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Free Pattern: Simple Ribbed Beanie

November 12, 2018

Simple Ribbed Beanie by Melina Flynn
Note: I got married this summer, so my name is no longer Melina Martin Gingras

If you haven’t learned by now, I LOVE making hats for myself and my entire family. In fact, as part of my morning routine, I tend to skip doing my hair for dropping off the kiddos at school, so hats are my thing before I’m officially home and have gotten ready for the day. I could never have too many hats. 😉




I have wanted to write a very simple knit beanie pattern like this for a few years, so I am happy to share it and it calls for MY YARN.

If you’re newer to knitting, know that you can complete this hat using a 16″ and 9″ circular needle rather than switching to double-pointed needles at the top. You’ll also learn a new method of decreasing stitches.

Yarn

  • You’ll need one skein of OMG Rushmore: Sport Weight, 345 yds, 100g/3.5 oz.
  • Alternatively, you could use 100g of Wool of the Andes Sport in your favorite color. NOTE: The link is an affiliate link. You can always check out our disclaimer page for more information about affiliate links.

 Yarns from knitpicks.com

Gauge

  • 6 stitches per inch in stockinette stitch on US 4.

What you’ll need:

  • A 16″ circular needle, size US 4.
  • A set of 4 or 5 dpns or 9″ circular needle, size US 4.
  • A tapestry needle to sew the side seams and weave in ends.




Glossary:

  • CO: Cast on
  • K: Knit.
  • K2tog: Knit two stitches together.
  • P: Purl.
  • P2tog: Purl two stitches together.
  • psso: Pass slipped stitch over stitch just worked.
  • Sl1: Slip one as if to knit.

Sizing:

  • Small/Baby (Medium/Child, Large/Adult)
  • Finished measurements: 16.5″ (20″, 22″)

This hat is meant to be worn with negative ease, so the finished measurements will be smaller than your head size. If you need to cast on more or less stitches, make sure you increase or decrease by multiples of 8.




Hat Pattern 
Using 16″ circular needle, CO 104 (120, 136) stitches using a long-tail cast on.

K2, P2 around (for the whole round) every round until hat measures 6″ (7″, 8″) from the cast-on edge.

Begin decrease rounds as follows, switching to dpns or smaller circular needle as you see fit:

  • Round 1: *K2tog, P2, K2, P2; repeat from * to end of the round.
  • Round 2: *K1, P2, K2tog, P2; repeat from * to end of the round.
  • Round 3: *K1, P2tog, K1, P2; repeat from * to end of the round.
  • Round 4: *K1, P1, K1, P2tog; repeat from * to end of the round.
  • Rounds 5-6: *K1, P1; repeat from * to end of the round.
  • Round 7: *Sl1, P1, psso; repeat from * to end of the round.
  • Round 8: K all stitches around.
  • Round 9: *K2tog; repeat from * to end of the round.
  • Round 10: *K2tog; repeat from * to last stitch of round, K1.

Break yarn, leaving an 8 inch tail. Thread tail through all stitches on needle, being careful that you don’t drop any stitches. Pull tail tight and thread through center to the inside of hat.

Weave in ends.

Lightly steam to block.




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8 Yarn Dyeing Tips for New Dyers

August 14, 2018

So, you want to take the leap and start dyeing yarn on a bigger scale, eh?Or maybe you’ve never tried dyeing yarn, have not dyed much, and are still learning the process?




I have been dyeing yarn since I became a stay at home mom in 2011. I wanted something to do, my oldest son was the easiest baby to take care of in the world, and it was just plain time to take up knitting again. Since then, I’ve played around with different yarn dyes, dye techniques and perfected a few different processes until I launched OMG Yarn about a year later.




Over the years, I’ve refined my process, learned how to be a lot more flexible, and even took time off from dyeing yarn before coming back as OMG Yarn (Balls) last year with my very own unique way of dyeing.

If you’ve just started your fiber arts journey or have even been on this road a while, you know that there are so many ways that dyers do things.

While I won’t share my specific dye recipes, I am always happy to share some of the little tricks of the trade that I’ve acquired over the years that have helped my yarn be my favorite to work with.




So, here are 8 tips that I’m passing on, just for you:

 

  1. Knit (or crochet) with your yarn often.

    Always make time to work with your yarn. If you do not enjoy working with your own yarn, how will you convince customers to buy your yarn? When I started dyeing yarn, I just dyed  hite skeins of yarn I could get my hands on at the time. I wasn’t too terribly happy knitting with it.It was not until I had opened my yarn shop that I had gained some connections with different sales reps to try different yarn bases from different mills until I’d settled on a supplier that had many options to grow my yarn line and that I enjoyed working with.
  1. If you do not like a color you just tried dyeing, work with it.

    Sometimes how you dyed your yarn just does not sit right with you. Whether it’s because the colors did not do what you thought they would, or the yarn itself (or the dye) did not rise to the occasion. Your dye job may still be salvageable. Remember, your personal taste in color may not reflect your customers’ taste in color. Try working up a swatch of the yarn in knit or crochet and see what you think.Better yet, see what other people think. Even if it does not make it to your final repeatable colorway lineup, you will have a couple one of a kind skeins that people will snatch up from your shop or your booth at a show.

 

  1. Soak animal based yarn blends in a vinegar (or citric acid) solution prior to dyeing yarn.This kind of goes without saying, but I will reiterate this one. Vinegar or citric acid is very important for dyeing animal based fibers. The acid helps colors strike better on yarn. Some dyers even add the citric acid to their dye when doing speckled colors, because the powder will stay localized with the dye and strike quickly.




  1. Let yarn cool down before rinsing/washing and then rinse/wash with cool or room temperature water. This is another one that people do not often think of in the yarn dyeing process until they find that their dye is washing out a lot. If you did not use a ton of dye and the color is just not staying in the yarn, the water may just be too hot or you did not give yarn enough time to rest after dyeing. Letting the yarn rest is an important step. It’s almost like the dye keeps setting after you remove its pan from the heat. After cooling down, do what you’re going to do to finalize your dye technique process and let it go hang to dry.

 

  1. Wool based yarn a little rough after dyeing? Use vinegar or glycerin (soap) to soften it. This is one I learned recently. I have a yarn base that is very energetically spun (high, tight twist) so it felt a little rough to a handful of people who’ve felt this yarn base. Because I’m a perfectionist, this just would not do for me, so I sat down and did a little online research about softening wool. Now, after I finish dyeing my yarn and doing a final rinse, I let it sit in another bath of vinegar or Hemp Castile soap (a plant based glycerin product). It made all the difference. Even the yarn that I thought was soft and fluffy to begin with felt amazing after drying.




  1. For faster dry times, spin water out of your yarn in the spin cycle of your washing machine.

    My final step before hanging yarn to dry is to always spin water out of the yarn. It was something I started doing just after being commissioned for a 350-skein order. Now, I could’ve gone out and bought three or four more dry racks, but that was not going to work for our house – I had to put dry racks on top of a patio table so our old dog would not pee on or stick his little boogery dog nose onto the yarn – it still would not change the fact that it was taking at least 24 hours for a full rack of yarn to dry. Instead, it meant spinning out as much water as I could during the spin cycle of our washing machine. Dry time went down to about 8 hours or less. Drying was especially quick on a hot, sunny summer day with a good light breeze. I finished that order with time to spare with my three kids being in the house too!




  1. Find a good yarn dye that will work with your particular setup. I spent a lot of time researching yarn dyes and what supplies/”chemicals” were necessary for the dyeing process. I started out with Kool Aid and food coloring dyes, because I still wanted to be able to use the pots and pans in my kitchen to cook meals with (and other dyes require you to use separate pots and pans). Once I found that I could not get certain colors, I researched other dyes and settled on one that had a similar process to dyeing with Kool Aid/food coloring and chose that set of dyes.There really is no specific brand that I’d recommend, but Jacquard and Procion dyes usually are the more widely used. You will also use different ingredients when dyeing cotton, so be aware, dyes do not always work with all yarn.




  1. Lastly, try multiple dye techniques before deciding on what you will use for your signature dye technique. I always suggest this, mainly because my personal dye technique is a cross between a couple different techniques.I wanted to a quick process like how it was doing solid yarns, but not just rely on solid colors in my line up. I also love the speckle dye trend, so I could always pair a solid color and speckle over the top of the solid color.

You know what process will be best for your setup and the dyes you use.

What do you think?




Let me know if you’ve tried any of these above and how they’ve worked out for you!

Let’s Get Down to Business: Tips for Marketing Your Fiber Arts Business

November 14, 2017




I see it all the time, and not just in the fiber arts business. Entrepreneurs so excited to hop into business and they either do their work and flourish; or they skip steps and go out of business just as quickly as they started.

No, there is no magic formula to making a business work, and certainly not in the fiber arts world where there are so many subjective variables that contribute to a successful endeavor. We can, however, work on the things within our control and hope for the best.

As someone with experience at the business end of multiple service-related industries (health care, hospitality, and fiber arts to name a few), I like helping people try to realize their dreams of owning or running a successful business.

In a previous blog post, 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting or Growing Your Fiber Arts Business,I talked a little bit about avoiding the mistake of “not sticking to a marketing strategy”. I’d like to expand on that a little and talk about a few of the do’s and don’ts of marketing your fiber arts business.

In further posts, I’ll get into some social media marketing tips, but for now, let’s talk in general. Shall we?




THE DOs OF MARKETING YOUR FIBER ARTS BUSINESS

  • Establish your tribe: This is the latest jargon for find your niche, aka your corner of the market. Determine who you want to be your primary customer base and stick with it. Do some research. How old are they? Are they male or female (I know I’m super simplifying gender here, but if you’re marketing to a specific niche of the gender spectrum, establish that and own it)? Is your tribe more likely to buy from you online or in a physical shop? These are all things you need to define in your business plan, because marketing is a BIG part of what you’ll be doing to keep your business up and running.
  • Show & Tell: Show and tell all the things that make you unique. Make it obvious what your specialty is. OMG Yarn (Balls), from the yarn side, specializes in unique dye techniques that include speckle dyes and combinations of multiple dyeing techniques. I also offer patterns that can be used on my yarn or some of my favorite LYS-caliber yarns that you can find in big box stores. I mean, not everyone can afford $25 a ball to make a sweater, right? Show some of your life behind the scenes, get people interested in what you do and some of how you do it. Share your favorite color ways. Knit/crochet with your yarn or spin with your fiber. Show people why it is the best. Most of all, show your personality. Let people care about you and your business.
  • Expect to spend most of your time marketing your business: This is a big one. You will not be spending all your time knitting or dyeing, you’ll be spending it talking about your business or chatting with other business owners like yourself. I dye yarn once a week right now, but I spend about 20-30 hours a week hanging out with the Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists, MOFA admins, testing my own patterns over and over again (and coordinating testers other than myself), giving away copies of my patterns, planning Instagram posts, working on blog posts and coordinating guest posters, and so much more. The hard work is to paying off too!




THE DON’Ts OF MARKETING YOUR FIBER ARTS BUSINESS

  • Don’t skip your market research: Let me repeat that for those of you in the back: “DO NOT SKIP YOUR MARKET RESEARCH”, it will be your undoing. Why would you put all your money and effort into a business and self-sabotage by not doing your prep work. You wouldn’t knit a $5,000 sweater with the wrong needles or yarn, spending a year knitting it, only to throw it out, would you? Not on purpose.
    • If you’re opening a brick and mortar shop, make sure your market is not saturated. That means, check to see how many yarn shops are within a 5- to 10- mile radius and see what they’re doing. If there’s already at least one, probably not the area for you, even if you THINK you could do better. When I closed our shop, we were doing well, but two yarn shops opened just before then. My business model limited overhead costs and had a lot of what I called side-hustles. It paid for itself and eventually some bills for at home too.
    • If you open up in a market where there’s only $75k or less to be made, you’re taking money out of your own pocket and that of the other shops (aka you’re limiting your market share). Also, do as I mention above and make sure you differentiate yourself from the competition. If they carry a lot of a certain brand, carry a different one. If people are looking for that specific brand, be willing to send them to that store, because guess what, they’ll be more likely to send people to you when they don’t carry something you have.
  • Don’t skip any other part of your business or marketing plan: It doesn’t have to be a 90-page doctoral thesis on the yarn biz, but you do have to plan things. A simple business and marketing plan for your business could be 1-5 pages of bullet points that include your mission (your overarching goal), vision (how you expect to achieve that overarching goal), and the financial piece (how much you will invest and reasonable expectations for income and expenses).
  • Don’t expect to copy exactly what other businesses do and be successful at it: You may not have the certain magic that makes their business plan works. For example, don’t expect to do everything StevenBe does, because YOU ARE NOT STEVENBE, YOU ARE YOU. What makes you magical? That should always be part of your business plan. If you are the brioche master, show it and own it. If you like loud, unique color combos, make that known. Make it your life.

Get it now? Seriously, you’re more than welcome to contact me for questions or more tips in this department. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now (I got my MBA in 2006 and have been in business management in some capacity ever since).

Overall, DO HAVE FUN. If it’s your passion, it won’t feel like work.




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Free Pattern/Recipe: Rhonda’s Crochet Fingerless Mitts

November 2, 2017




What I love the most about crochet is that you can free form design things. Knitting involves a lot more math and a lot more plotting before you get started.

That’s definitely what you get when working with the pattern that Rhonda Green sent me to use as a free pattern on the site.

With Rhonda’s  Fingerless Mitts pattern, you can use any yarn and the hook size that the yarn calls for. The instructions are more of a recipe for what to do to make these mitts.

What You’ll Need:

  • One 100g ball of your favorite weight yarn (for our mitts, I used OMG Rushmore, a sport weight yarn)
  • One E/4 (3.5 mm) crochet hook or size suited to yarn
  • Scissors
  • Tapestry Needle (for weaving in ends)

Gauge/tension is not important here, since this is a recipe for any weight yarn you choose.

Crochet Techniques You’ll Use:

  • ch – chain
  • dc – double crochet
  • dc2tog – double crochet two together
  • sc – single crochet
  • sl st – slip stitch





Skill Level: Beginner

Rhonda’s Crochet Fingerless Mitts

Ch 35 or enough to go around your wrist. Join into ring, careful not to twist chain.

Hand/Wrist

  • Round 1: Ch 2. Dc in each ch around, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.
  • Round 2: Ch 2. Dc in each dc around, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.

Repeat Round 2 to desired length.

Thumb Shaping

  • Round 1: Ch 2. 2dc in first 2dcs, dc in every dc around to last 2 sts, 2dc in each of the last 2 sts, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.
  • Round 2: Sl st over first two sts. Ch 2. Dc in every dc around until 2 sts before end of previous round, ch 5 (or as many as needed to fit around thumb), sl st into top of beginning of round ch.
  • Round 3: Ch 2. Dc in every dc around, dc into each ch from previous round, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.
  • Round 4: Ch 2. While making a dc in each dc around, decrease the number sts needed to reach original stitch count evenly across the round using a dc2tog to decrease one stitch, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.
  • Round 5: Ch 2. Dc in every dc around, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.

Repeat Round 5 until mitt is the desired height.

Secure and cut yarn. Weave in ends.

Optional Thumb Instructions

You can include as many rounds of sc stitches around your thumb hole if you prefer. Rhonda usually makes them with a long thumb, in mine I made only 2 rounds of sc sts, because that was my preference.

I love the yarn Rhonda used here! As you can see, you can make the thumb as long as you like. 🙂

Enjoy!




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This is Domestic Violence: Silent No Longer

October 17, 2017




Trigger Warning: This blog post talks about domestic violence. With the social media outcry of “me too” opening up a lot of wounds for myself and many others, I chose to leave some aspects of my story out.

I heard it all during the initial stages of my divorce proceedings. No one believed that I, such a sassy and intelligent woman, could possibly have stayed in an abusive relationship long enough to get married and have kids. No one believed that I could have stayed for over seven years without saying something.

They were wrong.

He told his family that I was unstable. He passed on messages that I was just a bitter bitch trying to take his kids from him.

People believed him and I did not care. I was out, I’d pick up the pieces when things calmed down.

It is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I am finally ready to share my story. It took over two years to end the relationship from hell and I’m breaking the silence.

Maybe it will help you. Maybe it will help someone you know. All I know is: sharing is helping promote awareness and continues the healing process.




What is Domestic Violence?
According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, “Domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence (IPV), domestic abuse or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.”

Copyright by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project

It does not always have to mean physical violence, but also a number of other behaviors including:

  • Threats
  • Financial/Economic Abuse
  • Sexual Violence – including assault
  • Emotional Abuse (like gaslighting or threatening to hurt you or your children)
  • and more…

Domestic Violence is all about exerting control and power over someone else. No one deserves to be on the receiving end and it’s time that we raise more awareness on this issue.

One in four women will experience domestic violence in a relationship. Two in three children will be exposed to domestic violence.




My Story
In the beginning, he was nice. He said all the right things. We were going to experience life to the fullest. I’d never been camping, so he promised to take me camping. I wanted to experience life outside of Wisconsin, so he said he was looking in to moving to California. Just the two of us.

When my ex-husband was around family and friends, he stayed quiet. He was not rude, he was charismatic when he did speak. The salesman personality came out. He could do no wrong. He was a saint for “taming” such a free-spirited woman.

Then came the sarcastic remarks. You know, the ones that made people giggle about how we argued like an old married couple. We were cute and our sarcastic banter was even cuter.

What people did not see were the tears that followed. I’d privately stand up for myself. I’d pull him aside and say, “Hey, that wasn’t cool,” and where you’d usually expect a respectful conversation to follow, all I’d hear was how I was a “typical sensitive woman” or a moron for not seeing things his way.

Benign, right? That’s what I thought. Relationships had issues, they weren’t perfect. These were our issues.

Then came the humiliation. The first time we hung out with his friends together, I was not allowed in said friend’s house. Supposedly, there was a roommate that did not tolerate people of color in the house. My ex’s words. And we were to spend the day there.

I wasn’t even allowed to use the restroom in that house. When I had to pee, I was forced to go outside, off the end of a pier and hope no one was watching. My ex said nothing. I said nothing. I did not value myself enough then to protest.

Then came the isolation. If I wanted to hang out with him, I had to go visit. He had made the 25- minute drive to my apartment once and decided that it was too much for him. I had to make the drive in the rain, storms, or whatever. It was my “problem”.

My friends weren’t good enough for him. They were nerds and he just plain couldn’t be around them. I started to see my friends and family less and less. I was embarrassed at having to defend him not wanting to come along when they got together.

Almost daily visits to my parents’ house became a thing of the past. I had to “grow up” and “cut the apron strings”.

Then things became physical. The first time I was dragged down the stairs, I went to the emergency room to treat my back injury. The doctors knew my story didn’t add up, but the treated me and sent me on my way. Me and my “clumsy butt”.

There were hardly ever any bruises. I’d get cornered in an argument, and I’d have to push him to get away. Then I’d get tackled or pushed to the ground. He’d stand over me and watch as I cried from the pain. He used the fact that I pushed him as justification. I needed to be put in my place. I believed it.

After I’d had my oldest son, I had damage to my back and neck from the length of my labor and he knew that even sudden body checks would leave me immobile for hours. Sometimes he even left me laying on the nasty basement floor, telling me I was being melodramatic and that he didn’t do anything.

Now, mind you, there were some mental health issues that both of us were dealing with during all of this, I had crippling anxiety, a PTSD diagnosis, a history of depression and even post-partum depression. I always knew when I put myself for an in-patient stay, usually to escape him, to have a break and not have the personal pride hit of staying with my parents.

Then came the manipulation and the threats. Following one major incident, he had injured me badly enough to call 911. When the police arrived, my ex reported I’d beaten him with a crowbar. All he had to show for it was scratch marks on his wrists from me trying to pry his hands from around my neck. I was put in handcuffs and escorted to a police van. I was not arrested. I was taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation and treatment for my injuries.

He came to visit me before I was taken in for an MRI of my neck. He brought our son and essentially told me I’d never see him again if I told anyone what had really happened. He was not going to let me ruin his life. That’s really all I can remember of that day, because however violently he threatened me, I had to be sedated.

Arguments following that day always focused around the fact that he had told the police that I had beat him with a crowbar and I was “arrested” and no judge would give an unstable woman custody of the kids if I ever left him. He said that I was lucky that he decided not to press charges. It’s why I stayed for so long.

Funny thing is, his story didn’t add up. I later heard from my mother, who had arrived at our house just after the police did, that my ex-husband admitted to doing “something wrong” and that the police decided on their own not to arrest me. Classic gaslighting behavior to keep me in the relationship.




The Turning Point
In spite of all those horrific things, I only reported him once. That was in 2012. I begged the ER doctors not to do anything because my ex had our son and I needed to make sure he was safe first.

Things calmed down for a while, I had our second child and got sick. Very sick. Not expected to survive sick. I was told to prepare myself and have a discussion with my husband about final plans. So, I started the conversation.

“That sounds like something you and your mother need to handle,” and that was the end of it.

“They” always tell you that the end goal of the abuser is to kill you. I took his nonchalance to mean one thing only: he did not have to bother with killing me himself, my body was going to do it for him. With my newfound heart condition, I was in hell and God Himself had my heart in His hands as a final sign to smack me back to reality.

I am worth so much more and my sons need to see that.

I made one final attempt to speak with him before I was scheduled to be induced for our son’s birth and he told me that we’d talk after the birth. I closed my eyes and I said to myself, “If I survive this birth, I’m getting healthy, and I’m leaving this motherfucker.”

I have counseled many women in domestic violence situations when I worked in health care and I always could tell them to leave. I always said that no one ever deserves this. Maybe, over the years, those words really were for me.




Standing Up and Walking Out
Financial abuse
was a real thing in our relationship. During the last parts of our relationship it took the form of him refusing to work for nearly 18 months. He blamed me. He told me that I was not allowing him to work because I would not get a baby sitter for him.

We needed the money, I had to work, and he spent every single dollar. If I came into extra money, it couldn’t go into savings, he already had plans for it.

I had to hide money. I had to lie about how much my business was really making. I had to actively make sure my business didn’t make over a certain amount of money each month, because he’d find a way to sabotage my hard work.

As I adjusted to my new normal and my physical health improved, I began giving myself daily pep talks. I had to believe in myself more than I did.

I found myself with two kids, scraping together my hard-earned pennies from my yarn shop to buy diapers for our new baby. I went back to work a little over a week after giving birth, because my ex pushed me to open my shop for Bay View Gallery Night so that he could showcase himself (of course) as the “artist”. I was exhausted all the time. ALL. THE. TIME.

I got a foreclosure notice for the condo and began to look at apartments. He would join me with some extravagant idea of where we should live.

The manipulation and disregard for my limited mobility continued. I put our budget at $800 a month. He’d show me places twice or three times that a month. I was adamant that we couldn’t have any stairs so that I could take care of the kids and not pass out from climbing the stairs. None of the places he found were all one level.

I stood up for myself. I was not going to live somewhere where we weren’t safe, and that included me being able to get in and out of our home. The last place he showed me is where he eventually moved to post-separation. The apartment itself had holes in the walls, was on the second floor of a dilapidated building, and the laundry room was in the dimly basement that pretty much would remind you of a serial killer’s lair.

Then I found a place. It was perfect. Everything I wanted and within my budget (I could run the shop and pay for the apartment, woohoo). It was in a suburb with good schools for the kids, had a garage, and a public pool. Because I’d found it, it was not good enough.

Even when we looked at the model apartment, he shrugged, “It might be doable.” I snapped. “You’re a loser. You’re not supporting your family, I’m doing EVERYTHING and it’s still not good enough. Me and the boys are moving here, you’re not welcome to come with.” I stormed out and spent the rest of the evening with my friends.

He got a job and moved out within two weeks of that conversation when I told him he was not moving with us.




He even admitted that he wanted to hurt us in writing, claimed that me and my boyfriend being together was hurting my son…

It Did Not Stop After He Left
The rest? Well, it could be a Lifetime Original Movie in and of itself, right down to the knight in shining armor who became my happily ever after.

It is a whole long story, but here are the “highlights” (and I saved about 500 pages of pictures of damage he’d caused to our shared home and screen shots of texts he sent):

  • My ex-husband found out I was dating and would constantly text me about how I was neglecting the children and being selfish.
  • I was told more than once a week that I should break up with my boyfriend and give him another chance. That he still loved me and he could not believe that I found someone else. He even accused me of cheating and leaving him for my boyfriend.
  • He would tell the boys things like he would not allow me to divorce him or not allow me to marry my boyfriend, whom they liked.
  • He committed parental kidnapping (something that was never addressed in court…long story) and refused to allow me to see the boys for nearly 2.5 months until the courts issued a placement order and investigation by guardian ad litem. When I was granted placement, our court commissioner asked who would like the first weekend and he said he’d already made plans with the boys for the weekend and was awarded the first weekend’s placement. Twenty minutes following the court hearing, he texted my mother begging her to take the children.
  • He harassed my parents to figure out my whereabouts or to gauge what my plan was in court. It got to the point where he even contacted them while I had an active temporary restraining order against him (he also had retaliated by filing a harassment order the following day and complained to my parents that I was not talking to him).
  • He would sit outside my apartment until my neighbors would call the police. Eventually, I discussed the issue with my landlord and they offered to keep him off the property. One night, I even parked my vehicle in my garage rather than in my assigned outdoor spot and got a text message the next morning claiming that I’d taken one of our sons to my boyfriend’s house overnight and that he did not approve. I had not left my apartment, however, with my vehicle not in its usual spot, it appeared that I was gone.
  • He charged his van at myself and my boyfriend while the boys were in the van with him. I actually made eye contact with (then) one-year-old Sharky who looked terrified that he was going to witness something bad happening to his mother. That is how close he got to us with his van.
  • With all of the drama behind the divorce going on and eventually becoming pregnant with baby Ola, I moved, I abruptly closed down my yarn shop to protect my customers, and I changed my phone number. Our guardian ad litem recommended to the court that I not deal with my ex-husband face-to-face because, in spite of the mountain of evidence (all of which a judge found inadmissible), I could not get a domestic violence restraining order against him.

I could go on forever. I could write a book, but I’ve moved on from that chapter of my life and I’m happy to be living the life I am now, occasional dramatic performance by my ex-husband and all.

Our divorce was finalized on June 14, 2017, the day before my 35th birthday, and it was pure celebration. I will continue to move forward with my life, but I also know not to be complacent. I will always be aware of my surroundings should the stalking or harassing begin again.

No one should ever have to live this way. I wanted out to create a better life for my sons and myself. I was tired of pretending I had the perfect life, I wanted to actually live that perfect life.




I’m not writing this to make him look bad or for me to look good. None of that matters.

The truth is the truth, whether or not you believe it. I’m writing this in the hopes that someone could learn from this. I can only hope that my story can inspire someone to get out.

Looking back, all the warning signs were there that I was in an abusive relationship, even before the first tear was shed. I am not going to “coulda, woulda, shoulda” myself into anxiety, I can only learn and move on. I used that relationship to determine what I won’t allow myself to put up with anymore.

In the midst of talking to my ex (while I still did) after he moved out, he told me that the right man for me does not exist because my standards were too high and that I’d be disappointed. He told me to be prepared for the fact that I’d see him get married again and that I’d be lonely and miserable because he was the best I could do (emotional abuse).

Funny thing is, I was strong enough to tell him, “I’m willing to take that chance just to be away from you.”

