Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Come Play With Us!

The "Knitting Game" was introduced to the knitting world several years ago. This is a game where you have a random assortment of labeled yarns, you roll a die, or dice, and knit a couple of rows with the yarn labeled with the corresponding number you have rolled. At the end of a game you have a self fringed scarf.

The Todos S
carf pattern has been rewritten so that the Knitting Game can be played with the 6 different types of yarn in the kit. Not only is the Todos Scarf a fun scarf to knit, suitable for nearly any skill lever, but its also a wonderful way to "try out" several Unique Sheep yarns that you might not have used before.

So that we can all play together, we are going to us Plurk (and online social networking website) to not only Knit-A-Long but also Plurk-A-Long at the same time!

Find out more HERE!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Laura meets Franklin Habit and Betsy Greer

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to go to a book talk/signing by Franklin Habit at LYS Yarns Etc in Chapel Hill. I had a very nice time and got to meet, chat with and take photos with not only Franklin but also Betsy Greer, the author of Knitting for Good, which I've been reading and discussing on this blog. Betsy is so down to earth and I feel like we probably have a lot in common. She lives in town (and actually works at the LYS!) so I hope that I'll have a chance to talk to her again.

Franklin was very funny, of course, but also surprisingly nice and easy to talk to. I thought he would be more arrogant/stand-off-ish for some reason but instead he was very easy going and modest.

My friend Kim was there, too, and got a great photo of Franklin showing off his incredible lace stole, which she posted on her blog.

Isn't it Spring Yet?

I don't know about you, but I am ready for the cold weather and brown, lifeless landscape to give way to warm sunshine and new life. Spring is my favorite time of year, even though I always have allergies to the pollen, because of the beauty of the blooming flowers, budding trees and opportunity to sit out on my porch and knit and take it all in. And if there is still a nip in the air I can always wrap up in a lacy shawl!

Spring isn't here yet, though the first bulbs are starting to poke through the earth, but as knitters we can start preparing early by using fun spring colors! One of our colorways from last spring- Cherry Blossom- is always popular and looks great knit up. You can see one of our customer's new Cherry Blossom socks on her blog.

We have also posted several new springy colorways on the website recently. I just have to keep telling myself, spring will be here soon!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Knitting for Good- Chapter 5

Here is the fifth installment of my review of Knitting for Good and exploration of its themes. You can read my discussions of chapters one, two , three by clicking on the links, and four is located right below this post.

The fifth chapter continues the theme of community, but is about HOW to get involved with your community in a craft-centric way. It is divided up into a series of suggestions on different groups that can benefit from your knitting or craft skills. Recommendations include taking your knitting with you to visit with the elderly, whether in a nursing home or in your neighborhood, teaching children how to knit both in a group setting and one-on-one and teaching prisoners to knit (yes, prisoners!). It also brings up the idea of knitting/crafting items to be raffled off or sold to raise money for a cause. One of the best suggestions is just to carry extra needles and yarn in your knitting bag so that if you are knitting in public and someone expresses interest, you can teach them on the spot (and if its cheap yarn and needles you can even send them home with the new knitter).

Many of you are involved in some sort of volunteer knitting- whether its one of the ideas listed in this chapter or something else. It doesn't even have to be official and organized, in the chapter Betsy talks about teaching a young girl to knit at a chili cook-off. So tell me, do you have a cause that you knit for? What have your experiences been?

If you haven't ever used your crafting skills in this way, why not? The chapter mentions two possible reasons: one is not knowing what groups to help, or how to help and the other is the difficulty of taking that first step- whether its from shyness, laziness or uncertainty. Betsy recommends starting by making a list of causes you care about. This can be pretty general for now. Then narrow it down to the ones you feel most strongly about. Now do a bit of research online, in the phone book or by asking around to find out what groups exist in your community related to those causes. Next, give them a call (or an email), let them know what your skills are and the time you can commit. They will find a place for you, or recommend you to another group. If you decide to do this, please let us know how it goes. We would love to hear your stories, and by sharing them you may inspire others to take action, too!

Coming next is Chapter 6: Charity Knitting....

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Knitting For Good- Chapter 4

Here is the fourth installment of my review of Knitting for Good and exploration of its themes. You can read my discussions of chapters one, two and three by clicking on the links.

Chapter 4 begins the section on "Knitting for your Community" is called "Using Craft to Connect: Building Communities through Common Bonds." I get very excited about knitting communities, so bear with me. This is going to be a long post. If you aren't interested you can just skip this one. I promise I won't talk about any sales or give away any trade secrets or anything like that.

It starts out by talking about the power knitting (or other crafting) has to build or strengthen the most intimate community we have- family. It made me think of my own life. My relationship with my mom has always involved crafts. From the earliest age, my mom taught me to sew, knit, crochet and make crafts with whatever supplies were within reach. Growing up, mom and I had more in common than most mother/daughter pairs. I won't say we always saw eye to eye- I was a teenager after all- but from time to time we found ourselves sitting across the kitchen table with yards of fabric between us, colored paper and fancy scissors or skeins of yarn. As I got older the roles began to change and now I often find that I'm the teacher! I was the one that originally taught mom to spin (though she is far better than me now) and I often find myself helping her with knitting patterns or teaching her new techniques. While other mother/daughters may have a hard time finding something to talk about, we always have a common interest.

As you expand the community beyond family, the next level is probably the LYS or knitting group. For the last several years, up until moving last summer, I had a really wonderful knitting community at my LYS, Knit Picky. I worked there before starting The Unique Sheep and met so many people and truly came to count many of our customers amongst my friends. Everyday that I worked there, the importance of community was so clear to me. In my opinion, LYS exist because of and for community. Yes the yarn and books and tools are great but whats really special are the people. The people who work there, teach there, shop there and just hang out there. I think that a good LYS is one where you feel like you are home the very first time you walk through the door. We had a woman walk into the shop one day, sit down on the couch and start knitting. Now this wasn't too uncommon, customers did this all the time, but what was different this time was that no one knew this woman. She soon told us that her friend travelled a lot in the area for business and that she would often drive with her to keep her company and share the driving, then while her friend was in meetings she would find a LYS and hang out for the afternoon. By the end of the afternoon, when her friend came to pick her up, I felt like I'd made a new friend. In what other situation would it be okay for a complete stranger to walk in, sit down and just be at home?

We had a great wednesday night knitting group too (it still exists, and I'm sure is still great, I'm just not there anymore). I know a lot of people are part of knitting groups that aren't connected to LYS, and I imagine they are similarly wonderful. It reminds me of the "41st thing" in the Yarn Harlot's "Things I Learned from Knitting" where she talks about how totally different all the people in her knitting group are, and yet how they all get along just fine because they have one very important thing in common- - they all knit. Think about your own knitting group for a moment, if you have one. I'm not saying that they are always diverse but often you'll find yourself surrounded by people of varying ages, religions, political views, cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, education levels, etc. And yet they all get along. Better than get along, even. They enjoy spending time with each other. Take time out of their week to spend time together. Its like magic.

One thing that Ms Greer doesn't talk about very much is the online community. This is a community that is really important to me. I've always struggled to find people in my physical community that I have things in common with. When I was younger this was mainly because, well, I was younger. And a lot of my hobbies weren't very popular among younger people (unlike now, knitting and sewing were not fashionable when I was a teenager). My earliest experience with an online hobby based community was a group called Treadleon. We collected antique sewing machines, had an online forum and email list and occasionally met up for weekend get aways. I once carried a ten zillion pound cast iron sewing machine through several airports for a weekend in Vermont. And now with knitting I have an even bigger, better online community. What with Ravelry, podcasts, blogs...there are no borders!

I really liked this quote from the chapter, "Community is where you find communion and where you feel at home."

So what is your community? How has knitting affected your communitie(s)? I'd love to hear about YOUR crafting communities!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentines Day!

As a special gift to you we have a FREE pattern to download- Gaia's Garter. This pattern is only going to be available for free for the weekend, so don't miss out. We also have kits available for only $7 which include the pattern, yarn and beads! You can't beat that.

If you like this pattern, you might also be interested in our Fiber Fetish Yarn Club, starting in May.

To download PDF of pattern, click here (Link removed after Valentines Day Weekend)

If link does not work, please email us at lbullins@bellsouth.net (my uniquesheep.com email address isn't working at the moment)

Website Problems

The website won't load, but I'm working on it. Its just a computer glitch and should be fixed soon! Thanks for your patience!

Update: the problem is with our hosting company (GoDaddy). They are aware of the problem and have said that they are working on fixing it, but haven't given us any word on when it will be fixed. Until then some people are unable to access our website (or many others hosted by GoDaddy). And since our email addresses are tied into the website (laura@theuniquesheep.com and kelly@theuniquesheep.com) they aren't working either. So if you have emailed either of us in the last 24 hours, you can assume that we haven't received the email. If you need to contact us, please email me at lbullins@bellsouth.net. If your email is for Kelly I'll make sure it gets to her. Hopefully the hosting company will get things fixed soon!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quatrefoil Shrug Updates

The Quatrefoil Shrug pattern has just been updated by the designer and is now back on the website for sale. If you have an earlier version of this pattern please email us at laura@theuniquesheep.com for an updated copy. Thank you!

Also, I just made the shrug for myself and I used our new organic Green Sheep Sport. My gauge was right on and it turned out great!

Introducing....Grace's Gift

When the designer behind Elizabeth Nicole Designs found out that her sister was pregnant, she decided it was time for a new baby blanket pattern. Less than a year later Grace was born and, of course, there was a hand crochet blanket ready to wrap her in!

Grace's Gift is crocheted using Super Wool and an "I" size hook, making it a speedy project. The lace pattern is so pretty that I am tempted to keep one on the back of my recliner for when I just want a little something to snuggle with but don't need the warmth of a full afghan!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Supporting our Designers

Lately several of the big voices in knitting pattern design (Shannon Okey, Annie Modesitt, Ysolda Teague) have been talking a lot about how designers are compensated for their creative work. You can read their posts by following the links from their names above to get the full story. A lot of what they have talked about has been focused on magazines, but it made me think about how The Unique Sheep treats our designers. And I thought you might be interested in a bit of a behind the scenes look, too. It is very important to Kelly and I that our designers be treated fairly and we do everything we can to compensate them as best we can and support them in every way possible.We love working with new designers who are just getting started publishing. Sometimes this means that we start working with a designer and then their lives change and we never hear from them again. Often it means that the patterns need a lot of editing and gentle encouragement to get them up to 'professional' standards. But it also means that we have the joy of seeing designers grow, and knowing that, at least in a small way, we were part of that growth. Because new designers often don't have the resources to test their patterns and format them in a professional manner, we find and pay test knitters, provide yarn for test knitting and samples, and provide photography and pattern formatting assistance if needed. We also take care of printing. 

 Our policy is pretty simple, everytime we sell a pattern on our website or to one of our yarn shops (online or LYS), the designer gets paid half the retail value of the pattern. If you are familiar with the yarn business, that means that when we sell patterns to yarn shops we do not make a profit. We may take 25 or 50 cents per pattern to cover printing costs, but otherwise ALL the money that the LYS gives us for the pattern goes right in to the pocket of the designer. Often small designers do not have the time or connections to get their patterns into LYS on their own, nor would they be paid more by the LYS if they were to do so. Compared to the 10% that magazines often pay, we are pretty proud of our 50-100%. We probably don't pay as much, in total, as others but we do pay as much as we can. And the more a pattern sells, the more we are able to pay our designers. Its as simple as that. 

The other big issue, aside from payment, is pattern rights. Sometimes a designer has to sell the rights to her pattern to the publisher which means that she cannot publish the pattern on her own, even if the pattern is no longer available from the publisher (i.e. in a past magazine issue, out of print book or defunct website). Thats not how we work, though.  Our designers keep the rights to their patterns. They can sell them on their own websites or through Ravelry. They can even sell them to other yarn shops or online retailers. We only ask that they never give them away for free without talking to us first and that they include a note about our yarn in the materials section. 

Though Kelly and I both enjoy designing and have designed a number of patterns for our yarns, we don't have nearly enough time or skill (speaking for myself) to do it all ourselves. And so our designers are invaluable to us. They are a constant source of inspiration to me, and I am so honored to have the chance to work with them. I just hope that once they all become famous 'big name' designers they won't forget about the little yarn company that believed in them before everyone knew their names. :)

Ivy's Bombadil Socks

Maybe I'm a little bit silly and sentimental, but whenever I see our yarn out there in the big wide world its a tiny bit like seeing an old friend. I want to go up to it and say "How have you been? Has life been treating you alright? What have you seen since we last were together?" Maybe that's one of the reasons I love it when you all post your projects on your blogs or on Ravelry.

Today one of our customers, Ivy, posted pictures of her recently completed Bombadil socks on her blog, along with some helpful tips about binding off toe-up socks using the sewn bind off method. The Bombadil colorway is a bright, variegated colorway and, because of the nature of handpainted yarns, those colorways are always exciting to knit up. Depending on your gauge and the size of your project, they might stripe, be totally random or pool in interesting ways. Its as much about the knitter as it is about the dyer. So its a real treat for us to see what happens when our yarn and your hands work together to create something new!

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Valentines Day Gift that Keeps on Giving!

Chocolates go right to your thighs, flowers end up in the trash. This year, how about a Valentines Day present that you can both enjoy for months to come?

The Fiber Fetish yarn club by The Unique Sheep is a fun and sexy club with projects that are a little bit sassy and a tiny bit naughty, but mainly just a lot of fun. This is a yarn club even your husband can get behind!

Find out more here!

Yarn Donations

I just received this note from my friend, Elizabeth, who is collecting yarn donated for Girl Inc: 

I'd like to issue a HUGE thank-you to all of you who responded to my "call for yarn" announced on The Unique Sheep Blog and Lime and Violet Blog a few weeks ago.  The response was tremendous... and now we've got more yarn than we know what to do with!  Over the next two weeks I will be implementing some sort of organizational system for the yarn.  Once that's in place, I'll embark upon the task of passing on my - or should I say OUR - passion for knitting to the my wonderful girls at Zona del Sol.  They are all truly excited about learning to knit and crochet and are impatient to get started! 


Unfortunately, we have limited space for storage here at the Zona del Sol center (we're in the process of expanding and our addition isn't finished yet), so I would like to ask that if you have NOT sent yarn yet, to wait until at least August before sending any more yarn our way.  We're grateful for all of the donations we've received, but I'm afraid if we get any more at this point, our center will be so full of yarn, we won't have a place to put the girls!


There is really no way to express my gratitude for your generosity.  Thanks again to all that donated, and I will pass along pictures and stories of the girls' knitting projects once we get started!



Elizabeth Crumpler

Program Manager, Zona del Sol Center
Girls Inc. of Santa Fe

Inspirar a las niñas y a las jóvenes a ser seguras, inteligentes, y decididas

Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Introducing...The Green Sheep Collection

We are so excited to finally announce our new line of organic yarns- The Green Sheep Collection. We have super soft, squishy organic merinos and cool organic cotton/bamboo yarn. Right now the sport and worsted weight wools are available as well as a worsted weight cotton/bamboo, but we will be adding to the collection in the future!

New Spring Needle Felting Kit!

Our needle felting kits are a fun project for anyone-- even if you are new to the fiber arts--because they include everything you need to go from fluffy, colorful wool to a miniature sculpture of your own. But up until now all of our kits have been fall or winter themed. That's why we are so excited to announce our new Spring Chick needle felting kits. But be careful, I've been told that making these little cuties is addicting!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Knitting for Good: Chapter 3

I just finished reading chapter three of Knitting for Good by Betsy Greer. This chapter was about Knitting as Therapy. It talked about knitting as a form of meditation/relaxation and as away to distract oneself from chronic pain. I'm fortunate not to suffer from chronic pain, so I can't talk to that point. But I think that the mental and emotional affects of knitting are interesting. I think thats one of the reasons I like to have so many knitting projects going at once. I need to have a really simple project for times when I just can't handle anything more challenging that stockinette, and when my brain needs to just go to that special quiet place where it can rest. If I'm worried about something and can't stop thinking about it, a complicated lace pattern is ideal because it takes all of my concentration, not leaving me any room in my brain for anything else. This chapter mainly talks about knitting alone as a way to deal with emotional pain, but for me knitting serves other functions. Like many of you, I love going to open knit night at my LYS, or just going out for coffee and knitting with a friend. But just because its social doesn't mean that this type of knitting isn't serving an emotional purpose, too. Sometimes I think that knitting allows us to go into social situations that we wouldn't be comfortable in otherwise. I'm not naturally very comfortable in social situations. I need an excuse to spend time with people, not because I don't like people, but because I tend to feel awkward. But with knitting in hand, there are less demands. If there is a break in conversation and its quiet for a few minutes, you aren't just sitting there staring at each other. And for me, thats a type of therapy too!

How does knitting play into your emotional life, if at all? Do you knit when you are stressed, sad, happy, tired, energetic? Does knitting calm you down or energize you? Do you mainly knit alone, or with other people? 

Also, if you do suffer from chronic pain, have you noticed knitting helping to distract you?

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Mess

For the last couple of hours I've been in my studio winding yarn, as I do most nights (really, we should be called yarn winders rather than yarn dyers, since I feel like I spend 90% of my time winding yarn and only 10% dying). And as I looked around I thought to myself "This place is a mess!". I have a very small studio and so it doesn't take much for it to become 'a mess'. But then I stopped complaining to myself for a minute and actually looked around. I had my camera handy, so I took a couple of photos sitting in my spinny chair. And I realized that I was like a man who lived in one of those secret treasure troves (the type guarded by dragons) complaining about how there is gold everywhere-- such a mess! I am literally surrounded by yarn. Spread out covering the entire floor are skeins of yarn awaiting labeling and packing to be sent to customers. On the table are baskets filled with samples and odds and ends of yarn that I use for swatching and experimenting with designs. Behind that are the bins I keep the undyed yarn in, and further back you can see the closet filled with cones of yarn. On the other side is a pile of yarn awaiting re-skeining. Yes, its a mess. But its not a bad mess to be in at all!