Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm still here and I'm still dyeing!

Man! I really fell off the blog wagon this Christmas! Sorry to disappear like that. Basically, I just needed a few days off to enjoy the holiday and relax my mind. Now I'm struggling to get back into the swing of things. After a couple gray weeks in the Phoenix area, the sun is back and that really helps me recharge. It also helps me dye wool because I count on the sun to dry my wet roving for me. So thank you sun for coming back!

The truth is I've barely done any work, but I did do one kind of fun experiment. You see, this is just our second year here in Arizona so fresh fruit picked right off the tree is still a wonderful novelty for me and my family. The fall after we moved here we planted two lemon trees, one orange and one ruby red grapefruit. The trees are still young, but the grapefruit and one of the lemon trees produced fruit for us this December. We also have a next door neighbor with two mature orange trees and he delivered a bag of oranges. My younger son is very enthusiastic about juicing the fruit and we have a great time.

This year after juicing the oranges, we had a large bowl of rinds left over and it seemed a shame to throw them away. I found a recipe for candied orange peel and my husband set about preparing the rinds. The recipe called for blanching the rinds several times to remove the bitterness. After each blanching, I drained the hot water and there was so much color in it. I started to wonder if I could dye wool with the blanching water. By the time I had the idea, it was too late for the oranges, but we still had lemon rinds. I just had to try out my idea, so we decided to make candied lemon peel too.

On the left is a picture of the candied orange peels just in case you've never see them before. They turned out really yummy with a great orange taste. On the right are the lemon rinds during the blanching process. In the middle is my dye pot with the lemon blanching water and some additional water so that it would cover the two ounces of wool I introduced. You can see it has a nice pale yellow color to it. So while I candied the lemon, I also dyed the wool using the same method I normally use only allowing it to steep longer.

In the end, the wool didn't pick up very much color. I really wish I had thought of the idea when I was working with the oranges because we had more orange peels and the oranges gave off a stronger yellow color. I think my results would have been much better. The lemons produced a nice pale lemon color, but I just don't think there was enough concentration to dye my wool. My ending result was a length of roving that looked pretty much like it did before taking the dye bath, but that's o.k., it was really fun trying.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Handspun Beaded Yarn - "Sun Touched" Merino with Oblong Red Coral

I finally managed to complete one of my own personal projects. Here is my latest skein of hanspun. I bought these striking red coral beads earlier this fall. I love their whimsical shape and their intense reddish orange color. I decided to pick a more neutral shade of wool and allow the beads to really stand out. The wool I used is some of my own merino. This color, "Sun Touched" is part of my skin tone line. I also used generous amounts of Firestar dyed the same shade. I have a hard time resisting adding a little sparkle to my projects. Because the Firestar and the wool are the same color in this skein, the sparkle adds a lot of life without taking away from my focal beads.

I have come to love adding beads to my yarn. It's like getting beautiful little presents in what would otherwise be fairly typical skeins of yarn. I also like to imagine how they might be used by a knitter or crocheter. I think beaded yarns would make very fun trims or borders. I also like to imagine them being paired with complimentary skeins. I think they would be fantanstic additions to the yarn stash of any free form fiber artist. As a yarn seller, I rarely get to see what my creations become. I'll never know if this yarn becomes part of a scarf or handbag or even perhaps some felted jewelry. All I know is that I had a wonderful time as the designer and that's enough.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fellow Artists, How do you decorate your homes?

You don't have to answer that question, but I am curious. I do wonder sometimes how other arty people live. This is on my mind today because we are refinancing our house and my home inspection was this morning. I don't think of myself as being all that different until I start to walk around seeing my house through the eyes of others. I found myself trying to explain certain choices every time we turned a corner. So just how quirky am I?

We started with the backyard. We have a pool and spa, a swing set for the kids, basketball. It's a pretty typical Arizona back yard until you see that our Christmas Tree is outside. Before you laugh, picture this: A covered porch, on one end a Christmas Tree all lit up, cozy furniture arranged for the sole purpose of enjoying the tree lights, snuggly fleece blankets, off to the side a fire glows in the fire pit, Candles, a little music, a warm drink.... See, it really isn't so crazy. Right?

