Friday, December 11, 2009

free yarn

I totally forgot to say that I'm doing a drawing for a free skein of Truffula at my store:

Truffula - Trillum

Why? Just because. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the yarn, but all of its friends from the same dyelot have gone to new homes, and it wanted to find a nice home, too.

The random drawing closes Saturday at noon ET, and the computer will automatically pick a winner, who will be responsible only for the cost of shipping. If you haven't tried Trillium before, it's wonderfully soft and squishy, and I believe I'm the only hand dyer who uses it as a base yarn.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Yarn club coming December 10!

Just got through finalizing my listing for yarn club slots, which go live at noon Eastern Time this Thursday. I think I got it set up correctly, but it's a little complicated due to all of the options, so time will tell. I can always manually invoice people if it doesn't work out, but of course ideally I didn't botch it.

When designing the club, I thought about what I'd like in a club, and at the top of the list was flexibility, with lots of options that fit the way I knit (and enhance my stash). So there are lots of choices--which colorway you want, what kind of yarn you want, and how you want to pay for it--in the club.

* Each shipment will have two colorway options, a variegated and a coordinating semi-solid.

* Shipment will be one skein of yarn of either colorway, plus the option to choose additional skeins of either colorway.

* You can choose from 3-6 base yarn options, which will vary with each installment. I expect that I’ll use the club to do some testing of new base yarns, which is why the options will change frequently. My two favorite yarns, Canadian Blue-Faced Leicester (aran weight) and Willow sock (Blue-Faced Leicester/nylon) will always be options.

* No patterns, and just one goodie. (The first package will have chocolate.) I’d rather keep prices lower by not including a bunch of swag that people might not want.

* Shipments will be every other month, with an initial subscription period of 6 months (a total of three shipments).

* Billing can either be per individual installment, or a total upfront for a discount. Additional skeins will be billed separately if you choose the upfront option.

* Initial signup will be limited to eight spots. I'm keeping it small, at least at first, to ensure prompt delivery and top quality.

Also, I'm stocking as the featured fiber artist with Their Own Knitted World on Thursday. Turns out that I had a big smudge on my camera lens, which I only discovered when I realized all my photos were a little blurry in the middle. Sigh. I know what I'll be doing tomorrow.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

quick stocking update

Just a note to say that I'm stocking a little bit of yarn at Venus Vanguard tonight--Twilight and Centurion, if you've been looking for those--plus some longies ornaments.



And my first yarn club will be stocking slots next week! More details to come, but they will go live on Thursday, Dec 10 at noon E.T.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

more needle reviews: Hiya Hiya fixed circulars, Addi Lace, Addi Clicks

For a long time, I was resistant to buying circular needles with tips longer than 3.5". Any longer, and I found that knitting triggered my tendonitis issues due to the angle at which I had to hold the needles. This limited me to Addi Turbos (and the occasional Inox) that were 20" or shorter.

When I was just knitting toddler-sized items, this wasn't a problem. But this year I've been much more interested in expanding my knitting repertoire. I bought some Hiya Hiya needles over the summer because I needed some longer needles to make Delphine, and I didn't want to drop a bunch of money on Addis only to find that my tendonitis was going to keep me from using needles with 5.25" tips. I was really happy when I found that I could use the Hiya Hiyas comfortably. I liked them--a little pointier than Addi Turbos, but not so much that they hurt my fingers. Not quite as slick, which was a slight downside since I had to spend more energy and time getting the stitches to move where I wanted them to, but the join was smooth and the price was right.

My LYS had a 30% off sale on the Fourth of July, so I splurged on a couple of pairs of Addi Lace needles. I've been pretty wary of sharp-pointed needles since poking a hole in my finger with Addi Turbos a couple of years ago (there was blood and everything), but apparently I've modified my grip and technique enough since then to safely use pointy needles. These needles are really lovely: they have that wonderful Addi slickness and join, and the points really do make it easier to work with thinner yarn.

I also tried out the 9" Hiya Hiya fixed circulars. They took a bit of getting used to, but I finally figured out that I could prop the base of the tip against my ring finger of my right hand, and that eased my death grip on the needle tips, which had been causing tendonitis flare ups. They aren't my ideal solution for sock knitting, but they are definitely faster than using DPNs.

Then Addi came out with their new case for the Clicks a month or two ago, and I finally caved in and bought a set. I had been buying unusual needle sizes in Inox (locally available, unlike the HHs, and at a similar price) for one-off projects, and it had been irritating me to have all these random non-matching needles lying around. Plus I had been holding out for the HH interchangeables, but after hearing that they came unscrewed during knitting, I didn't want them anymore. That had been my major problem with the Knit Picks Options interchangeables, and had driven me wild.

The Clicks are a dream to work with. They haven't come loose while knitting, not once. I can just knit without having to think about it at all. The join is perfect. (That was my other beef with the Options: even if the tip didn't unscrew all the way off, there would be enough of a gap to catch and snag my yarn.) I haven't tried magic looping with the Clicks yet, so I don't have an opinion about the cable flexibility. But given the projects that I've got lined up, and the huge variation in needle sizes, I think the Clicks are worth the money.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

we are unamused.

For about a month, I've been chipping away at the February Lady Sweater when I have a few minutes. I'm using Sirdar's Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk Aran for it, which I got at a huge discount at Sock Summit. I used six skeins for a shawl and liked it, so I decided to go ahead and do the FLS with another color as planned.

It's lovely soft yarn, with great drape. Coil spun, so it has a bit of a tendency to snag. But the main problem is that out of the seven skeins that I've used so far, all of which are allegedly from the same dyelot, two are much lighter. I tried to hide the transition in the lace section, but it's still fairly obvious. I can't look for more yarn from the same dyelot, because what if I just end up with more of the lighter stuff? Alternating skeins doesn't work, as it makes it look sort of striped.

A little disappointing, I have to say. I've got 10 skeins in DK weight left (yes, it was a *very* good sale) but now I'm a little apprehensive about starting another project with this. Color consistency was not at all an issue with the shawl, so I don't know how this third batch will turn out.

Monday, November 9, 2009

debuting at the Loopy Ewe

I've been excited about this for months, but since I have a healthy sense of paranoia caution, I didn't want to say anything until it actually happened.

Sheri of The Loopy Ewe saw my yarn at Sock Summit and asked me to dye for her store. Of course I said yes, and I'm thrilled that my yarns are part of her lineup now. The Trillium heavy worsted yarn made its debut today, with sock yarn to follow this winter.

Hurray for reaching a business milestone!

Friday, November 6, 2009

if you talked to me at the Whatcom Weavers Guild sale ...

When I was standing in line, waiting to check out my inventory at the end of the Whatcom Weavers Guild sale a couple of weeks ago, a woman asked me if I had any more roving at home, since all of my brighter braids had sold before she'd gotten there. I started to answer, but got crazy distracted by the checkout process (as my dad says, I am a batch processor, not a multi-tasker--little old-school mainframe joke for you geeks out there).

Anyway, if you're reading this, the answer is yes, and I'm sorry that I forgot to give you my contact info. I have a bunch of fiber (and yarn, for that matter) that I didn't bring to the guild sale, since I only had 60 Guild tags to use. Didn't want to be a hog and bring more than that.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

a new retailer

My yarns will be debuting at a brand new retailer, Pulling at Strings, owned and operated by my friend Jenn. She’s celebrating her grand opening this Saturday, October 31, with some fun contests, so be sure to check it out!

Also, I’ve donated two items for a fundraiser for two charities that have been supporting a friend through the loss of her full-term baby. One item is a skein of hand-dyed Licorice Twist, a DK/light worsted yarn with a ply that takes dye more vividly, creating a cool marled effect. The other item is a pair of longies (baby pants) with my flowering plum embellishment. With the purchase of a $2 ticket, you’ll receive a PDF with some fun craft ideas, and will be entered into a drawing for the item.

I also have another retailer announcement coming up in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

just a few more to go

I have just 17 skeins to go, and I'll be finished with my current wholesale order. Well, dyeing it, anyway. Still need to do a little reskeining of the really tangled hanks, and all the labeling. My husband accidentally threw one of the skeins in with the laundry today, requiring a redye (argh! yes, it's superwash, but the results after heavy agitation aren't pretty) so I think I can get him to help me with the labeling. He owes me.

My yarns will be debuting with two retailers over the next few weeks, so in preparation I've started a Ravelry group for my yarns and fibers. I'm kicking it off with a knit-along and contest. Make a project with my yarn (or spin some of my fiber), complete it by December 31, post it in my group, and get entered into a random drawing for a store credit worth $20. Get cracking!

Friday, October 16, 2009

fiber show tonight and tomorrow

I dropped off some yarn this morning for the Whatcom Weavers Guild's Fibers and Beyond show. This will be my second year doing the show. I was a little surprised by how well my sock yarn sold last year, so I brought a bunch of my Willow BFL sock yarn and Cascara merino/cashmere/nylon sport, plus some silk/merino, Targhee and BFL spinning fiber, and a few other random things. It's marked down a bit as I have some plans for new colorways and sock clubs, and I'd really like to clear out some storage space.

I'm working the floor tonight, which I'm excited about because I'll get to see all the goodies early. When I was there, there was already a rack of handspun and three giant baskets of gorgeously dyed fiber. I saw a woman with a pile of vivid felted wall hangings getting checked in. And the weaving! Oh my, the weaving. We have some brilliant weavers in the guild.

I love how pretty the show floor is, too. There are some people with a real knack for display and merchandising, and every year it gets more and more polished looking.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I love what I do!

Today was an exceptionally good dyeing day. I was productive and efficient, I got more done than I realistically expected, and my perfectionist self could find nothing to complain about. And the feedback from the Winesap pre-orders started coming in, with the kind of comments that make you all warm and fuzzy inside. I'm happy!

After a flurry of orders, I'm stocked back up with base yarns. Even the long-awaited silk and silver yarn turned up today. I really want to call this yarn Sparkle, but it doesn't fit in with my usual native plant names. I've already used Shooting Star for my superwash 100% merino sock yarn, or else that would be perfect. Alas.

This week I also got a brand new base yarn that I've been coveting for a while--a thick and thin BFL that will probably knit up on size 10 needles, so a quick knit. (I have a hard time saying no to acquiring new BFL lines.) It's even better than I expected--lovely texture, and never gets too thin the way some thick/thin yarns do. I'm caling it Madrona, after the native tree with the beautiful peeling bark. I'm itching to dye some up and get it on the needles. Probably a hat for me; I've been wearing a pretty ugly brown one that I got as a Christmas gift several years ago. It's comfortable, but it's not that warm (it's acrylic), doesn't match anything I own, and makes me look washed out. It's truly pathetic that I haven't made the time to make myself something as simple as a hat.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

no sock club this fall

I had every intention of launching a sock club this fall. Then after Sock Summit, I acquired a lovely new exciting wholesale account. The first order, plus a small group order and the Winesap pre-order, have eaten up all my time and yarn storage space. After I finish with all those things, I've got another small group order and a different wholesale order for November and December. So no sock club until early next year, I'm afraid.

Mentally, I'm getting closer to leaving my day job and focusing on this. I'm penciling out the numbers and seeing if I can make it work. Kiddo and I recently lost insurance coverage through my husband's work, so now I'm paying for premiums out of pocket and it's eating up a fair amount of my take-home pay. But it's absolutely necessary, if only for peace of mind; due to paperwork snafus, we didn't have coverage for a month (though I know I could've applied retroactively for COBRA) and I was half-panicked the whole time.

Anyway. I'm risk-averse when it comes to finances, so taking the leap and depending on Huckleberry Knits for my living is a big mental and emotional barrier.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

stocking on Thursday

A little bit of sock yarn and sport weight yarn is going up in my own store tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET:

And my congo, Venus Vanguard, is doing an Alice in Wonderland themed stocking this week. Items go live at 8 p.m. on Thursday night. If you like gorgeous hand-dyed velour, this is the place to be! I'm stocking some aran and bulky weights in new colorways, Queen of Hearts and Looking Glass.

Monday, August 31, 2009

belated but heartfelt gratitude

I'd thought this would be the first SS09 post I would write, but to my chagrin it's not. I hope my friends know how much I appreciate them.

I couldn't have gotten to Sock Summit without the help of my friends, who understood how important it was to me to "go big or go home," as Tina and Stephanie described it during the SS opening reception. (Wish I'd gone, in hindsight; it sounded like a pretty amazing event.)

Many, many thanks to Treva and Anne, who offered to watch my kiddo all day on several occasions so that I could dye yarn. It made such a huge difference to have that uninterrupted time.

And much gratitude to friend Nicolette, a weaver who used to do the craft show circuit, and who fully understands the effort it takes to make a career (or even a serious side business) out of handcrafting. She reskeined countless messy hanks of yarn, and labeled yarn for hours.

Love to Bridgett, who knitted my samples for me. She went above and beyond the call of duty to find patterns and knit socks that showed my yarn to its best advantage.

Thanks to my child, who loyally insisted that all my yarn was beautiful even when I thought it (and I) was a horrible failure.

I am so appreciative of my friends on the HC forums, who were cheerleaders from the beginning. And particular thanks to Denise, Diane, and Kimberly, who shared dyeing know-how and commiseration, and to Erika (on HC) and Erika (off HC) who encouraged me every step of the way.

The biggest THANK YOU goes to my husband, who whisked kiddo away for a long weekend so that I had four days of nonstop dyeing (I did about a quarter of my total skeins then), never complained about not seeing me for six nights out of seven, patiently wound yarn off cones, labeled yarn, and did far more than his fair share of housework and child rearing. No way could I have done Sock Summit without him. I've always known that marrying him was a pretty smart move, but every year I discover new reasons why it was a darned good idea.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sock Summit highlights

I had a hard time adjusting to normal life after Sock Summit. There was a sense of unreality about the whole experience--I'd spent so many months thinking about it, working towards it, wondering how it would be, and then suddenly I was there and living it. And then it was over.

I've never been to anything like it. I think the experience was crystallized in the moment before the marketplace opened. Debbi (one of the organizers) was counting down the minutes. I think she announced there were 10 seconds before the doors opened, and all of us vendors screamed from the tension and exhilaration. This must be how Olympic athletes feel as the starting gun goes off--all that hard work and passion and striving, all leading to that single moment.

Then we heard an answering cry from the shoppers, as the doors opened and everyone surged in. It was absolutely amazing. I still get shivers up my spine, remembering it.

Thursday was perhaps the best day of the summit, just because you could feel the happiness and excitement in the air. Everyone was giddy. The joy was palpable. The closest thing that I've experienced was my wedding day, when guests started arriving. Friends from every different chapter in my life came, most from hundreds of miles away, just to celebrate with Michael and me. Sock Summit was like that, only the joy was more impersonal--which, in a way, made it more incredible. I had no connection with most of the people, yet I could feel how happy we were to see one another.

And the people that I did have a previous connection with--wow. I met people that I had known online for years, and it was like we had been friends forever. Especially Diane--I loved meeting her at last. And I really lucked out on my roommates, both of whom I liked immensely.

