Thursday, April 17, 2008

Job reflections...part one...

Some of you already know that my job working at my local yarn shop is quickly coming to an end. I'll have had it for barely a year when I'll see my last day there in mid-May. This is not a huge thing from a supporting-my-family standpoint, because the job was not a security thing. It was an extras thing. So many extras, most of which had nothing to do with finances.

A little history...two Januaries ago, I followed a whim to knit. I'd learned as a child and had dabbled off and on over the years, but I knew pretty much nothing about knitting well or using good-quality fibers. So when I walked into the small yarn shop in Florida just down the road from my mom's house, it was totally without expectation that anything would come of it. I bought yarn and a set of needles to make a rolled-brim hat for my daughter, and with the vaguest of verbal instructions from the shop employee who wrung up my order, I set off. Once back at my mom's, I had to get on the Internet to look up instructions on how to cast on, because I couldn't remember how.

During that same Florida trip, maybe a day or two later, I was in a store and happened upon Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's book, "Knitting Rules!" I had no idea who SP-M was, but it looked like a pretty good book and it had a chapter on hats. So I bought the book and read it cover-to cover -- not the usual vacation reading -- and in doing so, I laughed a lot and more importantly, I started to learn things. (Even now, I recommend that book to every new knitter I come upon, I think it is so good.)

From that book, I learned how to do hat decreases, which came in handy on my hat project. Once home, though, I needed to find some knitting help because I knew I needed to finish the hat using DPNs, but I had no idea how to do that.

The shop girl in Florida had kindly looked up yarn shops in my area, and lo and behold, there was one not five minutes from my house: Bonnie Knits. I sought it out soon after I got home and signed up for a one-on-one lesson with a knitter named Pat. The shop itself was overwhelming with more yarn than I ever imagined and the owner, Bonnie, seemed to me that she must be a genuine knitting goddess from the many store samples that she made. Pat, as it turned out, was a godsend...she was wonderfully encouraging of my efforts and so kind. I finished my hat and she raved and praised me. Talk about positive reinforcement.

I went on and made more hats. Everyone was getting hats from me. No special occasion necessary. I realized it was time to move on, so made a scarf and some mittens. Then Pat taught me how to cable, so I made a cabled scarf.

As spring approached and hat and scarf season was ending, I got ambitious and made a cardigan for my daughter with an Ella Rae pattern (cables and bobbles). I also made an ill-fated (and ill-fitting) sweater for myself...ill-fated only because I opted to stray wildly from the pattern before fully understanding all of the concepts necessary to doing so. Still, it was a learning experience.

For three months, I found myself going to Bonnie's several times a week. Sometimes it was busy, sometimes not, and on the not-so-busy days, I got to know the shop owner and the other ladies who worked there, and it became a comfortable place for me...a much-needed "third place" in my life that I hadn't realized I needed.

One Saturday when I was in there, it was only Bonnie me. As always, Bonnie patiently answered my myriad questions and helped me search out patterns. While checking out, I got up the nerve to ask her if she ever needed extra help at the shop. I surprised myself by asking, because I was in no way looking for a job. She surprised me by saying yes, then she surprised me again by calling the next week and asking if I could come in for a couple hours to train the next week.

On May 1, I worked for my first day at Bonnie's store. For most of this past year, that is what I've done every Saturday, with an occasional odd day during the week if they were short-handed. I loved working there. I loved working -- a feeling I'd never had about any other job in my life. I'd voluntarily offered up my Saturdays -- my "me" days, as the kids and Kevin were usually off doing their own thing every week on Saturdays -- to work. And I never regretted it. It never got old or boring and I never wished I could call off.

So, when Bonnie closes the shop next month to begin a well-earned retirement, I'll be out of the best job I've ever had. It's bittersweet, to be sure. I love the place and the people and of course, the yarn! But this year has been about more than a job. It's been about the extras, the things I did not expect from this experience.

More about those later...time to go knit for a while.

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