Saturday, February 28, 2009

Caffeinated Frenzy - A Creative "Buzz"

Knitters are a notoriously curious bunch and being one, I know what we like. What we like is to hear about other knitters. Well, have I got a treat for you! Today we get to peek into the crafting life of the vibrant young woman who brings us Caffeinated Frenzy on She is a fellow “yarnie” like me and loves to be creative and spontaneous. Let's sit back and let her tell us about it in her own words.

“Before I injured my knee, I was a dancer. I tend to be quite an ambitious person. I love to move, enjoy working and if I'm not busy, I don't know what to do with myself. I have two jobs in addition to selling my knits, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I was somewhere around ten when my mother first showed me how to knit. I knew she used to be a knitter, and I wanted to learn how. She didn't remember much, but she was able to show me how to cast on and how to do the knit stitch. After that, I taught myself the rest of the basics. From there I went on to learning how to knit in the round, follow charts, create cables, etc. It was a lot of trial and error, but now I completely understand why each stitch looks the way it does. It's helped me figure out design as well.” I'm here to tell you all, learning to knit mostly by yourself takes a lot of talent, and this girl's got it.

“Whether it's a personality quirk or just too much coffee, I can never sit still. When I have short bursts of energy where I want to focus on one thing, that's when I'm able to come up with new designs. I definitely still consider myself a kid (I'm 19), and probably still have a bit of that "look at me!" screaming for attention teenager attitude left. I love bright colors and acting on impulse, but it's fun.

I want people to feel inspired and independent when they see my work. The yarn seems to figure out what it wants to be for itself. The color and texture put an image in my mind and I work towards that. I like to finish things quickly, so that I don't lose interest. I work when I'm inspired to. whether that's when I'm excited over making a sale, have an idea in my head to create, or have pretty new yarn to play with.”

When asked about what she loves to make the most she said, “I'm really happy with my Darling Cloche. A blue one was my first sale on Etsy. I like it's simplicity, it's just a fun little hat.” She points out that anything on her site can be made in any color or size, all anyone has to do is ask and she would be more than happy to knit something special just for you. “I try to use natural materials. I do use a fair amount of acrylics, but a lot of my more "luxurious" things are made with merino wool, silk, angora, alpaca, natural fibers.”

She's also been making some things to help others cut down on the amount of trash they throw away. “Lately I've been knitting reusable coffee sleeves, fun little gifts that are a much better alternative to disposable ones. I also use them as promotional giveaways because I like to throw extra little things in when I send out packages.”

With this much enthusiasm and zest for life, she's sure to make all of her goals realities. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of her in the future. So where does a young successful entrepreneur dream of going to get away from it all after another busy day with her shop? Well, let's see what she has planned. “I don't think I could ever pick one place, but I do have a long list of places I eventually plan to end up. Los Angeles, Chicago, India, Italy, London, and Socotra Island. I absolutely love cities and plan to see a lot more of them.”

If you're looking to connect with Caffeinated Frenzy on the Internet, she has many different ways for you to find her. Besides Etsy, she also sells on Artfire and 1000 Markets. She's got an awesome Facebook setup which she is really trying to promote right now so go check it out and support a fellow crafter. To see some of her other work check out her Flickr page or to read the latest and greatest happenings follow her blog at

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Living the Dream - Katy of Urban Eagle

It's not every day that one gets to meet a woman who is truly a treasure. Today we all get to look into the wonder that is Katy of Urban Eagle Designs. Her shop has been open a little over a month now, so she is still “undiscovered”, but she should be right up there on everyone's go-to list for something extra-special. After I read her questions I just wanted to get on a plane and fly out to New Mexico to meet her in person...she's just that awesome.

First off, she's a wife, a mother and a grandmother. In a former life she was graphic designer for almost thirty years. She even had her own business in San Diego for twenty years. After doing her time in the corporate world, she went after her dream and moved out of the city on to 56 acres in northern New Mexico with her husband and two dogs. They live completely “off grid” which means all their electricity comes from photovoltaics. For all you novices like me photovoltanics is the application of solar cells for energy by converting sunlight directly into electricity. This spring they hope to build their own straw bale and adobe home. They have a lovely patch of land to work with.

Katy is currently a student working on her certification in herbs. Not only does she grow herbs, but also natural dye plants and most of the food her family eats. That's right, she buys her fibers from local growers and then dyes them using plants she herself grew and then spins her own yarn. She's all about being organic and non harmful to the environment. I told you she was awesome didn't I? Somehow she finds time to knit all her efforts up into wonderful offerings for her shop. Oh and she keeps if she wasn't busy enough.

She has been working with fiber since she learned to knit at the age of 14 back in nineteen mumble mumble. She started designing her own patterns in 1992 and was even a featured artist in "Knitting in America". Soon after that she learned how to spin and then to dye with natural dyes. She is most certainly in love with her craft because she has such wonderful attention to detail. Most of the inspiration for her designs comes from Native American Art. “I have a library of over 70 books of all sorts of Native American art from rock art to bead work to weaving to pottery. You name it, I've probably got a book about it! I also get inspiration from the spiritual world. Each of my garments have "totems" attached to them in some way.”

In Urban Eagle you can find high quality, labor intensive craftsmanship. Her favorite things to make are her vests, which are gorgeous. “I make my pieces for "real" people to be worn frequently.” she says and wear them they do.

“Most of my day-time hours (except for the dead of winter) are spent outside in my gardens and greenhouse. I like to do my dyeing, spinning and fiber prep in the afternoon and early evening. I knit at night after dinner. If the weather is bad I will knit during the day.” She is living a fiber dream come true. Even though the thought of Katy sitting and peacefully knitting is a tempting one, we now know that a lot of work goes on before she can ever sit down and rest.

Besides selling on Etsy and running her family place, she keeps herself busy with several other pursuits. She belongs to the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center and just recently signed up on Ravelry, although she admits she doesn't quite know what to do with it yet. I'm sure a few of us wouldn't mind reaching out to her as I have a feeling most of us are already floating around somewhere on Ravelry.
“I do at least two art tours here in northern NM - the Abiquiu Studio Tour and the Pedernal Arts Tour. I have had VERY bad luck with consignment so I don't do that anymore. Most of my sales, outside of the tours, are by word of mouth. I am also a stop on the New Mexico Fiber Trails.

Her hopes are that someday the revenue from her fiber (and herbs) will grow to be a good “supplement for my Social Security...when I'm eligible for it,” she giggles. You're only as old as you act, and as far as I can tell, Katy is one young spring chicken.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bunnies Know What They Like

We've been gone all weekend again and had to have a friend come in to take care of the bunnies. She's a good bunny-sitter, but they always seem happy to see us back. Very happy...if you know what I mean.

Usually we have a bag of cilantro or other leafy herbs in the fridge for her to give to the bunnies, but I forgot to get any from the store and so they had to do without this time. There is a head of Romaine lettuce in there, but I didn't think anything about it. Apparently she fed they lettuce because there were wilted leaves in the garbage can. This isn't really a problem, except Willie and Gidget do not like lettuce of any kind. Go figure. I just shrugged and forgot about it when I went to feed them. When I opened the office door I was greeted by Gidget who ran over to the food dish and stomped at me and grumbled. Willie was no where in sight.

She sat there as I put pellets in the dish and Willie poked his head out from the cage and waited for her to get her fill first. He's such a little gentleman. I coaxed him out with some dried papaya and what did I find? When he came over, he had lettuce clinging to his butt! The little guy had been laying on it and it was wilted with his body heat into a lettuce "puddle" on the bottom of the cage. Yuck!

I should have known they would never eat something that good for them. They eat everything else known to man. Cabinet doors, electrical cords of all types, crumbs and anything else we might accidentally drop, even plaster have disappeared down their little maws. It's the things that you'd think a bunny would be happy to chew on that don't even get a single nibble. Well, at least they're cute.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Colleen from Iowa Etsy Team

I was poking around in the Etsy team forums the other day and found a fellow member of the Iowa Etsy Team. Her name is Colleen and her shop is Five Sparrows. She's got some really cute things made out of stained glass, which is something I have always loved. We got to talking and I found out some fascinating things about her and her shop. It's always interesting to hear how other shop owners got their start and here is her story.

“When I was in college I got this wonderful summer job at a conference center in Green Lake, WI. In two weeks they gave me a crash course in stained glass, and then the rest of the summer I taught it to anyone staying on-site who came in wanting to learn. It was such a great job. I got to be artistic all day while helping others feel good about creating something. And there were windows with a view of the lake. I did that job for three summers. By then I was hooked and kept making stained glass on my own. So I have been doing this off and on for about 12 years, mainly for family gifts, but this is my big venture into the business world.”

Colleen is a stay at home mother of 3 kids “and one slow, patient basset hound” as she put it. “I love it both for being with the kids and the freedom from the 9 to 5. My problem lately is that it is so much easier to sit by a window with some coffee and draw out patterns, than it is to go down in the basement and actually cut and grind. (Yeah, it is a basement office for me now; not great on lighting, but it keeps glass and hot solder away from small fingers.) So, beyond sitting by the window and drawing, I try to fit in some glass time during naps and after bedtimes.”

When asked about her inspiration she said, “Anything and everything. I just go with what seems appealing to me at that moment. I am constantly looking at pictures or scenes to think how I could split it up into shapes that would work with glass. I like the quirky and the non-conventional, but I also love the tradition and history found in the rural town community I live in. I am having fun exploring the 3 dimensional idea lately. I think creating something new is always exciting to me though, so any new design is always something I look forward to making.”

Of course, everyone needs a vacation sometime, so where would Colleen be if she wasn't working with glass? “Camping with the family in the mountains. We aren't too far from the Black Hills, that is one of our favorite places to go. And I love Wall Drug.” Rock on Colleen, Rock on.

If you would like to follow up to the minute updates of what Colleen is doing now, follow her on Twitter at She admits she is new to Twitter, but hopes to get the hang of it really soon, so let's help her out and make it fun!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Beautiful, Inspirational Orchids

I have only a few minutes tonight to blog, so I just thought I would post some pretty flowers for you my followers. These have made me consider form and the bright colors have made me think of ways I might try to dye some of that roving in my living room.

All these were taken at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens this past weekend. Some of these were in the temperate house and the house with all the rose trees, whatever the name of it is. The orchids were from the show we went to in the main building.

It's going to be interesting to see if I can make yarn to reflect these wonders of nature. These flowers had such a sheen and soft texture.

What fibers could possibl
y come out as dewy and fresh as flower petals? What sort of draw would I use? What
sort of
dyes? I feel a project coming on here.

Last but not least, here is a parting shot of one of my most favorite places in the gardens. May all of you have enough time to stop and sit in the garden every-once-in-a-while. Have a wonderful day!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Isolated from the Spinning Wheel

I'm in spinning heck! I've been at the in-law's place since Friday and haven't been able to spin a single, well, single. There is the consolation of being able to periodically pet the yarn I brought with me to show everyone. I've spent several hours explaining how different fibers spin up in different ways. My mother-in-law patiently listened as I pushed skein after skein into her lap, she even tried to be enthusiastic, poor woman. She's an avid scrapbooker, maybe I should have pushed that angle. She's not a fiberholic like me. The withdrawl has been brutal, but they're trying to help me through it by keeping me otherwise occupied.

On Saturday Dear Hubby and I met my sister and her beau at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens, otherwise known as Shaw's Gardens. There was a beautiful orchid show set up in one of the wings and it was so worth the trip. I love going to the gardens, but have never been there during the winter before. We were surprised to see pansies blooming outside already, but they were off the paved path and I couldn't get a good picture of them. I got some inspiration for a few things for my shop from some of the things we saw and can't wait to download the pictures we took so I can see them larger.

Today we had lunch at my parent's place and then came back to the in-laws to watch the Daytona 500. I watched the greater portion of it with the roof of my mouth and started snoring very loudly several times. So embarrassing! I guess my feminine mystique has been shattered, not that I had much to start with.

Tomorrow we go home. Tomorrow evening will be spent with my wheel. Sweet, sweet spinning.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nothing is Certain but Yarn and Taxes

Ah, another day, another wonderful fiber to discover. It seems that recently I have really put the peddles down on my wheel and cranked out the yarn. This weekend I managed 7 skeins, out of 20 ounces of fiber. One was really really bulky and ended up being almost 6 ounces of fiber for 100 yards of yarn, but I really love the way it turned out. Look how fuzzy it is! It's going to make a wonderfully thick and squishy scarf for someone. It's a merino/alpaca blend and it just lept on to the wheel when when I spun it. This particular roving came from Winderwood Farm
and was hand dyed by Bob.

I also used another one of his rovings this weekend. It was my very first experience with a bamboo blend of anything. I blogged about it last time, but now it's dry and I have a picture of the end result. I wish you guys could touch it because it feels heavenly, so smooth and silky. It's the one on the right here. All that shine isn't just the flash, it's the sheen from the bamboo.

So now I come to the taxes part of the blog here. It has been brought to my attention that now that I am self-employed I should be saving back 1/3 of my income for taxes. Does that sound like a good number to the rest of you? I had already been doing this, but I want a little advice from some of you more seasoned veterans of the home crafting world. What works for you when it comes to giving Uncle Sam his dues? I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Yarn Yarn and More Yarn

Hello all you crazy crafters!

What a weekend! I have spun and spun and spun and finally have some yarn to show for it.
Both of the yarns in these pictures have been spun from Linda's rovings. She runs Sunset Fibers on Etsy. I named the orange one "Poppies and Daffodils" and the blue one "Forget-Me-Nots and Violets". Nice Springy names for yarn I thought. The orange is a 2-ply sport weight and the blue is 2-ply aran weight. Too bad I didn't end up with more of it because I would really like to knit some up, but had to list them both in my Etsy shop instead to get the inventory up.

