Knitting Mondays

Things that Make Kate Happy

Sunshine. Sock knitting. And a very strong americano.


The yarn is Paton’s Kroy, a criminally underappreciated sock yarn. It’s unbelievably hardwearing (my fave 75% wool/25% nylon blend), machine washes and dries beautifully, and great to knit with. And it’s easily found at mainstream craft and yarn stores, and the price point is terrific.  There are also excellent colors. I’m making a pair of manly socks, so the colorway is manly, but there are some great brights available, too. My only grumble about the yarn is that the ball band recommends a larger needle than sensible – I use my usual US 1.5/2.5mm. Anything in the US 0-2 (2mm-2.75mm) would be great.

The coffee is an americano – two shots of espresso with a bit of hot water on top to make it a longer drink — from Cafe Unwind. I take my coffee black, and an americano is a full-bodied and flavourful drink, dark and a little bit bitter. Cafe Unwind is a little coffee shop across the park from where we live, and it’s a regular stop on our dog walks. The coffee is excellent, and the baked goods (a different muffin everyday!) outstanding.

Socks in Space!

Bright enough to be seen from space?
Bright enough to be seen from space?

Two Toronto area knitters are participating in a really rather wonderful project: making socks to send into space!

I recently spoke with Emily Mooney and Catherine Goykhman about this project.

Emily, tell me about this Astro Socks project.

 Over the past five years or so, NASA has been doing a whole lot of public outreach through social media. They’ve invited thousands of people to what were originally called NASA Tweetups but are now known as NASA Socials. These are chances to visit NASA locations, such as the Kennedy Space Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and NASA HQ in Washington, and get a chance to see behind the scenes and talk to NASA personnel, including astronauts. A big community of “spacetweeps” has been growing since NASA started doing this.

Penny Garner, a spacetweep in Washington State, went to a NASA tweetup and follows American astronaut Reid Wiseman on Twitter. He’s scheduled to launch to the International Space Station next May. He tweeted a picture of some of the socks he was packing, and she asked where astronauts’ socks come from. When he told her they’re bought at K-Mart, she offered to knit him some instead. He accepted the offer, and the initiative to make more socks for other astronauts has since, uh, skyrocketed. She contacted me a while ago (via Twitter, of course), and I finally got the first Canadian pair going last weekend, with Catherine’s help.

Penny is the one spearheading the project; her goal is to get as many people involved as possible, as a way to get them excited about human spaceflight. This article is about her involvement.

What’s your involvement?

Because NASA gave me a rare, once-in-a-lifetime gift…  I feel a strong responsibility to share it as widely as I can. I’ve always been excited about looking up, but being mere meters from a vanload of people heading toward the vehicle that would take them off the planet was one of the most moving moments of my life. And the idea that future astronauts will be wearing the work of knitters’ hands — including mine — thrills me past words. This is a chance to connect two of my greatest passions and share them both.

Are there specific requirements for the socks?

There are indeed some specific requirements for the socks. They cannot contain any acrylic, which can combust in 100% oxygen inside a spacesuit. The astronauts asked at first for cotton socks, probably thinking wool would be thick and scratchy, and I think all the pairs going up next May are made of Cascade Fixation yarn. Penny recently got approval for 100% merino, though, and Catherine got some especially for this project.

Are you knitting for a particular astronaut?

There’s a Ravelry group  with details about the individual astronauts who have requested socks. Samantha Cristoforetti, Italy’s first female astronaut, has asked for bright yellow, which Catherine dyed specifically for her. Samantha, a captain and fighter pilot in the Italian Air Force, launches next November and will live on the station for about six months.

And you decided to make the knitting a community project?

Kate and friend Sue knitting on the Astrosocks.

Yes! The cuff of the first Canadian sock has stitches from at least 50 knitters, most of whom helped out at the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters’ Fair. One young woman was nearly giddy at the chance to work on it, and coached her mother through her first-ever knitting on DPNs. I’ll be taking the first sock back to KW at the end of the month, so some who missed the chance last weekend will be able to contribute then.

I’ll be doing much of the knitting for the rest of the pair, taking them to yarn shops and my daughter’s school and anywhere else I can think of where there’d be knitters, and asking them to add stitches. (If the socks were entirely community-knit, gauge would be a mess, and if I asked people for ten stitches each, I’d need 3000 knitters. That would take much too long, and anyway, I am far too shy for that.)

What happens to the socks?

Each handknit pair will be worn for around a week. ISS residents don’t waste water on laundry; their used clothes go out with the garbage and burn up on reentry. So after the socks have been worn, they will become streaks of light in the sky.

 What’s next?

I’m hoping to continue the initiative indefinitely. Canada has two astronauts in training at the moment, David Saint-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen. Neither has a scheduled flight date yet but when they do, they’ll need socks.

Catherine, dyer extraordinaire

Catherine, tell me about how you got involved.
A few months ago, I was scrolling through my twitter feed and came across a tweet by Emily that caught my attention. She was looking for people who were interested in knitting socks for astronauts. I think my heart skipped a beat when I read her tweet. I want to knit socks for astronauts!

The thought of having a connection with astronauts who were actually going into space was very exciting for me. I’ve always been fascinated with space travel and when I was a kid I dreamed of becoming an astronaut.

Before I responded to Emily’s tweet, it occurred to me that maybe I could take it one step further and dye the yarn that would become socks for an astronaut. I offered some hand dyed yarn to Emily’s project. My yarn may be going to space! I can’t describe how awesome this is.

Emily and I met in August to discuss the colours I would dye. We learned through the Astrosocks Ravelry group that Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti wanted some bright yellow socks. I have two very bright yellow colourways, and rather than choose one of the two, we decide to make two pairs.

At the moment, Emily is taking care of the self-striping Mango Smoothie sock and I’ve got the semi solid Mango. I’ll be taking a sock on tour with me when I visit yarn shops and do shows for Blueberry Pie Studio.

Both colorways are available in Catherine’s Blueberry Pie Studios Etsy shop if you’d like space socks of your very own…

To learn more about the project, visit the Ravelry group.


Stitch Maps

I wrote about this briefly in a recent WWW post.

Tech editor and author extraordinaire JC Briar has recently launched a revolutionary new charting tool – Stitch Maps.

JC has been thinking about charts for a long time. She is the author of Charts Made Simple, an excellent little book explaining all about knitting charts, how to work from them, and how they work. Her experience writing this book, and teaching and editing, had led her to see that there is an inherent weakness in knitting charts: although they represent the stitches, they don’t necessarily represent the fabric.

Let’s take Feather and Fan for example: because of the pattern of increases and decreases, the fabric scallops. But you don’t see that in a traditional chart.

Straight chart. (Chart courtesy JC.)
Wavy fabric. (Image courtesy JC.)

JC’s Stitch Map charts – freed of the constraints of the grid – show the flow and shape of the fabric.

The way it really is. (Image courtesy JC.)

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with JC about her project last month.

This new approach to knitting charts was inspired by crochet charts. Crochet charts do a much better job of representing the shape and flow of the fabric, as there are no grids. In knitting charts, rows are perfectly horizontal, whether they are in reality or not. So JC took the grids away! She said that she’d been creating charts in this gridless style on her own for some time – she used them as a design and editing tool, to check stitch patterns and fabrics.

She realized that if they were helpful to her, they were probably helpful to others, too. And so: Stitch Maps launched earlier this summer.

These new-style charts really come into their own for lace and other increased/decreased fabrics. Traditional charts continue to be a great solution for colorwork and cabled fabrics, as rows remain straight.

But for such changing fabrics, the type of visualization is immensely helpful – you can see not only how the fabric behaves, but also how the stitches interact. When working a decrease, the Stitch Maps charts show you which stitches are being worked together; and placing an increase shows you which direction the stitches shift. They allow you a better sense of what you’re working on, and also make it easier to identify where to place markers – a constant struggle for lace knitters.

The tool is available as an online application. It’s free to create and print charts; a $15 a year subscription allows you to create private charts, and gives you tools to help you work with them – the ability to place vertical or horizontal lines to help you analyze the fabric – and keep track of your work.

Horizontal lines indicate the rows…
vertical lines show you how the stitches move and interact.
You can even remove the stitch symbols for a completely different view.

JC has developed a fantastic tool, and I’m very excited about the possibilities for its use…

A $60 subscription allows you to create publication-quality images, for designers and tech editors to include in online or print publication. More info on the subscriptions here.

What do you think? Would you like to see these charts used in patterns?

Modification Mondays

Knit designer Julie Crawford, in addition to publishing many beautiful designs, writes a blog. All her posts are worth reading, but in particular we get most excited on Monday mornings – Modification Mondays.

Just about every Monday, Julie blogs about a pattern modification or conversion. She finds fantastic projects inspired by existing patterns, and writes about them.

A recent post featured a conversion of the popular Knitty summer top pattern, Gemini,

The original

into a summer dress!

The new version.

And remember the classic Urchin tam?

Perfect, and yet…

How about a lacy rainbow version!

Totally wonderful, both the same and very different.

And I adore the BFF hat, inspired by the cowl.

So very good.

She features many Knitty projects, but there are projects from all sorts of sources. Some of the modifications are truly mind-boggling: this is a lace scarf, turned into one of the most beautiful sweaters I have ever seen. It has to be seen to be believed.

Julie provides information on the details of the modification, always providing info on the original pattern, and the new version. The knitters are most often very generous, posting their pattern notes on Ravelry, too.

I chatted with Julie about the blog series. She credits Teresa of Canary Knits for inspiring the series…

 “Teresa has had a great feature on her blog featuring Indie Designers. With the advent of Ravelry, suddenly it was easy to find really creative modifications to knits that I really loved. Since blogging is all about sharing, it made sense to share my finds with the knitting community. Sometimes people email me links for great modifications, which I love- it’s impossible for one person to stay on top of all the great projects on Ravelry. When I go looking, I have a strategy- people are more likely to modify a free pattern than a pattern they’ve paid for, so I focus on free patterns that have been live for about 6 months or so, which means there are likely a lot of FOs and an inspiring mod or two.”

One of Julie’s favourite modification is this version of the Laminaria shawl.

A simple but utterly unexpected reimagining.

It was made in 2009, and at the time, lace was always worked with fine yarn and fine needles; the knitter’s decision to use bulky weight yarn and giant needles seemed positively revolutionary, and the results were stunning.

She also mentions this grown-up-ization of baby cardigan Trellis.


In Julie’s words: “It’s not easy to upsize on that dramatic of a scale, or to have a kid sweater look appropriate for an adult without being twee, but the result is amazing.” I agree!

Join me on Mondays at Julie’s blog, won’t you?

First weekend of WWKIP: Where did you knit?

Kate knitted in the audience at a comedy show.

A sock, of course.
A sock, of course.

Amy’s LYS, The Purple Purl, yarnbombed a 400ft fence in a nearby park on Queen Street.

tools of the trade
tools of the trade
Zoe carefully examines an apple core
Lots of abandonded WIPs turned into fodder for yarnbombing
Michelle, Debbers and Miko help make the park more Purple
Every post needs a pompom hat
Jennifer sews up tube after tube
Rosa gets to work.

More photos on their Facebook page.

Lettuce Knit knitted and spun in public on their patio – yes, a yarn shop with a patio!

Brenna, spinning in the sunshine
Brenna demonstrating her vintage sock knitting machine
There may also have been snack breaks.
There may also have been snack breaks.
A brave knitter - some of us were too busy chatting to pay attention to lacework!
A brave knitter – some of us were too busy chatting to pay attention to lacework!
The weather was perfect.
The weather was perfect.

On Sunday, WWKIPTO hosted a huge event in Toronto’s high park.  Excellent picture here, courtesy KniterlyErin.

Knitters were spotted at the Relay for Life 24-hour road race fundraising event.

More events are scheduled for this coming weekend – check your local shops and guilds! Kate will be in Waterloo at the Shall We Knit Studiopalooza.

Last Saturday was also the third International Yarnbombing Day. Some fantastic photographs on the Instagram blog.

A big (good!) change for LYS owners who use Knitty

Until this past Saturday, our official line on printing copies of Knitty patterns was pretty strict for LYSs. Only the customer could print their copy, and only on their own computer. Well, times have changed. I know of many, many LYSs that have a dedicated internet workstation for their customers, and some have that workstation attached to a printer. So I decided it was time to update our rules. We hope this will please many of you…we think it will!

As of June 1, 2013, we are officially encouraging yarn shops to let customers print their own patterns on shop premises! We have heard that some customers are not familiar enough with the internet, or are too eager to get started, to have to wait till they get home to print out a Knitty pattern, and a yarn sale might be lost. Since one of our goals at Knitty is to support the Local Yarn Shop, a lost sale for an LYS is something we want to help avoid. So whether you allow a customer access to your own computer/printer or provide a workstation for customer use, both methods are officially approved by Knitty, effective immediately. Charging in any way for this service, however, is not permitted. We feel this is a fair compromise that works to benefit everyone in the knitting community.

This still means the knitter is printing their own copy. They just don’t have to wait till they get home (or get someone who understands the internet to do it for them). We hope it means more happy knitters, happy LYS owners and that makes us happy, too.

Why can’t LYS owners charge for this privilege? Because that’s exchanging money for a Knitty pattern, even if it’s just to cover the paper and ink. That’s still not okay and never will be. LYSs can set their own rules — like a free printout if you buy the yarn to go with the project. That’s totally up to them. We don’t want people taking advantage and printing out pages and pages, and then just saying “toodeloo!” (But knitters are better people than that, aren’t they?) If a knitter wants to keep track of a Knitty pattern to browse at home, suggest they add it to their favorites on Ravelry, perhaps?

Feel free to spread the word about this change. If anyone gives you a tough time, you can point them to the official LYS FAQ page on Knitty, which also includes much of the information in this blog post.

Long live the LYS!



World Wide Knit in Public Day has become a phenomenon since it was launched in 2005, by Danielle Landes. So much so, in fact, that the event now runs over a full week!

WWKIP began as a way to bring knitters together, out of the closet and into fresh air. Although knitters have been gathering together for many years – in each other’s homes and  in stores, on “stitch nights”, and at events and retreats – but it’s usually knitters among knitters. The purpose of the day is to bring knitters out into public, amongst the “muggles”. WWKIP events often include knit-ins at parks and sporting events and shopping malls.

Although there are many of us who are quite used to knitting in public – those of use who ride public transport, those of us who enjoy the relaxation of a few minutes knitting over our lunch breaks at work, those of us who like to keep our hands occupied while attending the kids’ sporting events, dance practices, playtime at the park – there are many knitters who tend to indulge only at home. We’d like to encourage those knitters to show off their knitterly pride to the world. Don’t be shy about taking your work out with you. After all, knitting is a more social activity than reading, as you can take in the world around you and engage in conversation while at the needles. (Well, unless you’re working on a particularly engaging or challenging project, of course.)

For a list of events, consult the Ravelry forum, and check with stores and guilds in your area.

A few ideas:

  • Sunday June 9th, there will be an event in High Park in Toronto.
  • The Purple Purl in Toronto will be taking over a local park, Saturday June 8th.
  • Shall We Knit in Waterloo is running a wedding shower for friend of Knitty, Kim of indigodragonfly yarns, Saturday June 15th.
  • The Prescott, Arizona Knitters will be at the Farmer’s market on Saturday the 8th.
  • Sunday June 9th, knitters in  Taunton, Somerset, will gather at IMAGINE, DESIGN, CREATE.
  • Knitters in Chicago will be gathering Saturday the 8th in Millennium Park, in the Boeing North Gallery.
  • The Flowertown Knitting Guild in Summerville, SC is hosting two events, one on the 8th, one on the 9th.
  • Black Hills Fiber Arts Guild will be hosting a WWNIP event on June 11, 2013, from 4-7 pm at the Main Street Square in Rapid City, South Dakota.
  • The Northern Lights Valley Knitters guild will be knitting in public at Newcomb Park in Wasilla, Alaska Saturday, June 15 from 1 to 3 pm.
  • Knitters in Washington state are invited to gather June 8th at Bookend Coffee Company inside the Everett Public Library. 2702 Hoyt Ave Everett Wa from 10am to 5pm.
  • Other Toronto events info can be found here.

Put info about your events in the comments below!

Attending a Knitting Retreat

I recently had the distinct pleasure of attending a knitting retreat. This one, “Knit U”, held at the Springbrooke retreat center in Langley, B.C., was organized by the KnitSocial Team – the wonderful Amanda and Fiona.

The setting was perfect – especially for us sun-starved east-coasters. Early spring in the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful thing.

A little too chilly to swim, but otherwise perfect.

We gathered on Friday afternoon, and started the proceedings with a casual lecture session (is there such a thing as a casual lecture? there is here, when you’re gathered in the living room, in front of the fire, with snacks and a glass of wine at hand).

Part of the pleasure of a retreat is the retreat aspect – getting away from your daily routine, whether that’s work, or kids, or in my case, dog walks in the snow.  Attendees were very well taken care of by Marion at the retreat center – the food was wonderful, and the atmosphere very relaxed and soothing.

All our needs met.
All our needs met.

This group had held a retreat in the same location last year, and Marion, the on-site chef, was so excited about the sessions last year that she took up knitting. She’s already on her fourth sweater, and between shifts in the kitchen, she sat with us and worked on her latest project.

And it wasn’t just Marion who had been inspired – Debbie attended the retreat the previous year, and where there had been classes on dyeing yarn. She was so taken with the dyeing that she decided to take it up, and has established a small dyeing business, under the name Two Tigers. She generously gifted all attendees with a skein of her lace yarn, dyed in a special colorway for the event.

Just gorgeous - blue skies and the hint of spring flowers.
Just gorgeous – blue skies and the hint of spring flowers.

Debbie blogged about the event here.

Saturday and Sunday we had two classes each, with lots of time in between for relaxing, chatting and knitting.

Saturday evening Amanda and Fiona had arranged a field trip for us, to the nearby knit shop 88 Stitches. The team at the shop had laid out some treats for us: wine, chocolate and cookies. And yarn! What yarn!

Making knitters happy!
Making knitters happy…

88 Stitches is the home shop of local indie dyer Melissa, of Sweet Fiber Yarn. I couldn’t resist – I bought a skein of brilliantly striped sock yarn, called Wicked! Melissa has a wide range of beautiful yarns, and attendees enjoyed fondling and choosing them.

Amanda, with her spoils.
Love this!
Love this.

I can’t say enough about the event. I enjoyed myself thoroughly: met some lovely new friends, some lovely new yarns, and had a incredibly relaxing time. It would have been a terrific way to spend the weekend with just that, but then we had classes and discussions for knitters to expand their skills and knowledge. Every knitter took away at least a few new ideas and tips and tricks – it was fun to watch people put their new skills into action…

Learning, ever learning..

A splendid time was had by all!

So many new friends!

I’m grateful to Amanda and Fiona for inviting me to join them.

Kate’s Leopard Hat

As I reported last week, I’m going through my annual “tired of my winter gear” phase, and like every year, I’ve made myself a new hat to cheer me as we see out the last weeks of winter.

A friend alerted to me to the Stray hat on Ravelry, and so in a fit of late-night-startitis, I dove in the stash and came out with the required three coordinating colours….

Not exactly authentically leopard, but I do think they work rather well together.

You can see why I need some colour – grey skies, grey snow.

Note that I did make two adjustments – the original hat is a fab beret style, but I prefer a more fitted hat, so I took out one pattern repeat; and I worked the band in the darkest colour rather than the main colour. Otherwise it’s worked as written.

I used Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light, less than one skein each of three colors. And I LOVE IT.

Just the thing I need to liven up a black winter coat.
Just the thing I need to liven up a black winter coat.

What Kate’s Knitting

Come mid-February, the winter doldrums start to set in. I’m officially tired of my winter coat, tired of my boots, tired of the early dark, tired of the grey skies and grey slush.

Come mid-February, every year, the same things happen. I could set my watch by them: First, I knit myself a new hat. By this time, I’ve been wearing the same hat since December, and I’m deeply bored of it.

I also start to crave color: bright, outrageous, silly color.

Which results in something like this:

Well, it is colorful.

(This is the Stray leopard print hat, but worked in colors that only I would think were a good idea.)

Turns out I’m not the only who suffers this problem. Friend of Knitty Sue showed me her solution. I do like it, as it doesn’t require any new yarn purchases: leftover sock yarn socks!

This isn’t a new idea, but it’s the pure insanity of Sue’s iteration that I adore: no more than 10 rounds of a color before changing.

Also fairly colorful.

They’re clearly a pair, because Sue has used a solid color for the heels and toes. Of course.

So as soon as my hat-of-questionable-taste is complete, I’ve starting into my own leftover sock yarn socks.

I’ve certainly got enough yarn.

Lots to choose from... And this isn't even all of it..
Lots to choose from… And this isn’t even all of it..

If you want to see this idea taken to its (perhaps not entirely) logical conclusion, check out knitpurlhunter’s Sock Opus leftover sock yarn tights, on Ravelry.