A New Direction

our first sunflower this year

our first sunflower this year

For the last five years, I have been struggling to find a direction for this blog. I’ve bounced around from yarn and knitting and crafty things to a little bit of self-discovery and a whole lotta lackluster this-is-what-i-think-i-should-be-doing. A couple of times I thought I should be a freelance writer, but I have the same problem with that as I do with working at my day job. The work pays. It’s distracting, sometimes even exciting, but it’s not for me. I am putting all of that effort in so it can be a feather in someone else’s cap. I’m vain. I want all the feathers.

I’ve known my whole life that I wanted to create my own career, but I didn’t know yet what that meant. I knew that I wanted to make Tiny Dino Studios into a creative place, one that motivates and inspires and make’s it’s readers all around feel good while giving them something to think about. Sounds nice, right? Vague, but pleasant, like sitting on the porch drinking coffee on a foggy fall morning. Likable, but lacking in substance.

For a long time, I’ve lacked clarity and a plan because the energy to cut through the fog just wasn’t there. That coffee only got me so far as the porch rail, trying to peer through the mist and make out my hazy goals somewhere out there in the future. I knew my goals and how to get there, but I hadn’t found the mechanism to get me there.

Over the past few years, both in my person and professional life, I have met too many small business owners who have the opposite problem. They know they want to sell. They know their passion, but they don’t know how to make it work. Something is stopping them. Fear. Exhaustion. Trepidation about where to start. All of the above. And because I’ve worked in retail for over ten years, I get asked the same questions over and over again from new and experienced business owners alike.

After awhile, it only made sense to start writing my answers down and share them with anyone who could put them to use. While I could talk to you about why you need to stop, drop, and figure your wholesale pricing all day, I also feel that insight into specialty retail, valuable though I hope it is, does not make a whole person, business, or blog. The things that inspire and engage outside of our business endeavors fuel us and help us succeed, and I want to include them to.

The knitting and the occasional patterns won’t go away. The odd other endeavor might pop up every now and then. I’d love to get a discussion on books going. I read and reread and devour books of all sorts, so expect to see some more talk that way popping up. And there are possibilities for so much more.

Tell me what you want to read about? What’s going to engage you, reader friend?


new studio wide

I have been on a journey for the last ten months. Most of this adventure has taken place inside google docs and 3 or 4 manila folders full of scratch paper. I have written my novel 5 times over and finally landed on a draft that I can make into something. The feeling is sublime., and I have taken a few days to revel in it. I sent it to my beta readers, had a drink to toast it, and gave myself the reward of Maria V. Snyder’s Glass Series. (I have devoured them. Seriously. We need to talk about book more often, reader friends.)

This journey of mine, however, has not just been about writing my novel. I have been on a highly introspective, speculative path that’s had some confidence building detours. I won’t say I’m completely done with it all, but I feel like I could wear this shirt honestly, and get some shit done.

If you’ve stuck with me over the last couple of years, there’s been no surprise that I didn’t know what the hell I’ve wanted to do. I’ve been bouncing around from one crafty infatuation to the next, without ever really settling on anything. One thing about writing my novel that helped me was that all of my passions kept popping up. That book incorporates so much that I love–coffee, textiles, modern small business strategy, men’s fashions. (True confession, I say I subscribe to the New York Times for the book review, and the comprehensive news, but the only thing I ever get through cover to cover is the style magazine.) Through the writing process, and examining what worked for my characters, I was also somehow able to wrestle out what gives me the most joy.

Strangely enough, they are the two things I do the most already: writing and retail. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that I should put the two together and write about retail. Except that I am really excellent at getting in my own way.

Comical metaphorical stumbling aside, I have a head full of specialty retail knowledge, and if I don’t get some of it out on the page, I’m in danger of exploding it all over the place. And let’s be honest, there’s a time and place for telling someone they need to reexamine their pricing strategy. (But hey, if you wanna talk about pricing, check back tomorrow!) Meaning, that you, reader friends, can expect to read some tricks of the trade right here.

I am excited. Are you excited?

wool rainbow

So what does all this self-helpy, soul-examining, navel-gazing have to do with destashing? It means I need to transform Tiny Dino Studios from a fiber studio to a multipurpose studio. There is a ton of awesome stuff that I’ve basically stopped using, and I want you to have it.

Through October 31st, my etsy shop will be open and all the yarns and spinning fibers I have stashed away will be up for grabs at 60-75% off. That is a steal of a deal on some really high quality yarn. I will be updating the shop on Saturday mornings with everything I can find through the end of October or as long as supplies hold out.

Mr Drum Carder

In addition to everything on etsy, I am selling my drum carder. I bought him right before I started to lose my enthusiasm for selling yarn, so I’ve made maybe 12 batts on the guy in the last couple years. (I have cleaned him up since I took this photo.) The card cloth is 120tpi/90tpi. I’m asking $200, and I’ll thrown in a bag of loose locks and fluff and stuff. Local only, I’d prefer not to ship this guy. Email me or leave a comment if you’re interested.  Drum Carder Sold!

Check out etsy, and hang around for what’s next!

A List

1. It’s been six weeks since my miscarriage. I am 100% healthy and feeling pretty good in general. Thank you everyone for your sympathies. Even if I wasn’t in the headspace to talk too much, it really meant a lot to hear from you.

2. This summer has been nothing but change. On top of the above, my husband and I are both working outside the home. The only other time this has happened in our entire relationship was while I was pregnant Felix, who is now in daycare. It’s a huge transition that we’re all still wrapping our heads around.

3. Because of all this change and upheaval, my attention span has been short. The only thing that I have spent any significant time on has been my novel.

4. I started my fourth big revision to my original Nanowrimo story last week. I’ve come to the conclusion that my method for writing novels is the most arduous and slow that there is–you know, besides not writing at all.

5. Once I gave myself permission to write and rewrite and let anything happen in my universe that I wanted to, I might have got carried away doing just that. I explored every nook and cranny, and it got me up to almost 140,000 words. That’s way too long!

6. Cutting 50,000 to 60,000 words sounds like a big job. That’s a whole Nanowrimo! But so far, I am having a blast revising it down, keeping on subject, keeping just to what’s important. That was the valuable part of all that exploration over the last few months.

7. I miss blogging.

8. My knitting and fiber arts have been all over the place. I have only finished one project since April: a toy giraffe for Athrun for his birthday.

9. I’ve been posting knitting photos to instagram and twitter. I’m tinydinostudios on both.

10. Have you seen what they’re doing on etsy right now? They are running a crowd-sourcing pilot program, and it’s awesome. I was wanting this exact thing the entire time my shop was open to allow me to buy a whole clip of wool and send it to the mill. Ah well. I’ll pass the love along.

11. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the campaign for Sarah Welch Pottery before it was over and will have a new ceramic travel mug headed my way in a couple of months. It’s worth the wait, I’ll drink my coffee iced out of glass until then.

12. Yes, I am enough of a coffee snob that I don’t like plastic or stainless coffee mugs. One retains old rancid coffee flavor. One makes the coffee taste like metal. No, I am not delusional. It’s really there.

13. I just finished a honking long book–about 1000 pages–and I don’t know what to read next. Any suggestions?


A week ago, I was told I was going to have a miscarriage.

(I hadn’t told you I was pregnant yet. I wasn’t hiding it, just wasn’t quite ready to share yet. I had just decided to when the spotting started.)

I knew this already. In the time it took to run all the blood tests from when I first started spotting to when I got the results, the miscarriage had already started. I was bleeding, not a lot, just the right amount. It was exactly like the midwife told me it would be.

It wasn’t bad, but I stayed home from work. It was more comfortable to be home with my boys. I pitted cherries from the farm and watched Death Comes to Pemberley on Netflix. I made a pie and did some light gardening. I swept the floors and read, all the while, trying not to mind that I was flushing away a pregnancy bit by bit.

By Friday, I was feeling pretty good. I thought the worst was behind me, that it could only go uphill from there. I was going go back to work on Monday. I spent the morning bouncing back and forth between light housework and writing a new chapter in my book, filling a hole in characterization. I felt I was on the mend.

