24 Jul 2009

Episode 84: Industrial Fashion

Kim Werker, gets a few things off her chest; hand knit socks are the family business at Corgi Hosiery, through five generations; postcards from the knitting edge, plus Today’s Sweater.

Thanks to contributing writer, Kim Werker (who now blogs with Betsy Greer at The Creative Life), and to Chris Jones, and all the workers at Corgi Hosiery.

PlinthWatch – keeps tabs on the current plinth sitters, live, or catch up previous plinth sitters in the week-by-week archives, or watch Alex spin, like I did. There’s also a nice rundown of the first two weeks in the Guardian, where knitters get a mention.

Thanks to Felicity, for lunch on Monday, and to all the knitters who showed up at the plinth. It was great meeting you.

On the needles: Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Adult Surprise Jacket worked in Fibonacci stripes.

Off the needles: Pictures of my new Freddie Mercury sweater to follow shortly.

This week’s Audible pick is Outliers, written and read by Malcolm Gladwell.

Too much stuff? Donate some stuff to P/Hop (Pennies Per Hour of Pleasure) and help Medicin San Frontieres.

Check out the Museum of London‘s huge vintage button collection, dug from from the banks of the the Thames, by the Society of Thames Mudlarks.

Finally, Make Do and Eat, and don’t miss the truly delightful video series, Depression Cooking with Clara.

KniTunes were provided by and used with the permission of:



  1. Cat Humphreys wrote:

    I don’t know how biodegradeable they are and I think I remember something about the fact that you don’t like to crochet but there is a crochet pattern that you cut strips of webbing 2 inches wide and use that as your yarn to make really nice dish scrubbies for that baked on/caked on stuff. I use wash rags and these scrubbies for just about all of my dish washing. You chain 6, 2 DC in each chain, 2 DC in each DC, 2 DC in each DC, 1 SC in each DC, *1 SC in every other SC, 1 SC in each SC*, repeat until just about closed, stuff the end of the strip inside the scrubby, easy, quick and exfoliates your fingers while making

    Posted on 7.25.09 ·
  2. The good son wrote:

    Hey Mom, I just inherited an iPod and am getting really into iTunes and the whole Apple thing. Is there a way I can download your podcast using iTunes or is it just streamed?

    Posted on 7.25.09 ·
  3. scarletti wrote:

    Just snippeted off all the ends after a colourwork project: quite a large spongey mass. Could you make some kind of a net bag and stuff it with these snippets or some not up to scratch rovings? Not sure about the abrasive part, but very spongey!

    Posted on 7.25.09 ·
  4. Joan wrote:

    I am SOOO going to miss you! “See” you sometime ’round Halloween!
    Thanks for a great podcast and best wishes,
    Joan from the US east coast, in “merlin”

    Posted on 7.25.09 ·
  5. Knittah wrote:

    Clara has a DVD and a book that comes out in October!


    Thanks for telling us about her, Brenda. She’s completely adorable, and reminds me so much of some of my husband’s older relatives.

    Posted on 7.26.09 ·
  6. Dear Brenda,

    Just a quick note. I am a relatively new listener, so I have been going back in time and listening to some of your
    “back issues”. I am particularly enjoying The Muses. If you have read “Knitting Through It” (Lela Nargi, ed., Voyageur Press), you’d see my Melpomene-themed essay. I’ve been knitting since I was a kid (almost 50 years now), so I have many knitting memories — but most of what I’ve knit, I’ve given away to family and friends. I still knit for my kids (24 and 28)…and I’ve managed to luck out on size (pretty much).

    I am also enjoying your current series on “Make Do and Mend”. My mother graduated high school in 1932; her father had died a couple of years before and my grandma took in boarders to make ends meet. As a result, I grew up with something of a MD&D mentality; it comes pretty much 2nd nature to me — very handy these days!

    So thank you for your inspiration, your humour, your thoughtful writing, and great music. (More “Great Big Sea” would be a special treat!)


    M in M

    Posted on 7.26.09 ·
  7. Megan D wrote:

    I ran across this product which might be a good jumping point http://www.buygreen.com/twistdishdumpling.aspx

    Posted on 7.26.09 ·
  8. Hey Son,

    Yes, the podcast is available via iTunes. You’ll find it under Society and Culture > Philosophy, or you can search for it by name.


    Posted on 7.26.09 ·
  9. Pete wrote:

    Thanks for the link! Have actually just posted p/hop’s first song in case you’re interested! http://www.p-hop.co.uk/?p=1186

    Thanks AGAIN!

