Photo 2014-12-11, 6 54 42 PMBrilliant: Yarn shop Shall We Knit is hosting a fantastic fundraiser this December: the “UAFO” sale. We’ve all got them: under-appreciated finished objects. Those things you just had to knit, but aren’t actually wearing. The knitter sets a minimum price – taking the cost of the yarn into considering. The purchaser pays that – or more – and all proceeds are being donated to Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. More info in their newsletter.

Friend of Knitty Sue Frost came up with the idea, and she approached Karen Crouch, the owner of Shall We Knit team with a request to host the sale. Karen loved the idea, and Knitty designer Janelle Martin volunteered to help coordinate. They  report that it’s been a roaring success. (And possibly providing some solutions to holiday gifting dilemmas.) Janelle tells a funny story: “A woman asked how we got all the people to donate items. I mentioned that many of us knit things because we want to knit them, not necessarily because we want to wear them and over the years, things pile up. She looked absolutely stunned and asked why on earth someone would spend all that time making something – but then said that it’s good that people were so generous and left shaking her head, probably wondering about the “crazy knitters.” The sale runs until December 24th.

104-year-old Dody Patterson credits her longevity to knitting. Well, that and a healthy diet and lifestyle, but I’d like to think it’s the knitting that’s the most important factor.

How sewn is now? Knitter Kate Park has a range of hand-knit Morrissey dolls. A self-described super-fan of the singer, Kate was inspired by a “knit your own rockstar” pattern. She has been making the dolls for a number of years, mostly for herself, but since an image went viral recently, she’s been inundated with requests from others who wish to buy them…

Speaking of celebrity dolls: Socialite/celebrity Kim Khardashian attempted to “break the internet” by publishing naked pictures of herself in an online magazine. Knit Designers Arne and Carlos responded by creating a knitted version of the well-known cover image of the photoshoot that was published.

Be aware: linked page has a little bit of nudity, both real and knit.

The US Transportation Safety Association – the TSA – reminds us that knitting needles are permitted on planes, but helpfully, fake or toy chainsaws aren’t. Holiday travel is such fun!

Polwarth mittens

Polwarth mittens

Soon after I finished the Polwarth mittens for my Winter Knittyspin column I decided they were a little plain. Embroidery to the rescue, right? It should be easy, becasue lots of people do it and embroidery on knits is all over Pinterest.

I just wanted something simple, a little snowflake like I have on my latest notebook.

Mittens and snowflakes

Mittens and snowflakes

I spun some Romney in a shrieky green with a couple of different ply twists, a balanced twist and a tighter twist. My thinking on the ply twist was, the balanced twist matches the knitting yarn better, the tighter twist makes a crisper line.

My next step was to sample on a swatch, back stitch or duplicate stitch? I found out I don’t like either very much on the first pass.

Swatching and stitching

Swatching and stitching

For both stitches I used both yarns. The backstitch on the bottom has the tighter plied yarn on the left. I like that I can make clearer lines with backstich, but they are a little wobbly and sink into the fabric. The duplicate stitch has the tighter plied yarn on the bottom. The lines for the duplicate stitch are just too fat for what I want to do, I think.

I’m going back to the drawing board on this embroidery. I’m going to try a soluble stabilizer with the backstitch and see if that helps solidify my lines and will certainly try some other stitches. I may even try singles for the embroidery.

Tune in next week for more the of the snowflake saga!

P.S. These mittens are for me, not a gift. There is no time pressure besides, you know, winter.

The classes for the Spring Squam Arts Retreat for 2015 have been announced, and we’re happy to see some familiar names on the teacher’s list… Knitty designers Amy Herzog and Bristol Ivy, and Knitty TE Kate (that’s me!) are teaching. The wonderful thing about the Squam Retreats is the breadth of the workshops… it’s not just knitting. There’s storytelling, embroidery, woodworking, and rug hooking. The classes are all-day intensives, allowing the instructor to dive deep into a topic. There are also casual workshops and idea exchanges and demostrations. The event is a retreat, in the fullest sense of the word – a beautiful natural setting, bringing together people of all skills and stripes. Friend of Knitty Austen Gilliland has been going for years, and describes it as a magical and inspiring experience.

A nice little piece on NPR about knitting on Shetland. And speaking of Shetland, a group of teachers are bringing back knitting into Shetland classrooms, as part of a initiative to make Wool Week 2015 the biggest yet.

Love it!

Artists Jessica DeVries and Claudia Martinez in Portland, OR, have yarnbombed a number of statues around the city. The project, commissioned by the Portland Business Alliance, is motivated by adding some fun to a dark time of year, but also to bring awareness to a charity clothing drive.

Image courtesy the BBC.

Another most excellent yarn-bomb: winter themed toppers for traditional English post-boxes.

Kindness never goes out of style.

A great-grandmother knits hampers full of gifts for newborns at her local hospital.

Handspun yarn

Handspun yarn

I had a little gift exchange with a spinning friend today and was reminded that the perfect gift to give a spinner is handspun yarn. Who else knows the work and joy that went into making the yarn? Who else knows what it means to deplete your stash of a particular fiber treasure? Who else will treat it with the adoration and respect it deserves? Another spinner.

I was gifted 500 yards of chunky, sparkly, Coopworth, spun from Enchanted Knoll batts the color of Dijon and I can’t wait to knit with it.

Just look at it, it’s gorgeous

Coopworth sparkles

Coopworth sparkles

Don’t forget to give the gift of your yarn this crazy season!

It’s that time of year again… If you’re looking for ideas for gift knitting, perhaps our archive can help?

Hats? Socks? Mitts and gloves?

Need something for a man? Something for kids?

If you check in early next week there will be a few new patterns for you to choose from, but in the meantime, for your consideration I present a few of my personal faves from the back catalog…

The Morgan Hat – sized for men and women. 

The Urbanista Hat  – not your average beanie.

 The Quest Hat. Chic and interesting but still quick to knit.

The Spatterdash Wristwarmers -a fantastic way to use up lots of really lovely buttons.

Manly Mitts. Perfect.

 Toasty: an excellent warmer for the little ones.

A teacozy is always appreciated.

Or a tie.

And to begin with.

Hello! Kate here!

You’ve seen my name around at Knitty – here on blog posts and on the occasional pattern.

My biggest role at Knitty, is a more hidden one: I’m the lead technical editor. I’ve been working with Amy and Jillian since 2008, and there are two more tech editors, Ashley Knowlton and Ruth Garcia Alcantud

My job – supported by Ashley and Ruth – is to make sure that all the patterns we publish are good. That is, that the numbers are right, and the instructions make sense and are easy to follow.

It’s not always easy to write a good knitting pattern.

Hey look! I wrote a book!

Designing and pattern writing are very different skills; being good at one doesn’t make you good at the other. Indeed, the skills needed for both rarely go together. The most skilled and creative designers have immensely imaginative minds and are gifted at spatial and free-form thinking; pattern writing requires order, logic and a detail-orientation that doesn’t always come naturally to the creative mind.  (Me, I definitely tend towards the order, logic and detail orientation. I’ve got a degree in math and spent many years working in documentations and communications in the software industry.)

I hear from a lot of the designers I edit that they feel that they need help with this. So I wrote a book!

Aimed at emerging designers and knitters creating their own patterns, Pattern Writing for Knit Designers is the comprehensive guide that can help you translate your project into a set of instructions that any knitter can follow.

It includes lots of concrete examples and a full downloadable template that you can use as a basis for your patterns. I discuss the big picture and the minutiae, e.g. the proper use of * to indicate repeats, the whys and wherefores of charts, and the full gory details on garment sizing, grading and measurements.

Cool stuff in the book!

  • Pattern Structure – what elements should a good pattern have
  • Pattern Elements – a detailed look at each element identified
  • The Actual Knitting Instructions – using knitting conventions and straightforward presentation to make a widely-understood pattern
  • Charts – when and how to make them
  • Grading – determining skills needed in a pattern
  • Formatting and Layout – making a pattern visually user-friendly
  • The Process – how to go from test knitting to a final publication
  • Selling Online – platforms, processes, and good business practices
  • On Copyright – an introduction to these important laws

 And don’t just take it from me! I’ve surveyed knitters of all levels on what they like to see in knitting patterns, and they are quoted throughout. I’ve spoken to professional photographers and layout experts on how to make your design and pattern look its best. And I’ve interviewed magazine editors to get tips on how to make your submissions and design proposals their best.

For more info, and to buy the book, visit my website at The e-book is $25, and there will be a limited print run in the new year. If you buy the e-book, I’ll give you a credit towards the price of the physical book.

While Sasha Torres was doing the SpinDoctor podcast she fell in love with sheep, all of the breeds. Not just, “Wow, there are so many breeds, I want to sample them all” but “I want to change my life and vocation to make sure that all of this amazing variety and beauty are preserved”.

So like Deb Robson, Beth Smith, Clara Parkes, Jill Draper, Sincere Sheep and Solstice Yarns and Spirit Trail Fiberworks, Sasha speaks for the sheep, one single breed at a time. Sheepspot is about single breeds locally raised, spun to Sasha’s specifications at small mills and dyed by Sasha. Locally being defined as mostly North America, there’s is a lot of goodness in our continent!

Sheepspot is mostly about yarn, but she does have some gorgeous Organic Polwarth top. Her Polwarth was raised on two certified organic family farms in the Falkland Islands and processed in the UK. The cost is $23 for 3.7 ounces . She sent me two colors to take for a spin.


what are the colors?

Invert, left and Gummi Bears II, right.

The fiber was treated gently. There were no compacted spots, even the ends were open. I unbraided it and shook it hard in segments and it puffed right back up to it Polwarthian glory. Sasha doesn’t use vinegar to set her dye, the fiber has zero smell.

The dyes are bright and clear. Her style of style of dyeing is with a regular patterns, as you can see from the photos. The color saturates the the fiber in most spots,but there are places with overlap and places where undyed fiber peeks through, this give a nice visual texture to the fiber and depth to the spun yarn.


Invert, left and Gummi Bears, right

This is some of the most well behaved Polwarth that I have spun. Since it wasn’t compacted it was biddable to any way that I wanted to spin it – thick, thin with a high high or low twist. I ended up doing a chubby single, one reasonably consistent and one quick thick and thin. I did 3 2-ply yarns, one split in 2 and spun as it came, one with a bit of fractaling (1/4 plied to 1/16) and one with the two colors drafting together then plied. The processing of this fiber is excellent, it did not resist splitting, even down to 1/16. It drafted easily each way I spun it (short forward, short backward and sliding long draw) including drafting two strips together.  The yarn when finished plumped up as expected with just a hot water soak and a snap.


2-ply Gummi Bears, left and Invert, right

all yarn

Gummi Bears, left.  Gummi Bears, combo draft, Invert, middle. Invert, right.   All 2-ply

The finished yarn is lofty and light. All of my finished yarns are woolen spun on worsted preparation. The colors in the yarn stayed as clear as they were in the fiber and blended beautifully in the 2-ply yarns.  I had zero extra dye leak when I set the yarn, even with the blue colors.

thick and thin

thick and thin Gummi Bears II

This fiber is very much worth the price, the fiber and preparation are exceptional and the dye work lovely and meticulous.

I hope Sasha treats us to other spinning fiber as her business grows! You can keep up with Sasha and Sheepspot through their newsletter.

If you’re on Twitter, or if you participate in some of the designer and shopkeeper forums on Ravelry, you might have encountered references to something going on in the EU: VATMOSS.

At first blush it seems like a dull business detail, something of concern only to those in the EU. Sadly, it’s not. The impact is large and broad-reaching.

(Note that I’m not a tax expert; this is designed to be a high-level summary only. I strongly recommend doing more research if you are selling patterns.)

VAT is the European sales tax (effectively).

It used to be that sellers based in Europe would charge VAT according to the rules and regulations for their own country, no matter the location of the purchaser. If a knitter based in the US bought a pattern from a designer in the UK, the designer would charge according to the UK VAT rules. And, most designers wouldn’t even have to worry about VAT, as there is a threshold of £81,000 (approx. USD$127,000). If you sell less than that value of products in a year, then no VAT needs to be collected or reported.

Two changes go into effect January 1st 2015.

1) Sellers will have to charge VAT based on the location of the purchaser.
2) The threshold has been removed for sellers of digital products. (For example, knitting patterns, books and software.)

Here’s what the means: Anyone selling digital products into Europe now has to be able to identify the location of the purchase to charge appropriate VAT on that. A US-based purchaser doesn’t have to pay anything; a purchaser in the UK pays according to UK law; a purchaser in Germany pays according to German law; a purchaser in France pays according to French law, and so forth.

And this applies to sellers outside the EU, too. So even though I’m in Canada I’m still affected by this law. And even if I only sell a single pattern to a knitter in any EU country, I’m still responsible and liable for the VAT collection and payment.

This increases the complexity of selling online enormously: a seller now has to be able to identify where the purchaser is, and has to be up to date with the regulations in the country where the purchaser it based, and has to report and file taxes in all countries they have sold to. And it’s not just an accounting problem: the laws around data storage are onerous.

Designers both in and outside the EU are worried about this. See this flowchart published by UK tax agency HMRC that lays it out, very simply.

But knitters should be worried, too. Since these regulations are complex and costly to implement and manage, many designers feel that their only choice is to stop selling online. If they do keep selling online, you’re likely to see prices go up to reflect that they now have to charge VAT, and to help them cover the overhead of managing these new rules.

Note that online pattern store Patternfish does take care of the tax for you, but not every designer is on Patternfish.   As of this morning, Ravelry has announced that they have partnered with  UK distributor LoveKnitting to provide a solution for buyers in the EU, and for designers wanting to sell into the EU. (More info on LoveKnitting here.)

This is very helpful, and we’re grateful to both sites for this, but there are still two major limitations:

Designers will have to be reliant on these third-party pattern selling sites, rather than being able to sell directly themselves. For many designers, direct sales – a shopping cart solution on their own website – has been their preferred solution, and this option seems near-impossible under the current rules.

And for those selling something other than patterns – how-to books that don’t have patterns (my upcoming one, for example), and knitting software (StitchMastery, for example) – Ravelry and Patternfish aren’t options.

The fear is that these new rules may kill a lot of small businesses.

For the quick and dirty summary, this post by a self-publishing author is helpful.

Designer Woolly Wormhead has provided a most excellent detailed discussion of the situation on her blog.

Other reading here and here.

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