Victoria and I have been working hard during our current transition period. If you haven’t heard the news, Victoria was accepted for a Kiva small business loan! We’re hoping funding will happen soon, and are already in the process of getting her own workspace setup in her own home. This is an incredible opportunity for her, and for all of us really, because we expect this transition to mean lots more batts for everyone.
Sunday, 10 December 2017, will mark one month since we relaunched production! What’s been particularly exciting for me about it all is that, whereas years ago, Victoria was my employee, now we’re an entrepreneurial partnership. With her having her own equipment and workspace, she’ll be earning more on each batt she makes, and getting to spread her designing wings as well with a range of Victoria’s Choice (well, we haven’t settled on a name for her product line yet) fibers from time to time in addition to her production work on my designs.
We have been testing logistics and all kind of internal things, including Victoria borrowing my trusty Cardzilla on a short-term basis! Victoria worked on Cardzilla for a year or so in the Stringtopia days, and has been working on Cardzilla since we started working together again. To say she’s familiar with Cardzilla is an understatement.
I didn’t want to loan Cardzilla out long term for multiple reasons (I admit: mostly because he’s kinda my baby and I’m on record as saying “I might grab Cardzilla on the way out the door if the house were on fire”) or I would have done so from the beginning, but when Victoria’s Kiva Small Business Loan became a reality, I decided a one month loan would be perfect. Not only will it give her the ability to produce more batts from her home and spend more time with family, but borrowing Cardzilla will allow her to figure out her own workspace logistically so the transition from Cardzilla to her own brand new carder will be seamless for us, and for our batt lovers.
As a result of this transition time the upcoming batt batch we wanted to release this week didn’t quite make our self-imposed Friday deadline. However, with us working hard over the weekend, the new batch will be listed on Monday, December 11, to kick off the second month of our re-launched batt production! The theme for our upcoming batt batch is Banned Books! We’ll have unique fiber blends in colorful tributes to some of our favorite banned books: The Color Purple, Leaves of Grass, Fahrenheit 451, and a few others. Do you have some colors or titles you’d love to see? Let us know — this might not be our last Banned Books tribute series!
Victoria will be working from home on Cardzilla over the weekend to finish up this batch, so make sure you stay tuned for all the updates on getting her getting her space up and ready for some mass production, along with sneak peeks of the blends in this batch!
So right about a week ago, Victoria Crossman, who was my first-ever production right hand at my old brick and mortar studio got ahold of me and let me know she had some space in her schedule.
It probably won’t surprise anyone who knows her, or who remembers my studio, that I leapt at the chance to have her come help me out with some stuff. For starters, she attacked the chaos that has been my production room here at home, sorting everything (because she already knew what it all was, and I could say things like “separate out batt materials from class supplies,” and she already knew) and setting up two carding workstations, one for the Strauch and one for the Pat Green.
That made us ready to push through batt and roving production like we used to back in the day. And then we got to doing that.
So for our first week of ramping back up, we managed to do 1 Batt Bar Batt, 16 Fresh Rovings, and a whopping 76 Classic Abby Batts. We’re so impressed with ourselves right now it’s almost cute.
Now, in fairness, we used to do that in two days, so we’re a little slow still. And also, those days were longer than the ones we’ve got right now. But I have to tell you: it’s amazing what it’s like to get back to work with someone I’ve already worked with, who’s already trained up and skilled up, and who already knows the big picture thinking and objectives and goal-setting and all that sort of thing.
Once I knew we’d be able to do some really solid production, though, I had to accelerate my plans to retool web sites and relaunch an online store and all kinds of stuff like that. I’d figured on spending a big chunk of next year trying to find and train someone to work with me on production, and it was all kinds of overwhelming for all kinds of reasons, ranging from work room chaos to finding someone and training them up.
So, what I’ve done this past week includes:
– make a “First Dibs Fibers” section that’s exclusive to Patreon members for the first 2 days
– make a “General Fiber Sales” section that’s where everything goes after Patreon folks have had their first crack at it.
– install a cart I thought I’d like, broke this web site, got it unbroken, and started reassessing the cart solution while keeping the First Dibs and General Fiber sections sorted and working.
Anyway, if you’d like to follow along with production and have insider access while we’re doing it — hear about what we’re making, see advance pictures, catch the occasional livestream as we’re able to get that sorted — we’re doing it on Discord chat and the Patreon feed. Once we’ve got a few tech things sorted out, we’ll probably open up Discord server membership more broadly, keeping some channels patron-only, but I’m trying to keep things moving at a pace where I can keep up and sort out hassles as they happen before they become entrenched.
Do expect to see redesign work going on for this web site for the next little while. Picture one of those early animated GIFs of a worker digging. Any time you’re working on a system that’s been up and running for over 11 years, you’re probably going to break something if you touch it.
Well, it’s been two years now. I guess on the bright side, when I woke up, it wasn’t the morning of the first snow. Maybe that’s not the bright side, because the first snow will probably make me cry just like this anniversary of your death does.
You taught me to swim there, and you know there’s nobody for generations in your family who doesn’t know exactly where this photo was taken. There are so many things I meant to ask you about that place. I thought there’d be more time. Why couldn’t there have been more time? Lots of people get more time with their moms. Yeah, I know, there are also people who don’t get as much. None of that is the point, though. It’s like when Ed was dying, and he said it wasn’t as tragic as if it was happening to a young mom with little kids, and I told him he was wrong, because whoever that person might be, and however sad that story might be, it wasn’t about my father. I don’t think he’d thought about it that way. But you had. He saw what I meant, but you already knew.
I want to have a tantrum, like a toddler, like a teenager. It’s not fair. I hate you being dead. Nothing I can say about it is really any more than that. I can say it lots of ways, with lots of words, but they all just mean the same thing.
I hate that you’re all gone. It’s all too soon. It’s all too sad. It’s all too hard. It makes me cry. I hate crying. You know that. Everybody knows that. So let’s just have a song instead and we can pretend it’s the song we’re crying about.
I know there are so many tragedies so much vaster, and that I am no orphaned baby daughter, but rather, a full-grown woman who oughta be bringing in the crops before they are left standing, rotted, in November. But man, that sure is a wide, muddy river, and if you were still here, we could talk for hours about rivers of tears in cross-cultural symbolism.
I miss you, Chris. Thank you for my life. For everything.
Have you been waiting to start learning to spin until you decide what kind of tool or equipment you want? Wait no longer! Now you can make yarn using just a pencil!
Or, you know, any kind of stick, really. Plus, it’s not really “now you can,” because people have been making yarn for at least 34,000 years, so it isn’t really news. I just thought that line sounded cute.
I’ve been seeing a thing going around lately that says: Happy Mother’s Day, including to dads who are playing the role. I get that the intent for folks who are sharing that is to be inclusive to all parents in a primary child-raising role, and I love that sentiment, but I have to say: this makes me sad for lots of reasons. The biggest is: so now we’re telling fathers that the only way they can interact parentally with their children is by “playing the role” of mother? That if they are nurturing or caring or take care of the household, now they’re mothers? By the way, what does this make mothers who work outside the home? I could go on and on, but frankly, it still shocks me how far we seem to have regressed in terms of perceived gender role stuff, just in my lifetime.
I’d like to give a shout out to my own mother. She never really went in for Mother’s Day. The year when I was 8, I decided I would make her breakfast in bed, and made sure I was up before either of my parents to do it myself. I was off to a pretty decent start, standing on a chair so I could easily reach the electric frying pan on the counter. Except… there I was cooking bacon when I must have bumped it or something because one of its feet was off the counter and it started to tip and fall. I caught it, and put it firmly back on the counter… then screamed, because in so doing, I burnt the heck out of my hand. My parents came running and ruined everything. They RUINED it! I was making Mother’s Day breakfast because I was going to do it, me, by myself, and then I make one little mistake and yell and they wouldn’t even let me finish. It was actually quite the little scene. And after that my mom always tried to make clear she didn’t wanna do anything for some Hallmark Holiday anyway.
My mom felt guilty. I could, I swear, *feel* it. At the time I thought that was stupid. But after I became a mom, I understood new things, viscerally. Like that she didn’t feel guilty that I burned my hand trying to cook bacon for her, she felt accountable and responsible for everything that ever happened to me or that I ever did. And then she spent the rest of her life dancing with that: stepping in, stepping out, turning her back, going around the outside, laughing and smiling more than anything else, until I finally broke free and ran off to be my own woman without her there to run cold water on my hand if I burned myself. And that morning, she could see that coming, and know she could never have stopped me from ever getting burnt, and all those things you think when your kid is hurt. And then there she was, feeling all of that, and I’m arguing with her that she should stop trying to run my hand under the cold water so I could finish breakfast, and she’s staying calm forcibly holding my blistered hand under cold running water and my dad says “Enough about the bacon! It’s fine.” I didn’t understand my mom as much before I was one. I couldn’t empathize with her. I didn’t get it. And I’m sorry. But I know she knew: I truly couldn’t have understood then.
After I became a mother, I would call my mother every year on this day, and apologize for something, like right now, when I’m apologizing for ever having thought, in my childhood and my teens, that she just wanted to control my life and ruin everything. I know she didn’t. She did the most amazing job ever of helping her daughter grow into the woman I am. I am ever in awe. There’s no sufficient gratitude.
There’s also no replacement, and sometimes, no solace for that.
I miss you, Chris. And thank you for all the times you said things to me just like what I said in the first paragraph. Thanks for always making me think. Thanks for encouraging me to just say things. Thanks for teaching me to argue, even if you might have wished I did it less. And thanks for teaching me my life didn’t have to be ruled by anyone else’s notions of what girls or boys, mothers or fathers, men or women, are supposed to do. The least I can do for you (on a day you never set much stock in) is to keep putting those questions out into the world.
Hi! I’m a double treadle 24″ Jensen “Space Saver” tall castle wheel with finials (sometimes called half-spokes). I was lovingly made by Jerry Jensen in 2001, from cherry wood with a walnut stain. I’m signed and numbered — JMJ No 5, 10/24/2001.
24″ drive wheel Space Saver,24″ x 16″ x 52″, orifice 25″ from floor, double drive and scotch tension, double treadle, ratios 9:1, 10:1, 11:1, 12:1, 14:1. I come with 2 bobbins, and can run double drive, Scotch tension, or Irish tension.
If you were looking for me new, I’d run $1750 and the wait would be 6-12 months from the date of order.
I have spent my life living with, and being maintained by, professional spinning teachers!
I can be yours for $1400 plus actual shipping via UPS (or you can pick me up in Lebanon, Ohio). Interested? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thinking about buying a used spinning wheel? Doing so can be a great way to save money, but alas, it isn’t always easy to find a used wheel in good condition. If the seller is a spinner, then your odds are pretty good, but sadly, people who don’t spin can’t necessarily even tell if something actually is a spinning wheel or not. So, if you’re looking for your first wheel, my usual recommendation is to not buy a used wheel from someone who isn’t a spinner.
Okay… but what if you really, really want to? That’s where today’s video comes into play. I’ll show you my family’s old great wheel, an antique flax wheel with some issues that aren’t dealbreakers, and a modern wheel in good condition.
Do you have a spinner in your life for whom you’d like to buy a gift, but you aren’t sure what he or she would like? I’ve pulled together a list of some favourite items in various price ranges to help, followed by a few tips on shopping for spinners in secret.
The Spinner’s Party Tool from FBN Plastics. Featuring a wraps per inch gauge, angle of twist gauge, and a bottle opener with a keychain ring, this little gadget is incredibly handy. I have several, in various places around the house, my car, and my luggage. Did I mention it’s TSA approved, so I can always measure my yarn AND open my beer, even when I’m on the road? I also keep one hanging from my wheel next to my orifice hook, and one in my spindle bag. $5.
Spinning Wheel Oil Bottle. If you’ve got a wheel, you need oil for it (typical motor oil works great), and you’d rather have it be easy to apply. I really like these Schacht oil bottles because of the long needle tip that lets you get the oil right where you want it. $8-9
Orifice Hooks. These are used pretty constantly with most spinning wheels, and most spinners could stand to have more of these. Sometimes the ones you have go rogue, and there you are, bending a paper clip to handle an emergency — if you don’t have a few extras lying around. Some spinners really like to have beautiful ones. They can be made from wood, glass, all manner of things. $2 and up, with a lot in the $10-20 range.
A Pretty Diz. Used to pull prepared fibers into their final pre-spinning state, dizzes are more of a hit-or-miss gift, but they’re usually inexpensive and fun. Many people make them or repurpose household objects like buttons, but you can also find really pretty ones. If your spinner has a drum carder or combs, this could be a win for a small gift. Prettier, fancier ones cost a bit more. You want smooth (so fibers don’t snag) and durable (because fibers are stronger than you might think). Around $20.
Fiber! Dude, there is so much fiber in this price range. Omigod, is there fiber in this price range. Sadly, it’s hard to say there’s one kind of fiber that makes the perfect gift. So instead, here’s a short list of a few of the folks whose fiber I personally always find delightful, and whose stuff I use in classes.
A Nice Spindle. At this price point, you can buy some really nice spindles! Some of my favourites are:
– KCL Woods
I have never had a spindle I didn’t really, really like (or more likely, desperately adore) from any of these makers. They’re all unique and individual and worth every penny as workhorse tools that are also beautiful. Even if your spinner doesn’t have a major spindle attraction, these are the spindles that, shall we say, I doubt anybody would kick out of bed for eating crackers.
Hand cards — if your spinner has none, then my choices for all-around hand cards are Schacht curved medium or fine, or Strauch fine, including half-size. Every individual spinner will develop his or her own preferences, so the curved or flat question is pretty much unanswerable. Your spinner won’t know until he or she has used them for a while. So don’t overthink it! If you’ve got a spinner who does not have hand cards, it’s time to remedy that. If your spinner does have hand cards, but only one set, see if you can figure out which set and then call a good fiber shop (like one of the ones linked in various places in this article) and ask for advice on what cards should come next.
Books and Videos! There are so many great resources out there now, many of them free — but I still recommend having an extensive library. The hot new release The Spinner’s Book of Fleece by Beth Smith (you can even get a signed copy). If your spinner doesn’t already have it, he or she probably wants it. Here’s a short list of some other books I recommend:
Classes! Nothing helps a spinner get more out of whatever they’ve already got than taking some classes. However, sometimes they can be hard to justify for people, and so they make really great gifts. Contact your local (or most local) fiber shop or weaver’s guild to find out what options exist in your area.
Yarn Handling Tools — often overlooked, these tools actually make an enormous difference in the life of a spinner. Eventually, every spinner probably should have a way to make skeins of yarn, a way to hold those skeins to wind them into balls, and a way to easily wind those balls. So, that’s a skein winder or niddy noddy (for making skeins), a swift (for holding skeins), and a ball winder (for, um, winding balls). YES, there exist tools out there that do double duty, but I’m going to tell you the truth: almost none of them do a truly great job, and in the long run, your spinner will probably be happier with great tools that really work reliably for the purposes for which they were made. So here are my faves:
– Schacht Niddy Noddy. Like real antique ones, this niddy noddy is extremely lightweight, making it easy to work with when winding skeins. Unlike antique ones, this collapses and folds up small, and can make more than one size skein. $75.
– Fricke skeinwinder. I have both a motorized, and non-motorized, version of this winder, equipped with a rotation counter that tracks your revolutions so you know how long your skein is once you’re done winding. These are probably the biggest time savers of any single piece of equipment I own — no exaggeration.
– Swift! The umbrella style is terrific and sturdy and usually repairable, unless you get a really chintzy one (they’re out there — if the swift is half the price of most of the others, I would probably give it a pass). You want one that says it can handle 2-yard skeins. You can get them that clamp to a table or surface, that rest on a surface, or that stand on the floor. I have one free-standing and one clamping, because different circumstances call for different things. I’ve been very happy with the decades of hard work I’ve gotten from my Ashford swift and my Glimakra swift. But counter to what I said above regarding multi-tasking tools, I have only had great experiences with the Strauch skeinwinder, so that makes the list as well. One of the things that’s great about the Strauch ones is that you can get table clamps that work even with those newfangled plastic folding tables that have a lip on them — a perpetual irritation for the fiber artist who wants to clamp stuff to stuff!
– Ball Winder. I grew up with plastic ball winders that were pretty great, but sometime this century or so I guess the quality really diminished. I think it was 2004 when I went through 3 ball winders in 3 months, and swore off buying the cheap ones, having concluded that for the price of the three cheap ones with broken plastic gears I could have bought one really good one instead. As it happens, I still have that one really good one, which was a Strauch that I initially expected to be overkill for my needs. Turns out it hasn’t been. The other really fabulous one out there is from Nancy’s Knit Knacks — when Nancy says heavy duty, she means it.
– Bobbin Winder. My Schacht bobbin winder is my most reliable and dependable. After the skein winder, the bobbin winder is probably my biggest saver of time and money. With it, and an assortment of cheap plastic bobbins, it simply doesn’t matter how many bobbins I have for which spinning wheel.
– Combs! Oh, man, where to start with combs? If your spinner has none, then I’d go with either the double-pitch Valkyrie fine hand combs, or St. Blaise combs (designed by master comber and spinning teacher Robin Russo, and made by her husband Pat). These two are actually the ones I use the most, as generalist combs. However, your spinner may have specific wants and needs and if he or she has combs already, there could be another set that are needed in order to perform specific tasks, in which case, refer to the upcoming advice about sneakily finding out what your spinner really wants.
– Blending Board. These have been the hot item in fiber prep for the past year or two, and there are lots of designs. I really like the Clemes and Clemes one and the Ashford one, which can sit on your lap but also feature a keel that you can hold between your knees to keep things steady while you play, or set on a table in front of you.
This is a tough price range — it represents a price point where you can often find more expensive equipment used in good condition, and where you start to see the most entry-priced higher-end tools and equipment. However, most of the new equipment in this price range doesn’t wow me in terms of fit and finish, durability, and bang for the buck. If this is your budget, I’d put together a bunch of mix and match stuff from lower price ranges, such as a skein winder, swift, ball winder, and bobbin winder. Or a spindle and a lot of fiber. Or lots of extra bobbins for your spinner’s wheel of choice. Or, see if you can get your spinner to divulge a wish for an add-on to his or her wheel, because you can also find a lot of things like that in this price range.
Another good option might be to pick up your spinner a way to use up some of that yarn, and a great option in this price range is a rigid heddle loom with accessories. I’m partial to my Schacht rigid heddle looms because they’re laid out similarly to floor looms, and because of the range of accessories available (one of my faves is the heddle solution that lets you mix and match so you can do a lot of varied things with your warp). One of the great things about giving a spinner a rigid heddle loom is that it’s going to eat up lots of yarn, and it’s easy to mix and match and combine small skeins and leftovers into cohesive finished projects. I realize it’s a whole new slippery slope, but… you never know, you might just want to give your spinner a gentle nudge. You’ll doubtless be repaid in all kinds of new textile goods.
Now we’re in the entry priced spinning wheel price range! You might want to take a stroll through my article on choosing your first wheel to help you think this one through. The brands I most recommend are Ashford, Lendrum, Louet, Majacraft, and Schacht. My two top picks for wheels in this price range are the Schacht Ladybug and the Lendrum folding wheel, but all the brands I mentioned are dependable, excellent performers, and well-supported. I recommend finding the closest dealer you can for these, so you can get local help and support for the new wheel.
This is also the right price range for a drum carder. Myself personally, I have three — a Strauch, a Pat Green, and a Louet Classic. They all do different things, and it’s really no coincidence that these are the three I have: these are the ones that I’ve kept after working with lots of others. The Strauch is my best all-around, the Pat Green is the best for superfine fibers, and the Louet Classic is the best for more medium and wild and crazy fibers. Find whatever’s in your price range from one of those brands, and you pretty much can’t go wrong. If I could only keep one of these carders, though, it would be the Strauch, based on over a decade of extensive drum carding experience. My top pick for an entry-priced drum carder is the Strauch Petite, based on almost a decade of working with them in classes.
As another thought for this price range, sending (or taking) your favourite spinner to a class (these can be pretty cheap and local, or they can be pricier with national instructors and involve travel), retreat, or fiber festival would be the kind of gift they’ll talk about for years.
At this price point you can either buy a heavier duty drum carder, a higher-end spinning wheel, or put together a spinner’s studio package. My top picks for spinning wheels in this price range are: Schacht Matchless, Majacraft Rose and Suzie, Louet Julia, Ashford Elizabeth, Lendrum Complete package. My top picks for drum carders are Strauch Finest and Pat Green Blender/Carder.
For a package that will give your spinner pretty much everything he or she really needs, here’s what I’d do. This list is ordered by priority, based on my experience.
– spinning wheel
– skein winder or niddy noddy (go for the skeinwinder if budget allows)
– books and videos
– bobbin winder
– hand cards
$1200 and up
Okay, I’m going to talk turkey here: if you’ve got this kind of budget for gifts for the spinner in your life, you probably shouldn’t be taking the word of some stranger on the Internet, even if it’s me. Chances are good that your spinner already has a wish list of things he or she really, really wants, and you’re going to have to get that information somehow.
There’s always coming right out and asking, but if you wanted to be less direct (so you can definitely surprise someone), you might consider contacting the fiber or yarn shop that he or she frequents, and asking if they know your spinner and whether or not there’s anything the folks at the shop think he or she wants or needs. That’s also a way to find out what’s new, what’s hot, and that sort of thing. Your spinner also might be a member of public fiber arts groups online, and while I wouldn’t ordinarily suggest stalking someone on the internet, you might well find that a public forum contains posts where your spinner has outright stated what he or she most wishes they had. It’s been known to happen. Lastly, it’s possibly slower to get answers, but watch your spinner doing what he or she does and see if anything seems slow, cumbersome, or awkward. Then ask if there’s something that solves that. For example, “Hey, that niddy noddy thing seems kinda slow. Is there a faster way?” You’ll probably hear “Oh, yeah, there are skein winders, but they’re $100 and up and I can’t warrant spending that.” And then you’ve broken the ice! Then you can simply say things like “Wow, I had no idea there were so many things like that! Tell me more about some other interesting ones!” and there you go, you’ll probably hear more than you ever imagined.
Believe it or not, I get asked this question pretty regularly: “If you were going to set someone up with a really awesome spinning studio for the best bang for the buck, what would you get?” As with all things spinning, the answer is really “It depends,” but if this were some sort of game show which I’d win by just handling that question, I’d budget $1500-1700 and go this route:
The fall teaching schedule is always jam-packed and exciting, and when I get home — usually just before Thanksgiving — I tend to have a huge email backlog from being on the road, and a staggering to-do list that I always expect to complete in the relative lull (well, at least it’s a travel lull) of late November to early January. Topping that to-do list is always “update the class list.”
Throughout the year, I keep notes about the things people ask me to teach, and the things I hear people asking. In November, I do outlines and descriptions and materials workups for the new classes, check out all the details and work out pricing, all that sort of thing. I’m always amazed — even though I should know — at how much longer this takes than I expect! But, I’m done for the year! Huzzah! Here it is.
It’s a PDF and there’s a ton of information in there! So I figured I’d summarize things a bit. My class list allows for three main ways to hire me to teach for you (although there are always unique considerations and special cases). First, in what I call the “hosted model,” you can hire me and pay my flat daily rate, plus travel and lodging, and then I’ll show up and teach while you promote the event, deal with registrations, and fit things into your pre-existing routine. This usually works out well for guilds, shops, and some festivals and retreats. Second, in what I call the “grassroots model,” you can have me handle registrations and collect an all-inclusive per-student fee, while you find a location where you are, do some on-the-ground logistics and advertising (like arranging for the location and telling your friends). This tends to work out well for informal groups or for a group that doesn’t have a pre-existing structure for holding classes. Third, you can come where I am with a small group, and we can put together a retreat with me at the Golden Lamb, where we’ve held Stringtopia retreat events over the past few years. This can be done either paying me the flat rate to have me deal with the logistics at this end and for you to show up with up to 7 of your friends (more by quote), or it can be made into a grassroots model retreat which I host and handle registrations and so forth.
The hope behind having three ways to do this is to try to have as many ways as possible to be as accessible as I can be to the widest range of people in the widest range of places. Of course, next year I’m going to finally have developed the online automated quote generator system with date scheduler and a robot that handles everything. I say that every year, but somehow, I never seem to do it. So if you’re interested, just email me — abby at abbysyarns.com — and we can go from there! And if you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments for all to see.
Looking forward to seeing lots of you this coming year — and beyond!