Thursday, January 31, 2008

Berroco Sox are here!

These were a big hit at TNNA and we're elated that they've now arrived at Yarnmarket. They're the brand, spanking new sock yarns from Berroco.

We rushed them onto our shelves as soon as they appeared at our door because we know they're going to be super popular. I can't wait to begin my first pair using this wonderful wool blend. It's going to be hard to choose which pattern to begin first. I love the Sunderland Leg Warmers, but Edinburgh's one of my favorite cities on the planet, so I might have to make the Edinburgh socks. What a dilemma!

The variety of colors is nothing short of wonderful...and what you'd expect from the fabulous folks at Berroco.

I'm still checking out all the other goodies we bought at TNNA. What fun! I might have to quit my day job so I can knit knon-stop

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Great times at TNNA

We're in Long Beach at TNNA and are having a wonderful time meeting with the yarn manufacturers, seeing all the new yarns and patterns, and speaking to a lot of the local yarn store owners who are here as well. It's nice to have a chance to talk to others about the business, to compare notes on which yarns are popular and to see all the fabulous outfits the ladies wear to the show. Next year, I'll have to knit something special for myself.

One lady I've seen is wearing an absolutely gorgeous floor-length free-form sweater coat that has to have a hundred different fibers, including some lovely metallic touches. I wish I could get a photo of it, but we're not allowed cameras in the exhibition hall.

We're seeing the yarns for next winter and it looks like the big wools are the big hit. There are so many different colors being offered that I can't honestly say that there's a particular trend. I'm seeing some really pretty metallics -- rose colored, blues and copper. Some new and interesting shades that I absolutely love.

We've been speaking to many of the new manufacturers about Yarndex so they can be sure to have their products listed. If you haven't visited Yarndex you'll want to check it out. It's our online directory of over 4,000 yarns -- completed with all the specs. The magazines and designers tell us they rely on it for doing yarn substitions for patterns.

We have a booth here and our lovely "booth ladies" Sue and Marianne are doing a great job speaking to people and showing them our stuff. Sue attended a class about moebius strips and is working on a really unique moebius strip purse. (I accidentally made a mobius sock, but that's another story.) She was hoping to get some time to knit at the booth, but has been so busy she hasn't made any progress. Once she gets her purse completed, I'll see if she's happy enough with it to let me put a photo on the blog.

A lot of people have visited our booth to check out Stephanie Quattrini's HanzOn Creativity kits. The ladies especially love the Freeform Purse, but they're also very interested in the shawls and wall hangings. The designs are so unique and colorful that we've had a lot of people ask if they can buy our booth samples! Isn't that wonderful? The magazine editors who are at the show are very interested in the kits, too, so we're hoping for some press in upcoming issues.

We're really happy about that everyone loves the kits because we met Stephanie when we were on vacation in New Zealand and just happened to walk into her shop. We were absolutely taken aback by her designs. They're really easy to do (I've made a couple) and Stephanie's brilliant with colors so her creations are really striking. It's nice to see that the American market is as impressed with the HanzOn kits as the folks in New Zealand and Australia.

Well, I'd better run. The show starts again at 10:00 a.m. and I'm still in my pajamas! Alex and Jan start their meetings with manufacturers very, very early in the morning. I feel very spoiled that I can sleep in until 7!

I have the fun job: speaking with the media and checking out all the new yarns that I nag Alex and Jan to buy for Yarnmarket. They've got a long, long wish list right now, so I can't wait to see what starts arriving at YarnMartian Headquarters after the TNNA show..

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Obligatory Cat Photo

This is Hannibal the Cannibal Lecter. He was named Hannibal because, well, sometimes he's not very nice. He's known by veterinarians throughout Columbus, Ohio because he's especially not very nice when he's being examined by them. One veterinarian covered his cage with bright orange stickers that proclaim, "Danger! Will bite!" I was indignant. Hannibal was proud. He wants people to think he's ferocious. (I swear, on one occasion they put a leather muzzle on him and he really DID look like his namesake.)

When he's at home, Hannibal is the sweetest, most affectionate pussycat imaginable. He'll crawl onto anyone's lap to get his ears scratched and to make himself at home, leaving huge wads of orange fur all over their clothes. He'll purr and drool on people, too.

Alex is very allergic to Hannibal, but is nice enough to get shots every month just so he and my cat can co-habitate. Isn't that sweet? (Don't tell Alex I said he's sweet. He'll think I want another toxic cat.)

YarnMartians have a lot of pets and I'll include photos of them in an upcoming posting. In the meantime, if there are any veterinary dentists out there, could you please check out Hannibal's fangs and let me know how they look? He's not very co-operative when we try to get him to "Open wide!" during his annual check-ups.

Monday, January 7, 2008

See you at TNNA!

On Wednesday, Alex, Jan and I are winging our way to Long Beach to attend the January TNNA Conference. What fun! We'll have three full days of meeting with yarn manufacturers, retailers and the media. Also, we'll have our very own booth there to promote YarnMerchant, our service for yarn retailers.

Manning (or womenning) our booth will be Sue and Marianne, two lovely ladies we've known for years. They're both avid knitters so they really like it when they can see all the wonderful new yarns that will soon be available, and maybe even attend a class or two while they're there. If you're at the conference, please stop by and say hi. (These ladies have a myriad of talents! Everything from gardening to higher mathematics.)

Also at our booth will be Stephanie Quattrini of HanzOn Creativity. We met Stephanie a couple of years ago when Alex and I were on vacation in New Zealand. We walked into a little shop near Queenstown and were blown away by the wonderfully creative kits the owner had invented. We immediately made an appointment to see her, and were delighted that she allowed us to be the first retailer to sell her kits in the United States.

Stephanie is flying in all the way from New Zealand to attend the event, and we're sure she's going to be a big hit with all her wonderful kits. (I made the Whimsical Wrap and it's gorgeous!)

We hope to see you at TNNA. But, if not, I'll be posting our activities, so we hope to see you online!

Josh's Big Adventure

This is Josh -- our wonderful marketing guy -- with his wife, Shelley. (Isn't she lovely?) Some of you have called Yarnmarket and have had the pleasure of speaking with Josh. He's really helpful and we adore him...even if he won't admit to his friends that he works at a yarn shop.

Josh has been with us for several months now and has been instrumental in getting all the great bargains up on BargainYARNS. Whenever you see a really good deal there, that's Josh's doing.

Josh also helps with our advertising. He makes sure we get our ads out to all the magazines and web sites so that everyone will know how fabulously fashionable, fast and friendly we are. ;) And, following in the footsteps of his mother-in-law, Casey, he's becoming our trade show guru. He's put together a really nice booth for us at TNNA. So if you're there and you happen to see us, be sure to think, "Hey, way to go Josh!"

Tomorrow, Josh is leaving us. Well, not for good. He and Shelley, are going to visit her parents in Dubai. Her mom and step-dad, Scott, relocated there recently for business and are having a wonderful adventure settling down in an entirely new culture. (I know what an adventure it is to settle down in an entirely new culture. When I moved to the United States and didn't know where to go to get a driver's license I said, "Boy, this is an adventure!" Actually, I didn't say that at all. I said something like, "What on earth do you people call your Ministry of Transport?!" and everyone looked at me like I was a loon because they didn't know what a Ministry of Transport was or why anyone would want one.)

Anyway, Josh will be flying out tomorrow, landing in Paris for a few hours, and then heading to Dubai where, we're certain, he'll be visiting every yarn shop he can find.

We're wishing Josh and Shelley a really nice trip. Say hi to Casey and Scott for us. And don't forget to bring us back some really interesting yarn as a souvenir!

Friday, January 4, 2008

The first time

You remember the first time. You were nervous...not sure what to do. You didn't even want to begin for fear that it would turn into a disaster. But you remembered the sage advice of your mother.

"Everyone's scared the first time. But, don't be afraid. If it isn't working for you, just rip it out and start over again."

Yes...your first pair of socks. I made my first pair recently and I was pretty delighted when I actually made something that looked like a sock. Okay, there's one little mistake on the heel of my first sock, but it's not noticeable and it doesn't affect wear.

I used a reject from the Yarnmarket Impressionist Collection (a sample skein that wasn't quite the right color), plus a simple pattern from the book, "Basic Knitting." I changed the pattern slightly so it would be ribbed the entire length of the cuff, and then I used a modified version of the Kitchener stitch. Well, I hadn't intended for it to be modified, but I had a little trouble figuring out what to do.

My Aunt Wilma advises knitters to knit both socks at the same time, moving from one to the other as you go. That way, you are not only assured of doing the same thing on each sock, you don't get Sock Fatigue and end up with a collection of single socks. I figured I'd follow Aunt Wilma's advice right from the beginning because I know how bad I am about finishing things. I'm so bad that I now overcompensate and will finish things that really ought not to be completed. This is the dark side of knowing your own faults. (I'm a recovering procrastinator, too, which means my Christmas shopping is finished in August.)

Anyway, I read, knit, re-read, ripped and knit again. But not so much that I became discouraged. In the end, I created a really nice looking pair of socks -- even if I say so myself! Just don't look too closely at the bottom of the heel on one of the socks. It's got some goofy looking stitches where I should have decreased at the end of Row 1 and the beginning of Row 2 rather than at the beginning of Row 1 and the end of Row 2.

Now on to my second pair of socks!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Making a good Impression

Last year we introduced The Impressionist Collection to our customers. This was a really neat idea: we took a bunch of paintings by the Impressionists and then asked experts in hand-dyed yarn to interpret them for us. We kicked off with Artyarns. Iris Schreier developed some gorgeous interpretation of her yarns, including the sumptuous beaded silk! Then we added yarns from Lorna's Laces, Cherry Tree Hill, Rio de la Plata and -- most recently -- from Twisted Sisters.

Each time, I had the job of sending out a press release to let everyone know what we were now offering our customers. And I also got to come up with ideas for mailings to the knitting magazine editors. The tough part was figuring out what to do. The fun part was actually doing it.

The Twisted presented a unique problem: How do I tie in yarn, Twisted Sisters and French Impressionist painters? I anguished over this for days. There just didn't seem to be a link that made any sense. And suddenly it occurred to me. A French Twist!

We had great fun getting styrofoam wig heads, printing out color copies of the paintings and then decoupaging them onto the heads. Then, we attached a beautiful skein of the complementary yarn to each one -- to look like an elegant French Twist.

We shipped them out to the editors right before Christmas. Boy, I sure do hope that they liked their heads!

I can't wait to see what our next Impressionist yarn is. I wonder how the heck I'll present it?

The Grim Sheeper

You know…to look at Jill, you’d say, “What a sweet little Grandma.” But lurking beneath that angelic Grandma smile is a sick and twisted mind. The kind of mind we like.

Last October, I was sitting in my office when Alex came in and signaled me to follow. He does this a lot. And when I say, “Where are we going?” he never answers. Does your husband do this to you? I think it’s grounds for divorce in seven states, and contributes to justifiable homicide in three.

Anyway, I obediently followed him to the offices where Jill, Jan, Susie and Sharon work. When I walked into the area, I saw it.

Frankensheep. Or, as Jill called him, "The Grim Sheeper."

Jill had taken our sweet little corporate sheep and turned it into a monster. There it stood on its haunches, ready to attack anyone who dared enter Yarnmarket.

This is why we love Jill. She makes award-winning fudge, a great pasta salad, and has a fiendishly clever sense of humor. If you’re near Yarnmarket, you might want to stop by just to see what terrible things Jill has done to our sheep.

One man, many women.

It was a little past six in the evening. We were sitting in our meeting room with a guy who used to be my next door neighbor’s goofy little nephew, but is now all grown up and a really sharp search-engine professional. And he's cute, too.

Anyway, there was a knock on the door. Jill and Susie, who are the Yarndex godesses, came in to let us know they were leaving for the evening. Jill was holding envelopes to take to the mailbox.

“Anything you want mailed?” she asked as she headed toward the exit.

“Alex,” I told her.

She glanced at him quickly as she continued to the door and commented drily, “We haven’t got enough postage in the meter to ship him far enough away.”

Interesting things happen when a man is outnumbered by women – even when he’s the boss.

Fun in Florence

Twice each year, yarn industry reps congregate at Pitti Filati, the ginormous yarn show in Florence, Italy. I've always loved Florence, so it was great to be able to go there on a business trip with Alex. Three whole days to walk around the palace where it's held, admire all the beautiful new yarns for the next season, and meet with new yarn suppliers from all over the planet.

This year, the displays were spectacular. When you walked into the show you were presented with table after table of displays of foods created entirely out of yarn. I tell you, a chocolate gateau is wonderful. But a chocolate gateau made of fabulous yarn is really yummy! The tables were so crowded with people admiring the artistry that it was difficult to get close enough to take a photo.

I think the most fun we had was in seeing all the dramatic new styles that students had developed for the show. Well...that and meeting with some of our friends from the States, like Warren Wheelock and his team from Berroco. We also ran into a friend from Classic Elite -- by accident -- when we were seated at a little outdoor restaurant one evening after the show was over. That was such a coincidence!

We made a lot of new contacts at the show so we'll be able to bring wonderful new yarns to all our Yarnmarket customers. And we also found great wonderful design magazines and informational materials to help Alex and Jan select new colors and styles from our existing yarn suppliers.

If you ever happen to be in Florence in July (and I warn you that Florence is the hottest place on the planet in July!) you might want to find your way into Pitti. That's how we first went there. We were on vacation and discovered that a yarn show was occurring in the city, so we went over to the palace and registered on the spot to attend it.

I'm not sure whether we'll be going to Pitti Filati this year because there are some other yarn shows we haven't been to yet. But I'm going to start my diet this week...just in case I need to slim down so I can bulk back up in Italy. Ciao!

My arrival at Yarnmarket

While Alex, Lori, Lynn and Jan were working hard to build Yarnmarket into the vast global enterprise it is today (okay, so I exaggerate!), I was working at a job in corporate America that would have sounded really neat to anyone who didn't actually have to do it. I got to fly all over the place meeting with people, and I especially loved meeting with people in San Francisco, London and Paris.

But the job was exhausting, required very long hours, and I'd stopped caring about the "seamless integration of disparate computer systems to optimize performance and streamline processes to improve the bottom line." I wanted to do something else. Specifically, I wanted to work at Yarnmarket.

It took a couple of years of nagging, but eventually Alex and his partner decided that they needed a full-time marketing person who'd make sure that knitters around the world knew about our store and would give us a chance to prove to them how wonderfully nice we are. (Remember...Fabulous fashions. Fast. And friendly.)

So one morning in March of 2007, I checked my bank account to ensure my annual bonus had been deposited there overnight (because I was going to need it!) and then I walked to my boss' office and resigned.

Yes...after 33 years in the corporate world, I was finally walking away from the meetings, the dress codes, the politics, the perks and the paycheck. The first three things, I wasn't going to miss at all. The last two things...well, it's amazing what you can learn to live without!

I've now been an official YarnMartian for 10 months -- and what months they've been! We launched BargainYARNS, our value-priced site, and YarnMerchant, a special service to help our colleagues in the yarn retailing business. We launched our own brand of yarns -- The Impressionist Collection -- and we added a lot more yarns to, our online directory.

Best of all, we made all sorts of new friends in the industry. Some of them will even return my phone calls!

The Day We Almost Lost Alex

It was August 9, 2007. Two very serious gentlemen showed up at Yarnmarket. They arrived in an unmarked car. They carried official badges. They needed to speak to Alex.


Now the first thing that goes through my head when people with badges want to speak to Alex is that he’s going to be deported. But that couldn’t be right. He’s a US citizen. We don’t deport citizens. The next thing that goes through my head is that they’ve come to take me away -- and they don’t want Alex to fight with them as they put me in cuffs and escort me out of the building. Yeah…right. He’d be holding the squad car door open and smiling as they tossed me in!

