Yarnscape’s Last Stand

In two weeks’ time I will be preparing for the second day of trading at Textiles in Focus – the first place Yarnscape ever had a trading stall, and quite possibly the last.

Yarnscape's first stand
Yarnscape’s first stand

(Five years ago!  Wow, how things have changed.  And how they have not, too)

At the end of last year, I started dyeing for sale again – and quickly stopped.  I’ve realised that it’s not something that’s compatible with having a full-time job and also pursuing fibre-y things for fun.  There are only so many hours in the day, after all!

I’m definitely looking forwards to my stall at TiF – it’s a local venue, and one of my favourites.  But I’m really, really nervous about getting ready.  I never had the sense to make a checklist for this stuff when I was doing it regularly, so I’m just going to have to hope I don’t forget anything! It’s been over 2.5 years since I had a stall, and though I know I’ll enjoy it when I’m there, I’m feeling slightly sick/anxious at the ‘preparation’ part.  I’ve moved house three times since that very wet weekend at Fibre East; what if I can’t find everything?  What if I forget some important stuff?!

Which is why I’m going to get as much as possible done today!  Wish me luck; local folks, I hope like anything to see you there.


Affinity Yarns

(Just a quickie, cos I have to finish packing so I can go teach!)

Hey, guys, check it out!  I am featured today on the Affinity Yarns blog!

I’m delighted to announce that Affinity Yarns are the newest suppliers of Yarnscape hand-dyed yarns.  They currently have a good stock of Footsie, Footsie-HT, Dance, Lissom and all the remaining skeins of Bunnylace (currently in very short supply: grab it whilst you can!).  I’ve met up with Vandy and her husband Marc a couple of times now, and I have to say they are the most amazing people.  As well as running a delightful UK-based online yarn store, they have monthly charity open days with tea and homemade cake in their beautiful garden (which just happens to contain the yarn house!)

As if that weren’t enough, Vandy produces the most amazing watercolour paintings.  I am particularly fond of her strong use of colour (what a surprise!) and the remarkable sense of freedom that comes in a lot of her work.

All change!

OK, so there should probably be fanfares and tickertape and confetti, but there aren’t, so….

Yarnscape is now my full-time job!

How awesome is that?!

I know.  I can hardly believe it myself yet, but it’s true.  My last working day for the Desk Job was last Thursday, and wrapping up that job whilst gearing up for full-time work has been really, really hectic.

You can expect to start seeing Yarnscape yarns in more shops, both online and bricks-and-mortar, in the near future.  Shops which already have a selection of my goods in stock are:

…and watch this space for more!

I will also be setting up my own online shop here; after that, my Etsy shop will be used for one-off skeins and slight seconds.

You can also expect to see me posting here much more often – I hope!  I know I’m going to be insanely busy setting up a new business – but it can’t be any worse than setting up a new business and trying to work a full-time job, right?



Friday is dye day

I’ve spent today up to my elbows in dye – almost literally at times, because I’ve had a spate of leaky gloves.  I now have three blue fingers on my right hand, and a greenish index finger on my left.

And I can’t show you today’s results, because they still look like a mess of soggy wool, indeterminate colour.  But I can show off the stuff I dyed last week.

I’ve been playing with some old favourites:

Bluefaced Leicester roving, in ‘Violetta’

And some new yarn bases:

Merino/tencel laceweight, in ‘Geode’

Revisiting colours from last year’s favourites:

‘Moorland’, on brown Bluefaced Leicester roving

And a few new experiments:

D.K. and a (new!) wool/silk sock yarn in ‘Seaglass’

I’m delighted to announce that I’m  going to be exhibiting again at Textiles in Focus this year.    And, if you check out the programme (PDF), you *might* just notice that a certain Alison is teaching a course. Eeeeee!

