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8 Yarn Dyeing Tips for New Dyers

August 14, 2018

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




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




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

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

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




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

 

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

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

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

 

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




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

 

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




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

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




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




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

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

What do you think?




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

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

November 14, 2017




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

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

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

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

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




THE DOs OF MARKETING YOUR FIBER ARTS BUSINESS

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




THE DON’Ts OF MARKETING YOUR FIBER ARTS BUSINESS

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

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

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




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Free Pattern/Recipe: Rhonda’s Crochet Fingerless Mitts

November 2, 2017




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

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

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

What You’ll Need:

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

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

Crochet Techniques You’ll Use:

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





Skill Level: Beginner

Rhonda’s Crochet Fingerless Mitts

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

Hand/Wrist

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

Repeat Round 2 to desired length.

Thumb Shaping

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

Repeat Round 5 until mitt is the desired height.

Secure and cut yarn. Weave in ends.

Optional Thumb Instructions

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

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

Enjoy!




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How to Dye Yarn with Kool-Aid

October 3, 2017




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

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

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

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

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

Here we go!




What You’ll Need:

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

Instructions:

Prep Work – Make Kool Aid Ice Cubes

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

 Prep work – Soak Yarn

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

 On to Dyeing Your Yarn

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




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

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

 

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

 

Of course, I started knitting these hats right away.

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

Kool Aid Hat Preview

How cute are Sharky and Peanut?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to buy the pattern.




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

May 26, 2017




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

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

What should you look for in a yarn to dye?

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




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

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

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




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

May 17, 2017




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

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

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

What is an applied lace border?

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

This will all make sense in a minute here.

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




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

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

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

    Why use the applied lace border in a design?

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

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

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




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Offensive Fiber Art and the Art of Offending through Art

May 11, 2017




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

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

Let’s explore that fact today, shall we?

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

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

Offensive Fiber Art(ists)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




The Art of Offending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the end…

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

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




References.

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

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

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

May 2, 2017




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

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




First, A Brief Sociology Lesson 

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

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

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

So WHAT are you?!

Sassy answer: I’m a superhero.

Semi-sassy answer: I’m human.

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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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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