Archive | February 2015

Back to the knitting

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

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!”

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

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?

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

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!)

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.

Yarn, Hat, Cowl

Don’t you just love getting new yarn? It’s even better when it’s being shipped because who doesn’t love getting mail? There’s the anticipation, the anxious tracking of the package, then finally getting to rip it open and see your new treasure! Ahhh. Love it. I won two skeins of Malabrigo Worsted on eBay recently, two skeins for the price of one, and they arrived yesterday.IMG_3949The brown will be another unisex hat, maybe another Barley! I’m not sure about the green yet. A hat, of course, but what pattern? It might get to be something new and different.

I did finish a hat last night, a nifty Swirl Hat. I have named it the Time Machine Hat, because the rich cobalt color reminds me of TARDIS blue and because the swirl is all timey-wimey wibbly-wobbly. It’s a unisex hat, beanie hat for a big/male head, slight slouch for smaller/female head. This is more HiKoo SimpliWorsted and it’s delicious yarn. Bouncy and soft and warm. I was wearing this last night (like you do whenever you finish something new) and I really think I need to make myself one in bright pink or purple.IMG_3946 All I have left on my needles now is another swirly cowl. I’m using my Nerd Girl Yarns Smashing in Secretly Spiders and oh it’s so lovely. Rich, deep pinks and purples and black with a sparkly thread in there too. This will be mine to keep forever and ever.IMG_3955Okay, that’s not really ALL I have on needles right now. I have a cardigan from months and months ago that I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to, and I have a rainbow silk cowl in that’s driving me bonkers. It was marked worsted but there’s no way. It’s a Sport weight at most. Ooh, but I have my Quadratic shawl too! I need to get that back out and finish it before spring comes along. IF spring ever comes along.

No news on the puppy front. I’m still waiting to hear from the shelter about the two puppies, though my husband did come to his senses and decide that two more dogs was too many. Sadly, I will not have to puppy brothers that we can name Fred and George. Sighhhhh. But at this point, I would be happy if we could get even one of them. My fingers are still crossed.

It is bitterly cold here today and the kids finally went back to school after a 5-day weekend, so my plans include a couch, knitting, and catching up on my TV shows. I hope you can have a day equally relaxing!

Puppy Love

I have been distracted from my knitting the last few days. The only thing I’ve completed is a simple ribbed hat that my son requested. I do have a new project on the needles and another that I’m about ready to cast on, but it hasn’t been in the front of my mind.

See, I want a dog. Another dog. I have a fabulous puppy named Captain Jack. He’s a shepherd mix, just a little over a year old, and he loves to play. Of course we like to play with him, but we’ve decided we’d like him to have a sibling. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine decided she needed to rehome her Siberian Husky, and I got all excited. I love huskies; I think they’re gorgeous and sweet. So I talked my husband into meeting her. (And it was HARD too! He really thought he wasn’t ready for another dog. He was wrong.) We went out there with Jack … and it was a failure. She was bossy and aggressive with him, guarded her water and wouldn’t let him drink, and he wanted nothing to do with her. I’ve seen him with lots of other dogs and he’s never responded that way before. He always tries to get the other dog to play with him. My gut said she wasn’t the right dog for us.

I started browsing the local shelter websites and it didn’t take long before I fell in love with the picture of a goofy-looking Chow mix. I wasn’t sure whether my husband had come to terms with the fact that he wanted another dog, so I didn’t do anything for a week. By the time we went to visit this dog on Valentine’s Day, he was on hold. Oh, we met him, and he was fabulous. Gorgeous and sweet and funny-looking, and so strong and playful. We put our name next on the list, but he was adopted that night.

Moving on, I found a shepherd/Shar Pei mix at a smaller shelter. I filled out the application and waited, only to find out that he too had JUST been adopted after having been at the shelter for over a year. Okay. There were two fun, young dogs at yet another shelter, and one was another Shar Pei mix with a delightful squishy face. Another application filled out, and another reply that both the dogs I liked had applications pending. Not quite a firm No, but not too optimistic either. I let them know I’d love to be second on the list.

Now I’m waiting. This morning I found two beautiful gray/black shepherd mixes at a volunteer-run shelter right by my house. They’re both male, around 8 months old, and they’re litter mates. I showed them to my husband and he really likes them too, which never happens. He usually has to meet them before expressing any interest. This was another extensive application, and they do a vet reference check before contacting you, so I’m waiting. And I think while I’m waiting I would do well to stop looking at dogs. I would really love one (or both??) of these dogs to be Jack’s new playmate. So if you feel like it, send me some good juju, okay? I would appreciate it! And next time I’ll share some knitting-type stuff too.

Have a little Courage

Who here is familiar with Courage the Cowardly Dog? I was not, so when my aunt asked me if I could make a Courage hat, I was a little unsure. My first instinct was to check Ravelry for patterns, and I found one, but we weren’t crazy about all of it. My aunt and I shared a few photos back and forth and I said I would do my best to replicate the image of Courage she liked the best. There was a lot of improvisation and modification going on! For fun, I decided to document each step of the process, so non-crafters could see what goes into making a detailed character hat.IMG_1183The basic beanie is the easiest part. It takes maybe an hour, 90 minutes tops.IMG_1184Now it’s time to start adding little bits. Each piece only takes a short time to make, but there’s a lot of them! I start with eyeballs.IMG_1185The black centers of the eyes are simple.IMG_1186A nice brown triangle noseIMG_1187Now some pink half-circles for Courage’s…what are those? Jowls?IMG_1188Brown eyebrowsIMG_1189Darker pink eyelidsIMG_1190Brown ears. They need to be stiff enough to stand up. Now I have all the pieces laid out, and it’s time to weave in all the extra ends and sew it all together. This is the most time-consuming part, since I work hard to make sure the placement is correct and everything is sewn securely. Each piece is sewn on individually.IMG_1192The final product. I may not be familiar with Courage but I sure like my version of him.IMG_1193I think I did a pretty good job of replicating the picture my aunt sent. What do you think? Her friend was pleased, and so was the daughter who ended up stealing the hat!IMG_1397