Thursday, September 30, 2010

Siren Song Stitchery

I guess I never mentioned owning my own yarn/needlework shop on here, so bear with my ramblings. It all began in the spring of 2001...

For the previous 6 years I had been working as a financial advisor with Edward Jones in my own branch office in Beaverton, Oregon. Moving to the Northwest to run that office was a huge leap from our Southwest roots at the time, having lived the previous 8 years in New Mexico. I had fallen in love with everything Oregon had to offer and we adapted to the rain pretty easily.

The mid to late 90's was an exciting, yet highly stressful time helping investors with all the stock craziness. I had managed to build a successful business (at the expense of time with my daughters, my health and any home life) but dreamed of giving it all up and moving to Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast. I made steps in that direction from putting up a poster-sized photo looking down the coast at CB right over my desk to buying a small weekend beach house in Seaside and a residential lot in Cannon Beach I someday hoped to build on.

In the late spring of 2001 we were spending the weekend in the Seaside house and wandering around Cannon Beach, when I spotted a "For Rent" sign in the window of a prime retail space on the main street where the tourists hung out. One thing led to another and I ended up leaving the investment world, moving to the coast with my middle daughter, Jade (ready to start high school that coming fall), and opening my own needlework shop. I've taken a lot of risks in my life, but that was the most difficult decision I ever made - I was terrified I had made a huge mistake. In addition, we accepted an offer on the Seaside house that was too good to pass up and I had to get a home built on the Cannon Beach lot so we had a place to live at the same time.

I called my shop "Siren Song Stitchery" with the tagline "DO WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU DO" and the original business model only involved cross-stitch, needlepoint and embroidery kits and supplies. I designed a mermaid logo, painted the space a beachy blue/green, filled it with fun merchandise and opened the doors on July 28, 2001, hoping the money I had socked away to cover the bills for the first year would hold out.

Less than 2 months later, 9/11 happened. After the initial shock, it became apparent that people were seeking solace in crafts and needlework and business was good. About that time, my mother noted that her knitter friends spent an awful lot of money on yarn and suggested I add knitting supplies to my inventory. I had never learned to knit or crochet and couldn't see how that would work when I was barely familiar with those crafts. How could I assist my customers buying supplies or give the advice/instruction necessary?

Nevertheless, I could see that was the right move, so added knitting and crocheting supplies to my shop. About that same time I took another giant leap of faith and finances and moved to a stand-alone building almost twice the size (and double the rent) of my original place. I poured everything I had into filling the new space and teaching myself to knit from a beginning knitting brochure and Debbie Stoller's first Stitch 'N Bitch book.

The business grew and prospered and the seeds of my knitting obsession were planted. I hired several employees to help and I spent my days working with other devoted knitters, gradually shifting to a yarn shop from a needlework shop. In the 9 months of rainy evenings I sat by the fire and knitted shop models and yarn samples as my knitting skills improved. I put out a shop newsletter and held classes and a weekly knitting group as the shop expanded and improved. We were totally riding the knitting/crocheting wave that followed 2001.

Several things happened simultaneously that led me away from beach life after six years. My husband still lived over in Portland with my youngest daughter (80 miles away) and my middle daughter had been off at college for a year. The lease was about to expire on the shop building, both our homes were worth ridiculous amounts (right as the real estate bubble was about to burst) and the isolation of the coast and never-ending stress of running the business was starting to wear on me. It was time for a change.

We ended up selling both homes, Siren Song Stitchery, my husband's business and relocating to east Texas. I sold the shop and it was renamed "Coastal Yarns". It still exists today in Cannon Beach near my first location on Hemlock Street. Meanwhile, we built our dream home, invested the real estate money and planned to semi-retire. I was going to while away the days designing knitting patterns but that was not to be.

To be continued...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm a Junkie

It suddenly dawned on me that I've never mentioned how addicted I am to I go on there several times a day without fail. I really don't know what I did before it existed. In case you are unfamiliar, it is the for knitters and crocheters and combines everything from message boards to patterns to thousands of other knitters all over the world. Everytime I check my personal email, I do a quick scan of what's new on Ravelry. In fact, I could probably exist just fine with only online access to those 2 places and nothing else.

I currently have 2 free patterns to download on Ravelry. One is the "Big Honkin' Bag" and the "Elusive Blue Rose Hat" pattern. I originally spent countless hours designing, writing the pattern and photographing the bag pattern to submit to Big mistake that - I think from the time elapsed it probably made it into one of the final groups to be published on Knitty, but was ultimately rejected for reasons I will never understand.

I was so incensed over all my wasted effort on that experience that I vowed NEVER TO DO THAT AGAIN and let my awesome pattern languish for awhile. I considered selling it on Ravelry, but decided to give it away for free on there as a kind of pay back for all the free patterns I have downloaded and enjoyed from the site myself over the last several years. Several people requested the hat pattern after seeing it on my finished projects page, so I added that pattern as well.

If you haven't had the chance to set up a free account on, I highly recommend it. It is an excellent place to record your finished knitting projects, read other people's ratings and observations of most knitting and crocheting patterns out there and see photos of countless finished projects (which can be both depressing and inspiring). The various message boards devoted to everything from Prius lovers to local knitting shops is an endless source of amusement. My current obsession is the Mad Men board where we discuss knitting and my favorite tv show endlessly.

If you want to see most of my finished projects in the past several years, feel free to check in on me (user name HipKnitizer) and feel free to "friend" me as well.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not Much Longer Now!

I'm really getting excited about the upcoming publication of the Stitch 'N Bitch Superstar Knitting book. Only 41 more days until it comes out! I have seen several previews of the contents (Knitpicks has photos) and got an advanced copy of my Baby Corn pattern pages to proof several weeks ago. Baby Corn is the yellow dress in the first preview photo on the Knitpicks website upcoming books preview - funny that they would put my pattern first.

Debbie asked for current addresses of the pattern designers so she could send us each a copy of the book. I'm hoping it comes soon. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Powell's have been advertising advance ordering of the book for months now. I went on my local public library website and there were already 4 holds on the book also in advance of publication. I sure hope it gets the press it deserves when it is finally on the shelves. It is a really beautiful book - great photography, lovely projects and Debbie's great writing style is throughout. Can't believe it has been over 4 years since I first submitted my pattern!

I just had a total knitting hibernation weekend. It was rainy and perfect to stay indoors knitting and designing. I finished the Vanilla Ice Cream scarf pattern which I will be posting soon on here. Also am nearing the finish line on the pink hooded cable cardigan for a friend's 3 year old daughter and a self-patterning sock yarn pullover for their 5 year old son. I also quickly knit a ruffled wine bottle drip-catcher for a wine gift and finished my knitted bead necklace (will post a picture later). I am about half finished with the dinosaur/dragon toddler hat design and hope to have that pattern completed by mid-October.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Big Faucet Will Be Turned "ON" Soon

September and October are truly the best months of the year to reside in Portland. The days are typically sunny, mild (low 70's this week) and rain-free. As we were warned when we first moved here from New Mexico 15 years ago, "If you want to do anything outdoors, do it before November 1st." That is about the time the Big Faucet in the Sky comes on and the next 8-9 months of uninterrupted rain commence.

I'm like most people around here. We accept and embrace the inevitable rain that gives us the year-round green landscape, amazing produce, beautiful Douglas firs, great vineyards and more bookstore and coffee places per capita than anywhere else in the country (except for maybe Seattle). The first few weeks of rainy season are welcomed with extra coffee and hot tea, curling up under an afghan with a good book and evenings spent next to the fireplace cozily knitting away. Ahhhh, this is why we live here...

I will be spending this winter tucked into my cozy place as seen in the adjacent picture. I was really lucky to end up in this situation as my unit is one of only three currently inhabited. This is my favorite home so far - high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and beautiful wood floors. I spend many pleasant hours knitting and designing here in my cozy little tree house.

Currently my designing and knitting it is in an out-of-control phase. I have 5 project designs in the works including a baby cardigan, adult slippers, a toddler creature hat, a mohair adult pullover for a contest and a lengthwise scarf (probably the next one finished which I will post on here). My WIP (work in progress) list includes: 2 adult cardigans, 3-4 pairs of socks, a pink toddler cabled hoodie cardigan, a boy's pullover knit from sock yarn (that will take awhile), knit bead necklaces, and ongoing chunky scarves to sell on

I must point out that is only the projects in my Oregon place. The WIP's in my workroom in the Texas house probably number in the dozens at this point. I can't even begin to remember, much less count all of them since it has been nearly a year since I was there. I have packed a number of them ready to be shipped up here eventually and plan to finish as many as possible when I spend several weeks there at Thanksgiving.

Writing about my WIP's is making me anxious. Better wrap this up and get busy !

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Now that its been almost 13 MONTHS!

I'm treating Labor Day 2o1o weekend like my own New Year with a bunch of fresh starts. Hard to believe it has been almost 13 months since my last blog post. I'm determined to do better this time and am aiming for weekly updates at the very least.

So much water under the bridge in the last year. I am no longer a travelling financial advisor as of this past March. I finally had my fill of the non-stop hotels, planes and rental cars and inability to return to my home base for months at a time. The two years of travel experiences were great and I don't regret any of the places I spent time and new friends I made all over the US, but I'm basically a homebody at heart. There's something to be said for dwelling among your own things and sleeping in your own bed at night. Plus I have way too much knitting paraphernalia to be toting it all over the place for weeks at a time...

So now I'm situated in a cool urban loft back in Portland, Oregon, truly the knitting epicenter of the US. I live a 5 minute walk from my work at an Edward Jones financial office and use all my extra non-commuting time to (what else?) knit even more. My place has great natural light, bookshelves crammed with yarn and knitting books and a whole extra room devoted to knitting and designing (photos to follow eventually). The Max (lightrail) runs right out front and I can easily get to the airport if I need to head down to East Texas to check on my house there.

I'm anxiously awaiting the publication of Debbie Stoller's newest Stitch 'N Bitch book, "Superstar Knitting" coming out November 1, 2010. I've seen the previews of my pattern design, "Baby Corn" and am blown away by the photos and layout. Yes, I knit the yellow dress the model is wearing in the picture on the beach and it will go all over the country in the upcoming trunk shows promoting the book release. Just hope I wove all those ends in tight enough!