Archive for February, 2005

No Elizabeth Zimmerman

Monday, February 28th, 2005

I sometimes feel a bit of a fake when I tell people that I’m a knitwear designer in conversation. I do design knitwear, and I even get paid for it occasionally, something that I am very excited about and proud of. But I’m really an amateur. I don’t have any formal training and I’m no Elizabeth Zimmerman or Meg Swansen when it comes to creativity, inspiration, or clarity and beauty in writing. But I do have an idea or two now and then, and I know how to do enough basic math to get the numbers right. It’s a great hobby that almost pays for itself…

Back when I was slaving away writing code for the software company, I dreamed of quitting and forging a living out of knitting-related jobs – teaching, designing, maybe even working in or owning a yarn shop some day. In my research, I discovered that almost nobody makes a real living with knitting. There are a few super-star designers who do perhaps, and owners of successful yarn shops do…but I know well-published designers who couldn’t live off their earnings. So why do they – we – do it? Because we can’t help ourselves. Because knitting makes us happy and for me a couple other reasons. Because I have a faint dream that some day perhaps I’ll be better, more efficient, and maybe much more popular so that perhaps I could make more money than I spend on yarn and materials. And because it feels great to know that someone else wants to knit the things I thought up.

Yesterday I was at a baby shower for a friend. I had knit a little sweater for her, and since this is a friend that I know through a knitting group, we had surprised her with a whole layette that a few of us knit as a team. I wrote up patterns for all the pieces, and Kari knit the blanket, Keri knit the hat and booties, and I knit the sweater. Pam happened to open the sweater first, and was quite emotional when she saw it. The look on her face made me feel so great – there is nothing better than having someone love a gift that you knit for them.

Pam’s mom, also an accomplished knitter, didn’t know that I design knitwear and she asked me if I would mind sharing the pattern. She was thinking that I had knit the sweater from someone else’s pattern, and she was basically asking me to photocopy it for her, I think. This is SO common, and I don’t want to villify her personally, but really people making copies of patterns are a big reason why designers don’t make more money than we do. I try to educate people as I can, but that’s another story.

Back to the conversation at hand. I answered her by saying that I haven’t written up the pattern for that little sweater yet, but that I’m planning to eventually. It took a couple more minutes of explanation from me and the other girls at the party to help her figure out that I design almost everything that I knit, that I teach knitting in a yarn shop, and that I am a published designer. One exchange that I remember in the conversation was “Well, you should sell your patterns at yarn stores!” and me saying “I do”. Anyway, the point of the story is that I felt very flattered by the whole conversation, and later Pam opened the afghan her mom had knit for the baby and I had the chance to sincerely admire it and tell her what a lovely job she had done. And that’s a great feeling too. When another knitter respects me and I can tell them that they are doing nice work too. Because everyone needs to hear that.

And another little anecdote from this weekend. This week I got a call from the store saying they had run out of a couple of my patterns and need more. Now, they only buy six copies at a time, but still…it feels great to know that people are buying my work, that they like what I made and want to make it too. That’s the good side. The slightly sad side is that tonight I spent an hour printing, collating, assembling and stapling my little patterns. I typed up an invoice for a paltry amount and thought about all the hours that went into knitting, writing up, photographing, and laying out the documents. And the hourly rate that all this would work out to if I dared try to think it through would be tiny. Which leads me back to why I sometimes feel like a fake when someone asks me what I do for a living and I tell them that I’m a knitwear designer as well as a full-time mom.

Still, there is the potential that some day I might write a book and get it published. But even in my wildest dreams, I don’t hope to compete with Elizabeth.

Babe Magnet

Thursday, February 24th, 2005

There is something about the clicking of the keyboard that draws Julie like a magnet. She can be happily playing in the other room, as she is right now – I can hear her in there pushing buttons on her Fisher Price farm making the pig oink and the annoying music play – but if she hears me typing in she comes and climbs up on my lap. No more typing. I can get away with surfing and clicking for a good 15 minutes sometimes – or at least long enough for my conscience to kick in and realize that I should be playing with her. I stuck my head around the corner, and she has spilled an entire bowl of Oatios across the living room floor. No big deal – that happens about once every other day at least. We just pick them up, or let the cats eat them.

Yesterday the grandparents came over and watched Julie while I went and had a wisdom tooth pulled. I only had two to start with, and one was pulled when I was 21. The dentist at the time told me the remaining one would probably never come in since it was so high up in the bone. Well, at 32, I was teething at the same time as my 17-month old. Joe thought that was hilarious. I thought it was painful. Since there definitely isn’t room in my mouth for another tooth, out it came. And it wasn’t too bad. I think the oral surgeon made me more nervous than I had to be by apologizing for each prick of the needle as he injected the Lydocaine, and the crunch as he pulled the tooth out was a little scary. I asked to see it when it was out and was a little disappointed by how small it looked. I was expecting a honking huge monster with giant roots, and instead saw something that looked a bit smaller than my back molars.

Well, it’s out now. They sent me home with a bottle of 10 Vicadin tablets, and instructions to try large doses of Advil first. Like a good girl, I did…and it’s working fine. Part of me wants to try the Vicadin just to see what they’re like…and part of me is scared that I would either have a bad reaction or like them too much. So they’ll probably sit around in the medicine cabinet for a few years till they get old and I throw them away.

Oops! Here’s Julie begging to be on my lap and saying eat eat eat. Momentarily distracted by the giant balance ball in the corner of my office, but it probably is time to get her something to eat before we go to ECFE.

Quickly, I have to mention that Julie did just fine with the in-laws yesterday. It was naptime when they arrived, and she fell asleep in MIL’s arms after the obligatory crying scene as I left. I came home and she was all sweaty from being wrapped up in a blanket while she slept. What is it with grandmas and wanting to overdress babies? I’m grateful to have Joe’s parents around to help out on occasion, and I’m glad that Julie has them in her life.

Bad Blogger!

Sunday, February 20th, 2005

I make a crappy blogger. What can I say? I’m a busy girl. Julie’s sleeping and we’ve had a couple of good nights in a row despite the fact that she and I have both been sick for a couple of weeks now with the head cold from hell. Oh, and I weaned her last week but we seem to be over the trauma of that.Actually, I was pleasantly surprised. It was much less traumatic than I expected.

In my knitting life, I’ve been slaving away at an intarsia sweater. I planned it to knit along with the intarsia class that I offered at the Yarnery (yes, they finally put up a website!). But the class didn’t fill up, and I was left to finish my sweater without an admiring audience. It is my own design, and I think it’s turning out nicely, but there is much work left to be done. Not to mention lots of design decisions yet to be made. Want a sneak peek?

I wanted to make sure I got an in-progress photo with all the tangled mess of ends showing. Too bad I remembered to take it after finishing off the last row of diamonds – before that there were twice as many ends hanging down. I still haven’t decided exactly how much of the sweater is going to be covered in diamonds, and it will depend to some extent on how long the yarn lasts.

Other recent projects include the never-ending stream of plain socks for public knitting, plus some baby projects for knocked-up friends. I’ll get around to posting those on the knitting page one of these days.

The other thing keeping me busy has been Julie’s scrapbook. I hate to admit that I “do” scrapbooking, but there you have it. I want her pictures to be organized and captioned and safely there for her. So I spent a couple weeks worth of naptimes catching her album up to date. It is embarrassing that the album for just her first year is about three inches thick. But she looooves to look through it. I keep it on a shelf in my office just out of her reach, and she will sometimes point to it and say “book book book” until I get it down and flip through it with her. Her favorite page is the one where I stuck one of the tiny socks that Jean Christenson knit for her and that she wore as a newborn.

Anyway, I had planned to catch up on putting some of my own pictures in scrapbooks – the few that I have from my own childhood as well as the last of our wedding snapshots – but it’s all still sitting there on the table neglected for the last week or so. I got sucked into that darn intarsia sweater and it’s taken over my free time.

Oh! I wanted to mention this recipe I got off the Food Network’s website. I was looking for something new and delicious to make with kale since it is so good for you but in my experience tastes so awful. I’ve had good luck with Food Network recipes in the past and this Portuguese Kale Soup rocks! I’ve made it twice in the last month, and I’m running out of the second double-batch already so I’m going to have to make it again. I like it, Joe eats it without complaint, and Julie loves it. It’s one of the few things I can put in front of her and know that she’s going to eat it. And it’s good for you!

I wanted to mention also some of the classes Julie and I have been going to. We started up a couple of new ones in January and they are great. There is a great toddler music class at the MacPhail Center for Music, which is much better than the one we had been going to at a local church. The teacher is great, plays piano and guitar and sings well, plus there are lots of cool props to go along with the songs. The week after our first class Joe noticed one day that Julie was walking along funny and I had to explain that she was taking “giant steps” like we did in class to the “skip to my lou” song. She hasn’t quite gotten the tippy-toes part down yet.

Also, we started going to a toddler art class at ArtiCulture. The teacher, Ellen, is incredibly animated and great with kids. Each week has a theme and she brings in books and games to match the theme, plus some wonderful, usually messy art project for the kids. We’ve done finger paint, paste, beads, and stamping so far. A lot of it is stuff I never would have thought to try with Julie yet, and some of it she does and some of it she lets me do, but it’s all fun for both of us. And I don’t have to deal with the mess!