Craft Season Approaches-9/9/2019

Each time I have a vending opportunity and sell little or nothing, I have second thoughts about the whole process. Is it worth it to load it all up, set it all up, sit there for hours, only to pack it up with maybe a few dollars in my pocket? Then the notices start arriving about opportunities that I haven’t tried before, hubby suggests new shapes or scents for soaps, I try a new product for myself and think it will sell and start downloading the applications.

Last night I ordered some “holiday” shaped molds and a flower shaped mold for cold process soap. Last spring, I added a sheep, a goat, and a couple traditional shapes. I rarely make the loaf shape that has to be sliced anymore. I played with a gorgeous swirl, but it didn’t set up properly and had to be re batched which caused the swirl to be incorporated. Then last night, shortly after I completed applications for two events I have never done before, a friend and I chatted and she may have yet another we can do together, both demonstrating fiber prep and spinning as well as vending our wares. The Holiday Markets at the Blacksburg Farmers’ Market, that I have done those for several years and had mixed results will conflict with one of the others, but I can still possibly do two of them. If they all pan out, that will be 5 events in a couple of months and will hopefully reduce my stock so I can reassess what sells and what doesn’t. Oddly, the two soaps that are preferred by my eldest’s family and by me are two that don’t sell at events very well.

I started out with mostly body care products and a few knit hats. As I have continued my adventure in spinning, more knits and weaves have been added, but the types of markets that I am doing generally don’t support the cost that a hand spun, hand knit or hand woven garment require. If I were to value my time invested in the process, the prices would be so high as to frighten off lookers. As a result, I generally try to recoup my fiber cost and some tiny amount for my design and time, but mostly consider it my entertainment expense. If a 4 ounces bag of wool costs $15-$25, pricing a hand spun, hand knit hat at $30 causes folks pause, but really doesn’t pay me for my time at all. It takes several hours to spin the fiber and several more to knit a hat out of medium weight yarn, my hand spun is often finer and so takes longer, so the pay for my time is $5-$15 total for 8-10 hours of work, not even sweatshop pay.

Maybe I’m going about this wrong. I started making soap for family, but only one son’s family wants it. With jobs and kids in the house, they need easy to care for clothing, so hand washable hand knit woolens aren’t favored. I have tried online shops and don’t sell much if anything there either. Maybe I should just make enough soap for the two families, spin and knit what I will wear and not worry about selling any of it.

Can you tell, I am discouraged, but still hopeful?

Grapes and Shawls – 8/13/2019

More than a dozen years ago while eldest son and his wife were supervising the construction of our house, but before the erected structure was turned over to them to do all of the inside carpentry and the interior and exterior stone work, they put in a huge garden, made friends with some of the rural neighbors, and were gifted a slip of a very old grapevine from one of them. That vine has been moved a couple of times, but has never been given a proper arbor. It currently has a ring of garden fencing around it that has filled with tall grass and which has collapsed under the weight of the vine. Last year, after having been left alone for a few years, it produced enough grapes to harvest. They are a tough skinned, purple grape, each with about 3 seeds, and a very grapey flavor. Not wanting to waste them but not having enough to do too much with, I made juice, supplemented it with bottled no sugar added concord grape juice and made jelly.

I have been watching the vine this year and it is loaded with grapes. With all the chaos of a houseful of grands for two weeks, it got by me and yesterday I realized that there are many ripe grapes and that they must have started ripening at least a week ago as there are many dried up seedy “raisens” on some of the bunches. I noted them when I went out to do chicken chores yesterday morning, then promptly forgot about them because I had a head blowing headache all day and it got so miserably hot I didn’t want to be outside anyway. At dusk when it was time to again do chicken chores, I spotted them again and by flashlight picked about 4 to 5 cups of ripe purple grapes.

This morning the sky is thick with cloud cover, severe thunderstorms are predicted, but it hasn’t gotten unbearably hot yet, so I determined to dig through the thick vines and see what was lurking under there. I had also been hesitant to reach in there a couple of weeks ago, because that is where the big rat snake went after I first saw him. After grabbing him out of the coop and relocating him, I again felt safe to reach into the thicket.

The vines are full, many still green and most on or near the ground. I picked another cup full this morning in the light and will continue over the next few days to pick as they ripen, hoping to get the 5 cups of juice I need to make a batch of grape jelly that is juice just from our vine.

This fall after the leaves are off, I will take the time to build an arbor of some sort for the vines to climb and make the harvest task easier next year. I think thinning the vines will produce enough cane to make a wreath or basket too.

I mentioned in the title, shawls. Well, there are two in the works. One is a small triangular knitted shawl with lace inserts from yarn from the estate sale of our local indy dyer who passed away early spring. The other is a woven shawl of my handspun on the 5 foot tri loom.

A few rows after what you see here, I realized that there would not be enough of the rusty colored Pohlworth to do what I had planned.

Being in a glass half full mindset last night, I decided that if I incorporated more of the dark Jacob there might be enough. Well, the glass half full turned to glass not even half full and there isn’t enough. A design decision was made to make it a trapezoid instead of a triangle, to spin another skein of Jacob, making the center predominately the darker Jacob with the rust accent stripe down the center of the back and instead of fringed edges, use tassels or ties at the upper corners. With the plaid look and the trapezoidal shape, it will be a good wrap for jeans or a casual skirt on a cool fall evening.

Being a fiber artist doesn’t always work out as planned, but flexibility in design can still bring success.

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Newport Ag Fair – 8/10/19

This is the oldest agricultural fair in the Commonwealth and it happens in our little village today and last night. We have been attending this fair every year we are in town since we moved to our farm about 13 years ago. Each year, walking through the exhibits, watching the horse competitions, the jousting, the animal exhibits, enjoying some fair food and ice cream and when it doesn’t rain, staying to the end to listen to the music and watch the fireworks.

Last year for the first time, I finally submitted two shawls for exhibition and won two blue ribbons, totally shocking me. It emboldened to me exhibit again, expanding to several home canned goods, a skein of hand spun yarn, the shawl I spun and knit for Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em, and a scarf from a skein of yarn from a local indy dyer and friend who passed away early this spring.

My submissions to the Fair.

When the items were delivered, they could not figure out a category for the hand spun yarn, so it came home again. The Tomatillo Simmer Sauce also caused some consternation at the check in. They didn’t know what a Tomatillo was, thus they didn’t know how to categorize it. It ended up in miscellaneous vegetable category. The judging was done at 8 p.m. last night, and the header shot is my results, a red on the hand spun hand knit shawl, a blue on the commercial yarn scarf, a red and two whites on canned items. A total of 5 ribbons. I’m pleased.

The weather has turned hot and dry, the garden is not thriving, watering had to be done, prompting thunderstorm warnings, but only sprinkles happened. The pumpkins are finally blooming. It may be too late for them to set fruit and grow pumpkins to maturity before the frost, usually mid October, but sometimes not until early November. I am hopeful for at least a couple for holiday pies and a stuffed pumpkin meal. My tomatoes are at their end, way too early, the tomatoes are just coming in to their own at the Farmers’ Market, so though I won’t have many more to can, I will be able to purchase some to enjoy sliced or in a salad.