Wednesday, August 30, 2017

QueerJoe's Rule #34

People slow down as they approach their destination.

Reasons Why We Stall

Have you ever noticed that as folks driving home get closer to their house, their speed decreases?  Not to get off on a highway exit, but just knowing your ending destination is close, the pace becomes more leisurely?

I can't tell you how many times I'm annoyed by pedestrians slowing down as they approach their gate in an airport because they've made it in time and now the hurry can stop.

Even with knitting, I'm finding as I start to near my goal of 50 coffee cup cozies (for instance), I have to fight the urge to relax and ease up on the pace.

Not sure if Erica Jong is right or if it's just confidence in attaining a goal that makes me want to stall, but I do find myself constantly pushing just a bit harder at the final lap to avoid the natural tendency I have.

Current Knitting

Four more cozies completed as I push, push push.

With 42 of the fifty completed, I can't tell you how easy it would be to pick up a different/new project or convince myself that maybe I should stop at 45.

Just know that my persistence is stronger than my seemingly natural urges.

Monday, August 28, 2017

NJ Sheep & Wool Festival!

Okay...first of all, the real name is the Garden State Sheep Breeder's Association Festival (GSSBAF...sucky acronym) and second of all, it's not like the size of the event really deserves an exclamation point.

Come Join in the Fun!

I know it's not like MDS&W or Rhinebeck, but the GSSBAF has a lot going for it.

First of all it hasn't gotten too big for it's britches like some of the other major sheep festivals.  Even the "printable brochure" was clearly cut and past from last year's event:

The 22nd annual should have been edited to be 23rd, but alas, we have a new way of expressing 23nd.

While this event isn't huge, it does have a lot of excellent vendors who sell great indy yarns and some decent fleeces and rovings.  It's become an event I look forward to each year, and I am not looking forward to the day when it expands to be as large as some of the more well-known sheep and wool events.

Here's the Facebook Event link in case you'd like to indicate that you'll be attending but feel free to let me know if you'll be there and it's likely we'll go somewhere local for lunch after a morning of fiber shopping.

Current Knitting

While I didn't knit up quite as many coffee cup cozies as I had envisioned, I was able to finish up six more.

I had to shoot some better photos of my arts/crafts show items for one of the two shows I'll be vending at this year, and setting up a mini-display took up a bit more of my knitting time than I'd imagined it would.  Only a dozen more of these little items and I'll have met my production goal!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Where Would You Move?

If money and local obligations were of no concern, where would you live?

Lucca Italy

Years ago, a friend invited us to stay in a villa they had rented in Lucca Italy (about 30 minutes drive East of Pisa).  It was truly one of my favorite times traveling.

The villa (La Villa Forci outside the walled city of Lucca) was truly beautiful.  I'll never forget preparing a small dinner of antipasto with fresh-picked figs from the tree providing us shade on the outdoor veranda, or floating in the infinity pool overlooking the olive grove.

We were there for two weeks and each day, we would drive to one of the local mountain communities and eat a big lunch at some of the most fantastic restaurants at which I've ever eaten and we'd also enjoy whatever landmark for which the particular village was famous.  We'd then do some local shopping in the city of Lucca, making sure we'd pick up some delicacy for a small dinner at the villa. I also bought some gorgeous merino yarn in the center of the city when I was there that was knitted into one of the few sweaters I've made that Thaddeus will wear.

My friend is readying to publish a book on his decades-long pursuit of becoming Lucchese and his pursuit of learning a language for which he has little to no aptitude.

I always used to tell this story about my friend had been a couple of years since he had been to Italy when we visited him and so each time we'd go into a local restaurant, the host would welcome us and Bob would express in his bad Italian, "Sono due anni que mangiato!" which kind of means, "It's been 2 years since I've eaten."  Now Bob doesn't look like he's starving, so these poor unsuspecting Italians would look at him like he was crazy, so I would remind him that his sentence minimally required the word "qui" ("here") at the end.  The hosts were quite relieved to find out he wasn't insane.

If you've ever wanted to learn Italian and would like some guidance on how not to...or even better, if you ever have the desire to visit Tuscany (and specifically Lucca), you should sign up for Bob's weekly blog...once you've registered you'll be able to download a PDF of Lucca's Insider's Guide which I have begged Bob for years to publish...and it's free.

I look forward to buying Bob's book when it's published...he's enormously smart and funny and he has exquisite taste.

Current Knitting

I've knocked off another three coffee cup cozies.

This brings the total up to 31 completed and only 19 more to go.  I'll see if I can make it through a bunch more between now and the next blog entry.  I'll be glad to see this task completed.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Efficiencies of Repetition

Even on something relatively simple, I'm finding that when I do something multiple times, I eventually get closer and closer to the most efficient way of doing it.

Small Changes - Big Gains

The current production knitting project I'm working on (coffee cup cozies) is a relatively simple knitting project.

It's basically a gradually increasing diameter tube in reverse stockinette with four rows of garter stitch at the top and bottom.
Not a huge challenge for most knitters...cast on 44 stitches, join in the round, alternate Purl/Knit rows for four rounds, purl next 28 rounds while gradually increasing stitches to 52 stitches, alternate Knit/Purl rows for last four rounds and bind off.

Just a couple of minor tweaks and I was able to get quite a bit faster at making this project:

  1. Start at the top and knit's easier to join in-the-round with more stitches so I start with 52 and decrease to 44
  2. Knit the first four rows flat and join on the fourth row - having four rows makes it a lot harder to twist the work when joining in-the-round
  3. Knit the tube inside-out so I can knit instead of purl to get reverse stockinette stitch

I've also considered knitting a few rounds of waste yarn at the end of a cozy and increasing to 52 stitches with the waste yarn  so I don't have to cast on, but I'm not sure that would save any time for me given that I'd have to pick up those stitches and bind them off eventually.

Current Knitting

Despite my 3 tricks for simplifying and speeding up the knitting of coffee cup cozies, I've only completed two more since Monday.

But I have also been working on my latest scarf.

Simple 1x1 rib in color blocks, I got obsessed with the simple rhythm of this project and ended up completing it in record time.  It's all fibonacci numbers as well (13 color blocks of 34 rows in each).  My guess is that this scarf will sell pretty quickly at the craft shows.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Narcissism is All the Rage

Have you noticed how common it is for a friend to tell you how they have been traumatized by a narcissistic ex of theirs?

When Did Narcissism Become So de Rigeur?

I think I need an old-person translation...what did we used to call narcissistic assholes?  Conceited?  Self-Centered? Self-Absorbed?  Selfish?  Egomaniacs?

Like peanut allergies, these raging narcissists have seemed to pop up overnight.

Is it that therapists all took a continuing education course on identifying Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and now that they've discovered the hammer, everything looks like a nail?

Is it that NPD is a great new acronym that merits that millions are diagnosed with it?

Another thing I often question is that I rarely hear about anyone revealing their own personal NPD diagnosis to's always told to me about someone recovering from the trauma of having been in a relationship with someone with NPD.  I'm wondering if therapists and/or counselors have any treatment for NPD or are they only interested in treating the survivors of people having left someone with NPD or the emotional abuse of a child with a NPD parent?

Do an Amazon search for self-help books on narcissism and almost all of them deal with people in relationship to narcissists and not the narcissist himself.

I guess the thing that scares me most, is that if I'm not feeling abused by a narcissist, perhaps I am unwittingly being a narcissist myself.

If anyone is in therapy for trauma associated with knowing me, can you please let me know?  Thanks.

Current Knitting

I'm continuing on with my production knitting goal of 50 to-go cup cozies.

I'm up to 27 with 23 more to go.  But I also took out a little time to make a special coffee cup cozy for a Resist friend of mine.

It's actually a bit pinker than the photo shows and trying to look like a pink pussy hat cozy.  She was thrilled with getting it.

I also finished the latest biased scarf I was working on and it came out better than I thought it would.

It is about six feet long and overall, I like the graphic strength of the biased striping.  I still need to decide on how much to sell this for at the craft shows.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I Am A Racist

Having grown up as a white male, I have had all the privileges that comes with that, but I also have many of the biases.

Racist But Not a Hater

I grew up learning an amazing amount of a white Catholic boy, I can't tell you how many times I heard bigoted things about other races and religions.  Racist "jokes", actions that "protected" me from exposure to dissimilar "others" and having an environment to grow up in that was pretty white and homogenized was the standard for my formative years.

I am very grateful I had the opportunity to try and get past this upbringing.  But I still struggle with deeply ingrained ideas.

One ignorant example, about which I still cringe in embarassment whenever I think about it, happened at work years ago.  I worked in Human Resources at the time and my company had a fitness center where I worked out most mornings before work.  I was chatting with a woman who also worked there, and she was one of those tall, poised women that can get away with wearing anything and make it look good, and she was also African-American.  That day, she was wearing this glorious peach colored workout outfit and to compliment her, I told her how much I loved her flesh-colored apparel.

Did I mentioned I was working in Human Resources at the time?

