What’s What Wednesdays

WWW: Thing of Paper; a very long bike ride; romantic socks,

We are very excited about designer Karie Westermann’s upcoming project, “This Thing of Paper”. Karie is a designer of great talent, and I know that the designs will be wonderful. But this book is more than that – in her words, it will absolutely be a beautiful book of knitting patterns inspired by the age of Gutenberg. 

“Manuscripts and early printed books also hold great visual appeal. I have worked extensively with primary sources ranging from 14th century illuminated manuscripts to 16th century embroidery manuals. This Thing of Paper has a defined colour palette and design vocabulary derived from my research. The whole book is steeped in one woman’s love of vellum, marginalia, and woodcuts.”

Kickstarter page here, but even if you don’t want to support, have a look to learn a little more about her plans and her inspiration. It’s a fascinating project.

As someone who worries about sock sizing, I much appreciate that KnitCircus is now selling gradient-dyed sock yarn in different size skeins for different size needs. The clever bit is that it’s not just a skein with less yardage, but that the gradient is dyed differently, so that you get the full run of color no matter what size sock you’re making.

Friends of Knitty, Yarn in the City, have just announced an exciting event for this autumn: the Yarnporium. The event, being held November 5 & 6 in central London, is a two-day celebration of ‘sweater weather, yarn, fibre, friends and the making community’. There will be vendors and workshops and cake. I went to last year’s, and it was fabulous. If you’re in the UK, this will definitely be worth a visit.

Once again, the Yarn Harlot is spending her summer training for an epic cycle ride. Every summer for the past few years Stephanie has participated in a fundraiser, the Friends for Life Bike Rally. The event helps PWA, an organization dedicated to providing assistance to those in Toronto area who are living with AIDS. They offer financial support, counselling, medical and therapeutic support, helping with food and other very practical activities. To raise funds, she spends a week cycling from Toronto to Montreal, a distance of 600km, or about 400 miles. (For context, I ride a stationary bike for about 25 minutes every other day, and it took me nearly 5 months before I hit that distance.) To support Stephanie and her team, you can sponsor a rider, or you can donate a Karmic Balancing Gift.

Lots of love in this pair. Photo courtesy Dawn Repotto.

I must confess when I saw the link to the article “The World’s Most Romantic Socks Are Knitted on an Active Volcano” I didn’t expect the story could ever live up to the potential of the headline. I was wrong. A small community – 267 strong – of mostly farmers lives on a tiny remote island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean – an actual active volcano. There are some fascinating traditions in the community, and one of them centers around knitting: specifically knitting gifts with hidden messages encoded in. Stripes signify depth of feeling. More stripes, stronger feelings: ‘Socks were the garment of choice for young lovers. Traditionally, a woman would knit a pair for her intended paramour, adding as many stripes as she saw fit.’ The islanders are knitting socks to order now, and they are shipped all over the world.

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WWW: Knitting puzzles; patterns in nature; Shetland exhibition on Fair Isle history

Image from Uber Den Traum blog, with thanks.

Love this piece on reading and working from those beautiful Japanese knitting books

Not knitting, but fascinating and inspiring all the same: a new book about visual patterns that appear in nature. Part coffee table book, part science book, this looks like an absolutely wonderful read.

Knitting research – there’s something really really special about seeing a previous generation’s work in their own hand.

Speaking of knitting puzzles, I very much enjoyed a recent blog post from designer Susan Crawford, notable interpreter of vintage patterns and knits. She writes about the “treasure hunt” of figuring out a stitch pattern from a vintage garment.

If you’re in London, U.K., this sounds like a must-see: Stoke Newington Library hosts a permanent exhibition of a knitted park. Specifically, it’s Stoke Newington Common. This community space had been badly neglected, and in the past few years, a group of nearby residents banded together to revitalize it, building a playground and planting the garden. In 2014, their knitting subcommittee – Common Thread – created a yarny replica of the space as part of an art exhibition.

The group is running three workshops at the library, around the project. The first runs May 21st, and is all about how the project was completed. Saturday May 28th there’s a workshop on how to knit a tree, for adults; and the following Saturday, June 4th, there’s a kids’ workshop on creating plants from yarn and fabric.

The Shetland Textile Museum has opened for the summer season, and this year it’s hosting an exhibition all about Fair Isle knitting. Looks like are some really great items on display… The colorwork collar on the cardigan… go look, it’s spectacular!

