Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Visit our website!

The Art of Yarn now has a website! 

For the latest blog posts, class schedule, and much more, visit:

www.theartofyarn.com

Knit on,

Donna

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Designin' Ol' School

I called myself a knitwear designer long before I ever officially typed out my first pattern.  Why would I do that?  Well I assure you I wasn't trying to be dishonest.  Quite simply I wanted to begin seeing my work and the projects I created as having value.  I developed a vision for myself as a professional in this industry to create the movement and steps needed to get there.  That's my process and there really is something to it.  Seeing yourself where you want to be is the first step in getting there.

If you can't see it, no one else will. 
I have been writing my own patterns for years, keeping notes and ideas in what I'd like to officially call my 'knitting journals', but more accurately they are a hodge podge collection of notebooks of all shapes, sizes and colors, containing everything that has run through my knitting brain over the last 15-20 years.

There are inspirational quotes, scribbles, drawings...graphs and charts, numbers and pictures and musings about where I was at the time, how I was feeling, and plans for what I wanted to do in the future.  There are even lists of books I wanted to read or buy and recipes that I wanted to make.
This was written in one of my journals about 8 years ago!  I originally thought The Art of Yarn would be a class on knitting as a therapeutic tool.  Well, you know the rest.  The Art of Yarn actually became my business name.  Vision creates movement and that makes things happen!
And yes there are patterns in those books that I took the time to write out completely.
I can't say back then I did it because I saw them being published one day.  In fact that idea was the farthest thought from my mind in the early days.  I just had the need to organize my creativity, get it out of my head, and down on paper where I could see my art in a practical, efficient way.  To this day I still love the look of a pattern in my own hand writing.  It's quite satisfying to me.

However, if you would have told me then that I would be writing a blog post about my notebooks and patterns now, today, I would have thought you completely crazy!  I wouldn't have even known what a blog was!

The really wonderful part of all of this is how that process has carried over to the way I design today.  Students ask so often where I work and how I work.  Honestly I think they just want a glimpse into this somewhat 'mysterious' career I've made for myself and what a typical day looks like for a knitting instructor and designer (see...say it often and that's what you'll become...*insert big smile*). 

Every day is different and I start by creating a to do list by priority and then get into the flow of things, meaning I remind myself to breathe and just keep moving.  In this way I don't overwhelm myself with all I there is to accomplish.

Designing a pattern, especially for a class, takes the ultimate concentration for me though.  While I have written many things amid the chaos and distractions of everyday life, I know myself well and I do try to carve out designated design time each week that can be solely devoted to this particular endeavor.  I need to.

I am by far a morning person and so it stands to reason that I would have the most energy and creative flow in the early part of the day.  Generally I am up with the chickens and I particularly love the spring and summer months when the sun is up with me.  The light comes flooding into my dining room and that is where I like to set myself up for a little design time.  It's quiet and peaceful and just the right recipe for being creative.
This week I am revising my Finessing Fair Isle Workshop and the pattern and project that go with the class.  Fair Isle is a sub category of stranded knitting and this is by far one of the most popular topics I teach.  In the past, my students learned the nuances of Fair Isle knitting by making a cute headband with a simple snowflake motif.   
I decided for next Tuesday's workshop, I would have the students make a Fair Isle hat instead.  I had loosely written this hat pattern for Week 3 of my 4-Week Knit in Color class and have taught it many times.  I often revamp and refresh tried and true favs with a new detail of some kind and that's exactly what I was working on this morning.
Coffee in one of my favorite mugs purchased at the Brown Sheep store, yarn and needles, a pretty handmade ring marker, glasses, and of course notebook, pencil and eraser all laid out in front of me are the perfect formula for banging out a new idea in short order.  I also had my Kindle Fire handy to jot down blog notes and ideas as I went along.
I cast on and began with the new addition of 2-color corrugated ribbing, which is a lovely detail that is so common with traditional Fair Isle patterns.  The hat itself is a sampler of basic stranded knitting to allow students the opportunity to get comfortable with the new techniques, but it really comes out looking quite impressive and so much fun.  More than two colors could easily be incorporated for those feeling a little more adventurous.

Ol' school designin' is what I would call this for sure!  Even with all of the software and new technology available today, I still find I accomplish the most when I use good old graph paper and a pencil to write the pattern out long hand.  I have created a basic template for my patterns and can plug in the information after it's written.  When I know I am short on time, I will sit down at my laptop and type it out as I go instead.

It all depends on my mood.

Today the warmth of the sun, the smell of the coffee, the wool, and my eraser, were all too enticing.  I didn't want to get out the computer.  That just didn't seem to fit.  I wanted to enjoy the simplicity of jotting down each row, each stitch as I did it, working and reworking the pattern until I was happy with it.  And hopefully in turn my students will be happy with it as well.

Ask me again how much I love what I do...

Hope to see you in class

Knit on,

Donna





























Saturday, April 14, 2012

Claim Your Creativity

Art is science made clear.
Jean Cocteau French dramatist, director, & poet (1889 - 1963)
Recently I read an article about the Blombos Cave Project, a 100,00 year old archeological exploration site that was discovered on the coast of South Africa in the early 1990's.

In 2008, scientists found an art studio in that cave.  This 'studio' was a separate space from where people worked, ate their meals and slept.  It contained tools such as a paint pots made from abalone shells, grindstones, charcoal, and residue of red and yellow ochre powder possibly used as body and clothing paint.  The findings were published in the online journal, Science, on Oct. 14, 2011, and the tool kits were displayed in an exhibition at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town, South Africa.

The head of the archeology team, Professor Christopher Henshilwood, said “It shows humans had the conceptual ability to source, combine and store substances that were then possibly used to enhance their social practices." 

Enhance their social practices...yes, enhance, and elevate and enlighten. 

Take just a moment to think about the idea behind this studio.  Even today it is considered a luxury many of us covet, a separate space set up for the sole purpose of creating.  Even that long ago, humans felt compelled to adorn, enrich, and color their world with art, and they had a quiet space of solitude in which to do it.

Imagine what this says about our need for creativity.

I hear so often from knitters and those wanting to learn to knit, that they can't take the time to do so until...

Until they clean out their craft room or organize their other projects or paint their office or finish all of their UFO's before starting something else.  We've all been caught up in that process.  

Here's my simple, heartfelt suggestion to all who have a desire to create...

Go to your place and make stuff.  

What place is that, you might ask?  

You know...your place, your studio.  

Wherever you create, call that place your studio.  (It's okay, go ahead.  I did.)  This affirms your desire to create.  You are an artist.  You create.  This is the space in which you create.

If you create in your garage, that's your studio.  If you create in a spare bedroom, that's your studio.  Your kitchen table or living room couch can be your studio.

If you are having company, I suggest you do not clean up, remove, or alter your studio and it's stuff. (well, maybe push it out of the way to make room to sit, but only if absolutely necessary)  

This is your art.  Your friends and family are likely curious about what you are making.  They really would like to see your work.  It makes them feel a part of your life and who you are.

I am learning to embrace this idea more than I ever have in my life.  My need to be neat and tidy is no longer the priority it once was.  I don't have the energy or the inclination.

My official fiber art studio is in a room downstairs.  I have two closets filled to the brim with yarn, needles, notions, books, fabric, and all manner of other art supplies you can imagine.  I have swatches and design ideas pinned to to walls and scribbled out in what is becoming quite an extensive collection of notebooks stacked haphazardly on my desk and work table.  

I get asked on occasion by students taking classes in my home if they can see my studio.  The answer has most often been: not today

Why?

Well, it's a bit of a sacred spot to me, I tell them.  It's also a bit of a mess.  But it occurred to me one day that the nature of my work, my art, is not confined to that room, and neither am I.  And whether I like it or not, others already see my creative space, and that's as it should be.

The truth is, my home is my studio, and therefore my studio is a shared and open space. 

Just ask my husband.  There is rarely a time when he sits down at the dining room table or on one of the sectionals upstairs or down, that he isn't surrounded by yarn and needles.  I believe if you ask him, he has not only grown used to this fact, but my work around him has also become a comfort in many ways.  

The yarn is a familiar sight.  The needles clicking away are a soothing sound.  I talk to myself a great deal and of course I am always counting something...stitches, rows, repeats, or how many times I have had to rip out.  He hears this, but knows it's all part of the process.

I have even been known to knit plastered right up next to him.  The yarn will often spill over into his lap, even once in a while becoming entangled around his arm or leg.  He quietly untangles himself, moves the yarn back to my lap, and doesn't say a word. 

Even in the earlier days before it became much quieter in our house, there were cats and dogs and our daughter, our niece, and other children sharing my 'studio space'.  Everyone learned to live and work around my stuff, as I lived and worked around theirs.

A shot of truth here...you may never have just the right space to create your art, whether with needles and yarn, paint and brushes, pencil and paper...but it can be incredibly freeing when you claim your creativity.

I encourage you to do just that.

Begin to let it spill out and over into all aspects of your life.  

I believe when my family sees signs of my work everywhere, they can feel assured that I am getting on with it, that I refuse to stay stuck and not move until all conditions are right to do so  (make no mistake, I have been there done that more times than I can count).  

I believe they see representation of the risks I have taken with my business in the form of a new project being developed and how it grows and changes.  But most importantly, I hope they see that for all of the complications of life, the heartaches and disappointments and lessons to be learned, I have joy as well.  

Creativity is a sign of joy and a sign that you are experiencing life in a most personal and intimate way.  


I promise you, nothing but good can come of it.


Let your art be joyful.  Let in a little joy and it will become your art.
Start right where you are with what you have.  In the end, it won't matter what the room looked like that you worked in, it will only matter how you expressed yourself in this life and what you created and shared with others.

Knit on,

Donna


 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Knitter or an Admirer?



There are three winners from the drawing held at the Girl's Day Out event last Saturday at the Gering Civic Center. 


3rd place goes to:  Erin Stinner.  Erin will receive $5.00 off class tuition.

2nd place goes to:  Nancy Mignerey.  Nancy will receive $10.00 off class tuition.

And the grand prize winner of The Art of Yarn drawing is:

Marianne Relker!

Marianne will receive FREE class tuition.

Congratulations to all three of you!  


The booth was so busy throughout the day and I had a chance to speak to many people.  There were lots of great questions and many good conversations for sure!

My daughter helped me set up the evening before, and my mom, who has recently moved to the area, kindly volunteered to be in the booth to greet people and give me a breather throughout the day.   

Something new to my booth this time around was needle felting demonstrations.  I enjoyed showing participants exactly what needle felting is and what it can be used for.

All the fiber and tools are set up and ready to go

Adding designs to felted hats
I also had examples of class projects from upcoming classes displayed for viewing and of course touching!  There's just something about a colorful, knit item that makes you want to reach out and FEEL it.  The sweaters, the yarn, the clogs, oh my!  Almost every single person that stopped by picked up at least one or two items and gave them a squeeze, a pat, or a light caress.  

Cabled bags, socks, felted slippers and hats, plus lots of lovely Brown Sheep handpainted yarn!

Baby sweaters from Knit Your 1st Sweater Class & Cable/Lace Cowls, one of my original patterns

Fun headbands are the project for the Finessing Fair Isle Workshop and a digital frame showcasing projects, classes, and students

There were free patterns given away as well for a little bag that I often use to teach beginners the basics. 
One of the most asked about display items was this felted hat:


Conversations all day long went something like this:

"A work of art," someone commented.

"How nice, thank you," I responded.

"Isn't that cute!"  many others said.

"It IS fun, isn't it?" I'd say.

 But most commonly asked, "How much is it?"

I would say to them, "It is not for sale, but I will teach you how to make it in my Fabulous Felt Hats class!  In the class you will learn how to knit, felt, and embellish your own hat to create a one-of-a-kind accessory."

"So it's not for sale?"

"No, I'm sorry, it's not."

"Well, can you make me one then?  How much would that cost?"

"Actually I don't do custom knitting anymore."

"That's too bad!" said with a dejected look on their face.

"Have you ever tried to knit or been interested in learning?"

Said with a long gasp and/or sigh, "Oh, I could never do that!  I am not creative at all and I am so not coordinated."

I would gently smile and say, "You might surprise yourself.  Many, many students of mine have started off feeling that way, but quickly realize ANYONE can do this, if they have a desire."

If they have a desire...hmmm, well I believe those are the key words that stand out in that statement.

If the conversation continued, the person would at that point say one of two things typically:

1.  "Well, yes, I might like to learn" AND "I HAVE thought about it before."
OR
2.  "No way!  It's just not for me, but I do think your work is beautiful."

If someone realizes that indeed they do have a desire to learn, well then, we are off and running in a new direction before they even know it!  This is the spark that I am looking for and the next step is to plant a little seed that says, "YOU can do this!"

(Yes, I teach knitting classes and knitting techniques, but what I most often do when I teach is help build confidence.   That is always the focus.  First there has to be a desire to learn something, and then the courage or motivation to try, and then the confidence to keep going.)

If on the other hand the person's response is NO WAY, well then I say, "I do understand.  You are an admirer!"

A grin appears on their face and they realize that yes, in fact, that is what they are, an admirer of handwork and the fact that someone out there does it...and I am here to tell you that's OKAY!

They may never be a student of mine, but we just connected nonetheless.

Fiber art in all its fabulous forms:  knitting, crocheting, quilting, felting, spinning, weaving, and more, is meant to be enjoyed, period, whether you create the art or you admire the art.

As a fiber arts teacher, I have learned over time that not everyone loves it like I do (of course not) and even though I do say often that my long term goal, my highest purpose in life, is to get the whole world knitting, I really don't mean it quite that literally.

My goal is to connect with as many people as I can and share fiber art.


Girl's Day Out gave me an opportunity to do just that!  I met and chatted with many knitters, wanna-be knitters, and also a great many admirers.

Which one are you?

Many thanks to those who made the day such a successful adventure.

Knit on (or admire on!),

Donna

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Stepping Out

I am up early this morning, coffee in hand, and looking forward to the day!  The Star Herald is hosting an event at the Gering Civic Center:

Girl's Day Out!
February 4th, 2012
9:00-5:00

The Art of Yarn booth is set up (well, almost) and ready to greet everyone.  (Pictures coming!)

This is the first event, other than the Scotts Bluff Valley Fiber Arts Fair, that I have participated in and I have to say, it feels just right. 

What a trip it has been over the last 11 months since stepping out on my own.  Hard work and more than a few sleepless nights, yes, but well worth it I know. 

I have many thoughts to share.  I have written dozens of blog posts in my head since my last one in July...


2012, here I come!