How Paper Clips Save My Spinning Sanity

I love paper clips!

I am a spinner that likes to take my wheel everywhere with me. I am also a spinner who tends to drop and lose things. There are days that, as I carry my wheel, I feel like I’m a dandelion shedding fluffy fiber and tools everywhere.

The tool that I most seem to lose no matter how I tie it on, keep it in a wee basket or even carry it in my purse is an orifice hook. I lose 1 or 2 a year.

Behold the everyday object that saves my spinning sanity:

Paper clip magic!

I throw a small handful into every bag I carry, and if I’m orifice hook-less I grab a paperclip and unbend, leaving or creating a small hook at one end.

Adjust the hook size to your wheel’s orifice and you’re ready to spin. If you’d like, curl the hookless end into a loop, string it on yarn and hang it on your wheel.

Even if I somehow don’t have a paper clip they are sure easier to find or buy on the fly than an orifice hook. Be sure to buy the coated kind because they won’t snag on silk or other super smooth fibers and they come in the best colors!

A plaid August for me

E-mails have been flying back and forth across the Atlantic for a little while, and the result I can now share with you:

I’m going to UK Knit Camp this August in Stirling, Scotland.

I am so excited about this, I can’t even stand it. Have you looked at the website? A world of teachers are participating, many of whom  have never been to the UK to teach before. It’s only fair. North America has had an abundance of  super-cool knitting events, including (of course) Sock Summit, Stitches events, Knitters’ Connection, and tons more. So now the other side of the ocean gets a chance, and I’m so thrilled that I get to be a part of it!

I’m teaching three classes during the week, two of them brand new!

Here are the details:

Wednesday morning: Easy non-wool socks
This brand-new class is all about knitting socks without wool. As a bonus, Jo (head honcho of Knit Camp) has arranged to bring in a whole bunch of non-wool sock yarns not usually available in the UK for you to purchase, if you need to.

In this class, you’ll learn my super-easy toe-up sock recipe which I designed specifically to work with the characteristics of non-wool sock yarns.  It features an easy gusset and a heel flap built with my tweaked Japanese short-row technique, all 100% maths free.  Knit one, and you might just want this to be your sock recipe for life.  The pattern gives you lots of room to improvise, should you want to add texture, colourwork or lace to the foot and/or leg.

And if you want to use this pattern with wool yarn after the class, I won’t be bothered one bit.

Tuscany Shawl: Image © Interweave Press

Thursday morning: Tuscany lace shawl –>
This class will introduce you to the joys of knitting lace the easy way.  Our project will be the Tuscany Shawl, from my book No Sheep for You. Knit in a smooth worsted-weight silk yarn, it feels amazing against the skin, and most importantly, it looks way harder to knit than it actually is.

We’ll learn all the tricks that make knitting lace a pleasure, including how to read the landscape of your lace, and the easy way to block your finished shawl.

If you’ve wanted to knit lace but don’t like charts, or are just a little shy of the whole process, this is the class for you.

Friday morning: Making the next Monkey, Greenjeans or Mrs Beeton
In this class, I’ll share some of Knitty’s secrets with you.  I’ll talk about what makes a pattern stand out among the hundreds submitted to Knitty every year, what makes a good pattern, pattern-writing techniques that make a difference, what makes a pattern go viral, the five things you can do to ensure that you have the best possible chance of getting published, and the five things you can do that will blow it for you.

Please bring along any patterns you are considering submitting for publication, along with a knitted sample.  I promise to be gentle as I share my feedback with you — there is no meanness in my class! I got to evaluate lots of sock patterns at Sock Summit last year, and everyone — even those not submitting at the time — told me they got a lot out of the class.


I’m also going to be speaking at the Clapo-tea (can you stand the cuteness?). I’ve been asked to join the Luminary Panel (really? me? eee!), and the fashion show will be full of Knitty garments and accessories.

Because Jo and I just met at the Toronto Knitter’s Frolic and decided to make this happen in rather short notice, my classes have just been added to the website, which means they’re wide open right now. It’d make my day (month!) if they’d fill up quickly.

I hope to meet you on the other side of the ocean this August!

What I’ve Knitty-ed

The Morgan hat. Not just for winter.

This past November I knitted myself a Morgan hat. It’s a tremendously fun and interesting knit, and I wore it all winter. I love it enough that I wore it on days when I didn’t really need a hat; I even wore it indoors.  And come summer, I’m still wearing it.

Obsession: Coil-less Safety Pins

A good collection, improved

Many older knitting books mention a rather mysterious tool: the coil-less safety pin. I’ve been reading about them for years, and quietly wondering what the fuss is about. I’m always up for trying a new tool, but I could never seem to find them.

I do love me a good safety pin. I use them for all sorts of things: as markers, as stitch holders, as a crochet hook substitute for picking up dropped stitches, to keep track of a bunch of increases and decreases (just stick ’em in the knitting when you do the increase, and you can more easily count them). I even use big ones as shawl pins and instead of buttons on cardigans. I have a fair collection in a little tin – including the little plastic safety-pin style stitch holders.

The little plastic marker ones are good, but they are very small. And the traditional safety pin have a serious weakness: the yarn can get trapped in the coil. I’m doing a lot of lace knitting at the moment, and I’ve been nervous about using standard safety pins with delicate yarns. It occurred to me that coil-less safety pins might be the answer. But I’d never actually found any!

I’ve looked in every knitting shop I’ve ever been into, and never seen them.  Sure, stitch holders are basically giant coil-less safety pins, but they are too big. I wanted smaller ones.

Last weekend, a generous knitter (who also happens to quilt) was at one of my LYSs , waving around a bag full of coil-less safety pins. I cornered her and asked her where she got them. Turns out they are to be found in quilting shops. I’ve never stepped foot in a quilting shop in my life, so without her I may never have found them.

She gave me a few.

My life has changed.

I can use them for all the things I used to use normal safety pins for, but I need never worry about the yarn catching again.

I am indeed obsessed.  You know what to give me for my birthday…

Fresh from TNNA

crazy Columbus art car, parked near the convention center

TNNA [The National NeedleArts Association] is the organization of manufacturers of almost everything we all knit with, from yarn to needles to notions to bags and more. Going to the TNNA trade show in Columbus, Ohio, every June is a tradition for those of us in the industry. Knitty first attended TNNA in 2004, and every year, what we see gets more interesting.

Most importantly, we get to meet in person the folks that make the stuff we love, sometimes after having corresponded by e-mail for years. It’s pretty neat.

So this week’s What’s What Wednesday is devoted to what we saw and a few peeks at what you might see in issues to come.

All photos were taken with my iPhone, so they’re of modest quality. Next year, I bring the good camera.


Knitwear designer ##http://www.robinmelanson.com/##Robin Melanson## in super-fabulous sunglasses. We'll get her in Knitty one of these days.

Stephen West models ##http://knitty.com/ISSUEfall09/PATTcolonnade.php/##Colonnade##, this time in a new smaller version which you'll find ##http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/little-colonnade##here##.

Larissa from ##http://www.OffhandDesigns.com/##Offhand Designs## showing us her new bag hardware on a felted sweater turned into a bag...more on this in a future issue!

We loved these ##http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEss10/PATTwanderer.php/##Wanderer socks##, knit in ##http://www.lornaslaces.net##Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock##, shown at their booth!

##http://www.kauni.com/index.php?lang=english##Kauni## had a booth this year...it was 100% delicious.

One picture is never enough.

Welcoming new yarnies ##http://www.millamia.com/##MillaMia## from Sweden, run by two sisters with the loveliest British accents.

Millamia is a wool yarn with kid-centric pattern support...really fashionable and truly adorable

The awesome Norah Gaughan poses for a teaser photo...you'll be seeing something from her in a future issue, made from ##http://www.berroco.com/shade_cards/remix_sh.html/##Remix##, my favorite find from this year's show. Wool-free tweed, light as air, made from recycled fibers including silk, cotton and linen. Thank you, Berroco!

New from Knowknits, the ##http://www.knowknits.com/products_01.html##GoKnit bag## is now available in faux-fur. Can you stand it? Soft as anything, too. Two other new colors have been added: a pale purple and a soft gold, seen here.

##http://ysolda.com##Ysolda's## booth was the talk of the show...tea and cakes every day at 3! The booth was furnished like a living room, and was a great place to hang out. Previews of Ysolda's upcoming book -- Little Red in the City, due out this September -- could be seen as well as garments from ##http://twistcollective.com##Twist Collective## and ##http://shetlandtrader.blogspot.com##The Shetland Trader##.

I happened to stop by when Ysolda was taping a segment for Knitting Daily TV, with host Eunny Jang. Marilyn Murphy of ##http://interweave.com##Interweave## watches over the proceedings.

Stephen West, Casey (##http://ravelry.com##Ravelry Guru##) and Laura Chau (##http://www.cosmicpluto.com##Cosmicpluto##) watch on as Ysolda and Eunny prepare for the segment. Casey's not angry, just concentrating as he works.

Was this year's TNNA a success? Absolutely Yes! (Artwork by ##http://www.1800cartoon.com/##Paul Palnik## Â -- his studio is next to the ##http://jenisicecreams.com/##Jeni's## location on High Street. Frustratingly, it's never been open when I've been there.)

More of That Car

Overall, I found the show to be much more upbeat than it has been in the past few years. The floors weren’t necessarily crowded with attendees, but those there — from what I was told — were placing orders. Some booths were busy the entire show; others had spurts and quiet times. The trends this time? Well, I was a little surprised to see what seems to be a small resurgence of novelty yarn from a few manufacturers. But overall, I found most manufacturers were adding yarns with longevity to their lines…rich wools, creative new blends, and lots of deep fall colors were everywhere.

Jillian and I were also delighted to see much more spinning fiber on display than at any previous show. Beautiful indie-dyed wools of all description, silks and delicious blends. Watch Knittyspin, where you’ll see these beauties in an upcoming Fiber Fiesta feature.

There was an aisle mostly dedicated to newer products, many of which you’ll soon be seeing in our Cool Stuff section in upcoming issues. The Yarn Roundtable closet is now restocked with a huge selection of yarn, with more to come as manufacturers and dyers return home and start shipping their TNNA orders.

Yes, there was a lot of Jeni’s during this trip for Jillian and I. We needed to keep up our strength, you know! [This year’s favorites for me were the Meyer Lemon Blueberry and the Salty Caramel. Jillian favored the Goat Cheese with Roasted Cherries.]

There was more than I could ever capture at the show itself, but this gives you a taste of our weekend with the fiber peoples. For more coverage, don’t miss Clara’s post at Knitter’s Review, next Thursday — KR is on an every-other-week posting schedule for the summer, Clara tells me. Reading her event wrap-ups is a must, whether I’ve been at the event or not. The Ravelry folks did a great job of covering the floor during the show — you can find their pictures and video at their Hello TNNA twitter feed.

The Tortoise and the Hare

I just returned from a color and art yarn workshop with the great Lynne Vogel.  I’ve become obsessed with coil plied yarns and I was determined to learn to spin a yummy, yummy, soft coil plied yarn. I was also determined to do it all, practice all night and just generally rock my own spinning socks off.

Plus I wanted to unhook and relax, as well as deepen, renew and make new friendships. Baby, I was gonna bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan!

Determined to me means to dig in with gritted teeth like a Jack Russell on a rodent, like the Hare in the fable. This is not the frame of mind to teach your hands and mind to spin new yarns, or to relax.

More dreds than yarn. George Clinton are you out there?

Here is some of my first coiled yarn <–

This is after setting it under tension. Anyone need their pots scrubbed?

I was crushed when it didn’t work out. I’ll admit that I gave up a little and just went along. I slept, I walked in the woods, I listened to stories, made friends and drank beer. I may have laughed a time or two, so hard, that I both cried and drooled.

You know where this is going, right? Sunday, while everyone else is practicing and picking Lynne’s brain before we leave her safety nest, I sat. I changed my whorl. I set my tension. I spun. I spun with purpose, but not gritted determination, like the tortoise. I spun hands to head, not head to hands, because in spinning your hands always know and your head trips them up.

Cushy coils.

I spun soft and beautiful coils –>

When your spinning or learning isn’t going quite right stop to think: are you being the tortoise or the hare?

Tortoise yarn on top, Hare yarn on bottom

Fiber is Spunky Eclectic hand painted Shetland, Three Sheeps colorway.

Post from on the road

Lynne does an awesome job of jigsawing 5 grown women's baggage post trade show

Amy  here. I stole Jillian’s password. Don’t tell her.

My bags are in this Ford Flex somewhere, and right now, I’m in a Panera near Toledo, Ohio, using their lovely free wifi to let you know that TNNA was great and we have so much new stuff to share with you for the upcoming First Fall issue.  There were more new products than I remember seeing in a long while, and a yarn I fell in love with that will be making a featured appearance here in a future issue of Knitty.

But even before the issue comes out, we’ll share some  of what we saw. This week.

Stay tuned.

Multiple personalities?

If you’ve been reading the KnittyBlog for a long time, it might be sounding a little different to you lately.

It used to be all Amy all the time. Which can be anything from amusing to annoying, depending on your perspective. But mostly, that didn’t really reflect the true backbone of Knitty. Sure, Amy does lots of stuff and is the big boss, but there are other super-important Knitty people that, if you don’t know yet, you will soon.

Obsession of the Moment: Doctor Who

The Eleventh Doctor & Amy Pond.  Image copyright BBC.

The Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond. Image (c) BBC.

Ok, I lie.  This has been an obsession of mine, oh, since I was about 7.

Doctor Who (Wikipedia link for full and wondrous history) is a science fiction TV series produced by the BBC.  Its initial incarnation ran from 1963 to 1989. I am a Brit, and I grew up with it.

It’s about a mysterious time- and space- traveling Time Lord who goes by the name of the Doctor, and is a great mix of science fiction, mystery, fairy-tale and old-fashioned adventure romp.  It’s funny and thrilling and cheesy in just the right balance. The clever trick is that Time Lords can regenerate their bodies, so that when an actor quits the series, he can be replaced by another. My doctor was Tom Baker, complete with awesome scarf (which, naturally, has its own website with patterns for the different versions from different seasons).  The series sorta petered out in the 1980s.

But in 2005 it was brilliantly revised by Russell T. Davies and his team.  And this new incarnation is, IMHO, even better than the original.  It’s funnier and thrillinger and cheesier, but all still in perfect balance. We’re on our third Doctor of the new incarnation, Matt Smith, and he’s turned out to be terrific.  No-one was sure he could fill the very large shoes of David Tennant, who left last year;  just as no-one was sure Tennant could fill the very large shoes of Christopher Eccleston, who was the initial relaunch Doctor. But each has made his own impression – and in the case of David Tennant, what a delicious impression that was.

The latest series is running right now in the UK on BBC One, and in the US on BBC America. (Choose your link carefully – the US is two episodes behind the UK, and the UK site has spoilers for upcoming episodes.)

If you’ve not given it a go, start with the Christopher Eccleston series.  Knitting television of the finest order – and not just because there is a knitter in the recent episode, Amy’s Choice.

What’s new?

Quite a lot!


The Knitgrrl Guide To Professional Knitwear Design

Many of us have been eagerly awaiting the publication of this book, written by Shannon Okey [the Knitgrrl herself].

Well, the book went from manuscript to finished, printed copy in significantly less than a year…which is one of the benefits of being a

1) motivated author
2) experienced self-publisher

…and Shannon is both!

This book has promised to be as honest a volume as has ever been written about what it’s like to design for a living [or part of a living]. “Written by an industry insider, the Guide takes a comprehensive, unflinching look behind the scenes that no knit or crochet designer can afford to be without. Includes interviews with top designers, editors and professionals who tell it like it is so you can hit the ground running, a guide to responsible social media use, information on distribution, printing, online publishing and much, much more.”

Can’t wait to read it!


Lots of knitters have been turning their hands to quilting lately. So this new Patchwork Pattern Maker from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London comes along at a great time. It’s free, and turns an image into a series of geometric shapes, which the quilter can then use as a template for a quilt top.

As a lapsed quilter [my current carpal tunnel condition is a result of that previous obsession], this makes me want to reach for my rotary cutter!


StitchinKnitâ„¢ font by Adriprints

For knitters who want to publish their designs, or just share their work with friends, having a good charting font can be a real help. There’s a brand-new font from Adriprints that looks fabulous: it’s called StitchinKnitâ„¢.

Three versions — regular, chunky and handdrawn  — cost a mere $6. Mac and PC versions both available. Awesome.

P.S. My friend Dawn reminds me to be excited also about the crochet font they have…right here!