FiberCrafty Files

  • Detour: Pouf Making

    Spoiler Alert! Finished Pouf!

    Are you ever plodding along, happy with your current projects and then all of a sudden you are taking a detour?

    I mentioned previously that my desk is a little tall and I am a little short and I need something underneath to rest my feet on. Otherwise they dangle like I am a 4 year old.

    I decided to crochet a pouf with some acrylic that I have in my stash. Most of this is Knitpicks Brava but some of it is Berocco Comfort. I have enough in colors that go nicely together and that match my office, that I decided to make something stripey.

    Crochet is not my thing. I enjoy it but I also have to work harder at it. I am not as comfortable with crochet as I am with knitting. But… I do have a sense of adventure and am willing to figure things out. After searching for crochet pouf patterns on ravelry, I kept coming up empty handed. They were either too big or too tall. I liked the look of this one but I was looking for more control in the size while knowing that with my limited crochet experience, I wasn’t going to be heavily modifying any patterns. I also didn’t want to purchase any yarn and everything I have is worsted. After all my searching, I decided to crochet 2 circles, one each for the top and bottom, and one strip that would form the walls of the pouf. I exclusively used double crochet (DC) except for joining when I used single crochet.

    First circle done!

    Craftsy has a blog with a “crochet a flat circle” tutorial which was very helpful. I used this for the top and bottom and since I wanted to use DC, I started with 12 stitches.

    Now, towards the bottom of this tutorial, they show examples of things that can do wrong, like the wavy potato chip circle. That’s what mine did. I didn’t care though. I assumed that once I seamed and stuffed my pouf, it will “block” right out. No one has ever regretted that path of thought, right? My stitch count was 100% on track so I suspect my gauge is just off enough to give me the waves.

    I used several other tutorials to help me with this project. The Magic Ring, Neat Join for closing a round and adding a new color after a neat join (standing double crochet).

    Soooo close to finishing.

    When all the strip was almost finished, I used locking stitch markers to evenly attach it to the top and bottom circles. I needed to crochet a few more rows and when finished I joined the top and bottom circles to the strip. I wish I had taken more pictures at this point but I was DONE and ready to move on.

    The other side!

    After I finished seaming, I started stuffing. I had some shredded memory foam on hand and quite a bit of it. A while back, Scott and I got new pillows and they were too stuffed so I had opened the seam and removed some stuffing. I used all of that and then some polyfill. Once it was stuffed enough, I used single crochet to join the ends of the strip together.

    I actually really love how this turned out. It is really cute, functional and I found everything I needed around the house.

    Lessons Learned (there are always lessons, right?):

    In use!

    Should’ve lined it. There are little bits of shredded foam peeking out. I did consider getting an old pillowcase and stuffing that inside and then stuffing the case but I thought “Nah!”. I might have benefitted from going down a hook size to make the fabric a little more dense but it doesn’t bother me. Projects are never as fast in the real world as I think they will be. I must be delusional because I tell myself, oh, I’ll just whip that right out, it won’t take but a few days, a week tops! Will I ever learn? Stick around to find out.

    Overall, I’m going to call it a win! What do you think? Do you ever totally abandon the plans you have and veer of course for a detour?

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Jennifer Blake of Bugbear Woolens

    We hope that you enjoy this new series featuring interviews with FiberCrafty shop owners. Our goal is to give you a little peek behind the scenes and a chance to learn more about our talented business owners.

    Meet Jen! She's the genius behind Bugbear Woolens.

    Today we are featuring an interview with Jennifer Blake, the owner of Bugbear Woolens.

     

    Jennifer, tell us a little about yourself and your family. I grew up in Vermont for the most part, although I've also lived in NY, CT, and WA state. I ended up settling in Western Mass, on 5 acres of wooded land, at the end of a dead end dirt road. I love it here, although I could wish for faster internet access and maybe cell service, lol. I now live in the woods with my husband of almost 30 years, our 16 year old daughter, and the dog, 2 cats, a dozen chickens, a rabbit, and a hamster.

    We are all here for the same reason, because we love fiber! How did your love affair start?

    Silver Lining Merino Combed Top: 5.3oz superfine merino for spinning

    My love affair with all things fiber started when I was 7 when my stepmother taught me to crochet. My first Finished Object was a crocheted scarf for my mother, which I found in her belongings after she passed away, still in good shape. My mother taught me to knit shortly after that, and even back then I always wanted the good wool, never did like acrylic. After I left Hampshire College, I started working at Webs, where I added dyeing and weaving to my skillset. I only started spinning about 2 years ago, and love it dearly as well. (Note from Pam: I know you are wondering so I asked: she left Webs in 1995.)

    Sugar Skulls: 463 yards sock yarn, Merino/Nylon blend.

    Your shop has an interesting name. Is there a story behind it? My shop name is Bugbear Woolens. A little bit of a story, I've always been a fantasy gamer as well as an IT geek, so when I decided I had to have an internet domain, I picked bugbear.us, as bugbears are a common gaming creature. I had the domain for probably 15 years before I started the yarn business, and at that point, as I had the URL already, Bugbear Woolens just came naturally.

    How long have you had your business? This is my third year selling hand dyed yarn and fiber, as well as the occasional knitted item.

    Gemstones Sock, Zoisite: 463 yards sock yarn, Merino/Nylon blend

    Do you specialize in any particular products? Hand dyed yarn and spinning fiber.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? Honestly, I'd pretty much stopped knitting/weaving when I had my daughter. Being a new mother as well as working full time in IT didn't leave much time for hobbies. I started knitting again about 5 years ago, as my daughter was much more self sufficient. I started the business when my husband was laid off so I wouldn't feel guilty spending money on yarn.

    Mixed Berry: 5oz superfine merino combed top

    What makes your business unique? I don't really know how to answer this as I feel my work is unique due to how I see and interpret color. But then, I feel there are so many indie dyers doing amazing work...lucky knitters these days!

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty? I love that it really is focused just on fiber arts.

    Jennifer, thank you so much for your time! You can find her products in her FiberCrafty shop, Bugbear Woolens. Personally, I love how bright and vivid so many of your colorways are. And I am especially enjoying your Gemstones series.

    Hand spun yarn, Olive Garden. 475 yards, fingering weight superfine merino

    Correidale Combed Top, Burnt Peach to Grey: 5.4oz corriedale
  • Project Round Up

    Summer is winding down and I am starting to think about the next projects I want on my needles. But let’s keep it real… I am pretty much ALWAYS thinking about my next projects!

    Finished Have you ever seen Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix? I kindof want to be her when I

    I don't know, I think Miss Fisher would wear this well!

    grow up. She's smart, ahead of her time and has impeccable fashion sense. Last year I took a screenshot of an outfit she was wearing and thought “someone needs to dye yarn inspired by this”. Earlier this spring when I was at the Carolina Fiber Fest, I spied a mini skein set in the same colors. It was called Miss Fisher and I believe it was fate. I knit that set up into the Genesis Wrap by lolodidit and I love it. There are quite a few mix and match mini skeins listed on FiberCrafty that could be used in this pattern!

    In the Works

    I have started the 6th and final wedge of the Imagine When shawl!

    I have been working almost exclusively on my Imagine When by Joji Locatelli. I am using some handspun that I finished in October 2015 during Spinzilla. I am in LOVE with this project. My brother, Walter and his wife Amy gifted the fiber to me for my birthday (let’s give credit where it is due, it was totally Amy, my brother didn’t have anything to do with it). I would have never picked out this braid out but I adore it. Isn’t it funny how that happens? This pattern is a perfect match for handspun and highlights the color changes. This yarn would also be stunning with this pattern!

    I also started the Aurelia Cowl by Hillary Smith Callis. This is a gift for my mom and I am hoping

    This yarn from The Spun Bunny is perfect with the Aurelia Cowl.

    she doesn’t read this. The yarn came from The Spun Bunny and it is lovely to work with! I really like a round, firm yarn and this is just the ticket. Marissa, proprietress of The Spun Bunny, has a number of skeins dyed up with a similar effect that would work well with this pattern, or any of the the other Yarniad “scowls”!

    On my spinning wheel, I have a braid of stunning fiber from Shari of ShariArts. It is 50% Merino, 25% Silk and 25% Bamboo. It is so amazing to work with and I am able to spin it so smoothly and finely. I am fractal spinning and can’t wait to see how it turns out!

    Gorgeous blend of 50% merino, 25% bamboo, 25% silk. I love the pops of apricot.

    In the Queue I have my eye on a couple of projects to start next! I really want to make a pouf. My desk is a little tall and I am a little short so I need something to rest my feet on. Right now I am winging it with a plastic box but a pouf would be perfect! I have quite a bit of brightly colored acrylic that I am thinking about using and I must be feeling brave because I think I am going to wing it <gasp!>. I think I will crochet it and that should give me the flexibility to make it as wide and tall as I want so that it will fit under my desk nicely. I’ll keep you posted on this one since it will be experimental!

    Indigo Dragonfly yarn, the small bit will be the tassels.

    I also have some yarn that I purchased last year from the Ottawa Knitters Guild Vendor Night. I was on my way to Ottawa for a business trip (pre-FiberCrafty) and saw in my Instagram feed that the vendor night was happening THAT NIGHT. Fate! I bought some yarn from Indigo Dragonfly and have one skein left. I also have 13 grams left of another skein that compliments it beautifully and I wanted to use them together. The plan is to make the Stormy Sky Shawl and use the complimentary yarn for the tassels. If I have enough, perhaps a stripe as well. This pattern would be great with any single skein of sock yarn!

    Finally, I really want to make some gloves! I love my dog but I hate to be cold and I am her primary walker. I have some Silver Spun yarn in my stash. Have you heard of this? It has silver spun INTO the fibers. It helps with warmth and connectivity so you can use your phone if needed. It also have some other health benefits for diabetics and arthritis but I don’t know as much about that. Silver Spun also has some Spandex in it for elasticity. The Connectivity Gloves were designed for this yarn and the Worsted yarn layer will really help keep my hands warm. I’m small and can’t wait to have some quality gloves that fit me well. One of the FiberCrafty shop owners is dying some yarn for me to coordinate with the Silver Spun. I will certainly report back on this project!

    Are always planning projects ahead? What projects are you currently thinking about?

  • Fixing Mistakes

    We all have that little voice in our heads. You know the one… It is so easy to tune out or brush aside.  I have made it a personal goal to actually listen when I hear it, but it doesn’t always work. Especially when I’m knitting.

    See that section that's a little too wide?

    I have been working on the Imagine When shawl by Joji Locatelli. I have had this in my queue for a long time and was finally able to cast on. The handspun I'm using and the pattern seems to be a perfect pairing.  Without giving anything away… the shawl is worked in sections and there are evenly spaced eyelet rows.  I had finished one section and was moving on to the next but it just didn’t look right. The spacing between the eyelet rows seemed too large.  I decided to look at a picture and thought, well, it will all work out. (you have never said that to yourself while knitting have you…) Sure enough, a few rows later, I realized I had started knitting section 3 and switched to section 4 of the pattern! No wonder it didn’t look right! One of the biggest challenges for new knitters, is finding and fixing mistakes so documenting this process seemed like a helpful task.

    Once I have figured out there is a mistake that needs to be fixed, I follow this general process. This might not be for everyone but fixing mistakes is a chore and I should clarify that I mostly use this process on garter or stockinette. If it is lace, that’s a whole different story.

    Find the last known correct row. In this case, the pattern is a 12 row repeat and I made a mistake on row 7 of the pattern. So I needed to rip back to row 6. To find row 6, I look for a row that has an easily identifiable pattern or increase and count from there.  In this example, the last correct row with eyelets was row 7.  So I found the top of an eyelet and counted from Row 7-12 and then 1-6 to find row 6 (remember this is a 12 row pattern). I counted twice, just to make sure.  Row 6 is where I need to rip back to.

    Find the last known correct row, put on your readers and start counting.

    Pick up the right leg of each stitch. The blocking pins are just holding the fabric for the picture.

    Pick up stitches on last correct row. I prefer not to rip back and have a lot of live stitches so I take another needle, or use the same one my project is on, and pick up the right leg of each stitch across the row.  Usually this is not difficult but sometimes because of stitch patterns, there can be a few stitches that are harder to read. But if you have 110 stitches and you can grab 107 correctly, that’s a win!  If there are stitches that are “wonky”, I might mark them with a stitch marker.

