Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

Among the many people I’m looking forward to seeing in Seattle this week is Tif Fussell, better known as dottie angel, who is utterly unique and one of the funniest people I’ve met in the craft world. She’s also responsible for my using the British expression “pants” as often as possible in conversation lately, as in “I realize I have been most pants at actually answering what you ask and could in fact have a very good career as a politician ..​. .” You can find her on her blog, Instagram and Facebook, and be sure to take a peek at her crochet patterns on Ravelry. Thanks for doing this, Tif!

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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

I am crafter who likes to sew, hand embroider, appliqué, crochet and dabble in knitting, being particularly fond of working with recycled and vintage fabrics alongside of yarn. I cannot recall a time when I did not make something with my hands. If I am not making with my hands, I get quite ‘not nice’ to know. I am a self-taught crafter — my limitations therefore created my style of patching and piecing things together in a pleasing way to me, and in turn became the crafting style of dottie angel. From there I have evolved into applying this method towards a multitude of makes. I tend to be much happier making things up as I go along rather than following a pattern, for if I do end up following a pattern, chances are quite high I will go off the path or, at the very least, add a bit of bling to the end result. I am also rather fond of rectangles and squares when it comes to yarny matters. They truly can become something quite glorious when all is said and done.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

I love wood or vintage tools; I love the look, the feel, and the history which comes with them. However, nine times out of ten I do not find they work so well for me, and I end up using tools which do the job brilliantly but, to my eye, look quite pants compared to handmade or vintage tools. Oh but saying that, I do have a lovely pair of scissors which I found at Tolt Yarn and Wool and another, larger size on a pottle in Portland. They are beautiful and I blinged them quite happily with some frayed fabric on the handles, just so they knew how much I loved them.

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

I have a drawer of shame when it comes to knitting needles and hooks. I tell myself it is okay because the drawer belongs to a fabby midcentury cupboard but alas, they are scattered in there willy nilly, and now that I have circular needles too it is getting out of control. I wish this were not the case but it is. However, I am delighted to report I am more organized with my sewing notions, preferring to use old vintage colanders, cook pots and baskets to keep things where they should be. Everything has its place; it’s just that some places are sadly more messy than others.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

My yarny works-in-progress live in an enamel bowl which is easy to pick up and take to stitch circle at Tolt Yarn and Wool if need be, or live by the fireplace ready for when we have a few moments to spend quality time together. It also pleases me greatly should I glance upon my bowl during the day. My fabric works-in-progress are laid out in my ‘atelier of sorts’ where I can pottle past and ponder en route to doing domestics or procrastinating. Quite often I have to return to the scene when I am working on fabric creations to discover it was not a crime after all which was being committed, but something rather peachy.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

Without a doubt, that would be Miss Ethel, my trusty sewing machine. She is a workhorse with no bells or whistles, she knows how to get the job done and she does it well. Without her steady influence I would be lost. In a fire, she would be the one I would grab alongside of my recently embroidered mittens, of which I am smitten. You could point out my mittens are not tools as such but I must include them, for Miss Ethel and my mittens are equally highly prized by me.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

Do you lend your tools?

I have never lent a tool and now I am wondering why this is? I wonder if I give off the vibe of “do not ask Tif, for she would never lend”. I have my granny in my ear from when I was a small being saying “never a lender nor a borrower be” and perhaps all these years I have carried that invisibly about my person, thus no one has asked to borrow a tool of mine, thus I have not lent. When my clan of 4 were small and compact, living in England at the time meant we did an awful lot of rainy day crafting, which required lots of pairs of scissors. I would make sure my fabric scissors were clearly marked with a fabric tag for fear they would be used on paper by a little one. Was it Shakespeare or some ancient bod who wrote “hell have no fury like a woman scorned noting her fabric scissors have been used on paper”? Alas I fear I give off a ‘not a lender’ vibe which I will add to the top of my new year’s resolutions, to rectify promptly.

What is your favorite place to knit/crochet/whatever?

If I am knitting then it takes all my concentration (sometimes with tongue sticking out), therefore I must knit solo — unless it is squares, then I can relax a bit. If I am crocheting, I am much more social and carefree. If I sew with Miss Ethel (my trusty sewing machine), once again I fly solo for I am in my happy place, just her and me doing what we do best. If I am hand embroidering, I am happy to be in company but again, I am muchly happy to be on my own. It would appear I like to craft alone, at home, for crafting is my therapy. I put the world to rights in my head and I cannot do that unless I am alone. Perhaps it is a fall back to the days when our home was filled with noise and small beings and I would retreat to my crafting for quiet at the end of the day. However can I just say, whatever or whenever I am crafting at home, my constant canine companions are always close by, they are terribly good at listening without judgment, not talking back and admiring my creations however dodgy they may be turning out to be.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I am a lover of the seasons, having only ever lived where seasons come and go. I go into full-on nesting mode which involves many a cunning plan to knit or crochet when the chilly days appear. And when the sun becomes my friend again, I find it most tricky to give yarn any consideration. Fabric on the other hand is a year round creativity for me, not in the least affected by the seasons. Therefore it would be true to say, yarn can fall out of favor, whereas fabric is always in favor with me.

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

Can it be a confession? For I must confess, as I have carried it inside for donkeys years: My trusty crochet hook is just not a handsome chappy yet he does a fine job at stopping the old aches and pains in my joints. However, I am ashamed to admit, his non-aesthetic ways do not please when it comes to taking photos, and I will lay out my natty bit of crocheted goodness and heartlessly toss him aside for a ‘staged’ bamboo hook for the photo opportune moment. Yes I am a rotter of the worse kind, and just confessing this sin has me weighed down even more in guilt for my Mr Hook and not feeling in the least bit lighter, as I had hoped.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

What are you working on right now?

Like so many makers, I have a fair few things I should be working on or deadlines looming yet I have mastered the fine art of procrastination, resulting in many hours spent making and doing what pleases me, rather than what is of priority. I have tried in more recent times to pull up my crafty knee socks and get a better balance, thus I work on the must-dos, and give myself a pat on the back with a day off pottling about my crafty space without agenda. Recently my bonce (head) has been filled with notions of:

1. embroidered knitted mittens and fingerless friends
2. macramé oversized, cascading down the wall, made with leftover threads and yarn
3. vintage hmong strings of happy
4. doilified dream catchers with beards
5. 1930s knitted neck warmers
6. oversized pom poms made from a variety of leftover yarns
7. making another set of knitted sleeves proving to myself second sleeve syndrome does not have to be for life
8. plump roundie crocheted cushions made from the gigantic yarn cone I bought back from my travels to Marrakech earlier in the year
9. adding to my granny trousseau. I am not yet to be a granny but I am planning for the future as my knitting of small garments is slow going. I will make it a lending library of sorts for my clan, to love and to use and then to return for the next small being in line
10. publishing my dottie angel frock pattern in the late spring of next year

Yes, that is what my head is filled with, day and night, some of which I am working on, some of which is in the pipeline for a rainy procrastinating sort of day to come along, and all bar one are personal, hence proving my knee socks have not been pulled up after all and my ability to become a professional crafter is still a long way away.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Jen Beeman (Grainline Studio)

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Photos © Tif Fussell

 

New Favorites: Groovy crochet tunic

New Favorites: Groovy crochet tunic

I’m still thinking about my new year’s resolution to crochet something, and about the Kelbourne girls’ #crochetsummer14 campaign. It occurred to me I could use this Purl Bee potholder pattern to crochet that Shelter 7 blanket (rug?) I want. Which would probably take me a few summers. But then I came across this Marie Wallin tunic called Gozo that I want even more — in heather grey, of course. I’d seam the sides together, leaving just a long slit at the bottoms, to make it a little less poncho-ish. I don’t think I have anywhere near the crochet skills required to work it, but that’s how we learn, right? I might be crazy enough to try it.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Summertastic wash cloths

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

Before I had any idea who she was, it was an encounter with Joelle Hoverson’s book More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts that led (within hours) to my learning to knit. You probably already know she’s the co-owner of Purl Soho, that lovely NY store (and webshop) that also supplies us greedy makers with the amazing resource known as The Purl Bee. Having gotten to know Joelle a little bit through Instagram and Pinterest, I asked if she’d be willing to answer my Our Tools, Ourselves questions, and it turned out the whole wildly talented Purl Bee crew wanted to weigh in. So here’s a collective glimpse into the crafting lives of Joelle and Page along with Whitney, Laura, Molly and Corinne, whose names you’re sure to recognize from their copious Purl Bee patterns. Thanks for playing along, ladies!

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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew…?

In our private lives, everyone who works on the Purl Bee does a lot of some things and a little of everything else, but publicly, Joelle knits, crochets and sews; Page sews; Whitney knits and crochets; Laura knits and needlepoints; Molly sews and embroiders (and makes friendship bracelets!); and Corinne sews and embroiders … Unless Molly’s crocheting and Laura’s sewing!

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

One thing you’re sure to see at a Purl Bee meeting is a table littered with Purl Soho Zip Bags from Baggu. We all store our projects in them because the zippered opening keeps everything safely inside, no matter how carelessly we treat the bag. And we love the colors!

Another popular tool around here is Sajou’s incredibly beautiful scissors. Half of us vote for the Ciseaux Lievre and half of us are Ciseaux Tour Eiffel fans, but bunnies or monuments, both pairs of scissors are very sharp, very precise and very lovely!

The knitters all agree on a few indispensable tools: Skacel’s new Addi Rocket circular needles have nice, pointy tips and super fast shafts. The combo makes a world of difference when you’re working with lace weight yarns or knitting up fancy stitch patterns. We’re all also newly in love with Fringe Supply’s Brass Stitch Markers, a small detail that adds so much pleasure to knitting!

The sewists on the Bee have some favorites too: We love Merchant & Mills classic tailoring tools: their Pin Magnet, Bodkins and whole collection of straight pins. And we all use Purl Soho’s Hand Sewing Needles which come in a sweet wooden case and are as easy as pie to thread.

And we can’t not mention a few other favorites: the Addi Turbo Needle Gauge (very handy), Clover’s Bias Tape Makers (a must-have), and Ka’s Aluminum Stitch Holders (can’t beat the colors!).

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

We all seem to “organize” our vast collections of supplies in a vast collection of containers! From vintage enamel pots to candy tins and from plastic bins to woven baskets, we all agree that the chaos is only tenuously under control.

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

The entire Purl Bee team agrees on this one: Baggu Zipper Pouches! Joelle, as a rule, keeps her most current project in the Purl Soho version, which we all think is a pretty smart idea.

Are there any particular prized possessions amongst your tools?

Laura still hangs onto the crochet hook her mother gave her when she learned how to pick up dropped stitches. It’s banged up and battered at this point, but definitely treasured. And we all consider our Sajou scissors pretty special. Since we use them to snip final threads and tails, they’re the tool that comes in to finish the job with style!

Do you lend your tools?

We’d be pretty pathetic craft emissaries if we hoarded all of our tools for ourselves! We all tend to “lend” our tools with no expectation of getting them back. “Just keep it!”

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

What is your favorite place to knit/crochet/whatever?

The sewists on our team use their kitchen tables, and since they’re all moms, late nights are their witching hours. The knitters and crocheters are, of course, more mobile: airplanes, couches, floors, subways, parks and movie theaters are some of their favorite spots for sneaking in a few rows.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

We craft year-round, but we definitely use seasonal materials: cotton, bamboo and linen in the summer and cashmere, alpaca and wool in the winter. And in preparation for the winter holidays, we always design a few extra-special things!

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

We all have an embarrassingly large amount of fabric and yarn stashed in the closets, drawers and dark corners of our homes. And like all crafters, we have piles of unfinished projects, dating back to the last century!

What are you working on right now?

Since everything we work on ends up on the Purl Bee, you’re about to find out!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Naturally, all of the team’s favorite tools are available at Purl Soho. And I’m thrilled to announce that now includes the full line of Fringe Supply Co. original goods!

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Anna Maltz

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Nesting fantasies

Nesting fantasies

People keep asking if I know where we’re going to live in Nashville and the answer is: Nope. No idea. I’m just hoping for white walls and hardwood floors — all I ever really hope for — and am happily fantasizing about a new set of rooms and what will go in them. Mostly I’m thinking about blankets. I have an idea I need to test, and I’ll tell you all about it if that pans out. But meanwhile, I ran across these beauties from Shelter 7 (at sfgirlbybay) and now all I can think is “mmmm, crochet.”

I might really have to join Courtney Kelley for her #crochetsummer2014.

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Witnessing the birth of a new yarn

Witnessing the birth of a new yarn

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite Instagrammers is Benjamin Hole, a phenomenal photographer who works and records daily life on his family’s farm on the Isle of Purbeck. The farm itself is beyond scenic; the bulls are handsome, the sheep adorable. Hole himself seems to be a lovely human being, and does such a beautiful job of telling the daily story of  the farm that I confess I cried when one of his dogs, Hamish, died last year. Some days I wonder if I’ve seen it all enough times to move on, but I can never quite bring myself to stop following, and I’m glad — because last week brought the announcement of big news from the farm. After selling their wool to mills for years, to be used in bedding or blended with other wools, etc., they’ve decided to begin spinning their Poll Dorset wool into their own small-batch yarn, working with a local old mill. The brand is Hole & Sons, and you can follow them on their new website and blog as well as on Instagram.

Of course, there are new yarns born all the time, but this is one perfect example (among many) of a trend I hope continues to grow and grow into normalcy: knowing where your yarn comes from. Appreciating that it once was the fleece of a living, breathing sheep, and understanding the value of maintaining that awareness and connection as yarn addicts, but also valuing traditional, minimally processed yarn that retains its own sense of those sheep.

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All photos Benjamin Hole / Hole & Sons

FO Sightings: Junko’s patchwork shawl

FO Sightings: Junko's patchwork shawl

Ran across this lovely Japanese knitter the other day, Junko, and can’t stop thinking about this shawl from her feed. (Here’s another shot of it.) It’s a totally delightful patchwork quilt of granny squares and garter stitch squares — such a perfect combo. As so many of you recently noted, making little squares and such is the perfect warm-weather way to knit, and a wrap is more achievable (at least for me!) than a whole blanket. Not to mention a great stash-buster …

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Jen Hewett bags: too pretty to last

Jen Hewett drawstring bags: too pretty to last!

You guys, I have something really sweet and special for you in the webshop today: a very limited number of muslin drawstring bags from artist Jen Hewett. They’re lovely and useful and hand-printed and there are only 32 of them in the world and you should rush right over there and get one, but when you get back, I’ll tell you why this is especially special to me. Go ahead …

<whistling>

… so Jen was one of several creative women I was following a couple of years ago when I was pondering throwing caution (aka my job) to the wind and starting Fringe. I found her by way of a very popular pin about her post-it note to-do system and wound up an avid reader of her blog, where she wrote a lot about dividing her time between her corporate HR consulting gig and her creative business. It was all very inspiring and helpful to me, so I owe her a debt of gratitude for unknowingly providing that.

Meanwhile, I’ve been following her on Instagram for a long time, where she’s currently doing a little project called #52weeksofprintmaking. Each week she carves a block just for the sake of flexing her creative muscle (and Instagramming it) and prints it onto something and then Instagrams the finished piece. It might be a pillow or a wall-hanging or just about anything, but it’s just for her. Last week she posted these yarn ball-like blocks and it didn’t really register with me until she showed them printed onto a muslin bag. Even though I know it wasn’t intended to be a product, I immediately asked if I could please have some for Fringe Supply Co. and she obliged, lovingly printing 32 bags, front and back — all by hand — and stamping the inside with her logo. You can see them in the making on her Instagram feed. It makes me really happy to have them in the shop, but I don’t expect them to last long, given how few of them there are.

And if they happen to be gone before you read this, hold out hope that Jen and I will collaborate on more Fringe goods — I know I am.

OH, AND! the gorgeous Rosewood DPNs have been restocked, so all sizes are available again.

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Happy Friday, everyone! Thanks for reading —