Saturday, August 18, 2012

My fiber arts journey.....

My father's family
(back left to right - My father, Aunt Dorothy, Uncle Don, Aunt Annette)
(front left to right - My grandmother and my grandfather)

As a small girl (I don't remember the exact age), my grandmother taught myself and my sisters how to crochet.   I don't remember her teaching us anything more than double crochet.  If she taught me more than that, I just have no memory of it.  Yet, I remember learning it and I remember liking it.  However, I don't remember doing anything else with it.

My amazing Granddaughter
When I was pregnant (with both of my kids - not at the same time), I crocheted them a baby blanket.   I only used double crochet, but I was proud that I hand made them a blanket.  When my daughter told me she was pregnant with my first grandchild, I knew I wanted to make a blanket for my grand child.  I began using YouTube videos to learn more stitches and more stitch patterns.  I found free patterns all over.  I found yarns that were softer than Red Heart Super Saver.  I struggled using the RHSS because it really flared up my arthritis.  So, I kept trying different yarns.

At first, I fell in LOVE with LionBrand Homespun yarn.  I also found crochet hooks in sizes L, M, N, P and S.  I found using the bigger hooks really helped with my pain level.  Soon, I realized that I had not had any pain from the arthritis in my hands or shoulders.  I was crocheting at least a little each day.  I was learning more and more.

Soon, I was coming across patterns that just didn't work, and began having to re-write them to make them work.  This really frustrated me.  So, I started designing my own projects.  I made things with new stitch patterns (well new to me), and just started creating.   I found this to be so much fun.  I loved the ability to crochet something and even more loved that it was completely my ideas.

One of my first designs

I soon realized that I needed to do something to "financially support my new yarn habit."  I opened up a shop on Facebook.  This was so amazing because I quickly found other crochet shops.  I found shops who sold patterns.  I found shops who sold yarns - some of the most beautiful yarns ever.  For over a year, I tried to sell my crocheted items from my shop, and just didn't sell much of anything.  I found I was making friends things for free and making no money at all.   I closed my Etsy Shop and I stopped selling my ready to ship items completely.   I had designed so many things though, and hadn't used a pattern from someone else in so long, I decided to try selling my patterns.   Initially, this was very successful.

My Navajo Spindle
One of my drop spindles
(This one is from Hogg Wild Fibers)

Then one day, I was having a conversation with one of the yarn shops that I had purchased yarn from, and she mentioned that she had a drop spindle if I would like to learn to spin.  Oh, I was so excited.  I got the spindle and some fiber and was permanently "hooked".  I fell in love with spinning almost immediately.  I purchased a Navajo Spindle, as all the videos about spinning with spindles, the Navajo seemed natural to me.

My awesome Louet S17
Spinning Wheel
Soon, I was craving the idea of spinning with a real wheel.  I started saving money, but always some shop would be struggling, or some person needed something, and my money would disappear.   I was very close to giving up and decided to host a fiber auction to buy myself a wheel.  I thought, now maybe I can actually BUY a wheel.  I searched and searched and investigated spinning wheels and had narrowed my choice down to a Louet S 17 wheel.   I was so hopeful.  Then one morning, the door bell rang.  I went to the door, and it was FedEx.  He had a Box for me.  As he walked from his truck to my door with this box, I saw Louet S17 on the side of the box and my heart leaped so high.  I signed for my package and rushed inside.

I ran to my husband and asked him, "when did you get me a wheel?" He replied, "I didn't.  I suggest you talk to your yarn friends on Facebook.   Sure enough the most loving group of women I have ever known had pitched in together and purchased the wheel I had been dreaming of owning.

Handspun Alpaca Yarn
Immediately, I began spinning.  I spun up 2 lbs of yarn in three days.  (And a lot of this time was dedicated to pre-drafting.  I still do not spin consistent yarns.  I have not found a way to make a specific weight consistently, but I know I will get there.  It took me months to get consistent using my Navajo spindle.  It will take me some time with the wheel.

But I love spinning.  I hope to get some acid dyes, and begin dyeing my own skeins of yarn, so that I can truly have a 100% Valorie work of art.   I am also working on building my own picker, and possibly making my own carder.  If I am able to do both, I will be truly going from Hoof to Hook with fiber.  I am excited about my fiber arts journey.  But even more, I am excited that my craft of crocheting has truly kept my arthritis at bay, possibly kept my depression at bay, and definitely brought some of the most amazing women into my life.

What crafts do you enjoy?  And do they have benefits outside of just being a craft you like?  Have you found health benefits too?

Helpful Links:
Hogg Wild Fibers:

Louet North America:

My patterns:

My yarns:

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