I originally named my Limitless colorway (one of my Dye for Glory entries) in part because I felt like my sense of possibilities had expanded enormously during prep for SS09. I left it out of my description on Ravelry because it felt sort of hokey to say, but now that I've actually been, and felt my horizons as a knitter, dyer, designer open up, I think I couldn't have picked a better name.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

stocking on August 27

Stocking my store for the first time since Sock Summit--I think it's about 60 skeins. This week I've listed some worsted and aran yarns; next week, I'll list fingering and sport weight. I'm trying to offer a balance of bright and subtle colorways each week, so that there's something for everyone!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

how quickly we forget

Tonight I dyed yarn for the first time since Sock Summit. It's only been two weeks, yet I'd forgotten two of the basics:

1) Always tie your yarn in a few places before you put it in the dyepot. I have no idea how I managed to forget, but I was skeining yarn off cones this afternoon and forgot to tie up one of the skeins . Took it out of the spin dryer and it fell apart, of course. Luckily it was only an ounce of worsted yarn, so it didn't take me too long to untangle it, but how on earth did I manage to take it off my yarn winder without tying up at least the loose ends?

2) When you peek into your dyepot, don't forget that steam is hot. I scalded my forearm with that initial gush of steam after I lifted the lid. It still hurts, though not as much as my pride.

The dyeing itself went well, I think. It's intended to be a Queen of Hearts colorway for an upcoming Alice in Wonderland theme at Venus Vanguard. It will cool in the pot overnight, so we'll see tomorrow how it turned out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

the not-Sock Summit post

I need to write a SS09 post, but I want to download my photos first. In the meantime, my husband asked me tonight if I wanted to go to "that fiber thing down south," meaning OFFF, which I went to last year as a spectator. I said no, because after the stress of Sock Summit prep, during which he had to do far more than his fair share of housework and childrearing, I didn't think he would want me to. He said that if the yarn was mostly dyed up, he didn't see why I wouldn't want to go.

So now I'm tempted. I could work on the saturated semi-solid colorways that I started developing in my head over the weekend, and order a couple of other fingering and lace yarns that I've had my eye on. Sport and worsted didn't sell very well at SS09, so I've got a good foundation in those. I need to figure out how much time my other fall commitments are going to take me ... but I'm very tempted. I haven't even done a full post-mortem of my inventory, so I wonder just how crazy this idea might be.

While I was making reservations for Pok Pok, I absent-mindedly gave them my home number. So they called Michael to confirm my reservation for 18. He was telling a friend of ours, who said, "Well, at least it's not a reservation for two."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sock Summit: move-in day

Didn't leave town quite as early as I hoped, but after managing to hit rush hour in Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia (Oly has a rush hour now? Who knew?), I pulled into PDX around 7:45. I have little wire cubes and man, they take a while to put together. Now I sort of wish I didn't have a class tomorrow morning, because the booth isn't even close to being put together, and I'm anxious. But I still have all afternoon, and Andrea and her husband will be working on it in the morning. I shouldn't fret, but I probably still will.

I can't believe I'm here! After so many months of excitement and preparation, it's finally happening. When I was hauling my stuff in, I was so distracted by all the wonderful yarn that I could barely steer my cart straight. I just wanted to shop. All this beauty, under a single roof. It's just incredible. Photos tomorrow; I was too hot and tired to take any tonight.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

ending the vow of stash chastity

After eight months of noble sacrifice and self-restraint, I am ready to shop. I already have this lovely skein by Happy Hands Yarn waiting for me:

And I'll be participating in the Buffalo Gold stimulus package: bring in a skein of yarn for donating to a group of knitters in Bhutan, and get $20 off a skein of bison down. I'm so curious about what it's like - fell in love with some patterns in Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders that feature this yarn (though a different weight).

I don't want to post about the other ones that I desperately want, because I haven't pre-ordered them (I should PM the vendor and see if just maybe I could get some set aside). Selfish and underhanded of me, I know.

On the non-yarn front, I also pre-ordered a copy of Chrissy Gardiner's book on toe-up sock design.

why my spin dryer is bad for me

I leave for PDX in a little over 24 hours, and yet I'm still dyeing yarn. Why? Because I know it will be dry before I leave. Modern technology only encourages that "just one more bite" mentality.

I'm not ready to go, yet I feel strangely that things are all under control. Mostly I'm excited to get there and see how my yarn does. I ought to be waking up from screaming nightmares where my shelves are fully stocked while all the vendors around me have nothing left ... but I don't. Glad to know that my subconscious isn't worrying.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

six days left

Six days left till I leave for Portland, and I still have so much to do. For a while I was thinking that I didn't have enough yarn left to dye, but now I have too much. My official last dyeing day was yesterday, but I'm going to have to figure out a way to squeeze in some more skeins. Whimper.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

pre-orders for Winesap now available

I decided to do some limited pre-orders for my Winesap colorway for pickup at the Sock Summit (I'm in booth #324), plus pre-orders for September delivery. Info is posted in my store:

Friday, July 24, 2009

when 2 a.m. starts feeling like an early bedtime

... you know you have a problem. I can turn off the dyepot in 10 minutes and go to bed, and it's going to feel pretty darn good. I still have to go to work tomorrow. Ugh.

I'm in the homestretch now--the last week of dyeing before Sock Summit. July 30 will be my last dyeing day, and then it's on to labeling and other prep. For my day job, I have a Rubbermaid tote that I call my event box, with all the possible supplies that I might need for a public meeting. I wanted to start putting together my event box for Sock Summit starting in April, and I did pull together a list, but I don't have the actual box yet. All the boxes I was planning to use are full of yarn.

The Dye for Glory contest has started on Ravelry. I have two entries. Of course, I got a bunch of ideas for colorways the day that entries closed ... oh well. I'll jot them down and pursue them after Sock Summit.

My entry in the handpainted category, Winesap (another of my apple-themed colorways). Lots of different shades of green, with burgundy and rose, anchored by warm brown:

And this is my shaded solid entry, Limitless, based on my favorite shade of blue--the color of the evening sky just after the sun drops below the horizon, when the blue seems like it goes on forever:

Monday, July 13, 2009

a new logo, at last?

I've never liked the font on my logo, to be honest, and especially not the way the "t" and the "s" look together in "knits." I have looked at literally thousands of fonts, trying to find something clean but not boring or overused. Or that cost $200 to purchase.

I do really like the branch, though I wanted to prune it a bit. After some fussing, I came up with two concepts that I like.

The first one is pretty true to the original logo, just cleans it up a bit.

The second one, I like, but I don't think it looks that hot in B&W.

I need to decide ASAP. Apple Yarns and I are getting some collateral printed together, so she needs me to send the logo pronto. I'll probably go with option #1, as it's not too drastic a change from my current logo so I won't lose any brand equity that I've built up. Also I don't like sudden change. I worry that the font is too boring and that the little details that I like will be lost, but my husband tells me that I'm too much of a font geek and to just use this one already.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

a forced break

I've had these itchy patches on two of my fingers for several days. I chalked it up to oddly located mosquito bites, since I've been bitten a lot lately.

This morning I woke up with blisters on the patches. Dr. Google says that it's likely irritant contact dermatitis. I threw out my dyeing gloves, will pick up some disposable latex-free ones just in case I'm developing a latex allergy, and I'm planning to take a couple of days off from handpainting.

This is just rotten timing in a lot of ways, of course. Sock Summit is three weeks away, and just last night I developed two colorways that I really like and I'd sure like to dye more of. I have non-handpainting stuff I can do, like revising my logo, getting collateral printed up, skeining yarn off cones, reskeining ... but jeez. I have Wed and Thu lined up for all-day dyeing, so I really need to be fully operational by then.

I'm also panicking a little bit that I don't have enough yarn to dye. It feels hard to believe, given all the boxes strewn about the house, but unless I'm totally forgetting about something, I am getting down to the bottom of my stash. Three base yarns that I was expecting to use are either out of stock or still in development, so that's part of the problem. Oh well, I can only do what I can do at this point. It's still going to be fun and a great experience. Right?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

sort of a basket case, sort of not.

Currently, I am trying to:

1. Improve my crappy posture, which should help my neck and shoulder problems.

2. Cut back on caffeine, also to help with my neck and shoulder (my massage therapist told me about a study she read linking caffeine to stress-related pain).

3. Lose 5 lbs so I can wear the fitted top I'm knitting without feeling like my stomach is the first thing someone sees.

4. Exercise more (see #3).

5. Not drink any beer or wine (see #3). When I complained to my husband that my unwanted weight wasn't because of retaining water, he suggested that I might be retaining beer.

6. Eat better.

7. Enjoy the summer.

8. Protect my vegetable garden from marauding deer and cats.

9. Dye 475 more skeins of yarn in the next six weeks.

Oh, and work 20 hours/week while racing towards a million deliverables all due on June 30 (thank you, federal grants), and chasing a rather busy 4.5 year old the rest of the time.

I would add "sleep more" to the list, but that seems pretty unrealistic.

I ought to be more stressed, and I'm a little sad that I'm missing out on fun summer things like camping trips, but I'm doing my best to get out of the house with the boy on our days together and do as much as possible. He is a great hiker (see #4 and #7) and is game for anything. He's insatiably curious--I feel like I've got to stuff as many diverse experiences into him now, while he's open and inquisitive about everything. I am more than a little scared of the school years and what they may do to him. I don't know why, I turned out fine, though I would've benefited from a more challenging high school for sure, but for some reason I am just afraid that school will bore the curiosity and thirst for learning right out of him.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sock Summit, what else?

I have been living and breathing Sock Summit for the last few weeks. I didn't think I'd be able to take any three-hour classes since I'd have to mind my store. So I wasn't really paying much attention to that, until I had a Revelation of the Blindingly Obvious the day before registration opened, and realized that I wasn't going to be chained to my booth until late Thursday afternoon, so I *could* take at least one class. Then I got excited, joined the F5 feeding frenzy, and got into a sock design class for the morning, plus a 1-hour ergonomics class, which my poor neck and shoulder are ever so grateful for.

There's the dyeing, too, of course. I've gotten into my groove and am busily dyeing away. I'm at the beginning of a four-day dyeing marathon--more about that in a future post.

And last but not least, there's my inner shopper, who has been faithful to a vow of stash chastity for six months now but is showing signs of cracking. The vendor booth numbers got released today, and my inner shopper seized control, printed out the marketplace map, and is matching up must-see vendors with their booths, happily highlighting away.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

getting organized

Sock Summit is exactly two months away, and I'm still dyeing in a rather desultory fashion. My goal for the last three weeks had been to dye 60 skeins a week and, um, I have 57. Total. From three weeks of dyeing. Eeep.

To get myself focused, tonight I've been filling in my inventory spreadsheet with the number of skeins I want to dye per colorway, per base yarn. I already feel more motivated. It's funny how either I need total freedom to dye whatever I feel like, or a very specific game plan. I can't do the in-between, which was to make a list of colorways that I wanted to bring.

My family is going away for a four-day weekend without me, and I'm taking a week off from my day job next month, so I'm expecting/hoping to get caught up then.

Oh, and did I mention how excited I am just to be at Sock Summit? I got into two classes, I'm setting up a group trip to Pok Pok (which I'm looking forward to as much as the classes), and I am going to get to meet a bunch of people that I only have met online, so far. No matter how the booth does, I am going to have so much fun!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

dyepot--you're in timeout!

First batch of colorways went well today, second batch did not. Argh. As my stressbuster, I'm going to sit outside and try out my new Hiya Hiya circulars on Delphine, before I have to scurry into work. Am using my sport weight organic merino dyed in Huckleberry, which is so nice to knit. Smooth and silky. That should put me in a better mood.

Preparing for Sock Summit is a marathon, but as Thursday is my main dyeing day, it always feels like a frantic sprint. I probably need to pace myself better during the week so that I'm not so stressed out on Thursday.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


My friend Tawny of Baby Bean Designs is having a fiber party on Friday, and this is what I'm bringing:

This is Inked on Shooting Star merino. I always thought of this yarn as fingering, since I use size 2 needles with it, but then it was pointed out to me that the yardage was sort of sport-ish, at 355 yards per 4 oz skein. And I call my organic merino that's 372 yards/4 oz sport weight ... so for consistency I call Shooting Star a sport weight yarn. But in my head, it's still fingering.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

get your geek on!

My friend P. pointed out that when I get interested in something, I focus on it obsessively. Battlestar Galactica, the best TV series I've ever watched, is no exception. I was pretty much in mourning when the series ended in March.

Naturally, it ended up merging with my ongoing obsession with yarn. (Basically everything does, these days.) I started thinking about BSG colorways. Then about all the other great science fiction and fantasy stories out there.

But why geek alone? I picked a few friends who I suspected of similar tendencies, and invited them to stock my store with me.

Tomorrow morning, the collision of art and fandom goes live. A few examples:

Centurion (BSG)

Tribbles (Star Trek: TOS)

Mal's Browncoat (Firefly)

Team Edward (Twilight)

There were so many other ideas I had (Lorien from LOTR, Lyra's hat from The Golden Compass, Jayne's hat from Firefly, and my Coldfire colorway), but alas, just didn't have time. Hopefully I will the next go-around ...

Monday, May 18, 2009

playing around in the dye studio

One of my constant worries when I'm dyeing a custom order is how closely I'm matching the stock photo. I know that the nature of the hand-dyed beast is the variation among skeins, and I know that most of my customers know, too. I fret anyway.

Since January, basically all my dyeing has been for wholesale and co-op orders, so it's been a long time since I've been able to just dye without worrying about matching. I didn't realize how much this stress was affecting me until last night, when I dyed some of my sparkly vampire yarn (a superwash sock-weight yarn with actual silver spun into it) for this week's science fiction/fantasy stocking--official name: Out of This World. While I was working, I fretted about the purple dye that was turning blue at the edges, that was darker than I wanted, that wasn't like what I had pictured in my head, about the raspberry that I overdyed on two of the skeins ... until I realized that I liked it.

It felt so liberating to just go in and dye something and see what happens! I really love how the sparkly vampire yarn turned out, in particular. I've never read the Twilight series--my husband, who has actually watched the movie (unlike me), suggested the idea of dyeing shiny yarn. He gets bonus points for a great suggestion.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

let the Tour begin!

The Puget Sound LYS Tour begins tomorrow, and my Trillium merino is the featured yarn at Apple Yarns. Today I stopped by to take a photo.

Pretty awesome that what started off as a "sure, I'll knit some socks for you" three years ago has evolved into this. Andrea (the owner) asked if I had any more because she's thinking they might sell out, so I'm going to dye her up a bit more tomorrow.

Next up: my SF/fantasy-themed stocking next week (5/21). I have some sparkly sock yarn with actual silver spun into it to dye up in a Twilight-inspired colorway (apparently vampires sparkle in this series? so says my husband, who made it through the whole movie, unlike me), plus some Battlestar Galactica and possibly Lord of the Rings colorways to do. My friend Diane of Bugsnugger, June of Rising Sun Earthworks, and Denise of Zen Moon will be coming to my geeky little party. Time to celebrate our inner nerds!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

hitting the refresh button on my logo

I have looked at literally thousands of fonts, trying to find the new (type)face of Huckleberry Knits. I'm starting to think that the best idea is to just change my name to this font, Natalya Swashes:

You may simply refer to me as The Artist Formerly Known as Huckleberry Knits.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sock Summit vendor list is up!

And I'm on it! There are quite a few vendors whose work I'd love to see, having admired their yarns from afar. This is going to be so much fun!

I'm in the homestretch of my current wholesale order (which I am dropping off on Tuesday) and as soon as I'm finished, it's on to Sock Summit dyeing. I had been thinking anyway that I was going to bring non-sock yarns, and after having seen future shoppers comment that they were saving up their annual yarn budgets to blow at the Summit on all types of yarn, I definitely think this is the way to go.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

can't find

I'm in the process of transferring my domain to a new host, but in the meantime my URL isn't forwarding to my store. You'll need to go directly to Sorry about the confusion.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

skein winder, how do I love thee? let me count the ways

I'd say there are 76 ways, right about now. Just wrapped up my latest co-op order, which was for 76 skeins. I capped it at 50 variegated skeins, plus an unlimited number of solid coordinating skeins. Usually there are maybe 10 trim skeins. This time, there were 26.

March/April 2009 co-op

I could absolutely not have done this without my electric skein winder. It was well worth the investment--solidly made, flawlessly functional.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

the homestretch

I finished dyeing a 75-skein co-op order today, and did half of a small wholesale order. All that by 10 p.m. I don't even have to walk the dog tonight--did it already. Just finished my Easter treat to myself, a lovely hazelnut crunch, fair-trade, and organic chocolate bar from Theo Chocolate, a local-ish confectioner. Now *this* is a nice evening--productive yet relaxing. I could get used to this.

I've been wanting to update my typeface in my logo for a while now, and finally had a chance to try out the idea of removing the serifs, since they're part of what bugs me about the font. So I converted the font to paths in my beloved but obsolete Freehand 10, and deleted away. It wasn't enough of a change, and honestly I have too much going on right now to spend hours sifting through to find The One True Typeface. So I contacted a designer tonight, and we'll see if she can help me out. I have also been seriously neglecting my advertising, so I'm hoping to get some banners put together, too.

I've forked over my dough and am now an official Sock Summit vendor. Time to put all my ideas and plans into action!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

well, whaddaya know - not procrastinating actually pays off

Tonight, instead of goofing around on the internet until 10:00, buckling down to dyeing work for a few hours, and then stumbling into bed at 2 a.m., I started working on my dyeing at 8:30. I was finished with everything I wanted to do by 10:37, then washed a backlog of dishes and reskeined a few hanks of yarn. Now I'm browsing through Ravelry forums, eating a dish of coconut avocado ice cream. (It's okay; it could use some more citrus or other tart note to make it less heavy on the tongue. And as the recipe suggests, it's better with chocolate sauce.) I will actually be in bed by midnight tonight. What bliss!

This week I switched to a new brown dye and I'm sorry. It does not take kindly to handpainting, since it has an olive component that wicks badly. And when I dip-dye several skeins, using very similar dye/fiber ratios and temperatures, it ends up being dramatically different colors. So I'm going back to my old brown, which I know and love. I was hoping to switch all my dye purchases to the same supplier, in order to save on shipping costs, but this just won't do.

Off to bed!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

thoughts on superwash from a tired dyer

Things I like about dyeing superwash yarn:
1. When you put a color somewhere, it generally stays there. Especially if the dye solution is hot.

2. When you need to do touch-up dyeing, it's much faster than when you have to touch up untreated yarn.

3. The colors are so vivid. Untreated yarn usually needs more concentrated dye solutions to achieve the same brilliance.

4. I like being able to rinse the yarn when it's hot, instead of needing to wait for it to cool down. Also, it rarely requires more than a single rinse. Pretty much all of the dye will bind to the yarn.

Things I don't like about dyeing superwash yarn:
1. When you put a color somewhere, it generally stays there. The dye strikes so quickly that you really have to work at it to make sure that all strands in a section are the same color. Pale or even (gasp!) undyed spots are not uncommon.

2. You don't get the same kind of color melding that you do with untreated yarn. Sometimes I'm really looking for a lot of shades that are in between two colors, and I don't get quite the same effect with superwash as I do with untreated.

3. My dye formulas that I develop first on superwash yarn need to be seriously tweaked before I can replicate them on untreated yarn. When I'm dyeing a mixed batch of superwash and untreated base yarns, this can make things a little screwy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

store news

I have dyed a lot of yarn (for me) in the last two weeks. 60 skeins, I think? The biggest single batch was the most recent Apple Yarns order, part 1. This is McIntosh, an exclusive colorway for them:

March 2009 wholesale order, part 1

A closeup:

Apple Yarns - McIntosh (not available for group order)

Also, some yarns that are going live tomorrow, including these:

Soleil 4.75

Rock Candy 2

And a lot more that are for my current group order. Yet, surprisingly, I am not completely exhausted and/or insane. Maybe putting together 600-1000 skeins for Sock Summit won't be as impossible as I thought?

Except maybe for the cash flow thing. I realized today that I am going to have to front a lot of money for the inventory. I know this is totally obvious, but I had been so focused on the cost of the booth, lodging, display materials, etc. and the time it was going to take to dye everything that it didn't even occur to me how much the base yarn was going to cost. Um, duh. Most of my capital is tied up in worsted, aran, and bulky undyed yarns. So I will need to do a huge flurry of non-sock dyeing after the LYS Tour madness has subsided, in order to raise funds to buy sock weight base yarns. My timeframe for dyeing has just gotten even shorter. Eeeek.

Friday, March 27, 2009

production dyeing: the next step

I dyed 20 skeins of yarn today, all the same colorway. I thought it might be easier and faster than, say, four skeins each of five different colorways, but if it was faster, I didn't notice, because here I am at my normal time at the end of a dyeing night.

I don't know about easier, either. I decided to mix up a highly concentrated stock solution for each color and divvy it up evenly as I refilled my dyeing bottles. I thought this would both make things go faster (since mixing dyes seems to take much longer than I think it should) and also make the skeins more consistently colored. This idea would've worked better if I'd had more mixing cups with 1 oz markings. Argh--just realized that this would've been the perfect use for all the baby bottles that I still have kicking around. Or instead of storing one of the colors in my measuring cup, I could've dumped that into a jar and then measured all of the other colors more accurately. Now that's a blindingly obvious solution--why on earth didn't I think of that at the time?

Anyway, live and learn, I guess. Or should I say dye and learn?

The last batch of skeins should be cool enough to rinse now, I think. Time to finish off the job and go to bed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

slacking off

After a few months of being a good and faithful blogger, I have really slacked off in March. Part of it was being gone--I was down in Phoenix at spring training for a week, which was lots of fun unless you were my husband, who was completely out of it for a day from eating a listeria dog and only semi-functional for three days after that.

Since I've been back, I've either been too busy dyeing or blubbering over the end of Battlestar Galactica to post. Tomorrow I will be combining them by dyeing some BSG-inspired colorways, as a tribute to the best television series I have ever watched, so I'll post some photos this weekend.

Got confirmation today from my LYS, Apple Yarns, that they will be sharing my booth at Sock Summit. So that's a go, for sure. Still have a co-op order and a huge wholesale order to complete before I can start dyeing for Sock Summit, but I'm excited to get started!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

jumping in with both feet

Okay. I think I'm going to do a booth at Sock Summit, after all. I'm 90% sure at this point. I started jotting down a to-do and supplies/equipment list. I think the main things are:

1. Handling in-person transactions. My main concern is setting up credit card processing. I'm looking at three options, Costco's program with Elavon, ProPay, and PayPal's virtual terminal. Leaning towards Elavon, as they appear to have the lowest per-transaction fees, but I need to talk to a live person about some of the details. My credit union also offers card processing services, and they always have the best rates on everything; I should check with them, too.

