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Meet Our Unicorn Dealers–Handknit Habitat!

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For the next installment of the Meet Our Unicorn Fibre Dealers, I’d like to introduce Carla Cain of Handknit Habitat. Here she is (left) with her mother, who helps her at the craft shows where she sells her finished goods and patterns. Carla has found a niche within a niche and focuses on science fiction and fantasy-themed handknit accessories. She makes each hat or scarf by hand from materials that are as responsibly sourced as possible. Many of her yarns come from independent American mills and dyers.

Unicorn Fibre: Hi Carla, thanks for doing an interview! Is there anything else I forgot to mention?

Carla Cain: …hmm…maybe just that I’m a lifelong crafter who was searching for way to share her love of handmade goods with the world…

UF: Please tell me the nuts and bolts of your business…how did you get started?
CC: I started in 2011 selling multi-colored hats with a bohemian style on Etsy. I had put myself on waiting lists for several local craft shows and conventions and the first one that responded was a group called Gallifrey One. They stage the largest Dr Who convention in North America right here in Los Angeles every year. 3000+ people attend and they are a very friendly crowd that loves to shop! I learned quickly about how to understand and appeal to a niche audience and now I focus all of my work on the science-fiction/fantasy community. I also do craft shows at costume shops and other such venues as well.

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UF: You have a cute website that connects to your very interesting blog, www.handknit-habitat.com. How do people usually find out about your business?

CC: Mainly from the craft shows and conventions, and my Etsy page.

UF: What are some of your favorite products that you sell? What is your bestselling item?
CC: My best-selling item is a hat made famous by a character from a TV show called “Firefly”. One of the characters on that show wore an orange, yellow, and red Chullo-style hat that has become an icon for “in-the-know” sci-fi fans and those hats have really become my bread and butter! I also started selling kits for people to make their own when I found out how many fans are also knitters.

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UF: What is the most surprising thing that has happened with your business?

CC: On the positive side I’m always touched by how loyal, friendly, and welcoming the sf/fantasy community is. But I seriously underestimated how much work it takes to run a one-person business.

UF: Yes, so many of us in the needlearts industry are really just one person shows, or small, family businesses. How did you learn about Unicorn products?

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CC: I learned about Unicorn products while searching for something to use on my personal knitting products. It worked so well, I’ve started recommending it to my customers and giving out free samples as a gift-with-purchase.

UF: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?

CC: I love being outdoors. I’m really looking forward to an upcoming trip to Yosemite.

UF: Wow, sounds rugged and beautiful. I like to be out in my garden and am so happy the weather has turned nicer here on the East Coast. I even do some knitting and sewing outside when I can. What is your favorite craft and who taught you to do it?

CC: I love knitting, and my grandmother taught me.

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UF: That is really nice, and especially so since your mom helps you out at shows. Great to have the help, too, I suppose. Those shows can be busy. Please describe your typical work day.

CC: Work the “day job” till midnight, up at 9am to do business (order yarn, plan projects, balance the books, etc) for a couple of hours, then I spend 2-3 hours knitting, then it’s time to get dressed and go to the “day job” again.

UF: Yes, many professional crafters fit this work in and try to balance with another job. It can be tricky on many levels. What advice do you wish you could give yourself when you first got started?

CC: To take an accounting class! Book keeping and accounting are not my strongest assets, and the learning curve has been steep.

UF: What is your favorite quote or saying?
CC: This passage from Seth Godin’s blog keeps me inspired to work hard to improve my craft:

The difference between commitment and technique

We spend way too much time teaching people technique. Teaching people to be good at flute, or C++ or soccer.

It’s a waste because the fact is, most people can learn to be good at something, if they only choose to be, if they choose to make the leap and put in the effort and deal with the failure and the frustration and the grind.

But most people don’t want to commit until after they’ve discovered that they can be good at something. So they say, “teach me, while I stand here on one foot, teach me while I gossip with my friends via text, teach me while I wander off to other things. And, sure, if the teaching sticks, then I’ll commit.”

We’d be a lot more successful if organized schooling was all about creating an atmosphere where we can sell commitment (and where people will buy it). A committed student with access to resources is almost unstoppable.

Great teachers teach commitment.

UF: That is a great one, and so true. I know many creative business people who follow him. Thanks again for doing the interview. And keep up the good work! Anything else you would like to add?

CC: Thanks so much for this opportunity — I’m such a huge Unicorn fan that it’s really an honor!

 

Meet our Unicorn Fibre Dealers! Meadowrock Alpacas!

Meet our Unicorn Fibre Dealers! Meadowrock Alpacas!

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When I spoke with Barbara Hansen of Meadowrock Alpacas, I got the sense that she and her husband Jim have found joy in the new phase of their lives that includes raising alpacas. Anyone who is lucky enough to have visited their farm no doubt came away with that sense as well as a few pairs of alpaca socks or hats. I had to satisfy myself with a virtual tour at their website. What a gorgeous place, with lovely, and clearly very special, animals!

Unicorn Fibre: Hi Barbara, and thanks for participating in this Get to Know Our Unicorn Dealers project! Your farm looks so beautiful and fun. Can you tell me the story of how you got started?

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Barbara Hansen: Whoa boy . . . our story is very long since this all came about in my “retirement”. Yep, I no longer have an IRA, 401(k), or annuity; just the store and my intrepid husband, Jim, who has now taken over as the Barn Manager. It’s hard to believe it’s 2015, eight years after purchasing our first pregnant alpaca. My goal was to have something productive to do in our retirement and I have found that “alpaca” fills our world.

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We currently have nine alpacas including three pregnant girls; our first cria (baby) is due in a couple weeks. In our first years we showed our alpacas and through these shows our herdsire earned five championships. When we decided to open a farm store to sell the yarn our alpacas produced we got a little carried away and have filled 1,200 square feet with over 5,000 items related to the alpaca, including the Unicorn Fibre Wash and Rinse and Unicorn Power Scour.

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UF: Your photos are simply breathtaking. Can you tell me a little about where your farm is in the world?

BH: We live in a very small rural community that is bordered by the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Mt. Adams Wilderness in Washington State, just north of the Columbia River Gorge. In the whole world, we would rather be no place else and rarely go on “vacations”, we are the vacation. Many of our farm visitors comment on how wonderful it is here and we simply smile back. The county we live in has only one stop light and it’s over 20 miles from the farm.

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UF: What do you offer at your farm and store?

BH: Many tourists visit us year round to tour our farm, learn more about alpacas, and purchase items made with alpaca fiber: hats, scarves, gloves, vests, sweaters, SOCKS, fur bears, and YARN; some 100% alpaca, some blends, and some are even handmade.

UF: What are some of your top selling and favorite items?

BH: Alpaca yarn and alpaca socks are our most favorite items and our top sellers; the fur bears are the most delightful and usually have a new name by the time they leave the store.

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UF: Sounds like a world of cute fuzziness! How do the Unicorn Fibre products fit in?

BH: All of the alpaca products we sell are enhanced when Unicorn products are used in their care.I recommend using Unicorn Fibre Wash and Rinse on yarn and finished garments to get the best results.

UF: How do you like to use the products yourself?

BH: My husband and I wear alpaca socks daily and I do a load of laundry once a week using Unicorn products. Once I began using Unicorn I found my clothes softer and retaining their shape better, remaining stretchy, not felted.

Meadowrock Alpacas herding to field for day 3 of 4

UF: What do you enjoy the most about your day to day activities?

BH: Needless to say, we love our alpacas! Besides being so darn entertaining, they act as our athletic club plus providing fiber for some of the yarn I sell in our store. They also provide fiber for our coop, The Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America, which produces the Extreme alpaca socks from US fiber and is 74% alpaca, really extreme.

UF: I love alpaca socks. And now I’m dreaming of making mitts or socks with alpaca yarn. What is your favorite craft, and how did you learn to do it?

BH: My favorite craft is working with and learning more about fiber whether it be knitting (self-taught) or weaving (took a class a local studio) or simply skirting fleeces (many seminars). My husband, on the other hand, loves to build things that make our lives easier; and I love him for it.

UF: Sounds like Jim is very handy and inventive. Can you give me an idea of what kinds of things he has built?

BH: Because of the way I designed and built the barn (yes me and a 24-year old with a broken left wrist, I even set my own trusses!), the outside gates could not be directly attached to it as we needed wall space to slide the outside stall doors open/closed without increasing barn size.  Instead, by design, the gates were mounted on the last pole of each fence line that effectively divides the four stalls and paddock areas plus dividing their “little” pastures and herding alleys from each other.  It sounds complicated but it’s not.  Just think of the barn as the hub of a spoke wheel with the spokes being the fence lines.  Imagine, IF all the gates are open at the same time you can physically drive a four-wheeler completely around the barn.  We don’t do that, but the point is, we have complete flexibility and access to every paddock; which has proved really handy for moving animals and removing snow, as two examples.

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Back to the point, the latches.  Mesh gates typically hook onto a fence post.  We simply put a post in the ground far enough away from the barn to allow the sliding doors to pass behind it.  After using the typical chain and hook set up Jim found the thick plastic you see in the photos.  We needed a more “solid” design for our herdsire’s (Aston) gate. Other gates use Jim’s “flip” design.  But, with the flip design, we found it didn’t take long for the alpacas to figure out how to flip them up.  To solve this issue, a spring was attached.  Works great!  Jim also came up with a little different design so a gate can be secured to the corner of the barn.  Patents are pending on all Jim’s designs.
UF: I guess I never thought of alpacas as smart enough to figure out latches. Are there any “Frequently asked Questions” from your farm visitors?
BH: Hmm, frequently asked questions . . . there are so many.    What’s the difference between an alpaca and a llama?  How long does the alpaca live?  How often do you shear?  What’s the gestation period?  How much acreage is needed to raise alpacas?  Can I pet them?  What does an alpaca eat?  Why do you separate the boys and girls?  Do you have to cut their toenails?  Who built your barn?  What do you call their fur?  What do you use it for?   I could go on and on.  Our tours generally take 45-60 minutes and are intended to be of an educational nature.  We do have a few animals to sell, but nothing like the BIG breeders.  So, over the years we found our visitors want to learn about the alpaca not take one home.  We are simply filling what the market demands in our very rural location.
When a guest walks into the store their first reaction is “I can’t believe you have such a nice store here in Trout Lake”, we’re very country here and I get this from locals and travelers alike.    Other most received comments include:  “Your place is so-o-o-o tidy and clean”  or “how do you keep your place looking so good?” or “WHAT A VIEW!” (Mt. Adams is “in your face”) or “it sure smells good here.”  or “you actually have a public bathroom?” or “can we just sit and have a picnic here?”  All of which makes what we do worth while :-)

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UF: I don’t know how you get things done…I would just be staring at the scenery all day. Can you tell me about your typical day at your farm and store?

BH: A typical work day begins around 6am with Jim (husband) heading to the barn to do the early morning chores that include feeding measured supplement pellets to the alpacas. I putz along, getting ready to open the store by 10am, there’s always plenty to do. I’m now the storekeeper and resident alpaca guru. My days are usually busy with all the needs of a working farm and store but when a visitor comes, everything is pushed aside and our guest(s) takes top priority whether they want to simply shop in the store or if they want a farm tour. I force myself to quit at 5pm for dinner and to spend the evening knitting or spinning (I’m just learning).

UF: What advice do you wish you could give yourself when you first got started?

BH: Advice? Hmmm, how about: why didn’t we do this 40 years ago?

UF: What are some of your favorite quotes or sayings?

BH: One of my favorite quotes is: If you can’t change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails. Which goes right along with: Think like a willow, not an oak.

UF: How do most of your customers learn about you?

BH: Many learn about us through word of mouth, driving by and seeing our farm, referrals from our Chamber of Commerce, and rack cards placed in hotels and motels plus we also advertise in local (within 60 miles) tourist magazines and hotel guest books.

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UF: Well, I sure am glad I found out more about you. Thanks for the interview and for belonging to our family of Unicorn Dealers. Congratulations on the nice life you have built for yourselves. I encourage people to make arrangements to visit your farm and store if they will be in the area. Here is the link to contact Barbara and Jim Hansen of Meadowrock Alpacas.

Meet Our Unicorn Fibre Dealers! First Up–The Spinning Loft!

Meet Our Unicorn Fibre Dealers! First Up–The Spinning Loft!

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We had recently heard from Alison Pacuska from The Spinning Loft a little while ago when she told us how she cured her cute doggie’s skin problem with Unicorn Power Scour. We were extremely pleased when she agreed to participate in the Unicorn Fibre Dealer Interview series. We love our dealers and we want you to get to know them the way we do.

Alison is the proprietor of the online store The Spinning Loft. If that name rings a bell, it could be because it was once a brick and mortar spinning shop in Howell, MI. Our friend Beth Smith closed it when she decided to concentrate more on spinning, family time, teaching, and writing, and it is everyone’s good fortune that Alison picked up the reins. Alison is obviously filled with passion for what she does: she is a super busy person, but seems to gain energy from her work with shepherds, sheep, fleece, and all of the fun tools and products that we spinners love. Talking with her made me want to process some of my fleece stash and get to carding and spinning!

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Unicorn Fibre: Hi Alison, and thanks for agreeing to an interview. You are our first featured dealer in this series. Can you tell me a little about what sets you apart from other providers in the handspinning marketplace?

Alison Pacuska: We specialize in rare breeds and we enjoy working with teachers like Beth Smith and Deb Robson who teach about breed study. We will also work with Guilds to cater breed study samplers to their needs.

UF: Oh, I love their books, and I have had the pleasure of in-person time with Beth on several occasions. It’s hard not to want to straight up copy her clothes and hair. Please tell me the nuts and bolts of your business…how did you get started?

AP: I suppose it started during my trip abroad in Moscow where I was introduced to Orenburg lace.  I decided had to learn to knit it.  Then I discovered I couldn’t find just the right yarn for it so I had to learn to spin.  Then I discovered there were hundreds and hundreds of breeds of sheep so I found someone with a breed study sampler – only I was terrified of what to do with it.  Just at that moment I saw an ad for a breed study class not 2 hours from me and I signed myself and my husband up.  It was all over after that.  I fell in love with all the wools – even the scratchy “unfriendly” ones.

The moment I spun Scottish Blackface I said “This would make a fabulous drive band!”   And I went shopping at The Spinning Loft.  That weekend Beth Smith, who was giving the class, also mentioned that Deb Robson’s Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook would be coming out.

Two years later I learned she was signing copies at Maryland Sheep and Wool.  I promptly got in line and spent the whole time squeeing and bouncing with joy.  I think if you asked her, she’d say she never saw anyone so excited about a book about wool.  That was an amazing day.  We talked and the slope got slippier and steeper.

UF: I get that. Maryland is always a peak experience in one’s life. So, you were clearly addicted to fiber. How did it go from that to a business?

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AP: A few years later, and 94 breeds sampled, I got this phone call from Beth, “Hey – I’m thinking of selling the store, do you want it?”

My palms got sweaty, my inner voices screamed YES YES YES and, shaking, I called my husband and IM’d my best friend.  Should I buy it?  The both yelled at me.  My husband said if I didn’t I’d be miserable and impossible to live with and he’d have to kill me in my sleep.  My friend said I had no choice because if I didn’t who else would love the sheep as much.

The next call was to my financial advisor to liquefy the purchase price.  I had to wait for the end of Faire season but the weekend after it was over I had a truck and I was driving to Michigan to get everything and frantically emailing and calling shepherds, vendors and other contacts to introduce myself.

UF: I know many of the wholesale vendors from TNNA. They are really a nice group of small business owners and there is a lot of knowledge there. How nice that your husband and friend are so supportive! Sounds like they knew you “had to” make this move.

AP: I think this store is all about a passion for the wool – and for the sheep.  You have to love the sheep and talk to the shepherds.

I obviously made the right decision because every day I feel desperate or sad or worried, I look at the wool or I talk to a shepherd or I talk to spinners and I feel reinvigorated and reinspired. Not a day passes when I don’t work with wool in some way and love every minute of it.

UF: How can people find your shop?

AP: Email through our site is the best way to contact us with questions, and here are all of my links:

www.thespinningloft.com

https://www.facebook.com/spinningloft

http://www.ravelry.com/groups/the-spinning-loft

Our blog is on our website:  http://www.thespinningloft.com/blog/

UF: How do most people first learn about your business?

AP: A significant amount of our traffic comes from Ravelry, believe it or not.  The next largest amount comes from word of mouth – from having our samples in breed study classes, from talking to people and shepherds – and from talking to shearers.  We also get a good amount of traffic from Abbysyarns, PLY, Knitty and Spin Off.

UF: What are some of your favorite products that you sell? What is your bestselling item?

AP: My favorite products are the wool of course!  I think the most unknown items are the knitting needles and notions, and also that we have looms and spinning wheels.   Our bestselling items are our samplers, especially the Beth Smith Sampler.

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UF: What is your favorite fleece to work with?

AP: My favorite wool – well, that’s whatever I’m working on right now.  You make this SOOO HARD.  How can you make me pick a favorite?  It’s like
choosing among your children!  If you insist though…. Right now, I think
my favorite fiber to spin is either Bond, Romney or Jacob. They have a special place in my heart. And Gulf Coast.  And Warhill.  And Deboiullet.  And CVM.  And Santa Cruz.  And…..

UF: You just reminded me I have a lovely brown Romney/Bond fleece somewhere in my house. I think it is calling to me…What is the most surprising thing that has happened with your business?

AP: I have met such wonderful people!  Shepherds, other fiber artists, shearers… it gives me such joy to talk with them. And it helps me stay focused on the goals to get out of that day job and into a world of doing what I love instead.

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UF: Can you tell me a fun recent sheep or shepherd story?

AP: I think the funniest sheep story I have relates to the day I went to see a local Soay flock – I wanted to work with the shepherd to improve her fleece.  Soay are feral sheep – very small, feral sheep.  They are skittish.  The shepherd asked us to help round them up by taking various positions and moving them into the barn.  One particular sheep showed no interest whatsoever, and instead decided to make a break for it.  He took a running leap OVER my husband’s head.  My husband is 6’1″.  Absolutely hysterical.

UF: Flying sheep, I love it! How did you learn about Unicorn products?

AP: Beth Smith used Unicorn Power Scour in a breed study class I took with her.  After comparing it to so many others, I just loved it.  I stock others, because people need options and have preferences, but my preference is Unicorn.

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UF: When I worked with Beth, she also stocked many kinds of wool wash, and said that different ones were used for different purposes. What do most of your customers do with their Unicorn products (if you have a sense of this?) Are  there certain kinds of wool that pair well with Unicorn products?

AP: I have a couple different wool washes (and rinses) and while I sell Unicorn Power Scour the most, I do get some decent traffic in Unicorn Fibre Wash and Unicorn Fibre Rinse.  They are fantastic for caring for all manner of FO (finished objects) from handspun yarn, to woven fabric, to
knitted or crocheted textiles.  And of course, the Fibre Rinse is a great product for making combing milk!

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UF: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?

AP: What is this outside of work thing to which you refer?  Kidding – in a way.  I have a day job that has a large amount of hours and stress associated with it, and the store takes up most of the rest. But when I can have some time to myself, and I do try to allocate an hour or so a day, it is consumed by spinning and knitting, by cooking and wine tasting with friends, with attending places like the Maryland Renaissance Festival, and by triathlon.  I’m afraid I was cursed with an absolute inability to sit and be still or quiet for any length of time exceeding one minute 29 seconds.

UF: Wow, you are one busy woman! I’m afraid it will make me tired just thinking about it, but please describe your typical work day.

AP: I have to divide these by weekday and weekend – thanks to that day job.

A week day I’m up by 6, I take care of my aging and ailing Pup-supervisor, I spend an hour getting to work (it’s only 11 miles, but DC traffic is a thing to behold).  I work all day supporting my legal team, then I get a training session in on the way home.  Once I’m home in the evening, I take care of the dog and get dinner going with the husband/ IT/Web guy and head downstairs to the store to get any shipping or communications done.  After that I eat and try to get some spinning or knitting in.  I’m normally in bed around 11.  Lather rinse and repeat.

On a weekend, I am up by 7.  I try to save Saturdays for house stuff – cleaning up, yardwork (o,h my poor garden) and longer training sessions. In the spring it often includes visits to shepherds for shearing. Then Sunday I spend in the store shipping and packing and photographing new fleeces – and scheming for the plans for the coming year.

UF: What is your favorite craft and who taught you to do it?

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AP: I am equally torn between spinning, knitting and cooking – and all but the spinning were taught to me by my mother.  My mother is a talented craftswoman – and she refuses to admit it.  She also makes the world’s best pickled beets (they pair perfectly with Zweigelt).

The spinning I learned to do at a little 30 minute presentation ‘class’ at the sadly now defunct (as far as I know) Potomac Celtic Festival ages and ages ago.

UF: Yum, beets.  What is the yummiest thing you have cooked recently?

AP: We had a chinese food and wine pairing with some friends recently (Viognier was best) and I made a 5 spice goat leg that was so delicious and tender we had no leftovers at all.  Our friends have lived in Africa and Central Asia where they ate a lot of goat.  Both said it was the best goat they’d ever eaten.  The leg bone recently became the stock base for an Italian Wedding soup I made and the leftover 5 spice was an oddly pleasant aromatic for the broth; a nice complement!

UF: Sounds super delicious, and very creative! What advice do you wish you could give yourself when you first got started?

AP: Don’t be so hesitant – you can do this.

UF: What is your favorite quote or saying?

AP: I have several. One that is fiber oriented: “Sample all the things.” (Beth Smith).

One that is something that has spoken to my heart since I was a child:  “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” (Thomas Jefferson; it appears on the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial)

And one that is the best piece of advice I have ever received and that I could ever give: “Regret nothing; every mistake is an opportunity to learn.”  (Wendy, a friend from high school)

UF: Those are all awesome. Anything else you would like to add?

AP: Don’t ever be afraid to stretch your limits, to try new things, to attempt and to fail.   If you don’t try, you cannot succeed.  If you don’t try, you don’t learn.  Death and stagnation lie in monotony or doing the same things over and over.  This holds true with fiber and craft as much as it holds for anything in life and I love putting a fiber into someone’s hands that they’ve never encountered before.  I love when they handle it, test it, try to spin it.  Sometimes it doesn’t get along with them and sometimes it does.  But the expression they have – the joy, the fascination with exploration, even the frustration, it’s wonderful!  Sometimes they get this look of peace and tranquility and you know Ghandi was right again.  Sometimes they struggle and think you are crazy – but they go back to their standby and have a better time and you know they learned some new level of appreciation.

And sometimes …. Sometimes they buy a wool store.

UF: Wow! Thanks again for a terrific interview. I really enjoyed it and you have me thinking about fleece! Keep up the great work!

Another Great Unicorn Product Demo Video!

Another Great Unicorn Product Demo Video!

Here is a really nice video of the lovely and charming chantimanou washing fleece!

I can’t wait until it warms up a little more here so I can do some of this outside!

Unicorn Fibre Contest Entries!

Unicorn Fibre Contest Entries!

_WLS1748_92717__86791.1418508441.1280.1280We received many excellent posts and videos, and we want to know which one you think deserves the 16 ounce gift set prize. Please vote in the comments.

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First the videos. Well, there is only one that is eligible, from Mary at Camaj Fiber Arts, so the element of suspense is missing, but watch it anyway, it is terrific!

There is another one that is not eligible, because Melanie can give herself free product whenever she likes, but it is also worth a watch, and inspired me to use Unicorn Power Scour on those spots my older dog has made on our carpeting.

I can’t really blame Rooney…I would not want to go outside either with the frigid temperatures we have had!

Hop on over to the Unicorn Fibre Facebook page to see Melanie’s video.

Now, on to the blog post entries…Here are links to our finalists:

1. Washing a Bison with a Unicorn, from Moldavitesofa

2. What’s Good for the Sheep…, from The Spinning Loft

3. Unicorn Power Scour vs Dish Detergent, a Wooly Comparison, from The Elusive Thread blog

4. Power Scour v Dish Washing Detergent for Washing Fleece, from Nearly There blog

So, for voting, just tell us in the comments which blog post entry you like the best (and why, if you like) and please do mention if these lovely posts and videos give you any good ideas!

Thanks to all of our entrants, and we will tally up results after voting ends on March 15 at 9am Eastern time, and then announce the winner!

Finishing Luxury, Part Two

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Well, my blocking of the cashmere scarf for my friend was a success. I have asked her for a photo of it in action, but I have not yet received it. I can only imagine that she is getting good use from it, given how cold it has been here. I did get a nice thank you voice mail from her and that is always nice. I sent her washing instructions but now I feel like I should offer to wash the scarf for her. She could always get it dry cleaned, but those chemicals are pretty yucky and I really would not trust the cleaner to not mess it up somehow. That does it, I will offer to wash it for her at the end of each season she wears it. It makes a little extra work for me, but I would hate her not to wear the scarf or have it get ruined somehow. Am I being overly paranoid? Do you guys do this too? It gives me a good reason to get together with my friend more often.

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There are as many ways to use unicorn products as there are handmade projects. In this post, I will show how I soaked and blocked some hand-dyed handspun from this year’s Spinzilla spinning. This fiber was in my stash for a LONG time. It was 2-4 oz Blue Faced Leicester braids in pinky brown with some orange, a color theme that always grabs me. I think it came from Cloverhill Yarn Shop in Maryland. I finally put it to use during Spinzilla Week. I spun each braid into a roughly sport weight singles and then plied them together.

I love spinning and I usually like my yarn, if I like spinning the fiber. If I don’t enjoy the process of spinning, I just stop, and will use the fiber for something else, like thrumming or dryer balls if it is feltable, or for weft for garden looms for my backyard birds. Life is too short not to be enjoying what you are doing, especially a leisure activity like spinning.

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Where I sometimes run into trouble is I get all these cute skeins of weird irregular yarn in a different weights (usually bulky) and not a lot of yardage. In the case with this BFL fiber, there was so much going on already with color and texture, that it was tough to find an appropriate project.

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Usually I find that keeping the stitching simple is the key.

My yardage was about 202 yards of the 2-ply in 8 ounces. I just was given this nice Eszee tool from Mary at Camaj Fiber Arts and using the wpi (wraps per inch) gauge I got 8 wraps, so depending on who you are talking to, that gives me an aran to bulky weight yarn.

Do you ever use the advanced search on Ravelry? I highly recommend it. I knew with only 200 or so yards I was going for an accessory. I already have handspun mitts and at least one hat–last year was the year of Thorpes–so I went for a knitted cowl. It might be fun to crochet with handspun too but I know it uses up more yarn and I already was on a yardage budget. And with handspun, it’s not like you can just get more. I suppose I could have spun something else up to go with it, but it was the 12 Days of Casting On so I just wanted to get on with it.

Even with all of the sorting criteria that I put in, I still got 39 pages of results. I could further refine by taking out the kids stuff. But, I usually find no need to go beyond the first page of results, unless I am really trying to procrastinate something.

Present it was! I was too lazy to find the correct length cable to knit this in the round, so I decided it could be made flat and then joined with JUL closures later.

Anyway, this was a fun and fast knit, and I am happy with the results.

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What I was going for here with soaking and blocking with Unicorn Fibre Wash products was to get the piece a little flatter and more uniform looking and to even out my stitches a bit. I was also not sure how much dye might bleed out since I had not gotten this cowl wet yet. This would be more of a concern if this were a gift for someone and they were wearing it with their nice white coat and went out and got rained on and the dye would bleed. Yikes, more knitting anxiety!

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So, into the bath it goes. I decide to give this cowl both Fibre Wash and Rinse, with plain water soaks in between. My large bowl has been long liberated from its potato salad, but I want to see the dye, so I opted for a clear bowl for dye visibility.

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I pushed the cowl into the water, and the suds are not excessive, as you can see. 15 minutes or so later–I am cooking beans at the same time, and they are taking forever to cook, so I am checking them every 15 minutes.

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It is a good reminder to set the timer every so often while I cook, because otherwise I forget and sometimes burn stuff.

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So, the water is in fact a little pinky brown. I next do a plain hot water rinse. I pushed the cowl about a bit with my wooden spoon, but was careful not to agitate it, as I did not make a note of whether or not this BFL is superwash, and I don’t mind my yarn blooming, but I did not want to felt this piece unintentionally.

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Still there were some light suds to get out, and even after my first plain water soak, I saw some dye. So I was glad I decided to do this multi-step process. Next is a squirt or so of fibre rinse into another change of hot water, and 15 or 20 minutes of bean cooking time. I wondered how old these beans were. They really were taking forever.

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I was also making sleek from this recipe, hence the onions that made their way into some of the shots.

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Then another plain hot water rinse and maybe one more, just to show you the color of the water.

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I admit that I do not know anything about dyeing. so this might be normal but I think it is better coming out in the water than on someones white shirt or sweater. eek.

I did the same thing with this teal and brown handspun simple scarf. Here are the before shots of both pieces…

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And here they both are a little later, after.

Have you had good results with Unicorn Fibre Wash and Fibre Rinse? Don’t forget about our blog post and video contest. We are accepting submissions until March 6, and we hope to get several more entries.

Andrea

 

Unicorn Blog and Video Contest!

Do you love Unicorn Fibre Wash products? Are you an experimenter? Are you good at blogging or videography? We want to see more of what real people (US residents only, for this contest. Sorry everyone else, it’s a shipping thing.) do with our products, so we are running a contest for the best blog post and best video featuring your Unicorn Fibre uses, impressions, and results. Show off your crafty skills and cleaning expertise!

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This could be:
washing a raw fleece
washing anything dirty
washing your fine washables
getting out a tough stain
blocking something handmade
finishing handspun skeins of yarn
washing your handknits
other uses that have not occurred to us

Capture your success with Unicorn Fibre products in photos or video. This could be a step by step tutorial blog or video, or just some before and after shots of something really dirty, with the detailed story of your experience. We will pick a few finalists in each category (video and pictorial blog) and then post those on our blog and Ravelry forum for voting.

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Whoever gets the most “likes” or votes in each category will win a set of 16 oz bottles of Unicorn Fibre Wash, Unicorn Fibre Rinse, and Unicorn Power Scour.

Nuts and bolts:
First, find some Unicorn Fibre product.

Sampler Set

 

This may be under your sink, in the laundry room, at your LYS, at a fiber festival, or you can buy from an online dealer. Click here for our store locator. What? You don’t have any yet? You can always ask us to send you free sample packets.

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Next, make your photo essay blog post or video using one or more of our products. Please show the product packaging, and tell us where you got it. Your submission should include a description of the results you are expecting and your impressions of the products.

Post your blog or video entry on your own channels. Send us a link to your post or video to unicornfibrecontests at gmail dot com. If you don’t have a blog or a Youtube channel, see if any of your friends want you to guest post, otherwise, we will accept a text document with photos and we may run the post on the Unicorn Fibre blog. We will choose a few finalists from both categories–video and pictorial blog–and post them on our Ravelry group, and Unicorn Fibre blog for comment votes and “likes.”

Washing a fleece and a lace shawl that fell in a puddle? You may enter as many times as you like.

The more, the merrier! If you collaborate with friends for your video or blog post, we can split the prize for up to 4 people (4-4 ounce sets of Fiber Wash, Rinse, and Power Scour.)

Submissions are welcome until March 6 at 8pm Eastern Time. Voting will begin when finalists are posted on our Ravelry and blog on March 7, and will end March 15 at 9am Eastern time. Feel free to get all of your family and friends to vote for your submissions. Prize winners will be determined and announced March 16 and you will be contacted by email to make shipping arrangements.

 

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Please include with your submission: Your first name, the state where you live, the best email to reach you, and the store or other source where you bought your Unicorn Fibre products.

Sending in the link to your entry assumes you give us permission to link to your posts and videos across all of our social media channels.

Let me know if you have any questions, help spread the word if you know anyone who will be interested, and don’t forget to have fun with this!

Andrea

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