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another fresh start

I love that every new year we can just pretend like last year wasn’t a thing.

“I’m going to make a change! I mean it this year.”
“Let’s just start fresh.”
“A new calendar!  New possibilities!”
“I didn’t follow my resolutions last year, but I will this time!”
“Here’s to new beginnings!”

And then by February it’s all forgotten again. So consider this my little song and dance to celebrate our agreed upon starting over point. I will pretend that I will start blogging regularly! I will state that this year will be different and I will do my data entry monthly (rather than yearly). I will chose a grand knitting project that will be just for me and then I’ll never get started on it.

This sounds like a lot of excuses. But really I just know myself well enough that I accept my failings as a human. I’m a big talker, but not much of a doer.

One thing I did do already this year was to reorganize my dresser. Apparently there is a book circulating that addresses clutter and how to get rid of it. I didn’t read or even pick up the book, but I saw a snippet about it on a news show. They mentioned something about folding your clothes so that you can see every article in the drawer. It sounded like an interesting concept, but I worried that my clothes wouldn’t fit in the drawer once I refolded them. So I began slowly with the pants drawer. Everything still fits! The next week I moved onto a shirt drawer. Still fits! And I could see everything at once! It was really quite exciting. I ended up doing all the drawers and was pleased to discover that everything went back into its drawer and the new folding technique utilized the space better. Since I got this dresser six years ago, I have never been able to arrange my clothes in a way that used all the space. It annoyed me. But now all the space has been filled and I can see each sad, dull garment I own all at once. My personal color scheme is quite dreary. The one thing that I found odd about this is that your clothes are now standing up and when you take an item out, or the drawer isn’t full, the garment on the end sags. I feel like I need book ends just to keep everything in its place. Ah well, still a successful endeavor!

dresser drawers

I’ve been thinking about this blog a lot, feeling bad that I have neglected it, wondering why I continually avoid posting. Here is what I have determined.

1) Nobody blogs anymore. Nobody reads blogs anymore. If I am going to continue with this, I should do it because I want to document things, not because I am trying to entertain someone.

2) It’s so time consuming! You need a topic and photos and stuff and blah and I just don’t want to. But on the other hand, there are times when I really want to express myself in something longer than a Facebook post. I don’t know why I find it so much more of a burden to pop over to WordPress and type up a little post. I suppose I figure it out to be more polished and professional. Must it?

3) What do I have to say? That hasn’t already been said. I feel like my life is on repeat, so how do I present my activities in a new way? To me it’s the same thing again and again. Yep, I went to work. And again today. And again. And again. I don’t know how to make it fresh and relevant to the topic of “fiber”. I’m sewing modern clothes! I want to talk about that.

So, with that being said… what’s next?

switching it up

One of the best parts of spinning wool is getting to experiment with all the different breeds. There are so many! These days it’s easy to get your hands on a wide variety of breeds, plus there are many great resources of information about them. I thought this fall would be a great time to introduce some new breeds into my line of hand-dyed combed top.

If you’ve been to my booth in the last year, you have seen the basket of little wool balls next to the counter. These 1 ounce balls are great for all sorts of projects, beginner spinners, and felters alike. Initially this was a Corriedale-cross, but I didn’t have much information to give when customers asked about it. This led me to switching to Cheviot, a wool with similar texture and quality.

checkout

Another breed that has been replaced (at least for now) is the Falkland wool. While it is a very popular fiber for spinners, but I thought it was time to try something new. I had the opportunity to purchase a bump of organic Polwarth, a breed similar to Falkland and one of its contributing founders. It is incredibly soft — a characteristic that is high on the priority list for many of you. Also, I added Targhee, the first domestically grown combed top I have had the chance to purchase. I find this wool to be incredibly spongy, so it will have great elasticity and bounce. Both will be available in September at A Wool Gathering in Yellow Springs, OH.

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Interested in learning more about these new breeds? Read a bit about their history and distinguishing characteristics. The following  information has been taken from the supplier’s website.

Cheviot Wool top is a beautiful natural white color. The micron count is between 27-33 and average staple length is approximately 4 to 5 inches. The wool top is open without being slippery making it an excellent wool for beginner spinners. Cheviot is a main British wool breed. They originated in the Cheviot Hills on the border of England and Scotland. They were referred to as the Border Cheviot and are the foundation stock for the Brecknock and the North Country Cheviots. This hardy breed can withstand harsh environments and are known for being great mothers.

cheviot
Photo from North Country Cheviot Sheep Society

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Targhee is a domestically grown wool that is processed in the United States. The Targhee breed was developed at the Experimental Sheep Station in Dubois, Idaho in the mid 1900’s.  The foundation stock were ewes of Rambouillet, Corriedale, and Lincoln bloodlines bred back to Rambouillet rams.  Approximately 23/23.5 microns.

Targhees
Photo from Raisingsheep.net

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100% Certified Organic Polwarth Wool comes from the Falkland Islands. The wool was selected from two family farms on the islands and measures an incredible 22 microns. The fleeces were processed in the UK. Sheep that are raised organically are not subject to mulesing, and they are not dipped for pesticides. In addition, the number of sheep allowed to graze in any give pasture area is limited to the natural carrying capacity of the land. And as with most wool that comes from the Falklands, it is very white. Noted for its elasticity, durability it is still considered a delicate fiber with bounce and drape.

The Polwarth sheep was developed in Australia by breeding Merino rams to Lincoln/Merino ewes so the foundation stock is 75% Merino/25% Lincoln. The Polwarth sheep were developed to make a dual purpose sheep with a finer wool that would contribute a more significant portion of the ranchers income. They are a hearty breed of sheep that can be found in climates that are considered too wet or cold for Merino sheep. The Polwarth breed has both polled and horned sheep. The most common is the polled. They are a large sheep with a high yielding fleece (between 8 – 13 lb fleeces).

polwarth1
Photo from New Zealand Sheepbreeders’ Association

perpetual change

To say that businesses are always changing is obvious, and mine is no different. Since I started selling online in 2008, I have tried lots of different things, added new products, expanded, subtracted, failed, gained. All of it. Right now things are going well. I have a solid circuit of shows for the year, and I have my goods in several shops in the area. But the one place that has always fallen down is the online shop. I know there are so many people who have turned their online business into a hugely successful enterprise, but that isn’t and has never been me! Some time ago I switched from Etsy to Storenvy. Now I am eliminating the online portion all together. I feel that there are so many other popular dyers out there that it’s pointless for me to try to compete. People expect you to have an online store because it’s 2015 and who doesn’t sell online?! But when it comes down to it, they have no intention of buying anything from me. They just want to know that it’s there in case they want something sometime in the far distant future. I’m done playing around with it. I’m done feeling frustrated. I’m done putting in the work and getting nothing from it. I’m done giving people options just so they can ignore me. I have so many other things to do that this doesn’t even matter anymore.

If you want to buy my products, you can get them from the following places or find me at any of the 10-12 fiber, craft, and trunk shows I do each year.

Dryer Balls
Body Goodies
Liberty, OH

Hand-dyed combed top
The Artful Yarn
Chagrin Falls, OH

Hand-dyed silk scarves
Savvy Chic Boutique
Columbiana, OH

Hand-dyed fiber, yarn, & silks
The Shop on Liberty Street
Hubbard, OH

class time!

For several years my business card has said “lessons”, which of course prompts people to ask, “You teach knitting? I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit!” And I mumble something vague in return and then nothing ever happens after that. I have never really pursued the lessons/classes aspect of knitting and spinning for a few reasons. The main reason was money and then after that things just escalate. How much to charge? Do I force them to come to my chaos house or do I waste my gas driving to them? Do we meet in some neutral middle place like a Panera? What about follow up classes? What if I can’t teach them? What if I’m actually just a bad teacher? From there I spiral into self-doubt. And inactivity.

BUT.

With the new Shop in operation, I have decided to give classes a genuine effort. It provides a central space to hold them, so location is no longer a sticking point. And for some reason having that issue resolved makes me more confident to move forward with the rest of it!

We’re starting this month with Beginner Spindle Spinning Thursdays at 2 pm. Dates are July 9, 16, and 23. They will resume again in August. These afternoon classes will be $15. We will be using a Turkish spindle which you will have the option to purchase at the end of class.

Starting on August 12 I will teach Knitting Basics on Wednesdays at 10 am. We will cover casting on, binding off, knitting, and purling (time permitting). This first intro class is $15 and includes needles and yarn. Follow up instruction will be $10 per lesson. You can drop in or email me to reserve a spot (getwool@gwenerin.com).

a new way to shop

At the Shop

I have found a new home! Today I went to The Shop on Liberty Street in Hubbard, Ohio and set up a display of my items. This means you can now purchase my fibers on your own time, as long as you don’t mind coming to Hubbard. So far I have silk scarves, spindles, Eucalan, combed top, batts, and felting packs. As the summer progresses I will continue to add items.

Not only do I have this retail display, but in the back I will have a workspace for dyeing and storage for my bulkier wool. I can’t wait to get this stuff out of my house! Especially since I just ordered three more bumps (bump = approx 22 lbs). Of course the hope is that having this space will increase productivity (wasn’t that my new year’s resolution in February?), but I’m sure it will take some time to adjust.

Having this great spot will open the door to many neat things such as classes and demos, pop-up shops, and consultations. My plan is to be in the shop at least one day a week either for dyeing or spinning. However, I live just down the street, so if you are coming and want to see something specific, call ahead! I will bring additional items for your perusal. If you are having problems with your spindle or wheel, let me know! And did I mention there is also a coffee counter at the back?

20 West Liberty Street
Hubbard, Ohio 44425

Hours:
Tue-Fri, 8 am to 5 pm
Sat, 10 am to 4 pm

 

a new family portrait

wheels

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that the new wheel has arrived and it is a Majacraft Aura. It came on Thursday, March 27. That morning I finally received a tracking number from the Woolery. It was being sent directly from the Majacraft workshop in New Zealand, and I hadn’t heard anything for almost four weeks. When I looked up the tracking, I discovered that it had already traveled from California to Ohio, and I spent all day Thursday watching its slow progress from Cleveland to my local office. It was agonizing! Around the end of the day, I got a notice that it wouldn’t be delivered until Friday. Unacceptable! I would be leaving early that morning to go to Pittsburgh for the festival and didn’t want to wait until Sunday night to open the box. So I called the post office to ask if I would be able to pick it up. They said yes. But they’ve done this to me before — saying on the phone that I could pick up a package, but refusing to give it to me when I get there. I got myself so worked up on the car ride over, preparing myself for a fight. But thankfully the box was waiting for me and I took it home!

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Even though I had plenty to do that afternoon (we were leaving at 8 am the following day, but luckily the car was already packed), I wasn’t going to leave that box unopened. I was able to get it put together without too much anguish. There were a few parts of the instructions that were oddly vague, but in the end I was able to get some yarn on it before having to resume my packing. From the beginning Olive had decided it was her wheel.

olive01

When I got home from the show I continued to fiddle around with the settings. It didn’t feel great at first and I was disappointed. The treadling wasn’t as smooth as I had imagined it would be (did I mention I did not have the chance to try this wheel before I bought it?). I think I was feeling overwhelmed by the newness of it all. I chose this wheel because I wanted something that was different from the wheels I’d had in the past. Everything else had been scotch tension and this was a double drive! Why buy a new piece of equipment that is the same as what you’ve already got? So basically I got what I asked for and now I had to figure out how to use it. I read about other people’s experiences on a Ravelry forum and was able to make adjustments that helped. Feeling more confident, I decided it was time to spin in earnest.

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My first yarn off the new wheel was a 2-ply of Blue-faced Leicester locks and a mohair single. I guess I just wanted to jump right in there and see what this thing could do, so why not curly locks AND a thin yarn AND plying? I hadn’t spun locks in so long, so for just that reason I love the way the yarn turned out. I also love that the curls didn’t have anywhere to get snagged on. The sliding loop thingy is great. No more peaks and valleys created by the hooks. The delta/pig tale orifice is nice too. It’s just cool and weird. It really holds the thinner yarns in place and you can wrap around it twice to lessen the tension. Another thing I noticed (not sure if this is specific to this wheel, double drives, or random chance) and love is that the yarn packs down so tightly. I used to hate how fluffy the bulky yarns were on the bobbin. So much wasted space! I’m still working on bulky yarns. I am finding it easier to spin thinner yarns than chunky, so there is still a lot of work to be done.

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The second finished yarn was a mohair/Merino blend that I couldn’t resist buying or spinning. Such a gorgeous luster. Ugh! It was wonderful to spin on the wheel. I have never been great at spinning anything below worsted weight, and this might be a light worsted if I’m lucky. But it was enjoyable and doable. At some point I may get another whorl with higher ratios for finer spinning, but even on the highest ratio I can spin finer than I expected. It’s exciting!

Did I mention Olive has claimed the wheel?

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a month in photos

Hard to believe, but this weekend is the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival! I had a lot of work to do to get ready for this show. My last yarn & fiber event was in November and there was a lot of restocking to be done. In addition to all of my regular items, I also added some new things. Felting needles! Dyed mohair top! Fabric covered buttons! From the outside, it may not seem like much, but let me assure you, there is a great deal of work that goes into this. And I do it all alone. I dyed each fiber, spun each yarn, braided, picked, labeled, packaged, folded, measured, and washed each item on my own. All of these photos were taken since February 27.

thismonth

 

change is in the air!

new wheel

After a great deal of deliberation and anxiety, I decided it was time to order my new wheel. At first I thought I needed to sell off everything else I had in order to justify the purchase. However, after thinking about how many times I wished I had a second wheel to spin a different type of yarn while I was in the middle of a project, I realized that keeping the Kromski wasn’t foolish.

As far as which wheel I chose, that will remain a surprise. If you can tell from the image above, good for you! Keep it to yourself for now. When the box arrives in 2-4 weeks, all will be revealed!

The process of deciding to invest in a new wheel opened up my mind. I have been feeling disappointed in my spinning abilities lately. I look at yarn from a few years ago and it looks better than that which is being spun currently. Could it be that my skills have not only plateaued, but degraded? After 10 years I should feel like I am progressing, but that is not the case. It was easy to blame my struggles on the equipment. But if I get this new wheel and nothing changes, then what?! That is when I decided it was time for a refresher course. As I spend the next few weeks waiting for my new wheel to appear on the doorstep, I will read my spinning books as if I have never seen the words before. It is time to refocus. I have always neglected the mechanics, but this is a great time to hone in on ways to improve. I want to be prepared for the challenge of the new wheel, but I also want to improve my usage of the Kromski. I think The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin is a great place to start!

temptations + upgrade

Majacraft Suzie

When I first started exploring spinning wheels (back in 2005) I found myself at a wee little shop in Wadsworth, OH. She carried Majacraft wheels and I got to try one. Even though I had very very little experience, I could tell it was a kick ass piece of machinery. But Majacraft are some of the highest priced wheels out there – easily $1000 in today’s market. And as a college student, I did not have the job or sugar daddy to buy it for me. That’s how I ended up with my Ashford Traditional. It was a used wheel and only cost $250. Much more manageable. A few years later and with a bit more money saved, I upgraded to the Kromski Sonata. I was ready for a new wheel and that one was there. I liked that it folded up and had an old fashioned style. Plus it was around $500 (they’ve gone up in price too!). Since then I’ve gotten the jumbo and lace flyers. It’s the wheel I use every day, but I find myself struggling with it. I can’t quite pinpoint the problem, so it’s hard to know how to solve it. But lately I’ve been rethinking a Majacraft wheel. Partly because how can you not want a new wheel?! But also for an upgrade.

When I have issues with equipment, I often think that getting something better will solve all my problems. But it’s me. Someone who is really talented can make awesome stuff regardless of the tools. Buying a new drumcarder did make my batts larger and cleaner, but I’m still the one who selects the fibers. In the end they are still the same boring batts they always were, they’re just blended better. I feel the same with the wheel – even if I were to get a new wheel with more options, I’m still the one who is working the thing. If I don’t know what I’m doing, it won’t matter what sort of equipment I have.

And there is also the cost. The Suzie Pro (pictured above) is around $995 at the Woolery right now. They also have the Overdrive head available for a mere $383. So many options. Perhaps too many. I would feel obligated to sell my Kromski. Do I really need four wheels clogging my house? Selling it would only cover half the cost of the new wheel! Do I even care enough about this to invest so much? I need to find a place where I can try one again. I see a road trip in my future. It would be kind of cool to finally be able to get that wheel I wanted when I first started but couldn’t afford. To be continued.

PKC coupon

FBcoupon

Heading to the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival next month? Dates are March 27 through 29. Shop Friday afternoon and all day Saturday and Sunday. Be sure to claim your coupon on my Facebook page to receive 25% off your total purchase in my booth. This offer is valid for one time use at that event ONLY. Don’t forget to “like” my page to get updates and special offers like this for every event.