On Competition and Community

I hope you all had a lovely weekend! The Fiasco and I were quite busy, we vended at the wonderful Mount Hope Farmers Market, attended the culmination event of the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl, and went on our first bicycle ride of the season (pro tip: bike paths near the bay are bloody freezing in April winds). There were many, may wonderful moments but there was one unfortunate interaction that put an unpleasant cast over things.

On Competition and Community | Woolen Diversions

Rockin’ my new sweater at the Mount Hope Farmer’s Market.

There is a regular market vendor who sells cold process soap and salt scrubs, etc. As we usually do at these events, the Fiasco and I made the rounds introducing ourselves and checking out everybody’s wares. We try to buy a little something from each vendor (which gets us into trouble at the baked good stalls!) or at the very least admire their work. My love of handmade soap is well-established and I was hoping to buy a new bar from this seller. There was a band playing right near her table so I had a hard time hearing her but during the course of what I thought was polite conversation about her soap scents, the word “competition” made it through the background noise and I realized that something was wrong. I had taken one of her cards so I could add her to my Etsy favorites and promote her as a local artisan, in response to which she said something along the lines of “It’s really frustrating that you’re taking one of my cards when you clearly have no intention of buying my products, you’re the competition.” And then she stormed off to complain to the market manager.

On Competition and Community | Woolen Diversions

Photo via xoginalove.tumblr.com, snagged from Buzzfeed (click for link).

I was floored, to say the least. Stunned, upset, and somehow embarassed, like I imagine most people would feel when treated with unexpected hostility. The Fiasco and I just kept making wounded-sad-puppy-dog-eyes at each other and we were outright bummed in the slow-burning-rage kind of way. I found out later that this particular seller is “sensitive” about competition because she apparently had a bad experience with someone swiping her ideas, her logo, etc. But still, I don’t think that excuses her behavior and it was completely jarring in a creative community where (in my experience) people are usually overwhelmingly supportive of one another. And we weren’t even selling the same items! Even if I had brought soap with me, we make entirely different kinds of soap (hers from raw oils that undergo the saponification process, mine from pre-made soap bases to which I add color, scent, and fun shapes/structure). Did I freak out about another vendor selling lip balms? No, hers were highlighting beeswax from a local honey farm, mine featured lanolin. There is room in the world for multiple types of body care products. Thankfully, the rest of the vendors were wonderfully warm and inviting and we were mostly able to shake off that ugly nastiness by the end of the day.

On Competition and Community | Woolen Diversions

Great Rhody Yarn Crawl haul.

The Great Rhody Yarn Crawl celebration the next day went a great way towards restoring my faith in the creative community. I met up with my friends in the Rhode Island Spinner’s Guild and spent a pleasant afternoon spinning and shopping in good company. I’ve spent many years as something of a nomad, living in different states for just 1 – 3 years at a time. We’re on our third year here in Rhode Island and the fiber community is one of the reasons why I could envision calling this place home in the long term. Most people are so kind and generous with their knowledge, and I love walking into a marketplace and knowing half the vendors by name. The delectable yarn above is from Dirty Water DyeWorks (Lillian superwash Merino fingering base in March Sky, Pumice, and Topaz) and Play at Life Fiber Arts (Skinny Scrumpet MCN fingering base in Cinnamon Jelly) and they helped brighten the weekend considerably. Last but not least, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Tammy of Life and Yarn and Yarn and Life in person! She came by to say hello and it was so lovely to put a face to her blog. She has a great run-down of info on Connecticut yarn shops (and elsewhere), too.

A Playful Day

I appear to have inadvertently blogged along this week’s Love Your Blog challenge theme of “Ugly”, so I’m linking up with everyone over at A Playful Day. While not directly blog-related, I think the idea of jealousy in the handmade marketplace is equally relevant and something that doesn’t get acknowledged very often. Perhaps I’m just being naive to not have expected encountering such hostility myself. What are your thoughts on competition in creative communities? Have your experiences leaned one way or another?

Sweet Sheep Featured Fragrance: Honey Beeswax

Before I jump straight into the featured lotion bar fragrance, I wanted to let you know that the Fiasco and I will be vending Sweet Sheep products TOMORROW (Saturday 4/18) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Mount Hope Farmer’s Market in Bristol, RI. Stop by and say hi! And sorry for the late notice, between deadlines and a conference I’ve worked 10+ hours every day this week and have not had a moment to breathe, let alone blog (and we’ll all be lucky if I’m not slumped face-first in the lip balms by noon tomorrow). Altough now that I check, I don’t see our name on the vendor list… so, err, hopefully we’ll be at the market and if not, we’ll be selling out of the back of our car, because we’re not waking up at the crack of dawn for nothing! #spaz #indiebizfail

Onwards and upwards, this week I’m featuring our Honey Beeswax scent!

Sweet Sheep Featured Fragrance: Honey Beeswax | Woolen Diversions

Sweet Sheep Featured Fragrance: Honey Beeswax

Why I love it: This fragrance is the one I recommend when people ask advice for gift-giving but have no idea what the recipient might like. It’s an all-around appealing scent that not a single person has ever said “Ugh!” to when they smell it (I’m endlessly fascinated by the reactions people have to different scents). Most people respond with “oh, that’s nice!” in a slightly surprised tone. It’s a subtle scent, not overpowering, a little bit sweet, and a little bit sultry. It smells… warm. Like a summer day.

What it pairs well with: I include Honey Beeswax in a Sweet Treats gift set along with Sweet Almond and Chipotle Caramel. However, it’s not particularly candy-like and would work equally well with floral scents. If you were interested in building your own custom mix pack, I think it would mix nicely with Spring Meadow (a light floral) or Chamomile Bergamot (a fresh new tea fragrance that I have not yet added to the shop due to lack of photos).

So that’s Honey Beeswax in a nutshell: a rich, warm scent that plays well with others.

I’ll be at Mount Hope again on Sunday (just as a spectator) to celebrate the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl and buy stuff from awesome vendors, so if you don’t make it Saturday, perhaps I’ll see you Sunday! I’ll be the one spinning (haha that’s a joke because there will be so many spinners). #sotired #lamejokes #delirium #fortheloveofallthatisholystophashtagging

WIPWed #87: I MADE A THING!

Guys, I’m super excited right now, because I’m writing this while wearing my first ever (completed) handknit sweater!

Even though it spanned almost 6 months, my Overdyed Cypress vest was a pretty simple knit. It’s composed of only two pieces (front and back), with no waist shaping and itty bitty sleeves made by some increases. I was in between sizes so I made a smaller size for the back and a larger size for front, with no trouble joining them together. I was really worried about fit, especially in January when I had finished all but the armhole and neckline edgings and I tried it on and it looked terrible– but it turns out, actually finishing a thing really improves its fit! Now we just need to work on better sweater modelling and photography, those photos make it look a little misshapen and baggy, but I swear it looks nicer in person.

While it wasn’t difficult knitting, the pattern was a little bit fiddly. Jared Flood calls for no fewer than three needle sizes for the edging ribbing (yeah, right) and the tubular bind-off was a bitch. But the pattern was clearly written and is gorgeous and stylish, like most Brooklyn Tweed designs, so I definitely recommend it. There were a few things I’d do differently if I were to knit it again, namely I’d use 6’s and 5’s for the ribbing sections (instead of 6’s and 4’s) as the edges are all just a tad tighter than I’d like. I’d practice seaming on some swatches (my first side seam was so messy!) and I’d be sure to keep the slipped stitch rows of the tubular bind off and cast on extra loose, because my edges are hard and stiff instead of nice and stretchy. All in all, I’m just so happy I made something that’s actually wearable, and from yarn that I overdyed, to boot! That is one satisfying finish.

Somewhat less satisfying was finishing the knitted jewelry holder I’ve had on the needles since last July. After the project bag went missing for nearly 8 months, I was excited to finish the knitting, block it, and get the darn thing assembled this morning… but I couldn’t find the buttons anywhere. WHERE ARE THE BUTTONS?!?!?! So it sits forlorn on its blocking board until I can locate the little buggers.

At least my Tropical Traveler socks are going well. I’m really loving this simultaneous-but-not-two-at-a-time method I’m trying out here. Instead of getting hung up on a part that requires thought (heel or toe) and letting the whole pair languish for weeks until I have time to think about it, I can just switch to the second sock and speed through the easy parts and have twice the amount of sock done before the languishing happens. Then I get the tricky bits done one both socks in the same knitting session and everything just feels more efficient. Plus, there’s less chance of forgetting what I did or losing notes between socks. All in all, I think it’s a win.

My Discworld-themed #MegaSAL spinning is progressing at a slow-but-steady pace, and I was able to find a few minutes to spin up some of my fluffy MalMarch Nube rolags, too. This is the third bobbin, so I’m halfway through the singles.

As for this week’s reading, I’m still working my way through the #KonMarie’s Ode to Tidying and have now progressed to the 7th Outlander book, An Echo in the Bone. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a mildly abusive relationship with these Outlander books. They keep me up at night, they suck up all my time, and they take me on an emotional roller coaster, yet I’m dreading the day when our time together will end. What will I do?!

Perhaps even more importantly, though, what sweater should I knit next?! Ambitions, I have them.

Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

Spinning & Spring Cleaning

I hope those of you in the northeast were able to get outside and enjoy the first really nice weekend we’ve had in far too long! The weather was gorgeous: 60-ish degrees and sunny. On Sunday, the Fiasco and I went for our first little hike of the season. It was really just a stroll through old farmlands that have been converted to a wildlife refuge, but it was fun to get out and stretch our legs, see some shorebirds (ospreys! herons!), and watch fat tadpoles wriggling in the pond. (My apologies for the lack of photos, I took many but have not yet had a chance to upload them.)

Spinning & Spring Cleaning

#MegaSAL spinning!

I also had lots of time for spinning this weekend, which felt like a luxury. Saturday was the monthly meeting of the Rhode Island Spinner’s Guild and it was great to catch up with friends and twirl away on my Discworld-themed #MegaSAL spinning. The season of sheep and wool festivals is upon us and I am eagerly anticipating more group spinning in the near future. For those of you in the area, this weekend is the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl which culminates in a great little vendor marketplace on Sunday at Mt. Hope Farm in Bristol, RI. Grab a passport, get it stamped at some yarn stores, and enter raffles full of yummy prizes. The RISG spinners will be there hanging out, so stop by and say hello. (Unfortunately, the venue was too small for Sweet Sheep to grab vendor space, but I will be selling at the Mt. Hope Farmer’s Market the day before! Come check us out on Saturday 4/18 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.)

In other news, I’ve been sucked in to the #KonMarie cleaning craze. Do I believe that folding my clothes carefully will impart them with an energized ‘sheen’ of love and respect (to paraphrase)? No. However, her system for folding such that each item is visible makes a good bit of a sense and I can honestly say that my sock drawer has never looked prettier. My clothing storage was due for an overhaul anyway since I’ve been focused on weight loss this last year and a half. I’m wary of throwing out all of my larger clothes since obesity is a lifelong disease and while weight can be managed and forced into ‘remission’ of sorts, it often comes back and I’ve been bitten before. However, since I’ve maintained a 60-lb weight loss for over 6 months now, I feel safe in donating some of the largest sizes. (Although I’ve discovered an unnatural affection for t-shirts from my college days. So what if I have a dozen of them, most of them holey and stained and too big? Keeping.) Six hours and three trash bags later, I feel happy with the state of things and look forward to tackling additional categories (books, yarn, papers, miscellany). I was inspired to give this all a try by reading more detailed thoughts on the process on the Nearly There and With Pointed Sticks blogs, you should check out their posts!

Last but not least, I was featured on Sherrill’s blog as a spotlight spinner! If you’re not familiar with her, Sherrill began the popular #spin15in15 hashtag on Instagram in order to encourage us all to spin for 15 minutes a day, and share it with others. She makes beautiful tags for handspun yarns and sends many out as prizes. I’ll be sending her some sample sized lotion bars to give out as prizes, as well, since I just love admiring all the pretty #spin15in15 projects. Follow her on Instagram (@baabonnybelle) and be sure to tag your own spinning posts!

And that was my weekend in a nutshell. How about yours? What kind of spring cleaning routines do you have?

WIPWed #86: #MegaSAL, Here I Come!

Since finishing the Fiasco’s socks and failing to finish my MalMarch projects, I’ve taken embraced sock-knitting-for-me thus far this April.

Tropical Traveler:

I’ve been itching to knit these socks (from the January shipment of the Rockin’ Sock Club) for weeks and it’s been wonderful to pick them back up again, guilt-free. I think my new system of knitting sort-of-two-at-time (by having two pairs of DPNs and alternating between socks as I go) is working rather nicely, for I have not one but two socks that both have heels right now. I wanted to try a different heel out of Lara Neel’s Sock Architecture book, so I went with the square heel for this pair. Flaps and gussets work really well for me (high arches!) and I didn’t want to stray far from what I know already works, but it was fun to change things up a little bit.

Magrat MegaSAL:

WIPWed #86:

Nest superwash Merino, click for handspun page.

Since I couldn’t wait any longer, I just barely began spinning my Nest superwash Merino fiber dyed in the Magrat colorway for the Discworld-themed #MegaSAL that I wrote about previously. Because I clearly never want to finish this yarn, I’ve decided to try spinning it entirely on my Subterranean Woodwork medium Turkish spindle. I am probably the slowest spindle spinner on the planet (I just seem to get so much more done on the wheel) but I really want to challenge myself to make good use of my spindles, and two weeks seems like enough time to give it the ol’ college try. Besides, the spindle is fun to use and the fiber is nearly irresistible to touch (so fluffy!) so I have hope. Are you joining in for this SAL? I’d love to see your projects!

MalMarch Nube:

WIPWed #86: #MegaSAL, Here I Come!

Malabrigo Nube, colorway Persia. Click for handspun page.

Fear not, I haven’t completely forsaken the spinning project I aimed to finish in March. I haven’t sat down at the wheel yet this week because I’m still a little wary of tweaking my back again (damn long draw motions) but I’ve been faithfully carding up the rest of the fiber I have into fluff-tastic rolags. Hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to find some time to sit at the wheel.

As for reading (to link up with Yarnalong), I’ve been tearing through the sixth Outlander book (nearly done!) and have just started to listen to Nation by Terry Pratchett on audiobook. It’s not a Discworld novel, but I enjoy reading/listening to anything he writes. I recently finished the first book in The Long Earth series (co-authored with Stephen Baxter) and it was really fascinating, I can’t wait until the remaining books become available at the library, although I’m afraid they may not have finished the series before Terry passed away. It’s essentially about people who can step from one Earth to another, if you imagine Earth as a deck of cards with our Earth in the middle and multiple copies of the planet that experienced all sorts of different history, events, and evolution expanding out to infinity on either side. This leads to the existence of nifty creatures, societies, and ecosystems that humans could then have access to. (I love scifi, especially biologically-nerdy scifi.) Highly recommend.

And as for life, tomorrow I’m going to see my new favorite band crush in concert and couldn’t be more excited: Walk the Moon. The single they have out on the radio right now, Shut Up & Dance, is basically instant happiness for me. I think Anna Sun is probably my favorite song of theirs,  however, and this is probably my favorite video:

It’s just so dumb and joyful and fun, it brings me right back to my college days. The main dude looks like he is barely 20 years old, so I’m a little bit worried that we’ll be the oldest people in the room but likely not and I suppose, who cares, right? (This is me trying to get ok with being 30 and no longer the target audience of bands like this. * sob *)

She Lives!

It was touch-and-go for a while there (not really, mind you, I’m exaggerating for effect) but I think I might just live. Basically, as soon as my back stopped feeling like there was a hot poker between my ribs, I was plagued by the worst sore throat I’ve had in years. This was followed by a sinus infection of epic proportions, which conveniently (SARCASM!) coincided with a road trip to help my mom recover from a surgery over the long weekend.

She Lives! | Woolen Diversions

Nest Superwash Merino, colorway Magrat.

I returned home snot-nosed, hoarse-voiced, congested, and emotionally drained… and proceeded to not sleep at all, for an entire night. I laid there staring up at the ceiling straight through to the dawn. I managed to sleep for a few hours this morning, however, and have begun to feel somewhat more human. My mom is recovering well, and despite all that it was a nice visit home, so things are looking up. It didn’t hurt that I had a couple of nice fiber-y packages waiting in the mail when I returned, either. (If you don’t wish to be spoiled for the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Sock Club colorway, look away now!)

Pictured above is the one precious bump of Nest Superwash Merino fiber in the Magrat colorway that I managed to grab for the Discworld Mega-SAL being held on Ravelry. I intend to begin spinning it just as soon as I can finish my Malabrigo Nube spin. And pictured below might just be my favorite skein of sock yarn… possibly ever.

She Lives! | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight, colorway Gran’s Kitchen.

The colorway for the March shipment of the RSC is soooooooooooooo up my alley, I adore it. I love the minty aqua, the gentle gray, the streaks of white. Those soft, soothing, breath-of-fresh-air hues are just what I’m craving at the moment. I don’t love either of the patterns that came with this shipment, however, so I’m on the hunt for the perfect pattern for this skein. It has a rather short, stripey color sequence that is prone to pooling, so the pattern will need some bold lines and/or good overall texture to show up well. I’ve narrowed it down to 4 ideas:

  1. Quartzonite by Rose Hiver – An all-over textured lace that angles the fabric in different ways, which would make thin stripes look all cool and wavy.
  2. Louche by Hunter Hammersen – Twisted stitched interspersed with wide swaths of stockinette that should hold up nicely to variegation.
  3. Smokestack Socks by Tanis Lavallee – A nice texture/cable combo with strong vertical lines that should show up well through striping or pooling.
  4. Leyburn Socks by MintyFresh – Slipped stitches create a fun effect in variegated yarns and since someone is already making a pair, I know it’ll look pretty good.

Which would you make?

P.S. I wanted to say a general THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who participated in the product survey for Sweet Sheep! I received 91 responses and some really great feedback, I’m looking forward to many happy hours of analyzing and scheming. The winners of the giveaway have all been notified by e-mail (check your inboxes) but I’ll also say congrats here to Valerie, Victoria, Lisa, Sweta, Stephanie, Annie, Shelley, Erica, Christina, and Kathy! Your input is much appreciated. And to everyone who participated, please remember that your coupon codes are valid through the end of May!

Nothing to See Here

Thanks for all your well-wishes regarding my back pain! I have to say, I’m highly amused that so many of you thought I was referring to my knitting when I said I ‘popped a rib’. I’m less amused that after working several inches of tubular bind off on the neckline of my Cypress vest, I realized I did, indeed, mess it up: I dropped a stitch. It’s one stitch, and it will be on the back side of the neckline fabric, but it will be right in front of the sweater, so I’m currently debating the horrendous idea of untinking several inches of tubular bind off (which involves undoing kitchener stitch and catching slipped stitches in the right order) with the merits of just leaving it be and sewing it down later.

Then, when I went to work on my MalMarch Sundry shawl, I realized that I had made a mistake in the slipped garter stitch several rows back, so tinking or laddering down will need to happen there, as well.

Finally, I have not yet tried to spin my MalMarch Nube project as the long draw motions would likely irritate my back. I saw an osteopath yesteday, and while he didn’t want to listen to me about the previous treatment I’d received for the problem and he did an awful lot of mansplaining, whatever trigger point therapy and back-cracking he did must have helped because the pain is about 80% better. (Yay!) Instead, I am now entertaining a wicked sore throat that makes me sound like an elderly, life-long smoker. It’s herbal tea and honey and gargling with salt water all day for me.

So there went the last few days of March and with them went any chance of finishing up either of my Malabrigo March goals or one more First Quarter project. I just can’t win this week. I’ll leave you with this photo of Calypso, which purrrfectly captures how I feel.

A strange mix of stoic and defeated.

April happens to be my least favorite month (I’m always so stressed in April, I have no idea why) but I’m determined to remain hopeful that things will look up soon!