Thursday, December 03, 2009

Time to Move On ...

We had a flood in the studio last night. Maddening, maddening! There have been heavy rains here in central Virginia for several days, and I guess it was just too much for the old drain system to keep up with. I never even had a thought about water damage as I thoroughly enjoyed the sound of rain and slept deeply and calmly.

But, this morning that squish-squish sound when I walked across the rugs to open the door, I realized that I had a 'situation.' We spent most of the day dragging out rugs, bagging up soggy boxes and packing materials, and staying out of the way of the cleanup crew and Roto Rooter. We did not lose any yarn as all the bins are built up off the floor, and the computers are on little raised platforms, too. Of course, there were things that soaked up the water which were tucked back under a packing table, or behind plastic bins holding styrofoam popcorn. We found some little bags of mixed spinning fiber which I bought years ago, and they never sold. All but one were a mess, so we tossed them, and I wound up saving that one bag. (It was in plastic, for some reason.) When I saw it, I was reminded of the first hat I knit for my husband out of my handspun. I plied one of my handdyed yarns with this grey stuff, and I really liked how it came out ... sort of Mother Earth meets Middle Class. My husband still has that hat and every time he pulls it out he says, 'This is my favorite hat of all!'

He has quite a variety of hats, too ... slip stitch in variegated colors, cabled yarn, progressively dyed experiments all in handdyed yarns. This year I made my version of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Very Warm Hat. In fact, I was going to gift them to some of the menfolk who have helped me through the year, but he's already nabbed a couple and gifted them early. Maybe that's because he says he doesn't like Christmas and the traditions, yet he likes to give gifts.

I was going to write about moving on, though! Yes, the business is moving. I've rented a commercial space just 3 or 4 miles from here. It is out of town, towards the mountain in a little strip mall built a few years ago, but which never really took off. I suppose it remained unfinished because of the location, a little too far off the beaten track, but that's what I like about it!

We have been involved in every aspect of finishing off our space ... painting each wall a different color -- seabreeze blue, mulberry purple, Italian yellow and lime green. I am still holding out for wallpaper in the bathroom. I found a cute novelty print of kids' shoes, and must have it, but we shall see if my name comes up on the installation list. I will say that here in my town, the name Mahone and the word 'wallpaper' have been spoken together in the same sentence for a few generations, but we'll just see how much pull I have. Evidently, it is not too much, if the state of the bathroom walls are any guide! We'll see ...

Move-in date was planned for January 2nd, but after the flooding last night, we have contacted the owner (my accountant!) and hope to move by middle of December. I'd really like that because I am expecting a huge wool shipment at the end of December, and that would be two biggies happening at the same time --- receipt of a large shipment of wool and moving around the same time. Maybe it's a good thing, this flood. It might just push me into action and get us moved and set up in time for the next big rush.

We're introducing a new yarn, by the way, with this coming shipment. TWEED is a four-ply yarn in Aran weight. When dyed & dried it looks like a candy cane effect with one ply taking up more dye than the other three. This happens because that one ply is a superwash merino, while the other three are non-superwash. The candycane effect doesn't show up in a gaudy way in the knitted fabric, but lends a little shading to the final fabric. It lends some visual texture to the knitted fabric. Ask me about prices when the yarn gets here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Incoming ...

... stock, again. We had a couple of delayed orders in the fall, and now two re-stockings which are arriving quickly one after the other. But, sadly, we will be on a Superwash Diet until right around Winter Solstice, so this will have to last us for six or seven weeks.

We will post these yarns on the website today at noon, Virginia time. (Today, being Monday, November 9, 2009)
Here's what is coming in tomorrow ...
Angel Lace (skeins)
Butterfly Lace (skeins)
Cash Sock (skeins & cones)
Sheila's Sock (skeins & cones)
Silk Sock 50/50 (skeins) *
Ultra Merino 3Ply (skeins & cones)
W2D4 Merino DK-SW (skeins & cones)

* Silk Sock 50/50 is new. A 4-Ply yarn similar in twist and weight to Bamboo Two-Step, sort of in that grey area between fingering and sport weight. Technically, it's a sport, but because of fiber and twist, it acts like a fingering. Silk goes especially nicely with our springy superwash merino. But, of course!

Trial Yarn: Our new Yarn Review Board is going to take a close look at a new superwash 2Ply Aran weight (992 ypp) this month. If you know the great twist of Sheila's Sock, you will recognize it in Sheila's Aran. Stay tuned for results, reactions, raves, and ramifications. Mmm?

Friday, October 30, 2009

More yarn coming ...

I am beginning to feel that my blog has dwindled down to a statement of incoming stock. I had such elevated plans for it, but here goes one more posting on stock arrivals, and maybe a little musing on keeping up the stock levels so it doesn't look like the website is out of most yarns.

Due any day, but realistically expected to arrive at the studio on November 2 through 4th ...
Sheila's Sock is coming back in skeins and cones. Lots of Skeins, not too many cones this time, though more cones are coming in a couple of weeks.
Cash Sock also, but on skeins this time.
Merino Worsted Superwash! Finally, back in stock. Skeins and cones ... more skeins than cones
Platinum Sock ... Lots and lots of skeins, quite a bit of cones
Surino ... for followers of this luxury blend. Not a big seller, but it has a loyal following
and Tops ...
50/50 Bably Alpaca/merino ......... 80/20 SW Merino/Bamboo .......... 75/25 SW Merino/Merino

That shipment should be going through Customs now, and then delivery usually follows in two or three days. Of course, we've got the weekend in between, but we are very close.

After the next shipment, which should be here around Veterans' Day (and a list will follow), we will be on a superwash diet until around Winter Solstice/holiday time. I've been talking and talking about how our tiny little niche in the fiber market depends on what happens to lots of folks up the line, and the superwash merino diet is a perfect example. It has interrupted my usual monthly delivery schedule, but only by two or three weeks. We just have to plan for it.

I am trying to plan my inventory holdings, too, so that the website doesn't look bare! My first line of attack is to get in more stock,of course, as we've got some customers who have been attending the national shows and who can eat up stock at a moment's notice when they order last minute without giving me a hint of what is to come. Don't get me wrong! I am not complaining about selling yarn, just about not being able to serve my customers. The Superwash Diet is putting a little crimp into my style on that front, but just a little crimp.

Next, I sent a carefully worded letter to my biggest customers, laying out the idea that planning ahead is a good thing and an achievable goal for all of us. I know that these folks have to sign up for the big shows and festivals in advance, and probably know what they will need to dye up to maintain adequate inventory at their booths. Maybe they are hesitant to confirm their needs because they think that they would be committing to an actual order, but I have always tried to communicate that I understand changes in plans and that nothing is written in stone. Perhaps, this time, I was able to get that idea across. I asked them to plan ahead for January and February only, so that I can be sure to have what they will need held aside from what I want to show on the website for the rest of my customer base. No need to disappoint the many because of the plans of the few, as I see it. We will see, though, if I can get them to squeeze out hints of their January and February needs.

