Category Archives: While You Knit

Podcasts, Knitting, and Knitting Podcasts

Of course, I love my audio books, but about half the time, I’d rather listen to a podcast as I knit.  They’re less formal, usually require less devoted attention, and make me feel like I have a  friend hanging out in my ear while I’m working through a particularly tricky cable row.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m a big fan of a bunch of shows produced by Maximum FunMy Brother, My Brother, and Me (a silly advice show) and Sawbones (a show about weird medical history) are two of my favorite.  And I’m loving one of their newest shows, Getting Curious (an interesting interview show with a very charming host).

I love big, funny show like The Flop House (where they watch bad movies and talk about them), and Throwing Shade (where two comedians talk about LGBT and women’s issues).  And I love quiet, weird shows like Lore (a podcast about the historical origins of old ghost stories) and Welcome to Nightvale (a radio play about a very weird and creepy (fictional) town called Nightvale).

But one thing conspicuously absent from my podcast routine is knitting.  I’ve probably tried a dozen different shows, but they haven’t stuck for one reason or another.  I listened to the Knit Picks Podcast for a while a few years back, but dropped it when they changed the format (I should probably give it another go).  And, I really liked the Cast On podcast from Brenda Dayne, but she stopped making new episodes last summer.

I guess it’s something about knitting that doesn’t lend itself too well to radio.  After all, knitting is a very visual and tactile art, and it’s hard to get that across over audio.  Heck, sometimes I have trouble getting knitting ideas across on my blog, and I can include pictures!

So, I guess I’ll keep trying out new knitting podcasts… I’m sure I’ll find one eventually!

Do you listen to podcasts?  Which ones?  Any favorite knitting shows?

Listening to stories

I love audio books, and have since I was a kid.  Our family would always listen to books on tape (actually on tape, since it was the 90s) on road trips.  We had an old copy of Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World that we listened to over and over again- I bet I could still quote half the book.dannyWhen I got to college, I didn’t have time to read novels, since I was always reading big text books and scientific papers.  But, I did have time to listen to books on tape while I was riding the bus to and from class (well, they were books on CD that I got out of the library, then downloaded onto my mp3 player- it was a whole complicated production, but so worth it).

And, when I moved to Seattle, I discovered that our library allows us to download audio books directly to your computer through Overdrive!  But their website is kind of clunky to use.  I mean, I used it (of course- I need my audio books to entertain me during my hours of knitting) but I thought, “There must be a better way!”Overdrive_LogoI was chatting with one of the gals at work a couple weeks ago, and she says “You know, there’s an Overdrive app, right?”

WHAT!?

I immediately got on my phone, and it’s fantastic!  video-devicesYou can download audio books and e-books directly to your phone with minimum weirdness.  The app will save your place, so you can listen to more than one book at a time.  And, there’s no need to go through all the complicated steps to transfer files from your computer to your phone, like I used to do.

It’s still a tiny bit clunky, since you have to sign into your library branch to get it to work, but once you save your library card number into your phone, you’ll be golden.

I’ve listened to more books since I got the app a month ago than I did in the last year, just because it’s so much easier.

I can’t recommend it enough!  Look up your local library  to see if you have access to Overdrive. It’s worth it!

Barbara Bretton and Novel Knitting

I love books.  I love to read them, I love to listen to them, I love to collect them, and I love to download them to my Kindle (it’s basically magic!).

I usually tend toward more “guy” types of books.  Lots of swashbuckling, dragons and evil robots.

But, sometimes I end up swinging the other direction.  The girly, romance-y, knitting-filled direction.

When I researched my post on Knit Lit, back in November, I found a book with a synopsis that I thought was pretty amazing:

Sugar Maple looks like any Vermont town, but it’s inhabited with warlocks, sprites, vampires, witches, and an ancient secret. And Chloe Hobbs, owner of Sticks & String, a popular knitting shop, has a big secret too. She’s a sorcerer’s daughter in search of Mr. Right, and she’s found him in Luke MacKenzie, a cop investigating Sugar Maple’s very first murder. Bad news is he’s 100% human, which could spell disaster for a normal future with a paranormal woman like her.

Too ridiculous not to read it, right?  (and it’s only six bucks on Amazon)

I bought Casting Spells by Barbara Bretton, and read it in about two days over Christmas break.

3109566[1]And, you know what?  It was delightful.  Maybe not high literature, but really fun.  It was a little chick-flick-y, a little bit of a cop story, and a little bit paranormal.  And, the whole book is full of goofy little knitting jokes.   The main character is introduced as she’s trying to block a particularly difficult lace shawl.  She threatens people with her US15s.  And, she has a magical bottomless basket of roving.

I even went on to read the second in the series, Laced with Magic, which was just as good.

6195236[1]If you’re looking for a new author, something a little goofy, and fun, you could do worse than the Sugar Maple Chronicles from Barbara Bretton.

Have you read anything good recently?

While you knit: Overdrive

Let’s keep the celebration of novels going!  I love reading a good book, and I love knitting.  But, surely there must be a way to enjoy a good story without putting down my needles.  This is the 21st century, after all.

In fact, there is!  Audiobooks.  I always have an audiobook or two (or twelve) on my phone, ready for me to listen to at a moment’s notice.  They’re great for driving, doing yard-work, cooking, and of course, knitting.

But how do you get Audiobooks onto your phone without spending an arm and a leg at Amazon or on iTunes?  (Or, if you’re a cheapskate like me, the question is: how do you get audiobooks for free?)  The library!  And, you probably don’t even have to leave your house.

Most libraries these days have started online collections of digital media (audiobooks, e-books, and Kindle books) accessible through the library website.  You sign up in person at the library, and get a pin number, which you can then use to get digital media through the library’s Overdrive account.  (Think of Overdrive as an iTunes-like download service for libraries).

Overdrive%20Media[1]My library lets me check out 24 books at a time, and they automatically are returned when my loan is up (no late fees!).  There’s nothing better than discovering a new, great book.  Especially one that’s free!

So, if you haven’t already, take some time on your next trip to the library and ask about their audiobooks.  Then, spend some time curled up with your knitting and a good book.

Snack Time!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can work up an appetite with all my knitting.  After all, it’s practically exercise, right?  (Right?  Maybe?)  And, when you grab a snack to go with your knitting, you don’t want anything too gooey, or covered in cheese dust (getting Cheetos-powder out of merino is more trouble than it’s worth). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love a cup of tea and a plate of these amazing scones when I’m knitting (or doing just about anything else).  They’re slightly sweet, buttery, flaky and delicious.  They’re crunchy on the outside, and soft and tender on the inside.  I like to throw in a couple handfuls of raisins or blueberries.  They come together in about a half hour (from ingredients in the pantry to a plate of finished deliciousness).  And, the recipe is easy to halve if you have self-control issues (like me).  These scones are amazing right out of the oven, but they’re great warmed up in a toaster oven the next day, too.

Simple Sweet Scones

Yields: 12 or 16 small scones

2 1/2 C all purpose flower

1 Tbl baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 stick (8 Tbl) cold butter, cut up

1/4 C granulated sugar

2/3 C milk

Heat oven to 425 F.  Put flower, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl; stir to mix well.

Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers until the mixture looks like fine granules.  Add sugar; toss to mix.

Add milk and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms.  Form dough into a ball, put onto a lightly floured board and give 10-12 kneads.

To make triangular scones, cut dough in half.  Knead each half lightly into a ball and turn smooth side up.  Pat or roll into a 6-8 inch circle.  Cut each circle into 6 or 8 wedges.  Place wedges on an ungreased cookie sheet-slightly apart for crisp sides, touching for soft sides.

Bake about 12 minutes, or until medium brown on top.  Put a linen or cotton dish towel on a wire rack, cover loosely with the cloth and cool completely before serving (if you can wait that long).

Knitter Aboard

Last week, I was a little bored (OK, a lot bored).  My friends had all left after our long weekend at PAX, my husband was at work, and I was sitting at home, twiddling my thumbs.  My day job is on a little break right now, between the end of summer and the beginning of the fall semester, so I have lots of time to sit around and watch TV.

Maybe too much time to sit around and watch TV.

So, I picked myself up off the couch and said, “Enough!” I decided to have a day down on the water, and the easiest way to do that here is to go for a ride on the ferry.   I know this isn’t something that everyone can do (I lived in the Illinois for most of my life… I understand “landlocked”), but if you have a chance to get away from your usual venue with a cup of coffee and a skein or two of yarn, I highly recommend it.  (If the ferry isn’t an option for you, try a train, bus, or just going down to a favorite park or local coffee shop.)WP_20140905_002There’s something refreshing about getting away from your house (and your dirty laundry, and the floors that need vacuuming) .  It always opens up my mind for fresh ideas, and makes my projects seem even more fun than usual.  (Getting away from a speedy internet connection doesn’t hurt, either.)

WP_20140905_008Expanding my horizons (literally) always helps me get out of a rut.  And, there’s no better place for people-watching than public transportation.  You never know what you’ll see that might inspire your next project.

WP_20140905_002So, get out there!  Explore the world, and enjoy some knitting on the water (or on the road, or on the rails).

Listening and Knitting

Sometimes, I need my eyeballs while I knit.  I can usually get away with watching TV, but sometimes I have a project that needs more of my attention (especially if I’m working up a new pattern, or I’m working on something with a lot of counting).

When that happens, I like to turn on my podcasts.  Podcasts are great. They’re basically radio shows that you can have your smart phone download automatically (like magic!).  You can listen to them whenever you have the time, and can pause them whenever you need.  It’s as if there was a radio station that only aired the shows you liked, and followed your schedule.  Genius!  (And, if you don’t have a smart phone, you can find them online, and listen to them through your computer.)

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Sawbones500_35[1]Sawbones is a podcast about the weird things that people have done to try and cure disease throughout history, presented by the totally hilarious Justin McElroy and Dr. Sydnee McElroy.  (Did you know that tying a frog to your forehead is supposed to cure headaches?  Now you know.)

pchhblogrect1_custom-ac140c703215b507ceb79d3edbff1eb73ae6011d-s3-c85[1]Pop Culture Happy Hour is produced by NPR, and is an hour-long intelligent discussion of pop-culture-related topics.  That makes it sound totally dry and nerdy, but it’s actually really interesting.  And, the hosts give really great suggestions for books, TV shows, and other media.  I’ve discovered lots of cool things by listening to these guys.

mza_3767929519462584539.600x600-75[1]The Knit Picks’ Podcast is (surprise!) put out by the staff of Knit Picks.  They just updaged their format, and now pick a single topic for each episode.  They interview each other, knitting designers, and local knitters about that topic.  Sometimes it gets a little commercial-y, but I enjoy listening to what’s going on at my favorite online yarn store.

What do you listen to while you knit?

Audio Books

AUDIO BOOKS ARE NOT JUST FOR OLD PEOPLE, CHILDREN WHO CAN’T READ, AND CAR TRIPS.

I frigging love audio books (I would have used the real F word, but my mom reads this.  Hi mom!).  In my opinion, a good audio book is by far superior to a print book.  I know, I know, this is heresy.  But hear me out!

  1. Actors.  Good audio books are read by really great voice actors.  Like, totally amazing actors.  Jim Dale got Grammies for his work narrating the Harry Potter books.  For Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, he performed a record 146 different character voices.  How cool is that?
  2. You can listen to audio books while you’re doing other things (like knitting?).  Listening to an audio book frees your hands and eyes to do something else.  Housework and gardening goes faster when you have a story to focus on.
  3. You can listen to audio books wherever you want.  Download them to your Mp3 player/iPod/smart phone etc, and go.  Doing errands? No problem.  On the commute to work?  OK.  At home on the couch eating ice cream out of the carton?  I’m not going to judge.  Much.

So, I’m not saying that you should stop reading real books.  As a former employee of a public library, I think I would be shot if I said that.  But, think about trying an audio book or two.  You might like it.

So, where do you find audio books?

-Your library.  They probably have audio books on tape or CD that you can check out.  But unless you have a yellow Walkman that you want to rock, you might want to go for the next option.

