On Vacation

Just a quick post to say that Tiny Dino Studios will be on vacation while I am out of town (see previous post). I have no clear picture of exactly how long I will be gone. However, everything, including the sale I had running, will resume once I return.

Now, it is getting late and I still have an embarrassing amount of packing to do! Have fun while I am gone.

Do something that really makes you feel alive.

And think of my family if you can spare a moment. We are losing one of the best of us.

Endings and Beginnings

Last March I was desperately attempting to finish up an essay for my last undergraduate non-fiction writing class when my blackberry started going nuts. I made eight sales in my etsy shop in under an hour. My first eight sales ever came in under an hour. A few more came later on that night and my ability to complete the essay, due the next day was completely shot. I had spent three lonely weeks promoting my shop with confidence with no luck, than suddenly, I was overwhelmed with my initial bout of success. I turned in an inadequate first draft for critique the next day.

I had ostensibly written about my paternal grandfather (most of my essays are actually about me.) I wrote about the Holt family and the tall tale exodus of the Bavarian Jews from Germany just in the nick of time, about their setting up shop as bootleggers in Kentucky, about my Grandfather’s miraculous and supernatural conversion to Christianity. How he became a preacher. How he sparked a trend in Holt men becoming preachers. How he set an example for my generation to do something legendary to keep up with our forebears. I revised the paper for my final at the behest of my professor, earning myself a big fat “A” for the first time in that class. (He was an old school tough grader. And I appreciated that.)

I am nearing the end of my tenure at Ice and Olives. If all goes well, I should be successfully unemployed within the next couple of weeks. (The exact date is still unknown.) I am leaving to pursue a writing (and knitting) career. One of the writerly endeavors I have lined up for this fall is to put together a book proposal based on the Tall-Tale Essay (as I refer to it in my head.) On Friday, I am loading up my siblings and my voice recorder and road-tripping it over to Jacksonville, IL where my grandparents currently live. Part of the motivation is to get interviews for my book. The main reason for the trip however, is that two months ago we found out my grandfather’s cancer was back, and apparently had been for some time now. We were going to say goodbye.

This afternoon, after a stressful day at work that leaves me doubting whether I really will be able to leave the day job in early November, I received a message from my dad warning that my grandfather might not make it through the weekend. I sat on the stoop to my apartment building to call my fatherback. The sun was shinning, but as I heard the real story of my grandfather’s rapidly declining condition for the first time, it started to rain on me as if I had summoned my own personal dark cloud.

I have been close to panic all night. I didn’t go to knitting. I didn’t take the nap I desperately needed. Athrun is with his dad. Brock is at work. I was alone and I buried myself in Tom Perotta’s The Leftovers instead of working on the finishing touches for my craft show in ten days. The book is difficult to put down, but not exactly cheery so I got up and made something that I suppose would qualify as dal since the main ingredients are lentils and curry, but it just has a little bit of everything from the CSA bag in it too.

I tend to think about writing when I cook.

As I chopped onions to the sound of popping mustard seeds, I realized the connection between my single rainy cloud and the supposed supernatural events that has punctuated my grandfather’s life. This weekend I am packing all the trappings of the writerly trade: voice recorder, notebook, pencil, camera, laptop. I plan to record this trip, however long it ends up being, so I have my facts straight, but I am not going to rule out the possibility of a little bit of magical realism either.

It’s just the way it goes with us.

Sunday Lists

1. I am a list-maker
2. I think the extra-long, impossible to finish to-do list is the companion of any self-employed person.
3. Today I am making my “First Show To-Do List”.
4. I am estimating it will be about three pages long.
5. I have plenty of time.
6. The show is a month away.
7. On October 22nd at Pachamama’s in Lawrence, KS from 10am to 4pm.
8. It looks like I will be working overtime at the day job for most of October.
9. This may complicate things.
10. I will be bringing my knitting to work.
11. I have a yellow mitten in my purse right now.
12. But it’s Sunday morning, which means there will be many in for breakfast.
13. So my mitten will sit, until I get home, do the dishes, do yoga and take a shower.
14. It should only take an hour or so to finish up.
15. It is the second yellow mitten which means one more project done.
16. Only 764,324,891 more to go.
17. That wasn’t a complaint.
18. I am loving my journey to unemployment.

Happy Friday

It is a little dark and gloomy out as I sit down to write. September’s preview of late fall is here, and it is cool and a little rainy. I don’t know mind at all because I have been making warm things to wear all summer long. Plus, cold dreary weather is a great excuse for a second cup of hot coffee, which I may or may not be enjoying at the moment.

My big summer project was the Terra shawl by Jared Flood. Simple, but so beautiful and warm. Happy Friday!

Friday to me is the equivalent of Sunday for most of the world. It is the second day off of my non-weekend weekend. I love having two days off a week. (This is fairly new to my work schedule.) Having more time away from the coffee shop has been essential with my upcoming trunk show. I am participating in the Handmade Market in October. It is my first ever show, and I have been a flurry of activity getting ready for it.


Eight little Owls ready to be made into four sets of earrings later today. (Sorry about the picture quality, I told you it’s a little gloomy.)


Most of a mitten in-the-works. I have been loving yellow lately. This is factory-dyed stuff, but yesterday I dyed four skeins on three different bases in a range from lemon chiffon to mustard yellow–to add to the already four other skeins I have in my collection of amber-to mustard. This might be like my teal phase from last winter where I tried every shade of teal/turquoise I could think of.

Meet my handy-dandy Singer QuickFix. I love this machine for a couple of different reasons. The first being that it is so tiny that I can shove it to the corner of my desk and forget about it when I have no need for it, but the second I need to mend something, there it is at the ready. The second is that it is just so darn cute (and cheap!). Before you get too excited, let me be clear, this really is just a mending machine. It’s small and pretty powerful, and sews a few different seams, but you’re not going to be sewing any wedding dresses on this thing. I got it because I hate hate hate hand sewing, and since I mostly just use my sewing machine (I have a grown up one too) for mending anyway, this little guy is more convenient than digging the monster machine out of the closet and unpacking it from it’s box, etc. etc.

One could do a some small projects on this guy. Throw pillows for instance, or that One Hour Skirt that was on the etsy blog a few weeks ago. Or you could do a bit of upcycling like I did this morning.

I have a problem with jeans. Being a bigger girl who works on her feet all day, I tend to wear my jeans out just below the crotch where my thighs rub together leaving two holes on either leg while the rest of the pair still looks fine and dandy. And since I usually pay upwards of $50 for a pair of jeans that fits well, I don’t like to toss them once this happens. Thus, I have a stack of holey jeans sitting on my dresser waiting to be repaired in some way. Of course, this particular spot on a pair of jeans is just about the hardest to get at with a sewing machine, and since we have already established that I hate hand sewing, there the stack sits. Until this morning.

I woke up and decided to make myself a skirt out my favorite old pair of Lane Bryant boot cuts.

From start to finish the whole process took about 30 minutes, and I have a new skirt to wear today. It is a little short, but I plan on pairing it with leggings, boots, and a tunic top. Perhaps if we’re lucky, I can get a picture of myself all dressed up before we head out to For Your Ears Only tonight.

Also, I will probably be making a couple more of these skirts from old jeans, so I could be persuaded to put up a tutorial if anyone is interested. Of course, if anyone knows of any good blogs on household thrift and economy, I would love a list of them. I have a few ideas every now and then, like the skirt, but I have to start thinking about these things pretty hardcore soon.

I told my dad yesterday (and he reacted well), so now I can announce it to the world at large.

I quit my day job.

I am not leaving right away. I have to find, hire, and train my replacement before I can officially leave. By Christmas time I will be as my friend Julie put it, self-un-employed.

And I couldn’t be more psyched.

Chalk it up to youthful indiscretion, but I figured if I don’t give writing and crafting a shot now, I never will. I am working on a couple book proposals and exploring the realm of free-lance writing, and working harder than ever on Tiny Dino Studios. I don’t expect it to be easy, though I do expect it to be exhilarating and scary–mostly scary at first, I think.

So, now that I have dropped that bomb, I am off to do my daily yoga and finish that mitten!

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.