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. 🙂
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.
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.
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
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,
“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…
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.
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
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
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! 🙂
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
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…
Adventures of a (jewelry) maker who uses a classic Pantograph engraver
What is Pantograph Engraving?
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.)
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!).
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.
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
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! 🙂
“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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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… 😉
“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:
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.
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.
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
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! 🙂
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.
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.
Until next time, I wish you much compassion & creativity,
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
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
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
“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).
Follow me on Pinterest
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.
New Bouclé Yarns
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:
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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…
“What you’re looking for is not out there. It is in you.”
– Author Unknown
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. 🤪🤣
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
“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 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
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!
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 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…
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Alright keeping it short and sweet this month. Hope you are all well and if not, are able to get the rest you need.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
After the final soak, I laid the fleece out on the lawn to dry a bit in the sunshine
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!
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!
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. 🙂
“Autumn is the season to find contentment at home by paying attention to what we already have”
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.
How to: Scouring Fleece
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
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!
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!
“The meaning of life is to find your gift; the purpose of life is to give it away.”
In this month’s Studio update:
Fiber Braids for spinning or felting, now in stock
The first commercial indie dyed skeins are now available
Videos are starting to be added to listings
Handspun bundles are being converted back to single listings
What’s new on Etsy
Near future plan: share more knowledge so others can grow their creativity
A productive Month, overall
I even surprise myself, how much I packed in the month of August! Every day had an element of productivity, and I was filled with such drive and joy to complete each task. Unfortunately, I seem to have hit a wall now that it is September. Or perhaps I just need a break! I still have a fair bit of tasks to accomplish so hopefully this feeling of no motivation leaves soon. I have a feeling October will be a challenging month, and I want to be free to go with the flow.
September is typically a busy month for my family. Several birthdays, getting back into the swing of homeschooling and desperately chasing the sun/warmth before it’s gone for another season. Although there is much to celebrate, I can’t help but feel a little sad that my fave season is soon coming to an end.
However, there is still an entire season to enjoy creating color, and I usually can still take advantage to hanging yarn and fiber out to dry after dyeing. There is plenty of harvest still to come from the garden and the changing colors in nature are always an inspiration.
I’ve listed some braids I had dyed for personal use, either Merino or Targhee top. As much as I’d like to spin them all, it would be impossible to accomplish with my current schedule. Better for them to go to other fiber enthusiasts to enjoy! I’ll probably dye some more in tandem with yarn in the future, so I look forward to expanding this section. There are discounts if you buy more than one. Discount will be applied at checkout. Visit the brand new fiber section to browse them all.
Testing the waters with Hand Dyed Commercial Yarn
Here’s the first commercial hand dyed skeins. I ran out of time to fully explore expanding this new line, so I’m listing a few that I had dyed some time ago that I was not sure if I would sell or keep for personal use.
These two are socks yarns, but I also have worsted and DK weight merino commercial yarn that I can’t wait to explore color on! Hopefully the month of September will go smoothly and I’ll have more available in this category soon. Keep an eye on the commercial yarn section for new products.
Adding Videos to Product Listings
Don’t expect cinematographic masterpieces (LOL!). I literally hold up my Canon EOS camera with one hand while holding the item in the other. I don’t edit them so that you see “in real time” what each product looks like with movement.
The video will be listed after the photos for the item. I’m a visual person so I know I appreciate a simple product video. I also like to leave them unedited so that there is honesty in what I am selling. Keep in mind that different monitors and smart phone screens will show the colors slightly different. I’ll continue to add videos to listings this month and make a list of items that need them.
I’m converting some of the Handspun Yarn Bundles Back to Single Listings
Now that I have bulk and tiered discounts set up on the website, I am in the process of unbundling some of my handspun listings. I had bundled yarns to sell in groups mostly for Etsy. Etsy prefers free shipping, which is virtually impossible to offer here in Canada on bulky items.
Currently, the average cost of shipping a small package starts at $24. So, if I am selling a skein of yarn for the same price, I would have to double the price just to cover the shipping. I find that both ludicrous and dishonest. Etsy being a large corporate beast now, sees no issue with this. But as a maker, it prices me out of ever being competitive. So with bundles I could count on a similar cost for shipping 2 or more items without too much out of my pocket.
I’ll keep some of the yarn as bundles, but I feel that the ones I will be listing as singletons again gives the shopper the freedom to chose what skeins they want, and still get a discount.
What’s New on Etsy
I didn’t spend too much time listing new products on Etsy last month, concentrating on the website instead. I still have many more products in the jewelry and accessory category to list in the coming weeks! 🙂
Share More, Give More
I want to finally catch up on website tasks so I can get back to writing how to’s and tip blogs like I used to. I miss it! I’m an autodidact and find it fulfilling to share my experiences with others to aid in their creative growth. Fingers crossed the schedule will allow me to get back to writing this type of content. I will be concentrating on beginner/getting started topics, such as spinning, dyeing, product reviews and basic jewelry making tips. Allow me to help you grow!
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Flowing through the Rest of my Summer
Part of my plan to live more intuitively, is to make adjustments to how I structure – or should I say – flow through my day. For the past few weeks I’ve been making a conscious effort to ask myself, “What do I want to do now?” rather than, “I have to do this first”. Of course there are appointments and obligations that I have to keep, but aside from that I will go through a list of the tasks or projects I would like to accomplish in a given day and see what “speaks” to me.
It’s hard to resist the urge to tackle the chores that seem more important, more responsible and more pressing, so that I can get them off my plate to do what is more desirable. The better I got at listening to my inner voice and doing what I desired first, my day would not only flow perfectly, but I struck a good balance between doing tasks I enjoy and doing tasks that are part of life that need to be done. More was being completed and I felt more balanced and accomplished by the end of every day.
I am by no means perfect at it, but I found the latter part of July went much smoother than the first half. I got so much done! Once I started aligning my day by feel rather than expectation, I found even the most mundane tasks would pop in my head to say, “Okay, it is now the right time to switch to (enter chore here)”. Hopefully I can keep it up. I’m excited to see what August has in store. No expectation. Just going to let it happen.
Highlights This month:
Engraved Awareness charms are now available on Etsy
Tiered and bulk pricing is now live on the website
Add a gift note to your order
New products both on Etsy and here on the website
Product videos – coming soon!
Fiber braids – coming soon!
Engraved Awareness Charms on Etsy
Now Available: Tiered and Bulk pricing
I’m really excited to have tiered and bulk pricing set up on the website. It finally came to me just how I would like the pricing to be structured. Let’s take a look at it more closely as the options are different depending on what you buy.
Bulk discounts are available if you buy 2 or more of an item. The price gets lower the more you buy. If you see an item and would like to purchase more than what’s listed, it’s worth asking me if I can make more. The price gets cheaper the more you buy.
Tiered discounts are on products where you buy 1 item, then save on subsequent items from the same product listing. This usually occurs on products that have several options for customization. The above example is from the product listing Custom Charm Necklace with Engraved Letter Charm – Animals & Insects. You will have to add the items to your cart to see the discount. If you don’t see an option in the listing for bulk pricing, then tiered pricing will come into effect.
Discounts for Yarn and Fiber
Yarn discount pricing applies to any items purchased from the handspun yarn category. Since I very rarely have more than one of each skein, it only made sense for the discount to apply to any yarn in the category. This will also apply to fiber braids when they come available (for more on that, keep reading…).
Any items where there is only 1 left and will be retired after sold, will be moved to the sale/clearance section until sold. I’ve also decided that any items that I create that there is only 1 of, will be available on Etsy only. I find these items better suited to Etsy as they get more views quickly.
I still will be running sales from time to time on top of the built-in discounts, or in replacement of. I wanted to be sure the opportunity was always there to save instead of waiting for a sale. If you are a small business in Canada looking for stock I can do better with wholesale pricing. Fill out this form to inquire.
Adding a Gift Note to your Order
Etsy already gives an option to add a gift message to orders, and I’d say the majority of orders I get are for gifts. I have changed the wording to the “order notes” section in the checkout to give a place for customers to write a small message to go with their order. I will include your message in a small handmade note card. Usually I handwrite these messages, but if you include special characters then they will be printed on a label and included that way. I’m happy to offer this little extra free of charge.
The following products are available on Etsy only, and they are OOAK (One of a Kind) or only 1 left (usually made up of charms I have had leftover from past custom work either personal or for customers):
I’ve been catching up with photographing new products so I hope to have many more items available in the coming month.
Fiber braids! I’ve started photographing my available braids of fiber (mostly merino top, with a few exceptions) to start listing for sale, and I’ll have much more once I start dyeing commercial yarn. I like to dye fiber in tandem to either test the color or to use up excess dye. I’m going to put the fiber up for sale hereon the website only first, and gauge the interest. Price is a struggle especially with inflation and Canadian shipping charges. I usually don’t get paid for my time. I hope to have a few up by next month’s update.
Finally, I will be adding a short video of products to the listings. This option is already available on Etsy, and I thought it was such a shame that I was not offering the same visual representation here on the website. Once I get it set up I’ll start adding videos to the products. It’s not for every product, particularly some of the older ones, but I’ll work toward filming those in the future. As a visual person, I know I appreciate seeing items in “real time” as video gives a better idea of size, how it moves/wears, etc.
That was one heck of an update! I hope you are inspired to try to flow through your day, if only for a portion of it.
“Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.”
– Lao Tzu
As with most of our lives these days, June did not go as planned, at least with my creative endeavours! I had laid out a plan of what to update, what to revamp, re-price and how to execute it all, but per usual, the creativity had other plans. Mostly, it’s taking me a lot longer to finish the goals I had laid out for the month of June. Things weren’t, shall we say, cooperating. Projects would take a completely different turn. On top of it all I’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden (something I should have anticipated!) and on (much needed!) day trips with the fam.
In the end I decided to go with the flow. I’m enjoying the refinement of some older products and listings here on the website. I have some new features coming to make shopping simple, easy & affordable. I don’t mind that it is taking me longer as I think it will be a benefit long term.
One of the biggest epiphany’s I had last month, was that I want to concentrate on making the website more about bulk ordering and Etsy would be the place for individual products. Not to say you can’t order just one thing here on the website, I want the option for discounts up front if you were to order more than one product. To go even further, I have set up a contact form for wholesale/bulk orders for small businesses, events or fundraisers that would be interested in my creations.
Offering bulk ordering sets me up for my future goal to offer my products to local and small Canadian businesses in the future, and reward shoppers in general for supporting my work.
The first step was to try out a new bulk pricing plugin and I now offer bulk discounts on my engraved advocacy charms. It takes a bit to come up with the proper pricing, but I am happy with the outcome. I also revamped the advocacy charms to a more simple design/offering, as that seems to be the most preferred, and easier for me for bulk orders. I manually engrave these charms at time of order which can be time consuming as well as very hard on my already bad shoulder. It was important for me to streamline the design to something I could execute quickly.
New Cool Tool: E-spinner
I mentioned in a past blog post that I was considering an electronic spinner. I went for it with an affordable design from Dreaming Robots! I had my eye on this tool since first seeing it on Instagram a while back. I also had plans to buy a SpinOlution e-spinner since I own the parts that would work with it already, but they never got back to me as the best way to order it and have it delivered to me in Canada. So for now, we’ll stick with Maurice’s wonderful design that is a dream to work with! I even bought the battery pack her recommended so now I don’t even have to contend with plugging it in when I use it.
Bonus: I really wanted a yarn counter to make dividing up my yarn for sale more easy, so I got one of those too!
I’ve been so busy playing around with new features on the website, I didn’t feel inspired to run a particular sale or coupon code this month, but you can always check out what’s in the sale/clearance section or see what’s on sale on Etsy.
I’m sure I have not quoted the original of that saying properly, thus why I could not find the original source, but it describes me perfectly. I love the road less travelled, stomping down my own path and finding new ways to approach life and its challenges.
June has to be one of my favourite months of the year. It’s the winding down of some activities, such as my children’s schooling, and the start of new projects, such as growing season! I also get the itch to dye fiber and yarn since it dries so beautifully outside in the warmer temps. More about that later…
June Studio Project Update
I’m afraid this update won’t be terribly interesting except to prove I am still alive and well. I wish I had an update full of new goodies to share, but I’ve been concentrating on starting my garden as well as refining the products I currently have. I’m also working towards my goal of offering more bulk and wholesale items to hopefully support local markets/small businesses in the future. I’ve also been doing some much needed updating and refining of the website…just like every month. 😉 When you have your own platform vs selling on a platform, it’s a ton of work. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love having my own little corner of the internet.
I ordered a few more skeins to add to the commercial yarn I previously purchased for dyeing. I made a fairly sizeable investment (at least for me) in commercial yarn so that I could offer commercial indie dyed yarn along side my handspun. Fingering, DK and worsted weight merino or merino/nylon mixes, and some 100% cotton as well. I’m finding I’m a bit apprehensive to get started. I’m working towards having a group of colorways that I could replicate vs my typical OOAK (one of a kind) stuff. Luckily I’ve done a ton of dyeing over the years and have taken good notes so I think I have some good to go. That said, I want to take my time to do things correctly and that usually means I end up procrastinating. I know I have to just…jump in there, but that perfectionist in me is always afraid to get started.
I think once I get the massive amount of 3-ply BFL spun that I can use for the test dyes I’ll feel much more prepared to start. I haven’t spun in a few days due to getting struck down with a major migraine. I am totally bummed: the last time I had this bad a migraine was in January, right after Christmas, and I was becoming confident that my new regime was finally going to rid me of these debilitating headaches. I normally get one a month, so to go almost 6 months without one is huge! I really wish I had access to a hyperbaric chamber, as my migraines are due to a head injury, I think that would help immensely with healing once and for all. After 28 years, I’m anxious to get rid of these once and for all, and not through pharmaceuticals which just mask the issue.
What creative projects will you be working on at the cottage or poolside this year? Or maybe you are preparing to do some winter knitting in the southern hemisphere. I’m going to do some simple projects in the evening, to use up odds and ends yarn. Below is an example of odd and ends knitted up in a pair of worsted weight socks.
Every so often I purchase a pretty fingering weight sock pattern that I vow to do but truthfully I am so tired in the evenings I’d rather work on something simple and automatic. Lately I’ve been doing socks since I have a basic pattern that fits my feet memorized and I can finish a pair of worsted weight socks in 2-3 evenings. I even do toe-up so that I don’t have to do that dreaded kitchener stitch.
A few of my other worsted weight socks I’ve made, hand-dyed by moi. Now, to tackle the odd and ends of handspun. This will be more challenging as I will have to match up the sizes/gauges, and my handspun tends to be more varied in sizes.
“You realize that all along there was something tremendous within you, and you did not know it.”
I’m calling May the month of (re)Vision: Vision being the key word! Last month’s contemplation and urge for change has lead me to a to-do list of revamping and re-branding.
One thing that has always served me well is visualizing what I want and bringing it to fruition. Many times I cannot see the forest for the trees, however! When you are so immersed in a topic or situation (LIFE!) it’s hard to know for sure which direction to take, what to let go of, and what to change.
Comtemplation and Change
Last month’s Etsy strike was just what I needed to refocus and contemplate what do *I* want going forward. It’s easy to get caught up in the game of: what will sell and what (I think) everyone else wants. I have a good base of product so I have time to play and explore the next level, especially with yarn & fiber. I’ve been reevaluating my products, and giving everything a freshen up: either new photos, a revamp or retirement, if necessary.
I also made a wishlist of what I want to make going forward, particularly with fiber. One thing I’ve been toying with, is whether I should add an espinner to my spinning collection. Ok Leilani, you already have FOUR spinning wheels. As much as I love my treadle power, I can’t help but be curious to see how the electric version measures up. What can I say? I love to spin!
What I’m Working On
Part of the re-branding process: New Business cards! What do you think?
Another item on the VISION list: a static collection of dye combinations for yarn & roving. I’ve also acquired several skeins of commercial spun yarn that I can also dye. In the past I have spun my own bare yarns to dye, as spinning dyed roving and dyeing finished yarn gives two completely different looks. But I came to realize that it will be some time for me to spin a decent amount for sale, and I’d like to get making when the inspiration hits. I also realize some people prefer to knit commercial yarn, which is totally cool too! So it’s a goal of mine to offer both in the near future.
Clearing Out Dyed Roving
Right now I’m thinking about offering the dye combinations in roving, commercial & handspun yarn: full skeins and mini skein sets. Until then, I think I will list for sale some of my hand dyed merino top. I divide this roving into 4oz braids for my own spinning projects, but I may even split them into 2oz as you’d still spin a fair bit with half, especially with a drop spindle.
Now I have to do a bit of grumbling. I’ve found it particularly difficult to find suppliers in Canada for bulk bare yarn or yarn cones. One mill didn’t even respond to my request. I find this an issue time and time again in this country. I either can’t find what I want, can’t get companies to respond to me, or they are not open to my request (which is fine). But it means I have to go to tried and true companies in the US that I’ve used for years who are happy to take my money and do so with the utmost professionalism.
20+ years as a maker who buys large lots of product be it packaging, jewelry components or fiber and this has been a constant problem. Maybe there are better leads via word of mouth…! Either way, I often feel like there are so many missed opportunities for great partnerships in Canada.
No New Products this month, but there is a Sale
No new products for this month as I work on branding and new possibilities, and it may be for awhile, yet (we are heading into mercury retrograde, afterall 😉 ).
I didn’t have time to prepare a sale in time for Mother’s day, but in honor of all the moms, of which I am one, I am offering 20% off all products in the “Personalized Items” section for the rest of May. Here’s a few products from that section:
I’m running a sale om Etsy as well, if you prefer to purchase there. It’s 10% off items in the Necklaces and Pendants section, as well as a few other clearance markdowns. I cannot offer as deep of a discount there, as their fees have gotten really high.
April Showers bring…spring snowstorms. As I sit here and type this, there is 10cm of snow outside and the wind has picked up. I’m confused if it is April or December! Therefore, it’s good day to pour a cup of tea and write my April Update.
“Hello there! Last week I received a gift that a friend bought for me from your store – 2 glorious skeins of green merino-silk-angelina, along with 2 charming stitch markers. I just wanted to let you know that it is a complete dream to crochet with, and has kick-started a creative drive in me that I thought was asleep for good. Many many thanks for all your beautiful work!”
I cannot stress enough how much this message made my day! Yes, we always like to hear positive feedback about our work, but this means so much more to me. Because this customer has been *inspired* to create again with something *I* created. I feel privileged to know my purpose in life: live an inspired life, and inspire others. Needless to say this comment has inspired *me* to continue to keep creating. Truly, what goes around, comes around…
The Trouble with Shipping, and the Hindrance it places on a Positive Shopping Experience
I’ve written several times about the shipping conundrum. If you are a small business you really rely on the mail to get your goods where they need to go. If you are in Canada, like me, you rely heavily, if not exclusively, on Canada Post. Cost of shipping with Canada post has been rapidly increasing over the past few years. Plus the strain that the lockdowns created in 2020 threw delivery standards out the window.
Although Canada Post is reliable in the sense that packages eventually get to where they go, higher volumes mean that it can take longer for packages to reach their destination. In an Amazon Prime world, people aren’t as patient to wait for the goods they paid for. For cheaper items, I have no choice but to send the padded envelopes via regular mail, and when they are taking longer than usual to arrive, customers get anxious as there is no tracking number.
A Shipping Example
Why not send everything with tracking? Let’s take that order for yarn, quoted above. The order sold for $43. Of that $43 dollars, $21.43 was spent on shipping. It was going to Ontario, which is in Eastern Canada. I am located in this region as well (Maritime provinces). As it is a bulky item, the tracking option is the only way to ship, there is nothing cheaper. And this rate is with me squishing the yarn into a mailer envelope, which I really dislike, but have to do in order to keep the shipping costs as minimal as possible.
So $21.43 for a bulky envelope of yarn, leaves me with $21.57 for two skeins of yarn that I made from scratch. Nevermind the packaging and little extras I also include. And the Etsy fees I pay as this order was purchased via Etsy. If you think makers sell their goods to make money, you might want to think again…
So let’s say someone buys a stitch marker set for $17. If I were to send this with tracking, the price would be the SAME as the bulky envelop of yarn. $21 to send a $17 item. I instead, purchase an oversized stamp for just under $2. The item ships regular mail with no tracking, but you can understand why.
Understanding and Patience is Key
A platform like Etsy would say, just increase your prices. But how much is one willing to pay for a stitch marker set? How do I stay competitive on the platform when there are US makers whose shipping costs are considerably less?
I’m not looking to gouge people, I want them to enjoy my creations! I want my customers to feel that they paid a fair price. If I wanted to become rich I would have stopped making ages ago.
I’m also not trying to complain, just to educate. I make it a point to turn around my orders as quickly as possible, usually in 1 business day. If you waited a little longer to receive your handmade package from an artist or maker, please be patient, and don’t give them less than a 5 star review if you truly loved your item. Trust me, if I could hand deliver all my orders, to say thanks in person, I would.
Also, you can trust that if your package ever goes missing I will honor your order with either a refund or replacement. Simply contact me by hitting reply on your order confirmation email. I always get back to people right away so if there is a delay, please email me directly.
An Etsy Strike is A-Brewing
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Etsy corporate stating that there would be a fee increase, 30% higher starting April 11th. To be honest, I’m pretty low key on Etsy, and not up with the politics within the community. Not since the last mass exodus of sellers in 2012. I’ve been on Etsy since 2008, and I started selling on the platform about a year later. I’ve been around with all the ebb and flow of change as it has evolved as a company. I would not exactly call the platform exclusively handmade anymore, since it is full or re-sellers. Buyer beware is certainly warranted.
Recently I learned that several Etsy Shops will be going on strike starting April 11th. Their demands are as follows:
Cancel the fee increase.
Crack down on resellers with a comprehensive plan that is transparent, so sellers can hold Etsy accountable.
Give ‘Golden’ support tickets to sellers affected by extreme AI actions (account termination, 45/90 day holds, etc.)
End the Star Seller Program.
Give all sellers the ability to opt out of off site ads.
Etsy and Me
I stay there because I really like the customers. For the most part, Etsy buyers get the handmade maker philosophy. I keep it as a low-key avenue for customers. I don’t make enough $$ there to be forced into paying for advertising, like some sellers who use Etsy as their primary income.
So when I got the email about a price increase, I shrugged it off as, what can you do? Until I happened to stumble on info on the strike via Twitter. Although I am small beans on Etsy, I’m going to participate in the Etsy strike in solidarity of the makers who rely on Etsy to make a living. I agree whole heartedly with their demands, though I’m very pessimistic that Etsy would ever listen to their sellers.
So I will be putting my Etsy Shop in vacation mode on April 11th, until at least the 18th. I may go a little longer, and take the month to research other avenues to get my work front and center to customers. You can come here to my website to purchase my items, or to contact me for any reason.
The Future is Unknown and What I’d love to Happen Going Forward
If I were to put it out there, what would I want to see for my little handmade endeavour going forward? Obviously, affordable shipping would be high on my list! But past that, I’d love to expand to reach more Canadians, and not just singular item orders, but bulk and wholesale to small retail shops that cater to handmade, or local yarn stores. I can give such a better price if I work and ship in bulk.
I’d love to streamline my sales to come through this website and discontinue using 3rd party platforms. But with a receptive audience built in and me wanting more time to create I simply don’t see myself leaving Etsy anytime soon. In fact, the answer may be to go back and diversify the platforms I use. I stopped doing that for simplicity, but here I sit again wondering how to reach more customers without being glued to my computer hours on end. I already dropped social networking for that reason: too much time taken up when I could be making fantastic things!
This Month’s New Products
April is my birthday month! Despite rising costs with shipping and supplies, I wanted to offer a discount to say thanks! Creating literally saved my life over 2 decades ago. I am grateful to be here today to share my gifts with you all.
Save 18% on your order of $50+ for the month of April* with code: BIRTHDAYMONTH *excludes sale items
It would be my pleasure to also include an additional small gift with your purchase.
“The harder it gets, the closer you are” – Steven Chopade
It always seems that the closer one gets to the end of a task or period of time, one gets the most impatient. That’s certainly me these days, impatiently waiting for spring to start! Thankfully the piles of snow are quickly receding: I almost forgot what my deck and yard looked like!
Today the temperature reached 9 degrees celcius. It’s sunny, and I’m getting my seed starting materials out. Soon it will be time to start some seeds indoors, though I could be starting onions now. Funny how a temp like 9 degrees is exciting and warm this time of year! Come fall we’ll be literally shivering in our boots when the temps reach single digits!
I wish I had some exciting news to report, but honestly I’ve just been taking care of housekeeping. Literally. Spring must be coming because I have been in a cleaning and organizing mood! Besides my house and studio, this sentiment also includes my website and Etsy shop. I’ve been cleaning up descriptions, updating info and freshening up listings. And as usual, I have a ton of new items to photograph and get listed, that will probably take me all year to get through – HA!
I’ve been working on using up my fisherman’s wool that I’ve had kicking around for years, long before I started spinning. Fisherman’s wool is worsted weight, and it’s been so cold this winter, I decided to make some more pairs. The thicker socks are almost like a slipper sock, though I wear these in my boots as well. They keep my feet toasty warm. I’m currently working on my 6th and probably final pair of socks with the Fisherman’s wool.
Click on each photo to be taken to the listing for the item. Also available on Etsy, should you prefer to shop there. Pricing structure is slightly different due to listing fees.
These pewter Celtic knot charms have been around for quite some time, but wasn’t inspired to make anything with them, until recently. I acquired some larger freshwater pearls and I immediately liked the look of the larger darker pearls with this pendant. I’m trying to expand my offerings for good quality items that are not precious metal. With the rising cost of…everything, I want to make sure I have products available with a broad price point so that there is a little bit of everything for everyone.
I’ve relisted These 10mm faceted gemstone earrings with the stones I currently have available: amethyst, golden tiger eye and onyx. But one pair or a set of all 3. I used to have more stones available but am sold out and will not be restocking (at least for now).
This is an older product that I sold years ago on my old website, now available once again. This petite awareness ribbon is gold plate over sterling silver. The rest of the necklace is gold-filled. You can find out more about gold-filled in this blog post.
Gold is the color awareness ribbon for childhood cancers, which is what I originally bought these charms for (by customer request). I would say if you prefer to wear gold jewelry and have a specific cause that is near and dear to you, to not let the officially meaning deter you. This piece is nice and dainty: perfect for daily wear.
Living near a beach (albeit a cold one!) draws me to all things beach related. I adore the ocean and love living near it. This necklace can be personalized with a initial charm that I manually engrave. Sterling silver chain. The pendant is culinary grade pewter. You can learn more about these charms and their wonderful detail and quality in this blog post.
I’ve decided to amalgamate all the personalized products that are offered in both silver and gold, for ease of comparison and ordering. The horse and bunny necklace from this original collection are now only available in silver, and as of now I am not planning to restock the gold.
I’m off to enjoy this lovely end-of-winter day. Possibilities. So delicious…
I can only describe the start of our year as….blah…we all as a family were dragging after all the Christmas hype. Plus, I have my typical winter dry cough that comes along with this lack of humidity and running our pellet stove constantly. It’s so much fun to have a chronic cough in the era of covid hysteria. 🙄
So I took the first few weeks of January essentially off…I filled orders, but I didn’t jump in with my usual zest for getting the year started. I did tell myself I would slow down this winter, so it’s not exactly a loss. I was mostly on the couch: knitting, reading and watching TV/internet broadcasts. My cats were thrilled to have a couch buddy! The lack of energy from being burnt out afforded me the chance to work on small projects that I’ve been meaning to get to anyway.
Latest Projects and Gadgets
My husband was going to buy me the interchangeable Kollage knitting needles set as a Christmas gift, but I stopped him. I already have so many types of needles, it seemed really frivolous to buy yet another set. But by Christmas end, I was still thinking about these needles, and decided to go ahead and buy them (with DH’s blessing. We decided to not exchange gifts this year. Just a few treats instead). Shout out to Darn Yarn here in Nova Scotia. I found them on kollage’s website as a distributor, and I was impressed at how quickly I received my order. I would definitely buy from them again, and would recommend!
I may do a separate post on the kollage needles once I’ve used them for awhile, but so far, so good!