Take a trip to your local big box craft store, or even a smaller, independently-owned LYS (local yarn shop), and you will find that there is an unbelievably wide range of yarns to choose from. It can be overwhelming! Color, thickness (also called “weight” in yarn lingo), and fiber type are all choices the crafter will need to make before purchasing yarn for their particular project. If a crafter has a pattern picked out, the pattern designer has most likely suggested a specific weight of thread so that the item turns out to be the size and shape intended. But the particular fiber type used is almost always up to the crafter. So, let’s dig into the different fiber types, the pros and cons, and how to choose which is right for you!
What do I even mean by fiber type? Well, I mean – what was the yarn before it was…yarn? The spun yarn is from either natural or synthetic materials. Natural materials include those derived from plants, such as cotton or bamboo, or those derived from animals, such as wool, alpaca, or silk. Synthetic materials, such as acrylic, are made from “synthetic polymers” in a lab and are produced with the use of chemicals. They mimic the texture and feel of natural fibers, but they are not found in nature.
So now that you have a basic overview of the difference between synthetic and natural fibers let’s talk about the pros and cons of using each!
I’ll start with the two significant benefits of synthetic materials.
Synthetic materials are far and away less expensive than natural fibers. For novice crafters just starting out with a knitting or crocheting hobby, you may want to experiment with synthetic fibers first because they are less of a financial investment. If you mess up your first knitted scarf (which is very common), you may be less disappointed if you didn’t break the bank on that ball of yarn you got at Michael’s. (The counter-argument to that is that you may be more invested in making your project look good if you buy a beautiful, high-quality natural yarn…but I digress!).
Washable and Durable
Most synthetic fibers are machine washable (and some are even machine dryable!). This is a huge perk if you’re making an item for, say, a messy toddler. Does Sally spill juice on her acrylic hand-knit sweater? No problem – toss it in the wash, and it will probably look good as new!
So what are the negatives of synthetic fibers? Let’s talk about that for a minute…
It’s possible to find a negative environmental impact for most fibers produced in mass quantities (pesticides used on cotton plants, chemicals used to convert bamboo to fiber). However, synthetic fibers have some huge negatives in this category in addition to the chemicals used in their production.
Acrylic yarn sheds when washed, like most fibers, but the difference is that what acrylic fiber drops is not biodegradable and has the potential to pollute our waterways. Microfibers are tiny particles of plastic (remember – acrylic is plastic!) that are so small that they can’t be caught by your washing machine filter, or filtered out in our sewer system, and most of these fibers end up in the ocean. These fibers are polluting our waterways and ending up in the bellies of fish (and that means they end up in our bellies too!). Many environmental scientists and environmentally-conscious retailers are looking into ways to reduce the number of microfibers that get into our waterways, but until a solution is discovered, when you wash that acrylic yarn it’s pretty likely you’re polluting the ocean.
Doesn’t Fell or Look as Nice
OK, so this next one is a personal preference, and not everyone will agree with me. As an experienced knitter of over ten years, I very much prefer the feel of natural fibers and find synthetics to feel less soft and almost “squeaky.” I have become a yarn snob over the years! To me, there is a reason why natural fibers are more expensive – it’s because they are higher quality, more luxurious, softer, warmer, and more beautiful. Gosh, can you tell I prefer natural fibers, or what!?
So let’s focus on those natural fibers now. You’ve already heard some of the pros of these in the list above (feel and look beautiful, do not pollute the ocean, less dangerous chemicals in production for small-scale production and organic fibers), so what are the negatives?
Wool is one of the most popular natural fibers used in knitting and crocheting and has been used for thousands of year (at least!). Wool comes from sheep, and the animal does not have to be killed to remove the wool. The sheep are shorn typically in the spring, before the heat of summer.
You may be thinking – well this doesn’t sound bad for the sheep? What could be the problem? Unfortunately, some controversial practices take place in the care of sheep, one of which is called mulesing. Mulesing is the surgical removal, often without anesthetic, of the skin around a sheep’s buttocks. This skin and the wool there can sometimes attract flies and lead to a disease called flystrike. It is debated as to which is more painful and uncomfortable for the animal – mulesing or flystrike – and whether there are less cruel methods of prevention. There is more information from both all points of view on this topic if you’re interested in looking into it more.
Also, when wool is a commodity, more is always better! Mass production can lead to harmful conditions for the animals. Tight quarters, fast and painful shearing practices, and more. The way around this issue is to buy wool from small, independent farmers, or larger producers who pledge to consider animal welfare.
I hope I’ve given you a good overview of the difference between synthetic and natural fibers and the pros and cons to each. Whatever you decide, I wish you well in your knitting or crocheting adventure!
InIndonesian National park a photo was taken of something people thought was extinct for more than 40 years. The Javan tiger has only been in books, bedtime stories, and legends, but a new photo might have captured it.
Indonesia is currently the 4th most populated country in the world. And is the largest island country with over 13,000 islands. Each island can have it’s own culture, dialect or language, and can differ in the main religion from a neighboring island.
A new photo in the park captures a large cat walking. Because of the distance and quality it is not completely certain what species it is. Large cats are present on the island, however are still very rare.
One employee believes it is species of leopard, the Javan leopard. It is the last predator on the island and is critically endangered. Critically endangered is one step away from being extinct. There are only 250 mature adults in the world. Javan leopards are only found in Southeast Asia and two Zoos in Europe.
The photo is either a species of extinct tiger or critically endangered leopard. No matter what animal is in the photo we can be glad that it is alive and active.
You can read more about this on the New York Time’s website.
This article was written by Kelly Valencia-Aiken. It is a personal story of how Kelly’s grandmother teaching of how to crochet.
I am obsessed. Honestly, it’s more of an addiction. I may even need rehab. In fact, my friends and family should probably stage an intervention on my behalf. I think they would fail miserably, but they should still do it, just to be able to say they tried. I’ve been addicted for years, ever since I caught my grandmother in the act.
I remember the first time I saw it happen. I just stared in wide-eyed wonder. What is this magical thing she’s doing? I would sit and watch her in complete silence as she created something from (almost) nothing. How did she know what move to make next? What would happen if she made a mistake? Was there anyone else who did this? Could I do it, too? It was as if the shiny metal object in her hand were a wand and the yarn on her lap an incantation, coming together to reveal something otherworldly. It was at the tender age of seven she introduced me to the dark arts…I mean, the art of crocheting.
Ah, crocheting. Pretend you’re French when you say it and it seems almost as romantic as Paris, like a lover beckoning in the night. And ‘yarn’? Like honey on my lips is its sweet sound. I love the smell of it, the vibrancy of its colors, the textures, the possibilities. Anything imagined can be created with a simple crochet hook and a skein of yarn. From pillows to throws, clothing to stuffed animals, backpacks to hats, baskets to even jewelry – all of it can be made with such simple, humble tools when held in skillful hands.
I remember the day my grandmother taught me her craft. I was so nervous! So excited! So unsure of myself, yet eager to try. I watched her closely as I fumbled to hold the crochet hook just right. The yarn kept tangling around my fingers. I didn’t even know how to tie a proper knot! (It was then I was educated there was more than one way to make a knot.) Finally, I got it just right. Then came the counting. Oh, to this day how I still hate the counting! I counted aloud until I reached the right number, then she showed me how to turn the piece and start a new row. I was enthralled, and at that moment, I knew I was hooked forever (pun intended).
My first-ever crocheted masterpiece was a round potholder. It was quite the eyesore. The stitches were too tight, too loose, I had too few or too many stitches all in one spot…it was glorious. I was crocheting! I, too, could create magic alongside my grandma! I graduated from the simple potholder to a scarf. It wasn’t much better. It didn’t matter. Although my edges weren’t straight and my yarn changes were glaringly obvious, I loved every moment of it. Now, I had a connection to my grandma that was deeper than ever, a shared interest that bridged the generations and bonded us closer. It became a weekend tradition for my uncle to take my grandma and me to Michael’s to get us stocked up on yarn. At first, I wasn’t sure what to get. My purchases were small, simple, and unimaginative. Soon after, however, my uncle had to reduce our outings to every other weekend when my bill alone was in the hundreds! I felt like a baby eagle who had just discovered flight. I had been given a beautiful gift I couldn’t wait to explore.
And what a true gift it has been, indeed, to crochet. In fact, I have crocheted for almost twenty-seven years. While other little girls were busy fawning over popular boy bands and practicing their makeup skills, I was honing a talent I enjoyed and discovering just what I could do with it. You see, I recognized immediately why my grandmother crocheted. It was a gift she had been given that was meant to be given away. For years, I would watch her make an exorbitant number of hats and afghans. They would be placed in bags or boxes and stored away in a closet somewhere. It was provision meant for another day. A decade later, she and I donated all of our creations to an orphanage in Mexico when my family went there on a mission trip. She alone had enough blankets and hats to meet the needs of each of the orphans there in the distribution line that day.
In January of 2017, I sat down one evening with the desire to crochet, as I had done so many times before. I didn’t want to create something without purpose, however, and I didn’t want it collecting dust on my shelves and taking up much-coveted storage space. No one I knew was having a baby, and everyone I knew already had at least a hat, scarf, and blanket made by yours truly. What can I make? Who will benefit from it? Suddenly, a thought came to mind. I remembered how I had made blankets for the orphanage in Mexico and realized I knew of an orphanage sponsored by my church that could likely benefit from a few donated items. After emailing and receiving information on what was needed, I knew I didn’t have enough yarn to meet the need. I put out ads on Craigslist and Facebook looking for donated supplies. I made as many crocheted items as I could and trusted my ads would be answered with provision to bless the orphans.
It was answered, all right! I had emails from several people nearby wanting to contribute to my cause. With the abundance of bins, bags, and even suitcases full of goods given to me, I recognized I needed someone to help me. I recruited my friend, Jess, and we both saw the need to form a nonprofit. Zenith Outreach and Enterprise Nonprofit Corporation was born as a family-run nonprofit where one hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to areas and people groups who need our help. We were on our way to making supplies for over one hundred orphans and over twenty-five widows in Guatemala. The only problem we ran into was what had been donated. Instead of crates full of yarn, there were boxes full of fabric! Sensing a change was underway, we went with the flow and determined to teach ourselves how to sew. In no time at all, an incredibly generous benefactor from several states away heard of our undertaking. Dianna stepped in and graciously provided the machinery and sewing notions we so desperately needed to be able to fulfill our mission. She became an invaluable source of help for sewing and a very dear friend to me in the process.
Although both women, my grandmother, Emma, and friend, Dianna, have passed on, it was the gifts they both imparted to me, a love for crocheting and a love for sewing, that live on and continue to bless and inspire others to use their gifts to benefit the world around them. If my grandma had not taught me how to crochet, I never would’ve met Dianna, who helped me learn to sew. Were it not for these two precious women, the orphanage for which we were privileged to provide much-needed items would still be waiting for someone to step in with arms of love wide open. It’s true when it’s said that you never know what a little yarn and a crochet hook can make. In my case, it made a difference.
Knitting can be quite an enjoyable pastime. If you have the right yarn, it can make for some high quality clothing that is great for seasonal occasions, for fashion, and knitting itself makes for a wonderful hobby. Here are six yarn types that you can use to create fashionable works of art.
The same fibers that come from sheep, can be used to create wonderfully comfortable clothing and is easy to get with its low price. It’s great for winter clothing with its resistance to moisture and durability. Wool is also a great material for summer clothing as a breathable, moisture wicking material. Wool is naturally creamy white, making it easy to dye into a range of colors. It’s also often mixed with a blend of other fibers to improve durability.
Cashmere is a luxury yarn. It is of superb quality that actually becomes softer with wear. It has phenomenal insulation that makes it great for winter accessories and cardigans. The beautiful look is associated with a fine cloudlike halo and is often blended with other materials to make it more affordable. With a fabric this valuable, make sure to always dry clean and never machine wash.
After being blended with natural fibers, polyester yields easy-care yarns. Polyester has good draping, along with breathability and wicking properties making it great for any time of the year. It is machine washable and is a great synthetic fiber.
Rayon was the first fabric to be entirely man-made. Despite this, it can very well imitate the properties of other natural fibers and has a silky smooth, shiny, and saturated color as well as an incredible drape. This yarn is absolutely great for summer knitwear. It is comfortable, cool, and conducts heat from the body. When purchasing a rayon product at the store, be sure to check the tag. This product may, or may not, be machine washable.
Silk is very well known for its cool, smooth texture across the skin. Being a more expensive fiber, it’s easiest to find in fine piles and is susceptible to static cleaning and catching. If you keep experiencing this problem, then choose a variety of yarns spun tightly for a higher ply. Silk is great for knitting lace, and is often blended to into fibers to add luxurious softness. This material must be hand washed in order to clean.
Nylon can be very easily compared to silk. As an alternative to that expensive yarn type, it’s shiny and smooth, easy to launder, and is cool to the touch. It is also very durable against wear and tear, and unlike silk, this is completely machine washable.
Whatever yarn you use, and however you blend them together, make sure to have fun while doing it. Knitting by hand is an art form that is slowly going away. Picking your own colors, and your own yarn types means that you can make your own fashionable accessories the way YOU want to make them and keeps this art form alive.
This article was written by Josh Adams
I always find it interesting when people consider the tarot cards or a tarot reading a part of the “occult”, witchery, or weird, wrong, dark, etc. I have never been intimidated by them and see them as a tool for people to use symbolism and energy to “see” or “validate” thoughts or things that might be transpiring with the person who is receiving the reading.
What is tarot? There are 78 tarot cards. 24 major arcana that represent larger things going on in your life, connected to the bigger picture. The numbered cards, 1-10 is daily life and also represent different parts of the hero’s journey. There are 4 sections, wands, pentacles, cups, and swords. Each one represents different things, like wands represent work and social life. Swords considers trifles and looking at both sides of something, splitting hairs, introspect. Pentacles represent health and money, and cups represent love, relationship, and spirituality. Some cards will be upright and some may be reversed, which can represent either the opposite of the original card upright or difficulty in obtaining the upright due to an obstacle of sorts.
The cards that the playing cards we use today came from the tarot deck. They were used so many years ago, but only used for royalty. They were used regardless of religion. Nowadays, they can be used for fun, for dark use, or for gaining insight. I personally feel it helps validate people, where they are at, what they are thinking about and what might their next steps be. When I give a reading, I make sure the person is comfortable with receiving the reading. If there is some kind of fear surrounding the cards or the idea that the person can be “read” from the cards, I explain that if people receive something like the DEATH card, what it means is that something is coming to an end and that from the ashes of whatever finished or ended will rise a new day. It doesn’t mean you will DIE. People who provide dramatic readings are not doing it for the good of the person, they are doing it for the drama and money.
Be careful whom you choose to do your reading, or be prepared to take it lightly. There is an intention that needs to be present when the reading is given if you really want to glean something from it. It needs to come from both sides. Curiosity should be the driver. I usually provide light, 3 card draws, which provides a bit about the person’s past, their present state and their near future. When providing the reading, I make sure I am clear of any distractions or other energies, other than the intent of the general forecast of that person in front of me.
You might just want to question the tarot reader what cards they use, how long they have been reading and what their favorite layout is. The most used cards are the universal tarot set. I choose not to use those cards because it makes it easy for anyone who knows the cards to put their own spin on it, and this energy for the reading should be pure with no interpretation. The cards are a guide, not the end all be all. Keep that in mind when receiving a reading. The person providing the reading is good when they don’t rely solely on the cards for the reading. If they only go based strictly on the cards, the energy that is present is not being utilized, there is only someone putting their spin on it.
Energy is in everything and it makes up our very being, the earth, stars, universe and non-space. It comes forth in all ways, not just a card reading. It is used for healing, for weaponry, for movement and for life itself. The energy used in a reading is no different than the energies described for other uses. A good tarot card reader will fully admit they have very little to do with how the cards lay out or the reading itself, they will state that it is the energy the person is putting out, and they will have cleared their own energy and the energy of those that had received readings in the past from the cards.
This article was written by April Hartmeister. She wrote another post about handmade jewelry.
You can find more about April on her website: April’s Design
Do you have what it takes? Being a mom entrepreneur may seem like a heroic task; however, daily we learn about “mompreneurs” around the world who are growing and running their companies as well as raising their children. You can, too.
Monica Flores a mother and entrepreneur shares what she has learned as a mom entrepreneur.
Keep these seven truths in mind as you embark or continue on your career as an entrepreneur mother:
Truth 1: Manage your time.
Time is your most precious resource. Plan to protect your personal time as much as possible. Mark time in different calendars for items such as date night, child-related needs (one calendar per child), and even other items like meal prep, exercise, sleeping, school functions, bus pickup/dropoff, and music lessons or sports. Once you know how much time activities take, and it is blocked off, then you’ll also know that the time you schedule for focus work will be absolutely focused.
Block off time by using defensive scheduling. Block off the hours you need that tap into your best daily “flow” time. If you’re a morning person, take full 3-hour increments for focus work. If you’re a night owl, protect some evenings to take advantage of your heightened mental state. Keep multiple calendars for different aspects of your work and personal life, so you are able to see at-a-glance what is happening any day or week. Multiple calendars work well to block off focus time, meeting availability, free time, parent and family needs, and routine paperwork, and you’ll also be more assured that you’ve prioritized time to do what needs to be done.
Truth 2: Prepare to fail.
If you’re just starting out, consider how you currently deal with failure, including if it’s something you’re afraid of or try to avoid. Expand your perception of failure so that you incorporate lessons learned, feedback gained, and failures big and small into a continuous virtuous cycle of improvement. Failure is a large part of success. The average entrepreneur cycles through multiple pilot projects in order to hit that unique combination of timing, idea, marketplace, and profit. Some entrepreneurs try dozens of ideas and never hit their target, while other entrepreneurs get it right the first time they try.
Keep trying. Failure is a great teacher, and you’ll see in children how they gain confidence, and wisdom, through experience. Children fall many times when they are learning to stand, walk, and run. Similarly, entrepreneurs gain every time they fail – there is something to learn in every painful, heartbreaking, or even financially disruptive experience.
Truth 3: Determine what constitutes success.
Because most entrepreneurs never take “no” for an answer, and most mothers are deeply committed to the success of their venture because they care so deeply about their children’s future, mother entrepreneurs must understand, identify, and commit to what they believe success to be. For any individual, having a concrete understanding of their SMART set of goals (specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, and time-bound), gives structure and order to the chaos that often becomes the entrepreneurial or startup life.
Don’t be caught unaware. Smart entrepreneurs give themselves a specific timeframe to achieve targets, and know exactly what they reach for. Avoid mental strain and even physical illness by aligning between what you believe you can do and what you truly commit to doing, including the time frame. When you write out, with as much clarity as possible, what you consider to be a success for your venture (for example, your promise to yourself might be that within 5 years you own a majority stake in a cash-flow positive venture of $___ net profit that takes you personally <20 hours a week to run). Once you know what success looks like to you, keep accountable by sharing with partners, family members, and community members. Then, when you reach, exceed, or fall short of that level, you know and you’ll be able to course-correct or modulate at that point.
Truth 4: Learn to prioritize.
The joke at college was “work, sleep, friends: pick two.” When you’re a mother who also runs an emerging or growing venture, the reality is that, with only 24 hours a day, you are only physically capable of prioritizing a few of the following: work, sleep, friends, parenting, romance, exercise, nutrition, housework, maintenance.
Time is finite, but the needs surrounding the mompreneur are infinite. Thus, your continuing task, on at least a weekly basis, is understanding what must happen within your upcoming timeframe, and also what is a “maybe” or “ok to drop”. Prioritization is key to maintaining stability and sanity.
Truth 5: Your business is like your baby.
You conceive and birth your baby, then spend years raising your child to the age where they are able to take care of their own needs as well as potentially come back to help take care of you. Your business is exactly the same. For the first few years, plan to treat your business exactly like a baby: investing in time, energy, infrastructure, processes, and tools so that the business starts to grow legs and begin standing on its own two feet, and eventually grows to be strong enough to return back your investment and hopefully, much more.
It won’t be difficult forever; however, it is difficult in the beginning. Be patient and know that it might take years, or even decades, for your venture to grow to adulthood, much as it takes your child eighteen years and more to reach the age where they can manage.
Truth 6: Take care of yourself.
“If momma’s happy, everyone’s happy.” Are you happy in your own life? Are you taking care of your own needs such as your own nutrition, exercise, sleep, mental health, and physical wellness? Any individual will only stretch so far before they snap, and any individual, particularly the mother entrepreneur, needs to know their limitations, the warning signs of a potential issue, and how to regroup and take care of personal needs.
Your health is your wealth. Both moms and bosses need to be strong for the people who rely on them, so the mother entrepreneur will need to be particularly aware of their own mental and physical state. The mother entrepreneur will need to take time, as needed, to reach and maintain peak levels of acuity, strength, performance and responsiveness. Any barrier to physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health must be investigated and removed, whenever possible. This means avoiding both toxic substances (choose organic, remove poisonous chemicals) and also toxic relationships (choose healthy friends and partners, remove poisonous interactions).
Truth 7: Practice patience.
Play the long game in order to win. Many, if not most, of the decisions you make today, have ramifications into the extraordinarily far future. For example, your biggest decisions — such as those regarding your partner, your career, or your child — will impact the entire rest of your life. Other decisions, such as your startup venture or entrepreneurial endeavor, may have a lifespan of 5, 10, 15, or 20 years.
Ask your future self. One of the tools for you to help discern how to make better decisions, is to go into a meditative state, free up your imagination, and travel toward your near-term future to ask your “future self” what types of decisions you need to make today. You can ask about things like career, choices about romantic or business partners, or advice relevant and unique to each child. Part of you knows what decisions are the best to make, and your task as both a mother and an entrepreneur is to follow your intuition to gain as much clarity as possible about the path you yourself, and your company, is meant to take.
You are important.
My belief is that each of us has a unique role to play, and bring our own special and important skills forward to meet the problems and needs of today’s world. Mom entrepreneur bring innovative, valiant, solutions and we find ways to rise to the emerging challenges that humanity faces. Our planet, our society, our world depends on you getting out there and doing what you feel called to do. Use your highest and best talents to solve the world’s most important problems — and have fun, make money, and connect with other mother entrepreneurs at the same time.
This post was written by Monica S. Flores.
I launched my first business in 2004, when I had one child under the age of five, and since then have been co-founder and advisor to a variety of different enterprises, while simultaneously co-parenting three children. Over the years I’ve learned that neither motherhood nor entrepreneurship is for the faint of heart. You can learn more about Monica Flores on her website.
Check out our other articles about startups and entrepreneurship.
Things to look for when buying handmade jewelry:
It is a wonderful thing, buying handmade jewelry. You are contributing to a population that doesn’t mass make items, that is a one of a kind, unique item that is an expression of them and of how you feel. It is made by real people, with a real process and you are helping create sustainability while having something not everyone has.
Quality Handmade Jewelry
After having made jewelry for over 20 years, I have made (and seen) my share of “not so quality” jewelry. I truly can now appreciate the difference between handmade and manufactured jewelry. Some people have a very keen eye for the specialty handmade jewels, where others will buy a string with a bead on it and think it is well made. Or they appreciate the fact that is handmade and are not so attached to the jewelry itself. Since I know my own quality, I have become pretty picky if I purchase jewelry, as I am not as sure about how well made it is. And I have made some mistakes. For example, I was in Belize at a Mayan ruin, where there were Mayans selling their goods. Barely spoke English but good enough to tell me about a beautiful “shark tooth” they carved by hand. I purchased it, only to later find a seam in the middle of the tooth. It was plastic and made from China.
So here are a few tips and tricks to make sure you are buying quality and not crappy:
If there is a promise of a freshwater or real pearl, rub your teeth on it (except for germaphobes), if it feels gritty, it is authentic. If it is smooth, it is real.
Look at where the earrings/necklace/bracelet attach. See if all the little parts are closed nicely and are not rusty. This can happen with super cheap jewelry. For cheap, I use nickel/hypoallergenic. And ask what they are made of. Stainless steel is a good option too.
If you see fraying or anything in lace, leather or string, that is usually a promise of more.
If it is cheap, it is made cheap or manufactured.
Even if it is gold or silver plated, those will last years, but that isn’t as “sustainable”
Ask the seller about the process, how they were inspired. How long or anything helps you determine quality. Not only will it help you in deciding, but also seeing the quality of the person that made it.
This article was written by April Hartmeister. You can check more of their writing at April’s Design
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