Category Archives: Philosophical

Brioche Winner!

0ly8d0nZNG1meuMegKlhD91lsWsRXpMn4s0Ms4dMmR8The winner of Mercedes Tarasovich Clark’s book, Brioche Chic, is Ellen P.

Congratulations, Ellen! I hope you enjoy the book and knit MANY beautiful things from it! If you would care to email me with anything you make from the book, I’d love to post it here in the future!

Autumn Biking & Voting

Bike path along the Mississippi

Bike path along the Mississippi

I got more cycling in this week than I have in a long time, it’s because of the beautiful warm Fall we’re having here in MN (warm being 50’s, which is just about PERFECT for biking!)

Last week I hopped on my bike to scoot over to Minneapolis to see President Clinton and Senator Franken speak at a Get Out The Vote rally, and I made it in 25 minutes (a record for me!)

Politics Alert

The former President & our current Senator

The former President & our current Senator

It’s no secret that I’m a big ol’ lefty, so if that bothers you, you might want to skip the next section!

Voting is sacred to me. I believe in Democracy the way some folks believe in organized religion.

To my mind Democracy is the driving force behind the greatest positive changes the world has seen in terms of how humans relate to each other. Democracy allows us to participate in, and take responsibility for, the governing of our lives. It’s not always perfect, nothing created by humans could be, but it’s the best thing going.

Anything that tries to prevent citizens from voting is anathema to me, which is why the many voter supression laws that have been proposed make me so angry. We should make election day a HOLIDAY and strive for 100% voter turnout.

2014-10-11 14.57.49So get out there and be PART of this 200 year old experiment in allowing human beings to police OURSELVES. I honestly get shivers when I go in to vote, even when I’m not happy with the array of candidates.

This time, however, I’m VERY happy with the candidates I have in front of me in Minneapolis. The positive change our state’s seen since the election of Mark Dayton as Governor is astounding (we were on SUCH a downward spiral with Pawlenty, the same spiral we see Wisconsin in right now, which makes me very sad for them!)

Stealth Knitting

Stealth Knitting

Seeing money invested in infrastructure and education is the best way to see our government invest in the future, which Gov Dayton has championed since his election.

Voting for Al Franken is an easy call for me. He’s been such an excellent Senator, reaching across the aisle on many issues but retaining the populist, progressive stances that make him a hero to many Minnesotans. With him and Amy Klobuchar leading our state in DC, we’re on a VERY good path!

Cycling Season

More 'secret' knitting

More ‘secret’ knitting

I rode home more slowly from the rally, taking photos along the way.

I got in a short ride yesterday, doing some stealth knitting and enjoying the beautiful October sky and falling leaves.

Geeze, how I love the fall!

I’m Lucky

It’s been a wild few weeks, and keeping ourselves from falling, even a bit, into despair has been a challenge Gerry and I have set for ourselves. I love my husband so much, I am so glad that we share a sense of humor, and I’m grateful that we are able to play off of each other to keep things in perspective.

In all truth, even with the continuing Shingles pain and frustration over the loss of the car, phone, computer data, yada yada yada, we KNOW that we’re among the luckiest folks on earth.

I don’t talk about gratitude much, but I feel it deeply. I was once part of an online moms group (back when online mom’s groups were very new) There were 8 of us who were due with our babies at roughly the same time, and we stayed in touch for a long time.

We came from various socio-economic levels, worked at various jobs, had different goals and represented a wide variety of faiths, but the thing we shared (our babies) was the most important thing in all of our lives, and we all gained SO much from our interactions.

Sometime near the end of our regular interactions someone in the group suggested we start a ‘gratitude journal’  The person suggesting it was of a higher income bracket than most of us, which didn’t seem to matter at all, and we all said, “Great idea!”

But it wasn’t.

What started as a good idea – “I’m grateful that it was a beautiful day today!” turned into a source of pain for some of us.

One mom, in all innocence, wrote, “I’m grateful that my baby is doing so well and is so healthy!” which was great, but we had a couple of moms with ill, premature babies, and there was a silence from them for a while.

Another mom wrote, “I’m grateful that my husband just got a raise and we can take that trip we’ve been planning!” which was wonderful for her, but hard for another of the mom’s whose husband had just been laid off and who was experiencing financial difficulties.

Don’t get me wrong – we were ALL happy for each other – but the gratitude journal turned into what felt a bit like a bragging journal, and some of us found ourselves feeling oddly dissatisfied (and then ashamed of feeling that way) reading about the new houses, jobs, healthy babies and other good things that seemed to pass other members of our group by.

No one wants to feel jealous or envious – we all WANT to be happy for our friends when good things happen (and I think 99% of us are VERY happy for our friend’s good fortune!)

But the experience instilled in me a firm belief that gratitude is something that’s best kept private.

The things I was grateful for were pretty tame; running water, flush toilet, hot water whenever we want it, all the food we need, a civil government that – for the most part – protects us, good roads, free schools and libraries.  I didn’t get too specific about our own situation because I didn’t want to sound braggy.

I feel that the past few weeks I’ve been such a sad sack of complaining – so much seems to have gone wrong at the same time – but I want everyone who reads my blog to understand that I KNOW exactly how lucky we are. Very lucky.

We have a home, I have healthy kids who are kind-hearted and smart, we have pets to love,
we live in a wonderful place, and my husband is here.

Everything in the world that is important to me is contained in that last sentence, and even writing it I feel like I’m bragging.

Tomorrow I turn 53. My skin hurts from the shingles, our car is god-knows-where, and I’m so incredibly lucky that I need to pinch myself. I never thought that I’d have such a rich and full life, I truly am the luckiest person I know!*

I had an MRI today (no need to discuss it, it was a follow up) and the tech asked me if I wanted to listen to a certain artist. I asked for The Pretenders, anything from Learning To Crawl. Apparently she put on the 80’s channel and I got a lot of Blondie and The Cars.

And then one of my favorite songs came on. Joan Armitrading’s I’m Lucky from Walk Under Ladders, just a wonderful song!

And it made me realize how lucky I was to be laying in a long metal tube with magnets spinning around my abdomen. I was able to ride my bike down to the imaging center, and I knew I’d ride my bike home.

I hope you’re all lucky, too!

*Gerry is, of course, the luckiest guy in the world for snagging me as his bride.

Even Keel

A good friend who I don’t speak with NEARLY often enough messaged me with sympathy today on our run of bad luck. I answered her:

“I think all of the shit is just now sinking in. When the worst happened (the car, my computer) we were just scrambling to get Andy to college. Now that a week’s gone by (and I’m in even MORE shingles pain) everything seems much darker. It will pass, we know it will. Now to shop for a used car…”

LIFE

We’re just keeping an even keel, trying not to let the two week crap storm hang over our heads, trying to be pro-active and forward looking. It’s helpful that it’s almost September, a time of new beginnings, because it feels like a good time to turn a page.

And, seriously, what we’ve lost is just STUFF.  Yes, some very big and expensive stuff, but it’s stuff. The kids are great, Gerry’s here, and I’m fine (just in pain, but so is Gerry ALL the time, and misery loves company!)

COMPUTER

I am fortunate to have a computer immediately available (I adore my wonderful, brilliant husband who drags computers home like stray cats and fixes them up!), and Carbonite is paying for itself (although the recovery is taking FOR EVER – but I can see that it’s happening – so I’m lucky!)  I don’t think I’ll lose many files, and every few months I backup on my hard drive in the basement, so nothing important is lost.  It’s just in limbo right now until I get the recovery re-installed.

Having said that, functioning this week is very difficult because I’m used to my email being setup as I like it (with all of my many folders and past emails arranged just ‘so’) and I want my browser like it used to be (with my shortcuts and bookmarks)  

I need to wait for the recovery to finish to see if I’m able to recover those small preference things that make such a difference to a semi geek like me.  I’m hopeful.

HEALTH

The shingles pain continues. I actually went to see a GI doc today because I was convinced that SOMETHING terrible is going on, but apparently the nerve pain from shingles can masquerade as some severe internal issues. So this awful pain continues.

The doc prescribed Lyrica. When I went to pick it up (after the Dentist, doing all of my errands on my bike because – no car!) the pharmacist said the insurance company wouldn’t fill it until I tried Gabapentine, which I couldn’t have because I didn’t have a prescription for it.

I explained I’d used Gabapentine for Fibromyalgia 4 years ago, and it really didn’t do anything for me. The upshot was nothing could be done, so I’m back to OTC pain meds. My GP prescribed a narcotic (a strain of hydrocodone) but I really hate taking it as it upsets my stomach.

Funny, you never see Nurse Jackie chugging Milk of Magnesia because all that hydro’s given her rock hard constipation.

So this is me moaning about my health again.  Someone said that once about me on a blog, and it’s stuck with me. I laugh about it some days, and other days I feel like a real whiner.

But the truth is, this pain is real and hurts like h@ll.  Maybe someone can benefit from my story (get the vaccine!) and maybe I can benefit from some words of wisdom!

The most helpful things I’ve heard so far are:

  • Epsom Salt Baths; I’m not a huge ‘bather’, but the Epsom Salts are one of the few things that really take the pain away.  I’m going to take a nice, long bath before I see my acupuncturist tomorrow. THANK YOU DEBORAH R!
  • Ice Packs: They really, really help with the pain. I have a tank top that I wear under a huge Tshirt, and I use safety pins to make little ‘pockets’ between the two garments where I can slip the packs so I don’t have to hold them in place.
  • Acetaminophen: It works. (Paracetamol for my UK friends…) Believe me, I WISH I could take the ‘fun drugs’ – but the pain of being backed up, the nausea, it’s just not worth it to me. So I’ve rediscovered the old family favorite, and it works.  I don’t take a lot, I discussed with the doc today, and I’m hopeful that in the next week the Lyraca will be approved by my insurance so I can see if THAT works better.
  • Movement Hurts: I know this sounds silly, but I tend to define a sickness on whether it is made better with movement, or made worse.  Fibro tends to get better if I can get out and bike, or do yoga, or stretch and swim. This shingle thing, on the other hand, just hurts more when I move.

I knew shingles was bad, and after Gerry’s stem cell transplant I was an eagle eye for any symptoms on him (and actually caught them once very early on, he got medication immediately and had no pain – yay!)

CAR

We’re still wrapping our heads around the car. At this point I don’t think it will be found, so it looks as though we’ll be in the market for a new (used) car. We liked the Hyndai, it had good sight lines, drove nicely, could fit a LOT inside and got decent gas milage. I know if Gerry had his druthers he’d get a VW, and if I ruled the world I’d get a Subaru, but the truth is, we’ll just be getting what we can afford.  Heaven help us. If anyone has a lead on a good, small, fuel efficient hatchback or station wagon in MN, let us know!

PHONE

I miss my phone quite a bit, mostly I miss the last few photos I took on it (pics of Andy which I hadn’t yet downloaded)  But it’s just a phone.  We bought it used (I jailbroke it) and this is when being cheap makes us happy. All of our phones, computers, ipads, etc., are bought as refurbs, used, or we do the refurbing/jailbreaking ourselves. So I’ll be looking for a new (used) iphone because I LOVE the interface, and until I get it I know I’ll feel a bit as though I’ve lost a finger.

In the mean time I have Max’s old cast of Samsung, with my sim card in it so I can make and receive calls.  But – and I’m serious – I cannot figure out how to use this thing.

Holding Pattern

Well, I went to Indiana to take Andy to school.

It just seemed that so much sh*t had hit the fan, I felt a bit like a wreck, and I wanted to go.

So my inner 6-year old went, and I was along for the ride. And I think overall it was a good thing that I did go; I can’t imagine that I’d have been much more comfortable here, and I think I did have a bit of a calming presence on Andy’s moving in.

Or maybe I’m just in a stupor.

It was a long drive, but the B&B we stayed in was wonderful! Being sick not at home is no fun, but this was the next best thing, and I’m very grateful to Leighanne at Seldom Scene Meadow B&B in Richmond, she made both of us feel very much at home!

The moving itself was incredibly painless (elevator dorm, who knew?) and the orientation sessions were plentiful and helpful. We enjoyed meeting Andy’s advisor and her roommates, we’re crossing our fingers that as classes begin she feels at home and not-overwhelmed. It seemed she was already making friends, that first month at college is HARD.

In case you’re not on facebook and missed the excitement, after my week of a kidney stone AND shingles, everything was topped off by a in home break-in (rather, a screen-slitting, when the downstairs window was left open and the opportunity proved too great)  My computer, cell phone and bag were taken. It wasn’t until the police arrived that we realized that my keys were on the bag, and thus the car had ALSO been stolen. Not a great day.

I think we’re both still in shock over it, and we spent Wednesday regrouping as quickly as we could to rent a car to take Andy to college (we had to rent an SUV as there really are no rentable station wagons, which felt unspeakably odd to both of us for the whole weekend!)

So all cards have been canceled, reports filed, accounts deleted, new EZ pass ordered (and received, but not in time for our trip, damn it!) and we’re looking at, perhaps, shopping for a new (used) car.  We have 30 days of rental, but we’re thinking we’ll dole that out so we can put off getting a new car for as long as we can.

We love being a one car family, but it makes it damned hard when that one car is stolen.

My shingles pain continues, and with it really painful digestive issues which come with the pain drugs (which I try not to take, I only take them when I absolutely must)  It’s not been a pleasant week, not in any sense of the word, except we are very proud of our daughter and loved seeing her begin to find her way at Earlham!

An Open Letter to Mrs. Brokaw

Dear Mrs. Brokaw,

Obviously I don’t know you, we’ve never met, although I – like many Americans – feel that I know your husband. My own husband’s father was a stagehand at NBC for many years, and always mentioned what a mensch your husband was. Stage hands learn pretty fast who is a good guy, and who’s a bit of a prima donna.

So apparently this past Summer you joined the club I joined 7 years ago, spouses of folks with Multiple Myeloma. We also share the fact that our husbands are being treated at the Mayo Clinic, which I consider a very good club to be in, indeed.

You’re in the best hands in the world. When Gerry, my husband, was diagnosed his prognosis was poor, but every year, with new drugs and improved treatment options, his prognosis gets a little better.

Life has never been as precious to us as it as these past few years. We feel amazingly lucky. Excellent work is being done all over the world on this disease, but we’re biased toward the Mayo as we live in Minnesota.

I’m not going to say, “Cancer is a gift” – because it’s not. This is a painful, frightening disease – I hope your husband hasn’t had too much bone damage and subsequent pain.

But what this disease HAS given to our family is a golden opportunity to realize exactly how precious we are to each other, and how wonderful each day we share is. Often at the Mayo we would remark that it felt as though we were on a second honeymoon, except this time with chemo.

You’re not alone. I know it’s presumptive of me to write this note, and by this time you’ve realized everything that I could ever tell you. Know that there are many spouses next to you, standing by your side, all of us loving our husbands and wives, all of us willing to share some strength or just let you know that a prognosis can change for the better, especially with Multiple Myeloma.

All the best wishes for treating this terrible cancer as a chronic condition!

Best,
Annie Modesitt

Happy New Year!

It’s another year, and we’re crossing our fingers chez Landy/Modesitt that it will once again be a relatively uneventful one healthwise for Gerry and myself!

Learning to deal with a chronic condition is a good zen exercise in living itself.  After all, isn’t LIFE a chronic condition?

So this year I traveled a bit less, rested a bit more, and biked when I could. I didn’t break any records, but I stayed pretty healthy! Gerry keeps on keeping on; we cross our fingers that the Revlimid & Dex keep doing their magic (and that the Chronic Disease Fund keeps helping us with the $9K/month cost) and we live hopefully and happily!

In 2013 I stayed home more than I had in the past, but I tried to offset that with more designs and all of my work paid off this Autumn when over 16 of my designs appeared in various magazines around the knitting world in the same month. That was great!

I also came to a decision in 2013 that I was tired of working for less than minimum wage in order to, essentially, earn money for other folks.

I love designing, I love knitting, but I don’t love working 80 hours in a week to earn peanuts.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re 80 very ENJOYABLE hours, but I feel that there’s hardly a moment in the day when I’m not thinking of a design, knitting up a swatch or sample, or plugging away in “math hell” in order to write up a pattern.

I’d been feeling this way for a long while, and when one pursues a career of LOVE (acting, writing, composing, designing- the sort of things folks usually do while starving in attics) one can’t expect to get rich.

After 6+ years in a freelance/caregiver ‘holding pattern’ it’s time to change things up, or go a bit mad. Since Gerry’s illness I can’t travel as much (which is where most of my income came from) so I’ve decided to use my at-home time more wisely and augment my design income by starting a hand-dyed yarn business with a partner, Kathleen Pascuzzi. Also, this year, with my health insurance no longer a month-to-month nail biter, I feel a sense of  security I haven’t felt in a LONG time!

I can’t help but think there are other small business folk / entrepreneurs who are feeling as if they can finally spread their wings and not rely on a not-very-fulfilling job simply to retain health insurance. If I’m right about this, I think we’ll see a nice blooming in our economy beginning this year.

We’ll see what becomes of ModeKnit Yarn, LLC in 2014. Our initial offerings of semi-precious stone inspired colors sold very well, and we’re currently waiting for more yarn to arrive so I can fill order requests and try out new color ways.

Our rough business plan involves starting small, selling online and at local fiber shows, then increasing production (hopefully by hiring extra hands) and moving on to a wholesale business in 2015.  Anyway, that’s the plan.

So although I’m only teaching in 3 or 4 locations in 2014 (first stop, Knitting Lab in New Hampshire in May!), I’ll be visiting several fiber shows with Kathleen and our bins of yarn (first up, Shepherd’s Harvest in May – that is, if we get accepted!)

I’ll also be enjoying time at home, working (as always), but perhaps using my time more wisely so that I can sell $25 of yarn along with a $6 pattern!

And I’m working on a book for Stackpole on shrugs and short jackets, sourcing my yarn from other indy dyers, which I am supposed to have finished in June.  Watch this space.

Non-Work Life

Our family will be undergoing a major shift this year as Andy (neé Hannah) applies to and – hopefully – gets accepted to a good college. This week she finished all her applications, her final SAT scores came in (1970 cum score, not terrible!) and we’re crossing our fingers that we’ll find the perfect place for her to thrive and become the young women we know she can be; strong, funny, smart and kind!

Max continues to thrive at his high school, specializing in math and science, taking several college level courses in this, his Sophomore year (and avoiding haircuts whenever possible.)  He’s also learned the joys of the debate team, which makes Gerry and me very proud.

Gerry is Gerry; wonderful, funny, happy, loving and HERE!

Every day is a gift, and we’ve been given 6 years of presents that we never expected. We take NO day for granted.

To that end, we’re cashing in a bunch of frequent flier miles and Gerry and I are traveling to Amsterdam for a week in April. We haven’t taken a trip together alone in 17 years, and never alone to Europe, so for the cost of a B&B and walking around money, we’re going to celebrate life for a week of biking, walking and museum hopping. Suggestions on places to see are WELCOME!

This trip is made possible by having responsible teens and good friends who will pop in on them (not because they NEED supervision, mind you, but just to make sure a shower is taken every few days…)

We’ve come to understand, in a way we never thought we would, that life is for LIVING, and the best way to appreciate every day is to live it fully.

And who knows, while I’m in Holland maybe I’ll dream up a bunch of new colorways based on Tulips (my favorite flower!) and make some great in-person knitting connections!

So go make 2014 memorable for yourself, even if it’s simply memorable for being a quiet, peaceful and fulfilling year!

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.14.20 AM

I’ve Waited 10 Years For This!

I have a tremendous announcement, but first, a bit of housekeeping…

The winner of Kristen Omdahl’s book is Stella with the following comment:

I Love Ribbing

I Love Ribbing

Thanks everyone – I love hearing what each of you treasure from your own personal knitting tool boxes! It’s helpful to me, and interesting for everyone!

And now to my BIG NEWS!!

Confessions Of A Knitting Heretic Has Sold 100,000 Printed Copies!

And how am I celebrating this momentous occasion?

Announcing the KINDLE version of Confessions!

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I wrote the book in the early 2000’s, when I got back into knitting and realized that there were very few volumes that even discussed Combination Knitting, and NONE that championed it as a valid, respectable, legitimate way to knit.  It seems, from the research I’d done, that beginning around the 1920’s a ‘standard’ way of knitting – Western Style – slowly became accepted as the right way, and then the ONLY way sanctioned by the knitting Powers That Be.

The internet has had a LOT to do with folks realizing that there are many ways to create a knit and a purl stitch, and these will differ from person to person. Just like many things in life that we hold precious.

As a world we are coming to understand that there is no ONE way to pray, love, or eat (hey, that sounds like a book!) or KNIT! Folks who thought they’d never accept two men or two women in love now proudly embrace family members who are ‘out.’

As loud as the narrow minded folks who hate those who pray differently than they do may sound, I can see the world opening up. I can feel people being more accepting of those who are different.

Unfortunately, the last gasp of the narrow minded, the “throw the gun phase” I think of it, when they’ve run out of bullets, is never pleasant. We’re going through that right now in some quarters.

But in knitting, it’s been a pretty smooth transition from a general non-acceptance of different ways of knitting in the 1980’s (when I began knitting and designing) to the current Smörgåsbord of knit styles; and it’s a beautiful thing!

If I’ve had any part in that, I’m very proud.

When I wrote my book I shopped it to several publishers and received some of the loveliest rejection letters anyone’s ever received. “It’s a great book, but we think no one would want to buy it…”

After pondering things for a while, and after the death of my brother (a timely reminder that – well – why in the world was I waiting for an authoritarian sanction of my book on unorthodox knitting?) I decided to open up my Quark Express and create my own book. I read some books on self publishing (thank you, Fern Reiss) and got to work.

That was almost 10 years ago. My first order from Unicorn Books for 7,000 copies came just before I headed to Texas to be with my mother before she passed, and telling her about that order will always be a very happy memory. I would have been thrilled if the book sold 10,000 total. I never dreamed it would be 100,000.

But, toting up all of my print receipts (I keep a tally on them in my database) I realized that this October I would hit this milestone. So I prepared.

I’ve been working on this for several months. Converting a book to a kindle (.mobi) file is not as easy as I thought it would be.  I tried it back in 2012 with Knitting Millinery, and I had to give up because the eBook looked like – well – crap.

Making a pdf file is much easier, but it doesn’t read as well. I’ve grown to love the Kindle app on my iPad, the experience of reading a book using kindle is much more satisfying than just reading a pdf, and I wanted that richness of experience for my own books. For better or for worse, Amazon is the biggest game in town. To ignore it would be foolish.

So I dedicated myself to learning how to translate my 2003 Quark file to an InDesign file (I taught myself that trick while laying out History on Two Needles, thanks to Lynda.com and David Blatner!) and then I went one step further to translate the InDesign to a .mobi file (once again, thanks to Lynda.com and, this time, Anne-Marie Concepcion)

It’s been hard, I won’t lie. I’m good at this computer-graphic-html stuff (not an expert, but I get by) and there were times when working through this made my brain hurt. A lot. But once I was in, I figured I should barrel through a few titles (the hard won knowledge of cracking open OBPS files and adding <guide> tags won’t stay in my head forever!)

So in addition to offering Confessions Of A Knitting Heretic as a Kindle book, I’m also thrilled to offer Knitting Millinery in Kindle format. Huzzah!

Click on the image to order the eBook!

Click on the image to order the eBook!

The price is great, you can’t go wrong! Click on the above images to order either – and enjoy!

If you don’t have a kindle, like me, you can download kindle apps to use on your mobile device or computer – I think you’ll really like the ease of reading a kindle book!

The paper version is also still available, and as of today I’ll be beating the Amazon list price and offering it for $16.00.

