Ask Poops, Please

Putting my two cents in.

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Location: Belmont, New Hampshire, United States

Born and bred in a small New England town, I am convinced that I know something about everything, and that my opinion matters. If only to me. Well, you'll see what I mean. And I love to knit, so you'll see what kind of things I'm doing when I should be vacuuming the living room.

Friday, April 27, 2007

There Were Bells, On the Hill, But I Never Heard Them Ringing

You know, it figures. Yesterday I ran out to Joanns to buy buttons just so that I could finish my latest sweater and photograph it to show you.

And today, it rains.

Unfortunately, my house is dark, and my camera needs lots of natural, bright light for you to even be able to see what I’ve made.

But I took it outside and this is as good as it gets, photowise.

This is a size 2T sweater made from more of that lovely Knitpicks Shine Sport. I was a bit panicky for a minute that the placket on the shoulder wouldn’t make the neckline big enough to fit over a toddler head, but it goes on Bobo’s just a bit snugly, and she is both three and has a ginormous head, so it’ll be just fine on your average two-year-old.

Anyway, the bands of raspberry color have eyelets in them, and the blue band has bobbles. I didn’t care for the bobbles much worked up in cotton, but like I said, I also didn’t hate it enough to frog either.

Sgeddes (which I pronounce “sketties” as in the way kids order spaghetti) wonders “What is your biggest source of inspiration for your knitting projects?”

Hmm, that’s a tough one. And it did get me to thinking what did inspire the stuff I’ve made.

I got inspired to knit in the first place because I wanted to be able to make winter hats and mittens for my kids. I really wanted to learn mittens. And it turns out it’s still my favorite thing in the world to make. Sometimes I’ll be sitting here, not doing anything, and just get the urge to cast on some mittens. I can whip up a kid-sized pair in a few hours, so of course I’ve got that instant gratification thing going for me.

But sometimes I’m inspired by a pattern. I say “inspired” because I seldom knit a pattern exactly as it’s written. I always have to tweak something. So I might see a pattern for a coffee cup cozy made from fingering weight yarn and decide to make one out of worsted because that’s what I have on hand. Or I might decide I want a small, felted bowl to keep my stitchmarkers in and wind up making a squadron of them. Yesterday I cast on for a washrag because I felt the urge to make one. I don’t know why, but there you go.

Lots of times I’m inspired by the yarn itself. I will occasionally pick up a yarn and buy it because I like how it looks or feels (or both) and wait for the perfect project to show itself. I have some yarns that I love but haven’t used just because the right project hasn’t come along. And sometimes I’ll stumble across a yarn that just screams to be something specific, be it a lace scarf, a pair of fingerless mittens, or a sweater.

Of course sometimes I knit even when I’m not inspired to. Case in point: my latest fingerless mittens. I told you there was as story behind these. Wanna hear it? Can you bear another story? This one won’t be as long as the last one, I promise.

Here’s a picture of the fingerless mittens. I can’t tell you how lovely this yarn is to work with. It’s handpainted merino from Fearless Fibers on etsy and it is just beautiful. The colors are gorgeous and the yarn is butter soft. These mittens are made from the end of a skein I used to make legwarmers and a hat.

See, it all started when I posted a pair of teal colored wool fingerless mittens on etsy. They were one of the first two things I listed and sold quite quickly. I was encouraged! Someone else piped up—another customer—and said she loved them and did I have them in an earth-toned colored yarn. I said I didn’t but I’d be happy to whip some up. So I picked out a yarn at Fearless Fibers that I liked, showed it to the customer and she liked it, and I made her a pair from it. She bought them and loved them.

So far, so good, right?

Well the skein of yarn had generous yardage, and I had plenty left to make another pair of mitts. I made some nice simple mitts in a 2 x 2 rib and posted them. And before long, they were on their way to a new home as well.

The buyer RAVED about her mitts! Looooooved them! Could I make a hat and scarf, and maybe some legwarmers to match? I won’t make a scarf for love or money. But the hat should be easy enough, and I’m willing to give legwarmers a go. No problem.

But see, here’s where I should have ended it, and didn’t, whore that I am. She said she wanted a hat with the same pattern (ribbed) with no flipped-up brim and no pom pom. A watch cap. I showed her a picture. She said she didn’t like how the bottom pulled in. I said it looked that way because there was about an inch of a smaller rib at the bottom. It had to be there, otherwise when you put the hat on it wouldn’t stay pulled down. Sort of like the way underpants won’t stay pulled up without that band of elastic at the top.

She seemed to understand what I was saying, and told me to go ahead.

In retrospect I can see that this was Warning Bell Number One. I heard it. I ignored it. (Knitters reading this right now have probably already gone “Oh, boy…” under their breath. Yeah, I know. Keep reading. It gets better.) I made the hat and showed her a pic before I mailed it. She thought it looked too long and reminded me that she didn’t want a rolled up brim.

Warning Bell Number Two, duly ignored by yours truly.

I explained that it only looked long in relation to its height because it was ribbed, and ribbing pulls in until something gets inside of it to push it out. Sort of in the same way her mitts are just skinny tubes until they get on her hands and assume their shape.

I sent it, she loved it. I knew once it was on, she’d love it. It was freaking cute. Still is.

I worked and worked and worked on the legwarmers. Now here’s the thing about legwarmers, and legs in general. Ankles are small. Calves are large. On some of us the difference is huge. On other, more normal-sized folks, not so much. But there is usually a size differential of at least a few inches, so purchased legwarmers often feature two things: extra-stretchy ends that allow the tube to be pulled up over the calf and remain there snugly, while hugging the ankle as well, or in the case of most legwarmers, they also use an elastic yarn in the first place to give that extra bit of stretchiness.

The customer told me she wanted straight tubes. I patiently explained that even in 2 x 2 rib, the ends wouldn’t be super flexible. So where a tube of ribbing works great for a mitten where the difference between the narrowest part of the wrist and the widest part of the hand is at most an inch or two, things are different on the leg end. I told her that while she wouldn’t have a problem on the ankle side, the side that sits on the calf might be too tight unless I add some ease. Even if you scrunch them down, which is how she wears them, the top part is still worn on the calf. Which is bigger.

How do you explain to a customer who clearly has no concept of garment construction that she isn’t going to like what she thinks she wants because what she wants is not likely to fit her properly?

I’ve been making garments for decades. Literally. I know how to make things fit. I told her that I’d add some stitches so that one end would have more stretch than the other. That it would probably look a bit like a bell on one end but—and here’s the important part—when she put it on, both ends would be identical to look at. However, the top edge would be more stretchy and therefore fit better and feel more comfortable.

She seemed to understand that. I told her that before I started knitting them. I showed them too her before I sent them, and she was still concerned about one side being larger. She wrote “All of my legwarmers are the same at both ends. One end is usually more flexible than the other, and that is the end I wear UP so I can scrunch them DOWN.”

Warning Bell Number Three. And this bell was loud. It hurt my ears.

You’re probably thinking at this point that I should have just made the friggin’ tubes, damn the fit, and be done with it. Yeah, I’m thinking you’re right.

But, in for a penny, in for a pound. I said, yes, the extra stitches make the UP end more flexible. Just like I told you before I started. And you can wear them UP or DOWN, doesn’t matter once they’re on. The extra stitches DO NOT affect the appearance, only the fit.

I figured that after seeing the difference between how the mitts looked ON, and how the hat looked ON, she’d get that the legwarmers would look different…ON.

I sent them off, noting again that the bell-shaped end was the top, and sent them off.

She emailed me back and said she hated them. She said they were "curved" and that she specifically said that she wanted flat, straight tubes.

After no less than three warning bells, should I have been surprised when the bomb went off? It would have made me a first class idiot, to be sure. No, I wasn’t surprised.

Perhaps I should have just made the tubes so that I’d have been able to say “I told you so” when she said that the top wasn’t flexible enough. Or perhaps she really has tube-shaped legs and tube-shaped legwarmers would have been perfect. She might even have put them on, decided that they didn't fit right, but because I told her that would happen, wouldn't have said anything. Or I could have fixed it and charged for the alteration that I had suggested in the first place.

Nope, I had to anticipate a fit problem ahead of time, correct for it, only to get shot down.

So when she said she didn’t like them, I really had had enough at that point. I am to this day convinced that she never put them on her body. If she had, she’d have seen that they not only looked perfect, but they fit perfectly as well. I can’t prove it, but let’s just say I can feel it right to my core.

Now, I could have offered to take them back, rip back to the point before I added the stitches and just make them into the tubes she wanted all along. Someone devoted to customer service would have done just that. Someone who thinks the customer is always right would have done that too.

But I'm always right, you know.

And really, sometimes you just gotta let go. I told her I’d give her a full refund on the hat and the legwarmers, since she had planned on wearing them as a set and the hat was no good on its own.

Needless to say, the hat and legwarmers will be posted for sale on etsy, along with the pair of fingerless mitts made from the leftover yarn. I’m going to reduce the price too. And of course I’ll make sure that the legwarmers are modeled so that a potential buyer can see how great they look ON.

You know the worst part of all of this? I had a bad feeling about it right from the get-go. When she first asked if I could make something else for her, I immediately didn’t want to do it. She wasn’t precise about what she wanted. She couldn’t communicate her needs to me. She had trouble visualizing a finished garment.

I knew I shouldn’t do it, and I priced it high thinking that maybe she’d change her mind. And when she didn’t, I just didn’t feel that I was in a position to turn down a wad of cash. I should really stop being a whore, knit what I want to knit—you know, the stuff I’m INSPIRED to knit—and leave it at that.

It's precisely why many of you will post a comment saying "that's why I don't knit for money" or "I would never knit to order."

You are not whores. I congratulate you on your moral fortitude.

What have I learned from all this? Stop ignoring the bells.


Blogger Bezzie said...

And there was muuuusic beautiful music they tell me....

Love that toddler sweater. I need to submit another question. As your girls get bigger do you think your design interests (i.e. sweater sizes) will evolve with them?

I'll bet you didn't charge Ms. Legwarmers enough money either. But who knows? Maybe she had legs like drinking straws--those flexy kind...her knees were accordian like.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to let you know (You probably already do because you are Poops!) but there are some people that no matter how hard you try you just can't please them! That customer sounds like she is one of those people. Don't beat yourself up over not listening to your bells just take note of it. I am sorry you had to go through such an ordeal with that lady.

2:45 PM  
Blogger sgeddes said...

Great answer! I love the little sweater - very cute.

I won't be surprised if little Ms. Legwarmer doesn't decide to buy them at the reduce priced once she see's them modeled!

Oh, and I love your pronunciation of my name - prefer it much more than the actual pronunciation. I think I'll adopt yours!

12:04 PM  

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