Sunday, September 28, 2008

review: Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival 2008

I did end up going to the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival this year. I had a few goals in mind: to see I'd want to sell at OFFF (or a similar event) in the future, to do some market research, to check out local fiber processors and the quality of their products, and, oh yeah, to geek out on yarn and fiber.

It was pretty interesting, and I think I got all the info I was looking for. I walked around for a while just to get the lay of the land. The vendors were very roving-oriented, I thought, which matched the customer base--lots of people brought their wheels to spin in classes or on the lawn. I was expecting/hoping to find a lot of local farms who were offering their own finished yarns, stuff that I can't find online or in a normal retail store. And there was some of that, but the majority of vendors were offering commercially produced base yarns and rovings, many of which I already have access to. So not as fruitful as I'd hoped, in that respect.

But it was still very much worth going to. After my first walkthrough, I noted which booths I found most appealing, and then went back for a closer look to figure out why they worked. All of them had easy circulation for casual browsers. I found that narrow entrances that forced me to walk around the person minding the booth were really off-putting. One booth went so far as to put a table to use as the cash wrap about four feet in front of the booth, so as to allow maximum circulation. On such a gorgeous weekend (sunny and 75-80 degrees), that was a great idea.

Some of my favorite booths had beautiful samples front and center, which drew me in to look at their other items. I thought booths with wire cubes for stacking yarns and rovings worked really well, as you could see through them and catch glimpses of other colorways. Opaque dividers have a cleaner background, of course, but I think giving your customers the chance to use their peripheral vision outweighs the less cluttered feel.

It was really cool to walk around and get a feel for what is coming down the pike in the fiber world. For instance, Gotland seems to be an up-and-coming fiber, at least from the producer end. I'm getting a sample of a spun yarn from one of the vendors in a couple of weeks when it's ready; I'm curious to see what it's like.

Probably the most important thing for me as a dyer was seeing the range of normal in hand-dyed yarns. I've been doing a lot more handpainting lately, and I am constantly fretting about depth and consistency of color as compared to other methods. I saw a lot of yarn this weekend, some by big names in the fiber world, and guess what? Their yarn doesn't look like it was turned out by a factory. I know that's obvious, but it really hit home for me this weekend, and it's honestly quite a relief to see that people who have been doing this for years, on a much larger scale than I do, are producing similar results, at least in the aspects that I've been neurotic about. And to a great extent, that's just the nature of the beast. It was so liberating to realize that.

I'm not sure I'll ever be a vendor at OFFF. With the cost of lodging, food, and mileage, I'd need to sell quite a lot to make it worthwhile. At this point in my business, I'm better off selling online and doing a bit of wholesale. But never say never--in a couple of years, as I keep streamlining production, it may end up being a good option for me. Certainly I could see doing this after retiring from my day job; it would be fun to travel around, selling yarn at fiber festivals and competing in dog agility trials.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


It's official--I am now wholesaling my yarns, and to my favorite local yarn store, to boot! I think it's going to be fun to work with someone local to design a yarn line that's focused on local interests and needs.

I was interested to see that the colorways the store owner was attracted to were nearly identical to the ones that I dyed for my group order in August. There's something about these combinations that seems to appeal to a lot of people.

We're starting off with one of my favorite yarns, Gaia organic sport. I'm also researching a new base yarn to add to my standard ones, which I think will also benefit my online store.

It's really exciting to watch my business grow at a sustainable and comfortable rate. Hurray!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

some recent knits

I just realized that I haven't posted photos of any knits recently. Here are a few recent customs:

Petals Baby Cardie, knitted from Corriedale in the Flamingos colorway by a time to dye. The sweater is nice, though I didn't care for how the pattern was written. I thought it left some crucial instructions open to interpretation, and then left other things as exercises to the reader.

Longies knitted from aran BFL in my Pearl colorway. The customer won 8 oz of custom dyed yarn from me during the Live This Life raffles in the spring. She asked me to hold onto the yarn and knit her some fall longies.

Longies knitted from Cestari fine merino in the Sweet Dragon colorway by Selah. This pair was for a customer who grew up in the town next to the one I grew up in. The internet creates some interesting connections.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I'm doing a collaboration with Joline of Hibiscus Baby that goes up tomorrow at Venus Vanguard. Dyed some of my Canadian BFL to match Alexander Henry's Inked Fabric:

I chose to match the primary colors in the fabric, but the other possibility I thought about was matching the subtle, paler shades. I still think that would make a pretty combination. So many ideas, so little time.

No knitting or dyeing tonight, just cooking. I made Tex-Mex pumpkin patties, a pot of curried pumpkin-apple soup, and am in the process of making a batch of granola bars (Nikki & David Goldbeck's American Wholefoods Cuisine).

I also had big plans for food preservation this year, but the only things that've happened were dried strawberries (20 pre-dehydration pounds that disappeared in about a week) and a batch of peach jam. My husband and son ate all the Gravenstein apples that I bought for applesauce, so we'll have to go back to the local orchard again soon. Went huckleberry picking this weekend, but didn't get quite enough for jam.

Friday, September 5, 2008

first group order

Before I left on my camping trip the last week of August, I finished up my first group order. Less than three weeks from receiving payment to shipping the yarns--not bad for 30 skeins, considering that I was using this order as a way to work on techniques for increasing my output.

It looks less impressive than when I was winding all those skeins by hand. We had a nasty streak of unusually high humidity and heavy rains for nearly a week, and nothing dried until two nights before I had to get it in the mail. So I spent four hours one night reskeining yarn. The motor for my electric skein winder is still backordered, so neither modern technology nor my husband came to my rescue. Alas.

I'm pretty happy with the results, though. Next up is dyeing for a local fiber show and stocking my store, and then I'll take my next group order in November. There's also a possibility of wholesaling to a local retailer, so I'll be getting together some samples for that as well.