Smalls SAL 2018, January Edition

All You Need is Love January 2018
“All You Need is Love,” a freebie from Drawn Thread worked in random silks from my stash. Fabric is 28-count Belfast linen in “Blush.”

While it may already be February, I have just completed stitching for the January Smalls SAL Challenge run by Stitching Lotus (see link on right). And I got it in just under the wire! The design is “All You Need is Love,” a freebie from The Drawn Thread. The original design called for Gloriana Silk Threads, which I have found nearly impossible to find here in Southern California. So, I just went with the silk threads I currently have in my collection and through in some DMC embroidery floss and perle cotton just for kicks.

The ultimate result isn’t quite the color combination I would have chosen (too bright, too loud) if I had gone by my preferences instead of what was available in my silk thread collection, but I’m happy enough with the result. Once finished-finished, this will make a fine gift for my nieces; this will make four years in a row that I’ve stitched them a heart-themed design for Valentine’s Day. Here’s a little peak at the others:

Now that I think about it, my nieces (E. and L.) would probably prefer the brighter color combo (why do I keep wanting to call it a “color flavor combo”?). It’s much more vibrant.

I’ve already picked out my Smalls SAL design for February, a pretty little blackwork biscornu with an acorn design. Stay tuned for all the cross stitch excitement!

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Women’s March 2018

THANK YOU to all the women and men who marched today for those of us who aren’t quite up to it just yet. I promise I will join you next year and march my little heart out. In the meantime, I will keep churning out pussy hats for the revolution. Vive la chatte!

And I also pledge to pass on my fighting spirit to the next generation, starting with my two amazing, feisty, talented, unstoppable nieces.

Ella and Lolo Wearing Pussy Hats (February 2017)
This is why, why we march, why we lie awake/This is why, why we march/ Come hell.

 

 

Introducing the Twist Ending Cowl!!

Twist Ending Cowl
Spoiler Alert: it’s my new pattern!

Announcing my latest pattern–the Twist Ending Cowl! It’s available now for free (yes, free!) on the Knit Picks website as part of their Twelve Gifts of Christmas series. Here is the Ravelry link. I really love this pattern–it’s simple but it’s got a kick to it. And I can imagine it looking great in all kinds of color combinations, although I confess a special fondness for the grey and yellow combo. It was designed to show off the pop of color in the Latvian braid edging, so it would look great with any neutral paired with a bright contrasting color. White with black or red or navy, perhaps? Or maybe black with a hot pink?

Worked in Knit Picks Mighty Stitch Super Bulky yarn on size 15 circular needles, the pattern calls for about 130 yards of the main color and 30 yards of the contrast color. It knits up super fast and would make a great Christmas gift (or twelve). And, keeping in mind my recent posts, it would be the perfect pattern to knit during a movie; the pattern is simple and easy to memorize but the result looks a lot more complicated than it really is.

Here are some more equally gorgeous photos from the Knit Picks site:

Thank you to Knit Picks and their Independent Designer Partnership Program (IDP), and especially Stacey Winklepleck. And gratitude also to my good friend, Deborah Gormley, who originally suggested the twist pattern and is just generally a good egg all around.

I hope you all like this pattern, and I’d love to hear from any of you knitters out there who have knitted it up. Show me your finished cowls — I can’t wait to see what all of you come up with! Thank you!

Cyber Monday: Stitching Edition, or We Needle a Little Christmas Right This Very Minute*

Yesterday I offered some ideas for knitting gifts and today I’ll be offering up some needlework treats. Finding needlework gifts is a little more difficult since the gadgets and paraphernalia are so much simpler, cheaper, and lasting. For instance, usually, there’s no need to buy new floss with every project like there is to buy new yarn, and if you’re like me, you have enough patterns, linens, and flosses to last you through to the end of the Ivanka Trump administration (shudder). Still, I doubt a gift certificate to The Silver Needle or 123Stitch (my new favorite–every pattern also lists the necessary fabric and flosses so you can order them all at once. Heads up, Silver Needle!) would go unused or unappreciated. Best of all would be to buy a gift certificate for your LNS (local needlework store). Shop local!

Before I present the list, I’d like to add that I did try to find needlework gifts for the many of you out there who do not celebrate Christmas. To say the process was frustrating is an understatement. If you are not at least culturally Christian but want holiday-themed designs, I’m sorry to say that you are going to have a difficult time if my searches are anything to go by. Of course, not all of the gifts below are explicitly Christmas-themed, but if any of you have any ideas where else to look, I’d love to hear from you.

Here goes…

  • At the top of every stitcher’s list this year has got to be the new set of flosses from DMC. You can read my review here. As of the time of this blog post, most of the stores were still taking names for the waiting list, but let’s hope that situation breaks soon. Even DMC doesn’t have any available until January 2018.
New DMC Colors 2017
And yes, like Veruca Salt, I want it now, gold box included.
  • While Katrinkles products are usually marketed at knitters, I think stitchers would enjoy their ornaments, buttons, and other little wooden treasures as well.
  • In keeping with the wooden ornament theme, one of my favorite stores is Red Gate Stitchery. Susan Fitzgerald, the creator of Red Gate Stitchery, says that her goal was to design “a line of cross stitch accessories in unconventional materials like wood, leather, and acrylic…. combining the traditional art of cross stitch with unexpected and modern materials.” The pieces are, in fact, “fun and easy to stitch” (you can see a blurry picture of the flag of Ireland key chain/memory stick fob I made for the 2017 Craft Month Challenge below the pictures of some of her Nordic-inspired Christmas designs). Trust me, these few pictures don’t even begin to do justice to jewelry, buttons, pendants, pictures, floss holders, and other bits and bobs they offer on their Etsy store.

Craft Month Keychain with Irish Flag 002

  • Of course, if you’re looking for fancy embroidery scissors, thread keeps, thread winders, and other assorted beautiful (but not strictly necessary) cross stitch gadgets, you should really check out Kelmscott Designs. These gadgets would make lovely little extravagances for someone you know who cross stitches but you’re pretty sure they have all they need.

Well, that’s it for now. Frankly, this was a difficult post to write. There simply aren’t a lot of cross stitch-inspired gifts out there. If you are considering treating the cross stitcher in your life, you might be better off just going with a gift certificate to the LNS. Take him/her out for a nice lunch and some floss-shopping.

*The Management apologizes for all the recent Christmas puns. Those responsible have been sacked. Mynd you, m00se bites Kan be pretty nasti … 

**We apologize again for the fault in the post-script. Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked have been sacked. 

Black Friday: Knitting Edition, or All I Want for Christmas is Ewe

In celebration (if that’s the right word) of Black Friday or Cyber Monday or whatever day this is, I’ve put together a list of what I think are some of the best gifts for knitters this year. This is a completely subjective list with no criteria other than “what Kate liked when she was leafing through knitting magazines the other day” and “what Kate liked that showed up on her Twitter feed.”

Here goes…

  • After years of resistance, I’ve started sock knitting so I am not only succumbing to the beauty of sock yarn, but also to the charm of teeny-tiny knitting needles. My favorite this season is this set of Knitter’s Pride Karbonz 6″ dpn’s in sizes 0 through 3 (on sale this week at Webs and Amazon!). These are virtually unbreakable, which is perfect for knitters like me with ham-fisted knitting styles (I can’t even count how many wimpy little wooden dpn’s I’ve broken with my farmers’ hands). If you prefer not to use dpn’s, I think this ChiaoGoo Twist Minis interchangeable set would be right up your alley. I wish the needle portion was shorter than 5″ but, otherwise they look like a good deal and they are available practically everywhere, even WalMart (not that I’m endorsing WalMart).
  • This Craftvent Calendar is a special advent calendar from Jimmy Beans Wool. Each little drawer has a little ball of yarn and a clue to the mystery shawl pattern. You also get all the notions necessary to complete the project. Offered in seasonally appropriate Wintergreen, Sugarplum, and Cozy Fire colorways, the Craftvent Calendar has a price ($150) that makes it quite an indulgence but it looks adorable and fun.
  • From Hannah’s Ideas in Wood, these carved wooden shawl pins are quite beautiful and can also be used as hair sticks (in fact, they are marketed as such). They also have some very attractive cell phone and tablet stands for when you listen to music or audio books while you knit. And then there are these Celtic knot shawl pins from Crafty Flutterby Creations, who also offers some Outlander-themed shawl pins and stitch markers. These aren’t new but these shawl pins  and shawl sticks from Jul Designs are gorgeous.
  • A dual-purpose pom pom/tassel maker from Boye that lets you make pom poms and tassels ranging in size from .75″ to 6.25″. I love the idea of replacing all my miscellaneous pom pom makers and of having a more formal way to make tassels than just wrapping yarn around a book (basically this is just an excuse to get a new gadget).
Boye-Pompom-Tassel-Maker_
Bonus! It looks like a miniature, multi-colored Hollywood Bowl when it’s not in use!
  • Some adorable, practically bespoke sheep figures from  Mary Kilvert. You can read all about how each unique sheep is made on the web site.
Mary Kilvert Sheep
While to my ear from uplands far away/The bleating of the folded flocks is borne,/With distant cries of reapers in the corn— /All the live murmur of a summer’s day.
  • I like these recycled craft-paper style care instruction cards quite a bit too. Let’s face it, I love everything on Knit It Hook It Craft It’s site. Go ahead, check it out and you’ll see.
  • And if you want your jewelry to reflect your love of knitting, there’s this great knitted clay collection from Beauelle.

     

There’s lots more of course but I think I’ve got enough for now. I’d better stop or it will be Christmas 2018 before I finish this list.

Tomorrow, gifts for stitchers!

 

Happy Thanksgiving 2017!!

Drawn Thread We Give Thanks
Drawn Thread, “We Give Thanks” (stitched in 2000, framing by yours truly) — apologies for the fuzzy photography!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers out there! And a very happy Thursday to the rest of the world! Wherever you are, it’s good to remember to be grateful every once and a while, and to thank out loud the people, places and things that make our lives worth living.

So if you’ll pardon me getting personal for a moment–thank you to my brother, Bill, and my sister-in-law, Karen, and two the world’s most talented, beautiful, amazing, fun, intelligent, feisty, and joyous nieces in the world (not that I’m biased), Ella and Lauren (Lolo). And to my friend, Deborah, and all my friends and family all over the country. You’ve really come through for me these past few months, and I am truly grateful.

Since this is a knitting and needlework blog, here are some of the things I am grateful for in that world–the continued popularity of knitting which has made so many resources available to all of us, and especially the superheroes behind Ravelry who make the knitting world hum. If you’re not already on Ravelry, you don’t know what you’re missing.

I am especially thankful to the helpful and supportive people of Knit Picks, who have published three of my knitting patterns this year: Tree of Life socks, Kitty Mitties, and another which is coming out next week (stay tuned!). Their Independent Designer Program (IDP) is a great way for beginning designers to get their first break, as it were.

I am also grateful for the new DMC colors and the continued success of my favorite needlework designers.

I am also thankful for my best blog friend, Stitch Bitch, who is not only an inspiring and prolific cross-stitcher, but is also wicked smart and funny.

And thank you for my handful of readers! Without you, I’m just shouting in the dark.

Chessboard Design in Progress

Well, so much for my own personal NaBloWriMo… I should have known: November is the absolute worst month for a college teacher to take on new goals. OK, maybe December is worse, but November is a close second.

Anyway, enough self-flagellation… today I’m updating you on all the progress I’ve made towards completing one of my goals, arranging for a model stitcher for my cross stitch chessboard design. (By the way, does anyone know why spell-check doesn’t like the word “stitcher”?) The design is a basic chessboard with sashiko-style squares and borders. Here’s a sample square:

Craft Month Challenge Sashiko Box Cover 001

I’ve been working on this design on and off for ten years. Seriously. Ten frickin’ years. But now I’ve decided that it’s time to stitch or cut floss, as they say. Well, nobody actually says that but me, but you get the gist. I realized that if I waited to do the model stitching myself, it might be another ten years before it gets done.

Last year around this time I did some research on how to find model stitchers and I discovered a couple things: first, stitchers are among the kindest and most helpful people in the world (a special thank you to Jo Gatenby of X’s and O’s who not only responded to me personally but also took the time to give me lots of really specific tips and insider information); and second, there are basically two places to go if you are a newbie looking for reliable model stitchers. The first is the Yahoo group (I know, I know, aren’t Yahoo groups so 2003?) Model Stitchers International, which is where I “met” Jo Gatenby and other designers who gave me a lot of helpful advice. It’s pretty quiet most of the time, but I did get an almost immediate response when I posted my questions.

The second is the Facebook group, Embroidery Model Stitchers and Designers. It’s a closed group of 500+ members, but you can ask to join or ask a member to invite you. It’s very welcoming as long as you stick to the rules (like no advertising, no off-topic conversations, treat everyone with respect, compensate everyone fairly) and moderately busy. There are about 1-2 posts per week calling for model stitchers and about 1-2 updates every week from model stitchers doing work for designers in the group. Don’t worry, it won’t clog up your feed.

If you know any other resources for finding model stitchers, let me know. I’d be happy to test them out and pass along what I learn. Thanks!

So, long story short (too late!), I’ve sent out feelers to both groups and I’ve already gotten a couple nibbles! Yeah! I’ll keep you updated on the design. Wish me luck!

Knitting at the Movie Theater Part II: Blatant Self-Promotion

When I was writing my last post on “Tips for Knitting at the Movie Theater,” I had originally intended to include a list of some of my favorite patterns for knitting at the movies, but since I had already included links to Jen Reilly’s “Super-Fast, Ultra-Cozy Scarf” and TenTen Knits’ “Snow Cowl,” I figured that was enough. However, my Midwestern guilt continued to gnaw at me until I realized that by far the most common patterns I knit at the movies are my own, the “Lucky Horseshoes” scarf and the “Stardust Variations” cowl. Both are quite simple designs which can be completed in a couple hours, and both are very popular as patterns and finished items on my Ravelry and Etsy shops (links in right-hand column). So please pardon the blatant self-promotion (decidedly un-Midwestern; must be my California side showing through) as I recommend my own patterns.

“Lucky Horseshoes” involves some simple cabling, but if you’re comfortable with cabling (especially cabling without a cable needle), it should be a piece of cake. The pattern is sized for cowl, medium scarf, and long scarf, and if you can really adjust the look completely with your choice of color and statement button.

“Stardust Variations” is a simple cowl pattern knit in the round, but the bonus is that the pattern is calculated for several different gauges so you can make one in any gauge from sport to super bulky, depending on what’s in your stash. It’s a great way to use those random skeins of hand-dyed yarn you purchased because you just couldn’t live without them or that you have lying around left over from another project. The super bulky version (shown below on its own) would be particularly great for knitting at the movies.

Thank you for looking at my designs!

Tips for Knitting at the Movie Theater

Let's_All_Go_to_the_Lobby
Let’s all knit at the movies, let’s all knit at the movies…

Like many knitters, I like to knit while watching TV or listening to an audiobook or podcast. In other words, I like to have something else to occupy my brain while I knit. Also, of course, knitting is a great way to pass the time when you’re waiting somewhere, having a conversation, traveling or, depending on your work environment, attending a meeting. I haven’t done any official research but I suspect it’s the rare knitter who regularly knits without doing something else at the same time.

But, unlike many knitters (again, going by my completely informal assessment of “things I’ve seen while in public” and an equally unscientific survey of my friends and acquaintances), I knit at the movies all the time. Just yesterday morning, I knit Jen Reilly’s “Super-Fast, Ultra-Cozy Scarf” while watching Murder on the Orient Express:

Super-Easy Ultra-Cozy Scarf
This scarf is so much prettier in person. Big purple shadows courtesy of my photography skills, not the yarn.

I actually cast on during the previews and bound off just as Hercule Poirot was telling the police who the murderer was (spoiler alert: read the book). It was the perfect movie knitting experience.

Knitting at the movies takes a little planning and I wouldn’t recommend it for every beginner. You should be fairly comfortable with touch knitting before you try knitting at the movies since you will be working largely in near total darkness. Ask yourself how comfortable you are knitting without looking at your hands. How often do you need to look down at your knitting while you work? Can you tell the difference between a purl and knit stitch by touch alone? Can you count stitches on the needle in the dark? How adept are you at fixing minor boo-boos and how comfortable are you living with the minor errors that will inevitably occur at some point?

Here are my tips for making your knitting time at the movies more productive and enjoyable:

  • Choose your project carefully. I cannot emphasize this enough. The movie theater is not the time to do your intricate cabled sock pattern on Size 1 needles, or, on the other end of the spectrum, that big afghan project you like to do in front of the TV. Pattern: choose a pattern that is easy to memorize or has a simple stitch repeat, one that calls for thick yarn–the bulkier the better–and big needles. I recommend at least size 11.  Cabling can be done at the movies, but it does require a lot more attention (don’t forget you’re there to watch a movie!). Yarn: your entire experience will be a lot less stressful if you choose a light-colored yarn (easier to see in the dark) and if you avoid novelty yarns which can make counting stitches and differentiating between stitches more difficult.
  • Keep it small and relatively shapeless. This is a good time to make an accessory like a scarf, cowl, hat, whatever–anything that doesn’t require a lot of sizing or shaping. Try to use circular needles or 10″ straight needles so you won’t be bumping elbows with the people next to you. For example, this “Snow Cowl” by TenTen Knits is one of my favorite movie projects:
Snow Cowl by TenTen Knits
Snow Cowl by TenTen Knits
  • Make sure you are well into the project before the movie begins. Get to the theater on time and do a little knitting during the previews. You should at least have cast on and worked a few rows before the lights go off. By working a bit of the project first, you’ll have worked out most of the kinks (we hope), including any problems or confusions about the pattern. It’s the rare project that you can cast on during the previews and just forge ahead without any unexpected issues. Personally, I tend to do the same tried and true patterns over and over again.
  • Avoid attempting new techniques for the first time. If you haven’t ever knit in the round before, for example, it’s probably not a good idea to start with a project you’ll be working primarily in the dark. Again, it’s a good idea to get quite comfortable with knitting by touch before you try knitting at the movies.
  • Choose an appropriate movie and seating location. Some movies are better suited for knitting than others; some require constant attention to every detail and a lot of “mental and emotional space” in order to fully appreciate them. This can make it hard to pay attention to what row you’re on or what stitch you’re supposed to work next. Personally, I find it nearly impossible to knit during a film or television show with subtitles. If possible, try to find a seat a little distance from others so your knitting doesn’t create a distraction. I’ve never had a real problem with this, but I can imagine that some people might find it annoying to hear the click-click of needles or whoosh-whoosh of yarn being pulled out of your bag. Expert tip: aisle seats have little guide lights on the floor that can give you some illumination should you need it. Also, you have more room to move your arms.
  • Make sure you have all the gadgets and tools you’ll need: scissors, tapestry needles, stitch markers, whatever. I bring my Knit Kit everywhere; they’re even TSA-approved. (Seriously, I love these little kits and I’ve already worn through three of them. I’m a little worried because they seem to be having some trouble with their web site. You might want to grab one while you can).  Expert tip: cut an emery board into a piece small enough to fit in the Knit Kit just in case you need to file down your nails during the film.
  • Be prepared to stop if you need to. Inevitably, even with all this preplanning, something may go wrong. You could lose count, forget the pattern, drop a stitch, run out of yarn, have a popcorn- or soda-related catastrophe…  Don’t attempt to fix the problem during the movie. Unless you are willing to take the knitting out into the lobby (and I’m the kind of person who hates to miss anything), just listen to what the song says and let it go. Wait until the film is over to deal with the problem. Likewise, be prepared to stop if the movie becomes really engrossing–after all, that’s what you’re there for.

And most of all, just enjoy the show. The knitting is merely the frosting on the cake.

“A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear”: A Brief Meditation on Unconscious Sexism

See this photo? Notice anything?

Hygge Sweater
Hygge Sweater by Verena Cohrs

How about this one?

Kiuru Sweater by Sari Nordlund
Kiuru Sweater by Sari Nordlund

And, finally, how about this one?

Hay Sweater by Clare Mountain
Hay Sweater by Clare Mountain

These are three new beautiful sweater patterns from the most recent issue of Laine Magazine which describes itself as “a high-quality Nordic knit & lifestyle magazine for knit folks.” They emphasize natural fibers, neutral colors, and simple but compelling designs specifically suited for Nordic tastes and northern climes. As someone who used to write patterns for a Swedish knitwear designer and whose yarn is stored almost entirely in IKEA Expedit bookcases (now replaced by the Kallax), I appreciate the simplicity and clean lines of Scandinavian tastes and I’m glad my attention has been drawn to this magazine.

But did you notice it? The “it” that many knitters seem to have not just noticed but commented upon (if my Twitter feed is anything to go by) is the fact that the model isn’t smiling. In fact, in the first photo, she looks downright grumpy, and in the second two she looks a little anxious and unhappy. And apparently, Laine Magazine has taken a lot of flak for showing models who aren’t smiling or razor-thin, who look a little kerfustillated (my own made-up word), and are even slouching a little. Coming to their defense are Kate Heppell, Ysolda Teague, and Kate of A Playful Day, amongst others. Brooklyn Tweed, makers of Shelter (the yarn the sweater model is knit with), also received some negative comments on their Instagram account (although their Twitter feed seems free of nastiness–maybe they scrubbed it?) but have–rightfully so–stood by Laine’s editorial choices.

When I saw the Hygge Sweater photo cross my Twitter feed, my initial and almost instantaneous reaction was something like “Boy, she looks like she’s in a bad mood!” Then I noticed the moody, cloudy atmosphere, and only then did I notice the sweater. While it’s probably true that we are trained almost from birth to focus on faces, it’s equally true that we judge those faces based on our cultural expectations and that, in particular, we judge facial expressions based on our gender biases. For instance, we seem to expect women–and by extension, female knitting models–to be cheerful, upbeat, and, most of all, smiling. After all, there’s no male equivalent for “resting bitch face” and there’s a reason “Don’t Tell Me to Smile” T-shirts are so popular.

Change begins with self-awareness. I was honest enough to admit my unconscious sexism (my momentary lapse in feminism) to Kate Heppell in a tweet, and she was generous enough to give me a “like.” Sisterhood is powerful.

Heppell justifiably pointed out that male models are not only allowed to be grumpy, it seems to be their default mode of expression. Here are two representative samples of the many she posted to her Twitter feed, McQueen and Thorpe by Rowan:

Take a moment to look through your patterns or your queue on Ravelry and you’ll probably notice the same phenomenon. Women are expected to look happy, or at the very least blissfully contemplative or waiting hopefully (I saw a lot of gazing off into the distance when I did my own brief survey). Male knitting models, on the other hand, may not have all looked grumpy, but many did, and the vast majority certainly seemed… um…tense. And while knitting models in general are more diverse in terms of body shape than runway models, racism and ableism still seem to be big factors in choosing models. Sadly, I’d bet that what diversity there is has more to do with budget (indie designers certainly can’t afford professional models) than a sincere effort to expand our cultural definitions of beauty.

A brief aside: Heppell also reports that while the Hygge sweater photo got many unsavory, sexist, and even transphobic comments, the Kiuru sweater photo did not. Same model, similar expression–what gives? Any theories why that might be?

For a detailed analysis of the male gaze and knitting photography, you should read this smart and sophisticated series by Kristen Hanley Cardozo, a.k.a. KnittingKninja, of the Dainty Beast blog (and she’s a Victorianist like me!).

And in case you’re interested, the title for this post comes from one of the most popular results when I searched Google for quotes containing the word “smile.” Fitting, eh?