Friday, October 31, 2008

Making a weird Impression.

The other day, while I was out to lunch, I fell victim to Indescriminate Crazed Creativity. When I returned and walked into my office, this is what I saw.

Agghhh!I think it's a YarnMartian.

Pat, Michele and Stefanie were up to their tricks and decided to create a new, improved Deb using some of our new display forms for the Yarnmarket Showroom, a sample sweater that had recently arrived, and one of the wig heads we'd used for a special mailing to editors of knitting magazines. (It was our launch of the Impressionist Collection yarns dyed by Twisted Sisters. We decoupaged the head with pieces of a painting, and then affixed the complementary yarn skein like a French Twist. I tell you, it was a challenge to come up with something that screamed Impressionist painting and Twisted Sisters, but this seemed to do the trick!)

Alex seemed to prefer the new, improved Deb because it's slimmer and more obedient than the old, crabby one. But then he was reminded that it's the old, crabby one who cooks his dinner.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Introducing Caledon Hills Chunky


It has finally arrived! Yarnmarket is proud to introduce a second yarn to our Caledon Hills Collection: Caledon Hills Chunky. This gorgeous 100% wool is available in FORTY-NINE glorious colors, each one reminiscent of the pastoral beauty of Caledon Hills in Ontario, Canada. (Elton John is among the locals who agree it's one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world. Neat, eh?)

We first introduced Caledon Hills Worsted Wool last year, in 72 colors and it's been a tremendous hit with our shoppers.

Both these yarns sell for just $6.85 for a 100g skein, so they're an excellent value. Best of all, Caledon Hills yarns felt beautifully.

If you want a really good quality felting yarn -- or chunky yarn for all the great new fashions -- be sure to check out our Caledon Hills Collection. It's available exclusive at Yarnmarket.com.

Aggghhh! It's time for Holiday Shopping!

Woo hoo! Or, is it more like "Boo hoo!" this year? I decided a LONG time back that I'm going to do a lot more of my shopping online. Why? Because I'm a compulsive shopper. If I go into a store, I know I'll buy four gifts for the ones I love, and a couple of gifts for the one I try merely to tolerate: me.

And I don't even need what I buy myself. And I know it. So then I get a bad case of buyer's remorse and feel like a greedy, selfish pig and wish I hadn't spent my hard-earned money on a Special Edition 32-ounce "My Mother the Car" Coffee Mug or a Battery-Powered Toy Hedgehog with Flashing LED Eyes.

So now I'm practicing self control.

This is particularly wise during economic downturns because I can find lots of great stuff online without having to spend money on gas. Sure, sometimes I have to pay for shipping...but mostly I try to meet the minimum amount so I can get shipping for free. On occasion, I'll ask around to see if anyone else wants something from the same online store -- like my Mom. Recently, we bought several different sets of CDs from The Teaching Company and got all our shipping for free. My step-father will receive a really nice set of 96-lectures about the Origins of the Universe for Christmas and Alex will get a really nice set of lectures about a topic that really interests me...but I can't tell you which one because he reads the blog to make sure I don't say anything embarrassing about him.

At Yarnmarket, we do a couple of things to help our holiday shoppers. First of all, we offer electronic gift certificates. I love giving these because no matter what, the gift is always exactly what the knitter wanted -- the right pattern, the right yarn, the right color. These can be delivered online, or nicely printed. And, best of all, they're really quick. I know a lot of our shoppers love these...but not as much as the knitters who get them. After the holidays we get lots of calls from people who say, "I've never shopped your store before, but I got a gift certificate...and I'm so happy!"

The other thing we do that helps holiday shoppers is ship for free in the continental US on orders over $100. You can buy yarn for a couple of gifts and some for yourself, maybe, and get everything delivered right to your door at no cost...and without having to go out to the crowded malls (which, come to think of it, might not be all that crowded this year).

