Fire Update #3

It’s been nearly a month since the fire took our home and my studio. The demolition still has not happened, so we are still in a kind of limbo. With no way (aside from the increasingly emotionally draining compilation of our property loss spreadsheet for the insurance company) to recapture the past, we are starting to look toward the future.

Our Quaker community has been of immense help; we thought we’d stay in the Friends Center guest room for a couple of nights while we sorted out our next moves — but they offered us a small unused private apartment for a couple of months. While staying here, they extended a further offer of a larger apartment, once it was vacated by its current tenant, for the span of 9-14 months (depending on a number of things). We’re glad to be nearby our old neighborhood, and staying in a place that already feels like home (considering how much time I spent here pre-Covid). The neighborhood is peaceful, green, and quiet.

We decided, once we had the lease in hand and approval from our landlords, to make an addition to our family. Meet Longfellow, our seal-point Siberian kitten. He’s about 3 months old, and (while he’s not eating, pooping, or rocketing around the apartment) is a complete snugglebug. At the encouragement of several people, we made him an Instagram account to chronicle his adorableness as long as he lets us stick cameras in his face. We hope that, once social isolation is over, we can introduce him to some of our local friends.

Now, to business (literally). Fallingblox Designs has 3 main divisions: Sales, Education, and R&D.

  1. Sales: The books I had in the apartment were destroyed, but I keep most of my books off-site. I picked up a box of each, plus some shipping envelopes. I ordered some new copies of Victorian Raffia and Bipolar. I’ve got a scale, printer, label printer, labels — technically everything I need to begin shipping. The issue is that I simply don’t have the space to set it all up. I’m going to need to wait until we’re in the new space in a few weeks. In the meantime, Wall of Yarn continues to drop-ship for me, so feel free to order stuff on my store as usual. As always, you can follow my pattern links to Ravelry as well.
  2. Education: I had to pay 150% of list, but I did re-acquire my high-end webcam for teaching virtual workshops. The laptop I had ordered for workshop streaming arrived a few days after the fire. Now the only bottleneck is that the Meeting House only has 50mbps internet. We are in the process of upgrading that to full gigabit service. When that happens, I’ll run some tests and then open the workshop books again.
  3. R&D: Unfortunately, patterns that were in development are on hold until I can acquire new yarn for them. Projects in progress were in cloth drawstring bags in a crate in my living room. The chance that any of them have survived is nil. Just to keep my hands busy, I am working on a new pattern unrelated to the ones I’ve been posting about thus far. As soon as I’m able to restart work on previous patterns, you’ll hear about it here.

Please help Roselene

You have heard about our troubles over the past couple of weeks. Thank you for your outpouring of support and well-wishes. Despite the tragic loss of our home and most of our possessions, we are well insured and supported. This is not the case for everyone in our building, however. Our next-door neighbor (in the other basement unit) was a renter without insurance, a first-generation Haitian immigrant with a teenage son, and a genuinely sweet, if shy, person. She has lost everything and has no easy path to the next steps her life will need to take. She is staying with family, while her son is staying several towns over with other family. They will be reunited soon, but she needs immediate help.

We may yet be able to retrieve some of our stuff, my samples, our memorabilia, etc — and what we can’t, we have insurance and good friends offering to help replace things. But we won’t ask for help until while our neighbor still suffers. To that end, we have set up a GoFundMe for Roselene, in the hopes that we can direct some of the goodwill coming our way toward someone who needs it more than we do right now.

Later on, when the demolition has happened and we have some closure, we may reach out for other help. But right now, please help Roselene if you are able. Thank you.

Update: The GoFundMe raised its target amount within 12 hours and nearly doubled its target in less than a week. Thank you to the nearly 200 generous souls who donated to a stranger in need. We have turned off the donation button just shy of the 200-donor limit (to keep Roselene from having to deal with a 1099-K come next tax season).

In other news

I have taken my website out of hiatus mode. Fallingblox Designs is not fully recovered but certain things are at least starting to move again. Please visit the Fire Updates page for the latest on how Fallingblox Designs is rebuilding.

Thank you for all the messages of support via this blog, email, Facebook, etc; I will be responding to those that require responses soon.

An update on our home

Dear friends,

This is an update on our situation, a little over a week later. For those who hadn’t heard, our home burned down at 2:30 AM on Sunday, May 31. The building was an 8-unit condo with about 20 residents; all made it out OK. The 3-alarm fire devastated the interior of the building; however, our unit is one of two on the “garden level” (i.e. the basement) where the damage is much more water and smoke and toxic debris than actual fire. However, the city deemed the building structurally unsound and we have not been allowed into the unit to see if anything can be retrieved. We still do not have a final report on how the fire started.

The demolition was supposed to happen relatively quickly, but delays from Eversource have kept the city from issuing the permit we need to proceed with that. Because of that, our unit has continued to languish in the summer heat and the moisture remaining from 5+ hours of high-pressure water, which means we are likely going to have a severe mold problem in addition to everything else.

We still hold out hope that some of our most important and irreplaceable items can be retrieved and possibly restored, but we won’t know until the demolition can begin. Eversource’s delay may yet cost us another couple of weeks without the closure we so sorely need.

To everyone who has already offered help, thank you so much. We feel lucky to have you in our lives. Your generosity adds light and hope to our lives every day, even when we don’t always respond immediately. Our Quaker community has been incredibly generous in helping us with temporary housing as we regroup. We have also had many offers of help from family, friends, and coworkers. Local people have offered furniture, clothes, food and sundries; knitters and yarn companies have offered to help replace yarn and reknit some of my samples; others have offered financial support and encouraged us to open a GoFundMe.

We have been reluctant to ask for any of those things because, as I mentioned, we don’t yet know what can be salvaged. We cannot accommodate a lot of material donations in our small apartment, and we have a very good insurance plan which should cover a large amount of the lost property — and will help us with rent until our condo is rebuilt. We’re doing (financially) OK — but we have one neighbor who is not. She’s a Haitian immigrant with a teenage son, who also lost everything and has no insurance. She’s living with family but her son has to live in a different town. Before we ask for any help for ourselves, we want to make sure she is OK and has the resources to rebuild her life with her son. To that end, we will likely be setting up a small fund to help her get back on her feet. Stay tuned for that.

To our local friends, thank you for the help offered so far. When the demolition happens, we will likely need hands and vehicles to cart stuff to a storage unit nearby. Aside from that, stay tuned.

To my knitting friends, students and followers, I am still optimistic that some of my stash and samples may survive this. Most of it (aside from WIPs) were in ziploc bags inside watertight bins, as a moth deterrent — the water should also have been deterred. If it turns out that this is not the case, I will begin a list of yarns and projects I will need replaced. If you are up to the challenge of sample knitting for me, you can join my test and sample knitters mailing list. If you just want to support my creative pursuits in double-knitting, please feel free to buy a pattern on Ravelry. For those who have found backdoor links to my online store (which I have tried to keep hidden until I am able to fulfill orders again), I have a limited supply of books and patterns at Wall of Yarn in IL; they are drop-shipping them for me during this time. Due to this limitation, I cannot currently sign books for you. As soon as the way opens, I will try to start running my virtual workshops again.

To our Quaker community, please hold us in the Light. We greatly appreciate the material and spiritual support you have offered and given, and I hope to be able to continue supporting the Meeting in all the ways I have thus far, and more.

To everyone who has made it this far, thank you for your care and support. We will make it through this. The world is burning, and we are but a small part of it. Our problems, large as they seem to us right now, pale in comparison to the systemic racism and violence our country visits on its most vulnerable citizens and residents, and the continuing ravages of the pandemic here and worldwide. Please know that we are marching beside you in spirit, even as our bodies and minds are exhausted from this ordeal. We hope to join you soon. We love you all.

Alasdair & Marcus

Fallingblox Designs is on hiatus

We have lost our home and studio in a massive fire. All of my samples, works in progress, and yarn were destroyed — over a decade of work and 40+ years of memories, up in smoke. I have no way of fulfilling orders or teaching virtual workshops. I have no idea when I will be able to begin normal operations again. My wife and I and the other tenants of the building are (at least physically) OK.

