Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Living by the Nordstrom Standard

Maybe my expectations are too high because I worked for Nordstrom for six years, I don't know.  Even after writing this article, I'm still a bit irritated by Bernat's response, even though some companies wouldn't have even bothered with a letter.

But considering the competition in cotton yarns at places like Michael's Walmart, Joann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, and the like, I would think turning a negative into a positive for a customer would be the best way to get a leg up on the competition, especially when Bernat is known for high-quality yarns.

Please feel free to share...I would love everyone's opinion on this.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another Tuesday Morning

If you are ever needing confirmation that it's Tuesday, drive by my back yard.  If I'm sitting there on a plastic chair in my PJs while the puppies frolic like idiots in the grass, I promise it's Tuesday.

I had to rip out the fall-winter scarf because one of the elements was causing it to squinch up and make it too short.  I haven't touched my knitting needles all weekend, if you can believe it, because I was busy designing on paper.  The real fun begins when I get halfway through something I've designed and didn't check my math sooner!

For now, though, I really want to get through some of my yarn because I am trying not to buy anything right now.  The great thing about the Malabrigo lettuce color is that it rips out beautifully, so I won't have any obnoxious-looking rows of pills before the good stuff.

My article for tomorrow's examiner is about bad customer service, not necessarily Chicago-specific but still very important.  No matter how big or small their products may be, I stand by my belief that companies need to spend money to make money sometimes, and that the customer's happiness is the most important.

I worked for Nordstrom for six years.  The company's philosophy is to use good judgment at all times, and they have built an over-hundred-year reputation on stellar customer service.  I was in Loss Prevention there, but I still received several letters from customers including one from someone I arrested.  While I'm sure there was some sort of requirement on the state's part, since he was a bit of a psychological opportunity, the sentiment was still real:  "Thank you very much for preserving my dignity while I was in custody.  I knew I was arrested the whole time, but I didn't feel like a second-class citizen just because I did something wrong."

Then I had two letters from victims of theft, including one from Hawaii who had her wallet stolen from her fitting room two hours after arriving in Chicago.  I couldn't find a manager to approve giving her some money, so I just gave her sixty bucks from my own pocket so she would have some walking-around money.  With her thank-you note, she also sent me a box of cookies.

But more importantly, how many people do you think she told that some Loss Prevention girl who was helping her cancel her credit cards just gave her sixty bucks because the girl knew she had nothing in her pocket?  The same thing happens with bad customer service.

I will post the article tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Knitting Abounds!

So, I fact...finish the sock-monkey sweater.  And for those of you who didn't know it had a nickname, here's what happened:

I had this store credit burning a hole in my pocket at Yarntopia in Katy, Texas.  There were two yarns I couldn't stop staring at for the past few of them is a lace-weight Filatura and the other one was a Tahki that looks like (thank god Angel at the library said was like a lightbulb going on over my head) soba noodles while in the hank.  It's called's their roving yarn, it still smells like sheep, and DAMN it's yummy to knit with.

I bought both.  And two skeins of Malabrigo worsted and a ball of Noro.  Just because.  That store credit didn't have a chance.

I pulled off an entire half-length raglan cardigan in a week.  Seriously.  But when you use size 13 needles, it's not as difficult as it sounds.  I even attached the button, blocked it, and wove in the's kismet.  The yarn itself is naturally-colored, so it's slightly striped with light and dark sheep colors.  When it's knitted, it looks like the prettiest sock monkey in all the land.

Today, I had to spend the day at the mechanic, due to the fact that I have a 95,000-mile car and it's just about the time where everything is going to break all at once.  I did eight rows of the shawl on the Trekking Hands that I can't seem to finish but refuse to rip out, another three inches of garter on the Lion Brand garment I'm making, and I wrote out a couple of logistic ideas for some new patterns mulling around in my head.  I did not, however, actually write out the pattern for the sock-monkey sweater.  That may be tomorrow's project.

By the time I went to the knitting group, I didn't want to look at either project I worked on all day, so I busted out the Malabrigo.  I purchased the color called "lettuce"'s this distinctive green color that SCREAMS "Winter Scarf For Fall."  So I went about casting on and knitting and was a good yarn day.

I'll post pictures of the sock monkey sweater as soon as I can.  For now, it's bedtime.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Can Multiply and Divide, But...

Every Tuesday morning, I am a zombie.  My job involves me standing on concrete with no air conditioning from Saturday to Monday, 4:45am to 7:15pm every day, moving boxes and carts and researching SKU numbers.  While I am not needed every single weekend like clockwork, it IS my job, so I usually fly to Chicago Tuesday through Friday.

Except this week.  So I'm missing both STITCHES Midwest and the Chicago Yarn Crawl.  That's like a kid missing the Super Bowl because he has too much homework.

So here I am in Texas, with my husband making fun of me because he thinks my passion for knitting is rooted in mathematics.  I'll admit, I am a fan of math.  I don't care if it's dorky...I like figuring out the cost of my grocery cart with sales tax added before I get to the checkout line.  And yes, I do actually enjoy figuring out if I have enough yarn for something by weighing what I have left and multiplying the number of stitches I have made per gram of yarn.

But here's the thing:  I can't count.  At all.  I have to rip out the sleeves of the big-needle knit because I was looking at them and thinking, "Why don't the increases go in a straight line?"  The answer is simple.  Why count to...say...37 when I can just count in the VICINITY of 37, or use other stitches as my clue to turn around and go back?

See, there is a reason that designers write patterns.  A pattern is something you can copy and expect to get a similar result as others.  So by not counting, perhaps I could have anticipated wonky sleeves?

So yeah...I have to fix that today.

I have a project this week that I'm hoping to start, and I don't think my dogs are going to be happy about it because it's so hot here.  More to come, but that's all I'm saying for now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sweet Home Chicago Knitting Classes

Did you catch the title?  That's this week's article in, found here:

Yesterday, while I didn't finish the big-needle-knit jacket, I did tie off the sleeves.  That is a big moment for knitters, so while the rest of the world thinks I'm nuts, I am assuming that knitters everywhere are clanking their needles together in support.

Also, I posted my blog from yesterday on Ravelry, and many people disagreed with my idea for kids' prayer shawls.  I'm a bit surprised...don't get me wrong, because I still want more feedback and this idea is in the infancy stages...mostly because I think people were looking at the letter and not the concept.  Great suggestions have come out of it so far, including knitting other items for kids such as toys and blankies.  I was under the assumption that prayer shawls and blankies tended to get donated together, as many boys are just not shawl wearers.  I also see shawls as not always a fashion garment; prayer shawls (as they are often called...they don't have to be blessed and they don't even have to be real color-coordinated lace shawls to offer comfort), as I see it, is an "I made this because I want you to know I'm thinking about you and I care about you" item.  In that case, anything can be knitted and donated, so maybe I'll just consider expanding the idea a bit.

Not that you all had to be here for that line (not a straight one, really) of consciousness, but I still would like as much feedback as I can garner before refining and going ahead with whatever the final project will be.

Today, I need to write some ideas down on paper before they disappear from my head.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Who Wants To Do Something Charitable?

So, I have a new boss at work.  This is actually my third boss in six weeks, but usually when my employer makes changes, they are more on a rolling basis...I pretty much saw it coming.  The new boss is sort of the volunteerism champion at my place of business...she organizes our team for Relay For Life every year, encourages associates to get company money for their volunteer efforts, and separate from that, she's just a really good person.

One thing we do at work is save the pop-tops from pop cans to donate to Ronald McDonald House for their RMHC Pop Tab Program.  See, the collection of these pop-tops is a recycling effort, since the amount of aluminum in the pop-top is worth more than the rest of the can, considering space efficiency.  Well, my new boss wants to take this one step further.

Incidentally, I didn't know what a soda-water tab was when I moved here, mostly because the Texan who used the phrase to me pronounces it "sodawudder tab."  I pulled out my mental English-to-Texas translation sheet, and it turns out he was saying "pop-top" in Texan.

Anyway, my boss wants to start donating items to Ronald McDonald house...she has a very special place in her charitable heart for the organization, partly because she had a three-year-old daughter who died of a childhood cancer several years ago.  She asked me if I would be interested in donating knitted hats for kids and other items along with her donations.  I believe my exact response was something along the lines of "Hell to the YES!", but I don't usually use that phrase...I might have been more professional and classy in answering.

So I thought this might be a good time to kick off the Children's Prayer Shawl Ministry.  I need to do more research, but my idea was to bust through the stashes of knitters everywhere, create three or four easy shawl patterns that are little-people sized, and have people make mismatched shawls from leftover yarn from other projects.  Thoughts?  Feelings?

Today, my plan is to almost finish (I'm not quite there enough to finish it) my big-needle sheep sweater.  Taking it off the needles to measure the sleeve armholes as a double-check...I trust my measurements but sometimes I would rather SEE it in person...and putting it back on the needles...took almost as long as knitting the top of it.  Hopefully, it will turn out cute...ha ha.

Then, I have one ball of yarn I bought to make a scarf for my real estate agent because...let's face it...I'm lucky she hasn't dropped me as a client yet.  Hopefully I'll start that tomorrow. 

Please do provide your feedback on my idea...I will do more research on my end, and if anyone already HAS research that would help me in this endeavor, please forward it my way!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Signs From Above

Every Tuesday and Thursday that I'm in Texas (which, as any of the ladies may tell you, is probably half the time or less), I knit at Yarntopia with the knitting group.  This week, I opened my bag to find three projects after finishing (well, talking Sheryl into grafting) the store sample:
1.  The garment on size 8 circulars
2.  The shawl on size 5 circulars
3.  The other garment on size 7 straights...I've had it for about two months and haven't worked on it in probably six weeks.  It's made with yarn from the yarn store, however, and I always try to knit with yarn that I buy there while I'm in the store.

So as I was taking out the store sample and replacing it with a Yarntopia project, two things crossed my mind.  The first one is that all of my projects are on relatively small needles right now.  The second is that I had a fifty-dollar credit burning a hole in my pocket.  Hmm.

I was taking out a couple of balls of yarn for the size 7 garment...I did not need to bring four balls of yarn with me because even on my most coked-out day, I can't knit that fast.  (Editor's note:  The Fiber Friend does not do drugs, but she did see Al Del Bene's standup routine about doing cocaine so she feels she knows what it must be like to knit while on coke.).  In the bag, I found a coupon for ten dollars off of my next purchase.  SCORE!

Thursday night, I was on a mission:  I needed to start a big-needle knit so I could know...finish a project before I died.  If I was doing the math correctly, I now had SIXTY dollars burning a hole in my pocket!  I wandered around the store for a bit, and then I finally settled on some Tahki Montana that I'd been fondling for the better part of the ten months I've lived here.  I was picturing some sort of raglan, cropped, bulky and heavenly shruggy sort of thing, with a button.  Four skeins of it would pretty well knock out the store credit.

But then I saw a ball of Noro that I thought would make a pretty scarf for my real estate agent, who...let's face it...deserves way more than a scarf.  She actually deserves something not knitted, like a large diamond or a plane ticket to somewhere cell phones don't reach, but whatever.  I'm a knitter.  So I got the Noro.

Then, there was the lace-weight Filatura that comes in 1,500-yard skeins...and in GREEN...that I've also been eyeing.  That went into the mental shopping basket as well.

Finally, because the Malabrigo worsted is right next to the cash register, two skeins of the lettuce color jumped onto the counter before me, and there was nothing I could have done about it.  My total after the credits and coupons was $49.12.  At fifty bucks, I could get two punches on my frequent purchaser's card instead of one.  My eyes started to dart around the store.

Ooh!  A button!  How could I forget!  I made a beeline for one that looked like it might go nicely with the Tahki Montana.  It was perfect...Jack and Jill sort of perfect.  Sheryl laughed at me, saying she would have punched my card anyway, but I was not about to compromise the integrity of the frequent shopper's card when that button was so gorgeous.

It all fit into one bag, despite the skeptics in the knitting group.  Sure, I had to get some air out of it, but still.

Today, I started knitting with the Montana after drawing out what I thought the pattern should look like, doing the math, and of course not bothering with a gauge swatch.  The first ball went on actually knitted so much that I did a gauge of what was on the needles.  I was close enough to the ball band where no beads of sweat were produced.

I feel satisfied.  Oh, and the bag of yarn is actually on the top shelf of the closet, since Tahki Montana is untreated wool.  In other words, it smells like sheep and I have two pit bulls who would be more than happy to take the Montana off of my hands if I would be nice enough to leave it at toy level.  I feel some pictures coming next week!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

All's Well That Ends Well?

I don't need yarn.  Nobody really NEEDS yarn, unless he or she is currently naked and holding a pair of knitting needles...STAT!  But I'm still contemplating what kind of yarn I should buy with my impending store credit at Yarntopia.

Here's why that's funny:  I have six more rows to knit of the second scarf.  Six.  Total.  Times 39 stitches.  If it takes me more than twenty minutes, it's because I stopped for coffee.  Then, I have to attach the first piece to the second piece (it's knitted in two parts) by a method called Kitchener Stitch.  It's actually very easy once you succeed at three or four stitches, or at least enough to prove to yourself that you are not just letting everything fall off of your needle in a loopy mess.  The problem is that I have to pull out the directions every time I do it.  It's a crutch.

When I first read the pattern, I had that devious moment of, "Ooh...I'll just read the pattern rows backwards and keep knitting!  Who would know?"  People would come up to the sample and say, "WOW!  Great Kitchener Stitch!" and the joke would be on them.  But then the real me kicked in, and I decided to keep the integrity of the pattern.  Sheesh.

After finishing my six rows, then I just have to block it.  The yarn is cotton and will block beautifully, assuming I don't over-stretch it and end up with little bumps all over the edges.  But I don't care...I will still go to the yarn store at ten this morning, like I do every Tuesday I'm in Texas, and mentally spend my credit despite the scarf that has one half shorter than the second half and...well...the two halves are not currently connected.

They may actually BE connected by the time I get's early.  Oh, and in case you missed it, the yarn is called "Aimee," which is why it was kismet that I knitted the sample.

Either way, I am still working on the shawl I'm designing, plus I have a friend that wants me to design a lacy pattern for a shrug that she wants to make.  Picturing it in my head is one thing, but I have to sit down and write it; Kathleen is pretty awesome, but even she can't read a pattern via telepathy.

So hopefully my stash will be a wash this week...I'll knit through the shawl, the shop sample, and the garment in my backpack, and then I'll get that-sized equivalent in yarn from the store using my credit.

And then, as always, it's back to the desk for and back to the drawing board for a few other projects I have had mulling around in my head.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Santa Fe: Not What I Had Hoped

So while I was watching my stocks take a nosedive yesterday, I thought I would save the environment and contribute to the local economy by taking a long walk and pouncing on a yarn store or two.  I made a bet with my stepmom the night before, saying there was probably a yarn store in the downtown area.  I won the bet (not that it mattered...Meg would have bought dinner, anyway).  There were, in fact, two of them according to Google, and Google NEVER lies.

I set out for my walk way, way before business hours.  Went left instead of right.  Went to the sprawl-side of town instead of the cute side.  Meandered my way back.  Headed toward breakfast.  I looked left down Galisteo Street, and there was a yarn store there!  The fun part is that it was not listed on Google, which meant there were THREE yarn stores within walking distance of each other.  Note to self, after Nutella crepes at the little French-style place around the corner.

After breakfast, I went into the store that was across Guadalupe, probably 200 yards from the one I happened upon two hours previous.  Disappointed...there was a shop dog, which is always pleasant, but the yarn selection was dismal.  A few minutes later, I met my stepmom, so we went to the place on Galisteo after coffee.  Another disappointment...both stores were lovely customer-service-wise, but between the two of them, the selection was not what I had hoped.  And here I am with a $75 birthday Visa gift card burning a hole in my pocket!  How in the world could I not feel like buying yarn?

The problem, I realized, is that I did not see anything in the two stores I thought I would see in my head.  For instance, I saw Plymouth and Kauni and Rowan, but no hanks with an index-card tag and some ink-writing, saying "Hand-spun by Little Squaw Who Feeds Berries To Her Toddler."  This was my fault...I let the feeling of Santa Fe get the best of me.

The good news is that I have a friend who was recently lamenting about the yarn store in Oak Park opening "too close" to the one in Forest Park, and how the owners of the Forest Park store would have advised her to open five to ten miles from their store.  I never made it to the third store, but there are three bona fide yarn stores, all within walking distance of each other here in Santa Fe.  I don't know exactly why the place in Forest Park closed, but if that was the cause, then knitters in Santa Fe are way less loyal to their local yarn store than they are up north.  I wish for no small businesses to close, but I feel like here is proof that this would have been only one of several contributing factors, if any of them are even measurable in the first place.

My goal is to finish the second shop sample on the way home today, even if I have to stay on the plane all the way to its next destination.  It's Southwest Airlines...I'm pretty sure I could end up somewhere cool like Montgomery, Alabama if I still have some knitting to do.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Welcome to Santa Fe

Man...if Santa Fe doesn't inspire knitters, then knitters are truly hopeless.

I am here visiting my stepmom for a couple of days, and I'm vehemently fighting the urge to look up every local yarn store and fiber nut because I don't think it's fair of me to drag this woman's butt all over town on my behalf.  So instead, I brought a few projects and I'll just enjoy the scenery!

Here is the latest article on, about Idea Studio in La Grange.  The Reynolds ladies are hosting a Fiber Retreat this October in Union Pier, Michigan, a mere 95 miles from Chicago.  Now, my goal is to finalize my plans so I can go:

Projects I have with me this week include the garment out of the Lion Brand that I put down temporarily, partly because I was working on the store samples and partly because I was traumatized after accidentally felting my headband.  I also am completing my second store sample for Yarntopia, which is over half-finished.  I can knock out the other half and block it if I'm willing to compromise my sight-seeing in Santa Fe, but if not, I'll finish it over the weekend.  Finally, I have made progress on the shawl I'm designing, but that one involves...gulp...serious concentration.  And my attention span is about the same as a fruit fly.  Som I'm doing my best.  How is everyone doing this week?