Now, you probably don't need to be reminded, but if you're planning to actually knit gifts for loved ones, it's time to get started. I've already finished a few scarves and pairs of socks, and I've got to get cracking on a few more projects before time runs out on me.

(If you want the honest-to-goodness truth, I started my Christmas knitting in May and I finished almost all of my gift shopping in August. I am a reformed procrastinator who now hyperventilates if I haven't got everything completed before most people have even started thinking about it. Today I'm worried that I haven't got Alex's dinner menu planned...for New Year's Day 2009. If there are any psychiatrists out there, could you give me a call at 888-996-9276, extension 31. Thank you.)

Anyway, back to our knitting. If you're planning on making gifts, please check out the good deals in BargainYARNS to help save money. We've got some terrific Rowan Big Wool Fusion for only $11.05 a ball. You can knit a gift in an evening with that stuff! And if you're looking for luxury-for-less, check out our gorgeous Auracania Alpaca for only $4.71.

When you're planning your gift list this year, we hope you'll consider Yarnmarket.

And we also hope you'll consider buying gifts that support different organizations or good causes. There are so many out there who need your help. We sell yarns, patterns and needles to help fund breast cancer research and camel yarn to help support the Snow Leopard Trust Fund, just to name a couple.

Oh! Just one more thing. The monks at The Abbey of Gethsemani sell the world's best (translation: filled with bourbon) fudge, cheese and fruit cake. This stuff is really amazing...and it makes a great gift. Brother John has been baking fruit cakes all year, and I'm sure he'd really appreciate it if you'd buy some. (This is a picture of Brother John in his "cake baking" clothes.) The monks support their monastery by selling these delicacies, so it's kind of nice to help them out. I figure that if I'm going to eat fudge, I might as well eat monk-made, bourbon-laced fudge so I can feel good about supporting the monks while I get drunk and fat.

Win $200 in the Cherry Tree Hill Design Contest!

Hey, if you like to design socks and other small projects, you'll want to know about this. Cheryl Potter, of Cherry Tree Hill is sponsoring a design contest using her luscious sock yarns, Supersock Select, Sockittome Select and Supersock DK Select.

All you have to do is design something uniquely yours using one hank of these yarns and submit it to Cheryl. You'll find details on her blog.

Yarnmarket carries not only Cheryl's full colorways of these yarns but also our exclusive Impressionist Collection colors. These are based on paintings by artists like Monet, Renoir, Degas and Van Gogh.

Cheryl is particularly interested in fingerless gloves, gauntlets, mittens, glittens and unusual socks and leggings. Be sure to enter your submission soon...and good luck!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How to Shop for Yarn

A lot of people have asked me, “Deb, how do I shop for yarn?” The first thing I say is, “How would I know? I nag Alex relentlessly until he gives me whatever I want.”

The truth is that there are many different ways to shop for yarn. Yarnmarket offers three:
1. In person at our luxurious showroom in the thriving megalopolis of Pickerington, Ohio;
2. Online (preferably while in your pajamas and sipping hot cocoa); or
3. By telephone using our free 888 number. (Of course, if you’re in Manchester, England or Tours, France the free phone number won’t work and you should immediately return to Shopping Method 2. Or, if you’re adventurous and have always wanted to see corn fields in the heartland of America, you’ll enjoy Shopping Method 1. )

We long for human companionship.
Our Yarnmarket Showroom is open to the public Monday to Friday from 9 to 5. Or whenever you want, as long as you give us a call first so we can be here. We’re thinking of opening up a couple of Saturdays each month. Let me know if you like this idea. Sure, I usually clean the house on Saturday but if I open up the Showroom instead, Alex will be the one scrubbing the bathrooms. I figure it’s a win for me.

If you haven’t been to our Showroom, and most people haven’t, it’s a lovely little area with comfortable seating, one sample of everything we sell, and a computer so you can look online before wandering out into our massive warehouse complex. We like people to check online before they venture out there because once they start looking at our thousands and thousands of bins, they never want to leave. Last week we had to send out a search party to find wandering knitters who’d disappeared on us. It took four bloodhounds and a rescue helicopter to locate them…high on a shelf in the nethermost corners of the complex where we keep the Windy Valley Qiviut tucked away.

There are advantages and disadvantages to shopping in person. The advantages are that you can touch the yarn, see the colors against your skin, and get that electrical jolt of delight when you fill a shopping bag right to the brim. The disadvantages are that you have to put on clothes (as a public service more than anything else), get into your car and find Pickerington, Ohio. This isn’t a problem for people who live in nearby Reynoldsburg, Ohio but can be a bit of a pain for knitters in Manhattan. Not only do they have to abandon the squalor of their 5th Avenue penthouse for our luxurious Holiday Inn Express, but they also have to drive through Zanesville, birthplace of Zane Grey, the cowboy novel writer. I can’t tell you how many times Manhattan knitters have gotten as far as the Zane Grey Museum and said, “Let’s not go any farther. Nothing in the world can top this. Not even Yarnmarket in the thriving megalopolis of Pickerington.”

This is why we suggest Manhattanites shop online.

Our special place in cyberspace.
Now, as all of you know, when you shop online you don’t get to touch the yarn, hold it against your skin and breathlessly gasp, “Ahhhh…” And you don’t get to see the glorious colors in person. But you do get to sit there in your jammies* and flit from page to page to page like a bumblebee pollinating flowers while you examine hundreds of yarns in thousands of colors without having to lift a finger. (Okay…you have to lift a few fingers, but nothing else.) You get to save lots of money on gas, and you don’t have to be nice to anybody. That’s especially important on those days when you wake up, look at your beloved lying in bed beside you in his crappy, faded old T-shirt and sagging flannel pajama bottoms and think, “I gave up David Bowie for that?!”

Anyway, there are advantages and disadvantages to shopping online. Now, if you want to eliminate the disadvantages of not seeing the colors in person, you might want to calibrate your computer so the colors you do see are real. A good friend of Yarnmarket gave us a link to this handy little tool that will help you ensure your monitor is displaying the right colors.

Many thanks to Shel B. Small for allowing us to make it available to Yarnmartians throughout the world.

As for touching the yarns, well…what can I say? Until Microsoft develops TouchSoft 1.0, Software for the Almost Human Experience, you have to imagine it. Maybe we should come up with an index for the feel. Four clouds for Cashmere, Three Clouds for Merino, No Clouds for Burlap. That sort of thing. Whaddya think? Or maybe you could just e-mail us and ask us to describe it and we could write back, “What’s Qiviut like? Well, imagine strapping yourself naked to the underbelly of a musk ox. Ahhhhh…”

Feelings…nothing more than feelings…Now, we know that some of you (and we won’t name names) like to visit your LSY to touch the yarn and then shop online for the lowest prices. Well, it sure would be nice if you’d actually purchase something from your LSY when you visit. When you’re “just browsing” they’re not making a dime even though they’re paying for rent, staff and yarn. I mean, you can browse all you want online and it doesn’t cost anybody a dime, but when you browse in a shop and then purchase elsewhere, you might be forgetting that the yarn shop owner really does need to make a living and if she doesn’t make a living, you’ll soon have no place to browse.

And please -- never, ever, ever rip-off a yarn store owner. I’m not going to go into any detail about what’s going on, but we’ve heard through the grapevine that it’s becoming a serious problem. Yarn must be in its original, perfect condition in order to be sold…and if you do anything to that ball of yarn, you’ve just cost the LSY owner some money. And you don’t want to do that, do you? You’re a nice, good, honest person. (We are convinced that Yarnmarket shoppers are the nicest people in the world and they’d never want to hurt anybody. Sure, call us na├»ve, but only once have we been victim of a major felony. How many yarn stores do you know that can brag about that?!)

