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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!

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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Gritty Photography, Free Spirits and The Oversized Sleeveless Tunic

June 28, 2017




 I like photography that stands out. I also like yarn that stands out and speaks for itself. When paired with the perfect project, photography and yarn can certainly make indie dyed yarn into a work of art.

The idea behind the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic design was to have a simple, oversized top that I could wear anywhere AND show off my yarn in a way that doesn’t take away from the speckled colorways I have been dyeing lately.

With the photography, I got adventurous in every way.

iPhone Photography

I use my iPhone for photography these days. Gone are the days where I had the time to grab my camera, take photos, download photos, edit photos, and then choose the best to go into patterns.

I take photos and edit them right in Instagram, send them to myself, and they get done in a much more streamlined manner (if that’s not another blog post, I don’t know what is…haha). The results are more unique photos and way less time is spent fighting with computer software to do what I want it to do.

The photos from the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic were purposefully grittier. They’re a throwback to when photography was new and a bit more of a raw art.

They’re also an homage to my favorite cinema director Tony Scott who experimented with older hand cranked cameras in the movie Man on Fire. The raw cinematography contributed to the die hard emotions of the film and was a way to draw the audience in to the wild spirt that comes alive when avenging the apparent death of a loved one.

I got a little adventurous and took the short walk to our lakefront in order to get a unique backdrop from the Lake Michigan shore. The free spirit in me has always loved looking out onto the lake and seeing nothing but endless skies and, of course, endless possibilities.

Showing off what gorgeous fabric that OMG Rushmore and the new color Newsprint is Dead can do, I created the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic.




Newsprint is Dead

The colorway wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for my three-year-old. I was playing with an idea (I’ve been looking for black speckled yarn that looked like newspaper EVERYWHERE) and layered grey and black together. My toddler snuck up behind me and asked, “What you doing?” half-jokingly, because he knew what I was doing.

I asked if I should add another color to the yarn and he said, “Yes! Pink!”

The result: A page of newspaper that looked a little bloody before the dye set. It almost looked like a murder scene. Perfect.

Oversized Sleeveless Tunic

As the pattern description says, as a mom of three young kiddos that are always on the go, I need to wear comfortable, loose clothing that allows me to keep up with all the fun. One of my go-to clothing items is a tank top or sleeveless shirt that I can layer under a cardigan or over a t-shirt.

The Oversized Sleeveless Tunic is designed to be a go-to knit that you can actually wear, be comfortable, and stylish at the same time. Pair this with solid color yoga pants, layer with your favorite tank tops and/or cardigans and knit it with your favorite sport weight, hand dyed yarn.

This design is beginner-friendly and perfect to show off a speckled, variegated, or even solid colored yarn. There’s six inches of ease, so your top will have a gorgeous drape to accentuate almost any figure shape.

It is constructed from the bottom up and in the round. The front and back are worked flat and there is a faux seam on the side that tapers to the under arm.

The day that I photographed this, I walked down to the lakefront and back, and it was just so comfortable that I left it on ALL DAY. I ran to pick up my boys from their dad’s house, I took all three kiddos shopping at Target, and then came home to rest. Mom clothing needs to feel un-impeding of the process of caring for kiddos and this did just that.

It also will go perfectly with a black cardigan I just bought, so it’ll likely get put into the rotation of my mom wardrobe aka the mom uniform.

The pattern is available for purchase in my Ravelry store and my Etsy shop as well. See links below.

Limited time only: The pattern is free in my Ravelry store until July 4, 2017, no coupon code necessary.




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7 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting or Growing Your Fiber Arts Business

June 17, 2017




The OMG Yarn (Balls) blog and Etsy shop may seem like an overnight success. In fact, it’s been a LONG time coming.

I opened an Etsy shop back in April 2011 after becoming a stay at home mom to my oldest, Peanut, who was about 18 months old at the time. He was an easy baby who’d started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old, so I was feeling a little bored. I started knitting again. All the time.

