Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I sailed away to China in a little rowboat to find ya...

How long has it been since Christmas? Today is the 12th, so about 19 days, maybe? My 2 year desk calendar ran out at the end of 2009...making a note on the to-do list to Order One From Amazon TODAY! No doubt this fancy computer has a calendar program on it somewhere, but it's not the same as actual paper and pictures of cats.

Since sometime around Christmas our family has been involved in a wee bit of Drama. It's all over now, everything is resolved, nobody got hurt, valuable lessons were learned, no need to stage any interventions or call out the National Guard. I'm not offering any specifics or particulars about the Drama; three or four of my readers will know what I'm talking about and it's only significant to this post because it establishes the context for the strange dream I had last night.

Digression One: Don't you hate it when bloggers talk about things they can't talk about? Especially with that certain secretive "I have a rilllly exciting life that you don't know about" tone? When someone says "I'm not going to share this part of the story because Relative B didn't want me to." that's understandable. We all at some time resort to saying something like "Life is hectic, but it's unbloggable, so let's talk about baseball." Some bloggers, though, make a big deal about how much Mysterious Other Life they have that isn't featured in their blogs.

Look, if I read your blog I'm going to assume you're not telling me everything about your life. No one should blog without filtering, and if you happen to be the one person who does I'm not reading your blog anyway. So, having said all that, I'm blogging about what I can't blog about.

Digression Two: The Drama was a really, really small drama. Infinitesimal. It probably wouldn't be a Drama at your house. But remember we are the Roths: introverted, homebodies, homeschoolers, dorks. "All me life flashed before me eyes. It was really borin'!"

Last night I spent the evening relaxing, knitting on my everlasting stash-busting afghan and listening to podcasts. Podcasts about knitting. Podcasters who discuss knitting, yarn, spinning, Ravelry, more knitting, what to knit next, which yarn is best for which project, etc.

Then I went to bed and slept soundly and dreamed. I dreamed that The Drama had been restaged as a knitting argument. The two characters involved were knitting the same sweater. It was some sweater that was very popular on Ravelry right now. (Therefore guaranteeing that I would not remember its name when I woke up! I will call it The Sweater.) There were whole Ravelry forums devoted to The Sweater; there were Ravelympic teams forming to knit The Sweater together as a Ravelympics challenge.

But the characters in The Drama could not agree on the best type of yarn for The Sweater. One of the characters believed that a commercially-produced, carefully quality-controlled yarn would give the best results. This character wanted a yarn that had high positive reviews on Ravelry, something that was proven to be long-wearing and easy to knit with. The other character wanted to use handspun yarn and was planning to learn to spin in order to make the yarn for the sweater.

For some reason the characters could not go their own ways and use different yarns. This had something to do with the Ravelympic team they were joining, as I remember...this part was a little fuzzy. I believe they were allowed to use different colors, but not different yarns, so they had to come to some agreement about the yarn before joining the team.

The dream dragged on and on forever and was thoroughly tedious. I like listening to podcasts where knitters and spinners discuss the qualities of different yarns, but this was one of those dreams where you feel like you're stuck....you try to wake up but it doesn't seem possible. There were all these little samples of commercial yarn in various colors and all these batts of unspun wool in various colors and all this arguing. Somehow my mind was going along with the premise of the dream that The Sweater was worth arguing over, but it was just crazy-making.

Finally I woke up and realized what I had actually been dreaming about. And was relieved, yet again, that it was Not An Issue either in the form of the original "drama" or in the form of...yarn and sweaters.

Now, aren't you glad you wasted the time it took to read all that? Have a great day...American Idol starts tonight and I am not watching it. So there.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Why I Bought Cheap Yarn

Okay, I made some progress today. And what is WITH the sudden burst of posts on this blog, anyway? Don't get your hopes up for it continuing is all I've got to say...

Believe it or not, I purchased yarn today from Joann Fabrics. Apparently it is possible to order from their website if one uses Natalie's computer...or if Natalie uses Natalie's computer, at any rate.

My computer is an Apple iMac. I use the latest version of Firefox and use Leopard as the operating system. Natalie's computer is an Apple Macbook. She uses the latest version of Firefox with Leopard as the operating system. There is no sensible reason why Joann Fabrics' website should be cooperative with her and not with me. But that's how it is. Natalie placed the order with no problems; we both have yarn on the way. We think.

This is the project I bought the yarn for. (Yes! I took a picture! After much fiddling about, I uploaded it...Natalie fixed iPhoto for me...are you noticing a theme?)

This stripey blob of yarny stuff is the scrap afghan I am knitting. A while back I rounded up all the balls and partial balls of medium and dark colored acrylic yarn that was piled up in bags around the house. Some of these are leftovers from other projects, some were bought and then not used, some were donated to my "cause" by Natalie, some she found for me at Goodwill.

The plan was to knit in garter stitch stripes until the yarn ran out, making either an afghan or perhaps a small cat blanket depending on how long the yarn lasted.

