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8 Yarn Dyeing Tips for New Dyers

August 14, 2018

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




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




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

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

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




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

 

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

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

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

 

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




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

 

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




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

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




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




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

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

What do you think?




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

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

November 14, 2017




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

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

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

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

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




THE DOs OF MARKETING YOUR FIBER ARTS BUSINESS

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




THE DON’Ts OF MARKETING YOUR FIBER ARTS BUSINESS

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

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

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




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

August 28, 2017



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

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

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

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




What do I mean by a yarn study?

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

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

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

The yarns I chose are:

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

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

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

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

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

So here we go!




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

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

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




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

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

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




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

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





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

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

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

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

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




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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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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 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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Beginner Friendly Knit Patterns: Hand-Picked for You by OMG Yarn

March 27, 2017

One of the many things you end up doing as a yarn shop owner is scouring Ravelry and the internet for patterns that will keep beginning knitters confident in their newfound craft. They need to keep buying yarn, right? Well, now that I don’t have the yarn shop, I find myself still eyeing up some of the gorgeous new patterns that are surfacing as the result of this maker movement taking over.




I have a ton of things listed from my yarn shop days in my Ravelry queue, but I thought I’d share the wealth and created a Pinterest board that includes some of my go-to patterns for Knitting 101.

A couple of my favorites…

The Garter Stripes Cardigan – by Melina Martin Gingras

This was the first pattern I had ever written. Ever. It came about because I wanted to make a simple yoke cardigan pattern for a baby and I couldn’t find one anywhere! It’s now my go-to pattern for whenever someone I know has a baby. I’m even working on one right now for my littlest, Ola. It’s great for learning how to knit sweaters. This can be used with OMG Rushmore yarn (available in my Etsy shop) and knit in a single color or multiple colors. The original was knit in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, another one of my favorite yarns to work with.

Supporter Scarf Number One – by Nicole Drouillard

This is my favorite HUGE scarf pattern to pass on to other people. If you’re into sports or making gifts for your favorite sports fan, this quick knit scarf is perfect! (Did you see the big picture at the top of this post? That’s the scarf!




So take a peek at some of the projects that I have saved on the Beginner Friendly Knits Pinterest board, save, share, and knit! You’ll make a million of each of these!

Here’s my Beginner Friendly Knits Pinterest Board, which of course, takes you to the patterns:

 

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.




Adventures in Sock Knitting: Join in on the Sock Madness

March 13, 2017

“Can you make something like that, mom?” My son constantly asks me if I can knit something he sees in stores. My response is the same every time, “I can knit anything, sweetie.” I usually say that jokingly, but as I cast on the socks for the qualification round for this years’ Sock Madness, I realized, I actually can knit anything, thanks to Sock Madness.

If you are a glutton for punishment  die hard knitter but want to challenge yourself in speed and new techniques, you need to join Ravelry’s Sock Madness group (like, yesterday). I first learned how to knit socks when Peanut, my oldest, was a baby. It took a lot of muddling through poorly written free patterns, but eventually, because I’d stuck with it, it became my favorite thing to make. If you check my Ravelry Project Page, you’ll see that I’m not joking.

But why knit socks?

There’s a good Craftsy article on that subject, actually, but I have a few of my own reasons too. When I ran Midwest Yarn, my yarn shop, I always explained the advantages of having handmade socks to my newbie sock knitters:


  • The properties of wool make handmade socks perfect for a wide variety of situations and wearers. I had plenty of customers making wool socks for their husbands (and one male knitter who learned how to make socks just so he could knit them for his wife) because they are hard wearing, warm, and can be worn several times before the need to be washed. Wool wicks away moisture, meaning your feet are not marinating in sweat (you’re welcome for that visual).
  • You can make unique socks for people of all ages and sizes. This is pretty self explanatory, but still, I mean, research shows that people who wear wild and crazy socks tend to be more intelligent (and have superior awesome-ness if you ask me). My boyfriend, Dennis, has HUGE size 12 feet, so I probably won’t be making socks for him, that’d be two 100 gram balls of yarn minimum!
  • They (usually) are very comfortable. I say usually, because, let’s face it, I’m picky about clothes. I don’t like wearing socks made from yarn larger than fingering weight, because I am sensitive and an feel each individual stitch digging into my feet. I know plenty of people, including my mother, who like thick boot socks. Dennis wears thicker (store-bought) wool socks for trudging through winter snow or below freezing temperatures all day (he’s a FedEx contractor, and those guys definitely don’t get snow days).

The Sock Knitter’s Toolbox

Here’s the basics of what you’ll need for knitting a decent pair of socks:

  • Double-pointed needles (wooden or metal, but I recommend Karbonz by Knitter’s Pride if you really get into it) or circular needles for magic loop method.
  • Good Sock Yarn. This may be a controversial statement, but you don’t necessarily need to get yarn with nylon in it in order to have a long-lasting pair of socks. I’m not just saying this to sell more yarn from my Etsy Shop, I’m saying it from experience. I have enough hand-knit socks to not ever have to buy anymore from the store and I wear mine for running, walking, around the house, etc. I have had wool/nylon blend socks fall apart on me, while their all wool counter parts hold up year after year. You want to find a yarn with a good, solid twist/spin to it, which helps reinforce the structure of the sock. Sock designers tend to incorporate a reinforced heel to help too, but with dozens of different heel techniques out there, that may not always be the case. The sturdiest pair of socks I own, made from OMG Calatrava Yarn, a fingering weight 100% Superwash Merino Wool. It has a very tight twist, but it’s soft, and I love it.

    Toe-Up Ribbed Socks, free pattern when you sign up for our mailing list (Knitters)

  • A good pattern. I recommend a good pair of vanilla socks to start. I have a good toe-up sock pattern that I wrote for my sock knitting students. Join our email list (sign up on the bottom, right hand side) and check the box that you’re a knitter, I’ll send you a copy of the pattern, free. If you’re more of an advanced knitter, or would like a new challenge, I would check out some of the previous Sock Madness patterns if you missed the qualifying round for the current competition.

Why Sock Madness?

I recommend Sock Madness and it’s not just because I’ve been a designer for the warm-up round a couple years ago (The Choose Your Own Adventure Socks are now available for purchase on Ravelry). I learned some of the more difficult techniques that I know now from biting the bullet and joining this competition.

German cast-on. Super-stretchy bind-offs. Zippers. Different cuff treatments. Buttons. Steeks. Fair-isle. Mosaic Knitting. They definitely know how to throw things at you for Sock Madness. If you join the group, you can see lists of the patterns from previous competitions and try them on your own.

My finished pair from the 2017 Sock Madness Qualifying Round. I’ve officially gotten the email, and I’m moving on to the next round.

The rules are pretty strict so that people cannot cheat in the competition. As long as you follow the competition rules and finish quickly, you definitely will go far in this competition. The farthest I’ve made it is Round 7, and that was an accomplishment in and of itself. The only reason I was slow that year was because of the birth of Sharky and some health issues that led to temporary paralysis of my left thumb and index finger (talk about a rough couple of weeks).

If you need a cheerleader, I’m happy to be there for you, because sock knitting is so incredibly addicting. That is, if you don’t catch a case of Second Sock Syndrome (the unfortunate reason only single socks get made, sometimes you finish one and aren’t feeling the desire to make the second one).

Work from Home Mom Tips: Time Management

February 16, 2017

As irony would have it, the time I had scheduled to sit down and write this post kinda fell by the wayside due to a fussy baby girl who needed her mommy. Family ALWAYS comes first, so this post is slightly delayed. Baby girl got her nap, and mama got the best snuggles. You can’t get these early years back…

There’s a hashtag floating around Instagram using the term “mompreneur”. I suppose you could say that I have been a dedicated mompreneur for a good five years now, and it has not always been easy. A lot of people ask me how I do it, and I even blogged about being a mom and business owner back in 2012. Back then, it was just Peanut and I.  Sharky and baby Ola have been added to the mix, so how we do things has changed a lot.

With the support of my partner, #TeamDennis, and the encouragement of my mother, I’ve been back at it doing the mompreneur thing. I’ve likened it to spinning plates that are on fire in a lion’s den while those lions are juggling chainsaws, but that could possibly be a slight exaggeration.




Being a work from home mommy is not for the faint of heart and it’s not for every family. Every family has different needs. It’s important for me to have something to do while my kiddos are in school or enjoy free play time around the house, because they all are pretty independent.

I thought that my personal experience may not be like everyone else’s, so I consulted with a few of my mompreneur friends for input as well. Here’s some tips and tricks on how you can manage your time and work flow with your babies in tow:

  1. Be productive during nap time. Just about every mom that responded to me mentioned that they try to get the most work done during nap time. Every so often, the stars align and I can get Sharky and Ola to nap at the same time and I can focus on items that require my undivided attention. If your babies can sleep through conversations, get your important phone calls out of the way. You’ll have little to no interruptions from your toddler who might want juice, food, potty time, or just needs mom’s attention. If you have a business where you utilize shipping, make sure shipment pick ups or drop offs are scheduled around naps. There’s nothing worse than a kiddo who has not gotten their full nap AND there’s some valuable time lost if your deliveries wake up the kiddos.

    Sharky is proudly proclaiming that he’s helping mommy carry the mail.

  2. Plan, plan, plan. Planning and to-do lists help us maximize efficiency as well. How do you know how to prioritize if you don’t even know what needs to be done and when? When I worked in account management, I spent the first hour or so of my day sipping coffee and building my to-do list in order of priority. Projects with upcoming deadlines came first; projects that were on hold because of data issues came last. Emailing clients came somewhere in the middle, depending on the urgency. I’ve also had it where there was a National Needle Arts Association show and I only had one day to dedicate to the out of town show. I planned the heck out of that trip and went through the entire show in a blaze of glory, seeing all that I needed to and even managed to have time to lose my rental car keys for a while. Yup, I flew to Columbus, rented a car, saw the sights, got lunch, and flew home in an 8-hour day. It was glorious.
  3. Automate as much as you can. With social media being a major part of marketing/advertising for online businesses, you can utilize tools like Hootsuite to plan your social media posts around peak usage times for your followers. My followers tend to respond more to Instagram posts around 6pm Central Time, which unfortunately, is dinnertime for our family. I believe in having all of us eating dinner at the same time, so this tool is especially important. Tracy B., owner of Nails by Tracy on Milwaukee’s East Side, likes to use Google Calendars for reminders on upcoming events and client appointments. This eliminates the need to carry around a planner and allows access to her schedule from any mobile device. I prefer my iPhone calendar, but have linked it to Google Calendars and Facebook Events as well (that way I don’t forget birthdays for family and friends either).
  4. Let kiddos help with some basic tasks. I’ve found that it’s a good life lesson for older children to help with some basic housekeeping or assisting with specific things. It helps them take ownership and see how well hard work pays off. Amanda C., a Perfectly Posh consultant and mom of three, plans everything from her Facebook posts to in-home parties around her husband’s schedule. If dad cannot bearound to watch one or more of the kids, she baby wears or has her oldest daughter assist with showing off products. I’ve had Peanut show customers his favorite yarns around the yarn shop or sweep the front walkway when he offers. Sharky enjoys helping carry packages to the car or handing them over to our letter carrier if we can’t make it to the Post Office.
  5. Go mobile – make the world your office. It’s the age of the iPhone (or Android, etc.), so take advantage of the powerful mobile devices you have available. Sure, it’s easy for me, because of the industry I am in. I can knit or crochet anywhere, I have a portable spinning wheel, and do not always have to dye yarn. When it’s nice outside and I need to take the kiddos to the park so that they can run off some energy, I bring my most portable project along with. If I got emails or calls to the Google Voice number that were for my yarn shop, I could literally operate my business anywhere. Somewhere there’s even a picture of me knitting by the side of the freeway when our transport van broke down on vacation (kiddos weren’t with us, so I worked on knitting a shop sample to pass the time while we waited for help).

    Yarn, coffee, and soda: Just about everything a fiber artist mompreneur needs to take the show on the road.

  6. Keep the kiddos entertained with things that interest them. Katurah M. always kept her boys entertained with their favorite toys when they were younger. Peanut always had an iPad to work on his home-school work or to catch up on the latest episodes of his favorite cartoons on Netflix. It was definitely a good way to keep him busy during knit and crochet lessons.
  7. When all else fails, get baby sitter, grandparent, or someone else close to you to help with kiddos (if you can). I always enlist my mom for wrangling the kiddos when I have trade shows or big meetings. It is poor business decorum to bring children or babies to some of these events (although, I have attended a few trade shows where it was acceptable to be a baby-wearing, breastfeeding mom – those shows know how to cater to us hardworking ladies).

I hope some of these tips and tricks gave you perspective on how to get more done as a mom who works with her kids around. Feel free to share some of your mompreneur hacks in the comments below!

Additional momprenuer tip: Baby wear or tandem baby wear if you have multiples. You’ll be happy you did. It maximizes my efficiency and lets me run around doing housework whilst multitasking business items too.

Special thanks to: Amanda C., Katurah M., and Tracy B. and all the other hardworking moms that contributed to the making of this post. Make sure to check out their businesses too, by clicking the links where they’re mentioned above!