28 December 2008

RAINN-drops keep falling on my head...

GoogleAlerts is quite amazing. Give it a set of search parameters to look for, and it will email you every time those parameters whenever the GoogleBots find whatever it is you're looking for, you get an email. Brilliant!

This morning, I woke up to an email GoogleAlerts. It wanted me to know that CurrentVine.com, a blog dedicated to "fast and fun doses of entertainment," had featured my online fiber arts store because I'm a RAINNmaker. Check out the mini-feature on my store and how to make your own contributions to RAINN.

Thank you, GoogleBots, for spreadin' the news, and thank you, Dear Reader, for supporting RAINN.

27 December 2008

Noro! Noro!

I've had my eye on Noro yarns for quite some time. They have a "look" about them that is, for the most part, unique. Yes, there are other manufacturers that make varigated yarns, and yes, some of those manufacturers make self-striping yarn, and yes, some of those manufacturers make long-repeat self-striping yarn, but no one does smooth color gradation quite like Noro.

For those of you who don't know, Noro is a Japan-based company that makes minimally-processed, hand-dyed yarns. The yarn that made them famous in the hand-knitting (and crocheting!) world is Kureyon, a 100% wool yarn. This is a "love it or hate it" yarn. Haters cite the VM ("vegetable matter") that comes from the lack of processing, the scratchiness, the knottiness, the price, and the random color splices. Lovers cite just one thing: the color.

It took me months to finally break down and try it. I bought several skeins from yarn swappin' Ravelers on the cheap. Kureyon tends to run about $8/skein, and I picked up my first batch at $6/skein, including shipping. I got 10 skeins of colorway 150, which is a grey/blue/white/lavender/green colorway. Not my favorite colors (too cool - I'm an autumn!), but a good way to start with the yarn.

I found out a few things. The VM wasn't any worse than handspun, hand-processed yarns, so that didn't bother me (in fact, I'd rather have more VM/less processing than the other way around - check out Blackberry Ridge Wool Mill for more information about wool processing). I got through all 10 skeins with nary a knot or color-splicing issue. I didn't find the yarn any more scratchy than an average wool, and the scratchiness went away with a brief soak in Eucalan Wool Wash. And, despite this being the worst colorway for me, I still loved the colors. So, I got more. A few previews from my Ravelry Yarn Stash:

As you can tell, I'm sold on Noro. Love it. I find it easy to spit-splce the ends if I want continuous color (or just to avoid weaving ends, which is a major motivator). The colors are amazing. Non-fiber artists are amazed at the color and think I have some sort of magical skill with yarn when they see the finished product. It comes in amazing colorways. Even the strange colorways are still amazing because they manage to blend them all together in a seamless way.

I've worked several projects now in Kureyon, but my favorite has to be hats. It makes amazing hats that get rave reviews. Best of all, since it's 100% wool, it's even for the outdoorsy-types who need a solid hat that can handle dirt and wetness while still remaining warm and feeling dry. I made a few helmets for my husband, and he loves them. Here's a few pictures for you to enjoy:

He said he'd pay about $45 for them, but in my pricing calculator, even at the highest margin, they come to $40 at the most. Amazing...

Anyway, my love for Noro continues to grow, especially since I just discovered Silk Garden. All the gorgeousness of Kureyon with the silkiness of, well, silk. I'm sure I'll be creating more with it in the very, very near future!

22 December 2008

Light my fire

I've been told that one of the first rules of online sales is not to put all of your proverbial eggs is one proverbial basket. You should spread the love, so to speak.

I've been on Etsy for nearly two years now, and while I love Etsy (and will probably never leave), the site is growing faster than the developers and administrators are able (or willing) to keep up with. Some very basic functionality - multiple image upload and better search capability are two that come to mind - is completely missing, and there is a U.S.-centric focus that, even for someone in the U.S., is somewhat appalling. As a seller with over 1/3 of my business coming from overseas, I have a strong interest in making the "international site" truly international.

And so I've been searching for other avenues since I started on Etsy. PinkPurpleOrange. Dwanda. Mintd. All have great features, but they all seem to have one or more of the major Etsy pitfalls as well. Ebay Stores are out of my price range, and I don't want to reduce my work to bids and auctions. Having my own site is economical, but a programming nightmare for someone who is spread so thin. It seemed like Etsy was my only option.

Enter Artfire. The site is only in beta, the interface is still a little clunky, but it already has a zillion more features, one-step listing that takes less than 5 minutes a listing (you mean, I don't have to block out an hour of my time to list 2 items?), flat-rate billing, seller stats (what? I want to know where my traffic comes from?), and polite customer service. I couldn't resist - I had to sign up. The customer service and flat-rate billing alone are reasons to branch out. I've heard others say that Etsy had great customer service back in the day, but I've used site archives. It looks like RevolvingDork was a jerk from day one. And Artfire has someone on the site, blogging, or tweeting all day long, helping out others. Artfire actually advertises its site (wow - advertising to bring in traffic - what a concept). I feel like I have nothing to lose.

And so, you can find me on Etsy and Artfire now. Only time will tell how things will play out, but at least I have my eggs in different baskets now. If you'd like to "diversify" too, register on ArtFire.com here.

17 December 2008

"Where my stitches at?"

Another semester is winding down, and I just finished entering in my end-of-year financials. I can't believe 2009 is just two weeks away! I suppose y'all have been wondering where I've been this year; my blog has been conspicuously dormant throughout 2008. Rather than provide you with excuses, I thought I'd give a recap of the year, and let you decide.

2008 ushered in the toddlerhood of my daughter, which has made crafting, er, interesting. Gabby loves to play with my ball winder, is fascinated with unspun roving, and things center-pull balls of yarn are hours of entertainment that end with Mami pulling out her hair and attempting to extricate Gabby from a hundred-yard pile of tangled $25/skein mohair blend. Not to be outwitted, I taught Gabs how to actually use the ball winder and swift, and put a crochet hook in her hand. She can't chain yet, but she'll get there soon.

I've been blessed that my mother-in-law has taken up spinning again full-force. She's a fiber gal, born and bred (her daddy invented the CVM breed of sheep - renowned for both its fleece quality and its yumminess). She even put herself through college breeding and showing sheep! But I digress. She's taken up the wheel and I get a steady stream of handspun yumminess. Of course, this yarn, for the most part, has languished in my stash, but I have it nonetheless.

That isn't to say that I haven't been productive. Between law school and finishing my masters degree, I've found time to make my hooks happy. I've actually busted through quite a bit of my stash with my new favorite project: arm warmers. I love them. They're cute. They're fast. They're versatile. They make great gifts. Yay Arm Warmers! I've made lots of them to date - Ravelry lists 10, but I've made several more.

A few of my arm warmers, as taken on my iSight camera (hence the cruddy quality):

And speaking of Ravelry, I'm addicted. The number one reason why I haven't blogged that much here is because I'm doing my project synopses on Ravelry. I love it. I love the linking and the sharing and the rating and seeing all the other cool things people are doing. BUT - I just found out that only Ravelers can view you on Ravelry, which means that the great big Internet (including you, faithful blog reader) can't read my "Lessons Learned" from my projects. I think I've come up with a happy medium: post all the yarnie detail on Ravelry, and display finished items and general overviews here on my regular blog. That way, if you want the Knitty Gritty detail, you can check out my Ravelry crochet project notebook.

I've also been churning out lots of scarves. I've had a ton of yarn that's just been languishing in my stash. Orphans from bargain bins. Mismatched lots. Pretty yarns I just couldn't resist buying but didn't have a use for. I busted out about 20 scarves, and I sold most of them at Handmade Militia this past weekend.

Hats are another big thing. I've been working on expanding my line to be more unisex. I made several male-centric hats that have been very popular with the guys in my life. I figure I'll make a few more before I call it quits (for awhile). Unfortunately, guys are boring to crochet for. Dull colors, simple designs... they hate fringe and curliques and can't understand why it matters if I use a slip stitch or crab stitch on the edge of the beanie.

I haven't felted much lately, mainly because we don't have our own washer. I have to go to my mother-in-law's to complete felting. Although we get along, this just isn't something I have a lot of time for. Felting in her ancient machine takes a long time (like, 6 cycles). So I've avoided it. Unfortunately, I found out at Handmade Militia that my felted baby booties are still wildly popular, so it looks like I'll be busting my feltable wool stash on more booties. Le sigh...

Teaching and designing have also picked up a bit. I'm still teaching over at TACTile, but I've expanded to private lessons. I love that. I've also started designing, and some of my designs are available either on Ravelry or in my Etsy Shop. I'm submitting a few designs to Interweave Press for next year's Fall edition - keep your fingers crossed for me!

And finally, life in general. I'm still in the Navy - I was selected to the JAG Corps this November, and now I'm hoping and praying my actual commissioning goes through. I'm still in law school and still working towards a Masters. With luck, I"ll be done in May. I'm still a full-time Mommy, and I still do my best to make time for my dear husband. So life has been hectic. But I'm still here, still hookin', and still loving this thing called fiber art.

My resolution for the new year (well, the one related to Kastroll Kreations) is to blog at least once a week. To keep in touch with you, Dear Reader, for it's you that this blog really exists for.

'Til next blog,

12 December 2008

Handmade Militia

Happy Friday!

In a little over 24 hours, I will make the (short) trek north to Fort Collins, where I will join a battallion (okay, it's more like a detail) of crafty folks who want to help you give unique, awesome, handmade gifts that support real people (like me!).

Handmade Militia will be at Gallery Underground in Old Town Fort Collins. The official address is at 109 Linden Street, but Google Maps freaks out with that address. Better to go to the intersection of Mountain and College, find the Avery Building's Big White Statute, and walk down the stairs to the show. The show goes from 1100 - 1900 (that's 11:00AM to 7:00PM for you non-militant folk), and will feature some fabulous artists.

As always, I will be donating 10% of my gross sales to RAINN, the national sexual assault advocacy center.

Buy handmade this holiday season!

05 October 2008

What's Your Patter? (Saponificozy™ Patterns and Commercial Licensing)

I finally did it. After a full year of requests and a lot of hemming and hawing, I've created patterns for my Saponificozy™ line of bath care. The Saponificozy™ Soap Sock and Face Scrubbies are now available with personal and commercial use licenses.

Patterns and Pricing:
* The Saponificozy™ Soap Sock Pattern is available for $6.00 for personal use and $50 for commercial use.
* The Saponificozy™ Face Scrubby Pattern (single and double-sided options in the same pattern) is available for $6.00 for personal use and $40 for commercial use.

Personal and Commercial Licensing:
* Both patterns are subject to United States Copyright, and the Saponificozy™ trademark and the overall trade dress for Saponificozy™ items are subject to state and United States Federal Trademark law. I aggressively pursue infringement of my copyright, trademark, and trade dress.
* The personal license follows the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/.
* The commercial license is a custom license. The highlights are:
I provide you the pattern and marketing materials. As long as you 1) sell them as Saponificozy™ Soap Socks and/or Saponificozy™ Face Scrubbies; 2) provide credit to me for the pattern and design; and 3) do not undersell my prices on individual items, you are free to make and sell Saponificozy™ Soap Socks and/or Saponificozy™ Face Scrubbies at your leisure.

Both patterns are now available in the Crochet Patterns Section of my Etsy Shop. Commercial use patterns can be requested by emailing me directly at kreations@kastroll.com. And all of my patterns can be viewed and reviewed at my Ravelry designer page.

05 April 2008

Getting Felt Up (Baby Booties)

Yes, I'm still here. Yes, I still have the same excuses for not blogging: law school, a masters program, the military, a baby, a husband, life in general, etc. But those same excuses are no longer keeping me from creating new and wonderful things.

Like baby booties. I've had a lot of excess yarn around for awhile (what crocheter doesn't?), and I figured I could do a baby bootie purge of my stash. After all, you can use up a lot of scrap yarn on booties, and, since I tend to buy only animal fibers that aren't treated to be washer-friendly, I knew I'd be able to felt them. I've had so much fun with felted adult slippers that it seemed only fair to give felted baby slippers a try.

Of course, that meant turning to Fiber Trends for a crochet pattern. They have a Children's Crocheted Slipper pattern that very cute, and I purchased it as a starting point. I have to say that it is the first Fiber Trends pattern I've been disappointed with. The first slipper I test crocheted turned out just fine, but I felt the construction was clumsy. The pattern is worked in rows instead of rounds, and there's quite a bit of seaming that could be done with simple increases, decreases, and clusters.

Now, I've made all sorts of slippers - felted, not felted, booties, clogs, skimmers - and all of them have the same basic construction - a sole comprised of a chain worked on both sides with increases at the toe and heel and a body worked in even rows with some form of shaping (either through seaming or through stitches) to form the unique style of slipper. I decided to make my own baby bootie pattern on the fly.

I fiddled with the sole until it increased nicely in the toe. I worked in rounds and shaped with stitches so that all I had to do in the end was pop the bootie in a wash bag and felt it. I played around with double soles and contrasting colors. The end result: four sets of baby booties that I'm mighty proud of.

Lessons learned:
1) Different fibers felt at different rates.
2) KnitPicks Wool of the Andes is, quite possibly, the best yarn *ever* to felt with.
3) Sometimes, the original pattern may be a dud, but it might provide some great embellishment ideas.
4) Blogging takes time.

My original four booties are now online in my Etsy store. Check them out, or even better, buy a pair for the baby in your life!

13 February 2008

Ghosts of Projects Past the Third

I'm running out of "excuses" on my bloggatory absences. The truth is that life is just getting in the way of keeping you, dear reader, up to date on my creative exploits. I have actually been quite busy creatively between classes, wholesale orders, book reviews, pattern trials, and creative stitchery - things I hope to expound upon here in the coming weeks. But for now, I have a growing list of "projects I must blog about", and so, here they are, in no particular order.

First, a set of scarves from October 2007. These are really rather simple scarves, but they are long, warm, and luscious. They were born from a trade with Etsian LOLBaby, a children's boutique. The bibs are amazing - I can't recommend them enough. Gabs *loves* playing with her bibs. But I digress. I created 7' long, 8" wide scarves out of a simple double-crochet fabric. The yarn is Knit Picks' Wool of the Andes, a yarn that I fall in love with more and more each time I use it. It's a worsted-weight, worsted-spun, Peruvian highland wool. I love it. It doesn't pill, it holds its color, it wears well, drapes nice, has a lovely sheen, is evenly spun (unlike some very popular feltable yarns I know of), and is surprisingly affordable. It has quickly become my yarn of choice - so much so that I'm planning on re-tooling my pricing structure to offer it as my default fiber option. In any case, the scarves are pictured here, although the pictures don't do them justice.

Second, a simple brown beanie from November 2007. This is also a project born from a trade with an Etsian, MooreTaste. Her jewelry is incredible - the reedy copper pendant that I traded for is fawned over every time my Aunt Nancy wears it! This is another Wool of the Andes project. It is a simple 23" beanie in half double crochet with a single crochet edge. My instructions were to make the plainest hat possible, and this is what I came up with. I actually like the hat a lot; there's just not much one can say about a plain hat.

Third is a baby boy's earflap hat from November 2007. Yes, this one is another trade project for Etsian TwistThis22501. She wanted a hat that was "masculine" enough for a little boy. This hat was fashioned out of Wool of the Andes and Heilo's DK wool. It required quite a bit of hook changing in order to keep the gauge consistent; I was switching between a 12 WPI and a 14 WPI yarn on each row so keeping the hat even was a small challenge. The hat is fashioned from half doubles and finished with crab stitching and slip-stitched cords with knots at the ends. This hat also serves as a model for a line of baby hats that were eagerly snatched up at Holiday Handmade.

Finally, a pouch from August 2007. Another trade project, another Etsian, ArialImages. I scored some fabulous photographs for this little gem - a drawstring pouch to fit the (then miniscule) Creative Zen MP3 player. The pouch holds a business card-sized MP3 player. It was fashioned put of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride worsted in plain ol' single crochet with a slip stitch chain closure. A quick little project that filled a niche.

And so you get a sampling of the custom orders I did for trades this past year. I love doing custom orders, and I love doing trades, so if you'd like to do either, please don't hesitate to contact me. In the meantime, I'm going to keep working on my next super-duper-secret-cool project!

20 January 2008

Crochet Classes for the Spring

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm onboard as a teacher at the TACtile Textile Arts Center. The Spring 2008 schedule has been released, and I am teaching the following classes:

Beginning Crochet, $30 members ($40 non-members) + $6.00 project kit fee
Friday, March 7, 6:00-9:00PM
Saturday, March 22, 2:00-5:00PM

Intermediate Crochet, $40 members ($60 non-members) + $7.00 project kit fee
Fridays, February 22 & 29, 7:00-9:00PM
Fridays, March 14 & 21, 7:00-9:00PM

Skills Refresher Workshop, $15 members ($20 non-members)
Sunday, February 3, 2:00-3:00PM
Friday, February 15, 7:00-8:00PM
Saturday, March 8, 10:30-11:30AM

You can sign-up by emailing Dianne or by calling TACtile at 720-524-8886.

What's even more exciting (at least to me) is that I'm going to offer my project kits for general purchase in my Etsy store. This means that anyone can purchase my fabulous pattern and fiber kits in my shop, follow the instructions, and make a sweet little project. I'll also be offering a materials starter kit featuring all the notions needed to get started as a hooker!

Look for these kits in the Supplies section of my store very soon! For now, I've posted a few photos here of sample projects so you can get a feel for what's in the kits.