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.
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.
This past Saturday marked the first day in this year’s Tour de Fleece race on Ravelry. I was good this year and only joined 2 teams versus the 4 to 6 I have done in the past. I also decided to pace myself and just spin for a few hours everyday on one or more tools.
My primary fiber for the race is the Cambridge Fiber pack from Louet. This year I am spinning all of the fibers in their natural state and may have my friend dye a few of them but that isn’t a definite. For fun the new to me fibers which are in 8oz packages are being split into two 4oz sets. One set is being spun with a long draw method and one is being spin finer and semi-worsted. The difference in the two spinning methods is quite noticeable thus far. I have spun 8oz of Jacob Sliver and 8oz of Perendale sliver thus far. Shetland is on the horizon for later in the week. These are all being spun on my “workhorse” wheel the Louet S15. My Russian spindles are also getting into the race competition but of course this tool is for finer yarn. The project this week is cobweb lace weight paco-vicuna for a potential customer. For the race I started a new spindle of fiber that I can combine with the yarn I made last week. The 2 ply needs to be created prior to Sunday (washed and dried) to show to its potential owner. Hoping to accomplish this by Thursday as I have a big market coming up all day on Saturday so I’m anticipating being mentally and physically wiped out that evening.
This week I took the plunge and began to ply my spindle spun buffalo yarn. As you know I am plying the single of buffalo fiber with a commercial wool crepe yarn, these fibers have been combined onto a Russian plying spindle. Yes it did take me about 2 hours to combine the 2 yarns together but mostly because my plying spindle is so heavy I had to give my wrist a break from holding it. A lighter weight plying spindle has been ordered so I can move through this process quicker. Once I had the fibers combined the next step was to create the plying disc. I finally found some cardboard which suited my needs and made a somewhat round circle and began the process of plying the fibers.
My current spindle does work well as a supported spindle and is aiding in the plying process rather well. Somehow I seem to have more yak yarn than wool and keep getting gaps in the drafting area as the 2 yarns are not in sync. Since this is my first time with this process I’m trying not to be to critical and treating things as a learning experience. After all I have another 1/2 ounce of buffalo fiber plus cashmere, yak and paco-vicuna fibers to work with.
This weekend a met another lace knitter who happens to be a cashmere fanatic. She has asked that I attempt to make a 2 ply cobweb weight yarn from paco-vicuna for her use in her knitting business. My only hiccup at the moment is that I don’t know where I put my paco-vicuna fiber so that I can start on this process. The last time I spun PV fiber was a few years back and on my Louet wheel and it turned out a Sports weight single. Now that I can spin a fine yarn on the Russian spindles I am hoping to each cobweb status – time will tell.
This past Saturday I taught my first drop spindle class of 2014. I taught this method twice last year and then somehow let teaching get away from me. The class was held at the Recycled Lamb in Golden, Colorado and I had a total of 5 students. We spent 2 hours learning how to draft fibers, thigh spin, spin on a drop spindle and then review fiber tools. The next class will be 3 hours so that my students spin a decent amount of a single ply yarn and then we can 2 ply it so they have a small skein to show for their class period. As with any process the more you engage in it the better one can tweak areas to make the process better. Even though I was a bit nervous about teaching others once we started talking about fiber I found my groove.
Things are a bit slow on the production front from last week for several reasons. Primarily I received a record number of 7 sales last week which required packaging and shipping. Also I had to prep for the spinning class and get goody bags together for my students. The second set of goody bags was packaged for the Horseshoe Market in July and given my schedule I am just going to mail the items to the event versus attempting to drop them off this week. The college kid will be assisting in labeling packages which should help me get the 50 bags out the door sooner. I did manage to finish knitting one summer hat and spin a single ply of some merino/silk last week plus there are the 2 skeins finished earlier last week.
I still have knitting and spinning projects in the works this week and will have pictures for you a bit later.
Very excited to be coming to the end of the process of making my newest buffalo yarn. The first half ounce of buffalo fiber was spun into a single on the Russian spindle. I then found a dark purple wool crepe yarn from Habu to ply with the buffalo a few weeks ago. I spent part of my Sunday combining the two yarns onto a plying spindle and just need to make a plying disc this week to ply the two yarns together. Buffalo Fiber Habu wool yarn
I have learned from this process that my “plying” spindle is very heavy and I might want to get something a bit smaller. My hand/wrist ached a bit from combining the threads onto the spindle. I found myself taking lots of breaks from the project just to give my wrist a break. Not sure of the yardage as of yet but there is quite a bit of yarn on the plying spindle. It is nice to see the pieces of the project coming together and know that I am creating something special.
Last week I made a commitment to be more productive with my hand spinning of yarns and knitting of items which was based on my small supply of material to sell. I am happy to say that my production schedule is working and I completed 2 skeins of yarn and 1 hat within a week’s time frame. These 2 lovely skeins were spun into 2 ply yarns that still need to be measured but I’m thinking they are DK to Worsted weight yarns. The cabled lace hat also has been finished and was a challenge because I don’t particularly like cable needles.
I love the shine factor in both of these yarns and am having fun going through my stash of dyed rovings. There was a time towards the end of 2013 that I found myself short on dyed fibers but somehow that has been remedied (shopping sprees). This week I am on target for 4 skeins of yarn as I plied 2 yarns on Sunday and they are drying this week. The dyed Louet Fiber yarns are on the menu for this week. These rovings will have to be Navajo plied to keep the colors from being muddy which requires spinning a fine single so I may just do one of them. I’m really trying to boost the number of worsted and DK weight yarns in the inventory so I plan on spinning more of my other rovings than the Louet group.
On the needles is a new hat being made from the yarn I won at the Salida Fiber Festival last year. I won 3 skeins of a linen/cotton based yarn in pretty spring colors (green, yellow and peach). The yarns are being turned into hats with a broken rib stitch pattern but using a 2×2 ribbing. I had started to make a cowl using some kettle dyed yarn I received as a gift but am not liking the look of it with the color changes. This yarn has short color changes and knitting it in the round is creating a very muddled mess of colors. Thinking this yarn will make a better scarf than cowl and as it is a cotton/cashmere blend it deserves to be in a special project. My inventory only has 3 cowls in it and most are very warm so the search is on for the right lightweight yarn in a good color scheme to make cowls for the summer.
One of my newest tools is an Indian book Charkha. Yes, I finally broke down and bought this tool this year and I do like it. After watching several YouTube videos I figured out how to set up and close my book Charkha. It took a web search of photos linked to websites to understand how I should be sitting with the book charkha too. How did we survive without the internet has been my mantra for the last few weeks. It is so great to be able to learn new skills when one can’t have an actual person teach you face to face.
My charkha has cashmere clouds being spun on it and I love the sound of the wheel when one gets into the groove of spinning on it. Unfortunately I have many projects pressing on my free time so for a month or so cashmere spinning is on hold. Nonetheless I do like this tool and its compact size. I can see myself traveling with it and a bag of cotton or yak fibers to spin while on my trip.