Thursday, February 28, 2008

New hand dyed yarn

I really love the way my new yarn turned out. I told you all about it yesterday -- so here's some proof!

You can check out the yarn, and the other yarn and items I have in my shop, by clicking on the banner below!

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

From purple to black

Last night I set out on the icy streets of Michigan to dye the last of my dyeable wool skeins of yarn. Jay, mad genius behind Jennifer Joy Creative handmade clothing and handspun yarn, was on hand to orchestrate my feeble attempts at alchemy.

Unlike the last time we dyed yarn, I was a little more hands on this time, mixing the dyes myself and just getting the job done. I feel like I learned quite a bit about color saturation, different shades of dyes and had fun seeing the results -- even though one skein in particular did NOT turn out as planned.

We first kettle dyed a skein of green for the Irish colors scarf I'm going to be getting to for my cousin Ryan. There was already a deep orange Jay had dyed for me for a previous custom dye job so I'm all set to go for his scarf now.

Other than that I wanted to make a skein for Uncle Scott, without whom the dyeable yarn would not have been possible. I have no clue what colors he likes, but I figured earthtones are always good with most anyone, especially men, right? I don't know. A weak theory at best, but I decided to latch onto it and run. So, for him, I did a mixed skein of the bulky rogue blue Leicester wool in tones of avocado green, chocolate brown and mustard yellow. I love the way it turned out and hopefully he will too!

Next I tried to do a skein in varying shades of purple -- from light lavender to medium and deep purple. Unfortunately, due to my own operator error, I'm sure -- it turned out as mostly lavender with a couple of punches of color in a totally different shade of bright purple here and there. So, even though it didn't necessarily come out as planned, I'm hoping someone (or myself) can make some good use of it.

Next I had one skein of the worsted weight wool left to dye (since I didn't end up having to dye a new orange skein) and since I had brown and purple already mixed, Jay suggested purple, brown and light blue. She mixed the tiniest bit of royal blue dye in a cup of water and it made an incredible shade of pale, pale, powder blue. It was a combination I would never have thought to put together myself and I love the way it turned out.

For my remaining two skeins, I decided to dye them the same. I realized that when I set out to buy some hand dyed yarn last year for a Christmas gift project, I had purchased two skeins of the same type of yarn, and maybe others embarking on projects want more than one skein too. For these two skeins of the bulky rogue wool, I went with chocolate brown, mahogany, pink sand (which is really a light tan, essentially) and orange to brighten it up a little. It was still steaming in the pot when I left Jay's around midnight, but it looked good going in. I can't wait to stop at her house this afternoon and see how they all look dry and wound up.

I'll be sure to add some photos when I have them. I can't wait to buy more yarn and get to dyeing! My existing hand dyed yarn isn't selling all that well in my ETSY SHOP, but I'm having a great time doing it regardless!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

La Femme Monkita invades Asia!

OK, invades might be overstating it a little. But La Femme Monkita goods have ENTERED Asia -- or will be any day now.

Thanks to my first overseas order, a teal and terra cotta hand dyed skein of yarn and a light blue coffee cozy with a small royal blue vintage button are on a plane or a boat (or in a carrier pigeon's pack? I don't know how mail gets there) headed for someplace called Kanagawa, Japan.

No, I've never heard of it either. And it was a small order -- $15 + shipping -- but it was still pretty exciting. My dad thinks this woman (Miki O.) bought the yarn and cozy to "steal your idea and make it a sensation in Japan," but that's OK with me too.


La Femme Monkita

Monday, February 25, 2008

Keep your coffee cozy

One of La Femme Monkita's favorite customers, Natasha P., sent a kind e-mail recently, suggesting something I could make during the scarflette off-season: drink cozies. To some they're called koozies, cozies, coozies -- I don't know. Personally, I don't love any of the names, but I couldn't come up with anything better. If you've got any suggestions, it will be much appreciated.

So, anyway, back to the cozies...

Natasha said she has an old wristband from some past Detroit Auto Show that magically became a drink cozy. She uses it for her coffee -- saving a tree by refusing that little cardboard sleeve they give you -- as well as for her cocktails -- keeping her hand from freezing and avoiding that whole soggy bar napkin thing.

It took a couple of weeks and several prototypes, but I think I found a style that works -- both in looks and function. I've made a handful of them and, though they have gotten tons of views on my site (one almost 200!) I've only sold one.

I decided the yarn that works best for these is a cotton/modal shine worsted blended yarn from It comes in a bunch of bright colors, is super soft and has just enough stretch. I knit it in a single rib, so it's got a little bit of stretch and is plenty thick to keep the heat/cold away, but not SO thick you can't hang onto it.

I started by first using snaps to hold the cozies together. I figured it looks a little snappier (pun intended) than just sewing it up. It kind of accessorizes the accessory. Little did I know it involves hammering parts into other parts... I'm sure my downstairs neighbor Bridget has appreciated that.

