The Yarn Harlot

Yes, we do need to tell people that what we do is worthwhile. All of us.

This past week I had the most excellent opportunity to hear Stephanie Pearl-McPhee speak. I have been something of a stalker groupie for a very long time. I expected to laugh, and I did laugh harder than I have in many months. In fact, all you have to do is say, "baking powder" and I'll be rolling on the floor again. It was that funny.

But I especially appreciated Stephanie's case for sticking up for ourselves as fiber artists. She is a knitter, but I do believe this applies to all fiber pursuits.

From time to time we as tapestry weavers cycle through the same discussion about changing the art world's perception of us from "weaver, craft-maker, hobbyist" to "artist". There are various discussions about how to do this and many of them are grounded in truth and are extremely valid arguments.

But here is where it starts.
We have to believe in ourselves.

If you have the courage to show someone your work, when they say they love your use of color or the way you made those curves flow into each other or the way you made that particular window placement question the rest of the composition and you reply,
"Yeah, but I really screwed up the selvages and did you see the weft float over here? and I can't believe I wasn't able to make that circle round,"
you are doing all fiberists a disservice. I don't mean to be harsh about it, but if you work hard on something and you show it to someone and they say nice things about it, there is only one thing you should say in response.

Thank you.

Do not point out the flaws that you see in it. Other people don't see those.
Celebrate the joy you just inspired in someone else. Look at your work through their eyes for a moment. Do not make self-deprecating comments.

I'm not saying this is easy to do by any means. I think it is especially difficult for females. We are trained not to value what we do.

This is bullshit.

You are beautiful. Your work has value. You have value.
Life is excruciatingly short. Celebrate every accomplishment. Love the amazing things you make with your hands. Accept compliments. Say thank you. Just try it.

A double yarn store day plus The Yarn Harlot is coming!

Today was great.
I found the seat to my bike. I even found the chain lube AND I used it! Helmet on and I was off for a good ride on one of Fort Collins' fantastic bike trails. Lovely. It was lovely.

And then I found out the Yarn Harlot is speaking in Loveland in September. I literally jumped up and down in glee. I adore her and nothing you say can make me stop.

Then, to make matters even better, the friend who told me about Stephanie's appearance stopped by and took me to TWO yarn stores. And get this, they are both in Fort Collins. I heard rumors there were two more we didn't go to. In what universe do I now live in a town that contains FOUR yarn shops? It seems like too much good fortune.

Here are the two I visited today.

The Loopy Ewe.
This place is hosting Stephanie Pearl McPhee (otherwise known as the Yarn Harlot). I literally couldn't believe the place. It was like a huge crazy warehouse of knitting yarn in every imaginable color. Rows and rows of yarn. The staff was helpful and kind and I learned about six or seven new yarns in the blink of an eye. There isn't enough time in the world to knit all that great stuff up. I was utterly convinced I would never need another knitting shop ever again. This was it.
And then Marilyn took me to My Sister Knits.
And I was in love.

This is the store where you bring your knitting and sit with a cup of coffee for awhile. This is the place where the lovely people who work there will help you figure out that pattern that isn't making any sense and let you pet the little shop dog Molly too. This is the place where you can wander in with a need for knitting but not really know what you wanted and walk out with the pattern and the perfect yarn to go with it. It is a place full of heart. I loved it from the yarn-bombed tree out front to the beautiful chickens in the yard to the whole wall of MadelineTosh yarn in the best colors (yes, I said A WHOLE WALL!).

As I found myself explaining to the owner of the shop, Julie, I knit to keep myself sane. Tapestry is what I am serious about. Knitting is for fun. And this place was all fun. (And doesn't that just say something about the place that five minutes in I was telling Julie about my tapestry work and she was asking for my card?) It isn't the easiest place to find, but it is well worth the hunt (use your GPS. Go.).
It was the best day. Thanks Marilyn!

Yarn bombed

I have happily found myself in the middle of piles of yarn. I am dyeing yarn for classes I am teaching later in the summer and fall and for a very exciting workshop I am taking later this summer and am generally feeling that some yarn management strategies are needed. I suspect that my partner would agree with that assessment.

Yarn Bombing is a term I learned from The Yarn Harlot. Apparently at knitting conferences (and I have never been to a knitting conference, but I would consider it as a recreational endeavor) people actually knit little things that they spread around the facility. Knitted wraps for trees and banisters, little knitted creations hanging from lamp pulls, socks on table legs... yarn bombing. My house wasn't so much bombed by finished items as by piles of dyed and undyed yarn. I will probably never dig my way out. Just warning you. (This would be why my partner is strongly advocating I have my own studio which is separate from the rest of the house. Yarn has a way of creeping out of it's room into all other corners of the place.)

(6/29/12: Here is an even better post about yarn bombing by The Yarn Harlot:

The practice of dyeing my own yarn seems to increase the general yarn clutter. I have run through all the undyed student yarn I have here (don't worry, there is more in storage which will be coming back to the dye pots soon) and have moved on to dyeing experiments (more on this in a future post). The dyeing process itself adds to the yarn chaos. It needs to be prepped and then it gets dyed and then it sits around drying and then it has to be balled up and readied for classes. During all of this I get interrupted by work and babies and my general distractedness and thus, yarn bomb.

This yarn is gorgeous. It is Vevgarn from Norway. I bought it from Noel at Norsk Fjord Fiber who was infinitely helpful and had every color I wanted in stock. It comes in hundreds of colors, though I dyed some myself and found that is dyes amazingly well. I haven't woven a tapestry with this yarn yet, but I believe Tommye Scanlin uses it a lot and her tapestries are gorgeous... which seems a good recommendation for the basic materials.

My father has always been an apron advocate. This (dye-spattered clothes) is what happens when you dye without using one (plus it is probably safer to wear long pants and covered shoes and wear an apron as the boiling acid-water is not the greatest thing to spill on yourself).

Personal Protective Equipment. Use it. Do not follow my example (despite it being 95 degrees outside and over 100 in the dye shed). I do wear my respirator and goggles Dad... and I will buy an apron the next time I'm shopping the online chemistry store (do they have brick and mortar chemistry stores? I was in an old dusty one in Albuquerque at least a decade ago, but I don't think it is there anymore. I need a new thermometer because I keep breaking mine and I think those glass pipets are really very cool.) Most of the dye comes out of my clothes as it hasn't been set with an acidic pH, but they are ever quite the same again once exposed to a dye day.

This is what Cassy thinks about yarn: