Tuesday, March 03, 2009

…but the day BEFORE the spending bar came down…

I went to Stitches West Sunday. Months ago (before, you know, that whole ‘no paycheck anymore’ thing happened), I had these grand plans about going for the whole thing and maybe taking some classes and of course indulging in some yarn-buying-frenzy and perhaps I would even take the plunge on some spinning fiber.

But needless to say…change of plans. I almost didn’t go at all, because money is so tight it squeaks and let’s just say there is a certain history when it comes to me and large amounts of fibery goodness.

And that history is that I am like a drug addict set loose in a hedonistic bazaar of chemicals. The wool fumes overpower my common sense. I start reasoning with myself that after all, if I were to go to a store and buy a handmade sweater made of that quality wool, it would be at least $16,000 (I know I’m exaggerating…it’s part of the disease, like an alcoholic who says “beer isn’t really alcohol”). At. Least. Sixteen. THOUSAND. Dollars IF you could even find something as awesome as the something I could make with my very own magical sticks (and a lot of help from brilliant designers who have kindly published books, which by the way are also available at the market).

Which makes paying a mere $120, you know, a bargain. Plus $30 for the book of patterns, and $12 for notions, and also that cunning little tool I never knew I couldn’t live without before I saw it there, a steal at $29.95.

Oh sure, now I can clearly see the inherent lack of logic. In the cooler head-space of my own office/bedroom, I can say to myself that if I needed yarn for a sweater, I could totally get perfectly acceptable wool from KnitPicks for, like, $40. Furthermore, I can twist my head around and behold the insane amounts of yarn in this very room and say, “Uh…I think I’m covered for the foreseeable future on the whole high quality yarn thing.”

Markets past have stuffed my home pretty thoroughly, you see.

But that’s here. In the calm oasis of my home office, with a nice calming mocha beside me and the brutal honesty of my Quicken reports keeping me apprised on how much cash I have available for my personal use right now. (Ouch.)

And I know this. I know this. I know that going to the market is going to be one of two things: A unique brand of torture that is going to make me thoroughly pissy, or a brutal example of how not to manage your personal finances.

But I went anyway.

And it was a unique brand of torture.

Don’t get me wrong – I got some beautiful things. It’s just that…well, you know, pout! There were hand-carved drop spindles, and roving, and of course booth after booth stuffed with the good stuff, the stuff my local yarn store doesn’t – couldn’t possibly, because hello, lack of space – carry.

And there I was, keenly aware that I had $60 cash, and a debit card tied to a checking account with a miniscule bit of cash that represented my spending money through the end of May.


But I told myself firmly that we were not going to be like that. We were going to enjoy what we could do, and love what we could afford, and be grateful because damn it – people are losing everything right now. That I had even “a mere” two hundred bucks to blow on something like yarn was a blessing to be grateful for. Right? Right!

So. The first thing I did was seek out Lisa Souza. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have one of those oddly important yet extremely casual connections with Lisa. I worked with her husband some years ago (and my husband worked with him after I did), and you know what? They’re darned good people, and I look forward to seeing them at Stitches each year. It’s just reassuring to see them happy, and healthy, and together and all. They deserve it.

And Lisa does such beautiful things. There’s just something about most of her colors that make me just feel happy.

One of the things I picked up was a massive 8-ounce skein of 100% superfine Merino lace, with a generous 2500 yard put-up. It’s a color she calls “Mahogany” and it is rich and gently variegated, just like an antique piece of mahogany furniture, moving sweetly from bright copper highs to deep walnut lows. I’m thinking it must become something terribly Victorian-lacy.

Merino Lace Mahogany

And of course, I also got a couple skeins of sock yarn because, duh, sock yarn doesn’t count.


Now, there is something extraordinary about these two skeins of Claudia ‘Copper Pennies’ fingering yarn, and it is this: They were on sale for $7.50 apiece. Half. Price. It was the final fifteen minutes of the market and I happened to be standing there when the lady plopped the sign onto the table. That I resisted the urge to just scoop the entire remaining stock into my bag and make off with it giggling madly is astonishing. And a testament to the power of having brought only the debit card attached to my pathetic excuse of a ‘personal’ checking account with me instead of something beefier, like my Citibank card. Ahem. Moving on.

Copper Pennies

Now, one of the hit-or-miss booths at Stitches each year is Newton Country Yarns. They have a massive booth with tables loaded down with a mixed bag of rot-gut, semi-decent, and downright decent yarn of all kinds. Everything from cheap acrylic to cashmere/merino blends, priced by the pound and with weights anywhere from .35 pounds to over 3 pounds. Cones, hanks, skeins, balls, wads that look hopelessly tangled but somehow aren’t…it’s a fun treasure hunt.

And all of it half off, with an additional 10% discount if you buy $200 or more at a time. Which I didn’t because please see note regarding ‘only brought debit card attached to pathetic excuse of a personal checking account’ above.

BUT. I did pick up an impressive lot of stuff…behold, future Denizen sweaters:

Newton Country Haul

Total price, just under $80. Seriously.

And yet, it was bittersweet. That pink blob there is cashmere/merino blend, soft as a dream and just…sexy. And $95 a pound, which even at half off is still $47.50 which means that the beautiful black and white and deep green and teal blobs? Stayed behind.

I almost wept. I started to curse myself for being fool enough to leave my regular credit card behind. Then I stopped, and said, “Good girl, let’s get out of this crazy house and get you a nice big mocha” because you know what?

I did deserve it.

I had every opportunity to really, really blow it. We still have way too much available credit, and the temptation to use it instead of staying within the cash we actually have is…rather terrible, actually.

I did good. I got some beautiful yarn that will become enjoyable projects which produce lovely things. And when I got to the top of my budget, I stopped. It stung a little at the time, but I’m thanking myself now. I’m proud of me, I really am.

And oh.my.gawd., I am sooooo grateful Stitches won’t be back in Santa Clara for a whole year.

And also, oh.my.gawd, I hope things are greatly improved by August because people?

Two words: Sock. Summit.

(Dear Lord forgive me, I am a sinner, a shameless, shameless sinner with the fortitude of a spineless worm and also GAH!, that much talent should not be permitted in the same place at the same time because WHAT IF THERE WERE SOME KIND OF HORRIBLE NATURAL DISASTER?!, and due to my tennis elbow having put the kibosh on knitting I’ve spent too much time reading [by the way, thank You for the library, amen] and got into these post-apocalyptic stories that are kind of stupid and yet kind of fascinating and now I’m all obsessed with the idea of civilization as we know it abruptly just ending and WHERE WOULD WE BE, if all that talent was in Portland, which by the way kind of EXPLODED into ANARCHY and PEOPLE EATING OTHER PEOPLE CHAOS in this series?!)

(However, perhaps if I went and touched the hems of their socks, some of their greatness would rub off on me and I wouldn’t suck at that toe-up method…actually, it’s just the heels that defeat me because apparently I am not coordinated enough to wrap and turn without making holes you could drive a TRUCK through [or at least a #6 DPN], and it just pisses.me.off because GAH! HOLES! IN! MY! HEELS!)

(I have been known to pick up, then rip out and redo, gusset stitches so many times I practically shred the yarn because of holes only I can see. My husband once called me ‘crazy’ because he couldn’t see the holes that were plainly there, and well. The conversation didn’t go particularly well, but eventually he swore that he actually could see the holes and that I was completely sane and it was only right and good to be compulsively re-doing the pick up. So I let go of his throat, removed the sock heel from his eye socket and let him live, the end.)


Anonymous said...

I hear you on the sock summit. I look at the list of teachers, and feel faint, and tell myself that I'm not even good enough to be in the same room with them, then I look again, and wonder if my knitting skills would improve if I went there, and I could make socks that, you know, fit. And I have an expandable suitcase. . .

who also has a very bad case of startitis.

Marty52 said...

You kill me... I laughed out loud at the last sentence. Reading your blog is such a joy. Thank you!

Galad said...

Congratulations on your self control. Doesn't feel good to get some beautiful new stuff and not feel guilty :-)

Trina said...

I think I'm getting drawn to the sock summit too, wanna carpool?

Cari said...

If you think Portland is capable of exploding into anarchy, you have clearly never been to Portland. If everything goes to pot, this is the very safest place for all that knitterly talent to be.

PipneyJane said...

Oooohhhh, you would mention the Sock Summit! There is no way I can afford to go (I would love to fly in from the UK), but I so wish I could.

Lisa Souza is lovely. Thank you again for sending me in her direction when I need ecru sock yarn. And her Sock! yarn is wonderful stuff. Time to start saving - I've only got one pair of socks worth of ecru left and I want to try out some of her other colourways. It's going to be $$-spendy now that Sterling has fallen against the Dollar.

- Pam

Anonymous said...

Good girl! Dang I hate exercising self-control in situations like that, but it really is the thing to do. (darn it) Now to figure out how to get to Sock Summit, because I NEED some sock mojo!

Anonymous said...

Amazing finds, and amazing display of self-control!

If it makes you feel any better, I can't even imagine what it would be like to have *$200 whole dollars* to spend on yarny goodness. That seems like an incredible indulgence to me - I get $50/month for ALL my 'fun' purchases (eating out, clothes and shoes, yarn - all comes from that $50). It's all in the perspective ;-)

Anonymous said...

SM Stirling is a wonderful guilty pleasure, isn't he? Although I too have doubts about Portland of all places becoming a bastion of evil.

I'm waiting nervously for the cost of the Sock Summit to be announced. If they have day passes I will probably feel comfortable asking Hubby for a couple of days as a birthday present. If not I will have trouble justify blowing the entire vacation budget so I can go listen to people talk about knitting for 4 days. Unless I can find a software conference for him to attend... Hhmm. Maybe I should start Googling.