Sunday, September 28, 2008

Breast Cancer Awareness Colorway and Pattern

October is breast cancer awareness month; this means more than just a chance to wear pink. So this month, lets all remember to do our self breast exams and schedule a mamogram if we need one. It's also a great time to remind our friends and loved ones of these important steps in early diagnosis. Breast cancer awareness is also about recognizing the strength of those who have fought the disease either as patients, loved ones, doctors and researchers and the losses that they have endured. There are many ways that we can support people affected by breast cancer. There are walks/runs to raise money for research, groups that collect scarves and hats to comfort patients, and simply being there for friends in our own lives. And now there is a new way- you can buy a skein of yarn in our new Hope and Strength colorways. 50% of sales of any yarn or fiber in this colorway are donated to the Susan G Koman Foundation to support breastcancer research and awareness. 

Light pink is, of course, iconic of
 breast cancer awareness and support but we added a touch of light yellow, lilac and magenta to remind us of the diversity of women (and men!) affected
 by this disease. The other colors also brighten it up a bit, making this a color of hope--hope for recovery and healing, both physical and emotional, and for future research to treat and prevent this disease and others like it.

We chose a darker pink for Strength, gradually changing to purple and then a dark gray the color of titanium over 4 skeins. Strength is a gradiance color, one of our special colorways developed for use with our gradiance technique. This colorway is available on all of our yarns and in any amount you'd like; if we don't have what you need listed on the website please email us-- we only list the most popular yarns/amounts for the Gradiance colorways in order to conserve space on the website.

You can help us to donate even more by purchasing a copy of one of our patterns developed to show off these colorways and support the Susan G Koman foundation. Ribbons of Hope is an easy to knit scarf pattern using Singularity in Silk. 100% of sales of this pattern are donated. Designer Phyll Lagerman has also created a sock pattern- Hope Floats - that will be available soon!

Adventures in Liquid Soap

For the last year or two I've been slowly "mastering" the art of cold process soap making. I still consider myself a newbie when it comes to soap making, but now I can confidently create a basic bar of soap. So, I've decided to learn a new technique-- liquid soap making! I tried to make liquid soap in the past but the technique I used wasn't a very good one and the results were only so-so but this time I'm doing it the "right" way. The process is similar to making cold process bar soap in some ways, but different in others. You are still combining lye and oil to set up a saponification reaction, but for liquid soap you use a different type of lye (potassium hydroxide- KOH). And instead of mixing it all together and immediately pouring it into molds to sit and do its crazy reaction thing, you heat it up in a crockpot and cook it forever. According to the instructions I used its supposed to cook for 3-4 hours. I probably cooked mine for more like 10hrs because I heard that sometimes it takes longer and I just wasn't sure if it was done or not. After its cooked forever and gone through all these crazy looking stages you add some neutralizing stuff, mix in your fragrance oils and pour it into a jug to sit for a while. Then its ready to use! So I got out my crockpot, mixed up some olive oil and KOH and started the looong process of making liquid soap. Once this batch has had a chance to cure for a bit I'll start testing it (i.e. I'll wash some socks with it, then give samples to some friends to wash their knit stuff in) and then it will be listed on the website for sale. Thats right, I said I'd use it to wash socks. See, this isn't just any liquid soap. Its Sheep Soap! If you want to use it to wash your hands or body or even your hair, its fine for that, but its specially formulated to be ideal for handwashing your knit stuff. Its an all natural castille soap with essential oils from lavendar, rosemary, euculyptus and teatree-- all of which are natural moth repellents. Even though there is only a tiny bit of the euculyptus and teatree, the euculyptus is so strong that it has a big impact on the scent, making the overall fragrance very fresh and invigorating. My expectation is that this soap will easily dilute in your sink or bowl of water so you can gently soak your socks or sweaters and won't leave a yucky residue that most soaps leave behind if you don't rinse them out completely. A gently swishing in the water should be all thats required as a "rinse". I'll let you know after its been tested if I get the results I want, if not its back to the drawing board. 


Friday, September 26, 2008

Easy way to support Doctors without Borders

Doctors without Borders is one of the finalists in a contest sponsored by TripAdvisor to win a million dollars. Help them win by voting for them here. The other organizations eligible to win are Conservation International, National Geographic, The Nature Conservancy and Save the Children. I'd love to see DwoB win, but even if they don't the money will be going to another great cause. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Knitting and The Economy

This afternoon I spent a very nice hour or so in the car with my dad, whom I rarely get to spend time with these days, as he was driving me to pick up my car from the shop, which happens to be located a few cities over. My dad is a business man. Very practical and reasonable and I've always respected his opinion on business type things. In my mind, that includes anything having to do with money or, well, anything non-domestic. Very gender stereotypical, I know, but hes just good at that sort of thing. And so when I get the chance to chat with him, one on one, for an extended period of time I always value hearing his perspective on things. So we got to talking and, of course, the economy came up. For those of you outside of the US you may or may not know whats going on over here, but basically our economy is going to hell in a handbasket rather quickly. The government is trying to fix things, and hopefully they will, but I think its going to be a while before most Americans feel comfortable economically. So it got me thinking, how is knitting affected by economic crisis? My dad and I have a very interesting conversation about it and basically came to the conclusion that (and this is just our theory) when the economy gets kind of scary people start thinking about their money more. Instead of just spending it thoughtlessly, they start to actually think about what they are spending it on, and whether they are making good purchasing decisions or not. People stop buying some things that don't seem like good choices. Either they are too expensive, or they seem wasteful. Some things are fun but short lived, so its hard to feel like you are getting your moneys worth. But knitting seems to me like a pretty good choice. No, not because knitting a sweater or a pair of socks saves you money because then you don't have to buy new socks. Everyone knows that, with a few exceptions, knitting is not cheaper than just buying a pair of socks, or whatever. Knitting, and spending money on knitting supplies, is a good choice because a) you get a lot of hobby time for your money, b) your time is spent in a productive way and c) you can make sure that the money you spend goes to a good place. Knitting takes a while, especially if you are working on a complicated (for you) pattern. A single skein of laceweight yarn ($15-$30) can give you hours and hours and hours and hours of knitting. I can't think of anything else that gives you that much active hobby time for any less. Though knitting isn't cheaper than buying, it still counts as a productive use of your time. Usually the finished result of knitting is something useful in some way. The "use" can include practical things like keeping your feet warm, or slightly less pragmatic things like showing off your skills, showing your friends and family that you love them, making you feel good about yourself, making cancer patients feel good about themselves or embarassing your dog. But the point is, the value of your knitting tends to extend past the actual time spent knitting. And even the time spent knitting is productive: knitting has been shown to be good for your mental and emotional health. My third point was that you can make sure your money goes to a good place. Where our money goes after it leaves our wallets is something we should all be aware of regardless of the state of the economy, but when the economy is bad I, for one, tend to be more aware of my spending. I believe to be a responsible consumer you have to think about the consequences of the purchases you make. Not just how it affects you, but greater ranging effects as well. If I buy my groceries at Harris Teeter thats ok. I don't feel bad about that, I also don't feel good about it but you know, I need groceries. But, when I go to the farmers market and buy my groceries from local farmers I get two benefits. I get the food I need, usually at a comparable price to the grocery store, AND I know that the money I just spent is helping to support local farmers and, in turn, support the local economy. Because I've learned about our local farming culture I know that most of our local farmers are environmentally conscious and try to support the local economy in their own purchases. So my money is supporting their efforts in those directions as well. This applies to knitting in a couple of ways. If you shop at your LYS, you are supporting a small business owned by a member of your community. Your money is reinvested in your community and you are helping a positive part of your community stay in business. When that LYS goes to pay their taxes, and there are LOTS of taxes with any business, much of that tax money stays in your community. Most online yarn shops, though not local to you necessarily, are small businesses too. That means that you know your money is helping to support individuals who do what they do because they love it, not to get rich (if any of you out there are getting rich selling yarn, please let me know because I want your secret). Your money is staying within the country, not travelling to sweatshops in Asia or the wallets of CEOs and bankers. The product itself--knitting yarn and patterns- can also be a responsable purchasing decision if you carefully consider before you buy. Buying patterns from independent designers and yarn from artisian handdyers has all the same benefits of shopping at a LYS/online yarn shop. You are supporting a small business run by people with a passion for their work. And by supporting the artists (dyers, designers, stitch marker makers, knitting bag sewers etc) whose work your admire, you are encouraging and allowing them to keep doing what they do. So your purchases will help create new patterns and colorways and beautiful knitting accessories. And thats a pretty good way to spend your money. Feeding your family and paying the mortgage is better, but once you've got those necessities out of the way and its time to decide what to do with the remaining money, I think you can feel pretty good about spending it on yarn. But thats just what I think. What do you think? Has the decline in the economy changed the way that you buy yarn, or how you think about your purchases? Do you knit more when the economy gets bad, or less? I think that different people are going to feel differently about this, and I look forward to hearing (reading) your opinion. 

Good News!

Verve is back in stock! Verve is our best selling 100% superwash merino sock yarn. Well, we call it a sock yarn because its fingering weight with a nice, tight twist. But we think its great for everything from lacy shawls to baby cardigans, and held doubled you can knit just about anything out of it. Unfortunately its been so popular that we ran out completely and it took a while for the mill to produce more. Is it weird that I actually missed it? Like you might miss a friend or a pet or something. Missed dyeing it, missed knitting with it, missed sharing it with all of you. But now its back and we have enough for everyone! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Having fun with Soap and Yarn

Laura has been busy making soap, and that was used as inspiration for dyeing some of our Pima Petite to match. We will sell the sets of yarn and soap in our WashCloth and Soap Sack kits, but you can also buy the yarn separately.

Here is an example of Arabian Spice Soap paired with the "Spices" colorway on the yarn:

Another is Mint Medley soap paired with colorway "Sean":

For more soap and yarn pairings check out this Flickr page.

Be sure to keep watching the blog as Laura will soon be busy making scented soaps for the holidays, and there will certainly be more yarns dyed to match!


Hurricane Meadow

Have you noticed Sheepy's new background? We thought it would be nice for her to take a trip to the mountains for the fall. The photo was sent in by one of our customers/readers, "Turtle". I love the colors, so I created a new colorway based on it. What do you think?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Color Co-op Now Includes Fiber!

The Color Co-op Multi Dyer club now includes roving! Each shipment you will have the option of recieving either sock yarn or roving. Or order two subscriptions and get one of each!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mini Sweater Kit Winners

Today (Monday) is officially the first day of autumn  so I thought it would be appropriate to announce the winners of the mini sweater kits from a few days ago. I used a random number generator to select the winners from the comments and the 3 people who will be sent Mini Sweater Kits are: Priscilla, AlliCat and YarnGeek! Congratulations ladies, I'll send you your prizes later this week. 

Friday, September 19, 2008

Halloween Sock Pattern

Ever since I came up with the Zombie colorway, I've had the irrisistable urge to knit knee high stockings out of it. But the trouble is, a boring plain sock pattern just won't do. I need a really fantastic Halloweeny pattern, something with flare. I can't find anything just right, so I'm going to have to design it myself. I'm still in the experimenting phase, but I started with the toe and here is what I have so far. Isn't the pooling and striping bizarre? 

Sweater Weather!

Guess what today is? Its the first day this fall that its cool enough to wear a sweater! Ok, its a lightweight cardigan over a tank top, but still! To celebrate, I will randomly choose a couple of people to send Mini Sweater kits to. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post. Please make sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you win. 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rising Meadow Farm Fest

Yesterday, I spent the day at Rising Meadow Farm's annual Farm Fest. Us always, there were great venders, tempting food and excellent live celtic music. My mom and I have gone together before and this year we went together again. That was even more special than usual because this summer I moved across the state, my first time leaving my home town, and so my mom and I don't see as much of each other as we are used to. We spent most of the afternoon sitting in the
 shade listening to the band, Seamus Stout. I LOVE celtic music. So much so that we even had a celtic band at our wedding. One of the members of Seamus Stout is actually the son of the farm owners, so they come all the way from Texas to play at Farm Fest every year. While listening, I worked on the second Ram sock. I had to black out the photo, though, because this pattern is TOP SECRET until the shipment goes out in October. I meant to take photos of all the great fiber/yarn/etc vendors but I got a bit overwhelmed by all the goodies and forgot. You can kind of see the booths in the background of the photo to the left. Maybe someone else who was there got better photos--if so, send them to me and I'll post them here! Farm Fest is still small compared to most of the fiber festivals out there, but the vendors that are there are great. There were several people selling yarn, of course, but also a couple of potters, a basket maker (boy was it hard to get out of that booth with my wallet intact), a couple of jewelry makers and a fellow who makes kniting needles, crochet hooks and other wooden accessories, . And the bunnies. I was THISCLOSE to bringing home an angora bunny. I had to call my husband and have him talk me out of it (we don't have room for the two of us and the dog in our little apartment right now, much less a big fluffy angora rabbit). Some of them had just been sheared and they looked so adorable and skinny. Ok stop it Laura, you don't need a bunny. The bunnies weren't the only animals present. There were also baby alpacas who stole my heart. Thankfully they wouldn't fit in the car, so I wasn't quite as tempted to take one home with me (this year). And then of course there were the sheep and chickens that live at Rising Meadow. They looked a bit hot. And the working dogs that keep those sheep in line. I thought they looked just like my Avi. What do you think?

The best part of the day had to be meeting all the great fiber people. Before I even
 got out of the parking lot I ran into Kim from Knit Picky and her darling daughters, and then as soon as I sat down to knit for a few minutes I was tapped on the shoulder by a member of our Ram club! Thankfully I hadn't pulled out my secret Ram sock yet! Unfortunately I'm terrible with names-- if you see yourself in this photo, please remind me who you are! See that beautiful scarf shes working on? Well she used one of the skeins we sent in the first shipment for socks and is using the other skein for a scarf! I had a really nice time talking to the vendors, especially Tina from Spinners Ridge, Mary Ann from Three Waters Farm and a lovely family from Thistledew Farm selling crocheted rugs (even the littlest girl was working on one!), clay art, angora fiber, shawls woven on triangle looms and other goodies. 

It was a lovely day, I met a lot of great fiber folk, my mom and I got to hang out, and there was knitting and celtic music. Really, could you ask for more? The only drawback was that it made me REALLY want to have my dream farm NOW. 

New Halloween Colors!

One of my favorite things about this time of year is all the anticipation leading up to the slew of holidays coming up in the next several months. And first up is Halloween! Candy, costumes, tricks and treats- whats not to love? And then there are the colors. In the name of Halloween bright, boldly contrasting, over the top colors are suddenly completely appropriate. To celebrate, we have three new Halloween colorways: Spook,  Zombie and Punkin'. Spook is more traditional with the classic combination of pumpkin orange, black and white. And Zombie is a bright, new combination of monster purple and ghoul green with black and orange. I've already set aside a skein of this to make myself some festive socks. The third color is a semi-solid in pumpkin orange inspired by this adorable photo sent in by one of our customers. Because Punkin' is a semi-solid, its perfect for thick cozy sweaters to bundle up in on cool fall evenings. 

To celebrate the season, and our new colors, we will include a mini-skein of one of our Halloween colors, a handful of trick-or-treat candy and a Jackolantern stitch marker in all website orders* 
until supplies run out! Happy Halloween! 

*not including orders of PDF patterns or club memberships

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Roving Discounted!

In order to encourage you to buy huge amounts of roving to spin up enough yarn for cozy winter sweaters and luxurious, lacy shawls we've added quantity discounts to the roving prices. Now, when you go to the webpage to buy roving you'll see that you can get up to 25% off based on how much you buy of a color/fiber. If you buy 8oz (half a pound) you'll get 15% off, and a full pound (16oz) gets 25% off! 
If you need help choosing, I'd be happy to share my favorites. To the right you see about a pound of Superwash Merino/ Tencel in Sea Storm. Like Tinsel Toes, the superwash merino/tencel blend roving just GLOWS and is soooo soft and silky. 

Soy Silk is also very luxurious in equally soft and silky. Soy Silk probably isn't the best choice for a beginner, but once you get the hang of spinning the slippery fibers the resulting yarn is like heaven. Seriously. If angels spun/knit, this is the fiber they would use. I particularly like the way it looks with strong, deep variegated colors like Day Break (left). 

Can you tell I have a thing for the silky and shiny stuff? If you 
are more into subtlety and soft, matte tones you might prefer the 100% super fine Alpaca roving. Just as soft, but in a different way. Because its 100% alpaca it will have a nice, soft halo once its spun up and will be VERY warm. This roving doesn't
 have as much loft as some of the others and the same weight of Alpaca forms a smaller ball than if it were one of the merinos/blends. This roving loks best, in my opinion, in softer colors with more subtle variegation or semi-solids. Bold contrasting variegation sometimes ends up looking "muddy" on alpaca roving. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


After some gentled prodding (you know who you are) I dyed up some Super Wool in some sweet semi-solids and cast on for Twinkle. We've been needing a new sample, and I wanted to see how these colors work together so that eventually we can make up some kits. See, its one of the cutest patterns and using five different colors really "makes" it, but who wants to buy a full skein of each color if all you need is a little bit? Even though I'm doing the smallest size it may take me a while to get this finished because I'm working on several other projects right now, but I'll keep you updated. 

p.s. Don't worry, I don't let me dog cuddle with yarn for sale, thats all yarn for me to knit with and I don't mind if its all covered in dog hair. Plus shes just so cute I couldn't bear to wake her up and move her!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Website Changes

I'm making some changes to the website tonight, so if you place an order this evening and something weird happens, please email me. Hopefully by morning we will have a brand new shopping cart! We will still be processing all our payments through PayPal, but when you are checking out you'll be taken to a different "shopping cart" page and asked to enter your mailing information before being sent to the PayPal site. This new shopping cart should make things more "user friendly" from our end and will have a couple of big benefits for you, the shopper. We are now going to be able to offer easier to use gift certicates (the PayPal ones had some problems) and discount codes/coupons!! The main place that you will find these discount codes is in our newsletters, though, so if you haven't signed up yet you should go ahead and do so. We'll be sending out a newsletter with our first discount code soon!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Crochet Patterns!

I can't say enough about these patterns- they are so cute! I'm working on getting samples made up in Unique Sheep yarns and will be adding more pictures soon, but I can't wait any longer to announce them here. And the best part is that we are selling them as kits. So instead of buying 2 or 3 full skeins of yarn for the Awesome Slippers or Skimmers, or enough yarn for several pairs of the Baby Cross Over Mary Janes or Baby Skimmers, you only have to pay for what you need. It couldn't be easier! And I know you are going to love the finished slippers and sandals.

Lime and Violet Podcast

Do you listen to the Lime and Violet podcast? If so, pay attention around the middle of the current podcast (#69) and guess who you'll hear them rave about? :)

Shawl Pins Back In Stock!

Lately we had been running low on our beautiful wooden shawl pins but today a box of them arrived. Get them while you can-- we only have a few of each style available!

Monday, September 1, 2008

More Soap

A few weeks ago I posted about the soap making process. Well, last Wed (Aug 27) I made another couple of batches. I didn't get as many pictures this time because I was trying to finish up before a big storm blew in. As I mentioned before, I do all my soap making out on our balcony/porch. It is covered so while it was just sprinkling I was okay but once the wind started blowing the rain sideways it wasn't quite as fun anymore! But never fear, before I got rained out I was able to mix up some great soaps. The blue and green swirled soap is a blend of peppermint and spearmint. Mmm its so crisp and refreshing! The orange with the light tan bits is spicy pumpkin with ginger--it even has powdered pumpkin mixed in! It smells good enough to eat. Really. The red marbled block is a spice blend that is hard to describe. It smells a bit like food, but not as much as the pumpkin spice. Its not at all perfumey, but I wouldn't mind smelling like it. You'll just have to try it yourself. The dark "crust" on the edge is a bit of cinnamon sprinkled on to make it look pretty. All three batches were made w/ Soybean Oil, Coconut Oil and Olive Oil. Though I didn't get as many pictures this time of the weird reactions, you can see some of the strange surface changes in the photo below. It always amazes me that they can look so weird during the soap making process and yet turn out just fine!

Whats on Laura's Needles

I've found myself with a tiny bit more free time than usual lately and so I've been taking advantage of it by knitting as much as possible. I posted a few FO a couple weeks ago, and now I have more to share.

I'm making progress on my Autumn Gold shawl using Luxe in colorway "Maple View Way". Of course, being lace, it looks like a mess right now. I won't really be able to tell what its going to look like until its all finished and blocked. But I'm getting closer- I'm done with the body now and have knit 3 repeats of the border pattern. I'm really looking forward to being able to wear this, especially as fall gets closer.

I'm already enjoying wearing my crocheted "Awesome Slippers". Seriously. Since I finished them a week ago I've barely taken them off except when I have to go out. I used Singularity in Wool which gives them a slightly rustic look because of the thick and thin texture. They are soft and warm, but the wool is also tough enough to wear well. The designer is Sylver and we will be posting half a dozen of her patterns for sale on the website later this week (keep an eye on the blog for an update soon).

Finally, I finished a preemie size sample of the All in One Crochet Baby Cardigan. Its blocking now and then will need to have itty bitty little buttons added. I'll update this post with pictures once I get them uploaded.