5 Reasons Knitting Makes You a Better Person

5 Reasons Knitting Makes You a Better Person

Okay maybe I am just a little bit biased, but knitters and crocheters are awesome people. As in some of the nicest, smartest people you will ever meet kind of awesome. For a decade now we have all heard the phrase knitting is the new yoga/therapy/zen. Today I am going to give you 5 solid reasons why I find this to be true and why I will always knit/crochet/spin until you have to pry my needles out of my cold dead hands.

Working both sides of your brain. Whether you are working a complex cable chart or freeform crochet, there is a significant amount of both right brain and left brain work involved in every king of knitting and crocheting project. Algebra math to get a good fit is no joke. Working with color and texture for a desired aesthetic is my favorite kind of creative. To me knitters and crocheters are truly renaissance thinkers.

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Patience is a knitter’s virtue. You absolutely have to be patient to knit. There is no way around it. You are literally touching every inch of your yarn to form a garment. Even if you are a fast knitter, this is not a short cut to whatever it is you want to make. The is especially true for anyone who has knitted anything by fussy British designers.

Bravely trying new ideas risk free. One of the biggest fears of using any new art supply is the fear of messing up and throwing good money down the drain over a bad creative decision. Ask any quilter, and you will find horror stories of how one misjudged cut will ruin yards of fabric. Every week I thank my luck stars that yarn can be unraveled and repurposed. Having that safety net of knowing you can reclaim yarn from knitting gone awry makes me a whole lot braver about trying new things. Sure I can get whiny about losing an afternoon of knitting to a bad knitting idea, but as my professional knitting friend Marilyn says, that just means I get to spend more time doing something I absolutely love.

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Getting in touch with your personal style. I love rainbow colored yarn…so pretty, like unicorns and magic. But when it comes to a sweater, I think rainbow yarn would make me look like a clown vomited on me. In the end you have to want to wear what you make, so getting clear about what you love to wear and investing knitting time in something you will love to wear is more important that you may think.

It is a community like no other craft community. A couple of years ago, on my trip to Taos, there was a misunderstanding about my Air BnB room and there were a couple of ladies in my casita. It was tense as we were hashing out a solution. That is until I asked “Hey are you here for the fiber fair?” all of a sudden tensions melted and there was a secret understanding and camaraderie that I know you guys are so familiar with. When I worked at the craft book company, we all saw how the knitters and crocheters had a close knit (pun intended) community that was unlike any other discipline in our lineup. I have watched knitters around the globe as a community challenge each other to be better knitters and designers by sharing inspirations, tips and encouragement.  I can honestly say if it we not for the knitting community as a whole, I would not be the knitter I am today.

So my question for you, why do you nit? What is it about knitting that makes you a better person? Leave me some comment love below, shoot me an email, or head over to the FB page and leave a comment there. And while you are at it, join the UrbanGypZ Fiberart Collective, it is free and FULL of amazing inspiration for so many creative fiber peeps.

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Destashing Yarn to Spark Joy

Destashing Yarn to Spark Joy

I am in the thick of getting rid of half of my stuff getting ready for our move across state, and trying to move out of the studio by the end of the month. We have literally gotten rid of half of our stuff. Who knew I could accumulate so much stuff in the 13 years that I’ve lived in Asheville. I am appalled and fascinated. This also includes destashing yarn. I know I should be appalled as to how much yarn I have accumulated in the last 13 years, but for whatever reason I am not. And I know many of you out there understand exactly what I’m talking about.

 

Sometimes I wonder if my “yarn business” is really just a front for my extremely large yarn stash.

 

It just so happens, as I began sifting through all of our stuff, Marie Kondo has a bestseller out that talks about purging your stuff to create a tidy, manageable home. Just going through all of my clothing and coming out on the other side with a very organized, neat closet has me inspired to tackle every inch of the studio, house and condo. I am eager to lighten our load for eventual move. Needless to say, this but book could not have come at a more perfect time.

