Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tip of the Iceberg

The lunar eclipse last night was nothing short of spectacular! I can't remember a time when it was as clear and the viewing was as easy. The skies over St. Louis were more than generous in sharing such an amazing event. I kept running outside in my flannel jammies, fur coat, shocking pink fuzzy socks and black slip on loafers to catch a peek. You can of course understand that I looked nothing short of Really Hot. Temperatures were in the low teens last night and I about froze my ever lovin' off but it was completely worth it. The hilarious thing is that I started dashing outside about 8:30 and kept that up until about 9:05 as the shadow made it's way over the moon. At 9:06 I discovered that the large window in the dining room, located directly over the blowing heat vent had a spectacular view of the eclipse. Duh. I was able to enjoy the waning of the event from the comforts of my own house. Sans coat.

Today I am still wearing my flannel jammies for it is a snow day! More accurately an ICE day, the sleet and freezing rain have been falling all morning and the roads are an absolute nightmare. Needless to say I am not going in to the studio today but will work from home. The car is an glittering sarcophagus of ice, forget chipping through that!!

Thankfully we did have a heads up that the icy weather was on the way because I had about three tablespoons of ice melt left in the bag, not enough to do much of anything. So as cranky as I was about heading out into the really cold night air, that is what I did last night. Because we are (hopefully) near the end of the winter season there is not a lot of ice melt or salt available. I worked my way down the road stopping at every QT, 7 11, and home store en route. Finally I did locate a bag of the stuff of which ice is afraid at a grocery store.

Here is the good news----- really the amazingly spectacular news. I had to pass the snacky aisle on the way down to pick up the salt and I believe that I have made a very important discovery! What I have in my possession may possibly be the finest snack food ever invented---- maybe in the history of the entire world. I love my junk food (sadly) and I do not take this pronouncement lightly!

CARAMEL BUGLES!!!! Now, I find regular old plain run of the mill Bugles quite the gourmet treat. As they are not available at the grocery store, they are purchased while on the road at just about any gas & convenience store. In small bags even---- where is a nice big bag when you need them? Ack. But I spied the Bugles logo in the grocery and went running over, my glee over finally finding ice melt on the back burner. Bugles!! And a new variety? On sale? Say no more! They were 3 little bags for 4 dollars so of course I didn't want to break up the family and took 3 bags. I almost ran to my car I was so excited------ and I ripped into the first bag before leaving the parking lot. Just as the bag says, sweet and salty. They are buttery and crunchy, you can taste the corny goodness and the salty tang. Yum. It is my strongest suggestion that you jump in your car and run right out and buy a bag or five. Unless you live in St. Louis and if that is the case, I'm really sorry but you will have to wait until this ice has melted. I do have ice melt if that is any help?

And if having discovered the finest junk food delicacy in the world is not enough, look what the mailman brought!!!!

DANG cute shoes! Little leopard flats with a black patent little toe belt and a strip of black patent on the center back as well. Way too cute! I can't tell you how much I want to wear these shoes but since I'm not going anywhere today I'll just have to admire them off my feet!

Now check THIS out! In my former life, one of the things I did was create a little E-Mazagine by subscription for quilters called Gramma' Ruth's Gazette. (More about that later). I still get communication from Quilts Inc., the company behind Quilt Market. In the recent issue of the "e-Insider", there was a huge article about the meld between quilting and knitting! I say DUH----- it is the perfect mix of creative joy! I've been a quilter and a knitter forever and know that many of my blitters are as well. Check out a portion of the article, it features our beloved Sheri from The Loopy Ewe as well as the rockin' duo at Stash and Burn! I was absolutely tickled to see this!!

The New Face of Knitting

and how the quilt shop can benefit

The knitting area at Nancy’s Quilt Shop

In terms of popularity, knitting has certainly seen its share of ups and downs through the years. In the current decade, however, the artform has undergone a resurgence, capturing the attention of a new and different audience that includes teenagers, college students, young mothers, and even men. And with many quilters also showing an interest in knitting, a number of quilt shops have found a way to capitalize on this trend by adding knitting classes and supplies to their own stores.

In many ways, the trend can be attributed to the extensive variety of specialty yarns and fresh, new designs and tools that are available to knitters today. And attendees to International Quilt Market can get a first-hand look at some of these products. Exhibitors like Hanah Silk, Bryson Distributing, and Clover Needlecraft supply retailers with everything from standard knitting needles to patterns for fashion-forward knits.

Jan Carr, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Clover Needlecraft, says that the company has “enjoyed a steady increase in interest in knitting and crochet products along with a strong increase in sales over the last 3-4 years.” In fact, the company has added several knitting needles to their lineup of products in recent years. Among their bestsellers are the Bamboo Circular Knitting Needle, used for creating everything from scarves to afghans, and the Bamboo Double Point Knitting Needle, used for sock making.

Carr also says that there are many quilters who have developed an interest in knitting, crochet, and other needlework products. “Knitting is simple to learn and has a calming effect on most people,” he says. “It used to be thought of as an older person’s craft, but today, teens and even younger people are hip to knitting.”

And quilt shop owners who offer knitting supplies and classes can definitely help to bring in new customers, he adds, given that they are fully prepared for such. “It is important to make sure that you have a knowledgeable staff in your shop that can teach knitting or crochet,” he explains. “It is also essential to learn who and where the competition might be in your area.”

This has certainly been the case for Nancy Laussade, owner of Nancy’s Quilt Shop in Las Vegas, Nevada. Though she has been in business for six years, it wasn’t until three years ago that she decided to add knitting to the lineup of classes offered at her shop.

Sheri Berger (top) and the staff at The Loopy Ewe
“We started very, very slowly,” she says. “I had a quilting instructor who knitted and she began teaching and meeting in the store with friends who knitted socks.” When this group expressed an interest in buying yarn from her as well, she began adding it to her inventory. “I just ordered sock yarn at first,” she continues, “because I had a committed group of people who were interested. We gradually added more and eventually decided to go ahead and stock a variety of inventory in yarn.”

Today, Nancy’s Quilt Shop offers customers an assortment of knitting supplies—wool and alpaca yarns, patterns, and notions, including circular needles for knitting socks. The store also has a special knitting area complete with a table for knitters to meet around and work on projects. And Laussade says that she feels fortunate to have this space to provide for her knitting customers—something that a standard yarn store might not be able to do. “If I was just selling yarn,” she says, “I would not have the luxury of having that space.”

She says that while the yarn only constitutes about 10% of the store’s overall sales, the addition has been worthwhile thus far. But she cautions that a quilt shop must make sure that it has the customer base for knitting products before adding them to its inventory. “I did,” she explains. “I had a knitting teacher and quilters who wanted to learn to knit. I only ordered what they wanted until I saw that it was going to take off. And I’m still very specific about what I order—it’s all catered to what classes are being taught.”

Amy Tyer (right) and Sheryl Means of Yarntopia
Currently, the shop offers a substantial list of knitting classes including those for beginners as well as technique-specific classes for more experienced knitters. And Laussade says that there is definitely a “crossover” of sorts among the quilters and knitters that visit her store. Many of these knitters have developed an interest in quilting, while many of the quilters have begun to take up knitting.

But quilters aren’t the only ones trying their hand at knitting. It has also captured much of its new audience with the help of a thoroughly modern accomplice—the internet. Knitters around the world are using the internet as a way to connect and share their latest projects, favorite new finds, or interesting experiences. With a little help from Google, knitters can find a number of online knitting communities to which they can belong along with countless blogs written by knitters wanting to share their passion. The internet is also the ideal place for knitters to purchase their favorite (and often, hard to find) supplies.

Many quilt and knitting retail stores are finding that the internet is a great way to reach customers that might not otherwise walk into their stores. “It has been imperative to our business because we ship to countries all over the world,” explains Sheri Berger, owner of The Loopy Ewe, a knitting store out of St. Louis, Missouri.

“We’d never have that opportunity if we’d chosen to just do a physical retail shop,” she continues. Though The Loopy Ewe has minimal retail hours and in-person shoppers, they’ve chosen to concentrate on their online store because, Berger says, “there are so many people out there that don’t have a local yarn shop that they can just pop into and get what they need.”

Visitors to the online store can find an assortment of sock and lace yarns, as well as, patterns and accessories geared toward sock knitting. This focus on foot-friendly knits is a reflection of Berger’s own fondness for knitting socks.

As it turns out, knitting also suited her daughter, and together they both started making scarves. But after a year and a half of this, she asked herself, “How many scarves can one person need?” On the other hand, she says, “someone can never have too many socks.” So today, socks have become the project of choice for both of them.

Though she may have a preference, Berger says that one of the greatest things about knitting is that “there are so many options for the finished product—whether it’s scarves, socks, lace shawls, or sweaters.” It’s also fairly inexpensive, she continues, “and it’s something that you can sit and do with your family that doesn’t make a lot of noise. It’s a very productive, yet relaxing hobby.”

Berger documents many of her own adventures with knitting on her blog. Likewise, Amy Tyer and Sheryl Means, co-owners of the retail knitting store, Yarntopia, in Katy, Texas, maintain a blog for their site that includes information on their newest products and upcoming store events. Unlike The Loopy Ewe, however, the products that appear on the Yarntopia website represent only a fraction of their in-store merchandise.

Nicole Hunter (right) and Jenny Check of Stash and Burn
Tyer says that the store’s main demographic is “women whose children are around junior high age or women who are in their 40’s and 50’s.” Tyer goes on to explain that while knitting is still popular among college-age people, the trend has died down a bit in the last couple of years. She now finds that knitting is becoming more popular among young mothers, women in their 20’s and 30’s.

“Because Katy is a suburb, there are a lot of mothers here,” she says. “We have people bring their babies into the store. We even have a changing table in the back in case they need it.”

But these young women aren’t knitting their “granny’s sweaters,” she adds. “There’s been a big push with patterns and in magazines and books to try to appeal to the more fashion conscious knitters. There is more of a trend toward high fashion, which is great for the younger women like me.”

Magazines like Vogue Knitting, Knit 1, and Knit ‘N Style are even featuring young, hip models that are comparable to those seen in the pages of the “regular” fashion magazine.

Another young artist with a penchant for fashionable knits is Nicole Hunter. On her website, she introduces herself as “a librarian who knits—or maybe a knitter who is a librarian.” Either way, since learning the artform in 2002, she has devoted a large part of her free time to knitting, blogging about knitting, and now, podcasting about the same.

“I started blogging because I wanted a way to catalog my knitting—there’s the librarian in me,” she says. “I had been reading other knitting blogs and was that there was a community online of support that I though would be helpful to me as a new-ish knitter.”

She says that she was also a fan of knitting podcasts and decided to launch her own with friend and fellow knitter, Jenny Check. With a little help from Jenny’s husband, the duo dubbed their new creation “Stash and Burn.” “Since we talked so much about our own stashes and because it is such a focus among knitters, we thought we would use it as our jumping off point,” Hunter says. Consequently, in their first episode, the two discussed ways that they would attempt to reduce the size of their own “stashes” in the following months.

They have since released an amazing 40+ episodes of their podcast, which feature their own ongoing projects, new and interesting products, and interviews with other knitting aficionados. And while it is fun to share their enthusiasm for knitting with people across the world wide web, Hunter says that she also has to remind herself “to close the laptop once and a while and knit!”

This shouldn’t be too difficult given her passion for the artform. “I can’t imagine my life without knitting,” she says. “It can be frustrating at first, but it is ultimately very relaxing. And there is nothing quite like a finished object. When you have that scarf, sock, or sweater, you almost can’t believe that you made it with your own two hands!”
Rhianna White

For more information on the businesses mentioned above, visit the following websites:

Pretty way fab eh???????? So.............. I think that since Kathy and Steve at Webs are branching out into beads with knitting, they should branch out into quilting as well! :) I'll run the shop, it'll be great..................................

Truly one stop shopping! Woo Hoo! I'll bring the Bugles!


Virtuous said...

I took pics of the eclipse last night too! Yours came out much better than mine! :op Haha!

It is raining here now and calling for an ice day tomorrow too! Oh goodness we will see....
Would be nice to have a freebie knit day though! ;op

Sassy shoes! I so want some in zebra!

Great info on all the businesses. I just LUV Loopy Ewe!

Willow said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Our dear grand kitties regularly send me IM communications about the happenings over there at their house. I wonder if I could find some catnip flavored Bugles for them.

Isn't it great when your lys gets such great press?

yoel said...

OMG those bugles look so good! You have to take the time to put one on each of your fingers and eat them one by one, otherwise they're never as good. Where did you get them? I guess I'll have to wait for the ice to melt anyway.

Red Geranium Cottage said...

I used to love bugels when I was in high school. I just may have to get me some of those.
Love those shoes sisterfriend. and hubby is stranded there in St.Louis tonight and tomorrow. His plane flight was cancelled. He's not a happy camper right now. LOL

melissaknits said...

OK, so, I need the ingredients list of the Caramel Bugles. I LOVE Bugles. Maybe, just maybe, they're sans gluten, with all that corny goodness...