    Pete (MSF)

    Posted on 7.26.09 ·
  10. Marisa wrote:

    Brenda –
    Thanks for another great podcast! I have been searching for the sweater pattern you mention in the beginning of the podcast – the Liesel Sweater – with no success. Can you point me in the right direction? Thanks.

    Posted on 7.26.09 ·
  11. Marisa wrote:

    Aha! My spelling was off – here it is: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/liesl.
    Thanks again Brenda.

    Posted on 7.26.09 ·
  12. Well, I was trying to think of scrubby things besides sponges and dishcloths (which are what I use in my kitchen) and I came up with something! Actually when you said “biodegradable” that’s when it hit me. You should look into the original luffa (http://www.localharvest.org/luffa-sponge-C5553) It’s the hard fiberous core of a veggie from the squash family. So they’re natural, they’re very scrubby, and I’d bet they biodegrade pretty well. I have one, I use it in the shower – which I think is what most people do. But I bet you could cut a long one up into shorter round bits and they’d be like a cross between brilo pads and sponges…

    I’ll miss your podcasts, perhaps now is a good time to re-listen to some of the older ones!

    Posted on 7.27.09 ·
  13. What about just using felted squares for sponges?
    I use biodegradable sponges from the company that Megan D linked to in comment #7, though I haven’t seen that particular one at my local co-op. The loofah side of it is sufficient at scouring, and the latex sponge side is pretty absorbent. I’ve also heard good things about using the mesh bags that come around some fruits as a scrubby thing to wrap around a sponge.
    I bought some teal blue hemp twine a year ago and knitted a garter stitch dishcloth out of it and that was PURE AGONY, but it is scrubby. I’m still not sure it was worth the pain.

    Posted on 7.27.09 ·
  14. k2 wrote:

    I don’t have a DIY replacement for sponges, but I thought you might like to know that natural cellulose sponges can go into the compost. They will happily biodegrade.

    Hope that makes you feel a little better about using a sponge. 🙂

    Posted on 7.27.09 ·
  15. Sandy wrote:

    I see someone else mentioned it, but my first thought for a replacement for your kitchen sponge is a loofah. I haven’t tried it myself, though I don’t see why it wouldn’t work just fine.

    Love this series and especially enjoyed Great Big Sea. This song rarely received much air time.

    Posted on 7.28.09 ·
  16. taj wrote:

    Brenda (and Tonia),

    Loofahs (grow your own) or sea sponges are the way to go if you want biodegradable. I think it’s also about what cleansers you use. Using baking soda with a loofah or sea sponge greatly improves it’s efficacy. And you can throw it onto the compost pile. I don’t think there is anything knitted to use that would mimic an artificial sponge. I know you don’t like knitted dishcloths, but I grew up with them. I would recommend getting a sea sponge and knitting a hemp, cactus, or cotton cover for it and using that girl until she begs mercy with some vinegar and baking soda. Then, when she’s really falling apart, give her back to the vegetation goddesses. Good luck kicking the habit. I’m going to too!

    Posted on 7.28.09 ·
  17. Karma wrote:

    It looks like there have been lots of recommendations regarding natural sponges (hopefully harvested sustainably). My suggestion is to not use the bleach to sanitize the sponge. A safer alternative (for you, the environment, and hopefully the sponge) would be to just soak the sponge in vinegar. If you don’t like the smell of the vinegar, you could add a couple of drops of mint essential oil, which, if I remember correctly, has some antibacterial properties of its own.

    I’ve loved the Make Do and Mend series! It’s been very inspiring and has also sort of cemented for me some things I’ve been working on since the new year – making less of an impact on the environment. I haven’t bought paper towels since January and have been re-using or re-purposing other things as well. This week we used up the last of the liquid soap and will be recycling those bottles and using bars bought at the farmer’s market instead. Thanks for the great podcasts!

    Posted on 7.28.09 ·
  18. Hi Brenda, You got me curious about the sponges. I confess to using a grocery store brand that sells for little in bulk at Costco and not washing them other than what happens when I was dishes, and I never put bleach on them (gasp).

    I researched a little and found out that cellulose is a natural and biodgradable product, so the old cellulose sponges like my grandmother used are still okay but not much scrubbing action with those. I had assumed those sponges were synthetic, they are actually from pulp of cotton or wood. They are biodegradable.

    I also found a brand Twist made of agave twine and looks knitted (!) also some of their sponges have cellulose sponge parts added. Twist has a number in their line, different sponges for different purposes and all are biodegradable. You can view one here, that photo shows the stitches. http://mamagoesgreen.com/non-toxic-cleaners/twist-dish-dumpling-sponge.html

    Now I feel behind on the times with my sponges. In my defense for green living I’ll say I make almost all of my own household cleansers from natural ingredients, and laundry soap and bar soap too.

    Posted on 7.28.09 ·
  19. Erin R. wrote:

    Oh Thanks! I loved the Corgi sock interview. Here I was a HUGE Corgi sock fan and didn’t know until this very minute. I also loved the todays sweater. i really love listening to you totally ‘geek out’ with knitting. I especially enjoyed it as I just bought a 3 pack of “Mercurys” at Freddy’s (Fred Meyer for those outside Portland, OR) this weekend at the stock up sale. 🙂

    Posted on 7.28.09 ·
  20. janice wrote:

    Loved this Make Do Series. Bleaching deteriorates a sponge faster than anything else. If you are worried about germs – put it in the dishwasher cycle, put it in the washer with clothes, or microwave. All of these are less damaging than bleach and clean as well. A tip someone gave me was to purchase the green scrubbie parts of a sponge seperately. They are sold here int he US in a pack of 3 by 3M I think. Then cut them up into little squares. Sometimes depending on the job as small as your finger can grip. When you are dong a pot for instance, you are really only exerting pressure in that one spot. So you use a small 2″ square. You get the most out of it this way. Use both sides and when you have scrubbed through a whole you are only pitching this small area.

    Posted on 7.30.09 ·
  21. Mel wrote:

    Just getting around to listening, as I’d been finishing up with my summer class. When listening to Today’s Sweater, I had to chuckle when you were talking about your options with the Lotus Blossom. Had you just ripped back, you’d have been an honest-to goodness bodice ripper.

    Posted on 7.31.09 ·
  22. Talent is overrated by Geoff Colvin is a very good followup to Gladwell’s book. Actually I have a review of Gladwell’s book on my blog, which is why I went and found this other one, because Gladwell left me a little unsatisfied.

    Posted on 7.31.09 ·
  23. Colleen wrote:

    Hi Brenda,
    I would suggest a felted wool pad as an alternative to a sponge. For mine I Knit a strip out of some rather scratchy feltable wool that’s three times longer than it is wide and then folded it like a “Z” so it’s three layers thick. Sewed up the sides and felted it. You could just let it felt on it’s own while you’re washing the dishes but I was worried about trapping food between the stitches on mine so I did the felting first. I put it in the top rack of the dishwasher or in one of my hot water laundry loads to clean it. I did have to make two though since the three layers sometimes take to long to dry out depending on how damp the air is.
    One thing I really like is that it’s not quite as scratchy as the green scrubby on the yellow sponges so it doesn’t kill my nonstick coating on my pans.
    I haven’t tried it on a compost heap yet as I live in a condo, but I may throw my next dead one onto the one at the community garden to see what happens.
    I absolutely loved this series and will be looking forward to your next.

    Posted on 7.31.09 ·
  24. Looneymoth wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    Re: sponges. If you buy your onions or garlic in those plastic mesh bags, those bags work much better than the green scrubby bit of those kitchen sponges for scrubbing dishes, and are much easier on non-stick pans, too (I use onion bags in preference to kitchen scrubbers now). They’d probably last longer if they were knitted up, but I haven’t tried that yet. Not biodegradeable, but if you have them around the house anyway you might as well put them to use, right?

    Loving your podcast, thanks for all your hard work!

    Posted on 8.2.09 ·
  25. Anna Soranno wrote:

    Love your podcast. Especially, your choice in music. Can you tell me where to look for the Liesel Sweater pattern? I couldn´t find it in Ravelry. Maybe I have the spelling wrong?


    Posted on 8.3.09 ·
  26. deb ullman wrote:

    what is the name of the pattern that you referred to as a sweater that took 400 yds of malabrigo. sounded something like lezel

    Loved the podcast. it was fun to hear someone from sheffield mass. We have a house nearby.

    Posted on 8.3.09 ·
  27. alison (in australia) wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    Thank you very much for all your podcasts, especially this series which I have enjoyed, and found particularly thought-provoking. Something that’s recently occurred to me is that as a child I used to take much better care of my shoes than I do now – cleaning (& sometimes polishing!) them regularly. I’m sure it helped extend their life & I generally cared for them better when I was wearing them, too. I’ve been inspired by this MD&M series to start caring for my clothes better – I’m going to extend this to my shoes, too.

    Can’t help with sponges, but in a related matter I find white vinegar is surprisingly useful as a cleaning agent. Add bicarb soda for extra fizz & dissolving powers (just don’t mix with ‘chemical’ cleaners).

    Could you provide a link or even the name of the fabric shop you visited in London, please? I’ll be there later this summer and would be very interested in visiting it & some of the yarn shops. I can’t quite discern the fabric shop’s name, so it’s hard to find through a search engine.

    Thank you!!

    Posted on 8.4.09 ·
  28. Bekky wrote:

    Hi Brenda

    Not quite make do and mend but a great new TV program about eating well for less. It starts tonight:


    Allegra is one of my favorite chef and her healthy food chain Leon feeds me delicious and nutritious food when I work in London.

    I hope you get a chance to watch.

    Posted on 8.5.09 ·
  29. Jen Wells wrote:


    Check out the tawashi town forum on ravelry! They have lots of japanese and japanese inspired patterns for scrubbies that may fit the bill for your green scrubbie dilemna! There is one thread with lots of free patterns and others that address the issues you bring up.

    I LOVE you podcast. I just got an iphone and have been listening to all the old podcasts whenever I get a moment between feeding and cleaning up after two hungry boys! But the make do and mend series is my favorite and I know I will be listening to them again. They just really appeal to me! I appreciate all the links in the show notes that you provide. I have learned so much from you!

    I was wondering if you could let me know where I could find the equiptment needed to record for the podcast? I have always been told I have a “voice for radio” and would love to give a segment a try, if the equiptment isn’t too dear.

    Thanks for doing the podcast. It is very good work you are doing.

    Posted on 8.5.09 ·
  30. Lisa wrote:

    Yea! Freddy Mercury! Always adored him. I like your re-naming and am going to continue your trend. TY. Even Queen in the background while in the Corgi Hosiery factory! 😉

    Crochet cannot be machine made? I had no idea. As lace is machine made, I mistakenly believed crochet could be made on a machine, too. Thank-you for this eye-opener. I feel better about my crochet additions and now will encourage others to do the same.

    As to the sponges … I’d suggest hemp for it’s bio-degradable feature. If you have knit a garment you might have leftovers and using one of the above suggested patterns … Though I cannot speak to the absorbing powers I will say it has a texture, that can be enhanced in the knit. I have made wash clothes and when they are tired moved the cloth to a cleaning-the-bathtub job.

    Thanks for the podcasts (data and the music). Enjoy your break.

    Posted on 8.6.09 ·
  31. bezzie wrote:

    I had the same problem (sort of) with my beloved yellow and green scrubby sponges. I made one of these: http://rkbezzie.blogspot.com/2007/11/its-bird-its-plane.html. It’s OK. I’d probably come up with something different to attach a soda cap to a washcloth next time though.

    Honestly though, you can get away with a cotton dishcloth and an old plastic coke/soda/water bottle lid anyway. The plastic doesn’t scratch the finish of your pots/dishes and the roundness of the cap gets in all those hard to reach areas better than you would expect.

    Not biodegradable, but repurposed that’s for sure!

    Posted on 8.7.09 ·
  32. Nia wrote:

    I totally miss on the biodegradable aspect but I knit one strand of kitchen cotton with strips of tulle that I bought a yard of and cut into 1 inch strips and tied the ends of the strips together. I cast on 20 stitches, knit enough rows so that it is just bigger than a normal sponge. It scrubs very well and dries hanging over the faucet.

    Posted on 8.7.09 ·
  33. Leslie wrote:

    I *love* the brief audio postcards from the knit sibs. So fascinating!!! Thank you.

    Posted on 8.9.09 ·
  34. lynn wrote:

    My aunt (Dad’s side) taught me how to crochet last month. Have been exploring the Tawashi options on ravelry, but only as an onlooker. We don’t use dishcloths, so your quesion about sponge alternatives pushed me to try, and I’ve attempted a homemade “sponge” substitute using cotton and plarn. Not perfectly biodegradable, but re-uses plastic bags that we are given at every purchase in the USA, rather than throwing into the landfill. I suppose the cotton would eventually deteriorate. http://www.ravelry.com/projects/mknits/tawashi-dish-sponge-version-20

    Posted on 8.11.09 ·
  35. Josie P wrote:

    I’m in love with the Adult Surprise Jacket but am yet to find a UK stockist of the pattern. I thought I would ask on the off chance you knew of one?

