Thursday, March 29, 2007

U.K. National Knitting Week Pix

Author and knitting teacher, Ann McCauley, of Colorado -- and originally a Virginia gal! -- sent this link to a public relations event in England. The picture above is a unique weaving loom from this site. Click on the link to see a wonderful variety of needlework that is innovative, beautiful, and inspirational. Here goes ...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Merino Shortage from an Australian's Viewpoint

I recently stumbled across a wonderful site and new magazine.. well, new to me, but I ordered a subscription and all of the back copies. Here is the link to Barbara Coddington's blog and magazine info:

This merino situation has me fascinated and frustrated at the same time, so I wrote to her to see what her thoughts on the subject are. She has given me permission to use parts of her letter, and I think it will make interesting reading for American merino knitters who are experiencing the frustrating wait for Australian merino yarns.

Hi Sheila,
That's a very interesting query. I have been looking into it a bit for my own research and writing purposes, and I think I can give you a short answer.
As you already know, we've had a series of droughts in Australia. Flock size is down over the last several years and overall, wool production is down somewhat. I don't believe the situation is considered a sheep shortage, however.
What has changed quite a lot, though, is the type of merino available. There's actually been an overall increase in the finest quality merino fibre (19.5 microns and under). Some of this is known as 'hunger fine' wool and is due to poor nutrition in the sheep due to the drought -- they produce less robust fleece when stressed. But some of it is also due to really good growing conditions a year or so ago in parts of Australia. It can take awhile for the seasonal ups and downs to trickle into the market.
So the combination of there being fewer sheep and each sheep producing a bit less wool which is finer than usual means the increase in fine merino has come at the expense of middle range merino around 21-22 microns which I imagine is what may be back ordered in NY.
I can't comment on the marketing campaign you mention as we are not subjected to it here! The Australian market is quite small and I feel the global market is usually the main focus of their efforts. (As you've seen in my blog already.)
Looking through the return comments on Barbara's blog, it is evident that many Australian knitters have a hard time finding yarn in one of the largest merino producing countries in the world.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Selling Your Hand-Dyes

To get started with selling your handdyes, you could go the eBay or ETSY route. Lots of my customers do that and it is easy to set up. The other route is to find an owner of a local knit shop who is looking to stock some different yarns than everyone else has. They are definitely out there, especially as the popularity of handdyed yarns begins to penetrate the general knitting public's consciousness. New shops are a good place to make that connection, or shop owners who are innovative themselves. You need to come up with a set of samples, a list of your prices, and an agreed upon policy about color matching. That is so hard, but being a scientist, perhaps you have solved that problem.

Try to compete with a best seller in your area. I have two personal examples, one of which I followed through with, but will not repeat because it would be like starting a new business for me and I just cannot take on any more work just now. We have a shop owner in a small town nearby who is a master knitter, has been to the conventions for years and knows all the designers, takes the big classes, etc. When she opened her shop, her vision was to carry yarns that you don't see everywhere. We talked about me supplying my handdyes to compete with a popular light sport weight yarn (which starts with a "K"). That's her best seller, but hard to reorder without an extended wait. Also, even though they use the same numbers for their colors, the dye lots cannot be counted on to match. The other was a new shop, opened by a former yarn rep, and he, too, wanted lines that are not all over the place. He was targeting the beginning knitter folk and giving lessons for small projects to reel them into his new shop. Sock yarn was his thing, so I dyed up 3 dozen skeins and he loved them and they sold very well. I didn't follow up quickly enough with the first shop, and also didn't present myself well, I now know. My presentation was more polished with the second shop I described -- samples of dyed and undyed yarns to show fiber choices and colorways. Price lists. Discount policies. Suggested retail pricing. That sort of thing.

The other way to go is to dye up as much yarn and spinning fiber as you can manage, and to attend a local fair, a fiber festival, a small business expo, etc. There are always fiber folk in every crowd, and you will sell yarn at events which are not related to our field at all. Better, of course, if it is at least on the artsy side of life. Sometimes there are events open to the public for privately owned historic properties, and they might be open to the idea of a quaintly dressed fiber artist selling baskets full of colorful yarn. You will never know unless you ask. AND, you'll meet some interesting people along the way.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

BFL-DK ... My new favorite yarn?

With so many yarns and samples, I try to experiment with each one so that I can have a feel for some of the properties of the yarn. I'm looking for how it feels as I knit, how needle sizes create tighter or looser fabrics, how the yarn absorbs dye, what changes in the yarn occur during the dye process or just from a hot bath.

I had worked my way through the Blue Faced Leicester yarns on the website, and two weekends ago decided to gift myself a cone of the BFL-DK, a round creamy 4-ply. Boy, was I in for some fun! This yarn has enough heft to it to make you actually feel the yarn as it slips through the fingers. It is so very soft and knits into a beautiful fabric.

Elizabeth Zimmerman's patterns fascinate me, so I decided to try the BFL-DK on her Ganomy hat pattern (from Knitting Almanac, from Schoolhouse Press). The Ganomy pattern neatly places increases at the ear level and decreases at mid-forehead to give a comfortably curved hat. The picture above is of the hat as it reaches the point where I must divide the work onto two circular needles. It was knit on US Size 8's, and I will do the next one on size 7's for a little firmer fabric. Unfortunately this hat is too small for me, since it is lighter than the weight that EZ used for her Ganomy. I'm going to increase the next hat by 8 stitches, and place markers according to the percentage of distance between markers on her original pattern. Hopefully, I will come out with something I can wear to keep my head warm when I go to an April event in central Virginia. It looks sort of like what Colonial women would have worn, right? Oh, well. I'm planning to get away with it, even if it has to be worn under my colonial bonnet, as I head up a group of spinners, weavers, knitters and fiber processors (is there a better word?) in the old Spinning House on one of the few remaining plantations in the area. Should be fun!

This sounds like I have actually constructed a bonnet and a costume, but that is not the case at all. In fact, just writing this, reminds me that I need to pull the fabric and pattern out and get to work!

But, back to the yarn. I think I like the DK weight because it is not too heavy, and I can see doing one of Karen Alfke's Top-Down sweaters in it, and in the natural ecru, too. This cone that I gifted myself is not even from the new batches which are being processed in Italy and have even more loft and luster showing through! Imagine what that next batch will look like. Luscious!

This is the reason some people call Blue Faced Leicester 'the poor man's cashmere.'

Friday, March 09, 2007

BFL Ultra! now in one-pound skeins

A new shipment of BFL Ultra! arrived today. Unfortunately, the new mill wound our skeins into one-pound skeins, instead of the usual 8 oz skein. We'll just have to try out the one-pound skein of this great yarn until the next regular shipment of 8 oz skeins comes in.

One pound of this yarn has 1900 yards. It is a 3-ply superwash in the 'poor man's cashmere' yarn, Blue Faced Leicester, nice and round and blooms just a little when dyed/steamed/washed.

The 8-oz skeins will be back in stock around April 15th. Until then, we have this yarn in one-pound skeins and one-pound-plus cones.

$46.40 per pound.

When filling orders after the new shipment, I wrote a note of apology to a customer about the larger skein. She responded immediately, 'I love the larger skeins!' I am sorry if this is inconvenient for anyone, and promise you that my exporter and I are working to get new 8-oz skeins back into regular stock.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Let's Organize a Write-In Campaign to HGTV: Bring back Knitty Gritty and Uncommon Threads to the Morning Schedule!

OK, Knitters and crafters out there! Let's show the power of the needle or the power of the computer ... you pick! I invite everyone who reads this blog to write to HGTV and ask them to put the only knitting show on their lineup back into the mid-morning schedule, Knitty Gritty and the other show that features all sorts of needle arts, Uncommon Threads. These two great shows are now hidden in the 7 a.m. slot and have been replaced with yet another real estate program.

The world and HGTV do not need another program about remodelling/ selling/buying/lusting after houses. What the world needs is more knitting! These two shows are the only national shows that reflect our art, and they are being shunted to the early morning hours, and away from the prime morning spot they had enjoyed. I am sure this was a marketing move. Let's face it: houses cost more than yarn, though some of us could probably vie for the budget of a small house, at leaset! This seems to be another example of the artsy side of life being pushed aside to make room for the main stream to expand. Please, please join me and send a tastefully worded request to bring these shows back to more reasonable hours.

I ask you to do two things:

1. Send an email to the programming department of HGTV. Here is the link to the email comment page on HGTV's website:,1783,HGTV_3080_1433559,00.html

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Customer Services link to email the programming department. This link is printed in brown and is underlined. It is hidden --- hmmm, what does this suggest? -- in the very last paragraph titled "You Still Didn't Answer My Question."

2. Contact the major bloggers and spread the message. Let's see how many people we can get to join us in this email campaing and our efforts to save the fiber arts programming.

I recall reading a well-read, well-written blog by a Canadian fiber artist about a situation within the knitting field where the everyday marketplace was shocked into recognition of the buying power of the knitting marketplace. There were literally hundreds of responses. Many people clamored to get the contact name of one of the parties involved, exclaiming (through print with many exclamation points!!!) that the world didn't know how many knitters were out there and that there was power in numbers.

Remember the old country adage: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Well! That's what I hope will happen now, and that this powerful number of knitters who represent a considerable buying power in the arts, travel to do our arts, publishing, advertising, etc., will make an effort to bring the programming folks at HGTV into the fold! Please write an email yourself, and spread the word to your favorite blogger, to your knitting group, to the local knit shop.

Will you join me?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Top-Down Designs in new Knitter's Magazine

The next issue of Knitter's Magazine will feature top-down designs. Wool2Dye4 carries patterns from the queen of top-down design, Karen Alfke. In fact, I started carrying Karen's UnPattern designs after I took her class at a Stitches East a couple of years ago. Finally, here is a formula to make a sweater that fits, and fits superbly! Check out all of Karen's patterns on the website. Her lines are UnPattern and Second Nature Design.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Closeout yarn BFL Special Purchase: Sold Out

My thanks to the wise and quick customers who took advantage of the BFL Special Purchase sale. It is now sold out.

Next Special Purchase: Merino/Bamboo blend with 10% nylon binder. This yarn is 60% superwash merino with 30% bamboo. Due at the end of March.
Stay tuned ...