Girl Power!

As you may (or may not) know, Mr. Yarnista (aka Big Mike Mike) is a pretty darn good guy. Like, a really good guy. When we opened Firefly Fibers in the spring of 2010, I was quite honestly... TERRIFIED. (And this is a huge understatement.) I left a well-paying, comfortable job that not only provided benefits like health insurance, vacation & sick time, but also regular paycheck. I want to say that we "gave things up", but the truth is, we just had to put things like days off, family vacations, and extra spending "on hold" while I focused on getting the shop up and running. 

I wasn't ever confident that I could make this work (starting a new business is never a sure thing), but Mike was betting on me and that kept pushing me forward, especially on the hard days. Over the last 8 years, he has never wavered in his reassurance that I could (and would) be successful as an entrepreneur. Today, I'm barely able to keep up with the knitters (some days I can't) and I'm so proud of and thankful for Firefly Fibers and its knitting community. Ya'll are the best!

So, what does this have to do with "Girl Power"? Well, I know that not every woman has the support, encouragement, or financial opportunity from their partner, friends, or family to go out on a limb and take a chance on a life-changing career path. And... today is International Women's Day, so I'd like to pay it forward and help other women be successful. Did you know that the first National Women's Day was in 1909 (in the United States) after women protested working conditions in the garment industry and the United Nations started celebrating it in 1975 during International Women's Year? More dates here on the United Nations website and even more on International Women's Day here on the official website

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women's Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first arch WD gathering supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

Over the last few weeks, Mr. Yarnista's kind heart has been focused on International Women's Day and he shared his beautiful idea during our last podcast - to help other women around the world achieve their entrepreneurial dreams via micro-lending with the Firefly Fibers lending team on kiva.org! Of course, we're partial to women in the textile industry, but lending to anyone (man or woman in any industry) to help them achieve their entrepreneurial dreams is the end goal.

WHAT IS MICRO-LENDING? Sometime in the early 2000's, I read Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus and was moved by how a small amount of money (a micro-loan) can literally change someone's life (he also inspired the Kiva founders). Unfortunately, Kiva wasn't yet born at that time and micro-lending wasn't a matter a of just a few clicks on the Internet to help someone on the other side of the world. Thankfully, Kiva has changed that and is changing lives $25 (or more) at a time.

HOW DOES KIVA WORK AND IS IT SAFE? Yes, there's always a chance that a loan could default, but Kiva has a 96.9% loan repayment rate (when they repay, your money is returned and you can loan it out to someone else) and they've been around since 2005. Read more about the loan process and how it works here on kiva.org. Mr. Yarnista has yet to have a loan default. *knock on wood*

AM I LOANING ON KIVA? We both are! Mike's been at it for a while (he actually gave Kiva gift cards to family members as Christmas gifts this year) and I signed up for a Kiva lending account today, joined the Firefly Fibers team, and set up 2 loans in less than half an hour.

In keeping with International Women's Day, I loaned $25 each to help these women achieve their loan fulfillment (click through to read more about each, to see their loan progress, and support them):

Amani

Amani is in Palestine and she's 25 years old. Her loan is for a sewing machine, yarn and fabric.

Hli

Hli is in Thailand and her loan is for raw materials for weaving as she transitions into the role of main breadwinner of her family.

Again, as a woman-owned and operated business, Mike and I want to help other women in the textile industry achieve their entrepreneurial dreams, but we/you can loan to anyone! 

I hope this has inspired you to join our Kiva team and support entrepreneurs around the world! If you have any questions about micro-lending (or anything else really), just leave us a comment.

CHEERS!

On the Needles | West Coast Cardigan (#1)

I'm on vacation. Really, I'm ON VACATION! Well... technically, it's more of a 'staycation' but it's still pretty fabulous and I'm enjoying myself. As I'm a little past the halfway point of my time off, I've been spending time getting caught up around the house, cooking A LOT (food adventures are coming soon), knitting and I've been doing a little work - including what I'm sharing today, but it hardly seems like work. 

A year ago, Jane Richmond was experimenting with a Cowichan-inspired sweater in a super-bulky roving yarn and my needles were itching to cast on as soon as she started posting photos of her WIP prototype. In September of 2016 the West Coast Cardigan pattern came to life and the final version blew me away. Just look at this gorgeous sweater... 

  © Jane Richmond

© Jane Richmond

As I was wiping the drool off, I purchased and read through the pattern and, well... my wheels began turning because my inner knitting-geek (well, really, my knitting-geek is pretty much front and center) was TOTALLY geeking out with the techniques Jane has packed into this single design. As you may know, I LOVE technique, so as I was planning the winter class schedule at Firefly Fibers I knew I wanted the West Coast Cardigan on the schedule because I *needed* to share all of the fun techniques with other knitters. But... planning a class isn't just deciding on a project, one of the first tasks is to decide on the class yarn and this proved to be quite challenging.

I really didn't want to bring in a new yarn line at the shop *just* for one sweater, so I tried to find a suitable substitution... my available options were going to be costly for a super-bulky project requiring so much yardage and one of the things I appreciate about Jane is her use of affordable yarn and that just wasn't happening. Also, the yarn in her designs is (generally) easily substituted, but after running numbers (spreadsheets and all that nerdiness) to compare cost and the overall weight of the sweater (because pencil roving is light and airy, so it therefore weighs less and no one needs a 10lb sweater), I decided to reach out to Jane...

After much discussion and enthusiasm on both our parts (many thanks to Jane for taking the time to brainstorm with me), it became clear that the Briggs & Little Country Roving is a unique yarn and perfect for Jane's sweater because of cost, the physical weight, and it's just quite lovely in its sheepy goodness. I contacted Briggs & Little and they are lovely folks at a small mill in Canada that's been operating for 100+ years and I'm so happy to be working with them. As soon as the yarn arrived, I understood why the math was telling me that I wasn't going to find a suitable substitute - there are other yarns that *will* work, but in this case, I strongly feel that the yarn and design go hand-in-hand. Now, I'm smitten with the Country Roving and I can't wait to try it in other projects, but for now... it's all about the project that introduced me to Country Roving and here's mine in progress:

 
 

I'm wrapping up my West Coast Cardigan #1 this weekend and getting ready to cast on #2 because clearly, Firefly Fibers can't be the only one to enjoy a new sweater this winter (besides, it's been in the negative and single digits here in Wisconsin and that's COLD). This first one (in Sheep's Grey and Dark Grey) was intended to be a shop sample, but I think it will be for me. So, I *have* to knit a second one. This sweater has been so much fun to knit that I'm excited to knit another version and I hope you're inspired to knit your own West Coast Cardigan.

As luck would have it... Jane is hosting a KAL for the West Coast Cardigan! Woot! AND... Jane is offering 25% OFF the West Coast Cardigan pattern now through the cast on date of January 10th with code 'WCCKAL' on Ravelry! Full details are on Jane's blog right here. I hope you'll join the fun!

Need yarn? As I'm sure you can guess, I highly recommend the Briggs & Little Country Roving and we'll be placing an order at Firefly Fibers this next week. If you want to make sure you get the colors you want, you can special order from our online shop through Monday, January 9th at noon CST. We anticipate the yarn will arrive on Saturday, Jan 14th or Mon or Tues of the following week and we'll ship orders out as soon as it arrives (really, we'll have it out the door super fast) so you can cast on. Yes, it will be a week or so after the cast on date, but this sweater knits up quickly, so there's plenty of time and it will be worth the wait. And the yarn ships to us like this, and this is pretty cool:

So... are you in? I hope so! 

CHEERS!

SIMPLY HANDMADE-ALONG | AWESOME AUGUST

The new August Simply Handmade-along project really is AWESOME! I sound pretty confident, don't I? Well, I know it's AWESOME, because I've already knit one and I absolutely LOVE it! The first was for the Blue Sky Fibers Summer KAL - our shop sample is amazing - and I *might* have worn it once (or twice) because it's just so squishy and irresistible.  Say "hello" to the Caledonia Cowl... 

 

AUGUST | CALEDONIA COWL | THROUGH SEPTEMBER 5TH

 photo by Blue Sky Fibers

photo by Blue Sky Fibers

The Caledonia Cowl is knit in my favorite cotton, Blue Sky Fibers Worsted Cotton and it's a perfect pairing of project and yarn. Really, the super-soft organic cotton and the garter stitch make a cowl that's not only gorgeous, but the cotton makes it a perfect summer accessory. And, what's even better... it's a super-fast knit with the yarn held double on size 13 needles! 

I knit the first one as a shop sample using the colors pictured [3 skeins (MC) 614 Drift, 1 skein each (CC's) 625 Graphite, 626 Stone, and 639 Wasabi] in just a couple evenings and quickly decided that I was going to knit a 2nd one for myself. I had enough of the 3 contrast colors left that I *could* have made an identical one with just 2 more skeins of the main color (you do have about half of a skein left), but I decided to swap one out one of the contrast colors and I'll share the new color combo soon on Instagram. It's not crazy different, just enough for a slightly different version. 

 

Here's a 2nd version recommended by Blue Sky Fibers using 3 skeins (MC) 80 Bone, 1 skein each (CC's) 643 Ash, 635 Sleet, and 628 Azul.

There are also some really fabulous color combos in the Blue Sky Fibers Caledonia Cowl KAL thread. 

 
 photo by Blue Sky Fibers

photo by Blue Sky Fibers

So... if you fancy joining the fun this time around, you can (as always) choose any yarn you want for our KAL, but if you'd like to use the Blue Sky Fibers Worsted Cotton (and I highly recommend this because it's a great yarn), Firefly Fibers is offering 20% OFF all in-stock Worsted Cotton through Monday, August 22nd for our Handmade-along at the brick-and-mortar shop or online with offer code 'CaledoniaKAL'

As an added bonus... if you complete your cowl before August 31st, be sure to share your FO photo in the Blue Sky Fibers group for a chance to win the prize for their KAL! Of course, just casting on and starting a project counts for prize eligibility in our group, but I know you won't be able to put this one down and you'll have one finished in no time at all!

I hope you'll join the fun this month, because it's REALLY FUN! If you're new to the Simply Handmade-along, you can find all the details and sign up here

CHEERS!