Last week Marie Greene, Owner of Olive Knits and Knit Camp, came by the Mill on a planned visit. I showed her around and then we sat for awhile and talked (at a safe distance!). After she left I was filled with a new rush of energy. Talking with another business owner, a maker and creator was enough to give me new ideas and a renewed sense of creativity.
I have heard a lot of friends and customers talk about feeling in a bit of a slump creatively. Let's face it, back in March when Covid was just becoming a reality, a lot of us crafters thought "this is it, this is what I've been planning for." A necessary isolation and all the tools and extra time to focus on our craft. None of those silly distractions of meetings, commitments, and a lot less time spent driving. Am I right? And then it got real. We entered into a true pandemic.
Knitting and handspinning have always been a sort of therapy for the worry. Sit down, get into a rhythm and let my mind ponder it all. But I have found it increasingly hard over the past couple months to focus as injustice, illness and politics have cast a dark shadow on our country. I can say for certain I'm on my phone way too much checking the news and social media just trying to see what other people are doing and feeling. I suppose there is a depression and sadness that accompanies all that is going on and that can certainly zap the urge to create right out of you. So while I should have completed three sweaters given the free time over the last 8 months, it is just not happening.
I was talking to one of my friends and she mentioned that she felt like not having the festivals and group meet-ups was part of the reason she was feeling in a slump. And it makes sense! There is no singular place where I get more energy and inspiration than being surrounded by other makers. The knitting, crochet and spinning groups all have always given us the chance to sit with one another and not only be social, but also to inspire each other with the projects we are working on! And festivals, well don't even get me started. This is where it all comes together. The makers, the products, the wears and of course the energy.
So reality, it doesn't look like any of these events are coming back in the next couple months and even into next year is quite uncertain. In fact this winter is looking like it could be quite dismal as far as the virus goes and our need to be personally vigilant about masks, hand washing and traveling safely if at all. So knowing this is coming up, and trying to prepare ourselves I thought I would give you a list of where I find inspiration these days and a few places I should look to more but just haven't gotten there yet....
1. Get outside! Fresh air, walks, nature. All good things for the brain, body and creativity.
2. Podcasts/Vlogs. I have watched and listened to podcasts a bit but have definitely found more inspiration and connection in them than I have in the past. Some of my favorites are Fruity Knitting, Yarn, Fleece and Harmony and Grocery Girls. (Please share some of yours!)
3. Instagram. Instagram is the one platform I still seem to be able to connect and see what others are working on. I love seeing the pictures! And I definitely get a lot of dye pot ideas from others outdoor adventures. Don't get me wrong, it is also a huge distraction that I am constantly trying to balance out.
4. Zoom meet-ups. There are so many groups doing spinning, knitting and other maker meet-ups on Zoom. I hit this pretty hard early on but haven't been to a virtual meeting in quite awhile. Maybe its time...
5. Online classes. Being stuck at home more doesn't mean we can't keep learning! Between small yarn shops, YouTube, Bluprint, SewIt Academy and on, there are plenty of places to take virtual classes to help you learn a new skill or even a new craft!
6. Knit a longs. Ok seriously I'll admit I have never done a knit-a-long, but I think it is time!
7. Plain old good people. Don't let the bad overshadow some of the amazing good. Good people and actions are out there!
And then there will be the days when we are just zapped and staring at a show on Netflix becomes enough. Be kind to yourself on those days.
I would love to hear from you all about where you are finding inspiration during these more solitary and unsettling times. Please comment below and let us all know whats is keeping you going creatively.
Also a special note. I mentioned the Fruity Knitting podcast above. I find such inspiration in Andrea and Andrew's podcasts and they have recently let viewers know that Andrew has just been diagnosed with in inoperable brain tumor. They are researching and going to try all other available treatments. The podcast is their main source of income and for that reason they have reached out and asked for continued financial support. You can watch their podcast on YouTube, but more importantly is that you go to Patreon and join their group. There are different amounts you can contribute and it is well worth it for the amazing podcasts they put out. Here is a link if you are interested... Fruity Knitting Patreon
Thank you for reading and commenting. I always love to know someone has been here! Stay safe and get the votes in quick now!
This week I am working on the final stages of a new yarn, which means I am spinning it! I first spun this yarn about a year ago. A small batch, in two different weights - a worsted and a fingering. My original intent was to make a sock yarn out of natural fibers. No acrylic or other man made fiber. But then I got distracted while spinning up that first batch and wanted to see how the yarn would look and behave in a heavier weight. I sold most of the batch off and just picked up the last skein of fingering weight a month ago and decided to knit a sock with it. One sock. I had knit with the worsted weight and really like it but never quite got around to the fingering weight. General rule moving forward, I should probably knit with all the yarn I make because I really like this yarn!
Ok ok so what is this yarn exactly? It is a wool/mohair blend. More specifically Border Leicester wool and mohair. So why this sheep breed? To be honest, I bought it never having worked with it and liked it. It has a nice luster, low lanolin, generally scours (washes) easily, is strong and is fairly readily available in Oregon. The mohair originally was added as a substitute for acrylic as I was trying to make a natural sock yarn. I hadn't worked with a lot of mohair and certainly not a lot of good mohair so I asked around for the best and went from there.
So here I am circling back on this yarn with plenty of wool and mohair. After obtaining the wool, picking the percentages is the next step - this is an 80/20 blend (wool/mohair). In general, 20% is my happy place when I am adding to wool. I like the additional fiber to enhance the wool and yarn without taking away from the character of the wool. For a sock yarn in particular, 20% mohair is enough to add the strength, softness and shine that I am looking for. The strength is imperative in a sock given how much wear and rubbing this eventual fabric will endure. Most commercial sock yarns are wool blended with some amount of acrylic for this reason. Acrylic is a tough man made textile with a petroleum base. While mohair is not going to quite be as strong as a plastic, it is a strong fiber, it is better for the environment and allows more breathability and odor control.
So now we have the fiber and the blend percentages, the next pieces of the puzzle involve spinning and go as follows....
What weight will the yarn be? Since most sock patterns are knit using fingering weight yarn that is the weight I will aim for. Reality, I can spin a perfect yarn but if there are no patterns that will work for it, it is less likely to sell so I'm always trying to keep an eye on what designers are doing and what makers are responding to.
How much twist will each single of yarn have? I generally spin my yarn as lightly as possible because in general the lighter spun, the loftier the yarn will be. However I am making a sock yarn, so to get the extra strength I want in this yarn I will put a little extra twist. This will also make it a bit less likely to pill easily.
How many plies will this yarn have? After spinning comes plying, the act of putting the already spun singles into one yarn. You can have a single ply yarn, 2 ply, 3 ply and up. Most yarns are 2 to 3 ply. Generally speaking the more plies a yarn has (or single strands of yarn spun together), the stronger the yarn will be. So for the purposes of a sock yarn where that magical word "strength" keeps coming up I'm going to make a 3-ply yarn.
Finally I can spin now that I have the fibers, know the blend, the weight, the twist and the plies! So I spin and ply a sample bit and then I usually bring a bobbin home because I can't bear to be away from it overnight (truth!). For this particular yarn the first small batch came out a little heavier than I wanted and the yarn is a bit darker natural gray than I had hoped for. It is lovely but if I want to overdye it, I would ideally like it a little lighter. So tomorrow I will go in, adjust my natural color blend to lean a bit more on the white side and make adjustments to my spinning machine to draft the fibers just a bit more for a lighter weight yarn.
So there you have it! The main steps that go into designing a new yarn. This yarn in particular was a bit more complex. Lots of times I can let the fiber guide me where it wants to go. But for a sock yarn there are general characteristics I want it to have.
Thank you all for reading, commenting and taking the time! Hopefully you'll see this new yarn hit my social media and online shop next week! Stay healthy all.
I have missed you all and I am thrilled to finally have time to sit back down and write! So sorry for the delay. Fostering, the Mill and harvest got real over the last month. But alas the kittens have moved on to their forever homes, the Mill is humming along and harvest is at its tail end which means we can breathe a little around here again.
In this post I've decided to approach the age old question... does yarn have to be perfect? I have been mulling about this in my head for awhile now. As a wool mill owner the question is always hanging about and I strive to create the most consistent yarn. As a handspinner, I actually threw the question out the window years ago as ludicrous. Hahaha! Not to say there aren't perfect handspun yarns, it is just not a priority to me. I've listened to knitters talk amongst themselves about paying a premium for yarn only to find inconsistencies or a knot and some that have even made it very clear that imperfect yarn is unacceptable. I've also read conversations in our Mill owners group with differing opinions on how important it is for us to make a "perfect" yarn. And then there are those who think imperfections make yarn more interesting, fun and lively to work with.
Let me start with explaining to you one of the big processing differences between smaller fiber mills and the larger commercial mills that produce most of the yarn we purchase in stores. Besides the sheer volume processed, one of the biggest differences is a process called carbonization. For me, the small mill owner, I buy the wool, skirt it, scour it (washing it) and then pick and card the wool prior to spinning. For most commercial yarns, processing starts the same (be it on a much larger scale) but after scouring the wool gets carbonized. I didn't know a whole lot about carbonizing but was a bit shocked when I dove in on research. Carbonizing wool is done to remove excess vegetation and any remaining dirt left in the wool after washing but prior to carding and spinning into yarn.
Carbonizing involves introducing the wool to diluted sulphuric acid. The wool is then dryed and baked so that the excess matter becomes a dust of sorts. The dust is then mechanically removed from the wool. After removing the dust the wool must be balanced back to neutral as it is now more acidic from treatment. So the wool is then introduced to sodium carbonate and often times after that the wool is bleached to create a more consistent color and product. After all of these steps the wool is then moved along thru the carding and spinning process. So that's a lot of processing resulting in what you can imagine is a wool free of matter and more consistent in nature. I completely understand why this is done when processing enormous amounts of wool. They are receiving wool from all over the country or world from different times and often times different sheep breeds. For this reason they need the wool to be as consistent as possible to create a good end product. Heavier processing is going to create a wool that is easier for them to work with.
When you buy fibers and yarns from a smaller mill or farm they are much less processed. Of course this does lend itself to a few more inconsistencies. As a mill owner I am working my hardest to run a yarn that is consistent. But the reality is sometimes there are imperfections. Animals are animals and vegetable matter comes with them being happy and healthy. Other things that can lead to inconsistencies are fibers of different lengths, breaks in the fibers, uneven weights while carding and of course general mill equipment or operator issues.
So does yarn need to be perfect? The answer is really up to you!
I personally love that small mill run yarns aren't always perfect. I love the character that they have. I don't mind picking out a piece of hay here and there. To me it is in fact one of the qualities that makes it more appealing than your average predictable commercially spun yarns. And I can tell you that as a handspinner who does not always spin the most consistent yarn, it all tends to flush out once you start to knit, crochet or weave with it. I have knit sweaters with yarn that has varied in weight throughout and really you would never know when looking at the finished product. I like to think of it all as character. Yes there may be a piece of vegetable matter here and there, or a little wonky bit in the yarn, but in addition there is also life and the character of the wool is still in tact. In my crazy yarn world this all takes us closer to the wool, closer to the way our ancestors used wool and in reality closer to nature.
If you are interested in finding out how much processing your yarn is undergoing, a quick email to the company you purchased it from should give you an answer. And if you are looking for smaller less processed yarns with a whole lot of character, there are a handful of smaller mills in each state. A quick internet search should allow you to track some down in addition to seeking out small farms selling their own yarns. As you probably know by now, I will always encourage you to #knowyourwool
I love to hear from you all as it helps me know you've been here and I would love to hear your experiences about "perfect" and "imperfect" yarns. Thank you as always for reading and commenting.
Stay healthy, VOTE, and craft on!!!
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 (email@example.com) 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.
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