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Archive for June 9th, 2008

I Sing a Song of Lansing (Michigan)

Monday, June 9th, 2008

(…writing this from a hotel room in Columbus, Ohio, USA. Photos are from Columbus.)

I live in Lansing, Michigan. It is a rather ordinary place in many ways, but the people are quite fine. The artful folks all seem to know one another… knitters, painters, poets, musicians, theatre folks, dancers… we all overlap pretty regularly, it seems everyone knows everyone sometimes.

columbusbldg2.jpgBut as a professional making a living as an artful person? Mostly teaching knitting? Lansing is the best place of all.

For one thing, our guild is very strong. Often we have 30-50 people at a meeting. Weeks when we do not have a meeting, folks gather in member homes (the location rotates) and even in the summer when there are no big meetings, the knit-in’s happen every week.

And the most unique thing going on here? The yarn shops get along. They let their instructors teach at more than one shop.

Most towns require their instructors to be “loyal” and exclusive to only their one shop. Often those instructors are also regular employees of the shop, running the cash register and the like.

In Lansing, we currently have 4 shops in the contiguous communities which are the “greater Lansing area.” I teach for three of those four, and get along well with the one where I do not teach. I also teach at a shop 30 minutes south and am lining up a new relationship with a shop about 20 minutes north.

I have taught at regional and national events. Between those and the classes I teach at the local shops, guild retreats, non-local Michigan shops/guilds, and a little bit of other creative/teaching work, I make this my livelihood.

Sarah Peasley and Sharon Winsauer are also Lansing-area instructors who are on the national circuit. At least in my case, I could not make this my career if it were not for the far-reaching vision of the local shops.

We know we need each other. We know that when the whole knitting community is strong, healthy, friendly and well-served (no shop can have all yarns and fill all needs for any knitter), our entire industry in our area will be more healthy.

There is no sense thinking we are in scarcity. There *is enough* business for us all, abundance can reign if we all open up and see the big picture, the future.


I am here at the TNNA trade show. I’ve run into “the boyz” (Rob and Matt who own Threadbear Fiberarts on the West Side) and got a hug from Matt (when I saw Rob, he was seated and happily knitting with a group of friends and I was on my way to an appointment).

One shop in Lansing (Little Red Schoolhouse Yarns, run by Linda) did not come to the show this year. The shop north of town (Lavender and Peonies, run by LeeAnne) also didn’t make it.

However, I came with Rae and Cindy of Rae’s Yarn Boutique. Sarah Peasley came with Nancy McRay of Woven Art in East Lansing. Lindsay and Juli of Yarn Garden in Charlotte are also attending. And tonight, I wish I had taken a photograph. The seven I mention in this paragraph, went to dinner together and had a wonderful time.

This could not happen in most towns. I mentioned this to Beth Brown-Reinsel today. She just could not believe that not only could I teach at multiple shops in one town, but that we would go to dinner. It is just unheard of in this business. Probably in most businesses… you don’t go to dinner with “the competition.” I love breaking that rule!

Knitters go to any shop they can visit. We will always want to check out one more shop. Often vacations are planned or at least changed, to make way to a shop or three we have not yet experienced. Anyone who has a shop has done this, at least before they opened. Recently Rae bought yarn from Linda for a particular project. Hey, we are all in this together for the long haul, it makes sense to be friendly!

So tonight I am here to tell you how lucky I am, and how clearly I am aware of my great fortune. I have a wonderful job I would not trade for anything. I have good friends I’ve met in the business. And I do not have to pretend that I am loyal when few knitters are… I’m loyal all right: to knitting, other knitters, the lifestyle. The community of knitting. All of us, no matter which store I am in.

I am a very happy and lucky woman. I’m glad to be in this life. I’m delighted to share that happiness with you today.

Monday is the last day of the show… we do our last bit of ordering and take Cindy to the airport, then drive about 4.5 hours home. It has just been a wonderful experience here in Columbus.

Photos? Two views from the patio in front of our hotel (Royal Plaza). I love cities and that nice, tall, shiny building reflecting clouds made me smile. Yet looking directly around me, it was just like a garden. There are people walking in this area all the time, locals *and* tourists. These were taken around lunchtime and I saw a lot of folks walking to lunch with work colleagues. It’s an alive section of the city, for sure. I really enjoyed knitting on the patio for a while and drinking it in. My city is not big enough for this, and I loved every minute.