Inside I had more explaining to do. I have a downstairs restroom which, when we bought the house, was a frightening shade of intense turquoise blue. Not wanting to paint, I decided to embrace the blue and went with a crazy Kokopelli/Southwest kind of theme. I gave it a grass roof and lizards climbing the wall. Well I guess I should just show you, I can't really describe it.

I could go on and on. I have a living/dining room space that has club chairs and a pool table. One of my son's rooms we call Madagascar because that's what he wanted me to create when we decorated. My other son has his own art center and his paintings hang on the wall. Of course my studio is a wild, colorful home to my spinning wheel, looms, roving, yarn and piles of handmade creations. We keep a six foot trampoline in our loft/game area. So maybe my house is a little out there. Mostly it's set up for fun, comfort and to accommodate all of our hobbies.

Well, the inspectors seemed nice and I'm sure they see all kinds of stuff with the job they do. I wonder though, how do the other arty people of the world decorate. Do they confine their art to a studio or to one space or does it tend to find it's way throughout their homes. How stylish, quirky or classic are you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Make Your Own Drop Spindle With CDs!

Yesterday I introduced you to Jags. She's a new customer at Wind Rose and, more importantly, a wonderful new spinner. After she received the roving she purchased from my shop, she sent me an email that really made me smile:

"My spindle hasn't shipped yet, so I found instructions on making one with cds lol So a dowel rod, 2 cds, some fast dry putty and a cup hook I stole off the cabinet and I'm spinning!"

Isn't that great!? I'm beginning to think that Jags represents everything I love about spinning! I have seen CD drop spindles before at festivals. I've seen them with painted designs and thought they were really cool. I just never thought of making my own. Yesterday Jags passed on the website she used at least in part when making her CD drop spindle. You can find the instructions at Making A CD Drop Spindle. I've perused the instructions and they look really good. They have also included some nice links.

To the right is a picture of Jag's CD drop spindle along with the one she purchased. If you would like to see more of her pictures, visit her blog Adventures Of A Fiber Addict.

I was writing on my other blog yesterday and I was talking about my philosophy on a topic. In the end I decided that my philosophy may be, "If you can't find it, create it." The more I think about it, the more I'm liking my new motto. I guess for Jags it was: If you can't wait for it to come in the mail, make one yourself!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Meet a New Spinner and See Her First Skeins of Yarn!

Good Morning all! December is such a busy time, isn't it? My studio has become a gathering place for gifts and wrapping. My spinning wheel sits with half a spool spun and a pile of fiber just waiting. Although I often feature other artists, much of my inspiration for this blog comes from my work. I feel like I've been lagging a bit this month as other things pull me from my wool.

So I'm very pleased to have a new spinner and her work to share with you today! About a week ago, I received a convo at Wind Rose Fiber Studio from my new acquaintance, Jags. She was looking for advice on what sort of fiber she might try. We've been chatting a little since then and she has graciously shared some pictures of her very first skeins of yarn. Actually, she started a very nice blog called Adventures Of A Fiber Addict. I was so impressed when I looked at her blog. First of all, she has been very industrious. I can't believe all the spinning she's been doing. Second, if these are her first skeins, I can't wait to see her work in a couple months. She's obviously a natural!

My fiber recommendation was Blue Faced Leicester. I think it's a nice choice starting out because it's a lovely soft fiber, but it has more texture than merino and can be a little easier to handle. Plus there is the added benefit of it being reasonably priced especially undyed. You can get a nice amount without breaking the bank. I'm glad Jags liked working with it.

I put a couple other little sample gifts in her package. I love to treat new spinners. Their enthusiasm is so inspiring and I remember how much fun it was to get new fiber in the mail. Up above, the brown on the left and the green on the right are two of the presents I sent. The brown merino looks so soft and lovely as a thick and thin and the neon green mohair turned out great. The cranberry colored yarn in the middle was made from fiber she purchased at The Flying Ewe. That skein looks amazing. She's not going to be a beginner for long is she?

Thank you Jags for sharing your beautiful new yarn with us today. I can't wait to see what you spin up next. I'm so glad you created a blog so we can share in your experience!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Purple Snake Bracelet - Beautiful Bead Weaving by Rose Works Jewelry

I have always had a weakness for weaving. When I started my business years ago, the only thing I sold was hand woven purses. I find myself doing all sorts of work now, but weaving will forever be one of my deep passions.