2. Choosing base yarns and colorways to bring. I want to bring two new bases online, a superwash sport and a wool/nylon fingering. I've identified the superwash sport but am still considering the new fingering. Of course, I've got all these other undyed yarns sitting here, hogging up all the extra space in my house, which I will not be able to dye anytime soon. (This should be my final cure for the impulse buying of random base yarns.) I need to get my supply lines better organized. I feel like Napoleon's quartermaster, trying to figure out these logistics.

3. Getting a banner, tweaking my labels, and ordering collateral like business cards and notepads. These all involve deciding if I want to alter my logo at all. I'm somewhat dissatisfied with the font but need to look at and my font books to see if I can find anything else that I like better.

4. Getting samples. A lovely friend has agreed to knit samples for me, but I need to finalize colorways and base yarns so that I can get her everything in time. See #2 above.

The list goes on and on. But now it's time for #5: Get enough sleep so that I'm not a crazed short-tempered grouch in the morning.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

not my day

I soaked some yarn a couple of nights ago, but didn't feel like dyeing last night so I decided I'd just do it this morning. It felt damp, but apparently it wasn't damp enough because it resisted the dye mightily. That was a hassle and took twice as long as it should have to work the dye in.

While I was working on the first batch, I decided to throw the rest of the undyed yarn for the dyelot into the washer to soak again. I've been doing this for several months--I can soak more yarn at a time in the washer than in a pot, and it's easy to spin it out.

... unless you get distracted. I got absorbed in dyeing and vaguely noticed the washer agitating during the soak cycle. It didn't hit me till several minutes later that, uh, you shouldn't agitate yarn unless you're interested in felting it.

I spun out the yarn and sure enough, it had started to felt. In fact, some of it had started to felt around the superwash skeins that were also in there. Grrrr. That took a while to untangle.

The yarn isn't too felted. It's definitely still knittable, so I'll dye it and offer it in my store in the future as extra-thick yarn for soakers and longies. But it certainly wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done.

I'm typing this as I eat my lunch--chips and salsa. My dyeing days are pretty low on the nutrition scale.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

back in the swing of things

I've been laid up for the last couple of weeks with the flu and then a nasty cold. No knitting or dyeing--I had terrible aches when I had the flu, especially in my shoulder and neck. It was an unpleasant glimpse of life as a 70-year-old. I know people tend to get arthritis in joints where they have chronic pain; this recent illness made me realize that I have GOT to get this shoulder issue resolved, or else my golden years are going to be pretty painful. I'm stalling on seeing my doctor because I know that she's going to tell me to lay off the knitting for a couple of months, and I just have too many half-finished things lying around to take an extended break. Maybe in the summer.

I did manage to take some photos of already-dyed stock, though. Some will go live at Venus Vanguard on Thursday evening. The rest will go up at my own store on Friday morning. A little preview:

No progress on Rogue, though I did manage to finish some bed socks for the local hospice, and am halfway through my second Duckie. The dithering continues on Sock Summit. I think that covering my costs may not be totally insurmountable, after all, and my LYS just approached me about possibly sharing a booth. I really just want to jump in and go for it, but my innate caution is protesting loudly about doing such a huge show for my first standalone selling experience. We'll see which side wins out.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

most recent group order

I forgot to post these photos earlier. They're from my latest group order. Also the largest one to date--over 50 skeins. The first one to include spinning fiber, as well. I finished the order in just over 3 weeks, and could have done it faster if I hadn't run into some issues with black dye. It's nice to see how much I've streamlined my production.

You can see the Flickr photo with notes on the colorway names here:

I had two favorite results out of this batch. One was Morgaine, on Corriedale. The photo doesn't show it well, but there are lots of intermediate shades of blue, green, and purple in the two skeins.

The other one was Inked, on Canadian BFL. I just like something about how these particular shades work together.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

a-rovin', a-rovin', since rovin's been my ruin

Surely there must be a dyer out there who likes both roving and sea shanties? I bet there's a blog named after A'Rovin'.

Anyway. Based on many helpful responses from my contest, I have been dyeing a fair amount of roving. Well, top to be more exact.

First, the custom for the winner of the contest, MamaMay:

And because several people said they liked to see the whole extent of the fiber, here's a photo of it unbraided:

Coral Reef is up for sale on Thursday at my store:

And Tawny of Baby Bean Designs spun my Provence top for me. The big skein is plied with a semi-solid reddish-purple top; the mini-skein is just Provence. Not a great photo, since the yarn is so lustrous; I'll try to retake it before I knit it up.

Here's the original top for reference:

There's more on my Flickr--look under the fiber or roving tag.

Friday, February 13, 2009

knitting ADD

First, I've been noticing hits on my blog by people who seem to be looking for the Apple Yarns blog. :) Here's the link:

Now, on with the show.

For most of the past three years, I've been too busy knitting for other people to think much about personal projects. I've been really focused, getting one project squared away before starting on the next. But now that I'm taking a break from deadline-based knitting because of my neck and shoulder, I find myself flitting from project to project, with the list growing bigger by the day.

Last weekend, I finished knitting the back of Rogue and blocked it to see how much it would grow (about an inch horizontally, without any stretching during blocking). While it was drying, instead of finishing my other Ducky, like a sensible person would do, I started on a charity knitting project, Baba's Bed Socks. These will go to the local hospice. Easy peasy project that I managed to turn into an ordeal by unraveling the heel flap to do slip stitches, which in turn was unraveled to do a short-row heel, which was unraveled again when I realized I didn't use enough stitches for the heel. Then I decided to just stick with the pattern, but absentmindedly made the heel flap 17 stitches instead of 16. Sigh.

I've also been trying to figure out something to make from two skeins of my sport weight organic merino yarn, to wear to a possible yarn soiree this spring. I'm thinking short-sleeve cardigan, or maybe a vest. Thank goodness for Ravelry, because I would never be able to find anything just through Google.

I like this cropped (only I'd try to make it longer) pattern by Blue Sky Alpacas. Well, except the neckline is too broad, and I'm not sure about the ribbing on the bottom half; I'd prefer something lacier. I was thinking about maybe a modified February Lady Sweater without the swinginess. Then I just came across Viola and I really like the U-shaped neckline. LOVE Delphine though I'm not sure I can actually picture myself wearing it.

Meanwhile, Rogue still needs to be finished and I need a new hat. I've never liked my current one--it's ugly and I don't like the color--but it's warm and it's there in the morning when I need it. Plus my little boy has been asking for felted slippers like daddy's, and then tonight he asked me to make him a turtle. I should really drop everything and at least make him some slippers, but I need to have closure on something before I take on anything else. Focus, woman, focus.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

my first dyeing dream

In my dream, I was walking through an abandoned apartment building with an ex-boyfriend. We went into one of the apartments, and I was immediately struck by how it would be a perfect dye studio. There was a commercial stove with huge burners, just right for large canning pots. There was some sort of amazing sink--the details escape me now, but somehow it was the ideal setup for rinsing yarns. I opened a closet door, and the hanging rods were just right for drying yarn. There was a room where I could store my yarns, and another area where I could efficiently package up orders. The windows were huge and let in all sorts of natural light. And that whole huge apartment would have been mine, and mine alone.

I think my ex-boyfriend was trying to convince me to give it another shot with him. That fantasy dye studio was part of the package. It was awfully tempting, but in the end, I regretfully gave it up and decided to stay with my real life.

Funny that it was the workspace that I found so enticing. I'm really not sure what that dream says about me, besides that I've been spending a lot of time dyeing in imperfect spaces.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

too many base yarns, not enough storage

Sometimes I get intrigued by a yarn description, and a primal urge to own it kicks in. Up till last year, I gave in quite a lot to this urge, resulting in many small lots of undyed yarn floating around my house.

Last summer, when I decided to ramp up my business and seek my first retailer, I also decided that I needed to cut back on the random test purchases. I narrowed down my product line to my personal favorites, and resolved not to order any other ones. I figured that it would help me to learn each base yarn's quirks more thoroughly, and there was something that I liked about the simplicity of only having seven base yarns. ("Only." That does seem like a lot.) For one, it's easier to organize everything if I can dedicate Rubbermaid tubs to just two or maybe three types of yarn, since I can keep better track of when I need to reorder.

I haven't been as good about limiting my base yarns this year. I've added a Corriedale worsted to the lineup as a good value yarn. But I also bought a few pounds of four other base yarns, just because. And I have recently become enamored of knitting with sport weight sock yarn, so I'm on the hunt for a superwash base yarn that fits the bill. My nice tidy lineup is threatening to become an unwieldy sprawling thing again.

in a sea of dye

I've started knitting the back of my Rogue. I tried it on and, my, it is form fitting. After I finish the back, I'm going to wash and block what I've got so far. Before I do the cabling around the V-neck, I want to be sure that 1) it's going to fit and 2) the cables don't disappear into mush.

But I haven't had much time to knit lately. I'm doing the final dyeing for my current group order, which I want to get wrapped up before the next group order is placed--probably toward the end of next week, is my guess. Then last night, I was at a hospice fundraiser hosted by Apple Yarns, and the owner talked to me about wanting to place another wholesale order right away. I feel like I'm already squeezing every possible hour out of the day. Eeek.

Still, it's a good problem to have! There's also the possibility that Apple Yarns will host an open house featuring local designers and me in the spring. So I should start thinking about knitting something appropriate for warm weather to wear to this shindig, using one of my yarns that they carry.

I'm feeling more certain about applying to be a vendor at OFFF this year. I had initially thought about doing the Sock Summit also, since it's just down the road in Portland. But the booth fees! I believe it's something like $325 for a 5' x 10' booth, and $650 for a 10' x 10' booth. With such small spaces, there's no chance of sharing with someone else--you couldn't both have enough stock to cover your costs. I don't think the smaller booth would even hold enough inventory for one seller, and with the larger booth, I'd have to net $1000 just to break even on the costs (booth, lodging, mileage, food). Net after the cost of the base yarn at the bare minimum, not gross sales. Heck, to even gross $1000, I'd need to sell 500 skeins. The organizers say that 5000 people have expressed interest--well, even if all of them actually showed up, I would still need to get more than 10% of them to purchase a skein of my yarn. In competition against a zillion other people. I have confidence in my yarn, but the cards would be stacked way against me. This is definitely not a venue for the average independent dyer.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rogue update

I'm pleasantly surprised by how fast this is going. I've never made an adult-sized sweater before, so I was steeling myself for months of work. But after just a week, I'm almost ready to split for the armhole shaping.

The yarn, Queensland Kathmandu Aran, is really lovely to work with. I read some complaints about VM and yarn breakage, but I haven't had a problem with either. Yes, there's a little VM, like one or two pieces per 50g skein. I don't think it's a dealbreaker.

My one concern is about the cables. The stitch definition is fine now, if not ideal for the cables; the fabric has a lot of drape and the yarn itself is a little fuzzy, not smoothly plied. I'm wondering what's going to happen after blocking. Maybe I should have used size 7 needles and made the sweater the next size up. Other people were using size 6 needles with this yarn and pattern. I don't know; I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Knit Picks Harmony needles review

I tried out my new Knit Picks Harmony wood needles this week. They splintered in the first three minutes--a huge sliver about 1.5" long broke off, starting at the tip. So I packed all the KP needles that I bought, including the metal interchangeables that keep coming unscrewed, and returned them.

Yes, the prices are attractive, but I'd much rather have functioning needles that cost a little more. I'm sticking with my Addis from now on.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

and the winner is ...

Congratulations, MamaMay! I'll be e-mailing you shortly to discuss the details of your free roving.

Reading all the responses has been very educational. My main reference book on dyeing roving, to date, has been Color in Spinning by Deb Menz. She states that color stripes should be 3" wide at the most, and that roving should be dyed in increments no greater than 1 oz to make it easier to handle--definitely not what spinners seem to prefer. And when I browse on Ravelry, many dyers seem to be quite worked up about how braiding and shipping in polymailers lead to fiber compaction. It's been interesting to see how spinners, at least the ones who entered the contest, are less concerned about that.

If you entered this contest, thank you so very much for your input! I thought this was really fun--I'll definitely be doing more contests in the future.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Knit Picks Options review

In anticipation of finally knitting Rogue, I ordered some KP Options needles in a few sizes. I love my Addis, but because of my tendonitis, I have a hard time knitting with needles where the tips are longer than 3.5" or whatever length the Addi 16" and 20" tips are. The 5"+ tips on the 24" and 32" needles, which I need for sweater knitting, force my wrists into uncomfortable positions.

I saw that the KP Options are 4.5", so I thought they'd be worth a shot. When I got them last week, I cast on for the Amethyst wrap. The tip length is not an issue, which is great.

But the tips keep coming unscrewed. This causes stitches to get caught in the gap between the tips and the cable, and once the cable came off altogether, dropping a bunch of stitches. I've used the little pin to try to crank the tips on as tightly as possible, but they still loosen up. Happens with all three sizes of tips that I bought. If I end up using a size 8 for Rogue, I'll probably use beeswax to keep the tips screwed on. A handy little tip unearthed from my dusty bicycle mechanic lore, but really, I shouldn't have to do anything like this.

Also--and I know this is a feature, not a bug, for most knitters--the tips are super pointy. In the winter, my hands get super dry, and a couple of years ago I actually poked a hole in my fingertip from too much knitting. Like, with blood and everything. So I'm wary of sharp tips. Plus, they hurt.

If I used needle lengths greater than 20" on a regular basis, I would be very tempted by the new Addi Click interchangeables. I know the tips are about the same length as the KP Options, but I don't want to drop $150 in order to basically buy one needle.

In other Rogue news, I've finished the hem facing, which I did with some silk/camel/wool handspun yarn that my lovely friend Denise made for me. I wanted to use something that was a slightly lighter weight than the main yarn, and I also wanted to use a yarn that had some meaning for me, not just a random skein that I pulled out of my stash. This yarn works well on both counts.

I had a frustrating start. Even though 95% of my knitting is in the round, I somehow managed to twist my stitches when I joined them after cast-on, and despite much scrutiny, didn't figure out that I'd done out for four or five rounds. Not just once, but twice. I finally got it right on my third try. Sheesh.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

doing 2008 accounting, shoot me now

My state and city tax forms are due this week, so I've been spending some time with spreadsheets the last few nights. Unfortunately, I am terrible about tracking stuff. I hate this kind of thing, so I put it off as long as possible, which means that I end up having a painful January.

On the fortunate side (at least from a paperwork standpoint), neither my city nor state (Washington) allow many deductions that I qualify for, so it's mostly a matter of totaling up my gross revenues. I don't make enough to pay B&O tax and I have very few in-state sales (and those I actually did track and record, because they were few and far between, and therefore not overwhelming), so I'll only owe a few dollars in retail sales tax. It's just the documentation process that's so painful.

Also on the fortunate side, nearly all of my transactions take place through PayPal. At first I was planning to rely on the monthly statements that PP compiles, but that doesn't account for things like withdrawals to my checking account. They show up as debits but they're not expenses, which will matter when it comes time to do my federal taxes.

So I'm actually finding it easier to download my PP transaction history, month by month. (Trying to download the entire year brought my computer to the blue screen of death, or as my 4-year-old refers to it, the World of DOS.) That way, I can look at the name associated with the transaction, and eliminate those items like withdrawals to checking. I'll finish this off tonight, and then enter my non-PP transactions tomorrow night.

It's painful, but certainly nothing as awful as the way I did it the last two years, which was to manually enter each transaction from PP into my spreadsheets. I have no idea why it didn't occur to me to export all that stuff.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I can barely remember a time when I didn't long to knit Rogue. I finally bought the pattern about a year ago, and since then I've been wrestling with what yarn to use.

For a long time, I thought I'd use the colorgrown black Blue-Faced Leicester yarn that I've been hoarding. It is the softest, fluffiest BFL I've ever seen--and many, many kilos have passed through this house, from various vendors. I have a kilo of it that I've been saving for just the right project, and I thought Rogue was it.

Then I realized that the cables might not show up that well in a black yarn. And since I haven't done much cable work, I should probably use a lighter-colored yarn so that I wouldn't go blind trying to figure out my inevitable mistakes. I already seem to be on the fast track to bifocals, so no sense in making it worse.

I thought about dyeing my own yarn. Not variegated--Rogue needs a plainer yarn, to show its cables to best advantage. But I thought I might do a solid or semi-solid. However, the more I browsed other people's Rogues on Ravelry, the more I wanted something tweedy. Or maybe heathered.

I considered Bartlett Rangeley, which sounded like it might be on the coarse, scratchy side, but the price was right and I really liked the Blackberry colorway. I remembered Blackberry Ridge's heathered lines--they had beautiful spring and autumnal heathers that I always admired, but never bought. Alas! They have discontinued their heathers, due to lack of interest. I have never been one to stash sweater quantities of yarns, but I might have to start, lest any other longtime favorites disappear into oblivion.

My Rogue fantasies finally settled on Queensland Kathmandu Aran. As luck would have it, it's also been discontinued. Still, I hung onto my little dream, and stalked people's Ravelry stashes in an unhealthy way.

All that OCD behavior may have paid off. I found two people who were willing to part with their Kathmandu. One lovely person offered to send me a snippet of the yarn, since I can't tell which of the myriad online photos has the most accurate color of it. The other person has the colorway that I love best, at least on screen. So that batch should be on its way to me soon, and I may buy the other lot as well. I've learned my lesson--your sweater stash can never be too big.

Monday, January 19, 2009

new year, new goals

2008 was a good year for Huckleberry Knits and me. I found a good balance between working on my business and doing other fun things with my free time. I secured my first wholesale account, did my first group order, and sold at my first fiber festival. Streamlined my dyeing production, including setting up a dye studio and buying some new equipment.

So I'm feeling pretty good as I head into the new year. I'm in a place now where I can expand a bit. In 2009, I'd like to:

1) Set up another wholesale account. I won't be working on this till June or so, as I have some large orders coming up with my current retailer and I want to focus on those first.

2) Look into doing a yarn club. Ideally, I would go into this with at least one other dyer. I think that makes it more appealing for customers, as well as giving me more flexibility in scheduling my dyeing time.

3) Work with a designer or two to develop patterns for my yarn.

4) Sell at another fiber festival. I'm looking at OFFF--reasonable vendor fees, nice atmosphere.

And I have a few personal knitting goals, too:

1) Knit at least one item each month for either me or mine. My kiddo has been asking for either slippers or socks, and I've got a whole bunch of things I want to make for myself.

2) Knit down at least 50% of my stash before I buy any new yarn. The one exception is finding yarn to make a Rogue. I've had the pattern for a year, and have been wanting to knit it for much longer than that, so it's time to make it.

3) Learn how to spin. Last year, when I first tried to learn, I ended up overdoing it (in combination with knitting too much) and strained my neck and shoulder so badly that I couldn't knit for six weeks. I don't want to do that again, but I would like to learn. Maybe if I take a class, they can show me some ways to work around my tendonitis so I don't hurt myself again.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I'm not a spinner, but I play one on TV.

I have a crush on roving. I admire from afar, swoon when up close. I love how the colors melt into one another.

But unfortunately, I'm not a spinner. I've figured out a no-felt dyeing method for roving that I like, but I've got other questions.

So I'm looking for advice from spinners as to what they like to see in their roving. If you're a spinner and post a reply with your answers to the following questions, I'll put your name into a drawing on January 31 for 4 oz of free roving from me. (That includes shipping in the US or Canada, and a reduced charge for other international destinations.) Hand-dyed in your choice of colors, on either Blue-Faced Leicester, superwash BFL, or Jacob lambswool. Be sure to include your e-mail address in the appropriate box--it won't show up with your reply, but I'll still have a way to get a hold of you.

1. How long do you like your stripes of color to be? 2", 3", 4", or something else? A variety of lengths?

2. Do you like sharp color contrasts (light/dark, opposites on the color wheel) or more subtle combinations?

3. Do you think braiding/crochet chaining compacts the fiber too much? Do you prefer to have your fiber shipped in a loose ball?

4. Do you prefer to have your fiber shipped in a box (again, to prevent compacting) or is a polymailer okay?

5. Anything else that you want a fiber dyer to know?

EDIT: I thought of another question.

6. How many oz of roving in a single colorway do you usually buy?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

okay, one more post today

I just noticed this in the Ravelry store:

The "dis" part disappears when the mug is filled with hot coffee/tea. Genius! Since I only become fully functional (and agreeable) in the morning after a cup of coffee, I had to have it. And while I was at it, I also caved and bought the Ravelry hooded sweatshirt that I've been eyeing for three months. I am weak.


It finally cleared up today, enough to snap some photos.


wholesale yarn order!


new colorway (Provence)!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

quiet, but busy

I have been super busy lately, but it's been raining nearly every day that I'm home and able to take photos, so no photos of the finished items I've got.

First, I finished my Jaywalkers! They look great. Not that stretchy, as many people have noted, but I can get them on and off my feet without too much trouble. I got some really lovely sock blockers from Seven Yaks on Etsy. They were seconds because the plexiglass is cloudy, but honestly, the sock covers up pretty much all of the cloudiness so they're perfect for photos. It also doubles as a needle gauge, which is just too handy for words.

Since finally breaking through the Jaywalkers block, I have gone crazy for socks. I queued a bunch of patterns on Ravelry, and cast on almost immediately for a pair of Duckies, in a Spunky Eclectic sportweight yarn that's been sitting in my stash for just over two years. The Duckies are simple but still interesting, and it's amazing how fast sportweight works up. It's been very slow going because I have a pretty severe flare up of tendonitis in my arms, plus shoulder pain. Raising my hands even to type for more than a few minutes hurts, and I wake up in the morning with stiffness in my shoulders and neck. Not good. Time off from knitting (with a side of ibuprofen) is definitely the best cure, so once I've fulfilled a couple of small commitments, I'm going to put all business knitting on hold till the pain is gone. I had intended to reopen for customs at the beginning of this month, but I just can't do it.

On the dyeing front, I'm wrapping up my latest wholesale order for Apple Yarns tonight and printing out labels. I have a ton of yarn to list in the store, but the horrible weather has made photos pretty much impossible. We are supposed to have a few clear days, so I'm going to try to get as much of this stockpile photographed and listed. I had really wanted to go to a regular schedule of stocking on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays, now that Venus Vanguard has moved to a 1st Thursday schedule, but the winter weather has put a damper (ha, ha) on those plans. Maybe next month will be better.

I also shipped off some fleeces for blending and processing. I'm looking for that perfect combination of softness and resilience, so I'll have two different yarns coming to me in a few months. Both the processing and spinning will be done by Washington family farms, and one of the blends will be all-Northwest as well. I'm really hoping that at least one of these yarns will work out--I think it would be so cool to have my very own local yarn.