You may have by now heard or read about big changes ahead for Freia Yarns (and for me personally). A month from today I will be getting in my car and setting off on a cross-country trip to relocate from the San Francisco Bay area to Western Massachusetts. I think to call this a change is a bit of an understatement, perhaps a seismic shift is more accurate!
It's hard to pinpoint one single thing that has prompted this. One event that comes to mind was last spring, walking Freia through the local cemetery, along the same route we'd taken a thousand times, she decided it was time to lie down. She stopped on a hill and lay next to a grave marker. The name on it was my own!! To say that was a wake up call would be an understatement. My heart just about jumped out of my chest. At the time my father was at the end stage of Alzheimer's so I had become keenly aware of how fragile life is. My next reaction was "Wow, is that all there is? Do I really want to end up as just a grave marker on a hill in California?". Not the worst thing of course, but after an earlier life of travel and regularly visiting new places it struck me that I'd not pushed myself, really pushed, in a long time.
A friend had recently begun relocating to Western Mass, buying a most incredible old farmhouse for a song (compared to California prices). Out of curiosity I began window shopping on real estate websites, seeing remarkable properties that called out to my English roots. Then, looking at the financial aspects of running a business in California vs Massachusetts it started to piece together. I traveled on a few short trips to see if I liked the area, the people I met, to see if it felt "right". As I'd introduce myself to people one thing that struck me was that when I said I owned a yarn company I was not once met with the blank stare that I get here in California (what? a business that's not tech?). New England has a long history of textiles, woolen products and mills. A yarn company was a completely normal business.
A couple more visits and I'd pinned down where I wanted to work and live and the decision was made.
Move forward another 6 months and here we are winding down the California studio. My staff have taken the news like champs, a couple may come out to Mass for a bit to help get set up. The next few weeks will be challenging, but also a long time coming. I will be arriving on the East Coast towards the end of winter and have the good fortune to watch spring bloom for the second time in as many months. When I get there it will take another month or so to get the new studio space into operation, but I've done it twice before and can do it again.
I'm excited to explore the Berkshires. With a history of theater, arts, dance, a booming foodie culture, beautiful landscapes, big open skies, clean air, great hiking in summer, skiing in winter and only 2 1/2 hours from NY for those times I want that big city fix, I think it will be a good fit. I'm excited to get the new studio up and running in the NORAD mill and to set up a small retail corner that will be open a few times a year for the general public. I'm looking forward to creating a new home for myself in a house with a backyard with maple trees, bunnies (bunnies!) and squirrels, and big enough for a couple more dogs to keep Cody company.
I think this change will be good.
Now that it's public news that we're moving, be sure to follow along on Instagram as I post pictures of the studio as it gets built out, next month's road trip and ensuing chaos!
I lost a piece of my soul this week, and there is a gaping hole in my heart. My constant companion, my guardian and protector, my funny, smart, loud, engaged, entertaining, opinionated and beautiful Freia is gone. I have cried more tears than I knew I could possess. She was a unique dog and we had a bond like no other. My house is deafeningly quiet. She changed my world when she entered it and has changed it again as she passed. I held her close telling her over and over how sorry I was to let her go and how much I loved her as if telling her so many more times could make it any more true or any less sad.
Cody was nearby as she went, so understands that she's gone. He's learning to be an only dog and working on being brave. He came to me as a fairly damaged rescue, skittish at the wind blowing in the trees or any loud crack of sound, and I've seen some regression the last few days. And yet, I can also see he's trying so hard to find his feet and his own strength now that Freia's no longer by his side. I'm fairly sure I'll be getting another dog sooner perhaps than I thought, but I'm going to let him grow into being an only pup for a little while and watch him learn to face, and embrace, the world with all the courage of the cowardly and brave little Lion he is.
I took some time off work this week as my mind and body would have it no other way. I spent the first day pretty much in shock, feeling as though my heart had been ripped from my chest. I lay on the sofa, Cody curled up tight nearby. I tried going in to work the next day without much success. Grief plays tricks on the mind and scatters the thoughts, so I was hardly present. The third day was maybe as hard as the first as I succumbed to sadness all over again, plus I was now fully in the throes of the flu, so back to the couch. This time I picked up some yarn and started to knit. I slowly re-assembled my jumbled brain and wrote down instructions and kept on knitting. I ignored the pain in my stupid thumb, took some painkillers and kept right on knitting. I knit all that day and late into the night. The next day I looked at what I'd started and realized that I'd been creating a design for a knitted wrap that is an allegory for the relationship between Cody and Freia,- how she was always there for him, teaching him about the world, his support, his protector, his rock, and now it was her time to go and he would have to stand on his own and fill her shoes and be strong.
I have never used knitting to help me through grief or other deep emotion, and have never understood how it has worked for others - until now. I'm slowly coming back together, now I wear Freia's tag around my neck and sometimes it jangles and reminds me of her and it's OK.
So I knit the final rounds of my PomPom and Tuft Hat this morning and just needed the finishing touch of a big puffy pompom.
Key words - "big" and "puffy". Big is easy enough, there was about a 1/4 of the ball of Super Bulky yarn left after the knitting was done, but how do you turn this floppy pom in to a fluffy one?
Steam is the key!
1. Find a small-ish saucepan - ideally about the same diameter as your pompom. This is because - yeah, steam.. it gets hot. So if the pan is small then your hand will be out of the way of the steam. (note this is NOT a project for kids - not kidding on the steam... ) Fill the pan with a couple of inches of water and heat to boiling.
2. Hold the pompom in the steam coming off the boiling water. You will want to rotate the pompom around to get it evenly heated and fluffed. Your strands may curl up a bit so you will probably need to separate them from each other and then they can be more evenly steamed.
As I sit here working on end of year inventory data entry (the exciting life of a small business owner!) I find myself creatively avoiding the task at hand by contemplating the past year on this last day of 2017.
It's fair to say, without even touching on politics, that it's been a challenging year for most people, myself included. Ironically I remember a year ago when those around me all thought 2016 was such a difficult year, turned out it had nothing on 2017.
My father passed away in the spring and for the last few months I've been caring for my two dogs, Freia and Cody, both diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Freia has end stage kidney disease (and basically is on a week to week life expectancy) and Cody has Lymphoma and statistically should live until September. I've also been plagued with a bout of trigger thumb which has prevented me from knitting also for the last few months, much to my endless frustration.
Yet, Freia defies the odds and continues to eat and enjoy life, Cody has responded well to chemo and I'm trying my hand at knitting again. I'm able to tolerate working with super bulky yarn and large needles which suits me just fine. I've been slowly making a Pompom and Tuft Hat in Chinook that I hope to wear soon on these chilly days and nights when I walk the pups.
I think it's time to pack away this "Annus Horribilis" and look towards 2018 with hope and optimism. There are changes ahead which I'm looking forward to sharing with you over the next few months. With change comes challenge, but that is life and what is life without continued growth? We adapt and keep going. I am lucky to live where I live, where I have food on my plate, a roof over my head and a shared love of yarn, color and knitting with a lovely community of like-minded people.
Best wishes to you all on this coming year, may it be better than the last!
One thing in life is certain. Nothing is constant and everything changes. And so, out with the old and in with the new. I loved the not-so-old website I had built before this one, but times change, technology advances and some needs and wants and wouldn't it be nice if's that didn't seem important before become more so. The site had become too big for itself within the structure that it was built and even minor edits would take too long, trying my patience and taking up time that could be better spent doing something like .. I dunno.. knitting perhaps.
I looked for a long time for a template site that I like and that could bring the changes that I wanted and still be easy to edit and also not too cookie cutter. So this site was born. It may be a bit cookie cutter, but this is a cookie I can enjoy and I think I've been able to make enough changes to make it mine. With the new site I've been able to include a search function, a separate wholesale section to the trade (coming soon...!), faster updates and fewer typos (I hope). We also now have more payment options, we will be handling pattern downloads directly (no more third party missteps and now lightning fast delivery!), With an incorporated blog I can poke my head in and say a few deep and meaningful words at times as well. I"m looking forward to sharing with you more of the inner workings of what we do, as well as design projects and some tips and tutorials along the way.
Let me know what you think of the new site in the comments below - I'd love to hear from you!
ABout Tina Whitmore
Yarn Dyer, Designer, Dog Lover, in no particular order.. Founded Knitwhits in 2003, and Freia Fine Handpaints in 2010, introducing gradient yarn to knitting stores worldwide. Getting Hygge with it - warmth, comfort, color, texture, design, nature.