31 Aug 2010


It's been two weeks now since Knit Camp finished, two weeks in which I've played with my children (who I had not seen for two and a half weeks before Camp), baked, been on a few day trips, gone to our wonderful local museum, done some knitting, felting, spinning (mainly the latter) and even washed a pretty dirty fleece.  And the most amazing thing - done some much-needed housework!  My kids are 5 and 6, and having some time with them over the summer holidays has been wonderful, although I am concerned about their new-found love for a certain CBBC programme called Prank Patrol!

I've had a chance to reflect on everything that's taken place in our lives over the past year too.  Some of it has been wonderful - I've been to Toronto (my favourite city in the world, full of extremely wonderful people), I've had the pleasure of seeing my kids learn to read and now no longer have to read to my youngest as my oldest reads to her.  I've done much spinning too, and have progressed from being a somewhat very average spinner to someone who can spin pretty well (even though I have absolutely no idea what the ratios mean and wish I could also spin bulkier than what I do now - most of my stuff is laceweight!).  I've also had the pleasure of giving the knitters of Earlsdon a place to congregate.

And of course, to every positive is a negative (and vice versa).  I've learned that I was over-ambitious in thinking that we could organise a large knitting event without huge investment/grants/other support and have to over-rely on some wonderful people.  2.5 people cannot organise a knitting event for 300+ people on a limited budget, especially when they do not have a huge amount of capital to invest and a bank who refuses a loan for a knitting event.  'Cause no one knits, obviously.

So, yes, I was over ambitious in thinking that we could do a British-version of what happens every year in the US.  But I thought it was about time that we had something over here.  I realise, in hindsight, I was bloody stupid to trust and have paid heavily (in many senses of the word) for that.  I also realise that the British knitting public are unlike their North American cousins in that they do not travel.  One of the tutors told me that this would be the case and I wish that I had listened to her.  Nevertheless, I felt - and feel- that not everything should happen in England and I love Scotland very much.

I've long-admired the work of extremely talented knitwear designers from both the UK and abroad.  I know other people over here must gasp in admiration when they see the latest issue of Interweave Knits and Knitty, or the latest Norah Gaughan book (very much a personal favourite due to her amazing sense of aesthetic!) so it was very surprising that a very large proportion of folks attending did not come from these shores.  It was particularly wonderful to meet in person the wonderful Canadian and West Coast contingent as well as lots of other wonderful people such as the lovely ladies from Portugal, South Africa, France, Germany, Australia.  It really was an international Camp!

As has been over-documented on a certain website, things did not go as we had planned.  Never in a million years did we expect a work permit Sponsor application to be rejected on the grounds that we have insurance documents with an online (PDF documents) signature and not a 'real' signature and for that application to sit on an AO's desk for over six weeks...  Hindsight is obviously a wonderful thing, but obviously I've beat myself up for not applying for that permit sooner.  I would like to publically thank the Provost of Stirling, Mr Fergus Wood, the MP for Stirling and the First Minister's Office for all their help and support on 9th August.

I can understand some folks' anger and would feel upset if I were them, (but anger is something I try not to feel too much).  When things are true, and come from people who were there and therefore have the right to make valid comments, then I can accept that. And I will try to deal with it.  Although there is one person who I believe came with the objective to find fault in absolutely everything.  Quite frankly, I feel very sorry for this individual. 

Finally, I strongly believe that all people- whether they work for an employer or themselves have the right to some time off and have a right to a holiday.  I worked, on average, 70 hours a week for nine months with hardly any time off in the run up to Knit Camp and then I worked over 85 hours during the Knit Camp week. I have been criticised for having a two week holiday after Knit Camp. Certain people thought that I should have arranged childcare.  Well that childcare costs £64 a day (I do not have the luxury of having any family nearby) and seeing as I have now made no money at all for several hundred hours of work, I felt even more inclined to have a rest. We legally have to deal with 'stuff' within 28 days of the end of the event, and we will do that.

We're really glad that, despite what some people have tried to give the impression of, several hundred folks joined together in one beautiful place for a week of camaraderie, knitting and cake.  My favourite quote of the week was retold to me by Kate: "It's all so bloody surreal.  I've just danced a Highland jig with Debbie Stoller!"

One of the most fun things for me was the Pub Quiz and reading the (very impressive) list written by Team Twilight of 'list how many things you can knit with'. Sorry ladies, but I still don't get the possibility of being able to knit with the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa!! With their permission, I will publish their list at a later date.  That's what it was all about: camaraderie, wonderful people like Lydia, Kimberley, Caroline, Jan, Lori,  Jon, Roy, Debbie, Annie, Donna, Dom, Oliver, Katharine, Fergus, Di, Colm and many, many others and things like Elaine's 'lightbulb moment' (I'll never forget that Elaine!!). And that bloody gorgeous chocolate cake at the Management Centre.

10 Aug 2010

It's good

All teachers that are here will be teaching - Annie, Jared, Mary Jane, Norah, Nancy, Donna and Deb. They are sitting in front of me right now, and can't wait to meet you all tomorrow.

They have been truly wonderful. It's been a difficult situation and everyone involved is so sorry for pain anyone has experienced, especially me.  We hope to see everyone in classes tomorrow, enjoying themselves as they have been this evening at the Pub Quiz.

Joan arrives tomorrow morning and shall be teaching.

Debbie arrives tomorrow afternoon and shall be hear.

Amy won't be able to make it because of flight issues.

This weekend the market will be astounding, and the weather's going to be great.

I'm so grateful for all the good wishes we've received and want to publically thank Carol for the beautiful blanket.  I will treasure it always.

25 Jul 2010

Set backs but carrying on

Just to say that although we've had quite a lot of set backs with this event, and I've learned so much, but the team and I still want for you to enjoy this....

and this...

and this sort of thing

and maybe some of this

with people like this


Some people have decided not to support us, or rather withdraw support, but quite frankly that's all hurdles to jump over.  Which we will.  We are determined that this one-off event will be fantastic for everyone attending.  Kate and I have worked too many hours for too long for us to let down people. 

10 Jul 2010

What is it about socks?!

Just under a year ago I had the pleasure of attending Sock Summit (can't wait to go to the next one) and I was bitten by a bug while I was there. A huge, gigantic bug.  So big that I've still not recovered.

That's right, I can't stop knitting socks. 

Sometimes they are plain ol' stocking stitch socks...

Sometimes they have fancy lace panels

And sometimes they don't.

But I have never had so much fun as I'm having with my current project.  I am making the "Fancy Silk Sock" by the talented Nancy Bush.

Reasons I love this pattern and this book (Knitting Vintage Socks):

I am very interested in the history of knitting generally, so a book on Victorian socks is fantastic.  I'm lucky enough to own some patterns from this period (in the form of Mrs Beeton's book and the Cassells Household books) but can I follow them?! No, I can't!! I have no idea what Berlin wool or Andalusian wool or Lustrine or Empress Knitting Silk were.  Nor do I know what their modern equivalents are.  Thankfully for us knitters, Nancy knows.

I love the fact that Nancy has brought back to life the patterns of some extremely talented knitters/knitwear designers, who were probably all women and whose work was unrecognised by the people of the time.  By this I mean we do not know their names or anything about them.  Just goes to show how highly knitting was regarded then (not).  I think this book is pretty much a testament to those ladies.

I think I kind of feel a bit connected with what has gone before, which I think is something that appeals to many knitters.  We know we are involved in a greater picture, a craft that has developed over many centuries, and socks in particular are such a good example of this. Anyone who saw the Sock Museum at Sock Summit knows what I mean.

