Friday, February 27, 2009

yarn vs. real estate: another smackdown

For those following the saga, I still haven't sold my house. I've got a new real estate agent, and as soon as all the paperwork is done, the house will be back on the market. As everyone who has been through it knows, having a house on the market is a big pain in the butt. You're supposed to keep it pristine all the time and be perpetually on call to get out so people can see it without you being there to make them feel weird about looking in the closets. Besides that, it's a down market, and nearly every real estate agent I've talked to has led me to despair. However, I've found a gem. Her name is Christina Stolaas of Carnival Real Estate, and so far she totally rocks. Talking to her gives me hope and energy!

Meanwhile, she's been doing some staging. She's made little changes all over the house, but these are what made me squeal with delight.

Dudes, do you not want to come over right now for a fancy luncheon?? I've always loved the kitchen, but check out that dining room!

For reference, left to my own devices it looks more like this:

I'd say real estate wins this round.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

something different

I've been feeling a little one-dimensional lately, so I've decided to try some new things. One of those is letterboxing. In letterboxing, somebody hides a box with a log book and a special stamp in it, and then publishes clues so that people can find it. When you do, you stamp the log book with your own special stamp, and you stamp your own log book with the stamp from the box. More information here if you're curious.

Anyway, I was reading about this, and I got really psyched. It's a walk and an adventure, and if you get carried away with the stamping aspect, it's also a craft project! Of course you really don't need a special stamp for this--you could use your thumbprint if nothing else was available, and there's nothing wrong with store-bought stamps either, but reading about stamp-carving and seeing some of the incredible stamps people have created, I wanted to try it myself.

First I spent a ton of time working on the image I wanted: a lizard sitting on a ball of yarn. That's just not available in the standard clip art, even on the web! But with some heavy Photoshopping (actually, Gimping), and then tracing when my software skills ran out, I managed to come up with this:

Considering that I can't draw worth anything and I didn't even have any tracing paper, I was fairly impressed with the fact that it is clearly an iguana, and you can pretty much figure out that he's sitting on a ball of yarn. It could still use some refining, but it's not a bad start. (Ok, stop laughing out there.)

But then I started thinking, wait a minute, that's pretty complicated, and the finished stamp is supposed to be small, much smaller than this, so you don't hog the whole logbook. Maybe that's not the best image for your first ever attempt at this. So I decided to go with the Fire Lizard Studios lizard instead. He's pretty simple.

Well, this carving stuff is not as easy as it looks in the tutorial. (Duh, Cara, if they made it look hard in the tutorial, nobody would try it!) My first two attempts look like they were produced by kindergartners, and I kept accidentally amputating things when I was trying to carve out the extra stuff around the image. But the third attempt is passable.

I'm still having a hard time getting the toes right, but these are a million times better than the first two tries. Also, I think I heard that there are blades for cutting finer lines--I think if I had one of those, maybe I could actually get it to look how I want. I wanted to give him spots on his back, too, but there was no way. I could barely get the little circle where his tail curls. I definitely want to keep playing with this, but it's not bad for a first attempt. Don't think I'll be quitting my day job any time soon, or even the yarn job. But I did get a bunch of printmaking books last time I went to the library. Onward and upward!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

are you sayin' I'm phat? oh, thanks!

This is my second month participating in the Phat Fiber Sampler Box, and this month I got a box of my own.

Holy cow, treats delivered right to your mailbox--who could ask for more?

First of all, there was a lot of chocolate tucked away throughout. This I consumed immediately for the protection of the wool. I'm noble like that.

There was even homemade fudge from J. D. Melaine! Unfortunately, by the time it got to me, it had absorbed a lot of the scent from my sample of Happy Hands Goat's Milk and Shea Butter hand creme, which might have been cool if I had gotten the citrus sample, but I got tea and roses. It was kind of like opening the Washington Post on Sunday morning and trying to eat your Golden Grahams despite the perfume samples. I'm hoping the fudge will be restored to its glory by a few days' airing out; when I had a nibble, I could tell it was excellent fudge, even through the tea and roses.

The hand creme also rocks. I just tried some, and even though my hands were a complete dried out nightmare, the hand creme did not sting, and now my skin looks nearly normal. It officially beats my former favorite hand creme, and I've tried my share. Get your own at Local Gringos.

The box included way too much awesome stuff to go into detail about everything, but here are my top picks. It was going to be just the top five, but a few extras snuck in. There is a ton of seriously great stuff!

My absolute favorite of the box is this incredible confection of spinning fiber.

It's superwash wool and angelina from Extreme Spinning. This is an incredibly generous sample, it is super soft and absolutely gorgeous, and it's colors I wouldn't have put together myself, which makes it an even bigger treat. This just knocked my socks off.

A very close second is this sweet little sample of handspun yarn from Wooly Hands.

It contains merino, mohair, Angelina, and silk noil, a fiber blend from Hobbledehoy. I love the colors and the textures in this yarn. It's a fun, lofty treat that makes me want more.

Next is a very nice, soft and sophisticated sample from The Twice Sheared Sheep. The yarn is gorgeous lace weight merino in a rich, fabulous wine color, and if that wasn't enough, it came with a pretty pearl stitch marker! I've seen her stuff around the internet, and it's every bit as good as it looks.

Then we have a trio of sweet little samples from Jags Funky Fibers.

I love yarn that is different and interesting, and that seems to be Jag's specialty. I'll definitely be lurking in her shop.

Next up is some really intriguing fiber. It's hand-painted BFL locks from Polyartgirl Designs.

Is that not totally luscious? Can I go back and change which sample I said is my favorite? I've never attempted spinning locks like this, except on the day of my first lesson when Merike encouraged us all to play with the locks. I added parts of one blue lock to my crazy first yarn, but it kind of fell out some time before the plying was done. Now that I've had some practice, I'm psyched to revisit this.

Then we have the cutest little puffy treat from We Love Thor.

This is corriedale wool in "chocolate strawberry cookies." It looks like a great spin--can't wait to try it. And seriously, chocolate? check. Strawberries? check. Cookies? check. Any one would be great, but put them all together and you've got something that also satisfies my delight in excess. Bring it on!

Next up is a truly glorious treat.

This is a whole ounce of 50/50 merino/tencel from Natural Obsessions in Black Nightie. Wasn't I just saying I want to play with shiny things? Oh yes, we have shiny. Love love love it! I can't wait to see how this spins up.

And last but not least, we have some really sweet handspun camel down yarn from Hedgehog Fibers.

This yarn is super soft, and the color is gorgeous. Very nice.

I could go on and on--it's like Christmas!--but dudes, I am so behind schedule. I need to get my house cleaned up and ready for real estate action, and I thought I had tonight too, but I just remembered there's a thing at my church tonight! That will probably occupy the whole evening. Thus it's now or never. Will I ever get it together to the point where I'm not rushing from one last-minute freakout to the next? On top of that, I need to send in my goodies for next month's Phat Fiber Sampler. Now that I've experienced it for myself, I'm even more proud to be phat.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

back to the blue scarf

I went to knitting night last night--the first time I'd been in about a hundred years. It was great to be back, although it was a quiet night as knitting nights go. In my experience, that means next week is likely to be an uproarious good time. Bring it on!

I didn't manage to come up with anything exciting to work on, so I'm back to the blue scarf.

It is a nice scarf, and I'm pleased with the design. Even on Bartleby's skinny neck, it's clearly nowhere near big enough yet, though.

(I cropped out Bartleby's head, but imagine him smiling at finally getting to model something manly for a change, instead of all these frilly capes and stuff!)

If the metric for this scarf being done is running out of yarn, I estimate I have about five sessions left to finish it. It would be the perfect project for watching movies or talking on the phone, but I don't seem to be doing a lot of either of those lately. That is a handy sort of project to have around, though. Maybe I'll come up with something more exciting to do, and meanwhile have this waiting in the wings any time I need a brainless wonder.

Monday, February 23, 2009

a finish!

I finished my keyhole scarf already!

Bartleby, my usual model, has way too skinny a neck to show this off, so I give you Rita Lampshade. Work it, Rita! The camera loves you!

This is a super simple keyhole scarf made from one skein of Colinette Shimmer 5. This yarn is shiny and totally luscious in its colors. (You can get your own on my website some day if I ever get pictures taken.) Huge yarn + huge hook = super quick project. This is the first time in about six months that I've finished something before getting sick of it. Instead, I wish there was more. But this will make a fabulous neck warmer for my frigid office--that place needs all the color it can get! Now I have to pick something else to take to knitting night... (or just work on the projects I have, but I'm kind of tired of them and they're not all shiny).

Friday, February 20, 2009

my treat

So I never did tell you guys what I got myself at the festival! I always get myself some kind of treat, even if it's from my own shop. You know, life is short, buy more yarn!

When I was getting ready for the festival, I thought I wouldn't have nearly enough stuff to make my booth look well-stocked and inviting, so I bought a collection of Colinette Shimmer 5. You'd think that would be an easy thing to do, but acquiring this yarn actually required a lot of determination. (Luckily, I have a lot of determination!)

Anyway, the result was that I spent a lot of time thinking about this yarn before it even arrived. On top of that, it's shiny and very colorful and not what I would do. Therefore, it was the perfect festival treat for me. The more I stared at it all hanging in my booth, the more I coveted it, so I chose my favorite colorway and made it my treat.

The colorway is number 21, Turquoise. It is totally fabulous.

I wasn't even planning to crochet anything at the festival, but I had to do something after all the spindles sold, and I had my hook collection with me (as well as two projects in progress, but no need to dwell on that fact--they'll get done some day). I kept trying hooks until I was using the largest one I had with me: 11.5 mm (P). It's been a while since I've used anything quite so large, and still I might have gone up a size if I had been at home. The fabric is not as drapey as I usually like, although I'm a total freak when it comes to crochet. I usually use a hook twice the size of what's recommended. However, as I was trying it on as a skinny scarf, I realized the extra body is an asset in this application. It looks like one skein will be just enough to make a short keyhole scarf, and the fabric is just stiff enough to stand up and cover the back of my neck. It's perfect! And the stitches are so huge, I could easily finish this tonight if I wanted. Wouldn't that be a change, after the three-month scarf that was my last project! I just need to look up how to do the keyhole--I know I used to know what the trick was, but it's lost to the sands of time now, and the more I think about it, the less sense it makes. Sometimes there is such a thing as thinking too much.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

lettin' the blog down

Aside from simply not posting for days and weeks on end, I've let you down, my friends. Yesterday, there was the most gorgeous double rainbow! And did I have my camera? No! I didn't! %^*$%^*#$%@$#%@%!!

A friend once told me that beauty is in the moment, and that's what I tell myself to console myself every time I miss out on a great picture, so let me pass that on to you instead of the fabulous rainbow. Beauty is in the moment. All around me, people were buzzing about their usual office tasks, completely oblivious to the huge fabulous double rainbow right outside these walls! That seemed like a huge waste to me. I intend to take notice and appreciate these beautiful moments whenever I can. The drudgery at my desk will still be there when the sun goes back behind the clouds.

If that wasn't enough, my post about the festival completely neglected to mention one of the best parts of the whole thing: my sister! She came and helped me with the booth and sold stuff and oohed and aahed over my yarn, and getting to hang out with her made the whole thing twice as awesome. It added a whole extra dimension of awesome, in fact. (Again, no pictures. Beauty is in the moment, beauty is in the moment...)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

the festival

I had a wonderful dream. There was yarn and knitting as far as the eye could see, so much that you couldn't even begin to knit it with regular needles--you had to use huge ones.

And the yarn was everywhere, and the yarn was good.

People banded together to help their neighbors. Peace, harmony, and warmth were created.

And on top of all that, there were bunnies.

Seriously, the festival totally rocked. This was my second time at the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival, and my first time as a vendor. I've been to other festivals, and this one seems to be unique in its fabulous atmosphere and perfect size. Everyone is super friendly at most fiber things, but they kick it up a notch at this one, and there are enough vendors to create an ecstatic sensory overload but not so many you end up dizzy from it. I know they had great classes, too, although of course I didn't have time for that this year. Overall the experience was shiny, like spinning straw into gold. I will be back next year for sure.

Vending at a festival is kind of a strange experience for me. I'm very much an introvert, and talking to people and being friendly takes a lot out of me, but it's a huge rush, too. It's almost a contradiction. And fiber festivals are unlike my daily life in that I can go on and on about yarn, and people are actually interested! It's a blast. Also, just spending the whole day surrounded by my favorite colors and textures instead of my beige office walls and computer was a huge treat. On top of all that, I got to teach a little bit! I was a college professor for a while, and I thought that completely burned me out on teaching, but what it actually burned me out on was excuses, whining, grading, and the like. A few people wanted to learn to spin on a drop spindle, and I gave mini-lessons on that in my booth (totally unplanned and unexpected), and it was such a blast! I'm considering proposing a beginning spinning class next year. I really didn't think much of anybody would be interested in spinning at this show--I brought the spinning fiber almost as a decoration. It's pretty, the merino/tencel stuff is shiny, it draws people in. But it ended up that there was no room for my spinning wheel in the booth, and I needed something to keep my hands busy and start conversations, so I decided to break out the drop spindle. I hadn't tried to spin on anything but my wheel in about ten months, and even the wheel has been sitting idle since before Christmas, so it felt extremely awkward to me, but people flocked over and asked questions and bought every drop spindle I had. I sold the one I was using right out from under my yarn! What an unexpected delight! For me, learning to spin was the last thing that pushed me from liking yarn and wanting to do more with it to loving yarn and doing more with it and starting the business, so to share that with other people is a huge treat.

All things must end, even good things. When it was time to go, this Alabama girl was concerned about one thing in particular.

Gah! Snow! Van! Pittsburgh! Deep breaths into a paper bag...
Actually, I think I'm still a pretty decent snow driver from my time in lake effect country, and I do have brand new tires on the van at least, but I was still exceptionally unhappy about this. I felt betrayed, like somehow by moving to Alabama I was exempt from experiencing snow. As it turned out, I kind of am. It stopped before I was ready to start driving, and nothing stuck on the roads. Phew! It was a long enough drive, no need to make it longer with bad weather.

Now I'm home at last, and it's all over but the unpacking. Well, that and figuring out what festival to do next! I'm hooked!

Friday, February 13, 2009

are we there yet? ...yes.

Dudes, all I've got to say is it's a long drive from Alabama to Pittsburgh. Well, of course that's not really all I've got to say, and it wouldn't have seemed nearly so long if I had been remotely ready for this trip and had a prayer of leaving on time. It's a really good thing I left a huge amount of slack everywhere when I made up my schedule for this trip, because I needed all that and more. But I'm here, and I figured out how to assemble all of my display devices, and I got almost everything labeled and priced and on display.

It looks more crowded in real life. (And what the heck is that check mark PA thing under my sign? I don't remember seeing that in real life.) I was going to set up my spinning wheel so that I could spin during the slow times, but I'd seriously be trapped in my little corner then. It would be really awkward. I'm hoping for no slow times, but if there are, I'll just crochet one of my mindless scarves. Not much of a conversation-starter, but very portable.

There's still a good bit of stuff on reserve, including some of my own hand-dyed merino/tencel spinning fiber. I just ran out of time. It looks really nice, though, and I can fill in with the rest as people buy stuff.

Things I've learned so far this trip:
- Super 8 rocks. They mean it when they say free wireless. (unlike some people)
- Next time, bring a dolly! Duh!
- Those cube thingies and garment racks really are easy to put together.
- Speeding loses all its fun when you're driving a minivan. Not that going slow is much fun either, and let's not even discuss parking.
- On the other hand, the minivan really isn't scary or a piece of crap after all, now that it's been fixed. (Thank you, Bruce!)
- Show up in Pennsylvania from Alabama and people will think you talk funny, even if you've only just moved to Alabama from Pennsylvania a year and a half ago. Add ten hours of book on CD set in Ireland into the mix and you're bound to get some strange looks. Sure and I'm lookin' for the fiber festival, y'all? (I didn't really say that, but the voice in my head has definitely been talking in an Irish accent all day. Last time I did this, I actually had a whole argument with someone in Irish, only it was on instant messenger, so he didn't realize.)

I am beat. Somehow wearing myself out and then trying to set up the booth really didn't work out as well as I planned (nor as badly as I feared). Since it's bedtime and beyond, I will leave you with the top five things I'm grateful for as of this moment. This is a habit I picked up from Happy for No Reason and it really works: before you go to sleep, list at least five things you're grateful for. When you look for that stuff, you find it. So here goes. Among other things, at this moment I'm grateful for:
- safe travels
- a Super 8 only two doors down from the conference hotel and an Eat'n'Park right across the street! Such convenience so cheap--it warms the cockles of my frugal little heart.
- learning before I left that the van can go at least 279 miles on a tank (gas gauge broken)
- a good dinner
- quiet solitude in my motel room. and wireless! and a fridge!
- the friendliness of my vendor neighbors
- everyone coming by and complimenting my yarn! I will never get tired of that!
- absence of snow, rain, and bitter cold during unloading time, plus a good parking spot
- everything working out fine
- temporary lack of neurosis
- getting to see my family this weekend
- being (internetically) reunited with an old friend I've dearly missed.
- bed!

Good night, all.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

off to rock the festival

Dear Cara,
Where have you been? What have you been doing? Are you dead in a ditch? We never hear from you any more!

Everyone you know

Dear Everyone,


This this this.

In other words, I've been getting ready for The Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival, which is this weekend, Feb. 14-15. I went to this show last year, and it totally rocked my world. It's where I re-learned to knit, in fact. This year, I'm going as a vendor! I'm going to have a lot of great stuff, including my hand-dyes in every colorway I do, a whole raft of gorgeous spinning fiber, and a brand-new yarn! It's crazy thick-and-thin stuff, very lofty, and I love it so much I was actually talking adoring nonsense to it while it was drying. I also scored some great books on knitting with hand-dyed yarn, and a nice collection of Colinette Shimmer 5, which was not easy to come by. It is droolicious. And, to top it all off, I'll have free chocolate for everyone in honor of Valentine's Day! So if you're going to be anywhere near Pittsburgh this weekend, come see me at the festival. Fire Lizard Studios will be in booth 9, just waiting for you! Come on, it's Valentine's Day, forget your honey and spend it with your true love: yarn! Oh wait, that's probably just me. Well, for you more normal people out there, come to the festival and then go out with your honey. There's plenty of time for both.