Meet Lauren:

LaurenI’ve been working at Over the Rainbow Yarn since January of 2015, but I’ve been a loyal fan since the early days. I am an avid crafter with a fervent wish to collect all of the craft skills (except perhaps the messy ones…). I am hopelessly obsessed with adorable things. To name a few of my favorite things in life: vintage dresses, polka dots, pastel colors, picot edging, cupcakes, and kittens.

I was inspired to learn to crochet when my husband and I received a beautiful hand-crocheted doily as a housewarming gift, upon my move to Maine in 2011. Knitting is a relatively new addition to my repertoire, but it is my dearest crafting love of late, and I consider myself a very competent knitter.

My favorite way to make things is by experimenting. I find crafting fulfilling because it is an opportunity to invent things, and to see my whimsies become physical things. So, I dabble in knit and crochet design on the fly. I intend to write patterns for my more successful experiments ASAP! Sometimes I fail completely, but that’s ok. It’s only yarn.

Here are Over the Rainbow Yarn, I am in charge of maintaining the website; I write the weekly newsletter; and I seek graphic design opportunities everywhere I look. Have you ever noticed our store signage? I made that. I also take a lot of photos for our social media pages.

Lauren’s Latest Blog Posts:


Knitting with Vintage Buttons

This past Sunday during the clear-weather hours between our recent snow storms, I decided to peruse one of my favorite local shops: The Rockland Antiques Marketplace. When I visit thrift shops or antique shops, I’m not hunting for fine collectors’ items. No, I look for craft supplies.

I like to think about repurposing things. I’ve been known to buy a dresser and repaint it. I’ve been known to make a side table out of a tall, heavy candlestick with a fancy plate glued to the top. Once I even bought a chair and reupholstered it because I wanted to figure out how. Sometimes I buy sweaters and unravel them for yarn or felt them and cut them up for scraps. Sometimes I buy sweaters just to cut the buttons off.

This time, it was buttons that caught my eye. I got lost in a little cabinet full of buttons that I actually overlooked on my first swoop though the shop. Intricate, delicate buttons, some of which I was told dated back to the Victorian era. Many knitters realize that buttons can make or break a knitting project, and take great care in selecting the perfect buttons to complement their loving handiwork. We sell buttons at Over the Rainbow Yarn and I’ve seen and often helped people pore over their options, laying out a slew of buttons one after another atop their knitted sweater, hat, or cowl, and standing back to contemplate each one.

Something I haven’t often seen people do is begin with the buttons and build the knitting project around them. But since I walked out with a handful of uncommonly inspiring buttons, I decided to do just that as soon as I got home. I was lucky enough to be able to knit straight through the evening and the following day thanks to Winter Storm Orson.

Along with the buttons, I picked up this little rosette pendant. To me, it called out for a knitted i-cord to hang on. I find knitted i-cord makes lovely jewelry with a look both elegant and casual. Using lace or fingering-weight yarn and US 1 needles, you can make a fine enough cord to easily string through a pendant. I picked a merino wool/silk blend with a subtle shimmer and a muted colorway that reminded me of the antique shop, and I finished it with a simple knot that’s easily adjustable for different lengths. I even think the knot looks quite nice with the ends of the i-cord hanging down the back. Knitted i-cord jewelry is a fine way to use up little bits and pieces of leftover yarn too. You can do it a bit absent-mindedly while watching TV or contemplating your next project, like I did. It works up quickly. I recommend it highly!

I thought two coordinating i-cord necklaces would be a nice look, and these genuine crystal buttons with this rusty orange lace-weight yarn just felt right. Since they’re made of crystal, they’re fairly heavy. They make the extremely lightweight cord hang nicely without flying away. I knit a rope with buttons on the end of it, secured with knots. I came up with several ways to wear it as a necklace. I think I might wear it as a headband or a belt some time. I like to get creative with clothing.

All the while, I’d been designing these fingerless mitts in my head. I used Berroco Ginkgo for the body of the mitts and Boboli Lace for the accents. I consulted my stash and picked these colors specifically to coordinate with these dainty gold-toned buttons. It’s a basic design, all about the accents. The mitts are knitted and the edgings are crocheted, because the more crafts involved, the more fun, of course. I couldn’t be more pleased with how they came out. What do you guys think?

P.S. Don’t tell Stacy at Rockland Antiques Marketplace, but I think I’m going to gift these mitts to her for giving me such a generous deal on the buttons, and for the pleasant chat about buttons and crafts.

I'm A Hat Person

The Rock City hat.

Hello! My name is Lauren, and I’m a hat person. I’m crazy about hats. Every kind of hat*. Why did hats ever go out of style as an essential fashion accessory? Some people seem to think they can’t pull off hats, but I am convinced there’s a hat for every woman and every man.

* Almost every kind of hat: I do believe it’s possible for a hat to be too big, too small, or too weird.

  Too big. Image Source.

  Too small. Image Source.

Too weird. Image Source.

 

I’m sure this is not an unpopular opinion, but I think the best hat styles of all time were invented in the 1920s. They’re sleek, stylish, with embellishments that are often understated (though maybe flashy by our ho-hum hat standards these days). They feature clever asymmetrical designs. They’re flattering on almost every head. The pleats, ruffles and ruches are my favorite. And the Art Deco geometric details. These 1920’s hat illustrations inspire me to no end. I could admire them all day.

 

Obviously, these drawings aren’t depicting knitted hats, but my question is why ever not? Yesterday, I felt inspired to go home and knit myself a 1920’s turban-style hat (yeah, I sat down and knit this hat for 8 straight hours). This side-to-side design with a ruched side and a little knotted tie has been on my mind for a while. Maybe it was the snowy weather that made me do it finally. To tell you the truth, I feel pretty cute in this hat. And I’m feeling fired up about trying to capture more of the details I love about 1920’s hats in knitted hat designs. Maybe I’ll try some more hand-felting (but ow, my arms) or maybe I’ll try some little crocheted or needle felted or beaded details. We’ll see how that goes. Sometimes I don’t even know where my knitting whims are going to take me.

Ok, now the office selfies are getting a little awkward.

My love of hats isn’t limited to this particular era, of course. The other day, I was captivated by a hat I saw on the head of a woman at Rock City Cafe while I was having lunch. Fortunately, she was facing away from me, so I was able to stare at her hat discretely. I loved how the triangle-wedges formed perfect little spots for buttons down the side, and I loved the petite rolled brim. I drew a little schematic doodle on a sticky note so I’d remember what her hat looked like. Then I knit myself one and topped it off with a furry pompom. When I get around to writing up a pattern for this hat, I’m going to call it the Rock City hat. I have to tell you, the other thing I love about hats is that I can finish them quickly. It’s quite satisfying to have an idea become a physical object within a day or two.

I think it’s safe to proclaim hats are my favorite thing to knit. For now. Who’s with me – are there any other Hat People out there?

Craftivism

It seems to me that the Pussyhat Project has unleashed a wave of craftivism, a word that I’ve been hearing a lot lately: a portmanteau of “craft” and “activism”. I told you in a previous post how much I appreciate the reinterpreting and reinvigorating of traditionally feminine crafts to make a political statement. This TEDx Talk by Sarah Corbett, the founder of Craftivist Collective,  reminded me also that craftivism is a type of activism that introverts can engage in, and is a form of “intimate activism” that encourages personal conversations.

Though craftivism feels like a new concept to me, having lived only 28 short years and having become immersed in the world of hand-crafts only a handful of years ago, it dates back at least to the French Revolution, during which women knit red hats during executions by guillotine. Meadow-Lynn of The Woven Road blog wrote an informative post covering a brief history of craftivism.

Several great knitting patterns in the spirit of craftivism have come to my attention in the weeks since the Women’s March on Washington took place and the Pussyhat became an international symbol of feminism and resistance. I just wanted to share a few with you.

Shortly after the Women’s March on Washington, science-minded folks began planning a March for Science in support of the science community, and the Brain Hat pattern by Kristin McDonnell was born.

The Peace de Resistance Mittens by Bristol Ivy include feminist symbolism and she has pledged to donate all proceeds from pattern sales to charities.

Wear your feminist pride on your head with this Fierce Feminist hat by Kiki Hall. In lieu of payment for the pattern, she encourages you to donate to a feminist cause.

Check out #Craftivism on Instagram for more inspiration.

Baa-Ble Hat Knitting and Felting Misadventures

The Baa-Ble Hat has been on my mind for nearly a year and a half now – ever since it was released for free as the official Shetland Wool Week pattern of 2015. It’s been on the collective mind of the knitting world too, and in my estimation has achieved the status of an all-time knitting favorite. What knitter could resist those darling little sheep dancing around her head? Oh my. Frankly, I can’t explain why I’ve waited so very long to dive in and knit one.

I’ve been on a roll cranking out shop samples of late, taking up a new one just as soon as I’ve finished a last. I think of hats as weekend projects. On particularly insane days like yesterday, hats are one-sitting projects. Yes, I got home early due to the crumby winter weather, sat down, and knit for 10 straight hours, completing my second Baa-Ble hat in one sitting. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Sometime last week, Jennifer and I decided that Plymouth Homestead would be the perfect yarn for our shop’s official Baa-Ble Hat sample. It’s a 100% wool yarn with a cozy, home-spun look in an aran weight, just what the Baa-Ble Hat pattern calls for. I thought the grassy green and pale blue looked like a bright summer day, and what could be more joyful than a bright summer day on your head?

I grabbed my US 6 and US 7 needles (as per the pattern) and went to town. I spent two days on the hat. I could tell it looked quite large right off the bat, but went right ahead and finished it, a little skeptical, but hoping it would make a nice slouchy hat. It didn’t make a nice slouchy hat. It engulfed my entire head. The brim wouldn’t even stay folded because it was so loose and floppy. It was like a tea pot cozy, except for your head. A head cozy. It’s nice to have a cozy head, but nobody wants a head cozy.

The only research I’d done before I began was perusing the thousands of examples posted on Ravelry. Having seen SO MANY successful Baa-Ble Hats, I felt confident. I suppose I ought to have looked more closely at the gauge provided… I am embarrassed to say that I did not even look; I assumed a standard gauge of 4–4.5 stitches per inch on an aran weight yarn, but I was supposed to be getting a VERY TIGHT gauge of 5.5 stitches per inch. Now that I have delved into the blogosphere in search of answers (after making two Baa-Ble Hats), I have discovered that most people modified the pattern. C’est la vie.

But being the problem-solver that I am, I took the head cozy situation as an opportunity to try my hand at felting. Somehow I always thought that hand-felting would be easy. Given the precautions that people take to avoid felting, I suppose I thought that it might happen practically by accident. I began by running hot water at full blast directly onto my hat while scrubbing it against itself with my hands. Rather than resulting in a shrunken hat, this resulted in a comically enlarged head cozy, possibly large enough to be worn as a sweater if it weren’t closed at the top. I laughed at myself while Googling “how to felt by hand”.

These are the tools you want for hand-felting.

Baa-Ble Hat #1, Post-felting

Thanks to Christine Olea for her article on knitty.com, I realized that I could hardly have been more wrong about hand felting. I collected a bucket, a clean plunger and some dish soap. I placed the bucket in the bath tub, tossed the hat in, squeezed a bit of soap on top, then used the tap in the bath tub to fill the bucket about half-way with hot water. Then I plunged… and plunged and plunged and plunged until my arms hurt like crazy. For some time, I wasn’t convinced it would ever work. I checked the hat periodically and found that, exactly as Christine had warned me, it took about as long as a washing machine would take to felt my hat. If you ever feel bad about the lack of exercise that knitting encourages, I heartily recommend hand felting. Do it every day and I imagine you’ll look like a body builder in no time.

Baa-ble Hat #2, using US 5 Needles

I’m happy to report that my felted hat is a near-perfect fit for my head! But I didn’t want a felted hat for the shop, so I knit my second Baa-Ble Hat with the copious leftover yarn entirely on US 5 needles. US 5 needles are pretty small for an aran weight yarn. My second hat turned out still a bit on the large side, but wearable. This one will be living at Over the Rainbow Yarn. Come try it on for yourself. You might find that you want to go all the way down to a US 4 needle or else use alterations suggested by Susan B. Anderson and others. But it’s a nice pattern nonetheless. I promise. Boy, do I love those adorable little sheep.

 


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