LOL Friday: Hair!

Body hair can be funny, particularly when it’s sheepish.

Mutton chops! These make me wish it was fashionable for ladies to sport facial hair, but that’s a trend that I don’t think will ever catch on.
By Terry Border, one in a series (yes, there are more).

One for the ladies and anyone who relishes a good head of hair:

Ah, to have your own source of wool … although technically we could knit our hair; I follow weird weekends and he’s spun & knit human hair, calling it whair. You should follow him – he’s always on an adventure!

I combed the internet and could not find the artist who created this brilliant image. This is a long shot, but if you’re reading this and you know, please comment with the info! I hate not knowing and not giving credit where credit is due!

Birthday

Today’s my birthday – yay! I get to eat as much cake as I can! And also reflect on what’s happened in a year …

I’m in such a different place  mentally; last year I was still recovering from something that happened in January and still struggling with drinking. I took my last drink in July, so I know I was craving it badly on my birthday – how else was I supposed to celebrate than to let loose? I’m happy to say I don’t feel that way this year. I can let loose any time, I just need to give myself permission to do so. I don’t need alcohol to relax, I can do that on my own in a number of ways, including fiber art stuff (knitting, spinning, even my nemesis, crochet).

I was also still playing roller derby. I was on two travel teams and the captain on one. The pressure I put on myself to be a good captain was really bringing me down last year. I had a hard time focusing and being happy about the things I was doing well and only focused on the things I was doing badly, and that applies to my derby skills as well. I think I hit my peak skill level at the end of 2014 and 2015 was a slow descent into still okay but not as physically strong as I was in November & December of 2014. I stopped getting MVP Jammer awards (I have 9 or 10 from my 4 year derby career) and also stopped playing in as many jams, partly because my endurance was down after January and partly because my anxiety was shooting through the roof. I decided to quit the team I wasn’t captaining in May and take a step back after the season was over in June. What I didn’t realize is that I’d be done (for a while or for good, I haven’t decided yet).

My100DayProject.jpg
All 100 of my 100 Day Project pictures

Last year I was also in the middle of my 100 day project. I designed and released two new patterns: Feathermoss and The Double Rainbow Scarf. I finished two hats, a sweater, two scarfs, three shawls, and did a lot of spinning. Luckily the project overlapped a bit with Tour de Fleece, so I got two birds with one stone. I also made felt and dyed it with false indigo; it’s the bright green felt I beaded & embroidered as the Moss Garden and this shmancy upcycled Sucrets box. And I felted one of my husband’s store bought wool sweaters (it no longer fit him) and embroidered on that with handspun naturally dyed singles (also what I used in the Moss Garden & the box).

This year, I was on the lookout for the start of another 100 day challenge but it seems that there are a number of them; I might as well start a new one on my own any time. Rather than being so formal about it, I’ve just been trying to do something every day either with knitting, reviving my etsy shop, writing this blog, or keeping up with social media. I feel really good about reviving the etsy shop even though I haven’t had any recent sales. I’m positive I’ve paid etsy more than I’ve made off the shop, but my traffic and favorites are up thanks to working on my SEO so I still have some hope.

I also feel good about designing – I will eventually move away from cowls to something else – and I’m looking into ways to expand my reach and become a little more professional about it. I found another designer group on Ravelry, one that actually has calls for submission. I’m working up the courage to respond to one of these and see where I can take this design thing.

My family is doing well; my oldest will be graduating from high school in June and has decided where he’s going to college next year. My middle son has his learner’s permit & is doing really well with driving. He’s also running track this spring and breaking his previous PRs. And he thinks he just aced the AP Psychology exam. My youngest son has adjusted really well to middle school and I’ve been squeezing in all the hugs and kisses on the cheek that I can before it gets too weird/embarrassing for him. My husband is stressed in his job and travels every week and I wish he had time to look for a new one that’s local, but overall I suppose he’s doing okay – our marriage is more solid than it’s ever been.

Lastly, pet-wise things are a lot different than they were last year. We had to euthanize our smallest dog, a toy fox terrier mix, last June. She badly ruptured a few disks in her back, lost control of her hind legs, and was in a lot of pain. Poor chick – she was a good dog, much more like a cat than our other two dogs. In November I started talking up cats to my husband (and myself – I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another pet) and in December we found the perfect cat for us thanks to some friends who foster cats for a rescue organization. Jeffrey Lebowski (aka The Dude) was just under a year old, is very calm/chilled out, and has fit in with our family so well – I post a lot of pictures of him to Instagram.

All in all, I’m happy with where I am and what I’m doing! If you made it this far into my post, congratulations – I’d share my birthday cake with you if you were here, but you’re not, so go find some cake and have a happy Tuesday!

Cowl Kick, Pricing Finished Knits

I’ve been on a cowl design and making kick after spending a couple months working on a Exeter cabled sweater. I can’t stop with the cowls now – they’re quick, easy projects that give me near-instant gratification.

The cowl kick started at the end of the sweater project. For about 2 years now I’ve been trying, somewhat successfully, to knit down my yarn stash. I wanted to find something to do with 3 skeins of Plymouth Earth Ecco Baby Camel that’s been in my stash since 2008. InfiniteWaveCowlIt’s a bulky weight yarn that Mr. Q got for me at With Yarn In Front for my birthday & Mother’s Day. He got it intending for me to make a hat with it, but the hat designs I found for it over the years haven’t wowed me. I wanted something close to the skin for this luxury fiber, a reversible fabric, and a cowl that could be finished as a loop or a möbuis. (Möbiuses are so cool! Two sides become one! What’s not to like?) After swatching, ripping out, and more swatching – thinking with yarn is what I call that process – I came up with the Infinite Wave Cowl. It’s a relatively quick knit, I can finish one in about 12 hours, and fun. It’s easy enough for TV knitting, but the cables keep it interesting.

I wrote the pattern up and decided to make it available for free for a limited time to get it out there in the knitting world. I’ve published 4 other patterns (Owl Honeycomb Blanket, Pasithea baby blanket, Double Rainbow Scarf, and Feathermoss stole) with limited success – under 10 people have bought them (some less than 5) and no one else has actually made any of them, just me. And so with the Infinite Wave Cowl, I’ve made 5 so far; 4 are available in The Yarn Office and I sold one to a friend. Although no one else has cast on yet, over 400 people have downloaded the pattern when it was free on Ravelry & Craftsy. I even briefly made it onto the first page of Ravelry’s hot right now patterns! Hooray!

So all those cowls I made are also now available in The Yarn Office. I’ve had some people exclaim that the price is relatively high, so I wanted to explain how I arrived at the prices. After some research, I’m charging 20 cents/yard + the cost of materials. So, for example, the Infinite Wave Cowl uses 220ish yards of yarn; 220 x .2 is $44. If a scarf takes me 12 hours to knit, that means I’m earning slightly less than $3.67/hour. Not only did I knit the cowl, but I also spent time designing it using skills I’ve built up over time, none of which are factored into the price. From my perspective, $3.67/hour is a bargain for you; minimum wage in my state is $7.25/hour, so I could/should be charging a base price of $87. Or could/should I charge closer to my hourly rate in my chosen profession as a technical writer, which requires some of the same skills, at $45+/hour?  These finished cowls are a bargain.

Now let’s talk about materials. 220 yards of bulky/chunky weight yarn doesn’t seem like much. I should just be able to pop over to JoAnn’s and Michael’s for something cheap, right? The least expensive suitable yarn available at JoAnn’s is Big Twist Collection Chunky Yarn at $4.49 for 195 yards of 100% acrylic yarn. Aside from the fact that I don’t find knitting with or wearing acrylic enjoyable, I would need 2 balls of this yarn to complete a cowl – $8.98. So the total for even the least expensive cowl would be $44 + $8.98 = $52.98. That’s certainly less expensive than the baby camel cowl I made the pattern for – materials for that cost $54, but it’s baby camel! Try to find that in a store! Or the alpaca scarfs I have available – materials for them cost me $31 each and I priced the cowls at $75 – can you even find a 100% alpaca scarf in a store? So yes, I can make them for less money but at the same time, yarn isn’t free and neither is my time.

Could the knitting be outsourced to hand-knitters in other countries and made for less? Sure, that happens, but most of those hand-knitters still aren’t receiving a fair wage in their economy. Could these be made on a machine in a factory (probably in China) in large quantities for less? You bet, but I don’t have (or want) those resources. Offering these handknits for sale on etsy clearly isn’t about making money for me or providing you with a cheap, disposable consumer good: this is more personal than all of that.

 

I’m Lichen Dying

I’m liking dying & puns and lichen dying. I tried dying with lichen this past spring but didn’t take any pictures of my results. Until now, that is:

lichen dying - May results

On the left is the iron-mordanted sample, on the right: alum. I know, the results aren’t that spectacular. It turns out that mid-May isn’t such a great time for collecting lichen in my backyard. Early August is better and I’ve started another lichen vat with more material with the hope that I will get better results this time around.

Lichen is a fungus that contains photosynthetic cells – it’s a combination plant-fungus (go ahead: read more about it on wikipedia or lichen.com and the U.S. Forest Service knowing that I did too).

Okay. So here’s what I did in May and again a couple weeks ago: I collected lichen from trees in my back yard, mainly oaks and mainly this lichen (it’s the green not-leaf-or-grass thing in the following picture):

5.14.11.FungiUndLichen.1

which also looks like this:

5.14.11.FungiUndLichen.2

Or maybe they’re more than one type of lichen; I’m no lichenologist, but the pale green one in the second picture is obviously a different kind of lichen (I collected the darker green one, but not the deep green moss that’s also in the picture). I left as much of the lichen growing as I could – more than 50% – when I picked it off the bark because they’re so slow-growing. Also, if you’re going to collect lichen, make sure that you’re not picking a rare/endangered one.

Next, I took the lichen – maybe a tablespoon of it, if that – and put it in a canning jar (forever more only to be used for dye projects) with ammonia. Instead of ammonia from a bottle, you could use fermented urine, but I’m not that hard-core (yet):

lichenAmmonialichenInAmmonia

I took the first picture yesterday, which was a cloudy day but you can still see the neon greenish yellow of my ammnoia (Parson’s Ammonia, I think). The second picture was taken less than a minute after combining the lichen and ammonia on August 6. I conclude from the fast color results that no matter what species of lichen, you should know within an hour or two – definitely within a day – if you’ve got a lichen that will give you color. By the way, the first time I did this, I had about 1/8 of the amount of lichen shown.

Next: twice a day for a week, open the container to air it out a bit & get some oxygen in, close it again, and shake it. After that, air & shake once a day, or when you remember that you’ve got a lichen vat going. I ended up transferring my vat to a larger glass jar, one that used to have black cherry juice in it. This is important because soon after I did that, Mr. Q asked me why I’d taken the label off of the cherry juice and why was I keeping the cherry juice on the windowsill over the kitchen sink. (I should have labeled it, I know.) After almost 3 weeks, the vat is so dark, it looks like prune juice or coffee that’s been neglected in a glass carafe on a burner for half a day; I had to hold it up to a light to get a decent picture of the color:

lichenOverBulb

And shaken, not stirred:

lichenShaken

I haven’t decided when I’m going to dye with this vat. In May, I was impatient and only let the vat ferment for 2 or 3 weeks. Tomorrow will mark the 3rd week for this one, which still seems like not-long-enough considering results that other people have gotten, some of which look as purple as cochineal. I have hopes that I’ll get something darker than my first test, but doubt that I’ll get results as vibrant as cochineal.