Have you seen them? The little creatively designed and organized tiny houses that are taking the world my storm? They are small, and quite genius in their use of space and chic design. Pretty cool if you ask me. A statement of downsizing in this world of “stuff”.
I have never been a “stuff” person. Never have I seen the need for so much clutter or “stuff” to pack away after the holidays. I’ve kept a small collection of Christmas ornaments made by my kids, and even some my mother kept that I made as a child. Over the years we’ve made paper snowflakes and paper chains for Christmas, colored paper and carved pumpkins were the usual Halloween decorations, and many of the same creations happened on most of the holidays when my kids were little. It’s been my way to stay “tiny” yet fun.
Honestly, I could never live in a tiny house. They look so crisp and organized, and imagine how little you would have to clean! :) My creature comforts are, in my mind, things that serve a purpose. My immense shoe and boot collection, my stack of blankets and comforters because I am cold all of the time, my cooking bowls, pottery dishes, gadgets and utensils … and of course my treadmill which serves as a clothes hanger until winter keeps me off the roads. All top of the line purchases that have lasted me for years. To me I still exist in a “tiny house” which is where I plan to always stay.
As the “buy, buy, buy” season approaches and the push to save, save, save is on I find myself exhausted with the cars with red bows and happy women whose husbands buy them new washers and dryers. Then there is the endless blue heart with support your local businesses -one day a year??? Think about that. Shop Small Saturday. Once a year? Small Business Saturday is a wonderful promotion for us, sadly though I think that it falls short. Just my opinion. I have chosen not to participate anymore. I’ll leave offering sales and discounts to the big stores who can afford the losses. For me personally I try and structure my products to be fairly priced, and to be giving to my customers with free shipping once a month, and occasional, thoughtful little gifts of appreciation.
Little things to help small businesses throughout the year include paying with cash when you can, saying a few words of kindness in a review on their google pages, yelp pages and websites or social media, and of course sharing with your friends. All free. All helpful and important.
In keeping with my “tiny house” theme, I have been reviewing my numbers -the boring yet very important part of being a business owner. :) Over the years I have kept track of colors, weights, and even textures of yarns. Like any business, when products aren’t performing, we must think about their “worth”. For me, the time and effort involved in creating a yarn color or texture must have a profitable return. It’s how I keep my “doors” open. So I have decided to only custom dye a few of my lines. Those brightly colored crazy Unicorn Sock Yarns? You can still get them, you tell me what you’d like and I will custom dye them for you! NIMBUS? It’s so sweet and lovely, but Farm Blend, Downeast and Southport seem to be much more popular, perhaps because of the larger yardage? Either way, You can still order NIMBUS if you’d like some, and I will dye it right on the spot for you. Just shoot me an email and let’s talk. :)
I also am opting out of sending emails. Thank you for accepting me into your inbox over the years, but I have created a lovely website for you to visit and promise to keep it current and updated. Many of you follow me on facebook and instagram, events and announcements will always be posted there. And since the fees for card processing continue to rise, I will be using only Paypal as a means to check out on my website. You do not have to have paypal account to checkout, and if you get stuck I will gladly talk you through it.:)
Since many of the yarns I create are unique blends and change from year to year, I will be sorting through the last of them this week and putting them on a SALE page. A new batch of Farm Blend is in the works at the mill and that excites me. Creating these unique, one-time yarns is what I do best and keeps me very inspired. They are 100 -150 pound runs and different in color and texture every time!
I wish you all a wonderful Holiday Season ahead. I’m beyond grateful for the support and kindness you give me though out the year. And here’s a bit of a teaser …. I’ve been writing about my 20 years of farming and what it taught me about the endless struggle to achieve balance, being a mom, being a woman and being a creative spirit. It’s brutally honest. But isn’t life? :)
Mon, 26 Nov 2018 14:39:51 +0000
The count down has begun for two upcoming fiber festivals that are a “must go to” in the fiber world! First the New York Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY and two weeks later, The Fiber Festival Of New England in Springfield, MA! There has been LOTS of dyeing happening in my life, and of course lots of help! :)
There has also been quite a bit of knitting going on to show you how nicely my yarns knit up. A good friend put together the OM Shawl from my Downeast yarns. We chose Dark Brown, Cherry Red, Peacock and Old Gold. Its such a versatile design that can be worn many different ways!
While Vanessa was working on the OM Shawl, yet another talented knitting friend whipped up this beautiful Feadan Shawl in Southport. Its an asymmetric design, super pretty in warm or cool shades! Thank you Vanessa and Lee!
My BFF Eileen put her own special touches on the Calamus Cowl using NIMBIS Minis … xoxoxo my friend! It’s so beautiful and you are so talented!!
In late August I dove in with determination to make the Putney Mountain Vest in time to wear in NY! I bought the pattern last year at Rhinebeck and when my Farm Blend Summer came back from the Mill I knew it was a perfect match!
I made a few modifications but all in all it took 600 yards of Mahogany Farm Blend and less than 100 yards of Natural, Apricot, and less than 50 yards of Chartreuse, and Paprika. I made the largest size and I did not do the increases and decreases in the body as I like a loose and boxy sweater. It is a little large, but I will happily wear it, but will go down just once size for then next one. I also chose to not attempt the steeking and made it a pullover. I decreased the neckline by 6 rounds and added my own design within the last 10 rounds. I’m so happy with this sweater in this yarn!
I will have many skeins of Farm Blend with me at Rhinebeck and whatever is left will go to The Fiber Festival of New England two weeks later! Farm Blend Summer, Downeast and Southport are also all available on my website and very soon the next run of Farm Bend will be ready! This batch will be rich and dark, and full of surprises!
Sat, 29 Sep 2018 17:56:27 +0000
We hold these truths to be self-evident
That all men are created equal"
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson
I'mma compel him to include women in the sequel! - Hamilton
This is one of my favorite lines from Hamilton. As we celebrate the birthday of our country it seems appropriate that we recognize the role women have played in the the building of the nation we are today. Unfortunately, I need help.
I need help understanding how the beautiful color pink has become a representation of angry women or as many are calling it ... "nasty women". How can a color so soft and sweet, a color I dressed my little blonde-haired daughter in and watched her innocent, tiny hands pick flowers in, how the sweetness of pink, gentle, wild flowers has been turned into a representation of anger? Am I missing something? Am I misinterpreting???
