Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hemp for the Gold!

I'm an active lurker on the community website, but recently I participated in the ravelympics. What is ravelympics? Here is the official description:
"The First International Ravelympics Summer 2008 are open to any knitter or crocheter on Ravelry ready to challenge themselves to complete a project (or projects) within 17 days during the Summer Olympics."
I joined Team Chicago and I signed up for the Home-stuff Hammerthrow. I had been planning on making some hemp washcloths and this was the perfect opportunity to get me to actually do it. They turned out great:

I used 100% hemp yarn called allhemp6. It was the first time knitting with hemp for me and I really liked it. I got three washcloths out of one 12-dollar skein, which is a lot cheaper than buying uglier ones online already made. I think next time I can get four out of a skein if I do the math right. I also bought a bunch of raw-looking natural hemp yarn and I'm making more washcloths out of that. It's not nearly as nice to knit with, but the end result produces a lovely organic cloth that will perform up to Olympic standards in the kitchen.

The reason I used hemp is because hemp has natural anti-bacterial properties and will not mildew. Hemp fabric also gets softer the worse it's treated so it is a real work horse of a cloth that takes no special care.

I'm a hemp lover now!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Crafting around the house

I recently moved into a new apartment, not to mention a new state and city. Most people look at me like I'm crazy when they find out I left the Sunshine State for the Windy City, but I know they're secretly thinking to themselves, "Why wouldn't she move here? It's Chicago!"

Chicago is a major place to be. It's hip. It's cool. It's young and old. People who live here care. There's more to life here than golf and hospitals. Even though sometimes it is odorous and cold, I love being in this city.

I also love having a place to decorate. I have made plans upon plans to beautify my space, but I've only finished a few of them.

The first project that was finished first was a new dog bed cover for my little buddy, Basil, a yorkshire terrier.

He doesn't use it because he sleeps on our bed instead.

Next, the bathroom got a dressed up dresser and an extra large shower curtain.

They were made from an Ikea duvet set. I love them.

The living room windows were treated with some screens.

My cousin made these for her place and I loved the idea so much I made some for my place.

I'm also reupholstering three antique chairs.

I have one of them almost done and a second halfway almost done.

I made one of two kitchen curtains, but I made it wrong so I still need to re-sew it.

I have plans to make some type of light and airy living room window curtains to bring some color up onto the walls, but I haven't found the right fabric yet.

After these projects, I hope to get back into dyeing and crafting for a living. Even though I do have a full-time job, I am thinking I may be able to pull off crafting enough stuff to have a booth at one of the many craft fairs this area has. I've been to three so far and I've only been living here four months!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Today is a good day to dye

Okay. I'm going to try dying as a part-time job. Introducing my latest Etsy endeavor - DyeFi!

I've really taken to dyeing and I want to take it even further. Setting up a store dedicated to it is a good way to give me incentive to do just that.

I'm going to sell my dyed yarns and wool rovings, the dyeing kits from craftlings, and custom niddy noddies (contraptions for wrapping yarn into skeins).

Here's what I'll have to do to make it work:

I'll have to attempt repeating batches of dye lots. I have never tried to do this because I couldn't. I don't write down what I do. I'm like a mad scientist who has powders and droppers and color all over the place. But I really would like to start a catalogue of what works and what I like so I could make more of something if I wanted to.

I'll have to get proficient using real acid dyes. I have them, and I've been experimenting with them a little bit, but I need to get a lot more hands on experience with them. I have ordered a color chart that has 93 colors on it. When that gets here, then I can really get serious about colors!

I'll have to find plastic paints in the colors I want to paint my noddies. I can find some colors, but mostly boring colors. I want pink, dang it!

I am also hoping to add, if I'm feeling ambitious enough, hand-spun yarn (spun from my hand-dyed rovings) to the lineup, but probably not. I only know how to spin on a spindle and I'm not very good at it yet. I can't imagine I would be able to make it worth my time to sell handspun. However, I rarely make a profit on my creations. Selling what I make is more like a way to feed the need for more supplies.

Even though I'm not making any money from crafting, I am breaking even which creates a nice balance in my life. Enough to keep me going happily. I'm hoping dying is just the thing to push me over the borderline and into the profit margins!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Craft Buggery

For my birthday this year, one of my sisters got me a little book called "Craft, Inc.: Turn Your Creative Hobby Into a Business," by Meg Mateo Ilasco (Thank you, KTO!). I have begun reading it and enjoying it as the author introduces the reader to the possibility that people do make crafts for a living and so can anyone who has the creativity and the drive to do so. However, I'm stuck on the section subtitled "What's Your Creative Bug?" on page 16 of Chapter one. I don't know what mine is! That's my problem!

Meg's criteria for what the reader should choose as his or her crafty bug are:

1. "It's important to start with an endeavor that comes naturally to you."
2. "...look to your previous creative habits as a child or teenager."
3. " should be something you love to do regularly, maybe even every day."
4. "Would you do it even if you weren't paid to do it?"

I love dyeing yarn, but I definitely don't think I could dye it on a production scale, which is what I would need to do in order to make a living at it. I don't have the space or the resources. I'd have to have a separate kitchen and vats and stuff for that.

But when I hold dyeing up to Meg's criteria, I can answer yes to all of them. I even experimented with tie-dyeing as a kid and loved it.

If I love it, I should do it, right? I could build a shack or rent a space and fill it with ovens, burners, vats, swifts, drying cupboards, shelves and all that. I could hire people to help me unwind and wind the yarn into long circles.

I could have a secret recipe book containing all my color combinations that I keep under lock and key in a safe behind one of the loose bricks in my office wall.

I could attend craft and yarn festivals, host dying workshops, donate colorful yarn to charities, clothe the homeless, feed the hungry...I could save the world!!!

Yeah, whatever. I'll keep reading and maybe something will click that helps me figure out what I want to do and how I want to do it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pink hat for a baby...

or for a baby octopus?

This hat turned out tall for a baby hat. But I still like it. It's my first lace item. Well, I think it's lace. How should I know? I don't know knitting. It has holey things and I had to do k2togs, YOs, and pssos so I'm calling it lace.

Boy. This thing turned my knitting world inside out.

First, I was not getting the holes where they should have been. I thought I was doing my YOs too tight. It turns out I've been doing them backwards.

Second, every time I had to do a k2tog, I would grit my teeth and grip my needles with the strength of a vice just so I could fight it into the fronts of the stitches. The needle did not want to go in there! I almost gave up on this hat because of the k2togs, but I'm glad I didn't.

Instead, I looked for some support on an online forum. Was it just me? Or was k2tog the secret bane that every knitter had but no one talked about? Well, I wanted to talk about it because I was tired of doing it.

After some discussion and watching of videos that showed proper knitting techniques, it turns out I have been purling upside down for the past five years! That's why I find it easier to knit into the backs of the loops when doing a knit stitch - and why knitting into the front of stitches is nearly impossible.

Once I started doing my YOs the right way and knitting two together through the backs of the stitches, everything was honky dory. And now I'm hoping for a baby with an octopus head or a conehead like those aliens, the Coneheads. Then my hat will be a perfect fit!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why knit socks?

I finally figured out why people like to knit socks so much. I haven't ever knit a pair of socks myself, but I realize the reasons for the appeal.

1. It's because socks are a small enough project that they don't take forever to finish.

2. It's because a pair of socks is a small enough project that it usually only uses one skein of sock-weight yarn. This is pretty inexpensive when compared to a sweater or 6-foot long scarf.

3. It's because there are twists and turns and infinite patterns that keep the project interesting.

4. It's because those yarns dyed or spun all different colors that make one go ooooh and aaaah when seen on the shelf while one secretly thinks "I wish I could wear those crazy colors, but they're just not me..." is the perfect yarn for a pair of socks because socks will only be seen by oneself, close friends, and family members.

5. And my last reason socks are so popular is because they are a very useful accessory. I may not wear socks every day, but I will wear four or five different pairs in a week. Such usefulness lends itself to the adage that one can never have too many pairs of socks. I guess that depends on how many dresser drawers one has devoted to socks, but, still, a lot of socks will fit in just one drawer.

Now, I haven't conquered my trepidation of DPNs and I don't care much for circular needles because of how tangly they feel, but I definitely hope I get over all that so I can knit myself at least one pair of socks in my lifetime.

I've already started scoping out sock patterns I like:

My cousin is knitting these for her wedding and, after seeing her progress, I fell in love with them.

Leaf Lace Socks:
The leaves on these socks are gorgeous. I would be proud to wear a pair of these and even prouder to say I made them!

After I finish the pink baby hat and then my sweater, I will try a pair of socks. I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Presto Chango

Remember that pink yarn I dyed a little while back? Well, I turned it into a baby sweater. It is really pretty and cute and everything I imagined it would be.

The pattern is Presto Chango by Valerie Wallis. It's quick, fun, and surprisingly easy, even for a novice knitter such as myself. I haven't knit anything more challenging than a scarf before this, so, that should give you an idea of how experienced I am. But my attitude toward knitting changed somehow this year, otherwise I wouldn't have attempted this little garment.

If I make another one, I will shorten the sleeves by three stitches on each sleeve. I might also decrease the width of the back by four stitches, but I dunno. I'm also going to make a hat out of the same yarn and, if there is enough left, a pair of booties.

I don't know how that flip from "knitting is bad" to "knitting is good" got switched in my brain, but I am even going to attempt to make an adult-sized sweater for myself. I have the pattern picked out and I'm waiting on the yarn I ordered to arrive.

Yes, this is the year I become a real fiber artist. Spinning and dying my own yarns and then actually using them! I thrill me.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I'd rather be dyeing

My two most recent crafts-of-the-moment are dying yarn with Kool-Aid and spinning yarn with a drop spindle. Soon I will combine the two activities by dying the unspun wool (also called roving) before spinning it, but I haven't quite gotten started on that. I have two pounds of roving just waiting to meet the myriad of dyes I bought at an art supply store last weekend. Real dyes, these - not Kool-aid. They are so real that I also bought a face mask to wear when mixing them because it is dangerous to breathe in the dye powders.

But Kool-Aid (or any un-sweetened or sugar-free drink mix containing artificial colors), which is harmless enough to drink, is a great dye and I will continue to use it even after dipping into the hard stuff. It is easy to get, easy to store, it smells good, it's not too expensive, containers used aren't contaminated by harmful chemicals, and the worst that could happen when using it is your hands could get stained fruity colors for a little while.

Kool-Aid only works on protein fibers, though. Protein fibers are any fibers that come from an animal or human, such as wool or hair. However, Kool-Aid will also dye nylon, a synthetic fiber. The reason for this is because nylon, with its silk-like molecular structure, is a polypeptide, which is the molecular shape of a protein. Other synthetic fibers like acrylic do not bond with Kool-Aid, nor do plant fibers such as cotton.

More information about the process of Kool-Aid dying can be found at the websites below, which is where I learned how to do it.

The article that started it all for me:

These articles have illustrations of the process:

A fantastic colorchart:

If none of the above links seem helpful to you, try doing an online search using the phrase "yarn dye kool-aid" or something similar.

Some tips I'd like to mention:

1. It is not necessary to add vinegar when using Kool-Aid or other mixes that list citric acid as one of the main ingredients. Vinegar is necessary when using food colors or jello - they need the vinegar to be the acid.

2. When dying wool, it is important that the rinsewater is about the same temperature as the yarn. If the yarn is still warm from being dyed, rinse it in warm water. If the yarn is cool from being out at room temperature for a while, rinse it in cool water. This prevents the yarn from sticking to itself and becoming matted (which is known as felting).

3. Nylon yarn does take Kool-Aid type dyes very well. I have washed and dryed multiple dyed nylon skeins and there was no color loss.

Or you could just order one of my well-instructed yarn dying kits from Craftlings at

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oh, baby!

When I found out there was going to be a new baby girl in my extended family coming this June, I decided I wanted to knit something pink for her. I looked and looked for a yarn that was baby-soft, wool-free, and pink, but I never did find that perfect shade of pink I had in mind. I did find something baby-soft, wool-free, and dyeable. It was a 50/50 nylon/acrylic blend, which is a little iffy for an amateur dyer like me, but I knew I could make it work.

I did make it work and it only took two attempts!

My first attempt was ill-fated. Instead of getting the pretty cotton-candy pink yarn I was hoping for, I got raw-hamburger yarn:

Whether it makes you giggle or it makes you ready to fire up the grill, it is interesting. I still haven't gotten around to skeining it yet. It kind of grosses me out, even though I do love a home-grilled burger.

I dyed that first batch a couple of times trying my best to get something I could even say I liked, but I failed. I needed help in getting that magic pink formula so I sent out the distress signal on some of the yarn dying forums of which I'm a member. I got great advice and, hence, I got that gorgeous pink yarn you see up there.

I probably won't be able to think about this new baby ever again without thinking of that first batch of yarn or the entire evening I spent untangling the pretty pink yarn, but, in the end, it was really worth it. I mean, just look at that perfectly piggly wiggly pinky winky yarnie warnie...gootchie gootchie goooooo!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Craft of Passion

I'm at my day job right now, where I could and should be working on a project for my part-time job, but, instead, I'm writing about crafting, my true obsession - nay, my true passion.

I had a four-day weekend and I crafted my little heart out all weekend long. One accomplishment was the blockprinting I did. My mom gave me a blockprinting kit, about which I've been very curious for quite some time, for Christmas. One day last week, after making an innocent little doodle on a scrap piece of paper, I was actually inspired to enlarge and carve my little doodle into the block. I printed the image onto blank notecards. They looked pretty good.

"I Miss You" or "Thinking of you" or "When are you coming home? I have to go potty!"
My original reason for making the doodle was thinking a pair of windowframe earrings with something in the window would be really cute. I like the notecard a lot better. I liked these cards so much I decided to make another one.

"Night Owl"
I know my artwork is pretty low on the meaningful scale, but, to be frank, I don't want to make a statement with my art, I want to make a living with my creativity.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My new stores!

I have recently opened two new Etsy stores - one for my photography hobby and one for what I hope will be the beginnings of a real business.

Zoom In is where I sell my photographs as prints, framed prints, and notecards. I use two different cameras - a big one for more fussy photos and a little one for snapshots. I am not sure which direction I would like to go with my photography or if I would even like to make it anything more than a hobby. I truly enjoy it, though, so I am tentatively putting it out there for now.

Craftlings is where I sell crafting kits I put together myself. I only have one available right now, a hand-dying kit for wool yarn, but I have a few more ideas up my sleeve for kits. I've mostly been concentrating on research and developement in order to get the supplies and instructions just right. I will be offering a kit to dye nylon yarn in a few days.

I'm really excited about them both because they have a lot of potential and they are helping me think beyond my limited scope of what crafting is. Wish me luck!

Happy New Year!

champagne.jpgI may be a little late, but today I finally thought of my New Year's resolutions. I have two of them. The first is actually to DO the few simple craft business ideas I have and to start NOW, doing what I am able while working within the limitations of my living and financial situations, which are not well-suited for a home-based startup. Coming up with a name for the business will happen eventually. The second is to dress well and take good care with my appearance. They say to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I don't want to be a homeless person, but sometimes that's how I dress. I'm not going to start wearing power suits and such, but I figure nice heels, a little jewelry, and some nicer looking clothes like slacks that should be ironed every now and then would help me ease into the appearance of the businesswoman I'm becoming.

I did take some initiative by buying some supplies for two crafty projects I can use as the start of an idea I've had for a while. I don't want to give away too much right now because I don't have anything set up yet. I will be starting it on Etsy because I am familiar and comfortable with that venue. I'm working on a banner/logo for it now even though I'm not entirely happy with the name. I am going to go with it anyway because if I don't, I will use not having the perfect name as an excuse to twiddle my thumbs. After I buy some more supplies today and do some testing and documenting, I will have two products to offer in this mystery line. I know that doesn't seem like much, but it's a start, which is huge for me.

Of course, I do have a habit of not finishing things I start. Like school. I am THIS close to getting my Bachelor's in Business, but I'm dragging my feet. I'm stuck between hating my current living situation where I would have to stay until I finish and having the opportunity to move to Chicago where I would have to wait a while before being able to transfer with resident status to a new college. I am also stuck between wanting to get the degree just for the satisfaction of getting it and thinking school is a waste of time and money. My mom sure would be proud of me and happy for me if I got it, though. But what good would it really do? I just don't know. If I got it I would still be lazy and unmotivated. No degree is going to change that. I wish I knew what will.

[This post was originally written and posted on January 8, 2008 on my old blog.]

What is Etsy (ET-see)?


After attending my family reunion this summer, I found out a few of my family members had Etsy stores. I had one, too, but I had practically abandoned it. Thanks to my family, I have a renewed interest in this easy-to-use online selling website.

Etsy ( is a place for crafters and artisans to sell their wares. The only stipulation regarding what can be sold on Etsy is that it is either hand-made by the seller or could be classified as supplies for hand making things. It is free to create an Etsy account which includes a relatively stylish online storefront.

It costs 20 cents (a listing fee) to put an item into the store, no matter what it is or for how much it is being sold. If an item sells, an additional 3.5% of the item's selling price is taken as commission. This type of charging appeals to me because it's quite low and it's item based - not a regular monthly charge regardless if I've had any sales or not. If I sell something and make money, then Etsy makes money, too.

Other aspects of Etsy I like are that it works with Paypal, it allows a user to upload her own artwork as a banner for her store, and it allows five generously-sized photos per item to be uploaded. The sense of community I get from the website is also nice. The forums are helpful and busy and there are many other community features I haven't yet explored such as Treasuries, The Storque (Etsy's online 'zine), and chat rooms.

However, there are two major things I wish were improved. First, in order to buy from an Etsy store, the customer has to have an Etsy account. Non-members can browse and add things to their shopping carts, but when they click "Checkout," they are asked to either login or create an Etsy account. I think it would be nice to give people the option to shop as a guest.

Second, the checkout process is clumsy because it requires multiple checkout processes. The first process is to buy the item(s) on Etsy. Then each item has to be paid for seperately. Paypal is the most widely used payment system on Etsy. Using Paypal as an example, if a shopper has bought three items from three different sellers, the shopper then has to send each seller a seperate Paypal payment. I think it would be nice if Etsy could pull one withdrawal from the shopper's Paypal account for the total amount spent in Etsy and then distribute that payment behind the scenes to its sellers.

Even with those two drawbacks considered, they are far outweighed by the ease of use and the gaining popularity. It's a great introduction to selling hand-made goods and materials online.

My Craftwork Etsy store is located at I make and sell all sorts of random things. Here are the stores of some of my cousins and my aunt:

Moonrover: - here you will usually find out-of-this-world hand-spun yarn, knitted items and other beautiful random items.

Maia's Menagerie: - Maia's photography prints are the star of this store. She takes pictures all over the world, yet she can also capture the beauty of her own back yard. She also offers cute paper goods.

DAiSY'S & dots: - This cousin of mine is a scrapbooking genius. She puts her decorative talents to all sorts of paper goods and she also dabbles in jewelry.

MillipedeBead: - The person behind this shop joins jewelry and beads in the most beautiful ways. She also sells woven thread bracelets as a non-profit item for the Seeds of Life foundation.

Bella Rose Design: - My aunt runs this shop. She is an accomplished glassworks designer and she's as sweet as a Rose.

[This post was originally written and posted on December 18, 2007 on my old blog.]

A name by any other rose...

