Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Knitting in the Media

If you happened to watch the recent CBS show, Sunday Morning, you just might have had a smile on your face. A nasty, nasty comment came back to haunt TV journalist Mo Rocca after he said that "Homemade sweaters are always itchy." This shocking comment came about while discussing current events ...and handmade sweaters for featherless chickens. Yup. I don't make this stuff up!

Knitters just could not let this remark go unanswered. Many wrote in to set him straight. Some Ravelers even knitted Mo a gorgeous cabled sweater ...which was not at all itchy!

Happily, Mo realized that he needed to learn more about knits, knitters and knitting. He took knitting lessons (from a ten-year-old) and had a chat with author and knitter, Debbie Stoller of the Stitch and Bitch books. Thanks to Stoller, he realized that, "knitting is not quite as easy as people who've never knit like to think."

Let's hope he's gained a whole new respect for knitters.

Here's the link for the segment (I hope it's available for awhile):

Other knitterly smiles in the media. (Sorry about the blurriness. But hey - I learned how to centre pictures this time :) Rhymes with Orange by Hilary B. Price 1/29
"Discipline Through Knitting: Order was again restored once Miriam instituted the family scarf."

Figure Knitting Class - Bizarro by Dan Piraro

Happy knitting,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Drop Spindling without the 'Drop'

Well, Little Red Mitten had it's first drop spindling class and, by the smiles (and concentration) on people's faces, I'd say it was a great success! A big thank you goes to our teacher, Janice Watterworth, for her inspiring class and helpful ways. Maybe we'll want to have an alumni class soon?
I really expected to hear lots of clunks from spindles falling to the floor but people seemed to get the hang of it quite quickly. By the end of the two hours, they all had spun and plied a length of fibre and were pretty impressed by what they had accomplished.

When the class headed out into the shop, the bubbly enthusiasm even convinced an "I have no desire to spin" person to sign up for the next class. Wow!

Hors d'oeuvres, anyone?

ps. Our next beginner class is Saturday, April 17 at 1:30. Hope you'll join us.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


About ten years ago, I took my first spinning class and was introduced to hand spindles. Since my goal was to move on up to a wheel, my spindle fell by the wayside. I'd get it out now and then, mostly to demonstrate the magic of early spinning techniques ...but sadly, I never really mastered this amazing tool.

And now it's just a few more days until our two hour spindling class with Janice Watterworth.
(Janice will be teaching 10 new handspindlers this Saturday. We are having her back again on April 17 because of high interest.) After listening to some of the wannabe spinners who've signed up for this class, I'm not sure if all of us can wait even that long!

In my enthusiasm, I read Abby Franquemont's super-inspiring new book, Respect the Spindle, and now I'm really geared up for this class. I've been practising more regularly and I can almost imagine myself "spindling in public" as nonchalantly and regularly as I "knit in public."

By the way, did you know that a handspindler can produce more in a week than with a spinning wheel because of the portability of this historic (10,000 to 20,000 years) tool? Sounds like good and efficient fun to me!!! And who can resist another excuse to dip their fingers in yummy fibres?

yummy, yummy merino

Happy Spindling!

Joan Janes
Little Red Mitten

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Handwashin' Ain't So Bad

So you read the label on that yummy yarn and it says superwash or machine wash ...and you are very happy. Then you read, "Dry flat," and you sigh. Okay, maybe if you are knitting for a busy young mother (and her trying-to-be-helpful husband!), you may be right that your lovingly hand knitted garment might not retain its original beauty.

But handwashing is a very useful tool ...and it isn't really that bad. I actually get a kick out of the process. After all of that enjoyable knitting time making magic out of sticks and string, I get to extend the life of something I love.

All it takes is a few basic supplies in the laundry room and handwashing is a breeze. Elizabeth Zimmermann said that washing handknits was like bathing a baby. What a charming image!

To make the job really easy, I love to use Eucalan , a no-rinse woolwash (and great for lingerie, too, according to interviews on Cityline and Steven and Chris!) Just add a drop of Eucalan to a small amount of warm water and soak your garment for 20 - 30 minutes. Because wool is weak when wet, lift it carefully from the water (please don't pull it out by just the sleeve!), gently squeeze out most of the water and roll it in a towel to remove more moisture.

My super-easy method involves putting a small amount of warm water (and Eucalan) in my top-load washing machine, turning off the machine and soaking the garment. To get rid of the water, bypass all of the wash and rinse cycles and just spin on the gentle cycle. What could be easier?

When it comes to "Lay Flat to Dry," there are several options. For socks, I just lay them over a clothesline or drying rack. For small items like mitts or Felt Clogs, I've been known to use a cookie cooling rack.

A mesh drying rack for sweaters is always useful. Or you might try those colourful, puzzle shaped rubber mats that you can get at the hardware store. The great thing about them is that you can align them in one straight row for a long scarf or make them form a square which works very well for an adult sweater. You can even stick pins in them if you are blocking your newly knit shawl.
If the drying rack is not yet a tool found in your laundry room, you can always lay a clean sheet over some carpet before laying out your garment to dry. Just remember to close the door so the cat doesn't nap there. They do love the scent of wool!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Believe in Success

"I believe" that the first step to success is imagining the road to success. Several times in the past 17 days, I watched our Olympic athletes visualize and mentally run through their event before competing. They were imagining their success ...and it worked.

Believe it or not, knitters go through a similar visualization process when planning a project just takes a little longer to go from start to finish!

At the starting gate, the first inspiration may be the yarn, it may be the pattern, or maybe it's simply the desire to knit and create. While "winning" is seldom the goal, I think most of us hope for success, appreciation and a chance to improve our knitting fitness.

Before the event, a knitter will run through all of the possibilities - colour, size, fibre, yarn weight, needle size, tension and her repertoire of knitting techniques. Visualizing the project takes imagination and creativity ...and sometimes advice from her knitting coach/friends. These preparations made at the starting gate will always affect the results at the finish line.

While training, planning and preparation are vital for each event, perhaps the real pleasure comes from the performance. The knitter enjoys each individual stitch and step of the project as she heads toward the end of her program. Her years of practice and experience help her handle the bumps and challenges that arise along the way.

As Olympians know, it takes time, training and commitment to reach a worthwhile goal. If we "believe" in a goal, we can achieve it.

Over 4000 knitters set their sights high to compete (against themselves) in Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's 2010 Knitting Olympics. The following "Knitting Champion" medal was designed by Franklin Habit for The Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics: