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2014 Markets and Festivals

This year I decided if I really wanted to grow my business locally I needed to participate in more markets and festivals.  I now find myself with booked Saturdays from July thru most of September and a couple of dates in October – wow!  My first 2 events have been at the Golden Farmer’s Market which have been a bit slow.  I have had at least 1 sale each event and am grateful I don’t have a booth fee.  The big market is this Saturday the 12th which is the HorseShoe Market.  This event is more of a craft event with lots of vintage sellers and small business owners along with great food trucks.  It was a big investment for me and I’m hopeful that I will not only make my booth fee back in sales but also a profit this year.

The great thing about the markets is setting up the booth and laying out my merchandise.  My first market in Golden helped me realize how little knitted items I had and how few hand spun yarns were for sale.  As I am going for more of a fiber supplier business model I knew that I had to create many more skeins of yarn if I want to make this a viable business model.  Fleeces and rovings are in abundance in my inventory but most of these will truly sale at the Salida Fiber Festival versus the farmer’s markets.  So with some clear goals and set time for production my yarn inventory is increasing.  This year new display tools were purchased and I’m still working out the best way to use each to highlight my merchandise.  My lace shawl gets so many compliments and draws in quite a few people – I know one of these days it will find its’ way into a good home.

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One of the best features of the market is the networking opportunities that come while I’m spinning yarn.  Thus far I have made contacts to obtain new fibers at minimal financial cost and an opportunity to teach seniors how to spin yarn.  I always bring my wheel to the markets as it is a great conversation piece and allows me to get in some production time.  Men and boys are always drawn to the mechanics of the wheel and ask lots of questions which over time I have developed answers for.  

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2014 Estes Park Wool Market

This year’s wool market was a lot of fun and found me stretching my comfort zone.  How you say?  Well first off I took a workshop on spinning Orenburg lace yarn with Galina Khmeleva which was amazing.  We had a lot of fun in class and I learned how to ply and set the twist in my fine fiber yarns using the Orenburg method.  Galina is great teacher and I would recommend taking her class if you have the opportunity.  She brought a wedding lace shawl and a warm shawl so that we could see and feel the difference in the two.  There were also several stories about Orenburg history, life and creativity.

IMG_3391[1] Me plying yarns the Orenburg way.

My second push out of my comfort zone was entering yarns in the yarn competition at the festival.  I was brave and entered 2 skeins into the competition.  My Navajo plied Romney wool skein (being used for the knit shawl) and a single ply of yak/silk yarn were humbly submitted to the judges for their critique.  To my surprise both won ribbons – yeah!

IMG_3409[1] They Romney took 2nd place in its category and the yak/silk yarn took 1st place along with “Best Use of Down Fiber” in the competition.   It was nice to read the feedback especially on the Romney yarn and to get confirmation that I do make really nice yarns.

As this was the annual Wool Market I of course went shopping for fleeces (probably more than I should have).  I actually had 2 days to do shopping at the market since I stayed overnight in town.   My fleece purchases were primarily “new to me” sheep breeds.  The fleece inventory now contains a beautiful gray Bond/Corriedale, a brown/cream Icelandic fleece and a glossy white Teeswater fleece.  The Teeswater was only 2 lbs and my least guilty purchase.  There was beautifully dyed rovings at reasonable prices so I had to snatch up a few of these and I purchased yarn from the local yarn shop that was represented at the Market.  Several of the fleeces have been listed in the shop – http://www.herie7.etsy.com and I am hoping to get to cleaning and packaging a few of them soon.

2014 projects – stops/starts thus far

This year has brought so many challenges and activities.  Last month I had the privilege of learning bobbin lacemaking from an established bobbin lace maker.  I confess that the project  which is just a band of lace is still on the pillow as it requires me to move my work up and take out all of the pins to do so.  I am equating this process to be similar to “steeking” in knitting.

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The first farmer’s market has passed and I have learned that my handmade items for sale are very low.  There are only 6 hand spun skeins in inventory at this point along with 3 hats (fall weight) and 2 cowls.  How did I sell so much of my products?  Of course I still have several mohair/silk ruffle scarves and the lace shawl/stole.

The market was a wake up call to me as I have been working on several long term knitting and spinning projects along with learning bobbin lace making.  On the positive I have started recording my knit projects in a journal to keep track of them and the yarn used.  It also helps in writing the blog.  Since it takes me about 2 hours to spin 4oz of roving for sports/worsted yarn, I am dedicating at least 3 nights a week to spinning.  As I now know what my handmade inventory is lacking I have 2 summer hat projects on needles.

These photos highlight the new yarns  Merino Wool/SilkTencel/Merino  I have my work cut out for me but I am much more productive when I have a goal!

Holiday season

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family. November sales were also my highest ever and explains my exhaustion. This weekend marks my last craft fair for the year and I’m hopeful about selling most of my finished items (hats/scarves).

As the year is coming to a close my first business decision has been to not restock fiber till the new year. I find myself thinking more and more like a business person versus a hobbiest as time goes by. Nonetheless I still have plenty of fiber inventory to sell especially my alpaca fiber. The stock of alpaca just may go on sale so that it finds it way to new homes. Projects include finishing a cowl and a lace doily so that I can start to knit a shawl with beads (ohhh!)

So looking forward to Christmas and having the college kid home for a few weeks. What are your holiday plans?

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Spinning yarn in public

I do love spinning yarn in public and I got in 2 days this past weekend to do just that.  The young boys are the most interested in the craft and how to’s of it all.  They ask great questions and really watch how it’s done.  I try to have double and single ply yarns along with finished products to help visitors tie it all together.  For the little girls we relate spinning on a wheel to “Sleeping Beauty” as most of them have seen that movie.

Although I didn’t have any sales it was a very productive weekend.  I made about 6 to 8 skeins of yarn plus I finished the second alpaca hat.  Some local alpaca ranchers have invited me to spin at a pumpking patch event they are attending.  They are even allowing me to sell some of my handmade items too.

I have the weekend off from demostrating but will be visiting a new yarn shop on Saturday.  I am looking forward to a relaxing week!

Small update

I am going to try something new on the blog front – small updates versus lengthy paragraphs.  Perhaps this will allow me to write more often.  The past month has had numerous health issues which have also impacted how much I am able to do.  I am participating in the Alpaca on the Rocks this weekend.  The evenings this week have been in preparation for the event.  I used my mill spun yarn to create a hat for the show my only concern is that it appears to be huge as the yarn is not as thick as the original yarn used for the project.  I am making a second one with less stitches to make it smaller.

On the spinning front I have 3 oz of alpaca/tussah silk spun and will be plying it tonight or this weekend.  The special order yarn is drying and I have started spinning the alpaca/milk roving.  The milk fiber is not as sticky as the silk so the VM does come out better.  Both rovings have rich medium brown color from the alpaca and will make nice yarn and projects.  As I have set aside rovings in 1 oz, 2 oz and 4 oz packages my overall stash of alpaca blended bamboo and silk has decreased.  Still need to follow up with my LYS on purchasing rovings.

Off to the docs soon then the day job.  I am not as prepared for this weekends event as the Farmers Market but a lot of my items are from last weekend and ready to go.  I do have 2 days for potential sales and a nice selection of items to present.  We shall see how it goes!

Llama fiber is here!

I apologize for the delay in posting – time has just gotten away from me.  The llama/silk roving arrived and it is absolutely wonderful.  Fiber fanatics will understand my drooling over the new arrival.  The mill took a nice fleece and added soy silk to it to make this roving.  It contains very little vegetable matter – far less than I was thinking it would.  I have sorted it into 1 and 2 ounce bags for merchandising.  I will be keeping 5 oz for spinning and making into a scarf.  It is so impressive that I was motivated to sort 2 fleeces and sent them to the mill for processing last week.  One will be roving (my cria alpaca fleece) and have bamboo added to it the other will have wool added and be converted to worsted weight yarn.  It takes about 4 to 6 weeks for processing so I hope to have the product back by June for summer festival sales.

I spun up my first batt of fiber into a sports weight yarn.  It is definitely a different technique to spin batts versus rovings but for me the preparation allowed me to spin a thicker yarn style.  On the wheel is some older wool roving which is being spun lace weight – perhaps to sale as no project comes to mind at the moment.  The neck warmer (scarflette) is complete and I just need to add buttons.  Will be getting the girls at the office opinion on button options this coming week.  I am nearly finished with another preemie hat for Children’s Hospital.  This one has a heart motif on it.  I thinking of repeating the motif on a larger hat and the big idea this week is sachet bags!  The bags should be pretty simple to knit up and create with a variety of intricate patterns which will satisfy my creative needs.  From my online research it seems that most are created in a simple strip panel and then seamed together along with adding the potpourri.  Cotton yarn is the most common type of yarn used for the sachet which I do have in the stash.  I think one of the projects for the Durango trip will be a bag similar to the wedding bag I made last August.  It calls for crochet cotton yarn in a small gauge and was quite intricate.  The blue and green crochet thread will make great color statements to the pattern.

Shearing day is 2 weeks away – yeah!  I am down to 5 fleeces in the house and know at least one will be made into yarn due to its coarseness.  When I was sorting through the fleeces for the last batch to the mill I realized that I had 2 different colors in fleeces destined for yarn.  In the future all fleeces will be viewed in daylight not a semi lit barn to aid in judging their color schemes.  This fall I think I will add some tan/light brown fleeces to the mix versus my brown/burgundy fleeces.  Still want to try my hand at cotton and a good CVM fleece as I hear great things about them and believe my first one was not a good representative of the breed.  There is a group on Ravelry that spins up a different bred of fiber a month and records comments, accomplishments and errors with the fiber.  So far I have just been reading about their adventures but would like to eventually participate and contribute to the group.  They do domestic and rare breeds from various animals which is educational and pretty cool too.  Well that’s all that is happening thus far in fiber world.  No sales thus far on Etsy but I am prepping items to sale at a festival or too this summer so things are moving along.  Until next time – try to keep the fiber purchases in tow if possible!