Monthly Archives: September 2013

Offhand Designs Bag Giveaway!

It is no secret that the Knitty staff are big fans of  Offhand Designs Bags. The vintage feel, the select and limited edition fabrics and the quality workmanship of a handmade bag all speak to the bag collector and maker in all of us.

Beautiful Offhand Designs bags

Beautiful Offhand Designs bags

Because I’m curious (nosy) I ask owner Larisa Flint Snydal a few questions about Offhand Designs. She happily answered my questions and even sent over a couple of pictures of herself working on bags.

Larisa installing a turn lock

Larisa installing a turn lock

Why and how did you get started? I worked for 10 years reviewing internationally funded projects in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, but all the while was making extravagant gowns and bags and learning everything I could about textiles and design. My boyfriend, now husband, was in a popular funk band and I had every type of occasion to doll myself up in those days. Starting my own business came a few years later, but didn’t surprise anyone in my family. Extravagant but functional design was my destiny!

Larisa making leather handles

Can you describe the process – from design to fabric to finished bag ? I am inspired by literally everything and everyone but take my time to let new ideas simmer because they always become richer with time. Functionality is a key component and one of the design process steps that I absolutely love. My sense of style is a little timeless and a little whimsical or ‘offhand’. I do not roll out tons of new styles but keep the line exciting by having so many new gorgeous and eclectic textiles every few months. We are indeed limited editions. These days, we never make more than 20 of any given style and color and usually it is more like 12 or 15! That is not even enough for 1 in every State or Province. From sketches to prototypes to final prototypes which are carried and tested to make sure all of the details I want are there. As I said in my original business plan and repeat it every day: would I die to own this? If yes, then move forward with it. If not so much… what needs to change before it is?

Arya Bag

Arya Bag

What is your favorite bag right now? The new Arya bag was in the works for more than 18 months and at least 5 versions before I landed on my feet with the current, amazing design. I carried this bag to the trade shows this year, packed with my laptop and every last other thing and I was so proud of how painless it was to carry all of that weight and how nicely the bag held its pretty silhouette. It was (almost) embarrassing how many complete strangers stopped me in the airport and on the street to compliment my bag and ask about it!
What new bags do you have coming up? I am working on three new things: leather, Sage Luxury bags and Flint Snydal bags.


Larisa sewing a canvas prototype

Leather bags: Dreaming big is something I have been known for my whole life and now we are hard at work setting up in studio production of some of the most luxe bags I have EVER seen in my life. Premium, eco-friendly and extremely small edition leather products which really do send shivers down my spine and astonish me. I wake up in the middle of the night and say, ‘wait, I didn’t actually make that bag, did I?’ Leather is an inspiring material and my current design work feels so full of potential it could not be more exciting.
We started leather a few years ago but found it impossible to keep up with demand and just as hard to find experienced help. My staff and I all agreed that the intense period of 3 months during which we only worked on leather bags was the best of Offhand Designs history by far. Our current goal is to make and sell these leather creations on

Sage Luxury bags: We are also about to launch a very different looking, but every bit as functional, bag line under the Sage Luxury label. All of the bags will feature leather handles and trims. Please look for these to launch in the next month to be ready for the holiday season.

Flint Snydal bags: I also have 2 styles for men which have been way too long in the making, but SO fun. A doctor bag in two sizes (considering Samson & Goliath as names for these) and a messenger bag with a closeable pocket for knitting. The esthetic is high quality urban cowboy, featuring rich hides with high quality hardware.  If I am lucky, this bag line will show its face to the public for the holidays via as well.


My dear knitting friends and bag lovers, are you sitting down? Larisa has given us an Offhand Design bag to giveaway!

Regina offhand designs prize

Marcella in Regina print fabric. Squee!

Regular contest rules: leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, Monday,  September 30th. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the signed book. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance.

WWW: More on BBC Documentary, Knitted Swimsuits, Learn to Knit Socks Online with Kate

A day at the beach, with knitting and BBC TV cameras.

On the BBC “Fabric of Britain: Golden Age of Knitting” documentary program from last week: If you’re outside the UK, the iPlayer link I gave doesn’t work. There is a Youtube link for the program, but its legality is uncertain, and therefore I’m not sure how long it will be active.

Designer Susan Crawford has written on her blog about filming her scenes, testing out the age-old theory that handknit swimsuits won’t stay on.  The very brave Miss Fleur McGuerr took to the (very cold) sea in her handknit swimsuit, proving once and for all that a well-constructed swimsuit won’t necessarily fall down.

The brave Ms. Fleur, looking very fetching. It’s actually a very flattering piece for girls both curvy and straight.

On a related note, Susan has just kicked off The Knitted Swimsuit Project, gathering information and stories about handknit swimsuits, and experimenting with vintage knit swimsuit patterns. You can buy patterns that Susan has created inspired by these vintage patterns. Even if you don’t want to knit one yourself, the website is a fascinating trove of information about knitters and knitting projects of yesteryear. I’m going on a knitting cruise early next year… a handknit swimsuit would be very fitting, no?

To give you a taste of Laura’s work…

Speaking of 2014, friend of Knitty, designer Laura Nelkin has just launched her 2014 Mystery Knit-along Club, the M Club. Laura does beautiful bead and lacework, and her patterns are always special. The club has four projects, and subscribers get everything they need to work Laura’s excellent designs.

Getting ready for winter.

84-year-old artist Jim Giles, of Manchester, is knitting a scarf. Not just any scarf, though… he’s aiming to knit 400m (440 yds) of scarf to wrap his home, the Victoria Square Residential Home. Right now, 300 of the 400m are complete, and Jim is seeking other knitters who are willing to help out, to meet the deadline of October 18th.

Ever wanted to learn to knit socks? Come and join me in my online class…

Jillian’s Spinning: Filling the Tank

Do you ever have those days when everything, especially computer work, takes twice as long? When I’ve had a couple of those in a row I know I need to take a break, but not stop 100% of my work. I call it filling the tank. I am off of the computer and math and super linear work for a day. Instead I focus on the creative and planning, spinning, knitting, reading, thinking.

That’s what’s going on over here today. Yesterday was an excellent mail day, it was a sign.

I got this:

Finally! For those of you still waiting, I can say there is no predicting the US mail. Everyone all around me in Michigan got their issue days before I did. But mine is here now and I’m going to read it all, today.

I also got the kit for these:


Mushroom Kelliemuffs by Spillyjane from Fair Isle Style

They are from the excellent book Fair isle Style by Mary Jane Mucklestone. The mitts are designed by Spillyjane. I got my kit from Sunday Knits and it came fast! I’m not going to start knitting them yet, but I may wind the yarn.

Today there will be spinning and knitting and Netflix and tomorrow I’ll be back at the computer with my tank filled.

What do you do to fill your tank?

Latest issue WIPs & FOs

We love the enthusiasm with which you greet the launch of a new Knitty issue, and it’s fun to see which projects get started first. There’s always a rush of quick hit projects, like the Beer Mitt

LisaMarilyn‘s first one – she promises there will be more.

Color-coordinating your mitt with your beverage.

If you’re a member of her family, watch out – that’s what you’ll be getting for your holiday gift. (I wonder if I can get on the list, too… 😉 )

The Wedgie hat just makes me smile, and I’m stalking all the projects on Rav to see if indeed it’s true that it looks good on everyone (but Franklin).

It certainly suits Kupgup!

So great!

Nymphalidea is one of those wonderful shawl patterns that’s easy but still interesting to knit, is endlessly adaptable, and is an excellent way to use up stash yarn.

Iceboxofpaknits‘ version is particularly nice.

Looking good so far… and not just because it’s colors I adore.

And lmermd‘s Deflect socks are coming along very nicely.

I try my socks on like this all the time! You do get funny looks on the bus, but it’s the best way to admire your work.

But I especially adore the commitment of knitters who clearly ditch whatever else they are working on to IMMEDIATELY cast on for a new sweater.

These knitters are doing me proud by swatching….

Jhocy‘s My Favorite Color swatch

Looking good.

Knitter Carlypeas says about the Flippant cardigan… “As soon as I saw the pattern I couldn’t wait to get it on my needles”.

It’s going to be amazing in this color!

Happy knitting!

