Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

An Adventurous Life

Inspiration Monday #10: Quilty Goodness

As I've been spending most of my weekends with quilt in hand, making tiny, tiny handquilting stitches, I'm a little woozy with the quilting bug. Here's a bit of the inspiration that led me down this rabbit hole:

I'm 7 out of 12 blocks, and then I'll do a few rows around the border, and then it's time for the bias tape (which I hear is pretty fun).

Maryland Sheep & Wool

I'll be here all weekend.
And on Saturday, at 11:30, I'll be at the Ravelry meet-up, hoping to (finally) meet Lolly!
Will YOU be there? If so, drop me a line so we can meet up!

PS. The shop will continue as usual, anything purchased Friday – Sunday will be shipped on Monday (which is the usual way it goes)

I’m off

..for the rest of the week; for a drive to Ohio, for coffe-sipping with Mom, for quilt-making, for a bridal shower, a bachelorette party, and and and…

Enjoy your weekend!

Other Domestic Pursuits

…well, they don't always turn out as well as the yarn.

This bread, following Amanda's WHO Bread recipe, ended up a bitflat. We fed it to the birds and went without bread this weekend. When my confidence picks back up, I'll try again. Any idea why it wouldn't rise and would stay so doughy on the inside?

Last week I got a yearning for flannel pants. In full disclosure, I live in flannel pants. Everyday, after work, I come home from the office and put on a pair of flannel pants. For the last 2 years, I have had 2 pairs, gifts from my in-laws that were BRIGHT orange plaid. Not attractive, but very comfortable. The last few months had been hard on the pants and they were holey in some, uh, unholy places. Last Thursday, while packing to go out of town, I decided to sew some new pants. Out came a pattern, old flannel sheets and my scissors.
I'm pretty happy with the pants, except for one thing, barely noticable in the picture: I laid the front pattern piece down upside down and so the wrong side of the fabric is showing on the front of my pants and the right side is showing on the back. Make sense?

Yeah, me neither. But no matter: they're comfortable!

More successfully, I covered a never-used throw pillow with some on-sale Amy Butler fabric. (I got the fabric from this shop, they have a huge pile of “bolt-ends for just a dollar or two)
Finally – Success!


I started blogging in 2001, when it wasn't called a blog, but a “online journal”. All throughout college, I updated it with musings, lists and ideas. After I started knitting, I started a knitting blog, which also included bits of my life: pictures of family, grocery lists, etc. I maintained it until last fall, when I felt that it was important to have a separate business blog, one that didn't include too much personal information; a place to fully discuss my materials and methods. I didn't link to my old blog, but I feel that without that great big archive a big part of what BCB is and who I am as a knitter and dyer is lost.

To remedy the situation, I'm now importing some of my old posts into this blog, mostly the posts about finished knitted things. At each year's end, I've done a recap of all my knitting through the year. However, those year-end posts are mainly lists of links to other posts, so I also have to import the post that originally discussed the piece.
While I move things here, some links in those old posts won't work . Please bear with me until I can fix it all. Oh, and I think that every time I add a post, it'll generate an update in my feed. If you keep track of me via a feed reader, just ignore all those “new post” notifications! If you don't subscribe via a feed reader or you don't know what I'm talking about, read Sharon's excellent post on the subject. It makes blog reading SO much easier!
What prompted this was a search for banana bread: I remembered that my old blog linked to my favorite recipe. All of a sudden, I wanted to start merging all of this together TODAY!
As I look back over the old blog, I realized I started it the day I dyed my first skein of yarn. That day, I felt I finally had something to say. As I was typing this post, I thought I should go back and read my first knitting blog post and was shocked to discover that I started it exactly 3 years ago, on March 13!

So today is my (knitting) blog and dyeing anniversary!

The pictures in this post are the first I every blogged.


Andre resolves to spend more time with yarn

As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t do resolutions, but I do reassess every 6 months and think about the things I plan to work on. Some things are improvements, some are challenges and other things are just a continuation of last year’s good efforts. This year I’m breaking it down into different ‘areas’: business, creative, and personal; although, really, as I strive to live a more authentic life, I’m finding that everything is connected and that growth in one area requires/causes growth in another.


I’m writing a series of articles for Etsy’s Storque and writing regularly about business subjects with a bit of authority is a new challenge. It’ is also completely, overwhelmingly exciting!

