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The Wool Cycle

I moved house in the summer, and got myself a brand-new fancy-modern super-duper Samsung washing machine. It’s got all sorts of wonderful features and functions, including this rather interesting cycle, labelled simply “Wool”.

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Intriguing…

Now, I’m a huge proponent of washing woolies – yes, even those that aren’t superwash! – and having had front-loaders for years, I’ve never been afraid of using the washer’s spin cycle, but I must confess I was a bit nervous about a full machine wash for my more important handknits. And having consulted the manual, I got a bit worried: the manual states that the cycle is only for woolies that are labelled as machine washable.

(The spin cycle on a front loading washing machine and on many of the newer top-loaders, the ones that don’t have a central agitator, is actually very gentle on your garments. The spin cycle relies on centrifugal forces to fling your items against the side of the drum and leave it there, while the water spins away. After a soak, my handwash loads get thrown in the machine for a spin. Yes, even the most delicate of my knits and other handwash pieces – lingerie, and the like. When I was shopping for a new machine, the presence of a spin-only cycle was critical to me, I won’t buy a washing machine that doesn’t let me do that.)

I’ve been promising to try it the wool cycle for months, but had been avoiding it. I’m working on a big writing task right now, and in my keenness to find a distraction, I decided that today was the day. Rather than start with a precious hand-knit sweater, I decided to do a trial load: I threw in some wooly tights (store bought, low wool-content, marked machine washable), a store-bought wool and alpaca blend sweater, clearly labelled hand wash only, a pair of alpaca-blend handknit socks in a yarn that is marked superwash, but I know doesn’t do well in the machine, and a handknit swatch in a yarn I know that felts.

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My ‘volunteers’.

My resolve only wavered once, when I looked at the settings of the cycle: a warm wash, spin set to ‘low’, for a full hour.

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Okaaaaaay….

I threw everything in, with a cold-wash detergent. (Honestly, if these were my best hand-knits, I would use a wool wash. I’m a big fan of Soak.)

I loaded up the machine, turned the dial, crossed my fingers, and pressed go. I got no work done over that hour, as I kept wandering to my laundry room to have a look. The door is opaque, so I wasn’t able to actually see what was going on, but I looked at how the machine was moving, and I listened. According to the Samsung website, what distinguishes the wool cycle is that the drum only moves “horizontally”. Remember, it’s not actually the presence of water that causes felting – it is agitation or friction. (Although a temperature shock can also cause a bit of felting, it’s really not the key factor.) It seemed clear from the noises the machine was – or more to the point, wasn’t – making that there is essentially no rotation, and therefore no opportunity for the garment to experience any  friction.

An hour later, the washer sang its little end-of-cycle notification song – a musician friend tells me that it’s Schubert – and I rushed downstairs. I must confess I hesitated a little before I opened the door.

But I really needn’t have been worried: everything came out clean and wonderful, unfelted and undisturbed. Everything was fluffy and soft and nice.

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Fab!

I will definitely be doing that again! I will note that when I talked a bit about this on Twitter, a couple of people reported less happy experiences. It seems like there’s a load size limit – the larger the load, the larger the pieces, the higher the risk of felting. That does make sense, since a tub full of wool will have more opportunity to experience friction. And some machines are probably more gentle than others. If you’ve not used it before, I’d recommend experimenting with swatches and perhaps a store-bought sweater or two before you put your favourite handknits in.

Does your machine have a wool or hand-wash cycle? Have you tried it?

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WWW: City of Craft, STEELwool commemoration, “Abominaball Snowman”

Steelworkers at the University of Toronto, experienced knitters and beginners together, have contributed to an installation, STEELwool, in recognition of Bill 132, a program against workplace violence and sexual harrassment. 132 scarves were displayed yesterday at all three of the University’s campuses. The date of the installation, December 6th, was chosen specifically: it marks the anniversary of the event known as ‘The Montreal Massacre‘, a shooting at the University of Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, in which 14 women were died, targeted specifically because of their gender.


If you’re in the Toronto area, this weekend’s City of Craft show is definitely worth a visit. A celebration of all things handmade, the event runs all weekend, and features 60 vendors, representing some of the best makers from our region. There are also workshops and installations.

City of Craft is a collective of craft-engaged arts organizers who aim to build community in the Toronto craftscape, support independent craft businesses, and encourage the larger community to get involved with crafty happenings in the city. We organize Toronto’s largest independently-run, juried craft show each December featuring craft-based installations, free workshops, and craft-related programming in local businesses and galleries, attracting approximately 4,000 attendees.


Love this! It’s pretty saucy, full of terrible puns and cheeky language… definitely NSFW for innuendo and woolly nudity… Make sure your sense of humor is fully operational, and maybe put headphones on?  The “Nudiknits” winter film: The Abonimaball Snowman. 


