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Dye! Dye! April 11, 2008

Posted by jeninmaine in dyeing, Etsy.
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Okso…I guess I should really get with the crafty pictures. I haven’t updated my crafty blog with anything decent in eons. (I mean, I guess I could cut myself some slack seeing as I have a newborn and all, but, well, you know how I am.)

First a couple of the yarn blanks I’ve bought have come in. I found these two skeins of Patons Kroy for a ridiculously good price on eBay so I sniped them. Even with the shipping they’re half of the retail cost. Sure, not sustainable as far as supply goes, but it’ll give me more to practice with.

Kroy Sock Yarn

Then there’s this. I had a moment of eBay Glassy-Eyed Stupidity when I came across this 3.25 pound cone of “sock yarn” that had only been bid up to $15. I sniped it right at the end and got it for $25, around $33 with shipping. It wasn’t until after I had won the auction that I noticed the one teensy sentence I missed: “Use 2 strands on the Knitting Machine.” It wasn’t the knitting machine bit, that’s fine, it’s the “use 2 strands” bit. Uh oh. THE CONE IS SINGLE PLY!

Giant Cone!

Giant Cone!

Ah, shit. I’m not sure what to do with it. It arrived yesterday and it’s not bad at all, not the softest (though I’m hoping it’ll soften if I wash it) and the single ply is durable so at least it’s not useless and falling apart. But, but! 15,600 yards of it! Fifteen thousand! Agh!

I talked to Joy about my conundrum and I’ve decided to do one of two things:

1. Measure it out in 400-yard increments and ply it on the spinning wheel, then dye two skeins at a time for sock-worthy yardage;

or

2. Dye it as-is and sell lace weight.

I’m not sure how I’m going to measure it out accurately as I have pretty primitive tools (such as an 18-inch long piece of cardboard I use to measure yards, heh). I was thinking I might wrap out a 100-yard skein and weigh it, then measure out larger skeins by weighing them on the ball winder spindle as I wind and ply from the ball. In any case I’m going to pull a bunch of 20-yard skeins off of it and see if I can ply them, then wash and dye those skeins to see how they come out. As Joy said, “If you try it out and don’t like it, you can always sell it.” Oh, yeah. She’s so s-m-r-t! In any case it wasn’t a huge investment so I’ll look at it as a good opportunity for learning.

Must. Learn. To. Read. Descriptions… The. Whole. Description.

The sun rose on Wednesday and this is what it looked like out my front door…

Yarn Drying

So far, so good, it’s now technically Friday and I’ve got Friday’s skein cooking in the dye pot. Here’s what I’ve accomplished thus far.

First I pulled out what I had left of my Bartlett Yarns (a Maine company) fisherman’s wool. It’s a great yarn, slightly rustic so it’s not as soft as merino, it still smells faintly sheepy and hasn’t been treated so it’s perfect for things like diaper soakers. Their skeins are also humongous, 210 yards worsted to heavy worsted weight. I really like this yarn, it would also be fantastic for winter stuff like hats and mittens.

Monday 4/7

Monday 4/7

Monday 4/7

You can see where I had an oopsie – it was tied too tightly and the dye didn’t penetrate. In subsequent skeins I untied the existing knots and loosely retied the skein with bits of acrylic yarn. Even though technically it’s a mistake I think it’ll look really neat in the knitted fabric.

Tuesday 4/8

Tuesday 4/8

Tuesday 4/8

I’m focusing on getting really nice variegated nearly-solid colors. I find I prefer yarns that have an undulating range of one color family rather than lots of contrasting colors as you never know how they’ll pool in your project.

Wednesday 4/9

Wednesday 4/9

Wednesday 4/9

With this one I was counting on the purple to have more of a blue base, but the blue I added to the purple was too blue. I’ll temper it with something darker next time. Not all one color, but pretty neat nonetheless.

Thursday 4/10

Thursday 4/10

Thursday 4/10

I really like this skein. It’s Misti Alpaca Suri Silk, 80% baby suri alpaca and 20% silk. It feels super soft and sleek. I had ordered some blanks of this just for kicks to see how it would dye up and now I have half a mind to order a bunch more to dye for a specific project for myself like a shawl or something (and I don’t even wear shawls!). The colors are more luminous due to the sheen of the silk.

I couldn’t resist putting the Bartletts together for a little group shot. Family reunion!

My Hand Dyed Yarns

Tonight I threw a skein of Dale of Norway Baby Ull into the pot and I’ll see how it dyes up. I love the Baby Ull, I’ve been working on that baby afghan out of it and it is wonderfully soft and shows great stitch definition. Best of all it’s superwash (though I’d probably still hand wash it anyway). It comes in a ton of great colors but variegated would be awesome so I’m trying it out.

On the agenda soon are those mini skeins of Elann Baby Cashmere, a 60% baby alpaca / 30% merino / 10% cashmere blend. It’s really lovely stuff and I’m curious to see how it’ll dye. Aren’t they cute?

Baby Skeinlets

More to come!

Progress, such as it is. April 8, 2008

Posted by jeninmaine in dyeing, Etsy.
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Okay, so far, so good – three days, three skeins. I’m pretty much just dinking around with color and it always surprises me how something that looks so ‘meh’ floating in a pot of water looks completely different (and better) once it dries. I’m actually really pleased with how they came out. Now I just have to figure a good way to reskein things that won’t drive me batty.

I also took my eBay earnings and took the plunge, bought a bunch of sample hanks of various sock yarns from three different online vendors, then bought a couple of random hanks from an eBay seller. I’m going to get working on that spreadsheet to find the best prices for the same products between different vendors, there are a lot to choose from. The only thing I’m going to avoid at this point is KnitPicks – they have cheap yarn but as they say you get what you pay for and I’ve read a lot of knitters who complain that KnitPicks yarn is very pilly and in the case of the sock yarn it’s not very durable. I don’t have first-hand experience of this, but I do have some yarn in my stash I know is made with KnitPicks as its base so I’ll have to try it out when I get the time (ha!). For now I think I’ll stick with some of the industry-standard wool blends.

I’m a little nervous about reskeining these hanks, some of them will need to be split in half and I’m not sure how I can do that at the moment. Maybe I can rig my umbrella swift somehow, but I’m definitely going to have to invest $15 in a larger niddy noddy as my table leg with pegs isn’t cutting it (and is wicked heavy).

For fun I’ve been taking the skeins of baby weight cashmere yarn I got from Elann and splitting them up into 10-yard hanks, with the intention of using them to test different dye colors and techniques. I may even be able to sell them to make teensy socks or as fancy tapestry wool once I’m done with them, or keep them myself to use for colorwork.

I did find a good alternate use for my tripod, however…

Tripod slash drying rack

Excuse the mess, I’m still trying to find a home for all those bins that isn’t “let’s stuff them up the chimney!”

I’ve been asked how I take my photos. Want to see my highly technical and very pricey setup?

Photo setup

Yeah, that’s a four foot table, two clamp lamps with floodlamps pointed at the ceiling, and a roll of white paper. Between that and The Gimp I’d esitmate I’ve sunk maybe thirty bucks into the whole thing.

Bidness. April 7, 2008

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I’ve been digging up tax stuff. I know, I know, why haven’t we finished our taxes yet. It’s totally my fault, in an attempt to hopefully put us in the black this year I’m going to count my Etsy shop as a business so I can claim my expenses (since I didn’t earn more than I spent) as a loss. It was refreshing to see how much I did make, even with my paltry efforts, it wasn’t a lot but it was more than I expected, but now I have to add up all the postage and supplies and figure out what portion of our house has been used for “the business” which is a PITA. My photography table is completely covered in receipts and ticky tacky. I vow to get things wrapped up by tonight so Michael can finish our taxes tomorrow.

Thinking about all of this has kicked me in the butt a little bit to start figuring shit out. It was encouraging to see that I did make some money with Etsy last year, even with my very sporadic efforts. That of course was offset by the expenses, but it was something. I’ve been thinking of a few ventures that could keep my Etsy shop moderately stocked so I can hopefully build up from last year. Basically I’ve decided I need to focus on just one or two things for the immediate future and see where I can go with them.

With my current abilities and resources it looks like yarn dyeing might be the best bet, probably sock yarn as it’s a very popular item amongst the knitting crowd. I’ve been doing a shitton of research starting with ravelry and expanding all over the internet and have a pretty healthy list of sources, suppliers, contacts, mills, etc. I think I’m going to start a spreadsheet of some of the popular yarn brands out there and keep track of how much they cost with various vendors, but at the same time I’ve put an application in for a wholesale account with a vendor who spins their own yarn and am ordering sample skeins to try out. Once I can find a decent source that doesn’t cost me a fortune I can split orders with Joy to make the minimums. I’m also very interested in dyeing up Treliske organic merino yarn, it’s great yarn for soakers but it’s from New Zealand so the shipping is a bit prohibitive. I’ve already put in inquires with them for shipping costs so I have an idea, they will definitely be a future thing if I do well elsewhere.

How will I pay for all this, you ask? Ebay. I’ve already gone through one wave of auctions and not only sold everything (hooray, get OUT of my HOUSE) but made $75 before PayPal fees. Not the hugest amount, but it’s something and if I can keep this up it will be a nice way to supplement my business attempts.

Right, so, I’m working on finding suppliers. In the meantime I need to get back on the horse with the actual dyeing process. When Joy was here and it was Summer it was easy, we just set up on a huge table out in the barn and went to town. Here by myself in April it’s not so easy. I don’t at all have the space or the time to set up a large-scale operation so I’ve motivated myself to just get back into it by tinkering around with colorways in very small batches. I started tonight with one (huge) skein that’s been waiting around since last year, the poor thing. The colors look great though I may have screwed the pooch as I got distracted with the baby and ended up simmering it…the yarn looks okay, I poked at it a little but didn’t agitate it, turned off the heat and I’ll just leave it there until morning to cool off completely. Fingers crossed that it ends up being okay.

That’s pretty much the latest as far as What The Hell Am I Doing With My Life.