CYC AIR: Happy Place With Sally Ackerman

Imagine walking into a colorfully immersive environment made entirely of fiber, exploding with vibrancy and texture. As you walk from room to room, new adventures await you in art installations you can’t help but sink your hands, and mind, into. 

The Craft Yarn Council is excited to announce a new partnership with Dallas’ premiere experiential art exhibit, Sweet Tooth Hotel, to bring an immersive fiber experience to audiences across the country. The new installation, titled “Intangible,” opened June 2020. 

“Intangible” showcases an all-female lineup of some of the top fiber artists from around the United States, including yarn-bomb extraordinaire London Kaye (Los Angeles, CA), Fiber Artist Niki Dionne (Dallas, TX), Muralist and Illustrator Alli Koch (Dallas, TX), Fiber Artist Jackie Lawrence (Denton, TX), Installation Fiber Artist and Yarn Bomber Hannah Busekrus (Austin, TX), Crochet Designer Twinkie Chan (San Francisco, CA), Textile Designer Molly Sydnor (Dallas, TX), Dallas Yarn Bomber Co-Founder Sally Ackerman (Dallas, TX), Knit Artist Joanna Lin (Dallas, TX) and Embroidery Artist Kara Herman (Denton, TX). Each artist has been given a dedicated space to create their own whimsical world completely made from fiber and are the first cohort for CYC AIR (Craft Yarn Council Artist-In-Residence program). 

Since each of the artists used large quantities of yarn for their installs, we wanted to do a special series of Happy Place blog posts to dive into how each of them stored and organized their yarn. Read on for our CYC AIR Happy Place with Sally Ackerman! Sally is a musician and yarn artist based in Dallas. She is the founder of the Dallas Yarn Bombers - a local group that comes together to work on large yarn installations. As a team these dedicated and talented knitters went forth to beautify and colorize our urban landscape. 

Sally's installation "Enchanted Passage" marks a transition from Sally’s usual whimsical style into a new world of mystical enchantment. The passage is filled with life-sized knit and crochet flowers ranging from hydrangeas to poppies, daffodils to wisteria. There are also a few extra large friends to meet along your metamorphosis journey between caterpillar and butterfly. 



How many skeins of yarn did you receive for your Sweet Tooth Hotel installation?

It was a lot - about five boxes full.


What brand and fiber content did you use in your installation?

I needed a wide variety of yarn for all the different flowers and insects. Yarnspirations sent Bernat, Caron, Patons, Phentex, Red Heart, and Sugar Bush yarn.


What colors did you use for your installation?

The background of my installation is in dark green leaves. So, I stayed away from super dark yarn in the Enchanted Passage and used a lot of bright colors.



What system did you use to organize your CYC AIR yarn for Sweet Tooth Hotel?

When I was offered the Sweet Tooth Hotel installation, I decided to invite my group, Dallas Yarn Bombers, to join in the fun. I distributed much of the yarn to them as soon as it arrived. I stored the yarn that I was using in baskets, by project. I had my dragonfly yarn in one basket, my bee yarn in another, and my various flower and vine yarn in another. I tend to work on many projects at once, so this worked well for me.


What furniture or storage systems did you use to organize the yarn you received?

I live in a 95-year-old house. I love the modern storage systems, but they don't fit my home's aesthetic. I use antique bookshelves and dressers for storage and antique desks for workspace.


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

Oh, yes. Tangling can be super frustrating and time consuming. It's also important for me to be able to find what I need quickly. It tends to burst the creative bubble when I want to start a project, but can't find the yarn that I KNOW I have.



Knowing the amount of yarn you were going to receive, how did you find an organization system that worked for you?

Baskets... I love baskets for sorting yarn into projects. I had the yarn for the Sweet Tooth installation sorted into project baskets.


How do you like to de-stash?

When yarn is donated to Dallas Yarn Bombers, I often share it (along with my own stash reduction yarn) with my knitting group, the Lakewood Library Knit Wits. They are always in need of yarn for their Baby Hats for Parkland Hospital service project. Making baby hats typically calls for a different kind of yarn than we use for yarn bombing. So, sharing works out great!


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

Yes. My yarn inspires me. When I look at it, I get ideas. I think of yarn as my palette, and I enjoy having a wide variety of colors and textures on hand.



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

My studio is cozy and in a walk-through area that is open to my family. I don’t like being isolated. I wouldn't call my studio well organized, but it is my place of peace, and I know where almost everything is. I spend a lot of time there, and I like it to be calm and relaxing. It doesn't have to be super tidy— just enjoyable.


Where did you purchase everything shown in the photos you submitted?   

I am sitting in front the bookshelf that my husband's father made while he was in high school. It's so sweet... and useful! I bought the tall bookshelf from a dear friend. My husband inherited the marble top dresser where I keep my swift, ball winder, needles, hooks, etc. The drawers are great for storing smaller equipment like circular needles, pom pom makers, etc. I crocheted the yarn baskets. I love using up scrap yarn. During the lockdown, I found a tutorial on YouTube for Big Beautiful Baskets. The pattern calls for variegated yarn, but you can use anything. I used up a bunch of those little leftover balls of yarn.


Share any tips or advice you have for someone who is trying to reorganize their stash.

I feel like reorganizing your stash or creative space is unique to the individual, but some basics things to think about are:

  • What are the stumbling blocks you run into in your space? How can you eliminate them? Simple things like keeping your tools within easy reach can make a big difference.
  • What gets your creativity flowing? Whatever that is for you, make it available and fun. If it’s music, get nice speakers. If it’s looking at your yarn, don’t store it in the back of a closet. Put it in a beautiful basket or on a shelf.
  • Think about what makes you happy, peaceful, and calm in your space. Add more of that. It’s important.

I don’t have any advice for stash reduction. I’m not qualified to answer that question. Do your best.


Sweet Tooth Hotel installation image courtesy of TA Visuals. All other images courtesy of Sally Ackerman