Obsession Thursdays

Obsessed with: resurrected gadgetry

A glorp of Nabaztags (that's the correct term because I just made it up)

A glorp of Nabaztags (that’s the correct term because I just made it up)

This happens a lot nowadays. Something gets invented, people get excited and buy it and for whatever reason, the company that made the thing gives up on it, or goes bankrupt and it’s pretty much a paperweight after that. That happened with Nabaztag, the robotic rabbit that I fell in love with back in 2006ish. Since Nabaztag rabbits relied on a central server to make them do anything at all, white plastic rabbits all over the world just stopped working around 2009. Creepy.

I recently moved into a new apartment and couldn’t bear NOT to bring my dead plastic friend with me. Instead of unpacking boxes one day, I googled. And found that a whole bunch of Nabaztag lovers had started their own server! My robotic bunny has returned from the dead! (Props to Violet, the company that went under, but was kind enough to release the code into the open so that obsessive geeks could make this happen.)

So now, at the top of the page, you see a link to “Send Amy a message”. When you fill out the two fields and click “Send it”, this is what happens:

Want a Nabaztag? Good luck. You might find one on eBay. Or you might want to take the risk on Karotz, the successor (and soon to be unsupported as well) to the Nabaztag. Nothing techy-cool can work forever.

Obsession: Crochet

You might have heard the rumour: Amy and I both like to crochet.

When your hobby is your work, you need to find a hobby to relax from your hobby, if you see what I mean.

I love crochet as a relaxation. I like to just follow a pattern and have fun, not worrying about design elements or writing the pattern or any of the other stuff I worry about when I’m knitting. I’m currently working on the lacy flower scarf that was in the spring/summer 2014 issue of the Noro magazine. I love how this uses the chaos of a Noro colourway and organizes it into something totally different.

The original:

(c) Noro Magazine 2014, Photo by Paul Amato for LVARepresents.com

Mine, so far:

There's going to be a few ends to weave in...

There’s going to be a few ends to weave in…

The best part about this project is that each little motif takes about ten or fifteen minutes, so I can get a quick hit in between other things. At this rate, it’s going to be a while before it’s ready, but I don’t mind.

And Amy has been working on a half-hex shawl in a fantastic array of colors.

A very promising start…

Making progress…

You can see more pictures on Amy’s Instagram account.

Yup, we both love crochet.

This is one of the reasons we were so excited to add our Plays Well Together column to Knitty: we know that many knitters crochet – and many crocheters knit – and we wanted to explore how the two crafts complement each other!

Come hang with us! Fall Teaching Schedules

In addition to writing this blog, and editing your favourite online knitting magazine, the Knitty team also enjoys teaching.

Come, take a class with us!


It’s a quiet year for me on purpose, so there’s just a few things coming up!

October 4-5, 2014 I’ll be teaching at Knit City with Kate in Vancouver!

October 14, 2014 I’m excited to be hosting a panel discussion at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto!
Topic: Make Your Voice Heard: The Intersection of Craft, Creativity, and Activism

And you can take my Plug+Play class beginner’s design class any time, now that I’m on Craftsy!

I’m now taking bookings for 2015 and beyond.


September 19-21, 2014 I’m teaching at a color party at the Happy Camper Fiber Retreat in Hartland, Michigan

Late September or Early October, 2014  My Plying class for Craftsy launches!

October 31 – November 2, 2014  I’m teaching at the Intrepid Knitter, Intrepid Spinner retreat in Baltimore, Maryland. My classes are Colorplay, Big Yarns, 12 Ways to Spin Variegated Yarn, The Difference a Ply Makes and Spinning for Stitching.

April 11, 2015 I’m teaching Colorplay at a guild in Iowa City.

April 16-19 2015 I’ll be with Kate at Interweave’s Yarn Fest in Loveland, CO. Class details TBA.


September 18-21, 2014  I’m at the Needle Emporium Knitting Camp at the Bayview-Wildwood Resort. Info here.

October 4-5, 2014  I’ll be with Amy at KnitCity in Vancouver, B.C. Classes are Custom Fit Socks, Pattern Writing, Finishing and the Pi Shawl. Info here.

October 18th, 2014 I’m at Spun Fibre Arts in Burlington, Ontario.

November 15th & 16th, 2014  I’m at Shall We Knit in Waterloo, teaching Toe Up Socks, Fixing Mistakes, Finishing and the Pi Shawl.

December 13th, 2014  I’m at Linda’s Craftique in Port Credit, Ontario.

April 16-19 2015 I’ll be with Jillian at Interweave’s Yarn Fest in Loveland, CO. Class details TBA.

Of course, if you’re in the Toronto area, I teach regularly at The Purple Purl and Lettuce Knit.

(And watch for an announcement about NYC in January…)

Showing your love for knitting on your car

A couple of weeks ago I ran into Lana Holden, designer of Knitty favorite pattern The Skew Sock.

I gasped out loud when I saw her license plate…

Friend of Knitty Laura Nelkin took a photo of this fantastic jeep last year…


(Although pretty sure the owner of this particular vehicle also crochets… )

The inimitable Lucy Neatby has decorated her car with her trademark “happy stitch” logo.


Lorajean, yarn dyer behind Knittedwit.com keeps it simple:


Karen, owner of the fantastic yarn shop Shall We Knit has this on her car…

SWK - Copy

Lara Neel spotted this one, but we don’t know who is belongs to…


If one of these is yours, or you have a knitting-themed license plate, show us a picture!

Blocking: Why and How and Tools to Make it Easier and Better

It’s fair to say that I am obsessed with blocking.

Blocking is such a key step in the knitting process. Blocking is the difference between a project being done, and being finished.

I think there’s a fair bit of confusion about blocking, and the language has a lot to do with it: you hear about mats and pins and wires, and many knitters think that it’s complicated and requires special equipment. Not at all! For the majority of projects, all that’s needed is a wash.

Yes, just a wash.

Generally speaking, the only types of projects that require special equipment and treatment are lace projects. Otherwise, just give the item a wash.

Indeed, I never declare a project finished until it’s been washed and dried. It’s essential if you’re going to be doing any seaming. If pieces are going to stretch or shrink that needs to happen before you sew up so the seams don’t pucker.

But even if it’s not going to be seamed, washing a piece makes it look so much better. The stitches even out and the wrinkles will disappear. The yarns bloom – a silk-based yarn gets shinier and prettier. A wool yarn softens and fluff up. A linen yarn loses the ‘crunch’. Your cables will tidy up and pop, your ribbing become more even, your stockinette get smoother.

And chances are, the yarn you worked with is pretty dirty – as it moves from the mill to packaging to shipping and to the yarn shop, yarns gathers machine oils from the spinning, dust from the mill air, other fibre strands and fluff from the yarn shop, and lint from whatever else it’s been stored with.

And of course, as you knit it, it might gather coffee stains, pet hair, cookie crumbs. After a good wash, you knitting just looks better. Try it next time you knit two of something – socks, mitts, sleeves. Wash one and compare it against the other. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised.

In fact, this is what blocking is. For most things, when a pattern says to block, all that needs to happen is to wash it. The only type of knitting that needs special blocking treatment is lace; lace requires stretching to open up the stitchwork and make it look its best. (This is when you might need to worry about mats and wires and pins and all that jazz. Otherwise, nope.)

Washing is absolutely the best way to block. Neither pressing nor steam blocking can be fully guaranteed to take care of whatever stretching or shrinking is going to happen; and pressing can flatten out your knitting – for example, pressing an aran sweater squishes up all that lovely cabling.

Wash it according to the washing instructions on the ball band for the yarn – handwash or machine wash. I tend to air dry most things, even if they are dryer-safe – it saves energy and wear-and-tear on the garment. If you’re air-drying, find somewhere you can lay the items flat, if possible. For small items, drape them over a towel rail, or over a laundry rack.

I do like to use a wool-wash. SOAK is fantastic – it’s gentle on your fibers, and genuinely does not need to be rinsed out. So easy! If I’m hand-washing, I throw the item in the sink with wool-wash, and let it soak for at least half an hour. You want it to get fully saturated. Then I either roll it in a towel, or send it through my front-loading washing machine’s spin cycle – to get most of the water out – and then lay it flat to dry. But, equally, if the yarn you’re using is machine dryable, go for it.

Now, if it’s a lace piece, this is when I get my mats and pins out.

Lace needs to be stretched to look its best – the yarnovers open up, and the decrease lines get crisp and pretty. A piece of lace straight off the needles is crumpled and lumpy.

I’ve just finished up a circular shawl project, and after I squeezed most of the water out, I pinned it out to dry, to stretch it, to make the patternwork open up, and to get those lovely pointed edges to be pointy.


(This is the Rosetta Tharpe shawl; pattern coming in August.)

Note the ruler: as I pinned, I measured it to make sure the points were equally spaced, and that the radius was the same all the way around, to make sure it was a neat and tidy circle.

You can buy blocking kits from various craft-tool suppliers, they usually contain mats and pins. I bought these mats from my local sporting goods supplier, Canadian Tire. They’re 2 feet by 2 feet, nice and big for larger projects. The ones sold at craft suppliers are often smaller, which can be useful if you’ve not got a lot of floor space, or have smaller projects.

The pins are important – they need to be rust-proof t-pins. Buy the best you can find. You don’t want rust-stains on your work! 

If your piece has straight edges, blocking wires can be very helpful… using them saves a lot of pinning. Feed the wire along the straight edge, like so:

And our friends at Signature Needle Arts have just released a most excellent new product: a blocking cloth. It’s got grid-lines woven in, at one-inch intervals.

I used it recently when I blocked a tank top with a lace edge. I gave the piece a wash, and it came out beautifully – although when I laid it out on top of hte cloth I could see that the scalloped edge was definitely not straight, and the scallops weren’t very even or pretty.


So I wet the piece and pinned it out again, with the cloth on top of my blocking mats, using the grid-lines on the cloth as a guide. I got a perfect straight edge, with even scallops. Brilliant!


But yes, whether you use fancy tools, or just your bathroom sink, blocking is critical. You’ll be thrilled with the results, I promise!

If you’d like to learn more, I’ve got a Craftsy class on this topic… Let me show you how balloons and plates are useful for blocking hats! In the class I also talk about fiber care and washing and moth prevention and all sorts of other useful tips.

Stories in Stitches

Knitty designer and columnist Donna Druchunas has always been interested in knitting history and stories, and she and her friend Ava Coleman have recently launched a project that’s about just that.

Stories In Stitches is a book series featuring stories about knitters and their lives, traditions, history, and travel, all tied together with knitting patterns and projects. Each volume includes projects from a far-away time or place. In the words of Donna and Ava: “It is our desire to inspire and empower knitters of all skill levels to move beyond the line-by-line pattern into the realm of creating their own modern folk-art designs.”

The third volume is launching this week, and the focus in on knitting around the world during World Wars I and II. You can order it online.

The first was all about the knitted counterpane – bringing to life stitch delicate and decorative stitch patterns, including some originally used in a bedspread knitted by US First Lady Grace Coolidge. The second was all about knitted samplers, and featured an interview with Meg Swansen. The projects included some truly stunning lace designs.

Full disclosure: I’ve been working on the project as a technical editor, and it’s wonderful and fascinating stuff. I love that Donna and Ava aren’t just focused on North America and Western Europe – they have a truly global perspective. The articles provide a lovely intimate view into the lives of knitters in other times and other countries. The projects are sometimes charmingly retro, and sometimes perfectly modern – but always beautiful and interesting.

Because we love this project so much, we want to share it with you! Leave a comment on the post to be entered to win a set of all three volumes.

The usual contest rules apply: leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, Monday May 5th. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the books. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance. Thanks!

Knitted Car Cozy

Tag WorldwideA knitter in LA recently completed a rather epic project: a knitted car cozy.

Judy Gregory – knitter, yarn sales rep and costumer for film and TV – was commissioned to create the cozy by an advertising agency for a print ad for Zurich Insurance Group in the UK.

The concept of the ad was simple: “When you truly love something, you protect it in the best way.

I asked Judy about the project…

How much creative input did you have?

The client in England had a yarn they wanted and sent a small photo of a cable pattern. I simplified the cable pattern and shifted some of the stitch counts a bit to accommodate the large gauge of the yarn. After making a series of swatches, they ended up not liking the first yarn, and took my suggestion of using Kraemer Yarns Mauch Chunky Roving. Kraemer is one of the lines I represent and I knew we could get the 32 lbs of Mauch Chunky Roving and 20 balls of Mauch Chunky yarn though the mill and shipped in time to make the deadline for the shooting schedule.

We decided to use a VW Beetle as the photo car. I was happy because it’s a small car! They wanted a car that looked “European”. The photographer, Nick Meek,  had just shot a VW campaign, so it was a choice he was very happy with as well.

How did you do it? How much time did you have to do it? Did anyone help?

The Production Company had a “fit car” delivered to my house so I could take measurements. I knitted a pound of the Roving as a swatch and used it to determine how much fiber to order calculating how many square feet of the car would be need to be covered. The off side of the car was not covered, only what the camera would see.

We were working on size 35 needles and the cable length was 32” so the car cover needed to be worked in panels. I had 2 friends from my knitting guild Jewel City Knitters help with the knitting.

The design part of the project took about a week and a half. After the design decisions were made and received the fiber, the knitting took 11 days start to finish. At the end of each day I would email photos of the days’ progress to the Producer and then be available at 6:30 the next morning in case I was needed for the conference call with the client in England. They asked me to go to Florida for the photo shoot so I could take the cover as luggage and deliver it in person. They didn’t want to ship it and take the risk of it getting lost or subjected to excess heat and moisture which might cause it to felt.

What happens to the pieces afterwards?

The client took the cover back to England intending to use it for display purposes. For the print ad they digitally changed the cover from the original grey to blue to match the company logo. A month later the Producer called me asking if I could knit the off camera side, to make it a full car, and dye the grey cover blue as it appears in the print advertisement.  Because of the large size of the piece we decided to make another one that would be a full car and the correct color of blue, rather than take a chance dyeing it.

The second car cover, which was just completed, was knit in a only 9 days. This time in addition to calling upon my knitting guild friends, 4 knitters from the staff at Kraemer Yarns also knit a panel each. This cover was used for display in Zurich Switzerland at a big car show where the European car companies debut their new models.

This project was unique and seems to capture people’s imaginations. Even if they know nothing about knitting, they understand what an endeavor it is to knit for a car. Who knows, this may not be my last car cover.

Lace Giveaway!

Lovely Lace

Lovely Lace

In an effort to coax Spring out of her shell, we’re doing a lace giveaway today.  Our giveaway feature Brooke Nico’s new wonderful book Lovely Knitted Lace  from Lark Crafts, a set of Hiya Hiya interchangeable needles, size US 2-8   from Hiya Hiya

Hiya Hiya Interchangeable Needles

Hiya Hiya Interchangeable Needles

and a skein of Black Bunny Flutter Merino Lace from Black Bunny Fibers. It’s the same yarn and color Brooke used to make the Flutter Shawl in her book.

Flutter Shawl

Flutter Shawl


I think knitting lace can make the temperatures rise and the flowers bloom don’t you?


Our regular rules apply:

Leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, Monday,  March 24th. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the book,needle set and yarn. If you have already won a prize from us in the past year, please do give other knitters a chance. Giveaway value $140.00







Cat & Felfs & Kindness

Friend of Knitty and innovator extraordinaire Cat Bordhi, has announced her next book: The Art of Felfs: Felted Footwear for Families.

So inspiring!

A new book of Cat patterns is always worth getting excited about, and this has a lot of typically wonderfully Cat ideas… although all the styles seem to have been knitted in the round, they are actually all cleverly constructed strips of garter stitch that are felted and folded in various ways to make a myriad shapes of comfy warm slippers.

Love them!

And what makes this book even more special is that Cat has chosen to donate 100% of the proceeds of the sale of the e-book to a cause close to her heart: the cancer treatment research of Dr. David Krag at the University of Vermont Medical School. To quote Cat, “Dr. Krag, who pioneered sentinel node location, which has been used by over a million women with breast cancer, is now on the cusp of starting clinical trials for a cancer treatment that is as gentle as chemo is violent, and likelier to result in a complete cure.” Cat has made a video to introduce Dr. Krag’s work, and to tell you a little about the folding of the felfs.

Love ’em!

Jillian’s Obsession Thursday: How I Know a New Thing Is Going to Stick

You may have noticed that I love to learn new things.

I never know what’s going to set me off, something in a class, something I’ve read or saw someone else do.

My latest fibery pursuit, embroidery, started with a spinning class with Sarah Swett in May. They I discovered Rebecca Ringquist and her beginning sampler class on CreativeBug.

But I do know when a new interest is going to stick and become part of my life for a bit.

It’s not the new stuff, though I love accumulating and researching tools and supplies.

Here’s my embroidery stash:

Lots of embroidery supplies can fit in a small space.

Lots of embroidery supplies can fit in a small space.

It’s the books.

Not just books from the library, though it always starts that way. Then I buy the most popular and interesting looking ones for my library.

I know I’m going to be doing whatever my new thing is for more than just a short time when I start buying older and out of print books. Older craft books tend to be more focused on techniques than projects and that is exactly what I want when I’m learning something new.

Here are my first embroidery acquisitions:

My (so far) modest stash of out of print embroidery books.

My (so far) modest stash of out of print embroidery books.


And I have a book coming from England any time now, publication date? 1901.


Art in Needlework by Lewis F. Day

Art in Needlework by Lewis F. Day

How do you know when a new obsession or interest will become part of your life?