    Rip back, carefully. Remember that some stitches are harder to read? Sometimes there are some issues, perhaps you picked up a stitch in the row below or above. Perhaps the yarn got caught under the needle cable. You can use stitch markers to catch any precarious loops or mark issues to address in the next step.

    Sometimes the yarn gets caught under the cable.

    Check your stitches. For my own mental health, take a few extra minutes and just slip each stitch from the left to the right needle.  This way I can catch any twisted stitches or other issues that need to be corrected. It doesn’t take long and helps prevent other potential issues.

    I should clarify that before I embark on this process, I try to make sure there is enough time to finish, have stitch markers on hand and the ability to focus.

    How about you? Do you like to live on the edge and just rip or do you take a more methodical approach?

  • Is it really a unicorn?

     

    Probably like you, I am in quite a few fiber related Facebook groups.  FiberCrafty has been popping up recently in a couple of posts, which of course got my attention. In one thread I saw someone refer to it as a unicorn!  I have to admit, that is a pretty flattering comment and made me blush a little.  

    One post in particular caught my attention.

    Let's talk FiberCrafty.

    Do you all think it is really the replacement for Etsy we're all hoping for? I opened my shop as a hobby shop but I'm looking to move more toward making a real go at this. I was paying for ads with Etsy so my shop fees were running $100 a month and that just feels like far too much to pay for a not super busy shop.

    I know I'll have to do more legwork on my own to get people to my page, which is fine with me. I'm just wondering if anyone is having success with FC?

    This is, of course, what everyone is wondering and it was an opportunity for me to be very candid with my thoughts and dreams about FiberCrafty. It seemed like a post and response worth sharing so I am, with the permission of the original poster, publishing it on my blog.

    A couple of notes: I am being real and baring my soul. If you have comments or feedback, please share but remember that I am a human putting myself out there. If you have constructive criticism, please share! I am all for it because I believe that together, we are more powerful. A criticism is less meaningful without suggestions for change so please share any thoughts you have for change.  One final note, I don’t like comparing myself to Etsy though it seems a logical thought process.  It is hard to compare a 12 year old, $200 million organization to little ol’ FiberCrafty.  

    And now… my response:

    Hi! I'm the owner of FiberCrafty and thought I would weigh in on this. My opinion will be slightly biased but hopefully fair and will provide insight into my thoughts and vision. :-)

    Yes, I believe that this is the replacement we are looking for, however, it will only be so if people make it so. The very idea of this is dependent upon shops opening, adding products and people shopping. If everyone "waits and sees", it will be a steeper climb and will take much longer to get there. FiberCrafty launched mid-May so we have only been around a little more than 2 months. From my perspective, there are a lot of people paying attention in a very short amount of time.

    Regarding putting in legwork for your business, I have two thoughts... One... It is your business. Every business owner should be putting in that legwork no matter where you are selling. That is what separates your brand from others. Two... When FiberCrafty shop owners put in legwork, they are lifting EVERYONE that has a shop on FiberCrafty. Not only are they building their own brand, but they are also promoting FiberCrafty and, indirectly, all the other open shops. There is much less of that "rising tide" impact on a site as bloated as Etsy.

    What sets FiberCrafty apart from Etsy (and other platforms)? - me, the owner. I am a knitter and spinner and I love this craft and community. When you have an idea, request, problem you have a direct line of contact. - FiberCrafty is not what it will be in a few years. Why? Because I want the feedback, ideas and suggestions to improve and grow the site and make it what the community wants and needs. I don't think I have all the answers myself. I will look for them from our users. We had to start somewhere and we think it was a pretty good start. - Supporting FiberCrafty is supporting small business, just like yours. - Since I am not a corporation, I don't have special interests and I don't have investors. My goal is to have a small business doing something I love for the community I love, and I don't have any desire to gouge small business owners. I know you have slim margins. - Also since I am not a corporation, I started with less and had to make tough choices about what to include or set aside for a future phase. I made choices based on what, as a knitter and spinner, I wanted to see in a new platform. I tried to put the development into the functionality.

    I spent a lot of time (2 years!) and have a significant investment backing up my belief in the need for this. Is there room for improvement? Of course. There probably always will be. I have been in the software industry for 20 years and you are never done. However, we worked hard to start with a pretty robust site with some capabilities that are unique, fiber specific and provide value to the shop owners and users.

    FiberCrafty shops are having varying amounts of success. Those that have great photos and descriptions AND do legwork are having more than others. We launched in May which is when the entire industry slows down. People are still learning about FiberCrafty. We only have about 500 products listed. That's a lot but not really. We need a LOT more so that when a shopper starts clicking, they find THAT SKEIN (or braid, or or or) - the one that speaks to them. Again, that is part of the rising tide of lifting everyone.

    I hope this helps with understanding my thoughts and perspective. If this resonates with you, I hope that you will jump on board and don't hesitate if you have any questions at all! Thank you for reading this lengthy post!

    By the way - the person that posted this did decide to join the rising tide and she opened a FiberCrafty shop. If you are on the fence, I hope that you will too!

  • Building Community

    The world is made up of millions of communities. Each community is like a bubble in that they can cling together forming something larger or join and merge to create one larger bubble. Communities can be tiny or giant.  There can even be communities within communities.

    Let’s look at Ravelry as an example. Ravelry is one big community but it is made up of many other communities. Some of the communities within can be defined as knitters or crocheters. Maybe there is even a community made up of people who knit AND crochet.  There are communities of designers, pattern testers, and tech editors. There are communities of dyers, bag makers, podcasters or fans of podcasts.  There are so many ways to separate and identify communities and, at the same time, even more ways to overlap and combine them.

    A knitting venn diagram!

    Over the last decade, it has become more and more apparent to me that, as individuals, we have the most influence on our own communities.  For example, I can make a difference in my children’s school or by helping with service projects in my city. My vote in local elections carries far more weight than voting in national elections (though I do that, too).  Bringing this back to fiber (because that is why we are all here), I can support fiber arts locally and on the whole. I can buy from my LYS, participate in online discussions, share knowledge with others in local meet ups or by participating in my local knitting guild. I make a conscious effort to support my local fiber festival every year to help ensure vendors return and that the the festival grows. Those are examples of my local communities, but I can also support groups on Ravelry, or independently owned fiber related businesses that are a part of my larger fiber community.

    Creating FiberCrafty has helped me to combine my love of community and my passion for the fiber arts, as well as draw on the skills that I developed in the corporate world. After spending so much time working for a large corporation, I realized how strong my desire was to support my passion and make a difference for independent businesses. As a part of the fiber crafting community, FiberCrafty allows me to provide a channel for indie businesses to build their businesses.  As an added bonus, many times these are women-owned business and give me a way to support them, that I might not otherwise have.

    Ultimately, FiberCrafty becomes it’s own community with business owners and customers. Together we help raise awareness of different businesses, different products, different types of fibers, we can even share patterns, tips and other resources. I look forward to the day when the FiberCrafty community can help give back through micro donations that add up, or charity craft-alongs.

    What communities are you a part of and passionate about? What role does community play in your life?

  • Learning About Rug Yarn

    When I started down the path of FiberCrafty, I considered myself pretty educated in the fiber world. But as shops started adding products to FiberCrafty, I began seeing things I wasn’t familiar with. Turns out I was pretty educated in my own little corner of the fiber world but not in the fiber world at large.  

    Knitted rug by Julie from Alpacamom.com

    Rug yarn made appearances in the Brigadoon Fiber Farm and Alpacamom.com shops and sparked my curiosity. Then it showed up again in the Wynham Farms with GotMyGoat shop.  I guessed that since I didn’t know much about it, there were others in the same boat. So I started asking questions to see what I could learn.

    It seems obvious, right? Its RUG yarn. But what does that mean?  It means it is really ideal for sturdy, heavy duty projects like rugs (told you!), pillow coverings, large blankets, poufs (you have probably seen those knitted floor cushions or foot rests), totes or baskets. It uses much larger needles or hooks or can also be woven.

    Crocheted pouf by Kathy at Wynham Farms

    Julie of Alpacamom.com provided a really great description.

    “Rug yarns are spun around a cotton or jute core and they are considered "core spun" which means that the fibers are literally wrapped around the core and not traditionally plied. Because of that, the fibers don't have to be uniform in length or micron and that's why a lot of growers use their lower grade fibers for rug yarn. They can be spun with a variety of fibers and the mill I use likes to add a little bit of merino to my alpaca to help hold the slippery fibers in place. The rug yarns that I have aren't suitable to be worn next to the skin. They make wonderfully durable yet soft and comfortable mats and rugs, table runners, baskets and purses. I've knitted it, crocheted it and woven it. If knitting or crocheting you need a pretty big needle...18-50 needles and a "P" hook I think is what I used.”

    Core spun yarns can vary from next to skin and delicate to coarse and rugged and not all core spun yarns are rug yarns. When using rug yarn it is so much bulkier that a 2’x3’ rug might use around 100 yards.  Items made with rug yarn can often be considered easy care and may be vacuumed or shaken or maybe even hosed off.  Kathy, of Wynham Farms with GotMyGoat cautions that it can be harder on your hands and wrists since it is bulky and heavier than mill or handspun yarn.

    Rug being woven by Julie from Alpacamom.com

    It sounds like a very versatile product that opens new doors for creating things!  I would love to make a small poof to use as a footrest under my desk. If you have ever used rug yarn, what did you make with it? Share pictures in the Facebook Group or on Instagram! If you have never used it, does this give you some ideas? Let us know what you would make!

    Knitted rug by Kathy at Wynham Farms
  • How did FiberCrafty get started?

    My brother gave me this magical little book for my birthday a few years ago, called The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau. He knew I had been exploring a new career path that would let me spend more time in the fiber crafting world. At the time, I was a software sales rep for the largest privately held software company in the world, and while a good career, my soul was not fed.

    Over the last 4-5 years, I explored multiple options such as dying, becoming a yarn rep and I even entered discussions to buy a local yarn store. For one reason or the other, I ruled each option out. Then I started reading the book. I usually read every night before bed but this book made my mind race and I quickly carved out time earlier in the day to read it. My key takeaway from the book was to figure out what you are good at, figure out your passions and merge the two together. As I tossed these ideas about, I kept coming back to the idea of representing small indie businesses. I knew the margins were small and bandwidth would limit how many businesses I could realistically represent. It didn’t seem like a viable path.

    Since there are already marketplace options available online, if an indie business wanted a virtual storefront, they could establish one. But then I wondered if there was room for improvement in the existing systems? As a consumer, I realized there was. After I further investigated with the perspective of a small business owner, I recognized there was. After months of research, talking to existing indie business owners, and investigating what it would take to build a marketplace, my husband and I decided to move forward.

    The idea of FiberCrafty began to feel like a virtual fiber festival. Think about it, as a shop owner, would you prefer to set up a booth at a regional arts festival? In that scenario, maybe 1 in every 100 people is a potential customer (I totally made up that number but it kind of seems reasonable, maybe even low). Alternatively, if you set up a booth at a fiber festival, almost everyone present is a potential customer. On the flip side, as a crafter or artist specifically looking for new stash or tools, a fiber festival would also offer the largest possible selection and variety.

    I began to write out all my thoughts, ideas and visions. In April 2016 I formed FiberCrafty, LLC. I partnered with a local firm to help me do all the things I don’t know how to do (like coding!). We began figuring out a look, a logo, a tagline and the best way to incorporate my capabilities wishlist. Eventually, we find ourselves here, ready to share FiberCrafty with all of you and I can’t wait.

    FiberCrafty is not a large organization. On paper, it’s just me. But in reality, it is so much more. It’s me with the support of my family. With the support of my friends. It’s also the web team helping me execute this dream. And most importantly, it’s the fiber crafting community and my hope to make a contribution to that community that has been so significant to me. I am a firm believer in community and that collectively, we can do more together. I look forward to hearing ideas and suggestions from you, the fiber crafting community about what will make FiberCrafty even better!

    This has been a huge project, full of emotions ranging from feeling overwhelmed to fear and to excitement. I left my corporate job to work on FiberCrafty full time and now, every time I “have to” work, I feel a small burst of joy because I realize I “get to” work on something that I love.

    Thank you for your time and for joining me on this journey. I look forward to our future together!

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