Starting Anew!?

Well it has been an interesting month, and an especially interesting week. Interesting is probably not a good word for it, but I try to stay keep that in mind as you read on.  This is also going to be a long post.

This morning, as I was making my coffee, I was trying to figure out what "lesson" or "gift" I am supposed to pull from this week's experience.  This on top of the experience 2 weeks ago when my trailer broke down on I-84 just at exit 7 and 8 in Danbury, CT.  Trailers having problems on busy highways can be disastrous for the truck and the trailer being pulled, but it can be equally bad for those traveling around a trailer.  Every day as I travel on roads and highways, I realize how much faith we all have that we will get somewhere safely and that all the other drivers will do exactly what needs to be done to get there and stay safe themselves.

But this week, well I suppose it is one of the worst things that can happen to a small business. I have had smoke damage to almost all of my dyed inventory, and to some of my undyed yarn base. How did this happen?  Very simply.  I went over to the studio on Sunday and dyed a pot of yarn. Then I walked out of the studio thinking I had turned it off, but hadn't. Thank God for stainless steel pots! as over the course of the next 16 hours it smouldered but never ignited.  Jen found it the next morning when she came in.

[caption id="attachment_369" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Pot - (Yes, the water was added when it was found)"][/caption]

So we immediately opened the studio up and removed everything and as the day went on I became convinced that the damage was worse than I could imagine.  The smell more penetrating than I could believe.  There is nothing so sad as a carport full of yarn and fiber that simply reeks of smoke.  On Monday, we also took almost everything on the website down to zero as it was clear we could not sell anything.  I put a vacation notice on the front page as I have just needed some time to think.

[caption id="attachment_370" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Day One"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_371" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="Moved all yarn to the carport"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_372" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="Another picture of the carport"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_373" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="Rack of toes - Stinky!!"][/caption]

So here is what is happening.  After conferring with my insurance adjuster, we are taking all of the affected items to the dump. None NONE of the smoke damaged yarn will be available for anyone to purchase at any price.  I have a few skeins that I have hung outside as they were my "dyeing guides", but as soon as the colorways as repeated, those will be gone from outside.

As we started the process of getting rid of the yarn yesterday, it was amazing how much the smoke had affected the color of the yarn.  Hmmm..... hand-dyer....color....feel...smell...texture....isn't that what you are buying when you buy yarn from me and from other dyers?   I have had so many suggestions about...can't you just air it out? can't you wash it? and then air it out? Don't you want to do a fire sale? Can't you use an ozone generator (we are in the repainted studio.) Well, maybe the smell will go away, but I have been told that ozone can pull some color out of fabrics, oops...that darn color thing!  So, about 900 pounds went to the transfer station (dump)yesterday and more will follow today.

[caption id="attachment_376" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Sport weight yarn"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_377" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Sock Yarn"][/caption]

To be clear about my thought process about the yarn and you, my customers.  The quality of the yarn, its colors, its feel, its smell (or lack thereof) is what you are buying from me. I cannot let any one of those things be less important than the other. I cannot let making a buck be more important than the quality of my yarn.  My reputation is on the line. And no doubt, I will see many of your sniffing my yarn at shows to make sure I am telling the truth about all of this.  All I can say is here are the pictures.

[caption id="attachment_378" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Yowza skeins"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_379" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Yarn Headed to the Dump"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_380" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Yarn in the dump....."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_381" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Load ticket from Trip #1"][/caption]

As to the studio itself.  Thank God it did not go up in flames, and it lives to dye another day. (Probably a bad pun, but I was brought up on bad puns.)  The entire studio has been painted with Kilz.  The floor has been painted a lovely milk chocolate color.  We are getting fresh plastic supplies for using with dyes and so on.  The stove has been removed and will be going to the dump today...yes, it still works, but I will no longer be doing that kind of dyeing inside the studio.  Can't risk it!  Can't trust me!

[caption id="attachment_382" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Craig painting the floor of the studio."][/caption]

New yarn is on its way to us.  I expect that I will start dyeing again on Sunday or Monday.  We have a Stitches show in 3 or so weeks in Chicago.  Yes, we will be there with a substantially smaller stock for folks to select from....but it will all be freshly dyed.  The yarns I will be focusing on dyeing for now is Yowza, the two Yummy's (2 and 3-ply), Sojourn (cashmere-silk), Yasmin (my new lace), and my Bamboo Baby show special.  I will also be dyeing BFL, mixed BFL, and Merino/Bamboo/Silk.

I would also ask that you be patient over the next month or so in terms of communication with me.  I tend to get up early and answer e-mails, and that is the best way to communicate with me as I do not keep a phone available during the day in the studio.

I need to thank some very special people who have been helping me through this. First of all is Jen who found the offending pot and the smoke-filled building and who has been right there through moving all of this. Kathy who is the wonder who twists most of my skeins.  If you have touched my skeins, you have touched her handiwork. She is a working/cleaning/painting wonder! Sally has kept shipping flowing (I have certain items in the house away from the studio) and done the myriad tasks I have asked of her. And Craig...who showed up on Monday because "something" told him to come by. Within 10 minutes of arriving, he had paint in the pan and started rolling. What more could I have asked of a friend! And then my lovely husband who has kept me steady in the face of all this. He is my biggest cheerleader and supporter!

So back to the beginning of this post.  What is it that I am supposed to take away from all of this? Now mind you, even though I am a production craftsman with yarn, I consider myself to be an artist too.  I can only believe that out of destruction will come new inspiration for creativity, for new colors, for new willingness to try things in new ways as I try to figure out how to achieve effects that I used to do in the pot to now be done on the table.


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Jill Neill

Ms. Babs – I am so sorry to read about the smoke damage – how horrible for you!!! It sounds like you have great friends and family for support, thank goodness!

I purchased some of your wonderful yarn at the Knit & Crochet show in NH this summer, and after reading this, my friend, Judy, and I will be going out of our way to make a stop at your booth at Stitches East, just to make SURE we can buy some yarn from you.

Thanks you so much for doing the HARD thing, throwing out all that yarn must have been a terrible experience, but as you know, you did the right thing. This is why Judy and I will be coming back to your booth – we really want to support the small business person in the yarn/fiber business, and this setback has proved you’re one of the good ones, to put quality and reputation above the almighty dollar. Thank you again for doing the right thing, and I’ll see you at Stitches East!

I hope you have a great show!

Jill Neill
Auburn, MA


I am reading this in early November. I was very lucky to purchase some of your Yasmin at Stitches East last weekend. The colors truly are beautiful. I mourned the loss of all that material. It is too bad it couldn’t have been saved for charitable use, but I’m sure that that was considered and rejected. I am so glad you are back on course. I tried to talk with you on Friday at Stitches, but the lines were incredible and I only had a couple of hours at the marketplace. My DH was out waxing the car in a parking lot while giving me some time to indulge my yarn habit. My mom is in hospice in CT and we were on our way home to western NY that day, so the stop over was all too brief.

Keep your chin up, you are obviously recovering from your losses. Good luck for the future! An invest in smoke / particulate detectors for the future!

Barbara Margolis

so sorry that this all happened to you. No reply necessary. Use your time for other things.
-barbara margolis


Best of Luck as you get back on track! I look forward to purchasing your gorgeous rovings!

Cheryl Morrison

Dear Ms Babs:

I will be thinking of you and hope all goes smoothly so you can move forward. I have not ordered many times from you but the fiber I have I love so very much. I will always put you first when I go to order fiber online.

Best wishes and many happy dye days. You have a wonderful support system! Your friend from afar,



I stopped by your booth at SAFF. This is the first I knew of what happened. I am so very sorry! Such a heartbreaker. I wish you the best of luck in rebuilding and renewing.



I bought a skein of Yowza (Coventry) at Stitches and it is beautiful. You seem to be recovering well from this disaster. Isn’t it “funny” how we learn and grow from hard situations. Wishing you all the best and offering up a prayer.

Mary Scott Garrett

I will keep you in my prayers…I ordered some yarn from you last night for a swap; had met some of your staff at Maryland Sheep and Wool when I bought sock yarn.When my swap partner (in the UK) asked for semi-solid yarn, I remembered you…just looked at the blog. I so appreciate the obvious integrity you bring to your business by destroying all of that yarn, even though it was an impossible decision to make. I will try to do any yarn shopping I have to do over the next year from your stock. Good luck!

