What Do You Gift A Spinner?

Briar Rose Polwarth Roving

It’s full-on fall in the northern hemisphere and my mind is turning to the up coming gifting season and the many birthdays of my fiber friends that happen in the fall.

What do you gift a spinner, or a knitter?

My go-to gift used to be a spindle or other fiber tool, but now I’m rethinking fiber gifts.

I think this season I’ll be giving roving that I’ve picked specially or dyed specially for the the recipient.

Indigodragonfly Merino

I’m also thinking about handspun yarn.

I’ve never been much for giving my handspun yarn, but why not? Who better to appreciate handspun than a another spinner? Every time I’ve received handspun yarn, I’ve loved it.

I’m putting yarn on my giving list too.

I better starting dyeing and spinning.

What are your favorite gifts for spinners?

Obsession Thursday: Spreadsheets

It’s no secret that I have a background in numbers: I have a degree in mathematics, and I spent 15 years working in product management in the software industry.  I’ve spent many, many hours working with numbers in spreadsheets, sometimes in Microsoft Excel and sometimes in the Open Office spreadsheet program. No matter which program I use, spreadsheets are my best friend, and I love how they can help me even though I’m no longer in the software industry!

I use them for a surprising number of things.

Yes, spreadsheets are good for working with numbers, and I take advantage of this by using them to help me with pattern design and technical editing.  (I may be good with math, but I’m terrible at arithmetic.)  I use them to check the calculations. For example, when creating or checking a garment pattern I create a row with the number of cast-on stitches, I create rows with the number of stitches decreased for armhole shaping, and then I let the spreadsheet do the arithmetic to let me know how many stitches remain after the shaping.

Checking the arithmetic

Very helpful!

But they’re also good for non-number related tasks.

I use them to create charts – these, for example. (I often use the Knitting Symbols font for my own designs, but for Knitty we have our own standard set of symbols.)   I set the column widths and heights so that they reflect the appropriate ratio for a knit stitch (a stitch is about 3/4s of its width in height, so that means  if you set the columns to be 1 cm wide, then the rows should be .75 cm tall.) and then I fill in either the appropriate symbols, or use the color fills.

Colorwork and pattern stitches

When charting, the mathematical functions are amazingly helpful – I don’t need to fill in cell and row numbers – I just set the first one, and use a formula to create the others.  And you’ve got color fills for colorwork charts.

I also use spreadsheets for my to do lists. Here’s a sneak peek behind the scenes of Knitty – a sample spreadsheet I use to keep track of my technical editing tasks.

Keeping me on track.

And I even use them to keep an inventory of my stash.

Out of sight, not necessarily out of mind.

Spreadsheets – a knit designer’s and technical editor’s best friend!

WWW: Thinking Pink

Flamingo Stripe

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month in the US, and Lorna’s Laces reminds us that 20% of the proceeds of the sale of their Flamingo Stripe colorway of Shepherd Sock are donated – year round – to Breast Cancer research.

If you’re a survivor, or you are knitting for one, you may find yourself in need of Beryl’s Tit Bits. The Tit Bits website provides links to other resources and information.

Knitty’s Fall 2004 was a Special Edition for Breast Cancer Awareness with patterns to comfort and support sufferers and survivors, and to provide discussion fodder.

Classic Elite Yarns has provided a pattern for a Breast Cancer Awareness scarf.

Denise offers a set of pink interchangeable needles, with $5 of each sale going to Breast Cancer charities. If you’ve already got a set of their needles, buy yourself some pink cords – $1 of that sale is donated, too.

View From My Wheel: Friends

Everyone was alseep when I took the picture, shhhh.

I just got back from a blissful weekend away with fiber friends. There were seven of us holed up in a cabin for 2 1/2 days, doing nothing but fiber, watching movies and overloading on carbs.

This weekend got me thinking about how I spin with friends. Spinning with friends is all about relaxing. It’s impossible for me to learn or teach something new, because I might miss out on my share of the conversation.

I did find I can practice skills that I already have a seed planted for in my head and hands, thick and thin or trimming my yarn diameter. But something new or something not in my realm of my usual woolen yarn was a no go. I brought some beautiful merino/silk I wanted to spin as a fine worsted yarn, and as many times as I touched it, I couldn’t even take it out of my spinning bag.

For me the key is the calm and easy feeling I get when I spin with my friends. It’s my grown up version of a playground. When kids play on a playground they are 100% there with their friends, playing their favorite games, nothing else matters. When I spin with my fiber tribe it’s the same, I am 100% there, my hands doing what they love best, and my heart happy and light. Why spin something new?

