Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Where in the world...?

Some of you know me outside this blog, but others, not so much. So, you probably don't know I'm not home right now - I'm driving up the West Coast to a spinning retreat with the inestimable Judith MacKenzie McCuin. It's been great - I went to Stockton to stay for a few days with a friend and then continued from there over to the coast and up we go.

The Stockton leg of the journey was to visit friends and to help with the wine crush. They have a small vineyard and it's That Time of year when they get a bunch of friends (about 50 of us in all) to come pick grapes and bottle last year's vintages. They have Syrah, Cabernet, and Zinfandel, and the wine is quite good. I have a case of it in my car for the rest of the trip.

No blog entry is complete without photos, but for that I'm going to send you to my Picasa site so you can get the whole photo essay experience. Here's the link for the Stockton part of the trip, and here's the one for the Eureka, CA to Newport, OR. I probably won't get more pictures online until next week. The ultimate destination is a place in the middle of the Washington Coast called La Push. It's near Forks. If you are a Twilight fan (which I'm not, never saw it and have only barely heard of it, mostly as people say "Oh, that's the Twilight area!") then that is about where I'm going. There is no cell phone coverage there and internet access is apparently frowned upon where we'll be staying. C'est la vie! I'll still have fun, and I'll post what I can when I start to head back down towards home.

Enjoy the photos!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Some new dyes

So, despite the appearance of having become All Weaving, All The Time, I took a break the other day to try out an experiment with some new dye materials. The experiment actually started back at the end of July, when I took some exotic wood chips and sawdust I purchased from a wood carver (this was his waste material) at a fiber arts conference, CNCH, and put a handful of each in some glass jars and covered them denatured alcohol. The jars then sat in the garage. For a while. I occassionally remembered to shake them. And otherwise they sat with the dye slowly extracting out of the wood.

This weekend, I poured off some of the very colorful alcohol in to another set of jars and added some pre-mordanted silk and enough water to fill up the jar. The water and alcohol fizzled when mixed. Pretty cool.

What we have up there is NOT, as one person suggested, icky bits from a creature being preserved. On my driveway. In the sun. iiiewwwww. No, it's a jar of Brazilian Cherry extract, Black Locust extract, and Pink Ivory extract, with the yarn soaking in the sun.

The colors turned out about like you might expect from the jars above, but just for giggles, after I pulled the yarn out of the jars, I put half of the each skein of yarn in an old iron pot filled with water I got at an antique shop. The shot below shows the yarns (Pink Ivory, Black Locust, and Brazilian Cherry) with the left half of each pair having been dipped in an iron bath and the right half just as it was out of the jars on the driveway.

Pretty nifty, huh? I don't much care for the effect of the iron, but you never know. Sometimes you get some really cool and unexpected effects from iron. Still, I probably won't do that again with these particular dyes.

And that was my break from weaving! Time for me to get back to it - I just put a long warp on the loom, and I think I can get at least 3 scarves off of it. That's the goal, 3 scarves this week, featuring yarn from A Verb For Keeping Warm - that's Kristine's Shimmering Filigree mixed with some undyed silk. I'm going to do some very simple patterns with this - for you weavers out there, it has been threaded as a basic twill and sleyed in a 3-2-1-2-3 pattern. I'll do one scarf as just a nice crammed-and-spaced tabby, and another as a twill (which should give me nice wavy patterns) and I dunno about the third yet. I'm thinking the undyed silk for the weft for the tabby, maybe something crazy like purple Zephyr, or maybe just white. Does white warp ever really work? Inquiring minds want to know! Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Missing from the blogosphere!

Have you ever been so caught up in a thing, which turns in to another thing, which gets even bigger as something else entirely? The last month or so has been like that for me! After I got back from the Golden Gate Fiber Institute (which was fabulous, and cold, and rotten for photography so I didn't even try this time, thus no blog post, 'cause what is a blog post without photos???) I decided it was high time I put more intense effort in to my little Etsy shop. Etsy, for those of you who don't know, is an online shopping site for individuals and mini-businesses like mine that create things. So much art, jewelry, clothing and accessories, more in the way of unique stuff than you an shake a stick at! Anywho, I decided to move away from handspun and in to handwoven scarves. There are fewer handweavers than there are spinners, and I've gotten pretty good over the last year. After gifting a few scarves to my favorite GGFI goddesses this summer, I realized I was really Good Enough at this point to sell luxury scarves.

Of course, that's all well and good except for the fact you can't just say "poof! I'm selling handwoven scarves!" You have to make the handwoven scarves first. And then you have to photograph them well. And then you have to figure out a proper catchy and detailed description to go in the shop, since folks can't touch them online. People are totally reliant on the verbal descriptions, and so if you are selling high-end, those descriptions and photos better be brilliant. But wait, there's more! If you've got your scarves, your photos, and your catchy description, then you have to start marketing. Which means you have to know who your target market is, where they look at ads or blogs or things, possibly get in to neighborhood or group newsletters... Oh, and if you're in a very tactile kind of business (like, oh, say with handwoven fabric) then you might really want to consider doing some consignment sales. And if you're going to do consignment sales (which I am! w00t w00t! A Verb For Keeping Warm will be carrying my scarves when she has her new store opening in Oakland! You know you want to go touch my scarves.) then you have to do some research as to what goes on behind the scenes with consignment sales - what the percentages are, what the agreements need to be to get your stuff back if it doesn't sell, how long the shop owner will have it displayed, where the shop owner will display it, and so on and so forth and suchly.

So, you see what I mean about one thing sort of exploding in to many many many things? And there's more past that, but hey, you get the idea. I have another great independent dyer who is (hopefully!) going to dye some yarn for me and put me in touch with some of her contacts for consignment, and I'm doing some experimentation with dyeing some of my own silks (more on that in a future blog post). There's just so much to do!

Still, it's great to do something I love, and if the business takes off even a little bit, I'll have my all-consuming hobby pay for itself. Particularly now, after a summer of fun and joblessness, that sounds like a really good idea.

At the end of this month, I'll be driving up to Washington state for the first serious road trip I've taken in, um, hmm, a really long time. I'm going to the spinning retreat with Judith MacKenzie, and I'm going to take my time getting there. There is so much lovely stuff to see here on the West Coast, I can hardly wait! I will be taking many pictures, and hopefully posting along the way. I will probably need a break from weaving at that point, but since I want to have at least 20 scarves done this month, I had best get to it! I don't have a lot of time to meet my production goals.

There is so much exciting work to do - the ongoing battle to improve my photography, figuring out my packaging, getting a more polished brand (did that last night - more on that in another blog post), getting out more to show high-end shop owners my scarves and convince them to carry the pretties... I think my kitties miss me being lazy.