This may be the prettiest thing I've ever dyed. Though I just thought that about some other fiber that I dyed three days ago. Perhaps I'm more fickle than I realized.
85/15 Polwarth/silk. I think I might be keeping this for myself, at least till I see if I can replicate it.
Friday, November 4, 2011
This may be the prettiest thing I've ever dyed. Though I just thought that about some other fiber that I dyed three days ago. Perhaps I'm more fickle than I realized.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
I did a lot of the driving on this trip and a lot of the prettiest scenery I saw was along the roads (particularly Rte 225 in Massachusetts), so not too many photos, but here are a few. I grew up living and breathing colonial history and the American Revolution, so I've been determinedly teaching my son about it. He doesn't get much exposure to it in Washington state.
The USS Constitution. I hadn't been aboard her since I was a little kid. Now that I've read and loved the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian, stepping on board the Constitution is really an incredible experience. I'm so glad that she's been preserved all these years.
A cool carving of oak leaves on the Constitution.
A rainy day at Merriam's Corner in Concord, MA, where the running battle of Concord began.
The English village at Plimoth Plantation. This was a rather expensive attraction to enter, but worth it for the excellent staff, who roleplay Pilgrims circa 1627. To my surprise, spinning and weaving were not practiced in the early years--too few sheep, and no local flax or hemp was available. Didn't stop the gift shop from carrying custom-spun yarn from Harrisville, in colors representative of the period, though the names seemed a little anachronistic (doesn't Goose Turd Green seems a little crass for the period?).
And a few random photos for colorway inspiration. This was taken at the Flume in Franconia Notch State Park in NH:
And this fellow is a Rhode Island Red at Plimoth Plantation. Love how the green shades into black in his tail, and let's not talk about my ongoing love affair with that particular shade of burnt orange.
Husband and kiddo went home on Friday, and I went on to Rhinebeck with friends. More in the next post.
Friday, September 9, 2011
When I originally dyed this combination of colorways, it made me think of the ocean and its infinite variety of blues and greens. I named it Westward, after the schooner that I sailed on during my off-campus semester in college at Williams-Mystic. We spent 10 days on the Westward, sailing through the Bahamas. Although I felt like I spent most of my time on the voyage trapped in the lab, counting copepods (most of my deck watches were at night, and my day watches seemed to be mostly science/lab ones), it was still a great experience to help with ocean research on a tall ship.
When a friend, who now serves on the W/M Alumni Council, asked if I would donate an item to the annual silent auction, Westward came to mind immediately. I've contributed a skein of this colorway on my Silk & Silver base. If you happen to be an alum going to the reunion next weekend in Mystic, be sure to bid early and often!
And for those of you who aren't, I've listed some worsted and aran weight yarns at HC. More coming next week--I'm clearing the decks for some new base yarns and colorways.
Friday, September 2, 2011
And I think I needed to take it easy for a while, too. I had wanted to build on SS momentum, but I'd been operating all summer on an intense schedule with erratic child care, and I needed some time to reconnect with my kiddo. The day when it's completely uncool to hang out with mom is fast approaching, and I need to enjoy these days when his favorite companions are still his parents.
Anyway, I'm sorry if you've been waiting for me to resume online selling. I'm wary about posting online about vacation plans because I feel like it's an open invitation to thieves (am I the only one who's this paranoid?), but I also want to stay in touch with customers. I hope I'm striking a balance by privately informing customers that I'm actively working with about my holiday plans.
But now I'm back to work. Fall wholesale orders have come in, and I'm also prepping for Oregon Flock & Fiber. Many photos have been taken and I'm working my way through them in some new-to-me software that I'm trying out, Adobe Lightroom. Once I get the hang of it, I'm hoping that it will make photo processing both easier and faster. I'm not a natural photographer so I need all the software help I can get. It seems sub-optimal to list yarn on a holiday weekend, so look for listings after Labor Day on my HC store. (Fees at this store are considerably lower than Etsy, so I list my sweater-quantity yarns over there.)
Happy Labor Day to everyone!
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Earlier this week, I shipped off a group order. This one had some older colorways, which were interesting to revisit.
