Month: March 2013

Jillian’s Obsession: Fibery Mugs and a Giveaway!

I drink  tea all day long and have collected a lot of mugs. Of course I’m especially drawn to mugs with any kind of a fiber theme, sheep and knitting needles cavort in my cupboards. I have Knitty mugs, Jennie the Potter mugs, mugs from local potters and a just a few from Etsy.

I recently ran across a fantastic set of mugs from Herdy, you know the cute little sheep stuff.

Herdy things usually look like this:

Cute little Herdy sheep
Cute little Herdy sheep

But this set is decorated with specially commissioned artwork from by Scottish artist Owain Kirby that depicts the journey of wool from sheep to finished object. The set is called Wool Journey.

Wool Journey mugs
Wool Journey mugs

Want a closer look at the art?

Shearing the sheep
not sure
Wool auction
who knows
Scouring, carding and spinning
Weaving and knitting
Weaving and knitting

We have one set of mugs to give away, regular contest rules apply: leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, Monday April 1, 2013. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win a set of mugs. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance.



WWW: World’s Largest Sweater?, Parrot Sweaters, Lego Swift

Yes, that is indeed pretty big.

A group in Turkey has created what they hope will be crowned the “world’s largest sweater” by the Guinness World Records organization. The garment, designed to highlight what officials proclaim to be the bad habit of turning up the heating in the winter, rather than putting on a sweater, thereby wasting energy. The article, a little bit snarky in tone, if you ask me, mentions the National Sweater Day we mark in Canada, reminding us to put a sweater on and turn down the heat. The sweater took 90 people a month to complete, and required over 500kg (about 1100lbs) of yarn.

Terri O’Shea follows up her blog post about pricing her work with a wonderful, thoughtful entry about why we craft, and how we value our own work for ourselves.

A way to support themselves and their families.

Knitters in the Philippines are seeing their work being valued, as a way to help themselves out of a difficult situation. Meredith Ramirez, a student at Cornell University has launched a Kickstarter to help the Ifugao indigenous people, who are seeing their way of life being threatened. The Ifugao people have traditionally farmed rice terraces, and their income is dropping. The families are being forced to move, away from their homeland. On a visit last year, Meredith taught many of the women to knit with a view to enabling them to generate income by knitting items to sell – but she wants to take it bigger, and to make it self-sustaining. The objective is to kick-start a business selling these hats locally to tourists, and worldwide, online. The program looks to honour and protect local traditions while bringing 21st century innovation to solve a problem: to enable the Ifugao people to continue to support themselves and live in the manner they chose.

Lego feats of engineering, knitter-style: a Lego swift!

Small, warm gestures: a woman has knitted sweaters to save the life of a seriously ill parrot.

Makes my nerdy heart beat a little faster.

Knitter Samantha has created a most excellent Pi blanket, for Pi day. I love the clever way that the value of Pi is encoded into the design. The blanket is being donated to Project Linus, an organization that donates blankets to children in need, for comfort.

Celebrity Knitter Alert, Handsome Young Man Edition: Nicholas Hoult, the actor who appeared with Hugh Grant, in ‘About a Boy’ as a child, and has recently appeared in Warm Bodies and Jack the Giant the Slayer.


I do enjoy a good yarn-bomb, and I love the imaginative nature of this work at the Dallas Heritage Village. Love the vegetables in the garden! The slideshow is definitely worth your time.

WWW: Wool House Special Edition

Wool Britannia!

The Campaign for Wool in the UK is running a special exhibit in London, “Wool House“.

Friend of Knitty and expat Torontonian Alli blogs about her experiences visiting and volunteering at the event here.

In her words,

Wool House is “a stunning showcase of wool for interiors, fashion and the world of artisan and craft making, highlighting the beauty and versatility of the fibre”.​

​What Wool House really is, is a feast for the eyes. Taking over a wing of Somerset House, the exhibit demonstrates how pervasive wool is in our lives. From furniture fabrics to art to clothing textiles to the various forms and possibilities of felting. Wool House is a celebration of all things sheep.

