A Call to arms. Err… Needles.

I have recently returned to using public transportation to commute to work. I enjoy it for multiple reasons: It’s good for the environment, it’s economical, I never have to worry about rush-hour traffic, it’s fairly stress-free, and I get more exercise walking to and from the station each day. My favorite part of my commute though, is the time I get to spend knitting or reading on the train. I have to sit there anyway; I may as well be doing something I enjoy.

Socks are my favorite travel project: they are small, easy to put down and pick up again, and don’t require a pattern for plain ones once you’ve got a “recipe” you like. I’ve been working on a pair since starting this new job a week and a half ago. I usually knit two at a time using magic loop, and this morning as I was finishing the heel on the 1st one I realised that I probably knit them a bit too small for my own feet. It’s hard to take off your shoes to try them on as you go if you’re riding public transportation. And really, who wants to be the lady taking her shoes off on the train? It’s bad enough being the weird woman with pointy sticks.

I needed to come up with someone to send these to once they’re done. I could send them to my boys; they’re likely to fit one or both of them, but I’d need to send two pair in order to be fair. I thought about how it’s too bad the Red Cross doesn’t ask people to knit socks for troops any more, and then I thought about the Occupy movement’s protesters. Specifically the protesters who are occupying a public park in Denver with no shelter, sitting under blankets in the snow. They could certainly use some warm wool socks. Some hats and mittens too.

There’s a group on Ravelry, and on Facebook with details on where to send donations for the occupiers.  I’m not able to leave my work and join them myself, but I can show some support and solidarity with the occupiers by knitting them something to keep them warm, especially in the colder parts of the country like Boston, New York, or Chicago.   They are working to change the imbalance of power in the US.   For me, the occupy movement isn’t about a redistribution of wealth, but of redressing the power imbalance we have in the political and justice systems.   When a corporation has more rights and protections in the law and more influence over law and policy than I have as an individual, I become the 99%.  I can’t stand with the occupiers, but I can send them toasty warm socks to stand in.

I would encourage all my knitter friends (and we are an amazing community) to knit for the 99% as well, if you are so inclined.  If you can’t knit, or join the movement, you can donate here.

Edit:  It’s not just socks that are needed.  Warm hats, which are quicker to knit, are also needed.  Scarves, mittens/gloves, anything that can help people stay warm when they’re exposed to the elements.   The Boston Occupy movement has asked for 99 hats by Dec 2nd.  There’s a Free hat pattern here designed by Naomi Parkhurst specifically for the Ocupy movement.  She only asks that if you use this pattern, you donate something to your local Occupy:  knitted goods, food, books, money, first aid supplies, etc.



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Links with the past

I little while ago, my Mom shared some Diary entries made by my Great great grandmother Annie Johanna Davis (née Vilhemlsen).  She was born in Frederickstad, Norway  and during her lifetime emigrated to the US and settled in St Johns, AZ.   She also loved knitting, and her diary excerpts really make me wish I’d had a chance to meet this amazing woman:

William Davis and Annie Johanna Davis

Annie Johanna Davis and William Davis

As a young lady-
“My father was a good ship’s carpenter and he turned out to be a number one farmer, also. He grew all kinds of the finest vegetables in the rich soil which was as black as coal.”
“My only brother and I worked right along on the farm. Father made mother a loom and spinning wheel. Because our sheep began to increase we had quite a lot of wool, and as I got older I had to work at spinning it. I surely had to spin a lot all through my girlhood days. I have spun hundreds of pounds of yarn.”

I wondered which type of wool she spun on her spinning wheel. I’ve been spinning some Norwegian long-wool recently, which was very different from the shorter-staple wools I started spinning with. The first bit I spun too tightly & ended up with some twine. The trick with longer wools is to spin it more loosely to keep it soft. Not sure if it’s the same wool Annie spun, but I’m pleased that I’ve learned a skill she mastered when the was young.

Longwool Norwegian spinning

The Norwegian Longwool I've been spinning

As a mother-
“When the World War (WW 1)broke out all of my sons were married, so they were exempted from being called, but I tried to do my part. When the order came to the Red Cross to start knitting socks I got busy, as I loved to knit. I knit forty-eight pairs and had the yarn ready to knit two more pairs, because I wanted to knit the fifty pairs, but the order came to the Red Cross to stop knitting because they were swamped back there with socks. So it was stopped, but I did not stop, but started to knit scarves for all my sons wives and my two daughter and myself.”
“I knitted two jackets and fixed up a box of children’s clothes for the poor Belgian children. I did what I could for the cause. All those mothers that gave their sons, they gave all. It was a terrible thing.”
“After the war was over I had a chance to get some nice yarn that came from the mill ends from the Brussels Carpet Factory. There was some very short ends, the longest was five yards, but very little of that length. Some were only a few inches long but I sewed every piece together with needle and thread. Then I wound it in skeins and washed it. Then I started to knit me a large cloak which has brought me two premiums (county and state fairs) and is the admiration of all. I have knitted myself a jacket and scarf.”

I love that she knit so many pairs of socks that the red Cross asked her to stop. I think she could have been a member of sock knitters anonymous.

I’ve been curious what kind of yarn join you would use a needle and thread with. When I started knitting, I never joined my yarn, just added a new ball at the beginning of a row. I ended up with some long ends for weaving in that way and probably wasted a lot of yarn. Then I learned about spit-splicing, which was great except for when I was using superwash wool. Spit-splicing only works if you’re using a felt-able yarn.

The only join I know of that you use a needle for is a Russian Join.  Which is now my favorite way to join two ends of yarn.   I’m currently knitting a capelet using 50g balls of DK-weight yarn. About 70% of these balls of yarn have a knot somewhere in the middle of them, so I’ve been doing a lot of russian joins while I’ve been knitting. Nowhere near as many joins as Annie Johana did when knitting her cloak, but more than I’ve had to use in any other project so far. It’s pretty easy with practice:

russina join

You'll need two ends of yarn and one tapestry needle.

Thread the needle with one end. Loop it back on itself, around the other end.

Weave the needle through the plies of the yarn. Then, draw through the end.

Thread the tapestry needle with the other end, and loop it back on itself, weaving through the plies once more.

The join is complete, and can be knit as normal.

The dangly ends can be cut off after it's been knit.

The join is hard to identify from the right side of the knitted fabric.

Maybe someday I’ll learn how to join yarn ends using a needle and thread like my great great grandmother did, but for now, the Russian join will do.


Filed under Vintage, Yarn

Giving hand-spinning a whorl

I suppose it was only a natural progression really.  I started knitting to have something to do on the bus, then again to have a reason to get out of the house and meet new people when I moved to a different country and knew no one.  I started experiencing the joy of knitting with fine yarn: kid mohair and silk and springy merino.  I started accumulating gorgeously hand-dyed yarns and knitting with them.  Then, I started dying my own yarn.

Now, I’m making my own yarn.  It’s kind of amazing.  What really amazes me, especially when I look at how thick and thin and uneven my spinning is, is that every woven or knit item made before the invention of the spinning wheel (in the 1400s AD) was spun by hand on a spindle of some sort.   All the clothes people wore, the sheets on their beds, the sacking to hold grain, the sails that carried explorers across oceans; all of these things were created by hand one string at a time.

I’ve been learning on a Turkish Spindle with a bundle of combed, pre-dyed Blue Faced Leicester wool:

Turkish spindle and unspun blue faced leicester wool

turkish spindle with spun wool

Turkish spindle. The purple stuff is un-spun Blue faced Leicester dyed roving

It’s handy because you can take it apart and it leaves a nice, neat little ball of spun wool behind.  Here it is getting ready to spin (not coordinated enough to be able to spin it AND take pictures):

turkish spindle ready for spinning

The half-hitch at the top is what makes it so the spin carries up into the yarn & the unspun wool in your hands.

Here is a picture of my completed yarn after I spun it, and then plied it (spinning the singles back on themselves to help balance the twist).  It’s uneven and not quite my favorite colors but I love it tremendously because I made it.  I think it’ll make a nice hat:

hand spun yarn

It's all kinds of lovely, isn't it?

I’m sure in the natural progression of things I’m going to end up owning a flock of sheep, from which I will collect the raw wool, clean it, process it, card it, spin it, and then end up with a wearable garment.

Until that happens, I’ll keep honing my skills.  When the zombie apocalypse comes, I’ll make you all nice, warm hats out of homespun wool.  Unless the zombies are sheep zombies. Then, maybe it’ll be out of alpaca.


Filed under Uncategorized

Little boys and fiber arts

I have to admit, my two boys are pretty awesome people to begin with.  They have amazing senses of humor, enormous hearts, and love doing crafty things.

A few months ago, I knit up some sock blanks with some undyed sock yarn I had.   I knit them up with the yarn held doubled, into great white squares of wool.  Then, I mixed some food coloring and critic acid with some warm water and put them into little squeeze bottles, and let my kids at it.   These are what they came up with:

One son likes Blue.

The other likes Green

They had a great time dying the sock blanks with the food coloring , and some koolaid (the bright green is koolaid).   And then, I started making them some socks.

The beauty of knitting from sock blanks is that you don’t have to worry about winding it into a ball;  you can unravel it as you knit the socks:

See the stripes? 😀 My son was clever and left some whitespace for the striping.

Here are some close-ups of the stripes:

Blue and Green make Aquamarine!

green and green

Green and Green make.... green?

And here they are all finished up:


Lovely socks, aren't they?

My son told me “All socks should feel like this!” when he put them on.  I’ve got a little handknit-sock convert on my hands.   Of course, I’m willing to teach him how to knit socks.   I think he might be willing to learn how.  He started learning it in school, because he wanted to do something that his Mom did.   He started making a scarf for his Step-Mom, which is a pretty big step for a first project.

There’s still a pretty big stereotype out there that only old ladies knit,  or that it’s girly.  I don’t think it is, really.  There are men who knit.  I’ve met some of them.  Some even crochet.  My son’s best friend crochets.  That’s at least two 11-year-old boys who don’t see anything wrong with being able to make something with sticks (or hooks) and string.

Also, my other son, while we were at Grandma’s house, saw her stacks of fabric and told me he wanted to sew something because “sewing is my thing”.  He made himself a nice little tote bag with racecars all over it while we were there.  I wish I’d taken a picture of it.  He did a fantastic job of it.  🙂


Filed under Yarn

I’m back.

I haven’t blogged since I left England and my job and my husband and most of my yarn stash to fly across the ocean and establish myself once again in the US.

I could make up excuses like “I didn’t have internet access.” or “I was so busy I didn’t have the time.” or “my fingers were broken by a stampede of wild horses and they’ve only just healed.” But every single one of those things would be a lie.

And, my dear readers (hi mom), I don’t want to lie to you. The truth is that I have been waiting. I’m waiting to have something related to what I’ve normally been blogging about to… blog about. The problem with this is that my life is completely upside down. I can’t wait for what I normally blog about because my life isn’t what it was.

I spent two months with my Mom and 5 weeks with my kids. I enjoyed every moment of it. I underestimated how burny the sun gets and got the worst sunburn since I was 13. I took pictures of horse riding lessons, and made up stories at night and I drove 3700 miles, 1800 of those with two children in the car. My first 900 mile journey was epic, driving past tornadoes and across burning plains and through snowy mountain passes (yes, in June) all with no AC, and a leaking power-steering reservoir which I kept having to top up from the case of power steering fluid in my trunk.

I had my family supporting me and offering me shelter and food and the car out of their driveway. There really is no better way to know you are loved than having family there, making sure you’re ok any way they can. I saw my brothers and sisters, and caught up with them and their lives. I met my niece for the first time since she was born. She’s two and I never saw her ’till this summer.

I’ve moved to a completely new city on the hope that the job market there is better than anywhere else for my field. I’m living on the last few dollars I’d brought with me from my job in the UK while looking for work. I’ve moved into a houseshare with three other women while I get myself a job which will show the USCIS that my husband will not be sponging off the government when they approve his Greencard.

I have been busy, really. My new housemate tonight lent me her copy of Julie & Julia, which I had never seen before. I have to say that it’s rather inspiring. It makes me want to take what I’m passionate about and make it my life, like Julia Child did. I don’t know if I can pay the bills that way though, or the child support, or make enough to satisfy Immigration services, or pay for the health benefits we all need.

So, my little pipe-dreams of dying yarn in my kitchen and selling it online will have to wait a bit until I can do this as a hobby. So will my pattern design ideas. I still have them sketched out in my notebook, and when I am ready to complete them, I will.  In the meantime, I must do grownup things, and just play with yarn to keep myself from going completely nuts while waiting for companies to get back to me after my interviews.

Tomorrow, I’ll blog about the sock blanks my kids dyed.  🙂 (and I really will this time, because… I’m back baby!)

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Filed under life change, Planning, Uncategorized

Packing it in

I have spent the past couple of days trying to fit the contents of my life into bags and boxes and suitcases.

I’ve never really been one to compartmentalize things; my jewelry exists in various places, sharing space with my toiletries, my hair doo-dads, and other bits that tend to accumulate on horizontal surfaces. I’ve had jewelry boxes before. I even have one now. It’s got a place to live, I’m just never any good at putting it back there after I’ve used it.

