FiberCrafty Files

  • Field Trip! Kathy of Wynham Farms with gotmygoat Goes to Africa

    I am delighted to share this guest blog post from Kathy Martin of Wynham Farms. Kathy raises Angora goats in Sequim, WA and she recently took a trip of a lifetime! Grab a cup of tea and enjoy a few moments of armchair traveling through Africa, visiting fiber farms, mills and weavers.

    So here I am, a semi-retired fiber farmer and fiber artist, thinking that my travelling days were relegated  to sane, safe stateside trips when Linda Cortright of Wild Fibers Magazine created a tour that could not be ignored: Angora goat farms, a mohair mill, a silk farm, sisal weavers, mohair weavers along with the beauty of the land and wildlife in South Africa and Swaziland. Could I challenge myself to 40+ hours of travel from WA state to another hemisphere? Could I leave my Angora goat farm, Great Danes, spinning wheels, triangle looms and comfort for the relative unknown?

    Swaziland Dancers.

    First, I should explain that Linda Cortright is not just the owner/journalist of a prime periodical, but she is a world traveler who meticulously checks out the potential journeys for Wild Fibers’ tours. Her small groups of 10-12 travelers enjoy safety, adventure, history, other cultures, fine lodgings – all of which she has researched and visited ahead of time. I had joined Linda on her first tour to the Falkland Islands in 2015 so I knew I would be well taken care of.

    This 15-day tour started out in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, close to the very tip of the continent. The group of 11 visited the Nelson Mandela Textile Arts Centre with interesting displays of  African weavings and beadwork.

    95 kg mohair bump

    On to the showroom of Mohair South Africa Ltd which produces ~50% of the world’s mohair, obviously dedicated to the advancement of the mohair industry. I have to interject with a link to a video “Mohair South Africa, Weaving Stories for a Lifetime”.  The video was filmed mostly at Wheatlands, a vast working farm that is steeped in 8 generations of family history which we called home for 2 nights. Prior to Wheatlands we visited Erekroon, a smaller farm of 17,000 acres (!) with about 1,000 Angora goats and 500 Merino sheep. Be still, my heart!

    While in Port Elizabeth we also visited a mohair processing mill. The scouring conveyor belt and the water conservation systems were impressive. There were hundreds of barrels full of freshly carded mohair. It would’ve been hard to sneak out some when the bumps alone weigh 95 kg (210 pounds). The spinning/weaving buildings on site were very high tech with tests being run on the yarns as they were being spun and with onsite laboratories to further test quality. I understood the quality control necessary after hearing that their custom orders were placed by fashion industry’s leaders such as Chanel. Glad they had an outlet with Oddments which I could afford!

    One of Adele's Ladies inspecting yarn.

    I will jump ahead here past the awesome hikes and unique landscapes of the Karoo, formed millions of years ago. Onto the awesomeness of Adele’s Mohair, a designer extraordinaire of knitting yarns. Adele ventured into the industry in 1983, educating and employing the rural women of the Xhosa tribe, and keeping in mind sustainability of the land. Again, be still my heart!

    Our next fiber related visit was at the Piggs Peak Craft Centre in Swaziland where we were welcomed by native dancers. The craft center not only had roadside shelters for smaller entrepreneurs but also housed the showrooms for Coral Stephens Weaving and for Tintsaba, both endeavors aimed at educating and employing local, rural women. We were honored to tour the studios of both art houses.

    Sisal baskets.

    Tintsaba Master Weavers showed us how their amazing baskets, home décor and jewelry are made from Sisal. The agave plants producing Sisal fibers grow wild and are harvested by industrious women who must have fingers of Superwoman strength. After stripping the leaves and drying the fibrous strands, the dyeing is done in rustic wood burning vats. These lovely women shared their trade in a special workshop with the Wild Fibers’ group, teaching us that their skills were not learned overnight. I will not be hired.

    Coral Stephens Weaving Studio uses mohair, raffia, cotton and silk to make outstanding home décor items, drapes, carpets and tapestries. We watched the labor intensive picking and hand carding of the mohair prior to spinning using pieced-together spinning wheels some of which might have been bicycles in their earlier days. The yarn is then dyed in wood burning, huge pots using very scientific measurements so that there are enough skeins of one colorway for their extra large weavings. One room alone must have had over 20 enormous looms, manual not machine driven.

    Coral Stephens curtains.

    The last of our fiber tours was taken at the African Silk Farm after spending several days on game drives. The farm grows its own mulberry leaves to feed the worms and macadamia nuts to feed its visitors. There were several outbuildings with windows for our viewing pleasures: moths into eggs into caterpillars into cocoons. I was pleased to see how easy they made it seem to gently cut the cocoon, releasing the live larvae to continue its life, and then winding the silk strands before spinning. What lovely garments and bedding tempted us!

    The 15 days sped by in a whirlwind of fibers and African wild animals seen without cages or moats. A truly Wild Fiber adventure which I consider my Trip of a Lifetime.

    I learned so much and am so thankful to Kathy for sharing her adventure with us. Africa is not a destination that I immediately associate with fiber! If you want to get some mohair of your own, or explore Kathy's shop full of locks and handspun yarn, you can find  Wynham Farms with gotmygoat on FiberCrafty!

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Alicia Baines of APLCrafts Handmade

    We hope that you enjoy this 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.

    Today's post features Alicia Baines of APLCrafts Handmade based in La Vergne, TN.  I learned a couple of new things about Alicia and hope you do, too!

    Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from, what crafts do you enjoy, what is your background, do you have any pets, etc? I'm originally from New Haven, CT and have been living in middle TN for almost 14 years now. I've always enjoyed crochet as my first love even though knitting has kind of taken over for now as it's still pretty new in my life. I enjoy gardening even though I'm not very good at it.

    Romantic Endeavor is a fingering weight polwarth with 437 yards.

    What is the name of your shop? Is there a story behind the name? APLCrafts. It is named so because I have no talent in names so as many small business owners do, I chose my formal initials.

    How long have you had your business? I've had APLCrafts for 3 years. I've dyed yarn for 1.

    What kind of products do you specialize in? Hand dyed yarn. I love working with Merino, and Polwarth yarns.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? My story begins at the end of 18 years as a professional baker and food service worker. It's rough on your body and I found I couldn't do it anymore so I turned to the one thing that has always been with me. Yarn.

    Mysticxian is a rich blue DK weight superwash Polwarth with 246 yards

    Do you have a favorite pattern that shows off your products? I recently made the Susan Scarf for my best friend using For the Love of a Mermaid. I think it worked up beautifully.

    Blue Christmas is a gorgeous new colorway with sparkle! Fingering weight in 75% superwash merino, 20% nylon and 5% Lurex. 437 yards

    What else would you like to share? I've dipped my toes into crochet design and have a few patterns available on Ravelry. I've also this year started a podcast. It's very new but it's my own little corner of the world and I'm enjoying the process.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)?  As a shopper I like the many filter options in the search bar. As a shop owner I love and appreciate how easily I can adjust my inventory, and keep information if I'm out of stock so I don't have to re-write my listings.

    Alicia, thank you for sharing about yourself and a glimpse into your life! I didn't know you had crochet designs and enjoyed looking at your patterns. The Dragonfly Meets Butterfly shawl is exquisite! Alicia's products can be found for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, APLCrafts Handmade.

     

  • When you own a business, you are in sales.

    Do you consider yourself to be in sales? You might say no but if you are a small business owner, the reality is that you ARE in sales! You are also in customer service, marketing, product design, and a host of other roles but today let’s talk about wearing that sales hat.

    I know what you are thinking. Salespeople have an undesirable reputation. Some salespeople are definitely less ethical but that isn’t the norm. When you boil down the basics of sales it is helping to connect people, based on their wants or needs, with the right products or services. That’s not such a bad thing!

    I have to put myself out there, too! This is me! Hi!

    I spent over 20 years in a successful professional sales role before I started my business, fibercrafty.com. I learned a lot selling software and while software is completely different from hand-dyed yarn and fiber, the basics of selling are the same. In this post, I’m sharing two of the most important rules to consider and practice in the sales efforts of your business. These are relatively common sense but often hard to remember to do.

    Rule #1. Be yourself. First and foremost, if you are a single business owner, you ARE your business. You are what sets your business apart from other people. You bring a unique perspective to whatever your product or offering is and you need to let that shine when talking to customers or prospects. Tell your story! Why should people buy from you? What makes your shop special? People buy from who they know and trust. If you have a hard time with this, ask a close friend or family member to help you. Or maybe even a wonderful customer that you have an established relationship with. Ask then what about your business stands out, what makes them buy from you.

    Rule #2. Make it easy for someone to buy from you. This, my friends, is where the rubber

    From a shop on FiberCrafty.

    hits the road. When selling online, people can’t handle your products or see them in person so you need to help them make a decision while online. And you want it to be an easy decision. To make this even more challenging, you have only a matter of seconds to capture and keep their attention. Research is showing that the amount of time you have is gradually getting shorter. In the year 2000, you had 12 seconds. Now, you have 8 seconds. The more steps the customer has to take before buying, the less likely they are to buy. For example, if you didn’t include some information in your listings, such as the size of your bag, a shopper might have to send an email to ask. That is an extra step you don’t want them to take. The good news is, you can anticipate and answer most questions before they are asked.

    We are going to dive into this idea in more detail with the next few posts but for now consider:

    • Are all the details of my product included? Are the attributes complete?
    • Are the pictures clear? Are there pictures showing multiple angles? Are there pictures showing an item to scale?
    • Does my item have variations - if so, can they be selected with a menu choice or do they have to contact me separately? In some cases they will need to contact you, but if there is a way around it - make it easy! (FiberCrafty is adding an internal messaging system in the update to help with this.)
    • Did you proofread your listing for spelling? This can affect products showing up in searches.
    • Did you check your listing for accuracy? (especially if you have copied an existing listing)

    Take a look at your listings and your shop through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know you. Maybe you have a friend who can help you by reviewing it. Are there unanswered questions? Are there ANY barriers that would make clicking “add to cart” a step away? This is truly a situation where over-providing some information can be helpful.

    From a shop on FiberCrafty.

    How does it feel to explore your shop? Does it feel well curated? Are the photos of products on similar backdrops? Or does it feel like a disarray. Think about walking through a brick and mortar shop. Some shops are a delight to browse and walk through. And there are others that feel cluttered and disorganized. Online shops can create these same feelings.

    Working to create a shop that feels curated and like it was built with care will make it far more likely for shoppers to browse. Well written listings with anticipated questions answered, will make it far more likely for shoppers to click Add to Cart and Checkout, which is the ultimate goal.

    If you are not a FiberCrafty shop owner and you want to continue to learn how to curate your online shop for the fiber community, let me know! Not all posts in this series will be posted publicly on the blog. 

    What advice would you give someone about how to help their customers say yes? Comment below and share! In the yarn and fiber industry, we are fortunate to all benefit when we put community above competition.

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Debi Roberts of BaaBerry Farms

    We hope that you enjoy this 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 Debi Roberts!

    Today's post features Debi Roberts of BaaBerry Farms based in Miller, NE.  When Debi isn't busy running her farm, she puts a lot of thought into designing her project bags and hand-dyeing yarn. She is also pursuing her dream of owning a fiber business and designating her farm as a sanctuary.

    Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from, what crafts do you enjoy, what is your background, do you have any pets, etc?  I currently live in the middle of Nebraska, after having moved here 5 years ago with my husband from South Texas, where we raised our 4 kids. Being a military brat, I have lived just about everywhere, including multiple countries. We own a 120 year old abandoned General store on just under 30 acres, where we raise our fiber flock of mainly Corriedale sheep. We have 5 Great Pyrenees dogs, 4 house cats, and 2 grouchy geriatric Pekingese house dogs. We also have about 26 laying hens, and a few dairy goats.

    Gorgeous Angora blend, hand-dyed yarn by Debi.

    I began playing with fiber as a very little girl. My Granny taught me to knit and crochet starting when I was 5 years old, so going on 48 years now. I also sew, quilt, and hand-dye all of our yarns. I have our yarns mill spun at a local to us mill, at just over 250 pounds of fleeces a year from our ladies in the pastures, I just cannot handle all the processing any more. We purchased our property in the hopes of opening a combination Yarn shop/Coffee shop. Hopefully sometime soon, we will see that dream come true.

    What is the name of your shop? Is there a story behind the name? BaaBerry Farms got its name as a result of my very sarcastic sense of humor. As this is a g-rated site, I will let ya'll sort out what it means.

    I can personally recommend the Uptown Bag, I love mine!  It's sturdy, roomy and travels well. Perfect for a medium to larger project. - Pam

    How long have you had your business? For just about a year and a half.

    What kind of products do you specialize in? We mainly produce hand-dyed mill-spun yarns, in several bases, and of course our project bags.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? Our business actually started as the result of several things. We knew it was what we wanted to do, and we were on track to actually open the brick and mortar store, when I was seriously injured at work. So everything came to a stand still. I decided after some recovery time, that in order to keep our sheep, and our property, I had to do something. So began the online shop, and attending Fiber Fairs when I was able, so that we could keep our sheep fed. After three major surgeries, in the last 2 years, and at least 2 more to go, it hasn't been easy.

    Debi's son models the BaaBerry Scarf.

    Do you have a favorite pattern that shows off your products? I personally adore the BaaBerry Scarf that I recently published on Ravelry (it's free!). It works up wonderfully in any of our yarns. I have been making them for years for family and friends.

    What else would you like to share? To say that it has been a challenge to start my own business doing what I love would be an understatement. Financially we were wiped out even before I got started, and starting a business with literally no budget is not something I recommend to anyone. It is a daily fight, and many times I have wanted to just walk away. But I love what I do, and I love my sheep. Hopefully my health will continue to improve over the next few years, and the dream of our brick and mortar shop will happen.

    Classic drawstring project bag, so versatile!

    We are also in the process of having our property declared Historically Significant, and as we are a non-slaughter farm, we are making some other changes to further insure that our ladies in the pastures live full and purposeful lives.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)? The best thing about having our shop on FiberCrafty, is Pam the owner. She has made an extremely user friendly site, and is always available to answer any questions and give feedback.

    Superwash merino yarn with sparkle!

    Debi, thank you for sharing about yourself, your lady sheep and your plans! I'm really excited to see your farm become a sanctuary. Debi's products can be found for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, BaaBerry Farms.

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Brenda Vance of Split Rock Ranch

    Split Rock Ranch

    We hope that you enjoy this 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. Today's post features Brenda Vance of Split Rock Ranch based in Florissant, CO.  Brenda and her husband Jim have 70 animals and after reading about all she does, I’m going to go take a nap! But first, let me share one of my favorite lines of this interview. “I love art that is eclectic, unique and distinctive and strive to create fiber art that meets those criteria.” What a lovely outlook!

    Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from, what crafts do you enjoy, what is your background, do you have any pets, etc? I grew up in Colorado Springs and we moved to our ranch in Teller County - about an hour west of Colorado Springs - in May of 1997. We raise, train and show llamas and harvest their fiber. We use them for packing, and have raised and shown our llamas earning numerous Grand and Reserve Grand Champion awards in the halter show ring. We started to pare our herd size down several years ago due to the drought and outrageous hay prices in Colorado and the surrounding area. We are now down to 15 llamas. One of our original two llamas is still alive and he turned 25 in July this year. We also have Nigerian Dwarf, Angora and Pygora goats - milk and fiber - what's not to love?!

    Three years ago a friend gifted a miniature horse mare (Paloma) to me and six months later we added a gorgeous little mini stallion named Nitro. On Mother's Day last year Paloma gifted us with a stunning little mini me colt who looks exactly like his sire, down to the two blue eyes and amazing personality. Two years ago I added a black and white tovero yearling mini filly and a year ago I brought home a yearling bay and white tobiano yearling mini filly. We plan to breed paint mini horses when these fillies are old enough. I would also like to start showing my little herd of mini horses. Nitro is trained to drive a cart (why do they call it trained to drive when they are actually pulling the cart?!) so I'd love to polish off our driving skills and cruise around the neighborhood. I wish I could spin horse hair because there's certainly enough of it around here!

    Mulberry Silk Yarn

    In addition to the llamas, goats and horses, we also have four cats (all rescued) and four standard Poodles and three toy Poodles. We fostered over 50 kittens from September 2007 to June 2011 (not all at the same time, thank God) but the poodles love to chase kitties so we no longer foster kittens but still support the cat rescue org. I also have chickens and ducks who normally produce more eggs than we can possibly eat. The dogs and cats sure appreciate the extra eggs!

    As for crafts that I enjoy, aside from dyeing, carding and basic fiber arts, I knit, crochet, weave and dabble in jewelry making. I love to keep my hands busy! Lately I've been working on a custom triangle loom making triangle shawls. This loom has large wooden pegs rather than small closely spaced nails so I use bulky yarns and I love how the shawls are turning out. I may even try working two triangles and then weave them together into a ruana or poncho, or even a blanket or two. So many possibilities!

    What is the name of your shop? Is there a story behind the name? My shop name is Split Rock Ranch. We chose the name Split Rock Ranch because there is a large rock formation on the ranch that has a pine tree growing out of it in a V shape and it split the rock as it grew. At the time we had no idea that there is a ranch in Wyoming named Split Rock Ranch - so there is no connection there. Lightning recently hit the tree and blew off large slabs of rock but so far it is still standing tall despite a crack in the trunk of the tree and black sooty marks on the rock.

    How long have you had your business? We started Split Rock Ranch in 1997 but made it "official" with the state of Colorado in 2005 when we trademarked the name Split Rock Ranch. Initially it was intended to just be raising llamas but it branched out into other fiber animals and then all types of fiber and fiber art.

    These custom fiber blends are very popular in Brenda's shop!

    What kind of products do you specialize in? Llama fiber when I have the chance to shear (which I haven't done on a regular basis for the entire herd for a few years due to a knee injury and subsequent knee replacement). I love to work with all types of natural fibers with a real love of definitive lock structure sheep fleeces such as Teeswater, Wensleydale, Lincoln, etc. and mohair. After my knee issues and I was unable to treadle a spinning wheel or stand for any length of time to card and dye, I started to order commercially prepared fibers just to keep my business alive while I healed. That part of the business has done very well so it keeps my stores stocked while I work on creating my own fiber art.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started?

    Brenda and her husband, Jim

    We started with two male llamas purchased in November 1996 and then moved to our ranch in May 1997. Llamas became an addiction after we added a pregnant female and another show quality male to our small herd. We went to our first llama show in January of 1998 - National Western Stock Show - and we were hooked on showing. When I started to shear our small herd, I needed to do something with their incredible fiber so I learned how to spin in 2000. Spinning raw fleeces required that I have fiber processing equipment so I bought a couple of drum carders and then started playing with different types of fibers, blending them into batts and rovings on my carders. Then I started dabbling in dyeing, starting with Kool-aid dyeing and quickly moving on to professional acid dyes. When my husband was laid off from his job in December of 2003 (he was a casualty of the MCI/Worldcom merger) I knew I had to get serious about my fiber business and ramped up my production and subsequently my sales. I worked a full time job in town (50 mile round trip) until June of 2008 when I "retired" from my "real job" to work the ranch and my fiber business full time. I've held numerous jobs over the years, mostly administrative and managerial positions, and the majority of it spent in the construction field, both commercial and residential. Again, the love of "creating" and "building" are probably what led me to the construction industry, even if I wasn't doing the actual construction part of the work.

    Do you have a favorite pattern that shows off your products? I honestly prefer not to use patterns. IF I use a pattern I tend to start with a pattern and then make it my own by changing things to suit my taste and preferences. I love when the yarn does all the work without having to work fancy stitches to create texture and visual interest. Several years ago I designed and created the first extreme fringe scarf using lockspun teeswater locks yarn spun by Esther at Jazzturtle. I had admired the lockspun yarn but nobody was using it for much so I decided to crochet or knit a base scarf with wool yarn and then crocheted the lockspun yarn along the edges to create an amazing work of fiber art. Those scarves sold as fast as I could create them. I love to think and work outside the box when I create and design.

    Hand dyed mohair locks.

    Is there anything else you would like to share? My husband and I have been married for over 33 years and he is very supportive of my work. When he retires, I may just put him to work processing fiber. He wants to learn how to weave so once we get a spaced cleared for our floor loom, I am hoping he starts to play with it and becomes hooked on fiber as well! My husband and I both volunteer on the Board of Directors of the health services district in our area. He is the Chairman of the Board and I am the Finance Officer. We are a special tax district supplying EMS and ambulance services as well as a skilled nursing center in Cripple Creek. When my husband joined the board over 13 years ago, the board voted to declare bankruptcy and dissolve the district. My husband was the only dissenting vote and he managed to convince the board to try some different tactics and they agreed. Since then the district has gone from 3/4 of a million dollars in debt to zero debt, we've completely remodeled the skilled nursing center, we've purchased new ambulances (with the help of grants providing half the cost) and we have a nice cash reserve set aside for future district needs. I joined the board in 2007 as a "temporary" board member until they found others to volunteer. After I became the Finance Officer and straightened out the paperwork disaster I was handed, they voted to keep me on as a permanent board member. I try to blaze my own path rather than follow in the footsteps of what others are doing - not just in business but life in general. I am inspired by the work of other fiber artists but generally give things my own special, unique twist when I create my fiber art. I love art that is eclectic, unique and distinctive and strive to create fiber art that meets those criteria.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)?

    Split Rock Ranch - Where fiber is our passion...and it shows!

    I love that FiberCrafty caters to FIBER and was created by and is run by a Fiber Artist who understands the unique issues of marketing, creating and selling fiber art. I think Pam does a fabulous job of promoting FiberCrafty and its sellers!

     

     

    Brenda, thank you for sharing about yourself and your shop! We are glad we had this opportunity getting to know more about you, Jim, your animals and your business. Brenda's products can be found for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, Split Rock Ranch.

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Marissa Wiltrout of The Spun Bunny

    We hope that you enjoy this 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.

    Today's post features Marissa Wiltrout of The Spun Bunny based in New Salem, PA. Marissa is a busy mom and I’m especially impressed that she learned how to spin with Angora fiber!

    One of Marissa's favorites - Wood Nymph on Yak Silk DK

    Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from, what crafts do you enjoy, what is your background, do you have any pets, etc? I’m a homeschooling mom of four kiddos. (Ages 8,6,5,3). I knit, crochet, spin, dye, cross stitch and paint. We have 3 German shepherds, one english angora rabbit, six english/french angora rabbits and a hairless guinea pig.

    Is there a story behind the name of your shop? The name, The Spun Bunny, came from my first english angora, Snuffy. I taught myself how to spin using the fiber I collected from him.

    One of my favorites! Seven Deadly Sins mini skein set.

    How long have you had your business? Over 2 years

    What kind of products do you specialize in? Handdyed yarn and fiber.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? I've always loved crocheting since my grandmother taught me when I was little. I turned my love of yarn and creating into a business I could do while still allowing me to homeschool my kids.

    Do you have a favorite pattern that shows off your products? Not really, but I love seeing the different ways my customers use my yarns and fibers for their creations.

    Is there anything else you would like to share? I love collaborating with customers for custom orders and making their ideas come to life. All my yarns and fibers are dyed in small batches and given personal attention.

    Corriedale and tussah tilk noils rolags.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)? The service for shop owners! I love that when you have a question or concern, Pam is there to help.

    Marissa, thank you for sharing about yourself and your shop! We are glad we had this opportunity getting to know more about you and your business. I especially love the variety of color and products in Marissa's shop. You can find products for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, The Spun Bunny.

  • Knitting Math: Calculating Cast on Stitches

    Please check out the companion video to this blog post!

    I was planning a rectangular shawl project called Mini Bubbles but I wanted to make it wider and knit it horizontally, rather than vertically. Fortunately, someone had already knit the same shawl using the same yarn and was kind enough to include enough information that I was able to use for my calculations.

    The other knitter cast on 123 stitches and her finished measurement was 31" wide.  I wanted

    These are some of the bubbles that I have opened.

    my shawl to be closer to 54 inches wide. This is a shawl that will be heavily blocked so I knew there is a little wiggle room on the width.

    First I needed to determine her gauge, or stitches per inch. The standby, of course, is to knit a gauge swatch. But for a shawl where measurements don't need to be exact, I am using the existing project's stitches per inch information.

    Stitches per Inch Formula: Total # of Stitches/Total # Inches = # Stitches per Inch

    She cast on 123 stitches and the finished project was 31" wide.  Using the formula, I calculated the following: 123 stitches/31 inches = 3.97 stitches per inch

    Total Stitches Needed Formula: Stitches per Inch X Desired Inched = Total Stitches Needed

    I want my shawl to be about 54 inches wide so I needed to use this next formula and figure out how many stitches are needed: 54 Inches X 3.97 Stitches per Inch = 214.38 Stitches

    Knowing that I need to round the number to the nearest whole number (I won't be casting on .38 stitches) and the pattern for the shawl has a certain number of stitches, I needed to do some more math!

    My pattern repeat is a Multiple of 15 plus a fixed number of 18 stitches. The 18 stitches is only counted one time but the rest of the stitches need to be divisible by 15. For example: 15 + 18 = 33 30 + 18 = 48 45 + 18 = 63 ? + 18 = 214.38* We need to figure out how many multiples of 15 are needed. * We will drop the .38 because we rounded down.

    Refined Total Stitches Formula: Total Number of Stitches - Fixed Number of Stitches = ?/15 = Approximate Multiplier

    214 - 18 = 196 196/15 = 13.06*

    Final Total Stitches Formula: Multiplier x Pattern Repeat Multiple = Pattern Repeat Number of Stitches Pattern Repeat Number of Stitches + Fixed Number of Stitches = Final Total Number Stitches

    Now we can determine that 13 x 15 = 195 + 18 = 213 Stitches.

    Quick Check Formula: # of stitches to cast on /# stitches per inch = Should Equal Original measurement goal

    To do a quick check, let's divide 213 by our original Stitches Per Inch Calculation. We should Get something close to 54 inches, my original goal.

    213 / 3.97 = 53.65

    Looks great!

     

  • Knowing How You Learn

    Do you listen to the podcast Teaching Your Brain to Knit? I really enjoy it and find the “brainy” aspects of the podcast fascinating.  One topic often referenced in the podcast is different types of learners. If you aren’t familiar, there are several primary types of learners: Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic. I am a visual learner, but it’s funny how even though I am aware of that, I didn’t take it into consideration recently. I was trying to learn a new bind off and it took several resources before I found that one that made it crystal clear to me. It was a somewhat frustrating experience but also there were some really good takeaways and reminders about how my learning style is important. 

    The original hat. I should have used my Gleaner on this!

    Around Thanksgiving, I cast on a cowl to match a hat that I made several years ago. The plan to make this cowl has been in place for too long (since I made the hat) and I decided to stop putting it off. The yarn is Madeline Tosh Vintage in the Tart colorway and I bought it years ago on a business trip in Chicago.  

     

    I came up with the pattern for the hat myself but was feeling lazy and decided to look around for a complimentary pattern for the cowl. Almost immediately I found the Classic Cowl by Purl Soho which was PERFECT. It uses the same stitch pattern in the hat all the design work was done for me!

    The cowl pattern suggests a tubular cast on and this seemed like a good opportunity to learn a new technique for me.  I didn’t have any problems with the cast on and love the way it looks. I love it so much, that when I cast on a pair of Connectivity Gloves soon after, I decided to use a Tubular Cast on and Bind off.

    Isn't this a pretty cast on edge?

    Now… the gloves only have 36 stitches around. The Cowl has over 200. 212 to be exact. Here is where the lessons started kicking in.

    I needed to bind off the first glove so I went back to the cowl pattern to find the tubular bind off tutorial.  As I worked the bind off, it just didn’t seem right to me so I stopped and picked it out.  So then I went to my own bookshelf and grabbed my Cast On, Bind Off book (which, by the way, is not a book that I really love… I don’t find the directions very clear).  I took a look at the directions in the book and was confused because there were several variations of tubular bind off. So I poked around the internet for another tutorial and found one that looked pretty good and forged ahead. Again… it just didn’t look right to me so once again I picked it out. You don’t know what living is until you have picked out 2 tubular bind offs.  

    Once again, I looked for another tutorial. This time I resorted to video and as I watched the first one, I heard angels singing. Seriously. I was like, that’s it?? That’s easy! I got it! From there, I was able to successfully bind off, and it is glorious. 

    I took away a few lessons from this experience. First, by a very happy accident, I don’t have to learn this bind off on my 212 stitch cowl. Can you imagine? The gloves kindof became my practice project and I am so glad for it.  I’m not sure of the full lesson but it might be nice to try unfamiliar techniques on a practice swatch.

    The second lesson was finding the right tutorial for my brain.  I tried 3 different resources before I found the one that clicked for me. But when I found the right one, it was obvious. I am a visual learner. I know this about myself but I tend to favor written directions over video, even though I can better grasp a concept by video! It probably would have been smarter for me to look for a video after that first failed tutorial.

    I am just about done with the gloves and when they are finished, I will spend more time on the cowl because I can’t wait to wear it.  And I am pretty confident that I will nail the bind off.

    Cowl in progress - so squishy.

    I am so close to finishing! Yarn is from Junbug Fibers.

    If you are interested in making the cowl (which I really recommend!) or the gloves, there are some gorgeous worsted weight yarns available in FiberCrafty. The gloves do require Silver Spun yarn from Feel Good Fiber Company but they can be paired with any other wool worsted yarn.

    Happy Learning!

     

  • A Little Gift: Earbud Pocket

    A few years ago I saw a pattern for an earbud pouch and knew I needed to make it. In my house with one teenager and one almost teenager, they are essential. My husband and I also use them a lot. This is perfect for a quick gift, something that can be used and a stash buster!

    This is the first I made with minor mods.

    I made the Earbud Pouch by Mary Keenan. In the last few weeks the link to the pattern changed to Unavailable but it is actually still out there (you can find it on my project page, as of now the link works). The only mod I made was to cast on bottom up instead of from the cuff. I had a limited bit of yarn and wanted to make sure I wouldn’t run out.

    After using the pouch for a bit, I realized I wanted to make some tweaks. I wanted it to be a tiny bit roomier and bottom of the pouch to be wider but still have a gentle curve for aesthetics.

    A side by side comparison, original on the left, modified on the right.

    Here is the end result. It takes very little yarn and knits up quickly! I used fingering weight yarn but really any yarn would work. I suspect I will be making this again with worsted or DK and will report back, of course. That might need some stitch number changes. If you haven’t tried the Turkish Cast On, this is a great time to learn something new! If you mess up you haven’t lost much since the project is small. Unless of course you are scrambling to get final gift knitting done, stick with what you know. I haven’t decided if I prefer it to Judy’s Magic Cast on but I find it easier to remember.

    Earbud Pocket

    You can see the slight difference in shape.

    It's about 3" wide and 2 3/4" tall.

    You need about 6 grams or 20 yards of fingering weight yarn. Size US1 or US1.5 circular needles

    Setup: Using magic loop* and Judy’s Magic Cast On OR the Turkish Cast On, cast on 44 stitches (22 on each needle).

    Increase Rounds: Round 1: K Round 2: K1, M1R, K to 1 stitch on needle, M1L, K1. Repeat on second needle. Repeat rounds 1 and 2 three times total until 56 stitches are on the needles.

    Knit every round for 1 inch.

    Decrease rounds: Round 1: K1, SSK, K to 3 stitches on the needle, K2tog, K1. Repeat on second needle. Round 2: K Repeat rounds 1 and 2 four times total until 40 stitches are on the needles.

    Cuff and Bind Off: Every round: K2, P2 across needle ending on K2. Repeat on second needle. Repeat for a total of 6 rounds. Bind Off using suspended bind off in pattern (meaning knit each knit stitch and purl each purl stitch). Weave in ends.

    *If you prefer to use DPNs instead of magic loop, divide the stitches across 4 DPN needles (11 on each at cast on) and use a marker for beginning of round. End of Needle refers to the end of the 2nd needle.

    The modified pocket!

    I hope that you will enjoy this little pattern! I didn’t  test this pattern so if you need help or clarification in any way, please let me know. It may be that I need to tweak the directions and others will benefit too.

    One final comment, I first heard about this pattern on the One Twisted Tree blog, written by Danie, which I remembered but not the details.  I went back and looked at that post after writing this and realized that, without intention, my mods and "pattern" were extremely similar to those that Danie made! So, hats off to the original designer and a thank you to Danie for planting the seed. Great minds think alike!

    Knit and Rock on!

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Isis Perez of KnitSpin

    We hope that you enjoy this 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.

    Isis, her husband and son.

    Today's post features Isaura Perez (Isis) of Knitspin based in Naperville, IL. Isis has an interesting history and Knitspin is truly her passion!

    Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from, what crafts do you enjoy, what is your background, do you have any pets, etc? I was born in Havana, Cuba, raised in New Jersey/New York area. I was always interested in yarn, my grandmother knew how to crochet and I learned from her. I learned to knit while working in New York, there was a yarn store near by and they had the most amazing Italian yarns that I have seen. No other colors in others yarns store could measure up to this store. The owner show me how to knit a scarf, then I learned to do knit sweaters and the passion for different type of fiber and color began. Ever since then, I have always wanted to play with dyeing yarn. Not until I move to Chicago, that I learned to dyed. I always wanted to be a Fashion Designer but could never attend school. So I took a lot of knitting classes from different yarn store and my creative came from there. I could not find yarn that I like in the colors that I wanted. So my interest in dyeing my own started. This has open a wide range of colors for me.

    An example of the fiber included in Isis' spinning fiber club.

    My background came from being a Specialist Colorist Cosmetologist. The education that I received from doing actual customers hairs, gave me the background education to transform my yarns and rovings into colorful beauty.

    The education that I received from doing actual customers hairs, gave me the background education to transformed my yarns and rovings into colorful beauty.

    I love to handdyed fiber and yarns, but I love more to spin the fiber. I also took weaving this year and I'm enjoying using my handspun yarns to make woven scarfs. We have a Cockatiel Bird, his name is RayRay, we had him for a long time.

    Superwash Merino fingering weight yarn.

    What is the name of your shop? Knitspin is the name of my shop. When I was looking for a name, I was trying too hard to find one. Then my husband said, look at you and see what you do then your name will come to you. Well at that time, I was learning to spin and I would knit with my yarn. so KnitSpin came to alive with what represent who I am and what I do.

    How long have you had your business? I have been in business 12 years, since August 2005.

    Isis also carries a lot of fiber for blending such as this gorgeous Firestar, as well as undyed fiber and yarn.

    What kind of products do you specialize in? Handdyed Roving, Handdyed Yarns Handspun yarns, but we also carry additional extras add- in fibers for blending with batts.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? I was taking spinning lesson and then I wanted to learn more about dyeing. My spinning teacher say let's give you a few lesson, by the time I finish my lessons, she said you know you have a great eye for color, you should make a business out of this. Six month later, I had a working business online and started going to fiber festival to sell my items.

    Goat's Milk Soap with a skein of yarn on it - a perfect gift for your knitting friends! Isis also has soap in the shape of a sheep.

    Is there anything else that you would like to share? I have my family to thank for their support, without them I could not do what I do today. My husband drives me to all the fiber festival, my son comes with us and he help set up the booth and he handles the cash register while I'm with the customers. This is a family affair and we run two business at the same time. We also sell Handmade soaps and I'm partner with my son, who helps me make them.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)? That is it is easy to navigate, That Pam is always available if I need help with the website. It is a pleasure being in a website that the owner is there looking after everything and not be hands off. I do appreciate everything she has done for me.

    Isis, thank you for the kind words! We are glad we had this opportunity getting to know more about you and Knitspin. You can find Isis's products for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, Knitspin.

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