Looks Like I’m Ready for the Apocalypse!

15 Aug

In case, I run out of yarn….ha, like THAT’s ever gonna happen

So I went a little overboard…..

A spinning/weaving shop closed and had consigned its entire stock to DBNY (discontinuedbrandnameyarn.com).

Tons of cashmere, extra fine merino, merino-silks, cashmerinos….you name it, they had it and I bought it. Much of it was Colourmart yarns while there was a healthy does of Jaggerspun, Henry’s Attic, and Japanese cashmere yarns thrown in there as well.

Of course, it was discounted (cheaper than buying from Colourmart) so I kinda went hogwild.

And since I have all these lux fibers to knit with, I am going to destash ALL my workhorse yarns. No sense knitting with stuff that’s not soft. Goodbye Cascade 220, goodbye Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, Good bye KP Palette, goodbye Ultra Alpaca, goodbye Araucania Nature Wool, goodbye Patons Classic Wool, and on and on and on….

Bug Damaged Yarn (eewwwww!)

22 Jul

Quick, hide your babies! By babies, I mean your lovely yarn stash.

I recently got a very large package of coned yarn that had a fair amount of bug damage from an ebay seller that will remain anonymous. Not only did the bugs eat through the entire cone, I found dead casings and even found one squirming bug that I quickly killed with my thumbnail. Ew ew ew ew!

BUGS!!!

Big gaping holes = lots of short broken strands

Now, there were no mention of bugs or damage in the Ebay listing so I was pretty pissed. 15-17 pounds of yarn and they all got bugs. CRAP!!! Where did this woman store these yarns – in her barn or something?

The Ebay seller was nice enough to refund me the entire amount, minus the $70 in postage (I know, seriously. Has this person never heard of UPS or Parcel post before? Who sends a 20 pound box via Priority Mail across the country?)

For a person like me who has more yarn than most yarn shops, any hint of bugs and I go nuts. What if the bugs get to any of my stash? That’s a real fear and I try my best to keep my yarn room clean and bug-free.

Luckily, due to the box being so heavy and large, I had opened this buggy package out in the garage so the bugs never had a chance to even set foot in the house.

Normally, I would just chuck all of this into the trash but here’s the thing. These were REALLY nice luxury blend yarns….with you guessed it…cashmere. (not to mention the $70 out of pocket postage I paid for all of it) What’s a girl to do?

I’ve bagged them all in a vaccuum bag, threw in a ton of mothballs (die, you mofos, die!!!) and they have been sitting there in my garage for several days now. I’ll take them out one by one, skein any that’s salvedgeable and then boil all the skeins and let dry in the summer sun. That should get rid of the mothball smell as well as kill any remaining remnants. I guess these won’t be going in my regular stash.

Sheesh, you gotta stay vigilant and Ebay is just one big minefield.

Please don’t jump on the hand-dyed bandwagon…

17 Jul

Everyday I see overeager semi-noob dyers jumping onto the hand-dyed yarn selling bandwagon. They see brands like MadelineTosh, Lorna’s Laces, and think, ‘Hey, let me get a piece of that action too!”

What every hand dyer wishes to become...

What every hand dyer wishes to become…

Well, I also see small hand dyers call it quits every single day. Even semi-large ones that have a considerable following have trouble keeping afloat and close up shop.

It’s unfortunate really, but I kinda see this market already at saturation point. I mean, there are so many freakin dyers that it’s almost impossible to differentiate one from another since most are using the same yarn base, the same dyes, similar techniques, and same POS (point-of-sale). Unless something totally unique came along, I doubt one will survive longer than a few years and with barely a profit.

From a business standpoint, one really needs to bring supply costs down. Let’s do a simple breakdown of material costs:

  • Undyed yarn
  • Dyes and acid (acid dyes and citric acid or vinegar)
  • Tools (squeeze bottle, dye stock containers, brushes, pots, gloves, etc)
  • Equipment (skeinwinders, niddynoddys, yardage meters, etc)
  • Utility costs (heat, electricity, water)
  • Label (printing and paper)

That right there already costs a ton, although one can get away with not buying the bigger investment pieces of equipment until later. Now, given that a typical hand dyed sock yarn sell for $24-25/skein and only receive about $12-13 when sold wholesale to LYSs, you’re looking at $2-3 profit. If you consider that the minimum wage is close to $9 these days, how many skeins would you have to sell to make a decent living? 1500-2000 skeins a month? Can one person even dye that much yarn? And will said person be able to sell that many?

