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Archive for the ‘Dr. Yarn’


Dear Jan,

1.jpgAccording to Walter Isaacson’s new book, Steve Jobs could be almost as controversial as knitting in a business meeting.  Almost.

Dr. Yarn has seen fit to answer a relevant question, so read on…


Q: Dear Dr, Yarn,

I see where Knitcraft (a high-end knitwear designer/manufacturer in Winona, Minnesota) is experiencing soaring sales in turtle neck sweaters since Steve Jobs’ death.  Do you think this trend will continue or is it just a short-lived tribute?  I note that black turtlenecks have been especially good sellers.  Should I add several to my wardrobe?

Thank you for your advice,

Fashion Forward in the Heartland

A:  Dear FF,

Thank you for this timely question. I’ve had several questions along this line, so you are not alone in trying to find meaning in the mortality of this technology icon.

There are several reasons this fad will become a trend.

  • Teenagers find the turtleneck sweater a good way to be in fashion and hide hickeys from their parents. Even broad-minded  parents, knitter or not, do not like hickeys  showing on the necks of their children.  It reminds them too much of their lost youth.
  •  20-somethings are starting to use the turtleneck knitted sweater to make their necks look shorter. Who wants to look like Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady”?   In these tough times, good, solid, short necks signal the ability to carry a noggin with a large brain that will be useful for survival, whether of the coming Zombie Apocolypse or simply the coming Presidential elections.
  • The main reason the trend will continue is many of the young inexperienced knitters like the quick knits and not the complicated patterns. I deplore this movement. What they are doing is knitting just the neck.  Yes, I said just the neck.  Some knitters try to explain this away by calling them cowls.  I don’t understand this trend, but I suppose wearing one exposes a lot of skin, and we know that could be attractive to the opposite sex, another strategy for surviving the coming elections as one would be quite distracted.  I refer you back to the first reason turtlenecks have become so popular.

As for color, Steve Jobs usually was in the basic black, but I see the young people going big for colors.  You may wish to load up with a lot of colored yarn before it is all gone—especially the apple shades. This is going to be big, so we salute you Steve Jobs for your knitted turtle necks.

Best wishes,

Dr. Yarn

P.S. Watch for a new series of Dr. Yarn lectures available on i-Tunes!

P.P.S. There is still time to enter the Twinset 4th Birthday Bash contest.  Just leave a comment on the contest post!

Dr. Yarn is no fat cat…

Dear Jan,

Did you know that Dr. Yarn has a background in archaeology?  Neither did I, but it is apparently so.  Read on…


This question recently came in from Cynthia at Arizona State University.

garfield.jpgQ. The Sept 12, 2011 Garfield  mentions knitted underwear for the Cro-Magnon man. This seems unlikely to me, but Garfield has never led me astray before.  Did such garments really exist?
A. This surprised even me, but digging in deeper (which is really what you have to do in this field), we find new archeological evidence that this information from Garfield is true.  As you know, the weather was cold in the Cro-Magnon era. Although Cro-Magnon man (…and woman …and child) was hairy, this alone wasn’t enough to keep him or her warm. Necessity is the mother (…or father …not child) of invention, and the Cro-Magnon people discovered a use for the wool they acquired upon killing a Wooly Mammoth.

The Cro-Magnons couldn’t afford to waste a bit of these difficult prey.  Of course, they ate the meat first, but then they tried chewing on some of the hide and fiber (yes, even then the nutritionists were big on fiber).  The wool stuck between their teeth in an irritating way, and when they twisted it to remove it, they discovered spinning.

With knitting needles made from the rib bones and millenia to while away before  TV and board games were invented, they passed the time spinning and knitting undies for themselves. They did not make outer garments – fashion statements had not been invented yet, either.

Early Cro-Magnon had only thong panties at first, but as their skills improved they  advanced to long underwear.
As an unintended consequence, those who play chess are a little put out because they always thought chess was the oldest activity; now they find that knitting is much older. I have it on a reliable source that the United States Chess Federation is trying to raise a million dollars to fund an expedition to see if they can find out that Cro-Magnon actually played chess while wearing their knitted undies.  Now that is something we are all interested in!

Thanks for that good question, and it is nice to hear from college students who are interested in finding out the truth no matter how much it upsets some of our narrow biases and myths.

Dr. Yarn

Dr. Interrupted…

Dear Jan,

Summer is brief here in Minnesota.  Heck, we’ve had trace snowfall by mid-September right here in Minneapolis, and measurable snowfall barely a week later.  We have to pack a lot of stuff into June through August, and this makes it hard to meet all of our obligations.

