Knitter’s Film Picks: RAMS and ADDICTED TO SHEEP

Some of you my know that my husband is a professional film critic. A few weeks ago he told me that he had to watch a film for review: “I think you might like it. It’s set in Iceland, and it’s about sheep.”

He was entirely correct: the film RAMS is indeed set in Iceland, it’s about sheep… and I absolutely adored it. (Spoiler alert: the professional film critic did, too!) It’s an utterly charming little film about a family in a small farming community dealing with a family crisis and a farming crisis. It won the very prestigious ‘Un Certain Regard’ prize when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

The scenery is fabulous, and the knitwear is amazing. There are scenes – like the one in the photo below – where three-quarters of the people in them are wearing hand-knits. Now, as a knit designer, I’m used to being in environments where three-quarters of the people are wearing handknits, but those are knitting classes and conferences and yarn shops. This isn’t a film about knitting, and these aren’t scenes about knitting: these are just casual scenes in cafes and village halls.

What’s not to love?

Don’t just take our word for it, you can see all the glowing reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and watch the trailer.

If you’re in the UK, it’s playing in cinemas, and is available for digital rental from BFI.

If you’re in Canada, a regional run starts this Friday in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, opening in Montreal February 26 and throughout the winter in other cities.

If you’re in the US, it’s playing in NY and LA, with other cities coming soon.

Expect VOD/download and DVD releases later this year.


Although I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, I hear that “Addicted to Sheep“, which ran on UK television earlier this week is also a winner. It’s about a sheep farming family, in the north of England, and their question to breed the prefect sheep. Available for viewing .through the BBC iPlayer now, although there are geographic restrictions.

WWW: Bouncy Happy Sheep; Knitting Needles in Space; Knitting Patterns as Code

This can’t fail to improve your day:


Have difficulty telling Llamas and Aplacas apart? This handy guide might help. Although, I’m not often in a position to encounter, let alone mistake, the two, I did enjoy learning more about the personalities of these charming creatures!


Socks worn by Albert Edward Prince of Wales, 1842. Image ©Historic Royal Palaces

A philosophical pondering on the nature of a darned sock. The author of this article thought it was about repairing buildings. I think it’s about a fascinating royal sock.


I’m often asked about whether you can take knitting needles on planes (the answer is generally yes, FYI), but I’d never considered whether you’re allowed to take knitting needles into space…


Amazing: the world’s largest crochet blanket. At 11,148 square meters – nearly 3 acres – in size took over 2000 women over 6 months to create. The objective was to establish a world record, and once it was officially measured, the blanket was divided into 8,034 individual blankets to be donated to the homeless and the needy.


A smart and interesting discussion of the parallels between knitting and writing computer code, and a discussion of the Waldorf School skill-centric teaching methods… “Can learning to knit help those learning to code?” Spoiler alert: yes!

My Fiber Stash is Alive – What Are Your Tips to Tame It?

Some organized fiber. I'm not prepared to show you my 'before' stash photo yet.

Some organized fiber. I’m not prepared to show you my ‘before’ stash photo yet.

My fiber stash is a beast out of control! I have lots of fiber, most of it dyed braids, but there are batts and natural bumps too, plus a few bags of fleece.

I have an overwhelming need to reorganize my stash. Right now it’s organized by fiber and some of it is grouped by dyer. I have it stored in big zipper bags from Ikea, but I really don’t like it. I reorganize at least once a year, changing up storage containers and what fiber hangs out with what fiber. Usually while I’m organizing, I make a plan to spin down my stash that is so grandiose and complex that I never do it.

I always do this reorganization during the winter, every wnter. I think I get cabin fever and need to immerse myself in color, literally. I really do like touching it all!

This year before I dive into my winter ritual, I want to ask all of you – how do you organize your spinning stash? How do you spin down your stash?

I’ll share your tips here so we can all benefit from the collective spinning smarts!

 

Surprise WIPs

Our Surprises launched a couple of weeks ago, there’s already some terrific projects taking shape.

Perfect.

Genesneaky‘s Here Be Dragons socks are looking terrific. A dramatic color choice, but not so dark that you can’t see the patterning. Fab.

AndreaFL‘s Talula looks very promising… I adore this color choice.

And bonus points for a really beautiful swatch….

This makes me so very happy…

And Calenia‘s Stars in the Twilight shawl is absolutely gorgeous in an unexpected but fantastic colour.

Look at the beads!

WWW: State of the Industry Survey, Sheepy Car Commercial, On Ethical Wool

Image courtesy The Roving Crafters.

Another way at looking at color: on the Roving Crafters blog, a clever suggestion for using your phone to help you assess color when you’re in the yarn shop. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I could always use a refresher on color theory. I get it in principal, but then when I’m in the yarn shop, surrounded by so many choices, everything I know evaporates and I start to panic.


A very clear-headed post on the topic of “ethical” wool, from Australian wool maven Kylie Gusset. Specifically, she addresses some of the statements made by certain animal welfare organizations about cruelty in sheep farming practices. (It’s not as difficult a read as it might seem, I promise.)


