Knitting Mondays

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.

*Spread the joy!*

You can’t knit if your hands are numb.

What could it be now?

This is something I’ve been progressively learning over the last few years. You don’t want to read a recounting of my medical history, so I’ll summarize it like this: I overdid things with my hands by using my computer and mouse, hand quilting, knitting and spinning over the last 15 years. Despite ergonomic changes in my work and leisure habits and the nightly wearing of wrist braces, they hurt, occasionally were numb and sometimes I’d wake up with pain that felt like I’d dipped my hand in a pot of boiling oil. No exaggeration. The official diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome came a few months ago after a nerve conduction test.

I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of the cortisone shots I chose to have, because I’m not a doctor [and please, no lectures in the comments. I know people are polarized about this issue]. But I will say that my right hand — my dominant hand and the one that hurt worst –has taken much longer to recover from the cortisone shot than I expected. The whole thing was a little bit of a comedy of errors which included me almost fainting from the first shot and the doctor kind of forgetting to tell me about the acute pain I’d have for the next 24-48 hours. Yup.

I’ve also been seeing an Osteopath for several months, and I credit her with the marked improvement I felt about halfway through the healing process from the shot. More on her kind of Osteopathy can be found here.

Anyway, here we are, almost a month later, and the news is pretty good.The left hand [the one that made me almost faint] was better 3 days after the shot. The right hand is almost there…and the best news of all? I’ve been knitting.

Before I had this shot, I hadn’t knit with pleasure for months. Every time I’d pick it up, my hands would be numb in minutes and there’s no pleasure in that. Now, I have to be super-attentive to my body and stop if something feels funky. I’m alternating work with knitting or rest, so that I don’t overdo it in any one area. And without pushing myself, I knit myself something I’ve been wanting ever since we published it. The picture at the top is a hint*.

I’ve written this post mostly to tell you to listen to your body. Overdoing it may eventually cause you to be unable to do what you love. So take it easier. Be kind to your body and especially your hands.

*More on this on Knitty Friday.

*Spread the joy!*

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.

*Spread the joy!*

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!

*Spread the joy!*

when last there was knitting content on this blog…

the buttons are temporary. really.

which wasn’t that long ago, I was working on my Shalom cardigan. Well, I finished it and I like it! I spent a day or two knitting and ripping the same 4 rows until I got the armholes to open at the right spots for my body. As written, the armholes go way into the back, which I didn’t find flattering. I’d love to show you how this looks on me, but there’s no one around to take a nice FO pic, so that’ll have to wait. I have to find permanent buttons, too. The ones there now are an amalgamation of a few things that function, but don’t suit the sweater.

By the way, I am grateful to Ysolda Teague for her Liesl, the sweater which made me like wearing sweaters again. This silhouette is a really great one for me, so I knew Shalom would work as well. Not everything I’m going to knit from now on will be top-buttoned with shortish sleeves, but don’t be surprised if you see this shape on me again.

*Spread the joy!*