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 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, 

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.