Batt Love

When I went to Fiber Expo I was deeply smitten with these batts.

Puffy, puffy batts

They are Whimsy batts from Frankie Loves Fiber, wonderful blends of merino, corriedale, shetland, silk and sparkle. I couldn’t choose between them. To me, colorwise, they belong together, so I brought home all three. I know, twist my arm.

Weeks later when it came time to spin them, I felt even more strongly that the three should be one mixed colorway. It had become an idea I couldn’t shake, a bee in my spinning bonnet. So I went with it.

Here’s what I did to combine them.

Open, the batts had even more colors:

Pink, red, purple and shades of dirt

I divided each of the batts lengthwise into 4 strips, then set aside 2 strips of each batt to be spun in longer color runs.

Batts stripped

The remaining strips I divided in half widthwise into a pile of 12 teeny batts.

shredded batts

Both the strips and shreds I spun in a random color order. I placed the strips in one grocery bag and the shreds another and grabbed without looking.

Strips bobbin on the left, shreds bobbin on the right

I spun the strips onto one bobbin, attenuating each strip lengthwise and spinning from the end. I controlled this yarn a little more, thick and thin, but drafting out  some of the bigger bits. I spun woolen, long draw, at a wpi between 14-16.

I spun the shreds by fluffing them more than attenuating them, but still spinning from the end. I controlled this yarn less, lumps, bumps and chunks of goodness all in the yarn. I spun woolen, long draw, at a wpi between 10-12.

I plied the two bobbins and the result is the colorway that stuck itself in my head when I first fell for these batts.

Blended batts FTW

The wpi is 4-6, the yarn is soft and sparkly, the colors randomly spread throughout. Now what should I make?

Soft and smooshy

Mattress Stitch

I love me a good seam.

A lot of knitters tell me that they tend to avoid projects that require seaming because they lack confidence in their finishing techniques.

Now, there is a lot of good stuff you can knit that requires only minimal finishing work – scarves, mittens, socks, lace, for example – but by mastering proper seaming you can open up a whole new world of amazing projects.

Garments, of course, but also pieced blankets like the amazing Lizard Ridge, and outfits for your dolls, and toys.

It’s not at all difficult, but the technique doesn’t seem to be well known.

Theresa has an excellent series of articles in Knitty on various finishing techniques.

Finishing is one of the most popular classes I teach. I taught a weekend’s worth recently at Shall We Knit, a lovely little shop in New Hamburg, Ontario.

I demo all the seaming techniques, and always begin with the same one: mattress stitch. Mattress stitch is used to seam together the sides of pieces – side and sleeve seams in a garment, for example.

And the response to my demo is always the same: a gasp.

Mattress stitch creates an amazing invisible seam and it never fails to impress.

How cool is that?

More amazing, even, is how easy it is to do. Try it! You’ll knock your own socks off, I promise!

Have you ever clicked the needles in the Knitty header?

You might want to today.

I’ve lived in Canada since I was 6 [aka a long, long time]. Canadian Thanksgiving is in October when it’s usually barely cool outside, with leaves on the trees and jackets optional. I’ve never gotten used to it.

My first 6 years imprinted Thanksgiving time into my brain as what it is now in November in the northeast: a real bite in the air and leaves on the ground. Winter is definitely coming. So I’m feeling very Thanksgivingy today, even though it’s business as usual over here in Toronto. Everything’s open, airports only crowded on the way out of town.

Thanksgiving also means family, and to me, one particular family member. My Grandma, Lillian. When I went to college, I moved 2 hours away from the family to Toronto, home of cheap airfare [at the time, anyway]. I started my own ritual: fly to LaGuardia on Thanksgiving morning, right before the Macy’s parade started. Cab it down to the Port Authority [cabs were cheap then] and take the bus to exit 8A on the NJ Turnpike. Where Grandma lived.

We’d spend the next 4 days just being together. Of course she cooked for me. That’s something that she’d had hardwired into her…she cooked for all of her kids, grandkids and associated partners, no matter how she was feeling or how many of us showed up. She made great turkey, which we continued to enjoy for the rest of the visit in different forms — turkey salad sandwiches, turkey chow mein. She made cholent and rugelach. I never left without a care package to keep me alive until I made it home.

Grandma’s been gone since 1999, and every year, this day makes me miss her more than any other.

WWW: Numbers, Art and Travel

My two favorite things - knitting and mathematics!

A school in Bracknell U.K. has been working on a project to bring mathematics to life: a blanket with 100 squares, one square for each number between 1 and 100, each square showing how many factors the number has. A prime number (that is, a number that cannot be divided up evenly, e.g. 17) has a two-colored square, representing that it can be divided only by one and itself; a number that can be divided up more (e.g. 18, which can by divided by 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, and 18) has a square with 6 colors.

Some of the donated hats

B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, Canada, hosted an knit-in event this week aiming to help calm stressed parents and reduce the instances of shaken-baby syndrome.

The hats are purple, capturing the color of a crying infant’s face, and also highlighting the key facets of the “purple” message. “The Period of PURPLE Crying” provides educational information about the properties of normal infant crying that are uniformly frustrating to caregivers, and appropriate action steps that caregivers need to know. Inconsolable infant crying is the number one trigger that precedes a shaking event.

Knitters of all ages – including many children from local schools – worked on hats for babies to be donated to new parents.

We do indeed

Classic Elite Yarns is running a promotion (sadly, in the Continental US only) to encourage knitters to support their local indie yarn shops….

Between now and December 15th, spend $40 or more on yarn or books at any Classic Elite retailer in and send them your receipts. Classic Elite will send you a free recent pattern book and three mini-skeins of their yarn.

More details here.

A lovely little video talking about the 1860 painting “The Knitting Lesson”, by Jean-François Millet.

Bilbo Baa-ggins?

The Hobbiton village set constructed in Matamata, New Zealand for the Lord of the Rings movie productions has been taken over by sheep. The land is being used by a nearby farm for grazing their sheep.

Indeed, a company offering tours of the village includes “an authentic sheep farm experience” as part of the tour.


Speaking of knitting-friendly holidays, consider perhaps a trip to Iceland. The Icelandic Knitter website has information about tours, sells some gorgeous patterns and hosts some great articles  including a history of the Icelandic Knitting tradition.  It’s worth visiting the site for the photography alone.

The View from My Wheel: Deb Robson’s Wool Breed Study Class

Spinning zen

This past weekend I took a two day wool breed study class with Deb Robson, at The Spinning Loft.

We covered a variety of breeds within the categories of primitive wools, down type wools , long wools and fine wools. Covering a category included history, lock, crimp, luster characteristics,  prep methods, and spinning at least 4 breeds within each category.

Not being a breed junky, for me, it was the type of class that introduced me to a whole world of things that I don’t know. My first instinct was to panic (usually, my first instinct), it all seemed huge and overwhelming and there were combs, which I’ve never managed to get to work for me.

Knowing that I couldn’t just run screaming, because there are no take backs in spinning. I sat and listened. Deb is wonderful teacher. She has a calm melodious voice and a depth of knowledge that makes the history of sheep breeds seem like an enchanted fairy tale. I soaked it up like a sponge. I spun and learned.

It was hours of fascinating learning. And in that casual- sneaky way that only the best teachers have, Deb got me on combs. I finally understood and used combs, and even came home with a pair.

Like in the best types of classes there was learning from each other too. I came home having learned combing and better ways to hand card and taught Andean plying. It reminds me of the square dancing move, the allemande where you pass around your circle hand over hand.

It’s classes exactly like this one that keep me excited, keep me signing up for things I’m not sure about, and keep me spinning every day.

Jillian”s NaKniSweMo Update

I cropped my head because I had 'not enough tea yet' face

It’s November 22. I still have 2 inches of body knitting, have to decide length and knit sleeves (I’m thinking short like the pattern) and do finishing. I have a good feeling about finishing on time.

The pattern, Goodale, is fantastic. Easy to follow and fun to knit. I’ve learned attached i-cord edging and increasing in the row below from this pattern, and have since passed both techniques on to other knitters. It’s my favorite part about knitting, the constant learning and teaching.

I’m still having issues with gauge and had to monkey with frequency and numbers of increases for the body. I think it may prove to be a little big under the arms, but I can live with that. I’m really excited about sewing the front detail to make the incredibly groovy pockets.

How’s your sweater coming? Have you checked in with the Ravelry group? Some people are done.

1 Million Ravelers, Naked Knitters Storm Again, and a Royal Sweater

And they think we're just a small movement...

Big congratulations to our friends at Ravelry, which recently hit the milestone of 1 million registered users.

Bolton UK’s Knitting Noras – also known as the Naked Knitters, thanks to their fundraising cheeky postcards – are at it again.  They will be yarnbombing the International Centre in Harrogate, the site of the upcoming Knitting and Stitching show, November 25-28th.

Wooly, warm and rescued.

Have you heard about The North Circular? Although they sell finished goods, they are running a unique and wonderful company in the UK. They make and sell products from a flock of rescued Wensleydale Longwool sheep. It’s all locally produced, and there are bios of their knitters, their shepherd and their sheep on the website. The designs are gorgeous, and they have a truly great business model.

I think I might have to start saving up for the Hook Cardigan

For the cat lovers among us, your daily dose of adorable, courtesy of Purina New Zealand. Kitties and yarn!

To get you in the mood for the upcoming Harry Potter installment, here’s a pattern for a hat inspired by the one worn by Ron Weasley in the movie ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’.

Launched a craze

The news of Prince William’s engagement brings to mind that wonderful red and white sheep sweater worn by his mother, Princess Diana, in 1983. I know I wanted one at the time…

Plying Spindle Spun Yarn

I love to spin singles on my spindles, but I’ve never been a fan of plying on a spindle.

Before you ask, it's an Indigo Hound spindle.

Instead I use my Kate 45 and ply on my wheel.

Ply, girl, ply!

All with the help of the humble drinking straw. My cop goes on the straw and the straw goes on my lazy kate rod.

Size does matter

I have a pack of regular bendy straws that fit perfectly over the rods on my Kate 45 just loose enough to spin, but not so loose that the fly off when plying. The straw has to be taller than your cop but, not taller than your lazy kate rod.

Spindle to straw

I slide my straw as far as it will go up the spindle shaft and slide the cop slowly onto the straw.

Ready for a 2-ply

I found that if I tried to make the cop transfer off of the spindle or even at the bottom of the spindle shaft, it was much harder to get the cop on the straw smoothly.

Ply like the wind

I use my wheel to ply, but it’s just as easy to ply to a spindle from your kate.

WWW: 25th Anniversary of Knitter’s Magazine, Interesting & Important Knitters and a Very Long Scarf

100th Issue

This year marks the 100th issue of Knitter’s Magazine, and the 26th anniversary of XRX the company that publishes the magazine and many terrific books.  As of this issue, the magazine is being distributed both in physical copies and in digital format through the Zinio service.

To celebrate the anniversary, Knitter’s has a special double issue with 50 patterns, and a digital version being distributed for free. More info here.

Even cartoon characters need scarves.

Arthur learns to knit! In a new episode of the popular and long-running kids’ TV series, “Arthur Unravels“, Arthur’s grandma Thora teaches him to knit. In the episode, he worries that he’ll get teased by his classmates if they find out. The episode shows (spoiler alert!) that regardless of gender or age, anyone can learn and enjoy knitting.

Definitely cuter than Tim Burton.

A nice little profile of artist Donna Wilson, in the New York Times style magazine “T”.  They describe her as the “Tim Burton” of knitting.

Not entirely surprising news that musician Sufjan Stevens is a knitter. Mostly scarves, apparently, and he has worked for Martha Stewart!

A group of knitters in northwest Wales is aiming to knit a scarf a mile long to wrap around the Cob – the sea wall – in Porthmadog. The Cob was built in 1811 to reclaim low-lying land from the harbor area for agricultural use, and the scarf is part of the bicentennial celebrations.

"Knitting Diva"

Saturday November 20th, a memorial, tribute and benefit event is being held in Madison, Wisconsin in honor of Melissa Mathay, noted knitting designer and author.  More info on Facebook.  Melissa was the original owner of Yarn, Co. in New York, and was a key figure in the revival of knitting as a design art in New York in the 1990s.

A contest!

Loop Shop and the Loop Knits site is hosting a contest on their site – The I Love Fall Knitting $100 Sweepstakes. Visit the website to learn more and enter to win a $100 gift certificate to use at the shop in Philadelphia or on the online store.