On July 1st I watched the participation of #titsoutcollective by many yarn dyers around the world. I have read the purpose of this movement which states -"Tits Out Collective - a global movement of hand-dyed yarn, patterns and notions of the colorway If I Want Exposure, I'll Get My Tits Out. So what does it represent??? I'm not understanding. Is this just a way to sell yarn?
Please. Am I getting old? Please help me understand this. Help me understand how using these words serves us a women? How putting a pink colored hat on your head a -Pussy hat, makes us not laughable to men? Did they notice? Of course? Do they respect you more because you are wearing this representation of your "femininity" on your head and using words they created to slander us and our female parts as a way to get attention? Do you honestly think "getting your tits out" makes any kind of statement to the world that you are an amazing creature of intelligence and creativity? That you are a kind, nurturing, amazing woman who truly makes this world a better place? That you are a lady worth respecting? Please help me understand this.
I pride myself on being open minded. I can change the oil in my truck and run a tractor and drive a dump truck if I have to. I can do just about anything I need to for myself -like many women. But I am not stupid enough to think that I do not need the help of a man now and then. And when I do need their help I carry myself as a strong woman using my thoughts and words, and respect of myself in a way that teaches them that -hey, she is one powerful force of intelligence and kindness, she's bold and witty and beautiful ... and I respect her.
So I will be brutally honest -which can be hard to be as a business owner these days. I do not dye pink for pussy hats. I do not dye pink yarn to then wrap around my neck or hold in front of my naked body, covering up what is left to the imagination. I have RESPECT of my femininity and I have class that will take me to much higher levels than being angry ever will. Are their injustices in the world? Sure. But I believe anger feeds anger. I do have a great sense of humor. But I see this is being laughed at by the very people that should be hearing it as a voice of strength.
My pinks represent the beauty around us, sunsets, delicate flowers, little hats and mittens caringly knit for babies and grand children, the precious color of new life, the color of valentines that represent love ... unicorn manes ... you get the idea. My pinks are powerful in the way they make us beautiful. Not angry. Not nasty.
I respect every human's right to speak their minds. I respect all thoughts and all creative expression. I even respect the indie-dyers who participated in this event. We are after all, working women trying to make a living, and good for them to donating portions of their sales to charities of their choice. My wish? That we could use words that make us stronger. Become a powerful force of strong minds and thoughtful actions. That I can show my daughter that there are some very, very good men out there, and that her brains and respect for her self shown through her intelligence, soft voice and meaningful words can move mountains. Learn from the strong women in our history.
Just my two cents.
Be kind to one another.
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 14:34:58 +0000
That title got your attention didn't it??? :)
I am sitting here at my rather large class table at the shop listening to the cars go by. People walk by, some chatting on their phones, some laughing with friends. Life is going on outside and I am sitting here talking with the occasional person who stops by to say hello. I get it. Yarn is not bread or milk ... though some of us need it to survive. :) I also get that you all can't come hang out with me every day lol!
I decided to try a retail space. I said way back in the beginning that I would give it a year. The idea was big and the people behind me were bigger. For them I am grateful. I have no sadness as I plan to close my doors at 18 Market Street, instead I have learned that being in 4 walls everyday is just not for me! :):) ...but hey, we do have to try things right?
I love people! I love talking and gabbing and laughing! I love markets and shows and festivals! I love teaching and learning. I detest sitting and I can feel myself getting a little wider from all the sitting I do as the owner of a fixed business ... in a fixed space. I'm loggin' a lot more miles on my running shoes to make up for it! :)
So Romney Ridge Yarns will move on to the next phase at the end of August. There will be no closing sales and clearances, I value my work too much to just sell it off, and besides its not going away it's just moving! :) Cause heaven knows Kelly can't sit still!
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! for always supporting my crazy adventures!
And many many XOXO's!!! Hope to see you while I am here at the shop!
p.s. don't being me any coffee and pastries! ;););)
Tue, 26 Jun 2018 18:31:34 +0000
Let me tell you a story.
20 years ago I started my farm with two sheep. A few years into it, I learned to spin and then dye my own hand-spun yarns and am selling them from my little garden shed on my farm. No facebook, no instagram, not much email either. I hand painted drop cloth that says YARNS, draped it over a sawhorse and set it on the side of the road. People came. And they came in droves. And they shared their purchases with their knitting friends in conversations and at their local knitting guilds and at thieir knit nights in libraries and at their local yarn shops. They came and they bought my yarns and they appreciated that their purchase included conversation, education and a chance to meet the animals that created the yarns. When winter came and I had to close my shop because I had no heat. So I would travel to local shows and some folks would come to my house to pick up yarn. Either way I was out with people and we were talking and learning, laughing and sharing. And it was good. Good for all of us. My farm grew to 36 sheep, 3 angora goats, a rag-tag flock of chickens and my sales supported my endeavors.
A labor of LOVE!
One of the things we talked a lot about was the work involved in the production of my yarns. Back then it involved a daily farm life of hauling hay and grain and filling water buckets. It involved daily interaction and observation of my flock, fence repair, moving animals to fresh pasture and so on and so on and so much more. It involved taking wool to the mill after shearing then picking it up and then dyeing the skeins, drying, tagging, packing up for shows and eventually packing up for mailing. After my flock had grown considerably and the internet had grown too, I decided to up my game by purchasing thousands of pounds of wool to spin into different weights and fiber combinations. I toyed around with a website ... then built one. Things changed. People e-mailed me more ...instead of calling. But they bought my yarns on line because of the beginning reasons and many of them still visited my farm every summer religiously. We talked, we laughed, we shared, we learned ... in person.
Today I continue to do much the same on a different scale. I do not have a farm to maintain, but from that 20 years of farming ...I have knowledge. Lots and lots of knowledge and I have experience. And I have wool sources that continue to excite me as my medium. So it occurs to me that maybe an understanding of what a knitting, felting, dyeing, etc. class is giving you is a very important part of the conversation.
So let's break it down.
So this helps you to understand a little of what goes into a farm yarn. Let's not forget the yarns we purchase from mills that are spun and ready to be dyed.
Now let's talk about advertising and shows and festivals.
AND LET"S NOT FORGET THE HOURS OF PROMOTION DONE ON SOCIAL MEDIA! :)
Why do we do it? Each of us has our own reasons, but passion for our work is a big part of it.
Now let's talk about classes from a shop's point of view.
Classes help keep us open. They bring folks in to learn a new skill which, hopefully, brings them back after they are bitten by the "creativity bug". Classes help keep our designer's designing by supplementing their incomes as they do the math and write the patterns that we love. Classes form a community. They introduce experienced with inexperienced, they are a place for conversation of all skills and all ages and all walks of life. In the fiber industry I have yet to meet a teacher without patience and enthusiasm and a genuine loooooove to teach and share. Its a fun and happy experience. But in all honesty, it is the bread and butter that plays a major roll in keeping the doors open.
In my shop I do not carry commercial brands. I create and carry Romney Ridge Yarns, Knitting Kits and Needle Felting Kits. I round out what I do not create with Dirty Water Dyeworks' beautiful hand-dyed yarns in lighter weights than what I dye. When I offer a class I work with my teachers to choose a Romney Ridge Yarn that is appropriate for the project. I dye the yarn for the class and the teacher creates a sample with the yarn you will be using. We work together to create an experience and project that is truly unique. If I am teaching the class I I create the materials for the specific projects whether it is knitting or felting. Shops that do not produce their own brand I am sure do much the same.
So now that you have read my ramblings and I hope have a better idea of some of what goes on behind the scenes, what can you do to help? The answer is simple. Talk, attend and share.
Fri, 01 Jun 2018 15:42:59 +0000
What a Spring! What a Spring! Yes I will say it twice because well, WHAT A SPRING! LOL! I feel a little like ole' Mom Nature was testing us with the endless storms and cold. But here we are! As always! Enjoying the beautiful sounds, colors and smells of what is always promised when the days start to become longer!
I spent a great deal of the last few weeks planning something special to reward us for our courage and tenacity. Safely packed in a box for the past 8 months I have kept 30 pounds of Mohair and waited for it to tell me what to do with it. Shiny, white, buttery curls all washed and ready to be blended with just the right wools to honor its beauty. In March I purchased some lovely Finn fleeces from a local farmer in both white and dark shades. Keeping the rich, chocolatey, dark fleeces separate for a second spinning, I will combine the white Finn with some white Romney from my boy's last shearing and to that I will add the mohair with a little twist ....
Wool and Mohair make a yummy combination!
Most yarn I have spun in the past is natural un-dyed wool. This time I have hand-dyed the mohair in bright bold colors! Chartreuse! Strawberry! Aqua Blue and Orange! All of these gorgeous colors will be blended with the wool during spinning! How will this yarn turn out? We will have to wait and see! It will have the natural wool strands complimented with a soft, colorful mohair halo worthy of the pickiest of Unicorns. :) This yarn will be woolen spun into a dk weight at about a 70/30 wool to mohair blend. Perfect for our upcoming UNWIND Classes in August!
Would you like some? We are dropping off the fibers to be spun this weekend! You can pre-order 100 yard skeins here! Remember its a limited run so please hop on over and pre-order asap!pre order your yarn
Yarn will ship in Late June/early July!
And we might just have a special pattern to share with your purchase! ;)
Wed, 09 May 2018 20:45:35 +0000
Something finally happened today. Something good. Something I have been waiting for. I sneezed. I sneezed and looked up at the bright sun and looked around me and Spring tousled my hair with it's warm breeze. How looooooooooooooong we have waited for you! The forsythia and the magnolia trees are blooming! The grass is many shades greener! The little, colorful songbirds are singing! Close your eyes and put your face up to the sun and feel how your spirits will lift! Spring is a little bit late, but Spring is finally here.
I've been playing with color. Playing with fun little Farm Blend Minis that I have complained about, cranking out hundreds of them on my skein winder for our Lake Winnipesaukee Hat with my good friend Maryly Matthewman designed. They are a little tedious to make, but oh what fun mixing and matching each little 50 yards of yummy rich color with its friends! What fun laying them out in a row and choosing colors for little projects like my all time favorite ... fingerless mitts.
Mix and Match up Your Colors!
Choosing from 6 colors I have put these simple kits together for colorful, easy take-along projects as summer and traveling approach. Each kit contains 6 -50 yard skeins of Farm Blend, the basic pattern, and a pair of lovely bamboo dpns! Mix and match the colors! The kit makes 2 pair of adult size mitts and one child size! You’ll get a handy little cotton bag to put your work in as you travel around and always have a fun colorful project to work on!
Thu, 26 Apr 2018 19:13:41 +0000
In the past few weeks I have enjoyed teaching folks at the shop how much fun it is to knit double point needles. It's not an easy task to fumble the little triangle of needles and yarn into stitches that loop-de-loop around and around and build the tube for a sock, mitten or even a cowl. It's important to learn this technique as you will need it to finish many small parts and pieces of projects that those magical circulars cannot accomplish.
When I was raising my sheep, I knit myself many pairs of fingerless mitts with no thumbs. Believe it or not, even in the cold, I needed my hands warm but my fingers free. Long mitts that tucked into my sleeves were the best, and knit right up to the last knuckle of my pinky. But my favorite pair was from my sheep Lucy's fleece. She was a Romney Corriedale ewe with delightfully long locks that I hand spun. I held a strand of hand-spun Angora and knit these little shorties that were a staple in my pockets during lambing season.
Like many things in the craziness of my life, I lost them one spring. It wasn't the first time. My big dog Maddy was famous for collecting my clothes and when I wasn't in the house. Once I walked out the door, she would search for anything that she could that smelled like me. Mittens and gloves in the bin by the door were her favorite. She had a large bed with a bumper around it, the ultimate in dog comfort for her 130 pounds of monsterous Mastiff self, and she would take my gloves and mittens and smooosh them into the corner then lay her giant head on them. It wasn't fair to blame her this particular time though. I looked everywhere, searched in the pockets of all of my coats, vests and sweatshirts, I searched all corners of the barn ... still nothing. Bummer.
It wasn't until the spring thaw, when I was finally able to get water to run from the outdoor spicket that I saw them. There by the outside faucet frozen in a thin layer of ice lay my stand-by fingerless mitts. I left them -not willing to risk putting holes in them trying to chip them out of the ice. In a few days I was able to reclaim them from where they had fallen, a little wet but still perfect. I brought them into the house to dry and thought how resilient wool is. I slid them on and smelled them. Ahhhhhhhh still sheepy and now with a touch of earthy goodness.
