Monday, May 25, 2009

knitting on the web

I'm in Wired

It's just the UK edition, but I'm in Wired magazine this month. My life as a z-list knit-celeb and that of an academic researching science in popular culture collided, and I was interviewed about why there is so much maths and science themed knitting.

Or rather, we discussed the way 21st century gender and geek identities have collided within various areas of the nerd-knitting subculture, and this ended up as a piece on science themed knitting. I got the impression the journalist was more interested in why there is so much knitting on the web, and was just talking to me for a bit of (likely to be unpublished) background. But clearly other deadline/ interests/ editorial constraints came along. There a pretty graphic of a ball of yarn tangling into a double helix, and I'm quoted with the explanation that 'creating 3D objects out of coded formulae - that's what a knitting pattern is'.

Still, it is a shame that the topic of knitting on the web wasn't taken further - it's an interesting issue. Knitting and the web have gone together for a long time. I remember listening to a Woman's Hour piece on female web-use a couple of years back, and some expert (can't remember who) argued that some of the first female-led podcasts were knitting ones. Now podcasting is so widespread, there are a quite shocking number of knitting ones. Perhaps there is an obvious reason why: you can knit while listening to a podcast (some of us read and even type while knitting, but it is easier just to press play on itunes). However, I wonder if the broader point isn't also true: that knitting is always at the forefront of women's uptake of new media technologies.

(I know lots of men also take part in the online knitting community, but you have to admit it is dominated by women).

Arguably, knitting has been there at the start of all the major new media developments of the last fifteen (more?) years, often producing some of the most polished and innovative products. Even in the largely pre-blog days, there were/are knitting listservs. There were/ are also knitting homepages, complete with patterns, advice and knitting calculators, often members of a bunch of knitting web-rings. There was/is some first-class knitting e-zines, even if the notion of the e-zine has generally been reinterpreted/ dissapeared. Today, many of us play with twitter and flickr, various blogs have come and gone, but really its is all about ravelry.

As I said to the journalist, I think we can read this in the same way we look at science-themed knitting: there are a fair number of knitters out there who like code, so its no surprise that computing abilities and an interest in knitting overlap. This is only part of the story though: the web is a way of communicating and helping to form and strengthen communities, and knitting has always been about communities. Whatever media knitters have taken - from magazine to scrawled handwritten notes lent to a member of our local knitting circle, from television to facebook - they talk, share, discuss and deconstruct whilst they click-click away. We should also remember that knitting is a bit weird, and the web does help special interest freaks find each other. Moreover, knitters like making stuff, whether it is coded or otherwise. Knit-themed blogs often contain references to DIY, baking, sewing or other craft: blog-building is part of this too.

It is these last three (non-geek) reasons why, I think, knitting on the web has exploded in the last five to ten years. Today, you don't need much of a nerdish inclination or any specialist computer knowledge to use most online knitting media. All you really need is a desire to share ideas and nose on what other people are doing, and those are much more widespread characteristics of knitters.

So, in the absence of Wired picking up on the topic, and in the wake of the ravelry twitter trend-bomb last week, I'd be interested to know what the readers of this blog think. I only really got into knitting four or so years ago, so I came to the knit-web reasonably late - I know there are some early adopters out there, what was it like on the knit-web frontier? Similarly, what about the newbies/ non-knitters, were you shocked when you first discovered quite how humongous the online knitting community is?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

knit grumps of a WIP (plus a nice FO)

Pretty as a Peacock WIP

My attempt at the Pretty as a Peacock shawl is kicking my bottom. Doesn't it look pretty up there? Pah! That was *four* false-starts ago.

First, I changed my mind about gauge, and I frogged and started again. The yarn pictured is Fyberspaces infinity, held double. Once the gauge was sorted it was going along pretty well, but I still felt the yarn wasn't the best match for the pattern: the thicker, shinier and evenly-dyed silk I bought in Damascus would do a better job. Again, I frogged and started again.

