Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Our Beautiful Mess

So a few of you might know about Yarns on Stage, a cool event where shops can buy this package that consists of 5 or 10 skeins of a limited-edition handpainted colorway from 10 different shops. The people that are running this asked us to come up with such a color, and we jumped at the chance.

It wasn't until after we had committed to this project, we remembered....we don't actually do any of our own hand-dyeing.

But "problem" is just another word for "opportunity", right?

We checked out some local dyers and finally settled on one whose subtle colors had us buying half of her etsy shop stock. Over a couple weeks she came up with several colors for us and we all agreed on a pastel pinky-orange with greeny bits. Great description, huh? Anyhoo, she cranked out a few sample skeins, they got sent to designers, patterns were made and the colors were shown off at TNNA, yarn store committed to purchasing packages of yarn and when we got our final number, we were ready to start dyeing. At the end of day one, our dyer brought us 2 garbage bags of soaking wet, tangled yarn that was...well...NEON. And it bled all over the place. Jennifer and I nearly double our work hours over the next 2 days to clean up and untangle the 100 skeins that had been neoned. There were tears shed, regrets voiced, and then the dyer quit. Mind you, we've got 1200 skeins to dye, dry, hank and label within a 2 week window, and we have no idea how to recreate the original pastel pinky-orange-with-greeny-bits that we need. The dyer agreed to give us her "recipe" which we followed to a T but somehow ended up with a beautiful aubergine color. I actually prefer the aubergine color, but we were committed to the pastel pinks.

Jennifer spent the weekend dyeing little tester skeins and then calling to ask my opinion. Eventually we came up with a color and then quickly realized we were going to need some serious help if we were going to prepare these hank, dye, hank and label and get it done quickly. We bought stoves, we bought steamers, we had electricity and plumbing installed in the warehouse basement and we had people come in to help. We were ready to go.

So we soaked the skeins 15 at a time before dyeing them, also 15 at a time over 3 burners. They went for an hour. Then they cooled, then were soaked in vinegar for a while and then moved to the next station to be painted, one at a time and very slowly. After that, we wrapped them all up in cling-film and stuck them in the vegetable steamers for half an hour, where they turned in to yarn-sausages. Piping hot, we stuck them in more clean water to cool and get the vinegar smell out as we ripped open the little sausages and dug for yarn. After that came the hanging of the skeins, and after we had about 300 on the lines we had to get a little creative with spacing. On sunny days we were able to move some of the nearly-dry ones outside for a blast of sunshine. On windy days, we swore under our breaths while we picked them up off the ground and lost a few to dirty spots and vegetable matter from their trips to the ground. I started with the hanking and finished about half before we collectively decided that since I had twisted the skin off my hands, I was too becoming too slow. After the dyeing was over (and we have a few to spare, even!) all efforts went in to hanking and then labeling, and just as the crazed-twitches and nervous breakdowns were starting, we began packing them up and sending them out. After two days of 4 people hanking and labeling, we were able to call it quits.
And I will never complain about the price of handpainted yarn EVER AGAIN.

Friday, September 17, 2010

When you find yourself unexpectedly needing to dye 1200 skeins of yarn in a very short time period (more details to follow) thanks for friends and friends of friends who I now call friends. A huge thank you goes out to Rita Polen and Jo Basey who pretty much double handily have helped us get out of a tough spot. Thanks to both of these ladies we would like to introduce to you our Yarns On Stage yarn called "Fruit Smoothie" (thanks for the name Jo).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Livestock and Alpacas

I wish I had the flair for writing that Paige does. My posts seem so boring compared to Paige's but I occasionally have some piece of life to share. As many know my farm life has changed greatly in the last 2 years. I went from managing a farm with as many as 40 alpacas at one time to living in downtown Indianapolis. I have wanted to keep as much of farm life as possible and so with just 5 females left I decided these were mine to keep. This would be my little breeding herd. Of course my best animals were sold so of the 5, 2 are from my original purchases over 10 years ago. However, 1 of the 5 was a granddaughter to a male of mine and a daughter of one of the best white males in the country who I was lucky enough to have owned. She, Copper Ridge's Pinkstar aka Pinky, was what I had left to show for 11 years of breeding. I took her to AOBA Nationals in May and she won a blue ribbon. While a blue ribbon was great it was not nearly as exciting as the fleece scores she received. She seemed to have an extremely above average fleece. As I write today my little herd has dwindled to 4. This is because Pinky got ill last week and within 24 hours of arriving at Purdue she died. The alpacas are so frustrating. By the time they are showing you any signs of being sick they are really sick. We didn't wait she went right away and arrived at Purdue much healthier looking than most but as we waited for Purdue to get started working on her we could see her going down hill quickly. This falls' crias will help make the ache of the animals lost a little less painful but here's to hoping each experience helps us to take better care of the next.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

So exciting, your head might explode

Okay, it's not *that* exciting, but we think it's pretty cool.
We have kinda-sorta introduced a new product! Starting now, we're going to sell blank Baby Twist (in a special 100g/220 yard quantity), undyed Socrates, and undyed Fino to Indie dyers everywhere! So if you are a dyer or know a dyer and would like to try out some of our totally awesome yarns, then give us a call, leave us a comment or make a really obvious alpaca-shaped smoke signal and we'll get you some information! (Must have tax ID number)

We're also really close to having people move in upstairs! Hooray for neighbors! It's been a huge team effort to make it possible (I painted the bathrooms, part of a hallway and some of an office!) and it's fun to look for all of the little changes that happen over the course of a day. They're putting in some really awesome things like cubicles....
And a copy machine (I'm totally going to copy my face tonight when they leave!)
And a wheelchair ramp/bridge from the parking lot. I was really hoping they'd put in one of those Bridge-of-Peril things that you see in Indiana Jones movies where it's made of rope that's billions of years old with wood steps that makes a toothpick feel significant....and of course we'd need a moat, preferably filled with anacondas and alligators (but I'd settle for large, ill-tempered garter snakes). But since that was pretty much what we had before (minus the moat) they decided to put up something a little safer and less...Amazonian. Here's a picture of what I was hoping they'd install...and then one of the bridge they're actually putting in.
Seriously, where is their sense of adventure? :p