This sock, from 1900, was designed for a 5-6 year old child but Nancy has reworked it for an adult.  She's a genius at spotting a gem, but her clever brain to work and coming up with a fantastic pattern.  Here's what she has written at the start of the pattern:

"This is another Weldon's design for a child that makes a perfect lady's sock when it is worked with slightly larger needles and twenty-first century yarn.  I have followed the instructions as written through the French Heel.  I've added a purl stitch at the end of the instep stitches on the foot to balance the pattern, and to do so I've adjusted the total stitch count before beginning the toe decreases.  The original has the stitches drawn together to close the toe, but I prefer the look and feel of a grafted finish (as in a Flat Toe), so I have provided directions for both methods."

The original pattern apparently called for Lustrine (a silk substitute) and four steel 1.5mm (US 000) needles.  Nancy has reworked it using some (utterly delicious) Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock and 2.5mm (US 1) needles.

If you would like to learn more, get yourself a copy of the book and then come on Nancy's class at Knit Camp; you won't regret either.

24 Jun 2010

A post from Amy (sort of)

Hi all,

I've not quite finished what I wanted to write about, so instead I'm going to cross blog (is that a word? is that the right term?!) what Amy has written on the Knitty blog.  I so completely agree with what she has said.  As you may well know, she's one of my knitting heroines.  I'll be writing more soon(ish) about some of the others. 

Did you read that there's FREE Handmaiden Silken and Sea Silk in her Tuscany Lace Shawl class?!

Over to Amy...


A plaid August for me

E-mails have been flying back and forth across the Atlantic for a little while, and the result I can now share with you:

I’m going to UK Knit Camp this August in Stirling, Scotland.

I am so excited about this, I can’t even stand it. Have you looked at the website?

A world of teachers are participating, many of whom have never been to the UK to teach before.

It’s only fair.

North America has had an abundance of super-cool knitting events, including (of course) Sock Summit, Stitches events, Knitters’ Connection, and tons more. So now the other side of the ocean gets a chance, and I’m so thrilled that I get to be a part of it!

I’m teaching three classes during the week, two of them brand new!

Here are the details:
Wednesday morning: Easy non-wool socks

This brand-new class is all about knitting socks without wool. As a bonus, Jo (head honcho of Knit Camp) has arranged to bring in a whole bunch of non-wool sock yarns not usually available in the UK for you to purchase, if you need to.

In this class, you’ll learn my super-easy toe-up sock recipe which I designed specifically to work with the characteristics of non-wool sock yarns. It features an easy gusset and a heel flap built with my tweaked Japanese short-row technique, all 100% maths free. Knit one, and you might just want this to be your sock recipe for life. The pattern gives you lots of room to improvise, should you want to add texture, colourwork or lace to the foot and/or leg.

And if you want to use this pattern with wool yarn after the class, I won’t be bothered one bit.

Thursday morning: Tuscany lace shawl

This class will introduce you to the joys of knitting lace the easy way. Our project will be the Tuscany Shawl, from my book No Sheep for You. Knit in a smooth worsted-weight silk yarn, it feels amazing against the skin, and most importantly, it looks way harder to knit than it actually is.

We’ll learn all the tricks that make knitting lace a pleasure, including how to read the landscape of your lace, and the easy way to block your finished shawl.

If you’ve wanted to knit lace but don’t like charts, or are just a little shy of the whole process, this is the class for you.

Friday morning: Making the next Monkey, Greenjeans or Mrs Beeton

In this class, I’ll share some of Knitty’s secrets with you. I’ll talk about what makes a pattern stand out among the hundreds submitted to Knitty every year, what makes a good pattern, pattern-writing techniques that make a difference, what makes a pattern go viral, the five things you can do to ensure that you have the best possible chance of getting published, and the five things you can do that will blow it for you.

Please bring along any patterns you are considering submitting for publication, along with a knitted sample. I promise to be gentle as I share my feedback with you — there is no meanness in my class! I got to evaluate lots of sock patterns at Sock Summit last year, and everyone — even those not submitting at the time — told me they got a lot out of the class.


 I’m also going to be speaking at the Clapo-tea (can you stand the cuteness?). I’ve been asked to join the Luminary Panel (really? me? eee!), and the fashion show will be full of Knitty garments and accessories.