*Notice the reference to jammies? Judging by the hours you’re shopping, I have to assume that a lot of you work at companies that have, “Come in Your Jammies Days.” I’ve always wanted a job in a place like that. Alex makes me wear clothes to the shop. And it seems the older I get, the more clothes he wants me to wear.


Can you hear me now?
Lots of people like to shop by telephone. That’s the great thing about cell phones. You can be in the doctor’s office, sitting in that cold, little room all by yourself, alone and semi-naked in that paper gown, shivering while you wait for the doctor to come in and poke you with pointy things. Suddenly, you can exclaim, “Hey, I think I’ll phone Yarnmarket and buy yarn to knit something warm to cover my semi-nakedness.”

That’s why we have an 888 number for free in the United States. 888-996-9276. If you want to call from overseas, you’ll need to dial 1-614-861-7223.

We get lots of phone calls every day from happy knitters in doctor’s offices around the world. Sometimes they have questions about yarns or patterns. Sometimes they’re looking for a particular dye lot. And sometimes they’re just lonely and want someone to talk to because they’ve finished reading all the pamphlets about diseases they hope their doctor doesn’t know how to diagnose.

We have operators standing by (sitting, really) to answer your calls anytime you want to speak to us. As long as that any time is between 9 and 5 Monday to Friday. After that, you’d have to call Alex’s cell phone.

So there you have it. There are fifty ways to leave your lover and three ways to shop at Yarnmarket: in person, online, and by telephone.

If you’d like to touch a yarn before you buy it, give us a call. We can always send you a little piece of it so you can feel it. Okay?

A visit with Joanne Cole

This is one of our favorite times of year: when all our wonderful yarn reps drop by to show us what's new for the upcoming season. Alex and Jan meet with them to discuss the yarns, the colors, the patterns, the promotions, and just about everything else you can think of that might help them decide what to put into our ever-expanding inventory.

Yesterday, we were delighted to welcome to Yarnmarket, Joanne Cole, our rep for Artyarns, Crystal Palace, Himalaya, O-Wool, Stitchkeepers, Iknitiative and a few other companies whose yarn we hope to add to our 600+ brands.

Joanne showed us lots of beautiful new items, and told us what the big colors would be for spring. (The snow isn't even on the ground yet and we're thinking spring!)

You'll want to keep your eye on the blog because I'll be featuring some of these fabulous products as they arrive at Yarnmarket.

Thanks, Joanne, for visiting. We hope you have a safe trip home.

What I Do...by Chloe Woods


Michele, proud mama that she is, recently showed me a journal entry by her little girl, Chloe when she was eight years old. (She's ten now.) I thought it was so sweet that I wanted to share it with our readers:

What I Do by Chloe Woods

I watch T.V. and jump rope.
I listen to the radio.
I scream at my brother.
I work on the computer.
I write letters and color and eat.
I play games.
I run. I jump.
I play on my swing set.
I play with people in my neighborhood.
I shop.
I swim.
I write poems and stories.
I sharpen pencils.
I pet my cat.
I feed my fish.
I grow.
I play baseball.
I make my bed, sometimes.
I do my hair.
I make people laugh.
I go to my grandma's house.
I chase birds.
I play dodgeball.
I sleep.
I get dressed.
I talk.
I ride the bus. I ride the car.
I practice spelling.
I go to school.
I wake up.
I learn. I think.
I try to be nice.
I have fun!

Chloe didn't mention it, but she knits, too.

Chloe, I hope you grow up to be a writer.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yarnmarket in the Washington Post


The neatest thing happened a few weeks ago. I received a call from Holly Thomas of the Washington Post. She was doing a fashion feature and wanted to include some absolutely stunning Twinkle yarns from Yarnmarket.

"Sure!" I exclaimed, perhaps a little too enthusiastically. We talked about what she needed and I sent her a few pretty balls of yarn.

Well, today I received a copy of the article and it's really nice. She wrote about the Twinkle designs and then showed some balls of yarn and says that we have them. Isn't that great?

Thanks, Holly for thinking of us. We really do appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

FREE Anny Blatt and Bouton d'Or Patterns

Our good friends at Anny Blatt/Bouton d'Or are allowing us to offer two of their popular patterns FREE on Yarnmarket.com. (Thank you, Jean-Christophe!)

The free Anny Blatt pattern is an absolutely gorgeous open weave tunic, the Divine Linois Tunic. It's created with Divine yarn, and is in women's sizes 4 to 18.

The free Bouton d'Or pattern is the Baby Blatt Wraparound Top in Baby Blatt yarn. It's sized for 0 to 9 months.

Be sure to visit Yarnmarket.com to see these -- and many more -- free patterns!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The October Bulletin is here!

Our latest issue has just been released. Be sure to subscribe online so you'll receive it every month.

In it we feature new yarns from Noro, Knit One Crochet Too, Lang & Indie Dyer plus new colors from Debbie Bliss, South West, Filatura Di Crosa, Crystal Palace & Cherry Tree Hill.

We also have fantastic ideas to help you keep up with the trends of chunky knits, lacy designs & great colors for the fall & winter. And as always, we have added the new projects you crave to give your wardrobe extra pizzazz plus terrific new books, patterns & magazines to inspire you.

Be sure to subscribe so you'll receive each month's newsletter, jam-packed with helpful information about our newest yarns and patterns plus our monthly bulletin.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Nice is...ummmm...nice.

After our stay in Avignon (plus side trips to abbeys and churches and the Pont du Gard), Alex and I drove to Nice. And, best of all, I instructed him to make a wrong turn only once...but the early turn-off provided me with a good perspective on where we actually were so I could more easily figure out how to get us where we wanted to be without taking us someplace else beforehand.

I'd been on a very quick trip to Nice a few years ago, for a business meeting, so I had a bit of an advantage.

Alex and I don't usually go to beach towns because I get sunstroke if I so much as look out a window, so this was a real treat for us. We weren't staying there long -- about 36 hours -- so we were pretty rushed for time. Our trip back to the US was to begin at 6:20 a.m. which meant we had one day to see things, then get to bed really early so we could be up at 4:00 a.m. to hurry to the airport.

Still, we managed to check out the Anny Blatt store window to see what they were selling on The Riviera, and then we took one of those bus tours of the town.

Boy, if I ever get really rich...like when David Bowie finally realizes that he can have me if he's willing to leave Iman...I'm going to move to the south of France. I picked up some real estate brochures and found a lovely romantic hideaway for just over 2 million Euros. I'm pretty sure he'd like it.

David Bowie is interested in Templars and Saracens and Gnosticism so he'd appreciate living in the area so steeped in history related to those topics. Don't you think so? Then, he could invite his friends, like Eileen Pagels, to come to see us and we'd talk all about the good old days of medieval religious wars and torture and treachery...and, now that I think of it, maybe the good old days weren't so good after all.

But then I could go shopping at the Anny Blatt store near the Promenade des Anglais and knit him some nice sweaters to wear. And I'd knit some for Alex, too, because I can't imagine moving to Nice and not taking him with me. I'd just tell David he's our electrician, navigator and tax filer.

Sur le pont d'Avignon, l'on y danse...avec Anny Blatt


That 15th century children's song is still sung today. "On the bridge of Avignon, we all dance, we all dance..." The bridge is no longer in use because part of it was destroyed many years ago, but it's still one of the highlights of the beautiful city of Avignon.

After our visits in Paris, Alex and I boarded the famous TGV train for Avignon in the south of France. The TGV goes so fast that you get dizzy staring out the window. The darned thing can get up to 357 MILES PER HOUR, but we cruised at the snail's pace of only 200 MPH. Several times, Alex tried to capture a photo when another train whizzed by us, but it was very difficult. He didn't have time to push the camera button before train had sped away. Isn't that amazing?

