Sunday, September 30, 2007

Disappointing One Customer at a Time.

There are a couple of more things I want to say about my last post. I've been meaning to write more for days but there are a gabillion things going on right now - like getting ready for SOAR, going to Farm Events, Homeschooling and reminding my Husband that although I seem to be ignoring him lately he is still important to me.

Beyond that though, I think there is a double standard in spinning. I need to ask a couple of questions now and then I'll move on. Probably on to the next thing that I'm wondering about.

For those of you who sew some of your own clothes, how many times have you begun a project and said to your self or your friend, I want to make sure this looks hand made. I want it to have character and everyone who sees it should know it was made at home.

For those of you who knit, how many times have you begun a project and left dropped stitches and incorrect rows even though you noticed them when they happened because you wanted the sweater or other knitted item to look home made. Gives it character, right?

I'm being facetious of course. I know many of you rip out rows and rows of knitting if they aren't how you want them. I myself have ripped out plenty of seams if they didn't sit right. I didn't want to wear a lumpy bumpy dress and the brides I was sewing for certainly weren't in the market for a home made dress. They wanted a designer looking thing. I can tell you the designers certainly don't leave mistakes. There's a difference between home made and hand made, home spun and hand spun.

Now for some fun stuff - well fun for me anyway. Here's my thank you box from the Fiber Frenzy Swap over at Spindle and Wheel. Donna was so very generous and I love all of the stuff in the box. Reds is the theme with a Three Bags Full ball of Wool and Silk and a Fiber Sampler from Spinning Bunny in the Oriental Poppies Colorway. There's a cedar sheep, a mother of pearl diz (so lovely) and a pair of shuttle earrings and two sheep clips for the kids - though I didn't give them to them yet (bad mommy). I just love it all. I have plenty of stuff to take to Soar now between the two swap pals=)
On Saturday I was a vendor at AKA Alpacas for National Alpaca Farm Day. There were so many people there. I met some new ones and also some old friends showed up. That's me in the picture talking to two ladies interested in the upcoming Shelly Lampshire Needle Felting Class. Behind me is my new banner I got made for this particular event and the upcoming Knit Michigan where I will also have a booth.
This is just a shot of the spindle table and some laceweight yarn. Laying on the table are some spindles from Allena. They are all hand carved and spin beautifully. I got them in the mail on Thursday, chose one for myself and took the rest on Saturday. I only started with 7 and am already down to 5. She's a hit!
My little spot was right next to Sharon Winsauer. She's such a show off. Look at her hanging that Pegasus shawl up just to tease me! Actually, I love her and she's one of the smarted people I know. She can actually knit lace in public and hold a conversation at the same time. I need to concentrate more than that.
Just some of the local residents of the farm.
Now for my next problem - or not a problem at all depending on how you look at it.
This Majacraft Rose arrived at the shop on Thursday. It usually takes between 2 and 3 weeks to get one after you order it. Phyl was waiting for this wheel to show up. She liked little Millie but the Rose was the wheel she's been in love with for at least a year. I need to tell you that Phyl would never touch a wheel in the shop. She would come at least once a month for the last year and spin with spindles. She wouldn't try the wheels until she could afford to buy one. She talked about the Rose a year ago.
Two months ago Phyl finally allowed herself to start trying out the wheels. The Rose which I had had been sold so she tried all of the others and the Millie was a contender but she wanted to wait and try that one last wheel.
This is where it all gets...good for me.
Thursday Rose shows up and I opened the box. These Majacraft wheels are made from New Zealand Rimu. Usually it is a sort of light color. This particular wheel is slightly darker in color than others I've seen. So when I opened the box I remember saying "ooooooooh" out loud even though there was no one else in the shop. Then I put it together. Then I had to spin a little on it. I do that with all of the wheels. It works the oil in and keeps them in good working order in case anybody wants to try them out.

I have never before had a wheel come in that I was willing to de-wheel for. I am now going to sell two of my personal collection to keep this one. Sometimes one just sings to you and you have to give in.

Sorry Phyl. I ordered another one.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What Option Did I have?

So Erika left me a comment which brings me to my next subject:

"I finished the red Ashland Bay roving, plied it, and washed it yesterday. Swatched it last night. Best EVER! It's smooth and even, and when knitted almost looks store-bought! (Which does bring up the thought of why spin by hand to make yarn that looks store-bought, but that's a totally different conversation...)"

I've been thinking about this subject for a few weeks now, so what a coincidence that she would mention it. I was reading Peter Teal's book "Hand Woolcombing and Spinning" (You know I'm a big fan of the combing of wool.)

Here's a portion of the introduction to his book.

"Every would-be spinner should suspend from her distaff a length of machine-spun thread, the perfection of which should be the goal at which to aim.

So often the cry is, 'But it is the very perfection, the very uniformity of machine-spun thread from which we strive to get away'; but is it? Is it not more truthful to say that the yarns produced, instantly recognizeable as 'home spun', are that way because spinners cannot do any better?

'But we want yarns of character', they cry! Of course we do, all of us, but let it be a good character we give them. Let us first produce a plain yarn perfectly, and then doctor it in some way to produce the 'character', if you must. But you know, I am most willing to have a bet with you that, by the time you can produce a really perfect plain spun yarn, you will be so proud of it for the beautiful thing it is, you will be extremely loth to adulterate it in any way!

Of course this does pose the question: 'If we are going to make hand-spun yarns as perfectly as machine-spun products, why bother; why not just buy the yarns of commerce and have done with it?"

Mr Teal goes on to say that by spinning our own yarns we can make the exact yarn we require for the final product we desire. "The hand-spinner who thoroughly understands the trade has complete freedom to design a material conforming to the highest standards."

I've been thinking about this lately. Several people have told me that they only want to make bulky, uneven, novelty yarns and so have no need to learn the techniques and skills I'm trying to teach. They only want to make a yarn "that looks like that" - as they point to a novelty skein I've spun.

I have an issue with this but also a little inner turmoil. I feel as their teacher that it is my responsibility to convey my spinning knowledge to the best of my ability. I feel that it is their responsibility as students to learn all the skills necessary to spin a yarn, some may describe as boring, and then adapt those skills to make the yarn they'd like as their final product.

Sure I can teach anyone how to make a lumpy, bumpy yarn in less than 4 lessons. Anyone can then go on and spin that same lumpy bumpy yarn for years and eternity. Acutally, it's a waste to even pay me. Any beginner can do it. Don't we like to buy yarns with different textures and characters? Wouldn't it be better to learn how to change the character of the yarn we are making instead of settling for "the best we can do"?

I had a student tell me this week that she couldn't do something and I felt annoyed about that and told her to stop saying can't. This is a woman in her 50s I would guess and I was talking to her like I would my 6 year old. What? You can't predraft? You can't treadle in a regular rhythm? You can't? She's a knitting teacher for crying out loud.

But I digress.

I belong to a spinning guild. Many of the seasoned spinners there will tell beginners to treasure their first yarns because later they'll have trouble reproducing it. They'll learn to spin a fine yarn and then won't be able to return to the bulky and the lumpy. As far as I'm concerned, that's a load of crap! If you study the craft, work at it and practice you will get to the point where you can make any yarn you want. You'll be able to reproduce those mill spun threads and also make that fabulous designery stuff that Adrienne Vitadinni would drool over.

Those first yarns ARE to be cherished - and made into something. Yes, because you can later go back to them and see what progress you've made and then later again with your yarn you designed with character and see that was your true goal all along.

The point of this whole post is this. I think we should make some bumpy yarn if we choose to. To be able to make that choice we first need to know how to make the smoothest yarn possible. Learning how to technically make the yarn smooth will teach you the necessary movements and techniques needed to make a true designer yarn. Bumpy yarn by accident is not designer. It's an accident.

Definitions of choice on the Web:

  • the person or thing chosen or selected; "he was my pick for mayor"
  • the act of choosing or selecting; "your choice of colors was unfortunate"; "you can take your pick"
  • of superior grade; "choice wines"; "prime beef"; "prize carnations"; "quality paper"; "select peaches"
  • appealing to refined taste; "choice wine"
  • option: one of a number of things from which only one can be chosen; "what option did I have?"; "there no other alternative"; "my only choice is to refuse"

  • In spinning you can go as far as your curiosity will take you. There is always something to improve or tweak. New things to learn. Watch one spinner spin and take something away with you. Watch another and you have something else to help you. Pick up a new fiber. Try a different wool. Spin your cat's hair! There are millions of right ways to spin. It is right if the final product is what you were aiming for. Again we're back to a choice and not an accident.

    So back to Erika. Could she have bought a mill spun yarn in that particular red, blended with silk, in the thickness she chose to spin it? I don't think so.

    O.K. off my soap box for the day.

    If you are interested in the Peter teal book it has been out of print but it's back in a revised edition. This revised edition only has one difference that I can see. An additional chapter at the end speaking of spinning related improvements Mr Teal has seen and used over the last 25 years since the first edition was published. The book goes over spinning yarn for weaving, spinning with different kinds of equipment and also, and most importantly, preparation of wool and spinning for a worsted type yarn. The book is not inexpensive - $30 - but it will be an asset to your spinning library.

    Something Else
    Saturday night Lou and I went to see Martin Short at the Whiting in Flint. Four words. Hi Lar I Ous.
    He did all of his most famous characters, told a lot of jokes, and sang a lot of songs. Including this one:

    In case you're wondering, I don't blame Canada for anything. I just think it's a funny song. Reminds me of blaming my brother for everything I ever did wrong=)

    Sunday, September 23, 2007

    I DA HO? No, Navajo.

    Here is the update on the Navajo Weavers for the week. They are still amazing me. They all have a tribal name now. This is Barb Soft Hands. She doesn't pound her stitches down very hard and so I expect her project will have a soft hand and be drapey.
    This is Barb Tall Loom. She's got a very nice diamond shape going there and has some stitch pattern called rain across the center. Her colors are all natural and it is a very beautiful weaving.
    This is LeeAnne. I'm not exactly sure what her name is yet. She does take out her aggression on the project and her stitches are very compact. When she finally makes a rug sized project I think archaeologists in 1000 years will dig it up and it will still be intact. Her colors are very dramatic. I didn't think I would like them together but I really do like it.

    The Highland Triangle is coming along but I'm still on the center.

    I am still trying to decide which wheel to take to SOAR. I have plans to take a few classes with a wide variety of techniques and I like all of the wheels for special reasons. I don't know. Maybe the Majacraft Rose. Maybe my trusty Ashford Traditional. All I do know at this point is I'm bringing back a 30" Cherry Schacht Reeves Saxony. CANT WAIT!!! If you'd like to try it out come and see me at the shop after October 14th.

    Friday I went to get my eyes checked. I've been getting headaches almost everyday for the last 2 weeks and had to see if there was something wrong. Well, my prescription has changed dramatically. I'm getting old. I know that because of one word. Bifocals.

    I felt a little depressed about it so I went and got a hair cut. No pictures yet but here's what Ryan did during skating lessons on Saturday.
    Yup, he chose not to participate.
    But here's the Magster:

    Monday, September 17, 2007

    Pictures but not much to say

    I had big plans for posting all week! You can see for yourself how those plans turned out. So here's a picture from Wednesday. On the left is Maple also known as Alpaca Granny. You may remember one of my pal packages had some alpaca fiber from her. I've been reading her blog for some time now and she came to meet me -hee.

    On the right is Sharon Winsauer - you know her, Pegasus, Heere be Dragone.
    So there they were, in my shop, two girls who I love and look up to. Lovely Wednesday.
    Then the Navajo Weaving class came in. Remember how on Saturday they had nothing. Three days later and they've come a long way.
    The colors are great and they are catching on to this weaving very quickly. It's just amazing to me. I can't add another project so, no, I'm not taking the class.
    On Friday I went to the shop to get some work done and to meet Kelli. She was coming up for the Knitterpalooza meetup and asked if she could come in. Who am I to say no? t was really fun to see her and it was so fun that I took no pictures. I'm hoping she'll put one up soon. Anyway, I was busy putting together my little packages for the SOAR goody bags. I'm making little kits to Kool Aid dye silk hankies - It was Erika's idea to do the whole kit thing. I was just going to stick a brochure and a couple of hankies in a bag. Good thing I've got a good friend.
    So then Erika was at my shop on Saturday and she finished plying this lovely silk. I think it's about 655 yards and weighs approximately 4 ounces. It's beautiful. AND she gave it to me. I need a good project for 650 yards of laceweight variegated yarn. Any suggestions?
    Here's a close up beauty shot.
    And here's a Kool Aid Dyed skein of silk made from 5 silk hankies. It's a beautiful thing too.

    The Highland Triangle is coming along but it looks sort of the same as last time. The Feather and Fan shawl has seen no progress whatsoever. I'm off to make some progress on something.

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    Bob and Weave

    This past Friday and Saturday were the beginning classes for Navajo Weaving at the shop. Betty Forsyth is the instructor. She's been studying Navajo Weaving for many years and I am so happy we could put this class together. We have four students in this class that begins with an evening and a full day followed by 5 weekly evning classes. These pictures were taken on Saturday at lunch time after all of the students had gotten their looms warped and up on the tables to begin weaving.
    The looms and the warping method are all traditoonal Navajo. There are a lot of steps and I am amazed at the amount of tension the warp is under after it is all on the loom. I will be taking pictures to show the student's progress each week. All of them had gotten at least 2 inches woven and learned a couple of different stitches done by the end of the day on Saturday.
    Today when I got home I found this beautiful package waiting for me. It's from another swap pal from the Fiber Frenzy Swap. This swap was for handspun yarn.
    Diane sent me two skeins of Polwarth - which I love! I have a little bit of Polwarth in the shop and keep hiding it. I want to use it for one of my COE skeins and we looked at this breed in the Fine Wools Breed Study over the summer. These skeins are both very squooshy and lovely. I may have some problems knitting it though. I think it's more for use as pillows. Then again, that may not be a great idea since there is sometimes drooling and I wouldn't want to felt it. =)

    Also in the package was some dark, dark, dark chocolate in my favorite brand and some silk (yay), Caramello Koala Chocolate - ate one, yummy-, beautiful stitch markers and some handmade soap that smells lovely (it's cinnamon from Covent Garden Market in London). I don;t know if I can handle all of these fab packages and I know I'm still waiting for one more - hee.
    Now, because I have no, no, no self control I started the Highland Triangle Shawl. I did the swatching on Saturday during the Navajo class. This is the beginning of the gauge swatch on Size 6 needles. I was slightly off on gauge so I tried size 8s and the gauge was perfect! I'm excited because US8 is the size that was called for in the pattern. Know what that means? The yarn was the correct size!
    Here it is as it looks tonight with about 75 rows knitted. I like it a lot. The stitche pattern is pretty easy to memorize and, though Wensleydale is not the softest yarn, it is so very shiny.

    Today before all of the floor loom weavers came in I was practicing a little on the Reeves Charkha that I borrowed from Faina. This is not my strength. I'm having some great difficulty. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    What? Where's the Feather and Fan Shawl? I'm still whittling away at it. Little by little but it doesn;t look that much different. Give me another week and I give you another picture.

    And now for something you'll really like. Here's Maggie on Saturday at her first skating lesson of the season.

    Friday, September 07, 2007

    My Word

    That last post was just a little too....But I appreciate all of your well wishes and thoughts for me. I have this overwhelmed, tired, I want to hide in my bedroom feeling periodically and then I work on a plan and decide I'm certainly not making any forward movement by eating 3 chocolate bars and a plateful of homemade potato chips - though it was all yummy.
    Plus I'm angry and worried about Chelsea and you all know how crazy your children-pretending-to-be-adults can make you.

    So, here's what I got today from Gee You Knit.

    My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
    Imperial Majesty Beth the Spurious of Withering Glance
    Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

    I think the withering glance part is quite appropriate - you can ask Chelsea.

    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    So I spent the afternoon crying over Little Women. You know the version with Elizabeth Taylor. I love the movie in all it's forms and funny thing is, I've never read the book. Hm, maybe I should.

    There are two parts that get me every time. The part where Jo sells her hair for her mother's coach fare to get to her father. Her mother says, "Your hair will grow back, but you'll never be as beautiful as you are right now." Sob.
    Then at the end. The professor brings her published book and says,"I have nothing to offer but my heart and these empty hands." She takes his hand and says, "Not empty now." Sob again.

    Big baby, I am.

    I got an email today from a man I've met in person 3 times. He lives in another state and has just started spinning this summer. We've had some good talks about fibery stuff. He's very interesting and the engineer in him looks at this in a very technical way so his emails always stretch me as well as remind me how much I do know.
    Anyhow, he told me that he's just been diagnosed with a form of Leukemia. His prognosis is good but I probably won;t be seeing him again until next summer. I cried like a baby. I've met the man 3 times for crying out loud! Maybe too much cancer in my life this summer.

    I'm tired. I don't usually like to complain here on the blog. I try to stay upbeat and positive in all areas but I don't know what's wrong with me. I need some sort of schedule and a good plan. I'm just feeling overwhelmed. I'm finding myself hiding in my room more when I'm not at the shop. It's got to stop. I need to face things. Make a list of tasks that need to be done and a schedule for completing them.

    A Plan.

    O.K. I'm glad I wrote this.
    I don't know if any of what I'm saying will make sense to anyone else but there it is.

    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    Surprises in the mail

    Last night was Fiber Free For All at the shop and I was showing off this year's ribbons. Just thought I'd show them off one more time before I get back to work. Hee.
    I got my first box from the Spindle and Wheel Fiber Frenzy Swap.
    So it was FULL of loot. Stuff I've been wanting to try and just never ordered for myself. WooHoo. The orange batt is from Abby's Yarns. It's beautiful. You know how you see dyed fibers online and then you order it and it's stiff as a board or feels yucky - not this stuff. It's fab.
    Then there's a little bit of green dyed Tussah also from Abby. I haven't touched it too much yet but, well, I'll be spinning it soon. The color is gorgeous. Then there's some grey Bamboo and Black Alpaca. The Alpaca is great because there's some white in the rovings which will make a very interesting single that my pal Peggy got from another blog I read (how did she know?) Called Alpaca Granny who has an Etsy shop called North Star Alpacas. This Alpaca lady is right here in Michigan too.
    There's some dye and fixative to dye the bamboo black but I may do a little sampling to see what the two colors do together if they don't exactly match. There were also a couple of other nice little touches in there too - note paper and a notebook.
    Thank you so much Peggy!

    O.K. I'm way behind on my knitting goals and SOAR is only a month away! Gotta go.

    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Signs of the times.

    Did I ever show you the outside view of my shop? There it is. That's my window way at the top there. The downstairs guy owns the building and has the first floor. He's and architect.
    Are you looking at that beautiful thing there to the right? Let me give you a closer look at the fabulousness.
    Yup. Got a sign. I haven't had a sign all this time. Just a little swingy thing that sat out behind the mailbox. It was lame and the letters always fell off. Well, on Saturday the sign guy came. Phil - that's the landlord/architect - worked with me and the sign guy so we could share his sign space and here's what happened. I have a sign. Like a real business. I'm overly excited about this. Plus those sheep crack me up. I think it's an eye catching sign and I'm hoping that Phil and I will both benefit. Before I mostly got people who already knew the spinning was there or by people finding my website. But now I think I might be coming to work to find a line of people waiting outside the door to get in. O.K. maybe that's wishful thinking but a girl can dream, right?

    Little by little this little business is turning into what I want it to be. I started out with plenty of ideas but not a clue of how to attain my goals. Erica has been a great resource for direction. I can see the big picture but can't seem to break it down into manageable bite sized pieces. Erica has a gift for seeing the big picture AND being able to break it down. She's also bossy enough to get me off my whiny and scared tail and into action.

    Because of these fabulous things I have been moving step by step toward my vision. I've been thinking about what makes me different than other places. What can I offer people that others can't or don't. It's been an eye opening exercise . I'm finding a few more things I need to do differently as well as discovering that I am already doing plenty of things right - according to me.

    I must admit to being a little impatient to reach some of these goals and over ordering in some instances and getting into a little minor hysterics this summer wondering how I was going to do this - me being not much of a business person and all. Again, Erica to the rescue.

    I think I also need to give Kate some credit here. There's a story here. I got my Ravelry invitation in June. I was so excited and immediately went and signed in and looked around. Fright set in. It's huge. I ran away and didn't go back. When Kate and Erica were here for Galina I mentioned that I had my invite but hadn't been back due to the overwhelming nature of the thing. You've seen pictures of my craft/sewing/wool room. It's a bit overwhelming itself and the idea of documenting all of it was...scary. I told all of this stuff to the girls and Kate said, "You don't have to put it all on at once!" What!?! I thought. So I said to Kate, "You mean I could just take pictures of my lace yarns and put them up and then later go back and put my sock yarns and then later go back and put the worsteds?"
    Now I know what you're thinking. "This girl's a pea brain." I must agree that in these instances I feel like a pea brain. It never occurred to me that I didn't have to get it all up there in a day.
    So, now I have the lace yarns and 3 projects up. That's what I did in August and in September I have big plans for sock yarns.

    That brings me back to the break it down idea for the shop. I don't have to have the whole website ready for internet sales right now. I don't have to have anything more technical than I already have for book keeping. I do need to work on fearlessly selling through stock. I do need to work on developing my offered classes. I do need to work on my organizational skills.

    If you have a wool or spinning shop near you and there are things that you love about it then could you let me know. I need to know.
    Changing the subject. Here's a new spinning wheel I put together today. This was an unfinished Ashford Traveller that went out last week. Today it came back looking like this. It's beautiful. This girl is a new spinner and has had only 2 lessons. A wheel like this will definitely encourage her to practice. It does spin beautifully too.

    O.K. off I go but here's a cute video for you.