What is fiber art?

There’s a wide world of crafts out there, but many of them share the common thread of involving textiles, paper or other fibers and falling under the broad category of fiber arts. From a beautiful handmade quilt to an elaborate collage mixing all sorts of media, fiber arts are wonderful ways to express your creativity and create something fun and tactile.

To illustrate the nearly endless number of crafts that fall under this broad description,

Here are some of the more popular fiber arts:

Knitting is bigger than ever these days, with everyone from Hollywood celebrities to your grandmother knitting up a storm. Knitting involves two needles and some kind of yarn or thread (anything from acrylics to cotton, wool to hemp, and metallic yarn to funky eyelash yarn). The basics of knitting are very easy to learn, but there are so many things you can do and so many ways to take the simple and make it complicated that it would be really hard to get bored. From your basic knitted scarves to tank tops, dresses and blankets, there’s an endless of array of things you can do with a couple of needles and some thread.

Crocheting is often thrown in the same category as knitting, and there are a lot of similarities. You can make many of the same kinds of projects either knitting or crocheting, but crochet uses only one needle, which has a hook on the end, and often uses finer thread and is used for more delicate work like decorative lacy tablecloths or light blankets. Crocheting can be harder to master for some people than knitting is, but the possibilities once this art form is mastered are just as limitless. You can crochet bags, baby booties, blankets, doll clothes, and lace edging. Once you get the hang of it, crocheting can also go a little faster than knitting.

Spinning is another fiber craft that was almost lost but is gaining in popularity among the do-it-yourself crowd. Spinning is an involved process of making threads from raw fiber (usually wool, silk, or cotton) using a spinning wheel. The fiber can be smoothed on a card before being spun or left more raw looking. It is then run through the spinning wheel where the thread collects on a spindle. Different colors of fiber can be combined to make a variegated or multicolored thread, and when finished the thread can be used to knit, crochet, or for other projects. Spinning is a very specialized art, and it’s fascinating to watch someone who can do it and to see the beautiful creations they make with their thread.

Getting away from the idea that thread is the only kind of fiber used in fiber arts, consider papermaking, where different materials are pressed together to make a piece of paper that is an artwork in itself. Various materials can be used, from cotton to flax, pampas grass to wheat, papyrus to banana leaves, just about anything can be ground, moistened and pressed into a sheet that can be used for writing, like the cover or flyleaf of a homemade book, in a college or simply framed and admired as the work of art it is. The easiest way to make paper at home is with leftover scraps of construction paper or other decorative papers and a blender set aside for making paper. But once you get started you’ll be eager to try all sorts of different materials in your paper projects.

Of course paper, then, is used in many different crafts, from making handmade books to scrapbooking, decoupage, painting, even making collages or other wall hangings from the paper. Paper can also be used in origami or to make other objects, from boxes to envelopes, picture frames to clothing. The possibilities are only limited by imagination.

Another craft that can utilize many different kinds of fibers and materials is basket making. Baskets can be made of bark, bamboo, fabric, rope, grass, even gourds, pine needles, horsehair (or human hair), or other natural materials. They can be made in any size and can be functional or completely ornamental, with ribbons woven through the basket or beads in a pattern or randomly woven into the project. The simplicity of a well-made basket belies the artistry and time it takes to make one of these handsome creations.

Projects made with fabric also fall into this category of fiber art. Sewing and quilting are among the most popular crafts made with fabric, but fabric can also be used in braiding and weaving projects, such as making rugs or decorative wreaths. Sewing and quilting are some of the oldest crafts, which have evolved greatly since the time when people had to make their own clothes and blankets. Now most of us have much more luxury in our crafts and can make beautiful hand embroidered vests or crazy quilts adorned with buttons, ribbons (yet another fiber) different colored threads, and an array of beautiful fabrics. of course, sewing can be simple and utilitarian as well, from basic baby clothes to a simple tablecloth for your kitchen table. Some sewing projects can be completed easily by hand; virtually anything can be accomplished with the aid of a sewing machine.

Speaking of fabrics, dyeing and felting are two other varieties of fiber art, which have to do with changing the color or texture of a fabric or thread. These altered threads or fabrics can be used in all of the above projects. Dyeing is great because it allows you to make any fabric or thread just the right color that you are looking for in your project. It can be a tricky blend of art and science to get dyeing just right, but it is fun to experiment and see what happens why you combine different colors or attempt to dye a strange type of fabric.

These are only some of the possibilities. To get a feel for the variety of fiber art yourself, consider making a fun fiber collage. Gather a wide variety of fibers (you can start a grab bad for these materials if you like working on this sort of project). Include anything interesting you come across: fabric pieces, ribbons, bits of dried grass or bark, thread, feathers, yarn, paper, wood, anything that looks interesting that you won’t get in trouble for adding to your stash is fair game. You might also want to include dyes, paints or markers so you can further alter your fibers.

After you’ve spent a couple of days collecting your goodies, spread them out on a large table or on the floor (or take your project outside and spread out in the grass). Consider all your pieces carefully. Think about how the pieces might look together. Try out lots of different ways to put them together, including stacking, tearing, coloring, and otherwise altering the pieces. This should be fun, and there’s no right way to do it, but don’t rush through the process. The point is to take the time to consider the different fibers, patterns, and textures that you have gathered and how they can work together to make a harmonious whole, even if they came from many different sources.

This is a great project to try any time you’re feeling blocked in your creativity or whenever you just want to get down and play. It’s also a great thing to do with your kids. Go for a walk in your neighborhood and gather natural materials, then raid the craft bin for paper, fabric, and glue and go to town making your creative collages with fiber art. It’s a great bonding experience, as well as an opportunity to teach your kids about different materials and art styles and a way for all of you to relieve stress. What could be better than that?

After trying this game you might find yourself drawn to certain kinds of fibers, certain textures, or materials that you really enjoyed working with. If you find this to be the case, explore further in that medium by committing to a small project, signing up for a class, or heading to the library to look for some books on the subject. Finding the right craft for you might take a little experimentation, but it is well worth it to find something you are excited about.

Every hobby, including the ones listed above, is a little bit about obsession. You may not know what craft is right for you, but if you keep trying out different things, you’ll know when you’ve found the right one. You won’t want to do anything else with your time, you’ll spend way too much money on it and all your free time when you can’t work on a project reading about it or surfing the Internet for more information about it. You’ll plan out projects months in advance and be wishing you could convert the guest room into a craft room because no one ever sleeps there anyway. When this happens to you, stick with that passion, and have fun.

Every hobby

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