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October 19, 2010

Catch-up Tuesday

Catching up on email...

Hello Crazy Aunt Purl, I have a problem I'm hoping you can help me with. I am not a great knitter but I do like to knit the odd teacup cosy or hat, however I am in the process of becoming vegan and vegans tend not to wear or use wool. Do you know of a non animal derived alternative that I could use instead please? Any advice would be most welcome! Many thanks and happy knitting, Lisa in the UK

Hello, Lisa! I can hear your accent as you type and it is charming. Why is it that an English accent makes everything sound posh? Even the word posh sounds posh and English.

As for your question, you can always go with good old cotton for a natural fiber, or bamboo (which I love) or silk or any of the new soy-derived yarns. And unless you suffer from acrylaphobia, there are plenty of beautiful and affordable acrylic yarns on the market that are excellent alternatives to wool. I myself am not acrylic-phobic but I know many knitters who suffer from this debilitating condition.

But -- and listen, I'm not vegan and I'm from the South so I was practically born at a barbecue -- I guess I'm not sure why vegans avoid wool. As I understand it, the woolgathering process just gives the sheep a haircut. Of course, my entire knowledge of sheep-shearing is taken entirely from The Thorn Birds. So again, consider the source. I understand avoiding leather if you're a vegan, but I don't really get the wool aversion.

Having said that, I firmly believe everyone should do what they want and not get pecked at by ducks. I, for example, avoid sushi and don't want to hear anything about it from anyone. So if you want to avoid wool, more power to you.

Happy knitting! Stay posh!

[Note: I have been corrected! Apparently you cannot use silk if you're vegan because it's from a worm. I just spent about twenty minutes reasoning to myself that if you can't use silk because it comes from worms then surely you can't use cotton because it grows from it dirt enriched with worm casings. And the pesticides used on plants kill bugs. Even organic farms use animal manure to fertilize, and they use pathogens to kill bugs, so can you eat plants? And I kept going, then my head hurt. When I read the comment that vegans aren't allowed to have honey -- which comes from insects -- my little mind melted.

Personally I adore wool, and while I love my animals like an insane person I also eat steak and I kill bugs with great vigor and determination, so I was probably not qualified to answer this question. But the Thorn Birds is a really great book. And an excellent mini-series.]

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Hi! I've read your blog since the beginning and I love it! I have a
question: I'm starting the cheetos scarf and I noticed in your photos that the needle tips are very thin. One of my frustrations with knitting on large size needles is that the tips are so thick I can't get them into the stitch (I have tight knitting issues, too). Can you remember the needles you used on the cheetos scarf?
Thank you so much!
Rhonda in Alabama

Hi Rhonda in Alabama! I can hear your accent too and it is equally as charming. Those needles were a special find that I got here at a local yarn shop. For years and years there was no way to get them online but recently I found out the folks who make these needles (hand made!) have a website: http://www.uncleronnie-penmaker.com/

[Edited to add: I just checked out their site and realized they are no longer making needles. What is up with today? This column started out so well this morning. Well, maybe if you email them something will work out. What a bummer! Those are great needles! I have also heard that KnitPicks needles have pointier tips. Maybe other readers here can chime in and help.]

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Here's a good one from reader Michele:

I'm still a relative beginner and not a good one mind you and I have a question. Does one knit direct from a hank as they would a skein or must you buy a winder contraption to make them into balls and if so, why the heck don't they make them that way in the first place? Okay that became multiple questions.

All very good questions! I have no idea about why the hank exists, though I am sure someone can comment here and let us all know, but I can tell you that knitting from a hank is an adventure into the mindsplittingly awful realm of uber-tangles.

You do need to wind up a hank into a ball or yarn cake before you knit with it. I have one of those winder/spinny things that makes yarn cakes but have never even used it. Seems I prefer to make my own yarn balls. Yarn balls! Hah.

I prefer to make a pretty little center-pull yarn ball, though just winding a hank into a regular old ball o' yarn will do. I have long wanted to make a photo tutorial here for creating a center-pull ball, making hanks into picturesque balls is one of my favorite TV time activities, but it's impossible to take pictures of your own hands while simultaneously making a center-pull ball. So, here is a video tutorial of the process on KnittingHelp.com. (Scroll down on that page to find it.) Hope that helps!

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Finally, this is not yarn-related, but is about one of my favorite subjects -- travel!

I wanted to let you know I am taking a trip to Rome for my 40th birthday over Thanksgiving week and I have actually decided to go it alone. You inspired me! Three times in the past I went with a friend, and just don't really feel like it this time! I've loved reading your posts about your adventures and merits of solo travel.

I'm no stranger to work travel (in fact I'm Sales Road Warrior two nights a week.) I even lived in Europe for three years, but the "comments" from people about my solo trip are making me feel like a lunatic.

I've even started fibbing, saying "Well, I am actually meeting a friend from Italy," or "It's a work trip and I am just staying an extra day or two..." Jeez! What is up with that?

I lied to people when I went to Rome for my first ever solo trip.

I didn't lie about meeting anyone there but I did lie about being scared. I pretended I was totally relaxed about it (inside I was churning about going alone!)

I also didn't tell many people about my trip. I shared the details of my solo vacation with maybe six people and I got furious at one of my friends who I told about the trip and swore her to secrecy... only later to find she told another few people on the side. I was so angry with her because I thought the fewer people who knew about my trip, the fewer people would comment and tell me things to increase my anxiety, nervousness and total terror about going to Italy alone. She just thought I was psychotic.

But traveling alone the first time -- real travel, not work travel -- can be truly scary! I firmly believe that this is one of those things in life we should NOT do by committee. That means don't ask a bazillion different people for their opinions on your solo travel status before you go. You're going anyway, right? No need to ask for committee opinions. And definitely don't share your trip details (before you go) with people who are Debbie Downers. You know these people. They are the ones who have a horror story or tragic ending to every. single. thing. Ever. They're not bad people. They just aren't the ones you want to chat with about your trip before you go. They will have you in fits. Share your travel details with them after your trip.

Do talk to other women who have traveled alone and loved it. Do prepare for your trip by reading a little on the destination beforehand and booking a safe hotel. Do take normal precautions like you would in any big city (in other words, don't wander around alone at night half-drunk and full of cash. Simple stuff.) Do trust that you are able to handle all the adventures of traveling alone. Then do go on your trip!

Next summer I turn 40 and I've been wondering if I'll go on a solo trip for that birthday. I don't know where I'll be in my life. I'm thrilled for you and your upcoming vacation to Italy. Rome is a beautiful, delicious, vibrant city. I loved it and I hope you do, too! Happy birthday!

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Finally, the cutest Bobby socks:


Posted by laurie at October 19, 2010 10:29 AM