Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Out with the Old Year!

As we get ready to say farewell to 2009, I can honestly say it's been a heck of a year! My fiber work has taken on a new complexity in both the business and creative aspects. I have worked on my dyeing process, my spinning quality, and gotten my patterns in brick and mortar stores as well as on the Etsy shop. Although I have not knit as many hats as in past years, the sales on dyed fiber have more than made up for it. Becoming involved with Sally's gallery, Locally Grown has given me another venue for my work. Though not quit-your-day-job fabulous, it has allowed me to sell more yarn, particularly the hand-dyed sock yarn and handdyed, handspun yarns. Asheville HomeCrafts continues to be a steady source of fiber income. In addition to expanding my hand-dyed fiber presence, they sell my hats, patterns and yarns. They have done well selling the sock yarns and would like more 'semi-solids.'

The dance scene has been strong - lots of calling gigs (and a heck of a spring coming up) and I'll close out 2008 by calling the New Year's Eve dance at the Old Farmer's Ball in Asheville. The English country dance continues to grow and I have begun leading English dances. Because it takes a different piece of brain that calling contras, my repertoire is still limited. J and I attended the Contradancers Delight last week and I spoke with Warren about adding an English workshop next year. Sounds like a wee bit of a resolution, eh? While on holiday in Columbus Ohio, I called a dance at the Big Scioty Barn Dance - great fun to show off to a new group. I must admit I used the cheapest trick in the book - I called Trip to Lambertville, an easy fun dance, that is not in the repertoire of the local callers. Did a fine job too, if I say so myself!

Work has been a year of changes as well. I began teaching CS200, the technology integration class for Teacher Education majors. With 6 sections (2 semesters and a summer session) behind me, I can now begin to design the class I really want it to be. The adult evening course starts January 6th and I'm ready to take off! The call from the Library of Congress inviting us into the TPS program has totally changed my outlook as well. With 3 more years of grant-funded professional development, I can continue to do the work that I love on all 4 fronts! I love my life!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Putting Smoky Mountain Fibers to Bed

Just a nap, of course.

Because of my holiday travel, I took everything but the patterns offline. I can 'ship' them from anywhere. I will say that www.smokymountainfibers.etsy.com has had a terrific year. I have reached my personal goal of 1,000 sales earlier this month. It has been both a learning experience and highly satisfying business venture. Still in no danger of quitting my day job, I know that I could support myself if need be. Right now, I do as much as I have time for without making myself too crazy. Could I do more? of course! A newsletter, more frequent blogging, Facebook and MySpace pages, a Ravelry group, the list goes on and on. But I can't do everything - keep the B&M stores happy, teach my classes, call dances and be a SAFF board member. What I can do is continue to offer good customer service, dye good colors in yarn and roving and develop patterns for the hats that I love to make.

The scarf is coming along about 5 feet long, just a few more inches to go. I'll start the next scarf soon, then onto the Calorimetry for Jane (in a cashmere blend!)and maybe one for me (though in a mere wool-silk blend that has been in the stash forever). For Austin? a scarf? will I be able to stand it? perhaps the Turn a Square hat? hmmm...

For part of my travel knitting, I plan to take a couple of UFOs - the 'Fetching' variant handwarmers I started for Page and a couple pairs of socks that could use some actual feet and toes. I am also taking patterns for other headbands, hats and socks that may come to life at the end of needles during some quiet time.

I may give in and not take my spinning wheel to the Contradancers Delight. It takes up a lot of space for what may turn out to be about 4 hours of spinning. J is right - knitting is much more portable. Note to self: Spindle spinning!

Semi-bad news: 126 pounds. Still 10 pounds better then last year, but that is what Januray is for!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Knitting for Love

This weekend I delivered handspun yarn, hand dyed roving, patterns, cute little felted flower pins and about a dozen knitted hats to the Brick and Mortar accounts and mailed a couple of Etsy orders. I hereby declare the commercial knitting season over. Time to move on to knitting for the people I love.

So it's scarves, and hats for the people that I love and who appreciate my knitting. I think I'll even pop these into Ravelry. I've been wanting to make Calorimetry, so here's my chance, in a Noro Cashmere blend. I'm planning a couple of simple scarves for J's parents. I've also picked up a couple of nice pieces of pottery for J&A and possibly L&E.

Once the semester fully winds down, grades are posted and the course is fully planned out, we'll be spending a couple of days in Columbus, OH; then on to Pittsburgh for the big day with 2 of my favorite nephews. After that we will dance a few days at the Contradancers Delight Holiday, hosted by Warren and Terry Doyle in Morganton, WV.

Last Monday was the annual benefit Waltz at the Grey Eagle here in Asheville. Big fun, lots of waltzing with all my favorite partners. Thanks to Dennis and company for taking lots of photos, including this one, in which my sweetie is holding my hand, not copping a feel!

Friday, December 5, 2008

December already!

Another busy month has passed full of fiber work and fun with an added dash of dance - both contra and English. The semester is flying by as well. Finals are just a week away, and it's good for both faculty and students.

The College hosted a craft fair this week, with pottery, fiber and woodworking well represented. I set up my table next to a friend who mostly knits scarves (though I want to get her addicted to socks), so our work was largely complementary. I sold a bit of everything: hats, patterns, fiber and yarn + bartered for some lovely pottery .

I'm also back at Locally Grown, the craft gallery at the WNC Farmer's Market. Last weekend sales were strong and my investment is low. I help out friends while selling my own work. Not a bad thing! Plus I always spin and that draws in customers, while I get a healthy amount of yarn made. I love working with Sally too. She has great energy and we connect in a really positive way.