This month I’m really organizing my files and processes for the business end of BCB. I’ll be using Google Docs to keep spreadsheets of orders, customers, suppliers and accounting. (if you have the same project, here's a great spreadsheet for pricing and here's one offered by Etsy for inventory)

I'm re-commiting myself to my marketing plan (I'll be posting about that soon) and to my weekly blogging (Inspiration Monday, Fiber Friday)


I’m taking part in the Take it Further Challenge, hosted by Sharon B. I’m anticipating being stretched by the concepts each month and will be blogging my process on Tuesdays (TIF Tuesday).

I've joined the Greenies 2008 group (on Ravelry), which is a loose group of knitters who want to make sustainable yarn choices. While the business has always been committed to strictly eco-friendly sources, I have personally purchased mass-produced yarn for ease and economy. This year, however, I am not buying any yarn that isn't eco-friendly. I'm sure this will result, for the sake of economy, knitting mostly from my stash!

I've really been considering re-reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I read it a few years ago and was really struck by the changes it enacted in me.

I'm going to sew more! I had success making some Jedi Cloaks for my little brothers for Christmas (my first real sewing project) and now I have the confidence to make my own clothes.

Personally, my family will be eating more locally (once the growing season returns) and switching to more sustainable choices in all areas of our life.

And I think that about covers it!


I'm not big on resolutions. However, I love a project. I might get overwhelmed with all the things I should do, but having a list of things I want to do, puts it all in perspective. With my birthday in June, I like to stick with 6 month projects: short enough to finish and with the endpoint clearly in focus.
The key, for me, is listing each of the small steps it takes to get to the completed project. At my birthday, I reassess and come up with all new projects for the next 6 months (or, if I'm happy with the old projects, I stick with 'em)!
I'll post my lists tomorrow, but there's plenty of inspiration out there, whether you make resolutions or start on some projects:
Photojojo's 19 photography related resolutions
52 Projects
The Simple Dollar's Guide to making Resolutions

I'm also a fan of the seasonal wish-list. On the first day that it truly feels like a new season (no matter what the calendar say), I make a wish list of the seasonal things I want to do. I try to post this in the front or back of my current journal and then refer to it on lazy Saturdays or days when I don't feel like doing what I should be doing. My winter wish-list includes the following:

Knit a sweater and pair of socks, for myself.
Drink hot chocolate
Walk the pup in the snow with Hub
Take a successful picture of snow (which means figuring out my new camera)
Read a great novel, snuggled under a quilt

Give Handmade – Tips on managing the Gift List

I've taken the Handmade Challenge and am very excited to see so many other people are as well! I've always preferred handmade for myself and my general distate for malls has necessitated our own version of ‘Handmade Holidays' through the years. We do this by paring down the list, making special things for the people who reamin and giving cookies to everyone else. In the 3 years we've been married, we've developed a bit of a tradition:

  • We simply don't buy gift for anyone we won't be seeing over the holidays
    • Jay's extended family is huge (15 Aunts and Uncles + spouses + kids) and we just don't want to mindlessly contribute to the masses of gifts they're all getting each other, so we give tins of cookies or handmade ornaments. I'm not sure they entirely appreciate it, but after 3 years, they accept it. Same goes for my Dad and Step-mom.
  • I always knit slippers for my Mom and 2 little brothers (ages 6 & 7 this year). It's something they all love and have come to expect)
  • Together we make something for his parents (handpainted cookery, pictures in frames).
  • I also try to make a handmade ornament to use in place of a gift tag for every gift I give. One year it was little hats, last year it was beaded wire snowflakes.
  • There's at least one ‘required' gift for co-workers (in every office we've worked in, we've insisted on a name-drawing and just give to ONE person). This just can't be avoided and I'll address the problem of buying a gift for someone you might not know anything about during the Handmade Gift Guide.

The above system not only saves money, it's a great way to avoid contributing to the commercialization of the holidays and it requires us to think and plan and make together.
Even with the small gift list, this time of year always feels like creative overload for me. So many things to make, so many tutorials to read and new things to try. And that's just for gifts. Gift wrapping is something I love, but I never feel I truly succeed in getting it just right. Tree decorating is a whole other creative endevour: finding old ornaments, making new ones. And Baking: cakes and breads and iced cookies. Yum!
Sometimes there are so many things on the To-Create that I get overwhelmed. This year, in an effort to avoid that, I'm going to learn to be ok with buying something handmade.
In that spirit and to celebrate the official start of the Holiday Shopping Season, I'll be posting a daily Give Handmade Guide, starting on Friday, November 23. Each day will have ideas and links on appropriate gifts for different types of giftee (anonymous co-worker, Crafter, Foodie, Reader, Kids). I choose these gifts with the following in mind:

  1. The gift must be handmade (or produced by a small business) or be something you could handmake in a short amount of time.
  2. Be as environmentally friendly as possible (extra points for recycled or reclaimed materials!)

On the final day, I'll list gift-wrapping tutorials and links to Handmade gift wrap.

Oh and many many stores on Etsy are having sales (or free shipping) this weekend, Friday – Monday, to kick off the Holiday Season. Just search “cybersale” to find all of the sales!
Happy Shopping!

Beginning a-fresh

Starting a blog always feels like an Anonymous meeting:

Hello, my name is Tara, I am a creator.

I have entrepreneurial aspirations and a degree in French.

But my current passion is creativity. It's a word that's used so much, maybe overused, but the concept fascinates me.

As for my own creative and entrepreneurial endeavors, in July 06 I launched Blonde Chicken Boutique. I started by selling handpainted earth-friendly yarns on my website. I limited my suppliers to those who could assure me that the yarn was created from either recycled or organic materials because it's important that my monetary choices reflect my beliefs.

In the last year, Blonde Chicken Boutique has went through some changes:

I focused more efforts on spinning than on dyeing and have researched eco-friendly yarns which are still incredibly hard to source. When I’m looking at a yarn, I consider it’s impact on the environment in it’s creation (the sheep’s environment or if it uses recycled material) and in it’s distribution (if it has to be shipped from across the globe). This has led me to cut back on the whole “sourcing” thing and focus on finding local resources and low-impact dyeing.

During this period of research, I stopped selling dyed yarn online, for a few months, in order to properly keep up with my local orders, as I was asked to sell handpainted and handspun yarns at the local art gallery and supply shop. In conjunction with this, I held knitting and spinning demonstrations at the monthly gallery nights in March and April. Just last week, I posted some yarn online for sale, on our Etsy site.

Personally, I’ve gone through some changes too. We opened the shop just 15 days after moving to a new state and a new life. In the interim, my husband has become a full-time student. I changed ‘careers’ (if you can call 2 years out of college a ‘career’) and now work in an office: 8-5. I’m employed by the University that my husband attends, and as a benefit I can to take classes for free. I’m currently enrolled in Pre-MBA programs and am researching the possibility of entering an MBA program next fall.

More than all that, I’ve spent the last year searching and pursuing a definition of what it is I want to be doing with my life. I went through some times of deep confusion and real frustration. I spent much of my free time reading and writing and talking, and my knitting, spinning, dyeing and designing all fell behind. After all this, I still don’t know what I want to be ‘when I grow up’, but I do feel a real sense of purpose before along with a bit of clarity about what I want from BCB and from this blog.

Which brings me to what I’m doing here tonight:

The clarity I reached came unexpectedly. After over a year of reflection and confusion and anger at all the unknowns in my life, I had calmed down, told myself to be more zen, to take what comes. I was laying in bed on a Sunday afternoon, reading A Whack on the Side of the Head, reading about the various ‘creative geniuses’ of the world have had vast interests, specialized in nothing, learned about everything. Reading that being creative was putting together a lot of disparate concepts into one new idea and it was then, reading this silly book, that I felt a whack of my own (well, maybe it was a slight tap). I’ve spent a lot of time trying to ‘narrow my options’ and figure out what one thing to commit to. Every time I come close (yes, I’ll be a French Professor or yes, I’ll own my own business) I get distracted by something else (ooo, fiber art or ooo, theology). My interests are simply not narrow and I don’t enjoy trying to limit myself to one thing. All of my other interests center and circle around one (or two) concept(s): Creativity. And Learning New Things (what would you call this? Knowledge…Wisdom…Education?)

Literature, Theology, Language, Art, Craft, History, yes: even Business: they are all about humanity’s innate desire to be creative and to express one’s view of the world. The activities I enjoy also reflect this desire for learning and expression: creating (spinning, knitting, writing, dyeing); researching, analyzing, talking. The area of Business may not seem to fit in, but trust me, it does: what is an entrepreneur doing but creating something that acts as a reflection or extension of herself?

So, my new mission is to stop obsessing over what I’m going to be doing, what I should be doing and just start researching the things I love, analyzing what I find and sharing it here. I hope to share the books I’m reading, interview people who’s creative careers I admire, study some history of creativity and the history of crafts.

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