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?

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Kansas Beeswax

I have mentioned a couple of time that I have been looking in to soap-making, though I seem to be doing most of my ruminating about that on twitter. While I am definitely interested in making soap, that’s not all I’m interested in creating. Learning about oils and herbs and essential oils easily leads from just soap to just overall natural body care.

kansas beeswax

One of the first things I wanted to try using was beeswax. It’s supposed to be very moisturizing and nutrient rich. I’m hoping to try it out in some body butter, some lip balm, and some soap.

Finding a good source for local beeswax is important, since beeswax isn’t really all that regulated in the US. While I still intend to ask around at the farmer’s market and with some local beekeepers, I was able to find a source for Kansas beeswax on etsy.

beeswax cubes
This beeswax came from Hutchinson. It’s golden, firm, and smells divine. Seriously, I wish I could give you this smell. If you weren’t careful, you could mistake it for toffee made with honey, because it certainly looks good enough to eat.

beeswax label
That’s why I’m making sure to store the beeswax in the labeled baggies. Aren’t those bees so happy and adorable?

As soon as my other supplies arrive, the creating shall commence.

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Spinning Inspiration

Easter Egg Handspun2
Some of my handspun from last year.

It’s Tour de Fleece time, and again I am not officially participating. I haven’t spun since sometime last winter before I got too big to spin. My wheel is awfully neglected, but knitting on my pogona with handspun yarn has me yearning to spin all of the yarn I knit with. This is completely unrealistic with a newborn around, but a gal can dream.

When I feel the yearning to spin, but can’t quite find the time, I usually wind up browsing handspun available for sale on etsy. The selection is gorgeous–and knowing that I can also create such treasures motivates me to find the time to get my wheel out again. And every now and then, I snap up one of those treasures for myself.

Here’s what I’ve been admiring lately:

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This wool and silk blend from blarney yarn

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This bulky rainbow yarn from Wool Wench

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Pretty much everything from brand new shop Dotori Handmade is absolutely gorgeous.

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And these lovely singles from pancake and lulu.

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How We Made our Wedding Invitations (and how you can too)

Our wedding invitations all went out this week–which means a week ago Brock and I spent a lot of time putting them together. We’re throwing this wedding on a super tight budget, so every bit of money saved is a good thing. We discussed what we wanted to do a little bit, and spent a lot of time browsing etsy debating whether we should buy a downloadable, printable package or find a local artist to design them for us. We even debated making them completely from scratch ourselves. In the end we compromised a little bit. I was able to score the base of the invitations themselves in a clearance at Michael’s. Finding them was complete serendipity, but I was able to get all the stationary and stickers for the whole shebang in one day for a fraction of what you would pay a printer. Plus, we were able to include some very specific information for our guests regarding the pot-luck dinner and food allergies with no added costs.

The outside of the invitation, which, I think, was meant to be a birthday invitation, is fun and kind of quirky. The bright yellow envelop sets a cheerful mood and the elephant balancing on a ball is the perfect metaphor for putting on a wedding, but in a fun way, because he’s wearing a party hat! Plus, Circus. The inside, however, was completely blank. Stark white invitations are no fun at all, so I gathered my supplies and with a little design help from Brock, we were able to put the invitations together in one afternoon and evening.

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A little colored paper, a glue stick, some free fonts, a little time writing, and some funky scissors were all we used.

Here’s the whole experience from start to finish, just imagine the detritus of making them isn’t there.

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weddinginvitations

invitation open

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We glued the actual invitation into the card and included three inserts: a note concerning gifts and explaining why the wedding is gluten free, the call to action with the URL for RSVPs, and a label for whatever food dish they choose to bring listing common food allergens outside gluten so there’s no guessing and no accidental sickness.

My favorite part was probably going through the sticker book that matched the stationary. There are some creepy stickers in there.

creepy mustache sticker
What’s that all about?

So here’s what you really want to know, how much did all this cost and can you do it yourself? The cost breakdown is below and you can absolutely do this yourself.

Stationary: $15.00 (for 10 sets of 6)
Stickers: $3.00
Ticket-Edge Scissors: $1.99
Colored Paper: $15.00
Shipping Labels: $2.00 (estimate because I purchased a giant package of printable shipping labels ages ago)
Stamps: $20.70 (About 1/3 of our invitations have been hand delivered)
Fonts: Free (from here)
Design and Labor: Time

Total: $57.69*

All that, and the invitations are exactly how I want them to look. It’s pretty brilliant.

*I did not include the cost of ink in my accounting, because we have a laser printer, and the toner it takes for a job like this is negligible. However, if you are doing a project that involves color, please do not disregard the cost of printer ink.

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What I did on my Summer Vacation

Last week, I was on vacation. The week before that I kind of took a vacation from the blog as well, and I have been kind of slow getting back to it. I have been thinking of you all, but things like farmers markets and Harry Potter movie marathon have got in the way. (Did I mention I made an Athrun-friendly version of Butterbeer?) Since we have no extra money to speak of, and I generally find travelling stressful enough to need a second vacation, I stayed home, slept in, probably drank too much wine, and made things.

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Minerva in a baby Sweater

As mentioned in the previous post, I knit a baby sweater, and as promised, Brock put it on the cat. She is asleep in this picture, so deeply so that she allowed herself to be posed.

catinababysweater
I do think magenta and orange are her colors, don’t you?

While that was a fun little lark and it kept my hands busy in the evenings, in reality, I really spent the better part of three days sewing. The first project was the cute little tote bag in the previous post. The second was another handbag, for me to actually use.

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The Reversible Bucket Bag

This is the second pattern in The Bag Making Bible and the bag featured on the cover–a big part of the reason I wanted to buy the book. I am very smug with myself that I finally managed to sew it. It’s not perfect. The seams are a little more crooked than I used to sew, and I pretty much made up how to attach the bias tape because the instructions in the book were too dense, but I really like how it came out. I especially like the fabric–the perfect mood and combination of patterns. I generally find pattern combinations (like the one on the cover-ay yi yi yi) in books like these to be a bit to bold for my taste, but I was able to find some patterns that I though complimented each other instead of fought for space. (They were all quilting cotton from JoAnn.)

insidethereversiblebucketbag

I am especially in love with the silver calico I chose for the lining. It’s so special, it’s only for me. (Yes, while the bag is technically reversible, I don’t plan to use it that way.)

Spending some time sewing this past week, I learned something important about myself. While knitting and spinning are productive, enjoyable ways to spend my time, I can perform them while doing other things: listening to an audio book, watching tv, socializing. Those fiber arts don’t take my full attention (most of the time). When I sew, however, I jump head first into a deep, dark tunnel from which I may not emerge hours, days, or weeks, and if anyone comes in looking to find me, they are likely to get bitten. Seriously, hours passed in what seemed like minutes, and I had no idea. As I shake the rust off my old sewing hinges, I think it unlikely that this mindset will change. Hopefully it will take me fewer hours overall, but I seem to be capable of sewing with a single-mindedness I seldom spare for any other activity–and it scares me enough that I realize I won’t be allowing myself to descend into that sort of madness too often. But don’t expect this handbag to the last sewing project you see on this blog.

And a teaser:

weddinginvitationenvelope
Wedding invitations have been produced, assembled, and mailed. Next time, what’s in the envelope and how we made them.

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Sunflower Skeletons on a Snowy Day

I am not a spectacular photographer by any means, but I work and live in a truly beautiful place. The Kansas Historical Society, location of my day job, is on the edge of town, and we are lucky enough to have prairie reserve as part of our property. We have hiking trails that wind through the prairie, sometime surrounding the hiker in grasses and sunflowers seven or eight feet high. It has taken me six months to remember to bring my camera to work and take some pictures during my lunch-break walk. But it’s good that I remembered today, because we are getting the perfect “White Christmas” snow right now. (It’s a week late, but I’ll take it.)

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Tallgrass Prairie. This photo was shot at my eye-level. I am 5’4″.

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In August, these were all sunflowers in full bloom. (And it was 110 degrees, so I was not outside much)

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Sunflower skeletons covered in snow

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A wide view of the prairie and the old one-room schoolhouse.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope it’s a good start for you all.

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Sweater Class!

Remember last week when I showed you this?

It’s pretty exciting. Not because I magically knit an entire sweater in a week, because I didn’t. In fact, the sweater still looks exactly the same. What’s exciting is that this is my pre-work for a sweater class I will be teaching in September!

Here is everything you need to know!

Project Class: O W L S by Kate Davies Skill Level: Adventurous Beginner – Intermediate
Six Week Class Meets Thursday, September 13, 20, 27, 2012 and October 4, 11, 18, 2012 from 7-9 pm at Potwin Presbyterian Churn in Topeka.
Cost $45

This iconic sweater by Kate Davies would make a great first sweater project, or a fun way to explore new techniques for an intermediate knitter. O W L S is a women’s sweater knit in the round from the bottom up. It include waist shaping and a ring of cabled owl around the yoke. Knitting this sweater will teach you how to knit, purl, increase, decrease, knit in the round, cable, bottom-up seamless sweater construction, and short rows.

The student is responsible for purchasing their own pattern and supplies. (If this is your first sweater, I highly recommend purchasing your yarn from The Wicked Stitch, The Yarn Barn, or other local yarn store where the employees can answer your questions.) The pattern can be purchased online at ravelry or from the designer’s website.

Supplies needed: enough chunky yarn to knit the sweater in your chosen size, 32-inch (or longer) circular needle in US sizes 10 and 10.5 or size to achieve gauge, cable needle, stitch markers in two colors, tapestry needle and waste yarn. Optional supplies, 5mm buttons, needle, thread.

Homework: please have your gauge swatch knitted by the first night of class.

I have long been wanting to knit this sweater. It is fun and simple. I hope to have a good, every day pullover when I am finished knitting it–and some cool weather to wear it in. (Right now I am pictured myself pairing it with a flirty skirt, my black boots, and the socks from the cover of Sock Knitting Master Class, knit in a grey instead of brown. It’s a funky outfit, but oh will I ever be warm!)

If you’re a local and on the fence about the class, take a look at all the projects on the ravelry project gallery page. It’s full of inspirational photographs, yarn ideas, and helpful hints. I guarantee you will fall in love. And if you aren’t local, download the pattern anyway. Kate Davies is a brilliant independent designer, and I promise, the $6 (or whatever the current exchange rate from the pound is) is entirely worth it. If I hadn’t been so focused on the pineapple socks, I would be well into the sleeves of this by now. I am not exaggerating, that’s how quickly this knits up.

So happyknittingfriends, I have 8 spots open for this class and you have one month to collect your materials. Won’t you join me?

(Also, check out what other classes the PFA is currently offering!)

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Sundays are for Swatching

I have felt a bit aimless in my knitting lately. I have been knitting a lot of simple things, stockinette socks, stockinette sweaters, garter stitch bags. While all of them are relatively easy, they are all also relatively simple. I like a good simple knitting project for stressful times, when the hands just need to be producing and the mind needs to be relaxing. I will still tell you, if you ask, that a plain stockinette sock is the best relaxation knitting in the world. But every now and then, there comes a point where a woman needs just a little more to do. Taking on the Pearl Street Pullover was part of that. I have never done a cabled sweater before, and I am enjoying the heck out of it, even if I am afraid I am going to run out of yarn. I think it was also my motivation for the ill-fated moth man scarf I blogged about last time. Ill-fated? Yes, it is already in hibernation. I have a record with lace yarn and it seems I am doomed never to ever finish a project made out of it. I think I need to come to terms with the fact that I am a cable and color girl, and that while the occasional lace is nice, I prefer the solid to the dainty.

Which brings me to today’s topic. You see, I have plans. Big plans. Plans that almost scare me a little bit when I think about it too much.


This is the pile of things I am going to work on today, because it’s Sunday, and if I can’t sit on my butt and knit all day, I don’t know what else Sunday is for. In the middle you see the beginnings of a sock. This is my control project. A simple pair of stockinette socks on the needles that I can pick up when my brain needs a break from all the new things.


This particular pair of socks are my little brother’s birthday present. (His birthday was a month ago, but I am consoled by the fact that it has been 100 or more degrees every day since then and he wouldn’t have worn them anyway.) They are some self-striping t-rex yarn that he picked out of my shop. He might have just turned twenty, but I am proud to say he couldn’t pass up having Air Bender inspired socks.

Why do I need a control project you ask? Well, mostly because I made two knitting decisions in the last week that prove I have obviously gone quite insane. Two things happened to me last week. I stumbled across Ann Budd’s blog where she challenged herself to knit every sock in her Sock Knitting Master Class book. Second, I was finishing up teaching my beginners sock knitting class, and was thinking what other knitting classes I should schedule for the fall. Some how, the amalgamation of these two ideas in my work-stressed brain led me to make two very ill-conceived decisions. One, I need to learn more knitting skills so that I can be a better knitting teacher, therefore I too shall knit through the sock knitters master class, and blog about it. Two, I will teach a sweater knitting class, because I love knitting sweaters and would like to pass the bug along. Of course, the pattern I chose, O W L S, I have never knit before. I don’t feel comfortable teaching something I have never done, therefore I need to knit this sweater. I don’t have any illusions about knitting it all before the class starts, especially given my insane sock undertaking, but I would like to stay at least one step ahead of my students.


The yarn I am going to use for O W L S is just some knitpicks Wool of the Andes Bulky I bought ages ago. I have a ton of this stuff laying around. I am not sure what my plans were anymore, but I have enough of this steely grey color for a sweater. Today I am swatching for the sweater.


I am also swatching with this lovely golden protoceratops sock yarn for the first pair of socks in The Sock Book (this might be how I refer to the Sock Knitting Master Class for the duration of the project.) I do have to confess, that I have not swatched for socks since probably the second pair of socks I knit. I have not had a problem thus far, but I figure when socks are patterned and offer different sizes, it might be prudent to get a good idea of what my sock gauge even is these days.

First up is Assymetrical Cables by Cookie A. Wish me luck.

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Pseudo-Ravellenic Knitting

I know to really participate in the Ravellenic games, one is meant to join a team and sign up for a competition, etc., etc. I still wanted to give myself a knitting challenge, and I am taking this challenge just as seriously as though who signed up officially, but the truth is that internet forums have been leaving a bad taste in my mouth lately. Yes, even on Ravelry, and it makes me sad. So, this Olympics, I am avoiding the forums part of the knitting games and just doing it on my own.

I chose Anne Hanson’s Motheye as my project. I have really knit a lace scarf, and I have yet to successfully complete a project out of lace weight yarn. So, I threw my balled-up yarn from my ripped out Starling, which I will finish one day when I have the patience to dye the yarn first, in a pot full of red dye.

This is the effect it’s having on the pattern.

This was just a little ball of yarn, a little snag in the ripping out I couldn’t untangle, and the white shouldn’t last much longer before it runs out. Even now, I can feel myself growing bored with the undyed yarn, and am thinking of switching to the bigger ball. The big ball should have a much larger red section, and therefore a longer transition. We’ll see how it goes. However, I am still enamored of my Pearl Street Pullover out of undyed yarn. Perhaps it is the cables rather than the color?

I do love the nupps! Nupps are another thing I have never knit. I like them and am dreaming of pairing them with cables sometime in the near future. Or do they become baubles when the are with cables. Is there a difference?

There is much I still have to learn about knitting. More on that later.

The suspense, it should be driving you mad.

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Mid Summer Pursuits

Did I mention I started a new job? A real permanent job? I honestly can’t remember. It’s a great job with an unambiguous title: Retail Coordinator. And I get to work for Kansas–not the government, which is all around pretty good in my book–but folks it’s a lot to learn and take over all at once. I can’t sleep at night my mind is so busy processing it all. I don’t feel rushed or panicked or unhappy–quite the opposite really–I am just behind–through no fault of my own. But the catching up is taking most of my brain power, and I forget to start writing a blog post until 5 minutes before it’s time to leave for work, and we’ve all seen how well that has been working out.

The rest of my energies have gone into the following pursuits:


These peaches became ice cream. I have been experimenting with ice cream making this week, which I have never ever made before. See, I used to be baker, but then I gave up wheat (and sugar, but am less strict about this)* and baking was no longer an option unless I wanted to spend a fortune on nut flours. Ladies and gentlemen, these last few months have seen me pretty much the definition of broke. Broker than I have ever been. Nothing was purchased that was not a necessity, and fancy flour-substitutes are the definition of luxury. Given dietary restrictions, I made my ice cream with cream, evaporated milk and peaches soaked in a couple teaspoons of honey. It was good, and now it was gone. Alas, no photographs were taken of the final product, but I will be continuing to experiment.

Tonight I attempted to make Mocha Gelato, but I am pretty sure I didn’t let the mixture cool enough before churning it. The upside is that with very few ingredients, milk, honey, cocoa, instant espresso, vanilla, I created a really great tasting chocolate / coffee soup that I am freezing never-the-less hoping it doesn’t turn into ice. Less sugary substance is better. Next, I really want to attempt making ice cream from coconut milk and get rid of the dairy all together. I don’t have trouble with dairy, but I know folks who do, and I think it would be fun. Plus, I. Love. Coconut.

While it is summer and ice cream making is the appropriate thing to do, I have been doing all sorts of inappropriate things with wool.


Like knitting sweaters in 100+ degree heat.

I finished the body of the surfer tee, and only have (cap) sleeves to knit and the neckline to clean up. I knit a size I thought I might shrink down to by October and it fits perfectly now. It will still look good on me in October if I continue losing weight at this rate. After that, I will probably rip it out and knit a different sweater, because knitting sweaters is fun and I have been impressing msyself with my new ultra-economic ways.

At the same time, I have been working on my sister’s belated birthday gift.

It’s a laptop cozy for her new computer that she is taking to CHINA. With fang buttons. She will love this. Even if knitting in garter stitch for that long was a horrible idea.

Then I started a completely insane project for July.

A thick, worsted weight cabled sweater. It’s already warm in my lap, but the squishiness of the cables and the roundness of the yarn and the fact that I will have the perfect sweater finished by the time I actually need it this year when the weather turns keeps my needles going. The sweater was in the most recent WEBS catalog I received, and when I saw it, I knew it was what my Cormo Rusticus (100% cormo) yarn would become. The sweater is Pearl Street Pullover, and the yarn was a one off, but I bet they might have something fun a Juniper Moon Farm.

Thursday I try my hand a teaching my first sock knitting class. Wish me luck.

* I keep meaning to write a short post about how, after half a decade of struggling with my weight, I am finally losing it again. The easiest way to say it is that I gave up grains (yes grains, not just wheat) and sugar. I don’t think that blog post is ever going to happen in a way that I will be satisfied with. I don’t think food should be religion, and every time I try I sound like gluten-free evangelist. If you want to know how I modified my lifestyle and am losing weight, check out Mark’s Daily Apple. The lifestyle that website describes is pretty close to what I am doing, and full of great information.

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