Monday, May 6, 2013

Mystery Shawl Knit-Along

I went over daughter Erica’s house yesterday in order to begin knitting her Minerva knit-along mystery shawl. The first clue actually came out Friday, but since I've never followed a knit pattern before, I was seriously scared. I tried to look the first clue over, but it made my eyes spin around and my head start to hurt -- it looked a bit like hieroglyphics. (On her KAL discussion group I likened it to taking a test in my old high school calculus class with a bad hangover. That same sinking feeling of I can't do this.) Afraid to even try without someone making sure I did the correct stitches, I waited until yesterday to start so I could go over Erica's for a bit of start-up guidance. Since I'm a fairly new knitter, I really don't know how to do many stitches either. Erica kept telling me to practice, but I wasn't even sure how to go about practicing. The closer the start date came, the more Erica kept eyeing me, asking if I was sure I wanted to try this.
But I went to her house and, although it took me a few hours, I finished up the first row after the cast on. So … I DID it!!! How can you be proud of yourself after only the first row, when there are a zillion more to come? Well, now I'm not afraid to try row two, so that's something.
On the first row -- maybe other rows, too, but I haven't gotten there yet -- the pattern was in groups of three stitches. I was still pretty close to the beginning of the row -- like maybe only stitch #11 in -- when I saw that I hadn’t done it quite right. I said Erica, ummm … can you fix this? All she had to do was rip back a few stitches. Then another few stitches later I messed up and, again, said Erica…? She was probably ready to hear me say that every few minutes, but then she came up with a brilliant tip and gave me a visual for what I should be seeing: knit, bump bump. I looked at the stitches and thought, hunh, whaddya know! So I started counting 123, 123, 123, 123, like a mantra, and after every third stitch, after every "3,"  I would stop and look at the stitches to see if they went knit bump bump. I never made another mistake and got all the way to the end of the row. And, believe me, that was one loooooooong row. 
That was it for me because I’m very slow and that one row took me almost two hours.
Day one of my Minerva mystery shawl KAL
The shawl was cast on using KnitPicks Sunstruck interchangeable needles (my very cool Christmas present from Erica), but after I messed up so close to the beginning, Erica thought I might do better with her Kollage Square needles with the soft K-Kable. Wow, what a difference. Maybe that’s why I never made another mistake. I love my KnitPicks needles, but this made doing all that back loop stuff so much easier. The tips are so pointy and the needles just slide through the stitch's loops. Switching needles made me feel more relaxed, so I guess it helped in that respect, too. I have to switch back before she comes over in a few days, but she assured me that the rest of the shawl would be easier. Usually just row one after the cast on is a little tighter.
Erica took this photo of me as I was partially through row one. You can see that the cast on stitches are on my KnitPicks Sunstruck interchangeable needles and that I’m working row one onto the Kollage Square needles. 

Fingers crossed as I go attempt the next row!!!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Jumping the etsy ship

I am in the process of closing my etsy shop and moving over to Storenvy. I might be biting off my nose to spite my face, as the saying goes, but I am doing it in support of Rick.

From December 2007 through April 2013, Rick maintained two shops on Once I knew I was losing my job, exactly one year ago on Mother's Day, I looked forward to opening my own etsy shop with great anticipation. And I had almost instant success. I sold several shawl pins in the first few days and was thrilled. As Rick said, it seemed like such a warm and fuzzy place to be. And I felt so much less worried about the loss of my job, because, hey, I had a new "career" selling my handmade items on etsy. We would be okay, I thought. We would be able to pay bills and eat. 

My own personal etsy shop lagged some, though, because Rick got so busy with his Navajo spindles that I had all I could do woodburning my original designs on the spindle whorls. But that was okay, we were a team. We work together well, complementing each other with our different skill sets. 

Neither Rick nor I participated in any of the social media type activities etsy provides, nor did we ever research them, so we were both unaware of any negativity toward etsy. However, Rick recently ran into an issue that required what he calls "intelligent human interaction, sound reasoning, rational thought, and a little good judgement." He got none of that from etsy. You can read more about his trials and tribulations in dealing with etsy on his blog. 

After some more research, Rick found Storenvy. He has a list of other online selling sites on his blog, but this is where he landed. He spent the last few days moving all his items over. His shop looks awesome. And, of course, you can also still visit his Web site,, direct.

