Friday, August 27, 2010

Moon faced and pie eyed.

It's 3am and I should be doing all sorts of other things including work, but I just spent over an hour outside looking up at the sky.  You see, my father received an email a while back talking about the August "Two Moons" effect of Mars and the moon. While the phenomenon is actually not true, what was true is that the sky was clear, the moon was gloriously bright, and there was a bright speck of a planet visible as well.  I think it's actually Jupiter but I'm not sure.

The night was so clear, not a cloud, and the moon was bright enough to not need a flashlight. So we took the big telescope outside to take a closer look.  I took some truly awful pictures with my little point and shoot.

In the second picture, that smudge of light to the right is the light bouncing off the edge of the roof. I kept this picture to give an idea of how bright it actually was.

And these were taken through the telescope.  There were what looked like 4 visible satellites to the planet, which is why I think it's Jupiter, all in a little string of 3 with a 4th further out and not visible in the picture.  Since I don't have a bracket to attach the camera to the telescope, nor a motor to allow it to track, my pictures are never very good.

While I find internet hoaxes and false excitement over non-existent phenomena annoying, I was glad for the reason to look at the sky tonight. It was fun, and the weather is perfect for it, and the moon was absolutely lovely despite not being full. We really don't use the telescope enough. It's a terrific 114mm Newtonian Celestron telescope and perfect for looking at near space. I bought it for my father when I was still earning a fat paycheck and it's been gathering a lot of dust.

I enjoy the sense of wonder that comes from looking at the craters and shadows on the face of the moon or seeing the pinpricks of light spring into visibility around the glowing speck of a planet. And since our spotting scope is out of alignment there's also a sense of victory when we can actually find anything!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ice cream social III - the end of summer draws nigh

Summer is coming to a close here and the weather has turned cool and drippy. We'll no doubt get another blast of heat to remind us that it's not done with us quite yet but it's almost time for apple picking and pumpkin pie again.

This picture isn't indicative of the weather at all. I took it earlier this summer, when I wanted to melt. But ice cream is always appropriate. So here's another ice cream giveaway.

This time I'd like people to talk about what fibery, crafty goodness they're starting up. It's not the end of summer everywhere, but a change of seasons is creeping ever closer and that tends to shake things up a bit.

Just comment here any time through Sunday, August 29th, and you'll be entered in the random drawing. Please leave a way to get back in touch with you, or check back here on Monday, August 30th to see if you've won. On September 1st, I'll have another fun giveaway with some lovely items from LylianMae Fiber Artistry.

Once again, this coupon expires in 2011 and is only good in the US.But don't let that stop you if you're outside the US. If you win, I'll send a little surprise instead.

And as another reminder, my Help Pakistan fundraiser box auction is here. The value of the contents of the boxes go up as the bids increase, and at this point the boxes will be fantastic

Meanwhile, back at the ranch I'm very busy indeed. I have a festival in less than 3 weeks and it's gotten to the "eep!" point where I need to get too many things done at the same time.  Once I finish a bunch of really important tasks this week, I'm going to go into a solid week of dyeing yarn just for the festival. Then the last week before will be full of labeling and inventory, and bajillions of little tasks that always fall by the wayside until the last moment.  Fingers crossed I do well there this year. I'm by myself this time, so it's a lot of space to fill with little ol'  me!

And somewhere in all of this, I need to prepare and ship out my Phatfiber samples.  I will get another update in the shop done this week however, hell or high water. I want to give everyone a good chance at the skeins of Arctic Hare I have dyed up already, before I take everything to the festival. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bleat (and a tiny video tutorial)

I'm working on lots of things to gear up for the festival next month, and this one keeps cracking me up so I have to share. But before I get into that I just want to remind everyone that I have two yarny fibery swap boxes up for auction at the Help Pakistan LiveJournal community.

Now, on to the thing that's been amusing me for days. See, I like to hand out free patterns when I do a craft show. Ideally they're made out of my own yarn and I can display the finished product around the booth. It draws interest and is a great ice breaker.

So I wanted something new this year. This time I decided to make a sheep mug cozy based on a discussion in the Ravelry forums. I had intended to do something rather different at the start but the idea grew and evolved and... well, this is what happened:

One sheep mug cozy on a standard mug, before blocking.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A plug for Help_Pakistan

So, I know a lot of people are cash poor, I certainly am. I also know that there are a lot of people who want to help when simply awful things happen, like the flooding in Pakistan.

