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The Hidden Costs of Summer Knitting

The seasons have changed: it’s getting hot in the northern hemisphere, and cooler in the southern hemisphere.

Seasonal knitting is an interesting question: I know a lot of knitters who tend to put their needles down in hot weather.  Makes sense to me – do you really want to have a massive wool blanket draped over your lap when the mercury rises?

The colder the weather gets, I crave larger projects: blankets I can wrap around myself as I work, and big sweaters I can cuddle up with.

carefully knitting small things in the summer sunshine

I knit socks and lace in the summer, for the most part, and I choose the yarns carefully.  My hands get very warm and a bit clammy – I’m funny that way – and I’m always nervous that I might accidentally felt the yarn.

About 10 years ago, I offered to make a shawl for a friend’s wedding.  She was getting married in northern Ontario, in late September.  The evenings can get pretty cool there, so we chose a  mohair yarn.  All well and good, but a September wedding meant I was knitting in August – and it must have been the hottest August we’d had in some years.  It was a big shawl, too. At the time, I had a window air conditioning unit in my living room.  I spent every evening for four weeks huddled beside the window, with the air conditioning cranked up to maximum.

I finished it on time, and it was beautiful, and the bride loved it.

And a good thing, too: I can say with absolutely certainty that it was the most expensive thing I’ve ever knitted.  The yarn was pretty inexpensive – it was the air conditioning bill that pushed the price up.

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Gift Knitting Season Already?; Patriotism

Image courtesy Interweave Press.

Some knitters are starting to consider their project lists for end-of-year gift knitting.  To help you with those lists,  look for these books on your LYS bookshelf very soon:

Joelle Hoverson & Anna Williams’ More Last Minute Knitted Gifts

Mags Kandis’ Gifted: Lovely Little Things to Knit and Crochet

Anna Hrachovec’s Knitting Mochimochi: 20 Super-Cute Strange Designs for Knitted Amigurumi.  If you’re in the NYC area July 11th, attend the launch party at Brooklyn General Store to see some of this adorableness in person.

Betcha can't knit just one...


We’re in the throws of World Cup, and the season of National Holidays. No matter who or what you’re celebrating, make sure you have a knitted flag to wave:

The Stars & Stripes

The Maple Leaf Forever

Flag of St. George

If you’re looking for other patriotic accessories, try these:

Flag-themed hats from DROPS

Germany hat

Swiss Flag dishcloth/baby bib

A rather amazing collection of flag design coasters designed by Kathy Murray, available for purchase on Ravelry.

And if you’re more about the football than supporting a specific country, knit yourself an actual football.

Happy Canada Day to our Canadian friends &  Happy 4th of July to our US friends!

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Inspiration and Duck Feet

An arty and inspiring Wednesday.


Karen Searle, How My Mother Dressed Me (Detail); Image from KarenSearle.com

I’m regularly awed and inspired by the work featured on the ArtYarn blog….  the work of Fibre Artist Karen Searle was recently featured.

Karen works in a variety of fiber media, and she has knitted and crocheted a variety of pieces – some life size, and some miniatures.  The stunning dresses are each 6 inches high, knitted in copper wire.

ArtYarn is a collaborative knitting and crochet project coordinated by visual artist Rachael Elwell, and their goal is to collaborate with local community groups, world wide knitting and crochet networks and arts organizations to create gallery installations, public arts projects and creative craft workshops.

Both sites are worth a visit.


Blouse, mola, San Blas Islands, Panama, 20th century; Image courtesy of Textile Museum of Canada

The Textile Museum of Canada has just announce a new exhibit, Drawing with Scissors, featuring the Mola work of Kuna Yola. Running July 21, 2010 to February 13, 2011, the exhibit features the handcrafted traditional blouses of the Kuna people, an indigenous people of the San Blas Islands, Panama.

The motifs are worked in reverse applique and embroidery, and depict images from the world in which the Kuna live – invoking and blending both their traditional beliefs and way of life and the influence of the modern world around them.  Works might feature images of ancient spirits intertwined with images inspired by television – from the news or Disney cartoons.


Another stunning exhibition has just opened at the Newport Mills in Newport, New Hampshire.  Fabrications is a mixed media exhibition featuring work by 19 international, national and regional artists.  In acknowledgment of the building’s history as a working mill, Fabrications presents artworks using textiles in innovative, contemporary ways, and showcases projects that utilize weaving, sewing, knitting, crocheting, and spinning into unexpected forms and unusual materials.  It runs until September 25th.