It turned out that an anonymous citizen had reported us for tax violation and operating without a vendor’s license. Huh? We pay our taxes. You betcha. We pay them without so much as a whimper. (Okay, we do whimper a bit. And sometimes we shed a few tears. But rarely do we break down into uncontrollable sobs.)

So that wasn’t it. It wasn’t OUR taxes that weren’t being paid, but county taxes we’re supposed to be collecting from our customers in Ohio! Whaddya know? We’re supposed to charge county tax, too!

That means we probably haven’t collected from our customers…oh…a total of about four or five dollars in 2007. Now, don’t go getting yourselves into a panic. We’re going to take care of this lickety split so none of our customers go to jail. Of course, that means we’ll have to add some fragment of some percent to the state taxes our Ohio customers are already paying, depending on the county they live in, but we figure our customers are worth it. (Note to our Ohio Customers: If you want to avoid this addition to your Yarnmarket bill, please relocate to another state.)

As for the vendor’s license, of course we have one. Do they think we’re fools? (Apparently, yes.) Alex proudly displayed our vendor’s license and the officers wished him well before they headed out the door.

“Does this mean you aren’t going to hand cuff me?” Alex asked in disappointment as he followed closely behind. He’d been watching too many episodes of Law and Order.

“Uhh…no. Sorry, sir. Have a nice day.”

After the tax guys had left, we thought about what had happened. Now, it’s highly unlikely that one of our shoppers had phoned the government to say, “Hey, they’re operating without a license! And, what’s even worse, they didn’t even charge me county tax!!!” No one EVER reports it when they get away without paying taxes . I mean, that would be really nuts – even if they are just measly little county taxes.

So it had to be another store.

Geez…whoever thought that the field of yarn retailing was going to be a blood-thirsty, mud-slinging, dog-eat-dog, knock-‘em-down, drag-‘em-out battle with the authorities breathing down our neck? (Okay…two friendly guys shaking our hands and telling us to have a nice day, but you know what I mean.)

Whoever thought we’d be harassed and beaten and ordered to show our papers? (Okay…so they smiled and asked very nicely. It was still a horrible, traumatic ordeal!)

I need some ice cream loaded with hot fudge sauce and a mountain of whipped cream and a cherry. And a chocolate malted milkshake just to wash it down.

And to think I abandoned the relative serenity of high-speed, high-tech Corporate America for this!

The Arrival of Jan

As talented as Alex and Lori-Lynn might have been, there was something they collectively lacked: a really, really good knowledge of knitting. Sure, Alex had become a serial scarf knitter, but he wasn't going to be able to help anyone save a screwed-up sweater or attempt a new stitch they saw in a Twisted Sisters Pattern. (We love the Twisteds. Alex especially. He buys new clothes whenever he has a date with them.)

To help knitters by telephone would have been an impossible challenge -- even if Alex did have a clue what to say. So, if we were going to provide the level of customer service we thought was essential, Yarnmarket needed a professional knitter.

We thought about calling Aunt Wilma, but Pickerington, Ohio is a long commute from Calgary, Alberta. And she seemed to be so happy about her retirement and how she and Uncle Murray spent their time doing volunteer work and traveling the planet. So we placed an ad in the local paper, and the resumes started coming in.

There are a lot of knitters out here in Ohio!

And all of them looked wonderful on paper. But one resume really caught our attention. It was from a lady named Jan. Jan had retired from a local business college. She taught writing courses to corporate staff on a consultancy basis. And she really knew her knitting. We knew we were meant for each other...even if she hadn't met us yet!

The interview must have gone well because the next thing I knew, Alex announced that Jan was coming on board. He was elated that Jan was an expert on yarn and knitting. And I was thrilled that she was one heck of a writer. I'd written the first issue of our newsletter and was delighted that Jan would take over. (At this time, I was still at my "real" job in corporate America, but was helping Alex as much as I could.)

Jan celebrated her third anniversary with us not long ago. In that time, she's become immersed in selecting the yarns we sell, the colors and patterns we promote, and she singlehandedly writes the newsletters to our customers to let them know all about the wonderful products sell.

