Ducks in a Row

It takes a lot for me to think of someone as a hero. My Mum has been such an ever-present epitome of decency, kindness, patience, and love that it kind of takes a lot to impress me (apologies to the rest of the world).

I do have a few though.

Anne McCaffrey.

Johnny Clegg.

And Stephanie.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee that is, you know… the Yarn Harlot.


Having a Hero

She is, in fact, pretty heroic.  She’s all those amazing things so many of you seem to be able to manage with ease: a mother, a wife, an aunt, a grandma, a friend… but she is far more than that.

She is a knitter and a spinner. She writes books, gives talks, teaches classes.  She has a blog which has got to be the best blog on the PLANET, not just in Canada.

I mean honestly, she makes it look easy.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know it’s not easy. I know she must spend hours and days and months to write those books, and perfect those classes – she is genuinely funny and a fabulous teacher.  But still, from where I am sitting, right or wrong, she makes it look easy.

And then, just when you think she’s really the whole package…she ups the ante.

She not only rides a bike…

not only rides a bike in a RALLY (I mean in public, around other people!!)…

but she rides her dagum bike in a SIX DAY rally supporting HIV/AIDS.

Think about that!  She rides 372 miles, from Toronto to Montreal, over 6 days in AUGUST!  Remember August, the month that makes you want to completely avoid the outdoors to you can still breathe?  Yes, that’s when she is out on her bike all day long. (and did I mention they all sleep in tents at night?)

Connecting with a Hero

And even if you do have a hero it’s not always easy to genuinely connect with them.

I always meant to write a fan letter to Anne McCaffrey, but then she died.  And what could I really have said that would have deep and lasting meaning for her?  “You are the only reason I survived adolescence.” True, but honestly, did she really need to know that?

I would dearly love to confer to Johnny Clegg how much his music has meant to me – how it puts me to sleep at night, and wakes me up the morning.  But while this is VITALLY and ESSENTIALLY important to me, I doubt it would register very high on his personal Richter Scale.

But my hero Stephanie makes connecting easy.

By not just riding in the rally, but by helping to run the thing she shows where her heart lies, and provides me with a perfect vehicle to showing her my undying devotion.  There are so many, many, many things in this world that could be made better. She is an amazing example of how ONE person can make a huge, huge difference.  And I love that she gives me, and all the others who love and cherish her, a simple effective way to make a difference with and for her.

I made a donation, and I offered some Karmic Balancing Gifts.

I think you should, too.



What’s in your knitting bag? Knitting Bag Extas

A sometime series on What is in Your Knitting Bag? This one is Knitting Bag Extras.

Once you have your bag, and your notions bag, and all the tools, toys, and accouterments that you absolutely MUST have to survive as a knitter you enter the joy filled zen-zone of the lovely and unnecessary knitting bag extras.

Now to be clear, what you consider an extra, and what you consider a necessity might be a bit hazy and might change day to day, and project to project.  These are some things that I think of as extras, but treat as necessities because they make my life so much easier.

Nails and Lips

Knitting Bag ExtrasI tend to have long-ish nails.  More importantly, I often end up with hangnails, snags, chips, dents, and other nail and cuticle catastrophes.  Well not catastrophes as far as my nails go, but as far as their interaction with my yarn.

A nail clipper for when things really go wrong, and file to ease the smaller annoyances are very useful!  That particular nail file (metal with diamond dust) is also useful for taking care of burs on needles – but be very careful and go slowly and carefully – removing a bur and creating a larger one often go hand in hand!

I also like to have some kind of chapstick or lip balm, just in case. My mother carries lipstick, whatever works for you!


Knitting Bag ExtrasSpeaking of lotions and potions – balm for you hands is never a bad idea when you are knitting.  Some fibers tend to stick to even just regular skin abrasions (Silk, I am talking to YOU!) and a bit of balm can go a long way toward easing that annoyance.

Be careful that you don’t get something that is too goopy – you don’t want to soil your project, or be so wet and sticky that you can’t work for a while!

Some products are made specifically for knitters, so do a little research to find what works best for you.

Soap and Water

Knitting Bag ExtrasSometimes when you knit away from home you don’t have access to soap and water.  Which can be annoying after someone hands you a melty chocolate cookie that tasted great but is going to look awful in your white alpaca shawl project!

Those little testers or samples of waterless hand cleaner are perfect for this and fit easily into your notions bag.  I love this long slender water-less hand cleaner!

Other times there is a plethora of water, and it’s HOT but everyone else is a coffee drinker! (How sad!!) I always carry a teabag – you know, for teabag emergencies!

And of course band-aids. For that type of emergency.

Highlighters and Lifesavers

Knitting Bag ExtrasHighlighters are sometimes all that stands between you being a part of a great conversation and a huge knitting catastrophe.  Little mistakes (like looking at the number for a size S when you are making a size XL) that you would never make at home in the quiet of your knitting boudoir are easily and often made in the middle of exciting and important conversations (“She said WHAT to WHOM?”).

In this type of situation of world of teeth gnashing can be avoided by carrying a small highlighter.

Need to hold some stitches, mark a drop stitch that you will have to sew in later, put in a life line? Enter the lowly and under-appreciated dental floss.  I reco going with the unscented, just saying.

And those rubbery things they put on kids pencils? They work great keeping extra needles together in the bottom of your project bag.

Hair Clips

Knitting Bag ExtrasThese are magic.

Sure you can use them to hold back hair, but they also work most excellently to hold your shoulders as you sew them together, or sweater sides, or sleeve edges.

They also can mark the right side of your work from the back, or the beginning of your circular round when you do two at a time on magic loop.

My own personal favorite trick is to use them to mark where I started knitting on any particular day.  Then at the end of the day, or the meeting, or the party I can see how far I have come.  Or how much I chattered instead of knitting.  It’s good to foster a sense of accomplishment, even if I do talk too much!

More clips

Knitting Bag ExtrasThese will also do the job of holding things together, but a trifle less invasively.  They clip and hold but don’t dig into the cloth, so if you are using a fine lace yarn this type of clip might be a better option.


Knitting Bag ExtrasNeedle Holders

No, I am not talking about a holder for the needles you use to weave in your ends, but a holder for the needle you KNIT with!

This magic little toy (called a Poke Me Not) will hold the end of your circular needles so they don’t let stitches fall off, don’t let the ends poke into your knitting bag or yourself, and make is easier to find your needles in the mass of sweater in your project bag.

Knitting Bag ExtrasAnd because the Poke Me Not worked so well, I got more!

The Lose Me Not (with repair tool!!!), the Lose Me Not (needle size), and the Lose Me Not Mini (stitch marker size).

They have worked wonders! I even got an extra of the long Poke Me Nots and keep my crochet hook and dental tool in it.

Knitting Bag ExtrasWhen I am doing a lace weight project with tiny needles I often find the Poke Me Not a bit ungainly, but I have another magic tool in my notions bag.

The Lace Needle Stitch Stopper is perfect for those delicate projects on tiny needles, You know, the ones with 300 sts per row of lace that if I drop a stitch I am going to have to rip all the way back to kingdom come, yeah those ones!

I use this little piece of magically engineered orange plastic and all’s right with my world.

Broken Needle

Knitting Bag ExtrasOdd as that might sound Mum and I have broken circular needles that we keep handy.  This one was a size 2 I think, and it broke in my hand, cause I am hard on bamboo needles smaller than size 4. I don’t mean to be, but apparently I am: this is not the first small broken wooden needle along my knitting journey.  But this one we kept.

We sanded off the broken end carefully, and now we use it to hold stitches.  It’s much longer than any stitch holder I have.  It’s much easier to use than a piece of yarn, so it comes in handy.

It’s also great for picking up stitches – it’s so much easier to pick up stitches with a needle smaller than the one they dropped off – you just have to be mindful that it has no stopper on the end.

Knitting Bag ExtrasCandy

Because sometimes everyone just needs a little sugar. Or a breath mint. Nuff said.

Show us Yours!

These are the things that I don’t consider vital, but that still make my knitting life a bit easier or pleasanter.  Is there something I missed, or another use for something I included? Share your pictures in the comments or visit the Spinfoolish Facebook page and show us your non-essential joys!

Click here to learn more about What is in MY knitting bag.

What’s in your knitting bag? Essential Knitting Tools

A sometime series on What is in Your Knitting Bag? This one is Essential Knitting Tools.

No matter what you are knitting there are some essential knitting tools that  you will need at some point during the life of your project. Scissors, measuring tapes, and needles come immediately to mind – but there are more, many more things in my knitting bag that I personally find essential.


Essential Knitting ToolsLet’s start with the obvious.  Scissors are a must-have in any notions bag.  Smaller ones are easier to carry around. (But not on a plane, don’t bring them on a plane!) I find the different types of sewing/knitting scissors to be little jewels!

But be careful! I recently purchased a beautiful pair of scissors shaped like fish from a very reputable establishment. (Mentioning no names but it is in NYC and it rhymes with hurl!)

They are beautiful, but they simply don’t work.  The two scissor edges are warped and don’t touch – so no cutting action.  I emailed the shop – no response. I emailed the company who made them – no response.  I didn’t pay a huge amount of money for them, but they are seriously flawed and I am seriously disappointed.

Moral of the story: examine and TEST scissor before you buy them, no matter how many yarn fumes you have inhaled or how much you respect the reputation of the shop.

