Monday, April 7, 2014

Life Happens

We went out and bought a lighting kit for the podcast (back in Feb.) and even bought a new camcorder (back in March). We made lists of things we wanted to discuss. Did we record? Obviously not. Why not? Well, because sometimes life happens.

Here's what we have been up to:

  • Spring Break, in which we did not accomplish anything, except watching the entire series (thus far) of Grimm. I do marathons...Netflix marathons!
  • Carolyn's braces were tighten. Ouch! Several days of not being willing to talk, and it hurting to eat. So not fun.
  • Amy got the "crud" because her immune system sucks. And then felt the need to share the fun and passed it along to Carolyn. Two not happy, very sick, campers. (We are over that now.)
  • Travel, travel and more travel for Carolyn (all business related) with no end in sight. But I get lots of knitting done this way, so I am happy.
What about the alpaca?? I am SOO excited to say that our wonderful mill, New Era Fiber, was able to process all 10 of our fleece in about half of the expected time. I came home just a few short days ago to find two huge boxes full of lusciousness. Now, Amy needs to get to dying, and Carolyn needs to get to updating websites. With my (Carolyn) busy work schedule right now, it might not happen as quickly as I would like, but we will keep you updated.

Hoping to see you soon!
Carolyn and Amy

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Great Podcast Migration

(The following events may or may not have occurred in the creation and publication of my podcast. I refuse to say in order to protect the guilty.)

You decide you want to do a knitting podcast. You have a webcam on your computer. You could just record on there, upload it (somewhere, you don't even think about the where really) and tell everyone about it. Done. This will be easy.

Then you get started. You sit down to record and realize that you aren't even quite sure what you want to talk about. You look around frantically for your works in progress. But wait, are you really prepared to admit on camera you have 20 WIP's? Not even your knitting circle know this shameful secret. (Actually, you didn't even realize this until you started counting them.)

What about yarn, didn't you buy some yarn this week that was really cool? Ok, grab it. Share that, too.

Segments - should you have segments? The cool podcasters all have cute segment names that go with cute themes related to the title of their podcasts. You then spend the next 2 hours trying to figure out what theme best describes you - your interests, personality, quirks. You stop worrying about segment titles when you realize you are a knitting-obsessed crazy person without much else going on, whose idea of a big Friday night is casting on a new pattern with expensive yarn.

You finally hit record on your webcam, and begin talking. It doesn't take you long to figure out that talking out loud to a camera by yourself in a closed room is weird and creepy. You would invite someone to be your co-host, except you don't know anyone who is as obsessed with knitting as you are, who also doesn't live in your computer. Could you Skype them in? What would that involve? 

Now that you have actual recorded material to use for a podcast, you finally realize you have to upload it somewhere. Your first thought is the website you see in the bottom corner of all your favorite podcasts. You go to this site and try to upload your recorded file only to find out that it won't take the video format you used. It requires some m4vpqr something or other file. What the heck is that? You begin a Google search for video converters. Gah! You read through pages of ads and descriptions of post-production video software. Now you are beginning to realize that this might not be the easy-peazy foray you had imagined. You also realize it might not be free, as you begin to price said software.

After two software purchases and calls to your tech-savvy brother-in-law to the point that your sister has to call and ask you to watch the help videos instead of bothering him again, you now have a video your chosen web service will accept. You hit upload and watch in horror as it tells you that your upload will take 2 hours and 48 minutes. WHAT! You recorded for only 10 minutes! How long would it take to upload an hour long video? You begin to wonder if this is the real reason podcasts last no more than 50 minutes.

You put the computer in a safe place and pray to every god you can think of to let this work without having to start the upload again. You also lock your dog in the backyard. Fido jumping on the computer in the middle of the upload would mean you would have to kill him, and you really don't want to have to do that. You check on your "baby" periodically, and finally the miracle of birth occurs as you see the announcement that your video is ready for viewing. Now to announce the happy occasion of the new arrival to the world of knitting podcasts. 

Telling others - hmmm. Well, there's Facebook, of course, but your knitting friends don't live there. They live in a strange realm called Plurk. So you dash over to that site and post a comment and a link to go watch your new show. You wait and watch the screen, hoping that someone will post that they just watched and think you are cute, wonderful, and the best podcaster ever known to dogs or man. Instead, you immediately get asked if it is on iTunes. iTunes? How do you get it to show up there? You have not been living under a rock, and you knew this might come up, but you thought you would have time to revel in your new knitting fame before having to learn about podcast subscriptions. You also thought the podcast fairy might come down and magically iTunes would know about your podcast and begin streaming it instantly. Unfortunately, that be-atch must be busy because iTunes appears to be completely ignorant of your awesomeness. Back to Google to research how to make this happen, only to discover that your video web service has a sneakily hidden little menu that would have allowed you to send your video to iTunes from the beginning. You mutter ridiculous threats to the website's servers under your breath as you fill out its "handy" form.

Later, after many more Google searches, online forms, and long hours online while mainlining lots of coffee, your little podcast is online, on iTunes, and has its own Ravelry group. Four people have even watched your first episode! You are so happy, which is good, because you should have recorded your second week's episode yesterday.

Time passes, episode numbers and viewer counts grow, and you become a "seasoned" podcaster. Other podcasters begin asking you for answers, and much to your surprise, you find you have become totally comfortable debating whether m4v is a better video format than mp4. Life is good.

That's when you begin hearing the rumors of the oncoming storm. Your video webhost has decided to go in what they are calling "a new direction." Many podcasts are being removed from their rolls. Fear enters your heart. Will your darling be one of the slaughtered? You watch your inbox for weeks with a nervous tension in your gut as you scan through your new emails, but somehow, your little show is spared - for now. You trudge on, a weary traveler on this road, but at least you are still alive.

Then, one fateful morning, your sky falls as you see in your inbox "From Webhost." No, you scream! Not my baby! You read the letter, tears threatening to form in the corner of your eyes, only to find out that it is not what you feared, but that they will no longer be sending your RSS feed to iTunes. Oh, whew! You thought it was going to be a big deal, but it is just the RSS feed. No biggie. (Insert laughter from other, wiser, podcasters here.) What this actually means, you discover weeks later two days before the looming deadline, is that you will have to find somewhere else online to begin storing your videos. Easy - YouTube - you think, but not so fast. YouTube and iTunes are not on speaking terms. You can be friends with YouTube, and you can be friends with iTunes, but you can't let one know you are friends with the other. And of course, your current video webhost has packed up its toys and gone home because it no longer wants to play with anyone.

That's when, like a superhero out of the cyber sky, swoops in Feedburner and Archive to save the day, and thus, The Great Podcast Migration begins. Tutorials from the podcast Moses's begin appearing, showing you the way to the new world. You follow their teachings, dedicating long hours once again to this show you began years ago as a way to have fun connecting with other knitters. Your fingers become sore from typing in new URL codes. Your wrists ache from clicking "Upload" repeatedly for each old show - once to YouTube, once to Archive, change blog post, change Ravelry entry, check iTunes upload, repeat. (Why did you record so many bleapin' shows anyway?) But, through patient toil, your videos once again begin to populate the cyber-sphere. Viewers return. The sun pokes through the electronic clouds, and you remember, it is worth it.

Copyright 2014. Carolyn Warren of Girlfriends Knitting. All rights reserved.

(Picture credit: http://www.wix.com/blog/2012/02/how-to-start-a-successful-podcast/)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Spinning Frenzy


 

I have been doing lots of spinning lately. It began because Amy wanted me to spin up some of the fiber she had dyed so she could see how it might look. I picked the purple Peruvian wool because I loved how it changes tones. I pulled out my beloved ladybug and spun it up as a simple two-ply, dividing the fiber down the middle and spinning each one on a separate bobbin. Very pretty if I do say so myself.

I had so much fun with that project I decided to finish up a few things I already had on a bobbin. I pulled out this luscious grey 80% merino 20%silk from Cute Bunny Farms that I purchased at Rhinebeck in 2012. (No, it had not been on the bobbin since then!) I spun it onto a single bobbin, then chain plyed it to create a 3-ply sport weight yarn.

