Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One Click And You Can Help-- This Is an AWESOME AMAZING STORY!!


Let me start by saying two important things. Today’s post is very long, but it’s a GREAT read. I can say that without bragging, because Jane King is the star here. Jane is a knitter and she is the adopted mom of a teenager from Colombia. She is such a knockout wonder of a miracle of a human that she continues, through her small non-profit, to provide aid to the orphanage in Colombia. I’ll let her tell the story in her own words below. Now here’s the REALLY SUPER IMPORTANT NEWS:

Jane is part of a contest that ENDS IN 13 DAYS. If she wins, her organization, Friends of Colombian Orphans, Inc., receives $20,000! This will go to a vocational program she started to teach the orphans how to machine-knit so that they can become self-sufficient. I’ve included a link in her interview that tells you EXACTLY how to vote for her group through a Facebook Page. Please, please, please—let’s help her win. Pass this on to every knitter you know. I want to see her get up to 1,000 votes by tomorrow. Let's help her.

And now, Jane’s story:

Q. Tell me about Friends of Colombian Orphans, Inc.

JK: It started up after we adopted a Colombian teen in 2006, through Kidsave International. We weren't planning on adopting: my husband was 58 and I was 54. But we read about these kids and said, "We can do this." We had an empty house, two grown kids and two old dogs. So we adopted. And spent a LOT of time in Colombia, due to difficulties with bureaucracy.

We spent time in three orphanages, getting to understand the setups, fell in love with the kids, and couldn't bear to just ....leave them behind? If I'd had a bus, I would have piled most of them in it. So when we got home, I needed to DO something. I'm a knitter, so we collected knitted hats and scarves from all my knitting buds to give the kids on the next trip, and we raised money to do repairs at our daughter's orphanage. The place was a mess: 240 broken windows, broken tile floors, no hot water, broken playground equipment. We raised money – from local friends and online friends who had followed our adoption blog - and got enough to repair lots of things.

We also threw a party for the girls in the orphanage, and gave everyone presents and a portrait of herself. We took a camera and two printers with us, and 200 cardboard frames. It took forever to take the pictures, and all night to print them out, but it was so much fun. Two friends came along, and it was life changing for them. None of the kids had photos of themselves. Can you imagine?

Q. Right now, you're trying to win a contest. How can we help?

JK: Community Giving is giving away a LOT of money. It's a voting contest. The top 200 charities (with the greatest number of votes) will each win $20,000. I nearly had a heart attack when I found out about it. $20,000 in Colombian is worth like $50,000. I spend a lot of time lately hyperventilating.

So you have to go to Chase Community Giving on Facebook. Once you “LIKE” the page, you get to vote. There's a place to type in the charity you are looking for. Type in COLOMBIAN ORPHANAGES in the search box. Our charity will come up. Find the VOTE button and click. We are in 84th place right now, which is keeping us in the running for the money. The contest ends July 12.

Q. How many children have you adopted from Colombia and what's that been like for all of you?

JK: Wow. We have two grown kids, so we weren't worried about the teen thing. We've adopted the one girl, Nataly. She was 13 when we met her, and 14 when we finally got her, and is now 18. She has one more year of high school. We just heard today that she did well enough on her SAT's to get into Austin Community College! That's HUGE for a kid who had virtually no education before she came here.

We were so dumb. We were like, Oh yeah, let's adopt. We didn't think about the challenges. But we have received from our daughter more than we have given. All she ever wanted was a family. Seriously. She doesn't even want Christmas presents. She loves us so much and is happy to be around us, and doesn't have any of that teen anger and dislike of parents that American teens have to go through. Also the Colombian culture is different: grown kids live with their families for years, until they get married. So Nataly figures to hang out with us as long as she can, I think! She didn't get her greatest wish until she was 14, so we are happy to have her around as long as she feels the need to live with us.

Don't get me wrong: it's been hard work, with tears and anger and misunderstandings. The first time she sobbed and said, "I don't want to be here,” I considered it an opportunity to point out to her that she didn't have a choice: she was now a part of a family, and families work things out. It was us saying, we are all in this together, kiddo, for good or bad. There's no way out! I think that was the first sense of security she felt with us. It has gotten easier throughout the years. She is a joy.

