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.