A Stash by any other Name is a Wonderful Thing to Behold

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If fiber is your pastime, you have a stash. It may only be a few skeins of yarn, several pounds of roving in different fibers, dozens of books, numerous tools (knitting needles, crochet hooks, weaving looms, spindles)… The problem is not the stash, the problem is the space to store it.

Knitting author Clara Parkes loves a good stash. Her latest book (hardcover) is an anthology she edited, “A Stash of One’s Own”. The one shy of two dozen short stories are written by experienced stash hounds you probably know. They include designers, bloggers, authors and teachers all whom have a first hand knowledge and confess about owning a stash. You will enjoy, and relate to their experiences on growing a stash, acquiring, inheriting, creating with it, living with it and hinting of seeking help to let go of some of it.

At times a story relates so well that you aren’t sure they haven’t been to your home. Sue Shankle reminds you there is no shame in loving your stash. Best of all, the stories make you realize you are not alone. The book is a perfect size to fit in your bag and take with you. Read from cover to cover in one sitting or spread it out and enjoy a story now and then.

It is February and the winter drags on, the holiday and festivities are over and the pull of adding to your yarn stash might be just what you need to put a smile on your face. I know some of you may have made a New Year’s resolution to control yourself this year and only add a skein or two. I have a solution: Go through your stash, put aside a few skeins of yarn, some duplicate knitting needles, a couple of books or magazines you no longer refer to, a pattern or two you know you will never get around to and have a “Stash Swap Party”.

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Make this a themed knitting, crochet…party with a decorated cake, goody bags, and the highlight of a swap. A themed drink is sure to be a hit. There is no need to feel guilty. You will have made space to accommodate you new acquisitions. Pour everyone a glass and read aloud a chapter from Clara’s book. Your party is sure to be a big hit.

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Spinning Charlie

Charles in 2016

Charlie is an English angora rabbit and offers up a good supply of fiber to spin into yarn. Spinning fiber that is 2 – 2 ½ inches long is easy to spin on a drop spindle. Angora from a rabbit is light, warm and fluffy. There are German, French, Satin and Giant angora rabbits beside English that produce angora fiber. You may have heard of angora goats, though they are called angora, they produce mohair fiber to spin.

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Angora spun yarn blooms upon wear. “Bloom” means the fibers relax and open to create a fuzzy yarn. The rabbit is sheared four times a year, offering up skeins of yarn. This type of rabbit comes in a variety of colors.

Charlie is sweet and docile. He has two speeds; dead stop and hop skip and jump. The rabbit can jump very high and spin about quickly. I was surprised at how curious he is. If someone comes into the house, he comes over to check you out. Charles is a free range house rabbit who uses a litter box. His lifespan is approximately 10 years and makes for a sweet pet. The more he is handled, the more he enjoys being handled.

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If you have never tried spinning angora or knitting with it, give it a spin. Some of his fur this time, will be made into fingerless gloves. A gift for a friend’s tween daughter.

The Magic of Iridescence

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I was probably nine years old when I fell in love with the magic of iridescence. My mother was going to a party and wore a blue/green iridescent cocktail dress. It was love at first sight with the shimmer and changing colors of that fabric against her pale skin and red hair. I still have a vivid memory of that moment. Now thanks to Bobbie Irwin, I can create my own iridescent fabric with her book “Weaving Iridescence”, colorplay for the handweaver.

The book starts off with explaining iridescence, optics of light and color. The photographs help to interpret the results as well as give inspiration to your fiber choice, thread size and weave structure. Blue boxes highlight the information of the chapters.

Bobbie touches on getting the most out of iridescence with sewing garments, spinning, dyeing and knitting. Then, she shows you how to achieve this technique using a loom that requires from 4 to 8 shafts. The projects include color gamp napkins, a double weave scarf in a 4 and 6 shaft version, 4 shaft scarves using 3 and 4 color effects, clasping, vest fabric in double-weave and lightweight huck yardage.

She closes with a note on photography and the ins and outs of getting a good photograph of iridescent fabric. The photographs are well done and as I said before, lends them to motivate your creativeness. This is a one of a kind book to take your weaving and color appreciation to the next level.

Thanks Bobbie. My plan is to reinterpret the blue/green fabric in that cocktail dress as a scarf. Have you woven iridescence? Do you have a memory where the play of color is vivid?

I have fallen down the Rabbit Hole…

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…again. I have a voracious appetite when it comes to fiber. Fiber Arts, that is. Taking a sabbatical was a wonderfully creative outlet. What I learned and started to explore then, continues to spiral out of control. I love it. So now it is onto experimenting with paper.

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Paper to spin, weave and dye for. Currently I am spinning tissue paper that is left over from gifts I have received. Yes, that inexpensive brightly colored wrap you find in clothes boxes and gift bags. My research is taking me to Japan (at least in books and videos) and learning the language and history as it applies to paper.

The art of Japanese paper weaving is from the Edo period during the 18 and 19 century. Shifu (cloth) clothes, hats, kimonos… are made from mulberry bark paper, Kozo, Mitsumata and Gampi. Thin continuous strips are cut from Washi (Japanese paper) and then twisted and woven into fabric. Paper was woven into garments for segments of the population because of the scarcity and expense of other materials. Today, paper garments are vogue for the upper class.

Susan Byrd’s book, “Song of Praise for Shifu”, can’t come fast enough for me. You can find me waiting at the mailbox. I will keep you posted on my shifu progress. Have you tried spinning paper, weaving it? Show me, tell me.

Customize Your Crochet

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Maybe it is time to break out of your comfort zone. Do you take a pattern and use the recommended type of yarn, even the exact color the designer chose when you crochet? Sara Delaney has the perfect book for you to “Design Your Own Crochet Projects”. No worries! She walks you through every step with her unique design course.

You can dive in for advanced crocheters or for beginners…start with 18 sample patterns to build up your skills. There are templates to create one-of-a-kind gloves, Crocheted socks, hats, cowls… The book starts with a chapter on yarns and swatching (journaling the pattern). Learn to measure the lucky person who will receive the finished project for an exact fit. A fill-in formula helps you to figure out yarn requirements.

Then explore the stitch dictionary of 31 crochet stitches with written instructions. All this is compiled inside a hardcover spiral book that lies flat for ease. There are step by step photographs of how to work stitch abbreviations and definitions. The book is clearly laid out to increase your skills. So, start with a scarf and choose your stitch, scarf size (standard measurements are given), continue to follow the formula to design the scarf. Work your way up to socks and slippers.

Design your own crochet projects painlessly. You can consider yourself a designer after the first project. Let me know what you designed. See you in the magazines.

Yarn Craft for Pre-K and K

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What is the right time to teach fiber crafts? If you have young ones who show an interest in your knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving…., that’s the right time. Even though they are excited to learn, they may not be ready to handle your specific hobby. So start them off with something fun and less complex using just their fingers and yarn to learn new skills.

Getting children interested in fiber crafts at an early age is a great way to share in your fiber pastime. I especially like when the craft is interwoven with learning. Part of the fun is they don’t realize they are learning.

A good way to start is with lacing cards for pre-k. Maybe you remember them? If not, there are numerous sites on the web to make your own. Let your child choose from your yarn basket the color they would like to use. They can learn colors as well as you informing them a bit about the yarn fiber ie: wool from sheep and goats, silk from silkworms, cotton from plants…

Make the cards in geometric shapes, numbers, letters, shape of a shoe for learning to tie, farm animals… Besides all this academic learning fun, hand-eye coordination of fine motor skills tops the learning list. Then it may be onto finger knitting. Usually at the age of five or six, children have enough dexterity to master this skill before it is onto knitting using needles. For older children seven and up a fun scarf can be created using your fingers and ruffle yarn.

Put this on your to-do list to interest a child in learning a fiber craft. Is there a fiber craft you do with your children or grandchildren that everyone enjoys?

Knit 1 + Purl 1 = Seed Stitch

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When learning to knit, the knit stitch is the stitch you master first. That stitch by itself can keep you busy for years. If you have the desire to go further with knitting, next step is learning to purl. Some knitters stop there and create beautiful items for their home and family. The seed stitch is a 2 row combination of *knit 1 purl 1* repeated across the row, then reversed for the second row.

If you have the desire to take your knitting to the next level, the book “Seed Stitch beyond knit 1, purl 1”, with its texture and creative possibilities is a good place to start. Rosemary Drysdale will take you there with 30 projects and a 60 swatch stitch dictionary. There are projects for men/women/little ones and home decor. The swatch dictionary incorporates color work, lace (yo, increase and decrease), slip stitches and cables.

Patterns are easy to follow using charts and written out for those who prefer that method. The photographs are clear and detailed. Designer graph paper (one seed, one moss) and information is included to create your own designs. There are step by step photographs on color work and a section on the anatomy of the seed stitch. The cover is a combo between soft and hard covered (wish all books wore a jacket like this).

I like the ZigZag poncho for myself, as well as the linen Tote bags. The Scarf quartet will make a handsome gift to keep my guys warm this winter. Baby cardis make a quick gift for the next shower. Take a look inside this book and see for yourself the diverse patterns and pick your own favorites. This book is perfect for a beginner and will spark interest in an experienced knitter.

So, pick up your needles and start knitting. Get inspired to create your own designs with Rosemary’s tips and hints.