Wild Fibers

There is a good reason besides the obvious why those of us who work in the yarn industry take great pride in our work. If you craft with natural fibers, there is no faking the process. You can’t mass-produce animals or fleece. It is one of those few processes left in the world that is still heavily tied to tradition and custom – in the best possible way. I have always enjoyed reading Piecework, which does an excellent job of researching and presenting traditional techniques. But I just found this magazine, which I am adding to my Christmas wish list. Aside from the fact I can now live vicariously through these world travellers, I think it’s wonderful to get firsthand knowledge of where the animals are raised, as well as the culture, traditions, and lifestyle of the people who raise them.


The Finishing Touches

Whenever I knit or crochet a gift for someone, I always find myself finishing the project with barely a moment to spare. And then comes the question of how to actually gift it. Do you just write out the care instructions with a Sharpie and tape it to the front of the package? Do you just tell the person you made it and how to take care of it and then hope they remember so all your hardwork doesn’t get felted the first time they wash it? It has always seemed to me that given the time and work that goes into handcrafting an item, it deserves a beautiful presentation. This artist/printmaker seems to have thought so too. In the last minute hustle/bustle of the season, I hope this will help save you time in figuring out how to present your gifts!


Marsala

Did you know there is a wine called marsala? My husband and I love a glass of wine with our dinner (the European in us?), and every time we shop to replenish our cabinet, we usually buy a few bottles we’ve never tried before. But despite the huge variety we’ve tried, I had never heard of marsala until this morning, when my Facebook told me Pantone has announced their 2015 Color of the Year. Of course I had to immediately read about it because I like knowing these things and I’m always curious to see why they chose a particular color. After reading their description of marsala, I am certainly going to be on the lookout for a bottle to try with our next homecooked meal.

Be sure to scroll down to see all of Pantone’s ideas for gorgeous color pairing. While not necessarily helpful for figuring out what to eat with your bottle of wine, they will certainly spark ideas of how to pair up yarn colors! I’m very excited about this color in terms of crafting because I think it is much more flattering to wear than 2014’s Radiant Orchid is.


A Little Birdie Told Me…

…about these really beautiful yarn bowls that make me want to have way more than one and use them for way more than just yarn. I don’t have any yarn bowls, and I never even thought I needed them, but these are changing my mind. I share with you all because you might want to add these to your holiday wish lists! Browsing this site also makes me imagine a utopia in Maine in which there are sheep wandering around, a fireplace, cable-knit sweaters, and all the knitting time I could ever hope for. One can dream…


Top 10 Favorites From a Museum Visit

Heinrich Campendonk's Harlequin and Columbine is obviously taking inspiration from the same principles Kandinsky was influenced by in his later works.

Heinrich Campendonk’s Harlequin and Columbine is obviously taking inspiration from the same principles Kandinsky was influenced by in his later works.

Back in the summer, my friend and I went to see this exhibit at LACMA. I am in the mood to revisit the museum again, but unfortunately, this exhibit has closed. So I decided to revisit all my photos instead. I have always loved the Expressionism movement, and Wassily Kandinsky has long been a favorite artist of mine. But this exhibit was great because it introduced me to a number of artists in the movement I was not familiar with, and works that I’d never seen. I took as many photos of the exhibit as I could, but here I’m sharing my favorite ten. Enjoy!

Kandinsky's use of vivid color is one the reasons I'm so drawn to his work.

Kandinsky’s use of vivid color is one the reasons I’m so drawn to his work.

This work is called Green Trees and I like it because it is abstracted, but also still recognizable.

This Raoul Dufy work is called Green Trees and I like it because it is abstracted, but also still recognizable.

Cezanne's Apples and Biscuits.

Cezanne’s Apples and Biscuits.

I was not familiar with Franz Marc before this exhibit, but this painting made me want to learn more! I absolutely LOVE this sort of abstraction - such brilliant juxtaposition of shape and color!

I was not familiar with Franz Marc before this exhibit, but this painting made me want to learn more! I absolutely LOVE this sort of abstraction – such brilliant juxtaposition of shape and color!

I wonder if you would be able to tell what the subject of Robert Delaunay's abstraction is if he hadn't used color the way he did.

I wonder if you would be able to tell what the subject of Robert Delaunay’s abstraction is if he hadn’t used color the way he did.

The texture of the clothes is depicted so vividly in this painting! This painting also seems to me to be the start of the artist's foray into abstraction.

The texture of the clothes is depicted so vividly in this Ernst Kirchner painting! It also seems to me to be the start of the artist’s foray into abstraction.

And now, three paintings I loved, even though the pastel color palette is a bit surprising, considering how so much of the Expressionism movement was all about bold color.

A Van Gogh with a softer color palette. I would love to take a class just to learn how to paint with his style of brushstroke!

A Van Gogh with a softer color palette. I would love to take a class just to learn how to paint with his style of brushstroke!

Theo Van Rysselberghe is another artist I would love to learn more about. I would also love to have a print of this painting to hang in my bedroom!

Theo Van Rysselberghe is another artist I would love to learn more about. I would also love to have a print of this painting to hang in my bedroom!

Robert Delaunay's Cathedral is another work that is such a beautiful cross between realism and abstraction.

Robert Delaunay’s Cathedral is another work that is such a beautiful cross between realism and abstraction.

 


The Design Process Finale

Because I like to finish a series, and because logistics are important, here is the finale. If you are one of those people (like me) who likes to read things in completeness, here are the first and second parts, in case you missed them.


Collecting…and Being a Collector

My ever growing Lorna's Laces collection

My ever growing Lorna’s Laces collection

A week or two ago, I realized as I was sorting through my yarn stash, that I have always been a collector. The object of my collections has changed over the years, but I’ve never lost my tendency to collect. I suspect this is an issue for most knitters and crocheters, as well as craftspeople in general. Our tendency to collect yarns and notions is necessary, at least in part, because our materials and inspirations are central to our work. Just as fine artists need to have their materials and inspirations on hand, so do we. Grocery lists are very cut and dry, but I’ve found shopping for materials to do creative work is different. If you see yarn that speaks to you, you MUST buy it when you see it, and in enough quantity to complete whatever you’re making with it, as you might not be able to match the dye lot later if you run out.

Necessity aside, I realized I do just like to collect. I like having complete series of things, or for instance, as with Lorna’s Laces, I like seeing the collection together. She does such gorgeous colors, I don’t want to miss any. Of course, this is the downside of collecting, and if you’re not careful, you will start feeling like a hoarder, even if your friends are gracious enough not to accuse you of being one. Since this is an issue for most of us creative sorts, I decided to put together a little list of things to consider when it comes to collecting. This list is based on what I’ve learned over the years in trying to manage my collecting tendencies.

Know What’s Special

My first collection started when I was 8 or 9 and became fascinated with stamps. I had a few penpals in different countries. We exchanged letters regularly, and the stamps from their countries fascinated me because they were so different from ours. It started small enough, but when my dad told people in our church what I was doing, the next thing I knew, my bedroom had an avalanche of stamps from kind, well-meaning people who just wanted to encourage a little kid. I started soaking them all off the envelopes and putting them into books. I gave up about 1/10 of the way through however, when I realized I had about 500 of the same, exact, US Flag stamp. And all these stamps didn’t excite me! I didn’t realize what made me quit at the time, but now I do: I didn’t want a collection of stamps. I wanted a collection of UNIQUE stamps that were all different and inspiring! The truth about collecting is that it’s very easy to get a huge collection, but it’s not so easy to build a collection that excites and inspires you every time you look at it.

Curate, Curate, Curate

Knowing what’s special leads to the very important skill of curation. My next phase of collecting was with fashion magazines. Honestly, I still struggle with this one. I love to read them, and I love having some sitting around the house to page through when I need a break or inspiration. However, before I had my kids, I didn’t realize how out of control my habit of keeping all the old issues was until we had to convert my studio/office into a nursery. Let’s just say the 6-foot high piles of fashion magazines had to go, and it was the family joke for a long time. Aside from a few particularly memorable issues, I didn’t miss most of them, and I learned lesson number two about collecting: to have a good collection, you MUST curate! I have put this into full practice when I’m buying yarn.  For instance, I really love Lorna’s Laces, and I buy alot of her stuff. However, I do NOT buy everything of hers, even if it’s limited edition. I only buy the colors that I fall completely in love with. Whatever you add to a collection, make sure it is something you really love, and if something no longer excites you, don’t be afraid to eliminate it, even if it “belongs”.

Ask Yourself What You Want

A collection is supposed to be a grouping of items around a theme that you find particularly interesting or inspiring. It is meant to be something you use, and more importantly, enjoy. It should not take more money than you can afford or stress you out. Another of my collections started when I was in high school and got obsessed with a few celebrities. I bought every magazine with their photo (bonus if it was on the front cover!), poster, and any other items I could find. And then I started getting stressed. I was living at home, and really, how many huge posters can a girl put up in her bedroom? It frustrated me to have all these things and then not be able to use them. When I got older and wiser, I realized that I was collecting all these images because I had a fantasy of what the celebrities’ lives were like, and I wasn’t very fulfilled in my own life at the time. If you find that your collection is stressing you out or frustrating you, reevaluate what you’re expecting from it, especially if it’s something that’s taking up alot of space and money.

Don’t Be Afraid to Edit

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like to be wasteful, and throwing things away makes me feel wasteful. However, a truly great collection only stays that way if you keep it that way. When something is no longer useful or no longer inspires you, then it no longer belongs in your collection. Don’t be afraid to edit. You can always donate things you don’t want, or if you have friends with similar interests, do some swapping. Most collectors do trading with each other, and this is a great way to avoid feeling wasteful but still keep yourself surrounded only by things that truly inspire. However, as in the case of my magazines, sometimes you really do need to just throw things out. You will be glad you did!

And one last thing: when you are truly passionate about what it is you’re collecting, you don’t need to worry about time. You can build it very slowly and carefully, and will probably enjoy the process much more than say, having an avalanche in your living room overnight!  Whatever it is, however long it takes, enjoy the process!


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