Monthly Archives: February 2013

WWW: Cost of a Handknit; Thriving Wool Industry Thriving; Constable Knit

The work of our hands is valuable, and should be valued.

Designer Terri Shea recently conducted an interesting experiment. Asked how much it cost for  her to make something handknit, she decided to count and calculate the value of the time spent. She set up the project just as a consultant or lawyer might – billable hours, hourly rate, materials used.

She blogged about it here.

Jimmy Beans has kicked off their annual Beans for Brains Scholarship program. They have five scholarships for post-secondary study available for students who know how to knit, crochet or sew. More information and application details here.

The Campaign for Wool in the UK continues their wonderful wool promoting the local wool industry, and the benefits of wool. Their latest initiative, ‘Wool House‘, held at Somerset House in London March 13th to the 24th, is a showcase of all things wool. The exhibit will demonstrate the uses of wool in home decor, crafts and fashion. There will be demonstrations of everything from spinning to rug weaving to “crochetdermy“, and workshops on a broad range of topics. The event curated by renowned designer Arabella McNie.

And their initiatives seem to be working: wool is making a comeback. Sales of wool have in the UK have soared 50% in recent years, and the industry provides 5000 jobs in the UK. There are 40 fully-functioning mills in the UK, and production is up 12% – thanks in no small part to hand knitters!

The RCMP detachment in Castlegar, British Columbia, is taking an innovative approach to their in-school police liaison program.

Rugs not drugs?

Constable Rob Gardner, liaison to Twin Rivers Elementary School, has joined the after-school knitting club. Constable Gardner is learning to make a bookmark, along with other students in the school. The police liaison programs are common in schools throughout Canada, to help students become comfortable with members of the police services, and build bonds and trust. I know I feel more comfortable around fellow knitters – I bet the kids do, too!


Love this: knitter Jilly47 has taken three designs and combined them to make one brilliant lace piece. She used the basic shape and structure of Laura Nelkin’s Skywalker shawl, stitch patterns from Sivia Harding, and the TARDIS motif from Bigger on the Inside.

Kate’s Leopard Hat

As I reported last week, I’m going through my annual “tired of my winter gear” phase, and like every year, I’ve made myself a new hat to cheer me as we see out the last weeks of winter.

A friend alerted to me to the Stray hat on Ravelry, and so in a fit of late-night-startitis, I dove in the stash and came out with the required three coordinating colours….

Not exactly authentically leopard, but I do think they work rather well together.


You can see why I need some colour – grey skies, grey snow.

Note that I did make two adjustments – the original hat is a fab beret style, but I prefer a more fitted hat, so I took out one pattern repeat; and I worked the band in the darkest colour rather than the main colour. Otherwise it’s worked as written.

I used Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light, less than one skein each of three colors. And I LOVE IT.

Just the thing I need to liven up a black winter coat.

Just the thing I need to liven up a black winter coat.

Love for Love; On Learning Double Knitting

We’re loving all the Love that the Love Actually is All Around cowl is getting.

What’s great about this is seeing so many knitters fall in love with the design and trying something a little outside their comfort level to make it happen: double knitting.

Kattak’s version

I adore the “non-traditional” natural colors!

RichelleCK’s “I Actually Love Grasshoppers”, also in a great color combo. Richelle says that she’s never tried double knitting before, and although she feels it might have gone better, she learned tons in the process.

I asked her about the project, and she said:

Double-knitting was on my “learn it” list for a long time, but nothing inspired me as much as this cowl did to actually jump in and give it a go. I’d recently taken a class in colorwork, since my tension there had been a problem area. In this class, I gained confidence in two-handed knitting (um, not purling). I think without that class, I may not have even attempted this cowl – and the cowl is what made me jump to learning a continental purl (which I don’t care for much, but can actually do if I have to now!). I’m sure my tension will get better with practice, but I’ll have to find another pattern I want this badly to give it another go!

A perfect example of complementary colors – color theory ahoy!

DianneK’s chocolate cherry version is just delicious


When I asked DianneK about the project, she said

I was always afraid of double knitting. I love this pattern and learned specifically for this. I had fun making this and learned some fun new techniques. I started a second one already.

CraftySBS learned double knitting specifically because she adored the project.

Learning, in action!

If you’re intrigued by the project and want to learn more, the designer recommends a couple of resources…

The cast-on is a bit tricky, and this video has helped a lot of people.

And Space Cadet Creations Yarn is running a knit-along for it. There’s lot of helpful tips and discussions in the Ravelry forum.

If you’ve tried the cowl and love the technique, have a look at some of the other patterns we’ve published at Knitty for double knitting:

If you want to go further, there’s Kate’s War & Peace socks – two socks, knitted one inside the other, using the double knitting technique.

Not easy, but very very rewarding.

And if you want to explore even further, the designer Alisdair Post-Quinn is doing amazing work in this area. His book is called “Extreme Double Knitting” – and it’s breathtaking.

WWW: London Fashion Week, Mathematical Knitting, Good Causes

The winner of the Soutache bead knitting kit from Laura Nelkin is Jennifer in Delaware. Thanks to Laura for the prize, and we wish Jennifer happy knitting!

Not just a donut.

boingboing brings our attention to Sarah-Marie Belcastro’s fabulous article in American Scientist magazine, “Adventures in Mathematical Knitting“.

Ms. Belcastro gives a brief history and overview of the uses of knitting to express and explore mathematical concepts, and she discusses and demonstrates the mathematical properties of knitted fabrics. Most interestingly, she talks about the challenges of designing mathematically.

I wish I’d had access to Sarah-Marie’s work when I was studying topology at University – seeing a torus rendered in yarn makes it much easier to understand.

Item #47,589 in an ongoing series: now it’s the Indepdent’s turn to tell us that knitting is “not just for grannies”. The headline is wearing, but the article is actually great, talking about the use of knit, crochet, embroidery and other crafts in collections shown at London’s recent Fashion Week.

More “granny” references, but the BBC tells us about how the resurgence of knitting is helping revive the British wool industry.

Absolutely not grannies: two young sisters in Tulsa, OK, have kicked off a project to give a little warmth and love to their local police force. Issued with a challenge to spend $1 to make an impact on someone’s life, sisters Savannah and Madeline bought garage sale yarn and are knitting scarves for members of the police. They’ve got schoolfriends, members of their church and staff and customers from a local yarn shop to contribute, too, and they hope to have 100 scarves by the end of the month.

Love it!

I enjoyed this story about a school counselor teaching fourth grade (9 and 10 years old) students to knit as part of an initiative to support a program in Romania to help move institutionalized children into homes. Each student made a square the was sewn into a blanket, which will be taken to Romania and given to one of the children in the program.

Jillian’s Spinning: Spinner’s Flock Sale – A Midwinter Blast of Color

Saturday I went to our local spinning guild’s fiber sale. I didn’t really need fiber, but I desperately needed some color in my life and wanted to support my local fiber growers and dyers. Here’s a little photo essay, I hope it adds some lift to your middle of winter.

The Spinners Flock has fiber sales 4 times a year.

The Spinner’s Flock has fiber sales 4 times a year.

Locally grown corriedale and mohair

Locally grown Corriedale and mohair

A special guest

A special guest

Bundles of batts

Bundles of batts

Beautiful felt

Beautiful felt

Now that's color

Now that’s color

Knitterly mugs

Knitterly mugs

Do you need a whole bag?

Do you need a whole bag?

Tweedy add-ins

Tweedy add-ins

An armful of handspun yarn

An armful of handspun yarn

My haul, I think I was trying to buy blue skies

My haul, I think I was trying to buy blue skies




What do you do when the middle-of-winter blahs get you down?



What Kate’s Knitting

Come mid-February, the winter doldrums start to set in. I’m officially tired of my winter coat, tired of my boots, tired of the early dark, tired of the grey skies and grey slush.

Come mid-February, every year, the same things happen. I could set my watch by them: First, I knit myself a new hat. By this time, I’ve been wearing the same hat since December, and I’m deeply bored of it.

I also start to crave color: bright, outrageous, silly color.

Which results in something like this:

Well, it is colorful.

(This is the Stray leopard print hat, but worked in colors that only I would think were a good idea.)

Turns out I’m not the only who suffers this problem. Friend of Knitty Sue showed me her solution. I do like it, as it doesn’t require any new yarn purchases: leftover sock yarn socks!

This isn’t a new idea, but it’s the pure insanity of Sue’s iteration that I adore: no more than 10 rounds of a color before changing.

Also fairly colorful.

They’re clearly a pair, because Sue has used a solid color for the heels and toes. Of course.

So as soon as my hat-of-questionable-taste is complete, I’ve starting into my own leftover sock yarn socks.

I’ve certainly got enough yarn.

Lots to choose from... And this isn't even all of it..

Lots to choose from… And this isn’t even all of it..

If you want to see this idea taken to its (perhaps not entirely) logical conclusion, check out knitpurlhunter’s Sock Opus leftover sock yarn tights, on Ravelry.


Knitty Friday: Franklin’s Contest – One Month to Go!

There’s only one month left to submit your design to Franklin’s Templeton Square contest.

Rev up your needles and your creative ideas, we need your designs knit up, photographed and sent in by March 15, 2013, midnight, EST.

For all of the details, keep reading. We can’t wait to see see what you come up with!

Templeton Squares

Templeton Squares

Contest Time: Square Off with Knitty


Here’s what you’re gonna do:

Use the Templeton Square pattern  as the basis for a finished project. It can be anything at all: a coverlet, a piece of home decor, a garment, a party tent — the type of project is up to you. The only requirement is that the Templeton Square must be a prominent and essential piece of it.

Send us glorious photos of your creation, as many as you want, but three must be:

  • a full shot of your design
  • a flat shot of your design
  • a detail shot of your design

The judges will be judging from your photos so make sure they are lovely and in perfect focus, no smaller than 750 pixels wide.

Include a short paragraph describing your piece, including your inspiration.

Tell us your name, email address and what yarn was used for the project.

Deadline for entry: March 15, 2013, midnight, EST

And here is what will happen:

Our World Famous Panel of Judges:

  • Ysolda Teague
  • Brooke Nico
  • Fiona Ellis
  • Shannon Dunbabin (of Cascade Yarns)

…will choose one winner in each of three categories:

  • Best in Show
  • Most Creative
  • Most Ambitious

Winners will be contacted by email by April 10, 2013
Winners will be announced in the Surprise for the Spring+Summer Issue of Knitty in mid-April, 2013.

Here’s what you could win:

  • Best in Show: Original Franklin Habit illustration, prize value $500, plus 10 skeins of Cascade Sierra yarn (your choice of in stock color), prize value $110, total prize value $610
  • Most Creative: 1 set of Addi Turbo Lace Clicks, prize value $169.95 plus 10 skeins of Cascade Sierra yarn (your choice of in stock color), prize value $110, total prize value $279.95
  • Most Ambitious: 10 skeins of Cascade Sierra yarn (your choice of in stock color), prize value $110
Are you feeling inspired?

What will you make?

Obsession: Knitting with Beads

Have you tried knitting with beads? It’s awfully addictive. It takes simple stocking stitch and makes it into a jewelled wonder. There are lots of fabulous beaded shawls and other projects out there.

Me, I’m slightly obsessed with Laura Nelkin’s fabulous bead knitting kits. They’re small projects, easy and quick to knit – practically instant gratification! – and the end results are those rare wear-everywhere go-with-everything pieces.

They’re also an excellent and affordable way to add something new to your wardrobe, if you’re feeling the winter blahs.

So very chic – and so very quick to knit!

Because we want to share the obsession, we’re giving away a Soutache bead knitting kit.

Even more beautiful close up.

Soutache is a great introduction to bead knitting, as no special skills at all are required – it’s just 4 strands of i-cord. The kit contains everything you need – yarn, beads, a dental floss threader (yes, really, the bead knitter’s best friend) and the clasps for both the necklace and the bracelet.

You can see more of Laura’s kits in her Etsy shop.

You know the drill: leave a comment below to win; deadline is Sunday February 17th, Midnight EST. We will randomly pull a name, and the winner will answer a skill-testing question. Winner chooses the kit colour!

WWW: The Fiber Factor, Wonderwool Wales, Pom-pom Sheep (Join the Flock!)

The winners of our Lucy Neatby class giveaway are Jodi, Patti, Susan, Deb and Carolyn. They each get one free class download from Lucy’s site.

A wonderful weekend is in store

A wonderful weekend for all!

Knitters and Spinners in the UK, mark your calendars for Wonderwool Wales, being held April 27 & 27 in Builth Wells, Wales. This is the 7th annual event, and promises a huge range of activities for the entire family: classes and workshops on a wide range of topics and woolly goodies for sale, of course, but also demonstrations and a Hat fashion show and competition.

If you’re in other parts of the world, that weekend is also the Toronto Downtown Knit Collective Frolic – not as many live sheep, but otherwise nearly as good! And it’s also the Fabric of Life Creative Fibre Festival in Porirua City, NZ. Remember, you can always check the events list on Clara Parke’s wonderful Knitter’s Review website to see what’s going on near you.

I love this: students of a local high school and residents of an assisted living center team up to yarnbomb the building and grounds of the residence. Both the inside and the outsides at The Point at Rockridge, in Oakland, CA were decorated – flowers for every resident’s door, and decorations for the railings and even scarves for the statues in the fountain on the grounds.

Can’t wait to watch!

Skacel Yarns has announced their very own reality competition – The Fiber Factor. It’s a knitting design competition with the goal of finding the next great knitwear design superstar.

Skacel is looking for 12 contestants to participant in 6 challenges to run between April and October 2013. The winner of each challenge will receive a cash prize, and in January 2014 a grand prize winner will be chose, and will be awarded a five-day, all-expense paid trip to Germany to tour yarn production facilities and the addi needle factory.

This just makes me happy!

The Campaign for Wool in the UK is also running a contest – this one open to everyone! They are trying to break a world record for the largest collection of pom-pom sheep. Details here. If you’re contributing, they need your sheep by March 1st. Even if you don’t plan to send any in, you can download a template and instructions to make your own sheepy adorableness. The project is the brainchild of the Eden Arts group, who are aiming to create an installation of thousands of pom-pom sheep – and hoping to break a world record at the same time. Last year‘s was a resounding success, with over 5300 sheepy participants, and we’re excited to see this year’s results.

Speaking of wool and things that make us happy: this story about the prevalence of wool in equipment and clothing being shown at the The Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, a tradeshow for sports and outdoor gear stores, recently held in Salt Lake City. Wool is starting to regain popularity over man-made fleece fabrics: “Natural fibers is where it’s at,” said Matt Skousen, of Everest Designs, one of the exhibitors at the event. “It’s the real deal. Wool has had millions of years to figure itself out.”

The beautiful in the everyday…

And in other uses for wool – and household items beautiful enough to be art objects: this wool dry mop from a fourth generation family business in Vermont. Jillian says: “Almost pretty enough to make me want to clean…”

Spinning Tuesdays: My Next Wheel, How Do I Choose?

I’m getting a new wheel soon. It will be my fifth wheel. I spin as my job and I feel like one lucky woman.

When I feel it’s time to get a new wheel it takes me a bit to figure out what wheel I’d like, where the holes are in my team of wheels. I’m not telling you which one I’m getting yet. It’s taken me a year to figure that out.

I can tell you how I chose each of my wheels and why I love them.

My entry wheel I bought because it was cheap and I could get it right that second. It was a Reeves little castle wheel and that was about 18 years ago. I don’t have it anymore, we never gelled. I never even tried it before I bought it. I was a new, new, new spinner.

My first wheel that I still have was love at first sight.


As soon as I saw a Schacht Matchless, I knew I had to have one. The wheel I was looking for at the time was one I could never outgrow. I was willing to have a big learning curve and  spend a bit of money (as long as there was layaway!). I was still a beginning spinner and this wheel is so full of spinning possibilities and adjustments, that it scared the hell out of me. It was way more wheel than I needed at the time. But I was in love. I had her on layaway for months before I brought her home.

At the time I had been weaving for awhile on a Schacht loom and I knew I couldn’t go wrong buying a Schacht wheel, it would last forever and spin like a dream. It took me years to get really comfortable with her, but she is my ‘I can adjust and spin with my eyes shut’ wheel. As I became I better spinner I began to appreciate all that she can do. There is no yarn that I can’t spin on her. If I had to own only one wheel, it would be this one.


My second wheel is a workhorse. I traded my Reeves wheel for her.

Majacraft Suzi Pro!

Aww Suzi, once she starts spinning she never stops. The wheel I was looking for when I got Suzi was one to spin super texture yarn on, I needed a big orafice, something besides hooks as a yarn guides and huge bobbins. I bought the Wild Flyer and love making super textured yarn on her, but I can spin really fine too. I had to get used to her treadles, they are different than the Matchless, a harder push and also taller. I can’t comfortably spin on the couch with Suzi, but I tend to like sitting taller when I spin arty yarns, rather than lounge spinning. I love her heavy wheel (so easy to keep spinning) and her HUGE bobbins. The fact that her head moves from side to side is fantastic when I adjust to spin different yarns.


I decided I needed a travel wheel right about the time Schacht released the Sidekick. Convenient, no?


The Sidekick folds up tiny, teeny tiny. She fits in a suitcase and I can squeeze her into almost any leftover spot when I pack the car for a road trip. I have the bulky flyer for this too. I like how it goes on and comes off of my Sidekick better than my Matchless so I just use it on this wheel. For me it had a learning curve and a little bit of break in time. The learning for me was about adjusting her on set up. I expected her to snap together like Legos and that is not the case. But it is exactly those I adjustments I have to make on set up that make her a remarkably sensitive wheel, an excellent piece of spinning equipment.  It’s great being able to take a wheel almost anywhere. She spins like a dream, better than most travel wheels I’ve tried. The big bonus is all bobbins, the bulky flyer and my WooLee Winder are interchangeable with my Sidekick and my Matchless. Win!


Wheel number four is a wheel I never liked much until I finally broke down and spun on her.



My Lendrum confession is this: I never liked the way they looked, so I never spun on one. I thought that how the wheel leans towards the spinner would be claustrophobic. Weird, I know, but there you have it. The day I finally broke down and tried one I became a woman possessed. She’s a smooth wheel, lighter than I usually like, but she travels too. I wasn’t really looking for another wheel, but I thought maybe I might want another all around wheel. This is the wheel I wish I had bought first. No disrespect to my Matchless. The learning curve on this wheel is really, really short, the most confusing thing is remembering how to break her down and put her back together. There is only one way to set her up. She is never feisty, never complains, just spins – a basic yarn? of course! Fat yarn? You bet! Fine yarn? Bring it! Super textured craziness? A piece of cake! I just change her head and spin. This wheel wins the anti-Diva award.

By the time I was on my second wheel I knew a few things about the type of wheels I liked. I like castle wheels. It’s mostly aesthetic, I just like how they look. But they are also easier to store, they fit into corners and spots that a saxony wheel wouldn’t.  I like heavy wheels. I’m a hard treadler and I will push a light wheel across the floor. I like a double treadle wheel, I can get into a spinning rhythm easier with both of my feet going.

I learned right away to spend time spinning on any wheel I considered buying and to talk to spinners who like and don’t like the wheel in question. If you already hang out with spinners they will be happy to let you try their wheels and tell you all of the things they love. If you live near a shop that sells a variety of wheels you are a lucky spinner! There are no more passionate spinners in the world than spinning shop owners.  They will spend lots of time with you and share knowledge that’s hard to find all in one place. They will watch you spin, ask a lot of questions and suggest wheels that match your spinning style and budget. Chances are, you’ll get a mini spinning lesson too.

***Soapbox Warning***

I need to get on my soapbox for a minute about buying from spinning shops. If a shop owner has spent hours, sometimes days and weeks with you, helping you pick out a wheel that’s just right, please buy your wheel from her. There is nothing worse than taking her time and years of knowledge and then buying somewhere else because you found a wheel $20 cheaper. That extra $20 or $100 spent at a spinning shop pays for the 20 years of experience your shop owners has.

The shop owner will be a resource for your lifetime of spinning, tuning up your spinning and wheel for as long as you spin. Help them stay in business by spending your money with them. I’ll put it bluntly, whatever your job is, would you do it for free, no matter how much you love it? By using their time and knowledge and buying your wheel elsewhere that’s exactly what you’re asking a shop owner to do. If spinners keep shopping for just for price and using local shops like a live catalog, spinning shops will go away.  ***End Rant***

I was first intrigued by my next wheel at Madrona last year [shout out to everyone going this weekend!]. I was sure I wouldn’t want one. I sat and spun a few times at one. I talked to the bazillion of people who had one at Madrona. Then I let it go. As this year has progressed I realized that I have to spin faster and more as I take on more spinning related work. I don’t have a lot of room for a new wheel and I’d like it to be travel and WooLee Winder friendly. It’s coming sometime in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be a tease and not tell until I have pictures to show.

How do you choose your wheels?