All the News That’s Fit to Stitch: Lucky Thirteen

As the weather turns colder and the holidays approach (to my relatives and friends in the upper Midwest and Northeast United States — much love and much respect), my thoughts turn even more to knitting.

  • Knitting behind bars.
  • As if running a marathon weren’t difficult enough. And he’s set the world record,  for both hand-knitting and knitting with needles. An extensive Q & A by Runner’s World here.
  • Apropos of our past discussions on Sherlockian knits, I present Sherlock Holmes, unlikely fashion icon.
  • And speaking of Sherlock Holmes and knitting, Debbie Bliss has a new book, Woolly Woofers, coming out soon that’s all about knitting for dogs. Here‘s Daily Telegraph preview article with some free patterns, including one for “Sherlock Bones” that’s actually kind of cute and it looks very well-designed (although I don’t know what self-respecting dog would be seen with that deerstalker hat). She’s also selling some dog-themed mugs to coincide with the book.
  • And the Grand Central Market is looking good in turquoise, hot pink and yellow. Thank you, Yarnbombing Los Angeles!
  • I haven’t been watching Outlander, but the knits sure make me want to start. They remind me a lot of some of the imaginative accessories available on Etsy.
  • Sally Gilchrist does beautiful ink prints, including some colorful knitting-themed ones. Skeins!

That’s it for now, but I will be posting an update on my (as usual, belated) Smalls Challenge for November and at least one more special gift-themed version of “All the News That’s Fit to Stitch” soon. Now that the semester’s over, I will have more time to post. See you all soon!

All the News That’s Fit to Stitch: Part the Ninth

From far and wide, from across the Interwebs (a.k.a. the Electronic Cat Database) and beyond, I bring you all the news from the worlds of knitting and stitching that I could gather this week:

  • Professor Fonz has done it again! You may remember her designs, like the “Deduction Game Chullo,” from my obsessive posts on the knits featured in BBC Sherlock series (the first one in the series is here). To go with her cardigan based on the popular “The Wallpaper Had it Coming Again” fair isle pattern, the “#SherlockLives Cardi,” she has added a boatneck-style sweater entitled, “Let’s Play Murder.” According to the Ravelry pattern site, it’s “crime-solving at its most luxurious.” I’ve been working on ampersand design’s “The Wallpaper Had it Coming (Again)” mittens which, although based on the same fair isle pattern, is obviously a much smaller design, and I have to agree with Professor Fonz’s assessment that this fair isle patterned sweater is probably not a project to be entered into lightly by someone who is just beginning to work with the fair isle technique. The results speak for themselves, of course:
Let's Play Murder by Professor Fonz
“Let’s Play Murder” by Professor Fonz

All the News that’s Fit to Stitch, Plague Edition

I’m so sorry, my few faithful readers, that I have been silent for the past couple weeks, but I’ve been fighting off the Cold From Hell, a.k.a. The Cough that Would Not Die, for what seems like forever and I’ve had absolutely no energy to knit or stitch, much less post. If I were Daniel Defoe, I’d write my own “Journal of a Plague Fortnight,” but since I can’t claim such literary genius, you will have to be content with some updates from the “knittingverse” to tide you over until….

  • Knitting sweaters for penguins is such an adorable idea that it’s no wonder it makes the rounds every so often. Here’s the latest version of the story from the Phillip Island Nature Parks in Victoria, Australia, and it includes jumper patterns in US, British and Australian knitting lingo. And this story clarifies all the confusion about why this story was considered a hoax by some. It turns out there is a need for these sweaters but it’s perhaps not as urgent as knitters were led to believe by some websites with good intentions but bad information. Frankly, though, if you ask me, there’s no wrong time to knit a sweater for a penguin.
  • Here in the Los Angeles area, we are saddened by the closing of Wildfiber, a knitting store in Santa Monica. Ellen Bloom of L.A. is my Beat has a nice story with all the whys and wherefores (is that the same thing?). I agree with Ellen — Wildfiber was never my first choice of knitting store, mostly because of the prices, but it had everything and its selection of books was quite good. It had a reputation as being one of the “knitting stores to the stars” and the owner,
    Mel Clark, even co-wrote a book of knitting patterns with comedian Tracey Ullman, Knit 2 Together. Last year, I took a very informative photography class there from Gale Zucker, the photographer for the Mason-Dixon knitting books. It’s sad to see another knitting store go, for whatever reason.
  • From BuzzFeed, here’s a list of “19 Nerdy Knits You Need to Knit Right Now,” including patterns based on the BBC Sherlock series, Doctor Who (both classic and the reboot), Firefly, Star Wars and many others. My absolute favorite is #4, the “Baby Dalek Dress” by Allison Bitter. If only my nieces weren’t too old for it now…. Sigh.
  • And for some seriously nerdy knits, there’s this piece from Scientific American, “Knotted Needles Make Knitted Knots,” on the “torus knot,” a kind of infinite loop/knot thingie I won’t even try to describe here. Knitted versions of this torus knot were the centerpiece of January’s mathematical fiber arts session of the Joint Mathematics Meetings of the American Mathematical Society (phew! that’s quite a mouthful!). Just the fact that they have a “mathematical fiber arts session” tickles me to death. (Thanks, martinimade!)

    A wearable, knitted (5,3) torus knot. Image: sarah-marie belcastro.

Happy National Sweater Day!

Coincidentally, right on the heels of my last post on John Watson’s jumpers, today is National Sweater Day in Canada. It’s also the opening day of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the Olympics this year, but I think, in the spirit of international cooperation with which the Olympics began (as the legend goes), that we can all agree that Canada is pretty darn great. Our neighbors to the north are also big fans of knitting; if you haven’t already checked out the blog of Canada’s most popular blogger, the amazing (and supernaturally fast) Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (a.k.a. the Yarn Harlot), you’re really missing something. Her knitting blog has, off and on, been the most popular blog in all of Canada. Yes, a knitting blog. I kid you not. She’s a national treasure right up there with hockey and publicly-funded health care.

Here are three great Canadian-inspired patterns to celebrate America’s best friend; all patterns are, of course, available via Ravelry:

Maple Leaf Knit Shawl by Natalia @ Elfmoda
This “Maple Leaf Knit Shawl” by Natalia @ Elfmoda is gorgeous, and there’s a crochet version as well.
"O Canada Mittens"
These “O Canada Mittens” by Vicky Taylor-Hood even have an Olympic-ring-styled design near the cuff, and I love the Latvian braid detail
"O Canada! Maple Leaves Hat" by Cheryl Andrews
This “O Canada! Maple Leaves Hat” by Cheryl Andrews also has a cute Latvian braid detail

Knitty Gritty (the former Vickie Howell-hosted television show, not to be confused with the current Vickie Howell-hosted television show, Knitting Daily) also has a pattern for fingerless gloves and a slouch hat with the maple leaf design.

On an only tangentially related note…. While knitting isn’t a sport (yet), this article by Katherine Martinko from explains how knitting can help keep you healthy.

And, finally, last week’s episode of Sherlock, “His Last Vow,” was the last of series/season three, so as part of my increasingly futile efforts to stave off withdrawal, I’ve been trolling the internet for knitting references to the episode. While an excellent episode in many ways, there weren’t any blogworthy knitting references. However, Annie Modesitt’s latest colorway in her 221B series is, like all the others, gorgeous. In this case, “Straighten Your Knocker” a blend of “Deep browns, bronze yellows, black and a hint of scarlet; all wrapped up in a rich palette that would please any gift recipient who only wants “brown” (while also satisfying the knitting partner who wants a bit more excitement!).” The name is a reference to Mycroft Holmes’s compulsive habit of straightening the doorknocker whenever he comes to visit little brother Sherlock.

Well, that’s all the knitting news for today — tomorrow, my knitting and stitching goals for the year.

Jumpers and Mary’s Maids and Sherlock, oh my!

This is a bit of a “catching up” post since I am going to try to cover a few different topics about last week’s Sherlock, “The Sign of Three,” before discussing (briefly) the latest episode, “His Last Vow” in a later post. I have also realized that, in my Sherlockian zeal, I have allowed the entire month of January to pass without announcing my knitting and stitching goals for the year or explaining the enigmatic “2014 Smalls SAL” banner in the sidebar. Yikes.

First, in my last post on the Sherlock episode, “The Sign of Three,” I neglected to mention Annie Modesitt’s latest colorway devoted to this episode. Called “Mary’s Maids,” the colorway is based on the dresses Mary (and Sherlock — I love how they bonded over wedding arrangements) chose for her bridesmaids. The dresses are your typically unfortunate, ill-fitting bridesmaid’s fare, but the colorway is a gorgeous “celebration of purple (sorry, Lilac) in subtle, semi-solid beauty” and you can view it in all its splendor (sorry, splendour) here. And while lilac bridesmaids’ dresses are an abomination unto the Lord, Annie Modesitt has managed to make all the shades of purple (one of my favorite colors) work together.

Second, inspired by my favorite quote from Sherlock’s best man speech — “I could go on all night about the depth and complexity of his [Watson’s] jumpers” — I realized this would be a good opportunity to showcase some of my favorite patterns for men’s sweaters (or “jumpers”). I can’t guarantee they would all be favorites of John Watson, but I could see him looking bemused yet fiercely loyal in some of them.

John Watson's Jumper
John Watson’s Jumpers have two Facebook pages, a Tumblr, and their own fan fiction page. I’m not kidding.

So, in no particular order, I present:

I promise that my next post will have actual knitting and stitching content. Time to set some goals! Til then, the game’s on!

*I’m going to avoid showing all the pictures of these beautiful sweaters, partly out of respect for copyright and partly so as not to clutter up this entry with pictures. So enjoy a little “action shot” of Martin Freeman, as John Hamish Watson, wearing a jumper. Pattern available on Ravelry, of course.

The Return of Sherlockian Adventures in Knitting

I could go on all night about the depth and complexity of his jumpers
Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) anxiously listening to Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) give the best man speech in the BBC Sherlock episode, “The Sign of Three”

First things first — I apologize for the “belatedness” of my update on last week’s tightly plotted and unexpectedly touching episode of Sherlock, titled “The Sign of Three” (I love how the writers of the series play off the titles of the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories as they do in this case by referencing the novel The Sign of Four). I got caught up in my “real job” and fell behind in my all-important television viewing. Bad me.

Unfortunately, this episode was scarce on knitted items and knitting references. The wardrobe choices continue to be, as they have been this entire series, spot-on, as the Brits would say, with many of the outfits speaking volumes about the characters themselves. My favorite example of this is Mary’s “thumbs up” blouse which she wore for the scene in which she discusses seating arrangements and serviettes with Sherlock. A great addition to this iconic duo, Mary nimbly juggles the needs of both characters to spend more time with each other in such a way that neither of them feel handled. The scene ends when the two agree to take a case together and Mary send them on their way with a knowing smile and a simultaneous “thumbs up” gesture framed through two open doorways in such a way that neither Holmes nor Watson can see each other’s response.

She's smart, funny and she knows how to handle her men. Lucky John!
Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington) gives the “thumbs up” to Holmes and Watson separately but simultaneously

I also learned a lot about British wedding customs (and not just the outrageous hats), including telegrams (which reminded me of the segment on Prairie Home Companion when Garrison Keillor reads messages from friends and family of audience members) and the phrase “Pray be upstanding…” Overall, this was a very good episode which focused almost entirely on Sherlock Holmes’s best man speech, including flashbacks to relevant past cases, in which he manages to be heartfelt, funny and exasperating all while solving a murder in progress.

For the purposes of this blog, one line struck me: “I could go on all night about the depth and complexity of his [Watson’s] jumpers.”  “Jumpers” are, of course, the British word for sweaters and the line precedes a flashback to Watson wearing kind of a plain, characteristic button-up sweaters over a gingham shirt with a brown corduroy jacket. I spent the rest of the episode paying very close attention to Watson’s sweaters. I will have to review past and future episodes with this detail in mind. What exactly does each of Watson’s sweaters, seemingly so ordinary, tell us about this fascinating character and series? What are some of your favorites of Watson’s jumpers? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Until next week! Well, actually, tomorrow.

More Sherlockian Adventures in Knitting

MYCROFT: This is a chullo – the classic headgear of the Andes. It’s made of alpaca.
SHERLOCK (smirking): No.
SHERLOCK: Icelandic sheep wool. Similar, but very distinctive if you know what you’re looking for. I’ve written a blog on the varying tensile strengths of different natural fibres.
MRS HUDSON (coming back into the room with a teapot): I’m sure there’s a crying need for that.

Last night’s episode of the BBC Sherlock, “The Empty Hearse” was not only clever and well-written, it also contained several little “gifts” for the series’ devoted knitterly fans, including the little exchange quoted above as Sherlock and his (even smarter?) brother, Mycroft, play a game they call “Deductions.”* The goal of Deductions is to extrapolate as much information as possible about the origins of an object — in this case, a chullo left behind by one of Sherlock’s clients. The game begins as sibling rivalry and turns when Sherlock unexpectedly turns the tables by expressing concern that his brother’s intellect has made him lonely.

However, before I talk about this hat the other knitterly-related moments in the episode, I must mention how much fun it was to follow Annie Modesitt’s hilarious live-tweeting of the episode. Annie Modesitt is not only a great knitter and designer, as we all know, but she’s quite a character. She is also launching a line of yarn based on Sherlock, 221B Colors, and each colorway is inspired by “the rich, saturated colors that the art director and lighting designer put together to further the plot and create mesmerizing atmospheric settings.” She’s going to introduce a new color for each episode in the upcoming season; I will be waiting with bated breath and knitting needles at the ready.

If the interwebs haven’t already done so, I am going to dub the hat from this delightful brotherly exchange “The Chullo of Deduction.” Annie Modesitt has already released a kit called the “Well Traveled Chullo” (I’m so resisting the urge to add a hyphen, ’cause I’m geeky like that), that can be made in her “Pearl” and “Bristol South Pool” colorways (the latter is named after a famous showdown scene in Season 1, episode 3, “The Great Game”). And here’s Professor Fonz’s version, dubbed the “Deduction Game Chullo.” 

Molly Hooper's Striped Scarf
Unrealistically, Molly wears this super-long scarf to several crime scenes, contaminating everything it touches.

Unappreciated police pathologist (and fan favorite), Molly Hooper, gets her moment of recognition in this episode and even gets to spend a day sleuthing with Sherlock since Watson is still too angry at him for lying about being dead. Throughout that day, she wears a long pink-and-brown (or possibly purple) striped scarf (see the bad screen cap on the left). Rumor has it that the scarf was from the actress Louise Brealey’s own closet, so provenance will be hard to research. Nonetheless, I am sure that somewhere there’s an enterprising knitter working on a pattern right now. And here’s Annie Modesitt’s “Molly Hooper Cowl” (because the long scarf version just isn’t practical for a pathologist/partner in crime).

Molly also wears a particularly unflattering, multicolored sweater you can see here. I’d like to think no one will try to replicate it (except for cosplay purposes), but I’m not that naive. The only mystery with this sweater is why it was sold at an actual store–for money–in the first place.

Watson’s new fiance, Mary Morstan, wears a long, fluffy pink scarf for part of the episode, although I have yet to find a pattern for it online, although it was available for sale here (now, sadly, sold out). It’s pretty basic, but it’s a good color on her and it fits the character’s style which is much more traditionally feminine than Molly’s.

I promise my next entry will have actual content related to my actual knitting or stitching. Until then…

* Thank you to Ariane DeVere for the transcription of the dialogue.

Sherlockian Stitches

Come, Watson, come!’ he cried. ‘The game is afoot.

Not a word! Into your clothes and come!

Like many a Sherlockian*, tonight I will be watching the latest installment, the first episode of the third season, of the BBC Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. This is one of my personal favorites, and I could go on and on about how much love I have for this modernization of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but since this is a knitting and stitching blog, I thought I’d celebrate with some links to Sherlockian sites for the knitter, crafter and stitcher.

  • Professor Fonz is not a woman at all. She is a spider. A spider at the centre of a web. A knitlock web with a thousand threads, and she knows precisely how each and every single one of them dances. And she’s knitted an amazingly detailed, colorful, unique, custom Sherlock infinity scarf based on the My Favorite Things infinity scarf pattern by Jill McGee (here’s the Ravelry link). And here’s a cowl version called “The Only One in the World.”
  • The Wallpaper Had it Coming
    “Our wall is not for target practice” Mittens by ampersand designs

    To the right, you can see the famous hideous/fantastic wallpaper as mittens (designed by ampersand designs, who does fabulous, fan-inspired knitting designs not just for Sherlock fans, but for Anglophiles and proud nerds of all descriptions). There’s a slightly different, updated version of these mittens here. But there’s a special place in my heart for these “Johnlock Mittens” by Therese Sharp, which add the faces of Holmes and Watson on the two mittens.

  • And, of course, Knitty has a great hat pattern by Sami Brooker, complete with graffiti happy face. Read her mother’s proud blog entry here.
  • Or cross stitch. This kit by Etsy’s JumblePie is cray cray adorbs, as the kids say, and it’s quite a deal, if you ask me. And the hideous/fantastic wallpaper pattern makes a wonderful bookmark. As does this design.

Sadly, the cross stitch world’s response to this current cultural trend is lagging far behind that of the knitting world, which, let’s face it, loves Sherlock (and Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. Who almost as much as it does kittens. Or is that just the internet in general? It’s time for cross stitch and the other needlearts to get their geek on and leap into the twenty-first century. If only someone, somewhere would start charting designs for this untapped audience…. But where would that designer be?

*No really, I wrote a dissertation and published an article and everything. Ah, my misspent youth…