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Author Archives: Selma Moss-Ward

  • When Knitting Leads to Pain

    It began subtly, but over time the pain escalated in my right hand. After knitting, my fingers ached and were swollen. Given what I did every day—a lot of knitting, computer work, and piano practice —this didn’t strike me as unusual, but when I decreased these activities, the pain and swelling remained. I saw a hand doctor and went for physical therapy in a clinic tied to his orthopedic practice. The diagnosis was two related conditions:  an inflammation of my finger tendons (tenosynovitis), and carpal tunnel syndrome.

    “You need to stop, or drastically limit knitting,” the doctor advised, to my horror. Not only do I adore knitting, I write about it professionally. Knitting is so integral to my life that reducing my practice felt devastating. But knitting was injuring my hand; I knew the doctor was right.  To say I found this depressing is a major understatement.

    pain-free weaving -- boho bag 1

    A compassionate friend gave me a rigid heddle table loom she’d hardly used, as another option for working with fiber. Despite a manual that emphasized its easy operation, the loom seemed dauntingly complex. Whenever I looked at it, I felt more depressed. My general frustration was fed by so many factors—my disabled hand, the loss of knitting, the huge stash of yarn I’d acquired over years. What would I do with it all if I couldn’t knit, and I couldn’t deal with the table loom?

    Then serendipity struck.

    I learned that Lion Brand supports several kinds of very basic looms, and I determined to try them. The Martha Stewart Crafts DIY Easy Weaver recently arrived, and I’m thrilled to report that this has changed everything. It’s not just that it’s a genius kind of invention that’s provided an elegant solution for me. It’s also that using it for only a short time has let me understand fundamental weaving principles, and offered new ways to play with yarn. So far I’ve woven a stitch sampler with several colors of Vanna’s Choice worsted, and have almost completed the Boho shoulder bag (which uses Wool-Ease® Thick & Quick® as well as Vanna’s Choice® worsted), one of the many free patterns available in Lion Brand’s Pattern Database.

    pain-free weaving -- boho bag 2

    The loom’s instructions are augmented by excellent video tutorials on everything from setting up the loom to creating finishing touches, like tassels. If you can follow knitting or crochet instructions, you’ll find the weaving patterns disarmingly simple, as is the entire operation of the DIY Easy Weaver. Best, for many folks with various hand problems, working with the loom is essentially stress and pain free.

    I asked Victoria Moitoso (Director of Occupational and Hand Therapy at Foundry Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Providence, RI) to observe while I wove. She liked that the shuttle and the comb for compressing the weft were relatively large (bigger objects work best for those with hand disabilities), and that the manipulation was almost equally distributed between both hands. As the smallish warping pegs could be challenging for some to remove from the loom, we substituted needlenose pliers, like the Pleezers 5.75” Pliers with Magnifier for fingers. Our consensus:  the DIY Easy Weaver provides a platform for working with fiber that’s user-friendly for folks with the commonest hand disabilities.

    Truthfully, even if I had no hand problem, I’d enjoy this lovely little loom. It’s compact, sturdy, and lightweight. You can use it almost anywhere, and with any kind of Lion Brand yarns.  The creative possibilities are vast. And besides all that, using yarn in a new way generates interesting, unexpected ideas about fiber crafting.

    For me, these discoveries have been inspirational and uplifting.

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  • Lola Saves The Day! (or... Selma takes Lola On The Road)


    It’s a fact of modern life that families often disperse for economic reasons.  My sons and my sister moved from the east coast to west coast for work.  I’m still firmly entrenched in New England.  Now I have young grandchildren who live far away.  Although I take two trips annually to California, I want to be more than an occasional presence to them, more than an image on a computer screen when we have video-chats.

    That’s how Lola saved the day!

    Readers of the Lion Brand Blog know Lola as a regular feature by cartoonist Todd Clark*.  She’s a white-haired, knitting-and-crochet–fixated lady, whose feisty energy is concealed by her grandmotherly appearance.  Nothing comes between Lola and her needlecraft, and her output of knitted and crocheted garments is on the extreme end of things.  This creates comic situations that ring true for those of us who are, shall we say, somewhat needlecraft addicted?

    A friend from the Philippines tells me that lola is the Tagalog word for grandmother.  So when I saw in Lion Brand’s Pattern Database that there are knit and crochet designs for a Lola doll, I knew the “make your own grandma” moment had come.  I set about knitting a Lola for Max and Addie, and decided to bring her to them myself.  Lola would be not just a plaything, but a grandma double, to remind them of me after I returned home, three thousand miles away.

    Lola at Metro station2

    I’m happy to report that last week Lola enjoyed her trip to California immensely.  Though the temperature on both coasts was almost the same—in the high nineties!—it was less humid in the west than in the east.  This appealed to Lola, who likes her weather and martinis dry.  Even so, she was glad to have her removable raglan cardigan with her, because you never know when you’ll be in an overly air-conditioned environment!

    Lola and I took the Metro from Santa Monica to downtown LA, enjoying the shockingly low senior citizen fare (thirty-five cents!) as well as the view from the elevated platform.  Arriving in the heart of downtown, we strolled about Union Station, appreciating its beautiful architecture, and discovering a lovely garden, with fountains and umbrella-shielded tables.


    The highlight of that day and every day, though, was spending time with Max (two-and-a-half years) and his sister, Adeline (seven months).  They’ve all along been beneficiaries of their grandmother’s knitting addiction.  Since living in a warm climate cancels the need for mittens, sweaters, and caps, Max and Addie have amassed a collection of grandma-knitted stuffed toys, some of which have been documented in previous Lion Brand Blog posts (Sheepdog, William Hedgehog, a caterpillar, a lion, Babar, and a couple of bunnies).


    Lola is the latest addition to this cast of characters.  Max, actually, calls Lola “Grandma,” and he was thrilled to learn she’d be moving into his room.  So, too, was I.  If I can’t be with these lovable children in reality, at least I can be there by proxy.

    Lola posing among prickly pear cactus paddles

    *Editor's Note: One of my favorite moments when joining Lion Brand's marketing team was discovering the brilliant Lola Comic Strips by Todd Clark. If you are, as Selma says, addicted to needlecraft, you should find yourself chuckling right along with the wry humor of this ultimate Grandma! If you find yourself needing a little Lola in your life, grab the free knit pattern here, and the free crochet pattern here. Long live Lola!

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  • Summer Memories in the Making: The Leaf Squares Afghan

    Summer vacation is a grand opportunity for knitting.  You’ve got time to express your creativity, time to knit to your heart’s content!  Summer is also when you’re outdoors, at the beach or pool, in your garden or a public park.  You’d love to sit under a shade tree and knit, but the thought of making something large that drapes across your lap…well, no thanks.


    The Leaf Squares Afghan will change your mind about summer knitting.  Constructed incrementally, piece by piece, it’s an entirely portable project.  You work with only a single skein at a time, so you’re not hauling around loads of yarn in the heat. Each section is only 25 rows from start to finish, ultimately measuring about 8.5 inches square.  This means that each section is small enough to pop inside a beach bag, a handbag, or even a large pocket.  You can have it with you on day trips, when traveling, or even while you’re waiting in the car to pick up kids from camp.

    Landscapes®, the yarn for this pattern, is light and lofty; knitting it is a tactile pleasure. This loftiness also guarantees that when the sections are sewn into a larger blanket you’ll have warmth without much weight.

    Landscapes has great stitch definition, silky luster, subtle and rich coloration.  Once you’ve completed the squares and joined them, you’ll see how the several colors of yarn, plus the multiplication of the leaf pattern, plus the texture and drape of the fabric, create a whole that’s much more than the sum of its parts.  It’s a magical result.


    Equally magical, though, is the knitting of each section.  Think of each square as a knitting companion.  Take one with you as you move through your summer; before long, you’ve finished it and started another.  Each square accomplishes so much, so quickly, that you never lose interest.  In fewer than 25 rows, an embossed leaf pattern emerges within all of the four triangles composing each square.  And each square is so cleverly constructed that you’ll learn lots about knitting technique (or refresh what you already know).

    The Leaf Squares Afghan reminds me, amusingly, of Aesop’s fable of the grasshopper and the ant.  In summer the grasshopper played, while the ant worked steadily to gather food for the winter.  When summer ended, the ant had enough food stored for the winter months, while the grasshopper, who hadn’t anticipated the future, knew he would go hungry.

    In knitting the Leaf Squares Afghan I see myself as Aesop’s industrious ant preparing for winter, but with this difference—my work is also my relaxation and my play.  As I embark on summer travel, or as I sit on my screen porch at twilight, I’m having a great time knitting each and every square.  By summer’s end I’ll have finished all 36 pieces, and I’ll sew them together in the fall.  Then, in the winter, when I pull the Leaf Squares Afghan around me for some extra warmth, I’ll be reminded of the places I went and the things I did during those lovely summer days.


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