Author Archives: cindy

Stitch Yourself into an Expert

So, I’ve been working on lots of new or re-visited things lately. I’ve been feeling like wanting to do something new and creative and have a few things that are sitting in a position of almost ready to launch but I am still deciding what to do, and when. Meanwhile I am still spinning fun yarns and going down a bit of a rabbit hole with sewing. I decided that being the new parent of a toddler requires a bit of time to oneself sometimes. So, I am going to take little workshops and classes from time to time so I can get some focused creative time. I started a few months ago taking a sewing boot camp class at Black Orchid Designs and it’s been a nice wake up call to get reacquainted with sewing and sewing machines. I’ve already made a fun pillow and I’m working on a dress for myself that I hope to finish this weekend. At home I have pulled out my sewing machine and read the manual and we are getting reacquainted as I turn my baby quilt project into reality. I decided some time ago to save all of Bee’s little sleepers and make a quilt out of them. It’s quite meditative cutting out the squares for this project.

I’m doing a simple patchwork design that I might add some interest to when I quilt the top layer. These cute little patterns are full of so many memories. I feel like I remember lots of places she went, and all sorts of milestones where I can still see her wearing these pajamas.

I’ve been trying to spread around my creative pursuits a bit and get into things that are not necessarily a part of what I do for Studioloo, but just fun in general. I’ve also been thinking on the concept of business vs. pleasure in the arts and in creative expression and also about how to be a professional with your skills. It got me to thinking about back when I first learned to spin. My skills were still quite new and had a lot of room to get better. I was spinning yarns I liked, but in smaller amounts, and with simpler techniques. I was not confident enough for some time to get started selling my yarns. I decided for about a year to just spin and use my yarns in my freeform crochet, as at the time that’s kind of why I started. I had been looking for yarn that was interesting enough to make really one-of-a-kind hats. That’s the very reason I started researching about making yarn. Then I just fell in love with it.

The point I am getting at is that there is value to learning your craft really well, and finding your style before you start to market yourself, or your craft. I look back at all that I have learned about spinning art yarns and I know that what I produce today is far better than what I produced 15 or more years ago. It’s hard to imagine how long I have been on this journey, and still that I love this yarn. The worst thing you will do as an artisan with the intention to sell your wares is to sell something that is not up to your quality standards. People will buy from you, but if they have issues they will not be return customers, and they might even leave bad reviews about you online that are hard to resolve. That’s a topic for another time — the whole anxiety of being perfect, making mistakes, not being able to afford mistakes, and customer service, etc. It’s a big topic.  My point is – love what you do enough to make sure that you make that ‘made with love’ really apparent to your customers. Learn your craft. Never get too comfortable in your expertise and keep learning!

Some of my tips about spinning art yarns successfully would likely be:

  • Anchor your coils and complex techniques with a strong ply so that they don’t fall out if the yarn is cut.
  • Make sure your yarns have tensile strength – don’t sell yarns that have fibres that fall apart of float away.
  • Don’t ply with sewing threads or other weak, easy to snap, yarns or threads. This makes your yarn an easy candidate for snapping.
  • Knit / crochet / weave with your own yarn – it’s your best way to learn how to use it and troubleshoot/advise on questions like ‘what do I do when I get to this flower add-in?’
  • If you can, produce a simple pattern to be used with your yarn. Art yarns are incredible and usually require only a simple stitch to be an amazing finished project. They are often bulkier so you can produce samples quickly. (I need to follow my own voice here – I do make samples but often they sell. I don’t like to keep things around too long.) Get someone else to test knit your pattern.

In other life events, we were lucky enough to visit the AGO and see Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Mirrors’ exhibit. We had a lot of fun and it was great to wear polka-dots and dress up Bee in a polka-dot dress.

And we went to the Creativ Festival and I  might have been bamboozled into some fabric stash enhancement.

I will sign off by sharing my contribution for the #artvsartist hashtag on Instagram. 8 pictures of your work and a picture of the artist.

Remember the Internet?

Lately, with all going on in the news, and in the world, I have been feeling kind of like I could turn back time to when the internet just felt more exciting, and big! We all had webpages and blogs, and seemingly endless avenues to visit and find other creatives. Then social media came along and for some time it was a nice curation of friends, family, and inspiring people we followed down the many roads the internet provided. It seemed easier. However, at least for me, now that same tool feels kind of limiting in that I don’t really want every part of my life connected. I want to have privacy. I want quiet time. I don’t need distractions like a social media feed to cause me to stare at a device for an hour instead of spinning a yarn, playing peekaboo with my daughter or taking part in something educational or relaxing. I’m also starting to feel like it’s taken things from me. I notice a change in productivity. There are some positives but like many notable tech leaders, I am starting to see more negatives than positives for me personally.

So, I’m mixing it up and using the time machine in my mind to go back a bit to how things were when I was happier about the internet. I’m updating Ravelry again, blogging, listening to podcasts and spending less time in general offline. I’m online for my day job and that’s really probably going to be about 90% of my online hours. I’m also debating about how I want to sell my work online. I’ve been terrible at doing shop updates for a multitude of reasons. It’s a lot of work photographing everything, writing descriptions, uploading it, tagging it, advertising, it. I’m not excited to do all that. But I might do something like have live sales or sell on Instagram, where I am posting pictures of both my progress and final items anyhow. It seems like a logical move to try to streamline everything.

I’m also getting back into sewing, which I have not done in a very long time, and I am spending lots of time just spinning fun art yarns. I’ve decided to refocus a bit more on that than on dyeing millspun yarns. I think the market is oversaturated a bit right now – although there are a ton of amazing dyers out there. I just find I have more fun creating yarns from scratch. I will still do small runs of dyed millspun from time to time but more as a special release.

Also, the Frolic is coming up really soon! Come on out and see all our new goodies!

 

Family – Yarn Love Challenge

Family is a nice topic for me to write about these days because the concept has been entirely reshaped by the recent birth of my daughter, Matilda Bee. I have been blessed to have an awesome, supportive husband, who many of you have likely met at different shows that we take part in. He is 100% committed to being by my side all the time and helps me endlessly with my yarn endeavours, my business, my life in general, and now our child. He’s a great dad – I knew he would be from the moment I fell in love with him years ago, but it’s still really nice over and over, in my heart, to see his love in action. We were always family, with our 4 dogs, senior white’s tree frog, bunny and betta fish….but the arrival of this wee girl has really changed everything and amplified that feel a million times.

 

Yarn Love – Yarn Love Challenge

It took me a little bit about what to write about my ‘yarn love’ and then a Facebook memory popped up that told me exactly what makes me love yarn the most – it’s community. Yesterday I was reminded of a lost friend, Janice Rosema, She was this incredible fiber artist, a freeform crocheter who loved colour and interesting art in general. She had a way of getting to know other fibre artists sort of quietly and then when you would talk to her she would mention the different things that you had created or shared over the years, and it made you feel special because you were in the presence of this amazing fiber artist…who knew YOU. I have a lot more to say about this, but I will keep it short in order to honour her memory, and share the words of a great friend, and the talent of many others.

My friend Naomi, of Ryono Creations shared a beautiful little post on this day in 2013 that mentions a lot of us that have flown in the same circle for years, and it really warmed my heart.

on goodbyes and thank yous...
as my friend kimberly mcalindin said,

“The world is a bit less colorful today….fiber artist and friend Janice Rosema is gone.”

yes, the fiber community lost a creative force yesterday. she was not as visible recently as she had been in the past due to her poor health, but she was an inspiration to many. janice, her creations, and her creations to be, will be missed.

i only met up with janice a few times but she always had the nicest smile and a warm hug for me. i felt heavy throughout the day yesterday, but it also made me think of the wonderful artists i have met who inspired me when i first started playing with fiber back in 2007.

michelle snowdon told me today…

“It is a blessing how the passing of a dear person allows our hearts to open towards those who have touched our lives.”

so, as i say goodbye, i would also like to thank these artists who came before me and inspired me early on in my fiber pursuits (in no particular order)…

the yarn wench (lynn wigell)…may your dye pots never stop simmering…aaarrrrrrrr matey!

laura mayotte…your themed handspuns floor me every…single…time

tracy hudson…art yarns on a spindle anyone? and ambassador for the art yarn movement

stoneleafmoon (linda scharf)…she encouraged us to look within for inspiration to create our own unique yarns

studioloo (cindy cole bennett)…whose barbie doll yarn totally freaked me out but opened my eyes to endless possibilities

wooldancer (michelle snowdon)…your name perfectly fits your whimsical, free spirited creations

chef karen barnaby (kaybee)…who pushes boundaries and whips up playful spingredients into the coolest handspuns to answer any spin challenge

holly braddock…who encouraged me to grab a handful of locks and just spin, baby!   (Rest in peace, my beautiful friend)

lexi boeger…handspun revolution anyone?

natasha fialkov (luxe)…where my love for flower yarns came from

reenie hanlin (now peculiar ambitions, used to be material whirled)…how could i not be inspired by someone who spun troll dolls into her handspun?

yarnpunk (elizabeth o’ donnell)…talk about rad handspuns!!

hobbledehoy (elizabeth stottlemeyer)…she had me at her batts way back when…and still does

thank you for your inspiration and for your contributions to the fiber arts community.

“without you i would never be me

you are the leaves on my family tree”

– from “sing together” by train

Selfie – Yarn Love Challenge

I don’t really do a lot of selfies. I just don’t think about it. The only time I take a picture of myself is if I want to capture something else at the time – a project I finished, the site of somewhere I am, or someone else in the photo. I figure that I can always just look in a mirror to see myself. But I am changing that a bit for my daughter. I don’t want it to be that she has no pictures of me as time passes. I think it’s important to have pictures of your loved ones as history, memory, and a bit more. I guess this is my latest ‘selfie’. 🙂

Progress – Yarn Love Challenge

I always have a million projects in various stages of progress, but also I tend to get an awful lot done. I think we all do, but many of us feel like we don’t get enough done. I am one of those people – always feeling like I should have gotten more accomplished in a day, week, month, year…

But, certain things can remind you of just how much progress you make with things – I find keeping a notebook, or a photography account of all that you do, or all that you are working on, really helps as a reminder.

I often look at my Instagram and think WOW – that was a busy year! And then I look at all the different art projects that I have finished and it makes me feel great.

This is a snapshot into a month of my life. 🙂

 

Travel Projects – Yarn Love Challenge

I bring something to do with me not only on long trips by car, plane, boat or train, but even from upstairs to downstairs in my own home. It’s just this funny habit I have of carrying around something with me in the event that before I go to sleep I decide I want to knit a little, or if while watching a movie, I might want to spin a bit of yarn. I have this bag I carry things upstairs and downstairs in.

When I travel by anything other than car, I tend to really enjoy bringing along one of my long term projects – my Beekeeper’s Quilt – and I knit hexipuffs for it because they are small and easy to carry everywhere with me.

It has been to a lot of places with me – all along the east coast of the United States and the east coast of Canada.

I also tend to keep my hands busy on car trips, and I am lucky enough to have had some kind of folding or portable spinning wheel that allows me to spin in the car while the husband is driving. I find it breaks up the monotony on those not-so-interesting sections of long drives.

I also tend to do a lot of travelling in order to knit, or work on things, especially in nice weather. It’s one of the most relaxing things in the world for me to work outside on my projects in some nice location. Here’s one of my favourite:

Oldest Stash – Yarn Love Challenge

My yarn stash lives in 4 double tall giant Ikea basket towers in my studio. It is organized by colour and I try not to think about the age of my yarns. My tastes have changed a lot over the years and I do go through my yarn every few months and often take some to Knitomatic’s monthly yarn swap. I pull from it often to use random yarns for different things and I am not stressed about my yarn stash; though I do feel a sense of accomplishment whenever I finish using up a skein of yarn. It’s this concept of ‘1 down, ??? to go’. I have always laughed at the term ‘SABLE’ – Stash Aquisition Beyond Life Expectancy – but at the same time it helps me not worry too much about what to use my yarn for. I no longer feel like I have to qualify a project’s greatness to use that precious skein of Wollmeise or whatever. The truth is my favourite knitting is done with my own handspun. I also no longer go insane for yarn – because I have so much. I still buy yarn to support small producers, and for major projects. I will always buy yarn. I am a firm believer in if you want something to be there, support it! This applies to local business – bookstores, libraries, museums, art galleries, independent things, farmer’s markets, theatres – the things that keep us unique as a species, the things people put their hearts in to.

What often strikes me however, is the endurance of certain projects. I work on a lot of big, long-term projects, that I pick up and put down. The Beekeeper’s quilt by Tiny Owl Knits is a really good example of this. I still love making the hexipuffs for it – but I need about 1200 for a King sized quilt, and I think I have about 550 completed. It’s a great project to work on in confined spaces or when you don’t need to think hard.

Another long term project I am working on is a weird carpet I am weaving in circles. Last year I bought a larger round weaving loom so I will likely begin to work on it again.

When it comes to my own yarn that I dye and spin, if it doesn’t sell, I don’t let it hang about. I repurpose things in many ways. Lately I have been auditing my handspun art yarns and found a few that have managed to not find a home for a couple of years. I think it’s important to always have fresh things for people to appreciate at shows, and select for their own. So lately I have been crocheting hats out of the older yarns – and giving them their potential to become beautiful things. This is currently the yarn that has hung out the longers – almost 2 years…with no love. So, it’s becoming a hat.

 

Tools – Yarn Love Challenge

In my journey with yarn, the most important tools I have, are my hands. I am using them constantly and they are necessary for everything I do. I love them. They are small, kind of chubby, a little worn out, with bitten and chipped short fingernails, and usually a few little cuts and such – because they are the most used things I own. I would not have it any other way. I am not really someone very concerned about things like fingernails and having beautiful hands. I am not a pianist or a hand model. I do worry that as I age that all this using my hands will catch up to me in the form of arthritis, but I do try to take care of them by massaging them, soaking them in warm salt water, and resting them – but typically only when they hurt. I need to get better at that. I have invested in many solutions such as ergonomic keyboards and mouses – so that the boring computer stuff I do in life has a smaller impact. I wear gloves when I dye yarn. I do my best.

It would be hard to know where to start to talk about all the tools I use in my creation of not only yarn, but other things. I have endless amounts of things – fabric, fibre, yarn, beads, pottery supplies, papers, found objects, stationary, sketchbooks, paints, glues, a hackle, drum carders, knitting needles, gauges, scales, a skein winder, ball winder, swift, needles of all kinds, threads, buttons, and so on forever and ever.

I also have many spinning wheels but I would be in denial if I didn’t pick a favourite brand, and state clearly how I create my yarns, and just how important the Spinolution spinning wheels are to me. I was an early adopter of this brand – I bought one of the first models of the Mach I and I still use it today, though less often as I am now spoiled with both a Firefly and a Hopper. The best testimonial I can offer for this brand, as I am a dealer (so hit me up if you are interested in one), is the many yarns that I am able to create. There is nothing I cannot do with these wheels. I can spin anything from laceweight to the mega bulkiest yarn you have ever seen. I can spin handfuls of fiber, or I can spin wet linen. I can add whatever I want into my yarns and not worry about them being caught up in my bobbin or being stuck behind an orifice. There are no limits.

From the day I unpacked my latest wheels, I was stoked to really get to learning to use all the new features they are equipped with – and the excitement over the fact they have lazy kates that attach to them, and yarn winders – I feel so spoiled.

The Firefly especially has gotten me through beautiful times on vacation, but also darker times when I was on bedrest dealing with a complication with my pregnancy. It is small, lightweight, portable and so easy to spin with.

This was one of my favourite times with my Firefly, on vacation – staying at a little chalet in Quebec the weekend of the Twist festival. I hope to have a similar time this summer.

Where I Craft – Yarn Love Challenge

If asked where I craft, really, it’s everywhere. I tend to have very busy hands all the time, and my home studio, although it has it’s own place – my entire basement….it kind of spreads around the house. I am decent at picking up after myself however, and when finished with things, taking them back to the studio. I had this idea when we first bought a house, having bought a bigger house than we needed for dwelling to be able to incorporate my studio, that I would be able to separate work/craft and life, but the truth is – I need my craft, all the time. I need something to do when I am watching TV or hanging out waiting for dinner to cook, or spending time with the dogs and baby, or even chilling outside. I need to do the stuff I do; I need to make. I feel like i always have a million ideas in my head and getting out a certain amount of things productively prevents me from exploding.

The first thing that I worked on when we bought the house was my studio, to ensure that I could remain productive and prepared for shows and sales despite the craziness that takes place when you move. I am very lucky to have a large studio with a dye kitchen, pottery room, area for skeining yarns on my skeiner, yarn stash space, big library card catalog to organize all my goodies, and a cozy knitting/crafting nook with TV for background noise and good lighting.

A couple years ago I decided I wanted to setup a little pop-in shop for when people want to come over and do a little shopping, but the real reason is so that I can organize all of my products that I sell at shows. It makes it really efficient to see what I have, and tell what needs to be made. It also inspires me because I really enjoy looking at the breadth of my work.

I also keep a lot of things to inspire me in my studio – scraplets of things, found objects, interesting art and collections.

I also have a few other spaces around the house that I setup as cozy spaces to both store spinning wheels in an intentional and functional way, and also act as a change of scenery or quiet space to create. My library is one of them.

One of my other favourite things to do is work outside. I love that I organize Worldwide Spin in Public Day and get to spend time outside spinning, and encouraging others to do so. I love calling up a bunch of friends for a Sunday Crafternoon and hanging out somewhere outside in a woodsy area or near water and just talking, laughing and making. It’s the epitome of the good life. This is my spinning setup in my back garden.