Category Archives: Yarn Love Challenge

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.

Stripes – Yarn Love Challenge

I really love the look of striping in knitting, and understand the craze of self-striping yarns. I have dyed some self striping yarns myself, but I find the process somewhat too time consuming for an indie dyer. The trouble with self-striping is that you have to dye a continuous strand for a good amount of yardage in a single colour, before changing colours. This is because otherwise you will get the dreaded pooling that can make it so that some yarns can’t be used for certain projects with happy results. The part that makes this kind of dyeing challenging is that when a yarn is in ball form, it can’t be dyed properly – and when in skein form, the loop itself is not formed in a way that you can dye one long section, and use many colours. As such, you sort of have to divide the skein into the number of colours you want and dye them seperately ensuring not to contaminate each colour with any drips or drops of other dye colours. So, it’s a bit of a dance. I do it in small batches but without some kind of technology (I have ideas and drawings) I won’t get very deeply into dyeing this kind of yarn.

I have had some fun with dyeing self-striping yarns, but in different ways – such as the sushi yarns that I made a couple years ago.

I also find that I don’t mind working with multiple yarns to create stripes, or if using only two colours, carrying each colour along the project so that I can create stripes. I know some knitters don’t like having to carry a strand, or sew in multiple tails at the end of the project – but these things don’t really phase me. I purchased a really nice kit from Lovelyarns in Baltimore, MD, dyed by Knitted Wit, and I loved working with it – all squooshy and worsted. I knit up this adorable sweater from the kit that came along with the yarn – it’s called Rainbow for Frances. My wee one is almost big enough to wear it and I can’t wait!

Back to what I was writing about using multiple yarns. I had always been looking for ways to use up my leftover sock yarns from the various projects I knit so I designed a simple Totem Pole Sock pattern that is available for FREE on Ravelry and will produce fun striped crazy socks and use up that extra stash.

I also really enjoy spinning self-striping yarns and have a line of yarn that I spin called ‘Transcend’, usually spun up in 5 complimentary coloured fibres. They are fun to spin and knit up really nicely. They are a simple bulky yarn.

Mistakes – Yarn Love Challenge

I suppose I make the most mistakes when I am following a pattern, which is not that often for me  — but almost always happens when working with either complex lace or colourwork, of course. I have never found that the recommended tool of a lifeline does me very much service – but that’s mainly me. So, I typically rip all the way out and start over, or end up freeforming the rest of the project, if it so allows.

It’s been a while since I have made a devastating knitting error thankfully, but the last one I made was this hat and I totally didn’t notice until I took this picture of it. The chart somehow ended up 1 stitch off, but only for one side and then magically corrected itself. In the end, it’s not that big of a deal, but looking at the picture totally annoys me. 🙂