So you don’t want to sell wholesale and have the yarn shops take half your money. Well, what about website or Etsy costs if you decide to sell online only? postage? paypal fees? How will you market your yarn? Placing ads on Ravelry? Coupons or sales? Supplying yarn to up and coming knitwear designers? That costs more money.

Applying for a business license in your state and paying business taxes on your sales. More money out of your pocket

I don’t want to be a party pooper but honestly, people jump into this whole dyeing business without a plan and it’s sad really. Yes, your yarns are beautiful but that only gets you so far.

Fake Yarns

13 Jul

the mink yarn that wasn’t….

There’s been a big fuss over Lotus Mimi, a supposedly 100% mink yarn. Now, I say supposedly because no one is certain if it did contain mink in the first place. All we know is that the yarn was sent out for testing at a lab and it came back as a mix of angora, wool, and nylon. ZERO mink.

Well, how about that. Trendsetter, the U.S. distributor of the yarn was quick to pull the plug on this fake yarn and is doing a massive recall on the product. Lotus Yarns of China, which originally sold the yarn is claiming that they were duped by the actual manufacturer of the yarn and had no knowledge of the fiber content switcheroo. Supposedly, Lotus had test results and documents to prove the yarn was indeed mink back in the day when Trendsetter first contacted Lotus to distribute the yarn and the brand in the U.S.

Who knows what the truth is? Somebody is lying and lots of people are pissed and rightly so. $26/50g ball of a mostly wool-nylon blend yarn? And what about the angora content? A lot of folks are allergic to angora so this is really bad form on the part of the Chinese. In the past, I’ve defended Chinese yarns despite China’s poor reputation for knock-offs of everything under the sun because I figured, who would go out of their way to make fake yarn? (I mean, yes there are fake cashmeres on Ebay going for $2/ball but c’mon, unless you’re stupid, you know that’s not real cashmere, right? I hate those people who buy these ridiculously priced yarns and complain that they turned out to be not cashmere but nylon or microfiber. Uh-duh!)

Well, you got me China. You and your minks….which by the way are most likely sable. (and no, not the ‘Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectency’ kind)

Sable is commonly found in Northern parts of Asia with the lowest quality (cheapest) grown in China. The Chinese character most often used to sell “mink” yarns is ‘ diāo‘ which could also mean sable/marten (I’ve never heard of marten so I had to go to wikipedia for some explanations)

Anyway, from Ravelry posts like this that are pointing out the mink yarns don’t look quite right under the microscope as well as speculation that the yarn is a kill fiber (supposedly, the mink are brushed but how one would go about doing that without hurting the animal and not accruing a ridiculously high labor cost is beyond me) I’m going mink free from now on.

What’s even weirder is that Craig Turner of minkyarn.com, a purveyvor of mink and mink blend yarns suddenly announced he was leaving the mink yarn business and going the route of Italian mills……and then suddenly deleting his blog post. Did he find out something we’d rather not know? Who the hell knows? But this “Minkgate” sure is fishy.

As much as I like exotic fibers, I don’t approve of killing animals just to get yarn (with the exception of NZ possums because they’re an ecological problem) and I don’t like having to second guess if what I have is real or fake.

That said, there have been other instances of fake yarn in the past. Let me briefly mention some of them:

Fake Rowan Calmer from Turkey

Is there cashmere in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino?

Fake handdyed yarn (once again, China!)

Liquidation at the Yarnist (aka Artfibers)

8 Jul

So I don’t know if any of you are familiar with Artfibers, the eclectic specialist yarn shop in San Francisco that sold only their own line of yarn.

Well, they closed a few years ago (due to the owners wanting to get out of the business after 20+ years and San Francisco’s real estate prices becoming just ridiculous) and had a closing sale. I thought about ordering some then but hemmed and hawed too long to buy anything.

Flash forward a year. The owners still had a storage locker full of yarn and they had set up a website called The Yarnist to try to sell off some of the remaining inventory. I had the page bookmarked because I saw some yarns that peaked my interest. Namely the following:

nom nom nom

Camuse (65% baby camel / 35% cashmere)

Sortie (100% superfine merino – 15.5 microns! That’s softer than most cashmeres!)

