Sunday, September 30, 2007

rain, rain, go away

I stock on the first day of the month, so the last few days before are always busy. This month it's been especially last-minuteish. I've been trying to photograph my yarn and knits for five days now, but it won't stop raining.

I've got photos of everything, from when I run outside during a break in the rain with a pile of yarn in my arms. But something's off in a lot of them--I didn't primp the longies, so the drawstring is askew, or the legs are crooked, or the color of the yarn isn't true despite my best efforts at photo editing.

I've got some friends who have set up a little homemade photo studio in their wood shop. Maybe I'll be paying them a visit today.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

yarn review: Full Belly Farm

Denise of Zen Child dyed some Full Belly Farm yarn and sent it to me to knit up. It's a two-ply, organic worsted yarn that is made from Rambouillet, Lincoln, Suffolk, and merino wool.

I love the dye job that Denise did--a lovely, variegated, and completely NON-POOLING colorway of greens and blues. But the yarn itself? Not so much. There isn't much stretch to the yarn, so instead of gliding over my Addis, I had to pull and tug the knitted work every few stitches, which really slowed me down. It was also somewhat thick and thin, so it's got that nubby thing going on. It doesn't drape smoothly, like most of the yarns I've been using lately--makes a very stiff fabric. It's a little bit like a lumpy, nonstretchy Targhee.

And the VM! All the comments I've ever seen about this yarn mention the significant amount of vegetative matter. I'm convinced they must encourage the sheep to wallow in brambles, because I've never seen so much VM in a skein of yarn. Last year I had some fleeces from non-coated, free-to-roam Clun Forest sheep processed and spun for me, and have knitted up about eight or 10 skeins of it. One skein of FBF has probably double the amount of VM from those skeins combined.

And to top it off, instead of each skein weighing 4 oz like the label says, the two skeins knitted up only weigh 7.25 oz, and that's with a 12" circular needle still stuck in it. I used every bit of the yarn that I got and am three rows short of finishing the longies (wahhh!), though if I'd gotten the full amount of yarn, I should have had about 60 yards to spare. I'm not a fan, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

recent customs

I've been in the middle of four or five different projects lately, what with waiting for items to dry so I can embellish them, needing something I can work on in the dark when I put the boy down for the night (I sit with him with the lights off until he falls asleep), and procrastinating about weaving in ends. But I finally managed to finish up two of them.

The top one is knitted from aran BFL, hand-dyed in my Pearl colorway and embellished with my flowering plum design. The second is the paler variation of Banana Fish, dyed by wonderful Kimberly at Beemer Knits, also on aran BFL, and finished with my chainstitch cuffs. I wish the photos were better--I'd love to go to a Crate & Barrel photo shoot and see how the pros do photo styling.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jaywalker, Part 1

I dyed my Moonlight colorway on my lovely new BFL sock yarn:

I was finding Full Belly Farm yarn a little annoying to work with (more on that in another post), so I put it aside for an evening to start the Jaywalker socks. I was really curious to see how the color repeats would work up.

So I also decided to do the socks toe-up, because I've never done that before, and to do short rows with wraps, also a new thing. Tore it out halfway through the toe because I found the wraps really difficult to see with sock yarn, and changed to the YO short row method instead.

All was well and good, until I realized that I'd measured my foot too loosely and the sock was going to be too big. I went ahead and did an inch of the pattern, just to see what it looked like. A much more basic stitch pattern than I'd realized, so once I redo the toe, it should be a relatively quick knit. But oh, how I miss working with size 8 needles! This size 1 thing is a little painful to someone who mostly works with heavy worsted yarn.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

FedEx, I think I love you.

All day I've been waiting for my latest shipment of BFL to arrive. It was loaded onto the local delivery truck at 8:30 this morning, and FedEx usually passes through my neighborhood in the early afternoon, so I thought I might get a chance to dye some of it this afternoon.

After 6 p.m., I gave up hope of getting it today. But then, at 7:34, someone knocked at our door. It was the lovely FedEx man with my box of aran and sock BFL yarn. The sock yarn, which is superwash, is already in 100g skeins. I've been wanting to try the Jaywalker pattern forever, so I thought I'd dye a test skein of the sock yarn for a pair for myself, so I can start figuring out lengths of color segments and whatnot before I offer sock yarn in my store. It's going to be hard to not dye some tonight, but I've got some flowering plum longies to finish knitting (I'm about two inches and a cuff away from the end), with two more pairs of pants waiting in the wings.

Speaking of which, I'm going to try listing my current customs (by customers' initials) on this blog. This summer, my knitting time has been broken up quite a bit and I've been jumping around from project to project for various reasons, whether it's waiting for payment or clarification on measurements or some such, so I hope when my customs list is public, I won't look like too much of a ditz. If I start getting a reputation for ditziness, I'll take the list down. :)

making money with a hobby turned business

Last year, I spent 50% more on my business than I earned. That was fine with me for the first year, what with startup costs and figuring out pricing and so on, but I didn't want it to become a habit.

So this spring, I made some changes in my business-related spending. One was to only spend what was in my PayPal balance (nearly all payments to me are made through PayPal). If I don't have enough to cover the purchase, I don't buy it. If I buy something locally, I immediately transfer the cost from PP to my checking account to cover it. This ensures that my business is not costing me money to run, at the very least. It just about killed me when there was a yarn co-op in August that I wanted in on, but I was $30 short and stuck to my guns. And honestly, I have not seen a shortage of yarn around this place because of it.

Another thing that helps me figure out what I'm making (since I'm really bad about entering all my expenses and income into my spreadsheet) is resetting my balance each month. At the end of each month, I figure out what I'm going to spend on supplies the following month and transfer anything that's left over into checking. That gives me a general sense of how I'm doing.

And the third recent change was to stop buying yarn that other people dye, unless I can't live without it. Most of my orders are complete customs, where I dye specific colorways. It didn't make any financial sense (though, naturally, it made plenty of emotional sense) to buy commercially dyed or HC yarn, just to have it sit in my stash. I broke this rule a lot in July and August when a LYS was going out of business, but it's okay to fall off the wagon for a 70% discount, I figure.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


I bought some organic wool yarn in August, planning to knit up a pair of skull & crossbones longies like these for the pirate stocking:

Of course, I've run out of time. So I thought about offering it as a semi-custom slot. Anne suggested doing just a semi-custom hat, since that would take 1.5 nights instead of a week to do. Gotta decide soon. I've got three customs left to do in Sept, and three already lined up for October. So the timing would be really tight, if not impossible. Seems a shame not to do it, though. I could always offer it as a semi-custom in late October or November instead.


My husband said, "You're going to name your yarn after some old rope?" So the colorway has gotten yet another name--just plain Smoke.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Sometimes naming a colorway is easy. I have a specific inspiration so I pick a name that's related. Other times, I fuss and fret, trying to come up with just the right word or phrase.

I knew I wanted to do a black and silver colorway for the pirate stocking at Venus Vanguard. Originally I thought I'd name it after Captain Jack Sparrow, him of Pirates of the Caribbean fame, but after I'd dyed it, it just wasn't flamboyant enough. Jack is all about flash and dazzle, reds and golds and liquid eyeliner. This was too subtle for him.

So I tentatively named it Shadow, but then the pirate connection was lost. The fussing and fretting commenced.

Today, I got the name. I've been reading a lot of Patrick O'Brian this summer; I'm working my way through his Aubrey/Maturin novels, which are set during Great Britain's war with Napoleonic France in the early 1800s. Captain Aubrey has a phrase for when his ship must make all possible speed; he says, "We must crack on like smoke and oakum." Oakum is the loose fiber that you can get by picking apart old ropes; they used to use it when caulking wooden ships. So I take the phrase to mean that they must fly as fast as a wisp of smoke or oakum.

And there you have it: my new colorway is named Smoke and Oakum. I'll post a photo this weekend.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

my precious.

I got some new black dye and was fooling around with some dyeing techniques. I was trying to see if I could get silver or grey on the skein without having to overdye. Part of the technique included ignoring the dye manufacturer's instructions and adding citric acid to the dyepot.

The black came out with a strong reddish cast and no silver or gray areas, so I overdyed the skein in purple. I was using 3-ply 100purewool merino, which tends to do this dreadlock kind of thing during dyeing. It can be annoying to reskein, but it also makes the uptake of the dye very irregular, leading to some really neat results.

Behold, a new colorway--Black Pearl. Just in time for the pirate stocking at Venus Vanguard. I love how there are all sorts of shades of purple. I will confess that I've taken it out of its plastic bag just to admire how the purples and lavenders melt into one another. Geek.