Shirley McCormick

Hi Babs, I am so sorry to hear about your mishap, I really feel for you. You sent me a sample of your Merino/Bamboo/silk, called Oregon Cellars, I’m not usually a autumn colour person, but with the touch of mauve, I think it is wonderful. I came onto your site to see how much, but for some reason clicked onto your blob; read your letter and felt a lot of sympathy for you and yours. All that wonderful yarn going to the tip. All I can say, you have the right attitude about things and I wish you all the very best. Kind regards from Shirley who lives in Mandurah, Western Australia. 4.48 pm. Tuesday 7th September. 2010.


how painful this experience must have been for you.
i felt so sorry when i saw the pictures with all the beautiful fiber you had to through in the dumpster. what a shame.

Marji Webb

I am so sorry to hear about your devastating loss and am holding back tears as I write this. My prayers are with you as you continue to recover and move forward.

I look forward to seeing you at Stitches Thursday night. (And I’ll be praying the Lord will give you a safe journey!)


Miss Babs

Well we are half way there! So the traveling is going well! Thankfully! See you Thursday evening!


OH my gosh I’m so sorry!!!! Because I tend to forget things, I go around my house several times before leaving for work in the mornings, going, off, off, off, off. sigh. One night my oldest son put a pot of water with eggs in it on to boil after he came home from an evening out and promptly fell asleep, the alarm woke us up to smoke, yes thank goodness for stainless steel. He wasn’t allowed to cook after coming in at night anymore ;P. I’m glad you had insurance to help with the replacement cost.


I am so sorry to hear that this has happened to you!! And so close to Stitches Midwest, no less! This is certainly the last thing that a business owner needs to happen, but I’m so glad to hear that your insurance company is involved and that your employees all mobilized so quickly. Prayers and good juju being sent your way. I’ll be looking for you at Stitches!

Gail Lunsford

Dear Babs,
We are so sorry to hear this sad story.
Much love
Gail and Steve


I just saw this. Dear lord I am dreadfully sorry to read what happened!

Thanks for sharing this, I’d wondered why I hadn’t heard back from you.
I will keep you in my thoughts.



Wow! I just heard about this! Best of luck to you!


You’re doing the hard work and staying open to the blessings. You can’t ask more of yourself than that. I wish I could be in Chicago to buy some of your beautiful new yarn.

lisa hackman

Miss Babs,
My jaw is agape at your bummer, I should say super bummer of a week. Many of my knitting students are big fans of yurs as well as myself. One of them forwarded this to me. We are in your corner and patience is a big part of knitting so we will wait quietly while you work hard and we use up what we have, and save up money to buy more. After all absence makes the heart grow founder, plus we all want what we can’t have, This is the good news section. Thank you for your integrety and loyalty to us and your own character. All the best Lisa Hackman


Very sorry to hear this but glad you’re well on your way back into business. Just heard about this today!

Elizabeth Stasny

Oh, my heart just breaks for you!!! How utterly gut-wrenching to have to throw out all that yarn. Quddos to you for maintaining your strong values and sense of integrity in the quality of your work, and refusing to sell the damaged yarn.
I just found your website via Twist/Acorn/Ravelry and am so excited to try some of you yarn!! I will keep an eye on your website and order some when you get yourself up and running again.
Best of luck! I will pray for you!

Miss Babs

Thank you Marianne and everyone for your good wishes! We are starting to see some yarn come through the pipeline of dyeing, washing, drying, reskeining! Much more to come! Babs

Suann Wentworth

I’m so sorry to read about your disaster!! WIsh I could think of something super comforting to say, but just know that I’m thinking of you. Things will be okay :-)


So sorry to hear of your misfortune, but glad that everyone is fine. You and your lovely yarns are an inspiration. Have you thought of solar dyeing? I know that your summer weather can be hot. I’ve just begun experimenting with solar dyeing for roving and yarn with good success. The handpainted “test” skeins and roving were wrapped in plastic and left in my large black canning kettle out in the sun for six hours of direct sunlight. The colors set very well and when the skeins were rinsed there was little to no color in the water. The solar method seems to be less harsh on the yarn. I was going to try some kettle dyeing using the solar method. Who knows? Maybe the sun will come to your rescue. Sending out positive yarnie thoughts…Elizabeth

Miss Babs

Thanks!! We are getting things back in shape and I really finally started dyeing for my show yesterday….thankfully. Yarn will start to show up on the website too. See you at SAFF?!

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