Sunday, December 30, 2007

Article in the NY Times about the "Buy Handmade" movement


I was recently talking to my middle sister (who is into beading) about handmade gifts etc. I think a large part of it is rebellion against the Brand fixation that really took off in the 80s (think about those Gloria Vanderbilt and Jordache jeans commercials).

Now that you can buy expensive goods -- or their knockoffs -- more cheaply than ever, a brand logo doesn't have the cachet it once did. It's harder than ever to be unique; buying handmade is one way to do that.

Interestingly, this article on "how to be polished" notes that women who are considered trendsetters rarely wear (obvious) brand name items.

I'm not anti-logo, per se; but the brand has to mean something: real quality, not just perceived value. I read a series of articles this past summer about how many big-brand companies have moved manufacturing overseas -- and have dictated such low profit margins at those factories that the factory managers wind up skimping on stuff like the thread used to sew seams in pants just so they can make a 10% profit margin rather than a 2% margin. One fashion writer noted that she'd bought a pair of expensive pants, only to have the seams in the pockets come apart the first time she wore them. At the same time, I read an article about how one brand-name handbag manufacturer, while moving manufacturing overseas, had kept a tight eye on the quality of their products so that their brand image didn't suffer. But the point is that, generally speaking, manufacturers are actually encouraging people to have less trust in the value of their brands as consumers hear more stories about the erosion of quality in what they buy -- a sort of inadvertent "culture jamming" by the very brand manufacturers who foisted brand consciousness on us in the first place. And this is pushing people more toward buying quality goods from sources -- either individuals or companies -- who stand behind their products.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Man Cold


Says Mr. K, "I don't get it."


(FYI, I've had the Really Bad Cold that has been going around & wound up with bronchitis; had to go in to work anyway, since we had a deadline & haven't hired my new assistant yet. Himself has actually been pretty helpful and makes great chicken soup, so I can't complain, but this is still funny.)

Visit to Ch'naca

I finally got around to visiting Chnaca Farm & Fiberworks (oh, btw, they have their own website now) at their new store location in Prince Frederick, MD. It's a nice shop -- it seems roomier than the previous location, though that could just be the open plan of the building. They share the large space with a basket shop and a bead shop, and there's a large table in the middle where people are encouraged to come and visit/talk/knit.

The store will be closed between Christmas and New Years so Nancy can do a bit more organizing, but the shelves are already pretty well-stocked.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I Heart LibraryThing

I recently got on Ravelry, a knitting networking website (username: corbiegirl), and found that one of their features
allows you to upload your knitting books from another website called LibraryThing, a site that allows you to catalogue all of your books, either by typing in the title /ISBN# etc., or by scanning in the books' ISBN bar codes.

Your book list can then either be accessed remotely if you have a web-enabled PDA or phone, or download in Excel format ,which file can then be printed, put on a PDA, archived for insurance purposes, etc.

The Ravelry import feature (still in beta) is a little buggy and didn't quite work -- but I joined LibraryThing anyway because I once started a database for my books, since I have a number of out-of-print books that would be hard to replace if we had a fire or something, but didn't get that far -- I had to type in all of the books' information manually, and it took too long. Entering books in LibraryThing is much faster, even if you have to type in ISBN or LOC numbers, because their database has all the other relevant information on file (titles, author's name, etc.).

The pic above shows the "CueCat" scanner, which you can buy for $17 from LibraryThing. The scanner speeds things up considerably. I had to get used to using it -- I was swiping the bar codes too slowly, and had to learn to swipe the laser more quickly.

I have all of my knitting, weaving, and dyeing books entered so far; I have a long way to go to get the rest of my books entered, but I've made a good start on the categories of books where I'm most likely to make duplicate purchases. Woo!

You can also join various communities at LibraryThing, see who has books similar to yours, look at their libraries (for good book suggestions), review books, see other peoples' reviews, etc., but I haven't had much time to explore those features yet.

It's a closet! (or will be soon)

The current home improvement project is a closet -- we got it framed in last weekend. The corner you see here is in our bedroom, where the wall jogs around the stairs on the way to the bathroom. This is really wasted space. I guess you could have an entertainment center or something there; we had a desk (now in the living room), but a closet will be a better use of the floorspace.

If we'd been thinking about it when the house was being built, we'd have suggested that the builder add a closet there, and he probably would have done so for free and adjusted his blueprints for future houses (as he did with our pantry suggestion, which he thought was pretty neat) -- but it didn't occur to us at the time, so, eight years later, we're doing it ourselves.

As you can see in the pic on the right, K is using a pocket door instead of a door on hinges. Neat idea; pocket doors are nice.

Next: installing the electrical stuff (overhead light & lightswitch), then drywall, paint, trim. But not this weekend -- I'm recovering from a nasty cold which gave me a sinus infection, and am still pretty much out of it.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Merry Solstice!

An analemma, courtesy of Archergal

More on analemmas

Money Mindfulness, and Knitting

Archergal writes:

This explains something for me

From No Impact Man:

If we get to do the things that other people do and have the things that other people have, that means we're as loveable as everyone else. If we go the places they go, then we're as cool and, therefore, again, loveable. Consumption has become a surrogate for being loved.

That may explain a lot of what goes on in the knit blogging world.


The knitting group I started locally used to meet at a mom & pop coffee shop, which unfortunately went out of business. I bought coffee every time we met there, in support of local businesses. I suppose that's consumerism in a way, but it's also localism. I'd love to meet at the library, but they don't stay open past 8 PM, and most of us can't get to a meeting until 9 PM, so it's not really practical... so we meet at Borders. I don't think Borders makes much off us, since we don't buy many books, but they do make something off the refreshments they sell us.

It's really sad that there is no public space available / suitable for us to meet. It's true; most of the public space available is in shopping centers. We could meet at members' houses, but that would involve cleaning for some unfortunate soul (probably me) every week. (I have two long-haired dogs; dust-bunnies start appearing half an hour after I vacuum.)

Even the way the most recent knitting boom got jump-started (for those who weren't knitters before) is linked to consumerism and celebrity -- it became cool to knit because Hollywood stars were knitting. How sad... why not do something because you love it? Why does it have to be sanctioned by a celebrity?

I've been thinking a lot about consumerism this holiday season, too. The housing market crash and consumerism are directly linked; how many commercials have we seen in past years encouraging people to take equity out of their homes to go to Aruba etc.?

Bill McKibben's essay, "Hundred Dollar Holiday" sums it up well.

I'm actually not the world's worst person when it comes to money, but I do have some bad habits that I really need to cure & am going to make an effort in the new year to be more mindful with my money. That's not to say that I won't spend money -- but I am going to try to spend my money more on stuff that has value instead of stuff that I simply want "right now" -- to examine my wants to determine if they're really needs or just wants.

Which is probably not what Henry Paulson would want to hear right now.

Sea Urchin cloche

Speaking of hats, this is one I'm working on currently. One of my friends said it reminds her of a sea urchin, hence the name.

It's going to be a cloche hat. I toyed with the idea of knitting a cabled band perpendicular to the body of the hat, then picking up stitches on the band and continuing the brim, but after doing this for a few inches I decided I hated the way it looked, so I'm just knitting the brim and will apply a band separately.

Holey Christmas Disaster, Batman!

These are the socks I knitted earlier this Fall for the nephews' Christmas presents. The first set is for the older nephew, the second is for the younger. The older boy likes blue, and would probably be upset if the younger boy's socks were bluer than his; I thought the yarn for the second set was more purple than it turned out to be. So this weekend I went to overdye the second pair with purple dye, and two things happened -- a) I found a hole in one sock, probably a moth hole, which alarms me because, although I do try to store all my yarn etc. safely, there is yarn in the stash that isn't mothproofed and might be a target for moths, and b) the purple dye turned out way darker than I intended it to be, so the socks are nearly black.

So there's nothing to do but knit another pair of socks for the younger nephew. I thought about mailing him something else instead, such as one of the hats I've been knitting, but that would make the older nephew envious. Thank goodness I'd already ordered them a present via, so if their socks are late, it doesn't matter very much. I've alerted my sis (their mom), and things will be fine.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Norwegian Knitting PrĂ˜n

I've seen pics of the rock art this sweater is based on.

(Mood: Amused)

ROUS discovered

Now we know where they filmed The Princess Bride.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sock Wars

A variation on "Assassin", crossed with sock knitting -- I gotta admit, this is pretty funny. A good deal less saccharine than some of the swaps out there!