An Adventure in Design

I learned most of what I know about the fiber arts from my mother and her mother. My mom was a wonderful teacher, patient and helpful, but holding a high standard for my work. I’m pretty sure she occasionally ripped out my knitting and reknit it without me knowing, not because my knitting was so poorly done, but because she wanted me to feel successful.

We were not poor, but my parents were always very careful with money. They did not buy on credit and saved all they could for “the future.” My brothers and I were given an allowance and taught to value working for what we wanted. I’m not sure how it started, but I decided I wanted to start a business and with the encouragement of my mom I created and sold potholders.

Now before you laugh, remember times were different. It was still safe to go door to door with my little box of creations and ask the lady of the house if she would like to make a purchase. I was also allowed to place my potholders and sales information in our neighbor’s beauty salon. That was a big boost for my developing business!

These are some of the potholders I made when I was about ten years old.

My father contributed to my enterprise, perhaps unknowingly. I used all of his old socks to make potholder loops! Judging from the photo, he must have had some crazy socks! I also used my profits to purchase cotton loops for my creations. It was a great way to learn about business, to be creative, to understand salesmanship, and to be a little more independent. I didn’t set the world on fire as a potholder salesperson, but I gained a great deal of self confidence!

Now the world has changed….a lot! I let my children do school sales door to door, but I would not want my grandchildren to do so. Creating potholders is still a viable fiber art, but looms and loops have definitely changed. Products are of much higher quality and readily available online. In the spirit of trying something different and with plenty of time to explore ideas and materials, I decided to revisit weaving potholders. Here are my first attempts.

I don’t plan to go door to door and sell these, but I had great fun making them. The larger looms and loops available now are wonderful. Loops are available in cotton and wool and the colors are fantastic. Weaving these little beauties is quick and addictive!

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about several sweaters I was working with and reflected on what the sweaters meant to their previous owners, why they were purchased, or where they might have been worn. I’ve finished one project using the sweaters, so I want to share with you the story of the sweaters in their recycled form. When I purchase sweaters for making into other items, they don’t have to be perfect. I’m going to wash them and cut them up anyway, so a few holes do not matter to me. I’m more interested in the colors and textures. I decided to make several lap blankets, so choose some neutral color sweaters and set to work. I treat the sweater as if it was fabric; cutting it apart, pressing the pieces, cutting the pieces into useable sizes, laying the pieces out to create a pattern, pinning the pieces, sewing everything together and adding a binding. Between almost every step there is pressing, pressing, pressing. If this sounds a bit tedious, it is, but it is also so much fun and because the compulsion to create is so strong, it is something I truly enjoy!

I like to use a sweater made of merino wool for the binding. They are usually lighter weight and do not felt as much as other types of wool. The binding is made from a continuous strip cut on the bias. Here is the story of the sweater for the binding: This sweater is a chocolate brown men’s XL merino wool. It was purchased by a woman as a Christmas gift for her husband. While he appreciated the thought, he really wasn’t a “chocolate brown merino wool sweater” kind of guy, so the sweater sat in his closet for many years. His wife cleaned out the closet and tossed it into the pile of stuff to go to the Goodwill. I shop the Goodwill on “bargain day” when all clothing is half-price and this sweater came home with me. Now it has been reborn as the binding on this beautiful, warm lap blanket!

I often incorporate the original details from the sweaters I use. I love using things like pockets and necklines. You never know when a pocket in your lap blanket might come in handy!! I will be posting this sweater lap blanket on my Etsy site, DianeHamillFiberArt. Thanks for reading!!

Today I started working on a lap blanket made from recycled wool sweaters. I have quite a large collection of sweaters, so I just selected one I liked and pulled several more in colors that I thought would go well together. When I purchase sweaters for blankets, I wash them as soon as I bring them home, but I decided to wash these again, thoroughly felting them before cutting them into the pieces for the blanket. As I cut, I began to think about where each sweater might have been before it came to me. If they could talk, I’m sure they would have great stories to tell!

For instance….the chocolate brown, boiled wool TravelSmith sweater in a women’s size 1X. When I purchased it, it looked like it might fit a 10 year old. Obviously while traveling to Istanbul, the owner had it laundered and it came back a shrunken shadow of it’s former self. It had great buttons which I cut off and will save in my button jar for some future project (or just because).

Then there was the Aran fisherman’s sweater labeled “handknit in Ireland.” Someone had a lovely trip back to the old country and purchased this sweater as a memento of their journey. It’s difficult to cut this one, but it will make a beautiful addition to the blanket.

I’ll have to work especially hard to get large pieces from the sweater with the darned holes. Someone loved this sweater so much, they couldn’t give it up and just kept mending and mending it. Perhaps it was a gift from someone special in their life. Perhaps they couldn’t afford another sweater right then, so they kept wearing what they had. It’s seen better days, but then, so have most people. This sweater will find new life and new purpose!

The plain light brown sweater probably went with everything and was worn often. Perhaps it hung in it’s owner’s office waiting for those days between seasons when the air-conditioning made the room a little chilly.

The hound’s-tooth check was worn by a large man with a large personality. It would have taken a certain type of guy to get away with wearing this sweater. He might have been a comedian or at least someone with a great sense of humor!

Where have they been? Were they given as gifts? Did the owner love them or hang them in the back of the closet until they were put in the bag to be given away?

No matter warm wool sweaters…..you have found a new purpose now…you will join with other sweaters in an entirely different format and become something beautiful again. You will warm and comfort someone else and add a new chapter to your story!

Mundane adjective ~ characterized by the practical, and ordinary : commonplace.

Repetition….I love the calming peace of doing something over and over again. Once I know a particular stitch, pattern, weave, etc. I find joy in repeating the process. I have literally made hundreds of the same knit dishcloth, knitted dozens and dozens of the same prayer shawl, woven yards and yards of plain weave cloth. Playing with color breaks any monotony in doing the same thing again. Muscle memory takes over and my mind is free to enjoy traveling to a different place or time.

In his book Practicing the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence writes about the art of “practicing the presence of God in one single act that does not end.” Brother Lawrence was a cook in a monastery. By concentrating on the simple, uncomplicated duties of the kitchen, Brother Lawrence developed his method of prayer. He sought “to fix [himself] firmly in the presence of God by conversing all the time with Him.” Whether peeling potatoes or washing the dishes, Brother Lawrence practiced the presence of God. I’m no Brother Lawrence….I’m far from it, but, repetition of pattern in art helps me clear my mind, meditate on being in the moment, and practice the presence of God.

If you are an artist, I am sure you have heard it said that an artist doesn’t create because they want to, they create because they must. I believe this is true and even after a period of down time, or maybe because of a period of down time, I felt compelled to order some lovely yarn and pick up knitting needles, to dig through bins of yarns and warp the loom, to get out the sewing machine and the ironing board and create. Whether you write, paint, weave, cook, sing or a myriad of other mediums, you understand what I am talking about.

When you create anything, you are putting your heart and soul on the line. Some artists might say it does not matter what people think of your art, you must create anyway; but a part of me really wants other people to like what I create. I spend a considerable amount on materials because one must have a “stash” of fiber on hand when the creative urge strikes! I spend a great deal of time planning a project, working on that project, photographing the project, writing about the project and sending it out into the world for others to see, consider, copy, judge, etc. Because I usually sell what I create, I have to decide on a price for my work. My mentor finally convinced me to think of myself as an artist and to price my work accordingly. This was really difficult for me, but if you don’t view your work as valuable, why should anyone else?

This brings me to my topic for today….”Selling Your Soul.” My creations are a part of me, but it was time to make sure they were sent out into the world, and so I decided to have a sale. I am going all out with a half-price sale of most of my work. It is time for these items to find new homes and new owners to enjoy them! It is time for new creations! Out you go, my lovelies!! Check out the sale at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/DianeHamillFiberArt

My loom has sat bare since the first of the year. There were the holidays….too busy to weave. Then a huge family trip….too busy before and after to weave. Then everything came to a halt with Covid 19. Our lives changed in so many ways it was impossible to take it all in. Some days are more difficult than others, and I am looking for ways to cope with our new reality. Exercise, meditation, more reading, connecting with family and friends in new ways, cooking more…..countless reflections on why we are in so many crises and what to do to help. Perhaps facing the loom was just too much and creativity had been replaced with concern for other things.

As my father used to say, “Do something, even if it’s wrong!” Meaning, don’t just sit there….get busy living. I drug the loom out from the spare bedroom where it had been hidden out of the way since Christmas 2019. I worried that I wouldn’t remember how to warp, but muscle memory took over and the loom was warped. I choose a project and colors I hoped would feel calm and serene. Kitchen towels are simple and useful. Making them is meditative. I usually warp enough length to make three towels. When the weaving is complete, I will knit dishcloths to match, photograph the sets, and post them in my Etsy shop. It’s lovely to sell my handwoven items, but in this case, it’s just nice to get back to weaving!



These colors are calming. A good choice for getting back to weaving!

I love to play with color, so I’m always interested to see the Pantone Color of the Year.  For 2020, the color of the year is “Classic Blue!”  According to their website, traits of Classic Blue include, “Instilling calm, confidence, and connection, this enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.”  Sounds like a pretty good color!  We could all use a little more calmness, confidence, connection, dependability and stability!  If you don’t think color influences our daily lives, watch what trends appear as soon as the color of the year is announced.  I think we will be seeing lots more blue in all shades this year.  So, in keeping with the  color trend, I checked my supply of blue cashmere and started putting some blues together.  Here is what I came up with:

This 100% cashmere scarf is not just “Classic Blue,” but every shade of blue cashmere I could find.  It’s a double thickness of fabric, so extremely warm and soft.  There really is nothing like cashmere!

I will be posting this and several more cashmere scarves on my Etsy site.  I hope someone will enjoy wearing blue for 2020!

My mother was of the generation of women that wore headscarves.  You know, like Queen Elizabeth.  The Queen is often photographed with the two accessories she wears most….her purse and/or a headscarf.  The Queen was born in 1926, my mother was born in 1928, so perhaps that accounts for their preference for a headscarf.  For Mom, covering one’s head and neck kept you warm and prevented colds and earaches.  I’m not a fan of triangular headscarves, but I love a beautiful scarf, whether it’s purpose is warmth or just as a fashion accessory.  When I put on a coat and scarf, I can hear my mother say, “Wear your scarf!”


So it’s no wonder that I think of my mother sometimes while I’m working on scarves. I wanted to work on a warm project last weekend and sewing with cashmere was a perfect fit.  Inspired by Mother and Her Majesty, I choose colors from the classic check Burberry plaid.

In these photos, you can see a little bit about my construction process as well as the finished product.  I love the finished scarf.  You can’t go wrong with classic colors!  You can see this scarf and several other new items on my Etsy site at DianeHamillFiberArt.  It’s cold outside…..don’t forget to “wear your scarf!!”

Winter is the perfect time to work with wool, creating warm and cozy blankets.  Even though we are not experiencing many days of freezing cold, it’s cold enough to wish for an afghan or blanket in the evenings.  Perfect weather to curl up with a book or binge watch that show you have been saving.

Cooler weather brought out the desire to dive into my stash of reclaimed wool sweaters and this grouping was the inspiration for the latest up-cycled sweater blanket.  Discarded sweaters are a bit like people; they  may have flaws or defects, but they still have beauty and usefulness!  I thought these colors were just gorgeous together.  They reminded me of a campfire…earthy soil, stone surround, rough logs and dancing flames!51018219_10211958046019627_3584510788196368384_n

Washing to felt the sweaters is just the beginning.  Many hours of cutting, pressing, deciding on the placement of each piece, sewing, pressing, sewing, binding, pressing, and photographing follow. Incorporating the sweater details, such as necklines and pockets, adds to the fun of creating each blanket.  I think the process is well worth the results!

These sweaters will be sent back out into the world in blanket form to continue their life of giving warmth and comfort.  The blanket will be for sale on my Esty site at DianeHamillFiberArt. I know it will find the perfect home!

I am very grateful for everyone who enjoys my art. Some supporters read this blog, some follow me on  Facebook or Instagram, others check my Etsy store….all are appreciated! When anyone actually makes a purchase of my creations, it is an affirmation of what I work hard to create. Everyone needs to feel they have purpose and meaning in life and fiber art is one of the ways I work at finding that sweet place of contentment.

A dear friend and longtime supporter of my work recently ordered several cashmere throws as Christmas gifts for family members. Here are the results…..I hope she and her family have a cozy, cashmere Christmas!!

I also feel that it is important to conserve our resources. I’m not always good at resisting the urge to purchase “stuff,” but I’m trying! My parents were both born at the beginning of the Great Depression and consequently, they were extremely financially conservative. They were raised with the motto, “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, Or Do Without!” This is part of the reason I find creating art from recycled cashmere so satisfying. Also, my mother would find it extremely funny if she knew how much I love to find a bargain at a resale shop!


All of my cashmere creations including scarves, baby blankets and throws are made from 100% cashmere sweaters.  I’ve purchased them from resale shops, Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, or they have been given to me.  I’ve created custom designs from sweaters that belonged to a beloved family member.  Some blankets have a theme, others are color combinations I love. These knits are wonderful to work with.  There is nothing quite as soft and cozy as cashmere!








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