Green Crafting

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Lara Cameron is a Melbourne based textile designer and co-owner of Ink & Spindle, a boutique, organic and sustainable yardage screen printing studio located in Melbourne. Lara blogs at kirinote.

It would be so easy for me to write a post about how to turn your hobby or passion into a business. It’s a topic I know about all too well, since textile design was one of those things I dabbled with on the side before Teegs and I launched Ink & Spindle, our small, textile design and screen printing business. But I think there’s enough posts out there already explaining the value of business plans, pricing, blogging and good photography (although if you want to know about pricing check out the blog post I wrote on the topic over here!).

Instead I thought it would be nice to write about how my craft – and running Ink & Spindle – has improved my health and outlook on life. Because over the years it’s becoming more and more apparent to me how much the way I view the world has changed during the time we’ve owned this business.

I guess fundamental to this shift in thinking is the fact that running a small business doesn’t provide much in terms of financial reward. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact. If you want to produce goods in an ethical, sustainable manner, without cutting corners or working crazy hours, you’ll never make as much money as those people whose businesses function within (and depend upon) the fundamentally flawed construct of the capitalist world. You pay first world rent, pay first world wages, work first world hours (mostly). Naturally profit margins are much lower, but that’s inherent in any ethical business and I feel like it’s the only way I’d ever like to earn money.

So if you’re not doing it for financial reward, why are you doing it? Because there are other rewards in the world that are more valuable than money, such as going to work each day and feeling good about what you are doing. It feels like such a privilege to do something each day that I enjoy, to work with my hands, be creative, be surrounded by good people and ultimately have full control over my own direction. It’s also highly rewarding to feel like you’re making some small positive contribution to the world. We may be nothing more than a drop in the ocean of the world of textiles, but it’s great to be providing people with an ethical alternative, and proving to our peers that it is possible to make a living doing something you love.

In a way I’ve found my very modest wage to be quite liberating. Before Ink & Spindle I worked as a web and graphic designer. My wage was still modest but fairly consistent, and I started to entertain the notion that I could buy some property. Buying a house is something I’ve always wanted to do since I was quite young, and I still love the idea of it. But living in Melbourne where property prices are through the roof respective to average incomes, buying a home anywhere close to the city is something that’s just not an option to a lot of people in my generation.

But strangely, now that that option has been taken away from me, I actually feel quite free. Thinking about buying a house and feeling like I needed to save a lot and start looking ASAP was always a background stress in my life, a constant pressure. Now that I’ve let that go I feel like my eyes have been opened to other ways of thinking about life and what my priorities are. I also feel as though it’s okay for me to live more in the moment. I don’t need to be constantly saving or chasing higher incomes just so that I can save for a deposit or pay off a bit more of a mortgage. I can live a bit more for the “now”. I can focus on those things that make my day to day life enjoyable – friends, family, making things – and what’s more important than being happy, right now?

I think this is a good moment to quote a bit of the wise ‘ol Dalai Lama: The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:


Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.

I guess it’s easy for me to spout these ideals whilst I am currently unattached and childless, but I hope that in my future – when I do have a family – I will be able to live by similar values. I’d like to live simply. I’d like to extend the ethical practices of my business into more facets of my life. I’d like to have chooks and a vegie garden and maybe one day build a self sufficient home outside of town.

I guess to put it simply, my small creative business has educated and allowed me to step outside of the rat race, view it from a slightly more objective standpoint. I am happier and healthier now that I stand free of those pressures, and am glad to be able to put my time and energy into building a business that makes myself and others happy and is hopefully benefiting the world in some small way :)



This is a guest post by Kathryn AKA CrochetBlogger. She is the blogger at Crochet Concupiscence, a leading source for all crochet news and information.

From Kathy Withers Fiber Ranch in Arizona: Tucson Wool Festival

What is the Slow Yarn Movement?

The Slow Movement has taken off in recent years. Many people know the term because they are interested in slow food (as opposed to fast food). However there are also trends in slow gardening, slow travel, slow fashion, slow schooling and slow art. And I would argue that there is a trend towards Slow Yarn despite the fact that not many crafters are using the term.

Understanding the Slow Movement

The Slow Movement is, as the name suggests, an intentional shift towards living a slower paced life but it is about far more than just simplifying life and reducing fast-paced processes. The slow movement is about sustainability, supporting a local economy and engaging more hands-on in all areas of a craft. So for example, the slow food movement encompasses buying from local organic farmers as well as growing, preparing and preserving your own foods.

So What is Slow Yarn?

When it comes to yarn, the slow movement can encompass many different things. Knitters and crocheters are already participating in a slow yarn way of life since they are choosing to hand create items, including clothing and home furnishings, rather than buying them factory-made. But those yarn crafters who want to go further into the slow yarn movement can do so at many different levels from raising their own fiber to spinning their own yarn.

Elements of a Slow Yarn Lifestyle:

  • Choosing carefully sourced yarn. A responsible approach to yarn crafts includes making careful choices in the type of yarn that is purchased and where it is bought. Slow yarn supporters choose sustainable yarn, usually from independent sellers. There is a big emphasis on buying locally at fiber festivals but some people consider “local” to refer to purchases from their home country and may be through indie yarn sellers online. The book Knit Local by Tanis Gray is a great resource for people interested in the history and business philosophies of local yarn sellers.
  • Growing your own fiber to create your own yarn. Even slower than buying yarn responsibly is making your own yarn. This can mean starting a small fiber farm with animals like sheep and alpacas or growing your own plants to process into yarn. You can then spin the fiber into yarn and use the yarn in your crafts.
  • Using recycled yarn materials. Recycling and upcycling are certainly also part of the slow yarn movement. You can make yarn out of plastic bags, old T-shirts and sheet and even bicycle tire tubes.
  • Home-based yarn dyeing. The slow movement breaks down the process of a craft and encourages the crafter to participate in each step. Instead of buying a pre-dyed yarn, the crafter may dye yarn at home. A truly committed slow yarn crafter would grow her own herbs and use them as a natural dye base.

Benefits of a Slow Yarn Movement

Here are some of the reasons that people choose to join the Slow Yarn Movement:

  • Supporting the local community. People who buy locally are helping to lend support to the other indie crafters in their area. This is good for the local economy, enhances options for people to live creatively and builds stronger ties with others.
  • Meditative qualities. Taking the time to slow down and participate in each part of the process allows the crafter to enjoy more of the “in the moment” wonder of crafting.
  • Eco-conscious lifestyle. The slow yarn movement emphasizes eco-friendly practices and habits from reduced transportation when buying local yarns to increased use of repurposed materials in upcycling.
  • It’s fun! If you already love to knit or crochet then your whole experience of crafting can be enhanced when you also learn to dye or spin your own fiber.

So are you going to jump on the slow yarn train? Why or why not?


November (and a little bit into December) is book month at

Ok Ok – I have a dream… it includes a farm and some animals and lots of kids (being good and playing nicely), rain and sunshine and vegetables, honey and fresh air, free range eggs, a pizza oven and homemade bacon. I am thus just a little bit addicted to reading books on these topics, growing my yearning toward change and a new lifestyle – somewhere green and rainy and lush – maybe with a beach – does it sound nice?

The Beekeeper’s Bible: Bees, Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses By Richard A. Jones and Sharon Sweeney-Lynch. Stewart, Tabori & Chang (April 1, 2011).

Wow – beautiful book, full of amazing historic images, illustrations and posters – full of facts and history – myths and stories – bees in literature, art and ritual – the first chapter makes for incredible bedtime reading. Next everything you need to know about the honeybee- types of bees, the lifecycle, how they communicate, why they sting, where they live, man’s relationship with the bee and how to create a bee friendly garden. All super interesting stuff – and filled with amazing images of bees, bee hives, swarms, bee anatomy, as well as beautiful hand drawn illustrations – just stunning.

Next chapter is the ins and outs of keeping bees, when what how and who – everything you need to know to keep bees and harvest honey in your own garden. This section has wonderful practical advice on hive construction and where to locate it – looking after and feeding your bees and proper hygiene and safety. Again there are some amazing photos and a really informative section on what to expect in a beekeeping year. And of course how to harvest all that lovely honey and beeswax. The next to last section is all about honey and the bee byproducts (beeswax, pollen and royal jelly), including medicinal, scientific and food uses. This section begins with a really informative section on the types of honey, then goes on to make candles from beeswax through to the medicinal properties of honey. Lastly – recipes, crafts and home remedies – from honey syrups, drinks and marinades to hair products, skin creams, soaps and healthful tonics. This is probably the most thorough and interesting book on bees and beekeeping I think I have ever seen (I know I am not an expert – but this book is really fabulous).

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals: Choose the Best Breeds for Small-Space Farming, Produce Your Own Grass-Fed Meat, Gather Fresh … Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, Pigs, Cattle, & Bees by Gail Damerow. Published by Storey Publishing (March 23, 2011). (Distributed in Australia through Capricorn Link)

A practical guide to raising your own animals for food and includes chapters on each of the animals covered: chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, rabbits, bees, goats, sheep, pigs, and cows. Most of these animals except maybe for ducks, chooks and bees are really not meant for the average backyard, this book really goes beyond the basic small-space animal husbandry and is more hobby farm material than for the suburban backyard farmer. This book is not meant to be a one stop shop – rather it makes for a great general overview while you are researching your topic.

Homesteading in the 21st Century: How One Family Created a More Sustainable, Self-Sufficient, and Satisfying Life By George Nash and Jane Waterman. Published by Taunton Press (May 3, 2011) (Distributed in Australia through Capricorn Link).

Wonderfully inspiring book written by a couple with a lifetime each of experience working and living a self sufficient life. Full of not only practical farming life, but also real interesting stories and advice of farm life. It’s difficult to explain this book – it’s an eclectic mix of part how-to manual and part memoir. The advice given is so obvious heart felt and hard earned – and the writing style is real too – the voices of these farmer folk comes through real and raw – it’s wonderful. A perfect book to be reading over the next year while I think about our next step into the unknown.


November is book month at

The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder through the Seasons By Amanda Blake Soule and Stephen Soule. Published by Roost Books (August 9, 2011).

Because I am such a big fan of Amanda Soule’s blog and have ‘known’ her online since we both started up our blogs many years ago – it’s a bit difficult for me to give an unbiased review – so I am not going to bother with that – instead I will just tell you that Amanda writes, parents, crafts and lives a beautiful, meaningful and inspiring life. I am sure it’s not easy – all those kids, homeschooling, self sufficiency, a farm and a business – but she does it with style and without complaint. Her husband Steve, who co-authored this book, has a different style of writing – almost poetic, it is so obvious that this is a family living their dream and loving each other.

Each month of the year is prefaced with an essay from both Amanda and Steve, they talk about what is happening on the farm and in the family, the seasons are very important as is the routine and rhythm of a homeschooling family with five children, lots of animals and a very crafty and creative and nature based environment. Each month is accompanied by a couple of seasonal crafts, activities or recipes. These are simple, thoughtful and nurturing, not fancy, difficult or even particularly original – it’s the way they are presented – as part of the whole picture that makes each project important.

January begins with Amanda’s thoughts on the push and pull of inside and outside on a wintry day, she discusses the heart of the family and the projects they will do, while Steve reminisces about his childhood and the role of the father in the day’s rhythm. They make potato soup, knit a simple cowl and make icy sun catchers. In other months they watch the birds, tend the animals, make nature bags and press flowers. Later in the year they go on picnics, plant seedlings, make jam and go on walks.

Inspiring and beautiful and simple.