Sunday, February 28, 2016

How to untangle yarn [try it yourself or find a yarn wrangler]

Every now and then a yarn-related story will hit the mainstream news, be shared around social media and become a topic of conversation even amongst your non-yarny friends. How fun! In late December, the Wall Street Journal published "Knitters with hopelessly knotted yarn call 'Detanglers' for help".

"Many knitters find their craft a tranquil and even meditative pastime - until knots and tangles in their yarn send them into a fury. But for one group of fanatics, there is nothing more satisfying than a hopelessly tangled web. Daphne of Melbourne, Australia, once paid about $50 on eBay for a 25-pound box of snarled yarn, simply for the pleasure of untangling it."

I loved reading this article and was already aware of the therapeutic benefits of untangling yarn for some. However at the time of reading I thought I'm not one of those silly people who would ever get my yarn in a tangle. I'm far too careful.

But last month I was merrily winding a skein of expensive lace weight yarn on my swift and ball winder. I've never worked with lace weight yarn before I realize. Then the yarn breaks and I start a new ball. And then it breaks again. And in one of those rather vacant moments I just decide rather than start a new ball I'll wind on top of the ball and all will be well. Later when I start to crochet with the yarn the ball collapses leaving me with the worst tangle I've ever witnessed (see above). Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I now realize I should have wound my yarn very slowly because lace weight yarn is so very delicate. And winding a ball on top of a ball was just downright silliness that I will not repeat.

Anyway I decided I would see if detangling was relaxing for me and found the following tips on what to do:

Jessie Rayot from Jessie at Home has a helpful photo tutorial that I rather like on how to untangle yarn. Katrin Kania gives tips on how to untangle yarn using your swift how to untangle a skein of yarn I particularly love Katrin's instruction on how to calculate the time required:

"To get an estimation of how long it will take you, make a wild guess. Then multiply the time of your wild guess by two - that's the pessimistic wild guess. Now multiply that by ten, and you have an estimate."

I spent several evenings on my untangling project and I can report that it was very absorbing. But now it has been put aside, still on my swift, looking just as tangled as when I started. Perhaps I will need to bring in a Yarn Wrangler from the Knot a Problem group on Ravelry. Roving Crafters describe how to get the experts involved in their article: never fear the yarn wranglers are here

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Getting a little better all the time [crochet and knit tutorial links]

I have completed making swatch samples for my Craft Yarn Council knitting 1 certificate. Hurray! Other yarn projects have taken a back seat for a while but that's OK because rotating projects are entirely acceptable for yarn addicted people such as ourselves. I love how learning to teach makes you learn new techniques and improve your existing ones. I've learnt "european" knitting, cable cast on, feather and fan stitch and also discovered what I should improve.

I've realized that my purl stitch is far looser than my knit stitch working on the first two swatches which call for 5" garter stitch squares in knit and purl. My purl swatch is simply sloppy requiring far fewer stitches than my neat knitted candidate. But according to one of my proficient knitting friends (she can knit Fox Paws without assistance) this is not unusual and can be fixed. A quick online search led to a solution. Hurray for Ysolda Teague!

We all love to learn new techniques so I thought I'd share a few online resources for this. My list is a tad biased towards crochet since my return to knitting is very recent:

Knitting designer, Ysolda Teague, has a collection of excellent photo tutorials on her Technique Thursday page. This is where I found out how to make my purl stitches tighter.
At knitting designers Tin Can Knits, 2016 is the Year to Learn Something New and they even have a hashtag #TCKnewtricksKAL How fun!

Blogger, designer and teacher Marie Segares of Underground Crafter has a great archive on her blog Tips Tuesdays the most recent being how to join your first (or next) CAL (crochet along) - always a great way to improve your skills!

Blogger, writer and crocheter Kathryn Vercillo of Crochet Concupiscence provides very clear photo tutorials of crochet stitches and also gives a link to other crochet tutorials if you'd like more!

Craft media company Interweave gives free crochet tips articles on it's online store including making amigurumi, sizing your afghans etc

New York store and online resource for "needlecrafters of every ilk" Purl Soho provides both knit tutorials and crochet tutorials on their beautifully presented site.

I know this is just a tiny selection (and I haven't even delved into the world of video tutorials), so I'd love to hear from you if you have a particular favorite place to learn new techniques online. Just let me know in the comments section below!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Five Pleasing Podcasts [4 yarn-related]

A member of my Yarn People group is going to co-present a podcast. How exciting and yay for Darcy! So I thought I'd ramble on about podcasts this week focusing mainly on yarn related ones of course!

So what exactly is a podcast? It's a downloadable audio blog that you can listen to whenever you like on your device or computer while crafting or doing household chores etc. You can find them on just about every topic you could ever imagine including craft of course.

I first began listening to podcasts while driving my 30 minute commute along the narrow winding country roads of Gloucestershire before we made the big move to Texas. My favorite was the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs. A famous guest is invited to choose the eight records they would take with them to a desert island while narrating their life story.  The guest list is wonderfully varied and the show has been running since the 1940s.

And then, oh joy, I discovered my first yarn related podcast, Cast On with Brenda Dayne started in 2005 to talk about knitting to people who get it. I was more into my knitting back then. She lives in Pembrokeshire, Wales which was just across the Severn Bridge from me at that time and I was and still am absolutely captivated by her calm eloquent voice and fascinating content. Brenda has moved onto other yarny adventures and Cast On is no more but the audio archives live on thank goodness.

Since we made the big move I have been listening to Yarn Thing by Marly Bird dedicated to connecting knitters and crocheters together. She interviews guests from the yarn industry and gives out prizes. What a great format! But the best thing about Marly is her infectious laugh. I just can't help myself from laughing when she laughs. And that is a very good thing. We should all laugh as much as possible, apart from when it's inappropriate to do so obviously.

And a recent discovery is KnitBritish by Louise Scollay with a super mission to love local wool. Louise has a wonderfully soothing Scottish voice and listening to her is a bittersweet experience because my parents are Scottish and far away from me right now. But I still love her podcast very much.

And of course my friend Darcy's podcast is coming up soon on Kitchen Stitches. She makes her first appearance in this super short episode. I am planning more house cleaning each week to accommodate this. My husband will be absolutely delighted!

I'd love to hear if you have a particular favorite podcast yarn related or not. Just let me know in the comments section below.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Blissful Craft Retreat

Last month I attended the annual craft retreat at the Cenacle House in Houston. What bliss!

Until last year, I had never attended a religious (or otherwise) retreat of any type. However, the idea of a whole day of crafting contemplatively won me over. The Religious of the Cenacle (Cenacle Sisters) are members of an international Catholic women’s congregation founded in France in 1826. In the midst of a praying Christian community, people of all faiths are invited to an awakening and deepening of their experience of a loving and compassionate God.

We spent the day crafting while talking about our personal experiences of craft, listening to craft-related prayers and contemplative passages.  This was my second time at this annual crafters day of prayer.

A beautiful part of one of the contemplations stayed with me. It's taken from "Frayed Faith Stretched to the Breaking Point" by Donna M Williams.

"....It is in the fraying that bits of ourselves, wisps of our experiences are worn off and carried where we know not.
It is in the fraying that bits of other women, wisps of their experiences are worn off and catch on the threads of our lives.
What poverty! What richness!
To allow ourselves to be unraveled and exposed to unknown possibilities;
To allow the fuzz of another to attach itself to the weaving material of our lives....."

Last year's retreat gave me the inspiration to start our Yak and Yarn group. I enjoyed the fellowship of the other crafters so much that I couldn't wait a whole year for the next Cenacle craft retreat. It was fantastic telling the retreat leader, Sister Roselle Haas aka the knitting nun, how her retreat the year before had inspired us to set up our own group to continue our crafty fellowship regularly.

I just found a resource listing several craft retreats on Knitters Review 2016 Knitting and Fiber Events. Perhaps you will find something on there that will appeal!!!

I'd love to know if you've attended a craft retreat before and what kind of experience you had. Just share it in the comments below!