Monday, June 29, 2009

Completing Work and Continuing the Tango

With Amelie as a taskmistress, you can see how progress will be made around the studio. Remember that she told me to complete two projects for every new one that I started? Otherwise she wouldn't keep coming to do all the organization stuff that I hate so much.

Amelie is brutally tough and not shy about speaking her mind, but she may be on to something because yesterday I finished two projects that had been in progress and then started and finished a third one.

This scarf for next winter was hand knit from 5 strands of yarn: two slender yarns in a camel-colored alpaca, two strands of a space-dyed rayon in gold, browns, olive, and grey, and one strand of a nylon eyelash yarn in tobacco. All but the eyelash yarn came from Yarnia, a make-your-own-combination-of-yarn store here in Portland.

Yarnia is the same place where I bought the yarn last year for the Oregon Beach Scarf. (BTW you can still get the free pattern for the Oregon Beach Scarf and read the pattern notes in this post.)

The second unfinished project was to restring and re-knot a necklace of amethyst beads that I love and which had been lying all busted on my dresser for over six months. Here you see the necklace right before I finished off the last knots.

With two previously-stalled projects now completed, I rewarded myself by making a belated birthday gift for myself. Citrine has been calling to me, so when I bought the silk cord for knotting the amethyst, some lovely yellow beads came home with me from Village Beads as well.

Following is a photo of both the finished necklaces.

Because I had been so productive, Amelie came by and put 165 things away, including the 40 or so things that I got out yesterday in my path through the studio, and including emptying the dishwasher for me. Then she updated my check register and paid a few bills. What a gal!

Today won't be as productive. I just got home from the day job, need to finish this post, prepare dinner, and then we're off to a tango class tonight.

Tango, by the way, is getting very interesting. Last month we worked on boleos which in their most fun form involve a whipping in the air of the follower's leg as a result of a quick change in direction by the leader. (We all learned the importance of knowing that no one was behind you when you start legs flipping all about.)

This month the class is working on sacadas. A sacada, which can also be called a desplazamiento, is a displacement of the partner's leg or foot using one's own leg or foot. Sound's equally thrilling, doesn't it?

Here's an excellent demonstration for your viewing pleasure:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Amelie Returns with a Stern Lecture

She came back!

If you've been following along during the past week, you know that I've been struggling with studio chaos and have been looking for a new game with which to trick myself into organizing. If you haven't been been around, you can read how it all started last Wednesday.

Anyway, Amelie is the facet of my personality that can create order and actually has job experience doing that very thing. I hired her (bribed her) with some roving for pay (she loves to spin!) She hasn't worked too much yet, but she has managed to create more order in a couple hours than I have accomplished in the past month.

Today, she showed up first thing in the morning and put 50 things away (for more on this game, read Thursday's post). I hadn't even had my morning coffee yet when she announced that she was finished for the day! (Tootle-loo!)

"Oh, and by the way," she said on her way out, "If you want me to keep working for you, you are going to have to do your part!"

In my morning stupor I muttered, "What's my part?"

"You are going to have to get some of this work-in-process completed! You have unfinished projects all over this studio! It looks like the Grey Gardens of Craft! I'll keep coming ONLY if you start completing two projects for every one that you start! Furthermore, those completed projects need to get photographed and listed!"

Wow! I've hired a studio nazi! (and so need it!)

To keep Amelie happy, and to get her to return, I have today completed and listed on Etsy the summer scarf that you see above. Also finished and photographed is this bracelet:

Now perhaps I can get Amelie to do some bank reconciliations.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hired Help?

Being so far behind and being naturally disorganized motivates me to come up with genius ideas about how to trick myself into being disciplined and focused.

The other night before bed I was reading The Power of Full Engagement; Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz (a really interesting book.) I got to thinking that what I really needed was an assistant.

Promptly I got out a piece of paper upon which to list what the assistant could do:
  1. Open the mail, discard the junk, and shred any CC offers.
  2. Update QuickBooks.
  3. Clean the studio and put things away daily.
  4. Enter raw materials inventory data into computer.
  5. Update job costing info on projects sheets.
  6. Organize/file piles of paper.
  7. Organize magazines/library.
  8. Photostyling for product photography.
  9. Help with photography.
  10. Help write Etsy product descriptions.
Having someone help with all of this would free me to source materials, to make more goods, and to put the finishing touches on some patterns for kits I am planning to sell. Also, I could spend some time designing, officially finishing my business plan, and learning more about using Adobe's InDesign and Illustrator.

The issue is that I cannot afford an assistant right now.

However. . . I have myself been a pretty darn good assistant to others and actually have developed some good systems for some small business owners. (Designing systems isn't difficult and is actually sometimes fun--it's the maintaining of systems that is so uninteresting.)

So--I should hire myself (or some part of me) to come in everyday and work as an assistant for an hour. She (I) would get paid (not very much) in funds that could be spent for fiber to make yarn. (Could be this is my way of justifying the money I already spent on roving at the Black Sheep Gathering?)

What a cool idea! I hired her (me II) and knew she should have her own name and intuitively felt her name should be Amelie. (I later looked it up and discovered that the name means industrious and hardworking. Perfect!)

Amelie started yesterday morning. She spent an hour and organized all the magazines. Did a great job! Today she spent a half hour updating the check register. Then she took off and I haven't seen her since.

Hope she comes back tomorrow.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just a Little Peek at Disorder

Okay, you can see just a little of the desk I was talking about yesterday. You'll see some photos showing mini-views. Looked at that way, the desk really doesn't look so bad. (Ha!)

These are some of the studio heads. Notice how coyly they glance downward looking all innocent while sharp objects cluster in their heads. Notice the irony of the little blue skies card with the word Organize on it. And notice the errant light bulb lying amid the paper clips.

Of course there are ways to hide tangled messes of computer cables and power cords, but that all takes time. That cube of memo paper in the back has a to-do list from February with one of eight items checked off as finished.

Yes, that is a container of dental floss threaders in the foreground, but before you get too bad an image, I use them to thread beads onto yarn.

Now we're getting to some serious mess, and I'm starting to feel a little sheepish.

I have tried all kinds of games to get myself to keep everything neater. If you are a creative type who makes things and who gets out lots of tools and supplies in the process of making things, perhaps you can relate. Before you know it, there are dozens of items laying around.

Sometimes I play a little game called "Put 50 Things Away!" The object of this game is to put 50 items away where they belong in as little time as possible. Each item returned to orderliness is worth one brownie point.

This is a game that can be played anywhere in the house. Putting away laundry or emptying the dishwasher is a great way to rack up points fast. Most days I could play this game half a dozen times and still have material left to play the game on the next day. Of course I pull out 50 things easily in the course of working on a project or two.

Inventing games to trick my ADD mind into slowing down to keep order or to keep focused is fun. The invented games don't always work, though.

Take this game:

The game material consists of a series of cards on which are words to be chosen as the focus for the day. The objective is to choose ahead seven cards for the week with a key word for each day. You could decide to relax on Sunday, research ideas for your business on Monday, plan on Tuesday, etc. When I invented this game I thought it was pure genius and that my focusing problems would be solved; however...

Remember that first photo above--the one with the studio heads? When I took that photo this morning, that card saying Organize had been there on top of the stack of cards since the very day I invented the game.

But the light bulb comes on--I have another idea . . .

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Can You Picture It?

The most challenging part of running a new business when you also have a day job is getting everything done. There are so many "hats" to wear.

My day job is in an office. Job #2 is that of chief cook and bottle washer for our household. When jobs #1 and #2 are finished for the day, I work on my business and am often overwhelmed by all there is to do.

If you walked into my studio you would see to your left a desk where the computer equipment resides. Both the desk and its side extension have 90% of the remaining available space covered with piles of paper in varying heights.

The contents of the piles are important pieces of paper that do not want to be lost. They prefer living in the fresh rural air of the desktop rather than being cached in folders in a skyscraper filing cabinet. What? Do they think some terrorist will fly a plane into the file cabinet and they'll all be doomed?

I've talked to these papers about how nice the condo living is in the cabinet and that they can be in whatever color of folder they choose. I must not have been convincing enough because they are all still laying around like so many sun bathers.

Peppered among the papers are a few pairs of knitting needles, some scrap yarn, some swatches, today's coffee cup, yesterday's coffee cup, and the one from the day before with creatures growing in it. There's a TV remote, calculator, hole punch, family photos, head vases full of pens, and bills to pay.

There a little notebook where I keep track of the daily page views of my Etsy shop. It tells me that I have to go into that shop every day to promote, make contacts, list items, make treasuries, etc. Otherwise people stop coming by to see my goods. (I feel so far behind!)

There is a lot of tension and embarrassment that starts to accumulate around so much stuff piled up in a heap on a desk. I wouldn't dare show you a photo--you'll just have to imagine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monet's Garden Handspun

Fifty yards of super jumbo yarn is about the most that I have been able to get on a bobbin. I'm going to have to consider purchasing a jumbo flyer for my Ashford traditional wheel so I can make some skeins with more yardage on the larger bobbins.

This freshly-spun super-jumbo yarn is another item for the giveaway for my one-year blogoversary (or is it blogiversary?) next month.  In July you will have the opportunity to enter your name to win it.

This photo shows the twist being set. What this involves is simply soaking the yarn in warm (some use hot) water for 20 minutes or so, blotting the yarn with a bath towel, and then hanging it to air dry. 

The perfectly balanced yarn will not twist around itself when it's hung after after its bath and blotting. If the yarn has been over spun, additional twist can be removed by adding weights to the yarn while it dries. The problem can be that if you use too much weight you can overly straighten and stretch the yarn so that it is mostly good for weaving and not so good for knitting.

This yarn came out perfectly balanced.  Here it is all dried and draping nicely on this dress form's shoulders. It is springy and lofty, spun thick and thin, with an average of 5-7 wraps per inch.

Some friends have said that this colorway reminds them of violets or pansies. While spinning it, I kept thinking of some of the Monet paintings of his gardens at Giverny.  There is a wide range of colors in his waterlilies series, but onetwo, or three of the paintings are close to the colors in this yarn. And the Nympheas series are also in similar hues.

What could you make with these fifty yards?  (They could be yours soon, you know--Just keep coming back to see how to enter your name to win. You know that it will involve commenting, choosing what you will like to win, and also some extra credit for being a blog follower.)

You could make a skinny scarf, 5-6 stitches wide, in a simple garter stitch pattern, knit on size 19 or larger needles. That would really show off the yarn and it would be funky fun to wear.

Or your could use it for a wide border on a pair of mittens and a hat.

Or you could make cuffs and a collar for solid green, blue or violet jacket or sweater-coat. 

What would you do?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Playing with Photography

My photos need work, so yesterday I set out to experiment. The goal is to get more of my product photos selected for treasuries on Etsy so that my shop gets more exposure.

Some of the photos that I had taken early on were really bland and my shop didn't have enough of a unified style. Not enough of the photos were eye-catching. What could I do to make them pop off the page?

Some old roses, from a bouquet that a friend had brought me the week before, tempted me to take pictures of them.

The two photos above had their saturation lowered and were developed in Adobe Lightroom with the setting called "Punch." After shooting these, I wondered what else could be done with old roses, and then I remembered--that's the name of one of my bead lariats. So...this is what I shot next.

This photo didn't have any fancy settings.

Well, what else could I do with a rose? How about some artsy setting from Lightroom--I forget what it was called:

Here's a setting called "Old Photo" on the next shot:

And here's the original:

Next I decided that I really liked my jewelry with flowers. So I'm off on a whole new trek!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Difficulty Photographing the Color Red

There is this a summer scarf that I made a while ago and have yet to put in my Etsy store because the color has been so hard to photograph.

In most of the photos so far, this scarf comes out looking bright red or magenta. Actually it's a two-ply linen with one ply in raspberry and one in orange. They are the yummy colors of sherbet.

Around forty photos have been scrapped so far. These photos are the best I've gotten, but I don't think they are good enough. I've had to really bring down the saturation to come close to getting the hue developed correctly. In the process the brightness of the actual colors has been lost. I've played with the exposure, the fill light, and the white balance.

Red evidently is a difficult color to render on a digital camera. There's a similar issue with purple. Most of my deep purples come out looking blue, both in the camera's display and in the finished photograph.

Look how different the color looks below. I wasn't able to correct the pinkish cast on the scarf or on the white background.

Information on the Internet seems to indicate either white balance, saturation, exposure, or camera color calibration issues. Several people in forums say that you should give up taking JPEGs if you want to capture red accurately and start shooting in camera RAW format.

This is way more than I wanted know about photography, but I may be forced to learn. Either that or give up ever making anything in red or purple.

It's probably worth one more photography session. If that doesn't work, this scarf will be part of the one-year blogaversary giveaway. (Be sure to stay tuned!)

By the way, no orchids were harmed in the taking of these photos. As a matter of fact, this photo was taken in April and this orchid has re-bloomed already. I think it liked the whole modeling gig.