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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Yarn Bowl Troubleshooting

Okay, so I may be a liiiiittle bit biased, but I think my yarn bowls are the best ones out there. Others are too top heavy over their small rounded feet, falling over when you give a tug on your yarn, and if they aren't dodging that bullet, the cut to wind your yarn through is not sufficient. It's generally too straight or too short to really hold the yarn in place. All of these flaws and you could almost forget the main function of a yarn bowl is to contain your yarn! Not to worry though! This potter turned knitter/crocheter is here to save the creative day!

Function, function function!! I make my yarn bowls short and wide for maximum stability. Knitters rarely sit at a table to work, so the bowl really needs to be able to hold on for a bumpy ride. The lower the center of gravity, the more stable it is, hence the unique form. The height is tall enough to tame your skein and keep it from falling over the sides. Since the sides are straight, things inside the bowl stay better contained than other bowls that are rounded, making it an easy escape route. The body is wide enough to stay put on your lap or the arm of your couch. The cutout is windy enough and lengthy enough to keep your escapee strands from their getaway. The multiple hole cutouts also offer options, depending on your personal preferences, numbers of yarn being used, and types of yarn being used. All cut areas are checked for smoothness, because no one needs a snag on that luscious skein you picked up on your travels. Group all these considerations with the fact that the bowls are textured with rope that has the same twist as yarn, and are made by a potter that actually knits and crochets, and yeah, I think they're the most awesome out there.

But even the best tools of the trade can have some troubleshooting tips for users. If you find that your yarn bowl isn't quite creating the working flow that it ought to, scan this list for an adjustment that will fix the problem. Once you're on the right track with using your bowl, I promise you will be amazed and in love with the assistance on your project that a nice yarn bowl can give. When creating something that is as time consuming as fiber projects can be, not having to chase, unwind, adjust, or untangle, and trading it all in for the gliding flow given from a small tug, can feel downright magical.

1. Make sure your yarn is wound into a ball
As creative people, we are a fickle bunch. For us, we do things how we do them, there is no other way, and other approaches can boggle our minds. This is a great thing!! It gives us options and individuality! the world of yarn bowls, there is little room for this flexibility in how your yarn is wound together. If your yarn is not in a ball form, it will not work with the yarn bowl. The traditional skein form will not feed through a yarn bowl, as it unwinds back and forth as well as around. When the yarn needs to be pulled at from so many directions to unwind it, it trips on itself and gets stuck in the bowl. If you roll up your skein into a ball it will work beautifully! The ball form allows the yarn to always feed from one spot, and the round shape allows that spot to adjust accordingly. It can take a bit of time to roll up a ball if it's something you're not used to, but you will gain that back and more through the project.

2. Adjust the position of the bowl
I'm fully confident that these babies are capable of being on the go, and ready to work in your environment, be it waiting in line at the store, on the train, or on the couch. I toss my bowl in my project bag, letting the fiber protect the fragile cutout area,and take it with me places where I can sneak a few stitches in. On your own travels, or at home, you may find that things may not feel 'right' with the bowl. If things just aren't flowing stitch by stitch like they should, try resting the bowl in a different spot. It's height, distance, and angle relative to your working space (the area above your lap where your hands are moving and your project is resting) play a large part in the feel of how the yarn flows. Too far or close, high or low, left or right and things can feel more like trudging along than the beautiful glide that it should have. Some small adjustments will have things back on track.

3. Consider your amount of yarn
My yarn bowls come in three sizes, 6", 8", and 10". The larger the bowl the more yarn you can fit and work with at once. Most knitters find that the small and medium sizes suit them just fine, fitting large amounts in both, but some really need the jumbo size for their needs, with the multiple cutout areas for the yarn to feed through. The smaller sizes can accommodate more than one ball just fine, as long as your yarn choices allow it. If the balls are too large and fit snugly together in the bowl, they won't be able to spin on themselves and unwind to feed through. Make sure that your yarn has enough wiggle room to freely move on its own inside the bowl.

If you can sort through these tips and find what works for you, you will be the happiest creator on the block. A decent yarn bowl will truly spoil you, being a pleasure to work with, and a missed treasure when not being used on your project. Lots of happy makers agree:

"The person I purchased this for loved the yarn bowl. She's constantly working with multiple yarns as she knits and this is perfect for keeping them organized. The final product was beautiful and exceptionally well made."

"You can tell seller knits/understands knitters! LOVE my yarn bowl!"

"GREAT!! Beautiful work,you can tell from the design that she actually uses yarn
and knows what we crafters need!"

"I love it and use it almost daily!"

Monday, June 23, 2014

Teabowls from the last three years

I used to make teabowl pieces more often, but for the last couple of years the only ones I have produced have been for the Chawan Expo exhibit, now in it's 16th installment. It's been interesting to see the shape my work has taken in a few years, when demonstrated by looking only at a few pieces from a given year.




Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Dividing Work and Home Life by Getting Organized and Designating Space

It's been about two years since I've been making work at home, and I've reached the point where changes need to be made. I desperately need to figure out a way to create a distinct working space for myself so I can both have a better work/life balance, and better organize things and my time for my business. I love working at home, and don't want to change that, but it has it's challenges. I can see my studio door from my bed. Work is always there. It's always on my mind, and while I don't mind my work being so closely intertwined in so many parts of my life, everyone needs some division between work life and home life, so that is something I am working on. I need to not see to-do piles on the tables, and other reminders of work when I'm trying to relax in the time I'm not working. I've found myself dreaming of the days when we buy a home and my studio will have space for an office and a packing area, in addition to the much-anticipated gallery/showroom space for visitors.

The trouble is that because there is currently no space for these things, they are everywhere. Now, for full disclosure, I am a naturally messy person. I've always had organized jumbles in various areas. Stacks of various to-do piles, things placed somewhere with intentions for another time. Things look chaotic, but I rarely loose track of something, so while it would be a simpler, less cluttered world if I wasn't that way, I am, so it's good to be realistic about it.

What that equates to is various work things on the end, coffee, entry way, and dinner tables, whichever I have been sitting at with the laptop/paperwork/books/etc. At some point, the house needs to look like a normal place and not a crazy person's before said crazy person can address all the various items, so things get rounded up into a larger pile, and placed somewhere else. Then I again sort through, make piles, and deal with things. It's a lot of wasted time because I don't have a good spot for things so there is a lot of shuffling. If I had a dedicated work space instead of having a nomad office, my piles would be in files, drawers, baskets, and other things that declutter.

My packing supplies are stuffed in my studio closet and get dragged out each time I ship something. My basket of small supplies like pens, tape, and biz cards gets moved to the kitchen table with boxes and padding and I box things up there since it has the most table surface for large projects like shipping pottery. Afterwards things get hauled back to the closet and reorganized in it's space. It works, but again, so much time is wasted shuffling things around and repacking them into where they go. Often times I know something else is going to be shipping out the next day, so I leave the supplies around the table area, saving some time, but also leaving a pile of work.

packing pots on the kitchen table
I do have file cabinets and a desk, but they don't get used. Why? Because it's not convenient. They are in bedroom in the house that gets used so little, the door stays shut. It's got a desk in it, but no one has sat at it since we've lived here besides unpacking moving boxes. It has shelving on top, which is nice for storage, but it leaves very little room on the actual desktop. The closet is full of random storage stuff, there are two small shelving units that hold various craft supplies, and open floor space for an air mattress for when the occasional guest is staying here. So the room is kind of all over the place as a space, and doesn't get much actual use. It's not comfortable to use, and there isn't room to work as is. It's unfit for what it needs to be, and that is going to change shortly.

The plan is to reorganize this room into a more suitable work space, but it needs to be realistic. If I won't actually use it, then it's all a waste, so it needs to be the right fit for my needs, while still maintaining the ability to easily be ready for guests that will stay in the space. I'm still figuring things out but I've got a few ideas.

The desk in the room currently won't work because of it's limited surface area. I'm going to look into removing the top or finding another desk with more space to use that will accommodate paperwork and such getting shuffled around, along with room for a paper organizer on top, for those various stacks and to-do's.

I need a comfy arm chair. If the chair isn't at least as comfortable as the couch, will I really go sit in it in the office instead of the couch like I have been? Remember, I'm trying to be realistic here so this actually works. It needs to be something besides the desk chair, roomy enough to sit cross legged on to have a lap for my task, and comfortable enough to sit in for hours. This needs to be a space I want to be in for hours, so comfort is just as big a part as function is. A small end table next to for papers and such would be nice, but a small folding table could be just as well.

The packing area will be a 5' folding table I have, which should give me enough space to leave my supplies out on top in some baskets, and stack some boxes underneath. The table should be able to double up as a photo area with it's large, open surface, and it will also be able to fold up and clear out easily when guests need the space.

I think these plans, along with some simple decorating could be the key to saving time, being organized, shuffling less, and hopefully, improving my work/life balance by designating an area for the business side of my work. I'm even considering leaving my phone in the office at the end of the work day to help make that division. I look forward to these changes, but I'm interested in what other people who work in a creative space at home do about the business side. What do you do to help organize your business in your home? How did you make the division of work and life more distinct for yourself?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Record store employee turned potter

What happens when you are a former record store employee turned potter? You find yourself singing random songs in the studio, changing the words to suit the task at hand.

Like Sir Mix-a-Lot
"I like big bowls and I cannot lie"
"My avocado don't want none unless you got bowls hun"

And Kelis
"My shiny pots bring all the boys to the yard
and they're like, it's more burnished than yours, damn right, it's more burnished than yours
I could teach you, but I'd have to charge"

And the Beastie Boys
"Mug makin, mug, mug makin
super stoneware, stoneware shapin"