YarnCraft Episode 60 Transcript :: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Fiber Artists Ruth Marshall & Nathan Vincent
You’re listening to YarnCraft. [music]
Zontee: Welcome to YarnCraft. It’s episode 60 on February 16, 2010. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Zontee.
Liz: And I’m Liz. We are the hosts of YarnCraft.
Zontee: Stop by YarnCraft.LionBrand.com for more information on the patterns and products we talk about on today’s episode. While you’re there you can also leave your comments, or give us a call and leave a voice mail at 774‑452‑YARN, that’s 9276. We always love sharing your stories and suggestions on the show, so leave those comments.
Liz: As usual, we’re here at the Lion Brand Design Center in New York City, and today’s episode is all about fiber artists and their incredible creations. We’ll by joined by artists Ruth Marshall and Nathan Vincent, who stop by our offices to tell us about where they get their inspiration and more.
Zontee: On today’s “Stash This: Ideas for Your Crafting Life” segment, we’re going to be talking about how to keep track of a couple of different yarns when you’re working with multiple strands, multiple colors, and different strategies to really make that easier for you.
Liz: Stay tuned for some inspiring interviews with artists, your comments, and some great tips next on YarnCraft. [music]
Zontee: Let’s start off our episode with, of course, a quick check‑in about the projects that we’re working on. I’ve continued to work on my Superwash Merino sweater. It’s going pretty well, although I just feel like there are so many darn increases on this section. As I’ve mentioned before, it is a top‑down raglan cardigan, and so just trying to get through all the increases for the sleeves is a little bit tedious. We got an email from Linda O., who asks what pattern I’m actually working on. I have adapted a pattern which is called the St. John’s Wort Cardigan from an issue of “Interweave “and it’s by Cathy Carron.
I’m using the LB Superwash Merino as my yarn instead of the one that they recommended in the pattern because it works out to about the same gauge. I think it’s a nice substitute, and it’s going really well. You can see some really great examples of other people’s projects with this pattern on Ravelry. So go check that out.
Liz: I don’t want to use the word abandoned. I want to say I’ve put on hold my Superwash Merino sweater. It’s black. I don’t have great lighting in my new apartment. I really only have time to knit at night. But I did order one of those new daylight lamps. So when that gets here, and I can set that up over the corner of the couch where I like to knit, maybe that will change things. But for now, I’ve still got a little leg‑warmer going as my travel project.
I started a new main project for at home because apparently now is the time of my life where just every winter and spring I’m going to be working on projects for an upcoming girl baby in June, because another one of my friends is having a baby, also a girl, due in June.
So I’m making another baby blanket, just like I did last spring. Instead of doing the knit blanket this year, I am doing crochet. I am using one of our patterns for the LB Collection Cotton Bamboo. It’s a pretty traditional granny‑square pattern with nice, wide sections of color, four colors in each big square.
The one we show is in blues and greens and yellows, and it’s photographed on a baby boy. As I said, I’m making this for a girl, and so I’ve used more of the pinks and oranges and also a little bit of the green in that Cotton Bamboo, because this baby is going to be born in D.C. in the mid‑to‑late June time, and that is not a pleasant place to be that time of year.
Zontee: I understand. It can be very muggy down there.
Liz: Yes. So I was like the Cotton Bamboo, that will be nice and cool, soothing.
Zontee: Very smooth.
Liz: Very nice, very smooth. So that was why I picked that particular yarn.
Zontee: That’s great. I think that sounds like it’s going to be a really beautiful blanket, and I can’t wait to see it.
Liz: I’ve got one whole square done, so I’ll put that up on Ravelry. Only 11 more to go, you think?
Zontee: There you go.
Liz: Now that we’ve updated you on our projects, we’re going to turn to some of your questions and comments. We’re always excited to get those, so please keep them coming. Stephanie wrote to us on Ravelry to ask about our Valentine’s Day Envelope pattern. She wants to make the Valentine’s Day Envelope, which is a crochet pattern, and she’s going to give that to one of her girlfriends and stick a little gift card in it, which I think is a great idea.
But she says her crochet skills are not the greatest, and she has her doubts about her ability to make an even square. Do we have any ideas for a knit version?
Zontee: We just want to preface this with saying that we did answer this pre‑Valentine’s Day on Ravelry. So if you’re wondering why we’re answering it two days after Valentine’s Day, don’t worry. We’re just sharing it with you.
Liz: In case other people have the same question.
Liz: So she wanted to know how to make a knit version, and also tips on how to keep your crochet square from going wonky, in her words. One tip to avoid that wonkiness is to make sure you’re doing your turning chain at the end of each row and that you are not adding an extra stitch as you work across the row. You want to periodically keep count and make sure you always have the same number of stitches across in each row, and that turning chain counts as your first stitch.
Zontee: Yes. I find that it’s really useful to also get a sense of how visually each stitch is created. So with the single crochets, if you look at the tops ‑ and actually this applies to all crochet stitches ‑ if you turn the fabric so that it’s hanging vertically and you’re looking at the actual top of the fabric, you should see two little parallel lines at the top of each stitch. You want to go under both of those each time you’re making a new stitch. As long as you’re sure that you’re actually putting your hook in those places, you should actually be making your stitches one on top of the next, and that should keep you pretty straight.
Liz: But if you want to go with a knit version, really the Valentine envelopes are just formed by a simple square that you fold to make a little envelope shape. You fold the corners in toward the center and stitch them down. Really, I would recommend using stockinette stitch and just working until you have as close to a square shape as you can get, and then binding off. I think anything other than stockinette stitch is going to get a little bulky for making an envelope that you are going to fold and sew.
So if you are worried about structure, I would just say maybe go down a needle size from what you would normally use for whatever yarn you’re making the envelope out of, or use a Lion Cotton or a Cotton‑Ease, something that’s a little sturdier.
But really, it’s a soft envelope. The structure really comes from how you seam it, so it’s not like you have to make anything super stiff.
Liz: So good luck, and we hope those were able to help you get your Valentine’s things done on time.
Zontee: We’ve got a couple more questions over on our blog. Our first one is from Miki, and she says that she is new to knitting and crocheting. So she wants to know if we have any tips on organizing our yarn, our needles, and all of that good stuff. Let’s see. We’ve talked about these topics a little bit in some previous episodes, for instance, the once right before the New Year where we talked a little bit about getting organized. But I think that it has to be a little bit about personal preference.
I know that Patty down in the studio likes to organize her yarn with her needles and everything in a little package for her next project so then everything is ready to go. Once she’s done with one project, she’s got all of her tools ready for her next project. I am not that kind of person.
Liz: Nor am I. I have a much longer‑range horizon. I can’t be committed to such specific plans, nor do I think I have enough Ziploc bags in the world to place each of my yarns with needles and patterns into little bags. I just have a drawer system that I have my yarn loosely organized by weight. Before I moved back in August, it was organized by weight. Now it’s just organized by the fact that it’s in the drawer and not on my bed. But I need to update that a little bit.
Zontee: I like to definitely have containers for my yarns. I think it’s really important to keep your yarns clean, keep them out of reach of, say, any animals or small hands or just the curious passerby. I think it’s good to just keep them in containers of some sort. But I have to say, with my needles and hooks I actually like to display them in jars because I think that they’re really beautiful. I also know that a lot of people prefer to have them in organized books and rolls that are actually designed for that. You can find our patterns for that on LionBrand.com if you want to make your own.
Liz: We were just talking about needle and hook storage in the design department last week, and apparently I’m a bit of an oddity. With the exception of the interchangeable set that I have that goes in its own little binder, I keep all of my circular needles and double‑pointed needles in their original packaging and stack them in a drawer by first size and then cord length.
Zontee: You are amazing. That’s amazing.
Liz: Because I couldn’t handle having to root through a drawer or anything to try and find what I need.
Zontee: I don’t do that with circulars. That would be a little bit annoying. But I have to say that I actually don’t keep much in my original packaging.
Liz: It takes up so little space if you keep them in their original packaging.
Zontee: All right.
Liz: It seems counterintuitive. It seems like that would take more space. No, very compact. It’s in just one little corner of the yarn drawers.
Zontee: Well, we hope that helps you, Miki, and we hope that you’ll check out the episodes that talk about organization. We’ll link to those as well so you that can find them easily.
Liz: Also on the blog, Kristen mentioned that she recently just got back into yarn crafting after having learned to knit as a teenager. She’s also really big into blogs and wanted some good suggestions. She’s in luck. There are so many great yarn‑related blogs. Back in our very first episode, which you can still find on our blog, we give a list of some other blogs to check out that are all great, and I believe they are all still actively posting. So that’s one resource.
Another good strategy is to check out sites that are what are called aggregators of blog content. Just one example would be something like Craftzine.com, where they feature a lot of posts that people make on their individual blogs. That can be a great way to get exposed to new blogs that you can then go and follow back on their original sites if you’re interested in them.
Zontee: I agree. I think that’s a really good strategy. Moving on from questions, we want to share some stories and comments from you guys. Grace has shared with us a fun new story from her office where she made a thank you gift for her coworker for her company Christmas party. She made the scalloped cowl out of Moonlight Mohair. Her coworker was so thankful that he she left a giant super chocolate cupcake with a gooey chocolate center on Grace’s desk, so that when she got back she was surprised. At the time of her leaving this message on our Ravelry board, she was eating that cupcake. And I’m really happy for her because I love chocolate.
Liz: I’m a little jealous, frankly. Is that wrong? [laughter]
Liz: I also love chocolate.
Zontee: But seriously, I feel that if your knit and crochet work can be traded for delicious baked goods, this is a pretty good deal.
Liz: That benefits everyone. That’s good for everyone. Speaking of the barter and kindness system, Karen posted on Ravelry that she was…I love the way she phrased it. She says, “I am lucky enough to have been asked to teach a friend to knit.” This friend had learned the basics as a child but needed a refresher course and they set up a time for a lesson. So Karen plans to make her a little care package about how to learn to knit again. She’s going to include some nice wool, appropriate needles, instructions, and whatever amount of time the friend wants and needs with Karen to get comfortable knitting again. She’s also interested in printing out some of the learn to knit instructions from the Lion Brand website that are great illustrated instructions to include in this kit, which I think is a great idea.
Just in case we’ve never explicitly mentioned this before, we really encourage you to take these instructions and use them whenever you’re teaching a friend to knit in a non‑commercial setting. [music]
Zontee: Today’s episode is focusing on artists who are working in the realm of fiber art. So you might be wondering, why have we chosen this topic and what is fiber art?
Liz: Well, fiber art is an extremely broad term. It refers to any artistic creation that uses assets medium textiles in some way. There is a subset of fiber art that is specifically wearable. But there is also a set that is more fine art related that is intended for display in galleries or museums or in private collections.
Zontee: We really chose this topic because we feel that it’s really wonderful to see that nowadays in this space you’re seeing more and more artists coming back to things like the needle arts, knitting, crocheting, yarn crafts, as well as things like embroidery, even cross stitching. What’s great about this is that it really promotes these arts in a way that makes them more noticed by the art world, which I think is good for everyone who’s practicing these arts. It elevates it; it’s very inspiring as well. I always enjoy seeing what artists are doing with these things because it makes me more aware of the possibilities that are out there. When I’m knitting and crocheting just the simple things I know, “Wow, my simple creations could be something as inspiring as the things that these people are doing.”
Liz: Absolutely. Even if you’re focusing in your own yarn crafting more on wearable items, just knowing and hearing about some of the techniques people use to create art pieces can encourage you to think about ways that you can employ those same techniques. Whether it’s intarsia or crochet in the round, to better execute the pieces you make for your personal use and the use of your family and friends.
Liz: Fiber artists can work with any number of different techniques, as Zontee was saying, embroidering, knitting, crochet, belting, knot work, a lot of different things. [music]
Liz: Zontee and I are happy to be joined today by fiber artist Ruth Marshall. Hi, Ruth.
Ruth Marshall: Hi.
Liz: Why don’t you start off by telling us just a little bit about yourself and what kind of work you do, what your style is.
