Friday, March 23, 2012

Sock Knitting Weekend at Loop

Just a quick reminder that this weekend is nirvana for Philly sock knitters. Author, teacher & designer Melissa Morgan-Oakes will be teaching classes at Loop Yarn Saturday and Sunday on knitting socks two at a time. Her classes are always very popular at knitting events, so call the shop if you're interested; last I heard there were only a few spaces left in each day's class.  (Full class details are here.)

To celebrate, I'll be bringing in lots of Black Bunny Fibers yarns for a trunk show. I'll be dropping them off Saturday morning for your perusal, and I'll be in the shop Sunday afternoon if you want to say hi. (And you don't have to be a sock knitter to check out the trunk show: I've got a batch of worsted weight yarns and a new scarf pattern that uses one skein of worsted weight.)

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Let's help out a reader

I received a lovely email from a reader named Diane. She belongs to a group that makes a lot of items for neonatal units and the medical professionals insist that only acrylic fingering weight yarn be used for the premie babies. The workhorse yarn that her group has relied on for a long time has been reformulated and now is knitting at a heavier gauge. She wrote to the company to ask about the change, and was told that the original formulation was too thin (!) and has been bulked up.  Which is kind of silly, since that means that it won't knit at the original gauge....So now she is trying to find an affordable, readily available substitute.

However, I am going to appeal to you, my wonderful readers for suggestions.  We need suggestions for fingering-weight NONWOOL yarn, preferably all-acrylic content. I'm thinking soft and machine-washable for hospital nurseries.  It would be swell if you could leave some ideas for Diane in the comments. The first thing I thought of was Berroco Comfort Baby, which is fingering weight and an acrylic/nylon blend.  (Link here.)


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Squeaking it in

In the very nick of time, Happy National Quilting Day!  Just finished is a throw for Little Miss:

I did simple brick-shaped blocks, using a bunch of Hello Kitty fabrics that I bought on-line, and mixing in some solids and one or two other pink prints.  I started this a while back, and did some really simple straight line quilting with the machine since Little Miss was bugging me about it  eagerly inquiring when it would be done.

I bound the edges with bright pink solid edging

and used a very cute peace-sign-themed print for the back.

Once again, my trusty quilt-holder has risen to the challenge.

In other news, I have been working to match up prize donors with prize winners in the Summer Search raffle. There are still one or two connections to be made; I got a little behind with a nasty cold earlier in the month. But never fear: all prizes will be awarded!  I attended a Summer Search event earlier in the week, and they were extremely impressed with the enthusiasm and generosity of the knitting community. I'm thinking about doing a fall event in which we knit warm things for the Summer Search kids who will be starting their freshman years at college this fall. Would any of you be up for knitting some simple items, like hats, mittens, wristwarmers or cowls for some Summer Search college students?

I also uploaded a batch of BFL Sock onto the BBF website and I couldn't resist some Downton Abbey-themed names, like Wrong Sort of Tweed

and Lady Edith

and a few extra skeins of CashSock, like Mrs. Hughes

You'll find all of these on the BBF site, and if you use the code "DOWNTON" you will get 15 percent off an order of $25 or more in merchandise. And if you like to see and touch your yarn before purchasing, don't forget that I'll be doing a trunk show at Loop Yarn next weekend, March 24-25, in conjunction with Melissa Morgan-Oakes' teaching two-at-a-time classes there! (P.S. A little bird told me that not only is Denyse Schmidt there this weekend (!), but there is also a sale on KOIGU going on right now.)

I've got some excellent books to review in coming weeks, so don't think that just because warmer weather is here in the northeast US that it's time to lose interest in knitting.  No, sir, there are some great books coming up with plenty of small projects perfect for spring and summer knitting.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Happy International Women's History Day!

A few weeks ago, I received an email from the lovely folks at Stewart Tabori and Chang (who publish some of my favorite knitting books) asking me if I'd like to participate in a special blogger's event.  It seems that today is International Women's History Day, and STC is sponsoring a BlogFest, asking craft-related to bloggers to share some thoughts on this year's theme: Women's Education, Women's Empowerment. You can watch a video they created on the topic of knitting and women's empowerment here.

I was given a choice of topics to write about and opted for "Who is your favorite female historical figure? Did she knit?"

I quickly thought of a half-dozen female historical figures that I like, including women like Marie Curie, Abigail Adams and Mary Cassatt.  Given the times in which these women lived,  I have to assume that they knit at least a little bit. But it's impossible to know for sure how they felt about their knitting: was it simply a necessary chore? did they take satisfaction in it? did it ever spark their creativity or make them feel empowered?

Since this is primarily a knitting-related blog, I decided to look for a historical figure who did have a history of knitting associated with her (Madame Defarge, being fictional, doesn't count), and finally I remembered the story of Molly "Mom" Rinker.

I live outside Philadelphia, where our country's colonial history is interwoven into the landscape. Whether it's seeing Valley Forge park where Washington's troops spent a dreadful winter, or driving on cobblestone roads in Old City near Independence Hall, or chaperoning a field trip to Betsy Ross House, reminders of the Revolutionary War are everywhere. In Fairmount Park, near the Wissahickon Creek, a statute stands on a rocky outlook known as Mom Rinker's Rock. Legend has it that a tavern owner named Molly Rinker, nicknamed "Mom," used to scout out the location of British troops during the Battle of Germantown, taking notes on their movements.  She would then write down the information and wrap it inside a ball of yarn.  She dropped the yarn down to Revolutionary couriers who were waiting below.

Another version of the story -- penned by YA writer Laurie Halse Anderson -- describes it this way:
American agents spying on the British in Philadelphia smuggled notes to "Mom Rinker" who buried the notes deep in balls of yarn. "Mom" liked to knit in a cliff, where she laid out her linen to bleach in the sun. While knitting, she would let her yarn with the secret notes roll off the cliff to the American soldiers waiting below.
Independent Dames, Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon and Schuster 2008).

It's a fabulous story, and there does seem to be at least some support in the historical record for Mom Rinker's actions as spy; one on-line article notes that American General John Armstrong wrote:
Molly Rinker scaled these impossible cliffs like a ghost in the mist and found out the hideabouts of those red-coated scoundrels. I remain convinced that without this brave women surely we of 300 men strong were doomed that day.
Whether or not it's strictly true, the story of Mom Rinker illustrates an essential truth about women.  Even when men try to relegate women to a narrow role in society, strong, smart, persistent women nevertheless find a way to contribute.  If a capable and intelligent woman wants to help with the war effort, but gets patted on the head and told "Just knit stockings for the troops," she doesn't let it stop there.  While she's sitting there knitting on the top of the cliff, she figures out a way to pass on valuable intelligence to the army to help win the battle.  (And she probably ended up knitting a lot of stockings for the troops, too--most smart, strong women I know are consummate multitaskers.) 

So today, we celebrate all of the smart, capable, strong and persistent women of history, who refused to be defined by someone else's idea of what they could do. Your knitting may not inspire you to become a spy for your country, but it probably does make you feel capable, productive, and give you a sense of accomplishment -- or maybe it provides a badly-needed break from the stresses of the other things you do in your life. And with every stitch you take, you are following in a long line of women who used two sticks and some string to help clothe their family, create items to sell to help pay the rent, or let their creativity flourish on a palette of knitted fabric.

In celebration of all that knitting does for us, STC is giving away a free E-book copy of the A Knitter's Home Companion by Michelle Edwards.  Leave a comment telling how knitting (or other crafts) help empower you and we'll pick a random commenter to win.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Summer Search Raffle Winners!

It's hard for me to express how moved I am by the support of the Go Knit In Your Hat community.  You helped raise a whopping total of $1155 for Philadelphia's Summer Search nonprofit.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  You are helping some deserving teenagers stay in high school and go on to college, and your gift will have a lasting impact on their lives. I heard from Summer Search and they are beyond thrilled.  In fact, my contact there sent me an email that said simply  "Knitters rock!"

While Nana was here to see Little Miss's thespian premiere as a fork in Beauty & the Beast

I put her to work drawing names for the prize winners.

(See how seriously she took her responsibilities? There was no "monkey business," as she would say.)

So without further ado, here are the prize winners:

1.  Signed copy of Wendy Knits Lace:  Jill W.
2.  StephCat pattern selection: Barbara H.
3.  BBF yarn package:  Terry D.
4.  Puff the Magic Rabbit roving:  Janet L.
5.  BBF spinner's package: Barbara H.
6.  Hunter Hammersen's upcoming book:  Kathy K.
7.  A signed advance copy of my new book:  Shaz
8. Knitted accessory by Somebunnyslove:  Terry D.
9. Patterns by Leana:  Kelly J.
10.  Patterns from Lady Wyvern:  Julie Sch.
11. Ancient Arts goodies:  Molly T.B.
12.  Webs gift cert:  Sharon F.
13. Loop yarn and pattern: Laurel W.
14. Universal kit:  Molly T.B.
15.  Gardiner Yarnworks Patterns:  Bonnie B-G
16.  Knit Circus gift:  Allison K.
17.  Barb Brown's Knitting KneeHighs book:  Bonnie B-G
18.  Fine Line book:  Jennifer L.

Prize winners:  I am going to contact you within the next day to confirm your shipping info. The prizes will be coming directly from the donators, so it make take a little bit of time for us to get everything coordinated. Prize donors: as soon as I have shipping info, I will email you.  

Congrats to all of the prize winners!  To those who did not win a prize, you still are winners in my book since you helped a very worthy nonprofit keep doing its good work. And to all of the wonderful folks who donated prizes, thank YOU so much for making this happen.

Again, it's hard for me to verbalize how much your warmth and support mean to me. I know times are tough for many of you, and I greatly appreciate every penny of every contribution.