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!

Learning Hedebo: a heirloom lace-making technique

Today I felt my ancestors smile.

It has been established that my family tree was grafted from many places, so it is likely that there is someone Danish in my genealogical history. I am pretty certain I had a few ancestors looking over my shoulder today as I learned this heirloom needlework stitch. There was some sort of deep satisfaction that bloomed within my soul as I completed the first scallop row of the Hedebo lace edging on the pocket of my knit vest.

While we can’t all knit or sew our clothing ourselves, we can work on altering our clothing with the art of our own hands. It is satisfying to create something unique even from a mass produced garment. The point is to work with what you have.

This impromptu project today started with this book from the library and this recycled cotton yarn that came from a sweater:

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“Vanishing American Needle Arts” by Denise Longhurst

There is a treasure trove of heirloom needlework techniques in this book that I have been itching to try out since a brought it home a few weeks ago. And this book for sure is going to be in my “wishlist” on Amazon.

Today, I decided to open it up and give one of the stitches a try and then share it with you. At first I had no clue what I would stitch on. The thought that first came was to add a pretty border to a kitchen towel that my daughter had embroidered. But, with it being a first attempt, I was hesitant to try it, and then ruin her hard work with my messy beginner stitches. At some point, I looked down and put my hands in the pocket of my knit vest, and the light bulb went off. I have been wanting to add something to this plain garment for awhile. It is has been a favorite thing to throw on this winter over a long sleeve shirt when I just need to get rid of a bit of chill.

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My first idea was to make a Hedebo lace edging all the way around the bottom. And then reality once again entered my brain that for a first time project I should really choose something smaller. So, I decided just making a pretty trim edge along the pocket would be a better idea.

Interestingly, there is not a lot of information on the web about the Hedebo stitch. It popped up here and there in some articles, but there were no tutorials on Youtube at all. The author learned this stitch from her grandfather passing on their Danish traditions in lacemaking. She give a basic explanation of how it is created:

“Hedebo is Danish needle point lace that is worked right on the edge of the fabric it is being used to decorate much like a crocheted edging, but a darning needle is used in the construction. it is one of the sturdies of lace trims. “

Following the instructions and the diagrams in the book I started the set up row which included stitching from the left to the right with a button hole stitch. It is similar to a blanket stitch. Because I am working with a bulky knit garment I used a plastic darning needle, for other types of fabric a regular sharp point one would be needed.

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The needle goes in at the back and out the front.

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Keep a bit of a loop, don’t pull it tight.

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Slip the needle through the loop from back to front.

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After pulling tight it will create a little knot at the top.

The diagrams in this book in conjunction with the written instruction does a pretty good job at explaining how to complete each step of this heirloom stitch. I started to try and explain it all here, along with photos, but I think it will really be best explained with a video. After some more practice I will attempt to make one and share it.

Here are a few more photos of my handwork using the Hedebo stitch.

 

 

 

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You can see that my first scallop is a lot bigger than the others. Hopefully with practice I will improve at the sizing them.

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Working the second set of scallops and almost meeting the first on the second row.

There was a rhythm that my fingers picked up as I stitched and it became easier. It was hard to stop, but I knew if I didn’t this post would not get typed up. Keep a look out on my Facebook page for the finished photo and hopefully a future video tutorial.

The Hedebo lace stitch is something worth learning. How wonderful it is that our Danish ancestors kept their hands busy as they came to the Americas, and then continued to teach it to their posterity. I am excited to have an alternative method from crochet edging to dress up the edges of a project.

We make our hardworking ancestors smile in the heavens when we discover these heirloom arts and put to them to use in our modern environments. There is so much more worth and satisfaction in practicing an art like this than playing “Candy Crush” or taking silly quizzes on Facebook.

Make your ancestors smile.

Be a Butterfly.

Heidi

Where Tradition and Modern Meet

As we are learning and preserving traditional skills and arts we can utilize modern tools and resources. Every resource we collect to create our projects need not be brand new and we certainly don’t have to first own fiber animals in order to spin yarn, or be able to spin yarn in order to knit with it. Whatever resource you have to gather your supplies will benefit you. The important thing to establish is the ability to create from whatever life hands you.

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In fact, the skill of creating something new from something “old” is an art in of itself. Some of the products our family have loved most has been made without a pattern and without spending any extra money or time at the store. The above photo was taken to show off the skirt that I made for my daughter a couple of years ago. It was made from a pair of already hand-me-down jeans and fabric I had on hand. The ruffle was a long skinny piece of fabric that had been cut several years before for a quilt that never got made. Same goes for the tied belt. She wore this skirt until just last year when the ruffle was up to her knees and the fabric on the backside became too thin. It was her favorite skirt for almost 2 years! We did create some more that were similar for her and the other girls, but this one remained the favorite while it lasted.

