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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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Free Pattern: Landon’s Sweet Baby Blanket

April 24, 2017




In an effort to keep all my patterns in one spot, I’m moving this free pattern over to the OMG Yarn (balls) website. It’s an oldie, but a goodie, and I designed this for a (now former) co-worker’s baby.

Pattern

Well, it’s a good thing that I actually kept notes and wrote myself a basic pattern for the blanket I made for our family friend’s baby named Landon, it seems he’s gone viral overnight!  I posted his picture last night on the Midwest Yarn Facebook page upon receiving the appreciation photo – actually, my husband got it texted to him with a follow up saying that the picture was too cute and he might want to hide it from me (because I love baby pictures!).

So Landon’s Sweet Baby Blanket is quite simple to do and it’s a perfect weekend project to whip up if you have a short deadline like I did.

Yarn

  • Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK, 105 yds/50g: 5 balls of main color, 2 balls of the complimentary color.
  • OR any DK weight yarn that will get the gauge listed below.

Gauge

  • 5 sts per in on US 6 or size to obtain gauge.

What You’ll Need

  • 40″ US 6 Circular Needle or size to obtain gauge (I used a US 5 because I wanted my stitches to be tighter together – big or loose sts mean little fingers can get tangled up in there)
  • A tapestry needle to sew side seams and weave in ends.

Glossary

  • MC: Main Color
  • CC: Complementary Color
  • slm: slip marker
  • pm: place marker



Blanket 
Cast on 140 sts in CC.  Work in garter st until blanket measures 2″ from cast on edge.

Switch to MC.

Row 1: Work first row of letter chart (below), pm, k to end of row.
Row 2: Purl to marker, slm, work next row of chart.
Row 3: Work next row of chart, slm, k to end of row.

Repeat Rows 2 & 3 until letter chart is complete.

Continue in st st in MC until blanket measures 28″ from cast on edge, ending on a WS row.

Switch to CC. Work in garter st for 2″. Bind off loosely.

To complete borders, pick up about 3 sts for every 4 rows along side of blanket. Work in garter st for 1/2″. Bind off loosely. Repeat on other side.

Weave in ends. Lightly steam to block.




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Your Complete Guide to OMG Yarn’s Fingering Weight Yarns

April 19, 2017




Picking the right yarn to dye is difficult, just as picking the right hand dyed yarn to make your next project is. I, personally, can be a little bit of a yarn snob, because I’ve gotten spoiled from playing with so many different yarns while owning a yarn shop (and of course, I was able to sample some amazing yarns that I didn’t even carry).

I know you’ve been tempted by the gorgeous photos I share on Instagram and Facebook, but there’s no way of telling how great and soft these yarns are. This is the first in a series of posts to entice you a little bit more to try the different yarns I create. Let’s talk about OMG’s awesome fingering weight yarns, OMG Calatrava and OMG Vegas.

All About OMG Calatrava

Named after the architectural beauty known as the Milwaukee Art Museum (located in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the city in which I grew up), OMG Calatrava is an energetically spun, light fingering weight yarn.

OMG Calatrava’s details: 100% Superwash Merino Wool; gauge: 7.5 sts/in on US 2; approximately 400 yds/3.5oz.

I chose this yarn because of how it is spun and takes dye (yep, I try dyeing every yarn before I select it). It is great for shawls, scarves, and other accessories.

Because of the tight spin of the plies, you can even use it for socks. In fact, my most worn pairs of socks are made from OMG Calatrava and they hold up well, even without nylon in it!

Even though it is tough enough for socks, it is soft enough to wear next to the skin and great for baby wear, like Ola’s dress that I keep sharing pictures of (and with this little cutie wearing it, how could I not keep sharing?). I also used OMG Calatrava in the color Pisces for the latest pattern I released, the Mesa Shawl.

The Glamour of OMG Vegas

Chloe Shawlette

If you need yarn that is a bit more fancy, something with a little glitz, try OMG Vegas. A little heavier fingering weight yarn, OMG Vegas has a bit of sparkle like the lights of Las Vegas.  This would be gorgeous in any accessory imaginable or as a great gift to the yarn lover in your life.

The plies of this yarn are a bit more loosely spun, but it is not splitty, so it can be worked in knit or crochet.

OMG Vegas’ details: 63% Superwash Merino Wool, 20% Silk, 15% Nylon, 2% Polyester Glitz; gauge: 8 sts/in on US 2; approximately 420 yds/3.5oz.

My first shawl design, the Chloe Shawlette, was done in OMG Calatrava, and I still keep the sample around. It’s next to the skin soft, has a wonderful drape, and takes the dye just a little bit lighter than my other yarns, showing its unique fiber personality.




Intrigued? Well, head on over to my Etsy shop and try a skein or two of these fingering weight yarns! Use coupon code OMGYARNBALLS for a 10% discount since you’ve spent the time reading about them.

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Learn to Knit: Continental Knitting

April 13, 2017





Now that you’ve learned how to cast on your stitches, how about learn how to knit and purl those stitches, eh?

Knitting is made up of knit stitches and purl stitches, and just like with crochet, you can hold the yarn in your left hand or you can hold the yarn in your right hand. The difference with knitting is that the stitches themselves and the direction in which you knit do not change with how you hold your yarn.

I’ve come across several conversation threads where crocheters are learning to knit and were searching for left-handed knitting vs. right-handed knitting…nope, knitting is funny that way…the stitches are the same no matter what.

Choosing how to hold your yarn is a matter of comfort or preference. I’m teaching you about this one first, because it’s the trickiest and takes longest to master. I will say this: those speed demon knitters use this style of knitting. So you’ll be a fast knitter once you master this technique!

What is Continental Knitting?

Continental knitting, also known as German or European Knitting, is a style of knitting in which the yarn is held in the left hand and the right hand uses the knitting needle to work the stitches. You can be left- or right-handed to knit this way, so it’s kinda misleading to call it left-handed knitting (read: just don’t call it that…LOL).




What you’ll need:

  • Yarn (of course) – In the video below, I used Vanna’s Choice yarn. It’s 100% acrylic and one of the softer wallet-friendly yarns that I like to use for projects.
  • Knitting Needles – Choose the needles suggested by the label on your yarn. For this demonstration, I used US 9 circular needles (beginners, use straight needles – they come in a package of two with nothing connecting the two needles). You will need both of your knitting needles.
  • Patience – It’ll take some time to learn how to knit and usually I took an entire 2-hour class period for teaching my students how to master the stitches. Don’t get frustrated, every one takes quite a few tries before they get it.

Before you start…

Cast on a good 24 stitches or so using the long-tail cast on method I taught you.

Watch the video (and subscribe to my YouTube Channel)

In the video I started out with some stitches already worked, so that it was easier for you to see what I’m doing. The long-tail cast on actually knits on some stitches for you anyway, so it’s like a bonus row already done for you.

You will need to hold the needle with all your cast on stitches in your left hand. The tension on the working yarn is kept by using your left finger as demonstrated in the video.

Knit Stitch

  1. Hold your yarn in back (behind the needle).
  2. Insert right needle from front to back.
  3. Grab the working yarn with your right needle. Remember, the working yarn is the yarn that is connected to the yarn ball. Make sure you are not grabbing the tail from where you cast on your stitches.
  4. Use the needle in you right hand to pull that working yarn through the stitch to the front.
  5. Complete the stitch by using the right hand needle to pull the loop you started with off the left needle. The working yarn loop that you pulled to the front is now on your right needle.

Congratulations! You’ve knit your first stitch. Keep practicing that knit stitch for a couple of rows until you get the hang of it.

When you get to the end of a row, all your loops are on your right needle. Take that needle and move it to your left hand with the tip facing toward the right, like how you started the row.

Once you feel like you are ready, try the purl stitch (in the same video).