Ruth: OK. So I’m Australian, in case I might sound a little funny. But I’ve been living in New York since 1993 and I came here to study for my sculpture degree, my master’s degree in fine art at Pratt Institute. So I’ve kind of come back to fiber after completing my two art degrees. So it’s been like this very kind of full circle experience for me. My previous artwork was in a lot of different kinds of media, like plastics and resins and metal. Then when I finished my art degrees, I seemed to rediscover knitting, and how much I enjoyed that as a child with my mother and my aunt. I feel as if I’m coming to fight to the fiber arts from a fine art background, which I think makes a kind of interesting mix.
Zontee: And we’re sitting in front of one of your incredible knitted ocelot pelts. Can you tell us a little bit about your work for people who may not be familiar with it?
Ruth: Yes. So I used to work at the Bronx Zoo. After I got my sculpture degree, I worked at the Bronx Zoo for many years. Of course, working there with the animals and learning about conservation, it really turned my artwork around. I think I always had an element in my art ideas about having a social kind of political element to it. But it wasn’t until I came to study the animals at the zoo that I really felt like this was really something that I wanted my art to be translated into. So once I rediscovered knitting again, through socks by the way, I realized that I could interpret the animals into fiber art. So, I’m concentrating primarily on knitting textiles of endangered animals.
Liz: We’re definitely going to link to your website for our listeners, but I just have to say that seeing the piece up close you get such a sense of the real artistry in every stitch and the intricacy of the color patterning. When you’ve selected an endangered animal that you want to create a piece of art about, what is your process? How do you get started?
Ruth: I do a lot of Internet research to collect photographs. Part of the challenge in interpreting these animals, particularly cats and snakes, into a fiber pattern is like understanding what their pelt looks like once it is taken off the animal. So I have a lot of images of like beautiful jaguars and ocelots and tigers and they’re glorious animals. Then I have another folder of images which are all images based on animals that have been poached. So there’s a lot of disturbing, but at the same time it like feeds the purpose of my work as well, which is to show the beauty of these animals, but also show the violence that’s done to them.
But part of the process itself is trying to figure out how you take something from a three dimensional animal and plan it out into a flat piece of fabric. So I collect photographs. I also go to the American Museum of Natural History. Part of the mammology department has a pretty large collection of animal pelts.
The ocelot series that I’m working on, I’ve been using pelts that go back to ocelots that were shot in 1934, and they’re still in the collection. They were taken from areas of Brazil.
So I find that kind of historical story of the animal and how these pelts are kind of kept in the collection really interesting. I feel as if I’m taking those animals out of the drawer a little bit and reinterpreting them. It’s a chance for these animals to continue the story, and how it’s still a battle today to try and save these species in the wild.
Zontee: Something that I’ve noticed with your work is also that because it’s so incredible intricate, you had mentioned before we started this interview that you do a lot of charting. Do you feel like it’s actually forced you to grow as a knitter to have to explore how exactly you can interpret these things into something that becomes a piece of fabric?
Ruth: I think definitely. I think when I did my first large animal pelt…well, the first pelt I ever did was of my cat, and I was really overwhelmed, like “how am I going to do this? How am I going to find the right colored yarns? How am I going to draw out the patterns on his coat so that it’s readable as a knitting form?” So I’ve kind of just been learning as I go ahead. Something that your listeners might find interesting is that I learned very early on that knitting charts are really different from graphic charts. Knitted stitches, especially in stocking stitch, the stitches are elongated. So if you knit something from like normal graph paper, you’re going to warp the dimensions a little bit.
So I learned that pretty quickly from my first piece. But it is a challenge to interpret the animal and really get a sense of what is going on in the texture of the animal.
Ruth: The chart’s taking a long time because I have to redraw all the time certain areas. It’s always a challenge to find colors. I think that the next step in developing the pelts for me is to try and shape them a little bit more, so there’s a little bit more three dimensionality. This is all based on things that I observed going to the American Museum. So I’m still kind of grappling with how to put a little bit of shape in the head. I think I might have to go back to knitting socks…
Ruth: …and turning heels to really understand some of those issues.
Zontee: That’s actually a really good idea. I think sometimes, when you work on different kinds of projects, it helps you to think about how you would achieve certain things, technically.
Liz: So you chart these up before you begin knitting. Do you do the entire piece by hand? All of the color work in it and everything?
Ruth: So at the moment, it’s all just playing and knitting in stockinette stitch, using intarsia and Fair Isle techniques combined together.
Liz: That’s so extraordinary because I know this ocelot we’re looking at here, is one of your smaller pieces. Most of them are much larger.
Zontee: So now that we’ve talked about a little bit about your work and how it comes in being, can you tell us a little bit about where your work is shown?
Ruth: Yeah, sure. I had a busy last quarter last year in 2009. I had two ocelots finished and a clouded leopard. They were take off to an art fair in Paris and to a group show in a satellite gallery off my Brooklyn Gallery, which now has a satellite gallery in Berlin in Germany. So there was a lot of activity there for a while, but now all my pelts are back to me. I tend to show in museums and my gallery, Dam Stuhltrager Gallery, in Brooklyn, represents my work, but I have been invited to the Textile Museum in Washington D.C. for 2011.
They have a new exhibition on Green: a Color and a Cause, so I was invited to participate in that, so that’s exciting. I look forward to that. So that’s it. I’m just trying to keep working.
Zontee: And remind us of your website again.
Ruth: Oh, it’s RuthMarshall.com.
Zontee: Well, thank you again so much for joining us today and bringing this incredible example of your work. We hope that our listeners will check out your website and learn more about your work. And, of course, think about the conservation efforts that you’re trying to inspire people to be aware of.
Ruth: Thank you.
Liz: Thank you. [music]
Zontee: Liz and I are here with Nathan Vincent, who’s a crochet artist and he’s been so kind to come by our offices today and talk a little bit about his work. Hi, Nathan.
Nathan Vincent: Hi.
Nathan: Thanks for having me.
Zontee: So tell us a little bit about your work. What’s your style? What do you do? How did you come to discover crochet as your medium?
Nathan: The elevator speech that I give everyone is that I make masculine objects with a feminine process. Both of masculine and feminine should be in finger quotes. [laughter]
Nathan: So I make things like lawn mowers and things for like a hunting lodge. A lot of my work is based around animals that have been hunted, so like the taxidermy heads. I make crocheted guns that go along with that, urinals, things that are particularly masculine in our culture. And I make them with crochet, which is particularly feminine in our culture. So I do that just to question stereotypes and gender permissions. How did I get to that point? I was in college and I was studying Drawing and Painting at SUNY‑Purchase. I needed to do a senior exhibition that was an overall cohesive show. I couldn’t think of how to do that with drawing and painting because none of the things I was drawing or painting were all that interesting. [laughs]
So I started embroidering out my paintings. One of my inspirations was Ghada Amer. She does a lot of embroidery on paintings. So I started doing that kind of thing.
Then, at some point, I just made a crocheted sculpture just for fun and had it in my studio. My professor said: “You should bring that into class along with the embroidered paintings.” I just thought it was kind of a joke, just for fun.
From there, it turned into something and my classmates all said, “This is really interesting. You have something here.” And from there, it just built on itself.
Liz: That’s great. So I’m assuming since you were able to incorporate crochet into your sculptures while you were in college, you already knew how to crochet. So where did you pick that up?
Nathan: I did already know how to crochet. I hadn’t really done much. My mother taught me how to crochet when I was about 10. She taught me how to make granny squares. Little did she know that it would be a big thing later in my life, but I started to make an afghan and made about 20 squares and quit…
Nathan: …like everyone else. And they sat in my closet for a really long time until I got to college and I was just playing around and I thought… One of my friends, I think, had a crochet hook sitting in her dorm room and I just picked it up and started playing because I knew how. I don’t know. It just turned into a sculpture. I ended up taking that afghan and turning it into a sculpture at some point.
Zontee: Oh wow. That’s good. So you were able to put it to good use.
Liz: That’s exciting.
Zontee: So you talked a little bit about an artist who inspires you. Where else do you draw inspiration from for your pieces? Do you go out and seek out these images that are particularly masculine?
Nathan: It’s funny because there are times when I specifically go out looking for things, or I’ll have conversations with friends and bounce ideas off of them. I’ll just write lists. I’ll brainstorm and write lists of all the things that I thought were masculine when I was a kid because that’s mainly where I get my ideas from. It’s like the developing masculinity, how our society teaches people how to be one gender or another. So, I look back to my childhood a lot. But I do just randomly come across things too, in my everyday life. I’m a very observant person and just walking down the street, I’ll see a sign. I made a men working sign one day because I thought, oh my gosh, this is perfect.
Liz: So the piece you just had up in our Studio for the past few months was a trio of yarn taxidermy heads. They got such a positive response, both in the Studio and we put the photos on the blog. One thing people were really interested in was they’re so dimensional. What is your process like for really sculpting bold, fully‑formed 3D objects out of crotchet?
Nathan: That has also developed over the years. I’ve been doing it for about five years now, maybe six, I can’t remember. But I started out where I would just make flat panels and then crochet them together. So if you look at my website, there’s a LazyBoy chair. That’s a lot of flat things I shaped and then sewed together on the sides and stuff. It developed past that when I really learned how to increase and decrease and make three dimensional objects.
Just through a lot of trial and error, I figured out if you put three increases here, it’s going to make this big of a bump. If you make 10 here, it’s going to do this. So it was just a lot of trial and error. Now, I can kind of look at a shape and make it in the round, oftentimes.
The lion head that was here in the store was more of a piece meal thing. So I made shapes and then sewed them together. I had the taxidermy form already, so I knew what size to make them and what shapes to make everything. Then I just fitted them all together like puzzle.
Zontee: That’s really interesting. I wouldn’t have guessed that just from looking at it. Nathan. Yeah.
Liz: Yeah, it really comes together as one very organic looking piece.
Zontee: They were very eye‑catching. I think that people came in and they were very surprised because sometimes you don’t imagine that fiber can look so textural and remind you of an animal in such a realistic sort of way.
Liz: And we got tons of comments about those pieces and a lot of people really touched on that. They really picked up, right away, on the tension between kind of masculine and feminine. One woman, Kimberly–I just thought it was so cute–she said, she has loved the pictures so much, she called her sons in to see the pictures. She wanted them to know that once they’re old enough, she’s going to teach them how to crochet. That’s something guys can do and turn into a fine art form, and she was just very excited about that. I thought that was great.
Nathan: That gives me goose bumps. [laughter]
Nathan: It’s so exciting.
Liz: You mentioned your upcoming exhibit. Where can people see some of your work? Tell us about some of your shows.
Nathan: Everything I’ve made up to this point can be seen on NathanVincent.com, which is my website. In addition to my website, there’s a show coming up in Virginia in October. It’s a long way for most of us. But actually, there are people in Virginia listening and they can go to see the show. It’s at a gallery called Portlock. I’m hoping to travel that show. I’m hoping that it’ll go other places. I won an award last year from the West Prize and they’re based in Philadelphia. They have, I guess, an exhibition of this year’s award winners. But my work will be shown in there as last year’s award winners. I’ll put that information on my website when I have it, but it’s coming up in the next few months.
Zontee: That’s really exciting.
Liz: People may not know this. When we show pieces downstairs in the studio gallery wall, they are for sale. Many fiber artists do offer their pieces for sale, but those can be very expensive. Is there anything else you do, other than the large‑scale fiber arts pieces?
Nathan: Yeah, because the pieces are one of a kind and that’s why they’re so expensive. I’m a crafter as well, and I do lots of little things. I have an Etsy site, which there’s a link from my website on the links page, you can find my Etsy page. I sew little rabbits and bird ornaments and things like that.
Liz: I will have to check that out. [laughter]
Zontee: That’s great to know. So if you have a chance, please check out Nathan’s website and also his Etsy page and perhaps, you too, can own a piece of his art. Of course, we’ll also provide a link over to the pictures on the Studio’s blog so that people could check out those heads, now that they’re no longer downstairs.
If you were so lucky to be in New York and have a chance to actually check those out, we’d love for you to leave a comment on our blog and let us know what you thought of them.
Liz: Thanks so much for joining us today, Nathan. It was great to talk to you.
Nathan: Thanks for having me. [laughter] [music]
Zontee: It was so great to hear from Nathan and Ruth in their own words of what inspires them, and how they got into knitting and crocheting and what it does for them. I think it’s really fun to think about what people can do with these crafts.
Liz: I really enjoyed hearing a little bit about each of their individual approaches to creating their pieces. I thought it was really interesting that they both mentioned creating their own charts.
Zontee: Especially since we just talked about charts.
Liz: Exactly. So I was like, OK, it’s useful for not just cables or lace, also animal pelts and three dimensional masculine objects. [music]
Zontee: All right today’s “Stash This” we’re going to try to keep relatively brief but still useful.
Liz: Yes it’s all about tips for projects that use a lot of different colors of yarn. Whether that’s stripes or intarsia or Tunisian crochet…
Zontee: Or even just when you’re using multiple strands at once.
Liz: Exactly. This is a topic of newly relevant interest for me because I am making all these four colored granny squares in the Cotton Bamboo. So I am trying to keep that as organized as possible. So one thing I’m doing for that, because the Cotton Bamboo is such a slick yarn, I am rewinding the center pull balls, even though they come already in center pull balls. I’m rewinding them on my ball winder so that they’re a cake that has a very flat bottom, so I can kind of stack them next to me while I’m working and that keeps them a little more organized.
Zontee: Yes, I think that’s a really good technique if you’re the kind of person who is able to keep their yarn next to them in a very neat sort of way. I am, on the other hand, the kind of person who gets up a lot with their product in their lap to get the phone, to run and get something else, or if you’re a mother with kids running around or, say, pets running around, maybe just cakes isn’t quite going to cut it for you. In which case I would definitely recommend that you put your yarn into either a shoebox that has holes cut out for the individual strands to be strung through, so that they can stay neat inside the box. You can also buy bags, such as the Walker bags we’ve mentioned at the studio, that have the grommets and do basically the same thing but are made specifically for yarn. Or we’ve even heard great concepts everything from Pringles cans to coffee cans that can be cleaned out, and then you can stick your yarn in and actually put the yarn through a hole in the lid that you punch out.
Again, it’ll keep your yarn neat and then you can stack them somewhere nearby. I think that’s something that I should really start practicing because I really do let my yarn just kind of roll around on the floor a little bit, and I don’t think that that’s such a good idea.
Liz: Well one really simple thing is to just get a small, sandwich size Ziploc bag and put each skein of yarn into it and close all but the corner. Then that keeps everything and it’s contained, clean and it’s not going to tangle with everything else. You can even then take those individual plastic bags and put them in a larger shopping bag or a tote bag.
Zontee: Oh, what a good idea.
Liz: I know you have a lot of tote bags, Zontee.
Zontee: I love tote bags.
Liz: You can spare one for your yarn.
Zontee: But what happens when you’re actually working on a color work product or something where you’re needing to use those yarns in a very active way, Liz? Do you have some suggestions for that?
Liz: Well one thing that is very good for isolated areas of color which you get in intarsia ‑ whether that’s knit or crochet intarsia ‑ is to wind off either, if you’re doing a large section, a separate little ball of a color. Or if it’s small area, just a few stitches, like maybe say you were doing a smiley face, each little eye, that would be a relatively small little area. So you might want to make a little bobbin. You can buy very inexpensive plastic bobbins that are just kind of like little butterfly shaped, plastic rectangles that you just wrap your yarn around. Sometimes it has a little slot that you can hook the yarn into when you’re not working with it. But, you can also cut out a shape like that out of cardboard, or I’ve even heard of people making very small ones out of those plastic tags that come on bread bags.
Zontee: Yes, I’ve heard about that, too.
Liz: What that does is it keeps your yarn very neat because when you’re not working on that section that yarn is just going to hang off the back of your work. If you let it just be a long loose, strand, it’s just going to get tangled up with everything else going on the wrong side of your work.
Zontee: Especially if you’re like me and need to move around while working on a project.
Zontee: I’m putting it out there. I know that there are a lot of us.
Liz: Motion plus loose strands equals tangles.
Zontee: Yes. This is true.
Liz: So you want to keep those loose ends all under control. So I know a lot of people who buy bobbins. So that’s an effective technique. Now for those of you who maybe are like me and really dread weaving in ends, there are techniques that can be employed to minimize the amount of weaving in that’s going to have to happen at the end of your project. One of my favorite techniques is to whenever possible carry the color along inside, so you’re not cutting. Because if you don’t cut, that’s not an end you have to weave in.
Zontee: This is true.
Liz: So if you’re making say a striped scarf like the one Jess, our intern, featured last week on the Lion Brand Notebook with her leftover balls of amazing where you’re just switching colors every two rows. You don’t have to cut at the end of every two rows. You can just let the yarn stay hanging off the side of your work while you work the contrasting color. Then you come back to the main color, just pick it up along the side of the work and start knitting with it. There’ll be a tiny little loop, but it will just be right there on the side. You’ll never see it.
Zontee: Yeah and that works best when it’s only a few rows. It’s not going to work so well if it’s a much larger area because then that loop that Liz mentioned will become larger.
Liz: Then it can start snagging on things, and no one wants that.
Liz: But if you’re, say, doing a hat that the inside, the wrong side is never going to be seen–and it’s not like a glove or a sleeve where you’re sticking your fingers through it and fingers might get caught–you can make some pretty big carries along the inside of your hat.
Zontee: That’s very true.
Liz: And no one’s going to notice them.
Zontee: Very true, and that’s a good technique when you’re doing things like intarsia that you learn in general because you’ll need that for color work. But, you can do that when you’re doing stripes as well.
Liz: Exactly. Now all of you crocheters are going to laugh at me, but I just found out maybe two years ago about crocheting over the ends as you work in crochet. It was life changing, let me tell you.
Zontee: Yes, I think it’s a really great technique. When you start working with your new color, you just take your ends, lay them over the top of your project, and actually just work over them so that they become hidden within the inside of your stitch. It really is a really useful technique because it hides things pretty well.
Liz: It does, and that is what I’m doing on my little afghan because, let’s see, four colors, so that’s eight ends per square times twelve squares. That’s like 100 ends. I’m not even counting the ends from seaming them together in the end. So instead of having those hundred and something ends to weave in at the end, I’m working them in as I go along.
Zontee: Much better.
Liz: In knitting, there isn’t such a straightforward technique if you’re doing Fair Isle. There are ways to weave in as you go. You’re really going to need to look that up on Google, though, because it’s a very visual thing. I have tried it. I don’t know that I feel it totally works as well. It really depends on the gauge of your yarn and on your tension and on how much the color you’re weaving in contrasts with the color that’s currently being worked. Like if you’ve got white that you’re weaving in, and you’re trying to work in black behind it, that black is going to show through a little bit. So that’s really a lot of trial and error, but it can be done. A lot of people swear by it.
Zontee: Very interesting. Another technique that I actually really like when switching from one color to another is one that I was taught actually by the staff downstairs. It’s also really good for joining yarns. This works best with ply yarns, but it’s called Russian Join. I find that that’s really good because if you plan it out right, you can actually knit all the way to the end of the row that you want it to be changing colors at. Then if your rip back a little bit, a few inches, so that you make your cut the right place, you can actually do the Russian Join knit back forward, and now your colors will change in the correct place.
Again Russian Join is something that you’ll probably want to look up on Google or your favorite web engine, so that you can actually see pictures of how it’s done or even videos on YouTube because it’s probably a technique that is best shown. I can generally describe it to you but it probably won’t make so much sense.
Liz: So those are some of our quick tips on yarn management for multicolor projects or multi‑strand projects. If you have any, please share them in. Maybe you know about a better way to weave in as you go in knitting. I would love to hear about it. Let me know. [music]
Zontee: We want to thank all of you for joining us today. We want to thank our guests, Nathan Vincent and Ruth Marshall, and we want to thank those who shared their stories, questions, and comments.
Liz: Join us again in two weeks, when we start thinking about spring. It won’t be too early, it’s not too early. It’s never too early to start thinking about spring. Have any questions or need any recommendations for spring projects? Let us know. You can leave a comment on our website, YarnCraft.LionBrand.com, on Ravelry, or by leaving us a voice mail at 774‑452‑ YARN, that’s 774‑452‑9276. And as usual, our music was “Boy With A Coin” by Iron and Wine from the Podsafe Music Network.
Find links to the patterns and websites we talk about in this episode by visiting the episode guide.