I've written a version of this post for the past couple of years. Think of it as the link to send to family members and friends to point them in the right direction.
Over on the Mighty Networks group we've got a thread going with great suggestions for smaller businesses and organisations who would really appreciate your money this year, with loads of beautiful gift ideas for lots of different people, even if they are not a spinner or a crafter.
These are the dates that Royal Mail have put out for Christmas delivery. The international ones in particular seem overly optimistic to me, so I would allow at least an extra week on top of these dates...
Friday 4th December- Australia, New Zealand
Wednesday 9th December- Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Central and South America, Far and Middle East
Thursday 10th December- Canada, Cyprus, Malta
Friday 11th December- Greece, Eastern Europe (except Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia) and Turkey
Saturday 12th December- Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, USA
Wednesday 16th December- Austria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland
Friday 18th December- Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg
Friday 18th December- UK 2nd Class and 2nd Class Signed For
Monday 21st December- UK 1st Class and 1st Class Signed For and Royal Mail Tracked 48*
Tuesday 22nd December- UK Royal Mail Tracked 24*
Also, remember, if you're buying from a small business it's not unrealistic for them not to offer same day or next day despatch. All my items are in stock and ready to be shipped, but I still only post orders on Monday and Thursday morning.
Some of this information is copied from last year, because I don't believe in re-inventing the wheel!
Firstly, if your spinner has a favourite dyer then don't be afraid to send that dyer an email with a budget and ask them to put together a parcel of fibre related treats for you. They'll be happy to help, and will be able to give the spinner something new to try, but also check their previous orders to see if they have any colour preferences.
I'm always happy to help people out in this way....
However, if you leave it too late (because the postal system has it's limits), then a subscription to a fibre club is an excellent present. You can set up a gift subscription to my Time Travellers Club really easily, just tick the "This is a Gift" box and the system will do the rest. You an choose to let the subscription run for 1, 3, 6 or 12 months, and the payment gets taken every month rather than 1 large sum up front, so it's a nice way to spread the cost out. So long as you order before the 23rd then the first parcel will be sent during January. A 100g subscription in the UK for 3 months works out at just over £30.
You won't get a fancy gift card through the post, so you might have to get creative with the way you hand over the present, but I'm sure if you pop in to a local shop you'll be able to find a nice card to write in.
Tools are always useful, and they're also a great low budget gift, things like my WPI tool are the sort of thing you can slip into a card, and post for very little money.
Extra bobbins are rarely something that any spinner will turn down, particularly if they are some of the lovely £D printed flat pack ones. In the past I've pointed people towards Akerworks, but I'm pleased to say there's now a UK based supplier, offering a similar product. I've not tried them personally, but I have spoken to others that have, and they've all said positive things. If you're buying these for someone else, make sure you're buying them for the right spinning wheel, and because they're made to order you will need to allow a good window of time.
In further shameless self promotion (which to be frank, after the blog ate this post the first time round, I'm not exactly feeling shameful about). If they're a spinner they're probably also a knitter or a crocheter. In which case an organiser for their needles or hooks is a lovely present. Or you could go for a case to hold their hand carders together.
There are lots of lovely bags and cases in the Quince Pie etsy shop.
Alternatively if they're a sewer then how about a handmade pin cushion, or a deluxe stitch ripper.
The Wood Beach Etsy shop is also filled with orifice hooks, niddy noddy's and yarn bowls, all of which make excellent gifts, and new this year Dad's also learned how to carve spoons.
There can be few greater pleasures in life than a nice pair of scissors. I bought myself a pair to use with my weaving in the spring, and every time I use them they delight me. Treat purchases like this are the sort that it's often hard to justify to yourself, and to anyone who is a non-crafter it can be hard to understand the joy we get from a piece of beautiful equipment that works so perfectly. Beyond Measure has a beautiful range of high end scissors.
Now for the books.... books make excellent presents! Check the spinners book shelf first, as they may already own some of these.
Where possible I've linked to the Bookshop.org, as they distribute some profits to local booksellers. If you have a local bookshop, please support them, they'll be able to order in many of these titles from Gardners who are the main UK book wholesalers. If that option doesn't work for you then both Wordery and Blackwells are good non-amazon alternatives.
The Spinners Book of Yarn Design If you only own one spinning book this should be it!
The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook For the spinner who loves learning more about sheep and the quality of their wool
Yarnitecture For the spinner who wants to get better at analysing the sort of yarn they are spinning, and be more in control of the results.
A Guide to Spinning Hand Dyed Fibre My own small book, ideal for a spinner who likes working with hand dyed combed top.
Non-spinning books, but interesting for anyone who has a love of textiles.
Women's Work- The First 20,000 years.
The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History
The Human Thread
Threads Around the World
True Colours: World Masters of Natural Dyes and Pigments Not a technical how-to book, but a lovely look at people around the world using natural dyes.
Art and Science of Natural Dyes: Principles, Experiments and Results This one is pricey, but is probably the best science-based natural dyeing book I have ever seen. If someone is in to natural dyes, then this is a book they need to own.
Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece If they use synthetic dyes then this is probably the best book there is, though I really disagree with the way she applies to dye to fibre, great for yarn dyeing detail though. Unfortunately there's a big gap in the market for good books dealing with synthetic dyes, and fibre dyeing is particularly poorly covered.
If they've never tried dyeing before then it's an interesting thing to have a go at doing. My first experience of dyeing was using a set of acid dyes and a sock blank kit I'd bought my Mum for Christmas.
Debbie at D&T Crafts has some great starter kits for acid dyes and also for natural dyeing. Helen Melvin also offers some lovely natural dyeing kits.
A subscription to Ply magazine would also be a lovely gift. If you're outside the US then it may be better to buy a subscription from one of their stockists. They also now offer a digital subscription, which removes all postage anxiety.
Finally, if they spin the chances are they wear a lot of wool, and that eventually leads to bobbly jumpers. This tool is what I use to revive my hand knits, I've linked to Lakeland, but is available on Amazon, Ebay, or various other places.
If you have anymore gift suggestions, please feel free to add them below, and please share this post, there's lots of great small businesses included in it, and this year it's more important than ever to support independent retailers.
I love my skein winder. A niddy noddy is a lovely tool, but all too often I'd put off winding yarn from a bobbin because I just couldn't be bothered to do it. So a skein winder is a really useful tool if you can afford one, and if you procrastinate on winding skeins.
Now I have been through several skein winders in my quest for the one true device.
I owned an Ashford Skein Winder, the mark 1 version. And to be frank, Ashford should be ashamed of themselves, because at £80 it was a shockingly poor piece of kit. The method of securing the the upright to the base resulted in a device that wobbled as soon as you used it for a moderate length of time. The adjustment able arms often didn't hold their tension, and the non-adjustable pegs ended up falling out regularly for me. There was no tensioning device either, and the arms were fixed in position making it a pain to store when not in use. The new Mark 2 version is much better, but comes with a hefty rise in price, currently it's around £180.
I also owned a Majacraft skeiner, which wasn't really any better, with the added inconvenience of a triangular base that meant to matter where you put it there was also something sticking out to impale you, and again... the pegs in the arms weren't the best of fits. The free-standing option doesn't seem to be on the Majacraft website anymore, but I did find a few places with stock, and at £150 it's a lot of money for a tool that isn't great.
But this isn't a series about tools I think could be better... it's about bits of kit that I really love.
It's from here.
He's a German maker, I am lucky enough to own one his spinning wheels, which is what led me to the site. It's really well made and feels really solid. Now the site is only in German, but I only spent 1 year studying German at school, and the joy of Google Translate is that it's not that hard to work out what you need to do in order to place an order.
Payment is unfortunately only by bank transfer, so bear that in mind when working out the price (some banks will charge extra for international bank transfers). At the moment here in the UK you can order and won't need to pay extra to receive your order, but that will change after January 1st.
When you're not using it the arms fold up to reduce the space it takes up, this is also how you adjust the diameter of the skein. There's also a built in rotation counter (so you know how many turns you've done, and can then use this method to calculate your yardage), and on the base there's a lazy kate with a tensioning device.
I also use it as a swift to then wind skeins in to balls of yarn. I just reduce the circumference of the skeiner by moving the arms closer together and have slackened the screw holding the flipper on the counter so I can rotate it out of the way so it doesn't click as I rotate the winder.
The centre uses a proper sealed bearing so you never need to worry about nuts tightening or coming undone. The base is heavy, I use this on the floor whilst seated on the sofa, and have never felt the need to clamp it down. The pegs in the arms are completely solid, even after years of abuse there's no hint of a wobble, or danger of them going loose.
It's been the tool I've used to skein miles and miles of yarn, and at no point have I ended up threatening to throw it across the room. It's a little bit more expensive than the new Ashford one, but it's a much better bit of kit, and something you'd prize from my cold dead hands!
We're a few days away from getting to the end of our 2 week Firebreak lockdown here in Wales. The weather, to be blunt, has been dreadful for most of the 2 weeks. Not really conducive to getting out of the house even if you were allowed to get out and about. Meg has had the right attitude for the current state of play here.
My quilting bug shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon. I finished this one this month, using up lots of oddments, combined with a couple of metres of neutral fabric. This is not the best beauty shot, but outside is not the place to be photographing anything at the moment and the only room with enough floor space is too dark to take good photos.
There's another top that's finished, and another one with the quilt blocks sewn, but still needing to be joined. Throughout October Moda Fabrics were hosted a Stitch Pink Block-a-Day sew-along. I didn't quite managed to sew a block each day, but on Sunday I did have all 30 blocks sewn, plus 2 alternatives for ones I didn't like in the original layout. The original design uses shades of pink and white... not the most practical colours for this household. So I swapped to using navy, and then scraps of pink and green. This is the half-way progress...
Things have not been quiet on a work-front. Two batches of 12 Days of Christmas parcels have now left the building. They account of most of the total that I'd planned to sell, however, I still have a few of the bags (I made less mistakes when printing than usual!), and plenty of the Merino & Silk, so there will be another small batch available soon with a different hand dyed fibre. If those all sell I can probably make a further batch, but they'll need to use the spindle bags from last year (I have lots of those spare).
I've also been busy writing and filming. I've been doing some work on another article for Ply magazine, this time on dyeing. I'm not completely sure what edition it's ear marked for, because I've been asked if I can get everything done ahead of the schedule for the edition I'd originally proposed the article. The results, I think are really interesting, and left me wishing I had more than 1200 words!
So in that spirit, because I always have more to say than I can ever fit in to articles I've got to work making the first of my new online workshops. I went through my list of workshops, picked out the most popular, and decided to focus on the aspect of it that most people highlight as being the thing they want to improve. So, if you'd like to get more control over the thickness of your yarn, there's now a new online course.
I've chosen to do this in a way that is different to many of the online workshops currently being offered. Many instructors have taken their usual workshops and filmed it. I've decided to go for a more structured approach, with written information, photos, diagrams, with short video sections. Built in to the course structure are regular practical exercises, when you need to go away and work through a task. At the end of it you are actively encouraged to post photos to share your progress and ask for further advice. I trained as a secondary school teacher, and it's an approach to learning that I used when developing lesson plans and schemes of work.
If you're intrigued there's now a new page on this site with lots more information.
If you're in a guild or spinning group and want an online course or workshop, send me a message, my diary is normally filled to bursting with shows and workshops, so these next few months are your opportunity!
Even once we get out of the current health crisis I'd love to carry on offering online talks and workshops to reach guilds and groups I'd not normally be able to visit.
I'm still quietly knitting and spinning away, but it's nearly all in the pretty boring category, plain socks, normal jumpers, though I have been carrying on enjoying getting to know plant fibres better.
This is a skein of 2-ply cotton. I started it at the end of the Tour de France, then finished it off during the Giro. I've already woven with some of it, because the next batch of tea towels from the warp I was sampling last month are now off the loom!
They still need cutting up and hemming, so I'll leave sharing photos of those for another time.
The shop will carry on having new things added it regularly, I should have a big box of fibres arriving from Italy in the next couple of weeks.
Brexit continues to loom over my head... adverts on the TV telling you to "Get Ready" "Make the Changes" just leave me wanting to throw things, because it's very hard to get ready for anything when you don't know what you're getting ready for.
If you're in the UK, nothing will change for you.
If you're outside the EU, nothing will change for you.
If you're in the EU its very likely you will no longer pay VAT to me when you make your purchase, and will instead pay it to your postal service to pass on to your own government. As we get closer to January 1st I'll make sure to get things set up so that you are not left paying VAT twice, particularly for club payments. Once I have a little bit more clarity about exactly what I'm going to do I'll write it all out, in part I am waiting to see what the companies I use to process financial payments will do. It's all a bit of a nightmare, but please bear with me.