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Obsession Thursday: the brilliant KeepCup

a variety of KeepCups. How could you pick just one?

a variety of KeepCups. How could you pick just one?

This is not a feminine device. It’s a travel coffee cup that you keep.

Nothing new, you say? What’s so great about the KeepCup, you ask? It’s smart. It’s environmentally sound. And it is ergonomically designed to fit your lips.

Seriously. The very best thing about it is this: your mouth will fit perfectly around the drinking hole of this fabulous cup and you will not accidentally dribble as you try to avoid scalding yourself. It’s just good design.

here's mine, well used and loved since finding it in a coffeeshop in the UK 2 years ago.

here’s mine, purchased 2 years ago in the UK. had no idea what it was; i just liked the colors. it’s proved to be my best coffee friend ever since.

It also self-seals with this cool top thingy (see the orange thing at left) that rotates from closed to open easily. Easy to clean, doesn’t scald your hands, affordable. Works for hot or cold drinks. Comes in a variety of sizes. Designed and made in Australia, the home of the inventors of my new favorite coffee drink, the flat white*.

And you can make up your own color combo.

No affiliation. I just love this thing and wanted you to know about it.

You may resume your regularly scheduled day.

*according to the linked post, “Flat White has an even mix of liquid milk and smooth velvet foam so it feels like drinking an espresso, only yummier.” To me, it tastes like a more intense, more caramelly latte, without any bitterness. I am addicted.

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Obsession Thursday: It hurts.

In the late ’90s, I was an obsessed quilter and new computer user. Hand quilting + mousing gave me Carpal Tunnel Syndrome back then, and I’ve been fighting it ever since. For the record, that’s at least 16 years.

2016-01-02 22.12.21-2

A Somerset Star that fills a 12″ diameter embroidery hoop. Made with fabric, glue stick, hot iron, and just a few perfectly placed stitches.

I’ve worn some sort of splint (aka brace) at night all that time. I’ve done acupuncture, osteopathy and the only thing that sort of worked: Active Release Technique (ART) therapy. The condition got so bad, there was a period where it woke me up at night with screaming, searing pain. The cortisone shot made no difference. ART has kept me from being in agony, but it couldn’t solve a too-small opening for a too-large nerve in my wrists.

During that time, I stopped quilting (mostly because I became 100% re-consumed with knitting and then started Knitty. Both hands, though, continued to get worse.

Earlier this year, my Pilates teacher yelled at me (She’s an RN): “When are you going to get those things fixed?!” And it finally seemed like avoiding surgery was no longer a wise thing to do. Beyond the fact that knitting more than a few rows at a time is all I can do, CTS means that almost everything I do is affected in some way. Surgery* is scheduled for mid-March, and according to the doc, I’ll be back at the keyboard within just a few days, fully healed in 6-8 weeks. I am actually EXCITED about this. *Nothing bloody at that link. Just info on the type of surgery I’m getting, in case you’re curious.

The Somerset Star now lives above my bed, along with a collection of hoops (scavenged at the annual Textile Museum's sale over the past few years) filled with some of my favorite fabrics.

The Somerset Star now lives above my bed, along with a collection of hoops (scavenged at the annual Textile Museum’s sale over the past few years) filled with some of my favorite fabrics.

In the meantime, quilting is providing a creative outlet that I desperately need. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen some of the stuff I’ve been doing. I took a class to learn how to make a Somerset Star at The Workroom, and went a little bonkers with it (see above).

I find it amusing that the craft (though not the same hand movements) that started the injury is what I’m doing until I can get it all fixed.

I still don’t hand quilt. Maybe I’ll be able to after healing from the surgery, but mostly, I just want to be able to knit, wash dishes (!), drive my Vespa, and play my ukulele again without hurting.

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2015: The year it all changed for Knitty

It’s hard to even know where to begin to write about Knitty’s 2015. We could focus on some standout patterns that we published, like these:

252 projects on Ravelry

Geek socks: 252 projects on Ravelry

 

Swink: the definition of knitting and crochet playing well together!