I've been making felt pins again. They got a good bit of attention at the College show and I have regular sales in both the craft shops, so I spent a bit of the Thanksgiving weekend in production mode. They are a bit labor intensive, but because I make the components in bulk, I make several at a time, so I have fun playing with the variations as I make up the individual pins. I love the way the new batch of Merino felts - fast and thick - and the colors are blending nicely. I particularly like the peachy orange color.

Tonight is my regular fiber group. We will get together for our monthly potluck and evening of conversation and fiber work. But mostly conversation! I really love those women. I feel so connected to that community in a way I didn't before.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Almost Famous

This has been a great week for me. I was featured as the Esty Site of the Day on Lime & Violet's Daily Chum, one of my favorite blogs. I was featured about a year ago, so this is a particularly nice return to the internet fiber world.

I was also included in two (!) different Etsy treasuries, one of which made the front page! That may account for my recent upsurge in activity, it could just be the season. In any case, I am feeling pretty positive these days about my fiber life. Might have something to do with living in a Blue State, but in fact I'm feeling pretty darn positive about the rest of my life too! Life is good!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

October is Over

October 2008 had to have been one of the busiest months of my entire life. It was a month where all the deadlines were hitting at once. Between my responsibilities at SAFF, 5 dance calling gigs, 2 work trips, a (thankfully) small craft show, and the end of the grant's fiscal year and its attendant quantitative and narrative reports, I've been busy! Add my teaching load and higher than average activity on SmokyMountainFibers, and it's clear that I've been running on every cylinder that I can find.

SAFF was terrific. Although my work is mostly behind the scenes keeping the website up to date and communicating with people who run some of the activities, I truly enjoyed myself. On Friday I worked as a studio assistant for Phylleri Ball's dyeing workshop. Phylleri uses very diffferent techniques thatn I currently do, and I learned a lot from her. On Saturday, I booth-sat for Asheville HomeCrafts and sold my fiber and sock yarns as well as their goods. A number of my Etsy customers came by - So much fun to meet them in person. So many Ravelry buttons!

Sunday took me to the Fleece Show and Sale, assisting Val - the hard-working volunteer who has run the event for several years. Because the fleece show moved out of the main venue to the 'Sales Arena,' several people were upset that is not in the center of things where it used to be. Unfortunately the workshop space is at a premium and the sales arena is an excellent venue for the fleece show. With vendors nearby, frequent PA anouncements and door prizes donated by the vendors, we did see a good bit of traffic. I'll be interested to see the financial results.

I did get to Washington DC to the semi-annual meeting of the Teaching with Primary Sources consortium members. It was great to spend time with my colleagues, exchanging ideas and learning from one another. From DC it was straight to Charlotte, NC for the National Science Teachers annual area conference, where a colleague and I presented our project that uses primary sources to connect social studies to the teaching of weather. I could tell you more, but then you'd just be bored. We were good though!

In between all this, I have been knitting hats and dyeing fiber and spinning yarn and grading papers and cleaning up the garden. My house is a wreck and I'm having out of town company next weekend when the CDSS Executive Committee is meeting in Asheville. So between calling a dance in Brasstown, delivering yarn and hats to my brick and mortar accounts, and my usual weekend activities, I'll be cleaning house!

But tonight - my regular fiber group. Katie will be pin-basting a quilt, Kathrin will be finishing bags, I'll be spinning, and Susan will be doing something interesting. I love these people - but time to get home to make my famous roasty butternut squash for our dinner.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weekend in Jonesborough, TN

My dance calling 'career' gives me an opportunity to lead contra dances in communities in Western NC, upstate SC and in the East Tennessee-SW Virginia (Tri-Cities) area. This weekend I called a dance at Viginia Intermont College, a sweet school of about 600 students with and strong arts emphasis + horses. Yes, you can major in Equestrian Studies. The students I met were enthusiastic about the school and the dance and it was plenty of fun.

On Saturday, I called the Jonesborough dance with the world premiere of the Contra Cowboys, a solid contradance band with a western swing flavor. They played and sang to a terrific crowd of dancers. With LEAF in full swing about 75 miles away,it was a smaller crowd that usual, but that just meant we were able to do dances that require a bit more space than ususal.

Because the dances were a way up the road from my home in Asheville, I house sat for David, the TriCities dance booster. He has a lovely home in a gorgous spot as well as Lucy the dog and 3 charming cats. Because my truck refused to negotiate the driveway (2 weel drive Tacoma with a light rear end and a serious need for tires with actual treads), I took many walks both for Lucy's benefit and because I bought a number of fiber-related chores, we walked the property a number of times. This morning I had fresh raspberries for breakfast; yesterday I had a few delicious figs, grown just outside the back door.

Thanks David, for all you do for the dance community and for allowing me to spend a weekend in this lovely spot.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm dyeing here!

Of all the fiber-y things I do, I may like dyeing the best. There is a challenge to get the colors and combinations that I want and a fine line between safe and boring and mud colored. Hand dying requires that you know what your dyes will do, but still allow the serendipity to happen. I have recently gotten a couple of requests for special orders of hand dyed colors. Some colors (Bronze Green; Autumn Gold; Beach Glass) are semi-repeatable. I use the same dyes in roughly the same proportion, but they are only fraternal twins, not identical. If I wanted to go into production that was totally repeatable, I could. For sock yarns, I do. But for my roving I have chosen to keep as much magic as possible in my dye process.

