Hare's Moon Yarns is now open! Click here for handspun gorgeous yarns from England.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Not giving it all away

After years of people telling me "you should sell those!" about the things I make, I have recently has some people say "why don't you give that away, why do you want money for it?".

There is a very simple answer. Time. I don't claim to be the best knitter, writer, maker or the best anything, but what I produce comes from more than 35 years of learning and investing in myself. Just as no one would expect a plumber to fix leaking pipes for nothing, why should people expect any other hand-made item to always be free - or practically given away at the lowest possible price which does not even cover the material costs let alone the labour time?

I do give a lot of what I make away as gifts. People in general don't see that, because they are not the recipients. I also spend time helping others learn to knit, sew, make etc without charging, because it is important that these skills are used and passed on through the generations so they are not lost. Equally, I pay for the raw materials, and wouldn't dream of quibbling over the prices I am charged.

It's not just in the area of physically making things that I refuse to give it all away for free. My time is precious to me, and while sometimes I might work a few extra minutes for no pay in my day job, that doesn't mean I am always going to be the first to voluteer for overtime - whether paid or as TOIL - because I have other things that I do in my life that are way more important than the day job I do. Sometimes if you give too much, people begin to expect it all the time and get pissy when you say no.

My beliefs centre on the concept of maintaining yourself so that you can then assist others. It might sound a bit selfish, but if you are not physically, mentally and financially in a good place, how can you help others without bringing the whole house of cards down? This applies to my time as well. I need time for myself, in order to function well for and with others. How I spend my own time is down to me.

So, I'm not forcing anyone to buy my items, or pay for my time, and generally people don't need to. But if I occasionally ask for some recompence, it's not because I am being greedy. I just need to balance things like everyone else does.    

Friday, 4 July 2014

Meet the family

Just thought I'd show off the range of Hare toys I've been working on recently. The pattern is now available at Hare's Moon Yarns as are Medici, Archie and Bella.


                                                                             Bella.

                                                                Bella, Medici and Archie                                                      

                                                    



                                                                Florence and Medici   

                                                                         

                                                                         Archie.

                                                                                 Fritz.

     

                                                                               Medici.


                                                                               Oeuf.



Sunday, 29 June 2014

Very exciting!

I am super excited to announce that my pattern for a knitted hare toy is now published and available to download as a pdf file in my Etsy shop Hare's Moon Yarns!

The pattern costs just £2 (approx US $3) and includes several pictures to aid you in the construction of the hare.

I've also just finished my latest from the pattern: Bella.





She is also available for sale ~ or you can request a custom-knitted hare by contacting my through the shop on Etsy.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

It's been a while

It feels like weeks since I did any spinning, but it's actually only been 3 or 4, and for much of that time I have been busily knitting and writing. The Hares are coming along nicely, and I've also been working on a pair of socks for my mother-in-law. For those who haven't been here from the start, my MIL has diabetes and her feet swell up so that conventional mass-produced socks tend to constrict her ankles too much. So I hand knit her socks, with loose tops, which are more comfortable for her.

I decided to treat her to something other than the usual stocking stitch socks this time, and have been doing some simple lace instead:


They do feel a bit on the small side though, so they may end up as a donation to one of the other residents in my MIL's care home and I'll make her another pair. As she lives 4000 miles away, I can't ask her to try one on while I'm knitting it just to check the size!

I've just bought some more undyed fibre - some Cheviot, and some Lincoln - so more adventures in dying and spinning will follow soon :)

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Introducing Medici Hare

I have been working on developing a knitting pattern over the past few weeks, with a couple of prototypes made for the two girls I know expecting babies this summer. Below is the third hare, and the one I think is just about right; Medici.


He is knitted with some of my recently handspun Gotland yarn.

I now have a couple of people test-knitting the pattern for me and hopefully I'll have it available for sale in my Etsy shop soon.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Ethics of trying to help

This is a post about a dilema.

There are a lot of inmates, not only in the USA but around the world, who have no one on the outside. When I say they have no one, I mean that their family and friends have moved on with their lives and rarely communicate (if at all) with the inmate. For inmates serving relatively long sentences, this often happens around the 5-7 year mark, and often also coincides with a change in behaviour of the inmate. They either throw themselves into the life of an inmate, which can open up situations of violence and illegal behaviour, or they can come to the conclusion that they want to make it but they will have to do it on their own.

I could never criticise anyone related to an inmate who chose to move on with their lives. Ultimately, the inmate is the one who is supposed to pay for their crime, not the entire family and extended friends network. And for those who chose to stick around, it does often feel like you are serving a sentence with them - not to the same extent of deprivation or punishment, but a sentence nonetheless.

I've been writing to inmates for the best part of 25 years, and over time I have found a number of ways to contact inmates. Before the widespread use of the internet, I used magazines, and some magazines would allow inmates to place small ads free of charge. I have also known of websites that would list inmates for free, thus providing the means for them or their friends and family to reach out without having to find extra money on top of the household bills and phone calls and stationary and postage etc

And then there are websites that charge for a "service" of giving inmates the opportunity to appeal for correspondence. I have often wondered why some offer this for free and others charge a fee.

I have seen the fee justified by some websites as covering "administration costs". But I have to question just how much of the fee really does go on administration, and how much becomes profit. And there is the rub: should free-world individuals profit by exploiting inmates when there is no real need to do so? Even under the premis of helping to reduce recidivism?

Take a well known website, Write A Prisoner. It's been around a while, and offers an advert for $40 per year to any inmate (unless they happen to be located in a state that does not permit inmates to solicit for correspondence via the internet or printed publications). It's not a sleek-looking site, in fact it looks like it was built about 15 years ago and hasn't had much effort put into keeping it in the current century. Currently there are just over 900 inmate adverts on the site. That's 900 x $40 as a baseline. That's $36000 a year just for placing the ads. But look a little closer and you find that there are charges to update information on each advert, charges for adding a photo or changing a photo, charges for adding extra words above the 250-word standard profile, charges for adding artwork etc etc

These adverts are submitted in electronic format. No one at the website has to sit there typing in the details from a pdf or a sheet of coffee-stained paper. There is the option to email the inmate the first time you contact them through the site; the site prints off the email, pops it into an envelope and sends it via traditional mail. Some of these are received and some are not. Still doesn't justify the $40 fee though, and we haven't even looked at the revenue share from the commercial adverts.

Write A Prisoner claims to fund some community projects from its revenue. There is a Scholarship for the children of inmates and children impacted by crime. The Scholarship is $250. There is no information on how many have been awarded since 2010. They also advertise "Welcome Home Kits" for inmates who are being released but not to a family home. Apparently 43 such kits have been distributed, although they could not be sent to inmates in every state as many do not even permit those picking up a released inmate to take some free-world clothes for the inmate to wear when leaving the prison.

There is a Book Donation scheme. Write a Prisoner says they have donated $ 3,437.00 across 39 books-for-inmates schemes in the US. They do not say whether that is solely in cash, or if they count the value of the books as a like-for-like donation sum.

Why am I saying all of this? Do I have an axe to grind? Not really. I'm not against anyone making an honest buck from their own hard graft. I just have a thing about those who say they are doing something, but where there is no hard evidence for it happening. And then we come to the concept of writing to inmates in the first place.

Believe it or not, it is absolutely possible to write to an inmate without falling in love with them, or they with you. It is totally possible to correspond with an inmate less than once a day, by traditional mail, for many years, without them asking you to send them anything at all. But you only have to glance at the forums attached to these websites to wonder if they should be called "Date a Prisoner" instead. There is a conveyor belt of women (and some men, but few and far between) who "want to bring some sunshine into an inmate's life", who treat writing as some kind of game or therapy, get caught up in the "romance" of the situation, and then after approximately 2 years find that either he isn't what they had told themselves he was, or he has been released and had no intention of going home to them. Especially when they have never met the inmate face to face. Then the phrase "Hell hath no fury" really comes into play! 

I wonder how many penpal correspondences would become relationships if the websites did not post photographs of the inmates. If people wrote based only on what the advert says - because naturally no one enters into a correspondence with the intention of finding love.... do they?

For a website that wants to be taken seriously, it is basic Marketing 101 that brand is everything. Anyone dropping into these forums would be forgiven for running to the hills with the amount of hybristophiliacs gushing about their latest phone call or visit, or making plans on what they will do the second their penpal steps out of prison. Their understanding of the issues and difficulties faced by newly-released inmates is next to nothing, but still it will be wedding bells and babies and someone to pay the bills and live happily ever after with. People wonder where stereotypes come from: they come from real people, unfortuneately. They don't want the reality of the situation, because, you know, "haters gonna hate" and all that jazz.

So when looking for an inmate to correspond with - which by the way, I still do think is an extremely worthy cause and can be highly rewarding for both parties - I think it is worth asking yourself whether the ethics of the website parading these inmates like a beauty pageant is really what you want to subscribe to or be associated with. If you care about the concept of helping those who are unable to help themselves, perhaps one of the free services would be more appropriate. Like Lost Vault.

Monday, 5 May 2014

New forum for those involved with inmates in TDCJ

While TDCJ have improved their website recently, there is still a gap in the general information that many people seek when a loved one goes to prison in Texas, or for those who write to inmates in TDCJ units.

There is now a new forum that aims to provide as much information as possible on all aspects of TDCJ, uncluttered by too much chit-chat and references to what might be possible elsewhere but not relevant to TDCJ.

The new forum is here: Texas Prison Support

You will need to register to see the whole forum, and then you will need to activate your account in order to post.

So if you have any burning questions, don't be shy or think you will look stupid for asking - we were all new to this once!