So, I’ve been scraping corners and sifting the contents of closets and table tops and tote bags. I’ve been packing all my yarn into space bags, sucking out the air and compacting them so they’ll fit in my ginormous suitcase. I’ve been sorting through my books, deciding which books are postage-rate worthy and which I’ll be ok with not shipping across the ocean and half a continent.

I’ve planned out which projects I’ll take on the plane, and which to pack away in the suitcases (Bringing a lace wrap to work on if they don’t confiscate my knitting needles at security, and some crochet to work on if they do).

I’ve been taking the opportunity to prune out clothes that don’t fit or are worn out. I’m throwing out toiletries that I don’t use and wont. Even with all of this, I’ve run out of bags and boxes to pack my things into. I’m not even taking household items; only my hobby bits, clothes, shoes, books, and toiletries/makeup. Still somehow need to pack my coats in something. I may have to use the gigantic box that the Beatle’s Rock Band stuff came in.

Part of me just feels like leaving it all; after it’s only stuff. The most important bits of my life are waiting for me at home, and I could never find a suitcase big enough to take them with me. 🙂


Filed under Planning, Uncategorized


So, here’s what happens when you sign up for 4 different swaps that are going on all at the same time:

General Mayhem and Major Panic launch an all out offensive on your free time and peace of mind.

What is a swap, you ask?  I’m not sure if it’s something that’s kind of particular to Ravelry or not, but basically, you sign up, you’re assigned a partner (either secret or not), you fill out a questionnaire, read their questionnaire and then put together a package for the other person to receive in the mail. It’s a way of getting to know a bit about someone else from somewhere else in the world, to make something, buy things just for that person, and then get a package yourself that was put together with you in mind.

Before I’d decided I was moving, I signed up for 4 swaps: a book and yarn swap, a color-based swap, a friend event swap, and a Lost-based swap.

The book and yarn swap was just supposed to be a used paperback and some yarn, so not too much of a stretch. There was some poring over my bookshelf though, trying to pick the right book to send on. My literary tastes are not everyone’s. Also, the yarn my assigned swap partner most knits with is thick, chunky yarn. I mostly have thinner, lacier yarns in my stash. I ordered some yarn for her online, but it took so long to get here that I ended up going through my stash and picking out some aran-weight yarn that I’d forgotten I had. The package was still sent a few days late.

Then, it didn’t get there for three more weeks! I was truly panicking. When I was a teenager, we’d have secret swap things at summer camp. I could never afford anything nice (or really anything at all) to give my secret swap partner, and was always too embarrassed to tell the organizers I couldn’t get them anything. The person who I was assigned to would end up empty-handed, and I hated how awful I’d make them feel. I was so worried that this would happen again that I sent out another book with some yarn for my book and yarn partner. I just couldn’t let someone else down again. Fortunately, the first packaged arrived just after I’d sent the 2nd. So she gets two books and even more yarn! 🙂

She asked if there was anything I’d like sent over from Germany, and I remembered how tasty the Aachener Printen was when I visited Aachen to see the Aachenal Dome a few years ago. She sent me three baggies full, and they arrived today!

Now, I just have to put the other three swap packages together. The Friend Event deadline isn’t until 21st June, but I want to get it sent before I move. The Color Swap deadline is the 1st June. the Lost swap package needs to be sent before the finale this weekend.

Only three of the swaps were to include a handmade item;  and I finished the lace scarf I knit for the Friend Event swap a couple of weeks ago.  Over the weekend I completed the lace shawl I knit for the Color Swap, and I’m furiously trying to finish up the last couple Dharma Initiative Logo dishcloths I’m making for the Lost swap. I’ve got the extras I ordered online (thankyou, cafepress!). I just need to finish the dishcloths, add some goodies and get this out the door to my swap partner.

The term, swappiness, is one used in Linux particularly.  It’s a parameter you can change on your operating system to move processes from the physical memory (RAM) to the virtual memory (SWAP partition).   More swappiness = processes get moved to the disk earlier.  Less swappiness = processes stay in memory longer. It’s better to keep processes in physical memory longer because reading and writing to disks is much slower than reading and writing to physical memory.  But you have to have balance.  If there are too many processes for the memory to handle it can slow down the whole thing, so moving some process to disk gives it the space to be able to complete it all, eventually.

I’ve got too much swappiness I think.  I’ve got too many processes going right now, and I have to juggle too much I’m doing right now, with all my apples up in the air.  Or all my processes grinding down my hard disk.

Well, there you go.  I’ll bet you never expected a technical analogy on a knitting blog.  I’m going to get back to my hopelessly overcommitted swap-making now.


Filed under Uncategorized, Yarn