The Hidden Costs of Summer Knitting

The seasons have changed: it’s getting hot in the northern hemisphere, and cooler in the southern hemisphere.

Seasonal knitting is an interesting question: I know a lot of knitters who tend to put their needles down in hot weather.  Makes sense to me – do you really want to have a massive wool blanket draped over your lap when the mercury rises?

The colder the weather gets, I crave larger projects: blankets I can wrap around myself as I work, and big sweaters I can cuddle up with.

carefully knitting small things in the summer sunshine

I knit socks and lace in the summer, for the most part, and I choose the yarns carefully.  My hands get very warm and a bit clammy – I’m funny that way – and I’m always nervous that I might accidentally felt the yarn.

About 10 years ago, I offered to make a shawl for a friend’s wedding.  She was getting married in northern Ontario, in late September.  The evenings can get pretty cool there, so we chose a  mohair yarn.  All well and good, but a September wedding meant I was knitting in August – and it must have been the hottest August we’d had in some years.  It was a big shawl, too. At the time, I had a window air conditioning unit in my living room.  I spent every evening for four weeks huddled beside the window, with the air conditioning cranked up to maximum.

I finished it on time, and it was beautiful, and the bride loved it.

And a good thing, too: I can say with absolutely certainty that it was the most expensive thing I’ve ever knitted.  The yarn was pretty inexpensive – it was the air conditioning bill that pushed the price up.

Gift Knitting Season Already?; Patriotism

Image courtesy Interweave Press.

Some knitters are starting to consider their project lists for end-of-year gift knitting.  To help you with those lists,  look for these books on your LYS bookshelf very soon:

Joelle Hoverson & Anna Williams’ More Last Minute Knitted Gifts

Mags Kandis’ Gifted: Lovely Little Things to Knit and Crochet

Anna Hrachovec’s Knitting Mochimochi: 20 Super-Cute Strange Designs for Knitted Amigurumi.  If you’re in the NYC area July 11th, attend the launch party at Brooklyn General Store to see some of this adorableness in person.

Betcha can't knit just one...


We’re in the throws of World Cup, and the season of National Holidays. No matter who or what you’re celebrating, make sure you have a knitted flag to wave:

The Stars & Stripes

The Maple Leaf Forever

Flag of St. George

If you’re looking for other patriotic accessories, try these:

Flag-themed hats from DROPS

Germany hat

Swiss Flag dishcloth/baby bib

A rather amazing collection of flag design coasters designed by Kathy Murray, available for purchase on Ravelry.

And if you’re more about the football than supporting a specific country, knit yourself an actual football.

Happy Canada Day to our Canadian friends &  Happy 4th of July to our US friends!

Spin dreaming

It’s Knitty production week and I really should be working, but my mind keeps drifting off to this:

oatmealy BFL

Nearly 3 pounds of oatmeal BFL that I want to spin for the Tour de Fleece.

I dream about spinning it into a beautiful long-draw single that I would full and knit into a sweater.

I also dream about dyeing this bfl, national blue, bright violet with maybe touches of avocado or maybe grasshopper ( yes, those are pro chem colors). Not with total coverage —  I want some of that oatmeal to show.

What are you dreaming about spinning for the Tour?

I met Sasha this weekend at a Maggie Casey workshop. Sasha has a new spinning podcast, The Spin Doctor, where she reviews spinning fiber, tools, dvds and all manner of spinning yum. Give it a listen and tell her what you think!

Stare into into the BFL vortex - if you dare!

You can’t knit if your hands are numb.

What could it be now?

This is something I’ve been progressively learning over the last few years. You don’t want to read a recounting of my medical history, so I’ll summarize it like this: I overdid things with my hands by using my computer and mouse, hand quilting, knitting and spinning over the last 15 years. Despite ergonomic changes in my work and leisure habits and the nightly wearing of wrist braces, they hurt, occasionally were numb and sometimes I’d wake up with pain that felt like I’d dipped my hand in a pot of boiling oil. No exaggeration. The official diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome came a few months ago after a nerve conduction test.

I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of the cortisone shots I chose to have, because I’m not a doctor [and please, no lectures in the comments. I know people are polarized about this issue]. But I will say that my right hand — my dominant hand and the one that hurt worst –has taken much longer to recover from the cortisone shot than I expected. The whole thing was a little bit of a comedy of errors which included me almost fainting from the first shot and the doctor kind of forgetting to tell me about the acute pain I’d have for the next 24-48 hours. Yup.

I’ve also been seeing an Osteopath for several months, and I credit her with the marked improvement I felt about halfway through the healing process from the shot. More on her kind of Osteopathy can be found here.

Anyway, here we are, almost a month later, and the news is pretty good.The left hand [the one that made me almost faint] was better 3 days after the shot. The right hand is almost there…and the best news of all? I’ve been knitting.

Before I had this shot, I hadn’t knit with pleasure for months. Every time I’d pick it up, my hands would be numb in minutes and there’s no pleasure in that. Now, I have to be super-attentive to my body and stop if something feels funky. I’m alternating work with knitting or rest, so that I don’t overdo it in any one area. And without pushing myself, I knit myself something I’ve been wanting ever since we published it. The picture at the top is a hint*.

I’ve written this post mostly to tell you to listen to your body. Overdoing it may eventually cause you to be unable to do what you love. So take it easier. Be kind to your body and especially your hands.

*More on this on Knitty Friday.

What the heck is a Nabaztag?

meet nabaztag.

It’s a rabbit. It’s a device. It’s plugged into the wall. It’s got wifi. It lights up. Its ears move. It does tai-chi. It’s made of plastic. It reads messages aloud that were sent electronically as text.

<— It looks like this.

I know. Nuts. Who cares?

Go for a second and watch the opening animation at the Nabaztag site. Then come back. [Please.]

See? it’s kind of captivating, isn’t it?

nabaztag:tag. note the belly button/microphone

Nabaztag was introduced in 2006 and was, honestly, buggy and limited in function. The new Nabaztag can be identified by its belly button, which houses a microphone. –> This makes your little rabbit able to interact with you.

Press the button on his/her head and say “weather” and he’ll tell you the weather. Say “air” and you get a light show representing the air quality in your area.

I am a rabbit person, and I love geekery, so when I saw this in 2006, I wanted. Badly. But it was almost $200. It still is, if you buy it in North America. So I didn’t do that. I waited 4 years and went the eBay route.

Since then, hub and I have realized that we can use our Nabaztag [named Leopold] almost like a super-geekified intercom. One in my office, one in his, sending messages back and forth. So I went searching for another one for him. [Of course I claimed the first one.]

On the hour, Leopold tells me the time. It reminds me to get up from my computer and stretch. He makes tinkly noises as he does Tai Chi [his ears wave about while his lights make with the pretty]. He reads me messages [see that “Make the Bunny Talk tab at the top of this page?]. He’s fun. There are Nabaztag iPhone apps. Utilities all over the web [google your heart out]. Figuring out what he can do is half the fun. Not everything works perfectly: have Nabaztag read an RSS feed to you and it comes out in a robotic voice that’s only vaguely intelligible. That don’t bother me none. It does enough other stuff that I’m enchanted with the thing.

Violet, the company that created Nabaztag, has had problems. Last year, they sold out to Mindscape, a neat online gadgety shop. And their price was way lower than I’d found anywhere else [69 euros]. And they ship worldwide. And with the 5 euro coupon I found [code: NLMG], plus they removed the VAT, too good to pass up. So hub’s is on his way here.

Today, I found an even better price — 49 euros at Carrefour. Don’t think they ship outside of France, though. In fact, most of the good Nabaztag resources are in French. Solution? If you’re not already using the Chrome browser, give it a try. It’ll translate pages to your chosen language on the fly, and has been most handy for me [with my high-school French]. It’s now my default browser.

In any case, I wanted to leave you with a little taste of what Nabaztag can do. As part of the arty festival, Luminato, Nabaz’mob came to town. 100 Nabaztag rabbits lit up in a darkened room and moved their ears in a 20-minute hypnotic ballet, choreographed to an ethereal soundtrack.

Inspiration and Duck Feet

An arty and inspiring Wednesday.


Karen Searle, How My Mother Dressed Me (Detail); Image from KarenSearle.com

I’m regularly awed and inspired by the work featured on the ArtYarn blog….  the work of Fibre Artist Karen Searle was recently featured.

Karen works in a variety of fiber media, and she has knitted and crocheted a variety of pieces – some life size, and some miniatures.  The stunning dresses are each 6 inches high, knitted in copper wire.

ArtYarn is a collaborative knitting and crochet project coordinated by visual artist Rachael Elwell, and their goal is to collaborate with local community groups, world wide knitting and crochet networks and arts organizations to create gallery installations, public arts projects and creative craft workshops.

Both sites are worth a visit.


Blouse, mola, San Blas Islands, Panama, 20th century; Image courtesy of Textile Museum of Canada

The Textile Museum of Canada has just announce a new exhibit, Drawing with Scissors, featuring the Mola work of Kuna Yola. Running July 21, 2010 to February 13, 2011, the exhibit features the handcrafted traditional blouses of the Kuna people, an indigenous people of the San Blas Islands, Panama.

The motifs are worked in reverse applique and embroidery, and depict images from the world in which the Kuna live – invoking and blending both their traditional beliefs and way of life and the influence of the modern world around them.  Works might feature images of ancient spirits intertwined with images inspired by television – from the news or Disney cartoons.


Another stunning exhibition has just opened at the Newport Mills in Newport, New Hampshire.  Fabrications is a mixed media exhibition featuring work by 19 international, national and regional artists.  In acknowledgment of the building’s history as a working mill, Fabrications presents artworks using textiles in innovative, contemporary ways, and showcases projects that utilize weaving, sewing, knitting, crocheting, and spinning into unexpected forms and unusual materials.  It runs until September 25th.


Duck feet. Not just for babies anymore.

Looking for cuteness and high degrees of adorability in your knitting? Check out Petite Purls’ Summer issue. Full of great babies’ and kids’ patterns.

And if you need some cuteness in adult size, consider Jeny’s Felted Duck booties, a grownup version of the Duck socks from the Spring issue.


Did you win in our contest? Emails have gone out from knittyadmanager @ gmail to our lucky prize winners. Check your spam filters!


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…