Q. Tell me about the knitting project.

JK: My friend on Rav, Laritza Taft, is a machine knitter and a Colombian born OBGYN living in the USA. When I was collecting hats and scarves for the girls in Bogota, she contacted me and said, yeah, it's nice to give the kids stuff, but why not teach them how to knit? Give them a skill that they can use to get off the streets. It takes about 3 months to teach a girl how to use a machine. Girls in Bogota age out of the orphanages when they are 18. If they are lucky, they get a couple years in a halfway house. Then it's adios, have a good life. Most of them turn to prostitution. It's just heartbreaking.

So I thought about this for a year. Laritza kinda walked me through my thought process. I ran everything by her, and my husband and a good friend and supporter in England who is much better than I am in organizing my thoughts. We asked our friend in Bogota, Mario (who had helped us through the bureaucratic nightmare that is adoption in Colombia) to be our project manager and find us an institution that might be willing to work with us. After a few months looking, he found a rehab facility for girls who have been victims of drug and sexual abuse. We went to Bogota and bought 3 knitting machines from the Singer company, painted the room at the institution, got them to install a metal door (those machines are $1000 each) and finally got the program running. We started out with six girls.

Our goal is to train as many as we can, and to have a central knitting facility in downtown Bogota where the young women can come to knit, have someone look after their kids, and partner with the University of the Andes to teach computer skills. Also have a retail outlet for the women, for sales. We will also buy their items by the piece. We have opened bank accounts for the young girls who are still under 18 so that they will have their own money when they age out.

Some people think "sweatshop,” but the girls come and knit for three hours in the afternoons. We had a waiting list of girls wanting to learn. It was heartbreaking. Well, we lost that room: the institution wanted it back, so now we are going to another place which has committed to having us there for at least a year. Meanwhile, I am thinking about maybe in a year or so having enough money to rent an independent space and grow the co-op. All we need is money.

Q. Can we buy some now?

JK: The girls are learning. We get sent samples, but until we are 100% happy with the quality, they are not for sale. I have a local Austin outlet that wants our stuff. The girls are learning how to make baby sweaters, booties, hats and blankets. We have to keep reining them in from making stuff that is too ...colorful. I am being kind!! It's fun. Eventually they will be for sale.

Q. How does having a vocation help the girls?

JK: Because of our high profile in this online contest, I was contacted just this last weekend by Yuli, a girl who was at our daughter's orphanage the same time Nataly was. This girl has access to a computer at night: she is taking night classes in accounting, because someone arranged for a scholarship for her (actually, another central Texas outreach group). She started talking to me on Facebook and we chatted a while. I began asking her questions:

Me: What do you do?

Her: I am in school at night.

Me: Do you have a day job?

Her: No senora.

Me: Would you maybe be interested in learning how to machine knit?

Her: Yes, definitely, senora. That is why I have written to you. I saw you here and looked at the photos of the orphanage. Do you remember me?

Me: (Well, I did. I asked) Do you have any family?

Her: No senora, I am abandonada.

At this point, I was starting to tear up and get goose bumps. I told her we would stay in touch. I called our manager first and asked him to call Yuli. Then I called Yuli's old social worker who has become a dear, dear friend of ours, and asked her if Yuli was OK, normal, dependable and not on drugs. Then I talked to my husband and we decided that, if we win this contest, we will buy a 4th machine, install it in our manager's house, and our manager's wife could begin to teach this young woman. We can't get her into the institution's program because she doesn't live there. But I am so excited; THIS is what we are all about. Young women with few prospects. Employing them, empowering them! I started looking into the future for Yuli: with an accounting certificate, maybe she could manage a new program for us somewhere!!! I can dream.

Q. Can you share one or two particularly moving moments you've had since you started the non-profit?

JK: Unless you have been to Colombia and visited the orphanages, you can't begin to understand the tug on one's heartstrings. It hurts. It really hurts physically to spend time with these kids who just want to TOUCH you. They get so little physical attention. They're not hungry or unclothed. But they are starved for love.

When we went for Christmas and threw the party where every girl received a gift bag of age-appropriate goodies including candy, stuffed animals, toys, jewelry and underwear (imagine 200 girls = 1400 pairs of underpants a week...doesn't exist: they sew their own), the girls gathered on the lawn in a circle around us, waited respectfully while we were introduced by the director of the orphanage, then came to us for their portraits, bags and hugs. All day they followed us around, laughing, wanting their photos taken and asking about our lives. There was one little girl who had never had new clothes. She was about 7, tiny because of malnutrition, and had really short hair because of lice. The director of the orphanage went through the suitcases of donated clothing we brought, chose an outfit for that girl, and put her into it then and there. The little gal just strutted out of the room. Simply strutted.

