The Art of Stabbing Oneself

I’ve had several questions lately through my Indiegogo campaign about needle felting. Namely: “what is it?” Well, I think I am prepared to share with you all my “sketches” in needle felting to illustrate the process.

Basically, it’s just a form of sculpting, except with wool instead of clay. You start with some unformed batts of fluffy wool, a very sharp needle, and a surface (preferably not your hand).

I had some needle felting kits I got from the Moxie booth at Urban Craft Uprising to work with. Since I was still very new at this, I also bought My Felted Friends which had some great instructions on how to make and connect certain shapes.

I decided to try for a pony, of the My Little Pony variety of course. In order to turn those balls of fluff into something with any semblance of form, you have to stab it with the needle. A lot. This locks the fibers together into one mass, felting them. Ideally this process would be done on a stab-worthy surface, like this Ecofoam provided in the Moxie kit, but I found it difficult to control the felting process that way, so I ended up picking up the wool and stabbing it in my hand. Sometimes into my hand. I stabbed myself many times actually, but I only drew blood once. What is art without suffering, anyway?

Very quickly I had roughed out a body that looked remarkably like a pony!

After making a few edits to the overall shape I started to add what details I could given the limited color palette I had to work with. I tried adding a unicorn horn, thinking making something so small and specifically shaped would be difficult, but it was surprisingly easy!

I took a good look at the colors I had left and consulted with my sister, the resident Pony expert, and determined that despite the horn, this was mostly likely going to be Roseluck. I added a rose Cutie Mark and then worked on installing the mane and tail. Now, keep in mind, this is only a sketch. The mane turned out…alright. The quality of wool provided in the kit was great for needle felting purposes, but it was rather wooly-looking and not very hair-like. For a more finished product I would use a higher quality wool for hair details, possibly even something with silk content. Even if I had taken the time to comb the wool before installing it may have improved the overall appearance, but I was really just testing out techniques with this pony and wasn’t particularly concerned with how it turned out. I didn’t have the right colors to attempt to add eye details, so I just left that out.

Not bad for a rough sketch of Rose Luck.

Here’s a pic of Rose Luck for comparison:

Roseluck from fimfiction.net

So, there’s my first rough, just-trying-to-figure-out-the-basics attempt at needle felting! Just from that short experience I can already tell that practically ANYTHING can be needle felted. Especially if I have a reference photo to work from (which I did not have Roseluck in front of my as I did this, just a few other Pony figurines so I could get the basic body shape right) I should be able to replicate figures fairly easily! By the end of it I was even getting better at NOT stabbing myself. For more example of what other people have done with needle felting, try checking out the Moxie Flickr Pool. I have also seen some really cool needle felted interpretations of celebrities from Felt Alive.

I am still trying to raise money to replace my stolen computer and tools so I can start my own business. Any amount helps, but if you donate $25 to my Knotty Narwhal campaign I will needle felt anything you want! Even if you can’t donate money you can help out by spreading the word.

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Knit Fit: Day One

Last weekend I trekked to Ballard, WA to attend the very first Knit Fit! This is the third knitting convention I’ve been to, the others being the Sock Summit in Portland, OR and Knit City in Vancouver, BC. Knit Fit seemed smaller than Knit City, but it was very cozy feeling. The main hall was filled with knitters and spinners, milling about the registration tables, winding yarn from swifts, chatting with friends, and partaking in delicious sandwiches offered by Wild Wheat Bakery.

I arrived a bit early for my first class, so I had some time to poke around the marketplace. It was the perfect size for me, not so large as to be overwhelming, but big enough so I felt like I could spend hours in there without getting the least bit bored.

Foreground is The Fiber Gallery booth, in the background is Goody Golly Miss Olli! and the hanks of handspun hanging on racks are from Spincycle Yarns.

I found some Chibi darning needles to replace some of those that were lost in Vancouver (now I can weave in the ends on all of those nearly finished projects that have been piling up!). Mostly I just enjoyed fondling all the pretty yarn and fiber the vendors had to offer.

The Textiles a Mano booth was very nicely decorated!

Pepperberry Knits also looked rather fetching with their hanging hanks of novelty yarns.

I even found the perfect skein to fill a color gap in a gradient project I was working on.

That’s Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Rogue (one of a kind color) bridging the gap between a medium toned teal and a very dark green in my Aranami Shawl.

I managed to wrest myself from the siren song of the marketplace just in time to make it to my first class, Self-Publishing Your Own Knitting Patterns taught by Lee Meredith.

Not just an excellent teacher, but a fabulous designer too. I mean, LOOK AT THAT SHAWL! Rav link here: Junction

I was blown away by this class! Lee managed to get through so much useful information in only 3 hours, I swear she must have bent the space-time continuum to make it work. The handout alone would have been worth the price of admission. It was a small class and we were able to ask Lee lots of questions about the many nuances involved in self publishing, from the more technical aspects of building a PDF file, to the types of experiences she had had using different platforms to sell and market her work. I came away from her class with pages and pages of notes. The process of self-publishing has been completely demystified for me now! I now have all of the information I felt like I was missing after reading The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design. It’s still a great book to start with, but it really only gives a general overview of what it’s like to be a designer. If you’re considering publishing your own knitting designs and ever have the opportunity to take Lee’s class DO IT! It’s like an expansion pack for the book! You know, the kind that adds all sorts of cool elements to the game that the developers really should have included in the first place…

In Which Technology Hates Me

I know I promised to blog about Knit Fit today, and believe me, I really want to. Unfortunately technology has conspired against me. I took some awesome photos while I was there and I’m still struggling a bit trying to figure out how get them onto my sister’s computer and formatted and edited properly. It was so much easier on my computer…

In addition to that, our DVR box is on the fritz and will be replaced tomorrow morning, so I have to watch all of the shows we have recorded TONIGHT or they are gone forever.

In the meantime I will try to entertain you all with a new blogging trick my friend Jessica taught me. On the sidebar right underneath the calendar I now have a Blogroll! This is where you will find useful or interesting links (not all of them are blogs). It’s small so far but I will slowly add to it as other links come to mind.

Jessica just started her own blog called Jessica’s Yarn Tales, and her first post was today, so go check her out! She already has a blogroll set up ’cause she’s smart like that.

At Ars Poetica you can find handcrafted candles made from natural and sustainable materials and beautiful hand drawn cards. A college friend of mine started this business very recently, and in the Poet’s Corner she has blogged about the grueling process of setting up a small home business.

Another artist friend of mine is Peppermint Monster AKA Sarah. She is a wickedly fabulous artist/illustrator who just released a Sueussian, nudity-filled comic called Star Power. You can buy it in her Etsy shop (and I highly recommend you do).

If you want to know what is going on in the knitting world, just look to the Yarn Harlot. She has her finger on the pulse of knitting culture, and when she speaks, fiber fanatics listen.

Last but not least is the Craft Emergency Relief Fund which provides emergency assistance to professional craft artists. They also provide emergency preparedness information for artists. In the wake of Sandy I’m sure there are many people out there whose studios have been badly damaged putting their livelihoods at stake. They have set up a special emergency response page specifically dealing with Sandy aftermath here.

Plenty can go wrong even without the help of a hurricane, as Judith MacKenzie-McCuin can attest. Her spinning studio at The Rainforest Arts Center in Forks, WA  burned to the ground. Friends of Judith have set up a site, Rebuild Judith’s Studio, where you can donate money or materials to help this international artist and teacher return to her craft. I know the loss of my computer has pretty much leveled my ability to pursue my business, I can only imagine what it would be like to lose EVERYTHING.

Hopefully I can get the photo situation sorted out tonight so I can share my Knit Fit experiences with you tomorrow!

The Case of the Stolen Blog Post

I had a lot to blog about. I had notes typed up, outlines made, pictures saved and the whole bit. I was going to tell you all about how I rearranged my room and about how awesome Knit City was. I was going to show you loads of pictures from Vancouver, BC and tell you all about this cool new knitting technique I learned. Then my laptop was stolen.

All of the notes and outlines I had saved, and all of the pictures I took in Vancouver were on that laptop, and it’s all gone now.

We were all packed up and on our way out of town when we stopped to get something to eat. While we were gone someone broke into our car and stole my laptop bag. That bag contained:

  • my laptop
  • my iPod, which I bought 3 months ago and was right in the middle of a good audio book
  • all of my DPNs from size #1-#6 including 4 sets of Signatures (knitters will know what this is and scream in horror)
  • ALL of my knitting notions, including the 100+ unique stitch markers I got in the stitch marker swap at the Sock Summit
  • Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns (the first book in a series of THE BEST stitch dictionaries out there – a must-have for designers)
  • my graphing calculator – granted I don’t really use it for graphing these days, but it was really nice to see everything I was typing in long calculations and to be able to go back and edit if there was an error instead of having to type the whole damn thing over again.
  • Small Time Operator – the book I was reading to get a sense of what all I needed to do to set up my business (I went out and got a new copy of that IMMEDIATELY)
  • and the real kick to the gut…my blue ribbon winning fingerless gloves, Barmaids Are Tasty

RIP – I really hope someone found you and you aren’t lying in a dumpster somewhere

I’ve ordered yarn from indigodragonfly to make another pair, but it still won’t be the gloves that earned a blue ribbon.

Aside from that sadness, I am now missing a computer and a crapload of my knitting tools. This makes starting an online knitting business…tricky. I’m limping along on my sister’s computer, but it’s so old and buggy it’s practically impossible to use. Some interesting things I’ve learned about my sister’s computer in the last week:

  • YouTube videos are a no-go. They just won’t play. Weird.
  • PDF files are also a no-go. It simply refuses to open them. This means I can’t look at any knitting patterns or online forms for business applications, or ANYTHING.
  • Sometimes (frequently, really) the keyboard likes to lag, making typing extremely painful. It’s doing it right now. If there are typos in this post, I’m not backing up to fix them. It’s just not worth it.
  • If you want to save anything, like a document or a picture, you HAVE to save it to the desktop first. The computer will not file it anywhere else until it has been stored on the desktop. Guess how many things are on the desktop?

I need a new computer NAO. Basically every asset I had to start this business with was in that bag, so I’m desperate. I have spent the last week scrambling to get a business plan together ASAP.

I now have a name! Knotty Narwhal

My sister designed a logo! Here it is:

That’s as far as I can get right now without your help!

I have started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to replace my stolen computer and tools and start my business. There are many amazing perks for you to claim in return for your contributions. You could get cute kitty thank-you emails, or buttons, stickers and t-shirts with the Knotty Narwhal logo! I could needlefelt you anything you would like, and since I am a Brony (I refuse to be called a Pegasister, that’s just silly), that thing could totally be a pony – any pony at all! You could get an exclusive color copy of the concept sketch of my first design, and a free copy of the pattern! If you’re extremely awesome and donate a lot of money, I’ll even knit for you! More perks may appear if I reach certain milestones in my funding too, so keep spreading the word!

You can contribute to the Indiegogo campaign here: Knotty Narwhal needs YOU!

You can “like” Knotty Narwhal on Facebook here: Knotty Narwhal has a cute face

You can follow Knotty Narwhal on Twitter here: Betcha didn’t know a narwhal could tweet

Please help me spread the word! I will try to recreate some of the lost blog posts in the following weeks, so stay tuned!

Welcome!

You have just stumbled upon The Secret Life of Yarn! Before I start revealing some of those secrets, let me introduce myself.

Up until recently I was a “scientist” – that is I studied Biology in college and intended to continue my scientific studies in grad school as soon as I saved up enough money to do so. When the money manifested I suddenly found that I didn’t really want to go to grad school, which I thought was just nerves at first. Upon further examination I discovered the problem was not the school, it was the career – I didn’t want to be scientist anymore! For the past 7 years something else had slowly been overtaking my interest in the microscopic world, and once I was released from homework obligations it had turned into an obsession. Now I’m a knitter.

I’ve been fiber-curious since learning how to crochet in ’97, but I didn’t really get into it until I learned how to knit in ’05. All my friends were doing it and I wanted to do it too, but I never do anything half-way so I went straight from garter stitch scarves to cables and large lace pieces and I still show no signs of slowing down. I’ve been thoroughly immersed in the knitting culture ever since (yes, there IS a knitting culture). Now I’m on a mission to launch a fibery career! I just haven’t quite figured out what that career will look like…

So, back to the secret life of yarn. Many knitters, and certainly most non-knitters, don’t think there’s much more to knitting than stitches. Sure there’s the yarn you buy to knit with and needles you buy to construct the stitches and even the patterns you get to show you what to knit, but you don’t always put a lot of thought into how those things came to be and how they got into your hands or how the idea to knit this particular item entered your brain. To many people knitting is simply an act, which primarily consists of constructing knit stitches and purl stitches to create a fabric. That’s not what this blog is about.

There is an entire industry surrounding yarn, fiber, and knitting*! The reason you are able to buy that gorgeous yarn, use those fabulous needles, and knit that stylish shawl are because of the work of thousands** of people within the industry. This work consists of designing, dyeing, yarn manufacturing, teaching, hand spinning, event planning, web designing, photography, graphic designing, modeling, tech editing, writing, test knitting, publishing, creative directing, social networking, etc., etc. etc. Also largely unseen by the general public is the more subtle force behind knitting, the thing that makes someone who knits into a knitter, and that is the culture of knitting. The sense of community and identity knitters cultivate is also very important to knitting and helps keep the knitting industry afloat. It’s what makes us want to congregate at sock-themed conferences, spend hours on internet forums, and fuels controversies that spill out into the non-knitting world when that culture is denigrated. This is the secret life of yarn, and I am going to tell all!

I haven’t found many resources for people looking to start a career in knitting (though I haven’t been looking for long, so perhaps there’s more than I realize?), but I did find one book which gave me a great start. It’s The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design, by Shannon Okey. I initially bought it thinking it would help me learn how to design, but it’s not a how-to-design book at all, it’s a how-to-be-a-designer book which turned out to be MUCH more fascinating. I’ll be talking about this book more in-depth in future posts, but suffice to say it’s extremely useful in my current endeavor. However, the book is written from the perspective of people who are already established in the industry. The people interviewed and even the author herself got established early-ish in the knitting explosion that occurred in the late 90s and early 2000s. Establishing a knitting career NOW with Ravelry, Facebook, Twitter, and a much larger market (and much more competition) to work with is going to be a little different from the stories given in The Knitgrrl Guide. It was also missing (and understandably so) much of the nuts-and-bolts of starting up a business and becoming self-employed which can be very overwhelming for someone like myself who doesn’t even know where to begin. With this blog, I hope to provide a newbie perspective as I troubleshoot my way into the industry!

Along with posts about my journey into the professional knitting world, I will also be providing insights into knitting culture. Sometimes this will be from the perspective of knitters, other times it will be concerning knitter/non-knitter relations. Knitter-adjacent people may want to tune in to better understand their knitters – if it seems like your knitter is speaking a foreign language, I can help. Since I am trying to get into the knitting business there will of course be posts about what I have on the needles from time to time! I will be sampling many different fiber-related activities to try to find my place in the industry, so you can expect to read posts about photography, dyeing, spinning, designing, tech editing, test knitting, and whatever else strikes my fancy. There will also be lots of posts (and likely rants) about the nuts-and-bolts of self-employment and running a crafty business, so I hope that other crafters, makers, artisans, and wannabe small business owners will find this blog helpful too. Non-knitters are welcome here!

Well, that was quite the introductory post wasn’t it? I guess all that’s left to say is   “allons-y!”

*I want to be clear to all the crocheters out there; I am not at all discriminatory against crochet! I would love to add “and crochet” every time I mention knitting, but that would get tiresome. Since I am primarily a knitter and “knitting” and its derivative words are easier to type than “crochet” that is what I will type for simplicity’s sake.

**totally made up number, I have no idea how many people it takes to knit a shawl…yet