I am very grateful that she didn't get offended by my ignorant comment...she did however, point to the skin on her arm and asked me what color it was.  I apologized profusely and after I got a bit less flustered by my gaffe, I realized how deeply ingrained my ideas on myself and others were.

There's a big difference between me and Donald and his "white supremacist" friends in Charlottesville (and elsewhere)...I'm not at all proud of my ignorance.  I'm also always open to feedback about when I've done something hurtful.  I'm also prepared to address ignorance, hatred and bigotry when I see it

I have a moral compass and wish I could offer one to Donald as well, but alas, I can't imagine he'd ever use it.

Current Knitting

Production knitting continues on the Coffee Cup Cozies (and will continue until I reach the quantity of 50).

I actually finished a total of 6 cozies in 2 days, and my total inventory so far is now 22.  At that pace, it should take me another 9 days to have 50 total (although I think I'm getting faster and may be able to finish sooner if I keep at it).

Monday, August 14, 2017

Accessing The Hive-Mind

Recently, I surveyed my Facebook friends for pricing thoughts on a new product I'm adding to my craft show table sales inventory.

Tips On Hive-Mind

Like many social media concepts, the hive-mind can be both a great way to access community ideas or virtually useless.  Here are some ways that seemed to have helped me garner the information I was looking for.

  1. Be as specific in your question as possible.  I was trying to figure out how to price hand-knit coffee cozies (see below).  I specifically wanted to know what a purchasers expectation of price would be.  I didn't ask for pricing strategies, or for praise or critique of my work, or ways that I could market the product better, so I specifically asked what a prospective buyer would hope to see on the price tag when they looked at this product on my table.
  2. Be open to all answers.  People won't always respond with what you ask for.  Despite not looking for pricing strategies, a number of people responded with how they price items.  I wasn't looking for what people thought should be a fair price for my efforts, but there was a lot of that too.  I even garnered some useful marketing advice.  I also never take any responses personally...either as praise or as criticism.  My sister responded with my worst fear, that no one wants these items and I should spend my time on scarves.  She may well be right and I'll adjust accordingly after my first craft show.
  3. Take into consideration the fact that people might be afraid to insult you with their answer or may try to be ingratiating with their answer.  Reading responses carefully to try and assess this is probably impossible, but I tried anyway.
  4. Be appreciative of all answers.  When people take the time to give their feedback on anything, I am very grateful.  They are offering their insight, expertise and thoughts and I consider myself lucky to have access to that.  I always at least "like" the comments.
  5. Let people know what you've decided based on their feedback.  Whenever I provide feedback to hive-mind requests, I want to know what was finally decided.

There were some factors I didn't include in my communal question, such as both of the craft shows/fairs I'm scheduled to do are nicer, higher-end shows where people are looking for nicer gifts and have a bit more disposable income than in some other areas of the country.  Again, I wasn't looking for a pricing strategy...I already have that...I wanted to gather pricing expectations so that when a potential buyer sees the price for one of these, they don't immediately think my items are out of their price range.

The majority of replies seemed to indicate $5 was the price they would be hoping to see.  There were prices below that and above it, but my general sense was folks saw this as a $5 item.  Despite that, I've decided I will price them at $7 (or 3 for $16).

Thank you all for your thoughts and comments...I am very grateful and will post the results to my Facebook page as well.

Current Knitting

Since I'm hoping to bang out a total of 50 Coffee Cozies, I decided to focus my efforts on that this past weekend.

I ended up finishing 7 more cozies, with only 32 more to go.  I also finalized the display card.

They are printed on card stock and have my designer logo and web site at the bottom.  I'll have signage with the prices for these instead of printing them on the packaging in case I have to change the price.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Inventory, Pricing, Packaging

Even when it's a small craft show business, there are many aspects of business that come into play.

Taking Stock

Last year, I attempted to sell my hand knits at a couple of different local artisan/craft fairs and did reasonably least well enough to encourage me to continue this year.

Since I'd prefer to have people interested in buying hats and scarves and warmer weather items, and I'd also prefer to leverage the holiday gift-buying impulses, I only sell at craft shows in October, November and December, so I'm preparing for those shows now.

With remaining inventory of about 50 items from last year's shows and approximately the same number of items knit since then, I have about 100 items to put out for sale so far.  Ideally, I'd like to double that, since typically a vendor doesn't sell more than half of their inventory at a show, but I don't think that will really be feasible.  In between craft shows, I also need to replace sold inventory as quickly as possible for the next show.

Another goal based on last year's sales was to try and create a small knitted item that I could sell relatively inexpensively so buyers could purchase something for $10 or less at my table.  I considered small Christmas stocking, mittens and coffee cup cozies.  I opted for the coffee cup cozies.

Mostly I'll be using up leftover sock yarn to make them, so there's little to no materials cost and I've gotten to the point where I can knit them up rather quickly.

I just have to decide on pricing for them.

Regardless, I'm going to try and have about 50 of these completed between now and my first show and I'll probably display them on coffee cups like shown above, but sell them on small cutouts like this:

We'll see how it goes!

Current Knitting

I was working on a hat that I hated, so I frogged it and I am still working on a scarf that I'm not thrilled with, but here is what I've knit since my last blog entry on Monday.

The scarf is just a garter stitch biased scarf using two different colorways of yarn.  It's turning out to be a mishmash of transgender and leather flag colors...kind of a niche market if that's what you're looking for.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The More Things Change

I honestly imagined that when I stopped working that my workspace would get a bit more organized.

Staying the Same

Despite the fact that I have no job-related work that needs to be done, my desk continues to be strewn with unfiled and random crap.  As does my crafting area and even my computer desktop.

I don't know why I had the thought that I would become a completely different person when I retired and suddenly I would be inspired to have everything neatly put away and stored in a tidy and organized way...I think I must have been delusional.

I have never been overly organized or neat and I don't expect I ever will be.

Truthfully, I find for someone with as much attention deficit as I have, when something is out of sight, it's not just out of's forgotten.  So I have to be careful about how "organized" I am and make sure that those tasks that will need attention at one point stay in a place that is "to-be-filed" so I can make sure it gets done.

It may not work for you, but it works pretty well for me.

Current Knitting

I've continued to be diligent about adding items to my Craft Show inventory.

I completed the lengthwise garter stitch scarf and four new hats.  The simple hats above will become my standard beanie from now on...I have come up with stitch counts for both worsted and bulky weights and I'm happy with how the hats turn out.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The Joys of Biking

I'm not a serious biker...I don't own any spandex padded pants, my handlebars aren't all twisty, I don't wear a helmet, I don't race...hell, I don't care at all how fast or slowly I ride.

Three Top Reasons for Biking

As other cyclists go past Thaddeus and I, I always make up stories in my mind that they have disdain for us for our speed, or lack of appropriate attire or some other reason.  So I got to be thinking of why I enjoy riding so much:

  1. Thaddeus and I do it well together
  2. Taking advantage of the beauty where we live
  3. Exercise

Good Combined Past-Time
Don't ever put Thaddeus and I in a room together and ask us to paint the room.  At least one of us will be dead (or at least really pissed off with the other).  Or don't ask us to work together in the kitchen.  In fact, don't ever ask Thaddeus and I to work together on anything side-by-side.  We don't do that well together at all.

So, when we find an activity that we both enjoy and the choreography of our bicycles seems easy and we both agree on bike path etiquette and when to stop for a rest and hydration and it just seems natural and easy to cycle together, it feels like a miracle.

Local Beauty
I've posted about this before, but we live within a mile of the Delaware River and in this area there are canals and towpaths on both sides of the river (PA and NJ).  Taking a quick ride to Stockton, NJ and crossing over the river to come back from Center Bridge, PA can be incredibly beautiful and serene.  A longer trip south on the river brings us to Washington's Crossing (approximately where he actually crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Eve).

Regardless of where we ride, we see tons of flora and fauna.  There's an eagle's nest on two of our routes where we've watched eaglets take wing and proud bald eagles watch over them.  We've seen tons of turtles in the canal and great blue herons and I even saw a fox pup the other day.

This isn't my photo, but it's very similar to what I saw.

We're very fortunate to live where we live, and having the time to take advantage of it is awesome.

I would have guessed this would have been my primary purpose in biking, but honestly the other two outweigh this reason by far.  Yes, we do get exercise and yes, I do like how muscular and toned my legs get from doing it, but honestly, I'd be doing it even if I got none of those results.

Which is a good thing, sinceI don't have to care about our speed or how many times we stop to rest.  I can just enjoy the activity without pushing myself to have it be anything more than fun.

Current Knitting

Since my last blog entry, I've finished two hats and I'm almost finished with a scarf...all three will go into the Craft Show inventory.

All three projects are easy to make.  I used a free pattern on Ravelry for the hats which was really badly written, and I tried something different at the fold-over part of the brim.  My change didn't work at all, so I had to rip it out and did it in the standard way.

The scarf is a simple lengthwise garter stitch scarf.  Many of the craft show buyers want items in colors of black and gray, so if I'm going to knit in those colors, I'm doing things that are easy and knit up quickly.