This is unrelated to most things, but I just wanted to share something fun my husband did this morning. After my shower I got dressed and went into the family room where my husband was playing with our little girl. On the couch, set up all nicely on my knitting so I could see it as I walked in, was this:
Isn’t that sweet? My spirits jump just a little when someone I care about shows an interest in my stuff. Like when my husband, who was then just a friend, asked me to teach him to knit.
He was very proud of the cat he drew. Actually he gave me his opinion on my blog logo (which I designed), so he knows what makes a good cat drawing. The drawing pad was a Christmas present for our little Peanut* from my mum, and she likes it. I once drew a cat on it and meowed to show her it was a cat, so now she draws random scribbles and then meows. You can’t not laugh when there are kids around. Do/did your kids ever do funny stuff like that?
Just in case you’re wondering, yes that drawing pad is like a tricked out version of the ones kids had twenty years ago (you can find one just like it here, or at Kmart in Australia). Peanut loves it and as far as electronic things for toddlers go, it looks like it’ll teach well and not overstimulate. I must say it’s a little annoying and the voice they use sounds like a bored school teacher. Also it uses American pronunciations of things which would be fine but for the fact that we pronounce a few things differently in Australia. I just wanted to be honest about what I like and don’t like about this drawing pad because that link is an afifliate link and I made a promise to you that I’ll recommend products to you like I’m a friend recommending something I’ve used.
Also if you’re interested in what’s on those knitting needles, it’s a swatch for a floral edging found in Knitting On the Edge by Nicky Epstein (I also talk about it in another post here and I’ll do a book review for it sometime soon).
That’s all 🙂 . It made my day.
*My daughter’s name is not really Peanut, I’d just rather not share her name on the web.
Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means I will receive a commission if you click on the affiliate link and purchase the item.
I wanted to write you an honest letter about this blog, what I am trying to achieve with it, and what I am getting out of it (financially and otherwise).
About This Blog
This blog, Knitkatpaddywhack (formerly The Knitted Kitten) was started by me, Kat, in 2011, as a “for fun” blog about knitting. Knitting is one of my great passions. From it has grown other passions of spinning yarn and designing knitting patterns. Another of my passions is writing, so writing about knitting was and is a lot of fun for me. Much has changed since 2011. I finished my first degree, went overseas a few times, moved state, finished my second degree, started work as a psychologist, got married, and had a baby. It was while I was staying at home with my baby daughter that I started to think about this blog (which I had been neglecting since my daughter was born), and what it means to me. When you have a whole, spectacular, tiny person who is learning from everything you’re doing, and to whom you are the most influential person on earth, you start to think about what you can show for your life, what you can be for her.
My Vision for This Blog
This blog is a place where I can be the fearless creative person I hope my daughter will be one day. I originally made this blog to share my knitting adventures, and largely, it will remain that way. Many of my posts will be personal or esoteric. You know, not the kind of thing you might find on a polished, “professional” blog. But, I love them. When I moved my posts over from The Knitted Kitten, I re-read them. I was endeared by 21, 22, 23-year-old Kat who wrote about random spinning groups she finds on Swedish mountaintops, or devoted a whole post and a half to memorialising her rabbit whose hair she had spun into yarn not that long before he died. This blog will still have that. I want this blog to be a conversation with the people who read it. I want you to share your random life events in the comments as well.
But I want to push this blog further, too. I see this blog as a place where I can make a collection of my own knitting patterns, some for sale, some for free. I would love to see my patterns in knitting magazines and books one day. This blog will also be a place of education, about sharing knitting techniques, ideas, and hacks. BUT, what I am not planning to do is reinvent the wheel. There are so many wonderful resources about knitting online and in libraries already, many of which have and still are helping me in my mostly self-taught knitting journey. I see no need to explain how to cast on because many many great bloggers have done that before me. What I will do is add my own knowledge, my own spin on things, and share tricks that I believe are little-known and worth sharing.
I have also decided to monetise this blog in ways other than selling patterns. This might include recommending affiliate products. This is where I recommend products to you which, if you buy them using links I have included, I will receive a commission from the companies who sell them to you (any post that contains affiliate links will clearly state that fact). I thought long and hard about whether and how to do this in a way which is in line with my ethical beliefs. I was concerned about becoming a person who tries to sell things to readers for no reason other than my own gain, and I didn’t want to be that person. Here is what I promise you:
- I will only recommend products to you that I believe are useful (I won’t try to get you to buy something simply for my gain). Think of me as a friend recommending products that I think you’ll like and will help you.
- I will endeavour to recommend products which I have personally used and love. At the very least, I will recommend products which are from trusted brands with good reviews, and ideally very similar to exact products I have used.
- I will not invent hype or make you feel like something is a “must-have” item. Almost nothing is a “must-have” item. If I love an item, I will tell you, but I won’t deliberately put you under unnecessary pressure to buy it.
So this is what Knitkatpaddywhack is about. It is about sharing knitting and life tid-bits, sharing creativity, and especially sharing knowledge, and I feel that the only way I can be comfortable making any amount of money from this blog is by being ethical about doing so. Thank you, friends, for visiting this blog, and supporting this blog as you have been. Even if this is the first time ever that you have visited Knitkatpaddywhack, thank you! It means a lot, really.
This is the story of how I taught my friend to knit.
In late 2014, I got a Facebook message from my friend Gabriel* with this link on it: http://www.handimania.com/knit/30-minute-infinity-scarf.html. “No needle knitting!” He said, “There’s definitely a needle surplus in the world now”. And he said he wanted to try to make an arm-knitted scarf for his sister’s Christmas present. I encouraged the idea, because knitting.
Gabriel is a friend I’d met at my university’s Catholic students’ society. He had just finished an engineering degree, liked to talk about theology to atheists, and could grow a great beard. A few of us from that churchy scene had started hanging out socially once a week at a pub quiz. One of the few times just the two of us had hung out was a couple of months earlier, when we sat in a pub and talked, because the quiz was booked out and our friends all bailed on a movie. We talked about everything, like how he wanted to learn to shear sheep (“I do too!” I’d said) and butcher sheep (ooh, me, not so much), plans for the house he had just moved into, studying, family…enough conversation to last longer than the movie would have gone for. At that time I was getting ready to finish my Masters and I told him how, when I moved back to Adelaide with my parents, I wasn’t in a rush to find a psychologist job. Maybe I’d start up a craft stall and sell knitted things alongside my dad’s vegetables.
However, in the intervening time between that conversation at the pub and Gabriel’s message about arm-knitting, I had been convinced by friends (in large part by him) to stick around in Tasmania for a while. “I’m not quite done with Tasmania,” I’d said to myself.
I told Gabriel I’d happily go with him to select the right yarn, so a week or two later, we did just that. We went to Spotlight and found him some super-bulky maroon yarn. We chose a soft acrylic, because who wants a scratchy wool that shrinks in the wash? I also found some blue yarn so I could make a present for our friend’s son (who at that time was yet to be born). We went back to his house, and I left him on his own to follow the tutorial.
A few days later, I was on placement in a counselling office, waiting for a client to arrive, when I got a message from Gabriel with a picture of his right arm tangled in the yarn I’d helped him pick out, cast on but no rows knitted. Not knowing how to proceed, he was trapped, and I’m told it was quite a hassle for him to take the photo.
The ensuing conversation went something like this:
G: Am I doing it right?
K: It looks right but way too tight.
G: I can’t get it up my arm. My forearm is thicker than my wrist.
K: You need to start with a longer tail. Unravel it and cast on more loosely.
*a few minutes later, Gabriel posts another picture of his arm all wrapped up in yarn again*
K: Yay! Did you do a row?
G: Yeah, but I don’t think I’m doing this right.
K: It looks right to me.
G: I dunno…
K: Do you need help?
G: Yes please.
K: I’ll come over tomorrow night.
|Actual photo of Gabriel’s arm. I did a good job on the yarn choice, no?|
The next evening, after a day of placement, I got to his house, he made me a delicious dinner and I became slightly more impressed with him than I had been previously. I’m not going to lie; he was growing on me. “I’m not quite done with Tasmania” might have been code for “I’m not quite done with Tasmanians”.
He had the YouTube video all set up to play from his TV and he played it but really, it wasn’t my first time knitting so we mostly didn’t watch it. Instead, I demonstrated with some yarn I’d brought and he followed along. Eventually he got the hang of it and we sat on the couch while he arm-knitted his scarf and I knitted a shawl – or was it the baby cardigan? – I can’t remember. I even drew him a diagram about how knitting works, which I didn’t think made much sense but hey, he’s an engineer (A couple of weeks later when he’d decided to make another scarf for his sister-in-law, he said my diagram came in handy when he had to fix a mistake)!
When he was done with the knitting I showed him how to cast off and attach the ends together such that it made a Möbius strip, because he likes Möbius strips.
And then we were done. Then he made us a cup of tea and I told him about growing up as the daughter of aquarium enthusiasts and I drew him a diagram of an axolotl.
Then I had finished drawing pictures, so he made us a cup of tea and he showed me videos about Möbius strips and Klein bottles and physics.
Then that was done so he made us a cup of tea and we talked about theology and the monastery in the country we were both going to visit the next day.
And then it was 11pm and he had to get ready for his work which started at midnight. And so, he made us a cup of tea and he got dressed for work and then we talked until he had to leave for work and we both left.
And that is the story of how I taught my husband to knit.
Postscript: That baby, who was the recipient of the cardigan I mentioned? He’s our godson.
*Gabriel’s name is not actually Gabriel. The first time I saw him across the room and I didn’t know his name, I decided he looked like a Gabriel because his long blond hair reminded me of a cartoon Archangel Gabriel in a Christmas movie I watched as a kid.
My last post was about how I had made a toy rabbit out of yarn I spun from the fur of my real rabbit, Coal. In that post, I talked about how Coal was getting older and I wanted to make the rabbit as something to remember him by when he passes away. My mum has just called to tell me that Coal has died. He was fine one day, and the next day did not greet my mum when she went to feed him; he had died in the place he sleeps. I knew this day was coming. I only hope he died peacefully and painlessly. I will love you always, my bunny rabbit.
I’m procrastinating big time on my last assignment for the semester. In doing so, I’ve been narcissistically (definitely a word) looking over my posts from my trip to Europe, and it occurred to me how great family is. How great is family? On my trip to the UK I met several family members who are interested in genealogy, something which I have some interest in too. Boy, is it fascinating. How strange that professions seem to run in the family. My mum was a teacher, two of her sisters were teachers, my late paternal grandfather was a university lecturer, and my brother, with teachers on both sides of the family, is a postman. And my sister is a teacher (see what I did there? I suspect there are comedians in my family). I’ve noticed a similar trend with a tendency to like learning languages (my mum, my sister and me), writing (both my paternal grandparents, all their kids, my brother and me), musicality (so many of us), vegetarianism (auntie, dad, me, cousins, various other temporary ones), and armed service (great uncles on both sides, Grandma and my brother). In my family history, there are stories of convicts being sent to Australia (probably not true, but some went voluntarily later), murderers, and a potential illegitimate ancestry from a famous Scot (either that or an ancestor of mine had a beer with him in a pub. I have heard both stories), and so many other families have so many other fascinating histories.
And you’re all like, stop talking about your family, Kat, it’s like looking at someone else’s holiday slides. Go to bed or finish that assignment. And I’m all like, quiet you, I was going somewhere with this. Give me a chance to finish, will you? And you’re all like, how rude, I don’t have to take this. And I’m all like, I’m sorry, I’m delusional, I need to sleep but I’m not going to. Now shut up and listen to me ramble.
What I was TRYING to get to, before you so rudely interrupted, was that knitting also runs in my family, notably on my paternal side. My great aunt, who I’ve mentioned in other posts, is 92 years old and still knitting! I’m so proud! Her sister, who I also met, is keen on cross stitch and used to make teddy bears. I didn’t realise until after her daughter (my…first cousin once removed) found this blog, that this aunt and her daughter also love knitting! My aunt said that my great Grandma (the mother of my great aunts and my Granddad), after whom my sister is named, used to knit a lot. Having 10 children, she would knit several copies of the same garment for each child of the appropriate gender to wear. How sweet! This family is all from my Granddad’s side, but my Grandma, as I’ve mentioned many times, was a prolific knitter. Unfortunately for me, I’m one of her youngest grandkids so my strongest memories of her were when she was frail and didn’t knit so much. Even so, I remember her teaching my sister to knit, and me of course. I remember her making socks, and latch-hooking rugs. I even remember her knitting a pocket for a cardigan she had bought which had none. I remember thinking “wow, isn’t that cool, that she can just DO that?” All four of us (my sister, my brothers and me) had a knitted lamb in a different colour. I remember getting mine at about 3 or 4 and it was purple, which I was perfectly happy with, but it wasn’t until I was older that purple became well and truly my favourite colour. I do believe our first dog ate that lamb. I don’t blame her, I suspect malice aforethought from her master. *sigh*. Siblings. My oldest brother’s security toy (he was the only one of us who was especially attached to a particular toy from early infancy) was a large doll knitted by my Grandma, and my sister had one too. We’ve still got my sister’s doll. Our first dog ate my brother’s. I plan to re-create one of those lambs. And my brother’s doll too, for his own son, who had better not feed his sister’s toys to the dog. So, my Grandma was a big knitter. Her daughter (incidentally after whom I am named) is a knitter, and it was super fun meeting her last year and talking about knitting, plus ALL the other stuff we talked about when I was there. She recently posted a picture of a beautiful baby blanket she’s knitted, in cotton and bamboo no less. Beautiful yarns, and I regret that I’ve been favouring the acrylic lately because I’m cheap. I can dream, though. Then there’s me, also knitter. Also my sister, a crocheter (but the crochet could come from the other side of the family. Let’s not get into that though.) I recently made some mittens which I’ll blog about at some stage. I’ll admit that in the craziness of this semester, I was worried I was losing my obsession with knitting. Obsession is a fantastic thing, and I love when I’m in the grips of it. But it has to fade eventually, and there’s a danger of it fading completely. Thankfully I don’t think knitting ever will stop being a part of my life. It’s apparently in my genes. Here is a genogram of all these fibre arts family members (men are added in order to join the dots. I don’t hate men, but these particular ones don’t knit.
As I write more and more of this blog post, I realise that I might be experiencing some end-of-semester delirium. I presented my research proposal today (well, yesterday) and allI have left is an assignment and a test. Humour me.
So, it occurs to me that I’m all like, oh cool, look at all these knitters in my past! How special! But in reality, no, it’s not that special. In the olden days everyone knitted and sewed and did all of that wholesome stuff. I bet my Granddad’s other sisters knit/knitted too. When I first moved to Tasmania, I devoured the Little Women book and sequels by Louisa May Alcott. The books are so touching and beautiful. But when you stand back and look at them, they’re about domestic life! Sometimes not even particularly noteworthy events in domestic life. Meg and Jo went to a party, Jo darned Mr Bhaer’s socks, the girls put on a play. So simple, and so beautiful. Something I love in those books is the image of the women of the house with their mending baskets working together in the evening. All the women could knit and all the women did knit! I’ve heard that knitting started off as a man’s activity, but in the late 19th century, it was very much a skill which women had and did more than the men, and it provided a time for discussion between women in a family. Alcott was a feminist, and in her last book of the series (don’t want to give away too much), there are women in a university, and though they are very smart and studious, they’re starting to forget how to sew and knit, and the March sisters run classes to teach them. I know it’s kitschy Americana or whatever, and it was written so long ago, but it’s just a lovely image. Women in a family, and then women in a community, doing such a creative, essential thing as fixing and making clothes, to provide for themselves and their families. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but it makes my heart smile. One day, if I have daughters, I’m going to teach them the value of the thread.
There are a lot of ethical issues to consider when doing craft. For me and my knitting, my biggest concern is the animals used in fibre production. I also worry about the overuse of synthetics.
Animals are a hot topic for me. I’ve been a proud vegetarian since I was 15 (I’m now 21). The reasons I don’t eat meat are varied and complicated, but one main reason is that I don’t like animals to be in pain. I am, however, not a vegan, so in principle I’m cool with using animal fibre. The problem with animal fibre is when animals are treated badly in order to get it. These are just my opinions, mind you, and of course you’re welcome to disagree and share your own.
Firstly, silk. Silkworms produce a thread of silk which they wrap around themselves when they are pupae. When they’re ready to turn into moths, they break through the silk, meaning it is no longer a single thread. In silk production for textiles, what is generally wanted is the intact thread of silk. This is harvested by boiling silkworm cocoons. This kills the worm and leaves the silk thread in one piece. Obviously, vegetarians don’t like silk because it kills an animal. I was aware of the way silk was produced so thought I’d never be able to use it in knitting. But then, I found out about peace silk (see http://www.aurorasilk.com/yarns_and_threads/threads/peace_silk_thread/AhimsaPeaceSilkYarn.htm for more information). With this kind of silk, you let the worms turn into moths then harvest the broken silk threads and spin them. I’ve never seen silk like this but apparently it’s fluffier (but still lovely). Anyway, when I found out about peace silk I was so excited that I advertised on Freecycle and found an extremely nice lady who let me take cuttings from her mulberry tree (silkworms eat the leaves. They also can live off other stuff but mulberry leaves are the best). My plan was to raise the trees and in the meantime learn to spin wool. Then, when the trees had enough leaves, I’d try to raise some silkworms! I was so excited. But alas, of the six mulberry cuttings I took, zero struck. My dad says that one day we might buy a mulberry tree and then I can try again. It’s still a dream of mine. One day, when I have my self-sufficient garden and an angora rabbit for a housepet, I will raise silkworms and spin my own silk, and give silkworms to my children’s classrooms for them to raise and observe. One day.
Secondly, wool. Wool is normally fine, but in some countries (ahem, Australia, my home) the sheep aren’t treated all that nice. Firstly there is mulesing. Mulesing is common practice on Australian sheep farms. It is where a layer of skin is cut off (without anaesthetic) from around a lamb’s buttocks, leaving behind a smooth area of scar tissue where no wool grows. Now, before anyone bites my head off over this, mulesing is done for a very respectable reason, and that is, sheep in Australia can get fly strike. Fly strike is a horrible condition where fly larvae feed off the skin. Sheep also have their tails docked (without anaesthetic) in Australia for the same reason (also so that when they’re chasing foxes down dens, their masters don’t accidentally pull their tails off. Or maybe that’s Jack Russels). A sheep’s bum is apparently very wrinkly so prone to fly strike. Mulesing prevents fly strike in the mulesed area but it doesn’t wipe out the problem. Overall I don’t think mulesing is worth it, and there are alternatives. Indeed, non-mulesed sheep exist in Australia. You can raise non-wrinkly sheep or treat and prevent fly strike with chemicals (yes, I know, this would kill baby flies, but I’d rather that than cutting off an awake sheep’s bum skin, in the same way that I worm my pets to prevent them from getting sick). I, for this reason, don’t make a habit of buying wool and if I do, I look for non-Australian wool. I’ve tried to find knitting yarn which is certified to be from non-mulesed sheep, but have failed to do so. If anyone knows of a brand of wool from non-mulesed sheep, tell me about it! But here and here are some wholesalers. I should say that the Australian government is currently trying to discourage mulesing but this link I put up earlier can tell you more about that. But the poor sheep don’t just have mulesing to deal with. The ultra fine wool industry raises sheep which produce, unsurprisingly, ultra fine wool, which is all expensive and fancy and stuff. These sheep are kept indoors all day in tiny solitary pens, even wearing jackets to protect their wool. This is no way for a social animal like sheep to live and I liken it to battery hen egg production. So no ultra fine wool for me.
My other problem with fibre: synthetics. This isn’t as big a problem for me, but it’s worth a mention. In fact, I use lots of synthetics, especially acrylic, because I’m a poor student and that’s what I can afford. I don’t outright think synthetics should be discontinued, but what bothers me about synthetics in general is that they’re not biodegradable and I like composting things and knowing they won’t end up in landfill. I guess it’s an ideal of mine for everything to go back to the land one day, but being an ideal, I don’t expect to achieve it. Acrylic yarn is my biggest peeve because it’s made of petroleum, so it’s basically plastic. Again, my objection to acrylic yarn is philosophical in that I think we should depend less on petroleum, and acrylic yarn is a petroleum product, therefore we should depend less on acrylic yarn. Having said that, I’m not so radical that I’ll stop using it. Where I can, though, I like to use animal and plant fibre for my knitting. Either that or I go through my Grandma’s stash or look in op shops for yarn.
So those are my two cents on ethical fibre choices. Oh, also, I love organics and therefore organic yarn. And no I don’t have dread locks.
The Knitted Kitten