Sunday, October 31, 2010

Loveliest of Trees.....

Piglet said, in the Disney version of Winnie the Pooh anyway, maybe even in the real version, "I don't mind the leaves that are leaving; it's the leaves that are coming...." He was raking on a rather blustery day. Today is a blustery day and my garden is full of leaves from the Maple and Birch, that crowd out the Apple and Cherry, which keep their leaves into November.  I love trees and now there is a tree calendar available from Toronto Parks and Trees - here is the link.

The great thing about this calendar is that there is a poem about a tree or trees to go with every picture.

I am connected to a lot of knitting designers on Facebook. I am obviously not connected to a lot of gardeners or poets, because no one posted that a poem about Trees by George Cooper is one of the most loved pieces of verse circulating on the internet today! Another link

George Cooper wasn't a great poet like, T.S. Eliot - there is a certain common denominator effect on the internet - but I would read this poem to a child and enjoy it. It is not, by the way, in the Oxford Book of Poetry for Children, but "Loveliest of Trees" is.

I have brewing in my mind a design for a shawl inspired by the poem "Loveliest of Trees" by A. E. Housman.  It's the last lines of the poem that are haunting:

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,        
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

One of the first lace projects I designed after "Snowy Evening" from Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" was Tree Scarf. I wanted to capture the idea of a tree in lace. The main pattern repeat is the bark and I chose the Bird's Eye pattern in the ruffle at the beginning and end of the scarf, as I said in Wildflowers and Lace:

......I decided on Bird's Eye because it's an old Shetland lace pattern and trees are old. Birds nest in trees. Plus the openness of the design could look both like the leaves and debris that collect at the bottom of the tree as well as those leaves and branches that form the top expanse of the tree.....

I have added the tree calendar to my Christmas list.  Time, I think, to go for a walk in one of Toronto's amazing ravines for the tree canopy.

The Cherry hung with Lace
Dinner to-night? Something with Maple syrup. Here's a link to a Maple Syrup site with a lot of recipes. They list several recipes per page.  I was thinking of the second one down - pork tenderloin; but you could do French Toast or pancakes too. Ymmmmm!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The times they are a-changing....

I have just spent the last few days mining the V & A's (Victorian and Albert Museum) knitting section. (see link in "Mrs. Brown" post)  It is AMAZING!!

I took this quotation from some text describing a knitted pin cushion (in silk, no less). How many of us have knitted, silk pincushions today?

"The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century transformed knitting, as it did many other handicrafts, into an automated process. Hand knitters found it increasingly more difficult to earn a living and knitting started to become a leisure pursuit."

Fast forward 150 years and we might see a similar quotation...

"The internet revolution of the 21st century has transformed knitting, as it has other handicrafts, into a free for the asking or posting handicraft. Knitting designers have found it increasingly more difficult to earn a living and hobbyists have begun to set the standard for what was once the domain of dedicated artists and designers"

Times change. The free markets rule. Half of the hand knitting industry has become the domain of part time designers who offer patterns for free on the internet, to garner a following and the other half of the industry, the production of yarn, drifts with the current in a market of ever diminishing quality.

I am sure there will be a resolution of this shift, as there has been a resolution of every other change that has happened from the beginning of time.  Art moves forward with man. Much is lost and much is transformed.

It is difficult for me, though, to reconcile the tremedous effort and dedication given to the art of knitting by the designers that had put their heart and soul into their art, and as a result, hoped to earn a modest living by their dedication to the craft with.... Freeconomics.

We don't have silk pincushions today. We don't need silk pincushions today. But we do need a standard. The same standard that gave us silk pincushions then, has given us fine lace knitting, glorious felting, and who knows what other wonders might have happened tomorrow.  This is because the free market also says that designers must be paid for their art.

Where there is no remuneration; there is no refinement, no progress, no accountability, no dedication; there is only a catch as catch can - here today, maybe, gone tomorow casualness to a craft that needs a strong, reliable committment to keep it from just slipping into obscurity as a lot of other hand work has.

Support full time knitting designers. These are the people who will grow the industry because they have to. They will bring you new and innovative patterns, new techniques, new teaching methods. Their ideas often influence the production of new yarns and new products.
Felt Hat from Fiber Trends

We owe the whole felting revolution to Fiber Trends, whose first pattern was the felted hat. Those who started knitting before 1995, I am sure, never felted. Felting was something that happened by accident in the laundry. Half the projects that create revenue for yarn retailers, today, I am sure, come from the technique of felting.

I have used the past tense a lot here because I see designers slipping away, turning to other crafts or other means of paying the rent. There are fewer patterns forthcoming and not many new techniques. The winds of change are blowing...hang on to a sturdy post.

Dinner tonight?  This is a dish that I am going to try. The link is to a recipe in the Toronto Star from Madhur Jaffrey who used to write often in the old Gourmet magazine .
It is a simplified Indian dish - Salmon in Bengali mustard sauce. It's a recipe from a new cookbook of hers. Does anyone buy books anymore?

I'm off to look at IPads, apps....I'll keep you posted!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hallowe'en, horoscopes and other happenings....

I read my horoscope these days. I don't live by it; but I find its little ironies interesting. There have been times in my life when I refused to read newspapers, let alone their horoscopes...there was just too much bad news. Yes, the bad news is still there, maybe I've become inured to it or maybe I've just found different ways of coping, such as, comparing one's horoscope to what really happens in a day.

Well, yesterday, my horoscope said that I would be much richer by this time tomorrow - which is actually today - laws of relativity notwithstanding. So this morning my husband handed me a envelope. "It's from the government," he said. All I ever get from the Feds is requests for payments - something I call UI - "Unexpected Invoices" - every business owner knows that we can't get the real UI, because the scam would be, to start a business; work at it for the required length of time; close it and then claim UI. Hmmmmm.

I opened the envelope - it did look like a cheque, which made me think that it wasn't, because they try to trick you into opening UIs by making them look like cheques. Well, lo and behold, it was a cheque for $705.00 from a government department which bore some amorphous title, that it made me think, that it must be for the move to the HST (harmonized sales tax) for those who live in the few remaining provinces that don't have it.

Today's horoscope wasn't as positive, rats!

The picture is of a knitted skeleton. Here is the link

It was part of an art installation by Ben Cuevas in NY.  There are more links to his blog and more pictures.  I am always in awe of the way artists use knitting in their amazing creations. If you did spend some time on the V & A site last night and looked at the knitted projects submitted by the knitting public then you know what I mean! The skeleton is my knitting tribute to Hallowe'en.

The "happenings?" Well, it just so happens that it's Friday evening and were are sitting around trying to think of something to have for dinner.  We usually get something to take home from the supermarket that's already prepared; but, somehow we have exhausted our choices, which were pretty limited to start with.  I would have pasta every night of the week and my husband would have potatoes and the one remaining child that eats with us has learned to make KD so he doesn't have to eat what we eat. I see signs of a dysfunctional family on the horizon.

How about pasta with a bechamel sauce to which you could add something interesting from the fridge.  Add some cheese to make it taste and "Bob's, your uncle."  Now this is a phrase that I have to track down.  I wonder how many people actually have an uncle Bob?

Taurus will be done this weekend or "Lil's your aunt."

Have a good one

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thank you Mrs. Brown....

It's a grey somewhat rainy day, today.  There was nothing very magical in the paper, this morning and nothing really exciting on the internet either. It's one of those days that you have to work at keeping "up".  OK, time to start with the check list:

1. Not sick - this is good; because, if you have been sick and get better, a day like today seems like a gift!

2. Lamb tonight for dinner. I like lamb. Most knitters like lamb - with or without clothes - on the lamb that is.

3. Sales are good. I'm always happy when knitters are buying yarn and patterns from stores because then the stores are buying yarn and patterns from me and I can pay the rent and buy more lamb for dinner.

4. Baseball is still on TV so my husband has something to watch and I can sit in the "knitting" chair - the one with the good light.  When the baseball season is over - we bargain for "the chair."

5. My son dyed up a whole batch of Zephyr today and it looks GREAT!

Well, I'm starting to feel better already - but there is still something missing...yes, I could sit down to finish that lace shawl with 800 stitches in the final rows - only about 5 more rows to go and then I'd be done!

Nice, but I needed a "hit."  I started to think back to the places I'd been; books I'd read; events I've attended...just looking back to previous "highs." Then something drifted in...a museum...hmmmm...I like museums and galleries. A quick google search revealed, nothing at the Museum for Textiles that was knitting related or a must see.

What's happening at the Victoria and Albert? Many years ago when I lived in London, I'd steal away to the V & A whenever I could. Voila!!! that was it!!!  Here is the link!

It's a knitting fairyland. Yes, there is the usual very lovely samples of vintage knitting and accessories; but there is also a place to:

1. Post your own knitted samples.
2. Share your own learning to knit stories.
3. Help yourself to free patterns and vintage patterns
4. Find patterns for children
5. Link into knitting blogs and podcasts
6. Discover lots and lots of links

Just what I needed to end the day.  I'm going to tuck into my Victoria and Albert motherlode and have a great evening.

Well, I'm having lamb tonight; but if I weren't, Thursday would be "empty out the fridge night", so Bubble and Squeak might work.  I just take everything in the fridge that's been cooked. Grind it up in the Cuisinart. Spray a frying pan with Pam. (I use the old cast iron pans.) Press the mixture into the pan. Heat it through. Cover it with cheese. Put in under the broiler, and serve with anything in the fridge that hasn't been cooked - you will have to use a little culinary judgement here - but it usually tastes OK and dessert is the V & A. What's not to lose. Enjoy.

Oh the title - maybe a little obscure unless, you have seen the film "Mrs. Brown". It stars Judy Dench and Billy Connelly and is based on a time in the life of Queen Victoria - right after her husband's death. If you haven't seen it, do. If you liked "the Queen", I think you'll like Mrs. Brown - watch it here and you'll love the V & A.

Have a great evening

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Of Websites, web-spiders, bats and other creepy crawlies

I always think that Fall (or Spring) are good times to clean out the cobwebs, re-structure, re-think, pull out the map - make sure that we are going in the right direction and so on......  I joined the visa entrepreneurial group on Facebook and came across some really interesting information. One was an article by Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Mobile etc.  I'll talk a lot about this later but here is the link

If you have trouble with this link - you may have to "join" sorry.

He really is a very funny person and an amazing marketer. There was also an article posted about optimizing your website for search engines often referred to as SEO - Search Engine Optimization. A few years ago I paid $80.00 for a book on SEO only to find that the software that structures my site was not very SEO friendly - another upgrade & more money.  I did a lot with meta tags then and now it is time to do some more tidying up.

When I clean, I often have visions of opening up closets and having bats fly there is this virus killing bats....I have very mixed feelings - I don't actually like bats; but I know that they are important, not only for the environment, but also, because I live in fear, that if I don't clean out closets, attics & basements, I'll be overrun with them. Don't tell me about the virus, I may never clean again.

But, I will tidy up the website. Here are the tips to improve your ranking in the search engines from the article on SEO

1. The first tip was to look at the title bar - the coloured bar at the very top of your screen - Don't just look at it once - look at every single page and every single image and enlargement of image and so on - this is the fine toothed comb exercise - now don't get me talking about lice!!

These title bars should include as many of the key words and phrases that are important to having search engines, often called spiders or web-crawlers, find your site. Words like "hand knitting",  "lace shawl", "hand dyed yarn", "cashmere yarn" etc.

2. The next tip was on the importance of having a "text rich" site. (quite different from the tag "rich text") The suggestion was to have 250 words on each page !!!! - please, we are knitters - yes, some of us read too - some of us even read and knit at the same time - most of these knitters are also librarians and get paid for the reading part. How they do it, I don't know, because I have difficulty knitting and thinking at the same time. If you can't manage 250 words opt for 100 of the very best key words.

3. The third tip was to make sure that your site was in html format and you could check this out by moving your cursor over some text and if it highlighted, you were in html format. Some of mine did and some of it didn't - more e-mails to the webmaster.

4. You should also make sure that you are set up for meta tags and you can do that by clicking on the VIEW tab on the tool bar and going to SOURCE. You should see something that looks like: meta name= "keywords" content=. This one worked - one great big tick - sorry check mark - off the list. I am not going to discuss ticks.  Now, I know what they mean by things going "viral".

5. Finally there was "link popularity". I was crushed. I thought that when I finished high school, I didn't have to worry about this popularity thing anymore - but there it was and there I was with the few links that I considered important. Sorry these weren't important enough!  Not only do you need a lot of links; you need links of  high quality i.e. lots of hits.

So here is my proposal - I will link with your site, if you link with mine (sounds a lot like knitting) and we will improve our networks one link at a time.

Dinner to-night - something without legs. How about vegetarian. Here's a layered vegetable casserole that sounds delicious.  It looks like a great site, although there is some effort to convert the omnivores - after this post you may want to consider it!  Have a great day!

Feed your inner "bookie"

Paul, the octopus, has died. You remember Paul. He predicted the winner of 8 world cup matches in the last world cup series in South Africa. OK, he was based in Germany - or should I say "tanked" in Germany. Caretakers would put a flag from each of the opposing teams on one of two tanks. Whichever tank Paul crawled into, that team was predicted to be the winner - and he was right 8 times - he was an Octopus.

The one British bookmaker said..."it created a lot of interest in betting from people who would not have bothered, otherwise."...and this is a good thing?"

The Yang.... Paul cost the betting world 1.5 million in loses....a drop in the bucket, I'm sure.

