Showing posts with label extreme knitting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label extreme knitting. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Supersized Knitting

I've previously written about a knitter who made her own needles out of PVC pipes and duct tape, but another knitter has taken super-sized knitting to a level beyond even that. When Kait Brink, whose grandmother taught her to knit as a child and who organized a knitting club in her high school, was told to make a large scale version of an ordinary object for a woodworking class in university, she chose to make a large pair of hand laminated knitting needles out of pine planks. And then, of course, she wanted to use them. Even the bulkiest of commercially made yarn won't knit to a gauge large enough for size US228 knitting needles, so Brink makes her own yarn:

I like to take objects that are discarded or unwanted and make them into something desirable again. The blankets are all from The Salvation Army; in good condition but still less than perfect. I wanted to make a yarn that would match the scale of the pine needles I hand carved a few years ago. The blanket yarn is stuffed with all things pliable: newspaper, old or unusable bits of yarn, unused curtains, blankets, old dresses, craft scraps, plastic packaging, etc. Now all these materials are fused together to make a new object come to life.

This video shows Brink and an assistant (because her knitting needles are too heavy for one person to manage alone) knitting. Nine stitches and nine rows of garter stitch and about an hour of knitting that's more like gator wrestling than conventional knitting makes one very heavy blanket.

To learn more about Brink and her work (she also works in other mediums, such as watercolours), you can check out this article on, or visit Kait Brink's own web site.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Row on Row of Poppies

Last year on Remembrance Day I wrote a post about knitting your own poppy. But some knitters don't stop at just making a poppy for themselves, or even a dozen or so for family and friends, but simply keep going like a one-person production line. The poppies they make are used in Remembrance Day events, or sold, with the monies raised subsequently donated to an organization that will use it to benefit military veterans. Sometimes a few people will decide to organize a poppy knitting effort and put out a call for donated poppies.

The largest scale of these efforts is possibly the 5000 Poppies Project, organized by Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight as one of a number of events that are being planned to commemorate the centenary of the 1915 Anzac Gallipoli landing in Melbourne, Australia. In 2015, the 5000 Poppies project volunteers will be “planting” a field of more than 5000 poppies in Fed Square, Melbourne, and are asking for donations of handmade poppies, and my guess is that they will overshoot their goal of 5000 poppies.

This year's Remembrance Day ceremonies in Louth, England, were decorated with hundreds of poppies created and donated not only by local knitters, but knitters as far away as Brazil and the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, all organized through a group Facebook page.

Individual efforts can be quite astounding too, though. Linda Evans, from Bilston, England, has knitted 2000 poppies (she admits that "a few" were knitted by a friend), which she sells for £1 each. Last year she raised £2,827 for the Royal British Legion

Anita Wreford, of Marshfield, South Wales, has knitted 400 poppies, which she sells for £2 to raise money for the British Legion.

It would seem that poppy knitting can be just as addictive as some other poppy-related activities, but then they are small and quickly made and it must be very satisfying to know that each little poppy will be worn and serve a greater purpose.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Jimmy Kimmel Fast Forwards Through the Norwegian Knitting Show

If you're into knitting to the point that you're interested in reading this blog, you probably have heard about the Norwegian TV show, aired in early November, that live streamed an attempt to break the world record on the fastest production of a sweater. The show, which was 12.5 hours long in total, featured a sheep being sheared, its wool being carded and spun, and five hours of knitting. A third of Norwegian's population tuned in to watch the show, perhaps finding it an exciting change of pace from the 12-hour show on firewood that aired in Norway in February 2013, and which featured discussions about stacking and chopping, a debate on whether the bark should face up or down, and eight straight hours of watching a fire burn in a fireplace.

If you haven't got time to watch the show, or simply can't bear to, Jimmy Kimmel has a 2-minute, 18-second rundown on what the show was about (and a video preview of the proposed Norwegian National Knitting Evening) that you may find to be more your speed.

Monday, 4 November 2013

An Amazing Knitting Race

On October 19, a Missouri graphic design professor, David Babcock, set the new Guinness World Record for knitting a scarf while running a marathon, completing the Kansas City marathon in 5 hours 48 minutes while knitting an approximately 12-foot long scarf.

I've written a previous post about "the Extreme Knitting Redhead", Susie Hewer, who had set the previous world record for longest scarf in 2008 by knitting a scarf while running the London marathon, with her longest marathon-knitted scarf measuring 6'9". In true knitter fashion, Hewer and Babcock, far from being bitter rivals, are internet friends who have exchanged messages on Ravelry and have begun to discuss running a marathon together. As Babcock told The New York Times, “I told [Hewer] it would be cool if we could be knitting on the same scarf from opposite ends together.... Something like that I think would be a dream.”

Sunday, 6 October 2013

How to Speed Knit

Here's a Knit Picks-created video that explains how you can increase your knitting speed by learning from the example of Miriam Tegels, the Guinness World Record holder for the most stitches accomplished in a minute (118, if you're interested in knowing).

Monday, 9 September 2013

Up a Tree, into the Gingerbread House, and Under the Sea

Perhaps you're familiar with the work of knitter and textile artist Alison Murray because you've contributed to one of her projects. After all, her annual projects are so large and ambitious they've come involve the work of hundreds of knitters, not only from her native U.K. but from abroad.

In early 2005 Murray began planning the world's largest knitted Christmas tree as a charity fundraiser. The resulting tree was 25 feet tall and involved the efforts of 700 knitters from all around the U.K., and from ages 4 to 102. Murray's next idea was to knit gingerbread house. This project, which you can see above, was completed and shown in 2007.

The next project, "Above and Below the Waves", was the most ambitious yet and took two years to complete. It has toured the U.K. and money it raises will benefit the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The BBC has a selection of photos, and has more details here.

Murray's current project, which was expected to be completed this past summer, was called "The Big Books" and will involve three large freestanding books, each with a different theme.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Phat Knits

Dutch designer Bauke Knottnerus has created a series of furniture pieces he calls Phat Knits, because what they really are is giant knitted pieces. Phat Knits can be used strictly as art pieces, or as functional rugs or furniture. They mold to the shape of the person lounging or sitting upon them and are reportedly quite comfy.

Phat knits - Bauke Knottnerus from MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp on Vimeo.

You can see the production of one of Knottnerus' pieces in the video above. It takes two PVC pipes and two able-bodied young men to knit one of these pieces and the process seems more like gator wrestling than knitting. I don't know where Knottnerus gets his fibres, but they don't look like anything that would be available at your local yarn shop, and the whole process takes more open space than you probably have in your home. Check out Bauke Knottnerus's web site to see more of his Phat Knits and his work in other mediums.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Knitting on the Run

So apparently knitting while walking is a thing. For that matter, it's actually never not been a thing; it's fairly common in the more rural parts of Africa, Asia, and South America. It's rare in Western countries these days, though it used to be a practice in the nineteenth century. The Shetland women in the photo above are knitting and carrying a load of peat on their backs. If you think you should at least be able to do half what they do, offers tips on learning to knit while you're walking and there's even a product called a Go Knit pouch that will aid you in your efforts (and it's also supposed to be a very handy and effective tote for knitting while travelling).

I don't think I'll be trying it myself. While researching this post I read half a dozen blog entries written by knitters who had taken to knitting while walking. All of them reported that they both walked and knitted more slowly when they combined the tasks. It took them something like 25-33% more walking time to go the same distance, and probably a similar extra increment of time to finish their knitting projects. So I don't see it as much of a time saver. And these walker/knitters also joked about bumping into telephone posts and "holding up traffic", which makes me concerned for their safety, and even more for the safety of others around them. Knitting while walking probably works better in a rural setting where there isn't much traffic of any kind — I mean, the Shetland knitters above aren't exactly in danger of getting into the way of the donkey behind them. Preoccupied people walking about in an urban environment can so easily step into the path of a car or cause some other mishap. I get so frustrated as it is by people who go about wired to their iPods and who are consequently clued out to the fact that they're blocking an entryway, that someone is trying to speak to them, or that someone around them might need help, and I should think knitting would be equally self-absorbing. Even pedestrians have a responsibility to be mindful of their surroundings, and pedestrians who are holding two pointed pieces of metal are surely under even greater obligation to be careful. If you decide to knit and walk, please avoid knitting while walking in heavily trafficked areas, or when the ground is icy. Your safety, and the safety of others, is far more important than the production of another pair of cabled socks.

If you're really raring to knit while on the move, you might look to Susie Hewer, "the Extreme Knitting Redhead", for inspiration. Hewer, who will be 56 this June, knits while running marathons to raise money for Alzheimer's research, and has racked up a couple of Guinness World Records in the process. Now that's multi-tasking. Hewer has raised nearly £25,000 during the past seven years, and in 2008 she set a record for knitting the longest scarf while running a marathon (3', if you care to know), and in 2010 she gained the Guinness World Record for stitching the longest crochet chain.

Marathon routes tend to be cordoned off, so that must leave Hewer freer to safely concentrate on her work and her running. And I'm so impressed by her accomplishments that I think I might have to go take a nap.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Mount Everest of Knitting Patterns

A friend of mine recently flipped me a link to a book called Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously, by Adrienne Martini, the story of Martini's year-long effort to knit the Mary Tudor design from Alice Starmore's Tudor Roses, a book of fair isle patterns published in 1998. (ETA: Tudor Roses was out of print at the time of this post but has since been updated and re-released.) Martini calls the Mary Tudor pattern, pictured above on the front cover of Tudor Roses, a "knitter’s Mount Everest, our curse, and our compulsion". It's true that for Martini, this sweater was a personal Mount Everest because it was the most complex and largest-scale project she'd ever undertaken, but I wouldn't describe this pattern as the everyknitter's Mount Everest.

For one thing, the Mount Everest metaphor is more nuanced than Martini may realize. Let's remember that climbing Mount Everest is not considered the pinnacle of human achievement it once was. These days, with the technological advances in climbing gear, it's quite possible for any able-bodied, hardy, and reasonably fit person who has the time and the money to climb it. Mount Everest has been successfully climbed over 5000 times since Sir Edmund Hillary was the first to climb it in 1953, including climbs by one 13-year-old, one 76-year-old, and one blind climber. One person has climbed it 20 times and one couple got married on the summit. One of Sir Edmund Hillary's grandsons climbed it and called his grandfather from the top with his cell phone. Sir Hillary himself never considered climbing Mount Everest to be the most important or worthwhile thing he did in his life, and was appalled by what he saw as contemporary climbers' prioritization of reaching the top over the welfare of other climbers in distress.

When I look at the Mary Tudor design, I don't see a pattern requiring the greatest possible level of knitting skill, or the ultimate achievement in design, or a pattern that must be knitted because it exists, as a "Mount Everest of knitting patterns" designation would seem to imply. What I see is a beautiful and richly patterned design that represents a major time investment, and that I would reshape completely in order to make flattering. Oversized, shapeless sweaters have gone out of style since the nineties, and for excellent reason.

Learning about Martini's book led me to wonder if there was a world's most difficult knitting pattern, and to do a little internet research on the matter. I found discussion questions on Ravelry and some other knitting sites that asked, "What, in your opinion, is the most difficult knitting pattern?", with resulting threads full of links to patterns that were undeniably going to be time consuming, but that otherwise didn't look all that difficult or challenging to me. When I googled the phrases "most difficult knitting pattern" and "hardest knitting pattern", wherever the phrase occurred on the net it was usually followed by another phrase along the lines of "that I have ever attempted" or "that I have tackled so far". And that's very telling.

The truth is that once a knitter gets to a certain level of experience and skill, no pattern looks all that difficult, and knitting patterns simply vary widely in terms of time investment required. Once you've done more advanced knitting techniques such as stranded knitting, cables, fair isle, steeking, entrelac, double knitting, intarsia, lace work, knitting in the round, Swiss darning, knitting smocking, thrumming, etc., the prospect of doing them doesn't faze you any more. And even if you haven't tried all of those techniques (I have not), once you've successfully mastered a significant selection of them, you know you can always learn the others. Just as strangers are friends (or spouses, or employers, or hot pig sex partners, or neighbours, or tax auditors) whom you haven't yet met, knitting patterns simply represent potential uses of your time and possible future possessions/gifts. Once you lose the beginner's fear of the untried and you have enough experience to know what you're committing to, you'll wind up doing a cost and time benefit analysis and conclude, "Ugly, no way!" or "Nice, but not for or on me," or "Nice, and won't take long," or "Beautiful, and will take a lot of time but it'll be worth it," or "Fabulous but too time-intensive; maybe some day...", or "GORGEOUS AND A HUGE TIME SUCK BUT I MUST DO IT ERE I PERISH." There's no Mount Everest of knitting patterns. There are, rather, marathon knitting projects, and it's a marathon you can do at your own pace because no one's clocking you.

I hope that "difficult" knitting patterns ceased, or will cease, to intimidate you fairly early in your knitting experience, and also that you will regard knitting patterns as your servant and not your master. If you've read any of the knitting pattern reviews posts on this blog, you'll know that I suggest tweaks to almost every pattern. I hardly ever knit any pattern exactly as written. There is that rare case when I come across a pattern I consider perfect — perfect in this context meaning "perfect for me/the wearer". If a pattern you love on paper isn't going to work for your figure, colouring, personal aesthetic preferences, lifestyle, climate, or fashion era once knitted, then for heaven's sake change it. Alter it for fit, change the neckline or the silhouette, use three colours instead of twenty or twenty instead of three, substitute cotton for wool or scarlet for gray, or borrow different features of several different patterns to get the look you want.

Designers aren't gods whose every direction must be reverenced and followed to the letter. They make mistakes, there can be a lot of room for improvement in their results, their work can become dated, and in any case they weren't designing especially for you. Unless you are a textile artist making a piece of installation art, you want a finished garment you can wear the hell out of, not something that will sit uselessly in a drawer after you've invested your valuable time and money in it. You can be your own designer, and if you don't feel your skill level is equal to the task of rewriting a pattern to be what you want it to be, ask more experienced knitters for advice, or shelve the project until you're ready to bring it on.

And take a lesson from Adrienne Martini's experience. She spent an entire year of her life making her Mary Tudor sweater in slavish adherence to Starmore's directions, even to the point of resorting to buying the specific yarn required for it on the "black yarn market" because it wasn't being produced any more. With the result that (as I gather from the Amazon reader reviews), she had finished the sweater only to discover the sleeves were too short and that she would never wear it because she didn't like the way she looked in it. Don't let your compulsion to make a project and to reach the summit of completion blind you to more important considerations, such as whether the item you're making will be of any use once you've finished it. In short, have a martini; don't be one.

Friday, 15 March 2013

One Thousand Strands, One Knitter

Ever get frustrated with, say, a Kaffe Fassett project that involves twenty different skeins of yarn? Here's a knitting project that will put your struggles in perspective. Rachel John, a textile artist and the inventor and creator of Extreme Textiles, is a proponent of using multi-strand knitting to make décor items such as rugs and throws. And when John talks about multi-strand, she really means a multitude. She says "up to 300 [strands] is possible, but we think up to 100 should be about right". The items can be made in a matter of hours and it's a good way to use up your stash. And how.

In the video above Rachel John takes multi-strand knitting nearly as far as it can go by knitting an item as thick as a mattress with 1,000 strands of yarn. It's not exactly a take-along-for-your-commute project, but I have to admit the process is fascinating to watch and the result is a painterly blending of colours. Pro tip: do not try this project with a cat around.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

500 Sweaters, One Knitter

Loes Veenstra of the Netherlands knits so very quickly that she has made more sweaters than she could ever give away. Many, many more. She had a surplus of 500 never-worn sweaters, dating back as far as 1955, stored away in her home on the 2nd Carnissestraat in Rotterdam.

Christien Meindertsma, a Dutch designer and artist whose work explores the life of products and raw materials, with the aim of regaining understanding of processes made unfamiliar or obsolete by industrialization, heard about Veenstra's collection when it was displayed at the Museum of Rotterdam as part of the exhibition "Over leven in Carnisse" (Life in Carnisse), and decided something more had to be done. So she included the sweaters in her project, "DNA Charlois", which involves materials and crafts by people from 160 different countries, and prepared a forthcoming book about the sweaters. When even that didn't seem enough, Meindertsma organized a flash mob event featuring the sweaters, a marching band, dancers, baton twirlers, and a throne for Veenstra to sit upon while she enjoyed the event. This video of the show also features bonus observant cat and dancing dog.

I hope you enjoy the video and getting to see all the sweaters in it. I especially liked that one can probably hazard a pretty good guess as to the vintage of these sweaters from the design, as some are quintessential examples of knitwear design from a specific era. The Cosby Show could have hired this woman for their wardrobe department, is what I'm saying.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

World's Fastest Knitter

According to the Guinness World Record's site, the world's fastest knitter is Miriam Tegels of the Netherlands, who set a world record by knitting 118 stitches in one minute back in 2006.

However, Tegels may have a serious contender in Scotland's Hazel Tindall, who in 2008 won an international knitting contest by knitting 262 stitches in three minutes.

Both these women seem like such mild, gentle types, but you just know that they're channeling some titanic aggression and drive to excel into their knitting. And I'm going to slink away and see if I can't finish the sweater I've been working on for the past month.

Coming up: the Creative Knitting Spring 2013 issue review is set to publish tomorrow!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Gulliver's Knitting

After a previous post on miniature knitting, it seemed only fair to do one on gigantic knitting.

Laura Birek of Nocturnal Knits saw a picture of a very large-gauge Anthropologie blanket and got inspired to try making one of her own. She bought about six pounds of roving, slightly felted it, split it in two, and tried knitting it up using broomsticks for needles. The broomsticks proved too small, so she went to Home Depot, bought a 10' length of 1.5" PVC pipe, had it cut in half, added some tips fashioned out of duct tape, and set to work. She called the result a Giganto Blanket. You can see Birek at work on a Giganto Blanket on YouTube (it's a lot of fun to watch her wield those PVC pipes), and read more about the project on her own site.

If you want to try making your own Giganto Blanket, you can buy the pattern and a tutorial from Birek on Ravelry. Birek estimates it takes two to three hours to felt the wool and two to four hours to knit the blanket (it's only 28 stitches wide), so it won't be the biggest time hog of a project you make all year, although it will almost certainly be the biggest hog of a knitting project you ever make.

Friday, 11 January 2013

If Mini-Me Took Up Knitting...

If you take your knitting everywhere and you're getting tired of stuffing the back of an adult-sized sweater and a 100g skein of worsted into your already bulging shoulder bag or backpack, you might try scaling down your knitting projects, as Althea Crome has done. Crome is a miniature knitter, and her projects are so tiny they'd fit into your pocket and still leave room for your cellphone.

Apparently it wasn't enough of a challenge for Crome to merely make simple items on a two-inch scale, as her work is not only small but amazingly complex and detailed. Sometimes she makes replicas of historical costumes as with the Queen Elizabeth I sweater above, or recreates famous paintings or other works of art, or depicts entire scenes, such as an underwater seascape or Santa and all his eight tiny reindeer flying over a house.

You can visit Crome's website, Bug Knits, to see galleries of her work. Crome also knitted some items for the 2009 3D stop-motion movie Coraline, including a sweater for the title character.

Crome talks about her work and demonstrates her "extreme knitting" in this promotional video for Coraline.

If you want to give miniature knitting a shot yourself, you can buy some of Crome's patterns to help you get started, and I wish you the best. All I can think of when I see Crome in action is the time I decided to make ten Barbie outfits as part of a Christmas present for one of my nieces. I got four items done before I cracked and COULDN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE. Crome's patience and self-control are astounding.

I bet Althea Crome's children have the most exquisitely dressed Barbies ever.