I showered. The bleeding had picked up again, but I wasn’t concerned. A little bit of heavy bleeding was to be expected with this sort of thing. Still, it was time to pick Athrun up, and I made Brock drive, just in case. When I got out of the car to fetch Athrun from his grandparents’ house, I knew something was wrong. I had never felt bleeding that heavy as it was when that moment when I stood up.

Not wanting to alarm my husband too much, I just told him we needed to go home instead of the grocery store, like we had been planning. We hadn’t been out of the house more than 20 minutes, but I was overflowing the large pad I was wearing. It was scary, so I locked myself in the bathroom and called the midwife. She told me to get to the emergency room.

The bleeding didn’t slow down. We waited for more than 3 hours to be seen, with me limping, doubled over with labor-like cramps, to the bathroom every 30 minutes (or less) to change my pad, sickened at the alarming amount of red I was leaving in the toilet.

By the time I was seen, my lips were the same shade as the rest of my face and my blood pressure was dangerously low. I nearly passed out when they led me to my room. They put me on fluids. They examined me. They waited. The bleeding slowed, but not enough.

I ended up having a D&C in the middle of the night. The hospital was dark and quiet. So different from when we arrived and the ER was full of paramedics rushing patients in from ambulances, and police officers standing guard outside various rooms.

The operation was like a vacation. I got to sleep (anesthesia induced, but still, it was sleep). I got more fluids. When I was awake, they finally gave me some food and something to drink, and it was like heaven.

It was only about an hour til dawn when we got home, and I have spent most of the last three days sleeping. I am still pale as a ghost. Until last night, I was still dizzy if I was on my feet for longer than a minute. I can’t pick up my baby and I can’t drive, but slowly, I am recovering from the blood loss.

My husband has been doing everything. He is a superhero.

My miscarriage has been far more traumatic than labor ever was. And I’m still frightened that it isn’t over yet. I’m frightened of bleeding, even though it is such an essential part of being a woman. I don’t know where to go from here, but talking about this feels important.

Kicking off the 2015 Garden: Indoor Planting

Garden planting time might be my favorite time of year. The weather is finally turning warm, it’s pleasant to be outside again, and the whole world feels full of potential. This March has been warm and sunny so far, and in a fit of vitamin-d influenced optimism, last weekend, I started our 2015 garden.

Our first seedling of the year was this little spinach sprout. I planted three pots worth of spinach, which are living in our dining room window. I have three more pots to plant next week, to hopefully keep greens in rotation most of the spring. We didn’t have much luck planting greens in the ground last year. A combination of too much clay and ants made the leafy parts slow to grow, but the plants quick to bolt, so I’m sticking with pots this year.

I am attempting grow all of our summer vegetables from seed this year. We spent a ton on seedlings last year, and this year I’m hoping to grow more plants. We currently have about two dozen little tomato seedlings, and I’m hoping to put them all in the ground.

Last year was a disaster four our herbs. We got a late start on them and the soil in our yard was so poor, the only thing that took was the mint. I missed fresh basil so much, that this year I’m hedging my bets and have a whole pallet of basil seeds sprouting.

Basil seedlings are so cute and determined looking, I find myself peering into the tray multiple times a day, just admiring their fortitude.

If our Earth boxes are thawed enough, because last week they were still big blocks of frozen dirt, I’m going to bring them inside and start our first rounds of root vegetables. We also had trouble with these in the ground last year, they grew, but they were slow to take off and by the time they were sizable, they were also bitter. The ones we ate small, however, were delicious.

I’m hoping that planting the spring vegetables inside this year will give us more opportunity to get the yard ready for summer veggies and herbs and flowers. Our soil is so full of clay, I could take up ceramics and never need to buy it. We’re planning on working the compost we’ve been making since we moved in a year and a half ago into the soil and building up a few inches above the ground–we did this last year, but we decided we needed to go a few inches higher than that.

What are you planting this year?

Some Links for Tuesday

It’s been kind of a rough week for us, so I’m sharing some of the things I’ve been enjoying lately and taking a rest. Have fun, and feel free to share some of the stuff making you happy this week.

1. I received a wholesale catalog from The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild at the day job today. I can’t sell anything out of it in my stores, but there was something on every page I could see selling spectacularly in some other type of shop. See especially, planet plates, disappearing liberties mug, and Freudian slippers. What’s not to love? (There was also a Miyamoto Musashi plush doll that doesn’t appear to be available on their website yet, but how cool is it that there’s a Musashi plush? It doesn’t look like Toshiro Mifune–who played Musashi–which is a little disappointing, but I might have to buy it anyway someday.)

2.I don’t think I can eat cheese anymore. It’s sad, because I love cheese, but lately, it makes me feel sick and twisty on the inside. Enjoy your cheese while you’ve got it, people. (Yeah, there’s no link here. Please visit your local dairy instead.)

3. Right now I’m knitting Buckhorn Cowl with the current PFA KAL. It’s a fun, quick knit. I should cast it off tonight or tomorrow.

4. When I finish with the cowl, I’m going to swatch for the Mesmeric Cardigan. It might be the most complicated sweater I will ever knit.

5. Did you know my husband also has a blog? He’s building a video game called Dig, Robot, Dig!

6. Since my husband gets me, he sometimes sends me stills from Toshiro Mifune movies while I’m at work. Here are two of his latest, from Scandal



(Have I ever mentioned that I studied Japanese in high school and college?)

7. This led him to starting another tumblr of Mifune gifs. They are magnificent.

Scary Stories

Thank you so much everyone for the great show of support over my last post. It took me two months to figure out how to write those words, and now that they are out there, I feel liberated.

I also feel this horrible pressure to produce a stellar follow up. I look at my word processor with a little bit of fear now, thinking about how I am going to top the last post? Or, screw top it, just match it? How am I going to do that consistently, two or three times a week, every week, forever?

The obvious answer is, of course, to put my butt in a chair, my fingers on a keyboard, and start typing. For a long time though, even that was too hard for me to do. I would sit down and the ants-in-the-pants feeling that prompted me to learn how to knit just so I would have something to do with my hands–that can’t keep still, have to fiddle with something anxiety that settles in my jaw and hardens my shoulders–would paralyze me with tension. If I let it go too long, it turned my stomach and knots up my neck until I can’t see for the pain radiating through my head.

I used to open up a word processor and fear my potential. I would sit numb in front of my computer, the ability to think having fled in the face of this big, scary thing I said I wanted to do. Not wanting to take the time to search out the right words was easy to blame on being busy with work, being tired from the kids, being burned out by school. Closing the lid on my laptop was so simple and authoritative an action. No writing today.

November 1st, I sat down at my computer and told myself to write 2000 words. No pressure. “They don’t have to be good words,” I said to me. In fact, let them be shitty words. Let them be boring words, just write them. You can always change them later.

That’s how I got through the whole first draft of my novel.

Nanowrimo taught me how to write everyday. But I was still afraid to do simple things in my story–honest things–like have two characters who are fighting get really pissed off at one another. My climax was the most amiable, life-changing altercation you’ve ever seen. The problem was, in my head, this pivotal confrontation was monumental, but the conflict on the page read as trivial at best.

The final third of the novel hangs in the balance, and I’m afraid to let the main characters say too many mean things to each other in case the reader stops liking them?

How stupid is that?

Not only does that not give you, as the reader, enough credit, but it completely undermines the whole point of the story. No conflict = no story. If my characters were sensible people, he and she wouldn’t be in the predicament they’re in in the first place, and you probably wouldn’t ever read it, because it would be boring as hell.

(You’re enjoying all this vague talk about my novel, aren’t you? What’s not to like?)

Fear of readers not liking my characters kept me from committing to a crucial scene, and fear of boring you now made this a really difficult post to write. Scariest of all is what I’m planning to do next–which is to pursue writing as my (eventual) main source of income.

Isn’t that the freakiest shit you ever heard of?

Scares the pants off me.

Not only does seriously pursuing a freelance writing career involve sitting down at my computer every day and facing the fear that my words are fucking lame, but it also means that I have to drum up the courage to make for myself the profession, but have always feared I’d fail at.

What’s even more horrifying though, is not trying at all.

