The Fiber Artist’s Toolbox

I can’t necessarily say that I consider myself an Artist, per se. An artist, maybe, because I have gotten pretty good at taking someone else’s material and turning out pretty things with it, but big A, I’m not necessarily there yet.  And that’s OK. I may never be. But it it was simpler to use artist than to break out all the different arts I avail myself of.  So work with me.

Anyhoo… this topic has been rattling around in my brain for a while now.  It came up again last night as we did the bi-weekly crap the cleaning lady’s due tomorrow tidy.  If you have or ever have had a cleaning lady, you know the dance I mean.  If you aspire to having a cleaning lady some day, believe me when I tell you you WILL become that person.  No matter how often you swear you won’t, you will.  I won’t go so far as to say I CLEAN for the cleaning lady, but there’s a certain level of tidying that has to happen, first because Bob forbid she sees the way we really live during the 13 days between her visits (srsly, I’m 40 now. I am not afraid to admit the truth. We are slobs.) and partly because if  I don’t put things “away” where I am likely to find them, she’ll put them away in a place that is probably perfectly logical to the rest of the free world but will completely flummox me.  And hubby even worse.  So yeah, we’re that guy.  We clean up before the cleaning lady comes and we don’t care who knows it.

But again, I digress.  Really the point of the post is more the humor I find in the number of things that have become a natural part of my world now.  Like no fewer than 6 niddy noddies, a couple of lazy Kates and a Handy Andy.  The things that the “regular people” find cause to look at you like you’ve sprouted a third head for mentioning in casual conversation.  But that get used multiple times a week and therefore are deemed “away” when tucked into that odd void between the glider and the end table because as soon as I put them any farther “away” I will have to go on the hunt for because I need them and I can no longer remember exactly where “away” I’ve put them because I’m old now and I forget stuff sometimes (and by sometimes I mean often).

But then there’s the less “normal” stuff.  Like the pack of dental floss threaders that live in the yarn bowl because they make fantastic work of adding beads to knitting and when you’re adding a whole crapton of beads at a time, it’s a lot faster than a crochet hook. And hurts a lot less when you accidentally leave it on the couch and later sit on it. Trust me.

Or the oil pens that came in my awesome box of random from Amazon recently.  Probably the most random Amazon order I’ve ever placed. Because oil pens make quicker work of oiling my wheel than the annoying long nosed dripper thingy (yeah, that’s a technical term) on the spinning wheel oil bottles. Or the roll of surveyors tape that is freaking fantastic for labeling things when dyeing experimentally. Or in large batches where you want to remember the specifics of something once you pull it out of the dye pot.

Or the 3 kitchen scales that have only been used in the kitchen as a matter of convenience (in that the counter was the nearest flat surface to place the scale upon to weigh the skein of yarn to see if I’ve used exactly half of it. Or how much I have left to decide if I can manage that last repeat.)  Yes.  I said three.  One upstairs for use when dividing fiber before spinning it or weighing yarn as mentioned.  One in the dye kitchen that is the newest addition because the one that floated between dyeing zone and stash room pretended to take a flaming dump on Saturday so hubs picked up a spare only to get it home and have the other one take off and work again so screw it, now I have one in the dyeing area AND the stash room because obviously one needs them in both places and it’s much more convenient to have separate scales than to have to walk the insane 15 feet from one area to the other.  And the sweater drying rack that has thus far only dried one sweater and that was just because I had to block it because it was hand knit and needed TLC on washing.  Otherwise it’s for drying washed locks of wool.

Then there’s the sifting litter box that, despite having a house full of cats, will never see a speck of litter if I have my say, because it was purchased specifically for washing wool. It makes amazingly quick work of cleaning raw wool which makes getting my own sheep this spring one step closer to happening.

And lets not forget the steam table pans or chunk of PVC in the dye kitchen.  Handy handy things that are already doing wonders to improve my dyeing skills (which is WAY funner to say in actual conversation because people can’t see the spelling to know which kind of dyeing I mean. Totally cracked hubby up over breakfast with that one).

And how Kool Aid has made it’s way back into my house in large quantities, not as a beverage but as a perfect medium for fiber dyeing.  And icing gels. Because Bob knows I’m never going to decorate a cake but they sure do make yarn pretty colors!

There is the giant roll of plastic wrap that will never see food, only wool.  And the stock pots not intended for soup. Ever.  Vinegar comes into the house by the gallon, not the quart, too.

Oh! and one of my most recent discoveries- those tiny rubber bands in bright colors that are all the rage for kids to make jewelry from. Those work great for identifying mini-skeins of yarn when they’re all white, 2 ply, etc, and need washing but the idea of washing 27 skeins one at a time makes you want to stab your eyeballs out with your best Signature needles…  Yep. One on the skein, a matching one on the Skein tag, several colors, one for each mini-skein. BRILLIANT I tell you. I’m so glad I thought of it!

And all of this is just… Normal.  Because spinning and knitting have become such a part of my routine I feel like my day is incomplete if I don’t do at least some of one or the other. And these are the things that make fiber play easier. Happier.  More organized. Because heaven knows my world is not exactly the picture of tidy, so I must wrangle all the things into order that makes sense. For me.  And all of this makes me wonder- what has made its way to your fiber artist’s tool box that maybe wasn’t intended for use as a noste pin or stitch marker but that gets the job done and lets you practice your skills?

5 responses to “The Fiber Artist’s Toolbox

  1. The saucepan, tongs, and food colouring I keep in my craft room definitely fit this description.
    See also: tackle boxes, pliers, and checking that the couch was suitable for knitting before purchasing.

  2. Ok, I REALLY need to hear more about the sifting kitty litter pan and cleaning wool. I have a small bag of wool that needs to be cleaned – I bought only a small amount to see if I would like to do my own sorting and cleaning but haven’t got around to doing it yet.
    as far as unusual tools I have adapted to use in knitting….off the top of my head the only one I can think of is a small addition I have made to some bento project bags I have been sewing for myself and friends. it’s so simple that it’s stupid. I sew a small button loop inside the bag near the pocket and then use one of those carabiner clip to fasten my small scissors and a tape measure and even a few st markers to it. since it is close to the pocket I can flip the scissors in the pocket if I want. it’s a simple thing but makes me so happy when I don’t have to dig in the bottom of the bag for my scissors or tape measure.

    • I LOVE quick and dirty tricks like the carabiner! Also then you can clip it to a belt loop for wander knitting (I’ve been known to knit my way through museums, air shows, band concerts…..)

      The sifting litter box- I am not the originator of this genius but I’ll share…

      Lay your raw wool out in the sifting tray. Don’t pack it in too tightly as you want the water to get to all of the wool easily. I’m told you can do up to 8oz at a time, I’ve not tried more than 4.

      Fill the solid base with water about 3/4 full. The water needs to be a solid 140 degrees, maybe more depending on the type of fleece. My tap water comes in at about 135 (which hubs says is too hot so my thermometer might be off) so I fill the tray about half way with the hottest tap water and then the rest of the way with boiling water. Since I’ve been washing in my dye kitchen, I just keep a couple of large pots of water at the ready on the stove.

      Gently stir into the hot water whatever your preferred wool scour is. I’ve been using Unicorn Scour and I just got some Kookabura Scour to try. I stir it in after adding the water to keep the foaming to a minimum.

      Set the sifter tray into the water and use the base of our scour bottle to gently press all of the locks under the water. Don’t outright agitate it but make sure everything is nicely soaked. Walk away for 12 minutes or so.

      Lift the sifting tray out of the now ganky water and let it drain for 30 seconds or so. Dump the water, refill it (no scour this time unless the fleece is really dirty) and repeat.

      Lift and drain, refill, add a little fiber rinse if you’d like (Unicorn Rinse is good for reducing static, I’m told, and it smells nice, so I add a bit to the final rinse) and give it one more 5-8 minute soak, drain well and transfer to a drying rack.

      DO NOT TOUCH the locks until everything has cooled down. Hot + Wet + Touching= FELTING. ICK. But I’ve had great success with this technique and it’s perfect for in home washing in small batches.

  3. Your house sounds amazing. I am jealous.

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