I have a lot of photos I look at whenever I feel like I need a boost. We also have pictures of the knitting students who are proudly holding up their sample creations. The look on these girls' faces. Girls who have been raped, thrown out of their homes, told they are worthless. NO! They are artisans and knitters! They will survive. Because of our help. Isn't that awesome??

Q. What we will use the money for if (I mean WHEN) you win?

JK: I buy yarn on ebay and send it to Bogota: most of the Colombian yarn is acrylic and we want them to use more wool and cotton. I've bought a lace carriage, but I need to take it there myself. Shipping is prohibitive. I wish I had someone who would donate it. Airfare is really expensive, but we need to GO once a year at least. We haven't been in a long time. We don't pay ourselves a salary. We need more machines at $1000 a pop. We need to pay our instructor, our project manager, too. By the way, we are also a Colombian nonprofit and are certified by the state government there as providers of humane services to children in state custody. We had to spend money on paperwork there to get that done. So we are good to go. We've crossed every t, dotted every i. I look for money everyplace. All the time.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy: Getting Ready for the Next Big Project!

This year will be officially halfway over next week and looking back over the past six months I see I haven't done any really big projects. Oh, I've had fun. I made some great little baby hats and socks and a beautiful Feather & Fan scarf. And, come to think of it, there was that massively huge sweater I made in about three days when I was in Argentina. Technically, that was big, but it didn't take long. Not since last December, when I applied myself to finishing a sweater coat I saw on the cover of Interweave KNITS (and started last July), have I really dived in deep. But now, it's time. I found my next big project. YAY!

I was down at the shop the other day and noticed a number of new samples hanging up. As much as I love experimenting with colors and patterns and improvising, sometimes I see a sample that strikes me as so perfect, I want to make it exactly the way I see it, right down to the colors. In this case the sweater is called Lapwing, and it was designed by Jane Ellison for Mirasol Yarns. It appears in The Mirasol Collection Book 7. I gotta say, the entire book is fantastic-- I mean, I love just about every pattern in it. I am bound and determined to start that sweater this coming week and have it ready for Fall.

As it turns out, I found in my stash the exact amount of a yarn that is the same weight and color as the main color in the pattern. It's Alpaca and hand dyed by a woman I buy from when I travel to Oregon each summer. So that's my one big change-- slightly different yarn but it looks the same and feels very similar. For the trim, I am using Mirasol K'Acha in a bright shade called Magenta Magic (it's a Merino/Alpaca/Silk blend in 60/25/15).

My plan is to really take my time and do this thing right, beginning with a swatch to figure out my gauge properly. I also read through the pattern and will do that another time or two before digging in. And while I had the book open, I couldn't resist drooling over the other patterns and also reading the intro where I learned about the Mirasol Project. Using some of the profits from the wool sales, the company has established a school that focuses on both education and health for the children of their workers. You can read all about it here. Very cool-- makes me want to move to Peru and help out at the school.

I hope you're working on some good projects this summer. If you haven't been in the store in awhile, do come on down and see all the groovy new samples. There's also a sweater by the front desk that Suzanne knitted up and it's just gorgeous. I'll do a separate post about that soon with pattern info. Meanwhile, here's a closeup of the sweater I'm going to be working on:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More Fun Stuff This Weekend: Spinning Happy Hour

Spinning Happy Hour
Saturday June 26, 3-6 pm
Beginner (A little experience)

Come on down! Bring your spinning wheel and a spinning problem . . . . or just an open mind. Stuck in a rut? Does your yarn fall apart? Too fat? Too thin? Too . . . something? Only spin one kind of fiber? Join us to play and spin with the wonderful colors of Elemental Affects Romney fiber or challenge Jeane to see if she can solve the problem and make spinning fun again! Take your spinning to the next level and learn the real "long draw!"

Prerequisites: It's helpful if you know how to spin already, but you don't have to be good at it! We'll be able to work on a lot of individual issues.

Materials Needed: Anybody who wants to learn the long-draw should buy a couple of balls of dyed Romney Roving as a starting point. After that, you can try it on anything you bring with you.

Be sure to check out Jeane's other classes! There are still spots available in:

Flatter Yourself
Sunday June 27, 11-4 (includes a break)
Absolute Beginner (NO experience)

See www.HillCountryWeavers.com for more details.
Call 512-707-7396 today to sign up!

Friday, June 18, 2010

We Know How You Should Spend Next Weekend: With Jeane deCoster!

Join Jeane of Elemental Affects in a weekend full of fabulous classes!

Ever wonder who dyes the wonderful Romney roving we have? Do you want to know where those brilliant colors of Natural Shetland Fingering & Rustic Lace come from? That's Jeane!

After completing her Bachelor's degree in Fashion Design and working a few years in fashion, Jeane jumped into software design and training. Along the way, she got "hooked on fiber." After 18 years in hi-tech, Jeane left tiny cubicle land to share her love & knowledge of fiber with the world through her company Elemental Affects.

Jeane does it all--dyes, designs, spins, teaches, knits, weaves, felts & more. There's nothing she can't do. Jeane's like Miracle Grow for your knitting & spinning! You'll get a lot of bang for your buck with these awesome & fun classes.

On Saturday she'll teach you how to be that awesome knitter you've always admired and knit with yarn in both hands at the same time in
Double-Fisted Knitting. Both stranded and Fair Isle knitting styles are fast and easy when you carry one yarn in each hand. Plus, you'll learn the secrets of STEEKS!

Then come spin with us at the
Spinning Happy Hour including fiber-friendly drinks & snacks. Play and spin and learn from one of the best.

Sunday learn how to choose patterns & yarns to
Flatter Yourself! Do you wonder if a knitting (or crochet) pattern will fit and look fabulous -- on YOU? Learn to choose patterns and yarns that will both fit and flatter your inner knitting diva.

Call now to sign up 512-707-7396.

Double-Fisted Knitting
Sat June 26, 10-2

Spinning Happy Hour
Sat June 26, 3-6

Flatter Yourself
Sun June 27, 11-4

Monday, June 14, 2010

World Wide Knit in Public Day(s)!

So it's World Wide Knit in Public Day Week. I say "week" because the folks responsible conveniently invite you to pick your own day within the dates of June 12th - 20th. I confess this whole movement to get folks to knit in public cracks me up. In my case, I knit in public almost as often as I breathe in public-- at weddings, funerals, sporting events, restaurants, during dates, in the dark at the movies, and sometimes even while stuck in traffic. For me-- and I'm guessing for most of you-- we'd need an official World Wide DON'T Knit in Public Day to try to get us to rest. Good luck with that...

Friday, June 11, 2010

To Market, To Market-- Lindsay's Turn!

In January, I got to be the teacher's pet and accompany Suzanne to Market in California. There, we shopped up a storm, I got to learn about the business side of the business, and I only really irked one person (I think). Mostly, I had so much fun my jaw is still hanging open.

Well now, it's time for Summer Market and it's Lindsay's turn to go along. I do believe, as you read this, she and our beloved Head of Store are already in that state that starts and ends with the same letter and features a nice greeting in the middle. (Get it? GET IT? O-HI-O!)

Since I have been left behind-- sniffle sniffle-- I have decided to offer Lindsay a little advice on how to handle herself at Market. Just a few suggestions:

1. Suzanne knows everybody at Market. She is like the human FaceBook. Follow her around when you can and see how many people you can friend so you can be as popular as her.

2. Plan to spend a LOT of time at the Habu booth. (This is a good thing.)

3. Score swag. Lots of swag. Sometimes you have to be gently pushy to do this. Like maybe they'll say, "We only give these solid gold double point needles to customers who buy $200,000 worth of alligator tooth stitch markers." When this happens, make a sad face, like you just got some really bad news, and the only thing in the world that will cheer you up is solid gold DPs. This works pretty good.

4. If your first attempt to get swag by making a sad face doesn't work, circle the floor a few times and hover every fifth lap. See if the person in charge of the booth has a confused/cute/eager-to-please assistant. Buy this person a drink at the bar. Work it, girl.

5. There are lots and lots of book giveaways. You need to get a coupon in advance, then show up at the right time. Set your iPhone alarm to help you remember. You can get a book signed, but maybe not personalized, just in case, ten years from now, you decide to re-gift it. (Then again, if you're like me, you could just cross out Dear Lindsay and write in someone else's name.)

6. Hydrate. You are going to be walking your buns off, young lady.

7. Give Gina Wilde a BIG KISS from me and be sure to hang out at her Alchemy booth, which I'm sure will be stunning AND she gives out really good chocolate and samples. Please tell her I finally finished my Blue Moon feather and fan scrawl (that's a shawl/scarf thing) and it is GORGEOUS.

8. Try not to make anyone angry as I inadvertently did at Market. I won't go into the details but let's just say do not insult anyone's: home state, pet Chihuahua, or choice of footwear. You are so sweet you probably won't even have any trouble. I guess I mean: don't act like me!

9. Suzanne will hand you her credit card on the last day and tell you she doesn't have time to hit all the booths and you're going to have to go shopping for her. You know the store well enough to make good choices. For my part, I totally panicked. But just pick pretty things and you'll be fine.

10. Please get some swag for me.

11. Finally-- for now-- please take lots and lots of great pictures to share with us.

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thanks to Our Well Heeled Friends!

Well that last First Thursday Sale was something else-- lots of folks showed up in their high heels to score the special bonus discount. I offer you here photographic proof that some folks "still letto" their love of fashion overrule orthopedic caution. We might just have to "pump" them on how they do it. You go girls!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Profile of Cathy Payson in Interweave KNITS

Hey Y'all,
The most recent issue of Interweave KNITS magazine came out a little while back and I'm happy to report I've got a story in this issue. Eunny Jang, the editor, asked me to interview the wonderful knit designer, Cathy Payson. As luck would have it, Cathy and I were both at Market in January so I had the great pleasure of meeting her in person. (Thank you Suzanne-- for taking me to Market!) Cathy is so rocking, and so down to earth. Her designs lean toward easy and simple with a twist-- she likes to add in some details that make for a very styling garment. Her philosophy is that not all of use have hours every day to dedicate to our knitting, and/or to dedicate to really complicated patterns. (Hear! Hear!)

While I was at Market, I also hung out with my pal, Lisa Evans, who is also a designer (best known for her intricate color work). Lisa hosts an annual knitting retreat, Knitting and Yoga Adventures, each September on Monhegan Island, twelve miles off the coast of Maine. I've had the indescribably fantastic pleasure of spending the last two retreats with Lisa, blogging all about our knitting, hiking, yoga, and evening laughfests by the fire. (Last year, they even got me to put on enough makeup that I looked like a very bad drag queen.) If my kooky schedule allows, I'm planning to head back to the island this September. And guess what? Cathy Payson is one of the guest teachers this year. Really, if you can make it, you should join us. The island is gorgeous, the views are breathtaking, and you can stay as busy (or not) as you like.

In the meanwhile, I hope you'll stop by the shop and pick up the new Interweave KNITS and read my interview with Cathy. And while you're at it, there are plenty of other good magazines, too. Look for the display on the desk where you check out.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Whoa! It's Already First Thursday! Sex In The Knitty!

Well thank goodness somebody at the store just let me know today is THURSDAY. And not only that, it's FIRST THURSDAY. I was thinking it was Wednesday courtesy of the recent long weekend. As ever, there's a fabulous sale going on to honor this First Thursday thing. Everybody gets a discount on certain yarns and those of you who wear your high heels get an even bigger discount so you can take the money you save and put toward foot surgery down the road. Here are the details:

June 3, 2010

20% off the following yarns!

Yarns with real CHARACTER!
Carrie Bradshaw(fashionable & outside of the box!)-Habu & Artyarns
Miranda - Rowan
Charlotte - Be Sweet (includes BAGS)
Samantha - Prism
Mr. Big - Tanglewood & any yarn over $75.00/skein
Aidan - any yarn with organic fiber
Harry - "Soft Chunky" & any yarn with Chunky in name
Stanford & Marcus - "Colorscape"& very colorful "Mini Mochi"

Yarns that play HARD TO GET!
Madeline Tosh
Malabrigo (YES, Malabrigo)

Yarns that need to COME TO THE PARTY!
Absolutely Fab Kit
Seduce & Touch Me
Bear Hugs
Kosmos & Bubbles
Casbah & Desert

EXTRA 5% if you bring 3 friends to the SALE or wear your *STILETTOS!

* Stilletos 3 inches or higher!!