Friday, January 18, 2013

Fiber Crafts ~ Why and How They Apply To Self Sufficiency

What are they? Fiber arts include--crocheting, knitting, weaving, spinning of raw material into yarn or thread, dyeing, embroidery and other thread and needle work, basket making, beadwork, braiding, clothing design, felting, hooking, lacework, quilting, sewing and well as the raising of crops or animals specifically for use in producing fiber...such as cotton, hemp, milkweed, bamboo, yucca, sheep, alpacas, Llamas or rabbits.

Stuff comes from somewhere and is made of something right? Where are you getting clothes if no one knows how to spin raw wool or cotton into yarn and then make something durable and lasting out of it? Oh yeah you've prepped enough of everything in every size you'll ever need and your socks never wear out. 

Knitting first, since that's what I am learning, then crocheting.

The oldest known examples of knitting are some very stylized 'Coptic socks' from 1000 CE Egypt. This makes the practice of knitting around 1100-1200 years old, given they had to have time to learn and perfect the art. It is believed knitting originated in the Middle East and moved north along trade routes. In Europe during the 1400s Knitting guilds were formed and were exclusively male with structured apprenticeship systems in order to improve the quality of the craft and the clientele. We occasionally add a new technique as it passes down through history but knitting is still mostly unchanged from twelve hundred years ago. Knitting needles are essentially just sharpened sticks so if you know how and have some string, you can create literally any article of clothing.

Crocheting it appears is more dubious leaping into our recorded history in the early 1800's. The word crochet originates from the French word "croche" meaning hook. However some believe crocheting with a hook could have existed as early as 1500A.D. and may have been part of nun’s work or nun’s lace which included needle point lace and bobbin lace for churches. Others believe that some lace from Egyptian tombs were actually crocheted by twisting pieces of cotton between the fingers and making the loops by hand and that it originated in the area around Afghanistan. Many ancient fishing nets also include finger loop in loop work and are much like crochet. Where ever it came from it is certain that crocheting items for sale saved the Irish from starvation during the famine of the late 1800’s and gave us Irish Crochet Lace.

Some ancient Fiber arts terms that you may or may not have heard of are NÃ¥lebinding or Naalbinding and Tambouring. Naalbinding is worked with a single hook or needle but relates more closely to knitting. It is still in practice today in the Camisea region of Peru. NÃ¥lebinding also remains popular in the Scandinavian countriesthe, the Balkans and Iran. Tambouring which some believe to be the source of crochet and is known better today as tambour embroidery, is still practiced in its native home of France and called Luneville in French. One can find a course in it here or there in the states.

Week 1---Dec 25th-Jan 1st
In my initial experience I have decided knitting and crochet are very very different. It is my understanding that yes they both produce blankets and wearables. Knitting upon further inspection is supposed to produce a stretchier fabric and better socks while crocheting produces a superior laciness. It is also my understanding that Knitting has only a few basic simple stitches while Crocheting has many different stitches. So you would think that crocheting would be the harder one, right? Ha! The book I got is very basic and I can't even figure out how to cast on in order to get started. I definitely need more information and pictures.

Week 2-Jan 2nd-Jan 9th
I have noticed so far that while most people use the same terms and techniques for crocheting this is far from true with knitting. There are multiple ways just to get the yarn on the needle to start your item with...though everyone agrees this is basically called casting on. The knit stitch I have heard called just that...or knitting...or the garter stitch. Are they the same? I've no Idea for sure but they look exactly the same in every YouTube video I've seen. Furthermore where does my yarn go...right side, left side...and do I go in the front or the back with the needle? Does it matter as long as I pull a loop through and off? My brain may just explode trying to get it all straight. Apparently they are all correct knitting methods and it depends on where you learned. Oh and the whole hold two sticks and the yarn thing...that's three things...I've got two hands and dang if they don't hurt.

Week 3-Jan 3-Jan 10th
I've casted on and frogged(pulled it out) about 3 or 4 times and now have two very ugly rows of something...garter stitch, I believe....wide enough for a modest scarf. How the heck does anyone ever work a large blanket anyway...with all the stitches on the needle all at once? In crocheting it’s one stitch at a time whether it’s a baby blanket, sweater, or king sized blanket. I cannot imagine holding enough stitches for a king sized blanket on a set of hooks until it’s finished. Whoa.. then there is the whole switching of hands at the end of the row, which is front and which is back? Does it matter? I imagine in fair isle it does and I love cable knits, crocheting cannot match it. I can see why crocheting came along though....someone found a simpler easier way to do a great number of things and add variety.

Week 4- Jan 11-17
I'm on a medical restriction due to a fall and bump to my head a few weeks back and have been told I cannot exercise my brain in order for it to heal. I may only do small bits and spurts of activity at a time. So I guess I'll be taking a break and trying to learn how to knit all over again in a few weeks. Perhaps my difficulties are more related to using my head to break a fall than knitting.

My favorite places for help are on YouTube...I'm better aided visually. For knitting a user or group of users called "allfreeknitting" has been the most help so far...maybe because they are closest to what my mom tried to show me. For crocheting I look for Crochet by Teresa or by tjw1963. She is by far my favorite. For patterns I usually search the web. Pinterest and the yarn manufacturers have some great free patterns. I am on ravelry and craftsy too both are great sites for networking with others to get new patterns, learn new stitches and get advice on your art. Craftsy also offers some really great classes if you can't get out to one or want something that isn't offered in your area. My favorite books for either crochet or knitting are the "answer books" by Storey publishing. The Knitting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliffe and The Crochet Answer Book by Edie Eckman (both available on the Kaya Books page). They are simple, concise, and cover beginner to experienced crafts people. They are available at the local library but I'd love to add them to my collection of self sufficiency books.

Now I PROMISED I would not leave out the guys. I found plenty of patterns for guys and some by guys. Apparently if you are a woman who knits you also probably know another woman who knits. Likewise if you are a man who knits you probably know a woman who knits. This is not true if you are a guy who knits of other guys though so here are some links just especially for the guys who may be doing this.


Famous male knitters--I couldn't really find verifiable information for a single well known male knitter but amongst the rumored men who knit are Laurence Fishburne, Brad Pitt and Russell Crowe. One of the few Known confirmed knitters is Antonio Banderas who is said to have learned to knit from Catherine Zeta Jones while recovering from an injury.

Men knitting or participating in the fiber arts seems to picking up everywhere though.


The most well-known male crocheter is the crochet dude, Drew Emborsky. He is on YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest and has his own website and blog. He also has his own product line of pattern books and crochet supplies.

Other men who crochet that you might have heard of are Miami Dolphins linebacker Mike Rivera, James Buchanan the 15th U.S. President, and George Washington Carver.

That's about all I could factually nail down or confirm from more than one source.

It is said that David Arquette does both knitting and crocheting but I could not confirm that he does either one. It is also highly and hotly debated at times that Roosevelt Grier of the NY Giants knits and crochets. I believe he is better known however for his needlepoint. Either one of them are welcome to confirm their standing in fiber arts with us though.

I must add this disclaimer...The viewpoints expressed in this blog may have been slightly skewed by an injury to the author...I fell on the 16th of December and suffered a concussion. As the doctor ordered rest and inactivity on the 8th of January, when I finally gave in and saw her, week 4 was/is null and void as I did no knitting that week. Week 3 was not quite a full week either. Next time I promise I will see the Dr. Sooner.

Wish me much patience, I'll need it. Don't forget to post your suggestions and favorite links as well. Everyone can always use a good link.


As always you can join the Facebook group, like the Facebook community page, and visit the website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.

1 comment:

  1. Another place to for help is the yarn manufacturer...for example