Tag Archives: Imagination

Using Art Yarn. Part 1: The Easter Chicks

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Using Art Yarn. Part 1: The Easter Chicks

The possibilities for art yarn, both creating it and using it, are limitless. However sometimes people struggle to know what to do with this yarn that may be bulky, irregular, highly textured, short of yardage and, above all, fun.

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“Easter Chick” art yarn by Taylor Made Yarns. Photo courtesy of Taylor Made Yarns.

I bought this amazing art yarn from Taylor Made Yarns, one of my favourite fibre artists, at Fibre East. It is an irregular bulky spiral-plied yarn with little chick charms plied into it. Like many special skeins, I needed to wait for the right project to emerge. As it happened, I won a skein from Cuddlebums: beautiful, subtly-speckled handdyed skinny singles. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had found the companion yarn for the Easter Chicks.

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I set about making a hyperbolic spiral scarf. I planned for gentle spiral ruffles, edged in wild art yarn. I used a 4mm hook to crochet a chain to my desired length, made a dc in each chain to form the foundation of my scarf and then started my increase rows. To create the spiral effect you need to increase stitches on each row in the following way:

  • 1st increase row: work 2 tr into each dc.
  • 2nd increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 1. Repeat from *.
  • 3rd increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 2. Repeat from *.
  • 4th increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 3. Repeat from *.
  • Etc.

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The two yarns I used in this project were very different and I needed to find a way to integrate them. In order to work the thick art yarn into the edge I created an eyelet row using the finer yarn. My final increase row would have been a pattern of *2tr into first tr, tr 5, repeat from *. I altered this to *2tr into first tr, ch2, sk 2 tr, tr 1, ch2, sk 2 tr, repeat from *.

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These eyelets made an attractive edge and provided holes big enough to work a crocheted art yarn edging.

I was not sure that I would have enough of the art yarn to cover the whole edge of the scarf. I decided to split the art yarn into two equal parts and work from each end. I reskeined the yarn and counted 24 wraps of my niddy noddy. I wound off 12 wraps, cut the yarn and then wound off the 2nd half.

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I switched to a 10mm hook and started adding a border in a pattern of *dc into eyelet, ch 1, repeat from *. Here is the scarf with half of the edging worked:

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And here is the finished piece:

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There is so much glorious variety in this yarn, each ruffle is like its own vignette:

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And I couldn’t end this post without a close-up of the chicks!

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This was such a fun project to work on. I hope it’s given you some art-yarn inspiration.

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Book Review: Hook to Heal!

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Book Review: Hook to Heal!

Hook to Heal! 100 crochet exercises for health, growth, connection, inspiration and honoring your inner artist.

By Kathryn Vercillo

Hook to Heal caught my attention from the first time I heard about it. It went straight onto my wish list and when my birthday came around this year, lo! the book arrived (thanks, mum!)

Hook to Heal held a lot of appeal to me, as it draws together a lot of seemingly disparate themes that for me, reflect very accurately the threads of my life. I say “seemingly disparate” because I’m not sure that many people make the connection between fibrecraft and topics such as health, wellbeing, challenge and personal growth, despite these being obvious to many of us deeply involved in this fascinating realm of creativity.

Hook to Heal uses the medium of crochet to provide the arena for thinking through and working on all sorts of areas of life. These include, but are not limited to: Self-care, Self-esteem, Facing fears, Relationships, Balance, Giving something back, and Artistic development. With such a comprehensive scope, you can see that this is no small task that Vercillo set herself when planning and writing the book.

I decided to work through her book this year, and as an act of sharing and community-building, I decided to open the process up as a read-along for anyone who wished to join. I studied the structure of the book and devised a 12-week program. I knew 12 weeks was a short time for such a book, but fortunately I’ve battled my perfectionist demons already, and won, so my aim was to cover roughly half of the exercises in each section. There were weeks of huge success with the process, weeks of what felt like terrible failure to engage with it at all, and everything in between. I documented this journey here.

Firstly, I have to say, this is a brilliant book. It challenged me from the outset because it wasn’t what I expected from a crochet book. There are no pictures! As I worked through the book I came to realise that this was a genius decision. Vercillo challenges us in every chapter with crochet exercises that get to the heart of a topic. What would pictures do? They would give us something to aim for, something born of someone else’s imagination and thought process. In this almost entirely text-only book, we are set free from attempting to mimic a result. We are able to use the exercises to question ourselves, to explore creation in all manner of ways, and to just see the outcome of whatever comes from that process without the burdon of expectation or comparison.

In my 12-week whistlestop tour I have acquired a host of new tools to help me with various issues. Some of the mindfulness and self-care exercises in particular have become well-used favourites already and I hope they will support my efforts at self-improvement long into the future.

Coming to the end of the read along, my overriding feeling is that this is only my first pass of Hook to Heal. There is so much more in there to explore, so much more depth I have not yet reached. Ideally I would use the same 12-part scedule, but instead of spending a week on each section, it would be a month. Then I could spend a whole year really exploring the questions Vercillo poses, truly making time for and looking after me. 

I haven’t yet read Vercillo’s previous book (Crochet Saved My Life), but have heard at least some of her story through Hook to Heal and through her writing online. I think her work is so important as a contribution to the understanding of mental health and the positive role of creativity in recovery and in everyday living. Vercillo seems like someone who has taken her experience of the most challenging of times, and turned it into a force for good. This book is her gift to all of us.

The Single Skein

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The Single Skein

As a handspinner, my creative path has led me to specialise in unique single skeins. Often the indie dyers I follow also have single, sometimes one-of-a-kind, skeins available. Or sometimes, the budget will only stretch to one luxury skein from a spinner or dyer.

I often see knitters and crocheters searching for that perfect one-skein project for their special yarn. This post explores ways of using small amounts of special yarn. (I will confine myself to knitting and crochet for now. Weaving is a whole other topic!) We will look at one-skein projects suitable for different yarn weights, but also think about more imaginative ways to show off that extra-special yarn.

The one-skein project

The key here is knowing what the essential information is, and knowing where to look for patterns.

If you have received a skein from me, or have read about my skeins on this blog, you will see that every skein is categorised according to its WPI (wraps per inch) – from which we calculate the yarn gauge – and the total length of the yarn. Knowing these measurements allows you to search for a project to suit your yarn.

Undoubtedly, the best place to find patterns is Ravelry. It is free to sign up, and as a member you can use the excellent pattern search facility. Simply go to the advanced pattern search, select the appropriate options for meterage or yardage and yarn gauge, and see what comes back. It’s likely you’ll have dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of options to choose from.

Now let’s think about typical yarn lengths for different gauges. Approximate values are given below:

Aran weight: ~160m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: Fingerless mitts or ear warmers.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Truly Hooked. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn handdyed by Story Skeins. Pattern.

DK: ~220m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: Scarf or cowl.

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Photo by Heather Young. Yarn by Devon Sun Yarns. Pattern.

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Photos by Laura-Jo Webster. Yarn by Story Skeins. Pattern.

Sock weight: ~400m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: socks or shawls.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Excelsior Yarns. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Lang Yarns. Pattern.

Laceweight: 800-1200+m per 100g

Ideal one-skein projects: Large shawl or wrap, for example this Wrapped in Lace Shawl.

Please note that these measurements are a rule of thumb, and most appropriate for yarns which are predominantly wool. Fibres with higher density, such as many plant fibres, may give less length per 100g for an equivalent yarn gauge.

Feature Yarn

Another option is to use your special yarn as an accent in a larger, plainer piece. My favourite example of this is my Nordic Shawl, which makes me smile every time I see it. The rainbow stripe is “Six Colour Rainbow” from Unbelieva-wool. The oatmeal yarn is Stylecraft Life:

2015-12-03 11.03.27Photo by Story Skeins. Feature yarn by Unbelieva-wool. Pattern.

Further examples:

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Photo by Clare Davidson. Accent yarn handdyed by Clare.

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Photo by Becky Shay Pollard.

Patchwork

This option uses small amounts of a variety of yarn to build up a project. It’s a great option for mini skeins, or ends of yarn. Try to keep the yarn gauge consistent, and choose to do your project entirely in animal fibres (or predominantly animal fibre mixes), or entirely in plant fibres (cotton, bamboo, etc), or entirely in synthetics.

My increasingly large collection of mini skeins (again from Unbelieva-wool. I’m quite a fan!) are destined for a Beekeeper’s Quilt. I am using my 30g of rolags from my monthy rolag club to make a wrap based on the When Alice Fell motif pattern. And one day I will make myself a Log Cabin Scrap Blanket.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn handspun by Story Skeins. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn and pattern from The Art of Crochet.

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Photo by Sonia Bowmar-Scothern.

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Photo by Stacey Galbraith.

Scrap projects

For even smaller amounts of yarn there are many options for scrap projects, made of tiny lengths of yarn. My favourite is the linen stitch scarf.

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Photo by Rox Driver. Hook by Hooklicious! Pattern.

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Photo by Shadow Gilboa-Way.

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Photo by Alison Horne.

Using textured and “art” yarn

Hanspun yarn has so many delicious possibilities. It can be smooth and balanced and regular, and mimic machine-spun yarn. But can also be so much more.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Weird and Twisted. Pattern.

The only limit to using these yarns is your own imagination. A small amount of textured yarn can make a great trim, or a pair of cuffs, transforming an otherwise plain garment into something really special.

For her Road Trip Scarf, Kirsty has combined the irregular button yarn I spun for her with a second skein of handspun to create a bulky yarn for a quick project.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Handspun yarn by Story Skeins.

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Photo by Kirsty Rodger. Yarn by Story Skeins. Pattern.

Close-up:

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I have an inspiration board on pinterest called “Great for Handspun” which includes all sorts of projects, using yarns from the conventional to the wacky. This is my particular favourite.

My general advice to my customers is: the more that’s going on in the yarn, the less there should be going on in the pattern. Just as complex lace or cable patterns are shown to their best advantage with a plain yarn, so complex yarn is at its best advantage when used with a simple pattern. When the yarn is creating the intetest for you, the pattern should stand back and allow the yarn to show off!

Freeform

Finally, don’t feel the need to be constrained to a pattern. You are making art and have the freedom to explore as you please. If you don’t like it, just pull it back and try something else.

The world of freeform crochet has really taken off over the last few years, and this article explains how hanspun yarn is a perfect match for this art form. Here is an example of a stunning freeform crochet blanket.

I hope you have found inspiration for your beautiful, unique skeins here. I also have a gallery on my facebook page of fantastic creations made from handspun yarn. Please feel free to send me pictures of your work if you would like to futher inspire your fellow crafters.

The Story So Far …

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The Story So Far …

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[Quote by Lexi Boeger.]

It’s just over two months since Story Skeins officially launched. I’m feeling reflective tonight, so I thought I’d write a little blog about it.

This time last year I was working my way through The Artist’s Way as part of the training course I started in 2012. It was challenging in lots of ways. I was challenged to explore my creativity (after having been challenged to think of myself as someone capable of creativity in the first place…). I was challenged to identify my dreams. I was challenged to become more authentically, and wholly, myself. I was challenged to drop some of the artifice I thought I was using to protect myself, but was actually trapping me in the small space I had labelled ‘safe’.

How far I have come in just a year. One of the dreams I identified was to become a yarn maker. Why does it fascinate me so? I guess it’s always been how my creativity has snuck out, even whilst I was denying it and safely labelling myself as someone capable of learning practical skills. I still deeply appreciate the practical skill element of the work I do, but it’s not what fires the heart and soul. That fire is fed by the abundance of possibility. The freedom to play with shape and space, twist and angles and geometry, fibres and textures and wacky inclusions, colours and patterns and combinations, and ideas. Every creation is unique. Every moment is unique. As long as I don’t forget that, I have the excitement of a beginner every single day.

I’ve never liked attention. Making my work public has been one of the biggest challenges for me. Because my approach to my work is very experimental (not just in the spinning, but in the writing and the planning and the kind of projects I explore) I rarely have any sense for whether the work I’ve produced is any good or not. Old me finds that very difficult. I have about three decades behind me which are full of trying to be good and trying to get things right. New me thinks a little differently. New me is excited by the uncertainty. (Old me looks on from the sidelines, wondering WTF is going on.) New me has, to a large degree, given up rushing to judge myself as succeeding or failing. New me just wants to play. Old me just wants to play it safe.

So, I took a risk. I decided to show you all my creations. You may love them, you may not. So far I’ve loved most of what I’ve made. Sometimes right from the start. Sometimes a slow burn. Sometimes not until the moment of completion. Some stuff I’m still not sure about. Every bit of it has taught me something. Being brave enough to put it out there has taught me something. Why brave? Because maybe, if you really look at the things I make, and the way I do it … maybe you’ll see the real me.

Trying New Things

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Trying New Things

So, the adventure begins. Once you have the basics … Can I make yarn? Yes, I can! (Still thrilled by this.) … then the vista of possibilities opens before you.

Want to preserve the colour changes in your yarn? Try navajo plying.

Prefer the barber’s pole effect? Continue with conventional 2- or 3- or more-plying.

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So you’ve tried merino? how about alpaca, or camel, mohair, or vicuna? How about investigating the abundance of the british sheep breeds?

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Maybe you’d rather work with plant fibres? Yes there’s cotton, there’s flax. There’s also bamboo, banana, nettle and ramie.

Prefer synthetics, or recycled, or something even more off-piste? You can spin acrylic, carded sari silk, milk protein fibre, even kevlar!

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You can spin singles, you can spin coils, thick ‘n’ thin yarn, beads, sequins and feathers!

So many possibilities. So much to play with. Such a landscape of imagination to be explored.