Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More Knitting than Usual

One of the effects of me making teaching a significant part of my business is that I'm spending a whole lot more time knitting than I had been, and I didn't realize how much I'd missed it.  I never stopped, but I was doing pretty minor things -- a pair of mittens here, socks there, now and then a hat.  Now, I'm spending a lot of time making up demo projects for classes and trying to come up with simple projects that showcase my yarn.  It's kind of nice, to have stuff on the go.

I've been knitting a sweater for my Sweaters Without a Pattern class out of the tweed yarn I handspun a while back.  I'm so in love with this yarn, i can't tell you.  It's springy and robust but still soft on the skin, and the way it's knitting up, showing off those little bits and pieces of
 leftover fiber bits from my previous spinning -- love, total love.  I didn't have quite enough for a sweater to fit me, though, and I agonized for a bit.  I could just make a sweater for my daughter, and it would be lovely, but I worked so hard on making this yarn that I couldn't quite bear the thought of it not being for me.  I could set the yarn aside for a vest, and make the sweater from different yarn, but I'm not exactly rolling in money, and if I could make the demo project without spending money, that would be better.

I decided to go to the yarn store and see if there was something interesting I could use for the cuffs and button bands, maybe a bit of detailing, and I struck gold.  I struck Noro.  Their new yarn, Yuzen, is an interesting crispy texture, and the silk content gives it a bit of a sheen.  And they had a colourway that could not have been a better match for my tweed.

Here is the project in progress, half the body and the sleeves done, ready to be joined up for the raglan shoulder.  If you want to lick the screen, then you're like me.


I can't knit anymore on the sweater until a week from now, when I demonstrate how to do an armscye and how to assemble the pieces to begin the raglan shaping, but I was enjoying the pretty mindless knitting on chunky yarn.  I decided to cast on for a felted bag.

I've said in the past that it makes me cry when I find out that someone wants to felt my yarn, but I can see the appeal -- the colours are lovely, and it does felt like a dream.  So I chose some colours:
Mindless knitting, pretty colours -- I can see the appeal.  Will keep you posted.

Class news:  By popular demand, I'm running a Beginner's Knitting class that begins this Thursday evening.  I hadn't anticipated that Beginner Knitting would be the one with the highest demand, but now I know -- next Winter, I'll run it twice.  There is going to be a 2-session Mittens class beginning on Saturday Nov 22 that I think will be fun.  I'm teaching a pattern that can be used with any yarn, for any size hands.  I like any pattern that starts "choose any yarn you like."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Some pretty things to look at

In the past couple days a few people have sent me pictures of what they have done with my yarn, and I thought I'd share.

Firstly, some crocheting. I can crochet, but I usually don't, so I'm glad to see an example of my yarn used for a purpose rather different from the one I usually put it to. I've seen crocheting done up in handspun yarn, and the effect is very interesting. The colour blending that you get with the combination of stitch and yarn is really unique.



Next, a use I often put my yarn to -- mittens. Can never have too many mittens, I'd say.



Lastly, a contribution by a Torchwood fan and nascent spinner:



It's been a slow and quiet month. I started my weaving class, and it's been interesting. So far, I don't find weaving nearly as rhythmic and relaxing as knitting, but I'm new, so it's bound to feel clumsy and difficult right now. I've been neglecting my bookkeeping, doing no dyeing whatsoever, and playing around with the drum carder from time to time. I now know that I can drum card 8 batts in an hour. Hey, when you're crafting for profit, you need to know these things. I'm just adding it to the pile of Facts of Limited General Application that I have.

Mostly I've been concentrating on the teaching, this month. Three out of four scheduled classes have gone ahead, and I've enjoyed all of them. My Sweaters Without a Pattern class is beginning this Wednesday evening, and I'm looking forward to it -- I love teaching this class. I love taking a group of knitters and empowering them to knit stuff just the way they want it, in exactly the yarn they want. Freedom from the tyranny of the pattern! Not that there isn't a time and a place for a good pattern, but it's not *every* time. The class has four students in it right now so it will definitely go ahead, but there's room for a few more if anyone is interested. A fun time will be had.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cautiously Optimistic

The nice thing about being a small business is that I'm very, very flexible. I don't have employees with specialized skills whose time needs to be used wisely, I don't have to pay rent on a separate business space, and I don't have large standing orders that need to be fulfilled or else I lose customers. When something changes, I can change with it.

This is not to say that it's easy, change, no matter what the circumstance. I had a rhythm going. I had regular customers and a fairly predictable set of activities that I would do over the course of a week or a month. Then I needed to stop dyeing in the house, and everything had to be rethought.

However -- I've been thinking and researching and planning these past weeks, and I think I have a workable plan. Here it is.

Firstly, my experiments with Wilton's and my research on the subject (which mostly consisted of talking to a lot of dyers on Ravelry who have used it and various other dyes) has led me to believe that it is not the answer to my problems. I believe I would be sacrificing too much in terms of my results (can't get the colourways I want) if I switched to food dye. So it has to be the toxic stuff.

However, I have figured out how to do a limited amount of dyeing on my front porch. How miserable this strategy makes me in January remains to be seen; it probably behooves me to stockpile a bit. I'm also investigating taking part in Felicia Lo's (Sweet Georgia's) shared studio, a project that she's setting up so that several of the casual and small independent dyers, weavers, and spinners (both business people and hobbyists) can have a suitable space for their activities. I'm not the only dyer out there with the problem of how to use toxic dye without polluting one's living space.

Secondly, the fiber sales are not kaput, but they will be limited. I will not wholesale my fiber, except for the carded batts that I offer to the two local stores I sell through. I will continue to sell some fiber on Etsy and to those who know me well enough to send an email that says "hey what do you have right now, can you send me a picture?"

Thirdly, I need to sell a lot more yarn. I haven't pushed the yarn sales because my fiber sales were doing so well. My yarn sales were mostly wholesales through Three Bags Full and Black Sheep Yarns. This was perfectly satisfactory to me -- the volume was high enough that the cut I take on the wholesale price still leaves me sufficiently compensated for my spinning time, and the online fiber sales made up the rest of my paycheque. Now, though, I need to somehow convince The Internet to buy more yarn. I can do this. I just have to put my mind to the marketing problem.

The last part of the strategy is teaching, which is ramping up about now. My beginners class at Black Sheep will begin this week, and it already has 5 or 6 people in it -- which is awesome. There are three or four more classes already scheduled at the shop, and once I find out whether my Arts Centre classes are going ahead, I'll be able to firmly schedule a bunch more for later in the Fall.

So that's that. I feel much less panicked than I did a couple weeks ago. I'm heavily buoyed up by yesterday's success -- I handpainted some BFL and cooked it in my new, standalone turkey roaster which lives on the front porch. Here is the roaster:


And here is the 3lbs of wool I painted:


3lbs is almost nothing compared to my previous production, but I'm still working out the details. It's a bit like going back to stovetop cooking, this roaster, and managing convection and colour splitting is something I'm having to re-learn. The batches are slow, very slow, so far, and I can't queue them up like I could with my oven method. I probably won't have many more 10 lb days, but hey, that's fine -- I'm mostly dyeing to supply my own spinning, and I can only spin so fast. Slow is fine.

