The Tools of my Trade

My customers frequently ask where I find the time and ability to make the things I create.  My answer is always the same:  I don’t know (I am a work-at-home mother of 6, so I’d guess 99% of my available time actually comes from my wonderful husband, but even then I’m not sure how I get everything done!), and I operate on a trial-and-error basis until something looks and feels right.  I’ve been known to frog (have you heard of the frog-stitch?  It goes, “Ripppit, ripppit . . .”) a single project a dozen times before I’d show it to anyone.  Sure, some techniques and tricks are implemented, but the only way to get that knowledge is to try, try, and try again.  If you don’t think you’re work is good enough, just make something else!  And then something else, and then something else . . .

On the flip side, and now that I am getting a lot more traffic from fellow crocheters, I’m getting questions like, “What size hook do you use?” or “Where is your handspun from?”  I love talking yarn and hooks with people, if I could I’d do it all day long!

But, instead, I’ll write a blog about it 🙂

This is my spinning wheel.

LouetIt’s a Louet — I’m not certain on the model since I bought it off a friend — and I love it. I don’t get nearly enough time to play on it (and then, I don’t have nearly enough fiber to spin on it!) so for now, my wheel is just for fun. I hope to soon be spinning yarn of enough quality to incorporate into items I can sell, or even to be selling the yarn itself. For now, though, I’ll stay with my favorite spinners. Ahh, a perfect segue.

The majority of handspun is made with natural fibers, something I used to be terrified of using. The price scared me and I wasn’t certain I would be able to do anything worthwhile with it, so I avoided it. Then, one fateful day, someone was selling clearance handspun and I jumped all over it . . . and I haven’t looked back! I’ve tried quite a few different natural fibers, but I’m especially enamored with merino. It can be spun bulky or light but it is always fluffy, and I haven’t been disappointed with the beautiful saturation of colors yet.  Below are yarns spun by three of my favorite spinners. I’ve sampled yarn from just under a dozen, but I love the consistency of the spin and the coloring of these particular spinners the most. Not pictured but deserving mention (I simply don’t have any more of her yarn to photograph, I’ve used it all!) is Carrie from Unraveled Designs.

HandspunLeft to Right

Now comes the tools I use to make things from this beautiful yarn!  My hook size of choice is an H-8(5mm US), but I use F-J most frequently.  Sure, I don’t need flashy hooks to get anything done but where’s the fun in not having pretty tools? A recent addition to my work repertoire are stitch markers. Some crocheters get by with an odd piece of yarn, a safety or bobby pin, a paper clip, and that used to be me as well, but I for one feel it is more than worth it to invest in stitch markers. They’re gentler on some yarn types and are easier to use in specific projects.

HooksMarkersLeft to Right

LargeKnittingNeedlesThen, when it comes to some really pretty thick-and-thin handspun or some super-bulky manufactured yarn, I like to pull out these bad boys (needles from Spinning Wheel Studio). My knitting skills are still sub-par, I think I’ll refer to them as that even when I’m making Fair Isle sweaters for the queen, but making something with these extra large needles takes no time at all and, surprisingly, isn’t as awkward to work up when comparing to the tiny circulars (a type of knitting needle) or DPNs (double-pointed needles) required for those tedious-yet-beautiful works of knit-art. That was a really long sentence, I had to read it a few times to make sure it wasn’t a horrible ramble. Moving on!

These are the tools of my trade, and it’s safe to say that if my house is ever engulfed in flames and I had time after saving my kids, everything in this post would be the next things my arms would close around. I mean, so long as the husband came back in with me (I’d need his arms, too!).

My New Year Productivity

With every new year comes new resolutions (or as I like to call them, failed resolutions from previous years 😉 ) and one of mine was to keep myself creative with every chance that showed itself.

I’m sure some of you have heard about a little site called Pinterest.  I personally have umpteen boards on it but have yet to complete a single project — well, as of this past week, anyway.  While I do have several yarn-related resolutions, this particular blog isn’t about them, but I am so proud of myself I felt this project was share-worthy.

First is something I think everyone has seen — the paint chip calendar.  Aside from the time I stood in front of the paint section deciding what colors I wanted to use, making this took me less than 5 minutes.

Image

I purposefully made it as half a month so that I would have more room for the activities of each day without sacrificing a huge portion of wall to have 31 days displayed at once.   If you want to make your own, you can change the size of your ‘days’ as well as how many there are and how they are laid out.  

I used:

  • 18 Paint Samples (free)
  • An unused picture frame *with glass* (mine is approx. 18″x15″, priced anywhere from $5-$35 retail, and I recommend glass for the ease of use with dry-erase markers)
  • 2-pack Dry Erase Markers, fine-tip ($3)

Cut your paint samples to the desired sizes and affix them to a paper that fills the entire frame (I used the backside of the product photo that came with my frame), replace the backing, and viola, new (reusable) calendar!  I love this project so much because it is entirely customizable.  You can pick a frame that goes with your decor, paint samples to match your walls, and it isn’t too much of a pain to switch-out the samples for holidays (you can bet my December is going to be red and green – instant and virtually effortless decor with added points for functionality).

The only thing I would do differently is get more markers – originally I didn’t think I would need an assortment of colors since the entire calendar is color, but once it was finished I wished I had more to decorate the ‘month’ space.

Are you making a calendar?  I’d love to see!