybe I"ll do what I've done with big knits -- simply work with two balls at a time and let the yarns run out, then add other balls.  What a coat that would make in Tunisian! 

[[NOTE added later:  The doggie yarn is NOT being received very well -- people say, WHAT?  A dog?  I wonder why they don't say WHAT?  A musk ox?  instead, they pay 40 bucks a yard...I'm smiling.  Probably has to do with the absence of musk oxen in the living room....!].

The vendors hadn't all arrived, which surprised us -- usually there are 3 or 4 buildings full, but on Friday, there were only 2.  I hoped, as we walked around, that it was not an indicator of waning interest.  I didn't think so then, and I don't now.  It has to do with costs.

But then disaster struck.  We got about a third of the way home and poor, conscientious Lois  (who had offered to carry heavy parcels) discovered that she had left behind the bag of big, expensive hooks.  I thought for a minute that she was going to fling herself onto the highway.  We kept going.  No point in worrying -- I have SO much faith in fiber people.  In this world, we worry about things that matter -- viciousness, racism, sexism, people who lie, people who kill other people, and so on.  Fiber people don't bounce checks.  Lois doesn't make any more mistakes than I do.  Knitters return things that don't belong to them, and so on.  In five years of business, we have had one bounced check, and it was written by a scam artist who, we learned, was known to the police.  NOT a fiber person.  We then had a sumptuous, old-fashioned supper at Schuler's in beautiful downtown Marshall, Michigan, which really IS beautiful, the streets lined with dazzling painted ladies and other astonishing reminders of a bygone time.

The next morning, bright and early, I simply drove back by myself, while Lois manned the shop.  I secretly loved having to do it -- Three hours to think about matters of importance (at least to me) and to listen to the Coffee House station on Sirius, more time to look at the verdant countryside, to smell the late-summer cornfields -- a pungent, grassy-polleny odor that gives a kid from Minnesota great pleasure.  I confess, dear readers, that I got out of the car on one occasion and walked for maybe 15 minutes between the rows.  We'll ignore the terrifying thunder storm that sprang up out of nowhere near Allegan.  I simply waited it out under an overpass.  I asked for and received a big black trash bag from a coffee shop to use as a raincoat (you simply punch out the eyes, or make a neck slit!), but by the time I got there, the rain had stopped and sun had reappeared.

....and of course the green tote bag with those expensive crochet hooks had been turned in to the main office.  Of course.  We're dealing with knitters and crocheters, after all.  Thanks to Audrey, if she's reading this, for helping me find them!!!

More later, when I can offer illustrative images!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Something Unexpected....

Sometimes, when we think that everything is ugly in the world, unspeakably ugly -- politics, the complete idiocy of political brinksmanship at public expense, the idiocy of Sarah Palin, the idiocy of journalists who keep showing pictures of her, on and on -- an image appears that reminds you that ugly things aren't always ugly.  Sometimes, it's your point of view.  I mean that quite literally.

Consider the fish fly.  In Minnesota, we called them May Flies.  It's unclear why.  They appeared in June, invariably.  In Michigan, they appear in late May or early June, and they're called Fish Flies.  They are just awful.  They cover windows with their totally useless bodies.  They are born, they eat nothing, and they die in 24 hours.  What possible utility do they have?  And they smell.  And they accumulate in DRIFTS (you can sweep them up).  Outside the studio, they formed a kind of coral reef (remember that reefs are the skeletons of creatures, so you surely can have a reef of fish flies).  Ugly.  Well........

Just look what Larry saw.  Larry managed to make them beautiful.  There is a moral here.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Candace Eisner-Strick is coming from November 10th or 11th through the 13th!!! Stay tuned.    svb