But this yarn is so slippery if a stitch falls even a little, it'll fall all the way to the end (imagine the complete opposite of kidsilk haze). Plus the pattern, at least in the first few charts, isn't regular enough that its easy to see how to neatly bring the stitch. I'm normally pretty good at using a crochet hook to bring dropped stitches up from several rows down - I'll happily turn cables around the other way or re-situate lace. But for some reason I can't get my head around this one. So, there's been two further full frogs. Grrr.

In happier news, I finished a cardigan, and I love it - even if I do seem to look especially grumpy in all the photos.

Top-down Rambling Rose 4

Its Rambling Rose from Rowan 39. I'd made this ages ago but it came out way too big. Plus, I thought a longer version would look nice, and I much preferred the ones I saw in ravelry which had been made out of a springy wool rather than the recommended cotton. The restult is the basic idea and charts of Rambling Rose, but done as a top down raglan with a load of side shaping. It fits perfectly, and is a pretty and practical cardi. A nice bit of warmth over a tee for the warmer months. Details of yarn, needles etc can be found the project's ravelry page.

Top-down Rambling Rose

In even happier news, Lara is coming round for afternoon tea, so I'm going to put the annoying knitting away, getting out some plain old stocking stitch to talk-and-knit with and putting on a batch of maple-syrup scones (they have oats in them and make the kitchen smell gorgeous, recipe from this book. Eat them with marmite: it shouldn't work but it really does).

Saturday, May 09, 2009

FOs: two lace shawls

Two FOs. Both shawls, both lace, both woolley. Both photographed in Regents park (Marcus' workplace is right next to the park, we sometimes go for a wonder at lunchtime if I'm working at a library nearby). First up, a dk-weight tweedy Aeolian.

Purple Shawl 3

I did the pattern for the shoulderette, but in heavier yarn, so its nearly as big as a shawl - still pretty much a shoulder warmer though. The yarn is a scottish silk/ merino mix I bought at iknit, along with some bamboo dpns in a last minute 'what if Heathrow try to confiscate my knitting' before leaving for Turkey last month. So actually started it, old-school style, on a set of dpns. It got large enough to be very squashed up them very quickly, so as soon as I got home, I swapped to a circular.

Purple Shawl 1

About two thirds of the way through I started to wonder if I liked the big leaf-like frilly edges at the end (they didn't seem to balance the start of the pattern), but as soon as I blocked it and tried it on I could see how well it worked. I'm pleased with this FO. As ever, full details on the project's ravelry page.

Finally, a green Icarus (Interweave Knits, Summer 2006). Again, full details on the project's ravelry page, including links to more photos on flickr.

Green shawl 1

I wanted to make Icarus for ages - I bought the summer 2006 IW espeically for the pattern. First I could't find the right yarn. Then I was put off by people saying the stockingette was dull (it wasn't). Finally, I rolled my sleeves up and got on with it. Again, this is done with heavier weight yarn than called for (although the gauge isn't that far off - its knit a lot denser), but one of the lovely things about the pattern is it is easy to make it larger or smaller, depending on taste/ available yarn. I used Old Maiden Aunt sockwool* and changed skein at the point I started on second lace pattern for the end section. This was handy because one skein was slightly more variegated than the other: the break in patten hides the slight difference in yarn, and I like all the extra colour on the feathery bits.

pointing at shawl

My brother's wedding's won't be happening, so I have less of a deadline for the silk lace shawls I was planning. Still, I've already the completed the first chart of Pretty as a Peacock using the purple yarn I bought in Damascus. A sunny summer has been forecast for England, so I'm imagining lots of outdoor cocktail parties for which I'll need an elegant wrap (More likely: muddy festivals. Most likely: sitting at my desk writing conference papers. But a girl can dream).

* Part of the 'homecoming' collection: the Scottish Parliament have successfully emotionally blackmailed me into celebrating my heritage through consumer goods.