What has Paul got to do with business or knitting or anything else besides Soccer and gambling?  Well a lot really.

He became a many famous octopodes (shorter Oxford English Dictionary) do you know? Yes, I remember 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea...any more? He came from obscurity - try making it in this world from a marine centre in Oberhausen. He's not really what you would call glamorous, - again try making it with flaccid, scaly flesh covered in tentacles. He's as far as we know, mute - but he rose to the top, so to speak. He is what the Brits would call "canny" - no pun intended. When we feel that things are just too overwhelming, that maybe we should throw in the towel - remember Paul - enlist the help of caregivers - add some mussel...err...muscle and set out to create a winning profile.

I love Paul because he has 8 "arms".  I can't count the number of times that I have prayed for just another set of hands to help finish up a few extra projects in too short a time frame. Well when I really sat down to think about it - could I really manage doing 2 or 3 lace projects simultaneously? Perhaps, if they were all the same stitch and all at the same spot in the repeats. But what if I had to tink one, stop to count another and still work on the gets worse when you add different projects in different gauges not to mention the sewing up!!!

No, Paul was good at what he did and we are adequately equipped to knit our way to stardom with two hands and a little imagination. However, I would still like to have a Paul or something similar to predict what samples, yarns or patterns etc to stock, or take to knitting shows or..or..or. Now this is really a "crap(s) shoot." The game is "Craps". The common usage is "crap shoot." If you don't make the right decisions the outcome could be a load of ______.

Dinner tonight?  Nothing marine - we're in mourning. How about KD - maybe not - do you remember the commercial about the guppies?

I know, I used to teach with a woman, who always maintained that you could do Breakfast at least one night during the week - go for it - just hold the kippers!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It ain't over 'til it's over....

.....And it's not over yet for Hazel McCallion. I just had to write this up today - the morning after a rather amazing election in Toronto & surrounding areas.  I am not from Mississauga and I don't necessarily like Hazel McCallion's politics - but I love her stamina.  The very idea of running for mayor of Canada's 6th largest city, at the age of 89 is AMAZING. And what's even more amazing is that she got elected... again. OK she's been the mayor 12 times since 1978, this in itself may be a record; but she has now committed herself to another 4 year term - mayor at 93? Not only is she an octogenarian, she's also a woman! (and just an aside, she won this time with 70% of the vote - down from 91%.)

I'm pretty sure Hazel doesn't knit. I know that she played women's hockey and chaired either the provincial or federal women's hockey association. She used to fish and maybe still does and, of course, she wins elections! She is also somewhat of a celebrity around here. She's an Annie Oakley "shoot from the hip" style politician and people love her.

So if you are in business, or have just started a business, done a career change or are thinking of doing a career change - think of Hazel, who leaped into the air when she heard that she had won...again.  Aim to be leaping at 89!

Variations of the strawberry fruit cap
My only knitting equivalent is the Strawberry hat pattern from Ann Norling (whose real name is actually "Okuley"...hmmmm). This is the first pattern that I was asked for and I still ship hundreds of them - so if you are looking for longevity - keep "Fruit Caps" from Ann Norling in stock.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Celebrity Knitting

It bugged me that I had to leave a blank in my last post on upgrading your "About Us" page by adding someone famous who visits your store. No one came immediately to mind. So I went looking for famous knitters.

There are a lot of articles out there on celebrities, who knit.  It's not that there are a lot of celebrities who knit; it's that anyone in knitting tries to raise the status of knitting by linking it to someone famous, hence an overload of articles.

I'll skip Rosalind Russell - if she did visit your shop, please say it ..."there was a time when...RR...visited regularly. The others I found were: Scarlett Johansson, Debra Messing, Tracey Ullman, Uma Thurman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Moss, Catherine Zeta Jones, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Winona Ryder, and maybe Demi Moore.

Here is the link with pictures in case you want to create a "wall". I added the last three stars from memory - you won't find them there

Now, I am not sure that Demi Moore actually knits. I may have confused her with Julia Roberts - they all start to look alike after a while.

One of the interesting things about this list is that these people became famous first and then some clever knitter found out that they actually knit. There are few that have become famous because they knit. We really owe it to Elizabeth Zimmerman, Kaffe Fassett and I am sure there are others that are household names, maybe even in non-knitting households, that are famous because they knit - Please add to my list.

I know that there are knitting personalities and designers that stand out because they have refined their particular niche in the industry to near perfection - Stephanie Pearl McFee for humour in the face of all the things that can go wrong in life and stitching. Lucy Neatby for reminding us of what a gentile art knitting is. Ysolde Teague for sheer energy and again I know that I am missing a few - comment or send me an e-mail and I will update the list.

Dinner tonight?  It's nearing the end of October so - "Dan's October Soup", Sorry there is no picture - so I guess it will never become famous, like Ceasar Salad or 1000 Island anymore?  If you do make the soup, please take a picture and send it on. I'll post it.  Let me know if you varied it at all. I know that I will add a bit here and there - can never leave well enough alone...Enjoy

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Small Changes....Big Results

I was testing the link to INC magazine on my Infiknit blog today - just had to check that Horoscope forecast - when I noticed in INC's right hand side bar a link to some interesting articles - One in particular really stood out "How to Design A Great 'About Us' Page on Your Website".

Well, I've had a website since 1995 - I know, a really long time and you're right, I have not tweaked my "About Us" page in maybe as long.

Anyway, according to the article your "About Us" page is one of the 3 pages knitters go to when they first land on your site.  It's a bit like walking down the street and coming across a store that you just have to go in...or conversely coming across a store - even a yarn store - that looks so uninvitiing that you decide to give it a miss.

Your "About Us" page, according to the magazine, should be so warm, so like the person (people) you are, that people want to either visit you or do business with you on-line. Here are some guidelines:

1. Your "About Us" page should include the basics such as: whom your company serves - beginning knitter, to most experienced needing a challenge and/or a place to knit and chat about a shared passion and/or helpful advice to get you going or over the humps....etc...

2. Also mention how long you've been in business, your long term goals and mission statement, as well as any awards you've won, any charities or community events you support - Proud sponsors of the (Linus Project) or something else to put in the brackets.

3. Do include what is probably already there - your address, contact numbers, including facebook and twitter accounts, as well as e-mails and websites, Ravelry groups and forums etc. If you have several physical (bricks and mortar) locations, list all of them.

4. Include other interests or the interests of your staff e.g. former member of Sweet Adelines, Brown Owl turned knitter never know when a kindred soul will find a connection. Have a link to your blog or the blogs of your staff.

5. List any famous people that have shopped at your store...favourite yarn store of _____when he\she's in town.

Keep it brief; but warm & fuzzy, interesting and inviting. Make yourself "amazing."

It's a small change; but for many a huge re-positioning and if you can do it yourself it's FREE!!

Of course I now have to put my money where my mouth is and re-do mine!!

I did and the only link that doesn't work is for Facebook. I guess I'll have to call the webmaster.

Infiknit About Us

And my/your reward for doing all this, is dinner tonight African Chicken in Peanut Sauce - sorry it's not nut free - neither is knitting :)

Have a great evening


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Customer Loyalty Programs

This is an interesting article published Oct 11, 2010 in the Globe and Mail. Here is the link:

Be sure to click the 3 headings in the middle of the article to read the full article. If you have ever thought of putting in a customer loyalty program, read this first.

Even if you haven't given customer loyalty a thought, there are some interesting suggestions for observing customer behaviour, trying to move less frequent customers up to being more frequent customers and looking at customers in different ways - such as - recency, frequency & monetary. Often a short article helps you rethink a situation and helps you move from that 20%\80% plateau - that is 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers.

I know that 80% of my sales come from 20% of my patterns. It is often a case of buying what has worked in the past against trying something new. We eat a lot of pasta in our house because it works - but it does create a repetitive cycle. Maybe it's time to try just one new pattern or one new pasta.

May I suggest patterns by Maddy Laine. Here is the link:

Maddy is a Canadian designer from Quebec. Her patterns are very straightforward, often just 2 pages in length, with multiple sizing and lots of interest, yet not too daunting.

Now to break the "spaghetti again tonight" syndrome - I know - "Meatball (Kefta) Tajine" from Herring & Haggis

and you thought that this was a boring old business site.

Drop by often - you never know what's cooking or knitting or selling!!!

Have a great evening


Back again!!!

I can't believe that it's been almost 3 years since I last posted. Well what can I say? I got caught up in knitting lace and have spent the last 3 years creating about 30 patterns under the nom de plume Queen Anne's Lace.

Here is the link for my lace blog -

I'll be posting more personal knitting & lace related items there.
For my Infiknit blog, I will be featuring a wider variety of patterns, yarn and marketing ideas for yarn retailers and designers. My goal will still be to divine that perfect pattern. To answer the question, "Why is this pattern so popular?" and hopefully I will discover that it is because of integral design elements and not just because it is free.

I'll keep you posted! PS the picture is of Cloths of Heaven from Queen Anne's Lace Knitting - a pattern for 3 lace designs all beaded. Knit in Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace weight.