Sometimes people come together and make a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Help Haiti did that. It raised over $115,000 in just a few weeks. All by matching up people with goods or services they could donate and people who wanted to buy them.

Help Pakistan is trying to do this. It's a new LiveJournal community hosting an auction for flood relief efforts. No money ever changes hands between offerer and winning bidder. Everything goes directly to the aid organizations which can be selected off a master list.

I'm offering up two "swap" boxes of fibery goodness. I did one for Help Haiti and it went over well so I decided to offer them again, this time with the option of spinning fiber. It's all the fun of getting a swap with no risk. My listing can be seen here: Yarny Fibery Swap/Mystery Boxes

This was my Help Haiti swap box (less a knitted tea cozy that was still drying when I took the picture).

The recipient and I overlapped in Harry Potter interest, so I was able to add lots of little doodads to the box to give it character.

Help Pakistan is taking listings starting today, and on Monday the 23rd it opens up for bidding. People can still list new offerings once the bidding has started, the few days lead time is just so the offerings can build up a bit. ETA: They've opened bidding early. Listing new things will be open through the 27th, and bidding ends the 28th. Delivery of offerings is expected by Oct. 1. end ETA

I hope you'll take a look. These auctions are usually lots of fun to browse; the scope of the offerings can be astounding. And please do spread the word if you can. It takes a critical mass of interest both in offering and in bidding to get these things really rolling.

There are a lot of disasters right now. The flooding and landslides in China come to mind, too. It's not on the same scale as Pakistan, but it's still horrible. It's hard to say "I can't help." I have a roof over my head and all the comforts of home, but my reality is that I can't spare the cash. But I can spare the stash, and the effort, and some base yarn or fiber to dye up something custom. So, this is what I'm doing.

Thank you!

Monday, August 16, 2010


I'm a bit swamped right now but I wanted to pop up a post to say that KnittinK and I were accepted to the Boston Bazaar Bizarre in Boston for their Winter Fair.

I'm very excited about this. It's the first festival of its sort that I'll have done, and it's supposed to have great vendors and amazing attendance. This also means I get to go up to Boston and see friends! And, since I poked around with setup today, I realized I can get everything I need into my little car with the gps. So I won't get lost! For me, not getting incurably lost is a requirement for having a good time.

So we will be in Boston on Dec 5th between noon at 7pm at the Cyclorama with much yarn and fibery goodness. If you're in the area, stop by and say 'hello'! :D

Meanwhile, I'm still in the throes of a big update. It's going very slowly as I've proved to be extremely distractable. Also, I took the pictures for these listings over the course of 5 days, so sometimes finding the correct one takes a bit of doing. I realized I had 4 whole colorways (12sk of yarn) that I'd completely neglected to do because I thought I'd already done them *facepalm* So yeah, I'm working on it.

Here are two of my unexpected favorite colorways from July, though. I liked them out of the pot, but they've really grown on me as I've looked at them more and more.

These are Coffee Cup and Asphalt Jungle.

The lighter color on Coffee Cup isn't white. It's actually the palest of pale minty blue. And Asphalt Jungle reminds me of the colors of the movie posters for The Asphalt Jungle. But aside from matching those black and white with splashes of color posters really well, I think it will work up beautifully in a project, with the predominance of the grey.

OK, off back to the Gimp mines. I have something like 43sk of yarn with pictures still to edit. *facepalm* Gimp waits for no one! Or, well it waits, but it doesn't do anything while it's waiting, more's the pity!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shop update and a note on prices.

The number of times I have to retake pictures because the color temperature is off is really starting to annoy me. I have to retake some pictures this weekend, while I try to finally get all the skeins I dyed in July listed. This, so I can dye up more this week and then list them. I have a lot to dye up before the Garden State Sheep Breeders festival in September (Sept 11 & 12, in Ringoes, NJ).

Additionally, I wanted to give everyone a heads up that my prices are changing. My yarn costs went up considerably in March and sadly, absorbing the difference has become impossible. So a month from now, on Sept 13, I'm going to raise all my yarn prices 6%. For example, Jackalope and March Hare are both going from $18.80 up to $19.95.

I'll be taking all the yarn to the festival in September and vending there with the old prices. The shop will be empty of yarn for the weekend. Then, all the stock returned to the etsy shop on Sept 13, the Monday, will have the new prices. Meanwhile, I do intend to stock the shop as full as I can before the festival so there will be plenty of selection at the current prices.

Please do ask any questions you may have. It's always an uncomfortable sort of thing to have to raise prices, but I'd rather not spring it on people unannounced. This way, it's like a long sale.

Phatfiber colorways, clockwise from the upper left: Red Desert, lapis lazuli and brass widgets, Agate, and Papyrus.  Image links to the shop.

The theme this month was Africa, and these were some of what I contributed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Through the roof

Last night was full of moment. There was a lot of not getting enough work done (which is why my next shop update starts tomorrow come hell or high water), mangoes with coconut rice, and a mystery. The mangoes with coconut rice will be at the end of this post because I'd like to talk about the mystery. If you just want the recipe, click through the jump cut and page down until you see the food picture. :)

So, the mystery has to do with visitors to my shop and shop hearts. I check Craftcult several times a day to see my shop hearts. I know that hearts don't equal sales, but I think of it as a general barometer of how appealing my shop is. And really, it just makes me feel good. It's a bit of harmless affirmation.

Last night, the number jumped. It jumped so much that I thought it was a glitch and wondered if Craftcult was having problems. There was more than a page of new hearts. That is not typical for my shop! So I went to Craftopolis to see if it also had the anomalous hearts.

Look at the visitors, views and hearts for Aug 9. 821 unique visitors, 2611 page views, and 44 new shop hearts. I was gobsmacked. And I still thought it might be a glitch.

Keep in mind that in May a skein of my yarn was in an Etsy front page Treasury. That day I netted 300+ unique visitors and 26 shop hearts. This blew that day away.

I was still skeptical so I checked and everything kept saying it was real, so I started hunting for the source. I googled my shop, I checked for any more front page treasuries, I checked treasuries in general, I checked Ravelry, I even checked Etsy finds on the slim chance. I came up blank everywhere. There was nothing to explain why people had suddenly decided to heart my shop right and left starting 8:48pm last night.

I waited for midnight so I could check my analytics, and there was the completely unexpected source. Facebook.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pigment, not dye

I'm covered in pigment ink. My new stamp pad came today so of course I had to drop everything and try it out. Trying it out led to stamping 25 shopping bags until I could reliably produce something halfway decent.

I did say "halfway". This is actually one of the first ones I did. I consider the "oopses" as part of the rustic charm. *cough*

As long as I'm careful, they turn out well. If I get careless, then I forget and lift the stamp before I've checked that all the points have made contact. This is where a flexible stamp works *really* well. I can lift just the corner and check, and press down on just one spot to mould it around the handles and creases.

All in all, it does what I intend it to do and it's colorful and fun. I'm very happy with it. Even if I'm covered in ink.

Luckily pigment ink wears off after a few washes. This is quite unlike the turquoise dye I spilled all over my hand earlier today. That's going to linger. Not exactly how I want to have a green thumb!

Oh, who am I kidding? All us crafty sorts know that getting messy is half the fun.

So this is one more thing done. I've signed up to accept credit cards, I purchased new insulated gloves, and now I have logo shopping bags. Can you tell I'm excited for the Garden State Sheep Breeders Festival? :D

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dye lots

First things first, I get to announce the winner of August 1 Giveaway! There was a lot of fun discussion of favorite cartoon characters, and I was reminded of a lot I'd forgotten. But, on to the winner! has chosen Nephnie to receive the skein of Jackrabbit in the Red Desert colorway. Congratulations, Nephnie!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I've been pondering dye lots and my ability to reproduce colorways. Mostly because I had a batch of Heirloom Tomatoes come out nothing at all like the past versions. And I've noticed this with certain of my older recipes from last year; they're not working out quite the same. It's a bit disconcerting.

However, I have pretty good success with current colorways.

These are two batches each of Starry Night and Long Walk laid out on foamcore boards. I could have arranged Long Walk slightly better to demonstrate the interval, but I think it's still clear that these are essentially the same colorways, despite the inevitable differences. The biggest difference between the two batches of Starry Night is where the yellow intervals occur, and that has to do with how I tied the skeins before they went into the pot. They tend to match within a batch, and be wildly different between lots. And that makes sense since I try and make them match when I'm dyeing the batch, but I don't have the previous batch to reference.