If you want to support me during this difficult time, please visit my Ravelry store. I have done my best to hide access to my store, but if you manage to place an order for physical books or patterns, it will be cancelled and refunded. 

Later, I may ask for more concrete help — yarn from dyers I’ve worked with, samples from sample knitters — but for the moment I need to focus on rebuilding my life. You may feel free to contact me, but I cannot guarantee a timely reply.

Thank you for understanding.

Alasdair Post-Quinn, “Softwear Engineer”

Introducing: Virtual workshops!

It’s been a long time in coming, but a number of things have come together and it’s finally time to announce that I’m ready to teach virtual workshops!

During the lockdown, I’ve had more time to iron out some details. A week or so ago, I ran a small workshop with a group of friends to test out the instructional technology (this is mostly equipment I already use to teach; I just needed to make sure it would work remotely). A few weeks ago, I posted a survey to get input on various facets of this project. This week, I’ve been reworking large sections of my website to make it easier for people to find and register for workshops. Finally, today, Craftsy/Bluprint announced that it will be closing, which opens a huge hole in the online video workshop ecosystem.

Before I make my announcement, I want to go over the numbers and some other info (scroll to the bottom if you don’t care about statistics). First, I had 184 responses to the survey before I closed it down. I had noticed responses slowing down so I decided to stop the survey at that point. Here’s the breakdown of interest in these workshops, at least from these 184 people:

As you can see (and to my surprise) multi-color double-knitting takes the prize with 124 people interested (about 67% of respondents).

Availability seems to be highest in the evenings and weekend afternoons, regardless of the lockdown, so I’ll stick with those timings for now.

Nearly 75% of respondents said they’d prefer a workshop that was 3 hours long (same as my usual timing) but about 2/3 of those preferred a break midway through. Another 20% said 2 hours would be enough. Time will tell but we’ll start with the 3-hour workshops with a built-in break.

For price: almost 40% of people thought a price point between $40 and $60 would be reasonable, but a little more than 30% wanted between $20 and $40. 12% said $60-80, and the rest gave many, many individual suggestions. Due to the variety of responses, I’ve decided to offer my workshops at a sliding scale starting at $30 (with my Entrelac workshop starting higher, of course). This way, people can choose how much they value the workshop. And if they change their mind (at least in the positive direction) later, I’ve also implemented a tip jar.

Now, to the announcement:

Due to popular demand (see the graph above), I’ve decided to offer my multi-color double-knitting workshop as the inaugural virtual workshop! It’ll be a week from today, Saturday, May 30th, from 2-5pm ET. It’ll be capped at 15 people, so I expect it to sell out quickly. Register now! (…and it’s sold out!)

Some answers to inevitable questions follow:

Why so soon? Because I want to test the entire system sooner rather than later, and because logistics are a little less difficult right now since you don’t need to drive anywhere to get to the workshop.

Why so few people? Because I want to test the entire system — from payment and enrollment to the workshop itself — on a smaller number of people to reduce disappointment if something goes terribly wrong (not that I expect it to). And because I expect that finding 15 people out of 124 (or more) will not be terribly difficult.

Why not the intro first? Frankly, because I contractually can’t. I am teaching at Virtual Vogue Knitting Live in June, and I have a non-compete agreement that means I can’t teach my intro classes (the only ones they’re having me teach) from now-ish until June 29th.

I have not yet decided on a schedule for the other workshops but I will post about those as soon as I can.

Thanks for your continued interest and stay tuned soon for more!

Want to learn double-knitting online?

This is something I should have sorted out long ago — but the lockdown (and the attendant cancellations of all of my 2020 gigs) has encouraged me to take a harder look at online video workshops. What I need to do now is to gauge your interest.

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who took my survey on video workshops. With 184 responses as of May 20th, 2020, I have enough info to proceed. I have closed the survey and will be analyzing the responses to make a game plan shortly. I’ll make another post about that soon. In the meantime, if you’d like to be sure to hear about workshops when they’re available (either physically or digitally), please follow my blog or Facebook page, or better yet join my mailing list. Thanks!

