Happy 2019!!! Can you believe its already the end January?
It seems the best way to go into the New Year is to review a bit about 2018 at the Mill and the goals I have set forth coming into the new year.
2018 was the first full year for the Mill, and what a year it was. We officially opened the Mill and shop at the end of March 2017. We are fast approaching the two year mark, and I will be very honest with you, there have been several tears along the way, a lot of questioning my decision to do this, and a balancing act for work, home and life. Thank goodness I LOVE what I do. There are certainly hard days, not just at making, but financially as well. For the days that I doubt, there are so many more that I am so grateful for the chance to have the Mill and for all the people I've met so far along the way.
Some of my biggest and hardest lessons were:
1. Learning to make yarn.
2. Learning to say No.
3. Balancing work/farm/house/life
So first, learning to make yarn! Phew, who would have thought it could be so hard? This is definitely the most difficult part of milling and has the largest learning curve. I am still learning lessons, taking notes and trying to learn from each batch of yarn I make. Why is it so hard you ask? First off, because all fibers are different. Even within the same breed of animal you will have different microns, staple lengths and cleanliness issues to figure out. Next was learning to actually speak nicely to my spinning machine and then listen to what she is trying to tell me. If it's too hot, get her an air conditioner. If tension clips are flying off that should be staying on, perhaps lower your twist or adjust the clip size. If large slubs, fiber tornadoes, or breaks are happening, check your draft zone first, is it too close or too far apart given the staple length. The list goes on and on, and this doesn't even include actually designing and then correctly spinning a yarn to the desired weight and/or loft. In the past couple months I feel like I have really turned a corner. I have a list of tools and tricks and a decent order in which to run thru them before too much waste wool piles up on the floor and my stress level goes off the charts. Wahoo! I still have days, but generally I can figure out the problem and move forward without losing too much time. I'm so intensely proud of every batch of yarn I make, whether for Ewethful or for a customer. To see what a bag of wool can turn into is still astounding.
Saying "no." This is not my strong suit, I think it is something we all struggle with. When I first opened the Mill I started a waiting list. I thought it was reasonable as I entered names in my calendar, leaving what I thought was enough time to keep up. I have heard many stories of mills having a years worth of fiber sitting waiting to be processed. Just the idea of this gives me anxiety. I love wool, I love washing wool, processing wool, turning it into a more organized fiber that will become something else in someone else's life. That said, the idea of walking into the Mill and seeing months worth of work ahead of me seems the easiest way to make this go from a love to a burden. It's amazing how quickly that list came to haunt me. I stressed about how long people were waiting, if the product I was putting out was going to make them happy, if I could take on more of what seemed like endless emails, calls and in-person requests for more processing. And you know what was missing?... me being at home. Suddenly I was at the Mill until 7, 8, even 9pm. The exact thing I didn't want in this business. To help alleviate the stress I finally had to cut the waiting list. Which means saying "no." I'm not going to say I like it, in fact I wish I could help everyone who wants fiber processed. The reality is I will never be able to help everyone who asks for my processing services and I've had to learn to let go of the guilt that this brings with it.
So I'm sure you can see this is now coming full circle to #3 in the above list. Balancing work, home, farm, life. This is something I promised myself to be super aware of going into my second business. I've done 70 hours a week, and will not do it again. I learned long ago that your business exists to give you a life, not be your life. Also I've gotten a bit older and let's face it, a bit more tired. In addition, there are a lot of responsibilities for me outstide the Mill. Our household (which becomes quite a load during harvest), our animals, our marriage and of course my health - continuing to exercise and eat at least a moderately healthy diet. The reality is, I love my husband and love being at home, and as much as I love milling, its good to leave at the end of the day.
So for 2019 I've set some new fairly achievable goals. Only work at the Mill 5 days per week max, approximately 10am-4pm each day. Less shop hours (we are open Fridays and Saturdays only now) which allows me to focus and produce more when I'm in the back milling. Continue to exercise regularly, spend time with our dogs, scoop the alpaca pasture, and relax in the evening with my husband because soon enough it will be harvest again and I want to enjoy every extra minute I have with him.
There is a very quick review of some of the lessons I've learned and my goals moving forward into this new year. So, what did you learn in 2018 and what are your goals for this year?!
I am Kim Biegler, the owner and operator of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill. I create hand spinning fibers from locally sourced wool and teach others online how to hand spin their own yarn.