Monday, January 13, 2014

Fiber Club, Behind the Scenes

 I love being able to offer a fiber club.  I'm grateful for each and every member, past and present.  If you've been in my fiber club you may have wondered once or twice (or many times), "why the heck does she take so long?!".   Well, I ask myself that same question every shipment.  So this last round I tried to calculate how long a single braid takes from start to finish.

First is the weighing out of fibers.  I dye in 1 lb dyelots (4 braids at a time).  This step is pretty fast, I'm guessing 2 minute on average for a single braid.  (2 mins total so far) 

I did a hand-paint technique for this one so it gets soaked while I mix up dyes.  I make up a concentrated stock of primary colors and start mixing those to get the colors I'm going for.  I wanted 9 unique colors for the colorway and mixed enough dye for 3 lbs (12 braids) each mixing session due to my counter space.  This takes quite some time, average 45 minutes to 1 hour to mix let's guess 5 minutes per braid. (total 7 mins so far)

The next step is getting the fiber out of the soak bin, and setting it up for dyes.  Dye is applied carefully, I'm very meticulous with this step so it takes me a while.  I'm thinking a 1 lb batch averages 45 minutes, possibly an hour if it's superwash.  (total time per single braid so far, weigh, mix, prep, apply: 20 minutes)

After all the dyes are on, they are heat-set on the stove.  I'm not counting the heat time since I'm usually working on the next batch while it's being heated.   (I heat it for 1 to 1.5 hours,  real slow)

Fiber cools overnight, then it's time to soak, rinse, and hang to dry.  I let it soak for a while but the actual handling of fibers is only about 5  minutes.  I do other things while it's soaking.  ( total: 25 minutes)

They dry on the drying rack for 24 to 48 hours.  I'll leave drying time out of my labor's not like I sit there and watch it dry. (though I do check on it often and make sure the colors came out right)

The next part is braiding.  I probably shouldn't count it in my labor time but I'm going to.  I put a big ol' pile on my couch, turn on the tv, get a glass of wine, and start braiding.   I love my braid nights. :)  The pic below is about 6 lbs, I think.  I'll do this 5x's for a club color.  I'm going to estimate 4 minutes each braid.  Yes, I have gold-veined mirrors and a tufted naughahyde choice.  I'm nostalgic like that.  (total time so far:  29 mins)
pile of fiber ready for braiding

 Next step is getting my wrap station together and making presents. :)  I ran out of tissue paper but have 1000's of purple bags so I figured I'd finally use them.  Not as present-like but I hope everyone loves what's inside.   I tied it up with my own handspun.  
ready to wrap

wrapping station

almost there!
The presents are lined up and ready to be packaged for shipment.  (time for wrap adds a few, total : 33 minutes per braid)

The next step is to get all the shipping supplies ready to go.

happy bees
labels printed

a little thank you


ready to drop off
Total time for each braid is at about 38 minutes per braid (I added 5 minutes for packaging),  not including dry time, heat time, and getting interrupted by kids to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I was surprised and thought it would be more like 20 minutes tops.  With calculating the actual time it truly takes, I should be able to knock out a whole club color, working full time, in about 2 weeks.  I average 2 to 3 weeks so I'm doing ok.  :)

    It's interesting for me to see how it all adds up.  I've never really thought about how many hours it takes since I work when I can, a little here and a little there, the entire day between homeschooling and traditional mom stuff.  I thank my lucky stars that I'm able to do what I do, I absolutely love it!

A big hug and thank you to all the fiber club members over the years.  I'm looking forward to another year creating these extra special colors. :)

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