May 27, 2019

"Getting More Satisfaction From Your Fiber" podcast episode

     You can hear TJ King interview me on her podcast The Peahen's Pondererings in episode six, "Getting More Satisfaction from Your Fiber" available on iTunes and Google or on her site here,
     We talk about stuff including the way I keep track of my works-in-progress and to-do list with the Kanban method.
     After the podcast was recorded, I asked David J. Anderson exactly what commitment to a work-in-progress (WIP) means in Kanban.  He defined commitment to a WIP as a commitment to deliver goods or a service to a customer.  Similarly, regarding the book The Goal, I said in the podcast that the goal in the book was for the factory to finish its work, but actually the goal for the factory was to get paid for the products they produced.  I hope that you get my point in the podcast that we do things for a payoff, and that with yarn, usually we are our own customers.  For a fiber artist the payoff can come from having a finished product or from enjoying the experience of the production process.
     When preparing for the podcast, I came up with 31 different common problems I have seen keep people from being satisfied with their projects and finishing them.  TJ and I were only able to cover a handful on the podcast.  But there's nothing stopping me from giving you the list here, along with the solutions I propose.

  1. Beginner problems, where you lack equipment, supplies, and know-how.  TJ points out the problem of buying too much and buying the wrong things because you don't understand what you need.  Solution: get the stuff, get the skills, and above all get support and feedback as you go along.  
  2. Intermediate problems, where you make larger items or take on more stages (like fiber prep or dyeing), and as a consequence you run into more problems that block progress or you get discouraged because it takes longer to finish.  Solution: expect these problems, maybe limit your focus, and get any technical help you need.  I was talking to someone about this and she said that doing larger projects and doing more crafts is not actually a problem.  And it's true, it can be one of the joys of a fiber artist's life.  Assuming you don't get lost in the weeds.  
  3. You modify a pattern and thereby cause problems you don't get from a tested published pattern, or you don't start a project because you are daunted by the difficulty of making the modifications you want.  Solution: get help, get more skill at making mods, be brave, or search harder for an existing pattern that is close to what you want.  
  4. You are bored to tears at spinning two pounds of white wool or knitting miles of stockinette.  Solution: don't do it, or break up the work so you don't do it all at once, or get an e-spinner or a knitting machine so the work goes faster.  
  5. Your project is a poor match for the context you work in.  For example, you are trying to knit something that demands all your concentration but you are out in public with friends who want to talk to you.  Solution: keep the complicated project for a time when you are alone, and keep a simple portable project in a pretty bag to take to parties.  My evening knitting bag is black hemp/silk and contains a Granny's Favourite dish cloth.  Also, schedule a block of time for the complicated knitting.  
  6. You use modern patterns not traditional production patterns (or modern methods not production methods of spinning, knitting, and weaving).  Again, not necessarily a problem.  I've just observed that modern charts for lace and colourwork start with an image and go from there, and take a lot of concentration.  In contrast, charts from a hundred and twenty years ago have a rhythm to them.  So if you want to forge ahead, consider production patterns and methods.  I haven't knitted any stranded colourwork myself but I have done metal stamping in a Fair Isle pattern. I found stamping down the columns awkward.  Then I started stamping from right to left, bottom row to top row the way a knitter approaches the pattern, and it went extremely smoothly.  Similarly, traditional construction, such as knitting stockinette in the round and steeking, can be faster than knitting stockinette flat and seaming pieces because there's no purling.  As for methods, there are teachers like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Abby Franquemont, and Sara Lamb who teach production methods of knitting and spinning.  There is a possible downside to this solution: the look and fit you get with traditional patterns has been around for a very long time and some people may consider them unpleasantly dated-looking.  Not to mention that a stranded sweater can be too hot to wear in a place with central heating.  
  7. You keep poor records and so you cannot easily knit a pattern again or you cannot spin an identical skein.  Solution: either accept this about yourself, or keep records with the details you need about modifications, yarn type, tools used, and so on.  
  8. Your project does not fit your taste in processes.  For example, you are knitting lace because you want to have a lace scarf but you dislike knitting yarnovers and decreases.  You buy a fleece because it is beautiful but you dislike fiber prep.  Solution: practice self-awareness and acceptance.  Only do the process you like, or do the process you dislike in a way that you can take, like in small doses or in the company of a friend.  Or, get minions, or commission someone to do the work.  I know most fiber artists don't consider this an option because they buy yarn intending to use it themselves.  We tend to think of clothes as either homemade or bought ready-to-wear.  But if you really don't like a process and you really want the product, you can commission the work.  There are people who knit for money and take custom orders.  
  9. Your taste in processes gives you nothing near your taste in products.  You like to knit garter stitch flat but hate the look of it, that sort of thing.  Solution: stick with your taste in processes and give the result away.  Or, see if you can tweak the process to get a product you like more.  For instance, instead of plying your laceweight singles into laceweight 2 ply yarn and then knitting lace, try cabling those singles into a thicker yarn or making a 5 ply yarn (again, thicker) or holding a couple of 2 ply strands together when knitting something substantial.   
  10. You produce products that do not fit your lifestyle.  For example, you love to buy chunky mustard yellow yarn and knit boxy mustard yellow sweaters but you need a lace shawl to wear to a wedding and all those cocktail parties you attend.  Solution: knit what you love, keep it in a drawer, take it out to admire it, but buy ready-to-wear clothes.  Or, go against your instincts, grit your teeth, and knit products that fit your lifestyle.  Whichever makes you happy.  You may need to get extra technical help to be able to finish making wearable items, if something is holding you up and keeping you from wanting to produce wearable things.  
  11. You make technical mistakes.  Solution: learn the technical solutions, like how to drop stitches and redo them, how to swatch and block to get gauge so your items fit, how to use a life line in lace knitting so you can undo your knitting easily, how to fix a slub when spinning, and how to choose a flattering pattern.  For that last one, the most flattering results I've seen are from people using Amy Herzog's Custom Fit patterns.  
  12. You have trouble meeting deadlines.  Solution: set a reminder in your calendar and start way ahead.  Or, do what you love, whenever you fancy.  
  13. You have little time to spend on the fiber arts because you have a demanding job or demanding family responsibilities.  Solution One: choose a project you can pick up and put down so you can integrate yarn into your daily life.  Solution Two: make yarn part of your vacation and leisure time by taking a class, going to a meetup, and so on.  Keep duplicate sets of tools and project bags you can take with you.  Solution Three: make sure you get out of your yarn time what you are looking for, and what you need to counterbalance your job or family.  Examples are a sense of completion, time among women (or whatever demographic your meetup group is), time spent on math and science, and the experience of touching beautiful fiber.  Solution Four: do not take on a volunteer task for a guild or festival until after you retire or your family no longer needs you, because if you have seriously demanding day job you have no spare time to spare.  You need your yarn time.  Defend it.  It does you good.  Solution Five: Practice selfish knitting, and keep what you make rather than giving it away so that you have a tangible record of your yarn accomplishments.  
  14. You can't make what you want because you can't get the right materials.  For example, you need one more ball of yarn, and it's discontinued.  Solution One: find the yarn; do a Ravelry search for yarn in people's stash that's for sale, post an ISO (in search of) message on a Ravelry discussion board, or look up the company's distributors and call them about old stock.  To use a ball of yarn from a different dye lot and make a less noticeable transition, in between the old and new dye lots you can knit a section that alternates rows of either dye lot.  Solution Two: work around the problem; use different yarn for the cuffs or shorten the sleeves. 
  15. You take on a commission, paid or not, and it goes badly.  Solution: have an out clause and agree in advance on how you will handle change requests.  Or, refuse commissions.  
  16. You wind up working with materials or tools you never planned for, because they were given to you, or you picked them up in a destash sale, or your friend left them to you in her will.  Not necessarily a problem, as you may luck out and get something you like.  Solution: do not look needy.  Casually say things around friends and family like, "I get so much fun out of selecting just the right fiber," and "I have so much wool, my stash is awesome."  When you're around non-fiber friends, be their friend, not the person in their life who is all about yarn.  Be careful around destash sales: the seller cast off that stuff for a reason.  And, check for moths.  
  17. You spend $1000+ on fancy equipment but forget to budget money for lessons, time to learn to use the stuff, and space to set it up.  Solution: either budget for this, or don't saddle yourself with an obligation to live up to the equipment.  
  18. You wander into interesting but odd things to do with yarn, such as nalbinding and språng, for which there are few teachers and few patterns.  Solution: keep to the mainstream and focus on that.  Or, dive in.  Contact the teachers for advice, watch online videos, travel for classes to places like the John C. Campbell Folk School or Scandinavian cultural centers, or get together a bunch of students and invite a teacher to come to you.  
  19. You suffer from second sock syndrome or get stuck on sleeve island, or you change gauge mid-project and can't get identical pieces.  In other words, you have trouble finishing a whole project.  Solution: get two identical sets of sock needles and knit two socks, switching back and forth between them, or do the magic loop technique, or knit one sock inside the other (if you dare).  Try to knit always under the same conditions, with no fast music or tense TV shows.  
  20. You hate sewing up, or you create an overwhelming number of ends to sew up by using up scraps or doing involved colourwork.  Solution: sew in your ends anyway.  Or minimize the amount of sewing up by buying large balls of yarn, doing little colourwork, knitting raglan or yoke sweaters, and knitting toe-up socks.  Also, me, I like to take the sting out of sewing up by using a really nice needle that TJ's husband Mike made for me as a custom order, out of bone.  (Sorry, vegans.)  It is shaped like his Spanish Peacock single-point nalbinding needles but a little slimmer.  The regular nalbinding needle will work for worsted yarn. 
  21. You like to spin but not to ply.  Solution One: don't.  Spin singles and set them, or spin energized singles to knit or weave with like Katherine Alexander.  Solution Two: get better equipment, such as a lazy Kate that holds bobbins at a 45 degree angle.  Solution Three: improve your form, by taking a class or watching a DVD by teachers like Judith MacKenzie, Sara Lamb, or Rita Buchanan.  
  22. You need to spin and ply 3 ply yarn for your knitting to drape well but you hate to make 3 ply.  Solution: do 2 ply and knit lace or weave, because 2 ply is great for this.  Or, cable your yarn.  Or pass the singles through a spice jar top to ply 3 ply.  Or, n-ply, also called Navajo plying.  
  23. You use self-striping yarn but get fraternal socks not identical socks.  Solution: start at the same place in the colour progression when you cast on, which may mean discarding some yardage and settling for shorter socks.  Or, use solids, semisolids, speckled yarn, or chromatic yarn to avoid the problem.  
  24. You buy space-dyed braids because you love the way they look but you dislike the resulting barber pole yarn you spin, and the rest of the braids sit unused in your stash so they will be beautiful forever.  Solution: split the braid in half lengthwise, spin two bobbins, and ply a 2 ply yarn.  Or, spin the whole braid and n-ply it.  Or, divide up the braid following directions for fractal spinning and 2 ply the yarn.  Or, combo blend and combo spin.  Or, spin and ply each colour separately by tearing out sections of colour.  Or, commission the dyer to make you a coordinating solid braid.  
  25. You are too intimidated to use yarn or fiber that is frankly too good for you.  Solution: if you have the skills to use it, use it anyway.  If you don't, get the skills.  
  26. Your stash contains a little of this and a little of that, but not enough to make something.  Solution One: going forward, focus more when you buy, and buy enough.  Solution Two: use what you have by searching for low-yardage patterns on Ravelry, reading one-skein wonder pattern books, doing colourwork if the yarn is all the same weight, holding yarns together for bulky projects, and doing combo spinning and combo blending.  
  27. You find you made a mistake warping the loom, after you've sleyed 200 more threads through 200 more heddles.  Solution: dig deep and consider why you're doing this and whether you really want to be doing this.  Then either fix the threads or live with the mistake.  
  28. You want to wind a warp onto a loom but don't have a buddy to put tension on the warp while you crank.  Solution: make new friends.  Or, weave at a studio with an instructor and other students.  Or, get a gadget from Harrisville Designs to tension the warp.  Or, warp front to back.  Or use a rigid heddle loom with a weight.  
  29. You try to weave with knitting yarn and it goes badly.  Solution: use a narrow rigid heddle loom and a short warp.  Or, wet your skeins of yarn and dry them under tension, maybe.  Or, switch and use proper weaving yarn.  Spend the money, and treat it as a new stash.  
  30. You lose yarn to marauding moths or destructive kittens, or you lose your project.  Solution: use a Gamma seal lid on a 5 gallon bucket, use a Gripstic closure on a bag, and be cautious about bringing secondhand wool into your stash.  And just generally be careful.  In the podcast, TJ asked me about my general level of satisfaction with my fiber arts productivity.  I forgot to say that my one regret was leaving a couple of skeins of handspun Wensleydale out where the moths ate them.  Also I forgot to say that if someone announced to me, "That's it, you're done, no more yarn for you," I would be upset because there are things I still want to make.  
  31. You like to knit but hate to purl.  Solution: knit continental.  Or knit with the Irish Cottage Knitting method.  Or, knit sweaters in the round.  Or, knit the patterns in Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knit One, Knit All, which have no purling.
     To sum up, don't let problems stop you from getting satisfaction from your fiber arts.
     When I receive a gift from someone that could influence me, I disclose it on the blog so you know.  Here goes: TJ gave me a Spanish Peacock spindle storage stand.  If you haven't see one, it is an affordable stand that's sold as a flat pack.

January 15, 2019

Racism and the Knitting Community

     This week the topic of racism came up on two knitting-related Instagram accounts I follow, @yarnharlot in this post and @ysolda in this post.
     Following the trail of Instagram stories Ysolda Teague gave, I found many stories of racist incidents in the knitting community collected on the @su.krita account.  I found stories on the @thecolormustard account too.
     From there I followed the conversation back to Karen Templer's blog post, "2019: My Year of Color" which triggered the discussion, and her apology post on January 12, "Words Matter."
     I found on the @thecolormustard account the question "where is your outrage" over racism.  Also questions from @lynacassimir: "Please see what's going on in our Instagram community, Who is dominating them, are they speaking up against ignorance, are they against inclusivity by race, are they noticing these problems or are they low key on the problem."
     I'm not much.  I'm speaking as a flawed person.  I've put my foot in it and said the wrong things that hurt people at least half a dozen times that I know of.  I've been told it was hurtful, and done it again thoughtlessly, which is deplorable.  At least twice I've failed to speak up, letting overt racist speech pass.  I haven't made a push to befriend people of colour or support them.  But I am outraged, am against ignorance, and am for inclusivity by race.  I notice the problems, and I am listening.  I am up for being told like it is, without tone policing, if anyone is so moved.  I am considering how I will act with my time and buying power in order to support people of colour (POC), and I have plans for learning more about what POC have gone through.
    And yes, it is sad that I'm only saying something about this because people started making waves.
     I know personally few handspinners, knitters, machine knitters, and weavers who are people of colour.  (I think they're great.)  Attendance at the wool festivals I've been to has been almost all white.  That does not go with the overall demographics where I live here in Virginia.
     I could think offhand of only one minority-owned business that sells equipment or supplies to fiber artists, SweetGeorgia.*  Can't think of any POC producers like shepherds or cotton growers.  Understandable given cotton's past.  I am ignorant about POC knitwear designers.  I have only heard of one fiber arts business that goes out of its way to give employment to people of colour, Lantern Moon.  So the POC Fibre Folx stories on the @booksandcables account were good to see.  If you missed that, they were slideshows of many, many account names and pictures of people of colour in the fiber arts.
     If you are interested in hearing about racism from a person of colour on the receiving end, and want to listen while you knit, I recommend the radio segment "Ijeoma Oluo urges us to have better conversations about race" on the CBC Radio show Tapestry from April 29, 2018, at
     Besides the interview, Ijeoma Oluo wrote a book, So You Want to Talk About Race (Seal Press, 2018).  She mentions that African-American people are not encouraged to go into the arts.  I mean, she mentions a lot of aspects of racism and in light of the fact that racism can be a matter of life and death, the arts are just a tiny fraction.  But it jumped out at me.  That and the enormous difference between white and black income levels.  I learned about that a few months before, from reading Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler.  At the end of the book, Oluo challenges people to go beyond talking and to take certain practical actions to combat racism and benefit people of colour.
     There is also Sylvia Olsen's book Working with Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy & the Cowichan Sweater (Sononis Press, 2010).  It touches on racism, and it presents an ethnic minority as fibre artists doing excellent work.  If you know me personally and would like to borrow my copy, please let me know.

*edited to add: after I wrote this, I remembered the shop Knotty by Nature in Victoria, Canada, which is partly minority-owned.  And Maiwa sources some of their dye supplies from people of colour.
     Also, my experience sitting with other knitters has been mostly at events run by two non-profits which have inclusivity statements in their bylaws.  That means everyone is welcome to become a member or visit meetings, and we serve the whole community through education.  I also belong to a handspinners group that is a part of a co-operative that I assume has an inclusivity mandate, and an informal machine knitters group which meets in a government-run space that requires meetings to be inclusive.  From what I understand, a commitment to inclusivity is not the same as a commitment to diversity and it doesn't guarantee that individual members will act in an inclusive way but it is something.
     If you're wondering what the racist incidents told on Instagram looked like exactly, well, nothing beats hearing the stories in the people's own voices.  But to sum up, they were treated as though they were too poor to afford yarn, likely to shoplift, unworthy of attention, and undesirable to be around.

December 01, 2018

Ignoring Shiny Objects

I tried to hold the line on my crafting to-do list this week, despite temptation.

I had to buy some fructose from Maiwa to replace some old stuff.  I also wanted to buy a scarf.  I was out for a walk the other day when the temperature was just above freezing and I thought, a scarf would be nice.  

So I added fructose to my cart, and then the linen scarf I've had my eye on for dyeing with indigo, and then a white wool scarf for shibori dyeing with weld and indigo because a pattern of white, yellow, blue, and green would be interesting, and then a jar of weld because I'm out, and then a natural grey wool scarf because I'm on a synthetic dye diet and the picture looks beautiful, and then a small jar of walnut powder to qualify for free shipping, and then a stack of wool scarves on sale with bulk discount because I could dye extra scarves and put them up for sale in my shop.

I've long thought that of all the knitters, weavers, handspinners, and dyers that sell their goods, dyers are the ones making sales and earning a profit.  Certainly I know a couple of knitters and a weaver who sell their work but not in the same volume as dyers.

After loading up the cart online, I thought about my budget, my long to-do list, and the cold weather that prevents me from dyeing with indigo outside.  Outside is the only place I'd want to dye with indigo because the dyed stuff has to be spread out to oxidize when it comes out of the vat.  It's messy.  With all these considerations in mind, I removed everything from the cart except the fructose and grey scarf, and went through checkout.

It is awkward set a limit, to deny myself the joy of stash acquisition and project planning.  However, I've already said yes to a lot of other things that I should get around to finishing.

I did say yes to one new thing: I backed the Electric Eel Wheel Mini 2 Kickstarter campaign.  The cost of being a backer is affordable given the product category and when I receive the e-spinner, many months from now, I hope to discover whether I can get used to spinning yarn with a flyer instead of a spindle.  When I spin yarn with my drop spindles, I stand up.  Sitting with an e-spinner might be a nice change.

When I first looked at the campaign, I decided against participating because an e-spinner would add to my to-do list.  I'd have the task of learning to use the thing, and the "spin yarn" part of my existing to-do list would become more pressing in general.  When I got a second email about the campaign I took another look and discovered that a quarter of a million dollars had been raised already.  My change of heart may have been tinged with FOMO.

I have been bent over bench and anvil making stuff with silver, bronze, and copper this month rather than with wool.  You can see what I have managed to make and put up for sale in my shop at  The sterling silver circle shawl pin is back in stock and so are bronze weaving shuttle earrings.  There's also a pair of silver earrings that have nothing to do with fiber arts but are made with the proportions of Fibonacci numbers, which I think are quite harmonious.  If you can use Fibonacci numbers in your knitting and weaving, I say do it.

October 20, 2018

Red Språng Sash

     I made a red sash using a lace pattern for språng taken from a Coptic turban in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection.  The warp was circular, and the meeting line was woven in two places then cut.  It took two balls of Knit Picks Shine Worsted yarn, which is a blend of cotton and Modal which is like rayon.
     The curl is strong and as you can see I held it in place with pins to show the pattern.
     When I did a språng program at the weavers guild recently, I said that while officers wore språng military sashes to indicate rank and pregnant Greek women wore språng sashes for religious reasons (at least according to Wikipedia), it is possible that they also wore them for back support.  Everyone said, oh, yes, of course.  I still think somebody needs to test this idea.  It is tempting to assume that språng acts like a tensor bandage, which Americans call an Ace bandage, putting compression on an area by stretching in width and length.  However, språng only stretches in width.  If you wore this sash, it would feel like an ordinary belt when you tied it.
     A friend put it on and remarked on this fact, as well as how soft the fabric was compared to a tablet-woven belt.  It drapes.  She knew that there was a Medieval drawstring made of språng and worn by Bishop Timothy, so she had been curious as to what it might have been like.
     I showed the sash around at a fiber festival.  Most people asked if it was knitted.  This reaction has only happened with this lace piece, not with the other pieces I've done in plain interlinking.
     I made the sash because I wanted a lace sample of språng for the program.  I told the weavers it was a good thing I love them, or I wouldn't have made the thing.  I like a pattern where you do the same thing all the way across a row, the opposite of lace.  Fortunately, with enough repetition I got used to following the pattern and making the holes.  I even think I could tackle the språng chicken pattern in Herborg Wahl's book Nytt liv i gamle sprangmonstre.  It's hilarious to look at and name.

September 22, 2018

It's Been Ten Years Now

     It's been ten years this weekend since I first tried a spinning wheel at an old-timey festival and changed the course of my life.
     To mark the occasion, I spent time today at the same festival.  This time I was the one demonstrating handspinning with a drop spindle.  A lot of people just walked by, rubbernecking at the windmill, the country music singers, and the cannon fire.  A few stopped to talk which was great.
     I had some time before and after my demo to walk around and see other demonstrators.  I talked about språng with some re-enactors for the American Revolutionary War period, because språng was used for officers' sashes.  Would have been a whole lot more impactful if I'd finished the small sash I have half-warped on my loom and had it on hand for show and tell.  Oh, well.
     Talked with a chip carver about spinning wheel chairs and Northern European distaffs, because those items were chip carved.
     If you get this post through email, for some reason Google did not send you the posts I wrote during the past several months.  You can catch up at  Thanks for subscribing.

August 25, 2018

Hemp Dish Cloth in Seed Stitch

     You may be interested in Twist Collective's article about hemp, "High Fiber,"
     I prefer the idea of 100% hemp yarn rather than a blend of hemp with wool but that's me.
     I knitted another dish cloth out of hemp, using seed stitch.  I had to make the dimensions quite wide and stubby because of the way the first one shrank.  It looked ridiculously ill-proportioned when I was knitting it but you can see that it shrank to pretty much square.
     I was hoping that seed stitch would provide a better drape than garter stitch but it doesn't.

August 18, 2018

Free Offer: Tunis Sheep T-shirt Design

free t-shirt design of a Tunis sheep
     You can download a t-shirt design of a Tunis sheep from my Dropbox account using this link:  There is no charge to get the design and you have the right to use it for non-commercial purposes.  You do not have the right to alter it or create derivative art.  My company's name is in small type at the bottom; I created the design to advertise my shop.
     There is no account needed to get the file.  When Dropbox prompts you to create an account, just click the link at the bottom that says you want to proceed without an account.
     I also have a Bitly URL if you want to share the design on social media:
     The design is meant to be printed with white ink on a dark t-shirt.  I used CustomInk's printing services.  I picked the Anvil jersey woman's t-shirt in purple and the selection "one colour ink, in white."  If you print the design with black ink on a light shirt, it will look wrong, like a photographic negative.  You'll see that that's what the file looks like.  The file is sized so you can fill up a good part of the front of the shirt.
     The price of the Anvil shirt might strike some people as a bit high as t-shirts go.  For the price you get soft fabric and a feminine cut.  CustomInk has other styles to choose from and quantity discounts.
     I took the Tunis sheep's photo at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia.  Tunis is an endangered breed of sheep with historical significance for the States.

August 11, 2018

Maiwa Podcast : "Field Notes in the Colour Garden"

I enjoyed the recent Maiwa podcast, "Field Notes in the Colour Garden," with Michel Garcia, posted on July 16, 2018.  It was interesting to hear all the things people have been asking him to do for them regarding natural dyes and what things they've been doing with plant dyes in France.

August 04, 2018

Information Compulsion and Språng

     I encountered a nice bit of information compulsion the other day.
     Information compulsion is a theory by Tom Wolfe.  Wolfe says that "the best weapon journalists have is what I call information compulsion.  People are dying to tell you things that you don't know."   I first learned about information compulsion from my friend TJ who writes a blog over at  And then I found this clip:

     Anyway, back to the story.  I ran into someone I knew and told her that I am scheduled to do two programs on språng this fall for the handspinners guild and the weavers guild.  I briefly described what språng is.
     And then, up piped someone who was listening: "Språng is very old!"
     I was proud of her.
     During the språng programs, I plan to keep my own information compulsion down to a minimum.  Not like last time.

July 28, 2018

How to print prepaid postage on a 4 x 6 inch self-adhesive label using a laser or inkjet printer

how to print Etsy postage on a 4 x 6 label with a regular printer
     I took a screen printing class (which was quite fun), and realized I could take the concept of registering a print and adapt it in order to print Etsy prepaid postage on a self-adhesive 4 x 6 inch label using a regular printer, either laser or inkjet, not a dedicated thermal printer.  Looks very pleasing, better than paper taped to a box, and less initial outlay than a thermal printer.  Registering a print in screen printing is figuring out where the ink will land, and marking on the work surface where the sheet of paper (or piece of cloth) should be positioned.

To print prepaid Etsy postage on a 4 x 6" self-adhesive label with a regular printer
  1. select "buy postage" on Etsy.  It gives an 8.5 x 11 pdf to print out on ordinary paper and use to mail an order
  2. print the pdf
  3. lay a blank sheet of paper over top and draw register marks (little corners) where you see the corners of the ink rectangle showing through the paper.  You could use the original copy but then you'd have a buyer's personal information sitting around, a privacy issue.
  4. buy a package of individual 4 x 6 self-adhesive labels, Avery 5292, from an office supply store  
  5. take the sheet of paper with the marks, lay down some double-stick tape (or tape formed into rings to make it double stick), and stick down a blank self-adhesive 4 x 6 label inside the corners. 
  6. put the whole contraption into the manual feed tray, being sure to have it the right way up.  Print the label, selecting manual feed in the menu.  
  7. peel the label off the plastic backing and use it on the package.  
  8. Leave the plastic backing stuck on the paper, and store the paper for next time.
     That's it.
     At my post office there is a big drop box into which you can put prepaid parcels with domestic addresses, if they fit.  It is meant for people using the automated kiosk.  The clerk said it is fine to put parcels in there that have postage paid at home.
     USPS will also pick up parcels, from your mail box during regular pickup if the weight is under the restrictions, or from your home by appointment.
     I'm not sure how international postage would work since you need to add customs information.
     The clerk said it is fine to put a 4 x 6 label sideways on a box and mail it.  This is good for me with my long, narrow boxes for mailing the drop spindle kits I assemble and sell at  USPS just prefers that the whole label is on the top.
     What if you send a lot of parcels and want cheap labels?

To get 4 x 6" self-adhesive labels cheaply  
  1. buy a large package of full sheet, 8.5 x 11 inch shipping labels 
  2. got to a print shop with a machine that cuts paper to size  
  3. give them a cutting diagram like this that shows how to get three 4 x 6 inch labels per full sheet label, in five cuts marked A, B, C, D, and E.  The shop should charge per cut.

how to cut a full sheet label into three 4 x 6 inch labels
     What if you have no Etsy shop, just a need to send a personal parcel once in a while, and want to know how to print USPS prepaid postage on a 4 x 6" self-adhesive label using a regular printer?

To print USPS prepaid postage on a 4 x 6" self-adhesive label with a regular printer
  1. get postage through USPS' Click-N-Ship online service
  2. use the same trick above
  3. when making your registration marks, ignore the USPS brand name at the top and aim to keep the "electronic rate approved" number at the bottom so the postage fits on the label
The clerk said this placement is fine.
     Both Etsy and Click-N-Ship let a seller get postage for USPS flat rate shipping and use a standard flat rate box.  Click-N-Ship does not offer first class postage.  
     You could use 4 x 6 inch labels, a word processor, and this printing trick to make yourself fancy self-adhesive bookplates.

To make fancy self-adhesive bookplates
  1. open a new document  
  2. insert a table with one row and one column 
  3. go to table properties and specify a row height of 6 inches and column width of 4 inches 
  4. fill in your rectangle with words, fancy font characters, a photo cropped to 4 x 6", or an image  
  5. use the printing trick above to print the bookplate 
     As for how it would affect the book, I'm not sure how the adhesive would hold up over time or whether a label is acid-free for long-term storage.
     But we were talking about postage.

To print a small (1 x 2 5/8 inch) self-adhesive label 
and pay for postage at the post office
  1. take an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of Avery labels style 8160, which is covered in small labels.  
  2. go into your word processor, select Tools, then the Label function 
  3. select "single label, row 1 column 1" for one address 
  4. type the address in the field 
  5. look for Avery style 8160 to select the right label format 
  6. create your document 
  7. print your document on the label sheet using manual feed 
  8. delete the address in the document  
  9. save the blank document for reuse 
     The next time you need to print an address, open the document, type the new address into one of the blank spots (a spot for which you have a corresponding label on the sheet that isn't used yet), then print the sheet using manual feed.  You can use the sheet repeatedly for just one address at a time.  Put your own return address on a full sheet of Avery labels 5267/8167.

     To address a Number 10 paper envelope right on the paper 
without any need for a self-adhesive label  
  1. open your word processor
  2. select tools, then envelopes 
  3. select your size 
  4. get the right format for the address by searching for it on the USPS site under zip code search
  5. put the address in the big field on the document, then add your return address
  6. put the envelope in the manual feed tray with the flap to the left on the underside
  7. run the envelope through the printer using manual feed 
  8. check to see if the address printed right side up or upside down, and next time be sure to place the envelope in manual feed correctly 
     I print envelopes this way when I mail expense receipts or membership cheques to treasurers of fibre arts guilds.  I think a printed envelope goes through the postal system faster than an envelope with a handwritten address.
     Hope you find this helpful.

Update: I hear that some people use a similar trick to print on PostIt notes.

July 21, 2018

How to Shop for Vegetarian and Vegan Yarn

     If you are a vegetarian or vegan knitter or a knitter concerned with animal welfare, you may wonder how to shop for vegetarian friendly yarn or vegan friendly yarn.  How to get what you want without pestering producers or middlemen and putting them on the defensive.  As a fibre arts seller, I can say, anyone who sells yarn would love for you to tell them what you are looking for and ask if they offer anything like that.
     Be specific about what standards of animal care you would find acceptable, and just say, "Do you offer that in your products?"  Then they say just yes, they do or no, they don't.  No debating about the merits or ethics (unless you really feel the need).  Just, "This is what I am ready to pay good money for, how about it?"
     You may be interested in a previous blog post of mine about A Greener World's certification of humanely-raised fibre.  It mostly concerns wool.  Wool is not a vegan product because it comes from an animal.  The wool certified by AGW is not required to be vegetarian, that is, the flocks are not no-kill.
     You should be able to do an Internet search for wool yarn sellers who claim their yarn comes from no-kill flocks.  Juniper Moon Farm says that their Yarn and Fiber CSA products come from their own animals which "live out their natural lives on our farm" and are "never eaten."  Note that their other lines of yarn come from other flocks, flocks they don't manage and don't make any claims for.  Someone on Instagram said that Hooligan Yarns had yarn from a no-kill flock but I didn't find any claims on their site.  I did find them with Thistle Cove Farms.  Izzy Lane advertises wool clothing from the owner's no-kill flock of sheep.
     Be sure to verify for yourself what the seller means by no-kill.  The shepherd could be breeding lambs and selling them to shepherds without a no-kill policy.  The shepherd could mean that the main flock is no-kill but the resulting lambs are not.  They could mean that they still cull the flock to improve the breeding strain.  To cull a flock is to select animals that do not conform to breed standards or that do not display desirable qualities such as high fertility, and slaughter them to take them out of the gene pool.  They have breed standards not only for looks but also to ensure an animal's health; for example, to make sure you don't get animals with horns that curl too close to the jaw.
     From what I understand, it is challenging for shepherds to run a profitable flock on just the sales of wool alone.  Be prepared to support their premium product with higher prices.
     Or turn to yarn that doesn't come from animals.
     Even when buying cotton yarn, you may be indirectly participating in the meat and dairy industry because cotton seed meal is cattle feed.  Not sure about seed from flax and hemp grown for cloth.
     I like the linen yarn from Catnip Yarns and the hemp yarn from Hemp Basics.  I like Quince & Co.'s cotton yarn and linen yarn, with the Sparrow's structure more to my liking than Kestrel's.  These yarns are all considerably finer than a typical wool worsted knitting yarn or a common cotton yarn meant for knitting dish cloths.  Thus they take longer to knit with.
     You may find it helpful to read Amy R. Singer's book, No Sheep for You: knit happy with cotton, silk, linen, hemp, bamboo & other delights.  Armed with the information in the book, you can knit vegan or vegetarian.  You can commission a knitter to make you something that will meet your needs.  You can use the book to assess labels on ready-to-wear clothing.  
     Singer presents the general facts on fibre qualities, substitution, and yarn use, and she provides knitting patterns.  She doesn't talk much about the why of forgoing wool, whether your reason is an aversion to animal products, a concern for humane treatment of animals, an allergy or sensitivity, preference, or curiosity.  
     Her information on hemp production laws is out of date.  Production is now restricted and regulated in select states and prohibited in others, rather than universally prohibited in the United States as it was at the time of publication.  
     She considers bamboo yarn to be environmentally sustainable because the source material is renewable.  However, some would take issue with this since bamboo yarn is chemically processed.  
     Singer talks briefly about "peace" silk, where the silk worm gets to live out its natural life.  She does not give sources for buying it.  "Peace" silk is sometimes marketed to vegans but I don't know how suitable a vegan would find it for their needs if they do not use animal products, period.  Singer makes the distinction between Tussah silk, from the breed, and "peace" silk, from a process.  I don't think you can expect all Tussah silk to be "peace" silk, only what is labeled as such.  Singer points out that while Tussah silk worms are not hand-fed and kept inside like Bombyx silk worms, they are still farmed.
     What about claims that genetically-modified cotton kills butterflies?  I've heard those claims.  When I traced back to the study, I found that the research was done on BT corn, not BT cotton.  I'm not sure whether the same thing happens with BT cotton or if there were subsequent studies done on cotton.
     I am not vegetarian or vegan myself.  But I believe strongly in accurate informative labels (truth in advertising), an educated buying public, and voting with your dollars for what you want in the world.  

July 14, 2018

Yarn that's Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World

     A Greener World (AGW) has a directory of products that are Certified Animal Welfare Approved, certified by them.  According to their site, "It is the only label in the U.S. to require audited, high-welfare production, transport and slaughter practices."  They put an emphasis on animals being on pasture or range their entire lives.
     The categories in the directory include fibre for handspinning into yarn.  The directory allows you to search by proximity, if local fibre matters to you, or you can search the entire thing.  The listings I saw only referred to fibre or wool, they didn't specify forms such as yarn or roving.  I believe only one offered online shopping.  It sells yarn.  The rest provided a physical address.  Presumably you could write to to inquire about mail order, though you're probably meant to go to their farm gate to shop.
     If you know of a fibre farmer whose work meets the criteria, and who isn't certified and in the directory already, you can suggest her name to AGW here.  AGW also has other categories of vendors, such as farmers' markets.
     AGW's standards for sheep are here.  Mulesing is prohibited, and "The primary methods of preventing parasite infestations must be pasture management or rotation and bedding management and removal."  The standards prohibit tail docking, dehorning, disbudding, and ear marking by cutting or notching.  They prohibit any trap but a live trap for predators, with lethal control of predators as a last resort.  They prohibit the use of hot prods or electric shocks.  (I don't think this applies to electric fences.)
     I think the standards mean a flock of wethers is out: "Ram lambs may only be castrated when uncontrolled breeding cannot be prevented by any other management."  From what I've heard, ram lambs are often sent to slaughter while ewe lambs are kept for breeding.  I've also heard that traditionally wethers' wool was considered prized, as the wool is less pungent than rams' wool and in better condition than ewes' wool.  Ewes go through stress from lambing and their wool shows the results of that stress.  The one exception to the traditional preference for wethers' wool that I've read about was where ram's wool traditionally was kept for a certain purpose, I can't remember what, for some reason such as durability, but again I can't remember what.  I think that was in a Nordic country and might have been for nalbinding or rya rugs.  Anyway.  Notwithstanding traditional practices regarding wool production, and notwithstanding that a ram might rather be a wether than lunch, I guess AGW considers castration of rams something to be avoided.
     This bit was interesting: "14.0.6 Animals must not be displayed or offered for sale or transfer at farmers markets, swap meets or similar venues.  Note: Delivery or exchange of animals at a farmers market or similar venue when the sale or transfer has been pre-arranged may be acceptable."  Never would have occurred to me that anyone would try to sell a sheep at a farmers' market.  I have heard of people arranging for delivery of fibre animals in odd locations.

The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel. - Proverbs 12:10 NIV

July 07, 2018

Fibershed Interview on Conscious Chatter Podcast

     Kestrel Jenkin's Conscious Chatter podcast has an interview with Rebecca Burgess, director of Fibershed.  S03, episode 118, "Fibershed + Regenerative Textile Systems," June 12, 2018,  Available on iTunes.
     Good stories, technical details, and the issues around the making of small batch, traceable, community-based, natural textiles, as always.
     Fibershed serves two groups: producers and buyers.  This podcast is focussed mostly on the production side of local cloth and leaves recommendations for buyers until the last several minutes.  Unless I missed it, Burgess did not cover options such as taking yarn from a farm and either making clothes yourself or commissioning a weaver or knitter to make you clothing with it.  It was more about looking for local ready-to-wear, wearing clothes longer and mending them, and recirculating used clothing.
     This is an interesting choice considering the success Burgess had with the Fibershed wardrobe she commissioned for herself.  In the YouTube video, "150 mile wardrobe: local fiber, real color, P2P economy," she says she never wants to go back to conventional clothes.  I'm not sure why she omitted the option to commission work.  Perhaps she considered the amount of time and money involved to be too much to ask.  She was able to fund the wardrobe through Kickstarter, through her Funding Fibershed - One Year-150 Miles campaign in 2010.
     Burgess is a weaver and natural dyer with a spinning wheel.  In the YouTube interview she says she commissioned the Fibershed wardrobe because she didn't have the time to make it herself, which is understandable.  Furthermore, she wanted the wardrobe made in order to build relationships with the ranchers, cotton breeders, felters, knitters, and mills in her region.

June 30, 2018

My Taste in Yarn

     I had this on my profile on Ravelry, but got to thinking it was a bit long.  So I copied it here and trimmed what I have on Ravelry.

     I'm Canadian, from Vancouver Island, B.C. and since I'm far from home and expect I'll eventually move back, I'm trying to keep the amount of equipment and fibre I collect to a minimum.  What, did you just laugh?
     I also try to limit my WIPs, and focus on finishing.  
     I am a handspinner first, other crafts come second.  I use drop spindles to spin yarn, not a spinning wheel.  I have rarely bought yarn for knitting but that is starting to change.  I like to weave with handspun wool or commercial linen yarn.  I can do an obscure technique with yarn called språng (braiding on stretched threads).  I adore the process, the product, and the research aspect.  Many of the YouTube videos I've posted are about how to do språng.
     I like to choose breed-specific wool and make the yarn's structure suit the project.  The look of lustrous long-staple wool appeals to me most.  It's too bad longwools are often scratchy and hard to find or expensive in yarn form.  I try to buy breed-specific wool or yarn that is traceable to a region or flock.  My exception (and my favourite breed) is Blueface Leicester wool, which is usually imported in bulk. 
     I really love linen cloth, whether woven or knitted.  I would wear linen everything if I could.  I am not sure I will ever get around to learning how to spin flax.  Not keen on cotton, silk, or short stapled fibres like cashmere or merino.  I use a bit of hemp yarn for dish cloths.  
     I admire Kathryn Alexander's use of energized singles in woven cloth.
     I like knitting stockinette in the round on double points, and I like the way stockinette looks.  I dislike the look of garter stitch.  I think embossed exchange patterns are very pretty, such as in Svetlana Volkova's Anemone for example.  I like to follow patterns I can memorize and do without much concentration, whether knitting, weaving, or doing språng.  
     I care more for texture and structure than I care for colour.  I do like colour.  I like royal blue, electric blue, ice blue, fuchsia, scarlet, hot pink, emerald, lemon yellow, dark grey, pure white, burgundy, teal, clear turquoise, British racing green, and sapphire.  
     I consider myself to be on a synthetic dye diet.  I wear as much un-dyed or naturally-dyed clothing as I can and I work primarily with un-dyed or naturally-dyed yarn.  I make exceptions for gift items.  I've stocked up on naturally-coloured wool to spin and yarn to knit, and I've increased my plant-based dyeing skills and knowledge.  
     I admire Rebecca Burgess' original fibreshed project.  For a year Burgess wore only clothes made of undyed, naturally-coloured, and naturally-dyed fibres from her area.  All the labour came from her area too.  The criteria for fibreshed (and the tagline of her Fibershed organization and its affiliates) is local fibre, local dyes, local labour.  Here is an interview about Burgess' original wardrobe project:

     I love the guilds and group I belong to.  I joined my handspinning guild near the end of 2008 and they got me from the ground up.  The members taught me how to spin, knit, dye, and shop for supplies and tools.  They fed me how-to books and videos.  I took weaving classes from one of the members.  My Ravelry projects page has some embarrassingly basic and lumpy stuff, the yarn equivalent of baby pictures.  Språng I learned by myself from books.  
     I inform, advise, and encourage people as they begin to use drop spindles.  At festivals and guild meetings, friends send aspirants my way.  It's great!  I enjoy giving people useful information about handspinning and språng.