Svalbard (80% superfine merino/20% cashmere)

Yaqui (100% yak down)

100% yak down – yes please!

Majolica (70% Superfine Merino/30% Silk)

ManRay (70% viscose / 30% stainless steel)

These are fiber contents you don’t typically see in most LYSs so at the prices they were selling for, I was more than interested. They also had all these yarns custom spun for them from Italy and Japan (Lineapiu and Hasegawa among some of the mills that spun the yarns) so these were total one-of-a-kinds. How many times have you ever run into superfine merino yarns? I’ve only seen one, yes, one yarn in the entire retail yarn universe.

Well, today they’re liquidating everything. I guess they no longer want to hold onto their storage locker or deal with running a yarn website. It’s all on the chopping block. At a ridiculously low price: $20/lb for up to 49 lbs and $16/lb for 50-199lbs. 200 or more pounds of yarn and you’re looking at $12/lb. These are all on cones so even better for me who hate joining yarn and weaving in ends.

I went batshit crazy….as in, I was about to drop a 200lb order until I looked at my bank account balance that was looking rather paltry. Scratch that plan. The minimum order is 10 lbs so I did what a sane person would do: order just 10 pounds. (just 10 pounds. hahaha, most people would consider that a lifetime supply of yarn, right?)

Got on the phone first thing in the morning (even though I have phone phobia and hate calling people I don’t know…yeah, I don’t even like calling restaurants for reservations or take out.) and made my order. (The owner, Roxanne, is really sweet and was really patient with me.)

Guess who’s got a shipment of baby camel, cashmere, and yak down on my way? Me, me, me!

Now, off to go destash some rustic wools I’ll never be touching again with a ten foot pole. Only luxury fibers for this yarn snob!

eta: totally kicking myself for posting this all over the internet because some of the stuff I wanted is sold out. Me and my big blabber mouth!

Overrated Yarns

26 Jun

So, I had posted my rant about Malabrigo

This time, it’s gonna be about the other cult faves – Wollmeise and Madelinetosh.

Not to sound like a pompous snob, but hey, at this point in my life, I think I’m allowed to judge yarn (move over Clara Parkes! I’ve got a good 13,000 skeins of yarn and 200 cones in my stash. How about you?)

And while my experience with Malabrigo was less than perfection (I have used the Worsted Merino, Chunky, Finito, and Lace versions as well as its 100purewool cousins, so I did get an overall feel for the yarns), the Wollmeise and Madelinetosh experience was actually not too bad.

The yarns I encountered was Wollmeise Dk and Wollmeise Pure; Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, Pashmina Worsted, Tosh Merino DK.

Here are my rather brief reviews:

Wollmeise: substantial feel, solid colorway that looks almost factory dyed, soft and tightly spun base. Overall, a very nice yarn but I can’t quite see why there’s a rabid fan base. I admit that it’s a really high quality yarn but don’t really see why there’s such a high premium. Nonetheless, if you come across a destash/ yard sale that has any of the Wollmeise yarns, don’t hesitate to snatch them up. High quality through and through. No dyes coming off onto your fingers while knitting and no dyes leeching onto lighter colored yarns when washed. Whatever this Claudia (the dyer) is doing, she’s doing a good job.

Madtosh Socks

Madelinetosh: TOTAL HYPE. There, I said it. The dyes aren’t set correctly and some of the yarns pill like crazy (Pashmina series), almost to the point of Malabrigo. At your price point, what’s your excuse? My god, America, are you this dumb to get suckered into buying overpriced yarn? There are SO many indie hand dyers out there deserving your $$$ and this brand ain’t it. You might balk at this statement and wonder how many yarns I have actually used to give such review. How about 20 skeins? Is that enough of a test run? I made a ton of mini skeins to sell off after using a certain yardage for my scrap yarn scarf project. Lo and behold, many of these suckers bled like crazy. I don’t care if your yarn colors are beautiful – set your colors so they don’t bleed onto other yarns. Your prices sure don’t justify this nonsense. Maybe I’m just a cranky knitter who doesn’t like seeing one company monopolize the hand dyeing market.

