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!

The Design Process Part 2

I somehow missed this being published on Business of Fashion, but now that I found it, I wanted to share. If you missed the first installment, feel free to catch up! The whole point of being a designer is getting from the sketchbook to the sales floor to sell the finished piece, and of course, the part in between is the part some of us have always found intimidating. I really appreciate this series and wanted to share it in hope it will be helpful to more than just me! Enjoy.

Crafty Bombings

Over the weekend, I was working on a design and hitting a creative block. After ripping it out for about the tenth time and changing stitch patterns multiple times, I decided it was time to take a break. As I was doing research, I kept coming across all kinds of beautiful yarn bombings. There are the standard cozies on a light pole of course, but I love it when the artists and craftspeople execute a concept so artfully and beautifully and completely that it takes your breath away and kind of makes you not care too much about whether it was actually legal. I hope you will enjoy these!

It doesn’t always have to be yarn!

If you’re going to yarn bomb a tree, do it right!

There’s a piano, and then there’s the Piano Dentelle!

A little something special for Star Wars fans.

MUST SCROLL DOWN. The Helsinki, Finland stairs are worth seeing, but so is everything else you’re scrolling through!

And in honor of my home city Pittsburgh

Gifts to Make

I like to do a little holiday crafting for my closest loved ones. I learned the hard way to be selective so I don’t overwhelm myself and turn something that should be fun and loving into added holiday stress. I’ve moved away from seeing how many gifts I can crank out toward picking one or two stunning projects to give to the most special people in my life. But however you like to plan out your gifting, a word to the wise: START NOW!

Aside from the giving, the most fun part (in my opinion) is figuring out what to make! So for all of you who support me and read my blog, here is my little holiday gift to you! A list of the coolest patterns I’ve been bookmarking all year! I hope you enjoy browsing the list, and if you make any of these, please share your photos of the finished pieces because I would love to see!

  1. Being the art lover that I am, and Op Art being one of my favorite movements, this blanket speaks to me even though I don’t currently have anyone to make a baby blanket for! But I’m thinking it could also be a pretty awesome throw. Check out the pattern on Ravelry to see what other people came up with in color combos!
  2. This sweater is something a teenager with a forward fashion sense would enjoy. Big prints and images on sweaters and sweatshirts are very popular, so if you are looking for something for the hard-to-please teen category, this is definitely NOT grandma’s knitting!
  3. A classic go-to gift, fingerless mitts with a twist!
  4. Socks are so much work, but such a lovely gift for someone truly dear to you who is worth all the knitting time! For an extra-special pair for your extra-special someone, I recommend anything from Ravelry’s Tour De Sock, but I especially love Fields of Flowers.
  5. Technically, Minion things would be listed as children’s gifts, but I know plenty of adults who would enjoy having these too. Crocheted items usually work up quickly, so if you need a gift in a hurry, or a fun gag gift for a white elephant party, Minions are a fun option.
  6. I’ve never done Tunisian entrelac, so I have no idea how complicated (or not) this project would be, but it is so fantastic, I had to include it! Plus, I would love to learn how to do this, so I consider it a gift to myself AND the person who gets the FO. However, just given the size, I would recommend starting this gift this year in preparation for gifting next year.
  7. A tote is always useful! I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t have a use for this bag!
  8. Shawls are always a lovely gift, and this designer has a beautiful variety.
  9. And last, but not least, the classic holiday gift: a scarf. But not just any scarf – why do boring rib when you could explore the magic of illusion knitting?

I hope you enjoy the ideas I found. I tried to link to the original source of each pattern, but if you would like to see color ideas or projects other people have completed, these can all be looked up on Ravelry. Happy holiday gifting!

San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

A work from the International TECHstyle Art Biennial 3 (ITAB) display

A work from the International TECHstyle Art Biennial 3 (ITAB) display

This last weekend, I traveled to Silicon Valley with my husband and kids. My husband had a conference, and I found myself with a full Saturday and two kids to entertain. I browsed through the hotel’s “Discover San Jose” brochure, and settled on the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles as our first stop. I am so glad I went! It is a small museum, but had excellent exhibitions going on and a little community craft room where the kids got to make stuffed felt animals.

The museum's mission statement, and wall of handcrafted items in the community craft room.

The museum’s mission statement, and wall of handcrafted items in the community craft room.

I really loved the International TECHstyle Art Biennial 3 (ITAB) and Piecing with Pixels installations, and I hope you enjoy the photos, even though it was hard for my photography skills to do these works justice! The items from the Piecing With Pixels are for sale works, so if you are in the market and see something you like, do contact the museum.

From the International TECHstyle Art Biennial 3 (ITAB):

Swarming by Rob Gonsalves and Anna Kristina Goransson

Swarming by Rob Gonsalves and Anna Kristina Goransson

Pretty believable brick wall considering it's all quilted fabric!

Pretty believable brick wall considering it’s all quilted fabric!

And a few of my favorite works in the Piecing With Pixels room:

Series pieced from the artists' collection of photos.

Series pieced from the artists’ collection of photos.

Mandalas and Pearls by Elizabeth Hull

Mandalas and Pearls by Elizabeth Hull

Spectrum Paths by Gudney Campbell

Spectrum Paths by Gudney Campbell



I Love Yarn Day

Closeup of the Bubbles

Closeup of the Bubbles

In honor of I Love Yarn Day (which is everyday in my house, by the way), here are some photos of my most recent yarn love affair. The pattern is Kieran Foley’s Camino Bubbles, done in Lang Yarns‘ Jawoll Magic. I hope you all have a great weekend, filled with your favorite things, including yarn!

Camino Bubbles by Kieran Foley

Camino Bubbles by Kieran Foley

Crocheters’ Turn

When I decided to do this post, I wasn’t entirely sure of who I wanted to list aside from the big names of Lily Chin and Doris Chan. But the more I dug around looking for what’s new and cool in the crochet world, the more fun I had finding all the designers who are doing exciting stuff with it!

Even though I have not yet made patterns from these designers, I was very happy to find this list!

Pattern by DarnCat Crochet

Pattern by DarnCat Crochet

There’s nothing cuter than crocheted animals, and having done animals and toys both in knitting and crochet, take it from me: crocheting them is alot more fun, and SOOOO much quicker! The nature of crochet is that the fabric you’re stitching is thicker, which lends itself nicely to creating fabric for an animal or toy which will be stuffed. I made the bunny above several years ago, and couldn’t find much from this artist to share, so I recommend Joyce Overheul’s designs at Flying DutchmanDesigns as an excellent alternative.

Laura Lynn Hanks' Chromium Star

Laura Lynn Hanks’ Chromium Star

Props to any designer who can come up with a pattern that becomes this popular, looks this cool, and is so easy to do! Considering that I had to clear my entire living room floor just to be able to spread this throw out in all its glory for this shot, it didn’t take me long at all to crochet this huge piece. And when I went to her blog, I found a wealth of talent! Visit when you have time to read and browse!

Another designer whose patterns I’m excited to try is Heidi Bears, designer of the adorable Happypotamus and numerous other equally adorable and gorgeous animals. Her stuff is so adorable and beautiful I don’t even want to have it open on my computer screen when my daughter is around until I’m ready to make it, because I know my little girl will drive me crazy begging for it. And to be honest, I sort of just want to make one for myself!

Not to be forgotten, there is also Tunisian crochet, which I have only sampled, and would love to continue exploring. Sharon Silverman is an excellent writer and designer of Tunisian.

Sasha Kagan is a knitwear designer who took the time to explore crochet and write an extremely inspirational book. I love the fact that such an accomplished knitwear designer took time out to explore crochet and elevate it to an art form. I would encourage any crocheter in need of inspiration to read her book, as it is truly one of the best out there.

There is a whole other world of crochet that fascinates me that originates in Japan. It is hard for Americans to know how to work these patterns unless they’ve been taught to simply read the charts visually. But the designer Kazuko Ryokai is the author of Crochet With Color, and gives us an excellent (and fun!) place to start.

I hope you enjoy what I came up with! Please share your favorites with me, as I am always happy to add to my list.


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