WWW: Great Canadian Knitting Tour; Pattern Writing Online Class; Alice In Wonderland Yarnbomb

Knitted music video of the week: Much less sad than last week’s, I promise! In which a yarny-girl starts her day. Cleverly created by artists Janey Moffatt and Adam Clements for artist Benbo, and entirely cute.

Sylvia and her husband, hitting the road

Author, knitter, designer and master storyteller Sylvia Olsen is partway through her “Great Canadian Knitting Tour“. She started May 1st in Victoria, B.C., and will reach St. John’s Newfoundland June 15th. Along the way, she’s visiting yarn shops, teaching workshops and telling stories about her life and the lives and work of the Coast Salish knitters of British Columbia.

Sylvia’s objective is to meet as many people in the Canadian knitting community as possible. To exchange stories about knitting and knitters in Canada. She’s visiting book shops, yarn stores, libraries, museums and private homes across the nation. When it’s all over, Olsen will share her discoveries in Knitting Stories II, the sequel to her best-selling recent collection of essays, Knitting Stories: Personal Essays and Seven Coast Salish-inspired Knitting Patterns.

A little bit of tasteful self-promotion: as a follow up to her book about Pattern Writing, our own Kate (that’s me!) is running an interactive online course on Pattern Writing. Suitable for designers of all levels who wish to write instructions for their knitting project, this class guides you through the entire process of writing a pattern – from the actual instructions through to the test knitting, technical editing and publication process. The class is all about discussion, and there will be exercises and activities focused on helping you develop your own style and style sheet, and getting you well on your way to writing patterns. If you’ve got something you need help writing out, or you feel your existing patterns need a bit of improvement, this class can help. Bring your questions and be prepared to chat and share and discuss with me. It starts May 30th and runs to July 12th – work at your own pace!

Image from The Northern Echo website.

Yarnbombers have struck Saltburn Pier in the UK again. This pier has seen many wonderful installations in the past – including an amazing one for the London Olympics, but this year’s Alice In Wonderland-themed work may be my favorite. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the book.

Celebrity Knitter Alert: Actor Nicholas Hoult was taught to knit by Charlize Theron, on the set of Mad Max Fury Road. I would very much like to see some of those pictures…

Jillian’s Spinning: Losing Spinning Tools

I cannot keep orifice hooks!  I have bought many and made many and they all disappear. Where do they go? Are they having a party with all of the single socks that my dryer has eaten? I have looped them on my wheel, hung a small bag on my wheel to keep them in, but they just jump up and disappear. Here are the hooks I have right now, plus the one on my Lendrum.

All the hooks I have.

All the hooks I have.

The beaded one I made and it’s out of wire that is too fine and will break soon. The other is a paper clip, which is what I almost always end up using.

I have a few questions for you:

  • How do you keep from misplacing your hooks?
  • If you make hooks what gauge wire do you use?
  • What hooks are your favorite? Show me cool hooks to buy.

Are there any tools you constantly misplace?


WWW: Preserving Traditional Newfoundland Knitting; Street Lace; On Cost of Making

Classic Newfoundland patterns and designs, including the famous “trigger mitts”. Image from CBC website.

Love this: CBC profiles two Newfoundland-based knitters who are working to preserve traditional Newfoundland knitting patterns. Shirley Scott – known as “Shirl the Purl” has been collecting samples of mittens, hats and scarves, and the patterns used to make them. She has passed her collection on to Christine LeGrow, the owner of Spindrift Handknits, who aims to keep these patterns in circulation, and keep this important part of Canada’s social history alive.

Wonderful, clever and moving: a music video for band James, created entirely with yarn.

I’m very excited about this upcoming exhibition ‘A Whole Other World: Sub-Culture Craft’ at the Racine Art Museum in Racine, WI.

The show, focused on artists inspired by Doctor Who, Star Wars, Steampunk, and Superheroes, explores the intersection of art with cultural subjects that inspire devoted “fan” followings. A Whole Other World features a variety of objects and images, from quilts to prints to sculpture – either works directly inspired by these themes, or by the winding of these kinds of topics in-and-out of popular culture,.

I’m excited because it sounds absolutely amazing. Oh and also, the original Bigger on the Inside scarf is part of the show.

Image from Huffington Post website.

Not Strictly Knitting, but utterly beautiful: Street artist NeSpoon uses traditional lace patterns, textures and structures in very non-traditional ways.

This week’s thought-provoking discussion: “What Is Your Cost of Making?” Looking at both the cost to the knitter in the retail store, and the larger issue of cost all along the production cycle of the materials, this blog post addresses head-on the question of how much we’re willing to spend to make a sweater.

Anecdotally, I see an interesting divergence in the way knitters think of the cost of the materials: is this an item of clothing, and should the yarn cost be considered in the context of a ‘clothing budget’, or is this a hobby, and is the yarn cost considered more in the context of ‘entertainment value’? Some of this is driven, of course, by the knitter’s available budget, but it seems to me to be an interesting demonstration of the shift in how we “use” knitting – we’re not (just) doing it because we need clothes. Many knitters do it because they want ‘entertainment’, or the satisfaction of making, or to express a creative impulse – and the money considerations become very different. Although paying $30 for a pair of socks is unquestionably outrageous, that figure can feel a little different if you consider the value of a couple of week’s worth of crafting pleasure and the satisfaction and comfort of making a custom-fit item that you are proud to show off.

Jillian’s Spinning: A Wheel Refreshed

I have had my Schacht Matchless for a long time, longer than I’ve had both my kids and almost longer than I’ve had my husband, almost 20 years.

Here we are in 2008:

My Matchless

My Matchless

This wheel has a special place in my heart. She was the first wheel I knew I wanted with that singular need I get when I’m locked onto a wheel. My first wheel I chose because it was the only one I could afford. My Matchless was my second wheel and I was wild about her. She was way out of my league in relation to my bank balance and spinning skill. I was still a terrified beginner when I first saw her.

I put her on layaway for six months and waited impatiently, spinning on my other wheel. When I finally got her home, I spun the ugliest most beautiful yarn. I had no idea how to adjust her or even what all the knobs were for, but I spun on her. I loved her. She was patient and waited for me to catch up. Maggie Casey taught me how to use her with joy at an Estes Park Wool Market.

She traveled all over the country as I moved and had kids. She sat in the basement for a few years when I didn’t spin and was sure I was never going to spin again. But she was waiting and ready to go the day I woke up and knew I needed to spin again.

A few years ago she started not working quite right. The treadles swayed, the flyer was flying a little wonky. I kept spinning on her until I just couldn’t anymore. My friendly Schacht expert would shore her up, until she just couldn’t anymore. “You have to send her in”, she said. I frowned. I still spun on her sometimes with my toes gripping the edges of the treadles like a monkey to keep them from swaying or rubbing. I didn’t want to send her away. I kind of needed her to sit in the corner and cheer me on in all of my spinning work, whether I spun on her or not. She was with me  when I worked at Interweave, when I helped Amy start and then took over Knittyspin, when I started teaching spinning classes, when I wrote for PLY Magazine and Spin Off, when I got my book deal and wrote my manuscript.

It’s time now for me to do a lot of spinning, samples and projects for my book. I want to spin them on her, so I sent her in. Back to Schacht to get fixed and refreshed. It didn’t take long, maybe a month, but I never put another wheel in her spot in my house while she was gone.

She came back spinning smooth and easy, with a few new parts that are fresh maple and look lovely against her old maple.

My new old wheel

My new old wheel

I’m so glad I sent her in and that the folks at Schacht took such great care of her. I’ve got a lot of spinning scheduled and a lot more planned and I don’t want to do it without her!


Do you have a wheel you are especially attached to?



Back in 2011, I ran a survey to gather foot measurements. Although I design and knit many things, socks have been my main focus for a long time. Being a small-footed type, proper sock sizing was important to me, and this survey was designed to help me and other designers better size sock patterns. Many Knitty readers contributed their measurements – thank you! And I published my findings on this blog.

Almost exactly four years later, this survey has become part of a book, too: Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet* launches this summer.


I know! It’s a terrible image! But it should convey what I need, I hope?

Now it’s time for the other extremity: hands. I’m doing the same thing, gathering information on hand size, to help me better size mittens for adults and children. If you’ve got a minute or two spare, and a tape measure handy, will you please measure your hands for me? Both of them, ideally? And maybe the hands of the other members of your household?

It’s quick, I promise! There are two questions about demographics (age group, and whether you work in metric or imperial) and then six measurements as shown in the graphic. Survey here. I’ve also added a place for you to tell me about any special mitten and glove fit needs you might have and customizations you might make: do you always make a string? do you always work extra-long cuffs? do you have trouble with the thumb lengths?

Thank you! I will, as before, publish the results here. (And yes, I am hoping to publish another book, too.)

*If you’re interested, there’s  more info about the sock book here and here:

Obsession Thursday: Helping

Today’s blog comes to you from a rather famous guest. We are in awe of how she uses her influence for the powers of good, and we wanted to help. No one can say it better than she can, so take it away, Stephanie!

This morning I got up early – so early it was still dark, and I made coffee, and while it was brewing, I put on my biking stuff – including the incredibly flattering and esteem boosting spandex. Then I came downstairs again, and sat in the dawning light, eating peanut butter toast and waiting for the text from Jen that would tell me she was at the trailhead. When she got there, I went outside, got on my bike, and as I pushed off down the street to meet her, I marvelled that I was doing it.  I’m training for the Bike Rally again, and I have a secret to tell you.

verychipper 2015-05-13

Jen and I are seen here at the beginning of our ride this morning. 50km before work. What you can’t see is how cold we are. We were attempting supernatural chipperness as an antidote. It helps.

At the end of the Rally last year, I was going to take a year off. Last year was… hard. I don’t know any other way to describe it. The rain, the overwhelming training schedule, my knees – they were really hurting. I think I have a grip on the problem now, but last year? The ends of the rides were all punctuated with ice packs. Also, the issue of the (*&%$%##ing squirrel EATING MY SEAT right before the rally, and having to ride the whole thing on a new one? I’d rather not discuss the impact on my nether-regions, and instead tell you that that year was… hard.  I had a very, very low night about mid-way through the rally, when I cried (by myself, like a grownup) and wondered why the hell I do this to myself, and thought that maybe I would have a break this year. That feeling was still there when we pulled into Montreal. It was amazing to have done it, I was so proud of everything, but I was done. Just… for a while. I imagined all the ways that I could still support this cause without involving my free time, summer vacation, weekends and crotch.  I hadn’t figured out how to tell anyone. Joe knew though, and he said everyone would understand. I thought he was right too.

Then, something happened. PWA was forced to cut some staff and services. The Bike Rally is the sustaining fundraiser for PWA, and we’d failed to sustain them, and the people who use them. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. In fact, the ridership raised more money per rider last year than ever before – there there were fewer riders though, compared to years past, and even though the fundraising efforts were heroic, it wasn’t enough.  This moved me more than I can tell you. This tangible evidence that the Rally is so fundamental, so immediate to the ability of PWA to help people… it just struck me that the choices that I made mattered, and they mattered that day, and something snapped.

I did three important things that day.  I decided to ride again. I decided to accept the position I was offered on the Steering Committee. (Without a word of a lie, I was going to turn it down.) And… I decided to do everything in my power to change the outcome for this year, to try as hard as I could to raise as much as I could.  So, I didn’t quit. I had sort of a bad feeling in my tummy, but I didn’t quit.

Those decisions have had, shall we say… “impact”.  I have the added responsibilities of Steering Committee. I help make decisions that shape the Rally, and make things possible. I go to a lot of meetings. I send a lot of emails, and once again, my summer is going to evaporate into a blur of training rides and Rally stuff, and I’ll probably be away when my new niece of nephew comes – and while I have some feelings about that,  I don’t regret my choice. I feel like it’s important, and I am so, so very lucky to have this time to give. (My arse disagrees, but we are in negotiations.)

rainagain 2015-05-13 (1)

Jen and I are seen here this morning, having lost a little of that chipperness as the rain started, and we became both wet and cold.

So, to make a long story even longer. This summer I will ride my bike more than 600 kilometres from Toronto to Montreal, in The Friends for Life Bike Rally.  This year, we have a little family team, as always.  Ken, long-time rider, blog starter, and the person who roped me into this in the first place. Pato, the most decent 23 year old man alive (he will very much appreciate me saying “man” instead of “boy”)  and Jen – mum, student, employee, wonderful riding partner,  and all four of us… knitters. (Well, in the interest of honesty I feel compelled to tell you that Pato *can* knit, but he doesn’t often. He’s 23. With maturity, will come reason.)  My daughters aren’t joining us this year, because they have work/school schedules that simply cannot allow for the 12 weekend/1 week off work commitments that are the Rally.  (It’s not small potatoes. It eats your vacation.) Look for their influence in other places. They’re still in it.

thatdamnhill 2015-05-13

Jen and I are seen here being handed our arses by a monster hill we couldn’t get up. If you live in Toronto, know that it was Pottery Road. It’s the beginning of training – we couldn’t make it all the way up. We’ll see how we do in a few weeks. It was brutal.


Once again, I’m asking for your help. Our commitment means nothing without you.  (I am stopping just short of calling you the wind beneath our wings, thank goodness, although that was a near thing. I deleted it.)  Once again, I’m going to try and raise a ton of money, and I have a private and deeply personal crazy-pants goal. To this end, I’m going to do some things the same way, and some things differently. What stays the same? Karmic Balancing gifts. Once a week (or so) between now and the rally, I’ll chose from amongst the people who’ve helped and redirect a knitterly (or spinnerly) gift from someone else who wants to help.*  What’s different? Who sends their name along.

This year I want it to be all about the Karma. We’re trying to change lives here, make things better for some people, and there’s so much more to that than money, so, here’s the thing. If you donate to anyone on our little team





Then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so. Make the subject line “I helped” and send it to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca. (Note the .ca it’s a Canada thing.) Include your name, address, and whether or not you spin.  (For the love of all things woolly, please use the subject line. It makes your email go to a specific folder and you have no idea what a difference that makes to my sanity.) You don’t need to say what you gave, or include proof. I know you’ll do your best, whatever that is, and I know you wouldn’t lie.  What’s new? Not everyone has money to help with – so we’re taking all kinds of help.  If you can figure out some other way to do that, please send in your email. Maybe you can tell a friend. Maybe you can post about it to social media. Maybe you can contribute a gift. There’s lots and lots of ways to help, and if you can figure out a way? Send that email, letting me know you did.

Knitters, lets go big. Let’s fill up the world with amazing, and when everyone at PWA asks who these people are? Ken, Pato, Jen and I will smile and say what we always do. “They’re knitters. You have no idea what they’re made of.”

*If you want to contribute a gift, I’m trying to make it easier for myself this year. It’s a ton of work, and I don’t mind doing it, but I have a better shot at getting it all done if you do this: Take a picture of your gift. Email me with the subject line “Karmic Balancing” with the details, picture and a link, if you want me to use one. When one of the helpers is chosen for a gift, I’ll email you the address, and you can ship it right to them. (It’s not a bad idea to let me know if you have shipping restrictions. I’ll keep track.) Thank you!

Okay, Knitty readers. Can you help in some way? 

WWW: Spies and Artists and Cultural Shifts

Image courtesy Future Museum/Sanquhar Tollbooth Museum, Copyright Dumfries & Galloway Council.

Virtual museum visit: The Future Museum of South West Scotland makes many of their exhibits available for viewing and exploration online. Love this collection of items showing the history and evolution of Sanquhar Knitting. Sanquhar knitting, at its peak in the 18th century, features very distinct patterning, always worked in black and white, and was typically used for gloves. There are many objects for viewing, beautifully photographed, with lots of background information. I also loved the collection of vintage knitting patterns.

Fabulous story about Phyllis Doyle, a British spy who used knitting to conceal codes while working behind enemy lines during World War Two. Her story is incredible enough, even without the knitting connection.

