Apr 1, 2016

My Box of "Crayons"

If you’re just landing here, you’ve got some catching up to do.  Check out the previous two posts to get up to speed!

One of the things that I love about Carla is her love of color.  She puts beautiful colors together onto yarn, and then when knitters purchase her hand painted yarns, they can effortlessly watch the beauty flow past their fingertips as they knit or crochet.  I love that, but am a bit more of a control freak when it comes to how color works in my projects.

I love to plan exactly where each bit of color goes, and place it specifically in my projects.

We’ve decided to marry my love of Fair Isle knitting with the colors that we created in the studio. 
One of our concerns about Welcome home is that it is an artisanal yarn, and is a bit pricier than yarns you can easily find in a big box store.  It is priced at $26 for the undyed skeins and $29 for the dyed skeins putting it right where it should be compared to other yarns that have been created with a similar process.  My concern for the pricing was that I’d want to use MANY colors, and that a simple accessory project would require a significant investment to get the colors I’d want.


Carla and I talked it over, chatted with some friends about our concerns and decided to do things a little bit different for this run of yarn.

We’re pairing a pattern with a kit that has lots of bits of color. . .they’ll be priced competitively, and for now only available in person at the shows we have this spring.  Any extra skeins left over after we’ve kitted things up the way we like will be sold individually, and we think they’re going to go quickly. 

The first kit we’ll have is of a pattern I released several years ago, and have just re-named and will be re-released.


Marquette (formerly I Heart Fair Isle) is a more advanced Fair Isle pattern that keeps a knitter quite chart dependent, as the motifs in the hat don’t have short repeats that can easily be memorized.  This is not a project for social knitting, but the results are incredible.  When I wrote the pattern, I used only a few colors of yarn, but for our kit, we’ll be using seven different colors to give you a full rainbow to top off even the greyest of winter days.  I've even added an extra chart to the kit to help you know where to change colors for the best effect.

Are you looking for a full box of crayons?  This is the pattern for you.  I love the way the natural brown plays against the kettle dyed colors.  For our sample, I knit it in the rainbow order that would have made my thirteen-year-old self extra happy, but there is enough yarn in the kit to put the colors in whatever order makes your heart sing.  I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with color placement here.  Carla’s attention to color values makes this kit a home run.   Plan your colors, or surprise yourself by choosing a color randomly, and you’ll have a hat that makes you look and feel like a color superstar.




There are a few other kits up our sleeve that I’ll share with you later this spring that are a little bit simpler in their knitting and less complex in their color choices, but this one?  This one is my favorite.  I hope you love it as much as we do.

As I mentioned, for now, these kits will be available at Yarn Con, Ann Arbor Fiber Expo, and Carla will take some to the Ply Away Retreat.  We will also have some in person (assuming we can keep them in stock) at the Black Sheep Knitting Guild meeting in early April where we’ll be sharing more about this sheep to skein project.

We didn’t intend for this to be a limited run, but we’re testing the waters with Welcome Home this year.  Our suspicion is that you’re going to love it as much as we do, and we’ll buy Mary’s entire clip of fleece next year.  For now, mark your calendars, and make a plan to come and see us. 

If you haven’t signed up for my email newsletter yet, and you’re thinking you’re going to want a kit, you may want to take a second and do that now.  Any kits we have left over will be listed on etsy, and my newsletter will let you know exactly when that’s going to happen.  If you're a newsletter subscriber, you'll also see a coupon code for a new pattern this spring.  You won't want to miss out.

I'm headed today to Chicago, I look forward to seeing some of you this weekend!

P.S.  Head over to CraftSanity, I was told there'd be a video about Welcome Home that I'll bet you'd like to listen to!

Mar 30, 2016

Trust the Process

Where were we? Inigo Montoya would say, “Let me Explain.  No, there is too much, let me sum up.”
We sourced fleece, had it spun into yarn, and then set about dyeing it in cjkoho Design’s studio.  (For the longer version, look at Monday's post.)




Carla and I talked about the colors we wanted, and decided on a palatte of kettle dyed semi-solids to go along with the natural grey and dark brown.  We thought six colors that worked with each other would be perfect.  The natural colors would round that out and we’d have a full spectrum to knit with.
I’m going to be honest here.  With the tie dye that Princess Monkey Toes has made for her scholarship fundraiser, we’ve purchased dyes, mixed them up, and dyed according to the directions.  She did a pretty great job of things, and her mom and I felt proud to help her achieve so much last summer.  She made beautiful items that sold across the country and she was able to send a girl to MichFest with her earnings.  (There are still a few pieces in my etsy shop if the thought of spring and tie dye has you looking for a fresh piece for your wardrobe.)

This, my friends, is not how professional fiber artists roll.

There is a PROCESS.

There is mixing.

Dark blue does not come right out of the powder, it is CREATED by the fiber artist by mixing just the right amount of this, with the right amount of that.

Much like with knitting, where we swatch to see if we like a stitch pattern, in dyeing there is sampling too.  Carla carefully measures and mixes and drops just a touch of color on a filter to see if it matches her expectations.

I kid you not, folks.  She is particular about her colors.   Do you see the slight differences in the reds here?
None of them met her expectations.   We started all over again when these didn’t work out.
Once the colors were determined, Carla used her formulas to measure just the right amount of dye for the number of skeins we planned to dye.  I wouldn’t be that far off in comparing her to a scientist at this point.  The yarn is soaked, raised to a certain temperature, color added, heat added, then it needs to cool, be rinsed and washed, and dried, and put into skeins.







It is a very precise and labor intensive process.

Those of you who know me personally, know that I’m not especially patient.  I pushed the process a bit and put the kettles out on the porch to cool in the cold February afternoon.  Carla rolled her eyes a bit at me, but allowed me to feed my impatient curiosity at seeing the yarn in its final state.

After the end of three long days on our feet, here is what we ended up with.




You can see that we’ve got a few more than the six colors we intended.

Carla tells me that part of the magic of dyeing is in what happens in the dye pot.  In spite of her meticulous measuring and our sampling, the dye absorbs and attaches to fiber in unique ways.  Some of the colors, while not what we expected were colors we fell in love with, so we kept them.


We will have this lovely yarn at Yarn Con on Friday (that's only a couple of days from now!!) and (if there is any left) at the Spring Ann Arbor Fiber Expo April 9-10.  Come out and see me!



If you’ve been paying attention, you know the next part is pattern support.  I’ll tell you more about that next time.

P.S.  Pattern updates are happening soon!  Now's your chance to grab previously published patterns at a lower rate.

Mar 28, 2016

Welcome Home


I wrote almost a couple of weeks ago about the lists I’ve been making and trying to finish up before Yarn Con, but what I haven’t written about are some of the things I’ve already finished.

During my last school vacation, I spent some time working with Carla of cjkoho Designs on a project that we’ve been collaborating on since August.



A dear friend, Mary, cares for a small flock of sheep on the west side of Michigan.  I’ve purchased a few fleeces from her in the past, and love the Blue Faced Leister/Romney cross sheep that she has in her flock.  It’s truly a dream to spin, and I love that I know the shepherd, and feel connected to her flock as though they are somehow friends by extension.

Carla and I visited with Mary this fall at the Michigan Fiber Festival, and Carla, too, fell in love with the fleece.  So much so, that we grabbed up all eight that Mary brought to show us. . .and we fought off people in the parking lot who were eager to see the beautiful wool and take it home themselves.  Our vision was to have all of this Michigan grown fleece processed into yarn, right here in Michigan, dyed in Carla’s studio, and then supported with patterns designed by yours truly.  The vision is to welcome our customers to the good parts of Michigan; we’ve called the yarn Welcome Home.  The process has been awesome in the way that only projects that push you to grow can be.


This labor of love, from the state we love is being released to the public at Yarn Con in just a few days, and we were interviewed about it by Jennifer at CraftSanity when we met up at MidWest CraftCon in Columbus. . .but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m one of those “shop local” people.  I love to go to locally owned stores.  I don’t mind paying a bit more for ethically produced products.  We buy organic when we can. . .you get the idea.  I don’t snub big box stores completely, there are certainly reasons to shop with larger corporations too, but I have bought into the idea that my local dollars spent locally help my neighbors and friends who own businesses locally.

It’s another reason I love going to fiber festivals.  I can meet the artists who dyed the yarn, I can see photos of the sheep that grew the fleece, and maybe meet the farmers who raised them.  Even if the dyers don’t live in my little town just outside of Detroit, that connection is important to me.  Friends in fiber.  Knit from the same cloth. (Yes, that horrible pun was intentional.  Go with me.)
I’ve never really complained much about the cost of hand dyed yarn, but know it’s pricier.  An artist touched it.  Worked her magic on it.  Thoughtfully created something beautiful for me to use.  It’s worth the extra cost.

What I had never done for any length of time is to spend time in the studio with one of those artists.

Holy Crow.  Is that a lot of work. 

I’ll tell you more about that in the next blog post.

P.S.  I've got a batch of patterns to look at in my inbox fresh from the tech editor and graphic artist I'm working with.  Some of which are refreshed patterns already in my Ravelry library.  If you've been thinking about one of them, now is the time to add them.  Next week, all customers will get an update, and the price will go up.  Take a look!



Mar 7, 2016

Guest Blog: Erica Owens

Even though Erica and I live less than a mile apart, we don't see much of each other, and our interactions are primarily online these days.  There has been a flurry of email and text messages lately as we approach St. Patrick's Day.  We've collectively watched the response to Saint Padriag's re-release, and I thought you might enjoy hearing from Erica what her thoughts about the design are.  Enjoy!


My son adores shamrocks. I'm sure it's somewhat forced on him, because I love them too. St Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays - I love the food, happy family time and explosion of green and white decorations. Last year I wanted to surprise my son Padraig with a shamrock-themed handknit. Tanya and I put our heads together and Saint Padraig was born. 

We cranked out a bunch of samples and my family donned hats for the Detroit St. Patrick's Day 2015 parade. Padraig loved that we all had different versions. 



We wore them a lot last spring and dusted them off again in September for...you guessed it..HALFWAY to St. Patrick's Day. The last month I definitely have shamrock fever all over again. I had Tanya make custom knitting bags for me and my mom and we took them for a spin at Pints and Purls, a knit night at Patrick J's Irish Pub in Berkley.



The fever doesn't stop there. I'm knitting a cowl in Wooly Worsted by Ewe Ewe Yarns 



and another shamrock cowl in For Better or Worsted by Anzula Luxury Fibers.



I love how both are knitting up! It seems like every couple days a friend is texting me a pic of a recent finished object.  

Cathy knit this for her grandson



and has cast one on for herself.



And how cute is Kathy's version in two purples!? I love how it looks like violets. So Springy!



Jane knit a wee one for her niece and has already cast one on for herself.



Tanya and I can't thank you all enough for the kind words about our Saint Padraig pattern. It's a great "my first fair isle" project and your positive feedback shows that! To show our extreme gratitude, we're having a CONTEST! Leave a comment on this post and you'll be entered in the drawing for a custom shamrock bag!



Buy the Saint Padraig pattern  and you get TWO entries into the drawing (don't worry, we're throwing your name into the hat if you already purchased one). Sign up for the newsletter , and follow MaybeaCrafted on Instagram, and Facebook, to earn additional chances! We'll draw a winner on March 11, 2016. 

Keep those pics coming on social media. We love it! Tag them with #maybeacrafted and #saintpadraig to be sure we find them. 

Happy Knitting, 
Erica

Thanks for the purchases, comments and follows. . .from 181 entries, we used a random number generator to select a winner.  Number 156, Beth H, has been notified and will have a small Poppins bag headed her way soon. 

Mar 2, 2016

Crunch Time

This week has been racing past me, and has been filled with list upon list, with no beautiful photos or inspirational thoughts.   Ever had a week like that?  The work in my sewing room has my trash can looking interesting, but that’s about it.

On Saturday I had a good sit down with myself, and really looked at the calendar and what needed to be done.  It was a bit shocking.

For those of you who haven’t signed up for my newsletter, (here's a link if you haven't) the exciting news is that I’ve been accepted to vend at Yarn Con in Chicago on April 2-3.  This is great news, is very exciting, but it also comes with lists.  Do I have enough bags made?  What should I add to the goodie bag?  Will all of my patterns be ready to print? Do I have a good way to display everything?  Do I have enough samples? What supplies do I need to purchase to make sure that everything is priced and ready to go?  How will I fit it all into my vehicle?  Have I made the hotel reservations?  Do I know where my fast pass is for tolls?

Sleep has been eluding me and the lists continue to get more specific each day.  While I like specific lists because it means I can check things off as I go, they can also be daunting. . .because they get intensely long.

I actually think I’m in good shape, but the lists. . .oh the lists.  I’ll have some long days and weekends between now and April 1 when I head west with my car loaded to the hilt with all sorts of good things to share.

Ever wonder what 2000 stitch markers looks like?  These arrived this week for me to use in a special treat for people shopping in my booth this spring.  Yes, that’s another thing on my list.



If you haven’t been to Yarn Con (I haven’t!) you should totally check out their site.  They are consistent about sharing bios about their teachers, info about their vendors (I was featured on Monday in case you missed it.)  A friend local to the area says that it’s the best FREE event in the area.  A couple of friends who’ve vended and taught at previous events have it on their “must attend” list.  I’m excited to be included in the list of vendors, as there are some stellar small businesses and teachers included in the event.  I suspect it's going to be tough not to spend all of my profits while I'm there!

My excitement about my debut at Yarn Con has me almost forgetting about the Ann Arbor Spring Fiber Expo.  I’ve been a vendor at the Fall Fiber Expo more than once, but this will be my first time at the spring event.  I’ll be camping in “Betty” our 1956 Comet camper at the fairgrounds, so you could say it’ll be my first camping trip of 2016 too. (And if you're not a camper, camping comes with a completely different set of lists that can be a bit shocking when you see them written out.)



I’ll bet you’re wondering when the Spring Fiber Expo is. . .April 9-10.  Yes, the weekend immediately following Yarn Con.


Are you starting to understand my lists now?  I’m not really prepping for one big show, but TWO, right in a row.  Add to that a teaching engagement at my local guild in April, and you’ve got a recipe for a busy, busy March. Still, I'm trying to remember this:


I'm wondering. . .what do you do to manage things when your lists get overwhelming?  And what is it that brings you joy?  In spite of the crazy making, the things on my lists?  They do bring me joy.

Feb 26, 2016

Who's Your Community?

I have a handful of students who join me in a knitting class on Thursday nights.  We’ve evolved a bit from being an instructional group into being a group of women who care about one another, who also knit.  I’m still a support to them when they get stuck, but our group has become less instructional over the years.  And while this doesn’t really bug me, I do miss the problem solving and watching the lights go on as people figure out something they have never done before. 

One of the things I truly love about knitting is just how clever it makes me feel.  There is no end to the delight I feel when I turn the heel on a sock, or figure out a particularly difficult stitch pattern, or put together strange colors and create something that is truly amazing.



(Sock is a plain ole stockinette sock in 64 sts on a size 2.25mm needle, and the yarn is Socks That Rock lightweight in Bait-a, acquired at Erica's de-stash sale last year.)

I love that part of knitting.  But I tend to see it more in my own work than in others lately.
I posted earlier this week how much the comments from others about Saint Padraig meant to me.  I am genuinely humbled and excited by how much people have enjoyed that pattern.  Often, I’ll send something out into the world and never hear back about it.

I teach at a metro Detroit high school during the day, and one of my colleagues has sponsored a knitting club for many years.  My students know that I knit, but a different club that I sponsor has always prevented me from participating in the knitting club.  Knitting club attendance has waned and she was looking for a depository for the supplies. . .and I agreed to take them on, thinking that maybe next year, I’ll sponsor the club and be all set.

It was a LARGE box of donated yarn, needles, books and goodies that showed up one day.  “These are from Ms. Hearne,” I was told, and then the student disappeared.  What was I going to do with all of this?  Where would I find room for it?



The box sat on my counter for a week as I pondered.

And then one student said she’d like to learn to knit.  She pulled a book of instructions out, found a yarn that she loved the color of, and I showed her how to cast on during passing time one day.  She tells me she knits obsessively at home.  (Oh, how I can relate.) However she hasn’t brought anything in to show me, so I’m not sure where she’s at with her obsessing. . .

Another told me she was into felting, and asked if there were felting supplies in the box.  There weren’t, but I brought in some roving donated by a Carla, and a few needles and a block of foam.  This student tells me she has been painting with yarn, and creating some lovely images. . .and was so thankful for the supplies to encourage her along.  I haven’t seen evidence of this, but I trust that it’s true.

And yet another told me that she learned how to knit when she was little, and asked if I could help her a little.  She shows up to see me every day or so to show off her progress.  She chose a carmely-tan yarn for the scarf she wanted to make, and never expecting her to be so committed; I didn’t put her off by telling her that it probably wasn’t enough yarn for what she wanted.  I just helped her cast on, and sent her on her way.

So often, I feel like that’s what I do as a learner.  Take a chunk of information back to my quiet space and then try to figure things out on my own.  Sort of like the first two girls.  I’ve got this, I think, and sometimes I actually do.  Other times, it’s a bit less successful.

What I’ve admired about girl three, is that she keeps showing up.  Every few days she’ll show me where she’s at.  I’ll give her a tip or two, and she’ll keep motoring on.  Then one day she told me she wanted to try something different.  I thought that meant she was giving up on knitting, and scrapping the scarf project.   (Aha!  I was RIGHT! or so I thought. . .) 

But what she wanted was to learn a new stitch.  Her vision for her scarf was that it would be a sampler.  She wanted to try out new stitch patterns that would help her feel more confident, and learn more.  What a smart girl!  She’s moved through garter stitch, 2x2 ribbing, moss stitch and is now working a 1x1 rib.  I checked in with her about length and colors and coached her to turn it in to an infinity scarf when she’s done.  I think that the 220 or so yards in her skein will be perfect for that application.

She has dodged the boring first scarf, and turned it in to something that she can learn from.  Something practical.  Something that’ll make her feel clever when she puts it around her neck.  All that knitting should be.  She likes the undulating width of the project, and thinks it's going to look smashing when it's done.  I agree.

All of this made me curious.  What was YOUR first knitting project?  What do you use as a teaching tool when someone you love wants to learn to knit?  And what are you doing NOW to keep growing your skills?

If you’re looking for a sampler-like project, I adapted Danielle LaFramboise’s windmill bag pattern a few years ago into a multi stitch sampler bag called the Sassy Summer Satchel.  It’s  a fun knit, and you can use colors that make your heart sing, and choose the stitch patterns that are most intriguing.  Best of all?  It’s a free download on Ravelry, and well tested by the 1,841 of unique downloads it’s had over the years.

If you do decide to cast on, don’t be afraid to let me know about it.  It’s a great bag.

And if you're struggling with your knitting?  Show up.  Ask for help.  Knitters make for great community, and your LYS or community center is bound to have classes--and if they're full and you live locally?  Let's chat.  It'll be fun to grow my community again.  You can never have too many knitting friends in your life.

 P.S.  I just saw that . . .Have You Any Wool? in Berkley has added another Fair Isle class if you're still itching to try casting on a Saint Padraig before St. Patrick's Day!

. . .and if you haven't signed up for my newsletter, here's a link!

Feb 23, 2016

It's nice to be loved!

When Erica and I re-released Saint Padraig last Monday, we expected that some of our customers would be thrilled, they'd been asking us for the update for a long time.



What we didn't expect was the overwhelmingly positive response we got.  You guys!  Thanks for the love!

Knittingally says: Thank you so much - I love the cowl!

 Don't you just love the pink edge that she's included  on the hat that she's working on?


 Janedu says:  SO excited. Completed the hat this a.m. and LOVE it. Cannot wait to make the cowl for myself.

IndoMary says:  I love this hat pattern I have made 2 baby 1 toddler 1 small adult and 1 large adult. Easy pattern to follow and so cute. Can not wait to try this [cowl].  

SharonRoseZ says:  Thanks so much; I have yarn left from my hat so may make the cowl as well!

And she's right. . .if you start with two full skeins of Cascade 220, you can make an adult hat, and reverse the colors for the cowl, and might still be able to sneak out a baby hat with the left overs.  When we were knitting the samples last year, we had a skein of Bare Naked Wools Ghillie that we couldn't believe how many hats we were able to knit with!

Take a look at how cute Sharon's hat is!  It's just about to be sent off to the recipient. 
 

I think if you poke around on Ravelry for a bit, you'll be inspired by all of the yarn and color choices you'll find. I'll bet you even have the perfect yarn just waiting in your stash.

I talked last week about what a great pattern this is for a beginning fair isle knitter, and it truly is.  My local yarn shop, Have You Any Wool has used the Saint Padraig pattern as a intro to color work class more than once.  Even if you've never knit with two colors before, you'll still have time to cast one on and get it finished before the holiday.  I swear.

If you've got one on the needles, or one you'd like to share on Instagram, tag us with #saintpadraig or #maybeacrafted so we can seek you out.

Wait.

You don't have the pattern yet?

I'll make it easy.