This month’s knitting project went to a young mother (the niece of a friend) who is undergoing chemo at UCSF. I haven’t met her, but boy, was I glad to do something useful.
At Land’s End
This is the view from Land’s End School in San Francisco, whose views are under appreciated by the sippy-cup set. Here’s a view of the hats I’m donating to their auction for my March charity knitting project:
It’s a school with a long history of community support. 30+ years ago, a group of VA employees who were passionate about on-site childcare held bake sales an to raise the money to establish a childcare center on campus. They cared about their kids, but also about my kid, who would attend years later, and the kids who are attending now. I can’t imagine all the hurdles they went through. That’s a lot of brownies.
Many good things have happened since my son attended - there’s a new building, a new name, and expansion to serve children in the community. But the views, the legacy of its founders, and the commitment of the staff to high-quality childcare continue, making it a special place for kids, their parents, and the VA community. After all, my son could voice his fervent desire for “his own nursing home” at age 4. What’s not to like?
Let’s raise our glasses to the people who make preschools, and school auctions, happen. Depending on your time in life, be grateful it’s not you running the auction. Buy some stuff for a school, or bake some brownies. It’s a good tradition.
My kind of new year's resolution is made late and doesn't involve gluten, tidying-up, or vague intentions to watch better quality TV . It involves knitting (naturally) and charities that can use lovingly-made hats from Ocean Beach Knits.
My goal: Donate knitwear and a modest sums of cash to one new charity a month, and be inspired by the great work being done in the world.
San Francisco Homeless Prenatal has been helping stabilize new families for 25 years, offering prenatal and parenting support, wellness services, and practical help and counseling to homeless and low-income families.
Tools for viking knit, and the finished bracelet.
Turns out that vikings, in addition to sailing and getting ready for operas, also liked to knit. Or at least knit things that they could turn into weapons, but we'll ignore that. Here are the highlights of a class at knitting camp where I learned the ancient technique of viking knit.
First you wrap wire around a dowel to make a bracelet-y thing.
And then you have the fun of pulling it through the holes in the board. Just like a talented third grader, but with sharp tools.
And after some practice, you can make things like this. At least, that's my my teacher says.
Learn more about viking knit here
We love weddings! To celebrate the wonderful news from the Supreme Court, all profits from the sale of rainbow hats will go to Open House in San Francisco, which is building the country's largest affordable housing that is specifically welcoming to LGBT seniors. You can find rainbow hats at Local Take in the Castro, or right here at Ocean Beach Knits.
Even crafty types might pause at the idea of knitting a wedding dress, and it seems to require both skill and nerve. In honor of June brides everywhere, here are my favorite examples of extreme nuptial knitting.
Bride Lydia Pears designed and knit this dress in less than 4 months, putting in over 100,000 stitches using lace weight yarn.
Here's a close-up of the amazing detail.
A less successful example, although in all fairness, I think it's crocheted.
Beautiful, but it looks hot.
Is it love, or is it macrame?
And a lovely dress from the 1950s. I wonder if the bride did her own knitting?
Wildcare Rescue has started its 2015 baby bird nest campaign. Washable knitted nests (just like hats) are ideal for keeping these orphaned birds warm and cozy. Patterns are easy and a great stash-buster.
Happy Lunar New Year! Knitters everywhere can be inspired by the industrious sheep in this Japanese New Year's Stamp. The sheep on the left started a scarf in 2003, and has it finished it in 2015. Time for the 2023 sweater?
My grandmother had this 1940s nativity set from Woolworth's, and in her 80s decided to improve upon things by making Jesus a blanket. When I got my own vintage nativity set, I wanted to carry on this fine tradition.
Holiday purists, rejoice! You can now feast on a post-Thanksgiving breakfast of pie, listen to Christmas carols, and indulge in secret viewings of "A Very Merry Mix Up." Children of all ages will enjoy their own Santa Hat, which you can enjoy at a Black Friday price of 20% off.
Eggnog for lunch, anyone?
During both world wars, civilians of all ages were urged to knit their bit by providing socks, sweaters, and helmet warmers for men and women who were serving abroad. Knitting offered warmth and a bit of home for soldiers, and provided a sense of usefulness and distraction for those on the home front.
First lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who blazed a trail for all of us by knitting during meetings, could often be found knitting for the troops.
Today, some soldiers have found comfort and purpose in knitting during deployment. I loved this story about Staff Sergeant John Sorich, who taught members of his bemused Army unit to knit during a tour of Iraq.
I love dogs, and odd charity knitting, and today's news alert features a heartfelt appeal from the UK to knit snoods and jumpers for chilly dogs. “If you’re a dab hand with knitting needles we would love you to support our Great Doggy Knit Off and donate items for rescue dogs without a home,” said Catherine Foster, head of fundraising at Jerry Green Dog Rescue.
