in their own words: Miriam Felton / YarnStories Podcast

In this post, Miriam Felton discusses her YarnStories Podcast. I’ve known Miriam for over a decade, she was one of the first designers I ever emailed (I’m amazed she still talks to me). Miriam is an talented knit designer, teacher, artist, and friend.

Yarn Stories PodcastI love podcasts and their place in our making lives since we can listen and work at the same time, even when we have to watch what our hands are doing. Podcasts and audiobooks are really the perfect background for our making. I started YarnStories as a way to connect the stories of the people behind the yarns and fibers that we use to the people who use them. So we talk to ranchers and dyers of different types of sheep breeds, and in this second season we’re branching out into some more cellulose fibers and some more technical stuff.

It was a podcast that I wanted to hear in our world, so I made it. In the many years I’ve been in this industry I have loved hearing the stories about how a product comes to market, how a company was formed, or what inspired a book project, so having the opportunity to bring those stories to the people who don’t work in this industry, but benefit from the work OF this industry seemed the perfect use for the knowledge I had gained and the stories I’d heard.

In the first season I was mostly just telling the stories of people I knew. I knew they had something to say, so I just asked them to talk to me on the record. But as the second season has evolved and as I decided where I wanted to take it, I found that I started answering the questions I had. I talked to experts about sericulture (silk) and raising cotton. I’ve talked to people about medical textiles and US based super wash facilities (forthcoming).

I thought I would just be retelling stories I had heard before, but in a different context and I’ve ended up going on deep dives into really technical stuff to answer my own curiosity. I foresee it going further and farther in that direction in the future. It gave me the confidence to be curious and ask smart people my questions.

YarnStories Podcast Episode 210, Alicia Ruthrauff YarnStories Podcast Episode 201, Sally Fox, Part 1

Don’t be afraid to let things evolve to serve you. If you are doing a job that doesn’t fulfill you, change it. Change your goals, change how you approach it, and never stop learning. I’ve learned audio engineering as I’ve been doing the podcast, and the format has changed a bit as I have. But now I make a bit of audio every two weeks that makes me laugh, makes me smile, and brings me closer to a community that I love.

Yarn Stories Podcast

Find Miriam:

In Their Own Words is a series where invited artists, designers, and creators share what drives their big projects. Want to share your story? Please contact me.

in their own words: Riin Gill

In their own words is a new series — I’ve invited artists, designers, and creators I know to share what drives their big projects. This time we hear from Riin Gill; you may remember her yarn and fiber business, Happy Fuzzy Yarns. After closing that venture, she found a way to combine her continued love of fiber and making jewelry. Today she released a new collection, jewelry for yarn lovers.

I’ve been a maker for as long as I can remember. You may remember my work with fiber (I used to own Happy Fuzzy Yarn), but I’ve made jewelry and worked with fiber since I was a kid. I’ve always loved beads and metal and rocks and found objects. I remember making earrings out of cotter pins and fishing lures. After college, I worked in a bead store for six years, and I learned a lot about working with wire, stringing, knotting, braiding, all kinds of beadwork.

Handmade sterling silver poppy earrings - silver poppies - silver flower earrings - hammered poppies

Handmade sterling silver poppy earrings. Photo: Riin Gill.

When I looked at the numbers and recognized that Happy Fuzzy Yarn wasn’t a sustainable business for me, I decided to return to what excited me — jewelry. I took some metalsmithing classes to expand my skills so I could create the kind of jewelry I really wanted to make. I love metalsmithing! Both the process and the product! I love being able to change the shape of metal by hitting it with my hammer. Not only is it very cathartic (there is nothing for relieving stress like putting on the Ramones really loud and hammering metal), it’s also just really cool.

Handmade copper earrings with 1/2" vintage creamy white mother of pearl buttons

Handmade copper earrings with 1/2″ vintage creamy white mother of pearl buttons. Photo: Riin Gill.

We tend to think of metal as this solid, unchanging thing. And it is a solid. But just like any other solid, it’s made up of molecules. It’s malleable. You can hammer it and make it thinner. You can make it thinner along one edge, and once it’s thinner, it’s wider, but the excess width has to go somewhere, so it flares. You can make metal look like fabric, or like organic shapes. I love it!

I also like soldering [penny: joining two pieces of metal with a softer metal], but I really like riveting pieces together. I love the look of mixed metals, so I usually use a contrasting metal for my rivet. If I’m connecting two pieces of copper together, I’ll use a piece of sterling silver for my rivet.

Lately I’ve been making jewelry that combines metal with fiber, or metal and gemstones with fiber. I’ve named this collection, jewelry for yarn lovers. I’ve done pendants with wool before; I needle felted the wool. This time I’m making corespun yarn where I use a thin wire as the core, and then I use the wire-core yarn as a jewelry component. The possibilities are really endless. I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of what I can do.

Handmade coil bangle with handspun yarn and jasper

Handmade coil bangle with handspun yarn and jasper. Photo: Riin Gill.

Crosshatched copper pendant with inverted dome and wirecore yarn on copper chain - handmade art jewelry - copper and wool jewelry

Crosshatched copper pendant with inverted dome and wirecore yarn on copper chain. Photo: Riin Gill.

I love the fact that I can start with sheet metal, wire, loose fiber, and tools and ideas and my hands, and make a really cool, three-dimensional, durable, wearable piece of art. That’s just awesome!

You can check out Riin’s awesome work at She’s active on instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Her jewelry can be found at her Etsy shop, including the new jewelry for yarn lovers collection.

in their own words: C.C. & Dami Almon

In their own words is a new series — I’ve invited artists, designers, and creators I know to share what drives their big projects. This time we hear from C.C. & Dami Almon; they talk about what inspired their newest book, Tickled Pink. There are extra photos of their adorable cat, Pink Purl Almon.

Dami & C.C. Almon We’re C.C. & Dami Almon, the Mamma/daughter team behind JavaPurl Designs and the Geeky Girls Knit video podcast. C.C. has been designing since 2013 and Dami has been designing since 2016. Our pattern design inspirations range from geeky things like Doctor Who and Elementary, to coffee, to colourways that demanded to be something, to the city of Edinburgh, and more.

For over a decade, I (C.C.) have had a love affair with the colour pink. After our first two books, which were inspired by coffee, we felt we had run out of coffee inspired ideas. So where else would we turn for inspiration besides the colour pink?

We love knitting with yarn dyed by indie dyers, and we wanted to highlight some of their beautiful yarns in this book. So we asked four indie dyers (Neighborhood Fiber Co., Suburban Stitcher, Abstract Fiber, and Seven Sisters Arts) to each dye up a pink colourway. Our only instruction was that the yarn had to have pink in it.

We knew each dyer’s yarn would inspire us in different ways. So one of us designed a sock pattern and the other designed an accessory pattern (hat, shawl, cowl, and wrap) inspired by the same colourway of yarn.

Stack of Projects from Tickled PinkIn the midst of having the idea for this book & trying to bring it to fruition, we relocated from Scotland back to the US (California & then to Washington) as the Hubs finished his PhD degree & was looking for a new job. We had all the reverse culture shock that is associated with an international move. We had to set up a new home from scratch as we had sold pretty much everything we owned when we moved to Scotland. Our previous books had flowed very smoothly on the time schedule we set up, but this one did not. We ended up needing more time for knitting samples, laying out the book, doing the photoshoot, having the book printed, etc. But in the end, we’re super proud of the book that we put together & the patterns in it.

Our hope is that these pink-tastic inspired patterns fulfill your knitting desires, whatever shade of pink you prefer.

Sleepy Pink Purl & C.C.'s zig zag sock yarn blanket

Sleepy Pink Purl & C.C.’s zig zag sock yarn blanket

Tickled Pink celebration cake with Pink Purl

Tickled Pink celebration cake with Pink Purl

tickled pink book coverTickled Pink is available digitally at ravelry and in print through JavaPurl Designs.

in their own words: holly chayes

Welcome to a new series, in their own words. I’ll invite artists, designers, and creators to share what drives their big projects. We begin with Holly Chayes; she’ll explain how a desire for approachable math led her to start knitting lots and lots of little green swatches.

Math does not have to be intimidating, overwhelming, or unapproachable – that’s the overarching/driving idea behind the whole Shawl Geometry Series.

Math can certainly be incredibly intimidating, overwhelming, and unapproachable, it does not have to be.

The Shawl Geometry Series is a master class in shawl shaping and while, that’s not what I originally envisioned this as, that’s what it’s become.

The whole series originally began when I started knitting shawl shape swatches to create my own reference library of shawl shapes, which then turned into a series of blog posts, and finally a series of books, and now a fully updated and revised edition of those books.

When I started writing up the shaping of these swatches for other knitters and designers to follow, I quickly realized that it was in danger of getting overly-complicated, intimidating, overwhelming, and unapproachable. But I also realized that it didn’t have to be.

I’ve always been amazed by the extremes of the knitting-math comfortable/uncomfortable spectrum. There are the knitters who resize fitted colorwork sweater patterns without a second thought, and then there are the knitters who would rather knit a whole sweater in a totally wrong size than spend five minutes resizing the pattern. And then there are the rest of us fall somewhere along the middle of the spectrum.

So, I focused on writing the Shawl Geometry Series in a way that would be approachable for knitters at every level of knitting-math comfort. I wanted knitters who felt they weren’t good at math to be able to follow along from cast on to bind off just like any other knitting pattern and end up finished shawl they love. But I also wanted advanced knitters who are super comfortable and willing to do math at the blink of an eye to be able to use these books as reference books, or as a jumping off point to create their own shapes. Which is a very lovely idea in theory, but a bit more difficult to pull off in practice!

Since this whole project very first began as a collection of shawl shape swatches for my own reference, I began by creating the shapes that I wanted to reference – which were not your standard squares and circles! When I created the blog series, I filled in more common shawl shapes. And then when I expanded the blog series to the first edition of the books, I added more intermediate shapes, advanced shapes, and shawl shaping theory.

But since the books evolved out of the blog series, and the blog series evolved out of my own desire for a shawl shaping reference library, the books weren’t as focused, or as clear, or as knitter-friendly as they could have been if I had started this project with the end in mind. Which is why I eventually decided to update the whole book series.

With this updated second edition I was able to more clearly focus each book in the series, which mean that I could make them clearer, more knitter-friendly and just more useful.

In the updated editions, book one focuses on the common, basic shawl shapes, perfect for a knitter who is just beginning to dip their toe into the world of shawl shaping – the shapes are easy to follow, and you’ve almost definitely knit some (if not all) of them before. Then book two moves more into intermediate and uncommon shawl shapes – some of these shapes are a little trickier to keep track of, and there are probably a number of shapes that most knitters haven’t run into before. And finally book three dives deep into the principles and theories of shaping and transforming knitted shawls with some advanced and straight-up-odd shawl shapes thrown in for good measure – this is the book that focuses on how to create corners and curves in knitting, how to determine and finesse you shawl’s shape using blocking, and how to transform a circle into a half circle, a square into a triangle, or a triangle back into a square.

So the idea that knitting math does not have to be intimidating, overwhelming, or unapproachable, was really the whole reason I ended up updating the Shawl Geometry Series. I wanted someone who was a beginner to be able to pick up just the first book and not get totally overwhelmed, and I wanted an advanced knitter to be able to pick up the third book and dive into theory, and I wanted the truly shawl obsessed (like me…) to be able to get the whole series and have enough shawl shaping to last them a couple lifetimes.

Pile of Shawl Swatches in Green from Holly Chayes' Shawl Geometry Series

I think the two main lessons from the Shawl Geometry Series (at least the lessons that don’t include a cast on and bind off!) are:

  1. If you can add, subtract, multiply, and divide you can do shawl shaping math. There’s nothing more complicated then that in any of the patterns in the series (and I don’t even ask you not to use a calculator). Of course you can make the shaping and math more complicated, but you don’t have to.
  2. Never underestimate how deep you can dive into a single, very focused topic. If you had asked me when I started creating my own library of shawl shaping swatches that I’d eventually write 400+ pages on shaping shawls only using increases and decreases I would have laughed myself sick.

Holly ChayesHolly Chayes is a designer and artist living in New York City. Her ability to sew a straight seam first led her to a career in costume design for theatre and film and her ability to keep systems and spreadsheets straight has since led her to helping creative businesses with their tech and operations. She discusses all aspects of making in her approachable style at and is excited to be dipping a toe into exploring personal style at