Archive for May, 2013

Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta

Well it’s taken me a bit longer than I intended to get things in order and start telling you about the Fiber Arts Fiesta, but I have an excuse! Not only did I have to get back into the swing of normal life, work has just been crazy all week. Apparently everyone decided over Memorial Weekend that they need to go to the library more, so we have been making new library cards for people constantly and barely keeping up with the shelving. But enough of my excuses, and on to the part you really want to read.

The Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta is a fiber festival that happens every other year in, where else, Albuquerque (that is ridiculously hard to type!), New Mexico. My mom went a few years ago and really liked it so this year she took me with her and went back. And it was so much fun! It’s in a great big building on the fair grounds which is chock-full of fiber stuff, including exhibits of all kinds of techniques (I’ll be posting about each exhibit in it’s own separate post cause there was so much in each), a great education area, and, of course, vendors of all kinds. Since there’s so much to cover I’m going to split it across several posts and I think I’ll start myself off slowly by telling you about the education section and the vendors.

The education section was just wonderful. It was as big as some of the exhibits and had lots of good examples of techniques with signs about the techniques. I only saw one place you could try a technique, which was weaving, but that would be the only thing I think they were missing. There was a great little table with all kinds of tools, including a group of “watchamacallits” which just amused me, and a wonderful set of boards about fiber and fiber arts in general. I found out that the boards actually travel to schools around the state to introduce kids to Fiber Arts, which I think is just a great idea. The whole education area really inspired me to try and improve the general educational stuff we have at the Fiber Arts Festival here, and gave me some great ideas of how to do just that. The pictures are in a slideshow format, unusual for me, so be sure you flip through and see all of them.

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*Public Service Announcement* The next chunk is all about the vendors at the Fiesta and I have included links to any that I have web pages, or Etsy pages, for. I have not been compensated for the advertisements, nor was I asked by any to do this, I just like to promote small businesses and like to share good crafting resources I find with people who might be interested. Please feel no obligation to look at the web pages, unless you think they would be interesting, in which case you should look, because you know you want to ;-). *End Announcement*

The vendors were also quite good (please bear with me if I am saying everything is wonderful or awesome, I’ve been known to do that), and there was a nice variety; it wasn’t “all wool and yarn” as my mother often complains about. There were, of course, several good yarn vendors and a few wool and roving vendors, although I didn’t spend as much time there as I had expected. I did get some beautiful roving at a place called Chamomile Connection, and one new kind of yarn, but that was it. The yarn is actually another self-ruffling yarn that I haven’t seen before, which I got at a lovely local yarn store called Village Wools. It’s basically a strip of fabric with evenly spaced holes across the top (pictures in a moment), and the label is totally in Spanish! Luckily the directions inside the label also have pictures, cause I don’t know any Spanish. The other vendor I noticed who had exclusively roving was this interesting non-profit fiber mill. I had never heard of a non-profit fiber mill before, but they explained that their mission is to train and employ impoverished locals, which I thought was pretty cool. I didn’t get any roving from them, cause they mostly had natural colored wools and I just don’t work with that much, but I found the idea incredibly interesting, and they had great prices.

Beyond the yarn and roving vendors, there were several vendors selling various antique and Eastern fabrics and textiles, including one selling kimono fabric (my mom loved that booth and even got a kimono-style jacket). There were a few button and bead places, including a woman making some very interesting button and vaguely steam-punk jewelry (I almost bought a watch from her made of tiny Mahjong tiles, and I may still buy it from her Etsy shop) and a woman who makes raku and metal beads (that’s raku beads and metal beads, not the two combined into one bead. That could be cool though). And then there was this really cool booth that was selling fabric and doll patterns, and had all kinds of dolls all over the booth. I just loved that one because of all the great, bright colors and shiny things and most of the dolls were actually really neat, rather than creepy like most dolls seem to be. Sadly, they didn’t allow pictures of their booth, but it’s their work and their booth, so that’s how it goes. I did get a couple patterns and a bit of fabric from them though, so I have pictures of those! And there was one booth that had all kinds of braiding stuff, but mostly Kumihimo (a Japanese braiding technique), where I got a kit to try a flat kumihimo braid, which I haven’t done before.

There were a couple little booths where I spent a lot more time chatting with the vendors than looking at their stuff, and discovered both of them were originally from up here! One was from Wisconsin and the other was from Devil’s Lake, ND, what a coincidence. The woman from Devil’s Lake was selling this really neat wire jewelry. Now, I know that making wire jewelry is quite popular lately and doesn’t seem like anything special, but what was special was the techniques she was using. She had a few pieces she had crocheted but most of the jewelry was made using Kumihimo, and she had a few pieces made using a technique called netting, and some made on a floor loom! That was the first time I had seen any of those techniques done in wire and boy did they look cool. The woman from Wisconsin had lampwork beads, and I may have convinced her to try making penguin shaped lampwork beads, but mostly we talked about needle felting and spinning because she has done a little of both and wants to do more. Sadly, neither of them has a website because I would love to be able to promote their stuff, oh well.

So, that was the educational and shopping portion of my time at the Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta, and boy was it fun! It also resulted in a much longer post than I expected, but that’s okay. Now I have to decide which exhibit I will post about first, maybe the knitting one, although the rug-hooking was quite neat, and there were some amazing quilts. Such difficult decisions!

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Albuquerque Fiber Fiesta Preview

I am in Albuquerque, New Mexico this weekend, with my mother and our friend Anne, to check out the Albuquerque Fiber Fiesta, and we are having a great time. There are all kinds of exhibits, from knitting to rug hooking to silk painting, and of course lots of vendors with cool stuff. I’ve been learning new methods and applications for techniques I already know, like weaving with wire and free-hand machine stitching on dissolvable interfacing, and met and talked with lots of really interesting and inspiring people. And now I am so ready to get home and play! Of course, I have lots of pictures and stories to share with you, but I don’t have any way to upload the pictures until I get home, so you’ll have to wait a little while longer. I’ll be out of town until Sunday, but after that will be writing several posts, because there’s no way I could fit it all in one. So get ready to see some great fiber stuff!

I think I may have a problem…

Hello, my name is Anna and I’m a yarn-aholic.

I went a bit crazy at the yarn store this week, but I have an excuse! It was a sale! So Thursday I went to check things out and found a yarn called Poems. Of course I had to get that, I write poetry! Then I saw this wonderfully soft merino/llama/bamboo yarn that was only like 4 dollars and totally gave in. And I almost made it through the sale with less than $30 in yarn… until I saw the Dreambird shawl they had on a mannequin. I asked about it and the woman told me it was for a knit-along that they’re doing and she showed me the yarn it was made with. I didn’t have much time then, so I left without getting more yarn, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do the knit-along.

So, I went back today to sign up for the knit-along and get the yarn for it, and of course the sale was still going on. But I was smart about the yarn for the knit-along. The yarn that the teacher made the sample with was $25-30 a ball and I would need two balls, and there was no way I could spend that on yarn on a whim. So I asked the woman at the shop to suggest other options and we found one that was on sale and a seriously good deal. I got 5 balls of the other stuff, enough for the shawl, for less than one ball of the other stuff. If you can’t tell, I’m a bit proud of myself. Anyway, the knit-along starts this Tuesday so I’ll post about it soon.

Now, back to the yarn Poems. I was trying to think of a pattern it would work with, and I decided I’m going to try to create my own pattern. I was thinking some sort of loosely knit shawl, or wide scarf, with a texture to make it look like writing. Then, when I showed the yarn to my dad, he asked if I was gonna write a poem with it, which for some reason reminded me of Madame Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities, and how she kept a record of people to be killed by knitting in a code. And then it occurred to me, I could try knitting in Morse code! So I’m going to be doing some experimenting to see what I can come up with for a somewhat loose-knit shawl with a stitch pattern that is Morse code. The biggest challenge there, I think, will be to get that stitch pattern to be visually pleasing and not just look like a random mess. I will, of course, update when I’ve got some work done on that, and any suggestions you have would be great.

So I may have a yarn problem, but I should be good for a while now. Hopefully. I was going to say I have no reason to go back to the yarn store for a while, but I’ve gotta go back for the knit-along, so hopefully I’ll be too absorbed in knitting to notice any more yarns!

Mother’s Day

A little while after I started actually writing here again, after the crazy year of craziness (yes, I totally just called it that), one of the blogs I read posted a sort of “how to blog better” list of tips for new bloggers. One of those tips was to make a list of 100 (I think, don’t remember exact number) post topics to write about on your blog so that you’re never trying to come up with something when you want to post. Thinking this sounded like a great idea, but not expecting to come up with quite that many ideas, I started making a list of things I could post about when I didn’t have a current project to post, and promptly wrote down about 5 things. That was rather disappointing, but I did manage to expand the list to 15 or 20 items, and still add to it occasionally as ideas occur to me. I mention this because one of the topics I came up with was my mother. I talk about my mom a lot when I talk about my crafting, which makes sense to me for reasons I’ll go into in a moment, and it occurred to me that I could easily write a whole post on why she is so awesome, and of course including a bit about the crafting she does. So I’ve been thinking about that post in the back of my mind and when I realized Mother’s Day was coming up (and that I didn’t have a present for her, although I hope I’ve gotten her a card by the time I post this) and that would be just the perfect time to tell you all about my mom and the wonderful effect she has on my life.

In terms of crafting, I think of my mom primarily as a quilter as, I think, do most people who know her. Not surprisingly then, she got me started sewing at a young age, in fact I don’t even remember when she taught me to sew. But I do know that in kindergarten we had a place where we could sew little pieces of fabric together and I was already ahead of everybody else in that department, so it was probably before that. Her workroom is on the third floor of my parents’ house (yes it has a third floor, it’s a pretty big house) and I’ve loved going up there as long as I can remember. She’s got shelves of fabric on the walls in lots of different colors, and boxes of all kinds of crafting stuff, and when I was a kid I loved to look at it all and always wanted to play with it, which I think I did sometimes. Of course, half the fun of her workroom is seeing what project she’s currently working on, cause she does some awesome stuff. (She’s gonna kill me for some of these pictures…but they’re some of the stuff I love about her workroom and growing up in a house surrounded by her art)

I think I must have spent a lot of time bugging her in her workroom cause that’s how my first quilt got made, she wanted me to leave her alone enough for her to work, and I remember her teaching me to embroider because I was hanging out there with her and I needed something to do. But her teaching me new techniques, and encouraging me to learn them on my own, definitely didn’t stop when I got older and didn’t spend as much time in her workroom anymore. When I first learned to knit I was only taught the knit stitch, so I was doing lots of garter stitch scarves (garter stitch is what you get when you just knit) and was convinced I couldn’t do anything else unless I had somebody to teach my how to purl (which is the only other stitch in knitting). At that point I didn’t have anybody to teach me because I didn’t know any other knitters, and my mom just kept telling me to try it cause I could figure out how to purl by myself. And what do you know, it worked! And she even let me teach her to knit when I was so excited about knitting that I would have even tried to teach the dog to knit if he’d had thumbs, even though she didn’t enjoy knitting at all and didn’t really want to learn. But my favorite story of her encouraging me to try different crafts is when she got me started on needle felting. It was actually a Christmas present, I had a box from her and I opened it up and it was several balls of roving and this tool for a technique I had never even heard of before. She said she had heard a lot about it and thought I would like it, so when she saw the tool and wool at Hobby Lobby she got them for me so I could try it. Now I think plenty of people would look at that gift and be disappointed, but I was so excited, and I know that it never even occurred to my mom that I wouldn’t like it, because she would have loved a present like that too. And I just love how we can be on the same wavelength with crafting stuff like that so well.

I say my mom is a quilter, and she definitely is, but that’s not all she does, and she doesn’t really do your traditional bed quilts. She makes art quilts, and art not-quilts (I have no idea what else to call them), that are some of the coolest pieces I have ever seen. She just sits down to play with a piece of fabric, often that she has hand-dyed herself, and maybe some beads or some embroidery thread and ends up with this amazing piece of art, and I just don’t know how she does it. She will still do more traditional quilts if she has a reason to, she made me a quilt in college, cause I asked her to, that I just love, but mostly she does the art quilts, I think she gets bored with the traditional patterns. And she does so much other fiber crafting. A few years ago she got interested in natural dying and spent the next couple years experimenting with all kinds of things. She ordered indigo powder and thought about trying to grow indigo of her own, but decided it wouldn’t work, she tried growing woad to dye with, she collected hundreds (maybe thousands) of marigolds from her friends with gardens to use for dying, she used the rhubarb from the backyard, and I think she even tried dying with the vines that grow on my parents’ house. It was so fun to see the results, even though lots of them ended up being different shades of browns and yellows, and it was even better to see her get so excited about it! Her excitement for crafting is just contagious. Although my dad wasn’t real crazy about all the natural dying, boiling all the plants and stuff tends to smell pretty terrible and stunk up their whole house, but he’s gotten used to not really having any say when my mom gets started on fiber stuff.

She learned to crochet when she was younger, and recently she started crocheting again. I’m  not sure what sparked her interest again, but I do know one of the things she started doing with crochet pretty quickly is yarn bombing. She has made lots of different crocheted sleeves for the lamp post outside their house, usually changing them with the season or holidays, and has made a couple for friends as well. She’s made sleeves for all the lamp posts on their block that she’s going to put up for the local marathon this year, because it goes right past their house. Every sleeve is different, and many are quite fancy looking, including some crocheted flowers she’s sewn onto them. For a while she was making a lot of crochet flowers and leaves from a book she had gotten, one of which I wore in my hair at my college graduation, and which she’s added on to random other things she’s made.

She does, and has tried, so many other fiber things I could go on and on about it all, and that’s just the stuff I’ve seen her do, but I think the best part of it all is that she shares, and wants to share, all her crafting with other people. She’s part of a group of quilters who get together once and month to share what they’re doing and create challenges for themselves to try new things. She gets together with her friends all the time to try new things or share the new techniques she’s been playing with. She is always happy to show me how to do stuff, and is the first place I think to go when I want to try some new technique or do something weird with a technique I know, and she has always been happy to teach my friends too. She teases me sometimes about how I wanted to teach everyone to knit when I first learned, but I think I got that urge to share from her. But I think the biggest way she shared her love of fiber is by starting the Fiber Arts Festival in our home town 4 or 5 years ago (I honestly don’t remember how long it’s been now!). The website has a much better description than I can give you here, but it’s basically a place for fiber artists to get together and play with fiber, while sharing the techniques they love and learning new ones. And of course there’s a little shopping too. Sometimes I look at it and can’t believe that my mom started something that’s gotten so big, it just feels surreal, but I love it.

So happy Mother’s Day mom, I love you, and if I haven’t made you tear-up a bit with the post, I’ll try harder next year ;-). And since I should have tried looking at my mom’s facebook pictures before I was most of the way through this post, here are some more pictures of her stuff that I found on her facebook, quite a few of which I had never even seen before. She is just full of surprises even after I’ve know her for 23 years (or maybe 20 that I really remember).

Since I couldn’t post a link in the picture caption, here‘s a link to the Periodic Table project from the picture.

Needle Felted Cat Tutorial

Back on Day 5 of KaCBW I posted this tutorial in just pictures. If you have some practice needle felting, I think that’s probably all you really need, but if it’s your first or second, maybe even third or fourth, project, it was possibly a bit confusing. So I’m going to give you the tutorial again here, but with words included this time. Before I start the tutorial though, a little background about it. I actually wrote it to be instructions for a beginner needle felting kit made by the lovely Lisa at Flickertail Fibers. We talked about it a bit and went with a cat as a good beginning project because it gives you a few different color options, even if you want to stay realistic and not go crazy with neon pinks or something, and it has several different shapes. I tried to make it a simple piece to make, but something a bit more complicated than just a round ball. The point is to give a person who is new to needle felting some direction on creating different shapes, like the long round tube-like shapes of the cat legs or the irregular shape of the body, and how to combine simple shapes to create the complex shape of the animal. I also like the cat design because it gives the opportunity for the person to play with adding different colors. I’m pretty much copy and pasting the original in here, with minor changes, so you will notice that it is written with the assumption that you’ve never needle felted before. Without any further ado, the tutorial!

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Begin with an oblong piece of roving approximately 1 and a half times the size you want your cat’s body to be. Begin felting the roving by poking it with the felting needle. It is not necessary to poke especially hard or fast, go at your own pace and be careful not to poke yourself.

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Poke/felt the roving until it holds its shape and has shrunk slightly, but not so much that it feels solid if squeezed

Now you want to flatten out the bottom end, at a bit of an angle. Either end can be the bottom, it’s your choice, so that the cat will sit nicely. The body of your cat is ready to go!

Next, you will make the legs. The legs are formed by creating little “snakes” of roving, this is easiest done by rolling it between the palms of your hands like with clay, and then felting these evenly all the way around. Be sure to compare the length of the legs to the body, so that they aren’t too long or too short. Every cat needs paws, so we’ll make those next. Start with a small ball of roving, just slightly bigger than you want the finished paw, and felt it just enough for it to hold its shape. Then felt the ball onto the bottom of the leg, this should flatten the ball out a little. If the shape doesn’t look right to you, you can always poke the roving more in one spot to shrink that spot down a little.

Attach the legs to the body one at a time by holding the leg where you want it to be and poking through the top of the leg and into the body. The more you poke the more firmly the leg will be attached. Don’t be concerned if this creates a dent where the legs attach, we will smooth this out at the end.

The head and ears are all formed in the same manner as the pieces you have just made. For the head begin with a ball of roving and poke it until it holds its shape, being careful to keep it round by poking evenly all around. The ears should be triangular, which can be a more tricky shape to make. It can be useful to poke from the sides, rather than just the front and back, in order to achieve a triangular shape. The ears are attached to the head in a similar way to how the legs were attached to the body. However, this time you will need to felt downwards through the bottom of the ear and into the head, this is easiest done at a bit of an angle.

To make it easier to attach the head to the body, you will want to make a small flat circle of roving, and then felt only the center part of that circle onto the bottom of the head, on the side where the head will attach to the body. Then you can use the outside edges of this extra roving to felt to the top of the body. You will also want to felt both down through the bottom of the head into the body, and up through the body into the head, in order to make sure the head is well attached to the body.

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The round head doesn’t look very cat-like, so let’s add a muzzle. Start with a small ball of roving, felted enough to hold its shape. Attach the ball to the center of the bottom half of the face, the ball will probably flatten out a bit in the process, this is okay. Then use more roving, small bits at a time, to smooth out the difference between the top of the ball and the rest of the face, don’t make them even, just make it a nice, smooth slope. This is the most difficult part of the whole project, so take your time and pay attention.

Your cat is almost done, but it needs a tail! Make the tail in the same way you made the legs. Start with a “snake” of roving and felt it all around until you have a long thin piece. Then you can attach it either curled around the cat’s body, or sticking up off the back. To make the tail stick up, attach it just like the legs, hold the tail in place and felt through the bottom of the tail and into the body until the tail is secure. To wrap the tail around the body you will want to hold the tail in place, and felt through the tail into the body all along the length of the tail.

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All that’s left is to add the details; this is where your own artistry comes in. The eyes were made with little balls of black roving felted right onto the face, and the nose is an even smaller piece of roving felted onto the face in a triangle shape. If you want to add a mouth, I would suggest twisting a long thin piece of roving between your fingers before felting it onto the face; this will make it easier to get a line. I thought the face looked good without a mouth, but you can make your cat however you like!

I also added some spots on the cat’s body. This can be done by laying a thin bit of roving over the body and poking straight through it into the body. Everywhere you poke will begin to stick the new roving to the body, so make sure you have the roving where you want it.

Once you have all the details in place, you can go back and do a bit more poking all over to smooth out any rough spots or funny dents. I also like to do this because it tightens everything down and makes the whole piece a little bit sturdier. Congratulations, you have finished your needle felted cat!

 

And just for you guys, here are a few extra pictures of the finished cat!

 

And that’s the cat tutorial! Generally I’m happy to have you share my writing in any way you would like, as long as I am credited, but I ask that you please don’t reproduce this tutorial, in whole or in part, because I did write it for use by Flickertail Fibers. But feel free to use the tutorial to needle felt a cat of your own!

Gauge swatch

On day 2 of Knit and Crochet Blog Week I introduced you to a pattern that I was planning to knit, and now I have started it! And I have pictures. Well, I haven’t exactly started it yet, but I have done a gauge swatch and have the needles I need. I’m not so big on gauge swatches, and therefore don’t have much experience in using them to adjust gauge, which is why I mainly knit toys and novelty stuff where the gauge isn’t all that essential. Mostly it’s an impatience thing, when I’m all ready to start a project and I’ve got the yarn and the needles I just want to knit already! Who has time for knitting some little square and then measuring and counting and possibly changing needle sizes and doing it all over again? And until a few years ago I didn’t really understand how to correctly use swatches to check my gauge and adjust it, and I have a better knowledge of the theory now, even though I don’t have much practice. But this piece needs to fit because the yarn was expensive and it’s going to be a lot of work and I want the end product to be usable, dang it! So I made myself do a gauge swatch.

Turns out my gauge on the suggested needles is a little off, but I have decided that rather than try bigger needles, because based on the number of rows I should use bigger needles but for number of stitches I need smaller, I think :-/, I am just going to stick with the needles I’m using. The gauge is off but extremely close (it’s off by like 1 stitch in 4 inches) so I’ve decided to actually make the medium size of the pattern rather than the large. The size decision was difficult in general because my measurements are just like half an inch larger than the measurements given for the medium size, which means they’re like 6 inches smaller than the large size, so I just wasn’t sure and decided to buy enough yarn for the bigger size. With the slightly large gauge I have decided to try the medium size because I’m thinking my piece will end up slightly wider than the pattern because of the slight gauge difference. And basically I’m hoping I’m not just making this up and it all turns out.

Now I just need to cast on and get knitting. I intended to cast on today and get started but I spent ridiculous amounts of time looking for a book I have that I just cannot find, which is frustrating me to no end. But I did get the needles for the project today which gave me the excuse to get my favorite Addi Turbo needles in two new sizes! Yay! Hopefully I will still have the energy and patience to cast on tomorrow after work.

I will, of course, keep you updated on my progress, and in the mean time, while I’m making that progress, I will try to post about a few things I already have finished, so you don’t get bored, including the written tutorial for needle felting a cat that you got a preview of in the “something a bit different” post last week (I’m thinking the all pictures post generally doesn’t work for me, I need to type, I’m far too verbose for just pictures).

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