    Posted on 8.15.09 ·
  36. Denise wrote:

    What’s the name of the sweater you mentioned at the start? Leisel? Leesel? I tried to look it up in Rav and can’t find it.

    Posted on 8.17.09 ·
  37. Jane wrote:

    Just started listening to your podcasts – I am really enjoying them, didn’t know what I had been missing, and have a lot of catching up to do.

    Like Alison from australia, I was wondering if you could let us know the name of the fabric shop you visited, sounds interesting and as I am up to London later in the month I’d love to add it to the list of Yarn/craft shops I’m hoping to visit. Thanks

    Posted on 8.17.09 ·
  38. Felix wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    I am back from my offline holidays and finally getting a chance to catch up on everything here! Thanks for the mention; it was great to meet you in real life having become a pretty ardent Cast On fan over the past few years and I am excited to see how the Liesl in lettuce comes out!
    It’s also fantastic to hear that you are going to get some time on the plinth and I will keep up with your plans for that via Rav.

    Re: this great podcast, Kim Werken’s brilliant words on Crochet borders really struck a chord with me, especially after reading this post on the redoubtable Prick Your Finger blog:


    …and the general theme of stash-busting which reminded me a lot of the post on the Mason Dixie blog on the theme of ‘stitches per dollar is the new gauge”:


    and with the sponge idea… well I knit a small scrubber from really, really, *really* rough Rough Fell Sheep fleece which is great for scrubbing at some things and does a job similar to the scratchy dark-green part of the sponge to which you refer, and I use tea-towels for wiping and washing everything because they are gorgeous and VERY easy to wash. Don’t know if that helps, but I’ll keep you posted; the ultimate handmade washing/scrubbing kitchen items collection is one of my back-burner projects.

    Posted on 8.19.09 ·
  39. Josie P wrote:

    I was listening to Kim Werkers rant and yet again really wish they were included in written form in the notes but shes really got me thinking about style, or more specifically my style.

    I do love how your podcast makes me think!

    Posted on 8.24.09 ·
  40. Alanna wrote:

    Found this and immediately thought of your podcast. Perhaps the economy is coming full circle. Whereas 150 years ago, people craved things made by technology. As these things become more accessible, the “new luxury” will be hand made, according to this article….


    Posted on 9.11.09 ·
  41. Hi, Brenda – I’ve been a big fan of your podcast for about a year or 2 now. I describe your show as the “Knitters NPR” 🙂 I was listening to this episode on my iTouch on the plane flying back between Massachusetts and Virginia, where I live in a ‘burb of Dc. BTW, I spent $$ at 2 lovely LYS on my overnight trip in Salem, Mass and Portsmouth, NH – gotta support those LYS!. Anyway – focus, Corinne! – you mentioned a sweater pattern from Ravelry that can be made with only 400 yards of worsted weight yarn. I looked but don’t see the pattern – can you direct us devotees to the link?
    Thanks, and LOVE your show, babe!

    Posted on 9.14.09 ·
  42. Hunter wrote:

    I was listening to the last series of cast on in anticipation of the new series (what, addicted, me — nonsense). I heard your request for a sponge alternative and thought I’d try.

    Well, what is a sponge but a super thick rectangle? We knitters know how to knit rectangles! Even the most modest of us can do that. The thick aspect is the only potential issue. Even that is not a real challenge.

    I grabbed some dish cotton and pulled off ten pieces, each about ten yards long. Then I knit with all ten pieces held together. Yes, it was a bit cumbersome. You need to use STURDY needles, I used a size 6. Cast on 10 stitches, knit every row for 8 rows. Knit a bit loosely, as it will shrink up when you wash it. Cast off.

    You aren’t likely to weave in the ends in any really subtle way, so I just tied them in loops so I could hang the wet sponge to dry.

    Washable, properly spongy (mine really is as thick as a kitchen sponge), the garter ridges are nice and scrubby, adjustable for whatever size you want, and takes about half an hour. Kinda nifty. Don’t know that it’s biodegradable, but it should last a long long time.

    Posted on 10.29.09 ·
  43. Susan Q. wrote:

    I’m just catching up on your podcasts, but my suggestion regarding disinfecting sponges that requires no chemicals is to put a wet sponge in the microwave (on high) for 1 minute. It will very very hot when it comes out, but will kill the germs.

    Posted on 2.28.10 ·

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