Thursday, December 27, 2012

Challenge - Accepted

Good afternoon, everyone!  Well, for me it's good morning, and for everyone else it's good afternoon.  I was just watching the dogs play outside in the first big snowfall of the year, and thinking about next year as most people do in the week before Christmas and New Year's.

So last we spoke, Knot Just Knits was collecting items for the community of Newtown, Connecticut after the Sandy Hook school shooting.  Here is the article I wrote in case you didn't read it:

Well, the article got over 5,000 hits on its own before it was posted again last night by Vogue Knitting magazine...I may not have even noticed, were it not for the fact that my inbox started blowing up all over again.  I scrolled down and saw 71 new "likes" on it and another 26 shares on facebook.  BAM.

The flipside is that Newtown is so overwhelmed with donations, that they are not accepting new ones at the moment.  This is okay with's why.  My wheels started spinning.

If the Red Cross is on the ready at all times, then why can't smaller groups be?  We actually shouldn't have a call to action, per se...there should be a group to just BE there at times like this.  There are, obviously, but I want a piece of that sucker.  Here I have this great platform in the media, catering to the most charitable of all crafters (in my humble opinion), and a day job where I literally have six months off every year.  Yes my schedule has a bit to be desired, but I should be doing something positive with my spare time.

In comes my idea for a non-profit organization...Monsters Anonymous.  I'll design a few pocket- or backpack-sized monster patterns, and both sell the patterns to defray the cost of distributing them and accept donations of already-made pocket monsters.  They would go to kids who recently lost a parent, sibling, or classmate.  Either I will see stories in the news of people to whom I can send some love, or people will be able to request a monster through a website.  Something like, "My next-door neighbor died, and the surviving spouse has three kids aged 8, 7, and 5.  Can you send a few monsters their way?"  Sure I can!  I know I can't offer counseling services or anything that requires a license, but I sure can bring a little community of knitters together to make monsters for kids who are afraid of death or violence.

I can start early next year...I'm still waiting on a real estate deal to close so it will be a couple of months, but I think I can totally do this.  I figure I'll need a few things:
1.  Support
2.  Test-knitters
3.  Media help
4.  A website
5.  An outlet network to help distribute in cities other than Chicago (that can come later)
6.  Business or organization registration of some sort

I know I will need MUCH more than that, but most importantly, I need feedback!  If Newtown can't take the donations we're collecting, there are still plenty of people out there who can and Newtown may need something like this in a few weeks or months as well...their hurt will not stop just because the story is not at the forefront of the news.

Please share your thoughts, shoot this blog post to others and ask their thoughts as well ( know...just verbally ask if you want to interact with humans in 3-D).  Thanks!  Here is the first donation Knot Just Knits received, on Christmas Eve...from a lovely woman in El Paso:

This is exactly...EXACTLY...what I had in mind.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Call To Action

Good morning, everyone.  I'm so, so proud.  So proud.

Knitters are the best ever at giving.  They just are.  So when the Connecticut school shooting happened, I got an email from expressing their sympathies, and stating that if we write a story about the tragic shooting, tag it with "Connecticut School Shooting" so it gets promoted.  My second thought (after the pool of first thoughts that EVERYONE had, including "Who?", "Why?", "How could this happen?" and the like) was "Is there anything that I can do to help?

So here I am, this little petty reporter who writes about knitting, and this major tragedy happens, and I joke all the time about how my dozens of readers would be pleased about this or that.  What kind of difference can I make, really?  So below is the story I came up with...I called my friend Elizabeth and asked if she would be willing to help.  It was a no-brainer...she promotes charity knitting more than most of the stores in the area:

Next thing I know, Amy Singer from retweeted it.  Then Knitting Fever, which is the company that distributes great brands like Louisa Harding and Noro, did the same thing.  Then I looked on the home page, and there my story was.  Since 9pm on Friday night, over 3,000 people have read about the three yarn stores collecting items for donation, including Knot Just Knits in Oak Park.

Here's the REALLY fun part:  I put Knot Just Knits' phone number in the article, and then I didn't think of the consequences.  My email address is in there as well, and thankfully most charitable knitters seem to be emailers.  I received an email from a woman in Richmond, Virginia who runs a knitting group, and she wants to get the local media and all of the yarn stores in her area involved in donating.  I asked if I could write a story about what she's doing, so hopefully she will call me next week.  I also heard from a woman in California who asked what items are most needed, and if crocheted items were okay as well.  I told her the whole point was to donate items to make kids feel safer and to comfort the families and friends of the victims, so really, anything was good to donate.  We were concentrating on little pocket- and backpack-worthy toys, however.

So there you have it.  I am so proud of the knitting community, stepping it up as they (well, WE) always do in a time of need.  My voice isn't very big, but I am very proud to be one of several voices in this industry that tries to make a difference because even though we can't bring the victims back, we can bring comfort to the living by shipping our handmade wares to a town whose grieving doesn't end when the news picks up a new story.

In other news, I'm going to spend today thinking up a name for my new LLC.  It's just going to be a real estate investment company, so it's not like people will need to search for it on the internet and track me down, but I think that "Amy Kaspar LLC" is just plain stupid if I have the chance to name it anything I want. Here are some thoughts...feel free to chime in with suggestions:

Chicago Condos and Bungalows
Fiberhouse Investments
Kasparhouse Investments
Keith's Bitch LLC (although I already told Keith that he's really MY bitch if I call him at one in the morning to tell him Laporte's heat is out, and HE is the one who gets out of bed to go there)
Northwest Dwellings

Thank you all so much for your support in ALL of my endeavors, but mostly the knitting one.  The pocked-sized bunny takes about ten minutes to knit, and another ten to attach the ears, eyes, and tail.  Totally worth making a bunch of them!  Be well and keep everyone grieving in your thoughts as you go about your beautiful day.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tag! You're It.

Today, I have awakened to a husbandless house, accident-prone dog, and the need to sign paperwork.  I think I need to knit a bit.

Tried the sleeping thing, tried the writing thing, and was only marginally successful at either.  The first one involved me on the couch with Bluto.  The second one involved a book review...take a gander:

I of course picked up on the fact that actress Tamara Mello was a knitter when I saw this book arrive at my doorstep, but I had no idea about Christina Hendricks.  I love hearing about celebrities who knit...makes me think that the crazy-cat-lady myth does, in fact, have a chance at dying.

So while I flit between awake-ness and asleep-ness, I watch the first two seasons of Downton Abbey, loaned to me by my friend Elizabeth.  I can't say I'll ever be a fanatic about it, but I SOOOO get why people jump on this series.  Backstabbing!  Bribes!  Misallocated money!  Cheating!  Suicide!  Yeah...I get it.  The dogs are not interested, however.

Since it's close to the end of the year, I've done a fair amount of reflecting and planning, finding hope in the future and seeing what I can do to make my plans come to fruition over the next twelve months.  Turns out I don't have enough spare time to get everything finished that I would want to finish...hmmph.  I either have to make time or cut the list a bit...I'm going to strive for making time.  I also have vowed for the 37th straight year to be more organized (that vow was SUPER-awkward those first couple of years, when I was still colicky and pooping into a diaper).

There are patterns to design, templates to create, people to interview...and like I said, paperwork.  I'm closing on a property over the next couple of weeks, and the list of documents that underwriters request nowadays is a bit ridiculous.  Like a lease agreement on a property I don't own yet.  But whatever.  Time to bust out the needles.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Hello, everyone!  So, I am getting more and more excited about my growing audience.  It means two things to me:  1) I'm relatively knowledgeable and getting noticed for it, and 2) I'm gaining a voice of respectability and getting noticed for it.  Not bad.

Here is today's story...if you are looking for some great hand-dyed yarn, here you go.  I think it's SO cool that she runs this operation out of her three-bedroom apartment:

And then, remember a few days ago, when I thought maybe I'd send my Malabrigo cowl pattern to the company?  Well, I did.  Six hours later, I got a message from them which read, "Your pattern is now available from our website.  Thank you."  So I ran like I was in a timewarp to a device with internet access that's larger than my new iPhone, and found this:

How cool is THAT?