I think what's happening is that the variables are greater when there's 9 months between this time dyeing a colorway and that time dyeing a colorway. The way I mix the dye stock is a little different, the dye lots on several of my dye powders has changed, and then there are the innumerable differences in temperature, acidity, and even invisible differences in the base yarn.

It is a little frustrating, however, to have a recipe that worked time and again and then stops working. Luckily, it's very difficult to have something that's completely disastrous. Even if it's not the original intended colorway, something beautiful is possible.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Busy busy busy

Remember, tomorrow is the last day to enter the most recent giveaway in this post.

I've been very busy and not very productive. We have family visiting which makes it difficult to get things done, and the weather has decided to get ridiculously hot and humid again. I had to bring in all the yarn I dyed over the weekend and crank up the dehumidifier. This means that my workroom is unbearably hot, but at least my yarn is all dry. Once the room cools down, I have to label all the yarn so I can photograph it.

One thing that was dry enough to photograph, however, is the sample I received from the mill. It's a beautiful merino/superfine mohair blend in a DK weight. It's all domestically produced fiber, and it's not a superwash.

100g/300yds of DK weight merino/mohair in the Poseidon colorway. The reduced saturation of a non-superwash really shows how the Poseidon colorway is a darker version of the Cleito colorway.

I love how it responded to my usual technique, and I'm really happy that there was no felting or matting. I'm not actually in the market for a DK weight for the shop, but this blend is also available in a laceweight. I'm definitely considering the laceweight for the shop. I know the mohair will put off some people, but personally I prefer mohair to alpaca and I love how this blend takes dye. I'm keeping this skein for meeeee.

But before I can think of adding new things to the shop, I have to take care of the current stock. Which means it's back to the Gimp mines for me. I have to list my August Phatfiber colorways and stitch markers and clear the path for the next big update.

Monday, August 2, 2010


First off, don't forget the giveaway happening in this post, taking comments through Thursday.

Now, on to cake!

We have family visiting and one of my nieces asked for cake. Since we're in the middle of a slightly cooler patch of weather, I decided to go for it. The request was chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and raspberry jam filling.

I decided to go with a simple chocolate cake using oil instead of butter, vanilla cream cheese frosting, and tart raspberry sauce to go in the filling. The cream cheese frosting is one I devised when I made my cousin's Red Velvet wedding cake (it wasn't hard, it's just a basic frosting). The raspberry sauce comes from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible.

The cake is chocolaty and very moist. I prefer the flavor and texture of butter cakes and this is definitely not a butter cake, but it's plenty good enough to satisfy a craving. Other than the softness, the frosting and filling were tasty as well. As long as I keep the cake chilled when we're not serving portions, it should be fine. Otherwise, I'd do a standard buttercream for warm weather (the kind with egg yolks and soft ball stage syrup, not powdered sugar). But a buttercream was more work than I was willing to do today.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 1 giveaway -

For this month's giveaway I have a skein of the colorway I dyed up for the August Phatfiber box theme of Africa.

Jackrabbit 4oz, colorway Red Desert.

This is a 4oz skein in the Jackrabbit base, a 2ply superwash merino in a fingering weight. 400yds, this is plenty for a pair of socks or a small lace project. I love this yarn; it's incredibly springy and has a lovely sheen. In this colorway, it's like a sunset over stones and sand.

My sister's family is visiting from the other side of the country, and I asked my niece for what folks should do to sign up for this giveaway. So, to sign up comment here with your favorite Looney Tunes character (or any animated character, really) any time through Thursday, August 5th to enter this random drawing.

This actually does have an obscure tie-in to my shop. My favorite animated character right now is Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, my shop name is a reference to the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs falls for a mechanized rabbit on a greyhound racetrack. My usual username around the internet is "djinnj" which is very close to "djinn" which is where we get "genie" which works with "Jeanie, the light brown hare" variation of the song Bugs sings, which is a punning reference to the song Jeanie with the light brown hair.... Well, I said it was obscure!

So, pull up some pixels and let's talk about cartoons! :D And don't forget to leave a way to reach you or come back on Friday to see who won. Thanks!

Meanwhile, I'm giving away fiber on my Ravelry group.