Monday, April 28, 2008

New Pattern!

I am excited to announce Random, the newest Unique Sheep pattern designed by LoBug Designs. Random is a vest knit out of Super Wool that can be worn year round-- over a long sleeved shirt in the winter and over short sleeves or a camisole during the summer. The pattern includes side shaping to flatter any figure and a professional finishing details such as an i-cord bind off around the neck and subtle arm-hole ribbing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mmmmm Chocolate

Peanut Butter Cup Pizza

This isn't at all knitting or yarn related, but I wanted to share a recipe with you that I came up with over the weekend. Its really easy and REALLY good.

Chocolate Slice and Bake Cookie/Brownie Dough
7oz sweetened condensed milk (half a 14oz can)
1/2 brick of cream cheese
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 container of coolwhip
handful of chocolate chips
4 Reeses Peanut Butter Cups

Mash the cookie dough into a pizza-crust shape on your pre-greased baking sheet. Bake according to directions, it will probably take longer because its one huge cookie, not lots of little cookies, so keep an eye on it. Let cool before adding topping.

Microwave cream cheese for about 30seconds to soften. Put in a bowl and beat until fluffy. Add sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter. Mix together. Fold in coolwhip. Spread over cooled cookie. Crumble peanut butter cups on top. Microwave chocolate chips at 30 second intervals until melted and drizzle on top.

Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Try it with icecream. Yummm.

p.s. I used fat free coolwhip, fat free sweetened condensed milk, reduced fat cream cheese and unhydrogenated peanut butter and you never would have guessed it from the flavor. Using ingredients with higher fat contents will probably make the topping firmer, but isn't necessary, so why add the extra fat and calories?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Designer and Test Knitter Profiles

If you have designed for, or are currently working on a design for, The Unique Sheep, please contact me at I am trying to compile bios and blog/website links for all of our designers and don't want anyone to be left out! Thanks!

Test/ Sample Knitters-- you are important too! If you have a blog or website that you would like me to link to, leave a comment here or email me and I'll include it on a webpage devoted to celebrating all that you do to make Unique Sheep patterns come to life!

Introducing...The Spring Vines Vest!

I am SOOO excited to finally be able to share this pattern with you. Ever since Dao started working on this design I knew it was going to be special. I can't believe how lucky we have been to attract such talented designers. Wow. Its a dream come true. Ok ok, back to the pattern. This cabled vest could be worn over a tank top/cami to wear during the summer, and then over a long sleeved shirt for winter wear, so really, you could wear it all year long in almost any climate. It can be knit out of Silk Twist or Super Wool, and possibly even out of Wild Thing or House Blend (the latter two haven't been tested yet). Because of the intricate cables, we think it looks best in semi-solid or solid colors which let the cables really stand out. I will be posting more photos on the website soon, including photos of a sample knit in Super Wool in dark red.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pay Pal vs. Google Checkout

If you have placed an order from our website before, you know that we use PayPal for our shopping cart. In other words, when you buy yarn from The Unique Sheep, PayPal handles the transaction. That way we never actually have your credit card information and things are nice and secure. This is a pretty good system, but its not perfect. Lately I've had a couple of "frustrations" with PayPal. I've had to remove the gift card button from the website because the PayPal gift certificates can be difficult/complicated to redeem and I can't figure out a way to do "code" coupons using PayPal. Plus their customer service is awful, so calling them to figure out solutions to these problems isn't an option. At the same time as I'm grumbling about these problems, I have been hearing good things about Google Checkout, mainly that the fees are lower than PayPal. I'm tempted to switch.

This is where I need your opinions. Many of you already have PayPal accounts and so it is easy to make online purchases using PayPal. Everything is already set up and all you have to do is enter your password. If we switched to Google Checkout you would either have to set up a new account with them or manually enter your credit card information for each purchase. Their accounts are fee and easy to set up (very similar to PayPal) so it really wouldn't take you much time/effort to set one up but I know that not everyone wants to do that, especially if you already have a PayPal account. So what do you think? If we switched to Google Checkout would it stop you from placing orders? Is having PayPal a big draw for you? Also, if you have experience using Google Checkout I'd love to hear what you think. It might have some big problems that I'm not aware of and I'd love to hear about it now, before I've made any changes.


p.s. I am also thinking about changing to the ZenCart shopping cart. Any opinions? I don't think this would affect you as customers as much as it would make it easier for me to make web updates and keep track of sales, things like that, but if you have experience using ZenCart I'd love your feedback

p.p.s. Thanks to Dao for making these suggestions :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Shawl Pins

We now have beautiful, wooden shawl pins for sale! With shawls becoming so popular, every knitter needs a nice shawl pin...or two, or three. We have decided to carry these particular shawl pins because they are stylish but light weight and subtle enough that they won't drawn attention away from your fine needlework. Each of the five styles comes in all three wood colors (light, medium, dark), but we only have a small quantity on hand to start with, so be sure to order yours before we run out!

Fun New Colorway


Spunky was inspired by the Teen Knitters and Crocheters Group on Ravelry.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ravelraiser '08

I seem to have a lot to say today-- days will go by without blogposts and then all of a sudden way more than you probably want to read. Sorry about that. I'll make this one short.

You all know about Ravelry, I'm assuming. If not, go here. Okay, now you all know about Ravelry. Ravelry is THE online knitting community. Its awesome. I can no longer imagine life without Ravelry. Apparently other people think so too, because Ravelry is growing. And to keep up with that growth takes a bit of money. So a bunch of Ravelry supporters ("Ravelraisers") decided to raise a bit of money to help buy things like servers and other computer things that I don't understand, but which seem to be important for making the website run smoothly and quickly. Even if every Ravelry member just donated a buck or two, it would make a HUGE difference. And since Ravelry is a free service, I think we owe it to them.

If you'd like to make a donation, a paypal button has been set up here. You can also read all the details on that page. Oh, and did I mention that for every $10 you donate you get entered into a drawing to win lots of awesome prizes? Like entire collections of yarn. And expensive Lexie Barnes Bags. No kidding.

Almost Famous

I met the Yarn Harlot. And she knew who I was. Or at least she knew who The Unique Sheep was, and I say that counts. If you have a chance to meet Stephanie and to attend one of her talks/booksignings, by all means GO. Her tour schedule is posted here. Charlotte was a smaller crowd than most, I don't think the Borders (or whoever was responsible) did a very good job of promoting the event, but we still had 150-200 people show up. My friend, Alli, and I were among the first 50 to show up, so we got special orange wrist bands and got to be in the first group to get our books signed. But I'm skipping ahead. Before the book signing, Stephanie talked for about an hour. She is hilarious. Seriously. We laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. It was amazing how we all got the jokes, jokes that non-knitters wouldn't have a clue about. A lot of what she talked about was the culture and community that knitters have, how we, as knitters, are special and different from other people and how we should be proud of that. It was interesting, and funny. And over and over I found myself agreeing with her or thinking of times when I've had the same experiences (like non-knitters saying "I wish I had time to knit..." or "I was I had the patience to knit..." Its like she knows me. Creepy.

And then after the talking there was some time for Q&A (during which I thought to myself "Questions? I have no questions. Everything I might wish to know about you I can read on the blog") and then the book signing itself. We formed a big line and one by one stood across the table from her while she signed our book, gave her our gifts (yes I brought gifts. I know. dorky), showed off our knitting and took pictures. Lots of people brought their first socks to show to Stephanie, but my first socks were a gift and the recipient probably wouldn't understand if I took them back, so I took my wedding stockings instead. I got a lot of work done on them while we waited for the event to start, then during the talk and while we stood in line. And they are fun to work on in public because they are very long and people are always curious about them. In the picture up at the top of this post you can see one of them wrapped around Stephanie's shoulder. The sock I'm holding belongs to her. Allison brought her first sweater to show off-- isn't it cute? Its for her son.

All in all it was a really fun evening. I enjoyed the 1.5hr drives to and from Charlotte (thanks for driving Alli!), hanging out with all the knitters waiting for the event to start (a couple of familiar faces, but mainly strangers brought together by a shared obsession), the talk was funny and inspiring and actually getting to talk to Stephanie, even if only for a few minutes, was great. I don't know how she has the energy and sanity for a whirlwind tour like this, but some how shes managing.

Oh, and the book. I bought two copies of the book and had her sign them-- one for me and one for my mom. I've only had a chance to read the first few chapters, but so far its great. Thats no surprise, of course. I heartily recommend it. And, unlike her last couple of books, its small enough to fit into a knitting bag or carry with you for when you have a few free minutes to read a page or two.

Do you Spin?

I'm pretty sure you knit, or crochet, if you are visiting this blog. But do you spin? And that thing with the bicycles where you stay in one place (how does that make sense?) doesn't count. Whether you do it with a drop spindle or a spinning wheel, spinning is cool. Not only does it result in unbelievably gorgeous yarn-- the type of stuff you could never buy from a commercial yarn company-- but its relaxing, even meditative, portable (if you use a drop spindle) , inexpensive (roving is almost always cheaper than yarn of similar quality and quantity), unique, and surprisingly trendy. Young people do it. Old people do it. Come to think of it, its a lot like knitting in that way. So if you don't spin, consider trying it.

How to learn to spin: Check your LYS and see if they offer classes. If they don't, find the nearest fiber festival and sign up for a workshop. Or check and see if there is a spinning guild in your area. Spin Off (the magazine published by Interweave) has a blog which is a great source for finding out about spinning events and local groups. There are also lots of great books, You Tube videos, blog tutorials...

But before you can really get started, its time to shop. Drop Spindles, though relatively simple devices, can be so, so, gorgeous. Just look at these hand turned works of art. And then when it comes time to buy your first spinning wheel. Well, you'll have to go to a fiber festival for that. Where else will you be able to try out all the different styles and brands? May I suggest the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival- its really big. But if you can't make it to Maryland, there are plenty of others to choose from.

And then there is the roving. Roving-- the fluffy stuff that spinners magically turn into yarn-- comes in all the different fibers and blends that yarn does. Well, I'm not sure if I've ever seen acrylic roving (if you have, please post a link in the comments!). But as far as natural fibers, the options are almost limitless-- wool, alpaca, llama, mohair, cashmere, angora, cotton, tencel, silk, linen, bamboo, their pure forms and in countless blends. My current favorite is soy silk, I think. Or maybe merino-tencel. For some reason the warm weather makes me like *shiny*!

The most magical part of spinning, in my opinion, only happens if you use hand painted roving, especially one with lots of different colors and variegated. Watching the colors blend in some places, contrast strongly in others, twist and twine and create something totally new...its a bit overwhelming. Two spinners could take handfuls of the exact same roving and the resulting yarn could be completely different depending the methods they use. Like I said- Magic.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Yarn Harlot

I got to meet Stephanie Pearl McPhee, aka The Yarn Harlot, tonight at her book signing!! I just got home (the book signing was an hour and a half away) and I should be in bed, but I couldn't resist a quick post. I'll post more tomorrow!

Doctors without Borders

Last fall we introduced a colorway benefiting the non-profit organization Doctors without Borders. 50% of every sale of this colorway is donated to the organization to help them provide medical aid to suffering people in every corner of the world. At the end of every quarter, we add up all the sales and send in the donation. This part quarter (ending in March) we raised $415. I am impressed! That is a significant amount of money--enough to really do some good!! Sales of the colorway have slowed down, though, so I'm not sure if we will be able to raise as much this coming quarter. If you want to do your part, you can order any of our yarns or roving in the Doctors without Borders colorway or donate directly to the organization through their website.

ETA: to see how this colorway looks knit up, check out Leslie's sock on her blog!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Autumn Gold Shawl in Blue

A few weeks ago we debuted the lace shawl pattern "Autumn Gold" and since then we have had lots of orders for the kit in the original color "Nature's Gold". While it looks beautiful in this color, don't be afraid to try it in other colors as well! One of our test knitters, Dao, created this beauty with the same pattern, but using Tinsel Toes in Aqua Sky.

If you are on Ravelry, you can see more pictures of Dao's shawl here.

The Ram Club

Have you ever tried to knit a pair of socks for a man (whether that man is you or someone else in your life) and a) not been able to find a pattern and then b) once you did finally find a pattern, run out of yarn? Yeah, me too. If you are tired of not being able to find decent men's sock patterns, colors that men actually want to wear and enough yardage to make more than ankle-socks, we have a new club that you might be interested in. Its called The Ram Club and its a 6 month (3 package) sock club devoted to men's socks. We've set up a blog with more information and you can sign up on the website. All of the yarn will be dyed by The Unique Sheep, of course, and Charles (aka Stitch Stud) is doing the designing.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is only a month away! Its hard to believe its coming up so soon. That means that Spring is really here. Kelly and I are working on a couple of surprises to announce later this spring and summer...I better go get to work!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Happy April Fools Day!

April Fools Day is one of my favorite holidays because it is a day completely devoted to silliness, and thats something we don't have enough of most days. So to celebrate, I have a special offer for you. Anyone who places an order before midnight (EST) tonight will recieve a free treat with their purchase! So order some yarn, and then go do something fun that makes you giggle!