Spinning leads to dyeing

I SWORE I wouldn’t get into dyeing fiber again. I promised myself to concentrate on my knitting alone. Then I got distracted, again.

Skunkbush Sumac berries collected in May.

Skunkbush Sumac berries collected in May.

When not looking at birds and snakes while hiking over the past week, I noticed all the Skunkbush Sumac covered with berries.  I love this shrubby plant and and enjoy watching it through all the seasons on my daily hikes around Prescott. On today’s hike, I collected about a cup and a half of them, leaving plenty for the birds and mice.

Our wild rosebushes (you know, the ones that our hybrids reverted to when we didn’t know enough about how to coddle the pricey ones) are producing blooms in abundance right now, so just for good measure, I grabbed a bunch of petals and threw them into the pot with the sumac berries.

After simmering the lot for a few hours, I’ll let it steep, and then refrigerate, or even freeze the dye, after straining it through a coffee filter. I’ll try solar dyeing some of the hand spun I made recently during “World Wide Knit in Public Days” at the  Prescott Farmers Market.

By the way, if you’re in or near Prescott, come out to the Market on June 8 and 15, 2013 and knit, crochet or spin with us. More details available on the Prescott Knitters forum on Ravelry, on the Prescott Knitters Facebook page or in this post in AboutPrescottArizona.com.

Wild rose petals added to the pot with the sumac.

Wild rose petals added to the pot with the sumac.

Various sources say that no mordanting is necessary with sumac, so I’ll just wet my fiber skeins (some cotton and wool) and toss them into a zip lock bag and let them sit in the sunshine.

A note on the color: the dye was a pretty orange color for about an hour. Upon closer inspection, it is very brown now. I’m thinking of adding some turmeric to the pot.

More after the Farmers Market when I’ll share results.

By the way, the Montana Natural History Center has a good series of pictures and descriptions of Rhus trilobata here.

What Allee turned me into

Clownish yellow and pink two-ply.

Clownish yellow and pink two-ply.

Spinning my own yarn for large projects has always seemed implausible. Laughable, even. I did have a spinning wheel many years ago. Back then I also had two little boys who saw the wheel as a fun mechanical toy. Between their use of it and my inability to get the hang of it, that interest went by the wayside. It was just the wrong time.

Until recently, luxurious commercial yarns were how I grew my stash. Then I started looking at the unique skeins created by independent American spinners and dyers.

Handspun sampler

Handspun sampler

A few months ago, I personally introduced myself to some of these produced by Spincycle Yarns, Miss Babs, and A Verb for Keeping Warm. I’m hoping to develop a long and mutually rewarding relationship with these newfound yarns. Meanwhile, in examining their underlying structure and rich colors, I began wondering if I could create something similar myself.

Private musing became public chit chat and Allee overhead me say I might like to try spinning again.

Allee, my friend, fellow knitter and camping buddy, brought me a bagful of odd bits of fiber. For two weeks, I’ve been spinning and plying them on the handmade drop spindle I purchased locally from Deb at A Good Yarn/Fiber Creek.

From fleece to spindle to skein to ball

From fleece to spindle to skein to ball

Obsession? Addiction? New area of interest? I’m not sure what to call it, but I’ve only knit one or two rows since the fiber came home with me, other than the little swatches, i-cording and knitted leaves I’ve made from the yarn to see how it likes being on my needles.

It’s not all beautiful. Some is hideous. But really, isn’t it just slightly possible I could purchase a beautiful fleece and spin it up into worsted for my next favorite cardigan?

What no one told me about retirement

Zonda's Cezanne by Jordana Paige

Zonda’s Cezanne by Jordana Paige

I am officially retired. No more clients or projects. Every day is whatever I want it to be. To that end:

  • I’m signing on for some new volunteer projects and causes.
  • Since the nest is empty, I’m rounding up all the stuff we really don’t need anymore (gradually) and finding new homes for all of it.
  • I’m envisioning what a downsized home would look like and how it would work for the two of us.

What I’m not doing is adopting a philosophy of frugality which we all know is supposed to be a part of this time of life. Everytime I turn around I see something new that I think I need.

  • A bathing suit (?!? I never wear them, why do I think I need one now?);
  • A new knitting project bag (I have several already but just crave the new one my friend Zonda just bought);
  • A lovely new weekend travel bag (I DO visit my kids often and that would be nice to have);
  • A new bike helmet (I love my bike but I never use it… what am I thinking here?);
  • A new garden hose wand that doesn’t leak and get me all wet when I use it.

And on and on. You see the problem.

When I broke my coffee addiction and established good exercise and eating habits (most of the time), I felt I was on the way for healthy and fun retirement years. I’m getting my books from the library, have no car or home loans, no second vacation home or yacht here.

Perplexingly, though I have drastically reduced my income, I still want to buy stuff.

A certain time a tad earlier in my life often referred to as “the change” was just like this. All kinds of weird things happened about which I had no advance warning.

Note: The Cezanne bag pictured above is available through the Jordana Paige website. If you get one, drop me a line and let me know how you like it.

Aside to Zonda: would it be so wrong if I copied you and got one just like yours for myself?


April Series: How’s YOUR Local Economy? Part 2

And now a look at the coffee business. Specifically, I’ve been wondering how our independently owned coffee houses have weathered the recession. We have a number of them where I live. They all seem busy when I stop in, and their parking lots are always full, but it’s got to be a challenge.

To be fair, I asked all of them for input, but just heard back from one:  Cuppers Coffee House in downtown Prescott.

I’ve written about Cuppers in the past, when it was operated by its original owner. In fact, my podcasting cohort and I have recorded many segments of “AZVAs the Podcast” in their convenient meeting room.

The current owner, Jamey Mauk, gave me a very thorough look at the strategy they embrace in operating their business.

Cuppers Coffee House in downtown Prescott. Photo used with permission.

Cuppers Coffee House in downtown Prescott.
Photo used with permission.

“While the economy has certainly affected everyone in many different ways, we really have to look closer to our specific situation compared to the national and international conditions depicted on the news everyday. Anyone can get depressed and somewhat panicked if they continually watch all the bad things happening all around us on the TV. I often wonder, is it really that bad today or has it always been that way but we just didn’t know about it? OR maybe now the media just focuses on the bad way too much. AND what does all that really have to do with me, my family, our schools and my town?

When you speak about the economy in general, I think it revolves around demographics. There are many businesses in Arizona that are thriving, and at the the same time there are a lot of spaces for rent in Phoenix and even Scottsdale, not to mention Prescott or Prescott Valley. At the same time, new construction, new roads and new enterprises are springing up all over the place. Spaces for lease are growing weeds while new construction is happening next door, go figure. Maybe the old saying that the cream rises to the top just might be more accurate than we thought. Tough times bring out the best in people and perhaps in businesses as well. One thing is for certain, competition is a good thing when it comes to pricing, quality control and especially customer service. The businesses that focus on these areas rather than worrying about the economy are doing just fine.

As for us in particular, our little coffee shop downtown has a very loyal following. We have strived to improve over the years, therefore our business has grown. Our focus has always been on giving our customers the best quality at the best price with the best service since 2006. By the way, our little Victorian turns 141 years old this year.

In fact, in the effort to continually improve, we realized the potential to be something even MORE. As we looked into more specialized menu items and expanding our foods and desserts into new directions, we decided it was time to add another location. Cuppers is expanding to a much larger additional space by Trader Joe’s with a wonderful patio and gorgeous views. In our current tradition, we will feature an assortment of wholesome, delicious foods – from our famous quiche to elegant crepes including specialty items for dinner – not to mention our Sunday brunch. Our new venture is called Cuppers Coffee Bistro, and it will be everything that Cuppers is known for plus a whole latté more. We love our local clientele downtown and look forward to meeting new people at the new location in The Shops at Prescott Gateway by Trader Joe’s.

People get really excited about our new venture but then they often ask us, what about the coffeehouse downtown? Well, Cuppers Coffeehouse downtown on Cortez Street has been there since 2006, and we plan to keep it downtown. Those who know us well refer to the new bistro as simply Cuppers 2, and that is what it is just on a larger scale. Cuppers Coffee Bistro will be opening this summer.

Now back to the economy. Cuppers is growing because we have faith in our products and in our employees and in our economy. It is our opinion that, while the economy may be struggling in some areas of the country, it is on the upswing in our area. It really all comes down to the people – individuals taking the next step on their own rather than waiting for the news to tell them when it’s time or when it’s safe. In actuality will it ever be safe? History shows us otherwise, so in places where the economy is thriving is where the people are thriving. They have turned off the negative and put on the positive. We control our economy, not the media. I’m pretty certain that not many people in the Prescott area like to be controlled at all! That is why we are choosing this time to expand our successful business to another, bigger location. What could be better than two Cuppers! That’s my two cents.”

A well-managed business which offers great products and service will always find a following, as Jamey’s account attests.

Remember your locally owned coffee and tea options when planning to meet up with friends and colleagues. Oh, and be sure to check out the Cuppers Facebook page.

Annual Events for Fiber Fans

Spinning at WWKIP 2012 Prescott Arizona

Spinning at WWKIP 2012 Prescott Arizona

I’m building a page here to help keep track of all the wondrous fiber events I hear about all the time from my yarnie pals. With a little planning (and saving), I hope to get to at least one of these a year.

Please share your experiences with the ones you like best and send me names of others you recommend, using the commenting function. Oh, and mistakes: be sure to point those out to me, too! Thanks all.


TNNA Winter Trade Show, January 11 – 13, 2014, San Diego, CA


Stitches West, February 20 – 23, 2014 in Santa Clara, CA

Portland Yarn Crawl/Unravel Portland, Feb. 27 – March 2, 2014 in Portland


Yarn Con, April 5, 6, 2014 in Chicago, IL

Stitches South, April 11 – 14, 2013 in Atlanta, GA


Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, May 4, 5, 2013 in West Friendship, MD

TKGA Grand Retreat, May 19 – 21, 2013 in Mackinac Island, MI


Flagstaff Fiber/Wool Festival: June 1, 2, 2013 Several websites have the info, not sure which is official, but here are a couple: http://www.fiberandwoolfestivalatflagstaff.com/

World Wide Knit in Public Days: June 9 – 13, 2013, WORLDWIDE

Black Sheep Gathering, June 21 – 23, 2013 in Eugene, OR

TNNA Needle Arts Trade Show, June 22-24, 2013 in Columbus, OH


TGKA Summer Conference, July 17 – 21, 2013, in Indianapolis, IN


Stitches Midwest, August 8 – 11, 2013 Schaumburg, IL

TNNA Fall Needlecraft Market, August 24, 25, 2013 in St. Charles, MO


NYS Sheep and Wool Festival, October 19, 20, 2013 in Rhinebeck, NY


Stitches East, November 7 – 10, 2013 in Hartford, CT

More info:

Article from Knitter’s Review maintains a massive list, which discusses various festivals and events all over the Globe.

TNNA’s site lists festivals throughout the U.S.

Churro sheep at Flagstaff Wool Festival, 2012, Flagstaff Arizona

Churro sheep at Flagstaff Wool Festival, 2012, Flagstaff Arizona

April Series: How’s YOUR Local Economy, Part 1

For a couple of years now we’ve been reading that there are strong signs of recovery. Then, in the next segment on the news we hear there aren’t enough quality jobs.

How can a small business owner get a handle on what’s really happening and make intelligent projections for the year ahead?

This month I am talking to people in various sectors and asking what they see. This snapshot represents my region, likely not yours, but it’s a starting place.

Part 1: The Local Yarn Shop

I invited comment from some of my own area Local Yarn Shops and heard from Erica, owner of Knit 1 Bead 2, and on Facebook here, in Jerome, Arizona:

Earrings and Yarn from Knit 1 Bead 2 in Jerome AZ

©Knit 1 Bead 2
Photo used with permission

“Business is excellent—it being Spring Break travel season, segueing right into Festival Season :-)

Lots of Canadians – more every year now that the dollar is on par.

With the growth of the wine economy plus the increasing upbeat foodie stuff going on, Northern Arizona is poised to be the next Napa/Sonoma, Aspen (insert kewl spot of your choice.

Everywhere I look I see new construction, new businesses, and new ideas taking shape. Everyone I know who is working says they have all the work they want and more. Everyone I know who has a business would love to hire more help but cannot find anyone who wants to work – just people who want a paycheck :-(

The great River of Time is carrying us … swiftly … into the future …

Upbeat – I would definitely say I am upbeat about the economy.”

I also received feedback from Conne and Patti, co-owners of Studio Three in Prescott, who said:

Studio Three Logo

©Studio Three
Used with permission.

“We have been doing really well. Actually better than ever! We don’t feel the economy has improved, we just think that people need yarn in their lives just to calm down.”

I heard, too, from Debrah Dorrell, owner of A Good Yarn in Prescott, who has a different view of things:

© A Good Yarn Image used with permission.

© A Good Yarn
Image used with permission.

“Things are still tough in retail for the little guy. I showed 4% growth 2012 over 2011, however, this first quarter, I’m down the same percentage. So it’s flat for me and my little store. I am blessed with a great customer base that does their very best to keep me in business. Bring back the tourists who spend money!”

Based on these observations, small specialty shops can make it in these times and while the outlook is bright for some, it can still be tough.

What’s your view? Do you make an effort to keep it local when you shop for yarn, or whatever supplies are needed for your hobbies? Do you try to find the locally owned merchant or are you a big box/best price shopper?

Note: post edited 4/10/13 to add additional content from a contributor.