Several new projects, big and small, are in the works. It should be an interesting fall!
Monday, August 1, 2011
A few photos of the booth I was sharing with my friend Diane of BugSnugger. I had been playing with my white balance in my photography class earlier and forgot to reset it, and there's only so much photo editing can do, unfortunately. Well, a picture mumbles a thousand words.
My side of the booth:
I did a demo on how to knit with silk hankies. I'd been wondering if I could really talk for 45 minutes about it, especially once I looked at my notes that I wrote up a month ago, and discovered that I'd only jotted down four bullet points. But it went pretty well, I think--I had samples for everyone and people seemed to have fun playing with them.
There were three things I really wanted from SS, and I got them all: a Queen Bee Creations Truckette (the design is called Wisp), a Jenkins spindle (I got a Swan in a beautifully grained, walnut-brown mora wood), and a row-counting stitch marker, which I haven't found in my luggage yet. I also picked up some more Lo-Lo bars, which were first recommended to me by a 13-year-old boy at Black Sheep Gathering. If a prepubescent boy gushes about a moisturizer, you know it's got to be good.
And no trip to Portland is complete without visiting Powell's. While dyeing this summer, I've been rereading the Aubrey-Maturin series, this time as MP3s read by my audiobook boyfriend Simon Vance. So I picked up a copy of Cochrane: The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain, the real-life inspiration for Aubrey.
And because it just seemed so appropriate for Sock Summit weekend, I had to get a copy of Yarn. A man must locate a highly illegal and psychedelic yarn and make a coat out of it in one day. Having been surrounded by yarn junkies for four days straight at that point, there was really nothing I could do except buy it.
I took three classes at SS. The first, Photographing Your Fiber, would have been really useful about five years ago, when I was blundering my way through self-taught product photography. Still, I picked up several great tips, and the instructor, Franklin Habit, seemed to be a really interesting and pleasant person in addition to being funny (which I already suspected from his blog).
The second class was a one-hour wonder on natural dyeing with Kristine Vejar, the extremely talented dyer behind A Verb for Keeping Warm. It was a little peek into an endlessly fascinating world, but I'm a little afraid to go down that path for fear that I'll never come back out. And I have so much more appreciation for the challenges of production dyeing with natural dyestuffs.
The third class was a lecture by Judith MacKenzie on how to choose a fleece for sock yarn. It was the second time that I'd heard her speak, and she is just such an amazing source of knowledge. I admit that the content on the title topic was a little self-evident: choose a wool that will hold up to abrasion, and that has a lot of crimp. But she just knows so much, and I'm glad I had my netbook along for notetaking.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
At the same time, I've been trying to not repeat the summer of 2009, where I spent every waking and half-waking moment dyeing for SS, and I felt like I missed out on a lot of the summer. My child is only getting older and at some point soon, he's going to have zero interest in spending time with old mom and dad. So when I scheduled him for camps and so forth this summer, I skipped this week and last in order to take him to daily swim lessons instead. We've hiked almost every day, seen friends, and spent lots of time reading in the sun. Dyeing at night is harder, both because of motivation and because I see the colors a lot better in natural light, but I'm glad I did it. And I don't feel guilty for also feeling glad that he's in camp for the next two weeks.
Tour de Fleece is also on, and my good intentions of spinning both on my spindle and my bicycle every day are out the window. But spindling is something that I can do at midnight, whereas cycling is somewhat less convenient at that hour, so at least I've been making a little progress on that front. I'm working with some undyed CVM and I'm feeling pretty pleased with how I'm improving, even though my joins are slubby monstrosities. It will come with time and practice, I know.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Thank you all for a wonderful show! (More photos on my Flickr.) It was a terrific weekend and I loved meeting so many fiber lovers. And particular thanks to those of you who showed me projects and yarns that you'd made from goodies that you'd previously bought from me. I really love seeing what my babies grow up to be. Like this gorgeous shawl from coordinating handspun (BFL/silk in the Red Rocks colorway, Navajo plied to preserve the color runs) and Willow sock yarn:
I know some of you were buying yarn for other stripe studies; looking forward to seeing some of those in the next few months.
It's on to Sock Summit dyeing for me now. I'll be focusing on sock yarns, natch. I'd thought about adding in an 8-ply sock yarn, restocking Cascara MCN sock, and bringing in a new merino/cashmere/silk lace. But being realistic about how much time I have between now and SS, I think I won't be ordering those till after SS. Look for those at OFFF in September, and online shortly afterwards.
Seeing the steady stream of shoppers, and knowing that I have SS coming up, my next door neighbor at the show, Joy of Shepherds Lane (and you all should check out her lovely Gotland fiber and yarn; some Gotland handspun sneaked its way into my car), suggested that I hire some help. I am a little (okay, a lot) afraid of getting entangled in paperwork with L&I and other state agencies during crunch time, but clearly I could get much more done if I had a hand.
Monday, May 30, 2011
I talk with the vendor and she helps me decide on a Turkish spindle. She points me to a section of the display, and I spend a long time looking at them, trying to pick my favorite design, before I realize that I'm looking at top whorl spindles when I wanted a bottom whorl. I look at the clock and discover that it's noon. The show's been open for two hours so maybe I ought to go check on my booth.
I find where my booth was last year. Some other vendor is there instead. I find one of my friends who was supposed to be helping me. She says, "Oh, they moved you somewhere else. I don't know where all your stuff is."
I walk all over the school looking for my booth. Finally, I find it in the football stadium. Some, but nowhere close to all, of my yarn and fiber is scattered in the first few rows of bleachers. Some people have tossed their coats onto my booth, so I'm flinging them around as I frantically search for my items.
"Hey!" says a man sitting next to my booth. "That's my coat you're throwing on the ground!"
"Well, maybe you shouldn't have put it on top of my yarn!" I retort.
His wife glares at me. "How do you expect anyone to buy your yarn if you're so rude to them?"
I wake up with my heart pounding. I think, maybe I've been thinking a little too much about yarn lately.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The LYS Tour starts today, and this morning I dropped off a small order at Apple Yarns to supplement their current stock of my yarns. This is all on Willow BFL/nylon sock yarn.
I'm also happy to announce that after the summer show season, I'll be adding another LYS on the tour, NW Handspun, to my retailers. They've got a lovely selection of yarns as well as spinning fibers and tools. My six-year-old is begging for me to bring home a wheel from them ("then I could earn money for you by spinning your fiber, mama!") but I think that might be the final straw to break my husband's back. He has been quite saintly about the boxes of yarns scattered throughout the house, but a wheel would be too much to tolerate, and too big for me to hide.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
I leave for Black Sheep Gathering six weeks from today, and much to my surprise, I'm on track with my preparation. Amazing how a skein or braid of roving here and there can add up when you start early enough. My goal was to bring triple the amount of fiber that I had last year, and it looks like I'm on pace to have closer to quadruple. My BFL/silk blend (like the photo above) is definitely popular, so I'll have a lot of that.
What a change from how I felt around this time last year. During the runup to BSG, I was stressed about where my business was going, what I was investing for little emotional return, never getting enough sleep, and so on. If Black Sheep didn't go well, I was going to quit.
But it did go well. Better than I had dreamed of. I'd hoped to equal my Sock Summit take; I ended up selling almost 50% more. And even better were the comments that people made about my yarn, and my fiber. Those words, sometimes said directly to me, sometimes overheard as friends were talking to each other, have carried me through a lot of late nights.
And now I'm a full-time dyer, thanks to the magic rejuvenation of BSG. Thank you, Black Sheep friends, for reinspiring me. <3
Monday, May 2, 2011
I'm afraid to say this, but I think I might be caught up. I mean, not totally, as in I have nothing on the dye schedule, because I still have a lot, but that sense of panic has eased up. Fiber club is shipped, yarn club is shipped, and three wholesale orders (including the one shown above, which is now up at Pulling at Strings, here and here) went out the door last month. I have a couple of small custom orders to work on tomorrow, and then I might safely say that I'm back to my normal level of frenzy. I'm starting to think ahead a little bit, including hiring a local friend/web designer to do a standalone site for me, so that's a good sign.
I need to build in a little more leeway into my schedule. I'm not sure exactly how. My husband did offer to go back to a 4-10 schedule so he could help me wind yarn and reskein one day a week. That would be a huge boost to my productivity; I hope it works out.
In my ongoing efforts to prevent the Perfect from being the enemy of the Good Enough, I'll be listing a few things tonight on both Etsy and my HC store. Still trying to find the balance among building show inventory, completing wholesale orders, and tending to my own retail sales. We'll get there.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
I do think that I will finally be able to set up a decent tracking system for expenses so that Schedule C will be a lot easier to do in future years. I've been browsing different software programs, but I think that if I can just get the right spreadsheets set up, consolidate my spending to downloadable electronic formats (i.e., my business checking and PayPal), and never use cash for business expenses, it will be so much easier. I'm also planning to spend some time reading sites like Money Crashers and Basic Accounting Help to figure out some of this stuff. I'm actually feeling a little excited about learning more about accounting, which is a first.
It really wasn't my intent to leave taxes till this late, I swear. We usually do them in March, after I've recovered from the first round of tax frenzy prompted by the state business tax deadline of January 31. But my husband had the flu for a week before I came down with it, so that was three weeks where the household was just trying to tread water with one functional adult.
On a related business-y note, we've launched the My Better Earth blog, which focuses on helping handcrafting businesses to grow. I'm one of the primary writers, so some of these business-related ramblings may evolve into full-fledged posts over there. We'll be posting about twice a week at first to build up some more content, and then settle down to a weekly schedule.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
I spent 10 days during the second half of March in bed with the flu, which was pretty much zero fun and I had to miss my Cookie A class because of it (sob). Then as soon as I got back on my feet, I was catching up with a few projects and prepping for the Whidbey Weavers Guild's spin-in this weekend. I tried to tell myself to just be happy with what I already had dyed, but of course I didn't listen. At any rate, I remembered both to bring my camera and to actually use it to take a photo, which is the first time I've been two out of two in quite a while. This photo was taken after almost the silk hankies had been snatched up (I think I was out of them within the first hour of the spin-in).
It was a fun weekend--great to meet more local spinners and knitters, including some people that I've known online for a while, as well as seeing some familiar faces! It was the 40th anniversary of the spin-in, and one of the original organizers confirmed that the name had been inspired by all the 1960s sit-ins (I'd wondered). Judith MacKenzie was the featured spinner this weekend, and it was an education to listen to her. (How nice that the vendors were able to listen in, too!) I don't own a wheel so her talk on wheel mechanics was completely new to me, and I learned a lot. I wish I'd taken notes. Judith imparted so much information in a disarmingly casual manner. One thing she said that I found particularly interesting was that the diameter of a spindle's shaft is directly correlated with the diameter of the yarn that you're able to spin. I had thought it had more to do with the spindle weight, and there's probably some connection there, but not as direct a correlation as the shaft. And that the bigger the wheel, the finer the yarn you could spin.
I'll be spending this week dyeing the March (I know) fiber club, the April yarn club selections, wrapping up a wholesale order, and entertaining my child on his spring break. I was thinking about dyeing some silk hankies tonight, but I think maybe I've earned a break.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I've had a custom mill run done for me, in addition to trying most of the ones on the market. None have yet had the perfect combination of twist, hand, and general knitting enjoyment that I'm looking for.
Yet another candidate arrived today, and I think this might be The One, at last. It will go into the dyepot this week; I have high hopes for this base.
It does feel terribly trivial to be thinking about yarn, given what's happening in Japan. I gave some money to one of my favorite charities, International Medical Corps, which has a tsunami relief fund. I'd like to give more, but I'm not really sure which organization is best equipped to help right now. And I am transfixed by the struggle to keep the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from complete failure. I still have intermittent daydreams of working in emergency management (I was a public information officer for my county's EM department for years), so I have a professional perspective that's slowly coming to bear as I work through some of my emotional and visceral reactions.
As usual, the NY Times has some incredible interactive graphics. Before and after satellite photos that show the impact of the tsunami and what happens during a reactor meltdown are two really good ones.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
This fairy tale has been intruding on my thoughts ever since I started working on the sleeve, and I've decided to interpret it as a cautionary tale from my subconscious. I don't want to have to sprout down feathers to stay warm because I was struck down by Second Sleeve Syndrome.
