Decluttering: Studio Progress

Through this whole decluttering process, my beautiful studio became a dumping ground for all things that fell into the “art supplies” category. In my house, that’s a large category: candle-making supplies, misc. soap stuff, yarn, looms, wool, markers, fabric, paint. Anything that didn’t go in the kid’s art supplies got tossed in my studio to be sorted all at the same time.

Getting through it all was a huge job. It has taken multiple passes through my little 8 x 15 sun room, but over the last few days, I have made major progress.

Here’s the Before:

The other side of my studio, filled with badly stacked boxes, leaving just enough room for my bike and indoor trainer.
The other side of my studio, filled with badly stacked boxes, leaving just enough room for my bike and indoor trainer.

One whole side of the room was covered in boxes and the bike trainer was set up in here, taking up the rest of the floor space. I couldn’t get to my sewing table because of the bike, and my desk got so covered up in stuff that didn’t belong anywhere else, that there was no using that either.

Here’s what it looks like now:

From the doorway, a place to spin
From the doorway, a place to spin (and mint from the garden tied to the ceiling fan to dry)

How I Cut My Art Supplies in Half

  • Paired down my yarn so it would fit into my large set of rubbermaid drawers and put that in the closet. This still leaves me with TONS of yarn. I’m a little afraid I’ll never knit it all.
  • Paired down knitting needles, sewing notions, weaving supplies and shipping materials so that they fit in one of the smaller set of rubbermaid drawers. That fit in the closet also.
  • Also in the closet are my Ashford SampleIt! loom and my homemade Inkle loom, my Foldio.
  • Sorted through all of my WIPs and frogged the ones I was never going to complete and rewound the yarn
  • Organized my spinning fiber and accessories into two baskets. If I can see it, I am more likely to spin it.
  • There is a third set of small rubbermaid drawers in the corner where the iron is living. Inside are candle making supplies and a few misc. packaging and shipping supplies like raffia and tissue paper that didn’t really fit anywhere else.
  • Threw out any paints, ink, or markers that were old and dried out.

Getting rid of any art supplies is an emotional journey. To admit that I was never going to use some old, crusty fabric paint again was a hard decision. And trying to part with spinning fiber? Gut-wrenching. But in the end, I only kept the things I really loved and actually saw myself using in the near future.

 

The Sewing and Art Table
The Sewing and Art Table

I contemplated putting the sewing machine away and making this into a soaping table, but I came to the conclusion that this room is too small to house everything, though that would be fun to do someday! There are a few projects that could contribute to my soap business where I could take advantage of the sewing machine and the printing supplies. Little draw string bags with my logo on them maybe?

The desk
The desk

I’m still using my old Luke’s Diner table as my desk. I love the clean white work space. It’s perfect for spreading out with notebooks and devices, and when I keep it clean, it’s easy to clear off and use as a daytime photo backdrop. In fact, the green bowl in the lower right hand corner of the has a pile of stuff waiting for me to photograph.

Not pictured is a wire wrack next to the desk stuffed with notebooks and business guides and my file folders. I’d like to get a bookshelf for that eventually, but right now we’re working with what we’ve got.

I’m so excited to have this room in working order again. It’s lined on three side with windows, and has beautiful natural light. I hope to spend plenty of time in here over the next few months as I get my soap business off the ground and continue writing.

My next project for this room is decorate it. I found a photographer on etsy, and I’d love to cover my walls with her work.

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Catching Up, A List

1. Being pregnant is hard.
2. I want to sleep all of the time, but constant sleep is not conducive to the doing of the stuff.
3. Like gardening

We might get some zucchini!
We might get some zucchini!

4. Those blackberries tho

blackberries2016
Our blackberry bush has gotten massive this year, and look at all those potential future berries.

5. I’ve been dropping hints here and there about starting a soap company. I am ever so slowly building an inventory, but see #1 for more info. But here’s a sneak peak.

From left to right: french vanilla soap, sandalwood soap, piney-woodsy-manly soap, earl grey soap, and lavender bath salts
From left to right: french vanilla soap, sandalwood soap, piney-woodsy-manly soap, earl grey soap, and lavender bath salts

6. I’m hoping to launch the soap company before the baby comes (in 11ish weeks!), but if not, look for it before the holidays. (And if you’re interested in my pumpkin spice soap, let me know soon, so I know how much of it to make this summer!)

7. De-cluttering ground to a halt, because we had to do all of the things in April and May. We started tackling the two last big projects this past weekend: the big kid room and my studio. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

8. I am preparing a query to send to an agent for the book I wrote last year.

9. I realize I should probably try more than one agent, but baby steps.

10. While I didn’t set out to write a romance, my first book project turned out to be one. While thinking about a second project, I thought I might try to write a romance on purpose, so I found a book on romance novel writing.

11. As I’m reading this book, a lot of the advice felt familiar, and I remembered that I have a degree in creative writing, and you know, have apparently already written a romance novel, so I’m probably doing OK. (I read the whole thing anyway.)

12. It’s not a bad book if you’re just starting out though. Plus, she uses illustrations from a bunch of different books, and some are so intriguing I now have a whole new list of books to look up.

13. I am kind of excited to plan another novel project.

14. Except, I’m not so good at the planning part.

15. I love writing by the seat of my pants, but it’s not very efficient, so I am attempting to outline my next book before I start writing. It kind of sounds like torture.

16. In between being writerly, building a new business, and you know, growing a baby, I’ve been doing a little knitting.

Action shots once there's a baby to wrap in it, I promise.
Action shots once there’s a baby to wrap in it, I promise.

17. I wanted to make this new wee one a nice, heirloom quality baby blanket that didn’t use all of my brain power. Enter the twinkle blanket.

18. It’s knit out of 100% merino, undyed, and I am in love.

What have you been up to? (And what kind of soap do you want?)

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A List

1. It’s been six weeks since my miscarriage. I am 100% healthy and feeling pretty good in general. Thank you everyone for your sympathies. Even if I wasn’t in the headspace to talk too much, it really meant a lot to hear from you.

2. This summer has been nothing but change. On top of the above, my husband and I are both working outside the home. The only other time this has happened in our entire relationship was while I was pregnant Felix, who is now in daycare. It’s a huge transition that we’re all still wrapping our heads around.

3. Because of all this change and upheaval, my attention span has been short. The only thing that I have spent any significant time on has been my novel.

4. I started my fourth big revision to my original Nanowrimo story last week. I’ve come to the conclusion that my method for writing novels is the most arduous and slow that there is–you know, besides not writing at all.

5. Once I gave myself permission to write and rewrite and let anything happen in my universe that I wanted to, I might have got carried away doing just that. I explored every nook and cranny, and it got me up to almost 140,000 words. That’s way too long!

6. Cutting 50,000 to 60,000 words sounds like a big job. That’s a whole Nanowrimo! But so far, I am having a blast revising it down, keeping on subject, keeping just to what’s important. That was the valuable part of all that exploration over the last few months.

7. I miss blogging.

8. My knitting and fiber arts have been all over the place. I have only finished one project since April: a toy giraffe for Athrun for his birthday.

9. I’ve been posting knitting photos to instagram and twitter. I’m tinydinostudios on both.

10. Have you seen what they’re doing on etsy right now? They are running a crowd-sourcing pilot program, and it’s awesome. I was wanting this exact thing the entire time my shop was open to allow me to buy a whole clip of wool and send it to the mill. Ah well. I’ll pass the love along.

11. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the campaign for Sarah Welch Pottery before it was over and will have a new ceramic travel mug headed my way in a couple of months. It’s worth the wait, I’ll drink my coffee iced out of glass until then.

12. Yes, I am enough of a coffee snob that I don’t like plastic or stainless coffee mugs. One retains old rancid coffee flavor. One makes the coffee taste like metal. No, I am not delusional. It’s really there.

13. I just finished a honking long book–about 1000 pages–and I don’t know what to read next. Any suggestions?

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It’s Time for Something Different

Some of you may or may not have noticed that I closed down my etsy shop a couple of weeks ago. I tweeted about it last week, but otherwise, I closed it down fairly quietly. It was not a bittersweet moment for me.

dinning room before

The glamour of selling hand dyed yarn and fiber lost it’s appeal about two years ago. If you’ve been reading my blog since May 2013, when we had to leave our cozy little apartment and I didn’t have a place to dye for awhile, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise. I’ve bounced around with what I’ve shared with you since then, a little sewing, a little printing, a little gardening, even a free knitting pattern or two. Each and every one of those things was so much fun in the moment that I wanted to share them with you, hoping you’d be diverted as well.

But as I go back and read over some of my posts, I have to admit, that I am less than impressed.

calbedpulloverstorage

I can tell I was just dashing off posts as quick as can be–and lets face it, they were pretty shallow.

minerva

One of the reasons I closed down my etsy shop was that I just didn’t feel like I fit in there anymore. I love the DIY lifestyle. I love making my own chicken stock and yogurt, I love processing my own yarn from a big greasy fleece. I love composting and gardening and making my own soap–but you know what’s left after you do all of those things?

A mess.

messydesk

A big fat one.

But etsy is selling a curated, tastefully simple, DIY lifestyle these day, and kind of leaving the DIY out of it. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a million, brilliant artists still selling on etsy, but most of the time those artists are buried in a sea of not-so-handmade listings.

airbenderstripes

When it comes to the fiber arts though, my competition remained largely other indie dyers and small farmers, and I was completely cool with that. What I was not cool with was the ever increasing price it cost just to get product views.

When I was really having fun with dyeing yarn and doing my yarn club, I could make a couple hundred dollars or more a month off my web sales, after etsy and paypal fees. Not enough to live off, but a couple extra trips to the grocery store if need be or a part for the car, that sort of thing. A couple of years ago, etsy introduced search ads, which allowed you to put your product at the top of the page when someone searched for the keywords you used on your listings. You could cap how much money you wanted to spend on search ads each week, and I thought it was effective. I put my reasonable cap on and saw an increase in sales and in page views when I used them.

tiny_dino_knit_before_it_was_cool_notecard

A few months ago, they switched the search adds to a bidding system which was not cost effective for a small shop like mine. The minimum cap was about $1/day. I gave it a try one month–while admittedly not doing a whole lot of other promotion–and paid about twice in fees as what I made in sales. I turned it off the next month and received hardly any page views and no sales. I don’t think I’d ever had a month with no sales since I opened my shop, but in December and January it was zilch, zippo, nothing.

I’m not blaming etsy’s new systems entirely. I have already said my heart wasn’t in it anymore, but the recent changes were the nail in the coffin of my little etsy shop. It feels like, as etsy has switched from a website where you go to find handmade originals, to where you go to find what’s on trend, that etsy is more preoccupied with selling the idea of a lifestyle rather than the goods that make that lifestyle possible. I thought etsy was supposed to be a stepping stone for launching a handmade business, but it feels to me now like it’s more concerned with nickel and diming the indie artist out of their studio space.

It certainly wasn’t the right place for me anymore.

clementines and cherry blossoms

And I feel like, while I was trying to fit into that etsy aesthetic, so was my blog. My identity as a blogger was confused. My writing was mediocre at best.

I wrote in November about sticking with Nanowrimo for the first time ever, even though I have goddamn degree in creative writing. I haven’t stopped writing since I started back in November. I’m putting the finishing touches on a draft of a novel, and hope to start searching for an agent sometime later this year. It’s taught me a lot about myself–one of them being that I tend toward caution when I really want to kick and to curse and to generally stir up a fuss.

uterus

Writing my novel has shown me that while I don’t believe in censorship, I certainly was practicing it on myself a lot, telling myself this was too controversial to write about, or that was too political. That I would write “fuck” too many times and offend someone.

carrotjuicemarla

And now I kind of don’t give a damn.

What’s this mean moving forward? I’ll still write about my knitting and my gardening, but I might also write about books or my writing. I might piss you off. I might insult you. Mostly, I hope to make you laugh, or to motivate you to live your dream. Because I have always wanted to be writer, but I never had the courage to let myself be one before.

imadeit

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It’s 5am on a Saturday, and I Have Been Awake for Ages

Good morning all. How are you this lovely, cold Saturday morning. I am sitting in bed, in the dark, because I have very successfully woken myself. The last time the baby woke up to eat, about an hour and a half ago, he woke me up out of the middle of a sleep cycle. To avoid falling asleep while I was feeding him, I started thinking about work–well, apparently nothing gets my blood boiling in the pre-dawn hours than thinking about things I can’t do anything about until Monday.(He, of course, ate and went back to sleep immediately.) Next time, I am going to try to think about something more fun, like flowers or yarn.

It’s November 15th, and for the first time ever, I am keeping up with Nanowrimo. Usually by now I have completely given up on the whole endeavor. My first weekend in November is notoriously busy, and so I always start out the month a few days behind on my word count, and then I never catch up, and by the beginning of the second week I am too daunted by the sheer volume of words I am missing, and instead of writing for writing’s sake for the rest of the month, I just give up on the whole enterprise completely and for the rest of the year the only thing I write are blog posts and grocery lists.

Considering I have a degree in creative writing, this is pretty embarrassing.

This year, I decided I was really going to finish. I didn’t have a story idea until the last minute, and I have done absolutely zero planning. I’ve always been a fly by the seat of my pants sort of writer anyway, so this whole making stuff up as I go along and having no plan is fun. Not sure how much substance my story has, but that’s not the point right now. The point is to write everyday, and that’s what I’m doing.

Only took 2 1/2 years after graduating to get my writing mojo back.

Now that I am writing everyday though, my other work is slowing down a little bit. After finally finishing Brock and Felix’s Flax sweaters last week, I had a small bout of startitis and cast on Wheaton which I think is too gorgeous for words. I am knitting the worsted weight scarf version, because while I think this pattern is stunning, I am also aware that I have a very short attention span for knitting anything that turns out to be a rectangle. But I think a blanket, or even a stole in this pattern would be the epitome of luxury.

I am also working on a pair of mittens for Brock. I am using Skinny Fit Mitts as a template because I like the cable pattern on them a lot, but the pattern was written for someone with tiny hands, so not only am I changing it up by making them flip-tops, I am also having to lengthen and widen the thumb gusset, lengthen the hand and figure my own decreases for top.

And since it is supposed to snow today, I really need to make Felix a pair of mittens. I am just going to use my chunk wool and knit him a pair of thumbless mittens. That should be quick, and I hope to do it this afternoon after I finish my word count.

What are you working on?

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New Class! Knitting a Top-Down Raglan Sweater

Knitting a Top-Down Raglan Sweater
$60
September 15, 22, 29 Oct 6, 13, 20 (Monday nights)
6:30-8:30 pm
Memorial Hall at Potwin Presbyterian Church
Maximum of 5 students

We will be knitting Flax by TinCanKnits, which is a simple top-down raglan sweater – great for men, women, or children. We will talk about gauge, how fabric behaves, seamless sweater construction, and fit. I will provide printed materials with information on how to knit a top-down raglan that fits. Techniques covered include: knitting a flat gauge swatch “in the round”, raglan shaping, increasing, decreasing, knitting in the round on circular needles, magic loop, and double pointed needles (optional.)

Materials:
Flax is a free downloadable pattern, but student must download from the following link:
ravelry.com/patterns/library/flax
Enough worsted weight yarn to knit a sweater in your chosen size
1 Set size 8 32″ circular needles (or size to match gauge)
1 set size 7 32″ ciruclar needles (or size to match gauge)
tape measure
scissors
waste yarn
darning needle
4-8 stitch markers
Optional:
double pointed needles for knitting sleeves
pen
highlighter

email me at tinydinostudios at gmail dot com to sign up!

See you there!

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In the Works

I’m going to be honest, (I say this, though, I always am when I am writing to you, dear readers), it has not been a very productive week on the fiber arts front. I have been doing a lot of reading and research on various topics lately. In particular, I’ve suddenly become very interested in soap-making.
You see, in my day job, and I may have mentioned this before, I specialize in selling Kansas-made products. I have two very good soap-makers whose work I sell in my shop. I had a customer complain to me directly that the soaps we carried contained lye. Now, I’ve heard this before, but it had never been broached to me directly.

Naturally, I was a little taken aback, because I was under the impression that lye was necessary in soap-making, I told her that all soap had lye in it–I thought I remembered that much from when we made soap in chemistry class in high school. Later, just to make sure I wasn’t inadvertently lying, I looked it up and found this blog post from Humblebee & Me and was relieved to see that I was correct. At the same time, I discovered a really cool new blog, which I plant on exploring more thoroughly. Naturally, I looked up a local soap maker, at lovingsoap.com a soap maker out of Kansas City, to see if there were any classes in my area. She has an affiliate link to Brambleberry.com and suddenly I was so far down the rabbit hole of soap-making that I am already a soap-maker in my head, even though I have never ever tried it, outside that one day in Chemistry Class in 2001.

Anyway, I have been doing a lot of research about soap-making and ruminating on my blog and the roll it plays in my business (by the way, did you notice that I put up a survey a couple days ago, please won’t you fill it in?) and so my knitting has not really been so impressive this week.

I knit exactly 3 1/2 inches on my Thrysos, but it feels like I should be so much further along.
thrysos blouse onto body
I am using smaller needles than I remembered, and things are going slower than I counted on. But I love, love, love this yarn at this gauge. It’s pretty gorgeous; look at that stockinette! Every now and then I remind myself that I am knitting a sweater for me out of silk and merino and it keeps me motivated to finish it.

In light of me hosting a KAL in a couple weeks, I did a little bit of swatching to try out needles size on my handspun. I decided on size sevens. Here’s a look at the alpaca swatch I made.
pogona swatch
I am loving the handspun. I can’t wait until July 1st. If you want to join us for the KAL, just stop by the PFA Ravelry group and you’re in.

In the meantime, I ordered a cold press soap kit from brambleberry.com, where I have spent way too much time the last few days. It’s a lot of fun to learn about something new.

What’s driving you lately?

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Baby Corner Preview

You guys, I am 35 weeks pregnant as of yesterday. That means the baby can come safely anytime in the next two to seven weeks. Two weeks is a pretty small number (though seven seems unbearably long), but it’s a possibility none-the-less. The dwindling amount of time until this baby arrives has been really kicked the nesting into high gear–well, as high as you can get and still work a 40 hour week and be nursing gigantic balloon feet. Mostly I’ve done a lot of laundry.

crib with bedding
The bed is together and the bedding washed.

baby corner
This is the baby corner view from the bed. (The laundry basket is full of enough clean onesies for three babies. We have generous friends and family…The dresser is in the process of getting a makeover.)

badger baskets
The super functional changing table. I love the drawers and hamper. This particular model was added to our registry because it’s brand is “Badger”. Brock is an Old English word for badger. (It also matches the crib, but you know, details.)

cloth diapers
All of the drawers are stuffed. The top drawer has disposable diapers, which I am planning to use until the cord stump falls off. (Yup, babies are always super adorable.) The bottom drawer has burp cloths and blankets, but my favorite is the second drawer. It is chalk full of cloth diapers. I know I haven’t actually used them yet, but just having them makes me feel proud. It’s a new adventure and I was able to navigate all of the information and personal preferences and strong internet opinions to figure out what kind of cloth diapering system would work best for us. We’re going with prefolds and covers, as displayed above.

lambies
Lamb toys for the baby, hanging out in the crib, keeping it warm.

And now for some knitting!
citron

I am flying through Citron. It’s the latest KAL I’m hosting via the Potwin Fiber Artisans ravelry group. We just cast on yesterday, so there’s plenty of time to join in!

Like I said, I seem to be flying through this shawl. According to the pattern, I am about 3/4 of the way done, which is nuts for two reasons. One, I just started knitting. Two, this shawl so far is just about the right size for my cat, and no amount of blocking would change that. One is easy enough to explain. I spend a fair amount of time on the sofa with my feet up, because otherwise they swell like balloons and it’s really uncomfortable. That’s a lot of built in knitting time. Two is a bit of a head scratcher. I knew I wasn’t going to get gauge using a US size 6 needle. I’ve needed to go up two needles sizes on anything knit flat for a couple of years now, but I like the fabric I got with a size 6 needles out of this yarn. I should be getting 6 stitches per inch if I followed the pattern. Right now, I am getting 8, but the shawl seems to be about half the size it should be at this point. I have also barely made a dent in my yarn…So I suppose it was a good thing I planned on knitting this thing until the yarn ran out, because I’m going to have knit beyond the written pattern quite a bit to even get this thing wearable. The only question is, which will come first, a finished shawl or a baby?

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Snow Day No. 2

We got 13 inches of snow yesterday. I didn’t take a picture, but you can’t even see our car, let alone where the drive way is. The street in front of our house, just a guess at where you should actually drive….

So we’re home again today! I’m not going to lie, this is exactly what I have been needing–a couple of extra days off work that aren’t full of weekend chores and errands and where I am not sick. Thank you, Snow.

I worked on my Snow Day Shawl all afternoon, and a good portion of the evening.

snowdayshawl

I got about 18 inches into it, so while it isn’t a shawl yet, it very well could be in a few days time. Aren’t the colors fantastic? I’m glad I decided to stripe it to make the handspun last longer. It really underplays the yarn nicely.

Speaking of stripes, I had so much fun printing stripes on to the baby blanket yesterday, that I got the paint back out today and did stripes on the fabric that’s going to become my ring sling.
stripey baby wrap fabric

The fabric took quite a bit longer than the blanket, as it’s about twice as big and I used 5 colors instead of 3, but I think it turned out fantastic, and I somehow managed to include all of my favorite colors.

fabric printing stations

Here’s some perspective on how large the fabric is. It’s set out on my six foot table I use for craft shows and the farmer’s market. The blanket is behind on the ironing board.I can’t wait until the fabric is dried and fixed so I can sew my ring sling with it. That will feel like such a grand accomplishment, even if it does turn out unusable.

But I better get busy, I am certain we won’t have a snow day tomorrow, and I have a shawl to finish.

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