Lastly -- I have had my final Farmer's Market. For some reason, this season has been the pits for sales at the market. Dunno why, but it has. So I've cancelled my last two scheduled days, because I have more productive ways to spend my time than huddling outside in the cold. The market was awesome while it lasted, and I'll continue to shop there, but my days as a vendor are over for now.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hear that squealing noise? Those were my brakes.

This past week, I've been going through some major changes. I have to stop dyeing the way I have been.

For the time being, I can't use the Ciba dyes inside my house. I'm too concerned about traces of the dye getting into my system and into my family's system. I mix the powders in the little laundry nook in my bedroom (wearing gloves and a respirator), but I have some concern about the powders spreading out into the sleeping space. I mix the dye stocks in the laundry room too, which involves opening and closing a lot of jars, all of which have dried dye on the edge, which can spread more powder.

I handpaint the fibers in my kitchen. I put down a big shower curtain with a towel on top of it, but still, splashes occur, and since I'm still opening and closing plastic tubs with dried dye around the edge, there's probably some powder spreading. In the cooking area.

Step 1: No dye in the house. It's on my covered front porch now, in a big wooden bin.

Step 2: Figure out how to colour fiber without going back on Step 1.

So this is where I am. I see two options: use new dye, or dye outside the house.

The new dye possibility is Wilton's. Wilton's is an icing dye, available for purchase at Michael's Craft Store. It's expensive, but it's a cost I don't mind eating if it makes a difference. The reports on Wilton's aren't great, though. It's very difficult to manage (some of the colours -- several of the colours, in fact -- split like crazy, making predictable results hard to achieve), and it's not as light- and colour-fast as the professional grade dyes. I know of one Etsy seller who is very successful using it, but I'm skeptical. And my early experiments have not gone well. I'd post a picture of the bad, bad colours, but it's just embarrassing. Also, there isn't a decent black with Wilton's.

i just got tipped off about a "Green" dye with no heavy metals in it. I have contacted the company about their MSDS sheet and am waiting to hear. We'll see.

The other option is to dye outside my house. This would involve having someone else mix my dye stocks (I'm sure I can find a teenager who will do it for the right price), and having me retreat to my covered front porch to mix my colours and paint the wool. I would dye using a crock pot and maybe this cooker I found at Canadian Tire. I hear Felicia of Sweet Georgia uses an outdoor turkey roaster, and I'll be emailing her about that. The downside of this option is that a) it's cold and damp out there for most of the next 6 months, and b) it's a bit expensive, what with cooking outside and all the heat waste that implies.

Whichever of these options I choose, it still means that I'm pretty much only making enough fiber for my own spinning purposes. I can't see doing production dyeing with these methods. I might be able to do some fiber sales in the form of carded batts, and I'm willing to try to expand that, but so far my batts haven't been big sellers.

No fiber sales, that hurts. Fiber sales is 80% of my business right now, and for the past few months I've sold close to $1000 worth each month. Putting a total stop to that will hurt my bottom line, and I'm not doing this business as a hobby. It's a valuable part of my household budget.

The bright side is that, if ever there was a time to really push my yarn sales, the beginning of autumn is it. And I have 5 knitting classes starting in a few weeks; hopefully that will become a more significant source of income. And teaching? Completely non-toxic. I can do lots of that, and no protective equipment is necessary.

So that's where I'm at -- going out of my tree, more or less. Any attempt at helpful information or friendly hand-holding will be appreciated.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Coming Events

Just briefly, here are some places you can find me in the upcoming weeks.

Farmer's Market dates: August 24, September 14, October 5, October 26

Classes at Black Sheep Yarns: Sock Knitting, Project Support, Foundation Skills, Beginner Knitting.
Classes at the Port Moody Arts Centre: Freeform Knitting, Sweaters without a Pattern.

And of course I'll be spending an absurd amount of time at Black Sheep Yarns just hanging out, because there is now a yarn store within blocks of my house and I can.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Summer Hiatus, apparently

I didn't mean to take a hiatus, but it seems to have happened. It was an accident though. I have the time to work and I want to work, but it seems that I've been ordering such a high volume of supplies that I've been cleaning my supplier out, and then getting caught in her supply dip when I want to reorder. It has happened twice this summer. Once, I had a forced break of only a week, and that was fine, I just devoted myself to spinning, but this last break lasted three weeks. I had no supplies, I had a rapidly dwindling stock, and I could do nothing whatsoever about it.

I do not mean to criticize my supplier -- I have nothing but love for her service, her attention to quality, and her prices. I'm just growing is all. I am working out a deal for a standing order with her, and that should help. She's growing too -- namely, she's growing some storage space so she can keep more in stock, herself -- and the timing is perfect for that. With any luck, this won't happen again.

I did get my first box of supplies on Tuesday: 5 lbs of Corrie, 22 lbs of BFL, 1 lb of Wensleydale just to try, and another pound of wool/soysilk which is oh so pretty. I have attempted to work. My mom is visiting though, so you really can't blame me for taking Tuesday afternoon off to go see Brideshead Revisited instead. And yesterday, I apparently pissed off the gods of electronics. I had Internet connectivity troubles all day (this is unrelated to the dyeing), and my electronic scale went on the fritz. If I can't weigh the wool, I can't dye the wool.

As a result, although I got supplies on Tuesday, this is all I have managed to achieve:


That's 4 lbs of BFL. 4. On a decent single day, I can do 7, and that's if they're all handpainted colourways. If I mix up some semi-solids in my workload, on a day when I'm burning through the wool I can do 12. So 4 -- not so impressive. But as I keep reminding myself, there is NO SUCH THING as a wool emergency, so I try not to fret. But still, I'm feeling less than impressed with my output.

Something I am impressed by, though, is this:


For those of you playing the home game, that's tweedy yarn, spun from those mixed batts that were cluttering up my desk a few entries back. I am so beyond thrilled with this yarn I can hardly tell you. I'm spinning it long draw, so it's a little uneven, which is perfect; I'm going for a look that's really sort of arty. I plan to use this yarn in my next Sweaters Without a Pattern class that I'll be teaching at the Port Moody Arts Centre this fall. I always like to have a personal project to do so that I can demo the various techniques on a real project.

In other news, Black Sheep Yarns is days away from opening. I'm so delighted by this development. For one, Port Moody is ready for an upscale yarn store. The local knitters are numerous and artistic, and are apparently tired of driving to Maple Ridge or Vancouver for good yarn. Now me, I spent a decade living in a very boring town that was 2 hours from any really good yarn stores, so driving 35 minutes to Main Street to visit Three Bags Full was always just fine with me, but that's me. Living away from a decent city for so long, I relish the chance to go a mere half hour away to be in the midst of the interesting people, the cool shops, and the swank little coffee shops with wireless access.

However, a local yarn store -- really local -- is fantastic. And it's excellent for me, because I finally have a teaching home. I've been given more or less carte blanche to offer whatever classes i want, at whatever schedule I want. I'll still teach a couple classes at the Arts Centre (Freeform Knitting and Sweaters, this fall), but most of my teaching will happen at Black Sheep. I absolutely love teaching knitting, love to share my passion and my skill, so I have great hopes that I'll get to do a lot more of it now than I could at the Arts Centre.

