Affording The Craft

“You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need.” ~ You Know Who

A few creative ways I’ve obtained the object of my craft other than purchasing:

  1. Test knitting for a yarn store designer in exchange for gift certificates to that store’s fine yarns. I literally walked in after seeing the spectacular hand-dyed yarns and asked, at first was told they had enough testers, but later got a call. Always worth a try.
  2. Being gifted generously donated yarns from a yarn-store owner to continue my ongoing project to donate handknit shawls to moms of critically ill children at the Seattle Ronald McDonald House, since I lived there for a year and these moms are close to my heart.
  3. Turning funds from any commissioned works I make for others into more yarn.

SOURCES FOR THE GOODS

This list is by no means comprehensive, but I am sharing sources here for yarns I’ve enjoyed working with that meet my need for at least some natural fiber in the lower end of the cost range. I believe strongly in the vision of a plastic-free world and supporting shepherds(esses) and independent small businesses hand dying natural fibers. But sometimes a maker should not force themselves to forego a medical appointment, have a delinquent heating bill, or go to the food bank in order to buy yarn. Been there, done that. 2019 is a new opportunity to double down my focus on inflow and outflow and live more in harmony with my means, despite my constant urge to create and make new things.

  • Berroco Yarns – I’m making the Arboreal sweater I intend to gift to my daughter from Berroco Vintage DK, which is at least 40% wool and comes in 288 yard skeins. The color depth is wonderful of the yarns I’ve worked with, and I’ve had zero issues with fiber quality or breakage. Many retailers have sales making many of this company’s wool-acrylic blend yarns in sweater quantity at least under $80 range.
  • KnitPicks – I’ve worked with four of these yarns so far and have enough of the squishy Simply Wool Eco Wool at year-end sale to make the Appalachian Shawl in my 2019 Make Nine. I love Hawthorne Fingering 80% wool/20% polyamide for shawls because it comes in huge yardage (450+!), used in combination with other yarns for colorful pops. (Example photos)

    I loved working with a 50/50 bamboo/merino wool yarn called Galileo because of its shine and soft drape. Sadly had a breakage and ply quality issue with the Mighty Stitch line, which is 20% superwash wool, 80% acrylic I used for baby items. I ended up cutting out sections of yarn in the center of several skeins. Wool of The Andes is highly affordable but is a more rough feel than I like to work with for large-scale projects like a bed-size blanket I started to make. My hands actually hurt after working with the yarn, which does not happen with every natural wool, but maybe I need to toughen up. This is one of my unfinished projects stored. Should I ever attempt a large blanket again, I would go with a superwash or a seamed piece-work approach, since I didn’t think through the fact I had nothing other than a bathtub big enough to hand wash said blanket.

  • Fairlight Fibers and The Woolly Thistle are two affordable ways for folks in the US to obtain wonderful European-sourced fibers, without international shipping.
  • Skeinz – There are over 1,000 breeds of sheep worldwide, but Merino wool that originated with a Royal Spanish flock in the 1700s and 15 sheep on a ship to Australia, turned into a market where today 50% of the world’s Merino is sourced from Australian breeds. Drought and market changes in the 2000s have caused a decline in Australian flocks, but they still produce close to half. Skeinz is a resource for affordable New Zealand wool. I say “affordable,” because the exchange rate for a $6.50 NZ skein is $4.40 USD, but of course you do need to pay for shipping, so it depends how badly you want to work with this quality milled fiber. I have not myself, but I have met a few folks who had decades-old, incredibly well-wearing handknit garments made from New Zealand wool, and it truly feels different than anything I’ve worked with.
  • Cascade Yarns – For a year in my 20s, several years after the Cascade company started I visited their warehouse in Pioneer Square Seattle before I had other responsibilities than to myself, and I took a freelance gig making display garments for LYS owners who purchased a certain quantity of yarn. I’d get home to my studio apartment after a day of work as a receptionist in a health center and stay up until 2 a.m. knitting. Yes, I am now a proud knitting nerd, though at that time just a lonely one. Cascade yarn is truly a workhorse and all their lines have generous yardage for cost of many fiber blends. It’s a great source for sweater quantities, and I’ve used Cascade Heritage for solid color blocks in many shawls.
  • Little Knits – Another Seattle yarn source that has jaw-dropping sales for quality yarns. You just need to get on their email list to be notified of weekly deals.
  • Hobium Yarns – Looking into making a sweater from Kartopu alpaca/acrylic sport yarn from this source, because it’s the lowest cost I’ve seen. But I can’t speak to its quality until I try it. I have heard folks who work most of the time with acrylic like this affordable source for yarn.
  • Fabulous Yarns – I hesitate putting this in any “affordable” category, but I absolutely adore Madelinetosh and Malabrigo Yarns from South America. The colors, the feel! But I rarely can afford them. So the only time I’ve purchased them is in a sale through this source, because I’ve found it to be the most cost-effective I’m aware of with their overall discounts, especially when they are having a targeted sale.

There are many more big vendor online sources like Love Knitting, Webs, Jimmy Beans Wool, etc., but short of creating a phone book, I will stop here.

It’s always a joy to hand feel yarns before you purchase, so whenever possible check out your LYS, but again, note to self, if your choice is food or medicine or yarn, choose food or medicine.

 

 

Creative Intentions

My awesome sister offered a wonderfully helpful two-hour workshop I attended this weekend to assist creatives in getting clear about 2019 dreams for our work and energy. It’s the first time I’ve been able to participate in an offering (due to location and my dog allergies). I’ve always loved seeing her assemblage art creations, but now that I’ve experienced a workshop, I can personally strongly recommend her work to anyone, and not just because she’s family. She’s skilled at facilitating conversations and offering suggestions and support on anyone’s creative journey.

Here’s a quote I chose from the random fortune telling method in Sara’s workshop. Each quote people pulled from a container was based on one general practice focus for creating anything. The practice I pulled was TRUST.

When you write, speak with complete self-trust and do not timidly qualify ….Later, if you find what you wrote isn’t true, accept the new truth. Consistency is the horror of the world.

~ Brenda Ueland

I love and needed that last line very loud and clear. After a period of chaos, I’ve worked so hard to build consistency into my life that the structure is calcifying, soon to turn to stone, rather than fertile space for creativity. And I also needed this because I’ve been brewing a bravely personal blog post that I only want to write if I can make it useful to the theme of hand making. I now feel emboldened to attempt to write down these thoughts in a positive way that may speak to someone else out there who has similar experience.

After the workshop, I was able to clarify two main creative intentions for 2019, with more on back burner just in case I become Wonder Woman overnight and access some unknown superpower that allows me to accomplish more than the first two.

  • Set aside weekly time to explore and play with knit design concepts I have in mind, with a goal of writing and making one solid pattern by year’s end…letting go of pressure to perfect and sell but rather play with inspired design elements. I need to break through this “has to be done this way” barrier I’ve felt with protocols I see successful designers do (hire testers and tech editors) and just get my designs flowing in some form.
  • Host a low-key one-day fiber arts retreat in the woods, open to makers of all abilities. I love to learn about all fiber-related skills and can offer my assistance with beginning knitting. Everyone can be a teacher of what they know best, so I hope to encourage a gathering for anything portable someone wishes to focus on for a day, broken up by nature time, potluck food and conversation.

Back burner intentions.

  • Research cameras and lights for filming tutorials and video podcasts so that I can create high quality knitting and Nature content that engages community. At this time, I don’t have resources to invest, but I can research options.
  • Conduct interviews with local sheep and alpaca farmers and natural dye experts in order to learn from them and share their wisdom.
  • Create and collect questions to post that engage people and build community around what I love about making and knitting.

Next post will be my response to a forum led by Maria of Ninja Chickens from a maker asking where to find affordable wool/yarn to work with, especially when financially constrained. I realized after I shared my ambitious Make Nine 2019 on Instagram that I was going to need to answer that question myself. Buying a large size sweater’s quantity of yarn I’d really love to work with is in the range of $200, and that’s out of reach for many of us. Finding alternatives that still contain wool and natural fiber for under $50 is possible, you just need to know where to look.

My 2019 Word, a Finished Object and WIP

Until I entered the social media knitting world, I never knew what an FO or a WIP was, and I certainly thought a UFO was an unidentified flying object. Today I am happy to show one FO (finished object) and one WIP (work in progress).

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Teroldego Shawl

The Teroldego is a summertime light shawl that is the most unusual shape of any I’ve made, lending itself to creative neckline origami but just wide enough to provide upper arm/shoulder warmth.

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From luxury yarn to au natural sheepy goodness, I’ve been loving the meditative work on the Hedgewitch Shawl. Comments from the knit-along from December’s full moon to the Super Blood Wolf Moon on January 21st seem to show a universal experience with the pattern. Most people, myself included had to take apart and start over the first few rows, because the pattern forces mindfulness as you work the texture design on the back side that shows on the front side. Then once you have the repetition memorized, it’s pure meditation from there.

Hedgewitch is a tribute to the ancestors and the modern wise women (and men) who venture past borders and into the wilds and beyond where all manner of beasts and beings dwell. ~ Nat Raedwulf, Wolf and Faun Knits

I tend to love brilliant color, so this is a departure for me, but I am a nature freak and nothing is better than letting nature be. The more I learn about sheep and appreciate the incredible qualities of wool, it’s been a joyful process to watch and feel the rich earthiness of a natural wool blend I believe was a limited edition of several sheep varieties from Abundant Earth Fibers picked up at their mill last year, followed by the lighter weight but darker toned local alpaca from a mystery alpaca farmer in my area. My shawl will end with a deep gray/black and red border. I am using four colors instead of two contrasting ones called for in the pattern. You know you’re a sheep and fiber arts person when you wax poetic about different “colors,” which look all the world to most folks like tan, tan and tan.

I spent much of 2018 dreaming of becoming a farmer and threw myself into work trading on farms only to decide by year’s end that might be a little too far of a stretch for me to ever own/live on a farm given my not spring chicken body, lack of funds, and allergies to nearly every animal under the sun other than sheep. I mean, most sheep owners benefit from some kind of guard dog for safety of the herd, if not shepherding. Still a dream but not a likely reality. But while I live and work on my imaginary farm, this sturdy Hedgewitch shawl will be the warm wrap I’ll wear daily in the colder months outside.

2019 WORD

WELCOME

Below is a beautiful poem I found on the word I want to work with for 2019 with the intention of bringing more openness to people and opportunities, in addition to greater acceptance of all aspects of myself. I intend to plaster the word on my bathroom mirror, since it took me nearly four decades to stop tearing up every time someone would utter the phrase, “You are welcome here,” or even greet me with “Welcome,” and each time the emotion took me by surprise. So an internal and external welcoming of what is and what can be. I think I’ve finally gotten to the root of why I’ve felt so alien much of my life, but it’s very probable many of us do in a myriad of ways.

I welcome you…

The way the soil opens itself to rain,
and leaves absorb sunlight,
exchanging it for breath.

As a bird spreads its wings to
a rising current of air, sure it will be lifted,
and as the moon partners with the sun,
seeking only to reflect its brilliance.

The way a mother extends her arms to
receive her newborn,
and the stars, pulsing with delight,
receive us in the end.

As the glove receives the hand,
and the heart, though broken, love.

I welcome you.

(Rev. Peter, UU minister)

And because so much fear came up with my word choice, fear of overwhelm if I welcome everyone and everything in my path, fear of being gullible and easily manipulated (as is my nature), I love this quote to keep near:

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

~ Joseph Campbell

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Little Yarn Goes a Long Way

As I start 2019 with no work available, half a usual paycheck, (typical December/ holiday season in my line of work), observing my cold settle into my lungs and trying to prevent a sixth lifetime bout of pneumonia with deep breaths and hydration, I am grieving what I intended my New Year transition to be: Answering request to help harvest/work in food bank garden, time with daughter and nephew.

It takes all manner of patience and faith to believe in a promise of future work, and that I can finally one day break the cycle of so much life energy going to make basics work and paying debt load. Or at least that I can learn to shift my approach and attitude without going into further debt for the latest “fix your relationship with money, self, people and the universe” workshop.

I own my part in debt and own my hard work to do something about it. The one space my situation is paying off is daughter’s college applications. Having nothing combined with brilliance is a winning combo. And the reason why I believe despite it all the universe has my back is that paycheck to paycheck with nothing in bank to support two people is a miraculous existence. Everything we need is provided moment to moment.

It’s just my clinging to the idea I could speed up the process of attaining any way to retire (future worry) and release from debt oppression.

But in knitting, none of these musings matter. Knitting is a place where everything flows peacefully with ease. An abundance of color, beauty, comfort I can give away or keep arises spontaneously.

Other than a few holiday sale supplies to make specific things for specific people, I’m steadfastly working through and giving away my stash to folks in need while postponing bringing new supplies into my life.

Constantly working toward a yarn stash balance and answering inner dialogue:

Q. “How can you simultaneously moan of financial strain while gathering making supplies?”

A. “Knitting is a zone of health and magic making that pays you back tenfold.”

There was a time I paid many times as much for therapy than yarn in a year, so if knitting pays off in ways therapy sometimes cannot, a little yarn goes a long way.

Here’s an oldie but goodie article that talks about health benefits of knitting. After I mail a knitted thank you to a friend for a December kindness, I’m going to make myself another cup of Gypsy Cold Care tea and knit myself back to health.

7 Health Benefits

Holiday Making Wrap-up

Three sheep made for secret family name draw (a knitworthy sister-in-law), thanks to Susan B. Anderson, designer of many adorable knits. I preferred to leave off legs since they won’t stand anyway, and sitting sheep shapes are wonderful. (When someone is deemed “knitworthy,” it means they appreciate the handmade and attention/intention put into an item by the maker).

And finally, an Antler Toque from Tin Can Knits, modified slightly by K1 through back loop, P1 rib and two colors, for daughter’s friend.

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The hat was actually made twice, because in my making frenzy I inadvertently read pattern for small child not adult. It fits my cousin’s baby well (the one who still awaits his mystery blanket).

May all the made items bring the wearer/owner peace and good health. It’s been a wonderful few days off work forced by power outage and continued intentionally to give myself a break, soak up good tidings from the woods and family, and feel more human.

 

Day 21 – Hedgewitch

Compassion is knowing our darkness well enough that we can sit in the dark with others. It never is a relationship between the wounded and the healed. It is a relationship between equals.

– Pema Chödrön, The Places that Scare You

On this Solstice, I have been gifted no electricity for 48 hours (projected), which has forced a much needed break from my paid work and the hum of appliances. It made me reflect on how I mostly live valuing all the things that came before…candles, knitting, wool and walks in the natural world for warmth. Even my daily French press doesn’t rely on electricity as long as I can boil water.

Electricity is great for many things, mostly earning money. Not having it got me out to my local library to charge my phone to complete this post. And I met folks I wouldn’t normally meet, all sitting around the modern firepit of phone chargers. But really all the things that bring me joy are not brought to me by electricity. And sleeping a night without Wi-Fi and having a day of walking around instead of typing at the desk seems to have reset my natural energy, like going to a spa.

Join in, if you’re interested for the Hedgewitch Shawl that’s being knit as a KAL from full moon tomorrow to full moon January. Due to holidays, this is a no pressure KAL for deadline. I figured I would join in using all the natural wool of my stash: Undyed Abundant Earth Fiber wool, a local alpaca named Billie, dark Peruvian alpaca, in addition to a deep red Merino for accent.

I intended to post daily for December, but the Darkest Month Project feels fitting to end today. I surprised myself by having enough knits to highlight from 2018 for all these days (except the 19th when I was too busy).

I wish everyone a blessed turning toward the light and entry into 2019.

Day 20 – Gnoming

As we head into the longest night tonight, with Winter Solstice officially in my region at 2:22 p.m. tomorrow, and the wind whipping up a wet storm outside, I can think of nothing more delightful than to knit up some gnomes.

This is something I’ve always wanted to do but never have, and now that I’ve made one, many more will come into being. What a wonderful way to bring joy to people using small bits of yarn I already have. This guy is stuffed with fiberfill and after having difficulty getting him to stand on his own, I can see why stuffing them with something of more weight in their center of gravity is important. Rather than buy plastic pellets (dear God, save us from plastic), I am going to try rice or barley and assume critters won’t get to them if they are stored well.

You can find this pattern thanks to Sarah Schira’s Never Not Gnoming genius. I feel an addiction coming on.

Gnomes originated it is believed in 1800s Germanic folklore, and are found in writings going farther back in the 1600s. Similar figures are found in many cultures often living underground or guarding Earth’s treasures and aiding farmers and tenders of Earth.  There seems to be a shapeshifting element to some of the traditions, where despite being only a few inches tall can have astounding strength to either help or harm humans, depending on how well the humans are working with the Earth elements. Nisse of Denmark and Norway are one such figure, which this delightful podcaster I follow describes well in this episode.