Wednesday, December 31, 2008

squeaking in under the wire

I have spent the last couple of weeks trying to finish up various works in progress. There's the stocking I made for my kiddo two years ago, but I didn't like the toe so I only sewed it up partially and didn't put on the i-cord trim. Then there's the gansey watch cap I started for my husband in July. And, of course, the infamous Jaywalkers.

I got a lot done. Finished the gansey hat before midnight on Christmas Day. Reknitted the stocking toe and re-seamed it, but did a bad job tacking on the i-cord so I still need to do that. Got some stashbusting in, too--I made myself a neckwarmer out of bulky 3-ply Targhee that has been languishing for a few years in my cedar chest, and made a pair of newborn/small longies for the Venus Vanguard stocking tomorrow. And miracle of miracles, the Jaywalkers have 2"-3" left to go, so I have hopes of getting them finished off tonight.

In business news, I had a successful inventory clearance sale last week, and my first group order of 2009 just opened yesterday at Yarn for Fun, with the second one due to open the first week of February at Designer Dupas Yarn. Halfway through my next wholesale order for Apple Yarns. The year's ending on a good note!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jaywalker, part 2

I am never, ever going to finish this pair of Jaywalkers that I started in September 2007. Yes, it's been 15 months. Good thing I have plenty of Smartwool socks to keep my feet warm.

After a reasonably good start, I put the project on hold for a few months. Came back to it when I had some downtime from business knitting and finished up the first sock in April or so. Got busy again and didn't pick up the second sock till I went on vacation in October. I couldn't find my instructions for knitting it toe-up, so I thought blithely that I would just knit the second one cuff down. I knew my chevrons would be pointing in the wrong direction, but I thought I'd just rotate it 1/8 or 1/4 or whatever, and then everything would match the other sock.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Got to the heel, turned it, and realized that my increases and decreases wouldn't cancel each other out. I'd end up with too many stitches, or not enough, or something. No problem--I'd just knit the bottom half of the sock toe-up, and then graft the halves together.

Alas, another solution that I didn't think through! I got to the grafting part. I was a mere 76 kitchener stitches away from a completed pair of Jaywalkers. But then I realized instead of forming nice tidy rows of triangles all pointing in the same direction, grafting would give me little diamonds with bulges of extra sock in their centers.

That's what you get for not doing a project straight through--you forget how the pattern works, make foolish assumptions, and end up with no socks. I'm putting this away for a while till the frustration fades a bit.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

the last custom of 2008

I mailed a package to a Canadian customer today. Had to go to the post office since it was an international item. I stood in line for 40 minutes. Ugh. I've decided not to do any more international shipments until the holiday insanity is over. This isn't a complaint about the post office, though. I really appreciate the postal staff in town, though--they are always pleasant and helpful, and my regular mail carrier has delivered and taken away an enormous number of parcels in the last two years. Lots of people have horror stories about their shoddy local service, and I am so grateful to live in a place where I never have cause for complaint.

Anyway, here's what was inside the package. I squeezed this one in when another custom order got delayed, and at the same time someone purchased some yarn for me and asked if I had time to knit it up.

This is my new Coldfire colorway, kettle-dyed on Marr Haven wool. It was much more muted than on my Shooting Star sock yarn, probably because the dye struck so much faster on the superwash wool. The colors didn't have a chance to meld together. Also, I think the Marr Haven absorbs a lot of dye.

This is my second project with Marr Haven. I was struck again by the similarities to Sweet Grass Wool's worsted Targhee. They are both mule spun, so I wonder how much the processing accounts for it. Both have a soft, furry texture but not much elasticity.

Monday, December 15, 2008

protecting the stash against moth invaders

I know in my head that only certain types of moths will harm my yarn and wool clothing. But around here, no moth is shown any form of mercy--just in case.

Given my paranoia about moths, I was very interested in a recent article by Oregon State University Extension on alternatives to mothballs. If you're not familiar with Extension, each state was granted land by the federal government to fund a designated university to conduct research-based outreach to that state's citizens. Extension was originally focused on agricultural issues--pest management being a significant element, of course--but has since expanded to include home gardening (the Master Gardener program is a prime example), water quality, 4-H, nutrition, and parenting, among other issues. There is also a new program to train citizens in climate change issues--but I digress. (I used to work for Extension on water issues, and I think it's a fantastic program.)

Anyway, one of the two major problem moths in this country is a specimen by the name of Tineola bisselliella. When they are at rest, they don't spread their wings like the winter moth, which is the species active in these parts at this time of year, but fold them up into a rectangular shape.

One of the article's recommendations is to sun your clothing once or twice a month. It doesn't mention the most common recommendation that I've heard for safeguarding yarn, which is to freeze it, let it warm up, and then freeze again to kill any larvae that might have emerged during the thaw. We recently bought a chest freezer to store some local grass-fed beef that we just purchased in bulk, as well as the gallons and gallons of berries that we picked this summer, but to tell the truth, I have been toying with the idea of using it for mothproofing my stash. It's big and it's airtight, and it sits oh so temptingly next to my dyeing table. My husband asked if I could move all my undyed yarn in the garage, now that I have dedicated work space there, and I said only if I could put it in the freezer.

Friday, December 12, 2008

protect small artisans

I've been hearing a lot lately about the Consumer Product Safety Information Act of 2008, a federal law that is intended to protect children under 12 from using products with lead, phthalates, and other hazardous substances. This law applies not just to mass toy manufacturers who import tainted products from China (the original impetus of the law), but also to small-scale artisans making toys and children's items (clothes, diapers, bibs, etc.).

Beginning in February 2009, all of these finished items will now be required to be tested for lead. As of August 2009, testing must be conducted by a third-party certified lab.

