Creativity Leads to Self Sufficiency

Every article I write is aimed at this realization.

By suggesting that “traditional skills” are indeed important to cultivate in our modern day, I hope to inspire others, especially the less inclined to be creative type people, to learn a craft. If every person would just experiment and find a craft or skill that they could develop a talent for, then every person would be able to feel that they had something to offer to the world.

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The “end of the world” proclamations and jokes are ever abounding. More and more people are seeking out how to live outside of a city, how to grow gardens, how to make food from scratch, and essentially to adapt into a lifestyle of homesteading or “prepping”. None of these are unworthy goals. All are indeed wonderful and essential skills and goals to have. The threats and the “what-ifs” are always there and even seem to be increasing as time passes.

Computer Sciences are also a very real skill that is required in this modern day. It is nothing to sneeze at. But imagine, we lost the ability to use our modern technologies? Having a trade-skill in that scenario would be priceless. The great thing is that while we have it…we should use it! Learning and gaining knowledge has never been easier. The internet is a valuable tool for those that seek to be educated.

Will it ever happen? That’s in God’s hands.  If I (and suggestively “you”) don’t take the steps to cultivate some of these skills into my (our) everyday living and teach them to friends, neighbors, children, and grandchildren, then the traditional skills that our ancestors built this nation on, will die out. In the event of an “end of the world” scenario, too many will not know how to build it back up again. We have forgotten how to be creators, how to imagine something and then have the skill set to be able to build it.

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Our best friend’s recently built their own home from the ground up. It is the cutest little dry cabin in the woods ever! My husband and I helped a bit with the construction, and all of us learned what it takes to build a home as it was constructed piece by piece. We had the worst winter in years, and that little hand-built, owner engineered house withstood it all and kept a family of seven warm and cozy. I have to say we are all feeling pretty good about that, and it proved that we really can do things ourselves. 

 

Be a Butterfly.

Heidi

P.S. I was lucky enough to chat with writer and Youtube hostess Esther Emery of Fouch-O-matic Off Grid on her homestead wife channel about how yarn and fiber arts are relative to homesteading, preparedness and survival. Watch it below or go here!

An Art That Stops Time.

There are some arts that have continued on throughout the centuries. The tools and the techniques have adapted to incorporate modern technology and materials, but the process, ingenuity, imagination, and quality have remained the same.

There are not many items today that haven’t been machine made and computer programed. Even the art that adorns our homes has likely been mass produced and bares no uniqueness.

In the 17th century Louis XIV set up a special place for the art of tapestry weaving to be preserved and the education of this inspiring talent to be continued. Today in Paris, this institute still exists in the same place, and is know as the Gobelins Manufactory.

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In the video that will be shared below, these words struck deeply. How often can we say that we take the “time to do things with humanity and soul”?

As you watch the processes that it takes to create a woven tapestry, you will be amazed that this still happens. Great care is taken to the designing of the art, hand dyeing yarn, storing the weft, setting up the warp, and in the weaving process. A single tapestry takes many years to be completed. The weaver is involved in every aspect of the making of a tapestry, and when finished, it is a celebrated work of art.

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The talent that the weaving artist has is amazing. Not only to be able to complete the work and processes required, but in being able to interpret the drawing into a woven work of art.

Take the time to watch this video and witness the crafting of the ancient art of tapestry making and the skill of the artists.

 

Be a Butterfly

Heidi

Who Made That?

How do we get from Fiber to Fabric?

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I can tell you, that what I have learned about the fiber arts these last couple of years has blown. my. mind. When I was just a consumer-crafter that bought yarn at the store and then put it on some needles, the only thought about the handmade process was that something was created from yarn or fabric using various tools and the skill of the crafter.

It goes way, way, waaaay further back than that, before the crafter designs, before the materials are bought, before it resembles anything that is useful. The process that brings the fiber to the point of a yarn or fabric is filled with many steps. The vocabulary alone while learning about the fiber arts is astounding:

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This is not a complete list! Many of the tools, techniques, and materials have their own set of vocabulary and processes.

