Well, my plans to blog more went totally out the window! I’d rather be making than on the computer, as much as I enjoy writing. In fact, I have cut my social networking down considerably as well. I find making & listing garners me more sales than social networking ever has. Not to say I don’t enjoy connecting with others, it’s just so hard to find time/balance when you are a maker, a busy (unschooling) mom (kids having their own interests and activities to boot) and being a self-employed household. Besides my website, I still maintain my Etsy shop & have added a few listings to my Ebay account. I feel like it’s coming full circle as Ebay was the very first place I sold online in the late 90’s!
Due to requests I have made some bulk discount coupon codes for larger orders. I can give larger discounts on orders of $250+ simply send me a message and let’s discuss! These codes work on the website and Etsy shop:
Save $10 on orders of $50 or more with code: BULKSAVE10
Save $20 on orders of $75 or more with the code: BULKSAVE20
Save $30 on orders of $100 or more with code: BULKSAVE30.
One code per order, but these are combinable with:
Free shipping on orders of $45+ with the code: FREESHIP45
Offer subject to change at any time.
Thanks for your support and most of all, for supporting handmade!
Here in Canada, Canada Post Employees have been involved in a rotating strike since October. At first, this was not a problem: I found that my packages were still being delivered and were only slowed down by a day or two. Canada Post is now stating that the backlog of mail due to these rotating strikes is so large, they don’t see it all getting delivered until sometime in the New Year. Although back to work legislation just passed in the House of Commons, I still doubt disgruntled employees will clear up the backlog in a swift fashion (I certainly do not agree with back to work legislation).
I know I have at least 2 packages to my knowledge held up in the system. Instead of running my usual holiday sale on Etsy, I put my Etsy shop on vacation mode until I could figure out what to do next. On my website, I have disabled shipping with Canada Post until further notice. I have become increasingly frustrated with Canada Post over the past few years, the reasons could be a blog post on its own. Sad considering I have been satisfied with their service for several years prior. I’ve been selling goods off & on online since the early 2000’s.
I’m treating this as an opportunity to do find new carriers to work with. Here are the current shipping options for my personalized handmade jewelry, knitting accessories and handspun yarn:
MARITIME BUS (NS, NB & PEI provinces only)
My husband has picked up orders for computer gear from the Maritime Bus before, and I thought it was a really neat idea. They are continuing the tradition of shipping small packages via the bus much like Acadian Lines did back in the day. I can remember as a child my mom packaging up my dad’s dress shoes or other items he may have forgotten, to ship to Cornwallis where he worked in the summer with cadet camps.
Maritime Bus is an affordable, quick option. Their staff in my experience is really nice & helpful. They run 7 days a week, and you’ll receive your package same day or next day once your package is dropped off (with the exception of inclement weather).
FREIGHT FORWARDING TO BORDER, delivery handled via USPS and UPS (US customers)
This is now my recommended way to deliver packages to the United States. Your package will be driven over the border by a Freight Forwarding company, where it will be then dropped off at USPS or UPS for delivery.
You will always have tracking on your packages, whereas the economical Canada Post Shipping option does not. Since your package will be driven over the border by a bonded carrier, there is less to no customs hold up of packages, and your package will be delivered quickly once it is over the border.
This option is 100 km away for me, thus I can only plan to drop off once a week, or use a local courier company to get it there. Therefore, the perception is that your package takes quite awhile to ship, but in reality, you will receive your package far faster this way than if I were to mail it immediately with Canada Post.
TRADITIONAL COURIER SERVICE (USA & Canada)
Choose a courier such as Purolator, UPS, Fed Ex or CanPar (for Canadian customers). Please note that the prices given on the website are approximate. Because I sell items of varying size and weight, I took an estimate loosely based on shipping quotes to destinations as far West as possible. Should the cost be lower you will not be overcharged.
Courier service tends to be reliable with tracking and faster delivery compared to the mail service.
The cost is astronomical in Canada to ship via courier for small businesses like me that don’t do the volume to qualify for discounts. I wish they would become more competitive with their rates!
FREE SHIPPING OPTION
Don’t forget you can bypass the whole shipping headache by ordering a minimum. Orders $75 or more in Canada ship on me. For US orders, $100 (that’s Canadian dollars – so approx. $75 USD with the current exchange rate).
Don’t forget to use these voucher codes on the website for free shipping:
Use code FREESHIP75 for Canadian orders 75+; The code FREESHIP100 will give you free shipping for US orders over $100
If you are located in Kings County, Nova Scotia, we can arrange pickup at a convenient location or I can possibly deliver to you. I also frequent Hants County and Halifax/Dartmouth/Sackville – if you can wait to receive your order until the next time I’m in the area.
I don’t live in a heavily populated area so I recommend meeting up in town (Canning, Wolfville, New Minas, Kentville, etc).
NO ECONOMICAL OPTION FOR REST OF CANADA
Unfortunately, I have not found an economical shipping option for outside the Maritime provinces for small orders. I would suggest taking advantage of free shipping with a minimum order (above). I’m hoping that this will change in the near future as more carriers see the growing need for competitive reliable shipping in Canada.
These shipping options are available on my website and will continue to be available once the strike and its backlog is over. I haven’t decided if I will re-open my Etsy shop before the New Year. Currently, I am informing Etsy shoppers to go to my website if they want to order anything before the holidays.
How long has it been since I posted here?? Good grief. So much for making time to blog. Family life has taken up much of my time but fingers crossed for more balance this coming fall. These past 10 months have been filled with family time including homeschooling (unschooling) my girls, bulk yarn orders, name jewelry orders, and supporting my husband with his business endeavours. I simply have not had the time to put up new yarn listings, let alone the bin of jewelry prototypes, some 2 years old. I have had time to work on, and I can confidently say, perfect my dyeing technique for yarn: at least, I have a system that I am now happy with. Dyeing, much like spinning, is proving to be very meditative and satisfying for me. It is my new destressor. 🙂
It’s a long weekend here in Nova Scotia, and I’ve taken the time to give the website a much-needed up-grade. We’ll be moving it to a faster server soon – which is exciting. All the yarn backlog is now listed, now on to the jewelry backlog as well as spiffing up this blog.
Here’s some promo codes for the website. I wanted to note that shipping for yarn is an estimate and I’m happy to refund the difference if the shipping ends up to be more expensive. Canada Post shipping rates in Canada are complicated and at times seem very random. How about free shipping to save the hassle?
Use code FREESHIP75 for Canadian orders 75+; The code FREESHIP100 will give you free shipping for US orders over $100; and use code 10DOLLARS to take $10 off your order of $100+.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at selling handmade online: this is a screenshot of the many products that I have made and yet to list. Some of these items have been around for over a year. The problem is this: I love to make things and I would spend my entire lifetime doing just that. Taking the time to get items ready for sale and listed, not so much. I wish it were as simple as: I make something, I take a picture of it, and magically customers come along and buy it. Not so. When you are an artist/maker of any kind – in charge of selling your work – you wear many hats/learn many talents to make that sale. We don’t have a MLM company to back us with promotional kits on the ready to help promote our goods. I’ve considered hiring outside help but any kind of PR I’ve researched was too out of reach for me cost wise. When you think about the price that we have to charge to be competitive with the mass-produced, selling handmade online is a losing battle.
Let’s look at the anatomy of a (handmade) listing, shall we?
Conceptualizing and designing the idea
Although my items have evolved into simple keepsake designs over the years, there is still more to it than pairing charms on a necklace. Everything I make is something I would wear. When I am inspired by a theme I then have to choose: will it be sterling silver or gold-filled or both? What size engraving blank should I pair with the charm? What font should I use? I have to then engrave the prototypes, and assemble a sample so that I can assess wearability and aesthetics. Do the charms look good together? Do they hang well together? Is there movement/flow? Should I add a bead? Or add/remove another element?
This is another reason why I normally turn down custom orders these days. Not the personalization I offer, but built-from-scratch requests. All the time that is put into conceptualizing the design would be out of reach price wise for the customer. Add to it that the majority of the time changes or tweaks are asked for, or interest is lost entirely and the piece is never purchased. For these reasons custom orders are simply not worth the time involved for me. Before I had kids I was more willing to donate my time for custom work, but these days time is a precious commodity. Of the requests that I do take, it is because I already have something in mind that has not yet left the design notebook. In this instance if the potential customer changes their mind I can still sell it as a new product. Bottom line is I have to be mindful of the time taken to develop a custom piece and the compensation involved, all the while staying true to my aesthetic and personal style. And goodness no – I will not copy someone else’s work…
Photographing the new design
I wish I was talented enough to get a few good shots of my products in just a few minutes, but the truth is, it takes quite a bit of time and patience to get a good shot. I have to set up the camera on the tripod, after I put on the macro lens. Then turn on/position the lighting. It has a dedicated spot in the studio but it always gets knocked out-of-place between cats and kids. Plus natural light will determine which direction the lights will be. Placing the item within the lighting so that it stays at the right position is also tricky. It is very tedious to set up a piece of jewelry and have it stay in place without falling over in an unattractive position. Sometimes I can use a bit of sticky tack to help keep charms in place. But for the most part, I like a natural drape over an object such as a smooth stone. Once I get the item positioned, I have to carefully move it ever so slightly left and right to get the lighting angle in the “sweet” spot: not so much light that it drowns out the engraving, and not so little that it appears dark which is also hard to see. When I find the sweet spot I will snap several pictures. I do have the added bonus of computer software so I can sharpen focus directly onto the computer before taking the pictures. Once I get several shots in one position I will try at least one more, plus a hand shot for scale. The hand shot turns me into a contortion artist while I get my hand in frame, focus the shot via computer with other hand, then hold still enough to take the picture. I would say the photography aspect is my least favorite thing to do. I procrastinate on it a lot. Like, until the “take photos of these new items” bin is over-flowing. Part of the reason is that photography is the most frustrating. You can take a ton of shots only to discard every single one when reviewed later. I have logged hundreds of hours over the years with different cameras, tried all kinds of set up and contraptions and watched many videos/read many blogs and I still think my pictures are acceptable for selling on the internet, but they aren’t stellar. I did purchase a short online course many years ago that I found the most helpful. But what works for me is based on putting in the time. There is no shortcut.
Photo editing can take even more time than taking the pictures. I don’t do any color correcting – just some brightening if the photo is too dark and cropping the photo square. The goal is to have a crisp and clear photo. Different resolutions on devices will have the items looking slightly different color and tone wise anyway. I don’t want to misrepresent what I am selling so I do very little touching up. I’m told my items look even better in person – and that always makes me feel really good. The pictures are attractive enough to make the sale and people are happy with their purchase, rather than disappointed. That is a good thing!
As time-consuming as editing is, I enjoy the process. Seeing my work on-screen is where it comes alive for the potential customer. I love choosing the final images and it is only discouraging when none of the images turned out to be viable for the web (it means I have to repeat the picture-taking step – WAH!).
Finally, I do watermark my photos with my website for copyright and recognition purposes. I know this is sometimes frowned upon for many different reasons: like it’s distracting, or Etsy doesn’t feature watermarked images…however I have witnessed photos being stolen and misrepresented as others’ work by scam artists over the years. Plus photos often get shared on different social network platforms without context as to where it came from.
Another daunting task that I don’t enjoy is pricing my work. In the beginning I would eye ball the piece and price it from the top of my head – which meant that I was rapidly losing money: not covering even my expenses to make the piece. So I soon moved to spreadsheets to price my work. I have a master spreadsheet with the cost of supplies: I price out to every last jump ring and component. Then I have spreadsheets for the items themselves: one for the keepsakes, and one for yarn as they are very different in pricing structure. This is where I add my costs for my time, packaging, and listing fees. The sad truth is I don’t make very much an hour. I honestly don’t mark up my work very much – and for this reason it’s hard for me to have sales or discounts. When I do run a sale, I am losing money at least on my time. I end up writing sales off as advertising (as well as giveaways).
So why don’t I mark my items up more? The market is solely dictated on the buyers and I have to go with what people are willing to pay. I’ve tried pricing my goods higher and they simply don’t move. Plus I’ve always had the philosophy that everyone deserves to own something nice and well made. I get it, money isn’t always there for the extras. I want my work to be accessible to as many people as possible as it is an expression of me from the heart. The many positive comments I have had over the years is a feeling that money could never buy. Yes I have expenses and bills like anyone else. But I do feel the handmade movement is far bigger than that. Sure I’d love to make more money at what I do, but I’d also like the cost of living to go down for everyone, too…
It never ceases to amaze me the misconception of how expensive handmade goods are or that they are not as good as the mass-produced products that have flashy ads or brand names to go along with them. Oh and if you are getting a lot of free stuff along with your purchase – or for signing others up – don’t think for one second you haven’t paid for it several times over in the markup.
Listing items online
I currently list items on two places online: my personal website and Etsy. I’ve sold on other platforms before but it’s too time consuming for the handful of sales, so I’ve stuck to the two places that I get the most bang for my buck.
I’m quite fortunate to have a software engineer for a husband as well as being a tad geeky myself so a lot of things I can take care of on my own on the front end and all the technical stuff hubby can deal with on the backend. For sellers who constantly complain about Etsy: please stop. Listen, I am not always happy with everything they do over there nor do I agree with every decision that has been made in the evolution of this company. However, once you try to maintain your own website – you come to appreciate that you just have to pay the fees every month and the technical issues are someone’s else’s problem.
Listing items online means writing a decent copy description of the item, making sure it is placed under the right category on your website, uploading the pictures, setting the shipping costs, and doing SEO for each individual item. Nevermind the hours of setup it took beforehand to have a working site – and we use out-of-the-box software to power my website. I am fortunate enough to host my own site thanks to my partner’s business…sort of. By that I mean, don’t forget I have to babysit the site daily to make sure it doesn’t go down due to hosting issues, getting hacked, or the myriad of other issues that can happen that render it useless: like your payment gateway failing or a file corrupting. As for SEO, I admit that I find SEO tedious and it falls to the wayside a lot – and I instead rely on Social Networking for promoting my items and getting them out there. Once again, I appreciate paying Etsy to do my advertising for me. I have a very small budget to promote my listings but there is always a return for doing so.
Touching a bit of this in the previous section – promotion is a full-time job in and of itself, something that I just don’t have the stomach for – I admit it. The online pond is very big and you have to scream really loud to get noticed: I’m not so good at selling what I’m selling. I don’t mind sharing and showing what I make, but doing so over and over feels egotistical to me. I am not doing anything life saving here; it’s pretty things. It’s fun yarn and accessories for knitting. None of which is necessary to survive. I also rarely discuss what I do with my friends and family because I don’t want them to feel obligated to support my work. I get it, it’s not to everyone’s taste. I don’t want people to feel like I look at them with dollar signs in my eyes. It is such a good feeling however, to tap into that crowd that loves and gets what I do. Etsy has been wonderful for that. And I appreciate all the good feedback I’ve gotten over the years there. If I ever doubt my talent or abilities, I can read that feedback and know I make good things and provide a positive experience to others.
Keeping items fresh & relevant
I used to make beaded jewelry – and I still do, I just find the simple wearable keepsakes translate as “in style” for a longer period of time. The time it takes to design and make beaded jewelry, plus the uniqueness of the designs means more effort to move the finished product. I like to stick with daily wearable pieces, like my ” wings” necklace that I wear everyday.
So if it is so hard why do it then?
It’s a drive to keep going that I can’t really explain. A passion for handmade and what I create. Wanting to get my items part of people’s online shopping experience: offering them an alternative to the norm. I do it because it makes my customers feel good, and therefore it makes me feel good. It’s my pay-it-forward. But mainly I do it because I have a drive to create like nobody’s business. It truly does keep me alive and sane, and if I want to keep creating, I have to move the things as they pile up. 🙂
I recognize that when I get resentful or feel stuck & anxious about it, it’s when all my time is spent online rather than making the things I love to make. The ideas run wild in my head and there is no outlet to get them out because I feel I must be responsible and do my social networking today, or list new items today. Once an item sells, most of the time I have to make the item with the customer’s personalization, then package and ship it. So if all my time is in doing just that and no new ideas are flowing, I feel stuck really fast.
I’ve just come to realize it’s about creating balance and even after 16 years at this, I haven’t struck the right chord. I tend to go from one extreme to the next. Now that I have made that revelation, I hopefully will find some motivation to list. Because there are some goodies in this folder that I’d love to get into people’s hands. It makes me happy that I get to share my talents with others.
If you stuck it out and read all this (thank you!) I hope you gain some insight on the behind-the-scenes of the handmade goods you buy online. If you sell or are looking to sell your handmade wares know I feel your pain, and I am here to support, if ever you need…
Weekly Sale October 2 – 8th, 2017
This week I am offering my knitting bling as I call it, for 40% off. Most sets of 8 stitch markers are only $13 regular price so it’s a great time to stock up for personal use or to gift a knitter or crocheter in your life.
I unexpectedly started my Christmas shopping today. Great deals at a kitchen store I couldn’t resist which reminded me, that I will have weekly sales leading up to the holidays but I have not had the time to blog about it (and I still don’t, so this will be brief). This week’s sale was 20% off the matching mother daughter necklaces. You still have time to take advantage of the sale, it’s going on until end of day tomorrow, Sunday October 1st, 2017. Monday I will announce another sale.
Available via my website and Etsy. Be sure to like my Facebook page if you want to keep up with sales and promotions. I don’t always have time to blog about it. Okay! I got to get back to work. I have yarn to dye and wool to comb into top, and jewelry request to fill…
I’m having a huge work block lately – I’m totally unmotivated to do the heavy lifting as far as listing and promoting my handmade items. I’m currently writing an extensive blog post about it – The Anatomy of a (handmade) Listing – that is rather involved and detailed so my brain can only write it in small bits at a time (I’ll link to it here when it is finished). I’ve been really busy making things with no real desire to list them – which, defeats the purpose of selling my handmade goods online. I feel like I need to get the details out in words so that I can move past my block and get things listed. As far as the deadline I gave myself for new items for the holiday season, well, I am really behind…
Luckily, I still have orders for jewelry and paying requests for yarn to keep me busy until the motivation returns.
In the meantime, I wanted to mention that I have been taking Instagram out for a test drive and I really like it! I have been meaning to check it out for some time but feared I lacked the time for it. Finally giving in to a smart phone a couple of years ago certainly makes posting pics online easier. I love seeing life in pictures – so if you are on IG please follow me: I need people to follow, too! The content is much different from what you would find on my Facebook page or even Twitter (although a bit of overlap is inevitable). It’s a behind the scenes glimpse of my creative life: and my cats with a few appearances of my kids (the cat thing, was supposed to be temporary while I tried out how the app worked – who knew people liked seeing pics of cats. So. The cats stay… 😉 ).
I don’t do a lot of sales because there is very little markup on my work. However once in awhile I love to give a discount because let’s face it: there is very little money for the non-essentials these days. Etsy is having its first ever site wide sale & I’m participating! The sale is running from August 31st to September 4th, 2017. Save 30% on everything in my shop (excluding jewelry making supply destash). I will run a sale in tandem on my website – 30% off – simply use code LONGWEEKEND30 at checkout. I will highlight it in the checkout in case you forget. The sale price will be automatic on Etsy.
Hopefully this sale will help you tackle some of that holiday shopping – I know I know – it’s too early to think about. BUT we all know how busy fall gets, and having a few small gifts or stocking stuffers ticked off the list is always a good feeling.
Don’t forget to check out your favorite shops on Etsy August 31st – September 4th to see if they are participating in the sale.
I’m celebrating handmade for the month of July with 50% off all my handmade earrings. I’ve been so busy this month in the studio with mostly fiber arts projects, the usual jewelry orders (and trying to have a bit of a summer vacation too!) that I am just getting around to announcing it on the blog now. But if you follow me on Facebook you may already know about the sale. In any event, you still have until the end of the month to take advantage.
Just use the voucher code EARRING50 at checkout on bb3.ca to take advantage. It is featured in the checkout too, in case you forget. Also don’t forget that orders of $39 or more from Canada or the US qualify for free shipping.
Speaking of the blog, do you like the new format? I have been spending a good chunk of my evenings updating its look and making it more user friendly. Now that I don’t have the newsletter, I have more time to devote to my other online entities. I love the blog and the ability to share more if which is limiting in a newsletter.
Since I have let the newsletter go, I am hoping to have more sales such as the 50% off earring sale this month. Go here to see all the pairs available. Choose the ones you like and I’ll make them for you! They make great gifts so stock up for co-workers, add-ons, even stocking stuffers. Don’t forget to treat yourself too! 🙂
I needed a quick gift to give a fellow cat lover and there was no time to order jewelry supplies & design something in such a short period of time. One thing I had immediate access to, was cat rubber stamps. So I made a set of note cards.
These cards feature stamps from My Favorite Things & Hero Arts sets. They are colored with a water brush & distress inks – mostly the new Oxide inks which I love! They color much differently than the original distress inks – which looks like watercolor paint. The oxide is more vibrant – cartoonish I guess – which I love.
For this next group of cat themed note cards I used a combination of distress inks and copic markers. I wanted a really simple note card but found the end result rather plain. So I added some Nuvo Crystal Jewel Drops and I loved the dimension they added. I adore the jewel drops the most as they have a nice translucency. The final card in this series (above) was to resemble a cat the recipient owns, but it was hard to get his unique black and white coloring.
The next two cards were achieved by masking the stamped area in order to sponge on a background with Distress Oxide ink. I stamped the cats on first and colored them. Then I cut out the stamped image from a piece of full stick post-it notes. After covering the cats with the post-it note cut out (above), I applied the oxide ink with my Ranger ink blending tool, then spritzed & dripped water onto the ink. Here are the results:
White embossing powder sets the sentiment on black paper die cut with a scalloped edge. Sequins made the best finishing touch.
Finally, as a thank you card for the recipient I made this card:
I love the cat peeking out the window and the curtains, what I don’t love is that I made it in a rush since the other cards took most of my time and all I see is the things I could do better. But, it was cute nonetheless, and practice makes perfect.
I’m thinking of offering some inexpensive cards sets on my website since I love the majority of how these ones turned out. If it comes to fruition, I’ll include a link here when they are available to purchase. Either way, I hope this post inspires your paper crafting or card making.
May will be the final newsletter. It’s not for any bad reason, it just hit me while compiling it this month, that I should consider doing something new as far as promotion goes. That and, for several reasons covered in the newsletter, it’s becoming more & more difficult for me to offer a monthly giveaway. The cost of postage alone has risen significantly over the 4 years I have compiled the newsletter.
bb3 is not going away anytime soon and I certainly still have many ideas left to create out of this noggin of mine. I will still be offering giveaways and promotions on social media – I just can’t commit to it every month. I can use these funds for other ads & promotions to help me grow. Sometimes we just need a reason to give ourselves a kick in the butt. The newsletter has become my comfortable go to – and growth happens not out of comfort.
There are many ways to keep in touch and up to date with what I am working on, this blog being one of them. All the ways are listed in May’s newsletter.
It’s been too painful until now but I finally designed a Memorial piece for our dear Hemingway cat who passed away suddenly from feline g.i. eosinophilic sclerosing fibroplasia back in February. I’m finally at a place where I want honor him and move forward, although not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and remember how he feels. I know it’s “just a cat” to so many people – but to me, he was so much more. We will have more cats join our family in the future but he will never be forgotten.
I tried several options before realizing that the simplest design is the best. I tried adding in a birthstone, & pearls, different chain – but just the sterling silver angel cat charm and a small 10.5mm charm that I engraved with his initial spoke to me the most.
I think that is one thing people don’t grasp when it comes to creating jewelry. Even though I am not manufacturing components, it takes time to come up with the right combination. I know it looks simple: but it took much careful consideration and trial and error to get the ideas from my head to paper and eventually to the final product. I have mad respect for jewelers who design every component from start to finish! I don’t have that kind of attention span – so I am happy to source out the right supplies (this takes time too!) to come up with the final product that is satisfying to me.
Since I was making a Cat Angel Necklace I decided to expand on the memorial pet jewelry and make a dog version as well. I hope to have more options in the future as I find the perfect sterling silver charms. The dog angel charms read ” good boy” and price out cheaper than the cat angel charms, I assume due to the size and amount of sterling used. I also had the idea to offer the piece as a necklace or clip on charm set. These 13mm sterling silver lobster clasps are a large size making them appropriate to clip to a purse, bag, keychain, zipper pull or an existing bracelet. I like how this clip on option turned out so much, I will probably offer this option with some of my other personalized necklaces.
In late January I ordered another cool fiber processing tool but it arrived around the time my baby cat passed away, so it took me awhile to get around to use it. I’ve always seen hackles as a tool for blending fleece & fiber, and since I own a drum carder, poo-poo’d investing in one.
Then it occured to me one day that hackles could make my life so much easier when it comes to combing fleece top. A drum carder is great for blending and making your fleece & fiber somewhat smooth, but it won’t remove all the noils or tiny gnarly bits nor is the fleece/fiber guaranteed to be lined completely straight like it would be if combed. This texture has merit for spinning, particularly chunky or woolen yarn. Of course I do like to spin a textured art yarn as well. For certain fleece that I hand process I prefer them to be smooth – like merino for instance. I love a nice, smooth, merino top. Plus I get the added bonus of felting with the leftovers. I love my St. Blaise combs, but there is only so much you can comb at once. With hackles, I can load a larger amount of fleece, then comb it out with my combs.
I’m still working out my process with the hackles, but what I find is that I can load the uncombed merino onto the hackles, then comb with just one comb: added bonus is this is so much easier on my neck/shoulders/back. The hackles are clamped to the table, so instead of motion with two of my arms, I only need to used one arm.
This merino is pretty rough so I will comb as much will fit onto the comb, then finish it by hand combing with both combs, then pulling a small top. After the top is pulled the process repeats: back for more fleece from the hackles, combing out, and so on. This makes the process so much easier! I was amazed how fast I went through the fleece – it cuts the time in half, at least, not to mention it really saves my body from the wear and tear which is the biggest advantage. I love to work with my hands, whether it be jewelry making, paper crafting, fiber washing, dyeing, combing or spinning, but it does wreak havoc on my muscles and tendons so any tool which makes it go easier is worth it to invest in.
Hackles is mostly used for blending and I have yet to try that. You can pull a nice long roving off of it rather than the little top I pull from my combs and coil into a nest. I purchased my hackles from Gemini Fibers here in Canada, and I appreciate that they are handcrafted in Ontario.
April is my birthday month – Earth Day – which seems to fit me perfectly (green washing aside!) being someone who pulls all my inspiration from nature and personal experiences. Truthfully, I often feel not of this earth even though many of my friends and family see me as the “grounding” person in their lives – the voice of reason per se. If only I could apply that sensibility to my own life. I am constantly in a state of buzz, worry, self-doubt and what ifs when it comes to my own circumstance. It’s easier to see clearly what one must do when one is not experiencing it first hand.
All that analogy aside, when brainstorming for April’s new products I wanted to have items with some personal meaning to me. Everything I make has meaning in one way or another, but this month I wanted to go one step further for items that represent me or something that is special in my life.
I keep a sample of all the charms I own in a binder with plastic inserts you would use for baseball or hockey trading cards. A look book for charms so to speak. I often will flip through it for inspiration. This month one charm caught my eye: the mother-daughter charm. This sterling silver charm comes as one heart that I have to carefully separate into two. The significance of this charm goes farther than my own mother-daughter experience: my mother is buried with her half.
I bought one of these charms originally for bracelets I was working on for my wedding jewelry.
My mother passed quite unexpectedly just 2 years later. I remember my father asking if I wanted her engagement ring as a keepsake, and feeling pretty wrong about it. Then I had this strong sense: yes, I will take the ring, but I wanted her to be buried with the bracelet from my wedding. My dad said if I could find it, he would give it to the funeral home. It was in plain sight in her jewelry box. Today I cherish my decision – at peace knowing she was buried with something that ties us together but also being able to keep a keepsake to pass on to my girls one day.
The second item is a woodland fairy necklace – personalized with a monogram charm and paired with a faceted crystal. Clear quartz crystal is a birthstone for April – not all of us can afford diamonds. 😉 I find crystal quartz to be a powerful mystical stone nonetheless – if you think of looking through a crystal ball or the mystery of the crystal skulls. It seemed highly appropriate to pair with a woodland fairy particularly for an Earth Day birthday.
Lastly, if you are a knitter here is some inspiration to keep your project going forward positively. Knitting and spinning for me is a meditative process so adding a few inspirational words into the mix should help keep things peaceful and positive. I also thought this set would be nice to gift one each to 8 of your knitting friends, and spread the positivity. The little things really do matter, particularly in the tumultuous world we live.
P.S. don’t forget to check out April’s newsletter and my Facebook page in order to enter for a chance to win April’s giveaway. I’m giving away a personalized bunny necklace this month.
Since the New Year I started making balled headpins again. I really like the look of them versus the more common flat head (although they certainly have their place in design). For awhile I just couldn’t be bothered and would buy sterling silver headpins in bulk. Now that I got the (mini) torch out again I have to ask myself why I didn’t just stick with making my own. Yes it gets tedious cutting the wire to size. Yes I have to set up the workspace including protecting my desk with a fire resistant mat. But having the freedom of making the gauge and length of headpin that I need for projects is a luxury, and watching the silver ball form at the end of the wire in the orange flame is mesmerizing. Using fine silver – a more pure silver than sterling – means no fire scale to clean off so it’s incredibly quick.
Instead of walking through the steps of making balled headpins, I’m sharing a very thorough and straight forward video from Beaducation. Why reinvent the wheel? She is also using the same torch that I own, only here in Canada I bought mine from Lee Valley.
Until I watched this video, it never occurred to me that the *kind* of butane matters and have since switched to a cleaner burning butane. I picked this one up at my local smoke shop so it should be widely available in Canada…
Last week, we lost one of our fur babies: suddenly & unexpectedly.
I am wracked with grief. He was only 11 months old. Cause is still unknown.
I can’t even post a picture of him because it hurts too much. Even worse I can’t get the look on his face while he was dying off my mind. Anyone who knows me well, knows my cats are like an extension of my personality. I feel like I failed him – I missed something – I didn’t do enough…
On top of it all I am beating myself up because it is “just a cat”. There is far worse loss I could experience, berating myself to get over it only makes it worse. I am an emotionally fragile person. I am not ashamed to admit that. I live large, I love hard.
I am jumpy. A loud noise, a kid’s cough, a sudden or unexpected movement…I am on edge just waiting for something bad to happen. To top it off one of my senior cats has been in poor health and I sense we will not have him much longer. So I’m on edge about that too.
If I analyze this I think the whole experience takes me back to my mother’s sudden and unexpected death 8.5 years ago. I am reliving some of that grief…and shock…and fear of loss…
Today is the first day I felt like doing….anything. That is, besides my mom duties, that I have been auto-piloting through. I wish I had my children’s acceptance, resilience. They were sad but soon got over it. Today I held on to the small urge to create, and made some new stitch markers inspired by the snow storm we just had. I hate being in the studio because out of all of my cats that was his territory. As I worked away he was always sitting on my desk, on the couch or on my drum carder. There is such an emptiness now that he is gone.
I’m now so very far behind on everything and not even sure where to start. My Etsy shop is back up – I feel ready to make orders again.
Despite how I feel, I was able to create some cards for my girls for Valentine’s day. I also helped my girls finish their cards.
Last month my girls did some watercoloring that I then cut into hearts for their Valentines. We even finished them with a shimmer spray for that extra something something…
For the above cards, we adhered their watercolor hearts to embossed and distress inked card stock. I asked the girls what sentiment they wanted on the front, printed it on the laser printer and then gold foiled them via a laminator. As a finishing touch the girls added sequins and confetti to their taste.
I don’t feel up to explaining in detail the techniques in these cards – if you’d like to know more send me a message, or comment below. I love paper crafting. Glad to be able to share this craft with my girls…
Have you liked my Facebook page? I decided to stop paying to boost my posts there. It’s becoming costly esp. with the difference in the Canadian and US dollar. So if you have liked my page, be sure to like a few of the posts to ensure I show up in your newsfeed.
Anyway, I am pushing myself to be more present today. It is night now, which is by far the worst. I lay in bed and dwell on things. Hoping for some sleep tonight. There has been very little, this past week…
ETA Mar 2: we heard from the vet today re: necropsy. He had feline g.i. eosinophilic sclerosing fibroplasia – if you google this, you will find very little info as it is both rare and a newer disease, even vet researchers are unsure of the cause. There was nothing anyone could have done. Today, I feel like I can be at peace, and remember him fondly.
I thought I would share my intro to this month’s newsletter here, as I have gotten some response from subscribers that they appreciated my words:
It’s hard to find balance when you are a sensitive soul. I spend a lot of my existence with varying extremes of either apathy – why bother, to intense anxiety/emotion with a whole lot of self-doubt mixed in. The most smallest or seemingly mundane thing can set it off and it is the main reason why art/crafting/creating has become a very important element in my day to day life. This will sound dramatic to some, but it is as important as the air I breathe: it sustains me and keeps me alive. It puts me in a calm, meditative state. It aids me in working out my most intense of feelings – both negative and positive and clears my mind so that I can be clear and effective.
Although this is a constant state for me I mention it now as I think this is a relatable feeling for many here (especially) in North America as of late. As important as it is to stay informed & be proactive for our future we must also not lose track of what we enjoy, who we love and our purpose on this planet.
So if you are feeling drained, hopeless, uninspired, defeated or simply going through the motions, we will fight through those feelings together. Thank you for taking this journey with me.
This month’s giveaway is for your choice of a pair of lemon quartz sterling silver earrings or a sterling silver Celtic knot necklace. The necklace features a tiny emerald gemstone – yes, real emerald. It’s a sweet necklace – I’m finding my jewelry is becoming quainter and more dainty the older I get. Plus, this size precious gemstone keeps everything in the proper price point for those that admire my work.
Also of mention, I am starting to destash my massive stash of jewelry making and crafting supplies. It’s time to find homes for things I’ve been hanging on to for a rainy day. I just don’t have the time to design like I used to. So check them out in my Etsy shop and please give them a new home. Much more to come in the coming weeks…supplies are not my fave thing to list…zzzzzzz…..
Last but not least I haven’t forgotten about this blog, I have just been really lacking in inspiration as of late. I am going to force myself to get back into the game and not just go through the motions as I have been doing these past several weeks. Fingers crossed!
In this month’s newsletter, I am giving away a pair of these handmade freshwater pearl earrings. Really cute and would make a great gift. I have them in the clearance section now, only because I won’t be carrying the metal anymore.
There is a disturbing video making its rounds on Social Media, of workers brutally beating sheep as they are being sheared of their fleece for the wool industry. I won’t link to the video here because it is truly upsetting. Seeing this video auto-play time & time again reminded me of one of the main reasons why I started spinning yarn.
When I was teaching myself to knit and finally became comfortable with it, I started asking knitting friends and acquaintances what yarn brands they recommended as far as quality goes. Often the brands that came up were 100% wool – often merino. So off to the (craft) big box store to investigate. I was surprised at the lack of information on the label about the wool itself. In fact, there simply is no information past the weight and fiber type – normally just 100% wool. Well, what kind of wool? From where? I couldn’t help but ask myself the question, “Is wool yarn ethical?” Looking up the websites for these brands provided no information as well. What I did uncover, is accusations of abuse and mistreatment of the animals bred for this industry. I was left concluding I simply could not continue on with a hobby knowing animals were potentially abused just so I could knit a hat. At the time, spinning seemed way out of my wheelhouse. But the more I wanted a greater understanding of how yarn is constructed so that I could understand knitting better, the more spinning became appealing.
My family frequently attended wool shows and fiber festivals, in the beginning because I
wanted to do more natural crafts with my children & this route was suggested to me. They proved to be a great family activity. I grew up in a rural area and sometimes it was nice to get away from urban life. It soon became apparent that I could buy fiber from small producers and hobby farmers. I have even at times met the animals the fleece came from, and bought their fleece fresh shorn – on the spot. This is how I know sheep do not have to be abused to be shorn. Sure, some are very stubborn, but a skilled and compassionate hand can get the job done quickly without punching and kicking and strangleholds with minimal discomfort to the sheep (shearing in and of itself is a craft and I’d even say an art form – it is very fascinating to learn about & watch). In my observation they are also pretty darn happy to have all that heavy fleece off in the hot summer months. Much like buying local & direct to know where your food comes from, the same could be said about the fiber that is to be spun into yarn. I could connect with the producers and breeders, & I could feel confident in the product I was using. This connection lead me to learn how to process fiber by hand. At first, I couldn’t imagine handling a dirty fleece! Now I will skirt them if need be, hand pick then wash it – often soaking for hours on repeat – then card, dye and comb it (if creating top). My yarns really are from the ground up – and it is absolutely satisfying to me to see this product, a gift from the animal turned into something so lovely and appealing. This way I can really honor the animal that was so generous to share their fiber with me. Without these animals, I could never grow as an artist.
I know there will be people that will disagree with me that I cannot know know for absolute sure the animals are happy and well treated in captivity. And to some people’s horror, these same farmers also offer lamb meat (I personally do not eat lamb). I am a believer that every little bit of conscience effort is valid. We cannot do it all. I am also well aware of the large amount of greenwashing – and as I call it – “guilt-washing” out there. So I hope that is not how this reads. I am not here to convince you to buy my yarns. Honestly I am happy to keep them all to myself *evil laugh*. 😉 I am here to give thought to alternatives so that we do not have to always live in such extremes.
“Working with handspun yarn provides a perfect opportunity to free yourself from the constraints of formal patterns by allowing the characteristics of the yarn itself to dictate the work’s form. There are many ways to do this, and a few examples will follow, but the idea to teach yourself to really look closely at the yarn, and let the details and eccentricities that you find there guide you in your creative process. Many people are hyper-focused on the act of knitting or crocheting, and oblivious to the yarn itself as they work through it.”1
I’ve been in a bit of a spinning & knitting slump as of late which I find happens when my days are more consumed with jewelry making or fleece processing. This quote reminded me why I got into making yarn in the first place. It’s easy to get into concentrating on technique only, esp. when you are out of practice. But for me that takes away from the joy of spinning. I’m a throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of spinner. I’ve come up with the best skeins this way. They are in no way reproducible, but isn’t that why we love handspun anyway, the uniqueness of each skein?
I really enjoy Lexi’s book as she is about pushing the envelope as to what we think of when
we think of handspun yarn. I don’t tend to click with many spinners I meet since their goal many times is to get the thinnest and/or most even yarn usually for a particular pattern or project. I would much rather let the fiber take me on the journey and then decide after it is spun what it would like to become. It usually takes me several attempts to make something out of a skein of yarn because it doesn’t always want to do what I want it to. I find a pretty pattern in one of my books, and convince myself that this particular handspun will do the trick. Most of the time, I am wrong. Instead, I have had to train myself to look at the yarn and decide from its feel what it should become. I do look at patterns for inspiration, but most of the time, knitting (or crocheting) just spontaneously happens.
If you think that a jewelry maker making the jump to spinning yarn is odd, here is where the parallels are drawn. When I make jewelry, I like to sit down with a component – such as a gemstone bead – and let it develop into a piece. Sure I have a sketch book with designs and this is more useful for the engravable jewelry. Even then do the designs rarely look like what is in the book. I like to let it develop as I go. Much like mixing different colors of fiber for spinning, I like to take beads and metals to find a harmonious blend. It’s painting, only on a 3-dimensional level to produce a tangible product or textile. To me spinning is the perfect compliment to jewelry making – not to mention the ultimate mash-up: spinning beads into my yarn (I also got tired of boring plastic and rubber stitch markers too so I make my own – that I call knitting bling). 🙂
When I started spinning I just went for it. The opportunity arose where I could buy a wheel and I seized it. It made absolutely no sense at the time, but I am so glad I left logic on the shelf, and delved into spinning yarn. It is an absolute bliss for me, even with every ache and pain that goes along with it.