Swink: the definition of knitting and crochet playing well together!

 

Pierrot: a sweater unlike any other...so joyous!

Pierrot: a sweater unlike any other…so joyous!

and the crazy innovation in the Winter issue:

Cache Cache: not mindless, but worth it

Cache Cache: tame your crazy variegateds in such a beautiful way

 

Knitting 2015

Ribbon Candy: vertically stacked increases = pop art

 

Hexadot: did you know that linen stitch can create DOTS?

Hexadot: did you know that linen stitch can create DOTS?

 

One of the biggest changes was made possible by our new Sysadmin, Christopher Gernon, who did this:

way to uncork the decade-old bottleneck, Christopher!

way to uncork the decade-old launch-day bottleneck, Christopher!

Though he did it with brain cells, a lot of hard work and targeted knowhow (not champagne and a thumb). We love him very  much.

 

We welcomed two new columnists: Liz Gipson who talks about Weaving for knitters on the rigid-heddle loom, and Lorilee Beltman, who is taking our techniques column to a new level of cleverness.

Then there was this:

 

But without doubt, the biggest story for Knitty in 2015 was our change in how we’re funded. We’ve gone from being 100% advertising supported to a combination of support from advertisers and our readers. OUR READERS. YOU GUYS. We used the cool Patreon platform.

I talk about the process of asking for help, and the joy in finding out help was available thanks to you guys, in the latest editorial. But it cannot be overstated. Finding out our readership likes what we do enough to support us in such a huge way is the most affirming thing that could ever happen to us. Support continues to build, even after our big launch in September, which means ongoing financial security for Knitty and its staff. In case you missed it, I was able to double what we pay our designers, thanks to your support. I’ve been able to give the Tech Editors long-overdue raises, thanks to your support. We are able to hold advertising prices steady, allowing our advertisers to share their wares and services with you at affordable prices, thanks to your support. And more good things are still to come.

It’s all THANKS TO YOUR SUPPORT.

We’ve had a wonderful 2015, and we cannot wait to see where 2016 takes us. Thank you for accompanying us on this exciting journey, and please accept our best wishes for the happiest possible 2016.

Love,
Amy, Jillian and the Knitty team

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Knitty Friday: Learning from your Tech Editor; podcasty goodness

We’ve heard this so many times since launching Knitty in 2002: “Please pass on my thanks to (insert Tech Editor’s name here) for her work on my pattern. It’s so much better than when I submitted it, and I’ve learned a lot from the process.”

Backing up, let’s talk a bit about who our designers are. We do have a few established designers, and some that design for a living. But we also have a variety of people of all levels of experience who have designed something great and send it to us to see if we’ll publish it. Our Tech Editors are women (so far — we haven’t had a male Tech Editor yet) with superior skills in math who also understand handknitting and garment creation in a way that the average knitter might never achieve. They’ve gone out of their way to learn how to convey the creation of some 3D object in words alone so clearly that anyone with an appropriate skill level can reproduce it. It’s really a form of technical writing. And it’s a hard craft to master.

Some, usually most, of our Designers embrace the feedback that they get from their Tech Editors. They answer the Editor’s questions promptly and very often learn from those questions themselves. (“What didn’t I convey clearly enough, so that the Editor had to ask about it? How could I have written this better?”) Some, thankfully not many, don’t make the Tech Editor’s job easier. They fight. They’re sure their way was the right way. They feel that the questions being asked by the Editor are challenges to their skill level. Which is kind of silly. Because just as designing is not my primary skill, I would expect lots of Designers to be not much of a Magazine Editor. It’s okay to be really good at designing, and to allow the Tech Editor to be really good at their job. When Designers and Tech Editors work in harmony, all that results is a much better pattern.

The best Designers are ones who learn from the collaboration. And we’re lucky to have had many of those grace our pages.


I was lucky enough to be interviewed for the official Patreon Podcast, and the result is below! The Knitty part starts about 21 minutes in. There’s stuff about how we started, how we work, how Patreon is affecting our future (hint: for the better). Enjoy!

