Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 coming to a close but what a ride

I am still amazed at who much I have learned this past year related to selling my merchandise.  In talking with a friend this week I realized that my business has allowed me to use that private college degree earned so long ago!

I feel so blessed to have met some many fellow fiber artists, retailers and ranchers this year.  My hand spun yarn continues to find good homes through Wild Yarns, my rovings are doing well at the Recycled Lamb shop, the Renaissance Festival will always hold a special place in my memory and we can't forget the online mediums.  Just when I was going to give up on eBay I sold a set of fiber, Etsy views drastically dropped in December but I am told this in normal and I just discovered a new online medium "Bonanza" this week.

In talking to my online accounting software vendor "Outright" last week, it really hit home on how much I have learned and grown with my business in 2011.  Still have so much to learn - isn't that the case with all business ventures!  The one thought provoking question from the session was "Do you sell on Etsy to build locally or sell locally to build Etsy?"  I would love to truly have an online presence backed with a few local outlets.  In reality in 2011, I have done much better locally than online though.  It is my first full year in business and what has happened this year is not predicative to what the next 5 years will be.  After all my products have reached Thailand, UK and several states in the U.S. including Hawaii.  I haven't broken into South America, Canada or Russia yet but 2012 is upon us and those regions could be in the future!

I have done some spinning during my break and will have one child's hat finished today.  I promise to post pictures soon - you can always check out my twitter account (@nashc7) for update info on the shop and me!  Yes I am on Twitter and I really like it.  My followers continue to grow especially from the UK.  Technology definitely has its advantages in making the world seem not so large and allowing those of us with similar passions to connect.  Networking events have been fun and educational - it is always nice to interact with others who share your passion.  Face to face connections can not be beat though but when that isn't possible I head to the Internet.

I want to close 2011 with thanks to all of my customers, Twitter/Facebook followers, retailers and vendors for being a part of my life and helping to fuel my passion for natural fibers!  My 2012 bless each of you with joy, peace and a sense of fulfillment!
Updating tags on Etsy and raising prices on select knitwear today

Sunday, December 18, 2011

2011 is almost gone

It is quickly approaching the holiday season and I am excited to be off from the day job starting on Tuesday until the new year.  Lots of projects will be completed like the son's Christmas present (I HOPE) and the spinning of yarn.  Today I am embarking on one of my 2012 goals which is to move the hand spun yarn from Etsy to the Wild Yarn store to sell.  I am letting the listings expire on the site especially the one with low views/favorites and moving them to a local venue. I will be measuring scarves at the ranch and probably pulling 2 or more to list on Etsy.  Can't have all of new merchandise in one location especially since I am pulling the yarn items from the Etsy site.

I have such a busy day today but can't complain as I was a bum on Saturday.  Reversal of a normal weekend for me but the college kid came home yesterday so the routine was a bit out of focus.  We finished Christmas shopping for the family and bought food for the kiddo to eat during his month's stay at home.  I did miss not having him home for Thanksgiving but I am sure we will settle back into a routine fairly quickly.  The cats are enjoying having him back home too.

I promised coworkers that I would bake banana bread for their holiday gift and I actually got up in time this morning to put the ingredients into the bread machine.  The smell of bread is wafting through the house this morning.  Of course I totally believe in multi-tasking (what female doesn't) so while the bread is baking I updated the yarn labels for the product going to Wild Yarns.  I have checked the Etsy store (very sad  - low views) and am writing this week's blog - HA!

My day is looking very full today.  I am heading out soon to the ranch for a few hours of spinning, knitting and selling.  Supposed to network with other crafters around 2 p.m. and have a holiday party this evening.  I would like to drop off the yarn at my LYS today but it might be on Tuesday.  The goal is not to stress - that is what the day job is for.  My Shetland wool baby hat is finished and I am progressing on the kid's alpaca hat which should also be finished today.  Liking kids hats as they don't take too much time but we all know that I get bored with repetitive projects so we shall see.  I really need to make more fingerless gloves over the holidays too!

Still would like to make sticky buns but not sure if time will allow for this as the dough has to rise for about an hour or so.  Perhaps sticky buns will be on to do list for Friday so I can bring them to my sisters on Christmas.  Well I am off to finish prep for the visit at the ranch and I probably won't touch base till after Christmas. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why natural fibers?

Before I even started this journey to sell my handmade items I was working with natural fibers.  When I taught myself to knit several years ago it was with forest green Red Heart yarn which I never quite made anything out of.  I think this was eventually donated to one of senior centers here in Denver.  I discovered the shop Showers of Flowers which had a huge showroom of all kinds of yarn.  Pillows, shawls and sweaters were made using non natural fiber yarns in a variety of weights and colors.  At that time I wasn't even aware of natural fibers but more concerned with cost/yardage for projects.

Then I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and I purchased a spinning and a CVM wool fleece.  My next step was attending the Western Stock Show were I met the alpaca ranchers and my dear friends at Ancient Treasures Alpaca Ranch in Arvada, CO.  I  have participated in shearing day for several years now and have skirted fleeces the past 2 seasons.  It has and continues to be a great learning experience for me and gazing at the alpacas in their pastures is just so peaceful.

So why is it that I focus on natural fibers you ask?  For me it is a means to support ranchers and small markets throughout the U.S. and world.  My journey into spinning natural fibers has introduced me to several sheep ranchers and alpaca/llama ranchers within the western U.S. face to face.  When I took up spinning cotton I gained such an appreciation of our ancestors and a better understanding of the cotton gins importance.  There are so many fibers (animals and plants) to explore and spin.  The groups on Ravelry who spin various fleeces per month have been a huge source of information for me and fan base for my work.

For me the niche of natural fibers places me amongst a caring group of people who love animals and enjoy working with their hands.  They are forthcoming with advice, understanding of trials and tribulations and confidence builders on new journeys with fiber.  In our societal "Green Environment" focus working with these fibers fits just right in while helping to maintain bloodlines/crops for future generations to explore. 

What are your favorite types of yarn to work with?  Do you lean towards a specific brand or manufacturer?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

No sales thus far in December but my online views are improving on Etsy. Working on Christmas gifts vs. stock in the shop.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where has the time gone to?

I feel as if I haven't written in ages but know that isn't true.  Thanksgiving was more calm than I expected but my time off from the full time job went by way too quickly.  The yarn shop at the ranch has brought in a couple of sales and I got to use the "Square" last weekend for another sale.  I really do like that tool.

Last Sunday I networked with some Denver based craft owners.  It was co sponsored by Krrb and hosted by Idea Chic which creates handmade stationary items.  I picked up some gift tags for my sale order giveaways which are very nice.  It was nice to discuss production techniques with other artisans and learn I am not alone in the lack of desire to produce mass quantities of the same item.  I met a funny and nice lady named Megan who specializes in jewelry with crystals/beads.  We as a group are going to try to grow the Krrb site for Denver to gain more exposure for our products.

What else has been going on?  Well I have made 5 headbands thus far and am now moving onto the ruffle scarves.  My order of Rowan Kidsilk Creation yarn arrived and I completed the lime green one in a few hours.  It is very soft and pretty. 

I am trying out a new pattern with some dyed cotton yarn which will be my son's Christmas gift.  Although I should probably start to work on his soon as he comes home mid-December and I don't want him to see it.  My purple Flounce yarn which is a special order was a very bad batch of yarn as the dye job had spots of blue and they knotted two fragments together to obtain the correct yardage.  I was very happy that my LYS allowed me to swap the bad for a different skein which is also a high priority project.

On the spinning front I decided to back to my roots of thin yarn and am creating a lace weight Shetland skein (just needs to be plied).  I also spun up the black/white top from the Sheep Shed Studio which is probably more Sports weight but decent yardage.  I think the gray top is next on the list to spin as I have several ounces of it left.  Of course there are pounds of alpaca/milk roving to spin up too.  I made a skein of alpaca/bamboo yarn from the cria fleece batch - so much vegetable matter in it.  I have my work cut out for me in picking the veggies from the skein prior to selling it.  It is a pretty tan color and was easy to spin but you know how I am about veggie matter - this was actually more than the tussah silk roving.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday really had no effect on my sales or shops :(!  My views totally tanked during the weekend and I have found myself checking the Etsy and EBay sites several times a day without much happy news.  I am going to try to limit myself to twice a day only for viewing Etsy.  It's not as if my checking the site will encourage sales - I wish.  Still trying to tweet a few times a day which is kinda fun.  So many interesting chatter on Twitter.

I will probably stop listing on EBay soon as there is virtually no traffic there.  As I haven't sold any hand spun yarn on Etsy I am thinking of shifting that product to the Wild Yarn store in Denver.  I'll keep ATAR's mill spun and the rovings on Etsy but unless things change I am not sure if it is worth having the merchandise age on that site.  My knitted items do well on Etsy but I'm thinking yarn is something people need to touch.  We shall see what happens in December.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another sale this month

November is definitely turning into a profitable month for me.  I received my 3rd online sales order today plus my local yarn shop Wild Yarns sold a skein of my hand spun yarn this month.  Sales definitely keep the creative juices flowing and boost ones confidence.

It was a fairly crappy week for me but I stayed focus on finishing the headbands and actually spin up 3 different fibers this week.  Yesterday didn't see any sales for me at the ranch but word is getting out in the neighborhood so hopefully December will see sales for many of us.  I do love seeing the baby alpacas and llamas on the ranch every week.  We have been lucky to have nice weather (no snow) but sometimes windy thus far.  I definitely use my time wisely while there.   Be it taking product photos, completing projects or cataloging merchandise.


CVM Headband

BFL Shades of Brown

Working on more yarn to sell locally at Wild Yarns - thinking the BFL in shades of Brown, Alpaca/Milk protein and Shetland Gray yarn.  I left the alpaca and CVM headbands at the shop on the ranch and will be listing the purple wool one on Etsy today. 



I just discovered there is a yarn for ruffle scarfs made out of Mohair and Wool for sale which is similar to the Flounce yarn.  Need to find a local source for purchasing and listing in the shop.  The purple Flounce scarf I made for my sister she loves and actually wore for her birthday outings.  We both love purple!

I have ordered some unique gift tags that I want to include with sales so I am hoping they arrive by Tuesday so I can include a couple in today's sale.  The skeins have been sorted as to which ones need yarn labels and which ones I need to wash/finish/measure.  Still need to research patterns for fingerless mittens with a flap cover.  I am thinking of making them with the Llama/Soy Silk yarn or Merino wool red.  Need to find patterns and send them to my friend for final approval though.  Well I am off to clean yarn and post items on Etsy/EBay!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Busy Saturday

Eventhough I am not feeling 100% it has been a productive day.  I went to the store at the ranch to work my shift and we had our first sale using the "square" tool.  Very cool to take a credit card, capture a photo of the purchase items and email a receipt to the customer.

The lilac scarf is finished and being cleaned/blocked.  I actually listed it in the shop at Herie7 Natural Fiber Treasures and it was posted on FB and Twitter today.  I think I am starting to get the hang of this multi media advertising process. 

The head band made from CVM wool is coming along and I like the heart design of the pattern.  Headbands are the perfect projects for my handspun yarns.

After taking product photos, I posted a couple of yarns on the Ebay site and within Herie7 Natural Fiber Treasures on Etsy tonight too.

I did enjoy watching the male llamas and alpacas this afternoon.  They are such peaceful creatures.  We had good conversations with customers and have some ideas on what to stock the shop with to draw in the young customers (kids).

Definately will be creating small woven bags and headbands for the Renaissance Festival the summer of 2012.  Tomorrow I will be relaxing and hanging out with friends before another busy week in the office.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Newspaper article

One of my favorite alpaca ranches was written up in one of our local newspapers.  Ancient Treasures Alpaca Ranch article - most of my alpaca fleeces come from the ranch and I am now selling hand spun yarn and knitted items at their shop.  Cheryl introduced me to the world of alpacas and I have participated in shearing day there over the past few years.  They have several  new babies (crias) and a couple of llamas on the property too.

We have had our first sales of November.  Hand knit wool beret and Wool headband were sold at Herie7 Natural Fiber Treasures on Etsy.  This weekend we set up the shop at the ranch and had a few visitors looking to see what we carry and inquire on hours to come back and shop later.  I do believe that they may have sold an alpaca this weekend too.

My goal was to measure and label my hand spun yarns this weekend which I have accomplished.  I realized that I actually made a bulky weight yarn which was the merino/silk blend in shades of blue, white and red.  My second batch is looking to be more of DK/sports weight yarn.  It is nice to know that I can spin thickly if I don't concentrate very much on going thin.

ZigZag design on headband made from dyed wool yarn

New design for a headband. Motivated to create more using the stash of small yardage yarns. Should I have a button closure or just bind it together?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Starting to sell on Ebay

So tonight I took the plunge and listed items on EBay.  They are running a special which allows one to list up to 500 items auction style a month without an insertion fee.  They charge a 9% fee but I must admit it was quite easy to list items on their site since I had the pictures.  You can find items under "Herie7" as I am trying to keep things consistent from one outlet to another.

The green ruffled scarf has been finished - yeah!  I am going to sell it in the store on the ranch.  Need to block the alpaca neck warmer and redo the wooden buttons.  I put them on the wrong side of the neck warmer and didn't notice until a friend was modeling it for me.   I do have really supportive friends who provide encouragement and occasionally modeling photos for me.  Still need to find a male to model the hats so I can post them on sites.

The merino silk roving is 3/4 spun simply because it is on the thin side.  It looks beautiful and I will post pictures soon.  Off to bed and relaxation.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Banana bread and knitting

Aran wool scarf by Herie7
Aran wool scarf, a photo by Herie7 on Flickr.

Yesterday was dedicated to making banana bread in the bread machine - the house smelled so wonderful. Today doing a little yarn shopping and getting together with the girls to knit and drink (coffee/wine). Overall a relaxing day.

The scarf made from lilac aran wool is coming along as you can see from the photo. I'm trying to keep myself to 2 knitting projects so that I finish them. Off to go shopping - enjoy your Sunday

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Market My Shop: Save On Packing Supplies

Market My Shop: Save On Packing Supplies - great article by a fellow Etsian on saving costs on packing materials.

A quiet weekend ahead

This weekend should be a relaxing one for me.  Saturday's goals are product photos and reworking product descriptions.  Sunday's only event is getting together with my knitting friends for beverages and quality knitting time.  I have joined twitter this week (@nashc7) and will be reviewing how that whole system works on and off this weekend too.  My inventory spreadsheet is coming along, I just need to add the orders from Ebay and through PayPal to make sure fiber purchases are captured.  My acrylic based yarns have been gathered and will be donated to a senior home or rec center for use by their patrons.  The bins in the house are getting empty - of course I have moved most of my fiber and handspun yarn to the garage where it is colder.  My goal is to have most of my supplies and finished projects stored in the garage versus the bedroom which will free up space and keep the house feeling like a house.

The sun has come out to melt the snow we received earlier this week and our temperatures are supposed to be in the 60s - yeah!!!  I'm working on a new scarf from my lilac aran wool yarn and might do some spinning.  Overall the goal is to enjoy the weather and the slow pace of the days!

I hope all of you are able to find a day or a few hours to just sit back and relax too!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's a snowy day in Denver tonight will be dedicated to completing the knitted neckwarmer while cuddling up under the covers.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Quiet weekend - with a little productivity

So Saturday truly was my day of rest.  I lounged around the house for most of the day and then went to the Alpaca ranch for a birthday party.

My creative endeavors consisted of cleaning the alpaca hat and a skein of BFL yarn.  I did sell the Estonian Lace scarf yesterday and delivered it to the birthday girl as her sort of surprise gift.  It was well received and admired.  See picture below.

Today I took photos of the new handspun yarn and actually listed 2 items on Etsy.  This afternoon I will be going to a craft fair to meet the owners of an online shopping site and then meeting up with some new crafters to work on the knitted alpaca scarf.
 CVM wool handspun yarn

                                                      Black Shetland wool handspun yarn.
Overall a quiet weekend for me but filled with good friends, food and a sale!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New listings in the shop

Not only did I deliver yarn to be sold in my LYS today but I also took product photos.  I listed about 5 new yarns in the shop today.  All of them are hand spun creations with decent yardage.



Saturday, October 15, 2011

Taking it easy this weekend

I am taking it easy this weekend.  Going to the ballet with my niece today to see Swan Lake - yeah.  Tomorrow I will be delivering hand spun yarn to my LYS and signing contracts to be on consignment there.

Goals for the weekend are to take product pictures of the spun yarn, finesse pricing on my yarn and improve the yardage on a couple of skeins.  I should be able to accomplish these things and it will be nice here in Denver this weekend to help with photos.

My wholesale order of bags arrived and will work really well to store/ship roving.  I also purchased some dyed mohair roving which arrived this week and feels really soft.  BFL dyed roving was also purchased this week and should be arriving in a few days.  I do like how BFL spins up and it seems to take dye rather well.  We shall see how this new batch measures up to my first purchase as it is from a different vendor.

We were featured in a treasury this week and received some views from it.  Minimal views have occurred from the Ennea Collective ad but it is still early in the month.  Ennea Collective is an online magazine dedicated to showcasing objects created with hand spun yarn.  You never truly know how well an ad will do in a venue until you try it.  The last 30 days have brought in 12 views thus far but no sales.  Oh well exposure if always good and perhaps will bring in sales closer to the holidays.

The alpaca hat is being re-worked as I didn't have enough yarn to make a large hat.  It is being made in the smaller version and I have just finished the twisted cable pattern.  This time it is being made in white but will be similar to the brown version.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

*******: New Adventure: Posy!

*******: New Adventure: Posy!: My daughter, who is about to turn 8 years old, loves dolls. I don't think that she so much loves playing with them as she loves possessing...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Creation of Yarn

I had fun at the ranch on Sunday.  It was good to reconnect with the alpaca owners for a few hours.  The baby alpacas are so adorable and I did pick out a fleece for next spring amongst them.  He is white with hints of fawn within his fleece.  Last year's crias are so big now - these animals grow so fast but still remain docile.  It is always good to meet the folks that come to the open house.  Some have never seen an alpaca before and many are not aware of all of the items one can create with their fibers.  The little kids adored the alpacas especially the toddlers.  We had really good weather for the event considering the day before was snowing and rainy.

Although I didn't sell any yarn I did receive some good feedback from customers.  Yardage matters to them and knowing what projects they can make with a skein is very helpful.  I'm going to rework/add to the skeins I have fiber for this week prior to trying to sell them locally or in the shop.  Product descriptions will be tweaked to give good project information to shoppers for our yarns and let them know how to combine skeins for that special project.

Given yardage requirements I am going to revisit my pricing of the yarn too.  If it will take more than a skein to complete a project I need to make sure the material cost doesn't exceed a customers budget for the finished project.

ATAR will be opening up the shop more often especially doing the holiday season.  I have agreed to man the shop on Saturdays which will give me a dedicate time to create items along with some potential sales.  It is good to have a variety of outlets for merchandising and will be fun to help in promoting the venue.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Festival cancelled

Today's pumpkin patch festival has been cancelled due to the rain/snow we are receiving.  It is fall in Colorado and we never know what kind of weather we will get.  Yesterday was sunny and warm today cold and rainy with a touch of snow.  I'm sad the kids won't get to have the pumpkin feast but am looking forward to a day off. 

I have updated my yarn labels and relabeled all of the yarn to be sold this weekend.  The yarn for the new store has been labeled too.  I just need to complete the yardage for the yarn to be sold on Etsy and label them in the coming week.  I'm learning to use StumbleUpon and Pinterest as marketing tools and both are neat concepts.

The green wool scarf and white alpaca hat are projects to finish this week.  Once they are done are will work on an alpaca scarf and the shades of green ruffle scarf.  Perhaps I will do some spinning on the wheel today. It occurred to me yesterday that I haven't been spinning this week in preparation of this weekend activities.  My poor wheel must be lonely from the neglect - I can't remember the last time I went this long without spinning fiber of some sort.

Off to relax!  Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

First International Order

Today I received notice that our listing for 2 oz Alpaca Black Roving had been purchased and needs to be sent to Malaysia.  Now to figure out international shipping!  I am glad to live in a city with many post office locations that are not slated to close down due to budget cuts.  My local post office does have friendly workers who have been very patient with me and all of my shipping questions.

My packaging seems to weigh about 3 oz so I do need to recalculate shipping charges for items to make sure I am not underpricing this area.  I don't mind paying for tracking or proof of delivery at this point as I am new to the arena and it is not terribly cost prohibitive for these options.  When sales pick up I might change my policy but for now the sales cost does cover these fees.

My wholesale order of fiber has been packaged, labeled and invoiced.  It is ready to be dropped off at the shop this weekend.  Below is a picture of this wonderful fiber.  It can be purchased locally at The Recycled Lamb shop in Lakewood, CO or everywhere else at www.herie7.etsy.com.

I still have weekend sales events coming up and the rest of the week is dedicated to labeling product.  Yarn labels still need to be tweaked and I have several skeins of yarn to measure/weigh.  October is definitely looking to be a prosperous month.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October Sales

I just received my second wholesale order for roving - yeah!  The new LYS opened this weekend called Wild Yarns in North Denver.  I will be giving them 5 skeins of hand spun yarn to carry in the coming week.  I'm thinking the Shetland yarns and BFL along with one of my alpaca tussah silk yarns.

Next weekend I am demonstrating spinning at a pumpkin patch and at the open house for ATAR ranch in Arvada, CO.  Today was a spinning demo day at The Recycled Lamb.  I plied 3 skeins of yarn and learned how to make the knit ruffle scarf.  The scarf should be finished by the end of the week.  I have two skeins of red merino wool yarn to list in the shop for the holidays.  I'm going to list the green dyed BFL skein in the shop too.  The remaining 3 oz of BFL has been spun and plied and is overall in shades of gray.

Projects for the week are to continue to upload inventory in the software program, improve my yarn labels and finishing spinning the merino/tussah silk roving that was started today.  I never quite seem to pick up the cotton to finish it but will do so before the end of the year.  My spun singles are getting stronger and I'm going to leave the Wensleydale yarn as a single. 

So far I have had two sales this month and am looking forward to next weekends opportunity to sell more.  I still have the green wool scarf to finish along with creating another Estonian lace scarf from my leftover yarn.  Tatting is still a work in progress but I'm sure the techniques will come to me and the process will flow for me soon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spinning yarn in public

I do love spinning yarn in public and I got in 2 days this past weekend to do just that.  The young boys are the most interested in the craft and how to's of it all.  They ask great questions and really watch how it's done.  I try to have double and single ply yarns along with finished products to help visitors tie it all together.  For the little girls we relate spinning on a wheel to "Sleeping Beauty" as most of them have seen that movie.

Although I didn't have any sales it was a very productive weekend.  I made about 6 to 8 skeins of yarn plus I finished the second alpaca hat.  Some local alpaca ranchers have invited me to spin at a pumpking patch event they are attending.  They are even allowing me to sell some of my handmade items too.

I have the weekend off from demostrating but will be visiting a new yarn shop on Saturday.  I am looking forward to a relaxing week!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It was great to catch up with the alpaca ranchers and see the animals at Alpacas on the Rocks today. Tomorrow is day 2 of

Friday, September 23, 2011

Small update

I am going to try something new on the blog front - small updates versus lengthy paragraphs.  Perhaps this will allow me to write more often.  The past month has had numerous health issues which have also impacted how much I am able to do.  I am participating in the Alpaca on the Rocks this weekend.  The evenings this week have been in preparation for the event.  I used my mill spun yarn to create a hat for the show my only concern is that it appears to be huge as the yarn is not as thick as the original yarn used for the project.  I am making a second one with less stitches to make it smaller.

On the spinning front I have 3 oz of alpaca/tussah silk spun and will be plying it tonight or this weekend.  The special order yarn is drying and I have started spinning the alpaca/milk roving.  The milk fiber is not as sticky as the silk so the VM does come out better.  Both rovings have rich medium brown color from the alpaca and will make nice yarn and projects.  As I have set aside rovings in 1 oz, 2 oz and 4 oz packages my overall stash of alpaca blended bamboo and silk has decreased.  Still need to follow up with my LYS on purchasing rovings.

Off to the docs soon then the day job.  I am not as prepared for this weekends event as the Farmers Market but a lot of my items are from last weekend and ready to go.  I do have 2 days for potential sales and a nice selection of items to present.  We shall see how it goes!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sales, Sales and more Sales

I am definitely enjoying the month of September thus far from a business standpoint.  We sold our first skein of yarn by the ranch this week and it is on its way to Hawaii!  The magical email from Etsy arrived in my mailbox to announce a sale and upon review I learned that it needed to be shipped from Colorado to the islands.  Ah isn't the internet a wonderful thing! 

Today was the farmers market in Golden, CO with set up at 7 a.m.  I sold some items there too!  I have committed myself to making another skein of the Black BFL roving into yarn for a customer who bought a skein of it today.  I have begun to spin it and should be finished tomorrow.  Best to work on these projects before the day job begins and when I have plenty of days ahead to finish it to reduce the stress factor.  My hand spun alpaca/tussah silk single ply yarn was the first sale of the day and of course it was when I stepped away from the booth.  I am still a little amazed to have others enjoy/desire my work but it is gratifying to have the things one creates admired by others.

Next weekend is Alpaca on the Rocks and I have several items prepped for the show from this weekend.  As I have now sold both of my knit alpaca hats I will need to make more of them for the winter season.  I'm thinking of making the pattern in my brown alpaca mill spun yarn and some white alpaca mill spun yarn.  I did receive several comments on the hat and the Estonian lace scarf today.  There were so many dogs at the farmer's market today who all had to great the alpacas and llama at our booth.  Colorado is a dog haven and they were definitely out and about with their humans today.

Lots of spinning on the radar this month.  I also received the Orenburg lace yarn which I traded roving for today in the mail.  It is a pretty pink color and will make a beautiful scarf in the near future.  Still waiting to hear from my LYS on carrying the new blended alpaca roving but I am having fun spinning it up myself.  If the weather brightens tomorrow I plan on working on photos for the site.  Need to get white background shots and closeups of the yarns and roving.  I haven't been that active on Ravelry but have been checking on the Etsy site.  So many beautiful items created by truly talented individuals around the globe.  Well I am off to rest for hopefully a slower day tomorrow.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

1st sale of the month happened today! A skein of yarn will be shipped to Hawaii tomorrow.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Spinning Marathon

I feel as if I am recreating my own Tour De Fleece as I have been very busy this holiday weekend spinning yarn.  At this point I have finished spinning 3 sets of singles, one black Shetland, one white Rambouillet and one off white Romney.  Each weighs 2 oz and will become 2 ply yarns.  The Shetland comes from Pinon Wood ranch in Norwood, Colorado and is from one of the rovings I purchased during the road trip.  I had to put one of them on the wheel - all that new fiber was crying out to be spun.  The Romney comes from my purchase at Estes Park and is part of the stash used in the Tour de Fleece.  My Rambouillet came from a shop on Etsy called Katrinas Wool World.  I have spun the remaining Yak cloud on my drop spindle into yarn and now need to go through the raw fiber I was given to see if I can add any length to what's on the spindle.  My drop spindle spun cotton has been placed on a bobbin as a holder and to free up the spindle.  I still have several bolls of cotton to spin up but noticed that as the spindle became fuller it was harder to add more fiber too it.  The joins of the cotton will be tricky as it broke in a couple places while transferring it but I think it will make a nice 2 ply yarn.  Can't forget to boil the finished yarn to set the twist - that should be fun.

This was the listing of the wool on the site: "Washed wool fleece with a 3 inch staple. I think this will spin up to a lofty yarn. This wool does have some chaff and discolored ends, It has been priced accordingly. Would also be good for felting. I would consider it a medium wool."  I had no idea what chaff was until I posed the question on Ravelry - love this site.  Basically the fiber contains no lanolin but a lot (a lot) of vegetable matter but that is what "chaff" means.  So I took my ficker brush to remove most of the vm and then created rolags with my hand carder.  There seems to be a bit of second cuts within the fiber too.  The yarn was spun woolen to give it some air and allow for it to be stretchy.  It does remind me if the stretchiness of Romney and my first thought was to ply them together.  I realized that my Romney is spun worsted though so perhaps the second batch can be plied together.
 
The Shetland roving from Panda is quite soft and it too is spun woolen to allow air into the yarn.  I did spin it rather thinly as to try to remove most of the vm from the fiber supply.  It will make a nice 2 ply yarn and for my second batch of roving I am going to Navajo ply it.  The remaining clean Romney has been separated into 2 oz batches that will also be Navajo plied into yarn.  I have been practicing my Navajo plying on the light brown alpaca cloud fiber and it is turning out rather well.  It is still difficult to get the plying started and I need to review videos on the process for the next batch but overall all I am not over spinning the fiber at this point.  I created a 3 ply alpaca yarn from the same fiber and was very careful in not over twisting the fibers.  It is now cleaned and dry and feels so much softer than the original singles.  I used 3 bobbins of fiber to create this yarn which had a lot of guesswork involved to get similar yardage on each spool. 
 
On the knitting end I unraveled (yet again) the cardigan but not completely.  Somehow I had dropped a stitch which created a large strand of loose yarn and dropped a stitch on the side leaving another noticeable gap.  As I intend to sell the finished item I couldn't live with the errors so I frogged it to the last mistake and have begun to follow the pattern design again in a smoother fashion.  I also decided that I needed a little shorter project than the cardigan so I picked up the lace yarn from the Fancy Tiger shop and am turning it into a scarf.  It is Merino wool yarn and single ply which I find to be quite fascinating but have to be careful to not tear or pierce the fiber with my size 1 needles.  So far the yarn is holding together very well and it is a rich dark green color perfect for autumn.
 
I will find out this week about my final sales total from the Renaissance Festival - yeah and this coming weekend I am picking up all of the alpaca rovings.  I am looking forward to spinning the milk and bamboo blends as I didn't have enough left from the first batch to create yarn from.  Not sure if my LYS will carry any of the new blends as they are not died and will be close in color to the bamboo blend she has in stock but we shall see.  Still haven't had any sales on the Etsy site but I have been visiting the treasuries and boards so getting some recognition from others.  My goals for the fall are to stock up for the holidays and I am even thinking of running a sale perhaps free shipping.  For now it is just a thought as I still want to increase my inventory levels of fiber and yarn.  I am really trying to create listings in the seasonal color scheme too.  That red roving is calling out to me to be spun into yarn and perhaps some projects perhaps by the end of September.  I still have so much fiber to play with too.
 
Alas no pictures with this post, I just haven't been motivated to take them, transfer to online storage and post.  If there is one thing I truly hope to outsource (next year) it is the creation of photos and their electronic images.  Until next time - hears hoping your fiber adventures are as enjoyable as mine!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Traveling in Southwestern Colorado

This weekend is my road trip to Southwestern Colorado.  Even though we got a huge rainstorm in Bayfield, CO I was still able to visit the Wensleydale sheep ranch in the afternoon.  I want to thank Jim and Linda for taking time out of the very busy schedule to show me their sheep and angora goats including the babies.  They own and operate DeGoatnsheep Ranch in Bayfield, CO and are one of the rare Wensleydale sheep ranches in the West.  The animals are beautiful and coated to protect their fleece.  I have been told that they are sheared twice a year and are solely fiber animals due to their high purchase price ($1,000/animal).  The sheep originate from the UK and there are a few ranches in the U.S. that carry this breed.  Apparently one can import the sperm of the animal into the U.S. and breed it with a similar type of sheep until you can get your herd to be 90% or more pure.  Importation of animals is not allowed - go figure!  This herd is predominately white but they do have 2 dark sheep (rams I do believe).  And yes I did pick up some roving and have an idea of the fleece I want next spring.



Towards the end of my visit their billy goat made his presence known and he has the most beautiful horns.  He was quite friendly but I was a little shocked when he stood up on the fence to be seen by us as I had been at the ranch for over an hour at that point without knowing he was even there.  He is in the top picture above - those horns are very long.

Today it is off to Norwood, CO (past Telluride) to visit the Shetland sheep ranch in the area.  My son has graciously decided to travel with me today as it will be a 3+ hour road trip each way.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

New shop postings

I have finally started to list the creations made this summer in the Etsy shop.  I have also been playing around with photo collages as a means of expressing my journey from raw fiber/roving to yarn creations.  Love the collages but still need to work on taking better photos.  As it the summer weather is starting to cool off (below 90) I took the yarn out on the patio for photo ops.  Many came out well and gave the yarn a bit of atmosphere.

I actually bought blocking wires this month and finally blocked the scarf I made last spring.  The blocking came out very well and you can see the knupps quite well in the scarf design.  As I took photos and measurements of the finished item it is now for sale in the shop and not just hanging out in my finished bin inventory.  Wondering if photo collages would be useful in the Etsy shop or just individual photos of the process - I might try it out on a couple of the hand spun yarns.


I am still knitting away on my lace cardigan although I think there is a flaw in the instructions.  It's turning out nicely and will use up the beautiful dyed yarn I purchased in California years ago.  I still have the cotton on a spindle while the wheel is dedicated to plying some remnant singles hanging out in the stash.  I am hoping to blend some wool roving with my mohair locks at the same time this month.  I generally spin the fibers separately and then ply them together so this will be an adventure to see if I can get the 2 fibers to blend together at one time.  I am loving the center pull ball technique of plying but really want to try the Navajo 3 ply method on a yarn soon.  Perhaps the Romney locks will make a nice Navajo plied yarn or there is the red wool top fiber I can use for this experiment.  I will keep you posted on my decision in the weeks to come.

In a couple of weeks I will be doing ranch visits in Southern Colorado.  I have set up a time to visit a Wensleydale sheep ranch which I believe is the only one in the state.  They don't have any fleeces left but I can choose one for next spring when I visit.  I also will be visiting a Shetland sheep ranch in Telluride and I did see some of them at the Estes Park Wool market.  No fleeces left either but they have offered to let me choose one for next spring.  Throughout my process of spinning wool fleeces this summer these are two breeds that I really like.  The Wensleydale is a long wool but not as coarse as the Lincoln and everyone has heard of Shetland wool from its use in sweaters.  My first complex knitting project was a Shetland wool cardigan which I still wear and my first sold product was my knitted Shetland beret. 

This week is dedicated to going through the stash of hand spun yarn and listing them on the site.  Many are small yardages which means they won't make a complete item (not even gloves) but could be used to accent a project.  If they are priced right (low) I should be able to find some buyers interested in working with luxury yarns and moving them out of the stash.  The bins are getting full with hand spun yarn and they need to find new homes as I know I won't get around to making objects out of them.  I have separated them out from the other yarns and have started to sort them.  Some are singles needing to be plied which is the goal of today and they all need to be measured and have photos.  It is good to have goals and tasks to keep me focused.

I checked in with my LYS and they have sold a few of the alpaca/bamboo roving and are interested in my new items from the mill once they come in.  Very exciting to know that I can at least turn a profit on the roving end of the business.  I am waiting to hear about the items sold at the Renaissance Festival and to see what I can re list onto the Etsy site.  The soon to open yarn store may be interested in my single hanks of yarn too.  After much thought on my part I realized that I am not ready to do wholesale yarn orders.  I love playing with fibers and exploring the different fibers that exist to spin so for me to dedicate time to spinning 4 to 6 hanks of a particular breed is just not practical.  Part of the reason I am not able to spin that quantity is that I get bored easily (kinda like knitting) so once I have spun a hank of a particular breed I am on the lookout for spinning fibers of a different animal or plant. My knitting is the same way once I have mastered a pattern it is very hard to repeat it even in a different color scheme.  It still all about knowing oneself and not letting the stress level get too high.  Off to do some spinning!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Festival Spinning

It was a very busy weekend for me at the Colorado Renaissance Festival.  I don't think I have spun this much yarn ever in my life even with breaks.  Alas the cotton fiber didn't get worked on too much as it was hard to keep a rhythm with visitors and shop life.  I actually spun on two different wheels this weekend - on Saturday an Ashford Kiwi (double treadle wheel) and today an Ashford traditional (single treadle wheel).  I was quite impressed that I was able to develop a rhythm on each fairly quickly and created several skeins of yarn.  I made the Louet hank below on the Ashford Kiwi - it is 217 yards and a single ply (my first).  Although the bobbins on the Ashford look far smaller than my Louet bobbins it did hold 4 oz of spun fiber very well.  I also learned how to make photo collages like the one below this past week too.



The Traditional produced a single ply alpaca tricolor yarn and a single ply CVM/Yak blended yarn.  I will be double plying the alpaca later this week and still have some CVM to clean and create rolags for.  My mixture of CVM/Yak is about 90% to 10% and I still have a lot of yak fiber to spin.  I am thinking the remaining yak will be blended with some alpaca roving in the future.  Several fleece portions arrived this weekend to and all are cleaned sheep fiber.  I am still very sad about the dandruff on the one fleece and we had some good discussions on how to spin it this weekend.  One of the artisans owns sheep that can get dandruff in their fiber and they clean it and let the flakes fall out as they spin.  I brought a portion of the cleaned but still dandruff laced fleece to show them and had a lice comb suggested as a method of loosening the flakes from the fiber so that I can spin it.  Off to the grocery store later this week to test out this concept.  The fleece is very soft and has a good lock structure so it is so sad about the dandruff.

Today marks the last day of the Tour De Fleece which was very enjoyable although I don't think I should combine it quite so much with Renaissance Festival days.  I made two hanks of Lincoln wool (one single ply and one double ply), a hank of alpaca yarn (made from cloud fiber), a hank of alpaca tricolor yarn, two sample Romney hanks and one worsted spun Romney hank (214 yards), merino/silk yarn, spinning CVM/Yak yarn and spun some raw cotton from bolls.  It has definitely been 4 weeks of intense spinning and scouring of fibers which I truly enjoyed!

Next year at the Renaissance Festival I will do half a day spinning and half a day knitting or learning to weave so as to not burn out on the spinning.  One of our artisans actually does tatting which now that I have seen it up close looks really cool and I really want to learn it.  We had a couple of artisans that weave and one works on inkle looms.  Best of all our two males were knitters/spinners .  One of guys knits in leather and the other makes great yarn from a bottom whorl spindle.  It was cool to see guys asking and learning about the fiber crafts and of course it is always special to share the crafts with kids.  I had two little boys yesterday spinning on the double treadle machine and then one of them really took to weaving.  Youth will aid in keeping this skills/crafts alive for generations to come.

It looks as if a few fiber items and some yarn has sold at the fair but no knitting.  As we have had 90 degree weather I am not surprised that the wool and alpaca items have not sold.  Next year I think I will look into making cotton and linen items for the fair and in lace designs so that they breath.  I have so much fiber to spin including the bamboo rovings from the fair so my year will still be busy and my knowledge of various fibers shall expand in the months to come.  Well it is time for bed and back to the office tomorrow - I am hoping to get some volunteer hours in this week while gradually easing back into spinning some yarn.  Have a good night.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tour de Fleece

We are in week 3 of the Tour de Fleece challenge and I must admit that I have been spinning everyday (including rest days).  I put a lot of alpaca fiber on the drop spindle it looked so full.  Alas once I made it into a ball and skeined it - not so much.  The fiber was smooth as a single but became coarse as I twisted it.  I am thinking this yarn is not for close to skin wear maybe a hat or something.  It is a pretty brown color but just not as soft as Sophie Mae's cloud fiber.
  
Alpaca Cloud
The Lincoln wool top has been partially spun into yarn.  This is my first true long wool and it took some time to get a rhythm on the wheel to take up the fiber smoothly.  I had the same take up issues with plying but I am hoping the bath smooths things out.  It definitely has a cotton candy sort of look to the yarn and I still have half of the top to spin up too.
Lincoln wool

Romney fleece
The Romney fleece has been divided in half and scoured (cleaned).  I tried a new method that I have been reading about on Ravelry which is to soak the wool in cold water overnight to loosen the dirt.  Once removed one can scour the grease off the wool much better.  I must say that it did remove alot of the overall dirt and sand from the wool my only problem was I just stuck the fiber in the cold water without in thought of preserving lock formation.  It was a little difficult to scour locks once they had opened up onto one another but not too bad.  This batch will be spun worsted on the Louet - I have 2 1/2 baggies full of clean fiber to spin up. 

Merino/Silk yarn
My LYS want 400 yd of homespun yarn - I do not know if my wheel can deliver such yardage in the fingering weight class.  The merino wool/silk blend top when plied had the bobbin nearly full to the rim and it only yielded 240yd at 22 wpi with a worsted spun method.  The yarn is shiny and beautiful but no where near 400 yd and I used 4oz of top to create it.  I am thinking of striving for 250 yd of fingering weight on a consistent basis and believe if I go lace weight I could definitely get 400 yd due to the thinness of the fibers but plying lace weight is labor intensive.

I still have not blocked the scarf or doily as of yet perhaps today.  On the business front I received the check for my first wholesale order - must take a photo before depositing.  I need to check on how to endorse it into the business account too.  I will be at the Renaissance Festival next weekend and will try to get an idea of what items (yarn/fiber) have sold thus far.  I am excited to spin cotton in public and she has 3 wheels for me to try out for spinning fibers too.  I am going to demonstrate on Saturday and Sunday as I am sure the crowd make up will be different on both days.  I will clean the rest of the CVM wool so I can make rolags with the yak fiber as part of the demonstration and spin that on a wheel too.  The Romney will probably stay at home as it is a white/ivory color and I don't want it to get a lot of dirt spun into from being outside.  Hoping our afternoon/evening thunderstorms will be over by next weekend but we shall see.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Yarn, yarn and more yarn

I was quite productive today and spun a lot of fiber.  The Romney locks have been spun into a worsted single play and a woolen single ply.  The worsted single was very smooth and straight on the niddy noddy but once off it was the highly twisted yarn. 

 The woolen single has less twist factor than I would have thought. 


Both are yellow toned from the stained tips even after a second washing.  They are drying and will be plied (center ball technique) this week so I can get an accurate gauge of how a 2 ply yarn will look.  I don't really like the yellow toned fiber so if the next cleaning batch is similar than I will cut the ends of to get a pure white yarn.

I then carded the CVM wool with some yak fiber into rolags and have started to spin them too.  In spinning the rolags I think they contain too much yak so the next batch will be less yak and more CVM.  Yak fiber is very short while the CVM is about 2".  I am spinning it semi woolen style (lots of air added into the fiber) and have encountered patches of pure yak which require more twists than those combined with the wool.  Of course it could be my carding process but we will take this in steps to determine the best blending method and progress from there.

Still having problems with my internet - I hope to post photos of the CVM later this week.  On to try to post on Ravelry for the Tour de Fleece competition.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tour De Fleece Challenge is Here

I am spinning my Romney fleece for the Tour which mirrors the actual Tour de France race but has been adapted for spinners.  The goal is to spin fiber everyday of the tour while taking breaks on the days that the tour takes breaks.  I am on 3 teams and have to convert the fiber into yarn by the last day of the tour.  I think creating the yarn will be the most challenging for me as it requires plying my yarn.  The center pull ball technique should aid in the plying but we shall see how the Romney fleece works with that method.

I have been doing lots of research on Ravelry and the web on how to clean and spin Romney.  Looking forward to putting the advice into practice.  I have cleaned about an ounce of raw fiber and it turned out so lovely!  Here are links to some pictures:  Raw Romney fleece, Clean Romney Locks and Spun Romney.

Picked up my fiber and yarn and they are so nice.  The yarn store placed a wholesale order for 10 oz of the roving and I think I will give 4 oz to the Renaissance festival too.  I have agreed to trade 4 oz of the fiber for 5 oz of raw llama caramel color fleece.  My 24 ounces of roving is quickly disappearing so I think that Montana's fleece will have bamboo fiber added to it to meet the demand.  At this point I am not going to spin any of it up to keep up with the demand - which is an awesome place to be from a selling standpoint.

I met with the soon to be shop owners of Wild Yarns today to discuss what they are looking for in the needs of hand spun.  Pretty much the same conversation I had with the store in Lakewood.  Need to seek advice from my fellow ravelers on gauging yardage/weight of spinning fiber to get a 400 yd skein consistently.  At this point I choose a fiber, buy a few ounces, spin, ply and wash and this gives me a wide array of yardage/grams.  As the shops are looking for specific yardage I will need to research and test how to make this happen.  The new shop is looking for 5 to 6 skeins (400 yd each) that are similar.  It is a good thing I have lots of roving coming and the Tour challenge so I can begin prepping for their September opening.  This is a never ending educational process which definitely keeps the brain cells sparking. 

Back to spinning for the challenge!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Completing projects

I have so many projects in the semi complete stages.  It rather sad and somewhat overwhelming.  Purchased a little notebook to jot down ideas for the blog and a running list of things to do for the Etsy site and products.  I did take some photos yesterday and today/tomorrow will be fulling yarn and scouring the Romney wool fleece.

This is my Llama/Soy silk roving (2oz)




This is roving made into yarn which turned out pretty nice and the 4oz roving made a 178 yd fingering weight yarn. 



This is my cotton cowl knitted with Patons Grace yarn.  Finally took photos and posted the item in the shop yesterday.

Had some connectivity glitches with Etsy last night so the roving and yarn have not quite made it onto the site.  It sucks when you can't get a webpage to work properly for as any of us who sell on the internet know it does take a bit to get the listing to look just right before you publish.  Now I have to start all over and hope this time everything goes well.

I have had a soon to be open yarn store reach out to me to carry my handspun yarn.  Thinking that I will give the shop in Morrison through the end of July to carry my pieces and if they haven't sold I will add them to the Etsy store or perhaps this new shop.  They have had my white alpaca diamond lace scarf and a hat since December 2010 so I think it is time to find a new outlet.

I should be getting the yarn and roving from the mill this week.  The owner of my LYS will be picking it up from the mill when they do their tour this week so I don't have to drive down to Kiowa just out to Arvada to pick up the items.  I have skirted all but one fleece and I really need to box and ship them to the mill this week.  The knee is doing better so hopefully on Wednesday I can make the trip to the post office - we shall see. 

Well I'm off to post on Etsy before I lose steam!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fiber festival update

2 posts in one day!  I just learned how to send photos from Flickr to Blogger so the cotton yarn was posted all on its own.  Today was the Estes Park Wool Market and I was there for 3 hours.  My Facebook Page has a few photos of the cute sheep and goats I remembered to take pictures of while there.  The Shetland sheep are so cute and small.  There were quite a few tiny sheep at the festival today.  I also learned that Jacob sheep can have 2, 4 or 6 horns and there was one with 4 horns (no I didn't take a picture).  Picked up lots of business cards of ranches to visit this summer/fall.  There were lots of CVM breeds there along with Border Leicester and Wensleydale breeds.  Tomorrow is the sheep to shawl competition but I am not sure I'll make it (4 hour roundtrip commute to Estes from my home).  I did a lot of shopping and viewing of animals today.

There was one yak rancher at the festival who lives about 2 hrs from me and allows visits to their ranch.  I bought 1 ounce of a yak cloud.  They also sold Quivit ($50) which I had heard was expensive but didn't realize how expensive until I got there.  Quivit is the fiber from Musk Ox which are in Alaska and Canada and is rare.  I am going to blend my precious yak fiber with alpaca fiber and make it into a yarn.  Yak, Quivit and Paco Vicuna are some of the most expensive fiber to spin around the globe as they are rare animals.

I am an hour away from winning the bid on some wool carders (90 TPI) which will be good for the CVM fibers and Romney fibers in my stash.  We had great weather for the festival and it was a relaxed event.  My fiber shopping is done for the year.  I have so much to play with plus I will be picking up the mill processed fibers this month. Well I am off to rest my tired feet and spin up some dyed superwash wool from the stash.

Spinning cotton

Cotton bolls with seedsCotton without seedsCotton on spindleSpun cotton single ply

Spinning cotton, a set on Flickr.

Cotton Bolls with seed, cotton without seeds, spun on top whorl spindle, single ply yarn

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Festivals and Spinning

It has been and will continue to be a busy weekend for me.  Yesterday I participated in the Spin In at The Recycled Lamb Shop.  There were lots of Ladybug spinning wheels in use and a few of us on drop spindles.  I brought the cotton to spin on the drop spindle plus some blue merino/silk roving to spin on the wheel.  Met lots of new spinners and learned cool things about birds and spinning dog hair. 

Today was aiding in setting the booth up at the Colorado Renaissance Festival which is called Raven End.  We cleared out what was the storage room to aid it in becoming a demonstration room.  I learned to use a sander today and even did some minor painting.  The owner would like me to do some demos during the festival which will be really cool.  I have to be in medieval garb which we will be working on before the big day.  Made some connections with a fellow knitter who is a writer and her hubby is a photographer.  When I am profitable enough to outsource I at least have contacts.  It was a good morning/afternoon of physical labor. 

As the Estonian lace scarf is finished I have begun another hat.  It will be in the lilac Aran wool yarn and I am tweaking the woven texture pattern to work in the round for the hat.  Here I go designing again!  So far it is turning out well but to get the pattern to show well the stitches are tight thereby making the hat smaller than originally attended.  Oh well, if I get the pattern to turn out well I can always make others and increase the width by casting on more stitches.  It is a work in progress and I am toying with adding garter or stockinette stitches into the design to break up the woven pattern a bit.

Tomorrow we are off to the Capital Hill People's Fair being held in downtown Denver.  Of course next week is the highly anticipated Estes Park Wool Festival of course we are all still waiting to hear if the camelid animals will be allowed in this year's event due to the EHV-1 virus but according to the site all other animals will be there (sheep, goats, yaks, etc.).  I am still on a mission to obtain hand carders.  I tried to buy some from Woodland Woolworks but they sold out then went to The Recycled Lamb shop and they sold all of theirs.  So third times the charm I am sure they will be many vendors selling these and I am in a serious mood to learn to rolags!

June is shaping up to be a busy and productive month and I hope the rest of the summer is just as busy!  Off to knit more rows on the hat.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Marketing Venues

So I was given a $100 credit to use Google Adwords earlier in the month.  I have taken them up on the offer and have spent $25 for several thousands of impressions with minimal clicks and no conversions to sales.  Still need to follow up on the free keywords advice but I am not sure how well there program works for craft/knitting businesses.  It is increasing my exposure but the bounce rate on my site has increased to 60%.

On the project end I am leaning towards one knitting project at a time.  The Estonian lace scarf has my full attention and I am very close to completing the body of the scarf.  The edge will be the true challenge.  My heart is just not into fingerless mittens and I know think that the CVM will make a wonderful hat versus mittens.  Haven't been on my wheel or drop spindle in a while perhaps this weekend - I do miss the feel of cotton.  So looking forward to a 3 day weekend and doing either a movie marathon (Lord of the Rings) or TV show (Torchwood) and getting lots of fiber processed.

Although the Etsy store has 20+ items based on feedback that really isn't enough visibility.  I am reading/following the book "How to Start a Home-Based Craft Business" to obtain some guidance on truly turning my hobby into a profession.  I haven't been good with my life plan this week but hey I am blogging and knitting.  Didn't make it to volunteering this week but will be there on the weekend (need to check library closures for the holiday).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Slow weak with focus

It has been a rather slow paced week for me but still a good one.  I developed plan to balance career, craft business and personal life and for the most part followed through on the plan.  Organization is my nature and since starting my craft shop things have felt sporadic and somewhat chaotic.  The plan sets aside time to volunteer, market the business and create items on a schedule.

On Saturday I met with festival shop owner and went over products to carry this summer.  Everything was well received although I might need to tweak the prices on the yarn up a bit to flow with the booth.  The CVM items were well received and thought to work well for men as well as women.  She is not sure that cowls and sachet bags will sell at the festival so I will be listing these items on Etsy.  She also advised to not display white items as it is an open booth exposed to the elements and items will not stay white for long.  All in all she liked the items I offered for sale and now we just wait for opening weekend to see if things will truly sale. 

I also met with the owner of a local yarn shop on Saturday to discuss selling fiber/yarn at the shop.  It was very informative and helpful.  They are looking for more hand spun local yarn versus mill spun yarn.  I learned yardage requirements for lace, fingering and sport weight yarns which will guide me in what to produce.  My core for the 4th bobbin still has not arrived to 3 ply yarns are not looking promising.  I am thinking a 3 ply is as close as I can get to spinning a worsted weight yarn as bulky is not in my nature.  It does seem easier to spin thickly from a batt versus a roving so I may give that a try.  I know to stick with the plan of converting the fleeces to rovings/batts versus yarn to reap the most profit from selling it online or locally.

My fiber has not arrived from the mill but the shop is open to carrying some if it is unique.  Not certain if my costs would be met by selling it at the shop.  Toying with the concept of it being a loss leader but a good marketing venue to at least get the store name in the marketplace.

The cotton bolls are still on the spindle and progressing well.  I am spinning the second bobbin of the llama/silk roving - hoping to get a yarn of at least 300 yd.  My Estonian lace scarf is coming along very well I am on the 11th repeat of 16.  Reviewed the border and I can tell it will require true focus so as to not need to do any ripping especially with the live stitches unraveled to create the border.  I do so love a challenge.  Started making some fingerless mittens with the CVM but the pattern bores me - will probably rip this out too.  A fellow knitter suggested creating mismatched fingerless mittens with my small batch of yarn.  They have sold well for her and people apparently like the uniqueness of each mitten.  As I am color challenged I am willing to give this a try perhaps with the basket weave pattern and alternating every 2 sets with different yarns.  I'll keep you posted - sorry no new pictures as of yet but hopefully next weekend I can show you the cotton and Estonian scarf!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spinning cotton bolls

So I broke down and opened up the package of cotton bolls tonight.  I was supposed to defer this to the weekend but the thrill of working with new fiber got the better of me.  I am using my lightest weight drop spindle and teased fiber from one of the bolls (removed the seeds).  So far so good, it is spinning up pretty easily for me and I am adding lots of twist to the fiber before winding it onto the spindle.  I relaxed a bit of the yarn to allow it to fold back on itself and it stayed strong along with looking like a decent 2 ply yarn.  Not sure if I will ply it with the white wool roving, white huacaya fleece or white suri locks as of yet.  Still have 9 1/2 bolls of cotton to spin so that decision is on the distant horizon.

Fleece market day was a lot of fun and yes I kept my purchases within reason.  I bought some mohair (goat) fiber that is naturally black and white.  The fiber is clean but the ladies from Sister Sheep had washing instructions for future mohair purchases.  Also purchased a very small amount of their CVM wool fiber which so reminds me of my very first fleece purchase.  This fiber is in the raw stage so it will need to be scoured prior to spinning.  There was a very cute lamb by the name of Jane who escaped from its keepers and ran across the street to the other shopping center.  I was frozen with horror when she ran across the street and we were very fortunate that cars in both directions had stopped.  Jane stayed with us for a few more hours and then went back home to her ranch.  The angora rabbit was beautiful and I got some good advice on spinning up angora for the future.  The owner of the rabbit also has alpacas and we met up again on Sunday for Shearing.  Of course we had 2 alpacas at the shop both boys who were quite well behaved.  Black Romeo had a thing for sniffing my spinning wheel and me when I wasn't paying him any attention.  Overall it was a great fiber sales day for all and an educational day all the way around.

Sunday was shearing day and 65 animals were shorn including several Llamas.  I aided in skirting a lot of fleeces that day.  Mr. Midnight is a rescued llama that hadn't been shorn in a very long time.  He got trimmed on Sunday and the joke was that I wanted his fleece - not!  Although he has beautiful coloring his fleece was a felted/matted mess and I am sure he is feeling so much better to get that coat of off him.  We had quite a few volunteers including my son and lots of camaraderie that day which is what makes shearing day so much fun.  There were actually a few ladies that volunteered throughout the day to assist with skirting even if it was just passing fiber to them for the trash.  Good learning experience and most importantly I did not add to my growing fleece pile! 

This month I am exploring markets for the fiber/yarn products and looking into broadening my marketing campaigns on the web.  Have to remember that I haven't been in business for a year and that things will fall into place when the time is right.  I work my business everyday in some manner and that is the important thing.  I have the llama/silk roving on the wheel; an Estonian lace scarf on one set of needles; a cotton cowl/hood on another set of needles and of course now the cotton on a drop spindle.  I LOVE FIBER!!!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ribbons and fleeces

The annual fleece market day will be held at the Recycled Lamb shoppe in Lakewood, CO this Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  This will be my first year attending the event and I will be helping the ATAR ranch with their alpacas on display at the shop.  There will also be sheep and bunnies on display along with lots of fiber, tools and yarn for sale!  My goal is to not spend more than $10 as I have 2 fleeces at the mill for processing and haven't had any sales thus far!  I know it is only the beginning of May but the shop has 28 items and items have been featured in a few treasuries over the past few weeks.

Of course on Sunday is shearing day at the ranch so that will be another animal inspired and filled day for me too.  It will be nice to see the alpacas and to see how big last year's babies have grown.  I have 5 fleeces remaining to be sent to the mill but may pick up an additional color scheme to blend in with what I have on stock - maybe.  It is possible to have too many fleeces when you don't live on ranch/farm.  Need to find some venues to sell the rovings/yarn being created by the mill. 

My yarn came back from the Great Western Alpaca Show competition and it placed 3rd - yippee!  Given the comments on the judging and am taking that there were only 3 entries into this division but a ribbon is a ribbon.  I also received some good constructive criticism and advice which I will be putting to use in the next  batch of fiber I spin up.  I am definitely going to enter my spindle spun yarn into Estes Park to get even more feedback and advice in the quest to improve my craft.  Still it was very nice to receive a ribbon on my first venture into competition.  Can't wait to show the ladies at the ranch and the shop this weekend.  Need to also look into submission of mill spun yarn as a marketing tool for those products.

I have been working very hard on the Estonian scarf but I think it is time to set it aside for a bit and complete other projects.  Need to purchase sachet bags/potpourri for the Mother's day presents along with buttons.  The wheel hasn't been used in a week - sigh!  On the other hand I did spin some alpaca fiber on my spindle during the trip so I wasn't totally ignoring my yarn spinning passion.  My marketing and updates have been sketchy lately but the full time job has been a handful.  Baby steps is what I keep reminding myself to take and not to panic too much if the plan is not working out as thought.  This is all a new journey and each event is a learning experience which I am very grateful for.  The fiber, knitting, craft community is such a great and supportive environment which has become a blessing to me over the past few years.  My hope is that the items created which find new homes are able to bring a bit of happiness and comfort to their new owners over time.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Road Trip - On the road again!

I have just finished a 7 hour drive to beautiful southern Colorado today.  Picking up the kid from college and a mini vacation.  I brought my cloud fiber to spin on the spindle.  Need to finish the sachet bag and will begin the Estonian lace scarf on this trip. The cabin is really nice and I did bring items to take photos of in the beautiful mountain area of Southern Colorado.  There is a lake about 1/2 hour away and we are near a big hiking trail.

The Great Western Alpaca Show begins tomorrow and although I will miss it this weekend I did enter a skein of yarn into the competition.  Competition life has definitely been a learning experience for me.  First I forgot to provide postage on the return envelope.  Then I forgot to provide a description of my item for the competition - somehow I missed this detail on the 2 page instruction form.  I told the coordinator that this had definitely been a learning experience and next year I will rock at this process.  The Estes Park Wool Market also has a yarn competition with a low entry fee.  I am going to try to enter 2 items to it and hopefully will be able to make it to the judging event.  I am thinking of entering my spindle spun yarn of alpaca and perhaps some roving.  I need to check the rules to see if the spun items can be from rovings or must be hand processed.  Apparently there is a big distinction in the competition arena of spun yarn.

One more weekend to shearing day and I have been reviewing my fleece sorting information to make this year's fleeces cleaner.  Need to confirm with my rancher what she considers to be her prime, seconds and thirds as mills and hand spinners may have different expectations. 

I ordered cotton bolls (10) from Woodland Woolworks which is sadly going out of business.  I have always wanted to try processing cotton and took the leap this week and ordered the fiber.  Will keep you posted on how well it turns out - am curious about how much fiber I can get from the 10 bolls.  Then of course the next decision is what to ply it with for a knitting or yarn project.  This summer is going to be a great journey into fiber events, projects and sales! 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Llama fiber is here!

I apologize for the delay in posting - time has just gotten away from me.  The llama/silk roving arrived and it is absolutely wonderful.  Fiber fanatics will understand my drooling over the new arrival.  The mill took a nice fleece and added soy silk to it to make this roving.  It contains very little vegetable matter - far less than I was thinking it would.  I have sorted it into 1 and 2 ounce bags for merchandising.  I will be keeping 5 oz for spinning and making into a scarf.  It is so impressive that I was motivated to sort 2 fleeces and sent them to the mill for processing last week.  One will be roving (my cria alpaca fleece) and have bamboo added to it the other will have wool added and be converted to worsted weight yarn.  It takes about 4 to 6 weeks for processing so I hope to have the product back by June for summer festival sales.

I spun up my first batt of fiber into a sports weight yarn.  It is definitely a different technique to spin batts versus rovings but for me the preparation allowed me to spin a thicker yarn style.  On the wheel is some older wool roving which is being spun lace weight - perhaps to sale as no project comes to mind at the moment.  The neck warmer (scarflette) is complete and I just need to add buttons.  Will be getting the girls at the office opinion on button options this coming week.  I am nearly finished with another preemie hat for Children's Hospital.  This one has a heart motif on it.  I thinking of repeating the motif on a larger hat and the big idea this week is sachet bags!  The bags should be pretty simple to knit up and create with a variety of intricate patterns which will satisfy my creative needs.  From my online research it seems that most are created in a simple strip panel and then seamed together along with adding the potpourri.  Cotton yarn is the most common type of yarn used for the sachet which I do have in the stash.  I think one of the projects for the Durango trip will be a bag similar to the wedding bag I made last August.  It calls for crochet cotton yarn in a small gauge and was quite intricate.  The blue and green crochet thread will make great color statements to the pattern.

Shearing day is 2 weeks away - yeah!  I am down to 5 fleeces in the house and know at least one will be made into yarn due to its coarseness.  When I was sorting through the fleeces for the last batch to the mill I realized that I had 2 different colors in fleeces destined for yarn.  In the future all fleeces will be viewed in daylight not a semi lit barn to aid in judging their color schemes.  This fall I think I will add some tan/light brown fleeces to the mix versus my brown/burgundy fleeces.  Still want to try my hand at cotton and a good CVM fleece as I hear great things about them and believe my first one was not a good representative of the breed.  There is a group on Ravelry that spins up a different bred of fiber a month and records comments, accomplishments and errors with the fiber.  So far I have just been reading about their adventures but would like to eventually participate and contribute to the group.  They do domestic and rare breeds from various animals which is educational and pretty cool too.  Well that's all that is happening thus far in fiber world.  No sales thus far on Etsy but I am prepping items to sale at a festival or too this summer so things are moving along.  Until next time - try to keep the fiber purchases in tow if possible!