Thursday, December 13, 2012

the two dumb questions

There are two questions, incomprehensible to knitters, that we are frequently asked.
  • How much does it cost to make a sweater?
  • How long did it take to knit that?
I’ve been asked this by strangers (to be expected) but also by knitters (even yarn company owners, which really astounded me). How in the world are these reasonable questions?

As I see it, there are three ways to respond.

Response number one
Open-mouthed astonishment: as if to say Did you really mean to ask such questions? Would you like to take that moment back?

It's a valid response, but no-one learns anything. So let's move on.

Response number two
Try to get to the root of these questions.

How much does it cost to make a sweater?
  • How much does it cost to knit which sweater?
  • Do you really want to know what I spent on yarn for this cashmere piece you are admiring?
  • Do you want to know because you want to be shocked that anyone could be so impractical? Will it confirm what you’ve always suspected about me—my inane frivolousness?
  • Or do you want to know because you want it to be within your budget, something you could now consider. (I’d love to believe this last.)

How long did it take to knit that?
  • How many months, days, weeks, hours? How precise would you like me to be?
  • What’s a day’s knitting? 2 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours? Do you think I knit with a stop watch beside me?
  • Do you want to know because you want to be shocked that anyone could be so impractical? Will it confirm what you’ve always suspected about me—my inane frivolousness?
  •  Or do you want to know because you want it to be within your time allowance, something you would now consider? (I’d love to believe this last.)
I usually do some of the above, but not well, and still no-one really learns anything. So lets move on.

Response number three
I’m reading a really interesting book—The Watchman’s Rattle—about how to solve complex problems. The author discusses the five barriers we need overcome to think clearly and to save civilization.

The fifth barrier is extreme economicssimple principles in business, such as risk/reward and profit/loss, that are the litmus test for determining the value of people and priorities, initiatives and institutions. Knitters fail the test of extreme economics when they spend money knitting something they could readily buy at a fraction of the price.

In addition, she says When business principles prevail, there is enormous pressure for individuals to respond to complex problems with great speed and efficiency. Knitters also fail this test of extreme economics when they spend hours knitting something they could readily buy in a fraction of the time.

Make no mistake. She is saying that to overcome complex problems and save civilization as we know it, we need to
  • reject the need for profit,
  • reject the need for speed.
So, what does that have to do with us?

Knitters are leaders in these exercises! The fact that we can’t answer how long and how much should be a proud moment for knitters! Why? Because, unlike the rest of the world, we will not be ruled by time or money. We do what we do because it is the right thing to do—for our minds, our health, our families, our economies (all of which are discussed in previous posts).

I would suggest that the best that humans produce—our good works, our good institutions, anything that has changed our quality of life for the better—can never be reduced to time or money.

And there’s our best answer!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

gift knitting and repetitive strain relief

As we furiously head for this familiar deadline, we can get hurt! Don’t we all know that knitting can hurt???

I've been hurt knitting, I’ve been hurt playing the drums, I've been hurt opening a window—all of which made me unable to knit. (It's only when I cannot knit that I consider myself truly hurt. When I broke a leg--and had every excuse to just sit and knit—I wasn't hurtin' much.)

Here's what I have learned over a 50+ year of injuries.

  • Avoid repetitive strain injuries by not doing a fine-motor activity for more than 20 minutes.
  • Because 20 minutes can pass so very quickly (while knitting, while on the computer, probably not both at the same time but some of us are very talented!), set an egg timer for 20 minutes and across the room. When it rings, stop what you are doing!!! (Maybe an egg timer would be a good gift for a knitter?)
  • Take a one-minute break. During that break, move and stretch.
  • If you do have a repetitive strain injury, get help as soon as possible.
The best help I've received is ART (active release techniques) therapy. I regret that I can't say how I originally heard about ART, but I can say that it has saved me and others. You can go online to read about it and find a provider. (When I started, I think it was harder to find: seems to have become the preferred method for chiropractors now?) But here's what my experience has been.

I got tendonitis from playing the drums. This is normally a troublesome and chronic injury, but ART had me back on track within 10 days. However, what follows is a much better story and recommendation for ART.

