The Cowichan influence: a Q&A with Andrea Rangel

The Cowichan influence: a Q&A with Andrea Rangel

As promised, today I have a discussion with our Cowichan-style knitalong panelist Andrea Rangel about what a Cowichan sweater is and is not, pop-culture and mass-market appropriation of the style, and whether there’s anything wrong with knitting a sweater in the Cowichan style. There’s been a lot of discussion around all of this since the knitalong kicked off and I’m happy to see so much interest. Andrea is not Coast Salish herself, but has lived in the Cowichan Valley and spent time studying the Salish people and their sweaters, with their influence having made its way into her design work. Her most recent pattern happens to be a Cowichan-inspired pullover vest, Tokul, and she’s also the first panelist to have completed her knitalong vest — so I’ll have her FO interview and pics soon!

In addition to the links previously provided, Andrea has posted some videos on her Instagram feed showing how she traps floats, which she says is not 100% the Salish way, as they would typically hold both yarns in the right hand. But whether you’ve watched the videos mentioned in the links roundup post, take a minute to watch Andrea’s as well. And one more link to mention, shared by Eliana in the comments:, with contact info for Cowichan craftspeople. For those who’ve wondered how to buy an authentic sweater directly, that might be another path!

I also want to say a big thank-you to fellow panelist Kathy Cadigan for the photos included in this post, which she shot three years ago when touring Cowichan Valley with Andrea (which you can read more about on Tolt’s blog). The photos were taken variously at the Duncan farmer’s market, Leola Witt’s weaving studio, and Hill’s trading post. Note that the photo up top is not of authentic Cowichans, but of a Sylvia Olsen vest design, samples knitted by Andrea (left) and Sylvia (right), which I thought you might like to see. (Sylvia considers her own design style to be a fusion of influences from her own Scottish/English ancestry and Coast Salish ancestry of her former husband.) The sweater Andrea is modeling above is a vintage Cowichan, likely from the ’50s, and belongs to Witt. Hopefully all of this will add to your understanding and appreciation of the Cowichan tradition!

The Cowichan influence: a Q&A with Andrea Rangel

What’s the most basic, one-sentence answer to the question “What is a Cowichan sweater”?

A Cowichan sweater is a sweater knit by a person with Coast Salish heritage that is generally made with undyed superbulky-weight yarn and often features some color patterning. Coast Salish people are a group of indigenous people from the Pacific Northwest Coast, including Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia, who are ethnically and linguistically related to one another.

What are some of the key characteristics that make a Cowichan sweater a Cowichan sweater?

Like most knitting traditions, Cowichan sweaters are a fluid form, so there are many exceptions, but some general characteristics are:

– undyed, often hand-spun superbulky yarn
– geometric or animal-motif color patterns
– often featuring three sections of colorwork — narrow bands at the hips and shoulders and a wider band across the chest.
– drop-shoulder or modified drop-shoulder construction (raglan and set-in sleeves are rare among Cowichan sweaters)
– usually seamless
– 3-needle-bind-off shoulder joins, often showing as a design feature on the public side of the work
– color patterns that often include sections with long floats — i.e, large pattern motifs
– a characteristic collar worked in three sections. After both front sections are worked, stitches are picked up along the back neckline. At the end of every row of the back collar section, a live front collar stitch is knit together with the last back collar stitch. When all the front collar stitches on both sides are gone, the collar is complete and can be bound off.

Also, in order to avoid long strands at the back of the work as well as to manage tension, floats are caught every other stitch. This is apparent on the inside of the sweater, and you can often see it a bit on the public side too — the contrast color will often peek through a bit. A blend of intarsia and this catching-every-other-stitch method is also frequently incorporated if there’s just one big motif – like an eagle on the back.

The Cowichan influence: a Q&A with Andrea Rangel

The sweater pattern we’re knitting for the knitalong is a “Cowichan-style sweater” because it doesn’t have the right ethnic or geographic origins to be called a Cowichan sweater, but what other ways does it deviate from the true Cowichans?

– using red as one of the colors
– being worked in pieces and seamed
– having a collar that’s seamed rather than progressively knit together as described above
– having shoulders that are seamed rather than joined using 3-needle-bind-off

Cowichans are a little like the lopapeysa in Iceland (aka lopi sweaters), where you have local guilds knitting these indigenous sweaters to be sold largely to tourists. Right? The lopi apparently only dates back to the mid-20th century. How old is the Cowichan sweater tradition, and also: Tell us how it is that you come to know so much about all this.

I’m not quite as familiar with the history of Icelandic knitting, so aside from the sweaters being knit for tourists, I don’t know how similar the traditions are. Historically Cowichan sweaters were sold directly from knitters’ homes (often hung in the yard so that passersby could see them), but I haven’t heard of that happening recently. It’s possible to get a genuine Cowichan sweater from Hill’s Native Art in Duncan, BC. These include a Cowichan tag and often the name of the knitter. During summer months you can also find knitters knitting on the waterfront with sweaters and accessories to sell, so in that case you’re buying directly from the knitter. There are a couple other shops in downtown Victoria that sell native art including Cowichan sweaters, but I don’t know how much of the profit goes to the artists and knitters or how authentic the products are.

Coast Salish people had a long tradition of weaving, but started knitting around the time that British Columbia was colonized, in the mid- to late-1800s. The current idea of the Cowichan sweater has been developing and evolving since then.

I’ve learned about this tradition mostly because I moved to the Cowichan Valley a few years ago and was very curious. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Sylvia Olsen, the author of Working with Wool and Knitting Stories, who also lives in this region. She has a fascinating personal history with this tradition and has researched and written about it in a wonderfully poetic and scholarly way. Working with Wool should be the primer for anyone interested in learning about Cowichan knitting.

The Cowichan influence: a Q&A with Andrea Rangel

So what we’ve got here in our knitalong sweater is a Japanese take on the Cowichan sweater. It’s become a fairly common style to appropriate, but the Japanese seem particularly taken with it. I’m asking you to generalize here, granted, but how do the Coast Salish people feel about their knitting tradition being co-opted by other cultures?

I can’t speak for Coast Salish people, but as far as I know, they object strongly to anything being called a Cowichan sweater that isn’t one.

One thing that’s been mentioned a few times since we kicked off this knitalong is the collaboration between two Canadian companies — Roots and Mary Maxim, both of which are new to me — to produce “Cowichan” sweaters. (Mary Maxim was apparently founded in the ’50s on patterns for sports-themed faux Cowichans.) Whether or not either company actually calls them Cowichans, the sweaters are clearly indebted to the native knitters, who in no way benefit from this mega-brand collaboration. What’s your feeling about appropriation of knitting traditions, especially with regard to Cowichan? And is there anything wrong with non-Salish knitters knitting themselves a sweater that’s Cowichan-inspired?

I’m glad you raise this question. I think it’s an important topic and I think you could get a lot of different opinions. I wish we had a Coast Salish knitter here to speak about this because I’m not sure how she or he would answer.

Labeling a sweater as “Cowichan” or even “Indian” (a term that was historically used before Cowichan to describe the sweaters) when it isn’t is a violation of the creative and intellectual property of the Coast Salish. And we have to acknowledge the historical and current cultural oppression and racism that continue to have a negative impact on the Coast Salish community. That history and current reality have to inform our thinking about this topic, and I think it’s vital that we take special care not to exacerbate the disenfranchisement of that community by claiming their cultural property as our own.

But I also think that fashion is always in flux. We are all constantly inspired and influenced by what we see around us. In the United States, you can’t copyright a clothing design and I actually think that’s sensible – there are so many elements to a piece of clothing that it seems nearly impossible to boil down its essence and say that someone owns that. (Is it the pattern of the fabric? the fiber content? the cut? the techniques used to create it? the placement and number of pockets?) To say that any item of art or culture is 100% original or pure is nonsensical to me – all of our creations are iterations of something else. I find power and beauty in that connection back to our mothers and grandmothers and back and back. We are all interrelated and the huge variety and mixing of knitting traditions are a wonderful visual and tactile representation of that.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with knitting a Cowichan-inspired sweater. I’d love if there were patterns available from Coast Salish knitters so we could also be supporting that community, but I have yet to find any. And I think there would most definitely be something wrong with a non-Salish knitter claiming that their sweater was a Cowichan, particularly if they used that label as a sales tactic.

One of the most famous Cowichan-style sweaters in pop culture (along with Bob Hope and Marilyn Monroe) is the one worn by Jeff Bridges — aka “the Dude” — in The Big Lebowski. It’s not the most flattering portrait of a garment, and yet that sweater became iconic. (And you actually published a knitting pattern several years ago for the Dude’s sweater.) Do you think the fame or infamy of that sweater did anything as far as raising awareness of the Coast Salish people and their traditions, knitted or otherwise? Or do you think people even thought to wonder about it — it was just a cool sweater.

That is a great sweater and it was definitely heavily influenced by the Cowichan sweater tradition. I think it’s a great example of how fashion works — we’re influenced by what we see and like and then alter it to suit our own market, aesthetic, or to achieve other goals. Because it was called a Cowichan sweater (though there are so many ways in which it is not), I think it has generated interest in the Cowichan knitting tradition among knitters and people interested in the history of fashion. Most folks, though, probably just think it’s a cool sweater.


Photos © Kathy Cadigan

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and some of my hardest working garments

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and the hardest working garments in my closet

So again, WOW on the response so far to Slow Fashion October. Today begins Week 2 and our theme is SMALL — we’re talking handmade / living with less / quality over quantity / the capsule wardrobe / indie fashion / small-batch makers / sustainability in every sense. I’d love to hear about everything from your favorite local-to-you designers to how and when you choose to add new items to your closet, wherever they may come from. A lot of people have pledged to spend this month really evaluating their wardrobes and their works-in-progress and making considered decisions about what stays, what gets finished/frogged/donated, what the gaps are, and how those will get filled. So this week should be great!

For me, for starters, I thought I’d show you the Gallery Dress I finished last month and keep going on about. I didn’t really realize it until it was finished, but this dress epitomizes the kind of thing I want in my small closet, being so incredibly versatile and wearable. (Albeit linen.) A few weeks ago, Kathy Cadigan came to Nashville to photograph a bunch of Fringe stuff with me over the course of two days. I had just finished the dress and couldn’t stop wearing it, and the night before our shoot, I was demonstrating to her that I could pull almost anything out of my closet, throw it on with this dress, and look (and feel) pretty damn great. So the next morning, we took a little bit of time to shoot some of those variations. (In our still-empty new living room, which I now think we should never furnish.) At the time, I wasn’t thinking of it as a Slow Fashion October post, but as I waited for the images and thought about it, I realized one of the most interesting parts is what I chose to grab for these photos. I didn’t do a lot of strategizing about what to include, wasn’t trying too hard to make it any particularly pointed range of looks. But as it happens, the things I reached for were some of some of my all-time favorites. The way that all of these beloved, hardworking, long-lasting pieces go together is exactly what I’m striving for with any new garment I decide to make or buy.

The dark spot in this is that some of these things are not of known origins, having been purchased before I began paying attention. So all I can do is hope that no humans were harmed in their making, wear them as long as possible, and do all I can to avoid new things being manufactured on my behalf.

TOP: Worn with a trench vest from J.Crew circa 2009 or ’10. Vests and trench coats are two of my favorite things, so I bought this immediately upon seeing it several years ago, and I can’t imagine there will ever be a year of my life that I don’t wear it. I love it immeasurably. I see now that it was made in the Philippines, hopefully in a reputable factory, but I don’t know. The tote is via Fringe Supply Co, made by a small and conscientious San Francisco company whose workroom I have visited. The boots are new J.Crew, made in Romania, and I wish I could know more than that. Ethical shoes are one of the hardest challenges. Regardless, I’ll be wearing these for years to come.

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and the hardest working garments in my closet

Paired here with the denim shirt I wear probably 150 days a year (including in a ridiculous number Fringe Supply Co. photos). It’s Madewell from several years ago, a dead-ringer for an identical predecessor I wore for at least ten years, and was made in China, so all the same caveats as above. When the time comes, I vow to sew my own replacement. The bag is handmade. The boots are Gap — any markings have worn off, but given what I paid for them I’m guessing they were made in China.

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and the hardest working garments in my closet

Here it is on its own. I was considering this one a try-out of the pattern and sewed it from some inexpensive linen I had on hand — made in China, purchased at JoAnn. It’s the dress version of the Gallery Tunic and Dress pattern (obviously), lengthened by 1.5 inches, band collar variation, and I left off the sleeves, finished the edges with bias. I’ll absolutely be making it again and will address the one fit issue which is the way it wants to form pleats at the shoulders. After consulting Liesl about it, I need to compare the slope of the shoulders to some other patterns that sit better on my frame and figure out how to adjust for that. If you sew and pay attention to this stuff, you know finding fabric that was not made in China is incredibly difficult, and I hope we’ll be able to explore that this month. Handmade bag. And J.Crew sandals from a couple summers ago, made in Italy.

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and the hardest working garments in my closet

This outfit makes my heart sing. The sweater is designed and knitted by me — version two of this one, pattern coming soon — and the bag is handmade by Poglia in NYC (a definite investment piece that will weather beautifully over the years). I would wear this every single day if I could get away with it. But what’s especially pleasing to me about it is that I sketched it and then I made it come true.

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and the hardest working garments in my closet

So we went on to shoot all the planned stuff for two days, and on the third morning, I got up and got dressed to drop Kathy at the airport and head to work. I put the dress back on and pulled my favorite sweatshirt over my head, and Kathy got the camera back out for one last shot. I don’t even know how old this sweatshirt is or where it came from. The tags are long gone. It has holes and stains and paint splatters, and should really never leave the house, but I love it too much to let it go. I’m going to attempt to copy it for myself, and also want to knit a sweater that fits exactly like this, for pulling on over everything. My pouch is handmade by Bookhou, one of the most thoughtful and admirable makers I know. (Returning to Fringe Supply Co. soon.)

I’m not sure I’ve ever owned a garment that elicited as many compliments this dress does, which isn’t why I wear it multiple times a week, but is a pretty nice benefit! I’m still wearing it, even though it’s linen and the weather has taken a serious turn, so if you expect to run into me anytime soon, odds are I’ll have it on.


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Week 1, You (me, all of us)

Photos by Kathy Cadigan

Slow Fashion October, Week 1: You (me, all of us)

Slow Fashion October, Week 1: YOU (me, all of us)

Happy first day of Slow Fashion October! If you haven’t seen the introduction (with the weekly themes/prompts), take a minute to read that over. The theme for this partial first week is YOU. As in you, me, all of us who are participating in any form. This is your chance to introduce yourself. Who are you — are you a knitter/sewer/mender/thrifter/weaver/small-batch-fashion designer? How did you come to be interested in the slow fashion movement, and what are you hoping to get out of this month? And do you have a special project in mind? This is also a time to think about how you want to participate — whether it’s daily, weekly or one contribution for the month; in the form of a comment here on the blog or in posts to your own blog and/or social media feeds. Whatever you’re comfortable with, that’s what you should do! If you do publish something on your blog, leave a link here for people to see, and be sure to use hashtag #slowfashionoctober on social media so everyone can follow along.

Each week, I’ll be highlighting some of my favorite contributions here on the blog, and will also feature people in various ways on the @slowfashionoctober feed on Instagram.

For my part — for anyone who might be new here — I’m Karen Templer and this is my blog. Last year I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Nashville, where I live with my husband and run Fringe Supply Co. I’ve known how to sew pretty much my whole life but have done it very sporadically. Learning to knit four years ago reminded me how incredible it is to wear something you made with your own two hands, bringing me back to sewing. And tapping into the incredible community of makers online really raised my level of awareness of some of the more political issues around disposable fashion and the human and environmental costs thereof. I’ve written an essay for the current issue of Amirisu about much of my motivation for building a handmade and/or known-origins wardrobe, and talked quite a bit about it in my Woolful podcast interview last winter. I also did an interview for Curious Handmade recently, wherein she asked a lot of really great questions around these subjects. So if you want to know more about me and where all of this is coming from, I’d recommend reading that interview! I also did a blog post last year about my Handmade wardrobe role models, and hope you’ll take a look at that if you missed it.

I’ll be posting here on the blog and on my @karentempler Instagram feed throughout the month, following the weekly themes. And my special project for the month will be to sew a garment from fabric my friend Allison Volek-Shelton of Shutters and Shuttles is weaving for me. So expect periodic check-ins on that project, as well. (And wish me luck! So scary.) To learn more about Allison, listen to her on last week’s episode of Woolful.

p.s. SPEAKING OF AMIRISU, a little bit of shop news: Yesterday we got another short stack of the fall issue of Amirisu (the one with my Slotober essay), and also have some amazing new additions to the vintage fiber mill spindles for you. Check it out!


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Get ready!

Slow Fashion October — get ready!

Slow Fashion October — get ready!

Ok, lovelies. Here’s my outline for Slow Fashion October (previously discussed here and here). There’s nothing formal or prescriptive about this — you can do as much or as little as you like; use my prompts or ignore them entirely. Whether you just spend the month reading along and pondering these topics, or you take specific steps of some kind with regard to your wardrobe, or you address any or all of these issues in whatever way — on your blog or Instagram or around the table at your local yarn/fabric shop or wherever — it’s all entirely up to you. I just want to present a little bit of a framework for those who find it useful.

Slow Fashion is a big subject, and I want every week to be inclusive of everyone who might be interested — from sewers and knitters to thrifters and menders and anyone just trying to be more mindful and informed about where their clothes are coming from and what environmental impact their buying habits have. So I’ve broken the month down into weekly themes that encompass everyone, hopefully—

“Week” 1,  October 1-4: YOU
First let’s introduce ourselves: Where are you at with all this / What first got you interested in Slow Fashion / What are your skills / What do you hope to get out of Slow Fashion October / What are your personal goals for the month / Do you have a special project you plan to tackle this month?

Week 2, October 5-11: SMALL
handmade / living with less / quality over quantity / capsule wardrobe / indie fashion / small-batch makers / sustainability

Week 3, October 12-18: LOVED
proudest accomplishment / most loved item / most frequently worn item / thing you saved up for / investment pieces / thing you worked a long time on / oldest thing that’s still in rotation

Week 4, October 19-25: WORN
second-hand / mending / caring for things / laundering for longevity / design for longevity (bucking trends, quality materials …) / heirlooms

Week 5, October 26-31: KNOWN
favorite sustainable resources / “local” / traceable fabric and yarn origins / traceable garment origins / reference books, films, videos

Again, use this if it’s helpful, or take a whole different approach if you like. There’s no right or wrong. However you choose to go about it, if you’re sharing publicly use pingbacks or leave comments with URLs here so everyone can see. And also be sure to use the hashtag #slowfashionoctober to connect with others who are participating. I’ve also created an official Instagram account, @slowfashionoctober, so go ahead and follow if you’re there! I’ll fire that up on October 1 for general announcements and highlighting great posts and such. And of course I’ll be posting my own contributions on my @karentempler feed, in addition to all the blog content.

I’m sure you’ll all have a ton of brilliant ides and angles I haven’t thought of, so please be sure to weigh in below. And I’m so excited to see what everyone comes up with next month!

This fall on Fringe Association

This fall on Fringe Association

Have I mentioned how happy I am that it’s September? I know you’re all with me on this (in this hemisphere, at least). I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Slow Fashion October, in particular, and seeing lots of speculation here and there about the various upcoming knitalongs. I get that everyone’s curious and excited and also increasingly busy as we head toward the holidays, so I thought it’d be good to take a minute to discuss the fall highlights!

Fringe and Friends Knitalong
As noted last week, there’s another big Fringe and Friends Knitalong coming your way in two weeks. (If you missed last year’s Amanda/fisherman knitalong, it’s all here.) I’ll announce the pattern pick on Friday Sept 18th and introduce you to this year’s illustrious panel of knitters on Monday the 21st, and we’ll be off and running. Er, knitting. I’m super excited to show you these swatches! This year’s sweater is a super quick knit — the opposite of last year’s — and is in some ways insanely simple and in other ways interestingly challenging. It’s going to be a ton of fun to see what each of the panelists does with it — and what you all do.

Slow Fashion October
Yes, Slow Fashion October is happening! As you know, it’s inspired in large part by Me Made May, in the sense that it’s meant to be super participatory and a total community event. The focus and structure will be different, and I hope to involve not even just knitters and sewers, but also anyone who wants to be more thoughtful about their wardrobe and where their clothes are coming from.

There won’t be any kind of pledge or commitment — how you participate will be entirely up to you. There will be a hashtag of course (#slowfashionoctober), and I’m planning to structure it around weekly themes, with which you can do as you please. That may mean just thinking about these subjects and ways to apply them to your own life and closet, but it will hopefully mean sharing your thoughts and efforts and conclusions on your own blogs and social media, as well as in your offline social circles or around the community table at your local yarn/fabric shop or whatever the case may be. So I’ll declare a theme for each week and give you some ideas of subjects to think and talk about within that theme, and you take it from there!

I’ll post the outline for that here in the next week or two and again on the first of October. Cool?

I’ll be doing lots of posts here on the blog and on my @karentempler Instagram feed relating to those themes and prompts. But I’m also declaring one specific, ambitious project for myself to tackle during that month, and I hope you’ll think about doing the same. Mine is that I’m going to sew a garment from fabric that my friend Allison Volek Shelton will be weaving for me. So I’ll have lots more to say about that, too! Your project might be to knit your first sweater, or to try your hand at sewing, or to push your own boundaries in whatever way, with the idea of creating a really special something that will have meaning to you for years to come.

Fringe Hatalong Series
The Fringe Hatalong Series (aka #fringehatalong) will continue throughout all of this, as well. You guys all know my one true love (for knitting and wearing) is cables, so of course the fall hat is a cable hat. It’s an original pattern designed for the hatalong by one of my favorite people, and it is just perfection. I cannot wait to show it to you and to cast on, so keep that in mind for mid-October. Totally doable even if you haven’t done cables before.

And then the last hat in the series will be revealed in either late November or early December. They’ve all been excellent hats for gift-giving, and I know a lot of you have been stockpiling them for that purpose, but this one is especially great for holiday knitting. It’s a men’s/unisex hat with really interesting construction, and again, I’m dying to get to it because I can’t wait to see for myself how it works.

I’ll have more on all of the above as their respective dates draw near! Which part are you most excited about?

Center photo by @shuttersandshuttles, used with permission

Q for You: Are you a kit knitter?

Q for You: Are you a kit knitter?

One of the most fascinating things about knitters, to me, is the variety of approaches and attitudes toward choosing yarn and projects and yarn for projects. There are people who have no interest in patterns and want to make everything up for themselves — finding half the joy in the planning and even the trial-and-error aspect of it. People who like a pattern but go their own way where yarn is concerned and/or make lots of pattern modifications. People who will only use the recommended yarn, either knowing that the pattern was designed for that yarn and using it will increase the likelihood of success, or not trusting themselves to choose something else. People who want exactly the pictured item, and will use not only the recommended yarn but the same color as the sample. And people who prefer the pattern and yarn be sold together in a kit, so not only is there minimal risk and no decision-making required, it’s a single purchase. I love it!

Like most things in knitting (and life) there is absolutely no right or wrong. We all come to knitting for different reasons. Some have mind-numbingly dull day jobs and knitting is their creative outlet. Others find the greatest escape and relaxation in having had someone else do all the math and planning for them — they just want to sit down and knit, and to feel reasonably confident the outcome will be positive. Among a million other scenarios. I get it: Some days I’m one of these people, and some days I’m the other. But most days I’m somewhere in between. I feel like if I want the thing exactly as pictured (which happens often enough), I’d rather buy it as finished goods, since there’s no room for me to bring any of my own thinking to it anyway. On the other hand, kits can be such enticing objects unto themselves. The Latvian mitten kit I won a couple years ago is one of my prized possessions, to the point that I can’t imagine unboxing it, so I guess that’s maybe a kit being too good? Wool and the Gang does such a beautiful job with their boldly bagged kits. (Of course, I like to think my own Fringe kits are pretty appealing!) And the other day I ran across Kit Couture and found myself wanting kit after kit. So that’s my Q for You this round: Are you a kit knitter? Or where do you fall on this spectrum?


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How do you store your yarn?

So about that yarn storage conundrum …

So about that yarn storage conundrum ...

Back in June, when we were just on the brink of looking for a house, I brought up the question of yarn storage — as in, what’s the safest thing for the yarn as opposed to the prettiest method of display. This weekend, I got to unpack the ridiculous amounts of stuff that go into my lovely but small new workroom — aka the third bedroom in our new house. Or at least I made a big dent in it: I still have plenty to do — including one very large box of mishmash that has to somehow fit into this storage wall — and perhaps when it’s “done” I’ll do my own Our Tools, Ourselves interview, but meanwhile I wanted to follow up about the yarn.

It was my hope with that Q for You that you’d sort of give me permission to stop storing yarn in plastic bags and bins, but the opposite wound up being true. In organizing these shelves, I’ve got one narrow row (below the large patterns-and-tools shelf) that’s designated for sweater quantities and upcoming projects — things that are on the brink of being used. And all the rest of the yarn is (in theory) in those four plastic bins along the bottom shelf. Those bins are mostly single skeins, many of which I bought long ago before I really knew what I liked, so that’s a project right there. Then there’s still a lot of actual beloved yarn in that big basket, which will move into these bins once I’ve separated out the chaff. So I guess those plastic bins are staying. I’m trying to talk myself into taking the on-deck yarns — the ones on the about-to-be-used shelf — out of their ziplocs. It would look a million times nicer, and possibly also ensure they do get used up efficiently, since they’d be right there staring at me in all their splendor. But I just can’t bring myself to do it! Yet.

So far, my favorite part of all this is my WIP shelf — the row of four folding rice baskets and two Field Bags. (One early prototype and one from the launch batch coming Weds!) I’m aiming to limit myself to what fits in this shelf: roughly two larger/garment/knitting projects, two sewing projects, plus two smaller or partial knitting projects in the Field Bags. And the same goes for the fabric stash — what fits on this shelf is plenty! It’s like portion control for the craft room.