Twining with a little help from my friends

Happy New Year!!

November and December were incredibly busy but I am glad to say things have calmed down a lot in the last 3 weeks. The Christmas markets have closed and I have nearly finished writing the first draft of the much requested tutorial on how to make vessels with feet and lids. The lidded vessel pictured below is the main example I will demonstrate how to make in the new tutorial (with a few others for alternative ways to make lids etc):

A purple and orange felted vessel with a flared foot and a lid with a handle

I just need to write one more section, then edit and proof-read it. I hope to make it available in my Etsy shop in a couple of weeks.

I have managed to complete just one piece of work between the markets, fairs and writing the new tutorial….

Back in September I was core spinning with the intention of using the yarn to experiment with adding twining to ceramic pots, you can read the post about that here.

This is the pot I made, after drilling out the holes I unintentionally filled with glaze. Drilling the holes has made them a little untidy but at least I can now get my yarn through them 🙂

blue and green ceramic bowl with holes around its top edge

I used paper yarn for the warp by threading equal sized lengths through each hole.

Ceramic bowl with lengths of paper yarn threaded through the holes

Once all of the holes contained a strip of paper yarn I cut 2 metres (6 feet) of a pretty boucle yarn to use as my weft. I folded it in half with one side longer than the other, this is so that when the yarn runs out while you are twining it only runs out on one side making it easier to add a new length of yarn.

Before looping the yarn over the first warp strip, I twisted the bottom of each pair of paper yarns to help hold them in position for the first few laps with the weft yarn. For the next pot I will try tying a knot in each pair of warp strips to secure them as the twist tended to come undone while I was twining, I really needed an extra pair of hands to hold everything in place while laying down the first layer of yarn.

Floki was only too happy to “assist”….

Ragdoll kitten looking at camera
“What do you mean, that’s not really helping?”
Ragdoll kitten rolling on his back while pulling and chewing on the yarn
“Your tension is way off, let me help you…”

Even with Floki’s assistance the boucle yarn proved to be too fine for the space between the holes in the pot. I could have used 3 or 4 threads to bulk it up but it had proved so fiddly trying to hold the warp strips in place while twining the first layer I couldn’t face the prospect of trying to do that with 8 strands in the weft so I had a rummage in my stash and found some chunky grey yarn to use instead.

Same pot but with 5 layers of chunky grey yarn woven between the blue warp uprights

At this point I introduced some of my hand spun yarns, starting with the grey core-spun yarn from September (they are the grey bulges you can see at the top of the woven section) and then a yarn with colourful beehives.

Woven part has doubled in size and now has bulges of yarn at the top in pink, blue and grey

Happy with the height and shape of the weaving, I tied each pair of warp strips to secure the top of the weaving and opened up the paper yarn before trimming the ends.

Ceramic vase base with grey weaving above and topped with strips of blue paper protruding from the top of the yarn

It reminds me of a blue cornflower.

Same vase as above but photographed from the other side

How has your new year started?

EFTPOS and Card Payments at Craft Fairs in New Zealand

This post is really for my fellow makers and artists who are trying to sell their work in New Zealand. I hope you find it useful but if you have any questions please ask in the comments I will do my best to answer, but please remember I am just a felt-maker, not an accountant or any flavour of financial whizz-kid 🙂

Before moving to NZ in 2021 I had a wonderful little card reader from iZettle, the reader cost me £20 ($40NZ) to buy (no monthly rental fee) and they charged 2.5% of each sale to use it (they even included American Express cards at the same rate). When we moved, I brought my trusty little card reader with us but soon discovered it and almost all similar card readers [Square, Paypal etc] are not supported in NZ.

I started looking into what options are available and was horrified to discover the only offering was those hefty card readers with an internal printer that you see in physical / permanent shops. They are not only hefty in size and weight but also price….. $35NZ per month for rental (plus shipping) and an eye-watering 4-6.5% fee for each sale. That might be acceptable if you have a monthly turnover in the thousands, but like most micro businesses, I don’t. The rental alone would be a substantial percentage of my monthly income. I initially wondered if I could just rent one for 2 months to get through the crazy run up to Christmas but no, they either lock you into a contract for at least 12 months or charge eye-watering amounts in the hundreds of $$ for shorter rental terms.

Curiously all the banks offer these readers at an identical monthly fee, a case of price fixing? I will let you decide.

I have spent the last 18 months continuing to search for a practical and cost-effective alternative and like buses, 2 came along at once….

The Portable Card Reader Option

I was overjoyed to discover Stripe have extended their portable card reader offerings to include NZ, as far as I can tell, they are the first international player to do this. At $137 NZ (including delivery) the reader was substantially more expensive that my iZettle reader but compared to the monthly rental on the chunky EFTPOS machines offered by the banks, I would be saving money by the end of my fourth month of trading.

I ordered the Wisepad 3, the smallest and most affordable reader they offer, it accepts PayWave and chip and pin transactions:

Before you can order a card reader you will need to set up an account with Stripe, this is pretty straight-forward but you will need your NZBN number and a screenshot of your NZBN certificate that includes your address.

You will probably notice that Stripe is geared towards software developers and their main market is online sales, that freaked me out a little at the start but I soon found an app for the iPhone (I assume there are similar apps available for Android phones but have not looked into that). If you search the App Store for, “payment for stripe” and look for this symbol you will find the app I have been using:

They will charge 1% on top of Stripe’s 3% fee but it is a very easy app to set up and use, and even allows you to automatically add a percentage to each payment to cover the service fees, mine is set up to automatically add 4%:

Order a Stripe Card Reader

How to set up the Wisepad 3

Taking card payments without a card reader

While trying to find software to work with my new card reader I discovered you don’t actually need a card reader to take card payments!

There are apps available that will allow you to point your phone’s camera at the customer’s card and it processes the information to take the payment. You still need a Stripe account and both Stripe and the app developer will charge you a percentage of each sale but this option avoids the need to purchase a card reader. You just need a smart phone.

PayNow for Stripe was the least expensive I found (0.5% plus Stripe fees) but there may be others with lower fees, please post a comment if you find another app with a better deal. I’m not sure if the Stripe fees will still be 3%, they may be higher if they deem these payments to be “customer not present” but this could still be a viable option if you want to dip your toes in card payment market without the commitment of purchasing a card reader.

I had already received my card reader before I found these apps so didn’t seriously consider using this payment method but I have to wonder how many people would be happy to have a stranger point a phone camera at their credit card and type in the CVV number? I’m not sure I would feel comfortable doing that at a pop-up market.

Credit Cards

How is it going? Any downsides?

I have had my reader for nearly a month now and taken around 10 payments with it. The first payment from Stripe to my bank account took about 10 days but the more recent payments have taken 5-6 days.

A few customers have been disappointed by the 4% surcharge (unfortunately Stripe does not differentiate between credit cards and EFTPOS / debit card sales, I am charged 4% on all card payments) but most people understand that to make card payments free I would have to increase all of my prices to cover the costs and that would not be fair to my customers who are happy to pay with cash or bank transfer.

Please post a comment if you have any questions or suggestions the other artists and crafts-people may find helpful.

Disclaimer: Other than a business account, I have no affiliation with Stripe. I do not receive any commission or payments from them or the apps mentioned above. The options described are my personal experience of trying to find an affordable way to take card payments at markets and fairs, Stripe and the apps mentioned above may not be the best option for you or your business, I strongly recommend you carry out your own research before committing to any of them but I hope this blog post will be a useful starting point.

Prices and links correct as of 28 Nov 2022.

Spring Update From Down Under

It has been a very busy few weeks with online teaching, two face-to-face teaching events, a dye day and prepping for the Christmas markets that all seem to be happening in November rather than December this year.

The first event was the Auckland Fun Felters retreat where I planned to teach felted vessels with feet and lids but that soon morphed to include triangular plates with feet, using a book resist. Everyone achieved awesome results, unfortunately a couple of people had to leave before I could get images of their pieces but as you can see from those I did manage to catch, we had a very productive weekend!:

Purple and orange combos were popular
This skull vessel was made by Margaret, she has only been felting for a few months but is already making some incredibly creative pieces

In between the two teaching events Margaret (who made the skull vessel) and I had a dye day, she has been learning to spin and wanted to try dyeing some of her hand-spun yarn.

We experimented with a few different dye techniques, all gave beautiful results

The second teaching event was the Creative Fibre Spring Festival in Orewa. This is a new 4-day textile festival north of Auckland. There were classes from a wide range of textile disciplines (eco-printing, crochet, spinning, weaving and indigo shibori to name just a few) and it has proved to be hugely popular, I am pleased to say a repeat event is already being planned for 2025.

I was teaching a 2-day bag making class, we had a range of experience levels from relatively new felt-makers through to several who have been felting for years but they all did amazingly well. Making well-made felted bags is physically demanding but a couple managed to finish their bags in just 2 days and everyone else was very close to finishing.

This photo was taken half way through the second day.

The grey wool in Jenny’s bag was from 4 different fleeces collected over 4 years from one of her Romney sheep, it is interesting how the wool lightens as the sheep aged.
A few of the sample bags I took along to help demonstrate how some different designs can be achieved

Time I got back to work making stock for those Christmas markets…. how is your holiday prep coming along?

If you are in Auckland over the next month or two, you can find out which markets and events I will be attending here. Would be lovely to see you if you can pop out for a couple of hours and who doesn’t love browsing at craft fairs?? 🙂

Spinning for Pots

I confess I have not been able to make much felt this month, I have started a new bag using some gorgeous Gotland hogget (1 year old) locks that have that beautiful graduation from black to white that is characteristic of Gotland lambs wool. This lamb wasn’t shorn in its first year so the locks are unusually long for “lambs” wool. More on that bag in a later post.

I have been spinning, this is 2 skeins of merino “singles” that I dyed after spinning:

And here they are plied together, I am liking the berry colours but struggling to decide which pattern to use it on, I am thinking a pair of gloves but I found several patterns in a crochet book that I like….

This was some core spun art yarn, that I am planning to use for some twining (weaving):

On top of this pot:

This pot was a bit of a learning curve from a glazing perspective, as you can see, the holes I carefully created should have been cleared of glaze before firing. I have managed to fix it with a tile drill but would have preferred the smoother edges of glaze at the edges of the holes.

I have been making quite a lot of pottery this month, including several lidded pots, all of which were the subjects of some glazing experiments…..

This one has 3 different layers of my favourite glaze combination (it gives a bluey-purple through to crimson red colour with pretty pink spots) with some wax over red underglaze:

This one is a type of scraffito, where you paint on layers of different coloured clays and then scrape areas aways to reveal the layers underneath. The colours in this photo are not very accurate, they are actually black, lemon yellow, brick red and cream:

This shallow bowl with a cat design was another experiment, to see if I could paint with coloured clay slip (a watery version of clay). I painted the image on clear plastic sheet in black and let it dry so the colours would not mix but that caused all sorts of problems, not least, the black slip cracked and broke up making it very difficult to add the other colours. The bowl is not a total disaster but I have some other ideas on how better to approach this technique in future.

Getting in a Spin

Creative Fibre in New Zealand are hosting a series of workshops next weekend, one of which is a beginner’s spinning workshop with Pat Old. She is quite the celebrity in NZ spinning circles but I’m not sure if that is also true internationally…. have you heard of her before?

I dithered about signing up for this class because one of the prerequisites was that you need to bring a wheel in good order, bobbins and lazy Kate. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to learn to spin and buying all that equipment up front was quite an investment, so I put out some feelers to see if anyone had a wheel they would like to sell. I was (and still am) keen to make art yarns so was ideally looking for a wheel with a jumbo flyer. It took a few weeks of asking around but a friend from Auckland Fun Felters came through for me, she had an Ashford Traditional and best of all, it was already fitted with a jumbo flyer! 🙂

I took delivery of my new toy at the end of May and have been watching far too many Youtube videos ever since 🙂 These are my first efforts….

Autumnal colours spun from a Merino art batt full of textured bits and pieces, probably a bit ambitious for a first go but I was pleased with the results:

Aoifa says it makes a very nice pillow…

After reading Ann’s post on FFS a few weeks ago I had a shock of inspiration and added some orange to the singles I planned to ply post dying with purples and blues:

This is the plied yarn:

After plying I had some “single” left over on one of the bobbins so thought I would have a go at chain-plying (apparently it’s not very PC to call it Navajo plying any more). This method produces 3-ply yarn and in theory you can line up the colours on a gradient dyed yarn so you loose the stripy, “barber-pole” effect. I succeeded in places but definitely need more practice!

I am really enjoying spinning with Polworth (a Merino-cross breed that is better suited to the wet NZ climate), it is a lovely, soft wool. I crocheted this cowl but was not keen on the hot pink.

So I over-dyed it with blue:

One month into my spinning journey, a beginners class in Auckland came up so I toddled along with a friend (Margaret) who was curious but not really interested in taking up spinning (she couldn’t knit or crochet). They gave us some mystery brown and white wool to play with, I am pleased with the results but it is very coarse, too coarse for anything wearable so I am crocheting it into a bowl.

Margaret ended up buying the wheel she had been practicing on in the class (from the same person who sold me my wheel, I am starting to imagine Shirley has a house full of wheels that she has to climb over to move between rooms) 🙂 Margaret is also learning to crochet now she is enjoying spinning – another convert to the wonderful world of fibre!

I have also been playing with making slubby and chunky yarns and then dyeing it:

I found a few books on spinning at the library, the first one I read, Hand Spinning by Pam Austin was a bit disappointing, it didn’t cover anything I hadn’t already learned from watching YouTube videos. Frustratingly it mentioned a limited selection of art yarn types but didn’t offer any information on how you might spin them.

I found Spinning and Dyeing Yarn much more useful, jam-packed with technical, how-to information and lots of drool-worthy photos of beautiful yarns by different artists to give the reader inspiration and something to aspire to. For me, I was very taken with the art yarn chapter – I had no idea there were so many different species of art yarn and for each one there is at least one page explaining how to create it yourself.

I have only just started reading Yarn-i-tec-ture but I find the concept behind it intriguing, that you can spin a yarn with exactly the properties (stretch, warmth, shine etc) and colours you want…. Can’t wait to see if it delivers on that promise 🙂

I had to share these with you, there are several of them along the Wellington waterfront, they were very popular for selfies so I only managed to get photos of two of them but they are so cool I just had to share. Something for me to aspire to on my learning to knit journey! 🙂

Following several requests, I have posted my Concertina Hat and Snail Hat tutorials on Etsy. If you enter code FAFS30 (before the end of July) you will receive a 30% discount at check out. Alternatively, if you prefer a more interactive learning experience, the full online course, including the “taking it further module”, will be starting again in October, for more information and to sign up for notifications when registration opens please follow this link. Or for the bag class this link.

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