When we got to Avignon we rented a car so we'd be able to drive to the Anny Blatt/Bouton d'Or factory in a village outside the city. Our friend, Jean-Christophe had arranged for us to meet with Brigette and Patrick Testaniere, the CEO of Anny Blatt. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to see the factory because it produces some of the finest yarns in the world. From a little village in the South of France, Anny Blatt/Bouton d'Or acquires high-quality fibres from throughout the world, manufactures absolutely stunning yarns, creates sophisticated patterns and markets to quality-conscious knitters everywhere. It was a real honor to be welcomed by them to their facility.

Well...if we found it.

WARNING TO ALL: If you're going to rely on Google Maps to get you someplace in another country, be sure to print out not only the instructions, but also the actual map. I was armed only with instructions and once they went awry, I was toast. (Several years ago when we divided marital responsibilities I somehow got stuck with electrician, navigator and filer of taxes. To this day, I don't know how I ended up with the really crappy jobs that could result in electrocution, endless wandering, or prison.)

Anyway, I was responsible for getting us from the south end of Avignon to a village north of the city. And I really screwed up. Once I realized I was completely lost because I couldn't find D225 (which Google claims is somewhere near A7 but I really think this is a Google gag they like to play on unsuspecting travelers) I had to improvise using just the little bit of information I could make out in the written instructions. They told me to go 30 km on A7, but because I couldn't find A7 I chose to send Alex along N7 which eventually somehow (miraculously) connected to A7...30 km later.

We were terribly lost and were late for our appointment and, yes, we tried to call but the phone number we had was missing its last digit. Alex didn't say anything...not a word...for miles and miles...not a single, solitary word. And I knew he was really annoyed that we were going to be late for our meeting. He doesn't like to be late and I don't like to be navigating in foreign territory without a map. So you can imagine how pleasant the drive was.

When we got to the village, now following the Google instructions that were getting finer and finer (go 300 meters, turn left, go 20 meters, turn right...) we couldn't find the factory. We made several attempts going up and down the streets, following the instructions, before we realized they were not to the address we were seeking! (Not my fault, I swear. Alex was responsible for pulling the direction from Google. He gave them to me. Blame him! Blame him!)

Again, the God of GPS smiled on us because out of desperation I had Alex drive us to the center of town and then I intuitively sent him where I thought the factory "ought" to be. Sure enough, there it was! Despite my screw-up getting to the right highway, Alex says I'm like a homing pigeon because I always end up finding my way...eventually.

The factory was right there on one of the main streets of the village and -- best of all -- it was surrounded by pussycats. I got some soothing pussycat pats in before we entered the facility.

Brigette, our hostess, and Patrick didn't seem to be offended at all when we showed up an hour and a half later than planned. We showed them our instructions and the telephone number we had and they laughed that both were incorrect. I'll bet they were thinking, "Dopey Americans." And they were right!

Accompanied by the sweet dog who lives at the factory, they took us on a long and interesting tour of their facility. Wow! What a place! We saw the wool roving as it arrives...the carding machines...spinning in action. I thought part of the process was really fascinating. The yarn gets spun into plies that are then spun into the gorgeous yarns that Anny Blatt/Bouton d'Or is famous for.

They had the softest angora, some lovely linen, and sheep's wool that traveled all the way from Australia and South Africa.

Brigette and Patrick showed us the dying equipment and explained the dying process to us. They had some lovely organic dyes they're now using, too. We couldn't believe how intense the pigments were and how little dye is used for a really big batch of yarn.

Luckily, one of the ladies was in the process of spinning yarn -- several skeins at a time -- while we were there so we got to see how it was made into the final product, labeled and put into the box. The boxes are so nicely packed with tissue paper. Everything seemed so luxurious...and French.

