Rural Housewife or Tech Entrepreneur? You Decide

Archive for the ‘Crafting’ Category

It might have been -13°F last night, but it was warm in here.

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It’s no secret that our house is in need of repair and updating, but there’s only so much money to go around.  When it was time to take down the dry rotting curtains and broken traverse rods, I wanted to find a way to insulate the 2 picture windows in my living room without breaking the bank.

South-East corner of the houseThe windows are a single pane, sheet glass with an aluminum storm window over them. That means they turn our living room into a green house in the summer and still allow a ton of heat out in the winter.  While I know new windows would pay for themselves over time, there just isn’t money in the budget to replace these two whoppers while trying to keep up with the rest of the repairs needed around here (like the $450 drain line for the kitchen sink).

The solution I decided on was a take on the Ikea panel curtain system, Kvartal, and beef them up with a product called Reflectix.

If you’ve never seen Reflextix before, it’s essentially a double layer of bubble wrap with a reflective, metallic surface.  The idea is that it helps reflect the heat to keep it where you want it to stay.

While they’re not the most attractive thing to hang in our living room, we lovingly call our panels the “Blast Shield” since we feel their effect most during the summer months. Without the Reflectix bouncing the sun’s heat back through the glass, our house gets unbearably hot.

It’s been harder to talk about the effect of the insulation during the winter months because it has been relatively mild… that is until this morning.

A Polar Vortex is blanketing Michigan in sub-zero temperatures and dangerous wind chills. Last night’s low was 29 degrees below normal for this time of year and the curtains proved they were working last night by keeping enough heat off the glass to allow them to develop a thick layer of frost – on the inside.

As far as installing the insulating curtains, it’s essentially the same process as drawn in the directions that came Kvartal tracks and mounting brackets, except instead of putting in a decorative fabric panel into the top and bottom rail unit, I used 24″ wide Reflectix.

The only special step required was to take a pin and pop a couple of rows of bubbles on the Reflectix so that I could fit it into the top and bottom rail.  With the air still in the bubbles the material was just too thick.

After a couple of years on the job, the biggest issue I’ve had with the system, besides being less than attractive, are the small, plastic, tabs that allow the panels open and close together.  They were no match for the Robinson Brothers Destruction Company and they broke off within a year of installation.

kvartal with reflectixThe other issue I have is the end caps on the 3 rail units.  It’s fairly easy to pull the curtains back hard enough for them to pop off and have one of the panel glides pop out of the end.

The Reflectix, on the other hand, is in great shape. It’s hard to tell that they’ve been handled twice a day, every day, for a little more than 2 years. I’d even go so far as to say that they’ve exceeded my expectations.  For a product that’s meant to be hidden away inside a wall, they sure can take a beating.

Overall, this was an affordable project and while it’s probably not as effective at saving money on our energy bills as getting new windows would be, I’m happy with the results. Plus, when we draw the fabric across on it’s own track, you can’t see the metallic bubble wrap while you’re in the living room.

Written by Karlie

January 7th, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Random Acts of Patterns

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Knit Purl GurlLast week, on Google Plus, I was introduced to the most amazing idea by the Knit Purl Gurl, Karrie Steinmetz when she posted…

Tuesdays are for RAP (Random Acts of Patterns)! http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/friends-of-knitpurlgurl/2319615/1-25#24 Please join in!! #knitting #crochet

Although I didn’t quite catch the marketing implications of random patterns until after I had gifted nearly 20 copies of my designs, Random Acts of Patterns is just brilliant on so many levels.  Here’s why…

The premiss is along the same lines of Random acts of Kindness, but in this case the idea is to find a neat pattern and buy it for another Ravelry.com user using the “send as gift” function that’s part of the check-out process.

There are 2 functions of this process that are very intriguing to me.  First, it’s a way to help generate income for independent designers.  The second is that it’s a great way to advertise your own designs by sending them out to random knitters.

From a strictly business standpoint, when I buy ad placements, I take a chance that I won’t have enough sales to break even.  For example, I purchased Ravelry ads a few months in a row.  The fist run I did better than break even on the cost of the ads by also making enough money to cover the cost of the materials used in the pattern.  In the second run, I didn’t do quite as well, but broke even on the ads.  The 3rd and 4th times were a bust putting me in a position where I needed more pattern sales to break even on all of the expenses.

