Saturday, December 27, 2008
Disappointment #2: The acreage we have been pursuing is going to be taken off the market. The owners also have an adjacent property with an old old farmhouse on it that resides on 1.5 acres of the total plot they own. Over Christmas apparently the pipes on this farmhouse froze and it was bad enough that they've now decided to rip down the home. They plan to take both houses off the market, tear down the old farmhouse, then sell both properties as one. However, it won't be the simple difference between a home on 12.5 acres versus a home on 14 acres. Oh no. It will be 14 acres with a home AND a
Disappointment #3 and what this blog post is really about....
Yep, I'm actually going to gripe a bit about yarn, local yarn stores, and big box craft stores.
A few years ago I became a yarn snob. I got a taste of good yarn and I couldn't go back. I just couldn't do it. So I found frugal ways to afford good yarn, like recycling sweaters...which is how JL Yarnworks got it start (selling recycled yarn on ebay). JL Yarnworks grew and grew and now it keeps me in some pretty nice yarn. I may not get everything I want, but I really can't complain.
Shortly before Christmas, in a moment of what-the-heck-can-I-make-my-friend-while-sick-and-loopy-but-still-make-it-nice-itis, I ran into my local yarn store. I scoured the yarns I could use for a drop-stitch scarf...something fast, yet pretty, and not too difficult. They had several new yarns since the last time I'd ventured in, so I poked around and looked at everything.
Why the heck is there sooo much acrylic invading my local yarn store? It's bad enough to see something at Michaels or Hobby Lobby that touts itself as being cashmere or alpaca or mohair and realize it's 50-95% acrylic. But I don't expect to deal with that same kind of rubbish at my LYS!
Now, don't get me wrong. I know that acrylic has its place. I really do. I have a large stash of Caron Simply Soft for amigurumi. I realize that it's a nice sturdy washable base that can be blended into other fibers. Wool-Ease and yarns like it are great for certain projects and especially for knitters who are on a budget and still want a taste of the good life. But these are big box brands. I like many big box brands actually. Despite my larger knitting budget of late, I'm still a frugal knitter at heart. That's not what I'm getting after at all.
When I visit my LYS, I have certain expectations. One is that my snobbery will be rewarded with all kinds of delectible delights of the fiberly kind. Sure, they'll be expensive, and possibly out of my budget, but I can still hold them and pet them and tell them that someday they will be mine.
But to go into my LYS and pick up a $15 skein of yarn....$15!!!....and find that it's more than half synthetic? And not really mixed with anything grand? What?!?! If a LYS wants to offer a little bit of everything to suit all palates and pocketbooks, I am ALL for that. In fact, the original dream behind JL Yarnworks was to open an Average Joe yarn store. A catch-all yarn store for those fed up with big box stores, but not ready to hand over their yearly salaries to the super snobby LYSs. But it has to be priced accordingly, right? Give a newer knitter (or someone with a huge project) a nice wool/acrylic or cotton/acrylic blend at a good price. I have no problems with that. Plymouth Encore? Good example of that. It just seems like now my LYS is trying to pass off this type of fiber as snobbery and snobbish prices, and the fiber really isn't that great.
While at the same time, the big box stores seem to be getting MORE wool and mohair and all that. Now, first a disclaimer. I *did* buy some Trendsetter Dune for my friend's project. And it wasn't cheap. But it was perfect for my project and the colors were perfect for my friend. Plus, I was in a hurry with Christmas and all. But let me use that as an example.
Trendsetter Dune ($15 for 50g and 90 yards)
And let's compare it to a couple big box alternatives:
Moda Dea Gleam ($9 for 50 grams and 76 yards)
35% Kid Mohair
Lion Brand Moonlight Mohair ($9 for 50g and 82 yards)
Are we seeing any similarities here? What makes one of these yarns a snobby yarn worth $15 and the other two crap big box store yarn for $9 ($5.40 if you use one of the frequent 40% off coupons often available)?
I don't have any answers. These are just the things I've been pondering lately. And just something for us all to think about in general. Personally, I think I'm going to stick with the big box brands when they are A) comparable in quality, B) priced much better, and C) when the LYS version doesn't support an individual artisan or small local cottage industry.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Oh how naive we were!
Miss May couldn't have cared less. She opened one present, then refused to open anything else because she was too busy playing with the first toy. It was such a let down for Mr. Yarnworks and myself, who had invested so much emotional energy into trying to make everything perfect.
3 days later, Mr. Yarnworks deployed for Iraq, and he was still gone for Miss May's second Christmas. She still didn't quite get into the presents thing as much as I did. Ah well.
Miss May's 3rd Christmas was a bit better, but she still wanted to play with each gift for an hour or so before moving on to another gift.
Our 4th Christmas, we had both Miss May and Miss Kate. Miss May was a bit more into the whole Christmas experience, but obviously Miss Kate was too little to understand any of it (she was 7 months old and visually impaired...kind of a difficult mix, since she couldn't even coo at the Christmas lights).
Our 5th Christmas, Mr. Yarnworks had been in another state, getting ready to deploy again. He'd been gone since October, and our Governor decided that his unit needed to come home for Christmas. The community raised the funds, and we didn't even have to pay for his travel. What a wonderful Christmas gift! Miss May was into Christmas, into having Daddy home, but Miss Kate was still a bit young to appreciate it all.
This is our 6th Christmas with children. And they get it!!!
Last night Miss May went down the checklist: cookies and milk for Santa, carrots and water for the reindeer, note for Santa pointing out that she'd left him cookies. She then lectured Miss Kate on the importance of being nice and going to sleep so that Santa will come.
This morning, the girls miraculously woke up on their own at the same time (and not at the crack of dawn...a Christmas miracle!) and their eyes turned into saucers as they walked into the living room. It was absolutely perfect. Each gift was opened with delight and awe, and each was followed up with some exclamation like, "Thank you so much! I love it!" or "It's perfect!" Stuffed animals and dolls were hugged tightly.
But better than that, our oldest now gets just as much joy out of GIVING. She helped Mr. Yarnworks pick out my Christmas gift and was THRILLED when I told her how much I loved it. And despite many bribes from Mr. Yarnworks, Miss May DID NOT reveal what we got for him. She held out for over a week. Amazing for a 5 year old who was offered treats and money, no?
This was also a year that we could afford to give the girls everything we wanted to. That is a blessing in itself. Not to mention that Mr. Yarnworks made it home safe and sound from his second tour in Iraq this year. It turned into a very good year indeed.
From our house to yours, we hope that your Christmas was as magical as ours! May the new year bring you everything you need to find happiness.
Despite our fears about buying a double-wide, we think we are going to try to make an offer. Obviously we need to secure financing first in order to make that offer. The space fits us very well and would allow JL Yarnworks ample space to grow. I've already picked out 2 offices in the house plus a bit of garage space for a dying station. And with that kind of land? Does anyone else see sheep in my future? hehe. If not, at least a huge garden and hours of canning area ahead of me!
I told my husband that this is what I want for Christmas. He still got me something else anyway. (He's that kind of guy!) But he's already submitted all the info for a VA loan voucher and we have plans to talk to the bank very soon. We also need to do some legwork to find out costs of utilities, property taxes, insurance, etc. before we can commit to anything. We've already set our personal "walk away" limits. We are both already a bit emotionally attached to the idea of living here, so we need black and white rules for ourselves.
If anyone has advice on living on an acreage, living 25-35 minutes outside of town in a blizzard-prone area, homesteading, gardening for year-long surplus, etc, please feel free to let me know. I think I need a mentor!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
A Simple Drop-Stitch Scarf
- 1.5-2 skeins Trendsetter Dune Color #113 Country Meadow (41% mohair, 30% acrylic, 12% viscose, 11% nylon, 6% polyester), 90 yards per 50g skein (or any yarn that drapes reasonably well)
- Size US13 needles (use Size US15 or larger for thicker yarns)
- Tapestry needle or crochet hook for hiding the ends
Gauge: relatively unimportant
CO 12 stitches
Row 1-4: Knit
Row 5: K1, *YO twice, K1, repeat from * to end
Row 6-9: Knit
Repeat rows 5-9 to desired length.
Add fringe if desired. Tuck in ends.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
But when I think of knitting, it's my Grandma Helen I remember most. I remember hearing about her finishing the Master Knitter program (I'm guessing just the first portion). She was the craftiest person in my family. She always had some sort of handiwork in her lap.....knitting, crocheting, sewing, embroidery....
She had an entire closet in the guest room (where I used to stay) devoted to craft supplies. Yarn, ribbon, shells, and sequins adorned almost every craft project I created in her home. And I created many!
We were two peas in a pod, but distance kept us from truly learning from each other.
A few years ago, Grandma Helen stopped remembering things. She mixed up people's names, and even forgot that she'd ever had children...much less grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It was around this time that I truly became passionate about knitting. It saddened me that I couldn't talk to her about it. After all, she was the expert in the family, and knitting is a tradition that used to be passed down from one generation to the next. Knitting loses a special something when it's learned from a book. I missed that, and I missed her. The one person that would understand my knitting frustrations and triumphs.
I haven't talked to my grandmother in a couple of years. She lived in Colorado, and someone introducing themselves as her grand-daughter on the phone confused her, so I stopped calling, not wanting to frustrate her. Eventually my aunt removed her phone altogether. I mentally said my goodbyes to the grandmother I'd once known, finding peace in knowing that her Alzheimer's (for the most part) didn't bother her. She was happy, finding the simple pleasures in life, over and over again for the first time each day.
This morning, my Grandma Helen passed away in her sleep. She was truly an exceptional woman, and I will miss her dearly.
I love you.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
See? I'm always missing from the photos. *Sigh* Actually, there's a full family pic of me inside the train, but I'm gonna be selfish and not show it. lol. It's my blog and my right to protect myself from bad pictures. :)
This was our view as we awaited departure. Another BNSF train.
The BNSF staff was truly wonderful. The girls got coloring books, paper conductor hats, string cheese, pretzels, cheese crackers, juice, soft drinks, and the family got a very pretty train Christmas ornament.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
AND, I've added this nifty little Kitchener Stitch Keyring. On the front, it has all these cute little skeins of yarn, sheep, and socks.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Here's a peek. A little felted tiger, squirrel, fox, bear, alligator, and ....puma? All of these are made entirely of wool. Compacted, needle-felted wool. Now, I'm good with wool, and have even felted a bit. But I don't have the artistic eye to pull off any of these! Have a look!
But what really impressed us, was this little guy here:
Not to mention the llama...
Or the camel...
Want to see more? These amazing sculptures were created by Linda of Martin's Magical Menagerie! I spoke with Linda a bit in between customers and she is a very nice woman who drove all the way from Wisconsin to hang out with us at the fair. If you need any felting kits, she's a great lady to buy from. I got a simple tiny llama kit (first on her kits page) and when I get the hang of that one, I plan to move on to a couple of her other ones.
Something I haven't yet added to my website, but took the to show were these cute hair clips I made with sock monkeys and sheep. Expect these to be added to the site soon!
Before the show, my mother came to visit for a few days. The girls were absolutely thrilled!! They just couldn't get enough of Grandma.
Here, Grandma and May watch a movie Grandma bought for the girls.
Grandma went with us to the park and found out quickly that Kate insists on swinging....indefinitely.
But that's okay, it gave me the opportunity to get this candid shot....
This is my new favorite picture of Kate. :)
Moving on, a couple weeks ago I was haunting on of my favorite thrift stores for clothes for the girls and such, when I spotted these great wooden spools of yarn. I have no idea what they're from, but my best guess is an older industrial loom or knitting machine. I was just going to get the ones that still had yarn on them, but knew that I'd kick myself if I didn't pick up the whole collection. So here is my find. If you know where these came from, please share!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Anyone in the vicinity of Watertown, South Dakota, can visit my booth at the North Country Fiber Fair. If you come, be sure to mention that you read my blog!
I will be selling yarn, stitch markers, project bags, cedar sachets, fiber-related magnets and hairclips, and a few items from Karatstix!
Monday, September 08, 2008
Tonight was May's first dance class at a new dance studio. Last year she took dance classes from a group primarily because they were almost cheap enough for us to be able to afford it. But, while last year was great for determining whether she likes dance or not, they really didn't teach her anything except a series of steps. There was no instruction in technique at all.
Well, to me, half the point of dance is to teach a child grace and poise and control over her own body. Last year's lessons didn't teach her any of that. However, they did teach us that she really enjoys dancing.
This year, we looked into several new dance studios, and at the advice of one of our babysitters, looked into Balleraena Dance Studio run by Miss Raena. What attracted me to this particular studio is that their instructors truly seem qualified with both degrees and real world experience. Miss Raena also believes in modesty of both dress and dance moves. (After watching some other local studios perform, I was appalled, truly.) Plus, our babysitter assured me that even the little kids learn some technique.
So anyway, tonight, Miss May had her first class. And I was an absolute mess. I was actually fighting back tears as I watched. I tried so hard to fight them back so the other parents wouldn't think I was insane. lol But they stretched (a lot!), practiced a couple ballet positions, pliés, ballerina runs, leaps (I sooo don't remember the french word for this, but I think it starts with a G), and then finished off with a little (age-appropriate) hip-hop. Miss May, having no idea what the positions are or anything, still did a really great job! I think we need to practice some at home, but she really seemed to enjoy herself. This class was everything I could have hoped for, and more. I cried because I suddenly felt overwhelmingly like this is exactly where she is supposed to be. Miss Raena pushed for proper technique while making it cute and fun!
They teach an adult class, which I'm completely tempted to take. But um....I'm really not sure that in my current shape I could do half of what they did today. Even though I've always wanted to take a dance class, ever since I was a kid. Maybe next year! Until then, I'll just stretch and practice with my beautiful Miss May.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
This will be my first show (of 3 this fall/winter so far), and I'm a bit torn. On the one hand, I'm trying to build up inventory so that my booth will be overflowing with knitterly goodness. Yet, it seems ludicrous not to list these items in the meantime and try to sell them. But then, of course, is the fear that it will ALL sell and I'll be left with an empty booth. Of course, the whole point is to sell the items. And it really shouldn't matter whether I sell them online or at a fiber festival or craft show....in fact, the faster I sell each item, the better. But my fear of an empty booth seems to be superseding logic at the moment. Feel free to comment and set me straight one way or the other.
Anyway, the bag. :) This is a wristlet for holding small knitting projects. Stick your yarn in the bag, slip the bag on your wrist, and you can stand and knit, sit and knit, lay down and knit...whatever floats your boat. Regardless, the yarn will stay nice and clean while you work. I love the versatility of these bags. I've searched a long time for the perfect small project bag. After getting frustrated both with the styles and patterns of the bags available, I decided to start making my own. I've been having a great time choosing the perfect fabrics! I can't wait to share them all with you!
Update: Wow! The bag has already sold! Good thing I have more that are very close to being done. If anyone wants a bag, but there are none listed, email me or contact me through Etsy. I will happily start a waiting list!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
So, without further ado, see May's first day of Kindergarten. She looks so grown up to me!
I wasn't sad. I didn't cry. I'm just so impressed by the young lady she is becoming, and I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!
And of course, Kate has to be just like May.
Thankfully, Kate starts 2 day a week preschool in a couple weeks, so she'll have an excuse for the backpack.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Sock Rules with 2 Inch Cuff Ruler:
Knitters Rule/Needle Gauge