WWW: On Knitting History; Wombats

Reader Kate (not me) provides some good commentary and analysis on two articles we’ve linked to recently, the Huffington Post article about men and knitting, and the excerpt from the book about knitting in literature. She highlights that there have been a number of popular theories about the development of knitting, and some that have been disproven are still being discussed. She also makes a key point that historically there were really two types of knitting, with two types of knitters: the professionals, who were typically male, and the home knitters, typically female. The same division is seen in cooking – professional chefs cooking for others, traditionally men, and women cooking for their families at home.

There are two well-researched books on the history of knitting: Richard Rutt’s sadly out-of-print “History of Hand Knitting”,

The classic tome.

and the more recent Victoria and Albert Museum publication, “Knitting: Fashion, Industry, Craft” by Sandy Black. I’ve read both. I’m not a knitting historian, and can’t and won’t comment on the accuracy of the content, but I will say that both are excellent reads.

A beautiful book and a wonderful read.

The V&A book is lavishly illustrated with images from the extensive collection of knitted items and related publications and artefacts, and discusses not only the history and development of the craft, but also provides an insight into the role and evolution of knitwear as and in fashion.

The V&A website has a wealth of information about their knitting collections, provides a list of resources and reading,

And if you’re in the UK, BBC Four tonight broadcasts the first part of the next set of its “Handmade in Britain” documentary television series. The first episode, airing September 18th, is about the history of British Knitting in the 20th century. The episode will be available after airing on the BBC iPlayer for those who have access.

The program is a collaboration with the V&A, and Sandy Black, the author of the above-mentioned book, is featured.

There are a number of knitters and designers who are working to document and preserve the history of knitting and traditional techniques… three worth following are Donna Druchunas, whose work you have seen in Knitty, Susan Crawford, and Kate Davies.

Susan Crawford has published two books of designs inspired by knitting patterns from the the 1920s to the 1950s: A Stitch In Time, Volumes 1 & 2. On her blog she writes about vintage-inspired knitting and sewing. Kate Davies researches and writes about a broad number of topics in textile history, and publishes a digital magazine, Textisles.

Young knitters at a primary school in Australia are making pouches to keep orphaned baby wombats warm. Gratuitous adorable baby creature photo alert – knitted pouches not featured, but the high degree of cuteness is a consolation.

Jillian’s Spinning: Finishing Yarn

As I’m working on more samples for my Rhinebeck classes, I noticed how differently I finish my yarn now. Really, I noticed that I actually think about different ways to finish my yarn. I used to just do a quick soak in warm water and hang my yarn, sometimes it did what I thought, sometimes not. Recently, I’ve been adding more ply twist to my yarns, I like the look and I like the spring that it gives the yarn.

I decided to do some finish sampling – is anyone surprised? All of the yarns are two ply, spun woolen-ish, with extra ply twist. I finished them 5 different ways. There are more ways to finish, weighting, ironing, sizing and I’m sure more that I can’t think of right now. These are the five I do regularly.

5 different ways to finishing.

Finishing 5 ways.

This is what my yarn typically looks like when I take it off of the niddy noddy – sproing!

Two if by Hand Rambouillet, 2-ply not set.

Two if by Hand Rambouillet, 2-ply not set.

This is what it looks like after it’s been soaked in hot-ish water with some SOAK, rolled in a towel and then hung to dry. It’s still pretty lively, the twist is uneven.

Soaked in hot water and hung to dry.

Soaked in hot water and hung to dry.

The next sample I soaked in hot water with SOAK, but between rolling in a towel and hanging it, I snapped it. I snap a skein by putting my hands inside the skein, like I’m going to play cat’s cradle, then moving my hands apart quickly, snapping the yarn. Not hard enough to break it, but hard enough to get some water sprayed in your face. I do this about four times, sliding the skein around my hands so a different two points are across the backs of my hands each snap. I love how that little motion evens out the twist. This is the way I finish yarn most of the time.

soaked and snapped yarn.

Soaked and snapped yarn.