WWW: NYC Yarn Crawl, Considering the Environment, Knitted Wonder Wheel

Get on board!

The second annual NYC Yarn Crawl is scheduled for October 9, 10, 11th. More info here.

Each of the 14+ stores participating will have prize draws, special offers and other goodies. Each store visit entitles a participant to a raffle ticket for one of the many great prizes donated by the stores and participating yarn companies.

And to add to the fun, there’s a scavenger hunt… themed for the Big Apple, of course. Find the knitted apples hidden on the crawl route to win more prizes.

If you’re interested in the environment impact and origins of the yarn you’re working with, check out Green Knitter. The site has a great discussion of the various terms that are used to designate different facets of green-ness and environmental friendliness – “organic”, “local”, “vegan”, “natural”, “sustainable” and so forth. It provides detailed information on the processes used to turn various fibers into yarn and their environmental impact, and provides a list of products and producers that are “greener” options, with less of a negative environment impact. The links page is great -providing a list of books and other online information resources, and links to stores with a particular eco-friendly focus.

On that note, a really great article about the benefits of wool in home construction – notably, for use as insulation.  (Excellent justification for ongoing stash acquisition?)

Another great Fiber Festival to add to your list: the Woodstock Fleece Festival, October 23rd, in Woodstock, Ontario.

Great pic of Lion Brand’s knitted replica of Coney Island’s famous Wonder Wheel, from this past weekend’s NYC Maker Faire. Photo from Craft Magazine’s Twitter stream.

What’s Your Groove?

Not too long ago my friend Erica & I both spun worsted weight-ish types of yarn. We’re both part of a group of fiber friends who meet weekly at a coffee shop to spin, knit and generally laugh off our weekly stresses. Our worsted weight yarns, hers worsted spun, mine woolen, were our groove yarns, our sitting on the couch go-to yarns. What our hands and wheels just spun when left to their own devices.

Erica decided she wanted to spin thinner, she used smaller whorls and weekly I could see her yarn getting finer and finer. I decided to spin fat lofty yarns, I took some classes and practiced a lot and my yarn got thicker and thicker. I didn’t think our groove yarns had traveled that far apart on the the wpi road, until I shot this issue’s Fiber Fiesta. Take a look at our versions of Three Waters Farm, Lynne Vogel LTD, BFL/Tussah:

These mamas have a brand new groove

Erica’s has a wpi of 20, mine a wpi of 5. I say were were successful in finding our new groove yarns.

This weekend coming up, our little fiber group is going away for a long spinning weekend, four days of spinning with friends. I think I’ll take a smaller whorl or two and see if I can’t get started on another new groove.

What’s your groove yarn?

WWW: Town and Country; Habu Trunk Show

Congratulations to the winner of Monday’s Ninja-bonus contest: Monica E! The yarn for Mythos will soon be on its way to her! Make sure to share a picture of the finished sweater when you’re done, Monica!

Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

The fabulous Habu Textiles has just announced a trunk show for three very lucky west-coast stores… In addition to a showing of their designs and yarns, Takako will be running a workshop on how to read Japanese patterns.

September 23 they will be at Little Knits, Seattle, WA; September 27 at Knotty by Nature, Victoria, Canada, and September 28 & 29 Urban Yarns, in Vancouver, Canada.  Contact the stores to register for the workshops, or just drop in to say hello.

If you’re not in New York, this is a terrific opportunity to see firsthand why Habu’s products are so beloved.

But if you are in the New York area, this weekend is the New York Maker Faire at the Hall of Science in Queens.  The Maker Faire is an offshoot of Make Magazine, and is designed to entertain, educate and inspire people to – quite simply – make things. The magazine and its websites – including the internet home of its sister publication, Craft magazine – are full of amazing projects for everything from pumpkin cinnamon rolls to LED hula hoops to a knit Ferris Bueller vest.

Lion Brand has a booth, and is sponsoring a number of events, including the yarn-bombing of one of the museum’s rocket ships.  The Lion Brand booth will include a display of a yarn-crafted cityscape with the Coney Island Cyclone and Wonder Wheel, as well as landmark buildings such as the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building.

Wool, direct from the source

Several major woolly festivals are coming up soon:

The 14th annual Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival, September 24 & 25 at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby, Oregon.

The 11th Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival is takes place on the same dates at the Ogemaw County Fairgrounds, Michigan.

In Wales, the first Llandovery Sheep Festival takes place this coming weekend.

And of course, the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival, in Rhinebeck, New York, October 16 & 17th.

All these events have a great line-up of vendors, selling fleeces, yarn and other knitterly and spinnerly goodness.  There are workshops, demonstrations, and livestock to visit – and of course, buy.

If you prefer your yarn to come in skeins rather than on sheep, there are a few crafting shows coming up:

In the UK, the Crafts for All Festival takes place in Bristol, October 1-3, and the
The Knitting and Stitching Show, held at Alexandra Palace in London, runs Oct 7-10.  In Toronto, the Creativ Festival is October 22-24.  And Stitches East takes place in Hartford, CT, October 28-31.


KNITcamBRIDGE progress Sept. 9

photo courtesy Annie Bee

The KNIT CamBRIDGE project is the brainchild of Sue Sturdy, an fiber artist based in Cambridge, Ontario.  Cambridge used to be a major textile production and manufacturing hub in Ontario, and her project was designed to mark and remind residents of that often-forgotten history.

The idea was simple: cover Cambridge’s historic Main Street bridge with textiles – specifically, knitted textiles.  (Although some crochet did sneak into the project, the vast majority of the thousands of pieces were indeed knitted.)

The work started in April of 2009, and was completed on September 11, 2010, when 16,000 zip ties were used to wrap the bridge in knitwear.  Over 1,000 knitters from all over the world contributed – from the Cambridge area, from further afield in Canada, from the US, and from as far away as New Zealand.  The oldest knitter participating was 103, the youngest 5. And it wasn’t just women, as some expected – a significant number of contributions came from men.  Bob Miller, a retired lawyer, proudly contributed his first completed knitting project.

Some of the knitting was new, created especially for the bridge; other pieces were repurposed.  Marg Grapes contributed pieces of a fireplace cover she knit (but never got around to assembling) in the 1960s. Another knitter contributed an unworn scarf she had knitted for her then-boyfriend when she was a student at University of Toronto in the 1970s.

Bill Wellsman, a local resident who used to walk the bridge every day, was memorialized by his wife with a contribution, embroidered with his name.

When we spoke by phone, Sue told me she is thrilled and amazed by the way the larger knitting community came together to complete the collaborative work of art – and not just in the knitting, but also in the assembly and mounting.  She stresses that everyone deserves to share in the credit and accolades she is receiving.  A list of contributors is here.

photo courtesy Sue Sturdy

And the community has wholeheartedly embraced the project – one resident commented that it was like the bridge had been given a hug. Visitors to the city are loving it – they are utterly taken aback by the collaborative transformation.  Sue says that even the few who voiced doubts at the start of the project – about its feasibility, its practicality, and perhaps even her sanity – have all taken their words back.

Even after the installation and official unveiling, pieces are still being contributed.  A colleague of Sue’s proudly gave her a pair of socks to be added just this week.

KNITcamBRIDGE progress Sept. 9

photo courtesy Annie Bee

The bridge cozy will be in place until September 27th.  At that time, the pieces will be taken down, cleaned, and refashioned into scarves that will be sold to raise money for charity.  Other pieces will be shaped into blankets to be donated to shelters in the Cambridge area.

If you’re in the Cambridge area, do make a point of going to see it, and if you’ve got time on the 27th, volunteers are needed to help take down the pieces and prepare them for cleaning and eventual donation.

Mythos kit ninja-bonus giveaway!


Our next ninja-bonus giveaway is a kit for the gorgeous Mythos sweater, designed by Laura Nelkin, which was published in our First Fall issue. The sweater is designed in Schaefer‘s scrumptious Audrey yarn [50% merino wool/50% cultivated silk].

Here’s what one lucky winner will receive:

3 skeins of Audrey
Color: winner’s choice,
based on availability

Prize value: $114.00

Want to win? Leave a comment to this post by 9 am eastern time Wednesday, September 22st. We’ll pick one winner and announce the lucky person on our WWW post later that day.

Good luck, everyone!

Amy’s coming to the UK!

It's almost time!

This trip has been in the works since before Sock Summit ’09 — aka more than a year. And finally, it’s almost here!

It’s the brainchild of my friend, Craftlit host, Heather Ordover. I almost fell off my chair when she asked if I would be her co-host! It’s extra-exciting for me, because this trip also coincides with hub’s and my 20th anniversary and he’s coming with me. Yes, twenty years. Insane. [There are rumors we were married in the womb. I will neither confirm nor deny.]

Anyway, I’m not posting this to brag about the trip. I’m excited because our brilliant [and super-professional] tour organizer, Dianne, has given us two opportunities to have meetups with UK readers and listeners while we’re there!

@ I Knit London, Sunday, October 3 from 3-4pm

@ Rummer Tavern, Wednesday, Oct 6, from 7-9pm

If you can make it, please do! I’ll have Knitty shwag with me, and both Heather and I are really excited to meet all of you!