Our own Kate (hey, that’s me!) is off to the UK later this month for a three-stop teaching tour. Look for stops at A Yarn Story in Bath Feb 20 & 21, Purlescence near Oxford March 4 & 5, and the Joeli’s Kitchen Retreat in Manchester Feb 27 & 28. (Pssst! I’ve heard that there might be one or two spots left on the retreat: hurry!)


TNNA, the US-based Fiber Arts industry organization, is looking to survey US crafters of all sorts for a state of the industry review. The survey only takes a few minutes, and it’s important research to give us a view of crafters’ interests and objectives, and it will help guide industry programs and activity. On hold with the bank today? Fill it in, please! There’s a draw for a $100 gift card for all entrants.


And as a reward for filling in the survey, Love this: a very sheepy car commercial. (With a bonus adorable dog!)


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Ann and Kay. Planning.

Have you heard? The lovely ladies of Mason Dixon Knitting are Up To Something. Subscribers to their newsletter received an announcement this week about an exciting and intriguing new development, to be launched this fall. We can’t wait!

Stopover KAL Haunted by Kate

Bag of Stopover

Bag of Stopover

My spinning wheel sits idle because I fell down the #bangoutasweater KAL that the merry makers over at Mason Dixon Knitting cooked up.

The idea is to knit a quick sweater, just get it done, They chose Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Stopover, an Icelandic style sweater that’s 3 1/2 stitches to the inch on US 10.5 needles, knit in the round. I’m in the throes of grey Michigan winter, I have plenty of other deadline work to do and, hey, look it’s shiny……

I jumped. I decided to knit the sweater for my daughter for more of a chance of finishing because of love and guilt, also a Lopi pullover doesn’t work well with my hot flashes.

I expected to be much farther along than three rows by this time, even knitting in little bits, but I was haunted by Kate. Kate Atherley is the the Queen of Tech Editors, IMHO, and an amazing teacher. She insists that things be done correctly if you want your knitting to actually fit.

 

 

I kept trying to half-ass my gauge swatch for this sweater. Do I really need one? Yes. Can I do it flat? No.

 

Color options

Color options

I really only cared about what colors I was going to use. I did a big swatch for that.

I did a cheater in the round swatch for gauge, looping the yarn behind and always knitting across my swatch. I got gauge on a smaller needle which isn’t surprising since I hardly tension my knitting and I have a wonky purl. Great! Let’s go, let’s cast on.

Then I saw Kate’s smiling face in my mind’s eye. “That swatch isn’t really in the round is it?” Crap, you’re right. I swatched again, in the round, I got gauge, but up 2 needles sizes. All righty, let’s cast on now! She smiles at me, hands me a haunted cup of tea and says, “You, as a spinner, know that the swatch you just knit is going to change when it hits water. That’s a woolen spun yarn knit at a loose gauge.” Arrrgh, you are right, again! I wet blocked my swatch and sure enough that woolen spun Lopi pulled in more than a half a stitch per inch. I swatched a final time, in the round and wet blocked that sucker. Kate didn’t appear to me this time when I was done. I took it as a sign. I cracked a beer and cast on.

Thank you Kate for haunting my knitting and making me do my gauge swatch right!

Obsession Thursday: the brilliant KeepCup

a variety of KeepCups. How could you pick just one?

a variety of KeepCups. How could you pick just one?

This is not a feminine device. It’s a travel coffee cup that you keep.

Nothing new, you say? What’s so great about the KeepCup, you ask? It’s smart. It’s environmentally sound. And it is ergonomically designed to fit your lips.

Seriously. The very best thing about it is this: your mouth will fit perfectly around the drinking hole of this fabulous cup and you will not accidentally dribble as you try to avoid scalding yourself. It’s just good design.

here's mine, well used and loved since finding it in a coffeeshop in the UK 2 years ago.

here’s mine, purchased 2 years ago in the UK. had no idea what it was; i just liked the colors. it’s proved to be my best coffee friend ever since.

It also self-seals with this cool top thingy (see the orange thing at left) that rotates from closed to open easily. Easy to clean, doesn’t scald your hands, affordable. Works for hot or cold drinks. Comes in a variety of sizes. Designed and made in Australia, the home of the inventors of my new favorite coffee drink, the flat white*.

And you can make up your own color combo.

No affiliation. I just love this thing and wanted you to know about it.

You may resume your regularly scheduled day.

*according to the linked post, “Flat White has an even mix of liquid milk and smooth velvet foam so it feels like drinking an espresso, only yummier.” To me, it tastes like a more intense, more caramelly latte, without any bitterness. I am addicted.

WWW: Retreat, Get Well, Protest; or just be awesome like Katniss.

Toronto fans of yarn and shoes, alert: the Fluevog store in the Distillery District is hosting a knit night this Thursday, Jan 28th. Zen Yarn Garden will be there with her wares, and you can expect to see a many of Toronto’s knit community there… I have already chosen the shoes I’ll wear. Note that there’s absolutely no pressure to buy shoes when you’re there, it’s just a fun venue to sit and chat and knit.


Very excited to announce that Kate (that’s me!) is teaching at the upcoming WEBS retreat, to be held the weekend of September 16-18 in Western Massachusetts.  And it’s not just me: friends of Knitty Bristol Ivy, Anne Hanson, Cirilia Rose and Amy Hendrix from Madelinetosh will be there, too. Event info here.


Blog post from The New York Times on the health benefits of knitting. And I was very happy to learn about lifecoach Karen Zila Hayes (based in Toronto!) who uses knitting as the core of her wellness and therapy programs. She teaches knitting as a path to relaxation, quitting smoking, stress reduction and other benefits.


Our fearless leader Amy, who hasn’t been doing much knitting late due to hand problems, has rediscovered her love of quilting. Along the way, she’s been shopping for fabrics, and alerts us to this absolutely fab collection of knitting-themed fabrics over at Spoonflower. If you were looking for an excuse to get the sewing machine out and whip up a project bag, this is it. (Although many of them would make an excellent dresses, too…)


The Knitting Nannas is a protest group in Australia, a group of women who are campaigning against the coal-seam gas industry, which they believe threatens to destroy farmland and fragile ecosystems with its use of fracking. They bring attention to locations under dispute by installing themselves, to sit and knit. In their own words,

“We sit, knit, plot, have a yarn and a cuppa, and bear witness to the war against those who try to rape our land and divide our communities.”

There’s been a film made about them, and you can watch the trailer here. Their entirely peaceful and rather unexpected method of ‘protest’ draws attention in a way that many other kinds of efforts cannot.


Fun! A peek into knitting-related terms that appear in the Merriam Webster dictionary.


The official Hunger Games merchandise shop offers a version of Katniss’s awesome hunting cowl, for $149.99US. Or you could make your own. Go and do a search on Rav for “Katniss” and see the wealth of amazing patterns. (Note, you have to be signed in for that link to work.)

Coloring in the Snow

The grey days of winter

The grey days of winter

I know some of you are staring at feet of snow right now, I hope the sun is shining for you and you can stay home and knit.

Winter where I am is gross and grey, sometimes we’re buried under a lot of snow, but it’s always grey, grey, grey. I tell people the winter in Michigan is like living in a Tupperware bowl with the lid on.

This winter I’ve fallen hard for those grown up coloring books. They are fun and they are a great excuse to buy more colored pencils and pens.

Imagine my delight when I found out Kay & Ann of Mason-Dixon Knitting had published a coloring book – for knitters.

 

 

A Mason-Dixon coloring book!

A Mason-Dixon coloring book!

 

Just look at the cover, it makes me so happy!  You know that Kay and Ann are blogging again, right? That makes me happy too. Kay and Ann teamed up with illustrator Juliana Horner to come up with 30 sexy pages of knitting pictures to color.  There’s a lopi, there are mittens, a blanket and that’s all I’m saying. I don’t want you to miss out on the oohing and ahhing when you first flip through.

I find that coloring does help me relax and it’s something I can do with my teenage daughter. She does, however, understand  that the knitting coloring book is just for me.

When Kay sent me a copy of this book, I promptly grabbed a Michael’s coupon and bought myself a new big set of Prismacolor pencils. It was the perfect excuse.

I like playing with different combinations when I color. It helps me visualize color theory when I read about it and it helps me pick colors of fiber and yarn with more confidence.

Are you coloring yet? Do you have the the knitter’s coloring book?

Tell me your favorite coloring book and your favorite pencils or pens to color with!

 

 

WWW: Knitter making herself a better hat?; “A seemingly endless series of very small gestures”; Estonian mitten patterns

The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa is hosting what they call a “knitting challenge”. 

The museum tells us that

during the First and Second World Wars, hundreds of thousands of Canadians supported the troops by knitting massive quantities of socks, stockings, balaclavas, caps, sweaters and other badly needed comfort items. The Canadian Red Cross estimates that 750,000 volunteers knit 50 million articles during the Second World War.

(That’s an average of 67 items per knitter, FYI.)

Inspired by that, and in honor of the museum’s special exhibition ‘World War Women’, they’ve called on knitters to help fill a First World War supply wagon with handmade woollies. They’re accepting donations of hats, scarves and mittens until the end of January, and then those items will be donated to those in need.


Beautiful. A knitter tells the story of learning to knit with the objective of keeping her hands busy while trying to quit smoking, and learning a very important lesson about kindness and love along the way.

Every stitch, every kiss, every kindness – they all count, they all add up? Maybe love is just a seemingly endless series of very small gestures repeated until you die.


Enormously pleasing.


I really enjoyed this profile of Canadian designer Jane Richmond, on Huffington Post.


I wish I knew more about this fabulous photograph:

(My husband helpfully commented that he hoped she was knitting a hat, ‘because the one she’s wearing seems a bit odd’. I think it’s fantastic, personally, but it probably isn’t very warm…)