As a yarn dyer, I don't have too many concerns that this will affect my business practices. But as someone who loves handmade items made out of natural materials, particularly for my child, I have a great deal of concern that the artisans that I love and support will no longer financially be able to stay in business. Testing ranges from $100 to $4,000 for each batch of identical product. Fines are severe--about $150,000 per violation, I believe.

The following is reposted with permission from the HC forums. I will be sending Rep. Rush an item in the next few days. Although I'm not his constituent, I hope that by being part of a flood of packages, my action may make a difference in his thinking on this law. If your representative belongs to the Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection subcommittee, your letter/package will have a particularly strong impact. My own Congressman is on the House Small Business Committee, so I'll probably write him as well.

The idea is to send Rep. Rush (chair of the subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection) a handmade product that will be banned after Feb 10. Below is the letter my dad and I are including with our item -- feel free to copy it, and change as you see fit. If you're not a maker of handmade children's items but you are affected by the law as a buyer of such items, you can amend the letter below to reflect that, and maybe send an item that you want to spare, or just amend the letter to include a description of the item....maybe include a picture.

Anyway, here is an example of a correspondence:

Dear Representative Rush:

On Feb. 10, 2009, due to new CPSIA regulations, the enclosed item will turn into a "BANNED HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCE." Don't let this happen! I am an artisan who owns a wooden toy business. I make my products in my home studio using untreated natural wood, non-toxic glue, beeswax, and mineral oil. Even though I use safe, natural materials to make my items, each one-of-a-kind item I make will require testing; however, it is financially impossible for me to comply with the new CPSIA lead testing standards. I will be forced to shut down my toy business. Not only will this affect our family's income, it will affect hundreds of children whose parents prefer handmade, natural toys for their children.

PLEASE consider amending the legislation to exempt from third party testing requirements:

* natural materials such as wood, wool, bamboo, cotton and uncoated textiles.
** toys and apparel handmade in the US, Canada, and the EU that use trusted safety-regulated supplies.

Also, please consider allowing manufacturers to use lead testing certification from suppliers. This would cut down on retesting and make complying financially feasible for micro-manufacturers like myself.

Thank you for your time.

[your name]

The Honorable Bobby L. Rush
United States House of Representatives
2416 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-1301

Thursday, December 11, 2008


A lovely customer requested some rainbow colorways with no purple in them. So I handpainted a couple, one with brown:

They weren't quite as vivid as I thought she'd like, especially the one with brown. So a few nights later, I redyed the chocolate rainbow (my inaugural skein from my night-ready dye studio):

Much more vibrant. This skein was space-dyed, which I find produces the most even color throughout a skein, and sometimes (as in this case) richer colors. The drawback is that it takes a while for me to do.

The customer likes the more saturated colors, as I thought she would. So I'll be hitting the rainbow dyepots again shortly for another go at the rainbow with no purple. My second Ott-Lite showed up today and makes a big difference, so I'm looking forward to some productive evenings in my new workspace.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

dye studio--trial run

I dyed in my garage dye studio for the first time at night. It went pretty well. For lighting, I had one wide-area Ott Lite (with another one on the way). The second light is definitely going to help, but I was able to angle the first over my work area so that there was adequate light. The light is a little harsh, but the colors do show up quite accurately.

Since my fancy induction burner wasn't going to work out, I had a $30 two-burner hotplate from Target. I used it to steam set some yarn last week, and it worked fine for that. I was space dyeing last night, and it did take a long time to get the water up to the right temperature, but it will do.

It's really nice to have dedicated space, where I don't need to worry about spilling stuff. Michael was the one really pushing to get my studio set up, since he wants to give the kitchen a minor makeover but didn't want to see accidental splotches of dye on all his handiwork. He installed the utility sink, cleaned out the garage, bought me shelving units, and made an executive decision about the burner when I was dithering over what to get. Left to my own lazy devices, I would still be dyeing in the kitchen, but thanks to him, I've got my own space. I'm glad I married him. ;)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

back to the Stone Age

You never really appreciate high-speed internet until you don't have it any more. Since Black Friday, my DSL connection has been ridiculously slow. I couldn't even get a connection on Saturday. I called on Sunday to see if there was some sort of problem; the automated service said there were no network issues, but at that moment my connection was mysteriously restored, and I haven't had any problems with my ISP since. Hmmmm.

But it's still slow. Like, dial-up slow. Maybe even 2400 baud slow, where you can see individual letters typing themselves across the screen. My shopping style has definitely been cramped. And now that I'm trying to upload and, worse yet, edit photos for the Venus Vanguard stocking tomorrow, I am really feeling the pain. I prefer how Picnik handles color corrections to my desktop photo editing programs, but it is taking forever to load photos, and the batch edit option hasn't worked for me for weeks now so Picnik has to relaunch every time for each photo.

Since it was so pokey, I thought I'd give Adobe Photoshop Express another try. Still don't like it. It took even longer than Picnik to launch. And the editing options seem much less flexible and intuitive than Picnik's. For instance, exposure and contrast are bundled together; you can't adjust them separately as far as I can tell. I would definitely not call it Photoshop Lite; it's more like Photoshop Zero.

I did manage to edit my photos of my new soaker ornaments. I think they're pretty darn cute. Though they're not quite shaped like my normal-sized soakers. I am having a hard time resisting the urge to rip them out and redo them. I happened to buy a Christmas wreath today, and it made a nice backdrop for the ornaments.

I also dyed a new colorway this week, Coldfire. It's inspired by C.S. Friedman's trilogy of the same name. Silver, frosty and royal blues, and deep, deep black. I really like it.