Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year of Knitting

I remember when I was a kid and people asked me what my New Year's Resolutions were, I was always at a loss. Somehow I couldn't think far enough ahead to think of something I wouldn't jump in and do at a moment's notice, or of anything I needed to get accomplished. Life was simple then, and I was never bored because my mind would seize on a project and before I knew it, I was in the middle of figuring it out.

Not much as really changed since those simple days when I lived in the country and invented my own entertainment. I'm just a little older and, well, some bigger. Now that 'bigger' part does come to mind for needing resolutions, and actually, this year when I had my annual heart checkup, I asked my doctor if there was anything he could prescribe which would make me get up and start moving around. Before I knew it, a nurse had me on the phone asking if I liked to swim or do Pilates, and before the conversation was over, I had committed to three months of exercise, whether I liked it or not. He's pretty good, isn't he? He acted swiftly and with determination, and I could hardly say 'no, I don't like to swim in the winter time!' because too many people already knew that I need to get up and move, so I would just shame myself, really, if I acted churlish about swimming in the winter time. And, I knew it. I heard my own voice starting to protest, and then just shut up. Nope. I am going to do the program and come out of it in three months' time having done more exercise than knit and type!

So, an improvement in health was not on my resolution list at all. What I like to think up as a sort of resolution is a new skill or hobby. Like the year I decided I was going to learn to weave. I went into it full throttle, just as I have always done with a new game/toy/hobby, and signed up for a weeklong class and bought one of the studio's used looms at the end of the week. For at least a year I tried to be a weaver. I loved the actual weaving part where you toss the shuttle back and forth and stomp on the pedals and watch the fabric form in front of your eyes, thread by thread, literally. What I hated was warping the loom. To me it was tedious and boring. I just never got the art of warping down, and I gave it a good try. One day last year, I woke up and with great clarity declared, 'I am not a weaver.' For a week I tried to sell my loom, and then had it moved upstairs to the attic, half-dressed with a warp. The decision was made, but I decided to keep my membership in the weaving guild because I had met some very interesting people there. Admitting that I am not a weaver, did not dampen my enthusiasm for hand-woven fabric at all. All my life I have been a collector of hand-woven fabric. The only regret about leaving the loom behind is that I never achieved my goal of creating a stack of dishtowels to serve me for years into the future. I'll just have to buy them and appreciate the hand work of others.

Last year I declared openly on the Internet that 2008 would be the year of the cable for me. I didn't do many cables, I admit. OK, I did some but never an intricate Aran sweater, or a sidewise hat band, or even cabled wristwarmers. I did a couple of sweaters with a cable running the sleeves and down the front. Cables fall close to warping the loom in my mind. Moving stitches to that tiny needle and then balancing that little thing while you do something else ... well, that's just irritating to me. But, I did some cables here and there, and they were nice looking and even, too. So, in a sense, I did cables. I am just not emerging from 2008 with a pile of intricate sweaters.

For the coming year, I've got several projects going already. For one thing, I want to knit the samples for my new website, using the beautiful handdyed yarns which are beginning to come into stock. Maybe I won't knit all of them. Well, OK, I know I will not knit all of the samples for the site because I've already farmed out one lovely silk shawl and it's finished and lying just where I can see it as I type today. And, yesterday I doled out pattern, yarn, needles to a mother-and-daughter team of test knitters. There will be lots and lots more samples to be knit, and I want to be right in there knitting my share of them. So, I declare that sample knitting is on my 2009 resolution list.

Actually, that sounds like a lot of work, now that I think of it, so I am going to quit here and not add a thing to my list. Yes, this feels right. Besides, I know there will be more projects to come up, trips .. like the one to the new Stitches South in late April, and maybe to TNNA this year ... and there will also be those small events I put on for Virginia knitters on the Circular Sock Machines, and then I've got the baby hat project going for the new social services baby clinic. So, I think I'll limit my list to one item, Sample Knitting for new website, so that I can have time left over to play!

What's on your resolution list?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Squigglies and all!

On the largest of the three sample baby hats, I decided to add a little color in the form of squigglies. I don't know if there is an actual name for these little exclamation points rendered in yarn, but everyone seems to understand when you say 'squigglies.' I couldn't remember, though, how to make them and two folks gave me directions. I tried their directions, and then came up with my own version.

#1 Squigglie: Do you crochet? Chain 20 and work two single crochet stitches in each chain.

#2 Squigglie: Cast on 20 stitches. Knit front and back of each (40 st). Bind off tightly.

#3 Squigglie: Cast on 30 stitches (longtail method). Bind off. Run 'other' end of longtail through all stitches and pull to curl.

Numbers 1 and 2 made broader, flatter squigglies than I wanted, and when I got started on the crochet version I suddenly remembered what it is about crochet that I don't really like, and that is the first row. So, to make many squigglies at one time, all working on the first row, then the first row again, well ... I couldn't face it. The knit version was OK, but not inspiring, so I came up with my own (#3). I must give somebody credit somewhere, I admit, because this idea was rumbling around in the back of my mind ... one of those things you know you have seen somewhere but just cannot recall where, and cannot recall the details. Not really very complicated, after all.

Here is the first little hat going out today to someone who will be thrilled. She is a struggling young mother who works at the convenience store where my husband buys coffee during the day. She often comments on his different handknit hats, and recently wished out loud for one for her new baby. 'She had a sorta big head,' she told him. This is a great place to start my little hat campaign!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

First CSM Baby Hat samples

OK, am posting my first efforts of the baby hat project. My plan was to venture out of the studio -- no small feat, as I seem to live like a mole these days! -- and buy the yarn that Ron T recommended for his baby hats on Ravelry's Circular Sock Machine group. BUT there were only two places in town which carry it, and our local JoAnn's has slim pickings indeed on their yarn shelves. Wonder if they're purposely running low in that department. At any rate, the choices were old and tired looking, and I could not find the Bernat Baby Jacquard. The other choice was Walmart, and I had no intention of joining the December 26th mob.

So, back to my stash. Good thing, too, because I found a great yarn for this purpose ... Kraemer's Saucon Sock. I have been gathering several of the Kraemer yarns in lots of different colors, as I start to create stock for my new website. (That's, in case you missed my many hints and shameless self-promotion!) The Saucon Sock (pronounced 'SAW-con' after some Pennsylvania mountains, I think) is a blend of cotton/acrylic and nylon, so it will wash and wear well, and it has enough stretch to it to make a nice hat, and to be comfortable.

I attach a picture of the first efforts. Here are the basics: cranked on my circular sock machine, a LeGare 400, using the 72 needle cylinder, with all needles. The different sizes are the result of changing tension as I knit. Not bad for the first effort, but I wish I could make those cute little curly que squigglies for the top! Wouldn't that be cute in lots of different colors? If anyone knows how to make these squigglies, please let me know!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Giving Back in small ways

I've been thinking about how I could create a small charity project, something that I would work on in my spare time and which would benefit some folks who might need something warm and wooly. One of the knitters on the Ravelry group for Circular Sock Machines wrote about knitting baby hats on his CSM, and that idea stuck with me. So, for several days before Christmas, I made calls around town, trying to find out where the best place to donate some baby hats would be. I thought of the obvious place, the hospital, but our hospital is well funded and there are many charity groups which knit for newborns and cancer victims, and I've knitted for those groups before, myself. Thinking of where a new mother would go for help turned me towards a new health clinic which is somehow tied into social services, so I called them up. One person passed me on to another person, until finally I was able to leave a message for the director of the new pediatrics care department of the clinic.

This morning she called back, the day after Christmas -- pretty good timing as I think about making gifts -- and she was thrilled with the idea. I am their first donor! She told me that they have just opened up a pre-natal care clinic and my baby hats will be very welcome, but could I make them in bright colors, and also, bigger than many of the hospital caps that fit a child only for a short time? This set me to stuttering, as I have not actually made any of these caps yet! But, my sock machine does have three different sized cylinders, and I have oiled up that tension screw where it now makes a difference, so I gamely promised that sure! I'd be glad to make up some samples and drop them by.

So, today I am off to JoAnn's Fabric where I will get some acrylic blend suitable for baby hats. My Ravelry friend recommended Baby Jacquart by Bernat, so I'll begin my samples with that yarn. I will definitely take pictures of the samples before I deliver them.

There are so many people who could use a nice baby hat right now, or a wool cap or scarf or an old sweater or some shoes. Yesterday afternoon we gathered sweaters and shoes up and today my husband is taking them to GoodWill, here in our town. Unbelievably, they are laying off some workers because donations have become scarce. When I think about how lucky I am to be safe and comfortable, then I feel this need to give a little more. I am sure my knitting customers have done this many times over the years, and know that tranquility that comes when you are knitting for a purpose.

So, I will keep my readers posted on the progress of my new private charity project. Maybe you can come up with one of your own, and make a small difference for someone near you.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Peace of Mind and Website Calm

Sometimes it is the simple things in life that are the most pleasurable. You know what I mean. Say, you've been feeling caught in a situation and somehow got into a mental zone where you just waited to see how things were going to turn out. We'll call it the Wait-and-See Mode. Yeah. That's good. But, here's the problem when we Wait-and-See: we are not participating. We are willfully becoming passive and allowing others to shape the situation.

I've experienced Wait-and-See many times in my lifetime, though friends and family would be surprised to hear me admit it. My personality is fairly strong, and my mind is always going, going, going. I am never bored. I am a good friend and listener. I am able to weigh pros and cons well, and I can read a person's character like a book very soon after meeting them. This last talent does not always serve me well, as I then have to bite my tongue and refuse to allow the words 'Uh, huh, didn't I warn you?' pass my lips.

Luckily, over the years I have learned exactly that there is a good time to Wait-and-See, and it's when others need to learn a lesson. Like the guy who sounds too good to be true? Yes, it did sound too good, and it wasn't true.

I may be able to spot trouble for others with a clear mind, but when it comes to predicting my own pitfalls, I'm not so good there. Part of my problem, I do believe, is that I am from the South. Hold on, hold on. I know it sounds like a cop-out, but if you are not from the South, you may not realize that we are taught from birth not to present difficulties for others, which explains why we are well-known for our gracious Southern manners and generosity. Don't get me wrong. We do mean to be generous and to make life easier for others, but sometimes that translates into the private conviction that we really should not speak up when another part of our self-preservation impulse is telling us to not only speak up, but be counted.

So, here is the problem. When we speak up, are we going to make another person uncomfortable? After all, this is at the heart of being a gentleman or a gentlewoman, isn't it? Who said that? Aldous Huxley? Maybe, or maybe one of his colleagues, but the idea of a code of conduct to guide our behaviour is an ideal fostered by Southern mammas across a wide geographical area, and not necessarily stopping at the Mason-Dixon line. Techincally, then, Southern manners wouldn't be attributed to folks who live in the South, but we will be gracious here and extend the definition, though we might come up with a better name for it. How about just plain ole good manners? So, the definition of good manners, then, might become behavior which does not hurt others or make them uncomfortable. I declare it so.

Plain ole good manners, then, apply in all of our relationships. Family, of course, and that's a place to employ good manners as we grow up and recognize the differences in family members. Friendships, too, deserve the very best of our good intentions, especially as we cultivate friendships to span our lifetime based on similar personalities, talents or believes in common. I have one or two friends whom I have known since pre-school days, and while we are so very different, I cherish those differences and am flattered to hear from them. I guess that's why I like Christmas cards so much.

Romantic relationships can thrive or crash because of manners and how we monitor our behavior, giving the best to our closest relationships and allowing ourselves to trust our partner. And business relationships are absolutely the place for plain ole good manners, and in every single dealing between buyers and sellers, and are just as important as personal friendships. The act of doing business should spring from the honest exchange of offer and acceptance. Someone wants something and someone else has it to offer. No need to turn away and project rejection towards the person who has something to sell, or to leave a hint of an unclear message. No need to leave a lingering negative impression in a sales situation, or even the offer. No need to tell them that you don't like their product or service. Instead, tell them it is not what you need. That's it, really. Not what you are looking for.

So, that friend who is not really a friend? They're not what you need. And that lover who betrays you? Whew! That's not what you need. Thank-you, I-wish-you-well, but, it-is-not-what-I-need-right-now. Hmmm. A good mantra!

I made a decision, and it will simplify by business and immediately it calmed my mind. I am leaving my new web design folks and going back to my old web guy. I feel so calm with this decision. No, thank you. I wish you well, but I need something else just now. Southern, yes. Plain ole good manners, I believe so.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Waiting for the Postman ...

Well, not quite, but we are in a holding pattern right now and cannot launch the new website program for Wool2Dye4 because we cannot get to the shipping module on the USPS site. They must have some kind of big and bad server issues going on, and it looks like there could be quite a delay. Who would think that I would get a letter from the folks at USPS? They actually wrote all account holders a letter this morning, telling us that there are server problems (well, we knew that!), and suggesting we take advantage of one month free accounts at or

If you've read my blog before, you know that is definitely not one of my favorite service providers. I almost went to war with them over unnecessary charges and their refusal to issue a refund for something like $40. So, I won't be trying their service, I can assure you. Maybe we'll launch without a postal service component in the beginning, and just go with FedEx. I don't know, I don't know what to do.

Changing your program from one you are used to, which may not be anywhere near perfect, but is familiar, is tough. The whole process of even choosing a program for your website is huge. I have often told my husband -- in answer to 'what is taking so long with the new program?' -- that if I knew more about what to look for in a program, I could install the thing myself.

That's really the problem, isn't it? Website businesses are not experts in the technical side of what program fits the needs of their individual business. If we knew more, we could shop better for the right program. I have some customers who write to me and show sympathy for my plight, and then toss in phrases like cascading style sheets, Wordpress modules, iFrames, hard code, etc. My eyes begin to glaze over.

You see, I have learned over the years to delegate the stuff that I do not understand and do not have the time to learn. And computer programming, being an entirely separate career itself, is one of those things I have been delegating since computer screens were 6-inches square and there was no such thing as Windows. Back in another life, when I started a little text-book distribution business in Los Angeles, the personal computer came into existance, and I started on my journey of searching out programs when there was very little to be found. It was the upstart, entrepreneurial phase of the personal computer, and I met lots of really fascinating computer geeks! Think of it -- nothing like directories, so all files were lumped together in one big, huge, long, never ending file. I remember the first time I had a computer -- a rented one, actually -- and I didn't even have a printer, because I couldn't figure out why I would need one! Of course, I found out quickly that I certainly did need a printer, so off to the local computer store I went to rent a printer. But, I couldn't figure out how to make the darn thing print! I looked, read the heavy manual, and did everything I could think of, until I finally made a call to someone masquerading as my first computer service guy. (He was really just a computer techie I met in the aisles of EggHead Software, a company which has since gone out of existence, but which was the playground of all of us who had purchased the first personal computers.) Anyway, for the sum of $30 he came to my tiny apartment in L.A., and punched a button and the darn thing sprang to life. That button had the word 'PRINT' on it, too! How did I miss it? I still think about that day!

Anyway, ever since that expensive lesson -- and thirty dollars was a lot of money to me -- I have hired consultants to take me beyond my own level of achievement. I've written bibliographies which were distributed by the U.S. Department of Education on my first computers. I've bought the first color printer on the market and tried my best to install it. Shoot, for that matter, I've installed the very first Sony model of an answering machine and navigated my way through 75 pages of terribly twisted English written by speakers of Japanese! I've done some computer stuff in my time! And the biggest thing I've done, is to hire others when I know I've reached my level of incompetence.

Hmmm. Who was the really smart guy who had a whole theory about what happens when we reach our level of incompetence? I cannot remember right now. I need someone to tell me.

But, back to the Post Office. So, their server must have blown up. Or something huge. I mentioned it to a customer this morning, and she must have an account with them too, because she said she'd also gotten the same letter which I received.

So, here I sit with my new program (it's Comersus, by the way) all ready and shiny new and waiting for the launch into cyberspace, and what am I waiting for? Waiting for the mail. Wow. How many times have we waited for the mail in our lives? Too many to count, and this seems like a great subject for another blog entry.

Must say that I miss writing in the blog! Checking Ravelry every day has sort of taken up what was my blog time in former days. I need to moderate that, I do believe.

The picture below is of my new line of colored yarns, which will be the signature yarn on my new website venture: UpTown Stitches. Yes, I'm launching a second website, hopefully in January, but we'll see. This yarn is called Scrumptious by FyberSpates, and is receiving rave reviews all over Europe. I'll be the U.S. distributor and cannot wait to receive stock and start getting it out there! Any pattern calling for Malibrigo or even Lion and the Lamb will be good patterns to use Scrumptious. More on that soon!

Friday, November 28, 2008

BFL Ultra! ... 100 gr skeins (new)

Over the past year, I have slowly been changing the skein size on my sock yarns. Knitters and dyers have written that they don't like to spend lots of time skeining up enough yarn for one pair of socks, and that they are willing to pay for a more usable presentation. Too, beginning dyers are anxious to get to the dyepot! And, let's face it, newbies usually do not have all that winding equipment that begins to collect around the workspace as you get more proficient in your dye practices, and need to change from one presentation to another. I have lost count of the different winding devices I have in my own studio!

Just today, someone wrote to me about having to choose whether to spend her money on more yarn or on an electric skein winder. Well, of course, I always want folks to buy yarn! But, I know that we all have stash which would probably serve use for quite a while to come, and then some. A skein winder, on the other hand, is a major step in the right direction of handling your yarn, and I recommend checking out the nice folks at Strauch. Here's their website address: Tell them that Sheila of Wool2Dye4 sent you. It won't get you a discount, but I like the sounds of that phrase! Reminds me of the commercials many years ago when a famous actor would look straight into the camera's eye, and say, 'Tell them that 'Johnny' sent you!' Who did those commercials, anyway?

But, back to BFL Ultra! and the new size of skeins. Yes. We already have the 100 gram skein in W2D4 Socks 2DYE4 (formerly known as Wool2Dye4 SuperSock, but you know that story ...), and in Platinum Sock, Bamboo Two-Step, and Tencel/Merino. So, when the time came to order in more BFL Ultra! skeins, I decided to toss my old idea of the 8 oz skein being the standard for handdyers, and to move into the new age! Somehow, I had gotten stuck in the 8 oz skein mode, and thought that most customers were used to that format as well. Cost is always a factor, and especially in recent times, and since the more a yarn is handled, the higher the cost goes up, I had stuck to my larger presentation skeins.

The 100 gram skein, as it turns out, is really not that much more expensive, so I went with it, and happy that I did! The 100 gram of sock yarn -- usually anybody's sock yarn -- is just about the right size to look for when you're in that uncontrollable mood to knit or dye a pair of socks.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Additional eMail address

Seems that a spammer has picked up one of my eMail addresses -- -- and is using it as return address in some spam going around the country. I have dropped this address, and added:
Most eMails are addressed to, anyway, but if you have the old info@... address in your address book, please do change it to

Thank you!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas ... in Elizabeth Zimmerman's words

Meg Swansen, daughter of Elizabeth Zimmerman and owner of Schoolhouse Press, has allowed me to quote her mother. This the introduction to Elizabeth Zimmerman's December chapter in her book, Knitter's Almanac: Projects for Each Month of the Year.

She writes: "Is an exciting new improved Christmas every year really necessary? Is it in the spirit of the Solstice? The human heart hankers after stability and tradition. The feeling and atmosphere of Christmases past, the anticipation of those to come, and the magic presence of Christmas now should all blend and blur, to give the distraught soul something to hang on to in a year bedeviled by new improved machines, soaps, music, spectator sports and recipes, many of which will prove to be dull, destructive, and sometimes downright damnable. let us try to keep at least Christmas the way it has been for generations, and infiltrate novelty delicately and with caution. As a good start why not try to abide by the comforting tradition of handmade and homemade presents?"

If you do not own at least own of Elizabeth Zimmerman's books, please treat yourself immediately! Go to to find them all.
Thank you, Meg, for permission to quote your lovely mother!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Shipping Your Order

Today I have removed UPS from the shipping options on the Wool2Dye4 website. I tried it out for two months this time, and have gone back to the US Postal System, once again. USPS has excellent service, for the msot part, and they are on a new campaign to improve both their service and their image.

We will be adding FedEx as an option next month, but for now have gone back to USPS.

Over the past few years, some customers have become my regular correspondents, and probably know that I am very concerned aout customer service. My decision today is actually based on customer service issues. I heartily maintain that just because a business represents a small part of the larger economic picture, that there should be any less attention to customer service. Each of us has the right to choose our business partners, and today I am choosing the US Postal Service once again, and will soon choose to add FedEx as a shipping option.

Customer service is what makes business strong. I firmly believe it, and practice it myself.

Sheila's Basic Sock Pattern ... revamped!

Wool2Dye4 Basic Sock with Variations
By Sheila Trunzo Mahone

Overview: Basic cuff-to-toe sock pattern on 12” circular needle, size 2. One-piece heel. Double decrease toe finished on two 24” circular needles. Use any stitch pattern for leg and front of foot to personalize pattern. Heel is knit in two parts: increases at markers as we knit around the foot, then decreases on the heel only, using short rows to decrease back and forth on the heel while the front of foot stays on the needles, untouched. When you’ve decreased back to the original number of stitches (30 for this example) for heel, continue knitting in-the-round until you reach the toe. Divide stitches evenly onto the two 24” circular needles with markers now positioned in the middle of these two needles, and decrease on either side of the markers, every other row, to form the toe. Weave final stitches together to close.

This pattern example is built on 60 stitches with a 2x2 rib. Size up or down to fit your foot and leg, and feel free to experiment on cuff, leg and foot. Once you find the right number of stitches to cast onto the size needle that you prefer, you have the basis for designing your own socks.

Yarn: Wool2Dye4 Sock yarns … Platinum Sock, BFL Ultra!, Socks2DYE4, Bamboo Two-Step, and Tencel Merino Sock…. 400-425 yards (about 100 grams)
Needles: 12” circular Addi Turbo, Size 1 or 2 for sock, and two 24” circular needles, same size for toe
Stitch Markers: 2

Cuff & Leg:
Cast on 60, loosely. * Place colored (not green) marker at half-way point to divide work in half. At beginning of next row, place a green marker (for ‘Go!’). As you knit the leg and before you reach the heel, mark the first half of the row with knotted scrap of yarn or safety pin. This identifies the first half of the row between the green and colored markers, and will later become the back of the heel.
· Knit 2x2 rib (knit 2, purl 2) for 1.5 to 2 inches
· Knit leg for desired length **

One-Piece Heel:
Increases ……. (You will increase 1 stitch at side markers and knit entire row in-the-round)
Row 1:
-Slip Marker, k1, M1^ and knit to within 2 stitches of next marker. M1, K1, slip marker. Knit to beginning of row.
Row 2: - Knit all stitches, completely around the sock until you come back to the green marker.
Repeat Rows 1& 2 until you have added 30 stitches to heel’s back.^^ (15 increases at both markers, making 60 stitches between markers)
End with knit row.
Decreases ... (short-row decreases from center towards markers, working on heel stitches only)
(There are 60 stitches on heel back. Front sts will sit untouched until we decrease down to 30 heel sts.)
Row A: Knit to center stitch, knit 2 more stitches, K2Tog, K1 turn.
Row B: Slip first stitch, purl 1, purl 2, purl 2 more stitches, P2tog, Purl 1, and turn

… now the Short Row Pattern repeats itself until you reach the original number of stitches …
Row 1: Slip 1, knit across to last stitch before gap, Knit 2 Tog, K1, turn
Row 2: Slip 1, purl across to last stitch before gap, Purl 21 Tog, P1, turn
Continue short rows, picking up one more stitch on each end (where you K2Tog, closing the gap created where you turned on the previous row) until you reach the side markers and there are 30 stitches on heel half. If you have a stitch or two too many, knit one row in the round and decrease that stitch at the proper side.

Continue knitting in-the-round until foot is about 1.5 inches shorter than desired total length of sock. (You may choose to continue the leg pattern on the top half of the foot, if you like.)

· Knit 15 stitches and transfer the next 30 stitches (and marker) to one of the 24” circular needles.
· Transfer the last 30 stitches (and marker) to the second 24” circular needle. The markers are now positioned in the center: 30 stitches on each needle, markers in the middle.
- Row 1: Knit to within 3 stitches of marker, K2Tog, K1, slip marker, K1, K2Tog … knit to within 3 stitches of second marker, K2Tog, K1, slip marker, K1, K2Tog (use any decrease you prefer)
- Row 2: Knit completely around both needles back to beginning position.
Repeat these two rows until there are 8 to 12 stitches left on each needle.
Using Kitchener stitch, or any weaving stitch, weave these remaining stitches closed. Weave in ends.

*Long-tail or knitted cast-on will give you a strong, yet stretchy, edge on cuff.
**Leg variations are endless. Pattern should be divisible by 4 to fit nicely with 2x2 rib at cuff.
^M1=Make one. Use increase method of your choice. I like ‘Knit in Front and Back’ of same stitch, then slip stitch to right needle. This increase gives a uniform and pretty line of stitches with no holes.
^^You may choose to make your heel deeper or more shallow by increasing either more or fewer times at the heel markers.
-On Heel back, you might add slip stitches on centered 12 stitches between the side increases.
-Knit the Short-Rows and Toe in different colors of yarn for a different effect.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Holiday Sales for Website owners

I keep reading about the economy and forecasts of this year's holiday sales. One recent forecast has good news for website owners! The word is that a marketing survey firm reports that 80% of buyers surveyed do intend to do their holiday shopping this season on the Internet, and 50% of them intend to spend more than they spent last year.

  • Tips for making customers remember your site: Number 1 on the list?
    Make your site memorable!

  • Color of the site should be stylish, not garish!
    Photos or pictures artfully arranged.
    Avoid the boxy look.
    Don't make your site too personal, if your goal is to sell products!
    Use short, descriptive phrases to describe products ... not long paragraphs.
    State clearly all information about your product: price, size or weight, color, measurements, etc.
    State clearly the customers' shipping options.
    Make it easy for customers to buy what you have to sell!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trial Lace (80/20 Alpaca & Silk)

I am running a trial of a new lace blend of 80% alpaca with 20% silk. We have kilo cones of this lace available at $100 per kilo. If you would just like to give it a try without committing to a kilo -- and I can understand that because there are 8,729 yards on the kilo cone -- there is another option: skein of 1000 yards, at $12.50 each.

Lace is such an odd product for me. Most of my customers are sock yarn fanatics! The next group is the DK weight affectionado, and then there are the diaper cover knitters who like the Aran/Worsted and the bukly weights. I can relate to sock knitters as that's just about my favorite passtime. AND I've even gone a step farther and am the proud owner of a circular sock knitting machine, an antique baby that has a personality all her own. The DK is fast becoming my 'go-to' yarn. Come to think of it, I still have a vest from the spring on the needles and it was a project which combined that lovely W2D4 Merino Superwash DK with the beautiful knit tube from the sock machine, and then a neat dye job. Yes, I need to finish that project. The one area where I cannot identify with my customer base, though, is the knitted diaper covers. Somehow I cannot wrap my mind around that concept. BUT this is not to say anything negative about this practice! I love my work-at-home-moms!

Back to the lace, though. Just a couple of months ago, in late summer, I introduced two new laceweights to the lineup. They were trials, in my mind, as I have not had success with laces in the past. Modest sales, but no following developed for any previously offered laces. That is, until the introduction of Butterfly Lace (80/20 extrafine merino & silk) and the Angel Lace (70/20/10 baby alpaca/silk/cashmere). First I will tell you that I must buy in 100 pound minimum quantities, in most cases, and I was a little afraid to commit to 200 pounds of lace when it had not been a past proven winner. I did it though, and to get it into as many knitters' hands as possible, I priced it at the level of a 100 gram skein. That is still quite a bit of tiny, thin lace, isn't it?

Slowly sales began to pick up, and both of these laces are at low stock levels. I am awaiting a new shipment right now of the Angel Lace, and the Butterfly Lace will be replenished next month.

So, the lesson seemed to be that, in my ignorance of what makes a good lace, I had not carried one before! That's why I am trying out one more lace weight. This one, though, I paid a premium for the priviledge of ordering a smaller minimum quantity. So, the quantities of kilo cones and 1000-yd skeins are limited on this one. If it is received well, we may carry it on kilo cones exclusively in the future. (We are actually winding out the 1,000 yd skeins ourselves!) Here is a picture!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fiber World has lost an artist in Judy Adams's death

My friend, Judy Adams, died on September 13, 2008, this past Saturday. Here is a picture of Judy weaving with me at a festival last April. She offered to bring a small loom and accompany me to a 'country days' type of fair at one of Virginia's last remaining intact plantations. Typically, Judy brought much more than her loom. She carted along fabrics which she had woven recently, bags of fleece from sheep and llamas, all displayed in antique baskets from her collection. She wore a period costume which she had researched to match the time of the plantation's heyday, and sewed from her own hand woven fabric.
See, Judy decided a few years ago to devote her time to learning about the old ways of keeping comfort, before the industrial revolution diverted the hand artist away from the old crafts of weaving, knitting, spinning, rug making, tatting ... you name it! She wanted to learn as many of these crafts as possible.
Judy and I shared the love of dyeing, and had many conversations about commercial dyes, natural dye stuffs, and her garden of dye source plants. Judy had a bountiful crop of woad every year which she was sure her neighbors thought was a weedy mess. Woad grows everywhere in Virginia, but Judy's thought was that it was much easier just to go out to her back yard and pluck it at just the right time, than to wade into fields and crawl up roadside inclines. So, she planted woad in her garden and proudly displayed her blue woad fibers and yarns spun from them. She was a fount of knowledge on natural dyestuffs, the colors yielded with all the mordants. And, she was the type of artist who encourages others to reach inside and pull out their own art. Never teachy, always encouraging and always entirely expecting us to do something of worth.
In our area, we have only one fiber guild, Blue Ridge Fiber Arts, and it covers quite a broad spanse of central and southwest Virginia. And, it meets once a quarter. Judy decided that she'd like to offer the opportunity for anyone to meet more often, so she found a local library who's librarian is also a fiber enthusiast and put out the word. Every month she arrived with huge baskets of supplies. The month she taught us how to make rag rugs, for instance, her baskets held rolls and rolls of perfectly cut and miter-joined wool. One month she asked me to do a Kool Aid dye demonstration, and for months afterwards when I was able to attend, she would point out yarn being knit from that demo, making both me and the dyer/knitter proud of our contribution.
Another time, she and her travelling buddy, Carolyn Moore -- another weaver of note -- decided to present a series of weaving programs. I thought this would stifle attendance if anything would, having never acquired the love of the loom, as those two had. They each have several looms, including travelling ones, so they brought them to the library meeting room for three or four successive Saturdays, and took us through the steps of weaving. AND they had everyone up there dressing looms, threading heddles, and throwing the shuttle! I even went home and dressed my loom after that series.
Judy was a devotee of the John C Campbell Folk School, down in North Carolina. In fact, it was because of her that I have been there a couple of times, myself. Judy, though, did not just go for the experience of going, but she attended the Scottish weeks, and special advanced weaving programs. Scottish plaids were her forte, as a weaver. Oh, can I really say that one thing was her strength, in the fiber arts, as she was such a talent, pure talent. I did love her.
Folks either appreciate the dry Scottish wit, or they do not, and if you do and knew Judy Adams, you will have many stories to tell for years of her comments and dry observations of life. She was a delight to be around.
Lest you think that she poured all her creative energy into the Fiber Guild, I'll tell you that she also worked on a Prayer Shawl ministry in her church. Her priest sent out a letter about her contributions to her church, and mentioned that she filled the fall craft festival every year with her work. She was also a creative cook. As a diabetic, she was on the search for tasty recipes at all times.
She had a beautiful daughter. I mean truly a beautiful young woman, inside and out, and Judy was so proud of her, and of her granddaughter, too! I invited Judy to a small gathering for Ann McCauley, knitting designer who lives in Colorado and is from Bedford Virginia nearby, and Judy came with her daughter and her granddaughter, too. All three women, looking so much alike with that calm air that the Adams women have, sitting and knitting without glancing at the needles. Judy was not one for constant smiling, but she did smile an awfully lot around her daughter and beloved granddaughter.
I will miss her.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

How I spent my Saturday

For the past month, a group of knitters I know have been working on six-inch squares, hoping to have enough to put together in a lap quilt. This group effort was designed for the group coordinator, a woman of 42 years who recently suffered a major stroke, and we wanted to go something for her. What better than to knit for her?

So, most of our small group, began to knit 6 inch squares. Now, I will tell you that we have a group of mixed skill levels and some learned to increase and decrease on these squares for the very first time. Some felt it was too hard, so a few of us had to take up the slack. Forseeing this possiblity, my friend, Vickie (pictured far right) and I (in the middle) each knit 16 squares.

The results are lovely. As a group, we each realized that this project was a defining moment in our existance, and I am sure that we are stronger for this effort. Mixed yarn fibers, mixed skill levels, and ... yes ... mixed interpretations of how much six inches really is ... it all came together beautifully. I can just imagine our friend touching the knitted quilt and looking at the squares, and hope it gives her one tenth the pleasure that it gave us to put it together.

What's New?

New yarns ...

I really should have introduced them properly before now, but, honestly, I have had my attention riveted to a slowly eroding website. The OSCommerce site -- and I am not blaming this open source program! -- and a server host have combined to put a real kink into my business plans. I think I have told several of you, and even written about the freaky electrical explosion at the building where my server is hosted. Ever since that event in June, things have gone from bad to worse. BUT relief is on the horizon, in the form of new computer whizkid types. I will say that I have had to wade through so much technobabble in the past month that I have had enough for a lifetime. That is, though, wishful thinking!

But back to the happy talk of lovely, luscious yarn, yarn, yarn! Platinum Sock and SuperAran have taken off, and my calculations were a bit off on the Platinum and the dreaded out-of-stock situation just crept up on me. No worries, though because it is on it's way and should be here in two or three weeks. I will definitely crow when it arrives on our shores.

Surino, that's new. New, soft, luxuiously soft, and affordable, too. The website woes had my attention diverted so that I actually forgot this yarn was coming, so imagine my wonderful surprise to open boxes and boxes and come across something so very nice. Surino is a 50/50 blend of the coveted Suri Alpaca with extra fine merino. Two soft, fine fibers blended into a versatile sport weight (1488 yd/lb), and presented in 100 gram skeins of 327 yards each.

Sport weight is beginning to show up more and more in the dyed yarn catalogs and in local yarn shops. Take notice, the next time you are wandering through a yarn shop, entertaining yourself at the prices being asked. (and guess what? people actually pay those prices! Just think how you might be underpricing your own handdye for a second here...) Anyway, one of the reps for the commercial companies told me a couple of years ago to watch for sport weight to gain importance with the major commercial companies. I am also seeing the pattern support for sport weight, and in the magazines too. Surino will work fine for any of the sport patterns you may be using to promote your dyed yarns.

Two new laces: Butterfly Lace and Angel Lace. I decided to bring in two upscale laces this fall to fill a void in my lineup. Honestly, compared to sock yarn, for instance, sales of lace do not begin to compare, so it seemed like a good idea, and I was more than pleased with the actual lace when it arrived. Too, since getting it out there, the reports are terrifc. They both take dye well and are both luxuriously soft!

Butterfly Lace is an 80/20 blend of extrafine Merino with Silk. Angel Lace is a 70/20/10 blend of baby Alpaca, silk, and cashmere. Yes, you read right! AND, I am offering them for sale by the 100 gram skein, making these rare fibers absolutely affordable to every knitter. Angel Lace, for example, in a 100 gram skein of 1,312 yards sells at $22 per skein. And Butterfly Lace is at $18 per skein of the same number of yards on a 100 gram skein.

Some of my customers have been writing to comment on the new presentations in 100 gram skeins. I am trying this format out for this season to see if customers prefer the smaller sized skein to the 8 oz skein I have only carried in the past. It costs more to have the mills measure, skein, and package the 100 gram skeins, but I am thinking that it may be worth the effort, and look forward to feedback on this question.

Let's see ... oh, yes, I wrote a book. Well, a booklet, actually on starting an internet business. It's based on the articles I published here on my blog last year, but expanded, and I unabashedly recommend it to newbies in the handdye world. It's listed on the website under Accessories.

And, the very last thing that is new is not even a reality yet, but is on the computer horizon. The computer horizon is an intangible goal off in the distance somehwere, and while I personally have never reached that horizon, I am hearing assurances from the new Web Designers, that such a place of nirvanna exists. I will let you know when the new site is up and running, and want/need/crave customer feedback on how it is working. But! Not yet! I'll let you know.

Please write to me and tell me what a great writer I am and that I really should make more blog entries!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And the Winner is ...

... Kristen of Winston-Salem NC for renaming the yarn as Socks2Dye4. Kristen wins $100 of yarn of her choice from Wool2Dye4!

The very same name was also submitted within 24 hours of Kristen's entry, so I am deciding that we have a runner up in Amanda of New Hampshire. Congrats to Amanda, who wins $50 worth of yarn of her choice, also from Wool2Dye4.

That was so hard for me! But, it is done now, and we'll begin to make the changes everywhere .. including the banner of the website. The web designer is working on it now.

Thanks to all who wrote eMails and who encouraged me to make a decision.

Socks2Dye4 ... has a nice ring to it!

Plans for the Coming Year

I have not been as good about writing in the blog since joining Ravelry, the online 'community.' Having a group in Ravelry takes up quite a bit of time, and I have found that writing a good long update about yarns, marketing, future plans, etc. has just fallen by the wayside. So, today, I am going to attempt to catch up. Most of what I have to tell you is about plans for the future.

About two years ago, I began to import Blue Faced Leicester yarn from HW Hammand in England. Last year, they made me their US distributor and that is when my involvement with my English supplier began to grow. Last week Andy, partner in HW Hammand (, came to the States and spent four days working with me here in the studio in Virginia. We found that we share the same work ethic, and got so much done. Here are the highlights of our long work days.

Wool2Dye4 will soon become the first US company licensed by the British Wool Trade Board and authorized to use their logo. This distinction allows us to attach registration numbers to Blue Faced Leicester yarn, assuring the customer that their yarn is the BFL from Britiain, and authenticating the fiber content. BWTB has so many wonderful supporting print brochures and other products full of information on British Wool. Being able to seal boxes with the official British Wool stickers will give me the greatest satisfaction. I have to say that I just love their professional level of artwork. So very nice!

Andy brought along with him a suitcase of sample skeins. New textures, new combinations were tantalizing. I have chosen some of a new British product, the British Alpaca fiber in four natural, scoured, colors: White, Faun, Brown, and Black. These spinning fibers are just lovely and deep in color, and silky to the touch. Also, chose a new lace weight for Wool2Dye4 website.

I suppose now is the time to let out the news that I am going to start a new website in the next few months, probably November or December but definitely by January 1st. It is called UptownStitches, and this will be my opportunity to carry upscale yarns of color. I have come across some truly lovely knitting yarns which just do not fit the Wool2Dye4 website, so I decided to go into a full line of knitting yarns in a slightly different way than most other brands.

Uptown Stitches will feature Scrumptious as our premier line. Scrumptious is ... well, just a wonderfully soft yarn. It is a blend of 55/45 Extrafine Merino with Silk, and it will be presented in three weights: Lace, DK, and Aran. At first there will be six colors introduced for the winter season, and then six new ones in the spring. We will be introducing the winter line a little later than most other yarn companies, as this is our first introduction of the line, but we'll catch up! Most yarns will be solid garment knitting yarns, though there will be a few semi-solids in each collection.

Over the coming year, I will be involved in the launch of Scrumptious, as the US distributor for this yarn. We will attend trade shows, launch an advertising campaign, and attend a major retail show as well. I'll post a picture of Scrumptious for you and you can see how the silk makes this wonderful yarn just glow.

I am working with a new group of web designers, all young and energetic, and am excited at the level of talent these folks represent. They are moving in the next couple of weeks, as their own business grows, and I will be right there pecking on their window on their first day open for business. Lots of new and exciting changes for Wool2Dye4, Uptown Stitches and for me in the coming year.

Name That Yarn ... Vote ...

Ok, Ok, I know that I was supposed to decide on a new name for the soon-to-be-renamed Wool2Dye4 SuperSock, and that the date of the decision has come and gone ... but, I just cannot decide. See, this is my signature sock (yes, that name has been taken!) and I want it to mean something, even relate to the name of the company. When I started the company, I also reserved other domain names, and have recently found that people actually use them! I've seen several references to and when people were talking about If you go to those websites, you'll actually wind up at

This said, Opal uses SockWool or and there are German versions, too. But, Yarn2Dye4 would have the secondary benefit of the embedded address of my company's alternate name. There is a book out by that name, but I had reserved the domain name before the book's publication, so I think I am safe there.

So... here are the top contenders, which I put out there for public vote. I may or may not choose the one which receives the most votes, though! Hey! This decision must sit right, and roll off my Southern tongue, right? Here we go ...

Sock Wool2Dye4
Socks 2Dye4

Wool2Dye4, The Sock

Yarn 2 Dye 4

Sock-It Science

Snazzy Sox

Sox Addict

Monday, July 28, 2008

They're ba-a-a-a-a-ck! ... UPS, that is!

So happy to report that very soon you will be able to choose UPS as your shipper on orders from Wool2Dye4. We are working out details just now, and have now got the web designer involved in the process, and soon you will have the option of UPS ground or 2-day service. Many customers have asked me to offer UPS as a shipping option, and I am happy to say that they are back!

This should take effect around the middle of August. When ordering, once you reach the check-out page, you will be given the option of choosing which service you prefer: UPS or USPS.

Currently, we only offer USPS service, and I have noticed that people are choosing the Parcel Post option over Priority Mail, probably thinking it will be a cheaper service. Everyone may not be aware that Parcel Post is not always the cheaper choice, especially on shipments going to the West Coast.

My advice, especially with UPS coming on board, is to click on the service you really want, then on the next slower one to compare. I think we will all be glad to have UPS as our main shipper again.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Glass Spinning Wheel

Take a look at this lovely spinning wheel!

ReName That Yarn! ... contest

I have been contacted by the nice folks at Cherry Tree Hill yarns, and they have asked me to rename my signature yarn, known as Wool2Dye4 SuperSock. They've had their own Super Sock since 1998, and have worked hard to establish that as a unique name. Actually, when I named my own yarn, I did an internet search on SuperSock and not a thing came up! Not even the two word variety!

So, we are doing the right thing and will be renaming the yarn. What is interesting is that a couple of my customers called them asking if they could get a better price on Wool2Dye4 SuperSock! They had to be retail customers, because this name is not used for that yarn when it is sold to wholesale customers. I am guessing that people were 'price shopping' and that's what led to this situation.

Trouble is that it is so very popular and I need to come up with a very good name. One which will send the message that this is my flagship / signature yarn. Until I find a new name, the yarn will be known temporarily as 'Wool2Dye4 Sock.' simple and to the point.

Help me rename this yarn. There is a prize of $100 of W2D4 yarn of your choice from stock for the winner. I will choose the winner and if no name is chosen from those entered in the contest, the best second choice will win $50 free wool. You may enter more than once!

Here are the guildelines for Rename That Yarn contest ... Name must ...

--Be submitted by eMail to
--Associate the yarn with my company or company image
--Be memorable and unique
--Reflect popularity of the yarn (it is my best-selling yarn)
--Be submitted by eMail to (oh? Did I say that?) In other words, don't post the name here on the blog!

Deadline for entry: August 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where Do All the Old Phones Go?

From a friend.
Phone Sheep ...
Artist: Jean-Luc
Exhibit: Museum fur Kommunication, Germany

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The World's Fascination with Dyeing

I get into some neat conversations with people over dyeing. Today, for instance, one of the workers replacing the walkway to the studio asked me if I saw the new season opener of Project Runway last night. (He'd told me that he liked fashion, something I would never have guessed from the outfits he wears.) Then, he launched into his surprise at the girl who grabbed paper bags and Rit dye, and then dyed them up to create fabric for her project. 'At first,' he said, 'I didn't like what she did. It looked like a mess! But, then when she made something out of it, it looked good. Now, that's creative!'

It was so good to hear about his recognition that someone had a vision of an end product and, while he may not have liked the individual parts, he loved the finished product. Which goes to prove that the whole is equal to the sum of it's parts!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New Stock

I thought I had mis-read the market just a few months back when I declared, maybe to myself, maybe to a few customers, that I had found the perfect yarn. What I was talking about is W2D4 Merino Superwash DK, one of the five new yarns introduced last summer. Evidently the market is slow to come to the same conclusion, though, because sales on it languished, then started to pick up slowly, almost without my knowing it. Well, actually, I was surprised that stock went down and then, unfortunately, out of the perfect yarn. So, once that empty shelf got my attention, I reordered skeins and cones immediately. AND they are coming in on Monday.

Funny, how it takes a while for a yarn to catch on. I realize that I am absolutely tiny when compared to the big guys, but, of course, the market for undyed yarn is probably tiny when compared to the larger commercial market which fuels yarn shops worldwide.

I think what made me realize that I had found the perfect yarn was that it could be used for several different fabrics. For instance, there are folks out there who like to knit up bulky socks on size 4 or 5 needles, strange as this seems to me. Almost unnatural, even, but hey! If customes want to buy yarn and knit up bulky socks, then I am truly happy to accommodate them! Don't get me wrong here.

And, it is just perfect for knitting baby clothes which need to go into the washer frequently. The superwash won't felt, so the it is basically carefree. This brings to mind the thought of how many customers actually knit up diaper covers! This is an amazing thought to me, and evokes so many visual images that I think I had better steer away from this topic. They are all tolerant of my disbelief, though, and a couple have even sent me patterns to try it myself.

But, my favorite, favorite use for my W2D4 Merino Superwash DK is sweaters and vests. For me, this is the perfect weight for a sweater. Let's face it, here in Virginia, we do not get to wear sweaters as much as we'd like to, and the older I get, the more I seem to notice that I am inside. So, the sweaters which I like are medium weight ones which keep me warm in my heated home. I don't like for my skin to be exposed during the time when the house is heated. Don't laugh. This preference to cover up skin has kept me pretty wrinkle free!

I digress.
Now, the Merino Superwash DK is back on the website. I invite you to test it out, and see if it is the perfect yarn, after all, for you.

Dancing Man ...

This link is borrowed from the website of the Mason-Dixon gals ( and I just had to list it. Pure delight, and worth a few minutes of time. There is something so endearing about his dance!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Out of Town for 4 Days ... Sock Machine Convention!

Monday - Thursday, June 22-26th:
I will be out of the studio for these four days next week, but Debbie will be handling the orders. When I get back, I will answer eMails and questions and solve any little issues.

We continue to have some problems with the Internet. Even after moving the site to a new server, there are still some problems. I believe that these are issues related to the first host re-installing the eCommerce program, which would have wiped out all the updates and changes we had made as we tweaked the program to suit me. Now ... that is certainly not an opinion of an educated computer genius and probably doesn't even make sense! I will say I've got two computer genius guys working on it, and I believe, I believe, I believe that they will find and fix all errors.

In the meantime, I am going to Indiana to the CSM convention: that's for owners of these antique circular sock machines. Oh, and I am ready for some playtime!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

UPDATE on Flats for Socks

What great response I have been receiving through eMails and on Ravelry posts about this new product, and it is fast becoming a new product. Happy to report that the trials are due next week, and I have been asked to make a quick decision of how many to have knit up because there just happens to be an opening block of time at the mill. So! By Wednesday, I will have placed the first stock order and we should be getting in Sock Flats next month.

I will tell you that I have decided to go with the upper end fibers, and the Sock Flats will be knit in Blue Faced Leicester. This will set them apart from the merino ones which are out on the market, and give my customers a little better quality fiber to work with.

Watch for the announcement of their arrival!
June 18, 2008: ...... UPDATE .......
Attaching a picture of two hats knit from this home-made flat from the SuperAran. Lovely stuff to work with, and have to say it is very soft as it flows through your fingers. The hats are lined up as they came off the flat. I just unravelled a bit and kit a bit, and then repeated until the flat was finished. As my dye patterns change, I am learning about the effects on the knitted fabric.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Flats for Socks

Here is a variation on my former project of knitting up 'round' on my circular sock machine. This is a 'flat' from a flatbed knitting machine and the yarn is from the trial run of my newest yarn, to be released this summer. It is W2D4 Platinum Sock, my first blend using nylon, a 75/25 blend of superwash merino with nylon in a 4-ply sock yarn. This is going to be a winner.
Since I still have not mastered the heel on my CSM, I'm going to knit up to the heel on the machine, then finish them on the needles. Will add a picture of the finished knitting as the project progresses.

Next day: Attaching picture of the upper leg of sock, knit on my circular sock machine, but since I have not yet mastered turning a heel on the machine, I knit up some waste yarn and will finish the sock on my 12" round needles-of-choice. See how nicely the dye pattern shows up in the knitting? This will be a short sock of 60 rows, which took approximately 2 minutes to knit on the machine. This toy is for those who are into instant gratification. Oh, well, the idea of 'instant' does exclude the learning curve of mastering the sock machine.

Now I know why there are CSM's out there in perfect condition. They lay in someone's attic for 100 years after everyone in the family gave up on the thing!
I will master the heel.
I will master the heel.
I will master the heel.

Few days later ... Adding a picture of one finished sock against the knitted flat. I tried to line up the colorations in the flat with the resulting fabric to show the effects of color and pattern from the flat to the fabric. This is my first experiment. I chose to use only two colors with white space, effectively 3 colors. Just dumb luck that the colorations came out so well distributed in the sock elements of leg, heel, foot and toe.
I do have a problem with the flatbed machine because it is made for worsted weight and here I am playing with fingering weight. A friend who has three machines, is playing around with some BFL Ultra! on her machines, and I hope to learn a bit more about which machines will produce the best flats for socks.
Not too bad for a first experiment!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Maryland Sheep & Wool...

