August 2020

Cat BordhiThe NFC Momentum FundGrafting in patternBook reviewWhich yarn?A letter from Jessica

Cat Bordhi

Last week Cat Bordhi let it be known that she’s dying of cancer. You can read her gentle words here.

My memories of Cat will always be tied up with her Visionary retreats for wanna-be authors (and for people she cajoled into becoming authors) where she generously shared what she knew about self-publishing and – more to the point – her enthusiasm. For fiber crafts and books, yes, but really for everything, from ideas and new techniques to what we were having for lunch. Her ability to delight in possibilities lit a fire under many of us. Her ability to see magic everywhere gave us courage.

It’s really quite hard to put in words. But if you ever experienced Cat in person, you know what I mean.

I was also fortunate enough to be her tech editor for a while, where I was astounded by her ability to embrace change. No doubt that same skill sustains her now.
Read Cat’s letter

The NFC Momentum Fund

Speaking of change... have you heard about Neighborhood Fiber Company’s Momentum Fund? Karida Collins is raising funds for “a variety of organizations working for justice, empowerment, and equality.” Or I should say, Karida’s raising funds again; she has an impressive history of craftivism.

Donate if you can. Or check out the Black Lives Matter section of her website; proceeds from the sale of the pins, t-shirts, and yarn on that page will go to the fund. Or just buy some of her yummy yarn – I just finished a project in NFC Rustic Fingering and loved it. (Sorry! Secret project. Can’t say more yet.)

Update: As of 5 August, the NFC Momentum Fund raised $100,000 via GoFundMe. Yay! Donations are no longer being accepted at GoFundMe, but can still be accepted through the Baltimore Community Foundation.
Donate to the NFC Momentum Fund

Grafting in pattern

Recently I’ve been practicing grafting. More specifically: grafting in pattern, rather than in plain stockinette (which, thanks to dozens of sock toes, I can do in my sleep).

Grafting in pattern means you have to step your game up a notch because – and it sounds obvious to say this out loud, but I’m going to do it anyway – you have to keep the pattern in mind. You can’t just follow a stockinette-centric mantra like “front knit off and purl on, back purl off and knit on.”

Graft-in-pattern approaches that I’ve used in the past include:
  • Knit a swatch in practice yarn, with one row in a contrast color. Study the path that the yarn takes on that row, and use that as a guide while grafting your actual project. You can even block the swatch (to “set” the stitches), unpick half the contrast-color row, and graft it shut again as practice. This approach works well enough for simple patterns, like garter or seed stitch.
  • Knit a few rows in pattern with waste yarn before starting your project, and again after completing it. Fold these waste-yarn sections out of the way as you graft, letting the waste yarn both hold the live project-yarn stitches for you (so you don’t have needles getting in your way), and show you how the graft should proceed. In a sense, this approach is Lucy Neatby’s “sock chimney” trick extended for any stitch pattern, even complex ones.
Both of these approaches can work, but they require a fair bit of “extra” knitting, either a swatch in practice yarn or sections in waste yarn. And even though I’m a process knitter, sometimes I can get impatient with having to work those extra bits.

So I’ve been reading up lately on Joni Coniglio’s approach, focusing on this overview. Essentially, you start your project with a provisional cast-on, and end by putting your live stitches on waste yarn. (No “extra” knitting – yay!) Then you work one stitch at at time, keeping in mind, “What kind of stitch is this?” The answer to that question determines exactly where your tapestry needle needs to go.

Joni’s many posts on the topic are exceptionally detailed, telling you how to handle each kind of stitch. That kind of detail doesn’t mesh well with my... reluctance? inability??... to follow directions. But, as it turns out, it meshes pretty darn well with my ability to read my knitting. While practicing, I discovered that I could visualize what needed to happen, without referring to Joni’s detailed instructions.

Bottom line: I may have found a new favorite approach for grafting in pattern.

What are your thoughts on grafting? Do you run screaming from the room at the thought of grafting? Do you limit yourself to grafting in plain stockinette, or have you attempted grafting in pattern? If you have grafted in pattern... what sort of approach has let you be successful?
Email me your thoughts

Book review: Making a life

Why do we do stuff like this? Why do we seek out mastery of obscure skills – like grafting in pattern – in hand crafts? In these times, when any consumer good can be ordered online and delivered in days, why do we make stuff by hand at all?

Melanie Falick attempts to answer questions like these in Making a Life: Working by Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live.

In this labor of love, she chronicles the lives of dozens of passionate crafters, from fiber artists to fashion designers, from to woodworkers to metalworkers, from potters to printers. Her interviews delve into what drives them to grow their own dye plants, harvest their own willow, dig their own clay. To start small, value-driven companies. To forge connections as teachers and community leaders. To make by hand.

The stories are inspiring; the photos are drool-worthy. If you like making by hand – as I suspect most of you do – you’ll likely love this book.

[Side note: You might also get a kick out of this article on grinding coffee by hand. Me, I don’t do coffee. But give me a half-pint of whipping cream, a whisk, and 5 minutes, and I can give you a bowl of fresh whipped cream. Let’s just say you’re never going to catch me scooping whipped cream out of a frozen tub or shooting it out of a can.]

Get your own copy

Which yarn?

You may have noticed an uptick lately on social media in posts regarding yarn pricing and yarn substitution. I’m not sure what prompted the flurry of messages – but however it started, it has brought some solid resources to light:
  • From the Knitty archives, Jenna Wilson offers a field guide to yarn substitution. If you’re one of those knitters that gets the heebie-jeebies at the thought of deviating from the yarn called for in a pattern, this article is for you!
  • On her blog, tech editor extraordinaire Kate Atherley offers her take on yarn substitution, aiming her suggestions both at knitters (“Here’s what to consider when subbing”) and at designers (“Here’s the info you need to provide to your knitters, to make subbing easier”). Key point: the reasons why a pattern calls for a specific yarn might surprise you.
  • Kim Biegler of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill details how she’s struggled with keeping her yarn reasonably priced, while still paying wool producers fairly and covering her costs. It’s an eye-opening read – and it’s led to her novel Fiber it Forward program, where she aims to get the yarn she loves into as many hands as possible.

If you’re the least bit curious, do take a minute to check out these resources.
Learn more about Fiber it Forward

A letter from Jessica

Another hot topic on social media right now: Ravelry, and the way it unrolled its redesign in June. To address some of the questions that have cropped up, Jessica has shared a letter with the Ravelry community. In it, she talks about the reasoning behind the team’s decisions, and their plans for moving forward. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to give it a read. And if you’re of those people who’ve found Ravelry’s new look to be too high-contrast for comfort, rest assured that the letter is hosted on a plain-vanilla website that’s unlikely to cause problems.
Read Jessica’s letter
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