Obsession Thursdays

Obsession Thursday: the brilliant KeepCup

a variety of KeepCups. How could you pick just one?

a variety of KeepCups. How could you pick just one?

This is not a feminine device. It’s a travel coffee cup that you keep.

Nothing new, you say? What’s so great about the KeepCup, you ask? It’s smart. It’s environmentally sound. And it is ergonomically designed to fit your lips.

Seriously. The very best thing about it is this: your mouth will fit perfectly around the drinking hole of this fabulous cup and you will not accidentally dribble as you try to avoid scalding yourself. It’s just good design.

here's mine, well used and loved since finding it in a coffeeshop in the UK 2 years ago.

here’s mine, purchased 2 years ago in the UK. had no idea what it was; i just liked the colors. it’s proved to be my best coffee friend ever since.

It also self-seals with this cool top thingy (see the orange thing at left) that rotates from closed to open easily. Easy to clean, doesn’t scald your hands, affordable. Works for hot or cold drinks. Comes in a variety of sizes. Designed and made in Australia, the home of the inventors of my new favorite coffee drink, the flat white*.

And you can make up your own color combo.

No affiliation. I just love this thing and wanted you to know about it.

You may resume your regularly scheduled day.

*according to the linked post, “Flat White has an even mix of liquid milk and smooth velvet foam so it feels like drinking an espresso, only yummier.” To me, it tastes like a more intense, more caramelly latte, without any bitterness. I am addicted.

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Obsession Thursday: It hurts.

In the late ’90s, I was an obsessed quilter and new computer user. Hand quilting + mousing gave me Carpal Tunnel Syndrome back then, and I’ve been fighting it ever since. For the record, that’s at least 16 years.

2016-01-02 22.12.21-2

A Somerset Star that fills a 12″ diameter embroidery hoop. Made with fabric, glue stick, hot iron, and just a few perfectly placed stitches.

I’ve worn some sort of splint (aka brace) at night all that time. I’ve done acupuncture, osteopathy and the only thing that sort of worked: Active Release Technique (ART) therapy. The condition got so bad, there was a period where it woke me up at night with screaming, searing pain. The cortisone shot made no difference. ART has kept me from being in agony, but it couldn’t solve a too-small opening for a too-large nerve in my wrists.

During that time, I stopped quilting (mostly because I became 100% re-consumed with knitting and then started Knitty. Both hands, though, continued to get worse.

Earlier this year, my Pilates teacher yelled at me (She’s an RN): “When are you going to get those things fixed?!” And it finally seemed like avoiding surgery was no longer a wise thing to do. Beyond the fact that knitting more than a few rows at a time is all I can do, CTS means that almost everything I do is affected in some way. Surgery* is scheduled for mid-March, and according to the doc, I’ll be back at the keyboard within just a few days, fully healed in 6-8 weeks. I am actually EXCITED about this. *Nothing bloody at that link. Just info on the type of surgery I’m getting, in case you’re curious.

The Somerset Star now lives above my bed, along with a collection of hoops (scavenged at the annual Textile Museum's sale over the past few years) filled with some of my favorite fabrics.

The Somerset Star now lives above my bed, along with a collection of hoops (scavenged at the annual Textile Museum’s sale over the past few years) filled with some of my favorite fabrics.

In the meantime, quilting is providing a creative outlet that I desperately need. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen some of the stuff I’ve been doing. I took a class to learn how to make a Somerset Star at The Workroom, and went a little bonkers with it (see above).

I find it amusing that the craft (though not the same hand movements) that started the injury is what I’m doing until I can get it all fixed.

I still don’t hand quilt. Maybe I’ll be able to after healing from the surgery, but mostly, I just want to be able to knit, wash dishes (!), drive my Vespa, and play my ukulele again without hurting.

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2015: The year it all changed for Knitty

It’s hard to even know where to begin to write about Knitty’s 2015. We could focus on some standout patterns that we published, like these:

252 projects on Ravelry

Geek socks: 252 projects on Ravelry

 

Swink: the definition of knitting and crochet playing well together!

Swink: the definition of knitting and crochet playing well together!

 

Pierrot: a sweater unlike any other...so joyous!

Pierrot: a sweater unlike any other…so joyous!

and the crazy innovation in the Winter issue:

Cache Cache: not mindless, but worth it

Cache Cache: tame your crazy variegateds in such a beautiful way

 

Knitting 2015

Ribbon Candy: vertically stacked increases = pop art

 

Hexadot: did you know that linen stitch can create DOTS?

Hexadot: did you know that linen stitch can create DOTS?

 

One of the biggest changes was made possible by our new Sysadmin, Christopher Gernon, who did this:

way to uncork the decade-old bottleneck, Christopher!

way to uncork the decade-old launch-day bottleneck, Christopher!

Though he did it with brain cells, a lot of hard work and targeted knowhow (not champagne and a thumb). We love him very  much.

 

We welcomed two new columnists: Liz Gipson who talks about Weaving for knitters on the rigid-heddle loom, and Lorilee Beltman, who is taking our techniques column to a new level of cleverness.

Then there was this:

 

But without doubt, the biggest story for Knitty in 2015 was our change in how we’re funded. We’ve gone from being 100% advertising supported to a combination of support from advertisers and our readers. OUR READERS. YOU GUYS. We used the cool Patreon platform.

I talk about the process of asking for help, and the joy in finding out help was available thanks to you guys, in the latest editorial. But it cannot be overstated. Finding out our readership likes what we do enough to support us in such a huge way is the most affirming thing that could ever happen to us. Support continues to build, even after our big launch in September, which means ongoing financial security for Knitty and its staff. In case you missed it, I was able to double what we pay our designers, thanks to your support. I’ve been able to give the Tech Editors long-overdue raises, thanks to your support. We are able to hold advertising prices steady, allowing our advertisers to share their wares and services with you at affordable prices, thanks to your support. And more good things are still to come.

It’s all THANKS TO YOUR SUPPORT.

We’ve had a wonderful 2015, and we cannot wait to see where 2016 takes us. Thank you for accompanying us on this exciting journey, and please accept our best wishes for the happiest possible 2016.

Love,
Amy, Jillian and the Knitty team

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Obsession Thursday: How to ask for help

The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer

The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer

Hopefully by now, you’ve heard about our Patreon campaign that’s changed Knitty from a struggling ad-only supported magazine to one supported by both advertisers and our readers. We are now able to count on a stable future full of opportunity, as we will be able to pay our staff and contributors fairly! And we’re working on our next goal, which is redesigning and recoding to bring this 2002 magazine visually and functionally up to date with the 2016 (and beyond) internet.

One thing I haven’t talked much about through this process is what got me to a place where I felt brave enough to let people know our current financial state and to ask for their help. This book is what did it. I bought it when it was released last fall and absorbed every word, because I was a fan. And because I liked the message the author was spreading.

Amanda Palmer is an independent musician who’s been in the business longer than Knitty has been around. She spent her early days atop a milk crate as a Living Statue, and transitioned into music as a singer-songwriter on piano and (yes) ukulele, where she’s slowly, steadily built her fan base by being intimately connected to her fans, in person and on the internet. Whether you like her music or not (I happen to love it), the way she conducts herself and her business is inspirational. And when I saw that Amanda had launched a Patreon earlier this year, I realized that perhaps this could work for Knitty, too.

It’s easy to read the title and assume it’s all about asking for help. Just ask, and everyone will give and poof, worries over. Except it’s not like that at all. The book shows, in great detail, that building a community first is a key element to establishing a relationship in which the creator can ask for help and the community will want to provide it. Ravelry proved that point when they asked for our help in categorizing their huge library of patterns and supporting them financially. They had already provided so much to knitters that we were glad to help and as a result, we have a robust, super-useful Ravelry available to us today.

But Knitty was my business, and we all know about the demons that sit on our shoulders and tell us we’re not good enough. (Amanda calls them the Fraud Police.) Sure, asking for help worked for Ravelry, but would it work for Knitty?

As we have seen in just 48 hours, it has worked. 

There’s so much more I can say, but I’ve got Patreon work to do. Read the book. I think you’ll find a lot to think about in there.

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Obsession Thursday — trying to prevent brain goopification

We’re all getting older. (Sorry to break it to you.) Some of us feel it more than others, and when you get near that menopause thing, it gets even worse. We know knitting helps keep us sharp, but there’s no reason to stop there. There are lots of apps that claim to help keep your brain sharp too. Both Jillian and I tried Lumosity for a while, and it was interesting, but it was really never fun. It was a chore. I believe we both cursed out the penguins more than once.

downloadA while ago, I did my usual surf around the app store and found Elevate. Another of those free-to-download apps that charge you if you want to do more than cursorily interact with them. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. Seems Apple likes it — it was 2014’s app of the year. I guess I’m late to the party.

You get 3 games a day for free, and it’s actually FUN to watch your performance improve (or try to make that happen). I found myself wanting to play more than my 3 a day, more than once. So when I saw they had a bit of a sale on a while ago, I sprung for a whole year of pro access (get on their mailing list and you’ll catch a sale at some point). My biggest challenge are the games that involve listening/memory and some of the math-based ones. I am at their Expert level in all the spelling and reading games. Not surprising (you’d hope that an editor’d be good at the word stuff, right?). But even the stuff I’m good at is still a challenge. This is a very well crafted app.

Damn, I love this thing. Instead of turning my brain into a giant gummy bear with Candy Crush Soda INSANITY, now I can use a little down time to exercise my synapses and pump up my neurons. Available for iOS and Android. #noaffiliation

this is fun stuff.

this is fun stuff.

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Obsession Thursday: Selling stuff the easy way!

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 12.07.28 PMWhen I moved to my new neighborhood, I did something uncharacteristic. I turned to Facebook. What resources did it have for me?

Turns out, lots. Neighborhood pages where any local occurrence is dissected and analyzed, complaints about dog poo and unshovelled sidewalks and noise. New businesses are celebrated; old ones mourned when they close. It’s fascinating.

And then there are the Buy and Sell pages. THOSE are my newest obsession. Neighbors offload the stuff they’ve bought to other neighbors, usually at ridiculously low prices, just to get them out the door. I’ve bought (both my air conditioners are less than a year old, and were less than $100 each) and sold (the old Knitty macbook pro just went out the door today). It’s better than eBay or Kijiji or Craigslist. If you have something good to sell, it will be GONE in a flash (my laptop sold in an hour) with no fees. The biggest problem? No-shows. It’s worth the risk.

I keep looking around the apartment to see what else I can sell.

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Welcome, Maryla & Chris!

If you read the blog regularly (and you should!), you may have noticed the first post from our newest Knitty staffer, Maryla Bianco. (How do you pronounce that? Mare-la, she tells us.)

marylaMaryla comes to us via an introduction from a trusted colleague and she’s just getting started with Knitty. Her official title is Assistant to the Editors (that’d be me, Jillian and Kate), and we’re easing her into this role, starting with the weekly WWW updates, every Wednesday on this here blog.

More about Maryla: Maryla comes to us after years in the white collar business world, and has accepted the mission to watch over and assist the editors of Knitty. She has an English degree, which she calls a B.A. in B.S.

She rules the roost of her testosterone-heavy home (a husband and three teenage sons), two terriers and two tabbies (all male).  When she’s not feeding teenagers, she’s knitting, spinning, bird watching, or singing ’70s music at the top of her lungs.

If you read the Editorial (and you should!) of our latest issue, you have already been introduced to our 2nd newest Knitty staffer, Christopher Gernon, our already beloved SysAdmin. Chris was not eased into his role. We asked him to plunge right in, as if he was leaping off the high board into an ice-cold pool. And he blew it out of the water. (OMG, Amy, enough with the stupid metaphors already.) The details are all in that Editorial linked above.
More about Christopher:  As System Administrator, Chris configures servers, manages databases, analyzes logs, researches new technologies, and generally makes sure the site stays up and running.
Chris lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife, kids, and way too many cats. He only discovered knitting in 2013, but immediately fell in love with it and has been trying to make up for lost time ever since. He is frequently known to spend evenings knitting and laughing at The Village Yarn and Fiber Shop.When he isn’t knitting, he enjoys reading, working on amateur electronics, playing videogames, and handing over large sums of money to The LEGO Group. He also collects books (mainly vintage science fiction), puzzles (mainly involving spatial manipulation), and board games (mainly European resource management games with 30-page rule books). He keeps thinking about looking into home brewing, but let’s face it, he already has more hobbies than anyone should.

 

Welcome Christopher and Maryla, would you? They’re a pair of awesome folks and we’re very lucky to have them!

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In memory: Lisa Grossman, The Tsock Tsarina

We were very saddened to hear of the death last week of Lisa Grossman, a.k.a The Tsock Tsarina. Lisa was a knit designer of wonderful and unrivaled imagination. Her particular metier was socks – socks of the craziest and most spectacular types – but she was also gifted in other types of designing, too.

I worked with Lisa twice, editing her beautiful Darrowby cardigan, and the Glomerata sock. Although we were so very very different in working styles, and I am quite certain that Lisa found being edited by me a chore (my insistence on stitch counts and precise instructions is entirely counter to her pattern writing method), she was cheerful throughout the process and we nevertheless bonded. It was Lisa who insist I buy a spindle, at Rhinebeck.

Lisa’s patterns were special. They were sculptural. They were art.

Her work first came to my attention when Stephanie, the Yarnharlot, was making one of her designs.  I laughed at Stephanie’s description of the madness, and laughed when I saw the pictures, but stopped laughing when I realized the work that had gone into the design. Yes, she made with the crazy; yes, she made with the insanely ornate and sculptural; yes, she made with flights of fancy like I had never seen before. But she also made them fit. We had many discussions about sock fit, and I loved the she paid attention to that detail, too.

But she wasn’t just a knitter. She was a spinner, she was a literary historian, she was a cookbook author.

Cancer is cruel. Cancer is heartbreaking. Cancer has robbed the world of a good person and a great imagination. And the knitting world is decided duller without Lisa and her flights of fancy.

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Obsession Thursday: Helping

Today’s blog comes to you from a rather famous guest. We are in awe of how she uses her influence for the powers of good, and we wanted to help. No one can say it better than she can, so take it away, Stephanie!


This morning I got up early – so early it was still dark, and I made coffee, and while it was brewing, I put on my biking stuff – including the incredibly flattering and esteem boosting spandex. Then I came downstairs again, and sat in the dawning light, eating peanut butter toast and waiting for the text from Jen that would tell me she was at the trailhead. When she got there, I went outside, got on my bike, and as I pushed off down the street to meet her, I marvelled that I was doing it.  I’m training for the Bike Rally again, and I have a secret to tell you.

verychipper 2015-05-13

Jen and I are seen here at the beginning of our ride this morning. 50km before work. What you can’t see is how cold we are. We were attempting supernatural chipperness as an antidote. It helps.

At the end of the Rally last year, I was going to take a year off. Last year was… hard. I don’t know any other way to describe it. The rain, the overwhelming training schedule, my knees – they were really hurting. I think I have a grip on the problem now, but last year? The ends of the rides were all punctuated with ice packs. Also, the issue of the (*&%$%##ing squirrel EATING MY SEAT right before the rally, and having to ride the whole thing on a new one? I’d rather not discuss the impact on my nether-regions, and instead tell you that that year was… hard.  I had a very, very low night about mid-way through the rally, when I cried (by myself, like a grownup) and wondered why the hell I do this to myself, and thought that maybe I would have a break this year. That feeling was still there when we pulled into Montreal. It was amazing to have done it, I was so proud of everything, but I was done. Just… for a while. I imagined all the ways that I could still support this cause without involving my free time, summer vacation, weekends and crotch.  I hadn’t figured out how to tell anyone. Joe knew though, and he said everyone would understand. I thought he was right too.

Then, something happened. PWA was forced to cut some staff and services. The Bike Rally is the sustaining fundraiser for PWA, and we’d failed to sustain them, and the people who use them. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. In fact, the ridership raised more money per rider last year than ever before – there there were fewer riders though, compared to years past, and even though the fundraising efforts were heroic, it wasn’t enough.  This moved me more than I can tell you. This tangible evidence that the Rally is so fundamental, so immediate to the ability of PWA to help people… it just struck me that the choices that I made mattered, and they mattered that day, and something snapped.

I did three important things that day.  I decided to ride again. I decided to accept the position I was offered on the Steering Committee. (Without a word of a lie, I was going to turn it down.) And… I decided to do everything in my power to change the outcome for this year, to try as hard as I could to raise as much as I could.  So, I didn’t quit. I had sort of a bad feeling in my tummy, but I didn’t quit.

Those decisions have had, shall we say… “impact”.  I have the added responsibilities of Steering Committee. I help make decisions that shape the Rally, and make things possible. I go to a lot of meetings. I send a lot of emails, and once again, my summer is going to evaporate into a blur of training rides and Rally stuff, and I’ll probably be away when my new niece of nephew comes – and while I have some feelings about that,  I don’t regret my choice. I feel like it’s important, and I am so, so very lucky to have this time to give. (My arse disagrees, but we are in negotiations.)

rainagain 2015-05-13 (1)

Jen and I are seen here this morning, having lost a little of that chipperness as the rain started, and we became both wet and cold.

So, to make a long story even longer. This summer I will ride my bike more than 600 kilometres from Toronto to Montreal, in The Friends for Life Bike Rally.  This year, we have a little family team, as always.  Ken, long-time rider, blog starter, and the person who roped me into this in the first place. Pato, the most decent 23 year old man alive (he will very much appreciate me saying “man” instead of “boy”)  and Jen – mum, student, employee, wonderful riding partner,  and all four of us… knitters. (Well, in the interest of honesty I feel compelled to tell you that Pato *can* knit, but he doesn’t often. He’s 23. With maturity, will come reason.)  My daughters aren’t joining us this year, because they have work/school schedules that simply cannot allow for the 12 weekend/1 week off work commitments that are the Rally.  (It’s not small potatoes. It eats your vacation.) Look for their influence in other places. They’re still in it.

thatdamnhill 2015-05-13

Jen and I are seen here being handed our arses by a monster hill we couldn’t get up. If you live in Toronto, know that it was Pottery Road. It’s the beginning of training – we couldn’t make it all the way up. We’ll see how we do in a few weeks. It was brutal.

 

Once again, I’m asking for your help. Our commitment means nothing without you.  (I am stopping just short of calling you the wind beneath our wings, thank goodness, although that was a near thing. I deleted it.)  Once again, I’m going to try and raise a ton of money, and I have a private and deeply personal crazy-pants goal. To this end, I’m going to do some things the same way, and some things differently. What stays the same? Karmic Balancing gifts. Once a week (or so) between now and the rally, I’ll chose from amongst the people who’ve helped and redirect a knitterly (or spinnerly) gift from someone else who wants to help.*  What’s different? Who sends their name along.

This year I want it to be all about the Karma. We’re trying to change lives here, make things better for some people, and there’s so much more to that than money, so, here’s the thing. If you donate to anyone on our little team

Me

Ken

Pato

Jen

Then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so. Make the subject line “I helped” and send it to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca. (Note the .ca it’s a Canada thing.) Include your name, address, and whether or not you spin.  (For the love of all things woolly, please use the subject line. It makes your email go to a specific folder and you have no idea what a difference that makes to my sanity.) You don’t need to say what you gave, or include proof. I know you’ll do your best, whatever that is, and I know you wouldn’t lie.  What’s new? Not everyone has money to help with – so we’re taking all kinds of help.  If you can figure out some other way to do that, please send in your email. Maybe you can tell a friend. Maybe you can post about it to social media. Maybe you can contribute a gift. There’s lots and lots of ways to help, and if you can figure out a way? Send that email, letting me know you did.

Knitters, lets go big. Let’s fill up the world with amazing, and when everyone at PWA asks who these people are? Ken, Pato, Jen and I will smile and say what we always do. “They’re knitters. You have no idea what they’re made of.”

*If you want to contribute a gift, I’m trying to make it easier for myself this year. It’s a ton of work, and I don’t mind doing it, but I have a better shot at getting it all done if you do this: Take a picture of your gift. Email me with the subject line “Karmic Balancing” with the details, picture and a link, if you want me to use one. When one of the helpers is chosen for a gift, I’ll email you the address, and you can ship it right to them. (It’s not a bad idea to let me know if you have shipping restrictions. I’ll keep track.) Thank you!


Okay, Knitty readers. Can you help in some way? 

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Obsession Thursday: A man.

No, this is not a dating post. In fact, it could be a genderless post entirely, but I thought that title might catch your eye.

This is Christopher. He knits. We love him already.

This is Christopher. He knits. We love him already.

Knitty has a new man. His name is Christopher, and he is going to rock our world. He’s our new System Administrator. He lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and children and he is a knitter. And he’s come to make Knitty behave better, in a server sense.

He and I have been talking via email and Skype, working to move Knitty to a more suitable server. Not a more expensive one. It turns out we had something twice as expensive as we need, and it still let you all down on launch days. (You know how you have to wait your turn to get in to see a new issue? For hours? Days? That bugs me too.)

So in order to make sure the new server we’ve chosen will do what we want it to, we need your help. It’s easy. Tonight at 7pm eastern time (same time zone as New York City), we’re asking you to come back here and click on the big link that you’ll find on this page. That will take you to what looks like the existing Knitty site, but it’s actually the new server which has a clone of the site. We want as many of  you as possible to try to hit it at the same time to see if it can take the pressure. Click on the main link. Then click around. Look at pages, follow links within the magazine. We’re trying to get thousands and thousands of clicks all at the same time, like we would on a launch day. Click for a while, read some articles, look at patterns. The more pressure we can put on the server for this test, the better.

We won’t need bug reports. Christopher is awesome at looking at the logs to see what happens, and we’ll both be sitting by our computers, watching this whole thing go down. We will monitor any feedback you have on Twitter with the hashtag #knittyservertest. If you want to follow what’s happening from our perspective, I’m at @knittydotcom

We love you guys, and getting us to a server that can finally handle our traffic properly is the first step in being ready for the future. Please spread the word about the test and set an alarm…come back at 7pm tonight and click!

PS The link will be posted here on the Knittyblog, on Twitter and also on our Facebook page. Remember: Going to the existing Knitty site won’t help the test. Please use the special link which I’ll make big and huge and very noticeable.

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