I'll be at Maryland Sheep & Wool next month, so if you would like to meet face-to-face, come to the main tent where the fleece sales are. Then, listen for whirling sounds amid lots of laughter, and you'll be in the right place That is where the circular sock machine Crank-In is being held on Saturday.
If you are one of my customers and you'll be there, please come up and introduce yourself. It is always so much fun to put a face with a name!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Flatbed Knitting and Dyeing

Yet another Internet seller is showing handdyes using knitting machines. (Google 'flat feet yarn' to see what I am referring to.) A couple of months ago, I wrote about 'dyeing in the fabric' -- a method of dyeing swatches of yarn which have been knit up on a flatbed knitting machine. I had just 'invented' the same method, without knowing about Nancy Roberts's work and classes, when I came across her beautifully dyed fabric. My experiment was knit up on my circular sock machine, and I was able to knit up a chevron vest with long swaths of color. Either way -- knitting up fabric on a circular sock machine, or a flatbed machine, or even one of the automatic sweater knitters on the market now -- the idea is the same and the results are pretty spectacular.

We all know that to get long swaths of color and to blend it nicely into the next long swath, the skeining process is the key. Dyeing a knitted fabric takes most of this difficulty away. Simply knit up a fabric to the weight measurement you need, dye it, and unravel it as you knit. You might want to wash the yarn before knitting to get the kinks out of the yarn. (I did not do this, and my vest didn't seem to suffer, but this is strictly up to you to decide.)

Great fun, and a fun twist on the dye process. Oh, and it was so neat to hear from many readers who had also 'invented' this method on their own. Great minds think alike.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Knitting Retreat and DyePot.Com

My life is just like everyone elses ... rushing around, completing most of the items on my ToDo list, grabbing knitting time at every opportunity, taking care of business as well as home and hearth. It is hard to remember that work is designed to increase the quality of my life, round the clock, so when there is the happy co-incidence of going off for a few days of fiber fun, I take it.

That's just what I have done with a weekend up in the Alleghany mountains bordering Virginia and West Virginia, lovely rough country where the Episcopalians decided to build a retreat more than 100 years ago. There are more than twenty buildings, a couple of community dining halls, a small lake, mineral springs, rooms with no doors, playing fields within sight of the meeting rooms, lighted grounds ... really a well put-together retreat for families and groups in the beautiful commuity of Orkney Springs, Virginia.

Virginians are inordinately proud of simply being from Virginia, and we love to discover new little spots and remind ourselves how lucky we are to live in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Years ago, I spent ten years in Los Angeles. It seems like another lifetime ago, now. When people would ask me where I was from, and I'd say 'Virginia' nearly every one of them had something nice to say about my corner of the world.

But, I digress. This little knitting retreat was the third consecutive annual weekend get-away organized by Christina Parham, of There was nothing formal about the weekend, but everyone showed up with food to share, donations for drawings, and stash to share. We took tons of interesting roving -- BFL Superwash, Tencel/Merino blend, Baby Alpaca -- and some dye kits, and I made up some sample packets of three different sock yarns in one package. I took mini-sock blocker keychains, and some books from my fiber library which I knew I would never read again. The mini-sock blocker keychains sold out! and most of the books went! I don't think there were many dyers there.

Except for Christina Parham, of course. It was such a revelation to see the amount of work which one dyer can put out. I was in awe of the sheer amount of handdyed yarns and spinning fibers that she brought. Beautiful colorways, and creative names! 'Sicilian Harvest, Sweet Violet, Clay Pots, Sahara Sunset' are the ones I bought. She has a great knack of choosing just the right names for her colorways.

It made me realize how much work the handdyer actually does to produce a line of handpainted yarns or fibers. Only once have I made a big effort to supply a yarn store with a line of handdyed sock yarns, and I learned to respect the art and craft of the handdyer! No, I will leave that work up to my customers, and continue to dye for my own pleasure.

Check out Christina's website:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Yarn News

From Yarn Market News, here are a couple bits of news ...

Hazel Tindall is the queen of speed knitting. The 55-year-old Shetland Island native was crowned the winner at the World Speed Knitting Championships, held during February Mall of America Knit-Out. She lined up a remarkable 262 stitches in three minutes on custom-made steel needles. In comparison, her closest competitor, Miriam Tegels of the Netherlands, who holds the Guinness World Record as fastest knitter, worked 243 stitches in the same time span. Named Fastest Knitter in 2004, when she worked 255 stitches in three minutes at Ally Pally (London show), Tindall traveled to the competition under the sponsorship of the UK Hand Knitting Association. “I think you need to have good technique and move your hands as little as possible,” she told The Scotsman, Scotland’s national newspaper.

An online petition, demanding that the DIY Network (owned by Scripps Networks) give the green light to a new season of Knitty Gritty, has drawn almost 2,200 cyber-signers. They want a fresh lineup of shows, with Vickie Howell retaining her hosting duties, and to make sure episodes air during an hour conducive to viewing -- not in the 5 A.M. slot in which repeats from previous seasons are now broadcast. Interested in adding your name? Go to

Contests and tournaments continue ... a fact noted by no less a journalistic bastion than the Wall Street Journal, which ran a feature article (“Sock It to Me: Competitive Knitters Get Deadly Serious”) about Sock Wars last December.

Magazine readers are also getting a shot at socky sport: Vogue Knitting is currently judging its Ultimate Sock Contest, while Knitter’s is gearing up for its yearlong Think Outside the Sox challenge.

Friday, February 22, 2008

W2D4 Line grows ...

Monday we'll be adding five new yarns to our exclusive line of W2D4 yarns. They are merino yarns which will round out our base yarn category except for one spot (worsted superwash), but that will be filled in late spring. The new additions are Lace Weight, Sport, Superwash DK, Worsted, and Bulky.

They are put up on skeins for retail customers and on kilo cones for wholesale customers. We have actually pre-sold more than half of the Lace Weight kilo cones, and quite a few of the Superwash DK, so I had to reorder them even before this first batch arrived. Exciting times! It will take a while until I understand the demand of the new yarns, and I will try to keep good stock on hand while they get introduced around.

For the past couple of weeks we have had several new inquiries from customers on the Ravelry discussion boards. Seems like there my have been a few nice words said about Wool2Dye4, and people began to check out the website. I do appreciate it when customers spread the word.

Help me spread the word now about these new base yarns. They are very nice, good merino with bounce and spring to the fiber, and well priced.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dyed from Sock Machine Tube

Here is the beginning of a chevron stripe, knit from the dyed tube of my new W2D4 Merino SW DK. You can see, on the right, several folds of the knitted and dyed tube. In my enthusiasm to see how it knit up, I really should have washed the skeins, but I just wound off a ball and started knitting. As with every handdye I ever knit with, my needles are flying and I anticipate what the next color change will look like.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Weights of Yarn

I have had several customers lately refer to 'Sock Weight' as though it were an actual name of a yarn weight. The words 'Sock Weight' are used by sellers as a general descriptor of a yarn's weight. It is not an actual weight of yarn.
True descriptors are Lace / Fingering / Sport / DK / Worsted / Bulky.
Within these weight classifications there is room for argument. For instance, some writers state that DK is the British yarnie's equivalent of the American's Sport. Others say that Aran is the British version of the American's Worsted.
Speaking of worsted, people often get confused with this term because it refers to a weight classification as well as a production style. In weight, it's the sweater weight and can be light worsted or just plain worsted, and it's usually a round fairly solid yarn. In production, it is a combing process which makes fibers lie parallel to each other before spinning, and the result is a stronger knitting yarn. People who prepare their own yarn from hand-carded wool, for instance, are not creating a worsted yarn, which is usually something done in a mill with larger machines. Of course, the hand-cranked carding machine will produce beautiful roving batt which is a true worsted product.
BUT ... back to actual classifications. You can find charts with classifications written out in the backs of many knitting magazines, or online. Some will give a suggested gauge, recommended needle size, and wraps per inch. I never trust those numbers, though, and always knit a swatch myself. That way I can choose what I want the fabric to look like, based on my own experiences. Here is a chart of generally accepted numbers for weight classifications. There is always room for personal interpretation, and some yarns will lend themselves to a weight because of how they bloom, yet not actually reach a weight classification. You'll notice that 'Sock Weight' does not appear, and that's as it should be!
  • Lace Weight ......... 2300 yards per pound and higher
  • Fingering Weight.. 1650 to 2300
  • Sport .......... 1150 to 1600
  • DK....... 1000 to 1200
  • Worsted ........... 850 to 1100
  • Bulky ... 500 to 900

