Knitting Mondays


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?

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.

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.

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.

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!

Vogue Knitting Live; Blocking On The Road


I felt very welcome indeed!

Earlier this month, Amy and I were lucky enough to teach at Vogue Knitting Live in New York City. What a fantastic event it was!

Now, it’s no secret that NYC is one of my favourite places in the entire world, and the idea that I got to go there and do my favourite thing – teaching knitting – was just too exciting.

The event was held at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. Right in the middle of the madness.

2014-01-19 20.43.13

There are knitters in these crowds.

Amy and I both had a full slate of classes

This was a fun one!

This was a fun one!

But we did get some time to wander around, eat bagels, and of course, drink coffee.

Coffee is very important.

Coffee is very important.

Now, being a designer, I’m always keen to show off my own designs at an event like this. I’ve been busy with some sooper-sekrit design work, but I did have one thing on the needles that I’d been meaning to finish – a chunky version of my Rickenbacker shawl. (More details on it here.)

I worked on it on the plane on the way there – binding off the last stitch as we trundled up to the gate.

Ready to wear!

Ready to wear!

I wore it that first day, ends a-dangling, unblocked.

Living on the edge, knitter-style.

Living on the edge, knitter-style.

But as an instructor, I knew I couldn’t get away with that for long. So that evening I soaked the shawl in the hotel bathroom sink, rolled it in a towel to wring it dry… and then lacking pins or wires, indulged in my favorite cheat for a triangle shawl – hanging!

Improvised blocking. Worked brilliantly!

Improvised drying rack. Worked brilliantly!

I had a fantastic time – so many great students, so much fabulous yarn, so much to see and do. I look forward to going back.

2013: We Had Fun!

Just a quick note from all of us at the KnittyBlog, wishing you a spectacular 2014!

To send off 2013 on a happy note we each rounded up three things that we loved or were proud of in 2013.

Jillian’s Top 3:

Rhinebeck classroom

Rhinebeck classroom

1. Teaching at Rhinebeck.

Rhinebeck has been on my list of  there’s-no-way goals for a couple of years now. For 2013 I applied and was accepted. I had a spectacular time teaching and learned as much if not more than I taught.

PLY Magazine

PLY Magazine

2. PLY Magazine

I feel honored to be part of the Editorial Board of PLY Magazine. It’s everything I was looking for in a new spinning magazine, lots to do and lots to think about. I knew Jacey Boggs would create an amazing magazine.  I am excited that so many other spinners feel the same way.

KB-dropcloth-embroidery-400x2643. Embroidery

I fell hard for embroidery this year. I has never learned in my childhood, so I figured 50 was a good time to learn. I do a little every day and am moving to adding it to my knitting. I love learning new things and it’s feel good to remember how to be a beginner.


 Amy’s Top 3:


Denny models my Neat Ripples blanket in progress, just hours before my car window gets bashed in so someone can steal it.

1. Learning to crochet
I was pushed over the edge into this new-to-me craft by a deep need to make a Neat Ripples blanket. Crocheting ripples is a comforting and aesthetically pleasing addition to my craft arsenal. I love it and I’m still doing it.

2. Yarndale (and meeting Lucy)
Lucy is the designer of said Neat Ripples blanket pattern, and I, along with hundreds and hundreds of others, were thrilled to meet her at the newest fiber festival in Yorkshire, UK, last September: Yarndale. I taught some classes and met a lot of great knitters. I rhapsodized about it here.

3. Getting my stolen blanket (etc) back
In what is one of the oddest things to ever happen to me, my unlabelled Cath Kidston knitting bag (itself not inexpensive) full of my Neat Ripples afghan in progress, all my crochet hooks AND all the cotton DK yarn I’d been saving for 10 years to make it was returned to me unharmed, three months after it was originally stolen. Someone dumped it after finding out it wasn’t worth selling to buy crack, another someone found it and one tiny receipt from my chiropractor left in the inside pocket helped that someone get it back to me.

Still can’t believe that happened.

Kate’s Top 3:

1. Bigger on the TV
Seeing my Bigger on the Inside shawl on TV! A knitter was spotted wearing the shawl on the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special pre-show show in the US.

2. Recording and launching online classes which has introduced me to a whole new crowd of knitters, students and friends around the world. It was also great learning exercise for me, as a teacher, to think about how to present ideas so they are most impactful, to see how I look and sound on camera, and to be able to examine my own teaching style. Challenging, but totally worth it.

3. Having a colorway named after me… well, actually, one of my spelling mistakes.

Just perfect. And perfectly hilarious.

I am a tech editor, as you probably know. I’m usually pretty good at proofreading others’ work, but I find it immensely difficult to proofread my own work. A couple of years ago I designed a pattern for the indigodragonfly club. I tried to work extra hard to proofread my own pattern, but as is always the way, a typo crept in.

Now, this was a lace design, and I often use a safety pin in lacework to mark the RS of the work – I find it helpful when establishing the pattern.

But I often type faster than I think…. So instead of “safety pin” I typed “safety pint”.

That in itself is funny enough.

But with me being a relatively well-known tech editor with a passion for precision, and it being a design for the indigodragonfly club (where strange things have been known to happen), the typo stopped the TE in her tracks.

There was, apparently, some discussion about whether it was a mistake, or whether I’d actually intended it to be that way.

We’ve been laughing about this ever since. It’s become a sort of short-hand for “beware: this is the sort of pattern that might drive you to drink”.

And this spring, the genius yarn dyers Ron and Kim surprised me with a gift: a colorway named for my typo – “Safety Pin or Safety Pint: Discuss”, a most fantastic orange.

Jillian’s Gifts for Knitters

Here are five things I wish I could buy for every knitter I know.

If you need an idea for a knitter in your life one of these just might work.


The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes

The Yarn Whisperer

The Yarn Whisperer

Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting  edited by Ann Hood

Knitting Yarns

Knitting Yarns


Yarn Pyramid Print  Fringe Supply Company

Yarn Pyramid

Yarn Pyramid

Arya Bag from Offhand Designs

Arya bag

Arya bag

Signature Needle Convertible Circulars

Signature Needle Interchangeables

Signature Needle Interchangeables








Gifts for Knitters and People Who Love Them

As she does every year, the Yarn Harlot is doing a most excellent run-down of knitterly-themed gifts on her blog. She’s entirely right, you can never go wrong with yarn and knitterly tools and equipment – we do love them so. But what about things that aren’t directly knitting, but go along with them?

These are things I know I’d love to get, and I love giving.

Hot drinks and the wherewithal to make and enjoy them…

A mug inspired by a Fair Isle sweater, from Canadian company David’s Tea.

Knitterly books for inspiration.

A reference book brings much enjoyment over the long haul.

A reference book brings much enjoyment over the long haul.

Something my grandmother had – a footrest-ottoman/project storage box. I used to love rummaging around in Gran’s to see what she was working on.

Lift the lid for storage! This “Kivik” model comes from Ikea.

We use our hands a lot, and sometimes it’s nice to give them a treat: how about a gift certificate for a massage or a manicure?  Or a lovely hand cream.

Pamper our hands! We make them work very hard!

Entertainment  for while I’m at my needles – a Netflix subscription, DVDs, TV and audio books… The added bonus of this gift is it provides value to the rest of the family, too!

For example.

And suitable as a gift for the knitter or from the knitter, a little work light so that you don’t have to have the ‘big light’ on when you’re knitting in front of the TV. A headlamp is not as silly as it seems. Or a book light to attach to your pattern.

It’s nice to be able to read the pattern…

And for those members of the family who don’t watch TV, perhaps a ball or two so they don’t try to play with the your yarn…

Who hasn’t had the fun of chasing a dog who’s stolen a ball of yarn?

A woolly mouse is an excellent distraction for the family feline. You can even knit your own!

Wool Week UK: A Guest Post

Today’s post is written by Allison Thistlewood, knitter and Torontonian relocated to London. Alison threw herself into the UK knitting scene, and was lucky enough to be involved in the UK Wool Week Festivities held this past October.

Kate and Knitty were kind enough to help spread the word about Wool Week (and a special yarn bombing project) – a weeklong series of events started by the Campaign for Wool in the UK and I’m happy to report back on how it all came together.

Every year sees Wool Week try something different to capture people’s attention (such as last year’s giant ball of wool and knitting needles affixed to the front of high-end department store Harvey Nichols) and this year’s Wool Week was no exception. This year John Lewis (another major department store here in the UK) donated one of the windows from their flagship store on Oxford Street in London to be dedicated to the Campaign. It was to be set up as a sparse, white living room, and slowly gain more colour as the space was yarn bombed over the course of the week.

The yarn-bombed window, getting woolier...

The yarn-bombed window, getting woolier…

Yarn bombing is one of those crazy things that’s really organic and fluid – you can’t plan for it and you can’t know what you’re going to get. Even with a picture in my mind’s eye of how the space might look, it was completely different and made even better by the creativity and talent that came together to take over the space.

The almost 130 yarn bomb bits collected from knitters and crocheters who responded to the call through Knitty and various friends’ blogs were woven into the larger installation of the window as it slowly evolved over the course of the week. Most bits were from the UK but two lovely cabled pieces came all the way from the States, and a friend from Canada coming over for a visit brought more from Toronto in her suitcase. One woman even went so far as to hunt up bits of gauge swatches she’d knit over the years and sent me a huge bundle, which I loved seeing turned into bits of book covers and “clothing” for the old patterns used as pictures on the living room wall of the display.

UK model Daisy Lowe in the wooly window

UK model Daisy Lowe in the wooly window

Various UK celebrities and crafters also knit and crocheted in the window during store hours that week – also contributing to the evolution and leaving it a little more colourful than when they arrived. One woman even crocheted a whole slipcover for the couch whilst in the window for a couple of days! And tastefully at one end of the window was a calendar of the week’s events happening in store, to let passersby know how they could participate in Wool Week.

I was lucky enough to take two classes during Wool Week, one with Rowan and one with designer Erika Knight – whose love of colour and enthusiasm was infectious – and from chatting with organisers, all of the classes sold out and the drop-in knitting circle was full every day. Conversations overheard ranged from experienced knitters helping newbies, to lapsed knitters slowly coaxing the skill back into their hands, to the delight of new knitters creating something where before there was only string.

Knitting in the women's wear department, very comfy!

Knitting in the women’s wear department, very comfy!

Wool Week may be only a week to some, but to the rest of us it’s a lifestyle, and one I’m happy to share with so many. A big thank you to everyone who contributed and helped spread the word!