Some time later I injured a rotator cuff opening a window.  I couldn't use my right arm to even turn on the radio in my car. My therapist said You are left-handed for a week. If I have to put your right arm into a sling, I will. (He probably thought I would stop knitting if he threatened me like that. Little did he know that I could knit in a sling!) And then he worked on me.

Typical ART involves the therapist doing deep tissue massage while twisting your body through that area. (You can read on the ART website for a better explanation of what's being done.) It can hurt a little during the process, but you feel immediate relief when it stops!

I did what I was told (not using my right arm and going for regular therapy with him) and, sure enough, within a week I was perfectly recovered. (Please remember that mine was not the chronic injury. I was incapacitated, to be sure, but the injury was probably not severe and certainly the same as someone who has struggled with this injury over time--like a baseball player.)

Many months later I was at a STITCHES event, at lunch with my friend Peggy, and I asked how she was doing. She told me she had been suffering with a rotater cuff injury. Imagine my shock when she said It was 6 weeks ago, and I've been lifting weights like my therpist says, but it's not working.

So I repeated my experience. She said she would look up ART, and she did. A year later she told me that even though it was an hour-and-a-half drive (she does live in the middle of nowhere), she was so grateful she had done so. It had cured her shoulder and helped her with other nagging injuries, and she couldn't recommend it more.

I told this story at a class in Michigan, and a woman—an athlete, in fact—said that ART had saved her from a chronic knee problem. My friend Susanna had the same knee problem, went to an ART therapist after hearing this, and we are now running 10K’s together!

We all know what can happen to us at this time of year. While you knit those gifts for everyone else, consider giving yourself the gift of a healing therapy!

Friday, December 7, 2012

a holiday gift for a knitter!

Some time ago a lovely yarn shop owner from a lovely shop (Joan Janes from Little Red Mitten in St Thomas ON) gave me the gift of a GLEENER--a sweater de-piller. (De-piller is probably not actually a work except to a knitter who knows precisely what is implied.) It took me a long time to need and use it . . . until today . . .

 . . . when I was up at 6am to prepare for my hosting of a craft and chat group. I wanted the sweaters that I wanted to show to look perfect--but they had pills that needed removing. And not just pills: a general fluffiness thing was happening that made a really new sweater look old, sad, and worn.

So, nothing to lose, let's try the GLEENER. My electric sweater shaver was okay, and I could use it as a fall back position if this little gadget didn't work. But the electric sweater shaver was only good for pills. Maybe this thing would work against that general fluffiness.

OMG!!!!! Amazing! My sweaters look new! Revitalized! Fabulous! I thought Every knitter needs one of these! And every knitter needs to give one of these to every knitter she knows!

But how to get one? And what did they cost?

So I googled GLEENER . . . and there it was . . . only $19.95!!! How can this be?!?! Something so wonderful for 20 bucks?!?

I also thought I remembered Joan saying that the product was Canadian. Would it be available in the US? Sure enough, there was an American flag on the buy now page.

Let me just continue to share my enthusiasm around the sheer genius of this thing! It has three blades (for 3 different fabrics). I found myself using the middle blade on my fluffy pilly merino sweater. And then it has a velvet lint brush that must be used to give the garment an as-new finish!

I cannot buy one for every knitter I know,  but I can get the word out. (I actually thought It would be wrong for me not to tell every knitter I know!) I do not know the owner/developer (nor have any affiliation whatsover with this company), but this is a wonderful thing and she has a wonderful story. I hope you will go to her website and check it out:

BTW, after reading her story, I scrolled to the bottom of the page to read about the name of the product. And OMG yet again! It was named after a painting that was my favourite when I was in university: Millet's The Gleaners. The beauty of these women bending to their task made me weep the first time I saw it.

I really am beyond excited to tell you about this product! Please give it a consideration if, like me, you buy and knit with lovely merino wool and then watch it become fluffy and pilly. (There's that word again. My spell check keeps underlining it. Just goes to show that spell check wasn't developed by a knitter!)

PS It isn't just me who thinks this is fabulous: go to and read their 5 star review of the ultimate fuzz remover: