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How to care for your hand-made items

Today was laundry day for many of my handmade shawls, jerseys, scarves, cowls and hats. I don’t entrust this task to anybody. There are too many things that could go wrong.

The small washing line outside my laundry was filled with mohair, wool, silk, cotton and other natural fibre items.

You will find washing instructions on most yarn ball bands. In the majority of the cases, you will be instructed to hand-wash the item, and dry it flat in the shade.

Washing the items

Hand-made items do not like automatic washing machines. It doesn’t matter if it is a top-loader or a front-loader; the agitation from the wash cycle is too rough and might cause felting depending on the fibre used in the item, and the spin cycle will  stretch a hand-made item beyond recognition. You could put the item in a pillow case, or in a laundry bag to prevent it, but I prefer to eliminate the risk completely, by not using the automatic washing machine at all.

If you are an avid knitter or crocheter, a twin-tub is a worthy investment. I got my twin-tub second hand on Facebook for a measly R350. What a bargain!

My hand-made lovies (that is my name for all the hand-made stuff in my closet) are soaked in the twin-tub, but not agitated at all. I will gently move them around with my hand every now and then, but the machine will not be switched on to agitate the items. You see, I did not buy the twin-tub for the washing of the items; I could follow the same procedure in a basin or a bath although my back will complain quite a bit. The reason I use the twin-tub is for the spin cycle. A twin-tub has a small, narrow, spin cylinder in which the washing is tightly held, preventing any stretching. To transfer the items to the spin cylinder, is easier if the items are soaked in the big compartment of the twin-tub, instead of a basin or bath. Less messy!

Items are washed in my own laundry soap mixture that I make at home. We live on a farm and the laundry water goes to the garden; no harsh cleaning chemicals are used on the farm. I buy soda-ash in 25kg bulk bags. For each kilogram of soda-ash, we add one bar of finely grated, old Sunlight green laundry soap. I use the mixture with all my laundry. I spin the hand-made items for 2 minutes after the wash.

We don’t use softener either. All the laundry items here are rinsed in water with white vinegar added to it. The clothes doesn’t smell like vinegar once dry, but it comes out lovely and soft. I buy the white vinegar bulk as well. It is much cheaper than softeners. And much better for the environment too. Once the items have been rinsed in the vinegar water, I spin it for a whole 5 minutes. I want it to be as dry as possible.

(Side note: underwear and other items that contain elastic, should never be rinsed in softener water; it severely shortens the life-span of the elastic).

Drying the items

Most hand-made items don’t like a tumble drier either. Once the items have been spun for 5 minutes, small items are dry enough to hang. I hang all my cowls, hats, scarves and shawls. Without spinning it properly, hanging it will cause stretching due to the weight of the water. This is why manufacturers rather recommend drying the items flat. Afghans are too big to hang; they will stretch even after a long spin cycle. All my crocheted and knitted afghans are placed on the spare bedroom bed, with the windows wide open. Within 3 hours it will be dry.

Storing the items

Acrylic items are easy to store. Fish moths and crickets won’t eat it, as the fibre has no nutrition. In essence, acrylic is plastic. Acrylic items also won’t have any mildew damage if stored slightly damp; it might have a slight smell to it, but no damage. Natural fibres are a different story. Fish moths and crickets will eat it, and if stored damp, mildew will form and damage the fibres.

I store all my natural yarn items, in zip-lock bags. It’s the only way to keep it safe.

Many people choose their yarns based on the washability thereof. To me, the luxury of wearing natural fibre is enough reward; I don’t mind the extra effort to wash and care for my hand-made items.

Happy laundry!

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Sore Hands Remedy

Here is the recipe everybody is looking for!

This hand cream will alleviate pain and fatigue. The mix is quite strong already; do not increase the essential oils in the cream.

You can use this cream as often as you like, all over your body. It has excellent anti-inflammatory properties too.

Mix the following ingredients together:

  • Large pot aqueous cream
  • 40 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
  • 40 drops Marjoram Essential Oil
  • 20 drops Lavender Essential Oil
  • 10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil

Keep your essential oils in the fridge to prolong the life thereof. The same goes for the cream. Keep the big jar in the fridge and decant little bits for yourself into another, smaller container.

  • This cream is not meant to replace any prescribed medication.
  • Test the cream beforehand for adverse reactions.
  • Hilda Steyn / Yarn in a Barn do not accept any liability should the cream not perform as expected.



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How much should I charge?

If I have read that question once, I have read it a thousand times. There are always crafters looking for guidelines to price their knitted and crocheted items. The most common answer is always: ‘material x3’. Right? Not right.

Let’s first look at the reason the ‘material x3’ isn’t correct through a little hypothetical scenario. Two friends each want a shawl and are looking for a quotation. They both chose the same pattern. One friend chose Electric Carnation, costing R390 for a ball of 150g. The other chose Elle Raw Cotton, at R90 for 250g. With the ‘material x3’ method, the first lady will pay R1170 for her shawl; the second lady will however only pay R270 and have some left over yarn to spare. The work on the two shawls, is exactly the same as the same pattern will be used. Can you see the problem with this method?

There are a few other factors that should actually be taken into account. Do you like the pattern you have to work from? If you don’t, you should charge more. Do you like the yarn you have to work with? If not, you should actually charge more for the added effort. But these things are difficult to quantify and put a price to it. What about the size of the project? Should that play a role as well? It’s debatable – should you charge less or more for a big project? Both arguments have valid points. At the end of the day we have to agree, there is no easy way to do this. But…. if you are making a living through knitting or crochet, maybe you should consider my method. This is what I do. I am not saying it is the be-all and end-all, but it definitely makes more sense than ‘material x3’.

I drafted a little table with a price PER METER OF YARN I work up. To me it is the only logical way to look at this. To work up a meter of lace weight yarn, will be a lot more work than to work up a meter of bulky yarn, so the fee per meter depends on the yarn weight. To accommodate bigger projects, I choose to charge less for bigger projects, than for smaller ones. And finally, I charge 10% more for a project that involves any fluffy yarn such as mohair. Here is my little sliding scale.

WPI Yarn Weight 0-250g 251-500g 501-1000g 1001-2000 >2000
20-40 Lace / 2-ply  R2.60  R2.40  R2.20  R2.00  R1.80
20-30 Superfine / 3-Ply / Light Fingering / Sock / Baby  R2.40  R2.20  R2.00  R1.80  R1.60
14-24 Superfine / 4-ply / Fingering / Sock / Baby  R2.20  R2.00  R1.80  R1.60  R1.40
12-18 Fine / Sport  R2.00  R1.80  R1.60  R1.40  R1.20
11-15 Double Knit / 8-ply / Light Worsted  R1.80  R1.60  R1.40  R1.20  R1.00
9-12 Aran / 10-ply / Worsted  R1.60  R1.40  R1.20  R1.00  R0.80
5-8 Chunky / Bulky  R1.40  R1.20  R1.00  R0.80  R0.60

Unfortunately, in South Africa, we have a church bazaar mentality. People think hand-made is cheap and crafters that sell hand-made items, are doing so because they are bored and have nothing better to do. To turn that around, is going to take a long time, and a lot of effort. I am not sure we are going to succeed. Why? It’s quite simple. There are too many crafters that do not value themselves, and their time, high enough. What a sad scenario.

I hope this helps you. Final word of advice? If somebody doesn’t want to pay your price, let the person go. Don’t drop your price. Don’t sell yourself cheap. Don’t allow other people to take advantage of your amazing skills.