Then there’s whacking. A favorite of mine when I’m irritated at someone. I soak and roll like the first two, but before I hang it to dry, I beat the snot out of it. I literally hold one end of the skein and whack it against the floor, or counter. This one I whacked on the deck and scared the stupid squirrels who have been systematically stripping my hammock to shreds for their nests. Whacking evens out the twist and makes the yarn bloom. If a fiber or fiber blend  is inclined to be fuzzy or puff, whacking will get it there fast. If you want a smooth surfaced yarn, don’t whack.

Just soaked yarn top, whacked yarn bottom.

Just soaked yarn top, whacked yarn bottom.

Fulling is up. For this I use a bowl of water as hot as I can stand to put my hands in and a bowl of ice water. I soak the skein in one, squeeze it, then soak and squeeze in the other. Back and forth between hot and cold, not agitating, just squeezing most of the water out between bowls. This fulls the yarn, a light felting. It’s firms up a little, pulls together a little. It evens out the twist and stabilizes the yarn. This is my favorite finishing for singles.

Hot soak on right, hot/cold fulling on the left.

Hot soak on right, hot/cold fulling on the left.

Last is the full-on menace. Felting your skein. I learned an easy, un-hand-burny, way to do this in a Judith Mackenzie class. Use a sink plunger. I use a bowl of really hot water from my kettle and a bowl of ice water, the skein goes back and forth from hot to cold, but not gently. I menace that skein with the plunger, like a sink backed up after a hair dyeing slumber party. I’ve never taken it to hard felt, but I’ve gone to firm. The whole look and feel of the yarn changes and it resists pilling.

Menaced yarn left, soaked yarn right.

Menaced yarn left, soaked yarn right.

A downside to felting is shrinkage.

Felted yarn top, soaked yarn bottom.

Felted yarn top, soaked yarn bottom.

Those are my top five ways to finish, what’s your favorite?



Clara Parkes Giveaway!

Clara’s new book!

Clara Parkes has a new book of essays out and it is wonderful!

Here’s Clara reading a bit from the book.

Clara talk about the essays here.

Here’s Jillian’s review from First Fall Knitty:
The Yarn Whisperer: Reflections on a life in Knitting
by Clara Parkes
STC/A Melanie Falick Book

It’s not very often that a knitting book is a good read. Inspiring, beautiful, thought provoking, yes — all of those things. But a good read, almost never.
I know that Clara is an excellent writer because I’ve been reading her Knitter’s Review Newsletter every week for years, and have read all three of her books. But I wasn’t really expecting what happened with the Yarn Whisperer.
I sat in my chair and started reading and didn’t stop. Dinner time came and went, kids were ferried to sports and friends, and I put the book down when I absolutely had to, but started reading again the instant I could.

I read the entire book in an evening.I was utterly captivated by the book. It’s not about how knitting is funny or how it can change the world, but how it has been essential and ever present in one woman’s life. It’s a book filled with personal journeys, family reminiscences and, yes, knitting.
My favorite essays were the ones about family: her grandfather, her Aunt Judy, her grandmother’s farmhouse, I loved the stories and the truth where life and knitting meet. I enjoyed the essays that are about knitting too; those are the ones where I nodded along agreeing about bobbles and brioche stitch.

Over the years, Clara has grown into one of the most distinctive voices in our knitting culture, using knitting as metaphor and companion, and I am happy to be along for the ride. – JM


Thanks to Stewart, Tabori and Chang and Clara, we have three autographed copies to giveaway!

Regular contest rules: leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, Sunday September 15th. Three comments will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the signed book. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance.

WWW: Men Who Knit; Guerilla Knitting Calendar, Olympic Mittens?

A woman writes into a local newspaper advice column, claiming her husband’s knitting is out of control.

The latter makes me want to leap in and help, but not for the reason that the writer intends, I think… he makes the items too big “to allow for shrinkage”? The knitter in question needs a helping hand to wrap his head around gauge and fabric and yarn.

The advice columnist brings up a good point about the etiquette of gift-giving… There’s a lesson in there for all of us – only knit for those you know will truly appreciate the gift.

Image courtesy the Lion Brand Yarn Studio.

Interesting discussion alert: The Huffington Post “blows open a secret” we all know… that this whole knitting thing, although in the last century has come to be considered to be a feminine craft, it actually used to be a men’s activity. I’ve got mixed feelings about this, I must say… I love to see discussion of knitting in the mainstream press, and this is a change from the usual “it’s not just grandmas” piece. But the gender issue is a thorny one: I know lots of male knitters who are happy to knit because they love it, gender perceptions aside. By reminding us that men were at the forefront of the development of knitting, is the message (intended or not) that it’s actually ok for men to knit now because they used to do it? And if so, why does that matter, still? Or perhaps we should be asking about why it’s believed that men were at the forefront of the development of knitting…? Is it, like many historical situations, something where women’s participation and roles weren’t documented? Maybe men didn’t develop knitting at all… ?

Fishing! Amazing work.

A knitting group from Yorkshire, UK, has released a “guerilla knitting calendar” for 2014. The Saltburn Yarn Stormers are responsible for some of the most spectacular yarnbombing we’ve seen: they did the Olympic-themed installation on their local pier, and a more recent seaside-theme one. The calendar features pictures of their work.

A handknit version would be even better…

Speaking of Olympics… Canadian department store Hudson’s Bay Corporation has unveiled the latest “Olympic mitten” design. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the mittens goes to the Canadian Olympic Foundation, and this new design has been launched ahead of the 2014 Sochi games. These limited edition mittens have become quite the thing: the first design was launched in 2009, to celebrate the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and was a runaway success, with with more 3.5 million pairs sold. Wouldn’t it be cool if they also released a knitting pattern, with proceeds of that going to the foundation? Does anyone know anyone who works for HBC? Perhaps we can talk them into it!

The Campaign for Wool in the UK is planning a yarnbombing as part of the upcoming Wool Week activities, this October. The plan is to take over a window of the John Lewis shop on Oxford Street, in London. If you’d like to participate or contribute, please contact Allison Thistlewood at allison at champagneandqiviut dot com. More info about Wool Week here.

Celebrity knitter alert: Sharon Osbourne is apparently knitting a bonnet and booties for Simon Cowell’s baby-on-the-way.

You might recognize a couple of the instructor names for Vogue Knitting Live event in New York this coming January

Jillian’s Spinning: How’s Your Rhinebeck Sweater Coming Along?


With just over a month before Rhinebeck (yay!) this is what my Rhinebeck sweater looks like (boo!):

Rhinebeck Ramen

Rhinebeck Ramen

Notice all of the yarn that looks like ramen noodles? There’s hundreds of yards of it. All of the knitters out there know what that means – I ripped all of my knitting out.

I realized I was making a sweater with 4-6″ of positive ease, no, bad knitter. For once it wasn’t a case of magically changing gauge.  I just cast on the wrong size and highlighted it all the way through the pattern in the wrong size. I knit to the underarms going top down before I noticed, not a lot, but I was on track to finish in time.

I ripped and now the race is on!

It’s part of the fun isn’t it?

How about the rest of you, how’s that  Rhinebeck wear coming along?

WWW: Knitting in literature; Yarndale; holiday knitting season starts now?

Looking forward to reading this.

A lovely essay in the New Yorker about the history of knitting in literature, excerpted from the upcoming book “Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting“. Can’t wait to read it!

Friends of Knitty Jill Draper, Cal Patch and Paula Kucera are featured in a beautifully-shot video “Slow Yarn“, discussing the shift towards local yarn, and change in attitudes towards knitting and the materials we knit we. If you’re at work, it’s even worth watching with the sound off for the fantastic scenery and lovely sheep.

Not to stress you out or anything, but now that September is here, it’s time to start thinking about your holiday knitting. There are only 111 days to Christmas…

Sounds like an excellent way to spend an autumn weekend.

News about an exciting new knitting event at the end of the month in Skipton, Yorkshire. Yarndale, to be held September 28th and 29th, will be a festival of creativity celebrating traditional and contemporary crafts using wool, cotton, linen and silk in an area which is still the home of many yarn based businesses.

A non-computable sock?… A joke for a very particular type of nerd (i.e. me 😉 ), following up on the articles about the computational model of knitting we posted about recently.

The Royal Navy is seeking knitters to help with a project to make a scarf to wrap around the conning tower of the submarine HMS Alliance.