Friday, December 17, 2010

Enough With the Hats Already

My 30 Hats in 30 Days challenge continued well into December, even picking up the pace to 21 hats in 16 days.  I will deliver another dozen hats today to my best customer.  After that I'll be taking a wee break to do a bit of my own knitting. 

I ended as I began, with hats for guys, particularly my ubiquitous 'Boyfriend Hat' and several variations of the new 'Skater Boy' series in solids, color blocks and even with a brim, shown here in blue, but badly edited just to be visible.  The room was too dark!.  Some are close fitting, some over-size, but they are all destined for heads around town and points distant.  One of the glories of living in a place that people like to visit, is that the market doesn't get saturated.

I also worked on the design of a new felt hat.  For years I have knit a deeply rolled brim that looks good and fits right and even sells quite well, but is a total snooze to knit.  So I started on a cloche style.  I think I finally got the pattern right (after 6 prototypes), so we will have to see what the market says.  No pictures yet. 

With the semester over, grades in and no begging students in my office ( I guess I got the grades right this time!), I'm happy to take a few weeks off.  I'll be spinning and knitting (for me!), dancing, traveling, cooking, and visiting with friends and family.  I plan to read some good books, watch some good movies and generally take some time off.  I MIGHT bring home a stack of journals, but no guarantees that I'll actually read them.  I certainly don't read them here!  

I'll put the Etsy shop to bed for a few days too.  I'd like to develop some new colorways or create some carded batts, but for the mean time, it will go a bit dark.  Let's let the creative juices take a break too!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow Days

Tuesday,  is my first day out after the Saturday evening snow and very cold temperatures that decended upon western North Carolina.  Now I grew up in NE Ohio, where this kind of weather was no big deal.  I lived for several years in Erie, PA and in my last year there, this became normal.  Of course, that is when I decided to move.
But we Southerners are not used to it staying cold and we are not used to driving on snow and ice.  Snow driving is a skill, much like archery.  I have chosen to skip it.  But the dedicated teacher that I am, it seems that sometimes I have to show up.  So this morning I got out in the single digit temperatures, warmed up my little truckie and headed about 20 miles north to the little college where I had an 8 am final scheduled.  Once I made it out of my neighborhood, the only mishap was trying to use my windshield washer when a big trucked sprayed me as he passed.  On the driver's side, the nozzle was frozen.  This was a big improvement over the passenger's side where the wiper was too frozen to actually connect with the washer fluid that promptly froze on the windshield.   

The upside of snow days is that when you are trapped in the house you can get a good bit of knitting, spinning and dyeing done.  Now dyeing can be chilly work, as my dye studio is in the basement of my home.  Putting my hands into the water where the fiber has been soaking is not fun.  I have found that pulling the fiber out of the dye water is easier on the hands if you do it about 2 hours after the dyeing is complete, rather than waiting overnight for the fiber to fully cooled down.

On Sunday I spent some quality time with Little Otto, my drum carder.  I have a goodly collection of dyed fiber, some of which is overdyed, seiously uneven, or - face it - ugly.  But a pass or 2 through the carder changes everything.  I made up a set of batts in a very pretty reddish brown, but mostly I just carded fiber and put it aside for more creative work later.

But for being snowed in, almost nothing beats watching movies and knitting.  I have been working on a new design for a felted cloche, so I knit up a couple of new prototypes and felted them in the washer, knit at least 3 or 4 hats for guys and started thinking about knitting fingerless gloves for a Christmas gift.  A cup of tea, a pot of soup, a good movie and an extremely large quantity of yarn.  Ah, the perfect snow day!

Friday, December 10, 2010

6 Things to do While Waiting....

...for my students to submit their work.

In real life, I am a teacher; both instructional technology to undergraduate education majors and professional development workshops for teaching with primary sources to K12 teachers. This time of the year I am finishing up the primary source reporting and grading student projects.  Mostly though, I am waiting for my undergrads to send me portfolios, take their online final and finish up outstanding work.  Since I can't just pull out my knitting, while I wait...

