Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Organized

I think of myself as an organized person.  I like to make lists and cross things off.  I keep both a private, online calendar and a public paper one.  I like to be sure of deadlines.  The undergrad course that I teach is well laid out at the beginning of the semester - at least the view that my students have;>)

But my creative work - the fiber that I dye for my Etsy shop, for my retail customers and my own work -can get a bit out of whack.  This weekend I spent a good bit of time butting my dye studio back together.

I unpacked the boxes from my workshops last weekend.  But because they were all sitting on an already cluttered table where the dyes and color cards live, that table had to be cleared of those boxes, the random papers and tools that was accumulated, I thought I might as well clear the whole thing off and wipe it down. Result:  One clean surface.

I have been accumulating dyed fiber: some leftover from the last time I was a vendor (different put up than the Etsy shop); examples for my classes, fiber that I dyed in my classes, roving I have set aside to overdye,  stuff that I haven't listed on Etsy yet, fiber that I have set aside for myself, etc.  You get the picture:  Large plastic tubs and copier paper boxes full of fiber that looks pretty random to the naked eye.  Now it is organized:  Fiber it now weighed and packaged for Etsy, drum carded fiber is properly stored away for future blending or spinning.  Dyed fiber is sorted by color and ready for its future destination - whatever that may be.

Detritus has been tossed.  Stuff (clothing, extraneous household objects, yarns that need to go to a new home, etc.) has been put into boxes for donation.  Some is already in my car.  Feeling pretty good here.

A friend who works in glass asked to see my studio the other evening.  I was all set to show off my newly organized studio.  Yet somehow it just didn't look that snazzy.  Of course I'm not finished.  Since I didn't have enough newspaper to put down fresh, The old spotty stuff was still down on the main dyeing table.  I have not yet swept the fluffy bits that letter the floor/  Empty boxes were piled on my nice clean table.  My sweetie's stuff was all gathered in a large area in front of his worktable.

So I'll cross off a few things on the list and add more, including taking pictures.  My life:  A work in progress.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Fiber Retreat Recap

I had great fun participating in the winter Fiber Retreat held last weekend here in Asheville & hosted by Friends and Fiberworks, a local yarn shop and fiber community center.  Lisa and a corps of dedicated fiber enthusiasts have taken a lease on a large store in a mall that has been 'asleep' for the past few years.  I'm not sure why, but this shopping mall has never done well.  It has a good location, the space is attractive, but it's sort of ...well...quiet.

But last weekend it was the site of the Winter Fiber Retreat, a gathering of knitters, spinners, felt makers, dyers, animal enthusiasts of all stripes.  There were great vendors, amazing classes, and cool people all around.  From Chad Alice Hagen to Jazz Turtle Esther Rogers, Kimberly Nicdao Reynolds from Knittters Magazine, we had wonderful instructors.  Wild Hare Fibers, Earth Guild, Creatively Dyed, Hooked on Felt - those were just a few of the very tempting vendors.  

My classes went very well.  Crockpot dyeing (all 3  sessions) was a hit and all my talented students made beautiful multicolored roving.  The 2 knitting classes were a pleasure.  Although small, each student got started knitting a lovely hat and has the confidence to knit on.  I really enjoyed teaching and am preparing a proposal for SAFF as well as the Summer Retreat.

I didn't take a lot of pictures.  I just forgot.  But if you go to Friends& Fiberwork Facebook page, you'll see plenty more, including the vendors, the fashion show, the Saturday night band (Buncombe Turnpike) and lots of fun and sillyness.

There were a few hiccups.  The weather the preceding week was awful - cold and about a foot of snow and that hurt attendance.  The fleece to shawl event didn't happen.  A late start and a warping error meant that already busy and stressed people just couldn't pull it off.  Oh well, lesson learned.  The live animals in the mall were quite a shock for the mall management, particularly when the llamas in love.  I missed it, but I heard it drew quite a crowd.

But it was a lot of fun and the whole event had a very positive vibe.  So much so that a Summer Retreat is already in the planning stages.  And I can't wait!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter Fiber Retreat

It's a big weekend in Asheville - It's the Winter Fiber Retreat sponsored by Friends and FiberWorks, a yarn and fiber shop here in Asheville.  Many of the SAFF vendors, instructors and board members are involved.  I'm teaching Crockpot dyeing and a knitting class.

I'm nearly set up, but still have to finish up this morning and do a bit of knitting to get my samples in a couple of different stages.  Gotta go.  More later.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hot Colors on a Cold Day

It's cold and snowy across the south and Western North Carolina is no exception.  Only 25 degrees Fahrenheit, we've had about 6 inches of snow and it's still coming down.  One of the joys of the South is that a single flake of snow can cancel everything, but this kind of snow would give my northern relatives pause.  This is the view from my front door.  I'm seriously considering going out a bit later and clear a path, play in the snow, take a bit of a walk perhaps clean off my car.  But it's cold!

Since it's too snowy to go to work, I've been working from home today: getting ahead on my class that should start on Thursday (tomorrow's classes have already been canceled), I've played around on the new Library of Congress web page (, even read a couple of journals.

I've been coping with the cold weather over the last few days by dyeing warm colors.  These are the reds and golds that are some of my stock colors in the Etsy shop.  On the left is 'Fire.'  On the right is 'Mars.'  Mars came out just lovely in the Blue Faced Leicester base top.  The last time I dyed it it was a bit dark and murky and I could not photograph it well enough to out it online.  This time it is just cheery and bright.

You might notice that the roving is drying in front of the solar hot water heater.  We will not be making our own hot water today as the solar panels are covered with an insulating blanket of snow.

So here are my choices. Option One: Stay warm and cozy. Drink tea or hot cocoa.
Option Two:  Go outside and play.  Come back in and have a cup of tea.

I'm going for Door #2! 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rare Purls: Knitting History

If you have an interest in how knitting has been part of culture for a long time, take a look at this article in the Toledo (OH) Blade. Writer Ellen Foley has been collecting images of knitting and other needlework and in now sharing her collection in the rare book room of the Toledo Public Library where it is now in display in the rare book room.

You can read more about it here.

Nothing that exciting going on at Smoky Mountain Fibers, though I did start spinning a lovely alpaca merino blend that I purchased at SAFF.  I purchased it from a local alpaca farmer here in Madison County, NC.  I have quite a bit of fiber ready to spin, but with no apparent purpose, other than it was lovely and I want to encourage local small business.  It is a very soft fiber, but you'd never know to look at it.  The color is a heathery golden brown - looks rustic, feels sweet!  One of those fibers that you have to pet to really understand.  My spinning pals at last night's spinning group - [hey - How come I was the only one spinning?  Everyone else was knitting.  What's up with that?] - were quite appreciative of its texture, color and ease of spinning.

I'm not sure what it will end up being, but as I have 8 ounces, I'll end up with enough yarn to do something with. I'll try to take some photos that will do justice to the subtle color.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wag More. Bark Less. Card Fiber.

Yesterday I talked about about the making of New Years Resolutions and the reflective process that is entailed.  What did I intend, did I accomplish it, now what?  So when I looked back to the beginning of 2010, I realized that I didn't really publicly state my resolutions.  I made some, but they weren't that exciting.

For example, I started using PayPal for shipping orders for my Etsy shop.  It's worked out very well.  Instead of taking the time during the day to carry an armload of packages (or even one!), I printed postage and left the packages on the porch for my local USPS carrier to pick up.  No loss of packages in my urban neighborhood, one less errand during my already busy work day & I even saved a little money.  I do kind of miss my tiny Post Office near the college, but I still use them for international orders.  A fine & successful 2011 start up, but not really earth shattering.

I also resolved to be a more active board member for SAFF, and that was good and this year I intend to be even more active.  Of course, that is what I signed on for.  The current composition of the board makes that a pleasure - even though it is a good bit of work.  I had work-related resolutions too, but you don't really want to know about that now, do you.  Love my job, want to do it well, but that is rarely of interest on this blog.

So this year:  be happy & be healthy (much like Crazy Aunt Purl in 2010), but also be nicer, as in Wag More; Bark Less.  Think about what you say and how you say it.  Ummm... before you say it.  A few years ago I gave myself a stern talking to about much the same topic, and I really put a stop to some of the negative thoughts and words.  Becoming more mindful of my feelings is not a bad thing to do.  Getting exercise almost everyday is a start, so I brought turtlenecks and a fleece for lunch time walks.

Another resolution is to really use my MP3 player for more that the FM radio (which is the reason that I picked that particular one), but really.  So yesterday I downloaded and the subscribed to a bunch of podcasts.  They are mostly NPR (Fresh Air, Planet Money, Car Talk, etc.) but also the Onion and  Should tie in nicely to the exercise resolution, eh?

Back to fiber...I really love my drum carder, but I never offered drum carded batts before, so today I added the batt set that you see here to my shop.  If they don't sell, that's okay.  Happy to spin it myself.  But you never know until you try!

That said, the New Year has now officially begun for me.  I even started my diet - Back to the South Beach! 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hello 2011

So many blogs have been starting the new year with resolutions, which includes revisiting last year's resolutions.  That can be a little dicey, particularly if your weren't all that successful.  I still might, but since I can only remember one resolution, I'll have to go with that one.  I'm almost afraid to look at my Big Plans for 2010.

My main resolution was to become a better spinner.  To be more mindful and to challenge myself to spin finer, more even yarns.  For a long time, I settled into my default bulky yarn - perfect for the quick & cozy hats that I do so love to make.  I think that I was afraid that I might loose my ability to spin the 'calm' that I needed to settle my monkey mind.  For me, spinning had become a way of not thinking, just mellowing out.  I blame grad school - I needed the mellow.

But as those days are behind me.  Now I want to think about my spinning and make better yarn.  Well, although I am not going for the Certificate of Total Fabulousness, I think that my yarn is definitely better.  More...shall we say...refined.  It is finer, smoother, more even.  But I still can whack out the fluffy stuff when I want to. Success?  I guess so.  Brilliant?  Hardly, but that's okay.

My 2011 resolutions seem to be personal, rather than fiber-related.  Kind of in the Wag More, Bark Less department. Possibly not fit for public display.  We'll try again tomorrow. No promises...