I’m excited to share a guest post by Andrea Hungerford from By Hand Serial today. I first came across By Hand’s regional fiber lookbooks last year, and you can read my (glowing) review here. In this post, Andrea shares some stunning visual inspiration for knitters and crocheters alike, as well as her journey to find out where her yarn comes from.
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About Andrea Hungerford
Andrea Hungerford is an obsessive knitter who lives with her husband, three daughters and three cats, a Great Pyrenees farm dog, and a variety of chickens and rabbits on acreage outside of Portland, Oregon. Andrea’s “mini-farm” affords her the opportunity to grow vegetables, berries, fruit trees, and cutting flowers. After working for more than twenty years as an attorney, Andrea finds peace and joy in working with her hands. She has never met a hand craft that doesn’t intrigue her, and her current repertoire of making includes sewing, quilting, embroidery, mosaics, hand thrown pottery, canning, candlemaking, photography, and anything involving fiber and fabric. Her heart, however, belongs to knitting, and she can often be found during the summer in a corner of her garden, or in the winter in front of the fireplace in her parlor, with her latest knitting project flying off her needles.
About By Hand Serial
By Hand is a series of community-based lookbooks that focus on different fiber and fabric communities around the country. Each serial features photo journals and interviews with both up-and-coming and well-known yarn designers and dyers, local yarn stores, knitwear designers, fabric artists, and other makers who share the same philosophy and aesthetic of hand crafting functional forms to share and connect with others in the community. Projects, patterns, classes, and opportunities to purchase the artists’ work are included, as well as an opportunity to explore what is beautiful and unique about each locale.
Show your support by visiting By Hand at one of the following links:
Do You Know Where Your Yarn Comes From?
Guest Post by Andrea Hungerford
When I first started knitting, I didn’t think much about where my yarn came from. I mean, it came from my LYS . . . I just went to the closest yarn store, picked out a color and fiber that I liked, and that’s how I made my yarn selection. But Instagram changed all of that for me. Through photos and stories, I began to learn more about how yarn is made and who makes it. I learned that what was once a thriving domestic wool market in the United States had been driven largely overseas, but was now attempting to make a comeback through small ranches and sheep farmers. I learned about what it took to raise sheep for wool in a humane, sustainable manner, and the challenges of bringing the yarn to market. I learned that cotton is one of the most toxic crops in the world, and how small domestic farms are now trying to raise cotton in a more environmentally responsible manner. I learned about the process of dyeing yarn and the ever-growing role of natural dyes. In short, I learned what “sheep to needle” really means.
This led me to further exploration . . . who was dyeing my yarn? Who was writing the patterns that I knit from? Who were the artisans creating my knitting needles, stitch markers, project bags, yarn bowls? I think that knitters today care about where their materials and their sources of inspiration come from. Why? Because there is an invisible connection between makers – almost like magical ley lines that tie together the farmer who made the yarn from wool, the dyer who gave the yarn depth and color, the designer who envisioned what the yarn could become, and finally the maker, who brings the work of all of those artisans to fruition. When we are all working with our hands and our hearts, how could there not be a deep connection?
I think this is why we, as makers, care about where our materials come from, and the back stories of those who create those materials. This is the fundamental belief that underlies the By Hand Serial book series. Getting to know the farmers, dyers, designers, woodworkers, potters, and others who make with their hands is a joy and an honor for me, and hopefully for those fellow makers who read By Hand. I think it’s important to learn and care about the people who share our love for the “lost arts” of hand crafting, and who dedicate their livelihoods to keeping those arts alive.
When I began researching makers, I became fascinated by the role that geography appeared to play in creating “creative communities.” I found that there were clusters of makers in different communities around the country, and that each of these clusters was unique. Each issue of By Hand is shaped by the shared cultural identity of a particular geographic location, and shares the stories of these creative communities with others, in words and imagery.
My hope is that By Hand shares the stories of crafts people who are still honoring time-worn traditions, making slowly with care as to how their process and their products impact environmental and economic sustainability. By Hand gives both experienced crafters and those new to handwork a place to learn and explore these traditions and ideas. While the Internet has much of this information available now, it has become so big and unwieldy; in contrast, the By Hand Serials encapsulate and centralize these concepts by focusing on individual communities. The books strive to communicate the idea of a local economy in a way that seems to get lost on larger platforms like Ravelry or Etsy, which focus more on bringing the entire world into one platform.
The By Hand issues involve a great deal of research and logistical planning. Locating a variety of artists within a particular geographical region, contacting them all and coordinating interviews, travel, and photography at all different times of year and in all different seasons and weather, has produced some unique organizational challenges. The focus of By Hand is always fiber and fabric, but I work to include other hand crafters as well, whose work embodies a similar ethos and philosophy. I also work to include makers whose work represents the unique characteristics of the city, state, or region that is being featured in the book. I want each issue of By Hand to function as a makers’ travel guide, as well, including places to visit, to see, to learn, and to connect with others who share the same love and passion for making by hand.
One of the many things I love about fiber and fabric art is how it simultaneously feeds the introvert in me by giving me hours of pleasurable solitude, but at the same time, it creates community that allows me to connect with others who are passionate about some of the same things that I care about. I think many of us feel that same push-pull – the need for solitude, coupled with the need for sharing stories and experiences. By Hand is my way of contributing to the creation of a community that allows us all to share something we love.
Show your support by visiting By Hand at one of the following links: