Did you all know that Ewethful has a Monthly Fiber Club? That's right, fiber in the mail! The Fiber Club has been going strong for almost two years now with lots of happy members. I have been saying that the yarn club is just around the corner for awhile now and for whatever reason I never seem to turn that corner. So this it. 2020 you've pushed me over the edge and I'm announcing that Ewethful Yarn Club is coming! In fact pre-Sale for December is now available in our online shop.
First a little about the Monthly Fiber Club. If you are a spinner this club is for you. Every month you get 3-4oz of fiber that has been washed, carded and comes to you fresh off the machines. Generally this is fiber I find in the PNW straight from the shepherds and shearers caring for these animals. The amount generally depends on how much I could source. In addition to the fiber you also get a specialty item in each box. It's like Christmas every month! It's amazing how many members not only spin the fiber every month but also complete a finished project. So inspiring!
Now to introduce the Ewethful Yarn Club! I am so excited to finally make the time and get this Club up and running. So here is how it will work. This will be a quarterly mailing with different membership levels allowing you to spend a little or a little more than a little! Each mailing is of course a surprise!
I know there are a lot of yarn subscription clubs out there but this one will be very different! You will not just be getting the same or similar yarn each month in different colors. Instead the yarn I create for the Club will made specially for members and just like the Fiber Club the focus will be using wools and animal fibers that we grow here in the PNW. Your yarn will be coming to you from the barn, to the Mill and then to your home. You'll literally "Know Your Wool." If you have mostly knit with commercially processed yarns, this will be a new experience for you! The different breeds of sheep and blends of fibers that I create will feel different, look different and definitely work up with its own unique character each quarter.
The weights of the yarn will change dependent on how I think the finished yarn will work up. There will also be a mix between natural colored and dyed up yarns. So basically you never quite know what will be in the box. So fun!
The levels of membership available are as follows and include shipping...
One Sheep Level (click here to sign up):
Single skein of yarn (generally 210 yards). $29/quarter
Two Sheep Level (click here to sign up):
Two skeins of yarn (totaling 420 yards). $55/quarter
Black Sheep Level (click here to sign up):
Two skeins of yarn (totaling 420 yards), a pattern and a specialty item. $65/quarter
Membership in the Club will be limited simply because I need to source and make all the yarn! The first yarn will go out in December, making it a great gift for any yarnie person in your life (including yourself of course)! Because this will be all new to me, and space is limited, I have opened up some pre-sale spots that are now available in our online shop so please run and reserve your spot! You will be charged for your first month now and the next charge will happen automatically on your card in February 2021 (I will manually go in and adjust this charge date for you). After that you will be charged quarterly.
So there you have it. 2020 has thrown so many curve balls our way I finally realized there will never be that perfect time to start the Club. Or maybe the perfect time is now! There are also a couple spots open in the Monthly Fiber Club so if you are a spinner and that is calling your name, now is the time!
Sign up for Fiber Club here
What a week it has been for those of us on the West coast. I hope all of you were and are able to stay home, stay safe and healthy, and craft on! Thank you for reading and commenting.
I realize that when I talk about wool a lot of the terms I am using make no sense to the average person. So I thought I would do a couple posts talking specifically about wool and some of the most common terms and their meanings. One of the most important for making yarn is staple length so we'll start there.
Staple length refers to the measured length of the wool coming off of any fiber animal. Depending on the animal, they get shorn every 3 - 12 months on average. Once the fleece is off the animal it is time to measure. Generally measuring starts at the shorn end - the part closest to the animal - following the fiber to the tip as shown in the picture. As you can see above the darkest wool on the left side of the ruler measures in at about 7 inches. Staple lengths vary not only from species, but between breeds, animals within the same breed and even the fiber on an individual animal can vary greatly. The picture labelled "same breed, different sheep" shows two locks of fiber from two different Ewethful Shetland sheep! They are the same breed, but one is almost 7" and the other is only just over 3". Generally specific species and breeds have a common reference point for staple lengths.
Alpaca tends to have an average staple length of 2-4inches if they are shorn once per year.
Mohair is the fiber off of Angora goats. It has an average length of 4-6 inches when shorn twice per year.
Angora is the fiber off of angora rabbits. It tends to have a staple length of 2-5 inches when shorn every 3 months.
Sheep are all over the board because there are so many different breeds of sheep. 2-8 inches is a good range of where sheep's wool staple lengths tend to fall when shorn once per year to twice per year depending on the breed.
So why is staple length important to know? Well for the average person, let's face it, it's not! But if you are a handspinner, it can make the difference between an easy and a challenging spin. There are two main reasons it helps spinners to know the staple length.
1. The shorter the fiber the more twist it will require to stay together when making yarn. Remember putting twist into a fiber is basically all it takes to make yarn (pictured below)! as you are drafting the ends of the fibers need to overlap each other while the twist is going in for the yarn to stay together. So shorter fibers need more twist per inch simply because otherwise the twist between those fibers may not be strong enough to keep those ends together. So while a 3" staple length fiber may need 6 twists per inch, a longer 7" fiber may only need 3 twists per inch as those fibers will overlap each other at a further difference as the twist goes in. This is a simplified way to try to explain this and only one way twist impacts your yarn. The thickness of your yarn also plays into twist, but we'll leave that for another day.
2. The shorter the staple length, the closer together you may need your hands to be when spinning. A longer staple length requires you to have your hands farther apart. This is pretty simple! If you're hands are only 2" apart but the fiber is 7" long, you run the risk of pinching your fiber so hard between your working fingers that the wheel can not take the fiber from you. Remember that in spinning the goal is the let the wheel take the fiber from you, not for you to be feeding it to the wheel. I think this happens a lot with beginning spinners because our grip on the fiber is a lot tighter as we are terrified the wheel is going to rip all the fiber out of our hands. Knowing staple length will help you better figure out how far apart or how close to have those two working hands.
There are other reasons knowing staple length is important such as how are you going to process the wool? Handcard, comb or maybe a mill? And which mills process the staple length you have? At Ewethful for example I ask for a staple length between 2 - 6 inches, but other mills can process much longer or shorter fibers. The long and short of it (hahaha) is that the more you know about your wool the better your end yarn game is going to be!
Ok you all. I hope that helped some of you spinners and non-spinners alike? Please please please feel free to ask questions. If I don't know the answer I know a lot of smart spinners out there that can help us out.
As always thank you for reading! Stay healthy, wear your masks, be kind to all your neighbors and craft on!!!
I am starting to feel like every week I say, "well that week didn't go as planned." After taking a couple of months off from fostering Speckles the cat and her 5 amazing kittens, I decided over the last week that I was probably ready to take on a new batch of fosters. Fostering takes up a lot of time. They have their own room in our house and in addition to feeding and cleaning, I want to ensure the animals in our care are getting enough human socialization.
So I sent an email in to our local Humane Society over the weekend saying I was ready if they needed my help. I got a call Monday evening and picked up this latest batch of kittens on Tuesday - 2 Siamese mix boys and 1 black girl. We don't know this crews story but they were definitely outside for a bit. They were flea infested and are underweight, the girl being the most severe at about half the weight she should be for the three weeks we believe them to be. But man do they have spunk! And the more food they get in their belly's the more spunk they have. They are playing, testing the limits and being absolutely adorable while they do it.
But don't you have enough animals to take care of Kim? A logical question I have asked myself a lot. And especially before taking on more fosters again. I have worked with animals since about 2002, the year I got my first dog as an adult. I fell hard and ended up getting a job as a veterinary assistant, leaving the office jobs of the past to embark on a totally new path. That lead to my first petsitting/dogwalking business, Waggin' Wagon, which lead to the dog hotel business. After selling that It was only natural that I would end up with animals once we moved down south to the farm. I mean there is so much room for them right? We have the domestic animals, the farm animals and now the fosters in and out as I have the energy for them. It's a lot, and it is a TON of work. But here is what I love. I love making animals happy. I derive joy from getting to know them, getting to figure out their needs and likes and doing all I can to ensure they live their best lives. The goal is the same with the fosters except in short stints. And of course then passing them on to their forever homes! I have been looking for a good volunteering fit for me. Fostering is a way to use my years of animal experience to give back just a little bit.
Reality, there are still plenty of days where I just don't want to do it. I get tired thinking about how I have to put the chickens to bed, or wake up early to feed kittens, or brush out a horse, or scoop what is seemingly endless poop. But they are fleeting moments and the second I see the animals and start the routine, I feel better as they always put a smile on my face and the routine itself is something I enjoy. All of our animals and fosters bring me joy so in reality I get from them as much as I give.
Oh yeah, and I had a tooth pulled this week! Phew. It's been a problem for a couple months and most likely the tooth was damaged from way back when I had braces. So the tooth is out and we start the process to an implant. I didn't post this pic on social media but all you blog readers get a treat (?) at my new toothless smile on surgery night!!! And if you ever find yourself in need of an awesome Oral Surgeon, let me know!
As always thank you for reading, stay safe, stay healthy, care for all your neighbors, please wear a mask, and craft on!!!
Don't worry, I didn't disappear for too long! I apologize for not getting a post in last week. If you follow us on social media, you'll have seen that my car got shot up. Literally! No one was injured and we were not actually present when the damaged occurred. A random act and the end result is that person in jail and my car being totaled by the insurance company. It was a crazy week and as always unexpected. I couldn't quite get my thoughts in order. But I'm back this week and ready!
In the craziness of the week one thing did stay normal and that was my knitting and spinning. In fact I turned to them more than ever during the week as a way to settle my mind and body. While making I've was thinking a lot about sustainability in our lives and even in our crafts. Losing our car seemed to play right into the theme. How do we simplify our lives a bit (and maybe our finances too) and start to make better choices about the items we purchase.
Lately I've become overwhelmed by all the things. The endless amount of items and belongings we have of which so many we do not need. But since I work with and write a lot about fiber, I'll narrow in a bit and talk about my clothes. I used to go into Target, American Eagle or the like and grab items. Inexpensive cute tee's, shorts, pants, etc. Most of the time I would get them home, wash them once and they would become misshapen. Super frustrating. So about a year ago I said that's it. No more cheap "fast fashion" clothes that are being made in China, India or elsewhere and where we know the workers are getting severely underpaid. Since then I have been striving to be more aware of where I purchase my clothes. Knowing about the company, who owns it and what their manufacturing values are. Of course this comes with a price tag, which means I haven't bought a lot of clothes this year. Ha! But that's ok. I already had a fair amount of clothes and the reality is, how many clothes do I really need? The few items I did purchase, I love!
So of course this attempt at changing my patterns in clothes trickled into my knitting. I have already made a pretty big shift out of superwash and commercial yarns. I also don't just buy yarn to enhance my stash. I think this circles back into sustainability and how much do we really need? I strive to know my yarns - whether I have spun them myself or they come from a farm or yarn shop that supports local farms. But the real shift has come in what I am making. I wanted to make a concerted effort not to just knit shawls and hats but to contribute to my wardrobe in a bigger way. Sweaters! Now don't get me wrong, I still knit hats and shawls, and I use and love them. But at the same time I am trying to always be working on spinning or knitting for a sweater. I pick out sweater patterns that will be timeless and that I can imagine wearing on a regular basis. Then I pick out fiber that I will love to spin, because as you know or can figure out, there is a lot of spinning that goes into a sweater. And then I enjoy the process. No rushing. No pressure. Making not only for the sake of making (which is a good enough reason!) but making in a sustainable way. The very definition of "Slow Fashion."
"Slow fashion, is a concept describing the opposite to fast fashion and part of the 'slow movement', which advocates for manufacturing in respect to people, environment and animals. As such, contrary to industrial fashion practices, slow fashion involves local artisans and the use of eco-friendly materials, with the goal of preserving crafts and the environment and, ultimately, provide value to both consumers and producers." - Wikipedia
I first wrote about this topic back in March of 2019 as I had just embarked on my first handspun knitted sweater project. I finished that sweater, a second sweater and just last week my third sweater is off the needles. To add to the fun, these are all fiber from my own animals.
So I am curious to hear about how you all are feeling about the Slow Fashion and sustainability movements. Has it impacted how you shop and craft? If so, who are some of your favorite companies to buy from in light of you making shifts?
As always, thank you for sharing and commenting!!! Stay healthy.
If you have been following me on Instagram or Facebook for awhile you may already know that we moved in March of 2018. It seems like no time at all and so long ago all at the same time. We hadn't planned on moving but life is what it is and so we did! It was overwhelming to say the least. We not only had to move us but all our house pets and farm animals. I couldn't even fathom how we would do it even as it was happening. All of this and it hadn't even been a year since I had opened the Mill.
