Since I began spinning about a year ago, I’ve fallen hard for Etsy shopping. It’s fairly difficult to find beautiful and inspiring spinning fiber if all you do is shop locally. Not many local yarn shops carry a good selection of fiber, if they carry any at all. It’s understandable: spinners are outnumbered by knitters by a huge margin (although I don’t have hard cold stats to back me up – anyone?). Yarn shops have thin margins so they need to stock up with what sells well – in other words, yarn.
On the other hand, if you are a spinner, Etsy is a joyous wonderland. For the uninitiated, Etsy is an e-commerce website (somewhat similar to eBay sans auctions) that allows small craft artists and suppliers to easily market & sell their wares to an eager audience. Among the amazing array of craft products are many independent dyers offering up their hand-dyed yarns and spinning fibers for sale. Today I want to profile one of my favorites: the Cupcake Fiber Company.
Opened by Joan McGuire of Grand Island, NY in January of 2011, this fast-growing online shop sells hand-crafted fiber batts for spinning up sock yarns (as well as lace and other small to moderately sized projects). Joan hand-dyes a delicious array of fibers (including merino, superwash merino, blue-faced leicester, silk, and bamboo) into both subtle and vibrant shades and then blends these colors with an expert eye for color harmony using a drum carder into 1-ounce batts ready for spinning. Each box contains 6 1-ounce batts, the perfect put-up for spinning two identical skeins of 3-ply sock yarn. No weighing, measuring, or guestimating how much fiber to spin for each ply of each skein. Just spin up each of 3 batts into a 1-oz single and ply them into one 3-ply skein of yarn; repeat with the other 3 batts to produce a virtually identical second skein. Easy peasy: two near-identical skeins of sock yarn!
Joan’s packaging is nothing short of brilliant: just like delicate pastries, the six rolled batts are nestled in a custom-made cardboard box complete with round cut-outs to hold each batt securely in place and a cellophane window. As a result the batts are protected from compression and matting during transit and storage.
With color names such as Magic, Delphiniums, Last Frost, Arbor, Brighter Days, and Gradient Smoke, Joan has succeeded in designing a product that solves almost all of the challenges sock spinners face: spinning two equal-sized skeins of 3-ply yarn with little or no leftover singles. When your “cupcakes” arrive in the mail and you unpack the box, you realize that Joan invests a great deal of care, thought and love into each and every element of your order.
Joan recently opened a second shop, Meat Sheep Industries, in order to solve another spinner’s conundrum: supplying beautiful hand-dyed roving to spinners wanting large quantities sufficient for sweaters and other garments. Again, the packaging is exquisite and the prices are very reasonable. I will be reporting on Meat Sheep Industries in a future post.
I personally have three boxes of cupcakes waiting patiently to be spun up, which I intend to do in July as part of Tour de Fleece – the topic of my next post.