Learning to Knit & Other Good Intentions

shearing a llama

We have a pretty busy calendar of workshops lined up at Fibre Arts Bootcamp this year, so if you’ve had a burning desire or even a faintly warm desire to commence or expand your fiber skills, then make 2013 YOUR year.

learning fiber artsWe are all full of good intentions, but as Samuel Johnson famously quoted ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’  Hopefully, one of your resolutions on New Year’s Eve was to follow up on your good intentions and convert them into positive actions.

Knitting, crochet, felting, spinning, weaving and the countless other avenues in the grand field of fiber work is immensely satisfying on a personal level and can be very rewarding on a physical level.  Have you ever worn a pair of hand-knitted socks or mittens, made from pure wool that you have prepared and spun yourself?  If your answer was ‘no,’ then you have missed out on an exquisite pleasure.  This pleasure can be amplified a hundred-fold, when you can give something that you have made, to someone for whom you care.  Earning an income from selling things that you love to make is a learning to knittough road to travel, but it is the ultimate, altruistic business, since work and pleasure meld into one.

Incredible as it might seem, it has taken only three generations for the so-called developed nations to forget what was, at one time, taken for granted: the ability to fend for ourselves!  It was during the post-war years and especially during the 1950’s, when mass production really took off and was promoted using the brand new medium of television.  Within sixty years, the skills of feeding and clothing ourselves, previously an essential element of most households, has been mostly forgotten.  That is deeply disturbing!  The native cultures of North America and elsewhere have also been lured or dragged away from their natural instinctive survival skills.  Today’s predominant survival skill has been reduced to counting money and determining whether we can afford to buy food.  Life cannot become more absurd!

shearing a llamaWhen you follow the process of gathering the fibre from an animal, cleaning the fibre, preparing it by combing or carding, spinning the fiber into yarn and turning the yarn into a garment that protects you from the elements, then you develop a real connection, not only with nature, but with the connectivity between all life on the planet; something that you cannot possibly feel by simply exchanging money for factory-made articles, imported from some distant land.  Rediscovering the essence of what it takes to survive on this planet is essential for each and every one us, if we are to survive the coming decades.  If we do not let go of mass-production and cheap sweatshop commercialism and embrace local production and craftwork, then when the oil runs out, we really are going to have a hard time and the terms of the survival game are going to be defined for us.

Of course, we’re all different.  We each express our uniqueness through our desires, our learn how to make feltgifts and our sources of inspiration; not everyone will have the same leaning toward the fibre arts.  However, if you have not yet identified what it is that you can or want to contribute to society, however large or small, then I would suggest that fibre work is a good place to start. You can do it all year round and it is especially rewarding during the winter months, when outdoor work is often restricted.  Neither should the fibre arts be seen as a ‘woman’s pastime.’  Firstly, it is not just something to pass the time!  Secondly, in many of the oldest societies in existence, men and women play an equal role in the production of yarn and fabric.  Young or old, male or female, it matters not; only the beastly ego is suffused with the prejudice that makes spinning or knitting appear to be a ‘girlie’ thing.

But guess what?  Learning how to knit a pair of socks is not difficult; if you make a mistake, which we ALL do, you can undo it in a jiffy and do it again.  Shepherds used to have a lot of time on their hands and spent it knitting or working with fibre …. whilst watching their flocks  ….by night …..while seated on the ground …eh???

Make a decision!  Commit yourself to developing a meaningful skill in 2013.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by so doing and you will be playing a small, but essential part in re-establishing the road, not only to surviving, but restoring once again, a thriving culture that future generations will look back on with pride.

Don’t forget to grab your free copy of the Beautiful Llamas in the Raw wall calendar!


Fibre Arts Bootcamp on Facebook

Lynne Milsom, fibre artist, fibre arts on facebookWe’re feeling a little overwhelmed here at the moment, and heading into winter should be a time when things are supposed to get a little easier.  So, over the weekend, Lynne and I had a slight attack of sensibility and are trying to streamline some of our many daily tasks. Did I say ‘trying?’  Let’s be a little more positive about that, shall we?  I mean we ARE streamlining areas of our lives where we have perhaps, become a little diluted.

The first change is on Facebook.  The fibre arts side of the business, complete with all the updates on fiber workshops, news, views, wooly comments and the latest video tutorial uploads, will be posted on the Llamas in the Raw Sanctuary Facebook page.  I mean, why not?  The llamas are the ones who have generously donated their coats …alright, so maybe they didn’t actually consent to us taking their coats, but they need to understand that it’s not all beach parties and llama cookies in the sanctuary!

Our plea to you – If you are a fan or a ‘Liker’ of Fibre Arts Bootcamp on Facebook, we would love you to bits if you would hop over to the Llama sanctuary page and click the ‘Like’ button there.  You will then be assured of receiving all the fibre arts updates and as an added  bonus, you will also get to enjoy the llama picture of the day!

fibre arts facebook joins up with the llamasOne last favour, if you wouldn’t mind?  Please put your hands together and pray for at least one whole day without rain, we’re all getting a teensy weensy bit tired of wet!

Thank you all for your continued encouragement and assistance as we get this part of the project off the ground.  If you’re not sure what the whole project is you might want to have a read of the Natural Fibre EcoVillage

…and I know some people have already  received Snowball’s llama kisses, but here she is again, just for you!

Summer Fibre Activities

children learning to spin, teaching fibre arts

If I have nightmares about drowning in an ocean of alpaca and llama fibre, crested with roving  of pure white sheep wool, it wouldn’t surprise me; that’s almost how it has felt every day for the past month.  We have a lot of fibre that needs cleaning and we really want to have it processed before the winter; taking advantage of the warm and breezy washing sheep wool, scouring fleecedays to dry the washed fleeces.  We also need as much fibre as possible for the workshops and exhibitions that have crammed themselves into the summer season.  How did we let ourselves in for this punishment?

Most people simply send the fibre away for processing at a mill and have it all done for them, but if you really want to learn everything you can about a subject, then total immersion is the only the way to do it and immersion is just what it feels like!  However, the picker design has been improved and the job has become much easier, simply by understanding more about the nature of the animal fibre as well as the animals.

fibre arts bootcamp, art yarns

Fibre Arts Bootcamp kicked off the season with an invitation to Enderby Arts Festival, where we encouraged visitors to try their hands at carding art batts on the drum carder.  Just like the Pick-and-Mix sweet stalls on market day in England, people could dip into the numerous bags of colourful fibre swag and blend them as they pleased.  Visitors of all drum carder, create art battsages had a go and I’m very pleased to say we even had men tapping into the pool of creative genius. The art batts were then spun into some delightful yarns and the faithful old Indian Head treadle clattered out its rhythm to the accompaniment of one of the bands playing up on stage…a little too loudly sometimes!

The next show is the IPE at Armstrong, in the North Okanagan, BC between 29th August and 2nd September.  Five long days of demonstrating and selling is a bit gruelling, but thankfully we abandoned our original plans to have a two or three of the llamas accompany us.  A few of our camelid colleagues will be there covering that aspect, but you can still come along and see some of the photographs we have prepared of our own troop.  I do hope you’ll come along and say hello and perhaps take advantage of the special show prices for Mega Knitting Hooks, art children learning to spin, teaching fibre artsyarns and ready-to-spin camelid fibre.

Workshops are taking place at the Kingfisher Community School this year and we’re covering all manner of subjects including: how to create artistic fibre batts for spinning, Freeform crochet and colourful soap felting.  Contact us for a full itinerary and prices.

So if I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front recently ….that’s why!

Mega Knitting ~ Basic Casting Off

art yarn, video tutorial, what is mega knitting

To complete the Fibre Arts Bootcamp mini-series on Mega knitting basics, we need to look at casting off and once again the hooked needles make the process much faster and smoother when working with chunky art yarns.

Since we only have a single stitch on the needle at any one time, we can dispense with one of the 22 inch Mega hooks and use one of our little ‘stubby’ needles instead.  This makes life so much easier.  While we were recording this short video, David even commented about the Mega knitting hooks clattering on the table top and these aren’t the mega hooks, 36 inch knitting needles, huge needles, mega knittinglongest of the knitting hooks on the shelf.  I’ve had several near misses with cups of tea or a glass of wine (tragedy!) as three feet of solid birch bounces around either side of my elbows – so beware!

Also known as ‘binding off,’ mostly in North America I believe, casting off should provide both the look that is most suited to the rest of the project, as well as the right feel.  The standard cast-off or bind-off should be suitable for most of your requirements, but occasionally, you might want something that’s a little fancier or perhaps more elastic.  Socks for instance, cannot afford to have  tight edges, so there are one or two techniques that are more suitable where elasticity is desired.  I will cover these at another time.  For now, I just want to complete the basics. Hmmmm….. here’s a thought: Mega knitted socks don’t sound very practical, but what about felting Mega knitted socks as bootliners or slippers?  I’ll let you know!

On a slightly different note, I know that we haven’t run any fibre arts workshops recently, but we haven’t forgotten about them.  In fact, they will be commencing once more on the art yarn, video tutorial, what is mega knitting8th of August.  We will be running them at the old Kingfisher school whilst we continue to seek alternative premises for FAB as well as Llamas in the Raw, which is overflowing with llamas!  We will also be exhibiting at the Enderby Arts Festival this weekend, offering hands-on experience of carding art batts, picking and free-form crochet.


So back to business – before we move onto the more advanced and  interesting stuff, here’s the last in the video tutorial series on Mega knitting basics:

To see the FAB range of mega knitting hooks, visit our store