Homes around here with property go pretty quickly and at a higher price than what we were prepared for. So with the help of Mitch's parents, when we found this "project home" we jumped at both the potential and the price that was doable for us and still close enough to the farm and Mill. Had we known then... story as old as time. But we love our place and while it still has a long way to go, we wouldn't have it any other way. We are so lucky in so many ways and grateful every day we get to live here.
I used to share a bit more of the pictures and its been a long time so I thought I'd start to keep you all a bit more updated on the progress. In addition the more I post and talk about it, the more it keeps me moving to get back to work on the inside! We both love restoring vs. renovating so as much as possible in both the house and mill we try to keep the original character of the buildings.
Our house has a long history here in the area and started out among prominent farming families like so many of the older houses do. She was a gem in her day with a huge addition added on in the 1980s that made her a shining star. Then she was foreclosed on and the property was left to disintegrate... for 7 years. It had been so badly neglected that we moved into a trailer on the property before moving into the house. A lot of people had moved thru the home in the meantime and she weathered a lot of damage and theft. If these walls would talk, they would say "paint me so I can forget about those 7 years!"
Turns out we had no water (the well was no good), no septic, and a lack of windows among the damage. What we did have was good bones on the house, a whole lot of boarded up windows, a lot of missing floors and mounds of mouse poop. Oh the mouse poop. Mitch and I have gone thru a lot of highs and lows in our 9 years, and this house was definitely not an easy road to travel. We pushed ourselves to the limits that first spring to make the house live-able before harvest started. The first time we could shower inside was monumental and also the time we moved in from the trailer. Water is everything! Then came the day we could flush the toilets (this day came after we moved in!) and we knew we were going to make it.
I was going to run thru the whole property but as it turns out, it is still a bit overwhelming. Ha! So let's just start with the outside this time.
Reality is as I sit picking out pictures to show you all, Mitch and I keep seeing all the work left to go. And all the things that people could pick apart or wonder why we haven't gotten further. As you can imagine (or if you are thinking of buying a project home, I urge you to imagine) this has cost us way more than we ever thought. So we have to take breaks to keep our finances in check. We spent more money than we had the first year to make it comfortable and now we are very careful about where the money goes when we have it. I have to admit looking thru all of this had made this particular post harder to write than I though. But I'm to tucking away my anxiety for now and trying to just enjoy where we have come. This is home and we are so happy everyday that she is ours. She will be a gem again!
Mitch is busy with harvest, so projects are pretty much on hold for him until Fall. My next project is to paint the living room. I've picked out the paint color and will prep and prime this weekend. Here are the befores...
Thank you for reading along and joining us on all our journeys thru farm life, mill life and now home restoration life. I'll be sure to keep you updated on this room and maybe you can help pick out the next project room for me?
Stay healthy and thank you for reading, supporting, and commenting!
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!
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. 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!
Emily of Tin Can Knits recently wrote in an Instagram post, "Spinning is time-consuming as hell, and it doesn't make much sense to anybody who hasn't already caught the bug (kinda like knitting). But I tell you, I love it SO HARD." Me too! That was my first response. My second was that I wish more people understood how amazing and rewarding it is to handspin.
If I had a dollar for every person who has told me they would like to learn to spin, but they are worried it will take away from their other crafting time. Guess what, it will! But that is okay. Spinning, like all crafts, ebbs and flows. Sometimes I spend a lot of time spinning, sometimes knitting, or crocheting. But what if I had never learned to spin because I was afraid it would cut into my knitting time? In all likelihood I would not own a wool mill, but that is a little extreme. For most handspinners, spinning is therapeutic. It is truly a chance to get back to the animals, to feel their fibers slip through your fingers while making the yarn and being able to design your project from scratch. The rhythmic act of treadling, and letting the wheel take your fiber is so soothing, I often lost track of time and everything else going on in the world.
For most people, learning to spin is not intuitive. It takes time, a lot of practice and patience. It's important to remember that people have been handspinning for a very long time, originally out of necessity. If they could do it with the most primitive of conditions, you can certainly do it too!
Learning to spin was not easy for me. In fact it was one of the most challenging things I have had to learn as an adult. I had a lot of frustrating times sitting at my wheel. Even learning to treadle (using your feet on the peddles to turn the wheel) did not come easily to me. I had moments where I would get it. Then sit down the next time and feel like I was starting all over from the beginning. And of course there were times when the fiber just flowed easily even if I had no idea why. I trudged on, determined to learn this new craft. And eventually I got it! How? Classes, watching others, videos (DVDs and YouTube videos alike) and practice. So much practice. What I am trying to say is that if you are like me and handspinning is not intuitive, don't give up. You'll get there and it will be so worth it!
If you have been thinking of learning, have tried it once or you are already in deep as a Beginner, I encourage you to push on. I have created a list of my top tips for Beginners, or things I wish I had known as I was starting out learning to spin.
If you live in the area and are interested in learning to spin on a wheel, please feel free to comment and we can set up a one-on-one class (outside with safe practices to keep us all healthy).
Kim's 10 Top Tips for Handspinning Yarn for Beginners
1. Practice. 10 minutes a day. This is not a craft that you can learn from one class and expect to be able to pick up a week or month later. Practice is key. Have a wheel and use it.
2. Start with appropriate fiber. The toothier the wool is, the easier it is going to be to spin. By "toothy" I am referring to coarseness. The more coarse the fiber, the more it naturally wants stick together. So while it may not be the most tactile fiber to start with, it will give you a higher chance of early success! Recommened sheep breeds: Jacob, Romney, Shetland Fiber to avoid: alpaca, mohair, silk, merinos and other fine wools or blends.
3. Fiber preparation is key. It's so easy to get pulled into those lovely hand-dyed wool top braids and batts. Stop! Don't do it! Not yet anyway. Instead go with fiber that has been hand-carded or processed at a mill as roving. These fibers will be less processed and in general this means less condensed which is easier to spin. Quick lesson: Top is wool that has been combed so that all the fibers are parallel. This fiber, especially when dyed, is often very dense and alick making it harder to spin for beginners. Roving is generally a much looser fiber as the wool has only come off the carder and is therefore less organized and less dense. Again I would avoid dyed roving and stick to natural colors.
4. Practice treadling. Easy enough! Treadle treadle treadle. If you are sitting in front of the t.v., treadle. Talking on the phone, treadle. No fiber needed just treadle. Getting yourself comfortable with treadling is half the battle right!
5. Understand adjusting tension and keep it light on your wheel. Keeping the tension light on your wheel will keep the wheel pulling fiber in from you at a slower pace. When you are first learning, slow is good. You definitely want to take some time to learn what type of tension your wheel works with (scotch, double drive or bobbin lead) and then once you understand, loosen your tension. There are endless videos and tutorials online so google and go!
6. Let your wheel take the fiber. The idea in spinning is that as you spin, the wheel is taking the fiber from you either in small or large amounts depending on how much tension is on the wheel. You are guiding the fiber, but the wheel is taking it. See tip 7 for how to guide vs. give.
7. Hold the fiber as lightly as you can. Guide vs. Give. I had a teacher say to pretend the fiber is a baby bird - if you hold it too tightly you could hurt the bird. The idea is that the lighter you hold the fiber the easier it is for the wheel to take the fiber from you. If you have a death grip on it, the fiber isn't going anywhere and you will be fighting your wheel. Believe it or not you can even just let the fiber rest in your hand, letting the wheel do 95% of the work! What?!!! I used to hold my fiber so tight afraid the wheel was going to take it too fast and then the fiber would break. Now I actually practice seeing how lightly I can hold the fiber as the wheel takes it in.
8. Oil and clean your wheel. Oil your wheel fairly often with an oil for spinning wheels. There are many options options available. I generally use wheel specific oil for ease of use but gun oil is another great option. Cleaning your wheel is a bit more of a chore. But those little fibers get into the tiniest of crevices and can slow down your wheel. Cleaning often and keeping those loose fibers out of your wheel will make for a smooth spin.
9. Don't worry about the "rules." I tell all beginning spinners, don't worry about the rules. Just make yarn! This should be fun and shouldn't be stressful or a chore. If you are making yarn, you are winning! Later down the road, you can choose to be a more technical spinner if you would like. But for now, get the basics down and have fun!
10. Take a break. When those frustrating moments happen, take a break. Do something else and come back to the wheel refreshed. A new mindset could be all that is needed to have a breakthrough.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope these tips will be helpful to beginners and will hope to inspire those of you on the cusp of sitting down at a wheel and giving handspinning a try!
Please feel free to comment with questions, thoughts or your own tips.
Stay home, stay healthy, craft on and listen and learn from all different voices.
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