In other news

The patterns AbaciscusEurekaWaterford Crossing, and Hesperos have now been released as standalone versions! Hexworth should have been on that list, but the yarn has been discontinued, so I will need to find a reasonable replacement and work up a new sample before I can release that pattern. It probably goes without saying, but if you already own Double or Nothing, there is no reason for you to buy any of these patterns (but you can, if you’re a completist and want to support me).

If you’re waiting on individual patterns from Extreme Double-knitting, I’ll probably wait a little longer until I release those. Stay tuned!

Knitting is Zen, this is Tao

It’s been a little while since I put out a new pattern, but the continuing lockdown is keeping me occupied with my ever-growing list of creative pursuits. I alluded to this pattern in a couple of previous posts, and now it’s time for a proper announcement.

Agni Deus

This is a new hat pattern, but it’s not alone: it’s part 1 of a serial collection that will be released over the next several months as patterns are ready. So the price ($11.95) may seem steep for a single hat pattern, but rest assured that the other 4 will make it well worth your while. The collection is called Wuxing: 5 Elements, and the hats are themed for the Chinese 5 elements (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood) that figure prominently in Taoism and other Chinese philosophies. Agni Deus is, clearly, the Fire hat.

Each of the 5 patterns is going to be pushing the envelope on double-knitting in some new and interesting way. The patterns have a structural motif in common — a kind of teardrop shape that manifests in different ways, using the off-the-grid style to great effect. In Agni Deus, the shape is reminiscent of a flame — and at the heart of the flame there are beads! Of course, since it’s double-knit, there are two different colors of beads on either layer. And yes, the pattern does explain how to achieve the beading.

You can get the hat pattern as the first installment of the Wuxing collection here, or you can order a kit from BeadBiz — your choice of 10 different combinations of A Hundred Ravens Yaksha yarn and appropriate beads, along with a bead hook to apply them.

Curious about what the next patterns might look like? Stay tuned: the Honey Locust hat is test-knitted and the pattern just needs to be written up. The others will make stealthy appearances on my Instagram and Facebook feeds, so follow me and you might just catch a peek.

In other news

This actually warrants higher billing, but the pattern announcement took priority. A couple of months ago, before the pandemic hit properly, I spent a number of hours talking to Andrea of the Fruity Knitting podcast. The podcast was finally released today and I hear it’s really good! I have been busy today (and I am always a little nervous to see myself on screen) but I will check it out before too long. Meanwhile, you should go take a look at it, and share it with your friends too. There’s a blog post and (of course) a YouTube video.

While we’re on podcasts, I was on a livestream with Suzanne Bryan in late January, and that recording is also up if you’re interested.

Finally, I have been working on revamping some portions of my website. Feel free to go poke around — especially the patterns area — and see if you can see what’s new. There will be more changes coming as I have time.

P.S.: As I’m sure you were expecting, given the demise of my teaching opportunities this year, I am working on a video instruction solution; I needed to iron out some technical details and reclaim some space before I could properly work on this. But now that I can, I hope to have some news for you on that front soon.

Stay tuned! More to come sooner than usual.

Obligatory COVID-19 Post

Friends, I am aware it has been many months since I have posted here. Life updates later; more importantly, I need to give an update on the Coronavirus’ impact on my teaching schedule.

As you may have already heard, events are being cancelled or postponed all over the country (and the world). I had been waiting for the final word on the last event in my Spring teaching schedule, and received it yesterday.

As of today, my entire Spring schedule is cancelled. Stitches United, DFW Fiber Festival, Interweave Yarn Fest, and the LYS/guild events in MA have all been cancelled. Interweave is in the process of moving its event to late August, but it is likely that I will not be able to attend. I do not have anything solid scheduled for this Fall, and I hesitate to mention the events I’m tentatively scheduled for until we know how long this situation will last.

I am losing quite a bit of this year’s income due to this virus — but at least my wife and I have other income to hold us over. I am not in as much trouble as many other indie designers and dyers etc for whom the fiber business is their only income. So, what am I doing with my “free time”?

I have had a number of projects on the back burner for some time — some new patterns, some video work, some rehashing of old patterns, etc. I’m going to use this time to take care of some of these projects — but also look into distance learning (or teaching, really) possibilities. Stay tuned! As soon as I have info for you, I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, I’d like to remind you that my books and patterns are still available on my web store, and guaranteed virus-free (coronavirus, even if I had it, does not last long enough on paper to infect you at delivery. Still, wash your hands! I can’t make any promises about your mail carrier). Please note that my books are still in stock at Amazon, but I may not be able to replenish them when they sell out due to Amazon’s current rules. Your best deal will always be to order from my website, since you will get a free PDF download of the book or pattern!

In other news

My wife and I had an amazing time in Armenia last October, despite some travel difficulties and the language barrier. It’s a stunningly beautiful country with friendly people and amazing food (quite different from what you probably consider “Armenian food”) and I highly recommend it. If you speak some Russian, you’ll have a much easier time getting around than we did.

Mt Ughtasar, near the Azerbaijan border, about 10,000 ft above sea level

We have decided to go to Burning Man this year (my wife has been once without me) and I am the lighting lead for our camp. Trivia: I used to build light shows for raves back in the 90s and early 00s; my knowledge is out of date and needs some updating but I look forward to the opportunity to build some fun stuff for the playa this year. I am also double-knitting a playawear garment out of Sirdar Alpine and Caron Simply Soft in neon colors. I might redesign it in something a little more “dignified” for pattern release later.

At home, we have a recurring plumbing issue that should have been fixed months ago which is delaying the kitchen renovation we had planned for. Progress has been made, but then the virus hit, so we have no idea when the plumbing will be repaired or when we’ll be able to start in on the kitchen. Still, we have a floorplan we like and are looking forward to the opportunity.

In other (knitting) news

The last blog post I made alluded to a new pattern. This having been months ago, the new pattern is now ready for publishing. It’s a hat using off-the-grid double-knitting and beads! It’s part of a new collection called Wuxing: 5 Elements that will be completed over time as each pattern is ready. When all five patterns are complete, I’ll compile them all into a single collection. For now, however, only the one pattern is available.

The plan was to release it at DFW with a kit through BeadBiz and A Hundred Ravens (both of whom contributed materials to it). However, with the cancellation of DFW, we decided to step things up a bit. There will still be a kit — but it will be available to mail-order (at least for now) and will come with a discount code for the rest of the collection. The plan is to do a similar thing for each of the patterns, if the yarn companies are interested.

So this is kind of a soft release — I’m not making a big publicity push until the kits are available — but if you’re not interested in a kit, the pattern Agni Deus is available now. And of course, if you buy the collection now, you’ll get the other patterns as they become available.

For those of you waiting on Fallingblox Redux, it had to go to the back burner while I reworked another (thus far secret) pattern. More news on that one when it comes out, and I hope to get back to the Fallingblox pattern soon.

Thanks for your interest, stay safe, and stay tuned!

Flames are rising …

Today, the most important thing I want to mention is that I’ll be leaving the country for a couple of weeks on vacation with my wife. It’s been 4 years since my last proper vacation (no coincidence: it has taken about the same amount of time to write/edit/print two books). We’ll be visiting Armenia, with a short stopover in Austria where we’ll get to visit with some of my wife’s father’s relatives. Because I’ll be gone for a couple of weeks, any orders you place on my store will be delayed in shipping until I return. So order soon, or prepare to wait. I’ll be leaving Saturday evening, so if you order today or Friday, I’ll most likely be able to ship before I leave.

Upcoming workshops

I have a break this month, but when I return, I’ll finish up my Fall 2019 season with:

Then, we skip ahead to the Spring 2020 season, where the following appearances are booked:

I also have a couple of appearances in the works which I am not yet at liberty to discuss. I’ll post them as soon as I can; you can also check for details on my events calendar.

For those of you who were expecting to see my name pop up for Stitches events, I’m sorry. I opted out of Salt Lake because I expected to be traveling during that time, and I was not booked for SoCal 2019 or West 2020. I hope to be back to more Stitches events in the future, but time will tell!

A quick update about the project on my needles:

Agni Deus, beading complete!

This is Agni Deus, or a small piece of it, showing the fold-up brim with both types of beads exposed. As I mentioned back in May while I was swatching for this, it’s one of the Five Elements hats — obviously, this is “fire”. The iridescent red/orange beads are meant to represent embers (and the red pattern is fire); the matte black beads are meant to represent charcoal, and the gray pattern is smoke. Of course, it’ll be fascinating to see what other people do with their color combinations. The yarn is A Hundred Ravens Yaksha. The beading is complete; I just need to finish the crown. This hat will not be coming with me to Armenia; instead I’ll be bringing Falling Blocks Redux to keep me occupied on the long flights. Updates on both as I have them …

Thanks for visiting and stay tuned!

Drama, workshops, and more

I previously published a longer, more opinionated version of this blog post after discovering that a knitting colleague of mine had apparently had a meltdown, apparently triggered by backlash from the Ravelry support statement they had made. Between the last contact I had with them and today, their social media presence has all but disappeared, leaving only discussions on Ravelry and indirect info via hashtags in IG. Once upon a time, there must have been an account from their perspective, but that’s all missing now so all that’s left is a festering pool of vitriol leveled at someone I always thought of as cool and collected.

I don’t know what to think about this, and I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth. I am aware that I come from a place of privilege, as a straight, white, middle-class, cis-gender male. I want to listen to the experiences of BIPOC and members of other marginalized communities, so that I can offer the best support I can. But I am also an Aspie, and I understand neuroatypicality and mental illness, at least from my own perspective. I see elements of both dynamics here, and I will wait until more facts come out to pass judgement (for whatever that’s worth) in this situation.

(I am purposely not naming names out of respect for their privacy, and I would appreciate you doing the same in the comments field if you use it).

Upcoming Workshops

I know the above was fairly heavy, so thanks for sticking with me. I’ve got a few events coming up and I hope to see you there!

I also have tentative events the weekend of Nov 9-10, 2019 at Craftworks Coop in Northboro, MA, and another planned for April that I can’t talk about just yet. More will be posted as I have it. You can check my events calendar for class listings and more info.

Patterns under way

Now, the part you’re probably wondering about most. It’s been a while since Extreme Double-knitting came out, and you haven’t seen any new patterns from me. Truth be told, I’ve had a lot of difficulty over the past year: injuries, a death in the family, changing responsibilities at work and more. I’ve gone in and out of creative modes and have done less than I hoped. However, I feel I owe you an update on the various things on (and off) my needles, so here you go:

  • Rats Live on No Evil Scarf: If you follow me on IG, you may have seen some of this. This massive two-pattern palindrome scarf is finished and blocked; it just needs a model. I admit I set the bar high because I wanted a model with pet rats so we could have thematically appropriate photos. I have one, but she hasn’t been responding. We may have to downgrade to mice — we’ll see :>
  • Agni Deus: This fire-themed beaded double-knit hat is waiting in the wings for me to have time for a more involved project. I have ironed out the details so it just needs to be knitted.
  • Honey Locust: This earth-themed double-knit tam is being tackled by four adventurous test knitters. Once they’re all done, I’ll do the final edits on the pattern — but it will be part of a larger collection, so I have to decide whether to wait for all of them to be done or release them piecemeal.
  • Falling Blocks Redux: I’ve selected yarn for a two-color two-pattern version of my signature three-color two-pattern double-knit hat. I expect the knitting to be fairly quick.
  • Severn Thicket: I never had my own version of this pattern, as the yarn company commissioned it and has the only knitted sample. I found the remaining yarn and decided to knit my own sample, making a couple of subtle changes too.
  • Super Secret project: I’m working on another cowl — a pretty quick knit, in the same “family” as Bipolar — for a really fascinating and unique book that presents patterns in a completely new way I’ve never seen before. It’s definitely got me thinking, but this will likely eat whatever creative time I have through the end of August.

Thanks for your interest and stay tuned!