Month: May 2012

Obsession: Taking Better Photographs, Part 1

I’ve never been confident with a camera. I’ve always had ‘point and shoot’ models – fully automatic cameras that make all the decisions for you – and I’ve never practiced enough to get a sense of how to compose and shoot a good photo.

Case in point:

Poor framing; bad light; hard to see the sock detail; also boring.


Funny story: at Sock Summit last year, I took Franklin Habit‘s amazing photography class. I was such a novice that I didn’t even know whether my camera had most of the options he was talking about, let alone knowing how to use them. (Turns out my camera didn’t.)

I’m doing a lot of blogging and designing and I need to improve the quality of my photography.  With help from some knowledgeable friends, I’ve dipped my toe into this exciting – and sometimes a bit scary – world.

The first issue for me was even learning what questions to ask and how to understand the answers. That took a bit of research, but once I had a bit of knowledge, it became a lot less daunting and a lot more fun. I suspect that there a lot of knitters out there in the same position I was, so I thought I’d share some of my learnings with you.

Step 1: Do Some Reading

Before I ventured into a camera shop, I did a bit of reading so I didn’t feel quite so silly.

Get familiar with the categories and price ranges: How to Choose the Perfect Digital Camera for Your Needs

Key concepts, explained beautifully: Photography’s Three Basic Tenets in Eight Bits and Nine Minutes.

There’s a ton of great stuff on the Lifehacker website photography section, (some of it from sister website Gizmodo, which is also wonderful) although it can be a little overwhelming.

Step 2: The Camera

Just what I needed.

Up until now, I’d only owned fully automatic models. These are great cameras, and aren’t expensive, and are perfect for everyday snapshots and vacation pics and the like. Someone with a good eye can take great pictures with one, no question. What they lack is the ability to control how the camera takes pictures.

What I needed was a camera that could be automatic, but could also let me play with the various options – shutter speed, aperture, focus – to change the photographs I was taking.

I chose a Canon G12. Canon was the unanimous recommendation for photographers of my level – that is, someone looking to move up from a fully automatic. They’re very high quality cameras, and can be operated in fully automatic (i.e. the camera decides for itself what to do), fully manual (e.g. I know what the heck I’m doing and can set the exposure and focus myself), and various semi-manual modes. This allows me to learn to control one element at a time, to really understand it. It’s also got lots of clever pre-programmed modes for things like shooting fast-moving subjects (e.g. the dog at the park), in low light (e.g. knitting at night), and the one I’m most excited to use – for shooting fireworks!

There is a very similar model, the Canon S100, that’s a little newer a little smaller, and a little less expensive – but just as powerful. I definitely recommend that you look at both if you’re shopping. I ultimately chose the G12 because I like how it felt – more important than you might think! And I like that it’s operated with dials; the S100 is controlled more through the software. What became clear to me is that either choice was a very good one, the decision is entirely about how the camera feels to you.  This means that when you’re shopping, it’s important to actually get your hands on the cameras. I can’t recommend highly enough that you get yourself to an actual camera shop, if at all possible. Go to a store with a knowledgeable staff and ask questions, and touch and feel.

When I was camera shopping, I took some knitting with me so that I could show the salesperson what I would be shooting, and so that I could see how the camera handled those kinds of shots.

Note: I learned pretty early on in my research that the term ‘point and shoot’ is a bit misleading. My G12 is considered a ‘point and shoot’ because it can be operated in a fully automatic mode. You’re looking for a camera that offers manual control in addition to  automatic modes. (When I told the sales staff initially that I didn’t want a point and shoot camera, they pointed me to professional level multi-thousand-dollars cameras.)

Step 3: Start Taking Photos Immediately

I got the camera home, I charged the battery, I read the quick start booklet, and first thing the following morning I starting taking pictures. I had no idea what all the various buttons and dials were for, but that was ok: I made sure that everything was set to ‘automatic’ and starting taking pictures.

Sounds like a silly thing to do, but this was an incredibly useful exercise for a few reasons: it helped me get over my shyness about carrying a camera: I look ridiculous! They’ll think I’m a tourist! These photos will be terrible!

Yes, all of these things might be true: but so what? Carrying a good camera will make you look like a knowledgeable tourist. And if they think you’re a tourist they won’t judge if you spend twenty minutes taking pictures of a bike rack. And most important of all: you can’t take good photos until you’ve taken bad ones.

My first day with my new camera I took about thirty pictures of Dexter playing with his friend Daisy…

Not a great picture, but not a bad one.

To Be Continued
Next week, I’ll write more about my adventures and I’ll show you some more of the shots I’ve taken.

WWW: Beard Knitting, TTC Knitalong, Giveaway!

Knit your own!

Giveaway time! Just in time for what we’re anticipating to be a flaming hot June, a giveaway for a kit to knit the Flaming June sweater from our Spring & Summer issue.

One lucky winner will get enough Lana’s Hemp for Kniting Allhemp 3 to knit this fab design. Prize value is $49-$98.

Leave a comment on this post by midnight EST Friday June 1st to be eligible to win. If you’ve won a giveaway in the last year, please give other knitters a chance.

Thanks to Lanaknits for the prize.

This calls for a yarn with some texture.

The Burke Museum in Beechwood, Australia, has launched an excellent competition, ‘Ned’s Needles. Entrants are to knit (or crochet) a replica of bushranger/outlaw/folk hero Ned Kelly‘s amazing beard.  Even if you’re not going to enter the competition, there is a pattern for a knitted beard available for download, for your Halloween costume needs.

Blogger Stitcherati brings us this tremendous homage to the wonder that is the Clapotis, complete with excellent tutorial on the trickier bits.


A fun Jubilee-themed yarn bomb in the UK.

A very helpful guide to organic and eco-friendly yarns from the Canadian Living magazine crafts blog.

Another gem from the New York Times archive: from February 1883, “Gossip About Knitting“. Includes patterns for ladies’ gloves knitted in silk (for wearing over your dainty leather gloves – the layered look was fashionable even then!), some notes on a babies’ bootees and a rough outline for a sock.

The routes.

Details for this year’s Toronto TTC Knitalong have been announced. Saturday July 14th, look for Toronto public transport to be taken over by hordes of knitters, shopping and knitting up a storm. More info and registration here. As always, there are prizes and deals at the various shops on the tour, and proceeds of the registration fee go to charity.

Spinning Tuesdays: Keeping Track with Tyvek

Here’s a great suggestionI heard from Sasha of SpinDoctor  who heard it from one of her listeners for labeling skeins of handspun.

Tyvek wristbands, the kind folks use for events and amusement parks are quick and easy. They’re about 1″ x 10″ and sticky at one end. Write your info, wrap around your skein, stick and go!

Tyvek wristband - yellow!

I got mine from here kitty kitty on eBay. They’re about $10 for 200, and come in a variety of colors.

I also cut up used tyvek envelopes for tags, the kind that my fiber club packages come in, and either tie them on, hang tag style, or make a wristband and use duct tape to stick the ends together. This version is great for recycling, if you have a lot of info you want to keep track of or if you tend to write big (guilty!)

A sheet of wristbands and a tyvek envelope

Here are a few in action:


Both versions will withstand the hottest soakings and fiercest whackings. If you write all of your info in Sharpie, it won’t wash off.

All kinds of notes to myself

I write all kinds of info and I often go back and write more after I’ve set the skein: colorway, fiber company, fiber type, wheel set up, drafting & plying methods, even what I want to use it for.

Please weave me!

I love this method of keeping track. It’s great for sampling, when you can’t decide how to spin something and have 10 little skeins. It’s also great for classes – I used to use paper hang tags for my samples and they would dissolve or the writing would wash off as soon as they hit water.

Mostly, it’s really easy, which is key for me.

Also, Sharpies!

Knitting Mondays: California Revial Knits Winner & What I Did on My Long Weekend

California Revival Knits

Our winner of the California Revival Knits book and Peacock Mitts yarn pack is Jeanette from Ontario. Happy knitting Jeanette!

A huge thanks to Cooperative Press for donating the book and Elemental Affects for donating the yarn pack!


This is is a long weekend in the US. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Color Affection with beer. There may have been a hammock involved too

I’ve fallen down the Color Affection rabbit hole. I’m knitting mine as a holiday gift out of stashed Rowan Felted Tweed. I’m trying to knit one holiday gift per month between May and December, all accessories. But that just might be the beer talking.

What did you knit this weekend?


Insight into a Knitty Design; Advice on Color from Ms. ColorJoy

Designer Lynn Hershberger is a genius with color. Part of her secret is that she is utterly fearless, combing colors in ways that most of us wouldn’t dare do. And it works, brilliantly!


She designed the wonderful – and naturally very colorful Crystal socklet in the current issue of Knitty.

Lynn encourages knitters to choose their own color combos for the socks, and inspired by a question on Ravelry from a nervous color-combiner, she wrote a wonderful blog post on this topic – “Color Combining for Novices“.

Helpful examples to illustrate different types of color combos

Even if you’re not planning to knit the socks, there’s lots of excellent material, well illustrated.

(Funny story: Lynn was my roommate at Sock Summit last year. She’s a wonderful woman, and we had a great time together. I wish I’d taken a picture of the closet in our room… my side was entirely in black and white, and Lynn’s side could only be described as a the wildest explosion of color imaginable.)

WWW: Lithuanian Socks, Synchronized Swimmers, Rubber Chickens

Knit your own team!

Fun stop-motion video of knitted Olympians, created to promote the book Olympknits. Be warned, it’s ever so slightly racy – contains images of a knitted streaker and a diver who loses his swimming trunks. I am particularly amused by the synchronized swimmers.

If you do fancy Knitting The Olympics, there are three books to choose from! There’s also Knitlympics and Knitting for Gold. No matter which book you get, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy while watching the coverage.


Our own columnist Donna Druchunas has a new video workshop, “Knitting Lithuanian Socks available from Interweave Press. You can see a sneak preview here. In this nearly 3-hour video, Donna takes you through the history of Lithuanian knitting, talks about the evolution of regional colorwork patterns, and discusses the role of knitting in contemporary Lithuanian culture. She provides tips and techniques for working colorwork designs and details several clever heel shapings. In addition, you get three patterns for fabulous socks designed by Donna, inspired by her research and travels.

The best dressed rubber chicken in the universe.

A knitter from the UK has been given the honor of knitting a new sweater for Camilla the Chicken, the mascot of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Camilla has twice travelled spaceward as part of projects to measure solar radiation, and will proudly wear her new sweater around the lab and on any future space ventures.

A thoughtful, thought-provoking blog post about the common comparison made between knitting and computer programming. Worth a read on your coffee break.

Capturing the beauty of these animals

A fundraiser for a heartbreaking cause: Liza Souza Dyeworks has created a limited edition colorway of their sock yarn, Appaloosa. This colorway will be available only until the end of June, and all proceeds will go to The Grace Foundation animal shelter to support their work with the ‘Susanville 70’.

The story is a terrible one: in April of 2011, more than 50 horses and several dogs (as well as two foster children) were rescued from a situation of great neglect and abuse. The Grace Foundation took in the horses, but due to a series of legal and financial blunders and maneuvers, they have been unable to adopt out the horses, and have been left to care for them – and to pay for that care. Many of the horses were in terrible condition, and many pregnant, and have required costly and time-consuming medical care. The legal situation remains unresolved, and the Grace Foundation is struggling to deal with the burden of the costs and work of keeping these animals.  More information on the story can be found here.  Kudos to Liza Souza for her efforts to help.

An article on the New York Times blog about scams that are starting to appear connected to Pinterest.

Spinning Tuesdays: A Little Spinning, A Little Swatching

I belong to the Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club. I get 4 oz of a different fiber every month.

I love to squirrel away a few months worth of fiber and then see what goes together for some color blending.

Here’s my latest combo. The colors are called Beans (Romney) and Changes(Falkland).

From this:

Beans & Changes

to this:

350 yards of yum

a little closer:

As long as there is brown I am happy

a bit of knitting:

Sweater, please!

The yarn knits up great at 4 stitches to the inch, and could happily squeeze down to 4.5. The Falkland was quite soft and took away all of the prickles of the Romney.

Now I’m looking for a couple of others that would go well with this one. I love stash archeology.

Anyone else stash spinning?






Knitting Mondays: California Revival Knits Giveaway

I can’t think of a better way to start the week than to giveaway beautiful things!

Today I have a copy of California Revival Knits by Stephannie Tallent.  Have you seen the patterns in it yet? I’m loving the Wrought Mitts and Cardigan.

California Revival Knits


I also have an Elemental Affects yarn pack to make the stunning Peacock Mitts.

Beautiful Peacock Mitts

Thanks to Cooperative Press and Elemental Affects for donating today’s prizes!

One person will win both the book and the yarn pack.

The usual rules apply for our giveaway: Leave a comment on this post before midnight, eastern time, on Wednesday, May 23, 2012. 1 comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question.

If he/she answers correctly, they will win our prize! Good luck, everyone!

(If you have won a prize from us already this year please give another knitter a chance and leave your name out of the hat. Thanks!)

WWW: WWKIP is coming!

Let the world see you knit!

The weather has finally turned in our favor here in the northeast of North America, which puts us in the right mindset to knit outdoors. And just in time to start thinking about World Wide Knit in Public Day. This year, it’s not just a day – it’s a week! Events will run between June 9th and 17th, in cities all over the world. The Toronto crew is planning a big day at Speaker’s Corner at Nathan Philips Square.  A list of events around the world is here.

Knitlympic fever is heating up in the UK: a piece from the Telegraph in the UK about the book ‘Knitlympics: Knit Your Favourite Athletes’ by Carol Meldrum. Bonus link to a free pattern for Jessica Ennis, complete with Stella McCartney designed gear.

A related piece from the NY Times’ blog about the thorny issue of copyright at it relates to crafting, specifically to do with protection of the Olympic rings image.

The coffee is great, too!

A great profile of Toronto yarn shop (and Amy’s LYS) The Purple Purl in, focusing on the realities of running the business.


Knitter Courtney Zurcher created a fun yarny installation and offered learn to knit classes as part of the Big Omaha 2012 conference on innovation and entrepreneurship, held last week.

Kickstarter project for a neat yarn storage device, invented by a Product Design student to help out his girlfriend with her knitting. Even if you’re not looking to support these types of projects, it’s fun to read about the inspiration and the design process.

Yarnbombers struck Norwich City Hall. Fantastic lamp post styling!

Excellent yarn shop name of the week: The Sheep’s Stockings.

Spinning Tuesdays: Spinning Away

Twice a year my spinning gang hits the road and goes to spin at a family cabin four hours north of where we live.

We spin and knit, watch movies and eat a lot. We relax and focus on a hobby we all love.

Last weekend we went. It was beautiful and sunny, we even spent some time spinning lakeside.

Lake view

With no work or family constraints I got a lot of spinning done – almost a pound of fiber. I spun randomly filling bobbins with what appealed to me at the time. Of course I brought three times as many projects than I could possibly accomplish.

A little Spunky Eclectic

The spinning part of my brain feels relaxed now and I feel reconnected to my spinning women.


Do you ever spin away?