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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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Offensive Fiber Art and the Art of Offending through Art

May 11, 2017




My belief is that art should not be comforting; for comfort we have mass entertainment and one another. Art should provoke, disturb, arouse our emotions, expand our sympathies in directions we may not anticipate and may not even wish. – Joyce Carol Oates

What do you think? Should art provoke? Should art offend? It certainly can.

Let’s explore that fact today, shall we?

In case you did not know, I help admin a Facebook group called, “Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists”. My friend Nicole Goetz of Mercantile 519 started the group a few months ago and it’s now composed of over 8,000 people!

Being an admin for large Facebook groups requires you to step back from your own personal beliefs in order to objectively look at problems that may arise between members of the group and offer a fair solution that may or may not help. If you can’t help, sometimes you remove people from the group, sometimes you take down posts, and sometimes you offend or enlighten others around you.

Offensive Fiber Art(ists)

My foray into my own mildly offensive fiber art didn’t start with knitting that big pile of pink hats for the March on Washington earlier this year, but it certainly influenced me a great deal. Discussions surrounding the hats usually took on one of two forms:

  1. People who were greatly offended by their interpretation of what the hats were all about AND
  2. People who were offended at the offense people took over the hats.

This eventually pointed me in the direction of where I wanted to go with OMG Yarn (Balls) and this little bloggy of mine.

I LOVE art. I have my own projects (like the “It Is Too Fucking Cold” hat pictured above), but I love seeing what people come up with on a daily basis in the Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists group. What I look forward to most is seeing some of the things that cross stitchers and embroiderers post: sassy sayings stitched in a way to provoke.

Most recently and most notably, a post in the group provoked a bit more than just an “OMG” from our members, but an intense discussion of institutional racism and experiences of others. Discussions got aggressive and beyond mildly offensive, leading multiple reports of the post. The image itself offended many as well.

Trying to stay neutral, I posted: “Admin here: Hi, stop reporting this post. If someone is being disrespectful to each other, contact us admins. You may not agree with the viewpoint given by the art in this post, but art is supposed to be provocative. Don’t like it, keep on scrolling.”

Then, I thought twice. Yes, art is supposed to be provocative but if it isn’t, is it still art?




The Art of Offending

As artists we cannot choose what is offensive to others, we can only create artistic works and hope that our intended meaning comes through. I mean, of course, sometimes a hat is just a hat and a sweater is just a sweater, but what about knitting or crocheting a uterus and sending it to a legislator to invoke change?

I cannot create a piece of art meant to offend and expect that EVERYONE will be offended. I also cannot tell someone who is offended by what I think is benign that they don’t have the right to be offended, even if it wasn’t my original intent. Like I said, we cannot control who is offended from who is not, but we can use art media in a way to provoke conversation.

Hell, there was a point at which someone was offended by my modern take on a dream catcher, even though I, myself, am Native American. I could have been offended by someone telling me what pieces I could and could not make, or I could have learned from the conversation. Why was she offended? What could I do better as a person to explain myself? Am I even required to explain myself as not exploiting a particular culture?

And then you could be offensive in what materials you use or how you use them…

The one thing that comes to mind when I think of offensive art was the fallout from Chris Ofili’s painting, “The Holy Virgin Mary”. The artist used elephant dung as a medium and the whole world lost their damn minds over it. Haha!

In the fiber arts community, there’s that lady who knits while keeping her yarn in her vagina. Nah, I’ll pass.

Offending, Provoking, and Invoking Fiber Arts as Means to an End for Change 

Me, personally, I just stick to my occasional craftivism and hope to impact the world positively through knitting and crocheting for a cause and also to help pass on the tradition of fiber arts to younger generations. That’s what I mean to do with my fiber art for fun. The heavy lifting for OMG Yarn, obviously is yarn dyeing and designing, but still, it wouldn’t be fiber art without a little bit of stirring up the pot, right?

Historically, knitters and crocheters have been on the forefront of change in many ways, and craftivism is not a new concept.

“The history of craftivist art lies in the foundations first established by the Arts and Crafts movement in the UK. The idea of ethical interactions and relationships between the artist and his or her environment as a whole has carried through the generations. Female-led efforts to promote craft industries in Canada during the late 19thcentury have also influenced today’s craftivist undertakings by implanting the trend with feminist values and ethics. Craft artists and social action groups are thus driven to create their art in conjunction with a framework dedicated to political change and constructive protest. Through the manipulation and exploitation of stereotypes that lie in the assumed innocence of knitted artwork, the familiarity and gentleness of craft art has become a tool for assertive social action.” (Hardy-Moffat, 2012).

Now, I’m seeing people I’ve met in the fiber arts industry, people like Donna Druchunas and more, invoking social change and awareness with their fiber arts. Facebook groups like Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists and Compassionate Craftivists have popped up for fiber artists to unite their efforts or just ogle over others’ hard work at “offending”.

In the end…

Fiber artists are really just group of people out for tolerance, acceptance, and change and they’re united through an obsession with various fibers made into string. What’s not to love about that?

And yes, I do realize that there are people that knit, crochet, spin, etc. just to relax or have fun, but that is evocative too, no? What say you?




References.

Frank, P. (2015, June 01). At $2.3 Million, It’s The Most Expensive Painting Made Of Elephant Poop. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/01/chris-ofili-elephant-dung_n_7470692.html

Hardy-Moffat, M. (2012, November 16). Feminism and the Art of “Craftivism”: Knitting for Social Change under the Principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from http://cujah.org/past-volumes/volume-v/essay3-volume5/

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Baa Baa Black Sheep: Being a Person of Color in the Fiber Arts Industry

May 2, 2017




*Hits publish and waits for the trolls* I got my first trolls a few weeks ago. Seriously, just don’t bother, I won’t engage. Didn’t I tell you I was a little bit sassy? PS. My title was meant to be a little bit provocative to get your attention.

Reviving my fiber arts business has made me personally reflect on my life experiences, not only as a business person, but also on my career as a yarn shop owner and yarn dyer. Most of my experiences are good and only very few laden with the self-doubt that usually is involved with being a person of color in any realm of life. What does that all mean? Well, let me share a little bit of that with you today.




First, A Brief Sociology Lesson 

Although I was born in Florida, I have spent most of my life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and its suburbs. Milwaukee competes with other major cities each year being one of the most segregated cities in the country.

That doesn’t necessarily mean what most people think it means; it means that there are pocket communities within the city itself, but it also means that there is a lot of racial disparities, class/caste divides, and a ton of stereotypes about ANYONE and EVERYONE flying around.

Race is actually a social construct, so the definition of being a person of color has changed throughout history. Being black usually meant being an “undesirable” or “unacceptable”. It didn’t always mean African American, but included a number of ethnicities that now would be classified as Caucasian or White. It is because of that fact – and my personal family genetics – that I do not personally identify as black, but as either “other” or “mixed race”.

So WHAT are you?!

Sassy answer: I’m a superhero.

Semi-sassy answer: I’m human.

Real answer: There isn’t a real answer. I don’t fit into a nice and neat category and that bugs A LOT of people. My father’s family is Jamaican and Costa Rican with history that can be traced back to a dude that got kicked out of Ireland (What the hell do you have to do to get kicked out of Ireland?! ). On my mother’s side there’s (*deep breath*) German, French, Swiss, Native American, Chinese, and somewhere, buried deep is a couple drops of African American.




As a result of that cocktail of nationalities, this All-American Navy brat has “frotastic” curly hair, freckles, and white chocolate, mocha-colored skin with olive undertones (thanks to my Costa Rican familia). All that European background means I have some blonde hair mixed in to my deep brown and ZERO booty to shake, but all the other bass clef, Marilyn Monroe-esque curves.

My kids are various shades of beige ranging from “glow in the dark” to caramel latte. Ola has auburn/red curly hair, Sharky always looks pale, and Peanut was born with Royal Blue eyes (which has changed to a gorgeous shade of hazel).

But This is 2017! How does being a POC effect your fiber arts business?!

Meh, most days, it doesn’t. Seriously, I’ve been #blessed beyond words. My regular customers are wonderful and I have no complaints. In fact, I would argue that the fiber arts industry is much more open-minded than the rest of the country, probably why fiber artists have been the face of a lot of different social change movements both recently (think pink hats and knit/crochet uteri) and in the past. Remember, the road to change is paved with yarn.

Most of the effects are self-inflicted, but I have had some experiences that shape how I personally choose to do business. How?

    1. I refuse to be a patron to businesses that show obvious bias against me personally or my business. Not naming names, but outside of the fiber arts industry, there are some hotels that I will not stay at because of terrible service as the result of my perceived race and also because of my gender. One chain even went so far as to not return my calls when I filed a complaint, but they would return my then husband’s calls within minutes of his voicemails.It was only months later, when I filed a public review of management’s treatment of me and had the credit card company reverse charges, did I receive a call, which went something like, “You can’t possibly think we discriminated against you. Come stay with us again, free of charge, and we’ll change your mind.” To which I responded, “You couldn’t pay me enough to make me want to stay there again. Money is not something that motivates me.” *click*
    2. I am actively inclusive of ALL people. Hey, I may not always be able to properly vocalize how much of a neutral person I am, but seriously, everyone who isn’t a danger to me or my family is welcome in my proverbial store and is welcome to a hug if we ever meet in person. I also started out with silent tutorials to be inclusive of my hearing impaired audience.
    3. I pledge to get in front of the camera more so that people of color can have a fiber arts hero that looks like them, even if I didn’t.  My new motto these days, “If you can’t find a hero that looks like you, be that hero.” I am working on building up my self-esteem to get in front of the camera and introduce myself to you personally. See the person behind the knitting and crocheting hands and the personality behind the crass and sass.

We don’t always get to see people of color in fiber arts, so it can lead to a lot of self-consciousness for those of us to don’t fit the mold of stereotypical knitter or crocheter.Since knit and crochet design also fits into the realm of fashion, I need to get out and represent the curvy-hipped, larger-bosomed ladies like myself. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and colors of the rainbow, and I want OMG Yarn to reflect that vision. I’m totally ok with you and want you to be ok with you too!




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OMG Yarn Projects and Designs: Go Big or Go Home

February 14, 2017

Announcement: My Etsy shop is up and running! All my pink/rose colored hand dyed yarn is posted. Click here to browse and buy!

A Passion for Fiber Arts, Fashion, and Life

My mother quilted this mug rug for me and gave it to me for Valentine’s Day. She’s who keeps me motivated, gives me my pep talks, and taught me how to be a superhero and crafter. Yup, I even sew!

When I was in my twenties, I lived like I was the midwestern Carrie Bradshaw. I had a cute little apartment in Bayside, WI, wore my loud suits and coats, and kept a budget for piles fabulous shoes. As a mom, I’ve toned it down, but I still like to wear big cowls, sweaters, scarves, and functional hats to accessorize my new wardrobe of yoga pants and t-shirts. I dream of big chunky knit blankets, designing outrageous knitwear for celebrities, and living the life straight out of a shabby chic themed Pinterest Board.

 

I think I lost some of that in the hustle to make the yarn shop work for single motherhood (though I’m not single anymore). If the last couple years have taught me anything, it is not to apologize for who I am as a person. I am an artist; yarn is my medium.

 

OMG Yarn is supposed to be about putting myself into my work. Everything I knit, crochet, spin, design should leave me breathless and you saying “OMG” (hence, the name, right?).

 

How Pink Hats Led to OMG Yarn’s Revival

People who know me can tell you that I like to do things in a big way. I can’t just make a hat, I have to make 50 of them. Just ask Beth at The Big String. She and I spent a few weeks in pink

Pile of cat hats in various colors going off to a friend. Sizes from baby to Adult. Even a child/toddler version is in there too!

hat overload for the Women’s March on Washington. I have my own personal reasons for being dedicated to making hats for others who don’t knit or crochet. I think that we as women should build each other up and support each other, no matter what the struggle. The last count of hats sold between the two of us was over 100, not including our own family and friends who put in orders as well.

 

Why bring up this divisive topic? As I sat making hat after hat, the gears in my head started turning. This was what I wanted to do. Projects I could invest my soul in. Beth and I kept designing and re-designing these hats to make them quick and easy to churn out for the orders coming in. It led to designing a Groundhog Day hat for my parents’ Bed and Breakfast, because the pink hat design naturally makes cute little animal ears. From there, because my mom asked, I designed matching fingerless mitts. Then, I wanted different colors for hats and scarves. And the designs kept coming.

 

What’s next?

I’m a superhero, a mom, a fiber artist, and now a blogger. The goal is to basically live the fiber artist life in a big way. OMG Yarn will:

  • Keep the designs coming: All the accessories and clothing items I love to wear in the style I love. I prefer bohemian, shabby chic, somewhat modern, Soho, style with neutral tones highlighted with pops of color. The colors I like to add should be striking.
  • Keep the YARN coming: I am dedicated to all things fiber arts. So yes, I’ll still be dyeing yarn in limited quantities and listing them for sale on Etsy. I also have yarn from the shop that needs to go too, it’s taking up my entire craft studio right now.

    Sharky’s Rainbow Blanket is the first “Go Big or Go Home” project in the works. It features planned color pooling, so keep an eye out for some tips and tricks on how to do it.

  • “Go big or Go Home” projects: I keep saying that, right? Well, it either means that these projects are going to be simple but larger-scale, bring great joy to me, or something that I personally would want to wear and never take off. If I’m going to make something using planned color-pooling, it’s going to be larger than life. These may feature OMG hand dyed yarn, they may not.
  • Teach some knit and crochet techniques we all could use: Obviously, I want to keep some of the finer aspects of yarn shop life and teach people how to do basic, intermediate, and advanced fiber arts techniques that can be used in every day projects. I will be designing accessories and things you can wear, but learn something in the process. Again, if I’m working on a planned color-pooling project, you’d like to know how to do that and be successful at that first, right? (Hint: There’s going to be some planned pooling coming up in the near future)
  • Mom Life and Behind the scenes: I always love to share some behind the scenes action. In other words, how I make the work from home life happen for my family. Time management is a big one, obviously, but other little life hacks.
  • Other services: I’m also working on ways that I can help other fiber artists and entrepreneurs run successful businesses as well. I’ll soon be offering personal services like technical editing and business development (marketing, social media help, business and marketing plans, etc). I have a lot of knowledge and experience to offer, and I’m not selfish. I like to see others succeed.

Eventually, I hope to monetize the blog here as well, but that won’t happen until later.