Learn About Spinning Instructor Rachel Smith
I’m excited to help you learn about spinning instructor Rachel Smith. I met Rachel Smith in our local SweetGeorgia community around 2015. I had just finished a spinning wheel class at the SweetGeorgia studio and joined the SweetGeorgia Spinzilla team. Even as life and small kids kept the in-person events sparse, we met at local spinning events. It wasn’t long before I found Rachel’s channel on YouTube and started watching her vlogs as a way to keep improving my spinning. In 2016, I joined an in-person spinning class she offered through SweetGeorgia and little by little became friends through our joined passions of fibre, family, and lifelong learning.
If you hadn’t yet watched Rachel’s online spinning courses at the School of SweetGeorgia, I encourage you to do it. Rachel is a passionate learner, a kind and clear teacher, and a jewel in our community. Today, she shares some insights into her work.
How do you find the time to manage your work, family, hobbies and teaching?
I wear several hats in my life, it’s true. I am constantly switching between different hats: homeschooling, making yarn and podcasting, nursing, and spending time with family. There’s a moment each day when I first wake up when I think, “Okay, which hat today?” Sometimes it feels really disorganized, but overall, swapping out throughout the week means I get to do a lot of things. Sometimes I start the InstantPot while I’m having tea with my mom so that we have soup for lunch, and oftentimes, I’m knitting while catching up on Audible, listening to the kids tell me about their day, or watching a movie on the weekend. The most disruptive is the long shifts at the hospital (I’m also an ICU nurse) but I try to take it in stride and recognise when I’m tired. Sometimes I can’t get everything done in a day, and that’s okay. If it’s important, I try to carve out time later in the week and, if not, I let it go as much as possible.
What are your processes, software, equipment, or tools for storage? Documentation? Project management? Do you use digital, non-digital or a mix?
Great question and it depends on what I’m trying to store or archive. My personal process is mostly via paper and notebooks. I use binders to organise my samples and index cards to remind me what I did. For knitted projects, I use Ravelry for the projects page, which I have done for years and years, so it’s become a part of my process. In terms of the podcast, we store everything on local hard drives and backups in the cloud. Video files start to take up a lot of room, so my husband archives stuff and has it all stored. Every few months, he backs up a portable hard drive that we keep at my mom’s house in case our house is ever damaged. For project management, I use Google Docs, Excel, Word, and recently, I’ve started playing with Notion, an online task management app, to help Rebecca (my Wool n’ Spinning co-team) and me coordinate our efforts.
What do you love about teaching spinning with SOS?
After sitting with Felicia years ago and dreaming about starting an online school, I just feel so blessed to be involved in SOS. I have watched it grow, morph, and become what it is today! Because I create online content for Wool n’ Spinning, I love being able to come into SOS and film, creating the content ahead of time, and then sharing everything. There’s no post-production for me, so I feel when I come in I get to focus on what I really love about the process. Coming into the studio means being welcomed by old friends, having at least one meal with everyone, and catching up. I look forward to that time so much!
Why do you work with fibre and make things?
As much as I want to have a really deep, profound reason for making things, it’s really simple: I just really love making things with my hands. I’ve always worked with paper, collaging and glueing, knitting, and playing with yarn and patterns. I find the podcast is an extension of that creative energy, to be able to create something digitally and share that with others. I love talking about the process and hearing from others. Much of what we discuss is troubleshooting the process, finding meaning, and cheering one another on.
What other hobbies do you have?
Other than being multicraftual (knitting, weaving, sewing), I love to go for walks, play board games with my family—we especially love Dungeons and Dragons-based games because the kids get really into the story—and camping, and exploring throughout the Pacific Northwest and further. One of the things I do daily that has become a daily practice is cooking. As much as I get sick of it sometimes (and I cook incredibly simple foods day-to-day to keep it quick), I have come to love that time throughout the day, whether it’s oatmeal or mashing potatoes or steaming veggies. I used to cook complex meals with lots of ingredients, but as our life has become busier, keeping it simple has kept me sane.
How did you get started making your hobby a career?
Honestly? My husband said he was happy that I had found something I was super passionate about, but he didn’t want to hear about it anymore! He encouraged me to find a community of people who wanted to talk about yarn as much as I did and helped me figure out how to do that. When I hit publish on Patreon, my expectations were very small. I thought maybe a few people would sign up but instead, it kind of blew up. I found myself with a community of like-minded people who were super excited about spinning, making yarn and talking about it.
The transition from just making it for fun to having a platform to discuss my process and share it with others was, at times, uncomfortable. How much to share? What’s interesting? What isn’t working and needs to be cut? But that became part of the creative process of building a community, podcast, and business. I find myself asking myself more and more, “What’s helpful to share?” From there, I cut out the rest. Starting out, finding the right cameras, knowing how much ‘supplemental’ content I could sustainably create on Patreon, and engaging with the Slack channel, were all things that I needed to find balance with as it grew. I still struggle, but I wouldn’t go back and not hit publish!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in this type of career?
There’s always more to be done. From more content, to more videos to more projects that one can share. The digital hamster wheel is very real, and the pressure to constantly have new videos and content publishing all the time. This has been the biggest challenge and lesson in my business. How much is enough? I ask myself this question all the time so that I can make sure I am still creating from a place of passion and excitement. Spinning something just to have something to talk about leaves me feeling flat because I wasn’t excited about it. Everyone has their area of spinning that they are passionate about: hand-painted braids, processing fleece, spinning woollen, etc. I have found that it’s best to focus on the specific area you are most passionate about so you are excited and fired up about it!
What’s your number one tip to students of the fibre arts?
Patience. Many come to me and say, “I can’t spin the way you spin. How do I do that?” Honestly, it’s time. When I was learning to spin, I spun and spun and spun. I sat at the wheel and filled bobbin after bobbin of singles. I had no idea how to ply at the time, so I just kept spinning (literally). Create a daily practice where you are spinning for at least 15 minutes; listen to a podcast, audiobook, or movie during that time and zone out. Just spin! After you finish one skein of yarn or fill a bobbin, go onto another one and do it again and again and again.
Where else can we find your work?
The best place to start if you haven’t seen my work before is on YouTube: youtube.com/@RachelSmith and Patreon: patreon.com/woolnspinning. I am in the process of revamping the blog with more content coming this year: welfordpurls.com. I try to stay off social media so that I can be more present in our community’s Slack channel, which is where most of the conversation happens for Wool n’ Spinning, but I am on Instagram at @woolnspinning.
Thank you, Rachel, for answering all our questions and for sharing your passion for textiles. I have fallen through many rabbit holes thanks to your podcast, from spinning with supported spindles, drop spindles or Turkish spindles, exploring and spinning sheep breeds, spin to knit socks, and sweaters, and now spinning luxury fibres as well as exploring weaving as a new frontier.
If you want to follow the conversation, join fellow members in the School of SweetGeorgia forums!