Living the Homestead Dream: An Interview with Quinn of Reformation Acres

Today, I am beyond thrilled to be able to bring you an interview with Quinn of Reformation Acres!  I’ve been following her blog and facebook page for sometime, and it is such an inspiration.  She is a homesteader, blogger, and also crafts all-natural skincare items.   Quinn has been gracious enough to take the time to share some of her insights with me, and I am excited to pass them on to you.  If you are interested in the homesteading life, read on…

Quinn

Moth & Rust: Tell me about your name, Reformation Acres; is there a story behind that?
Quinn: The name Reformation Acres was born of a purpose more than from a story.  Whether it’s our lives or our land, we want to always be reforming. We want to evaluate not only ourselves but our farm practices, to continually be making improvements. We want to steward, heal, nourish, and regenerate the land… leaving it better than we found it. The healthier our land is, the healthier our food and herbs will be, and the healthier and more productive we will be!
M&R:  How long have you been involved with gardening/homesteading?
Q:  It’s hard to believe it has been that long, but we’ve started our first garden 2006 and pretty much started building a homestead from there on. The “gateway livestock”, chickens, came the next year, pigs the year after, and then a family cow the following year.  What can I say? We were hooked.

Every year has its challenges and I’m always impressed by how much I still have to learn. We designed our first herb garden around that chicken coop and it sparked a fire within me to constantly be building my knowledge of herbs, particularly the health benefits found in medicinal herbs, flowers, and roots. With a family of 10 I’m given plenty of opportunity to discover new ways to use herbs to improve our health and well-being!
M&R:  What motivate or inspires you to pursue and continue homestead life?
Q:  When you grow and raise your own food, it has 3 secret ingredients that can’t be found in any other food on the planet. Your own blood, sweat, and tears. Those 3 secret ingredients make every single thing you eat taste better! I don’t understand how that magical process happens, but it’s totally true! That’s motivation enough alone!But it is indescribably satisfying to have such a close connection with the earth and your family, all working together to put food on the table. We want our children to learn where their food comes from and understand what goes into their food, the sacrifices that are made so they can eat. Even if they don’t do the work themselves one day, I want them to appreciate the ones who are! We want them live balanced lives and hopefully create a good work ethic that will serve them the rest of their lives.

Also, we’ve come to realize that, in most facets of the homestead, we couldn’t afford not to homestead. To buy meat and milk raised with the care we give our animals, and vegetables grown as naturally as we grow ours would be devastating to our budget.

Reformation Acres’ Super Scrub Gardener’s Soap

M&R:  How did you become involved with making soaps and balms?  How did you learn the process?
Q:  When I had babies, I started reading labels on everything. I stumbled across The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their Skin Deep Database. It really made me think about everything we were exposing our bodies to through our largest organ, our skin. I learned that most soaps you’ll find in the store aren’t really soaps, but are synthetic detergents. I wanted better for myself and my family. I learned from seasoned soap makers how to make real, cold-processed soap. I was nervous at first, but it didn’t take long before I was hooked! It is so much fun discovering new ways to incorporate the things we were making on our farm into our soaps! I’m always brainstorming new ideas and combinations. The only downside is my soap-making can often be limited by the seasons. We moved to a new and larger farm a few months ago and we’re planning to grow a larger volume of botanicals and herbs that can be preserved for off-season use.

Dandelion Salve

M&R:  Can you tell me about the ingredients you use?
Q:  We use only natural ingredients in all of our products. No artificial fragrances, no synthetic dyes in anything we make! Whenever possible, we incorporate local ingredients in our products, preferably those from right off our farm. Whether that’s milk from our Jersey cow, Holly,  jewelweed growing down by the creek, produce from the garden, or comfrey under the apple tree. Those herbs and flowers that we don’t have on our farm but use in our products, we are in the process of getting established to the point where we can sustainably harvest.We have chosen to be 100% palm-free. This is so important to us! Palm oil is one of the most common, versatile oils you’ll find in handmade soaps. It’s also one of the largest contributors to deforestation and habitat loss for native species where the trees are grown. Instead, the base oil used in most our soaps is local purified tallow made from the suet of cattle grazing the hillsides in Amish country, Holmes County Ohio. Instead of being thrown out, we are able to take what would end up as waste,  saponify and redeem it to make the most creamy & bubbly, moisturizing & nourishing soap for your skin!

 

Reformation Acres’ Burn Salve

M&R:  Which products are your favorites and why?
Q:  Oh my goodness! This is such a tough question because I love them all (or I wouldn’t dare sell them!) Right now, it’s the dead of winter and my dry skin is so thankful for my Calendula Butter Hand Salve. But when I burn myself in the kitchen, my favorite product is Burn Salve. It instantly soothes the burn. When my face breaks out, I grab a bar of Tomato Soap and it’s cleared up in days. In the summer, when we start getting bug bites and poison ivy, I’m reaching for the Jewelweed Salve to bring relief from all the scratching. But I’m a lover of simple things and my favorite soap, after all my creations, is still Cream

Anti-Itch Jewelweed Salve

Line. It’s such a great bar of soap! I love everything about it- the fresh scent, the lather, how extraordinarily well it cleans without drying out my skin, and especially how long it lasts compared to other handmade soaps I’ve used!

M&R:  How do you hope your products and blog will influence others?
Q:  You know what would be truly awesome? I would love hearing a story one day about someone who used our herbal, farm-based products and it sparked a connection with the land. They were drawn to experience it in a closer, more real and tangible way. Perhaps then a visit to our website would encourage them to take that first step. Not to look at the obstacles that might be in their way, but to get their hands dirty (literally) and learn the satisfaction of being a producer. Is that too much to wish for?  I sure hope not!

M&R:  How has your community (online or offline) impacted your homestead journey?
Q:  I have the most amazing community building me up and encouraging me! I am so humbled every day by the love and support I get! Early on in our homestead journey, I realized how dependent we become on God. Through the influences of nature, we only have so much control. The rest is up to Him. Some years He provides and other years He doesn’t, but we find it’s always balanced in another area of production. It makes you realize what a misnomer “self-sufficiency” really is.

But as we continue on our journey, we realize we are even less self-sufficient than we at first thought. Though we know more now than we have before, we are just as dependent on our community for encouragement, support, wisdom, and often-times the hands to make it all possible!

M&R:  Does homestead life ever become overwhelming?  How do you recharge and keep things balanced?
Q:  Does it ever! And I’ve learned that the feeling of overwhelm ebbs and flows with the seasons so on one level I know that it will get better soon. But I’ve also learned that I don’t have to “do it all.” We have chosen to do the things that best suit our families needs and passions and focused on them instead of being rockstar homesteaders.  Still I struggle with getting overwhelmed. I used to push through and run myself ragged, but I now know that  in the end it will only burn me out. I’ve really had to force myself to take care of me too! When I find myself stressing, I head to the woods and pray! (Or spend a little extra time brushing and talking to my cows.) Being creative helps keep me balanced and my passion for soap making allows me to be creative and productive at the same time!

M&R:  What advice would you give to someone who wants to become more self-sufficient but believes they don’t have the enough resources?
Q:  Learn something. Don’t make excuses. It really, truly doesn’t matter where you live. You can build skills. And the things you learn to do with your own two hands, no one can ever take that away from you!  And in those skills you’ll find empowerment! It’s the little things, the baby steps you take that create a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Look around and find one thing in your kitchen you could make yourself instead of buying and learn how to make it! There is large and powerful network of people on the internet eager to help you take that first step!

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I am, again, so grateful to Quinn for taking the time to do this interview with me.  Please be sure to visit the Reformation Acres website for insightful articles, how-to posts, resources, and more; and be sure to stop by the Reformation Acres Etsy shop to check out her amazing products.  

Ways to Support Artists/Makers/Local Biz without Spending Money

While making an actual monetary investment is a wonderfully straightforward (and always appreciated!) way of supporting a small business or artist, there are times when you simply don’t have the funds, or really just don’t need what they’re selling at the moment.  That doesn’t mean you can’t still help out!  Until you’re ready to give them your cash again, here are a few ways you can show the love:

1.  Click that “Share” button so your friends can learn about the fantastic work your favorites are doing…it might be just what they were looking for.

2.  then “like” and comment!  While bills cannot be paid with good vibes (unfortunately), we still appreciate them!  And sometimes, the simplest kind word can totally make someone’s day.

3.  Write a review and/or leave feedback for previous purchases.  If you’ve bought items from a seller via Etsy or a similar venue, don’t forget the feedback!  You can also leave a review on their facebook page, on Google, Yelp, etc…

4.  Blog about them, if you have a blog.  If not, maybe just throw a nice tweet out there (and don’t forget to tag them!)

5.  Offer your time if the need arises.  This doesn’t seem to happen too often, but it’s not unheard of.  Every now and then, an indie artist or maker might need volunteers for a project.  Whether it’s setting up a show or posting fliers around town, think about setting aside a few moments for this if you can.

6.  Actually tell your friends, in real life.  In the virtual whirlwind of information, things can get overlooked.  Don’t forget to tell your friends, in person, about that business or artist you just adore!

Can you think of other ways to support local without spending cash?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Favorite Fabrics: The Feedsack Dress

There is something so appealing to me about the feedsack dress.  Though sometimes viewed as a symbol of the necessary frugality (or, poverty,) of the Depression era, it was also a way to “[give] rural women a sense of fashion.”  I’d love to see this type of practical reuse come back (though granted, less people are living in rural settings and don’t usually find themselves purchasing large bags of feed…)

I know “the good old days” were not always a fairy tale, but you have to admit this aspect of past times is pretty dreamy.  And aside from the upcycling aspect, the prints were so fun and cheerful!

Yellow tiered feedsack dress from Dreem Co, $165
’30s feedsack dress from Vintage Clothing and Co, $114.99
1940s Dress from Carla and Carla, $145

When searching for examples, I even found this children’s play costume of Cleopatra!

Vintage feedsack from Maudelynn, $98

Of course, these colorful fabrics were also utilized for crafting quilts and other items that were useful around the house…

Yo-yo Twin Size Quilt from Upswing Vintage, $225
Floral Feedsack Apron from Hatfeathers Vintage, $32.49

Craftsy has a lovely post about feedsack quilting that talks a bit more about feedsack fabric, which you can read here.

Valentine’s Finds

Are you still looking for that perfect gift for your sweetheart(s)?  If you’re like me, you probably are, because you like to wait until the last possible minute.  ;)   Check out these fabulous finds now!

Mint and rose soap by Rouge and Rye, $8
Unicorn necklace by Moon Garden Designs, $26
Bunny Pouch by Orange Apollo, $12.74

 

Tiny Bird by Art Farm, $6
Leather keychain by Tenerina Bags, $15.37
Hematite Star Earrings by Beees Beads, $10
Heart ornament by the handmaid, $10
Dress Pattern PDF by Very Shannon, $9.95
Handwoven cowl by These Isles, $174.14
Floral arrangement by The Plaid Prairie, $28
Mini Max doll by Duke and June, $28

You Can Art: Opinions from a Non-Expert (Mini Zine!)

One of my goals for this year is to try and create a zine each month…or at least, every other month…(I mean, let’s not get carried away!)  But I’m happy to say that so far, I’m on track.  This month’s zine features some mixed media/collage work and my thoughts on creating art.  It measures 2.75″ x 4.25″ and is 16 pages (not including covers).  This is a very limited edition zine, with only 12 available, in three cover style choices.  You can purchase it over at the Etsy shop.

Tribal Stripe Coasters (Free Knitting Pattern!)

{Originally published September 2012 on Prairiesque}

I published this free pattern long ago on my old blog, and thought it was time to post again…this is a simple yet fabulous stitch pattern, (if I do say so!)   Like zipper pouches and coffee mugs, you just can’t have too many coasters.  Make these in some bright colors for a fresh & breezy feel, or maybe try them in a lovely subdued wool for something a little more hygge…

Tribal Stripes Linen Stich Coasters

Materials:

  • 2 Balls (each a different color) of Sugar’n Cream yarn (or any worsted weight cotton)
  • US 5  (3.75 mm) straight needles
  • tapestry needle

Abbreviations:
CO = Cast on
st(s) = stitch(es)
MC = main color
CC = contrasting color
k = knit
p = purl
sl = slip stitch

Instructions:

Using MC, CO 20 sts.

Row 1: k1, bring yarn to the front, sl 1, bring yarn to back, repeat.
Row 2:  p1, bring yarn to the back, sl 1, bring yarn to front, repeat.
Row 3:  k1, bring yarn to the front, sl 1, bring yarn to back, repeat.
Row 4:  p1, bring yarn to the back, sl 1, bring yarn to front, repeat.

*Attach CC.  Using CC, repeat rows 1 and 2 once.

Using MC, repeat rows  1, 2, 3, and 4 once.

Repeat from * four times.  Bind off loosely, weave in ends.  Enjoy!

 

Breton / French Sailor Top! (Free Sewing Pattern.)

{This pattern was originally published July 2016 on my now defunct blog, Prairiesque.}

I’ve been wanting to make my own striped blouse/Breton top/French sailor shirt for a long time.   I had made the pattern, but it was surprisingly difficult to find just the right fabric.  I finally found a great fabric at Needle Nook Fabrics here in Wichita.  (One of my favorite shops, by the way.  Check them out!!)

sailor top fabric

This is my original pattern, which I’m offering for free–please use as you wish!   (If you plan to sell a finished product based on the pattern, it would be much appreciated if you would mention Moth & Rust as the source of your pattern. Thank you!)

This particular pattern only covers a small range of sizes; however, it is a fairly basic two-piece pattern, which can be easily adjusted at the sides and in the middle or hem.  Also, it may fit differently depending on how stretchy your knit fabric is.   The best thing to do is experiment with some comparable but inexpensive fabric before making the final piece!  Instructions are as follows:

  1.  Print all pages (in the gallery below) and piece together with tape, using the picture below and alignment bars as a guide.
  2. The front and back of the bodice are the same, except for the neckline.  Place on fold to cut.  The sleeve is also placed on the fold when cutting.
  3.  With right sides together, stitch at shoulders.  You can use a 1/2″ or 5/8″ seam allowance.  I would also suggest stitching some non-stretch lace or ribbon along the shoulder seems to keep them from stretching.
  4. Pin armhole side of sleeve to bodice armhole, right sides together, and stitch.   Make sure your stripes align, at least close to the armpit/bottom of the armhole.
  5. With right sides together, pin garment so that sleeve edges and side edges are together (again, aligning stripes) and stitch up sides.  Be especially careful when matching up the stripes on the bodice!!  I learned the hard way that stripes may be together, but if you don’t match the corresponding stripes, you will end up essentially with a spiral going around the body, which makes getting a straight hem impossible.
  6. Hem arm holes, bottom, and neckline. You may also want to use ribbon or a running stitch in your neckline to prevent stretching.

sailortop5

sailortop3

The chart here shows how the sections will print and how they are pieced together:breton pattern layout

To print the pattern pieces, click on each thumbnail below and print directly from that page, or save to your computer.

 

Zine Love

God willing, 2018 will be the year of more ART.

Often times, I am torn between my desire to create and my desire to sit on my backside and stare at books (…or the internet…a lot of times, the internet, if I’m being honest…)

Anyway.  I mean to work on that.  I want to paint and just make more cool stuff.  If you know me, you know I have an obsession with zines.  I’ve only made a couple myself.  But there is something so indescribably attractive to me about these little books.  Maybe it’s all the possibility for freedom and expression in these often minuscule volumes.  Who knows.

A fabulous box of books…

As I’m scanning online sources (ironic, eh?!) for inspiration, I’m coming across some interesting-looking zines and other handmade books.  What about you?  Have you ever created one, or would you like to?  Do you have a favorite zine?

Filmage: A 35mm Photo Zine
Double zine pack with extras
Sketchbook by Molly Egan
Matchbox zine by Caelli Jo Brooker
A map of leaves
Zine Mermaids by Nina Schindlinger
Sketchbook by Molly Egan
How to Knit
Poetry zine

Is #moreart on your list of goals for 2018?  I’d love to see what you’ve been working on!

My Foray into Natural Dyeing

After owning and ogling the book Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes by Jenny Dean for several years now–which, by the way, I highly recommend–I have finally decided to begin my own experiments.

I must tell you that I am in no way (for the time being) concerned about precision in my dyeing adventures; naturally, you MUST follow the safety rules!!  Some things can be toxic, and you should know what those are and how to deal with them.  However, when it comes to the rest of it, I’m a loose canon.  Everything I’ve done so far as concerns times, quantities, etc., has been guess work.  Dean advises the reader to take accurate notes, which is certainly something to do if you want to reproduce a certain result.  However, I’m not too concerned with that yet–my main objective has been to see if I can even get any color out of the process!

As a general rule, your dyestuff, when dry, should be equal in weight to the fibers you are dyeing.  In both cases, I used considerably less dyestuff than fiber.  This was partially intentional to see just how much you would have to have to get any color, and partially because I didn’t have much available to me.

Usually, you’ll want to use a mordant, which is something that helps the dye to sort of stick.  Common mordants are alum, copper, and iron.  (Again, please be sure to read Dean’s book, or another reliable resource, before setting out on your own!  This is really more of a brief account of my own experiences rather than a how-to.) 

So, I used some water (enough to soak all my pieces and give them some room to be stirred around), approximately two teaspoons of alum (the same used for pickling), and then roughly a handful (?!?) of dyestuff.  I threw it in all together at once, let it almost simmer outside (good ventilation is always recommended) for about 1 to 1.5 hours, then let it sit for an hour or so….I have rinsed these pieces fabrics, but have not properly laundered them with detergent, so I’m not sure if that will have much effect or not.

For my first trial, I used rose of sharon flowers…   

It was not what I expected, but the color turned out extremely lovely nonetheless…a very soft  celadon or mint.​ 

 

For the second, I used marigold flowers. 

The result was a very cheerful, bright yellow. 

A few of my observations: I really do need a lot more dyestuff, I think, if I want more color.  I already knew I wasn’t using enough, but next time, I will try to not skimp.  Also, the protein fibers like wool and silk seem to take on more color than the cellulose fibers, or the cotton and linen–but again, not a surprise, since alum is recommended as a mordant for protein fibers.

I’m looking forward to doing some more natural dyeing!

Gypsy Belle Jacket

This is just a little project/prototype I made for myself, and I wanted to share it…it was somewhat inspired by the lovely jacket Belle (Emma Watson) wears in the live action version of Beauty and the Beast.  (#nerdalert)

This was my first version of the jacket from the pattern I came up with.  There are quite a few things I will change when I make it in the future, most notably the style of peplum, but this particular garment is still special to me for a couple reasons.

As you can see, it has a super patchy, ragamuffin vibe, which, incidentally, is totally fine with me.  The yellow linen outside and the blue plaid lining are both repurposed fabrics taken from old garments.  The darker beige/green lustrous fabric you see in places on the outside are silk remnants.

I’m really pleased with the texture of the fabric and I’m glad I took the time to do some hand stitching around the edges…I always forget how much I love hand sewing like this.  I really love the buttons as well.  This was a fun exercise and inspired me to focus even more on repurposing/upcycling of garments and fabric in the future…

Interview with Jenny of Wichita Woolery

I’m excited today to bring you a fantastic interview with Jenny Brown, the artist behind Wichita Woolery.  I’ve been drooling over her gorgeous creations on her facebook page for some time, and she recently opened an Etsy shop where she offers hand dyed roving and handspun yarn for sale.  Check out the interview, then visit Jenny’s shop–you’ll be glad you did! 

M&R: How long have you been spinning and dyeing?
Jenny:  I started down the rabbit hole of spinning about five years ago after graduating with my Master’s degree.  I didn’t have a job lined up after graduation, and to be honest, wasn’t sure I wanted something in the industry that I just obtained my degree in.  I was already halfway through my program when I realized this, but toughed it out and just earned my degree anyway.  Knitting was always my comfort and self-care while in grad school, and I think it was then that I realized my true passion was the fiber arts.

I don’t recall how, but I came across a spinning class at City Arts. I really wanted to take it, but it was over $100 for the class, which was a lot of money for me to spend at the time. It just felt too self-indulgent to spend that kind of money especially when it could have been used for something else. My husband encouraged me to sign up for it though, and I’m SO glad he did! The class wasn’t offered for another few years because the instructor’s daughter had a baby, and she left Wichita to help take care of her new grandchild. It was during my classes at City Arts, where I was first introduced to dyeing. We had dyed fiber with Kool-Aid, and I loved the idea of being able to create any color yarn I wanted. Eventually, I started to dabble with dyeing at home for myself, and then more seriously dyeing for others in the last year and a half. 

What drew you to working with fiber?I think what continues to draw me to fiber and the needle arts in general, is the freedom to create whatever you want. I’m a Type A personality and like structure in nearly every other aspect of my life, but fiber and the needle arts has the capacity for me to be both structured and flexible in creating. It’s the perfect combination!

 

How did you learn your skills?
Growing up, there wasn’t anyone in my family who did anything related to fiber or the needle arts. One of my childhood best friends cross-stitched (she learned from her mother), and I remember thinking that it was so cool. I just loved how you could get a finished piece from the mosaic of multi-colored X’s. I begged her to teach me when I was in middle school, and it was my gateway drug into the needle arts. At 18, I taught myself to knit, which branched off into wanting to learn to spin, and spinning into dyeing, and the journey continues. 

What is the most satisfying part of working with wool (or other fibers)?
For me, the most satisfying thing of working with fiber is creating something from the source. Other than owning my own sheep and processing the fiber (maybe I will some day), I’m creating something from a raw state. I think in spinning there are two groups: process spinners and project spinners. I myself identify as a process spinner, meaning that I don’t spin my yarn with a project in mind, I just enjoy the process of creating yarn. It’s so satisfying starting with a blank slate,creating a color scheme for my roving, and making yarn, which the yarn can then be taken and made into a finished handmade item. Ever since I started spinning, it’s all I want to do in my free time when I’m not dyeing.

What are some of its challenges?
One of the biggest challenges of dyeing I’ve come to discover, is the learning curve. A lot of successful dyers out there aren’t really forthcoming with sharing their skillset with others, which saddens me. We all have something we could contribute to this industry, and rather than having a collective of like-minded individuals sharing passions, dyers hoard their skill set for their sole personal gain. It’s something I don’t really quite understand. Nevertheless, just figuring out my own working methods of dyeing from watching You Tube and reading the few books on dyeing that are out there has been a process.  One of the other challenges that I’ve had now that my Etsy store is open, is the same problem that every other shop on Etsy has… How does my shop get exposure? I’m at the point where I’d like to branch out a little bit and begin making fiber festival rounds to gain more exposure. Stay tuned on that…

Where do you find inspiration for your color combinations?
My inspiration comes from a variety of sources. I love looking at nature photos, which really is the best source if I feel blocked. My husband also helps me come up with colorways. He’s an artist himself, and has lots of color theory experience.  One of his favorite things to do is create pallets, and we’ll bounce ideas of each other. I also love looking at other artist’s work, including other fiber artists and indie dyers.

How do you hope your work will impact or influence others?
One of my hopes is that I can teach and inspire the next generation of fiber artists to continue on with this tradition that dates back thousands of years. I love sharing my knowledge and teaching others who are interested in the fiber arts, especially younger kids because I didn’t have anyone at that age who could have taught me. If I had, who knows where I would be now had I discovered my passion that early on.

Are you involved in any other types of craft?
Although 99.9% of my craft time is consumed by the fiber arts, I’m also interested in learning more about the crafty side of homesteading. Canning, raising chickens, making soap, candles, artisan breads and cheeses all sound like a lot of fun. Maybe one day I learn the skills for all of that, but for now I’m focused on what fulfills me the most, which is literally anything fiber. I feel like I still have yet to discover the end of the fiber rabbit hole.

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Thanks again to Jenny for sharing her time and insights with me and all of you.  It’s always a joy to connect with other creatives and learn from them!

Book Review: The Lost Art of Dress

 Recently, I finished reading The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski; I first learned about the book on Thread Cult (a favorite podcast about sewing and fashion.)  Being a fan of both fashion and history, the topic itself was tempting enough.  I found, though, that beyond simply providing a historical account of fashion, this book offers up a lot of food for thought on the way society has changed over time.

The book begins by introducing Mary Brooks Picken, one of the first “Dress Doctors,” or women who were designers, teachers, and writers, educating others on how to dress well, and even getting the government involved via the Bureau of Home Economics.

The Dress Doctors looked to the Five Principles of Art–harmony rhythm, balance, proportion, and emphasis–to advise women in their dress.  (Part of the reason vintage fashions are still so appealing is because they adhere to these very effective principles.)  The book discusses the “duties” and occasions of dress, offers lots of interesting facts and anecdotes, and finally looks at the decline of the Dress Doctors  (hint: it had a lot to do with the 1960s.)

What I enjoyed most about this book, though, was that it provided a bit of a window into the mindset of women of the past–a time when being sophisticated (read: over 30) was actually something young girls looked forward to, a time when people didn’t have the compulsion to tell every stranger they met about every detail of their life, a time when certain colors or articles of dress had a significant meaning.

You may not care to follow all the Dress Doctors’ rules for dress, but you may be inspired to take a cue from their outlook on living.  To them, fashion wasn’t just superficial, but ultimately held a connection to deeper things.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in history, art, fashion, or sociology.

Interview with Laura from The Corner of Knit and Tea

Laura is an Overland Park artisan who creates fabulous things from fiber and has them available for purchase at her online shop, The Corner of Knit & Tea.  She spins, knits, and–yes–loves tea!  (She’ll even add some of her favorite teas to your Etsy order!)  When her vibrant, oh-so-squishy-looking yarns first caught my eye, I knew I had to learn more about them, not to mention the maker behind them.  Laura has been gracious enough to take the time to share her creative story with me, and I am now honored to share it here with you…  

M&R: How long have you been spinning yarn?
Laura:  My grandmother, who was a Renaissance artist of sorts (painter, sculptor, illustrator, knitter and weaver that I know of), taught me how to knit when I was 6 or 7 years old. I loved going to visit her, getting to pick something out from her basement full of craft supplies, and sitting next to her on the couch as the cast the yarn on the needles for me to start another scarf.

While I continued to knit on and off throughout the years, I really got back into the craft in my 20’s when I was living in Los Angeles. I came across a lovely yarn and fiber store on my way home from work one night, and I started going to their informal knit nights, taking classes and learning new techniques. I had sort of felt stymied in learning more about the craft once my grandmother had passed away, but now I could keep learning.

The advent of Ravelry was really a turning point for me. All of a sudden there was a site where I could communicate with and learn from members of the fiber community all over the world. It was a kind Raveler who sent me my first braid of fiber and recommended that I purchase the book Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont to learn how to spin. This was the Spring of 2010.

​How did you learn to spin?
All through the Spring and Summer of 2010 I practiced on the spindle, learning to spin thinner and thinner and more consistently. At this point I was living in the Kansas City Metro Area and very close to the Harveyville Project, which hosts an event called Yarn School a couple of times a year. The owner, Nikol Lohr, is also an authorized dealer of spinning wheels. I was able to rent a wheel from her in the Fall of 2010 and teach myself how to spin on it. I purchased my first wheel, an Ashford Joy, for Christmas in 2010. I took a few spinning classes at a local yarn store (Yarn Barn in Lawrence), and then went back to attend Yarn School in the spring of 2012 and I was on my way!

How did you become interested in spinning?
I don’t know exactly what it was that drew me to spinning originally, other than the fact that it was a something new to learn and I’m always eager to learn more about the craft. Once I started however, I loved it.  

​Do you have a favorite fiber?
I really love choosing my materials. I tend to gravitate away from natural, unprocessed fibers. While I enjoy knowing where my fiber comes from I prefer to purchase fiber that has already been cleaned, combed/processed and dyed. I am always drawn to bright, intense colors – jewel tones are my favorite – and I really like variegated braids full of lots of colors. I find that these braids are the most interesting when spun up. A lot of people strive to make their spinning “as good as” commercial yarn; that is thin, even and looking quite uniform. I actually prefer my yarn to look handspun. That is, I want it to be a one of a kind item that looks handcrafted. I love a variety of colors in my fiber because those braids lend themselves to a barberpoled look. I tend to choose fiber that is well prepared, and I mostly stick to the softer fibers because I find that most people want fiber that is next to the skin soft for their projects. I do find some uses for slightly more rustic, sturdy fibers. For instance, while my favorite fibers to spin are Falkland, Polwarth and Targhee for their softness and bounce, I really think Corriedale makes an excellent yarn for sturdy socks.  

​What do you find most satisfying about your craft?
I also really love the process of spinning. For starters, no matter what the fiber looks like before I start spinning, I really can’t predict exactly how it will look spun up. That’s part of the fun – each skein is sort of an unexpected surprise. But in terms of the actual spinning of the fiber, I find the process very meditative and calming. There are enough things to think about to keep it from becoming boring – how fast should I treadle, how quickly should I draft the fiber through my fingers, how quickly do I want one color to flow into the next. But once I have made some of those decisions there’s a rhythm to it that I really enjoy. 

​What are some of the challenges?
The only challenges of my craft that I have found are that there is never enough time to accomplish everything I want to do and that, thus far, I haven’t found a way to make my creative life a career. These are both highly intertwined. Spinning yarn is a time intensive process. Each braid that I list in my shop takes between 5 and 8 hours to create. I try to price my handspun skeins of yarn competitively, but by the time I account for the cost of materials, what I earn for my time wouldn’t be a living wage. While I could certainly learn a more productive way to spin, or I could raise the prices of my yarn, I don’t know that there would be enough hours in the day or enough demand at higher prices to really allow me to sell handspun yarn for a living. So for now, I continue to have a day job, and pursue all my creative endeavors “after hours.” This means that even though I spend several hours of my free time each day knitting and spinning, there’s never enough time to make as much as I would like!

Where do you find inspiration for creativity?
I think I’m primarily inspired by visuals. What I mean is that I’m inspired by other people’s projects, by photographs that people translate into dyeing fiber or yarn. Again I really credit Ravelry and other social media (like Instagram) for so much inspiration because it allows creators all over the world to share what they are doing, particularly with visual images.

How do you hope your work will influence or impact others?
I hope that my work inspires people to learn the crafts that I enjoy (knitting and spinning), or to find ways to creatively express themselves, whatever form that might take. I also hope that I can give someone the experience of knitting with my handspun to create their own one of a kind item.

Be sure to visit Laura’s Etsy shop, The Corner of Knit & Tea, and check out her scrumptious yarn.  Laura’s blog and video podcast can be found at thecornerofknitandtea.com.  And of course, you can find her on Ravelry! 

Handcrafted in Kansas