Month: December 2013

Jillian’s Spinning: How Did I Do on My Spinning Goals for 2013?

This last week of the year is usually when I reflect on the past year’s goals. I do goals, not to badger myself into something, but to give myself direction. I also like the time spent thinking about “Who do I Want to Be when I Grow Up?” It still changes regularly.

Goodbye to 2013!
Goodbye to 2013!

Here’s what I hoped to do and what happened.

Jillian’s 2013 Spinning Goals:

1) That nagging handspun sweater. I have one sweater’s worth of yarn spun and almost a second sweater’s worth. Now I need to knit! I’m going to get some help from Ann Budd’s Handy Top-Down Sweater Book.

Oh boy this one didn’t work out. I knit most of the body, found something I didn’t like and couldn’t live with and ripped put 90% of the sweater. It’s been in time out since October.

 2) Organize stash. Holy cats my stash is out of control! It’s become a huge jumble of fiber, most of it piled on top of empty containers. Even if I tame it back to something very basic like: to dye, to card into batts, to blend and to spin as is – I’ll be happy. I might throw, organize spinning equipment, in there too.
I did this once and I’m working on my second round. I’ve been doing books and yarn this week, working toward a second pass at my spinning stash. Check!
3) Teach/write more. I want to write and teach more about how I spin with knitting in mind. So far, I’ve sent class proposals to Rhinebeck and I’m starting a new column in Knittyspin in the next issue.
This one was my favorite. I started my column in Knittyspin that spinners seem to like. I had articles in two of the three issues of  PLY magazine for 2013. I taught at Rhinebeck and even had a couple of sold out classes. Check, check and check!
That was a year to be proud of! Now I need to figure out my goals for 2014.
What did you accomplish in 2013?

2013: We Had Fun!

Just a quick note from all of us at the KnittyBlog, wishing you a spectacular 2014!

To send off 2013 on a happy note we each rounded up three things that we loved or were proud of in 2013.

Jillian’s Top 3:

Rhinebeck classroom
Rhinebeck classroom

1. Teaching at Rhinebeck.

Rhinebeck has been on my list of  there’s-no-way goals for a couple of years now. For 2013 I applied and was accepted. I had a spectacular time teaching and learned as much if not more than I taught.

PLY Magazine
PLY Magazine

2. PLY Magazine

I feel honored to be part of the Editorial Board of PLY Magazine. It’s everything I was looking for in a new spinning magazine, lots to do and lots to think about. I knew Jacey Boggs would create an amazing magazine.  I am excited that so many other spinners feel the same way.

KB-dropcloth-embroidery-400x2643. Embroidery

I fell hard for embroidery this year. I has never learned in my childhood, so I figured 50 was a good time to learn. I do a little every day and am moving to adding it to my knitting. I love learning new things and it’s feel good to remember how to be a beginner.


 Amy’s Top 3:

Denny models my Neat Ripples blanket in progress, just hours before my car window gets bashed in so someone can steal it.

1. Learning to crochet
I was pushed over the edge into this new-to-me craft by a deep need to make a Neat Ripples blanket. Crocheting ripples is a comforting and aesthetically pleasing addition to my craft arsenal. I love it and I’m still doing it.

2. Yarndale (and meeting Lucy)
Lucy is the designer of said Neat Ripples blanket pattern, and I, along with hundreds and hundreds of others, were thrilled to meet her at the newest fiber festival in Yorkshire, UK, last September: Yarndale. I taught some classes and met a lot of great knitters. I rhapsodized about it here.

3. Getting my stolen blanket (etc) back
In what is one of the oddest things to ever happen to me, my unlabelled Cath Kidston knitting bag (itself not inexpensive) full of my Neat Ripples afghan in progress, all my crochet hooks AND all the cotton DK yarn I’d been saving for 10 years to make it was returned to me unharmed, three months after it was originally stolen. Someone dumped it after finding out it wasn’t worth selling to buy crack, another someone found it and one tiny receipt from my chiropractor left in the inside pocket helped that someone get it back to me.

Still can’t believe that happened.

Kate’s Top 3:

1. Bigger on the TV
Seeing my Bigger on the Inside shawl on TV! A knitter was spotted wearing the shawl on the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special pre-show show in the US.

2. Recording and launching online classes which has introduced me to a whole new crowd of knitters, students and friends around the world. It was also great learning exercise for me, as a teacher, to think about how to present ideas so they are most impactful, to see how I look and sound on camera, and to be able to examine my own teaching style. Challenging, but totally worth it.

3. Having a colorway named after me… well, actually, one of my spelling mistakes.

Just perfect. And perfectly hilarious.

I am a tech editor, as you probably know. I’m usually pretty good at proofreading others’ work, but I find it immensely difficult to proofread my own work. A couple of years ago I designed a pattern for the indigodragonfly club. I tried to work extra hard to proofread my own pattern, but as is always the way, a typo crept in.

Now, this was a lace design, and I often use a safety pin in lacework to mark the RS of the work – I find it helpful when establishing the pattern.

But I often type faster than I think…. So instead of “safety pin” I typed “safety pint”.

That in itself is funny enough.

But with me being a relatively well-known tech editor with a passion for precision, and it being a design for the indigodragonfly club (where strange things have been known to happen), the typo stopped the TE in her tracks.

There was, apparently, some discussion about whether it was a mistake, or whether I’d actually intended it to be that way.

We’ve been laughing about this ever since. It’s become a sort of short-hand for “beware: this is the sort of pattern that might drive you to drink”.

And this spring, the genius yarn dyers Ron and Kim surprised me with a gift: a colorway named for my typo – “Safety Pin or Safety Pint: Discuss”, a most fantastic orange.

WWW: Knitting is hot – and warm; Astro-socks update; Knitters’ Review Year-in-Review

Thinking of all our readers in areas affected by the recent ice storm that hit Ontario and parts of the north eastern US. We hope everyone is safe, and that you had lots of woollies to hand to keep you warm.

A very knitterly greeting for the holidays from Iceland Air. Naturally, this leads me to wonder if that’s a real Icelandic knitter – her continental knitting is very elegant!

Toronto’s Globe and Mail tells us that knitting is hot again. I think, right now, in Toronto, knitting is hot because it was a way to keep warm in the power outages of our recent ice storm. Worth reading two most excellent quotes – one from Kaffe Fassett, one from local knitter Minusha Gorman… going “cold sheep”.

Socks in space!

The Canadian Living magazine blog profiles knitter Emily Mooney and her socks-for-astronauts initiative.

Love it!

Not strictly knitting, but absolutely beautiful: a new art installation at Kensington Palace in London – Luminous Lace. Using old lace-making techniques with modern technology to make something truly spectacular. The sweater on one of the artists isn’t bad, either.

We love reading Clara Parkes’ newsletters all year round, but her year-end reviews are definitely worth a read. Interesting, smart and thought-provoking, as always.

On Wraptor: A Shorter History & A Yarn Giveaway!

So very clever, and so very beautiful.

As you know, we love an interesting sock construction, and designer Jeny Staiman has outdone herself with the Wraptor sock, as published in the most recent issue.

As Jeny describes it, Wraptor is the lovechild of two previously Knitty socks, Skew and Longitudinal.

She’s written about the inspiration and development of the design on her blog.  It’s a fascinating insight into how designs develop and change and grow and improve with every subsequent iteration – and a good reminder for all of us that if the first attempt doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. It began more than two years ago, with a project to yarnbomb a coworker’s headphones.

Where it all began. Sort of.

One of the things we love most about this design – in addition to it being one of the cleverest things we’ve yet seen, of course — is how it uses a self-striping yarn to great effect. We’ve all got skeins of self-striping sock yarn in our stashes, and after a while, a “plain” striped sock gets a bit boring.

Looooooong stripes.