-Your online library.  Many libraries now have mp3s available for download through their website through a service called Overdrive.  You’ll need to go to your library to sign up for a pin number, but after that you can download audio books to your heart’s content.

Librivox.  Free public domain audio books.  Mr. Darcy? Yes please.  These are read by volunteers, so some of the quality is questionable, but there are some good ones.  And it’s free and legal, so yay!

Audible.  Not free, but legal audio books.  Great selection.  I’ve never actually used Audible because my library has a pretty good catalog, but I know people that swear by it.

-iTunes.  Not free either, but if you’re into the whole Apple thing, this might be the way to go.  I am not into Apple, so I do not do iTunes.  I tried it once when I had a gift card.  It made me mad.  Things were thrown.

Pirate Bay/other torrenting websites.  Not technically legal.  I would *never* tell you to download your favorite books from this website.  I would *never* say to use uTorrent as bit torrent client to download these books.  Pirate Bay… not even once.

Anyway, however you get it, try giving an audio book a listen.  Start with something fun and light (War and Peace might be a little much at first).  You might be surprised.

Bookworm

I like a good intricate pattern as much as the next person.  One that I can really sink my teeth into, one that really takes all of my attention.

I also like patterns with acres and acres of stockinet stitch.  I love the way stockinet stitch feels and looks, all smooth and uniform, and I enjoy being able to totally zone out while my hands are hard at work.  I will be watching TV, or chatting with a friend, then I look down and Hey! I’ve got 6 more inches of stockinet.  It’s rather pleasing.

If a pattern is particularly simple (like the Boyfriend Scarf), just a tube of knitting, I can even read if I have a hands-free way of wrangling my book.  It’s hard to do with a paper book, but with an e-reader (a Kindle or the like), it’s totally manageable.  You can just leave your book out on your table and lean over it to read, but it’s much more pleasant with my handy-dandy, virtually free bookstand.  Also, if you don’t want to read while knitting, you can totally use this bookstand for your other hands-free book reading needs.

Materials:

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1 Wire Hanger (the cheap-o kind you get from the cleaners.  I’ve never actually taken anything to the dry cleaners, but I still have about a million of these hangers at my house.  I think they multiply when I’m not looking)

1 E-Reader

Instructions:

1. Bend the hanger into a V-shape, making sure that the two arms are roughly even, smoothing out the “shoulders.”

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2. Bend the hook closed.  This will become the back leg of the stand.

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3. Bend the back leg down, so that it is at a roughly 90 degree angle with the arms.

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4. Bend the last 2 or 3 inches of the arms upward, giving your e-reader a nice little seat.

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5. Adjust all the parts of the book stand until it sits nice and even.

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Enjoy!

Bus Knitting

I just got a new job, and it’s fantastic, and I’m SOOO glad that I am done with my old job.  You have no idea.  My old job was a mind-numbing clerical job in the HR department of a large corporation that will remain nameless.  My entire job consisted of making schedules for interviewing candidates.  It was like herding literally thousands of cats.  All day.   Every day.   And when it wasn’t terribly stressful and frustrating, it was deadly boring.  My boss actually told me to watch Netflix at work when it got boring.  Terrible.

But, enough complaining.    There was something that I really enjoyed about this job that I miss.  The commute.  My job was waaaaay on the other side of Lake Washington, which was an hour bus ride each way.  This sounds terrible, but it totally wasn’t.  It was great!  Daily set quiet time with my knitting.  I would put in my headphones and knit away.

I used to be weird about knitting in public, always afraid that someone would call me out on it and make fun of me or something (I was an awkward teenager.  I am now an awkward adult, but I care about my awkwardness less).   But you know, these days no one gives you a second look, unless they are also a knitter.  Once I was sitting in a coffee shop working on a sweater and listening to an audiobook when a complete stranger came up to me and started chatting.  She took one look at the knitting in my hands and correctly identified the pattern and complimented my yarn choice.   It was delightful.

Anyway, this is a round-about way of saying that knitting on the bus is good.  If you have the opportunity to commute on a bus, do it.  And bring your knitting.

Also, as a bonus, no matter how pleasant you look, almost no one will sit next to you on the bus when you’re knitting, so you’ll often get the seat all to yourself.