Can a gentle soul ever be an ultra-cool knitter?

May 25, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Posted in Knitting morals, You and your knitting | Leave a comment
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An apprehensive non-knitter questions Gerty about whether she will ever be one of the band of super-cool knitters on the street.

Dear Auntie Gerty

Someone has offered to teach me how to knit. As I’m in my mid-30s and not terribly fit or aggressive, I’m not sure I’m up to ‘yarn storming’ and ‘stitching and bitching’. Should I leave knitting to the bright young things, or do you think it’s worth learning even at this late stage (maybe it would add to my ‘street cred’)?

Hope you can help
Gentle Jen, Junction Road

My dearest gentle one, I don’t know where you get the idea that knitters need to be aggressive or fit.  Why, the best exercise one can get is to lift a piece of lovely battenburg to your lips with one hand, and a nice gin and tonic with the other hand for balance.  And sitting down with a good knit is a great restorative, which can take away any aggression in your soul.  Why, if I had hands to knit with, I would be a fluffy ball of serenity.

Now, I understand that you may wish to be more aggressive.  Here I can help you, as your old Aunty Gerty can invoke good rage with some simple hypnosis. We’ll turn you from nervous non-knitter into something with hideous rage. Just look into the buttons …

Daily Fail

One, two, three and you’re under.

I want you to imagine yourself a generally irate individual who believes knitting should be done in the home and not enjoyed in groups at well-lit public venues.

You take a trip into town to visit the Royal Festival Hall. Look around you. There is a large group. They are having a good time.

You are not having a good time. Your polyester bootcuts are chafing and your packed lunch is sadly warm.

Yet they are smiling and laughing. Feel the rage! Feel it burning!

There is knitting in public. Feel the rage at the injustice! Feel the froth at the corners of your mouth!

Look more closely. Some of them are clearly young and some are older and some are older still. And yet they’re mingling happily. And some are new to knitting! Why is no one telling them off for making a spectacle of themselves? Why should they show their knitting in public when it is a private matter? Feel the rage! Feel it!

And look! Why are they not drinking cocktails like a recent misguided newspaper article says they should be? Why are they drinking tea and cider there rather than sitting in the pub like the paper said? Why aren’t they chic Sex and the City types that the newspaper writes about?! You feel confused. You feel the rage welling up! Can you feel your pulse raging?

There’s a man over there! What on earth does he think he’s doing? A man! Knitting! Among women!

It’s disgusting! Feel the rage! Feel it burn! Smooth down your fleece, approach them haughtily and tell them all to go away and have some shame! Growl! Show your anger!

One two three, and you’re back in the room.

You now know pointless rage. The path to aggressiveness is yours. But of course, unchannelled and pointless rage is a bad thing. So your next step is to find yourself a grrrr-ru.

Pack up a small bag and book yourself an Easyjet flight to darkest Tibet. Travel to the hills and raise your yarny flag.  One of the secret clan of ninja knitters will come and blindfold you to take you to their training camp, where they will teach you many things

You will learn that all knitting kind must live in harmony with each other and with non-knitters alike.

You will also learn how to use your DPNs as mini javelins and your circular needle as a garotte should the need arise for you to fight injustice. You will learn to channel your anger into furious speedy knitting to turn out garments at an impressive rate.

Once you have done this, you can go and learn to knit with pride having faced the pointless rage and won.

Holy knitting Madonna, Batman!

However, this will not add to your street cred or make you cool.  Why do you want to be cold, anyway? When you could knit lovely things to keep you warm.

Take Madonna as an example of how knitting will not add to your street cred.  Ever one to chase the trends, Maddy took up knitting. She knitted obsessively so that she would be taken seriously as a super-cool proper knitter. But look: she gained no street cred, only hag hands.

And my dear old friend Jimmy Hill. Tired of his one-dimensional career as a TV sports pundit, he took up knitting. He also adopted a mock-Jamaican accent, to show he was down with the kids. Did it do him any good? No, those pesky journalists just talk about Russell Crowe knitting backwards. And Jimmy’s bosses wanted a quiet word about his new presenting voice.

In all honesty, Gentle Jen, knitting will not increase or diminish your street cred, or make people look at you as being a different person. You will be the same person as before, only with excellent needle wrangling skills to impress your fellow knitters, who are the only people who really count.

It’s worth learning because it’s a creative, inspirational and fun thing to do. It’s also a lovely, welcoming and thought-provoking community to be a part of. Your age doesn’t change that at all.

And if you follow all my advice you’ll have an excellent armoury of stealth weapons and the power to kill from a great distance with a DPN. So it’s all win really.


Stitching or smooching?

February 23, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Posted in Love and knitting | Leave a comment
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A loved-up knitter turns to his Aunty Gerty to untangle the problem of his love of the knit and his green-eyed girl.

Dear Gerty

Lately I find that my girlfriend is becoming envious of my yarn stash. She seems to think I spend more time with my knitting than I do with her. I am worried I may have to stop knitting in order to keep our love off the rocks.

Is there anything I can do to keep my knitting and my girl?

Yours torn
Tangled of Tottenham

At my signal, unleash PURL!

Tangled of Tottenham you really are quiet a sad little man. Choose between your yarn and your lady? Where is the choice, I ask you?! It’s like asking Gerty to choose between a nice gin and tonic and a glass of tap water.

But as you do seem to need to love of a good woman as well as your yarny amour I have a few suggestions for you.

You could always encourage her to take up a hobby of her own so you can mock it in return. I’ve always been fond of throwing my scorn at those who totter along the glue-and-glitter gutter that is scrapbooking.

If you can’t get her hooked then simply join a scrapbooking website under her name, spend large amounts of time on said website, then simply present her with the evidence of just how much time she devotes to scrapbooking. Her confusion and your insistence that it was she who posted 400 times in the “Whimsical scrapbooking papers” thread may be enough to shut her up about the whole thing while she questions her own sanity. Perhaps she’ll be sitting quietly rocking in a corner, but it’s effective nonetheless.

Taking up a more worrying hobby could also be a winner. Historical war re-enactment perhaps. Start wearing fleeces, grow a scrubby underbeard and hang out in Games Workshops. She’ll beg you to go back to the knitting and start shaving properly.

That isn't how you knit Russell...

Another idea is to show her photos of Russell Crowe knitting. Then make yourself a Russell Crowe mask and wear the mask each time you knit in her presence. If you bulk up enough and get a bit ranty she won’t be able to tell the difference and will just be pleased to find a hot celebrity crafting in her home.

If all else fails dump her and move on. Deep down you know that anyone who doesn’t understand your feelings for fibre is no good.

Why not use your yarn stash to knit yourself a replacement girlfriend? Think of the benefits. She’d be warm, woolly and winsome. She’d be one with your yarn stash rather than against it. She’d also make a fine draught excluder in this chilly season.

Or save your stash and join a knitting group where you might well find a girlfriend who won’t whine about your time with your sticks and string. There are many fine fibre-fevered fillies at S&B London meetings each week just longing for a knitting Romeo to share their stitching with. Though you may experience stash envy of a different kind. Many knitting romances have ended in sorry ‘my stash is bigger than your stash’ break ups too scandalous to impart here online. You have been warned.

Stop! Gerty Time!

February 9, 2010 at 9:24 am | Posted in Gertrude goings on | 1 Comment
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This week I turn my cotton wool sharp mind to some questions posed on via confused knitters on my blog.

Dear Gertrude

Could you please help as I am trying to knit a hooded scarf for the first time and there is a piece which I am not sure what it means.

K9, P4, wrap 4, P2, [K1, P1] (4), K1, P2, wrap 4, P4, K9

I know the basics of knitting but do not understand wrap 4, could you please help me.

Many thanks

You wouldn't like her when she's angry

My dear Kim, wrapping is a skill which eludes many knitters, even the more advanced. And I can indeed give guidance.

You want to learn how to wrap? Well, you hip-hop, and you don’t stop. However, I’m not entirely sure how that fits into your hooded scarf. Is it a hoodie scarf?  Are you going to wrap in your hoodie?  Are you mocking old auntie Gerty with your modern music and new-fangled clothing? I am outraged, I tell you! Different sort of wrap?! Don’t believe you!

My advice to you my dear is to simply abandon this foolish musical neckwear endeavour and make a proper hat. You’ll never get into Bluewater with your hoodie.


Dear Gertrude

I have been searching the Internet for a solution to my problem and after many days I came across your web page. Can you help me, please? I have been struggling with this question for weeks and I am just about ready to abandon the sweater I am making.

I have been stumped about how to shape the neck on a ribbed raglan sweater.  I am so confused I am not even sure how to ask the question so I hope you can help me.

As I reached the instructions for shaping the neck I had 54 stitches on the needle.  Here are the instructions to shape the neck:

1. K2, ssk, pat across 10 stitches (neck edge). Turn.

Work back as follows: Dec 1 stitch @ neck edge on next 4 rows.

AT SAME TIME: Dec 1 stitch @ raglan edge as B4 on following alternating rows. 5 stitches remain.

Can you tell me row-by-row how to decrease in the pattern and which decrease stitches to use for the correct slant? I am enclosing a copy of the pattern so that you will know the pattern I have worked in.


Heeeeeeere's Gerty!

Ah, Judy, I see they have sent me a second knitting query this week. Do those Stitchettes not understand that my role is to provide their moral compass and lessons in life for you all.

I can’t knit! I don’t even have hands! How do they think I can work out these difficult technical questions?! I HAVE NO FINGERS TO COUNT YOUR DECREASES ON!

Do they expect me to do everything for them? I don’t have any blood, sweat or tears to give, I’d like to point out. Just my warm, acrylic heart.

They keep my in a cupboard, you know! In a plastic bag. And the Battenberg is stale and it’s all Tesco Value gin.


Stitchette edit: Oh dear, Gerty seems to be having a bit of a turn…

We’ll put her back in her bag, we mean cage, no room, definitely a room, with a nice bottle of Gordon’s and some fresh Battenburg. She’ll be back on top form to help again next week.

In the meantime, Kim – you may find some useful information on wrapping stitches in the sites listed in our guide to Knitting Help on the Net .

Judy, you may also find something useful there, but our quick tip to you right now is that a pad of squared paper is very useful for drawing out complicated decreases and yes, the maths does work for your pattern.

HELP! I’m a newbie and I have the fear!

December 16, 2009 at 11:19 pm | Posted in You and your knitting | Leave a comment
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Don't knit alone!

I sit scared newbies down and slap a bit of bravery into them as I’m asked for tips on how to brave a knitter’s first ever S&B London meeting.

Dear Gerty

I am an avid reader of the S&B newsletter, especially your column.  I would love to come to one of the meetings in the new year, but I am very shy around new people and also not able to knit yet. I fear that my lack of skills or my newness will show me up. What do I do?

Yours timidly,
Shy of Shoreditch

Oh Shy, for goodness sake stop worrying, take a deep breath and have a slice of Stollen cake and a nice cup of tea. Let Gerty calm your nerves. I was once an S&B London newbie too and now look at me!

Here are a few ways to help you avoid that first S&B London fear.

Option one: Steal existing member’s identity.

Quite simply all you need to do is wander along to the Flickr group and choose your target. The more they resemble you the better. Weeks of sitting in a tree with a pair of nightvison goggles strapped to your face will then be necessary to make sure you have all the facts. Knit yourself a nice set of woolly undergarments to keep you toasty while you stalk. Go through their wheelie bin, sit behind them on the bus reading their text messages over their shoulder, follow them to their LYS and peer at their picks.

Once you have enough information simply soak a handy ball of cheap acrylic in chloroform, lie in wait for them as they reach the meeting venue, leap from the shadows, put them gently to sleep, steal their WIP (work in progress) and stash them in a handy loo cubicle.

Then simply stroll into the meeting as them. Greeting old friends and adding a few rows to their knitting as a balm to the fact they will wake up with a chloroform hangover and the urge to call the police in a few hours.

A warning though: try it on me and you’ll have to remove a very spiky pair of DPNs from somewhere tender…

Option two: Pretend you’ve been before.

Appear at the meeting full of confidence, plonk yourself down with a chattering crowd and deal out highly offended glares to those who ask you if you’re new. Use the phrase “How very rude! Don’t you know I’ve been an S&B Londoner since the terrible cake shortage of 2006!” and grumble on about how back in your day people knew an S&B Londoner by the flick of their yarn-holding finger, donchaknow.

You too could be this stylish

Option three: Be prepared, you numbskull!

Our S&B London website has a lovely page which tells you what you need to bring if you wish to learn to knit. You’d do well to read it and bring the right tools for the job. It makes me weep when someone turns up with eyelash yarn and a pair of sharpened broomsticks. Oh the horror!

Option four: Knit or fashion a fake beard or moustache

Any kind of fake facial fur is the ultimate S&B London icebreaker. For some reason we can’t get enough of the hairy handsomeness that is face furniture. Check out pics of this summer’s Knit Crawl to see what we mean.

Turn up with a nifty knitted nose neighbour or a purled piece of great goatee and watch the eyes of your fellow S&B Londoners light up. It is allllll about the tash that you’ve made from your stash, Shy. Use the tash and you can’t go wrong.

I hope this has been helpful, my shy stitching questioner. As for lack of knitting skills you’ll be fine. All knitters newbie or old hands are welcome. You won’t be alone in taking your first set of stitching steps and your fellow knitters will be encouraging, friendly and sympathetic.

Take heart, pull a chair up to a table of knitters, and join the stitching storm. A life lived in fear of public knitting is a life half lived, take it from a giant pink ball of yarn who knows a thing or two.

I hope to see you at a meeting soon. Mine’s a pint of gin and a slice of Battenberg.

Do you feel like roasting your chestnuts of knitting rage on a giant ball of pink yarn’s fiery intellect? Email her here.

Are You a Man or a Yarn Swift?

November 19, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Posted in Gertrude goings on, Love and knitting | Leave a comment
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Gerty goes all Sergeant Major

Domestic strife over turning unruly skeins into something more managable? I give the knitting world a few tips on turning your other half into the yarn swift of your dreams.

Dear Gerty

Is there an easy way to wind a hank/skein of laceweight yarn into a useable ball without a yarn swift? All I have to help me wind it is a man. I don’t have a useful ballwinder.

Help please. I need to know how to alleviate his boredom from holding the skein and how to stop the pain in my hands after winding for so long,
Your devoted fan
Confused Claire

Dear Confused Claire. What a predicament. With no swift to tame your skeins what you need to do is tame your man. So here are a few suggestions on how to ensure more winding and less whining.

Option one: Tell him it’s a Wii fit game. Simply attach a wire to part of the skein and watch the concentration on his face as he tries to get bonus points for avoiding tangles.

Option two: Got a spinning desk chair?  Use the skein to tie him to the chair and spin him round as you wind the ball. You get a useful body to hold the skein tight on the chair. He gets a nice fairground ride.

Option three: Tell him it’s some kind of cage fighting endurance training and scream “WHAT KIND OF A MUMMY’S BOY ARE YA??!?!?” and “YOU’LL NEVER GET TO THE END OF THIS SKEIN, YOU ‘ORRIBLE SPECIMEN OF A MAN!!!” in his face while he is holding it so he doesn’t flag.

Option four: Tell him your last boyfriend/his dad/that bloke from accounts at work who you smiled at when he met you from work once could hold it up for hours.

If all else fails, Confused, perhaps you could leave his laptop browser open on a couple of nice swifts on eBay. Christmas is acomin’ after all.

Sunday stitching: right or wrong?

September 26, 2009 at 3:29 pm | Posted in Knitting morals | 1 Comment
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A lovely S&B Londoner has been kind enough to track down The Girl’s Own Paper and Woman’s Magazine from March 1927. Where Flora Kilckmann answers the needling question below. We passed the question along to our Gerty to see what she had to say on the matter.

My husband and I have had an argument about knitting on a Sunday.  Will you decide for us?  Is it right or wrong?
Confused, Clapham

Dear Confused

Oh dear! Sounds like you need to hang up your circular needles on a Sunday to maintain domestic bliss in the ‘Confused of Clapham’ household! Nothing’s better than an easy life, right?!

Alternatively, you could just tell him to stuff it. Maybe you should ask him whether sitting around watching (insert sport here) all day is allowed on a Sunday. See what justification he has for his leisure pursuits on the day of rest! We’re all entitled to a bit of down time!!

