I was Jillian’s second today, Uhura to her Kirk. We tripped over to the west side of the state to pick up a loom she had loaned to a friend and drop it off to another friend. As expected, we had lots to talk about.
Earlier this week I received the e-mail that let me know I’m officially accepted as a vendor at Fiber Expo 2012. There’s lots to do between now and then. Jillian told me I needed a plan…here’s the beginnings of it:
This week, I will be
- ordering a sign with my logo on it
- placing an order for fiber and yarn (including any new base fibers needed)
By the end of 2011, I will have
- finished my financial statements for my accountant
- a spreadsheet that tells me what I sold at each of the fiber shows I did in 2011
- a list of colors that will always appear in my shop/at shoes
- an idea of limited edition and one-of-a-kind colors
By the end of January 2012, I will have
- all the fiber and yarn up on Etsy
- a booth plan
- table coverings
- display materials
- pattern support for the yarn (hat, mittens, shawl)
We also laughed a lot and I got some knitting done. It was an absolutely gorgeous day to be driving around gray, wintery Michigan. I finished my holiday shopping (stocking stuffers) and even managed to pick up a couple of things for myself.
Jillian always knows when I need a kick in the pants and she never kicks me when she knows I can’t take it. She tells me things that I sometimes don’t want to hear, but really need to. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the very best kind of friend to have.
|Gratuitous fiber shot|
Hmmm, it doesn’t seem like I’ve done much creatively this week. I am slowly getting pictures of fiber up into Etsy. Not very creative, but the photos are fabulous and it makes me feel better about having all this stuff around the house.
I am plugging along on the stocking. I will be turning the heel this weekend and that means I’m in the home stretch. Not much sense posting a picture – it’s a striped stocking, there isn’t much to see.
Tomorrow, I’ll be making a trip to the other side of the state to pick up a friend’s loom. What I’m looking forward to is the road trip. She’s driving, so I’ll be able to knit and we’ll talk about everything under the sun. I’m hoping to get some insight about my work for pay life from her. She’s a great life coach.
I think I need to clean off the table (covered with fiber) in order to be more productive (read: creative) next week. Sounds like a weekend project to me.
As a spinner, it’s important to try new fibers. In the beginning, a lot of us want to “wait until I’m good” before trying exotic (read: expensive) things. We don’t want to ruin our good stuff because our yarn is lumpy or drifts apart or just doesn’t look the way we want it to. There were lots of expensive things I avoided, but other things too – like superwash.
|Sarah on merino superwash|
Superwash is a treatment that sort of glues down the scales of wool so it won’t shrink. You can put superwash treated wool into the washing machine and dryer and it will look just as good when you pull it out as when you put it in. The fiber tends to be a little flyaway, slicker than untreated wool, and has a hand to it that while you know it’s wool, it feels different. I avoided anything with superwash on the label as a new spinner. I didn’t like how it felt and didn’t like the resulting yarn.
It wasn’t until I started dyeing it for sale that I actually tried it myself. Surprisingly, I like it now. I think the slickness of it put me off in the beginning. I couldn’t control it very well and blamed it on the fiber instead of my inexperienced fingers.
|Henriette on merino superwash|
And here’s the thing…superwash soaks up dye like nobody’s business. You splash dye on superwash and you can almost hear a slurping sound. When I’m cold-pouring, I try to get the same amount of dye on each bundle of fiber. With untreated wool, you can push the color around a little and have it soak in. With superwash, you better be sure of where you’re putting the color – because it isn’t going to move!
The colors are intense and my superwash fibers usually have bits of white in the top/roving. I used to just keep putting more dye on to get all the white gone, but now I actually like the bits. It’s soothing to see them coming up when I’m at the wheel and they’re a nice contrast to the intensity of the colors.
Superwash is also very kind to beginning dyers. You can cook it a little longer than you should or let it boil in a pot and it’s not going to be a total waste. I try to be very careful when a dyepot is on the stove or my little propane kitchen is working away on the deck. But you know, life sometimes happens – the phone rings or the dog gets sprayed by a skunk and you have to deal with it before you can get back to the pots. Superwash is forgiving and it’s saved me on a couple of occasions.
One last thing, it’s cheap. Seriously, you can get some great colors on fabulous fibers out there and they won’t break the bank.
|Orange luxury pack|
In August of this year my friend Lynne Vogel was teaching a color/spin/dye workshop at Harrisville Designs in New Hampshire. If you’re a knitter, you should have heard of Harrisville. They do the yummy yarns in the Vivian Hoxbro kits and they do a bunch of other amazing yarns for knitting and weaving (tweeds – mmmm!!).
Harrisville has a giant classroom space as well as room for dyeing. So a couple of years ago Lynne started teaching there and let me tell you, the students are a little rabid. She’s had some of the same people coming for more than 5 years to her workshops. I’m sure it has something to do with her style of teaching and what she teaches, but that’s pretty amazing no matter who you are.
|Yellow BFL & Merino pack|
This year the class only had about 10 people. We had a chance to split the group into 2 groups and in addition to the color pour technique that I first learned from Lynne, we got to try immersion dyeing. I like to think of it as stone soup dyeing. Essentially, you throw a color in a cold pot and heat it up. You can add the fiber while the pot is cold or wait till it’s warmed up a little and then throw it in. Different colors will strike at different temperatures and superwash soaks up dye like nobody’s business. So you get some amazing results with this combination.
We started with superwash (no chance of felting if we got lazy about watching the pot). Once the dye stock gets to almost boiling, you take it off and let it sit, covered, for about 20 minutes. This gives the dye time to exhaust and also cool off a little. When I’m at home, I let them sit until they cool off enough so I can stick my hands in. I have some of those giant heat proof gloves, but in my haste, I’ve messed up a lot of fiber by being too quick to get my hands in there and the fiber out. If you can wait, do, the fiber will thank you.
Usually, the dye exhausts into the fibers. Sometimes you get left overs. This is where it’s fun. At first, I was trying to completely exhaust so I could start again with a new color. After a while, I figured it was more fun to just throw a little more dye in and see what came about. Then I started experimenting with other fibers.
|Red luxury pack|
When I came home, the Hub helped me set up a little propane dye kitchen and I went a little wild. It occurred to me that I could do sample packs of fibers. A lot of times new spinners are hesitant to buy something they’ve never spun before (they don’t want to “ruin” it). I put together packets of luxury fibers so that people could try little bits to see if they liked it enough to buy more. It’s been a lot of fun. You never know what’s going to come out.
The luxury packs have 1 ounce each of merino superwash, merino (50)/bamboo (50), merino (70)/seacell (30), and merino (50)/tencel (50). The BFL/Merino pack has 1 ounce each of bluefaced leicester (BFL), BFL superwash, merino, and merino superwash. There’s also a 50 yard skein of wool, the light colors are merino from Australia and the dark colors are Michigan grown and processed wool.
Four ounces of something is enough to play. I’ve spun all the fibers as singles and then plied different singles together. My plan is to take one of the packs and spin and ply every combination to see what I come out with. Then I have to work on some sort of pattern so people know what to do with the yarns they’ve spun. Again, 4 oz is enough to make a cute pair of fingerless mitts, cuffs for a special sweater, or even a simple shawlette. My problem is deciding which pack to experiment with – I love all of them.
I have an Etsy shop. I opened it a couple of years ago because I was dyeing so much fiber and I couldn’t spin it as fast as I could knit it. Then I decided to start dyeing sock yarn. That was a lot of fun too, but again, how much sock yarn can you stash? (Okay, a lot, I know, but it was getting ridiculous).
I spent some time today taking pictures of some of my yarn to upload. It’s kind of a challenge to come up with creative ways to take pictures of yarn, but I try. Here are some of my results. Thoughts? Do they show the yarn to its full advantage? What else would you like to see in a yarn photo?
I’ve been doing a couple of small shows for the last couple of years. I didn’t start dyeing because I’d make a lot of money. I started dyeing because I love the colors, so small shows have suited me fine. As long as I made my costs back, I was happy.
This last August I did what was recommended as a good show. It wasn’t. Something good did come out of it, however. It was a multi-day show and I asked a friend to come and booth sit with me. She’s a graphic artist and works in marketing. As the show was slow, we had a lot of time to chat. She gave me tons to think about regarding future shows, marketing, what my booth looks like, and how I react to customers.
Here’s the tip of the iceberg of what I need ASAP:
- Signage (seriously – I have no signs)
- Table coverings that match (and don’t look like I got them from a flea market)
- A booth layout (a designed plan for a 10×10 space)
- A show plan that includes how many and which shows I want to do
- An inventory plan (including fiber bases and colorways)
Future needs include:
- A long term business plan
- New camera to take better pictures
Some of these things will be easy (and even fun) to do. Others will require some soul searching and hard work. I think I’m ready for it. Nothing makes me happier than splashing dye, except maybe when people come to my booth especially to show me what they’ve made from the fiber they bought last time. That’s great fun!
(Is anyone else having trouble with Blogger these days? It’s being very wonky and not letting me format on a consistent basis.)