field notes from the woolworks
... working at making and other joyful life strategies
Heidi Wulfraat • woolworker • maker • dreamer
Over the past few weeks I've been thinking about the power of slowing down. My craft, the thing that I actually do with my hands in order to make a living, is slow. I should be aware that "slow" can be powerful and purposeful.
Every so often (read often), even in small business, you can find yourself buckled under a hefty pile of deadlines, expectations, excitement, apprehension and adrenaline. It's a weird and wonderful mix of baggage that can leave you teetering under it's weight.
These feelings, by the way, are not exclusive to newbies. In fact, if you've been doing whatever it is that you do each and every day for a super-long time and feel none of these things you may want to give yourself a pinch to be sure that you haven't fallen asleep at the wheel.
So a little adrenaline-elixir can be an excellent thing. True. But lately I seem to have lost sight of the quiet space which I need to make sense of it all. I forgot, for a moment, that without slowing down I get really, really bad at putting things into perspective, prioritizing, and being effective.
Slow is what I do! I make things. With my hands! For a living! How could I have forgotten to slow down?
Maybe because slow is more of a practice than a principal. Something that I need to take part in rather than intellectualize.
Maybe we all just need to walk on the beach. Pick up an instrument and plunk away. Make something with our hands. Bake a loaf of bread. Spend time with a child. Spend time with your dog. We know this. We just need to do it.
What do you do to slow down?
Admittedly the weather outside is less than balmy. I'm still full-on bundling in woolies on my walk to the studio.
Never mind the cold, I've been working in the dye house and with May around the corner it's been all about Spring.
Dyeing for spring while winter winds are still whistling is an exercise in optimism. Everyone should give it a try!
Then again if adding colour to wool isn't your thing you might want to try knitting with a rose blossom pink or a carrot top green while you dream of sunny days, warm garden soil and the year's first flower buds.
New colourways inspired by the flush of spring have been added to the website.
I'm excited for you to meet them all. For now I'll present a sampling of this delicious new fingering weight merino, available RIGHT HERE in both standard and mini skeins!
I love to work with my hands but running a craft business means wearing many hats. At the moment we're shining a light on all of the work that has taken place in the studio over the past few months. My time is being spent photographing , tagging and cataloging a completely new selection of products that are awaiting their debut. I have so much fun MAKING things that computer work feels like the reality check that makes this thing that I do a real job!
Thanks for following the adventure...
Check the HW WoolWorks Shop for new items being added throughout the week and be sure to visit one week from today to see my new Spring Collection of fine yarns, fibres and patterns!
We are beginning to see the grass peeking through snow cover here in New Brunswick and my thoughts are full of Spring!
As my business transitions into an ever more personal project, I am excited to be nearing the launch of my new Spring collection.
I have selected, hand dyed, hand spun, carded, blended and designed all of these offerings with you in mind, my reader. My effort is to make these materials with my own two hands as a way of thanking you for being interested and for supporting me. I hope to enable you to make beautiful things as you enable me in turn. That is the relationship between makers in it's finest form. It is a relationship that I respect and for which I am most grateful. I have been working hard and I'm excited to show you a little of things
I have two new patterns for spring. If you haven't yet tried knitting with beads these are the perfect starters!
I will be introducing a gorgeous fingering weight merino that I just can't seem take my hands off of. A full selection of worsted weight merino has also been added to keep those quick knits coming! My merino lace weight, sock yarn and hand spun yarns are back in a new range of colours.
Felters! My new Spring launch will see the addition of hand dyed mini batts, wool locks and various felting needles.
WE'RE TWO WEEKS AWAY ...
All new Spring products will be added to this site in two weeks time! You can keep track of listings on our new twitter or instagram pages as well as on facebook. Thank you so much!
I happen to have a seasonal "stitchy" condition which is known to be contagious. So if you're a little squeamish with regards to compulsive stitching you may want to avert your eyes. It's true. Every year I am completely overcome with the need to sit and sew.
It strikes me just as soon as I catch a glimpse of those first bright beams of spring. There's nothing quite like buzzing around the studio in a fresh breeze as the screen door makes it's annual debut.
The shop is chock-full of gorgeous fabrics. A full spectrum of thread, buttons, pins and zippers greets me everyday. My sewing machines are polished and prepped. I've been ultra busy all winter with wool, wool, wool. I'm ready to stitch. How about you?
shop/studio photos. Want to come for a visit? You can find all of the deets here... contact HW WOOLWORKS studio
to all my creative friends, is your humdrum day job keeping you from your heart's desire dream job ?
My personal career soup has been an unusual blend of science and art. As a result I am the ultimate pragmatic dreamer. While part of me strives to analyse, evaluate and classify this organism that is my life the rest of me tends to throw caution to the wind, relentlessly seeking something altogether new, possibly unexpected, not necessarily practical but wholely satisfying.
The pragmatic me would never suggest that you quit your job, take on debt, remortgage or generally put yourself at financial risk in order to chase a dream. But I do feel that the TRANSITION from you're working life to your life's work is not only achievable but essential. I write this from the perspective of having moved from the world of regular pay cheques, healthcare and pension plans to self employment. This change happened over a period of time during which I spent my days fulfilling my employers needs and my evenings, weekends and spare moments creating my dream job. Eighteen or so years later, I can't imagine working at anything else.
If you've been thinking about embarking on a new creative career path you've no doubt considered some of the many inspirational, social-media driven success stories that illustrate the world of possibilities from basement start-up to self made sensation. You know that it can be done. Are you struggling with the transition? I felt the same way.
Here is what I would love to suggest to my earlier self. The things that I would be sure to mention to the nervous, excited, determined, starting-out me.
1. Just get Started. You have an idea but the big picture is overwhelming. With each small step that you take your focus will clear. It can be as simple as making a list, scheduling time for your new project and dedicating a workspace be it an office or a shoebox.
2. Surround yourself with Supporters.
The people who cheer you on in life will become more valuable for your business than any CEO, CFO or CTO could ever be. As a creative you will constantly be making your personal work available for critique and comparison. It's a vulnerable position to be in. Do yourself a favour and spend your time with those who are positive. Nay-sayers are easy to come by, and they can drain your creative energy before know it.
3. Identify your Weakness.
Decide early on in the game which aspects of your business leave you feeling less than accomplished. If accounting, social media, graphic design or web development seem far beyond your comfort zone, budget to have these tasks hired out. As you grow you simply won't be able to do absolutely everything yourself. Focus on your strengths and prioritize hiring accordingly.
4. A Business has to make money.
Because you have decided to enter a craft based business and do something that you LOVE to do, you may encounter the notion that you are not necessarily working to earn a profit. Of course, with respect to the survival of your business, nothing could be further from the truth. Keeping close tabs on your revenue vs. expenses may be mundane as compared to that full-on creative session in the studio, but your business is depending on it.
5.Some of your ideas will sink and some will swim.
And sometimes an idea will not hit the mark when it comes to keeping your business afloat. This is when you're creative juices can be called upon to make changes. Think of your business blunders as exciting opportunities to spark-up new projects.
6. Remember always to save some of your life's energy for yourself, your family and your friends. Like most creatives, you are probably self-motivated and easily consumed by your work. This makes you the perfect candidate for an entrepreneurial endeavour. Unfortunately, this also leaves you prone to over working or even working to the point of burn out. As with most things balance is key. You are the engine that drives your business forward. When you run out of steam your business will roll to a stop. Be kind to yourself and to your supporters. Your business will be better for it.
7. Make it a priority to manage your health and well-being as well as your business. Healthy living is accessible regardless of your workload. Steal 10 minutes here and there, even on the busiest of days, to move your body, to prepare nourishing food, and to rest your mind.
The super power of a maker is to produce an item that is unique. This means that makers also have the potential to be super gift-givers. We've all experienced the pleasure of gifting something handmade to someone who fully and wholeheartedly appreciates our efforts (if you haven't received this reaction you might want to select a new recipient or two). At any rate, gifting can be one of the most satisfying aspects of making. But here's the crunch, running out of time for a gift giving deadline tends to dampen the fun-flame.
This year I've taken a pledge to be prepared for December by making at least one gift each month leading up to Christmas. I've been sneaking in 10 minute sessions here and there, dedicating travel time to the cause, and generally making it a point to take a little time out from "real job" tasks. Let me tell you there is a certain satisfaction in tucking away the resulting goodies destined for those special somebodies in your life.
If, as a maker, the December 25th flag on your calendar seems to pop up and startle you into overdrive each and every November, perhaps you'd like to join me on this gift-a-month schedule. Here are some relatively quick, achievable projects to get you started...
I often have customers who ask about how to get started in rug hooking. It's a great question. Newcomers to rug hooking are faced with navigating a myriad of different hooks, hoops, frames, backings and then need to decide which materials to actually HOOK with. In all of this rug hooking can become financially daunting. It doesn't take long to start ringing up a $400.00 frame, a stack of hand dyed artisanal wool fabrics, a custom carved hook, and a week's worth of designer rug hooking lessons. Whoa, let's rewind. Are you starting to think that maybe this rug hooking thing might not be your cup of tea after all?
Let me tell you, in my opinion, what you REALLY need to get started in rug hooking.
You need to really WANT to do it.
At the heart of rug hooking were primarily women who used any and all materials at hand to produce decorative mats and hangings that would cover draughty cracks in floors and walls.
To start rug hooking I would suggest, above all, a good quality backing. This is literally the foundation of your work. A poor quality, loosely woven backing that splits, doesn't hold your loops and makes you snuffle and sneeze the entire time that you're working with it just doesn't spell FUN. My backing of choice is a premium linen with a good sturdy structure.
On to frames. I'm not going to lie. I hook rugs using a high end Snap Dragon frame which is an absolutely stellar piece of equipment. You can hook on a snapdragon too but you certainly don't need to start with one. I started rug hooking on a simple hoop and I still use a hoop on many occasions. The hugely talented Rug Hooking artist Rachel Leblanc uses no frame at all.
You'll need a hook or a punch to make rugs. This can be be a very simple tool. Your collection of hooks can be developed over time if you feel the need. I use two hooks faithfully. One has a fine shank and a rather small tip while the other has a wide, primitive shank with a larger tip.
The materials that you actually hook with can be many and varied. Wool fabric can be recycled or taken from a crisp new bolt of cloth. You can also hook using yarn, cotton strips paper and plastic. Your creativity is the true currency of rug hooking.
Regardless of your finances, time, and level of interest I would suggest that before you engage in rug hooking classes purchase a good book and try it on your own. This way, if you do decide to take a workshop you'll surely have some great questions to bring to class and most importantly you'll be bringing your own personal style.
Happy hooking! You really don't need to break the bank. Here are some great books to get you started ...
or does it? Over the past year I have made some knit pieces ... from scratch. That is to say I have been drafting patterns on graph paper with pencil and eraser, sampling, dabbling, sampling some more. Eventually these thoughts and jots and doodles developed into a small collection of knitted accessories. It's been super-fun to knit up these homegrown pieces, but I have knitting-circle pals and I have a wool shop and I wanted to share my shiny new patterns! Onwards to formatting, adding text, charting, recruiting test knitters and an editor, photography. You get the picture. I started designing knitwear.
Now, for the record I'm the first to dive into the latest Stephen, Jared, Ysolda or Kate design. In fact there are more talented knitwear designers tempting us with gorgeous patterns than ever before. This is why designing your own, starting from scratch, reinventing the wheel just doesn't make sense. Right?
It's true, knitting is in it's heyday and we, as knitters, are spoiled for choice with top notch designers, producers, processors, indie dyers, tools and accessories aplenty. Even the healthy lifestyle set has deemed knitting to be of benefit (thanks for telling us).
And yet, with all this at hand you still have a yen to go it on your own and create something altogether new?
So did I, and here's what I've discovered; the simple pleasure of seeing a design transition "from a thought to a thing" will never get old. Sharing your ideas with other knitters is immensely satisfying. It's what knitters do. Designing your own is allot of work. You'll develop a new appreciation for the work of others. Oh, and you'll still want to knit all the "hot right nows" on Ravelry. No worries there. So when it come's to creating, just do it. If it feels right it makes sense. And if you've checked out my patterns, knit from them, worn them or gifted them, thanks a million. I think I'll make some more!
I am settling in to this. My new space on the internet. It's nice to have a freshening up in all aspects of life and to be honest I am one who thrives on change, a new project, a new challenge, a new task at hand. These are the irresistibles to a maker, after all. For the most part, over this past year, I have been away from blogging as a new website was being created and the farm wool shop was being added onto and freshened-up in it's own right.
It does feel nice to be back. All moved-in and ready to carry on. I've missed writing, perhaps only for myself. However if you have made your way here, I'd like to welcome you. Thanks so much for visiting! I hope that we can continue to talk about being makers, creative business and joyful life strategies.
Short cold days and long cold nights are made for wool working. the New Year has settled in, the wood stove is in full gear and the sheep have tucked themselves in for the season. These are quiet months for working with heart and hands. I've been working on some new patterns, dyeing yarn and hugging the dogs. Back in the swing ...
Everyday I try to find a little something that makes life interesting. A good book, a wagging dog, a cool breeze, tea with a friend.
Here are my field notes about making, discovering, and enjoying a simple, slow, handmade life.
Thanks so much for visiting. I appreciate your spending time with me.
STITCHER, MAKER, DREAMER, BOOK REVIEWS summer 2016