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Hand-Dyed Yarns

Woolfiend Hand-Dyed Yarns

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Shows and Stuff

Emily Swenson

Fall has.. fallen. It is windy, cold, and rainy-ish here in Central New York, and it really puts me in the mood to knit and spin. Lately, I’ve been doing more of the former, but I will save my project roundup for another post.

If you’ve been lurking on my Instagram, you’ll know that I vended at my first fiber festival! This is all kinds of exciting for me, for about a thousand different reasons. I have only ever sold my fiber products online, and I’ve actually NEVER seen someone receive my yarn or fiber (except one person). I’ve never seen anyone get excited about my products - I’ve only seen a few exclamatory words on a screen.

The response was completely positive, and I was overwhelmed by how many people actually wanted my yarn! With the three kids and my husband’s crazy work schedule, this was a large risk for the family, in terms of time spent traveling and not sleeping. The fact that there were so many buyers and people who complimented my booth and yarn/fiber made me feel like it was worth the trip!

Here are a few photos of my booth. I was in a fortunate location, and my neighbors were all so kind. I wish I had had the chance to get out of the booth more.

I also have to give a shout out to my buddy-friend-pal Melissa. She’s a lot more outgoing than I am, and I’m (at times) an extreme introvert. Especially when my confidence is low, I’m very defensive, and I’m scared to meet new people. I brought her along to help me - mentally and physically, and I would not have done as well without her! She just did things without me having to ask (I find this to be rare), and was just a joy to have in the booth. PLUS, she dealt with my girls for about 2 days straight. Holy moly! Thanks so much, Melissa.

Thank you, Lehigh Valley Fiber Festival, for making me feel welcome even though I am from “far away”. I hope to continue to vend here year after year, since the festival itself is so new and well-run. Hope to see you all next year!

Thanks for bearing with me, readers, while I was preparing for the festival. What are your favorite festivals to attend (fiber or otherwise)? Let me know in the comments.

Why Living in the Country is Pretty Awesome

Emily Swenson

This post will have very little, if anything, to do with knitting.  You are forewarned! 

These days, it seems like living in the country, or "homesteading" is glamorized.  The fact is, living in the country is hard work.  Cleaning chicken coops, putting up fencing, mucking stalls, moving animals, preparing your property for the winter, caring for the grass and fields - there is a massive amount of work involved.  Add in caring for plants, animals, day-to-day chores, and sometimes it is a giant mess.  There's a lot to do, and I don't even have a full-fledged farm!  We had, at one point, goats, chickens, ducks, and pigs.  Now, we're down to just the chickens, and I'm fine where I'm at.  The chickens are entertaining, and just amazing animals to have.  No more hauling hay.

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That's not to say that living in the country is anything short of miraculous.  I have to admit, living here is worth all the lessons and sacrifice.  Sometimes, my kids just play with sticks and leaves all day.  And mud.  That's why, as summer draws to a close, I'd like to reflect on how thankful I am that we live in this quiet place, and share some images I've captured with you.

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Perhaps photos like these don't exactly showcase the potential of my land, but I know they do show a lot of small details that make living on a large piece of land worth it.  I have a lot of freedom, and I like to take the kids to go look for things like patches of daisies (pictured above), rocks for our garden, or sticks I plan to someday weave with.  I don't have to leave my home so they can pick wild cherries, apples, or berries.  I miss the convenience of city life, from time to time.  I lived in San Diego for a year, and there were so many yogurt shops, taco shops, Whole Foods.  It's hard to think about how far away I am from all that now, and how being here has taught me to move slower, to partially enjoy the mucking and cleaning and preparing season after season.

I hope you're perpetually in a place that makes you simultaneously feel comfort and wonder.  Happy knitting and spinning, friends!

Finding Inspiration as a Dyer

Emily Swenson

I have been dyeing a lot of new colorways over the past week or so, and I can't wait to share them with the world!  I thought I would talk a little about inspiration and how I react and pull colors from inspiration photos.

I am never more technical than I need to be when I dye.  I follow proper safety precautions, I get the dye on the yarn in a method that's not very different from any other dyer.  I always make sure my yarn is rinsed properly and fully dry before photographing and sending it to its new home.  I think where all dyers differ, and what makes them unique, is where they draw their inspiration from. 

I'm not going to pretend like that is super different between dyers either.  How many dyers use "Harry Potter" or "flowers in bloom" as an inspiration?  A lot.  I usually dye my yarns and search for a name later, which means my inspiration typically doesn't come from fandoms or specific objects, unless I'm dyeing for a club.  This is weird, because I have a TON of fandom-inspired colorways.  I get my inspiration from the colors themselves.  How do you know which colors look good together?  Everyone else says use the color wheel - I say, look at photos of models from a store you like.  Look at the color palette they use to style the models.  Look at your favorite Instagram feeds' color palettes.  Pinterest is also a wonderful resource.  Skeins are canvases, yes, but when styling the skein, you have to keep the finished object in mind! 

I also find looking at stores' websites like The Gap. Old Navy, and Anthropologie to offer a lot of inspiration.  They sell products marketed towards normal, non-fashion forward folks.  If you're edgy and fashion forward, maybe look at runway models or graffiti.  Don't draw inspiration from Pantone, unless you like the color of the year.  That's the most gimmicky thing ever.  I hate gimmicks. 

Also, I like to keep in mind that other people like to wear colors that I wouldn't be caught dead wearing.  I love to dye these colors!  They make me feel like I'm stepping out of a box.

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The image above is from an Anthropologie Fall 2017 photo.  You can look at this photo in two ways - as a whole, or just the girl.  If you just look at the girl's dress, she an amber-colored top on with a rusty red skirt, which is accentuated by the steel blue of her clutch.  If I were to dye just her in a colorway, it would be a variegate with the two red and amber colors and deep blue speckles on top.  However, if I were to add in the background colors of sky blue and warm tan, I'd have a larger palette to work with, and I could create a more complex colorway.  Perhaps I would make a sky blue background, or maybe use the light, warm, sandy tone as my background.  The possibilities are endless.  I could also look at this photo and create one speckled skein, and pair it with different tonals from the overlapping color elements in the photo. 

Just one last tip before I end this post - when looking at photos that you're having a hard time drawing inspiration from, it helps to purposefully blur your vision and then pick out the colors.  Write them down.  Don't think of the objects and models in the photo except as a means to extract the colors you need.

I hope this all makes sense - I've got myself all revved up to dye a few skeins based on this photo!  I think it makes a nice desert fall color combo.  These tips also work well for driving inspiration for color combinations when it comes to knitting projects.

What are your favorite ways to get color inspiration when dyeing or knitting?  I'd like to know - leave me a comment below!  Happy knitting'/spinning/dyeing, friends.

Spin the Bin Intro

Emily Swenson

I thought I would record my progress on Spin the Bin on my blog as well as on my YouTube channel.  I really love to see the stash melt off other people, so I figured, why not make a video showing how I use my stash?  Sometimes making yourself use a braid/skein is a wonderful way to try things you otherwise would not have tried.  I have already tried some new things with my Spin the Bin braids, and am going to try to do something new with each braid that follows.  

I'll list the braids here, and so as not to bore you, I will dictate my really cool (in my mind) plans for each of them.  Some of these plans have already been executed, and some may change.  Such is me!  All of these braids are shown in the video embedded above, so you can follow along if you like.

  1. Allons-y! Fiber Arts Organic Polwarth “A Galaxy Far, Far Away” - 4.42 oz - I plan on maki
  2. Hipstrings Merino/Yak - 4 oz - Woolen spun 2-ply, attempting to spin fine
  3. Hobbledehoy Lightsaber Batts - 5 oz - Traditional worsted 3-ply
  4. Elemental Fiberworks Rambouillet “Prism” - 4 oz - I'm going to spin this in a 2-ply, one ply will be the rainbow and one will be the white.  I may change this, I was thinking of doing a fractal spin as well, but I'm not sure how well it will look knitted.
  5. Fluffy Owl Fiber Arts Falkland/Rose - 4 oz - I'm probably going to do a fingering weight worsted 2-ply
  6. Greenwood Fiberworks BFL “Emily” - 4 oz - Completed! Aran weight worsted spun 2-ply
  7. Heavenly Wools Haunui Handcraft Wool 24.5 micron “Carousel LR” - 4 oz Completed! Thick and thin woolen spun 2-ply
  8. Wintry Flower by Design Cheviot - 4 oz - Completed!  345 yards, traditional worsted spun 3-ply
  9. YARNSHINE Icicle Rolags - 3 oz - Combo spin with Blue Barn Fiber rolags - woolen spun 2 or 3-ply
  10. Blue Barn Fiber Rolags - 2 oz - Combo spin with YARNSHINE rolags - woolen spun 2 or 3-ply
  11. LYDIA Superwash BFL “Ugly Duckling” - 4 oz - Ply on the fly on my Snyder cherry glider spindle
  12. Greenwood Fiberworks BFL/Nylon “Rivendell” - 4 oz - traditional worsted spun 3-ply, aiming for fingering
  13. Greenwood Fiberworks Merino Silk “Rosewood” - 4 oz - I might slap this on a spindle soon.  I'm not sure, but I'll probably try for a fingering weight 2-ply.  This is contradictory to what I said in my video.  I don't know why I said I wanted a DK weight out of this, it wants to be a shawl.

As I post videos, I will update my progress on the blog as well.  I am aiming to get 2 braids done per month, but I've already done that this month and I'm feeling the itch to put another (probably the merino/yak from Hipstrings) on my wheel/spindle.  I've been spindling quite a bit lately, as I'm sure you'll see before I have the chance to tell you about it!  

Are any of you guys doing Spin the Bin?  Let me know in the comments below.

Happy spinning/knitting!

Instagram Stories - Free Graphic

Emily Swenson

When Instagram stories were first released, they both confused and frightened me.  Now, they're so integral to your success of Instagram that I have to use them, and to be honest they've grown on me.  I've seen a few other bloggers make graphics for their stories that are questionnaires, and I thought I'd make one myself.  My other hobby is graphic design, and I've been doing it since I was very, very young.  Remember PaintShopPro?  That program was just my pre-Photoshop favorite.

Anywho, I made these two graphics that are free to use and spread around.  Tell your friends, have them post it to their Instastories.  Just save the image to camera roll and use it for your Instagram story - make sure you fill it out by circling your answers first!  It's so much fun, isn't it?

Tour de Fleece Finale

Emily Swenson

Tour de Fleece! I spun yarn! I did one of my largest spins to date, and I completed a Navajo-plied yarn as well, to total 1560 yards.  Not bad, especially since I went on vacation in the middle of the tour.  This tour, to me, was not to learn new techniques, but was mainly to make a larger amount of yarn than what I typically make.  Similar to my issue with single skeins of sock yarn, I have an issue with single 4 ounce braids of fiber.  I know I have this issue, and I continue to buy single braids, thinking "they'll make great socks."  This is the equivalent to buying a single skein of sock yarn, except now I have to spin it first.  Logic.

So, I achieved approximately 1200 yards of a 2-ply yarn from Finn hand-painted top from Three Waters Farm.  This will probably become a sweater of some sort, maybe a Wispy Cardi or a Beckett.  This all depends on the swatch gauge and how the colors play.  I know there's a huge stripe of blue that I may have to work around, or place on a border to make it look "right."

I'd honestly like to spin a similar amount of yarn again relatively soon.  I'm starting to spin a lot more with projects in mind, and this amount (8 ounces) seems achievable without being a sweater's quantity (necessarily).

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In addition to that huge hank of yarn, I also spun about 360 yards of a chain-plied Corriedale.  I liked this spin, but I think I'll like knitting with it better.  I actually made a huge boo-boo on this spin - I underspun the singles.  I was spinning on my e-spinner, and it's just tough for me to tell if there's enough twist in there for some reason.  I will get better with practice.  I broke the singles a few times while plying, and I know to put a lot of twist in if you plan on a chain ply - but, it's yarn now, and it's actually not falling apart while I'm knitting with it.  The skein is in the process of becoming a shawl, and I couldn't be happier with it.

Overall, this Tour de Fleece was a success.  I have another finished yarn that I spun some singles for during TdF, but I did not get anywhere close to finishing.  What did you get done during Tour de Fleece? Let me know in the comments!

Finished Object Spotlight - Honey Cowl

Emily Swenson

I've knit a Honey Cowl before, about two years ago.  I'm in a constant need for cowls because they don't fall off my neck, no matter how hard they get tugged at by little hands, and I'm always "losing" my hand knits.  And by losing, I mean misplacing, or placing them in an inconvenient spot.

This skein of handspun was divine to work with.  It was think and thin, ranging from worsted to fingering weight, but mostly stayed a DK weight.  I measured it at 225 yards, which was more than suitable for this pattern.  I have a little ball of the leftovers to remember it by.  

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I find that I am so much more attached to my handspun than I am even to the favorite-est of hand dyed skeins in my stash.  Also, I find that the projects made from my handspun make me more proud, even with a project so small as this cowl.  I feel like, from fiber to finished object, the journey is more memorable and enjoyable - savory would be a more complete term - than it is just knitting with millspun yarn.  I may be in the minority there, but I do believe that there is something soul-lifting about handspun and knitting with it.  It doesn't even matter if it's ugly.  Can it be ugly?  I've yet to see a truly ugly skein of handspun yarn, even from the greenest of spinners.

How do you feel about knitting with your handspun?  What are some of your favorite handspun projects?  If you have pictures, leave them in the comments below!

Process - A Podcast About Spinning and Knitting

Emily Swenson

So, I promised myself I wouldn't be one of those people who only blog about their podcast, and I plan to live up to that promise.  However, I started a new podcast to show off my work and hopefully do some demonstrations and tutorials.  This podcast, which I dubbed "Process," is a culmination of the past few years of my crafting life.  

I had the Woolfiend Podcast, which was all well and good.  But, my tastes have changed, my crafting focus has changed, and I'd like to reflect that in my videos.  I also wanted to increase my production value by quite a bit, although I'm still working on that at the moment.  I really wanted my podcasts to be uniform in quality.  I basically re-branded the podcast to make it shorter and more content-focused, rather than the typical FO-WIP-Acquisition formula most podcasts follow.  My podcasts will still definitely contain FOs, WIPs, and maybe some acquisitions from time to time, but I'd like to keep things informative and knitting/spinning focused, instead of "how much stuff can I collect/knit/spin in the period of time before my next podcast."  This was an issue I had previously, and made podcasts stressful to film and manage.

I hope you all find the eventual content interesting and engaging, I definitely feel more confident in myself than the last time I stepped in front of the camera.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know in the comments here or on Youtube!

Wool Properties Series: Microns

Emily Swenson

This post is the first in a series of three I plan to write targeting the properties of wool and how they affect a finished yarn.  Most knowledge is derived from my own experience, and these posts are not meant to be scientific in nature.  They are meant to be loosely informative and useful to the home handspinner.  

 Table 1: Micron counts and fineness classifications according to sheep breed

Table 1: Micron counts and fineness classifications according to sheep breed

They're not midichlorians (watch: Star Wars), but they're still pretty magical.  Or mystical, whatever.  Microns are a measure of fiber diameter, and a typical indicator of the fineness and softness of a fiber.  The smaller the micron count a particular wool has, the softer it is to the touch.  The larger the micron count, the more hairy or wiry the wool feels.

Micron counts typically range from around 18 to 35, but can be as low as 10 (the record for an entire fleece), and higher than 40.  Micron counts are usually an average across a particular fleece or batch of fleeces, and can have a large range within that sample.  The quality of a fleece, no matter the micron count, is high if that fleece has a consistent micron count (the range of fiber diameter in the fleece is not large).  Table 1 shows the differences between breeds of sheep and their average fiber diameter, and where they fall in the spectrum from fine to coarse.

The reason these numbers are important is because wool eventually becomes yarn that is made into fabric (knitted, crocheted, or woven).  The softness of the wool, as well as staple length and yarn construction, determines what the finished yarn should become.  For instance, a super fine Merino wool with a micron count of 18 would not make a good sock yarn (for a variety of reasons, and despite those reasons, it is the most common breed used for socks).  Similarly, a Lincoln fleece made into yarn would likely not make a good baby sweater due to the micron count being 35-40.  The highest of micron count fleeces are used to make rugs, blankets, and for insulation. 

 Romney locks, 32-39 microns

Romney locks, 32-39 microns

The contruction of your yarn, while it will not change the micron count, will change the appropriateness of a fiber to be used in certain projects.  It may make an Icelandic wool feel softer for a hat, or a Merino/Rambouillet wool feel more durable for use in socks.  I implore you, as a handspinner or knitter, to work with all kinds of fiber, and not just the soft and common Merino that is widely available.  It is fun to work with both a Merino and a Lincoln, then realize that those two sheep were bred to form another breed, Corriedale (one of my favorites to spin), and then spin that fiber too, to see which characteristics it has in common with its parent fibers.

It is important to add that the micron system is not the only system in the United States that is used to measure fiber diameter.  The American Blood Grade System and the English Spinning Count system are also used, which is sometimes you'll see things like "80s Australian Merino" in item descriptions.  The micron system is the most widely used, and also the one I'm the most familiar with and comfortable with using.

Microns, for the hand spinner, are only a piece of the knowledge necessary to competently design yarn.  They determine the fiber's limitations (or lack thereof - I'm looking at you, BFL) in terms of softness and comfort.  For the handspinner, spinning a yarn that is the appropriate softness for the project at hand starts with micron count.  The next property of wool we will talk about is staple length, and after that, crimp.  These properties are important to understanding your finished yarn, and to design yarn that you will use with intent.  

Is the yarn you like to use different in micron count from the fiber you like to spin?  What is your favorite micron range to knit and spin with?  Let me know in the comments.

Sources:

Wool Grades: http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_b/B409/welcome.html

Wool Grading: http://msuextension.org/publications/AgandNaturalResources/MT198380AG.pdf

On Whether to Switch from Etsy

Emily Swenson

This isn't a piece detailing why you should switch from Etsy, but rather one that explains my intended departure from the platform (to my customers/readers).  Etsy is a platform I'm mostly loyal to, but lately they have made some decisions that make me think that they're not loyal to the maker community.  These decisions, namely to increase their seller fees from 3.5% to 5%, have caused me to consider leaving and taking my business to Shopify.  

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I feel like Etsy offers a lot of necessary features, but now they come with an attached cost.  I'm frankly pissed that Etsy decides to increase fees without making these amenities available to the most basic of account levels.  

As a maker, and one that is so small, my costs are already high.  Especially in terms of my time spent making, marketing, labeling, packaging, and adding my special personal touches when possible.  Etsy is making money from the non-makers at this point - people who sell T-shirts that they "make," and different promotional type products that they shouldn't legally be selling.  The shops that were once small at Etsy's inception have (possibly) grown into larger shops, and either moved off of Etsy or have manufacturing deals.  They are "makers" in name only, and far from independent.  They could possibly afford to eat the cost, or raise their prices, as they now have employees and are full-fledged businesses that have enough sway to influence their market.  

Who these changes hurt are the people who are in between - who like having a small income, but can't afford to grow by hiring employees.  Who can't make the jump to wholesale because their time is too valuable. Basically people like me!  So, in the coming months (probably around autumn) I'll be making moves to leave Etsy.  I'll move to Shopify, and this domain will remain at Squarespace.  I want to make sure I have the best features to offer my customers, and I think this is the right decision. 

Tour de Fleece 2018 Week 1

Emily Swenson

7/7/18 to 7/14/18

I honestly did not get to spin as much as I'd like this week.  My son was sick, and my daughters had summer camp at their local YMCA.  My oldest daughter had cheer camp - and there was just enough time between activities to make me have to sit in my car for an hour or two everywhere we went.  I was also preparing for our upcoming vacation.  

What I did get done was really fun.  I finished the first braid in my Finn from Three Waters Farm.  I almost finished the second braid, but I can't take my wheel with me, so I also started a spin (BFL/Nylon from Three Waters Farm) on my Snyder Turkish spindle.  I am also spinning on my e-spinner - some Corriedale from Three Waters Farm as well.  

I am particularly enjoying spinning on this spindle, which I bought specifically for the Tour.  I wanted something new and lighter than my other Snyder.  I have a thing for Turkish spindles at the moment because of the beautiful way I get to wind the yarn onto the cop.

 I just love the way the color changes are displayed on the cop.

I just love the way the color changes are displayed on the cop.

Below are some pictures of my progress.  The two shots of wool are my current spins, although I didn't get any pictures of the Corriedale.

What are you guys all spinning on for Tour de Fleece?  I am not taking rest days, but since I haven't gotten to spin all that much I figure it's probably not necessary.  I still hope I can achieve my goals for the Tour, although it's a long shot with our vacation coming up.

Happy spinning everyone!

My Dyeing Story

Emily Swenson

I felt like writing this particular post today for a few reasons - one, because I felt compelled to talk about dyeing with someone.  Two, because I think it's an interesting bit of information about myself.

I started knitting sometime in 2015, after getting back into crochet for a few months.  I thought about dyeing, but I really wanted to design my own projects.  As it turns out, I like to knit mostly stockinette projects, and I don't like ripping back or re-knitting anything.  So, being a pattern designer as a hobby was out of the picture.  I did not enjoy it enough to pursue it, and I have tried it several times since, but each time I fail to muster the necessary wherewithal to complete a single design project.

I started looking into dyeing, and dyed a skein of yarn (that was also my first skein of handspun) in 2015.  I forgot about it for about a year, then went to Rhinebeck 2016.  This was the first time I had been to Rhinebeck, and I got to see a lot of indie dyed yarn, as well as the plethora of natural yarns that were offered for sale/petting at the festival.  I decided to go home and ask my husband if I could have a few hundred dollars to start a yarn dyeing venture.  He obliged, and I decided on a name - Woolfiend Hand-Dyed Yarns.  I knew I didn't want to be a huge company, but something more like a hobby business that generated a small profit.

I bought a few skeins and started testing.  I found that I liked dyeing, but those first few skeins were ROUGH.  I thought I could take a little sampler pack and dye it with the same citric acid you use for canning tomatoes - I had some in the basement, and put it to the test.  I don't know whether I burned the yarn with heat, or something different, but it smelled so bad.  I had ruined it.  I kept on, though, and created my first sell-able skeins.  I opened my Etsy shop, and took some really crappy pictures with my phone, and did some really crappy editing on them.  The skeins sold, but I still look back on those very skeins and cringe a little.  Not that they were lower quality, in fact they're the same quality as what I sell currently.  They were just my baby skeins, and they were made before I knew how to speckle yarn correctly, or which colors bled, or how to get the dye to break, or what temperature to set the yarn at.

 An oven-dyed skein - "Forsaken"

An oven-dyed skein - "Forsaken"

I dyed as much as I could.  This was really before a lot of the advice that is out there now, and a lot of trial and error went into this little venture of mine.  I decided that my very favorite method to dye with was my oven.  It resulted in crisp speckles, and vibrant colors.  I still love dyeing in the oven, and most of my colorways are done that way.  We have a double oven too, which makes it efficient for me.

I had just reached the peak of my yarn "career" when I had to close my shop.  I came back a few weeks ago, but I am a different person now than when I started dyeing.  As much as I love to knit, the lure of dyeing yarn isn't as strong as it once was.  I came back to the community to see a flood of indie dyers.  I think almost everyone who knits is an indie dyer now!  Some larger indie dyers and commercial yarn producers are going out of business. 

 Two recently dyed braids - "Blossom"

Two recently dyed braids - "Blossom"

So, now I have to grapple with a few questions.  Where does this leave me/my business?  Did I make a mistake (for my business, not my life) by going on maternity leave?  Are my products and my brand truly unique?  The last question is the hardest for me to answer, because I can't lie and say they are.  Most dyers get their yarn from the same two places, maybe three, and all that wool comes from the same place(s).  What can make me unique, and what can make my brand unique?  While answering these questions I started spinning.  A lot.  I have always enjoyed spinning, but this time I came back and it just made my heart sing.  There's almost more of a rhythm to spinning than there is to knitting, in my opinion.  I shouldn't compare the two, because that's silly.  But, one thing I noticed was every skein I spun came out different.  My heart swells at this realization (yea, I know, DUH, Emily), and it made me look at dyeing in a whole new way. 

It's fine to have your yarn come from a large supplier and to dye it for a consumer, and any project they make with that yarn will be unique in every sense of the word.  However, at this point I'd rather dye fiber.  There are so many reasons why, the main one being that I feel like it adds a little more to the community.  I want spinning to be a part of knitting, and fiber prep is an important skill set.  I feel like spreading that knowledge is so important, and modernizing the craft is just as important. 

All that to say, I feel like dyeing fiber today.

Thoughts on Stash

Emily Swenson

I'm not sure why I feel like this needs to be a blog post, when there's a whole book written on the subject that does a fairly decent job of explaining viewpoints from many different knitters.  I'll add my thoughts anyway.

 Some of my stash in action.  I keep it in plastic bags inside of Sterilite containers with cedar rings in every container, as well as mothballs and cedar all over the shelving units to stave off moth infestation.  I keep the bulk of my stash in my basement.

Some of my stash in action.  I keep it in plastic bags inside of Sterilite containers with cedar rings in every container, as well as mothballs and cedar all over the shelving units to stave off moth infestation.  I keep the bulk of my stash in my basement.

Stash, and the amount you keep as a crafter, is highly dependent on your personality.  For instance, I am a collector.  I love to hold on to memorabilia.  I'm extremely sentimental, and I have a hard time connecting with people - it's easier for me to connect with my things, and they make me feel comfortable.  I have a large stash!  But it's not necessarily a bad thing.  I have the space to keep my stash (although it does make it's way into living spaces regularly), and I enjoy using my stash as a palette for my projects.  Some yarn I feel guilty about having, like the mound of acrylic I haven't used in two years, or the cheaper wool that I no longer use.  I like having the highest quality in my stash, and I plan to have some of this yarn for the next 20 years.  I need to destash badly, because sometimes the amount of yarn I have that I don't have plans for weighs heavily on my mind.

Other folks keep a small stash - they are travelers, don't have their own space, or are minimalists.  I wish I was like these people!  There's a lot of freedom in not having a stash.  As long as you have the money, your stash is whatever yarn you want and can buy for the project you want to knit.  On the contrary, I have to go stash diving for almost every project.

I think that the general consensus is that you should be mindful of your stash, and thankful for what you have.  Do what makes you happy, and fits your lifestyle.  If something is stressing you out, let it go.  Don't let your lust for yarn get you in debt, take over your home Hoarders-style, or affect your relationships with worthy family and friends.  

Knitting Lately

Emily Swenson

I feel like my desire to knit is tied to the types of projects I feel like knitting.  Unfortunately, the types of projects I want to knit change all the time!  I think it's like that for everyone.  Before I had my son in November, I wanted to knit vanilla socks.  I wanted to let the yarn sing, and decided to just knit vanilla socks for a while - until I got really, really sick of vanilla socks.  So, then I wanted to knit heavily patterned socks, with cables and lace.  I couldn't even make it through one sock before I decided that it simply was not practical. 

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At the moment, I feel like knitting a few different things, and I'm going to indulge myself after a bit of planning.  For starters, I feel like knitting shawls!  This is great, because they're the most fun for me to knit, and require learning of new skills and some concentration - which I love.  These are easily the most engaging patterns for me.  I have two on the needles, which I think I'll finish before casting on a Stephen West pattern (Exploration Station or a Doodler).  The one I think I will finish first is The Great Game.

The next thing I'm planning on knitting soon is a handspun cowl.  I have not cast on a cowl in a while - the last one I knit was this brioche cowl (pictured on the right) in February, but it was actually cast on in 2015 or 2016! So I need to knit a good cowl, and I have a squishy merino/silk blend handspun yarn that will do nicely for either an Oats or a Honey Cowl.  

The next thing on my to-knit list is a sweater.  I like having two sweaters for Rhinebeck, but it seems like I may only be there for one day this year, so it's not necessary to have two.  I am still thinking about which sweater I would like to knit, but I will probably go with a few Brooklyn Tweed patterns - Alvy and Bedford.  Something that's really nice is that these will be the first sweaters I have knit since losing weight, which is a huge deal.  This means less yarn, less knitting, and I can finally knit pullovers!  When I was pregnant and directly afterward I thought I could only knit cardigans to account for the belly, but it's exciting to have a whole new category of patterns open up to me for the first time in just over a year!

I'm still in love with socks, and I will likely knit them more when the school year starts.  I'll be busier then, and I always love a good portable sock project.  I am, however, going to take this summer to knit some more interesting projects and learn a few new skills.  

What are your knitting plans for this summer?  What have you felt like knitting lately?  Do the projects you typically knit change on a monthly or quarterly basis like mine seem to?

Happy knitting, friends!

Tour de Fleece Prep

Emily Swenson

  Top Left to Right: "Butte Shadows" -Finn x 2, "Perfect Sun" -Falkland    Bottom Left to Right: "Rose Hedge" -Corriedale, "Running Through Puddles" -BFL/Nylon, "Antique Portrait" -Polwarth/Silk

Top Left to Right: "Butte Shadows" -Finn x 2, "Perfect Sun" -Falkland

Bottom Left to Right: "Rose Hedge" -Corriedale, "Running Through Puddles" -BFL/Nylon, "Antique Portrait" -Polwarth/Silk

Ahh, Tour de Fleece.  I skipped last year, but this year my spinning mojo is in full swing, and I joined the Three Waters Farm TdF Team.  You can find their fiber at their Etsy shop.  I decided not to join any other teams, but I really wanted to!  I have enough TWF fiber to spin that exclusively, and luckily the Ravelry group is very active.  

I wanted to do a few color experiments, as I'm used to spinning across the top and then plying however I feel like plying.  I am currently spinning a fractal, and am enjoying it, and realized I'd like to do more planned spinning with regards to color placement.  I thought I'd use this post to talk about the way I am planning to prep the fiber for Tour de Fleece.

First up was the larger spinning project for the Tour - I keep seeing these awesome handspun skeins on Instagram with blue/turquoise peeking through a red-brown color.  I bought "Butte Shadows" because of that little pop of blue!  I'm going to do a traditional 2-ply with these two braids (or bags, since they're not currently braided).  I really want the barber-poling to stand out in the blue areas, so I'm going to try not to match the blues up to maximize the yardage of the skein with that blue in it!  I'd like to make this into a giant shawl, and I'm hoping to get about 800 yards out of the two braids.

"Perfect Sun" was a little more difficult, but with the long bit of yellow I thought it would be an interesting fractal! It would definitely be perfect to add some interest, instead of spinning yellow for miles.

For the Corriedale, "Rose Hedge," I am going to chain ply it.  It has a lot of nice contrast that I think will be interesting as a striping yarn, although I am not sure what the knitted product will be in that case!  Maybe some mittens or a hat.

"Running Through Puddles" is the Tour de Fleece exclusive colorway for this year.  I am going to spin this on my spindle - I'm not sure which one yet.  I wouldn't normally spin on my spindle (I'm slow as shit) for Tour de Fleece, but I am going on vacation in mid-July.

"Antique Portrait" is a braid I've saved for a few years, with good intentions!  It deserves to be spun, and it's time for it to transform into yarn.  I have decided to do a simple 2-ply from this braid.  There are lots of surprise colors in this skein, and that'll make for fun pops of color.

I generally try to attain a fingering weight from almost every braid I spin, but with the 3-ply (chain or traditional) I don't usually spin the singles fine enough to get a fingering weight out of it.  I have no plans to try and do this during the Tour, but it would be nice to get a 3-ply fingering, because I just like the way those yarns look more than 2-ply (in most cases).

As far as order, I'm going to start with the Finn, then do whatever I feel like after that.  For the spindle spin, I'm prepping the fiber for spinning as soon as possible.  I'm hoping to spindle spin at least 30 minutes a day, although I think that's generous.  I have a bad track record with spindle projects taking a bit too long, and I've only ever completed four, so we shall see!

I plan on doing weekly updates for the Tour.  What are your plans and goals for Tour de Fleece this year?  Let me know in the comments!

Hopeful Beginnings

Emily Swenson

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I have long anticipated the first post of my blog on fiber crafts.  Here it is, and all I have to say are general thoughts on the industry and my own participation in it.  

If you don't know me already from Instagram, Ravelry, or my Etsy store, my name is Emily.  I knit, spin, dye, weave, crochet, sew.. You know, crafts and such.  I started a video podcast and my Etsy store in 2016, where I sell hand-dyed yarn, fiber, and some notions.  In 2017 I had a baby, so I had to close shop for a while to get my family back to "jiving properly."  

The video podcast - "The Woolfiend Podcast" - was a run-of-the-mill podcast, and I honestly didn't have the time to devote to trying to get it to take off.  I may return to the podcast, but I likely won't unless I figure out a way to make it stand out.  It's quite hard to reinvent the wheel when it comes to knitting podcasts, especially if you don't have a filming partner!  The template for success is also the template for failure - why would someone want to watch your podcast instead of the hundreds (thousands?) of others available?  We are all, ultimately, knitting the same things, with the same yarn, from the same suppliers (for the most part).  I'm sure the other, smaller podcasts have similar feelings surrounding this subject. 

Enter the blog!  I noticed a dip in the number of knitting blogs around the time Ravelry came about - in fact, Ravelry basically killed the need for a blog.  Most of them are just podcasters posting their embedded podcast episodes with shownotes.  Sitting and reading calculated thoughts, and being able to sincerely contemplate someone's process on a more visually appealing forum than Ravelry can be somewhat humbling.  I feel also that Instagram is sometimes too fast of a way to display such a slow craft.  The stories, IGTV, feed photos - it can all be sincerely overwhelming.

When I had my son, I felt an extreme amount of pressure to continue to knit, to therefore stay relevant and make sure my business stayed afloat.  This pressure should never exist!  Was it purely self-imposed?  Or is this a feeling shared by other hand-dyers/knitters/podcasters?  I had to take a break, especially from social media, to stop that stifling feeling of not ever being able to get enough done.  I find it interesting that everyone talks openly about the good parts of crafting - the coffee shared with friends, the hand of a good wool, and stash acquisitions - but it's not often publicized when things go wrong, or anxieties take their toll. 


I guess that's a good start, and touches on some of the thoughts I've had since I stopped dyeing 7 and a half months ago.  My goals for this blog are to create a community in a more manageable way than my podcast was able to, and to display all aspects of my creative process in a more easy to digest and realistic way than Instagram/Youtube is able to.  Most of my content will be philosophical and informative in nature, as well as an artistic catalog of my projects.

Here's to a hopeful beginning!  Much love to everyone who took the time to read, feel free to comment if you feel you have something to add!