I maintained (& still do) that what I do is more properly called "fulling," which harkens back to the days when blanket weavers would boil their woven wool blankets. The hot water caused the wool threads to swell, creating a fabric that was smooth, dense, & very strong. Fulled wool feels nicer on the skin (less itchiness) & the denser fabric was also warmer.
"Felting," on the other hand, uses unspun wool roving which is created by building up thin layers of roving, alternating the direction of the fibers on each layer. Thin felt may only contain two layers, thick felt (such as you might use for a felt hat) is generally 6 alternating layers, or more. This mat of loose fibers is then subjected to the hot soapy water & a hand agitation process which causes the layers to adhere to one another.
In creating most of my felt handbags, I begin by knitting or crocheting the wool yarn into a fabric (similar to the process of the weaver). This is a fabric, in & of itself, that is functional even before the fulling process. The mat of unspun roving is not usable unless it is felted. Once I have the knitted/crocheted fabric completed, my washing machine filled with hot soapy water provides the agitation & the last cold water rinse.
Check out this link to see a comprehensive step-by-step demonstration on felting wool - http://www.ebsqart.com/artMagazine/za_287.htm
One of my great joys is networking with other knit designers, Etsy shop owners, & yarn nuts of every stripe. It's an international community of creative friends that I can rely on for inspiration, advice, & just a little entertaining chit chat (because a woman cannot live on yarn alone). LOL Come join the fun & "tag" someone you love today.
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself: some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.
2. I am a seasoned veteran in the "battle of the bulge," but have never mastered the art of knitting while exercising.
3. I'm a "vocational adventurer." I've owned a bar, sold advertising, been a barber, a private eye for attorneys, & an artist (to name a few), but I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
4. If you are a Chinese Pug, I want you to come live with me.
5. I've rebuilt & restored 3 Volkswagen Beetles - with my own two hands.
6. I have a passion for High-Fashion & would pay a $1,000 for a Dolce & Gabanna sweater - if I didn't know how to knit something like it myself.
7. My favorite flower is the rose & I have over 125 varieties in my garden.
Tagging 7 People
1. Kibbles 'n Knits who, like me, has a hard time balancing a desire to make art, a desire to make money from art, and housekeeping
2. Camanomade, who creates gorgeous handspun yarn & writes one of the greatest informational blogs ever!
3. Dreamwoven, with her unique style of "wearable art" hats like you've never seen before.
4. Home Made Originals who shares my love of beautiful felted handbags.
5. Wooldancer whose handspun & hand painted designer yarns are simply out of this world.
6. sockprOn, whose forte is socks, of course, but also makes & sells exquisite stitch markers & is an generous promoter of other Etsy artists.
7. The Funky Felter , with her funky felt hats & more. Check out her funky felted rings & pendants. Where does she come up with these ideas?? Awesome.
I've been knitting & felting like a woman possessed in a valiant effort to get my Fall lineup of clothing, bags & accessories to market in time for the Christmas gift fairs that are starting to come down the pipe. Our local art/craft market is down to it's final three Saturdays & the gift fairs will step in to claim the remaining Saturdays through the end of November. This has been a great market season for me. Sales are up & I'm seeing more repeat business. Custom orders are up, too, & although I couldn't be happier, it does mean that it's becoming more difficult to keep up the pace.
It's a bit of a balancing act, too. On the one hand, I want to make & sell as much as I can, while I can, before the post-Christmas doldrums set in. On the other, I know that if I rush my work, I risk losing that creative edge that makes it special & in demand. For example, I whipped up this short-sleeve shell sweater from some gorgeous wool blend handspun that's been lingering in my stash for ages.
It's a basic pattern, rendered in simple stockinette stitch, on size 11 needles, that even a beginning knitter can bang out in a couple of evenings. While I was happy with the finished sweater & knew it would probably sell (fabulous texture & a nice neutral color), it lacked an element of uniqueness - that special designer's touch that can't be found in an off-the-rack sweater at Ross (& for a much lower price).
I toyed with the idea of embellishment with novelty fibers, embroidery, buttons...everything I auditioned seemed to overshadow the exquisite texture of the handspun yarn & all were discarded. At a loss for an idea, I hung this sweater in the closet & turned my attention to other projects.
As often happens, when I stop trying to force my art, inspiration comes...& often comes from unlikely sources. We have a little charity thrift shop in my town & its specialty is clothing. I frequently shop there for garments that I can cannibalize for fancy buttons or sweaters to frog to recycle the yarn. On this particular day, however, there's was nothing worth the paltry $3.00 price tag - but I didn't go home empty-handed. I noticed an extraordinary amount of turtleneck sweaters on the rack that day & it reminded me that I hadn't designed a single one for the new Fall line. Bingo!
I rushed home & dug out the last remaining ball of that great handspun yarn & voila....
Okay, so putting a turtleneck on it isn't particularly unique, but the way I added it is. You see, I didn't pick up & knit that turtleneck onto the sweater. I knitted it separately, like a circular scarf, & left it unattached. Now, this little shell is convertible & offers the option of two separate looks that can easily go from Winter into Spring. With just this simple addition, I think I've added real value to this garment & it's now something that I'll be proud to put on sale on the web site or for the next market day.
Isn't it amazing how a simple addition like this can really make the garment? I love these little "Eureka!" moments.
So, what are we to do? One possibility (& the one that I recommend) is to turn semi-professional & sell those beautiful creations instead of giving them all away. It really isn't all that difficult or costly to turn your hobby into a nice little part-time business & there's several terrific advantages to it.
The first advantage is that as soon as your handmades have a dollar value - Eureka! - your relatives & friends will look at your gifts in a whole new light. Funny how knowing that you could have sold that sweater for cold hard cash makes your friends & relatives downright glad to get it. It's screwy, I know, but that's how it seems to work.
The second advantage is to your wallet. Even if you don't make a good return on your labor when you first start selling (& you probably won't), at least you will recoup the cost of your yarn & supplies. And, that means you can waltz on down to the yarn shop to buy the yarn for your next creation - without guilt & without breaking the household budget. This is a wonderful thing. Once you've built a reputation & a following of customers, you'll be able to command a decent profit on your labor. Until then, selling your creations will at least give you enough cash flow to feed your yarn buying habit & a little to boot. What's not to like about that?
The third advantage is to your ego. Until you experience it, you can't imagine the thrill of hearing compliments on your work from perfect strangers. And, there's no bigger compliment than to have that perfect stranger dig out their wallet to spend hard-earned cash on something you made. Take it from me...you'll be walking on air the first time it happens...& the next...& the next.
The fourth advantage (& my husband's personal favorite) is the tax advantage that comes from a home-based business. Don't misunderstand...the IRS has specific guidelines as to what constitutes a bona fide business & what is just a "hobby," but even part-time businesses can deduct the expenses of doing business. Even if all it does is cancel out the income tax obligation on the money you make, it's a great thing, & worth the bookkeeping. Get the advice of a tax consultant to get your business off on the right foot & keep the IRS happy.
Finding a marketplace for your creations isn't all that tough, either. My first suggestion is to get yourself some business cards, carry them with you at all times, & pass them out like candy. Take a look at the sidebar on the right side of this page. There's a link there for Vistaprint. It's the company I use & I highly recommend them. They give you 250 business cards FREE...yep, FREE...just to try them out. There's a small charge for shipping (like, five bucks). If you can find a better deal than that, please let me know. I purchase 500 at a time. Cost is $3.99 plus shipping. When I first went into business I purchased the blank business card stock & printed my own on the computer. I think it ended up costing me something in excess of $20 for 100 cards, after figuring in the cost of printer ink. Not the smartest move I ever made. Now you know why I use Vistaprint. LOL
Ok, with business cards in hand, put on the nicest example of your work (that cardigan sweater, felted purse, hat & scarf, whatever) & go out trolling for compliments. The minute that checker at Safeway says, "Gee, that's a nice whatever," hand her your business card & say, "Thank you! I made it myself. Shall I make you one?" The technique works! I've made felted purses for: a clerk at my post office, a barrista at my favorite Starbucks; my hairdresser; & my doctor's receptionist, just to name a few.
Find out about your local farmer's market, craft market, & gift fairs. The cost to have a booth is generally very low & I've had good experiences in all of these venues. Online opportunities for marketing your creations include: Craigslist, eBay, & Etsy. Personally, eBay has worked the best for me, but Craigslist is FREE & Etsy charges a mere 20 cents to list your item for sale - so there's nothing much to lose from trying all three. There's a link in the sidebar to Etsy. Check it out.
Last suggestion is to enlist the public relations skills of friends & family. Give them some of your business cards & ask them to pass them out for you, too. Plant enough seeds out there & something is bound to grow!
Questions? Comments? Feel free to get in touch with me. If you'd like to turn your hobby into a business, I'm pulling for you!
"I'm a bit miffed that it would only take you 3 hours to knit when it took me Much longer. However, you did note that the scarf was double knitted, right? I don't want people to think that I'm Molasses in January (smile) over just plain (stocking stitch) knitting."
Quite right, Marie, it would be unfair to tag you with the label of "slooooow knitter!" Double knitting takes...surprisingly enough...DOUBLE the amount of time (GIGGLE) & I haven't a clue how to accomplish that on the knitting machine. My interpretation of your beautiful scarf employed straight stockinette. The resulting fabric is not as dense & perhaps not as warm for your Pennsylvania winters, but I prefer the better drape & less bulk of the lighter fabric, anyway.
I'm glad for your comment, Marie, because it brings up an important point that I neglected to mention in previous posts.... It is not always easy to convert a handknitting pattern to machine knitting. So for the person who's only comfortable working straight from a pattern, using a combination of machine & hand knitting may not be in the cards. I consider myself a "free form" knitter (crochet, too) & am very experimental. If something just isn't working, I'll rip it out & do it again. Fortunately, with the speed of the machine, ripping out & redoing something isn't the onerous job it was with handknitting (who the heck doesn't mind ripping out 20 hours of hand work? I'd rather fall on my knitting needles!)
"Something I would like you to address on the machine knitting, the quality of machine knitting. Sometimes the knitting comes out too tight or too perfect. How do you seamlessly switch between the machine and your stitches? Wouldn't there be a line running between the two?"
There can be an unhappy line showing where you stopped the machine knitting & picked up the stitches on conventional needles, BUT with a experience comes the ability to be able to choose the right size needles to closely match the gauge of the machine stitches to your own tension & way of working by hand. Then, too, I find that I'll switch at a point where any difference is either minimal or will be camouflaged by later embellishments. For example, I may use the machine only for knitting that 3" of 1-1 ribbing & then switch to regular needles to make the increases & start a pattern stitch on the body of the sweater. Or, perhaps, knit the ribbed band & stockinette on the body up to that point where I'm going to add an intarsia design or begin a Fairisle yoke. Does that make sense?
Thanks for the comment & question, Marie. And, again, super job on the Big Dipper scarf. I love it!
Have been digging in & working furiously on my fall line of felted purses, hats, gloves, & the designer sweaters. That single minded focus has really paid off, too. I've finished:
- a nice green, rolled brim felt hat
- a pair of convertible Fairisle mittens
- a couple of scarves
- a nice felted tote/handbag I call "Danube"
- a cabled woman's sz. medium "T" in wheat color silk/rayon
- a woman's sz. medium intarsia sweater in autumn color leaves & grapes design
- An infant sz. 6 mos. cardi & beret in a yummy plum color silk blend
Still, I am able to invest less time in many of my projects than the average knitter simply because I'm not above turning to my trusty knitting machine(s) to accomplish the very straightforward portions of a project, such as stockinette & 1-1 ribbing. I personally find this sort of knitting tedious. I'm far too eager to get on with the detail work & embellishing that makes my designs distinctly my own to spend hours on such routine knitting. Aside from the Fairisle & intarsia projects, most of my creations will be knitted in part on the machine & I make no apologies for it.
Now, I know that there's some purists out there who might wag their finger & argue that I can't honestly say that my creations are "handknits" when I've used the machine for parts of them. Frankly, I think that's just a lot of hogwash. It's my opinion that using the machine is just a matter of using another tool - no different than using a circular needle instead of double-points or straight needles because it's the easier or faster method. Knitting on the machine is still "handknitting" - it's my unique design & I have my hands all over it from cast-on to finished creation...ergo, it's "handknitted." Perhaps I'd hold a different opinion if I were using one of those whizbang electronic knitters that you simply feed in a pattern, set up the yarn, & turn it on to knit the project all by itself. Then I suppose there'd be a basis for argument there. I don't have anything that sophisticated.
I currently have two knitting machines. The Singer Memomatic 327 works well for fingering to sport weight yarns. The Singer LK-100 (considered a "hobby" knitting machine) works well for worsted, chunky & some novelty yarns. Both machines are older, used, & I bought them on eBay for a song. They are, without doubt, two of the best investments I've ever made. They've saved me hours & hours of precious time & allowed me to spend a greater amount of time on the truly creative aspects of my work. Speeding right though that tedious ribbing or 14" of stockinette on a sweater has also resulted in more finished projects & fewer UFO's (un-finished objects). That's a winning combination for me.
If you're like me & take no pleasure in knitting 3" of 1-1 rib or two thirds of a sweater in stockinette stitch, I suggest you look into the joys of machine knitting. There's a great Yahoo forum, too, that you can turn to for more information & advice on machines. Go here & sign up. You'll thank me later...
EzineBlog.ORG is a fun site that talks about everything from science to entertainment. If you review their blog, they’ll link to it and help increase your page rank!
Ohh, and while you’re at it you can browse through the 100% ad-free postings about current events, commentary from posters, and more.
Check it out here
Taking a little break from the yarns & needles this weekend to travel to Hot Springs, Arkansas (former home of the Clinton's). This is quite the adventure for me. I haven't stepped foot in the "South" since a short 6-mo. stint at Ft. Benning, Georgia in 1968 as an army wife. It's taken almost 40 years for the memories of that rather unpleasant experience to pass & for something to come along to encourage my return. That "something" was another birthday & the creeping realization that, before too many more moons go by, I'll be signing up for AARP & claiming that paltry senior discount at my favorite restaurants. Now...if that was a senior discount at my local yarn shop, it might be something to actually look forward to! Still, I suppose it's good to begin thinking about such things, since the alternative to old age is death (& I'd rather not think about that at all).
Long story short...I stumbled upon information about Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, a rather large, gated, golf & recreation community being developed & sold through NRPI (National Recreational Properties, Inc.). Wrote away for the brochures...liked what I saw...particularly liked the low cost of living in Arkansas...& accepted NRPI's offer to fly me & my husband out there for a little look-see at their expense.
Yesterday was spent taking off our shoes & baring our souls in airport security lines & drinking bad airline coffee for the 5 hour flight from Seattle to Little Rock (by way of Dallas). This is an exhausting trip for anyone - it's grueling for someone who's still shamefully addicted to cigarettes, as I am. We had a 1 hour layover in Dallas, so I dashed outside for 1/2 a smoke & paid the price by having to go through the security line again to get back in. I could rant for an hour about the injustice & persecution perpetrated on smokers, but it'd probably fall on deaf ears, so I won't....another rant for another time.
When we left Seattle it was a perfect 68 degrees & blue skies. We arrived in Little Rock to 97 degrees & humidity so oppressive it was hard to breathe. NRPI put us up in the Doubletree in downtown Little Rock, right next door to the old Statehouse building & just down the road from the Clinton Library. The whole riverfront area has undergone a gentrification project concurrent with the building of the presidential library & there's some very nice parks, museums, & upscale restaurants in what's known as The Market District. Unfortunately, no amount of building renovation & fancy facades can hide the poor who live beneath the underpasses & along the river revetments. We have a very nice view of the river (& the homeless) from our hotel room. I suppose I shouldn't find this the least bit surprising. We are, after all, looking here because of the low cost of living as well as the advertised attractiveness of the Hot Springs Village enclave. Since low wages & high unemployment often go hand-in-hand with low cost of living, I suppose the view from our hotel room should have been expected. Sad to see it all the same.
Now, as to our accommodations...I have to say that I'm more than a little disappointed & greatly surprised by a Doubletree (Hilton Hotel) suffering such neglect. The room was reasonably nice, clean, & the beds comfortable, but the draperies would not open & I had ask TWICE for ashtrays for this "smoking" room. The common areas are certainly not up the standards of other Hilton Hotels I've visited. The lobby furnishings were in disarray - coffee cups & old newspapers littered the cocktail tables, & the enormous expanses of floor-to-ceiling windows are positively grimy. There were no less than 6 couples & 3 airline crew all standing in line to check in - with a single desk clerk.
We chose to dine in the hotel the night of our arrival. In spite of the fact that there were less than 15 people in the dining room, we sat & sipped at our water for over 15 minutes before the waitress (who'd obviously never waited tables before in her life) came to take our order. I tired of waiting for my appetizer (soup) & coffee after about 15 min. & went outside for a 10 min. cigarette break. And, in case you're wondering why we didn't ask our waitress about the status of our order, it's because she promptly disappeared after taking it. The main course finally came shortly after my return - the soup never did - the coffee came after a second request - the cream after the 3rd request. Needless to say, the young lady did not receive much of a tip.
I decided to try cooling off in the pool. All I can say is...YUCK! The pool filter was broken & the water did not look clean. There was an enormous amount of old cigarette butts around the pool - really old - I'd wager no one has used a broom out there in weeks. It was after dark & there wasn't a single light on in the pool or in the surrounding area. It wasn't just yucky, it was creepy out there. Since there wasn't another soul swimming when the temp was still 87 degrees, I can only assume I'm not the only guest that decided to take a pass on the pool.
Under normal circumstances, I would bring these things to the attention of the hotel manager, but since we're here as guests of NRPI, I believe I'll discuss it with them, instead. They're paying good money to accommodate their prospective customers in this hotel. Surely, they would prefer that their customers are happy, comfortable, & in a "buying" mood when they wake up tomorrow. I can't believe my husband & I are the only ones disappointed with the accommodations.
Part II tomorrow- we take the tour of Hot Springs Village....
I think it might help if I were the type of artist who comes up with an original design for, say, a purse & then proceeded to make a half dozen. That's more methodical & probably even more efficient, particularly for an artist, like me, whose focus is on selling her works & making a living. But, that's neither the way I work or, in fact, want to work. Here, again, I see evidence of the ADD. I NEVER do two of anything in a row. I just can't do it. I grow bored half way through the second one & it ends up in that great stash of "projects I'll finish someday." For example, the one project I have completed is a really nice rolled-brim felt hat - part of the new Fall designs. I like the design & enjoyed working it up, but I couldn't face doing another right away. Oh, I'll eventually make that half dozen purses, just not one right after another & no two ever exactly the same. Of course, that is one of the most marketable aspects of my creations - the fact that each is unique.
Come to think of it, maybe ADD isn't such a bad thing for me to have.
NEVER, EVER felt wool in your washing machine without FIRST enclosing your project in a securely closed WHITE pillowcase or zippered laundry bag!
I am shocked over how often I come across felting instructions on websites, blogs, & patterns that fail to mention this important step in the felting process. This is a major omission that, over time, can produce catastrophic consequences for the felter & for everyone who lives in the felter's household. The omission is unintentional, I think - the result of the pattern writer forgetting who's in their audience & simply assuming that it's "common knowledge" thing that doesn't need to be restated. I've heard tales of woe from more than a few Newbies who learned this felting lesson the hard way - by writing a big fat check to the washer repairman or to Roto-Rooter.
All wool yarns cast off fibers during all that agitation in the washing machine. Some yarns, like mohair, produce an incredible amount of balled up lint. Those cast off fibers felt up into little nasty balls that can clog up a washing machine pump & drain pipe like you wouldn't believe! And, while it will take many felting projects to do so, they can even congeal into a mass so large & so impermeable that it can clog up your main sewer line. In any case, be prepared to pay through the nose to fix the damage that could have been prevented with an old pillowcase & a rubber band.
Enlcosing your project in that pillowcase or lingerie bag is a crucial first step to felting happiness. It not only protects your project, it protects your wallet.
Pass it on....
On the fashion runways we're seeing fur making a big comeback & it's showing up as collars on oversize knit cardigans as the preferred winter coat. If you're opposed to using fur in your designs, take a look at the long nap Angora fibers as an animal-friendly substitute. I made an evening bag recently, felting a chocolate brown Angora beaded clutch that (I think) looks every bit as good as mink.
Metallics are hot this season, too, & not just in silver & pewter as in past trends. Gold is playing an equal role this next season &, personally, I'm delighted. I've always been drawn to gold over silver, particularly in metallic yarn. Can't wait to work with those metallics again & have plans to incorporate them into my felted bags designs - perhaps some evening wear, as well.
Speaking of handbags - they're going bigger, heavier, & with a more masculine look. I notice heavy hardware embellishments - buckles, leather strapping, grommets, etc. Straps are shoulder length, even when carried as a handbag.
Clothing is going a bit more oversize this next season, too, which translates into requiring more yards of yarn for sweaters & dresses. Prices for finished knitwear will spike a bit as a result of our increased material costs...I'm estimating a 20% increase in my prices for both handbags & clothing.
Lastly, the "Mod" look is showing up on the runways again. Seems we'll be seeing more sweaters & dresses with the bold intarsia graphics of past forays into the retro mod look.
So far, I'm not seeing any real trend favoring a particular color for fall - no "buzz" that plum, or cranberry, or forest green (for example) will be all the rage. Perhaps something will emerge later as a stand-out color for the season. We'll just have to wait & see. Meantime, I'm keeping the yarns & threads in the classic earth tones & leaving room in my designs for embellishing with trend colors if I start seeing a demand.
I'm off to the drawing board. More later....
You really must go take a look....
Hey! Where'd everybody disappear to so fast???
About 2 weeks ago, in the course of my regular early morning web surfing, I came upon a polymer clay artist who had embellished the ends of some old knitting needles with her poly-clay beads. They were very cute & very unique, & while I'd never intentionally copy another artist's design, I'm not above "appropriating" a great idea & putting my own spin on it. I filed the idea away for another day & returned to a couple of current projects, like Rosa Azul, instead.
A day or so later, I was pawing though my enormous stash of frogged yarns - all those lovely balls of color & texture, looking like a pile of giant fuzzy beads waiting to be strung - when I remembered those knitting needles with the poly-clay beads. Suddenly, a germ of an idea started to form. A couple of balls of my most sumptuous yarns together with a custom pair of decorated knitting needles (& a few stitch markers to match) would make a unique & totally unexpected gift for several knitters on my Christmas list! I spent the rest of that afternoon picking out yarn, rounding up some knitting needles in the appropriate size, & playing around with polymer clay. By the end of the day, I had 4 custom knitting kits finished, wrapped in tissue, & safely tucked away for Christmas gifts.
As I was quietly congratulating myself on being able to check 4 names off my Christmas list, it occurred to me that some of my Froggy Yarn customers might also be interested in these kits - either for themselves or as gifts. So, I put my other works in progress aside & spent the next couple of days making up another half-dozen kits to list in the Etsy shop & take to the next Saturday art market. Here's the photos of several kits that will be put up for sale.
Fulling is the process of knitting, crocheting, or weaving wool yarn into fabric prior to shrinking. Generally, felting uses raw, unspun wool (roving) that is made into a matted fabric, either by hand through a process of wet abrasion or through the use of a felting needle. In both fulling & felting, the end result is fundmentally the same - a dense & strong wool fabric that will neither pull apart nor unravel. And, in both, this is acheived by subjecting the wool to shock in hot water, cold water, & agitation until the individual hair fibers swell, tangle, & mat into a cohesive mass. There is a visual & textural difference between the two in the final fabric. Fulled wool is fluffier & the individual stitches or weaving pattern may still be visible in the final fabric. I tend to think of felted wool as having a smoother texture, but that isn't always the case. It can be quite textural, in fact.
So why do I persist in calling my work felted? Because it's a familiar term to most people & one that requires no further explanation. Prospective customers are out there looking for felted handbags & hats - not fulled ones. I'm merely giving my clients what they think they're looking for. It's really all just a matter of semantics anyway.
There's actually two different yarns here. The first is a pale pastel multicolor that reminds me of the recycled sari silk yarns that are all the rage right now. The main ply is off white (presumably the cotton fiber content) & it is plied with rather large silk slubs in pale, pale blue, pink, & taupe. The second yarn (the one that appears shiney white in the photo) is a flat ribbon type yarn that I have guessed is the rayon content of the sweater.
I picked this sweater based on the following criteria:
- Designer Label - These are often made of yarns that are custom to the designer & can't be purchased in the retail market. Since I make one of a kind garments, I prefer to work with yarns that are unusual or one of a kind, too.
- Fiber Content - A similar yarn blend of cotton/silk/rayon would easily run $15.00up for a 100 yd. ball at my local yarn shop. I am guessing I'll end up with at least 600 yds. of usable yarn - a $90.00+ retail value.
- Clean & Excellent condition - If it's not clean or shows obvious signs of wear, I'll pass it by, regardless.
- Special Attributes - In this particular case, the yarn has a wonderful hand to it. I'm sure it would feel great against the skin. Excellent color, texture, drape & movement in the original garment were real selling points, too.
Here's what I've recovered, so far. I estimate the larger ball at approx. 100 yards. The smaller ball is 25-30 yards.
For all of its positive aspects, the texture of this yarn makes it more difficult, time consuming, & frustrating to unravel. Mohair & Angora are also difficult to work with. Take my advice & keep that in mind when selecting sweaters to recycle - especially if you are new to frogging. Just getting the hang of taking out the seams & bind-offs can be enough of a challenge for the newbie. Don't make it worse by choosing yarns that refuse to unravel smoothly, too. When you do take on a frogging project like this, take frequent breaks or run the risk of coming to hate the whole process so badly, you never want to try frogging another sweater as long as you live.
The truth is, I don't often take on these challenging projects, myself. Fortunately, they are a bit like labor & childbirth...I tend to forget my past miseries once I'm holding that precious final product. That's why I have more than one child & it's why I have frogged more than one of these "hard cases."
I'll post a photo of that final precious product of all my hard labor as soon as it's finished.
That was 3 years ago. Now, before I begin a new project, I go shopping at my local thrift shops & clothing resale stores FIRST to see if I can find a high quality, designer label sweater that can be frogged for the bulk of my yarn needs. By & large, they are wonderful merino wools, cottons, silks, & blends that would easily cost $15++ for 100 yards at my yarn shop. The average woman's sweater will yield 600 yards or more of good usable fiber. Not bad for an average cost of $5.00. I still support my local yarn shop through my purchases of embellishing or accent fibers, but I am no longer priced out of creating that gorgeous silk or cashmere sweater I want. It's the best of both worlds, I think. Oh, I'll admit that I still do splurge & pay retail from time to time on some super expensive yarns, but since I'm economizing when I can (through frogging), I can do so without guilt.
My only problem is....too many sweaters, so little time! I can't seem to leave a beautiful, high quality sweater on the rack. I never come home with just the one for my current project - I bring home six! My yarn stash now overfloweth! Since I can't possibly use all this gorgeous fiber myself, I've decided to share my bargains with my fellow fiber artists who are also feeling a bit of sticker shock at their local yarn shop & don't want to "frog" for themselves. Thus, "Froggy Recycled Yarn" was born as a small sideline business to sell my excess stash on Etsy.
I you'd like to try your hand at frogging, there's some excellent tutorials on the Net. You might want to start here: http://www.neauveau.com/recycledyarn.html or try searching "frogging yarn" or "recycled yarn." Should you decide that the whole process is just too labor intensive or mind-numbingly dull than you can stand, you can check out FroggyYarn.etsy.com to see what I am offering - & still at a bargain compared to retail. And, if you're not familiar with Etsy, you should be. It's a wonderful community of independent artists selling their wares - a terrific source of great stuff often at bargain prices. Check it out.
As is my custom every morning (while waiting for the coffee to brew), I fire up the computer to check e-mail & do whatever "housekeeping" needs doing on my website http://ebonyglenstudio.com/. While I enjoy the 1st cup of Joe, I check in on some of my favorite forums, websites, & blogs. Breakfast is, indeed, the most important meal of the day. And, it's this morning fix of caffeine & about a billion bytes of inspiration from other artists that I breakfast on. It's a tall glass of "creative juice" that gets me going & keeps me going throughout the day. (OK, OK, enough with the metaphors already!)
This morning's fix included another visit to Myra Wood's site http:myrawood.com to drool over her exquisite work in free form crochet, beading, & embroidery. Words simply cannot describe the beautiful & inventive work of this fabulous fiber artist. You must go take a look. Myra exemplifies the true spirit of Free Form that takes knitting, crochet, beading, & embroidery out of the realm of crafting & elevates them all to the level of a true art form.
Myra is just one of the stand-outs in the arena of free form fiber arts. There are dozens more that I admire & draw inspiration from. By following their links to the people & places they admire, my list grows daily.
What a delicious way to start the day.
I often take photos of my works in progress in order to see what's working & what's not - sort of a "forest for the trees" thing. It's common, I think, for the artist to get too finely focused & too caught up in the detail work to see the flaws in the overall design. It's easy to overwork a project, too, & end up killing it. That's why painters will stand back from the easel frequently or turn the canvas upside-down. I've even used a mirror to look at my paintings & have found glaring flaws that I simply couldn't see otherwise. I know writers that will put their manuscripts away to let them "percolate." When they come back to them, it's with a fresh perspective that will either spur rewrites or tell them that their book is finished.
This photo is a good example of what I'm talking about.This is my perspective of a project most of the time. At this distance, I'm happy with what I see. But, when I step back & look at Rosa Azul as a whole (as in the top photo) I can see that it still needs.....something. It's bottom-heavy, I think. The eye is drawn too quickly to the flower embellishment & just stops there. All art, like a good story, needs a beginning, a middle, & an end. This bag has a decent middle (the pointed flap) & a bang-up ending (the flowers), but the beginning is so weak it's almost non-existent. I need to work on that...& quickly. The big art festival is just 2 days away & I want this piece to be there.
Wish me luck!
The Free Form Crochet forum is a truly awesome gathering of incredibly talented & creative people from all over the world. I check in daily to read the posts & check out the latest photos. Always great inspiration, instruction, & encouragement from a great group of friendly people who welcome the "newbies" in with open arms & instant friendship. There's terrific diversity there, too. There are some "purists," of course, whose work is focused on free form, but there's also knitters & spinners & felters & fiber artists of every stripe. The common thread (pun intended) that holds us all together is an appreciation for the art of free form.
I'm a newcomer to the art & to the group, myself, having stumbled upon the link on someone else's blog or website a couple of months ago. Here's the photo that just blew me away & led me to this great group of folks:
This is the creation of Diane Olsen. How could anyone look at that & NOT want to know who created it, how it was done, & want to learn how to create such beauty themselves??? Check out http://freeformcrochet.com for more info about this fabulous art form. There's a link there, too, to the Yahoo Group forum at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FFCrochet/join.
Now, I'm off to "scrumble" something up for a new bag I'm working on. Huge annual arts festival coming up this weekend & I want to have something there that will make people sit up & take notice.
Well, shoot! I had no intentions of posting anything more today, but I'm so pleased with the way this hot little number turned out, I think it deserves a photo & a few words. I made it at the request of my 15-yr-old great-niece - sorry, it's not for sale.
Dare I admit it? I used a pattern (GASP!), something I almost never do. Here's the thing - as much as I'd like to say I was able to come up with some totally new & innovative way of creating bra cups, I just couldn't, I didn't & I probably never will! I mean, really, let's face facts...the bikini/bra consists of exactly two triangles held in place by some sort of band that fastens around the back & two straps to fasten over the shoulders or around the neck. That's it. Oh, I suppose I could have designed something with one cup round & the other a triangle, but would anyone buy something that made them look like they just stepped out of a Picasso painting? I think not. Just my opinion, but I think bras (aka bikinis) are like mouse traps. Lots of folks have tried to invent a better one, but the old basic style still works the best.
So...mea culpa, mea culpa, I went in search of pattern that actually looked like it would fit a real woman with real breasts. No easy task, believe me. Some were knitted absolutely flat & then gathered with sewn-in elastic cording. Hideous creations! Then there were the ones that had no shaping & no elastic. Since only the truly unfortunate among us are that flat-chested (& those that are wear 1-pc. Speedos, if they put on a bathing suit at all), I dismissed those patterns out of hand.
Finally, I came across this pattern from Tina Whitmore at http://knitwhits.com. Buy it online for $5.50. Or...do as I did & grab it for free off the DIY Network Knitty Gritty pages. Tina was Vicky Howell's guest on the show with this little trifle. If you're "into" knitting bikinis, be sure to check out Tina Whitmore's other patterns. They're very good looking & have beautiful fit.
This pattern has two things going for it. The first is the shaping, of course. The second is the choice of yarn. The pattern calls for Cascade Yarns "Fixation" (98.3% cotton-1.7% elastic) in 3 colors. This is wonderful yarn! Nice stretch & excellent memory - & the colors are yummy. Check it out here: http://www.cascadeyarns.com/cascade-fixation.asp Even on Size 5 needles, it works up really fast, too. It would benefit from blocking, although these photos were taken before-hand & it doesn't look bad right off the needles.
Gee, I'm glad I got all that off my chest. Now I need to go write a hundred times, "i don't use patterns i don't use patterns i don't use patterns...."
I've been a regular visitor to other people's Blogs for the past couple of years, but never explored the idea of setting one up myself. Just always figured it was probably far to complicated to set up (like a website), time-consuming to maintain (I am a knitter, after all, NOT a writer) &, quite frankly, with all the other knitters & crocheters out there blogging away, I had to ask myself, "What can you say that hasn't already been said?" It's a fair question & one that I couldn't answer.
So....I've decided to do this for me & not for an audience. It'll be a place for me to plan & ponder & pontificate. I'll throw in some pictures (because I know they're worth a thousand words) & keep track of links to other people I find inspiring, instructional, or just plain amusing.
If you happened to wander in here by accident....you're welcome to have a good look around, peek in the yarn basket, & leave me note that you were here.
That's it for now. Needles & wool beckon.