The Woo of Reading Your Yarn Stash

The Woo of Reading Your Yarn Stash

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When I was doing shows, often Mom would help me work the booth. (Thanks Mom!!xo) Pretty early on she made a keen observation that a large majority of customers subconsciously bought yarn in colors that would match what they were wearing that day. Even if they spent a significant amount of time debating over skeins, in the end what they bought usually matched or coordinated with what they were wearing. I noticed this to be true as well when I was working in the yarn shop.

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To me this always made sense. We often wear clothes that subsonsciously will express what we are feeling that day. Yoga pants for comfort, power suit, or even pearls to clutch. For some it can be colors that help amplify or attract a way we want to feel– black when you want to go unnoticed, red when you are feeling powerful, navy when seeking structure. So it makes sense to me that when selecting yarn that you will be using to make a garment (and tapping into your creativity which sits right next to your subconscious in your right brain) that you are seeking more fuel for emotions or feelings we want to express or attract more of. I think stash woo is also not just about colors, but can also be translated into textures and fiber intent as well.

I think the most accurate way to read your stash is to really sit with it and think about what was going on in your life when you bought those skeins, and think about the core emotions of feelings you have when you look at each skein. Pay special attention to the skeins that you felt were a mistake and the skeins you have mad crazy love for. But today I thought I would share with you a few of my personal observations when it comes to reading the woo of my stash.

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Colors

There are thousands of online resources that will guide you in the woo and psychology behind every color imaginable. And for the most part it can be dead on. But honestly sometimes a color can mean something totally different psychologically to someone who might have a direct personal experience with a particular color. Take for instance Black. For  many it can mean elegance as in the little black dress or black tie attire. But for some it hardens back to something goth, anarchist, counter culture. For me black reminds me of how artist would dress in college and at a graphic design conference I attended in the early 90s. For an artist, technically black is a lack of color altoghether. In clothing it leaves a blank slate for personalities to shine, or it can be a means by which one can feel “invisible”. Here are a few of my own color correlations:

Red: vibrant, confidant, wanting to stand out as powerful

Turquoise: playful, soulful, youthful, deep happy emotional

Cobalt blue: Bold but in a calm grounded way, vibrant yet serene and centered

Navy: Structured, historic, patriotic, conservative

Hot pink: like red, but with a girly younger vibe

Pastel pink: princess, graceful like a ballerina, whispering softly

Light Grey: mysterious, ethereal, peaceful, stillness

White: Potential, holy, like a clean slate, also with out color, meant to amplify other colors.

Orange: creativity, energetic, kinetic, exotic

Purple: mysterious, new age, marching to the beat of a different drum

Golden yellow: wisdom gathered over time, aging gracefully, a life well lived

Bright yellow: youthful, happy, bubbly childlike

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Fibers

Fibers can be such an interesting thing to read. It is not only about drape but how the feel can react with our skin and make us feel. Think of how cranky you can get if a hat is too itchy or how comforted we feel snuggled into a soft blanket. Here are a few common fibers and how they translate for me:

Wool: I think depending on the softnes of the fiber count wool cam mean anything from a soft comforting merino, to a solid reliable Romney. Overall wool is warmth,and protection be it a soft feminine kind or a study masculine kind

Silk: timeless elegance. Strength though perfect structure. And depending on the shine for me shiny is like yang energy, matte finish boil is like yin energy.

Acrylic: oh yes acrylic… Common sense, utility, frugal, overcoming adversity

Cotton: movement, unassuming, strength, adaptability, claiming

Rayons: exotic, sustainable, elegance despit humble means

Sparkle: Attention grabbing, must be noticed, vivacious, outgoing

Mohair: ethereal, angelic, holy, faith, strength through belief

Cashmere: cashmere is interesting. While it logically speaks of luxury and wealth because of the expense, to me it’s extreme softness actually seems to speak of a equally extreme need for top of the line comfort. Absolute and complete self care as priority.

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Textures

When reading textures of your stash I think often the texures of the actual yarn can read totally different than the textures of a final garment. Mostly because when knitted up, texture can look entirely different than it might have looked in a single strand of yarn. What textures elements that may have attracted you to a particular skein, might very well get lost once knitted up. This is exactly why I find knitters are most often disappointed in projects made from textured yarn than any other kind of yarn. Here are a few of my personal woo observations of texture both as a yarn and knitted up:

Ribbon: As a yarn ribbon represents flow and elegance there are distinctly two sides which also may play into what could be going on. However, knitted up ribbon creates a fabric that looks thicker than it actually is, it is not as it seems.

Bouclé: As a yarn : bubbly playful, sense of rhythm. As a fabric: thick comforting protection.

Art yarn: As a yarn: needing to be heard, as in telling a visual story (every inch is different), the unknown, unpredictable, surprises. As a fabric: unique, one of a kind,

Plied: As a yarn: working together, community, family. As a fabric: everyday ordinary, rhythms and routines that makes life smooth

Singles: As a yarn: stillness, slowing down to notice life and details. As a fabric: finding messages through stillness

Reading the woo of your stash is such a great way to tap into you subsconious. It is a way to see where you are emotionally. But it is also a way to actively translate you work into art.