Best of all, Jan can read my blogs, and point out every single grammatical and punctuation error I make!

The first YarnMartians

When you answer an ad for an office worker and you're told by the man on the telephone, "Come to the basement door at the back of my house and knock really hard," you've got every reason in the world to be concerned. But Lynn is a very trusting soul. Okay...she's not that trusting. She told friends where she was going for her job interview and asked them to call the police if they hadn't heard from her in an hour. She carried her cell phone with her...and I'll bet she had it set to dial "911" the instant she pressed the green button.

Anyway, Lynn decided to go to the front door -- probably so the neighbors would see her and be able to describe her for the police report -- and Alex led her down to Yarnmarket worldwide headquarters in the basement. As he walked her down the stairs, she noticed they were painted with little black cat-paw prints. "Hmmmm..." she thought. "The guy's a loon." Little did she know I’m the loon and Alex is only an innocent bystander! (Why do I puff up with pride as I type that?)

The cats are not allowed in the basement because Alex is allergic to them, so I have signs posted low on the wall, "No cats allowed," and "If you can read this sign, you're a cat. Get out!" The footprints first go down the stairs, and then right back up again -- so if the cats are smart enough to follow them, they'll soon be back on the first floor.

Yeah, I know. Cats can't read. And they don't follow footprints. But mine can tell time! (That's another story.)

Alex liked Lynn right off the bat. And she was grateful he didn't kill her. So he offered her the job and she accepted...after being assured that she'd be working in a real office in a real building and that Yarnmarket was leaving our basement.

The next person on board was Lori...who also interviewed in our basement. I don't think either Lynn or Lori had actual job descriptions other than, "Whatever's needed" so it's much to their credit that they took a chance on Yarnmarket. We're so happy that they did! I think what attracted them wasn't the opportunity to work with a guy they were elated to discover wasn't an ax murderer, but the chance to set their own hours. There are a lot of Moms in this area, and many of the larger corporations won't provide flexibility to allow these very smart, hard-working potential employees to contribute to their success. They want you in the office 8 to 6, or 8 to 7, or in my previous employer's case, 8 to midnight. (Someday I'll write about my previous employer's dress code. We were not allowed to expose our shoulders because they're considered sensual. No open-toe shoes, either. Same reason. Oh, how I wish I were making this up! I'll write about it another time.)

Anyway...Yarnmarket was on the way with Alex, Lori and Lynn -- who later fused to become called "Lori-Lynn" because Alex could never remember the name of whichever one he was speaking to. That was four years ago, and we're happy to say that Lori and Lynn are still here running the place. And they still laugh about their very strange job interviews in the basement of our house.

It starts to grow...

Each night I'd come home from work to help Alex fill the orders of the day. We were starting to get a few more...and a few it kept us pretty busy in the evenings.

Another thing that kept me busy was grouching about my basement filling up with boxes to the point where it was completely unusable. It was getting hard to manoever around them as more and more inventory arrived each week. Steve was out in LA buying it... unaware that our house was reaching maximum capacity, and I was reaching maximum entropy.The yarn just kept on coming! Like mountain climbers, we scaled the boxes to fill the orders we promised we'd ship the very next business day. (The neighbors started to wonder why UPS appeared so often at our house...and why Alex was sitting on the deck knitting. But they know us well, so they knew better than to ask.)

One night, as Alex and I were filling orders, he saw me writing something on the invoice I tucked into the box.

"What'd you write on it for?" he asked.

"I thought I should thank her. It's only polite," I responded.

Alex thought about it a minute, then decided he liked the idea. So every single order went out with a handwritten thank you. Little did we know, our thank you’s would later form the foundation of our corporate philosophy...but more on that another time.

Anyway, my knitting lessons were going nicely, Alex was making his first scarf, and we were learning everything we could about yarn. The store kept getting busier and busier and busier. Not only had our basement become impassible, it looked like the entire house would soon be bursting at the seams.Then, the oddest, most wonderful thing happened. We received an order from Antarctica. (Yes, Antarctica...that icy place on the bottom of the planet where humans aren't supposed to live.) We were stunned. Who on earth would order from there...and how did they ever find us?

It turned out to be a young man at an American air force base. He wanted us to confirm whether or not we could get him the yarn there quickly -- in time for him to knit a hat as a gift for Christmas. Yes! Of course we could! Alex took the package to the post office (APO orders can't go UPS for some reason), and off it went to the far end of the earth.

"We're selling to Antarctica!" we laughed. We couldn't wait to tell people that we'd had an order from there.

And then we received another.Well, I can't describe how proud we were to think that Yarnmarket was number one in Antarctica. Today, the south pole, tomorrow the world!

Orders started coming in from everywhere -- Alaska, Utah, London, Perth, Queenstown -- and we were delighted to think that people from all over the world were coming to our basement to shop. I particularly enjoyed the shipments to New Zealand because I'd tell the yarn, "We're sending you home!" as I'd pack it into the box.

By the end of December, the business was exploding and we knew it was time to make a move. Our house was too small for an enterprise serving a global market. I mean, what if we wanted to invite them all over for a "thank-you" party?

Alex scouted the neighborhood for a suitable facility for his growing business, and soon located a warehouse location just a mile or so from our home. It was perfect! And, best of all, it had lots and lots of room for boxes!

Yarnmarket was on its way. (And, better yet, I was getting my house back.)

How it all began.

It all began in 2003... My husband, Alex, decided to retire. I didn't blame him. I wanted to retire, too. But somebody had to feed us, and he decided that it would be me. Initially, I balked at the idea. But the first time I got home from work to find the house spotless, dinner waiting on the table, and a box of chocolates on my pillow, I decided that Alex had a darned good idea and I was happy to go along with it.

Meanwhile, Alex's old business colleague, Steve, was out in Los Angeles grappling with a little problem of his own: he had a house full of yarn. Boxes and boxes of yarn. Everywhere. And computers, too. He'd invested in a small online yarn shop, and when the person who was to run it bolted on him, he was left with a living room full of yarn and computers. Being a single guy who couldn't knit a stitch, Steve figured he'd better find a way to get the yarn out of his house and his investment out of the red. So he called Alex.

"What're you doing?" Steve asked.

"Nothing," Alex replied, "How about you?"

"Not much. So, how would you like to run a yarn shop?"

"Ummm...okay...what do you really want?" Steve explained the circumstances and Alex said he'd get back to him.

A yarn shop? A yarn shop?! We talked about it that night, and then telephoned the one person we knew in the world who REALLY knew yarn -- my Aunt Wilma in Calgary. She took a look at the site, and was kind enough to offer only one criticism, "It doesn't have much on it." (That was about a zillion skeins ago.)

Because he's just quirky enough to be intrigued by the idea of running a yarn store, Alex decided he'd give it a try. Why not? He'd never run a yarn store before, and he liked to work with women. (He used to do a lot of fashion photo shoots where size 0 models traipsed about in various stages of undress. If they'd had anything to show, I might have been appalled that they were trying to show it to my husband.)

Anyway...we started on our learning curve: I attended knitting classes, and Alex and Steve discussed all the business issues. After a while, they agreed to make the move. Alex hopped on a plane to LA, Steve rented a U-Haul and they embarked on their 2000+ mile journey back to Ohio. I remember waking up to the sound of the telephone very early one morning. It was Alex.

"I'm standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona!" he informed me.

"And such a fine sight to see?" I asked.

He told me he'd waited for hours to call me to tell me that. We're so old we remember the lyrics to 1970s songs, but can't remember if we put on our underpants that day. Anyway, I arrived home from work a few nights later to find my basement full of boxes of yarn, computers and shipping equipment, and a guy named Steve who Alex insists I met on a business trip to LA a few years before. (As I said, the memory is failing.) Steve explained everything from how to download the UPS labels to how to pack the yarn nicely into the boxes...then waved us and his investment goodbye. We started off that October taking just a few dozen orders a day...