Duck feet. Not just for babies anymore.

Looking for cuteness and high degrees of adorability in your knitting? Check out Petite Purls’ Summer issue. Full of great babies’ and kids’ patterns.

And if you need some cuteness in adult size, consider Jeny’s Felted Duck booties, a grownup version of the Duck socks from the Spring issue.


Did you win in our contest? Emails have gone out from knittyadmanager @ gmail to our lucky prize winners. Check your spam filters!


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What I’ve Knitty-ed

The Morgan hat. Not just for winter.

This past November I knitted myself a Morgan hat. It’s a tremendously fun and interesting knit, and I wore it all winter. I love it enough that I wore it on days when I didn’t really need a hat; I even wore it indoors.  And come summer, I’m still wearing it.

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Obsession: Coil-less Safety Pins

A good collection, improved

Many older knitting books mention a rather mysterious tool: the coil-less safety pin. I’ve been reading about them for years, and quietly wondering what the fuss is about. I’m always up for trying a new tool, but I could never seem to find them.

I do love me a good safety pin. I use them for all sorts of things: as markers, as stitch holders, as a crochet hook substitute for picking up dropped stitches, to keep track of a bunch of increases and decreases (just stick ’em in the knitting when you do the increase, and you can more easily count them). I even use big ones as shawl pins and instead of buttons on cardigans. I have a fair collection in a little tin – including the little plastic safety-pin style stitch holders.

The little plastic marker ones are good, but they are very small. And the traditional safety pin have a serious weakness: the yarn can get trapped in the coil. I’m doing a lot of lace knitting at the moment, and I’ve been nervous about using standard safety pins with delicate yarns. It occurred to me that coil-less safety pins might be the answer. But I’d never actually found any!

I’ve looked in every knitting shop I’ve ever been into, and never seen them.  Sure, stitch holders are basically giant coil-less safety pins, but they are too big. I wanted smaller ones.

Last weekend, a generous knitter (who also happens to quilt) was at one of my LYSs , waving around a bag full of coil-less safety pins. I cornered her and asked her where she got them. Turns out they are to be found in quilting shops. I’ve never stepped foot in a quilting shop in my life, so without her I may never have found them.

She gave me a few.

My life has changed.

I can use them for all the things I used to use normal safety pins for, but I need never worry about the yarn catching again.

I am indeed obsessed.  You know what to give me for my birthday…

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Obsession of the Moment: Doctor Who

The Eleventh Doctor & Amy Pond.  Image copyright BBC.

The Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond. Image (c) BBC.

Ok, I lie.  This has been an obsession of mine, oh, since I was about 7.

Doctor Who (Wikipedia link for full and wondrous history) is a science fiction TV series produced by the BBC.  Its initial incarnation ran from 1963 to 1989. I am a Brit, and I grew up with it.

It’s about a mysterious time- and space- traveling Time Lord who goes by the name of the Doctor, and is a great mix of science fiction, mystery, fairy-tale and old-fashioned adventure romp.  It’s funny and thrilling and cheesy in just the right balance. The clever trick is that Time Lords can regenerate their bodies, so that when an actor quits the series, he can be replaced by another. My doctor was Tom Baker, complete with awesome scarf (which, naturally, has its own website with patterns for the different versions from different seasons).  The series sorta petered out in the 1980s.

But in 2005 it was brilliantly revised by Russell T. Davies and his team.  And this new incarnation is, IMHO, even better than the original.  It’s funnier and thrillinger and cheesier, but all still in perfect balance. We’re on our third Doctor of the new incarnation, Matt Smith, and he’s turned out to be terrific.  No-one was sure he could fill the very large shoes of David Tennant, who left last year;  just as no-one was sure Tennant could fill the very large shoes of Christopher Eccleston, who was the initial relaunch Doctor. But each has made his own impression – and in the case of David Tennant, what a delicious impression that was.

The latest series is running right now in the UK on BBC One, and in the US on BBC America. (Choose your link carefully – the US is two episodes behind the UK, and the UK site has spoilers for upcoming episodes.)

If you’ve not given it a go, start with the Christopher Eccleston series.  Knitting television of the finest order – and not just because there is a knitter in the recent episode, Amy’s Choice.

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Outdoor Knitting Kit

Kate Knitting in Public

If you’re planning to participate in WWKIP day this coming weekend – and especially if you’re going to be part of the Toronto-based attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for most knitters in one place – you need to be prepared. You want to have your tools with you, but you also want to pack light so you’re mobile.

Here are the tools I recommend you carry if you’re going to leave the house with your knitting:

  • a handful of safety pins or removable stitch markers – these are great for catching dropped stitches or using as extra markers, or to keep track of your progress – I tend to just stick them in my knitting before I leave the house
  • a crochet hook – for picking up any pesky dropped stitches
  • a photocopy of your pattern or chart, in a plastic bag or sheet protector & a waterproof knitting bag – waterbottles do spill

As to other tools – consider your project and where it’s at:

  • will you need scissors? Only if you will need to change yarn, or be seaming or weaving in ends.  Many knitters find nail clippers good for out-of-home knitting, or you may be able to break the yarn – test an end!
  • will you need a tape measure? Will you need to measure anything? Did you know a US dollar bill is exactly 6 inches wide?  Know the length of your needle and use that to measure!
  • using DPNs? Take a spare, or change to magic loop for the day.

The objective is to take only the absolute essentials, so be ruthless about paring down your kit for the day.

Ideal outdoor knitting projects:

  • something small – do you really want to be dragging that blanket around town? lace! socks! kids’ garments!
  • something for which you don’t need to consult the pattern very often, but bring the pattern anyway (ok, make that easy lace)
  • something in cotton, silk or smooth wool – if it’s summer where you are, you’ll want it to be cool to handle (no mohair or alpaca)
  • something you want to show off

My all-time favorite knit-in-public project is a plain old stocking stitch sock – I get the cast-on and ribbing done at home, and then I’m off to the races just plain knittin’ for a while.

Non knit-specific but still very useful things to have on hand:

  • sunscreen & hat
  • water bottle
  • wet wipes to clean your hands before you start knitting – because ice cream stains are hard to get out of wool
  • a big smile – you may well be photographed

And just as for travel knitting, it’s not a bad idea to thread a lifeline before you do leave the house.

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Travel Knitting; WIPs on a Plane!

knitting at Newark airport

In the northern hemisphere, the summer travel season is upon us.  My friends and rellies in the southern hemisphere are planning their winter ski vacations.

And every traveling knitter, no matter where you are in the world, has one key question in mind: can I take my knitting on a plane?  The answer is an enthusiastic but qualified yes.

Within North America, the TSA clearly states that “Items needed to pursue a Needlepoint project are permitted in your carry-on baggage”.  Read their post for a bit more detail.  The Canadian Air Transportation Security Authority agrees.

Within most of western Europe and the UK, and between North America and Europe, they are also permitted.  These Heathrow Airport Security guidelines state that knitting needles are “widely prohibited”, and says that you should ask your airline, but doesn’t outright tell you not to bring them. I’ve flown in and out of Heathrow a number of times in the past few years, and not had a problem. The only exception seems to be France, which has an outright ban.

Although they have announced that the policy will change, right now Australia remains the most restrictive, qualifying knitting needles as “dangerous goods”. New Zealand permits them, however.

Ultimately, no matter what the airline and government regulations are within a given territory, you’re still at the mercy of whoever is manning the security checkpoint.

To reduce the chances of confiscation, take wood, bamboo or plastic needles rather than metal.  If you do want to take metal, I recommend short circulars – I’ve not had any problems with them.  And this sounds silly, but don’t ask the question or bring attention to them – just stuff your equipment in your carry on bag and send it through the x-ray machine.  “Needle” is a word that has many meanings, some of them scary, and you’re more likely to get attention if you’re overheard using it.  Have your knitting cast-on – I’ve heard of some people being questioned for having needles without knitting on them.

I also tend to pare down my kit when I’m traveling – to save space and hassle.  I leave my scissors, metal ruler and tins of safety pins at home or in my checked baggage.

You may be asked to surrender your needles, so don’t take your favorite ones on the plane. When traveling, I always transfer my knitting to inexpensive needles I wouldn’t be upset about losing.  If you don’t want to lose them, carry a self-addressed, stamped puffy envelope with you so you can mail them home.  Thread a lifeline before you leave for the airport so that if you do have the surrender the needles, your knitting can be salvaged.  And bring something to read, just in case.

And just because you arrived somewhere with your needles doesn’t mean you’ll be allowed to leave with them – there may be different rules at your departing airport.

But most important of all, remember that yarn bought while traveling doesn’t count as stash, it’s a souvenir!

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