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WWW: On Celtic and Saxon Feet; very big flag; knitting with dog hair and the War Effort

Sock-fit-nerd alert: On Celtic and Saxon feet. Absolutely fascinating (well, to me, anyway!) article about different foot shapes, as observed by an English podiatrist active during World War II, who treated both English and German soldiers. Do you have have Celtic or Saxon toes?

A labor of love and patriotism: an Estonian man is knitting the world’s largest Estonian flag to celebrate the country’s centenary, in 2018. The knitter, Valtrik Pihl, estimates that it will take 3,000 hours and 139 kilometres (86 miles) of yarn to complete the project.

I’ve written about “extreme knitter” Jacqueline Fink before, but I hadn’t seen this time-elapse video of her working at her needles before. Turns out that even extreme knitting can be done while tucked up all comfy on the couch, watching TV.

Image from Royal Voluntary Service. Combing dog hair to be spun into yarn.

Important story: women’s history is far too often lost, because their efforts were not recorded, or considered “significant”. An organization in the UK – the Royal Voluntary Service – is embarking on a project to digitize and preserve the records of their critical work during World War II. Known then as the Women’s Voluntary Service, members were engaged in efforts to aid the people of the UK as they went about their daily lives during difficult times. Although there is a knitting connection, and a rather amusing one at that – combing dog hair for spinning and using for garments, when sheep’s wool was hard to come by – it’s part of a larger history, too. Members ran emergency rest centres, feeding, first aid, and assisting with the evacuation and billeting of children.

Love this: international students arriving at Lincoln University in New Zealand are being presented with a welcome package, which includes a pair of handknit socks, to prepare them for cold and damp New Zealand winters.

“How to wear a woollen work of art”: on knitwear as fashion, profiling Irish knitwear designers.

Next Thursday, May 19th, our Kate (that’s me!) is doing the first of a two-part webseminar series on her favorite topic: Math for Knitters. This first one is all about project and pattern math: yarn substitutions, checking gauges, and tricky instructions in patterns like “increase evenly across” and “reversing shapings”.

The second part is about garment alterations and adjustments – including what to do if you can’t match gauge – and runs June 9th at 1pm.

Both webseminars are recorded, and if you can’t attend live, you can watch/listen to the recorded version, at your leisure. For more info and to register visit this webpage. It’s $19.99 to attend live or on-demand, and if you enter the discount code MATH4KNITTERS you’ll get a discount on the registration!

You don’t have to be good at or love math to attend – precisely the opposite, in fact. The approach of this session is to teach you where numbers can help, and some basic calculations, but just as much to tell you how to avoid doing it if you don’t want to. Not everyone loves spending time doing arithmetic, and even if you do love math, chances are you’d still probably prefer to be knitting than calculating…

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WWW: On the meaning of knitting, knitted objects, and knitting objects

A lovely memoir of sock knitting…  “I learned to knit socks in a drugged state.”

“The Feel-Better Sweater”: a precious FO from years ago brings comfort.

Intriguing: a new history of Estonian Knitting. The book ‘trailer’ – a preview video – is definitely worth the watch, even if you’re not interested in a big book on the topic. You get a 2 and a half minute introduction to the history and the wonderful work of Estonian knitters.

Speaking of knitting history, June Hall, co-author with Donna Druchunas of Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions, has launched an accompanying exhibit at a museum in Coniston, Cumbria, U.K.

A mystery item for some, it’s true

Love this idea: San Bernardino County Museum in California has launched a new exhibit, “Mysteries of the Museum”, challenging guests to examine and identify antique objects. One such object is an industrial circular knitting loom.

(Reminds me of a funny story: the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto ran a contest last year, challenging people to identify a mysterious machine… They tweeted out a photo of the thing. I think they were fairly surprised by the speed of the response, and the number of correct responses: I’m not sure they realized how many sock knitters — and owners of antique sock knitting machines — there are in the Toronto area.)

If you’re at Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this weekend, Kate (me!) will be there! I’ll be prowling the show on Saturday, fondling yarns, signing books at the Signature Needles booth, and eating my way through the goat cheese samples. If there are sheepdog demonstrations, you’re likely to find me there… If you see me, say hello!

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WWW: ‘Secret History of Knitting’ documentary; Body Parts; Wool Wednesday?

Click here to watch a new TV documentary, ‘The Secret History of Knitting, featuring our own Kate, Amy, and Kate’s LYS Yarns Untangled. Lots of other famous faces appear, too! Made for the newly lauch Makeful TV channel, it does a good job of telling the story of knitting – and of knitters.

We also absolutely loved the accompanying ‘slow TV’ event, ‘Knit Purl Knit: Three Hours in a Yarn Shop‘, filmed over a Sunday afternoon at Yarns Untangled. Soothing and beautiful.

If you’re in the Toronto area, this Saturday is the Toronto Knitter’s Guild annual Frolic! With retail and classes, this event is a highlight of the knitting year.

And if you’re in the UK, this Saturday is Yarn Shop Day. Shops all over the UK are offering promotions, activities and perhaps even tea and cake. A great opportunity to visit a new-to-you shop, remember that it doesn’t count as stash if it’s a souvenir…

“Whatya making?” “A brain.”

Love this: knitted body parts for use in primary school health classes! Volunteer knitters in Lancashire have been contributing to this clever educational project.

If you’re not tired of listening to Kate babble on, she was on Marly Bird’s Yarn Thing podcast this week, talking about the new edition of her Pattern Writing book. And a couple of weeks ago, Amy was on the show, too, talking about all things Knitty.

Students at an art school is Lausanne, Switzerland, have created a chair that knits a hat while you read. The article is in French, but the pictures tell you everything you need to know!

Yes, we know! Knitting appears on a list of hobbies that are recommended as a ‘mindfulness techniques’.

I agree!

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WWW: Myths and Legends; Yarnbombing At Sea

Spoiler alert! (Image from the Yarn Sub blog.)

File under: “this is what we’ve been going on about all these years”. A really really really illuminating and important post about gauge differences between knitters. Read it before you do anything else. Go on, I’ll wait.

Fabulous: a discussion of the history of Aran sweaters, focussing in particular on the myths and legends that surround them and their origins. Spoiler alert: No, there are not specific family patterns; no, stitch patterns weren’t used to identify drowned sailors; and no, they are not nearly as traditional as people would have you believe. Also worth a visit even if you don’t have time to read the whole thing to see pictures of some fabulous mid-20th century samples of the form.

Knitter wins Jeopardy TV game show, internet is faintly amazed by her honestly about how she spend her spare time.

A legend in a totally different way: the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, sends a hand-written thank you note to a woman who knitted him a pair of socks.

Looking forward to reading about this: a PhD study of the role of the Facebook groups in connectedness and community amongst crafters. Social media is so important in the resurgence of craft, and I’m pleased to see this being discussed.

All sorts of great: an oceanography study ship has an artist in residence program. And scientist and fiber artist Michelle Schwengel-Regala yarn-bombs the heck out of R/V Falkor while at sea.

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WWW: ‘The Knitterati’ pilot episode; Mill-Girl Shawl-Wearing; ‘Craft in America’ episode

We have the two winners of copies of my Pattern Writing book – Mary Kay Smith, and Sarah of Safdar. Congrats! Thanks for entering!

Featuring Amy’s LYS, The Purple Purl, watch the pilot episode of knitting comedy ‘The Knitterati’.

“Hipster darlings of the knitting community, Mary Crochet & Gerry DiLana struggle to keep their store afloat amidst a string of bad luck. It’s the least they can do to keep themselves and their loyal customers happy. But their lives are unraveling too quickly to keep it all together.”

Pun-tastic and pretty silly, it’s a fun couple of minutes.


One of the kits available, the Ellen scarf.

Reader discount offer!
Jane’s Knitting Kits is offering 10% off of their kits to the first 50 KnittyBlog readers that use the code: KNITTYBLOG at checkout.

Attending the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival next month? Or looking for an excuse to? I’m teaching a full slate of classes: Intro to Design, Pattern Writing, Socks, all sorts of things. Come and see me!

Although not knitting, I really enjoyed this video about another craft…. A rock-and-roll guitarist quits his band to become a watchmaker.

Set aside an hour: A fantastic episode of the PBS series Craft in America, ‘Threads’ featuring interviews with fiber artists of all kinds.

Tee hee hee. “Fond of a good time.”

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WWW: History Podcasts, Lost Glove, On Not Rinsing

Image from the Sweet Home blog.

An excellent, informative article about handwashing clothes, and an explanation of how those no-rinse wool-washes actually work. The author has a PhD in chemistry, and knows what she’s talking about.

The ‘Missed in History’ podcast archives are a treasure trove of listening delights… I’ve particularly enjoyed the episodes ‘Knitting’s Early History‘ and a two-part episode on the Irish Potato famine (one, two), which discusses knitting’s role in social and economic life.

June 24 & 25th are the dates for this year’s Woolfest British Wool Festival, held in Cumbria. This event, in its 11th year, is a major highlight of the fibre calendar in the U.K. There are animals and vendors and classes and demonstrations — all sorts of fabulous fibrey goodness.

Squeeze away your stress?

Apparently April is ‘Stress Awareness Month’ – not coincidentally because it’s the month in which US and Canadian income tax paperwork is due. Lion Brand and the Craft Yarn Council of America have released knit and crochet patterns for little lemons you can make as stress-balls. They are collecting these items to hand out to stressed New Yorkers on April 18th, the day that taxes are due. Whether you’re stressed about taxes or not, this looks like a fun little project to make a toy or a decorative item!

Friend-of-the-show Kate O’Sullivan has recently relaunched her lovely podcast, ‘A Playful Day. Kate’s a maker of all kinds: a knitter, a baker, and an excellent photographer. In her first episode, she talks about her recently completed project, ‘A Maker’s Year’, and how it’s inspired her work and her personal approach to life. The podcast presents interviews, project ideas, recipes and challenges: in her words, “Think of it as a weekly call to be creative.”

Are you near Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada? Help a knitter find a lost cashmere glove!

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WWW: Continuing Traditions – Lambs and Buttons and Jabots

Knitting a Soul: A lovely essay, excerpted from the book ‘Zen and the Art of Knitting’, about creativity and learning and the satisfaction that comes from making.

Imaege and pattern (c) Donna Druchunas and Ava Coleman

Love this: Feminist Knitting patterns. In particular, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Jabot is fantastic, an homage to a very strong woman. The jabot is a traditional style of collar, fashionable in the early part of the twentieth century. They were worn to soften the look of a severe jacket or collarless blouse, and that’s exactly how Justice Ginsburg wears hers, with her US Supreme Court robes.

If you want to better know the history of women, get to know their buttons: on a new book, ‘The Button Box’, by writer and teacher Lynn Knight. From the article… the book is ‘part memoir, part conceit for a consideration of politics and culture, though both notions are grounded, metaphorically and actually, in her own personal collection of family buttons. “You couldn’t get something more mundane than a button but they can tell larger stories,” Knight says.’

On the topic of buttons, a profile of “Tender Buttons”, a legendary store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In operation since 1964, the owners have curated a remarkable retail experience, and a one-of-a-kind collection of these tiny and practical works of art. The photo slide show is absolutely wonderful.

It’s lambing season, and the Herdy Shepherd is sharing pictures of the activity on his farm. Perhaps not entirely safe for work or lunchtime viewing: some of the pictures are quite messy, depicting the details of animal births.

West Coasters: what are you doing the weekend of May 13-15? Come join Kate at Vogue Knitting Live in Pasadena, maybe? I’m teaching classes on all sorts of things, including my always popular Socks for Absolute Beginners. (Yes, really. As long as you know how to knit and purl, and have even half an hour’s experience working in the round, I can teach you how to make socks.)

For those versed in the minutiae of computer languages and linguistics, this little video is rather a hoot.

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WWW: Real Body Models; a Visit to the Wool Scourer’s; Helpful Knitting Cats

From the University of Southampton Knitting Reference Library.

University of Southampton Knitting Reference Library: I’ve written about this amazing collection of vintage knitting books before, but it never fails to bring joy, education, and amusement. It’s worth a scroll, just to admire the beautiful cover artwork of the older knitting books. (Some of the more recent books covers are great, too, but in a totally different way – 1970s and 1980s hairstyles never fail to amuse.)

We’ve seen some of these before, but I enjoyed Mental Floss magazine’s roundup of 10 impressive yarnbombing projects.

image copyright Rachel Atkinson

I was excited to read about the launch of Rachel Atkinson’s Daughter of a Shepherd, a new yarn company out of the UK using fleeces from her father’s flock of Hebridean sheep. I particularly enjoyed the gorgeous photos on this blog post  about one of the key steps in turning fleeces into handknitting yarn: ‘At the Scourer’s‘. More on the project here.

A real person, with real proportions and measurements. Image from the Tracing Real Body Models website.

Fantastic: The ‘Tracing Real Body Models‘ project. Clothing designers often use pre-made illustrations of bodies, known as ‘croquis‘, as the basis for the design sketches. The problem is that these croquis are typically built to fashion model body standards: unrealistically tall and thin. This project aims to produce croquis based on actual people, with actual measurements, taken from photographs.

Also happy-making: #helpfulknittingcats on Instagram.

Kicked off by Ann Shayne, this is all about showing the world how much our cats enjoy participating in our craft. My old cat Nathan used to enjoy batting at the ends of my needles – it’s because of him I gave up working on straights and switched to circulars.

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