Interesting discussion about where craft is going, and cultural shifts in the industry: designer Karie Westermann writes a thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis of trends she’s seeing in the craft culture and industry (and yes, it is an industry). And Ellen Gill has written an equally interesting and important post in response. You may not agree with everything they say, but their thinking is important.

I wonder who did the tech edit for this?

Fun, on the LoveKnitting blog! 10 Things You Don’t Know About Knitting! Did you know that the first knitting book was written in the 17th century? I didn’t!

1955 Clare McCardell dress, featuring a Picasso-designed fabric. Image courtesy Textile Museum of Canada.

And today in ‘Not Strictly Knitting But Still Very Cool’. If you’re anywhere near Toronto this summer, get yourself to the Textile Museum of Canada. Two things there merit your attention: the annual More Than Just A Yardage Sale, May 29 & 30th, is a fundraiser for the museum. It’s a sale of textiles and related items: fabrics, yarn, books, notions and supplies. There’s always a selection of vintage clothes, and I adore digging around in the UFOs piles. The inventory comes from donations, and many crafters donate unloved projects. I’ve bought half-complete projects to salvage tools and yarn and patterns.

And the other item is an exhibition: Artist Textiles: From Picasso to Warhol. Curated by British collectors Geoffrey Rayner and Richard Chamberlain, the exhibition features a rarely-seen selection of more than 200 printed textiles designed by some of the 20th century’s preeminent artists. It runs until October 4th.

Test is on NOW! (ETA: 7:40pm — test is over)

TEST TIME! Everyone + their budgie, please click the link below. The follow links around for a while within the site:


Pretend it’s new-issue day!

Update at 7:07 pm: Please follow me here: http://twitter.com/knittydotcom — I’m posting updates as we have them. This is all good…the fact that it choked is just information. Our SysAdmin is going to tweak things so it won’t do that, but it may be a bit of a process to get there. Your help is appreciated!

Update at 7:40 pm: TEST IS NOW OVER! THANK YOU!

We learned a lot from the problems you all experienced, and so SysAdmin Chris will be doing some adjusting and tweaking and we’ll run another test shortly — probably this weekend.

Thank you for taking time out of your evening to help us make the new server everything we all want it to be! You’re all awesome!


Obsession Thursday: A man.

No, this is not a dating post. In fact, it could be a genderless post entirely, but I thought that title might catch your eye.

This is Christopher. He knits. We love him already.

This is Christopher. He knits. We love him already.

Knitty has a new man. His name is Christopher, and he is going to rock our world. He’s our new System Administrator. He lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and children and he is a knitter. And he’s come to make Knitty behave better, in a server sense.

He and I have been talking via email and Skype, working to move Knitty to a more suitable server. Not a more expensive one. It turns out we had something twice as expensive as we need, and it still let you all down on launch days. (You know how you have to wait your turn to get in to see a new issue? For hours? Days? That bugs me too.)

So in order to make sure the new server we’ve chosen will do what we want it to, we need your help. It’s easy. Tonight at 7pm eastern time (same time zone as New York City), we’re asking you to come back here and click on the big link that you’ll find on this page. That will take you to what looks like the existing Knitty site, but it’s actually the new server which has a clone of the site. We want as many of  you as possible to try to hit it at the same time to see if it can take the pressure. Click on the main link. Then click around. Look at pages, follow links within the magazine. We’re trying to get thousands and thousands of clicks all at the same time, like we would on a launch day. Click for a while, read some articles, look at patterns. The more pressure we can put on the server for this test, the better.

We won’t need bug reports. Christopher is awesome at looking at the logs to see what happens, and we’ll both be sitting by our computers, watching this whole thing go down. We will monitor any feedback you have on Twitter with the hashtag #knittyservertest. If you want to follow what’s happening from our perspective, I’m at @knittydotcom

We love you guys, and getting us to a server that can finally handle our traffic properly is the first step in being ready for the future. Please spread the word about the test and set an alarm…come back at 7pm tonight and click!

PS The link will be posted here on the Knittyblog, on Twitter and also on our Facebook page. Remember: Going to the existing Knitty site won’t help the test. Please use the special link which I’ll make big and huge and very noticeable.