Tag Archives: yarn

Yarn School

There is a school for yarn, I kid you not.  I have recently returned from my pilgrimage to The Harveyville Project Yarn School.

My effort in Dye Lab.

My effort in Dye Lab.

Imagine, if you will, a summer camp full of adults doing all the naughty things kids can only dream of…  Late nights, indulgent food, our favorite activities, all the friends at which a person could shake a drop spindle.  Cookies, cheese, booze and sheep.  You can’t swing a ball of yarn at Yarn School without hitting a small clutch of people laughing, talking and creating.

Yarn School is perhaps best described as a small spinning retreat hosted in the Harveyville, KS school-turned-residence-sometimes-camp owned and operated by Nikol Lohr. 

The spirit of Yarn School can be seen in this bathroom decor.

The spirit of Yarn School as seen in bathroom decor.

I went to a place for spinning and I don’t spin.  Much.  I certainly didn’t (erm, things might have changed when I fell, swiped my credit card and bought a Fricke) own a spinning wheel.  Yarn School for the uninitiated can be a bit intimidating.  There is a bit of a cult following here – people who have been to many, many previous Yarn School weekends.  When one walks into the old gymnasium there is a circle of spinning wheels whirring contentedly while their operators chat merrily.

I was at a loss.

That didn’t last.  Once I got over the chilly temps in the “Seven Dwarfs Room” where I was sleeping, once I acclimated to dinner at 10pm, once I let go and got okay with no schedule that was easily discernible I learned to LOVE Yarn School.  People cared.  They asked why I wasn’t spinning.  They offered to let me try their wheels.  They helped.  One lovely attendee even sang at me once I’d made my first yarn.  I had my own personal sound track and I loved it.

There was dyeing with Adrian Bizilia of Hello Yarn.  There were alpaca courtesy of Alpaca of Wildcat Hollow.  There were bunnies thanks to Little Angora House on the Prairie.  But really there was just a tiny fiber of life, plied tightly with people who had found their place and dyed with the experience of a lifetime.

*cough* So, in a couple of weeks you might be seeing a post on my new spinning wheel.  What can I say?  I’m a sheep.

The sheep of Cupcake Ranch (the Harveyville Project herd) are a delight.

The sheep of Cupcake Ranch (the Harveyville Project flock) are a delight.


Suprisingly, my sheep aren’t that cold

I thought this “going cold sheep” thing would be a lot harder than it is.  Do you know how much yarn I have?  (Well, yes you do – I posted a photo of my Ravelry stash count in Kelly’s Confessional.)  I am not going to experience a shortage of things to knit.

Unexpected bonus: “Hello creativity, my name is Kelly”.  I have been thinking differently, more broadly about what I might knit and which yarn I might choose.  I like it and I don’t feel compelled to buy more yarn.  I do know that I plan on purchasing a rich, heathery chocolate-brown for a cowl and legwarmers (yes, legwarmers – back off) as a gift to myself in early December.  But, I don’t feel rushed to do it now.

I had the notion to go into 2013 with the purpose of using reclaimed yarn.  I posted this thought in one of our (humorously failing) stashdown threads at the Back of the Bus and was surprised by the response.  Most of the gals said it would be too hard.  I don’t know if this comes from a place where they truly think I won’t be able to do it or an unfounded fear that I might ask them to join in.  I won’t.

I am in love with the idea of creating beauty from an unloved item.  We live in an age of toss-away consumerism that makes me sad and sick.  I love beautiful yarn as much as the next fiber-crazed addict and I don’ t plan to stop buying the pretty.  But, I do plan to take that thrift shop sweater and make it into the most amazing cabled hat you’ve ever seen.  My son will have some wicked cool sweaters knit up out of Goodwill dogs.

Just you wait and see.

Kind regards,



Today, I am supposed to be putting together photos of my stash and my WIP’s that I took yesterday.  I should be declaring my devotion to finishing the projects on the needles and to not purchasing any new yarn until such a time as I have a) finished some of the ongoing projects and b) gotten some of this yarn out of my living room.  Well, that is just not happening.

A portion of the stash

Instead, I have chosen to go a little to the right… or left… or whatever… in true Back of the Bus style.  (I never could turn any homework in on time in high school either.)  What happened is this.  I was taking lunch in my living room away from my office in my kitchen and knitting the band of a hat.  I have several episodes of the podcast Cast-On in my iTunes library.  I am a recent convert to listening to Cast-On and have been doling them out like lemon drops – one over the course of a couple of days.  I am now caught up to 2006.  Today’s lunch listening was Episode 41 with a hilarious conversation between Brenda and her sister Pam.  But then there was the guest essay about when did knitting become an obsession.  I found myself nodding along with the essayist and thinking about my own fall into fiber obsession.

I like to blame Sue, my sister-in-law, as she is the person who taught me to knit.  However, my knitting bug has far surpassed hers.  What is different between her and me?  Why is knitting to her a hobby and to me a full out passion to Knit. All. Things?  I have a theory on that.  It is that knitting was waiting for me.  Stalking me.  Standing back patiently until the time was right.  I can remember being exposed to fiber craft as a child.  My mother made many, if not all, of my clothes when I was small and continued until I got married – making all of the bridesmaids’ dresses.  She did macrame when it was popular in the ’70’s and I knew a little bit.  I started young, sewing and embroidering, playing with string, yarn, beads.  In college, I drew and painted, getting my degree in Art.  In my 20’s, I taught myself to quilt.  It came to me as if I had been doing it my entire life.  In quilting, art and fabric combine in a very logical and mathematic way.  But I stopped when I had children.  Quilting with 3 small kids is not practical or easy.  So I stopped.  And I did nothing artistic for several years.

Kyle's Quilt

Kyle’s Quilt

Then along came Sue, with yarn and pointy sticks.  This knitting – it was fun, it was portable.  I could make gifts for people, hats, scarves, mitts.  And one project may take less than seven years!  Once I got on Ravelry, though, the game was changed.  I found people like me, smart, creative, funny people who had the same hobby.  Ravelry gave me friends with things in common from around the world.  People who knit things I had never thought of knitting.  They made me think … could I do that?  People who weave, who spin, who crochet.

I find myself looking at my stash laid out on my living room floor, posing for photos.  I do want to knit it all.  I want it all to be finished objects, but first I want the fun of choosing what it will be when it grows up.  Because before it can be a finished object, it has to pass through me.  And that, my friends, is where the fun is.  It is the middle part – not the yarn on my floor and not the gift given, but the part where it is on the needles, where I get to see it as it is something in between.  More than mere potential and yet less than useful.  It is, if anything, a dream – so real you can touch it, feel it.  But it is not yet reality.  And so, I find that my obsession is with that middle part.  And I give myself the freedom to have works in progress, to savor that middle part.  And obsess about what will go into that limbo next.  I am unrepentent.

Crest of the Wave Baktus

In the middle – more than potential, less than useful

Spinning a Purple Yarn (Part 4)

When we last met, our intrepid hero had spun a small section of fluff into something that loosely resembled yarn.  Upon measurements, the section of fluff was about 3 yards long and weighed 3 grams.  It will never knit up into anything that looks like anything.  Back to try again…

Attempt #2 looked a lot like the first attempt, very loose, lots of fluffy parts with no spin to it surrounded by over spun and almost breaking parts.  It was 6 1/2 yards long.  Again, not a lot of yarn – but it looked more yarn like.  Here are photos of the first two attempts:

The first of the purple yarn

Over the next few days, I keep working at it.  Among the lessons that I learned are:

  1. Pre-drafting the yarn is a good idea when you are learning
  2. When the yarn breaks, it is easy to fix
  3. At the start, it is easier to do the spinning and the drafting as separate motions
  4. This spinning thing is addictive

At the end of the week, I had 6 teeny-tiny little bits of no-longer fluff, but stuff!  Here is the proof:

Lined up all in a row, 1 through 6

This past weekend, I have been spinning like a fool.  I measured out my fluff (40 grams) and divided it into two equal halves.  I spun the first half, being very careful with the amount of fiber I was spinning to keep a fairly even product.  I wound the first 20 grams onto a spare knitting needle.  Then on to the second half of the fluff.  I repeated the process.  As I was spinning I realized that I am getting better at spinning and drafting at the same time, falling into a rhythm that escaped me a week ago.  This morning I wound the second 20 grams onto another knitting needle and began plying the two strands together.  I discovered that I had about 3 yards more out of the second spinning than the first, so I broke it and plied it at the end – no knotting – and have a nice little skein of yarn.  I am unbelievably proud of myself.  Here is Attempt #7, the final product for this blog series.

Purple Yarn!

It will not be the last fiber that I spin, but it is a starting point.  Which brings me back to the beginning.  Now I know that I want a spinning wheel in my living room.  A functional one.

Reunited, and It Feels So Good

Call off the hounds, take down the ‘Missing’ posters!  The yarn has been found!  My lovely little girls (they did something good so I am not referring to them as heathens) found the semi-exploded yarn brick shoved in a closet in the basement.  I swear I had looked through every closet in this house and possibly even the garden shed.  Here is what the yarn brick looked like when packed and ready at the old house.

And here is what the yarn brick looks like today.

I am so relieved to have my yarn back.  My Buttercup can see some needle time, my swap yarn is back in my hands!  I guess that means I will have to go on that yarn diet after all…


To much distance between me and my yarn!

My yarn and I have been separated.  It is somewhere on  the back of a moving truck that has to drive 600 miles away from me before making the trip back to where I am.  I find myself searching the internet for the nearest yarn store.  I need to pet yarn.  I need to hold yarn.  I need to work the needles with the yarn and make something.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I did bring a knitting bag with me with 3 or 4 projects in it.  Do I want to work on those projects?  No.  No, I do not.  I want the yarn I packed up and turned over to the moving company.  Now isn’t that typical?