Spinners Speak: Rachel Smith

As you know, I feel like I found a real treasure last month when  stumbled upon Rachel Smith’s Wool n’ Spinning podcasts. She is an accomplished handspinner, knitter, teacher, and demonstrator. She is the force behind WelfordPurls–an excellent online resource for spinners of all abilities and, most recently, she was the team leader for SweetGeorgia Yarn’s Spinzilla Team. Today, I have the privilege of hosting a Spinners Speak interview with Rachel! For those of you who have never had the pleasure of meeting Rachel online, here are a few fun facts: she hails from Vancouver, BC; has two kids; and she is a handspinner who believes in knitting with her own yarn. Plus, she can pack so much knowledge in to one podcast that you’ll likely want to take notes! Without further ado, I present some lovely eye candy from Rachel’s impressive portfolio and some excellent advice in her own words.  [All images are copyright Rachel Smith Anderson]


SweetGeorgia 12/15 BFL


Handspun Snoqualmie Valley Shawl


Handcarded Falkland


Sweet Georgia SW BFL


Handspun Boneyard Shawl


















[All images are copyright Rachel Smith Anderson]

1) What is your spinner/knitter narrative? How did you get started?
I started knitting again after Uni because I had an intense want/need to make things. I had grown up around art, sewing and the creative process so re-learning to knit was a natural progression. Having a sewing machine set-up in my tiny 450 square foot apartment wasn’t realistic at the time but knitting needles are super compact!

Spinning came into my life because I wanted to be more in touch with the process of creating the yarn I was knitting with. The catch was that I wasn’t very interested at the time in actually learning how to spin. I bought some 4oz braids, cringed at the price of handpainted top and continued my knitting journey, only playing with my wheel occasionally. I ended up spinning bobbin after bobbin of singles without progressing much past that. Finally, I decided I should learn how to use my wheel or sell it. In the end, I was hooked after one lesson with a friend who showed me what a brake band was and how it worked, and I was off to the races.

Overtime, I have come to identify very much with the process of creating from raw fleece to finished, usable item. It fits well with my strides to live a slow life and is in complete opposite to the adrenaline-rich environment of trauma nursing that I work in on the weekends. I spend my weeks as a stay-at-home Mom of two little people and find our weeks pass slowly, enjoying the ebb and flow of our daily routine. Even now, as I type, the kids are enjoying some quiet with their books and a TV show they love.

2) What do you love most about your crafts(s)?
Spinning is very raw for me. I love that I can work with quite rough, unrefined materials, and create something not only practical and wearable but also beautiful. I love that process of creating. There is always a part of the process that goes awry – I become unsure about what I’m creating and hit a wall for a while. I’ve learned to sit in this place and ride it out because ultimately, it will pass and things will work out.

In sharp contrast, knitting has become very product driven for me. I see something I think will fit in with my wardrobe that I will wear and enjoy so I cast it on. There isn’t much love of the process anymore because there is a part of me that mourns the loss of that spinning time. I have learned to love all parts of the process and it also means I finish fewer things than I did when I was only, or primarily, a knitter. It is interesting to me how things change when you find your true passion.

3) How has your video podcast shaped your crafting community?
Initially, blogging was a change to keep an online, albeit public, journal of my projects. I had always felt inspired by others’ blogs and hoped to do the same. As time went on, I found myself looking for more interaction with this online community of like-minded people. Many of us come to our crafts for reasons beyond wanting to make something and wear it. Many of us are interested in the slow fashion movement, working with raw fleece and creating something that is practical. There are countless other reasons as well, like enjoyment, relaxation, friendship, etc. I found blogging about spinning impossible. It was so difficult as I was re-learning many of the things I’d forgotten to write about those things. It was cumbersome and frustrating so very, very quickly, I turned to video.

Video provided the space to chat about my learnings and errors. It also connected me to many people who experiencing the same journey or close enough to that we were able to connect and chat. Ravelry, of course, offered another area for that community to grow and soon I hoped to begin a community more intentionally that could connect anytime, anywhere in a way that spinners around the world hadn’t been able to prior. That was the thought behind Wool n’ Spinning initially, which has grown so much beyond my imagination in a very short period of time. It is really inspiring to me and motivates me to push more in my own spinning journey.

4) Who were your favorite teachers? and why?
I don’t really have favourites but I have a few people I go to regularly for inspiration. The owner and creative director of SweetGeorgia Yarns, here in Vancouver, is Felicia Lo and over the past number of years has become a friend, as well as spinning confident. Without her support and inspiration I never would have taken the plunge to teach in a studio environment at this time. Her knowledge and experience, as well as her ideas around running a business, have been invaluable.

There are a group of truly inspirational people in my local guild, one of whom in particular helped me get started on my wheel again. Diana is a very passionate and knowledgeable spinner and writes a great blog, available here: http://100milewear.com/

Lastly, I boast a few great friends who are always pushing the envelope, whom I have mentioned on the podcast many times, and therefore, we are always learning from one another. They push me to create more, experiment more and push the envelop more and more. Some of them include Katrina and her blog is here:http://www.craftyjaks.ca/blog and Sarah of FiberTrek and her podcast is here: https://fibertrek.wordpress.com/

5) What’s your best piece of advice for a novice spinner and/or someone hoping to get into the blogging fiber community?
For the novice spinner, I always say that the time you spend at your wheel or spindle is invaluable. There is no easy or fast way to learn how to spin really awesome yarn, other than putting in literal time on the tool. The more you spin, the better you’ll become. After those first few lumpy, bumpy skeins, things start to click; but you have to make those first. People are often shocked at how much time I put in just spinning but it’s a conscious choice. If you want to get better, you have to put in the practice time!

Starting to blog about your journey is invaluable. Talk about what you know. Write about the learnings, pitfalls and all. People just starting or well on their way will relate and enjoy your tales. The best place to start is from the beginning. Don’t try to write about things you don’t know really well yet – you’ll get there, I promise! Also, good photography helps tell your story and people will pay attention to what you write. Last, be generous. People want to hear the good and ugly, the things that didn’t work. Information and education are so powerful so share it!

6) What’s on the horizon for you? Collaborations? Teaching Events?
The future is always changing for me as I balance the home, career and Wool n’ Spinning. I can say that I will be teaching in studio at SweetGeorgia Yarns here in Vancouver in January – March 2017 after my current group winds up. Wool n’ Spinning will be launching its next Workshops series November 1st for another 3 months. And, in two issues in 2017, look for articles written by me in PLY Magazine. Thank you for reading!

For more, you can find me on Ravelry, Instagram and Twitter as welfordpurls. I love email: rachel(at)welfordpurls(dot)com. And you can look at the Wool n’ Spinning community and podcast at patreon.com/welfordpurls and welfordpurls(dot)com.

* * *

Thanks so much Rachel!

I love meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are an indie dyer, a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above)

This entry was posted in community, handspun, information, interview, Spinners Speak, spinning. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Spinners Speak: Rachel Smith

  1. metaspencer says:

    Great post! I’m glad to have some background on Rachel. 🙂


  2. Alina says:

    Wow! I can’t believe these yarns are handspun!!! They look so professional and colors are mixed perfectly! Thank you so much for introducing us to Rachel!


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