So of course I was delighted to find this beauty while looking through the shop of Rose Works Jewelry. All of her work is wonderful. I love that she pulls from popular culture in some of her designs. I'd be a much cooler mom if I wore a beaded Legend of Zelda bracelet.

This Purple Snake Bracelet is what I found myself revisiting over and over. I love how bold the pattern is while the harmonious colors keep the piece soothing and elegant. This is exactly the sort of eye catching creation that deserves a spotlight. Beautiful, Rose Works, just beautiful!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cashmere Nuno Felt - Elegantly Crafted by enee Fabric Design

I've been meaning to spotlight eneefabricdesign for some time now. Her work is among the most gorgeous nuno felt I've encountered! She has been creating nuno felt for some time now and her work gracefully displays her experience with the art.

Her Etsy Shop is now featuring a small collection of Cashmere Nuno Scarves. They are all one of a kind and uniquely beautiful. It is the perfect marriage of two luxurious fibers, silk and cashmere.

From the artist, " I took my first workshop from Polly Stirling, and little did I know that no other class would ever come close to what I learned from her. She did have a nuno jacket she made that she passed around to the class (5 years ago!) and all I could think of was I was in an enchanted forest..."

Her love of nuno felt is so evident and contageous in her words. She generously offers her pieces at wholesale prices for Etsy shoppers. If you love wearable art, look no further!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Some Of My Favorite Etsy Things!

Have you finished your shopping yet?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Anniversary Wind Rose!

I feel a little silly. It's like wishing yourself a Happy Birthday, but I couldn't let the day go by without some recognition. Today is the one year anniversary of my store opening. One year ago today, I logged onto Etsy and started an account. I think I only listed one item that day. It was after dinner and by the time I made my banner, picked out an avatar and wrote my bio and all, it was getting late. I refused to quit until I had at least one thing in my shop.

I started out with a huge inventory from my craft show days. My first couple months with Etsy was spent photographing and listing my goods. My goal for myself was to make at least 100 sales in my first year. I thought if I could just do that, I'd be happy. My business started off pretty slow; a sale here, a sale there. By March, I knew I needed to put more thought into it if I wanted to make my goal. I started thinking harder about it. Who shops at Etsy and what do I enjoy making that they would want?

Asking myself that one question really helped me focus my business. The fact is, crafty people shop on Etsy so I would reach out to my fellow crafts people. I started selling dyed roving and made the choice to sell it in small amounts. I didn't see anyone else selling roving by the ounce so I thought maybe that could be my niche. Spinners could pick out two or three ounces and design their own skeins of yarn and felters, who work with smaller quantites anyway, could have lots of colors to choose from. That's when I started getting busy.

Now, a year later, I have divided up my store. Wind Rose Fiber Studio was just getting too big. With all of my handmade and handspun mixed in with my fiber, it was hard to manage. I was up to over 300 items and 17 pages to search through. I'm heading into year two with new goals. I love that Wind Rose Fiber Studio is just fiber now. I plan to expand to include more types of fiber and offer more undyed options for those who like to do their own dyeing. For me, fiber is the heart of my business and will be my main focus.

That being said, I do love to make things too. I opened up Wind Rose Art Yarn so my handspun could have its own special place. When I comes to my own creativity, spinning is my favorite thing to do. I love designing yarn and with a fiber studio in my house, I have so many wonderful wools and plants fibers at my fingertips. The other funny thing is, I love it when I'm dyeing and a color doesn't come out quite like I planned. It's like a present for me and my spinning wheel. We'll make somehing pretty out of it!

My other handmade goodies have new homes too, all of those items I spent my first few months listing. I put my absolute favorites into Wind Rose Boutique at Etsy. I plan to keep the boutique small and keep an eclectic mix of things there. It's a place where you can by a formal Little Black Clutch or a one of a kind Baby Cozy or maybe a Felted Cuff. It's small and intimate and a unique mix of handmade creations. As if that were not enough I opened one more store over at Artfire. I needed a place for some of my vintage handmade. Artfire got my curiosity going and I like that there is an option for accepting offers on items or decreasing the cost over time. Customers can feel like they are getting a good deal and I can have some added control over my vast inventory. I think it will be a win win. I call my Artfire shop Wind Rose Fiber Studio too. I wanted people to be able to recognize me in my new space.