So, this is what I came up with for the first couple:

Then, I realized, "Hey, I've got all these cool buttons sitting around from my grandma and great-grandma and others I've acquired via donations and eBay, so I why don't I take advantage of that?"

Which led to my first cozy sale:

THEN, I happened upon some pretty cool buttons the other day while shopping for supplies, so I decided to buy a couple of those (even though I should use the dozens of buttons I already have...). So, here's what came of those:

I should have a bunch more yarn waiting for me in Chicago right now, so be looking for more soon!

Say Yes! to Michigan

Hello! I just thought I would share the new scarf that I made this week. There was a contest through a group I belong to online -- Michigan Indie Crafters of Etsy (MICE). They are holding their first ever contest with the theme of "I Heart Michigan".

Members were instructed to create something -- anything -- that had to do with Michigan or a certain city, region or anything that obviously made it about the Great Lakes State. It didn't have to convey the contest theme literally. My first thought was to knit a scarf that had Michigan knitted into it, but how in the world do you do that?

I made it my goal to learn how to do what is known as "intarsia" (aka "picture knitting") for this purpose. It wasn't about the contest, the winner of which gets "a gift basket to be determined." But it gave me a deadline to teach myself something I had been putting off learning.

So, I got out one of my trusty knitting books and tried my hand at it by doing a small square. I wasn't sure what the heck I was doing, but I followed the directions in my trusty book "Stitch 'N Bitch" and sure enough -- success! So, that was a good first step.

Next up was how to possibly create some kind of pattern. I certainly wasn't going to be able to knit Michigan freehand. So, I thought about it for a day or two... I had never read a pattern before much less created one and then followed it.

Finally, I realized my scarf was 24 stitches across. I already had started it, with the idea of having royal blue -- in my mind to represent water -- and then about 2/3 of the way up the white Michigan, I would start in with magenta -- to represent a sunset of sorts. (And because I just thought the colors would contrast nicely).

SO, I typed up several rows of X's -- 24 of them to be exact -- representing the number of stitches I was working with. I then printed out a Michigan map we use in one of our media kids at work and enlarged it on the photocopier to be in proportion to the size of the X's.

I placed the cut out map on top of the page of X's and traced around it -- voila! Instant pattern. At least I hoped it might work...

So, the days went on and I kept saying "I have until February 7, no problem." Unfortunately, I had forgotten the pattern when I took my trip to Michigan last weekend, so I couldn't work on it until I returned on Tuesday, Feb. 5. BUT, that was election night and I had to work the night shift at the network in Chicago. When I got home around 11 p.m. I was a little wound up from working so late. I decided to see what I could do with this map to try to wind down.

Unfortunately, I think it had an adverse affect. I had the book out and what seemed like 20 little balls of yarn I was working with. I just kept plugging away... When I got to the part where I planned on switching to the pink, I already felt overwhelmed with all of the yarn I was juggling. So I didn't want to add two more skeins of yarn to the mix. I decided the whole state would be with a blue background and THEN I would switch colors.

I made it through the state, and thoroughly exhausted, at 2 a.m. I was quite impressed with what I had come up with! It actually LOOKED like Michigan. Granted, a short fat little Michigan, but you could tell it was Michigan! Intarsia success!

I spent every waking spare moment of Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 knitting away at the magenta, tucking in ends, trying to clean up the edges of my little state. That included a mad dash yesterday, getting my office assistant to stay a few extra minutes at work to help shoot photos in the parking lot next to our office and rushing the photos off to Daniel for some Photoshop work just after 5 p.m. Michigan time before he left his office. Again -- favors make this all possible. But I got the scarf posted around to my Etsy shop around 5 p.m. Chicago time -- a full 7 hours before the midnight deadline. Ahhh... I can breathe again.

Ultimately, I'm not completely happy with it. But I'm still proud of it. I think I did a great job, if I do say so myself, for my first time at this method, not to mention the fact that I did something with a goofy shape and not just a square or circle.

So, here's the finished product:

Now, it looks like only my scarf and a photograph are in the MICE competition. And I have no idea how this aforementioned online voting is going to go. If the public can vote, I'll have to get the word out. After all, this photo (seen here) maybe be prettier than my scarf (posted here), but there's no question I put more time and sweat equity into my little scarf.

So, fingers crossed. I'm sure if I do win, I will be lucky enough to win a basket full of chocolate -- which I detest. But even that will be fine with me. This contest forced me to learn something new, which I can now use in many ways in future knitting endeavors. So, I suppose I already won.

Dyeing my own yarn????

It's true. I've learned how to dye my own yarn. Granted, I don't if I'm yet prepared to try a solo mission, but with the help of the lovely and talented Jay of Jennifer Joy Creative, I've begun to hand dye my own wool!

There are a couple of different ways we did it. Jay knows the specifics of what to soak the plain wool in and how and when and for how long. I just followed her instructions.

