Last week I slayed some major creative doubts.

Last week I slayed some major creative doubts.

I have written so many freaking posts about my creative blocks. I am not going to lie, in the last year or so, these blocks have been big enough to feel like doubts. But, fiberista, last week while vlogging (yep, I am actually trying to let the vlogging be a thing) I kind of ended up filming my break through in real time. Check it out…

So, fiberista. Have you ever let your creative blocks become doubts about you work? I know it is kind of a intimate question, but would love it if you shared below, or you can even email me privately if you like. xo

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Creative ADD

Creative ADD

Years ago, before my fiber art obsession, when I was a graphic designer, I loved to take art classes. I took so many community art classes. Batik, Metalsmithing, Raku, Lampwork. I loved to dive into learning ways to create. Despite creating all day for commercial purposes…no…probably because I created all day for someone else…I would carve out precious time to learn new methods of making stuff. Most of the mediums were not something I found pursuing too far beyond the classes. But I don’t think I ever hated any of the techniques I learned in any of those classes. Often It was simply I did not have the space or resources to pursue the mediums outside of class. Like ceramic required dropping  a couple hundred a month for share in a studio, or a few thousand on major equipment. And finding homes with studio space at that time was just not a priority.

I would also go to art openings. I had such admiration for those artists. I wished that I, too, was in that place of selling my art (well…outside of logos, ads and brochures) After bemoaning my longing to be like them to a dear friend, she pointed out that my creative ADD was not doing me any favors. And she was right… I was not diving deeper into a body of work. I needed to pick one. At that time, I had just learned how to knit. That was the  beginning of becoming a fiber artist. All because I was able and ready to dive deeper into growing that medium. And it is true, the way to really grow a body of work and a style is to make a whole lot of the same thing each time changing what isn’t working, adding new ideas in slow baby steps.

But sometimes that linear focus can lead to some serious creative blocks. There have been times when I feel I have reached a dead end in the direction of my work. It happens to all artists at some point. I believe this is where crafting ADD is a good thing.

Here’s the thing, your creative voice is a constant. You subconscious sometimes needs a different medium to get the flow going again. And I do not mean you need to go who hog and decide you are now a metalsmith or sculptor. It can be as simple as art journaling (my personal fave) or maybe adding some clay headers to your weaving. Or maybe it is taking you favorite sweater and creating an abstract painting of it. What this does is jog you brain in a new direction. You do not need to make a masterpiece. You just need to create a few new neuro pathways.

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Your Knitting is a Cultural Icon

Your Knitting is a Cultural Icon

A little more than a year and a half ago, I opened up a little space on FB for fellow fiberistas to gather and share inspirations and ideas. The past year and a half have filled me with so much awe. I am humbled by the courage and willingness of those who shared what they have been working on, no matter what the discipline or skill level.

For me this was not just about creating a gallery of ideas or another place for the fiber community. For me it has always been about giving artists a voice in the medium of their choice. It has always been about helping knitters and crocheters, spinners, weavers filters of any skill level to understand that their work matters even in its perceived failures or skill limits. Skill is just craft, idea and creative choice is heart and visual language.

There are so many different cultures represented in our little corner of FB. Seriously, we are worldwide. When I scroll through the collective feed, I see not just great work. I see people and their voice. And whether they know it or not, their work is a reflection of everyday life experience that brought them to the very moment when they created that piece of fiber art. I find it absolutely amazing. I find myself curious about the variety of cultures, and lifestyles behind that work. How did they learn to knit? What are yarn shops like where they live? What kinds of fiber art exist where they live and how does it compare to what I see everyday? What does finding time to knit look like in their everyday life? Be it the next county or across the globe…I. Am. Fascinated. Did I mention how humbling this all is?

If you ever wonder if art really has an impact, remember back to the horrific Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris where commercial artists were murdered because of the political drawings they published. This tragic spot in history is proof that visual language has power. Visual language is the artifacts uncovered in ancient lands, recounting religious beliefs or sharing a glimpse of what life is like centers ago.

I am not saying your chemo caps will bring about social justice. And if they are unearthed centuries from now, I doubt archeologists will have better knowledge of our culture because of them. When you share your work, it marks a place and time in your life. The choices you made were influenced but what you live and know.

So, share your work no matter how mundane you think it is. Your work matters and just know that I see you.

 

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Natural Dyes vs. Chemical Dyes

I get asked about natural dyes ALL THE TIME. And straight up, I don’t do them. So I usually just do not have a lot of info about natural dyes. Hey I get it. There is something deliciously romantic about going all homesteader, foraging plants, and using them to dye your handspun yarn. And what’s not to love… beautiful natural, organic vs. chemicals.

As you may or may not know I am pulling together some dye classes. And while natural dyeing is one of the most requested techniques. However, It is not one I will be giving instructions for. But I did however want to give a nod to natural dyeing. So today, fiberista, I am going to share with you my 2 big fat reasons why I took natural dyeing out of the picture when I first started to consider dyeing my own yarn and fibers, as well as some resources I would go to if I ever decide to try natural dyeing (because never say never…right?).

Comparing the toxins
Neither chemical or natural dyes are ideal. Chemicals are…well…chemical. it is really possible to have a chemical overload if you dye a lot of fiber over time even if you are meticulous in your safety precautions. It happened to this master dyer. But overall, the chemical dyes are non toxic. I know it seems counterintuitive, but natural dyes are not as mundane. Most of what you can use to dye are actually food stuffs. But then there are some things that are not, like logwood and cochineal. These can be poisonous. And of course these poisonous things produce the most awesome colors….damn you Murphy’s law.

When these chemical dyes are formulated they are regulated and must meet certain safety standards particularly in the case of the heavy metals added to the dye. These metals are called mordants and help the dye stick to the fiber. These same heavy metals are what you add to natural dyes as mordants. But you are handling these mordants in unregulated quantities and at your own risk. For me it is not that taking precautions to do natural dyeing were impossible, but to do so weekly and in the scale needed for a yarn business was not something I wanted to tackle. I know myself to be not terribly meticulous or tidy, so natural dyeing was just risky for me. There is a big responsibility not just to yourself and those in your household, but to the waterways and the environment when using doing home dyeing. Good classes and resources will spend a lot of time going over all the safety risks and precautions. Heed them, without fail, not matter which method you choose.While you may not see the effects of mishandling dye stuffs now, you may years from now and regret it big time.

Comparing the dye results.
I love retina searing color. Colors not found in nature. Straight up I chose chemical dyes because of the color range. Natural dyes however produce some of the loveliest muted shades of colors. You can get some vibrancy with natural dyes, but those dye stuffs and mordants need to be handled with extreme and vigilant care as well as a lot of patience. It takes a while for natural dye colors to deepen. Chemical dyes however are pretty quick. I can easily dye up several batches in the same dye pot within a day.

There are also environmental effects on colors to consider. I had an office mate who took a 2 week natural dye class intensive at the ivy league of craft schools, Penland. She came home with a beautiful binder filled with swatches she had created with her class mates while there, each with meticulous notes and measurements. I poured over the colors as she told stories of her experience. As I turned the last page she said…”and now I have to make this all over again using my own water source.” You see the water source in Penland is totally different that Asheville despite being just up the mountain. Those tiny differences can have a huge effect on the color. As can the source of your dye stuffs, the season the dye stuffs were grown, the pot you use, temperature..so many things. Now granted, I am all about being at the mercy of what ever your creative efforts produce. Little variations can be like little gifts. So, those variation are not necessarily a bad thing, but if you have a product that relies on predictable results, then you just need to be aware of how these variations will play into what you might possibly get. This is often done with meticulous note taking.

Chemical dyes can be affected by environmental variations as well, but not as extreme. For the most part chemical dyeing is pretty predictable. I am more of a from the hip kind of girl. I never took notes when I dye yarn, I hated the left brainy-ness of that. And fortunately chemical dyes were more forgiving to my lack of note taking and the way I like to dye.

So , you see, while natural dyeing is super popular right now, it’s just not my thing. That doesn’t mean I am not about you diving in. Hell, maybe one day I will join the natural dying band wagon. But, for now, it is not something I am going to cover in my dye classes. Here are the natural dyeing resources I would recommend.

I found this awesome ebook on ETSY, she seems to have found a great mordant alternative that is not as toxic. If I were to do natural dyes, this is where I would start.
https://www.etsy.com/transaction/1313134741

I love me some Ninja Chickens! This podcast shows you how they are doing it!
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAD9nXwNEMvaN6mzVEAwYrw

If you want to really immerse yourself in natural dyeing, you can’t go wrong with these craft school courses
http://penland.org/textiles/
https://classes.folkschool.org/Browse.aspx?sub=Dyeing

And of course, Dharma Trading has some killer tutorials
https://www.dharmatrading.com/tools/natural-dyeing-how-to-and-info.html

If you want to geek out over the chemistry of both natural and chemical dyes here are two good articles, they are also the articles where I sourced much of the info I used here.

Mordants and Natural Dyeing, The Great Debate

https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/tag/natural-dyes/

And of course, If you want to get notice when the dye classes go live, sign up here

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Update on that Art Yarn Scarf

Update on that Art Yarn Scarf

So, Last week I made a video showing you how to use a hairpin lace loom to make an art yarn scarf. If you missed that check it out here. Once the camera was off and as the video loaded, I started to mull over ideas for finishing this scarf. And of course as is the norm for my ambitious right brain….this project has mushroomed and is now threatening to become a shawl.

My latest color jam has been light warm neutrals(beige, cream, light warm grey) punctuated with hot pink and orange. So I pulled out some screaming hot sock yarn and crocheted an edge, putting a cluster of 3 double crochets into each of the loops. I almost left it as is, but decided that I needed to flesh out the color pop just a little more, maybe asymmetrically…

But first I decided to pull together some coordinating yarns to see if maybe I would prefer keeping the pops thin as I added some width to this piece. So far these are the yarns going into this project bag…

So some of the theories behind this selection. I added another hot pink yarn is a slightly different tone and texture. I am not sure if this will end up in the piece or not, but I think there needed to be a bridge between the stark contrast from the super bright and the neutrals. I don’t want there to be too much pink here, but it needed something else. I am also picking the variegated neutral with a little dark grey for depth and little blush pink as a nod to that hot pink. This I feel will be a big part of the shawl/scarf. But we will see. I also pulled together as much handspun using undyed fleece as I had. I needed to play up what was already in the piece, but find some smoother textures. I am also adding the tiny bit of beige-grey worsted that I have. This will draw out the grey Montedale in the art yarn. Not pictured, but I may add it in is an undyed skein of alpaca/merino/silk yarn to round out the creamy white neutrals.

I will keep you posted as to where this is going. But can I just say…OMG this is the first new fiber art piece I have felt compelled to dive into after a long hiatus to work on my new clay obsession. So what are you working on? leave me some comment love below, or shoot me an email. You guys inspire me more than you know.

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A Frugal Knitter’s Guide to Stash Revamp

A Frugal Knitter’s Guide to Stash Revamp

I know I am not alone here… It doesn’t matter how awesome your stash is, there comes a time when you fall completely out of love which what you have and the urge to buy more yarn is a strong, strong siren song.

Am I right?

Now granted I am certainly not one to discourage some good ole’ stash acquisition therapy. Hell, I used to sell yarn…so, yeah, I love it when knitters buy yarn. But, I also do not like to see good yarn go to waste. So, today, fiberista, I am sharing with you my top 6 tips that will help you love your stash again without spending a bunch of money on more yarn.

1. Take inventory of what you have. Okay, I am not neccessarily talking spreadsheets, although spreadsheets are not a bad idea. Break out your entire stash. Pull it out of hiding and the WIP basket. Have it all in one place where you can see it. The dining room table, the floor. Anywhere you can see it all at once and all together. Stand back and take a good long look at you entire stash. There are a couple of things that will happen here. Either you will confirm your worst fears, and decide your stash needs a revamp. Or you might see that you really love your stash (and my work here is done…). Sometimes it just takes really looking at the whole picture.

2. Getting real about what is not working. Chances are, there is yarn in your stash that you are not loving anymore. Wrong colors, wrong texture. Just wrong. Pull that yarn out and set it aside. While you are at it pull out your absolute favorites. Because, here is the thing, sometimes bad yarn can look insanely awesome next to really good yarn. Bad yarn can be knit with good yarn to stretch the yardage for a project. Sometimes bad colors are a great contrast for good colors and actually make the good colors seem more vibrant.

3. Adding yarn alternative to round out colrway sets. So, maybe after looking all the yarn combo possibilities, some of them are still just not right. Is there any old clothing, or remnant fabric, ribbons or scarves that you can tear into strips to make yarn? Do any of these fabrics or ribbons bring the colors together a bit more? I know this step is kind of a long shot, but sometimes thinking outside or what yarn is suppose to be can spark new ideas.

4. Check the fiber content of your bad stash. If it is any kind of animal fiber, plant fiber, silk or nylon, it can be overdyed. Set that aside. I will cover overdyeing yarn in my upcoming dyeing classes. Sign up to get notice when those go live here.

5. If you are a hand spinner, use bad yarn for core spinning or plying. This is one of my favorite ways to repurpose yarn I don’t love. Let it be the back bone for all those yummy fibers in your art yarn.

6. Swap it. One knitter’s trash is another knitter’s treasure. Gather your knitting buddies for a yarn swap. Or check Ravelry for swap groups. If that yarn is just not working, then do not feel like you have to hang on to it. It may work for someone else.

Here’s the thing, don’t feel you have to hang on to yarn you do not love. It is stuck energy that will alway add stops to your creative inspirations. I know that may sound a bit dramatic, but if you are not loving your yarn, you are not loving the core of your work. So either bless your stash with new ideas or even new color, or bless another knitter with something you once loved but have outgrown.

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