Learning Curve

ModeKnit Yarn is in it’s 5th year, which kind of blows Kathleen and me away.  And every day we learn new things.

The Slippy Cowl, Our First Pattern!

We started this with $2,000 and an agreement on who would do what (which was pretty fluid, but for the most part I do the dyeing, and Kathleen does all of the less-sexy-but-more-important stuff like insurance, taxes, booking us into fiber shows, etc.)

Kathleen is also the booth maven.

It’s her world, I just hang out and tell bad jokes.

When we first started it took us 4+ hours to set up our booth, and almost as long to take it down.

Our First Year At Yarn Over in Minneapolis

So much blood, sweat, tears and toil…

Now we can get the booth up in 2+ hours (depending on helpers…) and our breakdown time runs from 1-2 hours (depending on how difficult it is to get to our trailer from the show floor.)

We’ve recently streamlined our yarn display, now we use pants hangers so we can display an entire range of colors on one hanger, and make it easier for folks to pull out yarn and compare it with other colors (or carry it to the doorway to see it in daylight, etc.) 

New Yarn Display at Shepherd’s Harvest, 2018

As a side benefit, it also REALLY cuts down on our setup and breakdown time, and allows us to organize our yarn by color much easier.

For a few years now we’ve displayed our yarn in long, un-twisted skeins, but now we’ve been able to cut out a great deal of grid wall and those metal arms!

Layla & Her Beautiful FLOW

All of this has taken time, and we’ve had ‘bright ideas’ that were anything BUT bright when we actually implemented them.

But that’s how we learn!

Another learning curve was making our FLOW yarn.  It’s a pretty labor-intensive product, it takes time to knit the fabric, dye the fabric, then UNKNIT the fabric into balls so the color change is visible from the top of the ball.

When I think of my first experiments in trying to create a slow-color change gradient yarn, I could both laugh and cry.

WORKING Machine!

Now we have a pretty streamlined method, and the best part is we’ve been able to teach our employees (Becca, Layla, sometimes Andy) how to create relatively consistent colorways, which has always been our goal.

But in the time since we started, I’ve become an expert at taking apart and repairing Silver Reed 150 knitting machines, and have discovered resources for some of those pesky, easy-to-break parts.  The things we learn…

Broken Machine…

I’ve also become a dab hand at taking apart and cleaning our electric ball winder and swift.  Because I love the glamour.

We’re still growing, we’re still working on breaking that ‘more going back into the biz than in our pockets’ threshold, but we’re both very lucky that we love what we do, and love spending time together and meeting so many lovely fiber folks at the various festivals where we vend.

2015 Our First 5×8 Trailer

One thing we’ve learned THIS year is that we are NOT superwomen.  This Spring Kathleen seemed to go from one cold to another, with sinus infections along the way.

When bronchitis reared it’s ugly head last week, we made an executive decision to opt out of one of our favorite fairs, The Kentucky Sheep & Fiber Fest, and stayed home so that BOTH of us could rest.

2018 Our NEW 5×10 Trailer!

It was perhaps the best decision we made all year, and taught us what we both already knew; you can’t run on empty and expect to go very far!

We hope to see you at one of the shows we WILL be able to attend, just coming up in the next weeks are The Great Lakes Fiber Show; Estes Park Wool Market; Iowa Sheep & Wool Fest and Houston Fiber Fest.

So, yeah, I guess it IS good that we took this week “off”!

And now, for your visual enjoyment, here’s some of what Layla and I worked up this week.!

FLOW Yarn Drying, May 2018

A Kill Room (er, DYE room…)

PODCAST

We’ve eased into presenting a new podcast on iTunes.  I say “eased” because I’m the editor, and I’m not always as quick as I’d like to be!  So instead of uploading a regular weekly (or even bi-monthly) pod cast, we’ve been uploading them as they get finished editing.

I’m using Audacity, a free app that is great! I wish, though, that I knew more about audio engineering and making the sound of the final cast better.  Each one DOES get better, which I guess is a mercy!

Here’s a link to all of our podcasts, so you can see who we’ve already interviewed – sometimes Kathleen and I chat with someone, or sometimes it’s just me, but we hope the listener finds them interesting and nice to listen to while knitting (or crocheting, or biking, etc!)

killroom
Dexter Prepares to Dye, er, Kill

DYE ROOM

I’m becoming quite skilled at dyeing yarn in a teeny-tiny space, only using as much room as absolutely necessary and doing everything over washable rugs and with plastic draped around the walls.

My friend Deb likened it to Dexter’s “Kill Room”, which is more truth than poetry when I’m dying those bright reds.

With our home on the market, I’m DEFINITELY more careful than I was when it didn’t matter how the room look when I finished! I’m also really glad that when I painted downstairs, I used deep, saturated colors. If I DO spill, and wipe it up, it’s not as much of a tragedy as if the walls were white!

One of the goals of our move is to find a home with a really great dye space, not just the family basement.  How lucky we are remains to be seen, but setting the goals is the first step toward achieving them! (that sounds a bit too ‘motivational speaker’ for me…)

I just finished dyeing up a large order for Bijou Basin ranch, before that I was rushing to fill orders that had been placed while Kathleen and I were on the road. We’re getting more and more wholesale accounts, which is amazing and great, and which also means more dyeing (which is also great!)

(L-R) Toad Lily, Freckled Iris, Betty Confetti, Community Clinic & A Lovely Thing
(L-R) Toad Lily, Freckled Iris, Betty Confetti, Comm Clinic & A Lovely Thing

TRAVEL

Mostly I’m trying to get a lot of yarn ready for our trip to Stitches Midwest in early Aug in Schaumberg, IL. We’re excited to give it a second go, and see how it all pans out this year. It’s DEFINITELY the easiest show to load into and out of (we can pull right into the show area!)

After that is finished, we have a trip to the Michigan Fiber Festival in late Aug. I have taught there and I LOVE this festival, I’m thrilled to be teaching there again! It’s such a lovely event, the atmosphere is amazing and it’s in the sweet little town of Allegan, MI. Kathleen’s never been to Michigan, so it’s a great introduction to the state for her!

(L-R) Lilac FLOW, Iris FLOW & Hydrangea FLOW
(L-R) Lilac FLOW, Iris FLOW & Hydrangea FLOW

We’ll be dropping Andy off at school (Earlham College, oddly enough Michael C. Hall — Dexter — is an alum…) on the way (she’s going back early to work Freshman Orientation) so to kill a few days before the MFF Kathleen and I are doing some cabin-camping on Lake Michigan – I’m really looking forward to that! it’s pretty bare bones, but I’ll be certain to shower before heading to Allegan for my first knitting class of the festival!

SAY “HI!”

If you’re in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio or Michigan, this has been your Summer to visit with ModeKnit Yarn!  We hope to see many of you at Stitches Midwest and/or the Michigan Fiber Festival!  Getting a chance to visit with our customers is – in all honesty – the highlight of our trips!

C’mon out and say, “Hi!” and get a piece of tea candy!

Minnesota Fun!

This might have happened on the way home from the Fosston Fiber Festival in early October.

Big Paul and Kathleen
Big Paul and Kathleen

This also might have happened at the same time.

Annie and Paul
Annie and Paul

This particular larger-than-life Paul Bunyan is in Akeley, MN, also known as the birthplace of the big guy. There are lots of fun sites like this all over Minnesota, and we love stopping when we can. It makes for a fun trip.

What’s your favorite unusual roadside attraction?