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Technical Writings 3

Miscellaneous Writings

  • KnitFlame List
  • KnitNet Interview ("Shawls: An Old Favorite" and Oddball Shawl Pattern)
  • 2-part Suite 101 interview

    Technical Stuff 1
    Technical Stuff 2

  • KnitFlame List

    Originally posted to the Knitlist
    April 7, 1997

    Knitflame: Part I

    I've been on the knitlist for over a year now and I've noticed the same cycle of war and peace, flames and fuzzies, regular as the tax season. It has even spilled over to the Tech Knit list, of all places. So I'd like to propose a new list:

    The KnitFlame List

    Here are the details: each month there will be an allotted topic to concentrate flames, with alternative topics for those who can't agree. For example, UK knit-flamers might prefer to hold a pre-election flame campaign this month. To accommodate Muslims, whose calendar is lunar, we'll hold the Ramadan flame-wars at the appropriate time.

    Proposed Plan:

    April: Easter / Passover Holy War This one is already well underway and coming along just fine!

    May: Knit Personality Barbecue I hate/love: 1) Kaffe Fassett, 2) Lily Chin, 3) Leigh Witchel. (Private note to Joan Schrouder, Sally Melville, Michele Wyman, and others: You people are being too nice. Please do something controversial so that we can add you to the list, or we'll have to do some serious digging).

    June: Needle Wars. Straight / circular / dp. Brittany / Clover / Inox / Addis / Bates. Rosewood / plastic / metal / nickel-plated / casein. Choose your weapon!

    July: Fiber Fracas. Synthetic vs. Natural. Wool vs. Cotton. Ramie fans will have to hang out in the parking lot until they figure out which side they're on.

    August: Knit vs. Crochet. We are inviting the Crochet Partners list toparticipate. Bring your sharpest 8-0 steel needles and your .6 mm hooks. Curare optional.

    Sept: Signatures. No limit on sig files. Post your most controversial quotations, references to the human anatomy, Heaven's Gate, political party, flavours of ice cream. No asterisks. Guest referees: Manny Olds and Joy Beeson.

    Oct: Pet month. Cats vs. Dogs. Goats vs. Sheep. Pit Bulls vs. Angora Rabbits. Please include pedigree, significance of pet's name, silly nicknames, 4M colour scans, cute stories, history of illnesses, what your pet means to you and how you'd like to turn other pets into sausage meat.

    Nov: Open Season on a Knitlister. Pick someone from the Knitlist who bothers you. Mailbomb them. Subscribe them to 800 lists, including every crochet list on the web. Publish their responses on the big Knitlist. Send CC of response to knitlist-victim's mother, close relatives and employer.

    Dec: What else? Christmas vs. Hannukah, of course! Other religions are, of course, welcome to apply for equal time. Flame wars know no religious boundaries.

    So that should take us to the end of the calendar month.

    Rules: There aren't any!!!!! Have fun, people!

    Knitflame: Pt. 2

    Hi Knitlisters,

    I don't normally post follow-up notes to my own mssgs but since the KnitFlame List proposal sparked a flood of mail (haven't had such an avalanche since my birthday) with excellent suggestions, I hope Amy will forgive my posting an addendum.

    It has come to my attention that atheists and agnostics feel left out during the biannual Easter / Passover, Christmas / Hannukah Holy Wars. Of course you are welcome to post flames on KnitFlame during religious occasions! The invitation is extended to apostates, infidels and unbelievers of ANY persuasion! After all, the point of this inter-religious/non-religious flame exercise is to show the world that when it comes to war, there's one area on which we all agree!!

    May: Knit Personality Barbecue: The following names have been added to the list: Phyllis Stein, Ann Feitelson, Alexis Xenakis and Joan Schrouder. Since Joan has graciously -volunteered- to be a subject of debate, be sure that you get her address right: JOAN_SCHROUDER@COMPUSERVE.COM. That's "JOAN," not "Jean," there's a "C" in "SCHROUDER," and COMPUSERVE has an "E" at the end. We wouldn't want her to miss a single heated word coming to her! Thanks, Joan.

    Finally, I have received enough suggestions to fill the remaining 3 months of the calendar:

    January: Speling, Grammer, and Sintax. Writers, professional typists, retired English instructors and pedants of all ages are invited to visit their sound and fury upon mitten-fisted typists, manglers of the Queen's English, and perpetrators of egregious errors, up with which we shall not put.

    February: Medical Conditions. Do you or a loved one suffer from a medical condition which is too embarrassing or disgusting to share with close family members? Don't be shy! 1600 knitters want to hear about it!! Colour photographs and close-ups welcome.

    March: LYS vs. Mail Order Have you ever wondered exactly how many LYSO's (active and retired) are on the Knitlist? 100? 200? 500? Have you ever wondered what would happen if they all flamed Webs SIMULTANEOUSLY? Tune in and find out!


    Shawls: an old favorite

    Originally appeared on KnitNet Magazine, January 1999

    "I don’t have a favorite yarn, stitch or pattern. I don't collect Brittany needles or knitting bags. And if I were forced to write 500-700 words about circular needles or blocking wires, I’d turn off my computer and grab my needles instead. But open my closet and what tumbles out? Shawls. Shawls are a perennial favorite, without question. Give me any yarn -- cobweb, bulky, textured, smooth, novelty -- and my first thought is "What kind of shawl?"

    I'm a commuter-knitter who looks for lightweight projects. I knit sweaters, with reluctance, for a husband and son who obstinately refuse to wear shawls. Sweaters are not my first choice because they require either sewing at the end or, if seamless, a whole armory of needles in different lengths. Many shawls, however, can be knitted on a single circular needle. Of course, socks are also lightweight and require only one set of needles. But who has the courage to pull off a shoe on a crowded bus to see if it’s time to start the toe?

    Shawls don’t require careful attention to gauge and size. If it’s too small, blocking corrects a multitude of sins. Still too small? Call it a scarf or a baby blanket. Give it to a diminutive friend. Too large? Lucky you! You've got an afghan.

    Shawls come in a variety of shapes: square, triangle, circle, semi-circle, "more-than-circular," rectangle and Faroese boomerang. They can be worked top-down, bottom-up, side-to-side and center-out. I haven’t exhausted the possibilities, by any means!

    Shawls are versatile. Wrap and tie a heavy shawl instead of a cardigan on chilly days. Drape a lacy shawl over a winter coat and no one will notice that the coat’s 10 years old and needs a good cleaning. When invited to a wedding on campus after work, I wore my office clothes and tucked a shawl in my bag. No sooner had I arranged the shawl over my shoulders than another woman asked me for directions to the same wedding. Ever notice that a lace shawl seems to scream, "Summer Wedding"? It's the simplest way to look elegant without hauling along a garment bag.

    Shawls have history. I feel a cozy sense of knitterly continuity when I look at photographs of Shetland crofters and intrepid Victorian ladies (I harbor the vain hope that someone will mistake me for Meryl Streep in Out of Africa). Shawls, more than any other knitted garment, exude an air of gentle elegance and nostalgia mixed with practicality. You can work in a shawl. You can't do that with a doily.

    Shawls are like old friends. They don’t intrude but they’re always there. From Godey’s to Vogue to Knitter’s, it’s rare to find a collection that doesn’t include a shawl. And why not? They are infinitely adaptable. Is there a pattern or stitch, which doesn’t feel at home on a shawl? Last night I envisioned a huge funky garter-stitch shawl in bright blocks of color, covered with buttonholes. Sew on a large novelty button and you have a garment, which can be fastened anywhere. Think of the wearing and draping possibilities! A truly slip-proof, no-tie shawl. Perhaps the concept is a bit far-fetched but if you see a buttonhole shawl on the pages of Vogue Knitting, you’ll know where it came from.

    Shawls richly repay the efforts of virtuoso knitters and beginners alike. They're a lace knitter’s dream, leaving sweater twinsets in the dust. They’re a testing ground for handspinners on the Quest for the Ring Shawl. (Have you ever seen anyone brag about pulling a sock through a wedding band?) They turn a rank beginner into an instant designer. Most of you probably already know the joy of shawls but for skeptics and less experienced knitters, here’s a pattern. It came to me yesterday when I couldn’t get a seat on the bus and was forced to stand and meditate on knitting instead. I'll leave you with one last thought: blocking wires are a shawl-knitter's best friend."

    Avital's Easy Oddball Shawl

    Self-fringing triangular garter-stitch shawl worked from side to side. Use oddball yarn of roughly the same weight; mohair works well.

    Recommended for beginners.

    Finished size is variable, depending on knitter's preference

    About eight to 10 ounces yarn of your choice Needles: Choose a size suited for the yarn. If you’re a tight knitter, pick a larger size or your shawl will double as a rug.

    Determined by yarn and knitter's preference

    Leaving a 6" tail of yarn, cast on 3 stitches.

    Increase section
    *Row 1: Knit. Cut the yarn leaving a 6" tail. Pull the loose ends gently to tighten the edge stitches, if necessary, and tie both ends together in an overhand knot, close to the knitting.
    Row 2: Start a new ball of yarn (may be same color or contrasting color). Leave a 6" tail. K1, inc 1 in next stitch, knit to end.*

    NOTE: knitting the first stitch is easier if you hold the loose end of the yarn against the right needle with your right thumb to provide some tension.

    Repeat * * until the knitting is 27" wide or desired length of shawl. End with Row 1.

    Decrease section
    *Row 1: Leave a 6" tail, k1, k2tog, k to end.
    Row 2: Knit. Leave a 6" tail, cut and tie.*
    Repeat * * until you have 3 stitches, ending with Row 1. Bind off 2 stitches, cut the yarn, leaving a 6" tail. Run it through the last stitch and tie the last two yarn ends together.

    Trim the fringe so that the ends are even. Block gently.

    Copyright 1998. Avital Pinnick, Jerusalem. This pattern may be reproduced for personal, non-profit use as long as this notice is retained.


    Suite 101 interview

    Originally published on Suite 101, May 4, 1999.
    Used by permission of the copyright holder.

    Author/interviewer: Suzanne Griffith

    Real People Online: Avital Pinnick (Part 1)

    Avital Pinnick is known to members of the SpinList, various lace lists, and to veteran members of the KnitList for her lively, informative posts and her quick, friendly responses to technical questions. She is also known for her expertise in knitting and knit design. Avital calls herself "The Insane Knitter," but I see a lot of thought, talent, skill, and art in the knitting on her web page.

    Avital, a Canadian by birth, lives in Jerusalem with her husband, son, and some potted cotton plants. She earned a Ph.D. in Second Temple Jewish Literature from Harvard University and is currently Chief of Publications for the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I interviewed Avital by email in April.

    I remember reading that you once knitted professionally?

    When I was in my final weeks of pregnancy and unable to work long hours, my husband's research grant at the university ran out; he was earning extra cash by guarding building sites at night. I began to do contract knitting for a local yarn shop, now no longer in business. It was very interesting work, since the owner did her own designs, but it sure took a lot of the fun out of knitting! For example, with only a sketch and measurements, I'd produce a man's medium-gauge (5 sts/inch) cardigan, from start to finish (except sewing on the buttons), in about five days and receive the equivalent of $33 US. I don't recommend it as an easy way to make a living but we were in dire financial straits and that money helped buy groceries.

    I still accept occasional commissions but only serious ones. My fees usually separate the serious buyers from the bargain hunters.

    Did you make the hat and collar that you're wearing in your photo?

    That hat is commercially made. The collar is bobbin lace and took me almost a year to complete. The design is by Eeva-Liisa Kortelahti, a marvelous Finnish designer, worked in Swedish Bockens 90/2 linen thread. With the help and encouragement of the Arachne lace list, I taught myself bobbin lace about two and a half years ago. As an ambitious beginner, I figured a collar wouldn't take too long, right? Wrong! It was an on-and-off project while finishing my doctoral dissertation. I'm very proud of that collar and wear it frequently. I'd love to do another Kortelahti design -- maybe another collar? -- after I finish my no-brainer 4" wide tablecloth insertion.

