On Haitus until June 1st

Here is why:

1. Finish final essay

2. Revise first essay

3. Biology Test 4

4. Biology Final

5. Knit Brock’s birthday socks

6. Continue to cook healthy, homemade meals

7. Don’t neglect sleep.

8. Graduate.

9. Vacation.

I have been hunkering down to finish the last semester of school. Those first two list items are currently consuming all my energy. I haven’t had much time for yarn dyeing or being on the internet or promoting my shop. There is a great likelihood that I will be very quiet until June. See you then.

Re-Emerging

I have been hard at work lately on a few things, but most of them don’t include my fledgling of an etsy shop. It has not been neglected by any means, but I do have to admit that my energies have been elsewhere.

School is quickly drawing to a close, and with it, a large, but not obscene amount of writing. It is all my kind of writing: the creative yet slightly self-indulgent kind. If you want to know what I mean, go to your library, local bookstore, or your (preferably) your bookshelf, or you can go here: Essays of E.B. White, and read the foreward. If you read nothing else, read the foreward now, and you will know what kind of writing I have been doing, what I am trying to do, and why I love E.B. White. (Now you should go buy that book, but not from amazon unless you can’t find it nearer. I have that problem myself quite often, you would be amazed how little a bookstore in Kansas actually stocks about agriculture. It’s shameful, really.)

Despite the large amount of writing which stands between myself and the rest of the school year, I am feeling remarkably calm. That is a big change. It helps that the writing I am doing is the kind I feel most comfortable with, but what is really different is that I feel as I am emerging from some the frantic state of mind in which I have been residing for the last few years. My time in school is quickly coming to an end, and instead of feeling the dread of not having an amazingly profitable job right away, I am just feeling excited.

Here are a few of the things that have been distracting me from the blog lately.

1.
This Earl Grey tea with lavender is not really a distraction, more of a crutch. I know Earl Grey is an afternoon tea, but I have been drinking this stuff every morning (and most afternoons as well). It is delicious and rich, and the perfect substitute for coffee. I am not sure when or how it happened, but I started taking my coffee with cream a couple of years ago, and not I can’t have coffee without it. I am trying to eliminate more of the dairy from my diet, because I am one of those people who does not do so well with too much of it. My solution is to drink this tea instead of coffee. So far I am doing all right. I got mine here, but your local health food store might carry it as well.

2. I am going to ReThink Topeka this afternoon. My friend Julie is doing her best to get me out of the apartment a little more often.

3. In fact, earlier this week, we hit the cutest yarn store in Kansas. I bought some fleece off a sheep named violet, which is going to teach me to better use my hand carders.

4. Jacob’s Reward Farm is another fiber CSA, of which I am a brand new member. I have really been enjoying their blog. They are expecting a lamb! Check it out.

5. I am visiting this farm on Tuesday to meet the sheep. I bought 1 lb of Aran’s (the sheep) roving, and the wool is gorgeous, so I assume the sheep must be as well.

Greener Shades and Farmers Markets


4 oz. BFL Roving dyed with greener shades acid dyes.

Part of the idea of starting my shop was to become a source not only of beautiful high quality fiber, but to also to do that in as an environmentally friendly way as possible.  Because of the sales I have made so far, I have been able to take a few more steps toward that goal. Last week, I ordered the greener shades dyes I have had my eyes on for awhile. They have no heavy metals in them, which makes disposal of dye bath easier and more ethical. Also, they meet the criteria for organic production, so when I receive the organic Lincoln CVM roving I just ordered from a local farm, it can still be called organic after I dye it with the Greener Shades dyes.

With the farmer’s markets starting up, I hope to be able to start a dialog with some more local fiber farms and get some good quality Kansas wool up on the website.

This is gearing up to be a very exciting summer. For the month of April, I have been able to arrange myself to have Sundays off my day job. This means I can dedicate most of the day to the fiber arts, which can only mean good things for the shop. I have been mulling over ways to make self-striping and gradient dyeing yarns easier…I tried some gradient dyeing on Wednesday which ended in a disastrous mess of knotted wet yarn. At least I learned my lesson about following directions on the internet from my virtual yarn-selling competitors and am coming up with my own, more expedient methods.


2 Skeins of 100% Merino sock yarn in semi-solid violets. Also dyed with greener shade dyes.

Forty Things for Monday (A List) or Pea Soup

1. I have been sleeping at every opportunity.

2. That kind of explains why I haven’t been posting anything to my blog.

3.I did bring all of my blogging tools with me to Denver.

4. Put simply, the internet at my sister’s school sucks.

5. The trip was fun though.

6. I walked a lot.

7. I saw Equus.

8. I bought fiber at Gypsy Wools in Boulder.

9. I learned I really hate flying.

10. My knitting did not get confiscated as I feared it would.

11. This was lucky because I was working on my other sister’s birthday present.

12. It was a Clapotis in a variegated plum yarn.

13. I did not get a picture of the finished object, but here is a picture of the yarn.

14. I knit it in a week.

15. By Saturday morning Clapotis had taken over my life.

16. I still kind of want one for myself.

17. My family started putting in knitting orders over the weekend.

18. My sister asked for an Idlewood

19. She is willing to buy the yarn.

20. My dad wants fingerless gloves.

21. He did not ask.

22. I am going to make them anyway, because my dad never wants anything.

23. I have been dyeing. The evidence is up in my etsy shops

24. You should go there.

25. And buy something.

26. Like this self-striping yarn

ETA:  This yarn just sold. Might I interest you in this one instead?

It doesn’t stripe, but it’s just as pretty!

27. I have also been reading.

28. About food and sustainability.

29 I recently bought the following books:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
The Book of Whole Meals
Fresh Food From Small Spaces
Raising Poultry The Modern Way

30. I made pea soup last night.

31. I was pleasantly surprised.

32. I also cast on for Terra with my JMF yarn.

33. I am in love with everything about this project so far.

34. Except maybe my clumsy provisional cast-on.

35. I am still not so good with a crochet hook.

36. I am going to eat a brownie, which I made last night along with the soup.

37. After the brownie, I am going to bed.

38. So I can get up in a couple of hours and have dinner with my boyfriend.

39. At 10pm. Otherwise we don’t see each other.

40. I hope he doesn’t mind left-over pea soup.

My Magic Pink Overnight Bag

I have done nothing shop related for the past four days. In many ways, this is probably very, very bad. And in many ways this has been very, very good. Although my shop has only been open a month and I should probably be spending more time than ever promoting it and bulking up my inventory, I got to Saturday and I just couldn’t. Saturday and Sunday are usually my big production days because I don’t work in the afternoons and I don’t have class. I try to get the house the clean and then mess it all up again by dyeing like crazy. This Saturday, after work, after going to the gym, I fell asleep on the sofa while Athrun, beneficently, played quietly by himself on the floor beside me. While I thank my incredibly savvy four-year old son for being good enough to recognize that I was completely beat, this scenario is not all right with me at all.

I knew, a year ago, when I started planning to open my shop, that it would add a heavy work load to my already over-committed and admittedly stressful schedule. I knew that the upcoming school year, while being my last, might also be my most intense. I also knew that I most likely would not be able to cut back my hours at my day job; it just would not be financially feasible. And never for one moment did I think that I couldn’t get it all done. And I still don’t.

One thing I have had to admit to myself recently is that is it OK to take a break every now and again. I don’t have to work constantly. (And believe me, for about the last six or seven years, that is kind of all I have done.) So, when I was rested enough to hold my own consciousness on Saturday, all my plans of dyeing some more silk hankies went completely out the window. I decided it was time for a break. I let myself off. I have been letting myself off of a lot of things the past few days. Housework. Homework (I did some today, and I plan to do some more as soon as I get this post published). Dyeing. Social-networking (which is the hardest part of the online business for me. I am a complete internet introvert). Instead, I ordered a couple of spring dresses for myself off the internet rather than yarn or roving. I bought a couple of simple card games to play with my son. I got a start on all the books I have bought over the last few months. I finished two books this week. One was The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. This book was fantastic. It has all of the silly elements I have come to expect from Patricia C. Wrede and her Enchanted Forest Chronicles, with all the lovely romance and intrigue one expects from Regency England. Go out and buy all seven books (three from Enchanted Chocolate Pot Series and four from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles) from your local bookstore and enjoy. It makes for brilliant spring reading. In fact, I am taking the second chocolate pot book, The Grand Tour, with me on the plane tomorrow, but more on that later.

The other book I finished was Rachel Herron’s How to Knit a Heart Back Home. This is the second romance I have ever read (the first one being the book’s precursor, How to Knit a Love Song), but I have to say I thought this book was simply phenomenal. I enjoyed Rachel’s first book, but I really think she has created a genre all her own in her second book. It had romance, and it had knitting, and it had a beautiful beach town, but it also had a lot of complex character work, a lot of charm, and a lot of humor. That is a lot of stuff to work into just one story. As a fellow creative writing major (and in two months, an official fellow Creative Writer Degree Holder), I really, really just want to call Rachel Herron up and say. “Cheerio, brilliant novel my dear. Beautiful work.” As I neither know her, nor have the ability to play the nonchalant Brit I have always admired, all I can really say is that I wish Rachel Herron was my real life writing buddy. And you should go buy both her books. And her third one when it comes out in the fall. And I am so knitting the sweater pattern at the end of the book. Yeah, her books are that cool.

In addition to all that, I am going on an adventure this weekend. I am flying to Denver by myself. I have never ever ever traveled on my own. I am visiting my brilliant sister, Audrey, who goes to school there, so I am not going to be by myself the whole time, but I am actually getting on a plane on my own and flying for an hour, and landing. No parents, no boyfriend, no kid, no siblings, no high school German teacher. I will be standing in line, by myself, reading my young adult novel and hoping they don’t confiscate my knitting project (the birthday present for my other sister, so it would be really tragic). I am trying not to be afraid, because the traveling part really doesn’t bother me. The fact that I don’t like planes or airports or being more than three feet above stable ground at any time is mostly peripheral. I am really just more amazed that I have somehow made it to 26 without going anywhere on my own. And, I don’t even feel a little bit guilty about leaving Athrun behind. (OK, so I might have teared up a little bit when he was helping me pack this morning and he got upset and cried and said, “But I really wanted to go with you this time too.” And I understand that, since we went to Denver at this same time last year together, he would want to go again, but right now, the logistics just aren’t there.) What this really boils down to is, I need some time to relax. And I am completely psyched to be going, to be doing something different, to be loading myself with my magic (because it has accommodated my tendency to over pack and still be smaller than your standard carry-on bag) pink overnight bag and my sparkly Tom’s onto an airplane and seeing what Denver has to offer. I am hoping these things include a showing of Equus, Jane Eyre (the new film), a few really good local yarn stores, and a lot of good food. I do have my camera and my laptop packed into my magic pink overnight bag, which means I have the intention of blogging my trip, if not the time while I am gone.

I arrive back home Sunday and the whole of spring break stretched out a head of me. If you are keeping tabs on the shop, I would expect to start seeing some major updates and additions about this time next week.

For now though, I finished the cardigan I planned to take on my trip today, and my spring dresses arrived in time for me to pack them. Everything is looking pretty good.

Big Update

I have been working hard over the past few days to build the inventory back up in the shop after my sneak attack. Five new items are up today, and a couple of things that are waiting to dry and be photographed. My favorite is the top you see pictured above. It is the most gorgeous blue face Leicester and silk spinning fiber. It’s so shiny and soft I want to keep it for myself.

This week has been kind of crazy. On top of the sneak attack and spending all day Wednesday dyeing, I turned in my essay on Tuesday and had it critiqued on Thursday, both of which were nerve-wracking. Everything went really well, and I felt silly for getting nervous, but it always happens before a workshop, and it wears me out.

I got a little creative with my hand carders, and blended some silk with a little bit of the white alpaca roving I have laying around, and it got really, really fluffy. And then I spun it, and it was still really, really fluffy. It looks ridiculous and soft. I will take a picture when there is enough to photograph. For now, I am am attempting to finish my Mondo Cable Jacket, because the plan was to wear the jacket when I go to Denver to visit my sister, Audrey….Which is six days away. I am kind of behind. I still have most of a sleeve to knit as well the collar, so I am about two weeks away from finishing with the way my schedule is going. Two weeks . . . six days. I can do it. I might not sleep, but I can do it.

Oh, and did I mention I learned to crochet on Sunday? Have I actually crocheted anything yet? Nope. But I have a skein of yarn with a crochet hook in it sitting in my knitting basket. I call that progress.

Monthly Challenge KET

One of the teams I am involved with on Etsy to help promote my shop is the Kansas Etsy Team. The idea is to help promote the shops here in Kansas. Every month there is a themed challenge where the artist must create an item inspired by the theme. This month the theme was “Kansas in Spring”. My contribution was gradient-dyed yarn inspired by the blossoms of the magnolia trees.

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Right now, on the Kansas Etsy Team Blog you can take a look at all the other contributions, and vote for your favorite. The winner gets to chose the theme for next month’s challenge!

Go take a look and see what other Kansas artist are selling!

Sneak Attack!

I got a great surprise this evening while working on the essay I was so excited about last night. Here I am preparing to tell my troubles to the world, and then have a nice long nap because I have been feeling slightly under the weather, when all of a sudden, I look down at my phone and notice I have something like ten billion emails. Ok, so it was more like 8, but still, that’s more than I ever get in that particular account at a time. Sure enough, I check it, and I have four sales and four payment confirmations! And then it just kept on coming….

So far tonight I have sold 11 items out of the 24 I had listed in my shop. I am just going to call that half. Half my shop in one evening. And I have The Handmade Movement to thank for it. I would recommend checking out the website. It’s a really great idea. I also had no idea it existed. This website encourages folks to buy handmade items from new etsy shop en mass, which also helps kick off sales for that shop. They call it a sneak attack, and I think it’s a fabulous idea. I plan on participating in the future.

I couldn’t be more flattered to be included in tonight’s sneak attack, and I really look forward to help brighten some other new seller’s day the way mine just has been.

Thank you all!

Oh! And I somehow managed to finish my essay. It has been a very good night.

I Have Been Listening To a Lot of David Bowie and Other Ruminations

The song “Starman” by David Bowie has been stuck in my head for weeks now, and I have only just got around to digging up all the David Bowie files on my computer. So, my title is kind of a lie, I haven’t really been listening to David Bowie, just the facsimile of him that runs through my head.  I am not sure what took me so long, other than I just didn’t like any of my media players. I recently ordered one of the new Zune HDs (but have heard nothing from Zune about when it will be shipped, so whether I will actually be receiving this device at the marvelous sale price it was at last weekend is yet to be determined), so I downloaded the Zune software. I actually really like it. iTunes and I have never really got on, it might be because I have no patience with apple software. I know I might be in the minority here, but it is counter-intuitive to me, having always used a PC. (And I love my asus laptop with a strength of emotion that might not be healthy for a piece of equipment I will most likely have to replace in a couple of years.) All of that to say that I dug up my nearly complete David Bowie library, and after admiring the staggering amount of amazingly rockin’ live albums he has, I found the classic, original The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust in an attempt to relish in the greatness, and perhaps get that song out of my head for a little while, as great as it is. And then I listened to it. . .

And I just can’t help but apply the chorus to my life as it is right now. I am interpreting the star man being afraid of blowing our minds but knowing  it’s all worthwhile, as a little bit of a personal message for me right here right now, no matter what anybody else thinks it should be about.

One of my major goals this year was to go into business for myself. Three weeks ago, I opened my etsy store, and even though I have not made a sale just yet, I have been dyeing and promoting and slowly working to get over my internet shyness. It has been going well, I feel, and I know it is only a matter of time before I am making regular sales and am making enough money to put back into sustaining my business. I do know that I am not going to be making enough money to support myself from Etsy anytime soon, but I am working on it.

Aside from the fiber arts, my other passion is writing. It is what I am going to school and getting into major debt for. I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not writing in some way, shape, or form. And though the last couple of years have been rather tumultuous with me personally what with getting divorced and basically starting from scratch like I did when I was eighteen and moving out on my own for the first time, and I did not write as much, I am finally finding some equilibrium. The compulsion to write a lot has returned full-force. It turns out I have a lot to say.

One of the major things I have learned though all of the previously mentioned tumult is how to allow myself a voice. In other words, the things that have terrified me about writing in the past, like sending out query letters and promoting myself and *gasp* actually letting people other than the chosen few read my work do not scare me any longer. (At least not to the debilitating extent that they used to do so.)

A major factor in this is that I am fed up with my day job. It is not any worse than any other job where one works for other people and sometimes works too often. This is common, and for a lot of people, it is waaaay too much to ask, which is why they work for themselves. I am there. I fantasize daily about working from home: about working on my latest essay while the steamer is setting the dye on the yarn.

Then today, the wonderful Susan Gibbs from Juniper Moon Farm, where I am a shareholder, posted this to her blog. Go take a look, and I know the pictures of the sheep and goats and puppies are distracting, but please come back. I will wait.

……

….

….

So, like Susan, I knew exactly what that sign was talking about too. It was my message from the Star Man. Write more. Get published. Get out of this place (I was checking my reader at work, I will freely admit) and do something that doesn’t stain your fingers brown! (If you are a new reader, I manage a coffee shop.)

It just so happens that Tuesday, my first essay for my essay-writing class is due. I have had this essay in my head for a couple of months now, but had not given myself the time to just sit down and write it. But tonight, I sat down and did it. I finished my first draft. While there is a ton of work to do before it is fit to even be turned in for workshop, it feels so good to finish my first piece since November. And I know right now, that even in this rough state, this one is publishable.

I can do this.

I have no idea when I will really be able to work from home, or if I will find a job (with benefits and/or a sustainable salary) outside the coffee shop before that happens, but I do know that I can get the writing done until then. And really, after a few years of feeling really down on myself and my ability to create, that is all I need.

Projects in Pictures

It has been a long couple of days, so I am just going to give everyone a sneak peak at what I have been working on.

Acquired on my trip to my LYS today:

None of these three things go together, but they all have to do with individual projects. In the plastic bag is 100g of Bombyx Silk Hankies. (A silk hankie is essentially a flattened silk worm cocoon.)  I am going to try my hand at dyeing some. I have 13g stack set to soak over night.  The scary wooden things with the teeth are hand carders. I have been wanting to play with blending fibers and/or colors, but a drum carder (which does a couple ounces of fiber at a time) is so far out of my price range right now it is laughable. The hand carders, while not cheap, are much more reasonably priced, and great to practice with. The pictured needles are so I can knit the sleeves onto my Mondo Cable Cardigan. I finished knitting the body last night.

The Body:

That’s dark charcoal grey in Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride. The white you see is Mohair. It’s gorgeous.  (I also might have ordered some mohair locks to play with too, but that was on the internet so it doesn’t count until it shows up.)

And here is the first yarn of the year to have the opportunity to dry on the balcony:

Yes, it is neon pink. It  super fabulous, and it will be up in the shop tomorrow.