When we finished the tour, still accompanied by the dog, we went to the building that houses the factory store. Outside there were so many birds and critters that Alex asked where they kept the corporate cow. "Ou est votre vache?" he enquired. I suspect they thought we were insane, and didn't know it was a Monty Python-esque joke based on the Spamalot line, "Cherchez la vache." Sometimes Alex and I make obscure references to things that only we know we're talking about. The rest of the world thinks we're nuts.

The factory store was heaven! They had all sorts of samples on sale, and special deals on lots of their gorgeous yarns. I controlled myself, though, because this was before the Euro was kind enough to fall to below $1.40.

We stayed at the factory for a long time, learning all about the yarns, watching the process and taking photos. (Check out the original door to the factory. It was started in 1817!) We saw how everything operates -- from the arrival of the fibers to the cleansing of water used in the manufacturing process to ensure that don't pollute the environment. The trip was very informative and a lot of fun.

If you're ever lucky enough to visit the Anny Blatt factory outside of Avignon, make sure you've got the right address and get yourself a really good map of the area. Or, better yet, hire a chauffeur and don't make your spouse be the navigator because nobody can afford a divorce lawyer these days.

Many thanks to Jean-Christophe for setting up the meetings and to Brigette and Patrick for kindly showing us their facility.

Our Visit to Anny Blatt/Bouton D'Or


When our good friend Jean-Christophe at Anny Blatt learned of our trip to France, he was kind enough to set up meetings for us at the store in Paris and the factory in Avignon. Wasn't that nice? He even sent me some gorgeous Anny Blatt sweaters to wear on the trip! (That reminds me, I have to return them. He's probably got a trunk show that missing a couple of important samples.)

We took the train to one of the more elegant parts of Paris -- as if there are any less elegant parts!-- and we found our way to the shop. There, we were greeted by Madame Fabienne Gosse and one of her staff. With Alex's broken French and my almost non-existent French we managed to have a delightful conversation about which of the yarns are most popular, which colors do well, and which patterns are a big hit this season.

The Anny Blatt and Bouton d'Or patterns are all very sophisticated, and fairly complicated, so they appeal to the experienced knitter with exquisite taste.

Madame Gosse told us she recently hosted a group knitting trip to Russia and is planning one to the US. She's really active with her carriage trade clientele and regularly holds events at one of the nearby hotels. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll happen to be in Paris someday when she's having one. Of course, the other ladies will be chatting away happily in French and I'll be sitting there looking like a deer in the headlights while catching only every third or fourth word they utter.

I've promised Alex I'll contact the local language school so I can improve my skills. The odd thing is that Alex has a fairly extensive vocabulary, but I'm better with pronunciation and sentence structure. But I won't speak it. He's brave enough to cobble together sentences while I just stand there like a dope whispering that "billet" is pronounced "biyay" and "merci" isn't pronounced like "mercy" but some very difficult way that I couldn't even begin to convey in writing. If you've ever heard Steve Martin's jokes about French, you'll understand.

MARTIN: That man is choking! Oh, wait...no he isn't. He's speaking French.

If we could do a Vulcan mind meld with the little bit of information each of us knows, plus Alex's bravado, we might have one single individual who could actually communicate.

Anyway, we had a really nice visit with Madame Gosse who spent quite a bit of time with us and then took us across the street to Tiboodoo, the store that sells ready-knit Anny Blatt and Bouton d'Or patterns. Boy, were the clothes ever cute! We really love the European children's wear because it's actually children's wear rather than miniaturized adult clothing. Maybe I'm turning into an old geezer, but I'd rather see little kids dressed like little kids. The sparkly, Las Vegas Showgirl styles for 7 year olds don't appeal to me. Check out the infants' and kids' patterns from Anny Blatt and Bouton d'Or and you'll see what I mean.

The best thing about them is that they're not only timeless, they're made with a really high quality fiber, so they're going to last and can be handed from child to child to child. (Maybe with our worsening economy the idea of quality, timeless children's clothes that can be handed down for a couple of generations will catch on.)

Our next stop on the Anny Blatt Tour de France was the factory in Avignon. More to come on that in another posting.

Visit to TexWorld in Paris

TexWorld took place in Paris from September 22 to September 25 and Alex and I had the pleasure of going there to see all the new styles and colors for the Winter 2009/2010 Season.

Let me start out by saying that I love Paris. I love the architecture. I love the food. I love the museums. I love the ambiance. And I even love the French people who are always so kind and accommodating as Alex and I butcher their language. (We can't understand why some people think they're arrogant when we've had nothing but wonderful experiences on our visits to France.)

We were really excited to have the opportunity to travel there to attend TexWorld and then to meet with many lovely people at Anny Blatt.

The conference itself was held at Le Bourget which is on the outskirts of Paris. We had our plans all figured out -- take that train to the Le Bourget station, catch a shuttle bus, and we'd have no problem getting to the trade show. Imagine our surprise when our train stopped a few stations earlier and we were asked to get out because it was not going any further. A "disturbance" had forced the cancellation of trains to our station.

Now, if you live in France you know that these disturbances happen all the time. I was once working at an office there (in my previous corporate life) when the city came to a standstill because farmers were staging a protest and shut down the streets. This is pretty common, and it doesn't faze the French at all. They improvise. But we very perplexed about what we'd do next in order to reach our destination.

Much to our relief, we soon saw was a young lady holding up a big sign that said, "TexWorld" so we approached her. She pointed us up an escalator when another young lady holding a sign pointed us toward yet another sign. Sure enough, they had people directing us toward buses awaiting confused TexWorld attendees. That bus took us right to the door of the conference. Alex and I were impressed with how quickly the TexWorld folks had responded to what must have been an early morning crisis for them.

Anyway, we got to TexWorld and were astounded by the enormity of the show. I mean, this was massive...and perhaps even larger than the shows in Florence. There were companies from all over the world proudly displaying their fabrics and fibers and I was almost overwhelmed with the desire to start grabbing the stuff and shoving it into my bag. These were fashion items you wouldn't even see for another year, and they were gorgeous!

After taking a couple of shots we learned that cameras were not permitted on the floor -- except by the media -- so I'll have to be sure to register myself as journalist for Shear Bagatelle next year.

We were amazed by the heavy representation of companies from China, Pakistan, India and many of the Eastern European countries. I'm afraid we didn't see any manufacturers from the US or Canada, which was disappointing, but there were a lot of people who'd traveled from North America to see the show.

We spent quite a while looking at the booths, gathering brochures, examining the colors (black and purple again, ladies) and lusting after all the fashions on display. The mills have become so sophisticated that there's really no limit to the variety and complexity of the products they produce.

It was a fascinating experience and we're really delighted that we had the opportunity to attend. Now we can start planning for 2009/2010 Winter Season with a better idea of what our knitters are going to want to make and which yarns we ought to make sure we're offering.

Oh, yeah...to reduce costs (because we're well traveled but cheap) we rented an apartment rather than stay at a hotel. That way, we could make some of our own meals, too. Well, we went out and bought some ham from a butcher, cheese from a cheese shop and bread from a boulangerie and for the first three days all we ate were ham sandwiches. I swear, they were so delicious that we didn't want anything else! There's something about the food there. Maybe it's fresher and not filled with preservatives. Of course, we did go to Alex's favorite place for lunch: Les Deux Magots. It's where philosophers like Sartre used to hang out. I had a cup of hot chocolate there that is quite possibly is the best hot chocolate on the planet.

Alex took the shot of the Eiffel Tower at the top of this posting. It was blue to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the EU. Every hour, on the hour, it bursts into a zillion sparkling lights, much to the delight of tourists who stand in awe of such a beautiful sight.

If you're like me and you're probably only going to get one life on this planet, don't you wish you could live that one life in Paris? Yeah...me, too.