I'm not sure Storenvy will get me the traffic that etsy did. Is it worth staying there, then? Well, maybe. I don't know. I'm of two minds about it. I was appalled at their treatment of Rick's issue, and everything he discovered online about them was quite illuminating, including this etsy rant with a cute cartoon to boot. But I'm afraid to lose what small business I did. I think people did find me on etsy, although folks complain about their search engine. I'm not sure how many people know about Storenvy, and those that do probably aren't searching for shawl pins. So the thought of moving off etsy is a tough decision. Do I stay knowing how terribly they treat their Sellers (along with a lot of other not so nice stuff that they do), or should I start over in a new spot and hope for the best? Well, guess it looks like I'm leaving, although even as I do it I'm feeling torn. But I really can't stay in all good conscience. My Storenvy shop looks nice. As I type this, I have nine items moved over. I'll do the rest a little at a time over the weekend. Once it's done I'll heave and sigh and feel better. So long etsy.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Maple Syrup, Shawl Pins, and Spindle Whorls

For the past few weeks, Rick and I have been maple sugaring. To be honest, 99% of the work has been done by Rick. From tapping the trees, to collecting the sap, to sitting outside for hours boiling the sap down to make maple syrup. We only have 6 taps and a small firepit in the yard, so the process has been slow, but the maple syrup we've been getting has been sooooooo delicious. My job has been to keep Rick fed and in hot coffee, then to help with the final boil down stage, filtering, and canning, which is done in the house. You can read more about Rick's adventures in maple sugaring on both mine and his blogs.

With all the "homesteading" chores we've been doing, not to mention trying to learn to play the baritone banjo ukulele that Rick gave me as a Valentine's present, all my etsy/fiber-related work was put on hold. Woodburning on the whorls I make for Rick's Navajo spindles slowed down to a trickle, and all the wire I cut for shawl pins sits lying about on my work table. I managed to get a few whorls done last weekend and all of one shawl pin the other day. I do have four more whorls very close to being done, though. I was just outside photographing that new shawl pin in order to list it, so decided to photograph the whorls in progress, too. I really enjoy twisting and bending wire to make all sorts of cool shapes for the shawl pins, but I think I have the most fun woodburning the designs on my gourds and the whorls. As soon as I catch up a bit on the whorls, I plan to make some gourd birdhouses.

I was inspired by daughter Erica's East of the Sea shawl, part of her Fiddle Knits Design's A Hobbit's Journey collection, to start twisting the shawl pins into what might be thought of as elvish. Figuring how to loop and swirl evenly, matching left to right, has been fun, although I do also have a pile of pins gone wrong; where I looped and swirled and then said, "now what?" having no idea how to finish them. They sit here still, waiting for a final inspiration. But as I twist each pin I think back on all the elves I've read about over the years, from Lord of the Rings to Eragon to Shannara, and try to envision what might adorn one of their shawls or cloaks. Rick thought the newest pin, featured above, had the look of a vine, growing up reaching for the sun.

Whorls waiting to be colored
Meanwhile, the snow outside is melting, the air is warm and gentle, the sky a beautiful bright blue, and the day is still full of possibilities. Back to listing my newest pin and finish coloring the whorls. And maybe after that I can get to those birdhouses before the birds begin looking for new Spring homes to raise their families in. I just went to a meeting for the farmer's market, which will start up again in May. Amazing how fast time goes. Soon the whole family will be trekking up every Sunday morning to man our tables for a new season. The sound of Rick hammering copper will start up again and Annalee will once again take over the kitchen with her soap making. So much to do!! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013 Musings

Thanksgiving has come and gone, Christmas, New Years' . . . and I'm finally getting another post up. Time sure does fly. I even finished my second knitting project (a cowl for Annalee for Christmas) and am almost done with my third (a stole for me). I can't say I'm an expert knitter yet, not by a long shot. Probably still couldn't even follow a basic pattern, but it is definitely getting easier to knit. Now I'm wondering why it took me so long to learn. Lazy and stubborn, I suppose.

As for my shawl pins and gourds, well, I've fallen a bit behind. Let the ball drop, as they say. I did manage to get a few new things up over the last few days, but I have been so busy burning designs with my handy dandy pyrography machine on the whorls for Rick's Navajo spindles that I haven't been able to pay as much attention to my own etsy shop. I'm having fun, though. I've "met" a bunch of new cyber friends on Ravelry and I've burned some pretty cool designs (if I do say so myself) on the spindles. I am very thankful that we've had so much interest in the spindles recently, though. It has given me and Rick some much needed income and hope in this new year. Things might just be all right.

Rick made a new year's resolution to just do the best he could and hopefully someone out there would appreciate him: Make some wonderful handcrafted items and hope people bought them; make music and hope people listened; be at peace; don't worry. I'm not sure I made much of a resolution myself. I suppose my resolution was just to continue trying to bring some spiritual meaning to my everyday life. Live life with intention. Mindfulness. Be here now. Sounds good, but then something comes up -- my daughters or husband annoy me, I ruin a meal, I break a glass, I stain my shirt -- and I get grouchy. I dedicate myself each morning to trying my best.

The Quakers have a saying that Way will open. I'm sure other religions have similar sayings. Actually the entire saying is Move and Way will open. You need to act on your dream. Take steps. Rick decided to continue pursuing his creative endeavors without worrying about how much or little money we had. His decision to be creative to his fullest abilities (music, spindles, copper bowls, etc.) and do it with the faith that others would appreciate it has definitely made a difference. So far January has been a great month. Full of creativity, new learning, and plain old fun.

Wishing everyone a belated wish for a wonderful rest of this new year.