Our Common Thread…

…And What You Should Know.

While preparing for YarnCon, I am often listening to public radio (I being Natalia), listening to news of the world, what’s happening in the White House and here in Chicago. One of the things I love about Chicago, as segregated as it is, is its diversity. That is a big reason for keeping YarnCon in the heart of the city. We want everyone to be able to come, people with cars and without. You can get to the Plumbers Union Hall via public transit, or even by bicycle if you are so inclined, but it is still easy enough to get to from the expressway. Everyone can come.

That means there will be lots of different types of people, and all types of people are welcome at YarnCon. All of them. And we want all of them to feel welcome. To feel included. We all have a common thread (excuse the pun) and that is yarn. We are all here for the yarn. We all like to work with it, look at it, play with it, smell it, squish it, make it, make with it, etc. 

Why am I reminding you of this? Aren’t yarny people generally cool, you might ask? I hope so. I like to think so. But, sometimes we all need reminders, and last year we were reminded when one of our visitors was made to feel less than welcome. We handled that privately, and this blog post is not for pointing fingers or laying blame. It is a reminder to be our best selves, and to treat those that look different from ourselves, be they of a different race, gender, religion, or anything else you can think of, exactly the way we would want to be treated.

We expect this of our vendors, our teachers, of ourselves, our volunteers, and our visitors. Be kind, and come and enjoy the beautiful handiwork of our artisans. Artisans, please treat our guests with kindness, some came from great distances, and others are our neighbors, and we are happy to see them all. 

And if you ever feel that you have been treated unfairly, please come to one of the organizers. We take this seriously. (Now, let’s have some yarny fun!)

 

Thank you to Ysolda for the Sticker!

 

Community Cast On

Today we bring you a blog post written by Society for the Lost Arts Board member, and designer at Lisa Lucia (http://www.lisaluciaknits.com/), Lisa Whiting. She will be bring her Community Cast On knitting performance piece to YarnCon this year, and will tell you all about it below. Thanks, Lisa!

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Back in 2005, I was living in Detroit, going to school at the Center For Creative Studies and working at a Yarn Shop, City Knits. It was in this time that I combined my love of art making and my love of knitting together in one huge piece, “Community Cast-On”. I documented it in a blog which is still up to this day.

The blog, http://communitycaston.blogspot.com/,  documented the progress of this performance knitting piece conceived by me, Lisa Whiting, BFA, (CCS 2005) and assistant manager of City Knits. “Community Cast-on: A Knitting Circle” engaged eight knitters and 16 hands simultaneously knitting around a 16 foot circle to create a giant tubular soft sculpture. The piece was cast-on at Noon July 2, 2005 to kick-off the Knit Fest at City Knits, using yarn donated by Cascade Yarns and needles donated by Skacel Needles.
 

At the time I chose ecological wool in various natural shades to reflect the diversity of our community and region. The piece was not about the product itself, but the proximity of people, who may be strangers, working closely together as neighbors to create a community. The sculpture was the evidence of the joint effort to create something beautiful and meaningful with the simple elements of sticks and string. The performance traveled to several area festivals throughout that summer, and was bound off in a celebration at The Detroit Institute of Arts in September 2005. Knitters of all skill levels were invited to jump in and knit a round (or portion thereof) and are invited to donate in any amount to the Stitch to WIN campaign.

Fast forward to today, having been engrossed in a amazingly inclusive knitting community here in Chicago, I have been wanting to recreate this piece with my current community of friends and adopted YarnCon family. I was super excited to share this idea of resurrecting this piece with Natalia and she and the other Yarny folks of YarnCon all agreed in this day and age where communities are split down political, racial, and religious lines, it is now more than ever that we need art that brings us all together. 

 So I am inviting you, my knitters, my family, to come and sit and knit a row with me as we start a new “Community Cast-On” the weekend of YarnCon, April 1st and 2nd. We didn’t get a chance to have yarn donated like I did for the original piece, however, let’s make this all a true community effort. Bring your scrap yarn, or yarns you want to donate, so we can make this version of the piece the technicolor dream knit that represents all of us. We are not just black and white, we are every color of the rainbow and this piece will reflect the hues of all of us, together, working for a common goal, unity!  Donations of Yarn will be used for this piece. Donations of money will go to local charity (TBD) that brings diversity and unity to our Chicago communities.

YarnCon’s Birthday KAL / CAL

Hey, yarn friends! As you may know, YarnCon is celebrating its 10th birthday this year. To get into the party atmosphere, we feel like decorating! This is where you come in.

Join us for our first-ever YarnCon KAL / CAL! We’re making bunting — you know, those fun little triangular flags you see at celebrations?

We thought it would be great to knit and crochet a WHOLE BUNCH of them and hang them up at our venue. And we’d like to invite you to knit and crochet along with us.

Some lovely designers on Ravelry have agreed to let us use their free designs, so choose one and get crafting!

Bunting Fit for a Queen by Vero Pepperell (knit)

Bunt Bunt Bunting by Shelley Husband (crochet)

Both patterns offer tips on gauge and choosing yarn, but don’t feel you have to conform to any particular flag size or weight of yarn. Use what you have on hand, what you think looks festive, or just what you feel like working with. This is purely for fun and celebration! The bonus is these little flags are super quick to finish. Show us your FOs on Instagram with #yarnconsbirthday!

The crafter who makes the most triangles just might go home with a special something from YarnCon. A small token of our yarny love and affection.

Volunteer at YarnCon!

Lately, many of you have written us to ask if YarnCon needs volunteers. The answer is a resounding YES!! Every year, we could use extra hands in many areas: helping vendors unload their wares and schlep them to their booths, womanning various information tables, booth-sitting for vendors who need a break or are teaching a class, and then on Sunday, helping the vendors schlep their remaining goodies back to their vehicles.

In return for your help, you’ll get one of the elusive YarnCon goodie bags! And a t-shirt! Also, our undying gratitude. Seriously, it’s one of the best gigs going.

Interested? Head over to our Volunteer Form and let us know!

Only 36 days until YarnCon! See you soon!

Introducing #Yarnstallation!

Hi friends, I know things have been quiet around here, but we wanted to let you know about something exciting one of our volunteers, Cathy Turley, has been working on called #Yarnstallation! What is #Yarnstallation? Here is what Cathy has to say about it (and I will say a tiny bit more at the end):

WHAT

This summer, local artists, community members and volunteers will create a yarn installation (aka yarnbomb) at the Annex at a series of weekly community gatherings.

The public is invited. There is no charge to attend.

This fall, the yarn installation will be exhibited and funds will be raised for arts education at Wells Community Academy, a Chicago public high school.

WHO

We are seeking like-minded individuals to attend the #Yarnstallation community gatherings and to donate time or materials. Knitting or crochet skills are not required.

HOW

Here are ways to get involved:

 Come to the weekly gatherings and invite your friends.

 Volunteer to teach knitting, crochet, weaving, i-cord making or pompom making.

 Donate materials (yarn, knitting needles, crochet hooks, pomp-pomp and i-cord makers, etc.)

 Donate knitted or crocheted pieces (especially rectangles and flowers) to be part of the installation: any color, size, or shape shape – even clean sweaters!

 Donate fine hand-crafted work or luxury yarn to be included in the silent auction.

 Attend the Exhibition & Fundraiser Party on October 7, 2016.

WHEN

#Yarnstallation Community Maker Sessions Every Wednesday, July 13- August 31 5:30 to 7:30pm

WHERE

Events will be held at the Annex: 1620 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL

The Annex is a cultural, content and advertising agency, and part of Havas Worldwide.

To get involved, email me, Cathy Turley: cathy.turley@havasww.com.

Thank you!

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It looks like they are off to a great start, Cathy sent us some pictures from the opening, which I sadly had to miss at the last minute.  The events are every Wednesday through August 31st, 5:30-7:30pm at the Annex, 1620 W Chicago Ave. Check out this link for more information: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/yarnstallation-tickets-26333549355IMG_6632

10-Year Celebrations and Other Thoughts

A lot can change in ten years.

Ten years ago, I was single. Childless. Spent my disposable income on, well, yarn.

Flash forward to now:  I’m happily married. We have three children. I still love yarn, but disposable income and free time to knit are largely things of the past (and, I hope, the future; this too shall pass).

Ten years ago, there was no YarnCon. Can you even imagine?

And yet in 2017, we’ll celebrate our tenth show. So much can change.

This month, in preparing for a knitting/dry-felting class I’m teaching at my children’s school, I visited one of our longtime YarnCon vendors, Esther’s Place. I needed some wool for the kids to use in needle felting, but really I wanted an excuse for a quick trip out of the city on a gorgeous spring day.

Mother and daughter team Donna and Natasha have transformed a lovely Victorian house in Big Rock, IL, into a colorful playhouse for fiber fanatics. Lush roving dyed in every shade and whimsical felted creatures are all around. I was drawn to the curly fleece locks dyed like little rainbows. My three-year-old instantly spotted the needle-felted Star Wars figures. It’s a fun place.

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And guess what? Esther’s Place has been around for a decade. Another ten-year celebration! In fact, this weekend they’re hosting a Farm Days Open House to commemorate. If you’re in the western Chicagoland suburbs (and even if you’re not), head out to Big Rock this weekend for some fibery farm fun.

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Donna Lehrer and Natasha Lehrer Lewis


Newsflash: Kids Love Wool

Armed with a pound of roving dyed in 16 distinct colors, a bulk order of felting needles and foam pads, and a basket of cookie cutters, I made my way to the Chicago Free School, where two of my kids attend.

We talked briefly about how felting works: how the wool fibers are built to cling to each other, and that with a little help from an absurdly sharp and skinny needle, we can mold and sculpt the wool into shapes.

They loved it. They dove right in.

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There’s something about working with your hands, feeling the fuzzy wool and blending different colors together, and yes, stabbing something with a sharp object, that kids just GET. (Incredibly, in a room of kids ranging in age from 7 to 13, we only had one pricked finger.) As someone who works in the fiber world, I’m so gratified and rewarded at how excited these kids are about working with wool.

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We started out with simple cookie cutter shapes this week, and next week we’ll explore creating landscapes on flat felt “canvases,” as well as sculpting 3D objects and figures.

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Such a fun time.

Have you taught kids to knit, crochet, spin, or felt? How did it go? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Admission is Free, But We Need Your Support!

Did you know that we used to charge admission to YarnCon? Yep, $3 to walk in the door. We weren’t crazy about it; charging admission gives you less money to spend with the amazing artists on the shopping floor, and we wanted even the fiber-curious to come check out YarnCon, without commitment.

YarnCon 2007 at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse

YC #1: 2007 at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse. We charged admission then; can you believe how we’ve grown?

 

But putting on an event in the heart of the city is not cheap, so we had to figure out another way. Rather than charging a flat admission, we came up with ways for you to show us the support you can, or want to.

Here are three ways you can help keep admission free for all:

* Enter to win! Our amazing vendors, sponsors, and friends of the show donate prizes that we raffle off all weekend long, and you don’t even need to be present when we pull your name! Raffle tickets are only $1 each or $10/dozen, so the more support you give, the better your chances to win! (Pro tip: the door prize entry just needs your name and email or phone, for those of you that like to print out labels for these things.)

raffle

The raffle table in years past; what will our vendors and friends have for you this year?

 

* Get gear. Your t-shirt and bag orders, along with anything else in the YarnCon shop, go directly toward the costs of the show. Display your YarnCon pride! You can preorder anything from the shop to pick up this weekend, or get your gear at the event.

2016shirts

* Donate. YarnCon is officially organized by the non-profit Society for the Lost Arts. Your donation not only supports YarnCon’s continued existence and growth, but helps us develop workshops, programs, and community around the arts, and it’s tax-deductible!

YarnCon is 100% a labor of love. We organize the show for YOU: vendors, designers, crafters of all types. Your enthusiasm sustains and grows the show, and we can’t wait to see you THIS WEEKEND!

Damn Fine YarnContest – Prizes!

DFYC-Final-logoBYou’re pulling out your favorite fair isle sweater or whipping up a tiny cherry pie for our Damn Fine YarnContest, right? We’re so excited to see what you’ll enter, whether designed yourself or from a pattern you’ve knit a thousand times. The range of skills in our fiber community is amazing, and we want you to show it off!

Even if you’re not entering — and even if you can’t make it to YarnCon at all! — you can follow along with the fun on Instagram, and vote for your favorites! Follow @rubysubmarine, where Leah Coccari-Swift of Great Northern will be posting pics of all the entries, and @yarncon, where we’ll be posting highlights. Judges will check out the fan favorites when they make their decisions.

And now, a peek at the prizes!

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Every category winner will receive one of the awesome new organic cotton box-bottom tote bags we cooked up for YarnCon this year, plus an additional prize unique to the category:

Best Twin Peaks Prop:

Winner of this category will receive a signed copy of the Great Northern Knits book that kicked off this whole contest idea in the first place. Since the book isn’t scheduled for publication until late this year, the winner will receive PDF copies of From Another Place (cropped version shown above, but we’ll include both versions!) and Cherry Pie, patterns that will appear in the book. That should keep them busy while they wait!

 

Best Garment:

straight_edge_slouch_medium

The winner of Best Garment will receive a kit to make judge Lisa Whiting’s Straight Edge Slouch Hat, a quick knit and a nice change of pace from the more technical demands of a full garment! But if they want to tackle another big project right away, we’re including a printed copy of Lisa’s stunning new Cabled Cardi pattern, along with a set of Balwen Woodworks Mulberry Branch buttons to finish it off.

afterlight

 

Best Use of Handspun:
What do spinners want, but more fiber? Best Use of Handspun winner will find that their YarnCon tote bag contains a full braid of hand-dyed fiber from one of our awesome vendors, along with samples of additional fibers from vendors past and present.

 

Best Toy:
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Best Toy winner will receive a signed copy of judge Anna Hrachovec‘s latest pattern book, Adventures in Mochimochi Land. With 25 new patterns inside, it will help our ultimate toy-knitter establish their own toy colony!

 

Best Accessory:
midwestern
Winner in this category will be the proud new owner of judge Allyson Dykhuizen‘s Midwestern Knits book, chock full of garment and accessory patterns from Midwestern designers and all featuring indie yarns.

 

But what about “Best in Show”?

The Best in Show winner, decided on by all five judges, will get the ultimate YarnCon prize package, which includes:

  • A YarnCon T-shirt;
  • A YarnCon goodie bag, this year’s cotton box-bottom tote with vendor samples and YarnCon swag included;
  • A signed copy of Great Northern Knits when available; PDF copies of From Another Place and Cherry Pie to tide them over;
  • A Work+Shelter project bag;
  • Two of the latest Mochimochiland toy kits: Ninja and Robot;
  • A Balwen Woodworks vintage ruler pin;
  • Plus plenty of shout-outs and the gratification of knowing they bested a hot field of incredibly skilled YarnCon attendees!

 

Damn Fine YarnContest – Meet Your Judges!

(We let Great Northern Knits co-author Leah Coccari-Swift have the mic today to fill you in on the latest for next weekend’s contest! Are you cooking up something fun to enter?)

Hello, fiber lovers! I’m here to tell you a little about each of our wonderful Damn Fine YarnContest judges, so you can get to know us before the Big Weekend. Each of us will be judging one of 5 categories, and coming together to decide on our pick for the Best in Show prize. Read on, won’t you? We can’t wait to see what you’re gonna submit!

 

Best Twin Peaks Prop Judge: Leah Coccari-Swift (that’s me)
Leah Log Lady
You may be wondering about the “presented by… Great Northern” aspect of this contest. Great Northern is my upcoming Kickstarter-funded knitting book with Teresa Gregorio, inspired by the early 90’s TV show Twin Peaks. The show was groundbreaking in many ways, and also happens to feature some amazing knitwear. The iconography of Twin Peaks lends itself nicely to yarn-crafted items, and I can’t wait to see what folks come up with for this category! Check out Great Northern here, and you can find my blog here. I can’t wait to see you at the show!

 

Best Garment Judge: Lisa Whiting
Lisa
Lisa is a talented artist, knitwear designer, and creative director at the super-popular yarn subscription club Yarnbox. Her designs have been featured in many magazines and on TV, and she created one of my all-time favorite kid’s hat patterns, the adorable Kitty Hat for Blue Sky Alpacas. We’re delighted to have Lisa judging the garment category, as she’ll bring her creative eye and keen aesthetic sense to the task! You can find Lisa’s website here.

 

Best Use of Handspun Judge: Vera Videnovich
Vera
Vera is an amazing spinner, knitter, designer, and grower of superb vegetables. Her farm produces veggies in the warm season and wool from her sheep in the cool season (shorn and spun by Vera!). The love and care she dedicates to her creations results in beautiful produce, stunning knitwear (check out her men’s sweaters!) and luscious yarn. Vera’s spinning and design expertise will serve her well as judge for this category! Follow her on Instagram here.

(Ed note: Vera is our resident spinning guru; she taught all three YarnCon organizers how to spin. You can learn from her too next weekend in her DIY Handspinning classes!)

 

Best Toy Judge: Anna Hrachovec
Anna
Anna is an artist, designer, author, animator, and all-around creative force. Anna’s wonderful Mochimochi Land patterns are incredibly popular for good reason, they are incredibly cute and addictive to knit! Anna’s fantastic sense of color and design make each of her tiny, anthropomorphized creations a true work of adorable art, and we’re thrilled to have her as the toy judge! You can find Mochimochi Land on the web here, and Anna’s website here.

 

Best Accessory Judge: Allyson Dykhuizen
Allyson
Allyson is a designer, editor, author, and kick-ass lady. Holla Knits, her online magazine, is in its 5th year of producing challenging, unique, fashionable patterns. Allyson has been featured in magazines, co-authored the wonderful book Midwestern Knits last year, and is currently working on the 1Knit1Chicago kit club, which is producing fabulous original patterns. Her technical skills and design savvy make her an ideal accessories judge. Check out Allyson’s blog here.

All 5 of us will judge “Best in Show”!

When entries are dropped off, they will be photographed, posted on Instagram, and tagged with #damnfineyarncontest. For those of you who won’t be able to make the show, you can still see all the amazing work online… heart and comment on your favorite! The judges will take this into consideration when making their decision. Remember, judges’ decisions are final, and will be made according to their discretion; the amount of weight they give to online votes is up to the judge!

So, are you digging through your FOs yet?

 

Next week, we’ll be sharing a peek at the prizes in each category, and the big kahuna… Best In Show!

Sponsor Spotlight: Knit 1

Today we’re checking in with Knit 1, who is supporting this year’s YarnCon as a sponsor. I’m not sure how store owner Lynn found time to answer our questions, what with moving the whole store, even if just across the street.

The new, larger spot opens up Saturday, so go check it out and say hi!


Knit 1Knit 1
3856 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago IL 60613
http://www.knit1chgo.com/

What will folks find at your store?
Since we have a brand new store, they will find a beautiful, new space with lots of yarn! We stock things we love, natural fibers and unique brands in a range of prices. I particularly love color, so you can expect lots of that in our yarns! 

Do you carry any indie-dyed lines (or other handmade items) in your store?
   Yes. We have yarns from local dyers plus bags, yarn bowls, and needles made by (mostly local) artists.

YarnCon is, at heart, a party to bring together fiber lovers and encourage support for independent makers. How does this jibe with your store philosophy?
   There is so much local talent in this city! Knit 1 supports independent makers in several ways. We help by teaching and offering a variety of classes so artists and makers can learn new skills. We sell locally made goods – I mentioned the yarn bowls and bags – but we also hold book signings of local authors and host trunk shows for local makers. We love to see the work of local designers; supporting up-and-coming designers and giving them a place to show and grow their work is a win-win for all of us in the fiber community. In the new store we have a large class area designed specially so we can teach other fiber arts like dyeing, spinning, embroidery and weaving.

Tell us about the new 1knit1chicago project!
   I thought you’d never ask! We are showcasing 5 Chicago knitwear designers who will be designing exclusive patterns for Knit 1 in 2016. The 1knit1chicago Kit Club participants will have exclusive access to 5 fun accessory patterns designed by local knitwear designers. The way it works is, starting in April and debuting every other month through December, pattern club subscribers will get their pattern and yarn for the project in an exclusive 1knit1chicago project bag, plus an extra bonus gift! Adding needles to the kit is also available.

Chicago designers include Allyson Dykhuizen, Sarah B. Abram, Amelia Plunk, Leah Coccari-Swift and Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter. Yarns featured in these kits are Wonderland Yarns, Mrs Crosby, Hikoo by Skacel, Dream in Color and Mountain Colors.  Project bags are made at WORK + SHELTER.  

We’ll be hosting pattern launch parties at the store for every pattern. The designer of that month’s pattern will be there to answer questions and help everyone to get started!

What do you most want people to know about you?
   After 50 years of knitting I’m still as passionate about it as I have ever been! Creating a space and community for all fiber enthusiasts has been a lifelong goal.