Monthly Archives: July 2014

Showing your love for knitting on your car

A couple of weeks ago I ran into Lana Holden, designer of Knitty favorite pattern The Skew Sock.

I gasped out loud when I saw her license plate…

Friend of Knitty Laura Nelkin took a photo of this fantastic jeep last year…


(Although pretty sure the owner of this particular vehicle also crochets… )

The inimitable Lucy Neatby has decorated her car with her trademark “happy stitch” logo.


Lorajean, yarn dyer behind keeps it simple:


Karen, owner of the fantastic yarn shop Shall We Knit has this on her car…

SWK - Copy

Lara Neel spotted this one, but we don’t know who is belongs to…


If one of these is yours, or you have a knitting-themed license plate, show us a picture!

WWW: Holiday Gift Knitting? Friends for Life Bike Rally; Durable Socks

Make ’em last!

Our very own Kate (that’s me! 😉 ) is a frequent contributor to Interweave’s Sockupied, and she’s in the most recent issue on the topic of sock durability.

The Yarn Harlot and assorted friends (hello gang! we’re proud of you!) are midway through their epic fundraising bike ride, the PWA Friends for Life Bike Rally. They’re riding from Toronto to Montreal – 660km (412 miles or so) – to raise funds to support people living with AIDS. You can follow along on Steph’s tweets and Instagram posts, and if you’d like to learn more (and maybe contribute a bit), visit her blog.

The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library in Kansas has launched a new pilot program for lending of craft kits and equipment. What a fantastic way to allow crafters to try out new tools and techniques before making a financial commitment.

A fun and enlightening read about the history of Kitchener stitch. (Yes, because it’s a proper noun, named after a person, it should always be capitalized. Residents of Ontario, Canada, are used to typing it with a capital K, since the eponymous Lord gave his name to a town, also.) It’s worth reading the comments, too. As is always the way with history, some of the details are murky. It’s most likely that the technique existed long before World War One, but it gained a new name because of associations with the Lord and his troops…

UK magazine Women’s Weekly is collecting knitted Christmas decorations with a view to both raising some charitable cheer, and breaking a World Record.

Yes, that’s right, it’s less than 6 months now until the holiday season. How’s your gift knitting coming along?…

Jillian’s Spinning: What I learned from the Tour de Fleece

My final TdF count is, drum roll  please, 2.5 pounds! I didn’t calculate yardage becasue I was spinning samples, samples, samples.

Final Tour yarn and a close up of semi-solids

Final Tour yarn and a close up of semi-solids

I did spin some of the new and luscious semi-solid fiber from Into the Whirled they are on the right.

Here’s what I learned from this year’s TdF:

If I focus I can get a lot of spinning done. That just seamlessly transfers to my whole life.

I spin more when I listen to audiobooks than watch TV. It’s easier to focus and no need to stop and skip commercials.

I need to take more breaks, stretch and ice when I’m sore because, owie! That muscle that runs from the outside of my elbow across the top of my forearm to my wrist is crabby. It’s not just from spinning, but knitting and computer work too. I stopped doing yoga during the TdF – not a good idea.

What was your final tally for the Tour de Fleece and what are your favorite forearm stretches?

Jillian’s Spinning: Akerworks Schacht Bobbins, Audiobooks and TdF Update

For those of you who want to try the Akerworks bobbins, but spin on a Schacht, please join in me in a Hooray! because Schacht compatible bobbins are now available.

Akerworks Bobbins for Schacht

Akerworks Bobbins for Schacht wheels. Bike Tire in Orange and Sunflower in Purple

I have yet to take mine for a spin, they came yesterday, but if they are like my Lendrum bobbins they will be a treat. I love decorating my wheels!

A quick Tour de Fleece update. From Sunday the 14th to last Sunday I spun 17 ounces. That’s a lot for me and I’m feeling it in my body. I need to stop and stretch much more than I have. What are your favorite spinning stretches?

I spun a lot

I spun a lot

Last week I talked about what I’m watching when I spin, but I listen to a ton of audiobooks too. I listen when I spin, I listen when I’m driving the kids around town, on car trips, on my morning walk and when I’m plagued by insomnia. I listen to all kinds of things, mostly fiction, lots of mysteries, lots of kids stuff. I’m never quite sure what will strike my fancy and lots of times it’s things that I wouldn’t read as a paper book. I am lucky to have a great library in town to borrow from. I’d rather borrow than buy because almost more important than the story itself is the reader’s voice. For example, I will listen to anything Davina Porter or Simon Vance read.

Davina Porter and Simon Vance

Davina Porter and Simon Vance

They both are British and have rich, soothing voices that lure me into a story and neither overplay the voice changes of different characters. She reads all of Outlander and he did the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. They both have recorded hundreds of titles. Do you choose audiobooks by story or reader or mood?

Right now I’m listening to: Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva, read by Simon Vance, this is one I wouldn’t read otherwise, but is entertaining in my ears. I’m also listening to Bird by Bird written and read by Anne Lamont, I read the book when it came out 20 years ago (glup), but she makes it much funnier than I remember.

What are you listening to for spinning or otherwise?


WWW: Knitting a Painting; Flowery Yarnarchists; Teenage Mutant Knitting Turtles?

Image from the Utah Museum of Fine Arts website; the cowl and its inspiration.

Wonderful: Virginia Catherall, Curator of Education at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts has knitted her favorite painting. She’s interpreted the 1969 painting Jasmine Sidewinder, by Gene Davis, as a fantastic stripy cowl. She’s offering the pattern for free, on Ravelry.

Love it!

A most excellent horticulturally-themed yarn-bombing in Southport, UK, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Britain in Bloom competition.

Britain in Bloom is one of the longest running environmental competitions in the UK; its aim is to encourage the improvement surroundings through the use of trees, shrubs, flowers and landscaping. Our knitters got into the fun with a fantastic display of yarny contributions.

I also rather adore that the group responsible calls themselves ‘yarnarchists’.

OIDFA Cavalcade detail

Some of the work displayed.

Over 300 delegates from 18 different countries across the globe recently gathered in Adelaide, Australia to discuss the ins and outs of traditional bobbin and needle lace, including a talk on Edwardian lace unmentionables.

The lace aficionados were in Adelaide for the 16th World Lace Congress, a bi-annual meeting of the French organization OIDFA, The International Bobbin and Needle Lace Organization.

Pleased to hear that a “knitting circle” featured amongst the entertainments at the recent Latitude music festival in Suffolk, UK.

The International Woolmark prize is a fashion industry award for rising designers working with wool fabrics. Regional competitions are held around the world to choose finalists for the award, judged by high profile industry professionals. The overall winner, chosen from the regional finalists, receives a valuable sponsorship, with their winning Merino wool capsule collection stocked in more than one dozen of the world’s most prestigious fashion retailers.

You can see this year’s entrants and regional finalists and their work here.

A kids’ website has some fun with a vintage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knitting pattern book.

Amy’s Plug+Play magic…finally revealed!

(Thank you to Jillian for letting me hog the blog today. I have a big announcement! And our darling Jillian has an awesome spinning post for you this Thursday. She’ll see you then!)



You may have heard me talking about my Plug+Play method over the years. It’s my simple, friendly approach to designing with stitch patterns, and I’ve been teaching it all over the place since 2008…from a cruise ship filled with knitters in the Pacific to events like Vogue Knitting Live, Yarnover, the Glasgow School of Yarn and Yarndale, and at shops in the US, Canada, England, Scotland and Ireland! The P3 retreats, run by Brenda Dayne and myself and held in Wales over a span of 3 years, were based on the Plug+Play system. It’s empowered so many knitters to make their knitwear reflect their own design inspiration without having to tear their hair out!

Well, if you haven’t been able to take one of my classes but wanted to learn more about this user-friendly method of designing, today I get to make a big, happy announcement! My Plug+Play: Custom Scarves & Shawls, class has just launched on Craftsy! Just now!

In this class, you’ll learn my easy and intuitive method for turning the stitch patterns of your choice into your own scarves and shawls. It’s a simple but surprisingly effective way to create uniquely beautiful scarves and shawls by plugging complete stitch pattern units into your knitted fabric, rather than designing a stitch at a time!

Massive fun, filming this class for Craftsy! Anyone spot the appropriate set decoration over my left shoulder?

Massive fun, filming this class for Craftsy! Anyone spot the appropriate set decoration over my left shoulder?

In the class, over 7 lessons spanning more than 2 hours in total, you’ll learn about the Plug+Play method, how to apply it to simple rectangular and triangular shapes as well as rectangles built on the bias! You’ll learn about full motifs and half/offset motifs and how to use them effectively. You’ll get a good handle on how to build your own custom cowls in a variety of directions, and finally we’ll talk about all my favorite tools and tips that will make designing your own scarves and shawls much more enjoyable!

One of the neatest things about Craftsy is how interactive their classes are. If you have a question, just ask! I’m there to help you with any challenges you encounter, so that your projects are successful. And I can’t wait till knitters start uploading their FOs to the Craftsy site. There’s lots of places to interact with me and the other students in the class. I hope to see many of you there!

Is this a sales pitch? Yup. Unabashedly so. I’m very proud of the Plug+Play method, and this opportunity to share it with you via Craftsy has been a dream come true for me. So many knitters have asked if I could come teach this class in their part of the world, and now through this online class, I can!

To learn more about this class and get started today, just click this link. Hope to see you there!

The ukulele my producer chose for the set (to add Amy-like ambience, no doubt) was gifted to me at the end of the shoot. Signed by the crew, surrounded by all the tools of the make up artist who made me pretty every morning.

The ukulele my producer chose for the set (to add Amy-like ambience) was gifted to me at the end of the shoot. Signed by the crew, surrounded by all the tools of the make up artist who made me pretty every morning.



Blocking: Why and How and Tools to Make it Easier and Better

It’s fair to say that I am obsessed with blocking.

Blocking is such a key step in the knitting process. Blocking is the difference between a project being done, and being finished.

I think there’s a fair bit of confusion about blocking, and the language has a lot to do with it: you hear about mats and pins and wires, and many knitters think that it’s complicated and requires special equipment. Not at all! For the majority of projects, all that’s needed is a wash.

Yes, just a wash.

Generally speaking, the only types of projects that require special equipment and treatment are lace projects. Otherwise, just give the item a wash.

Indeed, I never declare a project finished until it’s been washed and dried. It’s essential if you’re going to be doing any seaming. If pieces are going to stretch or shrink that needs to happen before you sew up so the seams don’t pucker.

But even if it’s not going to be seamed, washing a piece makes it look so much better. The stitches even out and the wrinkles will disappear. The yarns bloom – a silk-based yarn gets shinier and prettier. A wool yarn softens and fluff up. A linen yarn loses the ‘crunch’. Your cables will tidy up and pop, your ribbing become more even, your stockinette get smoother.

And chances are, the yarn you worked with is pretty dirty – as it moves from the mill to packaging to shipping and to the yarn shop, yarns gathers machine oils from the spinning, dust from the mill air, other fibre strands and fluff from the yarn shop, and lint from whatever else it’s been stored with.

And of course, as you knit it, it might gather coffee stains, pet hair, cookie crumbs. After a good wash, you knitting just looks better. Try it next time you knit two of something – socks, mitts, sleeves. Wash one and compare it against the other. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised.

In fact, this is what blocking is. For most things, when a pattern says to block, all that needs to happen is to wash it. The only type of knitting that needs special blocking treatment is lace; lace requires stretching to open up the stitchwork and make it look its best. (This is when you might need to worry about mats and wires and pins and all that jazz. Otherwise, nope.)

Washing is absolutely the best way to block. Neither pressing nor steam blocking can be fully guaranteed to take care of whatever stretching or shrinking is going to happen; and pressing can flatten out your knitting – for example, pressing an aran sweater squishes up all that lovely cabling.

Wash it according to the washing instructions on the ball band for the yarn – handwash or machine wash. I tend to air dry most things, even if they are dryer-safe – it saves energy and wear-and-tear on the garment. If you’re air-drying, find somewhere you can lay the items flat, if possible. For small items, drape them over a towel rail, or over a laundry rack.

I do like to use a wool-wash. SOAK is fantastic – it’s gentle on your fibers, and genuinely does not need to be rinsed out. So easy! If I’m hand-washing, I throw the item in the sink with wool-wash, and let it soak for at least half an hour. You want it to get fully saturated. Then I either roll it in a towel, or send it through my front-loading washing machine’s spin cycle – to get most of the water out – and then lay it flat to dry. But, equally, if the yarn you’re using is machine dryable, go for it.

Now, if it’s a lace piece, this is when I get my mats and pins out.

Lace needs to be stretched to look its best – the yarnovers open up, and the decrease lines get crisp and pretty. A piece of lace straight off the needles is crumpled and lumpy.

I’ve just finished up a circular shawl project, and after I squeezed most of the water out, I pinned it out to dry, to stretch it, to make the patternwork open up, and to get those lovely pointed edges to be pointy.


(This is the Rosetta Tharpe shawl; pattern coming in August.)

Note the ruler: as I pinned, I measured it to make sure the points were equally spaced, and that the radius was the same all the way around, to make sure it was a neat and tidy circle.

You can buy blocking kits from various craft-tool suppliers, they usually contain mats and pins. I bought these mats from my local sporting goods supplier, Canadian Tire. They’re 2 feet by 2 feet, nice and big for larger projects. The ones sold at craft suppliers are often smaller, which can be useful if you’ve not got a lot of floor space, or have smaller projects.

The pins are important – they need to be rust-proof t-pins. Buy the best you can find. You don’t want rust-stains on your work! 

If your piece has straight edges, blocking wires can be very helpful… using them saves a lot of pinning. Feed the wire along the straight edge, like so:

And our friends at Signature Needle Arts have just released a most excellent new product: a blocking cloth. It’s got grid-lines woven in, at one-inch intervals.

I used it recently when I blocked a tank top with a lace edge. I gave the piece a wash, and it came out beautifully – although when I laid it out on top of hte cloth I could see that the scalloped edge was definitely not straight, and the scallops weren’t very even or pretty.


So I wet the piece and pinned it out again, with the cloth on top of my blocking mats, using the grid-lines on the cloth as a guide. I got a perfect straight edge, with even scallops. Brilliant!


But yes, whether you use fancy tools, or just your bathroom sink, blocking is critical. You’ll be thrilled with the results, I promise!

If you’d like to learn more, I’ve got a Craftsy class on this topic… Let me show you how balloons and plates are useful for blocking hats! In the class I also talk about fiber care and washing and moth prevention and all sorts of other useful tips.

WWW: Unwind, Knit City 2014, More on ‘Unsafe’ Bunting Saga

The winner of last week’s Hunter Hammersen sock book giveaway is Juli from Iowa. Congrats Juli, and thanks to Hunter for the prize!

Image courtesy the Independent.

Last weekend’s Unwind festival, held in Brighton, U.K. (Amy was there!) gets a lovely write-up in the Independent newspaper.

You’re playing my song…

Grace Verhagen of the very lovely Sweet Georgia Yarns writes on the blog about what makes a good sock yarn.

Sweet Georgia is running a ‘Summer of Socks’, with educational blog posts, a spin- and knitalong, and there’s a contest!

Also on the topic of Vancouver (the home of Sweet Georgia Yarns), the teacher line-up has just been announced for Knit City 2014, being held at the Pacific National Exhibition Centre, October 4 & 5th. The third annual event, Knit City is the premier knitting event in B.C. Kate’s taught there the first two years, and this year Amy is joining her. Class lists and registration info here. Even if you don’t take a class, the retail fair is always terrific. So much yarn, and so many great designers and indie dyers from the Pacific Northwest. And last year there was both a coffee truck and a grilled cheese truck. Really, what more do you need?

Working on the bunting.

Further on the contentious Tour De France bunting: the Harrogate bunting will be left up until September, and then turned into blankets to be donated to charity. The Cambridge bunting will be sold, with proceeds also going to charity.

Australian knitter Josephine Erlich knits coats and blankets for dogs at her local animal rescue organization.

“I feel sorry for the dogs, the lovely little chaps must be so cold,’’ she says. “My dogs run around naked but they are in a warm house.”

Newspaper the Herald Sun has nominated her for a “Pride of Australia” award for her kindness and generosity.

The pattern in question.

Canadian newspaper the Calgary Herald received a rather unusual piece of mail this week: two dimes taped to a piece of paper, with a request for a knitting pattern. The pattern had been offered for sale in the newspaper – in 1939.

Researchers are the paper are searching the archives but haven’t yet found the pattern – they’ve put out an appeal, hoping that someone might have a copy they can supply to their reader.

Jillian’s Spinning: What I’m Watching While I Spin. It’s not the TdF.

I’m cruising along on my spinning, with a few day break to watch my daughter compete in springboard diving at Purdue. I think I’ve spun 4 ounces since last week, not great, but I’ll take it.

I got a couple of packages from Into the Whirled when I got home from Indiana. I’ve got lots of gorgeous to spin!

Into the Whirled fiber for my Craftsy class

Into the Whirled fiber for my Craftsy class

I’m curious what everyone is watching while they spin, if they aren’t watching the Tour de France. I’m catching up on the last season of Game of Thrones, and thoroughly addicted to mysteries. Right now my top two are the Miss Fisher Mysteries and Endeavour – both have murder, mayhem, costumes and accents, perfect for me to spin to.

Miss Fisher and Endeavour

Miss Fisher and Endeavour

Where I’m teaching this Fall (so far)

Happy Camper Fiber Retreat, September 19-21st in Hartland,  Michigan (it’s close to Ann Arbor). I’m teaching with Beth Smith and Rita Petteys and our theme is color. We opened single rooms last week and only have a few left. If you prefer to be roommate free you might want to book your spot.

If you can’t make it to Michigan, I’m also teaching at the Intrepid Knitter, Intrepid Spinner Retreat in Baltimore October 31 – November 2, 2014. I’m teaching with Jacey Boggs and we both have a variety of classes, including my new Spinning for Stitching class. Take a peek!

WWW: More on needles on planes; Neural Knitworks; Shetland Knitters and Wool

There have been a few follow up questions on my post about travel knitting as it relates to to taking knitting needles on a plane. The TSA regulation is given here. The Heathrow website gives a nice clear answer here. Ultimately, it’s up to the security team at each airport, but in general, wood, bamboo or plastic needles aren’t an issue.

A recent knit-in at the Vermont Gas company office in South Burlington, Vermont, was broken up when one of the protesters was arrested. Five knitters “occupied” the waiting room at the office, knitting way. I agree with NPR’s assessment that this was perhaps “the most civil of disobediences“.

Crochet is ok, too…

Dr Bridget Murphy from The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (pictured, on the right) is driving an effort to knit a model of a brain, and is seeking knitters (and crochets) to contribute hand-made neurons for project. “Neural Knitworks” is a collaborative project about mind and brain health, part of the Australian National Science Week initiative. The yarny organ will be displayed during the August event, at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre in New South Wales, Australia.  The idea for the project came from textile artist Pat Pillai, and was embraced by the scientific community.

“Art, including simple, everyday craft like knitting, can be a powerful tool to promote health and science,” said Pat, who says the concept of Neural Knitworks appeals to the general public and scientists alike.

The organizers are keen to ensure that the brain is anatomically and scientifically accurate, and experts on neuroscience, microscopy and stem cells have been consulted.

Patterns and more info on the Neural Knitworks website.

Knitter at the Shetland Textile Museum in Lerwick.

A lovely short radio documentary from NPR about the Shetland Islands, and the importance of sheep, wool and knitting in the local culture.

If you want to learn more about Shetland sheep and their wool, but can’t travel to the Shetland Islands, consider joining Deb Robson in Washington State this November… she’s running a workshop specifically about Shetland sheep.

Want to help us out a bit? Well, actually, want to help Kate help designers help you? It makes sense, I promise. Kate — that’s me!, Knitty’s lead tech editor — has just started into a new book project. It’s going to be a book about how to write knitting patterns, aimed at newer designers who want to start submitting their work to publications, or making their designs available through Ravelry or other places.

We’re looking for input from knitters of all levels on what you do and don’t like about knitting patterns. What do you find easy to understand? What’s challenging? What do you feel is important to make a knitting pattern fun and easy to use? Please visit Kate’s blog to leave comments.