Category Archives: MKY

Living In A Show Home

Buy My House

Buy Our House

I haven’t written much about the #HomeSaleFixUp, mostly because we’re actually IN the buyers-looking-at-the-home portion of the process, and it can feel so demoralizing, that I just didn’t want to write about it much.

We put the house on the market on June 1, and we’ve had A LOT of interest. We’re showing the house an average of once a day, which means we need to keep the house looking tip-top (hard when you’re trying to run a messy home business and living with three cats, one dog, two teens & a tinkering husband…)

GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, KIDS!

GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, KIDS!

But overall it hasn’t been unduly difficult.  We find reasons to scoot out of the house when folks want to see it  (shopping, picking up dinner, going for a bike ride) and Jasper’s never HAD so many long walks.  Max’s habit is to take him out for an hour-long walk whenever we need to leave to show the home.

Sometimes we’ll pack a lunch and go sit in a park and enjoy ourselves – we keep a blanket in the back of the car just for that reason.  We think the house is showing well, we’ve had a lot of good comments and the home is consistently rated 3-4 on interior & exterior appearance (out of 5)

The main problem seems to be the busy street, which we always knew. It was a consideration when we purchased the home, we thought long and hard about it, but I can honestly say that in nine years it hasn’t really been a huge issue in our lives.  But every family is different!

killroom

Dexter Prepares to Dye, er, Kill

I’m becoming quite skilled at dyeing yarn in a teeny-tiny space, only using as much room as absolutely necessary and doing everything over washable rugs and with plastic draped around the walls.  My friend Deb likened it to Dexter’s “Kill Room”, which is more truth than poetry when I’m dying those bright reds.  I’m DEFINITELY more careful than I was when it didn’t matter how the room look when I finished! I’m also really glad that when I painted downstairs, I used deep, saturated colors.  If I DO spill, and wipe it up, it’s not as much of a tragedy as if the walls were white!

I just finished dyeing up a large order for Bijou Basin ranch, before that I was rushing to fill orders that had been placed while Kathleen and I were on the road.  We’re getting more and more wholesale accounts, which is amazing and great, and which also means more dyeing (which is also great!)

(L-R) Toad Lily, Freckled Iris, Betty Confetti, Community Clinic & A Lovely Thing

(L-R) Toad Lily, Freckled Iris, Betty Confetti, Comm Clinic & A Lovely Thing

Mostly I’m trying to get a lot of yarn ready for our trip to Stitches Midwest in early Aug in Schaumberg, IL.  We’re excited to give it a second go, and see how it all pans out this year.  It’s DEFINITELY the easiest show to load into and out of (we can pull right into the show area!)

After that is finished, we have a trip to the Michigan Fiber Festival in late Aug.  I have taught there and I LOVE this festival,  I’m thrilled to be teaching there again!  It’s such a lovely event, the atmosphere is amazing and it’s in the sweet little town of Allegan, MI.  Kathleen’s never been to Michigan, so it’s a great introduction to the state for her!

(L-R) Lilac FLOW, Iris FLOW & Hydrangea FLOW

(L-R) Lilac FLOW, Iris FLOW & Hydrangea FLOW

We’ll be dropping Andy off at school (Earlham College, oddly enough Michael C. Hall — Dexter — is an alum…) on the way (she’s going back early to work Freshman Orientation) so to kill a few days before the MFF Kathleen and I are doing some cabin-camping on Lake Michigan – I’m really looking forward to that!  it’s pretty bare bones, but I’ll be certain to shower before heading to Allegan for my first knitting class of the festival!

Now if we could just find the perfect family to love our home as much as we have, and THEN find the perfect “aging couple” home for Gerry and I, we could relax!

Hard Work Behind, Light Ahead

Sunset On Our Trip Home From Ohio

Sunset On Our Trip Home From Ohio

It’s been an incredibly busy time for the past few weeks; ModeKnit Yarns had five shows in four weeks, and all the travel that entailed.  Setting up the booth, standing around selling the yarn, breaking down the booth and driving to the next location are actually pretty enjoyable physical activities, but coming right on top of each other bang-bang-bang it was a hard thing.

Leading up to our time away and our local shows was a few months of intensive home fix up (all of it catalogued under the hashtag #HomeSaleFixUp if you’re interested) so I was already running on fumes.

Adding to that, while on the road we acquired three new wholesale accounts (yay!) which meant a lot of dyeing when I returned home (yikes!) Add to that a bunch of new orders (yay!) which also meant a lot of dyeing (yikes!)

2016-05-30 23.18.17We also acquired a new kitten (well, it’s Andy’s kitten from school, and it is FEISTY!)

Yikes because we’d cleaned up the basement dye studio pretty nicely, and every time I dye down there I spend almost as much time setting up beforehand and cleaning up after.  But we have to keep the home ready to show at any time, and that includes the basement!

So I just finished dyeing almost all of the items on our ongoing, “Orders To Fill” sheet.  (In our business, Kathleen receives the orders and then fills the sheet so I can see exactly what needs to be dyed, and then I dye, set, dry and skein the yarn to fill the orders)

Right now there are a few items I can’t dye because we’re having issues with our knitting machine

In the past  year I’ve broken two yarn feeders in the carriage (one by dropping the carriage about a year ago, the other by pushing the carriage to hard.)  I’d come up with a solution to glue the piece back together using superglue and rayon ribbon, and it worked for a few days, but it was never a permanent solution and now it’s watch is done.

So about 5 items from various orders are waiting for a part that should be arriving on Tuesday, then I can knit up more fabric and fill the waiting orders.  And I plan on ordering a few spare yarn feeders because I’ve discovered it can be an incredibly fragile little plastic piece, and practically impossible to fix once it’s broken.

What I HAVE dyed in the few days, though, is amazing.  I’ve dyed the equivalent of 240 skeins of yarn, most for orders, but some of it for our stock.  And now that the last batches are in their citric acid baths, I’ve changed out of my dye clothes and into something dry and cool, and I’m engaging in one of my guilty pleasures; binge-watching ALONE on the History Channel, and enjoying my indoor plumbing, running water and beautiful home!

I think I’ll ask the kids to wring out the yarn and hang it up.  They should be good for something, right?

2016-05-31 11.20.43Speaking of the beautiful home, we’ve had a lot of interest, a lot of visitors, and a few return visits.  The house has a LOT going for it, but two things we can’t change are the fact that we have a one-car garage, and we live on a busy street.  Those two things could be non-starters for a lot of folks, but I feel confident that we’ll find the perfect family for our lovely home!  We’ve certainly been very happy here for the past 9 years!

I’ve also been able to get out on my bike every day or so, which makes EVERYTHING better.  I have a presentation to prepare for The Knitters Guild here in MN on Tuesday at the Textile Center.  I’ve got all my props set and everything written out, now I just need to make it smooth by rehearsing it a few times.

After this presentation, I’ll have nothing immediate on my plate until Stitches Midwest in August, except getting this home sold and finding a new one…

 

A Few Days On The Lake

Lake Erie Sunset

Lake Erie Sunset, finally resting for a few days!

I haven’t blogged in a while because I’ve been SO incredibly busy!

Living & Dining Rooms

Living & Dining Rooms

A combination of getting our home ready to put on the market, and preparing enough yarn to see us through a bunch of online orders that came in (yay!) and SIX fiber engagements (5 fiber fests & a trunk show) in 6 weeks across six states meant that when I had a few spare moments I was generally using them to take care of personal activities like brushing my teeth.

Who knew time for flossing would become a luxury!?

Universal Catherina by Myrna Stahman at Shepherd's Harvest

Universal Catherina by Myrna Stahman at Shepherd’s Harvest

So ModeKnit Yarn partner Kathleen and I did a few shows in MN (Yarnover by the MN Knitter’s Guild and Shepherd’s Harvest out in Lake Elmo) and had an amazing time!

We have begun to divide the work in a better way; I dye all the yarn (which means also doing all the blank knitting for our FLOW colors) and I do the skeining.

Andy's Always With Us!

Andy’s Always With Us!

Kathleen handles the sales & marketing, shipping orders and staying in touch with wholesale orders and club customers.

Kathleen also makes up the mini skein sets, and puts our kits together.  She gets to see a LOT of Andy (in pattern photograph form.)

When it comes to traveling, Kathleen does the lion’s share of booth planning, packing and loading our trailer, I help set up the booth and help deal with customers, and at some shows I teach (which generally brings in more customers from among my students!)

Drying Yarn

Drying Yarn for Yarnover

I do most of the driving and planning our hotel accommodations, Kathleen handles the interactions with the show producers & handles filing our tax info for out-of-state sales.

So suffice to say that BOTH of us are pretty ragged right now!  It’s a testament to our friendship that after all of this work, and all of this driving, a week into our trip we’re still giggling and having fun!

Happy Sheared Sheep at KY Sheep & Fiber Show

Happy Sheared Sheep at KY Sheep & Fiber Show

After the Kentucky Fiber Show last weekend (what a sweet, well run and friendly show!), and an incredibly joyful stay with a good friend of Kathleen’s (THANK YOU MIMI!) we drove up to Columbus for a trunk show at 614 Knit Studio, which was AMAZING!

614 Knit Studio Trunk Show

614 Knit Studio Trunk Show

614 Knit Studio is such a lovely shop, if you’re in the general area, it would be WELL worth your while to stop by and have some knitting time!

614 Studio had an INSANE accident a few weeks ago when a car drove through their front window.  No one was hurt, miraculously, and we’re in awe that Andrea has her shop up and running again so quickly!

Our nod to 614 Knit Studio's recent auto incident...

Our nod to 614 Knit Studio’s recent auto incident…

We arrived on Tuesday, set up a trunk show, hung around to sign some books and just watched the yarn fly out the door!  We also had some of the best take out Chinese/Malaysian food we’ve ever had – Buckeye Asian, we love you!

On Wed (Today!) we drove up to beautiful Vermilion, OH for a few days at a lakeside motel, just hanging out and enjoying the shallowest of the Great Lakes.

Toes In The Sand

Toes In The Sand

Lake Erie was a disaster when I was a kid, polluted and terrible. We could swim, but we had to hose off, and we never ate the fish we caught.

Then it got MUCH cleaner – yay! – but now, because it IS so shallow, it is susceptible to alge blooms.  We’re here before the ‘season’, while the water is still pretty cold, so alge’s not an issue, and the water is so much clearer than I remember from the Summers of my youth!

Pre-Trip Dyeing

Pre-Trip Dyeing

So we’re here to recharge our batteries and fight the battle of the midges (some things never change…) before we head down on Friday to the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster, OH.

I LOVE this show, I used to teach at it about 8-9 years ago, and it’s been a long time since I’ve visited!  We’re both looking forward to vending there, and I’ll be teaching three classes (Combination Knitting, Knitting with Beads & Mad About Plaid) so come on by and check out our yarn and my crazy teaching!

Andy in Weaving Class at Earlham

Andy in Weaving Class at Earlham

After Great Lakes, we’ll head over to Richmond, IN to pick up Andy from her May-Term at Earlham, along with her new cat, and ModeKnit Yarn (aka, the Joad Family) will travel back to St. Paul to prepare for the Zombie Knitpocalypse next weekend and my talk on Color for the MN Knitter’s Guild later in the month.

ModeKnit Yarn on the road!

ModeKnit Yarn on the road!

Did I mention that Max’s graduation is next week, my 90-year old mother-in-law is flying in for it, and my knitting group will be meeting at my (on the market) home.

I’m looking forward to July, when things slow down…

Feeble is a State of Mind

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 8.23.02 PMYesterday ModeKnit Yarn was at the Fall Fiber Fest, and we had an exceptional time!

MKY's new TIme Lord Gradients. This set is Call Box Blue.

MKY’s new TIme Lord Gradients. This set is Call Box Blue.

Sonic Green Gradient Set

Sonic Green Gradient Set

This is a lovely MN-centric fiber show in Hopkins, at the Eisenhower Center, and I just love it! We visited last year as customers (and came away with some beautiful yarn and books!) but this year we applied and were accepted as vendors, YAY!

And I was exhausted. Worn out, hurting, totally wrung out. But I tried to own it, I accepted that it was because I’d spent two long days in the dye room, and worked hard not to see my physical weakness as an indication on my worth.

Sometimes it takes a few days to bring my energy levels back to normal. Mentally, this admission is great progress for me.

Kathleen and I have centered this year of our business on developing our Fiber Show “chops”.  Indy Yarn Dyers have a few options to grow their business; some choose to focus on wholesale to yarn shops, some choose to focus on online sales, some do clubs and some do fiber shows.

In truth, just about everyone does a combination of these, and we’re no exception.

kathleen_annie_station_wagonBut I’d be lying if I said that Kathleen and I don’t enjoy the Yarn Festivals a bit more than the other segments of our business. I think the reason is twofold: it allows us to personally interact with our customers, which both of us love SO much! And it allows Kathleen and I to spend time together, and at the heart of our business is the fact that we ARE good friends. So we love the festivals! And we love a road trip!

This was a local show, which meant that Kathleen leapt out of bed before 4am, packed up her truck, then zoomed over to my house to pick me up and we were over to the venue by a bit after seven am. Where she got the energy, I don’t know! I was dragging my sorry tail all day! Thank heaven lovely Karen Ryan showed up and helped us set up our booth, she was an angel!

2015-11-09 15.36.58The two days leading up to the festival I’d been dying a HUGE amount of yarn (40+ skeins a day) so I understand my exhaustion, but I still felt a trifle guilty sitting in the booth most of the time (perhaps the guilt was because I cadged the chair from the knitting guild? Don’t tell them…)

I was given pain pills when I first was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, but I’ve really struggled NOT to take them. As a matter of fact, I still have the same bottle I was given several years ago (probably time to get that refilled) because I generally only take them on high pain days – which tend to be Festival days – like yesterday! And allow me to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the relief for a few hours.

Because the weather’s been so mild this November, I’ve been able to ride my bike a nice amount each day, and that’s really helped with my pain. When I think of where I was a year ago (still fighting shingles) I feel like the luckiest person alive!

BRAHMIN MOTH SHAWL

Brahmin Moth

Brahmin Moth

I just released a new pattern, one that I’m REALLY excited about! I love working garter mitered squares, so when I was inspired by the beautiful Brahmin (or “Owl”) Moth, I thought mitering was the way to go!

The design has had three major iterations, there’s been a LOT of knitting to get to the final version of this shawl.  I had samples knit in two additional colorways, the final garment should take approx 100g of each of three colors in fingering weight yarn. Of course, I feel our ModeWerk Fingering is the most beautiful yarn you could use!

Brahmin Moth in Pearl, Drogon & Darryl Dixon

Brahmin Moth in Pearl, Drogon & Darryl Dixon

The pattern’s been tech edited, and it’s up for sale at Ravelry and over at ModeKnit Yarn. One caveat to mention is that the final “V” shape that joins the two ‘wings’ is slightly different in the final pattern than it appears in two of the samples.*

Over at ModeKnit Yarn we have a kit ready for you to order, just let us know what three colors you’d like to use, and well put them together for you!

(*I altered the original text so that no Color B is used in that part, which could raise the amount of Color B required over 100g)

Moving More, Eating – well, just about the same…

fat bike signWhen Andy (née Hannah) was a baby the Rosie O’Donnell Show was one of our favorite mommy-baby morning routines.  One year she promoted a campaign to “Move More, Eat Less” and it was a good thing for a lot of moms like me, with new babies and brand new areas where fat had appeared.

I’ve never been thin, but I’ve been thinner.  Actually, there was one time in 1984 when I was a size 10 for about 32 minutes, but that is long gone.  Amazing, though, how many pieces of clothing one can buy in a 32 minute time period…

I’ve always fought my weight. I’ve dieted, not-dieted, starved, binged, exercised like a dervish, sat on the sofa for weeks on end (my “Gilbert Grape period”) and, although I have to admit there were differences in weight, nothing was permanent.

At this point in my life I’m not expecting to every be thin, but I’ve been striving for the past 5 years to be HEALTHY.  My benchmark is to be able to ride my bike for 7 miles a day. This seems to be the magic mileage that allows me to have good movement and reduce the Fibromyalgia pain, and it’s very doable.

My bike, my man, my dog and a new haircut!

My bike, my man, my dog and a new haircut!

If you’re someone who doesn’t ride a bike, you might think that 7 miles sounds like a lot. It’s not – really! I worked up to it. I remember when riding 2 miles to my son’s baseball game was a challenge! But it only took about 2 months of daily riding for 7 miles to feel like a walk in the park.

And, since bike riding is seven times more efficient than walking, it IS like a one-mile walk in the park!

I’m fortunate that I live in an area where biking is encouraged. Our city & state government here in St. Paul, MN, is behind directives to promote ALL kinds of physical movement. We have an excellent ‘nice ride’ bike share program, and our bike paths, share-ways and greenways are legendary! Yeah, riding in the winter can be cold, but once you’re well covered (hands & faces are the most important) then a winter ride is really VERY nice! Just watch out for that ice!

However, since starting ModeKnit Yarns with my partner, Kathleen Pascuzzi, I haven’t made the time to get out and ride as much as I used to.

I get overwhelmed with the amount of physical work involved in dyeing hundreds of skeins of yarn, and I talk myself into believing I don’t have the time for cycling. Add to that my inability to get my Xolaire shots for 3 months this Summer (Damn you, Health Partners!) and there was a huge period where riding my bike was NOT as accessible as it had been before.

Spessartine Flow

But I’ve made a promise to myself that I will increase my cycling (and I’m back on the Xolaire…)

Being on my bike makes me happy (ENDORPHINS!) and it really does help decrease the amount of muscle and nerve pain that haunts me on a daily basis. It’s non weight-bearing, so I can bike without wrenching my knee

(Damn you, high school basketball!)

Now I just have to keep convincing myself that the hour-a-day I take from my busy schedule is WELL worth the time. It’s really true – when you run a business, it’s very hard to take time for YOU!

A Bolero Sketch from History On Two Needles (based on a Tissot Painting)

A Bolero Sketch from History On Two Needles

So it’s Submission Season, which means a lot of swatching, sketching, and a whole bunch of thinking. As much as I feel guilty when I take time from the dyeing biz (see above) I know that getting a good submission pack together is important for several reasons;

  • I need to stay visible and pertinent as a designer
  • I enjoy the income from designing (Damn you, mortgage!)
  • When I’m permitted by the magazine to use ModeKnit Yarn, it’s a great editorial benefit to our company.

Win, win, win!

But, like the cycling, I need to take time out to actually DO the knitting, swatching, etc. It’s so easy to just put my head down and work, work, work; endlessly dyeing,  skeining and updating the website. But if I don’t put in the non-dyeing time, the business ultimately suffers.

Who knew that at age 54 I would be able to learn so many lessons about using my time wisely!

I’m Shorter.

The last time I went to my doctor and was measured, I was a full inch shorter than the last time.  ONE INCH! This was a different doctor’s office, and I’m certain there are some discrepancies in how hard the nurse pushes down that little metal arm on top of my head to get the reading, but an inch is a LOT!

So it’s not so much that I’ve gained weight this year, as that I’ve lost height. And it shows! Clothes seem to fit differently, my own ‘personal space’ just feels different.

It’s frustrating as I’ve been eating pretty intelligently this year (although never enough leafy greens, always working on that!) but I haven’t been cycling as much as I have in the past.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.48.09 AMOr maybe I have.

I just made a chart of my total miles per month (I’ve been keeping track of all these numbers via Daily Mile since 2010) and it looks like my cycling has actually INCREASED in the past few years.

Wow.  I guess I am cycling a lot.  Those 4 and 7 mile rides really add up!

That doesn’t change the fact that clothes are fitting weirdly (not tight, just weird) so I have NO idea what’s going on…  It’s so odd when a portion of your personality’s been based on being tall, and suddenly it seems you’re one of the short ones in the room!

Well, regardless, I’m off for a long bike ride today. I’ve earned it, damnit, and I deserve it!

Brahmin MothYesterday I did something I haven’t done in months, I biked over to St. Kates and sat on the porch, knitting.

I’m finishing up a sample garment that we’ll be releasing in December, a scarf (shawl?) I’ve based on the beautiful Brahmin Moth.

I’ll reveal the images later, but it’s one of the nicest things I think I’ve ever designed.  I’m really excited about it, as soon as it’s tech edited I’ll have some folks test knit it, then I’ll release it!

Cuckoo Wasp

Cuckoo Wasp

I often get inspiration for colors from insects, they’re so beautiful! While looking through a bunch of moth and butterfly images I ran across this amazing moth, and knew I had to create a garment that reflected the stunning contrast and tone gradations.

I’m terrified of wasps, but one of the most beautiful creatures on earth is the Cuckoo Wasp, which was the basis for one of our colorways in our FLOW club last year.

I was so excited to find this baby online (and NOT in my house) and it was thrilling to be able to match the colors in yarn!

Cuckoo Wasp Yarn

Cuckoo Wasp Yarn in ModeWerk Fingering

Here’s some of the Cuckoo Wasp yarn already dyed, ready to be rolled into balls.  I knit all the fabric up, then dye it (so I can place the long-color gradients) and then roll it into balls.

Yes, it’s labor intensive, but it’s worth it for the beautiful FLOW effect!

I’d be interested in hearing from you what color inspirations you see in your life!  Please add a link in comments to an animal, landscape, food, book – anything that gives you a ‘color shiver!’

Two Weeks of Marathon (no, IRONWOMAN!)

Oy, what a two weeks I’ve had!  Perhaps the hardest two weeks in my professional career, and also the most satisfying!

The Pascuzzi-Mobile, Ready To Roll!

The Pascuzzi-Mobile, Ready To Roll!

First, this was preceded by a few months of hard graft; one show after another, one teaching gig after another, personal trips that don’t bear mentioning (but were a bit fraught) and LOTS of yarn dyeing.

The two weeks started with the final touches of readying yarns for Interweave Yarn Fest, last minute dyeing and skein making.  Work, work, and more glorious work!

Then the drive out to Colorado.  I love driving, I was thrilled to drive out. It’s something I do well, and I really enjoy the feeling of the wheels on the pavement. I think it’s my own type of meditation.

Wire Knitting While Waiting For ZZ Top To Fix Our Flat

Wire Knitting While Waiting For ZZ Top To Fix Our Flat

But it is a bit tiring, that long, hard focus. Especially across the high plains – lots of trucks, lots of tumbleweeds, and almost an entirely uphill drive.

Once in Colorado the shift to upper altitude didn’t kick in immediately, which was great because my first day there Kathleen, the other half of ModeKnit Yarns, and I had to set up our booth in the Yarn Fest Marketplace.

The following day Kathleen womanned the booth while I taped two classes for Interweave Craft Daily.

Interweave's AV Guys

Interweave’s AV Guys

It’s always a lot of fun to work with the IK video crew, they’re sensational guys!

A morning off, which was necessary because by now the altitude had caught up with me and I needed some reset and hydration, then full-on teaching for four very full classes, LOTS of selling in the marketplace, and general fun with other yarn folks!

2015-04-16 12.01.56We tore down the booth on Saturday night, packed up, and after teaching one last class on Sunday morning we started our drive back to MN.  I drove, because I love it, and we were home in St. Paul by Monday afternoon.  Huzzah!

I slept for half a day, much needed, then Tues, Wed & Thurs were dyeing days.

Yarn Fest was sensational – we sold out of several of our yarns (we returned with only FOUR balls of ModeSock Flow!) so I was trying to fill up our yarn coffers before the wonderful Minnesota Knitting Guild’s yearly event, Yarn Over!

Yarn Over has a very special place in my heart.  It was at Yarn Over in 2006 that I began to hatch my plan to move my family out here to MN. It’s a move I’ve never regretted, and I feel I owe a great deal to Minnesota (including my husband’s continued health – thank you Mayo Clinic!)

The kids have thrived here, life is very good for families here, and I think all of us felt less pressure to live up to a certain perfection of appearance and lifestyle we may have felt in NJ (which we also love!)

Today was Yarn Over, and once again it didn’t disappoint!

Mini Skein Sets

Mini Skein Sets

What an amazing gathering of fiber and yarn loving folks, crossing all skill levels, ages and genders. And we sold out of several of our yarns again. We return home with all of our 221B and Dragon Dances miniskeins sold out, with just a few of our Caledonian Colors, Knitting Dead and Midwife Speaking left.  And a TON of orders to fill in the next few weeks.  This kind of busy I’ll take any day!

This feels amazing.

2014-10-25 13.11.17We have had good fiber shows in the past year (ModeKnit Yarn’s first fiber show was actually 2014 Yarn Over) but these last two weeks have exceeded all our expectations. SO much work, and SO much reward!

THANK YOU to all of our customers, to everyone who took the time to stop by our booth (even if you just looked or commented!) and THANK YOU to the staffs of Yarn Fest and Yarn Over. Your own hard work is GREATLY appreciated by this fledgling yarn dyeing company – we’re very grateful!

Yarn Works by Wendy J. Johnson

yarnworks_coverThis review is a long time coming, and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write it.

It’s been difficult to write, because I love this book so much, and each time I sat down to review it I felt I couldn’t do it justice.

I finally realized that, short of reprinting entire chapters of the book here on my blog, nothing could really reflect how helpful Yarn Works is until one actually reads it.

This is a unique and incredibly useful book. It is textbook-like in it’s scholarship, it’s appendices and illustrations. But, unlike the average textbook, Yarn Works is a delight to read.

Yarn Works is broken into 4 sections; Fiber Workshop, Spin Workshop, Dye Workshop and Knit Workshop.  Each section is clearly divided into chapters which take the reader through each topic, step by step, with very clear and understandable instructions.

I don’t know what Wendy’s middle name is, but it could easily be “Clarity.”

I must confess that when I review a book, I usually don’t read it cover to cover. If it’s a pattern book I’ll peruse the garments, pick a few and read through the pattern to see if I can understand the writing style. If it’s a technique book I’ll try a few of them out, also to see if the writing style resonates with me.

In this case, I’ve been taking this book to bed with me and scanning it (heck, I took it to DC with me and read it in hotel rooms along the way…) and I’m in love with it.

2014-12-30 11.00.59My adult life has been book-ended by yarn; I learned to knit at 25, began designing hand knit garments and writing patterns in the 80’s. I took a hiatus to attend grad school and work in the theater and TV for 10 years, then returned to knit design/teaching in the early 2000’s.

Now I dye yarn, too, which takes up the lion’s share of my days, so I was most intrigued to read Wendy’s take on these aspects of my ‘life’ – dyeing and knitting.

I must admit that I didn’t spend a great deal of time on the Spin Workshop. I read the section, as I did the Fiber Workshop section, and found the information clear and concise.  I’m not a spinner; my asthma makes it difficult for me to even knit with very soft fibers (like alpaca or angora), forget about spinning fiber!

wendy_book_1My main focus, obviously, was on the dyeing section.  Wendy breaks down the dyeing process by type of dye, and by fiber, and does it so clearly and in such a non-confusing manner that just about any fiberista will walk away feeling a bit more expert in their understanding.

I’ve spent the past week doing some hard-core dying, finishing up many kilograms of yarn for various clubs and shows, and I’ve felt gratified by how words from Yarn Works come to me at various parts of the process.

Through trial and error over the past year, as ModeKnit Yarn has been moving up to speed, I’ve come to many of the same conclusions that Wendy comes to in her book. However, I didn’t understand the science or theory behind many of my discoveries, and reading about them has been incredibly helpful.

wendy_book_2For instance, I knew that citric acid increased the ability of my yarn to absorb dye and exhaust the bath, but I didn’t understand WHY. Knowing this allows me to be a more complete and effective dyer.

I love Wendy’s embracing attitude that there are MANY right and good ways to create and dye fiber — as many as there are dyers — but the science behind dyeing doesn’t change from dyer to dyer.

If you have an interest in spinning, dyeing or knitting, want to understand the basics of different fiber types and what differentiates different protein fibers (or how cellulose seed fibers differ from cellulose bast fibers) and want to learn all of this in a friendly and comfortable environment, Yarn Works is the book for you.

w-j-johnson-headshotYou probably didn’t get this book for Christmas. Treat yourself and order it now.  Then order one for a friend and change their fiber life.

Yarn Works
W. J. Johnson
ISBN: 978-1-58923-788-9
Creative Publishing Int’l

A BETTER New Normal!

I’m writing this, and I’m a little bit terrified.

We’re moving into the next step of ModeKnit Yarn, which is scary, but also crazy exciting. We’re growing, orders are coming in faster and faster, and we’ve been asked to supply yarn for some pretty amazing editorial pieces.

2014-09-28 20.49.05BTW, anyone catch my scarf in Downton Abbey Knits?
I am VERY proud of it, I think it one of my best small pieces!

 

We’re on the cusp of hiring our first person, although we’re not certain how quickly we’ll be able to do it, or for how many hours per week we’ll need them. Just facing this as a necessity in the near future is both daunting, and very exciting.

Our plan has always been slow and steady growth, which I believe we’re accomplishing. Next step, slowly and intelligently (?!) bringing on wholesale accounts (that’s our 2105 goal!)

This weekend a friend of Andy’s, the young woman who was in charge of their 52-day Arctic expedition and a fiber enthusiast, came by to help me dye and learn the ropes.  We worked REALLY well together, she’s at that, “looking for some part time work” phase of her life, so we’re hoping we can make this happen on both ends!

It feels SO ODD to befriend someone who is your daughter’s friend, good, but also just a bit surreal.

NEW CAR

Since our home invasion / car theft (it sounds SO much more dramatic than it was when put that way!) we’ve been car less.  I try to get around on bike, and we’ve rented cars here and there over the past month, but for the most part we’ve been walking and taking the bus.

2014-09-29 12.21.32As of yesterday, we are CAR LESS NO MORE!

We purchased what has long been our dream car! A VW Jetta Sportwagon, and we’re over the moon!

When we decided to become a one car family 3 years ago and sell both cars (relying on mass transit and biking for many of our errands, using the car for big shopping trips, etc.) we looked at a 2012 Jetta, but at $22K it was out of our range, so we settled for a Hyundai Elantra (not a bad car, nice for us) and at $16K it was a good economic fit.

2014-09-29 12.23.16At Enterprise Car Sales we test drove a few cars in the $10-13K range, then as we were walking around we noticed a 2013 RED Jetta that had JUST been brought onto the lot. I compelled Gerry to take it for a drive, we BOTH loved it, but we couldn’t  bring ourselves to say yes.

After we left Enterprise, we visited several VW places in the Twin Cities, and the looks on the faces of the salesmen when we described the car (low mileage, 2013) told us everything we needed to know; the car was an amazing deal at $14K.

Ginger & Gerry, both relieved about the car.

Ginger & Gerry, both relieved about the car.

So we did the math and worked out that with the settlement from our insurance, our car payments would be almost the same (within a few cents) of what we’d been paying for the Hyundai.

So, lucky us!, the car was still available and Monday was spent driving from dealership to insurance company to bank to dealership, then home with our new car.

The fact that this was a car we WANTED so my several years ago, and now HAVE (except a year newer) feels as if it’s a bit of payback for dealing with the whole theft thing. The stress was nuts, anyone who’s had a break in knows that, so this feels like a bit of a reward.

Gerry’s off driving the car now. I’m so happy for him (he’s LOVED VW’s forever, he sighs when one goes by…) and happy for us. It’s a great car, we just have to be careful about speeding tickets!

The cheesy shot our saleswoman took when we bought the car, but it's fun, too!

The cheesy shot our saleswoman took when we bought the car, but it’s fun, too!

 

Mini Vacations

I take my vacations where I get them, and sometimes they’re as short as 15 minutes.

KFairy_location

The Knitting Fairy is in HERE somewhere…

Right now I’m enjoying a mini evening vacation, here in Arlington, Texas, where I’ve been brought in to teach 4 classes for the Knitting Guild of North Central Texas and two classes for the Dallas Knitting Guild.

Happily, all 6 classes will be happening at the same location, a LOVELY yarn shop called The Knitting Fairy  I stopped in for a brief visit to meet the owner, Alissa, and look at her great selection of yarns! Her space is excellent, but I can see where it might be hard to find…

Duckie

Shall the Duck be Mother?

She had some lovely stuff, and when I got to my hotel room I looked up her website and was enchanted by many of her patterns, especially this adorable Duck Tea Cozy (Hmmm, who do I know who drinks a lot of tea… Moi?)

The Arlington/Dallas area is experiencing a bit of a cool down after a hot spell, and there’s supposed to be rain over the next few days. That sounds JUST FINE to this Minnesota Mama who is experiencing a skin condition that doesn’t react well to heat!

TPEarls1

Beautiful yarn, lovely tag!

Another indy dyer named Jennifer Thompson who owns Theodora’s Pearls was setting up her trunk show at The Knitting Fairy as I arrived, and everyone was drooling over her lovely yarns! Her yarn tags are pretty sweet, too!

But back to my vacation; I just took a luxurious bath, now I’m enjoying a cup of tea and some gluten free cookies in my beautiful room (okay, it looks like every other hotel room, but I don’t have to clean it and that enhances it’s beauty a thousand fold…)

Modesock_ComClinic_CrochetI flew First Class (the $90 upgrade was only $2 more than paying for my baggage AND a seat with enough legroom for my long pegs, a no brainer!) and enjoyed every second of it, from the way the baggage guy sat up a little straighter when he saw my boarding pass, to the PRIORITY fast lane I got to go through at the TSA to the first-on-the-plane boarding and free drinks.

I had a whiskey, I poured it into my Pumpkin Chai Latte from Caribou Coffee, yum!

And now I will continue on my current project, a crochet diddy worked up in ModeSock in Community Clinic.  The crochet in this colorway has an especially “shabby chic” look about it, doesn’t it?