I'll be getting in monthly orders, of course, but thought that if I asked them to make that much of a plan, it would start things off right. Not necessarily so ... what a surprise to receive so many eMails asking if I would be making any orders beyond January and February. But, of course! I order all the time, but have only now asked for estimates of future needs. But, whenever I send out a newsletter or group letter, there are always lots of questions which come back. I am here, Wool2Dye4 is not going anywhere. I am just planning, that's all.

But I was about to list what is in the Veterans' Day shipment ...
Angel Lace
Butterfly Lace
Cash Sock cones and skeins ... lots of skeins
Merino DK-SW in cones and skeins
Sheila's Sock, again cones and skeins
and Ultra Merino 3Ply cones and skeins
... plus ...
new ... Silk Sock ... 40/40 sw merino/silk in 4Ply, the weight of Bamboo Two Step
new ... Sheila's Aran ... 2 ply Aran weight in SW merino, with same twist ratio of Sheila's Sock

I know, I know ... so many new yarns here lately!

We are actually going to run a trial on Sheila's Aran, and enrollment is still open. If you would like to join up, just send me a short eMail ( and give me your name and address. Enrollment will close Monday, November 2nd.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A BIG SHIPMENT is due any moment!

As I type this very message to post on the blog, the long awaited shipment containing a variety of best selling yarns and a new one, too, is somewhere approaching. It is, if the tracking programs are to be believed, within 50 miles of me at this moment. We have had a couple of bumps in the schedule with this shipment, and of course, it had to happen when everyone is chomping at the bit for more and then some more yarn. What happened is that somehow the shipment got separated into two pallets at the port of entry, but this was not discovered until half of the shipment arrived at Customs for clearance. It was rejected because the paperwork listed a different number of boxes that were presented for clearance, so back went that partial shipment, back went the paperwork to the broker, and back went the requests to search out the remainder of the shipment at one of two airports. This added five days to delivery time, which doesn't sound like much unless you are me sitting here at the computer fending plenty of eMails from customers wanting to know where their order is.

Must say that everyone, absolutely everyone, has been understanding about the delay. I think that the demand is coming from the fact that there is an increasing number of wholesale customers who have been trying out the arena of the big convention marketplace as vendors. Over the past six months I have counted more customer participation in the larger festivals like Sock Summit back in August and the Stitches events. This is in addition to participation in fiber festivals at the state and local levels, which has always been a traditional outlet for handdyers. The change I see is that many customers are taking a risk and booking a vending booth at major national conventions.

I have been begging for some advance notice that folks are going to a major festival or convention and will be needing larger orders. Some wholesalers have responded well to that invitation to join me in planning ahead, and others have not gotten the word yet. We had a true feeding frenzy before Sock Summit this summer, and then a Stitches event followed closely on the heels of that major event, so basically, that is why our regular stock levels fell to the low levels of September. I had to scramble to order in replacement stock, as well as enough of the new yarns we were planning to introduce. In a way, I feel that the introduction of Crazy Eight got sidetracked with so much emphasis on replacing the best sellers which were wiped out for the convention people. We do have two more shipments -- in addition to today's lot -- arriving to replenish stock, and each is timed about two weeks apart ... assuming that there are not big delivery problems with either one.

Feedback from these major selling events is mixed, and unscientific, of course, but from what I gather there are many customers who have not broken even with their booth at the national level. Some of these vendors do feel that the cost was worth the loss, though, as they put their name and logo and their work out into the public venue. Others could not justify the financial loss and were disheartened to find that they had to compete on the pricepoint level with major yarn companies, many of whom ran specials for the convention. This brought the price of the major companies down below what the handdyer could afford to offer, and took them out of the competition for knitters' dollars.

Some customers write to me and tell me that they are going to continue the convention and festival circuit, and that they feel the exposure is invaluable and will serve future sales well. Others write that they do not think enough of the actual market attends these events to make the expense worth the effort. Both positions have merit, of course. It all depends on how much of a risk a vendor can financially afford, how great a percentage of one's marketing plan being a vendor consumes, and whether or not the travel and work of setting up a booth at a convention is part and parcel of the lifestyle of the individual vendor.
All things in moderation. OK, so maybe a small percent of the knitting market actually ever attends a convention at the national level. And you can add another small percent of the market for the number of folks who attend fiber festivals on a regular basis. Then add in the percent of knitters who are on Ravelry, and then add in those who subscribe to knitting magazines. All of these places are real contact points for the handdyer to present themselves to their potential customer, and yet each one represents a small percent of the total market. Look at how local yarn shops have been so frustrated about their dwindling market share since the Internet created alternate buying opportunities for what they considered to be their market base. Etsy, eBay, personal dot-com sites ... all are new selling opportunities, and depending upon one's point of view, are either eroding their customer base or building it.
There is no one way to promote one's business. Every single seller should create a plan of how they want to get their name and work in front of their potential customer, and this plan should be based on how they want to run their business. The way this marketing plan will work the very best, though, is if the plan considers first how one's small business will best fit in with their lifestyle. I have said for years that my business should first improve the quality of my life, and I recommend this approach to my own customers. First, pick the activities that you enjoy, price them out, figure out what percent of the market you might realistically reach with each activity, and then start planning, printing, buying, dyeing, saving, and getting down to the business of improving your business.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Crazy 8 Yarn ... welcome to Wool2Dye4

We have a winner in the Name-That-Yarn contest and it is ... Crazy Eight.
Natasha Laity-Snyder sent us the name, and it struck as just right. Here is my reasoning ... This yarn is an 8-ply, but not the expected 8 plies. There are four cabled plies of two plies each, making 8. Sort of odd, sort of crazy, huh? So ... Crazy Eight.

Most of my customers rename my yarns anyway, so Crazy Eight will remind them that this is our 8 ply sport yarn. The eight plies were arrived at in that unique cabling, and it's also the name of a really fun card game! So a delightful, eight-plied yarn.

I really liked lots of the names -- OctoPly was a contender, and Quick Sock was another and Lucky 8 -- really close to Crazy 8, but more refined -- and SportCaster, a good descriptor built in as sport weight, and cast-on. There were lots of great ones suggested, and I thank everyone who entered the contest!

We kept coming back to Crazy Eight. It fits!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A little more about the new 8-ply sport yarn ...

Interest in this new yarn is immediate and vibrant, and this surprises me a little. The reason is that folks never seem to follow up on their interest in a sport yarn with much enthusiasm. Something is different this time, though, and I think we may have found a winner in this one.

The yardage is 1,245 yards per pound, which puts it at the high end of the sport category. The stock is coming on traditional 100gr skeins (of 274 yards) and kilo cones (of 2,739 yards). I have been sending out little sample butterflies of about 8-10 yards and feedback is starting to come in. They like it, I am glad to say. Also, this is one of those yarns which needs to be dyed and dried to be appreciated. It looks like and acts like a typical sport weight. The ply format is interesting and adds to the cabled look, as it is actually a cabled yarn. Four plies of two cabled plies are spun together, and that's how we get this 8-ply to curl around itself in a beautiful pattern. Really pretty yarn.

Arrival date is early October. If you are interested in a sample, please eMail me: and we'll get out a sample right away!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Name-That-Yarn Contest!

I have been posting on Ravelry about the news of our next new yarn, and yesterday we began to send out samples with wholesalers' orders. This one is going to be another winner, and the sport weight will appeal to folks who like to knit sturdy socks, the slightly cabled look of the yarn will attract those who like a slight texture to their yarn, superwash to folks who really like to knit their socks in our superwash yarns, and our springy merino for folks who have grown to love that soft luxurious yarn which has so much natural strength to the fiber.

Here's the surprise, though. It is not, as I have been saying, a 4-Ply yarn. It's a 2 x 4-Ply yarn, aka 8-Ply. The construction of this one lends so much texture to the yarn, that same look which is so attractive in our recently introduced yarn, Sheila's Sock. Each of the four main plies are double-plied themselves, making this baby an 8-Ply yarn. So, if you have been wanting to enter the 8-Ply superwash merino craze, here's an entry for you but with the advantages listed above.

We don't yet have a name for this yarn! So ........ Contest!!!
Name-That-Yarn Contest!
Name our new sock yarn and win a kilo of it.
eMail up to 5 entries to
Deadline: September 27th.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

International Year of Natural Fibers

The editor of Wildfibers Magazine sent a link to a wonderous site today, and I have to share it.
Please do check it out.
You will get lost in the enormity of fiber possibilities.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stock Arrival at end of the week

This month's stock arrival is certainly welcome! Wholesalers have made huge demands on what I had thought would be a growing store of the most popular yarns to have ready for fall festival orders. Instead, Sock Summit put a dent into the plan, and we are busy getting more yarn in even as I write.

Actually, the next order should be here by the end of the week, and we will ship out immediately. Cash Sock did become popular immediately from the samples we sent all last month, and I think from the craze that this MCN blend (merino/cashmere/nylon) has enjoyed for several months. We feel that our MCN is well received because of the nice combing of the fibers, and none of them, especially the cashmere, comes to the top. Plus, our merino is that nice springy stuff that is the signature of the Wool2Dye4 line.

So, here is what is coming in .........
Skeins and Cones ...
-- Platinum Sock
-- Sheila's Sock (limited cones)
--Ultra Merino 3Ply

Skeins Only ...
--Angel Lace
--Angel Sock
--Bamboo TwoStep
--Butterfly Lace
--Cash Sock (sold out on pre-orders)

These yarns are now being shown as in stock, but most from this list will be shipped from the incoming stock order. Go ahead and place an order for any of these yarns, and we will ship out as soon as the shipment arrives.

Inventory Showing on Website now ... We activated the capability of showing our stock figures on the website. Now, to see what amount of yarn is available, just click on the Category view and a full list of all yarns available will come up, and you'll see a column headed 'Quantity,' and that is the number of items available for that yarn or presentation. If the product title includes 'Set of 5 skeins' then we have whatever the quantity shows of sets of five skeins, not individual skeins. Don't overthink this. It's pretty simple, and must say that many customers have written to tell me that they like seeing how much is available, and that it helps them shop.

Good luck!!! and... as always I thank my customers for their business.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Samples, Samples, and more Samples

We are at the time of year where requests for samples hits an alltime high, so we spend every free moment winding up little butterflies. Round and round, 35 times between little finger and thumb, and then wind a dyed sample around all, if we have made it that far. Some of the yarns actually look different -- once dyed and dried -- so it is helpful for us to dye up maybe 50 yards at a time from the sample cones. Right now we are about to put one or two yarns back into service ... Tencel/Merino and BFL Platinum, so those two are definitely going to be in demand.

The only problem is that I do not have even one skein of BFL Platinum in my secret stash. And that is saying something! Usually, I pull a couple of skeins of each yarn and hold it where it is out of sight and out of mind. It almost always comes in handy, too! Someone will write and say that they have a special customer that wants one skein of one of their reproducable colors, and they absolutely must have that skein. Secret stash has come to the rescue more than once!

We even have a little of a couple of the older yarns we used to carry, like Ultra Merino 2-Ply, a yarn which had a split personality. The lace knitters loved it; sock knitters, though, could take it or leave it. And for a long time after Merino Lace was taken from the line, I was winding off skeins for absolutely necessary demands, until it ate through secret stash and now is totally gone.

Right now, we are winding off butterflies of Cash Sock, our MCN which we feel is an improvement on what is currently out there. (MCN is superwash Merino with Cashmere and Nylon, at an 80/10/10 blend.) I say this because our merino is soft and combed and the cashmere, which has a tendency to come to the front in any blend, does not pill on our yarn. We are sending out Cash Sock samples with all the orders, and to a long list of folks who requested samples.

Cash Sock looks like it will immediately join the Wool2Dye4 family. My wool supplier says it is so popular in Europe that he cannot keep enough stock of it, and the last time he expected some in, he put out the word, and it was snapped up in two days. Two days! Amazing! My regular stock will not get here for about six weeks, but at the end of August we are going to receive around 30 kilos. I don't know how to deal with the demand on this one and am thinking of asking folks to limit their purchases to five kilos until we get real stock in. It's the new craze in sock yarn, it seems, and I like it!

If, for some reason, you have not yet requested a sample, send me an eMail at ... ..

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ever need a Colonial costume quickly?

Every once in a while, I am invited to dress up in costume and represent the early American crafts of spinning and/or weaving/knitting, etc. The first event was in the springtime, and the dress I made kept me warm on a cool day; however, that same dress seemed like a huge punishment when worn last summer on a sweltering August afternoon in the sun.

This coming weekend -- another August day in the humid Virginia weather -- I am going to join my guild in demonstrating the domestic arts (ahem!) at the Albemarle County Fair. A group called Backyard Revolution has created a settlement which will attempt to replicate life in the agrarian economy of the late 1700's through the 1800's. There will be natural dyeing of fibers, spinning and weaving along with blacksmithing, log-home building .. oh, lots of things that those folks had to do every day of the week just to subsist.

I will be spinning. Usually I sneak in my plastic spinning wheel, a little jewel from Babe's Fiber Garden, but this group sounds like they might be a little strict on period interpretation. My PVC plastic frame with a stainless steel wheel from a wheelchair will probably not cut it, pass muster. So, I am taking a couple drop spindles and some fleece from a Virginia flock which a girlfriend manages. They are Leicester Longwools, a cousin of my beloved Bluefaced Leicester, so that will fit in nicely. And, I will be working with fiber from Central Virginia, too.

