Category Archives: 30 days of fiber

Follow me as I post for 30 days about my love of all things fibery.

Weaving (Not the Hugo Kind)

I start every hobby/craft I’ve acquired in recent times* with the words “Well, its nice to look at, but its too ______” (expensive, time consuming,  not my thing, etc).  Fast forward to a few months later, and I find myself peering at articles, or looking at tools, and before I know it…boom! I’m buying some fiber and a spindle, or a used spinning wheel, or something.

For the past year or so its been weaving that’s been in the back of my head. I kind of thought you needed a fancy loom – and those guys are expensive.  About three months ago, I was at my parents house, and going through some old books. One of them, an old art textbook called “ArtTalk” which is from the 90s or so, and probably stolen from my high school, had an article on weaving that made it seem easy – you just needed some household materials. I did some more research, and yes, lots of people start weaving with just cardboard, string and a needle. Hooray!

The book that started the dream of cheap experimentation.

I’m going to play around with it – with the goal of playing, without actually spending any extra cash, and using materials I already have.  One of the things I tend to fall prey to is the “Buy the BEST tools because if you don’t your work will suck” line of thinking. Its something that I really fell hard for when I first got into spinning, and while I love my wheel, I’m trying to move on from tool-snobbery, and embrace entry level playing.

In the meantime, since I have nothing to show except a ton of research I’ve done, I thought I’d share my three favorite sites that have get-started articles:

  • This article at Craftystylish by “Sister” Diane (from Craftypod) outlines the method I chose to go with – cardboard, yarn, needle.  She also wrote a book called “Weaving Unloomed” which I’m eager to get – again, provided I enjoy it.
  • If there’s anything Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood can’t do, I don’t really want to know. She actually sells peg looms that are something I would think about getting if my goals for playing around weren’t “get started with what you have.”  This article, though, on how to make a book loom is incredible. As I also have books, and Mr. Linus Hates Me has nails and a hammer, this might be my second thing to try.
  • Saori Style Vacation Loom – Is a great, slightly more artsy look at the cardboard loom. If you want to look at other types of Saori weaving, and its something I absolutely plan to do because it looks so interesting, you can check out Pam’s other post on the subject. The two actually kind of go together.

Oh, by the way, paper? You’re next.

*Also: Parenthood.


This is day 16 of 30 days of Fiber. To see all posts, visit here.

Do it when you can*

A few weeks ago, I started rewatching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (extended edition, natch) on DVD.  It took me two days to get through the Fellowship of the Ring, because it is long.  I am old enough that an hour and a half after I turned it on, it was time for me to go to bed.

I was reminded, though, that less than five years ago, I once watched the entire trilogy in one day while working on a shawl. That’s like, a bazillion hours of movie, and a billion hours of knitting.  I’m not so lucky now – on a regular good day, I might get an hour or two of crafting at night and on a bad day I just think about how I wish I had time to knit, only to fall asleep before I can.

Seeing that I’m writing instead of knitting, I’ll just leave it at: Do it when you can.


This is me seizing the minute. About two minutes after this was taken, I'm pretty sure I had to wipe a nose or something.

*I really like double entendres.

This is day 15 of 30 days of Fiber. To see all posts, visit here.

Meet (Make Peace with, if not Enjoy) Math

I love all things science and math related.    No math genius was I, but I typically got great math grades in school, and several of my former jobs involved math and measurement and formulas*.  I think because of how I had to use math in my professional life, when I first started knitting I really tried to avoid math in my fiber arts adventures.

Tried is the operative word here, because in knitting, there are a few things you can’t get around – counting, being the main one. If you want a garment to fit, for example, you either have to find a yarn and some needles that give you the exact gauge (sizing) a pattern calls for, or you are going to have to do some math. If you want to create your own pattern, without the pain of making something and then having it not fit the human (or dog, or cat, or whatnot) you intend it to fit, you’re probably going to have to do some math.

While I know some knitters who will go to absurd lengths to avoid most knitting related math problems, I’d come to terms with the basics. I still haven’t quite made a few jumps that I want to make – tackling some challenges related to pattern design involve projecting numbers and while I know I’m capable of doing the work, I’m not really there to want to do the work yet**. However, about two years after I came back to knitting, I’d made some peace with the fact that I would probably have to do some math (it most definitely helped that I left the number crunching job behind). I think the challenge for some people is not that they are Math is Hard Barbie, but that its not just an abstract set of numbers they’re working – its real numbers with real implications for how their work will turn out. The stress isn’t “Will I make the grade?” but “Will this hat fit on my head or not?” There’s almost something to be said for stuff in theory rather than applying it to your actual daily life.

When I started spinning, I knew that there were some math-y applications, but I didn’t really make the connection that to spin yarn I would have to use as much – if not more – math than I did in knitting.  For the non-spinner reading this*** spinning wheels come with different sized grooves in the wheels and other parts that make the wheel spin (called whorls) and the wheel spins faster or slower depending on which size you choose to use.

When I started spinning, I figured out pretty intuitively that small grooves = fast and large grooves = slow, and the thinner the yarn I wanted the smaller a groove I needed to use. That was that!**** It wasn’t until I started getting more involved in spinning that I realized that there were things I would need to know – things that involved math.  Things like if you want to make a certain type of yarn, or make a consistant yarn, you have to keep track of things like twist angle, twists per inch and wheel ratios.

I realized it, but I didn’t pay attention to it until very recently, when I decided that I wanted to get better at it, that I wanted to be able to plan my projects ahead, or even do off the cuff work better.  I hadn’t paid attention to the math, and I had a very uneasy relationship with it – I knew I needed to start paying attention to the math-yness of what I was doing, but I kind of didn’t want to, because it felt like it took away from the spontaneity of the craf.

Spinning – like I mentioned in the post about the Awesome Yarn that was Made of Fun – can be spontaneous and freeing and a lot of fun. Bringing planning and math and formulas and (god forbid) knowledge took away from the free feeling that working at my wheel gave me.

Or did it?

Lately, I’m encouraging myself to try new things, and one of them is to get over the hump – the unwillingness – to incorporate math in my spinning. I’m starting by doing some experiments with some fiber that I have a LOT of. Like I’ve mention before, its my “good” stuff – really really good stuff – and I’m challenging myself to experiment and play with it, but also to really get to learn what I DID to the fiber by pulling out the math tools that other spinners use and using them myself.

I started that tonight by taking the fruits of my first experiment and measuring them – how many wraps per inch, what the twist angle was, what the twist per inch of the singles was, and how much it appeared I was drafting per each turn of the wheel. And you know what?

Spinning Worksheet

My little worksheet, with the yarn.

I loved it. It was frustrating, it was challenging, and most of all, it was really empowering. To know what I have, and what I have done – not just intuitively, like “I put this here and that there,” but mathematically, makes me feel like – if this version is the one I want to use the rest of the fiber for – than I can do it. I can reproduce my work without having to guess at it.

I’m both making peace with AND enjoying spinning math.



*My title was Director of Metrics, which to this day I can’t figure out if it was cool or shameful.

**It totally occurs to me that just by saying that, it makes me want to drop everything I’m doing and get the damm problems done with already.


****”That was that!” encompasses several months of failure and sadness, which we will discuss at some point.


This is day 10 of 30 days of Fiber. To see all posts, visit here.

The Awesome Yarn, That was Made of Fun

This morning, I woke up to two beyooootiful dollops of yarn on my bedside table. These two dollops:

I woke up to these this morning. Not a bad sight.

Saturday was…a productive day, in that I worked on a sock, finished some yarn balls, and – oh, right – went hiking with the family. But it was one of those days where I was just kind of bored with what I was doing.  Productivity be dammed, I wanted to do something fun and interesting and stripey socks for the husband were not that thing. Some of the posts in my 30 days of fiber have been things I’ve learned, but there is one that I often forget, and I expect I’ll be posting about a lot:


As part of my quest to do more, and enjoy more, in my crafty adventures, I had pulled out a batt I bought from Color by Nature’s Studio at the Omaha Spinner’s and Weavers Guild Show last December.  I’d been sitting on it – waiting, as with much of my stuff, until I got better to use it. Since I have discussed before why this is stupid, I won’t go into it.

Anyway, Saturday, while my husband was watching Nebraska (almost) lose horribly to that other team, I finished spinning the yarn. Because I was playing, I spun randomly – for the most part, I spun much fluffier on Saturday and the day before than I had the first few days of spinning the batt.*   I had wanted to reverse core spin it – which means wrapping thread around the single – but I hadn’t thought of it in time. So I let it sit, even though I wasn’t happy about it.

Then, I was in my office when I realized I still had some earlier, lace weight singles on a bobbin, as they hadn’t gotten used. An idea clicked in my brain, and so I pulled the wheel back out, and spun the two together.  The laceweight I held straight out from the wheel, while the fluffly newly spun stuff was held at a 90 degree angle to that.

I was in heaven. It was the most fun I had ever had, spinning, since I have learned that I can make my own yarn and actually have it not look like something my cat barfed up.


I was seriously in a flow situation, where you don’t realize how much time is truely passing. I ended up running out of laceweight right at the point that my spun yarn got to be a little less thick, but I took that off the bobbin and finished it at the same time as my lumpy bumpy yarn.

I’m in love with both of them in different ways, and I can’t wait to make something with them. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there’s things I’d do differently, but on the whole, I really like the result. All from playing.

Isn’t that great?

*One of my ongoing goals is to spin a nice, worsted weight single, like  Malabrigo or Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride. I know a lot of spinners are keen on laceweight but for some reason, I just want to spin a nice worsted – probably so I can knit what I spin sometime in the future.



This is day 8 of 30 days of Fiber. To see all posts, visit here.

More or less?

I have done the following things today:

1. Worked on a sock

2. Finished spinning some yarn

3. Made another ball

4. Made a swatch for a hat

I still don’t feel like I’ve done enough. Good or bad?

Edit: I would like to add #5:

Made some kick ass yarn. More tomorrow, but seriously?I want to marry it:

Love. I think I'll love it more when it gets dry and I can use it.

Now THAT is accomplishing more.


This is day six of 30 days of Fiber. To see all posts, visit here.

If you haven’t finished it in a few months, you probably never will

This is just a short thought for Friday, as I sit and stare across my office at a scarf that I worked on last year in an attempt to use up some silk yarn that I had. Peach silk yarn. What possessed me to purchase peach silk yarn….I don’t know. I think it reminded me of peach ice cream, which made me hungry, which made me buy it. And now?I have a half done peach silk scarf that possibly will never be worn by me or anyone else, sitting on a bookself, and staring at me all day long.  I moved it from my purse to my shelf thinking I would be motivated to give it a whirl, but really?

Really. It’s never going to happen. Like the ex that sucks, who you consider going back to every once in a while when you get lonely or bored, its probably not worth it. And here comes a short lesson, and one not even worthy of pictures:

Unless you are knitting something that truly – truly!- should take more than a year to finish, and you have been “working” on something for that long, and its just sitting somewhere, you are not going to finish it. Ever.

Frog it, Rip it,Pass it on or Thow it away.

This is day 5 of 30 days of Fiber. To see all posts, visit here.

Use your good stuff

When I buy yarn or spinning material, I buy some good stuff – blended batts, handspun cashmere yarn, a skein of handdyed sock yarn I coveted for a year and a half – and then I buy workhorse material. Workhorse material is more like stuff you pick up, and while its not bright green acrylic boucle,* its stuff you wouldn’t mind messing up, because there is always more.

The problem is, when it comes time to play – experiment, try new things, or dive into something I am not good at yet – I always pull out the workhorse stuff and find myself giving up. It’s boring and uninspiring, mostly because in my head I’m thinking about using The Good Stuff, but I won’t because I don’t want to mess it up.

I can recall listening to a Cast On years ago, where Brenda Dayne talked about making sure you use your Good Stuff because if you don’t, you probably won’t ever think your good enough to use it, and I remember thinking “Ugh, I totally can relate to this.” But I kept on doing just that – saving my “Good stuff” for things I knew how to do well, while using my workhorse or “practice” materials on new stuff and not being happy with the result.

Lately I’ve been trying to go against my own flow and USE the stuff I’ve been holding back on – not just to practice new ideas but just to make whatever. The balls that I referenced in yesterday’s post? Cashmere that’s been sitting around for three years waiting to be used. Just today I took out a batt I was “waiting” to use for “when I got better” and just started spinning:

I have no idea what the next step will be or what it’ll look like, but I feel so much more inspired using stuff that I *WANT* to use rather than waiting for the perfect moment to come along. The perfect moment, the perfect set of skills, the perfect pattern – its all imaginary. It won’t ever come unless you use your stuff.

*My husband once bought me a box of yarn for Christmas. Which is, to a knitter, the MOST AWESOME GIFT EVER. However, one of those balls was bright green acrylic boucle. He wanted a hat. I wanted to cry. I made it and it was too big and he looked like Mushmouth when he wore it. DO NOT give your wife lime green acrylic boucle, gents. Just don’t.

This is day four of 30 days of Fiber. To see all posts, visit here.

Play Ball

This isn’t too in depth, but one of the things I’ve started doing is knitting up balls and doing different things to them. Felting, stringing them on yarns, drawing on them with other yarn (I just can’t call what I’m doing “embroidery” because its too childish). They are addictive, and are great because each time I make one, I feel inspired to do something different with it.

In a way, they represent possibility, in a way that maybe a sweater or a shawl can’t. There’s not a lot of investment on not making them wonky, or mess them up, because they take about an hour to make, maybe less. Having that little of a time investment makes me eager to try new things without being afraid that I’ll totally screw the pooch with them.

A Christmas Ornament Made from a Cashmere Ball

This is Day 3 of 30 days of Fiber. To read all the days, visit here.

Be prepared to look ridiculous

“You look ridiculous,” my mother said yesterday when she walked in the door.

I did look ridiculous, maybe because of this hat (see below) that I made out of scraps and more scraps. It could have been because it was 70 degrees out and I was wearing the hat, along with a shawl and my German girl clogs.

I like this picture because I not only clash with myself, but I look incredibly happy about doing so.

Really, though, when I first started knitting, about 8 years ago, I can remember bringing in a sweater I made out of some sort of orange furry yarn in to my office (the was back when I worked in an office) and asking a colleague if I should wear it.

“NO,” she said. “DO NOT WEAR THAT HERE*. In fact, I would probably not wear that anywhere but home.”Another coworker nodded in agreement.

I was embarrassed, never wore it again, and gave it away to the Goodwill when I moved to Omaha.

I’ve thought about that reaction a lot.  For a while I thought it was because my newfound knitting skills were subpar, and I would never make anything wearable. Then I thought it was because orange fuzzy yarn and I are not friends. Looking back I think it was more that the sweater was obviously not storebought, orange fuzzy yarn not being “in season,” and the person telling me not to wear it was obviously not into clothing items not bought in stores.

I now think if you’re going to make your own stuff, and you want to a) not just make copies of things that are available in stores and b) want to experiment, you have to be prepared to look ridiculous from time to time. You look ridiculous when you’re in love. When you’re in love with what you make, looking ridiculous is ok.

*I’m pretty sure by “here” she meant “in the area around where I am so people won’t think we are friends.”

This is Day two of my 30 Days of Fiber. To see all the posts, visit here.


Stash Diving Can Create the Unexpected

I have more fiber and yarn than I need, and I don’t think I’ve stepped foot in a yarn store in 2011*. I’ve been focusing on using yarn that I’ve purchased in my salad days of being single and spending ridiculous amounts of money on yarn.

I try to match up my yarn to projects I want to work with, but I don’t always have enough.  Take this sock:

Stash Sock

Its still in process, but while stash diving, I found two half balls of sock yarn that I had bought very early in my knitting career.  They have made regular socks, but since my feet are small, there was enough for more socks – but not two matching socks. So I striped the self striping yarn, blue and orange together. I alternately love and hate them – sometimes I look at the colors and the pattern and I love it, sometimes I don’t.

Self Striping Striped Pattern

My husband saw me making them and claimed them for his own at just the right time, so they are slightly bigger than originally planned.  After I finished the first one, I put it on his foot to make sure it fit, and he smiled and said “These are SO cool.”

So I guess they are. What’s more, its given me permission to play with my stash, instead of blindly matching the yarn up to projects.

This is day one of my 30 days of Fiber project. To see all the posts, visit 30 Days of Fiber.