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Friday, November 25, 2016

Yarn Play or Playing With Yarn

What happens when a group of friends meet at Tempe Yarn on a Friday Night and discover two shelves of newly dyed Biltmore and Surprise yarns?  They play with color arrangements.

The result is seen here.  What was fun was to see how we fall in love with color combinations when other people put them together.  We started talking about how much fun it is to arrange yarn. Just handling, twisting and untwisting it was soothing.  A couple of us were saying how we sometimes re-arrange and organize our stash when we need an emotional pick me up.

Do you ever sort or organize your stash just because it's fun?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Things I Wish I Knew As A Beginner: Right Verses Wrong & Opinions

When I teach or help a customer choose yarn for a project, I am often heard saying, "In this industry, it's 99% opinion and 1% fact."

Over the years I have learned one lesson well.  There are many right ways to do the same thing.  At least once a week I meet a customer or student who tells me they are doing it wrong.  "How did you come to that conclusion?" I ask.  If it is possible I have them show me their project or what they think they are doing wrong.  The majority of the time, what they are doing is perfectly acceptable and I have seen it done their way many times before.

The difference between me and the average knitter/crocheter out there is I see quite a few people in a week.  I see all the ways they can hold their needles and hooks.  I hear from them or observe the many different ways they were taught to approach the fiber world.

Where does the message "I am doing it wrong come from"?  Many places....but most often it is from someone that hasn't had the exposure of hundreds of customers a month bringing in projects, issues or concerns.  Thankfully the availability of information on the internet is helping us Instructors squash the idea that there is only "one way to knit/crochet".

The most fun part of my work is when someone shows me something that is new to me.  Then it ends up that several of us "play" and "experiment" with another variation of an age old craft.  We get so excited when that happens and then we file the new experience away for the next time we have encounter it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Australian Wool and Shearing

I have been reading about the development of various sheep breeds in Australia -- breeds associated with some of the finest wool in the world including varieties of Merino, Cormo, and Polwarth. This reading lead to learning about associated sheep activities such as shearing, and that lead me to reading about Frederick York Wool-sey (no joke about the name) who invented Australia's first mechanical shearing device. 

Image result for frederick york wolseley
Shearing at Yandilla Station, Queensland. Photo: State Library of Queensland #115404

 You can read more about him at The shearers were suspicious of the newfangled device and it took him a while to get his mates to agree to try it out. With a contract to shear 180,000 sheep he finally got 40 men to agree to use it and eventually each man could consistently shear 100 sheep a day with the new tool. Woolsey died penniless having made no money on his invention. Someone has calculated that since his successful mechanical shearer was first used about 1884, as many as 400,000,000 sheep have been sheared using his invention or similar machinery based off it.

Portrait of legendary shearer Jackie Howe.
Jackie Howe wearing his shearing medals.
Jackie Howe was an Aussie master shearer from the same era and an example of why mechanized shearing had such a slow start and reluctant following. In 1892 Jackie sheared by hand 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes. Since a shearing day was 8 hours long, he could have sheared more, except he ran out of sheep! His shearing medals were auctioned off in 2008 and brought $360,000 (AU). 
And that's a different spin on things!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Storage of Knitting Needles & Notions

Storing knitting needles, crochet hooks and other notions becomes somewhat of a challenge for most of us. To date I haven't found a "one size fits all" solution.  

Over the years, I have collected many styles of notions and needles.  I have stored them in cases made specifically for them, inexpensive and expensive ones, old cups or vases,  fishing tackle bags, notebooks with sleeve protectors and a plethora of home made solutions.  I have even gone so far as to assigning them to various WIP’s (work in progress) and forgetting I have them.   Out of sight, out of mind, right?

I have purchased interchangeable kits and that was a fantastic way to organize a great portion of my needles.  (A story for another day…)

I know my habits, so I am okay that no system will make me put everything back where it belongs.  Periodically I go through projects and find all my loose needles and return them to the their rightful places.  The solutions that I employ currently, seem to work for my lifestyle today.  Who knows what lies ahead?  For now the following seem to fill the need.

First, I use the interchangeable needles and the cases they came in to keep them neat and organized.  These are great for grab and go if I want to start a new project.  I love them for swatches, because you mark the needle size difference with a stitch marker and then just change tips. 

Second, I have the case pictured below by Knit Happy, Fold n’ Go.  (We sell these at Tempe Yarn). I love it for classes and traveling.  It’s great for taking to the shop because I have all I need for helping with most projects. (Emergency rescue needle, crochet hook, dpn’s, stitch markers, tape measure, yarn needles, etc.)  You can see from the picture how I use each section.

The third way I store needles is simple, convenient and is pictured below.  Most of my knitting needles hang out here.  Since I really only use circular or double points these days, this solution is very helpful.  
Here is the logic behind my storage solution.  They hang behind my door.  I keep a needle gauge handy to check the sizes quickly.  I sort by length and use binder clips to keep them on the hooks.  The large clips hold more needles and the smaller ones keep the needles from slipping through the clip.  I can quickly sort visually and return needles to the proper hook.  If I am in a hurry, I can just hang them and put them into the clips later.   

If you have a favorite storage method please share it in the comments section below.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Counting Sheep Doesn't Always Make You Sleep!

In historic times, a shepherd's first job in the morning and last job at night was counting sheep.  At least in Great Britain, shepherds had their own language of counting which used a Base 5 system -- 5 fingers on a hand, and the other hand to grasp the crook. (We use a Base 10 system). This particular system and language coupled with knobs, notches, lines, and grooves created in his crook to act as an abacus allowed a shepherd to keep track of up to 399 sheep and, historically at least, there weren't many flocks larger than that. 
The language is at least as interesting as the concept. The count begins, "yan, tan, tethera, mether, pimp, citer, liter, ova, dova, dic." Adding in the numbers we know as 11-15 gives you yan-a-dic, tyan-a-dic, tethera-dic, methera-dic, bumfit. Then with a new group of 5, he would continue yan-a-bumfit, tan-a-bumbit, tethera-bumfit, methera-bumfit, and then Giggot. You can see how this goes -- Giggot will get each of the words added to it, and so on -- but the concept, the words, and cadence are fascinating.

And by the way, do any of you old movie fans find these words tickling a memory somewhere? It is a variation of this counting system that Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn of Music Man fame uses when she counts "in the Indian tongue" during her unforgettable Talent Show presentation.
                 And that's a different spin on things.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Weaving Techniques - What's Old is New Zoom Loom

Was browsing though my cherished 1947 Good Housekeeping book of Needlecraft and began reflecting on cycles.                                                                                                    It is amazing to me how not only the techniques come full circle over and over through the generations, but how the presentations are cyclic as well.  I remember back when most needlework books contained multiple crafts such as weaving, knitting, crochet, macrame, crewel, embroidery, cutwork, sewing, quilting, rug making, hairpin lace, applique and so on.  These books were precious, contained valuable information and a few pages were dedicated to each of the particular techniques.  Sometimes a whole chapter was used for a topic like sewing, knitting or crochet because more space was needed to give you a solid foundation.  Today, most crafts are separated into individual publications.  We have many choices on publications but most seem to be craft specific.  We are in the information age, so we pack our publications full, but geared more towards one discipline.

Currently we seem to be in a weaving cycle.  Weaving in many forms are everywhere I look.  Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook,  books and magazines, 

So back to what caught my eye when I was browsing through my Needlecraft book--- the tiny looms, pictured above and which you can still see advertised in vintage magazines as Weave-its. 

You use them to weave small squares that can be assembled and arranged in any manner  so you are limited only by your imagination.  They are often sold as ways to use up small amounts of yarn left over from other projects.  If you want to plan a specific project, dedicate a projects worth of yarn, then begin creating and planning as you would any other yarn related project.  (PSS -Plan project, Shop for enough yarn for your entire project, Start project.)

If quilting is one of your hobbies or passions, then you can use some of the same quilt patterns or designs and substitute woven squares. Sew them together or if you prefer a different look, crochet or knit them together. 

There are ideas galore on how to use the mini squares you weave on these cute portable looms.  The modern version of this mini loom, is the Zoom Loom from Schacht Spindle Company which comes neatly packaged with a loom, the needle and basic instructions. Added are directions for 3 sample projects to get you started.  

The best part of these little looms is how portable they really are.  All you need is yarn, your loom, a needle and yarn cutter and you are off and running.  They are small enough to fit in a medium purse so you can always have a project with you.  I am a great fan of having some sort of mini project or a component of a larger project with me in case I end up waiting somewhere.  Those moments which could often be a source of frustration become my "stolen" project moments.

We have been carrying the Zoom Looms at Tempe Yarn for some time now.  For our long-distance customers we are adding them to our on line store so they too can easily join in the weaving trend.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Weaving Trends


Weavings with Yarns & Fibers Available At Tempe Yarn 
Weaving is back and it comes in all forms.  From the simplest weave structures and tools to the most sophisticated fabric and computerized looms.  So much to explore and if you are like little time. 

The weavings pictured above are more free form or artistic weavings.  The top weaving is really a fiber collage done on a pvc frame, which one can make for $10-$15.  (This is a really inexpensive way to make a frame loom any size you want.  When you are done with your weaving, if you choose you can recycle the pvc pipes in another craft project.) This weaving is considered a fiber collage because it contains weaving and knitting/crochet in a free-form style.  In other words- NO Rules!
If you look closely you can see beads, buttons and some stitchery used as surface design.

The other three were woven on a small rigid heddle loom.  The lighter one was woven on the 10 inch Cricket by Schacht.  The other two were woven on the 15 inch Cricket.

All three of the weavings have been embellished in some manner.  The one on the left includes Needle Felting, beads and buttons.  The one on the right has been decorated with shells and beads.

The trend currently seems to be weaving with shades of natural fibers and yarns.  We are so lucky at Tempe Yarn (and Arizona On Line) to have Woolhalla Tunis offering 20 plus breeds of fibers and yarns.  Since so many of them are breed specific and sometimes sheep specific, the variation in shading are obvious. The picture doesn't do it justice, but when you look at the weaving pictured below you may be able to see an example of what I mean by natural variations in color.  I can't wait to see this piece finished and fulled.

Clun Forest 2 ply fingering Warp & Weft