I hope this provides some excuse for my neglection of duty when it comes to posting Dr. Yarn’s column.  Let me make it clear – he submitted in a timely fashion, it was his editor who failed to push publication through.  Please do not dock his pay for this.

With no more ado, here is Dr. Yarn’s July posting.  The penny-pinching tips may actually be helpful with the recent stock market volatility has affected your savings.


picture-14.pngQ. I have been noticing that Prince William and Kate (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) and Prince Albert and Princess Charlene Wittstock of Monaco are dominating TV coverage. I also am observing the gorgeous hats at the weddings. What is all this about wedding hats? Are most of them knitted? Where are they coming from?

A: Not many people know it, but the husbands and the grandmothers are doing most of the knitting for the wedding parties. Take Prince William for instance. He picked up knitting while on duty as a helicopter pilot (He did not knit while he himself was flying, though sorely tempted.  Like some knitters we know, he keeps his knitting in the trunk of the chopper so as to avoid temptation.)

Whiling away the down time between flights, William knitted a hat for Kate. She liked it so much that she worked it into her wedding wardrobe. The wrap I did for Michele (see June Dr. Yarn) impressed Kate so much that she has knitted some little starter projects herself.

Because Prince William has so many duties, he has cut back his knitting somewhat. Beatrice’s hat that took so much notice at Kate and William’s wedding was not knitted; however, the prototype for it was knitted. A milliner copied it for the wedding, but didn’t get it quite right, hence all the fuss.
Because Grace Kelly was an avid knitter, knitting is popular in Monaco.  Her son doesn’t talk about it much, but he also knitted several things for the wedding.  He is rumored to have knitted a bikini for his swimming star bride for the honeymoon.  He is further rumored to have used a lace stitch throughout this pattern, which may explain why we have not seen any photographs of the suit being modeled.

Knitting saved a lot of money in both of the weddings.

Keep the questions coming,

Dr. Yarn

Editor’s note:  If you would like to knit your own royal wedding, you can find the patterns HERE.

Summer solstice is coming, let Dr. Yarn help you plan for the season!

Always the helpful advisor, Dr. Yarn provides guidance on planning one’s knitting projects for the season.  This month he answers a question from a D.C. area reader.


holsterspromo1.JPGQ. I’m planning my summer knitting and I heard you knitted some neat things last summer. Would you share what you did to help me in my summer knitting planning?
A. Sure! That is the way we knitters expand our horizons—by sharing ideas.

It was a routine summer for me. We were at our place on Martha’s Vineyard and attended a cookout at the Obama’s place.  Michele insisted I take home some of the brownies she had made. I wasn’t prepared with a gift for her so I quickly knitted a wrap for her to use at formal state dinners and gave it to her when they stopped by for a weenie roast on the beach. She was delighted – she hadn’t been able to find anything she liked in the D.C. area.

The conversation naturally turned to gift giving and Michele mentioned that she had trouble finding gifts to exchange with other first ladies and especially the Queen of England. The Queen has about everything she needs for the house and kitchen, as you can imagine. This gift-giving quandary is just the opportunity for a hand-crafted item to shine, so I started on a lap blanket for Michelle to give to Liz (she lets good friends get colloquial with her name) for use in the open carriage she rides in for weddings and state occasions.

Truth be told, I almost bit off more than I could chew because the coat of arms in the center was a real hassle. All those ends to weave in! If the government had a nickel for every one of them, I believe we wouldn’t have to worry about debt ceilings.

As I always say, use as good a yarn as you can afford.  For gifts, especially one like this, quality materials are even more important – I wouldn’t want the Queen to wonder if our country were in financial trouble.

Now you are not going to believe this, but last fall the Obamas were on the Big Island in Hawaii the same time we were there. I had just finished the blanket – it is OK if your summer knitting slips into fall. When I saw Michelle at McDonald’s I invited her and the family over for dessert, which is when I gave her the gift for the Queen. She was overjoyed, if I do say so myself.

We talked about ideas for Christmas giving, and she mentioned that her toughest job was gifts for the Secret Service people that guard the kids. I suggested that it would be no problem for me to knit several holsters for their guns. Again she was pleased and wanted to pay me, but of course I was glad to do my bit for our country. I had a pattern already (doesn’t everyone have a good holster pattern?) and used a soft yarn, some Malabrigo worsted weight, so as not to irritate the Secret Service folks’ chests.  I was able to finish six before Christmas. I even got thank you notes from the Secret Service employees, who are nothing if not polite.

Of course, I finished off the summer with several pairs of booties for my friends; children and grandchildren. But these quickies don’t really count, do they?

Thanks for the question. This shows that we can always gain from sharing our ideas.
Dr. Yarn

Galloping through the month…with Dr. Yarn!

