Sunday, January 30, 2011

Knitting Book Nerd

Knitting Book Nerd - that's me!

Not so long ago, I spent hours posting all of my knitting books on Ravelry. It was pretty impressive, and a bit embarrassing to put on display I deleted it all. But that fabulously inspiring collection of colour, design, tips, techniques, history and fun regularly calls to me from shelves near my knitting nest.

Recently, I broke down and bought a book that I had 'blacklisted' from my collection: Stitch 'n Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook. I admit, it may seem prudish to not want a book because of the title, but I felt it insulted women and knitting groups. My hackles were raised, but this couldn't have been further from the truth.

Debbie Stoller's book retells our history of knitting, extols the importance of traditional women's work ...and her edgy flair encourages the young to take up the craft. The old photos are fun, her instructions are easy to understand and her drawings are clear. Great book!

Okay, so how many knitting books does one need, anyway? When I am trying to learn a new skill from a book, diagram, photo or video, it always feels to me like something has been left out somewhere. Maybe my brain just doesn't take that leap from step four to step five. When I read the next book on the technique, that step may be well-explained but another area is weak.

We all learn differently and we all explain things a bit differently. The more we read, the more things start to make sense. When teaching a class, I could use the same words over and over to no avail ...or I could rephrase the instructions, draw a diagram, use props, show samples, hold the needles or just move a knitter's finger. Please don't give up after studying only one person's instructions or reading one book. Try another. Someone else may help everything fall into place for you. And that'll bring a smile to your face!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Do as I Say, Not as I Did

After knitting a super-bulky hat all in one evening, I have to admit that self-preservation was not on my radar. By the time I realized how tired and sore my hands were, it was too late. (...I was almost done and really wanted to finish. You understand!?!?!) A week later, things are back to normal, thankfully, and hopefuly I'm a wiser person.

So how should you look after those precious tools - your hands? The Arthritis Foundation has some tips:

Choose a soft, smooth, medium-weight yarn. Fine gauges are difficult to grip, and although bulky yarns may be easier to hold, they can be heavier. As for needles, medium-gauge such as 4 to 5.5 mm are easiest on the hands.

Fibre choice makes a difference - stretchy fibres such as wool and other protein fibres are more flexible and therefore gentler on the hands than cotton or cellulose fibres.

Metal needles, especially older styles, are stiff and cold and heavy. Give wooden needles a try. You just might enjoy their light weight, warmth and flexibility.

If your back, neck, arms or hands get sore, try circular needles. The weight of your knitting is more evenly divided between your hands and when your project gets larger, the knitting will rest on your lap.

Above all, pace yourself. Take breaks, stand and stretch your hands, arms and back ...before they start to ache. As Sally Melville says in her book, The Knit Stitch, set a timer to go off across the room every 20 minutes, get up, stretch, and set it to go off in another 20 minutes. If you don't get up, but keep knitting through the noise, get help!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Just finished my holiday reading and have to share: "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd is a fabulous read. I just couldn't put it down.

How does a book about bees (it's really about a group of black women and a white girl in South Carolina in 1964) connect with a knitting blog? Well, until I got to the Readers Guide at the back of the book, I hadn't considered a connection, either. And then I read the author's words about a sisterhood of women ...and all of a sudden, the ladies who come to knit at Little Red Mitten filled my thoughts:

"When women bond together in a community in such a way that "sisterhood" is created, it gives them an accepting and intimate forum to tell their stories and have them heard and validated by others. ...We found that there is a way of being together that sustains us..." (Sue Monk Kidd)

Our Wednesday afternoon and Friday Night knitting groups don't have much of a name, but we are a community. Faces change from week to week, yet some knitters come to every meeting; some sit on the sidelines and listen while others entertain and make us laugh; questions are asked and help is given; problems are shared and support is offered; and stories are shared.

Although I often struggle for the chance to sit and knit with the group, these people have become an important part of my life. When kids grow up and leave home, all of a sudden, we have time to ourselves ...and fewer chances to share it with people who are close to us. The same happens at retirement - people you have seen every day for years are no longer there. For those who spend their days looking after children or ailing relatives, they need a community that listens to them.

Knitting groups give us a reason to belong to something outside of our regular lives. I hope you can come out and join in the "buzziness" of knitters and enjoy the community they share. And yes, drones (males) are always welcome to our beehive of activity!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Knittin' it up in the Motor City

This weekend, Matt and I went to my first ever NFL Football game in Detroit. (Don't snicker - football is great for knitters. There are so many breaks between plays that if you happen to miss something, there is always a replay ...or two ...or three.)

After walking to the stadium, we found out that backpacks and knitting bags weren't allowed, so we turned around, walked another 15 minutes in cold, windy Detroit, and reorganized our stuff. Thank goodness I had brought along a teeny tiny sock to knit because nothing else would have fit in my purse. I was now ready to withstand 3 hours of athletic bliss.

When you are sitting near the end of a row, have you ever noticed how often other spectators need to walk in front of you? Well, the first time, this happened, I politely stood up, holding my knitting and my purse up close to my body. I sat down to knit and noticed that my yarn wasn't on my lap anymore. It had dropped, the guy next to us had it wrapped around him ...and it had rolled down to the seats below us, totally out of sight. Egad! After passing my teeny tiny sock with its teeny tiny 4 inch needles back and forth a few times, tapping the shoulder of the fellow in front of us and twice figuring out which way it had to go around his chair leg (because the first time is never right) I safely stuffed the ball of yarn in my pocket and got back to knitting bliss.

In my defense, I did have one of these in my knitting bag when I arrived at the gates, but you know how well that turned out! Fifteen minutes before the end of the game, the teeny socks were done except for the toe ...because my pockets were tool-free.
For football fans only: The Detroit Lions (the local team for this area) were playing the Minnesota Vikings (our local team when we lived in South Dakota). Before the game, I had no idea who I'd cheer for, but while sitting among so many Lions fans, it became obvious which team it would be. And it was a good choice: Detroit won 20-13. That makes four games in a row for the Lions. After going winless, two seasons ago, this is a big deal!
Due to a concussion, we watched Brett Favre stand on the sidelines. This may have been the final game of his 20 years as quarterback - the end of an era! Unless, of course, he doesn't actually retire .... (Favre retired twice in the last two years and officially retired for the third time today.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I resolve ...

As I watch friends struggle with health issues, I see the importance of taking time to enjoy each and every day. The fact that I love my job makes this pretty easy, because I get to visit with some of the nicest people on the planet every day - knitters. I've got "enjoyment" covered, thank you very much!

Running a yarn shop and interacting with customers inspires me endlessly. My project list seems to grow every day, but 'busy-ness' plays havoc those dreamed-of goals. (The phrase, "Must knit faster" comes to mind, here.) Since taking time to put up my feet and rest is also important, I resolve to kick back ...and knit more!!!

This year, my desk will be more organized and I will get to the paperwork - the knitting related stuff, anyway. I really do love working out the details of a knitting project this is the year for getting my patterns reorganized and improved. My fingers are really crossed for this one - let's hope I can still knit!
We all have goals and dreams and desires for 2011. My wish is that yours will be a fulfilling and healthful year.
Happy New Year!