As I continue to knit on those little double points I find the smoothness of the bamboo on the wool even more delightful. Its my go to when I need a little mindless action going on in my hands. My Farm Blend is my number one choice of yarn for mittens of any kind. I hope my students will feel the same and as they practice will find the rhythm and placement of the needs will become so natural. Tug those stitches tight as you come around each corner, count your stitches every few rows, and enjoy the lovely little loops as you find your own way around and around.
Mon, 16 Apr 2018 21:49:53 +0000
It's pretty clear Spring is taking her time to grace us with her gifts of warm breezes and sunshine. I've been watching the brave little Crocus and Snow Drops peek from the cold ground giving us a taste of what's to come.
When I was watching my ewes, waiting for obvious signs of babies arriving, I would slip into my stay-puf-marshmallow-man insulated overalls and clomp up to the barn coffee in one hand, warm water for my mamas in the other, and ask myself what ever possessed me to plan these lambs for such a cold arrival into the world. Well, I had the honor of learning from experienced Maine Shepherdesses who taught me that lambs born in the cold grow up to be hardy adults. Be prepared and focus on the important first moments, block the drafts, find the sun for them, and make sure the Mama's are treated like queens. It was sound advice. I never lost a lamb to the cold. And by the time mud season rolled around, my hardy, hopping, popping babies were racing around and over the cold, wet mud and racing in and out of the sunbeams in the barn. I was so proud the share them with all of you. To share the happiness I felt watching those joyful little spirits without a care, loving life on my stay-forever-farm in Maine.
In the early years of my farm, there was no You Tube, no Craftsy, no access to the internet in the barn when I would wait for the mama grunts and the reply of tiny little voices as they met for the first time. I would take a few knitting books up to sit between bales when I knew the moment was coming soon. I would take books to the barn along with some yarn and some needles and teach myself techniques as well as I could as the distractions were all around me. My knitting skills left much to be desired, but I happily twisted and looped the yarn on my needles and hoped I would find more time to improve.
It's funny how much I loved, and was proud of the yarn I produced. In those days I was far from being even a good knitter. It has taken me years feel like I cannot sit without a project in hand. In those days most nights I was so tired I would sit and nod off rather quickly after running my business, farm, family duties and just life in general. I was a on a much different side of life. I was a creator of yarn that couldn't make it into much of anything, but ohhhhhhhhh those gorgeous textures and colors I could produce! :)
Today I find myself able to take the time to learn again. I have retired my overalls, the sheep are happily placed in new forever homes, and my kids are needing me less and less, allowing me to take my years of knowledge to a different level. I still have a lot to learn. We all do, and thats what keeps life exciting.
A few Monday's ago I learned a simple technique that I am sure many of you know. The seamless jog or -stripes without the stair steps. It's beyond simple. I had just never taken the time to try it, and now I am obsessed with making striped fingerless mittens and mittens! Round and round and round and ADD A NEW COLOR and slip that last stitch! Annnnnnnnnd round and round and round again and ohhhhhhh how about a little purple??!!! Orange?? .... oh so fun!
So I am making Making Mondays a personal goal for myself. It might be once a week or once a month. But I am going to master new things starting this spring. Improve on myself and share with others.
Happy Creative Mondays to you!!
Mon, 09 Apr 2018 13:51:37 +0000
When I saw this pattern I instantly thought ... how perfect for a Summer Knit Along! Designed by Cheryl Kubuat of Tangled Hand Knits in Newburyport, this sweater becomes the perfect project for on-the-go summer knitting! Its a pieced sweater, so you can easily pop a sleeve-worth, or gusset-worth, or of yarn in your beach tote instead of carrying a whole sweater. Its simple, colorful and you can make it truly unique! I have put a selection of our Downeast worsted yarns together to help with color ideas. You can visit the shop and choose as well. The front and the back of the sweater can be different or the same. I have seen three examples of the finished piece in blue, brown, and a neutral rose shade. The arms and side gusset are done in stripes.
The pattern suggests a small/medium finished measurement as 38" and a medium/large as 43". After doing a little math, and measuring myself -being a bit of a curvy person who likes their sweater's a little loose fitting, the finished measurement for me would be 46" . Being more of an A-line sweater my total yarn needed is 8 skeins of Downeast. I'm choosing Chocolate Mocha as my front and Thunder as my back. Coordinating colors for my stripes will be Cherry, Green Apple and , Red Grape and Plum for my stripes and possibly Dark Green ... the possibilities are endless!
So if you would like to join us in the Summer Knit Along please choose your colors in our Downeast worsted weight yarns. I will have the pattern here for sale at the shop or you can email me.
I have put the colors above in a bundle for the XL size. You can also get it in the SM-LG size.
All orders for the KAL ship for $4! yay!
Be sure and join our Romney Ridge Facebook Group so we can help and encourage each other along the way!
We will begin the KAL on June 15th! Yarns will ship or can be picked up on June 1st! We will end the KAL on September 30th. A class/piecing party will be available at the shop in September to help you piece your sweater together should you need help. :) There are lots of wonderful top-down sweaters out there, but why not challenge yourself with a simple, fitted, easy to take along project as you bop around during the summer months! Please pre-order soon as all yarns will be freshly dyed for the KAL!
Thu, 05 Apr 2018 18:25:09 +0000
Hello warmer weather! Yeeeeeeees! You are here and have missed you so much! Yesterday I slipped on my old Bass Penny Loafers with little light-weight socks on and it felt soooooo good! Without a doubt the energy shift has happened and new life brings us a sigh of relief as we can walk out the door less bundled. So where does your creative mind go when the sweet smell of Spring is in the air? Lighter-weight projects? Smaller projects? How about learning something entirely new?
We invite you to Romney Ridge to enjoy many of our workshops and classes and of course we would love to see you at Knit Night Wednesday's from 5-7! Bring your wheel, needle or hook and spin, knit or crochet! Everyone is welcome!
Visit our SHOP CLASSES Page to sigh up for our many Classes and Workshops!
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 18:42:43 +0000
Wow! 6 months in to being an official brick and mortar location. Yes, we are still in the beginnings of 365 new days of 2018. I am not a believer in resolutions. I have accepted that I’m too scattered would rather not set myself up for failure. So instead I like to look back and think about the positives and the negatives of the year. Then make sure I do not allow those negatives back in and welcome many more positives in with open arms.
I realized a few months ago as I planned to open my first retail space in a downtown setting, seems funny to say that after many years of selling yarn from my garden shed on my farm in Maine, that I am where I am because it’s where I am supposed to be. What Kelly? .... I know, I know ... I’m confusing lol. But it’s true. My journey over the past 20 years has introduced me to many important people, people who taught me how to best raise my animals, process my wool, and effectively run my farm. They have been fellow shepherds and shepherdesses, makers, and business people. They have run shops and traveled to shows and started their farms and businesses and they have ended their farms and businesses as they too are moving on to something different. I like to say “different” because I don’t think we should say move on to something better because we truly don’t know if it is until we try.
As the idea of and the reality of owning a yarn shop came together fear crept in many times and I'll admit is still does from time to time. Fear of balance, fear of success and of course ... fear of failure. I have walked down many paths so far in my almost 45 years on this earth, taken on many roles, and can say with utmost confidence that it is dangerous to never say never.
Im writing this post to ask for your thoughts. Do you know what goes on behind the scenes of the yarns you buy? From Farm to LYS, do you know the process and daily routine of the indie dyer? Of the shepherds and shepherdesses? Of the shop owner? I do. I am all three. I have followed and people and trends the fiber industry from farm to retail to wholesale for over 20 years.
I have raised the sheep, lugged the hay and water buckets, worked with the mills, traveled from show to show, Market to Market, created my own brand, built my web presence, and dyed hundreds of thousands of yards of yarns ...and in between raised three kids - yup I like to pat myself on the back for that last one because you moms out there know that that IS the hardest job. :)
I make a living doing what I love as do my fellow farmers, indie dyers, pattern writers, fiber arts teachers, and Shop owners. In this Industry we very relevant and so are you. So can I ask you to have an honest conversation with me? Tell me about you. Your knitting wants and desires.:) Tell me what would bring you into our community of makers. Will you come to our shop Wed nights to knit, corchet, spin ...create! Tell me how to make our shop a destination. Would you like to see more indie pop ups? What sort or classes and workshops do you find useful? Are you a small business owner as well who could benefit from monthly lunch and learn sessions? Let's talk! Lets network and share! Together we succeed! I am happy to share my space. :)
Sat, 24 Mar 2018 12:31:24 +0000
I have been holding on to this post for a while but I think it’s time to publish it. It’s from my heart in a deep honesty and I hope it helps someone else who may go through a similar experience. Please read my pervious post first. xoxo
Some days, no matter how much you know you are blessed and fortunate in your life, some days you can't shake sadness. When this began happening to me I would shake it off and keep going because what other choice did I have? I might lay awake all night wondering and worrying and dreading getting up because the excited happy me would be ready to take on the day, attack all that needed to be done, find joy and zen and peace in my barn surrounded by my sheep for a few moments or even a few hours as I mucked and cleaned and raked, but then the darkness would overcome me because of what was going on around me. I'd say to myself as I sometimes just randomly cried and felt like I was trying to crawl out of a deep hole, "stop it, you can do this, you're strong and stubborn." But I couldn't. And it began to consume me.
When I moved away from home at a young age I missed my mom. She was my best friend. Though I loved my independence, I would feel very jealous when the girls I worked with would say they were going to have lunch with their moms. We never lived close to eachother as my children were born. So to see her it was 3 hour trips back and forth to the island.
I never realized until I was older that my mother had anxiety. She might come stay with me for a night. But she quickly made her way home the next day. Never enough time together in my eyes but I'd take what I could get.
And then the beginning of a true loss began. While walking around the shore, as she had done a million times, a rock shifted and she fell, hitting her head square in the front, knocking herself out, breaking her wrist, and leaving a deep gash in her scalp. It was as we say in Maine, a freak accident. She managed to get to a house to call for help but the care she received from the hospital was incompetent.
Strange things began to happen. Mom was becoming someone different. Simple tasks became difficult. Lost items. Lost moments. Things not making sense. Panic. Anxiety. Fear.
Many of the changes were not shared with me as I lived three hours away. I guess when you see t everyday it’s not strange. But I noticed missing words and repeated sentences when we talked on the phone. A quick trip to visit revealed the speed in which the changes had happened as she and I baked cookies for my kids. Her confusion about how to line up dough on a pan, the placement of her dishes and ingredients. The panic I would see in her face when I would show her was devastating. Alzheimer’s? Stroke? Traumatic Brain Injury? No one could give me answers. The fight and struggle for competent care and help for my mother from a distance while I was raising my own three children began to take its toll on me. Another visit home. Another discussion with a doctor. Another 3&1-2 hour drive rearranging the days so the kids were cared for and the Farm was cared for and my work was put on hold left me drained. One doctor told me in his own “bedside-mannerless” way to let her go. “She had no quality of life.” Imagine. I arranged for her to see a neurologist in my area and with help from my aunt we got her there. But there was no follow up when she returned to the island. Frustrating to say the least. Anger, sadness, hopelessness, overwhelming exhaustion all enveloped me like a dark heavy cloud. And then the scary part. I could not remember things. And i would panic, cry, scream and yell when I was alone. What was happening to me?? I couldn’t breathe.
Paperwork consumed my days. Paperwork and phone calls and trying to get answers. Piles of papers began to pile up on the left side of my desk. In the middle of it all my son was graduating from high school and the financial aid paperwork piled up on the right side on my desk. My ram had died the year before so I decided to put my lambing on hold. My business was growing, my children needed me, my mother needed me ... if I could have just cloned myself I would have. But instead I began to feel crushed. Guilt. Was I doing enough? Why couldn’t I keep up? My daily runs stopped. My chest hurt. My head hurt. I felt joy slip away from me. I felt myself struggling to simply breathe and not jump when the phone wrang. And then ... I became so tired of my life that I felt hopeless. I stopped crying. I had no feelings.
We are taught to be strong. No one goes through life without loss. But do we as mothers, daughters, givers, caretakers, do we allow ourselves time to grieve? And this is key to my story ... I didn’t. I had to be strong for everyone and no one was strong for me. It wasn’t my children’s job to be strong for me or even know I was struggling with so much. I hid it from them and I hid it well but others knew and I felt they dismissed it. Like it was just one more thing the all powerful Kelly could deal with. Not so. The sadness and feeling of being alone was like being crushed between two slabs of wood. People would call me and tell me I had to do something about my mother. I knew and I was trying from a distance. When I’d think about all that had to be done in one day I would gasp for breath. I worked all day, home, alone, except for my animals who I felt I could never get enough time with anymore. They were never neglected, but sitting in the peacefulness of the barn surrounded by my beautiful sheep who brought me so much joy slipped away. Time to clean the barn, time to get hay stressed me out, no time with them made me sad and angry. Was I keeping up with my younger two children? Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
There is more to this story. More personal parts of the struggle. But in the end I have ended up in an unexpected place. A good place. My mom still lives at home and has a wonderful caretaker and is doing as well as can be expected. She isn’t my mother anymore and I feel robbed of that part of my life that I had looked so forward to. But I have accepted it and I have grieved. And I still grieve and I allow it and it’s okay. And I made some big changes. Nothing turned out as I expected but when does life ever follow the script?
Recently I read something. If you make room for good to enter your life it will. I always knew this, I always thought I had made room for goodness but darkness snuck in and I wasn’t able to fight it off.
I tell my story in hopes that it might help someone else. I made the big mistake of not asking for help and not taking care of myself and it took a powerful toll on me. I also did not have the support that I should have had from the right people. But I had one friend who made sure when I crashed that I was able to pick myself up and be ok.
I have opened the door and welcomed back in light and goodness. I didn’t realize that it had closed. Some days I am on edge because I know this is not over. No one ever gets better from Alzheimer’s. It is a cruel illness. I attended a film and discussion at a local hospital and was able to talk with others. And we freely cried. We grieved for our losses and it made me a part of something I would never choose to be a part of. But I had a “family” in them.
Please know that I am okay with my choices. It is unfair to try and guilt yourself and feel you didn’t do enough. I have learned that you can’t change people and you can’t control you’re destiny. But you don’t have to allow others to make you feel your not doing enough when all of your energy and your spirit are drained. You have to allow loss and reality and you have to care for yourself. Happiness is what we all strive for. Sometimes I wonder why others could not see how I struggled. How lucky I was to be self employed and able to drop everything to care for things when I was needed. Why they chose to make it harder for me I will never understand. But I allowed it.
I miss my Farm. I will say it because what I built and was so proud of, a creative girl from an island who stopped the day to just gaze at the clouds and marvel in their beauty, a girl who had no clue what she wanted to be let creativity and love guide her. And it took me on an incredible journey. I miss the serenity and the happiness and the silliness the animals gave me. Every day with them was a gift. But I am happy and beyond grateful for what I learned from the experience. I have spent the past 18 years learning and meeting people and at has prepared me for this next journey. I am grateful. I will always be grateful.
Thu, 26 Oct 2017 10:16:29 +0000
This is a very honest and sincere post. It comes from several conversations with creative and passionate and very hard working people such as myself who wear the many hats of an entrepreneur. Please take a moment to think about what I am writing. It is from 18 years of observation and working in this incredible industry. It comes from my heart. And it comes with a hope that you will finish reading my words and be educated a little more about the happiness, and the struggles both mentally and physically of this working mom. It is meant to start a conversation and be honest about feelings that are so important to a entrepreneur who also takes her parenting job very seriously.
I am 44 years old. I was born and grew up on a small Island in Downeast Maine where the seasons change dramatically and just when it seems like you can't take another windy cold afternoon or foggy, muggy morning ... things change.
I learned a good work ethic from a young age -blueberry raking, boat painting, babysitting, caretaking houses, raking periwinkles off ledges, wreath making, you name it, I did it. I learned that if I wanted some bad enough I had to earn it. And it wasn't easy in a small town without much industry not fishing related or seasonal.
Coming from a creative family, I had the need to be creative daily. I painted and sewed, I made lots of crafty things as a kid, picking up driftwood and offerings from the sea. I took long walks around the shore collecting materials in the summer. Not many of my Christmas gifts to my friends and family came from store shelves. Art class was my favorite class in High School along with English and Creative Writing. All of my young life was creative and yet when it came time to choose a college or make plans for after high school, I was lost. But I did know this ... I was happiest when I was being creative and I excelled when I was busy.
Fast forward ... after happily working 2-3 jobs at a time I'm now at home with my first child, going through the "new mom" adjustments, making the decision to be a stay-at-home mom rather than try and juggle my life and his and to make sure I had a child who grew up with the security of knowing Mom is always there when he needed her. I continued this commitment to my daughter and then second son. It was at this time in my life that I began to feel I was loosing me. I needed more, but I also felt very obligated to my children and so with a few sheep in the yard, I began spinning their fleeces and selling the yarns from my garden shed.
From here I found my place in life. I was growing my farm, growing my business and growing my skills, all while working at home and being there when my kids needed me. As they grew along with it all I was able to branch out to more shows and festivals. I built my website, and began selling online as well as from my farm. It was exhausting some days, but very fulfilling other days. It was never organized, always chaotic and ever changing ...and I loved it.
I took a few business classes, but mostly learned from reading and watching videos and tutorials. Most importantly I watched, read, listened to and learned from people in the industry. I listened to my customers and learned from them. There is so much more in between, but this gives you the basics. I have been watching the industry from the shepherd's, hand-dyer's, retailer's, wholesaler's and a consumer's side for 18 years.. I have watched trends come and go, watched businesses come and go.
Now I'm seeing a change in the way we reach our customers by maybe relying too much on social media that changes weekly and leaves us a little lost. It's very time consuming to keep up but because it is the quickest and easiest way sometimes, I, and many others, continue to use the "free" sources. Not just because they are free, but because they are quick and easy and let's face it ... fun. I'm grateful for the reach I have through social media and the friends I have made and how we can all chat from waaaayyyyyyyy across the country and even to other countries! But is this a little bit of the demise of the LYS? Along with the fast paced life and the lack of time, are we so comfortable with our screens that we are replacing our friend's faces? Do videos that fit our time schedules replace the fun classes? I am just a guilty! There is a knitting group that I can walk to and I have yet to make it there on a Tuesday night.