Applying these elements consciously can create a visual language that of will give a voice to your work that is as unique as your creative mind.

So my question for you is, what is one element of your current WIP (Work In Progress) that is absolutely expressing what you are feeling (or were feeling when you began). I would love to read about it in the comments below or over on the FB page(especially if you would like to post some pictures! You know how I love to see what you are working on right now) I will share mine as well this evening. If you like this post please please please pin it or share it using the social media links above and below this post.

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What prejudices are holding you back?

What prejudices are holding you back?

It is my guess “I’m from Alabama and I’m an artist” is not something you hear everyday. Heck I am sure it is not something you put together readily in your mind. Kind of like “I’m a rocket scientist, and I’m from Alabama” sounds like an oxymoron. When you think of great artist, you are probably not even thinking Alabama.

You and I both know that geography does not dictate the truths about right or left brained thought. Yet, I am often blindsided by this type of prejudice quite a bit. But, being a good Southern girl, I usually just swallow my opinions, smile sweetly, say something really kind, all the while knowing that it is a shame this fool just does not know how offensive they are being, bless their little heart. So, let’s just get this out of the way already…

I am from Alabama.

I am a fiber artist.

I grew up in Huntsville.

My dad is a rocket scientist.

But this is not really about me. This post is about the prejudices we apply to ourselves and and receive from others everyday that holds us back.

I have had doubts about being taken seriously as a Southern artist. I have also had doubts that I would be taken seriously when I found my creative voice through knitting and rustic weaving vs. traditional mediums like painting or sculpture. These are the same doubts I know many of you may have no matter where you live or what you make. And it just sucks big time. I look back and absolutely HATE that I let those doubts hold me back from doing the work that really lights me up for years.

As artists, we are sensitive peeps. Prejudices and doubts can so easily unravel our drive and voice in a heartbeat.

I still struggle to recenter myself when struck by some form of doubt and prejudice. But you know what? I really should thank the offending party, even if the offending party are my own doubts. Because as artists, we are driven by something in our core. These challenges are just that…challenges. Calls to recenter, reconnect with our resolve, slay that dragon of doubt and come out on the other side with a deeper commitment to our soul’s work.

 

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Alabama’s own Gee’s Bend Quilters are the epitome of outsider fiber art in Alabama. 

Yes, I’m talking your knitting, too. Although to me it is all fiber art 😉

I have mad love for outsider art. Artist who buck the traditional norms to follow their hearts and make the work they feel so strongly called to make, despite the criticism. People are often struck by outsider art, because it challenges their preconceived notions of what art is. Outsider art becomes desirable because it is unique and raw.

To me, outsider art is soul work created against the odds of doubt and tradition in the spirit of following a undeniable drive of the heart.

A voice that had to be heard on its own terms. Like a warrior, outsider artists fighting through all the criticism, doubt and just outright mean words. What’s worse is those creativity-crushing words can often become the things you tell yourself. And even more devastating, you find yourself in the place of censoring your work.

 

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I am a huge fan of Alabama’s own Natalie Chanin. Both her her work and work ethic. This is her image. 

Don’t play into the hive mind about who you are, based on “statistics”. You and I both know, who you are at the core, is more than your medium/geography/skin color/cultural affiliations. Your work is about your voice. Haters gonna hate. So, give yourself some self love. Own your outsider qualities. And have some compassion for the na-sayers. They are probably a little intimidated by your fierce inner drive to buck tradition….Bless their little hearts.

So my question for you…What predjudices about you or your work are holding you back? I normally say leave me a comment, below, but I totally get how triggery this can be. Just know that if you do comment, I only have love and admiration for you for being so open.

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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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Fiberart Toys  and Creative Challenges

Fiberart Toys and Creative Challenges

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I am working on some projects for an upcoming arm knitting book. I’l be honest, arm knitting was not something on my radar until I got the call from a friend who needed to fill in some spots on a project book. In case you have not heard of it either, it is an interesting concept, although very restricted in what you can make. Truth be told, it is not something this yarn snob would even consider. But being that this was a job thing, I dove into all things arm knitting and set about hammering out details of how I would design my designated projects.

Let me just say this was not the first time I have been humbled by fiber tools and methods that normally would fall into a toy craft category.

I have found so many creative possibilities when I have embraced toy looms and Babrie knitting machines, why not arm knitting.

Here’s the thing, I think toy tools and methods simplify the methods, while at the same time providing a design challenge to stretch your creative thinking. For example, rigid heddle looms are a super simplified loom. By stripping away the multi harnesses, you are left to focus on yarn texture for patterning as opposed to drafts. A saori loom is similar. The warping has been simplified to allow the weaver to focus on the actual act or weaving the weft. A knitting loom strips away the fiddling with needles freeing you up to focus on creating fabric.

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So diving into arm knitting, I had was limited in the shaping I could execute, so I have to stretch my creative construction skills. I got to use my yarn combining skills, as well as explore ideas for yarn alternatives. And because arm knitting is all things über chunky, I also gained new knowledge about what kind of yarn and shape works with fat stitches.

Your creativity is more than the tools you use. Don’t get me wrong, I love love love me some high end needles and cushy luxe yarn. Your creativity is all about how you problem solve. Problems being, finding language with color, texture, shape, and aesthetic. Overcoming limitations to create a look you want, stretches that creativity often forcing you to seek new solutions and maybe even finding a new path.

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So what kinds of “toy” tools and methods have you explored or would like to explore. Leave me some comment love, or head over to the FB page and join the conversation.

 

 

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My Top 5 Tips for Painting with Yarn

My Top 5 Tips for Painting with Yarn

I know it sounds crazy, but It seems like every project I have worked on in the last 2 years has been some sort of stash buster. Maybe it is because I have a crazy amount of stash filled with odd skeins and test runs of dyes and hand spun. But honestly, I have been digging into creating fabric in a method I describe as painting with yarn. Now granted, I absolutely HATE to waste any bit of yarn. So stash busting sets my conscious at ease. But really, I find watching textures and colors compliment, contrast and play off of each other makes my heart sing.

Here are my top 5 tips for learning to paint with yarn no matter what your medium (knitting, crochet, or even weaving)

1. Keep the shapes simple.

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This kind of fiber work works best with simple shapes. The  fabric is what you want to focus on, complex stitches and shapes will detract from you work.

 

2. Go for the overall feeling

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Colors and textures when used to convey a feeling or mood, make for a piece that resonates on an emotional level. Think about it, have you ever fallen in love with a ball of yarn? So what do you want this sweater/scarf/hat to feel like? Regal traditions? Playfully girly? Mellow and cozy?

 

3. Focus on just the small section you are working at the moment

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Most patterns and projects are focused on the overall finish project. When painting with yarn, it is hard to manage so many bits on across a full scale project. Once you have the general plan down, pull back and just focus on the small section you are working in the moment. Worry only about the combination of textures and colors on your needles/hook/loom in front of you. I know it takes large amounts of faith that it will all work together. Trust me it will be fine. And just know you will always like some sections a little more or less than others. Check out the video I made demonstrating art yarn weaving. I talk about this and you can see how I work just with the area in front of me.

 

4. Be open to serendipity

Try to keep a sense of wonder while you work. Many of my big a-ha moments happen by accident. Mistake ALWAYS lead to wonderful discoveries or lessons learned. keep an eye out for those moments. I swear they really are a gift.

 

5. Art Journal

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If you have been reading my articles or watching my videos, you know I am a HUGE advocate for art journaling. It is the first thing we learned to do in art school (seriously, day 1 freshman year) it is a way to document your ideas, hammer out your style and is invaluable for growing your work. Your journals do not have to be crazy fancy , they just need to be a place to hold your right brain ideas. I even use it for all my left brain stuff too, so I have everything in one place. Check out my journals here:

 

The trick is to keep using your art journal as your visual sounding board for all you passing ideas, and time to yourself to just play with art be it cheap watercolor tins, doodling, or just pasting stuff. Every now and then I challenge myself to do so for 30 days straight.

So what are your favorite tips for working with handmade yarn? Leave me a comment below. And if you like this article, please share on your favorite social media.

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How to Combine Yarns Like a Fiber Artist

How to Combine Yarns Like a Fiber Artist

I have a lot of yarn. If you are reading this, I am sure you have a lot of yarn too. But for me, I sometimes wonder if my “yarn business” is just a front for my large personal stash.

While I have quite a few sizable lots of yarn meant for some traditional sweaters, much of what I have is a ball or two of a lot of different kinds of yarn. Mostly because I am a hand spinner and hand dyer, so the stash is filled with odd skeins, test spins and remnants. But there is also quite a bit of yarn acquired as gifts and from photo shoots from my job at the craft book publisher.

 

 

If you have been following me for quite some time, you know I am a big fan of stash busting and painting with yarn. Embracing the unknown and creating fiber art intuitively without a pattern.

Intuitive knitting is not for everyone. I find it is mostly embraced by right brained knitters who get frustrated or bored with patterns. One of the questions I get asked most often is how to combine yarns. So, today I though I would share with you part of a Q&A video(for the sock art society) where I show you how I like combine yarns. The segment on color combining is in the middle of this longer video, but don’t worry this link will automatically skip ahead to that segment.

 

Don’t be afraid to just try a few rows to see if you like the combination. You can always rip it back if it is not working for you.

You can also just start by gathering yarns together, adding some you are not sure about and just letting the pile sit for a few days as you subconscious takes it in. You might have a better idea of what is working and what is not.

So my question for you is how do you like to combine yarns? I would love it if you would leave a comment below.

Happy knitting y’all.
xo

Stacey

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