The electric double ended bobbin winder

8 May

Continuing from the last post, I wanted to explain why I bought this machine. Normally, it is a device that is used to wind bobbins/spools for spinning and/or weaving. And we don’t have to get into any more detail than that because I do not partake in either of those activities. I’m strictly a knitter and not counting those bouts of dyeing yarn, I don’t stray into other fiber arts. Knitting and knitting only.

So what prompted me to plunk down a good chunk of money for this? Well, it started with cobweb silk cones of yarn that I had purchased online a few years ago…

DBNY (that’s Discontinued Brand Name Yarn, for those not in the know) had these cobweb Botto Poala cones of spun silk at discount prices and I thought to myself, ‘Hey, I’ll just wind those up in multiple cones and hold them quadruple stranded.’ Well, I found out that this cobweb weight yarn was SUPER thin, as in 2/100 count. (that would be approximately 5500 yards/100g. Holy crap!!!!! Yeah, let’s scream together.) In order for me to get fingering weight, I would need 10-12 strands held together. Ridiculous, I know, but hey, I don’t give up that easily. 10 cones it is, gosh darn it. I took to hand winding a cone and then another. Did I mention just those 2 cones took me about 6 weeks? My arms were about to fall off and I still had 8-10 more cones to go. As a bonafide yarn lover, I normally revel in these things. But this was beyond ridiculous. I’ll keep winding off the yarn onto another empty cone (or toilet paper cardboard roll if I ran out of actual cones) for a good 20 minutes and then realize I barely made a dent.

Off to the back of the closet they went (along with the remainder of the stash that won’t see daylight for another decade or so…) until one day I came across a Youtube video that used an electric drill to wind up yarn onto spools. Yeah, they weren’t cones but i was willing to give it a shot.  I dragged out my husband’s tools from the garage and off I went to finally wind these up. Well, it didn’t go so smoothly and about 1 minute in, I was already having trigger-finger fatigue. There was no way in hell, I’d be able to wind these super thin yarns onto a spool this way without hurting my index finger. So much for that.

Not too long ago, I received a bug damaged cone of extra fine merino cone of light laceweight yarn and the winding was brutal, I tell ya. I noticed broken strands on the cone and figured I’d just wind off the single cone onto multiple cones and this took FOREVER!

I thought to myself, ‘There has got to be another way. No way that there isn’t some device out there.’

So I went and did what normal person does these days: I Googled the shit out of the thing.

Result: Turns out there’s a cone winder adapter for double ended bobbin winders. Too bad that these electric winders from Schacht or Leclerc cost $275-365 and then another $60-80 for the adapters. (not to mention the extra postage) Did I really want to spend $350-440 to wind a couple of cones of yarn? Nope.

And this is where E-bay kicks in. Some entrepreneurial folks have gone and rigged up their own system by doing the woodwork themselves and tacking on a sewing machine motor (w/foot pedal) for a lot less. Did I mention a cone adapter was included? Hells yeah!

And, E-bay wanted to kickback 5% of sales that day. Well, no brainer there. Bought for $189, free shipping, 5% kickback, and I figured I’ll destash the thing after I’m done. No sweat.

So, I present to you the glorious cone winder that will save my shoulders and joints! Ta- dah!\

I’ve been winding off all my laceweight cones onto multiple cones and it’s fun watching it spin like crazy. The only downside is that the motor is small and gets overheated very quickly, especially with super thin yarns. I usually wind only 1-2 cones at most and then let it cool for an hour or two. But so far, so good. More cone yarns, here I come!

Surviving Jetlag (My brief trip to Korea)

8 Apr

Fresh off the plane (ok, not really, since it’s been 5 days) from my 2 week trip to Korea, I’m still walking kinda dazed from jetlag. Normally, it would only take me a few days to adjust to the 16 hour time difference but right now, my 22 month old with a bad case of cold/flu is not cooperating with me. Going to bed at 3-4 am and getting up at noon is no fun.

Regarding my trip, it was to visit my parents who haven’t seen my boys for 2 whole years so despite the rather large chunk of change we spent on airfare (let’s just say it cost an equivalent of a few thousand skeins of yarn. Ouch!) it was worth it. We got to eat lots of great food, meet some old friends and relatives and just hang out in what must have been the longest streak of sunny days I’ve seen. (turns out Korea is having its worst drought ever so I guess the sunny weather was a bad thing….)

