Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No work! More working!

My seasonal gig has ended for the... well, season, naturally, which means more time to focus on the stuff that I live for, which is designing.

The last few days have been busy. I finally got my cutting table out of storage and pulled everything out of my workspace/office/studio. Let's just call it a studio, I like calling it a studio. It makes me feel all designery, and not like someone who just can't get a "real" job.

So I'm completely reorganizing to make room for the cutting table, and right now things in here are just plain chaotic. I've been working on it for three days, and for quite a while there it looked worse than when I began, but things are finally starting to come together, just in time for me to go out of town for a few days. Sigh.

I can't complain though -- my roommate Jules just got an exciting (well, if you're a geek it's exciting, I barely understand half the things that come out of her mouth) new job, and wanted to take a break between her old job and the new one, so we're leaving for the Grand Canyon early tomorrow morning! I'm so excited; I've never been, plus Jules is going to drive most of the way which means I get to work on the Clapotis, which I finally cast on for yesterday! I'm using the gorgeous ella rae lace merino from my yarn swap, and I just love the way it's knitting up. Plus it's a very simple knit, which makes it perfect for travel. And I just LOVE the way this knits up. From far away it looks almost grey, and then you get close and it's this wonderful mix of purpley auburney hues.


In a related, but sadder note, I (almost) finished the baby socks I was knitting, and I RAN OUT OF YARN! Know anybody who can send me about 3 yards of Trekking? I'm thinking about ripping back the toe on the finished one and then redoing both toes in a contrast color, but I don't ahve one in my stash, so I may end up buying more Trekking anyway. Which I sort of ok, I guess, because I do love the colors, but -- ARGH.

Of course, I could also knit a matching cap out of it. hmmm... Ideas? Anyone?

And while I try not to post too many cat pics, this one is irresistable. This is the Xander-mouse, who was pretty content with all the rearranging bustle yesterday, because he found the perfect vantage point from which to watch:

That's all for now!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Previously, on ellaluna: babies babies babies!

Well, just the first part is about babies. After I posted the bit about designing my own patterns, and Miriam commented, (and later sent me a very helpful and informative email) I started panicking.

Do I really have the audacity to lump myself into the same category as the amazingly talented Miriam L. Felton? Do I even have the talent to do such a thing? And how dare I enter a field where so many much more talented and much more experienced designers have gone before? I've only been knitting for three years, what makes me think I have ANYTHING to offer the varied and abundant world of knitting patterns? At BEST, I've only just come over the cusp of novice. I mean I've never even knit a REAL sweater, for hecks sake! Lace makes me dizzy! My mind is still not able to fully comprehend the magic of turning a heel, and now I think I have the expertise to DESIGN a SWEATER? I must be smoking crack.

The baby argyle sweater goes into hibernation.

But I need something to do now. The yarn for the flutter scarf (coincidentally, a Miriam pattern!) has not arrived yet, and I can't find my gorgeous size 5 Lantern Moon needles to cast on for the Clapotis scarf that I am knitting for ME out of the luscious ella rae Lace Merino that I received from my "spoiler" as part of the Winter Yarn Swap on Ravelry.

So I pick up Ann Budd's "Better than Booties" baby socks pattern. Baby socks are easy, right?

I look over the three different patterns. Hmm, the Ruffle Rib socks are cute, but that's almost an entire page of knitting instructions. I wanted something easy. The Cable Rib are also nice, but since this is for a baby girl, I decide on the Chevron Lace. Only one paragraph of instructions, plus they'll look adorable in the Trekking XXL that I have left over from the Simple Trekking Socks (oh, look, another Miriam pattern!) I made for my mom last year. The colorway is heavenly and perfect for this baby, whose mother is NOT fond of the traditional soft pinks for her baby girl.

I start easily enough, and before I know it, I've done a folded picot edge. Wow. This is a TOTALLY new thing for me, and I just love the way it looks. I admire it for a few minutes before diving in to the lace pattern.

Crap. The lace pattern doesn't come with instructions, only a chart. I've never knitted from a chart before. Oh well, it's a very short chart, I'm sure I can figure it out. I start in on it, and it makes perfect sense. Ok, cool. Wow! Before long I've memorized the pattern and I'm knitting merrily along.

Oops. Forgot something. The Trekking likes to split. A LOT. Especially with lace patterns. And I'm knitting such a tight gauge that it gets especially splitty when I'm doing the SSK (sorry, non-knitters, I know I'm using a lot of completely foreign terms today!) It's while negotiating the "K" part of an SSK that my needle breaks in half. This has never happened to me before.

After staring in horror for a few seconds (that seem like minutes) at the two halves of my needle, I pick up my nail file and file the broken edges into a point. I soon find that these little needle stubs are actually PERFECT for the little lace patterns.

I eventually get to the heel, and see this:

Heel: Work as for Ruffle Rib socks.

Hm, okay. I turn the page back, and there is the page of instructions I was avoiding. At this point I can only laugh. I'm too far along to go back now.

It takes a little while, but I get the hang of it, and it's actually starting to LOOK like something. People walking by my little low-walled cubby (oh, did I mention that I'm doing this in between calls at work?) are actually stopping in their tracks and heaping praise on my meager efforts. Quite frankly, I'm kind of thrilled.

When I get to the toe, and read that I need to go back to the instructions for the heel and do the same thing, I'm completely unfazed. I blithely flip back to the page where the instructions begin. It is then, and only then, that I glance up and see three tiny words:

SKILL LEVEL: Experienced

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day this year?

That's the bi-weekly question from my Ravelry Swap Group.

For starters, I'm REALLY HAPPY that I'm not working today. I worked yesterday and it was probably the worst day I'd had. I think 95% of the calls I took were "Service Calls" which means: people unhappy about something.

In case you've not been following along, I'm doing seasonal work in the Call Center at Proflowers for V-Day. That means on the day before, people are calling because they waited until the last minute and are now going to scream at me because delivery on a Valentine's Day on a Saturday is more expensive than the cheap (but lovely, of course) bouquet they are buying at the last minute and they're certain that if they yell at me long enough the Procrastination Fairy will magically make the earth spin backwards or something.

Or they're calling because the flowers they ordered two weeks ago aren't there yet and they don't understand why because they ordered them two weeks ago and it's already 10am and that's "plenty of time" to deliver a box of flowers, never mind that there are half a million other people who are also getting flowers today and so you might not get them until 8pm, which is what we told you when you bought them.

Having said that, it's a great company to work for, and yes, the only calls I get all day on the day before a Major Holiday in the floral industry are of course going to be from people who did not receive the normally stellar service and product from Proflowers, (or the aforementioned procrastinators, and I'm not going to be too hard on them because half the time I'm one of them, except that I'm smart enough to know that if I fuck up and wait until the last minute there are going to be consequences, and most of the time I try NOT to blame someone else for them) and I'm not saying that because I'd really like to continue working there for a little while but also because honestly, if I ever needed flowers for someone, I'd use Proflowers without a seconds hesitation.

Having said THAT, I also need to add that working there is actually fun, even when half the calls you get begin with someone screaming in your ear. I arrive at work a little before 6am, have breakfast (provided by the company during Valentine's week) and go to my my seat assignment for the day (multiple interim peeps working means not everyone gets their very own desk). There are large windows everywhere, flowers everywhere, and the upper muckety-mucks do a great job of empowering and supporting the people on the front lines. (Despite my earlier sarcasm, I'm quite good at managing the service calls and have a lot of options for making it right without having to "talk to my manager", which is one of the reasons I like working there, because not only do they expect me to think, they also give me the tools to fix stuff once I figure out what went wrong)

Um... where was I? Oh yes. So I answer calls for a few hours and then eat lunch, also provided by Proflowers, then I go back to my cubby (in natural wood tones with frosted plexi dividers) and take some more calls. About an hour later, someone comes around to my desks with cookies and milk. Seriously. The day before that it was Jamba Juice. And right before I leave? A dozen beautiful long-stemmed pink roses.

So yes, if I'm going to be working a day job, this isn't a bad one to have.

Oh, but this question was about what I'm doing TODAY. Yeah.

Earlier in the week (on my day off) I made sugar cookies and when Jules got home from work (her cubby is all grey and industrial-looking and there are no windows and no flowers and they don't even get WATER, let alone cookies) we cut them into heart shapes and decorated them. Since I was covered in frosting, flour, and cookie dough for a good portion of that time, here is the ONLY picture I took. I'm sure Jules will be thrilled that I'm sharing it with you.

Last night we went to the Teppan place we like in Escondido. We had great food and shockingly bad service. Came home, had a few beers, watched Galactica (my head is still spinning!!!) watched Burn Notice (really it's just good clean fun) and went to sleep. Got up early this morning (well, 7:30, which would be early for me normally but after getting up at 4:30 all week it's more like sleeping in) and I've been alternating shopping for yarn online (it's so nice to have a paycheck) with cleaning the bathroom (really, I have the shortest attention span when it comes to cleaning. I find something out of place, go to put it away, see something else I meant to do, start to do it, remember that I was going to put something else away first, start to do THAT, and two hours later Jules is following the trail of lights I've left on around the house and muttering about the electric bill.)

So that's my exciting tale of Valentine's Day: Heart-shaped sugar cookies, Battlestar Galactica, and cleaning the bathroom. I really must stop now because I think I've used up my quota of parentheses for the week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Babies, babies, babies! oh, and pricing

It seems that everyone I know is having babies! Aside from being crazy jealous, (what's THAT? Is this the biological clock thing I hear so much about on the TV machine?) I am in knitting - well, heaven or hell, depending on how you look at it. So many babies! So many cute things to knit for them! So few hours in the day!

I haven't posted anything new to my shop on etsy for a while. It's not just the aforementioned job but also realizing that I'm not charging enough for what I'm selling there.

The struggle I'm having is, as always, a complex one, one I think other artisans understand, and that's Perceived Value. First, we tend to undervalue ourselves, secondly many buyers don't value handmade when they can get "the same thing" for one-tenth the price at Wal-Mart, and third, we are often competing with OTHER sellers who undervalue THEMselves. I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this before.

So I tend to price things for "what I think they'll sell for" instead of what I think they're WORTH, and as a consequence I frequently find myself packing something up to ship and then, after paying postage and PayPal and etsy and looking at what's left in my account, I get this sick feeling.

At the same time, no matter how long it takes me to knit a cover for a tin can pencil cup, no matter how beautiful it is, and no matter what the yarn cost, I still can't comprehend anyone paying $45 for a pencil cup. (No, you haven't seen any pencil cups in my etsy shop and you never will, but I do love the way my paintbrushes look in it.)

There is a point to all this, and babies do figure into it, and I'm fairly certain I'm about bring it all together and make my point. Stay with me!

For several months I've been searching for the "perfect" argyle vest pattern for my nephews, and I've been unable to find anything that fits my exacting specifications. Having never knitted a vest at all, I kept searching and searching and searching.

Then I got some great stuff for Christmas, and started playing around with all the patterns in the stitch dictionary. When I found the argyle pattern, I started playing around with it, and suddenly realized that I am completely capable of DESIGNING MY OWN PATTERNS.

This isn't a HUGE revelation, as I've been making up my own patterns since I started knitting, and I've done draping and patterning with cloth for years, and in general I don't like following patterns anyway (and let's not start making assumptions about what that says about my character, even if those assumptions might be right!)

So I start in on the argyle sweater vest. Yes, I used the stitch dictionary, but naturally I needed to make some modifications to the classic.

Two days later I was STILL plotting out the pattern just for the argyle. I started knitting it, made more adjustments, and now it's been a week, I'm 6" into it and this isn't going to fit either of my nephews for about two years.

I am incapable of ripping this out. I can't do it. I HAVE TO SEE HOW IT ENDS! But I also can't justify spending every spare minute knitting adorable things for my adorable nieces and nephews and adorable friends and THEIR adorable kids (oh, and the rest of y'all fit in there somewhere, you know that) if I want to make my etsy shop a success, even if all I WANT to do every spare minute is knit adorable things for my nieces and nephews.

So then I think about selling the way-too-large vest in my etsy shop, but with all the work that's going in to it, there's simply no way to make it profitable. Of course I could always knit several dozen more so the patterning cost gets spread out over the knitting, but I'm really more interested in the "figuring-things-out" part than I am in the "making-the-same-thing-over-and-over-again" part.

Some of you have figured this out already, right? No?

I'm going to start selling the patterns for my original designs.


I'll start small, with a simple pattern that I will post here on my blog for free. (I already have several in mind)

Once I finish the argyle sweater pattern, I'll want to grade it (customize it for different sizes) and I'll need pattern testers!

So all my knittery friends, if you are interested in testing some patterns for me, watch this space!

p.s. I've had to edit this something like five times because I used the word "that" approximately 45 times in the original post, and occasionally as many as three times in the same sentence. I wish I was exaggerating.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Did I mention that I'm spoiled?

I did? Well allow me to mention it again: I'm SPOILED!

I picked up my package from my Ravelry Tuesday night. (It had been there since Saturday but does my mailbox service tell me these things? NOOOO. What am I paying them for?)

Okay, so Tuesday was my FIRST DAY on the phones at my new (seasonal) job. I get there super early in the morning and then I'm on the phones all day. I'm doing customer service for Proflowers.com (side note -- Awesome flowers, awesome company. If you need to send flowers to someone you love, call them. Really.)

Anyway, I get to knit when I'm not on a call! So Tuesday I stuffed my knitting into the mesh pocket in my backpack, and it worked okay. I mean I had it, right?

So then Tuesday night I get THIS:

More about the yarn in a bit. That gorgeous bag is from Katie Fleck Designs and it is PERFECT for carrying my projects to work. PERFECT! It has a little strap on the side that loops over my wrist so I can easily walk and knit and it's stylish enough that I don't feel like an even bigger dork by walking and knitting.

I love even more that it's handmade! And it is BEAUTIFULLY made as well. Love love love.

But that's not all! See that yarn under the bag? It's mine, and you can't have it. It's Ella Rae Lace Merino with the most intriguing colorway. I've already untwisted the hank, stroked it, twisted it up again, cuddled it, sniffed it, petted it -- well I'm pretty sure I'm going to need to propose to it pretty soon. It's luscious, and I've never heard of it before, and I love that it's "Ella" Rae, because, you know, with the "ella".

I can't wait to get on to Ravelry and see what others have done with it. And, as others have said, I'll likely make something for ME with it, because I don't think I can bear to part with it. I'm thinking of a lace scarf. I've been trying to knit lace (for the first time) with mohair, and can I just say -- Mohair is NOT GOOD for a first lace project!

But this looks like it will have gorgeous stitch definition and resilience... Oh, I'm SO EXCITED! Plus there's a little sample of a fiber wash that I've never tried -- how cool is that?


Stephanie Pearl-McPhees Page-A-Day Knitting Calender (I saw earlier that someone else had gotten one, and I was so jealous! Now I have one of my very own!)

A chocolate Wonder Bar (another thing I've never hear of, it's so funny! And yummy! Yeah, it didn't last long.) and cinnamon coffee with these wacky little cinnamon swizzle sticks (and we all know how much I hate coffee!) and this wonderful handmade ceramic plaque (you can see it in the picture. LOVE IT!) PLUS a cinnamon-scented candle, sticky notes with my initial on them, and a card with a cat sleeping in the clean laundry -- EXACTLY what Xander does!

Oh, thank you, secret swap partner, you're SWAPTASTIC! (Okay, I am dorkier than usual this morning, what with the gifts and the coffee and the yarn-sniffing and the candle-sniffing and the chocolate.)