OHS Level 4 – Best. Spinning Week. EVER.

Disclaimer: You are going to see references to various animal fibres, fur and hair. The instructors of this course have gone out of their way to ensure that they have sourced it from ethical vendors. The hair/fur collection processes include collecting fibres that have been shed, combing the animal and sheering the animal. Where I’m going with this – I don’t want you to think for a second that the animals were slaughtered just for their fur/hair. There is no way I would source fibres in this way and I know for a fact that the instructors wouldn’t either.

All I can say is wow.

Reeling Silk - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Reeling Silk

I had such a hard time getting things done with Level 3. I know I mentioned in my last post that I had questioned many times over the past 6 or 7 months whether or not I should hit the pause button with this course. I sought guidance from Wendy because I knew she would call a spade a spade. I shared with her all that was on my plate. She acknowledged that it was a lot, but I really needed to keep going because it will be so worth it. Level 4 is the game-changer. It’s when you get to have fun. It’s “playtime.”
I saw her in the hall after the second day and told her she was so right (again! hehehe)

Silk = MIND BLOWN

Tussah Silk - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Tussah Silk

Oh my goodness, I have a new favourite fibre. I have a whole new respect for silk and those who work in the industry. One of our exercises was to reel silk. All I’m going to say is that really for me, it was an exercise in non-verbal creative vocabulary expansion. The silk thread kept on breaking, but I did not utter one curse word. Verbally. We also learned how to make Mawata. That’s is the art of making silk hankies from cocoons. The cocoons were boiled in water with a measured amout of washing soda in order to degum them. This gets rid of the sticky substance that holds the cocoon together. Once the coccoons are degummed, they are manipulated in a warm bath of water with a splash of vinegar (to neutralize the effects of the washing soda). You start off with a little blob and then you work it out to be a square. It is then stretched over a frame and dried. From there, you can either stretch them out and spin them or you can dye them. I’m looking forward to playing with some dye. I have an idea on what I want to do, but I have no idea if it will work. This is the fun part! We have a small article that we need to make out of silk. I’m going to check the assignment to see if I can use silk hankies I make myself. Is it more work? Yep. But I want to play!!!!! Will it happen? Who knows. If it doesn’t happen for the assignment, it WILL happen someday. Life won’t always be this crazy.

Mawata - keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com

Mawata (silk hankies)

On Friday we got to spin some more exotics with Beth S. Oh my goodness, this woman was vibrating with excitement! Which was fully contagious! When I’m super excited about something, I vibrate the same way. And yes, I was buzzing too! What an informative class – from fibre harvesting, the rules and regulations to yak polo (yes, yak polo is a thing. Teena’s hubby has been elected to start a yak farm so that we can get a couple of teams going – we’re hoping to challenge the Level 1 class in the future – the guanlet has been thrown ladies!). I was amused with my yak-spinning experience. I struggled BIG TIME with the roving. Roving is normally the gateway; the warm-up to the harder stuff. Not this time. When we were asked to spin “from the cloud” (it’s basically a pile of uncarded fluff in your hand), I rocked it! I don’t get it. I’m also not going to over-analyze. I’ve found that to be a dangerous practice with this whole course. If it works, just go with it! Don’t ask why. Just do it, love doing it and love that you can do it! I never got past spinning the yak. We were given some mink fibre (NOT a pelt – the minks are still alive!) to practice our technique before we take on Quiviut. Quiviut is musk-ox fibre. It is very precious – I do believe that Beth said it ran around $50/oz. Yeah. I’m not going to let that scare me though. I’ve made the executive decision to give myself a loving smack upside the head if I get perfection paralysis this year. Again, going back to the reminder of the fact that we’re all still green when spinning these fibres. Even our most experienced instructors were beginners once! 

There was some Cashmere thrown in there too. I know there is more, but I’m suffering from the annual OHS course hangover – I’m not hugging the toilet, but the coffee tastes extra good this morning and I don’t have the capacity to make life-altering decisions. Brainy no worky… It’s a wonder I can come up with the words for this post!

