What’s What Wednesdays

WWW: The gritty life of a Basque sheepherder; doughnut projectiles; crafting veterans; live in a knitting mill

Time to knit the doughnuts. (Photo courtesy The Northern Echo)

I stumbled across The Kitchen Sisters podcast last week, and this story’s title grabbed me. It’s about Basque sheepherders in the American west and it’s not the charming story you imagine it might be.


Holy crap, I miss the UK, especially when I read stories like this one, about a theatre needing knitted doughnuts for the audience to throw at the performers on stage. Not sure what doughnuts have to do with The Wizard of Oz, but I don’t care, either. Long live Panto! –>


A touching story about a Vietnam veteran and his Vietnam veteran husband’s passion for needlework (crochet, though the article mentions knitting).


Can’t own a knitting mill? Well, you could live in one if you’re partial to Syracuse. Rents range from $1,250 to $2,250 a month, and the apartments look pretty fabulous. Expect the standard exposed brick, 100+ year old beams, and 9-foot-tall windows.

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WWW: the *real* sea silk; when a yarn shop closes…; American superwash wool

Chiara Vigo, spinner of sea silk (byssus). Photo by Eliot Stein

Thanks to the BBC, meet the last surviving sea silk seamstress. Yes, yarn from a sea creature. What she does is painstaking to a degree few could imagine. And so beautiful.


It’s a great loss when we lose another yarn shop. Amelia Hodson has put it in words here. (No, it’s not about grabbing yarn for cheap.)


Did you know that “the American wool industry has been revitalized because of the superwash process”? Krista McCurdy sings the praises of American superwash wool. Read on.

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WWW: moths ain’t so bad; the gritty glory of British Wool; knittit on Reddit

Moths, by Emmet Gowins.

This week, WWW is all about visuals. And words. Visuals and words. Yeah, that’s it.


First off, moths. Knitters hate ’em, but dang, they’re beautiful. Take a look


Some really striking images and short videos from the British Wool industry by Jonas Bendiksen. Doesn’t work well on mobile devices.


Did you know there’s knitting discourse on Reddit? You’ll find it in knittit. Of course that’s what they call it.

There’s a nice vibe going on there…looks like a friendly spot.

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WWW: Yarn bombing, Yarn batteries, Yarn allergies, Yarn bridges and Embellishing a Yarn

This delightful story about 104-year old Grace Brett landed in my inbox last week, describing her role in helping a group of “yarnstormers” decorate the burgh of Selkirk in Scotland and claiming she “just might be the oldest street artist in the world”.

The town of Listowel in Ontario, Canada – home to Canada’s largest mainstream yarn manufacturer Spinrite – is also building a yarnbombing tradition including a town-wide scavenger hunt and selfie contest.

Both of these stories had me recall a thoughtful essay by crochet activist Hinda Mandell. Mandell makes a case for dropping the term “yarn bombing” in favour of “yarn graffiti”, or even “yarn installation”. As a metaphor, “bombing” is too violent a word for the sort of transformation of public spaces and thoughtful commentary sought by these yarn artists. Can we collectively come up with a better term for these “Random Acts of Yarn”?


Under the heading of science is awesome, a team of Chinese researchers have developed a “rechargeable and flexible yarn-based battery that could be produced at scale on existing industrial knitting and weaving machines”. Holy doodle, but that’s cool!


Nothing can get yarn folk’s dander up faster than saying “wool allergy”! As a yarn-seller for nearly a decade, I had lots of experience with customers who said they’re allergic to wool or would never use wool for a baby item. Knowing that the actual prevalence of a wool or lanolin allergy affects only a very small percentage of the population (including Knitty founder Amy!), I attributed  some reaction to a bias they may have developed from experiencing rustic wools in the past, which are nothing like the modern finewools or the de-cuticled super wash wools in today’s marketplace. Many of those folks happily went on to fondle and enjoy working with wool-based yarns, and some continued to use only plant and man-made fibres. I was interested then to read a post from Topsy Farms that stated that wool allergy reactions often come from the chemicals – like sulphuric acid and insecticides – that have been used in processing the fibre. Indeed, your doctor or a qualified allergist is the place to go if you have had reactions, but note that you may need to test not just wool, or lanolin, but perhaps other things that go into the making of the end product.


Anyone who’s been part of a crafting group that meets regularly knows the support that comes from sharing and making together. How heartening then, to read of a weekly craft and yarn-based program at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan that’s offered to women who are refugees and new arrivals. The workshops provide an opportunity to share their stories while learning life skills such as accessing health care and transit in a safe space. “We base what we do on Canadian Mental Health Association’s recommendations for immigrants. What they tell us is most important is first of all belonging and developing a connection and a group where everyone feels comfortable.”


Yes, please, to living in a world where “principal embroiderer” is an actual job title. (Hey, this might be a tad spoiler-y if you only just started watching Game of Thrones.)


 

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WWW: Knitting as exercise, Brontës, socks in history, more poppies, real body templates

New South Wales extreme knitter Jacqueline Fink is renowned for creating brilliant knit textiles at an impressive scale. She says “giant knitting requires whole body movement and a lot of weight bearing.” That sounds like an attractive way to skip the gym. Jacqueline works and teaches at her studio Little Dandelion – check out her gallery for some really gorgeous pieces.


We love any intersection of literature and knits – Welsh knitter Denise Salway has knitted the four famous Brontë siblings, based on a recent television production.


New Zealand newspaper Otago Daily Times runs a “100 years ago today” feature, which popped up a reference from August 15, 1917 to a knitter who’d worked out how to create two socks at a time, the better to speed up production of socks for servicemen fighting in WW1. I don’t know that Miss Cornish was the first to work this technique, but she was mighty clever, and generously offered to share her instructions with others.


We mentioned last week a drive to collect handmade poppies for a memorial organized by Wonderwool Wales. Australian knitters can knit their bit for a centenary commemoration for the Australian War Memorial as well.


“Croquis” are body outlines used by makers to sketch and design attire and accessories, and they’re often generic and based on “standard” proportions. My Body Model is running a Kickstarter campaign for their software that allows designers & stitchers to use their own body measurements to create custom croquis. How wonderful to see a full range of real body sizes and proportions, and to “try on” designs before making them!


 

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WWW: Burgled beagle, knitted knockers, stitches on a plane, school of yarn

A knitting shop in Benfleet, UK, about an hour east of London, had it’s knitted beagle pinched recently. Hopefully it was just someone full of, er, *spirits* and will soon find it’s way back. The beagle, along with other customer-crafted yarn bombings, has been part of the shop’s fundraising efforts on behalf of Retinitis Pigmentosa Fighting Blindess.


Breast cancer survivor Beryl Tsang first published  Tit Bits with Knitty.com back in 2005. Her pattern, to craft a breast prosthesis for women who have undergone a mastectomy, has helped hundreds if not thousands of women feel some post-surgery normalcy. Always clever knitters have now hacked instructions to work on different needle arrangements and construction methods so that many more knitters can contribute to the making of “knockers”. Knitting Knockers organizations now exist in the United States and Canada to connect makers with those who need them. You’ve come a long way, Beryl!


Super pop star Demi Lovato apparently has the knitting bug, seen recently knitting on a plane. We agree – nothing like a little garter stitch to take the edge off travel tension.


Have you ever wanted to learn more about yarn bases, ply construction, dye take-up and all manner of fiber info? Yarn friends Blue Moon Fiber Arts are kicking off their School of Yarn, a subscription club filled with yarny treats and knowledge. Check out the link for a first semester discount, good only until August 15th!


 

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WWW: Transitions, silk production, great FOs, woolly spires, sock dreams, Womb in the news

Big news from some yarn stars this week of a transition happening with indie dyers Lorna’s Laces and Mrs. Crosby yarns. Congrats to Amanda and our very best wishes to Beth – we can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeves next!


This is my favorite kind of retro video: a Pathe newsreel about the production of silk from the time when England was a big mucky muck in the silk industry (1960ish). Flash required. 


Don’t you love when fiber peoples craft something that is herculean and then blog about it? Or is that just me? Well, Patricia made this amazing dress and you can read about it here. Red Heart never looked so good.


Going to the chapel and we’re gonna get kni-i-itting, going to the chapel and we’re gonna get kni-i-I-ting. (Musical doggerel aside – those are incredible works! )


Dream job alert! Got $10,000 and a thing for socks? ::swoon::


First published in Knitty in 2004, MK Carroll’s Womb was a cute & cuddly expression of MK’s interest in human anatomy. Interesting to see Womb appear in an article on the not at all cute & cuddly fight for reproductive rights in Canada – no matter what your stance on the issue, it’s good to see craft and activism meet.

 

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Things be changin around here (GOOD NEWS, do not panic)

Darling Readers,

Amy here, writing about a big freaking change to my life that I’m excited about and nervous and also yeah. It’s big. Biggy bigness.

I’m going back to work for someone else, in an office. An actual day job. I’ve accepted a contract position so that I can avoid living in a box around retirement age, which is not as far away as it was when I started Knitty 15 years ago. Taking this job will allow me to build a nest egg for my future by working for someone else (this place offers great benefits and treats contract workers very well). It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for almost 2 years, and after applying and interviewing, someone chose me and I start next month.

The most important question you all have is this: how does this affect Knitty?

Knitty goes on as before, mostly unchanged as far as Readers are concerned. I have someone in place to code the patterns and features, though I will touch and massage every page before we go live. I’ll also continue to do all the images. Knitty will look like Knitty. If I hadn’t told you, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have noticed anything was different. However, hiccups happen. I hope you will be gentle on our team if they do…we’re gonna try very hard to avoid the hiccups.

Jillian‘s role is changing, too. Because she has a super-exciting new position (she’ll tell you more about that later), she will be stepping away from her role as Advertising Manager, as soon as the Deep Fall issue is published (September). Jillian has done a stellar job for so many years, but as advertising has declined, she has been earning less and less for the same amount of work. (Knitty has been subsidizing her salary in order to compensate her for this drop off, because it’s beyond her control and she deserves to be paid.)

(the best long-term easter egg in television history, imo.)

Thankfully for us all, Jillian will continue as Editor of Knittyspin, goddess of Reviews, and general inspiration and idea generator (Catalyst) for Knitty as a whole. She’s also the Managing Editor (she manages the Editor) and that aspect of her job will become more essential as I go back into an office where I’m not the boss. Those of you who deal with Knitty by email may get responses from either Jillian or me. I’ll still be here, but during weekday office hours, my brain belongs to my new employer. They’re paying for the privilege. It’s all good, man.

Advertising at Knitty has declined to a level that requires us to rethink its place on our pages. You’ll notice a change (the most minimally disruptive change, we hope) by the time the Winter issue comes out, and I’ll talk more about that in a future blog post. Once again, I want to thank our Patrons for supporting us and allowing Knitty to continue. We would not be here without them!

Kate continues in her role as Managing Technical Editor, and Ashley and Rachel are the rest of our Tech Editing team. They’re doing a great job, and we are thrilled to have them as part of our team.

Chris, our beloved Systems Administrator, is on Family Leave for the foreseeable future.


So this is all big stuff. But I need to do this. I’ve been working at home for 11 years. ELEVEN. It gets lonely here. I’m restless. Tully isn’t much help when it comes to water-cooler chat or bouncing ideas back and forth. I also think a new challenge, new environment, new people will inspire and energize me, and I could use some of that. The place I’m going to work (I’ll share here when I’m able) is a good one, the commute is minimal (easy streetcar ride) and the hours can be flexible. I’m not sure I could have found a better situation anywhere. I’m lucky. (No, it’s not Starbucks.)

I was worried about telling you all this because what would you think? Except Knitty Readers are the best, and I’m pretty sure they don’t want me living in a box either. I like to be transparent about Knitty stuff when I can, and so now you know. I’ll keep you updated as things shift about a bit behind the scenes, but mostly, you can count on Knitty continuing for many years to come, looking pretty much like the Knitty you know today (or better).

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WWW: Knitting and activism goes way back; FiberCrafty; creating an ocean liner by hand; Yarnit on Funderdome this Sunday

Seems to be the theme of the year in mainstream news’ craft reporting: A brief history of knitting and activism. Not just a story about Pussy Hats (but we do love a good Pussy Hat), this one dives deep, back to 1853.


This might be of interest to those of you who make more than you can use: FiberCrafty looks to be a hand-crafted-fibery Etsy type thingy. So far, I see lots of roving and fiber, some notions, project bags and finished items like hats. Neat!


Eva Jay and her beautifully detailed ocean liner. Photo by Yahoo News UK.

Though this is done with plastic-canvas needlepoint, not knitting as the story suggests, it is an incredible achievement: 5-foot-long ocean liner created by a woman (it took her 2 years) after she receives a diagnosis of terminal cancer with just months to live. More photos at the link.

You’re pretty cool, Eva.


Some of us already have a Yarnit. Inventor Kate Sullivan is bringing her product to national TV to spread the word further; see her on Steve Harvey’s Funderdome show this Sunday. Video of Kate and her neat invention at the link.

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WWW: A salute to Bob; writing instructions for using charts; KnitPetite wants your feedback; celebrating the fiber arts in NFLD

Bob, helping Casey code stuff. Photo stolen (thank you) from The Loopy Ewe

Bob, the most famous Boston Terrier in our knitting world, has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. May your doggy afterlife be full of balls and kisses and treats, sweet Bob. Rest well.


Our own Kate Atherley has written a very helpful post on writing instructions for using charts over at the Stitchmastery blog.


The KnitPetite Project launched 6 months ago, and now they’d like your input in their survey. We love that this underserved area of the handknitting world is getting some attention!


After the Great Fire of 1892 in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the School of Industry was established to help teach women weaving, knitting and spinning skills so they could help rebuild their lives and earn a living. Last Saturday, the city celebrated by demonstrating spinning and weaving at St. John’s City Hall.

 

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