What’s What Wednesdays

WWW: Great Canadian Knitting Tour; Pattern Writing Online Class; Alice In Wonderland Yarnbomb

Knitted music video of the week: Much less sad than last week’s, I promise! In which a yarny-girl starts her day. Cleverly created by artists Janey Moffatt and Adam Clements for artist Benbo, and entirely cute.


Sylvia and her husband, hitting the road

Author, knitter, designer and master storyteller Sylvia Olsen is partway through her “Great Canadian Knitting Tour“. She started May 1st in Victoria, B.C., and will reach St. John’s Newfoundland June 15th. Along the way, she’s visiting yarn shops, teaching workshops and telling stories about her life and the lives and work of the Coast Salish knitters of British Columbia.

Sylvia’s objective is to meet as many people in the Canadian knitting community as possible. To exchange stories about knitting and knitters in Canada. She’s visiting book shops, yarn stores, libraries, museums and private homes across the nation. When it’s all over, Olsen will share her discoveries in Knitting Stories II, the sequel to her best-selling recent collection of essays, Knitting Stories: Personal Essays and Seven Coast Salish-inspired Knitting Patterns.


A little bit of tasteful self-promotion: as a follow up to her book about Pattern Writing, our own Kate (that’s me!) is running an interactive online course on Pattern Writing. Suitable for designers of all levels who wish to write instructions for their knitting project, this class guides you through the entire process of writing a pattern – from the actual instructions through to the test knitting, technical editing and publication process. The class is all about discussion, and there will be exercises and activities focused on helping you develop your own style and style sheet, and getting you well on your way to writing patterns. If you’ve got something you need help writing out, or you feel your existing patterns need a bit of improvement, this class can help. Bring your questions and be prepared to chat and share and discuss with me. It starts May 30th and runs to July 12th – work at your own pace!


Image from The Northern Echo website.

Yarnbombers have struck Saltburn Pier in the UK again. This pier has seen many wonderful installations in the past – including an amazing one for the London Olympics, but this year’s Alice In Wonderland-themed work may be my favorite. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the book.


Celebrity Knitter Alert: Actor Nicholas Hoult was taught to knit by Charlize Theron, on the set of Mad Max Fury Road. I would very much like to see some of those pictures…

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WWW: Preserving Traditional Newfoundland Knitting; Street Lace; On Cost of Making

Classic Newfoundland patterns and designs, including the famous “trigger mitts”. Image from CBC website.

Love this: CBC profiles two Newfoundland-based knitters who are working to preserve traditional Newfoundland knitting patterns. Shirley Scott – known as “Shirl the Purl” has been collecting samples of mittens, hats and scarves, and the patterns used to make them. She has passed her collection on to Christine LeGrow, the owner of Spindrift Handknits, who aims to keep these patterns in circulation, and keep this important part of Canada’s social history alive.


Wonderful, clever and moving: a music video for band James, created entirely with yarn.


I’m very excited about this upcoming exhibition ‘A Whole Other World: Sub-Culture Craft’ at the Racine Art Museum in Racine, WI.

The show, focused on artists inspired by Doctor Who, Star Wars, Steampunk, and Superheroes, explores the intersection of art with cultural subjects that inspire devoted “fan” followings. A Whole Other World features a variety of objects and images, from quilts to prints to sculpture – either works directly inspired by these themes, or by the winding of these kinds of topics in-and-out of popular culture,.

I’m excited because it sounds absolutely amazing. Oh and also, the original Bigger on the Inside scarf is part of the show.


Image from Huffington Post website.

Not Strictly Knitting, but utterly beautiful: Street artist NeSpoon uses traditional lace patterns, textures and structures in very non-traditional ways.


This week’s thought-provoking discussion: “What Is Your Cost of Making?” Looking at both the cost to the knitter in the retail store, and the larger issue of cost all along the production cycle of the materials, this blog post addresses head-on the question of how much we’re willing to spend to make a sweater.

Anecdotally, I see an interesting divergence in the way knitters think of the cost of the materials: is this an item of clothing, and should the yarn cost be considered in the context of a ‘clothing budget’, or is this a hobby, and is the yarn cost considered more in the context of ‘entertainment value’? Some of this is driven, of course, by the knitter’s available budget, but it seems to me to be an interesting demonstration of the shift in how we “use” knitting – we’re not (just) doing it because we need clothes. Many knitters do it because they want ‘entertainment’, or the satisfaction of making, or to express a creative impulse – and the money considerations become very different. Although paying $30 for a pair of socks is unquestionably outrageous, that figure can feel a little different if you consider the value of a couple of week’s worth of crafting pleasure and the satisfaction and comfort of making a custom-fit item that you are proud to show off.

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WWW: Spies and Artists and Cultural Shifts

Image courtesy Future Museum/Sanquhar Tollbooth Museum, Copyright Dumfries & Galloway Council.

Virtual museum visit: The Future Museum of South West Scotland makes many of their exhibits available for viewing and exploration online. Love this collection of items showing the history and evolution of Sanquhar Knitting. Sanquhar knitting, at its peak in the 18th century, features very distinct patterning, always worked in black and white, and was typically used for gloves. There are many objects for viewing, beautifully photographed, with lots of background information. I also loved the collection of vintage knitting patterns.


Fabulous story about Phyllis Doyle, a British spy who used knitting to conceal codes while working behind enemy lines during World War Two. Her story is incredible enough, even without the knitting connection.


Interesting discussion about where craft is going, and cultural shifts in the industry: designer Karie Westermann writes a thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis of trends she’s seeing in the craft culture and industry (and yes, it is an industry). And Ellen Gill has written an equally interesting and important post in response. You may not agree with everything they say, but their thinking is important.


I wonder who did the tech edit for this?

Fun, on the LoveKnitting blog! 10 Things You Don’t Know About Knitting! Did you know that the first knitting book was written in the 17th century? I didn’t!


1955 Clare McCardell dress, featuring a Picasso-designed fabric. Image courtesy Textile Museum of Canada.

And today in ‘Not Strictly Knitting But Still Very Cool’. If you’re anywhere near Toronto this summer, get yourself to the Textile Museum of Canada. Two things there merit your attention: the annual More Than Just A Yardage Sale, May 29 & 30th, is a fundraiser for the museum. It’s a sale of textiles and related items: fabrics, yarn, books, notions and supplies. There’s always a selection of vintage clothes, and I adore digging around in the UFOs piles. The inventory comes from donations, and many crafters donate unloved projects. I’ve bought half-complete projects to salvage tools and yarn and patterns.

And the other item is an exhibition: Artist Textiles: From Picasso to Warhol. Curated by British collectors Geoffrey Rayner and Richard Chamberlain, the exhibition features a rarely-seen selection of more than 200 printed textiles designed by some of the 20th century’s preeminent artists. It runs until October 4th.

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WWW: Cats in Hats, Yarn Shop Day, Math for Knitters

The news coming from Nepal this week is terrible. The damage from the earthquake is catastrophic, and there has been much loss of life and property. Living conditions are very difficult.

It seemed like a good time to remind you that the lovely ladies of Mason Dixon Knitting raise funds all year round for The Mercy Corps, an international relief and development organization. Buy any of their three blanekt patterns: Mitered Crosses, Cornerstone and A Light in the Window, and all proceeds will be donated. Organizations have been struggling to get on the ground in Nepal to assist; The Mercy Corps were already there when the earthquake struck. There were 90 workers in the country, and cash donations are what they need to be most productive and helpful.


No words.

Festoon your Feline with Fiber – or, Cats in Hats. Designer Sara Thomas has just published a book of knit and crochet patterns for headwear for the feline members of the family. She admits that only one of her two cats enjoys playing model: her second cat, Sinclair, prefers to ‘attack’ the creations, rather than wear them. Having known a lot of cats in my life, I’m actually impressed that she’s found any cat willing to model…


This Saturday is Yarn Shop Day in the UK. See this map to find participating shops… there will be special activities and sales and giveaways and all sorts of fibery fun.


Yes, it’s that time of year: the baseball season! And nothing goes better with baseball than knitting.  And you know what that means: Stitch & Pitch. There’s a listing of events at the link.


Looking forward to other summery yarny things to do: the planning for the 2015 edition of Toronto’s TTC Knitalong is kicking off. This year’s date is Saturday August 22nd. Follow the blog or the Twitter account for updates.


Combining some of my favourite things: coffee, yarn and science! Knitter and felter Lynn has run a series of tests to prove the effectiveness of a felted wool coffee-pot cozy.


Our own Kate (hey! that’s me!) has got a few new online classes in the works: this Wednesday and Wednesday the 13th of May, she’s running a two-part web seminar on the topic of Math for Knitters. Designed to help you conquer the tricky numbers problems in knitting, the first part focuses on yarn shop and pattern math: how to use a bit of simple arithmetic to help you confidently make yarn substitutions, to track your progress in a pattern, and to handle challenging instructions like “at the same time” and “increase evenly across”. Part two focuses on gauge and garment math – what to do if you can’t match gauge, and strategies for garment alterations.

Even if you can’t attend live, you can listen ‘after the fact’ – and indeed, registration gives you full on-demand access for a year. Info on part one here, and part two here. Attend live if you can, I think the best part of these web seminars is the live q&a.


With tongue planted very firmly in cheek, humor site McSweeney’s writes about knitting circles… “THERE ARE NO EGOS IN OUR KNITTING GROUP“. Spoiler alert: there are, and they are kinda hysterical.

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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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