Friday, October 28, 2016

Knitting Too Well

Sometimes I think I should dummy down my knitting and make it look more homemade.

Too Perfect?

My first craft show was two days.  For the first day, I wore a very loose fitting cardigan the I finished last year using a Cascade yarn called Rustic.  For the second day, I wore my Racing Stripe Pullover.

For all of the first day, people commented on my sweater, noting what a nice job I had done making it, or asking if I had made it.

For the second day, I didn't get one comment about what I was wearing.

I thought it was somewhat odd, and wondered if people just didn't realize my pullover was hand knit.

It was confirmed when I visited my mom a couple of days ago, wearing the Racing Stripe Pullover.  I was telling how the craft show went, and at one point she asked, "You didn't knit that sweater did you?"  Despite having knit her a very nice fine-gauge cardigan a couple years ago (which she still wears) and looks like she could have purchased it at Macy's, she still couldn't fathom that I had knit such a nicely designed and knit pullover.

Perhaps I should have included a reindeer on the front, or added faux seams to the sides that looked crappy...I'm thinking a sign around my neck would be too much.

At least when I wear my hand-knits when Thaddeus is with me, he knows to boast on my behalf by telling people I designed and knit items like the Racing Stripe Pullover.

Current Knitting

Despite having had to pull out 20 rows of knitting to correct an error, I have made progress on the latest Biased Wrap.

I'm thinking about making this garment about 60 inches, so it's about halfway finished now.  I'm hopeful that washing this wool will make it a bit softer...while a wrap won't necessary touch the skin directly, I would like it to be comfortable if it does.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Craft Show Assessment

This past weekend I participated as a vendor in my first craft show.

A Learning Experience

The show was the Flemington Marketplace in Ringoes, NJ...the same venue where they hold the Garden State Sheep Breeders Association Festival in September each year. The show was both bad and good in some ways.

The bad parts were:
  1. The amount of foot traffic/customers coming through the show was sparse at best.  I estimated that over the two days of the craft fair, about 300 people came through.  Most of the other vendors thought that was a charitable estimate.
  2. The caliber of vendors was very different than what I expected for an Arts and Crafts fair.  Bejeweled sweatshirts, a Cutco knives booth, and a lot of kitschy (and not in a good way) booths with quilted pumpkins and angels holding bowls of potpourri.  I'm honestly not quite sure how someone who sells kitchen gadgets, like apple peelers and sink drain strainers is considers artsy or craftsy, but there was a very large booth with those for sale as well.
  3. There were two or three other vendors with similar products to mine...a woman that crocheted bulky Lion Brand yarns into hats, scarves, baby ponchos and the like, a woman that reconstituted Good Will sweaters into patchwork scarves and wrist warmers and headbands, and a vendor selling shawls, and scarves and wraps that looked like they were commercially woven.  None of them really competed against what I was selling.
  4. There weren't very many vendors...the booths looked sparsely populated and the very large building seemed hardly filled.
  5. The building was fully enclosed, but was very cold the entire weekend (which may have helped my sales, but I don't like being cold).
  6. The food options were extremely limited and not very good....I brought food both days.
The good parts were:
  1.  The vendors were some of the nicest people...I enjoyed the social aspects of doing this fair a lot.
  2. The building was well-lit and the booth sizes were spacious with plenty of room to display as much or as little as I wanted.
  3. All the booths had electricity for accent lighting and for charging my cell phone
  4. There was good cellular service for processing charge cards on my phone.
  5. It's very close to where I live...about a 10-15 minute drive.
  6. Parking and unloading docks were close and easy for the vendors and the customers who came.
  7. Square, the service I use for credit card purchases worked exceptionally well for both credit card and cash purchases.  If anyone is considering using Square, I highly recommend it. In addition to helping maintain inventory and making sales, the reports and information it collects is excellent.
  8. Of the very few customers attending the fair, there was a sufficient number of people that really appreciated my knitwear...enough that I did adequately well in sales. 
Overall, I found that I was very well organized for my first such event.  My display is easy to transport and set up and break down.  I had about 30 novelty scarves and the rest were nicer wool or fine alpaca items and almost all the purchases were of higher-end items that I considered to be high quality.  I met a couple of blog readers (Cheryl and her friend, and Kate, the famous inventor of the ThingaMaHook at Spindle Cat Studio), which was very nice.  Cheryl even wore her own version of my Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf which was nicer than any I had for sale...her colors were stunning and I was quite impressed (not done in Koigu, and gorgeous) .

I don't think I'd do this show again next year, although I may just based on the convenience, but if I do, I will help to advertise the event, because I think it was very poorly advertised by the event coordinator.

My next show will be on December 3rd and 4th in Stockton, NJ at the Prallsville Mill.  It's a great show for lots of very nice items in case anyone is interested in checking it out for holiday gifts or items for themselves.

Current Knitting

Having and easy project to work on at the show was important, so I started another Bias Scarf.

I'm using a slight heavier weight yarn for this one and making it wider so that it will be more of a wrap than a scarf.  Despite all my free time at the craft show, I didn't make much progress.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Regarding the craft show, Julie wrote, "Good luck, Joe! Wish I could come and browse your selections for Christmas gifts!"

While you can't fondle and try on any of my knitted goods, you can see any of it on my web page at  Given how tactile it is to shop for knitwear, I'm not expecting many sales on the web site, but it is a great way to handle inventory and whet the appetites of those wanting to come to my shows and buy scarves or hats.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Scattered Activity

Peter visited from Australia, Finn played on the stairs and Thaddeus found an awesome mushroom that's bigger than my head.

Botany, Mycology and Knitting

Peter (Nanna) from Australia was here for Rhinebeck, Botany lectures and the Great Lakes Men's Knitting Retreat this weekend.  He was staying with another botanist, Lena and they came and visited for lunch, coffee and discussions of botany and mycology.

I only have a crappy photo of Peter:

My apologies to Peter...he's a much better looking than my photography skills were able to to show.

When Peter's friend, Lena, indicated she had recently had "hen of the woods" mushrooms (Maitake in Japanese or Grifola Frondosa in Latin) that she bought at a farmer's market, it spurred Thaddeus to check out favorite  spot again and found a LOT of this wonderful mushroom.

And Finn was caught on film looking like a little kitten.

Without any single, coherent topic, you get a mishmash today.

Current Knitting

I finished one more West Coast Watchcap for sale at this weekends Craft Show.

I also re-blocked two felted hats I made a long time ago and priced them for the show as well.

Well, there's only one in the photo, but the other one looks pretty similar.  I am very excited about the upcoming show and a bit nervous since this is my first time.

Monday, October 17, 2016

New Life - New Routines

Thaddeus started biking a while ago, and finally convinced me to make a new purchase to help enjoy the beauty of our local area and get more exercise at the same time.

A New Passion

The bicycle above is a new hybrid bike that works perfectly on some of the trails and canal towpaths in my area.  I've owned it for a total of 2.7 days now and we've already explored the Delaware River, the canal and the towpaths for miles around my area and I am loving it.

It's a Trek Shift 2 18.5" bicycle.

Even though I try to walk and/or run for an average of 3 miles every day, the latest activity on a bicycle clearly uses different muscles and my legs are quite sore from the weekend.  But it really is a good kind of sore.

Thaddeus snapped this photo of me in Lumberville, PA on the walking bridge over the Delaware River.

Perfect day, perfect ride and beautiful scenery.  The experience makes going miles and miles almost easy.

I honestly never got the appeal of bicycling until I actually did it, and now I completely understand.

Current Knitting

Two more West Coast Watchcaps finished since my last blog entry.

One of the nice things about using Noro yarns for these nice, quick projects, is that each hat is completely unique and different, which makes the work stay interesting.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Highly Desireable Qualities

I misread a t-shirt on a young and attractive man at the gym the other day, thinking that he was advertising his best qualities with the following words on the back of his t-shirt:

Great Qualities in a Partner/Spouse

While the actual words on the back of his t-shirt were, "Inspirational Self-Reliant Communities," I liked my mis-reading better.

For the blog readers looking for a relationship, I would highly recommend looking for these qualities.

For the blog readers looking for a relationship or already in a relationship, I would highly recommend working on these qualities in yourself.

Being supportive and inspirational in a way that truly supports someone else can be extremely difficult and can also bleed into the less-desirable qualities of manipulative, co-dependent, cloying and/or smothering.  Finding ways of inspiring another requires an intimacy and presence that is not often seen in this world of a million distractions.

Self-reliance is one of the characteristics of others that I find most appealing.  Even if you're emotionally needy, you can own your neediness in a way that is attractive and shows others you know how to get what you need for yourself.

Complete is similar to self-reliance, in that you know you don't need someone else to fill in your missing are full and complete on your own.  One of my least favorite expressions is "other half."  Whenever someone asks me where my other half is, I always reply that I only have an other whole.  I know that I'm 50% of a relationship, but I'm complete and distinct by myself as well.

Seeing this man's t-shirt and misreading it, I realized I still have a long way to go to achieve my new ideals.

Current Knitting

Since my last blog entry on Wednesday, I've been able to complete two more West Coast Watchcaps, and start a third.

And they're doozies...I love the deep, smokey colors of the hats with splashes of bright colors.  Between now and next weekend, I hope to make a few more of these quick-gift hats and hope they sell like hotcakes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Unstructured and Productive

Without a work schedule, or a to-do list, I still find that I am continuing to be productive.


My preference has always been to be a little more busy than not.

I've also always preferred to be organized, but often found I would take shortcuts when I didn't have time to be fully organized.

Whilst describing to my mom all that I had done to organize myself for the upcoming craft shows she seemed impressed...she also took full credit for the gene that instilled those organizational skills in me.  I don't doubt it's true...she's always been very organized.

In retirement, now that there aren't incessant priorities that need to be addressed immediately, it seems so much easier to address less urgent needs as they come up.  The bathroom needs cleaning, I do it.  Craft show items need to be added to the inventory, to the web site and set up with a price tag, I do it.  The coffee table looks cluttered, I tidy up.  We need a few things at the grocery store, I go shopping.  You get the idea.

I was thinking that I would need a weekly schedule of tasks to keep me organized. Eventually that kind of list would make me more efficient and that if I had to take the car out, I could go shopping, hit the post office and have a pedicure in one car trip...or I could get out all the cleaning paraphernalia for cleaning the bathrooms and kitchens just once.

As my fitness center schedule evens out a bit, I might just put together a weekly schedule of to-do items, but it will still be nice to not be rigorously tied to it.

Current Knitting

As demonstration of how productive I've been, I have two finished objects to announce today.

I did finish the latest Biased Scarf.

This one came out just as beautifully as the earlier scarves...I'm thinking about doubling the width of this pattern and making a wrap to sell, but I'm honestly not sure I could sell it for enough money to make it worth my time.  Perhaps just one to tease the buyers with one very expensive item.

I also finished the Westward hat I had's a photo of me modeling it immediately after I had woven in the last end.

Here's a photo of what the hat really looks like.

The design allows you to bind off after the bottom band to make just a headband (which would be very nice), but I really love how this hat turns out ever time.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Inspired by Others

Now that it's no longer required that I pretend to care about or respect some of the people I work with, I'm left with enjoying those people who trigger my creativity or nurture my soul.

Two Examples of Prioritizing Relationships

Recently, I've been privileged to hang out with two guys who have reminded me of the importance of connecting with others.

The first one is a friend who I know through the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat, and the other is a relatively new knitter I've met on Ravelry forums (and who I've only chatted with on-line).

Dave Sledesky used to live and work at Easton Mountain, where we host the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat each year.  He's one of only three men who have been to all nine of the MSKRs, and I spent a few hours having dinner and coffee with him in Saratoga Springs last week. 

I didn't take any photos of our get-together, so I'll post one of Dave showing off one of his fantastic woven pieces at the last Men's Spring Knitting Retreat.  I think this item was made during a sheep-to-shawl contest.  The man has a certain centeredness and joy of life and self-assurance that I find incredibly joyous to be around.  Spending time with him made me a better person.

Andrew is the new knitter I met on Ravelry, and he inspired me in a very different way. 

We were chatting about our various projects, and he was complimenting me on my designs, specifically a sweater design from my distant past.

A little over 13 years ago, I finished a new pullover design that I called the Passing Lane Pullover.  Does anyone remember that sweater?  Or why I called it Passing Lane?

Here's what the sweater looks like.

The sweater was always oversized on me, and now that I've lost a bit of weight, even more so.  The interesting part of this design was the two-layer collar treatment.

I've always wanted that double-collar to be more pronounced and I would also like to give the sweater a bit more shape, so I've decided to re-design this garment and make it anew.  Thanks to Adam's nudging.

Search out the people in your life who are satisfying to be's my latest recommendation on a great life.

Current Knitting

I finished the Westward Hat by Stephen West and it came out great.

This is a great hat design, so I started a second one in more contrasting colors that I'll show photos of in my next blog entry.

I have almost finished the latest biased scarf as well, with only a few more inches to go.

Soft and warm, I will never get tired of how beautiful this design is when knit up with high quality alpaca.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Craft Show Organization

With decades of corporate office experience, I'm finding that organizing myself for selling at local craft shows is a skill I'm enjoying using.

Organizing Tools

When I scheduled my first two craft shows, I realized quickly I needed to have a few things in place to make sure things went smoothly.  Being a big fan of Microsoft OneNote, I immediately created a new virtual notebook to hold to-do lists, schedules of possible craft shows, contact information, checklist of items to bring and inventory lists.

Then, the inventory list, turned into a mini-database where I can store all sorts of information, such as a description, the price, the cost of materials, merchandise, code, etc.

Then I realized, my credit card service (Square) would allow me to upload inventory, so I could do direct sales of all my items instead of typing in an amount before swiping the credit card.  And I can use the sales inventory even for cash transactions, so all my sales are recorded.

And if that wasn't enough, I realized I could add photos of each item in inventory so I could easily find the item when recording a sale.

And wait...that's not all...I then realized I could easily add any inventory items and photos to a web site to do direct internet sales.  Each time an item is sold, it disappears from inventory so I don't double sell an item  Now everyone can check out what items I'll be selling at the various craft shows (and purchase them, although I can't imagine many of my customers will be knitters who read this blog):

If you haven't figured this out by now, I'm quite impressed with Square as a credit card processing company.

Current Knitting

I managed to added a few more rows to the latest Bias Scarf, and I also started a new hat project.

The hat is a Stephen West design called Westward which is both a headband design and a hat if you don't stop at just the headband.  You'll note I have finished the headband piece, but I won't stop there.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Fully Retired

I'm wondering just how long it will be until my body, mind and soul catch up to the reality of being retired?

Work is a Hard Habit to Break

How long until I don't worry about items left undone, e-mails left unanswered?
How long before my shoulders drop away from my ears and my body relaxes?
How long before the serenity of leisure seeps into my soul and serenity takes over?

I know that outside circumstances don't automatically make me happy, or peaceful, or relaxed.  I also know that I've only been finished with work since Friday evening, and that the frenzy of trying to tie up as many loose ends as I could before leaving has left me with a kind of hangover.

As probably all retirees know, leaving the workforce isn't like turning off a switch.

As you can see from the photo above, my desk is no longer littered with a work computer and associated monitor and external hard-drive (and all the cords that go with it).  I no longer have to maintain binders filled with training courses taken or procedural instructions and I also emptied my drawers of no-longer-needed files folders with documentation of what I've done or what I need to do.  My desk isn't cluttered with notes from meetings or to-do lists or phone messages.

I'm only understanding now that I miss the busy-ness of work, but I don't miss the work itself.  I like being busy...feeling occupied...useful.

The transition to being occupied with activities that I enjoy and find satisfying will be a wonderful change, so the clean desk is a sign of hope and opportunity for me.

Thanks to all for the well wishes on retirement.

Current Knitting

During my last week of work, I did very little knitting.  I was busy all day on-site at the office in Schenectady, and busy most nights saying good-bye to friends and coworkers.

I have finished two hats since the last blog entry and I've started a new biased scarf.

I'm hopeful to be able to bang out 10 more of the West Coast Watchcaps, so I have a full inventory at my first craft show.  I'd also like to have a few other hats to display and sell...more traditional hats, perhaps with pompoms. 

We'll see how far I get with that.