By the following year, I’d opened a little yarn shop to keep me occupied. Peanut tagged along and took on the role of shop helper and the self-designated door opener for customers.

The success of my little yarn shop was not short lived, but I closed my doors to evolve the business beyond the storefront and do the things I loved.

Even with a Master’s in Business Administration and half a decade of management experience in the health care industry, I still made some mistakes and/or noticed other businesses make certain slip ups when it came to the billion dollar + fiber arts industry.

I warn you though. You can do EVERYTHING “right” in business and still not have the kind of success you want. Some of us will never be WEBS Yarn Store or Debbie Bliss, BUT we can have the kind of success that will feed our families or at least give us a little extra money to spend on more yarn. (That’s why we’re in this business, right? We love yarn.)

Let’s chat a little about some of those mistakes and what you can do to avoid them, shall we?

  1. Diving in head first without a plan or a safety net. 

    They tell you that entrepreneurs dive in and build the parachute on the way down. In a sense, we do, but really, there’s so much more involved.We stand on the edge of the cliff and decide whether or not to jump, whether or not the build the parachute, what color that parachute should be, and whether or not we might be able to aim for the bushes or not. What does that really mean?

    Start with a business plan. It doesn’t have to be a 50 page dissertation on why yarn and wool is awesome and that you think you can make money off of it, but it does have to lay out the basics – the Who? What? When? Where? Why? And How?

    I’m not going to go into how to write a business plan here, but things to keep in mind: Who is your tribe (target audience)? What services and products you plan to offer? What sets you above the rest (find other businesses that you love and write down what you could do better than they can or what you could stand to improve about yourself to be successful)? Where you will operate (a physical location, online, or both)? Why you are doing this (and no, it’s not just about making money)? What are you goals (mission and vision in the business vernacular)? How will you achieve your goals (include milestones and numbers – determine what success looks like to you)?




  2. Copying someone else’s business plan or strategy and not finding your own “OMG Factor”. 

    I often joke about making a project “OMG worthy”. Well, your fiber arts and your business should have that “OMG Factor”: something that’s unique and sets you above and beyond all the rest.Seriously. Don’t copy other people’s businesses. I’m not going to offer you a course on business ethics and it doesn’t matter what other people do. You need to do you, not be like someone else (and that’s a sub-point here too: don’t focus on what other people are doing). This isn’t high school.

    I once panicked because a local yarn shop opened up nearby and you could tell that the owner had essentially looked at my Facebook page and website and copied a lot (almost verbatim).The mistake there: businesses are more than just the sum of their parts. Fiber artists each have their own magic that they bring to their business. That means, you can copy EVERYTHING about a successful business and call it your own – you might even make some money from that strategy – but you will never have exactly what that owner and fiber artist offers to his or her customers.

    There’s also karma…eventually it’ll bite you in the ass.

  3. Not paying attention to overhead costs. 

    This kinda goes along with a well-written and executed business plan, however, overhead (operating) costs will make or break any small business.There are fixed costs – costs that won’t vary much or at all each month like rent, utilities, wages for employees (if you have them), etc – and there are variable costs – things like merchant fees that go up or down based on sales volume, etc.Offsetting those costs is what you need to do to be profitable. The more costs you have, the more sales you need to make in order to be successful.The best strategy is to keep your fixed costs low.

    For example, I took advantage of the fact that the real estate market in the area had not recovered yet from the market crash of 2008. I found a space where the landlord was desperate to find an occupant and ended up with 1,000 square feet of retail space and 1,000 square feet of storage for about $650 a month. There were no triple net fees like strip malls or other commercial spaces have.

    Because of how low the costs for my retail space and maintaining said space were, I could get away with just a few sales a day in order to break even! Any months where I got more than that offset the summer months when the shop was dead.

    I also did not take out any loans whatsoever. Not a Kiva loan, not a small business loan, nothing. Could you imagine getting a $100k loan and then not being able to pay it all off? I couldn’t take out any loans anyway, so paying cash for everything, learning to budget and managing cash flow were very valuable lessons I learned “on the job”. And it translated to my personal life well too. I don’t own any credit cards, I spend below my means, and I still have all the fiber toys I want!

  4. Offering only one or too few products to survive. 

    You think you can get away with just selling your yarn? Nope. You need to be creative with how you diversify your creative business.Sell your yarn. Work with a designer and offer patterns (or design your own). Find some unique tools or signature items that show off who you are as a fiber artist and stock them. Sell in multiple venues (online, retail space, craft fairs, trade shows, etc). Collaborate with other fiber artists or makers.

    The sky is the limit.

  5. Expecting it to be easy, find the magic formula, or be an overnight success. 

    As much as business coaches want you to buy into how you can be a success overnight, it’s always the exception, not the rule. Yea, there are people that are successful almost overnight, but you cannot compare what you see on the surface to what you have to do. You need to pay your dues (for the most part).

    The first thing a yarn shop owner told me when I was doing my market research was, “You know it’s a lot of work, right? You can’t just put in 40 hours and think you’re done.”She was right. I’m used to working a lot. I completed my MBA full time while working full time. By the time I was 24 years old, I had a Master’s Degree, an awesomely difficult job, and did nothing but work and sleep.

    I now have three kids and work from home. I ALWAYS have to be on the go (I’m my father’s daughter that way).Expect 60- to 80-hour work weeks. The front door of your shop may be locked and the sign may say “Closed” but you’re not done. There’s paperwork, bookkeeping, “running the numbers”, keeping track of sales, and so much more.It’s the stuff most people hate, but that I love doing and do it quickly and well.

    There are multiple things you will have to learn by doing and some things you can take classes for. Accounting/bookkeeping, basic business operations, and marketing skills are just some of the things you will absolutely need, even if you hire someone to help you.

    If you plan on blogging or having a kickass website, expect to have to learn some coding or server maintenance skills, depending on how you plan on running your site.




  6. Not keeping your business organized. 

    I prefer a little chaos, but I also know that there are certain things I need to find on a moment’s notice.Keeping organized is a must, so find tools to help you do that.My landlord noticed once that my studio space was always chaotic, but if he needed a copy of a canceled rent check from the beginning of the year, it took me two seconds to find it.

  7. Lastly, not sticking to a marketing strategy. 

    This is a BIG one. BIG. Focus on social media or another marketing avenue to let people know about your business. This was my biggest mistake.

    In fact, most of your time is spent on marketing, not actually making your signature product. I thought that all you had to do was publish patterns or tell people about your products and they’d buy. That’s not always the case.

    You need to make them want to buy from you. Make them see how awesome you are. If you’re on Facebook, engage your audience in a group, through your page, and in other groups as well, but don’t be spammy. If it works for you, stick with it.

    On Instagram, find your audience and cater to them by telling your story. They’ll be more likely to buy if you can show them your passion for the fiber arts and have something unique to offer them.

    Don’t just show your yarn. Show people how you make it. Show them what inspired your creations. Show people what they can make with it. I mean, not everyone buys yarn for the sake of buying it, some people want to have a project to make with it.

Above all else, have fun and fill your life with the “OMG Factor”. If fiber arts is your passion, you should be able to show that. It’s endearing to see how much other people are obsessed with their craft, because after all, we all love yarn.


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For the Mildly Offensive Fiber Artist in You: Cross Stitch

May 30, 2017




Well, we finally did it. The Mildly Offensive Fiber Arts Group that I help admin has reached over 10,000 people. Our favorite way to greet new members: “Welcome to the Fucking Fold”.

I first uttered those words, believe it or not, when I introduced my boyfriend to both my sons at the same time. We’re kind of a rowdy bunch; free spirits if you will. So, of course, knowing that I’m a yarn girl, I snakily said in exhausted newly single mom mode, “Welcome to the Fucking Fold. I should stitch that on a pillow.”

Well, this isn’t a pillow, but it’s definitely getting hung on the wall.

As a gift for you Mildly (or even Very) Offensive Fiber Artists and reaching 10,000 members of semi-controlled chaos, I’m posting the chart for you to use. Anyone willing to make a graphghan or non cross stitch wall hanging from this? 

Remember, if you share your finished work, include a link back to the site and give OMG Yarn credit!




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Choosing the Right Yarn Continued: How I Picked Out Yarn for Dyeing

May 26, 2017




Just about 3 years ago now, I launched an Indiegogo campaign to grow OMG Yarn and convert my yarn shop space into a studio. At the time, I was only using one yarn base – a fingering weight, 2-ply yarn that was pretty awesome to work with – and I wanted to expand the line so that I could focus more on yarn dyeing and the aspects of being a yarnie that I loved the most.

Well, being a yarn shop owner turned yarn dyer, I was a bit of a yarn snob in the sense that I only liked working with yarns that had certain characteristics, but mainly I liked yarns that were great for both knitting and crochet AND a variety of project types.

What should you look for in a yarn to dye?

  1. Fiber content. Yes, I know the industry is saturated with 100% Superwash Merino yarns, but that was the first one I looked at. It’s easy for beginning dyers to work with and you don’t have to worry about the yarn felting while you figure out which dye techniques work best for you.If you want to focus on a specific target market (your tribe) do some research on what that group prefers. The average die hard sock knitter likes to see some nylon or other durable fiber content in their yarn, so a wool/nylon blend or a cotton blend might work best for you to start with.Want to focus on knitters and crocheters who drop big bucks on luxury fibers? Mohair, angora, cashmere, alpaca and the like may be what you want to go for. If you have no experience dyeing yarn, I’d suggest not working with these expensive fibers while you experiment.
  2. How the yarn takes up dye. Once you’ve found a good source/supplier, figured out a good dye technique, and found a type of dye you like, try a few different yarn bases of similar fiber content to see how they take up the dye.Believe it or not, the two different fingering weight yarn SW Merino bases I’ve worked with took dye differently. Sometimes it has to do with how many plies the yarn has, how tightly spun the yarn is, what dye you’re using, etc. There are so many variables that effect the dye process.




    After playing around with samples from my supplier, I actually dropped the original fingering weight yarn base I used and went all in on a more energetically spun 4-ply yarn that was SUPER soft, yet durable enough for socks. Why? The depth at which the yarn took dye compared to others was absolutely spectacular.
  3. Cost. I am a big fan of maximum quality for the lowest cost. Why spend $20 a ball for ok yarn that doesn’t do what you want it to when you can spend $10 a ball for a more luxurious feeling yarn? Why work with expensive dyes that require costly mordants or extra supplies to protect the environment you’re dyeing in, etc.Having a multi-income stream (diversified) business, I needed to get the most bang for my buck, as I essentially owned two businesses: the yarn dyeing side and the brick and mortar yarn shop side. I also paid cash for EVERYTHING, so managing cash flow was high on the priority list. Can you tell I put my MBA to good use?I was fortunate that my yarn supplier had a bajillion different yarn bases at varying costs, weights, and fiber content, so I had plenty of options to choose from. When you buy more, the bigger discount you get too! My supplier also offers free shipping on everything, and what’s not to love about that? I don’t even want to know what shipping would cost on 100 pounds of yarn (although, with my most recent collaboration for yarn dyeing, I’m about to find out…haha).
  4. The manufacturer/supplier. Yes, this is important too. Can you rely on your supplier to properly skein and protect your yarn from damage or dirt from the shipping and dye process?With over half a decade of yarn dyeing experience and yarn shop ownership at this point, I’ve definitely hit some speed bumps dealing with manufacturers. I’ve had a mill throw white yarn into a dirty box, then ship it with no bag to protect the yarn from the Wisconsin winter weather once it arrived on the shop doorstep. I was livid.And when I went to dye the yarn, I found out the hard way that the skeins were not properly tied, so I ended up with some really expensive yarn barf that I couldn’t even sell. When I called to complain, NO ONE returned my calls or addressed my concerns. I was DONE (with a capital ‘D’ DONE).No, you can’t possibly prepare for all of the what ifs, but you can significantly cut down on your disappointment or potential loss of income by choosing reputable suppliers (ask around the inter-webs…some dyers may not offer up any secrets, others, like me, are happy to offer some advice).

Check out my other post about how to choose the right yarn for a project, because that’s also a good guide for choosing yarn to dye.

In the end, it’s up to you what yarns you settle on to dye, but I wish all new yarn dyers good luck in their endeavors. It’s not easy, but it is soooooooo much fun. I mean, how else can you mix a little mad scientist work – that’s how I feel when dyeing yarn – with artistry and end up with something that will be beautiful for a lifetime (as long as you take good care of it)?




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How to Take Your Shawl Game to the Next Level: Applied Lace Borders

May 17, 2017




Shawls are one of my favorite things to knit. They’re versatile wearables, great for every season and occasion, AND I absolutely love how simple, beginner-friendly shawls show off hand dyed yarn.

Now, if you really want to take your shawl knitting game to the next level, you may want to try a couple different patterns with new techniques.

My latest shawl design, the Water Shawl, uses an applied border (aka applied lace border or knitted-on border).

What is an applied lace border?

An applied lace border is a type of border treatment where the stitches are worked at a 90-degree angle to the body stitches. In all seriousness (this is a Melina-ism phrase), nothing special is really done, you’re just casting on border stitches and then working the last stitch of the border row with the first live stitch from the body (k2tog or how you’re otherwise instructed by the designer). Then you turn your work, and the next live body stitch is worked together with the first stitch of the next wrong side border row.

This will all make sense in a minute here.

In the case of the Water Shawl, you end up working the body of the shawl in a top down fashion. Then, on a right side row, you cast on the proper number of border chart stitches and start working them, working a k2tog with the last border row stitch, and the first live stitch from the body.




Dangit, Melina, that makes absolute no sense. Show me some pictures dagnabbit.

I know, I know. So, let me show you, using the Water Shawl to demonstrate:

    1. First, to set up, when I finished working all the charts for the body of the Water Shawl, I turned the whole work so the right side was facing me. Place a marker before your live stitches (to alert you when you get to the live stitches), and then, using the backward loop method, cast on the number of border stitches necessary. In the case of the Water Shawl, I cast on 29.
    2. Work the first row of your border chart/instructions to the last stitch, which will get you to one stitch before your marker like this: 
    3. Slip the stitch from your left needle onto the right, remove the stitch marker, and place the stitch you slipped back on the left needle. Essentially, you’re just removing that stitch marker for a second.
    4. Now, knit two stitches together (k2tog)……and turn so the wrong side is facing.
    5. If you notice, the working yarn is now on the left needle. The next live stitch from the body is on the right needle. Slip that live stitch onto the left hand needle and put your stitch marker on the right needle.
    6. Now, purl two together (p2tog).Do you see how that works? Here’s what it should look like after you purl those two stitches together:
    7. Now you can go on to finish the rest of the row as written.
    8. Repeat steps 2 through 7 ad nauseam et infinitum (until you run out of live stitches).

    Why use the applied lace border in a design?

    The applied border allows for extra drape along the border. The Water Shawl is definitely a huge beast of a shawl and needs all the help it can get to get that swagger going. An applied border seemed like the only option, really.

    I think it also adds a unique dimension to any design. Honestly, anytime I see any knit or crochet item, I’m analyzing its construction (be warned, as an introvert, I’m probably more into your sweater until I get to know you better…lol). With this type of border, your stitches are perpendicular to the body stitches, so as a knitter and a designer, I like seeing the stitches go in different directions.

    Want to make the Water Shawl? Click here to go to Ravelry to purchase or click on the patterns tab above and that will take you to my Etsy store which also has the pattern available.




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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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