In other news, I signed up for a class at the end of March with Cookie A at Wild Fibers in Mt Vernon. It's Knitting on the Bias. When I called, there was still one spot left in Cookie's Advanced Cables class in the morning, as well as spaces in the afternoon class that I'm taking, in case you're local.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
It does leave me in a bit of a bind for online sales; since my fiber essentially sells out at each show, I'm always building up inventory for the next show, and don't have much to list at Etsy.
So I'm introducing a fiber club, beginning this month. The subscription is for three months. Each three-month period will have one untreated fiber, one superwash, and one luxury or exotic fiber.
I'm excited about the club--I love dyeing fiber and watching the colors meld. Happy spinning!
Friday, February 18, 2011
Tomorrow I'm rewarding myself with a trip down to Madrona. I'm not a vendor this year (or I would have quit my job in January in order to prepare) but NW Handspun Yarns is carrying some of my BFL and BFL/silk fiber in their booth. Looking forward to seeing friends, browsing for shawl pins and buttons, and just generally soaking in all the fibery goodness.
Next week, I ought to have a bit more breathing room, so I'm planning to get back to my obsession with silk hankies.
Love dyeing them, love knitting with them. When I was in China several years back, I went on a tour of a silk factory and watched them stretch cocoons, but I'd forgotten how long the silk strands are. Amazing stuff.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
I am so excited. I'm bursting with ideas for developing and marketing my business. And interestingly, this has spilled over into my last three weeks at my job. I've astonished myself with the creative ideas and approaches that I've come up with for tackling some of the same issues that I've been working on for years.
This also means that I've been busy on a number of fronts. In my February newsletter, I promised a Feb 10 stocking at Etsy, but I've been juggling a lot of things, including an avalanche of fiber for Madrona. (I didn't get a booth this year, but NW Handspun Yarns will have my BFL and BFL/silk fiber for sale.) I'm afraid that stocking my store has been forced to take a back seat with all the craziness that's happening. Look for a stocking on Feb 17 instead.
Taking the leap has opened all sorts of possibilities to me, even just within my own mind. What have you been wanting to do? You only live once. And life is too short to not be happy.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Five months later, I am still dealing with the fallout from this. Right now, I'm still too enraged over the latest salvo from the state of Illinois, which I got today, to get into the details. However, I do know that effective immediately, I will no longer accept any returns on sales made at shows. I will accept exchanges for the duration of the show. (I am still determining how my return policy for online sales will be affected.) I think this change is fair, as buyers are able to touch and see my products in person at shows, so they know exactly what they're buying.
The other change I will be making is to never do business with the state of Illinois again.
Friday, January 21, 2011
I think back then, given my 50-cent weekly allowance, my main consideration was price. Sparkly was a bonus. That must have been during my rainbows and unicorns glitter sticker phase.
"You can toss it all," I said to my mother. "It's all acrylic and I don't really use that any more."
"What about this skein?" she asked. "I remember you couldn't decide whether to spend that much money on yarn."
I stared at it. I couldn't remember buying it, why I would have wanted that color, or what I was planning to use it for. Yet my mother remembered me agonizing over it. "It probably cost $3."
"That was probably a lot of money to you back then," she said. I thought about the $70 skein of Buffalo Gold in my current stash, which I'd thought was a bargain at $45 and bought with nary a flinch (though I did just get released from a vow of stash chastity). My, how times have changed.
But some things haven't. The bag included the beginnings of a project. Apparently at some point I decided to make a crocheted afghan. Didn't get very far, though.
Unlike some of my current WIPs that have been in progress for, oh, three or four years, I was able to instruct my mother to throw it out with the lot without a qualm. She wanted to give all of it to a local senior center, but that stuff has been sitting untouched for over 20 years and I would have hated to infest their yarn with any unwanted visitors. After having opened my clarinet case for the first time since 1988, to discover that tiny grubs had chewed away half of every reed in the case and had probably had a go at the instrument cork too, I was a little paranoid about the state of the yarn. Yech.