10 years of blogging

Ten years ago today, I published my very first post on this blog. A lot of things happen in ten years – I have grown and changed in ways I never would have imagined, and the world around me is almost unrecognisable at times – and yet this blog is still here with me. I still sit down, nearly every weekend, and pour some thoughts onto the (virtual) page. I spend countless hours planning, plotting, photographing, styling, writing, editing, posing, and yes, most of all, knitting.

When I began, I worried that I would not have anything to say. This post, this one right here, is my 550th post. At times, I have been brimming with creativity and new ideas, and projects are jumping up and down in my brain and off my needles. Other times, I have been so busy that knitting and blogging is a fought-for luxury in my week. Sometimes, the mojo is gone and I creak along waiting for it to return. Throughout it all, this blog has been here, providing a bit of sanity and creativity and fun; it is both my platform and my retreat.

I went back today to look at that first post, and it makes me laugh. My very first sentence, on the very first post says: “Last weekend,  I finally managed to block my Stripe Study Shawl.” I started as if I was in the middle of a conversation! So funny! I remember arguing with my family that I didn’t want to start by saying “Hi. I’m Kelly. This is my blog.” So I just started as I meant to go on. I never meant it to go on for ten years.

This blog is me – my thoughts, my knitting, my writing – but it is also in many ways a family affair. My daughter Emma spent a few years wearing me down, convincing me to start a knitting blog. Doug and Emma and Leah and I spent an entire day trying to come up with a name. We must have tried out hundreds before coming up with Knitigating Circumstances. I still think that the name is one of the best things about the blog; I smile every time I see it. (Although every time I have to write it, I wish I had picked something really short and sweet.)

For the first two years, this blog was a joint effort between Emma and myself, with a huge amount of work being put in behind the scenes by Emma, who did all of the photography and style editing, and technical editing, and proof reading, as well as being a sounding board and originator of ideas. I’ve written every post but one, which was written by Emma and is still one of my favourites. (I have a funny story to tell about that post. It is called “Move over Mom!”, as Emma was pushing me aside to write a post. We originally thought that she would write a series of occasional posts and wanted a name to tag her posts. We tagged it “Emma butts in!” and created a new column on the blog menu for these posts. A few weeks later, I noticed that I was getting a lot of referrals from, shall we say, dodgy-looking search terms. A little research and we discovered that there was a porn star whose first name was Emma and last name was Butts. We quietly removed the tags, and eventually the search engines gave up.) When Emma moved to Canada, it became harder and harder for her to participate in the every day running of the blog, and I learned to do more of it myself, although I still bug her at least once a week about blog-related things. I never would have done this without her. I have also knitted her lots of fabulous things; many patterns which I wouldn’t make for myself but which look smashing on her.

Leah has also proof-read countless posts, posed for innumerable photos, and has served as a muse for some of my more interesting projects over the years (like the Tolkien pillow, or the sweater I knitted her based on Anglo-Saxon gold and garnet cloisonné jewellery, finished project here). In the meantime, Doug has taken over nearly all of the photography for the blog, as well as reading most every post before I hit the publish button. Doug also provides inspiration for some of my favourite posts, which detail funny conversations between us. I often hear knitters complain that they can’t get their spouse to take a project photo for them. I can ask Doug to take a photo of a new skein of yarn, and he will come back with a hundred of them, all of them interesting (and in focus).

When I started this blog, I had just turned 50. I had two teenagers at home. I worked a 9-5 job as a manager of a research facility (having put my first academic teaching job – as a linguist – to rest when the girls were born). Every week, I ferried the girls, and a carful of instruments, to school, saxophone lessons, piano lessons, cello lessons, band practice, orchestra practice. I had my knitting with me everywhere and got tons done. Since then, the girls left home, I went back to school (for an MBA), took up a second academic career in a second academic discipline, travelled heavily both for my job and for pleasure, and still the blog kept going.

This is a time of transitions and milestones for me. In the past ten weeks, I have turned 60, had my 30th wedding anniversary, and been promoted (I am now an Associate Professor of Leadership – who would have imagined such a thing 10 years ago?). And today, I celebrate my 10th anniversary as a blogger.

Part of the joy of this blog is that I have you along for the ride. To those of you who keep coming back and reading, who put comments here and send me messages on Ravelry, who get inspired and inspire me, and who share my love of knitting and community, thank you.

Knitigating Circumstances turns five!

Five years ago this week I published the first post on this blog.  Emma and I have been thinking about this milestone and how to mark it.  We decided to each go back and read the blog posts and pick out our favorites – this is post # 271, so that is quite a lot to catch up on.  I discovered many posts I had totally forgotten about.  Emma sent me a list of her favorites (there were 25 of them!) and my list was equally long.  On Doug’s advice, we have cut the list down considerably, and would like to present you here with an editors’ pick of a dozen posts.

How did we narrow the list?  Mostly at random.  To begin with there were two posts which Emma and I both rated very highly.  I put them at the top as joint picks.  These were both written early on – in 2012 – but we feel they capture something unique about our blogging experience.  Then, we each narrowed our lists down to five, making a total of twelve favorites.  We tried to pick at least one from each year, and to include a few different styles of post.

Joint Picks:

Retrospective knits.  (2012) This is a bit of a cheat, as it is actually three posts: here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  These posts were a real family affair.  We had gone as a family to visit my mother in Arizona.  Mom has a collection of hand-knit garments knit in the 50s, 60s and 70s by my paternal grandmother, my mother, and myself as a teenager.  We decided it would be fun to photograph the four of us – mom, me, Emma, and Leah – modelling these garments. We arranged a bunch of photo shoots, with the photos taken by Doug and Emma.  These posts showcase the garments and also the family memories behind each one.  Producing these posts was a totally lovely experience for each of us.

A tale of two Falkenbergs.  (2012)  This is a very personal post, which describes my relationship with knitting throughout my life, centred around the knitting of two garments designed by Hanne Falkenberg, which were knit during very different stages.  I love this post, and obviously Emma is in agreement.

Kelly’s picks:

Move over, Mom!   (2012)  My daughter Emma persuaded me, after much effort, to start a knitting blog.  From the very beginning she has had a big part to play as a technical editor, stylist, photographer, muse and sounding board.  As the years go by, and Emma’s life becomes busier (and farther away), she has had much less to do with the every day running of the blog, though she continues to consult on every aspect.  The writing, however, is mine, with one exception.  In 2012, Emma wrote this post about how to photograph a sweater.  I love this post to pieces, and I think it contains one of my favorite lines from any post on this blog: “As for top half difficulties, just follow this golden rule and nothing can go wrong:  boobs should be in the boob portion of the sweater. ”

Venetian Audrey Modelled.  (2013) Much of my emphasis in the past five years has been on getting well-fitted garments.  This usually involves a lot of modification.  The sweater I knit for Emma, which I call Venetian Audrey, was one of these.  I love this post because it talks about the difficulties involved in modifying a pattern, as well as the magic of proper blocking, and adds to that a fabulous set of photographs.

Why I knit.  (2014)  My second daughter, Leah, has also served as muse to my knitting. Some of the really unique items I have knit in the past have been done in a collaboration with Leah, or have been sparked by Leah’s interests.  This post showcases a gorgeous sweater which I knit for Leah that, in my mind, is the perfect combination of pattern and yarn and sensibility of the wearer.  It also describes the modifications I made to get a perfect fit, and was beautifully photographed by Doug and Emma.

Escher Modification Chronicles.  (2015)  Again this is a bit of a cheat, since this was a two-part post; part 1 is here and part 2 here.  These posts examined, in great detail, the struggles and rationalizations behind the modifications I made in the Escher Cardigan.  I try to do a lot of things in this blog: I chronicle my knitting, I write about trends, I showcase patterns that catch my eye, etc.  I often fret about including highly technical discussions about the minutiae of knitting, as I worry that these will bore the pants off my readers.  I am also not a perfect knitter (is there such a thing?) and I like to convey the fact that knitting is a work-in-progress and involves a bit of trial and error.  It is both skill and artistry, mixed with perseverance and a little blind luck.  This is an example of one of those technical posts.

Knit Kurt Cobain’s sweater and save big bucks. (2015)  I put a lot of effort into this blog and most posts are the result of many hours of writing, re-writing, consulting, and editing. Occasionally, however, I write a post totally off-the-cuff.  This is an example of such a post.  I saw a little blurb in the paper about Kurt’s sweater being auctioned and I typed this post up in minutes. Perhaps it doesn’t have the polish I try to put on most posts, but I think it is a good example of a funny post.

Emma’s picks (commentary by Emma):

Brick rocks. (2012)  Brick was simultaneously the greatest and most difficult sweater of Mom’s I’ve had to photograph. The pink, red, and purple hues used, while obvious to the naked eye, are very difficult to distinguish in photographs, and adding in desert landscapes, which are notoriously difficult to capture, was a challenge. I’m pretty sure I made Dad stop the car, climb rocks, and pose for photographs every five minutes of the drive – I ended up with over 1500 photographs to edit and choose from before deciding on the final set you see in the post. Man it was worth it though!

Reflections on Thanksgiving, hurricanes, the flu, antique knitting patterns and the waistcoat-that’s-not-meant-to-be.  (2012)  This post I actually completely forgot about until this week when I reread all of our posts. It was a hidden gem – I had just moved away for university and had never realised that Mom still had the original Turkey Yarn sweater! The post itself is a bit of a hodge podge, but all of it is good.  Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday and one which has a lot of family traditions associated with it, including Dad’s great stuffing recipe (and my superior gravy).  The fact that this yearly tradition is tied up (literally!) to one of Mom’s knitting projects from my infant days is kind of fun.  It is also a reminder on the importance of reflection and on what’s important in life.

Rite of passage – the steek. (2014)  I like this post for lots of reasons.  First, Kelly had been talking about steeking and deciding not do it because she was afraid of it, for years. Then it turned out to be no big deal.  It was funny to watch even if I was sick. Second, the project itself was a great one, and I always like Mom’s technical discussions of the knitting process; the finished project can be seen here by the way.  Mostly I love this post, however, for Doug’s suggestions on possible post titles. I had forgotten about these and they totally cracked me up on re-reading the post!

teeny tiny hat. (2016)  They say a picture says a thousand words.  This post doesn’t need many words.  I remember calling Mom right after reading the post and laughing down the line for about twenty minutes. Also Mom’s Venn Diagramming abilities have improved ten-fold since going to business school.

How long is your hand? (The non-Trump edition.)  (2016)  This is quite a recent post, and a long one.  But, it is incredibly funny (at least to me) and is a great example of the interactions between Mom and me that led us to developing the blog in the first place. It shows that we still have it: a crazy, funny love of knitting, fashion, technique, words, and a working mother-daughter relationship that keeps us collaborating even after all this time.


I hope that you enjoy these dozen favorites from Emma and me.  It was very hard to narrow them down and a lot of really great posts were left out.  In fact, there is not a single Wearability Wednesday post here, even though they are among the most fun to produce. (Notice how I managed to sneak in a whole category of post here!)  Also not here are any travel posts, though I have written many.

There have been many times, especially during these last two years as I have been struggling to finish my MBA and adjust to a new and busy career, when I have thought about ditching the blog.  I worry that I am not knitting enough to make a knitting blog feasible.  I worry that I don’t always have the time to personally answer all of the comments, something which I enjoy.  I worry that my personal decision to not be on Facebook adversely affects the blog.   I worry that blogging is a dying art form.  I somehow always manage to talk myself out of it.  The truth remains: I enjoy writing this blog.  It involves my whole family and is a very fulfilling and creative outlet.  I especially appreciate all of you readers who continue to engage with the blog.  I love to read your comments, both here and on Ravelry.  Thanks for coming along for the ride!


Time to catch up on some reading

Last week I finally had time to catch up on my blog reading. Thus, it is time for another edition of Surfing the Knit, in which I point out some posts that have caught my fancy. Let’s start with the pretty: first a pretty sweater, and then a pretty blog.

1. Konrad, knitter extraordinaire and author of the blog Knitting Konrad, recently knit the wonderful Ordie sweater designed by Martin Storey. It is a great sweater which I have featured on these pages before in a Pattern Radar segment. As usual, Konrad looks smashing. You can see it here.

2. I love the blog Millefeuilles. Stephanie, who writes the blog, lives in the Loire Valley in France and is writing a PhD dissertation on Baroque Garden Design. Every one of her posts is beautifully designed – like an unfolding work of art. I recently knit a sweater for Leah which used the lovely Madelinetosh Merino DK in Candlewick – a very gorgeous burnished gold. Stephanie has been knitting with the same yarn, and here is a post inspired by Candlewick and Stravinsky’s The Firebird.

3. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will have noticed that I have a thing for stitch holders, particularly the kind which open (they look like modified safety pins). I use them in many ways and find them completely indispensable. Glenna, who writes the blog Knitting to Stay Sane (a great name!), wrote a post last month called “9 Ways Stitch Markers Will Make Your Life Easier”. I couldn’t agree more with this post – read it and make your knitting stress-free. Number 7 is new to me – I regularly use all of the other tips – why have I not been using this one as well?

4. The knitting universe has been buzzing lately about changes to the tax laws in the EU and their unintended consequences for knitting designers who sell their patterns online. Ysolda has written a very informative post about these changes which makes quite interesting reading. (Yes, it is a lengthy post about tax law and it is utterly fascinating!) Ysolda made three points I found very thought-provoking: first, that tax authorities had no idea of the type and number of small business who would be affected, second, that the new rules could be seen to be in conflict with the EU’s strict data protection laws, and third, that these changes could have a disproportionate impact on women.

5. And last, a post that has nothing to do with knitting. Sara, who writes the knitting blog Knot my Day Job, recently wrote a post about the Hampton Court Palace, which is a short train ride outside of London and was part of the court of Henry VIII. I love Hampton Court Palace! It is a short drive from my home and I have been there many times. It is a great place to spend the day. This is a very nice post, with lots of photos, about one of my favourite places.