Thursday, September 26, 2013

Our New Website is Coming

With our shop finally settled in from rearranging the shop and getting ready for fall, we're finally ready to get the new website launched.

Why the big deal?
We're changing who's hosting the website to make it more aesthetically pleasing and user-friend for all.  No run-around to try and find the color or yarn or even the shopping cart.  When we finally "push the button" to make the switch, the internet will need to catch up.  That means the site will be down for about 24 hours and so will email communications (hence, trying to push this out as far as possible).

What will change?
  • The look and feel of the site - It's been set up to have a more boutique atmosphere online!
  • Promotions and rewards are much easier to administer - That means, no more manual gift certificates, you will have the choice to have it emailed to your recipient or even a physical mailed to them!  There's also a feature that will allow us to carry over the customer rewards that we offer in store to be offered online (again, no manual calculations).
  • Some items will be available for purchase via Facebook - If we do a deal of the day or a limited time promotion, it's available to purchase right from the Facebook social store.  We can select those items and change them as frequently as possible.
  • Consignment items can be sold via Facebook or the website - Believe it or not, the previous website solution didn't allow us to list products on an "ad-hoc" basis.  So consignment items or products exclusive to Midwest Yarn couldn't be added.  That's all gonna change and it's awesome!
What will NOT change?
  • No worries, we wanted to make this transition seamless, so domain/URL ( will stay the same.
  • Email addresses will stay the same.
  • Our dedication to customer service will continue to exceed expectations. 
  • Paypal will continue to be our main payment portal.  You don't need a Paypal account and you would be able to pay by any method of payment that Paypal accepts with the same information and transaction protection that you'd get with any other secure payment system.  (We use Paypal, because they offer both customer and business protection and they also have wonderful customer service)
Other things you may notice
  • New items will "go live" much faster (because it's easier to post them)!
  • A few sections may not have any products listed yet, because we're still working on getting them functional, inventoried, or working on a good way to make them available (free patterns, books, and needles/hooks/accessories fall into that category, but we'll let you know when they're available).   
If you have any questions, make sure to send a message on Facebook (so the email doesn't get lost in cyberspace when the switch gets made) or give us a call at the shop during shop hours.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fall Preview

Look What's Coming Soon (and other news)

Fall 2013 Preview

As you know, I attended The National Needlearts Association convention in Columbus, Ohio back in mid-June.  With it being my first time attending and I attended alone, I was overwhelmed by all the exciting new things.  Of course, I couldn't help but keep in mind new things, especially things that you may not find in the other yarn stores in the Milwaukee area, but I also gravitated towards things that caught my eye (including designers I admire).

Nevertheless, I did walk away from the convention with some exciting orders placed for brand new yarn and kits for the upcoming fall season.  All things that would provide for excellent class projects and inspirational fall/winter knitting.  So here's a few things you can expect to see on your fall class roster:

If you'd like to sign up in advance for any of the classes below, contact me at for more details (and selecting kit colors).

- The Color Wave Shawl, featuring Kauni Effektgarn (100% wool, sport weight). Class price $40, plus cost of kit, coming later this fall (class dates to be determined).

Copyright RYN

- The Block Party Eternity Scarf, featuring fingering weight yarns from Knit One/Crochet Too.  A great pattern to learn a good provisional cast-on and mosaic knitting (beginner level color work which allows you to work one color at a time per's almost magical).  

Class price $55 (4 classes), plus cost of kit.  
Sundays, 12pm - 2 pm
September 22, 29, October 6, 13

 Contact me ASAP as the kits are set to arrive September, so I will need to know if more will need to be ordered prior to that.

Copyright Knit One, Crochet Too

- Sea Lettuce Shawl.  The sample for this is already on display in the shop, mainly because I couldn't put this gorgeous yarn down.  Featuring Crock 'o Dye fingering weight yarn from Knit One, Crochet Too.  

Learn striping color work, drop stitches (on purpose), and how to read lace charts.  More of an intermediate/advanced class, so must have basic knitting skills like casting on, working in garter stitch (knit all rows) and binding off.