Purl Stitch

  1. Your yarn is held in front for a purl stitch (in front of the needle). Uh oh! What the bleep does that mean?! At the beginning of a row, it’s easy, just swing your yarn to the front. If you’re in the middle of a row, bring the yarn to the front in between your two needles NOT over the top of either needle (that will create yarn over, which means extra loops, and your project will start to grow…you don’t want that).
  2. Insert your right needle from right to left. Check out the different angles of my video in order to see what that looks like.
  3. Use the right needle to wrap the working yarn around. This is the tricky part. Watch this section of the video many times. Yes, it’s that important. To be honest, I have a hard time describing this part in a written fashion. You may think to yourself, “but if I just grab the yarn with the needle and pull it through the back, that’s easier!” Unfortunately, if you do it that way, your stitch is twisted and it is not a proper purl stitch. Use your left finger to help wrap the yarn and stabilize it.
  4. Once your working yarn is wrapped properly, pull that loop out through the back (as shown in the video). Like with the knit stitch, use the right hand needle to pull the loop you started with off the left needle. The working yarn loop that you pulled to the front is now on your right needle.

You did it! You can knit!




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Long-Tail Cast On: Start Your Knitting Off Right with This Method of Casting On Stitches

April 12, 2017

There are tons of different ways that you can get started with knitting. It’s called casting on, which is how you get all of your stitches onto the needle so that you can begin a project.

While there are so many ways that you can get your stitches on the needle, the long-tail cast on is what I teach all of my beginners, because it’s the most versatile and best looking.

Let’s get started with my favorite method of casting on stitches. It’s called the long-tail cast on. Below the embedded video you will see my written out steps on what to do here.




What you’ll need:

  • Yarn (of course) – In the video below, I used Vanna’s Choice yarn. It’s 100% acrylic and one of the softer wallet-friendly yarns that I like to use for projects.
  • Knitting Needles – Choose the needles suggested by the label on your yarn. For this demonstration, I used US 9 circular needles (beginners, use straight needles – they come in a package of two with nothing connecting the two needles). You will only need one of your two knitting needles.
  • Patience – It’ll take some time to learn how to cast on your stitches and usually I took an entire 2-hour class period for teaching my students this method. That way they could practice over and over again and then get their project started before the end of class. Don’t get frustrated, every one takes quite a few tries before they get it.





Here we go!

  1. Make a slip knot and place this loop on your knitting needle. This counts as one of your cast on stitches. So, for example, if the pattern you’re making says cast on 36 stitches, that slip knot counts as one of those 36 stitches. Woohoo, you’ve already started something!
  2. Grab your tail. It’s important to remember that for how I teach the long-tail cast on, the tail of your yarn is always looped on your thumb. Thumb and tail both start with the letter ‘T’ and that’s how I remember.
  3. Wrap the tail around your left thumbJust as shown on the video, once you grab the tail of your yarn, you’re going to wrap the yarn around your thumb, forming a loop. It’s very important that you start the wrap by bringing your thumb from over the top and loop the thumb around in a counter-clockwise motion.
  4. Wrap the working yarn around your left index finger. Your index finger is going to come up from underneath the working yarn, the strand that is attached to the ball of yarn. The next step will help form that loop around your index finger.
  5. Rotate your left hand to get your yarn into position. The video is better at demonstrating this, but you’re left hand is going to rotate so that your palm is face up. That act helps loop the yarn around your index finger and thumb and makes the loops presentable for the act of casting on more stitches.
  6. Thread the needle through the loop on your thumb from below. Refer to the video for this step. Your needle tip will come from underneath the loop and through said loop.
  7. Grab the yarn from your index finger with your needle and pull through the thumb loop. Essentially, you’re pulling that top yarn, the index finger yarn, with the needle and pulling it through the loop on your thumb. Keep watching, the magic is about to happen.
  8. Drop the thumb loop. What?! Yes, I promise. Drop that loop off of your thumb. That will allow the loop you just made to close onto your needle.

You’re going to repeat steps 3-8 for the complete number of stitches that you need to cast on.




Some helpful hints:

  • You can use your thumb to tighten the stitches onto the needle, but don’t pull too tight. 
  • If your cast on stitches are too tight – the stitches should be snug on the needle, but loose enough to move freely once you start your next row – start over and keep playing around with tension.
  • Don’t drop the yarn from both fingers every time, just the thumb. The act of re-wrapping the yarn on your thumb can also help tighten your stitches.

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How to Choose the RIGHT Yarn for Your Next Project

April 5, 2017




Having good results with any knit or crochet project depends a LOT on the yarn you choose to work with. It can make or break a design and it can determine how much you (or a lucky recipient of your hard work) love to wear the completed item.

As a yarn shop owner, I always enjoyed helping customers pick out yarn for all kinds of patterns: sweaters, shawls, afghans, mittens, you name it. I know some shops like to make the sale, but I liked happy customers, and nothing made customers happier than getting the right yarn every time (or most of the time…). My quaint little yarn shop depended on repeat customers who depended on what I’d picked out for them. Let’s just say that I had a couple repeat customers who had such amazing taste in yarn, I couldn’t wait for their next visit to sit down and page through my catalogs and samples to find just the right yarn that I had available through suppliers (Dear Skacel, your yarn catalog was my favorite to page through and fawn over).

To be honest, I’ve even walked through my local JoAnn’s and helped people select good yarn for a project there – I mean, that’s the kind of yarn I had access to before I was introduced to yarn shops. When you don’t have someone to help you look through yarn or who is pushing the sale of yarn you don’t need or want (yes, there’s such a thing), you need to know what you should consider when picking the right yarn for your next project. So let’s take a look, shall we?

The Project

Of course, the first question I asked was, “What are you making?” Is it a sweater/jumper? Is it a shawl or scarf? Is it meant to be worn next to the skin? Is it meant to be worn over or under something? All of these are important questions. I mean, would you want to wear a scarf next to your neck that has itchy or tough fibers that poke at your skin? Probably not.

Budget

Believe me, I know budgets can be tight too. If you don’t have a big box store nearby, your local yarn shop is the answer, however, those boutique level yarns can get pricey. Not everyone can make a sweater or afghan out of yarn that costs $20 for each 100g ball. Remember, though, you get what you pay for with “economy” yarns.

The small print to read here though is: even expensive yarn can have poor manufacturing, so make sure you read reviews if you can before you buy. I won’t blast any yarn companies in particular, but nothing peeved me more than yarns from manufacturers with poor quality control. Self-striping yarns at $15-$25 per ball with knots in them, abrupt color changes, or out of sequence color changes can totally throw off your project’s aura in a heartbeat.




Yarn Composition and Characteristics

The same yarn may behave differently for different knitters/crocheters AND can behave one way for a knitter but another way for a crocheter.

Ahem, BIG CHUNKY FURRY EYELASH YARN IS NEAR IMPOSSIBLE TO CROCHET WITH! Well, at least for me anyway. The fur hides the stitches and they’re sooooooooo difficult to keep track of. I always ended up with weirdly shaped scarves.

If your project needs some drape to it, like for a scarf, shawl, skirt, or dress, you will want to choose a yarn that will do that. Plant or non-animal based fibers are always good for those types of projects (think cotton, bamboo, silk, tencel, etc.).

If your project needs to insulate or keep someone rather warm, choose animal-based fiber blends. Alpaca fibers, in particular, are hollow and thus insulate really well, so you’ll notice that projects made from this luxury fiber will keep you warmer. You might want to avoid alpaca for summery shawls or accessories.

Yarn “Memory”

Projects that require some bounce-back or memory – think projects with ribbing like socks or sweaters – you want to use fibers/yarns that will meet that challenge. Most cotton fibers will create loose, drapey fabrics, so they will lose their shape with wear or added moisture from sweat. As a result, I don’t usually suggest cotton for socks or sweaters.

Notions and Tools Needed

You also need to consider whether or not you’ll be able to use that yarn with all the notions and tools you’ll use to complete the project. If your project needs buttons or zippers, avoid single plies or lofty fibers that will get caught or tangled.

The Wearer

As a mom of three, I LOVE to make little sweaters and things for my kiddos. When you need to knit or crochet for babies and kids, you have to remember that they will fidget, cry, or rip off any clothes that are not comfortable. That’s why I don’t like to use wool for their projects. If I do need to use wool or that’s my absolute only choice, I pick merino wool, which is the softest to work with.




You will also need to consider if the person you are making the project for has any allergies. If they have allergies to specific dyes, like from hand dyed yarn, or to wool, you will need to use alternative fibers that are a good substitute for what you cannot use. Cannot use wool, but need something with memory to it? I am a big fan of Kraemer Yarn’s Tatamy yarn – a cotton/acrylic blend that comes in worsted or DK and is soft, hard wearing, and not quite as memory-free as most cottons.

The Case of Hand Dyed and other Novelty Yarns

Big shocker, I’m going to add a special section about hand dyed yarn. When working with hand dyed yarns or intricate novelty yarns, you want the yarn to speak for itself in the project. So if you’re looking at these kinds of yarn without a project in mind, pick the project to show off the yarn. Most simple, beginner-friendly projects, are GREAT for these kinds of yarns. Single stitch scarves, mostly stockinette stitch sweaters, non-lacy items, those would be the best to choose. If you have a beautifully mosaic dyed sock yarn, vanilla socks are the way to go.

I hope this helps the next time you’re stuck on what yarn to use for your next fiber arts endeavor. Let me know how it goes!




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Free Crochet Pattern: Make This Beginner Friendly Shawl in a Weekend

April 3, 2017

No matter what it is we like to do, every single one of us has a go-to project for when we just need to mindlessly keep ourselves busy while practicing our craft. When I knit, it’s usually my toe-up sock pattern that I make. When I crochet, it’s this cute little shawl, and I’ve decided to share my little pattern with you!

The Mesa Shawl is a basic, beginner-friendly crochet shawl pattern that is worked from the top down. The edges on the sides of the shawl is inspired by the carved landscape of the Mesa Grande Ruins in Mesa, Arizona.




The subtle texture of the shawl, combined with it’s simple construction make this my favorite project to make when I absolutely have to knit or crochet, yet do not want to focus so intently on an intricate pattern. It is great to work on while relaxing in front of the television or keeping an eye on the kiddos.

As an accessory, the Mesa Shawl can be worn around the shoulders to keep warm on a breezy spring or summer night, or bundled around the neck in fall or winter.

The free pattern only contains instructions for the smallest size. The paid version of this pattern is available on Ravelry here, which includes all three sizes and zero ads.

What You’ll Need:

  • One 100g ball of your favorite Fingering Weight Yarn (shown here in ontheround’s Everyday Fingering Lite – 425 yards/100g, 100% Merino Wool)
  • One Size 7 (4.5mm) or H/8 (5.0mm) crochet hook
  • Scissors

As with most shawls, knit or crochet, gauge is not important here, but you want the stitches to be loose enough to create a fabric with a good drape to it.

Crochet Techniques You’ll Use:

  • ch – chain
  • hdc – half double crochet
  • sc – single crochet
  • sl st – slip stitch

Skill Level: Beginner




Mesa Shawl – Smallest Size Only (Wingspan approximately 60″ and Depth 6 1/4″)

Ch 276.

Row 1: Hdc in 3rd ch from hook and all the way across. Turn.
Row 2: Sl st in 1st 5 stitches, ch 1, sc in back loop only in next stitch and all the way across to 5 stitches before the end of the row. Turn.
Row 3: Sl st in 1st 5 stitches, ch 2, hdc through both loops to 5 stitches before the end of the row. Turn.

Repeat Rows 2 & 3 until 15 stitches remain. Fasten off.

Enjoy!




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Do It Yourself: How to Make a Modern Dream Catcher

March 29, 2017

In Native American culture, dream catchers are hung over beds to promote good dreams. In Ojibwa folklore, the net/web of the dream catcher acts as a filter, catching bad dreams, allowing the good dreams to pass through and onto sleeping child below, preventing nightmares.




Lately, I’ve been seeing a modern take on the dream catcher pop up as an alternative to macrame. They’re beautiful ways of decorating the home and a symbolic reminder of the Native American culture.

Being Native American myself (my grandfather told us stories of how his great-grandmother was assimilated into the Blackfoot tribe a loooooooong time ago), when I was given the green light to make a wall hanging for our bathroom, the first thought was to make a modern dream catcher using some of my favorite colors of my hand dyed yarn.

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to make this fun little project to decorate the walls of your favorite space:

What you’ll need:

  • Two colors of fingering weight yarn – I used OMG Vegas (A blend of Silk, Merino, Nylon and Glitz) in two colors; Earl Grey and Surrender.
  • One 6″ steel ring – Found in the jewelry, beading aisle at Hobby Lobby.
  • One 1″ steel ring.
  • One 1/4″ wooden dowel or similar sized tree branch about 12″ in length.
  • Scissors.
  • Tape Measure.

 Preparation:

  • Choose your main color and your complimentary color.
  • You will need to cut strands prepare for construction. Each attached fringe is a bundle of 5 strands.

Main color: Cut 75 strands, each 32″ long
Complimentary color: Cut 25 strands, each 32″ long

  • Cut an additional strand of the main color approximately 24″ long and set it aside.





Instructions

Step 1: Start by attaching your main color fringes to the 6″ ring as shown below.

Fold the bundle of strands in half, place the steel hoop on top like this.

Fold the tail over the hoop and insert into the loop as shown.

Now pull the tail tight to secure the fringe to the hoop. Woohoo! You’ve attached one! Now do this 14 more times. (There will be 15 “fringes” attached to your steel hoop in the end)

Step 2: Attach your complimentary color fringes to the wooden dowel as shown below, similar to how you attached the fringes to the steel hoop.

Remember: put the dowel over your bundle, fold the tail over the dowel, and pull through the loop, securing your fringe.




Step 3: Remember your single strand? Attach it to your 1″ metal hoop in a similar fashion to how you attached your fringes.

It’ll look like this. Make sure the tails that are hanging off the ring are of equal length!

Step 4: Tie the tails from Step 3 to the wooden dowel.

It’ll look like this. You can use a small crochet hook or tapestry needle to hide the ends underneath your fringes.

Step 5: Here comes the tricky part. You’re now going to attach the two pieces – the large steel ring and the triangle created from Step 4 – together.

Lay the large steel ring on top of the triangle.

 

Similar to how you attached your fringes, fold the strands with the small steel loop attached over the large steel loop and thread it through (my middle finger is where the metal ring was passed through).

Here’s another shot of that step.




Step 6: Make adjustments as necessary and hang your dream catcher!

 

How gorgeous is that?

Now remember, if you’re having trouble figuring out Step 5, let me know!

Need more inspiration? Follow my OMG Fringes Pinterest board. I love these and have saved quite a few pins with these unique takes on the dream catcher.




References.

How Do Dream Catchers Catch Dreams? (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-do-dream-catchers-catch-dreams

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Healing with Fiber Arts: Why I’ll Never Put Down My Yarn

March 24, 2017

I have always been intrigued by music and art therapy. In fact, as a former classical musician, my mother suggested that I become a music therapist and incorporate my talent into helping others. I never chose that career path, however, it wasn’t too far off from what drives me to be a part of the fiber arts industry now. Rather than just tell you a bunch of facts about how the fiber arts heals the mind, body, and soul, I thought I’d add a little personal touch and incorporate a little bit about how the fiber arts have helped me personally.




So what is art therapy?
Art therapy is defined as expressive therapy using the “creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being”.

I didn’t know it when I was younger, but my passion for the arts was keeping me whole. I was a bundle of nerves, insecure, and anxious all the time, but when I played the flute, my troubles just melted away. Playing an instrument was all about breathing control, expressing one’s self through notes scrawled on a page, and becoming one with a piece of music. Nothing else mattered.

How could you not feel powerful when Mozart’s Concerto No. 1 in G left you in control of the orchestra behind you? They backed me up. They slowed down when I slowed down. They paused when I paused. They quieted when I quieted. They flourished when I flourished. I overrode the conductor with every note that escaped my instrument.

I was quietly confident when I was on stage, but only when I was on stage. For the decade or so that I played the flute on a semi-professional basis, that’s all I did was live my life to be on stage where I felt the most comfortable. I went chasing that feeling, but did not think I could find that serenity without a flute in my hands…until I discovered the fiber arts.

What’s so special about the fiber arts, anyway?

Sharky’s Rainbow Blanket is ongoing. He loves rainbows and I love mindlessly crocheting this design of mine.

There are many benefits to the practice of fiber arts. According to the article 6 Unexpected Benefits of Knitting, the repetitive motions of knitting (or crochet) can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. A lot of times, depending on the mental health issue at hand, cognitive behavioral therapists recommend meditation. The act of knitting or crochet mimics this meditation as we count stitches, focus on written instructions, and repeat the same stitches over and over again.

Early last year, The New York Times published an article about the health benefits of knitting. The fiber artist community passed the article around online, thrilled about the positive press that the craft was getting. Knitting was not for grandmas and cat ladies anymore (yea, I know we all hate that stereotype…), it was therapeutic and healing for so many people. In fact, I had a few people encourage me to come and volunteer to teach knitting as a part of addiction recovery therapy at a local shelter, because there were proven benefits to this type of art therapy.





Reaching Nirvana Through Stitches

The different textures of knit and crochet fabrics can stimulate the release of happiness hormones.

I recall my littlest (and favorite) customer, an 8 year old boy who had learned to knit at school and would drag his mother into my shop periodically to buy “the good yarn” for another project. His mother would comment about how it was a brave new world once he had learned to knit. She, herself, didn’t knit or crochet, but something about her son eyes lighting up every time they walked into my studio made the trip worth it. I could see the universe turn into a haze behind him as he focused on each ball of yarn that he ran his fingers across. It was as if the tactile experience brought him to a place of nirvana.

Science explains this phenomena pretty well, too. The happiness we get from playing with yarn or making it releases dopamine, the happiness/feel-good hormone in our bodies. This hormone can keep us fiber artists motivated to begin (and yes, complete) project after project and send us back to our favorite yarn retailers over and over.

Healing One Stitch At a Time

Knit and crochet can also help with motor skills, help prevent arthritis pain and mild cognitive impairment. What hits home the most for me is help with motor skills. A few years back, as the result of malnutrition from a severe illness, I experienced nerve damage in my left hand. For a few weeks, I had intermittent paralysis and pain from constant muscle spasms. I used knitting to retrain my left hand to function, thus eliminating my need for physical therapy in a clinical setting. Yes, yarn saved me money and time and healed me through knitting and crochet.

Fiesta Hat & Cowl

It started with figuring out how to hold a needle in my left hand, because my grip was so weak. Then, I could grip larger needles, and began designing patterns for weights of yarn that I was not used to knitting with. OMG Yarn’s launch would not have been possible without patterns like the Fiesta Hat and Cowl, which was the first pattern design I came up with after experiencing the loss of function in my left hand. Fair isle/intarsia knitting, plus Aran weight yarn and knitting the sample out of yarn I had dyed was a big catalyst to turning life around (someday, I’ll share the rest of that story). That process alone is why I’ll never give up my fiber fanaticism. Occasionally, I take breaks to reflect on life, but I always come back.

Well, I hope this is the start of a good discussion as to why yarn is awesome. You know I’m not just saying that too. I encourage everyone to share this article with anyone interested in art therapy or to help prove why your yarn habit is much more beneficial than having something warm to wear in winter.

References.

Brody, J. E. (2016, January 25). The Health Benefits of Knitting. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/25/the-health-benefits-of-knitting/?_r=0.

Harper, K. (n.d.). 6 Unexpected Benefits of Knitting. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://www.lifehack.org/314247/6-unexpected-benefits-knitting.

Locke, R. (n.d.). Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer and Happier Mentally. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://www.lifehack.org/319404/science-says-knitting-makes-humans-warmer-and-happier-mentally.

What is Art Therapy? (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://www.arttherapyblog.com/what-is-art-therapy/#.WNUwlWMdfVo.




Moving Onward and Upward: “Resist” Beanie Pattern Now Available on Ravelry

March 21, 2017

I can be fierce and I can be strong. I stand in solidarity with my re-sisters.

International Women’s Day was on March 8th, so now what? Do we just go back to the inequity, lack of support and less than human treatment from before that day or do we plunge ahead with the call to make things better for all women?




I, personally, would like to see a better world for all three of my kids, not just my daughter. I have two very intelligent, caring sons and a beautiful daughter who would all like to see a world of possibilities for everyone in their lives.

As a business owner in an industry that is characteristically female, I would like to commit OMG Yarn and myself to the empowerment of other women seeking equality.

Let’s stop marginalizing women and their accomplishments. There was nothing I hated more than hearing, “Oh your husband must be a great accountant,” when I would talk about the success of my little yarn shop and other business endeavors. I earned my Masters in Business Administration when I was 24 years old. That was after completing a 4-year education in only 3.5 years at a competitive school. Did I mention I was there on a full scholarship based on academics? Do you see how I had to qualify that?

When you look at the statistics, African American women lead the way as the most educated group in America. So yea, as a group, they’re fiercely killing it, but still experiencing institutional racism, misogyny, wage gaps, injustice in the legal system, and much more than I care to share. Not right. Right?

Let’s stop shaming women for their choices. Every day, we make choices and someone is always standing there to shame us. Whether it’s the choice to work versus be a stay at home mom or any other choice, every woman deserves support, whether you think they’re deserving of it or not. I have translated for a patient who wanted to report a domestic violence nightmare. I have held hands in support of undocumented women experiencing the horrors of escaping oppression in their home country only to witness worse here. I don’t judge anyone for what they do and that goes a long way for bridging gaps.




So let’s support women for all that they do. The single moms holding down three jobs and going to school to make a better life for their children, my hat’s off to you. The mothers marching against injustice, my hat’s off to you. The women who make our lives brighter and more beautiful in every way, my hat’s off to you.

The top of the hat is a beautiful spiral.

I’m not just saying all this either. I do what I can to raise awareness through the arts. I always have and always will.

To show my ongoing commitment to the cause of women’s rights and the craftivism movement, I created the Resist Beanie. Honestly, I was inspired by the hard work of Donna Druchunas, a knit designer I have admired for some time.

The Resist Beanie is a crocheted hat with a filet crochet brim that spells out the word “resist” in filet crochet. With spring and summer fast approaching, the need for a lighter, cotton hat to support change has come up. Though it fits the average-sized head snugly, this hat is light, comfortable, and breathable, ideal for warmer weather. A portion of the proceeds from this pattern will be used to support local causes for the resistance, including small businesses that are mostly female-owned/operated.




The pattern is on sale through my Ravelry Store here. It is my new favorite hat and I’ve been wearing it since I finished it a few days ago.

I can be fierce and I can be strong. I stand in solidarity with my re-sisters.

I am committing to making the world a little bit more awesome for the next generation, and the road will be paved with yarn.

References.

Stewart, K. (2016, May 27). Black Women Are Now America’s Most Educated Group. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from http://www.upworthy.com/black-women-are-now-americas-most-educated-group.