The expected opening day for the new store is August 19, and the first knit night will be held the night before.

Lastly, here is a picture of cute children with a sheep. I took my daughter to Maplewood Farm the other week, and she loved it. She fed bunnies who were stuffed but tried to be polite and take a few nibbles of the profferred apple wedges, frowned at goats who were trying to nibble her shoelaces, and petted the sheep. I petted the sheep too. Or rather, I crouched down and poked at their fleece, gauging it for staple length, texture, and crimp. As the sheep looked back at me with an unmistakable "What *are* you doing?!" look on its face, I thought, most people probably don't do this.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Reflection

Last night, I went to give a talk to the West Coast Knitters Guild. There are a number of fiber related guilds in town: The WCKG mentioned above, the Greater Vancouver Weavers and Spinners (a chapter of the Northwest Weavers Guild), the Coquitlam Weavers and Spinners Guild, something in Maple Ridge, something in Langley. This area is lousy with fiber artists! In my travels, I've met a lot of them, and I've been invited to check out many of the local guilds and groups.

My family life is such that evening activities aren't practical right now, so I have to keep saying "thanks, but no" to the invitations. But I did thoroughly enjoy checking out the Guild last night. I met some local fiber artists as well as knitting enthusiasts. I got to talk dye technique, and say "why thank you!" to people who complimented my colour choices.

I was sorry that I had to hightail it out of there before the meeting was over, but with a 7:30 meeting and a 40 minute drive eachh way, that was the price for going at all. And it was fair. My motto these days, for getting through this busy time when my child is young, is this: "You can have it all, but just not much of it, and not all at once." It makes me sanguine about taking a hors d'oeuvres approach to my life.

I drove home watching the sunset light bounce around the haze that always seems to cover this city, making the North Shore mountains look like glowing shadows. I was blissfully alone and listening to my iPod, which was somehow feeding me a lot of my favourite songs all at once despite being on random play.

If there has been a theme of the last year, a principle I have learned, it's this: jump in bravely and do what you like, and good things will come from it.

I don't remember what I did that led to it, but in the spring, I was invited to demonstrate Freeform Knitting for the Port Moody Arts Centre's Arts 4U day, a day of demonstrating various arts and crafts to locals as part of the PoMo Arts Festival. I had never heard of freeform knitting before this point, but I jumped in. The day was fun, the demo was a success, and at the end of the day, one of the people at the Centre asked me if I'd be interested in teaching knitting there in the Fall. Paid work, teaching something I love and am an expert at, two blocks from my house on a schedule that I determine? Why yes, thank you. I would be interested.

Putting in a table at the farmer's market led to be being noticed by a writer for the local paper, Sarah Payne, a tremendous supporter of local artists and artisans. The article was open on the table the day Helen, of the soon-to-open Black Sheep Yarns, told her husband she thought she might like to open a yarn store, and what did he think? He turned the paper towards her and said, "I think there might be a local market for that, yeah." And the store is going to be my new teaching home in a couple months. That little cause-and-effect loop kind of gives me chills, the kind you get when the pieces are just so perfect you can practically hear the "click."

And last night, I had another little moment. As I said, getting to the Guild meeting was a bit of a labour, and definitely not something I can do regularly. But I was flattered to have been invited by Linda, who works at Three Bags Full, who sell my yarn and fiber and have been tremendously important to me for both the personal encouragement the owners and staff have given me, and for my local marketing. As I was setting up, I was approached by a notable local fiber artist who is working on setting up a fiber arts studio on Granville Island (for non-locals, pretend I just said "Soho"). She wanted to talk to me about being involved somehow, as a supplier at least. I kept my cool, but it tripped off all kinds of dreams of being artistic and fabulous in a Granville Island studio.

There have been a lot of little things, too. The friends, well-wishers, students, and business tips I have picked up by being at the Farmer's Market have been invaluable. The spinning class I just finished netted me some new friends, new customers, one student, and a drum carder, not to mention an acquaintance with Irene Weisner, a formidable force for craft about whose support and practical help I cannot say enough.

I have dyed the colours I liked without regard for what I thought other people wanted, and it turned out other people liked those colours too. And strangest of all, when I started dyeing wool in Whoverse-themed colours, I found all these people who were obsessive fans of both fiber *and* the Whoverse. Talk about a niche market, but I wouldn't have found it if I hadn't been just mostly making myself happy.

I don't believe that The Universe is taking care of me; I don't believe in The Secret. It's not my bent to believe in mysterious forces that do right by us if we're virtuous enough. I'm feeling awfully fortunate right now though, and just at the moment I'm rather taken by the picture that has presented itself. I took a real leap about a year ago when I decided to throw myself into something that had no guarantee whatsoever of being a viable job. I jumped in with both feet though, said yes to all kinds of things just because it pleased me to do so, and what I have in front of me at the moment is a wealth of something we all dream of: work that I love. And I couldn't be happier -- unless someone has figured out a way for me to do everything I want to, and still get 8 hours sleep? No?

Friday, July 4, 2008

My desk clutter has changed


My desk clutter used to be like most people's desk clutter. Bills that need to be paid, papers that need to be filed, a book in progress, pens that may or may not work, and a half-drunk cup of coffee from earlier in the week. But it's different now. Now I have a baby bottle full of olive oil that I was using to oil my wheel because I couldn't be bothered to go buy the proper kind, 13 batts of burgundy-based fiber blend destined to become tweed yarn, a spare bobbin, some thrift store yarn that will be used to attach labels to my stuff, some exciting sparkly eyelash yarn destined to be the binder in a wild boucle, a bag full of assorted fiber gifted to me by a friend, my case of knitting accessories -- and that half-drunk cup of coffee. Today's anyway.

Does the Fly Lady have anything to say about fiber kipple?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Meet my new baby

I now have visual aids to help those of you not already imbued with carded-batt lust understand what the big deal is.

Here is my new drum carder, and a basket of fiber "nibbles" (1 oz bits) that I am preparing to blend by carding:



I'm sorry to say that I don't know what kind of carder I bought. I have a piece of paper that tells me. All I know is, it was a price I could afford, and good deal according to Irene the Fiber Goddess who brokered the deal, and after I fiddled with the positioning of the drum for a bit, it works. So I'm as happy as can be.

Here is a before and during photo -- the dyed roving before carding, and a drum with a batt on it, not yet removed:


Here is what a batt looks like, carefully folded and glowing in today's lovely sunshine:


And here is my in progress, personal carding project -- my attempt to make something like tweed. I'm using some dark BFL that I dyed burgundy, and all of my considerable leftover bits of wool from the past several months' spinning:


I can't wait to spin it up. I plan a worsted weight yarn done long-draw, to preserve the excellent wooliness of the BFL. If all goes well, I'll use the wool for my next self-designed sweater. I always make a personal project as a model when I teach my 8-week class in knitting sweaters without a pattern. For the past two classes, I've done a kid's sweater so I could be sure that I would finish each stage in time to demonstrate it, but I'm feeling ambitious these days (must be the sunshine). My Fall teaching at the Port Moody Arts Centre is confirmed, and my sweaters class is going ahead pending registration, so I have until September to finish the spinning. Maybe I'll knit the body in advance, come to think of it; that doesn't need to be demo'd.

