Everything for the weaver, spinner, knitter, felter and dyer...

Everything for the weaver, spinner, knitter, felter and dyer...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Some random thoughts at the end of another year...

We're at the end of another year. I guess I'm at the point in my life where time starts to accelerate. The days and weeks and years just seem to fly by. I've accomplished a lot this year at Purple Fleece. I updated the website, installed an on-line shopping cart, starting dyeing yarn and roving for the consumption of others rather than just my own gluttony, started social networking, was a vendor at 12 festivals, taught classes at 4 of them, began a Yarn of the Month club and a Roving of the Month club, and ran my store and taught classes here. Whew, I'm tired just thinking about it. It feels incredibly satisfying too, however. I feel like I've reached a new level in my business.

I am so grateful to my loyal customers, old friends and new friends, and my family who have made suggestions, helped me at fairs when I couldn't be in two places at once, given me both positive and negative feedback, and have been a huge emotional support when I needed to blow off steam. You guys really rock...

I love what I do, appreciate all that I have, and want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a healthy, prosperous, and content 2011.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Roving of the Month Club!

I should have expected it as it was a natural progression....

The Yarn of the Month Club was a success and I was having so much fun with the dyeing. People started requesting hand painted roving. Could I say no and stand firm? Of course not. I dyed a few rovings before a fiber festival for one spinner in custom colorways. Then another request came in and I completed that one. OK, I admit it; I was hooked.

Now Purple Fleece has a Roving of the Month Club. You can sign up for a monthly subscription that offers one hand painted 4 ounce roving per month or a double order if you're feeling really hungry for fiber in your diet! I'm experimenting with a different fiber content each month and a different colorway as well. I'm planning an occasional very special offering of an exotic fiber too. Ooh, I can't wait!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New "Yarn of the Month"

The "Yarn of the Month" club is off to a really good start. I blogged earlier about the first yarn that was sent out, a worsted weight Merino kettle dyed yarn appropriately named "Emerald City" that was ultimately the birth of the Witch's Brew line of Purple Fleece yarns. This was a mostly emerald green yarn with hints of teal.
The most recent yarn to go out was a limited edition merino/silk lace weight yarn with a whopping 900 plus yards. The colorway for this hand dyed yarn was reminiscent of the autumn sumac at dusk.
What's next? You'll have to be patient and wait and see....

Monday, September 20, 2010

Common Ground Country Fair

It's that time of year again....Common Ground Country Fair time of year. This is both my largest fair and most unusual fair. It's easier to tell you what it isn't. It's not a state or county fair; there are no rides, midway, or food on a stick. It's an all-Maine fair and includes everything alternative and traditional and crafty. If you want to know how to build a stone wall, this is the fair for you. If you want to know about herbal remedies for whatever ails you, this is the fair for you. If you want to learn how to dye your own sheep wool with plants from your garden, this is the fair for you. The Fiber Marketplace is the area that Purple Fleece sets up its tent and has been doing so for the past 6 years. On average, 60,000 people pass through the gates of the CGCF each year.

Besides selling equipment and supplies for fiber artists, I teach impromptu drop spindling, wheel spinning, and needle felting to anyone that might be interested. I also explain how to dye fleece and yarn, use a niddy noddy and ball winder, and flick card or hand card your fibers. It's a great opportunity to educate people as they check out the merchandise in my tent.

The CGCF will be held this year from Friday, September 24th, through Sunday, September 26th. Stop by the booth, say hello, and have a great adventure.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Follow-up on the Yarn of the Month Club

The Purple Fleece Yarn of the Month Club went live a few days ago. I had a number of intrepid knitters sign up right away and that really warmed my heart. It was great to see the first subscription come through because then I knew the subscription link on my website actually worked! So much of this shopping cart stuff is trial and error but I digress to a previous blog post.

The first Yarn of the Month was my new kettle dyed "Witch's Brew" merino yarn. It's color is called Emerald City and there are a variety of hues in the yarn. This photo really doesn't do it justice but I think you can see those color changes in the yarn.

This first group of subscribers also received a Purple Fleece pattern for the Wool Tam and a recyclable purple bag that I had made which says "ask me where I got my bag and yarn".

I've gotten very positive comments back from the people that have already opted in. So what's next? I can't tell you because that would ruin the secret but I can say that I'm very excited about my next concoction....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Needle felting in Bangor...

Last evening I had the pleasure of doing a workshop on Needle Felting with the Pine Kneedlers knitting guild in Bangor, ME. We had a group of 13 women furiously poking wool fleece with felting needles and creating some wonderful pieces. Here are some photos of the group and their projects:

This afternoon I'll be teaching a "spinning tune-up" class to someone vacationing this week here in Maine. What a perfect way to combine a week of fun and fine-tuning your hand spinning skills.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Buzzing in my head....

Some days my brain is a wasteland and on other days it's buzzing with ideas. Today is a buzzing day. My friend, Joan, was in the shop this morning and we got to talking about "of the month clubs". By that I mean, book of the month, fruit of the month, record of the month (OK, maybe I'm dating myself here)...anyway, you get the idea. So now I'm pondering the possibilities of a yarn of the month club. It will change every month but it will be some of my hand painted yarn each time. One month it will be a certain colorway of sock yarn, the next time a worsted weight, the next time some alpaca, etc. Sometimes it may include a pattern to go along with the yarn, sometimes not. There may be other surprises thrown in too. You never know. That's the great thing about something like this. It can evolve and morph and grow into something completely different. It will be posted on my website's Feature of the month page, monthly email newsletter, the Purple Fleece group on Ravelry, and the Purple Fleece fan page on Facebook. I'd love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and comments as I tweak the details. This will all start in September so stay tuned and get your knitting needles warmed up!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The aftermath.....

This past weekend, I was a vendor at the Arts In The Park craft fair in Belfast, ME. I had been watching the weather forecast all week and it wasn't good. This is always a bit stressful because any time you're using a tent to show off your wares, you need to worry about the wind blowing your tent away like a sail, rain leaking through the roof and ruining your merchandise, and, worst of all, weather keeping the customers away. I had waterproofed my EZ Up last year because of a few leaks and had improved my staking abilities with spiral dog leash stakes and tie down straps. I thought I was ready for Mother Nature. I set up the hardware Friday evening and my husband and I rewarded ourselves with a locally brewed beer at neighboring 3 Tides. The next morning I arrived on site very early to start setting up my display.

A complicating factor on Saturday morning was that I needed to be in two places at once. Since I haven't perfected cloning, I asked my DH to watch my booth while I raced back to the store to welcome a knitting guild from Bangor called the Pine Kneedlers. They were already in the parking lot awaiting my arrival when I pulled into the driveway. I gave them the grand tour of the shop and the weaving/spinning/dyeing studio upstairs and then high-tailed it back to the fair and let my husband off the hook.

Later that afternoon a very ominous black cloud starting approaching. I first noticed vendors across the way pointing over the water. I brought down the sidewalls of the tent and knew we were in for it. We had torrential rain for about 2 hours. My waterproofed roof leaked from multiple spots like a sieve and I had to move my woven goods, hand painted yarns, and original patterns strategically to keep them from getting soaked. Just as the fair was closing for the day, the sun broke out, and we all congratulated ourselves on surviving the day.

Sunday brought more bad weather and this time is was persistent. I arrived early again and a neighboring vendor couple helped me rig a tarp covering over the roof of the tent with one of the sidewalls. At least the back end would be dry. There were some die-hard shoppers but the attendance was definitely down throughout the day. The trading amongst vendors began....

I traded 2 skeins of my alpaca/superwash merino/nylon hand painted yarn for this beautiful knotted and beaded bracelet from my next-door vendor Rosemarie Dilernia. Her work is exquisite. She's also an avid sock knitter so our trade was mutually satisfying. Of course the purple beads drew me to this piece but I've been especially enamored with the color turquoise for several months now. It was the perfect bracelet.

One of the greatest joys in doing these fairs is getting to know other vendors and meeting the customers. In just a few moments of chatting you learn so much about people and it's always fascinating. My next fair is the 5th Annual Fair on the Green in Southwest Harbor, Maine, hosted by the Island Arts Association on Saturday, August 14th. There are usually about 20 to 25 very talented and diversified artists that attend this fair. I hope to see you there....

Friday, July 2, 2010

It's a slippery slope...

I was cruising through Ravelry (if you're reading this and don't know about Ravelry, contact me privately so I can bring you up to speed) and found a pattern of mine that had been accepted for publication in a knitting magazine about 5 or 6 years ago. It was attributed to another designer! I contacted the appropriate people and, lo and behold, I'm now a designer on Ravelry. All of that is fine and good.

So I start uploading some of my knitting design patterns to my new new designer page so I can sell them and the odyssey begins. After many missteps, mishaps, and mistakes, I think I have about a half dozen patterns uploaded. Then I get the editor comment pointing out the biggest mistake of all. It turns out that my patterns need to be PDF documents and available for immediate downloading. I haven't a clue. There are a lot of kind and knowledgeable people on Ravelry. I found a free PDF program, downloaded it successfully and safely, transformed my word documents into PDF documents, uploaded them, figured out how to activate the patterns, and voila, there they were. I still didn't understand the whole Paypal thing but hoped I had done that correctly too.

This morning I checked my email and I had sold my first pattern through Ravelry! Yea! Woo hoo! The paypal account worked too. Now the big question is, where will I spend my $4.55?

Monday, June 28, 2010

On-line shopping cart...

My latest adventure has been a trip down into the deep, dark tunnel of geek-speak. I've been trying to wrap my brain around setting up a secure on-line shopping cart for my website, PurpleFleece. I've written a bit of Html before but this has been a whole 'nother story. After several missteps, errors, and downright stupidity, I think I've got it!

After my first session of working on the cart, I could barely sleep. That wasn't from excitement but from all the gibberish running through my head. There was just too much noise. When I sat down to my second workout, I discovered all the mistakes I had made. After my third try, I discovered new mistakes from fixing the old mistakes. Many hours later, I have several pages set up with just the two big ones left. Wish me luck....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Craft fair in Belfast, ME

On July 10th and 11th, I'll have my tent set up along the Belfast waterfront for Arts in the Park. I do a few craft festivals each year and this one is one of my favorites. There is always an eclectic group of artists that attend each year and you couldn't ask for a better setting for a show than Belfast Harbor.

I'll be bringing handwoven rugs, runners, placemats, shawls, hand spun and hand painted yarns, and Purple Fleece knitting patterns. Stop by the booth and say hello...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Floozies learn to crochet!

On the third Wednesday of each month, the Fiber Floozies get together to work on projects, learn new techniques, and support each other in the trials and travails of life. We've been meeting now for about 5 or 6 years. All are welcome and members come and go but there is a core group of people who are the backbone of the Fiber Floozies. Among our group are knitters, weavers, spinners, crocheters, quilters, rug hookers, and felters.

Last evening, we had a presentation by Colleen O'Donnell on crocheted granny squares. Some of us had crocheted before and others had never touched a crochet hook. I brought an afghan that I had made almost 40 years ago for show and tell.

Here are some photos of us learning the technique and my finished square. I can't wait to try out my new mug rug!

Cindy and Karen work on their squares with help from Colleen behind the scenes.

Betty and Gay learning to crochet.

Cindy and Lin perfect their technique.

My finished mug rug.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The glow after a fair...

There's always a certain glow the day after the fair. Maybe it's the feeling of a job well done; maybe it's the memories of seeing old friends and making new ones; maybe it's the relief from unloading the van and putting everything away in its proper place; maybe it's strictly the bank account balance. At any rate, all is good with the world.

The weather this past weekend at Fiber Frolic was pretty uncooperative. Although we thought Saturday would be a total loss, the sun made an appearance, the rain stopped, and we peeled off layers of clothing and rain gear. Sunday was marked by rain and periods of slightly less rain. Fiberholics come out in any weather; it just doesn't matter. These people are determined and that's why they're called fiberholics.

I teach a lot of classes but I learned something this weekend. On Saturday morning I taught Spinning 101. Five women learned how to make yarn using a spinning wheel. This can be a frustrating experience for some as it's like nothing else you've ever tried to do previously. One woman had been watching her sister spin for years but had never tried it herself. I learned that it is possible to learn spinning by osmosis. Once I showed her the proper hand motions she was spinning terrific yarn within about 15 minutes. It was really fun to watch the transition from observer to spinner happen.

On Sunday afternoon, I taught another Drop Spindling class. I teach the park and draft method in baby steps. After about 2 hours, I invite the new spinners to finally stand up, drop their spindles, and make their yarn with what they've learned. Yesterday however, one of my students eagerly jumped up after about 20 minutes and started spinning away and making really fine and consistent yarn. It does a teacher's heart good.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Classes at the fair...

The weather couldn't have been more perfect at the Acadia Fiber Faire on Saturday. I taught a drop spindle class and my four students did very well. They all caught on quickly and, as a result, we have 4 new spinners in the fiber universe. I teach quite a few different classes at the various fiber fairs. At Fiber Frolic on June 5th and 6th, I will be teaching 3 classes: "Spinning 101" (an introduction to spinning on a wheel), "Carding Basics and Tricks" (everything you always wanted to know about hand carders), and another "Drop Spindling" class.

There were about 2 dozen vendors in the gymnasium at the Pemetic Elementary School selling fibers, kits, baskets, books, audiobooks, spinning wheels, etc. Here are some of my favorities:

Here is a woman visiting from Florida trying on a beautiful shawl in Betsy Dorr's Quilt Essentials booth.

String Theory from Blue Hill was there with a lovely selection of yarns.

Karen Jelenfy of Village Books was there and this was her first solo vendor adventure!

Kathy Goldner of Knitting Out Loud Audiobooks was there as well with her beautiful display.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Acadia Fiber Faire

I promised in my first post to tell you more about upcoming events. This Saturday, May 22nd, will be the first annual Acadia Fiber Faire in Southwest Harbor, Maine. The show starts off with a bang on Friday evening with an opening reception with keynote speaker Linda Cortright of "Wild Fibers" magazine. Her presentation is entitled: "Living with Cashmere in the high Himalayas". During the day of the fair, there will be lots to see and do including classes (I will be teaching a class on spinning on a drop spindle!), shopping with the vendors (Purple Fleece will be there along with Knitting Out Loud, Village Books, and many others!), activities for kids, demonstrations, etc. Southwest Harbor is located on beautiful Mt. Desert Island. Hope to see you this Saturday.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monday is Wash Day

In the old ditty, Monday was wash day. For me it's dyeing day. Having said that, let me explain that I don't die; I dye. I have a fiber shop; fiber as in wool, not as in the food product. Now if I eat dyed wool fiber, will I die going to the bathroom? Enough of that. I produce a line of Hand Painted Yarn in 3 weights. The most popular is a fingering sock weight yarn of superwash wool and nylon blend. The second is a worsted weight 100% wool yarn. The third is by special order only and that is a lace weight yarn of merino/silk/cashmere. I love seeing all those colorful skeins hanging on the laundry line...

Saturday, May 15, 2010


A lot of people ask about Tessie. My husband made her for me about 5 years ago as a surprise birthday present. Since she took about 4 months to complete, she wasn't a total surprise. She's made from recycled foam and spray insulation, a bit of leather, and stands on some wobbly wooden legs. The crown she sports is only appropriate as she's the queen! She winters inside Purple Fleece but when the weather gets nice, she moves outdoors to graze.

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's a busy spring...

Sheep and wool festivals start off with a fervor in the spring. Three weeks ago I was packing up the "Blue Light Special" (the Purple Fleece van) for the Connecticut Sheep & Wool Festival in Tolland, CT. It was very well attended, weather was perfect, and sales were brisk. All in all, a great show...until the ride home. I'm no auto mechanic but I do know when my brakes disappear all of a sudden. Luckily I was at a dead stop at a gas station before getting on to the Mass Pike. I have visions of plowing through a toll booth at 65 mph running through my head. I must have had an angel sitting on my shoulder that day and all ended well. The "Blue Light Special" got towed back to Maine. The tow truck driver even helped to unload all the stuff from the show! My bank account was much poorer but I'm here and laughing about it and it makes for a great story.

Last weekend I packed up again for the New Hampshire Sheep & Wool Festival in Contoocook, NH. Always over Mother's Day
weekend, this is one of my favorite shows and it's just the right size; not too big and not too small. The weather could definitely have been better. It was cold and rained all day Saturday. There were a few die-hard souls who made the trek that day but most people opted to come on Sunday. Although still very cold, the sun was out. I looked like the Michelin Man in 5 layers of clothing but at least my teeth weren't chattering. I even wore 2 pairs of hand knit socks and my fingerless mitts for the occasion. Nevertheless, vendors kept a smile on their faces and were happy to be there. More fairs coming up but that's for another post...
(photo courtesy of Kathy Goldner, Knitting Out Loud audio books)