Fiber It Forward
Last weeks blog post I wrote about how and why I price Ewethful yarn the way I do. All the steps that going into making the yarn and all the extra behind the scenes expenses. What a great response I received from so many of you both here on the blog and on our social media sites. Thank you so much! One awesome woman commented on the blog about how someone she buys yarn from on Etsy has an option for customers to buy something which is then donated to another crafter. Meredith, thank you for mentioning this because that is where the "Fiber it Forward" idea came from.
As I discussed in the last post, it is important to me that I am sourcing wool from local shepherds and that I am able to pay them the price for their wool that affords them the ability to run their business. This coupled with all the additional expenses of running a business make it hard for me to mark my yarn lower or even offer sales. So "Fiber it Forward" is a joint attempt with you all to make Ewethful yarn a bit more accessible to those who could otherwise not afford it at this time. For whatever reason.
My online shop at ewethfulfiberfarm.com now has an item called "Fiber it Forward." Anytime you have a few extra dollars, or when you are already shopping, you can pick from an option of dollar amounts that will go into this account that I track. Each time we reach $40 raised I will have 2 skeins of yarn or 8oz+ of fiber that will be sent out to a recipient who could otherwise not budget in our product, but who would enjoy getting it in the mail! All the money you donate will go to Fiber it Forward and Ewethful will cover shipping costs (United States only) and any additional fiber costs.
So there are two ways you can help me with this. One is obviously to donate! The second way is to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) of you or someone you know would enjoy being the recipient of the yarns or fibers. I will share updates as fiber is sent out but all recipients will remain private. I will be doing this on the honor system because in my heart I have to believe that good people are the people coming to visit Ewethful at the shop and here on the blog.
So there you have it. Thank you all for the wonderful comments, please keep them coming. I love knowing you are out there and reading what I have to share.
Stay healthy and take care until next week. Thank you for all the support!
PS if you commented on last weeks blog post, Sheila is the winner of the giveaway. I commented back on her post. Please get in touch!
The Costs Behind Ewethful Yarn.
I recently read a post on Instagram about a new sweater pattern that was released by a popular designer in which the yarn called for in the design was close to $400 to purchase. My first thought was oh my, I couldn't afford that! Then I thought, wait what would it cost if you knit the same thing in the yarn I make? Well it wasn't close to $400 but the reality is it would cost on average about $150 to make a sweater out of one of Ewethful's yarns. There has been a lot of talk in the fiber world lately about the high cost of some yarns as a lot of the most popular patterns are being worked up with yarns that come with a pretty hefty price tag.
This lead me to thinking you all might be interested in what goes into my pricing. I'll admit that Ewethful yarn is not cheap. I have struggled with pricing ever since I got into the fiber business. I cringe when someone balks at the price of my yarn. But then I also get a bit defensive because I know the value and work that has gone into every skein of yarn.
For Ewethful yarn it all starts with the shepherd and it is important for me to be able to support local shepherds with a fair price. I tend to pay about $12-15/lb for raw wool that has been skirted. I also have some sources I buy from that cost less at about $25/per unskirted raw fleece which is a great price although it does come with some extra work.
We'll use a recent batch of wool that I purchased and processed out to yarn as an example...
I started with 3 bags of raw wool that ran me $75 to purchase and was about 12lbs. Good price. I then had to skirt the wool (remove any vegetable matter, poop and/or fiber that I did not want to process) which of course takes some of my time. Post skirting I probably had about 9 lbs of raw wool ready to be washed, resulting in about 6.5 lbs of clean wool. Don't forget, washing takes time, wear on my machine and of course the cost of scouring soap which is fairly expensive.
So now I have 6.5 lbs of clean wool. Next I run it thru the Picking machine and condition the fiber. Then it heads to the Carder and next the Draw Frame machine prior to spinning. A couple hours of work, conditioning liquid, plus wear and tear on my equipment and there is some fiber loss during these processing steps.
Then comes the spinning, plying, steaming and skeining. A lot more of my time, more wear and tear on equipment and a bit more loss in fiber along the way. So this particular batch I ended up with about 15, 4.25oz skeins. After steaming I still need to twist and label each skein. More time and expense for packaging. And we can't forget the dyeing! All those lovely colors that didn't come from nature do come with a price for dyes, equipment and my time.
So now I have yarn that I need to sell to recoup that money. This means I have to do marketing which would generally be festivals, social media, website updates, blogging, newsletters and so on. More of my time and money spent on booth fees, programs, apps, and credit card processing fees. And if its ordered online, time to package and ship plus the cost of shipping supplies.
So here we are. I have 15 skeins of yarn that are 220 yards and I am charging $25 each. When these skeins sell (as of this date none have) I will make a total of $375. Now let's go backwards. $75 right off the top for the wool. Soap and labels take another $20 or so. Wear and tear on equipment. There is no exact way to price this, but ordering parts can cost $40 alone in shipping plus the time the machines are down while doing repairs. Last year I spent close to $4000 on machine parts and updates. Now let me add on some of the misc. of owning my business... mortgage payment on building, utilities, credit card charges. Apps for website and newsletters in addition to professional fees to keep them updated. Alarm system, licenses, permits, taxes. Gas to get to and from wool buys. It's a long list. And remember we were down to about $18 per skein in costs just in fiber and prep. The cost of my actual time is always at the end and generally not quite what it should be.
Ok ok, so I think you are seeing why my yarn is priced the way it is. I could certainly cut costs by buying wool from a different source. Maybe even wool that has already been processed beyond washing and even ready to spin. But it is important to me in the process of making Ewethful fibers and yarns that I be able to financially support small farmers. (On the commercial market wool brings about $1 lb for raw wool so fiber farmers would not be able to make a living at that rate). I do this because I love what I do and love supporting our local agriculture economy. Eventually I will slowly make money once start up costs are paid off, the trade off in the decision I have made. I am lucky to be in the position that I am and do not take for granted the fact that I love going to work everyday.
As for other yarn brands, I'll admit that I balk at some of the prices I see. I even think, well if they are charging that then I should be able to charge... And then I stop myself. The reality is, I love my yarn and I want it in the hands of as many crafters as possible. Do I have more work to do on my pricing? Yes. Do those of us in this industry need to charge for our labor and skill? Absolutely yes. So where is the balance? Its different for each of us I suppose. Not a great answer but I can only speak for myself.
So what can I do to make my yarn and fibers more accessible for those on a budget? I'm still brainstorming ideas so please feel free to join in the conversation below. One tried and true way is to give it away! So comment below about anything you wish (does not need to be related to this topic) and you'll be entered in to win a skein of yarn or spinning fibers.
This week has been chock full of interesting, gross and enlightening farm adventures so I thought I would just share some "Tales from the Farm" in this post.
It all started out with chicken mites. Isn't that how your average week starts? I was having one of those days that never seemed to want to end. And per my usual I had started a project way too late in the day and by 8pm was regretting my decision. I was hot, I was tired, and my chicken have mites. De-lousing chickens when you are tired always goes well. Ha! We moved them into their old smaller coop this past weekend in an effort to get them to a bug free space while we cleaned. Chickens naturally go back to their coop every night, but when you change their sleeping arrangements, it gets dicey for a couple days. Mitch is working on the farm until dark these days so chicken wrestling was all me. One by one I pulled them from the coop and doused them with an anti-bug powder (mainly on their bums) in an attempt to rid them of their pesky little biting friends. After a struggle and 12 very pissed off chickens, the powder was applied, they were landed back on their nighttime perch and I had a very well deserved beer. This must be repeated again to kill any hatching bugs, but I'll be more rested next time! In case you were wondering the chickens likely picked up the mites from mice and wild birds which we have plenty of this year.
If you've been watching our stories on Instagram you may have spotted the crane who has taken up partial residence in our alpaca pasture. What a sight! It sits in the pasture and just calmly waits for the mice. If you time it right you can see it grab one off the ground and then take flight with its latest snack in hand. It is actually pretty cool although the alpaca, chickens and Cuddlebug the goat seem to keep a nice distance from their new pasture mate. It lives in the creek that runs our property so if its not in the pasture we can often here it talking out back towards the water.
Ok so I know we've all been waiting for the owl delicacy right? Well here is how this story goes. It's a little gross but pretty representative of life here on the farm. A couple days ago I called out to ElsieMae to see what she was chewing on. I thought it was a bone, but as I approached I realized it was... a cute little bunny butt, tail and back feet. That was all there was of the bunny. Basically torso down. A little weird but I just figured Elsie had been working on the bunny for awhile. I scooped it up and tossed it away. I kid you not, I turned around and Elsie was in a totally different part of the property chewing on something. You guessed it, the lower half of a cute little bunny. What the hell is going on around here I though, Elsie is not the best at catching things. I mentioned this to Mitch and after a bit of googling we discovered that owls consider baby bunnies a delicacy. But not all the bunny, really just the eye balls and head. Remember how many owls we have in our barn?!!! Turns out the pasture is littered with the lower half of a lot of cute little bunny remains. We are pretty inundated with rabbits around here so honestly it is a nice natural form of population control. I would just love it if they would leave the leftovers away from the dogs.
Last and final farm tale for this post. Our smallest dog Velma is all of 12 lbs and just about the best mouser there is. She is a dachsund mix and her little nose can shoot right down a mouse hole and yank them out faster than all three of our other dogs can even seem to react to a mouse. So of course I was hanging laundry this week and up walks Velma with her latest catch. She hasn't been on her A game this year so it was about time. The thing is, she was so proud she just followed me around with her prize. Where I went, she and the mouse went. After lots of praise I finally went and got a cookie for her. Once she saw the cookie she dropped the mouse, I scooped it up and over the fence it went. Later in the week here she came with a bird. I'm pretty sure the bird was already dead when she found it, but she got a cookie anyway. Scoop and over the fence it went. In case you are wondering, our "over the fence" is questionable.
Well I think that is it for "Tales from the Farm." I did also manage to make some yarn, work on some client fiber and even sit, spin, knit and read in the sunshine.
Until next time... Stay healthy, wear a mask, craft on and listen and learn from all different voices.
Know Your Wool
Know your wool. What? It was not until I tried to get my first sheep that I stopped to think, wait what, wool comes off that animal! It sounds so naive given the culture I live in now, but at the time it was mind blowing. Prior to that I had walked into a yarn shop, felt for the softest, prettiest colored yarns and was on my way. So really it is not so strange that I hadn't given any thought to where the wool came from. I did not even think of it as wool, it was yarn. Wow how times have changed. I of course still walk into yarn shops, but these days I am looking for locally grown yarns as they always have a uniqueness that will allow me to remember where I got it and supports the agricultural local businesses! I have obviously become very passionate about using what I call "real wool" and love to educate others on the importance of knowing where their wool is coming from. While tracking yarn back to a specific animal is a big ask, it is less difficult to find out the region your wool came from and where it was milled.
I am currently working on restocking a new batch of our Jacob yarn so thought this would be a great time to introduce where the wool came from so you too could know your wool and understand a little bit behind the yarn.
The wool from this yarn comes from a small farm not too far from us, just east of Salem. I connected with Julia of WileyJo Farms several years ago via Instagram. They have a small family farm where they raise beautiful Jacob sheep in addition to other farm products and produce. Every year I am lucky enough to be able to purchase all of their Jacob fleeces from them. Even more lucky it gets delivered to me straight from the source which gives us a few minutes every year to catch up! Priceless. You can check out their farm at wileyjofarms.com or on Instagram follow them at wileyjofarms.
Jacob sheep are a heritage breed sheep which makes them a very hardy sheep. Taken from the Livestock Conservancy website: "Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by our forefathers. These are the breeds of a bygone era, before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. These breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture."
The thing about heritage sheep (and livestock in general) is that the reason they tend to be heritage - meaning they have been around for a very long time - is because they are fairly self-sufficient and dare I say tough? For the most part they lamb without needing our help, their feet can tolerate our wet soil, their fleeces can handle the seemingly endless moisture and in general they are pretty self-sufficient animals. All of that said, as with a lot of heritage breeds, their numbers are dwindling so there is a very real effort to breed and preserve all of the heritage breeds. You can get more information about preservation efforts at livestockconservancy.org
Truth about Jacob wool is that it is not the softest you are ever going to feel. The wool, just like the sheep, is hardy. But it is beautiful, strong, warm and is suitable for making outerwear sweaters, hats, shawls and mittens. It is rustic and that has its own beauty. As I have come to learn and appreciate over the years, not all wool has to be the super softest and in fact the finished products from heritage wool tend to wear better and longer.
So there you go. A little about this yarn, where the wool came from and the business and farm you have supported along the way. I have recently restocked our light gray and will be adding dyed, dark gray and Jacob white over the next couple weeks.
Stay healthy, wear a mask, craft on and listen and learn from all different voices.
Thank you for reading!
I am Kim Biegler, the owner and operator of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill, along with my husband Mitch - my steadfast supporter, enabler, grass seed farmer, maintenance guy and all around love of my life! Visit the Mill's website for more about us and well, to shop for fiber of course! ewethfulfiberfarm.com