Month: April 2014

WWW: Knitting in Prison, Comforts for Alzheimer’s Patients, Rowan Denim

I know so many people whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s Disease. My husband lost his beloved grandmother, and a very dear friend’s mother is in the late stages. It’s heartbreaking to see the effects on those diagnosed, and on their friends and family. I was very moved by Rachael Herron’s recent blog post about her own experiences with dementia, and telling the story of knitter Diane and Diane’s mother Alice.

Diane knitted her mother a blanket, in which she was able to find comfort in her final days – she appreciated having some “cozy and loving to hold”. Diane is kicking off an initiative to knit shawls and lap blankets to donate to Alzheimer’s patients, to provide some comfort and love to those struggling with this difficult disease. Rachael is knitting one herself, and as an encouragement, she is offering up a shawl of her own as a prize to one lucky blanket knitter.

The Washington Post profiles knitting teacher Lynn Zwerling, and the classes she offers to inmates at the Dorsey Run Correctional Facility in Jessup, Maryland. Zerling says about her classes that it “isn’t about knitting. This is resocialization.” The program has been going on for a number of years, and the success has inspired other such groups around the US.

Classic and wonderful.

Ooh! Non-wool knitters rejoice! Wool knitters who love a good cotton should rejoice! Heck, everyone rejoice! Dearly-loved Rowan Denim yarn is back, and with it, a great new book of Martin Storey designs.

If you’re not familiar with this yarn, or are wondering what the big deal is, this Knitter’s Review post by noted Denim enthusiast Kay Gardiner explains it all.

A perfect place to knit?

This made me smile: a piece about a knitting group in Ipswich, Queensland, Australia suggests that “pub is the last place you’d expect to find a knitting group”. Whoever wrote the article doesn’t spend a lot of time with knitters, I don’t think. The knitters I know love spending time in pubs… a place where you’re encouraged to sit for long periods of time, and where you can be surrounded by friends and enjoy a good chat. Even if you’re not a drinker, a pub provides just about the perfect sort of environment for a knitting group. Indeed, a member of the group says just that: “The atmosphere at The Ulster is conducive to sitting around and having a chat and doing a little bit of craft.”

A small piece in the Yorkshire Post about Swaledale Woollens, a small family-run company selling handknit garments made from local wool. It’s worth clicking through to the article to see the jaw-droppingly beautiful photograph of sheep on the Dales. Visit the Swaledale Woollens website to learn more about their work and products. In addition to finished hand-knit items, they also sell wool yarn.

Back in February, we told you about the efforts of Wildcare, a wildlife rehabilitation center in California. They collect knitted birds’ nests to care for orphaned and injured baby birds. Now that spring has arrived, the program has formally kicked off. You can learn more here.

Jillian’s Spinning: Saranac Yarn – The Part Where It All Goes Wrong

I had a long drive ahead of me, from Michigan to Florida. I thought it would be perfect to get lots of knitting on my Saranac shawl done. I at least could do the first lace bit and still get to work on the other 16 projects I brought. Really, I brought, 2 kniting, 1 spinning, 2 crochet and 3 embroidery – 8 projects. It’s a long drive and I like to flit.

First, I admired my Saranac yarn:

I love the colors of my Saranac yarn.
I love the colors of my Saranac yarn.

I love working on fiber projects in the car, no where else is the light so perfect. It’s my favorite place to seam a sweater, because of the light and because I am trapped.

I didn’t get the yardage I wanted out of my fiber. That set off low-intensity alarm bells, but I have plenty of other fiber that I can spin that works with this. My yarn felt kind of heavy for lacy knitting too. Did you hear those alarm bells get louder? I did and just kept on, sure it would work out.

Now looking at the picture of the yarn up there I can see that there is too much ply twist. It’s my standard, a little over twisted for roundness and springiness that I like. To make matters worse with the over ply twist – I did my plying while I was watching the Scandal season ender. I must have been treadling fast and not noticed.

The yarn just did not work out for lace.

Too much twist
Too much twist

At least not the look I was going for. What looks like a bit too much twist in the yarn cake, looks like energy unleashed in knitting. To me it looks coiled and ready to spring apart like a crazy exploding clockwork. The YOs aren’t very open and just this little bit weighs too much. I wanted light and soft, relaxed looking and feeling. This swatch looks like it would rather kick your butt instead of cozy-ing up to you.


First I’m going to try to fix this yarn, then I’ll probably respin. I’ll do a bit each week so we can all learn from my not right yarn. But, I promise it won’t be the only thing I talk about each week!

Have you had a yarn fail lately?



Secret Spring Giveaway: Offhand Bag!

Kazul Voyager Bag
Kazul Voyager Bag

Yes that’s right, the extremely generous Larisa Flint Snydal of Offhand Designs and Sage Luxury  has donated a Kazul Voyager Bag as a giveaway to the knittyBlog.
I reviewed the Kazul in the latest issue of Knitty and it is a fantastic spacious bag with my favorite doctor’s bag frame. It comes in 12 different luxurious fabrics and the winner of this giveaway will get to pick whichever one they’d like.

Kazul collage

Regular contest rules: leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, Tuesday,  April 29h. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the bag. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance. Prize value $320.

WWW: Eye Candy and Historical Lace

Researchers at San Francisco State University have announced the results of a recent study… Their conclusion is that “employees who did something creative after work – like knitting, drawing or even playing a video game that required creative thinking – were more likely to be helpful and creative problem solvers on the job“.  Perhaps justification to ask your boss for a knitting break every day?

Remember the epic Norwegian knitting TV show? A company in the US has bought the U.S. rights for the concept, and is planning to make “ambiance” shows for US release this year. We can only hope that they are inspired by the success of last autumn’s 9-hour knitting epic and produce something similar….

Image from the Jamieson and Smith blog. They own it. Click through to the article to see it in its full glory.

Some lovely Shetland eye-candy on the Jamieson and Smith blog truly wonderful Fair Isle handknits being worn at a meeting of the Scottish Rural Women’s Institute.

CSI: Shetland? (Craft Scene Investigation, that is…)

Staying in Scotland, historical knitting territory, I very much enjoyed this post on on Elizabeth Lovick’s blog post about her investigations into a 19th century lace pattern.

Loved this story about an initiative to provide all finishers of this year’s Boston Marathon with a hand-knit scarf. Does anyone have any additional info about the project?

A fantastic vintage row-counter… the “Little Dorrit”. Sadly no history on it, but what a great little piece of knitting equipment.

Speaking of colorwork and eye candy, check out this colorwork variation of a pair of cabled mitts. Maureen Fould’s original version of the “Intertwined” design was a single color… the two color version knocked her (and my) socks off.

Jillian’s Spinning: Saranac Shawl Swatches

I’m moving right along with sampling for my Saranac Shawl.

I knit swatches this week!

All three colors plied on themselves.
All three colors plied on themselves. Colors from left 1, 2 ,3.
Single colorway swatches.  From left, colors 1, 2,3
Single colorway swatches.
From left, colors 1, 2,3

The blended colorways:

yarns from blended colorways. Top (L, R) 1+2, 1+3 Bottom (L,R) 2+3, all 3
Yarns from blended colorways.
Top (L, R) 1+2, 1+3
Bottom (L,R) 2+3, all 3

Top to bottom: 1+2, 2+3 and 1+2+3

Top to bottom: 1+2, 2+3 and 1+2+3

I still like the blended colorways better knitted. I don’t like the combination of colors 1+3 at all for this project, so I tossed that possibility. The other 3 blended yarns I knit into bigger swatches to see how the colors would play out.

blended big swatches
Top to bottom: 1+2, 2+3 ans 1+2+3

Two of them I liked as little swatches and not as much bigger, 1+2+3 and 1+3. I really don’t like how the colors mixed in to a weird almost pastel in spots in 1+3.

1+2 I was kind of, meh on as a small swatch. I liked the clay color a lot but wasn’t sure how the other brighter colors would stripe around it. Knitted bigger I I like it, and think it will be lovely in the shawl.

The other thing I learned with this exercise is part of my ongoing mystery and battle with gauge. I can see in the photos that when I relax as I knit a bigger swatch, my gauge loosens up quite a bit – at least 1/2 of a stitch and inch. I changed nothing, the yarn was the same and the needles were the same, I just knit a bigger swatch paying less attention to it.  I need to always knit a bigger swatch to get closer to project gauge.

So tell me which swatches do you like?

I’m off to spin my yarn!



Knitted Car Cozy

Tag WorldwideA knitter in LA recently completed a rather epic project: a knitted car cozy.

Judy Gregory – knitter, yarn sales rep and costumer for film and TV – was commissioned to create the cozy by an advertising agency for a print ad for Zurich Insurance Group in the UK.

The concept of the ad was simple: “When you truly love something, you protect it in the best way.

I asked Judy about the project…

How much creative input did you have?

The client in England had a yarn they wanted and sent a small photo of a cable pattern. I simplified the cable pattern and shifted some of the stitch counts a bit to accommodate the large gauge of the yarn. After making a series of swatches, they ended up not liking the first yarn, and took my suggestion of using Kraemer Yarns Mauch Chunky Roving. Kraemer is one of the lines I represent and I knew we could get the 32 lbs of Mauch Chunky Roving and 20 balls of Mauch Chunky yarn though the mill and shipped in time to make the deadline for the shooting schedule.

We decided to use a VW Beetle as the photo car. I was happy because it’s a small car! They wanted a car that looked “European”. The photographer, Nick Meek,  had just shot a VW campaign, so it was a choice he was very happy with as well.

How did you do it? How much time did you have to do it? Did anyone help?

The Production Company had a “fit car” delivered to my house so I could take measurements. I knitted a pound of the Roving as a swatch and used it to determine how much fiber to order calculating how many square feet of the car would be need to be covered. The off side of the car was not covered, only what the camera would see.

We were working on size 35 needles and the cable length was 32” so the car cover needed to be worked in panels. I had 2 friends from my knitting guild Jewel City Knitters help with the knitting.

The design part of the project took about a week and a half. After the design decisions were made and received the fiber, the knitting took 11 days start to finish. At the end of each day I would email photos of the days’ progress to the Producer and then be available at 6:30 the next morning in case I was needed for the conference call with the client in England. They asked me to go to Florida for the photo shoot so I could take the cover as luggage and deliver it in person. They didn’t want to ship it and take the risk of it getting lost or subjected to excess heat and moisture which might cause it to felt.

What happens to the pieces afterwards?

The client took the cover back to England intending to use it for display purposes. For the print ad they digitally changed the cover from the original grey to blue to match the company logo. A month later the Producer called me asking if I could knit the off camera side, to make it a full car, and dye the grey cover blue as it appears in the print advertisement.  Because of the large size of the piece we decided to make another one that would be a full car and the correct color of blue, rather than take a chance dyeing it.

The second car cover, which was just completed, was knit in a only 9 days. This time in addition to calling upon my knitting guild friends, 4 knitters from the staff at Kraemer Yarns also knit a panel each. This cover was used for display in Zurich Switzerland at a big car show where the European car companies debut their new models.

This project was unique and seems to capture people’s imaginations. Even if they know nothing about knitting, they understand what an endeavor it is to knit for a car. Who knows, this may not be my last car cover.

WWW: The Muggles Get it Wrong; Indie Untangled; Knitting for the War Effort

There’s been a rash of articles (well, ok, two)  in the mainstream press of late, about the recent “resurgence” of knitting.  It’s always nice to see knitting talked about, but both of these pieces landed badly.

The Guardian in the UK thinks that we might like knitting because the famous people do it. Also, apparently, we do it to fill time.

Toronto’s Globe and Mail tells us that despite its “fusty” image, knitting has managed to “get its groove back”.  

Once again, we see mention of the “granny” stereotypes, our motivations misunderstood, and the work of our hands tragically undervalued.

Feisty knitter Kay Gardiner, (lawyer, author, mother and all-around smart person) decided that we should show the world what else we do. She kicked off the “ANDknitting” hashtag. The idea was to educate the Guardian and the world at large about the wide range of people who knit, and what else we do to “fill our time”. Much wonderful stuff ensued – I know I learned an awful lot about the varied and smart and interesting people in our knitting community.

Louise on the “KnitBritish” blog wrote a wonderful piece about the articles, about the ANDknitting hashtag, and the frustrations we feel in response to these ongoing use of stereotypes in the press.

We’re intrigued by the launch of Indie Untangled. This is a website dedicated to helping crafters discover hand-dyed yarn and fiber. It’s a combination of marketplace and information resource, allowing indie dyers to provide information about their yarns and fibers and where to find them. Dyers will post on the website when they are updating their stores, and with news about their products, and the Indie Untangled team will be writing a newsletter and blog post about products they’ve discovered and news and goings-on in the indie yarn world.

Helping however they could.

Although the heading of this blog post worried me (“Current crafts craze”? Oh no, here we go again…) I enjoyed this overview of the role knitting played in World War 1.

You don’t need to go to school to knit this… (booo!)

As part of the “Follow the Herring” program at Customs House, a group in Hastings UK has set up a series of workshops on maritime-themed knitting. The larger program is celebrating and explored maritime and social history, and is touring the east coast of the UK. The workshops, on everything from knitting your own fish & chip shop, to perhaps more practical gansey knitting, will be held at Stade Hall in Hastings through May and June. And even if you can’t participate in the workshops, you might enjoy knitting yourself this rather wonderful herring.

Jillian’s Spinning: My Saranac Shawl Yarn and a Weekend Spinning Only Color

This week I sampled yarn for Kirsten Kapur’s beautiful Saranac Shawl.

Saranac shawl
Saranac shawl

First I spun all three fibers and plied them on themselves, 2-ply. The fiber is all from my stash dyed by Woolgatherings.


All three colors plied on themselves.
All three colors plied on themselves. Colors (L to R) 1, 2 and 3.

Then I combined colors while drafting and made a 2-ply.

First colors 1 and 2:

color 1+2 yarn
Colors 1 and 2

Then colors 1 and 3:

Colors 1 and 3
Colors 1 and 3

Colors 2 and 3:

Colors 2 and 3
Colors 2 and 3

And, of course, all three colors draft together:

All 3 colors
All 3 colors

I don’t much like any of the colors by themselves for this project. Of all of the combined colorways, I think I like colors 2 and 3 together. Well, what do you think? Do any of these yarns speak to you? Next week I’ll be knitting swatches and picking the colors for the shawl.


Happy Camper Fiber Retreat - all color
Happy Camper Fiber Retreat – September 19-21



Does all of this color-talk and sample get your spinning motor running? This is exactly what we’re going to do at this year’s Happy Camper Fiber Retreat – all color, all weekend!

Dyeing, carding and spinning color. Combining colors and creating your own colors. Three days in the Michigan woods with Beth Smith, Rita Petteys and me. There will be shopping, silliness and prizes. And spinning, lots of spinning. Won’t you come play?

On Regenerate

We loved it from the minute we first saw it.

Lots of knitters have been appreciating Mary-Anne Mace’s beautiful Regenerate Shawl in our Spring & Summer issue.

In the introduction to the pattern, Mary-Anne told a story about her experiences with the earthquake in her home town of Christchurch, New Zealand.

This beautiful design was inspired by the regeneration of nature in the fact of such terrible destruction. In a recent post on her blog, Mary-Anne shows us pictures of the city in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, and in later months as the regeneration began. The pictures are heartbreaking and beautiful.

Nature regenerates; hope amid the destruction.

In addition, because Mary-Anne is a helpful designer, she’s created some supplemental charts to help knitters with the project.  There are rows that have large numbers of knit stitches, and Mary-Anne has annotated the charts with stitch counts. The link is at the bottom of the post.




WWW: Knitted pergoda, contemplating the knitted boyfriend, legwarmers in art.

A prize-winning knitter.

Love this: the winner of the first and second prizes for ‘most outstanding knitted garments’ at the Hamilton Show in Southern Tasmania is 89-year-old Edna Jordan. The fact that she’s legally blind? A minor detail. Edna has been knitting for 80 years; losing her sight ten years ago hasn’t stopped her: she relies on touch and memory to keep her needles busy.


Wow. Just wow. Stunning. A group of knitters that calls themselves ‘Friends of John Grooms Court’ from Norwich, UK, have unveiled their latest art project – a 10-feet tall, six-sided pergola which boasts a wooden framework covered with knitted squares and hundreds of colourful flowers, leaves and wildlife. The display is made up of more than 10,000 items, contributed by knitters both local and distant; the group received contributions from all over the UK, and knitters in Canada and Italy participated. Perhaps the most precious contribution came from a 104-year-old knitter. The slideshow is wonderful.

A knitted boyfriend – warm and comforting, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

We’ve written about artist Noortje de Keijzer’s “knitted boyfriend” project before, but I was very amused to see the hand-wringing from this NY Post writer, who seems to be taking them seriously. Journalist Andrea Peyser declares them “creepy”, totally missing  the artist’s point about the simple comforts we seek (and get) from our partners.

Traditional cuteness!

We know it’s machine-knit, but we’re thinking that this adorable picture of little Prince George in his cardi will kick off a trend amongst new mothers and those knitting for them. How could it not?

So great.

I enjoy all yarn-bombing, but I love it best of all when it’s contextual and witty. A group called The Ilfracombe Knitting Bombers has claimed responsibility for a pair of legwarmers that appeared on a Damien Hirst statue in North Devon, UK, for April Fool’s Day.


Did you know that  there was a “Muppets” knitting book published in the 1980s? If I ever see this in a second-hand book shop, I’m buying it!