I've also been calling dances all around the area. Last weekend I called a teen dance at a retreat that was lots of fun, but the real kicker was a Sunday afternoon Old Fashioned Barn Dance at a real barn. This was part of the fall festival at a Kingsport, TN organization called Pathfinders, a beautiful farm property that is being run as a camp for youth as well as a site for corporate retreats and team building exercises. There were lots of people there - truly an inter-generational dance. I called circles, squares, longways set dances, even a contradance (but it was a variant of Jefferson and Liberty, so don't get too excited).

This weekend I have 2 gigs again. The first is a contradance at Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, VA. Mark Mueller and friends will be playing. On Saturday night, I'll be calling the regular Jonesborough dance with a new band, the Contra Cowboys. Both dances sound like fun and I'll be house sitting for David ( the energy center for contradance in East Tennessee) so I'm taking knitting, reading, papers to grade, fiber to weigh and photograph, even business paperwork to get entered in to the spreadsheet. Grading papers and knitting hats should be highest on the agenda, as well as dog walking!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Madison County, North Carolina Heritage Day

Last Saturday I made my annual entry into the craft fair world. Thanks to my Etsy shop, I don't have to stand around in the hot sun to peddle my woolly wares when the October temperatures are known to hover in the high 80's. Luckily the nights have been chilly enough to make people remember that winter will come again and hats will be handy.

Heritage Day is an annual event held on the Mars Hill College campus. I have had a booth for years in the educational area nestled among the student pottery sale, the Biology professor-beekeeper, 4-H clubs, a genealogy organization, and other equally high-tone groups. There are standard craft booths too: jewelry, photography, lots of food, etc. It is quite social with students and faculty, regular townspeople and tourists - plenty of live old time music. Nobody gets rich, but the investment is low and fun quotient is high.

I always bring my drum carder and let the kids card wool, I had my wheel and felting needles as well as plenty of yarn, roving and hats. As luck would have it, I sat down at the spinning wheel and the footman connector immediately broke. So, no production spinning for me-I just turned the wheel by hand to demo how twisting the fibers creates yarn. The days production - about 20 yards of very fine yarn. Instead I carded everything I had with me (about a pound of beautiful charcoal grey Romney) and made a sweet needle felted pumpkin.

As far as sales go, it was a sock yarn day, but I sold a bit of everything. I also had lots of fun, visiting with people I see only once or twice a year. It was also great fun watching my students come by and check out my 'other life' - one that has nothing to do with my education technology classes. If they only knew!

Sunday was another fine day. I ran the Locally Grown shop in the morning - spinning all my newly spun wool on the lovingly repaired wheel, then went to the English dance in the afternoon. Note to self: got to work in the website - but not til after SAFF - just 2 weeks away!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I had so much fun!

...Spending Labor day weekend with friends in North Georgia. Even though they don't really get the whole fiber thing, they are active hikers, fine contra dancers, discriminating movie watchers, darn good cooks and excellent conversationalists. The female member of the duo, D is also a talented beader. So I packed up my big ol' box o' beads, plenty of knitting (did I mention the 2 1/2 hour drive, movies and talking?), garden produce and wine and my sweetie and I headed on down beyond Clayton, GA.

So I have this box of beads - some purchased over the years, some more recent acquisitions, a number of disassembled necklaces and other random bits. But I don't seem to know what to do with them. Under D's tutelage, I made 2 very cool necklaces and matching earrings, using mostly my accumulation of beads, a healthy contribution from D and only a couple of missteps that included picking up a lot of beads! All this was in between cooking great meals (all of which featured Georgia peaches and home grown tomatoes), daily swimming and hiking, and intelligent conversation. Deer abound in their neighborhood. We saw them while driving, hiking, even hanging out in the yard.

Although I am a wee bit behind on my dyeing and spinning schedules, my knitting is coming nicely. I knit about 6 hats, including 4 children's hats in sweet colors and small sizes. My supply of merino came in and my first few dyepots came out very nice. No felting, but I do need to remember not to crowd the fiber in the pot - it's denser that I'm used to.

The NC Mountain State Fair begins its 10 day run this coming weekend. I've entered 2 skeins of yarn, 3 hats and a particularly fine butternut squash. It is about 5 times the size of the others already entered, but the skin was not perfect. We shall see if size really matters.

Progress on the fiber front:
  • Knitted the 6 aforementioned hats
  • Finished 6 skeins of yarn
  • Dyed roving (except while out of town)
  • Listed and sold regularly on Etsy
  • Caught up on my SMF accounting
  • Patterns well underway (samples knitted, yarn measured - still need better pictures)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Doin' the Tidy Up

Nothing like the new semester to force you to clean your office, file last semester's papers, organize this semester's work and generally spend a bit of time getting one's house in order. I had an outrageously busy summer with teaching an undergrad class, designing and teaching 3 (three!) new professional development workshops for teachers, including the pilot testing of some learning activities with real live students - 5th and 6th graders who attended our 'science camp.' "Next year can we do this for a whole week?" Hmmm... I am closing out one grant program and starting up a new one. But academia is still hugely better than Corporate America, so I never complain. OK hardly ever.

The Etsy store is hopping! Again, I'm not complaining, but it's all I can do to keep it full these days. I have dye(crock)pots going most mornings and evenings, with extras on the weekend, and plenty of roving shipping out in it's natural state. This morning I got up early to photograph some roving to post it later in the week, so I am trying to stay ahead. This weekend is Labor Day and my sweetie and I are heading off to spend time with friends. I plan on taking knitting, my beadbox and the unfinished patterns to finish editing and getting the photos right. Writing the patterns is fun. I thought it was a bit silly, but my colleague at Asheville Homecrafts tells me that people like to buy patterns and has asked me to develop a couple more. So that is on the list. I'm also taking sock yarn to be skeined. Not the sexiest, but it needs doing!

We got about 4 inches of rain over that last few days - Thanks, Fay. Of course I found a roof or chimney leak that I didn't know about, but that just one of the thrills of owning a house. The garden is happier already!

The Monday night dance with Cailen Campbell was great - fabulous music, high energy, well attended but still danceable. It was another of those nights that make me know why I call dances.

psst! 122 pounds, courtesy of the South Beach Diet. I guess I can quit now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's Raining!

And rain is very good news here in Western North Carolina. The region has been in extreme drought all summer for the 2nd year in a row. But luckily the tail end of tropical depression Fay is bringing us a few days of much needed rain. The garden is looking pretty peaked, the grass and a number of the perennials are about gone, but now looks like we are in for a good soaking.

Progress on the fiber front continues as well. I spun 4 big, fat Louet bobbins at the WNC Farmers Market on Saturday, drawing interested people into Locally Grown, the craft shop that sells my yarn and fiber. In the meantime I made a decent delivery to Asheville Homecrafts in the Grove Arcade, finally filling up the allotted area for hand dyed fibers in spinners' quantities. The sock yarn is doing very well there, selling several skeins per week, so I dye-painted several more skeins this weekend. They have also started stocking my patterns and have requested more.

So I have to complete the development of 'Trailside,' and 'The Mad Russian' - that's it in the photo. Sally was pretty taken with the early version of Trailside, developed for Brown Sheep Bulky, so I've decided to keep working on that pattern as well. It is a good one, and works well for commercial yarns. I've got a healthy quantity of KnitPicks Bulky, which knits to the same gauge. Sounds like just the thing for my upcoming travel knitting!

I have had very good results with the merino that I have been felting. I made a healthy amount of flat felt, made up a number of flower parts and did some assembly, completing at least six pins. Sally gave me a handful of barrette backs for felt hair jewelry. Looks like a job for flowers with lots of leaves. another travel project? hmmm....

Classes start tomorrow. I am teaching 2 day classes of the educational technology course that has become my stock in trade and will start another class for the short semester of the evening program. The class looks better than ever, so I am looking forward to getting started.

Tonight, I'll be calling the contra dance at the Grey Eagle in Asheville. Cailen Campbell is playing his wicked fiddle. Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Although I admit that I was a bit aghast at my 'to do' list in the previous post, I feel as if I will be able to meet the goals. I found a small spiral notebook that can live on my desk or in my purse and I can keep track of the projects that I have accomplished (or not).

So far, I have...
  • Completed 2 hats (this one during the staff meeting)
  • Posted to Etsy daily
  • Made progress (writing, testing, photographing) on the freebie hat pattern (working title, Trailside).
  • Dyed green roving (3 batches)
  • Made flat felt to use in flower pins
  • Updated the SAFF site
I have also taken on a special order and (so as not to be in a completely fun-free world) took in a movie. My Sweetie and I saw 'Sex and the City' last night at the local Brew and View. Lots of fun, even for people who never actually saw the TV show. Cute and a bit predictable, but still great fun. I also knitted most of a felt hat while watching. I've never actually knitted through a movie at the theatre before, but this one was highly knit-friendly.

I made 2 sheets of flat felt from some merino I purchased a number of years ago, but never liked carding or spinning it. But I came upon some blues and purples a few months back, so I thought I'd test their feltiness and it was excellent. I think it's time to get out the rest of the box and dye it in 'flowery' colors!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Returning to Normal

At least I hope so. After a summer of teaching a summer school class that moved at breakneck speed, teaching a number of brand new Professional Development workshops, helping a friend get her business up and running, it looks like a welcome mildly relaxing period. Of course for me, this means doing the financials for the grant, creating next year's budget and getting ready to teach my class (3 sections) while gearing up for the fall fiber season.

It occurs to me that the Mars Hill Heritage Festival is only 6 weeks away. Though it's just a one-day fair, I still have to do it! That means knitting hats, spinning yarns, making fiber bundles for spinners and felt makers and just showing up with all my goods and chattels ready to sell. So I need to set realistic goals to be ready. On top of the new fiber put ups in the Grove Arcade shop (4 ounce fiber 'wheels' suitable for spinning), my spinning at Locally Grown has cut into my stash of dyed fibers, so I need to ramp up the dyeing, the lone crock pot is just not quite keeping up with demand. The Etsy shop is hard to keep stocked as well. Although I have neglected it in favor of the day job of late, I need to get back to daily posting.

Fall 2008 Goals:
  • Knit 5 hats per week.
  • Develop freebie pattern as hangtag for Locally Grown yarns
  • Dye 2 crock pots per day + 4 big pots of fiber weekly
  • Dye 6-8 skeins of sock yarn per week
  • Make 4-6 felted pins per week
  • Spin 300 yards per week (1/2 natural; 1/2 dyed)
  • Weekly deliveries to Asheville HomeCrafts
  • Bi-weekly deliveries to Locally Grown
  • Spin at Locally Grown every week or so
  • Post to Etsy shop at least 5 times per week(try for daily)
  • Update SAFF site weekly.
Now I realize that there is a serious lack of fun in this plan. So let this be a warning to me and everyone around: Fun will happen! It will just be covered in fiber! There are dances to be called, gardens to be tended, classes to be taught (wait, that's not always fun!), but it's fall fiber season!