Dear Jan,
picture-12.pngThis weekend seemed a bit empty with no major horse race to follow.  I guess the horses deserve a week off before they have to run the Preakness, but after all the colorful silks and beautiful animals of last weekend, this weekend could have seemed a bit dull.  Luckily, Dr. Yarn entertained me with some news about the future of the Derby,  and how it may involve knitters.

Our font of wisdom reports:


To my editors at TwinSet:

This  letter came from Lexington, KY, so it deserves an answer while the Kentucky Derby is still fresh in our minds.
Q. Is there any truth in the rumor that the rose blanket used for the winner of the Kentucky Derby will be changed to a knitted blanket of poppies next year?
A. It wasn’t supposed to get out yet but Wikileaks has no shame.  There has been a lot of high-level talk about it, and I must admit I have been contacted.  Roses have been associated with the Derby for 127 years, and now many are thinking we need a change. Some say  the rose blanket got started from the War of the Roses, but that was a long time ago and we can’t be certain.

Because we have had so many other wars recently, I think knitted poppies, like those from Flanders Field, would take the Kentucky Derby in a new direction. Horses and wars have a long association (wouldn’t the Derby be interesting if the jockeys had to ride inside the horse, like they did in the Trojan War?  or how about in full armour as in the medieval wars?). Please don’t say I said so, but a blanket of knitted poppies has a good chance of needling its way in.

Do keep this special intelligence under your hat (knitted, of course) for a while.

Dr. Yarn


Hmm, this may prove to be as controversial as Dr. Yarn’s last column, in which he advocates a catch-and-release program for wool moths.  Please remember I am merely the messenger!



Almost as cute as kittens…Dr. Yarn!


Wield powerful deterrents and knit this delightful baby ensemble simultaneously.  Find out how in this month’s Dr. Yarn!

Dear Jan,

Dr. Yarn is highly reliable and sent his monthly missive in several days ago.  Kittens, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how much you like kittens), displaced him for a few days.  But there is no stopping Dr. Yarn.  Here is his June installment.


This sincere question came from an alert reader in Walla-Walla, Washington.
Q. Why are some needles pointy on both ends?
A.  The consequences of this question should have a little disclaimer, but here it goes anyway.

A lot of times you are at a particular key point in the garment you are knitting and a well meaning (but not true knitter) comes up and tries to engage you in some nonsensical or trivial discussion—definitely not on knitting—and you have to take drastic action. Just jab them in the butt bum with the non-working pointy end of one or both needles. If you are using four needles, just give them the entire load of two needles in each cheek. I know it is drastic, but hey; we are talking about saving an important part of our American Heritage.

Thank you for this “Save America for Americans” question. Get the point?
Dr. Yarn


 Note: Fancy restaurants have taken note of this knitting defense technique, providing diners with multiple forks, some to with which to eat, some with which to defend one’s plate.

It May be a good month…

…for Dr. Yarn!

Dear Jan,

I recently received this missive from our friend.  He reports that you have been in correspondence with him.


Faithful readers,

The questions are still pouring in; however, this one stood out as puzzling and demanded a quick answer. It is from LT in Massachusetts through JH in Washington D.C.

Q: “I want to learn the Old Norwegian cast-on, but I am having trouble finding
an Old Norwegian to teach me. I have met several possible candidates, but
they always turn out to be Young Norwegians, or Old Swedes, or they are Old
Norwegians but they don’t knit. Or they do knit, but they don’t speak
English. Is there any hope?”

A: Knitting is always built on hope.  The answer requires a look at history, present day football, and cutting-edge computing.

fig-leaf-statue.jpgThe story starts with a Very Old Norwegian.  As you know, Leif Erickson was a knitter. His name was loosely translated into “Leaf”, because the prude knitted lots of stuff as cover-ups for Greek and Roman nude statues.  You can easily see how the “Leaf” came in.

More to the point, this is how the Minnesota Viking football team got into Old Norwegian cast-on. (Most of the players are Norwegian, even though many attended Notre Dame.)  What you must do is sneak into the Viking’s locker room, pilfer some of their Old Norwegian items, and send them to the Wilson G. Software Engineering Company where a computer model of the ONCO will be developed by none other than WG himself.  Recall that he owes you a favor, because you crocheted him some small sweaters for his bishops to wear on cold Minnesota nights.  (I’m not sure what the bishops do actually, but I believe they are used in a game something like checkers or backgammon.)

In layman’s terms, what happens is the item is electronically scanned, then digitally frogged. When the process is reversed, it prints out the technique for Old Norwegian cast-on.