Using what we have on hand allows us to tap into our full creative potential without any outside influence. When you have to shop for supplies, often you are also taking in other’s ideas on how to use those supplies. And then, our imagination center is numbed, making it so that we no longer see what we can create-but what others have.

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These fabric dolls were made by my oldest daughter. I may be biased but I think they are adorable! The flower pattern one was made from a torn toddler shirt and the polk-dot patterned doll was made from some worn pajama pants. She didn’t use a pattern or search Pinterest. The idea just “popped” into her head and she cut them out and sewed them up. They were also hand-sewn because she prefers that to using the machine. I learn so much about creativity and imagination just by watching my children.

Sometimes, or rather I should say most of the time it is my children that encourage me to utilize my imagination center. Such as when they wear out all the knees on otherwise sound pants before out growing them…and they want the patches to be “pretty”…

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Let me just say that the patches were indeed “pretty”…but yikes-they were a challenge! Trying to get those tiny legs around my sewing machine arm to get them fastened on was a struggle. This was over two years ago and it still stresses me out thinking about it. I would rather buy a new pair of pants, but when you have seven children-you do what-you-gotta-do. Despite the challenge, it was a satisfying project and they lasted the growth of the child.

Another time that one of my children inspired me to get creative was when she was sad because she didn’t have as many stuffed animals as the others. So this adorable Zebra was born to cheer up her heart:

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He was made from some old baseball pattern toddler pajamas. I still keep my eye out for these types of pajamas at the thrift stores…I would love to make some more zebras!

Recycling, up cycling, repurposing–it’s all over the web in blogs, on Youtube and on Pinterest. While I am trying to encourage your individual creativity, sometimes it is necessary to be inspired by others. If you don’t know where to start, do a search. I am sure there is something out there that will point you in the right direction. Just don’t be afraid to branch out on your own, go beyond popularity, color outside of the lines….develop your creative talent that has been instilled in us all by our Creator. It may not be in the fiber arts, it may be cooking, woodworking, blacksmithing, mechanics, robotics, writing, drawing, painting, paper, basket weaving, or pottery…an endless amount of skill-sets are available. What ever desires God has given you, seek to cultivate and master them with the resources available to you.

Be a Butterfly.

Heidi

P.S.

My new adventure in repurposing is recycling yarn from thrifted sweaters. Hopefully soon I will be able to share my own creative ideas from this practice. If it peaks your interest, here is a good video about how to unravel a sweater and what kinds work best:

 

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!

Intro to Natural Fibers

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The word “natural” constitutes existing without man. It was and is provided to us through this great planet Earth or the creatures that walk upon it.

We have rightfully invented and manipulated other materials and all has its purpose either as a learning tool or a useful product. However, should we replace all that is natural?

Natural Fibers let our skin breathe. Our skin is the largest organ on or in our body. We should take care to put the best quality of fibers next to our skin. Many natural fibers also have anti-bacterial properties that benefit and protect our bodies.

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There are lots of sustainable resources for natural fibers. Several species of sheep give us wool. The most common being Merino because it is the softest against our skin.

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Goats produce mohair (which is most often used in fabrics that cover furniture and is also commonly the choice for lovely doll hair.). Cashmere also comes from goats-who doesn’t love the feel a luxurious cashmere sweater?

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Alpaca, Llama, Angora Rabbit, Camel, Yak, the silk worm-the list goes on there are many breeds of animals that produce useful natural fibers for our use.

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Plants also give a variety of fiber that can be used in textiles. Cotton is by far the most known and popular. Linen, which comes from the flax plant is another popular light weight fabric. Hemp, Bamboo, and Nettle are other plant sources. These fibers are usually best used for lighter garments, whereas the wools tend to give warmth and water resistance.

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All of these natural resources produce wonderful varieties of fabrics for our use. I am a firm believer that when we make a point to use the creations that God put here for us in their appointed purposes-we give glory and thanks to Him. We also allow for those creatures and plants to fulfill the measure of their creation.

 

Just for fun:

Take a look at the clothing in your closet. Touch your clothing, as you do, create two piles: those that feel good when you touch them, and those that don’t appeal as much. Then take a look at the tags on those items. I am willing to say that you will probably find the things you liked the feel of most are made up of a natural fiber. You might even be surprised at what is not made of a natural fiber.

Thanks for being a friend!

Heidi

Our little farmstead grows natural fibers on goats! Learn about it here.

Now available: Natural Fibers 101 Workshop  email knittyheidi@gmail.com to learn more about these fibers, see and touch them in person and learn how they are processed.

 

2017 Winter Lesson Schedule

If you are new to being a DSW follower let me give a short intro to what this site is about:

You will notice that the tagline for this site is ” Traditional skills in a Modern World”, this is a one line sum up of what the goal of this site is. The intent is to explore traditional lost arts or skills that can still benefit us today. Some of them are accomplished differently then they were long ago. Such as, today we have modern tools that make it easy to bake bread with electricity and already ground wheat.

There is a special connection we can find with our heritage as we explore skills that modern productions have replaced. Those who are seeking a simpler, greener, more holistic way to live will benefit from learning these lost arts. Others who are just curious will learn that it is possible to do more for ourselves. We might even discover hidden talents and desires!

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That is what has happened to me. Two years ago if someone had mentioned a “spinning wheel” the only thing that would have come to my mind is the fairytale stories of Sleeping Beauty and Rumpelstiltskin. Now, my wheel is one of my cherished possessions and something that I feel is an important tool. The first spool of yarn that I had hand spun wasn’t pretty, but it made me feel as if something I had lost had been found. It seemed as if spinning was something I had done before.

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Try enriching your life a little by learning some new skills. You can do it on your own or follow along here to see what interest you.

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Local workshops are still available and the calendar is waiting to be filled! This year is bringing with it additional workshops to the knitting ones that have already been available. Check out the drop menu on the top of the page to find a list of new workshop topics! These are offered in the Boise/Treasure Valley area of Idaho. Email to ask questions or set up a workshop: knittyheidi@gmail.com

Thanks for being a friend!

Heidi

To read more about when I discovered a love for spinning yarn visit the sister-site and read “I Heart Spinning”

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No Wrong Way To Make a Mitten

I had a goal to finish 7 pairs of mittens by the end of November. There is nothing wrong with admitting that I may fall short of that aspiration, because I feel accomplished in that I was able to complete four pairs of mittens and there is also a pair of finger-less gloves in the works. And, I just might get one more pair done in the next few weeks.

This week at the library I picked up a couple of pattern books to help spur my interest in continuing the mitten goal. I really want to make at least one pair in a traditional folk technique. This book has some amazing patterns to be daring with:

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The opening paragraph in the introduction of this book connects me to the author in our view of fiber arts as being a practical and necessary skill. She writes:

Kitting has always been, to its very roots, a practical art, with craftsmanship grounded in inventiveness, utility, and common sense. For centuries, harsh climates around the world inspired the knitting of wool garments that provided an unrivaled defense from the elements. Yet handknitted garments were created for more than winter protection. They were knit to express care for the wearer, to identify homeland and family, to fulfill traditions of courtship and marriage, to follow fashion, to increase family income, or simply for the sheer pleasure of giving expression to creative talents. All this and more can be seen in the humble mitten.

After reading that how can you not want to try your skill at knitting up a pair of folk mittens? I will admit, some give me knitter’s anxiety, but others are just challenging enough to spark my desire to give it a try.

Here are the non-folk mittens mostly created from my own “inventiveness” that have been off the needles for awhile: (these are in addition to the ones shared in my first post on knitting seven pairs of mittens.)

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This little pair is for my toddler son. The pattern for these just came as I created them. the finger portion was made from a  wool sweater and is double in thickness. Then stitches were picked up with some squishy wool yarn and knit in the round. Because I was making it up as I went the thumbs are a little different on each-but that’s okay, he loves them anyway!

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This set was created using the free mitten pattern I designed. It knit up quickly in this bulky acrylic blend yarn that was laying around in my stash. I love how the striping of colors ended up different on each mitten. This yarn was so soft and easy to knit up that this pair had to have a hat to match!

**I must insert an apology here concerning the free mitten pattern. When I was knitting up this last pair I realized that the directions to knit up the after-thought thumb were left out of the pattern! I will be updating this mistake ASAP!**

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Here is another repurposed sweater mash-up. These are some finger-less gloves I began for myself. The glove portion is from the sleeve and cuffs of a cotton sweater and the crochet cuff that is being created is from a lovely cotton. I wanted this pair to be easily washable as they are likely to be worn daily around the house. And yes, this knitter does also enjoy the use of a crochet needle from time to time!

The first folk-style mitten that I intend to try is the “Fana Mittens”. It is worked with only two colors and uses a similar technique that I have tried before in adding tufts of raw wool as you knit to create a soft cozy inside. I have known it as “thrumbing” but it is mentioned in this book as “tufting” but I believe it to be the same. The pattern is worked in blue and white with a checkerboard edge. The author tells us that this design “became a symbol for peace during World War I” in Norway.

Thanks for being a friend!

Heidi