Steel City Fiber Festival, the little show that did.

I just want to start this blog out with a great big thank you everybody who helped make The 1st Annual Steel City Fiber Festival an overwhelming success. I’d like to start by thanking my fellow coordinator, Joe Cole, for his tireless effort. Without his help this would have been twice as much work to bring off. I’d like to thank the wonderful folks over at The Knitter’s Edge, they helped make the show possible through their sponsorship. I’d especially like to thank all of the amazing vendors, in fact, I want to thank them twice. I want to thank them once for taking a chance on applying to a first year show, their faith in what the show could be was inspiring. I’d like thank them the second time for simply doing what they do, it is through all of their hard work that it is possible to put on shows like The Steel City Fiber Festival. www.steelcityfiberfestival.com Last but most certainly not least I’d like to thank all of the attendees, everyone who wanted to come but couldn’t make it this year, even people who just helped spread the word around. In short, I’d like to thank you. You, the passionate fiber artists for whom this whole community exists. Without your support, interest, and creativity, none of the rest of us would have any reason to do what we do. So everyone, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I can’t wait to see you all again next year for the 2nd Annual Steel City Fiber Festival.
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No sooner was I back from Allentown then I had to put our noses to the grind stone to get ready for Raggz Fiber Affair and Wool Market. Now I’m here in Delmont Pa getting set up for today’s show and I can already feel the energy in the air. The other booths are all abuzz with activity. Some of the vendors are furiously building displays or packing out bright colorful goodies for you all with not a spare thought to the world around them until they are finished. Others are chatting amiably while they work, practiced hands making familiar motions without a thought required. Others still are running about on last minute errands to fetch forgotten tools or more importantly, coffee. Speaking of coffee I took a break to drink some and write this to you all.
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Well enough reminiscing, there is work to be done. There are those displays I mentioned before, and the yarn still needs to be packed out, and look at the time! See you here at the show folks, or next time, wherever we find ourselves.

Sincerely,
Kelly Straub
Shirsty Cat Designs


Stitches and Steel City

Everyone, I have something to tell you, Southern Hospitality is not just a clich√© or a thing of the past. Southern Hospitality is real, and if you don’t believe me then you obviously did not go to Nashville TN for Stitches South two weeks ago. Everyone there: the other vendors; the event staff at The Gaylord Opryland Convention Center (thank you Chris, Jared, and Logan); all of the wonderful attendees; the Stitches Event Coordinators like Kristi Miller, Kellie Nuss, and Jocelyn Grayson; and the folks over at Knitter’s Magazine like Editor Nick Mondragon; everyone came together in our fiber community and it couldn’t have been a better atmosphere. I don’t know whether there is something in the air or the water down in Nashville, or maybe it’s just a vibe of good feels that in the area, but everyone was awesome.

Now that fantastic has followed us back to Allentown Pennsylvania for the Steel City Fiber Festival, the first day was amazing. So many enthusiastic fiber artists came out and attendance was way higher than we had hoped. For a first year show we exceeded all expectations and it was only the first day. The feedback from other vendors has been great, many of them have already told me that the plan to be back next year. The Steel City Fiber Festival is officially a hit! Come on out to Allentown and see for yourself. We still have one more day to go, today, Sunday April 16th.

Hopefully we’ll see you all here,
Kelly Straub
Shirsty Cat Designs


Pittsburgh, we’ll be back!

I’d like to start out this post with some very special thanks. This past weekend I was in Pittsburg for Indie Knit and Spin. I had a little trouble getting out there, so first I’d like to thank Cosi for all of her help getting Shirsty Cat in and set up so quickly and for hosting a great show as always. Next I’d like to thank everyone who made it out to the show. Without all of you fantastic fiberholics supporting our craft, dyers like me wouldn’t have the opportunity to do what we love. So thank you Pittsburg, and thanks to everyone who made a special trip out as well. Commuters like you help shows grow and evolve as you spread the word in your own home towns. I have great news, I’ll get to see most of you again in a few weeks!

Friday, March 4th through Sunday, March 6th I’ll be back in town for the Pittsburg Knit and Crochet Festival. Any excuse to come back out for some good Pierogi! Maybe I’ll even make it over to Primanti Brother’s this time, lol. Good friends, good fiber, and good food, I guess it’s true what they say, when you do what you love it’s not really work. So thank you everybody! I love that I get to do what I love, and it’s all of you who make that possible. See you next month Pittsburg, and I’ll see the rest of you when I get to your towns. I can’t wait until then!

And finally finished a thing, I’ve been so busy getting stuff ready for you all that much of my personal project work has been back burnered. I wound these off last night and am so pleased that I petted them for an inordinate amount of time before giving them a bath.image

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For more pictures of what I’m up to you can follow me on Instagram or Twitter @Shirstycat or on Facebook at Shirstycat Designs

Fiber On!
Kelly Straub
Shirsty Cat Designs


A Belated Happy New Year!

Hello Everyone! First off I’d like to thank you all for making 2015 a fantastic year for Shirsty Cat and 2016 is already off to an awesome start.

We began January getting ready because Shirsty Cat had our debut at Vogue Knitting NYC! I have to tell you it was quite an experience. I met, literally, thousands of fellow fiber artists and got to talk to them all about their amazing passions. One young man actually stopped by all three days because he kept thinking of more beautiful things he could make, and I am honored he chose to get his yarn from me. I made some new friends and met some other amazing dyers. I met some wool growers from Australia and I met a family from Virginia who own a yarn store and will now be stocking my products on a regular basis. Leslie of the Knit Girllls Podcast stopped by my booth and purchased some yarn! Which they talked about in episode 284 and used one of the skeins for a giveaway announced in 285. Thank you ladies!image What an amazing hobby and what an amazing event!

After all of that I needed a rest, so here I am at the Rose City Knitters Guild Winter Retreat for a break. imageOf course I brought my yarn and my fiber because who can relax without them? And now I finally have some time to sit down and write to you all. Well, now you know what I’ve been up to. I hope all of you are having your own fiber fun. Have a belated Happy 2016 from ShirstyCat, and keep wooly warm this winter!
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Next Saturday we will be at the Indie Knit and Spin in Pittsburgh PA.

Kelly Straub
Shirsty Cat Designs


Fibery Bits

We all love the colors of our yarns. We love the vibrant reds and the deep blues. We love the greens we otherwise only see in growing things in the early summer when the sun is up but not to hot. We love the pretty shade of brown that happens where just the right shade of purple blends with that perfect tone of amber. At the shows I vend at, I stand there and watch as people see my yarns and I hear “Oohh, look at the colors!” and the first thing everyone does is reach out and touch them. They squeeze the skeins of yarn and braids of roving and run the silk hankies against their skin. Fealters ask if roving is super wash or not with hope in their voices and knitters look for specifically sock yarn for that little bit of nylon. We love the colors, but we also love our fibers. It was that love of fiber that once left me with a bruise on my butt and a new appreciation for each and every yard of lace weight Moreno.

When I first took up knitting I started as many did with acrylics. I soon found wool fibers and never looked back. I loved the feel of the wool in my hands and the way it worked on the needles. I learned about other fibers like camel and alpaca. The more I learned the more I wanted to learn. Eventually my passion for fiber led me to spinning and the thrill of actually making my own yarn. The day came when I wanted to learn more about the bats and roving I had, so I got ahold of a fleece and learned how to clean and card it by hand. Needless to say a drum carder is on my wish list. Then one day I wanted to learn more about that fleece I got, so when the chance to learn shearing came up I found myself sitting on a sheep when she decided to go for a walk in the middle of her hair cut. I love fiber.

So the next time you find yourselves in a yarn shop and think to yourself “Oohh, the colors” and you reach your hand out to feel them remember; none of those sunset pinks or clear sky blues or emerald greens would be there without all those wonderful fibers spun out to hold them. So Hooray for Fiber! And Hooray to all you wonderful Fiber Junkies like me who appreciate them! Hopefully most of you are a little saner than me and don’t end up riding a sheep!

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The Long Haul Project

When you get a yarn that is so luxuriously delicious that you just have to make something you’ll wear all the time… and then it takes you 8 months to knit it. That is this project, but oh, am I so glad that I stuck with it.

Last fall I purchased some Lotus Mimi yarn in a fabulous purple from a yarn store that was closing in North Jersey for 50% off retail price. Yes, mink at 50% off, which is the best kind. The original intention was to make my partners Christmas sweater with it, but he said it was too nice for everyday wear. So I designed a Raglan V-Neck sweater to my exact measurements and off I went… in lace weight yarn on US size 3 needles. Someone should have taken my temperate at that point.

It has now been with me at 6 different fiber show in 4 states and today it is finally complete and ready to wear! Of course it’s 86 degrees and sunny, so that’s not happening. However I did take a quick shot for you and let me tell you taking selfies in Antique mercury glass mirrors is fun, cause either my face or the sweater were blocked by the mirrors deterioration. My pitties also had to see what was going on.

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A couple other things happening in July.

I will be vending at the Mid Atlantic Fiber Association conference in a few weeks at Millersville University. More info on that can be found here. The vendors and some talks are open to the public.

Also Tour de Fleece 2015 starts this Saturday, so start your Wheels and Spindles ladies and gentlemen! And if you need more pretty fiber for the event head on over to the fiber product section and take a look at all the current offerings. And because I love TDF and my customers, take 15% off your purchase for the entire month of July with code TDF15¬† I also just received a new shipment of spinning fiber and will be dyeing that and adding it to the website all month long, so check back periodically to see what’s new!

Now go and make something beautiful today!


Caring for your new yarn or fiber pet

You’ve just come back from the fiber show with the most glorious new fiber pet, it is bright shiny and new! You love it, pet it, and make something glorious out of it, but then you give it a bath and it starts bleeding all those lovely colors all over the place! What do you do?

Frequently I’ve found in a number of different groups, issues involving bleeding in yarns and fibers, both indie and commercially dyed. The first reaction of many is to blame the dyer, and while yes, things can go slightly awry on occasion in the dye kitchen, more frequently than not it has nothing to do with the person who created it.

Let me explain for you what actually happens when dyeing protein (animal) fibers with acid dyes, which are the most common type used on protein fibers for their wide range of colors and ease of use. Each fiber has a number, the exact number vary depending on type and quality of the fiber, of dye sites, think of them like little open hands. As acid dye is applied to the fiber these little hands will grab the dye no matter if acid or heat are applied, but the process of applying acid and heat essentially closes the hands allowing the fiber to have a good grip on the dye molecule. Yet some dye can be sticking through the fingers or sitting somewhere that no hands are grabbing it and can get washed off in the first rinse, the water runs clear and the dyer is happy. She has brought something of beauty into the world and wants you to make something even more beautiful with it.

Now here is the kicker, almost anything can cause these little hands to relax their grip on that dye molecule, temperature, time, friction, humidity, sunlight, quality of fiber (both in general and whether the animal the fiber came from was sick at any point in its fiber producing cycle), different blends of protein fibers will hold dyes differently, and just the size/weight of the dye molecule itself.

I think I speak for all dyers here when I say, we never want your work be ruined by bleeding, it is as much a disappointment to us as it is to you. But there are steps you take to ensure your fiber pet stays bright and vibrant for years to come.

1. Ensure your fiber is stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

2. When washing your new pet for the first time, use luke warm water and mild soap/wool wash, keep an eye on it to see if there is any bleeding (do not walk away, loose dye can settle on other parts of the fiber and muddle the colors), if you encounter more than you think with wash out with an additional rinse or two or you just really want the colors to stay as bright as possible, pull it out of the water and place in a cool bath of water with 2 tbsps of white vinegar then either microwave for a few minutes (in the water, nylon blends may experience melting if steamed without liquid surrounding it) or steam on a steam tray covered above boiling water for at least 30 minutes. Wait till the yarn is cool to the touch and again rinse in cool water with mild soap. This will help those little hands grab the dye again and keep your colors vibrant for much longer.

With proper care your yarn pet can last for generations just as pretty as when you first brought it home. I hope this has been helpful and you can go out and make something glorious today without fear! Life is too short to live without color.

Now speaking of pretty, I dyed this a few weeks ago and couldn’t let it go into my inventory. I am also prepping for Tour de Fleece right now so she went on the wheel Sunday and was off and plied by Wednesday. During bath time, this beauty did bleed a little of the one blue, not enough to re-steam, but I did give it a couple of rinses. The finished yarn is mostly a worsted weight and measured in at 195yds. There are a few thicker spots and I’m completely enamored of the one in the photo on the right side, the way the colors move along that little 3 inches of yarn is the kind of beautiful magic that I love when spinning hand dyed fibers.

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In Case You Haven’t Noticed

I am awful at blogging. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just hard to find the time and make it routine, but I really need to make more of an effort since all sorts of fun fibery things happen in my world that you might like to know about.

So just a quick recap of the last month to get us started. The past couple weeks have been super busy with Maine Fiber Frolic the first weekend of the month and CNY Fiber Fest the following weekend.

Maine was amazing, I had never even heard of this festival, but it easily has the potential to be the next Rhinebeck/Madrona/MS&W, the space they have is great, we had glorious weather, and since this was the 15th year the show was populated with a number of wonderful regulars who were all charming as pie! It is already on my calendar for next year and I honestly can’t wait.

This past weekend was CNY Fiber Festival in Bouckville, NY. I could not believe how many wonderful vendors they packed into those tents, weather was also glorious (this is a big deal as a vendor, we love nice weather), and I got to have some vendor/ friends of the Skirted Fleece Mill as my neighbors and a good time was had by all. Also made a wonderful new friend of Peach Products who makes the cutest felt animals and stuffies you ever did see. Go check her out on Etsy, particularly if you love owls!IMG_0073But, since this is technically my first day off in around two months I will leave you with all the things that I will be enjoying today, after I go unpack the car <insert grumbles, plying my finally finished singles, working on my newest sock design, spinning some of my on fiber (bottom left) and Ravelry stashing the other two braids from this weekend. And coffee…lots of coffee!


One Month Recap

This month has gone very fast and I have been so crazy busy.

3 additional shows have happened since my first (Limerick Community Days, NJ Sheep and Wool [more about this below], and Phoenixville Farmers Market Fiber Fest) and I have been dyeing every week to keep up.

I started 2 new jobs and a 3rd new one today, well, training starts today and ends hopefully middle of next month. I already do this same job for another University, so hopefully training will be quick and easy. This puts me up to 10 jobs, 7 of which are jobs I get some sort of legitimate paycheck for, but all of them are sporadic and seasonal so its not like I work all of them every week. The other 3 are my personal businesses of Graphic Design, Tattooing, and now the Fiber business. My schedule is nuts though and today is my first day off in about 3 weeks. I’m going to TRY and relax, try being the operative word there, even though my to-do list is glaring at me from the coffee table.

The most exciting show I’ve gotten to do so far has definitely been NJ Sheep and Wool. It was the 20th year of show and just in the few years I’ve been going there it has really blossomed into a very nice, medium sized show. It is not nearly as overwhelming as say Maryland or Rhinebeck for first time fiber show goers and can be leisurely perused in just a few hours. When I found out I could still get in, even though the show was only in 2 weeks and I could only get an outside booth space, I jumped on it and made it happen. I’m really glad I did. We had a great show, despite the heat and rain on Saturday, which actually helped us being outside since inside the barns was so very hot.

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This is my booth halfway through the day after I’d already sold a lot of product. I’m really thankful for everyone who came and purchased and all my other vendor fiber friends who came around to congratulate me on finally getting started. I can’t wait to do this show again next year and by then I should have way more stock.

This past Saturday was a wee little Fiber Festival at the Phoenixville Farmers Market. I frequent this market when I have the time and had no idea until the week before that they did a Fiber Fest. Someone actually asked via my FB page if i would be there and I was able to sign up and forward it on to my Alpaca farmer friend who also came. We both had good days, made a lot of new contacts and I think I might see about getting into their Artisan Saturday, which happens once a month. It will be a good spot to pick up knitting and spinning students.

Which reminds me, Shirsty Cat Designs has a facebook page HERE

And my Website is finally operational HERE, not much on it yet, but I’m getting there. One of the biggest to-do list items is to photograph everything and get it up on etsy and finish the website so I can sell directly from there. Until then if you see anything you like, please feel free to email me or contact me on FB, we can set something up.

But today I’m off. I need to be cause I’m not going to have another day off in a while and no matter how hard I push it won’t all get done today anyway. I’m going to work on my Ocracoke Cardigan and spin this pretty BFL Silk that was my only purchase from NJ Sheep and Wool. I already have 1 and a half of these bumps spun.

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