You don’t need to block, copy, and paste this into your knitting file, as it is located in the appendix of Volume Three of my five-volume work, “An Introduction to the History of Knitting.”  The work is out of print now, but Amazon can often find a copy.  Or you might wish to try the old bookstore, “Shop Around the Corner.”  Admittedly, it is a little spendy, but it belongs in every knitter’s library.

Thank you for this great puzzling question.

Dr. Yarn

Bonus! Dr. Yarn responds to reader demand for more Dr. Yarn!

Dear Jan,

When Dr. Yarn received a question pitched from “twinsetjan”, he knew it was a high priority and stepped up to the plate.  I  believe he has knocked it out of the park.*

From Dr. Yarn:

The questions have been pouring in; however, I have moved this question to the head of the list because of its importance.

Q. A “friend of mine” is feeling tempted to try spinning.  It seems knitting hasn’t consumed every second of her life and all her peers are experimenting with this mainlining variant of fiber habits.  My question: “Is knitting just a gateway drug that inevitably leads misguided fiber artists to the hard stuff?”  I hope you can help.  Of course, your usual rates will apply.

With regards, twinsetjan

spinner.jpgA.  If this is really a friend of yours, you must step in immediately. Case studies in my book, “Problem Knitters or Off the Deep End,” clearly establish disastrous outcomes. The warning signs are obvious. To help you, here are some things to look for: weight loss, graying hair, escape gardening, eating foreign food, visiting yarn shops while allegedly on business trips, secretly stockpiling yarn and wool, purchasing spinning equipment, putting spinning before the “Final Four” or even the “Super Bowl,” and avoiding many of the excellent sitcoms on evening TV.

The worst-case scenario is your friend may have to go into fiber artist’s rehab. Most people don’t realize several presidents’ wives got started on spinning and ended up in rehab. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the real reason that many college football players end up on hard stuff is because their coaches insist that they spend some time each day spinning instead of studying and working out in the weight room.

I hope this helps and thanks for this question that may help true friends of all top-level knitters.

During these troubled times I am waiving my usual fee for all military personnel. This is in honor of my service in the 1st Cavalry Division– in the Gerry Own regiment to be exact. As  military historians will recollect, this unit was wiped out in the Battle of Little Big Horn. Custer was spinning while the yarn burned.  But I digress.
Dr. Yarn

*I must be more influenced by the Twin’s  first day in their new outdoor ballpark – lovely warm breezes and sunshine and a convincing win.

An April visit from Dr. Yarn…

Dear Jan,

A new month means new insights from our favorite knitting advice source, Dr. Yarn.  It is particularly relevant given recent posts.

An alert reader from Mt. Olive, KY sent in this question.

sheep-better-03-01-1932-058.jpgQ. What is the relationship between poop and knitting?

A. It has just recently been leaked that some of our top knitters are secretly using this stool tool. In a newly published study there was a high positive correlation of .89 (n=500) between poop and yarn. The study revealed that the genes of the yarn animal indicate the quality of the yarn and can be established by a microscopic study of the poop. Some of our top knitters insist on a small sample of poop (in a Ziploc(R) bag) with each yarn purchase to ensure its quality. The yarn suppliers also include a small label that may be affixed to the completed item indicating the results of its particular poop test.

I admit there is some controversy on whether the microscopic study is necessary or a simple smell or touch test is sufficient. You be the judge.

Thanks for this timely question that truly lets the scat out of the bag.

Dr. Yarn


I tell you, sometimes I think Dr. Yarn really knows and understands me.



March Wisdom from Dr. Yarn

Dear Jan,

I’ve heard once more from our friend, Dr. Yarn.  He is thinking globally and acting locally with this month’s edition.  As always, I have promised him a percentage of the income we make from syndication of his columns.


Q. Is it my imagination, or is knitting catching on around the world?
picture-6.pngA. You are correct and very perceptive. One good example that would prove the point is that National Geographical is putting out an issue devoted entirely to knitting. Of course, they requested that I review an advanced copy.  It has some cute pictures of lions and elephants playing with large yarn balls and some darling shots of sweaters on African Flying Squirrels.

Knitting is a worldwide pursuit in that there is one in-depth article that covers Laplanders knitting heavy coats and people from the tropics knitting tiny things that barely do a cover-up job.

The military is helping to spread the trend also. There will be one fine article on men and women in our armed forces knitting things for the children where they are stationed. They also give some finished garments to terrorists and tell them the outfits will stop bullets (actually they won’t). There will be a full-page picture story on an Admiral knitting some gifts while mortar shells are falling in the compound.

You will receive a notice in the mail soon asking if you want to reserve an advance copy of a leather bound version for only $29.95.  Your name will be embossed for an additional $10.00. This issue will definitely be a collector’s item and will increase in value over the years.

Thanks for this timely, geopolitical question.

Dr. Yarn