As far back as I can remember, the end of summer meant packing up the minivan to spend a week traveling around North America. Traveling introduces us to different cultures and ways of life, shaping our perspectives and making us more understanding of other people. It enriches our lives. To create a souvenir of my travels, I turned to my pin loom.
Growing up, my family visited destinations such as national parks, museums, monuments, and cultural attractions. As I grew older and became craftier, my souvenirs were often handmade items or craft kits for the crafts the locals were known for, such as pottery, beading, scrimshaw, candle making, origami, rug hooking (affiliated links), or embroidery.
The Yarn of Memory Having become an avid knitter, a spinner, and more recently a weaver, I have found myself searching out similar types of experiences and souvenirs. I remember specifically searching out fiber and yarn as a souvenir for the first time in 2009. How excited I was to be invited on a trip to Alaska with my husband’s family! Having read about the Oomingmak Musk Ox Cooperative, I needed to find some qiviut to spin or knit with while exploring Alaska. My husband is a huge enabler of my creative endeavors; we planned some hiking, sightseeing, camping in the mountains, and a trip to the Musk Ox Farm, where I spent all my spending money on raw qiviut and a tiny ball of handspun yarn for inspiration. We even checked out the beautiful handiwork of the Oomingmak Cooperative at their shop in Anchorage.
I have thought a lot about tracking my travels around the world; I’m fortunate to have visited 48 of the 50 United States and a handful of foreign countries throughout my life. I have thought about different ways to represent my travels with maps, scrapbooks, or journaling, but none of these seemed like the right way to express my creativity while keeping those memories vivid. I was interested in a better way to display memories of our travels. I decided to start my project with memories after the birth of my first child, about 11 years.
Being rather obsessed with all things fiber, I decided to make some small textile squares to represent our travels. I have lots of small yardages of handspun yarn leftover from projects or from sampling, some as short as 12". These scraps seemed perfect for squares woven on a pin loom. Each square can be made with less than 8 yards of yarn, and even shorter lengths can serve for the embroidery. I did use a few commercial yarns purchased on vacation for my project; sometimes it is hard to find a local yarn shop, let alone one that sells spinning fiber. There have been a few states where I was unable to get souvenir fibers to add to the project.
To learn more about using handspun yarn on a pin loom, read Deborah Held’s article “Her Handspun Habit: 5 Reasons Why Spinners Should Try Pin Loom Weaving.” Stay tuned for Stefanie’s methods for making her wall hanging.
When she is not protecting the public as a health inspector, Stefanie Johnson enjoys creating unique items and teaching others to spin, knit, and weave. Along with her husband, Jason, and children Samantha and Lincoln, she raises French Angora rabbits, honeybees, and chickens on their hobby farm, Settlers Grove, in Illinois.
Featured Image: Stefanie Johnson’s pin-loom wall hanging is a record of her travel memories—including the handspun Colorado alpaca/wool blend woven square that depicts a moose. Photo by Stefanie Johnson