Monday, November 02, 2020

 Hi Folks!

It's been a long slog over the past several years, and this blog has remained sadly dormant during the abovementioned slogging.

My amazing husband passed away after a devastating illness which began about the time of my last post and which ended in February of 2014. In the aftermath, I had monumental obstacles to wrangle -- not the least of which was selling our business. Then my Mom passed on in 2016, and tackling her affairs was no small task. 

Once the dust settled from all that, I packed my bags (and my cats) and moved cross country to beautiful Portland, Oregon, home of charming 1900s homes...municipal rose gardens... bagpiping, flame-throwing unicyclists... the largest privately owned bookstore in America... an impressive selection of coffeehouses and brewpubs... paddleboarding witches at Halloween... beautiful and beloved 1920s theaters... marionberry ice cream... nudist bicycling... hiking trails... acres of tie-dyed haircuts... Christmas ships... extremly impressive trees... a delightful thing called "terrain" ... and, for the moment, a bit of social unrest.

And just like that, seven years roared by.

I've made the decision to resurrect this old blog, to dust it off and see if it still works, but with some changes. Chief among these will be a new name, to reflect my relocation from Louisiana to the West Coast.

In the meantime, y'all please be aware that I am having a major destash.

Look for "knittingasylum" under "sellers" on Ebay.  Just click on "advanced" next to the search bar, then scroll down to "sellers," and click "only show items from seller," which is followed by a field into which you type "knittingasylum," all run together as one word.

I wll be posting only a few things at a time.  I don't have time to enter everything at once, nor do I have the time to manage multiple auctions.  I'm starting with "enough for a project" lots and working my way down to single skeins.  

I hope you will keep an eye on my auctions, and maybe find something you like at an agreeable price. 

Best regards,


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

St. Peter of The Numbers

I'm back after while.  It's been a long and demanding year.  But that's not what I want to write about right now.

I am a recovering Catholic.  Have been for decades.  But when I was growing up, it seemed that there was a special saint assigned to just about everything in life: fire prevention (St. Florian) ...  animal protection (Saint Francis of Assisi) ... Saint Blaise (who wards off throat ailments) ... of course, the poor beleaguered Saint Anthony (whose job is to find everything one could possibly lose, from keys to umbrellas) ...  and, last but not least, when southern Catholic mothers are at their wit's end in the Winn-Dixie parking lot, "Hail Mary, full of grace, help me find a parking place."

The Catholic Church fired St. Christopher, patron of travelers, some time ago, which suggested to me that there just might be something to him that they're not willing to admit -- the Area 51 of Heaven, if you will -- so I hung onto my St. Christopher medal just to be belligerent.  Besides, my granny gave it to me.

But in my adult years I've met a real, live, in-person saint.  His real name is Peter Barrios, and if you need a real CPA I recommend him in exactly the same way  that those passengers  on US Airways Flight 1549 who landed safely in the middle of the Hudson river would recommend Captain  Chesley Sullenberger to fly the next plane you are on.

I call him, "St. Peter of the Numbers."  Lisa named him, I kept it, and it works.

Peter does our taxes every year.  For 2012, I had to ask for a deferment until October 2015, simply because last year was more than I could possibly manage well, what with closing my knit shop for once and for all, juggling three part-time jobs, battling with health insurance companies, managing my Mom's rental property, running errands, keeping both our house and Mom's  house reasonably clean (or at least not at risk from being condemned), buying groceries, filling prescriptions, taking cats to the vet, paying most of the bills on time, keeping my old car running all last year until it couldn't run any more, and keeping track of endless streams of paper entering through the mail slot.


I am in possession of an awful lot of skills, and I am grateful for that.  Real skills -- good, solid ones. I can manage an animal shelter and perform every task I supervise, and perform it well.  I can manage a budget for a shelter.  I can write a grant.  I'm a good veterinary technician.  I can knit, spin, and dye fabric and fiber, and I can both sew and  weave reasonably well.  I can write, paint a house meticulously, grow a garden, can vegetables, preserve foods, and cook from scratch like I mean it.  I can make bread from scratch (hand-kneaded), start a fire with a handmade bow drill, dry twigs and kindling, survive in the woods if stranded, fix a fair number of things on a non-computerized car.  And I am the queen of traveling well while packing as little as possible.  I can fix a lot of things if they break. Importantly, I can tend bar -- an essential skill for Zombie-apocalyspe, if you ask me, and I can make basic beer and wine.

I can manage a budget for an animal shelter serving half a million citizens, and I am very, very well organized in almost every other aspect of my life: ask me for a screwdriver, a flashlight, a leash, a tape measure, a Bruce Springsteen CD,  chopsticks, sunglasses or a shoelace and I can always put my hand on the requested object in three minutes or less. Our closets, kitchen, clothing drawers, bathroom and cupboards are organized.  I almost never lose a sock.

But, somehow, managing our own finances always seems like an insurmountable and amazingly tedious task.  When I am done, it is always a photos finish -- always! -- and breathlessly close to the due date, giving our poor accountant and his two equally saintly assistants high blood pressure and turning their hair white at far too early of an age.

But I am the sort of person who gets that "deer-in-the-headlights" sort of apoplectic panic when faced with two boxes jam-packed with paper ... when facing off the daunting task of sorting through my own two Rubbermaid tubs full of medical bills, bank statements, W2s, 1099s ... and the insane number of itsy-bitsy receipts generated by running a small business,  paying for prescriptions, and buying medical supplies.

And when I finish, I always feel as though I just, somehow, managed to pass all my classes if I'd had a school semester in which every single subject was something I both abhorred and also totally sucked at.

It does not help that we are the sort of people who let our cats sleep in the mail bin and eventually sort the rumpled piled into a bin (or two) marked "BILLS AND TAX STUFF."

My dear friend Lisa tries to soothe me with the notion that it is just "not my skill set," and I agree. It is not my skill set ... in exactly the same was that resisting the urge to murder women was not in Ted Bundy's skill set.

But Peter?  I've presented him with dozens of Ziploc bags full of rumpled receipts and he has just smiled.

I have finally realized what Peter's gift is -- and his staff, too.

He respects paper.  He makes it feel appreciated.  He loves it and cares for it.  When I get our taxes back, all the receipts have been lovingly straightened (I strongly suspect that he actually irons them), and put in perfect order, precisely aligned and neatly stapled.  I sometimes wonder if these are the same papers I gave him to begin with.  Could this compact and orderly sheaf of paper be them same unruly and rumpled pile I presented him with?  Could it possibly be the same crumpled, folded, and paper-clipped mess I handed him the previous week, desperately scrawled-on and rudely highlighted with yellow marker and bold red pen? (Can this be deducted? LOOK, A BIG MEDICAL EXPENSE!!!!  Oh, and don't forget I didn't get my deposit back on the shop rent!)  

When I get it back, it looks like the paper version of Cinderella going off to the ball.

And I am certain that the original mass of paper wass slipped into his mail slot, under the cover of darkness, in the wee hours of the night, in an absurdly large number of gallon Ziplock bags with the type of information or papers contained therein scrawled across the bag in black permanent marker with extremely businesslike and helpful titles like "BANK STATEMENTS!" "PAY STUBS!"  "MEDICAL DEDUCTIONS!"  "OTHER MISC,"  "DEDUCTIBLE STUFF!"  "SHOP EXPENSES," "NOT SURE" and "DO YOU NEED THESE?" 

And there is always one last bag, slipped into the door slot so late one night that it's almost early, during the most shadowy of the wee hours, at the last possible minute, labeled: "Here is some more miscellaneous stuff!  Is it deductible?"

Warning to readers: If you ever get a gallon ziplock bag from me full of receipts and marked "Miscellaneous Stuff?"  Run.  Run like hell.

But Peter and his crew?  Nah, they're like Daniel in the paper lion's den.  It's truly inspirational.

Anyway, if you live in the Baton Rouge area and you want an excellent person to do your taxes and help you with general investment advice and money-related things, I highly advise that you call Saint Peter.  His number is 225-924-3031. The best appreciation, and his staff, I can offer him is free advertising.

See y'all soon and we can talk about knitting again.


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.