But, back to my costume! I mentioned that I had made a dress for my first appearance in Colonial garb. That thing was ugly, plus it really did not fit and I had positioned safety pins along the bust to create pleats. In preparation for the upcoming fair, I decided to cut off the top and make a skirt and then to just buy a white blouson sleeved blouse (something like a peasant blouse) and an English vest. All of this brings me to the point, which is that I have a great recommendation for anyone needing to put together a costume to approximate early American dress.

It is Jas Townsend & Son, inc. They have a good selection of clothing for men, women and children plus several little accessories, such as the pockets which were worn under aprons mostly. They are muslin pockets with a cotton twill tape running through a little band on the top, but I saw several women in costume who wore theirs on the outside of their skirt, with no apron, and adapted this idea. I sewed my pocket onto the side of my new skirt ... made from the ugly dress. Great solution.

Here is the link to Jas Townsend & Son website: I give them top recommendation!

Next was footwear. My old Berkinstock sandals sort of remind me of pieces of leather which women might have wrapped around their feet during the Middle Ages. I am now in possession of a pair of Mary Janes, by Naot. They work fine, but what about socks? To knit a pair of knee length natural socks in four days is pretty much impossible for me, so I decided to drag out the antique circular sock machine. Within two hours and a couple of setbacks which taught me to check my equipment before launching into a project, I was in possession of a pair of kneesocks done in my lovely BFL Ultra! They were both too long, though, so I have had to unwind the toes and finish them off by hand, but much less trouble and work than handknitting! I have two days to go, and one toe to go, and then must wash out the machine oil. That was the result of over-oiling a reluctant sock machine into movement.

I'm looking forward now to getting dressed up for this shindig on Saturday. The weatherman, though, is calling for a week of solid rain. So, we shall see how the sky looks that morning.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yarnie says, 'Sock Summit ... or bust!'

Sock Summit: August 6 - 9, 2009

We are ready and waiting to ship our booth yarn to Sock Summit today. I can hardly believe that the long days of prep, counting and recounting, thinking of what nifty little tool you always wish you had at a booth but had forgotten, and, of course, some snacks. We have closed the boxes and ordered in FedEx to pick up.

Off go the hand-dyed yarns from, our sister website, to Portland Oregon's Raintree Convention Center for Sock Summit. The organizers have no idea how many attendees will attend, and estimates are at 50,000 by some counts. Just imagine what it is like to guestimate how much yarn to send for a booth at such an event! Impossible. My partner in crime is Barb Brown, owner of Wild Geese Fibres (, and she is the actual attendee. Due to a long list of regulations which basically mean that taxes and finances would preclude much profit for Canadian vendors to bring in their own stock, she needed our help in stocking her booth. Barb, sock pattern designer extraordinaire, turned to us and we were happy to help her out.

We sent either way too much yarn, or hardly enough ... and we won't know until after Sock Summit is over, whether or not Barb will be kept busy. She's got an American helper at her booth, so she will be able to slip away and take a few of the advanced classes. Lucky her! Must admit that I all put stripped the shelves of Uptown Stitches to stock that booth, so I sure do hope we have some takers!

If you are going to Sock Summit, please do check out Barb's Wild Geese Fibres booth to see the Uptown Stitches yarns in person. We even have a kilo of skeins of one of the Dye for Glory entries, by Laura Schickli. Just absolutely beautiful work on our base, BFL-4 Socking. Each skein will sell for $25.

All of our handdyes will sell at one of two pricepoints: merinos at $20 per skein, and BFL's at $25 per skein. If you get to meet Barb, tell her Sheila sent you!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Web of Trust ... help rate Wool2Dye4?

Yesterday afternoon, we received a note from a potential customer who attached a negative rating from Web of Trust, an internet company which reports on the security of individual websites. They mistakenly gave our home page a bad review ... but high reviews for all other pages ... because of a parking page which our server uses. It's called Website Welcome, and it's a 'nothing page,' and is only there so people can have a secure checkout on their sites. There is a possibility that one customer somewhere could have been unhappy with the shopping cart for another company which is serviced by my server company. Who knows? As WebGuy #2 says, 'One bad apple ...'

Anyway, what I am hoping will happen is that if anyone is already using Web of Trust that they will give my two websites ( and a positive rating, to dispell that negative vibe going on.

We've got the security and backup and incripted credit card service and all that good stuff, and that one page of the site does not warrant a negative rating. So, if you see a warning notice from Web of Trust, please do take the time to rate us, and may I ask you to rate us positively?

My thanks to anyone who may see this and actually do this for me.

We've only received the one letter from one customer, but if it happened once to her, then it could happen as the popularity of security sites grows. Maybe it's time for us to get a dedicated server for the sites.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Canadian Kool Aid???

One of my fiber friends sent me this note in today's eMail ...

Ever since your kool aid dying program at the Stewartsville Library (3 years ago ?) I've asked my Canadian sister-in-law to please bring some creative Canadian kool aid colors back when she goes to visit her parents. She kept forgetting. I saw her this past weekend and she said - okay finally I remembered and she handed me 6 boxes of.....Jello.

My assumption is that Jello won't work because of the gelatin. Will they work?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sock Summit puts their handdyers to the test!

Sock Summit -- what a great name! -- has grown exponentially into a huge machine. Now, they've come up with a terrific contest. Not for just any dyer, but for dyers associated with the event itself. This includes the organizers -- who number among the Who's Who of our fiber arts worls -- the vendors, advertisers, etc. Here is some must-read material on the contest.

... and, if you are a Ravelry member, log on and then check out this thread ...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Haven't heard of Ravelry?

Several times I have mentioned that my blogging time started to get eaten up by Ravelry. What I have been reminded of recently is that everyone in the world has probably heard of blogs, but not everyone in the world has heard of Ravelry. So, to clarify ... Ravelry is an online community devoted to knitting and crochet enthusiasts. For me, this includes handdyers of my natural wool yarns, and especially sock knitting affectionados.

On Ravelry, there are groups created by either individuals or companies. One of my customers told me about Ravelry, and so I checked it out only to discover that it was in beta version, and that there was a couple month wait to get accepted into the fold. Someone must have contacted the folks at Ravelry, because we received an invitation to join as a potential group moderator for Wool2Dye4. So, we jumped to the front of the line, became a member of the online knitting community and started a group called Friends of Wool2Dye4.

Amazing. Just amazing amount of contacts immediately began to fly back and forth. I had a quick look around the site, and quickly found out that it is like any large group of many people with varied interests and that discussions could quickly turn to things other than wool. For me, the value in maintaining a group was not to discuss cooking, children, navel gazing, or --worse! -- politics and religion. No. Immediately I decided to guide the discussions, as much as possible, to be on-topic .. the topic being my yarn, right?

People's personalities come out in informal little posts. Their humor, their approach to business, to the scope of their businesses, to what they consider a lot or a little business, method, etc. '

It's fun. I like logging on and seeing the discussion of my yarns, the expected new yarns on the delivery schedule, suggestions for yarns and fibers to add to the lineup. Last summer when my British Wool supplier came to work with me for a week, we held a quasi Cyber Open House on Ravelry on a July Sunday afternoon. I was so surprised that within just the one hour of our Open House, we had more than 100 posts back and forth. It was exhilarating to be tapping away, the two of us sitting side by side, and calling out, 'Hey, I'll get this one!' and 'Oh, look who it is!' We truly did have almost instantaneous interaction with some people halfway round the world.

But, of course, it is not all fun and games. Like last month, for instance, I had the brilliant idea that I did not want to carry spinning fibers any more on the Wool2Dye4 website. There were very good reasons, which do not need to be repeated because I was called down good and proper. My customers practically told me that they were disappointed in me.... a sure way to get my attention. They had their say both on Ravelry and in personal eMails, which, I may say, were even more pointedly worded than the publicly posted Ravelry discussion. And, yes, I backtracked and am still carrying spinning fibers. What else could I do? In a way, I was irritated that I couldn't do what I wanted to do, and in another very big way, I was proud that so many people felt so strongly about the site and the products that they had to resort to strong language to make their point.

Ravelry is good for my business, and I buy adversing, of course, and also support the owners' efforts by sending a small gift of cash every once in a while. A sort of general 'thank you' for the opportunity to interact with my customers, to get to know them better, to see pictures of their dogs and cats and kids and hubbies. And of their knitting, their dye jobs on my wool, their designs. Many times a customer will write a private eMail to find out more about a wool or when new stock is expected, or just how a particular fiber reacts to a method or expected wear. And, many of these eMails end with, 'Whatever did we do before Ravelry?' Must say that Ravelry has given me a chance to get to know my customers in a way that mere eMails do not afford, and I like it.

There is a down side to almost everything! Maintaining an active group with viable questions and discussions takes an awful lot of time to keep up with! As a result, other forms of communication have suffered, including ... yes, the blog. I was thinking that this will be a good spot to introduce the fiber artists who are supplying the lovely yarns for the new website, Uptown Stitches, in the next weeks. I've started a new Ravelry group, Friends of Uptown Stitches, and am introducing the artists there, but sometimes I worry that I may be preaching to the crowd there.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sheila's Sock is a hit ... and hasn't even arrived yet!

Happily, we ordered Sheila's Sock twice! I thought that the first order would be a nice introductory order, just enough to get a few folks interested in what I think is a great yarn with a great future. Evidently, lots of folks must have had the very same reaction to this 100% superwash in our springy merino, because we have pre-sold the entire first order. All of it! It hasn't even arrived yet, either.

Not to worry, though! We have a nice sized stock order coming the middle of July, and again in August.

This week I am spending my spare moments winding up little butteflies of this yarn so that we can drop them into outgoing orders. Every time I wind up this yarn, I want to fire up the dyepot and try out a full-sized skein, instead of the tiny one I allowed myself to dye for samples. This year definitely looks different when it is dyed and dried! The two firmly twisted plies swell up against each other, giving a nice cabled sort of look.

I will have to wait for the mid-July shipment before I can afford to take some of this yarn out of stock and experiment. Nice stuff, this!

Noted added: June 19, 2009
One of the comments is a question, actually, and it is about Sheila's Sock being presented on cones. Yes! We expect the cones (and more skeins!) mid-July. I will start crowing when I hear they have passed through Customs, and will let all know.

The first shipment of this new yarn came and went within 8 hours! We worked like demons here turning around orders which ate up every single skein. Well, I admit that even though I was shorted 100 skeins from my original order, there was a little package of 4 skeins which I secreted away. At least, I think I did, but will know when things calm down. Corwin, my Studio Assistant, could have parcelled them out. As it was, we had to ask two customers to give up a couple of kilos so that we could make good on our promises to those other folks who expected some of the 100 lost skeins.

That is the way of orders and measures at our end of the market. The entire shipment is weighed within a reasonable margin of the original order. We are lucky that the skeins from this mill are consistently weighed, but in the grand scheme of things, 100 skeins in either direction is to be expected. It's been a couple of years since we pre-sold a new yarn and had to ship every single skein which arrived. I think it was Ultra Merino 3-Ply, the last time this happened.

No worries, though. The next shipment will be here in just a few weeks ... cones and skeins. We are taking pre-orders now on the website, by the way.

Many thanks to all who took the plunge to try the new formulation of our springy superwash merino and on the new size skein.

Monday, June 08, 2009

GreenerShades - more thoughts on these nice dyes ...

GreenerShades acid dyes are a new set of dyes on the market, and I recommend giving them a try. For a list of re-sellers of GreenerShades, follow this link:

I wrote to Greg Driscoll at Still River Mill/GreenerShades, and he gave me more information about their approach to working with dyes and fibers. As owners of Still River Mill, they process all sorts of fibers. Here is some of what he had to say:

"In keeping with our environmentally friendly philosophy, we really try to do things as nontoxicly as possible here in the mill, hence the GreenerShades dyes in the first place. The dyes have been tested on a lot of different fibers, including nylon swimsuits, and they outperform other dyes in most cases. "

(Sheila's note: I wrote to Greg and mentioned that in my experiment I had used some superwash/nylon yarn, and his answer gives us more insight into the reactions of fiber to process. Read on ...)

"Thank you very much for the writeup on your blog and the link on your site. The superwash process is quite toxic, so we don't purchase superwash fibers. The process uses several chemicals to clean the wool and then applies a synthetic resin to essentially glue down the scales of the wool. (This lessens the felting that happens when you wash and dry wool.) This process adds many more dyepoints to the fiber, allowing the fiber to absorb a lot more dye. Hence your deeper shade on the superwash.

The light spots on your yarns are usually caused by the skeins not being clean enough before you dyed them. There is something on the wool and usually it is the oils applied in the spinning process, natural lanolin, or scouring agents that prohibit absorption of the dye."

Friday, June 05, 2009

Greener Shades - Experiment
Still need to do a similar experiment with my old dyes from ProChem, but I did want to post this picture. There are three fibers dyed with each of the nine colors. The little sock yarn on the right side of each bundle is superwash merino with nylon. The middle bundle is regular merino, the mini on the left is Bluefaced Leicester.
As you can see (and please click on the picture to enlarge it and get a better view), there is little to no difference in the colors of the non-superwash fibers (merino and BFL). There is shade change and difference in absorption with the superwash/nylon fiber on a few of the colors: Yellow, Orange, Black, Aqua, Green. By no means is this a scientific experiment, and I think I should do this again. Also, I will push myself to do the same exercise with my ProChem dyed.
All this said, I would not hesitate to use Greener Shades dyes. The colors are vibrant, truly, and since most of us are in the habit of testing before jumping into the dyepot, I think the more intense absorption of the colors listed above can be taken into account when we dye. My mind is not made up, but I have nothing negative to say about Greener Shades.
If anyone else has tried this brand, please speak up!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The new site is open ... ... and we are offering free shipping
through July 31, 2009 to customers within the Continental U.S.
At checkout, enter Coupon Code: W2D4-06.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I have no idea why the picture is turned sideways, but you can still see that it is a Starter Kit from Greener Shades. The kind folks at Greener Shades sent me this sampler so that I could try the dyes out myself. They are acid dyes which are formulated to be absorbed with greater intensity by the fibers, and to leave less metals in the dyebath which gets integrated into our water system.

Yesterday I did a little test using mini skeins of Bluefaced Leicester and Merino and another of a superwash merino with nylon. My test actually brought up more questions than answers, and I now realize that I have nothing to compare the results to, so it's time to do a test on the regular dyes I normally use, i.e., ProChem, and the same fiber combo. Initially I saw that the superwash with nylon changed hues with the yellow and orange, and absorbed much more dye in the blue and black than the non-superwash yarns. I know that superwash yarns do absorb more color than non-superwash yarns, but I am talking a major difference in the amount of absorbed color.

Using a set of three little measuring spoons with denotations of A Pinch, A Smidgen, and A Dash, I did not follow the set of instructions which came with the samples, but used my old quick and tried routine of a little dye, a splash of white vinegar, a cup of hot water all into a zip-bag and into the microwave for two sessions of two minutes, with a rest in between. Colors were nice and clear, and most of the color was absorbed from the mini-bath.

I will say that my first impression of Greener Shades is that the colors are vibrant and lovely. Ever since the experiment, I have been daydreaming of dyeing up some of the limited British Merino in SW DK and making a one-of-a-kind sweater for next year. Maybe a sleeveless vest, even, since I've picked up Barbara Walker's book, Knitting From the Top, and am becoming obsessed with some of her ideas. She and Elizabeth Zimmerman can just put me into that wonderful zone where ideas flow, there are no dropped stitches, and long swaths of plain knitting go by effortlessly.

Will post a picture of the results of both experiments in the next few days, but wanted to see if anyone else has used Greener Shades with success? They look good, so far. Good enough to have me daydreaming about an Amethyst vest, knit from the top down.

Wish I could remember where I got those little measuring spoons. They come in handy when mixing colors and I recall that I found them just after buying Maryanne Lincoln's book, Recipes from the Dye Kitchen. She is a rug hooker, but that doesn't matter. She is a genius at mixing color, mostly for wool fabric swatches, but wool is wool and her recipes are wonderful. She does mention the TOD brand dye measuring spoons, which are calibrated scoops at both ends measuring down to 1/32 of a teaspoon. Also the Grey brand of spoons which go to 1/128th of a teaspoon! Maybe they are the Grey spoons. If so, I have only this information for the hunt (though the internet will surely yield some better results -- this book was written ten years ago when we didn't think to look on the internet as a natural reaction): Ralph Grey: 4877 Ashworth Road; Mariposa CA 95338. Happy hunting!
Here's a link ... (the tiny ones!)
Found them:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Schedule of new arrivals

I thought I would post the anticipated arrival dates of some of the new yarns, and some which have been out of stock, either in the cone form or in skeins.

Next week, the first week in June, these yarns will be here ...
Angel Lace, Platinum Sock cones, Ultra Merino 3Ply cones, and W2D4 Merino DK-SW on skeins.

June 9th-ish, we expect ...
the new Sheila's Sock (on 72" skeins), the new W2D4 Merino Worsted-SW on both skeins and cones

June 27th-ish/end of June ...
more Ultra Merino 3Ply cones, the new W2D4 Merino Sport-SW on cones, more Platinum Sock cones, and some W2D4 Merino Worsted on both cones and skeins

Around July 4th, look for ...
more Sheila's Sock on cones and those 72" skeins, Ultra Merino 3Ply on cones and skeins, and a healthy amount of Platinum Sock on cones and skeins, and a bit of Bamboo Two-Step on cones.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Uptown Stitches is Live!

We are live, at last! ................
Go see, and be sure to let me know of any glitches you may come across.
Also, know that we are adding to the site every day ... yarn and patterns, too.
Thanks all for the wonderful notes of encouragement you have sent me!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

So, here is the official shot of The Uptown Sweater, designed by Shawn Glidden. It appears on the Home page of our new website, Launch date: May 18, 2009!

Everything has not yet arrived for the new shop, but there is enough to open, so we are going ahead and will be beefing up categories as we go. Patterns, for instance, will be uploaded this week. We are going to have quite a few wonderful sock patterns from Barb Brown. Barb has the wonderful ability to make use of a yarn's intrinsic qualities as she creates unique patterns. For instance, color variations of handdyed yarns used against black or white solids in patterns which are really not difficult to knit; they only look that way. I am very happy with all of Barb's work, and always eager to see her next design.

Shawn Glidden, too, is the same sort of designer and when I hear what she is thinking up next, it is such a pleasure. She, too, is a careful designer (like Barb) and her sense of style is young and well-considered at the same time giving us designs which are classic in line and creative in pattern.

I have to say that I am enjoying meeting the designers and dyers and getting to know more about them as time goes on. Babies, hobbies, talents in other-than-fiber areas, etc. This is another perk of working on the Internet and creating new working relationships across the globe!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stitches South - April 2009

I went to the newly established Stitches South in Atlanta last weekend. For the first year of a show, it was well attended and well supported. No one said how many folks were there, but at registration there was a big fat list of classes which had not filled up. But, not so, with those that I took ... Tradition- a series of old-fashioned decorative stitches, taught by Candace Eisner Strick. (You might know her Merging Colors kits and patterns, which we are going to carry on the new website.) That was fun -- knitting swatches of fancy patterns --and, not so fancy as to be out of the reach of the average knitter, but challenging all the same. Somehow I invented a knit stitch during one exercise! I think, though, that it was double knitting ... where one side is one color and the other side is another color? (It was supposed to be striped ribbing but it was beautiful!)

The other class was with Laura Bryant of Prism Yarns. It was called Fake Short Rows, but we asked her to rename it because the end-result fabric is so lovely that it shouldn't have an ugly word like 'fake' attached to it. Very powerful stitch, and her samples were really lovely. I scoured the Market floor and finally bought some Italian (yea!) yarn and some special glass knitting needles (must haves!) and started my own filagree shoulder shawl. Somehow, though, it is not progressing to be quite as lovely as the samples we did under Laura Bryant's nose. I will have to rip and start over again, I guess, and maybe be less adventurous in my design. This one, by the way, could make an average garment into something spectacular!

The Market floor was a little disappointing in that there were not many vendors. Or, perhaps a better way to say it is that there was an adequate number of vendors, but not that shockingly huge display of must-haves at every corner, one vendor better than the next, etc. There just were not that many of them there, and I totally understand and want to make that clear. It was, after all, the first year of the show, and it had to have been hard to make the decision to attend both a new show and a show that would draw on financial resources in these strange economic times. But, I must say, that most vendors seemed to be busy most of the time.