No matter what, this will always be my personal victory: I got out. I un-paused my life. I am who I want to be. I keep OMG Yarn (Balls) because it is part of who I am. I don’t have to self-sabotage anymore. I can finally pick up and hopefully realize my true goals with my passion for the fiber arts.

If all the good things that have happened since ended right this second, I know that, even if for just a brief moment of time, I am worth so much more than I was treated in that relationship. I have someone who appreciates me for who I actually am.

The divorce and custody struggles? I got out. I got my babies. We live how we want to. We are all stronger. Nothing can ever take that from me.




If you need immediate help for a domestic violence situation, visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline for more info on who to contact for help.

Guest Post: Petticoats Are Sew Awesome, Let’s Learn How to Make One! (Part 2)

October 5, 2017




Now that you’ve met Shirley Will of Faery Craft, let’s get on with how to make a petticoat.

Petticoats Are Sew Awesome, Let’s Learn How to Make One! (Part 2)

What You Need:

  • 8 or 9 yards of 72″ wide netting (tulle, crinoline, etc) –  I use very stiff netting and advise my customers to wear stockings so it won’t feel scratchy. For a friend’s wedding, though, I used a softer chiffon; she’s on the autism spectrum and needs non-scratchy fabrics no matter how many layers. It didn’t “poof” as much, but it still looked gorgeous.
  • For the waist layer, you can use a different fabric, such as wedding satin – One or two yards is fine, depending on your measurements. You’ll be doing the calculations first, so you’ll know in advance how much you need. If you go this route, you’ll only need 8 yds of netting for the ruffles.
  • 48 yds of ribbon for the hem – I use a narrow ribbon, either ⅜” or ½”. You can use either a matching or contrasting ribbon.
  • Wide, double-faced satin ribbon or blanket binding, a couple of inches larger than your waist measurement – You can also double over a strip of fabric to make your own waistband, but after dealing with all the ruffles, you’re not going to want to deal with much else.
  • One or two large sew-in snaps – depending on the width of your waist ribbon.
  • Sewing thread – matching or contrasting, depending on the look that you want.
  • Lots and lots of straight pins
  • Rotary cutter – You’re really going to want one of these. If you don’t have one and want to start a petti before you can buy one, see if you know someone who will let you borrow theirs. You can certainly cut the strips with scissors, but the cutter makes it so much easier that it’s ridiculous.
  • A way to measure your strips as you cut – You’ll see me using a rotary cutting mat, and it has gridlines on it. These are pricey as heck, so if you don’t have one yet, I’d suggest faking it. You can mark out the width you need with masking or painter’s tape, which works on cutting tables, floors, and even carpet. You’ll need to maintain a constant, even width, so doing all this is to your benefit, trust me.

OK, got everything? Let’s get to cutting!




You’re going to need a total of 8 very long strips of fabric; 9″ wide and 8 yds long. For a shorter petti you can use narrower strips, but generally the length of your skirt depends on how long your waist layer is. This is why I sew up the ruffles first; it comes in handy in figuring out how much length you still need. Oh I know, you can measure it all out beforehand – but reality sometimes messes with you, and this way is much easier.

OK, so there’s my pile of 8 yds of net. Now to unfold it. I cut one layer at a time. They all NEED to be exactly the same width, or else parts of your petti are going to be shorter than others. How do I know this? NO REASON, LET’S MOVE ON, SHALL WE. *wink*

This picture was taken later at night so the colors look different.

Here’s one strip cut and folded up off to the side, and the second strip started. I use a metal yardstick to hold the edge down. I put my left hand over to the other side of the 9″ mark to steady it, but be sure not to pull, because netting will stretch a bit. Now sometimes my cut line does wobble, but I haven’t strayed more than ¼”, so I should be OK when I stitch the layers together.

You’ll get exactly eight 9″ wide strips out of a length of 72″ wide netting. Get that all out of the way first; this part doesn’t take any brainpower, but it is the most annoying; it’s all cake & pie from here! 🙂

Maybe they won’t be ALL 9″ since netting bolts usually say ’70-72″ width’. But that’s ok, most of them are close!

Do your six strips for the bottom ruffle at 9″. Measure what you have left. Mine wasn’t a full 18″, it was only 15″. So, I cut it down the middle for my two strips for the middle layer, which is now 7 ½” wide.

Now that they’re all cut, sew the strips together – sew two together and set aside, then sew the other six into one big, long strip. This is what I do, but if you only want to gather half the petticoat at a time, leave the two middle fabric strips alone, and sew the other six into two 3-piece strips.




I use a light-weight needle on my machine, like for chiffon. I don’t put a stabilizer or anything under it; it’s never been a problem for me.

I sew a straight stitch seam down, just my normal stitch length. I keep my left hand on the fabric to guide it, but don’t pull tight, or it might pucker.

Without cutting the thread, pull the fabric toward you, turning so that you can sew the seam allowance down. Open up the fabric and lay flat, pushing the seam flat off to one side. I try to push all the seams in the same direction, but when all the ruffles are gathered, you really won’t be able to tell.

Once you’re in position, sew down on top of the seam allowance to keep it flat. I use a zig-zag stitch here, but you can use an overlock stitch or even a decorative one. I use a cute vine-style stitch for my wedding pettis.

Now the fun part (or “fun” depending on how you deal with repetitive action, lol). I knit and crochet, too, so I’m good with it. If you’re not, just keep reminding yourself how cute it will be when it’s done.

The no-gather technique is this … find the middle of each set of strips. Pin together with right sides together; this will be the edge that the seam will be on. Here’s a pic of the two middles. Yes, I commandeer the whole living room floor for this! If you have a nice recliner or something, you can drape the excess fabric over the arms.

Now, without twisting the strips, slide your fingers along the edges until you find the beginning of the strip. I work to the left, but it really doesn’t matter. Pin together right sides together like you did with the middles.

In the picture above we see the middles pinned together, and off to the left, the beginning of each strip. In the center, the piles netting left to pin. I did say you’d need lots and lots of pins! If you’re only working with half the petticoat at a time, it will look the same, but the fabric piles will be smaller.




OK, now. See those piles of fabric strips? Time to find the center of each one! I do the top first, since it’s smaller. I pull the two pinned pieces together, and keeping it folded, slide my fingers along the edges until I reach the center. I mark the center with a pin, and let the two edges fall back open when I set it down. Sometimes I’ll actually pin it to the arm of the couch or something so I don’t lose track of it.

Then, I move to the other pile of fabric and, using the exact same technique, find the center. When you do, mark it with a pin in case you drop it. Not that I do this all the time or anything. But I do.

There’s the second set of “middles”, with the beginning of the strips off to the left there. Mine are pinned to the carpet, right sides up. It doesn’t matter how you keep track of the right sides/ top of strip, as long as you do. It’s easiest for me to make sure the head of the pin is on the right side, but if you have a different way that works for you, go for it. The only thing that matters it that it makes the process easier for you!

When you find and pin the centers, it doesn’t have to be done with mathematical precision. You’re just ensuring that you have an even distribution of ruffles all around your petticoat. Some video tutorials of ruffles start with people just sitting down at the sewing machine and scrunching up the longer side as they go. This stresses me out! I keep thinking “how do you know it won’t be more ruffly on one side?” “how do you make sure you don’t end up with extra at the end?” Well, this is what I do.

Eventually, you’ll be able to just stretch out both arms and reach both “middles”. Here, the midpoint that you’re looking for, of the center petti tier, is to the left, and the one of the bottom tier is to the right.

This is about as close together as you want to get your pins. I used to pin them down flat into pleats, but it doesn’t make any difference in the way the finished petti looks, so now I just scrunch it up and guide it under the presser foot as I sew. Much like those brave video tutorial teachers, but with pins in the middle to keep me from scrunching too much or too little.

Keep pinning, moving to the right, continuing to find the centers of the pinned … loops, I guess? You’re going to end up with a top strip that lays flat, with the much larger bottom ruffle pinned in even bunches on top of it. At this point, I’m settled in with a nice beverage, with many, many yards of tulle draped all around me. When I get everything to the absolute center pinned, I’ll have to stand up to start finding the centers again. I’ll continue to pin from the left to the right, so that by the time I’m done, I’ll be at the opposite edge of the petticoat.

At this point, you probably see the advantage of doing half of the petti ruffles at a time. I’ve done it, it is easier. When you get both halves pinned and the seams sewn, you then sew the two halves together at one of the side seams.




All pinned? Sew the seam along the top the same way you did between the strips. The initial seam is done with a straight stitch, sewing down all the scrunches/gathers. When you’re done, open it up so the fabric is flat, push the seam allowance down, and go over it with a zig-zag stitch, or whatever you’re using. I push the seam downward toward the hem, but like I said before, it doesn’t really matter; you can’t really tell when it’s finished.

It does make a difference if you don’t sew it down at all. Not only does it look more polished, but it’s more comfortable to wear, especially if you’ve used a stiff crinoline.

Well, we’ve reached the end of Part 2 of constructing a petticoat! Part 3 will arrive soon. We’ll see you then.





Photos belong to Shirley Will of Faery Craft.

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How to Dye Yarn with Kool-Aid

October 3, 2017




Way back when, in 2011, I had just become a stay at home mom and I needed to find some ways to pass the time. I opted to hone my fiber arts craft and spent the days knitting and crocheting.

One day, my mother mentioned to me that I should try dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid. And I did! I was a long process. I didn’t know about putting yarn into hanks yet, so I ended up with a ton of yarn barf.

Of course, over the years I taught myself a few different dyeing techniques and learned ways to make dyeing easier for myself. Recently, I was looking for something to do with my 8-year-old and 3-year-old sons toward the end of the summer break and I decided to go back to basics.

Since speckle dyeing is the trend right now, I wanted to teach the boys that technique, but without using the professional powdered yarn dyes I use. I thought, let’s dye yarn with Kool Aid!

Even better, why not make something for them that they could show off out of that yarn that they made. The idea was instantly a hit with the kids; they always love watching mom dye yarn, looking like a mad scientist in the process.

Here we go!




What You’ll Need:

  • White vinegar
  • A Liquid Measuring Cup
  • One hank of an animal based fiber yarn (we used my OMG Liberty yarn base; a worsted weight 100% Superwash Merino Wool) – cotton and acrylic yarn will not work for this technique
  • One Large Pot (at least 4 QT)
  • Water
  • Stove
  • Kool Aid packets of any flavor without sugar added
  • Ice Cube Trays, at least 2
  • Freezer
  • Sink
  • Dish Soap
  • Laundry Rack or Hanger

Instructions:

Prep Work – Make Kool Aid Ice Cubes

  1. Using hot water, mix approximately 6 ounces (3/4 cup) of water with one Kool Aid packet until the powder is completely dissolved. Use as many different colors as you like, but remember that the colors may mix, so remember your art classes from school. Purples and greens together will end up brown or other weird colors.
  2. Pour mixture into ice cube tray. If you are using multiple colors, use multiple trays. My mixtures of each color created about 6 to 8 ice cubes.
  3. Place trays in freezer and let freeze.

 Prep work – Soak Yarn

  1. Fill sink with luke warm water and add 1 cup of white vinegar.
  2. Place desired amount of yarn in water and soak it for 20 minutes.

 On to Dyeing Your Yarn

  1. Place presoaked yarn in a large pot. It does not have to be in there in any specific way, but make sure the entire bottom of the pot is covered and your yarn lays flat.
  2. Add about one cup of warm water evenly to the yarn in the pot. This is so that the yarn does not burn when heated on the stove. Make sure that there is not too much water in there. The yarn shouldn’t float and there should not be enough water for the colors to distribute through the water.
  3. Place ice cubes randomly on the surface of your yarn.
  4. Put pot on stove and heat yarn on medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Make sure that the yarn does not burn. If your water boils off, add more to the pot.
  5. Remove pot from heat. Your yarn is hot and so is your pot. Use oven mitts to carry the pot and dump yarn in the sink.
  6. Let yarn cool for 10 minutes in sink.
  7. Wash yarn with a little bit of dish soap and cold water until the water runs clear from the yarn.
  8. Hang yarn to dry.




That’s it! You have a skein of yarn dyed and ready to craft with.

3-year-old Sharky chose Grape, Pink Lemonade, and Cherry for his flavors/colors.

 

8-year-old Peanut chose Blue Raspberry, Pink Lemonade, and Cherry for his Kool-Aid flavors/colors.

 

Of course, I started knitting these hats right away.

Want to learn how to make the kids’ cute cabled hat that I made with their yarn?

Kool Aid Hat Preview

How cute are Sharky and Peanut?!

You will need the following knitting skills to complete this project:

  • Knit
  • Purl
  • Knitting in the Round
  • Purl two together
  • Knit two together

The gauge is approximately 5 stitches per inch in the cable pattern.

The pattern is written for use with OMG Liberty (my worsted weight yarn) or Lion Brand Wool Ease (worsted weight). Sizes range from baby (about 12 months) to adult.

Lion Brand’s Wool-Ease is just a little bit different than OMG Liberty, so instructions include the different needle sizes needed.

Tip: I’ve made several of these hats to test the pattern. If you find yourself playing yarn chicken with OMG Liberty in the adult size, use the smaller cast on for stitches, but follow the rest of the pattern as is, it’ll fit adult size too.

Click here to buy the pattern.




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Guest Post: Petticoats Are Sew Awesome, Let’s Learn How to Make One! (Part 1)

September 18, 2017




Introduction

We love all members of the fiber arts community at OMG Yarn (Balls), that means, occasionally I’ll feature some other crafts like spinning, sewing, and more on the blog here. 

This guest post is one of three parts and is all about how to make a petticoat, probably one of my favorite accessories when it comes to dressing on the fancier side.

I’ve actually sewn my own petticoat in the past as part of a handmade Moulin Rouge inspired costume. I spent a ton of money on lace to make it authentic. Unfortunately, my pictures of me in the full outfit are buried in basement storage right now.

Anyway, let’s welcome Shirley Will of Faery Craft who’s going to tell you a little bit about her process of making petticoats. In this first post, you’ll learn all about her inspiration. Enjoy.

-Melina




Petticoats Are Sew Awesome, Let’s Learn How to Make One! (Part 1)

Hi there! Shirley from Faery Craft and design here. I got into sewing because, like a lot of people, I couldn’t find anything in the stores that fit. Back in the 70’s models were getting thinner and thinner, and my “Barbie doll” build just wasn’t en vogue. Or in Vogue!

There were several small charity thrift stores nearby, and I found out that older styles, like 50’s stuff, fit perfectly. So I started getting all the old sewing patterns I could find at yard sales, and started making my own!  Two years of middle school Home EC classes hadn’t prepared me for the vast array of mistakes I would make, but I did learn. Eventually!

Now, thank goodness, we have the internet! Especially since my hour-glass figure is more like an hour and a half; I don’t have to guess on how to adjust measurements, there are blogs and videos out there to help. I’m more than happy to pass on what I’ve learned to others now.

So, on to today’s subject! All at once most of my friends were into swing dancing. First thing I noticed from their dance-night social media posts was a distressing lack of petticoats! Even among the teachers. I couldn’t let such a sad state of affairs continue!

After asking Mr. Google, I found out that TV Guide had posted directions in 1956. We had always watched “The Lawrence Welk Show” when I was growing up, so I was very familiar with the dancers and their fabulous dresses. I never knew that one in particular was well known for her petticoats and that her mother made them, but I’m happy about it now! And grateful to people who love to catch a “pettiglimpse” enough to maintain a website on them.

Most petticoats you can buy have a gathered waist, which adds bulk right where you don’t want any. These lovely pettis are made with the top “layer” being basically a circle skirt, with two layers of ruffles.

The bottom hem is trimmed with ribbon (you don’t have to hem netting or tulle). It doesn’t say to make a waistband or to add a hook or snap, though. These things were probably something that “everybody knows”, because everyone was wearing them at the time!

For the custom pettis I make in my store, I ask for the customer’s measurements, so I can fit not only the length that they want, but also their waist. I use double-sided wide satin ribbon (or blanket binding) for the waistband, and sew on a couple of large snaps.

This was my first petticoat, and while it turned out great (I’m still wearing it), there are some aesthetic differences I do now to make it look more professional. And OK, it does have some gathers at the waist, but I’ve gotten better at the math (don’t worry, it’s easy. I just don’t pay attention sometimes).

These petticoats will literally stand up on their own, by the way.

Here are a couple of customers who sent me photos for my blog:

 

The bride is wearing her grandmother’s ivory-colored wedding dress, and was looking for a petticoat to match, because she wanted it to peek out of the bottom. I think it was a great idea, she looks stunning.

Stay tuned for the instructions on how to make them!


Photos belong to Shirley Will of Faery Craft.




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Let’s Do a Yarn Study: Alternatives to Wool Blends for Crochet Shawls

August 28, 2017



Oh my goodness! Why would I even do a write up about yarn that isn’t mine?!

Well, I’m a small-ish independent dyer, designer, and fiber arts business owner and I certainly am not at the point where I have all my bases covered yet (see what I did there?). That means I have friends and family that may not be able to use my yarn due to wool allergies, cost, etc.

It doesn’t mean that these people cannot get the most out of my patterns or even patterns that I highly recommend for my yarn or a good alternative.

I’ve decided that, since I am a former yarn shop owner, and like to be inclusive of everyone, even people who aren’t using my yarn for whatever reason, I want to pass on my recommendations. I do it for the love of yarn.




What do I mean by a yarn study?

Sometimes you see stitch samplers for crochet, knit, cross-stitch, which are basically studies on different techniques.

In this case, I’m working the same project in different yarns and comparing the qualities of each yarn in the hopes to better understand different fiber content, stitched fabrics, and thus inspiring new designs in various yarns.

For this yarn study I chose the Swagger Shawl by Barb Mastre Stanford because it’s a quick crochet project and with less experience designing for crochet, I felt that this would be the perfect opportunity to play with different yarns for crochet projects. And she so graciously designed it for OMG’s expansion back in 2014.

The yarns I chose are:

  • Caron Cotton Cakes
  • Lion Brand’s 24/7 Cotton
  • Knit Picks’ Shine Worsted

The yarns I chose are good Worsted weight cotton alternatives to OMG Liberty, which is what the Swagger Shawl calls for.

Cotton Yarn: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Cotton yarns that are wallet-friendly are notoriously rough and not always the first choice for a shawl that you would wear next to your skin.

When you are lucky to find a good cotton yarn that is soft AND relatively inexpensive, you notice that it has a wonderful drape, but can lack “memory”, meaning it doesn’t always bounce back from stretching.

It is because of its drape that cotton yarns can be good for shawls and other accessories including home décor items.

So here we go!




OMG Liberty (Pictured at the top)
Fiber content: 100% Superwash Merino Wool
Put up: 220 yards per 100 gram skein

  • Pros: OMG Liberty is fluffy, takes up dye very well, and has excellent stitch definition. When crocheted for the Swagger Shawl it maintained its springiness and drape.
  • Cons: As I mentioned in my introduction, price for larger projects with OMG Liberty might make this yarn cost prohibitive for some. That’s exactly why I did the yarn study. It’s $22 per skein, so you’re talking 66 bucks to make this shawl, plus the cost of the pattern.

Here are my recommended alternatives if you absolutely have to make this shawl (or any other project that might call for OMG Liberty).




Caron Cotton Cakes
Fiber content: 60% Cotton, 40% Acrylic
Put up: 211 yards per 100 gram ball

Added on at the last minute after discovering this new yarn at my local Michael’s store, I included Caron Cotton Cakes, because I thought that Swagger would look pretty awesome using this new yarn.

  • Pros: Pricewise, you’re only talking $4.99 a ball at Michael’s (or less since we’re nearing the end of cotton yarn season in the US). This yarn feels like chenille or microfiber fabric, so it is amazingly soft. I also like cotton/acrylic blends because it adds a little bit of memory to your stitches without losing any of the drape from cotton and this yarn certainly lives up to that. The self-striping aspect of the yarn made the shawl itself look unique compared to the other samples I crocheted.
  • Cons: The only issue I saw with this yarn was one ball had a knot in it like it had been cut and tied to complete the ball. This is something that occasionally happens with all yarn companies, so not necessarily a con per se.




Lion Brand’s 24/7 Cotton
Fiber content: 100% Mercerized Cotton
Put up: 186 yards per 100 gram ball

  • Pros: Pricewise, you’re only talking $5.49 a ball at JoAnn Frabrics (or less since we’re nearing the end of cotton yarn season in the US). I like mercerized cotton yarns for baby items, so this Lion Brand equivalent was screaming my name. It has a beautiful shine and drape in the finished shawl. I am loving wearing it around too.
  • Cons: It’s a little rough to touch, but it is hard wearing. With blocking, the yarn softens up a bit.





Knit Picks’ Shine Worsted
Fiber content: 60% Pima Cotton, 40% Modal
Put up: 75 yards per 50 gram ball

  • Pros: At $2.99 a ball, this yarn is at a great price point as well, but you will need 6 balls of this to make the Swagger Shawl. It is soft, shiny, and the drape is magnificent. This is the softest cotton blend I’ve found so far, and I’m happy that I tried it out! The yarn blocks well and even held up to me ironing it.
  • Cons: With a 50 gram put up, it means more ends to weave in. Other than that, I experienced one knot, but as I said earlier, I know that’s normal so it’s not a con for me.

Since gift season is quickly approaching, I’m sure you’ll want to use some of these good alternatives on your Swagger Shawl.

Here’s a link to the pattern: Swagger Shawl by Barb Mastre Stanford

Let me know how you like the pattern and feel free to tag OMG Yarn on FB or Instagram when you make yours!




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Guest Post: Art, Cultural Appropriation, and Inspiration an Essay by John Ziv

August 2, 2017




Uh oh, look out, another controversial post about a topic that affects artists everywhere. This time it is cultural appropriation.

It is a topic that comes up quite often in social media. With the sociopolitical climate being what it is, “call-out culture” has reshaped what it means to be an active participant online, even within the fiber arts community.

And the discussion always gets heated.

No one, not even members within disparaged culture/group in question, can agree on the subject, and because the Internet is what it is, people get offensive, defensive, or just plain bold. Maybe it’s an effort to not look a certain way, BUT feelings ALWAYS get hurt.

When the lovely John Ziv of Working Wood Production approached me with an essay on this topic to post in Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists, a LARGE Facebook group that I help admin, I sat back and read it. It provoked thought, and I immediately envisioned the s**t storm that would ensue within the group.

This is a message that must be shared as food for thought, but as I mentioned, feelings ALWAYS get hurt. So in an effort to be more about community rather than competition – in this case, the cliche competition of “who’s the most woke” comes to mind – I am posting this essay with comments turned off.

That does not mean approach me or other admins from the group, or John about the topic with name-calling or assumptions about our intent. The intent is to start discussion outside of this arena, because really, OMG Yarn (Balls) is about appreciation of the fiber arts and provoking thought for you to do with what you will, as long as any negative energy is not being flung at others.

Anyway, I love the group members, readers and customers I work with on a daily basis, but right now, this is the world we live in. So, just food for thought, don’t shoot the messenger, and any other overused saying…shenanigans won’t be tolerated.

Without further ado…




Art, Cultural Appropriation, and Inspiration by John Ziv

This is a topic that has been coming up a lot lately, and unfortunately, I think a great many people don’t actually understand 1) what the terms mean, and 2) that generally, it is none of their business.

—–

First off, what is Art?

Art is in its simplest form, expression. It can be stacking two rocks on top of each other in a way that pleases or satisfies the person doing the stacking. It can be someone banging those two rocks together. It can be someone taking strands of grass and wrapping those rocks in them. Does that mean that it has to please or satisfy anyone else, or evoke an emotion or expression? Absolutely not.

Art is personal. It has nothing whatsoever to do with other people, unless the artist themselves decides to make it for other people. Even then, their opinion of said art, unless they are buying it, displaying it, or helping put it together, is their opinion, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the expression of the artist.

—–

Cultural Appropriation?

That is the “theft” of cultural icons by another culture. This can be anything from clothing patterns, to music, and even to linguistic idioms. Most commonly it is done by a dominant culture to a minority culture.

The biggest problem with cultural appropriation is that it often distorts, and eventually leads to the loss of meaning in regards to the elements of the culture that have been stolen. This can lead to severe misunderstandings and prejudices, as well as damage to both cultures.

However, one thing to note is that cultural assimilation is an ongoing process, and will happen no matter how protective of ones culture a community may be. For instance, we have historic evidence of the Nordic Seafarers(aka the Vikings) having adopted elements all the way from Russia to Africa, and even some from India and the Far East.

Some exchanges are good, in that they have been exchanges of knowledge. Better methods of construction, medicine, textiles, even cooking. Others have been extremely harmful, such as the Opium Epidemic in the far east, the Abrahmic religions(which are based on an amalgamation of several religions dating back to at least as early as 2000BC), and the forced loss of culture by slave owners and conquerors of various countries/indigenous peoples.

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Inspiration is just that, whatever happens to inspire you to do something. Sometimes it is something that happens to be part of your personal mainstream culture. Other times it is something that is part and parcel of another culture entirely, but happens to call you to create.

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Obviously, these three things can and do come into conflict when people are more concerned about protecting something that is effectively immaterial, rather than appreciating that the thought process is different for each person.

What inspires one person, and what that person takes from another culture, and then creates in expression, will not, cannot, be properly judged by anyone else, because it is a personal expression of what they think, feel, and wish to create.

That doesn’t mean that you have to like it. In fact you are free to dislike it, dislike what it stands for, dislike the person creating it, and otherwise just despise the entirety. I certainly have some artists who I can’t stand them, their work, their inspiration, or the fact that they pull it from a culture that they know nothing about.

What it does mean is that you should stop, and really think about why something bothers you, and if there truly is a theft, then speak out. If it is someone simply crafting for the beauty of it, appreciate it, ask about their inspiration, and discuss it and politely note that it bothers you slightly. If it is something that is simply a cheapening of your culture, laugh at them, and walk away. If it is outright theft, go at them hammer and tongs.

Most of all, don’t get on a high horse about the work of someone else, when you know nothing about their culture, or their inspiration. Rushing to judge is not good for you, or the artist.

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My personal thoughts.

I see artistic culture as an ever evolving ecosystem. Some species never really change much, waxing and waning, but always there. Other species flare up, grow enormously for a short while, and then die off suddenly. And some species are born from a mixture of other species, and find their niche in the ecosystem that allows them to grow, thrive, and be a productive part of that particular biosphere.

I do not approve of outright cultural theft. Do not go and claim your art is the real thing, when you have not immersed yourself into that culture and really learned what it means.

Be inspired by whatever you come across. If you happen to be inspired by music, dance, painting, textiles, language, or whatever, that is A-OK. Let it influence your world view, learn about it, interpret it, keep your mind open to other thoughts and ways of doing things. And be respectful while you do it.

If it weren’t for the good parts of cultural appropriation, we would not have music such as R&B, Rock, or regional Folk Music. We would not have such amazing spices for cooking such as Ginger, Nutmeg, and Cinnamon. We would not have Chocolate or Coffee! We would not have Arabic mathematical symbols and calculating methods. We would not have advanced medicine. We simply would not have much of what most of us appreciate on a day to day basis.

Sharing pieces of a culture does not take from that culture. The culture itself is still intact, unless it is being repressed. If you want to preserve your culture intact, make the effort to do so, but be glad that people outside your culture find parts or even most of it, something that inspires them and is appreciated by them, however misguided they may be.

Basically, don’t be an ass.

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As always, my Essays, Rants, Jokes, and Philosophical Maunderings are free to share. On topic discussion is welcome. Trolls and off topic discussion will be removed with an industrial blender and a hose fertilizer attachment.