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Circular Sock Machine - Dyeing Project

Circular Sock Machine Dye Project
This project is actually a test of my circular sock machine and one of the new yarns coming in next week.
First, I will confess that I have yet to make a sock with the CSM! I am like an amazed child every single time I sit and crank out a tube of knitted yarn. Mostly I have used up some of the yarns which have been sitting around for years, and then I finished off edges to make long skinny scarves. Some have fluted lacy edges, others are straight. Some 'kitchenered' together, others ribbed then bound off, and all provided some good clean fun!
While mindlessly cranking out the tubes, I did have a few cogent thoughts, one being that it would be neat to dye a tube and then unravel it and knit something out of the yarn. My thinking was that it might be a way to create larger stripes or repeating patterns, a la Fair Isle, but that no matter the dye pattern, dying a tube would give a measure of control. More control than the experiment with a 40 foot long skein. How I wish I hadn't given away those socks, because I will surely never dye a 40' skein again.
But, to today's experiment ... The tube was knit with a mock rib ... 4 needles and one blank, all around the cylinder. I marked out a pattern repeat of 6 in and 4 in along my dye table, then dyed the 6" sections with Seabreeze Blue (from ProChem). My plan was to come back and paint one edge, along one of the mock ribs, with yellow so I would have green where the blue met yellow, and yellow across the swath of white.
That was the plan, but I picked up the wrong blue when I refilled my squirt bottle, so I wound up with two different blues. Actually, it all turned out to be fun because I had to change the plan. Instead of painting one 18 foot long yellow stripe, I decided to apply the yellow to the edges of blue. You can see where the blue had already bled slightly into the white space, and there is a yellow line along that area.
The steamed knitted tube is now out of the dyepot and coming back to room temperature. I will post a picture of the finished yarn, and a knitted sample.

Friday, February 08, 2008

April Retreat for Knitters & Spinners in No. Virginia

I must tell you about an absolutely beautiful corner of Virginia, Orkney Springs, and the weekend retreat planned for the first weekend in April 2008. Actually, I'll copy the link here to DyePot and let you read it for yourself.

Here is the link. I hope to see some of my customers there!
The area is fantastically beautiful, and the resort property, ShrineMont, is lovely and here is a link to the property...

I will be there Friday evening and all day Saturday with a little booth set up. Hope to meet some of my customers there!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Website ... up and running

Whew. We are putting out little fires here and there as glitches in the newly revamped website show up. I am learning so much about how every little choice in style affects content, and vise versa! Lots of fun!

If you are confused about your customer status, send me an eMail and I'll clarify things for you, and my eMail is

We've added two more spinning fibers ...a 100% Baby Alpaca, and a blend of 100% Baby Alpaca with Merino. These two are super soft, and luscious.

The BFL Bulky looks like it will have a long life on the backorder list, so what we are doing is having a merino bulky yarn made up from fibers of the very same micron count as the BFL. The fibers are practically identical, except for the BFL innate sheen, of course. Otherwise, for Bulky/Chunky customers, look for this new yarn at the end of January / beginning of February 2008.

We are phasing out several yarns to make way for new additions to our exclusive line of yarns, manufactured exclusively for Wool2Dye4. Those being phased out are Andee, Alpaca Lace, Kona Fingering, Kona Superwash, Montana, Monty, Pony 2-Ply. They are priced for sale on the SPECIALS page of the retail site.

The new formula yarns will be hits! They are soft and beautiful, and the biggest reason is that the merino we use for our yarns comes from South America. (Not the rough highland yarn!) Ours comes from folks who are known for their humane treatment of the fiber giving animals, and the quality of the fiber is just fantastic. We are so happy with this new connection, and think our customers will appreciate this new level of quality fiber, as well.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Launch of a New Website

On Monday, January 7th, we expect to launch the new website for Wool2Dye4. The address will be the same .. .. but the look will be different. The new format is what is known as a true eCommerce site, which means that, as a seller, I can post yarns more easily and in different categories with ease, and can change prices/pictures/descriptions without asking my webdesigner to do it. All of this will be handled in house after the launch. For customers, the new format will allow you to find the yarns through more search choices, but the biggest advantage is that payment may be made through credit cards in addition to PayPal. We will accept Visa and MasterCard when this site is launched.

I have written about a new site for months, I know! Now, we are just days away from the real thing, and it is exciting around here. We have been trying to test out every possible scenario through the shopping and buying processes, and I am sure that we will miss some and that there will be little glitches, but please help me fix them. If you come across a glitch, let me know! So many customers have written encouraging notes about the process of upgrading a website, and I do appreciate every single person's input. My goal is truly to present my yarns in the most logical and attractive format that I can, so if you see room for improvement, drop me a line. Exciting stuff going on here at Wool2Dye4!
Watch for new yarns and spinning fibers!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Doing Business (4) Customer Service

Customer service is about every thing you do to create seamless communication between you and your customer, creating a seamless buying experience in a pleasant environment. It includes the little things such as making it easy for your customers to find you, responding quickly to their contact, correcting any mistakes -- real or perceived -- with the product or delivery of the product.
For internet sellers, it definitely includes how easy it is to navigate your site and to find the information they need before they buy. That means that the graphics and colors on your site are not glaring or harsh. The font is readable, not too heavily stylized, and the size of the font is greater than 10 pts. Remember much of the buying public have now reached the Baby Boom middle age, and that means failing eyesight! Make your copy readable. Include white space around the important information. Take a cue from advertising and do not force yourself to include too much copy, or to write everything in complete sentences. Look at lots of sites and start to recognize what attracts or repels you, and how deeply you are drawn into the site itself.
Go back to your site, again and again and pretend that you are seeing it for the very first time. Try to look at it with fresh eyes, almost as if you were a new customer seeing it for the first time. Hey! Are your spelling and punctuation skills up to par? If not, then ask someone to proof the copy for you. Nothing screams 'novice!' more than bad spelling and punctuation. This is important. It is how you present yourself to the potential customer, and all you have in the beginning, is a website out there in the ethos, a website that someone can go deeper into or away from in a split second and a click of the mouse. Look at your work carefully and analyze it.
How you package your orders is another important opportunity where you can serve your customer. Make things pretty and nice. Use clean packing materials and don't let the fibers touch the cardboard boxes. Think of how your box will be opened and how the contents will be slowly revealed to your customer. Actually, this is the only true interface between you because this is the only time where you are physically touching the product and they will be touching it too. Make it look enticing. Wrap it securely. Don't use heavy fillers which will drive up the cost of postage. Here is a chance to reveal your approach to business in how you present the order, the backup paperwork, and any inclusions you may want to add. Those little extras are what is called value added, for in the customer's eyes, the value of their purchase has increased when they receive a little something you sent for free. It could be a pattern, a set of samples, pictures of new colorways, directions for dyeing, or an actual gift. I enclose a little gift in every single order we send out, and I think about all sorts of tiny details such as how the packing list will look, or if it is covered up by anything. Send them your card in every order, even if they are repeat customers because that way they will have extras to give to their friends. Recommendations from satisfied customers are priceless! It's not expensive to print up cards if you use your computer's word processing program and some perforated business card stock. Also, if there is any information about the fiber content, care of the fiber, or any other news you want to share, this is a chance for you to send something directly into the customer's hands.
When someone opens a package from you, there is a much longer time period to interact than there is when someone is surfing the web. Give them a pleasurable experience. Look professional in your packaging. Use nice paper and colors. All of the order says something about you and how you do business.
In your communications with customers or potential customers, exercise good manners and cordiality. Now, I am from the South where we believe in courtesy and Southern manners. I will tell you that you will receive some irate letters and some complaints. That is just how it is, but most of the folks in our fiber world are pretty laid back and genuinely nice. Treat customers problems with a cool head and never respond in anger or irritation to a customer. All right, OK. Maybe you can write a really angry letter but never, never, never send it! If you have to write it to clear your head, go ahead, but delete it immediately, and then sleep on the problem. Try to make things right, even if you have to eat a little profit. It will come back to you many times over in the future.
Remember that your customers represent a broad base of talent, and revel in their accomplishments. Don't pretend to know all, but let them guide you a bit. You will be surprised at how much you will learn about your business by asking your customers about their work.
Here is my philosophy of business one more time: your business should enhance the quality of your life. You can do it. You can do it.