Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Knitting Cyclists and Cycling Knitters

Knit Bike
Last week I finally got back on the roadbike enough to start marking miles on my calendar again. Birds were singing, legs were spinning, flowers were pushing through. Then yesterday, this happened. It's still on the roads today. And it's supposed to happen again tomorrow. I lost my temper and did something I hadn't done in some time: I knitted.

I am not a committed knitter, but I learned as a child and do it whenever the fancy strikes. Or when I'm frustrated. The winter of 2010-11 was terrible for cycling, but great for knitting. I made myself an entire new wardrobe, made presents for friends, and did a brisk trade in hats for bicycle components. I must have knitted over 50 hats that winter; it was pretty bad. I can never just sit there and knit, so it's always done in conjunction with another activity, like reading, or talking, or watching a film. I did try knitting while cycling on a trainer a couple of times, but the rhythms are too different for it to work well.

It's been a surprise to discover how many women who ride bikes also knit. They seem like such different activities on the surface: one is domestic and stationary, the other exploratory, active and physically draining. Maybe it's the contrast that's attractive. Or the rhythm. Or the element of independence and self-sufficiency that both provide.

Apparently Lyli Herse was a prolific knitter. She would knit before bicycle races and brevets, because it kept her from getting nervous at the start. She made matching sweaters for her tandem partners and randonneuring teammates, their patterns distinctly recognisable in the historical photos.

Today, there is Emily O'Brien, who is not only a knitter, but also a spinner (can make her own yarn out of fleece). Bobbin and Sprocket knits and crochets. Knitting Lemonade knits and embroiders. There is Roseread, who knits lovely socks. The writer Sally Hinchcliffe a bicyclist and knitter. There is also The Knitting Cyclist. And The Knit Cycle. And Knitting by Bicycle. And more! Some are predominantly cyclists who are also attracted to knitting. Others are predominantly knitters who also ride bikes. Either way, it's an interesting convergence of interests: Knit your own wheeling costume (or a handlebar flower?). Get on a bike. And ride where you like ...once the snow melts a bit.

71 comments:

  1. How timely! I followed a pattern you posted two years ago and made my first skirt this winter. I wore it on its inaugural bike ride last weekend, and it passed with flying colors!

    Thanks for the links to the other blogs, I'll be sure to check them out!

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    1. Oh good, so glad it worked and thanks for letting me know!

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    2. I'm planning to try that one of these days, too. Although I may stick to sewing for skirts.

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  2. I knit, although pretty badly- I'll show you the assortment of dog sweaters I've made sometime. I think there might be a big overlap between women who bike and who participate in DIY culture (knitting, sewing, canning, woodwork, metalwork).

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  3. I crocheted a flower for one of my bikes to spiff it up a bit. http://www.flickr.com/photos/lanastewart/6612628191/

    But I mostly stick to knitting hats and mitts. : )

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    1. Nice! I've added your link to the post.

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  4. I've been a crocheter my entire life, but this post is bizarrely timely because I've taught myself to knit over the last couple days! Purling I haven't quite gotten down yet, but if I had known there was a lively hat-for-component market out there I'd have gotten on it sooner!

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  6. 'It's been a surprise to discover how many women who ride bikes also knit.'

    I'm sitting in the coffee shop reading your blog, wearing my knitted hat, about to get back on my bike....I'm a guy....We also can and do knit. :)

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    1. Pfft Men knitting! Next, I suppose we'll have an industry of MSD (men specific design) needles and yarns in shades of navy blue.

      I kid, I kid. Pictures of your hat would be very welcome.

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    2. Yes, and men blogging about the lack of respect for the ways in which they use yarn.....oh, and you've already seen my hat :)

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    3. anonymous mystery knitting men whose hats I've seen, what is the world coming to

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    4. Well, men do knit, or did knit. An arm gusset from a nearly tradition guernsey knit back in 1985 and a blue ribbon winner.

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  7. One on similarity you didn't mention is both take advantage of muscle memory. Short story - I was away with a group of friends. Two women in the group were casting on. I cringed, they said do it better. I did and was filmed doing it so they could learn. I hadn't cast on stitches in a few years but I could do it faster than any of the current knitters.

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    1. There's definitely that. I often notice that knitters who learned in adulthood, even if they've been knitting for a while and can follow complicated patterns, have an inherently different way of moving their hands and "relating" to the knitting than those who learned in childhood.

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    2. My grandmother taught me to knit, and part of why I have such a hard time following patterns is that she taught me a weird method which doesn't exactly correspond to Continental style, but basically works the same. I do it, and it comes out right, but it makes learning harder stitches complicated.
      I've tried to learn "the right way" but it feels weird because of what I learned when I was a kid.

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    3. Something interesting I just realized - I've come to knitting as an adult (this week!), but have been crocheting since childhood. When I sat down with yarn and needles to learn, I realized I absolutely couldn't relate to english-style knitting because the yarn is in your right hand. It just felt WRONG. So I found some youtube videos of continental style and tried that and it came very naturally.

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  8. Actually, when I think of it, it's not so surprising that knitting and cycling are connected. I mean cycling is simple, basic, enjoyable, available, and many who cycle also do other activities one would associate with creating and controlling their space and also creating some sort of experiential dynamic in their lives. Making stuff is cool!

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  9. I must start knitting!

    ps im new to your blog, but i love it, please keep posting! xo

    Kris
    thechubbycruiser.blogspot.com

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  10. I'm kind of envious that you can trade hats for components. What kind of land is this Boston?

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    1. Ha it was online, in the Trading Post. But we do have pretty cool bike swaps in Boston. Here's the latest.

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  11. Yes! I started knitting in 2005 and returned to cycling in 2011. I think what they have in common is mental stimulation, challenge, and self-sufficiency. Then there's the soothing repetitive quality. My friend in I bike to a coffee shop and knit together!

    Sarah in Nashville

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  12. Replies
    1. I do not think she knits. Finds old sweaters and cuts off the arms to make ultra glam armwarmers though.

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    2. What they just sit around sipping tea and...talk?!

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    3. while powering the kettle on mountain bikes I thought

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  13. I proudly wear the hats, scarves and socks that my wife has knit for me, both on and off the bike. She proudly pedals the bikes that I have fixed up for her, as well.
    She has become a whiz at felting, and I have occasionally daydreamed of having her whip out some awesome felted bike baskets or maybe even a seat bag that she could sell online and get rich in the process.
    Reading this post, I finally understood the allure of that giant Swift Polaris porteur bag. It's for the knitting!

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    1. My favorite hat is one that I knitted top down with too-bulky yarn, and ugly yarn at that (it was leftover from a "Jayne" hat I knit for my niece). It wound up too big and I felted it and lined it with a thrifted felted cashmere sweater. It always gets compliments and it's the perfect hat in rainy Seattle.

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  14. i do not knit. or crochet. There is probably an overlap in any creative craftiness and cycling. Knitting became cool again so many learned as adults, but I just never did, my mom didn't teach me, although she knits all the time now. Being left handed made it difficult when I did try learning, got too frustrated and flustered, so decided it was not for me. and I tend to have trouble with things like that. But, I do sew-mending and creating. I went to art school and all that polymathic stuff, but sorry can't do the knitting.

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  15. Can't resist joining in here: the Yarn Harlot is probably the most famous knitting blogger, who also happens to cycle quite a lot.... and in Edinburgh we have Natalie Fergie, an indie yarn dyer with a thing about Bromptons, and Kate Davies (& her 'needled' blog) who is sometimes pictured on her trike!

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    1. Thanks! I will add more blogs to the post later tonight.

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  16. I think one reason people might be attracted to both cycling and various crafts is the sense of self-reliance and creative problem solving. There are people who just get on their bikes and ride, and have the shop fix stuff for them or tell them when something needs replacing, but those are not necessarily the cyclists who are most likely to be into knitting, sewing, welding, etc. Instead, it's the cyclists who also enjoy building up their bikes themselves, swapping out components, doing their own repairs, etc.
    For me, there's something very appealing about taking the process into my own hands in order to get exactly what I want and work out how to solve the various problems I encounter on the way. That's as true when it comes to a knitting project (which I always design myself, too) as it is when it comes to figuring out how to build up a bike to suit my (admittedly unusual) preferences or how to creatively fix a buddy's bizarre roadside mechanical.

    Plus, it's a perfect activity for recovering on the couch after a long brevet! :D

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    1. Well put, Emily!

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    2. ...twiddling my knitting needles here...

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  17. Guilty as charged. I knit, spin or weave all the time. I always have something with me on the bicycle just in case I get some place early or need to stay awake in a meeting. Plus I always have nice warm cycling gear. My other half is always wanting a new hat or socks.

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  18. How about yarn bombing your bike!?
    http://bicycletasmaniablog.org/2013/03/19/bike-of-the-week-27-2/

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  19. I neither knit nor crochet but I do alternate between cycling and bicycle repairs and playing my tenor sax and clarinet. I need both the physical and auditory stimulation. Haven't figured out how to do both music and cycling at the same time.
    Emile

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  20. My only question is, how do you knit a cyclist?

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  21. You might not be able to knit and ride a trainer at the same time but I know an old joke about a Canadian truckdriver who knitted sweaters at the wheel. It's really dumb but everyone should hear it.

    I really like wool stuff but already have too many time consuming hobbies, I was going to powder-coat some fenders and a stem and seatpost for someone in exchange for a hat and mittens but they backed out and just paid me money(I really get sick of money sometimes, it's everywhere but hand made mittens are pretty thin on the ground). I'd cheerfully make someone a nice(basic) custom rack if they'd knit me a nice(basic) navy sweater with an orange stripe I could wear on my bike...

    Spindizzy

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    1. Check out Etsy.com, and do a search for wool sweaters. You can send email to the crafters and see if they want to barter. Probably have better success if you found someone locally, but it's a directory where you can find someone.

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    2. Good idea Phil, thanks.

      Now I merely need to find someone to help me with that who's willing to pretend that I'm not the only person under the age of 114 who doesn't know what the hell you're talking about. If it wasn't for my helper dog(Sandwich the Border Collie, 29 pounds of freaky speed) I'd never be able to even comment on this blog.

      Spindizzy

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  22. Fabulous links - thanks for the post. BTW, Constance is doing well. I just learned to knit this fall, so my blog is mainly sewing, now knitting, with a sprinkling of biking.

    My favorite bike/knit/sewing blogger is Jessie at bicitoro! She's fantastic! www.bicitoro.com



    Pammieandtheps.blogspot.com

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  23. There must always be room in my pannier for a small knitting project! When I take a break on a trip, the knitting comes out. I enjoy the rhythm of both knitting and pedaling, but sadly have not figured out a way to do them simultaneously!

    I think Natalie Ramslund (Sweatpea Bicycles) is a knitter too; I recall reading about knitting on her blog.

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    1. Yes, I had the fortune to meet Natalie one day in Portland - and she told me about her fabulous knitting "creations." When I get enough expendable funds together - hopefully this summer or fall - I'm ordering a Sweetpea.

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  24. In addition to my earlier post - Ive seen some great cycling related patterns over at Ravelry . . for example, http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/velo-cycling-sweater/people

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    1. Oh hell, now I must knit that...

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  25. Me too - a knitter who likes to ride her bike, though cyclist might be taking it too far. I think it does have something to do with rhythm and also self-reliance. Though usually my knitting stays knit -- the bike needs riding, over and over ;-)

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  26. Never got the hang of knitting well, but I do sew and recently decided to take up quilting. Once the weather breaks, however, I will start riding more than just to commute and I am pretty sure the sewing machine will go back to the closet.

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  27. Aw, thanks for the shout out, Pam!

    I think there's a huge overlap between cyclists and DIY culture—and not just among women. I've been writing about bike crafts for a while now, and I'm constantly amazed by the things people are making out of bikes and for their bikes. There's something about this two-wheeled contraption that sparks creativity, for sure.

    I wanted to point out my favorite knitting cyclist, Andrea Rangel (http://www.andreaknits.com). She's a knitting pattern designer who just recently bought a bike instead of a car when she and her husband moved to rural Vancouver Island last summer. They've been riding for transportation ever since.

    She blogs about both her cycling and knitting, and is planning to release a book of knitting patterns for cyclists/runners/climber sometime this year. She's also done some guest posting on my own blog—most recently about choosing the right stitch pattern for knitting activewear. ( http://www.bicitoro.com/guest-post-the-right-knitting-stitch-pattern-for-the-job/).

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    1. Thanks for letting us know about Andrea - her blog is amazing!

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  28. I was just looking at bike related knitting patterns yesterday on Ravelry!

    Norah Gaughan has a wonderful knit pannier bag pattern I have wanted to knit for years.....

    http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/35-knitted-panniers

    Sadly I don't have friends that knit and ride bikes.

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  29. This whole discussion totally warms my heart! Thanks for the mention, Jessie. I've been an obsessed knitter for many, many years and have never quite understood how the craft captured my imagination so thoroughly. As Jessie mentioned, I've been riding my bike only since last summer, and a peculiar thing has begun to happen. Bicycles are getting into my brain! I'm still a beginner, but I find myself getting excited about riding my bike (and I just ordered a shiny new bike!) in an obsessive way that's pretty similar to how I feel about knitting. That's a huge surprise for me, as I took up cycling just because it's practical transportation where we live. I just finished knitting some cycling leggings, which I think, is a wonderful combination of my two loves. http://andreaknitdesign.blogspot.ca/
    Thanks for the great post!

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    1. I just popped over to your blog, fell in love with your knitted leggings and bought your pattern! I was just about to CO for another project, but I think I'm going to put that on hold and work on these instead. :) Thanks!

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    2. Thanks, that's awesome to hear! There's a little knit along going on in my Ravelry group if you'd like some pants-knitting company. http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/andrea-rangel-knits/2481985/76-100#84

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  30. I am also a cyclist who knits! After I was hit by a car in 2011 I had a long arm cast for 8 weeks. When it came off, I needed serious PT to regain the function in my hand and arm. I had always crocheted before. I knew how to knit, but had never finished anything larger than a hamster blanket (yes, I did make hamster blankets). I decided to try knitting again, since it used both hands. Now I knit hats, scarves, leg warmers, slippers, socks and sweaters. I have knitted three Clapotis. I knit so much that I have to give stuff away. Some of my favorite pieces are experiments with leftover yarn.

    I can't figure out how to knit and read at the same time, though.

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  31. Timely post! I was just about to curl up with a cup of tea and cast on for a new shrug. This has been a great winter for knitting. I didn't get much knitted for myself, but spent many Sunday afternoons teaching knitting/crochet and spinning (wheel) classes. Great turnouts for all three! Very exciting to see so many new people coming to the fiber arts. I couldn't seem to interest any in taking up cycling though. ;) Oh well. can't win them all. OH! I did just recently crochet a dress guard for a lady in CT. Here's her blog with pictures of it on her bike. I might just have to make one for myself!

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  32. Just Googled Carbon Fiber Knitting Needles and SHAZAM!!!, There they are. No Titanium ones though. I guess that suggests that Men only started picking up knitting in substantial numbers around, oh, 2000, 2002. There evidently wasn't much male knitting going on in the previous decade as there are no Titanium needles advertised anywhere on the web or available used on E-bay.

    I bet there's some Artisnal needle makers out there specializing in custom Reynold 853 steel versions though. Probably "Fixie" single ended conversions too...

    Spindizzy

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    1. I started in the early 80s when it was just aluminum needles. Real men didn't knit with wooden needles back then. Titanium is just hype for anything except frames and jets.

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    2. http://www.signatureneedlearts.com/our_story/

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  33. I don't knit but I would like to learn how to darn, which is what I think I need to learn in order to patch up my knitted wool long johns, no? They now have big holes in the knee but I'm reluctant to toss them. Will some kind of patch work?

    I like this post more than I thought I might, especially the comments; it seems to have brought out a mostly hidden demographic of lovely bike readers.

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    1. M - Darning is indeed what you need to learn to patch those long johns! And any other knitted fabric. I've even darned tee shirts! Here's a good video on how to darn. You'll need to pick up a daring egg or daring mushroom. I prefer the mushrooms, but use the darning eggs at work. And a tapestry needle too. You can do it, it's really easy. Just takes some patience.

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    2. Jessie Kwak over at Bicitoro also has a great tutorial on a couple ways to repair commercial knits where the stitches are a bit tiny to dry darning.
      http://www.bicitoro.com/tutorial-mending-a-hole-in-a-sweater-2-ways/

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  34. So glad to see more people come forward as *both* knitters and cyclists. Too often it seems like we have to identify with one or another camp (in other areas as well). I thought I'd offer a pattern for cyclist/bike-specific knits. This comes from Craft 'Zine - bike helmet ear warmers (http://blog.makezine.com/craft/craft_pattern_podcast_knit_bic/). I had a link to a pattern for a knit skirtguard (which unfortunately was in Swedish, I believe), but I've switched computers and can't find it. Finally, I'll say that I was quite pleased when I discovered the neighborhood yarn shop had a knit-covered bike out front. Toasty!

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  35. Oh gosh, thank you for the link, that explains the spike in knitting-related stats - I'm only marginally a knitter compared to some. Though I am embarking on a 'knit your own base layer' project which combines the two ...

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  36. Let us not forget Anne Hanson of Knitspot.com, avid cyclist, knitwear designer and blogger extraordinaire. Here are some of her cycling/blogging post: http://knitspot.com/?p=155, http://knitspot.com/?p=216, http://knitspot.com/?p=254

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  37. Another knitter/cyclist here. There does seem to be a lot of overlap. I'm in a knitting group where about half of us are cyclists and know a few others, too.

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  38. Wow never thought there was a whole community/connection between cycling and knitting! I do both, but there aren't a whole lot of other women who do here in the Philippines :) (or maybe I just haven't found them yet).

    p.s. just followed you on instagram!

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  39. Hi there! I'm a guy that rides a lot and hates to knit, but does it anyway because he likes having knitted things. I'm about halfway through knitting a pair of arm warmers and looking for new projects already. I googled "cycling knits" and found this blog post. I was wondering if you had a place you wanted to share your knitted cycling hats pattern or if you knew where I could find a pattern for an old school wool jersey.
    Thanks,
    Jesse

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  40. In the past year I have become an avid tandem cyclist and also taken up knitting. Would love to know about any knitting patterns for cycling clothes.

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