Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thinking out loud.....(this is a want ad!)

As I think about moving the shop to Farmington MI (the new address is   23616 Farmington Rd) -- and it's a lot to think about -- the mind turns to staffing.  Our dear, dear Ellen cannot make the move with us.  She has a special-needs child, and she cannot be further away from home than about a half-hour.  On a bad day, Farmington can be 45 minutes from her home.  So we will be looking for good, good people, probably some part-timers.

But then you start thinking about yarn-shop staffing, and it's problematic, isn't it?   In the first place, you don't get rich working in a yarn shop.  Usually, though not always, the people who work in shops are people who are good, maybe even great knitters and crocheters.  And they're women -- though one of the best people I've ever encountered in a yarn store was male (in the Springwater cooperative in Alexandria, Virginia).  So you start with the downward pressure on wages that always accompanies women's labor, made worse by the association (it's knitting!) with domestic work, and you end up with low wages, often minimum wage combined with a nice yarn discount.  And then you add the fact that it's almost never full time, so you don't get benefits.  Finally, it's hard to avoid the hard fact that yarn shops are low-profit businesses.

But, still, it's a great way to spend time, isn't it?  So people do it anyway.  And then some bad things happen.  We have all gone into yarn shops where the people who work there are sitting around a table talking to one another, or to clients (read "old friends") in social knitting groups, and don't even acknowledge that you came in.  One of my friends, who is a great person undeniably not deserving of what she got, went into a shop and was told brusquely that the yarn she wanted wasn't in stock, but then she found it in stock without any trouble at all.  She left without buying, seriously annoyed.  I have been in shops where people didn't even lift their eyes from their knitting.  In Philadelphia, I actually fell down and nobody noticed.  BUT:  I have also been in shops where I was trailed like some kind of potential criminal -- and I even have a nice, gray-haired visage.  I have been lectured on basic knitting by people who had no idea whether I could knit or not, much less know what I was doing; it was incredibly patronizing.  I have been asked, somewhat incredibly, if I knew how to tell a knitting needle from a crochet hook -- again, from a perfect stranger.

So here is what I think:   it's difficult to find really good people.  But I have found three in my time as a yarn shop owner  So it's not impossible.  One thing that happens is that people are in a place for so long that they think of it as a second home (or maybe as a primary home, depending on conditions at the other one!).  They think of it as a place to talk with friends.  They stop thinking of it as a work place, as a place with a reputation to maintain, as a place where they are supposed to SELL without seeming to be ramming things down people's throats.  As a place where everyone should be welcomed, helped, but not tracked around the place.......a tough balance.  But a possible balance.

We will be looking for a few good people -- at least intermediate knitters and with luck also crocheters, personable, with open faces and open hearts, not cynical, non-smokers, not smelling of alcohol (as one woman did), with IMAGINATION and a certain love of color and style that I would be hard pressed to define.  I'll know it when I see it.  My place is not the usual kind of place -- I go fetch much of the yarn from festivals, and that's our PRIMARY reason for being -- cultivating a love of color, of the craft itself, of cutting loose rather than following instructions and living in terror of not doing it exactly right, etc.  So much depends on whether our staff can convey what sets us apart.  This is an interesting problem:  One woman found the hand-spun, hand-made yarns kind of embarrassing -- as if they were some kind of tic that the owner had that she wanted to apologize for.  That won't do either.  And there's always a bit of teaching, especially to beginners, and helping people with problems, even if they bought the stuff they are working with some place else.....(though we might charge).

If you know someone who fills the bill, or if you do, drop me a note at  You don't have to have worked in a wool shop.  But you do need to be interested in helping people learn about ancient crafts and prosper as artisans.  And you need to be comfortable selling stuff.   I think this is a better way to find people than want ads.        svb

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Everyone, Artisan Knitworks is going to move -- from St Clair Shores to Farmington, Michigan, within the next 30 days or so.  We need to grow, and Farmington not only has a really darling downtown area, but great growth potential.  We will be located roughly at the intersection of Farmington Road and Grand River -- details later. It's at   23616 Farmington Rd.   In the meantime, check our newsletter for important information as we approach the first week in August!!!!!   We're excited, and we're sad -- we have created a family in St Clair Shores.  But it's only 27 miles to the new location, so with any luck at all, some of our dearest friends will make the trip.  And friends on the NW side of the metro area will have a much easier time finding us.  The new place even has a terrace, so we can have some ice-cream socials, etc.   More soon.     svb

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Third Coast -- New Workshops!!!

Blare of trumpets:   We have added two new classes to the Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival offerings -- they will be in place before the day is over........See Sarah Peasley's really really really wonderful new offering -- "Take Time to Save Time" -- which, believe it or not, is about GAUGE and the many ways in which a person can deal effectively with the problems it presents.   Then there is a brand new Candace Eisner Strick offering -- "Knitting Backwards" -- which is one of the most useful skills a knitter can have.  Think entrelac -- think edgings.  And, yes, this is about knitting without having to turn when you get to the end of rows.   AMAZING.   Sign up, everyone.   And don't miss Lily Chin's fabulous workshops -- four of them!!!!     svb

Monday, July 1, 2013

Trip to Columbus

Last weekend, my friend and employee Ellen Taylor and I drove to the National Needlearts Association convention (a trade show) in Columbus, Ohio.  This one is the summer show, which showcases cold-weather yarns, buttons, needlepoint canvases, and other fiber-arts related materials.  The winter show is in Long Beach, California -- and it has to do mostly with spring-summer goods. 

I always enjoy Columbus -- which I still think is one of the best medium-sized American cities, more than livable, with fascinating neighborhoods and genuinely wonderful examples of reused, rehabilitated buildings.  The Short North is my fave neighborhood -- lots of great galleries and restaurants, good walking, and good people watching.  Also Jeni's Ice Cream which has no equal in the world, I don't think.  Try Lemon Blueberry.  Try anything.  Jeni's also can be found in the Farmer's Market (cool place) near the convention center.  We had supper at my fave Asian Fusion place, called Lemon Grass -- highly recommended.  If I were younger, I'd probably have flirted with our waiter, who was to-die-for sexy.  I'll bet he was a theater major at OSU.

On the floor, there were the usual hugs with friends.  But let me briefly note the presence of intarsia again -- I bet last year that it would fade, but no -- though not picture knits so much as color blending in strips or regions on a garment, with some wonderful uses of variegated yarns.  Both Ellen and I also noticed widespread use of really NEEEEOOON chartreuse -- typically not by itself but dotted and dashed here and there on charcoal, black, brown, etc.  I loved the effect.  One trio of Rowan sweaters featured charcoal gray grounds with long dashes, short dashes, maybe 4-6 stitches in bulky weight yarn,  which I may try to replicate in some kind of coat, though with almost-black eggplant.
There were a LOT of knitted skirts, some crocheted long garments, including dresses.  But I didn't see much that was startlingly new -- just a lot of good designs, solid yarns, perhaps a greater number of indie dyers than before. 

I liked what I saw.  We drove home through torrential rain and  hail, which is not recommended.