Before any project with Big Stitch Chunky merino I prepare the fiber with this quick and easy hand felting process.Read More
One of the gifts of what I do (knit and crochet and this blog) is that I get to meet amazing people. Even when I least expect it. I once paid a whopping $125 for an online "mentorship program for my Maker Business". While that quickly revealed itself to be anything but a mentorship program it didn't matter. Because the purpose, I found out, of my presence in that group was to meet and become friends with Stephanie of Triple Knot Studio. She is truly one of my BFF: Best Fiber Friends. And had I not taken that wrong turn I would never have made the right friend. So before I go off on a tangent of how we need to always be open to what God may REALLY be doing in our lives, let me tell you about Stephanie.
She is smart and sassy. And when I say smart - did you know she is a scientist? Yeah... she is THAT smart. She makes me laugh. Once she made me cry. I don't think I have gone a day in the last 2 years without talking to her. Her kids are the best. I love them so much. They even sent me HAND PAINTED yarn bowls as a surprise gift. (Yes, I cried. Wouldn't you?). And when I am having a really bad day I am often cheered right up by a facetime from Stephanie and her merry gang of three littles. She is talented and truly makes me want to be a better human being.
So when, with the help of Sarah at Mama Knows Luxury, I was able to help cross off a wish on Stephanie's fiber bucket list - you know I jumped at it. Then, because I am who I am... I asked her to guest blog about it... so read on for Stephanie's Big Stitch Story!
Like many knitters and crocheters out there, I have a fiber bucket list.
With my current lifestyle, and budget, the vast majority of what I make still used predominately acrylic yarn. But that doesn't mean I haven't dipped my toes into the ocean of good stuff.
I save my pennies for a few skeins of hand dyed yarn here and there (and usually end up spending a few more pennies than I had planned because I have ZERO self control when it comes to yarn - and chocolate - but I digress), but I still have that bucket list.
Now Michele, knowing this and being the most amazing friend, took it upon herself (with the permission of Sarah at Mama Knows) to send me a some of the wool she had left over from a collaboration she did. Seriously - how awesome are these ladies - and there was no way I was saying no to Michele when she asked if I wanted some.
Well the box arrived....in the middle of my big push for market prep and holiday prep. So there it sat, opened (because how could I NOT take a peak), taunting me. And I promised myself, I would NOT let 2017 end without getting started on something - anything - with the wool.
A few days after Christmas I decided it was time. Included in the box was a ball of wool, beautifully vibrant in color green color that was just calling my name. So I took it out and cuddled it, and mulled it around in my hands a bit, getting a feel for the fiber. Almost immediately I knew what it was destined to become. I live in the desert and have little use for any apparel or accessory that many use this wool for. Over the course of my fiber journey, my makes have shifted from apparel and accessories to home decor and "care-free" plants. This green ball was to become a cactus.
I unrolled a bit of the ball, and using the ginormous 40mm hook, made a few stitches, and immediately frogged them. While the cactus would be gloriously huge with that hook, there was no way I had enough to finish it. I had to split the yarn...Insert minor panic attack here.
I headed over to Sarah's YouTube tutorial for splitting yarn. She made it look so easy, and explained it so well that it gave me the confidence to finally do it. Splitting that yarn terrifying but exhilarating - the "what if I mess this up and ruin this beautiful yarn" was quickly replaced with "damn, this is easy! I've got this".
Using the split yarn, I started in on the cactus form, gently frogging as I needed, to adjust my design to accommodate the yarn and yardage. For all the "talk" about how delicate the yarn is on social media, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to work with. Like most things in life, if you treat it with respect it will shine beautifully for you.
I got through most of the main body of the cactus when the first ball of split wool ran out. So back to Sarah's tutorials I went to learn how to felt the balls together with a felting kit I purchased from Sarah's shop.
Again, a process I had never done before - but had seen done and heard mention of. Oddly enough the felting process was similar to the splitting. Her YouTube tutorial made it seem so easy, but when it was time for me to give it a go, my head was swimming with self doubt. But after ripping that bandaid off (and maybe drinking a beer), I was "gently" stabbing away with the wool per the instructions - and was giddier than a kid in a candy store when the balls were actually connected - I DID IT!
I finished up the design with a grand total of 6" of wool left after weaving and felting in the ends. A little poly fill and some sewing later and the cactus was born. I used some acrylic yarn I had on hand for the "soil" and some and dyed wool scraps for the flowers.
While I love making cacti, this one is hands down my favorite. So many firsts are embodied in each squishy stitch, this is the first cactus I'm keeping for myself - be proudly displayed in my work space.
A huge thank you and virtual bear hug go out to Sarah and Michele for providing me with this opportunity. I can't wait to sink my hooks into more of this squish.
Since sharing my first project with Mama Knows Luxury, I have been asked about how the fiber works up. I am no expert on Merino Top (the official name for Big Stitch Merino) but have been working with this stuff for weeks now so can only speak from that experience. And my experience has been AWESOMESAUCE. I mean I have beat the heck out of it. I knit it. I crochet it. I frog it. I do it again. I have no complaints.
I am finishing a hat design, did a scarf and just published a free basket pattern after doing the barstool/placemats ... oh and I am kicking around a blanket idea. For real you guys. I JUST LOVE IT and am having so much FUN. You know I will always give you the straight talk about fibers. This is fab! It is big chunky merino and I was having a blast and it is super fun and holds up so far.
Sarah has a blog post that she wrote that dispels and explains many of the myths about working with Big Stitch Merino. And as I continued with exploring and playing with my Mama Knows Luxury stash, I also found a few tricks of my own. And now I will share those tricks with you :-)
Trick one: Do NOT pull it. No yanking, no tugging and certainly NO PULLING. When I frog the wool, I just do it a little gently. Then it stays pretty in tact with no fraying or separating. Also - when I frog it, it is better to leave it laying out yarn ramen style instead of making it back into a ball. This just keeps the fiber from one extra set of tugging.
Trick two: Do not pull at it (in case you missed it the firs time). Yes, there is some shedding and I had two snag issues while working up the fiber. To me that is minor and nothing to fret about. Certainly not as many as you might expect based on the nature of the fiber. You may see a little morsel shed off here and there or even a little chunk of the fiber as you work up. LEAVE IT ALONE. Do not pull at it or pick it. Because then it will fray and cause deterioration of the fiber. What I did was just tuck it in. Easy peasy.
Trick three: Get the Felt Kit from Mama Knows. For real. This will be your new best friend. And, to be honest, I use it for my bulky merino too such as scarves and sweaters. I use this kit not just when it comes to the ends, but if a little tiny bit starts to fray off (which only happened once to me) then i just felted it back into place. Boom! GET THIS KIT.
Trick four: This is the mack daddy of all my tips. You ready? Hand felt the merino as you work it up. WHAT? That sounds so tedious and hard! Michele you must be crazy. Did you just say that? HA! It is so easy. Watch this little video and you will see it is so easy and so helpful. It secures the fibers. It toughens it up. It makes it your friend. It is a few extra minutes of work that will make your project come together with so much ease it is worth it.
Well, now that we've got a handle on how to handle this yummy Big Stitch Merino... how about another project? Sticking with my "More Than Just Big Blankets" theme, I came up with another fun home decor item. Super easy to make and great if you want to get your feet wet with Merino Top wool. I bring you: The basket. Again, I opted for hand crochet but you can certainly use the Big Stitch Hook. Get the free pattern here and get the fiber from Mama Knows Luxury.
So go get some big chunky fiber and explore... don't worry about those myths. Have some big ol' big merino fun!
Ok... I have to force myself not to use all caps for this entire post because I am so excited I want to yell and jump and dance and make sure everyone knows it. I MEAN THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN! for real... I have had the time of my life collaborating with Sarah and Mama Knows Luxury. She knows fun too by the way!
I had seen all of these big chunky merino projects over the last year. Blankets and knits and hand knitting and arm knitting. It was all exciting and curious and totally overwhelming. I wanted to try but those big projects didn't seem to call me by name. I had a feeling I would start with a bang then see them over in that endless pile of all my other "in progress" projects. I wanted to do something different to try this stuff out. This stuff I talk about is big bulky huge balls of merino wool. I reached out to Sarah with my crazy idea for bright colors and home decor with a twist. I am so glad she was on board for this because I have had SO MUCH FUN!
Ok... let me sidebar a minute:
If you read my post about Brand Partnerships, then you know how important partnering with the RIGHT brands is for success. Partnering with Mama Knows Luxury was more than Right, it was perfect. Originally, we had agreed to have this collaboration post for Easter. I had a big fun Easter spread planned. And then my sweet Sadie got sick. So we moved the project to be for Mother's Day. Then my Sadie suddenly died. And my world fell apart. I didn't want to create. I wasn't feeling inspired. I hardly wanted to make anything. I tried. I took out the project bag so many times trying to force myself to feel creative but all I felt was sad missing my Sadie.
I emailed Sarah feeling terrible. I had never missed these deadlines or not delivered on a collaboration. I was so excited she wanted to work with me I was worried I would ruin the relationship missing all these deadlines. But then Sarah emailed me back. She said "Take your time and get yourself right". She got it. My head space wasn't there. And because I partnered with the RIGHT brand and the RIGHT small business owner in Sarah, the stress was lifted in an instant. I had the freedom to take the time I needed without added stress.
Then it happened. Time passed and I found myself reaching for these big fluffy chunky merino balls. In fact, they helped bring me back. Like magic balls of yarn. So thank you Sarah for being who you are and to all of YOU reading this.. partner with the RIGHT Brands because it makes all the difference.
OK... now back to this AMAZING project.
At first I just wanted to squeeze all of the yarn. I admit, once I got going there was some play time before getting down to business and it was awesome. I knit it. I crocheted it. My husband threw the big yarn gum balls (as he called them) at me. It was just FUN.
My initial idea was inspired by my favorite placemats but that didn't quite work out. Making them square was sort of boxy and didn't have the look or feel I had envisioned. But the yarn was so fun to play with that it was not long before I had a new plan. I switched to round placemats and then it hit me... barstool pads AND placemats. GENIUS!
Then...I decided... hand crochet. I WANT TO HAND CROCHET.
Ok if you have never tried hand crochet then let me tell you: IT IS SO MUCH FUN!!!!! This is the perfect project for it because you can make each Barstool Pad with a single ball. Which, by hand crochet, I kid you not... 15 minutes. 30 if you are having fun and undo it only to remake it again! Think about it... a brilliant fun handmade home accent you can MAKE in 15 minutes. YES!
I decided to make my first set LSU Colors... because... GAUX TIGERS! They are great for mini playroom stools and big barstools too. You can make them in any team colors for your game day accents.
As I was making these magnificent fun barstool pads I had a brilliant idea. My FAVORITE coffee house is a super chill place in Peoria called Zion Coffee Bar (more on them later but if you follow me on social media you know it is my joint). so I asked them if they would let me come in and add a pop of color and BAM!!!! How amazing is this?
Now for Phase II: The tables. My friend has the perfect North Carolina home with such beautiful decor. But what she is missing is a pop of color. So I sent her a set of these beauties and will you look how much fun they bring to your summer tables!
This whole experience, even with the challenge I faced personally losing my Sadie, was incredibly perfect. Sarah is the real deal. A woman with a passion for people who make things. It is what this blog is about . She made the project beyond my dreams awesome. I Love how the pads came out. I loved learning hand crochet. I loved playing with this big chunky merino. I love the whole shebang. If you have been wanting to try big merino but afraid of the big projects, this kit is for you. A perfect start and introduction to Big Stitch Merino.
And standby... because there is more to come from me and Mama Knows Luxury.