Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stitches South, the third

So, while I am swatching madly on the machine I thought more yarn would be a nice distraction. But before that, I am going to take a moment to share a few observations regarding vendors.

This is the first fiber expo I have attended, but it is hardly the first time I have experienced this format. I have been to dealer's rooms at SciFi and anime conventions, and even been through the halls of swag at professional venues. I was surprised at some of what I encountered at Stitches.

The setup of your booth should not be so packed with stuff it blockades the customer from actually entering and continuing to browse. It should be inviting. If all you did was sit hidden and dejected in the rear of a booth like this, it is no surprise you did not do well.

If there are two people working a booth, one of them should excuse themselves from the non buying chatty customer who is only seeking attention to help the new customer who has been seriously trying to catch someone's attention BEFORE she leaves the booth. Following after me as I walk away and asking if there was something I needed help with after I wasted 10 minutes of my time trying to catch someones' eye will always result is me telling you, no, I didn't need help. You have lost a sale. I will find what I need somewhere else, because I can, even if it was your display that sold me on the item. You have lost my business.

I was also surprised at the amount of snarking I overheard from other vendors, loudly telling customers why not to shop at another particular booth. If I am not trying to eavesdrop and still hear you, I might ultimately take your advice, but I add your booth to the list as well. Except for ease of availability, there was nothing there I couldn't find somewhere else. People, this is the 21st century. Thanks to the internet, the world is my LYS.

Lastly (and I'll mention that although I did not patronize the booths I am referring to above I did eventually buy something from these last although they came close) if you are dealing in limited unrepeatable colorways, you might want to be more up front about it. I asked if there was a kit in the color of the model. I was simply told no. Then I asked if there would be anymore in the future. Again, the no. Then I had a question regarding a pattern, which I was told was not available separately outside of a kit that didn't come in any of the colorways I was interested in. Could I get any of what I wanted and they repeatedly did not have later from a website or something? I'm happy to do that. No. Were they trying to run me off?

The disturbing thing about the array of vendors at Stitches was that there were a larger number of negative experiences than I have ever come across before. I don't know if anyone else found this, but I sure did.

Excellent vendors did abound, though and they got my money. Boy did they. Aside from Gryphon, I dropped a bit of cash at Tess Designer Yarns. I did not merely buy yarn there, I bought the night itself...

There is no way I will ever get this color to photograph just right, so I'm not going to try. It just looks like the sky at night where there is no moon, just a few clouds glowing somehow. I love it. I'd better, I bought lots.

Next is the totally fun Zauberball

which is a really long change color shifting yarn. In Germany you can even get Zauberball Crazy, but those are not yet here. I have one Crazy coming from Germany at some point. I like the idea of color changes long enough to still use complicated stitch patterns and not obscure either the pattern or the colors.

There's more, but this will be it for now. Friday I should have a tutorial of sorts on machine knitting for you, right now it's back to swatching for me!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Stitches South, part deux, the director's cut extended version

What I didn't expect to find at Stitches was machine knitting stuff. But lo and behold, a booth I passed like 90 times without even looking (for some weird reason) suddenly manifested on my 91st pass, and there was Fran's Knitting Boutique, all full of knitting machines and machine related stuff. You could have knocked me over with a hank of Bugga!

Many years ago I bought a used knitting machine on ebay. I know, I know, but it really was a good deal, was an excellent model year and came with every accessory ever made for it, all for a low price when compared to buying new.

The first problem was that it was in Oregon, and I have never been anywhere near Oregon, so shipping was going to be the dealbreaker. But then I found out a friend was going to visit family in Oregon the very next month and would be within reasonable driving distance and didn't mind picking it up for me and bringing it back home with them.

If that isn't a clear message from God telling me sure, go ahead and buy a used knitting machine sight unseen on ebay, well, I don't know what is. Now, the Old Testament is really clear on what happens to people who don't obey, so I bought it. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

And everything went without a hitch and in a little over a month, I had a Studio 360 machine with a ribber and all the extra stuff you could ever have for it, and I had no idea what to do with it. So it kinda sat.

Then I found a local KM dealer and got with her and had the machine cleaned and serviced and got some basic lessons on the main bed and went home and did almost nothing with it. So I put it in storage for a while, so it could age to perfection. Ahem. Meanwhile, the dealer seemed to magically go poof! and disappeared, so I lost what support I had for the machine. Things looked bleak for my future in machine knitting.

Then, when that Rowan issue came out with the Kaffe Fassett Kidsilk Haze extravaganza of stockinette, I thought, hey, what a great project for the machine! Mostly because I hate the thought of miles of stockinette. And it worked great. But I never even began to figure out all the features much less started trying to understand the ribber, which I didn't seem to be able to even hook up. I chalked it up to ignorance and when the project was over, back into storage the machine went.

But Kim was busy catching the machine knitting bug, and I offered to lend her the machine and all it's accessories so she could take a class in KM stuff, figuring when she came back I'd pick her brain. That was when I found out the second problem.

The ribber was bent.

That would explain a lot, though, and when I got the machine back I rather sadly packed it all up for storage, possibly this time for good. Until I saw Julia's blog (go check out the awesome spinning wheel her father made for her!). She knits socks on her machine. Excuse me, I could knit socks on the machine? Why hasn't anyone told me this? (Why didn't I think of it myself? Ssh, we're not going there).

So now it was important for me to have a functioning machine with a ribber. And there was nothing I could find on the internet or in the phone book or anything that could point me in the right direction. Till Stitches, and Fran. Who sold me a new sponge bar and gave me the courage to have my husband take a hammer to the ribber bed. Seriously.

Do you know how many people at a fiber convention will stop you and ask you what you have if you walk around the vendors room carrying a sponge bar for a knitting machine? I am seriously thinking about carrying one routinely at every fiber event I go to from now on. Vendors came out of their booths to stop me and ask me what I was carrying. It was freaky. At one point a really nice lady came directly up to me and said,"That's a sponge bar for a knitting machine! You have a knitting machine! So do I!". There was a desperate edge to her voice. I realized that I had just met another lost and frustrated knitting machine owner with no support system. I gave her my contact info, I hope she gets in touch with me.

But yeah, tons of people who previously had limited their conversation with me to "excuse me" all of a sudden were consumed with curiosity. It isn't even that special looking.

Anyway, where all this longwindedness is going is that I just spent an entire day with my machine and John and I actually fixed the damned thing! I can rib! I can knit in the round! In the round! I can do other stuff I don't even understand enough to name now! And all I keep hearing in my head is James Earl Jones's voice saying,

"Now witness the power...

...of this fully armed...

...and operational battle station."

It's like owning the death star of knitting machines. I may have to name it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Stitches South, Installment the First

In spite of illness I finally made it to Stitches South today. There would be tons more pictures except photography and such were not allowed. Highlights were Rick Mondragons' leopard pants (once seen, some things cannot be unseen), a cavalcade of bizarre sparkly knits, having a lovely conversation with Lisa Souza and finding the one item which is apparently THE icebreaker for a knitting/fiber show. For todays installment, though, I will share with you my triumph, indeed, the reason that about 30 minutes in I could have packed up and called it a good day and gone home happy. That would be the Bugga!

In the foreground is the Blue Orchard Bee colorway, in the back is Blue Morpho.

And here in front is Orange Assassin Bug, followed by Hologram Moth (I bought two of those) and bringing up the rear is Scarlet-Winged Lichen Moth.

And they glow, people, they just glow. I have never successfully snagged any Bugga! at all during any of the Sanguine Gryphon's updates, so being able to touch sweater quantities of all the colorways was almost too much for me. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it yet, but I really don't care. Whatever I do will look spectacular because of the amazing depth of color of this yarn.

More new stash tomorrow!