As she developed the pattern, Jeny realized that to get the most impact, she had very specific requirements for a self-striping yarn: she needed a yarn with sufficient lengths of each color that even for sections with 200+ stitches, the integrity of the stripes had to be maintained. And in Twisted Fiber Arts’ most excellent long-repeat self-striping yarn, she found what she needed.

We’re giving away a kit of this wonderful yarn to make your own pair of Wraptor socks, courtesy of Anne at Twisted Fiber Arts. The prize, worth $46, includes a full skein and a mini skein. Leave a comment on this blog post to be eligible to win, by midnight EST Monday, December 23rd. The usual rules apply; if you’ve won in the past year, please let other readers have a go!

WWW: Keeping Others Warm, We Knit a Zoo, Chicago Art Fair Seeks Fiber Artists

Love it!

They’ve yarnbombed cars, buses and planes – why not a submarine? Knitters in the UK, have knitted a 400m (437yd) scarf to wrap around the conning tower of a WWW2-era submarine on display at a naval museum in Gosport, Hampshire.

Knitter Anita Brine is CTV’s Maritimer of the Week. Anita knits year-round, making mittens to donate to those in need. This year she donated 140 pairs of mittens to the local Sackville Community Association, to be distributed to local families.

A Boston university culture blog explains why knitting is so wonderful. We know all of this, but this might provide some handy talking points to help you defend why you’re working on a sock while visiting your family over the holidays.

A blog post from Reading Museum in the UK, about the initiatives to knit for the troops during World War Two. The museum is digitizing their photographic archives, and have discovered a number of wonderful knitting-related photos.


Volunteers in Paignton, UK, have knitted a zoo’s worth of animals for a festive celebration at a local zoo.

Waterloo, Ontario knitter Heather Young has made 100 toques this year to donate to the Out of the Cold program. Last year, she made 50, and this year set herself a goal of 100, completing the final five in just one week last week.

The 67th annual Chicago 57th Street Art Fair will be taking place on June 7 & 8, 2014. The event, a two-day outdoor celebration of the visual arts held in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, is the oldest juried art fair in the Midwest. More than 250 exhibitors take part, showing and selling fine art and fine craft to meet with the art-buying public. The fair organizers have put out a call for new exhibitors for 2014, seeking craftspeople, artists and artisans in all disciplines, including fiber art.

Jillian’s Gifts for Spinners

Ooooh there are a lot of great spinning things out there this year perfect for gifts!

Here are the things I would buy for all of my spinning friends if my funds were unlimited:


Spinner’s Book of Yarn Design  and  Building Blocks of Spinning DVD both by Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson
Sarah Anderson



Flat Pack Bobbins by Akerworks

Bobbins of Joy and Wonder
Bobbins of Wonder and Joy to beautify your wheel


TravelKate and MiniKate by Thayer Syme

Travel Kates Regular and Mini
Travel Kates Regular and Mini


Sheepskin Treadle Covers by Hare and There


Cozy covers for your wheel and your feet

 Fiber Jewelry by Bricolage Studios

Bricolage jewelry
Bricolage jewelry



Jillian’s Gifts for Knitters

Here are five things I wish I could buy for every knitter I know.

If you need an idea for a knitter in your life one of these just might work.


The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes

The Yarn Whisperer
The Yarn Whisperer

Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting  edited by Ann Hood

Knitting Yarns
Knitting Yarns


Yarn Pyramid Print  Fringe Supply Company

Yarn Pyramid
Yarn Pyramid

Arya Bag from Offhand Designs

Arya bag
Arya bag

Signature Needle Convertible Circulars

Signature Needle Interchangeables
Signature Needle Interchangeables








Uke 101 for the holidays! (updated for 2013)

a little purple Mahalo started it all

I wrote this post a few years ago, and thankfully, interest in the ukulele is still strong! So I share again at the holidays for those interested in gifting or receiving a uke. My best tips are below with links that all work, and new gift tips for those looking for a uke-themed gift for a friend. Enjoy!

Ukuleles are experiencing a resurgence not seen since the 1950s, with movies like The Mighty Uke showing to packed houses, and musicians from Train to Amanda Palmer to Eddie Vedder reclaming the little 4-stringed wonder. I’ve been playing the uke since 2008, when I traded a skein of yarn for a purple Mahalo. It was this video that made me want to learn how to play the uke. [aside: yes, that’s Bret of Flight of the Conchords, 2nd from the left.] I have been very fortunate to find a ukulele community that meets and plays together weekly, and thanks to these sessions, I’m getting better all the time.

But what is the point of this post? It’s to tell you that you can do it too. The ukulele is absolutely the friendliest, easiest instrument to learn on this planet. Easy to learn, hard to master, sure. But you can learn 3 or 4 chords, and be playing along with a group in less than an hour. And with a little practise, your repertoire of chords will grow, just like mine did. With the uke, I have found it’s about enjoying music, not about being a kickass performer. It’s about F.U.N.

People ask me what kind of uke to start with, so that’s really the point of this post. This is my best advice for those starting out with the uke with zero experience. There’s no way to know if you’ll like the uke until you play one for a while. So I recommend you choose one of the colored Mahalo soprano ukes, like the purple one shown above, at a cost of around $30.

First thing, replace the crappy strings it’s wearing with a set of Aquila Nylgut strings. This will make a world of difference. If you’re new to stringed instruments like I was, don’t be surprised that the strings don’t hold their tuning for long. They’re plastic and they will stretch for a while until they settle in.

Next, download a chord chart, and learn some basic chords. C, F, G will get you a long way. Add A, D and E7 and you’ve got a lot to play with. Visit Chordie and type in some song names, and you’ll find things to start playing!

I’ll skip the part about playing as much as you can, because if you like the uke, you will do that. I’ll also skip the part about googling and finding [hopefully] a uke group near you. If you don’t find one, you can always start one, right? Think of it like a musical S&B night.

I meet my Pono Tenor at the now-closed Music Guy Mic’s…and fall in love at first sight.

You love the uke and are ready to upgrade? The next place to start looking is the $100-350 range. You can go up into thousands of dollars with ukes, but to get something really playable for a relative novice, you don’t need to spend more than $300ish.

Brands I recommend are Kala, Ohana, Pono. Kala is most affordable and has some fun models, if aesthetics are your thing [I like this plaid model]. Ohana is a factory-made uke with good quality control and really nice acoustics [my first really good-sounding uke was this Ohana Sopranino, which — because it’s so tiny — often travels with me]. Pono is the factory-made (but hand-finished) offshoot of the Ko’olau brand of Hawaiian ukes, and I love their quality. I have a Pono Tenor that I play all the time lately.

thanks to for this great image

Who should you buy from? I recommend a uke-focused seller, because they will usually check and adjust the uke before they sell it to you. I have personally dealt with and would recommend the online sellers Mim’s Ukes and Uke Republic.

When in doubt, put your hands on the uke you want to buy and play it first. Does it feel good? Do you like the sound of it? That’s what matters. That’s what happened to me in the pic above. I had planned to JUST LOOK in the shop [stop laughing] and after a few strums, I was lost. I played a lot of ukes that day, most more expensive than this one, but this one felt just right in my hands and made sounds that made me happy.

image via Lamorinda Music (thanks!)

What about all the sizes? How do you choose? This is easy: play them all. Ukes come [from smallest to largest] in Sopranino, Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone sizes. Baritone uses the same tuning as a guitar and has a really deep sound, but still just 4 strings. The others use either GCEA tuning [my preferred] or ADF#B tuning, and sound like you imagine: the smaller ukes have higher-pitched voices. The most important point, in my opinion, is how the fretboard feels under your fingers. Some are made wide or thick, some are thin and flat, and every model feels different. The one that feels best to you is the right one. It’s as personal a choice as the kind of knitting needle you like best.

Lamorinda Music has a great explanation of the different sizes of ukes here.

KoAloha Soprano ukulele, in solid koa. Ahhh.

If I had an unlimited budget, what ukulele brand would I buy? KoAloha, hands down. The sound these beautiful hand-made Hawaiian ukes produce is warm, like a tropical hug. There are more expensive ukes, but I don’t like them as well as I do the KoAlohas, and I’m not alone.

Gift ideas for your uke-obsessed friends:

One more thing: there are tons of online ukulele resources to help you along on your journey. I’ve spent a lot of time at the Ukulele Underground forums, reading back posts and asking questions when a google wouldn’t suffice. Lots of helpful people there. There are tons more places to explore. Some of my favorites:

Ukulele Hunt | Ukulele in the Classroom | Uke groups of North America |

Hana Hou!

What should you carry it in? Well, we’ve got a great pattern for a knitted/felted ukulele case, designed by the awesome Wendy Bernard!

Remember: ukes are happier in bunches. If you find you love the uke, teach someone else. Pass it on. Don’t be shy.

Jillian’s Obsession Thursday: How I Know a New Thing Is Going to Stick

You may have noticed that I love to learn new things.

I never know what’s going to set me off, something in a class, something I’ve read or saw someone else do.

My latest fibery pursuit, embroidery, started with a spinning class with Sarah Swett in May. They I discovered Rebecca Ringquist and her beginning sampler class on CreativeBug.

But I do know when a new interest is going to stick and become part of my life for a bit.

It’s not the new stuff, though I love accumulating and researching tools and supplies.

Here’s my embroidery stash:

Lots of embroidery supplies can fit in a small space.
Lots of embroidery supplies can fit in a small space.

It’s the books.

Not just books from the library, though it always starts that way. Then I buy the most popular and interesting looking ones for my library.

I know I’m going to be doing whatever my new thing is for more than just a short time when I start buying older and out of print books. Older craft books tend to be more focused on techniques than projects and that is exactly what I want when I’m learning something new.

Here are my first embroidery acquisitions:

My (so far) modest stash of out of print embroidery books.
My (so far) modest stash of out of print embroidery books.


And I have a book coming from England any time now, publication date? 1901.


Art in Needlework by Lewis F. Day
Art in Needlework by Lewis F. Day

How do you know when a new obsession or interest will become part of your life?

WWW: Extreme Festive Knitting, Mitten Tree, What Would You Do with 60 Hours of Knitting Time?

Cookie the Springer Spaniel, proudly wearing a festive sweater.

I love this story: a grannie in the UK spent the year knitting 28 Christmas-themed sweaters for her family – including the dog! The most amazing detail of all is that the grannie in question, Doreen Gover, has only been knitting for 18 months! That’s a major achievement. I’m not sure I could do 28 intarsia sweaters… imagine how many ends she had to weave in.

The Wall Street Journal writes about arm knitting. Yes, really. Apparently it’s the hot new thing and all the cool kids are doing it. The article is worth a read, managing that artful balance of bemused and dryly funny… “Yet the trend has legs.”

A tree full of mittens, and love, and kindness.

A kind-hearted knitter is thrilled and gratified by the generosity and kindness of other knitters, helping her build a tree full of mittens to donate to families in need.

I’m jealous: a knitting doctor reports her excitement about an upcoming 60-hour medical meeting. That’s a lot of knitting time, and it sounds like she’s well-prepared. Could you imagine? 60 hours is enough for a fiendishly complicated sweater project (perhaps with a snowman on it!), or a several pairs of socks, or hats and mittens for your entire family.

Brown paper packages tied up with twool!

Nifty product alert: wool twine!

A knitter is crafting cat beds for her local Humane Society from the pieces of knitting that were used to cover the Andy Warhol Bridge for the “Knit the Bridge” project we mentioned a few months ago. Nice to see that all that knitting is going to good use.

Photo courtesy The Stitch.

Craftivism of the finest kind! A tricyle gang comes together to protest new laws in Queensland, Australia, that they feel infringe on civil liberties.