Spin to Knit ebook + Library Journal YAY

Interweave has made my book Spin to Knit available as an ebook! See here.

My publishing company Cooperative Press got an unexpected (and VERY exciting) honor this week when Alasdair Post-Quinn’s book Extreme Double Knitting made it onto Library Journal’s best fiber crafts books of 2011 list.

If you were participating in NaKniSweMo this year, don’t forget to post a photo of your finished sweater in this thread to be eligible for prizes!

Spindolyns, hybrid knitting, machine-knit socks?

In response to a recent question from someone who saw my Knitty Gritty spinning episode (hi Amy!) — the supported spindle I’m using on the show is a Spindolyn. You may recognize the photo on the top of the Spindolyn page from Spin to Knit — that’s Catherine, one of the featured spinners in the book, and the creator of the Spindolyn. You might also be interested in her re-released Pleasant Spindle if you’re on the lookout for a supported spindle. I love my Spindolyn!

When I went to her site to link the right page here, I noticed an interesting post on Catherine’s blog about “hybrid knitting.” The sad but true part of knitting for a living is that you eventually need to learn to use a knitting machine to get through the big, bad blocks of stockinette and other time-consuming things in order to produce enough work to meet magazine deadlines, book deadlines, etc etc.

I have a few knitting machines, although to be honest I’m still fairly unskilled in using them, and usually end up crying for help. My shop co-owner Heidi is a knitting machine genius, so she generally draws the short straw there! So I’ve been talking to another local knitting machine guru about putting on a conference for newer designers sometime near Columbus TNNA on using machines in their work.

I say “newer designers” for a reason: those who have been in the business since the 80s or early 90s when it was much easier to get your hands on a good knitting machine — let alone learn how to use it properly — have more experience with the machines, and therefore a distinct advantage! The current crop of designers don’t have machine knitting experience, for the most part, Marnie excepted, she’s got a sweet Silver Reed.

Back to the idea of hybrid knitting: combining machine- and handknitting. This is something I can get behind. I don’t see it becoming widespread among non-designers, if only because the big machines are pricy and of limited use to the average knitter. But I heard some rumbles at TNNA that lead me to believe a sock-related knitting machine might be on the way, and if it’s priced well, can you imagine how that would take off? (And with it, hybrid knitting). Imagine being able to crank out the bottom portion of a sock and then spend extra time and love on the fancy patterns for the top, for example.

Don’t ask me what information leads me to guess about a sock knitting machine on the way. None of it was obvious enough for me to outright assert that’s what’s going on, and I wouldn’t want to implicate anyone in particular in case it is true and they get accused of letting the cat out of the bag (which he or she did not). However, I’ve got a pretty good track record for predicting things like this, based on fairly oblique comments or bits of data.

You heard it here first, if it’s true.
If it’s not — well, come on, companies — get on it!

I love YARN

Well, duh. But I’m referring to the Australian knitting magazine in this particular instance. Their April issue featured my favorite review of Spin to Knit yet. Some ultra-fabulous quotes from it:

Remember having driving lessons with your parents? For a knitter taking up spinning, Shannon Okey is more like your laid-back aunt. She doesn’t bother much with telling you the right way to do it; instead, she gives you the basics, hands you the keys to her (manual-shift) car and lets you get on the road. She knows nothing will teach you like experience.

True, that. Because seriously, unless I am there in person hanging over you with an exceptionally pointy and serious-looking spindle, you are never going to learn as much as you do when you just try.

Spin to Knit is never a dry technical manual, however. Okey often uses quite
vivid language to evoke hands-on concepts that are difficult to get from print. (She describes Andean plying, for example, as ‘looking like you’re dancing the hula from the elbow down’.)

And in my case, preferable to actual hula dancing. Really.

By simply demonstrating the joy to be had in spinning, Okey will probably do
more to build a new generation of spinners than any dedicated manual could.

(I’m tearing up, YARN. I’m actually sobbing now. Thanks. Now where’s my tissues? The only other review to actually get me teary-eyed was one my friend — and Top 500 Amazon reviewer — Rob wrote about Spin to Knit. What can I say? I love that book like a human kid!)

Seriously. That YARN review made my day. And when I looked on the website, I found out it was the same issue Sivia is in, so of course I had to order one. What’s with me & Australia this month? We just got in a big order of handbag supplies from there, too.

Spinner’s Quarterly, not to be outdone, said about Spin to Knit:

Reading this 128-paged book is like having author Shannon Okey give me a cup of tea, look me in the eye, and spell spinning out for me. She uses technical vocabulary with simple definitions that I can apply to the spinning I have already done, with an eye to making progress with my future spinning. The focus of the book goes beyond basic spinning techniques, encompassing spinning tools as well as troubleshooting common problems.

I am more likely to give you a cup of tea than poke you with a Punishment Spindle, that’s true. In fact, I’m agitating for a tea shop to go in next door to mine. Quoting the handsome and wise Rupert Giles (Buffy’s Watcher, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), who has been caught drinking coffee during a crisis: “Tea is soothing. I wish to be tense.”

So — pull up a chair, a cup of tea and a phone this afternoon for The Knitgrrl Show with Lily Chin — call in, IM a question, we’ll chat with you at 5:00 Eastern.

I lichen tweed a lot!

After a weekend spent devouring Seasons on Harris: A Year in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, I was compelled to order some insanely beautiful tweed and matching knitting yarn from Harris Tweed and Knitwear, along with the biography of traditional weaver Marion Campbell, a member of the family who runs the site.

In Seasons on Harris, the author describes how the Campbells used lichen (more specifically members of the Parmelia genus, known as “crotal” by Scottish dyers and weavers) to achieve traditional wool colors. If you’ve got my book Spin to Knit, turn to page 90. See that orchid purple? That was dyed with a New England lichen that grow on granite. But the Scottish dyers have us beat: check out this Wikipedia entry on traditional dyes of the Scottish Highlands, this site on Scottish lichens or this page of Scottish plant bibliographical references, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds. For example:

Clothing dyed with crottle lichen dyes (those that yield red-browns in boiling water) has some interesting traditions attached to it. It seems that, as the lichen is associated with the earth, it was considered a good idea to wear socks dyed with crottle if undertaking a long journey on foot. However, if crottle dyed garments were worn by sailors, it was thought that they might bring bad luck, or if the sailor / fisherman drowned, his body would never be recovered — anyone wearing crottle dyed garment sinks like a stone and “What comes from the rocks returns to the rocks.”

The quote above is from one D. MacIntyre’s 1999 University of Edinburgh master’s thesis, “The role of Scottish native plants in natural dyeing and textiles.” Wow.

When I was in Toronto last fall, Kim and I visited the Textile Museum of Canada, where I purchased a copy of Lichen Dyes: The New Source Book. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet but now I am itching to run out into the forest and look for lichens, then follow Abby’s tweed directions for blending the resulting fiber colors.

And while we’re at it, when am I just going to break down and buy Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland? For those of you who didn’t know this, I was once a grad student who specialized in medieval history, so it’s very easy for me to geek out on this stuff. Once a grad student, always a grad student.

But on to the yarn! the glorious yarn! This is what I ordered — tweed at left, matching yarn at right — look at the yummy blue flecks!

I have serious fiber excitement going on here, making plans for a classic-yet-kicky tweed skirt and a heavily-cabled cardigan on top. I had to restrain myself on the handknit kilt hose. Seriously. Sitting on my coffee table right now is the catalog of another Scottish yarn-and-fabric manufacturer that puts chills down my spine, because I’ve got plans for kits. (Then you all can geek out tweedily with me and I won’t feel so alone).


I have to tell you, I’m really excited about Lynne Vogel’s book The Twisted Sisters Knit Sweaters: A Knit-to-Fit Workshop (more on the book here). It’s out this fall and I can hardly wait. Lynne recently did a three-way dye-along with Pam and Sandy (check out the sleeves Sandy’s knitting for a denim jacket right now — yum!), which was really interesting. Here was their plan:

We chose three stock colors (Sabraset Scarlet, ProChem Washfast Acid (PW for short) Bright Orange and PW Ivy) that we would all use plus one extra of our own choosing. My extra color was PW Brilliant Violet. Even though we started with the same colors we decided we could mix or dilute them to our liking. We’ll swap, spin and knit from these, blogging along as we go. We were interested in seeing how different our stuff could get using the same materials.

We did something similar to this in Lynne’s workshop, the one that I photographed for Spin To Knit. (What? You think I could just stand there and not play along? Are you mad?!) Using one dyed roving, we experimented with drafting and dividing it in different ways, plying it, not plying it, etc etc. This reminds me: I should take more time to experiment.

Usually, I don’t divide up the roving so much, I just predraft it a little and spin from the broad color bands. Last week at Natasha’s, she commented on my spinning style while I was checking out her Lendrum. Nice wheel, but it makes me nervous, the way it looms forward at you… anyway, she said she divides up her rovings into pencil-y strips before spinning. Interesting how we all have different methods, yes? I’m vowing to myself that I’ll spin differently the next few times I do. It’s good to get out of your rut… ahem “comfort zone.”

I’m a little choked up right now

A friend and former coworker of mine is a Top 100 reviewer on Amazon — he is also probably the bane of our public library system’s existence, given that he’s generally got dozens upon dozens of books on order at any given time. He reviews his [expletive deleted] off, my friends.

Like any proud book-mama in this digital age, I occasionally peek in on my “children” at Amazon (and any author who claims not to is flat-out lying), only to find that he’s written a review of Spin to Knit. A really, really touching one, for that matter.

And now I’m all verklempt. Of course, that may be 2+ days worth of Irish food mauling my stomach, it’s hard to tell.

Faux Fair Isle sweater from Spin to Knit

How much does Nikol love the Faux Fair Isle sweater from Spin to Knit?

Thiiiiiiiiiiiiis much!

Thanks for the lovely writeup! Not so sure I could post G-rated photos of anything I knit from your book, but I will admit the pirate gear intrigued a certain male member of this household, who received an all-pirate-theme gift for Valentine’s Day.

(For the terminally curious: he got me an NHL Greatest Goals DVD narrated by Denis Leary and a book about Joss Whedon and existentialism. Yes, Buffy’s Joss Whedon).

Oh, squee!

Spin to Knit was mentioned in a recent episode of Lime & Violet. Copious thanks are due to Amy for pointing this out, as I am buried under final book deadlines and trying not to panic too much.

We’re buried under snow here in the Great Lakes — our SnB even had to postpone its 3-year anniversary party due to an insane storm. I’d post a photo of the 4′-high stacks of snow but it’s nothing but white, white, white. You can imagine it for yourself. My mom made a hilarious miniature video of my dog bouncing in the snow. Maybe I’ll post it if I can figure out how to shrink it a little.

Short bits:

  • An interesting small knitwear company my friend Mati showed me last week.
  • Knitgrrl 2 is being reprinted this week, with corrections to previously-noted errata. Thanks to everyone who’s bought a copy (which = a lot of people, or it wouldn’t be going to reprint)!
  • I spotted Stefanie’s book “in the wild” for the first time while hunting down copies of knit.1 and Adorn mag the other day. (Link is to the cameraphone photo I took for her that she posted on her site)
  • A note to readers: if you like a knitting book, say so! Write a review on Amazon, your blog, a forum, wherever. Preferably all of the above! Believe me, publishers and other readers do pay attention, and it helps your favorite knit designers keep on designing…

I suppose I should be a good girl and get back to finishing this due-soon project, especially since I need to go get a snowblower part later (signs we really have a lot of snow include: “my boyfriend is actually willing to pull out the snowblower”) — more soon!

An early birthday surprise for me!

Our canine spinning episode of Knitty Gritty is airing 5 January at 11:00 a.m. on HGTV! Just in time for my birthday the next day.

Seeing the pattern for my Canine Capelet makes me wish they’d used a photo of super(dog)model Carlotta wearing it instead… it looks a little bland flat on a table. The ruffle is made with handspun dog hair, which is what they wanted me to demo. Check out the one and only Panda, aka Marnie’s baby, in a cabled variation available here.

Panda, you’re killing me with the cute here. For another good photo, see this post — my fabulous Knitsters Candi, Marnie and Kristi on set.

I’m not the only Interweave author on the show in January. Liz Gipson, managing editor of Handwoven (and former managing editor of Spin-Off) will be giving the inside scoop on how to spin all sorts of fibers, how to prepare them, as well as how to make your own spindle from recycled materials. Her episode will air 12 January on HGTV, also at 11:00 a.m.

If you’ve been enjoying having Knitty Gritty on HGTV, let them know — apparently they’re only running episodes for a limited time, but if they get enough viewer response, they may give it a permanent spot. Good for everyone who doesn’t get DIY Network.