Sep 232014

I’ve been tied up this month with technology updates, upgrades and debugging, but also with working on items for my shops in preparation for the upcoming holiday shopping season. Was it only 12 months ago that I was thinking about this? Between making covers for mini brag books and felted needle books, I’m not sure what has kept me busier.

Current Projects

My handmade books and felted projects both involve the use of buttons, whose addition—no matter how small—changes the overall impression. Where the paper-based books tend to use commercial plastic or metal buttons, the felted needle books use handmade clay buttons. The items below have already been sold.

How I Use ButtonsI keep a jar of clay buttons on hand at all times, and fill it mostly with buttons I find on Etsy. Occasionally, I do find these types of buttons at my local fabric store, but the really unique ones can be found online.

IMG_4743When I finish a felted wool needle book, it is with pleasure that I spill the contents of the jar and browse through them. All of the buttons are glazed with one or more colors, and many of them has been texturized with tools, lace or other objects. I do have to watch the cost of these buttons very carefully. If I don’t, the price of the needle book can increase by quite a bit.

I discovered the beautiful clay buttons below on Etsy. (You can click on the image to visit the treasury and go to individual shops.) Besides using them to embellish the covers of books, you can use buttons as bag closures, basket ornaments, and of course finish off your crocheted and knitted garments and accessories with them. You can even use them in statement necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. In most cases, these buttons are hand washable. If you wash them in the machine, turn your garment inside out, and use the most gentle cycle your washing machine has. Ideally, though, garments with handmade clay buttons should be washed by hand.


Have you ever used clay buttons? If so, how?

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 232012

Don’t you hate it when your source for a favorite item disappears, or worse yet, when the store that carries it goes out of business? That’s what happened two-and-a-half years ago in June 2009, when Creative Corner, known to locals as the Pink House because it was painted a hot pink, closed its doors after 36 years of business in the historic downtown shopping district of West Des Moines, Iowa known as Valley Junction. Despite its garish exterior, the shop that was likely someone’s house at some point was charming on the inside. Most of the yarn products—many them quite unique—were found downstairs, while specialty threads and stitchery tools were found upstairs in the attic. I was dismayed when the shop closed, since I couldn’t easily find elsewhere locally one of my favorite yarns, a worsted weight blend of silk and wool that I used for felting projects.

One day when I was reading the newspaper, however, I latched onto an article about the octogenarian owner of Rose Tree Fiber Shop, Rosemary Heideman, who opened a yarn shop near the University of Iowa in Ames in 1988 at the age of 60. She sold yarn, patterns and stitchery tools, taught classes, spun her own wool, and even designed her own patterns. I was delighted to discover that she carried a full line of the silk wool yarn I could no longer get at the closed Pink House. Every time we were in Ames, I dove into the apple basket carrying my favorite yarn to restock my inventory. Sadly, Rosemary retired last year, and the new owner decided to let that same yarn retire. The last time I visited the shop, only a few skeins were left in the dullest colors. Although I couldn’t believe it, I was told that “people weren’t buying that yarn anymore.”  To be fair, I was offered the opportunity to do a special order by purchasing 10 skeins in the same color from the manufacturer, but that wasn’t a very appealing offer. I was accustomed to smaller lots in a wider range of colors, spending more than $100 each visit. Time to scavenge again!

It wasn’t until this January, when we were driving home from a visit to our son who lives in the Chicago area, that I found a jewel of a yarn shop in St. Charles, Illinois. That shop is called Wool & Company, and though it does not carry my favorite silk wool yarn, it does carry fantastic substitutes in a rainbow of colors. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the shop is filled in every corner with fiber, patterns, tools and inspiration. Wool & Company describes itself as a full service knitting and crochet store. “Our mission is to spread our love of knitting in a fun, creative and informative way,” states their Web site. “We have the largest selection of knitting and crochet supplies in Chicago and Illinois. Whether yarn, books, patterns, classes and workshops, needles or craft themed gifts, we’ve got them. Both at our store and online we are always adding new items for the knitter, crocheter and needle arts fan.” The business supports Project Heartstrings, a scarf project that aims to show young girls with eating disorders that handmade scarves are like their bodies: imperfect but of great value. Wool & Company also has plenty of charity yarn that is available, just for the asking. They do ask that you complete a form describing your cause, and that you supply photos of the completed project, so they can inform those who donate the yarn how it is being used. One of the unique online services that Wool & Company offers is a Chicken Auction, which involves bidding on clearanced yarns. If you win the bid, the yarn is shipped to you.

Here are some of the wonderful yarns I purchased. What great yarn sources, especially online, have you discovered?

 © 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.