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Posts Tagged ‘sherlock holmes’

So…I have a job.  It’s a pretty neat job as jobs go.  It is part time, and has a few different components but the basic theme is teaching nutrition to elementary school students and helping initiate a cafeteria reform program to encourage healthier lunchrooms.

As some of you may have heard, for most sellers Etsy has been slowly tanking since they went public.  August 2013 saw some big organizational changes including the option of designers outsourcing the making/shipping of their products. This opened up the Etsy market to hundreds of thousands of new shops, changing much of the dynamic from artisan products to mass produced imports.  So this kind of sucked, and my sales declined quite a bit for the next 6 months.  It has been a year and half since that change, and although my sales have increased, they’re still not back to 2010-2012 levels.  I increased the number craft/art shows I participate in, dropped the local farmer’s market as it was definitely not profitable, and worried about the security of my income a LOT more.

I tend to be somewhat conservative, business and money wise.  When I was growing up, my family made their income from the commercial fishing industry and you may have heard the saying “Spend money like a fisherman.”  There was either a lot of money or none at all.  As an adult, I’ve tried for a more secure middle ground.  My idea of “security” is vastly different than most though; I’d never (even as a child) had health care until the recent standardized program, I’ve never had vacation or sick leave, no 401k, and so on. I’ve mostly build security by having little to no debt.  I own my house outright, no car payments, and I really try to keep our overhead low.  We shop at thrift stores, grow much of our own food, do most repairs ourselves, and try to lead a good life with what we have now rather than what we can pay back later.

But I don’t have a lot of disposable income, preferring to spend time with my family and working in our non-profit land trust project rather than working to build a hefty savings account.  So when my sales drop, I see a pretty immediate affect.  As a sole proprietor I also don’t have any protection if I’m injured on the job, which is inevitable given that most of my work involves repetitive motion.  Because of the way I’ve chosen to run my business, I basically make enough but not much more than that.  I could change things….I haven’t raised my prices in 6 years in spite of the fact my fiber cost has doubled since then.  I do little or no wholesale, so that I can keep my price points low. I want people like me to be able to buy my yarn. Maybe I couldn’t afford to knit a dozen $200 sweaters, but I could save up and make one.  Maybe not all of my knitting could be with $20 per skein yarn, but certainly some of it could be.  I could outsource the making to other spinners who are willing to work for a pittance and profit off of their labor; they’re out there, both locally and internationally.  I could switch most of the production to millspun, as Spincycle has done.  I could focus on being an indie dyer and move toward little to no handspun.

However, I like the way I run my business.  I just wish the sales were a bit higher and more consistent.  Except that I can’t keep production spinning for years. Yeah, forgot about that.

In May of last year I contacted a former employer about a coordinator position.  This employer is federally funded and is geared toward research and education for agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, and community members.  The position was already filled, but they continued to stay in contact-applying for a grant which would allow me to join their program.  I began in October, and the position runs through the school year.  18 hours a week, teaching kids about nutrition, a nearly perfect fit with my lifestyle.  I can still make yarn but would have a financial cushion.  I could spend time teaching kids during the year instead of just during the summer months as I normally teach a summer camp program at a local college.

Yesterday I discovered that the original coordinator position has re-opened, and I was asked to step in as interim.  I haven’t begun yet, but this job sounds great.  Exactly the sort of thing I have experience doing, and makes use of my inclination toward teaching as well as program organization and management.  It also allows me to work with adults including the senior population.  I think it even pays a bit better.

The drawback is that it is a year round program.  This should be a good thing but I do teach full time for 7 weeks in the summer and adding a part time job to my schedule during a super busy time on the farm….is daunting.  However, I think the biggest thing is that I am so very used to being self-employed.  My whole life operates according to the seasons.  I don’t know if most people can even conceive of this.  Here’s a tiny part of what it looks like:

Jan-March:  replenish yarn inventory, focus on homeschool, start working in the greenhouse, work on seed distro program, first farm intern arrives in Feb or March, catch up on admin duties like grant writing, applications for craft fairs, web design.

April-June: decreasing focus on yarn, more homeschool, 3 or 4 interns to education and manage, much work on planning/growing/installing 2 acres of annual food crops.

July-Sept: teach 7 week program at college, 3-5 interns, continue work on garden but begin CSA plus harvesting, food preservation, fall garden, try to get a week long family camping vacation in, mid August begin replenishing yarn inventory, back to homeschool in the fall.

Oct-Dec: extremely busy with yarn business including 6-8 craft fairs plus busiest Etsy quarter, finish farm harvest and food preservation, interns leave late November, work on seed distro program by harvesting/curing/processing seed, knit/crochet 100+ ready to wear items for sale, christmas.

So the year round thing is worrisome but do-able.  But they also wanted to know if I’d be interested in full time employment!  Full time!  I do like the work–both practically and ideologically–but what a change that would be.  In regard to financial security…it would be pretty awesome.  Health Care! Vacation!  401k!  But right now, I just don’t think I can give up the rest of what I have going on.  If nothing else, I have a 13 year old who’ll only be spending every day with me for a few more years at best.

And yarn. I love yarn.  I love fiber.  I’m wrecking havoc on my body parts by spinning 200ish pounds of fiber a year, and I’m accepting that I need to change what I’m doing. I can’t do this full time for the next decade, even if the money was great. My fiber goals is 2015 are:  buy an e-spinner (cheaper than replacing my knees and ankles), design 6 more patterns, do more sewing (my first fiber love), increase number of yarn subscriptions (I’d love for 25% of my business to be memberships!), learn to use my knitting machines, do more home yarn parties.

I felt like I was working, working, working in my thirties. Maybe my forties will be about working less but making more. That would be pretty darn awesome.

Speaking of awesome, I did promise some yarn photos.  I have a limited amount of this new yarn-Bliss, a single ply fingerling, 100 gram skeins measure 329 yards, 50% Baby Alpaca and 50% Mulberry Silk.  Pretty amazing.  I really can’t even describe the softness.

I’ve also been selling quite a bit more art yarns, both Thicket and Thin as well as Shearlocked.  So I’ve been making more of that as well. Right now, my shop is decently stocked with over 120 different colorways or products. I’ll probably have another 20 over the next couple of weeks.  Don’t forget that January is my Knitting For Pleasure month.  I offer a coupon code for 10% off (KNITTINGFORPLEASURE)  because I want to acknowledge and reward all of the dedication and hard work my fellow knitters put in over the fall and early winter for holiday gifting.  This is the time to do something for yourself.  As for me, I’ve been into stranded colorwork lately and thrummed mittens. I’ll post a photo of those projects too.

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Normally I consider myself to be an early riser. I am, in fact, the only early riser in my household.  I like to be in bed around 10:30, and wake around 6:30.  However, even though I am a native Washingtonian (such a rare breed these days), November is a difficult month for me.  I am fat and sleepy.  I’ve been a vegan for over a decade and I know that many people think that we are all emaciated anemics, but those types clearly don’t have my awesome inherited metabolism which hoards every calorie, like a greedy dragon sitting on a big, round, bulging pile of jewels.  I have been on enough diets to know that I can’t lose anything unless I’m eating 1000 calories or less per day (15-20 points on the ol’ weight watchers system) which I am clearly not doing, but dang it! I’m hungry! It is cold outside and I just want to eat soup and bread all day. Even when the bread is gluten free, and I’m topping it with Earth’s Balance organic vegan margarine, and even when the soup is basically fat free…somehow I’m still managing to round up.

But let me tell you….when the system collapses, my people will still be healthy while my husband’s tribe, the 5000+ calorie a day type, perish within weeks.  My people are savers.

So I’m hungry, and I’m tired.  I am dragging myself out of bed at 8:30, which wouldn’t be so bad except that I WENT TO BED AT 7:30.  Seriously.  It is just so darn dreary in November.

A few years back, we had some visitors who were thinking of moving to our farm.  One was originally from Israel, and the other from California.  They asked me “Some friends told us that you can’t see the sun here for months at a time, is it true?”  I sputtered and told them of course we could see the sun!  I didn’t know where their friends got the information but they were clearly misinformed.  A few overcast days later, it occurred to me that I was thinking of northern Alaska weather, with their months of darkness.  I asked the visitors “Do you mean can we see the actual sun?  Like actually the orb in the sky, not just the light from it?  Oh. No, we totally can’t see that.”  We get about 97 inches of rainfall per year in my little microclimate, and about 1/6 of that (12+ inches) happens in November.  Although Seattle is behind several other major US cities in terms of rainfall…we are hours from the city and it’s a heck of a lot wetter in this neck of the woods.

I’ll stop bellyaching about the darn weather, and get back to the good stuff.

The weather (and bowls of hot soup) officially signify the beginning of knitting season. I am spinning and knitting my days away, and gearing up for a couple of big shows in December…not to mention my biggest sale of the year. What? You forgot?  Mark it on your calendars!!!!

  • November 28th –Dec 1st SALE-free US shipping from all three of my Etsy shops.  For international customers, I will subtract and refund the cost of US shipping from your order.
  • Additionally, you may use a coupon code for 10% off nearly everything in the store-no discount on bulk pricing listings or membership/yarn clubs although you may use it on gift certificates.  This coupon is good in all three of my Etsy shops. With free shipping and 10% off, this is my largest sale of 2013.  The coupon code is: BUYNOTHINGBUTETSY
  • I will still be offering my Buy 6 Get 1 Free promotion, and the coupon code may be used for that as well.  This only happens once a year!!!
  • For those of you shopping other times throughout the month, please feel free to use this coupon code for free shipping: WINTERSHIPPING
  • Drawings!  I like to offer some customer appreciation around this time of year—with each Etsy order, new blog subscriber, new Facebook follower, or new Ravelry project through Dec 15th, your name will be entered into a drawing.   I’ll be giving away three $25 gift certificates on Dec 16th.
  • Speaking of gift certificates, I can offer them in any dollar amount. These make fabulous gifts, as do my yarn club membership packages.  You may want to add these to your holiday wish or gift giving list!
  • Event schedule:Belling ham Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, Urban Craft Uprising  in Seattle Dec 7th and 8th, and Crafty Wonderland in Portland Dec 14th and 15th.
  • SHOP EARLY FOR THE BEST SELECTION!  I have SO many upcoming events, don’t wait until the last moment!

I’m serious about those yarn club memberships making great gifts.  Don’t forget to put it on your wish list!  I have them in 3, 6, and 12 month increments, you can get handspun or sock yarn or a combination of both. You can upgrade any of them to a deluxe membership which includes luxury fibers and art yarns…oh the possibilities!  I have had several customers use their membership to make a sweater or wrap–I chose themed colors (fall, jewel tones, etc) and each month was a new and wonderful addition to their growing project.

Speaking of projects, I have a couple to share. The first is a lovely lace cowl made with 1/3 of a skein of sock yarn-the pattern is free on Ravelry here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/horseshoe-lace-cowl

DSCF8594 DSCF8595 DSCF8596I didn’t make this one myself, I did a trade with a wonderful woman on Ravelry…but I think I’d better start knitting because I can make three of these babies from one skein and they’ll make excellent gifts!

The next one is a cowl I made a couple of years ago. The pattern was on my blog, but I can’t seem to locate it. It is super easy, a great use of art yarn, and uses less than one skein.  Plus, it can be used as a cowl or headband…what’s not to love?

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This pattern uses Yarnarchy art yarn, made with uncarded locks of kid mohair. I find the woven look of the seed stitch to look great with the contrast of the unruly locks.  The photos feature the Haint colorway, made with handpainted roving in smoky charcoal and ebony paired with bright sulphur yellow mohair locks. You’ll need  about 80 yards of yarn (heavy worsted, about 2.8 oz per 100 yards), and size 7 or 8 needles.

Cast on 22 stitches.

Row 1: K1, P1 to end

Row 2: P1, K1 to end

Continue in this manner until the cowl measures about 20-22 inches in length (depending on head /neck size and desired fit).  Beginning with a row 1, K,P,K,P Bind Off 1, continue to end. You should have 17 stitches on your needle, with a bound off stitch on every 3rd stitch.

On the next row, begin with the P1, K1 pattern but cast on one stitch in each place where one was bound off previously.  This should return you to 22 stitches on your needle, and 5 small evenly placed button holes across the edge.  Knit 1 row, then bind off next row.

If you want to use larger buttons, you can bind off two and adjust spacing to include 4 buttonholes.  I generally prefer to make tighter buttonholes as they have a tendency to grow over time. I rarely if ever unbutton my cowl, preferring to slide it over my head. This means the buttonholes can be fairly tight.

Sew 7/8” or 1” buttons on the opposite end and you’re ready to go!

If the locks are not popping out as you’d like, take a small crochet hook to pull the ends through to the right side of the fabric.

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My house is silent at the moment.  Quiet and peaceful and I only had to wake at 5:30 to find it this way.  Instead of sitting at the wheel and getting right to work, I’m enjoying the solitude.

The farm looks lovely right now. We’ve had this weird weather pattern…we had about 50 days without rain, one afternoon of rainfall, and now it’s been another 25 days without rain. This is totally not typical western Washington weather and I think it’s throwing me a bit.  For one thing, I am really behind on my spinning. How can I sit inside during gorgeous weather when I can (and should) be doing all manner of farmish things?  I have a backlog of dyed fiber waiting to be spun and I can’t really put it off any longer.  We’ll be at the Okanogan Family Faire-a barter faire in eastern Washington in early October, I’ve got KnitFit in Seattle in November, a holiday faire in Bellevue at the end of November, and I’ve applied for winter shows at Urban Craft Uprising and Crafty Wonderland.  And I’ll still be vending at the Bellingham Farmer’s Market each week through the end of November and there’s always my beloved Etsy.  So I really need to get on it.  The weather is supposed to finally rain today, so I won’t be distracted.

Often when I’m working, I direct my household from my spinning throne-a pink velveteen wingback armchair which belonged to my great grandmother.  When the house is empty though, I listen to audio books. I am an audiobook fiend, just like my daughters.  One of my favorites is “Gods Behaving Badly” by Marie Philips. I initially downloaded this from a friend’s computer along with a bunch of young adult fiction and thought it was in the same vein.  The premise was something about “if Greek gods were among us in modern day London,” and since the little girl is a Greek mythology nut, I thought we could give it a listen. She happened to be out one day and I decided to try it.  Perhaps there was some sort of divine intervention that caused me to be alone when I clicked play on track one….let me just say that it is definitely not a kid book. There is quite a bit of sex, but it’s British so you know…not actually sexual or erotic, just graphic and hilarious.  I highly recommend it.

I’m currently listening to a series by Laurie King.  This book isn’t my typical style (other than the British thing) but has turned out to be quite good. A friend recommended it to my sweetie who’s a diehard Sherlock Holmes fan. The premise is that Sherlock Holmes has moved to Sussex as a hobby beekeeper in his golden years and meets Mary Russell. She’s a neighbor, brilliant, and fifteen. They form an unlikely partnership and by the end of the second or third book, they’re a bit more than partners.  Again with the British thing—this time the romantic encounters are very spare, the barest hint of detail, and yet highly erotic for the briefest of moments before moving on to more practical scenes.  Anyway, I’ve become addicted to this series and since I’ve clocked about 40 hours of listening time, it’s getting to the point that each time I sit at the wheel I daydream of Sherlock Holmes even if I’m miles away from the audiobook.  Postscript: I had to go back and edit…Sherlock doesn’t hook up with Russell when she’s 15.  Still a scandalous age difference but not creepy.

Recently I’ve received a few requests on how to best deal with skeined yarn without winding up (ha! yarn pun!) with a tangled mess. I highly recommend that all knitters/crocheters own a ball winder. You can get them on Ebay for $10-$25 if you don’t have a local yarn store.  This is a pretty small investment and you’ll end up using the ball winder to organize your yarn in general, not just skeined yarn.  I think Knitpicks has them for $20.

If you’re going to be working a lot with skeined yarn, you’ll also need a swift.  These range from $15-$100 and the materials vary. I haven’t used one of the less expensive metal and plastic ones, but they probably work just fine.  I have a giant birch one that I think I’ve finally worn out and may have to replace soon.

If you have skeined yarn and need to wind it now, or if you don’t have cash to spare at the moment…here’s an easyish way to keep the tangles at bay.  Turn a round laundry basket upside down and place the skein around it.  This should hold the yarn in place as you wind off.  You can use the back of a chair if you don’t have the laundry basket but the basket works better. Grab a fat marker, thick dowel, mascara tube, whatever- and use it as a nostepinne to make a center pull ball.  Here’s a link to a video showing how to use a one www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNovkZdRl7M

On totally different topic…I can’t believe that I don’t sell more yarn club memberships.  I have them in 3, 6, and 12 month increments for both handspun and sock yarn–and aside from being a great savings, they’re also super duper fun.  Each month a new skein arrives in the mail, ready to play with. Sometimes customers will place requests like “no yellow please.”  A customer who requested only jewel tones used her monthly installments to make a sweater for herself. I had a blast selecting skeins from my inventory with her project in mind.  I should probably promote the memberships a bit more-they make great gifts.  I once had a gift subscription sent to a  newly widowed woman instead of the more traditional flower arrangement. I thought this was wonderful and again…had a great time picking out her skeins, considering which colorways might bring a bit of brightness and gladness into her life.

Next post is coming soon!  Another free pattern…this time a super easy mobius cowl!

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