Spinning Once Again

I went to a spinning mini-class last weekend at my local favorite crackhouse for fiber addicts spinning shop, The Trading Posts for Fiber Arts. The teacher, spinning/knitting/yarn queen, Kate Larson, got me spinning again, and she gave me helpful personalized instruction on using my Ashford Traveller spinning wheel.   She helped me change my drive band (well, she did it and I watched carefully), showed me how to tighten things up, helped me oil all the right spots and generally just made me a lot more comfortable with my wheel. I spun up some pretty, muted yarn (a very small skein measuring about 69 yards), bought some dyed merino top in a gorgeous deep blue and purple colorway and just had a fabulous time.

The ladies present were quite amusing conversationalists.  Subjects ranged from Abraham Lincoln’s probable Marfan’s Syndrome to traditional Norwegian socks.  Apparently, these socks have a very colorful cuff, then a toothed pattern underneath that, and the rest of the sock (the foot) is white.  This is so any man other than your husband sees only the “teeth” at the bottom of your (long) dress.  Witty stuff.  We all laughed at that.

Eventually I wandered upstairs to the yarn sale area, and came away with lots of skeins of Cascade Eco Duo, my current favorite yarn in the world.  Watch for lots of pretty shawls, scarfs, and maybe an entrelac out of those. All in all, a very educational, entertaining and productive day. And then yesterday, I got out my wheel again.  First I plied some singles I had.  What do you think?  This colorway was called Birch.  I love the little gray parts, it really does remind me birch trees in summer.  I’ll be keeping this yarn for my greedy little self.

Birch yarn

And I found two other little single sections.  Here is one, shown with the Birch plied yarn.  I clearly have a thing for green and purple.

Purple-y Single

After that I spun 2 delicious singles in the new rich blue/purple colorway.  Just need to ply them, and then they will be available for purchase in the Etsy store.  Watch for pictures of that yarn soon.

All in all, I’d say I’m back on track with spinning.  I do find it difficult to take it up again after I haven’t used my wheel for a long time.  Not sure why, maybe just because I’m not a terribly experienced spinner and it’s kind of technical.  Need to remember my advice from my last post about practice making things easier.

I’m wondering what to do with small left over singles.  I’d love to hear what ideas other spinners have about those.  Please help a fellow spinner out and share in the comments.

Fair Isle Success

I have completed the Temple Kitties hat – my first Fair Isle attempt.  I’m really happy with it – what do you think?  I love the tweediness of the yarn, the contrast between the colors, the fit, the softness – everything, really.

Thanks to Lydia for modeling.
Thanks to Lydia for modeling.

The yarn is Knitpicks City Tweed DK.  My colors were Kitten (cute name!) and Poseidon.  Poseidon is no longer available.  I had a ball lying around, left over from a sweater.  I’d been wondering for a long time what to do with one 50 gram ball of DK weight yarn.

Here’s a link to my Ravelry page for this project, which shows the details, including the yardage I used.

This is what I learned, along with a bit of advice for other Fair Isle novices:

1.  Choose an easy hat pattern in a heavier weight yarn for your first Fair Isle project.  I chose a pattern with two color knitting on only part of the hat, and in a DK weight yarn.  The trim around the base was rather fiddly and time consuming, but looks wonderful – the photo doesn’t really do it justice.  Hats are small, finished quickly and the construction is simple – you don’t want to add a lot of complicated, unfamiliar techniques to this first project.  Make this project for yourself, and select a pattern you love.  This will keep you motivated if you struggle a bit in the beginning.

2.  If you have a problem, take a deep breath, tear it out as soon as you see the problem, give it a day or two, and begin again.  You will succeed.  The awkwardness of handing the yarn will get much better very quickly.  It’s like anything else (think of when you learned to ride a bike) – practice makes perfect.  That’s a cliche for a reason – because it’s mostly true.  Perhaps a better saying would be “practice makes much better”, but that’s not as snappy, is it?

I had to try twice, the first time something got twisted.  it wasn’t the cast on;  the disaster happened later.  I didn’t discover the problem until row 12 of the 23 row chart, and I was quite miffed about it.  Tore it out completely, came back in 2 days and started (carefully) again, had no further problems.

3.  Don’t freak out about the fit until the project is done (or at least halfway).  I wasn’t sure it was going to fit, it seemed huge in the beginning, but now that it’s done I think it’s just right.  Fair Isle doesn’t stretch like stockinette or garter stitch, so it will be difficult to gauge fit in the beginning.

4.  If you have a hard time handling the yarn, try holding it another way.  I’m a continental knitter, so I hold both yarns in my left hand, but I know that won’t work for everyone.  The person who taught me recommended I hold one yarn in the left and one in the right hand, and that was so uncomfortable for me I knew I’d be struggling harder than necessary.  Experiment, but give your normal way of holding the yarn a good try first.

5.  Make another Fair Isle project soon to build on your learning.  Try a pattern in fingering weight yarn.  How about a pattern designed to use 2 yarns only, one plain and a long color change yarn?   I have a couple of balls of Mini Mochi in a bright rainbow colorway, I plan to use a creamy white to contrast.   Here are some pattern ideas I’m kicking around:

Montreal Hat by Drops Design Hat

Montreal Hat from Drops Design

Or maybe this hat designed for Mini Mochi

Mini Mochi Hat

Whatever pattern you choose, keep it simple, without a lot of new techniques, The corrugated ribbing shown on the Mini Mochi hat above is simple, so I might try that on project number two. I’ll  save tricky new stuff for project number three.

Here’s a one question poll for my readers.  I’d love to know if I have any Fair Isle experts out there.


I’d love to hear about your experiences with this technique, and any advice from the experts.

More Spectacular Stuff In The Shop

We’ve had another productive week of knitting and listing new items in the Etsy Shop.

Here’s the black and white entrelac.  I’m very happy with this – it’s unbelievably soft.  Entrelac looks really different knit in such a neutral colorway, doesn’t it? This is Eco Duo, 70% baby alpaca and 30% Merino wool.  I’m only sorry I didn’t buy a lot of other colorways!  Look for some mitts knit in this yarn to appear in the shop soon…

Black and White Entrelac

Cheryl finished a highly textured, super soft cowl in Twinkle wool.

Teal Twinkle Cowl

She also completed a soft, ruffled, feminine scarf in a silk/wool blend.  It’s perfect to wear indoors and out.

Wool and Silk Ruffled Scarf

I’ve been knitting fingerless mitts this week, watch for some to come next week.

I’d love to hear from readers what kind of things you’d like to see in the shop.  I’m especially interested in knowing what you’d like for spring and summer in hand knits, hand spun yarn or hand dyed colorways.  Please comment to let me know!

A Fun (And Useful!) Tool For Business Growth In 2013

I’ve recently been looking for ways to brainstorm for 2013 goals, and how to keep moving my business forward.   I guess that’s just natural around New Year’s.

Yesterday I mentioned Leonie Dawson in my blog.  She is someone I recently discovered who is an expert in helping entrepenuers (mostly women, I suspect) grow their business(es).

She has a lot of super charged tools available, at a really reasonable cost,  that are fun, easy and very enlightening to use.  She jokingly says they are “spare change cost” – and she’s right.

My current favorite (and I still have a couple of her creations in mind to play with) is the 2013 Create Your Incredible Year Calendar & Workbook .  This has been incredibly easy for me to use.  It’s been very productive, and as a bonus, it has a lot of jazzy artwork in it.  I did a lot of smiling while looking at it.  It was very freeing to just brainstorm in response to her simple questions – and I got amazing answers!

One my favorite parts was the 2012 wrap up section that begins the workbook.  It’s a great idea to formally close out the past year.  She helped me clearly see how far I’ve come (a long, long way!) and summarize what I’ve learned in 2012.  Also, I have more clarity on what I’m ready to stop doing – which is a great bonus.

Then it was onto 2013.  I moved fairly quickly through the workbook, it was so enjoyable that I just kept at it, didn’t really want it to end!

And now I have a lot of goals for 2013.  Goals that I’m excited about.  Stretch goals, but not insane, pie in the sky goals.  Goals with timelines, broken down into doable steps.  Goals that I might miss, but I think there are a huge number of goals I’m going to hit too.

photo credit http://www.justintarte.com/
photo credit http://www.justintarte.com/

It’s going to be a great year!

Her website also has lots of free videos and articles.  You can sign up for a newsletter too.

There’s a personal life version of the 2013 calendar, too.  It’s all life changing (and highly amusing) stuff at her website!  Hope you enjoy exploring it all.

The Answers Are Within

Some days things get kind of crazy around here – it can all feel out of control.  Ever have one of those days?

And then there are the days with lots of questions arising, about my business, my creativity, what to have for dinner – you get the idea.

Some say the answers are within me, can this be true?

I do believe the answers really are in there, and waiting for me to access them. One way is through meditation.  If I only ask questions without waiting for any answers (which I do tend to do in “real life”), it’s really not possible for the solutions to come through, right?

I am trying to find meditation techniques I can fit into my busy day without devoting a big chunk of time.  I need ways to access my inner wise woman that I can do on the fly, in small pieces, and where ever I find myself.

I found an interesting technique recently.

Merci beaucoup to Goddess Leonie who turned me on to this very easy, very portable way to quiet my mind and go within.

I sit down somewhere (she suggests in the outside in the sunshine, which is in short supply right now in Indianapolis!), close my eyes, set an intention to access my Inner Goddess and receive her wisdom, and begin counting breaths.  I count to 100.

This has been amazing!  It can completely transform the energy of the moment I began into a calm, centered, peaceful one.

You many have some questions.

Q – Doesn’t this take a long time?

A – It doesn’t have to.  I don’t take 100 deep long breaths, I start out breathing deeply and gradually let the breath become whatever it needs to.  Too many deep breaths make me dizzy(er).

Q – I’m not comfortable with this Inner Goddess stuff – it’s not compatible with my religion.  Can I do this meditation technique some other way?

A – Think of it as a prayer time.  Whatever supreme being you recognize/worship can get through to you more quickly if you are quiet and receptive.  Make it easy for your information to get through!

Q – What if I lose track of the numbers?

A – Guess where you were.  Or you can always start again if you feel so inclined.

Q – What if I don’t have time to count to 100?

A – Try 75, or 50.  I don’t really feel like I’m relaxing into it until I’m at about 33, but results may vary.

Q – What if I want to do it somewhere that I’m not comfortable closing my eyes?

A – Just focus on some unmoving object.

I’d love to hear your results and if you adapt this technique at all, I’d love to hear about that too!

A beautiful image to close today.  I do not remember where it came from, unfortunately, I will try to be more careful about that in future.

Blessings to all my readers.

rose heart

The Square

One of the things Cheryl and I discovered at the craft fair we did in December is going to have a big impact on our future business.

We learned about The Square.

The Square goes to the farmer's market.Photo Credit wollytech.com
The Square goes to the farmer’s market.
Photo Credit wollytech.com

The first time I saw this little darling was when I bought my Ashford Traveller spinning wheel last July.  The Lady Peddler is a crackhouse for fiber addicts yarn and fiber shop housed in a turn of the 20th century (or maybe earlier, I am certainly not an architecture queen) building in the tiny town of Hastings, in western Michigan.

It was a gorgeous place – full of hand dyed fiber, fabulous yarn, spinning wheels, pattern books, everything the well stocked  crackhouse for fiber addicts yarn and fiber shop should be.  There were very high stamped tin ceilings and wide, creaky floor boards (maybe pine?), along with an ancient and well preserved  black and gold cash register.

Apparently that beautiful cash register is just for ambience, because when I pulled out my visa card to pay for my wheel, she picked up her Iphone, and ran my card through the little white square plugged into it.  She nicely asked if I wanted my receipt emailed or printed out.  I chose email so I couldn’t lose it.

On the way back to our rented vacation house my mother and I marvelled about how cool that whole thing was.  Sadly, (but not surprisingly) I completely failed to see any connection to my own business.

Fast forward to craft fair in December, someone asked us if we could take a credit card.  Cheryl and I looked at each other helplessly, and I overheard someone say something about a square.  The lightbulb went off, Cheryl dug out her cell phone, and hey presto – we are in business to take credit cards.  We have next day deposit into our linked bank account, and a reasonable fee of 2.75% per transaction.  That is cheaper than Paypal.

Maybe we are the last small business in North America to start using a credit card reader (but I doubt it).  I have discovered that PayPal has something similar, and Google too.  Many more will be coming soon, I’m sure.

SquareUp.com, the creaters of The Square, will mail you one free, but if you are in a hurry, you can get them everywhere for around $10.  Walmart, Staples and Walgreens all carry them – this is what makes me think we are not the last business to begin using them, but we certainly are not early adopters.

Now, I just need an Iphone like Cheryl has.  That’s another post…

Book Review – Pinterest Power

I randomly picked up a book from the New Books shelf at the library last week. It was a lucky find – I think it’s going to teach me a lot!

Pinterest Power by Jason Miles and Karen Lacey outlines the reasons businesses should be using Pinterest to market their business, build their brand, and increase sales.  Then they give you specific, detailed information on how to do it.

Pinterest Power

Jason Miles and his wife, Cinnamon, own Liberty Jane Clothing, a wildly sucessful business which creates clothes and patterns for clothing for American Girl Dolls.  Cinnamon has gorgeous Pinterest boards and they are clearly experts at using social media to grow their business.  Jason also wears some other hats, including teaching as an adjunct professor at Northwest University’s School of Business Management in Seattle.

Karen Lacey is a writer and a guru on entrepreneurship.  She’s written several books and screenplays.  Her newest book is  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Elance (which I have not yet read, but it’s on my list!).

Pinterest Power is well written and easy to read.  As I read, I find I’m very motivated to apply the information I’m gathering.  I’ve created well thought out pinboards, each with it’s own theme, and done some brainstorming to better understand who my customers are – both things the book recommends.

Maybe none of this is advanced business knowledge, but I am finding it very helpful in creating a coherent plan to fully utilize Pinterest (and other social networks).  My copy of the book is heavily marked up, full of stickies, and I’ve started a little journal for notetaking.

I also am finding this book is helping me to think like a business owner.   That’s a big benefit to reading it.

Jason has written several other books, Price It Like Picasso and Craft Business Power, both of which are on my short list to read in the near future (I bought them both).

Some of my favorite take-aways from this book so far:

1.  Not all social media is for every business.  My business is very visual, so Twitter isn’t a very useful venue for me, and I’ve decided not to spend a terribly large amount of time on it.

2.  How to decide if my Pinterest personality should be personal or corporate, the pitfalls and advantages of each, and how to create the personality I chose.

3.  How to build relationships with other pinners and encourage them to repin my pins, thus increasing my product’s exposure.

I recommend this book to everyone who has a business (for profit or nonprofit) who is looking for free and time efficient ways to grow their sales.

Jason has a blog called Marketing on Pinterest.  Check it out!