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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Never Too Old to “Play” with Dolls!



Becky Metcalf with a sampling of her antique dolls and their vintage clothing.

Becky Metcalf shared her love of doll collecting with Guild members during the January program. When asked how many dolls are in her personal collection, Becky answered, “A LOT!” They are carefully displayed in cabinets throughout her home.

Becky credits her mother-in-law for introducing her to the world of collectible dolls when she brought Becky an antique doll’s body in need of a head. The search took her to doll shows, second-hand stores, and even garage sales, where she discovered many dolls in very bad shape. Becky was drawn to the dolls that others might have thrown away. She felt the need to rescue and preserve them for their historical value.

Some needed a good cleaning, some needed hair, while others were given vintage clothing of the correct era. Becky does not believe every part of the doll needs to be perfect. Some small imperfections help tell the history of the piece. She does insist, however, that the clothing is authentic. She makes some of the clothing from her own stash of vintage fabrics.

There are collectors out there for nearly every type of doll. French and German dolls with porcelain heads and kid bodies can be quite valuable as can other dolls depending upon their rarity and popularity.  Becky’s dolls range in age from the 1950s and older, but I suspect all of them are precious to her. Each one represents a preserved bit of the past that might have otherwise been lost.

Editor’s note: I was unable to attend the January meeting, but Becky graciously agreed to fill me in on her program after the February meeting. Thanks to her and also to Karen DeVries for sending me the photo. CU





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Holiday Fun


The December meeting of the Northeast Iowa Weavers and Spinners Guild was highlighted by the holiday brunch. There was far too much delicious food and just the right amount of holiday cheer. Brunch was followed by show and tell and an informal workshop led by Becky Metcalf on marble dyeing silk ornaments.


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Making the Ryoanji Quilt

Karla Stille came in as a last-minute substitute to present the November program. Wearing a kimono she introduced us to the interesting and multi-talented Margaret Fabrizio.


Margaret Fabrizio-musician and visual artist


Before she became a recognized quilt maker, Margaret was famous harpsichordist, once performing with the Grateful Dead and constructing a collage for one of their album covers. Click on the link below for a sample of Margaret Fabrizio playing Art of Fugue Contrapunctus 1.

Art of Fugue Contrapunctus 1

Eventually Margaret Fabrizio expanded into the visual arts. The video Karla shared with us documented Margaret’s process as she designed, pieced, assembled, and quilted the Ryoanji quilt.


The Ryoanji Quilt

Fabrizio started by gathering the materials using only fabrics she already had in her stash. She chose a variety of beautiful Japanese indigo blues, cutting up kimonos and clothing. She selected as the centerpiece of the quilt a fabric she had purchased in Japan which pictured the stone garden of the Ryoanji Temple. One of her goals was mastering the crooked seam technique.

The video gave us an intimate view of Margaret’s creative process, the ups and downs of quilt making, and a sprinkling of her unique humor.

Thanks, Karla, for introducing us to this fascinating woman. For those who weren’t able to attend the meeting or would like to take another look, the entire video can be viewed by clicking on the following link.

Ryoanji Quilt Video

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Irish Fiber Traditions

Guild member, Dee Kruger, is proud of her Irish heritage and is an active participant in the Iowa Irish Fest held in Waterloo each summer. Through this connection the Guild was invited to have a booth at Irish Fest in August and demonstrate weaving and spinning. Dee also created displays showing a variety of other traditional Irish fiber arts.


Dawn Ask Martin demonstrated spinning at the Guild’s booth at Irish Fest. 

Since not all members were able to see Dee’s work in person, she was asked to talk about Irish fiber traditions for our October program. Here are some of the highlights.

Bobbin lace was made on a pillow stuffed with straw. The bobbins were made of wood or bone.


Bobbin lace is the oldest form of Irish lace making.


When the Irish were no longer allowed to sell wool to England, flax and the high quality linen made from it became important.

Linen  or cotton was used in Irish crochet. A padded ring was used for the center, and the motifs were attached to a background.


Deb made beautiful examples of Irish crochet.

Tatting started with fishermen making nets. The scaled-down technique was adapted to make lace.


Tatting is a way of making lace with a shuttle.

Bobbin lace, tatting, and crochet required little equipment and were sold as luxury items to the English. This provided Irish women a way to earn money and feed their families during times of starvation.

The crois was a belt worn by men and women as part of the traditional Irish costume. It was woven without a loom. The colors used could often be used to identify the weaver. The crois was also used for hand fasting in marriage ceremonies tying the couple’s hands together to symbolize their commitment to each other.


The crois was traditionally woven using six colors.

Traditional fishermen’s sweaters were knitted using textured stitches like ribbing, cables, and bobbles. They were often knitted in the grease to resist water.


Aran knitting dates back to 1890-1900’s.

Dee mentioned many visitors to the booth were surprised to discover Iowa has its own tartan.


Some Guild members have woven their own Iowa tartan.

Thanks to Dee, visitors to the Guild’s booth had much to see. They also enjoyed the hands-on experiences of weaving and spinning. We appreciated the opportunity of having another avenue to fulfill our mission of honoring and promoting the fiber arts.


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Guild Hosts the Iowa Federation Meeting

After more than a year of planning, our Guild rolled out the welcome mat to the Iowa Federation of Handweavers and Spinners on October 7, 2017. Sixty-three fiber aficionados and vendors gathered at the beautiful New Aldaya Lifescapes facility in Cedar Falls.

A highlight of the meeting was keynote speaker, John Mullarkey. A nationally known teacher and author, John’s specialty is tablet or card weaving. He kept the mood light with his delightful personality and humor as he described how he uses all of the bands he weaves.


John shares his contact information. His shirt’s collar and pocket lining are constructed from his card-woven fabric.


John’s tablet-woven shoe laces are on their second pair of shoes. The twist used in the weaving produces an attractive band that is exceptionally strong.

Thirty-six popular choice items were entered in seven different categories. The quality of the entries made choosing a favorite difficult. See the entries in the following slideshow.




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Who doesn’t like to shop? The Fall Federation vendors did not disappoint with a wide selection of fiber and related items available.



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After lunch the Federation business meeting was held, the Popular Choice winners were announced, and the door prizes were awarded. We also enjoyed a fashion show where models shared their wearable art.


Popular Choice winners left to right: Ellen Sakornbut-dying, Karen Agee-handspun, Bev Pennell-handwoven, Stephanie Vanhousen-small loom and knitted, Becky Metcalf-felted and other fibers


Fashion show participants model their wearable art.

Following refreshments John Mullarkey shared his personal history with “string,” starting at a young age knitting with his grandmother to his present focus on card weaving. Along his journey through the fiber arts, John continues taking classes and workshops, meeting amazing teachers, and making lifelong friends. Some of the workshops are wonderful, some he doesn’t “hate as much as he thought he would,” and some he is certain he will never try again. There is one thing they all have in common: he learns new things which inspire him to innovate his card weaving.

So go out and take that class, learn something new, get out of your comfort zone. You may discover, like John, you bring new insights to the things you love to do.

So thanks go out to John Mullarkey for being our speaker, and to the attendees, vendors, venue staff, and members of the NEIWS Guild who came together for another successful Fall Federation meeting.






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