So here I am, one year old, 750 sales later. I would never have imagined that many sales a year ago and I especially would not have guessed that I would be running four shops! I want to thank everyone reading this for joining me on my journey. Thank you for your support, your business, your feedback. I appreciate you all so much! Wind Rose has become so much more than my home based business. It's where I have found kindred spirits and new friends. I am so grateful to Etsy for being a place that supports the arts. Thank you for providing a home for the artisans! Finally, to all my fellow Etsians, thank you for being a strong, positive and supportive community! What a great group of people you are!!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ode to Muk Luks

It takes a long time before it begins to feel like winter here in the Phoenix area. The changes are there, but they are subtle. Then finally, one day, you realize the house is starting to feel chilly. The nights are colder and the sun, though it tries, it cannot quite warm things all the way back up again. We switched our heat on about three days ago, but for a VA girl, it seems amazing to get all the way into December before doing so.

Being new to the southwest and embracing the change, we put our Christmas tree under our porch out back. We string up lights and I have this funny candelabra that I dress with moss and long red tapers. We also have a gas fire pit that the previous owners were creative enough to install. I arrange my furniture so that I can take in the tree and twinkle lights, the candles and fire all at once. Huddled with a fleece throw and a glass of wine and I feel like I'm in holiday heaven.

I know this doesn't sound much like an ode to muk luks so far, but I'm getting there. You see, for most of the year here, I forget about things like toasty socks, but tonight I came in from the back porch and was looking for something soft and warm and there they were. I have this crazy sort of furry pair of muk luks I crocheted for myself a few years ago. The first time I put them on each winter, they make me so happy. They're absolutely perfect. The pair I wear are the style in this picture, but mine are the color of wine and the accent squares are made from a wild novelty yarn. I love the geometric shapes and angles and how they are more boot-like than sockish (I'm making up words now).

I fell in love with muk luks the first time I encountered them. I was young and probably in some bohemian shop in Georgetown. They were most likely displayed as you normally find them, in a huge pile on a table or in a bin. Normally they are knit in the same basic pattern and in two colors. You see a lot of brown and white or red and natural, that kind of thing. So if all this time you were picturing something fashioned from leather and fur that you would trudge through Canada in, I'm not talking about that Muk Luk. I'm talking about the hippie knit version that you buy off a vendor at a street fair.

A few years ago when my store bought, knit muk luks were falling apart, I got the idea to design a crocheted version. If I love them so much, why not make them? They were pretty complicated to design and even more to assemble, but it was a labor of love. I even made several pairs both tall and short to sell at craft shows. People often admired them, but no one ever bought a pair. Well, maybe one or two pairs sold, but not many. It became clear to me that my love of muk luks what not shared by the masses. That's ok, It doesn't change my feelings for them. I look forward to the coming December nights when my muk luks and I will curl up together out on my back porch. We'll drink wine or the mead my husband brews and listen to the night noises as we gaze at the Christmas tree. That's what we'll do, my muk luks and I.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Creative Connections

I'm kind of just in the mood to ramble a little bit tonight. For the last couple of weeks it's been difficult to find time to do my creative work. It has placed me in a bit of a funk. After all, I call my business Wind Rose for a reason. Creativity is how I keep myself on course. I feel lost without it, but today I had the next best thing.

Today I got a convo (Etsy mail) from someone who had just purchased her first drop spindle. Her excitement about learning to spin really came through in her message. I was able to give her some advice and guide her toward fiber that I thought she would enjoy working with and that would be good for someone just starting out. She thanked me and bought some of what I recommended. Touched by her enthusiasm, I put a few presents in her package, some samples of mohair, soy silk, merino and firestar. It made me really happy to think of her opening her bubble mailer to find not only what she ordered, but these colorful additions.

So on a day that has included a frenzy of house cleaning, working on homework projects, tending to my swollen knee and the bedtime discovery that one of my kids may very well have the chicken pox, there was this special interaction. For a few minutes I got to connect with someone with a like passion and maybe even help her a little on her creative journey. It's one of the coolest aspects of Etsy. On any day, in any given moment, you could find yourself connecting with someone anywhere in the world. It's amazing. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gift Certificates Now Available at Wind Rose Fiber Studio!

I am going to have to write a book called "Everything I know I learned from Blockhead Radio"! Every time I listen to Blockheadrod, I am rewarded with a new piece of wisdom. The latest is the idea to offer Gift Certificates at Wind Rose. Simple and so smart. Let's face it. Most of our loyal customers are crafts people. How nice for them to be able to tell their families, "Just get me a gift certificate." Shopping is easier and everyone gets just what they want!

I am now offering Gift Certificates in three amounts: $10, $20 and $25. They are redeemable at any of my three Etsy Stores:

Here at Wind Rose Fiber Studio:
Or at Wind Rose Art Yarn:
Or at Wind Rose Boutique:

The Gift Certificate is printed on bright green paper and comes with its own envelope. It can be mailed to you or directly to the recipient. If you would like your Gift Certificate sent to a different address, please leave that information in the message to seller at the time of purchase.

All the information needed for redeeming this Gift is located right on the Gift Certificate. The recipient will also receive a business card with additional contact information in case they have any questions.

If you would like to purchase a Gift Certificate for an amount other than the ones offered, please contact me and I'll be happy to make a custom listing for you.

For all the details, check out the listings at Wind Rose Fiber Studio. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Spinning Wheel - A Peek At My Newest Art Yarn Design!

It's been a long day. I still have various colors of paint all over my hands from a Jackson Pollock art project with my son's third grade class. I also still need to head downstairs and put dinner on the table, but at some point tonight, I'll be at my spinning wheel. It's my favorite way to unwind. I guess that's a little ironic since just the opposite will be happening to the merino on my bobbin.

Just for fun I thought I'd share my latest project with you. The photograph doesn't really represent the colors well. It's night time here and the florescent bulbs in my office are casting a yellow light. My main fiber is merino dyed a shade I call Sun Touched. It's actually part of my skin tone roving line. The name describes it well. It's fair with a hint of brown. I also have some matching firestar that I'm working in to incorporate some sparkle. Both of these fibers though, are really just a neutral backdrop to the eye popping red coral in fanciful oblong shapes that I'm spinning directly into the yarn. The colors are looking really nice together. I think the finished yarn will have a sophisticated look. I'll be back to show you when the spinning is all done. See you tomorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

World AIDS Day - 20th Anniversary

This may be a sobering post for 'Cyber Monday', the Black Friday for all of us with on line stores. Many of us woke up this morning ready to get to work; market, promote, sell. I sat down at my computer feeling more curiosity than anything else. I went onto Twitter and started with "Good Morning, What's everyone up to today?" Keep in mind that most of my followers and those I follow are in the craft world as am I. We are generally busy little bees. Today is no different. we are getting our orders ready to post and listing new items in our shops and so forth. Then a tweet came up that caught my eye. "Today is World AIDS Day: STOP AIDS. KEEP THE PROMISE."

First of all, thank you spoons for reminding us that today is so much more than 'Cyber Monday'. It can be so easy to get caught up in our work that we forget to take a breath and focus on the world around us. So that is just what I'm doing. Today is World AIDS Day. The 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day actually. On the first anniversay in 1988, what did you know or think about the AIDS epidemic? How has it touched your life or influenced the way you live? Is it personal for you?

For me, 1988 was the year that I moved to Northern VA, just outside of DC. I was 21 years old, dating and fairly clueless. By the early 1990's I was becoming more aware. I was working for The Body Shop and AIDS Relief was one of the campaigns we worked on. Then it became more personal when I traveled to Romania to volunteer in the orphanages in the northeastern region of the country. Some of these orphanages were completely dedicated to AIDS children. Where I worked, none of the kids had tested positive yet, but there were no guarantees. Among the heartbreaking things I experienced, was children who intentionally cut or wounded themselves for medical attention. Often medical attention was the only kind of special care they received. Daily I was approached by youngsters showing me their bloody scrapes. I would hug them and beg them to be careful and not to hurt themselves.

I have worked side by side with people living with AIDS, I have stuffed envelopes at the Whitman-Walker Clinic. I have viewed every panel of the AIDS Quilt through teary eyes and I have marched on Washington. Today my life is more sheltered. I have children that I'm busy raising and less time to call my own, but today I have made a personal pledge. My pledge is to remember and never forget that the struggle still wages on. I pledge to use my voice to promote awareness and education. We can all do our part. Visit the World AIDS Campaign today and find out what you can do. Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.