How did you get started?

When I am doing an event where I am spinning and selling my yarn, knits, soaps, and salves, there are certain questions that I can be assured will be asked at least once during the course of the event. One of the questions is the title of this blog. Cabin Crafted, the cottage business begun out of a desire to share the soaps, herbal salves, yarns and knit wear that I was creating faster than we were using them up. The we, includes family members that want and wear the knits and use the soaps and salves, not just hubby and me.

Another question is, “How long have you been doing that (spinning)?” That question goes back to shortly after I relocated to this area to work and be near the retirement home we were building. I began “helping out” at the local yarn shop, unpaid in cash but for credit to buy yarn, patterns, and needles. I would assist with craft shows or when the regular staff was unavailable. About a year of so into this, the shop held a weekend retreat at a local hotel with a few vendors and several classes that could be taken for a fee. Though I couldn’t stay for the whole weekend, I did take a couple of classes and one of them was learning to spin with a drop spindle. We had to to furnish our own spindle, but the various wools were provided by the instructor. I ordered a basic top whorl spindle online, a heavy simple tool. We were taught the basics, offered several different samples of wool to see the different characteristics, which I didnt appreciate at the time. That first skein of yarn is still in my possession, though the spindle is long gone. The skein is thick and thin, not well plied, but my first yarn and will be with me forever.

In the following more than a dozen years, my spinning has progressed through many different tools and I have even taught a few spinning classes and have made a few handsful of simple spindles from dowels and craft shop wooden toy wheels.

Another question that is often asked is, “How long does it take you to spin that yarn?” That is a difficult question to answer. The length of time it takes to spin a skein depends on so many factors, such as how heavy the weight of the yarn you are trying to spin, how many ounces of fiber you began with, the amount of twist you are putting in the singles and the plies, and what type of tool you are using. Yarn can be spun on spindles or spinning wheels. Spinning wheels are also varied, from antique quill wheels, single and double treadle wheels, wheels with large and small drive wheels, and various spinning ratios. Fairly new to the offerings are e-spinners. These are small electric spinning tools that are basically a mother of all and bobbin driven by a motor. The last time I was asked at the Fall Festival, I hesitated, unsure how to answer. Shortly after the festival, I decided to to spin a 4 ounce braid of Polwarth wool on my single treadle, small diameter manual wheel and to try to keep track of how long it took me. I didn’t track it exactly, but spun during TV time, so I have a fair idea that the 4.2 ounces took about 16 hours to spin and ply.

This skein is even and consistent, fairly tightly spun and plied and spun to 18 wraps per inch, a method of determining weight of the yarn. Eighteen WPI is fine or lace weight yarn and it ended up 355.5 yards of yarn.

That brings me to the other comment that is often made, which is to question the price of hand spun yarn and hand spun, hand knit items. I don’t even try to make any money on my craft, if I were to price the skein above, taking in the price of the fiber at $28, plus 16 hours at minimum wage in our state of $9.50, that skein of yarn would have to be marked at $180. Assuming I calculated my time at only $2 per hour, it would still be $60 and that is just for the yarn, not the time to knit or weave it into a garment. The local market wouldn’t support that. If I sell the skein, it will be marked at $.10 per yard, so $.50/hour for my time. If it is made into a woven shawl, I have to take into consideration, the price of the skein of linen yarn that I bought to warp the loom plus about 10 more hours. If I knit it into a shawl, it would add another 25 or more hours of time to the skein.

As the holidays are approaching, support your local craftsmen at the various shows in your region and know that your purchase is supporting a local business, getting a craftsmen’s design, time, skill, and a piece of their heart. They aren’t your local discount store.

A Break, or is it.

The past weekend Newbern Fall Festival was a success on all levels, except soap sales. The town, museum, and I all felt good about the traffic and sales. I took soap, stain sticks, salves, yarn, and some knit and woven items and spent two day behind the old quill wheel talking about the history and process of spinning. I added a quill full of finely spun Jacob to my bobbin and left about a half a quill full on the wheel. Of the yarn I took, about half of it was sold. Also a hat and woven scarf/shawl of the same yarn.

It is always a mystery as to what will sell at an event. Sometimes the soap sells as fast as I can reshelve it, this time, not a single bar (but my soap and salves are also in the museum giftshop, so some may have sold there). Often hats and fingerless mitts are the item, rarely yarn, but I sold 7 skeins this time. It allowed me to make a generous donation to the museum fund.

At any rate, my breed for the spindle blanket challenge is spun, plied, and knit into it’s square and a second breed is spun, plied, and 1 of two squares almost complete. I’m not really stressing over the October/November challenge, so I put my spindles aside, except for the one I carry all the time, and pulled out my wheel that has been so idle for many, many months. I have a 4 ounce braid of pretty Pohlworth wool and I am spinning it on the wheel. I purchased a skein of linen yarn in a compatible color and I am going to weave a lindsey woolsey shawl from them. I don’t have a plan for it; personal use, gift, sale, who knows, but I wanted to weave and had nothing but cotton available for the loom. Perhaps I should warp the loom with some cotton and weave a dishtowel or two to knock off the rust from my skills before I use the linen and handspun wool.

If I like the outcome of the shawl/scarf, I have another 4 ounces of sapphire colored wool that could be handled the same way, spun on the wheel, woven with linen or a tightly spun mill spun wool as the warp and made into another scarf or some cowls for the Christmas markets.

Yesterday, I received my personal property tax bill for my craft equipment and inventory and it was the most I have ever been billed. I look at my sales for the past two years and the expenses and question the wisdom of maintaining the cottage business. I do enjoy the demonstration and lessons I can provide at the events, and vending can be rewarding when someone really seems to like something I made, but most people don’t realize the time that goes into spinning the wool, knitting or weaving the garment, and thus my prices end up being only my cost without labor, so I am doing it for the pleasure rather than the profit. I guess there is nothing wrong with that, it does keep me in supplies.

Now to figure out how to market more than 50 bars of soap.

After the weekend, both hubby and I were able to get both our flu shots and a Covid booster. We are hoping for a healthy winter ahead.

Cabin Crafted

At times during the worst of the pandemic here, I considered ending the shop as sales on the internet don’t really happen and there were no events. We live in a county of deniers, by statistics, it is the worst in the state as far as cases per capita, though not at the bottom of the pile for vaccinations. Masks have been a non item even during the absolute worst periods. With both of us vaccinated and hoping for boosters, I have recently done a couple of events outdoors, keeping my distance from others by the arrangement of my booth and keeping a spinning wheel between me and visitors. This weekend, I will be both vending and functioning as the Revolutionary War working woman/spinner at Wilderness Road Regional Museum where I volunteer, less now than before Covid. I will be set up on a roofed, open sided porch, which feels fairly safe and will probably be masked most of the time. Before Covid, I would often allow children, with their parent’s permission to sit on my lap and help me spin, then giving them the bit of yarn they spun. I won’t do that now and may never return to that level of comfort. When I participate at the Museum events, I always donate an item to the raffle and/or a percentage of my proceeds to the museum fund to keep them open to the public.

For the past year and a half of so, my wheels have gotten little use unless I am doing a public event. My interest returned to my spinning roots and the use of spindles. My favorites are the Turkish spindles, all but one of mine, beautifully crafted by Ed Jenkins in Oregon. They vary from the gorgeous Black and White Ebony tiny spindle to a couple larger ones that I use mostly to ply yarn spun on the others. The non Jenkins spindle is a tiny one not pictured.

Depending on the event and my mood, there are other spindles in my collection. The only one I use with any regularity is the Bosworth top whorl spindle on the left in the next photo. The center spindle is a Dealgan, a Scottish whorless spindle that I use for demonstration purposes and the Mayan spinner that I can barely make function, but kids love to see it. There are also two tiny spindles that are more decoration than functional, I have considered making ornaments from them.

In preparation for the weekend event, I have finally updated my online shop and the link at the top of the blog now reflects my current stock, though I noticed that some of the pictures are sideways. I guess I should try to figure out how to repair that.

I have been using up the bits of leftover yarn from making the breed blanket. My first project to use them was a wool hat.

And I spun another breed for the blanket, but must say, it wasn’t one I enjoyed. It was gray Norwegian wool, a quite coarse longwool with lots of guard hairs that shed while I was spinning it. It was plied as I spun and is ready to knit, but I haven’t brought myself to the point of picking up the needle to start it as it isn’t soft at all and will have to go on an edge of the blanket because of what I have already assembled.

We will see how this weekend and the Museum Holiday Markets turn out before I decide whether to get serious about restocking the shop for the future. I’m hoping the Saturday rain finds a different location to fall upon. We have gone from drought to soaked.