Wall Art So Simple, Even a Yarn Geek Can Do It

Are your Studio walls looking a bit bland and unappealing? Were you a little overzealous when buying school supplies this year? Why not use the extra stuff to spruce up the space? It's easy, and in a few minutes/hours, (depending on how crafty you are with the paper) nifty new wall art can be yours. Here are the steps, from start to finish. I've included some of my mishaps for comic relief and so you may benefit by not repeating my mistakes.



What You Will Need:

  • Inspiration phrase or pictures (Mine is about a capable wife spinning.)
  • Glue Stick
  • Nice printing paper (I used Linen paper)
  • Card Stock
  • Pretty scrap-booking paper or wrapping paper
  • An old (or new) frame
  • Scissors
  • Tape of some kind
  • Glass Cleaner
  • Paper Slicer (Optional, but it sure is nice for making straight edges quickly)
  • Dog toy (Also optional)









Step 1: Find a phrase or picture you especially adore.

Step 2: Type it or drag it into your favorite editing software. I used Open Office because it's what we have. (If you have an image that is ready to go in hand, just ignore all this mumbo-jumbo and skip ahead to step 7 Grasshopper.)

Step 3: Obsess over hundreds of choices in the “Font” menu. Pick one. Change your mind several times. Go back to your original choice.



Step 4: Play with layout and font size for half an hour. When it looks good, print it on cheap paper to see how it looks. (Wow, that was a way different size. Back to the drawing board.) This might happen a few times if you are anything like me.

Step 5:  Finalize the size you want your word or picture to be. Now add a boarder or clip art or use the drawing menu of your software to add shapes.

Step 6:  Obsess over the color of the border and other decorations for another half an hour. Decide they should all be different.

Step 7: Give the dogs a new toy so they will leave you alone for a few minutes.

Step 8: Pick out the pretty paper you want for the background of your wall art, keeping in mind that you want a nice pretty bit to show when you are done. If there are rips or bits you don't particularly like, you can use the phrase or picture you've been working on to cover it.

Step 9: Print a mock-up of your (hopefully) final draft. Use the scissors or paper trimmer to cut it to the right size.

Step 10: Realize you haven't found the frame you want to use yet so the end size of the thing is immaterial right now. Go find a frame.

Step 11: Select the colors of card stock you would like to mount your phrase on. You can go with as many colors as you like, just remember, it will take up space in your frame and cut down on how much pretty paper you see. I selected two.

Step 12: Cut the first card stock a little larger than your phrase on all sides. If there are more colors you want to have behind your phrase, cut each one a little larger than the last one on all 4 sides.

Step 13: Print a final copy of your phrase, or picture, onto the nice printer paper. Realize something went terribly wrong. The borders have somehow disappeared and now it's too wide for the card stock. Redo the layout and reprint.

Step 14: Use the glue stick to adhere the phrase to the card stock and that to the next card stock, and so on until you have them all stuck together into one piece. Realize one of them is crooked and try to reposition it correctly. Re-cut and replace the card stock that just ripped.



Step 15: Disassemble the frame and make sure your frame is clean before assembling the last bit. For the love of Pete, use the glass cleaner. Trying to wipe it clean with spit and a tissue only leads to tears. Coincidentally, tears are also no good for glass cleaning.





Step 16: Take a break. Attempt to rescue the new toy from the dogs. Then realize it's already too late and make a mental note to clean the stuffing up off the floor later. (Also, my dogs just ate ripstop nylon.)


Step 17: Hold the frame up so you can see what it will look like when it's done. Place the background pretty paper and your card stock “sandwich” in position. If it needs tweaked, now is the time to do it.



Step 18: Realize your paper isn't big enough for the opening in your frame. Panic a bit, then do some creative paper piecing. Decide it actually looks better this way.

Step 19: Glue the card stock “sandwich” onto the background paper.


Step 20: If you have a frame with a mat, tape your creation to the mat at the top to keep it from sliding down inside the frame. Do not tape all the way around because it will buckle later.

Step 21: Put the back on the frame and admire your new wall art.

(Optional) Step 22: Decide you like this so much you want to write a tutorial to share with everyone, but now that you're done, you'll have to stage a bunch of pictures.

Step 23: Ponder the possibility of the existance of The Cleaning Fairy. Decide to leave him a gift, "Just in case."


How to Make a CD Spindle

Want to spin your very own yarn but don't have the cash for a spinning wheel. No problem, I am going to show you how to make your very own CD drop spindle. The nice thing about using CD's is they are already balanced to spin smoothly, and who does not have CD's that will never be put back into a CD player. Here are the pieces you are going to need.

1. Two CD's. In this case I am using the Beatles Anthology. You can also use something with artwork that you like as the top CD and one of those disks that you used to get with a new mouse underneath. 

2. A 7/16" Dowel rod cut down to 12" in length.

3. A 1/2" cup hook

4. A 1/2" rubber grommet. 

The dowel rod, cup hook and grommet can all be found at the hardware store. Look for the grommet in the electrical section. It will seem too large for the CD and to stay securely on the dowel rod but trust me. 

Now that we have all of the parts lets put them together.

You will probably need to cut the dowel rod down. I use a chop saw but and usually doing multiple spindles at one time. If you don't have a saw a serrated knife will do. I also take some 200 grit sand paper to clean up the cut edges and smooth down the dowel a bit.

Now put the CD's together and squeeze the rubber grommet into the hole. It is going to be a tight fit. I found the best way is squeeze it together, put one end in and start working it around.

Once the grommet is most of the way in I finish it off with the dowel rod. 

Slide the CD's onto the dowel rod. I start off with the CD 4" from the top. You may need to adjust it a bit to correct a wobble. Now we can screw in the cup hook. Try and center the cup hook in the end of the dowel and just screw it in.



Now you are ready to tie on a leader and start spinning. I use a piece of yarn about 32" long doubled over and tied in a loop. 

If of course you don't want to make one yourself just drop Sarah a line over on Facebook and ask for one of our spindle and sample roving starter packs.


How to Care for Your Hand Knits

Congratulations! Your hand knitted object looks fabulous! All your hard work and attention to details has really paid off. Now it is time to protect your investment. Inevitably you will have to wash your work. How do you do this without ruining the whole thing?

I was going to try to write it all out for you, but there comes a time when I should just step aside and let a real expert tell you all about it. Clara Parkes of "Knitter's Review" has already laid it all out for you. In her article "Dirty Work: How to Clean Your Handknits", she walks you right through it. She has even included a Frequently Asked Questions section and a helpful comments section. Go, click and be educated my minions.


Spinning Yarn With a Drop Spindle

Spinning yarn with a drop spindle is an important skill that was passed down from mother to daughter and father to son for centuries. All the sails for the great sailing ships were made of fibers spun by hand. 14th century courtesans wouldn't be caught dead in anything but garments made from hand spindled threads. They considered wheel spun yarns to be inferior.  The advent of the Industrial Revolution in the United States changed spinning from a necessity to a craft, and hand spinning dropped into relative obscurity. Today it is experiencing resurgence in popularity because it is so stinkin' cool. (OK that last bit is really just my opinon, but still very true. All the cool kids are doing it.)

Fiber festivals, spinning retreats and local yarn shops are all places where you might find artisans spinning fibers into yarn. If you look on the internet, you can find events around your area where you can contact spinners personally. If you would like to try spinning for yourself, here are some basic steps to get you started.

Before beginning to spin on a top whorl drop spindle, you must attach a string called a leader.

Tying on the Leader
1: Attach a leader to your spindle by tying the ends of a piece of yarn about 30 inches long together.

2: Use a half hitch knot to secure it onto the shaft right below the whorl.

3: Half hitch it around the shaft the opposite direction. This will keep the leader from sliding around the shaft.

4: Next, take the yarn over the side of the whorl, wind it up the shaft and around the hook a few times.

Before you start spinning, pre-draft some of your fiber.

This will make the actual drafting as you are spinning a whole lot easier. To pre-draft,

1: Pull a little tiny bit of fiber from the end of the roving. See how long the fibers are?

2: Now pick up your roving and place your hands farther away from each other than the length of the individual fibers. They need to be able to slip past each other, and if you are pulling on 2 ends of the same fiber that can't happen.

3: Now gently pull a little fiber with one hand (the drafting hand from now on) and hold the roving with the other hand. When you start to feel a little movement, notice where it starts to look like the roving is a little fluffier. You want the whole thing to look like that.

4: Use your drafting hand to grip where the new fluffiness is and pull gently again from there and repeat the process until you have a few feet of pre-drafted fiber.



If it is hard to pre-draft from the larger roving, try halving it or even pulling the roving into fourths lengthwise.



Keep the unspun fibers out of the way of the rotating spindle by either throwing the fiber up over your shoulder and onto your back, or wrapping it around a distaff or your wrist. Alternately, if you are wearing long sleeves, you could stuff the fiber up your sleeve and out of the way. You could also make a wrist bag to put your fiber in, there is no real rules about how it is done, just go with whatever works best for you.




Attach the Fiber to the Leader

Let the spindle hang beneath your hand suspended by the leader. Take the spindle in your left hand and the leader in your right hand; spin the drop spindle from the shaft in a clockwise direction. Make sure after you choose a direction, you always turn the spindle in that direction. Turning it in the opposite direction will cause your yarn to untwist and the spindle to drop.

Allow yourself time to practice making the spindle rotate. Repeat this process of spinning the spindle in the same direction until the leader begins to take in the twist.


Open the end of your leader loop and tuck the end of your pre-drafted in there and spin the spindle until the leader closes up on it. Give it a tiny tug to make sure it is secure.

Now you are ready to start spinning.


1: Hold the leader where your fiber is attached with your right (now drafting) hand and give the spindle a good twist with your left hand. You will soon feel a little “pinch” come up between the fingers on your right hand. That is energy being stored. When you feel that, bring the spindle towards your body and “park” it against yourself to keep it from spinning the other way. This is known as the old “park and draft” method. Soon you won't need to “park” anymore if you practice.

2: Now pinch right below the fingers of your right hand with the fingers of your left hand. Pinching will keep all that stored energy from getting away.

3: With your right hand, gently pull back on your pre-drafted fiber, remembering to keep your hands far enough apart to let the fibers move. You will notice a point where your drafted fibers appear to open up and get fluffier before they break away from your roving.

4: Stop just before the breaking happens, (although if it does, don't worry, totally fixable and we will address that later.) and pinch that place with your right hand. Let go of the stored up energy in your left hand. It will travel up your drafted fiber to your right hand. Congratulations! You have yarn!

If you think there is more energy still there, repeat the pinching and drafting process and see what happens. (You can draft very thinly for a thin yarn, or you can leave it thick for a chunky one. It is all up to you. Just remember, thinner yarns require more twist to be stable than thicker yarns. Have fun with it.)





Winding On

You have just spun what is called, a single. Yay, go you! But how do you know if it is any good?

To check, bring your spindle hand and drafting hand together.

A: If the yarn twists back on itself and the twist hangs straight, you are golden if you want to ply the end yarn.

B: If it doesn't twist back at all, give the spindle another twist for good measure.

C: If your single twists back on itself and then contorts into a twisty knot, let some of that energy go, either by drafting out more fiber or letting the spindle unwind a bit.


If you are going for singles, slack, but not pulling apart, singles are optimal because you want relaxed yarn to work with, but if you are plying, a slack single will fall apart when twisted the opposite direction.  

When the yarn is long enough to cause the spindle to almost touch the ground, unhook the yarn and wrap it around the base of the spindle next to the whorl.  Leave enough yarn unwound in order to slip it back on the hook with a couple of extra inches to spare. Continue on as you were from the beginning.


Joining More Fiber

At some point, your fiber will break and the spindle will drop to the ground or you will run out of drafted fiber. This is okay and is very simple to fix. Even the best of spindlers drop a spindle from time to time. Get some more pre-drafted fibers ready and proceed.

1: Fuzz out the end of your yarn a few inches and then pinch with your drafting hand right below the fuzz and spin your spindle to store up a bit of energy behind the pinch. Switch the pinch to your left hand.

2: To add on more fiber, overlap the fuzz in your left hand a few inches over the fluff of drafted fibers in your right hand. Let go of the energy stored behind the pinch in your left hand. Let the twist run into the fibers to join them.

3: Add more twist by spinning the spindle before you continue making a new length of yarn, otherwise your join may not be secure. (It is important not to try and make a join of new fluff fibers over an already spun section of yarn.)

4: It is good practice to test the join before continuing. Give the spindle another twist, and gently tug on both sides of the join. If it holds, go back to drafting and having a ball, of yarn that is. Tee hee!*

If your yarn pulls apart, you need to add more twist. To connect the ends back together, untwist both ends again and loosen the fibers. Lay one side on top of the other and twist the fibers together like before.

If the spindle gets away from you and the twist runs up into the fiber mass, which is a common occurrence for beginners, stop the spindle and untwist the fiber mass—then start the drafting process again.

If there are "fat soft areas", known as slubs in your yarn or thick spots and thin spots, you can keep them and make a novelty yarn. You can remove them by pinching the yarn with both hands on either side of the slub (a little back from the slub) and untwisting it until the fibers draft out a little.

After you have wound off a considerable amount of singles the spindle will become too heavy and will start to wobble a lot as you are spinning it. When this happens it is time to stop spinning yarn and remove it from the spindle.

If the spindle wobbles in the beginning, try sliding the whorl up or down the shaft to find the “sweet spot”. It's all about balance.


*Sorry about that, I’m a sucker for a bad pun.


Mr. Yarn Geek Upcycled CD Spindles may be purchased online at Yarn Geek Fibers. They come with a leader already atached and 2 ounces of practice fiber to get you started. We are also happy to help you succeed and would love to answer any questions you may have.

Stay tuned for our next tutorial, "I Have Yarn on My Spindle, Now What?"