Because Jo and I just met at the Toronto Knitter’s Frolic and decided to make this happen in rather short notice, my classes have just been added to the website, which means they’re wide open right now.

It’d make my day (month!) if they’d fill up quickly.

I hope to meet you on the other side of the ocean this August!

10 Jun 2010

Lorilee on why she knits continental

I start this out with a dose of honesty about why I am posting what follows. Jo has asked me to blog about my classes to be offered there in lovely Scotland in August; I’d like to focus on the Continental class today. I’ll also be teaching this at Stitches Midwest later in the same month (but that class has already filled).

Following is a little personal continental history, a bit about my attitude toward it, a bit about the silly controversy around which way is best, and some testimonials.

History: My mom taught me to knit as a kid. One year she knit fair isle yoke sweaters for many in the family, and she still knits a lot today. It did not stick with me until I relearned as an adult about eighteen years ago. At that time, my neighbor and knitting mentor Kim convinced me to learn continental, and I have never looked back. Only on rare occasions do I have a day that does not include knitting. I’m one of those people who takes their knitting to restaurants, appointments, school activities, and on every car ride no matter how short.

After I opened City Knitting in 2005, Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood, local writer for the Grand Rapids Press, and CraftSanity podcaster, came to videotape me knitting. It was her experiment to post a video for once, rather than just an audio interview. She did a great job filming and editing, and put it on youtube. The thing immediately took on a life of its own. Since November 0f 2006, it has accumulated 440,000 views, 490 thumbs up and 20 thumbs down, 275 comments. It is most popular with females 45-54, then with those 55-64 (interesting, I think, in showing that experienced knitters still like learning!), then with those 35-44. I get e-mail from all over the world, with a disproportionate number of those thanking me being men. I think men are less likely to go to a yarn shop to learn, preferring to “ask the internet”. Many of the comments I get are from long time knitters who want to kick themselves for not knowing this earlier. Here is that 10-minute video if you care to watch it.

My attitude: I love knitting- period. I love seeing various knitting styles learned by people from so many other people. Just in a roomful of knitters, so much community and interpersonal relationships take shape. I will never say my way of knitting is the best way of knitting, because the activity of knitting is so much more important than the mechanics of how any single person gets the job done. I will heartily say, however, that my way of knitting is the best way for me, and if you choose to give it a try, I’d love to help you.

The silly controversy: If you spend any time on the knitting forums of ravelry.com, you’ll notice in that discussions of English versus Continental styles often get heated. One person can rave about how they knit, and another can take it as an attack on how they knit. Then there’s the “I’m faster than you” bit, also silly. Personally, I knit faster than I used to when I threw, but there are throwers who are faster than me. So be it. No big deal. We are all allowed to be fond of our chosen style.

So why does there seem to be more of a demand for classes in Continental? When was the last time you saw a knitting convention offer a class called “Convert from Continental to English?” I think there are two reasons. The first is simply that most knitters in the US are English style knitters- there are more potential converts out there. So, when they see something different, they want to learn it, mostly because it appears faster. The second reason does have to do with speed. The truth is that most continental knitters notice they are speedier or have more efficient movements than their friends who throw, so there is no incentive to change. Don’t get mad at me for saying that; it’s a conclusion I’ve made after watching and knowing lots of knitters.

More history: So, after that video was up for a while, and comments began accumulating, I got curious. Why did that video help so many people? Why was I getting mail about people finally understanding continental even after taking many classes. After lots of observation, I learned about many variations just within Continental knitting. Generally, yarn is tensioned in the left hand, leaving the right hand to pick at the stitches. But much variation occurs in the way yarn is held in the left hand, and the position of the forefinger- up or down, and the location of the yarn. I also noticed I do a few things that are fundamentally different from the majority of continental knitters.

One is that I orient both my knits and purls conventionally (leading leg to the front). Another is that there is something I do in my right hand that helps me size my stitches, which helps keep knits and purls sized equally. Another is the open stance of my hands, which lets me see clearly what’s coming into queue, so I can prepare and proceed more quickly. These are not things apparent in the video, because at the time, I knew not enough to emphasize them. So, that’s why I love to teach it in person.

A student in a three-hour class can expect to learn knit stitch and purl stitch, ribbing, simple increases and decreases, be past the initial clumsiness, and be ready to spend just a couple weeks practicing to complete the conversion.

Testimonials: Over the years, people comments have warmed me on the inside. Even though they were posted in public forums, I feel a little sheepish sharing them collected here. But, since I was asked, I leave you with some comments form, young and old, male and female. -Many thanks, and I hope to see you in class!

Lorilee is extremely clear and patient and her pacing of the class was flawless.

Awesome Lorilee…. Thanks so much for posting these. I hope you have time to pretty much repeat all the videos on knittinghelp.com with this way of doing continental. You taught me how to knit. I practiced for about a week or so after watching your CraftSanity video and finally tried a project. It’s the scarf in my profile. I’ll post a pic of it here in the shared projects area. I’m pretty proud of my very first knitted attempt and I owe it all to your amazing teaching abilities. Bob

Total enlightenment, right? It never quite clicked in for me with the knittinghelp.com ones. Let’s see if we can get Lorilee over here so she knows we all think she’s a Continental genius!

Thanks, Lorilee! I’m on my third BSJ and your tips are very helpful. I also (coincidentally) stumbled across your continental tutorial on YouTube at midnight last night when I suddenly decided I needed to learn continental (!) and it is wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to post these.

Thanks, Lorilee! What a great video! I’ve watched other continental videos, but never really “got” it. “My” way of continental was fine…. But “yours” makes it flow a lot better. I was holding the yarn differently, too. But “your” way is better. Thanks, again!!!!
Great video, Lorilee! I think I’m sold on the continental method. It’s always bothered me to have to let go of the right needle anyway. I’m going to have to practice a little with the purling, but like you said in the video, it’s makes sense to someone who has crocheted. I’ve also read that Zimmerman really pushed it as a method as well, and that it particularly fell out of favor in the US around the 2nd world war because it had been referred to as the “German” method… don’t know how true that is, but I remember congress serving only “Freedom Fries” a few years ago.
This is ABSOLUTELY THE BEST demo for knitting I have been to, and I have looked at a lot. I was wanting to learn this type of knitting and had not found it.

Wonderful job of explaining.

beautiful video. I have watched alot of continental videos on Youtube, this one is very helpful, close ups, and very explanatory. Thank you very much. I watch this video often for reminders and help.

I have arthritis and this looks like just what I need to do. I am a VERY tight knitter, so the looseness will be hard to get used to…lol
Thank you so much for such a detailed video )

I’m only 42 & I have arthritis–as a “thrower” I had given up on knitting. After this vid (which is a FAV now) I know I can take my knitting back up again…what a blessing! You both are very good teachers! Thx Trish
as an English person who has “thrown” her yarn for 20 odd years, this is incredible! I can see how simpler it makes the process of the stitch, but I’m really struggling to get my tension right. Does that just come with practice? Or are there any tips you can give? Thanks.

I have struggled SO much with continential knitting because I started as a thrower. I watched this video for 3 days with some needles and scrap yarn….and alot of determination. I now am doing it both knit and purl without any problem at all. I am not incredibably fast YET, but it will happen. This is a great video for anyone wanting to do continential knitting. The teaching is undeniably the best on this techinique I have seen. Thanks so much for posting this video!!!

What a gifted teacher! Finally I get the continental purl stitch, which had always been my sticking point, so to speak. Thank you!
thank you so much for posting this! I’m an American knitter, but I’ve always wanted to continental knit. It just seems like a more economical way of knitting. But all the other videos I’ve seen have felt awkward because of the way the yarn was held. This method really cleared it up for me, and I’ve just spent the evening knitting this way. Already it’s feeling more natural and the knitting looks great. thank you so much!
I have been a knitter for 50 years, using the throwing method. After watching your video many, many times, I have mastered the continental method. I love it. Thanks for a great video.