1. Pack up work to take home.  The weather people have predicted a lousy Sunday and Monday, so I can expect to work from home on Monday.  I'll be taking journals and books to read, hard copies of assignments & rubrics (because sometimes paper is OK), and the right flash drive, fully loaded, of course.

2. Search for a particular Excel spreadsheet.  Go a little bit crazy because it appears to be hiding.  Remember the name of the file.  That's the one!

3. Because you are paranoid, email same docs to self as you just saved to a flash drive.

4. Add names to the database.  It's boring, but now it's done.

5. Make a cup of tea.  This is a particularly good time waster use of my time as it takes me out of my office and I can see if there is any mail and chat with colleagues.  I also like tea.  One of the adjuncts brought cookies. 

6. Tidy up my office.  After all, it's the end of the term and there is a lot of paper and stacks of journals.  Add a few more journals to the going home stack.

Funny, I never have to make work when I am home. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peacock Yarn

Sometimes my dyeing comes out just beautiful.  Lovely colors, just like I planned.  Other times, not so much.  The dyes split, dye doesn't migrate to the inner folds of the roving, I am a bit heavy handed, you get the picture.  But sometimes mistakes end up being quite a nice surprise.

This roving - and the yarn is one of those.  Although I didn't take a 'before' photograph, you can trust me that roving was pale and washed out, with an obnoxious split. [A dye split is when the different colors of dyes that are blended, separate into their component parts.  For example, instead of purple you get  purple and red and blue.] Face it - it was ugly.

So I over-dyed it.  The original colors were blues and greens, so into a turquoise dye bath it went. Now I love it. I spun the yarn during last Wednesday's spinning night.  It was great fun to spin and I am looking forward to knitting it up.

The sad part - I can never dye this again!  That is a tiny problem with one-offs.  You just can't do another just like that one!

Another snowy day in Asheville.  It's pretty but quite cold - the low 20's F.  And as a fearful snow driver, I have great trepidation getting behind the wheel on snowy days.  Sounds like day to work from home!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Success: 30 Hats in 30 Days!

I set a challenge for myself to knit 30 hats in the month of November.  With my hats in 3 shops, I need to keep my production up for the winter hat shopping season and this was a way to stay on or even ahead of schedule.  I did it!  It was close at the end, but I managed to knit a-hat-a-day.  On November 29th, with all 30 hats completed and logged into my handy dandy Excel spreadsheet, I cast on for a felt hat in a style that I've never made before.

I also made an effort to knit from the stash as much as possible and tore through several hundred yards, so I knit down the stash too.  However since part of knitting down the stash required me to purchase more yarns to go with the stash yarns, I didn't get too far out front of that.  But all in all, a fine effort.

Only one tiny problem - a good problem to have.  Almost as fast as I have been making hats, I have been delivering them to stores and they are selling!  Of course that is the point - I can't sell them if I don't have them!  Nor do they sell piling up in a nice stack in the studio.  And as I backed off the spinning, I have very little hand spun yarn to knit my always popular guy hats - so I am still a wee bit behind.

Thanksgiving weekend was busy here at the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers.  In addition to manic hat knitting, I did a bit of dyeing and carding and spinning.  I also visited a couple of my favorite local yarn shops (one on Black Friday - Hey, 30% off and I bought some lovely silk-merino spinning fiber for a sweater for me!), spun at the Locally Grown Gallery and shipped a healthy number of orders for the Etsy shop (Thank you very much!).

I also painted my bedroom, including 2 coats on the dreaded popcorn ceiling.  I'll spare you pictures.  Although I am very happy with the results, photos of dingy off white with drywall mud over the cracks  and photos of fresh off white aren't really that exciting to anyone other than me.

Tonight is spinning night at Friends & Fiberworks.  I'll be spinning some over-dyed blue-green that looks like a really iridescent peacock. A colorway that will never be duplicated, I can assure you.  Hope the yarn is half as pretty as the roving!