Be Thankful (We've come a long way, baby)

As you pause and consider that for which you are thankful tomorrow, I hope you'll think of me. Well, not ME exactly, but me as in, knitting instructors, knitbloggers, and knitting enthusiasts, who make knitting content available to you for free everyday.

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, if you were curious about knitting, you had to find someone in your circle of acquaintance (and we're talking, actual acquaintance, not virtual) and ask them to show you how to knit. Unless there were a war on, knitting classes were not really a thing in this country. (I can't speak for the ancient Nordic peoples, whose descendants require knitting instruction in schools today.) It was your grandmother or aunt or the nice lady next door.

Knitting content was available, and I have a couple of older books that showcase the best of mid-century printed knitting instruction and patterns. Grainy black and white photos with very short patterns, all written with the assumption that you know A LOT about what you are doing.

We are so fortunate today to have so many ways to learn to knit, to learn about knitting, to find and share patterns and ideas and yarn. At any hour of the day we can turn to another knitter and say, "What in the WORLD is wrong with this row??" We can find inspiration, motivation, instruction and commiseration. It's a beautiful thing.

So I ask you again, be thankful for me and (others like me) who help make the knitting world a little smaller and more friendly, because we really have come a long way. And please know that we are thankful for YOU!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This lovely Three-Piece Cape Suit comes with 14 paragraphs of instruction, which covers  almost  2 pages, for all three pieces. Good luck!  As found in "Complete Guide to Modern Knitting and Crocheting" (1942)

This lovely Three-Piece Cape Suit comes with 14 paragraphs of instruction, which covers almost 2 pages, for all three pieces. Good luck!

As found in "Complete Guide to Modern Knitting and Crocheting" (1942)

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Veteran's Day, WWI and Knitting

Today is a holiday in this country and many others. For years I assumed that it was all the same holiday with different names, depending on where you observe it. I was sort of right.

November 11 is....

1. Veteran's Day (U.S.)--Veteran's Day is our day to honor those who have served in the military. It began as Armistice Day (see below) and the name was changed in many countries, after WWII.  According to, the national Veteran's Day ceremony is "intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces." This includes both of my grandfathers (Navy and Marines), my father-in-law (Navy), and my mother's cousin, who was the first woman I knew who had served in the Air Force and who I wanted to be just like when I was a kid. Living as I do in a military town, this also applies to more than half the people I know. So, to all y'all, THANK YOU!!

2. Armistice Day--This is still observed as "Armistice Day" in some of the countries (France, Belgium, New Zealand) who were part of the Allied forces during WWI. On November 11, 1918, at 11:00am, the armistice (or truce) was signed, ending the long and very bloody Great War, which raged from 1914-1918 and cost the lives of 16 million and left 20 million wounded. The Armistice is still remembered at 11:00am in the US, Canada, Great Britain and elsewhere, usually by 2 minutes of silence, the laying of wreaths on graves, and the sadness that comes with knowing that so many died so young in a horrible global conflict.

3. Remembrance Day (Canada, UK)--This began as Armistice Day and is usually observed on the Sunday closest to November 11--Remembrance Sunday. It is a day to remember both the Armistice and the fallen from other wars. The poppy flower is worn as a symbol of remembrance, thanks to a poem by John McCrae "In Flanders Fields."

At the Tower of London, artists have created an installation of ceramic poppies as a moving tribute to the memory of every British WWI fatality.



The Knit Guru has a free knitted poppy brooch pattern you can make, and if you have little ones who like to craft with paper, here's a site with instructions to make a paper poppy.

Do you recall me mentioning the WWI movie being filmed in England? It seems that "Tell Them of Us" is finished and has been released in England on a limited basis. From here I hope that someone picks it up and makes it available in the U.S. The history and the knitwear are both real.

I found this site via Pinterest, that includes, among other things, a list of books for kids about WWI--The Children's War.

No matter where you live or what you thought you knew about the Great War, I hope that this November 11 you will find the time to remember our great-great grandfathers who served and our great-great grandmothers who knitted while waiting for them at home. It is a history shared by the world, that unites us all in loss and the desire for peace. And in Remembrance...

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Benefits of Knitting

There are some articles floating around the internet again about the benefits of knitting. On the one hand, it's nice when the media has something nice to say about your hobby. On the other hand, do we really need to defend what we do?

Knitting has gone in and out of favor over the years, including a solid block of time as a Men Only Club (think Medieval craft guilds--no girls allowed). In my lifetime (which does NOT include the aforementioned Medieval era, no matter how old my kids think I am) there has been a resurgence, as young crafters have discovered how much fun it is to knit, and yarn and needle producers have discovered that the more yarn and needles they produce, the more money they make and the happier we knitters are to have choices.

As it so happens, I already  have  a rocking chair. So there.

As it so happens, I already have a rocking chair. So there.

Along with the resurgence has come more than a few dismissive observations:

  • Scorn:  "My grandmother used to knit"--this implies that not even decrepit old ladies still do such a dumb thing.
  • Ridicule:  "You do know you can BUY a pair of socks for $2 from Wal-Mart, right? You don't HAVE to make them yourself."--this implies that I shop at Wal-Mart, but am also so stupid that I am totally ignorant of mass production.
  • Profiling:  "All you need now is a rocking chair!" -this implies that either I am prematurely gray under my Clairol or worse still, old at heart.


Negative comments have made us a bit defensive, and so we tout studies about the therapeutic benefits to arthritic hands and aging brains as excellent reasons why we knit.

All hobbies that involve working with one's hands have physically beneficial side effects--wood working, fly fishing, sewing, painting, and ceramics are only a few examples, because there are so many. Any hobby that engages your mind will have mental benefits. Any hobby that can be social in nature will improve your happiness through relationships with fellow enthusiasts. Why must knitting be singled out to be defended for its helpful merits?

I read somewhere (Yarn Harlot, I think) that worldwide, there are more knitters than golfers. When was the last time you heard someone brag on the benefits of golf to justify greens fees? (I am not dissing golf in any way, I promise.)

The next time another "helpful" article about the benefits of knitting comes across your path, think about it from this perspective. Is knitting something that needs to be justified? Or can we all just agree it is something we enjoy and leave it at that? One day, non-knitters will be the ones who feel as though they must explain why they don't knit. Until that newsworthy day, I plan to keep knitting, happily secure in the thought that I needn't defend it to anyone.


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Indigo reflections: On time

As I stand in my backyard, an unexpectedly gentle breeze blowing on this warm August morning in South Carolina, with my indigo dyeing equipment set up and another bunch of yarn and fabric about to experience the magic of indigo, I feel at once both primitive and very modern.  It is the irony of using ancient dyeing techniques in the 21st century, the juxtaposition of plastic 5-gallon buckets and rubber kitchen gloves with a dyestuff in use since at least 2400 B.C. It is the continuum of craft, of beauty, of art, of color.


One aspect of the irony of MY being involved with indigo is the amount of time and patience it requires (all of which are worth it. Totally.)  I'm not terribly good at waiting unless I have trained myself to see the value in the time as it passes.  I can too easily get impatient for something good to happen or to get on to my next project or to finish the task at hand. 

Indigo dyeing takes TIME. 

Unless you have a spot that is always dedicated to dyeing in your home or yard, there must be set up time.  The dye vat has to be prepped and the chemical reactions must occur (all in their own time) and the fabric or yarn must be made ready.  The time in the vat itself seems like the smallest portion of the process.  A mere 5 minutes in the greenish liquid then necessitates at least 15 or more minutes for oxidation.  Once the dyeing part is complete, comes the soaking in vinegar, the washing, the rinsing and, in the case of yarn, the multiple repetitions of the soaking, washing and rinsing in order for the excess dye to be removed.      It takes time.


Learning to love indigo and to understand it and learn the lessons it has to teach, takes time.  When I first began dyeing I was impressed with it, of course.  Years of dyeing Easter eggs and using fabric paint and painting walls and craft projects prove that I love crafts with color as much as the next gal.  But it wasn't until I kept at it and the weeks stretched into months and the months stretched into years (OK, as of now a year and a half), that I began to connect with the it.  No longer is this merely a method to turn fabric and yarn blue.  I could do that with a bottle of Rit Dye and have much more reliable, consistent, quick results.   It isn't just about the color, because if it were, then we would only use synthetic indigo, never the natural stuff that takes so long and can be a little moody like a teenager in the summer.  Indigo dyeing is a lot like teaching the skills involved in knitting.  It is something that cannot be hurried.  It sometimes takes tact and finesse and encouragement and nurturing to introduce dye to fiber or knitting to a newbie.  It takes time.

When I am spending time with my dye vat as I did today (and twice last week--now you know why all my house work hasn't been finished), I think about time.  I think about the time it takes to dye, the time it takes to learn from indigo, and the time that has passed over the many centuries--time in which indigo was the most prized of colors, the color of royalty, the color that was traded and revered and used as medicine and currency.  I am caught in the middle; I am the student, as indigo teaches me about its wealth and magic, and I am the teacher, passing on what I learn to others so that the continuum will last.  It is only a moment of time, yet it is my moment with indigo and as the sun comes over the giant, moss-draped Live Oak next door, it shines on my moment, on my modest place in the rich history of this dye stuff, and I am changed as surely as the fibers in my hands are now a deep, dark blue.


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