Hand-Spun! . . . and a whole lot more

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200 yards worsted weight hand-spun wool

I am thrilled to announce that I am adding a line of hand-spun yarn to my etsy shop! The first addition is pictured above and more are on their way. I have been spinning all day long. I find the motion of spinning a deeply soothing exercise now that I have the hang of it. Because of that, I have been spending a lot of time at my wheel. So much time that there is no way I could ever knit all of the yarn I have been spinning. (Well, I probably could but I would really like to avoid having my apartment over flow with yarn the way cartoon laundry rooms do with soap suds.)

The summer is winding down. I have been finished with school for about three months now. Athrun started Kindergarten on Tuesday, and I have had zero luck finding a job outside the coffee shop, particularly a job I feel like I can really do well. This summer has been full of waffling back and forth on the issue: Do I find an office job that pays a little bit more and allows me to sleep like a regular human being or do I concentrate on growing my own business ventures and creating a job for myself? Do I find a job where I might have to cancel on Shephreding Camp (because did I mention I am going!) or do I stick with the coffee shop and work toward my goal of starting my own farm, possibly fiber csa, sometime within the next decade or do I go try my luck as an administrative assistant or a customer service rep?

To tell the truth, as ready as I am to be the coffee shop customer instead of the barista, I also want to have the opportunity to participate in 2012 season with Growing Growers so I can learn more about growing food out on my Future Fantasy Farm and meet the really great farmer’s who live in my area. I can’t tell you how drawn I am to the idea of participating in that program, but concerns about money kick in just like they always do. The basic concern being that I could really use some more of it. The temptation of money has pulled me back and forth over the past three months, but the strangest thing pointed me in what I feel is the right direction about two weeks ago. The complete lack of money for the right thing.

Not far from my apartment, there is a great shopping center which is mostly full of small, local businesses. One of these, a coffee shop that has always struggled (and was never open when I could go there, might I add) closed down. It’s a cute shop space, and if you’re from Topeka, you know which one I mean. It was all wood with big windows, a nice bar with a little seating downstairs, with a homey upstairs. I noticed the closed for good sign one morning on my way to work while filling up my gas tank. All I could think was “STUDIO SPACE!” and that’s pretty much all I thought the rest of the day.

The downstairs, with some renovation would make a really cute yarn shop, which Topeka is sorely lacking. And upstairs would be the perfect classroom space. You could hold small knitting/spinning classes and maybe even some dyeing lessons. It would small, cute, cozy, a gathering space even. Maybe I would keep the espresso machine. Everything a yarn shop should be. I could see it perfectly, but I knew the rent on that place would be more than I currently pay for where I am living, and nobody is giving out business loans–especially to a girl who already has a little debt and barely-above-minimum-wage job–but the motivating thought the past few weeks is that I can get there.

I don’t necessarily need the rented studio space, but it might be a stepping stone somewhere along the line. Right now I don’t really know. All I do know is that I am putting myself full-steam back into Tiny Dino Studios and going where it takes me. (I am hoping this means more blog posts as well as more products.)

I have some hand-knit samples worked up, but the photography hasn’t quite worked out yet. I almost feel like I need a dress form. But one, dress forms are expensive, two, most of the modern ones are ugly, so I would want to find a vintage one, which is probably even more expensive, and three, I have a very small apartment and finding a place for it might be a problem. All that aside, if you know of someone who has a nice vintage dress form along these lines, I would be happy to make them an offer.

Now, I am off to do some yoga, which is my other new project: losing all the weight I gained when I went back to school–which is a whole other blog post.

Teasing: What I did in July

So, I posted my spinning from the first day of the Tour de Fleece, and since then there has been blog silence. I realize it’s been a month, but I have been working hard. What follows is just a peak of what I’ve been up to.

Here is the rest of my TdF spinning:

Hummingbird Handspun from Cosymakes Farm Wool Club
Humming Bird Corriedale from Cosy Makes

Brown Shetland Handspun
Natural Brown Shetland

Brown Shetland and Fawn Alpaca Handspun

A Little Bit of Brown Shetland plied with a sample of Fawn Alpaca

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My First 3-Ply! BFL in Stina from Blue Dog Fibers

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Some Targhee/Mohair from Cosy Makes again. Not a great picture, but really great yarn, and fun to spin. I. Love. Mohair.

I dyed some Merino/Cashmere/Nylon, which is so soft I want to sit and snuggle with it more than anything else. I have been working on some autumn colors and am completely in love with this amber/gold.

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Despite the extreme heat we’ve been experiencing in Kansas, I am still managing to get some work done.
Knitting has been flying off my needles in the form of test knits for the shop. Expect photos of those to come!

Critters and Fleeces

It is almost that wonderful, magical time of year that is the Tour de Fleece. I love Tour de Fleece. The internet goes from housing some pictures of beautiful hand-spun yarn, to brimming over with said photographs. On top of being beautiful, these photos are inspirational, motivational, get-off-your-butt-and-make-something-spectacular-tional. I know, I know, I know. You are all saying, but you have never participated in the Tour de Fleece before, and really, what’s the big deal anyway? The big deal is that I learned to spin during last year’s Tour de Fleece, seeing all those gorgeous pictures is what convinced me I could afford to shell out the $50 for the class and to take a Saturday off work. And it was so much fun. My wheel came in the mail six weeks later (which felt like an eternity) and then school started and I didn’t have any time to spin. And then my lovely, brand new spinning wheel become more a piece of furniture rather than the well-crafted tool it was meant to be. I was practicing maybe 20 minutes a month, and since I wasn’t very good at it yet, it was a frustrating experience every time. Then, sometime during February or March, the spinning wheel and I came to some sort of unspoken understanding, all of a sudden I was making yarn. I still haven’t made very much yarn, but my skills have greatly, if slowly, improved over the last year. Now, I see the Tour de Fleece as a way to finally force myself to incorporate spinning into my everyday life.

For those wondering what the heck the Tour de Fleece is. . . It’s kind of like the Tour de France in that it runs from July 2nd through July 24th and it involves wheels. That’s about it. While in the Tour de France top cyclist in peak physical condition challenge themselves to ride through France in three weeks, in the Tour de Fleece, any spinner of any skill level challenges themselves with a set of goals, usually to improve their spinning or to work through the fleece and roving that has built up in the stash over the last year. Spinners typically do this in an air conditioned room, possibly in front of the tv. The really dedicated spinners might actually watch the Tour de Fleece…(I’ll probably watch Dr. Who or listen to Jeff Buckley.) The general idea is to push yourself and your skill as a spinner. In that spirit, I have made a few small goals for myself for this year’s Tour de Fleece, one of them a bit unusual.

1. Spin at my wheel for at least 20 minutes everyday of the tour
2. Work my way through the alarming amount of wool I have acquired in the last few months, spinning and plying as much as I can in two weeks, blogging about it (almost) daily.
3. Start a daily spinning/blogging habit.

And for the Unusual one:
4.Actually ride my bike for at least a few miles every day Sunday-Thursday.

Yup, I am including actual biking in my Tour de Fleece goals. I love my bike, and I haven’t been riding it enough lately. In fact, I haven’t ridden at all for a week, when I was riding at least four times a week there for a while. The main reason I stopped is because of the giant (and I mean giant, it grew to the size of my face before it started to heal) spider/insect bike I got on my leg a week ago. Everything, especially heat and activity seemed to aggravate it. I finally broke down and got drugs on Saturday when my leg started to feel as though it had a fever. Four days, lots of money, and too many pills later, I am feeling better, but the drugs have kept me nice and dopey. I have wanted to accomplish many fibery and blog related things, but have been giving in to the desire to sleep instead.

And because I have been sleeping, I haven’t had the chance to tell you about the Alpacas!

Last Friday we went out to visit the Alpacas at Orchard Hill Farm. Not only was the farm beautiful, but the alpacas were friendly and lovable as well. However, they seem to have a sense of when you are about to take a picture of them being friendly and lovable, so the above photograph is the only one I came away with. They loved Athrun though. Loved him, gave him a couple of kisses once he got used to them. I am still not sure I would want to add alpacas to my future fantasy farm, especially since there seem to be so many in Kansas already, but I do ever so much enjoy spinning their fleece, so who knows.

This is some of the black roving I bought from Marcia at the Farmer’s Market a couple of weeks ago spun into a lovely light fingering weight.

And this is what I bought from her at the farm.

The fawn colored fleece came from an alpaca named Maya, which Athrun picked out. It’s only about 3.5 ounces, but he seems to think he’ll get socks, mittens, a hat, and whatever else he wants out of the bag. He is so eager for me to spin it that he started changing the bobbin on my spinning wheel himself the other day. The dark brown is from an alpaca named Frankie (a female), and will hopefully make up Brock’s gloves for this winter. I am going to attempt to get Athrun to help me clean this fleece a little bit today. We’ll see how it goes.

In Which I Make You Hungry

I have a conundrum. It turns out that two of my favorite past-times are vying for the same space. You all know about the dyeing thing. It’s all over this blog. The interesting thing is, that for dyeing one needs some counter space, a couple of pots, probably some aluminum foil and some plastic wrap, and a stove top. This is where the problem comes in. I am really starting to fall in love with cooking, which uses similar equipment. (Not the same equipment mind you. Never mix your dyeing and your cooking materials. Dyes are not meant to be eaten.) Since it could be hazardous, I never dye and cook at the same time, which means when it comes to a choice between having enough time to dye some more products or cook a delicious, from scratch meal, the cooking usually wins out.

Joining the CSA this year was completely worth the money. I love that I can go pick up fresh produce once a week, and that there is usually a vegetable I haven’t tried before. So far it had mostly been a new type of green. It was a banner year for greens, let me tell you. This week it was turnips. I don’t know how I made it to 26 without ever (knowingly) eating a turnip, but I did. I made a turnip and potato potage from this book

that turned out delicious. In fact, I plan on having the leftovers for lunch. I the Local Flavors book a lot. It is good for generating ideas for using what you have instead of going out and buying food to cook a specific recipe. Also, the recipes I have made so far kind of follow my general method of cooking, which is to throw vegetables in a pan with some other stuff and see what happens. I especially liked making my own broth (for “Elixir of Fresh Peas”) out of pea pods.

And because I apparently have a deep desire to watch things grow and grow quickly, I bought a sprouting jar and some sprouts. I have a bag full of broccoli sprouts I have been putting on everything. They are delicious, crunchy, and have more flavor than alfalfa sprouts. I have a mix of bean sprouts growing right now that are mostly lentils. Who knows what I am going to do with those, but they are pretty.

Another recipe I have been making a lot is the Master Bread Recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Of course, I use whole wheat flour, which is not what the recipe calls for, but it turns out just as good. In fact, I find using whole grain flours actually adds to the flavor. (You should probably add an extra 1/4 cup of water, however.) This dough recipe is super versatile. It not only makes the usual little peasant loaf, but it also makes a delicious pizza crust (which Athrun will eat). I even used it to make pita bread one night. Amazing.

Tonight I am using the last of our spinach pesto (made when we had CSA spinach coming out our ears) and goat cheese pizza with caramelized onions. It’s my new favorite thing, and it makes me kind of sad that spinach season is ending. However, I am sure it will be just as good with basil pesto come August.

In Shop News
I mentioned on my Facebook Group that I have been thinking of adding some hand-knit goods to my shop inventory. Of course, this means I have to make some hand-knit goods to put in my shop. I have a few ideas, but I am slightly hesitant about taking this step. I am not sure I want to become a production knitter. (Plus, I have some things I want to make for myself, and still owe Brock sweaters…) So, I have a couple of patterns I will be knitting up over the next few weeks, and I will post them as an experiment.

But first I need finish up all my super-secret birthday knitting, so I better get to work.

Sale and New Wool!


To celebrate finally earning my bachelor’s degree, I have a sale going on over at the shop through this Sunday. Use code DINO10 and receive 10% off your entire purchase.

Here are a few of the things I have been dyeing up lately:

Two 100g skeins of fingering weight BFL yarn done in Robin’s Egg Blue.


4 oz braid of BFL Top in Wildflower


4 oz braid of BFL top in Fire Flower

(I will have a more substantial post later on, I promise.)

Inside Outside


The 100 degree has started in Kansas already this summer and my garden is exploding. Pictured above is my baby basil plant, which doubled in size yesterday My surprise cucumber plant, which I thought was dead at one point, has made a monumental comeback, complete with vines, blossoms, and little baby cucumbers. My roma tomato plant is visibly adding inches everyday as well. I have to say, this growing stuff thing is all very exciting. I have never had a garden before, and while my balcony garden is fairly low maintenance, I have really come to love going out each day and spending time with each plant. And now that the finch chicks that were nesting in my spider plant have all flown away, I might actually be able to spend a substantial amount of time outside without the mother finch having a panic attack.

The heat has also not stopped me from getting out and around on this beauty.

The bicycle was a graduation present to myself. My summer goal is to get to the point where I am riding everywhere (within a manageable distance) I want to go when I don’t have the kiddo in tow. Unfortunately, my job is not a manageable distance for me at the moment, and riding through eastern Topeka at 5 am is also a little scary. My bike and I have done a couple of trips to the grocery store and back successfully, as well as a few pleasure rides. I have even made it up the giant hill, at the top of which sits my apartment. It was slow the first time, and I am sure I looked awkward, but I am proud I did it, because last week I couldn’t. And when it did it a second time, it was ever so slightly easier.

The period it has taken me to adjust to not being in school has been longer than I expected. I kind of thought I would hit the ground running like I always have in the past. I did not count on being as physically exhausted as I have been, even though I have felt that way for much of the past year. I have been taking time out each day to rest and enjoy myself, and not forcing myself to work constantly. It has been good for me, but it means my productivity has been low. Here’s a look at the first BA-certified skeins.

I hope to get some more dyed this evening, but my hands are itching to spin and I am working on some top-secret birthday projects as well. It’s kind of nice having birthday presents as my only deadlines. Though, I don’t intend to keep it that way for long.

May, In Pictures


The Boys


Our Bucket-Full of Giant Hail Stones (which later made their way into some whiskey and cola)


Some Handspun. The yellow is a two-ply yarn made out of a carded merino batt from PortFiber. The rest is my first attempt at a usable singles, all from the first addition of The Cosymakes FarmClub. All yarns are about fingering weight.


The Garden. Or part of it anyway. Here you see cucmber, roma tomato, strawberries, and some mint way off in the distance. What you can’t see is that there are two more tomato plants, some basil and oregano to my left, and a whole box of growing peas to my right.


Some oregano, just because it’s pretty.


A picture of the landscaping taken from the second floor balcony.