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Small Business in a Dying Climate: Making Ethical Choices

Olive and Brown Leather Feather Aquamarine Earrings | faerwear

It’s funny how your site stats can reflect your mood. When you have a huge interest and focus on sustainability, repurposing, and ethical choices and means of production and suddenly, you’re faced with a president-elect who is not interested in the slightest, feeling of fear and futility can set in fast. My stats, which have been steadily increasing since I quietly launched this site, tanked after the “election”.

examining my life

It’s fine though, I am moving quickly away from a fear-based mindset and examining where I can make a difference while still feeding my family. In order to make a living and communicate with far-away family, I make use of electronics manufactured in China, and I live rural in the mountains and drive a 14 year old AWD Subaru that isn’t so efficient on gas (but it’s still in very good shape, it’s safe for my family and works well in snow, which we get over here – and honestly? I can’t afford a new car anyway). My rental cabin is heated with kerosene. While we have a garden (and all the challenges, for me, anyway, of growing in a rapidly-changing alpine climate), I still drive 30 minutes for affordable groceries. It was way easier when I lived in the city, to be honest, at least when it came to walking and riding a bike everywhere and fast access to everything – but was it a fair tradeoff for lung damage, dirty water and noise pollution? Or my personal sanity? Crowds give me immense amounts of anxiety.

It will take me a bit to find my place in this new America and figure out how I will move forward – as a parent, as a business owner, and as an eco-warrior. Protection of our environment insures our survival more than any “job” ever will. The earth has seen many civilizations come and go.

examining my livelihood

I have put even more focus on my supply chain in recent days. Obviously, I stick with repurposed leather, suede and ultrasuede – basically, if it’s headed to a landfill, lemme see it first please. I will never buy new leathers for my work.

The silver and 14k gold-filled wire that I use for my hoops is all from renewable, recycled, and sustainable sources (if you’re interested in locating a source for yourself, spend some time on Ethical Metalsmiths). The copper and brass wire I’ve been using has also been with me for over a decade, and I’ve still got a pretty decent supply left to use up, after which time I either re-source ethically, or rethink my style. Having briefly lived in southwestern New Mexico, I have seen first-hand what kind of devastation mining can wage on people and environment.

My earring cards are made on 100% recycled paper, printed with soy inks and made in Arizona by a small business (work-at-home mom!). I love telling my customers that if they don’t plan on using the cards to hang their earrings, pass it on as a business card – because right now, I haven’t printed business cards. It’s an expense I can’t afford if I want to do it ethically and besides, snapping a pic with your phone for later? that’s easy too.

I will eventually run out of beads, too. I am sure that the working conditions and environmental impact that many of the imported gemstone beads I purchased in the New York jewelry district all those years ago didn’t have the standards I’d approve of now that I know better. I’ve got feelers out for suppliers who can guarantee an ethical production chain, and I do welcome any suggestions in this department (and yes, of course I spend a lot of time looking around in thrift shops for things to re-use).

It is all a process! In the meantime, I’m doing what I can, and I’m trying even harder now. This is the kind of thing that those of us who care are going to have to do even more, starting now. At this time of writing, we’ve got a president-elect who promises to create some real havoc environmentally – it’s not a priority for him, or for many of the people who want him in office. For those of us in which this is a big priority? Dig deep, y’all. Even the smallest details and changes are more important now.

 

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A “hoop tutorial” to keep your earrings looking good

faerwear | hoop tutorial - how to open and close them properly to maintain their shape.

How to keep your hoops hoopin’:

faerwear | hoop tutorial - how to open and close them properly to maintain their shape.
If you’re rockin’ a pair of my leather feather hoop earrings, here’s how to open and close them properly.

I thought it might go without saying as I use the simplest, most primitive hoop design on my earrings (I copied a pair of antiques), but I’ve noticed that some folks don’t open and close them properly, which results in a misshapen hoop, quickly – so here’s a brief “hoop tutorial” to help you keep them nice and round.

If you’re the proud owner of a mandrel and a soft hammer or mallet, this isn’t so much of a problem, of course, but not everyone has those tools at their disposal. I fix peoples’ lumpy rings all the time!

I use what’s called “half-hard” wire when I make my Argentium silver hoops. This makes for quicker hoop-making, and a little hammering hardens them up. I am almost always in a pair of my own earrings, and I get stuck on the same pair for a while. I’ve worn my most current faves for three weeks and the hoops still look great!

It’s really, really simple: TWIST them open, insert them into your ear, and then latch them shut. You’ll get the feel quickly, and they’ll stay nice and round.

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Seed and Linen Stitch Throw instructions

a very basic set of knitting instructions

A month or so ago, I acquired some delicious Araucania Lauca yarn for five dollars a skein. It was being discontinued. Its wool, silk and camel blend is very, very soft.

It’s an aran weight yarn – so if you want it and you can still find it, cool. Otherwise, substitute something really soft in a light worsted or aran weight.  There are just over 180 yards in each skein of Lauca so you’ll want to consider that as well.  I have three skeins of it.

I am not really all that much a fan of variegated yarn. EVER. I was, when i was a new knitter and tricked into believing the collection of colors would mesh into something cool, but then as i got further into my “knitting adventures”, I wasn’t so much a fan. Yarn barf, I believe I’ve heard it called…

It wasn’t until I brought this home that I started actually learning about how you really work with this stuff – using slipped stitches to break up the colors, etc…

Well – that trick doesn’t quite work for me here, as you can see – but it’s still pretty dope. While I’ve got some pooling, at least the edges of the color pools have been softened some by the blending created with slip stitching. And although my original intent was to knit a giant, brioche cable cowl with it – I realized before I actually started, thank god, that I would never, ever actually wear the result. More than likely I’d frog it a year later and do something else with it instead – like what I wound up doing with it.

So instead, I started a little throw. Because this matches my home perfectly in all ways – color, vibe, etc… It will look absolutely fabulous on my olive green seventies papa-san chair.

Here’s the basics – NO GAUGE!

With US10 needles (Knitter’s Pride Dreamz interchangeables) I cast on 151 stitches, and seed-stitched an inch or so of top border. If you want to use a different needle size or yarn thickness, simply cast on an odd number that creates the guestimated width you want (I say “guestimated” because you can try and sort of “guess” by how many stitches you’ve cast on, which will draw in some, or you can do some knitting math if you’re inclined to that. I might have been, before motherhood).

The border is continued on the sides by seed-stitching the first and last eight stitches of every row. Linen stitch comprises the center of the blanket. When you run into two slipped stitches next to each other, slip the first and just purl the second one – that way you keep the “bump” you need for the pattern.

I have three skeins of this yarn and will just knit until I run out (let’s hope I can get a squarish shape out of it!). At the end I’ll just add an inch or two of seed stitch border on the bottom and there it is. So simple, nice mindless knitting for Netflix, audio books and knit nights.

The effect and difference between the stitches is subtle, but apparent – and makes for a nice, FLAT throw that is also actually functional and warm, too – and all that slip-stitching mixes up those colors a little bit. There’s still a TON of pooling here, but it’s pretty dang cool anyway. I’m happy with the simple choice I made for this yarn. It’s lovely to work with.

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Free hat pattern – Ryan – knitting, one skein

Ryan | free knitting pattern | Ravelry | hat | faerwear

Ravelry to the rescue!

A Ravelry member got in touch with me recently and actually had this pattern printed out from ages ago – so… it’s been restored! Many thanks to this awesome community of yarn addicts and helpful people.

Warning:

I never gauged any of these free hat patterns. They were written when i was getting ready to birth my now seven year old daughter – I was pretty much too big to move much and kind friends were commissioning hats to keep me sane – I named the three free patterns I created after them.

Who was Ryan?

Ryan was a sweet, outdoorsy guy who wore a lot of stuff from Patagonia. He requested a fitted hat in gray and left me to my own devices. Wanting to keep myself interested, I came up with this rib and cable design. He wanted a form-fitting cap, and you can knit the straight rows longer just above the ribbing if you want a brim you can fold up to make it “skullcappy”. This hat is sized to fit an average adult male head of 24″ but because it’s really stretchy, it will fit an average woman’s head size of 22″ as well. As is the case with Shakti and Arrow,  this is a free pattern transcribed from my chicken scratch – however, it was originally written in 2010, and all reported errata has long since been edited into the pattern (the last reported errata was in early 2011). Knit as your own discretion as I cannot offer pattern support, but Ravelry forums are awesome.

Materials:

  • Yarn: The yarn I used originally was Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love, 80% Pure New Wool/20% Alpaca; 85g/132 yards; 1 skein (you’ll use about half!) – but it was discontinued! Try Cascade 220 regular or superwash, or Berocco Ultra Alpaca worsted 🙂
  • US8 dpns
  • US8 16″ circular needle (optional)
  • Stitch marker (1)
  • Tapestry needle for weaving in ends

Stitches & Abbreviations:

  • k: knit
  • p: purl
  • k2tog: knit two stitches together
  • yo (increase): yarn over
  • sl1: slip one stitch purlwise from left needle to right
  • psso: pass slipped stitch over
  • C6B: slip three stitches purlwise to cable needle and hold in back; knit three stitches, knit three from cable needle
  • eor: End Of Round

Instructions:

Using the long-tail cast-on method, cast on 78 stitches, join for working in the round and place marker for end of round. Knit 10 rows of “twisted rib” as follows:

*k1-tbl, p1: repeat from * to eor.

When you’ve knit ten rows of twisted rib for the brim, knit five rows straight and begin stitch pattern.

Round 1: knit.
Round 2: *k2tog; repeat from * to eor
Round 3: *k1, p1 in each st; repeat from * to eor.
Round 4: knit.

Repeat above four rows 10 times and begin decreasing for crown:

Round 41: knit
Round 42: *k2tog; repeat from * to eor
Round 43: *k1, p1 in each st; repeat from * to eor
Round 44: *k1, k2tog; repat from * to eor. 52 sts.
Round 45: knit
Round 46: *k2tog; repeat from * to eor
Round 47: *k1, p1 in each st; repeat from * to eor
Round 48: *k1, k2tog; repeat from * to eor. 39 sts.
Round 49: *k1, k2tog; repeat from * to eor. 26 sts.
Round 50: k2, *k2tog; repeat from * to eor. 14 sts.
Round 51: *k2tog; repeat from * to eor. 7 sts.

Cut yarn and with tapestry needle, thread through remaining stitches on the needle. Weave in ends. Block if preferred.

As always, this pattern, as with all content on this weblog, is protected by copyright. If you like this pattern and choose to knit it, I’d really love it if you’d add it to your Ravelry projects.

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