Measuring tape

Measuring tapes are another ubiquitous notions bag item.  I prefer fabric tape to metal, and I prefer the ones that have a ring or hook so that I can connect them to something (you will see why in a moment).  The more interesting the shape the less likely that someone will accidentally pick it up thinking it’s theirs. I was at a knitting event once and four of us at a table of 6 had the same measuring tape!



Finishing is an integral part of knitting, and the mindful knitter often decides to sew in some ends along the way so there won’t be as much to do at the end.  I always have TWO types of needles with me. One type is the yarn needle, dull pointed and usually larger, for sewing seams.  The other type is the chenille or tapestry needle, very sharp and usually a bit smaller, for sewing in ends.

Essential Knitting ToolsYou need to keep needles in something HARD so they don’t poke you, your knitting, or someone who picks up your notions bag.

The blue and white container is the classic Chibi, you can’t see the wording cause it’s so old it has worn off. They are very useful but the little loop to tie it onto something is TINY and brittle and often breaks and the needles that come in it are not very useful, usually.  Not my favorite.

The other is a toothpick holder I scored at a flea market. The gentleman made them from scrap pieces of kitchen countertop.  It was only $5 and honestly, I wish I had bought a hundred of them.  The top screws on with a rubber gaskets so it is watertight and the HUGE  ring makes it easy to join it. I love it!!

Idiot Cord

Essential Knitting ToolsHINT: Now you may or may not know this already, but my mother is a genius. This is proven to me on a regular basis, and she will tell you herself, if asked. And here is proof.

Mum makes an idiot cord and then connects her ESSENTIAL essentials all together. She can put open stitch markers into the icord too, and open stitch markers holding closed stitch markers.

This she often keeps at the bottom of her project bag, or looped over the handle, so it’s easy to find. Keeping them all together keeps things neater and there is less pawing through the notions bag.  Great job, Mum!

Essential Knitting ToolsCrochet Hooks

Everyone makes mistakes, so having a crochet hook of some kind in your notions bag is definitely essential.  Here are a few options I have found.

The one in the middle has a crochet hook on either end, one larger, one smaller.  Very useful. I have seen some like this but smaller and with a key chain option in the middle. I find those very awkward to use, the keychain always seems to be in the wrong place. But if it works for you that’s something else you could put on your idiot cord!

The short tool on the far left is a  recent acquisition.  It has a hook on one end and a dull point on the other.  VERY useful, and small enough to fit in any notions bag. I have several of these!

Essential Knitting ToolsThe longest tool, silver on the far right, is one of my favorites.  We call it a dental tool, we found ours at Patternworks.  Again it has a hook on one end and a point on the other, but the point is TINY and sharp and angled just a bit and it’s incredibly useful! (see smaller picture)

Cable Needles

Essential Knitting ToolsSome people like to use cable needles, here are two excellent options.

The metal one (white) has a dip in the middle that makes it easier to not drop stitches when holding them in front or in back for cables.

The wooden ones are also lovely as the texture of the wood and those very excellent grooves hold the stitches very nicely on the tool until you need them.

If you are not doing cables, you might be thinking, then these can’t be essential!!  But you would be mistaken.

Just as they hold your stitches easily and well when you are cabling so they also hold your stitches when you suddenly realize that you made a mistake five rows back that you must fix.

Rather than undo the whole row, of course, you just undo the few stitches around the error and then build them back up. A cable needle is just as useful as a crochet hook for situations like that!  It “saves” the stitches while you and your hook fix them one at a time.

Needle Sizer

Essential Knitting ToolsIf you use your needles as much as I do the numbers will inevitably wear off. And while the difference between a US#1 and a US#3 is pretty obvious the difference between a #3 and a #4 is not always so clear (at least to me!)

I like to keep a size tool in my notions bag.  They come in all shapes and sizes, colors and materials.  Be careful though – not all size tools are made the same.  Some less expertly made tools are a little off.

Make sure you test them against sizes you KNOW before you trust them completely.

Miscellaneous Essentials

Essential Knitting ToolsAnd finally, I always keep a calculator, paper and pencil in my notions bag. To be honest, I generally do math on my phone now, but the calculator comes in handy enough that I haven’t let go of it yet, even though it takes up the most room.

I keep a little pad of sticky notes in a tiny plastic bag. I do that so that if I write a note and then take it off the pad it doesn’t get lost in the bottom of the notions bag. It also prevents accidental marks on the pad that I then spend 30 minutes puzzling over before I figure out it’s a mistake.

I often make notes on my patterns and I always want to be able to correct my notes, or change them, so pencil works better for me than pen.  I used to carry around lead and an extra erasure, as well, but I don’t do that any more, it was taking up too much room and was used very rarely.

Show us yours!

OK, that’s it. My list of essentials.  What about you?  What do you consider essential?  Share your pictures in the comments or jump over to the Spinfoolish Facebook page and show us your must-have items!

Click here to learn more about What is in MY knitting bag.