Lately, I've been enjoying Vickie Howell's Craft-ish podcast while I weave. It's a fascinating look into the lives and careers of makers of all types.
One of the themes Vickie touches on frequently is the difference between art and craft. It's a touchy subject for many, as things that are perceived as "craft" are often valued less - particularly crafts like knitting that are seen as women's work. Vickie often asks her guests to define the difference between art and craft, and one of my favorite definitions is that a work of art is never really done, while a craft has a set point at which it's finished.
That definition acknowledges that there is often a fine line between art and craft - a technique that is considered "crafty" doesn't have to be limited to crafts and can be used for fine art. And I think that something Vickie is hinting at is that so many more of us are artists than we allow ourselves to think.
Lately, I've been working on my Noro Log Cabin Blanket, which has been in the works for more than three years now. All the knitting is done, and I've decided it needs to be like a "real" quilt - with a backing and binding and everything. Partially this is so the knitting won't stretch out, but it's also because I keep thinking of ways to make the piece better, like a work of art.
Naturally, the blanket is too big and heavy to quilt on my sewing machine, which means I'm doing it by hand. The backing is a wool blanket I picked up at the Pendleton Woolen Mill on my travels last summer, and I'm enjoying the weight of it on my lap while I quilt away on it.
Once the quilting is done, I'll bind it with some of my handwoven tape. But that's a long way off still.
What about you? Do you have projects that toe the line between art and craft? Do you have your own definition of the difference?
When we went on our 2-month adventure last summer, I packed our RV full of yarn. But all my looms were way too big to fit in our RV, so all I had to keep me busy was my knitting and spinning.
The whole time, I wished I could weave, and longed for a little loom that could come on our trips with us.
And, since I've started weaving bands, I realized that I don't need a ton of width to weave on.
So we came up with this little loom, and of course it had to have sheep!
Now available in the shop, this little loom can be used to rigid heddle or card weaving, and at 18" x 10" x 8", it can go pretty much anywhere. I love how the beams let me warp more than my inkle loom, too. The warp you see in the top picture is about five yards long - much more than I could have gotten on my inkle loom, and in less space, too!
WPI, or "Wraps per Inch," is a common way for knitters, spinners, and weavers to estimate the thickness and yardage of yarn.
There are lots of ways to measure WPI - including wrapping your yarn around a ruler. But there are also lots of dedicated WPI tools, like the ones in my shop. Because who doesn't love a tool that's also a sheep?
Shameless plug aside, it does matter how you actually wrap the yarn - pull it too tight or leave it too loose, and your estimate is off. It's best to gently wrap the yarn without tugging it, laying each wrap next to the previous one without cramming them together or leaving any empty space. The number of times you can wrap the yarn around a one-inch section is your wraps per inch.
It takes practice, but with time, you'll get a pretty accurate result. And it's important to remember that WPI is a useful estimate - there's no substitution for swatching and sampling your yarn.
So what does WPI help you estimate? Say you want to substitute a yarn in your stash for the yarn called for in a pattern you're knitting. If you know the WPI of the yarn called for in the pattern, you can check the WPI of your stash yarn to see if they're a close enough match.
Don't know the WPI of the yarn called for in the pattern? You can usually suss it out if you know the yarn "weight," or thickness, or the gauge called for in the pattern. Ravelry has a handy guide to yarn weights and WPI, which can help you figure it out.
In weaving, WPI can help you figure out a starting point for how close together your warp and weft threads should be - for plain weave, I take my WPI and divide it in half to get my starting point, and for twills, I usually use 2/3 of the WPI for my starting point.
And in spinning, not only can WPI help you get the yarn weight/thickness you want, it can also help you make sure you're spinning consistently if you check your WPI often.
And what about yardage? If you know your WPI, you might also be able to get a rough estimate of yardage, usually expressed as "yards per pound" or "YPP." You can find a guide to WPI and YPP here. But remember that it's a rough estimate and nothing beats swatching or knowing the yardage from the yarn label!
So there you have it! How have you used WPI in your fiber projects?
Recently, my DH got his hands on a CNC router - it's a lot like a 3D printer, except instead of extruding material, it cuts away material.
Ever since he got it, I've been thinking of all the knitting/spinning/weaving tools we could make - and here are some of the results!
First up is what we've been calling the "sheepy diz" - an adorable sheep with holes for a diz. In spinning, a diz lets you make combed top, and the different sized holes let you control the size of your top for more consistent spinning. The tool also doubles as a WPI tool so you can measure the thickness of your yarn - again for consistency.
If sheep aren't exactly your thing, there's also a more classic oval shape diz that fits nicely in the palm of your hand.
Both are available now in the shop - be sure to snag one for yourself!
When you spend all that time knitting a sweater, you need every little detail to be perfect. When I started knitting sweaters with steeks, I read that it's good to close up the steek with a ribbon - a pretty detail that also protects your cut ends from unraveling.
But why couldn't I find the perfect ribbon? I wanted something gorgeous and luxurious, but also in natural fibers. No polyester for me. And why were the prettiest ribbons also the scratchiest?
So I started weaving them. And I started putting a ribbon in all my sweaters, steeked or not, to help stabilize the neckline and give me a feeling that there was a luxurious secret detail on the inside of my sweater. And then, I got a little obsessed and wove more, faster than I could knit the sweaters to go with them.
And so, now I'm open for business.
Want a handmade ribbon? I've got you. Don't see the color or width you need? Again, I can help out. Just mosey on over to my shop and check it out!
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