Look for more of my books to be offered in kindle format! Knit With Courage will be next, and the big kahuna will be History On Two Needles. THAT will be a bear!

But I did the original layout, so I think I can fight through this.

Stick with me, sister and fellow heretics!

Well, I SAID I was a Heretic…

I recently recorded an interview with the KnottyGirls Podcast, and we had an absolutely AMAZING time! I twirled around my backyard in my Sky Chair while we talked about many things.

Chief among them was my irritating insistence on using non-traditional knitting terms. On good days my odd thoughts are the sand in the oyster shell. On bad days, they’re just poison ivy.

In the early Summer I finished a marathon session of designing, which meant a marathon session of tech edit conversations back and forth this month.  I think I must be the average tech editors worst nightmare — a designer who uses different terminology, and has (what she thinks) is a logical reason for doing so!

It’s true, I do use some unusual terminology, but not in a stubborn or non-thoughtful way.  If a publication is set on their own style, I’m happy to back down and have their terminology laid over my design.  But I feel it’s incumbent on me to mention to editors some of my reasons for using a more logic-based approach to knitting terminology.

The first thing is to divorce tradition from useful definition. I know, I know, knitting is full of tradition, and much of it is fun and cool and quirky.  I don’t want to change every oddball thing that knitters do, but I DO feel that a few well chosen technology updates could make knitting more intuitive (and thus more joyful) for every knitter!

Some folks will cling to the terminology they’ve grown up with, and that’s fine. I’m not demanding that anyone change, but be warned that when you purchase a pattern from me, I may use terminology you’re not used to (always with an explanation of the term, and how it relates to a more traditional term if necessary).

I began using these alternative terms because in my classes I realized that different knitters will achieve techniques in different ways. Most knitters are Western, some knitters are Combination, a very small number are Eastern.

Combination Knit Stitch

Combination Knit Stitch

Terminology
Here’s what I mean when I mention the following two terms

Western Orientation Eastern/Combination Orientation
A stitch which is seated on the needle so it wants to be knit through the front loop. A stitch which is seated on the needle so it wants to be knit through the back loop.

Note: You’ll know the stitch “wants” to be knit a certain way because when the needle is inserted that way the stitch opens up big and fat and wide.

Within these basic styles are then further differentiations in how a knitter holds their yarn, their needles, and how they actually form their stitches (wrapping, picking, scooping, etc).

For the most part I find labels more divisive than helpful, although they are sometimes necessary. I prefer terminology that is universal — more democratic — and can apply to ANY knitter regardless of their chosen knitting style.

In short, I prefer to describe the outcome of a knitting technique, rather than insist that the knitter get there in a specified manner. Here are a few examples of terminology I’d love to see changed.

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
Knit 1 Tbl (knit 1 through back loop) Twist this stitch as you knit it Tw1 or Twist 1
How To Achieve This
Basically knit so that the stitch is "unhappy" – doesn't open up fully – so that the little legs of the stitch are twisted as you enter the stitch.
If you knit Eastern or Combination knit into the front of the stitch; If you knit Western knit into the back of the stitch.

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
K2tog (knit 2 together) Knit 2 stitches together so they slant to the RIGHT K2tog-R

How To Achieve This
Insert the needle into the 2nd stitch on the LH needle; then into the 1st stitch on the LH needle and knit these two stitches together.
If you are a Western Knitter your stitches should already be seated to receive the LH needle without twisting. If you're a Combination Knitter you'll want to re-orient the stitches so they sit on the needle in the opposite direction THEN knit the stitches together.

 k2tog_r_on_needle

Annie’s Hint:
The tip of the working needle will be pointing to the RIGHT when making this decrease!

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
K2togTbl or Ssk or Skp (knit 2 tog through back loop OR slip slip knit OR slip knit pass over) Knit 2 stitches together so they slant to the LEFT K2tog-L

How To Achieve This
Insert the needle into the 1st stitch on the LH needle; then into the 2nd stitch on the LH needle and knit these two stitches together.
If you are a Combination Knitter your stitches should already be seated to receive the LH needle without twisting. If you are a Western knitter you will want to slip the first two stitches (either knitwise twice; or knitwise then purlwise) and then knit these two sts together as an Ssk.

k2tog_l_on_needle

 

Annie’s Hint: The tip of the working needle will be pointing to the LEFT
when making this decrease!

 

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
Wyif Hold the yarn toward you WyRS if the Right Side of the work is facing; WyWS if the Wrong Side of the work is facing.
Wyib Hold the yarn away from you WyWS if the Right Side of the work is facing; WyRS if the Wrong Side of the work is facing.

 

How To Achieve This
In some techniques (Double Knitting) you will want to hold the yarn toward you while working on the Wrong Side of the piece. This can be confusing when the term is "With Yarn in Front"; I've had many students email me with questions about this. Using the RS/WS as the point of reference seems natural and more clear.

 

BONUS
Knitting In The Round / Knitting Garter Fabric

When Working as a Combination Knitter

When knitting in the round, or back and forth in garter, you must do one of two things:
1) Either knit through the front loop of each stitch (the tip of the working needle will point to the RIGHT as it enters the stitch) in the traditional Western Style, or
2) As you wrap each knit stitch, wrap it in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION than you normally do.  This will cause the stitch to be seated in the Combination manner in the following row/round and will set up the stitch to be entered through the back loop, in the Combination Style.

At this point I hope I haven’t confused you too much! I just want folks to THINK about their knitting logically, not be slaves to outdated or inexact terminology which makes full comprehension of complex techniques more difficult. I am the G.B. Shaw of knitspeak.

UPDATE!

After writing this piece, inspired by some questions tech editors had for me, I discovered the reason that I’ve been receiving emails from folks trying to knit my Paisley Shawl from Jane Austen Knits.

Well, the reason was that the tech ed on this project decided they didn’t like my own chart, so they rewrote it, making significant changes that make knitting up the edging of the chart practically impossible.

If you’ve tried to knit this up and have failed,

Here is the IK Jane Austen Knits chart (changed from my original)Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 4.55.02 PM

…and here is my own chart,

annie paisley chart

 

Symbols aside (I never expect anyone to use my own symbols, these are just what I use when writing up the pattern to send in to the editor) there are some significant changes.  All of the ‘non stitch’ sections were removed – but these are NECESSARY to create the lace the way I designed it.

Also, the VDI’s were removed and some VDD’s were changed to K2togs.  I don’t know why, but there it is.

The faggoting between the green and blue sections won’t look the same, either, as in my chart they’re worked as a kind of lace/garter, but in the IK chart it’s St st, and thus not as sturdy and the holes will collapse easier.

Below are some of the terms I use for those of you who may not be familiar with them:

  • St st – Knit on RS, Purl on WS
  • Rev St st – Purl on RS, Knit on WS
  • Sl 1 wyRS – Slip 1 stitch with yarn held to Right Side of work
  • Sl 1 wyWS – Slip 1 stitch with yarn held to Wrong Side of work
  • YO – Yarn Over
  • K2tog-R – See above (aka k2tog)
  • K2tog-L – See above (aka Ssk)
  • P2tog-L – Purl 2 together so the dec slants to Left when viewed on the RS of the work (same as K2tog-R when worked on WS of work)
  • VDD = Vertical Double Decrease: Sl 2 sts as if to work k2 tog-R, k1, pass slipped sts over (decrease of 2 sts)
  • VDI – Vertical Double Increase: K into front of st, YO, k into back of same stitch.
  • Inc 1 Right: Knit into st immediately below next st on needle, then knit next st on needle, creating a right-slanting inc.
  • Inc 1 Left: Knit next st on needle, then into st immediately below that st, creating a left-slanting inc
image

Turning Over

Well, I’m still relegated to the iPad for my Internet communication, so if you’ve contacted me and haven’t heard back, I apologize (and you might want to try again, I might not have received your missive!)

I’m finding it extraordinary, the amount of stuff I do on a daily basis which relies on the saved passwords, information, keys, shortcuts I’ve saved within my computer.  I can still use it, I am writing patterns every day, keeping my databases updated, all kinds of other stuff which I can only do on my computer.

but actually CONNECTING with the world outside, beyond my visible limits, that is now in the hands of my trusty iPad.

Gerry got this device as a Mothers Day gift in 2012, and I was blown away!  our local Micro Center was having a sale and for $350 he walked out with one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

This computer fail (my screen cracked, which was beautifully replaced by Gerry, but apparently the wifi cable is not working now, and figuring out THAT nonsense is taking longer than we expected) corresponded with a health fail and a,weather fail, all of which prevented me from riding my bike as often as I need to for health maintenance.

But yesterday I got out for a long ride, and cashed in on the beauty that is Minnesota in June. It’s not unknown for us of have hot and humid days, but in our 6 years in the North Star State we’ve noticed that on the average the temps fall to the 50s overnight, allowing for decent open-window sleeping and starting each day fresh and clear. This is our trade off for the winters that last 3 years, and although it was a close thing this year, on the whole I will take the cold.

So now I am feeling slightly more energized again, eager for my classes at Darn Knit Anyway on July 17 and 27, and eager to get on my bike again today to sustain the good feeling I acquired yesterday.

I’ve skipped a few submission dates to finish up some projects for various magazines, and also to concentrate on a new project of 7 or 8 designs I will be unveiling in the Fall (more later, I don’t want to jinx myself, I’m not being coy…)

So THANK YOU to those of you who have hung around while I worked through a convergence of fails, I’m hoping as the Summer unfolds I will be blogging more, with much good info and interesting philosophical side trips, and continuing to design and write.

Basically, I’m looking forward to feeling a bit more like myself than I have in quite a while.

Remember Me?

I haven’t posted for a while because we have been battling various pressures, none of them terrible alone , but together they create a firm barrier which I’ve been alternatively digging under and leaping over.

It’s curious how we underestimate a smooth, level, unobstructed path, huh?

Various recurring health battles (both for Gerry and myself) have reared their ugly heads, made bolder by the non-Spring weather, which kept me from cycling (which has slowly worn away my health resources.)

Nothing fills all my reservoirs like a good, long bike ride. As a matter of fact I was SO hurting for a ride that I borrowed Ysolda’s prop bike from her TNNA booth and rode around the show floor for 10 minutes.

Not near enough, but it was fun while it lasted. I got the idea when I saw Cat Bordhi doing it, so haul us both off to convention center jail!

TNNA
Yes, I went to TNNA. I wasn’t going to go. Between Gerry’s returning health issues and my own recurring pain and exhaustion I felt as if it were too much. About Gerry was insistent – he said something to the effect of “if you don’t go to TNNA and have a bad year, design-wise, I will feel responsible.”

I didn’t want to drive alone, I haven’t driven long distances for several years, (not since I took out a construction barrel on a highway in Illinois and scared myself silly) and I wanted to take Max with me. But I didn’t want to leave Gerry home alone, and he was up for the ride!

So we did the drive there over two days, stayed a day at an extended suite type of place (good for everyone!) and while I was at TNNA doing the necessary schmoozing, Gerry and Max slept in, then went to CoSi and had a terrific time (Gerry’s dreamed of taking Max to this great science center for years!)

Hannah (who would like to be called “Andy” for the present) is already up at Menogyn working as an engage for 2 sessions, then late in July she will head out on her 32 day Nor’wester canoe trip up into Canada with 4 other young women. I’m alternately bursting with pride, and terrified for her.

TEACHING
I’ll be teaching a two part lace class at a FABULOUS yarn shop in Stillwater, MN, Darn Knit Anyway!

Lovely Laces: July 17th 6-9 pm and July 27th 10-1pm.
We will cover the basics of lace knitting, charts, and how to go about memorizing a repeating motif to make lace knitting more enjoyable and intuitive. ANYONE CAN KNIT LACE!!

DESIGNS
It’s been a crazy busy few months of designing, which I love and which is good work for me as it doesn’t require a lot of movement (I move we’ll many days, but sometimes those unmovable Fibro days coincide with a teaching engagement, and all hell breaks loose…)

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt both so useless, and also as if so much is depending on me. It’s a bad feeling, but there’s really nothing for it but to keep my mind on my work and do my best.

I’ve just finished 16 designs for various magazines and knitting pubs, all places that pay fairly and offer good terms for designers to retain their rights on their designs. Look for my work in Jane Austen Knits, Downton Abbey Knits, Interweave Knits and Interweave Crochet, Twist Collective and in Austrlia in Yarn Mag and in the UK in The Knitter.

I have 6 other designs I’ll have completed by mid-July, also for publications that deal openly and fairly with their contributors, so I’m actually very fortunate, all things considered.

BRIDGES

I had a chat with a sister designer at TNNA where I was warned not to “burn my bridges” and I laughed. Some “bridges” are little more than zip lines, they only work in one direction.

Other bridges may be burning, but I didn’t set them on fire, I simply balked at the high toll.

I know I have carved a well deserved reputation for someone who will speak her mind about fair working conditions for hand knit and crochet designers and teachers, and that this has perhaps made me persona non grata with some entities.

There are still publishers who still insist on retention of designers rights after publishing a pattern, will only pay 10% of online pattern sales to a designer (50% should be more like it in my book!) or won’t cover the full hotel and airfare for a teacher at their functions (another designer told me this weekend she makes NO money teaching at TNNA for Offinger, but she does it to get at least part of her airfare covered.)

To me this remains unacceptable.

I think I was a little afraid I’d go to TNNA and begin to regret decisions I’d made to avoid/openly discuss corporations that make money off of the fruit of designers and teachers, yet treat these same designers and teachers as if they’re doing THEM a favor by hiring them.

But, happily and surprisingly, I found myself comfortable with decisions I’ve made, happy to continue to work with old friends and eager to forge new relationships with other yarn companies.

There is room for MANY different opinions in our business. If holding a position outside of the mainstream means I’ve burned a bridge, that might not have been the right path for me, anyway.

Now, off to get a good LONG bike ride in so I can start rebuilding my health and grow my strength for what lies ahead. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if hard work and fair dealing cannot provide me an income in this industry, it may not be right for me. I’m not going to change that by underselling myself or working on the cheap.

Note: if you see odd typos in this post, chalk it up to the fact that my computer has been out of commission for wifi use for 2 weeks, so I’m doing all of my online stuff with my iPad.  This is my first time doing a whole blog post on this tricky, disappearing keyboard!