Above features the owner and founder of the Neighborhood Fiber Company, Karida Collins. The dye studio/store is located in Baltimore Maryland and has deep connections in community building in that area. I feel like they are not a Neighborhood in name only, the good people at Neighborhood Fiber Company live the name they work under. I LOVE Neighborhood Fiber. Love it. The colors and products are Quality (and that is quality with a capital "Q.") I have used both their yarn and their spinning fiber, the latter of which I used in a magazine publication (yeah, it's that nice). I feel like it is important to find yarn that speaks to you on as many levels as it possibly can, and that is exactly what this yarn does for me.
The company is transitioning to a full organic collection of yarn, prioritizing ecological responsibility in their art. They did not start this way, people loved their yarn and colors before they began searching for eco-responsible fibers; they could have stayed the way they were, but they have chosen the more challenging road and I admire them for that. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, really. They are a company of justice and empowerment...making them sort of like superheroes of yarn. They are involved in so many social justice projects, from empowerment of minority voices to voting rights. Karida Collins began a donor-advised fund in 2020 that has already provided over $50,000 in community grants in the Baltimore area. Wow.
High-end fibers are expensive. They are a treat for many of us. This high-end, artisan yarn is a treat, to be sure, but it is also a beacon for how all high-end fiber can be more than just the skeins they are wound in. I highly recommend and encourage you to check out Neighborhood Fiber Company.
I am going to try this out, I thought you might like to try it, too! It is called Soul Craft Festival 2021, and I have linked its name to the website. It's a month long "festival" of making, featuring different artists giving small lectures/tutorials all month long. It also features discussions and make alongs. This seems like a really worthwhile venture for anyone who enjoys making things with their hands. The festival is posted to your account and is available for six months, so you can enjoy it on your own schedule. There are also different price points for the tickets/pass, depending on what your financial situation might be right now. I am pretty sure it is a no-questions-asked option to pay what you are able to pay, so that is great.
I've signed up and have enjoyed some of the treats they posted from last year. The festival officially starts on October 1, 2021. And of course if you are participating, you can feel free to chat about it here, too! I hope you consider it, it looks like such a wonderful way to engage in global crafting connections! I feel like it will also be a great way to find some inspiration.
I think many of us have grown to deepen an appreciation for what we call "home" over the past year. It is not always easy to be confined- especially when many of our responsibilities remain the same but our ways of escaping or relaxing seem to diminish. I have been a casual practitioner of yoga over the years, and it was after I had my first child and could no longer swing outings to do yoga in a more traditional class setting that I found Yoga with Adriene. It has been well over five years now, two more kids, crazy world happenings and I still practice yoga at home with Adriene. In fact, I have moved to a daily yoga practice this past year. Even if it is late at night and I am squeezing it in before bed, I find it such a positive way to show up for myself every day.
Yoga with Adriene is a You Tube yoga channel/website where, you guessed, Adriene guides you through a whole host of yoga practices. I believe she sticks with the Hatha yoga tradition, but she finds a way to meet the modern needs of her viewers with everything from yoga to loose weight and tone to yoga to find your best self. She is such a pleasure to practice yoga with- and she has maintained this channel for over seven years now. In addition to the You Tube videos, she offers monthly calendars for yoga practice, weekly newsletters and has also started a subscription service called Find What Feels Good (FWFG) with over 700+ guided meditations and yoga practices with her as well as guest instructors. With new content added frequently, you can choose practices you enjoy or keep it fresh with all new practices and probably never run out. While the You Tube content is always free, FWFG is $10 a month; but there is a free trial period so you can try it out before spending any money.
I have really learned the importance for showing up for myself, even in small ways, and being present in the moment. It not only helps my mental well-being, but it helps me show up for my family and those I care about (including you, thank you for reading my words and supporting me in this endeavor). I have to say, Yoga with Adriene has helped me do this and feel really successful in my efforts. I feel more rested, stronger, happier and calmer when I practice yoga. So, since many of us are still committed to safer at home, I thought you might like to check her out and find what feels good, too.
I need to do a better job sharing things that bring me joy. Hands down, Dana Williams-Johnson's website/blog Yards of Happiness is one of those things. I mean, really, she is all about things that spark joy. For her, those things include knitted sweaters.
To say she is a prolific knitter is a HUGE understatement. She cranks out sweaters faster than I eat holiday chocolate...which is pretty fast. Not only does she create beautiful sweaters for those of the human persuasion, she also creates tiny masterpieces for Jellybean, her dog. Most of the time these sweaters coordinate charmingly with her people sweaters and pictures are always included. In addition to great photos, she also includes the people sweater pattern names and tips, hints, pitfalls, strengths of the pattern and/or yarn choice she uses. It is a great launching point for sweater inspiration.
She is active on other platforms, as well, if you prefer or want a little more Jellybean in your life. She is an active contributor on the MDK website, sells enamel pins sporting her brand on Etsy and posts photos regularly on Instagram. I believe she also has a YouTube video podcast. And while most of her posts are full of joy and spark happiness, she is a dynamic person living a real life with important things to share and say. It is not all dog sweaters and great color combos, but there is a lot of that.
Bottom Line: If you like knitting and you like sweaters, this is a blog to keep on your radar. If you don't even care so much about sweaters but you share Dana's exuberance and outward joy, this is a blog to keep on your radar.
Ashford offers a large range of rigid heddle loom options. I own their 32-inch standard rigid heddle loom (which is available in four sizes) and their 10-inch SampleIt loom. They also have a Knitters loom, which I believe folds; neither of my looms fold. I absolutely love both of my looms, though. I'll take a moment on each, because one is a large rigid heddle loom and the other is tiny- they are different yet they are both mighty. They are both in metric sizes with US size approximations; so know that a 12-dent loom, for example, is actually a 12.5-dent loom because of the metric reed size.
The 32-inch loom is wonderful! At first I was hesitant to have a rigid heddle loom that was so large, but it is well constructed, the balance is great, and it works just as well as my smaller rigid heddle looms (such as my 15-inch cricket), no matter what size project I am tackling. I have made a baby blanket, receiving cloths, scarves and wraps on the loom- three of which are now featured in Interweave publications and one in Ply Magazine, so the loom can really produce quality weaving without fuss. And somehow I manage a very balanced beat with the larger reed size. I would actually say that my fell line is more consistent and even with my larger loom than my smaller one- perhaps the extra grabbing space changes the way I pull toward the front beam. My 32-inch loom is not the largest size, either. There is a 48-inch loom I've been tempted to explore, as well. I have a stand for all of my rigid heddle looms, which I think makes using them much easier. However, the stands are just as expensive as the looms themselves, so a tabletop works great, too. If you have the money to splurge, however, I would recommend a stand.
There are plastic bits on the loom, but they are durable and tough, not at all flimsy. I really like the crank, it is very secure and I like the way the break is designed for the crank. The extra little bump makes winding and stopping so easy. I was hesitant about the plastic ties that hold the apron rods in place, but they actually work great and Ashford offers replacement pieces should your loom need some love and care. I have had my loom for two years with lots of traffic and have not needed to replace anything.
I have purchased the loom stand for my SampleIt, too. While I would recommend the loom stand for the larger looms for everyone, I would not say the same for the SampleIt. Don't get me wrong, I really like the loom stand, it works great for me and helps my weaving. However, unlike the larger stands, I think body type is a bigger factor for this particular stand. My legs fit under the loom still, so I can sit comfortably as I do with all my weaving. My mother, on the other hand, has to straddle the stand because her legs do not fit as comfortably underneath. This changes her whole weaving stance. While the straddling position may be comfortable for some weavers, it was not for my mom. It is an expensive accessory, so I just wanted to mention that it is narrow.
Overall, I really really really like my Ashford looms. I would recommend them to any rigid heddle weaver, whether new to the craft or a seasoned expert. They are sturdy, well-made tools and they are widely available, making reeds and other accessories easy to get. They are reasonably prices, but some of the accessories can start to get expensive- but because the loom is great on its own, the pricey bells and whistles are not actually needed.
This book is AWESOME. It is well thought out and a visual delight. Not only does it have very detailed images of different handspun yarns, detailing how to successfully create each one, it also includes knit swatches of each yarn. With these swatches are discussions on the pros and cons of the yarn for its knitted purpose (such as cables or colorwork). The author, Jillian Moreno, is sort of a rock star in the spinning world and this book makes it obvious why she is such a popular writer and teacher of the topic. She has a blog and a monthly newsletter linked here. Check it out, she is a well of fiber knowledge and always has great book recommendations.
I first checked this book out from my local library and enjoyed it so much I bought a copy for my permanent book collection. It really is a great reference, with tips on how to achieve clean colors when spinning, different ways to ply and finish your yarn, and ideas on what to create with the yarn you spin. Ms. Moreno compares the different stages, from prep to finished yarn, to building a house. Her explanations are very easy to follow and the house analogy created a very cohesive book. And, as i mentioned, it is a wonderful visual journey. The colors, samples, and overall photography are really wonderful. Even if you aren't a spinner, this book would be fun to look at.
Bottom Line: If you spin, whether you're a seasoned veteran or a newbie, this book is great. It has so much packed in its beautiful pages, there is something for everyone. It is a great resource and a pretty book for your shelf.
Oh Brooklyn Tweed, how I love you. Let me count the ways....
Brooklyn Tweed is actually based in Portland but at one time in its life called Brooklyn home. I pretty much love everything about this yarn company. The thing that caught my eye first was BT, as a company, are into thoughtful production- taking wool from American breeds of sheep, using minimal processing, and keeping each step of the supply chain in country and sourced from partners with ethical business practices. I like that. Even as knitters and weavers, we can make a difference.
Moving past their business practices, they offer a large collection of wonderful patterns. (They also offer a lot of free tutorials on their blog.) The knitwear they curate is modern, sleek, thoughtful, and more often than not, very beautiful. It meshes with my personal tastes as a knitter very well. Coupled with this is their yarn. I have now had experience with two of their lines. Vale is their laceweight yarn offering and Shelter a worsted, sweater weight yarn.
I am currently playing with their Shelter line, which is a Targhee-Columbia blend. For all you spinners out there, it really is a woolen spun yarn. It is so light and squishy! I love it. I am using it to knit a sweater, which I know will be warm without being super heavy because of this woolen delight. Because of how it is spun, there are some thinner and thicker parts to the yarn, giving it a more "rustic" appearance. Also, because of the minimal processing, you sometimes come across a little bit of veggie matter. For being so wooly, it actually is surprisingly soft. I haven't gotten to the wet blocking stage of my project, but word on the street is that this final step really helps this yarn sing. This is going to be a definite go-to yarn for me when knitting sweaters.
As far as materials go, I am usually a wood needle girl, but recently I started using metal needles. I inherited some metal needles from my husband's grandmother, and I realized I do enjoy metal needles, too. They make a pleasant clicking noise, keep their tips, and actually make me knit a little faster. Don't get me wrong, I love my wood needles, they have not been replaced. It's just that I have learned to appreciate differences in my knitting needles and there is a place for metal knitting needles in my life.
My very sweet boys decided to get me the Addi Click Turbo basic set for my birthday this year. (They spoil me.) Addi is a German, family-run company that has been in operation for over 180 years. They craft knitting needles and crochet hooks and this particular "Turbo" set includes 10 interchangeable needles from size US 4-15. I am not sure where my family purchased my needle set from, but they actually purchased me the European region's set, which means it runs on metric sizes and does not include the needle size US 5. You can tell the region for which your needles were intended by the color of the cords. Blue cords are for the North American region while gold cords are European (red is Japan). There is no difference in the needles other than the color of the cord and organization of the needle sizes. I have read that the real difference between the sets is who you would contact should you have a warranty issue.
The needles themselves are lovely. I am currently working on a sweater using the US 10 (thus they are missing from the pictures because they are otherwise engaged) and am loving them. They are 5" needles and click securely to the cords with no chance of your yarn catching. The Addi novel click system means the interchangeable needles use a sort of tongue and groove system instead of threads like a screw. This means there is no chance of your needles unscrewing while you knit! It's great. (The whole thing reminds me a little of how some genius thought of the car base and clicking infant carseat, but I have babies on the brain, so forgive me.) The set is a little pricey, but if you are a serious knitter, the needles will get used and the price is worth it for the simplicity and ease of the click-and-go system. Addi offers the needle sets in bamboo, natural wood and metal, as well as lace tips in two sizes and a combo of needle pairs with one lace tip and one blunt tip needle- so if you are going to spend the money, they offer needles for all knitting tastes.
The set is very nice as it comes in a clean, flat case that is easy to stow in in any project bag imaginable. It also offers a great storage answer for your needles: mine tend to end up all over the house, draped over various hooks on walls and stuffed into mugs on countertops. This case keeps things tidy and, unlike a lot of set/gift cases, is meant to be used past the initial "OOOOOoooooooo" of opening your new needles. There are also additional cord sizes available (three cords come with the set: 24", 32", and 40"). The cords are interchangeable with different needle sets available through Addi, though I have read the 16" is unsuitable for the click needles. Lastly, there is a connector piece in the set which can either serve to secure your knitting on a cord as a stitch holder or to connect two cords together for a longer cord, if needed. That's pretty neat.
Bottom Line: This is a very nice set with very nice needles. The clicking system for the interchangeable needles is AWESOME. The set is expensive, but I wold say Addi Clicks put their money where their mouth is and offer a truly superior knitting product.
Purple Lamb is a fiber store on Etsy, linked here. I have found that Etsy is a great source of fiber material, but it can be a little overwhelming. Purple Lamb, however, is a great place to shop. I have purchased some, and plan to purchase more, of Ms. Hanson's beautiful art batts. They arrived quickly, were well packaged, and most importantly...they were BEAUTIFUL. They have been a true pleasure to spin. I'm playing with one called "Rainy Day" right now on my new bulky flyer and cannot wait to share it when it's done. The owner and artist of this shop does a wonderful job blending colors as well as making a cohesive concept. I find that some yarns, wools, and batts have snappy names that grab your attention but when you actually look at the item, it is hard to discern how the name is connected at all. That is not the case with Linda Hanson. Her concepts are clever and the colors and materials she chooses really demonstrate the concepts well.
While I have only purchased art batts from her, she does have yarn, scarves, and finished fiber garments available in her store. She has recently started an art batt monthly subscription, as well. In addition to all of this, she also maintains a website at www.purplelambfiberarts.com and has a presence on social media. (I enjoy following her Instagram.) Also, as a perk, I have noticed she runs a fair number of sales on her goods, and who doesn't love a sale?
I believe her fiber journey mirrors a lot of ours out there. Right down to balancing an artistic journey with kids and family. I am really happy to support her shop when I can and in some small way maybe help to feed her own fiber habit so she can keep creating beauty for the rest of us.
Bottom Line: Check out Linda Hanson's Etsy store called Purple Lamb. She has some real show stoppers there. And it's always nice to support small businesses and artists, especially when they deliver quality products.
Okay, I have to be one hundred percent up front here...I'm pretty sure I have a crafting crush on Jacey Boggs Faulkner, the publisher and director (amongst other things) of Ply Magazine. What a great journey to what I view is a great, quality publication that adds immensely to the fiber community! This magazine was crowd-sourced by a successful Kickstarter campaign, which is an impressive accomplishment in itself. But "crowd-sourced" does not mean it lacks in any of the polish and refinement of more traditionally funded publications. (And really, what is traditional in the publishing world anymore?) Printed on high quality paper, filled with quality articles that advance the craft of spinning, and beautiful art and photography on every page, this magazine has become an instant favorite of mine.
I think the thing I enjoy the most about this publication is that, while a professional magazine, it still manages to feel like a community endeavor. The small staff that run the show at Ply do a wonderful job preserving the unique voices of those who enjoy spinning. Whether you are new to the craft or a seasoned pro, I feel this magazine is an open invitation for everyone...there is a lot to learn in its glossy, well thought-out pages. They want people to contribute no matter their skill-level because there is something for all of us to give; that is a really wonderful thing.
And you know what, it is interesting. While I love a good how-to book or magazine, and I drool over beautifully photographed weaving and knitwear patterns, this magazine really connects me with the journey of how and why in spinning. It respects, however, that with many ancient handcrafts (and newer ones, too) there are many ways to approach the same thing and that we are artists. With the framework of a common language brought together by this magazine, it is great to see all the different ways people spin...and they are all beautiful.
Bottom Line: If you spin, you should buy a subscription. If you don't spin, you should buy an issue because the sweet siren song presented in its pages might lure you to spin. Either way, you should buy this magazine.