Class price $55 (4 classes), plus cost of kit.  
Saturdays, 12pm - 2 pm
September 28, October 5, 12, 19

More classes are to be listed soon...

Midwest Yarn's Makeover
We've also updated our shop to make room for more yarn and give it more of a boutique atmosphere.  With that change, we are also upgrading the website to be more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.  Do bear with me as those changes are being made, I want to make sure that it is easier in the future to run sales online and even make the online customer rewards program an automatic process, rather than run manually on my end.

Other news
Unfortunately, due to the lack of interest and no pre-orders made, we will not be adding spinning wheels and accessories to our inventory until further notice. I do urge our customers to continue to support Midwest Yarn's growth by participating in yarn and supply pre-orders.  Remember, we are a smaller shop and big risks like bringing in new yarn lines and other products must be worthwhile in order for us to make it and continue serving the Milwaukee area. 

 A big thank you to those who take advantage of special ordering yarn from the companies we have accounts with.  We may not have room for everything, but we still make sure you can get what you need as quickly as possible.  If you don't see what you're looking for, ask to take a look at our catalogs.  Most custom orders arrive within a week, because our suppliers are awesome!  Don't worry, you customers are awesome too and I live to make you happy by providing yarny goodness.

Lastly, we'll be closed Friday and Saturday the third week in August to go mobile.  That's right I'll be running a booth at the Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair in Newark, Ohio (just outside of Columbus), selling not only the wonderful yarns we have in the shop, but also OMG's hand dyed yarn, hand dyed fiber, and hand spun yarn.  My patterns will also be available for purchase as well.  

Until next time!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Landon's Sweet Baby Blanket - FREE PATTERN

Landon's Sweet Baby Blanket
Well, it's a good thing that I actually kept notes and wrote myself a basic pattern for the blanket I made for our family friend's baby named Landon, it seems he's gone viral overnight!  I posted his picture last night on the Midwest Yarn Facebook page upon receiving the appreciation photo - actually, my husband got it texted to him with a follow up saying that the picture was too cute and he might want to hide it from me (because I love baby pictures!).

So Landon's Sweet Baby Blanket is quite simple to do and it's a perfect weekend project to whip up if you have a short deadline like I did.

5 sts per in on US 6 or size to obtain gauge

What you'll need:

  • 40" US 6 Circular Needle or size to obtain gauge (I used a US 5 because I wanted my stitches to be tighter together - big or loose sts mean little fingers can get tangled up in there)
  • Five 50g balls of Main Color - Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo Color 157
  • Two 50g balls of Complimentary Color - Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo Color 169
MC: Main Color
CC: Complementary Color
slm: slip marker
pm: place marker

Cast on 140 sts in CC.  Work in garter st until blanket measures 2" from cast on edge.

Switch to MC.

Row 1: Work first row of letter chart, pm, k to end of row.
Row 2: Purl to marker, slm, work next row of chart.
Row 3: Work next row of chart, slm, k to end of row.

Repeat Rows 2 & 3 until letter chart is complete.

Continue in st st in MC until blanket measures 28" from cast on edge, ending on a WS row.

Switch to CC.

Work in garter st for 2". Bind off loosely.

To complete borders, pick up about 3 sts for every 4 rows along side of blanket. Work in garter st for 1/2". Bind off loosely. Repeat on other side.

Weave in ends. Lightly steam to block.

L - Chart

Feel free to request a copy of a chart for a different letter by emailing me at, I'll happily send it to you in JPEG format and post a copy here for everyone else.  

Also, if you make this blanket and are on, make sure to link a project to this free pattern.  I'm interested to see finished projects from this pattern and to know how you like yours.  :)

Here are the charts for the letters that have been requested:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

It's Worth It

When I was pregnant with Peanut, I managed a small women's clinic which was a 45 minute drive from my house.  It was the middle of my 3rd year at that location, so the scenic drive through southern Wisconsin was monotonous.  I loved to spice things up by singing or stopping off at local small shops or restaurants on my way to and from work.  So, it's no surprise to me now that Vincent loves to ride in the car, sing along to my favorite music, and even have the occasional mother/son dance party at the shop and at home.

Vincent saying "smile" instead of actually
smiling for the Boys Will Be Boys photo shoot
Lately, I've had to start calling him Mr. Sassypants, because, like his mommy, he can be quick to respond to comments with a roll of his eyes or a, "Don't even go there."  I can't decide if it's annoyingly entertaining or entertainingly annoying.  My answer will change depending on the day.  Like most moms, especially ones that stop into the shop, it really depends on what's going on that day, or how sassy he actually gets.  Three going on 13, Vincent may even lecture me on how I'm supposed to be organizing things in the shop.  Maybe he takes his title of VP of Sales and Marketing a little too seriously (then again, he did insist upon that title).

Am I giving a little too much credit to my son's intelligence?  Not in the least.  For almost 2 years, I've been his interpreter.  I picked up what his nonsensical babbling meant from an early age, and you cannot imagine the relief it was for him when he noticed that I was starting to understand.  It's almost as though he was learning English as a second language.

With all my projects going on, I've had to come up with my own way of communicating with myself in order to keep track of everything.  I've never been one for writing anything down, drawing diagrams, but I did like making lists.  I occasionally ask Siri to remind me to pick up my medication, but a lot of it just stays in my head.

On the Lido Deck of the Carnival Legend cruise ship
wearing the All the Stops Dress that took
about a year to knit
It's been a process: teaching myself how to sketch an idea so that I don't forget about a cool design; remembering to eat my breakfast, even though it's sitting right in front of me; and yes, responding to emails and writing a journal or blog entry.  As someone notorious for taking on too much at once, I'm learning how to say "no" to more projects, or putting some things on the back burner while I work out other, more pressing items.  I believe they call that prioritizing.  Meh.

I don't like things to be too structured, that's just not how I function, but I know that if one day I'm obsessed with knitting a certain project, I have to tell myself, you only have until midnight before you do something else or you can only work up until this row on the chart.  Then, I make myself take a break, go to bed, take a shower, etc.  

And so far, it's working.  I've got one pattern in testing, three that are in the sample stage (knitting a sample/taking notes in order to write the rough copy for testing), and quite a few sketches that are currently just ideas that are looking for the right yarn, colors or designer call.  Is this what professional designers end up doing?  If only I could talk to someone like Debbie Bliss or Jenny Watson, or anyone who churns out more design ideas than I'd know what to do with.  

Could those same designers also run their own yarn shop while caring for a toddler and keeping up with other fiber related hobbies?  Who knows?  I feel like I'm barely holding on to sanity at times, but all I know is that I'm enjoying it ten thousand times more than all my other jobs combined.  And part of owning a business is about taking the risk, not knowing if your gamble will inevitably fail or if it can continue to sustain itself indefinitely.
Me dressed up as Aretha Franklin after the
Carnival Legends show with the cruise ship dance
staff member assigned as my "escort" for the evening

I wish I could know that one day all these days of struggle would mean something.  Will I be able to make this a career or will this just be a couple of years where I tried something that didn't work?  It's worth the shot.  Though word on the cruise ship was that, if all else fails, I'd probably be able to make a good living as a singer.  :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

No One is Perfect

I often forget that things cannot be as "perfect" as you want them to be, something which causes a lot of stress if I let it.  Today, after finding my son building a fort with the blocking mat pieces I brought home from the shop, in a moment of weakness, I pulled myself into my bedroom and cried for 5 minutes.  

When my husband noticed I had disappeared, he asked, "What's going on?"  I explained that I didn't want cat hair all over blocking mats, which led to him saying that the cats had already had a field day rubbing their faces all over them.  As he talked, I realized, that wasn't the only thing that was bothering me.  So, of course, tears welled up in my eyes again.

"Ok, now what?" my husband asks.  

"That's not the only thing bothering me," I say.  

"What else is it?"  To which I respond with the next thing that happens across my brain - I am a bit overwhelmed with Vincent being so ornery lately.  And Mr. Fix-It responds with, "Well, I gave you a list of day cares and pre-schools, why don't you call and set something up for Vincent?"

I shook my head, knowing that tomorrow I'll feel differently, because I just cannot seem to give up my little peanut.  And then, another wave of tears hits me.  "Did you just save a pile of issues to deal with?" my husband asks.  I shook my head.

"Next thing?"  

"Nothing," I say.  "Same s**t, different day."

"You want another baby, don't you?"  and I sheepishly shook my head.  He smiled, rubbed my back, and made a promise to me - it won't happen right now, but, he'd agree that another one can come along.  Something we haven't been able to agree on for a LONG time.

The moral of the story one is perfect.  

In spite of my fear of losing another battle with anxiety, the anxiety still gets the best of me from time to time.  Right now, I choose to think of it as: I've been working very hard for the past several months, all hoping to find that perfect, happy place.  

Perhaps it's not perfection that I seek, not happiness, but satisfaction.  Satisfaction that my time has been well-spent.  That my son is comfortable and content (he'd be happy living in a cardboard box, as long as it was warm and had mommy and daddy by his side...let's face it, kids are pretty easily amused at age 3).  That my shop continues to grow.

What have I done so far this year:
  • Helped proof a pattern book
  • Released a 2-pattern e-book
  • Gone on vacation
  • Knit 5 projects from beginning to end
  • Finished another project in hibernation
  • Worked on a few designs
  • Hosted my best friend's bridal shower
  • Was Maid of Honor in my best friend's wedding
And the usual day to day stuff...I'm exhausted just thinking about it.  Oh well, at least everyone had a good time and things turned out great!  

Yes, I'm more than happy to add a newborn into the mix if and when the time comes, but for now, I'm working on being content with my work and staying healthy for all the things I have in front of me.  I'll even continue to shower Peanut with hugs and kisses every day while we enjoy our daily dance party in the shop (it's a great way to start the day or break up the monotony of a slow day).  :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

For Little Ones in Need

Knit and Crochet For Little Ones in Need
Ever since her birth back in October 2011, I've been following little Maia Cavanaugh - the daughter of two people I grew up with - and her progress with her many medical complications: Down's Syndrome, heart surgery, gi tubes, etc.  This adorable little girl's story is not only inspirational, but also impressive because she and her family have survived so many things in the past 15 months.

When checking email while on vacation, I was shocked to find that she had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Lukemia (AML) requiring 6 to 9 months of inpatient care!  Many friends and family have stepped up to help with meals and care of Maia's older brother Noah, who is Vincent's age.

Since we fiber artists have a lot of causes that we like to contribute to (ie, The Linus Project, etc.), I wanted to ask if anyone would be interested in knitting or crocheting items for Maia and her brother, Noah.  They are likely to be going back and forth to the hospital during the next several months, most of which during the winter and spring.  Before starting any projects, please let me know if you are interested by responding in any of the following ways:

A friend of their family is coordinating a lot of the physical help they will receive and I have been in touch with her.  Should we get a lot of interest, items that Noah and Maia can use will be sent to them directly and the remainder will be donated to Children's Hospital in Madison on Maia's behalf, because there are plenty of children in need of something to help brighten their day during a particularly difficult time in their lives.

Potential items include:
  • Hats
  • Mittens
  • Blankets
  • Cardigans (I will check on sizes for both of them) - please, no pullovers because Maia has tubes and wires for treatment
  • Yarn - maybe - for example, if you don't have time, yarn can be donated to other members of the fiber community to knit/crochet donated items
More details to follow as we get an idea of who is interested and the potential for donated items.  I wish there was more I, personally, could do, but unfortunately, I am unable to donate blood or marrow due to my own autoimmune condition.

If you'd like to read more about Maia, please visit her Caring page at:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Knit One, Meditate Too

Anticipation Anxiety

 If you've stopped by the shop or spoken with me over the phone this past week, you may have noticed that I've been a bit aloof.  I've just completely lost focus with all that's going on in the shop.  I may spend 30 minutes here and there spinning (like the baby alpaca yarn pictured on the left), answering the phone, talking with customers in the shop, packaging orders, knitting, entertaining my increasingly cranky 3 year old, and the list goes on...

Truth is, I may just have trouble prioritizing some days, or other days, I get so excited from the anticipation of what could become of the shop that I lose track of what I was doing.  And then, the internet service went awry.  So not only do I have to run the shop on my iPhone, I have to do a lot of work arounds on things I was already accustomed to doing on the computer.  Simple things like printing out a pattern have become 45 minute tasks, because my printer just does not want to cooperate with the wireless network.  But I'm good at troubleshooting, so IT fixes are no problem for me.  

The good thing is that I've learned to find some easy ways to meditate to calm down my brain.  Most days it works, other days, I just have to tell myself that tomorrow is another day.  What does it mean for me in the long run?  I'm more productive when stressed.  So, I did some refreshing of my crochet skills, which are a lot better than I remember (see crochet hat on the right).  I even taught myself a new spinning technique, the Navajo 3-ply, which has allowed me to finally spin a yarn thicker than lace or fingering weight on my vintage, handmade spinning wheel (see below).

It's weeks like these - the ones that leave me exhausted, crabby, and begging for one extra hour of sleep - that test my resolve, but in the end, I know that I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing.  Even if I have to remind myself of that every few minutes while on hold with a vendor or when pouring over the
books (accounting).

Increasing My Design Expertise

Now, I'm working on design, design, design.  As a business owner, I always have to find new sources of revenue that are low costs to the business.  Designing, which I LOVE to do, is one of them.  Yes, it takes a lot of time and effort to design, but in the long run, there's not much money that is put in to self-publishing, so profit in dollars is maximized.  At least when you look at it from a business perspective.

Because I love creating new things, I will sketch (something at which, let's just say, I'm not very skilled), doodle, or knit things that pop into my head. Just yesterday, I was wracking my brain on what to propose for the Knit Picks designer call that's posted on Ravelry, and I started doodling on graph paper to clear my mind.  What I ended up with was an 8 stitch repeating pattern in fair isle that I can turn into a sweater pattern for another project!  What's the most shocking about that, I've only knit one fair isle design, which was my own, and I absolutely HATED it.  Meaning, I hated knitting the fair isle.  I was asked to design and knit 5 beanie caps with my brother in law's band name on them.  He was impressed with how they turned out, how consistent all of them were ("like factory made!"), and he even kept one.  He actually just wore it the other day.

I finally got an idea for my design while driving home from the shop this afternoon.  It was one of those "a-ha!" moments, making me realize that I had just put too much thought into it.  So we'll see if I can get the sketch and proposal just right and I'm crossing my fingers and toes that it gets accepted, it would mean a lot for me and the shop.

And of course because this is a business...Shameless Plug  :)

Finally, I'm pleased to announce that a few things are in the planning stages for the rest of this year.  First, I'm working on a customer rewards program.  I'm not sure how to roll this out yet, but at the very least it will include volume discounts and loyalty rewards.  We will also be celebrating Small Business Saturday on November 24, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

I'm still promoting the pre-orders of Addi Turbo and Addi Lace circular needles, including the interchangable sets that are now available in both Turbo and Lace tips.  These are wonderful needles to work with.  They have smooth coating that allows for faster knitting.  Lace tips feature a longer point that eases lace knitting, no matter what gauge yarn and needle size.  As mentioned in the previous blog entry, pre-orders are what allow us to bring new lines into the shop.  Being that we are a small business, it's a little bit more difficult to bring in new brands because of minimum orders required.  Support your local yarn shop by pre-ordering today.  Contact me for pricing and pre-order you Addi needles today.