Just so that you can get a glimpse at each general step in bringing raw fiber from its natural state on the animal (or in the field) to a fabric that you wear or use in other ways, I have chosen a few videos that showcase part of the process.Words can only explain so much and too much technical stuff can be boring, so I have tried to keep them short. Keep in mind there are zillions (maybe not that many-but a lot!) of ways to harvest fibers, process them, and produce textiles. What is outlined here is just a few possibilities out of many:

Natalie from Namaste Farms can shear an Alpaca all by herself!

 

 

Even when shearing our goats, we like to have a helping hand.

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(I should mention, that first you have to catch the animal and that can be a challenge in itself! Natalie has a good video showing her technique for that as well. We have yet to master it….)

Once animal fiber has been harvested it needs to go through a process called skirting where you remove the edges of the fleece that gets the most icky and bleached by the sun. The skirt is not desirable for garments or other things that should be soft, but it is great for rug making and other crafts! During this process vegetable matter (vm-hay, grass, sticks etc.) is also picked out as much as possible.

A lot of raw fibers are sold at this stage to the spinner or crafter. When they receive it, the next step is to wash it:

This video from Blue Mountain Handcrafts is one of my favorites because she washes several different types and I enjoy learning from Beth, she is great.

After the washing step is when some decisions are made on how to prep it for spinning or other crafting. Some, may blend it with other fibers, use a drum carder, use hand cards, or just hand pick it until it is fluffy and ready for use.

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close up of hand carders and alpaca fiber

Last year I wrote an article on our sister-site: Twisted & Plied, that overviewed how I process Alpaca fiber from washing to hand cards to spinning. Read it, or just continue on with the video presentation-the next videos share some of the same info as in this article:

From Wool to Wear: a look at processing Alpaca

If you only take time to watch one of these videos in this post I suggest it is this next one. Lois is a hoot! She teaches us all about traditional spinning from different countries and dresses in period costume for the videos. After this one if you have the time, watch some of her other videos, she has very interesting history to share!

Once the fiber is processed and prepped it can be handspun or machine spun. I stumbled upon this short video of a Tibetan woman spinning with a support spindle. She tells her interviewer that it is so simple there is nothing to explain. But then he explained to her that:

we have forgotton this ancient art of hand spinning wool as we do other chores.

After that she was willing to share. There are lots of other spinning techniques and tools that will have to be looked at in another post sometime, so for now enjoy this “ancient art of handspinning wool” as one example:

Here is a picture of my spinning wheel:

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To bring things to a close, we will end with this talented Fastest Knitter in North America. Speed knitting is a real competition! Not one that I will probably ever strive for, but wow-those who do have got some real talent!

(Yes! She is knitting her husband a sweater out of their dogs fur! Some really interesting things get spun up in the fiber art realm!)

To get yarn transformed into a fabric it can be knitted,crocheted, or woven on a loom. These processes and others can happen with hand or machine or a combination. Most of what we wear now is done by machine, but handicraft artist are making a come back. Many handmade items are now easily found and purchased online.

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every time I see these booties I knit for my last baby (who is two now), I want to cast-on and make some more! They are so cute!

There was a lot to take in as far as information and videos to watch in this article. The goal was to bring an awareness at just how much work goes into that handmade item you bought or was given as a gift as it transformed from fiber to fabric. Or, even if you were the crafter, hopefully it gave you insight into the effort that comes from others to prep your fiber of choice before you work your own magic.

 

If this were a book I could have easily delved into the raising of the animals, the growing of the plants and how they are processed. But it’s not-yet. We did not even discuss the behind the scenes designers who dye fibers, make blends, and write patterns.

Thanks for being a friend!

And thank you to all the shepherds, farmers, ranchers, shearers, pickers, blenders, spinners, designers, knitters, crocheters, weavers-fiber artists every where for sharing your talents with us!

Heidi

I built a support spindle from stuff around the house! Click here for the tutorial!

Knitting for Tiny Humans: interview with an expectant mother

I love that the Internet connects me to information and to people. With this tool I have been able to make friends and learn from others in limitless locations.

Several months ago, I was invited by a friend to join a knitting group on Facebook. It has been fun to celebrate others and the projects they are working on. It is also enjoyable to witness the support given to a member when they have a yarn dilemma.

The talent and skill that is posted amazes me.

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Star doll knitted by Amanda, see links later on in the post for patterns. (p.s. I want one! Guess I better cast it on…)

One example is my new friend Amanda. This week she just welcomed her fourth baby into the world.

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Adorbs!

While awaiting his arrival, Amanda kept her knitting needles busy. She could not resist the numberless patterns available and squishy soft natural fiber yarns that would compliment a sweet newborn and then chubby cheeked babe that would be filling her life with even greater joy and purpose than she already had.

Creating an all “Mama-made” wardrobe for her little bundle of joy became a thrill-filled obsessive goal that often kept her up at night. I can hear her thoughts now “…must finish this last (yawn) leg…”. (not because I have ever knit well into the night….not me..)

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I (heart) over-alls! Even more adorable on the baby, keep reading to see!

An interview about Amanda’s  journey and other thoughts on knitting follows:

How long have you been knitter and how did you learn?

I have only been knitting for a little over a year (since October of 2014). There was a ministry offered at the church where I was attending where a few of the older ladies got together twice a month to knit hats and scarves for the homeless in our city. I went to check it out, as I had always wanted to learn to knit. They taught me how to cast on, knit and purl stitches…the rest is all youtube! I have made a whole file on youtube videos for each of the stitches and methods I’ve used in projects along the way.

Did you find the skill of knitting to come easily, or was it something you had to work at?

I had tried to learn how to knit and crochet before and it was always so frustrating and I never seemed to get good at it. This time though, it to ally clicked, and I haven’t been able to stop!

What was it about this time around that made it “click”, was it that you were being mentored by the ladies at church or something else?

Honestly I’m not really sure…maybe my patience level has gone up since I had tried before? This time I didn’t seem to get as lost with patterns, and I think having access to youtube with video tutorials really has helped me to figure out more complicated stitches/instructions.

How did you decide that you wanted to make a wardrobe for baby #4? What was your first project?

My very first project was a pair of longies, after that, I fell in love with the idea of minimizing “normal” purchased clothes, (we only have a few shirts and sleepers for this baby). I really loved the idea of an almost entirely mama-made wardrobe, that was custom designed just for him. I want to take each outfit and make sure it was made lovingly, and really want him to enjoy seeing pictures later of all the things that were made just to make him special (even though 4th babies get many hand-me-downs). It has really been a labor of love and a skill which is a passion…borderline addiction!

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Dontcha just wanna touch that little foot?! I can see the love in those stitches.

What does your family and friends think of your knitting “addiction”? Have they been supportive in your quest to provide a “mama-made wardrobe”?

My family probably thinks I’m a little insane, but they love seeing all the new things I make. My friends are very supportive, and after I make things, many of them request stuff for their little ones too.

Where have you gotten most of your inspirations for projects, and how do you choose the pattern to use?

All of my patterns come from Ravelry...I’m a bit addicted to looking through their patterns..you click on one thing, then three more things I NEED to make pop up….then I click on some more…then its 2am and I have a list of 25 projects. I also love to ask the moms in our knitting group which patterns have worked for them and what they love, it makes it a lot easier to do a pattern when someone else has already tried it an had it work for them.

What is your favorite part of the craft: the challenge of a new pattern, the knitting process, or the completion of a project?

Hmmmm that’s a really tough one…I think I have two favorite parts…I really really love picking out the yarn for a project. I love looking though all my color-ways and sold trim colors and trying to picture how it will look with any of the colors. My yarn stash is almost 100% hand dyed worsted wight wool at this point, and the epic collection makes me happy. Then I’d say my second favorite part is seeing the project finished. Seeing how all of the patterned stitches go together and create something out of a ball of string. Its kinda cool I think. The process of knitting does has its own place in my heart too though: it’s been a huge stress-reliever for me, and I used to have major anxiety attacks.

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A question I get often is “how do you find the time?!” So, as a mom of soon to be four little humans, how do you find the time?

How do I find the time…whats time again??? Oh, I don’t sleep. Thats pretty  much the whole answer for that one Hahaha.

How has learning to knit enriched your life?

Oh wow….that’s a tough one, knitting has totally changed my life. The biggest part being the de-stressing. Living without anxiety attacks is fabulous. It has also given me something to share with my 9yo daughter. She is my oldest and only girl, so it’s fun to have something special to do with her. She loves to knit and go to yarn stores with me. I also love been able to make handmade gifts. It truly is a dying art, so its something that I feel needs to be preserved and sure with my family and friends.

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On Amanda’s Ravelry page and her finished products you can see which are her friends favorites to request. Booties and the Star doll at the top of the post are among the favorites.

I am so happy to hear that you are knitting with your daughter! It is sad when we take time to really ponder on how knitting used to be a  skill-set in every home and how far we have veered from that. In only a short amount of time following the industrial revolution, this skill dwindled. It became a hobby of grandmothers. In recent years there has been  surge of interest in knit and crochet hobbies. As wonderful as it is that the craft is returning, I still fear that it is viewed as an entertaining past-time instead of the lifeskill that it should be. I myself, have only recently broke out of my  “hobby-bubble” and am trying to learn important techniques such as–knitting socks and mittens. What are your thoughts on knitting as a hobby versus putting it to good us?

I’m a minimalist when it comes to “most” things. We have a very small house, and soon to be six people to accommodate. I do have a pretty large collection of yarn, but limit myself to that one storage rack that I sent you a picture of.12900124_545099945660130_1296570750_n.jpg

That being said, I think its super important to be practical with what I knit and make sure its useful, while knitting is most definitely my favorite hobby., I try and do my best to make it some that is very practical for my whole family,and always useful. I make hats, mittens, sweaters, cowls..those kinds of things, to keep the kids warm during our awesome Chicago winters.

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This little romper set looks oh so cozy!

So, you have worked hard at providing a mama-made wardrobe for this new little bundle…what will you be casting on next?

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These last questions were answered while in the labor room. And these shorties were completed there as well. Truly a “labor of love”.

I’m never really sure what I’m going to make next. I have a list of 10-15 different patterns I hope to make at some point, and I usually look through my yarn stash and see what strikes my fancy and which pattern it would work best with. While in labor, I’ve been knitting a pair of shorties for this little dude  for the summer. We are pretty set on cold weather gear until next year for all the kiddos.

Staying true to her addiction…Amanda has already casted-on her next project: a sleeper bag:

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Thanks for sharing with us Amanda, enjoy that sweet little human!

I love the fact that Amanda found knitting to be a portal to connect with her unborn child. That while her body worked hard creating a tiny human on the inside, her hands diligently stitched the clothes that would protect him from outside elements after entering the world.

There is something about getting ready for a baby. It’s a natural instinct that connects us with the women of our heritage. Even more so when we adopt the age-old slower way of life and handmake a layette for a new young life.

My last baby is almost two! The knit projects are growing in size,

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Like Amanda, my list of saved projects is always growing. (here is my Ravelry link, although, you won’t find any pictures of my completed projects…somehow I have only recently discoverd the vast pattern wonderland of Ravelry).
I am working hard at creating some youtube videos to join the ranks of other knitters with a passion to teach like those that Amanda mentioned are in her playlist. My channel has a few videos up and I would love for you to like, share and subscribe so that we can save this important traditional skill.

Happy Day!

*This interview was simply for fun. We have never met in person and neither of us is getting compensation for the information shared. My thoughts were to  share the talent that I witnessed and hope to inspire others to learn to knit and bring back a lost art.  I am also in agreement wiith Amanda that  knitting can help comfort us through a depression and other illness, to read more about what it has done for me and my health challenges, click here.

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