A knitter am I now! -WOW! This crocheter thanks you gals loads for the clear instruction on continental knitting! I always shied away from knitting as that throw-over seemed like such a wasted amount of motion for each small stitch – Now, I’m knitting with ease and speed and can imagine the day when I’ll be as proficient with ‘kneedles’ as I am with the hook! = : ) Thanks bunches from a fellow Grand Rapidsian!

Goll darn it! I have been looking for an easy way to purl using the continental method. You clearly explained what I had been doing wrong and know I am purling! I am so excited.  Once I practise a little more, I should be up to the same speed as my knit stitches. Thank you!
This is a top notch demonstration by a professional knitter! The demonstration is excellent and the explanation for each recommended step (how to hold the yarn, etc.) is clear. Other knitters are well-intentioned and their efforts are appreciated, but this instructor will help you get started knitting continental by clearly explaining the “why’s.” Thank you!
I’ve been trying and trying to knit continental and this video is the first one that goes into the details about what to do with all your fingers.  Any site can tell you how the yarn goes, but unless you know what your fingers are supposed to do, you’re in the dark. Awesome video, for both knit AND purl!!

his was the first video i saw when i typed in “knitting” and was SO HELPFUL!! i immediately tried this method, and WOW.. does it work so good.. i cant believe i was doing it the other way, of course which was fine.. but this way was so much faster and nicer, and i didnt have “close calls” with dropping my stitches.. etc! i just learned how to knit a week ago

Not all continental methods are created equal. This one makes so much more sense than any of the others I’ve watched. I’m excited to try this as one who has been knitting for 15 years and can’t get any faster!

Excellent demonstration. I have been knitting 25 years and finally got my pearl stitches right. So much easier and faster. Thanks

This is a fantastic little demonstration of Continental knitting, and I’ve even take the class from a master knitter — Nancie Wiseman. I’ll be revisiting and re-viewing this often, to reinforce the lessn. Thanks so much! 5 stars!

27 May 2010

Creating with Colour - Debbie's dyeing workshops

When Jo mentioned that she was setting up a Knitcamp blog, it was the perfect excuse for me to spend a couple of happy hours going through some of the fabulous work my students have produced on past courses and share it with you. (Ok, so I should have been doing the hoovering but nobody ever died wishing they'd done more housework, right?).

I've uploaded a couple of albums from the Association of Guilds Summer School last year, the faux Fairisle/self-striping yarns day and a beginner's workshop and sock blank dyeing session, so if you are a student who has already booked for one of my workshops,you can get a taster of what to look forward to. And if you're still undecided, perhaps I can persuade you to dip your toe in my metaphorical dyepots and spend some time playing with colour : )

And that's what my courses are about - exploration, creativity, but most of all having fun with colour.

Remember that feeling when you opened a brand new paintbox or when you got your first set of crayons as a child? The excitement, the anticipation, a bit of nervousness about which colours to use first? Well, that's the feeling I aim to recreate on my courses. As the student whose enthusiasm for art was stopped in its tracks by an art teacher who told me (at age 11!) that I was "not at all artistic", I totally understand that feeling of not being confident with colour. But I picked myself up, dusted myself off and eventually concluded that, rightly or wrongly, I didn't need to be "artistic" (whatever that means) to love, enjoy and celebrate colour in my work. And I hope I encourage my students not to get hung up on being artistic, but just to feel colourful : )

Gosh, that was a bit esoteric. Don't expect such flowery prose on the course. I'm not quite sure where all that came from!

(Ooh, nearly forgot - totally practical point that several people have asked about. I know lots of you are travelling light so don't worry about gloves and that kind of thing. I'll have a good supply of gloves, disposable aprons towels and plenty of soap! Maybe don't wear your best party outfit, but we really don't make as much mess as you might think!).

If you'd like to keep up with the latest news from me and my little company, you'll find my blog, Hue & Dye here, or tweet me at DTCrafts on Twitter and find me as Debbiet on Ravelry.

And I'll finish with one of my favourite colour quotes:

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”--
John Ruskin