Time to Sign up for Classes!

I can tell you are excited about signing up for classes at YarnCon this year. How can I tell? You folks have started registering before I could even make the announcement! I love it! And there is so much to love this year! I’ve linked to all of the classes below, so you can get right to it. Given how many requests I have gotten about the classes this year, you don’t want to wait until the last minute, trust me. For the full line up, head on over to: https://www.yarncon.com/classes/

Andi Smith is back, and this time she is bringing her sewing machine to teach you how to make your own boxy project bags in her Sew Your Own Project Bag class! Javier Jara is going to introduce you to Brioche, and when you’re done you will know how to block it to perfection if you take Adrienne Ku’s Blocking class. We are super excited to welcome Annie Modesitt to YarnCon, and she will be teaching Directional increase and decrease basics, cabling without a needle (something Natalia, who always loses her cable needle needs to learn!), and combination knitting basics. We have a great lineup of spinning teachers to take you from introducing you to the basics all the way to spinning Bouclé. Vera Videnovich will teach you how to spin and even make your own drop spindle, Heavenly Bresser will get you Thinking Outside the Braid and Prepping like a pro, and Emily Wohlscheid will take you on a Drop Spindle World Tour, and teach you spin Bouclé. Samantha Lynn is back with her acid dyeing workshops (Dyeing I and Dyeing II) throughout the weekend; in one hour you can learn the basics of acid dyeing and go home with your own hand-dyed yarn, with yarn provided to YarnCon by Wool2Dye4. We’re very happy to have veteran YarnCon teacher, Kathy Kelly with us again this year to teach Tunisian Crochet, Tunisian Crochet Lace, and corner to corner crochet to help you expand your crochet skills. And for the sock lovers we have long time YarnCon vendor, Jenn Watkins helping you choose the right sock heel for your project, and learn more about the variety of sock heels in her Sock Heels Sampling class. And because this is YarnCon, and we can make yarn out of all kinds of things, we are really excited to welcome back Musa Macenyane who will be teaching how to plarn (yes, plarn!) a change purse. Her purses are super cute, you will be amazed at what you can do with old shopping bags.

I will be back to talk about each of our teachers and their classes in more detail over the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

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!


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.

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.

Denise pic

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 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 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 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 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!

A Damn Fine YarnContest: FAQs & Rules

Hey, yarn friends! We’ve already had an enthusiastic response to the contest announcement for the Damn Fine YarnContest, and folks have raised some good questions. Thanks, all! 

Here are some things you might want to know about the Damn Fine YarnContest:

  • Everyone is eligible to enter, excluding judges and organizers. It would be hard to explain if we made off with all the prizes.
  • You may enter up to three items per category (let’s not overwhelm our awesome judges!).
  • Items may be entered in more than one category (i.e., a toy made out of handspun yarn could be entered in both the Toy and Handspun categories).
  • Entries may be knitted, crocheted, woven, or felted.
  • The Handspun category must be made of yarn spun by the entrant. No restrictions on yarn used in any other category.
  • Sorry, no photos accepted. Judges have to be able to see the quality of your work in person.
  • Entries must be brought in person to the contest table at YarnCon on the designated day for your category:
    • Saturday 4/2, Drop off from 10am-2pm:
      • Best Twin Peaks Prop
      • Best Accessory
      • Best Use of Handspun
    • Sunday 4/3, Drop off from 10am-12pm:
      • Best Garment
      • Best Toy
    • Note: Entries in Sunday categories may be dropped off Saturday, but must be picked up Sunday after judging (see below).
  • Pickup
    • Best Twin Peak Prop, Best Accessory, Best Use of Handspun entries: may be picked up Saturday 4/2 between 3pm and 5pm.
    • Best Garment, Best Toy entries: may be picked up Sunday 4/3 between 1:30pm and 3pm.
    • All entries must be picked up by Sunday at 3pm, when YarnCon closes. Any entries not picked up by then will be held until 4/17 at YarnCon sponsors:
  • Entrants agree that pictures of their work may be posted on social media; winners’ names may also be posted.
  • There is no fee for entry; this is all purely for fun. You will have to fill out a small form for each item entered and be OK with us pinning it to your entry, though.
  • All judges’ decisions are final.

Still curious about something? Let us know! 

T-shirts & Bag Pre-order

Not everyone wants to stand in line just for the chance to get a YarnCon goodie bag. Good news; you can get your hands on this year’s tote bag by pre-order for $12! Work + Shelter made us these cute organic cotton totes, screened with a HUGE YarnCon logo and with a boxy bottom to help it stand up when it’s full; you know, like when you’re stuffing it with your YarnCon purchases.


(If you want goodies IN the bag, you’ll still have to score one of the first 50 places in line at opening on Saturday and Sunday for the variety of vendor coupons and treats included. No shortcuts there!)

For more information on Work + Shelter’s program to empower women and alleviate poverty with fair trade job training and personal support, check out their website.

We’re also making another limited run of YarnCon t-shirts, which you can order until Saturday, March 19 for pickup at YarnCon. Two styles, with sizes from XS-4XL. We’ll have limited stock at the event, so if you want a shirt, get your order in!



Teacher Spotlights: Theresa Schabes and Kathy Kelly

Today I introduce two teachers who are YarnCon veterans, Theresa Schabes and Kathy Kelly. Both have been teaching workshops at YarnCon for years, and we are always happy to have them back.


Theresa will take you all the way from turning a thrift store sweater back into yarn (The Thrifty Knitter,) knitting some fine entrelac patterns (Intro to Entrelac,) and finishing any pattern in a professional and secure way (Finishing School: Weaving in Ends and Finishing School: Blocking.)

Entrelac ScarfSchabes_thriftyknitter1End-to-End or Means to an End



Kathy has been teaching Tunisian Crochet with us for years, and we love her approach. She start with with Beginning Tunisian Crochet, and then offers a second class for those who want to try out their new skills, or for those with the basics already under their belt. This year’s applied offering is the Three Color Tunisian Lace Cowl.


Sign up before they fill up! You’ll be glad you did.

Eight. Days. Away.

YarnCon is only eight days away. SO SOON. Are you ready? It’s go time, people.

As you probably know, we give out goodie bags to the first 50 shoppers to waltz through the door each day, and there’s always a long line of eager folks ready to snag one. But what you might not know is that this year’s bags will include YARN. Not just any yarn, but custom YarnCon-inspired colorways created by 10 veteran YarnCon vendors just for this year’s show! For a tantalizing preview of these luscious lovelies, head over to our Facebook page — we’re highlighting one a day through April 17.

Also new this year:  FOOD TRUCKS. We’re lining up a great fleet of food trucks for your dining pleasure, and it’s going to be delicious. As always, we’ll have coffee for sale inside; this year’s vendor is one of our southside neighbors, Greenline Coffee. We’re excited to welcome them to YarnCon!

Want to wear your YarnCon pride year-round? By popular demand, we’ve opened a YarnCon shop with t-shirts and other fun things. Our pre-sale has ended, but you can still order online and have it shipped. Or buy one at the show and save shipping costs!

Don’t want to wait in line for a goodie bag? Need one of those t-shirts but can’t shell out for one? Become a YarnCon volunteer and we’ll reward you with one of each. Sign up now for a three-hour shift, and along with the thanks of a grateful YarnCon team, you’ll come away with swag.

See you at the show!

Mochimochi Land and YarnCon!


Like making toys? YarnCon is partnering up with Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochi Land to build a cohort of gnome ambassadors for her next art installation! Anna is headed to South Korea in May with a gnome-themed project, and we’re going to help her.

Why gnomes? Gnomes are big players in Mochimochi Land; some say they’re the glue that holds Mochimochi Land together. And while gnomes are familiar to us in the West, they’re relatively unknown in Asia, so we want to introduce the idea of the gnome, which to us represents tradition, playfulness, and magic. (Just like knitting!)

YarnCon will host a Gnome Creation Station, supplied with yarn, needles, hooks, and a pattern to make a gnome for Anna. Every gnome you make will earn you a chance in our annual prize drawing, with goodies from YarnCon vendors, sponsors, and friends.

For the full scoop, including pattern links, how to spread the word, and how to participate even if you can’t make YarnCon, check out the full project outline here. There’s Gno Place like Gnome!