Weather into the weekend is good, and if the Port Moody Knitters group on Ravelry is anything to go by, it looks like we'll have at least a half-dozen people at this weekend's Fiber Party, maybe more. I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Party at My Place!

This Sunday, I'll be at the farmer's market for my scheduled day, and I'm throwing a party. I'm going to be hanging out, spinning, and playing with a drum carder. And while that sounds like a perfectly fun time to spend all by myself, or just with the friend who is bringing the drum carder, it would be a lot *more* fun if there were lots of fibery people all together.

So, I'm throwing a party, a fiber party at my market booth. Bring some fiber if you want to play with the carder (or buy some of mine); bring hand cards. Bring your spinning wheel or your drop spindle. Bring a pair of knitting needles and you WIP, or bring a crochet hook and stand tall as a representative of the beleaguered-but-belligerent hookers out there.

Also bring your own chair, and possibly some sunblock.

Location: Coquitlam Farmer's Market (click here for directions)
Time: 9am to 1pm

What do you think? Who's in?

Friday, June 13, 2008

WWKIP

This Saturday, June 14th, is World Wide Knit In Public Day. I did not make that up. I have no particular feelings on the subject of this day, but I like any excuse for knitters to get out and publicly fondle each others projects, so I'll be going to at least one of the six events happening in the Lower Mainland.

Specifically, I will be attending the Port Moody get together, which will be held from 11am to 1pm in front of the Social Rec. Centre here in PoMo (that's the building that has been under construction for the past 3 years, to the right of the library). Fingers crossed for sun, because if there is rain, there is no backup plan.

If you're on Ravelry, there is a thread devoted to the PoMo KIP day here.)

I will be raffling off a skein of my handspun at the KIP, and the price of entry is to knit a bit on the baby blanket I'm working on. I hand dyed 20 skeins of gorgeous superwash merino in different shades of blue, and I'm making a lovely log cabin blanket, but I want as many hands as possible to work on the gift; just as many hands help a mother to care for her baby.

Hope to see some of you tomorrow!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Keepin' it real

I've been taking a proper spinning class, and despite the humbling feeling of not knowing how to make my fingers interact with the fiber in such a way as to produce knittable yarn, I've been enjoying it tremendously. But this week, I'm positively singing with creative possibilities.

On the first day of the class, we touched raw fleece and did a little carding, to get the feel for how to separate and then line up the fibers, how to draft and add enough twist. The carding was cool, and it did produce the most lovely little fiber nibbles, but I couldn't honestly see how it was useful for doing volume work -- and it's not. It's a technique for those who have all the time in the world to just enjoy fondling fibers.

Cut to now, some 9 classes later, and we're all working on the long draw drafting technique. For those of you who don't spin, it's like this -- you build up a bunch of twist on a short bit of the yarn you have just made, pinching it so the twist doesn't travel down, then (if all goes well) you quickly swoop your fiber-holding hand down and away, and a perfectly even strand appears almost like magic from the fiber mass.

If all goes well. In practice, my early experiments with this technique have led to slubs, micro-fine thread, and broken bit after broken bit.

I'm not tangenting. Back to fiber preparation now. Last week, we were given some dyed but otherwise unprocessed Romney wool, and told to card and spin it. Carding, as well as neatening up the lanolin-covered fibers considerably, blended the colours up -- yum. Here is my basket of hand carded, sprinkle-dyed, raw romney locks:



I spun them using the long draw method, and even though the fibers were not expertly carded (read: they were still tangled), and even though they were sticky as all get-out with lanolin, I still managed a relatively smooth (read: I didn't keep breaking the strand as I made it) long draw. I felt proud. (I'd show you the yarn I spun, but there is no good light for taking a picture right now; I'll try to take one tomorrow.)

Today in class, I used the drum carder. I created a batt, which is much like a rolag except bigger. The fibers were all aligned, but they were so airy and light, they just drafted like a dream. I actually achieved the "swoop" with very little breakage and slubbing.

So, here are the pieces I have put together now. 1) Home fiber preparation, leading to airy fibers and the possibility of creating my own blends of fiber type and colour. 2) A successful, quick long-draw.

Suddenly, exciting yarn possibilities are open to me. Heathered yarn, which is made from different coloured fibers blended together to create a single colour of marvellous depth and movement, like watershot taffeta, is a possibility now. Tweed is possible.

Did you hear me? Tweed. Am I the only one who gets a somewhat indecent thrill at the idea of a gorgeous tweed?

I have this bag of dark blue faced leicester that I've been saving to do something special with, and I think I have a plan now. I'm going to dye it either blue-red or magenta. I'm going to drum card it with flecks of electric blue, canary yellow, and forest green. I'm going to make tweed batts, spin it up to a worsted or aran weight, and make myself a sweater. A hooded sweater -- it will be my demo project for the next class I teach in knitting sweaters without a pattern.

Then I will never take it off, not ever.

Anyone have a drum carder for sale? I'm looking to buy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Market Schedule

For interested locals, here are the dates I'll be at the Coquitlam Farmer's Market this season.

June 8, 29;
July 20;
August 10, 24;
September 14; and
October 5, 26.

I usually bring all yarn but just some of the available fiber. If you ever see anything in my Etsy shop that you want me to be sure to bring, just let me know the day before.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Creative Process


So here's a little collage that I just spent way too much time making. It would have taken less time, except that I really don't know what I'm doing with Photoshop, so using it involves a lot of trial and error. I'm a little better with InDesign, which in hindsight is probably what I should have used...but live and learn.

Anyway, this photo collage shows a creative process, just for those of you who are curious to see the steps. It starts with a picture, a colour combo that I found compelling. Muted red, cherry red, black, and hints of grey. I dyed the roving in these colours, taking care to put the black in such a way that it would blend with the adjacent colours, creating a streakiness rather than a solid block of colour -- just like the tie. You can see that somewhat in the bobbin of singles that is pictured. Then, plying blends the colours further, and we have yarn!

I'm not sure whether I'll be keeping this skein for myself or selling it. I'm going to look at it and pet it for awhile. I may dye more roving in this colourway on Friday; we'll see.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Buy Local

Just a quick note to remind folks that I will be at the Coquitlam Farmer's Market tomorrow. I have a huge variety of my yarn, so if you want to see everything I have all at once, the Market is the place to do that.

I have less fiber than I'd like though. My sales this month have been overwhelming -- which is great! -- so my stock is low. I have 18 lbs of BFL on order that will likely arrive in time for me to dye on Friday, so expect new stuff to start being available as of May 26th.

I have returned to making sock yarn. I took a long break from doing that, because I just wasn't satisfied with what I was producing -- it didn't match the picture in my mind. I've been learning tons from my spinning class though, and the other day I produced a 165 gram skein of DK weight yarn that makes me really happy. It's here, if you want to see. I used a worsted drawing technique, fresh fiber, low tension, and very even plying -- I'm very happy with the results. Happy enough that I might, just might, make more.

If you're in the GVA, come visit me tomorrow!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Preschooler Surprise

I finished the Baby Surprise Jacket, and I'm thrilled with it. I just followed the standard EZ pattern, but with a much larger-gauge yarn than she suggests. If you do this yarn in the suggested worsted weight yarn (I think worsted...maybe smaller), you get a jacket for a baby. If you do it in my yarn, which is an Aran weight, you get this:


That's my sizeable 3 year old, who usually wears a 4T.

The jacket is proportioned for a baby, hence the short arms. I could pick up stitches along the sleeves and lengthen them, but I rather like the short sleeve. The number of handknit sweaters I end up washing because they got a little food or paint just on the edge of the sleeves is large. Maybe this will cut down a bit on the washing -- dare to dream.

Specifics: I knit this particular jacket from 5 skeins of my own soft-spun yarn. I used a 5mm needle, but I'm a really loose knitter, so a more typical knitter may wish to use a 6 or 6.5mm needle. I had very little of those skeins left over when the project was done. If you wanted to lengthen the sleeves, you'd want 6 skeins. Garter stitch is lovely, but it does tend to eat yarn. Still, the resulting fabric is so squooshy and yum, I think the yarn-consumption is worth it.

The photo shoot was a bit of a challenge. You know how it is. The second your small child senses that you *really* want her to try something on, that is the one time she absolutely will not do it. And if they do it, they will run away from the camera when you pull that out and ask for just one picture.

Here is my daughter 'hiding' from the camera.


Tomorrow is Got Craft, and I have the usual pre-show jitters. I'm afraid I won't have enough stuff, I'm afraid no one will buy anything, I'm afraid I'll have not enough breakfast and too much coffee and be a manic mess whenever I try to talk to anyone, prompting the public at large to start referring to me as "that insane yarn lady." (I'm pretending that they don't already.)

At least I have a ride. My car broke down on Wednesday, and the garage I like can't look at it until Monday...and how will I get downtown with all my stuff you ask? Fortunately, the Skytrain is not involved, as amusing as it would be to carry 8 garbage bags full of wool on public transit. No, instead, the lovely and generous Amanda of Ebbandflo Designs, a vendor at Got Craft who just happens to live near me, will be giving me a lift. Me and my giant bags of wool. Fortunately, she sells jewellery which is small.

I am so buying her lunch.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Natural Progression

After considerable time spent in front of my wheel, listening to audiobooks and Massive Attack, I have spun 60 new skeins of yarn. Here are 40+ of them, drying outside -- actually drying, not just dripping until they match the ambient humidity of the Pacific Northwest outdoors in spring. I do love the improvements in the weather -- I was having a hard time staying happy, with all the grey skies. Sun make Kirsten happy.



This is all in preparation for Got Craft? this Sunday, May 4th. I'm looking forward to the show. I've been watching the vendor profiles go by on the show's blog, and I'm excited to be in such creative and accomplished company. If you're in the GVA on Sunday, it looks as though this show will be well worth the $2 admission.

Tomorrow -- labeling! My least favourite job, but a necessity.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Moving too fast to blog...

I just looked in my little dyeing notebook -- I keep something resembling actual records now, which is a big shift for me -- and it tells me that I have dyed 19 3/4 lbs of wool this week. That's probably a record, although of course I can't be sure since I just started keeping this notebook. It's a lot of wool, in any case. More than 50% of that will be sold as fiber, but I aim to have a good 30% of it spun up by Thursday of next week (the last day I can have skeins in the water for finishing, and still have them dry by Sunday). My to do list -- it's colourful, but it's long.

So I'm moving a little too fast to blog at the moment. I would love to show you what 19.75 lbs looks like, but honestly, some of it is in my spinning basket, some of it is already braided up, some is piled up waiting to be braided, some is still wet outside and one pound is still in my oven. I can show you what Day 1 of dyeing looked like:





My big success this week is finally creating a "Ianto" roving that is exactly what I pictured in my head. This colourway involves two shades of purple, and my violet dye is one of those that intensifies 10x in the dyepot -- purple has often defeated me. My solution was to stop using that dye to try to create purple. Instead, I use red, magenta, turquoise, and cobalt in various combinations to get the shades I want. So I'm very pleased. Not only did I get the roving to turn out just like I wanted it, but I know what I did, so I can reliably duplicate my results. Probably. Won't know until I try again! I also (to continue the Whoverse theme) redid my Tardis colourway and got results I'm pleased with -- but I'm still going to refine that one. I'll post my Tardis roving tomorrow on Etsy.

Lastly, my BSJ is finished except for blocking and buttons. It should fit a largish 2 year old, and it took 5 skeins of Yummy Yarn. It's sooo cushy and pretty.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

BSJ progress

Just a couple pictures. Here is the project as it appeared on Monday -- yarn chosen, pattern available, cast on done:


The yarn is my own, in colours Grape Jelly, Rose-A-Lee, and Mocha-Chocolata.

Here it is today:


Another day or two, and the knitting will be done. The Baby Surprise Jacket done with thick yarn -- delightful. The thing I love about instant gratification knitting is that the gratification is so, well, instant.

It's coming out about the right size for a two year old, which is what I expected. I may lengthen the sleeves a bit with a perpendicular garter stitch border; I may not. I don't know who will eventually wear the jacket, but it's a lovely demo piece for my yarn.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Studio Tour, and a Sunny Day

I had an excellent day today. It was one of those sun-is-shining spring days where all the neurons are popping, and I feel electric with ideas and possibilities and optimism. The sun is just part of it. Today, I had my third spinning class, and I think I finally have sorted the difference between woolen and worsted, both as fiber preparations and drafting techniques. It remains to do some scientific experimenting -- use the same fiber to spin roughly the same weight of yarn in four different ways (woolen prep/woolen draft, worsted/worsted, and both semi-worsted yarns), then knit them, then examine them in lots of light and possibly given all 4 swatches a serious wash and rub to see how they wear.

Usually I'm not very scientific -- my dye mixing technique is solidly in the "a little of this and a little of that" camp, and note taking is an occasional afterthought. But I can't yet see some of the differences I'm looking for, but I want to be in control of the yarn that I spin so that I can make decisions about technique to produce a desired effect. I need to do what it takes for me to be able to see the differences.

I'll keep you posted on this project.

After my spinning class, I visited Three Bags Full to deliver some promised rovings, and I found all four of the Elizabeth Zimmerman books that I had wanted to see in person. I settled on The Opinionated Knitter and Knitting Around. The Knitters Almanac frankly doesn't contain projects that interest me, although I'm intrigued by the concept of knitted tights, and the book based on her TV series is a bit redundant, since I have the DVDs.

EZ always gets me inspired. The new books, along with my teacher's exhortations to be seen knitting my own yarn more often, are combining to inspire me to make my first Baby Surprise Jacket with my own soft-spun yarn. As soon as my husband comes home, I'll head out to the car (I ought not to leave the three year old alone in the house) to bring in the rest of the yarn that's still in the trunk from the weekend show, and choose my colours. I'm thinking two or three purples, and a lovely brown.

The Studio Tour was cool -- i met some neat fellow artists and artisans, I explained how to make yarn to a lot of kids, and I explained the mechanics of the spinning wheel to lots of all kinds of people. I really enjoyed myself, but I'm wiped, as usual.

No rest for the self-employed though. Today's full schedule of class and a sales call was technically my "day off," and tomorrow I have to hit the dyepots -- I'm completely out of fiber. If you want my fiber, head down to Three Bags Full, they have everything.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Haz a TARDIS!



This is attempt #1 at dyeing a TARDIS colourway, and I'm pretty pleased with the first attempt. My next attempt with make the greenish parts a little more blue, and will add some of the darker tones, but hey waddya think for a first try?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Coming Events

I'm doing a couple public events in the upcoming weeks, and they are these:

April 12-13, noon to 5pm: The ArtsConnect Port Moody Studio Tour. This annual event is a chance for the public to visit many of Port Moody's several artists in their own studios, or, in the case of those without public-friendly studios, in public venues. I will be at the Station Museum with my wheel, my yarn, and my fiber. To get the map of the whole event, click here.

May 4, 11am to 5pm: The Got Craft show on Commercial Drive. The Got Craft blog is profiling all the vendors one at a time, so check it out!

May 18: The Coquitlam Farmer's Market begins its 12th season on May 11, and I'll be there as a vendor on May 18. I intend to be there every three weeks, all summer.

And as always, my yarn and fiber is available at Three Bags Full.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"Dear Brown,"


Dear Brown,

I'm sorry to have to write this letter, but I'm afraid we have had some complaints with regard to your behaviour.

I am afraid I must ask you to stop impersonating Orange. You are not orange. I'll grant you, there is a striking resemblance sometimes, but on close inspection, you are about as close to being Orange as a drag queen with visible stubble is to being a beautiful woman.

If you do not cease trying to be Orange, I'm afraid I shall have to take measures. Your job can be done perfectly well if your duties are split between Green and Red, with some occasional help from Black. In fact, given your consistently spotty performance, I am tempted to replace you right now, but as there is some time left in your contract, please consider this to be a stern warning, and try to fulfill your own job function, and no one else's.

Sincerely,

The Dyepot

I'm doing it all wrong

"Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly."

This has been a mantra of mine for a long time, ever since I read it...somewhere...and I'm reminding myself of it today. Because yesterday, I learned that I was spinning badly. I'm doing it all wrong. And it's the lesson I expected to learn -- I am self-taught after all, and I'm not usually big on autodidacticism, I think it leads to bad habits and stunted skills. So I wasn't shocked and offended or anything, but even still it was a bit of a tough pill to swallow.

It's hard to learn new things at any stage, but when you're a child, there are so few things you know, and even fewer that you know well, so it's not quite as much of a risk to the ego to try doing something new. As we grow older, though, we learn what it feels like to master skills, learning sets, facts, and paradigms. We put it all on the line when we try -- and risk failing at -- something new. It takes, I think, a greater deal of bravery to try something new the older you get. It's why some people simply stop trying new things.

The rewards are tremendous, though. Today, I feel that childlike sense of possibility and confidence, the voice that says, I can't do this, but I'll practice, and then I'll be good! And that feeling is why some other people keep trying new things. When I was little, my mom expressed admiration for an 80-year old friend of hers. For her 80th birthday, this friend asked for an 8-volume set of the history of China. Because she didn't know anything at all about China, and wanted to learn. I was kind of inspired then, and I continue to be now.

The fact that I clearly have so much to learn, more than I thought I did going into this, is good news in one way though. These classes are pricey. They're the perfectly correct price, given that they're comprehensive, thorough lessons taught by a highly skilled instructor, but it's a chunk out of my budget to be taking them, which is one of the reasons I waited this long to sign up. So the good news is this -- since I have so very much to learn, I am definitely getting my money's worth.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Back to it

Well that was a lovely little break. I have been working, but really, not much. I'm kind of amazed by how long it has taken me (is taking me) to get back to my usual work rhythm. Partly, I was really wiped by Fibrefest, and partly, life just sort of took over. It's the curse of the work-at-home-mom -- if an errand needs to be done, then the one who works at home is going to be the one to give up work time to do it. And I get that, it makes sense. I don't need to book time off with anyone, rearrange meetings, file paperwork with HR. But still, there have been a lot of little things -- holidays that preschool takes but not any other business, illnesses, etc -- and they have taken over 50% of my usual three days a week working time lately.

But I'm back to it! I spent Tuesday communing with the dyepots, and dyed 8lbs of corriedale. The current batch is possibly even lovelier than usual; Hello Yarn is such a great supplier, so reliable and affordable. Can't say enough good about them and their product. Here is some of what I have dyed:



The current batch of BFL is sort of intriguing. It has an incredibly soft hand, and the fibers are long and very fluffy. It's wonderful to spin, soft, a bit soapy/silky to draft. However, there are these regular little tufts of very short hairs. Any spinners know what those are? They must be something that's usually combed out, that wasn't in this batch. Anyway, it's spinning up fine, but I'm having to slow down and be careful when I get to the short-ish bits.

In other news, I have signed up for the comprehensive spinning class at Place des Arts starting next week. Here's my little secret -- I'm a beginner spinner. I can do a couple types of yarn rather well, so I'm confident about what I offer for sale, but my range of skills is not high. I'm looking forward to this course, so that I can learn the basics right from the dirty-fleece stage, fill in gaps in my basic knowledge, and extend my skills so that I can spin different types of fiber with confidence. I have learned as much as I can by myself, with YouTube videos and experimenting, and I'm looking forward to learning from a real live teacher in a classroom situation.

And to close -- here is some yarn to look at. I am still trying to perfect the colourway "Ianto." Torchwood fans -- waddya think of this batch? I didn't get the charcoal element in, quite, but if you see it as just a tie-shirt combo, it's rather good I think.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I love him.

I will tell you all about Fibrefest, I promise, but I'm still recovering my language skills.

Today, my mom has gone home to Ottawa and my daughter is in preschool all day. I have the day to myself, and I will not be working. I have knitting plans -- the Kauni stranded scarf I started at Fibrefest, maybe, or the double-knitting scarf I started a while back. Don't-bug-me knitting projects, both of them. I have reading plans -- the Spring issue of Bitch magazine came to my house yesterday.

And as to my title -- when I came home from dropping my daughter off, the house was empty, and on a couch cushion was an envelope. On it, my beloved husband had written "Go to a movie, K," and inside was a free movie pass.

I love him.

I've decided to see Juno, all by myself. I love to go see movies by myself. No one to consult on the movie choice, no one to negotiate snack-sharing with, no one else to worry about in any way. It's only-child nirvana.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

I made a wool tree!

Is it wrong to be just a little in love with myself today? 'Cause I am. 'Cause look what sprouted up in my dining room:


I'm very proud of my work. I'm also certain that I haven't done nearly enough to prepare, I don't have enough stock, I'm going to be doing a lot of handing out my business card and hoping people contact me later, but hey, I can't do anything about that now. I have worked my fingers off the last three weeks, I bought as much supplies as I could afford without digging into high-interest credit, and I've accomplished quite a bit. It's a balancing act, doing this small business. I want to keep enough stock around so that anyone who finds me can probably find something to their taste, but not so much that I have more than i can afford tied up in the stock. I want to buy enough supplies to keep my stock high, but not so much that the business is living on credit. So, a balancing act. But an interesting one.

Look! Yarn:

Monday, March 3, 2008

I feel pretty...

Well, not me precisely. Me, I need a haircut, my roots are severely grown out, and I'm still fighting an unpleasant multi-symptom virus that had me cancelling class on Saturday and, what's more not meeting my spinning quota for the day, but the part of me that I'm all focussed on these days -- the wooly part of me -- that feels awfully pretty. Here is my upstairs half-wall thingy:


And my back patio drying racks:


And two bigass bins o' yarn in my spinning room:



I am actually feeling not completely panicked, not entirely inadequate, not like I am about to be cleaned out of my meagre supplies within moments of Fibrefest's doors opening, leaving me with 15 hours in which to apologize to potential customers that I have nothing to show them.

I had a little burst of energy yesterday and I managed to dye another 4lbs of corriedale, in awfully pretty colours. Not having much in the way of creativity left, I dyed colourways that have been popular in the past and all 4 batches turned out just like I wanted. I spun 12 skeins of yarn as well, and felt generally cheerful in the process.

Did I mention the unexpected not panicking? That was nice.

Today, I'm starting with some relaxing spinning -- a very pretty Shetland roving:


And in case you missed it: Fibrefest is in Abbottsford on March 7-8, *not* at Tradex where it used to be. Follow the link for driving directions, and come visit me there!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I'm hearing the theme from 2001



Alright, so it's not quite the neverending shot of that spaceship, but I'm pretty sure it's more wool than has ever been on my drying racks all at once. What you see, from back to front: some 2-ply aran weight yarn, which I'm very excited about, a bunch of dyed corriedale, some spun corriedale, and a pile of dyed BFL. All drying a heck of a lot faster outside, now that it isn't raining 24/7 and hovering around zero degrees, than it would inside. I'm out of space, though, so if I manage to get any more yarn made and washed today, some of that fiber will have to be relocated into my "drying closet," aka my guest bathroom which has a lovely powerful heater and a fan.

We're in the soup now. I have a daily quota of at least 10 skeins of yarn to be spun every day for the next 7 days, and that still won't manage to get everything spun and ready. I have had my first experience of sitting down at my wheel and saying to myself, oh no, not more spinning. I promised myself I'd pull back if I ever got to that point, but this is a special time, so I'm just trying to put my head down and meet the goal.

I have a good amount of spinning-entertainment on hand. I've been watching my episodes of Torchwood Season 2 (and we won't talk about how I acquired these eps, which are not being broadcast in Canada yet), I plan to maybe finish of my re-watch of Buffy Season 7 (on re-watching, the season held together a little better than it seemed to at first), and I'm listening to a lot of music. The new Radiohead album is on constant-repeat, and I'm finding that 'vintage' UK punk makes for a rather good spinning rhythm.

My daughter is home today and tomorrow, though, so I expect I'll be watching more Boohbah than I normally would on my own.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Countdown Begins

As of today, there are three weeks until Fibrefest. And I cannot begin to envision being ready.

The business has had a strange three months. My sales have seemed to be very low. My December and January farmer's market days were slower than the late summer and early fall days. My Etsy sales, which had been becoming steadier, seemed to drop off completely. And yet, when I look at the account books, my monthly net sales for each month have been about the same. The apparent difference is only that -- apparent. The pattern has been changing, though. Rather than a steady stream of small sales, I have had larger sales at greater intervals. So I have nothing actually to complain about, but this new pattern does get to my nerves somewhat.

I seem to panic about two things: 1) that I'm not selling enough, and I should pack up this silly home-based craft business and get a real job, and 2) that I'm selling too much, and I won't have enough stock for my next market date, craft show, or wholesale order.

Clearly, I'm just in a mood to panic.

I am trying to get a grip. But having three weeks to go until my biggest show to-date, and having in the last month sold some 75 skeins to Three Bags Full, and 21 to a couple other people, I have bare, bare cupboards. So I get to find some (barely) legitimate reason to panic about *both* problems -- not enough stock and fear of no sales -- at the same time. For three weeks.

Maybe I got off the prozac too soon.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Feb 10 Coquitlam Market

Just a quick note from me to any local readers: I won't be at the Coquitlam Farmer's Market on Sunday. My family suddenly had a chance to take a short trip to Portland, to visit family, so I cancelled my scheduled market day. It's too bad, I love being at the market. I also love my once-a-month chance to stock up on organic beef, artisan bread (have you *tried* the fennel raisin bread? It's to-die.), and beautiful tasty little potatoes. I'm gonna miss the March market too, because it conflicts with Fibrefest -- I think I'll need to send a personal shopper to buy my stuff for me.

Despite being in Portland, I plan to post new things to my shop, at least once a day, for the next 10 days.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

In the queue



I had intended to post a bunch of the soft-spun corriedale that I've been making -- loads of new colourways, all gorgeous, I'm very proud -- but they all got bought before I could post them. Hardly a problem, but a bit of a surprise. It seems that the half-size (as in, 55g instead of 110g) skeins are selling marvellously well at Three Bags Full, much better than the full size, and they wanted to re-stock a mere two weeks after they bought their last batch from me. I'm delighted, but the cupboards are bare. Pictured above is what I managed to spin in four or five days of being at home with a sick child. It's not my usual high rate of production, but the variety is high. I should be able to post one new yarn a day for the next week or so. Which is good, because I'm going to be unable to get any spinning done until Tuesday.

I swear, I haven't gotten a decent stretch of work days since November. Christmas, visitors, illness -- it conspires to take away what little time I have. And getting the two year old to understand that she has to let me spin is a tough sell.

One month until Fibrefest! My goodness, I am *so* not ready. Much work and stockpiling to be done.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

7.5 pounds of wet wool

It doesn't sound like a good time, seven and a half pounds of wet wool, but it depends on what wool, and why it's wet. Check out what I spent 5 hours doing yesterday:




It's hard to tell until it's spun, but on that rack are rovings that will become new batches of Kyoto, Gummy Worms, and Time Held me Green and Dying, as well as a bunch of new colours. Also coming soon, the return of Booberry. I got a couple skeins just right, and four that are too pale -- I'm calling those Son of Booberry.

I'm off to class this morning, and I'm theoretically looking forward to it, but if I had a time machine and could freeze this day a little longer, I'd do it. I have a pounding head, a dripping nose, and a great sense of being very sorry for myself.

Knitting will help, surely. It usually does.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Classes Starting This Week

I really love teaching knitting, it thrills me like I can hardly explain. I've been in love with knitting since I was a little child. I loved sitting quietly and knitting away, feeling like I was producing something, and I loved experimenting. I've never stopped experimenting and trying to learn new things. There have been times when I sat back for a few months and just made stuff with the skills I already knew, but I was never satisfied for long doing the same thing. Fast forward 27 years from the day I learned, and here I am, with a ton of experience under my belt, able to produce just what I see in my mind (give or take!), and able to empathize with knitters at all skill levels as they go through their own learning curve. Able to give all kinds of useful tips and tricks, the ones I wish someone had been able to tell me when I was figuring out this or that on my own.

So having the opportunity to teach these skills, for decent pay no less, at a lovely establishment two blocks from my house, on my own schedule? It's like I'm living in a happy fiber dreamland.

Which is all to say, here is a little reminder that my classes are starting this week. When I checked last week, the Sweaters class had 4 people and the Knit Cafe had 3 -- so there's room for more, if you're interested. Or if you know a friend.

I'm also planning my summer classes. I'm thinking of taking a scattershot approach, and offering a ton of fun, short, workshop-like classes. Most of them will be 2 hours each class, and the emphasis will be on practising the skills taught -- lots of swatching, lots of experimenting, lots of hands-on playing with yarn.

So far, I'm proposing the following:
Knit Cafe: 5 classes
Adult Beginner Knitting: 5 classes
Stranded Knitting 1: 3 classes
Stranded Knitting 2 (steeking!): 3 classes
Sock Knitting 1: 4 classes
Sock Knitting 2: 4 classes
Freeform Knitting: 3 classes
Basic Sweaters: 8 classes
Cables 1: 2 classes

I'd love to hear ideas and opinions. What sorts of skills do you like to learn in a class? That is, what will cause you to take a class in something rather than buy a book and try it on your own? What length of time do you think is good -- is 2 hours too much? Is 1.5 hours too little? Do you like single-day classes, 2-3 day classes, or longer sessions, like 8 sessions to complete a larger project?

I have big, if vague, plans for the Fall too. I'm hoping that I will have had enough people take my Basic Sweaters class, and some take the Stranded knitting and Cables classes, so that I can offer an Advanced Sweaters class which includes work in cables, colourwork and steeking.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I didn't mean this to be a knitblog...

And yet the compulsion to take pictures of my projects in progress and report to you on the techniques, materials, etc. is overwhelming. Ah well. I'm gonna go with it until someone complains.

I have been feeling this mania to try new things lately, and my latest experiment is with double knitting. This is a technique whereby you knit a two-sided fabric, working with two contrasting strands of yarn at the same time. It's not actually all that hard, but it is fiddly. I'm refining my technique of holding two yarns on the same hand, and knitting with just one at a time. Here is my scarf in progress:


And here's the magic part -- here is the back of the same piece:


Ta da! Reversible. The pattern is my husband's -- he's a computer programmer, he said something about "Life" (the way he said it made it sound like it ought to be capitalized). It sounded like some kind of pattern that appears in some sort of life-behaviour simulator? I'm unclear. I said he could guest-blog to explain it, when it's done.

But to return to the knitting -- isn't that awesome?! I'm very taken with this technique. The scarf is just the beginning. You can use double-knitting to knit two socks, at the same time, on the same needle, one inside the other. I know -- magic. I wanna do *that* magic trick.

In other people's knitting, here are Inara's mittens, done with my wool and pattern. Aren't they pretty? Like stained glass.


I've been dyeing all week, and I have a bunch of new BFL that will be posted this week. I have a bit of new corriedale dyed, and I have 10lbs in the mail, on its way to me. And for those of you who are local -- Three Bags Full will be getting a new delivery of my rovings on Monday. Anyone wanna meet me on Main Street for coffee and knitting?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Back to the steam

Today, I'm hitting the dyepots, and hitting them hard. Three Bags Full has indicated that they want more rovings, and Fibrefest is coming, so I'm trying to keep the stock high. I'm also low on sock yarn, so I'll be snagging a few braids for my own spinning.

It's nice to be back to it. My daughter finished with her daycare at the end of November, so I had all of December and the first two weeks of January with her in the house, as well as Christmas visitors. I can spin under those conditions, but dyeing requires unbroken time to get anything useful done. Today -- I have unbroken time. And a full pot of coffee!

Here are two pots full of wool and dye, cooking away:




The Farmer's Market yesterday was better than last month, in terms of sales and the warmth of the room. I was prepared yesterday with wooly tights, wool socks (handknit), jeans, boots, a tank, a very thin sweater, a thick sweater, a scarf, arm warmers (handknit Koigu), a hat (handknit handspun), and mittens (handspun handknit). I'm nothing if not a walking advertisement for the benefits of wool, and the joy of knitting. Needless to say, I didn't find myself needing all of those things, which is great, because when I'm wearing all of them, I look a little bit like I'm the victim of some sort of knitwear pile-on.

The Winter Market is getting a number of the regular visitors, those who frequent the summer market, but there are new faces too. I continue to enjoy talking to the various crafters who visit my table and tell me about their projects. I'm afraid I was slightly in "pounce" mode though. More than one person heard me respond, seemingly casually, "You know, I teach knitting at the Port Moody Arts Center.. I managed to give out all of the brochures I brought with me, and there seems to be interest in my classes. Not that I didn't enjoy the 3-4 students per class last term, but more would definitely be better.

I didn't trade yarn for anything, but I bought 3 loaves of bread from an amazing baker, a few pounds of organic fuji apples, eggs, carrots, strawberries (thank the flying spaghetti monster for vendors who freeze their stuff so they can sell it in the winter!), ethically and organically raised beef, and fig stuffed olives.

Lastly -- I did indeed write up the pattern for the colourwork mittens. It's available on my shop for a small fee, but free if you buy the yarn from me. Here's a suggested colour combo that I really like:

Sunday, January 6, 2008

In which I totally brag about my own stuff

I had so much fun making the purple and grey stranded mittens, that I wanted to make them again. I decided to make them out of my regular corriedale singles, and I couldn't be more pleased by the results. Here are my new mittens:


I made them out of natural 2) and Pink and Brown. I like the effect so much that I'm considering making a whole sweater with a natural foreground, and a background in maybe multi-blue, or shades of orange. There is some undyed fiber all measured out and ready to be spun -- I suspect I'll want a lot of it around, for myself, and hopefully for the people who will see these mittens at Three Bags Full and the Coquitlam Farmer's Market, and want to make their own. I'm even considering writing up an actual pattern. I don't really enjoy writing patterns, I'd rather teach someone how to knit without one, but I do enjoy selling the patterns, and I do get requests for the things. So there may be a write up. A comment or two expressing an opinion on this matter would help me to decide.

I somehow put the thumb on the same side on both mittens. I can only blame temporary insanity. I swear, I checked, but I think when I checked I was holding one mitten upside down. Anyway, I was too lazy to totally undo the mitten to the provisional row that forms the thumb opening, so instead I took down the wrong thumb, grafted the life stitches of the thumb opening together (and not all that well, as you can see), then snipped a stitch in the middle of where I wanted the thumb to go and opened it up. This is an Elizabether Zimmerman technique, one she uses for afterthought pockets on sweaters, and afterthought heels on socks. The Yarn Harlot wrote about the afterthought heel last week.

Here's my picture of the altered mitten, close up:


I have printed off the entry forms for the Abbottsford Fibrefest in March. I'm a bit intimidated by the idea of sending off the entry fee and committing to a big show like this, but when I look at it realistically, it makes sense. I pay $35 for a table for a day at the Farmer's Market, and it's only a small percentage of patrons there who knit and are interested in buying yarn on that particular day. Fibrefest, *everyone* is interested in yarn or fiber, and if they're like me, they enter the building fully expecting to spend a minimum of $200 before they leave. So all in all, I think I can expect sales to be good enough to justify the entry fee. But it's still a bit intimidating.

Hey anyone know of a flat pack, easy to assemble and disassemble, and repeat many times over a season, fairly inexpensive shelf? Doesn't have to be that attractive, I can cover the ugliness with fabric and yarn, but it does need to fit into my rather small trunk of my rather small Subaru.