If you want to knit your dog its own snood, you can find a free pattern at here at Ravelry
Our knitting group was growing restless. We were planning our annual pilgrimage to knitting camp at St. Dorothy's Rest and our teacher had ambitious plans we didn't share. "We want to knit big garter stitch scarves and sit around and drink wine," we told our teacher. "Don't make us think too much."
She had a plan - something that sounded hard, but was actually easy and fun. We were going to learn nuno felting, which is the process of felting roving, or unspun yarn, onto fabric. We assembled outside on the deck overlooking the redwood forest, and gathered our supplies of silk scarves, colorful roving, sponges, soapy water, and bubble wrap. Somewhat alarmingly, we were given PVC pipes.
Was there going to be some sort of fiber rumble out in the trees? No, it was just part of the physical work of getting the roving to adhere to the silk. We laid out our scarves on top of the bubble wrap, then made interesting patters with the roving. We wetted the roving with sponges and water. and then rolled the whole thing around the PVC pipe.
Then came the part where I felt like I was in some sort of crafting olympics. We took our rolled up bundles and then simulated the action of a washing machine when your favorite sweater accidentally turns into an garment fit for a doll. We rolled our PVC pipes. A lot. Soon we had knitters aggressively rolling their scarf-covered pipes on the deck with their arms, lying on top of the pipe (my favorite), and ultimately, using the pipe as an impromptu foot massager.
For the final step, we separated our scarves from the PVC pipe, made sure the felted bits had properly adhered, and then put the scarf in a plastic bag and whacked it against the deck. This makes the scarf pucker, and made us feel like knitting toughs.
Here's my scarf:
Afterwards, overcome with the novel experience of combining fiber arts and exercise, we rested and planned our s'mores strategy.
Teacher does know best.
Visit the amazing Thea Gray's website for more information about knitting camp.
Have you ever picked up a skein of yarn and then put it down again because of the price? And then kept walking back to pat the yarn because it was so beautiful? After laps around my local yarn store, I finally plunked down the $32 for this yarn, and promptly fell in love.
This yarn is a dream - elegant, soft, with great stitch definition and a beautiful, subtle color variegation that’s interesting to watch as it knits up. It’s 100% certified organic wool, and it’s spun and hand-dyed in Maine using traditional dyeing techniques.
Some yarns are so fun to knit with that the project can feel like a happy afterthought. Swan’s Island Organic Wool works well in a simple design so the beauty of the yarn can take center stage. It’s pictured here in Maize.
I started knitting hats for the neonatal unit at San Francisco General Hospital after a nurse contacted me about some free yarn I’d posted on Craigslist. She asked if I had any spare baby hats. Did I ever! Over the years, I’ve roped my friends and colleagues into knitting along with me. My friend Helen cranks out hats when she’s not doing Important Doctor Things out in Boston. Here’s a preemie hat i just finished, knit in my favorite blend of extra fine merino wool, silk and cashmere.
What are your favorite charities?
Fans of Barbara Walker’s stitch dictionaries will be delighted to discover the newly-published book Up, Down and All Around Stitch Dictionary by Wendy Bernard. This book stands out because she has “translated” stitch patterns so they can be worked flat or in the round.
Both beginning and advanced knitters will appreciate the clear directions for simple and more complex stitches. The book is organized into seven groups of patterns including lace and cables with a useful chapter on edges and hems.
The book has some issues - the spiral binding makes the pages lay flat, but the pages get caught in the rings. The author made some unfortunate color choices in the photos, and it can be difficult to see some of the stitches clearly.
Still, I think the book has a place in any serious knitter’s library. In particular, the final section includes nuggets like stitch pattern substitutions and a very comprehensive key to those mysterious symbols used in charted patterns.
I found my copy at Bookshop West Portal which has an amazing collection of knitting books and has been the gracious host of my knitting group for many fun-filled years. Drop in if you're in the neighborhood - we meet every other Wednesday from 7-9 pm.
On a recent trip to Eureka, I stopped by Northcoast Knittery, and found this amazing gadget on the yarn bar. (And how great is a yarn bar? You can try out various yarns and needles and they encourage you to write reviews.)
I hate to purl, but when I tried their Wool Tree, it kept the tension even and even purling became a snap. These locally-made platforms are like a lazy susan for your yarn ball. At $49, it can feel a bit pricey, but it’s made of maple (or walnut) and manufactured in America. It does seem to work best with skeins that are cone-shaped.
It’s nice to see Northcoast Knittery doing so well. They’re moving to a much larger space, and I look forward to new discoveries like the Wool Tree on my next trip.