79) The monthly roundup

Just a quick one, this time round:

  1. Yarnscape: At least two shop updates – No.  None, again.
  2. Yarnscape: Come up with a firm plan for my website – Yes!  Though I'm still investigating hosting options.
  3. Finish the peacock shawlahem, no.
  4. ***Finish the spindle-spun silks – YESS!!  Finally.
  5. Do a garden recap, and plant the autumn/winter crops – The recap is done, and some of the garlic and onions are in.  More to go, though.
  6. Ply the Sweet Georgia BFL/silk Yes!!
  7. Seam coppertop/Basil (my 'summer sweater').  Nope.  I started, but then I sort of forgot about it.

Three and two halves out of seven – better than average, I suppose!

This month:

  1. *Yarnscape: At least two shop updates
  2. Yarnscape: Get back to those dye pots!
  3. Yarnscape: write some basic accessories patterns (scarf, hat, mitts etc). for my yarn.
  4. Yarnscape: Pick hosting, and start work on the new site theatre.
  5. *Finish the Peacock shawl
  6. Winterise the garden (planting and protection)
  7. Spin up four more batts for my Sandi sweater (bonus points if I get them plied).

The mathematicians statisticians out there will notice that four out of these seven goals are Yarnscape related.  I'm horribly, horribly aware that I've done nothing (or next to nothing) in this area for months and months and months.  And I want to.  So I hope – really hope – that there will be more exciting developments in this area soon.

74) That dratted website

It's probably not news that I've been meaning to set up a (proper) website for yarnscape for quite some time now.  Currently, the domain just points at my yarnscape blog (which is on blogger, and is in a state of serious neglect), and the blog links to my Etsy shop.  I like having an Etsy shop for various reasons, but I'd like to have my own shop, too.

But…  I've been resisting actually doing anything about it.  Sure, there are about a million things that are clamouring for my attention at any given moment, and sure, a lot of them are more fun than hacking code, but this website is an important stepping stone to the life I would like to be leading, so I should be prioritising it, don't you think?  More, I should be excited about it.  But I'm not.  I'm stressed, and anxious, and resisting it like crazy.

Enter Havi.  I know I've mentioned her a few times before, but seriously, she is a special kind of genius.  I read her blog avidly, though I've not yet infiltrated the community of commenters there.  She gives me many things to think about.  And this time, I'm going to try asking the help of  Metaphor Mouse! – a sneaky-superhero kind of technique for investigating the things that are not working for you in an idea, and, hopefully, finding the qualities that you want to associated with the idea (or project, or…) and helping you to build a metaphor that allows you to approach the whole thing with less resistance.  Clear as mud?  OK, in steps (the italicised bits are taken directly from Havi's blog, which I strongly recommend reading.  This is a great Metaphor Mouse post):

1) List the qualities, aspects and attributes of the thing that isn’t working (including what *is* working, if anything).

Right.  What does 'setting up a website' mean to me?

  • Intimidating
  • Don't know how
  • Stuffy
  • Grownup
  • Boring
  • Serious
  • Frustrating
  • Must be perfect first time
  • Permanence
  • Public exposure
  • Point of no return

ooh.  Now you put it like that, I can kind of see why I'm avoiding working on it.  There's pretty much nothing in there that sounds good, to be honest.  About the only thing I even slightly want to keep is the 'public' bit, because a private website wouldn't be all that much use.  The 'exposure' bit, though?  No, thanks.  It reminds me of those dreams I got when I was a kid, where I'd showed up to school in only my undies, and spent the entire day shivering with cold and trying to hide behind my briefcase.  (As an aside, I did once walk out of the school changing rooms wearing only my vest and slip.  I was about 8, and I realised before I was back in the classroom, but the memory is still vivid.  Different story.)  Bring on the next step!

2) What sort of qualities, aspects and feelings does the thing I want contain?

  • Fun
  • Excitement
  • Adventure
  • Inspiration
  • Performance!
  • Flexibility
  • Safety
  • Support
  • Hiding in plain sight

3) Reminds me of?

Being on stage.  My website is a stage??  No! – it's a whole theatre.  With costumes and rehearsals and greasepaint and people shifting scenery and sorting out the lighting, and being front of house.  And of course, it has a stage.  Where I can perform to my audience.  Where rehearsal is not only OK, it's necessary. 

4) So, do we have our metaphor?

Without a doubt.  I love this idea more than I can describe.  I love it so much I kindof want to cry.  I'm not making a website, I'm running a theatre (and I think I'm probably the director/producer, too).

5) What needs to happen next?

I need to ask for help.  A theatre doesn't run on a one-man team, and neither does any kind of performance, even if only one person is on stage.  Luckily, I know a few people I can call on for this.

And I need to keep this fun.  By:

  • Staying light and easeful;
  • Sharing (and celebrating!) my progress with you;
  • Remembering that websites can change.

Also, I need to listen to Havi more. 

[Final note: I had intended to publish this on Saturday, but I'm changing my mind.  It might sound crazy, but I'm so excited about this that I have to publish it today.  Happy Friday, everyone!]

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72) That was the week(end), that was…

Recently, time does not seem to be flowing smoothly.  One afternoon seems to hang around forever, stretching out into infinity – then four days seem to be go past in a single lump.  This makes for sporadic blogging.

Nevertheless, the last week has been rather productive, all things considered.  I have:

  • started seaming coppertop (ravelry link) – my two-week sweater, haha;
  • finished plying the spindled silks;
  • finished plying the Sweetgeorgia BFL/silk, featured mostly in this post;
  • started spindle spinning some of my own batts ('Titania' – mixed purples with holographic angelina – here);
  • made copious notes about what has and what hasn't worked in the garden this year.  However, these are all currently on the back of an envelope, so I can't share them with you yet;
  • reached the crunch point on the Peacock shawl. I will be omitting one full repeat from the middle section.

Several of these items deserve blog posts of their own, but I am rather fond of the plied BFL/silk photos I took on Sunday, so I'm sharing those now:

That is a UK 5 pence piece tucked behind the yarn; that's slightly smaller than a US nickel (18mm as compared to 21mm, according to Wikipedia).  That's some pretty fine spinning!  In fact, this is the first time I've managed to get over 1000 metres of yarn from 100g of fibre, so it's a genuine milestone.  I'm not interested in spinning ultra-fine thread, but I am keen to spin true laceweight knitting yarns, and also yarns that could be woven into garment-weight cloth.


The glamour shot.  This yarn is one ply of silk and one ply of blue faced leicester (a lovely, soft, fine wool).  The flash on these shots really shows off the sparkle of the silk against the more matt texture of the wool – click for bigger to see it properly!

And don't you love that little wooden bowl?  It's maple burr, turned by a local craftsman, and I'm hoping it'll work well as a bowl for using with a support spindle.  It's taller and narrower than the ones I've seen in use, but I love it anyway.

I bought it on Saturday, at the Willingham Feast Market, where I and several others from Rampton Spinners were demonstrating spinning.  Geodyne originally organised the event but unfortunately couldn't make it on the day.  I'm pretty sure a wonderful time was had by all four of us who did make it, even though I dropped my phone down the loo (oops! – time for an iPhone, perhaps?)

DSC05287 This is the demo area as it looked just before the marked opened – we had wool, flax and silk on display, including a progression of flax from dried plant to spun fibre, and a lot of interest was shown by the public.

DSC05288 The left hand side of the display, showing Jo's range of spun and dyed fibres, plus tools and fabrics, (and books!!  I never thought to bring books..) along with my new toy (wool picker) and a bag of clean but unteased wool, and my Rampton bag from last year.  The wool picker deserves another post of its own, but was quite the hit with young boys; it relies heavily on long, black nails for its function, and looks like a mediaeval torture device on the inside.

Inadvertent amusement – and education – was provided by the nice man who came round offering us tea and coffee before the event opened.  I told him I'd brought my own, but thanked him for the offer.  Jo only drinks hot chocolate, so he talked her into that – then, when she finally agreed, informed her that that would be one pound, please.  Both of us were …slightly gobsmacked.  Bear in mind that we were 'working' at this event for free, and a free cup of tea or the like is a nice (and relatively common) way to say thanks.  It was a funny experience rather than an unpleasant one – but it's a lesson in customer service/expectation management, too.  I don't think that either of us would have minded paying if the price had been clear from the beginning – especially as the proceeds go to charity.  But both of us – even me, and I wasn't the one getting a drink! – felt slightly .. what?  Affronted?  Cheated?  Tricked, I think is the best word.  And the sad part is that I'm sure he didn't mean to make us feel like that.

The really notable part, the one that anyone who deals with customers of any kind should note, is that this is the experience, out of all those I had that morning, that I've chosen to write about here.  They say it takes five positive experiences to outweigh a negative.  I suspect that is a conservative estimate.

10) Time to ply! …and an announcement.

The plying!
One of my January goals, carried over into February, was to finish spinning (and plying!) the second in my Sweet Georgia fibre club offerings.  This was a luscious braid of shetland roving, in wonderful, saturated, tonal colours.  I believe this was achieved by dyeing a coloured (brown or moorit) wool, because I've seen some similar effects when dyeing over brown roving.  It seems I never took a photograph of the original braid, but I decided it wanted to be laceweight, and as much as possible!

I split it lengthways, and spun it fine, hoping to keep the colours reasonably in line with one another when I plied.  Here's a bobbin-full of the singles, showing most of the colours (I think!) from the original braid:


Lovely, aren't they?  However, I really should have split the braid more accurately.  When I'd finished the singles-spinning, it was very, very obvious that there was a lot more on one bobbin than on the other.  There is no way that the colours are going to line up for long in this little lot!


See?  I started plying on Sunday night, and the colours are already out of alignment.  If you click on the picture, you can see how they are barber-poling (poleing?  Yes, thankyou, Janet!) from one segment to the next, and they will get more and more erratically aligned as I go through the batch.  By the time I reach the end of the less filled bobbin, anything could be happening!

Long story short: this is not what I intended for this roving, and the end of the ply will probably have quite a different (i.e. more random) character to the start (which at least is partially aligned), but I must have started it with half my brain still in bed.  I'm sure it'll be glorious anyway, but selecting a lace pattern to go with it might be even more challenging than I anticipated.

The announcement!
I am launching a separate blog1 for my business, Yarnscape.  You can find it at http://yarnscape.blogspot.com, and for the next little while I will be attempting to follow the scarfaday example with my very own dye-a-day blogging.

I would love it if you came across to play with me there!

1I'm doing this because I don't want to spam the folks who follow this blog with my business exploits, and because I don't want to clutter up my business exploits with tales of dogs, Pilates and who knows what else!

7) What I’ve been up to

I've been unspeakably busy this month.  Work has been intense, which I was expecting, and which was, quite frankly, good.  I like my work with a bit of urgency.

In addition, every evening, every weekend of the year has been overwhelmed with prep for Textiles in Focus.  Winding, scouring, dyeing, washing, rewinding yarn.  And roving.

Bluefaced Leicester roving,  chocolate cherry

Planning stall layouts, and ordering display helpers (eeek!  Expensive!)


Bunnylace (wool and angora), bramble vine

Inventing colourways, and calculating the dye mixes.

Bluefaced Leicester roving,  peachy

Swearing because *something* has run out and now I need to mix up (or worse, buy) some more.

Flow (wool/silk laceweight),  meadow

On the other hand, I think things are starting to come together nicely.

Wensleydale roving, florentine 

(These photos were all taken *quickly* last night, to see how J's photo setup deals with yarny things.  Pretty awesomely, I'd say!  Thanks, babe!)

Bunnylace (wool and angora), dusk

104) Solstice Stop Press!!

OK, this is the first 'break' in my alphabet progression – and I'm what, 4 letters from the end?? – but it's worth it.

On this, the last day of the year as the sun measures it, I have confirmation of the fact that I will have a stall at Textiles in Focus in February of the coming year, where I will be trading as Yarnscape, for the first time.

I can't wait.  And I hope the new year brings much joy and new ventures to you, too.