Kristina Laurito often can be found spinning yarn somewhere in Scranton. She makes and sells jewelry, clothing and accessories as well as her hand-spun yarn, which most of her items are made from. Laurito, who studied human services at Lackawanna College and University of Scranton, also teaches knitting and crocheting at the Gathering Place in Clarks Summit. She has six children — Laurel, Elise, Briar, Galen, Aidan and Emmy Lou — and lives in Scranton with her husband, Anthony.
Meet Kristina Laurito…
Q: How did you develop a passion for spinning?
A: I had always liked knitting and crocheting when I was having my children. When I realized I was having a new baby, I started it up again. I stared sewing, but I really got into knitting and crochet. By the time she was 2, it had turned into a little bit more than a hobby. I decided I really wanted to learn how to spin my own yarn.
Q: What made you want to spin your own yarn as opposed to buying it?
A: Two reasons: I wanted to be able to work with quality materials, and yarn can get really expensive. This is a trap that all spinners fall into because you think it’s going to be cheaper, but it really isn’t. I wanted to be able to make yarns in colors and textures using natural dyes. I also garden and was growing some natural dye plants. I wanted to see what I could do with that. I’m trying to keep things as sustainable and local as I can. I think that’s important.
Q: Can you describe the process of spinning?
A: I have a braid of what’s called combed wool top. I dye it, either in the oven or in a pot in the stove. Sometimes I’ll do solar dying in the summer if it’s hot enough. Basically what you need to do is have the acid dye and an acid to go with it, so vinegar or citric acid, anything like that. Once the dye has soaked in, you heat it up to not quite boiling. You dry it, and you have your long braid of fiber, and you do a fractal spin. You split it in half and spin half of it by itself, which will make the color changes longer. The other half will be split and twisted. You can buy raw wool locks — a fleece, they call it. You can wash it yourself and process it through a drum carder, which is a thing with a crank and couple of brushes that brush it for you. You can also use a hand carder. There are other combs and different types of brushes depending on what type of preparation you want. … How you prepare it to spin is going to affect the type of yarn you have.
Q: What is your favorite product to make?
A: When I have my own yarns, I usually try to mix them with commercial yarns. I do a lot of crochet and a little bit of knitting. I really like to do free-form crochet. It is the best way, I think, to incorporate both handspun and commercial yarns. That’s where you mix your fibers and patterns and you don’t have to have an idea or a pattern. You sort of let it organically grow and it dictates to you as you go. You sometimes have an idea of where you want to go with it, but it can take you to a different place. Everything I sell is one-of-a-kind. I like being able to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable. You can really get some organic shapes. There are quite a few free-form crochet artists working today who do really beautiful things. It can get into even the realm of 3-D.
Q: What is the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome as an artist or as an instructor?
A: Personally, I have some challenges because I’m dealing with an arthritic condition. Sometimes that makes it a little more difficult. I’m hoping to get an electronic spinner. As a teacher, the biggest challenge is when students doubt themselves. They think they can’t do it. I tell them to come back next week and keep working and they can do it.
Q: What is something about yarn or your craft that you want people to know?
A: It is easy to go to a big box store and buy a skein of yarn, whether it be acrylic or wool or whatever the flavor of the year is. When you buy an indie yarn, whether it be indie-dyed or handspun, you’re getting something that is truly unique, and you’re getting a piece of art rather than just a utility.
Q: What hobbies and interests do you have? Are you part of any community groups or organizations?
A: I recently did an art show with NEPA NOW. I’m affiliated with the Gathering Place, which is a nonprofit. My kids all keep me busy as well. With Emmy Lou (who is 6), she’s my yarn buddy; we go to fiber festivals and do a lot of library activities. I can’t wait to get outside now that it’s spring. We garden. We make jams and jellies, things like that. We grow currants in our backyard. My little one (Emmy Lou) really likes being able to walk around and pick things off the bush and eat them, so my husband planted a lot of the things in our backyard with that in mind.
Q: What is a fun fact about you?
A: I am the youngest of a combined family of 17 children, so having six kids is no big deal.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape the person you are today?
A: When the life you think you’re supposed to live turns out not to happen, sometimes that’s more of a gift than anything. I was in a management position for a long time. So, the transition of moving out of a corporate job. I can’t say I was really suited to it, and I’m much poorer now but much happier. But it all worked out great.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?
A: I’m glad to have found something like this, and I think that crafts are really important. The more we move toward recognizing crafts as art, the more we will appreciate every day. I like the idea of bringing beautiful things into everyday life.