Yesterday we started off with Angora bunny fur. Again… Le sigh… We started off by blending it with some Merino wool. If you’re not familiar with wool types, Merino is one of the softest, if not THE softest, wools available. I spun up a few samples with blending and then straight Angora. When I got them on the sample card, I compared the feel. There were a few giggles when I commented that the Angora made the Merino feel like sandpaper. I will reiterate – Merino is just gorgeous. What I wouldn’t give for a Merino fleece… The Angora was just THAT soft!

The final portion was what I have been waiting for for soooooooooo long… I won’t say that it’s the reason I’m taking the course, but it sure did sweeten the pot when deciding to not tap out…

Dog Hair.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I’m a pet sitter at some point or another. My beloved Kirby was my “pet project” when I was doing a service dog internship in 1999. Panzer was the reason I became a dog trainer through PetsMart. And then there’s Radar – Dad’s reason for getting out of bed. Needless to say, I LOVE dogs and the fibre supply here is endless!

I did have an idea of what was coming. I’ve seen Marty’s work over the years and I helped her on the studio tour. I also cleaned some fur for her too at one point. I did okay, but I still didn’t get out all the hairs that she needed removed. It takes longer to clean/process the dog hair than it does to spin it! The spinning part of it – I’m not worried at all. I’m more nervous aware about not getting enough of the guard hairs out. Marty said that it’s not something you can do all in one sitting. You’ll lose your mind. She said that she makes herself clean a handful before supper each night. That I can get on board with. I think I’m also going to invest in a good light to help with the process. I know this is going to become a thing. It’s inevitable with the other areas of my life.

One of our assignments is to spin a skein from whatever dog hair we want. That was a no-brainer for me. I’m going to spin up some Radar. Dad has been collecting hair for me pretty much since Radar came through the door. I’m excited to do this! I don’t know what I’m going to make from it, but I do know that I’m going to make something.

Oh, and it’s not “dog hair yarn.” It’s “Chiengora.” I cracked up when I saw that term. People are so funny. They will ooooh and awe over how soft and gorgeous the yarn is. But the second some of them find out it’s dog hair, they suddenly start sneezing and their allergies flare up. Meanwhile, they have been in the room for a considerable length of time. Allergies stem from the dander, not the hair itself! Sheesh!

Well, that’s my two cents of Level 4. I have a few Level 3 loose ends to tie up, but I’m hoping to be able to better document my Level 4 journey. I always take process pictures, but it’s the time factor with the posting. I’m starting to think that I should just post with few words and carry on. I may just do that.

I’m ready. DIVE! DIVE! DIVE!

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Year Four: The Reward for Year Three

It is believed that year three of the OHS spinning certificate course makes or breaks you. They say that if you get through level three, you will most likely graduate the program.

I’m not going to lie, there were times this past year where I had seriously contemplated hitting the pause button. I didn’t want to quit. Oh hell no! I worked too hard to get to where I am. However, I did contemplate more than once if this was the right time to do this course. This year has seen a LOT of change in my life, both positive and not so much. There has been a LOT of things happen that were out of my hands. It prevented me from getting my assignments done on time. I was determined to get them done though. That’s how I am – I start something, you can bet your bippy that I’m going to finish it! (even all of my yarny UFO’s will be done at some point!). I was so embarrassed when I had to ask for extensions due to circumstances beyond my control. When I explained what was going on to my instructors, they were so wonderful and understanding. I can’t express how grateful I am. Not once have they ever questioned me. I beat myself up, but they had nothing to do with that. In fact, I have been lovingly “told” a couple of times to knock it off, I’m only one person and I’m doing everything in my power. It was reiterated once again today that as long as I’m in communication if something comes up, we can always negotiate.

To me, that speaks volumes. They believe in me. They have believed in me when I haven’t believed in myself. I feel like I’m in the middle of running a marathon and they are cheering me on, wanting me to finish just as badly as I want to finish. That makes me even more determined to finish. Not only have I promised Mom, I owe them too for all of the time and energy they have invested in me over the past 3 years (it’ll be 6 years for Wendy).

This year has such a different feeling. It’s so much lighter. When I saw my classmates, it felt like a big family gathering. I will confess that my anxiety was running a little high due to one classmate. I won’t bother wasting any more energy on her – SHE IS GONE!!!!! The energy in that room this year has just been so wonderful. I don’t think I’ve smiled this much since I started this course. And it’s not like I’ve been miserable!

Saturday and Sunday saw us spinning exotic fibres. We started off with alpaca and llama. Then went on to camel. I think there was another one in there, but I’m pretty tired right now and I can’t remember. I love how our instructor reminded us of all the techniques we know now. I think the difference with this year is that we have options. In the previous years, the preparation and spinning style was set out for us. This year it’s whatever works for us. Having all of these options seemed a little overwhelming! I double-check with my instructor… “Am I understanding this right? We’re using whatever it is we have in our skills toolbox to achieve our best skeins?” She said I was correct and was hoping that that’s what we would take away from this course.

On a side note, I was amused at this whole new approach with spinning. I’m more or less at the same place in my martial arts journey. We spend the first part learning the skills/basics and when/where to apply them. After that, it’s blown wide open to use whatever it is we need to use to get the desired result. It’s the “art” part of martial arts! While both art forms are so different, my enthusiasm is very similar for both. I’m sure it’s the art and creativity I get to practice and release with both.

The last day and a half was spent in the dye room. We were playing with indigo. I have to say that I really enjoyed dyeing this time around. Maybe it was my partner, Mary-Lyn (I had never met her before Saturday – this woman is freaking awesome!). Maybe it was the absence of a bossy, domineering, controlling, sabotaging, narcissistic… Oh yeah, I wasn’t going there… Maybe it was the indigo itself. Or the instructor and her assistant. I think it was all of that. I’m looking forward to my assignment. We have to use 2 methods that we have learned. And then we have to do some overdyeing. I already have myrobalan from my project last year. I’m going to fire up another pot of that bad boy. I’m also planning on getting a nature dye that goes red. I’m not sure which one yet.

One other thing that is different this year is when our dye days were scheduled. For the first three years, they were always the last day and a half of the course – Friday afternoon and Saturday. By that time, we are all so worn out. I think having to do extra math and having the additional pressure of your classmates relying on you to get a perfect dye pot for their samples… It’s all just too much. It will be interesting to see if Friday and Saturday are different this year. At least if you’re tired and punchy, you don’t have to worry about letting anyone down. You only have to answer to yourself if you screw up. I have a feeling that I’m going to be just as enthusiastic Saturday morning as I will be tomorrow.

This afternoon we were introduced to silk. We started off with Tussah silk. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. However, I need to speed up my treadles. Then we spun some Bombyx (cultivated) silk. The really funny thing is that I had an easier time getting a consistent yarn with it! It’s a lot more slippery than the Tussah. It was weird. What was also weird is that I spun an awesome sample “over the finger.” That is NOT my go-to method. In fact, it’s my second weakest method (long-draw being my weakest). I showed my instructor. She told me to save the sample and aim to spin my homework like it because it would be perfect. She was so impressed that she called her assistant over (her assistant was the woman who had taught this section of the course for many years before passing the torch – she knows her stuff!). She was impressed. So there’s hope for me! I shouldn’t say that… If there wasn’t hope for me, my instructors wouldn’t give me the push/gentle kick in the rear I need to keep going.

When I’ve been at my wheel these last few days, I’ve felt the same way I did when I first started spinning. Excited. Ecstatic. At peace. Smiling the whole time. I haven’t felt this way in a long time. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed spinning. I think I just lost why I was doing it for awhile. I’m so used to having to fight to be happy in many of the other areas in my life. I have no control of that. I do have control over this though. And I don’t have to fight. I just have to be. I have to remember that the chances of putting out perfect samples may or may not happen. Beth “told” me today… It came up about learning curves. I was saying about how when a karate student gets frustrated when they’re learning a new kata. I say “How many times have you done it?” “Once.” “Is it going to be perfect then?” “No.” “There you go. If you’ve been doing it for 10 years and you’re still at the same level, THEN be concerned.” Well, I was told to practice what I preach hehehe

We’re not half way through the course and I’m just flying high, ready to dive in to the homework. Even thinking about tomorrow, my heart starts to race and I have butterflies in my stomach. Geez, it’s like being in puppy love (except that I know that it won’t end up in a messy breakup!).

I’m hoping that I will have more time to update this blog. As I mentioned earlier, this year has just been absolute chaos. I’m hoping to be able to manage my time better. Although even those with the best time management skills would have difficulty with the things that I’ve had to endure. I got through it so far though. Again, this is where I will never be able thank my instructors enough.

Tomorrow is another day. I so can’t wait!

The Best Tips On Turning Your Hobby Into A Business – Guest Post by Aimee Lyons


Photo via Pixabay by SplitShire

Having a hobby is a wonderful way to express your creativity and find happiness in your own abilities, and there are many things you can do, from crafting to sewing to rebuilding vehicles. Putting your time and energy into something can really boost your self esteem and self worth, and when these hobbies turn into something more, they can be beneficial in a different way by helping you earn money…or even find a new career. They can also help you find peace and strength if you’re going through a big life change, such as addiction recovery or a divorce.

These days, it’s easier than ever to turn your hobby into a business. By utilizing social media and resources available to you online, you can begin taking the thing you love to do to another level and potentially make a new career out of it.

Here are some of the best ways to do just that.

Do some research

It’s important to do some research–both online and locally–to find out whether there are similar businesses already and what they entail. Get a feel for their pricing, their hours, whether they offer free or discounted shipping, and what sort of business plan they operate under.

Ask yourself some hard questions

It’s imperative to ask yourself whether you’ll still want to perform your hobby if the business doesn’t work out. Will you still get the same joy from it? Also, is it something you can do under pressure? Starting a business means you’ll have a commitment to your customers and you’ll be working under a time crunch rather than being able to do it whenever you feel like it. Not only does your business’s reputation depend on it, but your financial stability does, too.

Get some advice

Starting your own business isn’t easy, and often you may find that you’re doing everything yourself or with very little help. It’s important to make sure you’re ready for that kind of commitment, so talk to someone who has been through it and get advice on how to get started and where to find resources that can assist you when you need it. Speak with local business owners to find out what they might have done differently when they first opened up their store.

Get social

Starting your own business–whether it’s making jewelry or fixing motorcycles–means you have to be good at selling your service or product. That means starting social media pages to connect with potential customers, doing trade shows and conventions, working long hours, and talking to people about what you do to give them an idea of what your business entails. In some areas of business, there’s a lot of competition, so it’s imperative for you to find a way to stand out in the crowd. Make up some eye-catching business cards and do your best to make connections and network with other entrepreneurs.

Build a plan

After you’ve done some research and are sure of how you want to proceed, start building a business plan with some assistance from an attorney, an accountant, and possibly the Small Business Administration. It’s best to have some legal advice so you won’t be in the dark in regards to your rights and responsibilities. Start with the basics–such as whether you’ll be opening a brick-and-mortar store or keeping everything online–and work from there.

Keep in mind that although it will take some hard work and long hours, starting your own business can be a worthwhile venture, especially if it means you get to do something you love and make money at it. With a good plan and some support from your friends and family, there’s no reason you can’t make it a success.

Author: Aimee Lyons

I Heart My Minion Onesie

Mom always got us pyjamas for Christmas. That is one of many traditions I have kept alive. This past Christmas, I bought myself a Minion onesie. It even has a hood!

Today is one of those days where I’m grateful that I got it. It’s dark, dreary and damp. Pretty sure I’ve caught the bug my Sweet Pea was fighting off. I’ve changed into my onesie and I’m curled up in a blanket. There is so much I should be doing. I had to take a day for myself though. If I don’t, my body will take control and MAKE me take the time off. So I give.

I decided over the weekend that I was going to at least start a sweater for a crochet-along hosted by A Crocheted Simplicity. Whether I finish it or not will remain to be seen. I’m off to a good start though. It’s a cool sweater.

Since I’m feeling like crap, I won’t take the energy to post all the links I could. I will post a link to my project page though. That has all the links. It also has a pic of my gauge swatch and the yarn I’ll be using.

Here is the start of my back panel:

keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com - Crossover Pullover - back panel

Crossover Pullover – back panel

Just in case I don’t have the time to update my progress here on the blog, you can follow along on my Ravelry project page.

Elmo

I had a loyal customer contact me about an Elmo hat a couple of months ago. I was reluctant at the time because of how busy I was. I did explain that too her. I figured I could squeeze it in though. I had no idea what life had in store for me. I did see it through though and finally finished it on Friday.

keepmeinstitchez.wordpress.com - Elmo Hat

Elmo Hat

He is actually a combination of three patterns. The original pattern was for a baby. So I had to make a bigger hat base. I wasn’t fond of the nose, so I worked it from another pattern. If you’re curious about my project notes, you can find them here.

Twist and Grist with 5 Wool Types

DISCLAIMER: Remember, I’m still a student here. I’m still learning. So what I’ve written about my findings regarding my assignments MAY be incorrect. It is how it’s worked for ME at the time, based on notes I’ve taken throughout the course. If you’re reading this for your own assignments/personal growth etc., I encourage you to read other sources as well just to confirm because there may be a chance that I’m not understanding things correctly. There is no way that this is the be all and end all of spinning information. I definitely don’t know all there is to know about spinning. That’s why I’m taking this course!

I’m taking a moment here to do an update about the next assignment due for Level III. The only reason I’m taking a moment is because I have to wait for my breakfast to cook and cool down. Otherwise, I really don’t have the time to be updating.

Once again, life has decided to throw me some more curve balls preventing me from being as on track with things as I “should” be. And once again, all I’m going to do is do my best. That’s all I can do. Family comes first. Last. Foremost. That’s not going to stop me from busting my butt though to try to get this out on time (or as close to on time as I can). Anyway…

This set of assignments is focusing on Twist/Grist and the 5 different wool classes.

The twist is just that – how much or how little twist you put into your yarn. There are three ways you can change it up – changing the ratio on your wheel, your treadle speed or your drafting length.

The grist is the amount of fibres your allow into your drafting zone. It often gets mixed up with diameter. As I understand, grist applies more to the pre-spinning/spinning process and diameter is the result after it’s spun (WPI). Keeping a consistent grist is easy (for me) when it comes to spinning worsted-style. All I do is make sure I use the same sized distaff across the board. I’m still finding my groove with with woolen-style spinning.

As far as the wool types go, there is: Fine (ie. Cormo), Down (ie. Cheviot), Medium Fine (ie. Corriedale), Medium Strong (ie. Romney) and Strong (ie. Cotswold). The breeds in the brackets are what I’m using for these assignments. Of course, there are a LOT more sheep breeds that fall under the various categories. These are only five of them.

We are to spin three skeins of each wool type with three different twists. Of course we have to document how we achieved this – right down to our washing techniques. Then we have to do a sample swatch of each wool type with the three different twists. We have to have an end use in mind and then justify which yarn/twist would best suit the end use.

The exciting part of this assignment, to me, is the experimentation part of all of it. I think that many spinners, including myself, find our go-to spinning method. We have our ratios we like. The treadle speed we like. The drafting length we like. We’re comfortable with it and often have little reason to venture outside the box unless we’re spinning an exotic fibre or something like that. Well, this is forcing us to. This is about self-discovery. Of course this doesn’t apply to all spinners, but I think it’s safe to say that it applies to many.

I’m not sure if I’ll have time to take photos, but I’m hoping to. I have taken some of the prep. They’re on my phone and I’m on the laptop at the moment (working on the documenting part of things).

 

Mohair: The Moral of the Story

I enjoy sharing what I learn. I hope that it will inspire others to try new things. I especially hope it saves people from learning stuff the hard way like I have. Sometimes we’re given a head’s up, sometimes we’re not. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that many times we may have missed the head’s up. I think a lot of that comes from so much information being thrown at us in such a short period of time that it’s easy to miss the memo. There have been times though, where expectations were NOT made clear. I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this. I won’t go into detail, but it is comforting, in a twisted way, when you find out that you’re not the only one who has no record or recollection of something being said and/or demonstrated (this is course-wide, not this unit). But I digress…

What I’m going to discuss here are my PERSONAL findings with spinning mohair. You’ll see why I capitalized “personal” in a moment. Your experience may be far different than mine. Many of my classmates had spun mohair before. Not I. The first time I had ever touched a lock of mohair was in August. So this is from an absolute rookie’s point of view.

1. Remember that your mohair spinning experience is YOUR mohair spinning experience.

My biggest mistake in this mohair unit was to read about some of my classmates’ experiences BEFORE I spun my own skeins. Some of them had one heck of a time with it. So of course, I automatically assumed that I would too. This made me nervous, almost to the point of paranoid. I shut down because of perfection paralysis. When I finally psyched myself up to do it, I didn’t have any issues with the spinning itself. I really kicked myself for worrying so much and for letting it stop me from diving in. The biggest lesson I learned from this is that you have to make your experiences YOUR experiences. Just because somebody else is struggling with a particular fibre doesn’t mean you will. From here on out, I’ll only be checking in if I have specific questions or after the fact.

2. A l’il fluff’ll do ya
This may seem a little hypocritical after what I had just posted above. However, it’s a true story. When we were given our homework fibre, I was concerned about not having enough. This was likely because I’m so used to spinning wool. Yeah, we were fine. Well, sort of… While we did have enough to complete the assignments, it would have been nice to have more mohair to work with for sampling. Because, well… ROOKIE!!!!

3. Spin FINE
This goes with the point above. Seriously, you DO have enough fibre. Remember, it’s not wool you’re dealing with. I have found that with mohair, the finer, the better. I also found that one out the hard way because the first assignments I tackled, I used waaaaaayyyyyy too much fibre and spun waaaaayyyy too thick. I really wish I could do all of this over again. I have learned from my mistakes though. That’s the whole point, right?

4. Don’t expect your singles/plying to be perfect right away
Spinning mohair is a whole new ballgame. To me anyway. I needed to bust out my fast flyer. You need to put extra twist in your singles in order for it to stay. Mohair resists twist. So that means that you don’t need as much twist when you’re plying because you don’t want to lose what you had to put in the singles. This will take practice. You could be a natural though – if so, yay! If not, understand that finding your groove will take practice. Be gentle with yourself. Make sure to acknowledge your mistakes and note what you would do differently the next time.

5. Mohair fibre weighs more than wool
This reminds me of that riddle “What’s heavier – a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers?” In this case, the mohair is the bricks and the wool is the feathers. We had discussed this in class, but of course, brainy was in overload mode. When I weighed everything out to do my orthogenous assignment, I was thinking “WTH??? There is waaaaayyyy more wool than there is mohair. How the heck is this 50/50? AHA!” So remember -if you blend 50/50 by weight, you will end up with a higher percentage of wool fibres. This is where it’s super important to keep your end use in mind if you’re spinning for a specific project.

6. Lightly mist mohair and put into baggie overnight before working with it
This little gem is brought to you by Donna Hancock, our instructor and owner of Wellington Fibres. I am soooo glad she told us this AND I wrote it down! Since we were well into winter when I was working on this assignment, this was one of the most important tips we got. Static+mohair=nastiness. She also suggested that when blending with wool on a drum carder, to run some wool through first. Otherwise, the mohair will sink to the bottom and it won’t blend evenly.

I think that’s all the tips that I have to offer for working with mohair. It’s really not as scary as I thought it would be. I really enjoyed it and plan on working with it more in the future.

If you have any tips that you would like to share, the comments are open.