WWW: Wooly grocery bags, Self-publishing, on Icelandic knitting language

Love these! Yes, it seems like all grocery stores offer reusable bags for sale, but only Waitrose is offering a wooly one. There are two styles, and they are available at two of the central London locations of this upscale supermarket in the UK. They’re made with the wool of the rare-breed Whiteface Dartmoor sheep, one of the UK’s oldest indigenous breeds. Gorgeous and practical.

Really enjoying this blog series about designing and publishing, from gifted designer Kate Davies. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. She writes about the whys and wherefores, and the challenges and rewards of deciding to self-publish, as an independent designer, and highlights some who are self-publishing.

An absolutely fascinating article about the evolution of the Icelandic language, and how a knitting-language committee is helping the language adapt and evolve to meet new needs and technologies and usages. It’s as much about globalization and history as it is about finding the right word for the cable cast on.

Interesting thinking on the overuse of the word “craft” in today’s marketplace, from UK furniture maker Gareth Neal.

It’s World Wide Knit in Public Day on Saturday. Ready?

Knit photo frames! Clever and adorable! The page is in French, but the picture is fairly self-explanatory.

Jillian’s Spinning: A Field Trip with Historical Spinning

I went with my son and his class on their last elementary school field trip (they grow up so fast, sniff) to Greenfield Village, here in Michigan.  Greenfield Village is part of The Henry Food museum and is an open air museum, with a working farm, historic buildings like Henry Ford’s Model T workshop, Thomas Edison’s lab and  craft workshops.

It’s been years since I’ve visited Greenfield Village and I saw fiber everywhere. I held my tongue mostly and did not speechify to the 5th graders on every piece of fiber equipment I saw. But I did explain how this carder worked.

Carding Mill, this would fit nicely in my garage.

Carding Mill, this would fit nicely in my garage.

I snuck off from the kids to look at the silk reeler

Silk Reeler

Silk Reeler

In one of the farm houses we visited there was a beautiful walking wheel, I only got a shot of part of it.

Great wheel, notice the ingenious use of a corncob.

Great wheel, notice the ingenious use of a corncob.

In the same farmhouse there were baskets of naturally dyed yarns.

Thank you, I'll take that yarn.

Thank you, I’ll take that yarn.

My son tried really hard not to roll his eyes every time I ooohed and ahhhed over every single piece of fiber equipment  we came accross, but I could see it and , of course, it just made me comment more. Aren’t we supposed to embarrass our children? Especially in the name of fiber?

WWW: Great London Yarn Crawl; Crocheted Playground; World Wide Knit in Public

This is amazing. Seriously. Lisa P‘s version of my Bigger on the Inside Shawl. She used a wonderful variegated yarn for the lace portion, and then added her own lower edging… the Fourth Doctor’s scarf.

I bow down to your cleverness and fandom.

Today in Not Strictly Knitting: A Canadian couple, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam and Charles MacAdam of Nova Scotia, has created a crocheted playground. The installation of hand-crocheted hanging nets is one of a series of playgrounds they’ve created. This version, called Harmonic Motion, is open for viewing and climbing upon at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio.

It’s June! That means it’s time to start knitting outside! This year’s World Wide Knit in Public Day is Saturday June 13th, and look for events near you at the website.

Our own Amy will be joining the team at Shall We Knit in Waterloo for their annual World Wide Knit in Public celebration that weekend. She’s also teaching a couple of her popular and fun classes. More info here.

A little further along in the year, but still close enough to start planning, the Great London Yarn Crawl has announced a bigger and better event for their third year. In addition to the crawl, Saturday September 5th, there will be a pop-up marketplace at Chelsea Old Town Hall in central London, serving as the kick-off point for the Yarn Crawl and featuring over 30 indie makers, designers and artisans from London and around the UK. And stay tuned for news of special guests…

Friend of Knitty designer Kristen Jancuk talks sense on the topic of swatching.

Image courtesy the artists. Black walnut frame, black walnut carving, silk, linen, merino wool hand dyed.

Love this: a mini-film series of six interviews with makers from the Canadian maritimes who work in different media. In particular, I adored Fibre & Wood, a look into the work of couple Sanna Rahola and Douglas Drdul. Sanna is a fibre artist and Douglas is a woodcarver, and although they work independently, their pieces come together as beautiful collisions and contrasts of texture, light and structure.

Roadtrip?! Simply Socks Yarn Company is celebrating their tenth anniversary this month, with a whole load of festivities and sales and special events at their store location in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Jillian’s Spinning: Keeping Track with Tags

I am newly in love with these big honking tags:

Shipping tags are my friend

Shipping tags are my new friend

They are about 4″x 2″ and manilla folder thick. I’ve seen other people use them, but never have myself until recently.  I realized I can fit a whole lot of yarn info and yarn on a single tag.


So much information

So much information

Here’s what I have listed on it so far: Fiber info, WPI single / finished yarn, YPP, TPI for plied yarn finished/unfinished, my wheel and her settings. The yarns on the tag are singles (I plan on making this spot an inch next time), a ply back sample and two plied samples unfinished and finished.

This is just a first pass as I’m working on a project. There is so much space for so many statistics!

How do you keep track of spinning and yarn information for a project and where do you keep it?

Stalking Our Own Patterns

I do it all the time as a designer: I stalk my own patterns on Ravelry. I love seeing what yarns knitters have chosen; I adore seeing different versions and interpretations. And it makes me so happy to see my work being work, appreciated and loved all around the world.

And sometimes I have fun stalking Knitty patterns, too, for our Knitty Friday WIPs and FOs roundup. I love browsing through the projects for an issue to see what’s catching on, what knitters are enjoying making, and how a project is being received.

But something we’d never done until this week was browse all Knitty projects. Ravelry has this wonderful feature: you can see all the projects associated with our publication, from all issues.

As of Wednesday 3pm or so, there are 431,671 of them. It’s amazing and gratifying and wonderful.

Thank you!

WWW: Great Canadian Knitting Tour; Pattern Writing Online Class; Alice In Wonderland Yarnbomb

Knitted music video of the week: Much less sad than last week’s, I promise! In which a yarny-girl starts her day. Cleverly created by artists Janey Moffatt and Adam Clements for artist Benbo, and entirely cute.

Sylvia and her husband, hitting the road

Author, knitter, designer and master storyteller Sylvia Olsen is partway through her “Great Canadian Knitting Tour“. She started May 1st in Victoria, B.C., and will reach St. John’s Newfoundland June 15th. Along the way, she’s visiting yarn shops, teaching workshops and telling stories about her life and the lives and work of the Coast Salish knitters of British Columbia.

Sylvia’s objective is to meet as many people in the Canadian knitting community as possible. To exchange stories about knitting and knitters in Canada. She’s visiting book shops, yarn stores, libraries, museums and private homes across the nation. When it’s all over, Olsen will share her discoveries in Knitting Stories II, the sequel to her best-selling recent collection of essays, Knitting Stories: Personal Essays and Seven Coast Salish-inspired Knitting Patterns.

A little bit of tasteful self-promotion: as a follow up to her book about Pattern Writing, our own Kate (that’s me!) is running an interactive online course on Pattern Writing. Suitable for designers of all levels who wish to write instructions for their knitting project, this class guides you through the entire process of writing a pattern – from the actual instructions through to the test knitting, technical editing and publication process. The class is all about discussion, and there will be exercises and activities focused on helping you develop your own style and style sheet, and getting you well on your way to writing patterns. If you’ve got something you need help writing out, or you feel your existing patterns need a bit of improvement, this class can help. Bring your questions and be prepared to chat and share and discuss with me. It starts May 30th and runs to July 12th – work at your own pace!

Image from The Northern Echo website.

Yarnbombers have struck Saltburn Pier in the UK again. This pier has seen many wonderful installations in the past – including an amazing one for the London Olympics, but this year’s Alice In Wonderland-themed work may be my favorite. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the book.

Celebrity Knitter Alert: Actor Nicholas Hoult was taught to knit by Charlize Theron, on the set of Mad Max Fury Road. I would very much like to see some of those pictures…

Jillian’s Spinning: Losing Spinning Tools

I cannot keep orifice hooks!  I have bought many and made many and they all disappear. Where do they go? Are they having a party with all of the single socks that my dryer has eaten? I have looped them on my wheel, hung a small bag on my wheel to keep them in, but they just jump up and disappear. Here are the hooks I have right now, plus the one on my Lendrum.

All the hooks I have.

All the hooks I have.

The beaded one I made and it’s out of wire that is too fine and will break soon. The other is a paper clip, which is what I almost always end up using.

I have a few questions for you:

  • How do you keep from misplacing your hooks?
  • If you make hooks what gauge wire do you use?
  • What hooks are your favorite? Show me cool hooks to buy.

Are there any tools you constantly misplace?


WWW: Preserving Traditional Newfoundland Knitting; Street Lace; On Cost of Making

Classic Newfoundland patterns and designs, including the famous “trigger mitts”. Image from CBC website.

Love this: CBC profiles two Newfoundland-based knitters who are working to preserve traditional Newfoundland knitting patterns. Shirley Scott – known as “Shirl the Purl” has been collecting samples of mittens, hats and scarves, and the patterns used to make them. She has passed her collection on to Christine LeGrow, the owner of Spindrift Handknits, who aims to keep these patterns in circulation, and keep this important part of Canada’s social history alive.

Wonderful, clever and moving: a music video for band James, created entirely with yarn.

I’m very excited about this upcoming exhibition ‘A Whole Other World: Sub-Culture Craft’ at the Racine Art Museum in Racine, WI.

The show, focused on artists inspired by Doctor Who, Star Wars, Steampunk, and Superheroes, explores the intersection of art with cultural subjects that inspire devoted “fan” followings. A Whole Other World features a variety of objects and images, from quilts to prints to sculpture – either works directly inspired by these themes, or by the winding of these kinds of topics in-and-out of popular culture,.

I’m excited because it sounds absolutely amazing. Oh and also, the original Bigger on the Inside scarf is part of the show.

Image from Huffington Post website.

Not Strictly Knitting, but utterly beautiful: Street artist NeSpoon uses traditional lace patterns, textures and structures in very non-traditional ways.

This week’s thought-provoking discussion: “What Is Your Cost of Making?” Looking at both the cost to the knitter in the retail store, and the larger issue of cost all along the production cycle of the materials, this blog post addresses head-on the question of how much we’re willing to spend to make a sweater.

Anecdotally, I see an interesting divergence in the way knitters think of the cost of the materials: is this an item of clothing, and should the yarn cost be considered in the context of a ‘clothing budget’, or is this a hobby, and is the yarn cost considered more in the context of ‘entertainment value’? Some of this is driven, of course, by the knitter’s available budget, but it seems to me to be an interesting demonstration of the shift in how we “use” knitting – we’re not (just) doing it because we need clothes. Many knitters do it because they want ‘entertainment’, or the satisfaction of making, or to express a creative impulse – and the money considerations become very different. Although paying $30 for a pair of socks is unquestionably outrageous, that figure can feel a little different if you consider the value of a couple of week’s worth of crafting pleasure and the satisfaction and comfort of making a custom-fit item that you are proud to show off.

Jillian’s Spinning: A Wheel Refreshed

I have had my Schacht Matchless for a long time, longer than I’ve had both my kids and almost longer than I’ve had my husband, almost 20 years.

Here we are in 2008:

My Matchless

My Matchless

This wheel has a special place in my heart. She was the first wheel I knew I wanted with that singular need I get when I’m locked onto a wheel. My first wheel I chose because it was the only one I could afford. My Matchless was my second wheel and I was wild about her. She was way out of my league in relation to my bank balance and spinning skill. I was still a terrified beginner when I first saw her.

I put her on layaway for six months and waited impatiently, spinning on my other wheel. When I finally got her home, I spun the ugliest most beautiful yarn. I had no idea how to adjust her or even what all the knobs were for, but I spun on her. I loved her. She was patient and waited for me to catch up. Maggie Casey taught me how to use her with joy at an Estes Park Wool Market.

She traveled all over the country as I moved and had kids. She sat in the basement for a few years when I didn’t spin and was sure I was never going to spin again. But she was waiting and ready to go the day I woke up and knew I needed to spin again.

A few years ago she started not working quite right. The treadles swayed, the flyer was flying a little wonky. I kept spinning on her until I just couldn’t anymore. My friendly Schacht expert would shore her up, until she just couldn’t anymore. “You have to send her in”, she said. I frowned. I still spun on her sometimes with my toes gripping the edges of the treadles like a monkey to keep them from swaying or rubbing. I didn’t want to send her away. I kind of needed her to sit in the corner and cheer me on in all of my spinning work, whether I spun on her or not. She was with me  when I worked at Interweave, when I helped Amy start and then took over Knittyspin, when I started teaching spinning classes, when I wrote for PLY Magazine and Spin Off, when I got my book deal and wrote my manuscript.

It’s time now for me to do a lot of spinning, samples and projects for my book. I want to spin them on her, so I sent her in. Back to Schacht to get fixed and refreshed. It didn’t take long, maybe a month, but I never put another wheel in her spot in my house while she was gone.

She came back spinning smooth and easy, with a few new parts that are fresh maple and look lovely against her old maple.

My new old wheel

My new old wheel

I’m so glad I sent her in and that the folks at Schacht took such great care of her. I’ve got a lot of spinning scheduled and a lot more planned and I don’t want to do it without her!


Do you have a wheel you are especially attached to?



Back in 2011, I ran a survey to gather foot measurements. Although I design and knit many things, socks have been my main focus for a long time. Being a small-footed type, proper sock sizing was important to me, and this survey was designed to help me and other designers better size sock patterns. Many Knitty readers contributed their measurements – thank you! And I published my findings on this blog.

Almost exactly four years later, this survey has become part of a book, too: Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet* launches this summer.


I know! It’s a terrible image! But it should convey what I need, I hope?

Now it’s time for the other extremity: hands. I’m doing the same thing, gathering information on hand size, to help me better size mittens for adults and children. If you’ve got a minute or two spare, and a tape measure handy, will you please measure your hands for me? Both of them, ideally? And maybe the hands of the other members of your household?

It’s quick, I promise! There are two questions about demographics (age group, and whether you work in metric or imperial) and then six measurements as shown in the graphic. Survey here. I’ve also added a place for you to tell me about any special mitten and glove fit needs you might have and customizations you might make: do you always make a string? do you always work extra-long cuffs? do you have trouble with the thumb lengths?

Thank you! I will, as before, publish the results here. (And yes, I am hoping to publish another book, too.)

*If you’re interested, there’s  more info about the sock book here and here: