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!