September 2018

The second Saturday of September is the kick off to our new Guild year. It’s a time to see Guild friends and catch up with their fiber adventures in addition to having a business meeting.

During the program, an extended show and tell, it was evident the members had a productive summer. As always we were inspired by seeing and touching the rugs, shawls, scarves, sweaters, tartans and plaids shared and hearing the stories of their creations.

Be certain to check the blog for next month’s program Estonia, Latvia, & Lithuania Fiber Update presented by Sarah Humke. Sarah will entertain us with stories of her recent trip to that part of the world. She’s sure to have brought home many fiber souvenirs to show us as well.

Better yet, attend the meeting. It will be held on October 6, to avoid a conflict with the Iowa Federation meeting.


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Guild Picnic 2018

Spinning wheels whirred, knitting needles clicked, and conversation and laughter could be heard on Saturday, July 21, at the alpaca ranch of Gary and Karen DeVries. It has become a tradition for us to gather on the shady lawn next to Karen’s studio for our summer picnic and meeting.

The day was picture-perfect, although some camera shy attendees somehow avoided my view finder. (I’ll get you next time!)

We enjoyed an excellent potluck lunch at picnic tables under the trees, followed by the business meeting.

Thank you, Gary and Karen, for your generous hospitality again this year.

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Changes in the Works!

Guild members are always working to improve our space and make it a warm and inviting place to work, play, and learn.

The classroom is the focus of our current project. As an interior room with no windows, the goal is to open up the space by adding an additional doorway and improving the lighting, walls, and ceiling. The floor has already been leveled.

Our building committee and volunteers have been hard at work readying the room for the “pros” to come in and do their part.


Photo Credit: Becky Metcalf

The improvements are being funded in part by contributions earmarked for the building fund and proceeds from sale items. Watch for more updates as the work continues.



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2018 Virginia Olson Competition

Each year members are encouraged and challenged to create projects for the Virginia Olson Competition held in May. This year’s committee members Pat Higby, Connie Malven, and Linda Miller, chose the theme “Our Favorite Things.” The committee offered a wide variety of categories and were pleased with the number of entries and members participating. Guild members chose their favorites through popular vote.

The categories along with the recipients of the awards are as follows:

Items Woven with Fabric

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These rugs were submitted to this category, and Pat Higby’s favorite rug received the most votes.

Woven Items

p1010751  The voters chose Diane Davison’s table runner as their favorite entry in the woven category. Diane was also awarded the Audrey Stephens Award for Excellence in Weaving by the Virginia Olson Committee for her work.


Handwoven Objects


Maribeth Woolsey was awarded the prize for her handwoven basket. (Editor’s note: Three lovely baskets were entered in this category. My apologies for somehow failing to get a photo of them. 😬)

Handspun Yarn

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New this year to the handspun category is a miniature spinning wheel which will become a traveling trophy. Lynette Risse will be the proud caretaker of it this year. Her multicolored yarn was the voters’ favorite.

Dyed Items

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The entries for this category came in many different forms: yarn, felt, and fabric. The most votes went to Becky Metcalf’s colorful scarf.

Felted Items

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Felting also can take a variety of forms. Lisa Nelson used techniques she learned in a felting workshop to give sections of her wrap different textures and appearance.  It needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated.

UFOs (Unfinished Objects)

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To be eligible for this category, the items must have been started before and completed during the current Guild year of 2017-2018. Elaine Lawler was inspired to finally find a way to use the warp on her four harness loom. The result was this top vote-getting wrap.

Long and Skinny

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Elaine Lawler’s hounds tooth checked scarf was voted the favorite in this category.

Thanks to this year’s Virginia Olson Committee for making the competition so enjoyable. Thanks also to the many members who brought entries and inspired us with their fiber creations.

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The Magical Circular Sock Machine

Have you ever taken a hard look at your stash of sock yarn and realized you may never work through it all unless you have a faster way of making socks? Ingie Koch, our April program presenter, came to that conclusion. Not long after, she purchased her first circular sock knitting machine, and as she says, fell down the CSM rabbit hole.


Ingie Koch demonstrates one of her circular sock machines.

Ingie’s love of all things “string” began at the age of seven when she purchased a Learn to Knit and Crochet booklet and a skein of yarn for entertainment during the cold North Dakota winters. She also learned to sew on a vintage treadle machine, and over the years has enjoyed macrame, cross stitch, felting, quilting, dyeing yarn, and weaving, to name a few.

Interestingly, the circular sock machine played an important role in keeping our soldiers safe during World Wars I and II. Ingie shared the CSM’s history with us as summarized on this story board.


The CSM has played an important part in US history.

The obvious advantage of making socks with a machine is its speed. A pair of socks can generally be made in under an hour. Before you run out an buy one for yourself, Ingie pointed out several caveats.

  • First of all, one should be familiar with the anatomy of a sock, which Ingie shared with this display.

This display shows the anatomy of a sock and how the CSM makes each part.

  • Just as it takes time to learn any new skill, using a sock knitting machine has a steep learning curve. Its many moving parts may require the operator to become an adept mechanic and troubleshooter. When using her CSMs, Indie engages all of her senses to listen for any unusual sounds, look for dropped stitches or tangles, and feel any differences while cranking She hopes she’ll never need her nose to smell smoke! 😉
  • Learn to make a good basic sock before attempting to try ribbing or designs like Fair Isle or argyle.
  • Maintenance is essential in keeping a CSM in good working condition. It should be cleaned regularly, and oil is its friend.
  • Ingie also stressed the importance of purchasing a circular sock machine from a reputable seller who is familiar with how they work and will give you support. She also recommends seeing the machine in use before buying it.
  • Finally, you need to decide whether to buy a vintage model or a new replica. Vintage machines may be more difficult to repair, but new ones can be more costly.




Sock knitting machines are not limit to making only socks. Ingie has also made a variety of other items as pictured above and listed below.


Groups of CSM enthusiasts meet for crank-ins all over the country. The Wisconsin COWS (Crankers of Wonderful Socks) and the Iowa PIGS (People in Glorious Socks) are two examples.

Thank you, Ingie Koch, for an introduction to the circular sock knitting machine and your interesting and informative presentation.

Are you still wondering just how the CSM works? See a demonstration of an historic machine in action by clicking here.

Follow this link for information about the Circular Sock Knitting Machine Society.

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Knit and Crochet: Sister Crafts

Dawn Ask Martin compared and contrasted crochet and knitting for the Guild’s March program


Dawn models a sweater she knitted. She crocheted the other sweater and the dress.

Growing up with a mom who crocheted, it was natural that Dawn became a crocheter. However, deep down she always had the desire to learn to knit. Dawn now has become adept at both disciplines and was the perfect person to share them with us.

Knit and crochet are both ways to manipulate yarn to make fabric. Crochet stitches are added directly using a hook. Knitting holds live stitches on one of two needles.

As an interesting exercise, Dawn distributed groups of three swatches and challenged us to identify which ones were crocheted and which were knitted. Many of us were surprised to learn it wasn’t that easy. Crochet is much more than the traditional granny squares you may have pictured in your mind!


Not all granny squares are square!

Knitting is often thought of as being used for clothing or socks that need to be drapey and fitted while crochet is considered more suitable for sturdy afghans and placemats. With the wide variety of yarns and crochet techniques available today, that might not always be the case. Dawn prepared an assortment  of samples showing similar results using crochet and knitting.


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The history of knitting may be traced back to Egypt in the eleventh century. Crochet is newer, making its appearance in the early 1800s. It was first known as shephard’s knitting and became a popular way to make lace without the use of bobbins.


Dawn’s examples of crocheted Irish lace

Predating both crochet and knitting by two thousand years is Nalbinding. It was made using a large needle and single ply wool. The resulting fabric was thick and warm making it perfect for mittens, hats, and socks. We often associate this technique with Scandinavian countries. Dawn’s example of Nalbinding insulates her water bottle.376F4609-FA31-44C6-8EEC-3862C8C7CE45

So which is better: crochet or knitting? If you ask Dawn, she would say it depends upon your personal preference and what outcome you wish to achieve.  They can be used to complement each other in the same project. A knitted sweater can have a crocheted edging or embellishment. Crochet can be used for a quick and easy provisional cast on. Both have an important place in your toolbox. Why limit yourself to just one or the other?

Editor’s note: If you find yourself wanting to learn more about crochet, click here to find out how to take a class with Dawn.

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Achieving Excellence and Mastery

We all know people who we look up to as being skilled at their craft, but we may not know what goes into officially becoming an Excellent or a Master craftsperson.

Our very own Guild member, Nancy Simet, has earned the title of Master Hand Knitter from The Knitting Guild Association. She shared her journey, along with binders filled with swatches, as part of our February program.


Guild member, Nancy Simet, shares two projects from Level III of the Master Hand Knitter program.

Nancy became interested in the Master Hand Knitter program after retiring from her career as a chemistry teacher. As self-taught knitter, she was curious whether she was using knitting techniques properly and wanted to know what else she could learn to expand her knitting repertoire. Also for this educator, credentials are important.

There are three levels to complete when becoming a Master Hand Knitter. Each level requires reports, swatches, questions to answer, projects, and references used. Level III also requires book and magazine reviews.

Once Nancy decided to start the program, she viewed it as her new new job and devoted eight or more hours a day working through each level. Once a level is completed, the work is evaluated by a Master Hand Knitter Committee. Feedback is given and swatches can be redone until mastery is achieved. Only then may the next level be started. When all three levels have been completed, the graduate receives a certificate and a pin.

Nancy feels becoming a Master Knitter has benefited her knitting. Even the little things learned along the way have made a big difference in her finished projects and her knitting speed.

Once an educator, always an educator is true of Nancy. She is currently a member of the Master Hand Knitter Committee and helps evaluate and give feedback to others as they move through the process of becoming Master Hand Knitters.

Nancy highly recommends that knitters become members of The Knitting Guild Association. A $30 membership will give access to the group’s digital magazine, Cast On, which focuses on knitting education.

Thanks, Nancy, for sharing the inspiring story of your journey and being a wonderful resource for Guild members.

To learn more about The Knitting Guild Association and the Master Hand Knitters program click here.


This Fair Isle style hat was one of Nancy’s Level III projects.


A close up photo shows some of the cables Nancy chose for the Aran style requirement of Level III.


The Handweavers Guild of America offers Certificates of Excellence in weaving, spinning, basketry and dyeing. Glen Davison prepared a detailed PowerPoint presentation outlining the rigorous requirement for earning a COE in weaving. Karen Agee researched the COE in spinning. Unfortunately she was unable to attend the meeting, and Nancy presented her notes. Karen and Glenn ordered the COE handbooks for spinning and weaving which will be added to our library.

To learn more about the HGA’s certification programs click here.


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