If you have not heard of this book, here’s the basic premise. Carve time to tackle groupings as a whole. For instance, all your books at one time, all your clothes in another sitting. Save the mementos and photos for last because those are the hardest to let go of. The only question you ask yourself, as you touch each item as you’re going through stuff, is “Does the spark joy?” It’s that simple. You’re only keeping stuff that you absolutely love or absolutely need.

What this book doesn’t have is a section on how to go through your yarn. But I believe that yarn tends be closer to a memento type thing than an actual need (believe me, I know this memento vs. need thing is pretty debatable…)

 

Here is what I have done to destash my yarn using what I learned from the magic art of tidying up.

 

Gather every scrap, skein and ball of yarn into one place. Trust me, I understand how difficult this part might be. I, for one, have an insane amount of yarn and not all of it is considered business inventory. But it’s pretty important that you do this in one sitting whether or not it’s over a few days. So gather IT ALL.  This also includes you WIPs.

Gather up several, plastic bins and paper bags as well as something to label your bins with, and a pen. Hey I know destashing can be emotional (I’m not even kidding) so you don’t want a silly roadblock like “I’m missing pen” to stop progress. Gather your supplies in advance.

Make sure you’re in an area where if you can leave this massive project out if it’s going to take more than a couple of days to finish. In other words, the dining room table might be a great place to organize your stash, unless you’re planning on a large dinner party in the middle of your progress. Again setting yourself up to complete this task is really important.

Now for the fun/hard part. Go through every scrap/skein/ball/WIP in your stash, holding each piece or grouping. Ask yourself “Does this spark joy?”

Some yarn/projects will be no-brainers. You either love them or not. But, many are going to be rife with mixed emotions. That ball of yarn from the awesome girls trip to Stitches. Your first handspun skein. The baby blanket you started for your son…who might be getting it for his college dorm room next Christmas. What the hell do you do with those?

Here is how I see it (as a fan of Ms. Kondo)… When asking if this skein/ball/scrap/WIP sparks joy, get real about if it is actually sparking joy for you in the present moment, or is the memory this skein/ball/scrap/WIP holds sparking joy. If it is the memory that is sparking joy, know that the memories will always be with you whether you keep that skein/ball/scrap/WIP or not.

Does the idea of working on that WIP in the present fill you with dread?  GET RID OF IT. I give you permission to release that guilt. Let it go, donate it to charity, give it to a friend, I even give you permission to throw it away (or at least cut it up for the birds to use for nest material).

Once you have finished going through it all, keeping only the joyful stuff, organize it all in bins that makes sense for YOU. For me that was a bin(or 2…3) each of WIPs, crochet cotton (for market bags and dishcloths), sock yarn, worsted and handspun, and bits for weaving.

Take your time, give yourself breaks especially if you are feeling anxiety of overwhelmed (hey…I am not even kidding). See the project through to completion, even if it takes a month. I know that we often hold onto knitting stuff, because knitting in general brings us so much joy. By using Ms. Kondo’s genius method of destash, you will be left with only stuff that brings you real happiness. You will also be free of the project guilt, and “meh” yarn taking up time and space in your life. And take it from me…. It. Feels. Awesome.

So, now my question for you… Do you have any destashing tips to share? Please share in the comments below.

Red Hot Yarn P*rn

Red Hot Yarn P*rn

It is so freaking hot outside. Like Alabama hot y’all. My mind does not even want to think about wool right now. Heck, I don’t want to even move. Okay maybe it is the peri menopause talking. So for today’s article I give you pure unadulterated yarn p*rn with a red hot theme.

 

So my question for you…

Do you do any summer knitting? If so what kinds of things doe you like to knit?

Leave me a comment below, post it on the Facebook page or shoot me an email

 

Check out this week's My Precious Collection

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Fiery hot colors in this week’s collection.

 

Art Weaving Part 1: Picking a rigid heddle loom

Art Weaving Part 1: Picking a rigid heddle loom

If you have been following my Instagram feed or Pinterest boards, you may have seen I have been on a weaving kick. I m totally blaming Debra Lambert of Picasso Moon, who taught the so very inspiring weaving class in Taos. I had already had a couple of looms, and had even done some intuitive-style art weaving.

But it wasn’t until I came home with a tiny loom I had never imagined my weaving obsession would take off the way it has.

After getting a handful of emails asking about my weavings, I decided that a blog series was in order. This is the first post of a four part series sharing my personal perspective and process. I do not make traditional woven cloth. My weaving, like my knitting and crocheting, are born out of the yarns I dye and hand spin.

I weave to showcase yarn I love.

I am sure I break a lot of rules. So just be forewarned. This series is based on what has worked for me.

This is completely about rigid heddle weaving. While I do follow a lot of the theories of Saori weaving, I unfortunately do not have a saori loom (although OMG it is definitely on my wish list).

Why loom size matters…and it’s not what you think…

Logic has it that a bigger loom will give you more flexible much larger width fabric. Yep, I thought that too. I had set out to get my first rigid heddle loom from my local craft shop. I was going for the biggest rigid heddle loom that they had– the 32″ Kromski Harp. The owner suggested the smaller 24″ because, as a weaver herself, she felt the 32″ was just a little wide to manage comfortably. And she was right. Especially since I am all of 5′ 3″ with an arm span of a short girl, 24″ was a better fit for my build.

But to be honest, the 24″ was still a lot of warping. I was surprised how much time was spent dressing the loom compared to actually weaving. That is why I was floored when Debra was finding all kinds of weaving love with her tiny portable 8″ loom. I would have never considered a “scarf loom” as such a creative outlet. My 8″ Sample It loom can be warped and ready to go in 20 minutes. And while I will share how the warp can be a great place to add little creative touches to your fabric, for me, the soul of art weaving is in the actual weaving my weft. I want to get to weaving as fast a possible.

Consider your yarn, not your final projects.

When selecting your loom, it is so easy to assume you have an idea about what you will be making. I have found with many crafts, once I have fallen into the actual hands on creative work, so many inspirations for new ideas. I especially start to find new perspectives for techniques I was sure I would never resonate with. For example, I never liked the look of course hand woven cloth. This hippie girl thought coarse woven cloth was a little too hippie-rustic even for me! But, as I fell into the rhythm of designing every inch of my yardage as I worked, the fabric I was creating felt more like a tapestry than rustic yardage. And with the new small DPI and dynamic heddle reeds designed for working with chunky hand spun art yarns, and I was looking at a whole new creative direction all together for insanely textural rustic cloth.

So when selecting a loom, rather than looking at projects you think you will make, look at the yarn in your stash.

What kinds of yarns are you drawn to? What kinds of yarns are you knitting/crocheting with? What are you hoarding wishing you knew what to make with that one skein you had to buy? In art weaving your taste in yarn will be pretty close to what it already is. Do you have some textural art yarns you are hoarding, lots of sock yarn remnants? A crazy collection of silk lace yarns ready for some fine shawls? This will give you a bit more insight into what you will be more likely to weave.

Finally the skinny on a couple of rigid heddle looms I recommend you check out.

There are a lot of looms out there. These are the ones I have personally researched.

 

Kromski Harp

I have a 24″ Kromski loom. It was my first loom. There are a lot of good features including a built in warping board (which I never use). But I am not sure if I were buying a large rigid heddle loom again that I would pick this model. Nothing wrong with it, I just think there are newer looms out there with some sexy features that I wish this loom had. Otherwise it is a solid lovely loom. I also have the stand. I totally recommend getting a stand. You can weave without one, but the stand positions the loom so you are not hunched over it. Your back will thank you.

Beka loom

Originally marketed as a toy loom, Beka looms are a very affordable option for rigid heddle looms and worth a shout out.

Ashford Sample It

This is the other rigid heddle loom that I own. I never thought I would love a tiny loom so much. The heddle is not dynamic, but it have a heddle some crazy large dent size for art yarns. The main reason at the time I chose it over the Cricket loom.

The Majacraft Dynamic Heddle Loom

Holy Crap. If I had to buy my loom again this is the one I would pick. I love love love being able to vary the heddles to accommodate various yarn weights. It was designed with textural art yarns in mind.

Schacht Flip Loom

Schacht recently came out with their own version of a dynamic heddle loom. I am not sure the dent size is as open as the Majacraft, but it is still pretty awesome. Their Flip looms are like my Kromski Harp.

The Cricket Loom

This is another really good tiny loom. It does come in a slightly wider weaving width (15″). They now make variable dent reeds for the cricket. I would totally have gone for a cricket if I had known they were going to offer variable dent reeds like the Majacraft dynamic heddle reeds.

This by no means is an exhaustive list, but it will definitely give you a place to start. I know there is no cheap way to dive into art yarn weaving tool wise. But if you are resonating with the crazy beautiful Saori style fabric, then it might be worth diving in with a small loom and seeing where that takes you. You just might be surprised how such a tiny loom can yield some insanely creative possibilities.

Do you have an art yarn weaving tip to share?

Leave me a comment below, post it on the Facebook page or shoot me an email

 

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Fiber Crush: Knitter’s Pride Needles

Fiber Crush: Knitter’s Pride Needles

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I am kind of in a panic. I can’t for the life of me find my interchangeable needles. I have seen them within the last 3 weeks. But as of this weekend, I have no clue. I have torn the house apart, torn the studio apart and I am feeling the sweat across my brow as I think that no it is not just a set of interchangeable needles it is a collection of 4 complete sets with a few of my favorite DPNs and my most loved crochet hooks. OMG…breathe….

Don’t get me wrong, I have quite a collection of other knitting needles—many of which I never use. Or you might say I have retired them because I own (or have owned…eek) what for me is the perfect needles.

Dreamz Delux Set

I love Knitter’s Pride needles so very much. My go to set is the Dreamz interchangables. The Cubics run a close second but only because they are not dyed in beautiful colors like the Dreamz.

CUBICS DLX IC-LARGEFull disclosure: Yes I am a Knitter’s Pride dealer. But I only pimp stuff I can stand behind. So as a professional knitter… when it comes to my love for Knitter’s Pride…Let me count the ways…

  1. The points! The points are pretty pointy. I love knitting single plied yarns and nice pointy points on my needles keep the yarn from splitting.
  2. The cable joins as smooth and sturdy.
  3. The finish on the wood needles are almost as slick as nickel, and the finish is hard. So they are less likely to get dinged and dented. (ditto for the plastic, metal, and carbon fiber)
  4. OMG the carbon fiber needles, Karbonz. So light weight yet so very very durable. I have never seen such a strong lace needle as the carbon fiber needles. I want the DPN sock set so bad
  5. The nylon Trendz set is crazy affordable, sturdy, colorful and also has the awesome pointy points. And I usually am not a big fan of plastic needles.
  6. The sets are just beautiful. Beautiful cases, nice size range and great accessories included (like size labels!).
  7. The Cubix are truly ergonomic. Not sure why, but the softness of the wood and the square shape does truly lower my instances of carpal tunnel and hand fatigue. A big deal when you are a professional knitter…
  8. They integrate well with my second favorite needle brand…Knit Picks. Meaning Knit Picks cords and needles work with Knitter’s Pride cords and needles as well.

So far, I have only carried a few sets in my shop. I am trying to hammer out how to offer a bigger variety without having to carry a lot of inventory and still maintain good shipping timeframes. Eventually I will figure it out. But in the mean time, check this out:

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I just got the call today that the new Marblz sets are on they way here. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

So, what kind of characteristics do you like to see in your favorite knitting tools? What tool can you absolutely not live without? Shoot me an email or give a shout out on the Facebook page. I am off to check the one last place my favorite sets could possibly be….

 

Update: WHEW! Found them…

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Fiber Crush: Freeform Crochet

Fiber Crush: Freeform Crochet

This past labor day weekend I spent a solid 3 days working my hand dyed and hand spun yarn using freeform crochet.

Freeform crochet is a way of making a series of motifs created improvisationally and pieced together to create a fabric.

Prudence Mapstone is known for this work and her book is a bible of this technique. This is a sample of her work.

I will be honest, I was not a big fan of the finished fabric when I first considered freeform crochet. I like the theory of knitting improvisationally. I love the idea of combining yarns. I even took a couple of classes 10 years ago at the TKGA conference in Atlanta on combining yarns and improvisational knitting/crocheting. I wrote about them, years ago, here.

It wasn’t until I saw Hannah Martian’s work at Of Mars in Nasheville, TN, that I fell in love again with freeform crochet. Find her Shop here, and her Facebook page here. I love her colors, and the general composition of the motifs. The variety of sizes and the way the motifs play off of each other as if to create an undulating series of illustrations. It invites your eye to flow from one motifs to the next. I just can’t take my eyes off of her work.

via Duplet-Magazine

In a way, Hannah’s sense of composition has the same sensibilities as the Irish crochet movement I have been seeing come out of Russia. I love the negative space between motifs and the designer’s sense of composition. The delicate nature of this fabric also plays a big part of why I love this work. But like Hannah’s work, I feel invited to flow from motif to motif, and find I just can not keep my eyes off of these pieces. I decided to dive into my own study.

I believe that getting clear about how you can fold a new technique into your own style has more to do with knowing what you do not like, than knowing what you do like.

When you are just pulling what you like, you run the risk of actually copying a lot of stuff. What if you were to just sit down and play with yarn and technique, make a ton of mistakes, learn from them? In art school we had critiques. Your creative growth was formed more from figuring out what was wrong and fixing it, than from being stuck in a place of the same old “good work”.

So, while watching three entire seasons of Mad Men, let my self become obsessed with freeform crochet. I woke up each morning, made coffee and worked and worked. While surfing Pinterest. With a pile of hand dyed yarn all around me. Trying not to over think it. Playing with stitches and color. Perfecting my bullions! I spent all of Saturday knitting a hat that never materialized. I ripped that thing out 5 times. I then moved on to motifs. I like motifs because they are small and forgiving.

After I make an obscene number of these, I will edit, piece and fill in.

So, here is what I know about what I do not like:

I think when all the pieces are the same size, the fabric looks too busy. This technique begs for composition much in the same way a painting does– a variety of sizes, and fabric that is not too busy, but more inviting.

I have not seen a lot of color combinations that I am loving. But I will be honest, I think that about a lot of yarn out there in general. The simple solution for me is to apply the same color theories that I have about my colorways to this work as well.

I am not loving a whole lot of novelty yarn in my motifs. I want the texture of the stitches to stand out more. I do not think fun fur is helping at all. I am even on the fence about adding art yarn, maybe in small accents, but not a lot, really. Again, I want to dial down the busy to inviting.

I have yet to see a finished piece constructed that I absolutely love and/or think is actually wearable. But, then again, I think this about a lot of sweaters out there… There is a lot going on in the fabric itself. And like working with art yarn, serious texture is a big consideration in and of itself. So a simple construction will be a given. The rest is still TBD.

I still have a lot of crocheting and studying to do. I am still making a ton of motifs. The obsession continues. Stay tuned.

What is your current fiber crush? Crochet? weaving? I love to hear about what you are working on. Leave me a comment below, post it on the Facebook page or shoot me an email

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