Is there an age group that we can welcome into the world of fiber arts? Are the younger generations interested? If I look at the analytics of my fb page, my website, my instagram feed and twitter, I see that you are mostly women between the ages of 34-68. Are there young mom's who could use the night out to create an express themselves and learn not only skills but wisdom from us who have lived just a little longer than them? :) How about college students who would enjoy learning how to create their own scarf or hat in their school colors? Though I don't believe our current knitters are going anywhere are we gaining any new ones? Is there an interest?
Tell me your thoughts! They are important to me and the industry! How can we as yarn producers continue to keep your needles happy?
In my next post I am going to tell you about being sad and how it consumed me and how I am slowly allowing myself to be okay. I think its important to be honest with yourself in life and that maybe sharing it can let others know that they are not alone and that Superwoman cries every now and then and it's okay.
Wed, 26 Jul 2017 21:09:22 +0000
And they are off! And on their way to you! One skein of hand-dyed-gradient-speckled-vibrant- super-cool NIMBUS, one skein of lovely, classy, natural white NIMBUS, a charming little summer stitch holder ( mostly for fun ) and a little note you must read before you start. :)
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am excited to have you along for my first KAL. Those of you who know me know I am a "quick project" knitter, as my attention span is about as long as a tiny, muppet-like dachshund's whisker ... So as I was toying with the idea of gradient colors AND speckled yarn, I worked my confusing unicorn magical powers into a slightly time-consuming dye process -sounds technical right? The end result is just so fun and unpredictable and dare I say ... magical? :):)
My hope is that while you are knitting FIREWORKS, you will feel little urges to keep knitting, keep seeing what each row brings, and watch the color soften and then a little POP of color happens.:) The pattern is simple, no need to keep referring or counting rows, the yarn does all of the work for you and surprises you as you go!
As I knit the fist shawl sample, and I actually refer to it as a skinny shawl, I watched the ends start to curl and thought how perfectly this wraps around you! The two skeins make a flowing garment that can easily be worn as a scarf, shawl or even a cowl! The white edge can be the top or the bottom and it's just so classy! I have samples knit in size 6, 7, and 8 needles, it is beautiful in each one.
Remember we don't start until July 20th so that gives everyone time to get their yarn ready. I cant WAIT to see your progress!!!!
Thu, 13 Jul 2017 23:12:43 +0000
The craziness started two days ago. I had experimented dyeing some of my favorite little NIMBUS skeins in a well thought out way that was a combination of the very popular speckled yarns and the very popular gradient yarns. What if I could pull the colors out of one packet of dye, stronger on one section, then fading away gradually until you have the base yarn shade? I prepared the white bases, consulted the Unicorns in my head, took a leap of faith with my skill, and BAM! .... pulled these out of the dye pots!
Then, I sat and looked at them. I walked by them many times, fought the obvious, then made a command decision, they needed to be knit in garter stitch ... why did I fight it? Its such a pretty stitch! So, having been on a knit-a-million-triangles tear, creating a bunting for my wool wagon, I picked up a set of size 7 circular needles, cast on 13 stitches, and began.
I only increased twice on the 4th stitch on each end by knitting into the front and back of the stitch, until I had 67 rows, then I increased on every 4th and 10th stitch on each end -increasing by 4 stitches per row. When I switch to the next skein, I will continue the 4 stitch increase.
So here is the progression of The Fabulous Fireworks Shawl!
Now comes the fun part, the part where I want to share! This is a very, very, very simple pattern. You only need to know how to cast on, knit and increase -kfb, and bind off! Thats it! I checked Ravelry and Pinterest and of course this is a common pattern known as a crescent shawl. But what makes this one really fun is the way the yarn works up! You won't want to stop knitting as you watch the colors lighten, speckle, and then fade away! It's addicting! :)
SOOOOOOOO .... I invite you to join a Fabulous Fireworks KAL in JULY! If we start them now we can share them at UNWIND!
I'll set the date to start as July 20th so we can have something to look forward to for relaxing after the 4th. Take it to the beach! Throw it in your car! Its a small enough project to take on the go!
Hop on over here to order your yarn asap as I will need all pre-orders and sign ups by July 6th. All yarns will be freshly dyed based on your orders! Fresh yarn! yesssssssss!!!
Color Choices are:
You will receive one Speckled Skein of your choice and one natural white - 332 yards total.
The pattern will be FREE on our website. :)
SUMMER IS HERE! Let's have some fun! Share with your friends especially the beginner knitters you know, as this is so easy and will keep them motivated!
I'm looking forward to seeing your success!
Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:12:56 +0000
Hi I am Kelly. Mother of three, working mom, sorta-kinda runner, biker and wanderer. I'm a knitter -far from the best, but I am always learning. I have knit hats, scarves, cowls, mittens, fingerless mitts -all small projects. But I have never knit a sweater. Oh I have collected many patterns and stockpiled yarn and talked myself into starting one, but I have never committed. Why you ask? Well these have been my excuses over the years ....
I hate sitting. Every time I sit down I think, "But I should be doing something work related." It's a double-edged sword being a business owner who loves what she does. I am surrounded by the beautiful yarns I create, but I cant justify making something for myself ... silly I know.
I can't start something that I have to leave and come back too a lot. My attention span is ....welll .....oooo look pretty clouds .......
And here is my #1 excuse. I have a very curvy shape and the patterns I like rarely look like they will fit me, and even if modified, I don't see them as what I need to "cover my flaws".
So I thought long and hard about it the past few weeks. I am the first to admit I am not happy with my shape. But I also won't refuse a plate of nachos and a nice cold IPA if set in front of me. :) I accept that I am 44 years old and though I am very active, things start to slow down and gravity becomes harder to fight ... but I am still hand-made sweater worthy!:)
So I am committing! And here is what I think needs to happen to make me follow through and finish! It has to be simple! It has to have color! It has to fit my shoulders and not pull up when I put my arms up and I don't want to keep pulling it down over my butt, so it needs some increases as I get to my hips. It needs to be simple stitches where I don't have to count much. I will measure as I go so it fits me now as I am ... who I am. Not when I think I am going to drop a few more pounds. I am not a size 10. My sweater needs capped sleeves not full sleeves. I'll get bored ... lol!
I look at all the patterns and I see very few designed for me ... I AM CURVY! :)
So Cast on, Knit, Purl, M1L, M1R, Increase, Decrease, and Bind Off. Simple simple. Make it up as I go! Time to finish that swatch!
