What’s What Wednesdays

WWW: Political Pincushions; On the Wrong Side; Knitting Dinner Theatre

The waistband of a 1960s-era Chanel wool suit. (Swoon.)

Definitely not knitting, but definitely great: The blog “INSIDE OUT” is connected to an exhibition at Kent State Museum, and it focuses on the insides of garments. In the words of the curator…

Fashion history usually focuses on changing silhouettes with the rise and fall of hemlines or the tightening and loosening of waistlines. Underlying these external shifts are structural changes that appear only when the garments are laid out and examined closely. Creating three-dimensional garments from bolts of cloth demands solving certain basic problems: how to finish the edges, how to fasten the garments, how to shape the material around the body’s curves. Dressmakers and tailors have addressed these problems with a number of ingenious methods. Some of these techniques reappear in every era while others are specific to a period. Technological innovations have had a direct effect on construction techniques. The invention of snaps and zippers obviously affected designs, as did wider looms and sewing machines. This exhibition tracks these changes with a careful selection of representative pieces, which are mounted in ways to allow visitors to take a close look at the interiors.

There are lots of fantastic photos on the blog.

Love this! As the UK election approaches, the group Knit for Peace has been hosting workshops to teach you how to make your own pin-cushion/voodoo doll of the crafters’ least favourite political candidates. They’re non-partisan, providing instruction for all of the major parties…

Members of cast of “Stitch, Bitch n’ Die”.

Fun: a theatre group in Wisconsin is stretching the skills of some of the cast of their latest play by demanding they learn to knit. The Portage Area Community Theatre group is putting on a murder mystery play, “Stitch, Bitch n’ Die”, written by Minnesota native Joseph Scrimshaw. Attendees are encouraged to bring knitting to the show – and prizes will be awarded to knitters who stitch their way through the show. The play’s action focuses on a group of knitters who call themselves ‘K.U.I’ (Knitting Under the Influence), and takes places around their favorite yarn store.

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WWW: Readings on the Ethics of Wool; Fun Facts About Sheep; On Yarn Substitutions

A very helpful and clear guide to yarn substitutions… an excerpt from Margaret Radcliffe’s book ‘The Knowledgeable Knitter‘.

Everything you need to know, in one image. (Borrowed from the Berroco yarns website.)

Another important topic: on measuring yourself for a garment, by Amy Christoffers on the Berroco yarns blog.

Top Ten Facts about Sheep. I think the first one is the best…

Sheep have excellent memories for the faces of both other sheep and humans which they can remember for several years.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve had a couple of conversations recently about the issues of animal welfare as it relates specifically to wool. In the last few weeks, I’ve been asked by a few people – some knitters, some not – about the ethics of wool. I honestly didn’t feel sufficiently well informed to speak to their concerns. I am, of course, sensitive to animal welfare issues. But I also know that there is a lot of misinformation floating around, and a lot of confusion about a very complex and layered issue. And it’s an emotional issue, too. I feel strongly that, just as with meat-eating and fur-wearing, everyone must make their own decision about it. I do believe the best approach is to learn as much as you can.

When chatting about this on Twitter, fiber expert Deb Robson weighed in with a pointer to a blog post she’d written on this topic a number of years ago, and then created a blog post from a recent email exchange.

Some other good reading: The Guardian’s ethics and green living experts, answering a reader’s question on the ethics of wool.

No matter your own feelings on wool/meat-eating/fur and other related topics, I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of those in the fiber industry agree that “large-scale, industrial production harms animals, humans, and the planet” (Deb’s words, she puts it so well.) Not all producers engage in the same practices, and in this, as with everything, information is your best ally.

Related: I did rather enjoy this picture, found on Twitter.

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WWW: Textile photography; crafting in space; Bolivian knitters saving lives

Fantastic post on the blog of the Surface Design Association about the importance of good photography, and sharing some tips for textile artists to make sure their photography is the best it can be.

It’s worth getting to know the Surface Design Association, a group out of New Mexico. The group aims promote awareness and appreciation of textile-inspired art and design through publications, exhibitions and conferences. There’s some really lovely and inspiring stuff on their blog.

Handmade wonders.

We’ve all heard that knitting is good for your health, and this proves it in a rather unexpected way: Bolivian knitters are helping babies born with heart defects by knitting up tiny occluders to block a hole a patient’s heart. Yes, really. The device is so small and intricate that the industrial equipment were struggling to make them – so cardiologist Franz Freudenthal turned to knitters to help.  The knitting is done in a special “clean room” to keep everything sanitary and safe. Amazing story!

Further to the Astro socks, I love this pic of Astronaut Karen Nyberg crafting in space. I know if I was planning for a stay on the ISS, I’d pack yarn and needles.

Ooh… that’s a nice one!

Love this story about the famed cardigans of beloved US children’s TV presenter Mr. Rogers. He always wore a cardigan to host his eponymous show, and we learn that his mother made them for him.

Knitting is indeed everywhere in Lithuania!

Knitty columninst Donna Druchunas shares details of her latest project: a book about Lithuanian Knitting traditions. She’s using Pubslush as a way to fund the project through preoders. Even if you’re not sure about preordering or contributing, Donna’s introduction video is interesting, and the traditional knits that Donna shows are really beautiful!

The key to expanding your knitting skills!

Have you heard about my new Craftsy class? “Perfect Knits Every Time: Understanding Knitting Patterns” is designed for knitters who are confident with their yarn and needles, but are just starting to work from patterns.

We’re offering a special 50% discount for our Knitty fans. More info here.
In this class I explain how to understand everything about a pattern: not just how to read the instructions and understand all those special terms and abbreviations, but also

  • where to find good patterns
  • how to identify the right pattern for your skill levels
  • how to make sure you’re using the right needles and yarn for the project
  • how to understand the sizing information given, and to make sure you always choose the right size to make
  • how to read and work from charts

The goal is to help you find a pattern that’s appropriate to your skill level and interests, and make sure that you’re able to work through it with ease. Along the way I share tips for working from a pattern, to ensure you not only produce a beautiful finished result, but also that you have a good time doing it!

If you want a sense of what it’s all about this, this video explains.

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WWW: The Gay Sweater Project; The Skein Minder; If You Were a Yarn…

A clear message, communicated in a fascinating way.

Like all good art, The Gay Sweater Project is unexpected, challenging, and thought-provoking. In a bid to make people think about the the use of the term ‘gay’ as a derogatory descriptor,  advertising agency Saatchi Canada collaborated with the Canadian Center for Gender & Sexual Diversity on a recent project.

In their own words…

The Gay Sweater project teaches us that words like ‘gay’ shouldn’t be used to describe anything negative. Please help the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity in continuing initiatives like these that work to eliminate bullying, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination in schools and youth communities.

The Gay Sweater is indeed the only gay object in the world, in that it was created from the hair of over 100 people who identify as homosexual. The hair was spun and then knit into a sweater by two Toronto knitters, Amelia Lyon and Brenna MacDonald, at Lettuce Knit.

Oh, I like this: a Kickstarter for a tool called The SkeinMinder to automate yarn winding. It’s targeted at indie dyers, and those who need to wind multiple skeins of yarn in a small production environment. Although this technology exists for large-scale operation, engineer and knitter Carrie Sundra aims to bring the idea to small organizations, in an affordable way.

Also useful: Sally Holt, the developer of KnitCompanion, has just launched Pattern Genius, a charting tool for iPads.

It’s true. You can see everything on the NYC subway.

I have to be honest: I checked the publication date for this one, thinking it might have been April 1st.

An orphaned lamb has been taken in by a foster family in NYC, and has been enjoying life in the big city. Even if it’s not real, the photos are great!

Not news: knitting is good for you. But I do like that formal research studies are being done on the topic of “textile therapy”.

And for your amusement, designer Bristol Ivy poses a fun question on Twitter:

If you click on the time and date in the tweet above, you can see all the fun replies.

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WWW: A Reality Show?; Not for Wearing; 1861 Mitten Pattern

The man himself, demonstrating his trademark style.

We are always amazed and entertained by designer, yarn shop owner and yarny entrepreneur StevenBe… and his latest idea may be his most amazing and entertaining yet: a reality show. He’s launched a KickStarter for it. Even if you’re not up for contributing, the video is a fun watch, exploring how you might build a reality show around a yarn shop and the personalities you find there! Plus zebra prints! :-)

Not strictly knitting, but I love this casual series on the Nerdist blog, ‘Behind the Costumes’, all about costume design for TV series. So far, they’ve covered Outlander and Agent Carter, both series I’ve enjoyed, and who have done really excellent work with period costumes.

Jade Harwood & Aurelie Popper, founders of ‘Wool and the Gang’

Yarn shop/knitwear designers Wool and the Gang, based in London, brings knitting to high fashion, and high fashion to knitting. They recently collaborated on an exclusive range of accessories for one of Britain’s big names in fashion at London’s esteemed Fashion Week.

If you’re on Twitter, you might have seen this making the rounds last week. Amazing directions indeed. Fascinating to see how the standard for knitting patterns has changed… you had to have a lot of skill to be able to read and execute these.

Indeed – not for wearing, but beautiful sculpture.

Great profile of knitwear designer John Brinegar, a.k.a. knitboy, focused on his show at New York’s Daniel Cooney gallery in New York. The objective of the show, titled “I Would Never Wear That“, is to separate the understanding of knitting from its “make to wear” origins, and explore it as a sculptural medium. Although many pieces begin as garments, they head off in different directions – some surprising, some comical, some fantastic. The show is available for viewing until March 14th.

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WWW: Dedicated Knitters; “Knit Me, I’m Irish” weekend; knitting for science engagement

Warm and welcoming.

USA Today’s “10 Best” site profiles Toronto’s Lettuce Knit - one of my LYSs!

Residents of a care home for the elderly in St. Alban’s, UK, pooled their efforts to knit a blanket for a furry friend – Jane the Golden Retriever, a retired guide dog.

Knitter and history buff Judith Brodnicki

Dedicated knitter Judith Brodnicki responded to a tweet asking for help with a knitting project, and found herself involved in the project of a lifetime: knitting WW1-era costumes for a film.

And Judy Graham is a dedicated knitting teacher. Her YouTube channel, Knitting Tips by Judy, is one of the great successes of the video website. She’s had more than 12.4 million views, and nearly 35,000 subscribers. Meet the face behind voice and the hands!

Looking for a getaway? Consider the “Knit Me, I’m Irish” package for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend at the Caldwell Inn in the Hudson Valley, NY. A local shop, The Cornwall Yarn Shop, is offering a lesson in knitting an “Irish scarf” as part of a B&B weekend.

The Inn has an interesting history: The house was once a refuge to an Irish family fleeing the British during the 1798 Irish Rebellion. The Caldwells, including a dozen children, crossed the Atlantic to arrive in New York City in the early 1800s, and the house was part of a massive estate they built in the then-“wilds” of New York state.

Dr. Tina Chowdhury, , professor of Bioengineering at Queen Mary University of London, has received many accolades and awards for her engaging and innovation teaching style. She’s currently working on a program to engage school-age children in science, and she’s seeking knitters to help her, to knit samples of cells and a bioreactor. More info here.

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WWW: Knitwear model hits the big-time; charity knitter hits milestone.

Pic courtesy Rowan Yarns.

Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne started his career as a model; and not just any model… he was the featured model for Rowan Yarn’s Denim People booklet, published in 2004.

To celebrate his win, Rowan has made the Brooklyn sweater pattern available for free download.

Sibling’s Fair Isle dress. LOVE this.

I love this time of year in the fashion world… all the fashion shows for Fall and Winter provide some excitement and inspiration for cold-weather dressing, just as I’m starting to get tired of my own winter clothes.

UK designer Sibling showed some rather clever uses of Fair Isle knits. Full slideshow here.

A true labor of love.

Knitter Anna Taylor of Virginia is celebrating a rather wonderful milestone: in the past 9 years, she has knitted and donated 1000 children’s sweaters to a local charity.

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WWW: Hugs and Boobs; Spring Fibery Getaways

Image from The Guardian website.

Knitting as an aid to breastfeeding. Really. Knitters from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland have come together to knit 250 yarny ‘models’ for use in a government-funded breastfeeding campaign. The slightly silly nature of the models eases nervousness and aids the discussion…

“Popular with midwives and health visitors, they are used to show the best way to get a baby to latch on properly and how to mould or hold your breast to get the nipple in the right position for the baby’s mouth. They’re also used to teach how to express milk and how to deal with problems like blocked ducts.


A lovely profile of knit designer and artist Rachel Matthews, in a larger discussion about the mental and physical benefits of knitting. Can you knit a hug? The answer is a resounding yes!

A video piece on the BBC about knitting in Sanquhar, Scotland. Sanquhar is known for distinctive and beautiful geometric colourwork patterns, notably used in gloves.

Spring is coming (I hope!), and with it news of a bunch of knitting events.  Fancy a fibery getaway?

Kate and Jillian are both teaching at Interweave’s Yarn Fest, April 16-19 in Loveland, Colorado.
Kate is also teaching at the Strung Along retreat April 9-12, in Port Ludlow, WA, at the Toronto Knitter’s Guild Frolic, the weekend of April 25 & 26, and at the Squam Arts Retreat in New Hampshire is the first weekend of June.

Remember, there’s always a list of events on the Knitter’s Review website.

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WWW: Beautiful sheep, Socks in Space, Valentine’s Day “naughty knitting”

Absolutely stunning photography of rare breed sheep in the Lake District, in the UK, on the BBC website. A bonus sheep dog or two, too! Seriously. Stunningly beautiful images. Go look now.

Fiber crafters, sewists and textile enthusiasts in southern Ontario are very excited about an upcoming exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada, “Artist Textiles: From Picasso to Warhol“.

From the exhibition introduction:

a fascinating overview of 20th-century textile designs from some of the the world’s most renowned artists. More than 200 works on fabric trace the history of art in textiles, with examples from key European and American art movements including Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Modernism, Surrealism and Pop Art as well as the work of leading fashion designers and manufacturers. Featuring work by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Raoul Dufy, Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Sonia Delaunay, Marc Chagall, Henry Moore, Fernand Léger, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Joan Miró, Andy Warhol and Alexander Calder, most of these rare pieces have not been on public display before.

Can’t wait! I think a field trip is in order.

From the UK Intellectual Property Office, guidance for designers (and users) about copyright as it applies to knitting and sewing patterns. Fascinating and informative reading. Note that this statement applies only to laws in the UK, and is not intended to be complete or substitute for legal advice, but it does provide some insight into the types of issues tied up in this complex problem.

Silly fun!

Not safe for work, but entirely appropriate for Valentine’s Day: Knit Your Own Kama Sutra. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, designer ‘Trixie Von Purl’ has created twelve projects for “naughty knitters”.

Lovely story: Australia’s oldest man, Alfred Date, is still knitting at the age of 109.

You may recall me writing about the AstroSocks – socks knitted by a team of Canadian knitters (using yarn dyed by a Canadian dyer) for an astronaut. Well, we had word this week at the the socks are in space, and being worn!

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WWW: 5 Million Ravelers, Woolful, Tapestry Weaving and Cotton

Kate is off recording another beautiful and smart class for all of us, so this week’s WWW has been put together by Jillian (that’s me!)  with my particular view of what’s interesting on the fibery web.


Ravelry Rules!


5 million Ravelers! Sometime during the Super Bowl last Sunday the Ravelry family expanded to 5 million. Congratulations to Jess and Casey and everyone that makes Ravelry such an exciting place to be!



Woolful Podcast



Have you heard the Woolful podcast yet? It’s a gorgeous weekly conversation between Ashley Joy Yousling and a variety of fiber folk. Each well chosen guest  who has a particular eye to sustainable wool and design and a passion for making.  The 10th episode just released, so it’s still easy to catch up with a fiber binge. There is also a shop with spectacular small batch yarn and goodies.


Maryanne Moodie weaving

Maryanne Moodie weaving


Have you noticed that tapestry weaving is all of a sudden everywhere? I’ve always been a fan, but have never set aside the time to learn. One weaver who is having a well deserved moment is Maryanne Moodie. She does spectacular, textural wall hangings. She is interviewed in the latest Woolful podcast and is in the latest O Magazine. Another tapestry artist I admire is Erin M. Riley (Not always SFW), and my very first tapestry crush is Sarah Swett. Want to try tapestry or small textural weaving? Fringe Association sells a great little loom.


Cotton spinning bar

Cotton spinning ba



I know this has been around a bit, but I still love this cotton spinning bar in Japan, relaxing and productive.







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