Tuesday, August 4, 2015

That Worked Out Well!

Well all that work last week, winding the last of the yarn balls and sewing little bags, paid off nicely this morning.  An order came in and all I had to do was pack it and print the shipping label.  That was a real timesaver.

I'm starting to suspect my use of a ridiculous amount of packing tape on each package may be negating the good I'm doing using upcycled paper grocery bags to ship in.  I'm going to explore commercially made packing envelopes and see if I can come up with a better option.

I've had quite a few other things on my plate this week that have slowed down some of my goals for the shop but here's a sneak peak and the gray t-shirts that were soaked in the leftover dye from the Summer Sunset t-shirt yarns.  The lighting is not fabulous but you get to see a bit of the process.  These lovelies should appear in the shop Thursday afternoon.


 Getting ready to wind

You get a peek at my work area too and you might notice, there's a whole lot of stuff going on there.  So many ideas, so little time!

I've been looking on Ravely for patterns that make good use of bulky and super bulky yarns and found The Wildflower Headband by Sophie Scott.  I am itching to give this a try.  Looks like it will be a pretty quick knit once I actually sit down and do it.  I might actually take one of the Summer Sunset skeins out of the shop to do it.  We'll see.

Still working towards increasing my inventory for a craft fair entry.  I think I can, I think I can...

In personal crafting news, I've made more socks!

And I have another pair on the needles.  My dog, Oreo, loves to sit in my lap whenever I knit. 

What's on your crafty agenda for the week?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Striving for Consistency

I spent the last two days getting my shop updated with the loveliness that was last week's dyeing experiment.
I've dubbed this Summer Sunset and, while I love the way it came out, I'm not at all confident that I could replicate it.  Consistency like that will come with time, at least I hope it will.  If you love it, get over to the shop and get yours while it lasts.
Speaking of consistency, I finally took the time to wind up the last of the original yarn balls on my ball winder.  They are now all center pull skeins, happily nesting in their very own drawstring bags, with business card tags on them.  As I say on each listing:  

Yarn is wound into a center pull ball and packaged in a reusable, drawstring bags made from a t-shirt sleeve to keep your yarn tidy and tangle free while you work with it.

This benefits me as well.  Now all my t-shirt yarn just needs to be packaged for shipping and its ready to go.  That having been said, what a lot of work it was to get it all done.  The worst part was, it felt redundant.  The difference of course was that this time it was getting done in a way that really works best.  That didn't stop the temper tantrum that was going on in my head though.  Looking back on that picture, maybe making 18 bags is a pretty good accomplishment.

I also did some much needed updating in my pictures and descriptions today with a goal of making things more consistent.  I stuck with the t-shirt yarn section for today but I got some feedback from other sellers about other sections that need attention as well.  I plan to make those changes in the very near future.  Feedback is so scary to ask for but so important...but mostly scary.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dyeing to Try or Trying to Dye

I've been working to replenish my t-shirt yarn stock in my shop, not the plain colors but the funky ones.  T-shirt yarn made from tie dye t-shirts never lasts very long in there.  What's a girl to do when there's no guarantee of finding tie dye t-shirts at the thrift store?  She can try dyeing some of the seven gazillion white t-shirts filling thrift store aisles.

That was my task today.  I had some dyes on hand that were also a thrift store find and I'd already destroyed a canning pot with a dye bath a while back, so I was ready for action.  

Here are the results drying on the clothesline.

A closer peek

You can expect these to make their way into my shop on Monday.  

Overall, I'm pleased with the results.  I wasn't thrilled with the process.  Chemical dyes stink, literally and rinsing out the dye until the water runs clear wastes a ridiculous amount of water to my way of thinking.  I wound up using the washing machine to do this and I still feel like the amount of dye coming out was endless.  I still have some chemical dye left but I lean toward exploring natural dyes in the near future.  

Since I still have some of this dye batch left, I've got some gray t-shirts soaking in it.  I'm curious to see what they look like.  Every time I've made gray t-shirt yarn it just looks grungy and unappealing to me and my efforts to bleach dye gray t-shirts have been utter failures.  The gray never changes color with the bleach!  How is that even possible??

The other discovery I made was that the blade on my rotary cutter was insanely dull.  What a difference a new blade made! 

Happy weekend to all!

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Road Ahead

I really enjoy listening to podcasts when I'm crafting.  I'm hooked on some of the usual suspects like Serial, Undisclosed and This American Life.  I'm also hooked on some crafty, maker related podcasts like Prairie Girls Knit and Spin, the Knitmore Girls and, most recently, Have Company.

I confess, I've been binge listening to Have Company since the end of last week.  Its really inspiring to hear the variety of guests Marlee Grace has on.  After listening to a wide variety of artists and makers, my wheels really started turning.  I started pondering different aspects of my shop and the direction of my shop.

In my mind, the earliest beginnings of Saved by Kate date back to denim quilts made for my sons' bunk beds.  First my sons, then my daughter, then my daughter's boyfriend, then my other daughter, then my sister, then my daughter's new boyfriend...one quilt organically led to the next one.

The memory quilts have followed a similar path, one that feels like a natural progression, rather than a business plan.  Yet a business plan is what it has become.  A close friend, and my first paying customer, just responded to pictures of my latest effort with, "you are really an extraordinary crafter of these and must continue to market them to the paying customer."  Given that she is an amazingly talented seamstress, my heart is singing (or screaming, OMG, OMG, OMG!!!!!)

So what does this all amount to in practice?  Well, yesterday I took a deep breath and put some business cards out on 2 community bulletin boards.  This morning when someone in my yoga class asked what I was doing later, I told her I was sending my latest memory quilt off to its owner and offered to show pictures.  I ended up showing her several of my projects.  In a sense I outed myself to the class, which is something I need to do more often.  I've gotten good at this in some venues and remain not so good in others.  The conversation this morning was a good first step.

For the future?  I need to replenish my t-shirt yarn a bit.  I'm working on a prototype for a possible class.  There's a fairly local craft show that I think would be a great venue for me but I need to see how much inventory I can build up before applying.  In the just for me category, I'm knitting socks, lots of socks and their mine, all mine!!

I leave you with two pics of the finished memory quilt.  (I'm still working on the photography piece of this, especially the lighting.)  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Finally, an Update!

Its certainly been a lot longer than a week since my last post.  Yeesh, time gets away from me sometimes.  Time to get back on track.

I've been busy with some special orders, like this bag from a pair of embellished pants.

Also this memory quilt, which is coming together nicely.  

There is a rhythm when I making memory quilts.  The beginning is always fumbly as I try to make a plan that brings together pieces of clothing that are vastly different in color, style and fabric content while honoring the memory of the person (in the case of one's I've done for people who've lost loved ones) or the time of life (as in the case of one's I've done for people to remember their time on a team or at college).  Sometimes I'm given guidelines and sometimes I'm given a free hand.  The challenge, in either case, remains the same.  How can I make this come together?  At some point things begin to click and then it seems the project takes on a life of its own.  It becomes intuitive, which is so exciting to me.

In other news, here are two recent additions to the shop:

A string bag, fully lined and made from upcycled pillowcases

A larger, brightly colored t-shirt yarn area rug

Finally, the biggest news of all.  I have finally set up calculated shipping on the larger items in my shop.  Why should you care?  Well, for most people, it makes the shipping significantly cheaper.  I'm curious to see how this change affects sales, or if it affects sales.  I don't know why this was such a challenge for me to set up but now that its done I feel like Wonder Woman.

Now I'm off to finish that memory quilt...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Getting the Word Out

Selling the stuff you make isn't for sissies, that's for sure.  There's a euphoric high whenever I make a sale followed by a a period of questioning during the inevitable quiet period that follows.  It makes me nuts.  The fact is, you can't sell your stuff if no one sees your stuff.  

So with that in mind, I've joined the ranks of those posting on Instagram, you can find me as savedbykate.  Trying to get the word out in picture form.  I've given a huge amount of thought to how to stage my pictures to show my wares in their useful best.  I think I'm getting better at it.

Here are a few examples of my improved picture layout/taking:

Its not perfect but it is much improved from my humble beginnings.  So better pictures are step one for me, now its on to networking to get my name out there.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

T-shirt Yarn in a Bag

All along, I have been shipping my t-shirt yarn packaged in little drawstring bags made from t-shirt sleeves.  Up until yesterday, I didn't publicize this.  It didn't occur to me that it was necessary or important.  I thought of it as a nice little surprise for my customers.

Similarly, I began winding all my t-shirt yarn into center pull balls once I got a ball winder (and figured out to use it, why is that so hard? ?)  Again, not something I publicized until recently.

The response to my packaging technique has been really positive.  One customer went so far as to call it "mindful".  So with my latest shop update, I've revealed these two features.

You order this:

It arrives all snug and neat, looking like this:

Since the balls are all center pull, they can be kept in their bags as you work on your projects.  Unlike commercial yarn, which can offer a challenge only an explorer would enjoy, my yarn comes with a tag attached to the end you need to pull to start your yarn.  Its user friendly, start to finish.

I'm also trying something new this week by offering the yarn pictured above as a collection, a rainbow collection to be precise.  I'm offering the 7 balls together at a bulk discounted price to reward the larger order.  I'm curious to see what the response will be.

Also new this week:

Stop by SavedbyKate, check them out and let me know what you think.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Not the Week I Expected

I guess it just goes like that sometimes.  I had big plans that were waylaid by a spring cold that just knocked me on my butt.  I managed to get a few things done, like making this vintage inspired apron for a First Friday display at SewGreen in downtown Ithaca.

I feel like I've always looked at things with an eye towards upcycling, even before the term was popular.  Recently, I came across some pillowcases with funky designs and thought they deserved a second look.  Were they vintage?  No.  Were they exceptionally high thread count?  No.  Were they beautiful?  No.  What they were was unwanted by their owner, unstained, and, from my perspective, a challenge.

What will they become?  Aprons?  Drawstring bags?  Fabric squares?  I thought I'd have the answer for you already but, thanks to my cold, I'm still in the planning stages.  I'm excited to see what they evolve into.

Happy and healthy weekend to you all!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Upcoming Classes at Craftstitute in Ithaca, NY & Social Media

I'll be teaching a few upcoming classes at Craftstitute if you're in the Ithaca area.

The first is Upcycling T-shirts into T-shirt Yarn on 5/1

The second is Making a T-shirt Yarn Rug: Knit or Crochet on 5/2

I'm really looking forward to teaching both classes.  This will be the second time I've taught the t-shirt yarn making class.  The energy the first time around was amazing.  They were really into learning how to make the yarn and anxious to start using it.  I hope these classes are the same way.

Shop update will go up later this evening, I promise.  I know this for sure because I already have the update in as a draft.  Nice that I finally figured out how to make that work.

One last bit of news, SavedbyKate has a Facebook page.

I'm also savedbykate on Instagram and Ravelry.  Stop by and say hello.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Check That Off Too

I've been steadily checking things off my to do list and it is pretty thrilling.

The special order rug is done and will be delivered to its new home tomorrow.  That rug was an unexpected delight to make.  I do not think of myself as someone who crochets, I think of myself as a knitter, yet this rug is completely done in crochet and I loved making it.

I chose crochet because this rug is made of small pieces of t-shirt yarn attached using slit and slip method.  That seemed to lend itself better to a round rug, hence my choice to crochet it.  Don't get me wrong, joining sixty four bazillion little pieces of t-shirt yarn is tedious with a capital T but somehow, seeing it evolve made it worthwhile.

I just love everything about the finished product.  The color changes just make my heart sing.  Maybe its just the infusion of vibrant colors after a long gray winter.

I also finished my Armande sweater.  The pattern is by Andi Satterlund and is retro and wonderful!  Mine is made from yarn I frogged from a much too large Irish sweater.  The yarn was so beautiful and traditional, it almost begged to be made into this pattern.  Speaking of the pattern, I really liked it.  Andi's patterns have a lot of writing and although its intimidating at first to see so much pattern, its really more like she's holding your hand throughout the knitting process.

There were a few typos in the pattern which I made note of and if I can get my sh*t together, I will share them on ravelry.  Honestly, they were minor though.

I've got a shop update coming later in the week that I'm excited about, as well as some project planning in the works for some down the road shop additions.

Now I'm off to watch a track meet, with knitting in hand, of course!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Give the People What They Want

I spend a lot of time writing to do lists.  They help me so much as I try to maintain some level of organization between home, work and crafty endeavors.  Sometimes, looking at the list is overwhelming.

I suspect a large part of this is just figuring out what needs attention devoted to it and what doesn't.  Questions like, do I make more t-shirt yarn or do I focus on putting the patterns I use to make rugs onto paper with an eye towards selling them?  Should I make some zipper bags?  What about that needle pocket idea?  When am I going to have time to finish the memory quilt I've been working on for a friend?  These questions could bring a girl to her knees.

So this week I'm focusing on finishing things already in progress.

Special orders first:

I need just about 4 more inches around for this to be done.  That's my main goal for the week.

Then on to new ideas for the shop.  Now where did I put that list??

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A New Way to Add Color

Who knew that you could take a plain black t-shirt and use just a little bleach to make something like this?

This discovery has added a whole new dimension to my t-shirt yarn.  I am hooked on the process.  I'm especially pleased because this also lends itself to something I'll be adding to my shop shortly, precut t-shirt squares for quilting.  How awesome would it be to have these colors in a cozy quilt?

More on this endevour shortly.  I've fallen behind on my shop and blog updates but I've been busy as can be getting things ready to go in the shop.  

In the interim, the push to expand my audience continues with two big steps outside my comfort zone in the past week.  First, I'll be teaching a class on how to make t-shirt yarn! That will be happening next week in downtown Ithaca.  

Getting that set up, gave me the courage to seek out another venue to teach t-shirt yarn making in.  The initial meeting went well, so more classes will be happening!  Crazy!  More on that soon.

In other news, the computer and photography gods despise me.  I'm working out a system to make this go more smoothly.

I'll leave you with this sage advice, never make several batches of the same color t-shirt yarn without labeling them all immediately.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Continuing to Step Outside of My Comfort Zone

Has anyone else noticed that it is easier to be brave when you're sitting in front of your computer in the quiet of your own home?  In a moment of euphoria, the send button is hit and then the angst comes on strong.  At least that's the progression of emotions that I live with.

In light of last week's t-shirt yarn success, I reached out to another local shop owner and crafter who I thought might be interested in the t-shirt yarn.  She's someone I know but not well.  I hit send on that email last Monday and then waited...and waited...and waited.

I was bummed by the lack of response and then on Friday I got an email back.  She was interested!  We emailed back and forth regarding her color preferences and then I headed out to the thrift store for supplies.

Once again, I spent the weekend replenishing my supply.  This time was definitely easier, as I began to really refine my technique and I felt more confident about the desirability of my product.

 On Monday, I packed my bag to go meet with her.  I wanted to throw up (are you seeing a pattern?)  The hardest moment for me is when a prospective customer starts to look at the balls.  It makes me feel slightly insane and totally unworthy.

But guess what?  She bought 8 balls!!!

I guess I'm going to keep trying to push myself outside my comfort zone.  I have another local shop in mind to connect with and I'll be making that pitch tomorrow, possibly in person.  My fingers are crossed!

So what else is going on?  Well, I've made some changes in my Etsy shop.  I finally have enough items to have categories, so I added those today.  I'm also trying to become more involved in my local Etsy teams.  They are a great source of info.  I just need to figure out how much time to devote to everything.

Speaking of time, knowing what you're doing saves a ton of time.  I don't know jack about Instagram but I've got a 15 year old who does and he's promised to help his mom get onto Instagram in the near future.

 In addition to the t-shirt yarn you see in this post, I also added the denim throw that you see below to my shop.  The front of this throw had been complete for almost two years and I just never got around to backing it.  I hadn't realized how much my technique had changed over time but this throw looks very little like more recent ones that I've made.  Still, its fun to see a little blast from my sewing past.

See you next week!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

T-shirt Yarn? Or is it tshirt yarn? Or maybe t shirt yarn? It couldn't be tee shirt yarn, could it?

Well, whatever way you choose to spell it, I've just added it to my Etsy shop.  Take a look at these happy spring colors.

And of course, we need some point of reference regarding the thickness of the t-shirt yarn (this is my personal spelling preference.)  I've opted for wraps per inch, since that gives a consistent visual result to compare.

Interestingly, these three shirts were all 100% cotton and all cut to the same width prior to stretching but they yielded slightly different results.

So why t-shirt yarn?  It comes back to my personal goal for 2015, which was to be open to the opportunities that present themselves.

For me, part of becoming someone who crafts to sell, rather than someone who crafts just for themselves requires outing myself self a bit.  If I intend to get anywhere in this endeavor, I have to confess to others that I have an Etsy shop, how much I love what I do and what's so special about my stuff.   That's hard for me.  I'd rather wear the hand knit sweater or use the handmade yoga mat bag and hope someone notices it and asks about it.  It doesn't work that way though.

I live in Ithaca, NY.  It is a place that has more crafty people per square mile than anywhere else I've ever lived or visited.  Its a place that invites crafty show and tell.  My challenge has been to answer the question, "what have you been up to?" with something other than, "not much."  Which brings me back to the t-shirt yarn and why that has been added to my shop.

A local business owner knew I made rugs out of upcycled t-shirts, because I finally had the courage to tell her about my Etsy shop.  She uses t-shirt yarn for some crochet projects in her shop but the commercial t-shirt yarn she had been using was out of stock.  Since she knew I worked with upcycled t-shirts, she asked me if I could make some t-shirt yarn for her.

I needed a few days to make sure I could create something that would yield a consistent product.  That was Friday.  I spent a good portion of the weekend, figuring out my process and my costs.  On Monday I met with her to share what I had come up with.  I wanted to throw up.

She bought 5 balls and I walked home feeling validated and dancing on air.   The best part was, I really enjoyed the process.  You can expect to see more t-shirt yarn in the the shop's future.

For the record, although the overall endeavor was a success I did have one notable fail.  White t-shirts yield boring t-shirt yarn.  I didn't have any fabric dye and I looked up other options on the web to try. The food coloring as fabric dye tutorial that uses salt as a mordant was an epic fail.

What new endeavors are you dipping your toes into this year?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bib & Burp Cloth Sets Are Here

In the last two weeks, two people close to me have had babies.  I suppose that meant it was time to stop thinking about making burp cloths to match the bibs in my shop and actually make them.  Let's face it, you can't have too many bibs or burp cloths.  

I didn't have very much of the patterned fabric left after making the bibs so only one set of the penguin and flower pattern have made it into the shop.  Don't wait if you love them, once they're gone, they're gone.

I'm still trying to find a way to use the leftovers of the plaid bibs creatively to make at least one burp cloth to match each of those as well. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A New Chapter Begins

Welcome to Saved by Kate, the companion blog to my Etsy shop, SavedbyKate!

After a few attempts to make this new endeavor fit within the confines of my old blog, I've decided that making a fresh start is really the proper way to launch things.  Let's start things off with an introduction.

I'm Katie.  I'm a mom, a yoga teacher, a knitter, and a sewist ('cause we all know if you say you're a sewer, people might get the wrong idea).   I love to knit and sew using upcycled and rescued fibers and fabrics, especially jeans and t-shirts. I also unravel ugly sweaters to harvest beautiful yarn.  

Here's my shop story:

The very beginnings of this Etsy shop go back to 2006.   There was a pile of ripped jeans, a set of bunk beds in need of summer quilts, and a feisty 13 year old who assured me that I could sew them.  That same 13 year old, placed an order with mom for her own denim quilt shortly thereafter.   
Since that time, quilts made of well loved jeans have made their way into the lives of family and friends for a variety of occasions. 
Those first denim quilts ignited my passion for working with upcycled materials.  I've added upcycled cotton t-shirts to my repertoire and also have begun experimenting with upholstery fabric samples.   
When I learned to knit a few years ago, my new skill and my love of upcycled materials converged.  I began unraveling ugly sweaters to harvest beautiful yarn.  Recently, I've been experimenting with spinning these unraveled yarns together to create a truly unique yarn. 
Where some might see rags, I have grown to see endless possibilities.  I hope you begin to see the possibilities as well.

Aside from what you see in the Etsy shop, I seem to be developing a specialty (or maybe its just a reputation) of making non-traditional memory quilts to order.  

Here's a peek at the most recent one I was working on, just prior to completing it.  I'm still not good at remembering to take pictures of my finished projects before sending them out into the world.  This quilt started its existence as a pile of clothing cut into random sized pieces.  

Let me know what you think.