And regarding knitting and yarn…well…I did get to finish knitting a hat while sitting in the subway but I did not get a chance to make it out to DDM (Dongdaemun), the ultimate craft mall I told you about before. My parents, who used to live smack dab in the middle of Seoul (that’s right; we were Gangnam Style) kept moving further and further away from the city to their current home, located waaaaaay out there. (I mean, no subway access?!!!) It did only take me a bit over an hour to get to DDM when I took the express bus last time but it’s a whole other beast with 3 kids. (and no, I was not gonna ask my parents to watch all three of my rambunctious kids to go yarn shopping all day. You can imagine their expression if I told them that)

I had wanted to buy a buttload of cones from a vendor that sells industrial millends for cheap but oh well. (most cones he sells goes for about $2-3/100g. Even for really nice stuff like Italian spun extra fine merino and silk blends. Yeah, tempting.) Perhaps next time, (if there ever is a next time….)

Per usual, I arrived home to find several packages (not all yarn, mind you) as well as the accusing stare my husband gave me. I opened them up to show him that most of them were not yarn. (ha! that’s right. A book! And a mini tripod for your smartphone! And a funky looking machine, which happens to be a motorized double ended bobbin winder……

what is this contraption?!

Now, what the heck is a double ended bobbin winder and what is yarnphreak doing with it? Next blog post! Stay tuned!

Mini Skeins (Weight vs Yardage)

6 Mar

Madelinetosh Sock mini skeins I made

Today I want to talk about mini skeins because that’s what I’ve been up to for the last two weeks. Making lots and lots of mini skeins. Why, you ask?

Well, I was able to find a great price on Madelinetosh Tosh Sock yarn, which normally retails for $25-27/skein and bought a bunch, with the intent to finish my Linen Stitch scarf that I had begun two years ago in my attempt to use up sock yarn scraps. Who knew that it ate yarn like crazy and who knew that I wouldn’t have enough scraps? Me, the queen of yarn hoarding not have enough yarn? I know, right?

Anyway, I bought something like 18 skeins of all different colors. (yes, I know you’re doing the math in your head and thinking….that’s like $400!) Yes, it was a lot of money to drop on yarn but my plan was to wind off whatever odd amount I needed from each skein and destash the rest of the yarn by making mini skein sets, thereby offsetting the cost a bit.

Little did I realize it was gonna be so much work, not to mention that there is no set amount regarding how big a mini skein is supposed to be. Some people do 5g, some do 15 yds, 40 yards, 50 yards, 10g and so on and so on. I couldn’t decide what would be the most appealing. (mind you, the goal is to get rid of these yarns asap so I could recoup some of the cost) So, I took a poll on Ravelry and the winner was…..25yds. That’s my preferred size too, because it enables those Hexipuff lovers to make 2 Hexipuff with each mini skein since each puff takes approx 10-12yds.

Some folks wrote in to say that they prefer 5g or any of the skeins that go by weight instead of yardage because it’s more accurate than winding on a niddy noddy due to tension issues. That got me thinking…..

Look for them at your nearest head shop!

Unless one invested in a jeweler’s scale (aka drug dealer scale), most digital scales that we own do not go into decimal points for grams. That means a huge variation as far as yardage is concerned. Anything from 4.55 – 5.45g would show up on the scale as 5 grams. In a fine yarn like fingering weight sock yarns, that’s a difference of 3.6 yards. Yeah, that’s a lot, especially in such a small size skein. We’re talking 18% variation! (that’s like getting a 41g ball when the ball band says 50g. If this happened with a commercially made yarn from a LYS, you can be sure I’d march in there with burning torches)

So, what is this tension issue that was discussed regarding mini skeins sold by yardages? Well, it just means that depending on how tightly the yarn was wound on a niddy noddy (or a chairback), there would be variation in the length because yarn is so stretchy. If you took a yard of yarn, laid it on the floor and measured it, it would be a slightly different length when measured taut. But would this variation be more or less than the 18% (from using the not-so-accurate scale)?

No way to find out unless I tested it out, right?

So I wound up my Tosh Sock 25 times on a 1 yd niddy noddy as tightly as humanly possible. I couldn’t even peel the yarn off from the niddy noddy so I literally had to unwind the whole skein. Normally, I wouldn’t wind any of my yarns this tight but I wanted to see what the difference in yardage would be for a tightly wound skein vs a loosely wound skein.

Super tight skein

Next, I took that very same “25 yd” skein and wound it super loosely on the same niddy noddy. This time, the yarn was barely hanging on and was practically slipping off the niddty noddy. Once again, I don’t normally wind this loose but all for science, I tell ya!

Loose as goose skein

What was the difference? Drum roll please…….3.7yds. Hmmm… that’s about the same as the scale!

So, what is the conclusion here? Well, I’d like to think the actual variation from skein to skein when wound on a niddy noddy would be closer to 1.5 yds because I do not wind super tight nor super loose. (i went back and wound the same skein on the same niddy noddy using my normal tension and came within 1.5 yards of the super tight skein.)

As for those people who use the scale to make their mini skeins, can you measure your yarn closest to 5g? Would you know if it was 4.6 or 5.4?

Well, here’s my solution: wind up all the mini skeins into 25 yards and weigh all of them to double check that the weight falls in the 7g range. Double the work, but it doesn’t take more than a few minutes and it’s a peace of mind knowing none of them are totally off. Now, back to the grind….(or shall I say “wind”?)

12,000 skeins and counting…

12 Feb

So, how have folks been for the last few months? Getting much headway on your New Year’s Resolutions?

As for me, I’ve been busy knitting more and spending less time on Ravelry. I mean, not by a whole lot but still, I’m making headway as far as finishing projects is concerned. And of course, I’ve been yarn shopping.

Yesterday, I got curious as to how much I actually had. Since I’ve got 99% of my stash uploaded onto my Ravelry page, it didn’t take long for me to figure out exactly how many skeins I had. (if you didn’t know about the Excel spreadsheet function on Ravelry’s yarn page, I suggest you check it out. It’s an awesome tool to keep your out-of-control yarn inventory in check)

Well, the final tally….drumroll please……12,000 skeins(!!!!)

12,000 skeins? OMFG!

Uh-oh.

In the course of a year or so, I somehow amassed 1500 skeins. WTF? That didn’t make much sense to me. So I backtracked and tried to see where the sudden surge in numbers occurred. Turns out, I was deluding myself previously by entering all my cone yarns as 1 skein. Technically, it is one skein, right? But c’mon now. Considering most of my cones weigh anywhere from 2-4 pounds, they should not be counted as single skeins. So when I finished adding all my cone yarns that were previously not entered into my Rav stash page and accounted for them appropriately (i.e a 1kg cone would be entered as an equivalent of 10 skeins), the skein total shot up big time, despite my multiple destash attempts.

And I won’t lie – I did accrue some yarns on the way too (Ravelry destashes, Craftsy, minkyarn.com, Knit Picks, etc)

So, my goal for the next several months is to get that 12,000 down to a more reasonable 10,000 (relatively speaking! Yes, I know that number is no where near reasonable for most people), which is why I started Round 1 of my destash. Here’s the plan:

  • Round 1: Hand-dyed Yarns, lux yarns, and thinner yarns in skein form (I don’t have time to set up my swift/yarnwinder and cake these up)
  • Round 2: Bulky yarns (knitting with fat needles seem to hurt my wrists and elbow)
  • Round 3: Undyed yarns (I got rid of a ton a few months ago but still have quite a bit left)
  • Round 4: Random skeins that I’ll group into heavily discounted grab bags
  • Round 5: Cottons and acrylics (I don’t have a ton of these but still, no sense in holding onto them when I know I won’t be knitting with them)

I posted the destash today on Ravelry and got several people commenting that selling a whole 41 skeins won’t even put a dent in the 12000. True, but I like to parse stuff out little by little. Doing an overhaul is too chaotic and many people hit decision fatigue when they’re faced with too many choices so I’m using a bit of marketing psychology here. Hey, gotta start somewhere right? One step at a time. And mind you, you won’t see a single ball of yarn in sight when you walk into my house (because they’ve been relegated to one room + attic) so I guess it’s not causing problems for anyone else.

Let the stash down begin!

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