23 May, 2018

Excited for PNW Fibershed's System Map

     Well, this is exciting!  Pacific Northwest Fibershed now has a map of producers of local fibre, local dyes, and local labour at www.bit.ly/Fibershed-crowdmap.  It's called Mapping the Domestic Fiber System, and it's on Google.  It's done in partnership with Ecotrust.
     While Pacific Northwest Fibershed is primarily concerned with producers in its own region, it appears that the map is meant to cover the whole United States.  At least, there are entries from other places.
     Appears that to qualify for a producer listing, you don't need to fall into an official Fibershed affiliate area or need membership in an affiliate.  This is a boon to regions like mine which are only partially covered and lack a producer program.  But, as they say on Air Farce, I'm not bitter.
     Do you produce Fibershed goods or services?  The map is crowd-sourced, so you can add your listing.
     Do you buy local fibre, local dyes, local milling and spinning services, local patterns, local tools, local knitting, weaving, dyeing, or design services, local seeds for dyes or fibre, local fibre arts books, or local fibre arts instruction?  Please give the link to your sources and urge them to add a listing.
     I am still trying to clothe myself with pieces made with natural fibre, plant-based dyes (or naturally-coloured fibre), and fair labour in order to make my life more eco-friendly, beautiful, comfortable, and interesting.  Traceable local materials or labour are a bonus.  So if you're on the map, I might buy from you.  My stack of real indigo J.Crew tees are getting a little faded and shabby.
     And there are 14 000 Ravelry users who give their location as within 100 miles of Richmond, Virginia who probably want to buy good stuff too.

19 May, 2018

Somebody Set Up Fibershed Virginia, Please

     I've been talking to shepherds who raise fibre and small business owners who serve fibre artists, and I think there is a need in Virginia for a non-profit or a business to help connect sellers and buyers, and support both.  Have a look at Fibershed's Producer Program and their publicity work and education events.  I wish someone would set up an affiliate Fibershed here.  There is a Fibershed affiliate that covers part of Virginia but I've heard it does not have a producer program, only an education program.
     I think there is consumer demand for textile products that are exceptionally beautiful and functional, raised humanely, produced and delivered in an environmentally-friendly way, presented so that the customer can connect emotionally with the producer, and sold in a way that makes it easy for the customer to buy and use the product.  It probably means e-commerce and in-person sales at public markets.
     Additionally, the products and services should let people be themselves but more so, in an area they deem important to them personally.  I've seen wool let people be generous, be connected with peers, be connected with charismatic stars, show love to family, show their fandom or taste or profession, be a nature lover, be a mentor, be a planner, be a collector, be a savvy shopper, be thrifty, be extravagant or self-indulgent, be a patron, be interesting, and (of course) be a maker.  And in some cases, whatever their thing was, that was their life.  Honestly.  Marry that with a product of remarkable beauty from a seller they know, like, and trust, and (in my experience as a seller) people quit caring about the price tag and just buy.
     E-commerce can be tough for producers to arrange.  In my shopping experience, shepherds and mills are open for business but often it is difficult to see and buy their current stock of goods and services.  Right now as a customer you have to be in the know and making a real effort.  Producers will put up a static webpage (often outdated, saying things like "we're really excited about the sheep shearer coming in Spring 2014!") and expect customers to phone them and inquire.  It's like asking people to click.  Chances are they won't.  Or they are focussed on selling breeding stock or milling services, and missing the person who wants to buy yarn or a fleece.  Also, most fiber websites have poor graphic design.  In contrast, the Fibershed website is gorgeous.  Fibre buyers are highly attuned to colour and design.
     Markets are hard.  Like, farmers' markets and festivals.  I've lost sleep before vending at a market.  I've driven over four hours roundtrip to be a vendor.  I've been asked to be a vendor at a festival so far away that I couldn't make the opening time without a hotel stay, so I had to pass.  I've endured cold rainy weather vending in a popup tent outdoors.  I've had trouble securing someone to help me set up and to watch the merchandise while I take a bathroom break.  The tent and the merchant fee can be costly.  But there's nothing like being Johnny-on-the-spot for sales.
     Production challenges are an issue that the Northern California Fibershed supports.  I don't know if that is so much of a need in Virginia in the sense of wool going to waste because no one is there to mill it like in Northern California.  Money is leaving the region: I know two or three Virginia-based yarn merchants who send their wool out of state for milling, and I know of another yarn merchant that does its own milling but sends materials out of state for washing.  I once heard from a shepherd who was having trouble finding breeding stock for a rare breed.
     Customer education is needed.  I believe there are buyers out there willing to pay for beautiful textiles they can feel good about, who have no clue what to ask for, how to ask, where to ask, or how much to pay.  Or even that these things exist.  In my experience demonstrating handspinning in public, they have the most basic of questions.  Ten years ago I was like them myself.  A middleman could help.  In the Northern California Fibershed, they've been able to connect some pretty big corporate clients with producers.
     There is also an appetite for education from sophisticated buyers and from producers.  I know handspinners and weavers that travel out of state to hear speakers and take workshops, and they buy books and DVDs.  Rita Buchanan (A Weaver's Garden) is the only fibre arts author I know that wrote in Virginia.  Oh, and Max Hamrick (Organic Fiber Dyeing: The Colonial Williamsburg Method).  Equipment and materials too, the majority of the stuff used by the dozens of handspinners, weavers, dyers, and knitters I know comes from out of state.  And I see a lot of money being spent, these people have disposable income and time.  I can think of one nationally-known manufacturer of equipment in Virginia, Strauch Fiber Equipment Co.
     The director of such a non-profit or business, as I propose, would need to know about business, and consult, publicize, hold events, apply for grants, and conduct research.  Or manage a team that does.
     Before you ask, that person is not me.  My joy is systems thinking and giving people useful information: I'd do that for free.  You couldn't pay me to be in charge of other people's actions.  Or liaise for a living.
     Some of the functions of such an organization are covered in our region by local guilds, fibre festivals, and breed-specific sheep breeder associations and the Virginia Sheep Producers Association.  Other resources include
     I've learned from the SBDC, bought from Local Harvest, bought and sold on Etsy, learned from the Etsy Success podcast and Seller Handbook, learned from the SBA and IRS, and advertised on Ravelry.  I'm waiting to hear back from SCORE.
     What actions can you take, assuming you agree but you're not going to set up Fibershed Virginia yourself?  Write to VDACS to tell them about the Fibershed model, say you think there is an underserved market in Virginia, and tell them specific stories of why this is true.  Tell them why it's important, relating this to their mandates for conservation, economic development, etc.
     Wear beautiful traceable textiles in your daily life, and be prepared to do show and tell and make referrals to your sources.  Throw some work their way.  Distribute brochures for fibre festivals.  Spin yarn, knit, or weave in public.
     Talk to young people about the possibility of finding work in the fibre arts, and about the small scale production equipment available such as mechanized carding machines, e-spinners, knitting machines, floor looms, and mini mills from a company like Belfast Mini Mills.  Consider a Kickstarter campaign to buy a young person equipment and training to set them up in business.  Connect young people who need work experience with fibre small businesses who need services like graphic design, web design, photography, marketing, and social media tutorials.
     Send shepherds encouraging notes, maybe with photographs of them at events that they can use for publicity, and ask them how it's going.  Tell personal fibre stories on social media.  Help a guild or an arts centre apply for a grant.  Refurbish old wheels and looms to keep them in service.  Run a seminar or workshop for the public to show them the possibilities of fibre arts.  Develop and publish educational materials like handouts or booklets.  Pray (or whatever you do instead of praying) for take-charge people to get involved and carry through.  I'm sure you'll think of something.  Thanks.
     I plan to start by writing to VDACS, and then order some cloth reusable shopping bags to dye with indigo, walnut, and madder, to use as a conversation starter when I shop.  I plan to demonstrate handspinning at a farmers' market next weekend, knit in public for WWKIP day the week after, and demonstrate either handspinning or språng at a museum the week after that.  I also plan to read Light: Science & Magic, an introduction to photographic lighting by Hunter, Biver, and Fuqua with hopes of fixing the white balance on my online listings.
     And you?

12 May, 2018

Till the Dye Runs Clear

     Once there was a handspinner who went to an indigo dye workshop, and came home and applied what she learned to some wool.  But the indigo rubbed off on skin and spindle.
     You don't want indigo to be rubbing off on your skin and turning your hands blue.
     Off into the reference book and cyberspace went the handspinner in search of a solution.  Into some very hot water and Synthrapol went the rest of the wool.  Many, many basins of wash water later, the handspinner resolved not to dye any more wool with indigo.  Even though the colour was so very, very beautiful, it just wasn't working out.  When the roving dried out, it was so felted, it could not be spun.  Again, not good.
     Now, linen or cotton cloth, I would still dye that with indigo because it can go in the washing machine with Synthrapol.  It is possible to take wool fabric, full it, dye it, and full it again in the washer, but the amount of washing I went through would probably push the fabric past the useable point.
     I recently interviewed a few shepherds and posted the videos on YouTube.  In one interview near the end, Kim Harrison talks about fulling her handwoven fabric from her flock.



     Dyers accept that some natural dyes are not colourfast, but almost everyone else in the Western World expects all dyes should be colourfast, whether natural and synthetic.
     You may be wondering why I got blindsided by that much crocking.  The answer is, the original rinse water was pretty clear.  However, that was washing with regular dish soap and that wasn't good enough.  I just didn't know.
     I've read in a couple of places that indigo crocking is a result of improper dyeing.  I followed the recipe properly.  I have also followed the recipe for a fructose vat and hardly got any colour.  Perhaps I need new fructose.  That problem, as the French say, is another pair of sleeves.  Indigo has that variable ratio reinforcement thing going, it keeps you engaged.

05 May, 2018

Areas where I try to be Eco-friendly

     I try to be eco-friendly, including in fibre arts.
     Recently I commented on an article online, a comment about how I try to be eco-friendly with my company, and I've copied the gist of my comment below.  Eco-friendliness is not the The Goal (and I recommend that book for anyone who produces anything), but it is a subordinate goal for my shop.
     I pack sprang loom kits with eco-friendly packing peanuts, and I let the customer know she can take the peanuts into any shipping store for reuse.  For small boxes I've been using plastic bubble wrap that has been used once already but I plan to go back to Caremail Greenwrap, which is paper that is specially cut to act like bubblewrap.  It looks more green and customers can recycle it.  I'll give the plastic stuff to a friend who also ships her work.
     I source most of my wooden fibre arts tools like looms and shuttles from big leaf maples* on Vancouver Island, Canada so I know that wood is not poached or endangered.  I use a non-toxic linseed varnish.  The indigo-dyed (naturally-dyed) t-shirt I sell is organic, so made with less pollution.  The wall hanging I sell is un-dyed, naturally green cotton, so it is bio-diverse and gives less pollution.  The natural dye kit materials are sourced from Maiwa in Vancouver, a company with good ethics.  I sell to handspinners a wool "tasting" kit of different sheep breeds' wool, which promotes biodiversity and preservation of endangered breeds.
     Some of the rose beads I sell are made from organic rose petals.  I use Rio Grande's recycled cardboard jewellery boxes, and I send them my silver scraps from lost wax casting for reuse.  A small portion of the silver I use is Argentium which is definitely recycled, and my metal instructors tell me the rest of Rio's silver is probably recycled.  Rio sells a machine to etch copper and silver using electricity and a chemical instead of a harsh chemical etching solution.  I was looking at it, but the safety data sheet's waste disposal instructions for the chemical are still pretty serious.
     I've re-used elastic bands from my cardboard takeout containers to tie-dye linen fabric for a product in development.  Linen is made from flax plants and has less pollution than cotton.  I plan to see if the local health food store will save their disposable gloves for me to wear while dyeing.  I buy from them water for dyeing that is filtered from municipal water and packaged in reusable jugs so less waste, and less pollution because the water isn't shipped in.
     Our power company lets you pay a surcharge to support renewably-generated electricity, and I do that.
     Water pollution, landfill, deforestation, and species extinction seem like such a shame to me.  A waste.  And not especially safe for people.
     If I was really pure, I would collect water for dyeing in a rain barrel and bicycle my way to the post office with orders, but I'm not.
     Fibershed, which is one of the influences on my work, has changed over the years to put more emphasis on pollution reduction, specifically carbon sequestration through grazing of sheep.**  I am still stuck on the natural dyes part which was more Fibershed's earlier message.  And it's not even the environment impact of dyes*** that gets me, though I appreciate that aspect.  Natural dyes give such a beautiful result.  And I think they are, as founder Burgess claims, healthier to wear than synthetic dyes.  Can't prove it.  But I think so.
     In my private work with the fibre arts, I don't know if there's much more that I do besides what I've already mentioned.  I suppose I consciously limit how much I buy, no S.A.B.L.E. for me.  I try to buy North American products.  I try to buy used equipment.  The only dye made from wood that I would ever use would be osage orange because the trees are considered too abundant in nature.  I've dyed with local black walnut hulls which are a waste product here in Virginia.  I rarely use silk but that's more out of concern for the working conditions in silk factories than anything environmental.  One day I'd like to get some secondhand silk clothing and dye it.  However, I have other things to get through before that.  I'm not used to having this long a to-do list, really.
     In other news around here, the språng demonstration went well last week.  The pillow I stuffed with shredded natural latex worked out well and only took 2.5 pounds of fill.  The indigo-dyed cotton pillow slip looks excellent.  I got more linen in my life by buying a stack of imperfectly-printed tea towels from a local artist's store, Pat Cully Illustrations.
   
     Update: health regulations prevent the store from saving disposable gloves for me.


*big leaf maple trees, or broadleaf maples, are interesting in that they have leaves the size of dinner plates.  They are pretty common on the Island.

**Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms had a great quote in a recent newsletter about the benefit of grazing animals: "making our soil great again."  I'd like to put that on a t-shirt.  I have a photo of a grazing ram to go with it.

***it's not just about water pollution, there's the possibility of taking invasive plant species and using them for dye.  Which I've done, with Scotch broom.

28 April, 2018

The Princess and the Pea, Right Here

     If you ever get the urge to stuff a pillow with 8 pounds of organic buckwheat hulls, don't.  Well, you might, but I found the result too firm.  Plus it's noisy when you move it.  If anyone has any suggestions for using the buckwheat hulls for something else, please let me know.
     I am going to try again with 4.5 pounds of organic natural shredded latex rubber, stuffing a pillow protector and a pillow slip that I threw into one of the indigo vats I ran this week.  I did a colour remover vat and a Spectralite vat following Jenny Dean's directions for the hydrosulfite indigo vat.  The Spectralite vat gave less colour.
     Will be demonstrating språng today at a local fibre festival.
     The handspinning demonstration, at a local museum last week, went well.  I used my spindle and gave away a lot of 8 inch-ish pieces of handspun wool yarn, mostly to children.

     Update: the latex pillow worked out very well.  It only took about 2.5 pounds of shredded latex.

21 April, 2018

Jacquard SolarFast Dye Fail

Jacquard SolarFast Dye on a tote bag
     I think I can fix the problems with this tote bag I dyed with Jacquard SolarFast dye.  The dye bled and it is too dark.  The image looks like it is positioned too low when the bag is full, even though the image is centred.  There is blue discolouration: it should be solid black but instead the dye is breaking apart in spots.  It was a warm day and there was some condensation under the glass and negative.  According to the manufacturer's FAQs (helpfully sent to me by the supplier Dharma Trading Co.), the discolouration is probably due to too much dye.
     It's pretty cool even with its faults.
     The sheep in the picture are local Gulf Coast Native sheep, and the picture is from an original photo I took.
     The bag is stuffed with some inexpensive drop spindles I made, and some wool, for a handspinning demonstration I'm going to today.

14 April, 2018

Building a Fort

     Metalwork still has me in its grip, for fun and for my shop (Rosetwist LLC on Etsy) and I've been doing yarn-y projects for the shop too: a språng loom kit and a språng wall hanging, and spot of indigo dyeing for spindle kits.  Using the good stuff, Blueface Leicester wool.  Since I sell a nålbinding needle, I figured I should have a shop sample of nålbinding cloth.  I tried the nice simple Oslo stitch, sitting with a friend and Viking re-enactor who knows how to do it.  Then I took it home and the pixies must have got hold of the piece when I wasn't watching, as it's not looking like it should.  Un-looping a few stitches hasn't helped me figure out how to start again.
     Because of all the shop projects going on, my personal yarn projects are no more complicated than a hemp seed stitch dish cloth.  I quite like how that's coming out.  Much better drape than the garter stitch ones I did a few years ago.  Less stretchy.  Also, I like being able to leave the project sitting out beside my chair overnight without worrying that moths will break in and steal.*
     I guess I did make something since I last blogged, a språng bag to give as a gift.  I broke my synthetic dye diet for that.  The colour was the polar opposite of my taste, too.  Anyway, it was a cute little bag.  Operative word being little, it came out half the size I was expecting two skeins to give.  I did one of my favourite patterns, the one from Skrydstrup, Denmark.  I like patterns I don't have to think much about when I'm doing them.  With the hemp knitted dish cloth, actually, I tried linen stitch and just couldn't hack it.  Strange because there's not much to the directions but that's how it is.

språng bag in Skrydstrup pattern

     The two wool sweaters are still unfinished and the Quince & Co. Sparrow swatches for the linen sweater have been abandoned, but only because I have switched yarns.  I got a couple of one pound cones from Catnip Yarns.  Isn't that a great shop name?  The owner specializes in undyed yarn, which is cool.
     With that and the two cones of hemp yarn from Hemp Basics, and all the one kilogram containers of dyes and additives from Maiwa (for my shop, dye kits are back in stock), I'm thinking of building a fort with it all.
     But yeah, the metalwork.  The planning.  The watching of old Craftsy classes plus a few new ones.  The ambition to try new techniques.  The signing up for local classes.  The careful choosing of materials.  Oh, the materials.  It's like buying wool.  I knew I had it bad when my Internet browser started to automatically fill in the URL with Rio Grande when I typed www.  I finally got together my sterling silver scraps from lost wax casting and sent them in to Rio Grande to get money out of them to buy silver sheet and wire.  Sort of like tossing the stash.
     I wish someone had told the Craftsy instructors how to pronounce Rio Grande properly.  Rhymes with Monday.  Everybody gets it wrong except Mark Nelson, which is no surprise since he works for the company.


*wee Bible joke: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matthew 6:19-21 KJV
The pixies were a joke, too.

10 March, 2018

Natural Dye Shopping List

This week I sold the last dye kit in my Etsy shop, Rosetwist LLC.  I have reordered supplies to restock.

In the meantime I thought I'd give you a shopping list of dyes for Maiwa, my supplier.  That way you can go direct.  It isn't the exact proportions you'd need, like the kit has.  It has the same dyes and additives as the kit I sold, but with larger quantities and some gallnut for mordanting cotton.  The total cost will be about double that of my kit, because it is more dye and also you are buying the smallest quantities Maiwa offers which means you don't get the bulk prices.  

Gallnut Extract 100g (3.6 oz.)
Fructose - 250g (8.82 oz.)
Calcium Carbonate 250g (8.82 oz)
Potassium Alum Sulfate 100g (3.6 oz.)
Weld 100g (3.6 oz.)
Walnut Husks Ground 100g (3.6 oz.)
Madder 100g (3.6 oz.)
Calcium Hydroxide (Calx) 60g (2.1 oz)
Indigo Natural 30g (1.1 oz.)

If you are wondering how to dye with natural dyes, Maiwa has informational guides about natural dyes at https://maiwa.com/pages/instructions including The Maiwa Guide to Natural Dyes: What They Are and How to Use Them, Indigo and Woad: Natural and Synthetic, and The Organic Vat.  The last one is also about indigo and includes the fructose vat, which is what the shopping list is meant to give.

In other news, I have made headway in my effort to have more linen in my life.  I bought a pair of linen socks from Rawganique.  They look like sports socks but they are linen instead of cotton, and they are undyed which goes well with my synthetic dye diet.  Wearing the socks feels as good as wading in the ocean barefoot.  Really.  And I very much like wading in the ocean, especially at Rathtrevor.

Finally, I have been making knitting-themed barrettes in copper and sterling silver.  Again, you can find them in my shop.  One is about weaving.  I don't know many weavers with hair long enough to wear a barrette but you never know.  There may be one out there in the market for a barrette that says "tromp as writ."  These barrettes are good for wearing to a fibre festival when it is too hot out to wear handknits.  Unless your handknits are linen, of course.  I haven't totally given up on the plan to knit a linen sweater.  We shall see.  Maybe a linen språng pullover like the wool one I did.  That would be amazing.

knitting-themed barrettes from Rosetwist LLC

04 November, 2017

Hairy-seeded Cotton


I separated some cotton from seeds for someone at our guild.  This cotton was grown here in Virginia.  The cotton variety is Nankeen, an old variety whose fibre was used to make breeches in the late 1700s.  (I owe knowledge of that fact to Colonial Williamsburg.)  The colour is undyed, naturally yellow-brown.  The seeds, the pile on the left in the photo, are hairy and it took some effort to pull the fibre off the seeds.  I've never separated smooth-seeded cotton, but I hear it is easier.

04 June, 2016

The Urge to Show and Tell

A couple of women were sifting through the bowl of my yarn-themed pin back buttons at a market a while back, laughing and pointing out the sayings to each other.  "That's so X!" they said about the "freshly handknit, please admire" button, referring to someone in their knitting group they found overly enthusiastic about show and tell.

"Is she a new knitter?" I asked.  When I first learned to spin and knit, I would bring my finished items to the attention of the more experienced handspinners I knew.  It was a way to say, I heard what you said to do, I applied it as best I could, and it's very exciting.

When I show and tell now, I'm more saying, this is possible, this is a result I'm after for these reasons, this is a benefit I'm trying to get through yarn, you can do this too.  Here is a display I did at a local farmers' market recently:

display for handspinning, knitting, weaving
It wasn't a patch on the other handspinner's display, though.  She had a piece of brown un-dyed cotton cloth she grew, spun, and wove.  She also had flax on a spindle.  Sometime I have to get a photo of her in her homegrown, handspun, handwoven green cotton vest.

homegrown un-dyed cotton handspun and handwoven into cloth
I am still working out the dynamics of traffic flow and weather for public demonstrations of fibre arts.  I really should have put up a tarp wall on the sunny side.  We were at the rear of the tent avoiding the sun and it was awkward to greet passersby from back there.  Shade might have helped us bear the humidity; hot weather makes it hard to spin wool.  The tables should have been in a line off to the side rather than an L at the front of the booth.  Sound is also an issue.  We were set up across from a dozen ukuleles with amplifiers.  So, fun but challenging.

28 May, 2016

Map of Yarnia

This is a letter I wrote to someone recently, about what I'd want people to know about yarn and the fibre arts.  

There are many benefits to having a hand in the production of textiles, whether it's knitting, weaving, handspinning, dyeing, processing fiber, or raising fiber.  You can know your clothes were produced with fair labour.  You can boost small-scale independent producers and family companies.  You can increase biodiversity and conserve endangered breeds and species of plants and animals that give fiber and dyes.  You can reduce pollution such as carbon from shipping or dye runoff in rivers from factories.  You can get more excellent technical qualities such as glossiness or reduced pilling, and more variety of colours and textures, and a better fit than you get in ready-made.  You understand more of the world's cultural heritage.  You can tinker and experiment.  You can take a project from plan to finished object, and have it just the way you want it.  You can stimulate or soothe your mind and body through the rhythmical motions of using the wheel or loom or needles.  You can repair a landscape by harvesting invasive species for dye.

But most people don't have the skills, don't even have the vocabulary to describe what they know from seeing textiles all their lives, and don't know where to start and who to ask.

Therefore, I recommend two routes.

The first route is for people who want the benefits but don't want to do the work.  You can find and buy from shepherds and knitters and weavers who sell finished goods to the public and who make things to order.  (But don't ask a hobby knitter to make you anything!)  You can find such folks in business by asking at yarn stores, art galleries, shepherds associations, and living history museums, or you can search online on places like Etsy and Local Harvest.  Ask for features like naturally green cotton and wool from black sheep.  Ask for real wool, linen, and cotton.  Moreover, you can give so others can do the work.  Give gifts of equipment, materials, and lessons to children in your extended families and local school classrooms.  You can donate to places dedicated to preservation and education such as The Livestock Conservancy, or any local arts education center that offers weaving, or therapeutic arts programs in prisons and hospitals.  You can do microloans or contribute to fundraising campaigns for local wool mills to buy new equipment.  You can pay for young people to learn how to shear sheep or keep sheep or build a spinning wheel.  Your vacation can be spent touring studios and farms in Peru or the Shetland Islands or New Zealand or your own region.  You can go talk to elderly people to see what they remember about their mothers' knitting.  You can let a dyer come pick your marigolds or gather your black walnut hulls.  There are guilds, which are groups or non-profit organizations that promote weaving, handspinning, or knitting, and you can volunteer your time to help these guilds apply for grants to educate the public.  Or you can provide public space for exhibits and demonstrations of a guild's work.  You can also challenge ready-to-wear companies to produce factory-made goods with integrity rather than stuff that rips off and poorly imitates the qualities of beautiful, labour-intensive, traditional handmade goods.  For example, recently a printed fabric has been widely sold that imitates the look of ikat and is sold as being ikat.  This is a deceptive practice.  Ikat is a type of hand-dyed and handwoven cloth.

The second route is to learn the skills and make stuff with yarn yourself.  You can, you really can.  There are how-to books and videos and blogs and the highly useful website Ravelry, there are suppliers out there, there are teachers and workshops and festivals, and there are many local guilds for handspinners, weavers, and knitters where you can go, get mentored, and see what's possible.  Look hard and you will find them.  Getting the skills will take time, money, effort, and grit.  Getting the tools and supplies will take up room and impact your family or housemates.  It will be as much effort as learning to drive or read.  It is worth it.

I should say, after they ask me how to spin basic yarn, almost all fibre arts newbies have the same two questions: where to buy fibre to spin and how to pick a spinning wheel.  The answer is, it depends on your goals and tastes.

I hardly ever advise knitter newbies or weaver newbies.  Interestingly, compared to finding materials and choosing tools for handspinning, with knitting it is much easier and usually cheaper and with weaving it is harder and usually more expensive, for a number of reasons.

When I knit or spin in public in front of non-fiber artists, after they ask me what I'm doing, their question is almost always, do I keep sheep.  Most handspinners I know don't.  I should start asking why they want to know.

So, that was the letter.

It's funny how newbies want to know where to find fibre and how to pick a spinning wheel.  They always ask the questions in that order.  They rarely ask me the reverse, how to pick fibre and find a spinning wheel.  I think that once they find fibre for sale, they find spinning wheels, and they are more confident about picking a fibre on their own.  There is more information published to follow about picking fibre.  Fibre is cheaper and simpler than spinning wheels are, so it feels like less of a risk.  Actually, a bad fibre choice can cost you a lot in lost time, wasted materials, and regret.  A spinning wheel can be reasonably easy to resell.

One additional way people can be a patron of the fibre arts is to rent meeting space to a guild at an affordable rate.  You'd be surprised how much this is needed.  Even better, rent space and provide secure and accessible storage space for the guild library and equipment.  For a meeting space in a commercial or religious building, expect nothing of the guild beyond the rental fee; that is, no expectation members will buy or buy in.  Let the guild secure their dates in advance, and do not mess with the schedule once set.

From my position of observing the fibre arts for years, it has been fun to draw conclusions in terms of sets and subsets.
For example, some knitters spin yarn.
Some knitters aspire to spin yarn and see that as the next logical step.
Some knitters see handspinning as the path to doom and getting overwhelmed.
Almost all handspinners knit; a few of them don't really like to knit but will do it, more for the product than the process.
Some handspinners weave.
Some weavers spin yarn but they weave far more with commercial yarn than they do handspun.
Handspinners buy a surprising amount of commercial yarn.
Handspinners usually know how to process fibre, that is, wash a fleece and comb or card it; however, most of the time they start with commercially-prepared fibre.
A lot of handspinners have tried dyeing yarn or fibre; a small number dye often but also work with commercially-dyed or un-dyed materials.
Some weavers dye their yarn after they wind the warp and before they dress the loom.
Most handspinners use a spinning wheel, many of them can use a spindle but see the wheel as primary, some use both, and a few use spindles only.
Handspinners who use spindles have usually tried most of the different types and have a clear preference for one of them.
A small number of handspinners own (or are owned) by great wheels.  A great wheels is about six feet long.  These handspinners find that getting a great wheel is sort of like catching an alligator.
Owning two or more Saxony or castle spinning wheels is common, and it's often because the wheels function differently.
It would be highly unusual for a handspinner in a Western country to spin yarn only on a charka or electronically-powered spinning machine; these usually go along with a collection of wheels.
Knitters often get leftover supplies dumped on them, handspinners do somewhat, and experienced handspinners often give samples of fibre to newbies for experimentation.
Weavers from time to time buy yarn and looms secondhand from elderly weavers who call it quits.
The average age of a weaver is older than a handspinner, comparatively few people start weaving, and succession planning is getting to be a concern.
The typical longtime weaver has a large, heavy floor loom and one of every other type of loom too.  When I say large, I mean the size of a small car.
The trend has been to smaller floor looms that can fold up even though it sacrifices some functionality.
Most weavers prefer using a floor loom over all other types and like 4 to 8 harness, though a few, the complex weavers, want far more harnesses.
A small but hardy band of fibre artists are fibre artists because they are doing experimental archaeology or historical re-enactment.
Some fibre artists raise fibre animals; some of them dream about doing that.  Many shepherds are not fibre artists.
The re-enactors want to raise fibre animals because they could have historically-accurate breeds and that would be cool.
Some fibre artists are gardeners or gleaners of materials for dyeing and spinning.
I was going to write that it is more common to see small finished objects at show and tell than large objects because the greater amount of necessary grit makes larger items more rare, but actually the numbers might be more even than that.
Small finished objects get admiration, large objects get admiration and respect.
Some fibre artists teach.
Some fibre artists go away to workshops, retreats, and festivals, even in other countries, and some (probably more of them) stay home.
Most fibre artists are curious, add to their knowledge and skills, and have goals for what they'd like to try.  Breadth of knowledge is admired.
Knitters in the past often made things according to standard rules of thumb and a cultural bank of combinations and arrangements of line and colour.  Now they are adapting and modifying patterns, trying patterns from many sources, grafting aspects of one pattern onto another, and trying to figure out handknit styles that no one does anymore.
Some knitters design and publish patterns, and work with other knitters to test the patterns.
Some knitters sell their knitted items and will take on commission work.  The first tend to be one-size-fits-all accessories, and the second tend to be customized.
Some weavers sell their items.  These tend to be either one extreme or the other, either art pieces or cotton towels.
Some handspinners sell their knitted or woven items but rarely sell handspun yarn or items made with handspun yarn.  If they do, the items tend to be things that only a handspinner could do, incorporating slubby yarn, tailspun yarn, or colour-blending.
Hand-dyers are much more likely to sell their items than knitters, handspinners, and weavers.  Usually a hand-dyer will either do fibre and yarn or they will do finished goods like cloth bags and pillow slips.  The techniques are different and the markets are different.
There are those that prefer natural dyes, those that prefer synthetic dyes, and those that prefer to go to a workshop where someone else sets up the pots and they take whichever is on offer.
Some guilds can mount a sale of members' works but in other guilds, members sell on their own or not at all.
Many fibre artists will give finished items as gifts to family for special occasions.  This is in contrast to generations ago where, I hear, getting a finished knitted item was rather expected and on the level with getting a packed lunch box.
A knitter of the past would have knitted for direct descendants.  Today, knitters feel the urge to knit for extended family, because their nieces, nephews, cousins, and whatnot might lead lives blighted by feckless parents who do not supply them with handknits.
Knitters label people as knit-worthy or not; that is, worthy of getting a knitted gift.  The key qualities to maintaining knit-worthy status are saying thank you, using the item, and washing it by hand; I'm not sure which is most important.  Some gift-giving knitters go to a lot of trouble to study a person's tastes and will knit with an easy-care yarn they dislike.

Of all the lofty benefits I listed in the first paragraph, most fibre artists go after about half of those benefits.  Mostly we mess with yarn because it's cool and makes us happy.  We like doing it and we like the result.  I'm not sure there is a number one reason why people do it.  A lot of them gush about the colours and softness of the materials.

For the people who look but never enter Yarnia and the fibre arts, the feeling I get from them is that they don't trust it would work out for them if they got into it.  This is probably why I like to make maps, as it were, and do public demos.

23 April, 2016

Silver Earrings for Weavers

So this week there is Earth Day and Fashion Revolution day, both good, and I am contemplating them for a moment then letting it go by in a blur because I have my head down making fibre-arts themed jewellery to sell at Powhatan's Festival of Fiber next week.

Weavers complain that festival vendors don't sell products for their craft.  So, I cast some silver earrings in the shape of tiny boat shuttles.

silver earrings for weavers by Rosetwist LLC

I recently found the podcast Conscious Chatter by Kestrel Jenkins and the article "Finding Local" by Niki Taylor in Seamwork magazine's April, 2016 issue.

I did order the linen knitting yarn, two sample balls of it.  It is the same gauge as the Bockens linen weaving yarn I have; the Bockens is much more tightly spun and plied.  I selected the natural white and natural grey, in my desire to avoid synthetic dye, and the shades appeal to me.

02 April, 2016

Oh, for a Linen Sweater

I have set aside the first grey mitten because there is something wrong with the gauge.  I need to fix it and just haven't.  Actually, I haven't made anything at all for three weeks, fibre or metal.  I have been resting and procrastinating on non-maker tasks.

I like to browse the online listings of a local auction house.  I like secondhand things and also material culture: it interests me to see what people had.  There is an estate sale up right now that includes something like ten storage tubs full of unfinished quilts.  Let this be a lesson to us all!

I've also been browsing Ravelry's project search function for finished sweaters, finished sweaters in linen, finished sweaters in undyed yarn, lace-weight finished sweaters, and handspun finished sweaters.  Many of the handspun sweaters were stockinette with thin stripes in multiple colours that were blurred and indistinct as they changed from one colour to another.  I would guess their owners spun the yarn from those 4 ounce bags of of roving dyed in multiple colours that have been so popular the last while.  There was a dainty Waterlily sweater, which is a solid colour in mostly stockinette stitch with some knitted lace at the yoke, knitted with the most beautiful linen yarn.  I went so far as to look up where to buy the yarn.  And then I thought of all the supplies I have already.  I may lack linen knitting yarn (and a nice linen sweater to wear) but there's a fair bit of linen weaving yarn, wool yarn, hemp yarn, wool roving, and raw fleece waiting for their turn.  I also have a 1990s thrift store linen sweater that might yield some knitting yarn some sweet day in the future.

Speaking of linen, and keeping in mind that I aim to get as much linen in my life as possible, I treated myself to a purchase of linen placemats from my favourite furniture and housewares store.  I don't know why I waited so long.

You may remember I had a booth at the Fiber Farmers' Market for the first time.  It went alright.  The best moments for me were when I talked to someone who was thinking about buying her first spinning wheel and to someone else who had an antique spinning wheel that needs restoration.  This probably makes me a terrible salesperson, because none of this has to do with the fibre arts-themed jewellery, tools, and supplies I sell.

Selling at a market is a very immediate thing, you have to focus on totting up prices and taking payment.  It is very different from the weeks before when you are planning ahead and watching products take shape under your hands.  I pushed myself to produce before the market.  I got some extra help from one of my metal instructors which enabled me to complete two necklaces with silver coins, one of an Australian sheep and the other of a handspinner with distaff and spindle.  I also finished a necklace with a silk cocoon pendant that I cast in silver.  I still need to get that one up for sale on the website.  Anyway, it put me in a good position, stock-wise, for my booth at Powhatan's Festival of Fiber which is coming up at the end of the month.

05 March, 2016

Just Keeping My Hand In

I am just keeping my hand in, as it were, by knitting a new mitten in grey store-bought wool for a family member.  Nothing big, nothing complicated or ambitious.  But hopefully useful.  I like usefulness.  The mittens are meant to coordinate with the hat with Fibonacci stripes I did.


One pair of my Susie's Reading mitts is complete and the others are sitting in a project bag with a little bit of work still to go.

My production efforts are in metal right now, making fibre-arts themed jewellery to sell at my booth, Rosetwist LLC, at the Fiber Farmers' Market in Vienna, Virginia on March 13.  I plan to have supplies and tools for sale as well.  If you look at the stock on my Etsy shop, I plan to bring all the wool-related items.  Please come and shop!  I've been to the market a number of times as a shopper and am glad to be going as a vendor this time.

knit purl earrings by Rosetwist LLC