Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Frogging Is The New Knitting

I want to raise an issue here before I forget. I have become totally smitten with a beautiful new passion - to be precise, Misti Alpaca Chunky in natural black, which I glimpsed across a crowded Internet last night. Hunting for stockists I found one US provider and asked for postage costs (I've been ripped off badly in that department before so always check now). First of all they refused to give me a costing unless I actually ordered. Sorry guys, I've been trapped there before, no flipping way! Then they conferred at their end and sent me an email saying they had now listed the international postal rates on the site so I could check. I did. The yarn in question was around $12 a skein. Postage would be an additional $8.50 per skein. No adjustment for bulk buys, no reduction for a big package. Come on fellas, we know perfectly well that there are stages in packaging where two (or three) costs the same as four or five. We know that. Are you seriously telling me that I will have to pay almost as much again per skein to get it across to Ireland? Thanks, but no thanks.

They did say that they also factored in the cost of having to send someone to the post office to mail the package internationally (my italics). Now here I need your help, gang. What is it with this going to the post office in the States? Is it a really really serious adventure, the kind that needs a rucksack and a week's supply of chocolate? Is it risky to the point of inadvisability? Are there endless miles of jungle or desert involved? Does it require advance vaccinations and a visa? Are your post offices the size of major European cathedrals, with side apses and corridors and catacombs where a girl could get lost with her package of yarn? Do you get fingerprinted on the way in, bodysearched, subjected to the kind of indignities that make late night television? What is it about your post offices that makes people so unwilling to go there? (These alpaca people weren't the first to be strangely reluctant or downright difficult about posting to Ireland.)

I pop into my local post office a couple of times a week (lately, with all this yarn being sent out, rather more often), to post packages, pay bills, say hallo to the staff. It's friendly, relaxing, part of the daily round in a small country town. When I go away, I let them know and they keep my mail until I get back. I slip oranges across the counter at Christmas. When we had a spectacular crop of grapes this autumn, I brought those in too. We love our local post offices and give them all the support we can. So tell me what's so different. I really want to know.

Oh the Misti Alpaca Chunky. I'm currently talking to another web provider who seems a little more human. It still may cost more than I'm willing to pay to get the delectable stuff across, but we'll see. Wonder if it would be cheaper to go to Peru and get it from the source...? In the meantime, I suggest you check out postal costs whenever you buy on the Web, and slap down HARD on those who misuse the system grossly.

Seriously happy holidays by Frog Marsh at the moment; in fact, so relaxing does a good frogging session feel that one could definitely get hooked. Might frogging yet turn out to be the new knitting? I know I thought I was imagining the calm pleasure before, and then someone else said she loved frogging as well, and then another - so what is it about this act of ripping out what took such blood, sweat and tears to create that gives such a feeling of fulfilment?

Anyway, the latest frogging indulgence was with yet another red vest that hadn't turned out quite as anticipated several years ago and had been languishing in the armoire ever since. It was a particularly nice orangey-red shade of mohair/wool which suited my colouring perfectly, and the lavish use I had made of it for the vest meant there wasn't quite enough left on the original cone for anything else. I hunted rather casually for it and couldn't find the pest, so gave up overnight; then saw the cone again, had another go, and this time unearthed the offending item.

Looks quite OK doesn't it? But it wasn't. It was far too big for one thing (how is it that you check gauge carefully and yet end up with something several sizes too large?), and for another, the vandykes or points at the bottom just looked naff, not cute at all. AND of course I'd done a crochet band around the edge, because I couldn't face picking up all those stitches, and THAT was too tight on one side and too loose on the other. Oh boy do I have a degree from the University of Unfitly Finished Buttonhole Bands! With honours!

Now it's all back in its original state of loose yarn, skeined up and washed, awaiting a new project which is the utterly gorgeous Celtic Viking Vest (or is it Viking Celtic Vest, I forget) from Knitter's Fall 2003. It was the adorable Angeluna (Angeluna WHEN are you going to get a website so that we can all enjoy your witty style online?) who reminded me of this particularly beautiful pattern, so that's what the yarn is now going into. Can't wait for it to dry. Wish I could hurry it along but if I know one thing it's that you can't speed up the drying process where yarn is concerned- it's asking for trouble and I get into enough trouble as it is without asking for more.

The new swift (well the antique one I got on eBay) works beautifully, I'm happy to say. I never thought it would stand on its own, but it's so beautifully balanced that it does, without any clamp to keep it secure. I used it to wind up the lovely raspberry ripple sock yarn from Ms Knitingale.

How quickly one becomes addicted! I now find that I can't be doing without a pair of socks on the go. I miss having them to work on when I'm out and about (couldn't these annoying eBay sellers of Misti Alpaca take socks with them to the post office for heaven's sake?). In fact I'm going to re-christen this lovely Knitingale gift the Blackberry Pie Sock Yarn, since that's what the colour is like (especially if you add ice cream to the pie and mash it up a bit). I was so delighted with this soft merino from Nature's Palette (where did you get it, Ms. Knitingale?) that I kept going and cast on for a new pair of socks right away.

Here they are, all ready to go. I did think of trying the toe-up method, but when I looked it up and read about provisional cast-ons and wrapped stitches and slanted increases and abstruse calculations that wouldn't disgrace a nuclear physicist, I felt faint and decided to stick with the tried and tested cuff-down. But this time I'll be canny. I'll weigh the remaining yarn on the ball every now and again, and when I get to half the original weight I'll know it's high time to be heading for the heel if not too late altogether.

The tale of knitters who would a-frogging go is not finished, though. You may remember I was crowing the other evening about the Red Sweater KAL and how clever I'd been at moving to a quintuple strand of cashmere and 6mm needles. Late last night it became sickeningly clear, although the obvious was resisted as long as possible, that the sweater was just that bit too loose-textured on 6mm needles. Tried to ignore it (after all I was right up to the fun bit where you do the patterning across the chest) but in the end had to accept the truth. Another session by Frog Marsh, followed by a refreshing dip (for the cashmere that is, not me.) Have now hunted out the 5mm circular and will try YET again.

How do you store your circulars? Mine are in a hideous muddle in a sort of circular hatbox.

I've been fully intending for over a year now to make one of those wall-hanging circular needle storers, with a neat tape label by each size, but haven't got round to it yet. Even sorted out what fabric I'll use - but time is at a premium chez Celtic Memory right now and unlikely to reduce in price this side of the New Year.

Someone asked, and yes, I suppose I should use the official pattern for the Irish Hiking Scarf... but I did see that someone else had used a braided cable which looked superb, so I kind of thought... Playing outside the
perimeter again, Celtic Memory! When will you learn to play the team game?

UK Jo asked what my slanted cast on was, that I had thought of using for the scarf. It's not an official way of casting on as such, just a way I worked out of giving a scarf a slanted end which sometimes looks better. You cast on about 3 to start and then increase at one end either every row or every second row until you get to the right width. Then, when you reach the required length for the scarf, you reverse the shaping by decreasing at the other side to match until you get back to 3 stitches, then cast off. It takes a bit of fiddling around to get the pattern blended into this increasing, and sometimes it's easier to work a band in moss stitch until you're up to stitch count. Another way would be to cast on the correct number and work short rows, but I don't think that gives such a good effect as the increasing way.

UK Jo also said (quite innocently I am willing to believe), 'Nice to see so many projects on the go.' HahahahaHAHHH! She means the two or three (or four?) I listed! Jo, do you know about cupboards and
closets and wardrobes and tin trunks in the attic that strange, obsessive people sometimes fill with WIPs? Pray heaven you never do. It's not pretty. It's fun, it's addictive, it possesses a strange yeast-like expanding quality of its own, but it's not pretty.

And yes, there is yet another interest on the horizon (well, on my desk next to me as I type actually). A new Japanese book, this time on Guernseys and Arans...

What is it with these Japanese books? They're coming out by the dozen, all beautifully photographed and full of superb designs. You don't need to be able to read Japanese, the diagrams are self-explanatory. I know Francesca is obsessed by them too, but at least she's learning Japanese so she has some excuse. I just like the pictures! And oh the temptations! Show you some in the next posting.


Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I do like frogging things that just shouldn't 'be' anymore, the yarn is yearning to be something else...that swift is a beauty, as is the cover on the Japanese book.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually knitting the official Irish Hiking Scarf pattern in Misti Alpaca Chunky right now. LOVE the stuff. After this is done I've a long belted cardi in another shade of the Misti Chunky just waiting for moments when I feel like paying attention and counting. No matter how much you think you like it on screen, you will like it more in person.

My LYS stocks it, so all that above wasn't (just) meant to tease. It was my way of letting you know that if you get fed up with the online vendors we could work another option for you.

Or you could just wait till you come visit in April and pick it up yourself. Hee.

Ms. Knitingale said...

LOVE the swift, Jo. So glad that it's working well for you. I love antique and vintage things...love wondering about who else used them and what they might have made. I'm glad you like the yarn. To tell the truth, I got it at a little yarn shop in a nearby town called Duvall while hubby and I were out and about. It was such a little hole in the wall--not much bigger than a closet--that I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it had gone out of business, but I plan to check next time I'm there. I'll keep you posted. Now I'm off to do some soothing frogging of thrift store sweaters (that is, releasing of wool from unattractive shapes).

Anonymous said...

Oh no, you too! You've been bitten by the Japanese craft book bug, huh? I just went back to Kinokuniya this morning and got more books. At least you are actually knitting and getting stuff done; I'm just looking at pretty pictures and doing nothing.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

While you are visiting Frog Pond, if a pretty teal green Tilia was slipped into the mix, do you think you would notice. I do not like frogging, but I am thinking I must change my attitude toward it and perhaps it will be even a tiny bit enjoyable - well bearable. I love the blackberry pie socks!!

Anonymous said...

hmmm, i just sent something to Ireland for work...it required filling out a customs form, and it was that simple! Karen

Kit said...

Hmm, I'm not sure how much it is to send things internationally, but I would be more than willing to have you buy the yarn and have it sent to my place and I send it to you and you don't even have to pay for the fifteen minutes it takes for me to wait in line to send it.

Anonymous said...

I work for the USPS........and the lines are almost always long, esp in cities (they keep cutting work hours) Mailing overseas is pricey.....BUT!! $8.50 per skein is a royal screwing!!!
If you want, I can get it for you thru my LYS and mail it too you for actual cost!
Just let me know!

LaurieM said...

Whew! I can't keep up with you tonight lady. You've taken me hither and yon in your rambles.

What will you knit out of black chunky Alpaca? What ever it is it will be WARM.

Destruction is easier that creation and every child knows the simple thrill destruction can give.

The number of your works in progress is only a problem if it bothers you. There is not another soul you are accountable to for it.

Misery loves company when it comes to those button bands. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

The Viking/Celtic vest from Knitters Fall 2003 is actually called Cul de Sac. They gave everything in the issue a street or highway name or somesuch. But it is by Lavold and it does look quite Celtic.

On the issue of international mailing, with a lot of these sellers, it is just inexperience with international orders that makes them reply so. Yes, you must fill out a customs form. And yes, you must physically take it to the Post Office during office hours, and yes, the lines are long. So I suppose if they have to pay an employee to spend an hour at the task, it does cost more than simply the postage. BUT, for me, it is a simple cost of doing business. And the price they quoted you was patently absurd.

Having lived in Europe where so much is across borders, such things were simple, although in France, one could not insure an international package, which ticked me off. In much of the US, the international issue is so foreign that it poses a mental block. My business works internationally, and the complication with US banks of receiving payments in a foreign currency amazes me. My main bank simply will not accept foreign currency checks, or even checks in US dollars written on a foreign bank. Unbelievably provincial and it is a big, national bank. We had to open a secondary account in another bank for foreign checks. At least they will take them, but they make constant mistakes on the exchanges. Should you want to get foreign currency here in advance of a trip, you must order it ahead of time at a ridiculously bad rate. Third world countries make it easier.

OK, enough rant on that subject. If you need assistance in procuring that yarn, I would also be willing to help. Your wish is our command.

I also find it quite satisfying to frog something that doesn't work, just to get the offending creation out of my sight. May I remind you that Muffy (Sophie?) knew better and tried to frog your red sweater for you to save you from folly?

Anonymous said...

That red waistcoat is gorgeous. I'd charge a fortune to have to go to my Post Office .The man behind the counter is hideous and the only other is in town ...so I try to avoid posting . I have noticed since the new charges here postage rates on E;Bay mean that even if you get a bargain the postage can be as much as the goods.In fact the listings seem to be full of Turkish or Chinese yarns mostly and I find more bargains on the sale pages of yarn shops. I adore Japanese knitting and craft books .

LornaJay said...

Right: circular storage.

My first option involved an old cereal box. Bear with me.... I cut a strip about 10cm wide and as long as the box, punched holes down each side, and threaded my circulars through it. I threaded some elastic through holes in the top, and hung it over a hook on the door.

When I got organised, I wrote the sizes next to the holes.

My next version involved a pillowcase and elastic, but I think I'll go back to the cardboard as it worked better!

pacalaga said...

The post office Powers That Be want you to do everything online, so even though going to the post office and waiting isn't terrible (except maybe in December), we're so used to printing out the labels at home and calling for pickup that we've been spoiled, and actually going to the post office seems like a big chore.
I would also post the yarn for you if you'd like.

Anonymous said...

I knit the Elsebeth Lavold vest 2 years ago in Tahki Donegal tweed, this is one of my favorite items to wear. I found some wonderful Celtic knotwork buttons in a bronze coloured metal that really add to the piece.
I share your frustration over shipping cost and the reluctance of some U.S. sellers to ship "foreign". I live in Canada for heavens sake! The shipping price a seller quotes and the actual price the USPS charges can be quite a spread.
After wrestling with my circulars for far too long I separated them by size and length and put them into small zip lock bags, each labeled. They fit nicely into a box and there is less swearing to be heard in our home now.

Tracy said...

Charging $8.50 per skein for shipping is highway robbery! Just how long do they think the lines in the post office are? I suppose it all depends on which post office you go to, and at what time of day. At my local P.O. (in suburban Boston), the people are friendly and the lines are short, as long as you aren't there over the lunch hour or on Saturday morning. International shipping costs have increased, I know, but they're not that much!

But I have noticed a reluctance to ship internationally on both sides of the pond. Many of the bigger UK retailers with online shipping refuse to ship outside the UK--not even to Ireland, not even to UK military folks serving abroad! Perhaps there is some kind of spreading fear about the customs forms coming back to haunt... :)

I know you've had many offers already, but I'd also be willing to help you get any yarns and supplies from the US, if you'd like. Always glad to help another knitter get her knitting fix!

Connie said...

A good circular solution is a fishing lure notebook - there was a review on KR. I keep mine in a bundle in a bag though. The post office is not fun here. Its long lines and rude or indifferent workers with no charm at all. As for WIP's - I have at least 6!

Roggey said...

Fuckin' $8.50 per skein?! Darlin' - that company is jacking with you. Tell me what you want and I'll ship it to you. I can send something to you (up to 2 lbs) for around $15 US. All the way from Iowa even!

You know, I don't think many of us enjoy the frogging. Personally, I look at it as a huge relief. If I hate something or it's just not turning out, it's a "do over" - which you don't get in many areas of life!

Dympna said...

I think some small towns have post offices that are friendly. Not to say my big city post offices can't be friendly but they serve so many people they don't get to know you well.
I send to Ireland and Europe all the time. It is no problem except I always miss the international shipping deadline for Chrismas.
Love your blog. Miss Ireland very much.

Anonymous said...

The lines at the post office can be horriffic depending on where you are. I regularly wait up to a half-hour or more and the employee's time would have to be factored in. But lines aren't that long everywhere. Besides, it would all be shipped in one box and the post office charges by total weight not by the number of items inside. So, such a high price and per skein seems ridiculous.

My son lived in Japan for over 8 years and I shipped stuff to him all the time. It wasn't that much trouble although I did find that it made a difference depending on which post office I went to. The smaller ones locally made quite a song and dance about the number of customs forms. So I found a larger one fairly close by that only required one form with a simple 'this is what I'm shipping and this is what it cost' form and I always went to them.

Dez Crawford said...

Hi Jo. Sorry about your postal woes. Please accept my apology on behalf of sensible Amercians -- there really ARE a few of us.

Hating the post office is one of those things most Americans get ugly and nasty about, I'm afraid. The reason? Americans are spoiled rotten. Don't want to wait for anything, not even five minutes. Granted, most Americans don't live in cute little towns with small post offices where only one or two people are in the queue ahead of you. Most Americans have to deal with crowded urban post offices, or suburban "hub" post offices. The result -- HORRORS!!! -- is that you have to queue up and wait for a dozen or so other people to be served.

But that's why the Goddess made sock yarn, say I. While everyone else sits and stews because they have to (shudder) wait, I can knit a few rounds. We have a crowded urban post office near our home. The wait is usually about 15-20 minutes. The people behind the counter are friendly and helpful.

Americans are just stupid about waiting in line. I think it goes back to the Cold War. When I was growing up, it seems that the biggest fear pounded in our heads about Communism was the notion of having to wait in line for bread, milk, potatoes etc. To hear the adults carrying on when I was growing up, Communism was evil, not because of the loss of liberty, but because it involved standing in interminable lines. I also grew up thinking that school desks were the best possible protection against nuclear weapons. This country is weird.

But I digress. What I don't understand is all this fuss when mail order retailers have to go to the post office ANYWAY, every DAY. It's not like they have to go to a special post office, on the other side of town in the red light district, in an alley behind a rough pub, for Irish packages. You don't have to take a crash course in Gaelic, either. All you have to do is get an international mailing box and fill out a customs slip. This takes about two whole minutes. In fact, you can fill it out while you ...

wait in line.

It's really a matter of just being organized. Nowadays you don't have to wait in line for most postal services if you don't want to. With International bulk rate, you go to the post office and pay for a bulk rate box. It costs about $9 US. Into this box you may cram as much crap as you wish, provided the box stays closed. There is room for enough yarn for a sweater. In fact, at this very moment I am packing such a box for my friend Barbara in Germany. it contains a scarf I knitted for her, and other things for the holidays.

My point? I am not an exceptionally well-organized person, but I have international friends, so I always have an international mailer handy and a couple of customs slips. You can get them in advance, fill out the slip and either bring it to the post office when necessary or hand it to the mail carrier. What could be easier? And if I can do this, surely someone who has a MAIL ORDER BUSINESS can do this.

It's a simple cost of doing business. My Mom always managed a card and gift shop, and when the shop owners compained about credit card handling fees and such, she would always respond with, "some things cost you a little time and money but you have to make it EASY for your customers to spend their money."

I can acknowledge a modest handling fee...one does, after all, have to pay the employee who packs, stamps, fills out the form, runs the errands, etc. But $8.50 per skein is absolutely rapacious.

If I ran such a business I would only charge the actual cost of international postage, and pershaps a couple of dollars PER ORDER for handling costs.

Next time, I'd be more than happy to procure the item for you, and ship it myself, and we could arrange for compensation.

Any business doing any amount of mail order should be prepared to do international mail. Europe and the UK, Australia, Canada, and Mexico are especially easy to deal with.

Anyway, rant over. On to your other topics. I adore japanese pattern books and LOVE the fact that everything is charted. I enjoy frogging when it's time to do so. I am also the Queen of WIPs. It doesn't bother me, and who cares what anyone else thinks, provided the heap of WIPs is not blocking a fire exit.

Love the antique swift, too!

jdknits said...

US Post Offices are much worse than UK ones, that's for sure (UK being my only other experience).

The employees can be OK, but often they seem to hire the grumpiest people on the face of the earth. THEN they compound matters by making the regulations so arcane that no-one except a postal employee can understand them, thereby forcing the public to irritate the holy heck out of even the most reasonable PO official.

It's got a lot better now that a lot of it is online. Next time, tell the yarn store they can stuff as much as possible in a Global Priority flat rate envelope, print up and pay the $9.50 flat rate postage online AND arrange for a free pick-up the next day. It's total pampering.

The best thing about the US Postal system? You can put letters in your own personal mailbox and your postie will take them away! No trips to the nearest street corner, here. (And it only took me 11 years in the country to find this out!)

Fiberjoy said...

Enjoy frogging? I wish. The thought of having wasted all that time, and then doing it again is grim. It's an excersise in patience,though the end result really is worth the effort.

We have to go to the PO in our small village - there's no carrier for town residents, it is a good social place. Go figure: in the wisdom of the USPS staff hours continue to be cut back, this with the huge increase in package volume so lines can be long and slow even in a small PO.

Customs slips do not have to be filled for items that weigh less than 13 ounces going by airletter post. Our postmistress clued us in to this fact when we had an increase of international sales.

May your days spent at the frog marsh soon be over.

Charity said...

It is so frustrating when shiping costs get in the way of having lovely yarn! Canadian shipping prices can be horrible, so I totally understand.

I love the yarn Ms. Knitingale sent you - beautiful! :0)

Anonymous said...

My goodness, Jo. You did hit a nerve with the Post Office affair. I just wanted to say that the people in my Post Office are delightfully nice (in sharp contrast to my local Poste in Paris, where they must have all gone to mean, rude and nasty classes), just too few of them for the workload at certain times. Since 9/11, and the anthrax mess that has never been solved, there are new regulations and controls, designed to make it more secure. If any package you are mailing is over a pound, they want to see you physically. Now they will pick up at your house or business for domestic, but this is a carrier who knows you. I don't know the regulations for this on international shipping, but that might work, too. Just don't know about the customs forms in that case. We have had problems and discrepencies with the online forms for international shipping, therefore we take those into the Post Office. So many of these mailings are rush for us, visas, contracts, etc., that we can't take the risk and lose time in case there is a mistake. The packaging for Flat Rate Global Priority shipping at $9 something, is approximately a 9X12 cardboard envelope. They specifically say not to try to make this into a "box" by stuffing it with bulky items. A skein or two might work, but I have had some refused by the Post Office since they were not flat. That said, it is not a huge big deal to pack everything into a box or plastic shipping bag, fill out a customs form, and mail the darn thing. But it is a bigger deal than mailing a domestic package and evidently some sellers have no experience with that and are hesitant to lose money on the process. Certainly, some sellers must be more experienced and would be willing to ship internationally at a reasonable rate. You can always try sweetly talking them into it by being more informed than they are. You can easily find all the neccessary information on shipping at: http://www.usps.com/

On another subject, when weighing your sock yarn once you arrive at the heel, you usually want to have a dab more than half left since the heel turn takes more yarn. Of course, that all depends on how tall you want the sock and how long your foot is, but you get the idea.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness Dez has awakened all those "Duck and Cover" memories.Not that I saw any as despite the fact that the missles at Greenham Common would have been used ...( I think they kinda forget to tell) .I just remember seeing footage of poor kids heads in desks, bums towards Cuba I guess .As it would appear that only Alaska would have survived I am not too sure that stocking up on anything other than cyanide was worthwhile.It does your heart good to hear President Kennedy talking on tape that he would rather die with his people than have to fly over any of them getting to the shelter ..which would have been a miracle in itself. I guess his experience of war de-glamourised it for him and Khruschev too.

Erica said...

Circular needle storage - this may or may not help you, but I simply use one of those fold up travel toiletry bags (the ones that fold into itself with the clear zippered pockets on the inside). I have my dpns in one and my circulars in the others keeping the sizes sort of grouped. Then zip it up and at least it looks sort of organized. By the way... not really related to knitting, but would you happen to be the author of the article talking about the wild Geese in the current 'Ireland of the Welcomes' magazine? (please overlook the poor punctuation) Just curious :)

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