Spinning for Feral Beginners

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

finally -- my spindle

Finally got in 5 minutes to spin something. With deadlines upon me and not enough time to scratch, I just needed a bit of spindle time -- go for the blood pressure! Still spinning my coloured sheepwool dyed in purples and greens. It'll be a 2ply for some lace project of some kind.

After many months, I finally started knitting the yarn V spun from some sliver I dyed last year - pictured below. I need to hide it so I can get work done. *sigh* 

Roman Tile Australian Wool Sliver

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and, yes, the Ugly

Yes, today has been a head-scratcher. After a week of being on the receiving end of unprofessional behaviour problems, all I wanted to do was hide in my workshop. 

The Good: I finally had a chance to talk to someone in the yarn industry who was: a) happy to listen and b) actually wanted to offer some solutions to a business problem. I could have reached through the phone and kissed this person. Good karma call.

The Bad: What had been just a minor annoyance has now become a headache.

Here's the deal -- there's a big difference between professional dyers practice their art and, what seems to be, on the other hand, a proliferation of people who think they can dye yarn, sell it, and make a fortune. Good luck to them. The market will sort this out. Karma baby.

It's just that, well, we're not all the same. And buyer beware.

I get people at my market stall who say they have had a bad experience with hand-dyed fibre and don't want to pay for another. It's downright depressing. All I can say is, well, yes, I totally understand. Buyer beware. Some of us have done their hard yards, invested a lot of time and money to get their product into a professional standard, and it's hard sometimes when the competition doesn't do the same.

If you like to hand-dye and are happy with your results -- fantastic! If you think it's just a matter of cooking a pot on the stove and bunging your fibre in -- well fine.  Buyer beware.

I now understand the looks of dismay on the faces of some of Australia's best hand-dyers as they toured around one of the main festivals last year. All our new faces and fibres caused consternation. One fibre vendor -- I consider her to be one of our best --was aghast that I often rehank my yarns -- it's an aesthetic thing for me really -- and said -- oh! you rewind!

I assured her that if I had her volume, there's no way those puppies would get rewound -- we both had a good laugh. And I still buy her yarn -- because it is wonderful and a great product.

I totally believe there is room in this country for all of us dedicated fibre artists to have a go. But some of my "colleagues" believe that denigrating another dyer's product, or trying to rip off their style and designs is the way to corner the market. That really sucks. By the way, when I do shows overseas, the other vendors are fantastic, supportive, and form a mutual appreciation society. I don't get that vibe in Australia. Why is that?

My friend Suzette (talented jewelery artist) and I call the baddies -- Market Vampires. They go around to the markets, find stuff they like, then go home, copy it, then turn up at your market with a stall. 

Guess what? There are Yarn Vampires these days. Here are some ways to avoid being a Yarn Vampire:

1) don't ask the artist what dyes they use -- why? Go out and buy some dye, find a type you like, and mix your own. It's worth the time and effort. Otherwise, you're a Yarn Vampire. 

Yes, some of us are happy to tell you. Others aren't. If the only key to my art was the brand of dye I used, well, I wouldn't be any good then would I?

2) don't ask the artist how they dye their yarn -- why? Because many have spent a lot of time and money learning and practicing their art. Wanna cut corners? Get something for nothing? Then, you're a Yarn Vampire.

3) don't ask the artist if they can teach you to dye yarn -- why? Because many hand-dyers have developed their own methods of dyeing. This is proprietary knowledge, and for many, their livelihood. Most will be happy to tell you because the basics are out there, in books, online. So go do your homework and stop cutting corners. If the only key to what I did was putting dye on yarn, I wouldn't be doing my work would I?

Try this instead: ask -- "do you teach workshops?" If the answer is yes, the artist will most likely have a schedule and location of their next workshop. And they'll thank you for asking.

But please don't ask -- can I come over to your workshop and you teach me what you do? Yes, this happens to me often. One person even told me she was starting a yarn dyeing business, so would I be happy to teach her? 

And just in case you think this is a hand-dyer problem, rest assured, my other artist friends who sell their work get the same questions. 

OK -- ask yourself -- do you go into a fine restaurant and into the kitchen and say to the head chef -- "yeah, I cook too." 

We all have our own reasons for owning a fibre arts business. I started mine by accident. I was selling my recycled artwear and designs and customers kept asking me where I got my fibres. I said, "I dye bits and pieces for myself." I was dyeing yarn and threads because I couldn't readily find what I wanted to work with. 

I went home sad that day and told my husband, they don't want the garments as much as the yarn. He said, don't be stupid, sell the damned yarn. So there you have it. 

The Ugly: One YV, who inspected my work at my stall, stood in front of me and said, "I can do that for next year." But what's the point? What possible reason would someone think that is ever ok?  

Well good on ya sister -- see you at the shows this year. Just stay away from my stall. You're a Yarn Vampire. And I've got a stake with your name on it. 

Monday, May 4, 2009


My friend V advises she's been spinning some CSW  I dyed in Sherwood Forest (yeah, it looks like it sounds) and I can't wait to see it. 

Been spinning on my lighter gemstone spindles and really enjoying them. They take much more abuse than my Schacht spindle (broke the hook twice) -- I think the top of that one is too tall and just says, split me off please. I like the way it spins, but it's too expensive for me to abuse. I like to throw my spindle in my spinning bag. 

jasperstone spindle by SIOz

This puppy may not look like much, but it's just the right weight and spins nicely for me. I'm happy with my hooks -- they suit the way I spin -- and they're easy to cart around.