Seasons Change and So Do I

Avocado Dream Catcher, made from handspun wool and alpaca fiber hand-dyed with avocado skins. I created the natural dye with vegetable waste from my job at the co-op grocery!

It used to be my practice to write a summer wrap-up post for Morale Fiber Blog, and though I haven’t always done so, I fall back into my old habit today! I won’t be going over summer projects so much as talking a bit about my life situation, my business, and where I hope to go in the future. It’s a bit more of an intimate look into how I, as a person, manage Morale Fiber.

That’s me, un-wigged and un-filtered and un-photoshopped. But with great lighting, of course. πŸ˜‰

I have loved fiber arts since the minute I was handed my first sewing kit as a child – when my mom taught me my first crochet stitches when I was 10 years old, that interest was cemented into a lifelong habit. In time I expanded into knitting, spinning, dyeing, and any other fiber craft I could get my hands on as well as my first love, crochet.

Fast forward A LOT – last December I finally graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Humanities. In addition to working full-time at the co-op grocery, since January I have been concentrating almost solely on completing and releasing all three adult sizes of the Elf Coat crochet pattern for free on my blog and as a purchasable PDF pattern. I poured so much energy and love into this design, and over TWO YEARS worth of experimenting and tweaking the pattern. Now the Elf Coat is currently competing for top popularity on my blog with my Lotus Mandala Duster. πŸ™‚

I’ve said it so many times : the BEST part about designing is connecting with other fiber artists and seeing what all the amazing, clever, resourceful people create with my patterns. I love seeing everyone’s projects and sharing them for inspiration, and this spurred me to accomplish another goal this summer – to start a Facebook group for my business based around boho, magical, and fantasy crochet designs, the Magic Fantastic Crochet Atelier.

The response has been, yes, fantastic πŸ™‚ I hope if you have your own designs to share that you will join us too! I love having this group as a way to connect more personally with those who follow my page and love the same craft that I do ❀

I’ve been amazed at the level of support my art has received, because really I’m just a silly fantasy nerd who decided years ago that I needed to put my stuff on the internet for some reason. When I look at where I am now, I know the Regina of eight years ago would not believe it. It’s a gratifying feeling πŸ˜€

Fast forward again – to just a few days ago, when a number of people contacted me to let me know a sham clothing company, using multiple web fronts, was using my Elf Coat images to sell what they claimed were my designs.

Unfortunately, as soon as I contacted one of the e-mail addresses provided for a website doing this, about 20 other false web fronts doing the exact same thing popped up, all under different names and all advertising to my followers on Facebook. Frustrating? Absolutely.

Getting ripped off sucks, and I’ve seen it happen to a number of my favorite indie artisans and designers. In fact, I’ve seen it happen to so many of my favorite designers, that being included in the same category as them is a tiny little bit gratifying actually, ha ha!

I am grateful that so many people rushed to my defense. I couldn’t ask to know better people through this business ❀ Yes, I had my image stolen, but ultimately the people who want to support me are those that want to make something for themselves, not buy cheap crap that may or may not be just a credit card number fishing scam.

That’s the real plus side to building my business on making patterns. Not only do I get to help create art all around the world, but I get to know and be supported by people who value the effort and time and satisfaction that goes into creating something with your own two hands. That’s love. That’s the love you wrap your family members and friends in when you make something for them. That’s the love you wrap yourself in when you enter the calming meditation of stitching. No one can mass manufacture that. No one can create that except for all of us, together ❀ ❀

Friends and beautiful models Arika Harris and Daisey Denson wearing my Feather & Scale Halter Top design

I’m tearing up, over here πŸ˜‰

So, that about concludes the ramble-y, emotional portion of this post. Now I’d like to talk for a minute about how I manage Morale Fiber. My revenue comes from two main sources: paid pattern sales and selling ad space on my blog.

As I mention on my Master List of Paid Patterns, selling pattern PDF files are my main source of business income. If you want to support me, buying my patterns through my Etsy Shop or Ravelry store is a great way to do so and get something awesome you can make in return!

Selling ad space on my blog also provide revenue, but it’s less than 5% of my overall take. And, let’s face it – it’s kind of ugly. I avoided doing it for a while because it was so ugly, but over several years of blogging I had too many images for my free blog plan to host and so I had to move to a paid plan. Ad space revenue helps me pay for the yearly subscription to keep my blog going so you can get all the latest updates and all those sweet freebies! Every time you view my blog page, I make a slight fraction of a penny.

The Hooded Lotus Duster, for which the full written patterns are available on Morale Fiber Blog.

A pretty good portion of my free time outside of my day job is spent managing Morale Fiber by making social media posts and responding to questions and e-mails for both my paid and my free patterns. I love to talk shop which is great because I end up doing it A LOT ❀

I also spend plenty of time designing. I fill my computer files and notebooks with jotted down ideas, test yarns and gauge, make drafts, make more drafts, make MORE DRAFTS, and hopefully finally come up with something I can write down as a pattern (but only after making this one more draft). πŸ˜‰

The Ida Shawl takes the win for most maddening amount of drafts.

It’s a labor of love, and I hope you love what I come up with. After the illegal theft of my images, I had the opportunity to see with new eyes that many people did love making my designs, and it helped me enormously. Today I wanted to humbly offer this third way to support my art – a donation button.

You don’t have to donate, and I am certainly grateful for the support no matter what amount of patronage you have or will give Morale Fiber. But if you do love my designs and want to show your support, as well as contribute to the creation of more patterns and designs by me, you now have this option!

Donation

Patronage Donation for Morale Fiber Designs

$1.00

I’m very excited about what I have in the works right now, including the long-promised Lotus Duster video tutorial, a new circular vest design with a ton of customizing options, a new scrap knit garment tutorial.. and that’s just the beginning.

As always, thank you so very much for visiting and thank you for creating art with me ❀

-MF

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Avocado Dye – Batch 1

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I love garbage.

Let me explain: I love taking things that would otherwise end up in the garbage and using them for something. The feeling of making something useful and valuable out of what would normally be considered disposable brings me great satisfaction.

So when I was told I could bring home the rotten avocados that had to be pulled from the shelf in the produce department at the co-op where I work, I was giddy. Hooray! Garbage to play with!

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I removed the pits and skins from these castoffs, as well as from the avos that I ate, over the course of a couple months. I knew from doing some research into natural dyeing that avocado pits and skins could be made into a dye that yields an earthy pink color, when managed correctly. There’s plenty of links to good blog posts about this process on my Pinterest Dyeing board.

Anyway, I ended up with around 2,600 g of avocado materials. A pretty healthy amount, which I needed considering the dyestuff to fiber ratio needs to be around 6:1 to get a deep color, according to the accounts I had read.

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My materials were an assortment of things, because experimentation! I had about 428 g of materials to dye – some handspun alpaca yarn, wool roving and a Habotai silk scarf from Dharma Trading Company, an old silk shirt I wanted to upcycle, and some fugly cotton yarn just because I hated it. But before I dealt with any of these things, I had to extract the dye.

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I piled up all of my avocado leavings, which had been stored in bags in the freezer until I built up enough, into a pot with about a gallon of filtered water and a cup of baking soda. The baking soda was to make the water alkaline, because (according to the blogs I read) acidity changes the dye and turns things brown rather than pink. I boiled this witchy brew for about 2 1/2 hours.

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I was very excited to see that deep mauve color appearing in the bubbles as it boiled. I was less excited about the smell.

Once it had boiled for a good long time and the color of the water was opaque (almost black!) I strained all of it through cheesecloth into jars and let the dye cool. Since extracting the dye was an all-afternoon affair, I decided to store the dye in the fridge until the next phase.

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Note that I could have dyed the materials in with the skins and pits all at once, but I didn’t do this for a couple of reasons: first, I was working with wool and it would felt if I had exposed it to such high temperatures, and second, I wanted a little more control over the process and the opportunity to dye the materials with different ratios of dye extract.

So I popped the jars of dye into the fridge after they had cooled off, until the next free afternoon I had available. To get the dye to take the fibers, I had to mordant my materials. I used alum and cream of tartar dissolved in distilled water, and soaked my materials in the mordant solution for a couple hours – next time, I’ll probably soak overnight.

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One source said I needed 7 g cream of tartar and 8 g of Alum per 100 g of fabric/fiber, so I used a total of 31.5 g cream of tartar and 36 g of alum (both of these were obtained from Dharma Trading).

Once soaked in the mordant solution, I pulled everything out and began portioning the fibers out into quart canning jars. Each jar got an extra 1/8 cup baking soda just to be sure to keep the alkalinity of the water. Each jar also got a mixture of mordant solution and dye extract, and I purposefully squished the fabrics into the jars and poured dye over the top, to create an uneven reach for the dye. I wanted a nice earthy textured color effect. Which I got, sort of.

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Next, the jars went into the canner on a rack, with some water at the bottom for steaming, and set on a low setting on the stove. Lid goes on, then waiting while the temp starts to slowly rise. The jar balanced precariously on the side is the one with the wool, raised further out of the bottom to avoid the danger of overheating and felting.

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More waiting. And occasional poking with a stick.

Once my jars had been steaming for a couple hours, I turned the temperature off and left it overnight to cool.

The next morning, I removed the soggy mess from inside each jar and gently squeezed them into the sink, enjoying the fact that since I was using natural dyestuff, I didn’t have to worry too much about psychedelicizing my apartment kitchen by way of accidental splashing.

But, since I was using natural dyestuff, I also didn’t have to worry about psychedelicizing my fiber either. Since an alarming amount of dye seemed to be washing out – and the remaining color was a sad brown. With an intensely sinking feeling, I washed all of my materials in textile detergent and rinsed them, taking stock of my situation.

One alpaca skein seemed to have taken the dye well, the other was muchΒ  paler, and the wool had some definite patches of well-dyed fiber. The habotai silk took some dye, with a couple dark patches, and the silk shirt not much at all. The cotton yarn, ugly to begin with, was now both ugly, brown, and tangled. In fact, I was kind of frustrated at this point and just pitched the cotton yarn straight into the trash. The rest I hung up to air dry.

One nugget of wisdom I’ve learned over the years so far is never to judge a dye batch before it’s fully dry. And though I already knew this, I spent the next few days calling the experiment a failure as it hung on my curtain rod, being shunned.

And then when it was fully dry I took it down and got a good look. I was surprised that the rosy pinks HAD come out after all, though it was still browner than I wanted in places. Overall, the earthy pink and hazel shades were really pleasing and I immediately forgave them all of their supposed misbehavior.

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Not perfect, no. But since I gained a little success, and I have dye extract left over, there will definitely be a Batch 2! The rest of this post is just a bunch of pictures of the dye materials, because I do love them after all. Except for that stupid cotton yarn. πŸ˜›

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Left to right – Alpaca, wool roving, wool roving, alpaca again, then silk

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The silk shirt just barely got a tinge, except for a few patches that were very dark. Still figuring out how that happened.

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I’ll be ripping this one up for silk fringe on my pixie belts anyway.

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The wool roving turned out nicer than expected, especially since for a moment I had thought I felted it!

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Definitely halfway spun already as I type this πŸ˜€

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So, moral of the story, it’s difficult and sometimes frustrating to try to learn new things with your art (or anything). But that’s because you have to push yourself to be better in order to grow – and if you love what you do, the risk of failure is nothing compared to the reward of learning.

-MF

 

Tattered Fairy Vest

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I wind up making a lot of bright pieces because I love playing with color, but I have a personal bias for earthy tones and neutrals (like over half of the things I own are brown. I love brown). So when I was thinking about the color scheme for this Forest Fae Vest pattern I bought from the Etsy shop ForeverWanderingg, I decided to follow her example and go with pretty, soft, and earthy.

I’ve been trying to work from crochet patterns other than my own lately and I bought this one as soon as I saw it. I love the tattered aesthetic and the mandala- I never met a mandala I didn’t like. Β So here’s my version of the Forest Fae Vest πŸ™‚
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I made the main body using Premier Cotton Fair (using two strands held together) and it came out feeling soft and thick and perfect! I wanted to achieve the longer tattered bustle style of the last model picture on the Etsy listing, so I searched through my collection of magical garbage. Which you can see a little of in the background here πŸ˜‰

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I came up with an old lacy scarf that had gotten accidentally dyed in the wash and a big piece of crochet lace I had salvaged from a dress I found at Goodwill. Time to dye those puppies to match!

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I used some Rit dye that I have had foreverΒ – can you believe I used dark brown and tan for this? Well, if you’ve dyed with Rit before you might, because it does tend to be a little bit of a crapshoot for color accuracy if you’re not careful. However, I prefer the lovely muted purple and am super glad that it didn’t come out dark brown. I even dyed that jersey cotton cowl to match!

Sewing it on took some psyching up, because taking something you’ve lovingly crocheted by hand and sticking it in a machine to punch a bunch of tiny thread into it is SCARY. But it went smooth as butter and before I knew it this sweet fairy vest was ready to rock!

Maybe you can tell I had a lot of fun making this? My favorite projects have always been based around upcycling – giving new life to old things, rediscovering their beauty. This project definitely fit that category.

-MF

Shop Small – Indie Artists and Holiday Deals

My prime directive this Thanksgiving break was to get a new batch of handpainted wool dyed, dried, and stocked in my Etsy shop, which I totally did, check it out! This batch features a lot of muted earthy tones, I guess I was sort of in a wintry mindset.

There’s a variety of fibers there, including a heavenly Polworth / Tussah silk blend that gorgeously translated my featured colorway this round, Celtic Teatime (the emerald, heathered silver, and russet gradients at the top). Please buy it before I spin it myself! Oh, and here’s some incentive:

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Get some holiday shopping done! This 15% off deal applies to EVERYTHING in my shop, including crochet patterns and handmade items!

If completely awesome knit and yarn – themed jewelry is your style, you should check out Malojos, run by the same awesome lady who taught me how to spin correctly and thus re-launched my obsession with it. She’s running a 15% off sale too (check out the blog post in the previous link for details), and recently has pledged to donate a portion of her profits to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Shop small, do good, feel good! My favorite is her beautiful kitchener stitch instruction cuff.

Perhaps you are a fan of pretty rocks? I know I am. Take a look at Cherry Bones Arts, who does beautiful wire wrapping around a variety of stones. I own several of her pieces and get compliments every time I wear one!

No matter where you shop, stay safe out there and spread the love this season ❀

-MF

 

 

Art Yarn Overload

Thanks to a pro tip from a fellow Instagram spinner, I bought a jumbo bobbin and flyer kit for my Ashford Traveler wheel a few months ago and I have been loving it! Rather than get a whole new wheel for spinning bulky yarns, the jumbo bobbin kit allows me to spin all kinds of yarns on my regular wheel without taking up extra space.

That doesn’t mean I have quit drooling over the Country Spinner or the Majacraft Aura, but it does mean I have been experimenting a lot with art yarns. My most recent foray was with some BFL that I dyed and corespun in a gradient.

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First, I had to split and fluff the roving (factory processing in addition to the dyeing process compacts the fibers – easily fixed by whipping the roving around a bit)..

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Then I separated my colors so that I could spin them into a loooooong, bright gradient.

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Corespinning, or spinning fiber onto a core of pre-spun commercial yarn or thread, is one of my favorite techniques, because the resulting yarn has the smoothness and color-centric-ness (word? I don’t think so) of one-ply yarns, but you can still achieve soft, cushy yarns without worrying about your fibers pulling apart easily. This one is called “Fire in the Mountain” and is available in my Etsy shop, along with a bunch of other art yarns I’ve been hoarding!

Fire In the Mountain was spun from roving dyed in my most recent dye batch a couple of weeks ago, in which these three Merino Bamboo blends also got some color:

The rovings are also for sale in the shop! Basically this post is just a glorified shop update. But I’m okay with that if you are. To compensate, here’s more pictures of yarn I spun (this time from my personal use stash):

The jumbo bobbin also helps with spinning regular sized yarns, as I can fill two bobbins to the brim with singles and then ply them together uninterrupted (like I did with that 4 oz of lovely emerald green pictured above). I think these two yarns are about to find a home in another Lotus Duster

Happy spinning!

-MF

 

 

Roving Color Bomb

There’s been a color explosion over at my Etsy Shop recently as I listed some beautiful rovings that I dyed over Spring Break – along with some other new summer goodies!

This was the largest dye session I’ve managed yet, and I’m happy to say that my process has come a long way since my first foray into fiber dyeing. Here’s a peek at the madness I unleashed on my poor kitchen! It all starts with coffee, of course.

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And here’s the results!

I dyed 4 braids of that earthy multicolored green and brown; it’s a generic wool blend from Dharma Trading Co. – no wool breed listed, but it spins up super nicely. The other three or so braids became faux dreadlocks using a combination of spinning and felting.

I also split the “Mango Punch” colorway BFL braid into thirds and spun one of the thirds for quality control purposes and also because I couldn’t help but play with some of that luscious color after all that work! It spun really beautifully paired with a deep emerald BFL roving from my stash into a bright art yarn I call “Jungle Juice.”

The other 2/3rds of that braid is listed in my shop at a discount since it’s already split!

As much as I am enjoying classes, I’m antsy and anxious as hell for the freedom to keep dyeing and spinning and stitching without other obligations. But I need to buckle down and finish the semester.

Well, maybe just one more row.

-MF