Knitting Mondays

Geek Knits Charity Auction

You saw the cover, yeah? You saw our cover boy? 

Yup, that’s author Neil Gaiman, modelling a scarf designed by Joan of Dark. Joan has just released a book, Geek Knits, and it’s full of fun and geeky knits of all stripes and fandoms, modelled by all sorts of fun characters and people from the ‘geek-iverse’. Yes, that’s right, other nerd-heroes in knitwear. What’s not to love?

Because Joan is a good sort, she has decided to auction off the book samples for the benefit of Doctors Without Borders. The first item, the Blue Box scarf as modeled by actor Rene Auberjonois, is open for bidding until next Wednesday. The items will be auctioned off over the next few months – follow the Facebook group for details.



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Back in 2011, I ran a survey to gather foot measurements. Although I design and knit many things, socks have been my main focus for a long time. Being a small-footed type, proper sock sizing was important to me, and this survey was designed to help me and other designers better size sock patterns. Many Knitty readers contributed their measurements – thank you! And I published my findings on this blog.

Almost exactly four years later, this survey has become part of a book, too: Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet* launches this summer.


I know! It’s a terrible image! But it should convey what I need, I hope?

Now it’s time for the other extremity: hands. I’m doing the same thing, gathering information on hand size, to help me better size mittens for adults and children. If you’ve got a minute or two spare, and a tape measure handy, will you please measure your hands for me? Both of them, ideally? And maybe the hands of the other members of your household?

It’s quick, I promise! There are two questions about demographics (age group, and whether you work in metric or imperial) and then six measurements as shown in the graphic. Survey here. I’ve also added a place for you to tell me about any special mitten and glove fit needs you might have and customizations you might make: do you always make a string? do you always work extra-long cuffs? do you have trouble with the thumb lengths?

Thank you! I will, as before, publish the results here. (And yes, I am hoping to publish another book, too.)

*If you’re interested, there’s  more info about the sock book here and here:

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Epic Yarnbomb: The Tim Horton’s Truck

I mentioned last week about the launch of Canadian coffee chain Tim Horton’s new knitting-themed cups for the winter and holiday season.

Very knitterly.

It turns out there was a bigger knitting connection than you might have suspected…

Tim’s runs ‘coffee-runner’ trucks, that drive around sampling and selling their much-loved coffee. They’re seen regularly at all sorts of places and community events, distributing warmth and cheer.  And the gang at Toronto yarn shop Lettuce Knit got involved, to yarn bomb one of trucks!


Covert knitting party.

30 knitters spent over 1000 hours at the needles, between October 27th and November 16th. They used 412 skeins of Cascade Eco wool, triple-stranded on 12mm needles.

The project was managed by knitter and ex-Lettuce Knit manager Brenna MacDonald and her computer scientist and knitter boyfriend Matt Kosichek.

The team signed an NDA with Tim Horton’s, and I doubt the CIA could have run a better secret yarn-bombing campaign. Very few of the knitters working on the project knew what it was all about. The panels were divided up so no one knitter had the identifying parts of the design. Key elements were worked in secret, and Brenna and Matt spent a lot of time denying their involvement in anything. Fun!


The panels before being put on the truck.


More panels.

This time-lapse video of the truck being wrapped up is terrific.

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Knockout Knits Giveaway!

Laura Nelkin is a longtime friend and Knitty designer. Her first pattern Abrazo appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of Knitty. Her most most popular Knitty pattern is the ethereal Mythos from First Fall 2010. She’s even in the our current issue with Gusto. But I’m not here to talk about Laura’s work for Knitty. I want to make sure that everyone knows about her newly published book Knockout Knits: New Tricks for Scarves, Hats, Jewelry and Other Accessories.

Get yourself a copy!

Get yourself a copy!

It’s a fun and gorgeous book. Here’s Amy’s review from the current issue of Knitty:

Knockout Knits: New Tricks for Scarves, Hats, Jewelry, and Other Accessories

I love that this book is dedicated to the author’s Ravelry group. It shows her dedication to learning from her students and fans, the hallmark (in my opinion) of a great teacher.This book is more than a book of accessories, not surprisingly, then. It’s a teaching tool in itself. Full of projects, each designed to teach a skill or set of skills, it’s a portable classroom in 144 pages.

She focuses on three techniques: wrapped and elongated stitches, advancing lace skills, and — of course — Nelkin’s signature of late: knitting with beads. Starting with accessory projects as simple as a buttoned cuff, she’ll take you through each technique in a gentle and logical manner until you’re ready for the beaded lace gauntlets on the book’s cover (so beautiful!) or the lacy, Gyrus Tam near the back of the book. The Quadro Convertible Shrug is another stunner.

The section on knitting with beads is enough to make the book a knitter’s library must. Information about what yarn content works best with beads, how to choose beads suitable for knitting, and much more are essential reading for anyone wanting to add sparkle to their fiber. Hard to pick a favorite pattern in this section, but the gradient Halli Shawl is a jaw dropper. Want.

I love the Cha-Ching Mitts on the cover and here are some other patterns that I’m excited to knit.

Halli Shawl (upper Left), Gateway Cuff (upper right), Loco Shawl (lower left) and Folly Cloche (bottom right).

Halli Shawl (upper Left), Gateway Cuff (upper right), Loco Shawl (lower left) and Folly Cloche (bottom right).

Laura, Potter Craft and Craftsy have put together an sensational giveaway for KnittyBlog readers!

A copy of Knockout Knits!

The Book!

The Book!

A kit for the Cha-Ching Mitts!

The Kit!

The Kit!

Laura’s Knitting with Beads Craftsy class!

nelkin knitbeads

The Class!

One lucky KnittyBlog readers will win all three prizes.

Our regular rules apply: Leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, Friday,  September 18th. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the book, kit and class. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance. Giveaway value $96.98

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Travel Knitting

It’s vacation time! And knitting is an important part of your vacation plans. (Well, it is for me, so I assume it is for you too.)

A few things to keep in mind when you’re taking your knitting on the road…

  • Wind your yarn before you go. All your yarn.
  • Do an inventory of the materials needed for your project – don’t forget the cable needle!
  • Always pack extra yarn in your travelling bag: traffic jams and flight delays happen, so have more yarn than you think you might possibly need for the trip.
  • Pack extra yarn in your suitcase. I travel with two kinds of projects: something that requires very little attention, so I can enjoy the scenery and my companions’ conversation on whatever patio we’re enjoying; and something more complex project to help pass the time in the car, the airport lounge and the bus station.
  • Pack your yarn in zip-lock bags so that everything is together and protected from sunscreen spills.
  • Work fine-gauge projects: there’s a lot more knitting time and value in a single skein of laceweight or sock yarn than a single skein of worsted weight yarn. A single ball of sock yarn can easily entertain me for an entire weekend.
  • If you’re a DPN knitter, consider learning magic loop or the two-circulars method to reduce the chance you’ll lose a needle.
  • Photocopy your pattern – or print off a spare – and keep it in a sheet protector so if you spill your iced coffee the pattern is protected. And tuck a pen and some scrap paper in there to keep notes.


  • And don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase for more yarn.

If you’re travelling by plane, there’s a few other things to keep in mind:

  •  Although metal needles are permitted by most airlines and airport security organizations, I prefer to play it safe: I switch off to wood, bamboo or plastic needles. I also pare down my kit: I don’t take scissors or a darning needle or anything metal or pointy in my carry-on bag. I pack the metal tools.
  • If you need to cut yarn in-flight, consider packing some dental floss in your carry-on bag. The little floss cutter also cuts yarn.


  • Dental floss can also be used as a lifeline. I highly recommend feeding a lifeline into your work before you leave for the airport… it’s useful if you make a mistake and need to undo, but it’s also useful in the unlikely situation of you being asked to surrender your needles. Just take the needles out and hand them over, but keep your work and your yarn.


I’m away on a quick weekend trip right now. My patio-sitting project is a plain sock, and my plane project is a lace shawl.

What are some of your favourite travel knitting tricks? What project do you like to take on the road?

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I’m shameless. I knit in public pretty much every day. Although I remember a dark time when I didn’t. Not long after moving to Toronto — 20 or so years ago — I was given tickets to a Blue Jays’ game. I took my knitting with me, naturally. And naturally, I worked on it, but I confess I felt a little sheepish about it. In hindsight, it was perhaps that it was a colorwork project, and I had several balls of yarn attached and more than a few loose ends…

But now, I relish knitting in public, and I love the sometimes-funny looks I get. And that’s what June is all about, for knitters. We celebrate World Wide Knit in Public Day (Facebook site). It used to be a single day, but it’s celebrated on a variety of dates, depending on where you are, and what else is on your calendar. And that’s sort of the point. Really, any date should be celebrated with a bit of knitting in public (well, maybe not on Polar Vortex days…).

I took part in a couple of Knitting in Public events over the past few weeks… At Shall We Knit, in early June.  Kim and Ron of indigodragonfly did a yarn dyeing demo.


Knitting, and related activities, in public.

I worked on my circular shawl yesterday, on the patio in front of Lettuce Knit.

In the great outdoors, outside Lettuce Knit.

In the great outdoors, outside Lettuce Knit.

A group in Toronto also knitted at Gibson House. Not only are they knitting outdoors, but they yarnbombed their own chairs.

How good is this?

How good is this?

Yarn-dyer Cat of Blueberry Pie Studios wins this year, for knitting on a rollercoaster. I believe it was a kiddie-coaster, but even so.

Bonus points for danger!

Bonus points for danger!

Did you Knit in Public?

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Magnificently Silly Knitting Project of the Week: Miko and Robbie’s Farm Sweaters

Miko, co-owner of Amy’s LYS, The Purple Purl, loves an interesting knitting project. And boy, her latest one definitely qualifies!


The original pattern and concept.

Meet “The Farm Sweater”. Based on the “Pastoral Pullover” pattern from the 1979  knitting book “Wild Knitting“, it’s a sculpture more than a garment.


It started simply enough….

Many knitters got involved, making pom-poms, i-cord and other embellishments to complete the scene.



Not one to be outdone, friend of The Purple Purl Robbie decided to get in on the game, too. He wanted a sweater, too!

When they were complete, Miko and Robbie visited local Riverdale Farm for an appropriately-themed photoshoot.  It’s worth clicking through to see the details… the sweaters have fields complete with crops, little dolls to represent the farmers, forests – and, naturally, sheep.






Miko and Robbie, we love you, your sweaters and your willingness to have fun.

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Inspiration of the Week: Eileen Scrivani

Eileen Scrivani is an excellent knitter. She’s knitted all sorts of things since she took up the craft seriously in the early 1990s: blankets, hats, shawls and socks. She enjoys cables, and like many of us, a little bit of simple lace knitting. When I asked her what sort of project she enjoys most, she said “For me, a sweater — plain or more detailed — is the epitome of knitting.

Like many knitters, Eileen prefers one-piece garments, with limited seaming. She admits to feeling less than confident in her finishing skills.

We recently chatted by email, and Eileen sent me this picture of herself, proudly modelling her Tri-Aran-Angle shawl.

EILEEN WEARING Knitty TRI ARRAN jagger spun merino red SHAWL


The other thing you should know about Eileen: she’s visually impaired. To be more specific, she is completely blind. She was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes at the age of five, and by her high-school graduation, complications of the illness had taken her vision.

Other than that small detail, her knitting story is much like my own: although she first learned to knit when a child, she didn’t take it up in earnest until she’d finished college, and was looking for a creative outlet for her evenings after long days spent working in the technology industry. I laughed a little when I read her words in a recent email message “Being a girly-girl I always loved clothing and I had it in my head that it would be a Great thing if I could make, or more specifically, knit my own sweaters.” These could be my words!

Living in New York, Eileen had access to a terrific resource: a six-week seminar on knitting at The Fashion Institute of Technology. Before she signed up, she checked to make sure that they could welcome her and her service dog – and soon enough she was on her way to becoming a serious knitter.

Her visual impairment has presented a few challenges along the way, but she persevered. In the late 1990s, the internet allowed to her find other blind knitters, and she started an online listserv, and she credits the participants with helping her improve her knitting. “The group shared tips on what would help a knitter who is blind – things like using a pocket size abacus as a row/stitch counter, where to locate patterns that were in an accessible format, the importance of a needle gauge, where to get tactile measuring tapes, inserting a life line in a complicated knit to save dropped stitches, so on and so on. I learned that a blind knitter can do amazing knitting, using complicated stitch patterns, and using color changing too.”

The biggest challenge for any blind knitter is charts. Written instructions can be easily rendered in Braille. Charts cannot.

The Knitty team first met Eileen when we were contacted by Cathy Scott, the developer of our favourite charting software, StitchMastery. Cathy had met Eileen on Ravelry, and had been helping out by converting some charts to written instructions. Cathy contacted us to ask permission to convert the charts for Lempster to written instructions, on Eileen’s behalf. When I heard from Cathy, I must confess I was quietly astounded. I know of other knitters with limited vision, but I didn’t know any who were taking on such complex projects. I was keen to make Eileen’s acquaintance, and Cathy introduced us.

As a designer and editor, one aspect of our conversation was particularly educational for me: about charts. I’m going to quote her verbatim on this:

My standard gripe is that when it comes to accessible knitting books and patterns, we as blind knitters spend the same amount of dollars on our supplies as sighted knitters, but are not given the same consideration when it comes to accessible materials. For us, and accessible pattern is one that is written out with row-by-row directions. Our computer software (screen readers, A.K.A. JAWS OR Window Eyes) which provides us with computer access cannot translate a chart or graphic into words. In the case where a free pattern on the net or a purchased pattern in a .PDF for download contains charts and it does not give those charts in text, the pattern is instantly rendered inaccessible to a knitter with a visual impairment. Even NLS who will transcribe some knitting books into Braille or audio format will not transcribe knitting books that are heavily charted. And if a book is transcribed into Braille by NLS and it is lightly charted, chances are NLS will only transcribe the skeleton of the pattern and omit the chart! Can you imagine you get all charged up wanting to dive into a pattern and then you find out a main component, like a cable or lace stitch isn’t included! Frustrating, disappointing and it does not motivate people to continue pressing forward with their knitting skills. After all, who wants to just keep knitting the same plain stockinette stitch sweater style time and time again? People blind or sighted need some variety and challenge in their knitting choices.

But this issue aside, Eileen loves knitting, and just like the rest of us, is thrilled with the huge variety of patterns and designs available online. She’s also been learning crochet of late.

I asked Eileen if she had any words of wisdom for those with limited vision who wish to learn knitting… “For a new knitter who is blind, my suggestions would be to start with a worsted weight classic yarn and perhaps wood, or bamboo instead of metal needles (eliminate the slip and slide and tighten up effect). For a new knitter who is blind, I would suggest staying away from the tempting fuzzy stuff because the fibers that might come off from the core can, in the beginning, fool the fingers.” (This is sensible advice for all beginning knitters, in fact!)

Eileen showed me some pictures of her work – I’d be impressed with the number and variety of projects she’s completed, even if she was fully sighted. She’s my new knitting hero.

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A Knitting Cruise

A couple of weeks ago, I had the very distinct pleasure of going on a Caribbean cruise. Given the winter we’ve had, it was just the ticket – to see the sun, to feel the warmth on my skin, and to be able to go without socks (and a hat, and mittens, and a scarf, and a parka) was a pleasure.

Making it even more fun was the fact that it was a knitting cruise!

Well, for clarity, a group of knitters gathered on a 3000-person cruise on the Celebrity Reflection as it (she?) toured around the Eastern Caribbean.

Organized by Linda Sokalski, herself an avid knitter and teacher, the trip included all the usual delights of a winter cruise – sunshine, companionship, and fun – plus classes from myself and lace designer Anna Dalvi.

The entire experience was a delight.


Linda, Anna and two of our students. Look at the color of the water!


Knitting in the cafe on a sunny afternoon.


Much needed sunshine. San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Really, what more could a girl want?


Knitting socks, but not wearing them.


Anna and Kate.

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Jillian & Amy’s Shibui Mix Knitalong: the launch


Left, a Shibui Mix recipe card, showing yarn combos that, when held together yield a specific yarn weight, including suggested needle size and gauge; right, one of the Mix patterns that calls for two strands of Silk Cloud held together.

At last June’s TNNA (the trade show for the knitting industry), we were introduced to a brilliant concept: Shibui Mix. The clever folk at Shibui Knits have created a system we’ve never seen anywhere else. They have 8 base yarns, and have swatched every possible combination, so that knitters can simply take two of the yarns they like, knowing in advance how they’ll knit up when held together. Because the Shibui Knits line features yarns that are finer than average, this gives us quicker knits than using a single strand and — most interestingly — the ability to create projects that reflect exactly the mood we’re in at the moment.

Jillian came up with the idea of having the two of us work on the same pattern, but in two different Shibui Mixes. Jillian is, as you probably know, a very woolly knitter. I am the complete opposite. Can we both find happiness with the Shibui Mix system?
The choice of pattern was an easy one: Cocoknits’ Cocoon Wrap. It’s originally designed in a bulky-ish wool. How would it look made out of something double-stranded and wispy?

(Editors’ note: The  yarns and patterns for this experiment were graciously provided by Shibui Knits and Cocoknits with no obligation to provide anything but honest feedback.)

 Jillian  Amy
Shibui Silk Cloud in Fjord (left); Shibui Linen in Suit (right) Shibui Linen in Cascade (left) and Graphite (right)
I had a terrible time picking yarns and then colors. Being confronted with WALLS of Shibui at TNNA is overwhelming because it’s all perfect and gorgeous. I walked around petting and contemplating stuffing it all in my bag. I settled into the Linen/Silk Cloud combo, because the gauge would work and because I love the juxtaposition of the texture and the construction of the yarns. The silky fuzzy slickness of the silk and baby mohair and the crisp chain-link of the linen.

The colors went a little faster. I’m in a blue, deep indigo blue phase, which the Linen had. I wanted a little lift colorwise, but not a different color so I went for the Fjord in the Silk Cloud.

For me, the choice was a little easier. Since I can’t touch wool (I’m allergic) and mohair doesn’t feel pleasant to me, I had the option of going with linen, silk, or alpaca.

In the end, though I really like both the Heichi and the Baby Alpaca DK as yarns, it was color that spoke to me. I am so in love with the Cascade blue in Shibui’s Linen that I had to choose it first. And my favorite combination with it was the same yarn in Graphite, a medium blue-grey. (I’ve already done a project using Shibui Linen and absolutely loved it. Lightweight — almost weightless — but double-stranded it makes a substantial enough fabric to have a really impressive visual impact.)

We’re both swatching and will have cast on and gotten well into the knitting by next Monday’s update. Tune in to see how we each like our Mix and how it is knitting up!

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