Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: October 2009

Knit Green – Book Review

I received my copy of Knit Green 2 weeks ago. Since then, I have been pouring through it.

Now, I should warn you – I am NOT unbiased about this book – I sold my photographs to the editor and they appear in the book. This is the first time I've seen my name in print, in a bound BOOK. So yeah, I was more than a little excited when my copy came in the mail!

Knit Green, pg 109

That said, I was prepared to just scan the book and put it on my shelf (or let's be honest, on my coffee table where I can casually flip to my pictures whenever anyone wanders into the room). I've been reading and researching eco-friendly fibers since I first thought about starting a yarn business, over 4 years ago. I didn't think this book had a lot to teach me.


I was wrong. So very wrong.

This book is FULL of things I didn't know or couldn't find the answers to.

Part of the book's brilliance is in it's layout. Each chapter tackles a different angle of “green” knitting: Biodiversity, sustainable farming, vegan fibers, maintaining folk traditions, fair trade, organic, recycling, buying local & changing habits.

Each chapter has a well-researched article on the topic, followed by 2 – 3 patterns using yarns that embody the characteristic.
Knit Green - My photo!

While most of the patterns aren't for me (I hardly ever knit from patterns, so *most* patterns aren't for me), the fact that the author gives you real applications for what the book is teaching is refreshing.

The real gem in this book is the articles. The articles are worth the price, even if you never knit any of the patterns, if you are concerned with making concientious decisions in your knitting.

And don't let the whole “green” thing scare you away. The author never becomes preachy or pedantic. She seems to share my belief that knitting “green” needn't be a major life-changing commitment; it can be a slow path to making decisions you are comfortable with.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Book: Knit Green, written by Joanne Seiff
(since we're all about the shopping-local, why don't you try to find a local indie bookstore through IndieBound?)

Can you help?

This is Jay.
Jay, loving the pizza

He needs a job.
I have a theory that maybe you can help.

Since Jay got laid off, we've been talking a LOT about how one looks for a job. He's been shaving, getting dressed nice, going in and asking “Are you hiring?” or “Are you looking for help”, along with a pile of resumes. They all say “fill out our online application,” or send his resume to HR never to be heard from again.  There's little to no interpersonal communication, no talking to a real person, no getting to know each other. And this is rough if you're great with people but have a less-than-impressive resume.

But I'm all about the online. My entire business is based on meeting and getting to know awesome knitterly types online. Most of my newest friendships and collaborations have been formed online. Sure, I've now met tons of them in person, but we keep our relationship going online.

So I thought we'd do a little experiment and bring Jay's job search online. Not just an online application, but an online version of a getting-to-know-you chat. Not all those “What's your weakest trait” questions, but real, useful stuff about him.

After you read this if you think “Wow, I have just the job for Jay!”, leave a comment below or email him at jamison.swigerATgmail.com.

Jay is currently the shipping department, tech guy, graphic designer, head chef and dog walker at Blonde Chicken Boutique. Oh yeah, he's also my husband.

For a few months, he's been working in all those capacities full-time, but now he'd like to help other small businesses (or individuals), doing, well, anything they need doing. Here's a bit more about what he's done for BCB.

Tech Guy:
Jay makes all the decisions for the BCB's hardware and software needs. He maintains the network and fixes the printer before I throw it out the window. He regularly does something to my laptop that makes it run all smooth and happy and have more memory. He also researches and finds the best (usually free) software to meet the need of whatever new project I dream up.

I know he's good at this because I don't have to know anything or think about anything and he makes it  all work out, giving me time/energy to focus on the yarn.

Graphic Designer:
Jay just recently redesigned my product labels and whoa, they're awesome. He also designs all my ads and looks at the stats to see which one performs best. He designed my much-complimented business card, thank you cards and everything I've ever printed out.

He also built a website for our friend, Mama Beehive, and designs posters for the local wrestling company and youth groups.

Head Chef:
It's embarrassing, but most days I don't remember to eat until 6 or 7. Jay not only remembers that I need to eat, he whips me up tasty goodness. He's a vegetarian and makes the best burgers (no beans!), chili and enchiladas EVER. And his deep dish pizza crust. Legendary!

(This is the kind of skill that doesn't come up often in interviews but it is priceless.  When there's a “potluck” Christmas party, you are going to be glad that you have Jay's pizza and not another bacon/mayonnaise/peas “salad”.)

Jay has a bachelor's degree in History and almost has one in Political Science, and he's spent the past few years working full-time in restaurants. All that reading and learning and paper-writing seriously honed his critical thinking skills.

For example, everything you see at BCB, from the Yarn Mail to the (soon-coming) Learn to Knit Kit first starts like this:
“Hey, Jay, I'm thinking I could do X”
“Oh, good idea! What about Y & Z? “

It's not just idea-bouncing, it's stuckness-slicing. I've been trying to come up with a good learn-to-knit pattern to include in my kit. I think scarves are too long for new knitters, too easy to get bored. So I'm obsessing over this, giving the 50,000 pros & cons and Jay says “So, are you selling the item or are you selling the learning to knit? Which is more important?


And now, in the grand tradition of Havi's Personal Ads,

What we'd like:
A job for Jay. Or even some freelance work until he gets a job.

How this could work:
You have something that needs doing and think Jay would be right for it. This could be dog-walking, graphic design, bringing you food or working for your fabulous company, located here in Johnson City or available online.

You'll either leave a comment below or email him at jamison.swigerATgmail.com.

If you don't have a job for Jay, you'll pass this around to people who might like it.

Thanks! I'll keep you posted on what comes of this!

Heavy Honesty

Last night, my house was broken into and anything we had of value was stolen: TV, Xbox360 (my husband's birthday gift), most of our DVDs, our old gaming systems (the Nintendos of our childhood) and my husband's great-grandma's acoustic guitar.

The door & frame were busted (replaced already, by our fabulous landlady). Our medicine cabinet was trashed (several glass bottles broken, but since we have no prescriptions, nothing was taken). We don't have renter's insurance, so unless we find the stuff at a pawn shop, it's really all gone.

We're safe. Our pets are safe (amazingly, since the door was busted and standing open when we got home). I was wearing the only valuable jewelry I have (my wedding ring!) & the laptop was in the car. The yarn, fiber and wheel is safe.

For this, I am so grateful, I can scarcely breathe.

Despite the new door and a night snuggled at mom's, we don't feel quite right.

The house feels much less home-y.

It's not the stuff they took; it's the comfort, the security, the feeling of snuggling on my couch with a cup of tea alone at night that we miss.

I considered not writing this, but then I remembered the responses I got when I quit my dayjob. The cheers, the emails, the loveliness of sharing that big decision.

But since then, since July, there have a been a lot of little not-so fun things that I haven't shared. Jay lost his job, our car exploded, and now our house was broken into.

I want to share this for the same reason I shared the story of quitting my dayjob:  it's honest and it's real.

These trials, just like the triumphs, are the stuff that Blonde Chicken Boutique is made from.

Blonde Chicken Boutique (and my life) is fun and colorful and sometimes a grand adventure. And sometimes it's hard and icky and entirely unpleasant.

And you, all of you who are part of BCB as a customer, commenter or silent friend, my relationship with you allows me to be honest, to share the good and the bad, the hard and the soft, the colorful and the dark.

The Pain of Craft Shows

I want to tell you all about Craft Attack, but my camera's not cooperating and I can't extract my pictures from it, so that will have to wait.

Instead, let's talk about the doing of a craft show.

It's a lot of work.

More than you think. Maybe more than you would sign up for if you really knew that ahead of time.

There's the actual making of wares, on top of keeping a steady stream of new yarn into the shop.

There's the packing and the planning (extra tags, a sign-up sheet for the newsletter, and on and on).

There's the setting up (tent, tables, lifting, carrying – always UPhill!)

There's the actual 6-8 hour show. The work of talking to people about what you do, why you do it and yes, why that yarn costs that much.
The standing for 8 hours without sitting. The lack of food (I hate to eat when I'm working a show, my stomach's usually too tense and I hate to talk with a mouth-full of food). The excess caffeine. The blasted heat.

Then there's the packing back up. Maybe driving (or flying!) back home. And the unpacking.

And finally, there's the aftermath. Credit cards to run, emails to answer, names to add to the newsletter list, packages to locate (every time I've done a craft show, something has gone wrong with my normal shipping. EVERY time.)

So why do it? Why inflict the pain upon myself (and loved ones)?

Because it's fun.

Sure, it's stressful, but it's the good kind of stress. The push-yourself-farther stress. The make-more-yarn-than-you-thought-possible stress. The talk-to-lots-of-people-despite-being-painfully-shy stress.

It's the chance to hang out with other people who do what I do. Who make and sell what they love. Who are clever, funny and so good at what they do. Who don't ask “Why?” but instead, “How?”

And oh! The customers! People see my yarn in person! And squeeze it! And talk to me about it! And then take it home and love it!

While writing this it dawned on me: I do craft shows because it's the one place, the one situation in which being a full-time yarnie feels good, normal, accepted. The people get me. They get my yarn.
It's a place to be me: handknit clothes, stripey knee-socks, pink-haired, yarn-making me.

And when I get home, back to my solitary studio, back to my online conversations, that afternoon of pure me-ness stays with me, buoying me, refreshing me.

To answer your questions and to help everyone branch out into this very satisfying experience, I put together a class, How to Rock a Craft Show.
If you’ve been thinking about doing craft shows or you’ve been wanting to them better,
check it out!

Happy Birthday, Dyl!

The brothersDarling Pickle,

On this moment (just a minute after midnight), 9 years ago, you came into this world.

I was 350 miles away, in my dorm room, just 2 months into my freshman year.
But I knew you were coming and I couldn't sleep. My (new) friends gathered in the floor of my (tiny) room.

The phone range – you arrived! I hung up the phone, trembling, tears streaming down my face. The room erupted in squeals, hugs, laughing, crying! We were celebrating you, my Dyl, your birth into my life and into our family.

I'm still friends with those girls and we all recall that night with fondness. They can't believe you're as big as you are.

Dylan in chair

But I can. I'm so proud of what you've grown into.
Hardworking. Silly. Smart.  A great snuggler. Awesomesauce.

(and lest you think I'm just here to embarrass you – I'm sitting in Starbucks with tears streaming down my face as I write this!)

To celebrate our friendship, I'm giving away free shipping in my yarn shop, because I don't know how else to include everyone in our celebration. And I really do want EVERY one (in the whole world!) to know how happy I am to have you as my brother.


But since I know you don't give a snot about yarn, we'll celebrate today in a way befitting your 9 years: pancakes (with choclate chips + M&Ms), a double feature, video games, making our own pizzas.

So let's get this party started!

All my love,


PS. If you're not the birthday boy but you want to party in a yarn-y way, snag some yarn and put “Pickle” in the Message to Seller and get free shipping, all weekend.