Knitter’s Film Picks: RAMS and ADDICTED TO SHEEP

Some of you my know that my husband is a professional film critic. A few weeks ago he told me that he had to watch a film for review: “I think you might like it. It’s set in Iceland, and it’s about sheep.”

He was entirely correct: the film RAMS is indeed set in Iceland, it’s about sheep… and I absolutely adored it. (Spoiler alert: the professional film critic did, too!) It’s an utterly charming little film about a family in a small farming community dealing with a family crisis and a farming crisis. It won the very prestigious ‘Un Certain Regard’ prize when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

The scenery is fabulous, and the knitwear is amazing. There are scenes – like the one in the photo below – where three-quarters of the people in them are wearing hand-knits. Now, as a knit designer, I’m used to being in environments where three-quarters of the people are wearing handknits, but those are knitting classes and conferences and yarn shops. This isn’t a film about knitting, and these aren’t scenes about knitting: these are just casual scenes in cafes and village halls.

What’s not to love?

Don’t just take our word for it, you can see all the glowing reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and watch the trailer.

If you’re in the UK, it’s playing in cinemas, and is available for digital rental from BFI.

If you’re in Canada, a regional run starts this Friday in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, opening in Montreal February 26 and throughout the winter in other cities.

If you’re in the US, it’s playing in NY and LA, with other cities coming soon.

Expect VOD/download and DVD releases later this year.

Although I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, I hear that “Addicted to Sheep“, which ran on UK television earlier this week is also a winner. It’s about a sheep farming family, in the north of England, and their question to breed the prefect sheep. Available for viewing .through the BBC iPlayer now, although there are geographic restrictions.

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WWW: Bouncy Happy Sheep; Knitting Needles in Space; Knitting Patterns as Code

This can’t fail to improve your day:

Have difficulty telling Llamas and Aplacas apart? This handy guide might help. Although, I’m not often in a position to encounter, let alone mistake, the two, I did enjoy learning more about the personalities of these charming creatures!

Socks worn by Albert Edward Prince of Wales, 1842. Image ©Historic Royal Palaces

A philosophical pondering on the nature of a darned sock. The author of this article thought it was about repairing buildings. I think it’s about a fascinating royal sock.

I’m often asked about whether you can take knitting needles on planes (the answer is generally yes, FYI), but I’d never considered whether you’re allowed to take knitting needles into space…

Amazing: the world’s largest crochet blanket. At 11,148 square meters – nearly 3 acres – in size took over 2000 women over 6 months to create. The objective was to establish a world record, and once it was officially measured, the blanket was divided into 8,034 individual blankets to be donated to the homeless and the needy.

A smart and interesting discussion of the parallels between knitting and writing computer code, and a discussion of the Waldorf School skill-centric teaching methods… “Can learning to knit help those learning to code?” Spoiler alert: yes!

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Surprise WIPs

Our Surprises launched a couple of weeks ago, there’s already some terrific projects taking shape.


Genesneaky‘s Here Be Dragons socks are looking terrific. A dramatic color choice, but not so dark that you can’t see the patterning. Fab.

AndreaFL‘s Talula looks very promising… I adore this color choice.

And bonus points for a really beautiful swatch….

This makes me so very happy…

And Calenia‘s Stars in the Twilight shawl is absolutely gorgeous in an unexpected but fantastic colour.

Look at the beads!

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WWW: State of the Industry Survey, Sheepy Car Commercial, On Ethical Wool

Image courtesy The Roving Crafters.

Another way at looking at color: on the Roving Crafters blog, a clever suggestion for using your phone to help you assess color when you’re in the yarn shop. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I could always use a refresher on color theory. I get it in principal, but then when I’m in the yarn shop, surrounded by so many choices, everything I know evaporates and I start to panic.

A very clear-headed post on the topic of “ethical” wool, from Australian wool maven Kylie Gusset. Specifically, she addresses some of the statements made by certain animal welfare organizations about cruelty in sheep farming practices. (It’s not as difficult a read as it might seem, I promise.)

Our own Kate (hey, that’s me!) is off to the UK later this month for a three-stop teaching tour. Look for stops at A Yarn Story in Bath Feb 20 & 21, Purlescence near Oxford March 4 & 5, and the Joeli’s Kitchen Retreat in Manchester Feb 27 & 28. (Pssst! I’ve heard that there might be one or two spots left on the retreat: hurry!)

TNNA, the US-based Fiber Arts industry organization, is looking to survey US crafters of all sorts for a state of the industry review. The survey only takes a few minutes, and it’s important research to give us a view of crafters’ interests and objectives, and it will help guide industry programs and activity. On hold with the bank today? Fill it in, please! There’s a draw for a $100 gift card for all entrants.

And as a reward for filling in the survey, Love this: a very sheepy car commercial. (With a bonus adorable dog!)


Ann and Kay. Planning.

Have you heard? The lovely ladies of Mason Dixon Knitting are Up To Something. Subscribers to their newsletter received an announcement this week about an exciting and intriguing new development, to be launched this fall. We can’t wait!

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WWW: Retreat, Get Well, Protest; or just be awesome like Katniss.

Toronto fans of yarn and shoes, alert: the Fluevog store in the Distillery District is hosting a knit night this Thursday, Jan 28th. Zen Yarn Garden will be there with her wares, and you can expect to see a many of Toronto’s knit community there… I have already chosen the shoes I’ll wear. Note that there’s absolutely no pressure to buy shoes when you’re there, it’s just a fun venue to sit and chat and knit.

Very excited to announce that Kate (that’s me!) is teaching at the upcoming WEBS retreat, to be held the weekend of September 16-18 in Western Massachusetts.  And it’s not just me: friends of Knitty Bristol Ivy, Anne Hanson, Cirilia Rose and Amy Hendrix from Madelinetosh will be there, too. Event info here.

Blog post from The New York Times on the health benefits of knitting. And I was very happy to learn about lifecoach Karen Zila Hayes (based in Toronto!) who uses knitting as the core of her wellness and therapy programs. She teaches knitting as a path to relaxation, quitting smoking, stress reduction and other benefits.

Our fearless leader Amy, who hasn’t been doing much knitting late due to hand problems, has rediscovered her love of quilting. Along the way, she’s been shopping for fabrics, and alerts us to this absolutely fab collection of knitting-themed fabrics over at Spoonflower. If you were looking for an excuse to get the sewing machine out and whip up a project bag, this is it. (Although many of them would make an excellent dresses, too…)

The Knitting Nannas is a protest group in Australia, a group of women who are campaigning against the coal-seam gas industry, which they believe threatens to destroy farmland and fragile ecosystems with its use of fracking. They bring attention to locations under dispute by installing themselves, to sit and knit. In their own words,

“We sit, knit, plot, have a yarn and a cuppa, and bear witness to the war against those who try to rape our land and divide our communities.”

There’s been a film made about them, and you can watch the trailer here. Their entirely peaceful and rather unexpected method of ‘protest’ draws attention in a way that many other kinds of efforts cannot.

Fun! A peek into knitting-related terms that appear in the Merriam Webster dictionary.

The official Hunger Games merchandise shop offers a version of Katniss’s awesome hunting cowl, for $149.99US. Or you could make your own. Go and do a search on Rav for “Katniss” and see the wealth of amazing patterns. (Note, you have to be signed in for that link to work.)

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WWW: Knitter making herself a better hat?; “A seemingly endless series of very small gestures”; Estonian mitten patterns

The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa is hosting what they call a “knitting challenge”. 

The museum tells us that

during the First and Second World Wars, hundreds of thousands of Canadians supported the troops by knitting massive quantities of socks, stockings, balaclavas, caps, sweaters and other badly needed comfort items. The Canadian Red Cross estimates that 750,000 volunteers knit 50 million articles during the Second World War.

(That’s an average of 67 items per knitter, FYI.)

Inspired by that, and in honor of the museum’s special exhibition ‘World War Women’, they’ve called on knitters to help fill a First World War supply wagon with handmade woollies. They’re accepting donations of hats, scarves and mittens until the end of January, and then those items will be donated to those in need.

Beautiful. A knitter tells the story of learning to knit with the objective of keeping her hands busy while trying to quit smoking, and learning a very important lesson about kindness and love along the way.

Every stitch, every kiss, every kindness – they all count, they all add up? Maybe love is just a seemingly endless series of very small gestures repeated until you die.

Enormously pleasing.

I really enjoyed this profile of Canadian designer Jane Richmond, on Huffington Post.

I wish I knew more about this fabulous photograph:

(My husband helpfully commented that he hoped she was knitting a hat, ‘because the one she’s wearing seems a bit odd’. I think it’s fantastic, personally, but it probably isn’t very warm…)

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On a Knitty design: Kastanienfeuer

Fantastically warm!

In the northeast of North America, after a very warm fall and year-end, winter has finally hit with a vengeance. It’s messed me up terribly. We didn’t experience that slow slide into colder weather that we typically do in November and December: early this month we had about a week of transition and then boom it’s well below freezing and there’s snow on the ground.

This mean that there wasn’t the usual slow wardrobe transition, when you progressively dig through the strata of winter gear in the closest. Just two weeks ago, I was wearing a light coat and a single layer of mittens and no hat! Now it’s the full-length down coat, hats, big cowls and double-layer mittens.

I don’t know whether you do the same thing, but I enjoy the usual slow transition into a winter as a time to assess my winter accessories. I get them out from their moth-proof plastic bags, and see how they look. Still fresh, or a little tired? Any spots of wear and tear I didn’t notice in my rush to put them away last spring? Do I still like them? The slow transition gives me time to mend, rework, or outright replace ones I’m tired of.

Back when I was editing patterns for our winter issue, it was definitely not mitten weather. Being of cold hands and currently obsessed with brioche knitting, I absolutely adored the Kastanienfeuer mittens. The brioche fabric is ideal for mittens: lush and full and insulating and soft and warm. I remember thinking to myself that they’d be an excellent candidate for this year’s mittens. And then it just never went cold, so they slipped my mind.

Then last week, it got cold. Needless to say, I’m tossing my stash for yarn for these mittens.

The designer has provided some additional guidance on working the mittens, with expanded charts, on her blog.

And checking some of the WIPs on Ravelry has made me even more excited about the project.

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WWW: 3 Socks a Week; Embroidering Stranded Colourwork; David Bowie tribute patterns

Ziggy. Excellent mitts for playing guitar?

Not just crochet: in homage to the Thin White Duke, a round-up of David Bowie-inspired patterns on the Top Crochet Patterns blog.

Speaking of David Bowie, designer Anna Elliot is using her Ziggy hat and mitts pattern to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support in the UK.

WHOA: Rachel knitted 60 pairs of socks last year. Oh yeah, and for 11 weeks of the year she wasn’t able to knit. That’s 60 pairs of socks in 41 weeks. That’s 1.5 pairs of socks a week. Yes, that’s right, 3 socks a week. We bow down to you!

#111, Positively Fasset-esque.

Fab! A ranking of all 118 sweaters worn on the TV series Twin Peak.

Designer Karie Westermann tweeted a photo of the Great Tapestry of Scotland, showing a section of the design hand-stitched to look like knitting. At first glance, it’s lovely, but then you look closer and realize that they’ve also shown the WS of the work, and hand-stitch the floats…

Enjoying this very much: the UK Hand Knitting Association asked on Twitter for stories about how people learned to knit. They are retweeting the responses. Lovely.

Not knitting, but really realy great. A simple animated GIF answers a question I’ve had for years: how a lock-stitch sewing machine works. H/t to friend-of-the-show MmeZabet.

Also found on Twitter, a rather fab knitting tattoo. Seems fairly appropriate for a tech editor, don’t you think?

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Bimtral: On designing for specific properties of a yarn and clever grafting

The Winter issue features a new design from one our favourite hat designers,  Woolly Wormhead.

Bimtral is classic Woolly: flattering and easy to wear, and all sorts of fun to knit.

It’s worked sideways – not just for fun, but to address the properties of the yarn that Woolly chose. The yarn is a wonderful blend of camel and silk, which is soft but not wildly stretchy. So Woolly turned the hat 90 degrees, substituting sideways garter for the usual lower-edge ribbing. But because it’s worked sideways, it requires a graft to finish. But this graft is not your usual – it’s grafted in a very particular manner to create a purl ridge.

Since grafting can be a bit tricky at the best of times, Woolly has written a tutorial on her blog, here.  It turns out that the specific technique required for this hat is actually the easiest of all of the “speciality” grafts – even easier than the standard version, in fact!

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WWW: Unravellers, Untanglers, Knitting for Munich follow-up

Beautiful, unexpected and moving: a personal essay from the Paris Review: The Unravellers. On knitting as “a metaphor for everything I’ve ever failed at. Note: the language and subject matter are both adult in nature.

Image from The Wall Street Journal.

And then there are Untanglers: those who enjoy dealing with horrible tangled messes of yarn. (You can tell how I feel about them just by the way I wrote that last sentence!)

Even if you know about the group, the piece is worth a read, just to feel your visceral reaction to some of the tangled messes that knitters have got themselves into. You might recoil, as I did, or you might enjoy contemplating the puzzle!

(I adore that this piece in the mainstream media is about a group on Ravelry.)

Image courtesy the artist.

A fascinating interview with artist Nicola Gibson, who knits sculptures. She crafts often life-size realistic sculptures of things both living and manufactured – chickens and shoes are two highlights – from mixed textile media and techniques. She uses machine knitting, machine embroidery, felting and sewing. She began her career after art school as a sculpter, using more conventional sculpting tools and media, but has transitioned to using textile materials and techniques for her work. You can learn more about her work on her website.

Relevant to my interests: actual instructions provided by the BBC for knitting The Doctor’s scarf. The document is apparently genuine, and was sent sometime in the 1980s to a viewer’s mother who enquired about instructions for making a replica scarf for her child. There’s a nice bit of background on the actual scarf prop, too.

You might recall us writing about the ‘Knitting for Munich’ initiative in Laura Nelkin’s Ravelry group. One the knitters involved was on CBS over the Christmas period, talking about the program.

One of the organizers posted a photograph in the Ravelry of a little boy picking a hat, and knitter Anna recognized it as her work. Anna proudly sent her Mom an e-mail with the photo, her mom shared it on Facebook (like Moms do) and her aunt (who works for CBS) saw it and things snowballed from there!

So many times when you contribute to a charity drive like this, you don’t see where the items end up. I love that Anna was able to see her donation going to a grateful recipient.

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