Lots of fun the past few weekends, calling dances in Blacksburg, visiting friends in North Georgia,and just generally enjoying summer - not too hot, just summery!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summertime - and the Living is Great!

I love summer for so many reasons: home grown tomatoes, fresh flowers, fruits, vegies and herbs, a different vibe at the college, long evenings on the porch, the list goes on.

This morning I was watering the garden and admiring the flowers and vegetables that are coming along. The tiny yellow cherry tomatoes have volunteered in spades and are starting to ripen. The Brandywine tomatoes and other heritage varieties are taking their time, but I can start eating all the little yellow ones that I want. The volunteer squash have turned out to be butternut (yeah!) and the herbs are in their glory- I need to keep them deadheaded almost every day. The heavy mulch has turned out to be a very good thing, keeping weeds down and easy to pull. And, yes, the baby butternut is sitting on a cushion of fleece, both hand dyed and natural! It is so slow to break down in the compost bin, but it does make an excellent mulch - and it's a good way to get rid on the fleece I will NEVER use. I don't think it's just the economy, I have always been drawn to growing food. My friend Beth at An Urban Plot is working toward creating a CSA in her urban yard. That is beyond my goals, but I hope to add a bed each summer that will expand my growing area and result in less grass to cut. I am properly jealous of her rainwater catchment system and hope to start my own in the coming months. City water is an expensive way to go.

Last evening I picked about 2 quarts of blackberries and raspberries at my sweetie's place. But for the rather precarious footing and arms that were not 8 feet long, I would have picked many more. Yum!!

The summer crock pot dyeing continues in force, in both hot and cool colors. I've been spinning up color change yarns at Locally Grown on the weekends. Sally, Kathryn and random little kids are arranging the order of batts to be spun, coming up with color combos that I would not select. I find them surprising and exciting. I can't wait to start knitting them up. Between Locally Grown and the Etsy shop, the fiber business has been quite busy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Carding Jacob in its Many Colors

OK, I'll get off the diet kick (125 1/2 lbs! thank you very much!). After all this is Smoky Mountain FIBERS!

I spent much of last Friday carding wool for spinning. I have a lovely Strauch's Finest drum carder (in cherry!) that has been languishing of late. I purchased a beautiful Jacob fleece at last year's SAFF and it's been a bit lonely too. So I finally got them together for a play date. Perfect Spot Maeve, meet Otto!

After picking the fleece, I separated it into white, dark brown and mixed fiber. For those of you who don't know, Jacob sheep are spotted. The colors can be black, brown or 'lilac' combined with white or cream. The sheep also have lots of horns - up to 6. you can learn more about them at the Jacob breeders' page, but suffice it to say, they have extremely cool fleece. Some is a bit 'kempy' but not Maeve or last year's special friend, Sienna. This is Maeve, but her brown fleece is much darker than that picture shows.

So once I carded the 3 basic colors, I made some interim blends. Last evening I started spinning the darkest of the bunch. I plan to spin finer that usual - about a worsted weight - in a number of colors and a few color change yarns, maybe a random blend or two. My actual plan is to knit 7 different hats from the same fleece. Why seven? Just a good number! I hope to enter a couple of hats in the NC Mountain State Fair and in SAFF and see how I do. I am mostly interested in just seeing how I can take these yarns in the same color family and create a number of truly beautiful pieces.

I have also been dyeing bright colors to reinvent the color change yarns that were so much fun to make last year. I'm working my way around the color wheel and may take Otto to Locally Grown Fine Arts at the WNC Farmer's Market this weekend. Enough just sitting and spinning - I'll card a bit too. It will keep me moving around!

Destashing continues on the Etsy site and at Locally Grown.

Monday, June 30, 2008

By Jove, It's Working!

South Beach, that is. After 2 weeks in my lamented carb-less existence, I have lost 6 pounds! Though I have suffered loudly and proudly - I swear I am worse than an ex-smoker - my clothes are certainly fitting a bit looser. This is what keeps people on diets - just that little bit of positive reinforcement. I was considering what to take for my snack tonight for my evening class break, but now I know it will be a cheese stick and a few nuts. This is huge!

Weight: 127 pounds
Breakfast: 1 Egg, chicken bits, Romaine leaves
Lunch: More chicken; diet yogurt (but with fruit - Phase 2 rocks)
Dinner:The cheese stick?

I spent another Saturday at the Farmers Market - It was quite a yarn-y, felt-y day. I spun a good bit too, spinning up a lovely white Shetland lamb and oatmeal roving. Later I hit the plying head, but with only 2 bobbins available, I will have to ply daily to keep up with my spinning.

Color change yarn has been selling. I need to 1. make more yarn and 2. write a pattern to boost sales. I think that pattern/yarn kits should sell nicely at the market. I started writing the pattern for the 'boyfriend hat.' Unfortunately, another Etsy seller has taken that name, so I think I'll call it the 'Guy hat' for my internet customers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

South Beach Continues...

Day 4 - Still on the diet; still okay with it. and I feel great! My Sweetie and a friend on Rosedale told me they went through feeling 'weird' and my sweetie felt quite deprived that he had to pass on a beer with his friends. I am just fine. I may be eating a bit more than I should, but since it's all legal foods, I'm not all that concerned.

Weight: Unknown - the Scale at B&J's said 128, but J confirmed that it's a few pounds light. The college health center is closed; so I will remain weightless.
Breakfast: bacon (quite lean) and egg over easy
Lunch: leftover chicken from yesterday, dollop of cottage cheese; cut up raw veggies
Last evening's treat: Breyers CarbSmart fudge bar Yum!!. Not sure how legal it is, but darn - it was good!

