Sunday, December 31, 2006

Retrospective: Best Books of 2006

Here they are, in no particular order, condensed to keep my list down to around ten. Okay, eleven. Thank God for books that expand our knitting horizons, look at more advanced stitch patterns and techniques, pay attention to style and fit, and/or inspire us with their bold use of color and design.

1. Arctic Lace, containing lots of detailed info about Arctic culture and knitting, all you ever wanted to know about qiviut (except I still can't spell it), plus some nice lace patterns.

2. Victorian Lace Today, with patterns that are adapted from vintage ones as opposed to being "original," but are still lovely and lace. Let's just keep our fingers crossed XRX's latest isn't filled with technical errors. (It's been known to happen before...)

3. Glorious color and design inspiration. First, Brandon Mably's Knitting with Color, part travelogue, part knitting patterns, all inspirational.

4. .....second (this is chronological order), Knits from a Painter's Palette: Modular Masterpieces in Handpainted Yarns (a.k.a. The Koigu Book). Just seeing beautiful color photos of Koigu and projects knit in Koigu is enough to start me drooling. Be forewarned: the shawl patterns are repeats, there are lots of modular garments and most of the patterns are boxy, but for me, this is a treat to flip through. True yarn porn.

5. Big Girl Knits: Even if you don't like all the patterns (and c'mon, how can you not like the mitten/gloves pattern with four variations in a versatile DK weight, by an up-and-coming designer with an excellent blog), and even if the word "boobies" irks you, the first half of the book is worth its weight in gold for the tips on fit, particularly for plus-sized women.

6. Stitch Dictionaries and suchlike: Knitting Beyond the Edge/Vogue Stitchionary vols 2 & 3. You can't go wrong with stitch dictionaries, and even if you feel you have all or most of the patterns contained therein, the fact that there is a publisher willing to put out this stuff should help newer knitters become more creative and less cookie-cutter.

7 & 8. Cornucopia of cables: Cables Untangled, and Inspired Cable Knits. More patterns that aren't dumbed down and feature intricate and lovely cabling. Untangled also contains a nice mini-cable stitch dictionary and lots of instructional content. Plus, some of the designs in both books DON'T HAVE DROP SHOULDERS!

9. Modern Classics. Exactly what the title promises: classic designs you can make over and over, but with more contemporary styling. Handily organized by yarn weight, with good size ranges and variations within a pattern. Not revolutionary or cutting edge, but damn, it's handy.

10. Andean Folk Knits, by Marcia Lewandowski. Lots of ethnic stranded knitting.

11. Knitting Nature. Creative, interesting, pushing the boundaries.

UPDATE: Thanks to Marilyn for suggesting Janet Szabo's Aran book, and to Kate for pointing out that the older self-published copy with a similar title is NOT in fact, identical. Kate has both and says she will keep both. I stand corrected and I thank you both for pointing this out. I'll have to find a copy of the new one.

There were other good books published this past year, so don't be offended if your favorite didn't make the list: just tell us what it is and why you like it in the comments.

And a happy, healthy and safe New Year's to all my readers. I truly appreciate your support throughout the past year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Did you get all seven?

Okay, these were the seven that I thought of, but you guys came up with several more that are just as good (or evil, depending on your perspective):

1. Adding [still more] cash to the coffers of the Disney juggernaut.
2. Fun fur trim.
3. Princessy, thereby encouraging further propagation of troublesome female stereotypes.
4. Overuse of Pepto-bismol pink.
5. Duplicate stitch. In embroidery floss, no less.
6. All that intarsia.
7. Knitted skirt = butt sag.

P.S. Happy birthday, Dr. J.!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A little brainteaser for y'all

Okay, this arrived in the mail yesterday. Guess who wants a princess sweater? (If you guessed Tom, that was a good guess, but it's actually Her Nibs.) One day, just before she turned 4, a time bomb went off and G. became enamored of everything pink and princessy. (Trust me: she didn't get it from her mom.)

Here's a little brainteaser for you, my esteemed readers: Name the ways in which this is so, so wrong. I can think of at least seven. Go on, you can do it. Meanwhile, this project-to-be gets added to the queue, evidence of the deep and abiding love only a mother can feel for her child.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Oh yeah.

That's why I had kids.

P.S. To Stitchy: You don't have kids yet, do you? Because if you have them solely in order to obtain the fruits of their labor, and you aren't, say, the Osmonds, you're in for a sad disillusionment, my friend.

Peculiar Holiday Traditions From Our Family to Yours

1. Stomach flu. Somehow, my kids always seem to contract viruses that involve doing unspeakable things in the toilet in the two weeks preceding Christmas. Somehow, they always manage to give those viruses to me. Somehow my husband always manages to remain unscathed (and not very sympathetic, I might add).

2. Two Christmas trees. I’ve probably talked about this before, but we have two full-size Christmas trees in our house. One, in the family room, is everyone’s tree. The kids help decorate and it is completely un-choreographed. Any ornament that is rated E for everyone can go on, wherever the decorator wants to put it.

(Since the twins like to put, on average, five ornaments per branch, one right on top of one another, this requires massive amounts of forbearance on Tom’s part. We sometimes rearrange ornaments that have “fallen” after the kids are out of the room.) The living room tree is Tom’s baby. He decides how it will be decorated – silver organza ribbon? blue crystal lights? jewel-toned glass beads? – and carries it through. The kids provide limited help, but are closely micromanaged supervised and only touch the unbreakable stuff.

3. Untraditional Christmas Eve “dinner.” We’ve abandoned the whole notion of having some sort of sit-down Christmas Eve dinner. One year, we had margaritas and Mexican food. This year, we’ll probably go with abundant appetizers and finger foods, although I’m lobbying hard for Chinese from my favorite local restaurant.

4. Involuntary commitment to a mental hospital. It seems that we’ve developed a new and heartwarming tradition in recent years, whereby a family member stops taking her meds and ends up in the “hospital” with schizoid psychosis with catatonic and/or paranoid tendencies. The only thing worse than having a family member committed the week before Christmas is when the crazy-ass insurance company lets 'em out a couple of days later, only marginally improved. Note to self: Next year, deck the halls with lots of lithium. And pop a little Prozac in the eggnog for the rest of us.

Liza wants me to post this

Here's one way to have a very merry holiday. I'm not entirely convinced this site is for real, but what the hey. (Besides, I saw through my stat-tracker that someone actually got to my site by searching "XXL boobs." I can't decide whether to be deeply troubled or highly flattered.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Remind me why I had kids again

It's official: I am indisposed. Will post again as soon as the unpleasantness stops.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Retrospective: GKIYH's Worst of 2006 (not hatin'; just statin')

The stomach bug is now working its way through the twins, so I'm going to post while I can and hope that I don't find myself indisposed in the near future...

1. Most Unnecessary Knitting Accessory: Light-up knitting needles. If someone started knitting with them in a movie theatre, I'd dump my popcorn on their head. I mean, what could be more distracting than that? Is knitting in the dark really a necessary or desirable thing? And if you're that into knitting, can't you do it without looking?

2. Not-Another-Disease-Tie-in Award: Pink Denise Interchangeable Needles. Yes, the fight against breast cancer is a worthy cause. But, c'mon, a special version of a specialized type of knitting needle? At over fifty bucks a pop? Feh. I guess I can't help feeling that there's something creepy about using a disease to make money. Runners-up: everything on this page by Mary Maxim.

3. A-Pox-On-All-Your-Houses Award: The fiber content imbroglio. Does Yarn X have the requisite amount of cashmere in it? If it's still a nice yarn, does it matter? What's an honest yarn shop owner to do: sell it and risk being sued, sell it with a disclaimer and risk being sued, or give it away and lose tons of money? Why won't the maker take it back if more than one test shows questionable content? Why did a competitor of the maker send the stuff out for testing anyway? And just whose tests are "right"? How can the ordinary knitter know?

Bad for knitters, bad for the designer whose name is on the label, bad for yarn shop owners, bad for the industry.

4. Worst Knitting Book Title Ever: Never Knit Your Man A Sweater (Unless You've Got the Ring). GKIYH sez: Never Name a Knitting Book Until You Can Think Of One that Doesn't Irk the Shit Out of Prospective Readers.

5. Biggest disappointment, books category. Andean Inspired Knitting by Helen Hamann. I haven't done extensive research into Andean folk knitting traditions, but I'm reasonably sure Andean knitters don't use Fun Fur

made of petrochemical byproducts.

6. WTF Award: Overaccessorized and overtribalized styling of Rowan 39. Surely no one is a bigger Rowan fan than me, but, geez, what were they thinking? Too many geegaws and ridiculous get-ups detract from garments that are otherwise not bad.

7. Most Ridiculous "have to have it" moment: When bidding reached nearly $50 for a skein of Trekking sock yarn on Ebay. Sheesh.

Runners-up: Koigu Miniskeins and Socks-That-Rock frenzies at various fiber festivals. Not that they aren't great yarns, mind you, but are they worth waiting in line for hours to get?

8. Biggest disappointment, yarn category. Berroco's Ultra Alpaca looked great on paper, but not so much in real life. The colors were off and the feel just didn't cut it. I was really hoping this would signal a more interesting turn in their product line and designs, but I guess we'll have to wait a bit longer for that.

Like, forever?

9. So Sad to See You Go Award. Bye-bye, Rowan Yorkshire Tweeds! Sniffle, sniffle. We'll miss you!

Runners-up: Bye, bye Rowan Polar and Noro Big Kureyon. Hello, great bargains on Ebay.

10. Worst Attempt to Bogart a Trademark Award. The SFSE "Stitch N Bitch" donnybrook. On the one hand, a sewing company that never used it; on the other, a hipster publishing powerhouse with more books sold than God. Should either of them really care if there's a group called "Podunk Stitch-N-Bitch"? Should the law recognize as a protected "trademark" a phrase that's been commonly used for over seventy years?

Et vous?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Retrospective: GKIYH's Best of '06

The end of the year is the traditional time to look back and look forward, and even though I resist cliches, I feel myself starting to look back at 2006 through the eyes of a knitter. Lucky youse guys get to partake of my ruminations. Today: the Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat Best of 2006 (not including books. You know me, I'll have to do a separate entry on books.).

The Best of 2006: Non-book edition

1. Destiny Circular Needles, by Lantern Moon. Yep, I love wood needles. Yep, I love the notion that Lantern Moon is one of those fair-trade companies. Yep, I love beautiful knitting accessories. Yep, I love a smooth join on my circulars. So a big thumbs-up for Destiny Circular Needles.

2. RYC Wool-Silk yarn. My favorite blend -- the sheen, drape and silkiness of silk, the elasticity and body of wool -- and a versatile DK weight. Great pattern support, as usual, from the talented Rowan designers. I'd love to see the palette get broadened a bit, maybe lightened up, but this is one nice yarn.

3. Koigu Felting Wool. I haven't sensed a major buzz about this, which shocks me, since who wouldn't want another way to enjoy the great colors of Koigu? When felted, the fabric remains light so you actually could felt a garment in it yet still wear it south of the Arctic Circle. Hats? Mittens? C'mon people, trust me on this one.

4. Lace, lace, lace. All of a sudden, the knitting masses discovered lace. And we all benefited: new lace patterns, new lace books, new laceweight yarns.

5. Soak Wool Wash. I don't know if this is new, or just new to me, but I saw this product at TNNA. It comes in a few different fragrances and all smell great.

6. Etsy. Again, this may have been around before I cottoned on to it, but Etsy is a great and badly-needed alternative to Ebay. The popularity of Ebay led all kinds of scam artists, junk peddlers and corporate sellers to join. Meanwhile, fees steadily increased. Ebay still has its place as a lower-priced alternative to buying new and full-price, but Etsy is superior for craft-related items. By limiting its products to handmade items (or supplies used for handmade items), Etsy keeps it fresh and interesting and ensures that indie crafters are the bulk of the sellers.

7. Smith Island Pattern Factory. Disclosure: the owner is a friend and colleague of mine at Rosie's. Still, you'd be hard-pressed to find nicer or more professional patterns from an indie designer. Several lovely shawls (which we promptly sold out of at Stitches), but also an extremely cute and creative baby jacket,

nice guy socks and an adorable baby blanket. More, please, Courtney!

8. Wild Geese Fibres. Does the world need more small-producer, breed-specific yarns in their natural state? Hell, yeah. Bring 'em on, Barb.

9. The rise of the Podcast. One of the extremely clever ways that the Internet continues to evolve and stay fresh. I'm partial to Knitty D and the City, but Cast On is great, too.

10. Rhinebeck Blogger Bingo. Brainchild of the inimitable Stitchy McYarnpants, illustrated by the prodigiously talented Franklin, Blogger Bingo made Rhinebeck even more fun by facilitating introductions among bloggers and blogreaders. The knitting community, with emphasis on the community. Well done, Stitchy.

11. The rise of the novel fiber. 2006 saw less-widely-known fibers burst onto the shelves of knitting shops. Yak yarn that's soft and sproingy (yes, sproingy, Lisa). Rowan's wonderful wool-soy silk blend, Transitions. Classic Elite's yummy wool-bamboo blend. Not to mention ingeo, sea cellulose, more organic options... it's an embarrassment of riches.

12. Black Bunny Fibers.

What -- you didn't think I was going to shamelessly promote myself? Hah! I've had more fun dyeing my yarns than I ever expected, and I hope you consider them a valuable addition to the virtual knitting marketplace.

I'm sure I've omitted some noteworthy developments in 2006, but I'm also sure my loyal readers will tell me what I missed.....

And a special Philadelphia "yo!" to Carol B-R, who stopped at Rosie's this weekend and had a good long visit with us. I do loves me visits from my blog readers.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Exciting new developments

I just received a large box from Wild Geese Fibres, the new online business of pal and frequent commenter Barb, full of some most excellent fibers to dye. How does alpaca/silk laceweight sound (on the right in the photo below)? (I thought you'd like that.)

From another source, I received half a dozen skeins of silk to dye: yes, pure silk (on the left in the photo). Are you drooling yet?

This week, I am going to try something a little different with the Etsy shop. Instead of putting a few things up in dribs and drabs, I'm going to put a whole bunch of stuff up in one whack, and list the day and time on the announcement box of the shop (next update is Thursday (tonight) around 7 p.m. EST). I often get emails from folks asking when I am going to update, so maybe this system will be easier. Shoot me an email if you have any strong feelings about it.

Now on to the really exciting stuff.

First, a pattern of mine has been accepted into the spring Knitty. Yay Knitty! Yay lovely and charming Amy Singer, fellow bunny-lover!

Second: [drumroll please]

A book contract.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More wool talk: sheep breeds

Thanks to Ted, who suggested that I check out an article by Charlene Schurch in the winter '02 volume of Spin-Off, which talks about how to use up small amounts of yarn to make lengthways scarves. Perfect for when you've produced dribs and drabs of handspun that you aren't sure what to do with.

Reader Soo recommended In Sheep's Clothing, by Nola and Jane Fournier. It's funny: I was going to recommend this book myself because it's one of the few sources that includes detailed discussions of various sheep breeds. I scored a used copy a few years ago after much searching on-line (I didn't want to pay an obscene amount of money but at the time, it was out of print), then shortly after I found a reasonably-priced copy, it was rereleased in an updated edition. You might also be interested in Handspun Treasures from Rare Wools, by Deborah Robson. This is a slim book which also talks about various endangered sheep breeds and shows photos of items made from breed-specific wools.

Here’s a brief description of some different kinds of wool you may encounter, either in yarn or roving/top form. I've put the fiber length and diameter in parentheses after the name so you can get a sense for how hard or easy it is to spin (the longer the fiber, the easier to spin) and how fine it is (the higher the second range of numbers, the finer and probably softer the wool). The ones in bold are ones that I sometimes have in my Etsy shop.

Merino (2.5 to 4 inches; diameter 60 to 70s): Probably the breed most knitters are familiar with is Merino. That's because Merino is one of the most widely available breed-specific fibers. Merino wool is so widely used because Merino sheep produce much of the finest and softest wool available, perfect for next-to-the-skin wear, even for babies and those with sensitive skin. Because merino is such a supersoft wool, it’s often mixed with luxury fibers like silk or cashmere to produce blends that have the advantages of both. Sometimes merino is marked “extra fine” which signifies that the fiber diameter is the smallest available for the breed (and therefore even softer). You’ll pay more for merino than something marked generic "wool," and if it’s superfine quality, there'll be a markup on top of that. There are a lot of superwash merinos on the market, which for many people makes it an even more attractive choice.

Corriedale (3 to 5 inches; diameter 50 to 58s): Another soft and popular wool, first bred in New Zealand by crossing various Leicesters with Merino. I believe that Corriedale blended with Merino is what Manos del Uruguay yarn is made of, but if that's wrong, I'm sure someone will let me know. Corriedale is soft and has good loft. I've spun Corriedale and it's easy for beginners to spin, dyes well and feels good spun up.

Wensleydale (8 to 12 inches; diameter 44 to 50s): A while back, Berroco used to have a few breed-specific yarns, one of which was Wensleydale. (Of course, they discontinued the cool breed-specific yarns in order to bring you more fugly novelty yarn with hoo-di-hoos hanging off it. Is it any wonder I'm bitter? But I think Webs might carry something similar under their own house label.) Wensleydale wool is curly and long and lustrous (it shines almost the way mohair does). It's soft relative to most other longwools, but if you are used to shorter-fiber wools, it may seem hairy to you. On the other hand, because the fibers are longer and coarser, it’ll be very easy to spin, especially for newbie spinners.

Blue-Faced Leicester (3 to 6 inches; diameter 56 to 60s): No, they don’t have blue faces, exactly; instead, their skin has a bluish cast that shows up especially around their heads and faces. BFL sheep are very popular, especially in Britain. BFL is a medium-length wool, soft and fairly fine. It's also a good wool for newbie spinners (one of my faves). As I recall, BFL was the other breed-specific yarn by Berroco. It seems like lately you can find more and more BFL in yarn form, rather than just roving, and it's a great all-purpose yarn.

Romney (4 to 8 inches; diameter 46 to 50s): Very important in New Zealand, this wool is strong but tends to be used either as part of a cross-breed or in sturdier garments or upholstery. It’s got a longer fiber length which makes it excellent for new spinners. Good for outdoor sweaters, rugged socks, and so on, but not so much a next-to-the-skin fiber.

Shetland (2 to 5 inch fibers; diameter 50s – 60s): Shetlands are small, hardy sheep, which is why they survived on the rugged islands north of Britain. Shetlands come in lots of colors (check out the undyed Shetland yarn by Jamieson’s which go from white through all kinds of browns, grays and black). It's a fine wool; not baby soft like merino, but very strong and durable. You can find Shetland wool dyed in nearly every color of the rainbow, since it's the authentic choice for fair isle garments.

Targhee (3 – 5 inch fibers; diameter 58 to 64s): You'll see a lot of Targhees in Montana, which makes sense, since the breed was developed in the US especially for the western American climate. Targhees were bred by crossing Rambouillet, Lincoln and Corriedales. Targhee wool has lots of loft and sproing. It dyes well and is soft. It doesn't seem to be as easy to find breed-specific Targhee wool as some others, but it's worth it if you can. Sweet Grass Wools in Montana (Google it, okay?) sells some.

Cormo(4 to 5 inch fibers; daimeter 58-64s): Cormos were bred in Australia from Corriedales crossed with a kind of merino (get it? the “Cor” is from corriedale and the “m-o” from merino). They have a medium-length fiber, dense and soft, with good elasticity.

Rambouillet (2 – 4 inch fibers; diameter 60 to 80s): Rambouillets were bred in France in the late 1700s from a flock of Spanish merino sheep. So, like merino, Rambo wool is fine and soft (next to the skin soft), with good elasticity and loft.

Columbia (3 to 6 inch fibers; diameter 54 to 62s).: Another breed that was developed in America (the first to be created in America, as a matter of fact), by crossing Lincolns with Rambouillets. The wool is lofty, a little crisp and a good all-around wool choice. I got some undyed Columbia and it'll go up in the Etsy shop soon. It's a nice, soft wool and I think I'm going to order more.

So there you have it. Here's where it gets interesting: my esteemed readers now get to chime in. What are your impressions? What are your favorites? Discuss...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Autumn book report: mystery-o-rama

Okay, well, I really let this one slide, huh? This is October and November combined.

1. The Art of Detection, by Laurie R. King. Latest Kate Martinelli mystery. Didn't engross me.

2. In the Bleak Midwinter, by Julia Spencer-Fleming. A new-to-me mystery series about an Episcopal priest living in Rhinebeck country. Pretty good.

3. Winter's Child, by Margaret Maron. Don't you love when Amazon recommends stuff you actually like reading? This is yet another mystery series involving a North Carolina judge. This is one of the more recent ones, but you don't need to know much of the backstory.

4. The Interpretation of Murder, by Jed Rubenfeld. Early 20th century New York City is the setting for this historical mystery involving Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and others. A bit unlikely (the Hamlet stuff was kind of superfluous) but still enjoyable and the psychological backdrop about Freud's work (e.g. Freud vs. Jung, the public response to Freud's theories, the biology vs. psychology debate) was very interesting.

Note to prospective test knitters

Thank you to everyone who offered to test knit. I am still answering emails -- I got a lot more than I ever expected -- and I don't want to send some generic one to everyone, so if you haven't heard back from me, I apologize and I will email you personally in the coming days.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It’s that time of year again

You know, the time when radio stations everywhere start playing holiday music. Including the most horrifying Yuletide song ever recorded.

No, not Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey.

I'm talking about "The Christmas Shoes."

I can just picture the jaded songwriters, holed up in a smoky conference room, wracking their brains to compose the most calculatingly-hearttugging, staggeringly vile song ever imagined. (It is so vile that they even made a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie about it.)

"Yeah, well, it's gotta be Christmas time," one songwriter murmurs.

"If it's Christmas, there's got to be a kid," the second songwriter says.

"Shit, dude, if it's Christmas, the kid's gotta be poor," the next guy over adds.

"And of course, if he's poor, he's gotta be looking at something through a store window that he can't afford," the first guy finishes.

"No, no, that's no good," says the token woman songwriter, trying her darndest to out cynicize the cynics while stubbing out her Salem Menthol in an empty pizza box. "He can't be looking for himself. He's looking to buy a present for..."

"HIS MOTHER!" they all chime in.

"What if his mother is, like, dying of cancer?" the new guy wonders, "and she, like, doesn't have, oh, I don't know, shoes?"

He's met with a chorus of boos. "Yeah, right," the first guy says, "that's too sappy and pathetic even for those chicks who watch The Bachelor."

Oh, no, it's not.

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
Tryin' to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes
His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say
Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Berroco never disappoints. Or do I mean they always disappoint?

Cold toes? Behold the footsie pillow.

It's almost too easy.

Happy 5th Birthday, Twins!

It was buy one/get one free at the Baby Store that day.

And am I ever glad.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Christmas Story

The names and other identifying details in this story have been omitted to protect the innocent.

Once there was a woman who loved yarn. Every year, she asked all her friends and family to get her yarn shop certificates for Christmas. They usually did. Then one year, misguided relatives bought her a Bed, Bath & Beyond gift certificate. The card that it came in read: "We got this because we thought it might be possible to have too much yarn."

She bought yarn storage bins with it and sent them a nice note thanking them and explaining what she used the bins for.

Next year, they got her a yarn shop certificate.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Looking back and looking ahead

Before I put to rest the family war stories, I do want to explain that when I write about my family using the time-honored dark humor device, it's a way for me to process how bizarre I find my biological family and how ill at ease I sometimes feel around them. It's very disconcerting to be treated like a freak beamed down from outer space by the people who, in theory at least, should know you best in the world. Telling humorous stories helps me reality test and, truth be told, helps me deal with my disappointment that I don't have more fulfilling relationships with these folks. And I do greatly appreciate your supportive comments and fellow war stories.

On a more positive note, I will tantalize you with visions of upcoming knitting books we should be seeing in 2007:

Lace Style, from the Interweave gang, is the next installment in the popular and well-done "[Fill in the blank] Style" series. Word on the street is that fall 2007 will bring Folk Style, with ethnic inspired designs. Yay.

Also coming from Interweave is Favorite Socks, which features 25 "timeless" sock patterns from the magazine. The title suggests the patterns are mostly or all repeats of stuff that has been published before, but we'll see.

And No Sheep For You, by Knitty's Amy Singer, showcases non-wool, non-animal-derived fibers, like cotton and bamboo and hemp. (Well, except for silk which is animal-derived, or at least insect-derived.) Amy was inspired by her own allergies to wool and similar fibers. (Um, in case you were wondering, my design submissions were resoundly dinged from this one. But you know me: I don't hold a grudge.)

I almost crapped my pants when I saw that there are two, yes, two (2) books devoted to punk knitting that will arrive in coming months. Pretty In Punk arrives in the spring

as does Punk Knits: 26 Hot New Designs for Anarchistic Souls and Independent Spirits, from Stewart Tabori & Chang.

Fear not, Harry Potter fans: Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter is expected in late April.
Gryffindor scarves? The infamous H-on-the-chest sweater? Magic wand cozies? We'll just have to wait and see...

Deb Stoller is working on two further installments in the S-n-B series: I believe the first book is devoted to more advanced techniques, like color and intarsia and cabling. (Um, in case you were wondering, my submission was dinged from this one, too. But you know me: blah, blah, blah.) The second -- which may not be out until late in the year or early in '08 -- is aimed at knitting for guys, both boys and men. (Um, I've got some submissions in for this one, but, well, let's just say I'm not holding my breath.)

Finally, I was pleased to see three top-notch designers with books coming out: Jean Moss has a book called Couture Knits; Kristin Nicholas has Kristin Knits; and Joan McGowan-Michael has Knitting Lingerie Style.

So there's plenty to look forward to on the knitting book horizon.


If there is anyone out there who would like to do some test knitting for me, please shoot me an email at goknitinyourhat {at} att [dot] net. This is a paying gig. If you can tell me a bit about what your knitting experience is and any particular types of knitting you especially like or are good at (e.g., cables, lace), that would help.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Turkey report

Yesterday's feast? The food was excellent, the wine flowed freely (a little too freely, if my headache today is any indication) and it was enjoyable to see some of my relatives. My aunt pulled out old family photos, including a wedding portrait of my great-grandparents circa 1906, and we even managed to find my father's high school yearbook. (His nickname was "Froggy." I have no idea why.) I had a chance to reconnect with my cousin/godson, who is in the middle of an intensive grad school course in clinical psychology. I saw my nephews, who have grown so much and seem like nice kids. I even got to meet the white trash girlfriend of my other cousin, who has scandalized and appalled my aunt in so very many ways. (Hoo boy: that relationship is a train wreck waiting to happen.)

And what kind of holiday would it be without some Aunt Mary antics? I learned that Aunt Mary -- in addition to being a recruiter for Jesus's army -- is apparently something of a horndog. She sat herself down next to Uncle George who, due to a rare combination of charisma and age-related attrition, is considered a hot tamale. The gentleman offered to drive the lady home. (Wink, wink.)

I also got to reconnect with my father (told him that I was perfectly happy living my life without my own personal handgun, at which point dear old Dad predicted that we would appear in the newspaper under the headline "Fatal Home Invasion"); my brother (who expounded upon his dominos-falling theory of real estate: once a [insert Polish word used as euphemism for the N-word] moves onto the block, why, no one will want to live next to them except another [insert Polish word used as euphemism for the N-word] and then the neighborhood is doomed); my sister-in-law (who told me about how her son's Little League game was held in a part of town that she described as "Little Tijuana," although my brother hastened to add that at least [insert perjorative name for those of Hispanic origin] have a good work ethic, unlike [insert Polish word used as euphemism for the N-word]. He likes to give credit where credit is due, you see.) And Aunt Mary shared her happiness at having welcomed her first grandchild into her family (with several just-audible comments about the baby's "colored blood" and conspicuously avoiding mentioning her daughter who adopted the child, or her daughter's wife because they're [lower voice and look around to make sure no one is listening] "queer").

This is why I tell people I'm an orphan.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A few timely matters

My pal Judy sent me a link to a petition seeking to enact legislation that will prevent health insurers from forcing women to have "drive-through" mastectomies. It's appalling that women are sent home hours after this surgery with a couple of Tylenol and the answering service phone number. The bill doesn't require hospital stays, but allows a woman and her doctor to decide whether it's in her best interests to spend up to 48 hours in the hospital or recuperate at home. Okay, the link is sponsored by Lifetime TV ("Mother, May I Sleep With Breast Cancer?") but it's a good cause, so if you're so inclined, you can add your support.


We are spending Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle's, located about 90 miles (and fifty years) away from our house. In attendance will be my parents (the born-again and the alcoholic), my brother and his wife (the alcoholic-in-training and the unmedicated manic-depressive), my sister-in-law's Aunt Mary (who freaked us out the last time we saw her, at my nephew's baptism, by walking around muttering "Now he's a soldier of Christ! soldier of Christ!"), and various and sundry other crazy* relatives. I'm sure I'll come home with lots of entertaining stories.

Or at least a mighty hangover.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

*The funny part is that they think I am crazy. Go figure.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Back to fiber

To those of you who have been having trouble accessing my Etsy shop, don't despair. Etsy switched to a beta version last weekend and there are still some periodic outages and bugs. I'm hoping it will be running more normally in the coming days. I'm going to try to get some more stuff ready to list in the meantime.

Mine, all mine!

Behold some yarn that I spun myself. I'm very proud.

The top two (dark blue and orange) are Corriedale that I also dyed myself. I had some, ahem, quality control issues with a few batches of Corriedale (my fault, not the fiber's) so I decided to take them for a test run. The blue in the middle left is from Tintagel Farms and the pink one is from Jim's friend Ken, at Dorchester Farms. I can't remember what the middle bottom blue one is, but I dyed the roving myself. So there. Now I just have to figure out what to do with these relatively small batches... I'll have to consult Spin to Knit for some ideas.

Cultural Learnings

After a doctor's appointment yesterday morning, I headed to the movies (a rare treat, since I’m usually working on Saturdays) to see the Borat movie. I enjoyed it and thought it was quite funny. I am a little baffled as to the media discussions about the movie: I can’t believe anyone could walk into this movie without understanding that it’s a fake journalist whose behavior is so outrageous it can only be satirical. And Sacha Baron Cohen does an excellent job of showing and skewering some of the most frightening things in our country: racism, anti-Semitism, jingoistic patriotism, mysogyny, scary fundamental Christians, drunken frat boys, and so on. I've heard people complain that he tricked or deceived people, or somehow egged them on to act in ways different from their usual conduct, but what I saw was way more devastating: Cohen was clever enough to simply turn on the camera and let people display their genuine, natural awfulness. I also thought Cohen did a good job showing some of the best qualities of Americans: their openness, their friendliness, a willingness to accept someone – no matter how improbable or weird they might be – at face value, a hospitality, an earnest desire to tell a stranger from another land something about their country and bridge the cultural gap. For example, it’s almost touching, in an odd way, when the beer-swilling frat boys (who just a few seconds ago were disgusting me) seem genuinely distressed when Borat gets weepy over his lady-love.

Wool Talk

Reader Pam asked:

Is there a place on the internet that compares wool yarns? Not brands, but Merino, Corriedale, etc. Next to skin wearability, subject to pilling etc. Are those things due to the type of wool or the spinning process?

Why, yes, Pam, there is a place. Here. (Next time, honey, just ask. You don't have to beat around the bush with me...) So now, instead of complaining about current events, I'm going to talk about wool.

Wool is sheep hair, right? And so, like human hair, wool is made mainly of keratin, a protein. Wool fibers have a layer of "scales" that overlap each other, kind of like you would imagine a dragon's coat to have. We love wool because it is warm; it remains warm even while wet; it's strong; it's elastic, especially relative to other fibers, like cotton; it lasts forever (if you keep away the moths); and in an ideal world, it's soft.

Sheep, like any farm animal, come in different breeds. Think about dogs: a chihuahua, a Golden Retriever, a poodle, a sheepdog. All are dogs and all have furry coats, but those coats differ dramatically in color, texture, softness and length. So it is with wool. Here's a quick overview of some of the qualities of wool:

Color: This is probably the least relevant for the knitter's purposes, since so many breeds come in multiple colors, and since it's fairly easy to dye or bleach wool (or bleach then dye it) to get whatever colors you want. If you like using undyed wools, there are a spectrum of shades from cream through black, with every shade of brown and gray in between.

Texture: Some wool fibers are curlier while others are straighter. Some are thin and fine while others are thick. There are some breeds with very crimpy, spiral-shaped fibers (often called "down wools"). The spiral structure gives these wools extra elasticity (think of a Slinky stretching out and bouncing back). Thicker and coarser wools will feel rougher on your skin (sometimes vendors talk about "not for next to skin wear" or some such phrase), but they will wear like iron. They are best for outerwear or blankets. Fine, thin wools will be softest to the touch but also wear (i.e. pill) faster.

Softness: Some breeds grow wool that is naturally softer than others. Lincolns are not known for the baby-softness of their wool; merinos are. The finer the average diameter of the fiber, the softer the wool. Be forewarned though: soft yarns pill more. There really isn't much you can do about it -- it's just the trade-off for softness. And soft yarns tend to felt more easily, which can be good or bad, depending on your project.

Length/Diameter: Some wools have individual fibers that are longer than others. The longer the fiber, the easier the wool is to spin. That's why beginner spinners are often advised to try longer-fibered wools until they get some experience: Wensleydale and Lincoln have pretty long fibers and are good for newbie spinners. Merinos have much shorter fibers and for this reason can seem slippery and more difficult to spin for newbies. Sometimes you'll see rovings labeled with the length of the staple, in inches (Woodland Woolworks' spinning catalog divides its roving and top into categories based on the length of the staple or fibers.) Long-fibered wools also tend to have luster, a sheen due to reflected light. (Think of the way mohair reflects light and seems to almost sparkle: that's luster.) This is from the scales on the wool. As you might imagine, longer-fibered wools are also stronger and more durable.

Some long-fibered wools: Wensleydale, Lincoln, Border Leicester, Cotswold
Some short-fibered wools: Merino, Shetland, Rambouillet

The diameter of the wool fibers is also important. You'll sometimes see rovings and fleeces tagged with a number and a Greek letter mu, for microns; this is a measure of the average diameter of a wool fiber. The lower the number (in other words, the thinner the individual hair), the softer and finer the wool. The higher the number, the coarser and rougher the wool. Some examples:

Columbia - 31-24 microns
Cormo - 23 to 21 microns
Corriedale - 33 to 26 microns
Merino - 24 to 18 microns
Targhee - 27 to 22 microns
Coopworth - 39 to 35 microns
Blue-faced Leicester - 28 to 24 microns
Wensleydale - 36 to 30 microns
Shetland - 30 to 23 microns

So Coopworth (at 35 microns) has a thicker fiber than, say, Merino (at 18 to 24 microns), and therefore will feel coarser.

Alternatively, you'll see some fleeces and rovings labeled with numbers that correlate to the maximum number of 560-yard skeins that one could (theoretically, in my case) spin from a pound of that wool. If a yarn is labeled 50, then in theory, one could spin 50 560-yard skeins from a pound. The more skeins you can spin from a pound, the thinner and finer the fibers, which means that yarns with higher numbers (more skeins per pound) are finer and softer wools. Yarns with lower numbers are coarser. Some examples:

Columbia - 50 to 60s
Cormo - 58 to 64
Corriedale - 50 to 58s
Merino - 60 to 70s
Targhee - 58 to 64s
Coopworth - 44 to 48s
Blue-faced Leicester - 56 to 60s
Wensleydale - 44 to 50s
Shetland - 50 to 60s

Again, you can see how Coopworth (44 to 48 theoretical skeins from a pound) is coarser than Merino (60 to 70 theoretical skeins from a pound). If you're looking for wool to spin finely, this number is a good one to watch.

Next up: More info about particular breeds, and the woolen vs. worsted distinction.

*The scales are significant when determining whether your wool fabric or yarn will felt. Superwash wools are treated via various chemical processes to prevent the scales from meshing together and shrinking up to form felt.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I swear my next post will have something to do with fiber..... but having already been in a cranky mood (see previous post), I can't stop myself from bitching about the story I saw in this morning's newspaper. If you thought people who don't have enough food are "hungry," the Bush administration disagrees with you. They aren't hungry; they merely have "food insecurity."

Enough of this bullshit. People who don't get enough to eat are hungry. HUNGRY, dammit! And you can't disguise the way you turn your back on them, Mr. Bush, by removing from the report (conveniently held back until after Election Day) the unsightly word "hungry," with its negative connotations. That anyone goes hungry in this country is a disgrace. Let's face it, let's deal with it, instead of hiding behind ridiculous phrases like "food insecurity."

I'm done now. (skulking away to knit take kid to bus stop)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Books I Shan't Be Buying: Part 3

A long time ago, I hoped I'd never have to see O.J. Simpson's face again. But, to paraphrase Elaine, just when I think he couldn't get any more shallow, he drains a little more water out of the pool. A subsidiary of HarperCollins is publishing a book by Simpson called "If I Did It," in which Simpson hypothetically discusses how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend had he actually done so (wink, wink). Taking time out from his lifetime search to find the person who really committed the horrible crimes, Simpson will be interviewed on Faux Fox News. Which of them is the most repulsive: Simpson for writing it, HarperCollins for publishing it or Fox for broadcasting it? Discuss.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Rumination, sparked by a recent discussion on Joe's blog

I grew up in a relatively small town with a Catholic father and a born-again-Christian mother. My parents raised me Catholic because that was the deal they made when they got married. This is somewhat ironic, since my father never attended church regularly and still does not, while my mother attends church at least once, and often twice, a week. They sent me to a local Catholic church with a neighbor, and my father did make sure that I went through the First Holy Communion and Confirmation processes. My mother whispered things to me when my dad wasn't around about her beliefs and her church; I vividly remember her explaining to me sometime in the 70s how UPC codes were a sign from the book of Revelation that the end of the world was coming. (Please don't ask; it still freaks me out.)

As I got older, I thought a lot about these two Christian faiths to which I was exposed. Both made me uncomfortable for multiple reasons. I simply did not agree with many of these two churches' positions on social issues. I did not like the Catholic Church's insistence on form and rules over substance; the way that priests (at least the ones I encountered) treated their parishioners; I disapproved of the extravagance and showiness -- not to mention the purported infallibility -- of popery. I did not like the submissive nature of my mother's church, in which one had to give up one's life and apparently free will to a vague yet scary notion of an all-powerful god; the extent to which one had to perform mental gymnastics in order to live one's life according to What The Bible Said (which wasn't clear at all); and other things, too.

As a young adult, I had an epiphany (if you'll pardon the pun). First, I realized that I couldn't solve the problem of my dissatisfaction with these religions by playing pick and choose: e.g., I don't like the Catholic Church's attitude toward homosexuality, but I'll ignore that and go to church anyway. That felt dishonest to me, particularly since there wasn't much about either religion that I affirmatively liked.

I also realized that I did not have to choose one or the other of the faiths of my parents. I decided that what was important about religion, or spirituality, wasn't a pro forma adherence to what one's family did (in my case, that didn't even really solve the problem, since there were two not-always-consistent faiths) but rather a sincere belief in some religion or model of spirituality. Or none (although that's a belief in itself). I went through a phase of being nothing, and then when T. and I were engaged, we decided to check out some local churches, since we both wanted to get married in a church. (Yes, illogical, isn't it?) We found an Episcopalian church with a wonderful rector and extremely laissez-fair Episcopalianism seems to work for us. At least right now.

Lately, the issue of religion and politics has been all over the place. Every time an Islamist blows himself up (taking numerous others with him, natch) in the name of establishing an Islamist state. Every time a conservative politician talks about banning stem cell research. Each new incident of violence in Iraq where Sunni and Shi'ite are pitted against one another. Even on knitting blogs like Joe's, where I participated in an often-heated discussion about gay marriage bans.

The intersection of religion and politics raises unbelievably complex issues, and I've been able to come to only one firm conclusion: the only way to peace and prosperity -- in religion and politics -- is tolerance and acceptance of other's differences. That means that any religion that says "my way or the highway (to hell)" is a Bad Thing. I don't care what else a particular religion says or doesn't say; the very act of saying "my way is the only way" is, to me, the root of all evil. Islamists who would fly airplanes into buildings to kill strangers because those strangers believe something different. Fundamentalist Christians who would deny equal rights under the law to homosexuals because homosexuals believe that their sexuality is a given and not a chosen sin. Catholics who would ban stem cell research because it uses embryonic tissue and the Catholic Church says abortion is bad. And so on.

I believe that the founders of our government shared my queasiness at the establishment of any one religion by a political state. Most of them came from England, where the Anglican Church is intermeshed in government and which at the time was extremely intolerant of other religions. They purposely set up a government in which religious institutions played no role. The Constitution (in the form of the first amendment) prohibits the establishment of any one religion by our government. These principles are under attack by religious groups of all kinds. It doesn't matter whether they call themselves Christians, or Catholics, or Muslims, or Rastafarians, or The First Church Of The Immaculate Flip-flops -- the intolerance is the same. Certain groups (of course not ALL in all groups) want to enshrine their individual religious beliefs in our laws and thereby impose them on others.

This I do not understand. I believe in a country where anyone can worship anyone or anything they wish, or not, and that's their own personal business. Certain religious principles -- for example, human sacrifice -- cannot be allowed for obvious reasons, but otherwise, if you are worshipping your own god in your own way and not hurting anyone else, you should be given the freedom to do so. But getting that kind of respect for one's religion requires that you give it to others. And there's the rub. I have yet to hear a reasonable answer to the question "Why can't you simply live your own life according to your religion without attempting to legislate others into conforming to your beliefs?"

While I was mulling over this post, I ran across a news story describing how a manufacturer of religious toys tried to give a talking Jesus doll to the Toys for Tots program. Toys for Tots said no, thanks. The vice-president of Toys for Tots explained why: "We can't take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family." And in a perhaps-not-shocking display of intolerance, the toy manufacturer's response was that "anyone can benefit from hearing the words of the bible." (Even if it's not their holy book and they don't believe it's the word of God.)

Our society cannot survive "my way or the highway" religion. We can't tolerate it in free toys for kids who don't have any, and we can't tolerate it in our legislature. It will surely lead to hell on earth for us all.

Not to mention a really un-fun Christmas for a bunch of poor kids.

Friday, November 10, 2006

This colorway is called "Not For Sale"

I finally decided to spin some of my own roving. This is a batch of Corriedale that I am working on:

I'm dyeing some more batches of roving, including some light-as-air kid mohair/Border Leicester that I got from Mindy. The first one flew out of my shop as soon as I listed it! I listed some more laceweight and this weekend will be skeining some sock yarn. Now that Stitches is over, I should be able to update the Etsy shop a bit more frequently.

A Good Customer Service Experience

I highly recommend products by Fricke Enterprises. I have two of their sturdy wooden machines (including a jumbo ball winder that I love). After a piece unexpectedly broke off one of them, I emailed the company and received a response from one of the owners. She immediately shipped out a replacement part. Oddly, the replacement part broke in the same fashion, and she shipped me another replacement part, modified a bit to try to prevent a third breakage. Customer service is not dead! It is alive and well at Fricke Enterprises.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

No-Bull Book Review: One-Skein Wonders, by Judith Durant

I am lucky to have access to an amazing LYS, with an extremely knowledgeable and creative owner. Frequently, the shopowner creates patterns and gives them to customers free with the purchase of the yarn. The patterns tend to be smaller items, relatively easy and quick to make so they are useful even for inexperienced knitters, and are a great way to try out a new yarn with a relatively small investment. These kinds of patterns were the inspiration for Judith Durant's One-Skein Wonders (Storey Publishing).

Durant has collected 101 such patterns from yarn shops and designers throughout the country, organized by the weight/gauge of the required yarn (bulky to fingering weight, plus a separate category for novelty yarns, and even a separate "worsted mohair" category). This method of organization makes sense: if you want to use up a skein of worsted weight yarn, you can flip to page 61 and find twenty possibilities that knit at around 5 stitches to the inch. Because of the one skein limitation, most of the projects are for accessories -- there's just not enough yarn in a single skein to make, say, an adult sweater. My rough count showed the following breakdown:

  • 25 hats
  • 18 scarves (including some rather odd "collars")
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • 2 baby sweaters
  • 6 shawls, shrugs & a poncho
  • 16 bags
  • 5 mittens/gloves/wristwarmers
  • 1 shell
  • 1 pillow
  • 1 cell phone cover

and a whole bunch of random stuff, including 2 (!) sets of coasters, 2 (!) barettes, napkin rings, curtain ties and an ice scraper mitt (don't ask).

These patterns are definitely on the simpler side, and would be suitable for most beginner or inexperienced knitters. Most look like they would knit up in a night (in some cases, an hour), and Durant definitely anticipated that readers would make some of these quick-knit items for gifts. She also anticipated that these patterns would act as stashbusters: if you've got an orphan ball of yarn left over from another project, or was tempted to try a ball or two of a new yarn to see if you like it, then these easy and fast projects will help you figure what to do with those single skeins.

Given the number of items of the same kind, there's inevitably a feeling of sameyness about the book. There's only so many ways you can knit a hat using a single skein of yarn, and when you present twenty-five hat patterns in one book, there's bound to be some overlap. Likewise for scarves, and envelope bags, and drawstring purses, and so on. From a design standpoint, there isn't much in the book that I haven't seen before, although I confess I've never before seen an ice scraper mitt. As I mentioned before, this may be a function of having a top-notch LYS that provides its customers with ample free patterns -- many of them, in this knitter's humble opinion, more creative and interesting than the ones in One Skein Wonders. Last spring's release of Leigh Radford's book, One Skein, may also explain why this collection of patterns seems less than cutting-edge to me.

The book is similar in production quality to the first Stitch-N-Bitch book: paperback with two-color text with sepia-ish photographs and a series of color plates in the middle showing the projects. The lack of color photography throughout the entire book is clearly the trade-off for the quantity of patterns; it would be prohibitively expensive to photograph all 101 projects individually. And since most of the projects are simple and straightforward, detailed photography isn't as essential as with more complex or unusual patterns.

As with so many pattern books, you are advised to look before you buy. If you are an experienced knitter who isn't afraid of creating your own basic patterns for hats and scarves, this book may not seem worth the money (MSRP $18.95; currently $12.89 at you. Likewise, if you prefer more challenging projects, or have been knitting a long time and have had your fill of roll-brim caps and scarves knit on big needles (and how many wine bottle bags can one person knit?), this book may seem less desirable. On the other hand, there are plenty of knitters who like to follow directions, who find trying to parse out their own patterns stressful or frustrating, and I suspect these knitters will be much more receptive to One-Skein Wonders. If you're looking for ideas to burn through some stash, or if you make a lot of gifts for charities or bazaars, you're more likely to find this book useful. And if you don't have a LYS nearby to tempt you with quickie patterns, a lot of these items will look fresher than they do to these jaded eyes.

Wonder-ful? Maybe not. But in enthusiasm and sheer quantity, One-Skein Wonders will be more than adequate for many (though not all) knitters.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Guest Post: Donna Druchunas on Qiviut

A warm, Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat welcome to Donna Druchunas, author of the newly-released Arctic Lace.

Donna is my first-ever guest blogger, and she's going to talk about that spectacular fiber, qiviut. Thanks, Donna!

Knitting and Spinning with Qiviut by Donna Druchunas

Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog! I've been talking a lot about my inspiration for Arctic Lace and my research in Alaska during this tour. But today I'd like to talk about knitting and spinning with qiviut.


Qiviut yarn comes only in fine weights. Sport weight is the heaviest I have ever seen on the market, and cobweb, or extra-fine lace weight is the thinnest. Because the fiber is so warm -- often said to be 8 times warmer than sheep's wool -- you wouldn't want a heavier yarn anyway. Qiviut blooms when washed, and gets a halo that reminds me of mohair, and it feels a lot like mohair to wear. That is, it's lightweight and warm. Unlike mohair, qiviut is never scratchy. When washed, qiviut
develops a furry texture that gets more exaggerated over time but, in my experience, does not pill. Because of the furry halo that develops, you can often knit qiviut at a looser gauge than you would other yarns of the same girth.

There are two main types of qiviut yarn on the market today. The first is 100% qiviut. Most of this is very loosely spun, and it has little or no elasticity. It does not stretch as you knit with it, and it does not draw in after knitting. This makes it very nice for lace projects that will be blocked to have a soft drape. But it does not work well for ribbing, as it will not hold its shape. It can even stretch out over time, the way cotton does. I have run into a couple of tightly spun qiviut yarns that seem to hold their shape better than the loosely spun
yarns, but these are hard to find.

The second common type of qiviut yarn is a blend with merino and silk. There may be as much as 75% qiviut in this yarn, or as little as 45%. The yarn with the least amount of qiviut and the most amount of wool will have more elasticity during knitting and will hold its shape better for ribbing and fitted garments or accessories.

Before you start knitting anything with qiviut, which costs about $70US per ounce, you should swatch your pattern stitches with a less expensive yarn. If you are knitting lace, I always suggest working a swatch in sport or worsted weight wool on size 5 or 7 needles. This will let you concentrate on learning the stitch pattern before you start working with the fine yarn and small needles. If you are a new
lace knitter, you might want to make a second swatch with inexpensive lace weight yarn before starting to work with the qiviut as well.

This doesn't mean you can skip making a qiviut swatch, however. Because the yarn has such an unusual hand and texture, and because it blooms, you may find you need to use larger or smaller needles than usual. I haven't found any hard-and-fast rule for this. Some knitters find that their stitches look very sloppy and the fabric has no body at all when they knit qiviut with needles that are too large. Other knitters find that the fabric is too dense after it is washed when they knit with smaller needles. You may get the same stitch gauge with several needle sizes, but a different row gauge or a different appearance to your stitches. I suggest you try 3 different size needles before casting on for a project. For regular lace weight qiviut, I suggest US sizes 1, 2, and 3 for testing. (Go up or down as appropriate if you are working with sportweight or cobweb yarn.) Cast on 16 or 20 stitches, and knit 1 inch with the smallest needle you want to try, then work a garter
ridge. Don't cast off, but change needle sizes and knit 1 inch in each size, going up one size after each garter ridge. Wash and block the swatch in the same way you will dress the finished project, and then decide what size needle you want to use.


Qiviut is the under down of the musk ox that sheds naturally every spring. The animals also grow coarse guard hair that does not shed, and continues to grow throughout their lives, sometimes reaching down to their ankles at a length of 2 feet. There are a few captive herds of musk oxen that are combed each year for fiber collection. The Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, Alaska, sells all of its fiber to the Oomingmak knitter's co-op in Anchorage. The Large Animal Research Station in Fairbanks combs their research herd and saves some of the best fiber for hand spinners. (Check out their website for a great photo of a musk ox being combed!) A few other small farms may sometimes have clean spinning fiber available.

Most other fiber comes from wild herds in Canada, where Inuit hunters take the animals for meat and sell the hides or fiber to yarn companies. Sometimes you can find raw qiviut for sale, but it usually is from shorn hides and contains a LOT of guard hairs. The long guard hairs are not difficult to remove, because the fiber is not greasy. But the sheer quantity of guard hair makes preparing raw qiviut for
spinning and arduous task. If you do buy raw qiviut, you can use the guard hair to spin a sturdy yarn for knitting or weaving rugs or other hard-wearing accessories.

When spinning knitting yarns, the same considerations should be taken into account as when purchasing millspun yarn. 100% qiviut has little give and almost no memory, while blends with wool are much more elastic and will hold their shape better in fitted items. Remember that qiviut is incredibly warm, and don't be tempted to spin lofty, bulky yarn. It'll be so hot, you'll never be able to wear anything made from it.

Normally you do not need to card qiviut or clean it in any way after you remove the guard hair. Any stray plant matter or flecks of skin and dander will fall out as you are spinning. If you are blending the fiber with wool, you can card it by hand or you can try using a drum carder with an extra fine carding cloth. I've never carded qiviut. The only spinning I've done is directly from the raw fiber, and I haven't had the need to process the fiber in any way.

For more information on spinning with qiviut, try to get a copy of the Summer 1993 issue of Spin-Off magazine. It contains several articles on spinning qiviut and musk ox guard hairs.

Caring for Qiviut

Qiviut fibers do not have protruding scales like wool. That makes the fiber incredibly soft and also makes it resistant to felting. I have had people tell me that they have washed qiviut items in the washing machine with hot water. Oh my! While I don't doubt them, I would treat my qiviut items with more care. I hand wash them, or soak them in the washing machine with no-rinse wool washing soap, and then gently squeeze out the excess water. If I'm washing a lace item, I will block
it each time I wash it. Other items, I leave to dry flat, being careful not to stretch any areas of ribbing out of shape.

For sources of qiviut yarn and fiber, see the appendix in Arctic Lace
or Sheep To Shawl.

Impressions of Stitches East: A collection of haiku

To a Coffee Faucet

Silver-man’ed fox
You made a trip to the loo
Sound mucho sexy.

Lunch in Baltimore

Long lines snake around
For grease, fried foods, and hot dogs
Have you no green veg?

I Don’t Mean Mably

Those mischievous eyes
Your British accent slays me
Charm personified

For the Baltimore City Planners

You built a large hall
But where, dear God, tell me where
Is all the parking?

Little Ricky Stitches
Dragon applique?
I'm sure I saw the same jeans
At T-N-N-A.

Tricky Tricot

Blogger Man with Balls
Have you only been knitting
A measly five years?

Fashions (with apologies to L.M.)

Scarves, ponchos, fun fur
A profound sufficiency.
Please learn to fair isle.

Monday, November 06, 2006


It's astonishing, but today marks the first anniversary of Go Knit In Your Hat. Yes, it's my blog-iversary. And as I look back on the past year, I can only say "thank you" to all of you, the faithful readers.

I have enjoyed writing this blog more than I ever thought I would. And I have met more interesting and funny and kind people than I ever knew were out there. People like Mindy, to swap bunny and little kid stories with. People like Bonnie, who shares my quirky worldview. Rosie's customers like Mary Kay and Sherry and Wendy and Christina, who I had known casually but now count as friends. And Lars, and Ted, and Lee Ann, and so many more of you that I can't name.

I am frequently amazed at the readers who leave comments. Funny comments, snarky comments, comments that add immeasurably to the topic at hand. I knew that my circle of close knitting friends would read this blog (and I do loves me my Wolvies, Mar and Joe and Kathy and Franklin and Liza and Selma and Lisa and Loopy), but I didn't expect a significantly broader readership, or one that displays the generosity and good will I have experienced.

I certainly didn't expect to begin an internet business, but I have found great joy and fulfillment in Black Bunny Fibers and been touched at the willingness of the fiber community to support me in my new endeavor.

I also didn't expect the extent to which blogging would change me. I envisioned the blog as a snarky venue in which I could vent about things that annoyed me, kvell about things that I liked, and create a record of my fiber projects. Sure, I am able to do those things -- and do -- but the blog has morphed into something more. (Or at least I hope it has.) As someone who has learned so much from the internet knitting community, I have found it fun and rewarding to help give back a little by writing posts that help knitters with technical or substantive issues. I have found myself deciding which political issues -- like equal rights for the GLTB community, or dissatisfaction with the corrupt party that now controls the U.S. government -- really mean something to me, enough that I'll say what I think without caring who doesn't like it.

And perhaps most important, I have found that viewing my world through the lens of this blog has changed the way I see it. When I go to a fiber festival like Rhinebeck, I find myself looking around, really seeing the things in front of me: examining color and patterns, noting interesting or inspirational images, appreciating the offbeat and the beautiful. I remember more as I make mental notes of things to blog about. When describing what I've seen and experienced to all of you, I make connections between my life and the bigger world. In short, my blog has made my day-to-day experiences deeper and richer.

Thank you for reading my blog. I look forward to continuing this journey with you for a long time to come.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Next week: special guest post

Next week, Donna Druchunas, author of the just-released Arctic Lace

will be doing a guest blog post.

And if you've always wanted to learn how to use a spindle, check out Ted's tutorial and tips at his blog. Thanks, Ted!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Onward to ... Stitches East

I've barely gotten caught up after last weekend's trip to Rhinebeck, and now the last of my Yarn Trifecta weekends beckons: Stitches East. For the first time, Stitches East will be held in Baltimore. I'm looking forward to the change: even though it's less convenient (it was entirely possible to go back and forth to Atlantic City from Philadelphia in the same day), Atlantic City just wasn't my cup of tea. I'm not a gambler, and casinos don't do anything for me, so holding Stitches there was not particularly desirable from my viewpoint.

I've spent most of the past few weeks dyeing up a storm. I'll be bringing some batches of Black Bunny Yarn to the Rosie's Yarn Cellar booth. I've got laceweight, I've got DK weight and I've got some bulky -- and if all goes well, I'll have some roving batches, too. I'll be at the Rosie's booth Friday through Sunday, so if you're going to Stitches, please stop by and introduce yourself. I love to meet you guys. Lisa always brings Koigu and Anne and other goodies, and I think some new RosieKnits patterns will be debuting.

In other news, Halloween is nearly here. Friday, the twins' preschool went to visit a nursing home to have a little party for the residents. Here're the twins in their costumes:

The Little Mermaid and a Nascar driver (Jeff Gordon, to be precise, but N. doesn't know individual drivers; he's more into the cars than anything else). It's tough cropping out their adorable faces, but you get the idea...

My oldest wants to be....Charcoal. Since he's tall for his age, I'm finishing up a rather large black bunny costume. Black pompom on the butt, anyone? And let's keep our fingers crossed the other third-graders -- dressed as Eagles quarterbacks and superheroes and Darth Vader -- don't beat the crap out of him at recess.

Inspired by Marilyn, I spun up a small (3 ounce) batch of roving that I picked up at Rhinebeck from Tintagel Farm. It's half wool and half mohair.

I'm a sucker for blues like this (which didn't reproduce well at all in my photo: they are much brighter, turquoise-y with some green and some purple), and it spun up quickly and pretty easily. I'd never done mohair before, and while it's a bit clumpy, the blend was pretty much pre-drafted and ready to spin. After watching Marilyn's technique at Rhinebeck, I felt a bit more confident in my spinning. (I'm a self-taught spinner.) Marilyn gave me some of the best advice I've ever gotten about spinning: she said to spin a little every day, no matter what, and the quality of my yarn was bound to improve. She's right. Oddly, I also find that if I temporarily stop spinning for a while (weeks or even months), when I pick it up again, I seem to find it easier. Maybe my brain is processing the motor skills, but it does seem to work that way. I should be able to use this yarn as singles rather than having to ply to even out the variations in thickness.

My last few posts took a lot out of me, so I may be on the quiet side for the next week or so. Although photography is forbidden at Stitches, I'll be sure to fill you in on all the dirt when I get back.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The conclusion of the hypothetical and alleged saga

Let’s start with a brief overview of antitrust law. (Yeah, I know, I thought it was boring in law school, too. I'll be quick.)

Antitrust law is designed to protect competition and the free market by outlawing agreements and other activities that are bad for competition and the free market. Sounds simple enough. But antitrust is one of those areas that’s very intricate and specialized; it’s also one of those areas where theory doesn’t always mesh with reality.

One of the ways that antitrust law tries to protect the free market is by outlawing price restraints, or practices and agreements that artificially set or preserve prices. The idea is that the free market should determine price. Normally there’s a bit of up and down in pricing: this store sells milk for $5 a gallon, then the store across the street charges $4.75 and makes up the difference by attracting more customers, then the guy across town charges $4.50 but marks up the price of his bread, while the guy who has the only store for fifty miles around can get away with charging $5.50. That’s competition and the market at work. Imagine what would happen if all the supermarkets of the world agreed to sell milk for exactly $5 a gallon, instead of the market determining what people are willing to pay. Once the supermarkets agree to set an artificial price, nobody can get the milk for less than $5, no matter where they are or where they shop. Competition over the price of milk has been eliminated.

Price-fixing is good for the seller: the seller gets a higher price for the goods than the free market necessarily would produce, and the seller knows that the buyer can’t shop around for a better deal elsewhere. Some sellers may not like price-fixing, however; if they are able to offer a product for less, they want to be able to price it lower and recoup the difference in volume.

Price-fixing is primarily bad for the consumer, and you can see why: the consumer is paying more. Depending on circumstances, maybe a lot more.

This kind of agreement among sellers is called horizontal price-fixing, because it involves an agreement to fix prices among people at the same level of the market.

In this diagram, the “horizontal” agreement is between the sellers -- the red line. All the people participating in the agreement – the stores -- are at the same level of the selling chain. Horizontal price-fixing might involve all the makers of a product colluding to agree on price, or all the distributors agreeing on price, and so on. It’s well-established that horizontal price-fixing is bad for competition and therefore illegal under antitrust law.

There’s another kind of price fixing: vertical price-fixing. Vertical price-fixing involves actors who are at different levels of the selling chain colluding to determine price. The Milli Morris example (allegedly! allegedly!) would be analyzed under the law concerning vertical price-fixing: Milli Morris is the maker, and Yolanda's Yarns is the store in my diagram (here, there isn't a distributor; the maker sells directly to shops). Milli and Yolanda are at different levels of the retail food chain, so the alleged price-fixing is vertical.

At first blush, you might think that vertical price-fixing is illegal too, and that it’s all bad for the customer. Not so fast.

Have you ever noticed that no matter where you go to buy a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt (what can I say? my husband is a Skippy with expensive taste), the price is the same everywhere? Exactly the same? You may hit a once-yearly sale, or see remainders from last season marked down a bit, but otherwise Ralph Lauren Polo shirts are always exactly the same price. Coincidence?

You’ve probably seen tons of other products that have a manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or MSRP, on them. Cars, magazines, Tastykakes, whatever. These prices are even printed onto the product or its packaging by the maker. How can that be? Isn’t that vertical price-fixing, an agreement between the maker and the shop to set a price? Here’s where it gets bizarre. It is generally true that vertical price restraints – the maker and the seller agree to charge X amount for the item – are illegal, just like horizontal price restraints are.

But my brief foray into antitrust research suggests that MSRPs are not, by themselves, illegal. The Federal Trade Commission says:

The antitrust laws, however, give a manufacturer latitude to adopt a policy regarding a desired level of resale prices and to deal only with retailers who independently decide to follow that policy. A manufacturer also is permitted to stop dealing with a retailer who breaches the manufacturer’s resale price maintenance policy. That is, the manufacturer can adopt the policy on a "take it or leave it" basis.

So a manufacturer, including a yarn company, can decide it has a "policy" of only selling to shops that abide by the MSRP. It can decide that it won't sell to such shops if they don't consistently charge the MSRP. The legal distinction that's being made, I suppose, is that the maker has the right to decide who it will do business with, and as long as the maker and the seller aren't meeting in a smoke-filled room to come to an express agreement, this is considered lawful. I can't speak to whether this makes sense or not; this concept of permitting MSRPs has been subject to criticism but like it or not, agree with it or not, the FTC says it's okay.

As someone who loves to score yarn cheaply, this grieves me. Everyone feels pinched with their money and everyone would like to get the maximum yarnage for their knitting buck. And the less you pay per skein, the more skeins you can buy with your knitting budget. Required minimum prices, whether they are considered MSRPs or vertical price restraints, tend to raise the cost of yarn by prohibiting discounters. There are other rationales for why we shouldn't permit vertical price restraints: for example, one might argue that by lowering prices, the knitting purchaser gets to try yarns she might otherwise not be able to buy, thereby getting hooked on them and becoming willing to buy them again, even if not discounted. Or that the more knitting people do, and the more they enjoy the process and the finished result (presumably the knitter would enjoy working with nicer yarn more than with lower quality yarn, assuming higher price means better quality), the more they’ll want to continue knitting and the greater the likelihood they’ll turn into hard-core, long-term knitters, thus buying more over the long haul.

But it’s never that simple, is it? While vertical price restraints may seem like a no-brainer, if you look a little deeper, you may see waters that are murkier than you thought.

Imagine a high-end, high quality yarn; I’ll call it Yummy Yarn. Suppose that Yummy Yarn costs $5 a skein wholesale and sells for $10 a skein retail (under a keystone pricing model). Then one day, bursts onto the scene. The dot-com sells Yummy Yarn for $6 per skein, undercutting all the other retailers who sell it for $10 a skein.

How can this be bad, you say? Isn’t cheaper yarn an unqualified good?Well, maybe not if you’re Yummy Yarns. If one internet retailer starts offering Yummy Yarn for only a smidgen above wholesale, a lot of other retailers are going to be unable to sell Yummy Yarn, whether at their shop or on-line. They may have an occasional customer who doesn’t shop on-line, and therefore doesn't have access to the discounted price, but overall, sales of Yummy Yarn everywhere but the dot-com discounter are going to dry up as consumers purchase there. When a great many retailers can’t sell their Yummy Yarn inventory, or their costs are such that they just can’t charge only $6 and still make a profit, they won’t order it anymore. Yummy Yarns is going to lose business. Yummy Yarns might even go out of business. No more Yummy Yarns.

Let’s consider another, similar hypothetical. Selling yarn isn’t the same as selling, say, socks. Everyone in the world knows how to use socks. Everyone in the world knows how socks work and people don’t walk around with serious questions about their socks. But yarn is different. Yarn is used for knitting and crocheting, and learning how to knit and crochet are skills that often require a lot of technical assistance. A large part of my job at my LYS is helping customers with questions and problems about their projects. Easy questions, like what’s a yarn over, and harder questions, like what went wrong with my cable pattern? And selecting the right yarn for the right project can also require assistance from a knowledgeable salesperson: is the gauge right? will it drape? does it have good stitch definition? will the mohair's halo obscure your lace pattern? will it sag? and so on.

Joe’s Sock Emporium doesn’t need to hire salespeople with a whole body of knowledge about how to put on socks. Jane’s Knitting Palace, on the other hand, needs to hire knowledgeable, experienced sales clerks who not only can sell yarn, but can sell the right yarn, and help customers with their technical questions.

And there’s the rub. A good, service-oriented bricks-and-mortar yarn shop needs to pay those knowledgeable and experienced salesclerks. They also need to pay rent, electricity, keep their shop clean and painted and the rugs shampooed, and a myriad of other expenses to keep their physical plant up and running. An internet discounter doesn’t. An internet-only seller can fill orders out of her basement, or out of some cruddy cheap-ass warehouse in a bad part of town, and no one will know the difference. And if you have a question about your project, it's highly unlikely that you could, um, email the shop and expect a prompt and correct answer. (Can you see the email correspondence? “Attached is a JPEG showing my lace scarf. Please tell me what I did wrong.”) Even if the internet seller is tops in service and responsiveness, the costs are not the same as the yarn shop's.

This is what is sometimes known as a “free rider” problem. The reputable bricks and mortar shops provide the free one-on-one assistance, they allow you to sit in their comfy chairs and yak while knitting, they give you a place to feel and touch the yarns, to see what colors it comes in, maybe to handle a swatch. They may give you free patterns or freely give of their experience and advice. And then you go and order the product from an internet discounter, who provides none of these things (and therefore doesn't have to pay the costs associated with them). The internet discounter is free-riding off the services and amenities that the LYS provides. If retailers want to prevent free riders, then, one way to do it is to set a minimum price for all retailers to follow.

Finally, there’s the prestige factor. Those of you who are, ahem, my contemporaries may remember when expensive perfumes like Giorgio and Obsession were only available at high-end department stores. The fragrances were distinctive and if you knew someone who reeked smelled of Obsession, you knew they’d paid a pretty penny for it at Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom's. Nowadays, you can find the same perfumes at CVS, or at Marshall’s or other places, being discounted. The snob appeal is gone. The products, though cheaper, are, in a weird way, less desirable.

Some people -- even yarn manufacturers -- believe it’s important to maintain this exclusivity, this high price, the prestige as part of their market niche. They don’t want to see their yarns sold at a deep discount on Ebay, or available at a big box craft store; they want to maintain a high-end cachet. I'm not saying whether this is wrong or right: it just is. And some yarn manufacturers don't give a rat's ass about the prestige, but they know that people who buy their yarn will benefit from the skills and services that the full-service yarn shop can offer. If Patsy Purl makes a project out of an unsuitable yarn and hates the finished garment, she may blame it on the yarn manufacturer. ("I'm never making a sweater out of Yummy Yarn again!") If, on the other hand, a knowledgeable salesperson deters her from an unsuitable choice and helps her pick a better one, Patsy Purl may be hooked on Yummy Yarn for life.

I point all this out so you can appreciate the complexity of some of these issues. You don’t want your favorite yarn shop to go out of business or stop carrying your favorite yarns, and you don’t want your favorite yarn manufacturer to stop making yarn either. Cheap yarn is nice, but it’s also good to take a broader view. Internet sellers who don't have a bricks-and-mortar presence don't always think about the broader effect they are having on the market.

Now regardless of all of these rationales, the fact remains that vertical price restraints, actual agreements between the distributor, say, and the LYS about price, are illegal. There are other ways that makers address some of these problems:

  • Adopt a MSRP policy as described above.
  • Require that sellers have a traditional physical yarn shop -- not just an internet site -- as a prerequisite to sales. That way the maker knows that all sellers are all on a level playing field when it comes to overhead, free riders, providing technical assistance and such.
  • Some yarn companies have geographic limitations or territories, and they only permit one authorized retailer within a certain number of miles.
  • Maintain the traditional distinction between sales to yarn shops and sales to large national craft chains, selling to the former and not the latter. (Large chains buy in quantity, they can use items as loss leaders in a way that small shops can’t, they run discounts and offer coupons, all leading to the undercutting of price. Craft stores tend not to have salespeople with the same level of expertise in knitting. There’s also an exclusivity element: if you go into a yarn shop, you expect to see things that the craft stores don’t carry, and seeing the same yarns available at both places devalues those yarns, at least in some folks' eyes.)
  • Have a minimum advertised price: the seller agrees to advertise a price no less than a specific minimum, so that the impact on other sellers is reduced.
  • Other secret arrangements, that may or may not be illegal, like selling at a lower wholesale price to sellers who abide by the MSRP policy, or rewarding sellers who stick to the MSRP by giving them "bonuses" of cash or merchandise or other freebies, or taking your own sweet time to fill the orders of the discounters while promptly shipping product to the MSRP-honoring sellers.

I don't know what the ultimate answer is. Maybe there isn't one. But I urge you to think about some of the issues I've raised and at least appreciate that things aren't always as cut-and-dried as they first seem.

Okay, go on, have at it. Just remember to play nice.

More (alleged) dirt from the seamy underbelly of the (hypothetical) yarn world

Oh, my innocent little pretties, did you think we had exhausted the dirty laundry of the yarn industry? Not yet, my dears, not yet. Special thanks to Valerie and reader V. for tipping me off to the following hypothetical (of course) story. (And if I’d been keeping up with my blog reading, I’d have seen it on Jenna’s blog.)

Once upon a time, there was a manufacturer of fancy yarns who I’ll call Milli Morris. Milli sold high-end yarns, in luxury fibers, and wanted her yarns to be upscale, to have a certain cache. One day, Yolanda's Yarns decided that it wanted to carry Milli Morris yarns. Yolanda started an account with Milli Morris. She received Milli Morris yarns and sold them to her knitting and crocheting customers.

One day, however, Milli Morris contacted Yolanda's Yarns, stated that Milli Morris was implementing a keystone pricing policy and asked Yolanda to comply with it.

What's "keystone pricing," you ask?

Well, apparently "keystone pricing" is a standard term in the retail industry, and refers to a policy or practice whereby a retailer (here, the yarn seller) consistently sells a product for double the wholesale price (i.e., two times its actual cost). So if Milli Morris was selling a skein to Yolanda's Yarns for a wholesale price of $10, it was requiring henceforth that Yolanda sell that very same skein of yarn for $20 to the consumer. And not a penny less.

It sounds like an appalling markup from the consumer's standpoint, but it's pretty standard in many segments of the retail market. (Since my retail experience is limited, readers can chime in here to back me up or contradict me.)

Here’s the backstory: It had come to pass that Yolanda's Yarns thought it could sell Milli Morris yarn cheaper and still make enough profit. (One critical piece of the puzzle that I haven't figured out is whether Yolanda's Yarns is an internet-only business, a discounter that provides minimal customer service and technical assistance at an actual storefront, or whether it also has a full-service, bricks-and-mortar yarn shop.) In any event, Yolanda's Yarns had been selling Milli Morris yarns for an amount less than twice the wholesale price; using the example above, say $17 a skein instead of $20. The customer was happy: s/he could get Milli Morris yarns a few dollars cheaper from Yolanda's Yarns than anywhere else. Yolanda was happy: she was selling lots of Milli Morris yarn, and still making $7 per skein.

But guess who wasn't happy? Other yarn shops. They had been abiding by the $20 keystone price and now Yolanda's Yarns was undercutting them on price. Let's face it: if given a choice, why would a knitter pay $20 a skein if she could pay $17? And the beauty of the internet is that you can order without leaving your desk chair, and they'll ship your stuff to your house, even if you live at the other end of the country, sometimes for free.

So the other yarn shops notified Milli Morris that Yolanda's Yarns was selling her yarn for less than the $20 suggested retail price. Milli Morris subsequently contacted Yolanda's Yarns (in writing, no less! don’t these people have lawyers? or at least some common sense? Free legal tip of the day: If you must allegedly engage in conduct which looks like price-fixing, which I strongly advise against, please do not leave a paper trail.) and insisted that it comply with a keystone pricing policy.

The owner of Yolanda's Yarns was mad now. She worked hard to run her business in as cost-effective a way as possible, and she wanted the right to price her merchandise however she wanted. She didn’t want to raise the price of the Milli Morris yarn. It then came to pass that the next time Yolanda tried to place an order for Milli Morris yarns, Milli said no. Milli refused to sell Yolanda's Yarns any more Milli Morris yarns based on its failure to comply with the keystone pricing policy.

Now ordinarily, this might have just been an unfortunate footnote in Yolanda's Yarn's business. However, Yolanda herself happened to know a little bit about antitrust law. Some correspondence was exchanged, and the phrases "antitrust violation" and "price-fixing” were invoked. Ultimately, Milli Morris informed Yolanda that it was suspending the keystone pricing policy. Yolanda's Yarns would like to continue selling Milli Morris yarns, but it isn’t clear whether Milli will continue to sell to Yolanda or not – Milli Morris yarns are no longer on Yolanda's website.

What’s going on here? Who’s right and who’s wrong? I’m no antitrust expert – and I don’t even play one on TV – but I’m willing to tackle some of these issues. Tune in next time.