Last April I finally started a Fiber Club, something I had been wanting to do for years. They had been all the rage for quite some time – sock clubs, yarn clubs, swaps — anything that allowed someone to pay for a box to appear on their porch each month. But how could I make it work with the way I work? No recipes, no plans. No two things the same. It didn’t seem to be the way these clubs worked. Dyers send an “exclusive colorway” to their subscribers. I don’t even have colorways! After discussing with a fellow fiber artist (that I respect and trust), it seemed that a surprise batt club would be the best route. Blammo!
The first group was a bit of an experiment. I’ve worked out details through the course of the year, figuring out better ways to make it function. I’m pleased to say that I’ve settled on something that seems to make sense?? Ha! I suppose I’ll never stop doubting myself about these things.
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.
Last week I finally got my fleeces boxed up and sent off to Michigan. It was an all day affair. First I had to get the fleeces packed into bags. Then I had to cram them into a box. However, I couldn’t find a box large enough for all three. Since I wanted to ship via UPS, I went to a mailing store intending to get a bigger box. They had one on hand and helped me get everything ready to go. It’s out of my hands now!
Rosita’s fleeces took the most work. I started by laying out a sheet in the living room upon which to spread them out. Next I went through the fiber to make sure I hadn’t left any pieces of paper behind, otherwise I would end up with confetti in my roving!
Next it was time to get it bagged up. I had a heavy duty plastic bag from a previous shipment of returned roving, so I crammed all the fiber into it. I tried to pack it down from the start, so I didn’t have as much squeezing to do later. It started out big:
But after sitting on the bag to compress the fiber and push out the air, it was much smaller! The other two fleeces were still in the grease and didn’t change as much in size after compression. The finished box weighed around 30 lbs with each bag weighing around 8 lbs each. I’m excited to get these back and spin them! Now for the waiting…
It’s done. I finally went through the part of my hideously massive stash that consists of weird bits and pieces, odds and ends — the left overs. It made sense to work on it this week since I’d already pulled a lot of the stuff out into the living room for batt-making.
Really, that photo doesn’t even give you an idea of it. All of that stuff is keepers!
And sure, I could slowly churn through these left-overs, incorporating them into batts. But in the meantime they take up a lot of space and guess what? There is a LOT of this stuff. Probably more than I could use and more importantly, I’m sick of looking at it. That’s where you get the pleasure of helping me out of this predicament.
I put together 14 grab bags. Each one contains assorted fibers, usually two to three different things and ranges in weight from 3.5 to 4 ounces. They are $5 each and are currently listed in the shop. Any that do not sell will travel with me to the Autumn Fiber Festival in October where I will have additional destash items (undyed fiber and tools). Do me a huge favor and get this stuff out of my house!
PS. The Grey to Green Festival, scheduled for September 21 in Youngstown, OH has apparently been canceled.
You may have noticed things here weren’t quite right for a week or two. We are back up, but all my posts from the month of June were obliterated! Sigh. I suppose it’s not too much of a heartbreak, since I only wrote about five entries. Sadly all my wit and humor is gone for good, but the photos are still available, so here is a little recap of the month:
The family went on a fishing trip on Lake Erie. I hadn’t been in a boat for many years and it didn’t entirely agree with me. We did catch quite a few fish, so at least it wasn’t totally pointless.
We helped run a Medieval Festival at the Christ Episcopal Church in Warren, OH. Rich and I stayed on site all weekend in our spectacular pavilion.
To get ready for Woolfest I spent several days with my new drumcarder, a heap of multicolored fibers, and a marathon of superhero movies.
The new batts came out really great – thicker and more evenly carded.
Rich and I went to Woolfest at the end of the month. It was really fun and I wore one of my new dresses. Summer of dresses is happening!
We walked around the beautiful Farmpark before the show started on Saturday and took a few pictures including this one of Rich in the arbor tunnel.
I would like to introduce you to the latest addition to the Gwen Erin Natural Fibers family:
Bristles, my new Strauch Mad Batt’r drumcarder.
She is the child, or grand-child, or even great-grand-child of Whiskers, my Fricke drumcarder from the 80s. Not sure how generations work in the drumcarder family tree. But I do know that Strauch carders are descended from Frickes, or so I’ve read.
Anyway, after a great deal of consideration, reading, pondering, discussing, more pondering, and a bit of “let’s just do it!”, I finally made the leap. I’ve had Whiskers for many years, and he has done a good job getting me started. However, I feel that to remain relevant and competitive, I needed a newer machine. Everything I heard about the Strauch machines was positive and I like the other tools I have from them. Since I knew there would be a vendor at Great Lakes who sold them, I went to talk to her. I probably had already made up my mind at that point, but I was glad to talk to a real person. Then I went back to the booth and talked to Rich. And then we bought it.
I waited until I got home Sunday night to get it out of the box. Immediately I could see a difference in the quality of the batts it produced. Much smoother, more blended, and of course thicker. I’m looking forward to further experiments!
Last fall I went to Stramba Alpaca Farm in Wampum, PA to have some fleeces processed. I had collected the fleeces over the course of a few years and they were sitting in my stash with no future. When I heard about a processor that was only 40 minutes from me, I was very excited to take a road trip. They gave me a tour of the mill and spent a lot of time with me. Then we looked through my fleeces and decided to turn them into big, fluffy batts.
This weekend Terri Stramba was at the Knit & Crochet Festival and she had my batts! They are beautiful and clean and I can’t wait to get spinning. My plan is to create a series of bulky and lofty yarns in lovely natural colors just like the skeins I spun for Irene in September (below).
In total I had five fleeces processed and I purposely kept each color separate. There were three shades of brown, one grey, and one black. Each finished bag weighs around 23-26 ounces, but the black is about 36 ounces. That one came from Ross Alpaca Ranch and I’ve had it two and a half years. The grey and two browns were from Black Walnut Alpacas. And the other brown was from an alpaca named Gwen (had to buy it!), but now I can’t remember which one it is. If I have to spin alpaca, this is my most preferred preparation — fluff!
The mess of last week has turned into 5o fresh new batts! I’ve got a wider range of colors in this batch in addition to funky fibers like angora, silk noils, and mohair.
Also, I reworked the packaging for the new year. The ribbons and tags were just too much hassle. Cut out the tag, round the corners, punch two holes, cut ribbon, thread ribbon, tie ribbon around batt. Then you’ve got all those loops to get fingers stuck in — ugh! Time for something a little quicker and cleaner! I ended up going back to wrap labels, just like the yarn and fiber. I prefer to think of it as consistency rather than monotony.