Actual knitting content: Sage Green hat about 3/4 done during staff meeting. Still managed to take notes, contribute to the discussion and make my presentation. When in doubt, see Franklin's article about the value of knitting! You are my hero!

Biggest accomplishment of the week so far: finally got onto the SAFF site to update it! Yeah!!

Work is calling. Deadline looms.

Monday, June 16, 2008

South Beach Day 1

No, I am not in Miami. Yes, I am on the South Beach diet. Although I have sworn many a time that I'll never go on those ridiculous high fat diets that don't let you eat an APPLE, for crying out loud, I guess I am face up to my carb addiction. If I lose 7-10 pounds, I'll be okay with that too.

I love carbs - cookies, candy, fruit, chocolate, beer. Then there is pasta, rice, corn on the cob. I will say that I never eat fast food -ok hardly ever - and I prefer brown rice and whole grain bread and I've only had one donut since Dunkin' Donuts opened and it made me feel really, really guilty. Still, I just love carbohydrates - cereal and fruit for breakfast, cookies after lunch, a yummy starch at dinner. Maybe a wee desert later. Sugar or honey in my tea. You get the picture.

So after about 20 grueling minutes of graduate-level research I selected the South Beach diet. I truth I found the book in a 'free' box at a yard sale, but I did read the fly leaf and a couple of the random case studies that pepper the book. The good doctor makes sense, so I am out of the sugar shack.

Beginning weight: 133 lbs (as of last Wednesday)
Breakfast: an egg, ham bits, romaine lettuce.
Lunch: sardines, cottage cheese, romaine lettuce.
Dinner (planned): Turkey slices, steamed spinach, asparagus.

Exercise units: several - yesterday 4 hour hike on Roan Mountain; today 2 walks across campus to run errands, one carrying heavy boxes to post office.

Actual fiber content: smokymountainfibers.etsy.com has had a good little run lately, thanks to my good customers. Note to self: get better at predicting shipping to Canada. Knit in the car while traveling to the Roan yesterday, sweet hat. This evening I'll be sitting the gate at the Grey Eagle dance, so more knitting time. I've been crock pot dyeing and spinning too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summer Knitting - and Dancing

For some people this means shells or other strappy summer tops - fun to wear RIGHT NOW. For others, it means socks - easy to pick up and put down, not a lot of heavy sweater parts to drag around. They also fit nicely in the travel knitting and strategic present reverse categories. I have done all that (though I have not made a cute little cotton top in a few years). but I'm knitting hats! Wool and mohair, cozy winter hats in 90+ degree weather!

In the past couple years I got way behind in my hat knitting and I don't want that to happen next winter. Work knitting: felt hats. I have a lot of reading to do to get ready for workshops that I am going to teach - so, knit and read! At home: Windy City hats and handspun hats. It's a good time of year for spinning too - then I'll have lots of yarn for knitting and for sale.

I've also gone back to making baskets. They are a nice thing to make on the screen porch - a bit wet, so a bit cool. I made a number of garlic baskets for sale at the Farmer's Market shop - sold one the very first day! I made a larger basket too - still a bit of work to get back up the learning curve. I think I need to loosen up my weaving, hard to tuck in the spokes!

On the dance front, the OFB's dance hall, Bryson Gym on the campus of Warren Wilson College recently suffered a ceiling collapse. Luckily no one was in the building at the time, but it is currently closed to the college and the greater community, including the Old Farmer's Ball and Summer Soiree. But, intrepid dancers that we are, the dance has moved to the outdoor pavilion. I called the week after the collapse with the Plum Creek String Band from Oberlin, Ohio. Band was great, dancers had lots of energy, but it was very crowded and the floor has an interesting 'bias.' We knitters know what that looks like - the dance lines curved decidedly stage left! It will be an interesting season until the building issues are resolved. These photos were taken by Dennis, one of our dancers - here is his web page. You'll find photos of the Bryson Gym interior here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Locally Grown Arts at the Farmers Market

About 2 years ago, a couple of friends of mine started a craft booth at the WNC Farmers Market. Because they mostly make jewelry, they needed other members of the crafts community to help stock their store. It is run as a coop and you are expected to work the booth regularly, so while I was still in grad school, I could not take on another project. But last winter, I joined in the fun. Although late in the game, it has been an interesting experience. The shop pays it's rent from consignment splits and the few purchased items that we sell, and it's not terribly profitable for anyone. I view my time there as studio time - I usually spin or needle felt. But it is a good outlet for yarns, roving, hats and cute little felted pins. Oddly enough, it's fun! Although I have long ago lost my joy in retail sales (if I ever had it), I like the 'everything here is locally made' ethos that makes the little shop special.

This weekend I spent some quality time in the garden, digging out a healthy crop of Bermuda grass. I also planted cilantro, basic, a couple of tomatoes, prepped a bed for chard, pruned the shrubs that are past blooming and weeded all around.

Meanwhile, the dye crock pot has been working all weekend, making blues and greens for the Felter's Paintboxes in my Etsy shop. I also plan to make 'all natural' multipacks - just deciding the size of the pack.

On Friday night, I called the Advanced Dance at River Falls with the amazing Cailen Campbell. Although not my finest hour, the high skill and energy of the dancers combined with great music made the dance lots of fun.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sunday at LEAF

If you have ever been to the Lake Eden Arts Festival, you have probably experienced its magic of music, dance, the healing arts and the community that it creates over the 3 days in the spring and fall. Growing out of an earlier festival held at the same site for many years, it is a uniquely wonderful experience for a very diverse group of people.

Although a long-time contradancer, I find myself more drawn this time to different kinds of music: gospel, New Orleans funk and the pure singer-songwriter ethos of Nanci Griffith. Don't get me wrong - the dancing was great! With music by the Latter Day Lizards and the Great Bear Trio and calling by Cis Hinkle and Robert Cromartie, there was lots of room to dance on Sunday (though the earlier dances were tight). Plenty of high energy dancing, great music and interesting people who come from all over.

Big Sam's Funky Nation played the set list from my father's funeral - but in a much more lively and exciting way. It also demonstrates that dear old dad chose his religious music from Elvis albums - I'll Fly Away, Just a Closer Walk with Thee, Amazing Grace. Third generation Charmaine Neville rocked the house too as she got off the stage and danced with the festival goers. She looked the part too - funky, fun, unglamorously beautiful.

But sitting in the 5th row for Nanci Griffith was pretty sweet too. Even with a bandaged right hand and aggravated voice (BBQ smoke blowing in from a nearby food vendor), she sang old favorites and a few cuts from her newest recording 'Ruby's Torch.' I always like her writing, choices, phrasing, and her amazing voice.

All in all, a very fine LEAF.

Obligatory Fiber Content: On Saturday, I staffed 'Locally Grown Arts', our farmer's market coop shop. Not terribly busy, but I got a good bit of spinning done, made a few stitch markers and knit a bit. I also knit most of a hat traveling to and from LEAF and while waiting for Nanci to come on. Next on the agenda, make up grab bags for the Etsy shop and the LYS. Staying ahead of the Etsy shop has been a bit of a struggle lately, what with the end of school, the DC trip and the rest of life. Gotta get on it!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Greetings from our Nation's Capitol!

I have a wonderful life.

In my professional work, I develop and implement Teacher Education workshops based on using primary sources in the classroom. I have been doing it for about 7 years after stumbling into a administrative support job that I considered not much more than an office temp gig. Turns out I love what I do, returned to grad school and began teaching undergraduate courses as well as the professional development workshops. The project had been funded by a Congressional earmark but is now funded directly by the Library of Congress.

One of the perks of this job is that I get to go to DC for meetings at the Library. This week, because there were a number of new project staff involved,they scheduled tours of a few different divisions, including maps and manuscripts. Extremely cool.

Because I have been to DC many different times,I have foregone most of the touristy things, although I did drop in on the new show at the National Gallery of Art, In the Forest of Fountainbleu. Lovely paintings. I love taking the Metro to get around! I feel like such a grownup, city slicker.

I have tried to make at least a part of this trip as a 'mini spa' vacation. We are staying up in Bethesda, Maryland. Although the Library staff was concerned that we were out in the burbs, the area is lovely and there are lots of restaurants. There are pretty neighborhoods behind the hotel, lovely landscaping - huge azaleas in full bloom. I have been taking long walks outdoors (about an hour each morning), crunching the abs in the hotel room and using the hotel exercise room for upper body work. I am eating light and healthy - at least most of the time. I really need to get in better shape and now is my opportunity to get started. Is fact, I hear the work out room calling me now!

Not much fiber today! A bit of sock knitting and the Etsy shop is doing fine without me! Selling a bit, but I'm not listing anything, so it's kind of in suspended animation.

On a sad note, Bunny FooFoo is no longer on the planet. He had (probably) a stroke over the weekend, all of a sudden couldn't walk or eat, so I had him put to sleep. He's in the garden now!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Knitting and Dyeing and Felt, Oh Boy!

And beading and teaching and dancing and more!

It's been a busy time at the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers. Between work deadlines, the regular end of the semester and a seriously kick ass month at the Etsy shop, I have been a busy little worker bee. But I haven't forgotten to have fun.

I led my first English Country Dance on Sunday. After nearly 20 years of calling contras, it was time to start leading English dances. Bob Dalsemer of the John C. Campbell Folk School was our scheduled leader, but allowed me to call one. Our budding English dance is very supportive to one another as we rebuild the dance in the Asheville area. It was so fun! Harder - different terminology, but great fun and good feedback. Yeah!!!

I've been dyeing some of my favorite colorways - red/purple and blue/green. I also sold my first felt flowers! Easy and sweet - with no 2 the same. At least so far... I have also been playing with beads to make stitch markers. Technique is still a bit shaky, but I'm getting better.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dancing and Dyeing - and the day job!

Well, I've neglected this blog for entirely too long. Between Smoky Mountain Fibers, my day job, and my dance schedule, I'm afraid I have been neglectful and not only to this blog. I am a bit behind on a number of other things as well.

Work is busy and good, but developing and teaching a new undergraduate course is like being in grad school again, but you never get done with your papers. Maybe once the grades are in, I'll feel better. The it will be time to revamp the course for the summer session, but that won't be bad. My plan is to make a topical outline rather that chronological one, so that the syllabus doesn't change as much as the schedule does. A bit of work for tomorrow and some test questions to write for the final - that's about it for today.

Dancing has been lots of fun. I've been contradancing for about 25 years; calling for almost that long. But since I finished grad school, I have been English Country Dancing both in Asheville (in our fledgling group) and farther afield. I find the dancing much more challenging and I flat out love the music. So in addition to our alternate Sunday afternoons, I have been seeking out and attending English dances with well known leaders and musicians. In early March, I attended the Durham (NC) Sun Assembly's Spring DanceFest. Gene Murrow (New York) Taught afternoon workshops and led the evening dances with Mara Shea (of the Elftones) leading the band. It was quite wonderful, particularly because I was probably the least experienced dancer there.

On the weekend of March 28th, I attended the Nashville (TN) Playford Ball weekend with A Joyful Noise (Philly area) and Phillippe Callens over from Belgium. Again, I was inexperienced (though not the worst dancer in the hall!) but the music and dancing was wonderful and if I wasn't hooked before, I am now. And yes, I have started collecting dances to begin leading (calling in contra and square parlance). Pretty magical!

Smoky Mountain Fibers is sailing along. On top of the activity of the Etsy store, my LYS has given my dyed roving about double the shelf space and sales have really increased. They want sock yarn too, but I'm a wee tad behind on that (plus it keeps selling on Etsy before I get it to town - gotta love that!). The Coop at the WNC Farmer's Market wants more yarn and roving, so I think that the summer season will stay busy. I'll be tending both shops soon so I can encourage sales of my work while I earn a bit of extra cash! Not bad for off season.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

You Can Tell a Dyer by the Purple Fingers

Careful as I can be, occasionally my gloves get hole in the fingers. So after a weekend of dyeing roving and sock yarn, the holes in the fingertip of my gloves have left me with 3 fingertips that are a lovely shade of red violet. I knew it was time for a bit of nail care.

On the other hand, my productive streak has kicked in with blues and greens that will be showing up in my Etsy shop. Happily everything came out beautiful and clear, so the 'Moody Blues' won't last forever.

I also started something I've wanted to do for a while: The Feltmaker's Paintbox - color-toned 'grab bags' that provide a range of colors. The first one is 'The Blues' - also in the shop. Greens are still in process with chartreuse still cooling in the dyepot.

My Sweetie and I started the garden this weekend by planting peas, radishes, beets and arugula. The overwintered greens were thinned (yum!) and the leeks and onions look good. Crocuses are blooming; daffs up but still only green.

The ColorJoy Waffle socks are coming along, with one sock completed, the other mid-gusset.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Dyeing in a Minor Key

Recently my dying work has taken on a darker tone. The bright, clear, vibrant colors have been replaced by shades that some might call murkier (?). Sounds so negative! I'm my usual energetic self - happy, feeling positive about life and love. Only a wee bit guilty about things I don't seem to get done - housework, early gardening chores, the bathroom floor. But this version of 'Plums and Berries' is definitely different.

As in my earlier post I talked about having all my creativity sucked into my work life and I wonder if that's not finding its way into my dyeing work as well. I like what I'm doing. It's just different. I am drying some killer blue/green/yellow roving that I dyed last evening, but it's not the clear colors I so often make. The greens are mossy, the yellow is bronze. That's the way hand dyeing is a lot of the time, so it's not scary!

In Sockworld, I finished the toes of the Knitpicks Parade and wore them to work today. I finished the first ColorJoy sock and started the second.

Plans for the weekend: Dye, spin, knit and build the quiz for Tuesday's class. Maybe read a book. Right now, I'm off to Sit 'n' Knit with the other sock!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Productivity vs. Creativity

When my mother died a few years ago, I found myself creatively stuck, but with an amazing productive energy. I knit sockaftersockaftersock. Eventually I found my creative energy and continued on my way- designing, dyeing, spinning, and knitting all kinds of different things.

This winter I find myself spinning white and beige yarn from prepared roving and again, knitting socks. I finished 2 pair that have been on the needles for a very long time, then knit another pair of KnitPicks Parade striped yarn, recently started a lovely pair in ColorJoy Creamy Seaside.

This time I see it happening and know why. I am currently building and teaching a new class - Computer applications for education - a skills and integration course for education majors. This is the class that all teacher education majors take. My job is to design and teach the class - I outline the class sessions, design the assignments and activities, make up the quizzes. The course is on the college's course management system (CSM), so I have to manage that as well. So today, a Saturday, I'm off to a workshop to manage the csm portion of the class better - and to put together next week's assignment and quiz!

So, the class gets my creativity these days. I get productivity - and warm feet.

Happily for my Etsy customers, dyeing is still hugely fun!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The answer is: Spinning!

The question is: What have I been up to lately? Watching the Superbowl, watching Super Tuesday election returns, and (I admit it) watching American Idol auditions, I have been spinning up a small storm. Last fall I sent a white Romney fleece and a Shetland lamb fleece to Zeilingers for processing, since I appeared to be in no danger of carding it myself. I had them mix the fiber and card it and it came back quite lovely and ready to spin.

I also came into a decent quantity of white roving with a lovely luster that I have begun to use for my dyeing I also purchased a really sweet fawn/beige (Corriedale blend?) roving. The fawn is really pretty. I have not dyed it yet, but that's on the short list for this weekend. I have dyed some of the lustrous white and spun a bit, but I have not washed or swatched it yet. The yarn is plied, but still on the bobbin, but it looks good.

After a healthy start on the Zeilinger's white, finishing up some roving ends of dark brown and grey, and test spinning a black/white 'beasty' roving, I have started spinning the fawn. Extremely sweet! I've plied 3 big bobbins and plan to wash it tonight, do a bit of knitting over the weekend. I think I love this yarn. Because spinning was so psychically healthy in the last days of grad school, I am using it to keep me sane in this first semester of teaching.

On the knitting front, I have finally kichenered the toes of 2 pair of socks that have been long on the needles and started another pair as 'lunch hour knitting.' I have been slipping though and have been knitting on them in the evenings. More minor cheating - I'm knitting the leg on size 3's and using 2's for the ribbing and foot. Should be fast, particularly after 2 pair on size ones!