There were a few, as always, who seemed not to be very welcoming to customers, and it really makes you wonder why they made the effort to come to the show, unload all their stuff, fill the booth, and then sit and read or knit and not pay attention to the crowd. Next weekend is the weekend for Maryland Sheep & Wool, one of the largest fiber shows on the East Coast, and several vendors from the west were going to drive up to MD and set up this week, making the most of the two shows being schedules so closely together. The folks who had the glass needles, for instance, (Michael and Sheila Ernst from Oregon) were going up to Maryland. I invited them to stop in Virginia if they had the time, but they haven't called me yet. I'd love to show them my Laura Bryant Fake Short Row capelet on their stunning glass needles.

I made some good contacts for the new website: Kim Dolce, a knitwear designer. Boy, I do love her sense of style. Casual yet elegant. You can see her designs on her website: ... We'll carry her patterns on Uptown Stitches. Also, looked closely at the Hiya-Hiya Needles. You know what I'm referring to ... the very lightweight ones from China. I ordered complete sets of both the smaller and the larger ones, but they are out of stock for a while. I am thinking of carrying those two kits only, plus the replaceable cables, but want to work with them a bit before deciding. And talked to the man with the American Buffalo yarn. That is sort of iffy at this point. It is wonderfully soft, but on the pricey side, and I am not sure if my customer base will take it to heart!

My next post will be about three new sock yarns we are adding to the Wool2Dye4 lineup. One is so much like an old one I used to carry, which I got from a distributor, but which never came in looking like the previous batch. Now, I've got my own finger in the pie, and a little control over the milling process and we have come up with a really wonderful Superwash Merino in a firmly twisted 2-Ply. But, more on that later.

By the way, if you want samples of the three new sock yarns, eMail me with your request (and address!) ...


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

W2D4 Merino DK - Superwash ... a change

I admit to a goof. It was in choosing a new size skein for one yarn, the Merino DK in Superwash. Last month we went from the universally accepted skein size of 100 grams in the DK-SW to a 175 gr skein, or -- if you think in ounces -- from a 3.8 oz to a 6 oz skein. I did take advice from customers in both camps, and decided to try the large skein. Reasons were good: knitters of heavy socks couldn't get a pair out of 100 grams (231 yds) so they had to buy two skeins; baby garment knitters couldn't get quite enough yarn to make a full garment; dyers for sweaters and large garments worried that dyeing many small skeins were hard to match in one dye lot.
All good thoughts, right? HOWEVER, the typical measurement of 100-grams is the expected weight in our industry, from the local yarn shop to the booth of the fiber artist at the fiber festival.
To fix this, we are going back to the 100-gr skein. As of yesterday, the larger 175-gr skeins of Merino DK-SW were discounted 15% on the website to all customer types, and we have ordered the 100-gr skeins to be returned to permanent stock.
Below is a schedule of upcoming Merino shipments expected in the next two months ...
Mid-April: Platinum Sock on 100-gr skeins. Ultra Merino 3Ply on skeins and cones. Merino Worsted on skeins.
End of April/Early May: ... Platinum Sock and Ultra Merino 3Ply on skeins and cones. Merino DK-Superwash on cones.
Mid-to-Late May: Platinum Sock and Ultra Merino 3Ply on skeins and cones. Merino DK-SW on 100-gr skeins
................We have a new sock yarn coming up on trial: 100% superwash BFL in a nice 4-ply yarn at 1984 yards/lb (436 yards per 100-gr skeins). This could be a nice fresh yarn for your lineup. Our customers keep telling me and telling me that when they set out Bluefaced Leicester yarns at their booths, the BFL is the first to go! I see it myself, so I am very happy to bring in this great new yarn.
This yarn just has such wonderful sheen to it that gives it immediate impact, and of course, the long staple makes it a strong yarn.The typical American sock knitter goes into yarn shops and buys sock yarn with nylon in the blend. Of course there are major opinions on both sides of the story, but I think we can satisfy all doubters with a good strong BFL superwash yarn with a good twist.
If you would like a sample of the new trial BFL sock, please eMail me. What shall we call it? I woke up in the night and thought, 'BFL Socking.' Is this the new name?
I am boosting stock of the major sock yarns in the next months to accommodate upcoming fiber festivals. If you have specific needs, please eMail me and tell me about them so that I can work on having enough of your yarn available.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Uptown Sweater

The lovely sweater design from designer Shawn Glidden has finally been named. Since it is the first design for Uptown Stitches, and she hit the nail on the head in the comfy yet elegant design, it shall henceforth be known as The Uptown Sweater! Thank you, Shawn. and, thank you, Kraemer Yarns, for that terrific Belfast yarn. The combination of linen, cotton and that touch of silk make for a fabric that you just want to cover your body.

Yesterday I packed it up, along with the Summit Hill sweater knit in Elizabeth Zimmerman's Adult Ladies Sweater (aka February Sweater from Knitter's Almanac, but in adult size), and a shawl knit from Laura Schickli's Luxury Lace. Then we shipped them to a photographer friend in New York -- Rick Stockwell -- is going to shoot pictures for the pattern and website against an urban background. Urban backgrounds are hard to come by in my little corner of Virginia! AND he is an artist at work, so I know already that the pictures will be interesting and engaging. (Check out his website ... He is using a professional model, Lesley Collis, who is an actress and a beautiful woman.

I will post these wonderful pictures as soon as they are in!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Uptown Stitches - New yarn company

This week some of the new yarn started to arrive for Uptown Stitches, the new website. Bright colors from PolarKnit arrived yesterday, and I can see why folks like to make ski hats out of this yarn! You cannot be missed in one of these colors! Have already had inquiries about this yarn, and am glad to see it in person. If you do not recognize this name, it is the copyrighted name of Polar Knit Fleece, that wonderul warm fabric, but cut into yarn for us knitters.

Speaking of the website, it looks as though WebGuy is on the move, and there are definite changes at Uptown Stitches! He uploaded the new program (from, if anyone is looking for a fantastic eCommerce program that does what the seller really needs doing), and has now uploaded the new logo and color scheme, and he has just deleted all the extraneous stuff I asked to have removed. It is looking good, and I am hopeful.

Operating under the assumption that The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease, I admit to calling him three or four times last week. Boy, I do feel sorry for him when I am in one of these must-have moods! BUT, it's all about getting business done, and he is a good sport about my persistance... probably a better sport than I am while I wait for him to get to my work. Unimaginable that he actually has other things to do in life, like move to a new house, for example. Here is a picture of the new logo and colorway.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Barb Brown's pattern in Multi and White

At the beginning of the year, I mentioned that I wanted to knit my own samples for the new website, and so I launched into Barb Brown's pattern, Blue Willow, with enthusiasm. Using Necessary Sock, a lovely dyed yarn from Handwerks Textiles (Laura Schickli), my sock has a complete different look than the original in classic blue-and-white. Laura's yarn, used alternately with white BFL Ultra!, almost has the look of Fair Isle.

For ages folks have been doing this trick, but I'm doing it now, and am here to say that it works! And, it is so much fun to knit. Remember, I consider myself an intermediate knitter with slight prejudices against cable needles, picking up stitches from the row below, double yarn-overs ... hmmm. What else? I know, I know that it sounds like I am eliminating lots of knitting fun, but there are so many other stitches out there, aren't there? For instance, my idea of a good time -- and I mean a really good time! -- is the double increase. Whew! I love that stuff.

Here is my version of Barb Brown's lovely pattern ...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Working with Designer Barb Brown

Blue Willow Socks by Barb Brown
I thought that I would start to write about the progress of the new website, as there actually does seem to be a little light on the horizon. As usual, I am waiting for web work. That is the very worst part of having an Internet business, for me, and I mean waiting for the WebGuy to do his thing. BUT, that seems to be a part of how I am doing this website work, and I depend on him, and that means I have to wait sometimes. Too often. Too long ...

Today, though, I want to share some of the work of a delightful designer I have been working with. Actually, just as I start to work with the new designers for Uptown Stitches, I immediately cast on one of their patterns to see if I can do it easily. I suppose I will classify myself as an intermediate knitter, and may be a little generous in this compliment to myself, but I am fairly competent. Anyway, this lady has struck my imagination and my attention. We've been writing back and forth, almost like immediate friends and find that we share the same sort of aesthetic. I love her designs! They are bold and use color in ways which make a knitted fabric seem more complicated than it actually is.
Her name is Barb Brown, and her website is Wild Geese Fibers. She is a Canadian and a prolific knitter as well as designer. I first met her work in Carol Jean Sulcoski's new book Kniting Socks with Handpainted Yarn. She has a pattern in this wonderful book. (Hey! handdyers, here is a book written just for us! Do you have it yet?) I will post here a picture of an example of one design, which I happen to be knitting now. It's called Blue Willow, named after the china patterns, a pattern which reminds me of my mother's sense of taste and summertime meals outside as a child.
Here is the address of her website. Go and check out her sense of color and design. She told a wonderful story about helping her mother decorate Ukranian eggs, as a child, and in her work I can see the influence of that early color theory. Be sure to take a look at the Pieces of Eight Socks, and Digeridoo, and Magic Triangle Socks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Final Sock Club Mailing

We are gearing up to mail the final installment of Wool2Dye4's White Sock Sampler Club. This time I am finally getting it right and sending along an original pattern written for a specific colorway. This month's mailing will be the tencel/merino 50/50 blend of tencel with our springy superwash merino. The colorway is called Dogwood in Blossom. And, our talented friend, Emily Miller, will create a pattern especially for this yarn in this colorway.

See the theme? It's about wood this time. Yes, tencel is actually a byproduct of the timber industry. It's made from a slurry of wood chips, simmering along and extruded through tiny holes in piping, then the fibers are caught by big fans and bundled up to be spun into yarn. This yarn is blended in a 50/50 ratio with superwash merino, giving us a unique blend of a cellulose fiber (the tencel) with a protein fiber (the wool).

Whenever we have such a blend, we know that there will be some dropping out of dyes in the rinse. As acid dyes are positioned to dye protein fibers, and fiber reactive dyes will dye cellulose fibers, some fiber will obviously not take color in the dyebath. This is especially true if you use a very strong dye bath; but, if you use a moderate amount of dye, you will achieve a subtle and lovely blending of tones. I think that is one of the very special things about dyeing the W2D4 Tencel/Merino blend, the subtle colorations. Too, tencel has a lovely sheen, very much like silk.

Here is a picture of Dogwood in Blossom...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Got that Tax ID number yet?

In the past month or so there has been a rash of inquiries from would-be entrepreneurs about the requirements to open a wholesale account with Wool2Dye4. I thought I would list them, and then see if I can interest the right people into securing a Federal Tax ID number. First, to the requirements:
-Business Name
-Tax ID Number
-Committment to ten pound minimum weight on order

Now, this ten pounds may be spread out among several yarns, and the ten pounds does not have to be of each individual yarn or spinning fiber. That is, the entire order must weigh ten pounds.

That question, though, of the tax id number is the one which stumps folks. It is free and easy to get a tax id number for your home-based business (or any business, of course), and it can be done over the internet at Just fill out the application for the SS-4 form, Employer ID. Even though you may not intend to maintain a payroll, this is where you get a Federal Tax ID number.

Just having a Federal Tax ID number will not affect your income taxes. Most of my customers are part-time dyers, or work-at-home clients and operate as a sole proprietor. That is, they do not have a registered corporation or limited partnership, but are operating the most simple form of business, the sole proprietorship. There is only one owner in this form of business ... the sole proprietor. What it immediately lends to your business is the sense of permanence. You gain credibility when you are more organized and look more like a business, even though you may be working in space borrowed from the family living quarters. If you have a Federal Tax ID when you apply for discounts with your suppliers, you are more credible. Period.

Most people do not realize that simply having this Tax ID number (also called EIN, or Employer's Identification Number), will not affect the taxes you pay on your income tax. You probably will not make a profit for several years anyway, so keep track of your business expenses (cost of goods sold, shipping, materials, assistants, advertising, etc.) and of your income (sales) and you will get a quick picture of where you stand. Take a count of the value of the inventory expressed in your cost, and also any outstanding invoices at the end of the year to get a complete picture of profit/loss.

The value of having the number is the perceived credibility it lends to your business.

If in doubt, then go find a business advisor and ask them. There is a federal small business assistance program in every state, and it's called the Small Business Assistance Center. (I used to direct one here in Virginia!) Another place to go for advice is the local chapter of SCORE, the US Small Business Administration's office of retired executives. Both are free, and both are great places to go and talk about the structure, operation, forecasts, trends, future growth, profit, etc. of your business. Don't forget that many, many businesses began in someone's spare room and grew into viable and profitable enterprises. And, it could be yours, next!

Friday, January 02, 2009

That Progressive Ins. Grey Sweater!

If you've seen Progressive's '08 fall ad campaign, I am sure you will have noticed the chunky grey sweater that a customer is wearing. Every time I see that ad, I want that sweater!

Seems like other knitters share this interest also. A Google search yields quite a few mentions of this sweater, but no results. I decided to write to the Progressive folks and ask about it. Here is the reply I received, straight from the folks themselves...

Dear Sheila Mahone,
Thank you for contacting Progressive.
We’re thrilled that you’re enjoying our new commercials and are interested in the gray sweater. However, we’re unable to provide you with a pastern for that sweater. At this time, we're also unable to provide any information about the manufacturer of the specific sweater.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Inconvenience? Hmmm. I have to think about that one. Maybe the inconvenience of disappointment? That could be what he refers to.

I wrote back and said that if he could contact the ad agency they used for that ad, then I would be happy to sell the pattern on my website! Think of it, I proposed ... all those knitters out there who are anxious to make that sweater!

So far, no response from the corporate guys.