It’s Time for Something Different

Some of you may or may not have noticed that I closed down my etsy shop a couple of weeks ago. I tweeted about it last week, but otherwise, I closed it down fairly quietly. It was not a bittersweet moment for me.

dinning room before

The glamour of selling hand dyed yarn and fiber lost it’s appeal about two years ago. If you’ve been reading my blog since May 2013, when we had to leave our cozy little apartment and I didn’t have a place to dye for awhile, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise. I’ve bounced around with what I’ve shared with you since then, a little sewing, a little printing, a little gardening, even a free knitting pattern or two. Each and every one of those things was so much fun in the moment that I wanted to share them with you, hoping you’d be diverted as well.

But as I go back and read over some of my posts, I have to admit, that I am less than impressed.


I can tell I was just dashing off posts as quick as can be–and lets face it, they were pretty shallow.


One of the reasons I closed down my etsy shop was that I just didn’t feel like I fit in there anymore. I love the DIY lifestyle. I love making my own chicken stock and yogurt, I love processing my own yarn from a big greasy fleece. I love composting and gardening and making my own soap–but you know what’s left after you do all of those things?

A mess.


A big fat one.

But etsy is selling a curated, tastefully simple, DIY lifestyle these day, and kind of leaving the DIY out of it. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a million, brilliant artists still selling on etsy, but most of the time those artists are buried in a sea of not-so-handmade listings.


When it comes to the fiber arts though, my competition remained largely other indie dyers and small farmers, and I was completely cool with that. What I was not cool with was the ever increasing price it cost just to get product views.

When I was really having fun with dyeing yarn and doing my yarn club, I could make a couple hundred dollars or more a month off my web sales, after etsy and paypal fees. Not enough to live off, but a couple extra trips to the grocery store if need be or a part for the car, that sort of thing. A couple of years ago, etsy introduced search ads, which allowed you to put your product at the top of the page when someone searched for the keywords you used on your listings. You could cap how much money you wanted to spend on search ads each week, and I thought it was effective. I put my reasonable cap on and saw an increase in sales and in page views when I used them.


A few months ago, they switched the search adds to a bidding system which was not cost effective for a small shop like mine. The minimum cap was about $1/day. I gave it a try one month–while admittedly not doing a whole lot of other promotion–and paid about twice in fees as what I made in sales. I turned it off the next month and received hardly any page views and no sales. I don’t think I’d ever had a month with no sales since I opened my shop, but in December and January it was zilch, zippo, nothing.

I’m not blaming etsy’s new systems entirely. I have already said my heart wasn’t in it anymore, but the recent changes were the nail in the coffin of my little etsy shop. It feels like, as etsy has switched from a website where you go to find handmade originals, to where you go to find what’s on trend, that etsy is more preoccupied with selling the idea of a lifestyle rather than the goods that make that lifestyle possible. I thought etsy was supposed to be a stepping stone for launching a handmade business, but it feels to me now like it’s more concerned with nickel and diming the indie artist out of their studio space.

It certainly wasn’t the right place for me anymore.

clementines and cherry blossoms

And I feel like, while I was trying to fit into that etsy aesthetic, so was my blog. My identity as a blogger was confused. My writing was mediocre at best.

I wrote in November about sticking with Nanowrimo for the first time ever, even though I have goddamn degree in creative writing. I haven’t stopped writing since I started back in November. I’m putting the finishing touches on a draft of a novel, and hope to start searching for an agent sometime later this year. It’s taught me a lot about myself–one of them being that I tend toward caution when I really want to kick and to curse and to generally stir up a fuss.


Writing my novel has shown me that while I don’t believe in censorship, I certainly was practicing it on myself a lot, telling myself this was too controversial to write about, or that was too political. That I would write “fuck” too many times and offend someone.


And now I kind of don’t give a damn.

What’s this mean moving forward? I’ll still write about my knitting and my gardening, but I might also write about books or my writing. I might piss you off. I might insult you. Mostly, I hope to make you laugh, or to motivate you to live your dream. Because I have always wanted to be writer, but I never had the courage to let myself be one before.


Free Pattern: Chunky Baby Mittens with No Thumb

My gift to you on this, the day after Thanksgiving, the first Day of the Christmas season, a new free pattern!

It’s that time of year when I start frantically making sure my family has warm things to cover their heads, hands, and feet, because the weather has decided it’s pretty much winter. Since I have a wee little one this year, I got to make the simplest, quickest pair of mittens there is. Chunky mittens with no thumbs! Just a cuff, and a hand! And on size 10 needles, these little suckers are done in no time. If you have a baby in your circle, these are a super quick, fun little gifts to help keep teeny tiny fingers warm this winter.

mittensforscale With lego rocker chic for scale. Is the axe part of her show? Who knows?

In the pattern, I say to use DPNs, but please use whichever method you are fond of. Obviously, you can see I knit my mittens using magic loop, which has been my default lately, mostly because finding one circular needles is usually easier than four DPNs in the same size.

50g Chunky Weight Yarn (Shown in some old Brachiosaurus Bulky, but Wool of the Andes Bulky would substitute perfectly.)
4 stitches per inch in Stockinette
1 set US Size 8/5mm double pointed needles
1 set US size 10/6mm double pointed needles
Darning needle

Pattern Key
BO– bind off
CO– cast on
K– knit
K2tog– knit 2 stitches together (a decrease)
St st— Stockinette stitch

CO 18 stitches onto smaller needels
Spread evenly over three DPNs. Join to work in the round
K1 P1 for two inches or until cuff reaches desired length
Switch to larger needles.
At the beginning of the next round, switch to ST stitch, adding two sts in the first round for a total of 20 sts.

Knit every round for 3 inches.

Row 1:K3, K2tog repeat around
Row 2: K around
Row 3: K2, k2tog repeat around
Row 4: K1, K2tog repeat around
Row 5: K2tog, repeat around
Pull yarn through sts, and weave in securely.
Weave in all ends.
Knit Two.


It’s 5am on a Saturday, and I Have Been Awake for Ages

Good morning all. How are you this lovely, cold Saturday morning. I am sitting in bed, in the dark, because I have very successfully woken myself. The last time the baby woke up to eat, about an hour and a half ago, he woke me up out of the middle of a sleep cycle. To avoid falling asleep while I was feeding him, I started thinking about work–well, apparently nothing gets my blood boiling in the pre-dawn hours than thinking about things I can’t do anything about until Monday.(He, of course, ate and went back to sleep immediately.) Next time, I am going to try to think about something more fun, like flowers or yarn.

It’s November 15th, and for the first time ever, I am keeping up with Nanowrimo. Usually by now I have completely given up on the whole endeavor. My first weekend in November is notoriously busy, and so I always start out the month a few days behind on my word count, and then I never catch up, and by the beginning of the second week I am too daunted by the sheer volume of words I am missing, and instead of writing for writing’s sake for the rest of the month, I just give up on the whole enterprise completely and for the rest of the year the only thing I write are blog posts and grocery lists.

Considering I have a degree in creative writing, this is pretty embarrassing.

This year, I decided I was really going to finish. I didn’t have a story idea until the last minute, and I have done absolutely zero planning. I’ve always been a fly by the seat of my pants sort of writer anyway, so this whole making stuff up as I go along and having no plan is fun. Not sure how much substance my story has, but that’s not the point right now. The point is to write everyday, and that’s what I’m doing.

Only took 2 1/2 years after graduating to get my writing mojo back.

Now that I am writing everyday though, my other work is slowing down a little bit. After finally finishing Brock and Felix’s Flax sweaters last week, I had a small bout of startitis and cast on Wheaton which I think is too gorgeous for words. I am knitting the worsted weight scarf version, because while I think this pattern is stunning, I am also aware that I have a very short attention span for knitting anything that turns out to be a rectangle. But I think a blanket, or even a stole in this pattern would be the epitome of luxury.

I am also working on a pair of mittens for Brock. I am using Skinny Fit Mitts as a template because I like the cable pattern on them a lot, but the pattern was written for someone with tiny hands, so not only am I changing it up by making them flip-tops, I am also having to lengthen and widen the thumb gusset, lengthen the hand and figure my own decreases for top.

And since it is supposed to snow today, I really need to make Felix a pair of mittens. I am just going to use my chunk wool and knit him a pair of thumbless mittens. That should be quick, and I hope to do it this afternoon after I finish my word count.

What are you working on?