    I've been looking over your website, which I've been following for a couple of years now. I like the "knitting" and "strange knitting" sections. I especially enjoyed the cotton hats, since I've been thinking of making one myself. I marveled at the beaded knitting and bead work, but my mouth really dropped when I got to the "insane knitting" section and saw the Miniature Peacock Facecloth and the two tiny doilies.

    They're lovely, and I hope they've been framed. What moved you to miniaturization? Are you still doing miniature knitting?

    Every time I finish a miniature piece, I mutter to myself, "NEVER AGAIN!!!!" But inevitably I find picking up the teensy tiny needles...

    I began one summer when the big KnitList was raving over Joan Schrouder's Raspberry Shimmer sweater in Knitter's Magazine. It was a short-sleeved cable-and-lace pullover with a placket opening and collar. I grabbed some raspberry-colored pearl cotton and some fine needles and knitted up a miniature version -- during a heatwave, in semi-darkness as I'd closed all the shutters to keep the heat out. I mailed it off to Joan with a tongue-in-cheek note, whining about gauge problems, and she liked it so much that she wore it on her lapel to Convergence!

    Next, I made .5 mm needles out of piano wire and worked on the itty-bitty sock (in polyester sewing thread -- that was a toughie), followed by the miniature doilies and Joan's sock. The Masochistic Doily was the most difficult, because 140/2 Honiton thread is approximately a third the size of ordinary sewing thread. People are surprised to learn that the hardest part about knitting miniatures, for me, is not the strain on the eyes but the careful coordination required. If you drop a stitch in a lace pattern at a gauge of 30 sts/inch, you've had it!

    I am now working on a miniature bag for Leigh Witchel's annual "Dance As Ever" benefit auction, at his request. Using my fine 2-ply handspun silk, I realized that my size 0000 needles were far too large. So out came the old .5 mm wires and the .75 crochet hook for casting on... When it's finished you'll find a scan of it on his web site.

    There's a lot of lace on your website -- knitted lace, bobbin lace, needle lace, tatting. Are you doing mostly lace work now? Tell me what you enjoy about making lace.

    I have a strong preference for lace, dictated by two circumstances-- my finances and the warm climate. I discovered, and was gratified to find that Elizabeth Zimmermann made the same observation, that fine gauge threads and yarns provide a lot more entertainment for the money. I live in a small flat and it is difficult to buy high-quality yarns or threads in Israel. A few balls of thread can keep me going for months! If my hobby were knitting Lopi sweaters, I'd run out of money and storage space rather quickly and those heavy sweaters would gather dust. Who wants to slave over something that only gets worn three days a year? In a hot environment, lace is much more practical.

    A serious knitter needs a lot of space for a good stash. A lacemaker can put all her tools and threads in a box under the bed! But my spinning fiber stash is another matter..... My husband has hinted that the presence of fleeces from the Jerusalem Zoo's petting flock isn't adding much to the quality of our environment.

    Next week: Avital talks about spinning, the internet, and her future fiber projects.

    Real People Online: Avital Pinnick (Part 2) [May 14, 1999]

    This is the continuation of my interview with Internet spinner and "insane knitter" Avital Pinnick. For part one, see last week's article.

    I'm interested in your personal spinning history as well as knitting. I remember that we had a brief correspondence when you started spinning cotton. I like spinning cotton myself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you've spun a lot more than I have by this time, and I noticed that you're also growing it, something I can't do in this cool climate. Are you still spinning a lot of cotton?

    I learned how to spin long before I was on the Internet. While recovering from a broken heart in 1985 at Harvard, a spinner-weaver friend encouraged me to buy a spindle and some roving. I didn't catch on when she tried to teach me but I was stubborn and persisted on my own. Eventually, everything clicked. I still recall that evening when I ran up and down the halls of the dorm showing everyone my wonderful "yarn."

    I stopped spinning for quite a while, until I had a young child. In the park I was bored out of my mind, sitting for hours watching my son go up the slide and down the slide and up the slide and down the slide. Knitting was out of the question because I couldn't buy yarns at the time (my favorite shop had closed). My spinner-weaver friend visited me, bringing spindles and roving. So I walked along the path and through the park, spinning and keeping pace with my exploring toddler. The neighbors noticed, and I was invited to give a lecture to a class of adult Talmud students on the topic of spinning in antiquity, since they were studying purity laws pertaining to ancient spinning implements. They were a very perceptive and attentive audience and asked good questions, such as spinning mixed fibers (the topic of forbidden wool/linen mixtures always comes up), the use of a distaff, and different methods of fiber preparation.

    I took up cotton spinning when a lace-list friend sent me a box of cotton which she had dyed and carded. The cotton takli-spun bonnet on my site was made from some of her punis. Although I have a wheel, I still love to spin on spindles, especially when spinning my home-grown colored cotton off the seed, because there's less waste.

    I still grow colored cotton and just planted a crop of brown cotton in pots on the balcony. It's a lovely plant to grow - so hardy, with beautiful flowers. I have to pollinate the blooms myself because there isn't enough insect activity around our third floor apartment.

    You mentioned on your web site that you knew something about spinning in antiquity in Israel. Could you describe that briefly?

    I don't know a lot because not a lot is known! Seriously, it's an under-researched area and I would love to turn my academic training to researching ancient textiles. It's on my "to-do" list.

    One of the problems is simply identifying spindle whorls. There are many round stone "thingies" sold on the Web, described as Phoenician spindle whorls, when the truth is that it's very difficult to identify it as such unless it was found among textile tools with fibers or with its wooden shaft intact (very unusual but not impossible). In the Israel Museum, you can see rows of these stone whorls, which the curators have cautiously labeled "spindle whorls/pin heads/ornaments." By "pin head," I'm referring to large straight pins made from wood or metal which were used to fasten clothing (no buttons in those days).

    However, I should add that in the Muraba'at excavations, a carved bone whorl was found with a tiny piece of a wooden shaft intact. You can even see the iron hook sticking out. In this case, it was clearly a spindle and probably high-whorl. That is a very important piece of evidence.

    Dr. Azriel Gorski presented a paper on the threads used to sew the parchment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, at the annual symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Although Azriel is not a spinner, he is a top-notch forensic (optics) scientist on the Israeli police force, and a self-described "dust man."

    How has being on the Internet influenced your own fiber work?

    I can honestly say that if it weren't for the internet, I probably would have given up fiber activities many years ago. Slowly I've come into contact with other fiber people in Israel (I was asked to give a lecture/demo on bobbin lace for the Israel Craftsmen's Guild on Dec. 31, 1998) but for many years, I couldn't buy materials, I couldn't find books and, more significantly, I had no one to talk to or to encourage me in my "eccentric" hobbies. Until I started putting some of the miniatures on the web site, I didn't even realize that other people would find my work interesting or impressive.

    Having access to e-mail allowed me to bounce ideas off other people, arrange barters for materials, tools and books (I once traded local rocks for drop spindles!), talk to designers, receive constructive criticism on my own work and to formulate and refine some of my technical ideas. My Internet friends did wonders for my self-esteem, where fiber is concerned, and kept me afloat during the difficult months at the end of the doctorate.

    What are your current interests and projects?

    Everything! I want to start tablet-weaving, I'd love to buy or build a small tapestry loom, I want to try dyeing my own fibers, learn more advanced pattern drafting (for sewing clothing), net some curtains. I'm still knitting, beading, making bobbin lace, tatting and spinning. I'd love to know more about Armenian needle lace. Every time I meet someone here from the Armenian community, I always ask whether their mother or grandmother makes lace or embroiders! I want to do more antique textile research, to write more - whew! But I've also learned that with a husband, a five-year-old son and a full-time job, plus free-lance editing and computer jobs on the side, my output isn't as impressive as some people's and I have to be patient. I hope I have a long retirement!

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