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.