I also spun up my very first bamboo and Merino blend today, (from Bob at Winderwood Farm)which I have to say was different. It wanted to slip a bit more than I am used to and took a little while to learn to control. It was spun in fingering weight singles and then plied for a sport weight result. The yarn felt soft before I set the twist, but afterwards it has really relaxed into a supple strand that looks like it will have a very nice drape when knitted. I will have to put some pictures on here when it dries all the way. It's really beautiful, all multicolored and shimmery. Very nice.

Believe it or not, I also spun up 8 ounces of Merino/Alpaca yarn tonight in a very bulky weight. 100 yards of 2-ply yarn tips the scale at 5.75 ounces. Very heavy, but very beautiful. I had 50 yards left over which will probably end up as a nice hefty scarflette. The big skein will be listed in my shop when it dries and I can get a good picture of it.

I dare say the bunnies and hubby are feeling a bit neglected these past few days. I'll have to make it up to them tomorrow because tonight, I'm pooped.

Everyone have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lovely Squishy Corriedale

I have a secret shame. I don't think Merino wool is the one and only king of sheep fiber anymore. (Gasp!) Here's the thing, ever since I started wanting to learn to spin, people have told me that merino is the softest, has the finest micron count and is the best wool to spin. They said that I should start on other fiber and then work up to Merino. For months now I have been gathering bits of Merino roving like gold and hoarding them. Then something happened.

One day I was on, again, and came across Sunset Fibers. There are the most delicious rovings listed there and my fingers itched to be spin
ning some of them. One thing held me back though. She didn't have any Merino listed at all at the time. How could it be? In fact, one of her listings even said that she "preferred Corriedale over Merino"! Could I have found a spinning miscreant, a breaker of the rules, a fiber delinquent? The answer is most emphatically, YES and with good reason.

She hand paints her fibers and then sends them off to be processed by a mill of her choice. The result is an exquisitely divine roll of fluff that just melts into yarn effortlessly. I spun up four ounces last night of the February fiber of the month and am now the proud owner of 160 yards of 2-ply gorgeousness. I still need to wash it but will post pictures after I do as it fluffs up quite a bit after the twist sets. Even before a wash it is soft and just begs me to
pet it. Actually I need to go squoosh it right back.

To tide you over, here are some pictures of some of her fiber before and after being spun. This was the first fiber I ever got from her.

I just made a lovely neck warmer with this and it's gorgeous. I'll have to get a picture of it too. For now, I say goodnight to you and sweet dreams.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bunnies say "Feed Me"

Being a bunny momma is a big responsibility. Every day starts out much the same, with the opening of the office door.

"Hello babies! How are my little sweeties?"

This is usually greeted with a mad dash towards the food dish and then a lap or two around my legs. I've heard that in nature animals have certain ways of letting their will be known. For instance bees do an intricate dance allowing other bees to find the nectar stash. Perhaps this little daily bunny ritual is really a mind game they play with me so I can remember where the food dish is. Sometimes I hold it over their heads so they will play with me for a few minutes.

Next it escalates to more of a feeding frenzy.

"Wow! Gidget, get off Willie. Geez, it's not like you're wasting away to nothing!"

She has a habit of pushing his nose away so he can't get at the food. At nine pounds, she's twice his size so sometimes she just drapes herself over him and eats while he wiggles around trying to free himself. I should keep a camera in there and get a picture sometime. It's actually kind of funny.

Having sated their appetites for the time being, they head into the rest of the house to pillage and murder some unfortunate electrical appliance I have failed to sufficiently protect. Once they climbed up on a plant stand and nibbled an African Violet to the nubbies. It turns out that African Violets are not toxic to bunnies. On a good day I rescue a book or two, on a bad day we splice together the sound system, again.

"Oh man! Not again!"

Sometimes I wonder if they're getting enough to eat. They've eaten bookcases, cabinet doors, the legs to the couch and plaster pillars. When I open the fridge Willie is right there begging for a handout. We do the actual feeding ritual twice a day, and yet they still poke around for more. It's almost as if they know I'm holding out on them. Somewhere there is a grape or a dried papaya fragment that should be in their belly.

They have the ultimate weapon, extreme lethal cuteness. One nose bump or binky and I melt like putty in their little bunny paws. I am the faithful bringer of the food and the remover of the poop. They have me right where they want me and it shows. So tonight when my husband and I herd them back into the office and observe the dance, we know what they really mean.

"Feed Me!"

And we will.