Preparing for West Wales Wool Show

Just eight days until I pack up all my things to take them to Narberth in Pembrokeshire for the West Wales Wool Show. Yesterday and today have been batt-making days! I am really enjoying laying out my palette of coloured fibre (mainly merino wool at the moment, although I’m looking forward to branching out soon) and putting together combinations before I feed them through my drum carder. I thought that I would enjoy this work even before I got the carder earlier this year, but there is something so satisfying about blending a seemingly odd mixture of plain coloured wool (and sparkle, or silk, or other additives!) together and bringing out a wonderful single piece, all harmonising hues. I’ve never felted anything (deliberately!!) before, but I am itching to felt one of these batts and make some sort of landscape out of it!

In the next few days I have wool dyeing plans. I have a big box full of yarn downstairs crying out to be vibrantly coloured, and hopefully early next week I will receive some fibre which I will dye up straight away and hope fervently I can get dry in time for the weekend! If not, it will be a shame but it will keep for Nottingham Yarn Expo in November.

I dyed a new colourway last week, and it is definitely being repeated when I charge up my dyepots tomorrow.

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Inspired by the changing colours of all the foliage around my home, it is called “October Stroll” and I dyed it on 4ply (fingering) weight British BFL/nylon, which is my Happy Owl Sock base. What do you think? Does it shout “Autumn!” at you?

Yarningham was awesome!

This is an unapologetically picture heavy, word light blog post, but I’m going to leave it as it is. With the gorgeous things in these pictures, I really do think that a picture is worth a thousand words! Although there are captions…well, imagine I’m showing you my Yarningham photo album!

Me in front of my stall, day 1. All set up and ready to go!
The stall without a stallholder grinning insanely and blocking the view!
Phileas Yarns – it was so lovely to meet Sylvie and she had the most gorgeous solids and tonals.
The hall from not-quite-above. We were over on the left hand side. You can just see my sign peeping up!
The local WSD guild were tempting people down the weaving and spinning rabbit holes all weekend! And you can just see Jo Knit Sew’s stall behind them. I don’t seem to have a picture of her stand, which is a shame. She was really lovely!
Fee and Liz (I repeated their names all weekend so I wouldn’t forget!) were another lovely pair of people I met. Their business is called Yarn Angels and I think they were the most local of all!
Me and my glamorous assistant Zoe, of the Pins and Needles podcast.
Ling was our opposite neighbour, and her stall gave us lots of pretties to look at in quieter times!
Oh my days, the cake! I had some raspberry and chocolate cake, but it disappeared too quickly to be photographed. So I got a picture (just!) of the Yarningham sponge instead!
Textile Garden brought the usual extremely tempting range of buttons to riffle.
Little Boo Yarns was sort of diagonal to us, and her yarn was actually calling my name all weekend! I gave way in the end and bought two totally gorgeous skeins with will become a two tone shawl.
And more Little Boo Yarns goodies….
We’ll be heading up to Toft Alpaca for their open day at the weekend, and I might have fallen in love with something…
Look!! How could anyone resist this gorgeous, beautiful woolly mammoth? He must be mine! Well, at least, the pattern must be mine next weekend!
Fig Tree Yarns was our neighbour on stage right, selling all sorts of beautiful American yarns.
Tanja and Derrick of the Knitting Swede – she had the most beautiful shawl pattern called “Dragon Tears” which I’d love to knit one day!
Grace of Beyond Measure was our other neighbour, and really lovely to chat to. She had some great tools and notions, and I know Zoe was tempted…and succumbed!
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It was lovely meeting so many people I’d only known online before. I didn’t get a picture with Ann Kingstone or Dani of Little Bobbins, but here’s one Zoe took of the pair of us with Zena from Little Yellow Uke podcast and etsy shop. I really think that meeting so many brilliant people was the best part by far!
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Fab Funky Fibres was another stall very close to ours, with the most gorgeous range of self striping yarns. Seriously, that yarn festival was like being a kid in a sweet shop!
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And finally, a bit of fun! Zoe and I posing as alpacas. Of course, it was really tricky working out who should be the tall, ginger one and who should be the short, dumpy one!!

Yarningham prep!

Just one week to go until the inaugural Yarningham wool show in Birmingham, and my preparations are well under way. My yarn and fibre is all ready to go, and I’m enjoying making some new things to bring with me. I am going to be offering learn to spindle kits, where you can have a lovely wooden drop spindle together with your choice of spindle bag and fibre. Hoping to tempt more people down the spinning rabbit hole! 

There have been lots and lots of stitch markers and progress keepers in the works this week, and my inner nerdy-geek has been rejoicing at the Whovian and Harry Potter themed sets I’ve been putting together. I’ve also had time to make some lovely delicate sparkly sets. And next week I’ll be stocking up on my progress keepers for those of you who prefer lobster clasps.

Another new product I’ve been making are these micro-mini-skein earrings. All made from my own hand dyed sock weight yarns, I love them!

And finally, just for a bit of fun, I will be offering these hand painted toy eyes. A while ago I needed some safety eyes for a bunny rabbit I knitted, and I couldn’t find the colour I wanted. So I ordered some unpainted ones, had a go and was happy with the result. But I was then left with many many surplus eyes, so I’ve painted them and they’ll be coming with me to Yarningham!

If any of you are able to come, please come and say hello to Zoe and I, we’d love to meet you and put faces to names! 

But for now, I’m off back to my sewing machine. Only six making days left! Busy busy!

Just sittin’ in my car, drinkin’ a disappointing hot chocolate…

Today is my Sunday this week. That is to say, my day of rest! I’ve managed to get quite a lot of dyeing done over this last few days, including a couple of kilograms of Polwarth tops amongst the heaps of yarn, and I just wanted to take a day to gather myself. It has been good! Not that I’ve not been thinking about Wonderwool at all, I’ve just turned down the voices in my head a little bit and concentrated on resting!

Except for the tops I rinsed this morning, the yarn I hung up, the bits and bobs of packaging I ordered from the internet (Web shopping is just the greatest!), the lists I made and the orders I packaged up! But, I have had a fair bit of knitting time. I’ve watched some fairly cruddy TV which required no brain power at all, and I had the gift of a couple of quiet hours this morning when my husband took our daughter to the cinema.

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This evening, our younger son has a tennis lesson on the other side of Cardiff so I have brought him. I’ve also got my tablet, my phone and two knitting projects in my handbag. I don’t think I’ll be bored! I was thinking about doing a Tara Swiger and Periscoping from the coffee shop while I waited for him. Except this coffee shop has no Internet connection, they seem very eager to shut even though I went in nearly an hour before they’re due to close and, as I noted in the title, the hot chocolate is disappointingly poor. Next week I think I’ll try one of the other cafés in the area! So you get a blog post instead.

The lists of what I need to do, what I have done, what I should pack etc etc for Wonderwool are breeding, I’m sure. To the point that I went and bought a dedicated notebook to make sure that it’s all kept in the same place. (It doesn’t hurt that the rent of the notebook looks like the TARDIS either…)

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Sidenote: there’s a mother with a small child in a buggy walking around and around the car park at the moment. I recognise that walk, the “I’ll walk five miles if only she’ll go to sleep” trundle behind a pram. Destination and route are irrelevant, eye contact with said small child is avoided at all costs. And the mother looks exhausted. Probably more tired than the child, if truth be known! I feel like getting out of the car and taking her an energy drink in a gesture of solidarity, and tell her I remember those walks only too well!

But back on topic; fibre festival planning. The more I plan, the more I realise I don’t know. How much of a float do I need? Should I be dyeing more of this or that? How long should I allow to set up the stall? Do I have enough containers for my stock? How many carrier bags will I need? And so it goes on! I sense another list approaching…

Two weeks right now and I will have set up the stall. Zoe will be attempting to calm me down and reassure me that it’s all great (because she’s epic like that!) and I will probably have talked my husband’s ear off trying to describe it all to him on the phone. And then we’ll be heading for our very nice B&B which is promising a comfortable night’s sleep (assuming I can actually sleep for the excitement) and an excellent breakfast.

*Blech, this hot chocolate really is vile!*

Still, I can get a lot done in two weeks. Lots of yummy yarn in deep and satisfying hues; lots of cheerfully painted and squishy tops that will beg to be taken home with the customers and spun. And lots of stitch markers and other crafting trinklements decorating every spare space. Such fun!

In the mean time, I’m going to sit in my car for another hour, drinking my mediocre hot chocolate and knitting on a sock which will hopefully be one of my display items in a couple of weeks!

“Repeat after me, Jennie, you can do this!”

Twenty days left to produce my best quality items for Wonderwool Wales. Well, nineteen, because I’ll take a day off for Jack’s birthday. Actually, eighteen, as I’m travelling on Ben’s birthday so we’ll celebrate early. No, seventeen; I’ve promised a trip to the zoo to the kids next week one day….and so it goes on! I won’t bore you with the whole list, but I think I worked out that I’ve got about twelve or thirteen days to get this done.

So today’s blog post is about self confidence, or more likely self doubt. I’ve only recently heard about something called imposter syndrome (I think it might have been on one of Tara Swiger’s periscope broadcasts), but when I did, I recognised most of it in myself. I look at the list of vendors at Wonderwool and I think to myself “I’m going to have a stall next to all those real dyers and producers. There will be Sara’s Texture Crafts, Hilltop Cloud, John Arbon. And then there I will be in the middle of them all, and they’ll soon figure out that I shouldn’t be there.” The voices of self criticism in my head can be overwhelming.

But why shouldn’t I be there? I’ve been dyeing yarn for several years now, I’ve had a shop on my own for a year and a half, I’ve got a growing customer base who always (when I hear feedback) are happy with what I’ve made. Surely that entitles me to consider myself to be a “real” dyer too?

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I'm dyeing up sunshine, woo hoo!

I love colour. I love saturated, jewel tones. I love variegated yarns and tonal yarns that are almost variegated within the same colour. But then I’ll think maybe I should dye solids too. Maybe I should do pastels. But I can’t do it all, and the deep colours are my style. They’re what I want to be known for, so I should embrace that. I’m sure that there are more than enough people who like my style of dyeing to keep me busy, once my name and reputation are known. It’s this damned evil gremlin on my shoulder, sowing the seeds of self doubt into my brain. It’s the same with the project bags. I veer towards fun fabrics, perhaps geek themed, sometimes cartoony animals or scenery or suchlike. And then I’ll see a post on Instagram or a podcast on YouTube where someone is praising their latest purchased bag in a chintzy floral, or referencing a tv show I don’t know. And I’ll feel anxious, thinking I should be doing that in my shop, why didn’t I think of that? It’s totally ridiculous. Writing this blog post will be therapeutic, because I’ll be able to read it over afterwards with a little distance, and see that it’s silly to want to try to cover every base, every interest group, every fandom. I need to stick to what I know, what I like. And hopefully the customers will agree with my taste in colour, in pattern, in theme!

I’m not looking for sympathy, or begging for you to comment and tell me I’m awesome (although that would be nice!). This is just a part of how I feel about running my own business, and I wanted to document it. I think it will be interesting to look back in a couple of years, with the benefit of having experienced a few more yarn shows and (hopefully!) having enjoyed many more sales and see if I still feel the same way. I suspect not. I think that I’m probably just nervous about, essentially, stepping into the unknown and, once I’ve exhibited at this first festival and know what to expect in the future, I’ll feel more secure and calmer. And of course it won’t hurt if I sell some of my yarns, fibre, project bags and stitch markers while I’m there!

21 days!

Since I accepted the offer of a stall at Wonderwool on Tuesday  (ohmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmygoodness!!) I needed to get moving fast with my preparations. As of today, I have twenty one days left to make things, which would take it right up to the last day. Which might not be advisable!

So far, I’ve created eight new colourways, started dyeing a pile of sock blanks and a heap of gradient sock yarns.

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I’ve planned miniskein sets, got thirty project bags underway and started working through my charm boxes to make up many sets of stitch markers. I’ve ordered (and received, yay!) a card reader for accepting card payments on the stall. I’ve ordered a banner for the stall wall and a big box of business cards. The postman just delivered some shelves for display and I’m hoping that some extra dyeing supplies will be arriving soon!

I’m writing all this down as much to reassure myself that I’m on track as to record my “journey to Wonderwool”, as I do have a strong propensity to panic and I simply don’t have time to stress out!

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Erin doing an early morning quality control!

I’ve received so many lovely comments from lots of people, which means a lot to me. It seems that plenty of you seem to think that I’m capable of doing this, so I’ll do my very best to live up to your expectations!