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Obsession Thursday: How to ask for help

The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer

The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer

Hopefully by now, you’ve heard about our Patreon campaign that’s changed Knitty from a struggling ad-only supported magazine to one supported by both advertisers and our readers. We are now able to count on a stable future full of opportunity, as we will be able to pay our staff and contributors fairly! And we’re working on our next goal, which is redesigning and recoding to bring this 2002 magazine visually and functionally up to date with the 2016 (and beyond) internet.

One thing I haven’t talked much about through this process is what got me to a place where I felt brave enough to let people know our current financial state and to ask for their help. This book is what did it. I bought it when it was released last fall and absorbed every word, because I was a fan. And because I liked the message the author was spreading.

Amanda Palmer is an independent musician who’s been in the business longer than Knitty has been around. She spent her early days atop a milk crate as a Living Statue, and transitioned into music as a singer-songwriter on piano and (yes) ukulele, where she’s slowly, steadily built her fan base by being intimately connected to her fans, in person and on the internet. Whether you like her music or not (I happen to love it), the way she conducts herself and her business is inspirational. And when I saw that Amanda had launched a Patreon earlier this year, I realized that perhaps this could work for Knitty, too.

It’s easy to read the title and assume it’s all about asking for help. Just ask, and everyone will give and poof, worries over. Except it’s not like that at all. The book shows, in great detail, that building a community first is a key element to establishing a relationship in which the creator can ask for help and the community will want to provide it. Ravelry proved that point when they asked for our help in categorizing their huge library of patterns and supporting them financially. They had already provided so much to knitters that we were glad to help and as a result, we have a robust, super-useful Ravelry available to us today.

But Knitty was my business, and we all know about the demons that sit on our shoulders and tell us we’re not good enough. (Amanda calls them the Fraud Police.) Sure, asking for help worked for Ravelry, but would it work for Knitty?

As we have seen in just 48 hours, it has worked. 

There’s so much more I can say, but I’ve got Patreon work to do. Read the book. I think you’ll find a lot to think about in there.

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Bonus: Knitty’s Patreon Campaign

2015patronbadgeSince March, I’ve been working on a new funding model for Knitty. The backstory is here, but the short version is that advertising-supported businesses have been taking a hit over the last 7 years, and Knitty was no exception. We put out the official call for our readers to help, and HOLY COW, did they ever!

Our Patreon Campaign has only been live for less than 24 hours, but already it has reached its first and most important goal: we can pay the staff and contributors to the just-released brand-new Deep Fall issue at market rates. We are beyond thrilled. There really aren’t words to express the feeling of love we have gotten from the community since we let down our walls and asked for help. Jillian and I have been teary multiple times over the last 24 hours. It’s okay. I’d just stocked up on tissues.

Our next big goal is a redesign and recode of the entire Knitty site, including the back issues, and that takes money too. I’m working out exactly how much we’ll need, and will post it on the Patreon page as soon as I have it. In the meantime, please do help us spread the word to keep the pledges coming. The more people we have contributing, the lighter the load for each, and the more good we can do for the worldwide online knitting community.

Much love,
A+J

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Knitting happiness

cover170x170Jillian and I were honored to chat with Lisa Cypers Kamen at Harvesting Happiness for the latest podcast! It was refreshing to talk to someone outside the knitting world and share our perspective on what we do every day.

You can hear us for the first half hour. Then an interview with Wool and the Gang follows afterwards.

Let us know what you think in the comments!

(You can also find it on iTunes…)

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Obsession Thursday — trying to prevent brain goopification

We’re all getting older. (Sorry to break it to you.) Some of us feel it more than others, and when you get near that menopause thing, it gets even worse. We know knitting helps keep us sharp, but there’s no reason to stop there. There are lots of apps that claim to help keep your brain sharp too. Both Jillian and I tried Lumosity for a while, and it was interesting, but it was really never fun. It was a chore. I believe we both cursed out the penguins more than once.

downloadA while ago, I did my usual surf around the app store and found Elevate. Another of those free-to-download apps that charge you if you want to do more than cursorily interact with them. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. Seems Apple likes it — it was 2014’s app of the year. I guess I’m late to the party.

You get 3 games a day for free, and it’s actually FUN to watch your performance improve (or try to make that happen). I found myself wanting to play more than my 3 a day, more than once. So when I saw they had a bit of a sale on a while ago, I sprung for a whole year of pro access (get on their mailing list and you’ll catch a sale at some point). My biggest challenge are the games that involve listening/memory and some of the math-based ones. I am at their Expert level in all the spelling and reading games. Not surprising (you’d hope that an editor’d be good at the word stuff, right?). But even the stuff I’m good at is still a challenge. This is a very well crafted app.

Damn, I love this thing. Instead of turning my brain into a giant gummy bear with Candy Crush Soda INSANITY, now I can use a little down time to exercise my synapses and pump up my neurons. Available for iOS and Android. #noaffiliation

this is fun stuff.

this is fun stuff.

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Obsession Thursday: the iconic NYC black+white cookie

Thanks to elkie465 for the picture of what looks to have been a delicious specimen.

Thanks to elkie456 for the picture of what looks to have been a delicious specimen.

My sister looked at me like I was nuts for being excited to find a black+white cookie at Max’s Deli in Highland Park, Il. “It’s just a sugar cookie,” she said. “Why are you so excited?”

I used to think the same thing. A big cookie, iced half in black and half in white. What is all the fuss about?

People, it is not what you think. The black+white cookie is not just a New York City specialty, it’s magical.

First of all, when authentically made, that cookie is not a sugar cookie. Ha! It’s a beautifully firm-yet-soft lemony sponge. It’s more like cake than cookie, but it’s firm enough to hold itself together. It’s light but satisfying, sweet but not overly so. Then there’s the icing. It’s crisp and snaps when you break the cookie. It’s, I’ve since learned, made with water, not milk or butter or cream. The texture of that thick layer of brittle icing on top of that soft, tart cookie is what makes this a magical experience.

Who invented this cookie is not certain. This article from the New York Times, circa Seinfeld in first run (when Jerry urged us all to “Look to the cookie” when dealing with the complex issue of race) suggests that it’s more than 100 years old. (That same article offers a recipe. You’re welcome.)

My first b+w was purchased at an unremarkable Manhattan bodega, wrapped in plastic wrap. I bought two, just because one never knows if this will be the best thing ever. Besides, how bad could any cookie be?

I opened it on a bus to upstate NY and took a bite and was instantly mad at myself for not buying a dozen. They were wonderful.

Our own Kate Atherley and her husband, Norman, love these things too, so when I found black+white cookies at the kosher Sobey’s (a big Ontario grocery chain) in Thornhill two nights ago, I almost drove a box directly to them. But, as we all learned the next day upon delivery, they’re…okay. There’s a bit of a snap, and a hint of the lemon, but they’re not quite right. Flip over the box, and the reason was revealed: Made in New Jersey. 

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Obsession Thursday: Selling stuff the easy way!

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 12.07.28 PMWhen I moved to my new neighborhood, I did something uncharacteristic. I turned to Facebook. What resources did it have for me?

Turns out, lots. Neighborhood pages where any local occurrence is dissected and analyzed, complaints about dog poo and unshovelled sidewalks and noise. New businesses are celebrated; old ones mourned when they close. It’s fascinating.

And then there are the Buy and Sell pages. THOSE are my newest obsession. Neighbors offload the stuff they’ve bought to other neighbors, usually at ridiculously low prices, just to get them out the door. I’ve bought (both my air conditioners are less than a year old, and were less than $100 each) and sold (the old Knitty macbook pro just went out the door today). It’s better than eBay or Kijiji or Craigslist. If you have something good to sell, it will be GONE in a flash (my laptop sold in an hour) with no fees. The biggest problem? No-shows. It’s worth the risk.

I keep looking around the apartment to see what else I can sell.

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