A Personal Homage to “Our Tools, Ourselves”

My absolute favorite thing to read blog-wise are Karen Templer’s posts from her blog, Fringe Association with the title “Our Tools, Ourselves.” It is such a great idea and a perfect look into a creator’s world. My favorite thing about crafts and making is all of the specialized tools. Tools are both visually enticing and of course functional.

Because I love “Our Tools, Ourselves” I wanted to lay out all of my main tools. They are simple and spare but I love them just the same.

I’d have to say my favorite tools out of everything would have to be my collection of aluminum straight knitting needles. They were passed down to me from a great aunt who was a frequent knitter and my great grandmother who was apparently a crafting genius.

What are your favorite tools? I’d love to see them!

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On Spindles

I’ve written a lot about spinning since I picked up the hobby early last summer because it is something that has burrowed itself deep in my mind and will not let go for a lot of reasons. Spinning yarn is something that most see as an archaic activity made useless by all of the technology that is in use everyday. Though in a practical sense that may be true, the act of spinning is not useless. Spinning is a centering activity. It both produces a useful product and creates a healthy mindset in the spinner.

Tibetan Puyok Support Spindle from Malcom Fielding on Etsy

Tibetan Puyok Support Spindle from Malcom Fielding on Etsy

Spinning can be done using a spindle or a wheel and what I am most curious about and often think about, are the differences between the two tools. After spending nearly a year working from a spindle I find myself wishing for a wheel some days and cursing the idea of them the next. Spindles are so personal, so delicate, and so variable that there is an infinite amount of information and techniques related to them. Spindle spinning is also one of the oldest handcrafts in existence. The connection to the past and the wealth of human history experienced when spindle spinning is comforting to me as a modern spinner.

 

 

Russian Orenburg Support Spindle from Russian Lily Designs on Etsy

Russian Orenburg Support Spindle from Russian Lily Designs on Etsy

The spindle is a tool that has been a staple in cultures for centuries and I love knowing that I am doing my part to keep it somewhat alive and present in the current culture. Spindle spinning offers you the opportunity to experience different cultures and styles of creation through a simple adjustment of the tool type. You can spin as a Tibetan craftswoman when you use a Tibetan support spindle or a Russian spinner with the Orenburg supported spindle. These tools are similar but immensely different when their origins are explored.

Cassandra Spinning Wheel from JMSwheels on Etsy

Cassandra Spinning Wheel from JMSwheels on Etsy

Wheel spinning is also doused in history but of a different kind than the spindle. The wheel signifies to me a step closer to industrialization. This form of industrialization specifically is obviously more personal than the massive factories that came soon afterwards but you cannot deny that the personal spinning wheel helped pave the way to a mass-produced society. The spinning wheel took many forms before it reached the treadle version that is most common today but no matter what its form it still signifies a shift in culture and the attitudes towards creating items for use. The wheel no matter what its form called for a dedicated amount of time to the craft because it was not and is not as mobile as a spindle. I believe this immobility solidified craftswomens’ roles in their societies too much. The wheel needs a dedicated spinner to sit and spin where the spindle allowed for the spinner to travel with the spindles and partake in other activities or chores while still being able to create materials necessary for living.

Heavenly Handspinning "Fidelis" from Heavenly Handspinning on Etsy

Heavenly Handspinning “Fidelis” from Heavenly Handspinning on Etsy

Quality wheels from traditional manufacturers are now so expensive that it is a challenge for modern crafters to experience them regularly. The increase in independent wheel producers and designers draws me and many others, based on the multitudes of sales these people have, closer and closer to the world of wheel spinning. I’m interested in assisting this designers who are making an effort to design a usable, visually interesting, and affordable tool like the Etsy sellers (some have also branched out to distributing their wheels to vendors like the WooleryBlue Bonnet Spinning, JMS Wheels, and Heavenly Handspinning. I appreciate the work that these people have put into making wheel spinning more accessible for a wider audience.

 

 

Bumble Bee Wheel from Blue Bonnet Spinning on Etsy

Bumble Bee Wheel from Blue Bonnet Spinning on Ets

 

Though the wheel presents a powerful argument as to why I should whip out my wallet and cough up a few hundred dollars for a quality tool, I want to cling to the spindle and all of its variations because there is so much that I don’t know about them yet. Someday when I wish to produce more material in a shorter amount of time and wish to commit myself to the immobility of the wheel craft a wheel will find its way into my house. For now I will keep spindling and acquiring the histories of different cultures through their individual methods of textile creation.

 

I want to know what others think about the spindle versus wheel debate. What do you use? What brand or style of wheel or spindle? Are you a practical use spinner or an art yarn spinner? Why do you spin at all?

New Year, New Tools

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and are looking forward to getting into the swing of a bright and shiny new year.

Since I grew out of the dolly and makeup phase of my childhood, my new years have always been brought in while enjoying new tools. My mom is my number one arts and crafts enabler and made our Christmases about giving the proper tools to further interests and skill levels in the fields I was obsessed with at the time.  The past ten or twelve years have brought me some magnificent tools to further my crafty endeavors and this year/Christmas is no different. Last year I learned how to spin and have been coveting some basic tools to make the whole process of spinning much easier, including a second spindle, an adjustable niddy-noddy, and a skein winder.

New spindle with its current BFL project

New spindle with its current BFL project

Deconstructed adjustable niddy noddy in 1,1.5, and 2 yard lengths

Deconstructed adjustable niddy noddy in 1,1.5, and 2 yard lengths

Adjustable skein winder

Adjustable skein winder

These tools came from an Etsy seller called theknitstore. Their items are amazingly priced and cover all your basic spinning and weaving tool needs.

I’ve already been able to make good use of my new tools and was able to spin up one of two bundles of a purple toned BFL bundle and ply some purple-blue silk.

Purple toned BFL- 210 yards of fingering to Sport weight yarn

Purple toned BFL- 210 yards of fingering to Sport weight yarn

Blue-purple silk - 85 yards-Sport weight

Blue-purple silk – 85 yards-Sport weight

I also snagged a few really great books for Christmas and can’t wait to do some proper reviews for them here. They are: Knit to Flatter by Amy Herzog, The Complete Guide to Spinning Yarn: Techniques, Projects, and Recipes by Brenda Gibson and Eling Chang, and Sticky Readers: How To Attract a Loyal Blog Audience By Writing More Better by Margaret Andrews.

I want to say thank you to all my readers for following along this last year and that I hope to keep you entertained throughout 2014. I wish you all a fruitful and creative new year!

Sock Production

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After getting my first paycheck from my radio job I decided to use a little to get a few unnecessary but wanted items. I have been wanting to start knitting socks but I’m not a fan of the DPN process. I picked up 2-At-A-Time Socks by  Melissa Morgan-Oakes at the library and decided that this was the method for me.

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The first thing I needed to get a hold of was a set of long and little circular needles. I wanted something cheap just in case I didn’t end up using them as much as I planned. I took a risk and bought a set of thirteen sizes ranging from 0-8 with a length of forty-seven inches from Amazon for eighteen bucks. These needles hadn’t been reviewed so I have no idea what they will be like. The joins seem sturdy and pretty smooth just from looking at them and the cables are really flexible.

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Then of course I had to stock up on sock yarn as I only have worsted and bulky weights in my stash. I picked up some Patons Kroy in a camouflage colorway for my brother, some Joann Sensations Breeze in a juicy pink colorway for my sister, and some Hobby Lobby brand yarn in blue for my boyfriend.

I can’t wait to get started! I hope to have my brother’s socks completed by the weekend.

What method do you use to knit socks?

Behaving Naturally

I have been studying natural dyeing techniques and spinning yarn in my free time since I have been done with school. Though my interests in all things textile related have always been present the need for all natural textiles and fiber products has not.

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I have been spinning yarn on my new drop spindle and I love it. I love watching the fluffy fiber take shape as I determine the thickness and twist of each bit of yarn. I have yet to fill up my spindle but I am really close. I cannot wait to get it off the spindle and practice plying and natural dye techniques.

Since I have been home from college I have had the time to catch up on my reading, both English major-y stuff and studying of dye and fibers.

dyeI received The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes from my local library and have been marveling at the exquisite photography throughout it since then. This book contains recipes for a wide spectrum of naturally colored dyes made from plenty of accessible ingredients. The book also gives you some tips on creating your own garden of plants for dyeing as well as how to grow them indoors as well. After perusing the book I am really excited to try out dyeing with blackberries and turmeric. I plan on investing in my own copy to have as a reference.

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The other book that I have been making my way through is The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. This book is all about the animals that produce usable fiber. The intro is informative and even gives definitions of the technical terms used to describe and grade different fibers. As a newbie to choosing the right fiber to spin I have found this book to be incredibly informative. If I was to teach a course on fiber types, this would be the textbook.

Among these crafty things I have also read, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz and Post Office by Charles Bukowski. I am currently reading Cloudbreak, California:  A Memoir by Kelly Daniels. Kelly Daniels was once my creative writing professor at a writer’s workshop/retreat when I was in high school. His memoir is full of drama and I cannot recommend it enough to those looking for a good summer read.

Continental vs. English

For eight years I have been a thrower. An English knitter, proud of my frequent movement and wrist soreness. Lately though the knitting battle wounds have been appearing far too often for my liking. I love to knit for hours on end while watching marathons of crappy TV but I can’t when my wrists are so sore that I can barely change the channel. So, since I have decided to dedicate my summer free time to the acquisition of new skills and crafts, I learned how to Continental knit and purl today as well as how to do the long tail cast-on. I feel accomplished and comfortable. My wrists are not aching and I am beginning to pick up some speed. I did have to attempt this technique about eight times before I got the right feel so I really haven’t made much quality progress. Here is my most even sample. I will continue with it this evening.

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Here are the two most helpful videos that I found on my quest to learn something new in case you are interested in trying it out.

Knit: 

Purl: 

Which style of knitting do you prefer?

Let’s Talk About Stress

April is National Stress Awareness Month. This is an incredibly fitting time for me, as I am a student and this is generally known as crunch time. Professors bring out the big assignments, the weather is questionable, and the necessity to get summer plans squared away are all too present in my thoughts.

I usually am able to function pretty well under hectic conditions, thanks to my favorite DSCN9878activities knitting and crocheting. My mind is hardwired to attach to little worries and blow them up into big ones. When things get to be too overwhelming my best approach is to take time to completely remove myself from the situation that is causing the problem. I will close the essay I am writing or the application I am filling out, put my headphones on and grab my nearest needlework project. The music blocks my anxious subconscious from dominating my thoughts and the repetitive motion of stitch making allows my mind to wander. This wandering clears any trace of the concerns I was fretting over moments ago. Many times, after completing a granny square or cable repeat I will emerge from under my giant headphones and realize that I had come up with a solution to eliminate the worry I had been fretting about.

It is easy to lose your sense of self when you are buried in work but if you take a few moments to ignore the world and reevaluate your thoughts in peace, it will all fall into place.

What do you do to calm your mind?

Lately I Have Been Thinking About Socks

Of course now that winter is presumably on it’s way out, I have begun to think about socks.  Knitting a pair of socks seems like such a traditional thing to do. When people picture someone knitting it is usually an image of a sweet grandmother clicking away on a pair of socks. This item of knit wear is the last item on my list to knit. I’ve done sweaters, hats, mittens, scarves, cowls, and even blankets but I have never conquered socks. I’ve toyed with the idea but the heel seems so daunting, though it can’t be much more challenging then adding sleeves to a bottom up raglan sweater.

Eventually, I will make a pair of traditional wool socks. Until then here are a few of my favorite patterns. Maybe next winter I will crank some toasty toe warmers out.

Tyrolean Stockings by Ann Budd

www.interweaveknits.com-buddfront300_medium

Drops–Free Pattern

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Warm and Cozy Socks by Linden Down (Free Pattern)

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The Stash

The stash. All knitters have one. Surprisingly what they have in it and the size of it, can tell you a lot about the knitter themselves. I have seen a lot of bloggers posting photos of their current stashes and I was shocked at how small a lot of them were. I thought I would post some pictures of my stash to make the other prolific yarn buyers feel less guilty about accumulating a large hoard of fiber. There is nothing wrong with wanting options, at least this is what I tell myself when I have to buy a new Rubbermaid container to house my latest finds.

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Currently my stash takes up one jumbo container and one medium sized container with a little left over. That little bit left over is usually set aside for my next project. I like to leave it out so I can get to know the color and how it looks in all different lighting. This blue Eco-Ways yarn fills this position in my stash. Perhaps it will be a sweater, perhaps it will be a baby blanket.

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These are all of my full, untouched skeins of yarn. They await the perfect project and have been waiting for quite some time. A lot of these were impulse buys that I purchased with no project in mind. The orange Bernat and tan SMC Northern Wool were leftover from a blanket for my brother and a sweater for my boyfriend respectively.

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This is my tub of balls. Yeah, I said it. I prefer to work with yarn when it is wrapped in a ball rather than straight from the skein. So, all of these balls are left over from previous projects or full skeins from frogged projects. Just so you know, this is the jumbo container. It is absolutely brimming with half skeins of yarn.

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Lastly I have my bits/half done projects box. The one half contains all of those little bits of yarn that are only good for granny squares and color work. I used to have them in the jumbo container but it got way too chaotic when I was trying to find a certain color (aka a tangled mess). The other half holds a few projects that I have completely lost interest in working on but I haven’t decided if I will keep them or rip them out and salvage the yarn.

I feel like I have just told everyone a huge secret. If you feel guilty about the size of your fiber collection just think about the absolute ridiculousness of mine to help you feel better about it.

3 Patterns I am Dying to Test

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shawl in progress

Recently my mom commissioned me to make her a simple garter stitch shawl to help fight her problem with being perpetually cold. I gladly accepted this project as I had never made a shawl and I wanted to make something nice for my mom. The project has been fun to watch progress but its over simplicity has left me wanting a knitting challenge. This means I have been glued to Pinterest searching for the perfect complex pattern to take up once I finish the shawl. Here are a few of my current favorites.

Acer Cardigan by Amy Christoffers

pattern1Though I am not a huge fan of knitted lacework, as it can often look frumpy, I have found myself being drawn to it more and more. This cardigan blends together chunky cables and delicate lace in such a fresh way that I am itching to brush up on my lace skills.

 

 

Chunky Cable Blanket by Therese Rabe of Onrus

pattern2Knitted throws have been dominating home decor photo shoots recently and I have been waiting for someone to make an accessible pattern for one of these beautiful blankets. This pattern is exactly that. It feeds my love for cables without going overboard and is made in pieces so your arms won’t fall off from the weight of a full size blanket. The best part about this perfect pattern though, is that it is free!

 

Classic Color Work Mittens

pattern3These cuddly mittens feature some classic stranded color work motifs that I would love to adapt into my own design. Stranded color work is something that I really enjoy doing but rarely have the patience to do it. If it is on a small project like a pair of wooly mittens I am sure that I would have no problem getting them done.