Some women are going for a walk in Washington this coming January. They might need hats.

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WWW: Hexagonal Needles, Scarves in the Park, How Much is Lifetime’s Worth of Sock Yarn?

The makers behind the needles.

You might not be familiar with the hexagonal needles made by Indian Lake Artisans. They’re a beautiful product, made in the US – and it was all inspired by an experimental attempt a knitting with pencils.


I’ve seen a number of initiatives like this pop up in recent years, and I think it’s an excellent idea: leaving scarves and other winter accessories in public parks, where those in need might find them. This CNN piece highlights one such project, in Manchester, New Hampshire.


The Centre for Art Tapes, in Halifax, NS, is a not for profit artist-run, charitable, organization that facilitates and supports artists at all levels working with electronic media including video, audio, and new media. Their latest artist in residence is Merle Harley, who explores the parallels between codes, algorithms, and systems within electronics, and knitting and weaving patterns.


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How long would it take to work through this?

Notification of this contest arrived in our mailbox with the subject line: ‘Important Cause: Win Socks for Life’. I wasn’t sure, at first, if the organization in question was giving away actual socks, but upon further investigation, I discovered that YarnCanada is giving away “a lifetime’s worth of sock yarn” . This, of course, begs a discussion about the average sock knitter’s production. The prize includes 123 skeins of sock yarn, a variety of fibers and weights. How long would it take you to use that up?


Opinions on arm-knitting are divided, but I do love the speed with which you can create an apparently highly fashionable giant blanket. I find the gif of the designer working on her project really quite soothing.

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WWW: Knitting as a Political Act, The Sock Machine, Fashion Inspiration

I really enjoyed this profile of Karida Collins, the owner of Neighborhood Fiber Co. Karida is clear-headed and honest about the challenges of running a “creative” business.


Just in time for your holiday gift list… a lovely new coffee table book, “People Knitting: A Century of Photographs”. Lots of wonderful pictures at the link.


Photo courtesy CBC. Undated image from late 19th/early 20th century documenting a sock machine in action.

“How a Sock Machine Helped Win the First World War”. These sock machines were a marvel of modern technology at the start of the 20th century, and they played a remarkable role in supporting armed forces in both of the World Wars.


Knitty columnist and knitting historian Donna Druchunas blogs about the role of knitting in protest, knitting as a Political act. Important.


Eye candy? Design inspiration? Ideas for your next project? Whatever, it’s just nice to see a handsome man in a handsome sweater. GQ Magazine offers up a list of 10 chunky sweaters they have deemed fashionable for this winter. Sadly more sweaters than men, but still very nice to look at.

And Vogue Magazine offers up some suggestions for styling knits for winters. I’m not ever going to be able to afford to buy anything they suggest (although holy cow if I win the lottery I’m absolutely getting myself some of those cashmere leggings), but I love these fashion spreads for ideas and inspiration!


I think this is wonderful. If you’re out and about in cold weather, keep an a couple of pairs of warm socks with you, and hand them out to those in need.

They don’t have to be handknits, of course. Any socks are better than no socks.

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WWW: On Solace and Symbols

Craft as Solace.  “Beauty is not trivial. Connection is not trivial. It inspires us and lights us up. And when we are alive we can’t help but find hope.” Yes.

On a similar note: On the handknit scarf as symbol.


There was a fuss last week in the UK when news broke that department store John Lewis was planning to reduce their haberdashery (I do so love that word!) offerings. They’ve since reversed that decision, and this piece explains very nicely the value of this corner of the shop, “A trip to John Lewis’s haberdashery department is a journey into the centre of a Venn diagram of properly nerdy interests and interests which are culturally associated with women.”


Amazing: a knitter from Baltimore, who has been knitting for 17 years, has made 92 sweaters. More extraordinarily than that fact alone is that each is a unique creation, designed by the knitter, depicting a place in the world. “As an avid traveler with a satiable wanderlust, he knits sweaters that represent both his excursions and the places he dreams of traveling to.”


The Inclusive LYS program. Fly the flag.


Not specifically knitting, but still wonderful. An acquaintance of mine, Dai of Toronto, who has an excellent eye, has recently been to Iceland. Her Instagram feed is a wealth of delights, beautiful images of this most beautiful country.

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Deep Fall Surprise: The Tuplet Shawl

Our SURPRISE for this most recent issue had two VERY different patterns. Very. The Anyadell thigh-high cabled socks are a once-in-a-lifetime jaw-dropping statement-making eye-popping sort of design. The Boss of Sock Knitting, as someone dubbed them. They’re amazing, no doubt.

But I have to say I am enormously fond of other pattern, the Tuplet Shawl, too. It’s gentle. It’s understated. It’s subtle. And it absolutely shouldn’t be missed.

Tuplet is an excellent way to use a gradient set, or use up partial skeins of yarn. Rather than resort to leftovers-socks (don’t get me wrong, I love leftovers socks) why not show them off in this shawl?

Imagine the color combos… let your stash fly!

The designer, Heather, has provided some background and supporting info – including a “cheat sheet” to help you keep track of the rows as you work.

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WWW: Academic Study, A Lifelong Habit, Epic Yarnbomb

With thanks to Donna Druchunas, who brought this to my attention.

Ruth Gilbert, textile historian and weaver, has kindly offered access to her 2009 MPhil thesis, “The King’s Vest and the Seaman’s Gansey: Continuity and Diversity of Construction in Hand Knitted Body Garments in North Western Europe Since 1550″. Fascinating reading.


And another academic study: a paper from University of Central Arkansas Theology department, looking at the work of the groups known as “Prayer-Shawl Ministries”. Quoting from the abstract: Prayer shawl ministries, overwhelmingly led and staffed by women, aim to give comfort to the bereaved. Shawl makers often want to respond to communal tragedy and grief such as mass shootings. This case study uses qualitative interviews with shawl makers from white and African-American ministry groups, placing their statements in the context of benevolent handwork, disaster response, and the culture of mass shootings.


Harriet Aufses, like many of us, knits scarves to donate to a good cause. She makes about 20 or so scarves a year, to be sent off to members of the US military serving overseas. What’s more remarkable about Harriet is that she is 90, and has been knitting for 85 years.


Whatcha doin’ in April? Come and hang out with me, Amy Herzog, Laura Nelkin, Catherine Lowe and Kim McBrien-Evans of Indigodragonfly in sunny California.


I write this on Tuesday morning, before we know the results of the US Election. No matter what the results, I couldn’t not share this fantastic work of yarn-bombing, by the very talented Olek:

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WWW: Poppies, Podcasting and Colors

With a hat tip to Bristol Ivy, I bring your attention to this magnificent way to spend the rest of the day: an analysis of 59 different color categorization systems from art and science, used over the past several centuries. Did you know that Isaac Newton published a colour theory?


Healthy cashmere goats. Images from The Times.

Important and illuminating reading: on Ethical fiber choices, written by Linda of Kettle Yarn Company. The article comes from research she did when sourcing her yarns and fibers.


Much discussion around Toronto last week prompted by this article in our local paper about a luxury hand-knit tuque being sold by a local fashion designer for $200. (And yes, there was also discussion outside of Toronto about the word ‘tuque’ – it’s Canadian for “beanie hat”.) The hat is made of a blend of merino, cashmere and qiviut. Honestly, the price sounds entirely reasonable to me, for that fiber blend and to compensate the knitter for the work that goes into it.


Jo of Shinybees

On The Guardian, a piece about how entrepreneurs use podcasting to help their businesses. Knitter Jo Milmine talks about how she uses her Shinybees podcast to connect with knitters all around the world, and how it opened up new business opportunities for her. Her work has been recognized as Best UK podcast at the New Media Europe Awards.


Image from Laura Chau’s website.

November 11th is Remembrance Day in various countries around the world – Canada, the UK, Australia and others. To commemorate the day, many choose to wear a poppy symbol. You might wish to make your own… patterns here. Traditionally, you buy a poppy from a seller, as a way of making a donation to groups who support veterans of war. If you do make your own, consider making a donation anyway. I made my own a few years ago, using Laura Chau’s pattern.

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WWW: Amy’s Fave Yarn Shops, Yarnporium, Planned Pooling

Our own Amy was interviewed for this great piece on the USA Today website about her favourite yarn stores around North America.


If you’re in the UK, mark your calendars for the weekend of November 5 & 6 – that’s the first ever Yarn in the City Yarnporium. More than 40 vendors and instructors are gathering for a weekend of shopping and workshops, at King’s College on the Strand.


This is jaw-droppingly clever: Planned Pooling. It’s an app to simulate knitting with variegated yarns, so you can see how they pool. Yes, really!


From the New York Times: What Knitting Can Teach Us About Parenting (and life in general, I think).


Image from Etsy.

Lovely profile of yarn dyer Jill Draper, on Etsy’s “Quit Your Day Job” blog.

 

 

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WWW: Winner of movie tickets; The Great Swatch Experiment

The two winners of our giveaway for tickets to see YARN THE MOVIE when it screens in Toronto are Marina and Claudia! We hope you enjoy it!


And I’m posting one article here this week because of how important I think it is. This week, instead of reading me, you should go read this blog post:

Kelbourne Woolens is running The Great Swatch Experiment, and they’ve posted the data from the first swatch.

If you’ve never really understood (or believed) that different knitters can get different results with the same yarn and the same needles – well, prepare to be blown away.

Image from The Kelbourne Woolens blog.

This post provides background on the series and the experiment. This is such an important thing to do!

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