What’s What Wednesdays

WWW: Bouncy Happy Sheep; Knitting Needles in Space; Knitting Patterns as Code

This can’t fail to improve your day:


Have difficulty telling Llamas and Aplacas apart? This handy guide might help. Although, I’m not often in a position to encounter, let alone mistake, the two, I did enjoy learning more about the personalities of these charming creatures!


Socks worn by Albert Edward Prince of Wales, 1842. Image ©Historic Royal Palaces

A philosophical pondering on the nature of a darned sock. The author of this article thought it was about repairing buildings. I think it’s about a fascinating royal sock.


I’m often asked about whether you can take knitting needles on planes (the answer is generally yes, FYI), but I’d never considered whether you’re allowed to take knitting needles into space…


Amazing: the world’s largest crochet blanket. At 11,148 square meters – nearly 3 acres – in size took over 2000 women over 6 months to create. The objective was to establish a world record, and once it was officially measured, the blanket was divided into 8,034 individual blankets to be donated to the homeless and the needy.


A smart and interesting discussion of the parallels between knitting and writing computer code, and a discussion of the Waldorf School skill-centric teaching methods… “Can learning to knit help those learning to code?” Spoiler alert: yes!

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WWW: State of the Industry Survey, Sheepy Car Commercial, On Ethical Wool

Image courtesy The Roving Crafters.

Another way at looking at color: on the Roving Crafters blog, a clever suggestion for using your phone to help you assess color when you’re in the yarn shop. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I could always use a refresher on color theory. I get it in principal, but then when I’m in the yarn shop, surrounded by so many choices, everything I know evaporates and I start to panic.


A very clear-headed post on the topic of “ethical” wool, from Australian wool maven Kylie Gusset. Specifically, she addresses some of the statements made by certain animal welfare organizations about cruelty in sheep farming practices. (It’s not as difficult a read as it might seem, I promise.)


Our own Kate (hey, that’s me!) is off to the UK later this month for a three-stop teaching tour. Look for stops at A Yarn Story in Bath Feb 20 & 21, Purlescence near Oxford March 4 & 5, and the Joeli’s Kitchen Retreat in Manchester Feb 27 & 28. (Pssst! I’ve heard that there might be one or two spots left on the retreat: hurry!)


TNNA, the US-based Fiber Arts industry organization, is looking to survey US crafters of all sorts for a state of the industry review. The survey only takes a few minutes, and it’s important research to give us a view of crafters’ interests and objectives, and it will help guide industry programs and activity. On hold with the bank today? Fill it in, please! There’s a draw for a $100 gift card for all entrants.


And as a reward for filling in the survey, Love this: a very sheepy car commercial. (With a bonus adorable dog!)


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Ann and Kay. Planning.

Have you heard? The lovely ladies of Mason Dixon Knitting are Up To Something. Subscribers to their newsletter received an announcement this week about an exciting and intriguing new development, to be launched this fall. We can’t wait!

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WWW: Retreat, Get Well, Protest; or just be awesome like Katniss.

Toronto fans of yarn and shoes, alert: the Fluevog store in the Distillery District is hosting a knit night this Thursday, Jan 28th. Zen Yarn Garden will be there with her wares, and you can expect to see a many of Toronto’s knit community there… I have already chosen the shoes I’ll wear. Note that there’s absolutely no pressure to buy shoes when you’re there, it’s just a fun venue to sit and chat and knit.


Very excited to announce that Kate (that’s me!) is teaching at the upcoming WEBS retreat, to be held the weekend of September 16-18 in Western Massachusetts.  And it’s not just me: friends of Knitty Bristol Ivy, Anne Hanson, Cirilia Rose and Amy Hendrix from Madelinetosh will be there, too. Event info here.


Blog post from The New York Times on the health benefits of knitting. And I was very happy to learn about lifecoach Karen Zila Hayes (based in Toronto!) who uses knitting as the core of her wellness and therapy programs. She teaches knitting as a path to relaxation, quitting smoking, stress reduction and other benefits.


Our fearless leader Amy, who hasn’t been doing much knitting late due to hand problems, has rediscovered her love of quilting. Along the way, she’s been shopping for fabrics, and alerts us to this absolutely fab collection of knitting-themed fabrics over at Spoonflower. If you were looking for an excuse to get the sewing machine out and whip up a project bag, this is it. (Although many of them would make an excellent dresses, too…)


The Knitting Nannas is a protest group in Australia, a group of women who are campaigning against the coal-seam gas industry, which they believe threatens to destroy farmland and fragile ecosystems with its use of fracking. They bring attention to locations under dispute by installing themselves, to sit and knit. In their own words,

“We sit, knit, plot, have a yarn and a cuppa, and bear witness to the war against those who try to rape our land and divide our communities.”

There’s been a film made about them, and you can watch the trailer here. Their entirely peaceful and rather unexpected method of ‘protest’ draws attention in a way that many other kinds of efforts cannot.


Fun! A peek into knitting-related terms that appear in the Merriam Webster dictionary.


The official Hunger Games merchandise shop offers a version of Katniss’s awesome hunting cowl, for $149.99US. Or you could make your own. Go and do a search on Rav for “Katniss” and see the wealth of amazing patterns. (Note, you have to be signed in for that link to work.)

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WWW: Knitter making herself a better hat?; “A seemingly endless series of very small gestures”; Estonian mitten patterns

The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa is hosting what they call a “knitting challenge”. 

The museum tells us that

during the First and Second World Wars, hundreds of thousands of Canadians supported the troops by knitting massive quantities of socks, stockings, balaclavas, caps, sweaters and other badly needed comfort items. The Canadian Red Cross estimates that 750,000 volunteers knit 50 million articles during the Second World War.

(That’s an average of 67 items per knitter, FYI.)

Inspired by that, and in honor of the museum’s special exhibition ‘World War Women’, they’ve called on knitters to help fill a First World War supply wagon with handmade woollies. They’re accepting donations of hats, scarves and mittens until the end of January, and then those items will be donated to those in need.


Beautiful. A knitter tells the story of learning to knit with the objective of keeping her hands busy while trying to quit smoking, and learning a very important lesson about kindness and love along the way.

Every stitch, every kiss, every kindness – they all count, they all add up? Maybe love is just a seemingly endless series of very small gestures repeated until you die.


Enormously pleasing.


I really enjoyed this profile of Canadian designer Jane Richmond, on Huffington Post.


I wish I knew more about this fabulous photograph:

(My husband helpfully commented that he hoped she was knitting a hat, ‘because the one she’s wearing seems a bit odd’. I think it’s fantastic, personally, but it probably isn’t very warm…)

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WWW: 3 Socks a Week; Embroidering Stranded Colourwork; David Bowie tribute patterns

Ziggy. Excellent mitts for playing guitar?

Not just crochet: in homage to the Thin White Duke, a round-up of David Bowie-inspired patterns on the Top Crochet Patterns blog.


Speaking of David Bowie, designer Anna Elliot is using her Ziggy hat and mitts pattern to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support in the UK.


WHOA: Rachel knitted 60 pairs of socks last year. Oh yeah, and for 11 weeks of the year she wasn’t able to knit. That’s 60 pairs of socks in 41 weeks. That’s 1.5 pairs of socks a week. Yes, that’s right, 3 socks a week. We bow down to you!

#111, Positively Fasset-esque.


Fab! A ranking of all 118 sweaters worn on the TV series Twin Peak.


Designer Karie Westermann tweeted a photo of the Great Tapestry of Scotland, showing a section of the design hand-stitched to look like knitting. At first glance, it’s lovely, but then you look closer and realize that they’ve also shown the WS of the work, and hand-stitch the floats…


Enjoying this very much: the UK Hand Knitting Association asked on Twitter for stories about how people learned to knit. They are retweeting the responses. Lovely.


Not knitting, but really realy great. A simple animated GIF answers a question I’ve had for years: how a lock-stitch sewing machine works. H/t to friend-of-the-show MmeZabet.


Also found on Twitter, a rather fab knitting tattoo. Seems fairly appropriate for a tech editor, don’t you think?

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WWW: Unravellers, Untanglers, Knitting for Munich follow-up

Beautiful, unexpected and moving: a personal essay from the Paris Review: The Unravellers. On knitting as “a metaphor for everything I’ve ever failed at. Note: the language and subject matter are both adult in nature.


Image from The Wall Street Journal.

And then there are Untanglers: those who enjoy dealing with horrible tangled messes of yarn. (You can tell how I feel about them just by the way I wrote that last sentence!)

Even if you know about the group, the piece is worth a read, just to feel your visceral reaction to some of the tangled messes that knitters have got themselves into. You might recoil, as I did, or you might enjoy contemplating the puzzle!

(I adore that this piece in the mainstream media is about a group on Ravelry.)


Image courtesy the artist.

A fascinating interview with artist Nicola Gibson, who knits sculptures. She crafts often life-size realistic sculptures of things both living and manufactured – chickens and shoes are two highlights – from mixed textile media and techniques. She uses machine knitting, machine embroidery, felting and sewing. She began her career after art school as a sculpter, using more conventional sculpting tools and media, but has transitioned to using textile materials and techniques for her work. You can learn more about her work on her website.


Relevant to my interests: actual instructions provided by the BBC for knitting The Doctor’s scarf. The document is apparently genuine, and was sent sometime in the 1980s to a viewer’s mother who enquired about instructions for making a replica scarf for her child. There’s a nice bit of background on the actual scarf prop, too.


You might recall us writing about the ‘Knitting for Munich’ initiative in Laura Nelkin’s Ravelry group. One the knitters involved was on CBS over the Christmas period, talking about the program.

One of the organizers posted a photograph in the Ravelry of a little boy picking a hat, and knitter Anna recognized it as her work. Anna proudly sent her Mom an e-mail with the photo, her mom shared it on Facebook (like Moms do) and her aunt (who works for CBS) saw it and things snowballed from there!

So many times when you contribute to a charity drive like this, you don’t see where the items end up. I love that Anna was able to see her donation going to a grateful recipient.

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WWW: NY Times recognizes spinner; Netflix and pill?; Important Lesson from Ms. Gladys Phillips

A really lovely obituary for Alden Amos, spinner, teacher and wheel-maker extraordinaire. Fabulous to see recognition of his talents and contribution to the craft in a mainstream publication.


I don’t know about you, but one of mygreat pleasures of the holiday break is some time to knit and catch up on excellent TV watching. I’ve particularly enjoyed Jessica Jones on Netflix, and was very pleased to hear that the star of the show, Krysten Ritter, is also a knitter.


Speaking of Netflix, the company has helpfully (?) suggested that we knit ourselves a pair of Netflix socks, complete with electronics that sense if you’ve fallen asleep, and pause playback. Hmm…


A reminder of why it’s always a good idea to take your knitting with you when you go to ‘powder your nose82-year old Gladys Phillips gets accidentally locked in public toilet stall for four days. Does she get upset? No, she just knits up the yarn she had in her handbag.


Not strictly knitting, but absolutely fun: a video for They Might Be Giants’ kids song “Long White Beard”, with an excellent stop-motion animation… yarn has a key role. I know that someone close to the band is a knitter, and I suspect her stash might have been very involved in the creation of this video.

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WWW: Renate Hiller on Handwork

Connecting us to the cosmos… while at the same time creating something useful and beautiful“.

I’m grateful to Kim Werker for bringing to my attention this video of spinner, knitter, fiber artist Renate Hiller, speaking of the value of handwork. It seems so very fitting at this time of year.

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WWW: Antique sock knitting machine for sale; donating a year’s worth of knitting; tuques for refugees

The winners of the free passes to the Vogue Knitting Live NYC marketplace are Delia Lamb and Amanda Underwood. We’ll see you there!


A warm Canadian welcome:

“Because in Quebec, the only real enemy is the cold.”

Residents of Quebec are gathering together to make tuques (warm woolly hats) to give to refugees arriving this month in Canada, from Syria. 10,000 refugees are expected in Canada before the end of the month, and winter gear has been one of the key items to be donated. Although eastern Canada is having a mild winter so far, we know that’s not going to last.

And in Whitehorse, where winter has already arrived, another group of knitters is hard at work on hats, too. A local group is sponsoring a refugee family, and they are keen to ensure that they will be well-prepared for the weather that is to greet the new arrivals.


Emma Christiansen of Omaha, Nebraska, once again plans to donate her years’ worth of knitting to those in need. This is her fortieth year of such generosity. For 2015, she’s made 233 hats, 19 pairs of mittens and 13 lap blankets.


A school in New Zealand has yarn-bombed its playground. It’s all part of a term-long program to learn about wool, and students created the woolly decorations themselves. And it wasn’t just the knitting – they washed, spun and dyed the wool themselves!


Found on Craigslist in the San Francisco area: an antique hand-crank sock knitting machine. Even if you’re not in the market for one, it’s absolutely worth a look to see all the elements of this genius device. The photos are great!


File under: what? Man arrested carrying bolt cutters and a knitting pick. “He admitted he did not knit.” Neither does the author of the article, clearly!

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WWW: Vogue Live Marketplace Pass giveaway; Tumgluttons; Giant Tea Cosy

vklAmy & Kate (that’s me!) are both teaching at Vogue Knitting Live in NYC next January, the 15th-17th. We’re giving away two 3-day passes to the marketplace. To win: leave a comment on the post below, by midnight Eastern Time Saturday December 12th. We’ll draw two names, and get in touch. The usual rules apply: winners must answer a skill-testing question, and if you’ve won something from us in the past year, please let someone else have a chance.


Love this: Narrative Threads is a virtual museum of Canadian artifacts, intending to tell stories of Canadian life through everyday items: clothing, household items, treasured mementos. Many of them items are handcrafted. In particular these early 20th-century hand knit trigger mittens – known as “Tumgluttons” – are wonderful.  (In related news, tumglutton is my new favourite word, although I’m more likely to use it to describe the dog than a pair of hand-coverings!)


Author and crafter Mieke Zamora-MacKay has launched an initiative to support women in the Philippine region of Tacloban. This area was hard hit by Typhoon Haiyan in late 2013, and although many parts of life there have returned to normal, many families are still in need of work and livelihoods. Mieke is collecting donations of knitting needles, crochet hooks, yarn, and pre-owned pattern books to be donated to the women of this region. These donations will allow women to create items for sale, to enable them a safe and dignified way of generation incomes for their families. If you have unused materials, you might want to think about donating.


Adorable dogs in knitwear alert: Jan Brown, of Seaburn UK, has established herself as the pre-eminent knitter of greyhound sweaters. She started this as a hobby, and 300+ sweaters later, has turned this into her vocation, raising funds for greyhound rescue organizations around the UK.


Love this: a giant tea cosy, covering an entire tea shop in Bristol.


Fab: Banana Republic “Sweater Print” tote bag. My birthday is coming up, you know. (Kidding!)


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