Somewhere along the way the plan got expanded a bit. One of the yarns Natalie gave me was some Lion Brand Homespun, which has a reputation of being fuzzy and hard to work with. But it added a textured effect and wasn't too hard to work with, probably because I was only knitting one row of it at a time and it was always being worked onto a firmer yarn.

I liked the effect so much I bought a couple more skeins of Homespun in different colors, and also picked up a couple of skeins of plain acrylic worsted in some other coordinating colors. Then Colin gave me some more Homespun for Christmas, and that made me think of a couple of other colors I'd like to add to it. Which led to yesterday's failed and today's apparently successful attempt to order some more yarn on sale from Joann Fabrics.

Right now the afghan is about 16 inches long and somewhere between 40 and 50 inches wide. I weighed it on my little kitchen scale...subtracting a roughly estimated amount for the big circular needle it is attached to. Then I weighed all the little and not-so-little balls of yarn, figured the number of grams per inch of the knitted object, the total grams of yarn available, and calculated how many more inches the blanket could grow before running out of yarn.

123. 123+16=139. Yes, there is enough yarn to make this thing 139 inches long (that's roughly 353 centimeters). Wow.

For anyone wondering...yes, that figure is BEFORE I ordered six more skeins of yarn today. Uh oh...

Friday, January 1, 2010

One Addition and One Rant

I knew I would forget something I wanted to put on yesterday's list. Photography. This year I would like to learn how to use our digital camera, how to take decent-ish pictures with it, and how to upload/crop/publish said pictures.

IF I can accomplish that, you may actually see an occasional photo on this blog. Imagine! The mind boggles...

The rant: The economy is in the toilet, right? People are losing jobs and companies are going out of business right and left, true? If I owned a business I would want to be one of the lucky ones who didn't go under during the Great Recession. If I had a paying job I would want to be one of the lucky ones who didn't lose it.

But it seems I am perhaps...unique or at least rare...in holding to this philosophy? If I were a company who did business two ways: a physical store (maybe made of brick and mortar, but more likely steel and some sort of plastic stuff) and a website...I would want customers to spend money at both of those places. Right? Unless maybe I was running the business as some giganto tax write-off or as a cover operation for my drug ring??

So why, why, WHY do the folks who own Joann Fabrics seem intent on discouraging people from buying their merchandise?

There is a Joann Fabrics store in our fair city. It is in an inconvenient location for me, but that's not the deal-breaker. The deal-breaker is that the store is just nasty. It is dirty, it is unorganized, it is confusing, it is lit with glaring fluorescent lights, it is staffed with people who know nothing about the products, and if all those weren't enough, the restrooms are a nightmare of filth and disease. So I shop there only when I have absolutely no other choice, and I most often manage to find some other choice.

But Joann Fabrics also has a website! Aha! A website...so I can shop from the comfort of my reasonably clean, incandescently lighted home! A website...with information about the products so I can pick what I want without needing sales staff to help me. A website...with many products always in stock so that I don't have to worry about them being out of what I want. A website...so I can shop conveniently. A website...so I can take advantage of their sales and get what I need shipped to my cozy little house.

If only.

No, Joann Fabrics has one of THOSE websites. The finicky kind, the kind where you log in to your account and add things to your shopping cart and sometimes they stay there but sometimes they don't. The kind where you try browser after browser, even stooping so low as to try Internet Explorer on a Windows machine to see if that will work. The kind where you pull up all the items you want to buy in your browser's tabs and get ready to add them super, super quickly so you don't lose them. (That works with one of my other nemesis websites, Kohls.)

Joann Fabrics currently has a sale on some yarn I want, some yarn Natalie wants, and a thread organizer Natalie wants. I had considered driving over to AC Moore today to get my yarn, but why do that when I can get the sale price and shop from the comfort of my home? Well, now I know why. Joann Fabrics is corporately suicidal. They do not want to stay in business. What other conclusion can a sensible person draw? If I cannot place an order after fussing with it for over an hour and getting help from my in-house tech support (who designs websites and KNOWS when I'm just making some stupid mistake in using one), then how in the world do they manage to stay in business?

Tomorrow I will again attempt to buy some yarn. I will likely get in the car and drive across town to either AC Moore or Michaels. Both of them are enough cleaner and better staffed than Joann that I feel better about giving them my money. Because the yarn I need is cheap acrylic I'm sure to find it at one of those stores.

But I could also consider going to one of the two real knitting shops in town where no doubt I would find friendly people to take my money. For some projects I would do that, or I would order from a real knitting shop such as Webs in Northampton, Massachusetts. Webs, amazingly enough, has a website that allows customers to purchase things! What a concept!

Do you think anyone at Joann Fabrics' corporate office cares that they are losing business like this? I really wonder.

So...pictures and e-commerce. One addition, one rant. Welcome to 2010!