No doubt many a Londoner has seen these billboards around town. Knitting has hit the mainstream. The other day I was in a pub wearing a scarf I’d made and this beefy punter actually turned his attention away from the footie long enough to admire it and say, “Why, that’s a lovely scarf.” and then with a knowing, conspiratorial wink, “I wonder who made that.”

Seriously, when big rugby-player looking guys knit-flirt with you, you know knitting has reached some kind of pop-culture pinnacle.


mamanSeeing Louise Bourgeois’ mother-spider on the banks of the Thames put me in a right webby mood.

I used to be terrified of spiders. Most people have a mild phobia but mine was paralyzing, sometimes literally. I would have nightmares about them and wake up screaming.

And then one day I was sleeping in an old apartment in Vienna and I was bitten. The bite was a spreading necrosis– truly awful. I got medical care in Austria which saved my leg and perhaps my life. It was only when I got back to America and had the wound cared for again that I was told it was most likely a brown recluse that had hidden in the suitcase of a past traveler.

Strangely, after that I no longer had the nightmares about spiders. I could not only be in the same room with them, but I also became fascinated with them. They were not so alien after all, but a part of me.

knitted spiderBarbara Walker has written many books on women’s myths and mysteries and fairy tales. I had no idea she had also written books on knitting. Most seem out of print or unavailable in the UK. Someone on ravelry tipped me off to this charted spider of twisted stitches from Charted Knitting Designs: A 3rd Treasury. I looked in vain for an affordable copy of the book from a UK seller and then I started asking around.

From the Walker book:

Here’s Arachne herself, the great-grandmother of all the world’s spinners and weavers, and still one of the best among them. Who of us can match her skill?

What’s that? You don’t think she is very pretty? Well, never mind. The pattern techniques to make her in yarn (as well as all her busy, real-life children in your garden) have much to teach you.

I plan to knit her as part of my Samhain meditations.

Guess who had the book and shared this pattern with me? My mother.

vortex street pullover panel, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

This is the middle panel. It is extremely long. It’s going to be more like a dress than a sweater. My gauge got really lose as I knit it. I had to go down two needle sizes and it was still really long.


Illustration by Katleen at

Braided Neckpiece for Christel, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

Christel just sent me a care package of lovely clothes for my Blythe, Moet. So I knit this braided neckpiece from the Teva Durham book, Loop-d-loop for her. It’s actually the only Teva piece I’ve knit that I haven’t had to rip out. I knit one of these several years ago and I wear it often. (I’ve knit many of her designs and none of them worked for me.)

It’s knit out of Elan’s Peruvian Collection Highland wool, doubled in Irish Moss on number 11 needles.

I confess. Baubles freak me out. I love aran knitting, but I don’t do much of it because of the damn baubles.

This particular example on the right is from Alice Starmore’s Knitting from the British Isles. I’m fascinated by Starmore’s olympic patterns but they all seem to be a lot of work for something that is often unwearable. This is just one example. I mean, here we’re talking intarsia baubles. On trousers. *shudder* I suppose if you are attempting a burryman look for your child, this is a suitable approach.

Right now I’m knitting the Vortex Street Pullover from Knitting Nature. The art-nouveau like aran curls terminate in baubles. Six baubles. I keep telling myself I can handle half-dozen baubles.

But knitting them– distending the stitch, back and forth– back and forth– (which way is the stitch supposed to go when you pass it back? Never mind, just get the thing over with.) Once done, it hangs temporarily from the work like a massive skin tag, a carbuncle, a tumor.

And on the way back in the next row, it falls to the back and you have to push it through the work, like a pimple that needs lancing.

Once it’s tightened up on the next right side row I find myself pulling and twisting and fussing with it neurotically– can I make it look less lesion-like?

I’ve knitted two– I have four more to go. Wish me luck.

And here are a few more things I’ll not be knitting anytime soon:

bfn4.jpgbu3.jpg Sorry to pick on Teva Durham, but her designs are unwearable. I’m all for the daring and strange, but can you imagine anyone wearing these designs? On her website she recommends wearing them with pleather pants.

giant pink scarfNormally I avoid fashion magazines. There was a time in my life when I devoured them. (During that time I also went to the gym twice a day and lived on diet coke.) But it’s better for my sanity if I just look at them as a special occasion treat. I bought the recent Elle and was delighted to find these mega scarves by Giles.

They are knit on broomsticks with what looks like roving.

Last year I bought a scarf at my favourite London knit shop, Fabrications. It was made by a local designer and was knit with merino roving on massive needles and then felted. the felted fringe looks like tentacles. It’s still in winter storage but once I break it out, there will be pictures.

I love the idea of a scarf being more like a chrysalis, and the distortion of the body where the neck and shoulders seem to disappear.

Scarves– that perennial beginner project– are still one of the most satisfying things to knit, and probably my favourite thing to wear. My one pet peeve, though, is seeing woolly scarves worn with camisoles or slip dresses. If it’s warm enough to go out without a jacket, then a wool scarf is pure pretension. It makes my itchy just thinking about it.

While perusing the issue I also saw this bulky knit beret or “dread crown”– spectacular! I knew I acquired those 15mm dpns for something. This is, of course, never to be worn with the bulky scarf lest one disappear completely in bulky knits.

jumbo crown

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