Wet-Setting Wool Yarn: Step-by-Step Guide for Balanced Handspun

One Method: Start to Finish with an Overspun Example

This month, I am continuing with my Fiber Arts Video series, this time about wet-setting handspun yarn. Last month, I gave an example of steam setting handspun yarn. However, wet setting is how I set most of my handspun. This example is for wool yarn.

Here are my steps for Setting Wool Handspun Yarn:

  • Prep yarn for its soak by tying off the skein in additional places to avoid tangling. I use ribbon or highway tape. If you choose to use yarn, be sure to use something that won’t felt to the skein, such as cotton
  • If you are dyeing more than one skein you can tie them together using the method above. Just make sure your sink is big enough to accommodate the amount of yarn for soaking
  • fill your sink (or tub, or basin) with hot tap water and add soap, such as Synthropol or blue Dawn dish detergent
  • Gently press the yarn into the hot water, and let soak for 20 or so minutes
  • Check the water. If it is clear from dye runoff and dirt, drain the water and rinse with the same temperature water
  • gently press and squeeze the water out of the skein(s) careful to not twist or tug
  • Take it outside for a good thwacking (optional)
  • Hang up to dry where there is good airflow

The Yarn

freshly spun yarn with extra twist before wet setting

I spun a 2-ply merino roving top that I hand-dyed. There was a bit left over, so I decided to spin it with a grey singles I had spun quite awhile ago. I thought this would be a good example of an unbalanced yarn with extra twist, and how important wet setting is.

A Trial and Error Process

When I first started spinning, I would get dejected because the yarn would always have extra twist. So, I would ply looser, which doesn’t make for good yarn construction. Perplexed, I continued on, determined to get a properly balanced spun yarn. Two things I didn’t realize when I first started spinning:

  • Letting yarn rest on the bobbin for an extended period of time relaxes the twist
  • Wet-setting yarn will return that twist/energy into the singles

I’m self-taught, so no one told me this. Thus, I discovered all about twist and resting singles on my own! I’ve learned now to spin and ply much tighter than I thought necessary and to always set my yarn.

Soaking the Yarn

a sink of soapy water soaking handspun yarn

As I discussed in a previous blog post, you can steam-set yarn, and sometimes I do, but I always recommend wet-setting handspun for best results. It is an absolute must for unbalanced yarn/extra twist.

Here is the two skeins tied together and having a soak in soapy water for approximately 20 minutes.

Rinsing the Yarn

rinsing soap suds off soaked yarn

As there was no dye runoff in the water, I went ahead and rinsed the yarn carefully—no wringing or tugging/pulling. It’s not just about felting but about not overstretching the fibers. If you’ve ever hand-washed and dried a wool sweater, you get what I mean.

Thwacking

What is thwacking – and why do it?

thwacking yarn on the side of the house :)

I probably wouldn’t have bothered thwacking this yarn if it was just the main skein since it was pretty balanced to begin with. Maybe just a quick snap between my hands, if that.

But I wanted to give an example of thwacking in the video, and since the small skein warrants a good thwack and is tied to the big one, I went ahead and gave it a good crack on the side of the house. My goodness. It’s so satisfying!

To Thwack or Not to Thwack

There are many opinions on why and when to thwack yarn, and even if you should. I started out making chunky textured art yarns, so thwacking was pretty much a given with those. It helps open the fibers and gives the yarn strength.

Since I started with thwacking as my foundation, I continued to do so, learning that some handspun yarns don’t take to it well. Take silk, for instance. It’s a sleek yarn that looks best when laid flat, and whacking it only makes the fibers go willy-nilly, leaving the yarn looking dull and less lustrous. So, I steam my silk handspun now.

I still like how my handspun wool yarns look after a good whacking. The plies seem to line up, and the yarn itself drapes nicely.

I usually opt not to thwack a wool yarn to save time when it is already pretty balanced.

Drying the Yarn

hanging yarn to dry

It’s June, and I have some roving outside drying in the sunshine as I type this. But this yarn was set in the winter, so I hung it up to dry inside. My studio is equipped with a heat pump, so hanging it here is the best option for me. Bathrooms never have enough airflow, from my experience, but if you need to use your shower to dry your yarn, be sure to run the fan to get some air circulating.

The yarn looks nice and balanced now, but it’s weighted down with water. Did I achieve balance on that extra skein?

The Final Product

the now dry yarn

Here’s the finished product. There is still a very slight twist in the unbalanced bonus skein, but this is miles better than what it started out as. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this yarn.

This is why it’s important to set your handspun. Don’t judge it until you do. I don’t find the feeling of satisfaction or the beauty in the yarn is revealed until it’s set and dry!

Thanks for Watching/Reading

leilani holding the final product

I hope this quick video and post helps if you have any questions about wet setting yarn. I’m committed to making short videos that would be of interest to up-and-coming fiber artists.

Why I’m Sharing My Experience

I’m a self-taught spinner, so what I know is trial and error. I’m sure there are others out there who have a more scientific explanation for it all, but my goal in sharing my experiences is to encourage others to experiment and figure out what works for them.

I prefer to figure things out on my own rather than be told the “proper” way to do things. This is the only way that I have found my way in my craft, and made me passionate to keep learning.

Happy soaking/thwacking/experimenting! 😉

Until next time…

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Setting Handspun Yarn With Steam

Have you ever wondered if there is a quicker or easier way to set yarn after spinning? I usually get on a spinning tangent and will have several skeins of yarn hanging in my studio before I get around to setting—and then I have several to do at once, which can be time-consuming.

There is a much quicker way, though my preference will always be wet setting for most of my handspun yarn.

Best Choices for Steam Setting

Once in a while, I will have a skein that is a good candidate for setting with steam. Silk is one example of handspun yarn I like to steam set. Art yarn that isn’t going to be used in a garment that would be concerning for shrinking would be another.

Wool is especially prone to shrinking or springing up once the twist is set. The more springy the finished yarn, the more the skein shrank up in the setting process.

In the following short video, I show just how quickly a freshly spun spiral-ply yarn transforms into a beautiful finished product in a matter of minutes. I’ve subtitled the video to make it easier to understand.

If you’d rather read than watch, skip below. I promise the video is not very long. I know I am stretched for time, and I’m sure you are, too. 🙂

In the video, I demonstrate the process using freshly spun Targhee wool and silk spiral-ply yarn. The technique is particularly effective for yarns with extra twist. You’ll see just how quickly the yarn relaxes once exposed to steam.

Setting Yarn with a Garment Steamer

I happen to have a garment steamer, but you could also use an iron on the steam setting. I also use my garment steamer to block my knitting. I normally wet-set my yarn but occasionally use steam to set the twist.

spiral ply yarn screenshot 1

You Should Wet Set Your Yarn

I know this is a post about steam-setting yarn, but I still encourage you to wet-set your yarn. If you soak your handspun with a bit of dish soap or Sythrapol, you’ll be sure to release any excess dirt or oils from the fiber or simply from your hands spinning it. If there is any residual dye, it will also come out in this process.

This also will deal with any shrinkage before you start your knitting project, as some wools will spring up significantly when the twist is set.

I’ll have to make a video on how I wet set my yarn, but for now, back to the steam setting….

spiral ply yarn screenshot 2
these kinks and extra twists will soon fall away once steamed

This particular yarn is a textured art yarn, so I won’t be using it for a piece of clothing where shrinking would be an issue. Right now, I’m thinking of using it as the weft of a woven scarf, but I may change my mind once I sit down to use it.

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You can see how the extra twists and kinks disappear almost instantly with the steam. I’ll flip the skein so the inside is out and continue steaming.

The Final Product

I’ve thoroughly steamed this yarn inside and out and repeated this process twice just to be sure. Now, here is a closeup of the now-dry yarn. The other bonus of steaming is that it dries much quicker than wet setting. Look at those spirals!

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I adore these spirals

Spiral plying is one of my favorite ways to spin when I want to relax and do something fun (spinning-wise, anyway!). I wasn’t going for an actual thick and thin yarn; I was just letting the fiber do as it pleased while I watched TV.

The thicker ply is a Targhee sheep wool top that started out bright yellow, and I over-dyed grey. I dyed it initially bright yellow for a spinning project, then changed my mind at the last minute and used another roving in my stash instead (this happens a lot, haha!).

I love how the grey toned down the color, making a golden-green color similar to golden pear. Moments like these remind me why I love spinning & dyeing fiber.

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I’ll chat about the construction and inspiration for this yarn in another video. Hopefully, I’ll have decided what to make with it by then. I’m notorious for making yarn but having it sit around due to my indecision on what to make. It’s so soft and squishy that I keep it around to admire for far too long.

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Will you give setting yarn with steam a try? Have you tried it? I love the instant gratification, but for the most part, the best way is not to take shortcuts and wet set handspun yarn.

Until next time,

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Dyeing Wool Yarn Solid Black

My Method for Successful Dyeing with little to no fuss

When dyeing wool yarn or fiber, some colors can be more difficult than others. Two colors that can be challenging to fully exhaust are red and turquoise. The other that took me a while to dye successfully is black.

leilani with black yarn

When dyeing basic black, we can erroneously end up with a shade of grey, possibly because not enough dye was used or all the dye wasn’t exhausted into the yarn or fiber. Black is a spectrum of all shades, so sometimes the dominant colors will exhaust fully but leave other hues behind. For me, the best way to dye a color like black is low and slow. My slow dye method uses a crockpot. It works well for me every single time. Like most things in life, all good things come to those who wait.

I like this method because it’s easy for even new dyers to achieve successfully the first time. Plus, there’s no pre-mixing or need for pre-measuring ingredients ahead of time—just time and patience.

New to Making Videos

I’ve been trying my hand at making little instructional videos for the fiber and spinning community, and here’s another installment all about dyeing natural yarn black. In this case, I use a handspun Corriedale that was not set beforehand. I like to save time whenever possible, and the dyeing process will set the yarn since I must soak it anyway.

My fiber arts experience spans 12+ years, and being self-taught I feel the need to pass along my knowledge to support others in their fiber arts journey.

This particular video I decided to do without narrating, but added text on the screen to explain what I am doing. I’m trying out different styles of videos, and I liked leaving in the sounds involved with dyeing and just letting the video speak for itself.

Slow Dyeing

My preferred style of dyeing yarn and fiber in my home studio is “Slow Dyeing.” It involves a crockpot and time. This method works for me because I can pretty much set it and forget it. Instead of fussing over a dye pot, I can set the yarn in the dye and check on it whenever possible. For a busy maker mom like me, this method is great.

The only downside is you can’t be in a hurry. With patience, however, you get a perfectly dyed, fully exhausted dye pot with little to no setup. No (gasp!) math required. Just some basic knowledge of how much dye you should use for the size of skein/fiber dyed, the addition of citric acid, and even heat throughout.

The good news is that you can adjust as you go, so as long as you are patient, you should have perfectly dyed yarn.

In the video, I added the weight and size of the yarn I am dyeing basic black. Every brand of dye will differ, but this should give you a good idea of how much dye to use for 3.7oz of yarn or fiber.

What is your favorite method for dyeing basic black on wool yarn? Do you use a crockpot, steam in the oven or microwave, or a traditional dye pot? Maybe you find my method totally ridiculous, and that’s okay! Everyone needs to find the best way of honing their craft. I hope you enjoy the video, whether it inspires you or not. 🙂

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Scouring Sheep Fleece: A Revisit

Leilanifleece

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post on scouring a raw sheep fleece step by step. The videos for the post were shot on my cell phone and posted in sections with explanations in between. I decided to combine all these small videos for those who want to run through them quickly. I also added a little update to the end.

Come with Me as I Scour Sheep Fleece

Scouring sheep fleece can be backbreaking or easy peasy if you are willing to wait. I have a bad shoulder from years of crafting, including skirting and washing sheep fleece. I swore I wouldn’t ever scour wool again, until I saw this half- fleece at a local fiber festival. It was local, pretty much clear of VM (vegetable matter) and delightfully curly. I couldn’t say no! This is my lazy scouring method over several days.

If you want to see the original blog post, with more detail, you can find it here.

Happy to answer any questions or connect with other fiber artists and enthusiasts. 🙂

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Dyeing Yarn at home: With a Crockpot

an end of yarn dipped in a black and white crockpot into golden color dye
leilani cleveland deveau a woman with dark hair and glasses, sitting at a desk with one hand resting on her face

If you’re new here, let me introduce myself. Hi! I’m Leilani. I am a wife, mother, autodidact, and jewelry and fiber artist. I’ve been creating jewelry since the late 90s/early 2000s and started spinning and dyeing fiber 12+ years ago. I love to express myself through color and share my creations with others who will hopefully feel the love and attention put into every handmade item.

My learning style is to – jump in there and figure it out – most of the time with limited knowledge. I like to have some personal experience with a skill before honing it or learning to do it “the proper” way.

This post is an example of one way you can easily start dyeing yarn at home with little experience. To see a tour of the items I have in my studio for dyeing yarn and fiber (most picked up on sale or second-hand/repurposed), check out my Dye Studio Tour post/video.

Sharing My Experience

The following footage was filmed to (hopefully) inspire others to take the leap and try a skill like dyeing yarn. I wanted to show how easy it is without fuss, pre-mixing/measuring (math!), or expectations. For me, the magic happens just by trying things out for size, and I want to encourage others to do the same because the intimidation of failure often gets in the way.

Hopefully, in all its imperfection, you will get something out of it or at least know more about me as a maker. 🙂

Below is the video transcript and some extra notes in case you’d rather read than watch.

Dyeing Commercial Yarn

I dyed this superwash Merino yarn at home with a crockpot in stages over several days. It’s my easy, fuss-free method of dyeing. Here’s a quick run-through of how, step-by-step.

Pre-Dyeing Prep

a rack of natural colored commercial yarn with yellow ties

First off, prep your yarn for dyeing. I usually dye two skeins at a time and loosely tie them together. Even if you are dyeing just one skein, it is recommended that you tie it off in at least two additional places to keep the yarn from tangling.

Additional notes: What I use to add ties to my skeins is a product called highway tape, or as we call it, marker tape. It’s used to mark a path through the woods or to mark trees to be removed (among other uses). I bought mine at a local farm feed store. You could also use ribbon. I advise against using pieces of scrap yarn since you’ll want something that will be easy to find and remove later and also won’t felt or tangle with your skein. Be sure to tie it loosely so that the dye can flow behind.

a skein of natural colored yarn with a small round tag with its length and type of yarn

I also label my yarn by type, size, and length with fade-resistant jewelry repair cleaning tags. As I also make jewelry, these were a no-brainer to use.

Additional notes: these tags can be found at any jewelry supply store or online. They are made of tough material, almost like woven fabric, so they don’t disintegrate in hot water or with a cleaning solution. Therefore, they also work well in the dye pot. I use a fine-tip Sharpie marker to write the info. If you are doing one skein at a time, a notebook where you write the details of each skein would suffice. Do take notes. Don’t rely on remembering; believe me, you won’t. 😉

Various yarn hung up, one has areas dyed while the rest is left white

Another thing I have on hand is a skein of yarn ready to absorb any extra dye from the dye pot, should there be any. I don’t like to waste any product, and I’ve created new color combos this way, as the dye added is usually from more than one project.

Additional notes: I use a cheaper commercial yarn or my own 2 and 3-ply handspun yarn that I’ve spun natural color, undyed. I like to re-tie these skeins longer to get more color on each. This is also how you get a self-striping yarn pattern. You can use two chairs, spread the desired distance apart, and wrap the yarn around both. Don’t forget to re-tie it off at both ends. I rinse every section after soaking up any unexhausted dye and then hang it up to dry/continue dyeing the next project where there is too much dye in the dye pot.

Superwash Merino is a wonderful choice for yarn dyeing since it doesn’t felt. My equipment of choice for this process is a crockpot – dedicated for dyeing only, of course. I’ve already added hot water to the crockpot, and I’ll go ahead and add the dye next.

Dyeing the Yarn Section by Section: Section One

After mixing in half a tbsp of powdered dye, I dipped a section of the yarn into the crockpot. I’m using Country Classics in the color gold, which does not need the addition of citric acid or vinegar. I also didn’t pre-soak this yarn, as I will probably have to dye it in stages over the next couple of days.

Additional notes: I don’t always have the dedicated time to dye, or something will come up and interrupt my project. For that reason, I normally choose not to pre-soak the yarn so that I can simply rinse the dyed section and set it aside until the next day. There are pros and cons to not pre-soaking. The pros are obviously convenience and speed. The downside is that the color may not distribute evenly, though this is design feature that I like.

an end of yarn dipped in a black and white crockpot into golden color dye

Dyeing Section Two

The gold section is done, and now I have added approx. 2 tbsp of citric acid and ¼ tsp jacquard teal to the crockpot and dipped in another section. As you can see, the water is clear, which means the dye has fully exhausted and the color has completely transferred to the yarn.

Additional notes: I add powdered citric acid and powdered dye straight to the hot water of the crockpot without pre-mixing. I stir both until dissolved, then add my yarn.

the opposite end of yarn dipped into a crockpot with teal colored dye

Grabbing some rubber gloves to protect my hands, I cautiously remove the yarn from the crockpot and gently squeeze out the water. Teal is one of my favorite colors. Remember, this is two skeins of yarn tied together, so I will have two practically identically dyed skeins when this is done.

Here’s a closer look at the two sections dyed:

an open rectagular crockpot displaying 2 skeins of yarn tied together with two ends dyed. One end golden, the other end teal

Dyeing the final Section

Alright, let’s do this final section of color. I’ve already added approximately 2 tbsp citric acid and ¼ tsp of G&S dye in the color burgundy to a bit of warm water in the crockpot while the bulk of the water boils. After adding the boiled water to the crockpot, I stir the mixture to dissolve the powdered dye and citric acid. I make sure to be careful not to splash hot dye water on me and not breathe in the powdered dye while stirring. Protecting your skin and clothes with gloves, goggles, a mask, and an apron whenever possible is always a good idea. I make sure to be really careful if I am not donning the full protective gear.

Now to dip the final section of bare yarn into the crockpot, and we’ll let it soak for a few minutes. I hang the two other sections already dyed to the side of the crockpot and move my rectangular crockpot closer to catch any drips.

hands dipping a section of yarn into a black and white crockpot while holding up the teal and golden sections

After a few minutes, I check on how the color is developing. Using a spoon, I’ll gently press the yarn into the dye and shift it around in the pot to distribute the color more evenly.

Additional notes: I don’t keep track of the amount of time each section is in the crockpot. Usually, I do other tasks and check on it when it is convenient for me to do so. If I’m impatient, I check it every 10-15 minutes. But in reality, a good 30 to 40 minutes is usually needed for the color to develop, if not longer. Some colors, such as black, need hours in the crockpot to properly exhaust. This is an easy method, not a fast one. But it suits me because I can finish other tasks while waiting. Note that every crockpot (slow cooker) is different. Therefore, times will vary.

a section of teal colored yarn hanging outside a crockpot while a hand works a spoon into the liquid in the corckpot, the other hand holding up the golden section of yarn

Shortcuts in Dyeing

You’ve probably heard that you need to pre-mix your dye into a liquid concentrate and pre-soak your yarn in a soap like synthrapol to open up the fibers and get it prepped for dyeing. Although this is advisable, I prefer to take a LOT of shortcuts when dyeing yarn. It’s partially due to saving time but mostly because it’s part of my creative process to let things roll and see what happens. I take detailed notes as I go, just in case I want to replicate the outcome.

Also, I find that once the dyed yarn is dry, if I don’t like the color then there is an opportunity to over dye to intensify the color or change the hue. You can come up with some unique colors this way.  But more about that later.

I mainly dye fibers for spinning, but once in a while, I like to dye commercial yarn. Although I knit, crochet, and do some simple weaving, I prefer dyeing or spinning. When I get on a dyeing or spinning tangent, I end up with a backlog of yarn. So, I list those for sale on my website.

Final removal from Crockpot and Rinsing

Let’s remove this section now and see how it looks. Once again, I gently squeeze out the water with my rubber gloves. You don’t have to remove all the hot water, just enough that it doesn’t drip and scald you while getting it over to the sink for the final rinse.

a yellow rubber glove squeezes dye water out of a burgundy section of yarn above a crockpot

Time to fill the sink to rinse our newly dyed yarn. This small bar sink came equipped in this space that I now call my studio. It’s a working sink that has seen a lot of art over the years – hence all the splattered paint. Don’t worry; it won’t come off on the yarn.

I’ll let this sit for a few minutes, then come back and check if any dye has been released from the fiber. I’ll add Synthrapol in a second rinse if the water is not clear after this soak. Synthrapol is a type of soap used for prepping fibers for dyeing or removing dye particles afterward. If you don’t have Synthrapol, you can use Blue Dawn dish soap.

newly dyed yarn in the colors gold, teal and burgundy, rests in a sink filled with water

The water appears to remain clear, so I think it’s safe to get this drained and hung outside to dry. Freshly dyed yarn will be the most vibrant, and the color will mute once dry. This color looks great and the dye has exhausted fully, but I can’t be so sure I’ll be happy with the results until I see the skeins completely dry.

After draining the water, I give it a gentle squeeze, careful not to over-agitate. Superwash yarns do not felt. But I still like to be careful so they don’t get tangled. I have managed to tangle yarn, even when tied off carefully.

Further Drying: Going for a Spin

Now for the spin cycle. A salad spinner has been an incredibly useful tool in the studio; who knew? Think of it as a mini-washing machine, spinning out the excess water. I tend to pump my yarn and fiber through the salad spinner 3 times. By the third time there is significantly less water and it then can be hung up to dry. I bought this spinner 40% off after Christmas online several years ago. You can see the huge crack in it from being pumped one too many times.

hands rest over a moving salad spinner with yarn inside

The Final Product

So I have a secret: these are not the original colors! Once dry I found the color to be a bit too dull for my liking, so I over-dyed each area. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture the process on camera, but the original gold section got over-dyed with 1 tbsp of grasshopper, the teal section with ¼ tsp more teal, and the burgundy overdyed with 1 tsp. magenta. Now, this yarn is vibrant and saturated with color, and most importantly, I’m happy with it.

Additional notes: It’s worsted weight, so this set has many knitting and crochet possibilities. I decided to list these on the website if you are interested in giving them a new home. I don’t seem to have enough time to keep up with all the yarn I make/dye. 🙂

Here I am with the finished product:

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You may notice, especially in the teal section, that the color is of an uneven saturation.

I intentionally dye my yarn this way because I like how it knits up with darker and lighter variations within the same color. I think it looks more interesting than the usual even saturation you see with commercial yarn.

If you wanted a more solid color, you would need to soak your yarn beforehand, preferably with a product like Synthropol to open up the fibers, and then add salt to the dye bath. This will even out the distribution of the color to your yarn and not give so much of a mottled, uneven effect. You may also have to use more dye.

Your Turn to Play

I hope this inspires you to experiment with dyeing wool yarn with a crockpot. Remember, you don’t have to get it right the first time; tweaks can always be made.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or suggestions for future videos.

More info about me, my creative process, and the products I have for sale can be found at leilanihandmade.com.

Thanks for watching! Until next time…

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Dye Studio Tour – This is Where I Play with Color

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I’m lucky to have a dedicated studio space. See below for a video tour of my dye area

It’s your typical Canadian February: Snowy, cold, and blah. On the plus side, the sun finally returned in the past week or so. I can’t wait to get through the most miserable winter month and look forward to longer days and milder temperatures.

I’m making the best of it, though. Lots of from-scratch cooking, making ferments like kombucha and jun, milk and water kefir.

As promised, I’m also taking the time to capture myself at work in the studio on video so that you can get a bird’s eye view of my process. It’s been a challenge, but I’m excited to learn a new skill. The first installment is a quick tour of my dye studio, AKA the counter area in my studio, where I dye my yarn and fiber.

I’m still not comfortable talking to myself out loud (LOL!), and I know the footage isn’t the greatest, but it came down to one thing for me: I like to see other people’s methods, processes, and work areas, and I really don’t care how “professional” it is. So long as there is information, I’m inspired and honored to peek into someone else’s creativity. If it helps someone along with theirs or encourages others to start, then my intentions have been fulfilled.

I also feel that the less edited a video on a blog or YouTube is, the more genuine and sincere it comes across. It’s so annoying to watch a cooking or crafting video only to realize it’s not in any way realistic the way it’s been edited.

A Quick Tour of my Studio Dye Area

Dyeing Wool Yarn & Fiber: the Basics

When working with acid dyes for dyeing animal fiber such as wool, alpaca, or silk, you need a source of heat and an acid like citric acid or vinegar to exhaust the color and successfully transfer it to the fiber. With one exception: dyes that already contain the “acid” and therefore do not need it added. This includes KoolAid, which is a great option if you want to experiment with dyeing with little to no investment (also non-toxic, so perfect with kids!), or Country Classics Dyes

Heat Source

Crockpots can be used similarly to a pot on the stove. I prefer using a crockpot because I don’t have to stay on top of it to ensure it doesn’t boil or burn. It is a slower process, but if you are like me and are doing several things at once, this works well. Pop it in the crockpot, come back, and check it when you have a moment. I don’t recommend leaving it in all night, but an hour or two has always been okay for me. Every appliance is different, so check how hot yours gets with the high and low settings.

The microwave is excellent for hand-painting or sprinkle dyeing, where you would apply the dye and want to steam it to set it. I don’t use the microwave as much and dislike using materials that cannot be reused. The most popular method of using a microwave and setting dye is wrapping the yarn or fiber in plastic wrap. I find this rather wasteful, and I try my best not to create too much waste when supporting my craft. I keep any plastic wrap from the kitchen that can be reused, but most of it comes from packaging. If it’s destined for the bin and I can get another use out of it, then it gets added to the supplies. Otherwise, I prefer to use microwavable glassware with a lid, something that was not shown in the video. Of course, all equipment used is dedicated to dyeing and not used for food.

As shown in the video, I do have burners in the studio if I want to do a traditional kettle dye or if I want to dye at a higher temperature. From my experience, dyeing at higher temps means dyeing faster, but there is more margin for error if I get distracted.

When Developing Your Own Dyeing Style

I may be the worst “teacher” because I am completely self-taught, and I like to take shortcuts/push the envelope as to what is proper or necessary. I will be sharing videos of my dyeing experiments & methods, but I can’t guarantee they will work for you or are advisable for the best result. My methods work well for me, and I know that I learn from others’ trial and error. Hopefully, they will be an inspiration for your own projects.

It’s important to develop your own method that is both enjoyable and efficient. I’m comfortable being a mentor but not necessarily a teacher. There is always more than one way to reach a destination, and learning a new skill is a journey. Don’t worry what other people say. Have fun and play with it. Realize that not every attempt will be successful. You must take the risk to hone your craft. Plus, it’s fun learning how to correct those mistakes. 🙂

I’m always open to chat or give advice. My goal is to empower others to be comfortable doing things their own way.

Until Next time,

Leilani signature

Hello, 2024 – January Studio Update

“Any new beginning is forged from the shards of the past, not from the abandonment of the past.”

– Craig D. Lounsbrough

The New Year is off to a Fast Start

I considered skipping this month’s update, as I realize we are at the month’s final days, and I had yet to do one. I (still) don’t have any new products developed. However, I have been inspired to do a bit of experimenting to offer a closer, more in-depth look at the studio behind the scenes. I’m in a great place in my life and finally have a clearer, more expansive view of how to step forward this year.

I am starting 2024 with this overwhelming feeling of gratitude for all areas of my life, and I want to fulfill a goal that I’ve had on my to-do list for many years. That is, to document myself more precisely at work so that you can get a better look at my creative process and, hopefully, inspire YOU to start or expand your creative journey.

This post lets me preview some content I will offer in the coming months. I’m including short snippets of videos I’m working on that will hopefully turn into longer posts. I’m getting more comfortable with the camera, especially speaking (I’ve always hated the sound of my voice!) and some light editing. Although it’s all new to me, putting another possible skill under my belt is rewarding.

The Making of a Keepsake Scarf

One of my favourite keepsake projects was this scarf I wove on my cute and straightforward Ashford SampleIt loom. I’m now making a secondary one with the leftover yarn, but smaller in size. In the video below, you will see a preview of the process.

Before Setting Handspun Yarn

The video below is an example of yarn that was spun and plied right away, vs. spinning and plying after some time. I will set these yarns, and we’ll see if there is any noticeable difference in the twist.

The setting and drying of these two yarns will be put together in a longer video.

Finishing Touches (Silent Video)

Here, I am in the middle of packaging a recent stitch marker order. This shows a finishing touch I put on the package before mailing it to the customer. I usually finish my stitch marker orders this way. Along with a handmade notecard, I tie a piece of leftover handspun yarn to make a mini package and attach a couple of extra markers as a small thank-you gift.

I often use older handspun that didn’t turn out so well. It’s perfect for decorative purposes, and I love that it doesn’t go to waste.

Etsy Change – Canada Buyers Only

Etsyshopscreenshot

I decided to offer shipping to Canadian addresses only for my Etsy shop, at least for now. There are a few reasons for this change. Partly because I want to concentrate more on the local market and partially because the market in the US is already so saturated on Etsy. There have also been some business decisions on the platform that have the potential to make it difficult for me to offer the personalized service I have come to expect in the cottage (handmade) industry. I will consider selling to the US again in the future. I doubt I will go back to selling internationally again. There have been too many lost packages in the past, and the shipping times are so long. It’s not to my level of customer service.

We are Not Amazon

To add a quick reminder, when you are shopping online from an independent business or individual, mainly an Artist or a Maker, we put our heart and soul into what we do. We are not a faceless brand inside a big corporation. There is a person on the other end who wants you to be delighted with your order but would like to be treated fairly as well. We cannot make our items for pennies or compete with the big guys regarding free two-day shipping or no-questions-asked refunds without receiving the item back. That is money out of our pockets and, thus, potentially food out of the mouths of our families. Many of us deeply discount our work to compete with the overseas knockoffs or just out of a passion to have others enjoy our work. (Never mind that much of our work is stolen to be mass-produced – but that is a post for another day.)

I’m mentioning this because I am deeply disturbed by the growing trend of abuse that sellers on platforms such as Etsy seem to be privy to. I’m not active on social media but keep tabs on several selling forums to support my fellow online sellers. Sure, there are scammers pretending to be handmade, but with a little due diligence, it should be pretty easy to spot. We don’t deserve to be treated like we are out to scam you; thus, you get to keep our goods free of charge.

Although I have not experienced this kind of behaviour myself, it makes me suspicious of selling online. Non-realistic delivery requirements, ordering items “by mistake,” not wanting to return the item for a refund, or simply making an excuse to get an item refunded without working it out with the seller makes it harder for us to provide our creations online. And (it goes without saying) abusive language and threats is totally uncalled for.

I have much to say on this topic, and perhaps I will write a separate post about it. Because it seems the public has forgotten that the people behind the goods being sold are your neighbours and peers. For those who are still passionate about handmade and supporting us, THANK YOU. It is appreciated more than you know.

The Natural Intuitive: Nurturing Your Intuitive Soul Course

Naturalintuitivetestimonial

Recently, I got the opportunity to give a new course a test drive for another local empath. Laura has created the perfect course for those ready to explore your intuition and nurture your soft side. If you are an empath like me, the world can be incredibly taxing and draining without the proper self-care. This course approaches the subject from a practical psychological point of view, so it’s very relatable to most, easy on the head and not too demanding or intimidating. If you want to hone your intuition or are simply curious, check it out! It’s currently being offered at a huge discount. 🙂

Vision Statement: Do you have one?

You’ve probably heard of a Mission Statement, but have you heard of a Vision Statement?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a mission statement is a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual.

A Vision Statement, however, is an idealistic, inspirational statement on the emotional future of a group or individual. (I don’t know about the idealistic part – that sounds intimidating! But I guess you plan for perfection and get as close as possible.)

My Vision statement: To Inspire, Empower, Break the Rules, & Honor my Ancestors

To Inspire: My goal has always been to inspire others simply by how I live my life. Set the example and have a positive ripple effect on the world.

To Empower: through my experiences, I encourage and give others the confidence to try or accomplish a new skill or life improvement.

Break the Rules: When finding one’s path, it is not necessary to do things the “right” or expected way. This is so true with creating and crafting!

Honour my Ancestors: The more confident and at ease in my body I become, the more I am made aware of the women in my family tree who came before me. I honour them throughout my creativity and personal growth.

Do you have a Vision Statement for your life, or have you ever considered making one?

That’s all I got for now, friends. Until next time,

Leilani signature

A Bold Decision – December Update

“It’s only when you risk failure that you discover things.”

– Lupita Nyong’o

Taking A Big Risk

Over the years, I reluctantly participated in Black Friday. My reasoning years ago was that it gave a shopping alternative to the usual mass-produced stuff. I also appreciated Cyber Monday, a valuable alternative for sales during the busy holiday season when selling online was not so saturated. Cyber Monday has turned into Black Friday Part II, with many big box stores dominating sales.

This year, I boldly decided not to participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The outcome meant I made not a single sale during what is usually my busiest time of year.

I admit it was a bit of a sting to check my stats and see the views on my Etsy shop decrease by an average of 90% or more. It bruises my ego and my self-competitiveness. I’ve always been the type never to want to compete with others, but with myself, well, it’s never good enough for my standards.

That said, I’m very proud of myself for stepping away from a practice I disagreed with. Black Friday/Cyber Monday is for getting a good deal on mass-produced things. Handmade goods made with love and attention should never be forced to compete.

December Promo Codes & Sales

Now that the Cyber Monday frenzy is over, I have marked down some items on Etsy, plus promo codes available on both sites. The markdowns on Etsy are for items I wish to clear out or have abundant stock. You can also use the following promo codes to save even more:

Save $5 on your order of $50 with code TAKE5 (here and on Etsy)
Save $10 on your order of $100 with code TAKE10 (here and on Etsy)
Save $15 on your order of $150 with code TAKE15 (on this site only)

I get that times are tough, and money is tight. My family feels it, too. It’s astonishing to me how much groceries are at the checkout. Thankfully, I have money set aside for the extras. I get that what I sell is not in the necessity category. So if I can squeeze a bit off on my price and extend savings to the customer, I will.

I hope you feel the love in everything I create. I am contemplating what is next, doing a lot of spinning for myself and dismantling/reorganizing old and in-progress projects. Hopefully, I will have more news to report next month. For now, I am enjoying a slower pace with my family.

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Joyeux Noël/Maligayang Pasko/Maayong Pasko!

However you are spending this last month of 2023, I honor you. <3

Leilani signature

How Did We Get Here – November Update

“Gentleness is strength under control. It is the ability to stay calm, no matter what happens.”

– Elizabeth George

Suddenly Winter

Yesterday, we got our first snowfall. It was merely a dusting here, unlike other parts of the province, but I am so not ready for colder temperatures. Yes, I complain about this every year. I am so not a winter person! I have the tropics in my blood. 😉

I am stunned to think there are only two months left of 2023. I’m not sure how we got here. It doesn’t help that we had a mild October, keeping that late summer vibe going. I am not complaining; it’s been lovely to keep grounding outside and prolonging my garden. But having to dig out winter boots and jackets suddenly is…very unpleasant.

The only thing I enjoy about this time of year is the (forced) slower pace and…fiber projects by the fire!

After all, if I lived in the tropics, would I have an excuse to make scarves, hats, sweaters? Though I don’t rule out living in the tropics someday…!

Hand Woven Scarves

I don’t have a huge update this month as I’m still on a (new product) work hiatus. Looking around my studio, I decided I’d amassed far too much handspun yarn. It’s time to use this up to motivate me to make more. The only way to get good at something is to do it. So, I’ve spun a lot of fiber in the past 12 years. I only put a small fraction up for sale, as many are experimental, and I don’t think it would be worth selling at a discount.

I’ve been having fun weaving scarves to use up my accumulated handspun yarn

My style for both spinning and knitting has evolved; so much of the yarn I’ve spun doesn’t inspire me for a knit or crochet project. Many are bulky and chunky, which I used to knit a lot. These days, I prefer DK, Worsted, and fingerweight yarns.

The good news is many of these chunky, fluffy yarns work wonderfully for weaving on my simple Ashford SampleIt loom. So, I’ve had a lot of fun making scarves this past month. I’m happy to be preserving these yarns because they represent my fiber arts journey. Some of these yarns are sentimental because I processed, dyed, and blended the fiber myself. They also show the progression of my skills.

A Scarf to Keep

My fave scarf thus far

The scarf above was made from one of the first chunky yarns I’ve ever spun. It started as a braid of Tunis wool roving I picked up at a fiber festival in New England when I started spinning. I bought it specifically because it was hand-dyed. Unfortunately, it had been overworked in the dyeing process and was too felted to spin comfortably.

Into the drum carder it went, mixed with merino & bits of sari silk. It made for a fun batt (actually batts!) to spin. I spun it chunky – thick and thin-like (remember, I was learning!) and then spiral-plied it to metallic thread. It’s undoubtedly uneven in size but so soft and squishy. Since it lies flat in a weave, you don’t notice the random thick and thin pieces. The thick pieces weave up “bubbly” in appearance against the warp, which looks very cool. And like I said, the best part: soft and squishy!

I’ve held onto this yarn for several years. Part of me was not sure what to make with it, and another part of me found it far too precious to use up. I’m amazed at how fantastic it looks next to this handspun black merino yarn I used as the warp.

This is an extra-long scarf. I’ll get a pic of it worn once I even out the fringe and steam-set it. There is a lot of this yarn, so I still have enough to make at least one more scarf, not quite as big.

Packaging Brainstorming

Inspiration for my retail packaging brainstorming

One of my goals for next year is to make my products retail-ready for local businesses. I took out some of the packaging and branding I had gathered over the years for ideas. I want to make the card backing for my stitch markers to match my handspun yarn hang tags. It would be preferred to use what I have on hand rather than purchase brand-new packaging. These days, it’s essential to save as much money as possible so that I can pass along those savings to my customers.

I look forward to seeing where this evolves this month and in the coming months.

A Coupon Code

I’m offering a discount to visitors to my website for November. Save an additional 15% on your order with code HELLOFRIEND at checkout. This even applies to sale items. I noticed a spike in traffic lately, and I want to welcome all to my little spot on the internet, new or returning.

Until next time, remember to be kind and patient with yourself and others…

Leilani signature

A Time to Rest, More Time to Pause – October Update

“Slowing down is not always easy, but there are many gems to be found at a gentler pace.”

– Brittany Burgunder

Last month, I decided to slow down, mainly concerning creative projects. Honestly, I am so focused on developing new products that I stopped enjoying making things, as silly as that sounds.

I needed to step back and start thinking about what I wanted to make, not what I thought I should be making. This is a recurring theme for me. I get so driven to create and share what I make that, over time, I feel stuck in a rut and need to pause. Not a tiny pause, but a big one: willing to let it all go. 

In the past, a life event that would make me have to take a break, such as a new baby or moving homes. But this time, I concluded that I have all the time in the world for myself if only I would take it. Once I take a big step away, it should become more evident as to the direction my future holds. I’m ready for change; I just have to be patient about how and when it will happen.

Blessings from the Garden

I’ve been up to my eyeballs with tomatoes from my garden! I’ve made pasta sauce, salsa, and pepper hot sauce! Added these to the closet along with my pickles. The bees were happy I left this small broccoli that went to flower before I could harvest it. One day, I counted 20 bees on it! With so few flowers left this late in the season, I am happy to offer them this organic homegrown broccoli. 🙂

The past month has been spent with birthday celebrations, processing food from my garden (primarily tomatoes…holy tomatoes!), grounding, local festivals, knitting, and weaving. I’m just getting to the point of unwinding, so I don’t see this trend ending soon. It will soon be time to fill orders for Christmas presents and gift-making for my family. I do not intend to run any sales or do any promotions. I will take it as it comes, and if it’s a slow year, that’s okay. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I’m allowing myself to let go of the expectation of having a “business”.

I’ll still be offering my current products and may or may not list anything new. I will let it all settle and do what I want without setting a schedule.

A Special Gift

Sixteen sapphires for a 16th birthday…it’s incredible how fast time flies. But my childhood went by in a flash, so I can understand how we got here. 😉 It’s been a fantastic 16 years, and “Sweet 16” called for a special piece of jewelry to commemorate this milestone.

16 sapphires for a 16th birthday

I wasn’t sure what she would think, but I got an “Oh, it’s pretty!” when it was unwrapped. I’m happy to announce this necklace gets worn just about every day. I added the sterling silver number “16” charm to the end of the extender chain so it hangs down her back. I mentioned I could move it to a charm bracelet I made for her a couple of birthdays ago, but thus far, she has left it as is.

A Custom Order

Recently, a customer bought a set of my revamped Knitting Abbreviation Stitch Markers on Etsy. She asked if I would make her some specific additions to the set, and I was more than happy to do so.

I engraved these knitting abbreviation-themed stitch markers with my vintage pantograph engraver

The new set was engraved with “M1L” and “M1R” on the front, then “F-B” on the back of M1L, and “B-F” on the back of the M1R as a reminder of how to make each leaning stitch. I thought it was a fantastic idea, and I hope she likes them. They are currently on their journey to their new home via the post. 🙂

A custom set request, with front and back engraving

I love making requests like these. Do ask if you are browsing my products and want a specific detail. If I can do it, I’d love to have the chance to make something just for you. 🙂

What I can’t do is replicate something seen on the internet or elsewhere. If it already exists on my website, I can tweak it, but I will not copy someone else’s work or design something entirely from scratch. It has to fall within the parameters of my style and abilities.

A Finished Knitting Project

My finished (not blocked) hat with my first ever gradient dyed skein of handspun

I finished the Blocket Hat from Tanis Gray’s Gradient Knits. As I mentioned last month, this was my first time dyeing a gradient yarn. I enjoyed both the dyeing and knitting process. I want to dye another gradient yarn and make another of these hats – maybe purple. I need to perfect my technique for this kind of dye; there was too much white space throughout the skein instead of a smooth transition from dark to light.

Regardless, I love the effect of the yarn and the final hat. I decided to forego the pompom. My hat turned out more slouchy than the one in the book, possibly because my handspun BFL was slightly thicker in gauge. I’m a big fan of slouchy hats, so this was totally okay with me!

A Simple Weaving Project

This is not a scarf: it’s cotton woven dish cloths that my husband has been impatiently waiting for

Back in late spring, I warped my Ashford SampleIt loom to make some cotton dishcloths. DH has been patiently waiting for new dishcloths, and after I separate these and give them a quick wash, I look forward to seeing how they hold up. I wanted to start weaving dishcloths because I find the knitted and crochet versions fall apart over time. Hopefully, these will last a bit longer.

Sending many well wishes for the Autumn transition and happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians…

Leilani signature

Time for a Rest – September Studio Update

“Taking a break can lead to breakthroughs.”

– Russell Eric Dobda

Rest & Reset

Now that summer is coming to an end and the next season is almost upon us, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking as to what my autumn will look like.

I’ve realized that I am always going at such a steady pace there is no time for me to think about what direction I want to go next. So, I need to slow down, take a few deep breaths, and consider what I like/dislike about making/selling handmade goods.

I’ll still be posting new listings here and on Etsy, but I want some quality time. I already have family responsibilities; I want more time to create again without the pressure of selling it or a variation of it. I still have a backlog of products that are finished to list, and I’ll be slowly introducing these things over the coming months.

Make Time for Reflection

I have some products in limbo that I’m not sure if I want to revamp or retire. There are many directions I’d like to take the engraving, but I need to take a step back to consider what I’d like to do. Right now, I feel too micro-focused on my products, and it’s becoming one big blur.

Not to mention I haven’t spun any yarn in quite some time. The last spinning project was spinning leftover plies. As fun as that was, the point of that was to make space for new yarns. I also feel like I’ve become stagnant with my knitting, so I want the time to explore new projects and techniques.

I won’t be running sales on Etsy anymore – at least for the time being. It’s getting too expensive to keep my prices on the platform competitive yet offer the best presentation & customer service, pay Etsy fees, etc. There is already a small discount for abandoned carts and favorited items.

This isn’t the first time I’ve taken a step back from what I do. I feel like I need to every now and then. This time I am entering a new phase of my life, so it’s even more important to align my creative life with my everyday life. It’s a process, both mental and spiritual. Hopefully, if I feel like sharing, I’ll take you all along on the journey via this blog.

Chances are, I won’t have time to write about it, but it will be reflected in my creativity. 🙂

What’s New

New Stitch Markers

My original (and popular!) Catholic Art Stitch Markers are officially retired. But I’ve been able to obtain 2 new charm sets for two brand new sets. I love artwork in all forms, including religious artwork.

The charms are random in these made-to-order sets, but they’ll be similar to the designs featured in the listings. I’ve decided to pair each marker with classic pearls.

Silver Heart Stitch Markers

Gold Oval Stitch Markers

Engraved Stitch Markers

Knitting abbreviation stitch markers are back in stock with a new vintage font set, glass beads, and bead caps. The old design was a single-line font, but then I realized this particular font set fits on these small blanks. It’s a double-line font, and I like the overall vibe.

You can choose both the silver and gold options from the same listing.

Numbered Stitch Markers

Numbered stitch markers are back in stock and revamped with new color accent beads and bead caps. I also chose a new font double-line font, and I’m very satisfied with the new look.

My fave use for these is for keeping track of sleeve decreases when knitting a sweater top down. I tend to put my larger knitting projects down for months at a time, so these keep me on track.

You can also use these as progress keepers, clip two to a stitch for double digits.

Currently, they only come in gold, but I plan to make a silver version once I replenish some stock.

What I’m Working On

current weaving project

I’m back to making dishcloths after a break over the summer. I’ve been doing some more experimenting with different cotton yarns here on my little SampleIt loom. This is two yarns doubled up for the weft. A cotton scrubby and a worsted-weight cotton yarn. Both commercial yarns but hand-dyed by me.

Current Knitting Project

current knitting project

I’m really enjoying Tanis Gray’s Gradient Knits. So many inspiring projects that are fairly easy to do. I’ve wanted to try my hand at a gradient-dyed ombre yarn which is much like the one featured in this project. For a first go, it wasn’t bad!

I recognized what I did wrong fairly early on in the dyeing process (like using too much dye), and I think I’ll do a better job next time. Too much white space dotted around the skein which is not what I was going for (though I do like the effect!). Overall, I’m happy with the final product for the first try! I plan to do a separate post on the dyeing process once I do a few more.

I’m knitting this pattern with a 3-ply handspun BFL that I spun out of wool top to keep on hand for dyeing experiments. So far, it is very fun to knit (and as you can see, Moki likes it, too!).

I wish you a wonderful September and a smooth transition to fall,

Leilani signature

I Almost Threw in the Towel – August Update

“Be true to life by being true to your inner purpose. As you become present and thereby total in what you do, your actions become charged with spiritual power.”

– Eckhart Tolle

But you Enjoy What you do

I’ve been working on updating my personalized products this past month- well, struggling to. I want to offer more engraved jewelry options than what I currently offer, and it’s put me down this rabbit hole of what I do and if it is sustainable as far as selling to the general public. I hesitate even to call it a business; as fellow makers know, it seems virtually impossible to make a living just doing creative stuff.

I made the mistake of doing some number crunching, which led to a good cry. With the rising cost of supplies, shipping, gas, etc., and the work required for my pieces, my take home is $3-$5 an hour – and that’s only covering some of my overhead. Whenever I develop a new product, the time involved to design, make, photograph, then list – or write a blog post – I’m not compensated for that time.

I had to dig down and ask myself, is this what you want to do, or is it time to throw in the towel? There are many challenges with selling handmade goods both in person and online. Cost increases and over-saturation seem like impossible hurdles to get over.

Don’t get me wrong; I want other makers out here selling their wares. I want to refrain from competing with resellers, fooling the public into thinking they’re buying handmade. Resellers have always been rampant online. And platforms like Etsy aren’t caring or doing anything to distinguish between what is genuinely handmade and what is mass made.

Above: some of the necklaces that used to be available with an initial only now with a whole word or name option. I hope to offer this option for all my personalized jewelry, eventually.

Support a Living Wage for Makers

“But you enjoy what you do” is a statement I heard over and over from customers back 25 years ago when I would sell face-to-face at flea markets and craft shows. If you think of it, that statement is merely a way to justify supporting paying makers next to nothing for their craft.

Do I like what I do? Enjoy it? Passionate about it? Of course! But that doesn’t mean there are no moments of stress and hardship. My products don’t sell themselves. I have to work hard to be seen and list my items for sale, sometimes on multiple platforms.

Not to mention after years of this – my body is starting to feel it. Repetitive motion from crafting wears out the neck, back, and shoulders.

It makes no sense to demand someone work for next to nothing simply because “they enjoy it,” as if work is all toil and displeasure. My DH is a software developer – yes, it is a lot of stress, but I’d be hard-pressed to think he wouldn’t do it if he didn’t enjoy it on many levels! I enjoy making things, but implying no thought or skill is involved is ridiculous.

When I have a particularly stressful week because I am busy developing, pricing, photographing, and listing new items, it’s always in my mind that all my hard work may not pay off. When DH has a stressful week developing software, he gets paid for all his hard work. It does feel discouraging at times.

What I’ve Decided

Regardless of the discouragement, something propels me forward to keep going. Maybe it’s passion; maybe it’s the desire to be the change I want to see in the world…perhaps I know nothing else.

Fortunately, I stocked up on supplies years ago while things were still reasonably priced. Charms, for example, were bought in bulk wherever possible. I also have many chains, engraving blanks, clasps, and earring findings.

So I plan to continue to offer my items at the lowest possible price, and when they are gone, they are gone.

I want my products in people’s hands because I love making people happy with my talents. I love making a meaningful piece to honor a loved one, some that have passed on. Giving people the option of something handmade and well-made that is not mass-produced is important to me.

Makers deserve a living wage, but I understand that money is tight, and I’m not providing anything necessary for day-to-day living. They’re extras. Trust me; I get it.

So I will continue until I cannot justify it anymore or when my body has yelled, “Enough!” Whatever comes first.

Hopefully, that day never comes…

What’s New

Engraving Upgrades

I now offer engraved words and names on most personalized jewelry items. In the past, I did initials only, except for the larger disks, which mostly were back engraving of a handmade charm. This was for two reasons:

Most of my fancier fonts only accommodate one letter or short words/names on the smaller charms. I’ve spent the past few weeks playing around with different options, and now I can confidently offer words & names up to 8 characters on two different-sized disks. In the past, I’ve kept it to 1 letter on each charm for congruency because I knew for sure one letter would fit.

Secondly, to keep costs down. It takes longer to engrave names vs. letters, as well as more chances for mistakes. Now that I feel comfortable with the size options, I can offer full-name engraving for an additional fee.

You can read my recent post about the type of engraving I offer and why there are size limitations.

I’m slowly updating my Etsy Shop. I have decided to remove and re-add the engraving items as I edit them and will offer less of this option on Etsy until this new option is the right way to go.

Fun with leftover Plies

a basket full of bobbins with leftover plies of handspun yarn
Some leftover odds and ends from spinning that I am currently turning into small skeins of yarn

It’s that time of year when I have just too many single plies of handspun yarn on storage bobbins. Most of these are leftovers from spinning projects. Some are fibers I spun with no particular plan, and it’s more than time to do something with them. I’ve three small skeins done that I’ll keep to incorporate in my knitting. Spinning leftovers is a fun project to do once in a while. I often get color combinations I would never think to do otherwise.

Another Great Thrift Store Find

skeins of indie yarn found at a thrift store
Three more skeins of indie dyed/higher-end yarn found thrifting

DH does it again and digs out another bag of yarn from our favorite Thrift store. This one only had three skeins, and I paid more for these at $3.75 compared to my other finds, but can you complain? One indie dyed and two wool fiber not from a large company. I’ll take it! 🙂

Bountiful Garden

Despite the horrible weather this summer (it went from too hot/dry to too wet and cold), I’m getting a decent crop out of my little garden, especially the cucumbers, who love all the excess rain. Tomatoes should be ripening any day now (I hope!). I’ve made 19 jars of dill pickles thus far – more than when I bought pickling cucumbers! There is still more to come…

I’ve gotten a decent amount of zucchini, and the squash is coming. The carrots, leeks, a few onions (I never have luck growing onions, so I’m happy with a few!), and even a melon are all on their way. Considering some farmers locally lost everything to this weather, I will be thankful for what I have.

Second Swing Chair Re-do

The weave worked up quickly and much better this gtime on these old swing chairs I repainted and strung with macrame cord after the fabric finally deteriorated
I decided to go for it and restring that first swing chair I upcycled

I’ve been upcycling these swing chairs as the fabric finally let go. Last month I finished the second one. It turned out excellent, better than the first one, so I contemplated restringing it. True to my nature, I soon dragged it into the studio and redid the weave! The chair is restrung with a macrame cord and crochet hooks. I used plain white on this chair to keep costs down. It’s covered with a chair cushion anyway. 

If you’ve made it to the end, thank you for stopping by and checking out what’s new! I’m off to keep the momentum going before the self-doubt sets in…

Until next time,

Leilani signature

Engraving the Manual Way with a Pantograph

Adventures of a (jewelry) maker who uses a classic Pantograph engraver

What is Pantograph Engraving?

brass fonts spelling out K 2 T O G on a metal tray of a pantograph engraver
My view from one of my pantograph engravers, ready to engrave the knitting abbreviation for “knit two (stitches) together (K2TOG) – for stitch markers

When I purchased my first pantograph engraver about 13 years ago, I would never expect them to be defunct this quickly. But here we are.

Pantograph engraving has quickly become obsolete thanks to computerized laser and rotary engravers. Who knew when I purchased a new and a used engraver with brass font sets in 2010 that I could call it “vintage” today! I should have seen it coming since the rising popularity of computerized engraving was certainly obvious back then. But for them to (practically) disappear off the market so quickly shocks me.

Something Truly Special

I recently paid more attention to the changing landscape of engraving when I decided to get re-acquainted with my font sets and engraving blanks. I have many brass font sets I don’t use, mainly because I need to put the time in to feel comfortable using them. Some are very “old school” in design, so I hadn’t thought about what products these would be best suited for. And I still haven’t decided where many best fit as of right now.

Not Much is Available Anymore

I decided to do an internet search on what was new and available for this type of tool, only to come up with….nothing. Companies I once purchased from: not found. There were a few places still selling models of pantograph engravers, but font sets – forget it! Get my logos and images cut into templates like in the past…nope. I found a few very old and questionable font sets on eBay now relegated to collector’s items…and at collectors’ prices.

I realized that possessing these skills and tools is now something very special. I like to think that my customers are taking a part of history away with every engraved piece I make, and that is a very literal fact now.

Like my other manual tools, it is a pleasure to keep these old forms of maker tools alive. To think the Pantograph has been around for hundreds of years makes it very special!

Just What is a Pantograph Engraver?

Let’s see if I can explain this in (my) layperson’s terms. Basically, it’s a nifty machine with two arms: one for tracing and one for engraving. It uses ratios with how close or far away the engraving arm is to the tracing arm to give different sizes to the font or image you are tracing. This is how I take a reasonably large word and shrink it down to fit on an 11mm, 12mm, or 15mm blank. It’s relatively simple in design if you think about it. And that is probably why I like it so much. Genius!

Not Just Used in Engraving

The Pantograph is not just an engraving tool. I once saw an educational show with a segment about making traditional domino sets in China. They were using a pantograph to cut the shapes into the dominoes.
(Side note: I acquired a pantograph cutter engraver that is not manual but motorized. It would be great for engraving items like plastic badges, but it’s missing a piece that was impossible to get back then, let alone now. So right now, it’s a collector’s piece.)

According to the internet, the first pantograph machine was developed in 1603 as an illustration machine.

Diamond Drag Tip

My pantograph engravers have a diamond drag tip making them perfect for the metals used in jewelry making. When I first acquired the engravers, I purchased a special diamond drag tip that is flatter. They leave a wider impression on the metal vs. the pointier tip that the engravers came with. The difference is subtle but enough to make a difference (to my eye, anyway!).

What I currently offer for Engraving

From name jewelry to advocacy items to knitting stitch markers: I offer several different options for customizing via engraving. Browsing the Personalized Items section will give you the most. The Advocacy & Awareness section showcases a few other items, including logos I engrave, such as the breastfeeding awareness symbol. Most of these products were developed from customer requests, which I am very proud of. Unfortunately, I no longer have a contact to cut my custom symbols and logos templates.

Custom Engraved Stitch Markers were another special request. The customer wanted stitch markers with her children’s names to keep them close in thought while she knitted. These are sometimes purchased “off-label” for other uses, such as boot charms, as they are silver-plated and affordable. I no longer offer plated engraving disks for jewelry, as they can wear out quickly.

Once in a while, I get asked if I will engrave an item someone owns, such as a watch or ring. It’s not something I’m willing to do. If I were to make a mistake, I would feel awful! I haven’t had the privilege of engraving curved items yet, anyway. I believe I have accessories for engraving rings, but it’s not something I’ve tried.

I only engrave flat items and my stock in case of a mistake. And it sometimes happens. I may misjudge the placement, making the word or letter badly off-center. The older brass fonts can be pitted, so if I am not careful, the engraving tip will slip and scratch the blank.

My First Ever Successful Engraving Project

The first successful engraved piece of jewelry I made was for myself. It’s entitled “Wings” and is a tribute to my mother, who passed suddenly in 2008. The first version was done in silver plate, but I quickly upgraded to sterling silver so I could wear it daily.

It’s very dear to me to keep my mom’s initials close to my heart with this engraved monogram charm flanked by two angel wings.

Over the years, I’ve been honored to engrave pieces commemorating the loss of babies and children, wives, mothers and fathers, pets…anyone precious to us. It means a lot to be part of the healing journey for my customers.

Limitations and Other Negatives

The arm on my pantograph engraver only reaches so far, so there is only so big or so small I can make each font. Big is not a problem for jewelry making. I run into more of an issue that my fonts were for signs and trophies. Thus the fonts don’t go as small enough as I need.

My fave vintage brass font set. It is relatively large, so it would only work as an initial or two on my engraving disks. I have yet to decide what to do with this one.

The fonts can’t be stretched or manipulated like you could with software. It’s a fixed height based on where the arm of the engraver is placed. So you don’t have the options you would with a computerized engraver.

The Longer the Word, The Smaller the Text

One thing that can be a negative is that the longer the word, the smaller the text. It can make the word or name hard to read, except close up. It leaves a lot of space above and below the word. I prefer the word or names filling the disk from top to bottom as much as possible.

If you look at the examples above, the name Samantha is smaller than the name Desiree. It doesn’t look bad, but you see what I mean about more space above & below the text.

It can be Hard on the Body

Sitting for many hours at the engraver is hard on me physically. Like most things I do (knitting, spinning, drum carding fiber, polishing metal components, making components for jewelry, etc.), the repetitive motion can cause the neck, back, and shoulders to be quite sore and worse. After years as a maker, I feel it in my Body.


Even though pantograph engraving is a tracing function, which sounds easy, you still require a keen eye and a steady hand. Therefore, my back is sore after an hour at the engraver. My shoulder, which has damage due to being hit by a car at 16 and from the repetitive motion of all my crafts, has permanent damage. I’m also prone to migraines, so I have to be careful not to push myself too much.


I remedy this by taking many breaks, stretching, and knowing when to quit (yeah, right!). Regardless of how I feel, getting your order out promptly is always of the utmost importance. I turn around orders in 1 business day whenever possible.

What it’s Not

Laser Engraving

Engraving with a Pantograph manual engraver is not the same as laser engraving. I’m unfamiliar with laser engraving, and I’m sure there is more than one type. Still, it’s popular to offer laser engraving that lightly etches/burns into the metal or removes an anodized surface. I’m not sure what the longevity of these items would be, and it’s a personal preference of mine the esthetic of the “old school” diamond drag engravers.

Computerized Rotary Engraving

A rotary computerized engraver is very similar to what I do manually. I once thought I’d also like an automated engraver, but when I looked at them, they were rather clunky and required special ventilation. I’m sure there are tabletop versions that would work just as well for jewelry making. I love my “person power”: I can still work even during an electricity outage. 😉

Manual but Skills Required

I love the skill involved with using this tool. When I first bought mine, I naively thought I would sit down and get engraving immediately. BUT it’s more complicated than that. I’m thankful that I responded to an ad from a gentleman in Toronto selling an engraver and brass fonts because he sat me down and showed me how to use them. We lived in Montreal then, so we made it a weekend trip. As a young family, money was tight, so I expected to buy a font set or two, and that was it. Afterall, I already owned an engraver.

He encouraged me to take the entire lot and gave me an excellent price, so off to the bank I went. I am trying to remember exactly what I paid, but it was around $2000. I went home with an engraver (a New Hermes, which is my fave!), several font sets, logos, and accessories. I also got the motorized cutter I never got working, but I might someday rig something up. I’m very thankful to this man who saw my potential and got me on my way to engraving (he was married to a Filipina! I think that helped ;)).

It’s Not Handstamping

Finally, diamond drag engraving is not hand-stamping. I love the look of hand stamping; it’s not comparable to engraving, so I can’t compare the pros and cons of each.

Free Hand Engraving

I wish I had the talent of those that engrave with a tool freehand – they are the ones to give total props to as far as engraving is concerned!

What Can I make for you?

Now that you know what pantograph engraving is and isn’t and the limitations of what I can offer, I hope that I can make you a special keepsake that you will enjoy and cherish! 🙂

Leilani signature

Rain Rain Go Away – July Update

“Go with the flow. Force nothing. Let it happen, or not happen…trusting that whichever way it goes, it’s for the best”

– Mandy Hale
A girl picks up a crab at the edge of the water
Now that the rainy weather has finally stopped (for now?!)…we’ve been busy making friends at the beach 😉

Here in Nova Scotia, we went from worrisome dry weather to worrisome wet weather. Although the wet means no more forest fires, us gardeners know how devastating the constant rain has been on our gardens. It was really nice (and exciting!) to haul a large harvest of garlic scapes. I was beginning to wonder if I’d get anything out of the garden this season.

Now that we’ve had a stretch of sunny days there is hope the garden will recover! It also means it’s time to get back to work out there.

A large basket full of freshly harvested garlic scapes

Since I’ve been stuck indoors after weeks of rain you’d think I’d get tons done in the studio, but nope. I’m trying to update all my current designs or at least take fresh new photos, but I’m totally stuck especially when it comes to my engraving designs. I wanted to have several necklaces revamped or at least freshly photographed but I can’t seem to get any traction creatively there.

So I’ve just been going with the flow, allowing myself to feel out my projects even though the responsible side of me is screaming: YOU SHOULD BE RE-DOING THOSE PIECES! I should know by now that creativity cannot be forced.

What’s New (or rather returning)

Nevertheless I have the final revamped stitch markers listed, and with a little luck I can get into the necklace revamp this month.

Several stitch markers have gotten a fresh new look and as mentioned last month, I’m trying to vary up the amount in each set so to cover a wide range of prices/budgets.

More Info on the Different Sets

The Must Love cats series is now available under one listing, with 3 sets to choose from. The charms are paired with fun dyed fossil and Mother-of- Pearl beads, with a small discount if you buy two or three. There is a discount on Etsy if you buy all three.

My original Knitting Bling – AKA the first set of stitch markers I ever made – is now available in 2 types. The original extra large slip on ring are paired with dyed mother of pearl rondelles. Something about the combination reminded me of dyed roving, so I thought it would be a good upgrade. The clip-on option however, is paired with dyed fossil beads. Also available in my Etsy shop.

I’ve revamped the Snowflake sets to a smaller set of 4 instead of 8. Available in silver or gold, also on Etsy. These charms make great little embellishments on handmade cards and gifts, too.

A Thing for Shoes is now known as A Shoe for Every Occasion, now a mini-set of 3 and paired with freshwater pearls. Check it out also on Etsy.

Also now a mini-set of 3 is O Christmas Tree. These would also be cute on gifts and cards (in fact, I originally bought these charms for this reason). See them here on Etsy as well.

What I’m Working On

I finished a few knitting projects last month, including the thrummed mittens and slip stitch hat started last month.

Thrummed Mittens: Super warm and Cozy

The thrummed mittens were really fun to make – only I was reminded that I really hate making cuff down mittens (!!) – probably for the same reason I dislike making cuff down socks. I really dislike Kitchener Stitching…I always seem to have to fuss with the tensioning to get it to look just right.

Besides that, I simply prefer to start out my socks and mittens from the fingers/toes up. There is something so satisfying of having that section finished and watching the project evolve in this manner. It feels…more “finished” to me this way and thus I am motivated to keep going. I know that probably doesn’t make sense but that’s my brain for you!

In the case of socks, I like that you can stop when you run out of yarn at the leg instead of being stuck with an unfinished toe. I also know several stretchy bind offs so starting in the opposite direction is more appealing to me. I know that doesn’t work for every pattern, but this is just my preference.

I’m curious to see if I can reverse engineer the thrummed mittens pattern to start from the finger tips down, so that is on my to-do list to try… 🙂

Slip Stitch Hat – still a work in progress

The slip stitch hat I started from scratch (sans pattern) is technically done….but I don’t like the crown decrease. I tried 3 different styles of decreases and disliked every single one. So I didn’t weave in the ends yet in case a want to frog it back for a 4th time. Trust me: it may sit around for months but it’s most likely I will be deconstructing this in the future.

I’m picky with my hat decreases. I’m not a fan of the heavily gathered look, but trying to avoid that made this hat rather flat at top which I don’t like either. Yes. I’m fussy! It’s from years of jewelry design where I expect the pieces to hang. just. right. So when I knit I tend to have the same…fussiness. 😉

Take the other hat in the photo, for instance. That hat started out as a slouchy hat pattern free from the internet. I liked how it worked up until I realized the top pretty much had that draw string look. So, I combed through my collection of hat patterns until I found a crown decrease I liked. I need to do the same for the slip stitch hat, I think.

Weaving Dishcloths

My first time weaving cotton dishcloths. There is 6 in total here fresh off the loom before they were finished/separated

I love to knit and crochet dishcloths instead of buying them, and using cotton or bamboo yarn instead of synthetic fibers. Since I got my little SampleIt loom I’ve been really curious about making dishcloths. After finishing yet another wool panel in handspun yarn I decided to put that project on pause to start making dishcloths.

I’m using No. 10 crochet thread for the warp and commercial cotton yarn (smooth and scrubby) for the weft. I finally got to try out my laceweight reed! I thought the first bunch was…okay. I’ve decided for the next bunch to keep the cotton thread weft doubled and…oh my: now we’re talking!

weaving on a table top loom
Second round of cotton dishcloths on the loom. This is really pretty, but the low light doesn’t show it off well. Do you like my crooked spacer, that the cat bumped?? LOL

For this new set I decided to go with 2 different colors for the warp. The weft is a commercial cotton yarn I hand dyed. The contrast really works, and I love the asymmetrical contrast colors of the warp. I’m going to use the basic hemstitch at the start and finish of each dishcloth. I had my oldest zig-zag sew the edges with the sewing machine on the scrubbies since they were much thinner than these, but I think we’d need to upgrade to a surger to have the ends finished correctly.

Swing Chair Macrame, Part 2

Last month I mentioned that I was working to restore 2 old swing chairs by spray painting with Rust-Oleum and then re-stringing with crochet hooks and macrame cord. The first one I finished, but the second one sat outside half done due to all the torrential rain of the past month. I finally got fed up and asked the Hubs if he could help me bring it into the studio. In a comfy environment, I finished it in an afternoon!

First I decided to remove the original first pass with the white macrame cord. I found the way I did the first chair caused too much sag in the seat, which I disliked. So I decided to to the weave on the seat part only, and only the verticle portion of the weave on the back, separately. I also switched to navy and tan cord which I love! It matched the chair cushion I luckily found online beautifully.

Peanut enjoyed the work in progress, while Osuna was caught enjoying the the final product! 🙂

The second chair turned out so much nicer than the first, I think I will bring chair number 1 inside and re-do it. I know I won’t be able to help myself… 😉

I’m off to enjoy more summer. Until next time…

Leilani signature

April Showers….in June (an update)

“Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It’s the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else’s pain is as meaningful as your own.”

– Barbara Kingsolver

It’s been raining pretty steadily here for the past few days. I figured now is a good time for a monthly update. Here in Nova Scotia we’ve had some devastating wildfires in parts of the province. Although this is nowhere near me, I live in the woods and thus, it is a concern for us every summer in the dry weather.

My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes and pets. I hope that others in this province will tone down the rhetoric and stop lashing out and pointing fingers at people who are no different than you. As an empath, mass blame and hysteria saddens me. I know there is a better way to process our feelings and fears. These attitudes are exactly why I finally left social media in 2020.

With that said, let me catch you up on what I have been working on this past month:

What’s New

Although outdoor chores and gardening have been taking up much of my time, I’m still working on updating my product photos and adding short videos to all the listings. With that comes revamping and I’m now done the stitch marker section. I’m editing the final photos and will be listing the final revamped products throughout this month. Here’s the newest since my last blog update:

I have a few sets on hold while I wait for some new supplies to arrive. One thing I have done is varied the amount you get from set to set to hopefully cover all price brackets (smaller sets coming soon!). Check out stitch markers in the knitting bling and crochet bling sections, or the yarn/fiber/stitch bling section on Etsy.

What I’m working On

Frankly, I’m bored with the same old thing. Simple hats, simple socks, working on a blanket…I’m ready to expand my knitting (and crochet!) skills. As I’ve said before, I’m a spinner, not a knitter. I enjoy to knit and crochet, but the only time I have to do it is late at night when I’m winding down, or when I’m out waiting for my kids from one of their activities.

For that reason, I tend to stick with really simple patterns that I don’t need much brain cells for. I consider myself a intermediate knitter in knowledge, but really only and advanced beginner in practice. It’s time to put all this knowledge in my head to good use! I’ve been reviewing Interweave videos that I purchased over the years and also bought a few more during a sale recently. I love to have a visual aid that I can refer to over and over.

A Free-hand Slip Stitch Hat…from 1.5 years ago (!!)

I had the idea to make a hat from this easy slip stitch patterning using two colors. I’m just going for it and tweaking as I go, sans pattern. I used to make all my hats this way. The positive is the freedom of not having to follow the pattern, and I love the challenge of feeling how the hat should ultimately look. The negative is I can’t replicate the hat again if I like it.

So this time, I am trying to take more detailed notes so that I can make another hat just like it again. If I like it, I just might include the pattern here on the blog. Like I said, this is a very easy succession of stitches.

Project Delayed

Here’s the thing: I started this hat during December break…2021! And this is the state it has stayed in 1.5 years. I picked it up again the other night and, seeing that it was almost midnight and my eyelids were getting heavy, I screwed it up pretty much right away! It pained me to put it down until the next night. I hate knowing there is a mistake in my knitting and not taking care of it right away. Hats off (pun intended) to all you knitwear designers: I can’t even seem to handle a simple hat…! :/

Shaping the crown will be the most challenging with the colorwork patterning. I may do the top of the hat in the solid dark grey color (which is a handspun superwash merino I hand dyed intentionally with light and dark patches). Hopefully, I will have a update (and finished hat!) for next month’s update.

Thrummed Mittens

Thrummed mittens: a great way to use up bits of my hand dyed roving

I’ve been aware of thrummed mittens since getting a pair as a gift many moons ago (long before I ever had any interest in knitting). Only when I started knitting did I learn that they were called “thrummed”, and as a Maritimer, I should have known this style hails from Newfoundland & Labrador.

I never had any interest in making thrummed mittens, because I revere my hand dyed roving for spinning. However, I’m amassing a lot of leftover bits and pieces of top from spinning projects. So recently I thought, time to make some thrummed mittens and use up some of these bits!

This style of mitten is so super warm and I’m having fun making this pair. I’ve actually caught up the second mitt to this one, because like socks I hate having to start making its pair from scratch. Knitting two at a time makes it less daunting. I prefer to use super short DPNs (aka shorties) for my socks and mittens.

Another Great Use for my hand dyed top

It occured to me while making the thrummed mittens that this would be another great reason to by my hand dyed tops. At approx. 4oz per braid, that’s a lot of thrummed mittens for your friends and family. I developed these braids with felters and spinners in mind, but now I could also add knitters to that list.

Lengthening the first sweater I ever made

This is the first sweater I ever made, and I realize that a crop is not for me so I’m in the process of lengthening it

I made this sweater with some of the first handspun I ever made. The dark brown sections are alpaca that I processed from raw, then spun to merino top I hand dyed. I wanted a way to preserve this yarn, but honestly I was more into finishing this sweater than making it wearable. So, I’ve removed the ribbing and am currently making it longer, as I have some of this yarn left. I’ll report back once it’s completed. I have a feeling this one may sit around for awhile. One round on a sweater, even a bulky one, takes so much longer than a hat! 🙂

Outdoor Projects

Staining 7 Colorful Wooden Chairs

Before all this rain we had a run of sunny days that I took advantage of to get to some neglected outdoor projects completed. The biggest project was re-staining these colorful Adirondack style chairs which are handmade here in Nova Scotia. After 7 years they were really looking worse for wear. Amazing what a fresh coat (or two or three) of stain can do!

I wish I had before and afters but I made the painting area a no-technology zone. It was nice to unplug and just listen to the birds, the bees and soak up a bit of sun. I thrive with a little alone time, just nature and my thoughts, barefoot to do some grounding. With seven chairs in total I aimed for 1 chair a day and it took me about 2 weeks between rest time for my sore back and rain delays.

Macrame Upcycle old Swing Chairs

We’ve owned these swing chairs since we owned our very first house 16 years ago. Recently, the fabric finally let go. The metal is still in good shape and they glide fine, so I spray painted them grey with Rustoleum. The metal was a dark brown color originally. I bought two huge cones of macrame thread online. There are many videos on how to do this on Youtube, and having crochet experience was definitely a plus.

I found cushions online exactly the size of the chair (what luck!) and I think these will be comfy and cozy. One is already completed, I’ll get a pic next month when it’s not so dark and grey out. We haven’t even gotten the chance to try it out yet with all this rain.

Surprise parsnips

Last season I planted parsnip seeds in a bed that gets little sun. The trees have certainly encroached the space over the years. They never came up so I planned on ripping that bed out this spring. Wasn’t I surprised when I noticed a row of green popping out of the bed! I look forward to roasting these with carrots and honey.

Here I am sitting in my car waiting for one of my children to finish their activity. After a walk around the neighborhood, it’s knitting time! 🙂

Until next time, I wish you much compassion & creativity,

Leilani signature

May the Fourth Be With You…May Update

“To experience what isn’t, love what is.”

― Eric Micha’el Leventhal

It’s been a cold, rainy start to May here in Nova Scotia, so it’s a good time to take a break and write a blog update. I thought I’d have new products to post about this month, but alas, the garden and spring cleaning & organizing calls. One of those “housekeeping” items is updating current products and photos, and including video on each listing. It is a huge under taking that I can only devout a small portion of the day to do.

Even when I don’t have any new products to share, I still like to do these monthly blog updates just so visitors know that I’m still active and keeping things current. I don’t currently use social media, so this is the only way for me to post updates on what I’m working on. Plus, it’s a great little diary for me to refer back to.

What’s New (or at least new-ish)

I’ve started taking new photos and adding videos (or updating them) for my current products. Starting with the stitch marker and earring categories. I’ve gone back to tried and true “old school” photography setup for shooting jewelry & small items. I’m updating the lead photo here on the website, but I have been choosing to keep the old creative style on some of the listings on Etsy. Mostly to keep the variety, but also because I think that casual style is more on brand there.

Revamped Stitch Markers – Underway…

I’m also revamping stitch marker sets (for knitting or crochet). I’ve done a few before now, but I’m going through all to update each set with fresh new beads, pearls and accents. I’m going with 6 markers per set and lowering the price, though, this will vary from set to set.

As you can see in the above photo, I still have a backlog of revamped sets to photograph. Even with artificial light, I prefer to take photos on sunny days to have natural light as a back light (and I rely solely on natural light for video). It’s been cloudy all week! I’ll get back at it when the sun decides to come out again. 🙂

Great Thrift Find

two clear bags of thirft store yarn
Each of these bags of mostly Indie dyed yarn cost $2.25 at a thrift shop! From USA and Canadian Dyers

On one of our semi-annual thrift store trips travelling across the province (with rapidly growing kids it’s a MUST) – I snagged this fantastic find of mostly indie dyed sock yarn for a couple of bucks a bag! I can’t take credit for this find though:

“There’s some bags of yarn over there, and I think it’s the good stuff” – says Hubby

Me, after big sigh: “Bring it here and let me see. Like I need more yarn!”

But he was right: I could see hand dyed merino according to the tags I could see through the bags, so I knew I had to “rescue” it. What a huge find this is! This is not cheap yarn, and as an indie dyer myself, I have a deep appreciation for the artistry involved.

I couldn’t help but feel a little sad: why did someone have to let go of their stash? Or maybe they are simply sick of this gauge of yarn. I know it would be a very hard thing for me to let go of.

So I guess there will be lots of sock making in my future. I’m pretty sure by the feel/texture of the unlabeled yarn it is also wool.

What else Am I working On?

It seems it is the season for revamping and reorganizing, and I think it’s time to tackle the knitting project bin:

Are you like me, with several projects on the go at once? There was a time that this wouldn’t bother me at all, having several unfinished projects. They could sit there for years! These days after a few months I get pretty antsy to do something with them, even if that something means deconstructing.

I have a hat design I was working on (from scratch, not from a pattern), the two sweaters I made using Expression Fiber Arts Knit Your First Sweater Course (they’re too short for my liking, I need to make them longer), a pair of mittens that never fit right (they are just being unraveled, the yarn will be reused in another project) and 2 pairs of socks (knitted toe-up) that I didn’t like the cuffs.

The Revamped Socks #1: Before & After

When I first knit these worsted weight socks I made them ankle socks. Mostly out of practicality: these are leftover yarn socks, and I was pretty much out of this commercial yarn that I had dyed (and a bit left in natural color). Th eleftovers were bits from 3 different dye jobs.

Only thing is, once I started wearing them, I found the ankle design on a sock for the coldest of winter months really annoying. Cold air around the ankles? No thanks. So here we have the finished project, which was a challenge because I didn’t have any of this particular yarn left.

I got stuck in my thinking that commercial yarn must be paired with commercial yarn. I considered buying some more of this exact yarn so that I could dye more and then stopped myself. The point of these socks was to use up leftovers.

The orange section is handspun, and I think it adds a creative element that i quite like. The cuff is also handspun, and the top half of the neck is commercial that I dyed, but not a leftover. I was stuck and decided to borrow some from my stash of full skeins.

I’m much happier with the longer socks and I think they are really interesting! I love a good challenge to use up odd and ends yarn.

The Current Sock Project

With the second pair of socks, I found the dark brown yarn I used for the top of the cuff way to heavy (top pic), and I’d like them to be a bit longer. I’m currently adding on some leftover yak down I spun a few years back. I enjoyed spinning yak, it’s very short stapled. The yarn is very soft and warm. If I could source some locally I would definitely spin it again. I picked this up at one of the numerous Wool Shows I used to attend in New England, from a small producer.

My Creatively Wrapped Birthday Gift

a gift wrapped as a burrito

I have to share the way the girls wrapped my birthday present last month! They know I am a big fan of bean burritos. They are a creative bunch! 🙂

Cats will Go Everywhere

While out working in the garden I came inside to find Moki made a bed in a stack of grow bags…! 😀

It’s getting late and I think I shall work on those socks I’m lengthening, before bed.

Until next time…

Leilani signature

I can’t believe I forgot…April Update

“My life isn’t perfect, but I am thankful for what I have”

– Author Unknown

It’s a well established fact that summer is my FAVE season. The hotter the weather, the better. But if I’m really honest, as much as I enjoy summer, SPRING is the season I look forward to the most.

There is so much to anticipate in spring. It’s like nature is coming out of a deep sleep and coming alive again. I find it hard to stay in a bad mood, with several opportunities a day to go outside in milder temps, and enjoy the sunshine that gets warmer with every passing day.

garlic popping up from the dirt in early spring
The first signs of the garlic I planted in the fall popping out of the wet spring dirt

Watching the snow melt to expose the grass which slowly turns green, to see buds on trees and the first start of life in the garden gives me a renewed energy.

I will admit I am not looking forward to Spring cleanup in the coming days! This update will be fairly quick so I can get back to planning my garden and getting organized. I have decks and chairs to paint this year, to add to everything else…

How did I forget?

Last month, we celebrated middle girl’s birthday. I was decorating while she was taking a Saturday class and it hit me that I FORGOT to make her a card!

This may seem like no big deal, but I have been making cards for my kids for pretty much their entire lives. I’ve also kept every card each year and wrote special notes and memories, with the plan to give them the stack when they turn 18. So not only is this a devastating big deal, I could not fathom how I even forgot.

Making birthday cards is the absolute first thing I do for each child’s birthday. With the exception of ordering a special gift, if it will take time to get here. I always start a couple of months in advance, especially if I have to order supplies.

handmade card with anime characters from Haiku
The card, a couple of days late, featuring a fave anime (Haikyu) and some birthday greetings in Japanese

So just 2 days late, I came up with a simple yet meaningful card design. Considering anime and everything Japanese (it seems!) is big in our house, I found some digital downloads on Etsy that were absolutely perfect. The internet helped with Japanese birthday greetings. Despite my disappointment in myself I got big hugs for this one.

What’s New

No new products this month…I do have a fair bit to list but I’ve been in the mood to keep revamping and refreshing my current products and listings. Some items are getting a face lift while others are getting new photos and videos. I think making Pinterest pins inspired me to do a total refresh.

set up for jewelry photography
photographing stitch markers with an old jewelry photo background I’ve own for ages

I’ve decided to bring back an old jewelry photo prop to take new pictures. I’ve been very satisfied with the photos coming out of this “Old School” way of taking pics. It works fairly well with stitch markers too.

I will probably use the new format photos on the website while keeping the creative shots for Etsy. It will really depend on what has the better shot for the cover photo.

I started with earrings, with most items rephotographed. I’m now into stitch markers and from there will tackle necklaces. I’ve somehow messed up my shoulder so I’m taking a break from spinning. I need to be in good form for planting my garden!

A Cute Little Gift

A friend of my daughter’s asked if I could make her a bookmark after seeing hers and here’s what we came up with. We knew she liked red and gold, and my daughter also insisted she liked bears…and this is the end result. As far as I know, it is well loved.

April PROMO

As April is my birthday month, and the big day is on Earth Day, save 22% on your order here on the website with the code BDAYGIFT, and 22% on most items on Etsy. Offer will expire April 30th.

I hope to bring you more inspiring projects in the future, but that’s all for now! Hope you are enjoying the changing seasons wherever you are…

Leilani signature

Call to Action – We Need your Creativity – March Update

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

– Vincent van Gogh

Now is the time

When I left the corporate world to explore a creative life, I was secretive and embarrassed to admit it. It didn’t feel like people took what I did seriously. And who can blame them? I gave up a steady salary and the “prestige” of a career to stay at home and play with beads!

Never before in recent history has it been more important to inspire and create. That is my (humble) opinion. It comes from both my intuition and observation. After the past few years, the world needs YOU. Your inspiration. Your creativity. Your positivity introduced by what you create.

If there was anything you’ve ever wanted to try to do, now is the time. That creative energy will help off set all the chaos and negativity that seems to be relentless these days. We can start a creative renaissance!

What does it Mean to Create?

To create could mean well, just about anything. If you are not into an art or a craft, create a beautiful space to share with friends. Put an intention forward to support others, even if it just means smiling at strangers in the grocery store.

Imagine if everyone created something beautiful and positive every day. No matter how small, it doesn’t matter! Take it a step forward and be brave enough to try that new skill or hobby you always wanted to.

Some Days are Harder than Others

I know not all days are inspirational. Today, I didn’t feel like creating or being positive. Instead, I replanted my seedlings into bigger containers. It’s not what I wanted to do, but by the end of the afternoon I felt a sense of satisfaction for channelling my negative feelings into something productive (and thus, positive).

Nurturing these veggie plants that started from seed

March Update

Follow me on Pinterest

Mt Pinterest profile – if you are on Pinterest come give me a follow 🙂

I no longer use social media actively. In 2020 I completely abandoned Facebook and Instagram and I’m not sure if I’ll return. But I’ve been thinking about putting up pins of my creative work on Pinterest. The other day, after doing some research and watching some YouTube videos for advice, I decided to go for it.

Pinterest is more of its own search engine than a social media platform. I use it almost daily for recipe inspiration. So, it seems a good fit for me. I also like that they encourage individuality and expression but in a positive way. If you use Pinterest please give me a follow.

I may consider social media platforms where artists and creative types tend to gather. But for now, the Meta brand is just unpalatable for me.

What’s new

New Bouclé Yarns

Now available: several skeins of bouclé handspun yarn

I enjoy spinning bouclé and have amassed several skeins. So I decided to list them as 1 listing where you can browse all that is offered on one page. Some are mohair and some are Wensleydale, and some are plied with cotton while others are plied with silk thread. Descriptions on each available when you choose a skein from the drop down menu.

These yarns are available here on the website only. I only list clearance yarn items on Etsy. I’m happy to entertain offers for bulk amounts of yarn or payment by barter.

Revamp: Celtic Braid Earrings

 

These earrings have been available for many years, and originally you got to choose from either Malachite or Onyx beads as accents. I felt that they needed an updated feel, so I decided to pair them with this amazing faceted green tourmaline. Honestly the pictures don’t capture all the beautiful nuances of these gemstones. I’m pairing the silver version with tourmaline that have more of a grey-green tone, whereas the gold has stones that have a more yellowish green tone. Each has an element of either grey-brown or honey-brown as well. I’m really happy with both the look and the feel of these earrings.

New On Sale

I’ve added some new products to the Clearance section. I want to retire some older designs, while others are on sale for a limited time.

What’s New on Etsy

I like to list the one of a kind and limited edition items on Etsy. I typically mark them down right away, and I find Etsy a better audience for these type of items. New this month:

Peach Freshwater Pearl Leverback Earrings

Jade and Tigereye Leverback Earrings

Marble Amber and jade Leverback Earrings

Moukaite and Jade Leverback Earrings

Turquoise Chip earrings on Long Gold-Filled Kidney Wires

What I’m working on

I took an entire week off this past month to just work on personal projects. One is this massive it-was-going-to-be-a-rug, now it’s an “ugly” weighted blanket.

I started this project several years (!!) ago, and I have not done any work on it in the past 3 years. I wanted to preserve some of the first yarns I ever spun. Bulky, uneven and of a tougher texture, I think most knitters would tell me to discard it.

Practice Makes Perfect

In order to get good at something, you have to practice. A lot. And for the first 3 years when I was teaching myself to spin, I spun just about every. single. day. Unless I was gone overnight or had a migraine, I was spinning. Back then I wasn’t spinning merino or any of the finer top rovings. It was a lot of cheap wool rovings that I now realize aren’t that easy to spin! In retrospect I am really glad that I learned to spin on such challenging fiber, because it makes me a more versatile and nimble spinner today.

…the rest becomes an Ugly Blanket

But throw it away? Is it really good for nothing? It’s wool, it came from an animal (mostly small farms in New England) and it needs to be respected. So at first I thought I’d make a rug out of it, but I misjudged the size since I’m crocheting holding 2 strands of this bulky yarn together. Now I’d say it’s turning into a delicious weighted blanket.

2.5kg is about 5.5 lbs – and this project is nowhere near done. Weighted blanket indeed!

Not so Ugly Afterall

I have to pause this project for now because I’m running out of yarn! There are a few older skeins that I may want to experiment on my SampleIt loom. Once I determine that, I’ll pick it up crocheting this monstrosity once again. But as you can see below, the ugly project is not so ugly after all!

This is just single crochet using a size N hook.

Moki enjoying a spare bit of yarn from this work-in-progress.

New Reeds For the Ashford SampleIt Loom

I’m really enjoying my little 10 inch SampleIt Loom. So much so that I had to have every reed available for it! So I contacted John & Alan at the Fibre Garden in Jordan, Ontario and John responded that they did indeed have them all in stock (or would be in stock shortly). By the following week, I had all the reeds.

And wouldn’t you know, I haven’t had the time to play with them, yet! The goal will be to try each size and do a mega SampleIt Loom post, with video! Fingers crossed it will happen this year (ha ha!).

Peanut critically inspecting the current weaving project using the 7.5 dent reed that the 10 inch SampleIt Loom originally comes with. This is for DK and Worsted Weight Yarn. I’m currently weaving panels to use up some handspun that was a little rougher in texture than I like to use for my garment knitting. I’m planning on stitching the panels together to make a throw blanket…or a mat if I don’t have enough to complete a blanket

What is Inspiring you?

I hope this month’s post inspires you to get started with creative projects you have been meaning to start or have put off finishing. Can I assist you in any way to get started? Offer you an encouraging word? I’ve been a maker for a very long time, and it has so enhanced my life in ways I can never truly express. At one time, I could sincerely say, creating saved my life! This was long before I ever delved into the fiber arts.

I’m always open to chat, so please leave a comment or drop me a line any time!

We all need a purpose and a drive toward something positive. At first creative work may seem a waste of time in a society that puts so much emphasis on “the grind”. But I promise you the enhancements you will make in all aspects of your life will make it worthwhile. I’m living proof…

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February Vibes: Inner Work Creates Outer World

“What you’re looking for is not out there. It is in you.”

– Author Unknown

Keeping Busy…

It always fascinates and amuses me, when I tell people that I’ve had a full or busy week that their automatic response is to express pity or wish me “better days ahead”. I used to try to correct them by what I mean, but to them it just sounds like me justifying my miserable existence. 🤪🤣

In the studio. Never-ending list of tasks. Infinite creative possibilities.

These days, I just nod and smile. Little do they know, that I enjoy being busy with the things I love: being a mentor to my children, cooking meals for my family, sending a text to check in on a friend or relative, and of course my vast array of interests that make it seem like there is never enough hours in the day.

Creation with Purpose

I never create anything while in a bad mood. I tend to be in a meditative or at least a contemplative state as I work. To me it’s called: create with purpose. I know I am putting good vibes out in the world with every piece I make, with every yarn I spin. This philosophy won’t make sense to all if many, but it is what drives me to continue with my craft. With so much negativity in the world, much that I cannot control, creating something meaningful with purpose is in my control. So I leave social media and the mainstream media behind, and spend my time being inspired and loving life more.

Plying yarn on my SpinOlution wheel

A Clear Change

In the last couple of weeks, it became more clear how to structure my time and organize my products between the website and Etsy. Unfortunately smHauler has decided to close their doors as a promotional platform for handmade, which I can totally understand. So until I find the time to return to Ebay or another platform, It’s just here and Etsy for now.

Etsy for Clearance, This website for new Items

Etsy will be my clearance house of sorts. When I have items that I want to clear out, I’ll list it on Etsy, and mark it down. Each month will be a different rotating sale.

The website will be where all new products will be featured, especially yarn and fiber items. If I feel I have been hanging on to an item too long and I need to clear it out, I’ll move it over to Etsy with a discount.

I won’t be unlisting not-on-sale items from Etsy that I’ve sold for years, though I may allow some of them to expire.

It’s tricky to have my pricing match Etsy when it comes to sales. I’m able to list items here slightly cheaper as there are no listing fees on my own website. Let me know if one of my items is cheaper on Etsy and I’d be happy to match it here.

If you are a US shopper, Etsy automatically converts my prices to USD, where the website is in CAD only. There is a converter at the bottom of the home page so you can calculate the cost in USD.

What’s New

I’ve been playing with color in the studio these past few weeks and I have several new indie dyed yarns as well as some revamped jewelry products.

New Hand Dyed Commercial Yarns

The commercial hand dyed section is starting to fill up with vibrant color! I want to be able to offer handspun and indie dyed commercial yarn for variety. Check out the Commercial Dyed Yarn section to see what’s new.

Revamped products available again

I decided to give these two necklace sets a new font for the engraved initial charms.

Check it out: Mother Daughter Matching Necklaces and Lil’ Sis Big Sis Matching Necklaces

Revamped products available on Etsy

These fun earrings feature a metal diamond shape component that I hand domed. I just felt that the original weren’t long enough, so I added an extra pearl or two to lengthen the dangle.

You can get the details here: Peach Coin Pearl Earrings and Abalone Shell Earrings

What’s On Sale

Sale/Clearance items on the website are available here. Remember that there are price breaks and discounts on most items if you buy multiples. Add the items to cart to see the final discount.

February Etsy sales

This month several items are on sale from 15% to 40% off in the On Sale section

What I’m working On

Have you read my post on 5 quick and easy hat patterns that work with handspun yarn? Unfortunately, I have not made any more hats since that post. Instead, I decided to get an Ashford SampleIt Loom and I’ve been enjoying playing around with this new tool! I’ll probably do a separate post about it, but it was incredibly simple to set up and get started, and should be a good way to use up some old handspun.

I decided to get the smaller, 10 inch size even though the next size up was only $20 more. I like the compact design for easy storage. For my intent and purpose, this will do just fine. I purchased mine from The Fibre Garden in Ontario even though I could purchase it here in Nova Scotia, simply because I have received exemplary service from John & Alan in the past. And bonus: I ended up getting a lacquered loom for the price of an unfinished one!

Moki loves to sit on my workspace and watch me weave on the fun and simple Ashford SampleIt loom

Current Spinning Project: Vegetable Fibers

I haven’t spun in a couple of months, and that is odd for me. To get back into it, I decided I would do a case study of sorts with several vegetable fibers that I have yet to spin. In the past I’ve spun bamboo, cotton and tencel (a man-made fiber derived from wood pulp). I’m currently spinning rose and soy, as well as spinning bamboo yet again. I’ll also spin cotton and tencel so I can get a true comparison of all. The rose fiber reminds me of bamboo or silk, while the soy fibers feel a lot like cotton.

I also have milky mohair, ramie and linen to spin. Hopefully I can do a bit a day. One thing I am very excited about is that I am finally getting comfortable spinning from the fold which is something I always felt a bit awkward with. Practice makes perfect, as they say.

A few of the vegetable fibers I will be spinning, as well as bamboo and rose fibers on the bobbin

Prepping for Natural Dyeing

When I started dyeing yarn and fiber, it was always the goal to try natural dyes. The process seemed daunting to me in the beginning so I decided just to stick with conventional commercial dyes until I felt comfortable with that. Now when I browse my dyeing books and literature, something has “clicked” in my brain and I can’t wait to give this a try this spring/summer.

I want to dye outdoors until I understand more the risks of all the ingredients, including some of the mordants. Natural doesn’t mean non-toxic, afterall…

Proving cat will sit anywhere, even damp salad spinners that just spun out wet yarn before being hung up to dry 😜 😂

Now you see what it means to be busy in my world, and hopefully you can understand why I feel like I’m living a purpose driven, creative life. Hopefully this inspires you to take up or continue on with a passion. You need not be saving lives or have a million social media followers to make a difference in the world. Doing what you love shifts your mood and raises your vibration. Imagine what happens when more and more people find their purpose, no matter how “ordinary” or “mundane” it seems.

There are many ways to make the world a better place. Start with you.

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5 Free and Easy Hat Patterns to make with Handspun Yarn

Better Late than Never

I originally intended for this post to happen back in December, just in time for last-minute gift-making. Well, since the internet is forever, I guess it doesn’t matter that I’m two months too late. 😉 The following five hats were made with tried & true free patterns that I use with my sub-par handspun yarn (I sell the best stuff for others to enjoy).

I want to show how handspun yarn is so beautiful that it doesn’t need any fancy patterns, nor do you need too much of it. I get it; it’s pricey. I was thinking of the price I have to sell mine versus the time and effort to produce them, and well, ouch. But it’s okay; I aim to create positive products and materials for others to enjoy.

So if you have a cherished skein of handspun, a simple hat pattern is just the thing to turn that skein into a wearable keepsake you can enjoy over and over again, rather than staring at it in your yarn bin. 🙂

I’m a Spinner, not a Knitter (or Crocheter)

Yes, I knit. Yes, I crochet. And I knew how to do both before I started spinning yarn. But the truth is, I’d rather be spinning. I’ve knitted all the basic things, and I’m sure I’m capable of cabling and fancy patterning, but I don’t want to. I like simple easy-on-the-brain patterns for knitting (crocheting) on the go or knitting (crocheting) in bed at the end of the day.

So without further adieu, here are five patterns I keep returning to when I want to make a quick and easy hat with my handspun…

Camelot Hat by Lion Brand

The Camelot hat is a pattern by Lion Brand that I’ve had on hand for several years. Like many, I started knitting with name-brand yarns from the local craft store. This is a bulky yarn pattern which a lot of handspun is, so it’s a great choice, and it works up fast.

Quick and Easy Beanie by Knit Picks

This Quick and Easy Beanie Pattern from Knit Picks is another fave. In this instance, I was knitting with a sub-par 4-ply cable. It knitted up fine, just not up to par to sell. I had to use a two-ply bulky Merino yarn for the stripe that came the closest width to the cable. But, because it is a different construction, it looked off as a solid stripe. So instead, I alternated with the 4ply, and it worked perfectly.

Barley by Tin Can Knits

A fantastic I-can’t-believe-it’s-free pattern is Barley by Tin Can Knits. It’s so versatile, giving many size options and a beanie or slouch option. This yarn is an experimental blend of merino wool and bamboo, which I had to dye separately (different dyes for animal vs plant fibers) and then blended while spinning. I held both rovings in my hand and pulled a bit of each simultaneously. The results are a gorgeous yarn in feel and wear. It’s a: I-could-sell-this skein, but because it was a new concept, I wanted to knit it myself. It worked beautifully with Barley, and I enjoy wearing this hat.

Yawl by Berroco

I recently stumbled on Yawl by Berroco, looking for a new bulky yarn pattern. It’s so easy and fun to knit; you’ll be finished in no time. This is a use-up-that-ply handspun yarn. I had this ply of yarn on a bobbin that sat there too long and needed to be completed ASAP. So I chain plied (AKA Navajo plied) it, using a spinning technique where you move your hands through loops to create a 3ply yarn. (It reminds me of crocheting a chain).

I don’t sell much chain ply since there is a noticeable bump where the loops switch in the yarn. It’s not very apparent in the finished product but may be off-putting to those unfamiliar with the technique.

Flash Beanie by Judith L. Swartz

This is another pattern I’ve had for several years. It came in a download of 5 different crochet hat patterns from Interweave. I was concerned I wouldn’t find it again, but here it is, bundled with eight other crochet projects. It’s another versatile, forgiving pattern where you can make design decisions on the fly.

One thing I like about simple crochet hats like this is that they work from the top down and don’t unravel once you make the stitches. Well, unless you intentionally pull them out, anyway. I tried several bands on this hat before deciding on this grey hand-dyed commercial yarn. The handspun is a superwash Merino and Tencel blend, another new experimental blend for me. I spun it natural color, combining the two fibers as I spun.

Tencel is a man-made material derived from wood-pulp (cellulose) fibers, so it cannot be dyed with acid dyes like wool. The yarn was dyed twice to accommodate both fibers. An overdye of sorts, but each fiber will only take up the appropriate dye. The superwash Merino is a very dark grey. The Tencel is a dark blue.

What About the Funky Art Yarns

If you have some fantastic loopy or chunky art yarn, I recommend weaving with it or using it as an accent in a knitting project. But that’s a post for another day…

But I should be Advancing my Knitting (Crocheting) Skills

Don’t be discouraged if you have been knitting (crocheting) for a while and you’re still doing beginner patterns! They are perfect for my time constraints and showcase my handspun beautifully. These patterns would also be great for charity knitting. Think of all the hats you could crank out with simple and easy patterns!

I plan to do more posts like this as I go through the many patterns I have amassed over the years. Until then, check out my handspun and indie-dyed commercial yarns to inspire your next project.

Leilani signature

2023: The Year of Reinvention – January Update

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other”

– Abraham Lincoln

My Year of Reinvention – Creatively

Another quick update for this month. I found the busy holiday season so hectic! I needed a week off to just unwind and recover. I’m taking the next month (or two or three) to reinvent myself – creatively speaking, anyway! You cannot rush the creative process. You’d think I’d know that by now! 😉

For the first time in years I was organized going into January. I find calling this time of year the “New Year” so unnatural and strange. To me, the new year should be in March, when spring begins. March is when life in the garden starts anew.

Currently, I have an organized list of tasks: the must do and the want-to-do. Getting these ideas out into the tangible is more challenging especially when you have a family and household to run. But I feel this is the year to reinvent myself creatively.

What’s On Sale

Usually, reinvention in the studio means changing my branding. But this time, I will be going through my products and deciding what needs to be updated, and what needs to go. It also means finally trying some new skills and projects I’ve put on the back-burner over the years. I finally feel confident and motivated!

I know I won’t get to it all, but I’m so ready to finally take the leap. We shall see where I end up. I will be marking down items that I want to retire, so keep a look out for sales. For the month of January, many products on the website are marked down 23% off in celebration of 2023. Etsy has select items on sale from 15% – 23% off.

I hope to stay on schedule from month to month so to have things to share but I certainly can’t promise that.

What I’m Working On

The latest dye experiements

Finally back in the dye pots, starting with worsted weight commercial merino yarn. I’m being too critical with the color choices so it’s slow going. Today I decided to stop looking at my notes and just dye by feel. I’m enjoying the process more and can’t wait to share what I come up with!

Current in-progress yarn dye

I’m having fun with this dye combo, totally winging it! This is a DK merino commercial yarn. Olive brown on one side, a turquoise fade-out on the other. I’m sprinkling nautical blue (kind of like navy blue but richer) in the white space and we’ll see where it goes from there…

If all fails, I’ll just over dye it black (LOL!).

I’m going through some of my engraved products and deciding how I would like to update them. This bead board photos ugly but it’s what I used for years for projects in progress. Once I add beads to this board, nothing will be rolling away on me. Not even when the cat walks across my table 😀

I’m scrutinizing some of the products that I’ve made for some time but I feel need to be updated or discontinued. Some will change, some will be marked down significantly and some will disappear, at least for now! I’ve been going through pictures of items I made 15 years ago, and I think some may have to make a comeback this year. Excited to get creating!

I’ll be back next month with an update. I’m not sure how much of one…

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Have Yourself a Wonderful December

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

– Michael Altshuler

The Sale Continues

I hope you are having a wonderful December! It’s hard to believe this is the last month of 2022. I had a wonderful time processing orders via a successful Etsy sale, and I’m keeping the momentum going by putting most things on sale here and also on Etsy.

I realize just how much I love to give. So if it means eating some of my time and shipping costs so that my handmade goods get into people’s hands: so be it! Money is tight, I get it. I know I weave magic as I create, and I want that good energy to enter the world. It’s my little way of giving back. Positive intentions is just what the world needs these days.

What’s New

I’m almost done listing yarn on Etsy. Yes, the shipping is expensive. I currently have the shipping set to $19.99 per item. But, just like here, you can save the shipping costs by purchasing $65CAD or more. For comparison, the other day I shipped a small flat bubble envelop to Quebec with tracking and it cost $24! That’s only 2 provinces over. So I end up paying out of pocket for shipping fees regardless. Shipping discounts are based on volume which is virtually impossible for little makers like me.

Back in Stock

These two stitch marker sets sold out and are now back in stock with a new revamped look. Owl set available here and on Etsy. Love to Knit set available here and on Etsy.

These earrings were very popular this gift buying season

Celtic knot and Pearl earrings – available here and on Etsy

My late night knitting buddy

Here’s to a lovely end of the year full of laughter, cheer and those you love the most. I’ll have new goodies in the New Year…

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November Update: Nearly Everything is on Sale!

“If you can’t change it, change your attitude”

– Maya Angelou

Beat the Holiday Rush Sale

Hello lovely internet folks….nearly everything is on sale both here and on Etsy to help you with your holiday shopping needs. I know money is tight these days. If there is anything you like but it is just not in your budget please make me an offer, and remember I also take payment in the form of barter.

What’s New

October totally got away from me on account of every single member of my family coming down with that change-of-weather detox: AKA a bad chest cold. Of course they didn’t all feel poorly all at once, so it was a 3 week marathon of coughing. So this mama, being the only healthy one in the house, ran the household, along with prepping wholesome meals to help speed up the healing process. All the while filling orders as they came in, which was not many, and for once – I was glad.

It is my pleasure to take care of my family and understand the privilege I have to be able to drop everything and do just that. I have many tools in my arsenal to assist in their healing, but ultimately rest is the best remedy.

That said, I am feeling a bit burnt out from my 3 week nursing-everyone-back-to-health stint and not feeling 100% creative just yet. I’m dabbling in a bit of hat knitting and crochet to get back into the swing of things. I’m planning on doing an article on some of my fave easy hat patterns in the coming days, once I have some examples to post.

No New Products, but Almost Everything on sale

So I have no new products to share, BUT I’ve decided to put most things on sale as I’m happy to fill orders. Discounts are automatically applied. You will also receive any bulk or tiered discounts relevant to that category – EVEN IF IT’S ON SALE. So the more you buy, the more you save. Simply add the items to cart to see the final cost.

For Etsy items, prices as marked. For example, My pewter and silver keepsake (engraved) necklaces are 30% off on Etsy!

I did manage to do some deck staining and got my garlic bulbs planted. We’ve been having some glorious weather here in the Maritimes. I can’t believe I planted my garlic in November…in a tank top!

The sale is running until December 3rd. I am not planning on having any sales in December past that, except clearance items. This is to encourage shopping EARLY for the holidays. I hate the stress of rushing orders and worrying whether they will arrive on time or not.

I’m off to get some rest – just like Osuna

Alright keeping it short and sweet this month. Hope you are all well and if not, are able to get the rest you need.

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Come with me as I scour Sheep Fleece

The fantastic transformation: clean vs. dirty sheep wool. This is my process for scouring sheep fleece if you’ve ever wanted to give it a try

An Unexpected Project

A few weeks ago, I attended the 100 Mile Food & Fibre Festival in Billtown, Nova Scotia. I swore I would not buy any more raw fleece. I have so much unspun fiber.

But, after checking out the different vendors, I could not resist a half fleece from Ambleside Farm in Petite Riviere, Nova Scotia. Besides gorgeous fleece, it was nice to make acquaintance with someone who also has attended wool shows in the US (like Rhinebeck…oh, how I miss you, Rhinebeck!).

Why Process Raw Fleece

There is something lovely and reverent about taking a raw fleece and turning it into a wearable garment. Initially, I bought raw fleece for the sheer economic benefit: I get all that wool at a discounted price, and all I have to do is throw some elbow grease into it!

Sometimes a little elbow grease turns into a lot. Processing fleece by hand can feel like a back-breaking endeavor. I’ve learned my own do’s and don’ts over the years of trial and error fleece scouring. It will vary from person to person, but here is my process, step by step.

I decided to film my process of scouring. It’s easier to show than describe, and I’m a visual person who appreciates seeing things happen in real time.

This is crudely filmed with my cell phone for educational purposes. Please excuse my mumbling/fast-talking… I’m not comfortable talking to myself out loud – HA! I did not edit these videos but subtitled them, so you can understand me better.

Step 1: First Soak

Sheep fleece must be scoured to remove dirt and lanolin, AKA wool wax. The sebaceous glands secrete lanolin and helps waterproof the fleece for the sheep. Raw wool has a delightful pungent “barn-y” smell which I like…and my cats adore! It tends to keep this smell mildly even after washing, but I don’t find that it lingers after being transformed into yarn.

In Summary:

  • Fill plastic bins with hot water to soak the wool
  • add a de-greaser. The most popular cost-effective product for scouring fleece is blue Dawn (I kick it up a notch by adding Simple Green)
  • start adding the unwashed wool, careful not to over fill the bins
  • gently press down on the fiber to encourage the release of dirt.
  • don’t overly manipulate the wool so not to encourage felting
  • let soak 24 hours

How Much Soap?

I don’t measure the amount of soap degreaser I add. It depends on how dirty the fleece is. In this instance, the wool wasn’t too dirty so I squirted in some Dawn and added a splash of Simple Green. I wish I could be more specific, but it’s really by feel. If your fiber is not getting clean, add more soap in the next water change.

Why I chose this Fleece

This particular bag of fleece was super clean. It also had a uniform crimp, a nice feel in hand, and a combo I had never spun before: Romney, Corriedale, and BFL (Blue-faced Leicester). I figured it would be a breeze to scour.

As mentioned in the video, Simple Green and Blue Dawn are my fave products for scouring. It’s cost-effective and readily available. There are some amazing scouring products out there specifically for wool, and they work well, but they are on the pricey side (yes, I’m cheap). Plus I have to order it rather than pick it up at the local hardware or grocery store.

Step 2: Rinse and Repeat

In Summary:

  • 24 hours later
  • You see oily lanolin residue floating at the top of the water
  • Drain & refill bins (away from septic whenever possible)

I’m Cautious With Septic Systems

When I lived in town, I never gave much thought to dumping the dirty water down the drain. Then we moved to the country and I started to question whether I should be dumping this greasy water down the drain. I’m unsure if lanolin would build up in your pipes over time like cooking grease, but I’d rather not take the chance. I empty the bins in a discreet area on our property away from the house, just in case.

In Summary:

  • The fleece is back in for a soak and already you’ll notice the water has become clearer compared to the first soak
  • It’s not necessary to leave the fleece to soak for 24-hour periods
  • You could change the water more frequently, but this is what works best for my time schedule

How Many Soaks?

Your fleece will get cleaner with each water change. How many times will depend on how dirty the wool is.

In Summary:

  • The fleece soaked for 48 hours and then drained
  • I placed it on a clean part of the lawn and rinsed it with the hose
  • A slight bit of oily residue floating on top in the water this time
  • Feel very little oil when touched
  • Will attempt a final soak
  • Can repeat if needed

When the water looks relatively clean and the wool feels fairly clean you can prepare your fleece for its final soak.

In Summary:

  • I spread the fleece out on the deck for inspection
  • It feels pretty much clean at this point
  • I contemplated what I should make with it
  • Currently thinking I should spin it into an art yarn, to preserve the gorgeous crimp
  • Will make an upcoming video on the process of making yarn with this fleece
  • For the final soak, I added a bit of vinegar to the hot water to remove any soap residue
  • Fleece will feel gummy (sticky) if the soap residue is not removed
  • Gummy wool is hard to work with
  • I don’t mind a bit of lanolin in my fleece before spinning

Don’t forget the Vinegar

Adding a bit of vinegar to the water for the final soak is important to make sure all the soap residue is removed. Just like adding the Dawn and Simple Green, I don’t measure. A splash of vinegar will do. Remember you can always repeat this step if you still notice any soapy residue in your fiber.

In Summary:

  • After the final soak, I laid the fleece out on the lawn to dry a bit in the sunshine
Moki checking out the newly washed sheep fleece

Time for Drying

After the sun disappeared for the day, I brought the fleece inside to prep for the drying racks. I ran small amounts at a time through the salad spinner to remove excess water. A salad spinner is a dedicated tool in my studio. I use it a lot: even for freshly dyed yarn to spin out extra water before hanging it up to dry. I purchased mine after Christmas a few years back for 40% off, so keep watching for those sales!

In Summary:

  • I placed the fleece on the drying racks set up in my basement
  • these racks are repurposed merchandise racks obtained for free
  • Will leave for a few days flipping ever so often
  • could run a dehumidifier or add a heat dish if need be

Clever and Free Drying racks

If you are Canadian, you will remember the popular department store chain, Zellers. When it closed several years ago, we snagged these merchandise racks for free. Our basement has pegboard already installed so they hang off pegs (also from Zellers). These racks have gotten a lot of use over the years. I’ve even used them outside for drying fiber in the summer months. They will rust over time if left outside, however. It’s always great to find inexpensive tools and you can’t beat free!

My washed fleece from a sheep named Lucy. Look at that crimp & curl! Thank you, Lucy

Do’s and Don’ts when purchasing a raw fleece

  • DO decide what you would like to do with the fleece once cleaned, what breeds you would like to check out, and your budget. It is easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t have a plan, esp at a large wool show or fiber festival.
  • DO be adventurous and try new fiber breeds. If you are like me and want to work with as many breeds as possible, then the budget is all that needs considering before shopping
  • DO ask questions. You can usually tell how the animals are treated by getting to know the producer. Some farms breed sheep for both meat and fiber, so keep that in mind if you don’t agree with meat eating
  • DON’T buy a fleece that is not well-skirted. If there is a ton of VM (vegetable matter), dirt/mud, or poo, it’s best to skip this bag. The more dirty a fleece is, the cheaper it tends to be, but remember this means more work for you (and a lot more discarded unusable fiber)
  • DO take a look at the crimp: are they even in size/length? Is the crimp appealing to you?
  • DON’T buy a fleece where there are broken locks – and/or evidence of lice
  • DO check for the bag over for second cuts, which happens when the shearer goes over an area more than once.
  • DON’T buy a bag of fleece with too many second cuts. Those shorter cuts are a pain to pick out and not good for spinning.
  • DON’T buy fleece that appears to be matted or otherwise unhealthy
  • DO purchase a fleece that you like the color, crimp, feel, and price of!

A Note on Free Fleece

I’ve been given free raw wool in the past. But now that I’ve picked and scoured many a fleece I would probably say no to any incredibly dirty ones. For the reasons stated above, it is a tedious job. Also to keep in mind, hobby farmers don’t always produce a healthy fleece, and meat breeders are not concerned with the quality of fiber. So you may end up with a lot of discarded, unusable wool. Not a great return for all that work.

Keep in mind alpaca does not contain lanolin in their fiber so that’s usually an easy one to work with. I’ll do a separate post about alpaca fiber in the future.

If someone asks for a product in return for the free raw fleece (eg. just make me a sweater), I would caution against this. It really depends on how much usable wool you get and people are often unaware of how much yarn is needed for such a product.

Browse for yarn inspiration

Looking for some handspun yarn inspiration? You can check out my handspun yarn section to see some of the skeins I’ve made in the past. I’ll be blogging about the progression of processing this fleece in the future.

Scouring fleece does not have to be a daunting task. Know what to look for, and trust your gut. Be sure to have fun, and I’m happy to answer questions or hear your comments. 🙂

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Suddenly It’s Over: October Studio Update

“Autumn is the season to find contentment at home by paying attention to what we already have”

– Unknown
A few of the faves from my garden this year…I will miss it! Now that I keep a garden this time of year is even more bittersweet

Bidding Adieu to Summer

The weather has changed suddenly and I find myself frantically getting the garden ready for winter. Typically this happens far more gradually, but this year it was BOOM: frost incoming. Add to that 3 family birthdays, out-of-town family visiting, and one tropical storm Fiona all last month. Needless to say I don’t have much of an update regarding new products…this is more of a, yes, I am alive, and here’s what I”m working on post.

The two birthday cards I designed this year! Time permitting, I’ll do a separate post of how these came to be

How to: Scouring Fleece

Fleece from “Lucy” a local sheep from Ambleside Farm in Petite Riviere, Nova Scotia 😍

I got the inspiration to film a few short videos on my process of scouring sheep fleece and I’m working on a blog post about it. I wasn’t in the market for more raw fleece but I met a delightful producer at the Fleece and Fibre Festival in Billtown, Nova Scotia last month and I couldn’t resist buying a half fleece romney/corriedale/BFL mix to process. The videos are very crude and I hate the sound of my own voice, but I think it it’s valuable to share what I have learned for those curious or who want to give it a try. The post is now live – CLICK HERE TO VIEW

Scouring fleece is not as hard as you think. It just takes time and a little know-how on what to use and what to look for before you buy

What’s New: Supplies in Stock

I replenished some jewelry making supplies and with that, a few strands of interesting bead caps and beads I look forward to designing with soon! I also picked up some Canadian wool roving (roping) from Custom Woolen Mills in Alberta. It’s been a few years since my last order and I enjoy experimenting with the different types (breeds) of roving. Not to mention buying Canadian! This time I got two of my favorites: Corriedale & Targhee. My Corriedale yarns for sale are from this very mill. I have not tried their Targhee yet, I’ve only spun Targhee top from a US producer, so this should be fun!

What’s New: Etsy

I added a few of the new fiber products to the yarn/fiber/stitch bling section of Etsy.

Unfortunately, due to the cost of shipping bulky items in Canada, I had to remove the free shipping option on Etsy. BUT there is now a COUPON CODE for saving the shipping on Etsy orders $65 CAD or more. If you are in the US, you are subject to Etsy’s free shipping Guarantee and have to spend $35USD to save on shipping. Ironically, it’s cheaper for me to send bulky items with tracking to the US, than it is in my own country. Go figure, Canada Post!

The code for saving the shipping on Etsy is: FREESHIP65

All light pack/flat items remain free shipping on Etsy (such as jewelry, stitch markers, or keychains).

What else is new

I’ve also been working on updating handspun yarn listings with new videos, and splitting some of the bundles now that shoppers have the option to pick and choose their own sets of yarns and receive a discount at checkout.

I’m always refining things here on the website, and I was horrified to realize I messed up the pricing for the new fiber section. Items were way too expensive! I’m not sure how I did it since I use a spread sheet/formulas to price products. Those prices weren’t even what was listed in the spreadsheet! Word of the wise: don’t do something as important as pricing unless you can give it 100% of your attention!

Peanut says “Bye for now…”
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