There are many reasons why the same ads didn’t do well over time.  Summer months aren’t always considered as Knitting months.  People may have been tired of seeing the ads. Or any number of things.  While it is possible to hone in on the winning combination the idea of Random Acts of Patterns presents a whole new twist on marketing.

The main consideration with #RAPatterns, for the indie designer, is that patterns, once created, don’t represent revenue until someone buys them. The next consideration is although you might be running at a loss with materials and time put into the design, giving away promo, electronic copies, doesn’t create additional expenses. I always say that word of mouth has to start somewhere and this is a great way to kick it off.

Knit Purl GurlThe bonus of Tuesday’s being for #RAPatterns are the limits designed into the practice. Coupons, door busters, annual sales and all the rest are just ways companies train customers not to pay full price, for anything.  But a random pattern given only on Tuesday is more along the lines of winning a prize. There is no expectation that waiting will result in a discount so people buy when they’re ready to.

By participating in Random Acts of Patterns on Tuesdays you have a great way to get some patterns out in the wild where they might generate some buzz for your work all while keeping people guessing about your next move.  It also doesn’t hurt to be seen as generous either.

The next question is how this process can be adapted for other business models.  Are there businesses this wouldn’t work with?  Why not?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment, below.

PS, don’t forget to thank Kerrie for this amazing idea.  Click either knitter to visit her site.


Written by Karlie

October 22nd, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Thoughts of knitting

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Ever have sleepless nights because you have too many thoughts running through your mind? Well that was me this morning. But rather than worries, knitting was on my mind.

It’s a funny thing too. I had taken a few months hiatus from Knitting because I didn’t have anything to knit. I still checked out knitting books from the library, browsed patterns online and tried to secretly study how my co-workers sweaters were constructed, but I didn’t have anything interesting enough to cast on.

A couple of weeks ago, I began doodling with sock yarn in the evenings only to frog it out just before I went to bed and eventually came up with a project. Excited to get going, I ignored my wrist and have been paying for it for the last few days.

So here I am in bed this morning trying to get back to sleep and all I can think about is sticks, strings and stitches.

In fact, I’m thinking about a blanket based on Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac April Mystery Blanket. But, instead of uniform squares, what about a mix of sizes and even some rectangle shapes… More like random tiles or a stone wall?

Hmmm. Might have to spend a few more mornings thinking about that one.

abstract knit by missa h.

Written by Karlie

July 31st, 2010 at 7:29 am

Please Donate to Interlock Rochester

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Interlock Rochester is a Hackerspace in Rochester, NY. They provide an open, collaborative environment for technologists and artists to work on projects and “hack” on cool things.

If you’re interested in learning about new technologies, refactoring existing technologies, and stretching the limits of collaborative thinking and creative making, Interlock Rochester is the right place. And they need your help.

Click here to lend your support to: Interlock Rochester and make a donation at www.pledgie.com !

Written by Karlie

April 13th, 2010 at 10:26 am

Boot Cut Jeans to Capri Modification

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I had a pair of jeans that had just gone beyond the sweet spot. They had gotten to the point in their evolution where they’re soft and comfortable, but had begun to fall apart.

Rather than use them for rags, I decided to give them one last hurrah and hope the material lasts through the spring.

The button had fallen off, but that was an easy fix, but the more challenging fix was the bottom hem. I didn’t really need a pair of cut-offs… It’s warming up, but there’s a lot of time before it will be warm enough for shorts.

My solution was to cut the legs off at about mid-calf and roll a hem to make capris.

The technique was easy enough –

  1. Roll the hem twice to enclose the raw edge
  2. lace up the joint.

I used Perl Cotton left over from the Rose Window Beret and the technique is very similar to how you would lace up your shoes.

Find the middle of your thread and put needles on both ends. Again, the technique is so similar to lacing your shoes that I can’t think of another way to describe. Clicking on the image will give you a close up of the stitches for you to examine.

Now it’s time to go outside and see if I can’t get a little color on these winter white legs.


Written by Karlie

March 19th, 2010 at 7:41 am