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

Heck yeah, keep me posted

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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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5 Powerful Keys to Making Your Competition Irrelevant

5 Powerful Keys to Making Your Competition Irrelevant

Jealousy. We have all been there. It does not matter if it is amongst stay at home moms, corporate executives and yes, even artists. There is a time in EVERYONE’s life when you are green with envy over what someone else has. And while I think jealousy is just a fact on every life, I am going to focus today on jealousy in the art scene.

Jealousy can be a good thing in a way. It can fuel action, take your work to the next level, set that bar higher than you would without the challenge. But here is what I hate…the bitterness and even hate when artist become jealous. I don’t know about you but I want to live with as little hate as possible AND to advance and challenge myself to do better work. Jealousy means you are gauging your work against someone else. So today, Fiberista I give you my to 5 Keys to making your competition irrelevant.

Honor what is awesome in other’s work. Let them have their moment without interjecting ANYTHING about yourself. Yes you may have done this before, Yes you may have done it better. So what. This is not your moment, it is theirs. Share in their excitement. Ask questions and LISTEN to what they say. You are being given the gift of seeing something beautiful. Be in that moment of awe and be happy that it happened, even if it was not by your hand. It is just good Karma.

Blue Ocean Strategy. The theory being, rather than operate in an artistic shark tank, competing for the same customers (red oceans) you actually should follow your ideas out into unchartered waters(blue oceans). These ideas are formed by highlighting the differences between you and the competition, and build on those differences. For example, Steve Jobs did this when he designed Apple. He took those differences between his computer and others, amplified the differences, and built on those differences to form more unique ideas. Another example, thing of the differences between Cirque Du Soleil and a traditional circus. Cirque Du Soleil highlighted and built on what set them apart. I might also point out in both cases, these differences were not hamstring by cheaper prices. In fact, these companies are actually able to charge more for their unique offerings. This is all based on a marketing strategy book, called The Blue Ocean Strategy.

Turn down the noise. If you find yourself only looking for your inspirations in other’s work, it is often hard to listen to your own ideas. And especially if you hope to excel in your work, pinning your ideas to another’s pace will eventually limit your growth. Don’t hang faith in your own art on some one else’s path. Sometimes, you just need to detach from the hive mind and go make some stuff. Find inspirations in everyday life, and art journal like crazy.

Be okay with working through bad ideas. Ugly art happens to everyone. But I promise it always leads to better work. It does not make you a bad artist. And it is okay if you don’t want to show any of it. However, I find the most confident artist will show their most self deprecating work bravely. If you are at that point where you are confidently showing your mistakes, I think it is a strong indicator that you are not afraid of competition.

Show your work humbly. Remember when I said to honor other’s work? Eventually it is your turn to show your work. It will be your moment. Despite all the find-your-own-path talk I mentioned in the last three steps, there comes a time when you will have the opportunity inspire others to find their own path. That is where art communities happen. Welcome questions, share information freely and confidently, and encourage others to build their own path through any inspirations they might glean from you. It is okay. Those who copy will find the path short and frustrating. Encourage them past that dead end and into their own ideas. There is no finite resource of creative ideas, there is enough for all. Blue Oceans for everyone.

 

 

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Your Art is Not Your Technique

Your Art is Not Your Technique

Let me clear something up, your art is not your technique. Technique involve process of habit, muscle memory, physical skills of precision. Art involves right brain creative genius being brought into form through your technique. Techniques are just a way to express your art. Your art is your visual language. Technique is craft, visual language is art.

 

Craft vs Art

A quick google search will show you just how common the argument of craft versus art is. And it is true the line between art and craft can get awfully muddy. Some people will argue that art is strictly aesthetic and without function, craft being anything functional. But spend any time in a fine craft community (Like Asheville) and you will see the line is so very muddy. But dive deeper into the stories and ideas behind any fine craft piece and you will see a right brain expressing ideas. Suddenly even the fact a piece of weaving or ceramics, normally considered craft and you are even looking closer to see the art…indeed becomes a part of the visual language in and of itself. Fine craft is that line where craft crosses the line into art. It is art, despite being rooted in mastered craft skills.

 

Copying the Masters

When you master a craft skill that as an artist you find room to focus on where you can add creative genius. A popular exercise for a student learning how to paint is to copy master works of art. It is an exercise designed to learn the literal strokes of paint that will yield a specific visual effect. But of course the student can not call it quits once they copy a painting. They go on to learn how to apply the painting skill to their own ideas.

And there is nothing wrong with just being content to master a craft skill. In fact not all knitters want to go further into fiber art. I can’t blame them, knitting on a master level is crazy hard and an accomplishment itself. But if you find yourself filled with new creative directions as you work, then you are crossing over into fiber artist.

 

Sharing Your Techniques Helps You Stand Out

I have been guilty of this myself. There was a time when I did not want to share my craft process thinking that I would be giving my work away. But honestly, I had to learn my process from someone else as well. And I have even modified that process to accommodate a different look for my work. So like the student painter copying the masters, by doing a process over and over again, with the small tweaks and creative curiosity I moved that technique into expressing my own visual language.

When you share your techniques, you are inviting others to step into a community. It is in community that one can get feedback and challenges to stretch you own creative genius. It is actually in community sharing techniques that you can actually STRENGTHEN your own visual language as you see how it contrasts with others doing similar work. I find in community a drive to explore my own ideas deeper for new directions.

So master your techniques. Be in your craft and observe. You will find your visual voice while you work. Share your ideas, and you will find strength in your voice and inspiration for more ideas.

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