Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Yarn update: JCA ordered

Today I met with the final yarn rep on my agenda, Steve. He represents the JCA lines of yarn (which include: Jo Sharp, Vittadini, Reynolds, Artful Yarns, and Scheepjeswol). He also reps some smaller lines (including a high-end hand dyed company, needles/notions, and buttons), as well as needlepoint supplies.

Steve was a hoot. He's a true salesman, and unlike every other yarn rep I've met - he does not knit or do any crafts! Says he has no interest. All he does is sell his products, and he does a very good job. No pressure and a very nice guy at that. However, I was disappointed that he only had color cards with him. Every other rep also brings in bags and bags (or suitcases and suitcases) filled with balls of yarn - one ball for each yarn they sell. I like being able to pick up and feel the ball of yarn - you can only judge so much by staring at a two inch snippet of yarn.

At any rate, I already knew exactly what I wanted, so I didn't need to be seduced by plump, fluffy, furry balls of yarn.

I ordered a bunch of Jo Sharp (silk road in various weights), two of Artful Yarn's most popular (Broadway and Portrait), and two Adrienne Vittadini yarns (Trina, a wonderful merino/cashmere blend and Paloma, a baby alpaca & wool boucle). As before, I choose fewer yarns in order to get _all_ the colors of each yarn. I passed on some wonderful 100% cashmere because it's sooo pricey. Hopefully I can order that soon after I open... once some money starts rolling in.

Steve also showed me a really wonderful new kind of circular knitting needle from Colonial: the cord is made out of some kind of black resin tubing, so it's extremely pliable and flexible - it won't kink. The joins are extremely smooth, too, with gold-colored metal caps covering the join. The needles will be available in both bamboo and rosewood, but will not be available for several months. I put in an order for a full range of the bamboo needles. I like 'em.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Yarn Pilgrimage: Saratoga, CA

Visited an 'inspirational yarn store' yesterday upon recommendation of a yarn rep: Knitting Arts in Saratoga. I'd never been to Saratoga before, which is a small town just west of San Jose. It took me about 1.5 hours to drive down there from San Rafael. The store is nestled in the little 'downtown' area, filled with antique shops and upscale restaurants. Looks like a tony town. The shop is beautiful: clean, simple fixtures (many of which are from IKEA) and great lighting. The large back area is devoted exclusively to classes and work tables. Most of the yarn on display was novelty - fur, eyelash, etc. Lots of Crystal Palace (which was on sale this week for 10% off), Prism, Blue Heron, Colinette, etc. In the center of the yarn area was a small circle of soft-seating with a coffee table in the middle. There was a very very cool book on the coffee table (yes, it was a coffee table book) that I've never seen before called The Art Of Knitting. No patterns that I could see... it's more of an inspirational book filled with gorgeous close-up photos of stitches and images of experimental knitting - knitting as art. I may have to get this book someday just for the coolness factor. Plus I'm a whore when it comes to books. Sigh. That's what I get for working in a Borders for 4 years. You can bet your ISBN that my store is gonna have a rockin' book section.

Back to Knitting Arts: the people were super-duper nice and knowledgeable. There were many people shopping along with some sort of clinic going on in the back. An impeccably dressed lady in her 60s was standing quietly clutching a bag of knitting. "Oh[ knitting instructor's name]", the employee said, " your 3:30 is here." Knitting teachers are in demand - how cool is that.

A beautifully-dressed woman (perhaps the owner?) saw me browsing aimlessly, touching every ball of yarn within reach, and asked "can we perhaps help you find a new project?" I deferred, mumbling something about having too many projects. I was too sheepish to explain my real reason, to get ideas for my own shop. I never know how other yarn shop owners are going to react. "Aack, yet another yarn store? Leave now!" Heh.

Of course I couldn't leave without buying a ball or two (well, actually three) of yarn: Crystal Palace's Kid Merino, new for spring. I'd just ordered a sampling of it the other day and wanted to play with it. Seems very very cool (and cuddly). I'm gonna try making these socks with one strand each of two different colors held together.

Tomorrow I meet with the JCA rep. I plan on ordering Jo Sharp, Adrienne Vittadini and maybe, just maybe, some Artful Yarns. There goes my budget!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Rowan and Crystal Palace are in

Met with another yarn rep today in order to get sock yarn, Ann Norling patterns, and books. She's also the rep for Crystal Palace, Rowan, Jaeger, Colinette, Mission Falls, and Lana Grossa. It was decided that I need at least a smidgen of Crystal Palace and Rowan. She's very persuasive. I ordered a small selection of frou-frou furry stuff from Crystal Palace. For Rowan I decided to concentrate solely on their chunky fall yarns - Big Wool, Biggy Print, Bill Wool Tuft, etc. They have a new pattern book coming out that features 5 of their chunky yarns. I'm bringing in all five yarns in a variety of popular colors. My reasoning is simple: I can present a cohesive, attractive, and complete display by focusing on one subcategory of Rowan yarns. As time goes on I will increase the Rowan selection; this is all I could afford for now.

This strategy is in keeping with my idea for store design: instead of organizing the yarn by color (gasp), fiber, or gauge, I'm going to organize it by company. I'll have a Rowan department, a GGH department, a Blue Sky Alpacas department, and so on. This way I can merchandise the yarn, the samples, and the patterns all together.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

First MFA Sweater Completed

Yesterday I finished the first of hopefully many sweater designs to be offered through the store. This sweater is entirely my design (using two stitch patterns found in books) and made out of Goddess Yarns' Ellen, 55% cotton & 45% wool. It comes in a wonderful array of colors, is very soft, and is a pleasure to work with. I'm told that it's a very hard-wearing yarn as well. This was designed to fit me, so it's a large sweater. It took me one month to make, and required 17 balls of yarn (81 yds/ball) on size 8 needles. It has a 46" chest and a 26" length. I plan on using this sweater as a model to help sell the Ellen yarn (which I will be stocking in 16 colors) and I will be offering the pattern as an exlusive Marin Fiber Arts design. The challenge will be to convert the pattern to smaller sizes - I've never done that before!

Friday, June 17, 2005

I signed the lease!

Yes, the waiting is finally over. Today the last of the small issues were resolved and I signed the lease. The actual act was very anti-climactic, however. No fanfare, no trumpets pealing in the morning sun, not even a kick in the pants. I signed the two copies of the lease in my kitchen, wrote a check for the 1st month's rent + security deposit, drove the package over to the real estate agent's office, and left it at the front desk - he wasn't even there. No hand shake, no nuthin'. Oh well. I'm not sure what happens next... the landlord needs to sign the lease, and then I get my copy back.

The next big hurdle to overcome is the build-out of the space. It's in a very raw condition: bare concrete floor, exposed ducts in the ceiling, and bare studs on the walls. The contractor needs to install electrical outlets, sheetrock all the walls, put in a drop ceiling, and install light fixtures. I'm told by another tenant in the building that this outfit is very good at getting things done in a timely manner. I certainly hope so... if build-out takes 6 weeks, I can get in by August 1st and hopefully open by September 1st. People start buying yarn for the holidays in August, so time is of the essence! I don't want to miss much of the fall season!