In Which Winter Came and Went and Many Things Happened

by upton in

Or: I didn't get around to blogging this winter, and now I must sum up because spring is here and shearing is around the corner (possibly even this Friday!) and like the Icelandic Sagas, I feel that blogs should be kept in relatively chronological order.



Yarnish things happened:  I began another gansey (this one for myself) to be blogged about more fully in the future, and I knit these whimsically awesome mittens for my sister-in-law (and business buddy - for those of you trying to navigate the world of baby equipment who may be looking for gear that one can actually live with, check how her blog at



I also did something I have been meaning to do for well over a year now and joined Maine Fiberarts, a group which promotes fiberarts in their many, many forms.  Not incidentally, it was at their Fiber Friday last year that I first told someone other than my husband about my hopes to start a yarn business focusing on local, small flock, single breed fibers, and the encouragement I received from that group of knitters made me think that maybe I could actually do this.  As one might expect from such a group, they take Fiberarts seriously, and though it pains me to admit it as a good feminist well versed in the many ways that traditional women's skills are undervalued, the idea that someone might take needlepoint or knitting seriously enough to put on gallery shows devoted to either craft was completely unexpected.   I am incredibly grateful for their existence.



Victory! and Patterns Posted!

by upton in

Dumb persistence has paid off! Thumbnails link to pages like they should, thus enabling this whole enterprise to look a little more grown-up, and now that I"ve crossed most web site improvements off of my list, allowing me to stop blogging about the behind the scenes nonsense and move on to the bits that are actually of interest, like: I have finally posted my two mittlet patterns!  They are both fun and simple to knit, designed for use with my 3-Ply Coopworth, and depending on your color choice, the Basic Ribbed Mittlets make you look like you might be a super hero in your spare time. Which in my opinion helps to combat late winter blahs.  Patterns are free with yarn purchase.




Wordpress 57, Sarah 2

by upton in

Apologies for the ever changing mess that is currently my website.  In celebration of the attendance of my first craft fair, and my ads currently running on Ravelry, I thought that it might be time to take my website through a second draft.  I am finding that all the little things that I skipped doing on the first run-through, I skipped for a reason, i.e. that I couldn't figure out how to do them then, and after a month I still don't know how to do them.  This is Nell.

After the fifty-seventh iteration of me trying and failing to make thumbnails on one page link to products on another, she bumped me in the leg very firmly with her nose.  This translates roughly as, "Baboon, it is time to take me for a walk", when she is feeling polite, or more often  in the imperative, "Baboon! Walk!".  And as usual she was right.  Nell is of a herding breed, and absent sheep she has become quite adept at ordering my life.

So Nell and I took our usual evening walk, and then, still unable to face the computer, I stacked the half cord of wood that has been sitting, unstacked, in the middle of the walkway for the last month, and now we have what looks like a little wood fort in front of the driveway. This makes me happy, though not as happy as I would be if those thumbnails would link to products on another page.

A Problem with Language

by upton in

As I struggle through the process of listing my yarn for sale in various places (Ravelry at the moment) I find that I am stumbling when it comes to describing what exactly it is that I do.   Most dyers buy their yarn pre-spun in bulk from somewhere, generally larger spinneries, though there are several yarn wholesalers who sell yarn ready for dying in various blends and weights.  They essentially buy commodity yarn, and their artistry is in the creation of color.  This is all well and good, but in addition to dyeing my yarn, I also source the fleeces, which is an essential part of what I am trying to do with Upton Yarns.  Most people who start with individual fleeces seem to be hand spinners, which, while I do hand spin small batches to experiment with the fleece, I am not doing on any sort of scale, and the yarn I have for sale is not hand spun, though it is spun in very small spinneries.  The yarn is spun to my specifications, so I could say that it was "designed by me" but I am also a firm believer that the people who operate the machines and make the thousands of tiny well informed decisions are the ones who actually created the yarn.   The stages of making yarn can be broken down in A)choose fleece, B)spin fleece, C)dye fleece.  Most dyers do C, leaving A and B up to others.  Spinners do A and B, and sometimes C though not in any quantity.  I do A and C and  pay someone to do B to my specifications, what is the word for this? Seriously, what do I call myself? And how do I sum it up in 10 words or less?

The Big Chill

by upton in

The Big Chill was lovely!  The Mayo Street Art Center  is a lovey venue, Audrey did a fantastic job organizing it all, and the other vendors could not have been nicer. On the downside, while well attended, most of the attendees were not knitters.  Such is life.  I had more interest in my knit samples then in my yarn. "No, those mittlets are not for sale, but the pattern is free with yarn purchase, and then you can make your own, and how much cooler is that?" The fun part is the knitting, people!  (No, I did not actually say that, though I really wanted to.)

Still, it was wonderful to bring my yarn out into the world, and to see it all displayed together.  I've been dyeing it in batches, and storing it in batches, and photographing it in batches, so I haven't really ever looked at in all together at one time.  The effect is pretty cool.


I also could not be more grateful for the help of my friends and family in this whole endeavor.  My awesome friend Shelly painted the above sign, by hand, because, as mentioned, she is awesome, and very good at stuff like that.  My sister baked me cookies, and kept me company, and watched the booth so I could go check out the other vendors.  And Sam put together a thousand yarns tags, and helped me set up and break down the booth, and rented a table for me, and patiently put up with a thousand moments of "does it look better this way? or this way? or, wait, what if we try this?" until a saner man would have broken and told me that he really didn't care that much about yarn, because no sane person does.

Patterns will be posted later this week.



Off to the Big Chill Craft Fair in Portland

by upton in

As the title says, my yarn and I will be at The Big Chill tomorrow in Portland (Maine).  I am putting the finishing touches on my booth, and feeling a sort of nervous excitement about the whole thing.  My awesome friend Shelly has even made me a sign (and done a far better job promoting the fair on her Facebook account then I have).   Audrey has been doing a great job introducing the vendors through her blog, and I am honestly really excited to see their work in person. In honor of my first craft fair I have put together two fairly simple mittlet patterns.  They will be available free with a yarn purchase at my booth, and next week I will be putting them up on this site (knock on wood - or whatever one does to appease the spirits of Wordpress).

These are the Dyer Neck Mittlets (in honor of the river down the hill from my house).

And these are my Basic Mittlets.

If you will be in the Portland Maine area tomorrow, stop by, and see the yarn in person.

And if you're not in Portland, wish me luck!


New Colors! (and more to come)

by upton in

This, frankly seasonable, weather has gotten me back into dyeing with madder (orange to red) and weld (bright bright yellow) in the hopes that their brightness will lift me out of the blahs. And so, here we are: two new colors that I love.

New colors make me ponder the issue of naming. Like many folk, I often mock the color names in clothing catalogues.  For this winter for example, JCrew (always a font of mockable color names) is offering a sweater in "retro orange" and "roasted cider", leading one to ponder which shade of orange is "retro" and how on earth one can "roast cider" (this is more evocative of a cooking accident then a color).   But now that I am on the other side, I find myself feeling a bit more sympathetic to whichever poor person came up with "spiced chartreuse" (again with the cooking accidents).   On the one hand, I could avoid the whole thing by just giving my colors numbers, which I was thinking may become an organizational nightmare due to my poor organizational skills, but if I assign each color a number, and then give each variation I end up with a second number, than it actually won't be that complicated.  On the other hand, it is much harder to get excited about "3-01" than "retro orange", which isn't all that far off from my new orange, which I think I'm going to call "tiger lily" even though the tiger lilies that grow outside my window have a slightly pinker cast than my yarn.

Mock away.

As for my new red color, I'm going basic, and calling it "vermillion", because it is.


Thank yous,The Big Chill, Wovember, and more (a bit of a round-up)

by upton in

Firstly;  This site "went live" last week, and people amazing about forwarding it along to friends and family and facebook pages, and have just been generally amazing and supportive about the whole endeavor.  I have been remiss in thanking everyone for that, for which I apologize.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. Secondly, exciting news:  My yarn and I will be heading down to Portland Maine on December 3 to take part in The Big Chill craft fair at the Mayo Street Arts Center!  I am incredibly excited about this, both for the opportunity to sell my yarn, and to get a chance meet the other vendors, all of whom seem amazing.   I am also incredibly honored that Upton Yarns was featured on the Big Chill blog yesterday in a really lovely article.  The whole thing is just charming.  So, if anyone reading this happens to be in Portland Maine on December 3, please come by and have a look.

Thirdly, the ever awesome Kate Davies apparently shares one of my pet peeves, the problem of clothing companies marketing items as "wool" when in fact they contain very little to none, and has written about it far more eloquently then I ever could here.  Even better, she has created a web site devoted to encouraging a more honest use of the term "wool", including a petition and a wall of shame for those of us who need to vent our frustration at the egregious mis-use of terminology.  And, as a follow up to the debate about whether "wool" can also be used to refer to the fiber from alpaca and such, she did a bit of research on the history of the term "wool" and wrote a fascinating, here.

Fourthly: My first pattern is in the works.  I am hoping to have a couple of knitting patterns for the Big Chill.  Having a dead line is just the kick I need to actually sit down and write out the patterns.  I have found that designing and knitting is the fun part, and that actually writing the thing down is something on par with web site design in terms of my interests.  But, I do really love this hat, and the pattern for it really will be available by December third.

- Sarah

And I Believe I've "Gone Live"

by upton in

There is a wonderful E.B. White essay (actually, most of E. B. White's essays are wonderful - and if you have not read them I suggest that you remedy this post haste) about his farm in Brooklin Maine, and about his many chickens, upon which he doted, producing so many eggs that he had no choice but to sell them wholesale to the local general store, and the resulting embarrassment he felt each time he brought more eggs to the store which the owner in turn was then forced to pay for a sell on to the public.  I often feel this way about the things that I make.  I like making stuff, but then, once the fun part is over, I have stuff. I like finding gorgeous fleeces, sending them out to be spun up, and dyeing them; I love the magic and anticipation of it all, but then I have yarn and I can only knit so much, and my weaving room only has so much storage and anyway the whole point of this exercise was to make yarn and sell it.  It's the "and sell it" part that I've never been good at.  But I love making yarn, and I love making yarn that I want to buy, and so with some trepidation and embarrassment, I am setting this site lose in the hopes that you will buy yarn, thus enabling me (with the worst connotations of that word) to make more. So here it is.  Please check back often. In addition to what is already here, I have patterns to post, and more colors of yarns, and dyed wool for felting, all of which will be making their way onto the site shortly.


And now I have social media!

by upton in

Because all the cool kids are doing it, Upton Yarns now has a twitter feed (@UptonYarns) and a facebook page (also under uptonyarns, or just click the facebook link in the handy bunch of glyphs that now appear after every post). I have no idea what to do with either account, although I'm probably not supposed to admit that.


Progress! (and this time it is on the website)

by upton in

No more helvetica! And I have managed to make the shipping calculator admit that I am indeed able to ship to Maine! (It turns out that one needs to set up a whole other account with USPS to get their shipping calculator to work properly - who knew?) And if you live in Maine and order my yarn, I will be able to charge you Maine sales tax! (Sorry about that....) Basically, after too many days sitting here begging this thing to work, it appears to be working.  I never thought that starting a yarn business would involve so much time at the computer.

And so, in celebration of all of having a working website, and because it has been far too long since I played with yarn-Purple!

I made a lot of yarn very purple.

Hello world!

by upton in

Well, here I am.  Finally with a blog, and struggling over the rest of the site.  Someday soon (hopefully by the end of the week) I will have filled this site with amazing photos and entertaining, informative text.  Until then, stand by.