THEN...I got two more subscribers in the past two days.  Might not sound like much, but I have upgraded from dozens of readers to scores of readers...ha ha ha.  Maybe one day I'll be able to do this for a seems so silly to say out loud, but writers on knitting DO exist, and they DO make a living.  Why can't it be me?  Maybe five years down the line I'll be doing this 100% of the time.  If it's sooner, then that just means I'll be as pleasantly surprised as I have ever been.

On a separate note, I was eating a Honeycrisp apple today and of course thinking of CJ, who once rolled his eyes at me and said, "Jonagold?!?!  I wouldn't eat anything but Honeycrisp."  As if my apple weren't worth the twenty cents less per pound that I was paying.  Anyway, I was knitting up December's pattern, which I STILL haven't finished but have made a ton of progress on in the past three days.  I realized Thursday is the anniversary of his death, and for the past two years, this is right around the time he starts speaking to me on a regular basis.

For those of you who are freaked out or think I'm nuts, I'm fine with that.  Believe what you believe, and I will do the same.  Respect, please.

So no sooner had I thought that when I received a text message from someone that said, "You just needed to get beyond my bullshit."  I just found that horrendously funny (for those of you who know the situation with CJ and my gift with the angels and guides, you will also find that horrendously funny).  I went back to knitting the December it is so far (and I have apologized about a hundred times to my subscribers for being so late, but I think they get it):

All in all, these past few days have been pretty darn productive.  I'm getting there, albeit slowly.  But dammit as long as my life is in at LEAST first gear, instead of Park, Neutral, or Reverse, I'm good.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tides Are A-Turning

Good evening!  When last we spoke, I was talking about how I was having a banner month on and how I hoped it would continue.  Well, continue it did.  I finished out the month with a story that was not meant as an obituary, exactly, but whatever it was, it pretty much got a life of its own:

So I slept during the day, after posting the article.  Then I went to work, and when I came home, I checked my stats for the month.  I had over 600 hits on that one story alone, and it put me well over my best month ever.  Then, for the first week of December, it was the gift that kept on giving.  That one, the "It Takes Balls to Knit" article (which got picked up somewhere), and Kelly Fleek's article (which has over 480 recommendations on StumbleUpon) all brought enough traffic to my pages where I'm now ranked Number 4 in the country for Hobbies Examiners.  I'm up to Number 11 in Chicago, which means that Pop Culture Examiner is in my sights!

I've found that with my new schedule, I have to stockpile my stories and send them out one at a time.  I get home at nine in the morning, and leave again at six the next night.  The problem is that I'm having trouble sleeping, so on most days I wake up at three in the afternoon if not sooner.  Then, I feel like a bona fide zombie until I go to's not conducive to writing.  If I spend my days off writing multiple stories and release them on different days, I have the entire general public FOOLED.

But of course, now that cat is officially out of the bag...ha ha ha.

Over 100 people have downloaded my free pattern to date.  That feels nice, but I actually like the fact that FINALLY someone posted a photo of their progress on the's always a relief when you see that someone else makes something that looks like what you designed.  Maybe I'll send the design to Malabrigo and see if they are interested in putting it on their website.  Hmm...

This month, I currently have nine stories in the hopper.  I also was sent a second book from Chronicle Books to review...

Oh, and I'm going to Vogue Knitting Live New York.  With press credentials.

So while my life isn't exactly "fixed," it sure is headed in the right direction.  I see a business venture or yarnie entrepreneurship in my future.  I might not ever be the Yarn Harlot, and I might not ever be Debbie Macomber, but maybe I could just be The Fiber Friend and be perfectly happy.

Of course, I still haven't finished the December shawl sample.  Pattern finished, sample not.  Every moment I'm not writing, I'm knitting.  It's just a bit more involved than your typical around-the-neck-once scarf.  I don't mean to be a tease, but it's more like a Winter Wonderland Lacy Stole and I didn't anticipate the knitting time involved with such a thing.  Duh.

I have direction!  Yay!  Thank you as always for your support, and of course, please let me know what support you need from me in return.  I'm so grateful for what I have, and even more grateful I'll have much more now that I've started to pull my head out of my tooshie.