Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004


I walked into work today and found out that the planners had decided to make the pending baby shower for one coworker into a joint shower for the two pregnant ladies. I have one baby blanket done, but the second one, which I thought would be needed in six weeks in now due NEXT WEEK.

I have never ever given a partially completed gift....but as they say there is always the first time for everything. I am fortunately closer to the second lady, who works on the shift with me, so I think I will be able to do just that, wrap up a partially knitted baby blanket. Oh but I am not happy about it at all. I should have stuck to sweaters.

It was a good move for the planners, and even the shower attendees. It is hard to find time for all of us to gather and celebrate, and still work around welll, work, and everyone's schedule. So I plan to just be silently brave, wrap up what ever is done, and hope it is still appreciated, as much as the completed one.

The stress is added by the fact that I have the exact same amount of time to finish up what I wanted to get ready for Greencastle fiber fair. I was actually feeling in control about that, have my last three days off before it planned, and should have had everything packed and ready to load in the car by Wed. So I have to decide, do I not work on the baby blanket, and do the rest of the fiber plans, or do I ditch some of the fiber ideas, go with what I have ready, and knit like a demon.

Sigh, and I was feeling so in control.


Monday, March 29, 2004

Yeah, I've been messing with HTML a little

So I've figured out how to do the list thing, it makes me happy, even if the list is skimpy.

And check out the very top left corner of the page, in case you missed it :) Who me, counting?

I am on a marathon stretch of working (away from home that is) and have not had time to do much on any project. This includes getting ready for the Greencastle booth which is just two weeks from now! I have gone through some of the available inventory, which is packed up and ready to go. I am off work tomorrow and I hope to report back an amazing amount of carded angora, ready to go. It's cold and rainy here again, which helps me with the temptation to go outside and play.

I have washed one black welsh mountain fleece, and plan also to card that and offer it for sale at my booth. It is my hope that the felting crowd will be drawn to the amazing black color and buy it for felting projects. I have had several of those projects in mind myself, mostly a large project tote bag. Can't you just see it in deep black with bright dyed needle felted flowers?

As far as projects in progress right now, I am working on the second baby blanket, and really liking the pattern. It is in blue and white yarn, and is coming out looking like checked gingham. I will have to get a picture posted when it is further along, and show how cute it looks. The due date for this is in about 6 weeks, still I need to keep after it, to get it done.

I should be receiving a Romeldale fleece in the mail in the next day or so. I am very anxious to see this fleece, which is the parent stock of the CVM breed, and is even rarer than CVM. More details later.

And along with that shopping, I was bitten by the yarn stash bug, and put an order in at Elann.com for White Buffalo yarn, the yarn that is barely spun, and 6 ply. I got enough to make a large jacket for me. And then my daughter enabled me to an ebay seller, with silk yarn for the knitting machine, and I bought way too much of that. Yummy black, grey, camel colors, along with two large skeins of very fine yarn, for handknitting shawls. Darn that stash bug anyway....


Monday, March 22, 2004

Inspiration Finally 'Springs' Up

I guess I have been in the project blahs lately, because all of the sudden the last three days my mind has been abuzz with ideas again.

This lack of inspiration often happens when I am working on projects with a goal. Right now those projects are baby blankets. They are acrylic for ease of care for the new moms, and to help rid my very ancient yarn stash of yet more acrylic. I have only been serious spinning for the last six years, and although the handspun is starting to equal the acrylic stash, I am trying to switch the balance the other way :)

I was at knit group yesterday afternoon, and got a good reminder of why I really only want to knit with handspun. There were at least a dozen of us knitting, and everyone one of us, except one, were using a commercially made yarn. The one handspun yarn glowed like a jewel in that circle, a brilliant purple over gray yarn. We all just kept looking at it, commenting on it, and secretly wanting to be knitting it.

I have not done a major spinning project for six months now. I have been dabbling with the breed samplers, or making yarn for socks. I think it is time to do a couple thousand yards of something. Probably it will be the corriedale roving that I recently got back from the processors. Spinning up three pounds of roving ought to make those yards I need to plan a few bigger projects.

Another source of inspirations came from Charleen in a blog entry this month. She did a dyeing project, that just makes me itch to do the same thing.

And finally I found two books on Saturday at a yarn store, that fit right into and added to the ideas popping in my head. One is Sally Melville's Style In this book, she explores uses for odd balls of yarn leftover. She has a wonderful explanation of using color and lovely patterns for sweaters to knit. Although she uses commercial yarns in her patterns, I know this will be a way to use up those small yardage skeins of handspun that I have around. I did not realize that this book was out of print, and now feel very lucky to have found it. And to compliment this, I found a copy of Alice Starmore's Celtic Knits. Her patterns are complex, knit once in a lifetime type beauties. I dream of spinning hundreds of yards of different colored DK weight skeins, to knit one for me.

That is what makes this a fascinating hobby for me, and one that has really made me set other hobbies aside. As I see more and more people learn to knit (I taught three people to knit yesterday!) and spin, I see my enthusiam for the craft rejuvenated again and again.


Friday, March 19, 2004

Rare Breed Exchange Part 2

I'd like to put a note of explanation here first. I was asked just how this exchange was done. There were a certain number of participants in the exchange and each person took one or two breeds from the rare breed list. They submitted a sample, often with a descriptive sheet of paper of that breed for each person in the exchange. As an example, my breed was CVM. I made up 10 sheets exactly the same, each with descriptions, some roving and raw fleece, and a small skein of yarn. I mailed this to the exchange coordinator, who then sorted everyone's so we all got a different sheet from all the different breeds. It is fun to do, and lots of fun to receive the exchange later in the mail.

The descriptions to follow are the notes from spinning the remainder of the exchange breeds, as there were twelve different breeds in the exchange. This ends up being backwards, but part one is below this, posted on 03/12/04.

Jacob US lineage

The sample submitted for this was actually from a petting zoo. It was still very nice, clean and soft to handle. There were two contrasting colors, a very dark part and a white part. Instead of mixing the colors, I divided them, and processed them separately.

The dark fiber was combed with my small combs. It combed really nice and I was able to spin a 19 yard 2 ply yarn of 16 WPI, and ended up with a very soft yarn. There was quite a bit of waste from the combing, but it didn?t seem too bad, so I used my hand cards to card that. It made a nice fluffy batt, and I spun the yarn on a medium weight drop spindle, just a small 7 yard sample skein.

I was inspired to try spinning this Jacob thin like Shetland, so I combed the white part of the sample, and spun it on a light weight drop spindle. I even let the singles rest on the spindle for awhile before plying. It was a lovely lace weight yarn. (I will have to edit later for exact figures, I am working from my notes away from home, and seem to have forgotten to write down the statistics on this skein)

I found I really liked working with this fleece. In fact, I went to a small spin-in last Sat and a vendor was selling Jacob fleeces, so I bought a 2 lb fleece to wash at home, and hopefully it will spin as fine as the above samples.

There are notes in my 10/14/03 blog about another Jacob sample I had worked with, which would also be US lineage.

Jacob UK lineage

Since one of the members of the exchange lives in England, we were lucky to have a chance to compare the two countries in several breeds, plus have access to some of the breeds only raised in Europe, and not in the US. There was a sample of Jacob submitted for us to compare. The sample fleece had two shades of deep brown, and an off white part.

Since the US Jacob combed so well, I decided to try the combs on this sample. I was disappointed though, it did not comb well. In fact, I named it the great disappearing fleece. I would put what looked like a six inch lock on the combs, and with each pass, the fiber got shorter and shorter. So it did not pull off the combs well. I did take some of the short bursts of top that I pulled off the combs, and spin it with a medium weight drop spindle. The white sample gave me an 11 yard skein of 2 ply 21WPI yarn, so even spinning with just short bursts of top, I was still able to get a nice fine yarn. Sometimes, I think there are advantages to having just that small nest of yarn in your hands while you spin, as far as getting a thinner yarn.


This is one fleece I have not had the chance to see before this exchange. It is a very primitive looking fleece, very long locks with no crimp. In fact, it does not look like wool at all, more like lock from the angora goat, only not even as silky as that. The sample felt like it had not been washed, or maybe only lightly washed.

I did not even try to card a sample, by the length, I could tell it would have just snarled up in the cards. So I took half the sample, and combed it with the hand combs, and half of the sample I spun straight from the locks without any processing at all.

The locks were very easy to comb, except for the static created by combing long locks. The top pulled off the combs quite easily, and there was very little waste left on the combs. The long top was very easy to spin, and I spun what I would call a ?hard? single. That is just the result of the twist going so heavily into the aligned long fibers. When I plied the sample, there were some small hairs sticking out of the yarn, although I did not think this breed was doubled coated, the hairiness of the skein suggested that. My small skein was 7 yards of a 2 ply, 23 wpi spun on the Roberta electric spinner.

I spun the second part of the sample by just pulling fibers out of an intact lock. It was very easy to do, although I got more short fuzzies floating around and on my lap as I spun. I actually got the same size skein spinning in this manner, same WPI. The only difference was that this skein was definitely fuzzier. It probably has to do with the fibers not being as aligned while spinning as well as those short fibers that would normally get combed out, were still present.

Now isn?t that an exotic name! I have no clue how to pronounce it.

This is truly an opportunity to see a sample of fleece from a breed not raised in the US. This breed is from West Wales.

The locks are white and open with a very broad waved crimp. It feels moderately soft to the hand. The sample only included a few locks and a sample of yarn spun by the exchanger. So I only had the opportunity to feel and admire the sample, not actually spin any.

I am sure this would be a great fleece to spin in the lock. It should spin into a tight yarn, that would be great for knitting and showing off cables and designs in the sweater. It is not the softest next to the skin yarn, but still very lovely.

North Ronaldsay (Orkney)

This breed of sheep live in the harsh seacostal areas of the islands off Great Britain and graze on seaweed! I can imagine their coats are great protection from the elements for them. What surprised me is that the fleece is still usable as a spinning fiber.

Two participants submitted fiber for this breed. The first was a raw fleece from a ram. I was surprised to read that it had been washed in what is called the cold water method. There was no lanolin feel to the fiber at all. There was still a bit of dirt in the fleece. The locks were short, so I did not try to comb them at all. I used my hand cards and opened the locks and carded them into nice batts. I spun these batts on my electric spinner. The resulting yarn had a lot of dark hairs running through it, which were not as obvious in the carded batts.

The second participant submitted a sample of top or pencil roving of the wool after processing. The information sent along with the sample, said they do dehair the fleece before processing, so there must be a double coat, that accounts for the dark hairs in the above skein. The difference between that raw fleece and the processed fiber was like night and day. This was very soft, springy fiber that was just lovely. There were two colors, a deep brown, and a white. There was only a little bit of the brown, so I kept that sample intact without spinning any of it. I spun the white sample on my electric. I could tell that it was made from a very short stapled fiber, I had to use the inch worm drafting, in order to keep the drafting zone intact. My sample skein had a single of 23 WPI but when I plied it, I could feel that very cottony texture that one experiences in short stapled wool. It felt very similar to the Southdown that I had sampled another time. Combining that hand, with the springiness of the fiber, and my 2 ply was a bouncy thick, barely 10 WPI sample.


This was another sample that only had a lock or two of the fleece and a sample of the spun yarn. It felt like a time saver, to be able to just stick these sheets into my notebook, but I do miss having the opportunity to play with the fiber myself. If someday I happen along some fiber, I can add the notes in this spot.

The fleece sample was a soft short stapled springy wool in a grey brown color. The sample sheet stated that the fiber is best when carded and I can agree based on the short length of the locks. The sample skein was a nice 2 ply in a tweedy gray color. It felt like it would be a bouncy yarn, and not good for any high pattern definition knitting. It reminded me a lot of CVM that I worked with earlier.

Northern Short tail family

The last sheet of the exchange was a collection of four different breeds all considered part of this family. They are raised in several different areas of Europe and have widely differing fleeces. The sample only included a lock attached to the sheet with a bit of information about each breed.

Gotland This sheep is raised primarily in Sweden. The long lock was soft feeling and had a wide evenly spaced crimp. It reminded me of our Border Leicester breed's fleece.

Heidschnucke This sheep is raised in Germany. The lock was a good twelve inches long. It was coarse, with no crimp or softness. There were obviously two different coats, dark black coarse hairs were intermixed with the yellow white second coat.

Romanov The sheep is raised in Russia. It is another obviously double coated sheep. But these locks were short and were a mix of brown and tan colors.

Spelsau This sheep is raised in Norway. It did not have the double coated appearance. The long lock had only a slight crimp. The tips were tightly closed and colored a dark gray. The lock opened up at the cut end, and lightened in color. The lock felt much softer, that it looked.

Looking at all these pictures from the links, and working with the wool, really adds to my amazement at how varied the sheep breed can be, adapting to many environments. Yet even with those adaptations, still providing fleece for us to use for warm clothes, meat and milk for our food, and playful lambs, to add to the joy of sunny spring days. I bet every shepherd, no matter what language they speak all laugh just as we do, at the bouncy lambs of springtime.


Friday, March 12, 2004

Rare Breed Fleece Exchange Part 1


One of the yahoogroups that I belong to will frequently come up with exchanges for group members. This can be as varied as finished scarves, froghair or in this case, fleece samples from breeds considered by the ALBC as Critical, Rare, Under Watch, or Recovering. Spin-Off has listed these breeds as well.

Critical: CVM/Romeldale, Gulf Coast Native, Hog Island, and Santa Cruz.

Rare: Cotswold, Jacob, Karadul, Leicester Longwool, Navajo-Churro, St. Croix, Tunis, Wiltshire Horn.

Watch: Barbados Blackbelly, Dorset Horn, Lincoln, Oxford, Soay.

Recovering: Black Welsh Mountain, Clun Forest, Katahdin, Shetland,
Shropshire, Southdown.

Spinners may express surprise to see some of the breeds they are very familiar with on the lists. That is because these breeds are often raised in small flocks for the hand spinning market, or in interest of maintaining the breed.

The exchange requested a clean sample of fleece or roving. Each participant chose a breed, mostly based of availability to them and their stash.
What I chose to do with the samples is similar to how I have been handling the other fleeces for my breed notebook. This means I carded some of the sample, or combed some, or did both, depending on the amount available. If there was a larger amount of fiber, I did the spinning on my Roberta electric wheel. If there was only a small amount of fiber, I used a drop spindle to sample it.

California Variegated Mutant

This was the fleece I chose to use as my sample in the exchange. I had purchased roving at the Michigan Fiber Festival and had spun some of it for a pair of socks. The roving is soft, light gray with occasional brown highlights. Since I only had roving though, I contacted several breeders for raw fleece.

I have to admit when contacting the breeders I found out I was confused about the CVM term. It is applied specifically to the badger coloration that Romeldale sheep can produce. I am still trying to get a Romeldale fleece from a breeder so I can compare.

The CVM fleece I received had a staple of 4-5 inches. It had many open crimped locks, and the color was a light shade of grey with brown tips. I washed the fleece using both the lock method to maintain some in locks, and the rest loose in my sink. It did not seem like a high lanolin fleece. However, I noticed when I got the fleece back, after two months, that it was definitely sticky. I was disappointed to discover this. It means my water is probably not hot enough, or that orvis is not working to remove the lanolin. I think I will start boiling water and adding that to the soak, for fleeces from now on.

My exchange included a small sample skein spun from the roving. The yarn was a 16 WPI 2 ply. I also included a small bag of washed fiber and a small bag of washed locks.

I combed the washed fiber on small two tine combs, and even being a little sticky, it pulled off fine. I spun the sample top on a drop spindle, and had a 17 WPI 2 ply yarn.

I spun the washed locks on the Roberta. This also was not that bad to spin, even though it felt a little sticky. The single seemed very very thin, but when I plied it, I still had a 15 WPI 2 ply yarn. That shows just how much this yarn will poof when allowed to relax into the ply. I did notice that I plied pretty loose, a habit I have formed plying on the Roberta. If I had allowed a tighter twist in the ply, I may have found that I had a thinner yarn.


The sample sent for this breed was a white tightly compacted roving. I predrafted heavily and spun my sample skein on the Roberta. I could tell the roving (it may have been top, it was not marked) consisted of short staple fibers. I spun at a very slow speed, and used a long draft zone. I was aiming for a loose spun thick single. I ended up with a 10 WPI 2 ply yarn.

Just spinning from a processed fiber is nice, but not very informative to the characteristics of the breed. I also had raw wool in the collection of breed samples that I have been working on. My notes from that follow.

This washed fleece is very primitive looking. It reminds me more of mohair than wool. It had very dark brown areas, tan areas, and light brown areas. The colors all side by side were a nice color combination. I divided into groups of like colors. The fiber was long and had no crimp.

Combing: The fiber did not like to be combed. It was very hard to pull off and the top felt very wiry. The colors were much more blended. I did a tan/silver sample skein, and a rich red/brown color. Both were spindle spun into a two ply yarn. I found that I could spin this best with the park and draft method, maybe the spindle was too heavy for the top.

Carding: I have two sets of cards, a coarse tooth and a fine tooth. I used the coarse tooth set to card the fiber and it really made a lovely batt. I only carded once, and the colors were swirled rather than blended. The batt benefited with being predrafted and then I could spindle spin the regular way, not park and draft. I think the singles got over spun, because when I went to ply, I found I did not have to even spin the spindle in the opposite direction. I just let out the two singles and the spindle would twist in the plying direction. I found this very fascinating to watch. I really loved the yarn from this sample. The dark brown had no hint of black, it was just a rich walnut brown.

I spun the carded fiber on the Roberta. I used what I call my wacky long draw. I can not do a true long draw on the electric, there is too much pull in with the Irish tension. So I put the fiber over my right index finger, and my left hand pulls back on the fiber. There is no pinch on the fiber, and the twist runs along toward my left hand until I finally let it all wind on and start over. The VM just dropped out while I was spinning but the occasional nub still made bumps in the yarn. The card color of the fiber was not tweedy but mottled. I was full of ideas of rugs to make while spinning this lovely yarn.

The sample submitted for Shetland was a beautiful gray colored lamb’s fleece that had been processed into roving. There was a sample skein of a 3 ply yarn, that just begged to be a sweater. There was only a small amount of roving, so I did not spin any of this sample.

I had other samples of Shetland in the Breed sampler pack, and the notes from that are as follows:

The fleece looked a deep chocolate brown color with a lot of white and black hairs dispersed throughout. It showed the doubled coated nature of the breed. Interestingly, the color of the carded batts and the top looked black, which meant the brown must have been more of the color of the tips of the fleece.

Carding: I used my fine tooth combs, and this produced fair looking batts. The batts had little intregity, like the fibers were so short, the batts almost fell apart. I spun the batts on the Roberta. I could see two distinct fibers feeding off the batts, a very soft black, and a courser gray to almost white. They looked like guard hairs, but were still soft. The yarn was surprisingly not very springy, compared to the feel of the unspun fiber. My 2 ply skein was 15 WPI in what I would consider very nice sock yarn.

Combing: The small combs worked very nicely, a springy top pulled off easily. The waste was very full of neps, which surprised me, since I really didn’'t see that many when spinning the carded batts.

Dizing: I have heard that Shetland is one of the fleeces that can be spun very fine. I have very little skill in fine spinning and decided to practice on that with this combed sample. One of the things I had been wanting to try, was using the diz. I had always heard that you diz straight from the comb, and with hand held combs, I could not figure out how that could be done. So I took the top that I had just pulled off the comb, and put it through the diz in a separate step. I used the diz that was sent with the combs. This is a curved piece of plastic, probably cut from a milk jug. There was a pin hole in the center. I looked at that and laughed outloud, just how was I going to even get fiber into it! I finally managed to get a few threads of fiber wetted enough to go through. Then I started working the top gently through that hole. I held the top in my left hand behind the diz, tensioned with my small and ring finger. I was also holding the diz in my left hand, between my thumb and second finger. I then pulled the top with my right hand gently through the pin hole. It slide through easily, and amazingly was the size that I would call pencil roving. From a pinhole! I would have to stop now and then and rearrange the top in my left hand, straighten it out and such. I measured the top before it went through the diz, and I had about 2.5 yards of a 1.5 inch wide top. After going through the diz, it was about 18 yards of a 3/8 inch top. Amazing.

I spun this thinned out top on the Roberta. I had it set with no tension at all, because the bobbin drive band still creates a strong pull in. I set the speed dial to around 10 oclock. Even thinned out like it was, I still drafted some while spinning. And there was still the occasional slub, how did that get through the pinhole! I left the singles on the bobbin for several days, as is often advised when dealing with plying very fine yarn. The singles were 37 WPI, the finest I have spun on the Roberta. I noticed they were underspun and could have had more twist. The 22 yard skein of 2 ply was 23 WPI and a beautiful yarn.


The sample for this fleece was an off white roving. It was dry feeling, but pleasantly soft and spongy and not the least bit itchy. I split the roving in half lengthwise and then drafted it to about twice the length. It was very nice to spin, clean and no nubs. I spun it on the Roberta, and probably got it a little overspun. The yarn was not as soft as the roving. The 20 yard 2 ply skein was 15 WPI.

There is a review of the raw fleece of this breed in my blog entry from Oct 14th, 2003.


The sample submitted for this breed was a silky feeling top. I had heard Wensleydale called the poor man’s mohair, and I felt that this was just like that. I also read someone else saying the same thing, and adding that Teeswater fleece has a finer hand to it, than Wensleydale. This top looked very much like mohair and even silk top, without that stick to your fingers problem that one has with silk. It was not as soft as silk though.

I only had the top to spin for this sample. I spun it like I would spin silk on my Roberta. The tension band was completely loosened and the speed was set high. I split the roving in half lengthwise and while I was spinning I would still travel back and forth across the width of the roving. There are times when I am spinning a fiber at this high twist that I feel like I am holding on for dear life, or it will go whisking away from me. It amazingly doesn’t break. And yet when I would slacken the fiber, I could see that the single was not holding the twist even at that high speed. The singles were 25 WPI and the sample skein turned out to be a whopping 39 yards of a 14 WPI 2 ply. The yarn had a much softer feel to it than I had expected.

Black Welsh Mountain US lineage

The sample for this breed was a deep black color, one of it’s most endearing characteristics. The fiber is very short and is not soft.

Combing: I could not comb this fiber at all. It came off in such short puffs that I did not think I could spin.

Carding: I like the way this fiber cards. My fine tooth carders produced a bouncy batt. I spun these batts on my Roberta, using a moderate speed and a very loosely held drafting zone. I tried for an even yarn, as opposed to a thin yarn. My singles where 15 WPI so my 15 yard skein was a thick 8 WPI 2 ply.

I have worked with this fiber before and think it will be wonderful knitted loosely and heavily felted into clogs or purses. The black makes a perfect background for needle felted pictures also.

Black Welsh Mountain UK lineage with US lines

One of the things the person submitting these BWM samples wanted to show was the difference between these lines of breeding. And it was very interesting to feel the two fibers and know there was a difference.

This sample of washed fleece was very black, in open undefined locks. It was definitely softer than the above sample.

Combing: This was the most amazing difference between the two samples. This fiber took to combs beautifully. It did look longer in staple and I am sure that is part of the difference. The resulting top was wonderful to spin. I used a medium weight drop spindle and the resulting yarn was the nicest BWM yarn I have ever seen. The 12 yard skein was a 20 WPI 2 ply.

Carding: This sample also carded nicely. The batt was just as lofty as the above sample, but had more integrity and less short spikey fibers. There were also fewer neps in the batt. I also spun this on a drop spindle, and the 12 yard sample skein was 13 WPI 2 ply.

This brings me to the half way point of the sampler. I am going to post this for tonight, and write up the other half next week. I am taking a break from the computer over the weekend.


Friday, March 05, 2004

Spring and a Project Review

It was definately a springlike day today. Strong winds, rain one minute, sunshine the next. My daffodils are six inches high, and the crocus are blooming by the back door.

I spent most of this week getting back into a routine after traveling to see my Mom. By today, the housework was done, and the paper clutter reasonably under control, so I split my day off between doing laundry and spinning.

I have not figured out a good way to handle a finished project list on this blog. Until I do, here is sort of a quarterly review of projects I am currently doing.

Finished 2004

Hand spun CVM knitted socks
Four doll sized dog sweaters, from Lion Brand yarns

In progress Knitting

Blue baby blanket for coworker 1/2 done
Lace rectangle stole in Adriafil's Touch 1/3 done

Breed notebook samples, 12 more to go
Wool Baaaaadd exchange silk latte samples

Washing suri alpaca
Carding 100% angora

I did a quick ply on about 10 yards of some fiber I had spun on a drop spindle at the last knitting meeting. I was so excited about the yarn sample I had to look up in my dyeing notebook, just when and with what I had dyed it. It was a blue faced leicester white roving that I had dyed in a crock pot with Black Cherry Koolaid. I had noted that the color was raspberry in the dye notebook, but looking at it today, it is a dead on coral, like coral jewelry. It catches my eye on the niddy noddy everytime I walk through the living room. I also rediscovered how much I love this roving. It spins thin, and stays thin after plying, unlike alot of the yarns I have been making lately. Maybe it was a top and not a roving, that would account for the smooth yarn. I doubt I have enough in the four ounces I dyed, but this yarn just begs to be a lacey shawl. It is not cobweb, but a fingering weight and would be perfect for an evening out.

Maybe I should start a list of 'almost started' projects


Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Business or Pleasure

This is something that has been bugging me since Jan. Is all this fiber stuff around me business or pleasure?

I started out eight years ago, by getting a few angora bunnies. I dusted off the untouched Ashford traditional wheel with the intent to learn to spin. At what point did these few innocent hobby type actions turn into Zavagant Fibers?

I do this all the time, turn a hobby into a 'booth' When my daughter was very young, I took up hand smocking. One year at my local city's street fair, I had a big rack of hand smocked dresses for sale. My daughter and I both outgrew smocking.

Then it was quilting. And church bazaars. Any and every type of hand craft, I made, displayed and sold. Right before this spinning hobby, I was selling watercolor paintings (lets just say they were very primitive styled, I am not a good painter)

There is some cycle that happens when I get into a hobby. I learn all I can about that skill, get better than the average crafter (or the fact that no one DOES that craft) and someone pays me to do that for them, and I am off and looking for a full time way to sell it.

So I have been of two minds about this fiber stuff. I love it. I want to continue to love it. I want to share it with many people. I want to provide what they need to enjoy it like I do. It's not about the money, it's the joy of others loving spinning too.

It still ends up being a business, and alot of work. That is why I am off on this tirade today. I looked at the calendar and realized it is now only six weeks until my big yearly booth. I have pounds of angora plucked and graded, now it needs carded, packaged and labelled. This is not the fun part. Combing alpaca is alot of fun, a pleasant way to spend some time on my front porch. Combing pounds of alpaca is no longer fun. I love playing with the dyepots. I have six pounds of white corriedale roving that begs to be dyed. I had a very grand time last year, planning color combinations, and dyeing roving. But I doubt I will have time to do that in any large quantity in six weeks.

That is the difference of course, between the business attitude and hobby attitude. If it is a business, you do it all the time, in large quantities. I work full time, so doing the fiber business all the time is not possible. That alone has kept the business from growing. Over the last six years, as I have added more and more to the booth sales, I rationalized it all by saying I was building a retirement business, that when I quit the full time job, I would do the fiber business full time. But I am at least 15 years away from retirement, and not really ready to juggle the two for that amount of time.

So I am at the point of deciding, do I push to expand the business, or just let it shrink back to the non grandious hobby status. I have always thought the next logical expansion for Zavagant Fibers was a web site. I have been 'looking into' doing that for 15 months now. It just doesn't seem to want to happen. I have decided to cut way back on raising the rabbits, because we do like to travel, and daily care of the rabbits is something that will limit our travel time.

Neither of these are enough reasons alone to say no more business. However it piles up in my mind, to the point I am ready to just say, look, it is time to close this cycle you have once again started, and just sit at home and spin what you want.

Would I miss doing the fiber shows? You bet! Would I miss the thrill of trying to find what entices the fiber buyer to say ahhh I just have to have that? Yep! Do I fold up the Zavagant business cards and call it quits?

I really don't know at this point. I have been cutting back bit by bit, like a junkie easing off his Jones. I may even be to the point I need, just a few rabbits, one booth a year. No website, and word of mouth advertising.

I also think this is why I have been very reluctant to get into serious sewing on my lovely new sewing machine. I can just see the possibilities, quilts, heirloom sewing, christening gowns, lovely pillows...

Anyone need a bridal gown made?

Oh and lets not even think about the Brother Knitting machine, fedexing it's way to me as I type.