Wed, 31 May 2017 17:35:57 +0000
If you are lucky enough to live near the coast, any coast in this beautiful world, and you re lucky enough to see the whitecaps on the waves and the gorgeous shades of blue that change with the seasons then you are indeed blessed. I grew up on an island in Maine where the ocean is deep and salty and dark in depth of color especially during the fall and winter months. During summer, the skies host the most amazing billowing clouds and breezes that reflect and manipulate the water. It's gorgeous and earthy and I love to sit on the rocks and breathe it all in.
This spring, when I needed a "deep ocean fix" I found a place called Fort Stage Park -not too far from me in Gloucester Massachusetts. I drove down with Cosmo and though it was too cold to really wander around much, the ocean was as I expected, bluer than blue and sparkling in the bright afternoon sunshine. We continued around the area until we were in a place called Cape Ann. The ocean meets the land with such power and force and carves its masterpiece in the cliffs and gifts us with the round and jagged rocks we find as we beach comb in the summer months.
I returned to these beautiful places a few weeks back to see the shift from the colder months to a warmer time. I thought about a sweet little wrap inspired by the colors of the ocean and the land. A piece you could snug around your neck when it is cold and slip over your shoulders when it is breezy.
I designed the Cape Ann Caplet in my head that day and came home to dye some North Shore fingering weight in a Summer Ocean Blue which combined lovely with Hops Green and then it happened, with a HUGE thank you to Zwitsa who took my idea and put needles to yarn to knit me a sample!
The Cape Ann Caplete is the PERFECT summer, throw in your bag cover-up! You'll receive two specialty dyed skeins of our North Shore Fingering-weight merino yarns and printed pattern!
We chose this yarn for it's light-weight super softness and it's awesome elasticity, making it perfect for wearing the caplet as a cozy cowl or pulling it over your shoulders ... it's really two garments in one!
You can order your Cape Ann Caplete Kit on our website and get started on this simple summer knit! Kits ship June 2nd!
Kelly & Cosmo
Wed, 24 May 2017 17:30:07 +0000
Summer is quickly approaching ... or shall l say it is already here in my neck of the woods. Today it will be a quick hit if 90 plus degrees before sliding back into the more typical 70 degree range. Trees and gardens are in full bloom, I am happy to find a toad has taken up residence in mine, and it is almost time for Farmer's Market season to kick into full swing!
Last summer, as I had just moved to the area, I joined the Ipswich Farmer's Market in beautiful Ipswich, where I met some of the nicest people and began to find my place as a "local". Its a lovely little market complete with music set up under the trees at the Ipswich Center Green near the River Walk.
My dates there are:
June 17th & 24th
July 15th $ 22nd
This year I will also be at The Cape Ann Farmer's Market at beautiful Fort Sage Park overlooking the gorgeous ocean! My dates are:
September 7th & 21st
Both Markets have agreed to let me bring my trailer, so I will have a nice full selection of yarns and kits!
Hope to see you there!
Thu, 18 May 2017 10:42:11 +0000
There is no denying that this has been a rainy spring her in New England. A peak of sun on Easter Sunday gave me a sunburn, then cold and wind chilled me yesterday at the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival, which I should be at right now, but I had chills so bad last night I decided to give myself a break today. While the rain has me frustrated, mostly because I am tired of being cold, it has brought a beautiful palette of greens to the world, and the special gift of washing Willie.
Willie was my victim a few weeks ago when I decided to shear my own sheep, though for once in my life I should have not have listened to my stubborn genes as I a not built to be a sheep shearer. But alas, I needed to get my goats done and I have sheared them for years and well, waiting is not my strong point, so since I was there I tackled a few of them. After the two little Angora goats were done, Willie was first, then Brian, and finally Mary before my hamstrings began to shake. I came home with two white Romney fleeces, two Angora Goat fleeces, and Willie. Aaron Loux will come in a few weeks and finish up my flock ... and clean up the not-so-show-sheep look I left a few of them with. :)
Mercy, Willie and Gromit
So back to Willie. His mama was a Columbia, and his daddy-o a Southdown. He leaned toward his tall mama's side with long legs and a magnificent set of ears. His fleece is a combination of the two down breeds.
After laying the fleeces out to be skirted, shaken for second cuts, and to pick out hay and dirt, I stood and looked at the lovely fibers in the sunshine and had a flash back and that warm feeling inside of pride and happiness. These are my babies, my friends, my peaceful companions. I haven't even considered spinning them myself like I did many years ago. Then I say to myself, "Kelly ... wouldn't it be fun to go back to your beginnings?" I left them out in the sun, then the next day I began washing them.
Freshly shorn Willie.
Romneys. Ahhhhhhh. Why do I love them? The list is long. To me that are beautiful, I always come back to oooh and ahhhh over them at the fairs. The wool is so beautiful, strong, lustrous, earthy, crunchy, farmy, wholesome. Of all the wool I have ever spun it touches my soul. Weird huh? Maybe it's because it is my beginning ...
But my mind and hands and heart have always been open to many sheep, purebred to mixed, my hands beg to touch their wool and rub their cheeks.
After washing the two lightly greased ( meaning low lanolin ) Romney fleeces using a combination of the rainy weather, a good soak in Cosmo's pool and then a wash in small batches in the sink with warm water and soap, I let the random sunny days we have had dry them and now I anxiously wait for a chance to card and spin them.
Willie was next. I have read, learned and heard about many methods of washing wool without using hot water, ( though for years I washed them in my washing machine on soak and spin settings ) but instead letting the wool soak in cold water then draining and repeating until the lanolin separates from the fiber. A not so hard task with Romney's, but Willie's fleece is much more greasy, and such a different texture, so I started with the cold wash and will continue with he warm after this nasty Northeaster passes. And then what?
Well I have 9 more fleeces to get through. Romney and Southdown crosses like Willie. Should we have a Spin In? Would you like to join the process with your own Romney Ridge, lightly washed, deliciously, sheepy-smelling wool share and card and spin with us through the summer? I will have Handsome Mike, Athena, Truffle, Jack Black, Mary, Mercy and Brian's Romney fleeces. Then Gromit, Madeline, Blizzard and Willie's Southdown-cross fleeces. I also have Paulie Walnuts and Thomas mohair to spin if you'd like to try that too. Do you have a spinning wheel? Can you come spend a few Sundays with us this summer learning and creating? Tell me you thoughts!
Sun, 14 May 2017 16:42:59 +0000
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