About Tommy Schafer

~ A curious and persistent lover of the fiber arts and other process-based hobbies

With an historic village, where Abraham Lincoln spent his teenage years, just 2 miles from my childhood home, I gained an appreciation of the work that truly goes into processing fibers from sheep to usable yarn or felt fabric, into beautiful garments, home goods, and one of kind art pieces that are intentional at every step and contain within them, thousands of decisions and purposeful actions.

I was raised by extremely industrious parents, who taught me that if you want something you cant afford, or something that doesn’t yet exist, you learn to make it yourself. I still hold to that as I find myself less satisfied with commercially produced goods and clothing. It was my paternal grandmother who first taught me to knit, those little mitered dish cloths that start from 3 stitches, expand to their diagonal width, then shrink back to the same 3 stitches you started with. My maternal grandmother was in the habit of crocheting giant chevron afghans for every member of her family and taught me to crochet that pattern soon after. From there my interests exploded, as I learned more about pattern knitting. I also became interested in paper-making as well as yarn spinning. Throughout my life I have been blessed to be surrounded by family and strangers who have helped me cultivate my interests.

With the help of my very handy father, I built my first spinning wheel at 15, though my attempt at making it affordably ended in what is now just a decorative English treadle wheel sculpture… sitting among the rumba box, harp, and dulcimer that were more successful woodworking projects I finished for school extra-curriculars in the same time-frame of my life. My cousin commented once, that growing up I had a lot of interests, but the ones that stuck with me were those that involved yarn.

Like many queer people, I grew up in a rural farming community and set my sights for living in the “big city” early. After high school I 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. Through these years of higher education I took a relatively log pause in my fiber crafts, focusing more on learning how to cook for sustenance, then learning how to cook well, as well as my studies.

Having been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 13, mastering food, both for flavor and health, was imperative in my mind. I had been living in my fraternity house, which was conveniently located on the edge of Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood, where flavor was abundant, and having access to an industrial kitchen was useful. While school was extremely stressful, I used cooking to temper my anxiety and to check-out from my stressors.

During graduate school I found myself, again, needing an activity that was low stakes and that I could do while I read…and read… and read. After a year or so of remembering my knitting skills I found that I had a strong foundation to learn even more. After taking the “CustomFit” sweater class at Knit1 Chicago in late 2017, I found myself surrounded by curious, helpful, and extremely friendly staff who had more knowledge I wanted to tap into. From that seed, I not only knit my perfectly fitting sweater, but gained a community that inspires me every day to push my limits in the realm of fiber arts.

This blog, I hope, will serve as a singular, centralized place for writing about, in sometimes extreme detail, the projects I’ve dreamed up and the process of completing them. I hope you’ll follow this journey with me and feel free to comment, ask questions, and learn with me as I dive even deeper into my preferred mode(s) of creation.