First, Jay had taken the three kinds of wool I bought -- I had 1,000 yards each of two worsted weight wools and one bulky wool. She bound them off into roughly 200 yard skeins (aka balls of yarn!) with some sort of whacky wooden contraption:

Then we got to work. For the self-striping yarn, the skein was divided into four equal sections, each of which were placed in a jar with red, dark grey, light grey and plain water (to retain the ivory) and placed in a pot of boiling water.


For a different method, we mixed our dyes with water in jars and transferred them into squirt bottles. First up on my agenda was magenta-orange-brown-ivory. It's true. I wanted to do that combination. Anyone who knows that my standard (and generally only) colors in my wardrobe are those in the self striping yarn (well, black is in there too with the grey and red), likely are shocked by this.

Anyway, so off went in our various color combos. Everything from earthtones like terra cotta and mahogony to bright purples and teals. And we came up with some pretty good stuff, if I do say so myself.

We hung most of it by the fire place to dry and Jay got to untangling the self striping yarn (we better come up with a different method...) When all was said and done, I think we came up with some pretty sweet yarn and I can't wait to do more.

Here's the finished product, available for sale on my Etsy site.

My lovely and talented friends...

If ever you wanted to show how much love your friends have for you, start a new venture! Starting my La Femme Monkita Etsy shop would not have been possible without the help of several people. Among them are 2 graphic designer friends.

Brooke and I lived together about 6 years ago -- the last year each of us spent in Lansing, MI. She's now living and working in Nicarauga, but always is just an IM away... So, when it came time to create my Etsy shop last year, I asked if she would help me make a banner for my page. Here's what we came up with:

When my good friend Jesse, another friend from my time in Lansing, saw the banner he offered up his services to create hang tags for my items, which I thought was a great idea! So he took Brooke's design and tweaked it to create the tags. Here's what he came up with:

He's now tweaking THAT to create business cards for me that not only have my Etsy shop on them, but also my Myspace page.

Jesse's got his own graphic design site. You can check out his work at DenHerder Design or his blog, Working Class Designer.

I just wanted to show off their hard work!

A long overdue introduction

My profile information says a bit more about who I am, what I make and where I sell it. But I thought I would introduce myself anyway.

I've been knitting for a little more than a year. It started simply enough. I would join a group of my girlfriends in Michigan who would knit and drink wine, usually on Wednesday nights.

I would just drink wine.

Well, that could only last for so long. Before I knew it, this pastime of my friends' – including Jay, who even spins, dyes and sells yarn from raw fibers, had infected me. That was around Halloween 2006. By Christmas I had "mastered" knitting enough to make a few Christmas presents and a blanket for my nephew's first birthday.

Flash forward roughly a year – and here we are. By the fall of '07 I was back in the groove of knitting and knitting and knitting. It became my meditation in a sense. It calmed me. It centered me (at the risk of sounding like someone who should be listening to Yanni by candlelight with incense burning) and it just plain made me happy to come up with new creations and color combinations and bring them to life.

I knew of Etsy, a Website where anyone who crafts or homemakes things can sell their goods, mostly because of Jay's shop (HERE) so I figured, what the heck. The week after Thanksgiving, with roughly a dozen scarves under my belt ready to sell, I opened my own shop, La Femme Monkita. Click HERE to see it.

With the help of some amazing friends – Brooke to design my banner for the shop, Jesse to tweak it into hang tags and business cards, Jay's experience and guidance, Daniel's Photoshop skills and constant encouragement – La Femme Monkita was off and running.

In the weeks (yes, I can't believe it's only been weeks) since I opened the shop, I've sold roughly a dozen scarves, etc., through the site and I've gotten more than that in custom orders. That's a whole lot of knitting in not very much time...

The good news? I'm still loving every minute of it. I wish I could quit my job and knit all day. My intense reading habit has taken a backseat (it took me about a month to finish my last book, which tipped the scales at only about 300 pages), but I figure it's all worth it. I knit on lunch breaks, during movies, on airplanes and in the passenger seat. I am fortunate to have people in my life who seem to have not yet taken offense (too much anyway) to my habit. I'm just waiting for the intervention.

I'm constantly updating my shop with new items. My latest creation is called a neckwarmer or scarflette, which I've been making complete with vintage buttons that were passed on to me from a collection my great-grandmother and grandmother contributed to throughout their lives.

La Femme's main squeeze, Daniel, wrote a blog about that which is known as a scarflette. You can read it HERE.

And my most recent venture is hand dyeing my own wool, again with the help of Jay at Jennifer Joy Creative world headquarters in Okemos, MI.

So, there you have it. That's where La Femme Monkita came from and is all about.
Again you can check out my shop here:
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I plan on regularly updating this blog with photos of each project as it moves along, including the wool dyeing process, custom orders I make and more.

Thanks for checking out La Femme Monkita! Look for more updates soon!