Spinning was putting in me such a relaxed and zen-like state, I had to keep going. I pulled out some Merino in the "I'm a sexy squash" colorway from Knitters Nightmare. I had grabbed it up from Sadie at this past SSK in Nashville. Sooo not my typical colors, but as I was plying it, I fell head over heals in LOVE! It is probably in my top 3 favorite finished handspuns to date. I fractal spun it, which basically means you divide up the color repeats differently on one bobbin than on the other. In this case, I first split the roving down the middle. I spun the first half directly from that piece of roving - giving me long color repeats. I then took the second half and split into fourths. I then spun these each back to back on the second bobbin, producing noticeably shorter repeats of color. Plying these two bobbins together then produced some jaw-dropping gorgeous barber polling, which is when two different colors twist together to form the yarn.

Next on my bobbin is 6 ounces of Highland Handmadesfiber in my fav colors of pink, white and green. Maybe I will have it done for the podcast!

Dye Pots a Cookin'

While Carolyn was busy spinning the fiber I dyed last week, we received a shipment of 80% merino 20% mohair fiber we had processed at the Wild West Fiber Mill in Colorado. The mohair is from the fleece Carolyn bought awhile back - the cute goat Eloise.
Dying this fiber was a challenge. The mohair content made it, well, hairier. In other words, there were colorful bits of hairy fiber all over me, the kitchen, and our dogs for a few days. Though this doesn't make for the most pleasant dying experience
, it makes a beautifully haloed yarn when spun (which I had Carolyn do to a sample so I could see what it would look like.)

I want to be able to produce a nice solid, as well as tonal colors, so I keep doing both. The Sun Yellow is a nice solid in a yellow that doesn't look like French's mustard (at least not when you see it in person. We really need to work on getting some lighting.) Carolyn likes the orange, and named it Autumn Sunrise. (10 points for anyone who catches that reference!) The tones shift from a light peach to a deep rust.

I still have about 2 more pounds of this fiber to play with - Anyone want me to put some in the shop?

Fiber is at the Mill!

We can't tell you how excited we are to be working toward offering beautiful alpaca roving and yarn in our store. We have been working diligently toward perfecting our processing, as we want you to have the absolute best quality product.



At the mill this week are the fleece from these two charming young girls - Raven and Ripley. As you can probably guess from the name, Raven is the cute black alpaca in the front with the white specs on her nose. Her fleece is a deep true black and some of the softest stuff I have ever felt. Ripley is the sweet girl in the back that looks like she has been drinking chocolate milk! Her fleece is an extremely light beige/white, and we plan on dying it up into mounds of glorious color.

Now off to process the next batch - Claire and Angel!

Alpacas Are Awesome


They are cute. They are funny. They are oh so soft! Alpacas, a cousin to the llama and camel, have fiber that is extremely soft and luxurious. The huacaya alpacas raised on Grace Farms and Alpacas of Center Hill are beautiful animals that are loved and tended carefully by Jon and Pat to produce beautiful, show-quality fiber that is great for the spinner or knitter. In fact, fiber from these animals have won competitions for its crimp, softness, overall quality, and great spinning qualities.

The best part is that Girlfriends Knitting is teaming with these wonderful farms to begin providing 100% alpaca fiber and yarn. The beautiful fleece will be on its way to the mill this week and we will keep you up-to-date on when it will be ready for purchase.

Get those alpaca knitting patterns ready!

Arkansas Fiber Extravaganza 2013

We are very excited to begin this joint venture. Our first vending experience was at the Arkansas Fiber Extravaganza in December 2013, and we had a blast. Thank you so much to everyone who helped make that first show so wonderful for us.

If you signed up for our newsletter at that event, thank you. The newsletter will contain knitting tips and techniques, jewelry making ideas, coupons, patterns and more…but maybe not all in the same issue! If you have not yet signed up, the subscription link is on our Welcome page.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Episode 63 - TexasTennessee is a new state



We are back after a four month break! Amy now joins me as my permanent co-host, and she spends this episode cracking me up! Join us as we draw for several prizes and talk about upcoming goodies in the shop!

You can watch the episode on Blip, on iTunes, or now also onYouTube. We are beginning the switch over from the Blip feed routing to iTunes to routing from a separate feed from YouTube. I hope it is seamless and does not interrupt your normal way of watching the podcast.

Of course, as always, the video is now up on our website girlfriendsknitting.com, on the View Podcast page. We would love you to check out our website and subscribe to our newsletter. The newsletter is how we will keep in touch with you between podcasts.

Until next time…