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.

Buy yarn, and learn to make your own! (and an announcement)

Spring is here, and YarnCon is right around the corner! April 1 and 2 to be exact, and we are busy getting everything ready! Anyone who has attended YarnCon in the past knows there is a wealth of stunning hand-dyed and hand-spun yarn with which to enhance your stash, but what about all that lovely unspun fiber? You can learn to needle felt it, or you can learn to spin it, and we have four different teachers ready to share their knowledge with you!

Vera Videnovich has not only been teaching an introduction to spinning since YarnCon was in its infancy, she also taught Sara, Lindy and Natalia how to spin. If you want to get a feel for spinning, DIY handspinning is the class for you. 

If you want to expand your skills, you will not want to miss Emily Wohlscheid’s classes! Emily will teach you to make your own batts in order to create a custom tweed effect in her Tweed: Custom Blend! workshop.

Another clever trick to learn is how to blend your fibers to create fractal color repeats in your finished yarn, and you can learn how in Emily’s Fractal: Blend and Spin workshop.

Have you ever wondered how hand cards work, or want an opportunity to take a class with your kids and make colorful batts? Maegan Burkart has you covered in her Kids Color Blending on Hand Cards workshop. Maegan has more color skills to add to your arsenal, she can teach you to prepare and manipulate your singles yarn and make your colors match up in striping plied yarn in her Controlling Color Changes While Spinning and Plying workshop.

And finally, newcomers to YarnCon, Tom and Joanne Blodgett will be demonstrating the process of turning flax into linen in Straw into Gold!, and will even have a young flax plant to show you. This should be a fascinating presentation, with some hands-on components.

 

That only covers the spinning classes! We encourage you to to head over to the Classes page to see all of our amazing workshop offerings, with small class sizes and experienced teachers, you really can’t go wrong.

And, you made it to the end to see what the announcement is! We are really excited at YarnCon HQ about our 10th birthday, and birthdays mean birthday presents, right? So, for our birthday, we are giving you presents!! Instead of 50 goodie bags each morning to the first 50 people in line, this year we are giving out 75 goodie bags to the first 75 people in line! The bags alone are worth it, they are our organic cotton, fair trade Work + Shelter bags that we are so fond of. But, because it’s our 10th YarnCon, we asked some of our incredibly talented vendors to dye up some YarnCon birthday limited edition colorways just for the occasion, and you will find some in those bags. Say what? (Please don’t start camping out yet.)

 

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.

Class Registration is Live!

And we are so excited about this year’s line-up, and we think you will be too! You can register right here at https://www.yarncon.com/classes/

We have new spinning classes, along with the basics; you can learn new crochet techniques; add new bind-offs to your skill set, and new and better ways to weave in the those ends (yes, please!!); ever run into garter tabs in a shawl pattern, but had no idea, we have you covered; carding; dyeing (an annual favorite, better hurry, that one sells out every year); seriously, don’t take my word for it. Go check it out for yourselves, and sign up for our fun and informative workshops. After all, you will want to sit down and learn some new skills for all the wonderful new yarn and fiber you just purchased from our outstanding vendors.

Just over a month to go before our 10th YarnCon, and we are counting down the days! What are you looking forward to at this year’s YarnCon?

Samantha teaching Intro to Dyeing at YarnCon 2013 

 

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.)

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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.

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* 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:

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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.

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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:
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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!

 

Felting Fun Workshops

There is more to working with fiber than yarn. Before if becomes yarn, and even after it has been worked up, it can be felted into all kinds of fun and useful objects. This year we are offering three different workshops that will teach how to make the most of felt!

Denise Handwerker will be teaching two workshops of making the most of old sweaters that need a new life. In Sweater Hoarders Road to Freedom she will teach you how to turn old wool sweaters into felt, and demonstrate some of the fun things you can make with your new felt.

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Already know how to make the felt? Learn how to turn your felt into a great new pair of slippers in Old Sweaters to New Slippers.

Green & Grey Slippers

For the kids (young and old alike) Renée Jones will be teaching Wash Those Woolies for Kids: Felting Handmade Soaps. The felted soap bars are fun, quick, and easy to make. Besides making great gifts, they are a great way to teach children about the properties of animal fibers and where wool comes from.

YarnCon is a week away, pre-register for classes now so you secure a seat!

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!

What’s a Twin Peaks prop?

One of the most frequent questions we’ve gotten about the Damn Fine YarnContest is, “What’s a Twin Peaks prop?” So if you’re wondering, you’re not alone.

The contest was inspired by the forthcoming Great Northern Knits, a collection of patterns based on the cult-classic Twin Peaks series of the 90s. The show, which is currently filming a reboot, is full of quirky, eccentric, and downright weird characters. Netflix has the original series if you want to check it out.

The Best Twin Peaks Prop category pays homage to this creative TV icon and will be judged by Leah Coccari-Swift, one of the designers behind the Great Northern Knits book. Just type “Twin Peaks” into Google or Pinterest for a whole bunch of oddball ideas to get your creative juices going. If you’re looking for a little extra inspiration, here are a handful of patterns that would fit right in!

Coffee and Cherry Pie

Twin Peaks’ lead character, FBI Agent Dale Cooper, is passionately devoted to these items on the Double R Diner’s menu. His rapture over “a damn fine cup of coffee” inspired the contest’s name.

 

The Log

One of the more eccentric residents of Twin Peaks is Margaret Lanterman, aka The Log Lady, who carries her log around town and acts as its translator to those who “can’t hear it.”

 

 

Eyepatch

In honor of Nadine Hurley, inventor of the silent drape runner.

 

Jelly Donut

Agent Cooper once ate 12 of them in a day, as reported to the mysterious Diane.