We had a knitting casualty

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Yesterday was a sad day in my house. I had to bid farewell to a Knitter’s Pride knitting needle. IMG_1592These are the size 7 14″ needles from the big set I got as a gift last year. I love these needles. But if you’ll remember, I have two puppies.IMG_1586They’re both around a year old, between 60 and 70 pounds, and they love to play. I was sitting on the couch yesterday, knitting along while chatting with my SIL who’d come over for a crafternoon, and the puppies started roughhousing. They love to chase each other around the house, nipping and chewing and falling and bumping. They jumped on the couch where I was sitting, and rammed into me. I was irritated at first because they made me drop a few stitches. I pushed the dogs off, picked up the stitches, and knit on to the end of the row. As I turned the work to start the next, I noticed the needle was bent. My dogs have more power than I realized. (My mother’s reaction: “Do you realize you could have been seriously hurt?”) Anyway, fortunately I have another set of metal size 7s, just not the fancy Knitter’s Pride, and I was able to continue on my Gradient Cowl.IMG_1591That’s the extent of my knitting yesterday. It was not a good yarn today. I do hope today is better. But I will share the photo of my finished Heartbeat Cowl.IMG_1594The pattern is called River Deep, Mountain High but the red made me think of heartbeats. It still needs blocking and will look much better after that, but I adore this color. Makes me want to start wearing red so I can keep it for myself!

Nothing to do but knit

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Gosh, there are so many things I *could* do this morning (go buy milk, go buy more dog food) but I can’t. Thanks to a minor fender bender in which NOBODY WAS HURT (thank goodness) my husband’s truck is out of commission. Since his job kind of pays the bills around here, he’s driving my car today and I’m stuck at home. I’d pretend to be sad, but really, it’s fine by me. I like to be home by myself anyway. What to do with my time but knit?

I went out to one of my LYS yesterday to get some Eucalan. I’ve never used it and I’ve read it can help with the felting process, so I’m going to give it a whirl. I love felting, and I’ve been so frustrated with my lack of felting skills that I’ll try almost anything. But I can’t start felting my silk bag yet because I still don’t have the handle issue sorted. I want to do wood handles, but I need to get them so I know where to sew on the handle tabs before I felt the bag. Plus I’m thinking, the bag will shrink when it felts, so if I sew on tabs beforehand, won’t they be in the wrong place after felting? I’m not sure about this. Has anybody done this before? Obviously if I bought handles that could go through the felting process, it’d be fine. I guess I just need to wait and see what I can find at Joann.

Until then, I’ll console myself with the Malabrigo I bought yesterday. Come on, you didn’t really think I’d go to a yarn store and not buy yarn, did you? Just two skeins, though; I was good! One skein of pink wool from the sale section, and then the Malabrio. It’s Rios in Ravelry Red. How can one resist it with a name like that? I wound it as soon as I got home, found a pattern I liked, and cast on last night.IMG_1579This will a River Deep, Mountain High cowl. I’ve got the ribbing and two pattern rows done and anticipate making much progress today. And speaking of progress, I knitted more on my Gradient cowl yesterday and got two more sections done. It’s coming along quite nicely. I must take a picture and show you tomorrow.

Oh, and yesterday I did something else fun but not knitting-related at all: I bought tickets for us all to go to Planet Comic-Con next weekend! The husband and kids are so excited because Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) will be there, and I’m excited because Cary Elwes will be there. I have a copy of The Princess Bride (the book) that I might take for him to sign, if I decide I want it badly enough to spend $40 on it. John Barrowman was supposed to be there too, but he’s canceled, sadly. And Mitch Pileggi will be there too, which is really only cool for me because he’s been on Grey’s Anatomy. Anyway, should be fun. My son’s already planning to dress up at the 11th Doctor, and my daughter will wear her nerd girl glasses. I will not be in costume at all, I’m sorry to say. I will be the one marveling at all the other people in costumes. But until then, off to my knitting!

Successful Snow Day

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We got the snow as promised, all day yesterday and more overnight. But only 3-4 inches, so I can’t complain too much. The puppies are loving it, spending half the day outside and wearing each other out. I spent the day with a Twilight marathon and knitting, and it was delightful. I pulled out the yarn from a bag I’d frogged three months ago, determined to make progress.

I had one skein of Kathmandu silk in blue and fuchsia, and one skein of Cascade 220 in a coordinating indigo blue. I’d started a bucket bag way back in early December, got it about halfway knit and decided I didn’t like it. No real reason, it just didn’t seem right for the yarn. I frogged it, picked out another pattern, and then the yarn sat there for ages. So yesterday I started knitting that second pattern, and it was going swimmingly, until I realized my silk yarn was diminishing quickly and I wasn’t close the end. I looked again at the yarn requirements. What the heck was I thinking? I didn’t have enough yarn for this. Sigh. Back to the drawing board. Thanks to Ravelry and my own library, I decided I’d try another Vintage Bubble Bag. No, I didn’t have enough to make a full-size bag, but that was okay because the bag was too big anyway. Time to improvise and modify! I merrily knit along during my movies and this morning I finished up the decreases and bind-off.IMG_1577 IMG_1578All my notes are Ravelled here. Now I just have to decide what to do for handles. The pattern calls for i-cord handles, which is what I did the first time I made this bag. But I used up all the silk, so the handles would be solid blue. I’m tempted to buy some handles, wood or plastic or something. I like how they hold up without stretching. But I have to decide before I felt the bag, and I want to felt the bag soon, so I need to figure it out. Anyone want to weigh in?

And no blog post of mine is complete without a hat, so here’s the Swirl hat I finished on Friday. It used almost the whole skein, and the brim is nice and snug on my head. I do enjoy this pattern!IMG_1576 IMG_1575Not too bad for two days’ knitting, eh? Today I might work on my gradient cowl. We’re all going for haircuts so I’ll have plenty of sitting & knitting time. How about you? Making good crafting progress during this stupid snowy winter?

Back to the knitting

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I’m getting back into my knitting groove, but it’s slow going. I’m still not feeling the same constant urge to knit that I used to feel; I’m willing to read or play games on my phone or just watch TV. But at least the knitting is coming back to me. It helps when I finish something and really like it. Like yesterday, when I made another Vermonter.IMG_1565I seriously love this pattern. It uses super bulky yarn so it works up so darn quickly. I started it yesterday morning, worked on it on and off throughout the day, and finished it in the afternoon. This time I used the recommended needle size. I haven’t tried it on yet because it’s just so cute before it gets stretched.

Since that was done, I decided I’d work on another hat I’d started the other day. This is the hot pink Simpliworsted and it’s going to be another Swirl hat, like the TARDIS blue one I made. (And if you go in to look at that pattern, you might notice that three of the photos on her project page…yeah, they’re mine. So happy!) Since it’s for me, I used smaller needles to make a slightly smaller hat. It’s going more slowly than the Vermonter but I still love the yarn and the color.IMG_1567_2The most encouraging sign of recovery, though, is that I’ve got ideas swirling around in my brain again. I want to make another Vermonter, maybe two, with different color combinations. I want to get back to the bag I was making with recycled silk yarn, though I am a little irritated with felting right now.

I started felting the peach/green clutch and it’s not going well. I kind of hate my washer for that reason. But the bag has already shrunk shorter than I wanted it to be, and it still has way too much stitch definition. I think I’m going to take it to my sister’s house and borrow her washer, since it has a center agitator and that seems to make a huge difference. It’s so frustrating, because I love felting. I love seeing something go from a huge, floppy mess to a neat, tidy FO. I need to find a reliable felting process. I’ve tried it in the sink with a wooden spoon, but maybe I need to buy a clean bucket and new plunger and try that. If my sister’s washer fails, that’ll be my next step.

We’re expecting snow this weekend, maybe 4-5 inches, so I’m expecting to have plenty of knitting time. Might be a great time to cast on some fun new projects! What are you working on this weekend?

Etsy, Again

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Wow, my post yesterday about Etsy generated some great conversation! I got some solid feedback and have already made some changes: I updated my profile, filled out the Policies page and de-activated all promoted listings. Best of all, I figured out how to add an Etsy widget to my blog page. I’d been waiting, thinking I’d get my techie hubby to help me, but decided I could do it myself, by golly. I’m not sure I did it exactly right, but hey, it works and that’s what matters.

I have more changes in mind: I want to update the photographs by using my daughter as a model, outside with better lighting and interesting backgrounds. Once I get those done, I’ll be adding more pieces to my shop. I have several things made but don’t want to list them until I have great photos for the listing. Once I get more pieces online, I want to create categories so people can just look at Hats, or Bags, or whatever.

But I’m still pretty sure that Etsy won’t be my main focus. I want to be more active in craft fairs, where I can talk to people about what makes each piece special, where they can actually *feel* what makes each piece special. With that in mind, I know I’ll be participating in the monthly Etsy at the Exchange events at our local downtown. I’ve got the big 2-day Oktoberfest coming up, and I’m hoping to be a part of a craft show held by my husband’s company this fall too. So I have options, and I have time to make more pieces.

Some of the comments made me realize how important it is to be patient. I need to put myself out there as much as possible, and then keep it going. So I’ll keep on trucking, trying to get my name out there a little at a time. I’m so grateful for everyone who chimed in; thank you for the kind words and encouragement and advice and suggestions. This is partly why I love the creative community so much: we support each other. We want each other to succeed, and we’ll do what we can to help. I love that. Thank you.

“You should sell that on Etsy!”

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I love yarn in all its fibers and colors and weights (except fingering and lace weights which are terrible). I love knitting needles and crochet hooks in wood and metal and plastic. And most of all, I love to knit and crochet things with yarn and hooks and needles. I love the process as much as, if not more than, the finished products. It’s so relaxing when I get in the groove and my hands automatically make the motions and out comes this smooth fabric. I can make attractive, useful things out of string, and that’s awesome to me.

Because of all of that, I end up with a lot of knitted and crocheted things. My kids have a lovely assortment of hats, a few scarves, some fingerless gloves. Even the husband, who doesn’t typically wear these things, has some. I have some, my siblings and mothers and nieces and nephews, they all have been on the receiving end of my yarn-loving habit. I love it when I wear my knitted items out in public and get compliments, especially the surprised look when I say I made them myself. What usually follows is some variation of “You should sell those on Etsy!”

Well. Yes. Believe me, I try. I know these people mean well, and I do take it as a compliment because they’re saying they think people would pay money for something I’ve made, and I appreciate that. But it’s also frustrating, because it implies a simplicity that’s not there. I’ve been on Etsy for several months now, with 22 items currently listed. I’ve paid for promoted listings, not a lot but some, and in that time I’ve sold a whopping two items. I’ve made $3 more than I paid to promote the listings. I know there are a lot of factors at play here: am I listing the right kind of items? Am I tagging well enough? Is my ad budget high enough? Am I not being patient enough? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. All I know is that it doesn’t appear to be the right business model for me, at least right now.

I’ve done several craft shows, and all of them have been more successful than Etsy has been. For my stuff, it’s about the colors, touch, the feel, the fit–those are the things that make my pieces sell. I use high-quality fibers that make my prices a bit higher than things made from acrylic, but it’s hard for someone to see the difference on a computer screen. And even in craft shows, my booth is different than a lot of the other yarn booths because there’s so much variety on my table. I don’t pick two things and make them in every color. It’s rare for me to have even two of anything. I create based on the yarn, and very few yarns want to be the same thing. I know I would probably benefit from some duplication, and there a few hats I want to make in other colors, but I’m never going to be the booth with stacks of the same hat. I’m not disparaging that, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not how I like to work. I don’t want to make stuff based on what I think people want. I want people to want what I make.

So I’m a little discouraged right now. I’m struggling to figure out where to focus my business energy right now. There’s a handmade market in a really cool downtown area that’s looking for vendors, and I’m seriously considering submitting an application. You set up the booth and they man the store and process sales. The monthly fee, plus commission, is less than I’d pay for the average craft show. Really, the only hitch right now is that I don’t have any furniture to set up in a booth. But I can see that in my future. You sign a three-month contract, and based on the traffic I’ve seen out there, it would totally be worth it. And today I signed up for a big, well-known, three-day craft show in October.

I guess I’ve got my answer. I need to step back from Etsy and focus on the personal connections. I’ll keep Etsy open, but I won’t do more promoted listings. Instead I’ll invest my money in booth fees where I know people will actually see my pieces. But for now, since I’ve got a little time, I think I’ll spend a little more time making stuff for me.

What are your tips for a successful knit/crochet business?

Gettin’ my groove back

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Thank goodness, my mojo was not gone very long. Yesterday afternoon I went up to my craft room and gazed at my stash and pulled out a handful of skeins that called my name, and wound them without any expectations of what I should knit with them. I just appreciated the colors and the feels.IMG_1538I mean, how can you play with this and not want to knit it?? It’s hot pink Simpliworsted and I know it’s going to be a hat, maybe for me, but I feel a little of that crippling fear you get when you love a yarn so much that you want it to be exactly the right pattern. I keep telling myself I have two skeins of it, so it can be two hats and I can keep whichever one I like best.

While I pondered that, though, I decided I needed a fast felting project. I’d pulled out some wool in peach and mint green that wanted to be a felted bag, so I spent a while on Ravelry before deciding on this clutch pattern. The knitting part was super fast; I got almost all of it knit last night, with maybe an inch left to do this morning. I did a three-needle bind off instead of learning Kitchener. I didn’t think trying that for the first time was the right way to coax my knitting mojo into staying! Now the bag is ready to felt and as soon as I get my errands done, I’ll be working on that. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.IMG_1546The other excitement of the morning was thanks to these two monsters. IMG_1534They look sweet and calm, don’t they? Well, they greeted me when I got up this morning and they were all excited and happy and bouncy, and then they decided they should start roughhousing on the stairs while I was trying to go down. Two puppies crashing into me means I fell down and slammed my lower back into the hardwood stairs. Yeah. It’s awesome. I’ll be doing some training with them on stair etiquette very soon. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find an ice pack!

Mojo, where are you?

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I seem to have misplaced my knitting mojo. No, no, don’t fret, it will be okay. I’m not anti-knitting, I’m just finding other things more appealing at the moment. I think partly I got absorbed with the puppy-finding process and then I lost momentum. I didn’t knit *at all* while I watched the Oscars. Four hours of TV time with no knitting. I just watched it. It was kind of weird, but also a little nice. And last night I read a magazine. Cover to cover in one sitting. I haven’t done that in ages either. Maybe I need a break to restore some balance to my life. It can’t be all knitting *all* the time, apparently.

I do have some yarn-stuff going on; my waiting-room knitting still travels with me, and I’m crocheting a hat/boot cuff set for a Poker for Puppies fundraiser.IMG_1532IMG_1533One more boot cuff to make and then I’ll get them shipped off. After that, I might just go up and paw through my stash to see what inspires me. There’s a lot of gorgeous yarn waiting for me. Something’s bound to call my name.

Our new pup Gracie is settling in wonderfully. I truly feel like we won the puppy lottery both times. We had a couple of puddles the first two days but since then nothing. They sleep great together overnight. They were alone yesterday for over two hours and I came home to two happy puppies but no puddles, nothing destroyed. They rough-house and wrestle a lot, and fight over toys, but not in a mean way. Usually they’re just devious, stealing a toy when the other one’s not looking. The two dogs are really starting to bond, and yesterday they even sat together peacefully on the couch.IMG_1526Gracie is a snuggle-puppy lapdog, which I love. It’s just delightful. I’m really enjoying having two dogs. I haven’t been brave enough to walk them by myself yet, since they’re still pretty wild on a walk together, and I can see myself getting all tangled up in leashes. Hopefully it won’t take long. Of course, I’d like to do it in slightly warmer weather! Until then, we might just hang out right here.IMG_1537

Puppy Time

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We got our new puppy yesterday! I got tired of waiting to hear from the volunteer-run rescue shelter place, so we drove out to the Great Plains SPCA just to see if anyone caught our eye. We made it all the way through before this little black Lab looked up at us. All the other dogs were barking and she was just watching us. She had this pretty white streak on her chest and little white socks on her back paws. She was a little over nine months old, young like we were looking for, and seemed friendly enough. We arranged for a meeting and she was bouncy and playful and affectionate, and it didn’t take long for us to decide we needed to bring Jack up to meet her. The meeting went well, though they didn’t play immediately like I was expecting. She was a little more aggressive than he was, and he didn’t appreciate her nose going where it went. But they didn’t dislike each other, little growling, no hackles raised, so we figured what the heck, and brought her home.IMG_1458Her name is Grace, and she’s 59 pounds of sweet sass. She’s not quite 10 months old yet so they expect her to get a little bigger. Right now she’s about as tall and long as Jack is, but he’s much stockier. She seems lean and streamlined compared to him.IMG_1461As soon as we got them in the backyard together, they started wrestling, and pretty much haven’t stopped. They’ll take a five-minute break and then they’re back at it. I love that they’re getting along so well, but I had no idea how much space two crazy puppies would take up! Three dogs? Fuhgeddaboudit! But these two seem to be having a ball, so I can handle it. I kind of wish they’d chill out a little bit now and then, but it’ll happen eventually.The best news for me was that they did fine overnight together. Jack has a bed in the kitchen, so we put another bed in there for Gracie, and after a few thumps, it was quiet all night. I woke up to two very bouncy, happy puppies. And a puddle too, but hopefully that won’t last long. She grasps the concept; I think Jack just needs to leave her alone long enough to let her pee when they’re outside.

Really, it’s going better than I expected. I know there’ll be some tension over toys and sticks, but they had breakfast in the same room without too much trouble. The only sad part is that I seem to have lost my cuddle puppy. He won’t lie on the couch with me and when I got up, he didn’t even roll over and ask for his ten-minute belly rub. That’ll come back, right? I sure hope so!IMG_1459

IMG_1472And they do wear each other out, that’s for sure! This is Jack last night after three hours of almost non-stop wrestling:IMG_1466It’s been an adventure already, and I think we’re in for a lot more. I’ve got more dirt and noise than I had before, but I’ve also got a lot of sweet moments. IMG_1467

If you’re thinking about a new furry friend, please check out your local animal shelters first. There are a lot of wonderful dogs out there, and mixed-breeds can be just as fantastic (if not more so) than a pure-bred with papers. In the Kansas City Metro Area we have three big ones: Wayside Waifs, Great Plains SPCA and the KC Pet Project.

Finished Object Friday (times TWO!)

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Hey hey hey! I have two things to show off today! I was sitting there in the cold yesterday morning, all bundled up in my blanket with my tea, and I realized I needed to make myself a new, warmer hat. The ones I’d made myself didn’t cover my ears, and that’s necessary right now. I’d been borrowing my husband’s hat, but it’s just plain gray ribbing. Boring! Poking through my Ravelry library, I re-discovered the Vermonter hat and knew it was just the thing. Even better, one of the suggested yarns was Berroco Brio, and I just *happened* to have a beautiful single skein just sitting in my stash waiting to be used.

Two hours later, I had a new hat. Seriously. I was catching up on The Mindy Project, and before the fifth episode was over, I was done. That is a fast hat, folks. And as soon as that episode was over, I pulled it on and went out to walk the dog.IMG_1430Now, I modified it just a bit. I used size 13 needles and added an extra repeat of the pattern, so it came out just a tiny bit long, but I don’t care. I even had more than enough yarn leftover for a big pompom. I LOVE it. (I just sang that bit, could you tell?) The *only* thing I would say is that it has stretched a little, so if you make it, use the smaller needles for the brim, ok?IMG_3958Okay, next. Actually this should have come first, because I finished it on Wednesday. It’s my Swirling Spider Cowl and I’m quite delighted with it as well. Plus there’s enough yarn left over to make a cute little matching beanie!IMG_3961Back to yesterday. After I finished my new hat, I decided it was time to cast on for something new. I’ve been in a casting-on fury this week: I’ve started another Honey Cowl and a Rikke hat, but this is something special for me. I got a kit of Knit Picks Palette for Christmas, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, since it’s fingering weight and we all know how I feel about that. They’re all shades of purple so my knitting SIL suggested a gradient cowl. BRILLIANT. It just so happened I’d come across Purl Bee’s seed stitch gradient cowl recently. I could hold two strands together and use seed stitch to make a cowl with several shades of purple!!! Knitting doesn’t get much better than that for me.IMG_3967To get the right yardage, I’m using eight colors instead of five, which also meant adjusting the length of each stripe etc. After consulting with my fashion expert (aka 14yo daughter) I decided to do 3 1/4″ of each stripe, and only do one repeat instead of two. I think it will be marvelous. I’m already on the second stripe and it’s so fun. I want to knit on it all day. But I can’t because today is doctor appointment day so I’ll be taking the Rikke hat with me instead. And that’s okay too.

Still no puppy news. This volunteer-run shelter hasn’t contacted me yet and I’m trying really hard to be understanding and patient but it’s hard. This is my dog, I know it. One thing I’ve realized is that if I can hold out for a couple of days, my need for immediate gratification fades. I no longer simply NEED A NEW DOG. I want the right dog, and I’m looking at other shelters and all the other pretty dogs and my heart says, Yes, but wait for that dog. See if he can be yours. So okay. I’ll wait.

And one more thing and then I’ll be done nattering at you. You need to read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It’s beautiful and terrible and wonderful and heartbreaking. I’ve read a lot about WWII, both fiction and non-fiction, and this book made it real in a way I haven’t experienced before. I confess, I’m an easy crier, and I get very emotionally invested in my books, so maybe that’s part of it, but still, this is a fantastic book. It’s easily her most ambitious, serious, dramatic, engrossing book. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.

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