Don’t Shop Small Business Saturday

Thanksgiving, free clip art courtesy of webweaver.nu

Thanksgiving, free clip art courtesy of webweaver.nu

That’s right. Skip shopping on Small Business Saturday, the unofficial day for shopping at the mom and pop storefronts nationwide, the date entrepreneurs count on for extra shoppers, tourists to hit their daily quotas out of the ballpark and beyond. The 12-hour timeslot two days after Thanksgiving that business owners promote like there’s snow tomorrow.

Instead spend your Black Friday on Main Street, the thoroughfare that lines your downtown, the avenues that surround your courthouse, train station or village hall, the area of your city or village that thought leaders say “has a sense of place.” It may take major effort for you, your family and friends to ignore the masses dropping their dollars and credit cards at the nearby big box stores on Nov. 28, but think about the message you’re conveying. Here are some strategies:

  1. Buy your major appliances and electronics on Railroad Avenue or whatever nearby street has a store that sells the latest TV, stereo or refrigerator. That’s right. Ignore Best Buy and other major chain stores, and patronize the small guy down the block. He’s got good deals too, and his customer service will likely be better. So $1,000 and more at the store around the corner. On Friday.
  2. Camp out Wednesday night at the priciest store downtown. The local police will likely think you’re off your rocker inflating your mattress,  unrolling sleeping bag and turning on the portable heater on the brick sidewalk outside your favorite local shop.  Tell local media what you’re doing. Think of it as a flash sleep-in. Naturally inform the store owner too, he’s likely to tell you it’s not necessary. Ignore. Tweet, eat, sleep outside your favorite small biz.
  3. Dodge the mall restaurants post Turkey Day like the bubunic plague. They’re likely to be crowded and noisy anyway. Go to the restaurant that’s mere footsteps from your house. The one that your sister’s friend opened last summer. The one where your brother’s colleague serves wine and craft beers on the weekends. Yes, that one.
  4. Sign the dotted line for a new insurance policy the day after Thanksgiving. Insurance companies are small businesses too. This might be a great time to re-evaluate your current plans. Besides, your agent will likely have more time than usual to talk to you. Who knows? The plan you purchase just be the smartest investment you make on Black Friday.
  5. Make a date with your Realtor the moment you finish your turkey omelette Friday morning. Your Realtor is a small business owner too, an invisible one during holidays. He or she likely works out of a home office, with no apparent sign or shingle hanging outdoors. In a challenging economy, he or she would likely appreciate your time while most of his clients are driving past his properties on their way to the mall. The new iPad or Blu Ray TV can wait, your Realtor’s bills can’t.
  6. Ignore the chain movie theaters Friday night. This might be especially challenging when many movies open this weekend, but think about the small cinema in your downtown. The one that just opened with a Kickstarter campaign or an angel investor. The one with the retro 1950s neon sign, the charming Art Deco architecture outside. Buy a ticket or two or three, eat at the cute Thai place next door before showtime.
  7. Scorn Thanksgiving leftovers. It’s tempting to save money by making lunch sandwiches with turkey, cranberry jello with the cranberries, but your local restaurateur will appreciate you spending your hard-earned dollars on his or her establishment. Freeze leftovers for dinner next week or next week’s lunches.
  8. Put a down payment on a custom-made suit or dress. Your local tailor or dressmaker will likely have a quiet Friday, why not help his or her business with a visit? She or he will have time to take measurements leisurely, and you can spend the morning or afternoon looking at fabric swatches.
  9. Buy all your yarn at the local knitting shop Friday. Resist, resist, resist the tempting deeply discounted fibers online. Odds are what you buy online will take away from the dollars you’ll spend nearby. Besides, you won’t be able to touch, feel or pet your online buys, not to mention the colors you see on the computer monitor just might not be accurate. Better to buy yarns in person and keep your local shop in black and in business for 2014 and beyond! Chicago knitters: here are some real deals that abound Small Business Saturday, but you seriously start your yarn shopping 24 hours earlier, in person,right?. At Windy Knitty get a $5 coupon for each $50 you spend, coupon redeemable beginning in February. At Loopy Yarns buy three skeins of regularly priced yarn, get the fourth free. At any shop that sell Berroco Yarns: buy $25 worth of Berroco for a free single pattern PDF coupon code for every $25 dollars you spend. Visit site for details.)

That’s it. Get shopping local on Friday

New Interweave Book Give-Away: No-Sew Knits: 20 Flattering, Finish-Free Garments by Kristen TenDyke

No-Sew Knits by Kristen TenDyke

No-Sew Knits by Kristen TenDyke

The Deal: I’m giving away another Interweave book (last week’s deal? Didn’t happen. No one left a comment.). This time it’s No-Sew Knits: 20 Flattering, Finish-Fee Garments by Kristen TenDyke ($25.99). Learn more below.

The Details: I’m giving away this book. The deadline for comments on this blog entry is 12 p.m. CST Tuesday, Nov. 25. You must live in the continental U.S. to enter. OK. Just leave a comment about what you consider the easiest pattern you’ve ever knit. It could be a hat, a scarf, a cowl, whatever. What’s been so easy you’ve made it more than once and you could practically knit it blindfolded?
Looking forward to your responses.

 

New Interweave Knits Book Giveaway: First Frost: Cozy Folk Knitting by Lucinda Guy

First Frost: Cozy Folk Knitting by Lucinda Guy

First Frost: Cozy Folk Knitting by Lucinda Guy

The Take Away: Friends, here’s another knitting book give-away. If you like sewing stuff, come back another day. Knitters, pull up a chair and stay a while.

The Book: First Frost: Cozy Folk Knitting by Lucinda Guy ($24.99, Interweave) is a compilation of knitting patterns inspired by Nordic, Baltic and Scandinavian traditions. This collection of 20 projects includes garments and accessories for the big and little people in your life, male and female.

I think the Kettu top, intended for a toddler, is my favorite Lucinda Guy design. It’s so playful I think it would be fun to adultify this pattern. Maybe make it a vest.

Kettu Top, image used with permission, Interweave Knits

Kettu Top, image used with permission, Interweave Knits

See what I mean?

Anyhow, details on the giveaway. Leave a comment about your favorite Nordic, Baltic or Scandinavian knit design. Be sure to leave your comment and handy-dandy email address by Friday, November 14 at 12 p.m. CST. Only those living in the continental U.S. can enter the contest.

DIY Knitting Pattern Review: Red Heart’s Teen Endless Circle Vest, Ver. 2.0

Red Heart Teen Endless Circle Vest, Front View

Red Heart Teen Endless Circle Vest, Front View

Red Heart Yarn's Teen Endless Circle Vest, Side VIew

Red Heart Yarn’s Teen Endless Circle Vest, Side VIew

Back View, Red Heart Yarn's Teen Endless Circle Vest

Back View, Red Heart Yarn’s Teen Endless Circle Vest

The Low Down: This is Red Heart Yarn’s Teen Endless Circle Vest, a free pattern. The second time I’ve made this pattern. Interested in learning more? Read on. Not so much? Come back another day to read my fiction and sewing pattern reviews.

The Dirt: Ok. You’re interested in finding out the deets on this pattern. First of all, the name (Teen Endless Circle Vest) is misleading perhaps because it might deter knitters who might otherwise like this pattern if it weren’t for that four-letter word ‘teen.’ This pattern will fit others besides teenagers. And it’s not all ‘girlish’ or ‘childish,’ it’s all about the yarn. Red Heart used a variegated, which gave it more youthful, playful look. That yarn choice also detracted from the lace pattern (yes, there is one). I personally think a solid colored yarn makes the pattern pop out big time.

Some things to consider when making this pattern:

  • Get the stitch count right. There are a lot of stitches on the needle especially after the back ribbing is finished. You might add some extra stitch markers just to get the count right and not drive yourself crazy.
  • Track the yarn-over pattern. Since I wasn’t really watching what row I was on, I did lose track of what yarn-over I was supposed to be using. In the long run, it really doesn’t matter. The pattern and the yarn, if it’s fuzzy enough, is fairly forgiving that way.
  • Memorize the stitch pattern and you’ve got a great movie-watching pattern on your hands. What’s more it’s all in the round!

That’s it. Want to see more pretty pictures? Check out these on Ravelry. I plan on casting my third rendition of this vest in black sometime soon. It’s that great of a pattern.

Fictional Forays: A Working Mom’s Tale: I Hate Halloween Sewing

Simplicity Sewing Pattern 1233

Simplicity Sewing Pattern 1233

There are three words a mother fears most three days before Halloween: “It itches, mommy.”

That’s exactly what my 3-year-old daughter Breanna said 72 hours before the biggest holiday last year. I had already spent a week making her costume – the infamous Snow White dress with a gold skirt, poofy sleeves, Peter Pan collar with a faux fur trimmed felt cape. I sewed her dress out of an inexpensive poly on my Singer sewing machine, which I drag out of my crafts closet once a year. My husband spray painted a pair of Mary Janes Walt Disney yellow and wired the blouse collar so it would stand up straight just like in the movie.

So you can only imagine what I thought when my daughter said, “It itches, mommy.” She’d been trying on the dress. She wiggled in front of the floor-length as only a three-year-old can do, crying. “Mommy, I don’t like this dress. It itches.”

I think I felt the floor drop a half-inch at this point. All this time spent on a dress my daughter doesn’t like?I asked her to be more specific. “Where does it itch, honey?” I asked her sweetly, my voice trembling. trying to resist the temptation to text my husband in all caps: SHE DOESN’T LIKE HER DRESS.

Breanna couldn’t tell me exactly what was wrong. She pointed to her shoulder, then started scratching her chest. Then she just tore the dress off, ripping the zipper I worked so I hard to insert. I gasped.  Her legs were red was red all over. Splotchy like hives. My first thought was the cheap tulle skirt.  I had no idea tulle could this. It was bad enough that my husband and I felt like we were eating felt and fur fibers all week.

But this dress. A disaster because it itched. I had no idea what to do. Halloween was 72 hours away. And my daughter wanted to be Snow White. Not just any run of the mill dress from Costume City or Amazon.com would do for my only child.

That was like 7 p.m. and my husband was still on his way home from work. I called my husband, told him to lay in a supply of Pirate’s Booty and a bottle of rose. I was fixing the Snow White dress. “You’re crazy. Just buy another one,” he said, talking over the din of highway traffic on his iPhone.

I told him no way. My daughter wasn’t going to be just another Costume City Snow White. I copied the dress exactly down to the gold braid trim on the bodice front.  I wasn’t about to throw out all my hard work. While he was at the store and after I put my daughter to sleep, I hatched a plan out on the porch, smoking an American Spirit cigarette (Gwynneth Paltrow’s favorite). So I did what any sane working mother would do in a similar situation – I would call in sick. I had two proposals due the day before Halloween. But my child comes first, not work.

So 9 a.m. the next morning I went to Vogue Fabrics, headed to the bridal section, bypassing all the other frantic mothers (they had to be – why else is a fabric store line so long three days before Halloween?). I’m certain they were frantic, they had wild-eye look. But I was envious. I was certain they were stay-at-home moms. I’m not, I’m a sales manager for a downtown mobile media company.

$30 (insane, I know, but I’m irrational when it comes to making Breanna happy) later with silk tulle in hand, I returned to the sewing machine. I armed myself with the seam ripper and ripped out the blasted tulle skirt.  Three yards later and at least three spools of Coat’s & Clark thread later, I had cut out and gathered a new underskirt, attached to the main dress. I cursed the whole way since the bobbin thread kept bunching up underneath, I was too panicky to even to look up a solution online.

I finished the dress with hours to spare that Halloween. The underskirt was more expensive than the materials for the dress and the cape together. But my daughter was ecstatic, over the blue moon really. She twirled in front of the mirror. She gave me a big hug, “You’re the best mommy.”

That’s why I sew once a year. Out of fear. I’m ashamed I just want to hear those words, “Mommy, you’re the best.” Yes, my ego needs to be stroked that way. If I don’t hear those words, I think I’m a bad mother.  I’m a bit insecure that way. I can be an ace salesperson a work, winning the praise of my boss when I get a new client, but the only praise that really matters is my daughter’s.

I’m still competitive, I’m in sales after all. We won the “Most Authentic” costume award at the park district Halloween party last year. I (I mean we) aim to win again. I need to cover the cost of sewing this year’s costume. Elsa from “Frozen” and Simplicity Pattern 1233 here we come.

I still hate sewing. It’s awful. Especially garments. I can’t deal with sewing curves, zippers, fittings and buttons. Just give me a bunch of cotton squares and let me sew a bunch of straight lines to make a quilt.

DIY Sewing Pattern Review: Vogue 8805

Endless Circle Teen Knit Vest + Vogue 8805

Endless Circle Teen Knit Vest + Vogue 8805

Vogue Patterns dress 8805, Front View

Vogue Patterns dress 8805, Front View

Vogue 8805 dress detail, Vogue Fabrics wool jersey

Vogue 8805 dress detail, Vogue Fabrics wool jersey

Vogue 8805, Back

Vogue 8805, Back

The Short of It: Vogue Patterns 8805 looks really lovely on the pattern cover but it does not work for all figures types. But YMMV.

The Longer Story: I really wanted to love this pattern especially after seeing it featured in Vogue Patterns Magazine, made three different bazillion ways by a blogger. Her dresses looked really cool.

But when it came to cutting this and sewing this for myself, well, cue those sad violins. The scissors cooperated, but the Eli Tahari border print stretch woven did not (sob!). The dress twisted oddly in the back, hugged me in the hips, and looked better from the front than the back.

Enough about the Dress That Did Not Work. More about the one that did. And that’s what you see with my new favorite knit vest, a Red Heart yarns pattern (see more pics here on my Ravelry page). Some notable things about this dress: I used:

1. a Vogue Fabrics knit (suggested fabrics are linen, crepe, lighweight double knit)

2. foldover elastic on the neckline since I was working with a knit, and turned the back into a keyhole.

3. Double straight stitch to topstitch.

And I skipped the darts.

Would I make this again? Yes, in fact I still have an eyelet border print version cut out from when I was still testing out the pattern. But I’m afraid I might run into the same problem I ran into with the first woven. So I’m hesitant. But if I were to do it in a knit, I’d:

1. Work on the topstitching, what I did looks wonky and doesn’t lay flat entirely.

2. Ditch fusibles for the hem, it makes it curl.

So I recommend Vogue 8805 with reservations, it’s easy enough to sew. The binding on the neckline might be the hardest part.

 

 

5.

 

Fictional Forays: I Hate Halloween Sewing

Frozen Fabric Display, Halloween 2014

Frozen Fabric Display, Halloween 2014

I hate Halloween sewing. There I said it, and I work in a fabric shop, where the Halloween season is one of our most profitable times of the year. We make more money in the weeks leading up to All Hallows Eve than any other time of the year. We clear out our inventory of bird feathers, boas and cheap tulle like it’s Mardi Gras time in New Orleans.

That’s precisely what bores me about Halloween. For all the efforts to look different, everyone looks alike. Especially with the advance of toddler-sized ready to wear costumes you can order from Amazon. You know across the U.S. there are going to be at least 100 or so (fill in the blank), you might not run into him or her at your local Halloween party but you know they’re out there with your child’s exact same outfit. This year there are going to be a lot of little Elsas from Frozen. Ask my scissors how they know – they’ve been cutting more than their fair share of snow-flake print organza.

For the moms who do sew, every costume is politically correct. I mean your child might get sent home if she or he wears something that offends the teacher’s unions at school. Can you imagine what might happen if your child had a fake cigarette sewn to his costume? Or dangled a candy cigarette from his mouth? Or she dressed as the Straw Man from the Wizard of Oz and carried a cob pipe as he did in the movie?

Not only that, I don’t see too many children sewing their own costumes. My own love affair with fabric started when I was 9 and I sewed my first Halloween costume – a skunk costume made out of black felt and faux white fur. It was hard, especially sewing that fur, which seemed to end up in my nose and mouth, but it was worth it. I had a costume no one else had. No one! I can’t remember the last time I helped a customer who had child sewing his own costume.

So for about three weeks before Halloween I feel like all I do is sweep up a lot more sequins, boa feathers than usual. I say “Stop running” more than usual to the children who are running around the store with ostrich feathers, which they usually break and abandon before they leave the store with mom. The broken ostrich feathers? We can’t sell those of course.

By October 27 or thereabouts, I’ve had my fill of frantic mothers with squalling toddlers in strollers telling me to cut three yards of black felt or 2 ½ yards of orange tulle or five yards of white poly organza. I’m beyond tired of looking at the row after row of orange, white and black fabric bolts that greet me every time I enter the store.

By October 31 when we get the parade of local neighbors and their children dressed in their costumes and trick or treating, I’m beyond tired of Halloween. I’m ready for Christmas, I can’t wait for the fashion designers, the students to return…or have they been around and I just haven’t noticed while I’ve been busy dulling my scissors cutting yard after yard of glittery sequined fabric?

By Halloween, I’m not even in the mood to say, “Trick or treat” when the little chubby hands reach in the plastic pumpkin bowl to retrieve only the chocolates not the hard candies. At that point, I mouth the words “Happy Halloween” with little enthusiasm. And refilling the candy bowl with more chocolates so more sugar-stoked children can run around the store in their costume knocking down fabric bolts and displays? I might as well give them a shot of whiskey, it would have the same effect.

At the end of the holiday, when I help lock the door, I feel like dancing, “Halloween is over! Halloween is over!” with a handful of zippers. I want to book a trip to a warm resort somewhere in California, Mexico or Florida, anywhere I don’t hear screaming or crying children for while. Anywhere I don’t have to see orange fabric for at least a week.

But then I forget I have to walk home and deal with the crazies on the subway. Halloween, you suck. Man, I need a cigarette just thinking about October 31.

 

Interweave Knits Book Giveaway: New American Knits

New American Knits by Amy Christoffers

New American Knits by Amy Christoffers

Just in time for fall knitting (and look at that mustard colored sweater on the cover), I’ve got a new book giveaway, Amy Christoffers’ new book, New American Knits: Classic Sportswear Patterns (Interweave / F+W; $24.99). This book is filled with all sorts of accessories (hats, cowls) and garments (shrugs, sweaters, camisoles, turtlenecks) that are perfect for queuing up for your next project in Ravelry. But what I really like is how Amy named each pattern after an American artist. The sweater? Nevelson Lace Pullover. I never heard of Louise Nevelson. You?  There’s even a set of mitts named after illustrator Maxfield Parrish, a tunic honoring photographer Walker Evans’ work.

But Amy didn’t name all American artists in her book, that’s a project for her follow-up, no doubt. Which brings me to this book giveaway. To win a copy of this book, leave the name of an American artist in the comments. Tell me why he or she inspires you. Leave your book by Wednesday, Oct. 15 12 p.m. CST. You must live in the continental U.S.A. to win a copy (publisher’s rules). What else? Leave an email address just in case you win. Look forward to reading your comments.

Fictional Forays: Mood Fabrics, Nunsense & Swatch Too

Swatch Sauma, Mood Fabrics In-House Dog

Swatch Sauma, Mood Fabrics In-House Dog

What does a nun need leather for? Really, that’s what I asked myself when I saw two nuns in the leather section of our New York store. It’s really not uncommon to see gay men, actresses, models even your average everyday mother or sewer fawning over our leather selection. Heck, we even fawn over it ourselves.

So I did a triple take watching these two nuns – wearing white veils – fingering some suede, specifically some fuchsia suede, the kind of thing you might see on Beyonce’s backside, Madonna’s front side or even Boy George’s wrong side, but never on a woman dressed in a black habit and a white veil.

Naturally, I was curious, as was half the store staff. I mean, the conversation dropped a decibel or two. Everyone, including Swatch who had his ears perched way up, wanted to hear what these nuns – who had to be in their late 20s, early 30s – had to say about exactly what they were doing. I mean honestly, it’s rare we get anyone in the religious life in our store. I could understand one or two slipping into that church down the street, but here? Is Mood Fabrics not the epitome of all that’s wrong in the world? The vapid materialism? The ugly side of capitalism? Do we not contribute to the overstuffed closets (not to mention stashes) of men and women worldwide? I mean Pope Francis hasn’t mentioned Mood Fabrics, let alone New York City in his rants on unbridled consumerism, but I’m just waiting for the day he says something about the fashion in the U.S.A., and suddenly all the cameras, including the ones at Project Runway, will focus on Mood Fabric and the Garment District.

So these nuns, now maybe they don’t directly report to Francis, but you would think they would….I don’t know, I just don’t think they would come to Mood Fabrics, let alone the leather section to shop, don’t you? I understand back in the day there were religious orders that made their living sewing lingerie, but women don’t wear handsewn lacy underthings the way they used to….does that mean women of the cloth now have to survive by sewing leather accessories?

I approached these two women, sweetly and kindly as I can. I really don’t know any nuns. Nobody in my generation does. Nuns, sisters, they’re all the same in my Kindle book. Didn’t Whoopi Goldberg do an ace job playing one in a movie? Or what’s that move that was filmed in New York City with Meryl Streep and that redhead? Doubt, I think it was called?

“Ladies, can I help you with anything?” I said ever so sweetly.

One with eyes so sky blue she will never need any eyeliner looked up. “Oh hello,” she demurely. “We were just wondering what kind of needle and sewing foot you need to sew suede.”

“Is that all?”

“No, not really,” they giggled. “We’ve never sewn with leather, let alone suede. But we were going to sew a —-”

Just then the fire alarm went off. Everyone had to leave the store. Bolts of fabric went flying onto the floor, mothers with toddlers screaming in strollers made a frantic dash for the stairs since we couldn’t use the elevator. Drinks perched on the front counter spilled onto the carpet, I think I slid on a slippery patch and cursed, hoping the nuns wouldn’t hear. Shoppers squeezed down the narrow stairs to flee the premises. I saw the sisters behind me assisting an elderly fashion designer with a walker.

Once the entire store – Swatch included – recongregated across the street to watch the fire trucks pull up, I looked for the nuns. They were nowhere to be seen. I scanned the masses for the fashion designer, who had been wearing a sparkling cobalt number head to toe to go with her sequined sneakers. Nada. I mean, this was mere minutes after I saw all three together.

None of the three reappeared in the store later that day. Even a year later, I’ve yet to see any of these three return to Mood Fabrics. Yet to this day, someone on the staff who was there when the nuns were shopping, nearly every week asks me: “So what did the nuns buy? What were they making?”

Excuse my poor French, but it bugs the h-ll of me that I don’t know the answer. Sometimes late at night when I’ve had too much to drink, I think, “What did those nuns want with that leather?”

On those days, I think maybe I’ve spent a day too many at Mood Fabrics and it’s time for me to enter a religious order.

So I ask you, my dear reader, what were the nuns doing in the leather section that day? What were they going to sew? (Now this is a family-friendly blog, so keep your responses clean, if you know what I mean. If it’s not fit for your Aunt Eunice to read, then don’t even dream of putting it on this site. I thank you and this blog’s moderator thanks you.)

(P.S. This fictional foray was inspired by this blog post by Beautejadore.)

New Interweave Knits Book Giveaway: Everyday Lace by Heather Zoppetti

Everyday Lace: Simple Sophisticated Knitted Garments by Heather Zopetti

Everyday Lace: Simple Sophisticated Knitted Garments by Heather Zopetti ($24.99, Interweave.com)

Friends, this is another phenomenal Interweave Knits book give-away: Everyday Lace: Simple Sophisticated Knitted Garments. There are 18 incredible projects in here. 18. Tunics, shrugs, socks, you name it, it’s here. All in the name of lace. For those of you who don’t know or understand lace, it’s all about yarn-overs, K2, ssk and a bunch of acronyms you just don’t have in your knitting vocabulary yet. But they all up to creating a fabric that’s challenging to create (no boring K2, p2 ribbing) and even more rewarding to show off.

Now, here’s the hard part. Some rules. Nothing fancy-schmancy, just basic. You must be in the continental U.S. to enter (company rules). I also ask that you leave an email address somewhere in your blog comment. Finally, answer the question below. Do all that before 12 p.m. CST, Wednesday, Sept. 3 and you will be entered in this great contest, an incredible opportunity to add to your knitting library.

Now for the question: What’s the hardest part of knitting lace to master? If you’ve never knitted lace, what’s holding you back (I’m asking in a non-judgmental way, please understand). 

So answer the question. I’m eager to see your response.