Happy Place With Tommy Schafer

Tommy Schafer is a fiber artist who dabbles in knitting, dyeing, sewing, spinning, and cooking. They grew up encouraged to participate in process-based hobbies and throughout their life, they've been blessed to be surrounded by family and strangers who have helped them cultivate their interests. They pursued a quantitative biology degree at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, followed by graduate school in Chicago, IL for public health and epidemiology and during that time, found a renewed love for fiber crafts and a community that inspires them to push their limits in the realm of fiber arts. You can find Tommy's work, designs, writing and inspiration on their blog, Tommy Plays With Fiber.



What system do you use to organize your yarn?

I keep my projects separate from the yarn I haven't used yet, either in bags or on my shelf so I can keep account of everything I'm working on. My full skeins are separated by weight and partially used skeins I organize by color. I sometimes keep multiple colors of the same fiber type or base yarn together for use in later scrappy projects, for example I keep all of my 4-ply DK indie-dyeds together so I don't have to track them down later. I also reserve a special section for yarn pairings I'm thinking about a new design with or a project for but I just know that I want to use those yarns together. Likewise, all the natural dyed yarns I've made have their own shelf and a smaller box where I keep samples of each.


What furniture/storage systems do you use to organize your yarn?

I have a special place in my heart for cube storage and how you can make attractive storage also function as room dividers or simply save floor real-estate by stacking them high. Because I have the problem that most knitters do of having far more yarn than we could ever use, I have a couple suit cases and under-bed containers that also store yarn like larger sweater quantities.


How do you like to de-stash?

My favorite way to de-stash is to complete projects. It's not often that I get rid of yarn unless it's bringing me pain or sadness to see it. When I do truly de-stash, I prefer to either give the yarn as gifts or donate it to a local craft-thrift shop that supports art teachers. Most of my yarn has been purchased on a whim because I had a cool idea or I just thought it was beautiful. If a friend sees something in my stash that will work for them, I often just give it to them or let them have it and with the understanding that they would do the same for me. Fiber is a gift always and I want to keep it that way.



More often than not, what colors are always in your office/yarn corner?

As many as possible!


Do you like to work in the same space where your yarn is stored? Why or why not?

Yes. Well, currently my home office is also my craft room, so I like to have my materials around me still throughout the day in case I get a quick little design idea or am stressed about work and need some wool to smoosh. It can be a little distracting sometimes, but in a moment of distraction is sometimes when I get my best ideas, so I think it ultimately helps my professional work and my artistic work


When you are working on a project, do you have a specific spot you put it when you aren't working on it, or does it follow you around beyond your space?

I never leave the house without a yarn project, unless It's a short grocery store trip. I like zippered fabric bags because I can keep everything I need for a project together in the bag, and then move them in and out of my usual knitting bag, in which I keep my notions and needle sets. Yarn is almost always within arms reach!



Was the majority of your yarn bought with a project idea in mind?

Nope! I'm super materially inspired, so to me buying yarn is like supplying a paintbox, only the options cascade nearly endlessly from fiber type to color, to yarn structure to weight... I don't have to know for sure what a skein is going to become, but if I believe that I will someday use it, its necessity usually becomes apparent.


Do you or have you ever found it difficult to manage/organize your yarn?

Most definitely! It's always been hard for me to store yarn and other craft supplies in drawers or in places I can't see them. I'm so inspired by the materials themselves that not having them out and about to ponder or touch or daydream about means I don't enjoy the process as much. It's taken quite some time for me to understand this and also figure out how to be surrounded by my supplies but not feel the weight of being surrounded by "stuff".


How did you find an organization system that works for you?

I think just telling myself that I had to organize it somehow was the first step, then lots of trial and error. I'm very out of sight out of mind, which was the first understanding I had that whatever system I used would have to include having most everything on display. I tried all my WIPS in bags to start, but then I forgot about one for almost two years and couldn't being myself to restart it. Every cast-on is setting an intention and it always breaks my heart a little to not finish something. Now I keep a couple couch projects, an on-the go one and a "mindless" project going and anything else lives on the shelf I see every day.



How important is a well-organized yarn corner/office to your mental wellbeing?

While I do like a certain amount of chaos around me, everything having a designated place to be and being in that place is a way for me to feel calmer. I'm not always quick to clean up after a project and I definitely leave random balls of yarn and knitting needles and stitch markers around the house, but if I ever need to "clean up," I still know where everything belongs.


Where did you purchase everything shown in your photos?

IKEA Kallax Shelving, IKEA Table, IKEA Glass Shelf, Old H&M Scarf cut open and stapled to the door for fabric design wall, Wool Fleece, Felted into swatch wall, Target Cube Drawers.


Do you have any tips or advice you have for someone who is trying to reorganize their stash? I

Think about how you tend to get ideas. If you're super color oriented, perhaps keep all your yarns in order by color; if you're big into sweaters, keep your sweater quantities together and your single skeins separate. I highly recommend organizing in a way that makes you happy to see your yarn and think about what you're going to do with it.


Are there any current projects or promotions you'd like to share?

I am hosting a Knit-a-long for my most recent sweater and hat designs, the #ThreeequencyKAL. The link to sign up is in my bio and more information can be found in my blog (which is also in the link in my bio). It starts August 1st and goes until October 31st!


Photos courtesy of Tommy Schafer.