The humbling experience of learning to knit all over again

Someone I know lost half of her index finger. She was an avid knitter and crocheter, and it's been hard for her to have her crafts taken away from her. This Christmas, I'm hoping to help her back into knitting. I ordered two sets of Tunisian Crochet hooks - the extra-long crochet hooks with space to hold extra stitches - and a yarn-tensioning pin.

The technique where the yarn is held in front, flicked with the thumb, and tensioned around the neck or a tensioning pin is commonly known as Portuguese Knitting, though it's used in many places around the world including Peru, Turkey, and Egypt too.

I can't say for sure yet whether this knitting style will be suitable for my friend - but since there are different movements and different muscles involved, it's worth a try.

Before I can show her how to get started, of course, I have to be familiar with this style of knitting myself! I used these instructions by Andrea Wong from Piecework magazine. Andrea also has a wealth of videos, including more advanced stitches, on her Youtube channel.

My personal style of knitting is a little bit idiosyncratic - resting the righthand needle against my body, left hand moves the stitch, right middle finger flicks the yarn. I never learned the proper English 'throwing' style. But I've learned a few other techniques - Contintental knitting, two-handed colourwork, backwards knitting... so picking up a new style should be no big deal, right?

Yes and no! The first few rows were intensely humbling. Where do my fingers go? What do I do with the yarn?! For a moment I was transported back to making my very first garter stitch scarf. But after those first few rows I understood what I needed to do, and a few more rows after that I even got into a rhythm. Having some years of knitting under my belt helped - I could tell at a glance whether the stitch was correct after I'd made it - and my friend has many decades more experience than me, so she should be able to get into the swing of it too.

The hooked needles are a revelation, honestly. I felt like I didn't need as much fine control in my fingertips because the hook was doing the work for me. It's a very pleasant way to purl!

The left-hand hook did get in the way a little bit but I just had to keep it rotated so that the stitches would slide off and not get caught in the hook. (I needed hooks on both sides because I'm knitting flat -- but most of the hooked needles I've seen *meant for this style* are DPNs with the hook on one side, so you're knitting off a smooth needle, and onto a hook. In the round = no turning, no need for a hooked left needle!)

The hooks are not necessary for this type of knitting, but I found it a great help, and I think they would be especially good for anyone with motor issues, RSI, or other issues with their hands.

I'm pleased to have had a short introduction to a new technique, and I look forward to showing it to my friend. Hopefully it will work for her and this will let her start creating again!


The Ravelry Thing

Wednesday marks a bitter milestone in the knitting community. Ravelry, which has had its cheery green and red colour scheme since 2007 (the same year I started knitting), is removing its Classic theme and forcing all users over to one of their NuRav themes. The themes that have caused some people eyestrain, migraines, and even seizures.

The Ravelry redesign has been a huge topic in the knitting community, despite Ravelry's attempt to shut it down on all of their platforms. (Noticed the closed comments on Twitter and IG? Noticed how every Facebook post says there are dozens of comments, but only shows a handful? Noticed the strange lack of -any- conversation about this topic on the main Rav forums?) There are many people out there who have been leading the campaign for better accessibility of the site, and many people who can explain the history and situation better than I can.

I am deeply, deeply disappointed in the response that the Ravelry team has provided.

Rav used to be, hands down, my favourite site on the web. The usability, the information inside, the community. How many helpful little features were added to make my life easier or, simply, to delight. It was my home online, for a long time. I never really got involved in any other online fibre communities, because it was all in one place.

I used to sing Ravelry's praises to anyone who would listen (not just knitters - I thought it was a star example of a website, In General). I can no longer in good conscience do that.

Personally, I am fortunate that I merely find the new design ugly and less usable, rather than outright harmful to my health. The information hierarchy is bad, it's hard on the eyes, the icons are too small, but I can grit my teeth and carry on. So I'm not boycotting the site entirely - I think about the other websites I use on a daily basis, and the heartless corporations that own them, and the compromises I make every day to exist in the world we live in. So I won't go so far as to stay off the site for good.

But I will bear in mind that there are many people who can not, or will not, use Ravelry, and I respect them and I intend to include them.

(In terms of my patterns, everything that is on Ravelry is also on LoveKnitting, and my best-selling designs are also in my Etsy shop. It's a crying shame that Rav so strongly dominated PDF pattern sales that, a couple years ago, I could have listed several other shops that now no longer sell patterns.)

The way they have completely shut down any discussion on any of their platforms - on- or off-site - is absolutely infuriating. The way they have belittled actual people's pain and tried to sweep it under the rug is deeply hurtful.

I felt a deep betrayal when I saw the situation unfold. It was like losing a friend - but we should remember, despite the parasocial closeness we may feel, the Ravelry staff are not our friends.

The community spirit was a good business move. We made the site what it is - enriching it with our user-generated content, setting up and managing groups, sharing our knowledge, adding patterns. If no one ever added a project or posted in the forums, Ravelry would not be half the resource that it is today. Ravelry is its community, and that's why they did us so dirty.


Proof of time passing

Knitting, like a lot of crafts, is time-intensive. It's no wonder I have come back to it during these strange times. I pour hours into my yarn and needles, and receive something tangible in return. I trade my empty evenings for a woolly sweater.

I've been working in the garden, too. It's so comforting to watch my seeds sprout and my seedlings develop, gaining new leaves and reaching up to the sky. Seeing a row of peas that wasn't there two weeks ago helps to separate one day from the next.

Time seems strangely elastic now. I'm not the first to notice it - plenty of people have talked about this online. At first, when the news never stopped coming, when new measures were being taken each day, everything moved so quickly and yet the last 2 weeks of March felt like a lifetime. Meanwhile, as I settle into isolation, April has passed by in a blink.

But I have proof that time is passing - I have handspun yarn, and I have half of a sweater, each treadle and each stitch counting a second that ticked away here at home.
My partner and I are both fortunate enough to be able to work at home for the most part. My family and friends are all thankfully healthy. I hope wherever you are and whatever your situation is during this, that you and your loved ones are safe.


Attention: Patternfish is closing

Patternfish will cease selling patterns on 31 May, 2019.

If you have bought any patterns through Patternfish, now is a good time to check your account and make sure you have downloaded them.

According to their website:
We will continue to make our customers’ stashes accessible to them to the end of 30 June, 2019, in order to provide them with time to save their purchased patterns to their personal hard drives.

However, they do not seem to have communicated thiss via email, so unless you checked the Patternfish website or Ravelry group, you may well have missed it.

I am saddened by this news. Competition within an industry makes it stronger, and in recent years the pattern-selling landscape has shrunk and become less accessible to smaller designers, after a majority of Craftsy pattern shops being closed and the Knitpicks IDP becoming more selective last year.

In addition to that, Patternfish prided itself on hosting many exclusive patterns, and the future of those designs and resources is uncertain. I would hate to think that access to these may be lost. Patternfish hosts some weaving resources, for example, which would not be able to be sold through Ravelry or Loveknitting. I wish all designers the best with the transition to new channels, and I thank the staff at Patternfish for their hard work over the years.

As for myself, I'm sad to see it go, but you will still find my patterns on Ravelry, LoveKnitting, and Etsy.

By the way, if you did buy any of my patterns on Patternfish, and would like them in your Ravelry library, send me an email with proof of purchase (to joyuna at and I'll sort it out. :)