Thursday, July 18, 2013

Back, After A Long Hiatus, 

With A Few Non-Knitterly Thoughts About Hoodies

A lot has happened -- and by a "lot" I mean a staggering amount of stuff -- in the last year, since I closed the knit shop entirely.  Some good things, some less pleasant, a new job, and mostly, just time-consuming things. I will catch you all up on that later.

But today I am thinking about hoodies.

I have a handknit hoodie -- my own version of the "Wonderful Wallaby" by Cottage Creations.  I also have a couple of basic athletic hoodies, in exciting shades of navy, grey and charcoal, for brisk morning walks on chilly days, or a quick chill-chaser on a damp, rainy day -- you know, just something to pop over my uniform on my way to work. 

And, I can remember, some years back, not long after the Unabomber was caught (Google him if you are very young or if your memory is short), causing a bit of concern in the local post office when I completely and entirely forgot that I was wearing a hoodie on a drizzly, chilly day, and that I was also carrying a stack of packages and wearing black aviator sunglasses.  I'm certain that I looked exactly like the Unabomber's long-lost sister.  It was spectacularly not a good idea at the time-- truly inconsiderate, actually -- but I just didn't think.  I wear hoodies with jeans quite often when it's chilly and drizzly and not cold enough for a proper coat.

A few people peered at me suspiciously.  I think, at that particular point in time, that my local post office employees in particular had every right to be a bit edgy about bespectacled, hoodie-clad people with armloads of packages to mail. I can't blame the other customers for looking at me nervously either.  I might even have been a bit concerned if I'd seen myself in a mirror.

But even with all those perfectly legitimate reasons for postal employees and patrons to be put ill at ease by my attire at that point in time, nothing happened.

Specifically, no one followed me out into the parking lot and shot me dead.

And today, I finally understand something.

When I was in college, I used to kid around with my African-American friends for taking so long to get dressed to go anywhere -- out for a pizza or burger, going to study at the library, even walking over to the A&P grocery to pick up some beer. "Come on," I would say.  "We're not going to a fashion show. We're just going to the library to study, for Pete's sake!"

I was a white hippie kid.  Jeans, Birkenstocks, run a comb through my long black hair, toss on a Led Zeppelin T-shirt, and I was ready for anything: class, happy hour at the pool hall off campus, a casual date, going to the mall or to a movie, or hunkering down over chemistry books at the library. 

I always thought my black friends (as well as some of my white friends who didn't step out without makeup) were still a little too tethered to Establishment ideas as to how women should look, or maybe a little too eager to look overly glamorous in case a cute guy strolled by.   

But now I understand.

It wasn't about being far too fashion conscious, or a bit frivolous, or a little too silly about how guys might perceive them.

It was about having the bar raised higher -- much higher -- in order to enjoy the same privileges I could enjoy in jeans, Birkenstocks, a ponytail and a T-shirt.  

I could walk into the A&P dressed like that and not have the manager follow me around -- just because I was white.

I could walk into the bookstore and not be eyed suspiciously in that attire -- just because I was white.

I could walk down the street in that attire and not be considered "up to no good" -- just because I was white.

But even in the middle of a college campus, a HUGE state-university campus throbbing with students of all colors and ethnicities dashing to and fro at all hours, wearing all sorts of clothes, my black friends still felt the need to sport an appearance standard several rungs above my own choices on the fashion ladder, simply in order to be perceived as "normal."

Which primarily translates to being perceived as non-threatening. 

I didn't understand it at the time.  I got along with just about everybody, so I thoughtlessly bought the casually tossed-off explanation of "it's a black thing, I just can't go out anywhere without looking nice." Different strokes, different folks, I thought. Like, whatever. I rarely dress up; they do ... I don't wear makeup; they do ... whatever makes people happy.  To each her own. 

Now I realize that perhaps it didn't make them happy.  Not at all. 

Man, was I wrong. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dez and family are ok after Hurricane Isaac

Aloha, all!!

This is Lisa, reporting for Dez.  Dez and family are okay after the hurricane. They are all safe, in their home, and the house was not damaged in the storm.  They are currently without power until further notice, but are safe!  The area is extremely wet, and they are soggy and sticky, but safe. There were trees and very large (as in 30+ feet) branches down in their yard, but fortunately otherwise okay.

Other areas did not fare as well.  Please keep them  all in your thoughts and best wishes.

I will attempt to monitor comments posted to the blog until Dez can do it herself.


Lisa Louie
Kahului, Maui, Hawaii

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Going Out of Business

Dear Knitters:

It is with regret that I announce that I am closing the Knitting Asylum as a yarn shop.

I will continue to offer my handspun and hand-dyed wares at the monthly Arts Market.  I will certainly post to let you know when I expect that to happen.

But my endeavor in retail must come to an end.  Come August 1, 2012, there will be no more Knitting Asylum in the form of a shop, with doors, shelves and business hours.

I've learned some things in the past few years, things I should have known already by watching other people try to turn a thing they do for love into a business:

1.  It is the rare person indeed who can make this work.  To keep even the smallest craft-oriented retail business alive in the United States of America requires a sound business head ... far more capital than you thought you had ... the ability to maintain a passionate interest in your craft while simultaneously cranking out shop samples ... the inexhaustible spirit both to show up for the retail part of your business and also to perform the spinning-and-dyeing-of-yarn part of that business ... boundless creativity ... and the energy to do nearly all of the work yourself for 60, 70 or more hours a week, including bookkeeping, tax forms, advertising, promotions, and the staggering amount of daily paperwork required to run any business of any size in the United States.  To run a small craft business requires all that in one person, with help from a part-time employee to mind the store while I do other shop-related things.  

It is a rare person who can perform that juggling act, and ...

I am not that rare person.

2.  It was foolhardy of me to think that reasonably good sales at a monthly arts market would readily translate into robust daily business in a small shop.

3.  It was also foolhardy of me to think that because I have managed businesses in which I kept regular hours and performed all the work ... well, at work ... that I could translate this specifically into a knitting business.  Even more foolhardy of me to think that I could accomplish this on a shoestring starter budget, because...

4.  Yarn shops are among the most expensive small businesses to keep alive. Cost of inventory is high, buy-ins to prove that you are a "real" business are high, and you must find the fine and elusive line that allows you to keep your costs within reasonable profit margins while simultaneously trying (and failing) to compete with big-box craft retailers who sell made-in-China merino superwash sock yarn for $3.99.  Not to mention competing with outsourced, bargain-basement yarn catalogs and Internet websites.

5.  Unlike a bartender, you can't please (almost) everyone.  (Once a bartender, always a bartender, I say.)  If I have at hand twenty popular spirits, a dozen mixers, half a dozen kinds of wine, a dozen good beers and some fruit, milk, ice and a blender, I can please all but the most persnickety customer -- after all, a bartender can make  an excellent gin and tonic with only one decent gin to choose from, can't she?  But a yarn shop owner cannot carry an inventory every color, weight, texture and type of every brand of yarn from every yarn company cranking out yarn everywhere and anywhere in the yarn universe.  That is more akin to expecting a bartender to have one of every conceivable cocktail in the world already made up and garnished in frosty glasses for you to choose from, before you even stroll into the tavern. And just like it's tricky to guess what beverage the next person who walks into your bar might want to drink, it's hard to know what the next knitter coming through your door is looking for.  Unfortunately, I can't just put a few things in a blender and come up with three skeins of Italian designer eyelash yarn on demand.  

I would if I could.

In spite of the vast majority of very nice customers who are quite reasonably disappointed, but who understand and comprehend, when you cannot stock everything, a small but unfortunately vocal representation of people out there seem to take it quite personally when you do not have an account with XYZ yarn company, and they do not accept, even with the most polite and careful explanation, why you cannot order "just one ball" of Special Edition Sock Yarn from XYZ Yarn Company.  And these very few people can turn away more customers than you might imagine.  "She couldn't order XYZ yarn" becomes "she refused to order XYZ yarn," depending on who's in charge of the grapevine.  

6.  I do not have the energy for entrepreneurship anymore.  That one was hard to admit, but it's true.  There simply is not enough of me to go around to function as manager, clerk, accountant, cheerleader, knitting instructor and direct manufacturer of goods.

7.  I need a job with benefits -- health insurance in particular -- and at this point I realize that I will not be able to pull that particularly reticent rabbit out of a hat all by myself.  I simply cannot make myself enough money selling yarn to pull that off.  

8.  I maintained a good relationship with the other yarn shop in town, Knits by Nana, and I continue to wish them well.  We often referred customers to one another when one of us didn't carry a particular yarn (see number five on this list). But I simply cannot compete with the Internet and Knitpicks.  In addition to my own bitter awareness of online and big-league competition,  it is very disheartening to hear a knitter in my shop comment to another customer, "you can get that online for fifty cents cheaper per ball," or, "Knitpicks needles are cheaper." Note that such ill-mannered knitters are few, but they do exist in numbers sufficient for at least a handful per week to pass through my doors. (Please note that it is not the mere mention of the bargain that troubles this storekeeper; it is the mention of the bargain, right in front of her at the checkout, resulting in the other customer returning merchandise to the shelf, that troubles this storekeeper.  There, I feel better now.)

9.  Almost all knitters are absolutely stellar human beings.  I already knew that, of course.  I know that some knitters dug into their pockets till it hurt in order to support a small local business, and for that, I am grateful, because I kept my prices as low as possible.  But even people with the best intentions may shun their local shops when the economy sucks.  And I can't afford to run a shop that barely meets expenses, just to have a place to hang out with other knitters.  There are coffee shops to fill that particular void. 

10.  Sole proprietors have no life outside of the shop.  By the time basic family obligations are filled in the few hours not spent at the shop or doing shop-related business, there is no time -- truly, almost none at all -- in which to knit something for one's self, to read a book, to spin for one's own pleasure, or -- as you no doubt have noticed -- to post to one's blog.  And I miss doing those things.

So here I stand.  I officially stopped being a "retailer" when I joined a co-op and moved the Knitting Asylum into that co-op toward the end of last year.  I thought that having my goods on straight consignment might mean a significantly smaller commitment of time and money, but that commitment has not been small enough for me to seek a proper, full-time job with benefits, while still maintaining a presence and image at the co-op.  And I can't be in both places at once.

Thank you -- thank you so very, very much -- to all the knitters, spinners and crocheters, and a few weavers out there as well -- who bought needles, yarn, roving, hooks, spindles, wheels and notions.  I've made some amazing new friends and for that, I am more grateful than you can possibly imagine. 

I hate to disappoint anyone.  I deeply appreciate those customers and employees who have stuck by me through thick and thin.  You know who you are.  I have made some wonderful new friends through the Knitting Asylum as a shop, and the whole experience has truly been an adventure. But I simply cannot do this anymore. 

I will still be at the Arts Market every month, and I will now be able to attend knit nights at various locations.  I am looking forward to that very much.

Meanwhile:  I am conducting a going-out-of-business sale through the end of July:  

20% off all hand-dyed and handspun yarn, and all spinning fiber.

20% off needles and crochet hooks

40% off any remaining manufacturer's yarn: Opal, Brown Sheep, Tofutsies, Mission Falls, etc.

50% off all books.

Remember, we are at 447 Third Street in downtown Baton Rouge, LA, inside "Fleur Du Jour."

"Fleur du Jour" is open from 9-5 weekdays and from 9-noon on Saturdays.  

Thanks to everyone who has been along for the ride.  

See you at the Arts Market in the future, and hopefully, see you here, more often, here on the blog. 


Monday, December 26, 2011

We are OPEN!

Somehow, my last post announcing the re-opening of the Knitting Asylum got lost in the blogosphere. I have not been able to figure out, even through the nice folks at Blogger, how this happened.

But we are most definitely OPEN. As in, selling yarn and stuff.

Our news:

The Knitting Asylum now dwells within the confines of Fleur Du Jour, a retail co-op in which several vendors and artists share the rent and expenses.

Fleur du Jour is located at 447 Third Street, Suite B, in downtown Baton Rouge.

Knitting Asylum is located inside Fleur du Jour. It's like a small department store, and, in fact, is located in a newly renovated section of the old Kress department store at Third and Main.

Store hours, for now, are 9-5 Monday through Friday and 9 till noon on Saturdays.

Several vendors work together, so I am not present all day every day, but I am generally there most days around mid-day. If I am not present, one of the other vendors will be happy to assist you with your yarn or fiber purchase. No longer do you have to worry about arriving at the shop to find no one present because an emergency came up with my family's needs. Someone will always be there during posted hours.

We will be adding new spindles, roving and new yarns after the first of the year.

Photos will follow. Please tell your friends. I think you will like the new space, and I will be offering classes and other fun activites in the spring, so stay posted!

Hope to see you soon,


Saturday, November 26, 2011


I am.

I hope.

The wonderful thing about having a knit shop of your very own is that you can sit in several hundred square feet of yummy, yummy fiber goodness.

For a little while.

The un-wonderful thing about it is that if you are an entrepreneur with a very small business (as I am), with no investment capital except for some very modest savings (which I had), and no real ability to hire a full-time employee to assist you daily instead of a part-time person to babysit the store when you simply cannot be present yourself, and also not even enough income to hire a part-time bookkeeper to help with the onerous bits of running a shop so that you can devote yourself fully to giving classes, developing yarns, promoting your shop and so forth ....

well then.

Turns out you spend three years of your life working obscene hours to keep the hounds away from the door, and having precious little time to knit for yourself, at all, and having no time whatsoever to blog.

All of which are more depressing that I can describe. And I have not been this tired, day after day, since the year or so after Hurricane Katrina hit.

But now.

Now I am moving my shop into a slightly smaller space, with much lower rent, within an artists' and craftspersons' co-op, so there's a bookkeeper and other people to share the shop-minding duties, which frees me up to accept a certain amount of reliable, paid non-knitting work in my regular field of work, and still have time to blog, knit, spin and design.

I hope.

I may be just slightly over-ambitious, but perhaps less delusional than I was when I first opened my shop. It is exceedingly difficult for a yarn and spinning shop to function as a one-person show, even if you have the most excellent part-time help.

This new co-op bunch at the shop downtown is a great cluster of human beings. I am keenly looking forward to working with them.

New address:

Knitting Asylum
447 3rd Street, Suite B
Baton Rouge LA 70802

Phone number and website to be announced soon ... and it is downtown, baby! Downtown, in our downtown, which, like so many cities, is in a state of "recovery." Downtown, amid the artists, wine bars, loft renovators and sort-of-independent hotels. Downtown, where massage therapists, Irish pubs and sushi bars are bravely reclaiming our old, glorious and decrepit buildings, buildings which spent far too many bleak and colorless years just sitting there, abandoned, while people fled to the suburbs.

It is refreshing to watch people reclaim our downtown: riding bicycles, walking dogs, carrying messenger bags and buying half-caf mocha low-fat soy cappuccinos (no sugar, please) at the independent coffee shop. I am so happy to see people actually spending money downtown that I will not even grumble about the apparent uselessness of such a beverage. Go ahead, buy as many of those concoctions as you want, you enviable wisp of a girl.

Solar panels are sprouting from the rooftops of former small department stores, and adventurous young couples are bashing out walls and installing bathrooms and kitchens in former warehouses. Art galleries appear spontaneously in buildings once thought hopeless, and brand-new restaurants and pubs are hanging out freshly painted signs. There is live music outdoors on nice days, and the farmer's market -- dozens and dozens of vendors -- occupies Fifth Street every Saturday.

Hope springs abundant in our former shattered shell of a downtown.

So moving into this co-op is an adventure. It's like being a post-apocalyptic pioneer, only with indoor plumbing.

We shall be open soon. Very soon.

And, outside of downtown and the shop ... just to spice things up a bit ... between now and Christmas, my mother has requested a plain, very plain, camel-colored cardigan sweater with pockets. Maybe with an interesting motif around the hem and cuffs, but otherwise perfectly it goes with everything, you know?

Because my mother has a strong proclivity for "girlier" things, I suspect that she thinks this request for near-Amish simplicity will somehow make the knitting "easier" rather than mind-numbing, but, because knitting skipped her generation, she does not quite realize what "perfectly plain and tailored looking" means in a grownup-lady-size cardigan of sockweight alpaca, done mostly in stocking stitch.

Check back with me on Christmas Eve. I will either be in custody for stealing all the Valium from the nearest mental hospital, or I will have achieved perfect enlightenment through all of that camel-colored stocking stitch, and I will be next in the line of succession to be the Dalai Lama.

Meanwhile, don't touch that dial. I will be posting our grand re-opening date one day this week.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

New Year, New Things.

Halloween is a wonderful excuse for spooky celebration for people of all ages in the United States, but its true roots are in the Celtic New Year, Samhain, the one night of the year when the veil between the tangible world and the Other Side parts, and those who died during the year have an opportunity to pass on to the next life.

If you have read my past Halloween posts, you will know that Trick or Treat originated in Ireland, with people leaving cakes and ale on their doorsteps to appease passing spirits (it didn't take adventurous young folks long to figure out that they could get a little tipsy and also have a feast of sweets if they braved the night and absconded with the offerings for the dead). And the Jack O'Lantern was set out to light the spirits' path on their journey.

This New Year is bringing some new things to our family. Some planned, some not. One of the downsides of having a yarn store is having almost no time in which to blog, but I am trying to amend that.

Unplanned: our bathroom floor quite nearly collapsed the first week in October, and for the next few weeks we made do with the half-bath to wash ourselves up (and an occasional shower at my Mom's apartment) while the bathroom was gutted. Our old molded plastic tub had been leaking onto the floor below from inside the drain -- without our knowledge, of course -- for quite some time, and had rotted through the subfloor and joists. We were literally about to fall through the floor! It was a lot of hard work, but now we have a lovely new bathroom with a tile floor and tub surround, and a piece of granite left over from someone's much larger and much more extravagant kitchen as our bathroom countertop. There is also a good, solid cast iron tub. I will boast just a little and admit that I designed it myself to best take advantage of space and storage. I will post pictures soon.

Planned: we must choose to part with a dear old water oak which is immediately behind our home. It is an old and dear friend, but it is sick, and near the end of its life cycle. It is over 90 feet tall with a great deal of rot in its core, and we fear it will come crashing down through the house if there is a big storm. We take ending a tree's life every bit as seriously as euthanizing a dear pet, but we plan to make amends to its spirit by planting a trio of young cypress trees in its place.

Planned: The next thing is: a complete rearrangement of the Knitting Asylum to make it more cozy: new and better shelving that will hold MUCH more yarn, cushy old chairs rescued from thrift stores, and I am slowly starting a new selection of yarns for the fall and winter. Updates with photos will follow soon. My loyal employee Wren, and a few loyal customers are helping me re-design, and we are using a lot of Feng Shui principles for good traffic flow and also for good luck, because, quite frankly, I need it. The store will also be much more snug and welcoming for those who wish to sit and knit for awhile. I am very pleased at the progress we are making and slowly but surely it will be snug and cozy. We are even planning a tea station.

Also planned this month: a huge garage sale with my dear friend Diana to unload clutter from our homes and earn enough for some pocket money and maybe a dinner out with her family, my family and a couple of friends.

I am trying to get back on a quasi-normal blogging schedule. There will be lots of neat new information about the store, very soon -- and just in time for Christmas knitting, too!

More to come soon...



Saturday, August 21, 2010

Help Extend A Life.

If you knit or crochet, and you are anywhere on Planet Yarn with the rest of us, you have probably heard of the wondrous dyeing abilities of Ray Whiting, and, hopefully, you have had at least one little moment of knitterly weakness on the website.

Over the last several years Ray has rebuilt his life after Hurricane Katrina as a full-time dyer of wools, bringing us wondrous colors and even machine washable laceweight. Ray is a "roll up your sleeves and get to work" kind of guy, but at the moment he is faced with a crisis that he can't solve through hard work and talent alone.

Ray needs our help.

Not for himself, but for a beloved family member.

Ray's son-in-law, David, was recently diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and is in need of blood. He is being treated at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas and he needs both blood and platelets.

For some reason, MD Anderson doesn't take credits from other blood banks, so well-meaning knitters in distant cities can't give credit through their local blood bank. As a result, blood donation is limited to donors in the Houston area, or people who are willing to drive to MD Anderson in Houston. Donors can find information about how and when to donate here:

It doesn't matter what blood type you are. If you donate on location, your donation will be cross-credited within their own system. He is in most dire need of platelets. Blood donations can be made in the name of: David Allen Rogers.

If anyone in Southeast Texas is willing to drive to MD Anderson and donate a pint of blood, Ray and his family will have your eternal gratitude.

When Ray told me about his son-in-law's situation, I promised to put out a call for blood donors.

But there's something else Ray told me: his son-in-law's insurance is leaving the family with large deductibles and co-payments. Ray didn't ask me to ask people for money, but me? I'm a shameless beggar when it comes to begging on behalf of others.

So if you'd like to give blood, but you live too far away to make the drive to MD Anderson, please consider making a donation in whatever amount you can afford towards David's medical bills. Even a few dollars help with mounting medical bills.

If you would like to help, please make your check payable to:

David Allen Rogers

and send it:

c/o Ray Whiting
14435 Eagle Pass St.
Houston, TX 77015

If you'd rather not write a check, you can contact Ray through the Knitivity website (above) and I'm sure he can figure out a way you can help through Paypal.

Thank you all so much for considering donating blood or donating toward the family's medical expenses. Whether or not you are able to help, please hold Ray and his family close in your thoughts while the medical team at MD Anderson tries to buy David more time with his wife and family.

Thank you.

Inmates in the Asylum since July 27, 2006: