VE Magazine features Mid-Century Modern Ryas and my Efforts to Revive the Almost-lost Art of the Rya Rug

Rya Rug-making…Yesterday and Today. This early ad is from one of my old C.U.M. Rya catalogs from Denmark.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from the editor of VE Magazine (stands for VintagExplorer) based in the United Kingdom.  VE is available both in print and online with subscriptions from all around the world.  She was working on an article featuring the history of mid-century modern rya rugs and some of the unique advertisements that were created to put this art form on the map.  You have to see them to believe it!  Click here to go directly to the Rya Rugs article.  If you are a fan of all things vintage, treat yourself to a trip back in time.  Let me know if any of you remember the advertisements.  I recall my grandmother saying, “That’s ridiculous.  Who would put a rya rug in the beach sand?”  But the image lasted for decades for me.

The article also contains rare information about the history of the Nordic ryas to which I can attest there is very little written.  I was thrilled to see the history is very similar to what I have assembled for the history chapter in my book on designing and making the off-loom rya. (Phew!  So I know it is all TRUE!) She wanted to conclude her story with an optimistic word about making a rya rug today…and she found me.  Of course I gave her all the info and photos she needed to complete the story.  The off-loom art of rya rug-making has a new ally of support and outreach to the world.  So exciting to have others sharing the story.

Louise working on her first rya of her own design at the February 2017 Rya Sewing Circle at Byrdcall Studio. Denis is starting on his third rya of the past 12 months!

I think it is really cool that she has put the challenge out to the VE readers to make a rya rug.  A kit is a great way to get started, or start designing your own.

I keep adding to my kits-on-hand inventory from Rauma of Norway each month.  I also have a few of my earlier designs listed on etsy. Why not check out my etsy shop?

If you would like to share your latest rya project, or even a vintage one, post on Pinterest or Instagram with hashtags #vintagexplorermag, #ryarugs, or #midcentury.  Be proud to share in any social media you choose and in real life, too, like as a fiberart in the County Fair!  If there is no category for “Rya Rugs” request a new category for an old craft.   The more we get our ryas “out there” the more people will realize it isn’t just an art of the past.

While your interest is peaked, why not check out these links:  www.vintagexplorer.co.uk and www.mantiquexplorer.co.uk

If you remember these ads, tell us.  If you care to comment about this blog, feel free to do so below.  You may not see your comment immediately, but check it out later and see what others have said.  Thanks!  Knot on!

Perfectly manicured hands demonstrate the rya knotting technique in another promotional photo by C.U.M. Rya of Denmark in 1960s-70s..

 

A Rya Challenge for the New Year

img_0289Happy New Year!  I think we stay young when we do things we have never done before on a regular basis.  If nothing else, it definitely keeps life more interesting.  So that will be one of my driving forces during 2017.

I have been designing and making rya rugs since I was in 6th grade, so my new thing to start the new year is to make a “kit” rya rug from Norway–and an easy one at that. So, for me, my challenge is to not ad-lib or substitute colors.  Why am I holding back on my creativity? img_0267The reason is I have been selling the Rauma Rye (Norwegian for rya; pronounced the same) kits for over a year now and I have never made one.  Most design-kits have been available for decades, if there ever were any “bugs” surely they would have been worked out by now.  I ask my customers after they tell me they have completed a rye kit if they had enough of every color.  Usually the answer is yes, and I have to wonder when they don’t if it is because they made the pile a little too long. img_5967 So now I am putting myself to the test.  I am also putting Rauma to the test. It is coming through with flying colors. Many of my questions are now answered.

The neat thing is: I am totally LOVING making the kit called “ILD” which means “Fire” in Norwegian.  I have seen a photo of a completed Ild in gradations from black-purples-reds-orange-yellows.  But Ild is also offered as a kit in these cool blues-greens, but I didn’t know what they would look like together.

Two evenings ago I started knotting Ild while watch a Netflix movie (Sully, starring Tom Hanks). So sitting on the couch with my rya in my lap, I knotted the bottom 6″ within two hours while watching a riveting movie.  Now, two days later I am almost half way done and I can’t stop! The color combinations are amazing.  This is a great “starter kit.”  It is small 16″ wide by 32″ tall. It is totally symmetrical.  Reasonably priced at $206 for all supplies.  And now it is the only kit of all my Norwegian offerings that is personally “test-driven” by me.  (aside from my own designs!)img_0265

Now I have a fun offer for you. I would like to offer a small rya sewing circle of 3-4 people who want to come to my studio here in Woodbine, Maryland to start on their own Ild kit or any other rya project you would like to make. I’d be happy to set you up with these colors, or the red one, or we could do any color transition you want to do such as browns-rusts-yellows or purples through pinks.  I can personally teach you in a small group setting.  If you can’t come to my studio, You can still buy a kit and I will mail it to you. Click here to see the blue-green option or Click here to see the red-yellow option I’ll start the first few knots for you.  And for January and February, we can do an email progress-sharing report for all Ild makers, and in spring I will post a picture of everyone with their completed rya in what ever colors you chose to make them.  Contact me if you would be interested in starting with this kit this winter.  Let me know your general time availability. Weekdays, or weekend, mornings or afternoons.  Note:  I have just set aside Wed., Feb. 8 from 2-4:00 as a rya sewing circle day.  The first 4 people to contact me will be included in this sharing afternoon together.  Email me at byrdcallstudio@gmail.com.

img_0277All that to say, I AM LOVING THIS RYA EXPERIENCE!  And want to experience it with YOU! Throughout 2017 I plan to shine a spot light on various designs or ways of designing.  Keep me posted if you don’t want to miss a Rya Sewing Circle aimed at giving you confidence and a good healthy start on your project.

If you live anywhere near Connecticut, don’t forget to check out the STITCHES UNITED Conference in Hartford the last week-end in April.  I’ll be teaching there, and there is still time to register for my class. ILD and about 4-5 or my own designs will be on display in the Hartford Convention Center.

Feel free to comment below about other class types you would be interested to have me schedule in 2017.  Completing the book is my #1 priority, but a little class fun really makes my day!

A Design to Uplift and Heal

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Lately, writing my rya book has been first and highest priority in my daily life.  But with the stress of the recent presidential election and its outcome, I found myself sitting quietly in the studio last Sunday and wondering how to move on.  I had not even looked at my book document on my computer for nearly a week. I was not productive in any way.

Even though I had not carved a woodcut or linocut in over a year, I found myself taking a linoleum block from my carving bin and started to draw safety pins on it.  (The safety pin is being worn by many to symbolize standing together and uniting for the safety of others. When I saw a woman wearing a safety pin on her sweater in the market the other day, I felt a bit of optimism and comfort.  Such a small thing to wear a pin, but a big thing if it makes others feel camaraderie or united in some way. )

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This is a Unisex shirt in the color Berry. Click on the image to go to the etsy shop to see details.

I laid a little pin on the block and drew it, then moved it and drew it again, then opened it and drew it again.  Next thing you know I was carving it and within a couple of hours it was done! The process has been healing for me, but the real healing came when I thought, “I can not ‘market’ this art like my other designs, because there are too many people really hurting now and it would be unfair for me to profit on their loss.”  I got a big smile on my face (the first in days) when I realized that I could market them as printed shirts where a significant portion of the cost of the shirt would go to directly benefit marginalized people in our community and aid in creating unity among us all. I named the design: Unity.

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These long sleeve Comfort Colors shirts are now available in my etsy shop. Click on photo for details.

I selected two nonprofits which are near and dear to my heart and have promised $10 from each shirt sale to either of these nonprofits as selected by the person purchasing the shirt.  I have hand printed a total of 30 shirts in Ladies and Unisex style in long and short sleeves.  But I also have recently received from my local silk screener 200 more, so they can be distributed far and wide without taking up every minute of my life doing the printing by hand.

The nonprofits (to start with) and their missions are as follow:

  1. Common Ground on the Hill.  “Our world is one of immense diversity. As we explore and celebrate this diversity, we find that what we have in common with one another far outweighs our differences. Our common ground is our humanity, often best expressed by artistic traditions that have enriched human experience through the ages. We invite you to join us in searching for common ground as we assemble around theimg_5446 understanding that we can improve ourselves and our world by searching for the common ground in one another, through the lens of our artistic traditions. In a world filled with divisive, negative news, we seek to discover, create and celebrate good news.”          Walt Michael, Founder & Executive Director

You may recall from previous blogs and newsletters that nearly every summer for the past 15+ years I have taken classes during their summer camps and for the past two years I have been teaching rya rug making classes.

2. Mary’s Center  “Our mission is to build better futures through the delivery of health care, education, and social services. We embrace culturally diverse communities to provide them with the highest quality of care, regardless of ability to pay.”

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This is a Ladies style T-shirt. Click on photo to see the available hand-printed shirts in my etsy shop.  Hand-printed being rubbed from the inked carved linoleum block!

My niece, Emily, has worked in Washington DC at Mary’s Center since graduating from college.  Actually she did an internship there during college.  She has shared with me the wonderful service they provide.  I like to support them.

If you would like an original hand-printed T-shirt, you can buy them now through my etsy shop for $25 or $30 for long sleeves.  Each time one sells, I remove that shirt’s description for the dropdown menu of availability.

Later:  On Dec. 2nd I  picked up 200 more shirts from my local silk-screen printer.  They are currently listed in my etsy shop, Byrdcall.

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These ladies enjoyed a shopping frenzy knowing $10 from each purchase benefited a favorite nonprofit for unity.  Click this photo to see my new silk-screened T-shirts on etsy which cost $5 less than the hand-printed ones.

Designing, carving, and printing this design was healing for me.  generating funds for my favorite unifying nonprofits makes me feel good and I love knowing that each person who buys a shirt is wearing it with pride and love.

I am back to writing my book now. Yesterday I made progress, and today I plan to wrap up Chapter 5!  I am thankful to have art as an outlet in life to work through stress and challenges.  I hope you are all well and doing the same in your own way.  United we will make it better.  We will go forward with eyes open.

Donation Update:  As of 2/7/17 the sales of these shirts have generated $450 for Mary’s Center, $280 for Common Ground on the Hill and $140 for the Social Justice Committee of Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalist Church.  One day in the studio–with hopes for a more peaceful world has put $870 in the hands of people working to make that difference.  And the donations continue.

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And I also silk-screened Ladies style long sleeve in Lagoon and Denim and Black. And Unisex style long-sleeve shirts in the color Blue Spruce. Click this photo to see the etsy listing.

 

Become Part of My Rya Book–Strike a Pose!

Denise with Lloyd (1)

Denise from Washington state by way of France.

Thank you once again for your patience in awaiting the completion of my book.  Now I have something fun to offer you.  I don’t know about you, but I enjoy people-watching wherever I go.  It is fun to watch people go about their lives whether they are creating art, walking through an airport, or standing proudly with a rya rug they have created.

Theresa from Pittsburgh by way of Zambia

Theresa from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by way of Zambia

As they say, inquiring minds want to know.

Over the years, many of you have sent me photos of your completed ryas.  Now I am asking you (and even those I have not met yet) to send me a picture of YOU holding your handmade rya, standing in front of it, sitting on it or laying on it, but I want to see your face!  I don’t care if it is a kit, or your own design, or made by your grandparents.  I am inviting YOU to submit a photo of yourself with your favorite rya for possible inclusion into the book in a random photo spread.

Jo Ann from Maryland

Jo Ann from Maryland

Our demographics are very diverse, our faces are beautiful and happy, and the ryas colorful and creative.  Wouldn’t that be a page-spread you would enjoy seeing in the book?  And all the more fun if you are among the many faces of rya in this unique book?

OK, even if you have sent me photos in months or years past, please resend or take another shot or two.  My book producer will use the photos that have high enough resolution to be clear, and fit well into the double-page spread.  They can be square or rectangular.

Melinda with "Purple Loosestrife" from Maryland

Melinda from Maryland with “Purple Loosestrife”

We will probably reduce them to 2″ x 2″ or 2″ x 4″, but send fairly large clear digital images. We will probably caption with your first name and the state, province, or country you are from.  If you tell us a tad more, we might be able to add a note about if it is your 1st or 10th rya.   We will need to have a Release Form signed which we ask you to send along with the photo (which basically says you give your permission for us to use your photo for this book and book-related press.)

Click on the link below for the Release Form. It is a PDF.  You can print, sign, and scan to send back, or sign and take a digital photo to send with your picture, or snail mail if that is easier.  Click here for form:  Release Form for Rya Book Inclusion

Sarah's first rya of her own design under her husbands feet in Kentucky

Sarah’s first rya of her own design under her husband’s feet in Kentucky

You get the idea.  I don’t care when you did it, I don’t care where you got the supplies.  I am looking for clear pictures that show your happy face with your rya (you don’t have to show the whole rya if it is big.  Just sit on it, or lay on it and have a photographer friend shoot you with your face in clear view.  For best light, shoot outside on a cloudy day so the shadows are soft, but many of these indoor shots are fine!

Erma from Pennsylvania.

Erma from Pennsylvania.

Send a couple of photos and we can choose the best for the book. If you are thinking, “Oh, she probably doesn’t want my little rya,” Yes, I do!  Big, small, simple, complicated, almost done, or done years ago…  If in doubt, just send the photo and release form.  If we can use it, we will.   Please don’t make me beg!  Feel free to ask questions.

Please have your photos and release form to us by May 15, 2016.  Thank you!!

judy nelson-moore with rya

Judy from New Mexico with her first rya rug.

David from Cincinnati with his most recent of dozens of ryas

David from Ohio with his most recent of dozens of ryas

A Challenging Rya–and the story behind it…

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As most of you know, I’m not taking on any big design “jobs” until my rya book is completed.  But early Fall 2015, I received an email so intriguing that I had to find an excuse to tackle this challenge.  So I justified it by deciding to document this project as a lesson for the book.  Mission accomplished.  Here is a sneak preview.

paintingPolly Pook made ryas 40 years ago when she worked for a rya supply company in Illinois. The backing fabric she used was different from what I was familiar with, but she was excited to learn to knot on a backing I had from Sweden from the 70’s which was just the size she wanted.  She and her husband, Peter, live in Ontario.

Peter had painted an oil painting of a Canadian landscape. They wondered if this image could be drawn onto the backing.  I have often told people that pictorial images often do not become good rya designs, but this painting was strong enough in colors and design to hold its own as an abstract scene in rya.  So I said YES I could do it for them, if they would allow me to use it as an example in my book.  They were pleased with the idea and helped me along the way as much as they could.Acetate overlay Pook

First, they bought my yarn and backing samples on etsy so they could match yarn colors to the painting.  (Online photos often to not show the true yarn colors.)  Then Peter traced the painting on a sheet of acetate in order to make a line drawing for me to transpose onto the backing with a laundry marker. (Brilliant!)  I had never known anyone to do this before, but it is all part of simply figuring out in the most logical way how to get a job done.  I love it! They sent me digital images of the painting, the line drawing, and the line drawing with yarn color numbers written in each space–which was extremely helpful for me.Pook line drawing from iPad - cleaned up

I used the grid method to transfer the design from 8 1/2 x 11 paper to 34″ x 55″  backing.  I drew lines on the paper with a ruler and stitched the same proportional lines on the backing. Then with a laundry marker, slowly drew what was in each “square” onto the backing.  I’m not going to say that it was really easy because there actually is quite a bit of detail there, but in the end it came together very nicely. Pook line drawing with numbers 9-16-15Don’t worry–the book will have an easier example of how to draw on a backing.  All the same, isn’t it nice to know that this can be done?

working photoSince the backing being used was a traditional Swedish backing measuring 34″ wide x 55″ long, I knew that it had 85 knots across the row and 95 rows (I counted them).  85 x 95 = 8,075 knots in the whole rya.  Good to know.  I also knew that Polly wanted a pile length of about 1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″ which calculates to about 300 knots from a Rauma Norwegian skein of rya yarn (ryegarn).  So how many skeins would this rya need?  Very good: 8,075 knots divided by 300 knots per skein equals about 27 skeins required for this rya.  We round up to 30 skeins.  Helpful info, but how much of each color?  Aye, there’s the rub.

Pook painting divided into cmWas I in over my head? To figure how much of each color, I went back to a photocopy of the painting and with a ruler, drew lines dividing the painting into 1 cm x 1 cm squares.  It could have been any small size like that, but I thought 1 cm was good for counting the colors that fell within those squares.  I know this will sound like I’m from another planet, but I used math to make the calculations.  I’m going to write this more clearly in the book (I’m practicing on YOU!).

See if you can follow this–and tell me if you can (or cannot) in the comments below.  On my 8 1/2″ x 11″ photo of the painting I drew 18 vertical lines 1 cm apart.  Then drew 27 horizontal lines to the top of the picture.  I didn’t choose those numbers; that just happened to be the measurements of that picture.  Stay with me now.  So the photo now has a grid with 18 x 27 squares for a total of 486 squares. THEREFORE the yarn in 486 squares = 27 skeins, rounded up to 30 skeins for a little spare yarn for wiggle room.

So with great patience I counted how many squares of each color and estimated when a square was half one color and half another.  I had the yarn color cards to know which colors would go in which squares.  So I started counting:  Threading #1 was a dark green. There were a total of 16 squares of that color.  So how much yarn would that be? 16 divided by 486 = .033 x 30 skeins total = .98 skeins, rounded up to 1 skein.  Phew!  If anyone followed me, you are hired!!

Pook Threading cardHere is another:  The mustard color was filling 31 squares on the grid.  31/486 = 0.064. Multiple that times 30 skeins and you would need 1.9 skeins rounded up to 2 skeins. Piece of cake!  It is magic.  For you mathematicians out there, please explain this phenomenon in the comments section  My aging brain is having a hard time expressing why this works so well.

A54BD205-1B82-4D5E-B4BC-98EE675C29A6And finally for those who are very advanced out there, you are thinking, “But what if there are three shades of mustard in that last example?”  Well, you would simply divide the two skeins by three colors and realize that you would need about 3/4 skein of all three of those mustards.

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Hopefully, you are still with me.  Peter and Polly came to the DC area to spend Thanksgiving with their daughter. They all came by the studio to pick up the rya “kit” and for Polly’s lesson since this was a new kind of backing for her.  She is now working on it at home in Ontario and I hope to share a photo of the finished rya wall-hanging in an up-coming issue of the Byrdcall Blog.

Here is what her work was looking like in January!  Way to go, Polly!

 

Rug in progress 1-21-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here is what it looked like on April 11, 2016.

Polly Pook in progress

 

I Now Offer Rya Kits from Norway!

Rauma Ryer Folder11Reinlav-cover copyIf you have been patiently waiting for me to finish my book so I can create more rya kits for you to choose from, you don’t need to wait any longer.  I have been selling all the rya supplies offered by Rauma of Norway for over a year now.  I stock 76 of their 82 colors, and by November 2015, I will carry all 82 colors of their rya yarn (ryegarn) from the indigenous Spaelsau sheep of Norway.  I also carry their heavy wool and linen backings in 26 sizes.  What I did not have until this week, was access to their 125+ prepared kits.  Now I do.  This is huge.

Back in the old days when I worked with my grandparents, there was no internet with which to post photos of rya kits.  So you had to request a catalog which we had to snail mail to you to choose from.  It was a time-consuming and expensive process and hit-or-miss as to whether there were designs you wanted to make within that catalog.

Today, I am simply posting a few of the many designs you will see in the coming weeks. If you see one that you love, call or email me and order it.  I will place the order for your kit which generally will arrive in about one month.   I can send an online invoice to you, so when your kit arrives, I can ship it right off to you.  I will be adding instructions in English for those of you whose Norwegian is a little rusty.  If you are new to the rya process, I will start making the first row of knots for you to copy my process.   If you live within driving distance of my studio, you can pick it up (save shipping) and I will watch you make the knots until you are comfortable with the process–but that is something most people can easily figure out on their own.  The kit will have everything you need in it.  The ease of this kind of transaction will free me up to first finish writing the book, and eventually allow more time for me to teach classes and make up my own kits.  So without further ado . . . . The beginning of my Rauma offerings…Folder #11:

Rauma--Anemone -adjusted price

This rya has two types of yarn: ryegarn and prydvevgarn. The price for this kit is $386.

 

Rauma Ryer Folder11Harmoni copy

 

Rauma Ryer Folder11Kongle copy

Rauma Ryer folder11Leikarring copy

This heart-shaped design rya is knotted with two types of yarn: ryegarn and prydvevgarn. The price of this kit is $540.

 

 

 

 

Rauma Ryer Folder11Spire copy

This kit, Soldans, is made with both ryegarn and prydvev yarn. The kit price is: $386.

This kit, Soldans, is made with both ryegarn and prydvev yarn. The kit price is: $386.

Sommerfugl is available in 80 x 120 cm (31" x 47") for $488.

Sommerfugl is available in 80 x 120 cm (31″ x 47″) for $540.  This kit is composed of both ryegarn and prydvevgarn.

Rauma Ryer Folder11Tre

Available in 40 x 120 cm (16″ x 47″) for $286 or 60 x 110 cm (24″ x 43″) for $350.

Rauma Ryer Folder11Tulipan

Tulipan is available in the Reds as shown or also in Blues. The price for either is $350.

I think that is enough for now…. very soon, I will add more.  Stay tuned and thanks.  By the way, as far as the price of the kits goes … I did some calculations of what the basic materials would cost if bought separately, and in truth, the kit cost is very comparable.  I was surprised at how little mark up was added for the “kit construction.”  I figured some of you were wondering.

One of my most experienced rya customers, Murray, just ordered the first Rauma kit from me.  (He has made many Rauma kits though.)  When I received it and opened it to make sure all was in order, I noticed that the gorgeous yarn colors were a little different from the ones in the catalog.  Some of these catalog photos are old back in the day when the color vibrancy scale was amped up. (Think of the old National Geographics, where the vivid colors were a tab more vivid than reality.)  So you might expect your rya to be a bit more subdued than the photo.  Frankly, the colors in Murray’s kit were stunning, but you should know there is a possibility of a color variance.

And as a final note, those of you who are already designing your own, keep it up!  The kit is a great way to start, but designing your own is a rush!

Share Your Rya Story

Lynne, from Massachusetts has designed and knotted three ryas in the past year. Lynne was a beginner!

Lynne, from Massachusetts has designed and knotted three ryas in the past year. Lynne was a beginner!

I would love to have you share your rya stories with each other and me!   I’m looking for stories to add to the book I am writing about off-loom rya rug designing and making.  You can call me lazy if you like, but I feel rather than me telling you everything I know about rya, you might get more out of reading the book if you meet other people who have discovered rya. So if I think others can relate to what you have to say, or if you have a technique you would like to share or an opinion you would like to express, please share it in the comments below or email it to me at byrdcallstudio@gmail.com.

Nancy from Florida just completed a rya rug started by her mother decades ago.

Nancy from Florida just completed a rya rug started by her mother decades ago.

Anyone can post here (assuming it gets through my spam filter: me)  I will be selecting from these comments ones that would bring home a point to my potential readers of the book.  I will contact those folks and possibly ask for you to elaborate a little more and perhaps submit a photo of some of your rya work or a photo of you or both!  I will not be able to pay you for these comments, but if yours are selected to go in the book, I’ll send you a complimentary copy as soon as it is published.  If you work in a rya business, I’ll promote your rya business in the book.

My goals is to make the books as helpful and motivating as possible.  Sometimes beginners who have just fallen in love with an art can be the most motivational.

Heli MG's Award- winning Eco Fur Convertible Coat. Heli has turned rya into a modern fashion statement.

Heli MG’s Award- winning Eco Fur Convertible Coat. Heli, from Finland, has turned rya into a modern fashion art form.

So whether I know you or not, whether you made rugs for the first time this year or 50 years ago, whether you weave them on looms or on pre-woven backings, if you are completing a rya rug started 50 years ago by a parent, I want to hear your story–how you found supplies, how you discovered rya, challenges, rewards, designing experiences, ideas for the future, helpful hints, anything you would like to share.  Feel free to forward this to anyone with a story to share.

If you are wondering if your story is worth telling, just the fact that you are considering telling it means it is probably worth reading.  This blog is an easy place to start telling your story.  Go ahead; don’t be shy.  You will help give others confidence.  I may or may not be able to use it in the book, but I’d love to see what turns up here and how I can work more fun into the book with your perspectives.

Mia, in Sweden, lucked into finding a whole rya kit at an auction. She basically taught herself how to make it, and it is progressing nicely. Is it done yet, Mia?

Mia, in Sweden, lucked into finding a whole rya kit at an auction. She basically taught herself how to make it, and it is progressing nicely. Is it done yet, Mia?

I hope to have the “stories” in place in my book rough draft by the middle of September, so if you are tempted, please send your stories soon.  Many thanks in advance.     Melinda