Look, No Felting!

Just a glimpse of what I have been up to since school’s been out:

I dyed my very first pound of roving (prepared fiber for spinning), and I did not felt a single bit of it! In the interest of sincerity, I should say that I have been hanging onto this particular bit of roving since September. I bought it with the intention of dyeing it, but without the courage to proceed. I was certain I was going to felt it all to bits. Turns out, I am just as good at all this as I hoped I would be, if not better! (Now, if I can hang on to this belief, I just might be able to get my shop up and running sometime in the next decade.)

I did a little bit of spinning as well.

I call it, Singles, With Dust Particles. Copyright me.

I have plied this already, mixing the colors in a cool barber pole effect, but I have not yet taken pictures of it because the plying process nearly gave me a stroke.  I am not very good at spinning yet, and this was only my second 4 oz since I bought my wheel. (School kind of got in the way of everything I wanted to do these last few months.) I keep telling myself I will get better at it, but I only half believe it.

For Christmas I received a couple of books about starting your own business, most notably Meg Mateo Ilasco’s Craft Inc., which I am pretty excited to read. I kind of cling to books when I am doing something that terrifies me–even if it is a fairly risk free enterprise I am taking on–starting a business like this means I have to be kind of social and perhaps confidant. I am not particularly adept at either of these two things. The more books I can read to tell me what to do and that anyone can do this, the better. Now, if I can just find a book that helps me translate all this new-found know-how into practical execution as directly related to me, I might be getting somewhere. I wonder if that book exists?

My goal for winter break is to get all of the legit making a business stuff done (that is what they call it on the IRS website, no joke), so if by some miracle I am ready to open up shop in February, I can. I am still shooting for a July 1st launch date, and I still need all sorts of important things, like a logo, so if you know anyone who enjoys doodling dinosaurs, have them give me a ring (seriously). Otherwise, I am right on schedule to officially launch Tiny Dino Studios this summer. (Hooray!)

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The Sock Curse

I have a problem. A horrible, terrible, dastardly no good problem. It’s a very strange problem for a knitter to have, particularly for someone who enjoys knitting socks so very much. You see, in the eight months since I began knitting socks, I have knit six pairs of socks. That’s twelve socks that have come off my tiny double-pointed needles, and yet, I have no hand-knit socks to wear. Now, I am not a selfish knitter, one pair of socks was for my sister, Audrey, who spent last semester in Russia where wool socks are essential. I have even made two pairs for my boyfriend, because he is demonstrably appreciative of having warm feet, and there is something greatly satisfying about watching something you have made shuffling about being useful. I like to knit for other people, but I also like to knit for myself. In fact, the other three pairs of socks I have knit were meant to be worn by my very own feet. Yet I have none. The Culprit: The Sock Curse.

The first pair I knit for myself were in KnitPicks Felici in the Time Traveler colorway. The colors were very similar to the The Doctor Who Scarf. This summer I happily knit them up, all excited for the opportunity to where a Dr. Who tribute on my feet. When they were finished, like a good knitter, I washed them before I wore them. I pulled the socks out of their soak in my bathroom sink, and I felt them grow in my hands. I did not worry. They were superwash. I could probably just throw them in the dryer and shrink them back up. So I did. They did not. Thus, the first pair of socks were no longer mine. They grew to gigantic proportions. My feet are big, but not gigantic. My boyfriend, however, does have gigantic feet, so he now owns the Dr. Who socks.

The second pair of socks I knit for myself were some 100% Merino which I dyed myself. They were hand-wash only socks  in a beautiful mock cable pattern with my variegated green and pink dye job. The fit perfectly in the heel and the toe, and they were snug, but not too tight in the cuff. They were warm, but since I knit them when it was 100 degrees outside, they sat in my drawer waiting for a drop in temperature. But these socks were not content to simply sit in a drawer. They were beautiful, and they knew it. They had to be seen. The pink mock-cable socks allowed their vanity to best them and jumped out of the drawer and onto the floor where they could be briefly admired before being scooped up with the rest of the laundry and tossed in the washer. By the time I found them, it was too late. They were still beautiful, but now they were delicately felted pink mock-cable socks that might fit a six year old. Since I know no six year-olds, and maybe because I was really upset that my perfectly perfect pink socks (I really like pink, and I am not afraid to admit it) were no longer fit to be worn, I threw them away. Hours and hours of work in the garbage. Throwing away knitted goods, even if ruined, might be considered a knitting felony in some circles, in which case I claim temporary insanity–which actually might not be too far from the truth, as I am still too scarred to knit another pair.

The third pair were this semester’s sanity socks, because school came dangerously close to actually driving me crazy this semester. It worked out, quite nicely might I add, that I often-times arrived in Lawrence for school just around the time the yarn shop downtown opened up. Since the yarn shop is just a hop, skip, and a jump from campus, I might have gone in a couple of times instead of being on time for class. One time, I might have skipped my astronomy class altogether and bought two balls of Mini Mochi and a set of needles and cast on for a pair of socks right then and there. The yarn was so beautiful:  a superwash single-ply in blue, violet, and green with long color repeats. I was in love, and knit them up in my free time over about a month or so. I finished them on laundry day, and since they were superwash, I tossed the pair in with the regular washing. I thought I was being so smart, saving time and (my) energy, and I would have a brand new pair of wool socks to wear the very next day. It turns out that mini mochi is only mostly superwash. At least, this pair decided they would felt just a little bit. They probably were trying to teach me a lesson about skipping class to knit, because when the socks came out of the wash, they were a teeny bit sturdier, but also a teeny bit smaller. I tried them on and tried to match up the heel of the sock with my own heel, but my giant size 10 feet weren’t having it. The sock heel kept slipping down to my arch. These socks, originally tailored to fit my long feet were now shrunken down to fit the feet of someone who wears an average size 7 in shoes. Yesterday, after washing them again and making sure they would not shrink any further, I offered them up to the other women in my family, all of whom have much smaller feet than I do. They went home with my sister, Caroline, and I hope they serve her well.

I still don’t have any socks. It is a curse.

I was dyeing sock yarn regularly from July through October (what I have been doing since October is its own post), so I have a lot of sock yarn laying around. I have made a couple pairs of mittens with some of it and a couple pairs of socks with some more of it, and it hasn’t even made a dent in the sock yarn stash. I currently have plans to start on two different pairs of socks for myself. One, just a regular old, plain pair of stockinette socks out of some of my hand-dyed yarn. (Pictures to come once I actually cast on). The second pair I am going to use one of Wendy Johnson’s lacy toe-up knee sock patterns out of some 100% merino I dyed hot pink. I have never done toe-up socks before, but I figure if I am going to go for it, I might as well really go for it. They should be stunning.

Of course, I am going to do all of this while finishing up school (I passed my astronomy lab! I will graduate in May!), working full-time, learning to spin, knitting a few sweaters, dyeing yarn and roving, starting an online shop, and being a mom. ETA on finally owning a pair of my own hand-knit socks?

3.25 years.

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How I Got My Name: A Photo Essay

Not so long ago, I wrote that I chose the name of my business because I am constantly confronted with tiny toy dinosaurs sprinkled throughout my apartment. On Friday, I came across a particularly good example, and I thought I would share.

It was stepping on these two beauties that inspired me to get out my camera. For reference, they are on the floor between the sofa and the coffee table, a favorite place to play

This Spinosaurus is almost adorably supine. (The name of this dinosaur is pronounced “Spine-o-saurus”, but every time I read it, I say “spin-o-saurus”. You don’t know, he could be break-dancing.)

This little guy is in danger of being consumed by the infinite darkness of “lost under the sofa.”

This poor Parasauralophus has not only been in a tangle with the ruthless yarn-scrap-snake, but also seems to have had his skull crushed by the ever precarious throw pillow.

And of course, as soon as Athrun noticed me playing with his toys, he benevolently decided they were once again worthy of his attention. The question this photograph brings to mind is this: Is he hypnotizing the Triceratops, or is the Triceratops hypnotizing him?

So we played with them some more. I think the pteranodon is attempting to make off with a whole Iguanodon to take home and feed to her nest of hungry pteranodon chicks, but I cannot say for sure. I didn’t get a picture, but I let the pair of Diplodicus munch on the leaves embroidered into the sofa. Then I took a cat nap while Athrun made a cave out of my legs.

Bonus Photo:

The socks I mentioned in the previous post, after a full day of wear. Comfy. Cozy. Pretty.

 

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Projects

In an attempt to shake off this creeping, odious feeling that the University of Kansas is going to swallow me whole before May, I thought I might share some of what’s keeping me going.

First off, I am wearing really awesome socks right now. You can’t see them, because they are hidden by my wonderful rancher Rocket Dog boots. The socks knit out of the Mini Mochi I bought on a whim from the LYS a few weeks ago. I am still deciding if its a curse or a blessing, arriving in Lawrence just in time for the Yarn Barn to open up. The advantage being, however, that I can knit socks during my astronomy lecture and stay awake quite easily. (For the record, this yarn says it is superwash, but it kind of shrunk in the washing cycle, so beware knitters.) They were lovely to knit with, however, and the yarn is a very soft singles with some nylon spun in, so I am not too concerned about how they will wear.

I have been working on a lot of little projects. I know, I know, you are all asking the computer screen right now, “Why did you buy three sweaters worth of yarn in September if all you are going to knit are socks and mittens?” Because, my friends, I am what you might call overly optimistic. I think, sure, I can take three really challenging literature courses and try to learn astronomy even though I am not spatial in the slightest and have no scientific vocabulary whatsoever, (what can I say, including words like “mass”, “velocity” and “the conservation of angular momentum” just do not drop themselves naturally into my sentences, it’s a flaw) and still have the brain power to work on a lace cardigan with button holes and men’s sweater with lots of cables. Turns out I am only suited for simple, repetitive knitting where I do the same stitch 10,000 stitches in a row.

I am working on the cutest set for my son. Athrun wants one yellow mitten, one blue mitten, a red hat with a giant pom, and a green scarf. He started asking for a new winter set in August, when it was regularly 105 degrees outside. Now that it is nearly November and I had frost on my window this morning, I figure it might be about time to get started. I have the mittens done. I am knitting everything out of bare wool and then Athrun and I are dyeing them together. He gets to stir the dyebath, and is not very good at waiting.

I also started knitting up a pair of fingerless mitts for the boyfriend out of the Blue-faced Leicester yarn I have been dyeing. It is beautiful. It’s very light, and drinks in the dye like it’s been lost in the desert for years. The mitts are dyed a chestnut brown, and the way the yarn is knitting up it has an almost tweedy look to it.

I am also knitting my first project out of the Merino yarn I have been dyeing as well. Brock is getting socks and mitts this months, since he vocally appreciates being warm in the winter. The color is denimy blue, but the dye was called Gun Metal and it still bugs me that it doesn’t look very metally to me.

I picked up a leaf off the sidewalk at school the other day. It was a mottled maple leaf with hues of yellow, red, orange, and just a little chartreuse left in the middle. I wish I had a photograph, but the poor thing got crushed in my purse. The colors, however, are going to be my first foray into dyeing roving. I have one pound of plain white wool top, and I might as well give dyeing it a try since it doesn’t look like I am going to get around to spinning it anytime soon.

Pictures to follow, hopefully later today, but I make no promises.

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Autumnal Ennui

It is officially fall, even though in Kansas the temperatures are still nearing the 90’s during the day.

And believe it or not, I have been working!

But probably not as much as I should have.

I finished the wedding afghan, did a lot of reading, got over a cold (mostly) and just generally have felt rather low in energy. I used “ennui” in the title, but I did not really mean it. It sounded better than, “I have been really freakin’ worn out, and I am attempting to preserve my bandwidth, and I don’t want to stretch myself too thin right now.” I think working all the time might be apart of being a small business in the long run, and honestly, I prefer being busy. I like having a to-do list that is two miles long. I like checking everything off that list by the end of the day. But then I have to be practical about what I can get done in one day, considering that I basically have 2 full-time jobs already, on top of a family. I have finally realized that I can give myself a break. I an sit down and listen to Craflit (I started with Persuasion, my favorite Jane Austen), and work on plain-jane socks and it’s OK if that’s all the energy I have.

So, I have been spending a lot of time listening to Jane Austen and knitting socks out of mini mochi. They have beautiful color transitions, and it makes me want to knit and knit and knit to get to the next one. I might be going on to a sock knitting kick right now. I want to be knitting about six pairs of socks at a time. It doesn’t hurt that it’s getting to be sock-wearing season around here, or that I now have so much hand-dyed sock yarn, that I really could be working on six pairs of socks at once–though I might need to get some more needles.

My hand-dyed stash has become so large that it now has its very own bin. For the record, the hand-dyed stuff far outnumbers the commercially dyed stuff.( And the three sweaters worth of yarn I have doesn’t count, because those are all more-or-less works in progress.) Spinning adds to the hand-made stash as well. If you look at the above photo and notice the little pink ball of yarn, you will recognize my very own hand-spun. That’s right, my very first knittable hand-spun yarn. I made a cowl out of the rest, which I have yet to photograph, but it is awesome, believe me.

And just to prove that I have been doing a little dyeing at least:

Chestnut BFL with some Gunmetal Merino trying to muscle its way into the photo.

And a light, half turquoise, half chestnut in Merino, that I think will be beautifully obnoxious knit up into a pair of socks, and I can’t wait to get started on it. Most likely the next pair of plain-jane socks for myself. The pushy gunmetal will probably be socks for the boyfriend. Or the Chestnut BFL.

Someday, I might get some of these guys up for sale. Am I inspiring you to pick up the needles yet?

I think I am going to go work on making some yarn a nice pumpkinny orange.

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I Live In Kansas

What do you think of when you think of Kansas?

The Wizard of Oz? Tornadoes? Wheat? Cows? Sunflowers?

It’s probably something rural, though, right?

It might even be something just like this:

Or is that picture too hilly?

While there are some thing I really hate about living in Kansas (mostly the politics), on days like  today I really love it.

I commute to KU, usually taking one of the two small highways between Topeka and Lawrence instead of the interstate. Not because I don’t want to pay the toll, but because it is pretty. It is a treat to myself to admire the green hilliness for three-quarters of the year, and then watch the wheat grow up for colder quarter . These little highways also offer places to stop and take pictures. In people’s driveways. Illegally.

You can tell that the seasons are turning, because all the great, tall, green cornfields are straw-brown and the late summer weeds are outgrowing the dyeing cornstalks and the freshly baled hay.

These flowers were lining the highway on my entire drive today. They were the inspiration for the trespassing. I had to share them. These lovely little weeds are also taller than I am (about 5′ 5″).  They are bent down because the wind is blowing everything over. Despite the hills we have in Eastern Kansas, we have somehow managed to hang onto the prairie winds.

I am also an absolute sucker for earth tones. Greens and browns have my heart. but there is also no denying the impact of the accenting yellow of the flowers and the blue of the sky in photographs like this.

Isn’t it funny, how when you are standing in a field, you don’t even notice the power lines, but when you pull the photo of the scene up, there they are, front and center, reminding you that you do not live in a pretty Kansan morning vacuum?

I would have liked to take more pictures, and spent more time on them, but the reality is that I was trespassing, and since I could be fined for enjoying these folks’ roadside field, I tried to make it quick.

There’s that “No Trespassing” sign.

So maybe my photographs don’t clear up any misconceptions about living in Kansas. The fact that I live in an apartment complex and work in a local coffee shop and am a students doesn’t really help either. Those things are everywhere. And I know Kansas is not the only place in the country where the city lines blur with pastureland, but it’s one of the things I appreciate most. I can drive a few miles, and be in the middle of greenery and flowers. Or I can go a few more in either direction and be smack dab in the middle of two mid- to small-sized cities with any number of opportunities at my fingertips.

I find it really difficult to remember these sorts of things when I am bogged down with school work, to which my general attitude these days is “Is it May yet?” Or when I am typing a blog post in the Union cafeteria, because I am going to be at school all day long, and there is a guy behind me smacking his food so loudly that if he were standing in that field up there, it would echo. I get so caught up in the fact that I would rather be knitting or mixing some new colors in my kitchen. I want to figure out how represent the colors in the photographs above on yarn. The catch would be to translate them into colors people want to wear and not just a true representation of the photograph. I need to remember that there is time for all that, if I don’t get in too much of a hurry.

These are just some of the things that inspire me, and make me appreciate where it is I live. It helps me to remember that I am finishing my degree for a reason, and that I shouldn’t give in to the tunnel vision, which is something I do all too often.

This is my take-along image this week. What is inspiring you?

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. . .And We’re Off!

Chances are, if you are here right now, you know me. You know me and are wondering what the heck dinosaurs have to do with my fiber obsession. The truth? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I just happen to be tripping over toy dinosaurs in my apartment constantly, because I have a four year-old son. He has been obsessed with dinos for half of his short little life. Plus, it’s fun. Little neon dinosaurs are fun, and they will be even more fun when I start dressing them up like sheep.

Now that we have established why you are here, it is time to tackle why I am. It’s simple: I am starting a business. I am going to sell yarn and roving and perhaps any number of other things. Patterns maybe. Certain services. There’s one catch though. Have you caught on to my tense yet? I’ll give you a hint: my tense communicates intention. It means that I will start a business, but I have not actually done so yes.

I mean, I have a name and an idea and most of a business model, but there are a few things I am sorely lacking: a degree, experience, an extrovert’s nature, a tax ID. You lucky folks are here to watch me learn, fail, panic, and eventually gain each and every one of the aforementioned and more. Then, on July 1st, 2011, I will officially be open for business.

It’s going to be an adventure.

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