Designers, artists and crafters of all stripes are participating in the event. There are demonstrations and workshops, on everything from spinning to felting to knitting to weaving… Alli and Rachel give a spinning demonstration, caught on video here.

There are exhibitions of fashion and wool clothing, including amazing pieces from Vivienne Westwood, and this replica of the wedding suits worn by Mick and Bianca Jagger:

A wool wedding suit.

There are showcases of home decor – entire rooms decorated with wool, created by leading interior designers.

The very definition of cozy.

And there are amazing pieces of art – including these fantastic winged pendant lights by artist Kate Ramsey.

If you’re in the London area before Sunday (and not allergic to wool – sorry Amy!) I highly recommend a visit.

Urban pastures.

You can follow the activities on the Campaign for Wool’s Twitter feed.  If you can’t visit in person, enjoy the eye-candy online: a Pinterest board, various fashion bloggers’ posts here and here,  Country Living magazine’s post here.

This initiative is one part of program in the UK to help educate and inform the public about the uses of wool for clothing, home furnishings and other applications, with the objective of driving increased use of wool to support local industry. This campaign has world-wide impact, as it it helping educate about the economic, social and environmental benefits of natural fibers and supporting local producers and farmers.

Jillian’s Spinning: Bobbins – Is Bigger Better?

As I get to know my Hansen wheel, I’m trying to fill my first bobbin. It’s huge and taking forever. That led me to think about bobbins in general.

Here are the bobbins I have:

all the bobbins
Bobbins L to R: Louet, Majacraft Wild Flyer, Schacht WooLee Winder, Hansen WooLee Winder, Louet Plying, Majacraft, Schacht, Schacht Bulky & in front Schacht Sidekick.

The regular bobbins hold about 4 ounces of singles for me. The bigger ones seem to have infinite space!

The biggies: Majacraft, Hansen, Louet and Schacht.
The biggies: Majacraft, Hansen, Louet and Schacht.

I love the big bobbins for plying. I love the idea of big bobbins for spinning singles, but frankly that’s a lot of the same fiber without a break. The Hansen bobbin up there second from the left, already has 6oz on it, and it will hold 12 easily. I had to take a break from the fiber and spin other fibers and other colors. I’m also not sure I can keep my yarn consistent on one bobbin for 12 ounces, but I’ll see.

Plying onto big bobbins takes special extra care as skein management goes, especially for really fine yarns, to keep tangles from happening. I guess I’m not sure which size bobbins I love to spin on the most.

What size bobbins do you like to spin with?


Porpoise Fur Dorset Horn back in stock!

When this issue’s  Fiber Fiesta went live Porpoise Fur’s gorgeous Coomassie Blue Dorset Horn top was out of stock. Rachel let me know yesterday that it’s back in her shop.

Dorset Horn, you know you want some
Dorset Horn, you know you want some



Attending a Knitting Retreat

I recently had the distinct pleasure of attending a knitting retreat. This one, “Knit U”, held at the Springbrooke retreat center in Langley, B.C., was organized by the KnitSocial Team – the wonderful Amanda and Fiona.

The setting was perfect – especially for us sun-starved east-coasters. Early spring in the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful thing.

A little too chilly to swim, but otherwise perfect.

We gathered on Friday afternoon, and started the proceedings with a casual lecture session (is there such a thing as a casual lecture? there is here, when you’re gathered in the living room, in front of the fire, with snacks and a glass of wine at hand).

Part of the pleasure of a retreat is the retreat aspect – getting away from your daily routine, whether that’s work, or kids, or in my case, dog walks in the snow.  Attendees were very well taken care of by Marion at the retreat center – the food was wonderful, and the atmosphere very relaxed and soothing.

All our needs met.
All our needs met.

This group had held a retreat in the same location last year, and Marion, the on-site chef, was so excited about the sessions last year that she took up knitting. She’s already on her fourth sweater, and between shifts in the kitchen, she sat with us and worked on her latest project.

And it wasn’t just Marion who had been inspired – Debbie attended the retreat the previous year, and where there had been classes on dyeing yarn. She was so taken with the dyeing that she decided to take it up, and has established a small dyeing business, under the name Two Tigers. She generously gifted all attendees with a skein of her lace yarn, dyed in a special colorway for the event.

Just gorgeous - blue skies and the hint of spring flowers.
Just gorgeous – blue skies and the hint of spring flowers.

Debbie blogged about the event here.

Saturday and Sunday we had two classes each, with lots of time in between for relaxing, chatting and knitting.

Saturday evening Amanda and Fiona had arranged a field trip for us, to the nearby knit shop 88 Stitches. The team at the shop had laid out some treats for us: wine, chocolate and cookies. And yarn! What yarn!

Making knitters happy!
Making knitters happy…

88 Stitches is the home shop of local indie dyer Melissa, of Sweet Fiber Yarn. I couldn’t resist – I bought a skein of brilliantly striped sock yarn, called Wicked! Melissa has a wide range of beautiful yarns, and attendees enjoyed fondling and choosing them.

Amanda, with her spoils.
Love this!
Love this.

I can’t say enough about the event. I enjoyed myself thoroughly: met some lovely new friends, some lovely new yarns, and had a incredibly relaxing time. It would have been a terrific way to spend the weekend with just that, but then we had classes and discussions for knitters to expand their skills and knowledge. Every knitter took away at least a few new ideas and tips and tricks – it was fun to watch people put their new skills into action…

Learning, ever learning..

A splendid time was had by all!

So many new friends!

I’m grateful to Amanda and Fiona for inviting me to join them.

WWW: Yarnbombing as a Crime Prevention Strategy?; Alaskan Yarn Company; Knitting in Meetings

Just gorgeous. Image courtesy Homer Tribune.

A great piece about the work of  Alaskans Jules Joy and Sarah Browngoetz, yarn dyers and owners of the store ‘Knitty Stash’. The colors of their own line of yarn, called the Alaskan Yarn Co., are inspired by the natural beauty that surrounds them. There are colors to match native flowers – particularly the vivid lavender of the lupine – colors inspired by the water of nearby Kachemak Bay, and colors to captures the leaves of the trees as they change through the fall.

What’s most inspiring, however, are their efforts to buy local fleeces and fibers to spin and dye for sale in their store.

“Makes me smile every morning”

Very interesting… Police in the UK are supporting an effort to yarnbomb a particularly crime-stricken area of the city of Leicester. The hope is that the presence of the decorations will make the area “seem safer” and more friendly. The comments of the local residents quoted in the article are interesting – some are in support, some are not. I find this a fascinating offshoot of the “broken windows theory” – the idea that urban areas that are well-maintained and attractive are less likely to suffer vandalism and other crime. I’ll be following this story with interest.

Tomorrow is Pi Day. Being a mathematician and fond of puns, I do rather like this Pi hat… If you’re in the mood for a Pi-themed knit, this chart on Ravelry might help.

A perfect way to pass the time.

I like this a lot: a photograph of a poll worker in Kansas, knitting by lantern light as she waits for voters, during a power outage due to a winter storm. Taken February 26, 2013, from a slideshow on the ABC website (it’s the third photo).

We’ve written before about efforts to teach prison inmates to knit. This interview on the BBC reveals the role of knitting (and other arts) at Robben Island, the prison where former South African President Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.

Blogger and knitter Jo Van Every writes about her experiences knitting in meetings. A brief but insightful piece, she talks about the reactions and responses of her colleagues, and the concious and unconscious biases driving those reactions. In my years in the technology industry, I never had the guts to take knitting to meetings, for my fear of these sorts of reactions – but I would have been happier, and more attentive, if I had.  Do you knit in meetings? What kinds of responses have you had?

Jillian’s Spinning: New Knittyspin Column and Rhinebeck!

The new Spring+Summer Knitty is live!

I have a new column, called Knittyspin. I’ll be writing about spinning yarn for knitting. The first column is about why I knit with handspun and all of the things I think about when I make yarn to knit with. I’ve gotten many big email hugs from spinners who’ve read it. I have to say it feels wonderful. I was nervous. I think a lot about spinning and knitting, sometimes too much. I was worried I was rehashing things all spinners knew already or just twirling in mental circles. Whew! Now I can start working on the next column.

Yarnhollow BFL - spun 7 ways
Yarnhollow BFL, colorway Chai – spun 7 ways


I have big news – I’m teaching at Rhinebeck this year!

Workshops aren’t up yet, but here’s a list of what I’ll be teaching:

  • Yarnitecture: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want
  • Color Play: Stress-free Ways to Spin with Color
  • Square Peg in a Round Hole: Using Your Handspun for Knitting Patterns Written for Commercial Yarn
  • The Difference a Ply Makes: Choosing the Right Ply for Your Knitting Project
  • Straw into Gold: Knitting with Handspun
  • I Like Big Yarn and I Cannot Lie : Spinning Big Lofty Yarn

I hope I get to meet a bunch of you in person!


My Hansen miniSpinner and I are getting to know each other. I spent a while just spinning little bits of a lot of things in a bunch of different ways. It was my version of opening all of my birthday presents all at once – fiber flying everywhere, spinning woolen, worsted, fat, skinny, thick and thin all only for a yard or two. It was a blast.

First miniSpinner spun yarn.
First miniSpinner spun yarn.

What are you spinning this week?

WWW: Before they were famous; a ‘great relationship with yarn’; Lorna’s Laces Sample Sale

Keen new knitters!

A nice piece about Four Purls, a flourishing yarn shop in Winter Haven, Florida. A great overview of a thriving community and a thriving industry (and not a single mention of old stereotypes). The article has what has got to be one of the best quotes of the year so far: “One of the store’s customers, Phyllis Collins, a knitter for only three years, said she’s got a great relationship with yarn.”

Yarn dyers and friends of Knitty, Lorna’s Laces recently did a bit of spring cleaning. They found a whole heap of sample garments and accessories, many of them one-of-a-kind, that they simply don’t have room to store. They are auctioning these samples on eBay, with funds raised going to two charities: Between Friends, an organization whose mission it is to end the cycle of domestic violence, and the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research.

Note: the first auction closes later today, Wednesday, but more items will be going up soon. Follow Lorna’s Laces Facebook page for more info.

In the early days of their careers, many actors do some modelling. And sometimes they show up modelling knitwearEddie Redmanye of Les Mis fame, and Roger Moore, Mr. Bond himself.

Just what we need to cheer up the city in the last few weeks of winter. Photo courtesy The Toronto Star.

Yarn bombers have been spotted at work in Toronto. Although Amy and Kate both live nearby, we both claim innocence on this one!

Just perfect.

We did wonder if it’s the work of the Bissell Bombers, a group of yarnbombing students from nearby University of Toronto…

The Bissell Bombers’ most recent public installation was this fabulous effort both indoors and out at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The Bissell Bombers are well-known for decorating the University campus, and will happily take suggestions for what areas of the campus need decorating – bike racks, railings, the dean’s office…

Jillian’s Spinning: The Hansen Has Landed

All of you who guessed that a Hansen miniSpinner is my new wheel are right!

Here’s what UPS brought on a day so snowy my husband and I had help dig out the truck when it got stuck at the end of our road.

My birthday came early!
My birthday came early!

Yes, two boxes, I got many things, just a second and I’ll show you.

The boxes were so well packed, not one thing shifted.

Snug as a bug in a rug.
Snug as a bug in a rug.

Here’s everything unpacked:

All the spinning things
All the spinning things

I got a maple eSpinner and it’s beautiful. I got a WooLee Winder, the regular Hansen flyer, extra bobbins, the quill, orifice reducers and the brand new Lace flyer. I’m a little overwhelmed. I’ve been spinning a little and it’s dreamy.  I forgot about the fumbled fingered way I spin when I get a new wheel. I try to spin about six different types of yarn simultaneously.  I’ll be doing a big review in the First Fall issue of Knitty and until then I’ll be getting to know her.

My next decision is which Züca bag to get:

What color?
What color?

Those of you that have Hansen eSpinners, I would love to hear any tips you have!