Love and snuggly stuff,

Auntie Gerty

The original from The Girls own paper and Woman’s Magazine.

Edited by Flora Kilckmann March 1927

We have had an Argument about Knitting on Sunday.  Will you Decide for us?  Is it Right or Wrong?

No one can decide foe another on this point.  It is a matter for the individual conscience to settle, and must entirely depend on circumstances.

There is no decree in the Bible against knitting on Sunday.  The Commandment to do no work on that day does not necessarily affect knitting, because knitting is not always work – it may be recreation (though I do not mean to imply that all recreations are desirable for the Sabbath; some most certainly are not !).

You need to go much further back than the question of actual knitting to solve this problem.  The day has gone past when good women considered it allowable to pin a piece of frilling in the neck of their best frock on Sunday, but sinful to tack it in with a needle !  We need to look to the spirit rather than the letter of God’s ordinance which requires us to give special observance to His day.

Sunday was instituted that we might have a period each week free from the constant demands of work, and thus have the opportunity to think about the Creator.  Also, it was given us as a day of rest and recuperation.

Now, one point for you to decide is this: Granted that knitting is not your daily work but merely a recreation, does it hinder your thoughts from turning towards heavenly things?  If so, it is undesirable.

Or does it help you to quiet mental concentration?  I know several spiritually-minded women who find that knitting is an aid to deep thinking.  It can be a purely mechanical process that promotes thinking, just as walking enables many people to work out an article or sermon, or a problem more easily than if they were sitting still.

In this way knitting differs from most other recreations; you cant play golf or tennis for instance, and be thinking about the deeper concerns of the soul.  Whereas with knitting you can.

We all need some special time when we can drop, for the moment, the things that appertain exclusively to this world, and send our thoughts in the direction of the world to come.  Nowadays it is difficult to find time to be quiet, and also very difficult to sit still and do nothings with one’s hands in one’s lap.  The nervous tension of the age makes it almost impossible for some women to sit still for ten consecutive minutes without movement of some kind.

When knitting helps to compose and calm a nervous temperament (as it often does), and promote quiet thought, then it is desirable.

Nevertheless, one must remember that actions which are not sinful in themselves may yet have a hurtful effect on others.  Should your knitting prove a stumbling blovk to someone else, or even a cause of irritation to those who hold other views, then it should be regarded as one of those things which are inexpedient.

This brings me back to my starting point: Each person must think out and decide this question herself on its individual merits.  Our Heavenly Father evidently wishes us to give as much time as we can, on Sundays, to worship and prayer, and quiet thought about spiritual things.  It is for us to try to carry out His wishes in whatever way we find most helpful to this end—provided it does not hinder another soul who is striving to live aright.

Images from

Introducing Ms Gertrude Woolsworthy

September 25, 2009 at 7:58 pm | Posted in Gertrude goings on | Leave a comment
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She’s more than a big ball of yarn!

Gertude and Lauren

Gertude and Lauren

You may have seen her hanging about in the shadows of Stitch and Bitch London meetings, calmly meting out advice on the dos and don’ts of knitting etiquette, patiently talking you through that pesky slip slip knit, or stealing bits of your battenburg when you’re not looking.  Well, now you can be officially introduced.

Knitting world meet S&B London’s newest Stitchette: Gertrude Woolsworthy. She’s more than a big ball of yarn!

We first met her back in May 2009, when she came to us as part of a huge donation of yarn. We were awe-struck by her…her…well, just her! She was huge! She was pink! She was a ball of yarn!

Gertrude and Emmy

Gertrude and Emmy

Since then, we’ve discovered she’s more than that. She’s a problem solver extraordinaire. She’s honest and to the point. She tells it like it is and doesn’t pull her punches. She can fix the most hideous tangle, slap you silly if you’re feeling stitching unsureness, and drink most of us under the table without a thread out of place. We couldn’t miss this opportunity to make her the newest Stitchette.

Gertrude and Marion

Gertrude and Marion

Every fortnight, in the Stitch and Bitch London newsletter, Gertrude will be answering your yarn-related questions as only she knows how in Ask Gertrude.

If you have any problems you need a solution to, drop her a line and Gertrude will do her best to answer them.

Ask Gertude. Go on.

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