Wednesday, 29 August 2012


I was reading on a friend's blog the other day about the importance of lifelong learning. Having just decided to make at least part of my living from textile arts it is something I have been thinking about quite a lot recently. It would be quite easy for me to decide that I need to start making money as quickly as possible and to churn out a whole load of sock and mitten patterns as fast as I can -sticking to what I know. On the other hand the textile world is moving so fast that we are swamped with so many patterns and things to do with our time that I don't believe I will continue to have enough to offer unless I seriously invest time in developing my skills.

Over the last few months I have been conscious of this but have been working in a rather haphazard, opportunistic way. I'm thinking that I probably need to be a little more structured. Atfer all, my whole working life has had a structure around it - one I might not have particularly liked, but a structure nonetheless. I have a feeling that now I am working in a different way, with only myelf to answer to I need to create my own structures or I am liable to spend my mornings in my dressing gown watching Jeremy Kyle and sitting up until 4 in the morning just to finish off that design idea....

What I think I would like to do is to sign up for a structured course of study on something relevant to the textile arts so if anyone has taken a course that they have found worthwhile I'd be really grateful if you would mention it in the comments.

In the meantime I thought I would show you some of the things I have been learning recently. I have been very lucky in joining the Mid Hertfordshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers who are a wonderful group of very knowledgeable people who are very keen to share their skills with lots of hands on sessions. With their support I have used a spinning wheel in public for the first time, at the Living Crafts Show at Hatfield House in May and have become a lot more confident in working from raw fleece.

Here is some Corriedale, Shetland,Merino cross from Woolfest a couple of years ago which I washed by bunging a few handfuls in a lingerie bag and putting in hot water and washing up liquid.

The locks have prettily bleached tips and plenty of crimp.

I opened them up with a flick carder and spun and plied them on a drop spindle.

This is the finished result - some bouncy soft yarn perfect for mittens, cowls and hats.

 The thing that particularly appealed to me abut this way of approaching a fleece was that by taking a small amount at a time, putting it in a bag with a flick carder, a couple of drop spindles, a nostepinne and a small niddy noddy I had a portable spinning project where I could take the washed locks all the way to finished yarn.

Enthused by this I also got my hands on some very pretty merino shetland in a grey with white tips. Above are the washed locks and below is how they look after a few flicks with the carder.

The fibre is very easy to spin and produces a lovely heathered grey single.

What new skill have you learned today?


littlelixie said...

If you're setting up as your own business there are resources out there to help.
OpenLearn from the Open University: more than 600 free online courses with many on finance and business techniques

Goodwill Community Foundation: free online courses - you're undoubtedly beyond thing in IT skill level but if you wanted to do more with your website it might help.

MIT Open Courses: MIT has a reputation for science and engineering but they have free courses available for everything from management to writing to design.

Coursera: The one I'm using. Prob not useful straight away but might be fun to look at just for general interest.

But THE resource for UK start ups is:
So much stuff.

Finally I would strongly recommend having a mentor/business advisor. You can get official ones from places like the bank but someone like Natalie although perhaps less familiar with the knitting world (if you know such a person) would be fine. You will be surprised how willing people are to give a few hours of their time a month if they are asked to mentor. People feel flattered by it as it is recognition of their knowledge and achievements. Make it a local pub with a quiet corner so you're away from your 'work environment' and make it someone less knitting minded because they will then see it as a business and not have thoughts like "oh but I can't charge that because these are my friends". Hope this helps!

roseredshoes said...

Your spinning is gorgeous.

I second the advice to have a mentor with some experience in working for yourself/small business.

And the continuing learning is important too, I suppose my advice is to make sure it is focused on what you really need to know, in order to support your income earning activities (I would find it easy to explore things that interest me generally - which is also valuable, but not so much from an income generating perspective I suppose). Hard to draw the line.

Jenny said...

Jane, it's so nice to see you blogging again. And by the way, I think mornings in my pajamas, knitting to Jeremy Kyle, well, I think it sounds like bliss! LOL