Archive for the ‘yarn’ Category

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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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!

KaCBW Day 4: Colour Review

The prompt for today: “What are your favourite colours for knitted or crocheted projects. Have a think about what colours you seem to favour when yarn shopping and crafting.” I think I tend toward two different sets of colors when I’m just buying yarn because it’s pretty and when I’m making a project. (I think I’ll leave needle felting out of consideration for this one cause the colors I use in needle felting tend to be based on the colors of objects in the real world, not my own choices.) When I’m just buying yarn because it’s pretty, which is most of my stash, I think I tend to go with mostly blues and greens, and the occasional bright red or yellow, if it jumps out at me. Blue is the color I wear most, so I think that affects my yarn buying because there’s always that rationalizing voice in the back of my head saying something like I could make a hat out of this, or this would be great for that mitten pattern I found on Ravelry. Not that the theoretical projects get made very often.

So now I’m supposed to go look at my stash and see if I was right! *five minutes later* Ha! Just as I thought, mostly blues, although a surprising number of oranges, and lots of random single or pairs of balls of a big range of colors. There are especially a lot of partial balls of various jewel tones from the Hedgehogs.

Now in colors for projects, I think there’s a much bigger variation. Very few of my projects are clothing items, and of those even fewer are for myself, so I can be more adventurous and indulge my love of color. I really do enjoy bright colors, and will gladly put together a set of colors that make your eyes water but I think looks good, but I prefer not to call attention to myself so I don’t wear many bright colors. That just means I have to use all the bright colors in non-clothing items! Now let’s take a look at some of my projects and see if I’m right.

I’d say there’s a pretty good range of color there. The bright colors are mostly in the hedgehogs I guess, maybe that’s why I like them so much, but there’s even lots of colors in my first quilt! Yay for lifelong consistency!

So there you are, my color preferences, and a nice little review of my projects in the bargain.

KaCBW Day 3: Infographic

 

 

Today’s challenge is to create and post an infographic. Man did I have a hard time coming up with something for this one. I went with just a graph rather than a big fancy infographic, like some awesome ones I’ve already seen for today’s post, because I just can’t think of anything to make a full infographic about. Also I seem to have no drawing programs on my computer other than paint, I need to find a free one to download somewhere. Below is my graph/infographic, you can pretty much ignore the numbers, the program I was using to make the graph had to have them and I couldn’t make it not label the y-axis. The important part is the proportions of the bars to each other.
graph

 

As you can see, I’m a bit yarn obsessed, but slow to knit. Needle felting however, I’m very quick at and do a lot more of. But the yarn is just so pretty, and cuddly, and pet-able…shut up, I don’t have a problem. Okay, maybe I do, but I control my yarn buying, it doesn’t control me. I really mean that, I’m not just trying to justify, until I bought the yarn specifically for the sweater in my post yesterday, which I bought partially with a gift certificate remember, I hadn’t bought myself any new yarn in years. Although I may have occasionally weaseled one of my parents into buying a pretty yarn for me… 😀

Anyway, there’s my infographic. I don’t think I’ll be using infographics a lot on here, but it was interesting to play with.

Hedgehogs

I’ve already got the hedgehogs all over this blog, but I haven’t done a post about them yet. They were one of the earliest projects I ever knit that are more complicated than a scarf. The pattern is a Fiber Trends pattern, you can find it here, and they call them Huggable Hedgehogs. And huggable they definitely are! Also quite fun to make. They are knitted out of wool yarn and then felted, and they’re the project that got me really into felting for a while.

In general the pattern is pretty simple, but I learned a lot by making it because it has lots of little things that are common in knitting but not something you learn right away. First was the idea of knitting just a few stitches for extra rows and then binding them off, which is how the arms and legs are made. For the arms you also have to cast on extra stitches in the middle of the piece which I hadn’t even heard of before, but turns out that comes up in patterns a lot.

Next I learned about picking up stitches, which was harder than I expected. In the pattern you first knit the front of the hedgehog, including the arms and legs, and then pick up stitches on the limbs to create paws and finally pick up stitches all the way around the piece to  use to knit the back of the hedgehog. I figured that to pick up stitches you just find whatever loops along the edge you can and knit those, and that’s what I did with a few of the hedgehogs, but that often leaves you with weird holes and is more difficult than it seems. I finally did look it up in a book and it turns out there’s a specific part of the stitches that you’re supposed to pick up. Trying to find the right part of the stitch to pick up actually got me a lot more familiar with the anatomy of the individual stitches, which is a useful thing to know.

My fingers poking through the enlarged holes I get when I pick up stitches

    My fingers poking through the enlarged holes I get when I pick up stitches

Picking up stitches on the arms and legs makes it easy to put on contrasting colored "paws"

Picking up stitches on the arms and legs makes it easy to put on contrasting colored “paws”

 

And then there are short-rows. Pretty much the whole back of the hedgehog is done using short-rows, which are, basically, where you turn the piece in the middle of a row and go back and forth, never quite getting to either edge of the row. I had made a couple of hedgehogs before I was really comfortable enough working the pattern to pay much attention to the structure of the knitting that was being created. But once I started noticing the structure of the knitting I was incredibly impressed at the genius of the shaping! At that point I hadn’t heard of short-row shaping and thought the pattern writer was quite brilliant. As I have learned more about knitting in general I have begun to understand that short-row shaping is not something that was just created for this pattern, but I’m still quite impressed as I don’t know that I could write a pattern using short-rows. It’s just so intriguing how you essentially create a flap of stitches that have been worked more and then you gradually bring in stitches from either side to seamlessly integrate the flap back in, thereby forcing the piece to form a sort of cup shape, brilliant!

That curve to the back is formed by the short-row shaping, so cool!

That curve to the back is formed by the short-row shaping, so cool!

 

Now that I’ve had my geeky knitting moment, back to the hedgehogs . Once you’ve got the whole thing knitted you have this floppy weird looking creature that kinda looks like a hedgehog, but looks more like roadkill. And then you felt it! I felt mine in the washing machine (though when I went off to college I discovered that front-loading washer do not work for felting) because it’s much easier that way, and I like to go the lazy route whenever possible. Because the back of the hedgehog is knitted by working the wool yarn and an acrylic eyelash yarn together, you get the fuzzy bits to stick up out of what seems to be a solid felt back, it works pretty well. And as the wool has felted it usually has shrunk at least a little and the shape of the hedgehog firms up and suddenly it doesn’t look like roadkill anymore.

 

The pattern calls for stuffing the piece and then sewing the bottom closed once it’s felted but, due to a kind of random mis-communication, I prefer to leave the bottom open and use them to store plastic grocery bags. It’s a bit funny how that came about. My mom is the one who bought the pattern for me, after she had seen the samples displayed at a yarn store when she was on a trip. She gave me the pattern and told me that they were used for storing plastic grocery bags, and I thought that was a neat idea and had no reason not to believe her, so when I reached the end part of the pattern where it explains felting and finishing the hedgehog I didn’t keep reading because I knew how to felt them and how to sew button eyes on so I figured I was good. Then, after making five or six of them, I finally decided to read the finishing directions and discovered it actually says to stuff the hedgehog and sew it closed and gives directions on doing a little hand felting to hide the seam. At that point I figured it was kind of stupid to change how I made them since they work so well and are quite popular as grocery bag holders, so I’ve never actually finished them like the pattern says. I asked my mom and she has no idea where she got the idea that they are for storing plastic bags, but figures someone at the store must have said something about it or maybe said they had stuffed theirs with plastic bags and she just assumed. So, happy accident!

 

The hedgehogs also made me realize that you don’t have to follow the patterns exactly. For the first one I made I tried to use real hedgehog colors but they didn’t have real good colors for hedgehogs at the yarn store I went to, so it turned out a kind of weird orange. Then my mom pointed out that there’s no reason it has to be real hedgehog colors, so I started branching out. That year for Christmas I made hedgehogs for lots of my extended family, customizing the colors to try and match their kitchens or their favorite colors, which is why there’s such a variety. I even made one that is supposed to be a Santa hedgehog for my uncle who always dresses up as Santa Clause at Christmas. And I made one that is the colors of my boyfriend’s college, and one that I tried to make cactus colors for my grandparents who live in Arizona. Trying to find all the different colors in eyelash yarn led me to discover the huge range of them that are out there. There are some that seems nice and fuzzy on the ball but when you spread it out the poor hedgehog looks almost bald, and some are quite scratchy, but then there’s my favorite stuff which is very thick and very soft, that’s what I used on the red one and the one that has a blue body and green fuzz. Sadly, I don’t remember the brand of that yarn, but when I went back to the same yarn shop where I got that stuff they said they think the company quit making it, which is a shame. So now I hoard the remnants I still have of the two yarns and periodically pet them.

 

I haven’t made any new hedgehogs in quite a while, but I think I may start making them again. I was reminded last week by one of my cousins that I didn’t make them for everybody in the family, as I used to say, by which she of course meant herself. So I might make more for the family members I missed before, and I’ve still got some yarn for ones I had intended to make but never did, guess it’s time to get working on all my unfinished projects!

Frilly Scarves!

Recently there’s been a bunch of yarns coming out that you just knit or crochet using an edge of the yarn and it creates a lacy, frilly scarf all by itself. They look wonderfully fancy and intricate but are in fact really simple and fast to make, often not taking more than half an hour, maybe a couple hours if you’re going slowly. One thing I have discovered is that there’s a huge variety in these yarns and they are not all created equally! The first yarn I used (which I don’t have any pictures of because I gave away the final product and forgot to take pictures first!) was essentially a ribbon yarn that had an extra section across the top where you knit/crochet. This resulted in the ribbon part bunching together and looking quite fancy and lush, very neat. This yarn was actually found by my mom’s friend and they couldn’t figure out how to use it (really they were doing everything right but the first few rows look like a mess at first) so I figured it out and just knit the whole scarf.

Then I was out getting other yarn and discovered a similar yarn on sale. “Yarn on sale” is just such a dangerous phrase for us yarn lovers! Anyway, this stuff looked a little bit different but was a LOT cheaper than the first stuff I had used and the first stuff worked so well I figured I’d get several colors of this stuff and voila! easy Christmas presents. You might have guessed by my choice of words, but that’s not exactly what happened. Basically the differences from the first yarn made it a lot more difficult to work with. I will explain with pictures.

IMG_2879 IMG_2887

This yarn is a mesh rather than a ribbon yarn with an extra border. Doesn’t seem like it would be a big issue, but when it’s wound into a ball the mesh is all collapsed down, and it has a tendency to twist. To knit just the top row of the mesh you have to spread the mesh out enough to find the top row and when the yarn twists on itself that’s even more difficult. That slowed me down considerably and was quite frustrating. So rather than the three scarves I had planned to make for Christmas with this kind of yarn, I made one. The other two may still get made for later occasions but when I make those I’m going to unwind the yarn and flatten out the mesh all the way through before I start knitting, a co-worker has told me that makes it much easier to deal with. The resulting scarf is quite pretty though, and wonderfully fun to pet and play with.

IMG_2875 IMG_2877

The other two self-ruffling yarns I’ve worked with are rather different from the first two and are much fancier. I actually discovered these two at a great little yarn shop in the Twin Cities called Unwind Yarn Shop, and, of course, they were on sale, so I just couldn’t resist! One is essentially a machine knit tube which you are supposed to knit or crochet along one edge of, I crocheted, and the other is pretty much impossible to describe but is worked in the same manner. Pictures will help.

Both of these yarns worked like a dream. I don’t think they would have been all that easy to knit with, it just seems like things would get bulky and really tight around the needles, but crocheting them was very easy. And to crochet them you are basically just chain stitching right up the side, so you don’t even need to have any experience crocheting! These also turned out just beautifully. I gave one to my mom, but the blue one is mine and I’m not letting go of it!

That’s my exploration of self-ruffling yarn. It’s some pretty cool stuff. I’m not usually that into yarns that have a specific purpose (like eyelash yarns) but these work just great and are pretty cool. You definitely get what you pay for in terms of ease of use though.

And on a completely different note, this is my thirtieth post! And, I need to learn not to write posts late at night, especially when I plan to be productive the next day! Ah, procrastination.

Presents!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

It’s that time of year again, time for making Christmas presents! The smart crafter starts working on Christmas presents in June or July of course, but that would just be too easy for me. These are the yarns I’ll be using to make several Christmas presents including a few scarves, possibly a hat, and a chess set. The chess set may not be a Christmas present, I’m still not sure about that. But I’m going to make it no matter what. Several years ago I crocheted a chess set and created patterns for the chess pieces, so I’ll be crocheting the chess pieces to match a wooden board I made recently in a woodworking class I took. I will definitely post those patterns later, in their own post. I’ll also post pictures of the presents I make, but probably not until after Christmas as a few certain people I’m making gifts for happen to read this blog… No spoilers for you!

 

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