Coming up with a name for a business is a very serious business to me. Being unable to think of the perfect name that is also available as an online domain could be the very reason why I still haven't started any business at all. Well, it's definitely an excuse, if not a reason. Regardless, coming up with names for my future company and its subsidiaries is something I think about all the time.

The sort of names I conceive change depending on whatever circumstances are prevailant in my life at the time. Right now, it's all about me and my boyfriend, with whom I plan to partner. I've been trying to weave our initials together in a way that creates a poignant sophisticated word, but I'm only getting names that sound like the line-up of characters in a play about genies.

I'd like to think of something unique, personal, and even indicative of what the business does, but that would just be a bonus at this point. I have a feeling that when I do think of the perfect name, my heart will skip a beat, I'll break out in a cold sweat, and I'll shout "Eureka!" to the world! I can't wait for that moment. So I did a little bit of research on how to pick a business name.

There were some decent suggestions in the article "What's in a name? More than you think!" on The author, Kim Guymon, wrote a great analogy:
Remember the Tom Hanks movie, "That Thing You Do"? Do you remember what the band in the movie named themselves? They were The Oneders. They wanted to be like the Beatles and have an unusual spelling of their band name. Well, how did you just pronounce that in your head? Did you remember that it was "The WONDERS", or did you look at it and think, "What the heck is an O'NEEDER? As you may recall, a radio DJ called them, "The O'NEEDERS". Their name was a bit too "out there" and people failed to see the clever little twist on the spelling. It just doesn't pay to get funky with a name.

I found some really good pointers in the thread "What do you think of my possible new business name?" on Dominic Canterbury replied with these tips:
1. EVERYTHING you do (including naming) should be done with the target market in mind. Any name you choose will end up attracting some people and filtering out others, so you may as well go for the kind of people you want.

2. Names are no good at telling stories, so don't try to force them to. If you called yourself something like Perfect by Design, nobody would read that and assume your work was any closer to perfection than anybody else's. The name, WonderDraw, really only conveys that you might do illustrations as well as computer graphics. And the name, Incumbustible Design, suggests that your work won't catch fire -- a great name if your're targeting fire safety equipment manufacturers, but not if you're targeting those who want their ideas to spread like wildfire.

3. The best names (in my humble opinion) do not necessarily convey meaning, but create something that meaning can easily be attached to. It's like naming a baby. You probably wouldn't want to name your boy Adolph -- too much semantic baggage. But a name like Eli (my boy's name) sounds good and can freely take on a world of meaning.

I suggest you try nonsensical names or some foreign word for firespinner.

Successful entrepreneur Michael McDerment really lays out the nuts and bolts of naming in his article "How To Name Your Company" on I like it because it gives us flexibility to change things up a bit while following his suggested structure.

Armed with more know-how, which I didn't get from any business college course that cost me over three-hundred dollars, I will make naming my business one of my New Year's resolutions. We can have more than one, right?

[This post was originally written and posted on January 8, 2008 on my old blog.]

In the beginning...

In the beginning there was a girl who liked to make stuff. Actually, like is not a strong enough word. She needed to make stuff or else she would wither and stagnate. But she also needed to make a living. Then she thought, "Why couldn't those two needs work together to properly?fulfill my life?" The answer was that there was no reason why not.?

And thus begins the story of how I am going to make a living through crafting.

My first attempt was sharing a booth at a local craft fair where I sold a couple of little purses and big shawls. Then I made an online store at I haven't been keeping it up very well, but I still sell things there on occassion.

I would really love to have a thriving successfull craft-oriented business that consumes all the working hours of my days. Unfortunately, I don't know in which direction to go. I do know I don't want to make (as in manufacture) finished goods. Trying to compete with?sweat shops is beyond my abilities. However, I still haven't ruled it out.

I'm in the middle of getting a Bachelor's in Business Administration so when I do know what my business is going to be, I will know how to run it. In the mean time, I will continue to experiment, craft, write, and hope.

[This post was originally written and posted on December 10, 2007 on my old blog.]