Sunday, 27 March 2011

Knit one, purl one: advocating for libraries the knitterly way

Hopefully you've already heard that the LIS New Professionals Network (LISNPN) is running a library advocacy competition. New professionals are invited to create library advocacy of any and all kinds: "an article in a newspaper, or on a website, or [...] an event, or an art-work, or anything at all. The only criteria are that it should raise awareness about libraries or librarians, and try to reach new audiences".

The competition was announced very shortly after I'd had a double-echo-chamber-escape few weeks, with an article in the Guardian and a talk at Ignite London 4. Fun as those both were, they were quite hard work, and I thought that for my competition entry I'd do something a bit more like recreation, and a good deal more off the wall...
Photograph of Classmark Mittens
...Introducing 'Classmark mittens', a librarian's answer to cold working environments and a compulsion to knit.


Why on earth write a knitting pattern?

Firstly, it's fun. Secondly, it's a way of connecting with lots of new people. There's a social network for knitters (and crocheters, spinners, designers and so on), Ravelry, with over 1,000,000 members in lots of countries. It's a brilliant resource - with hundreds of active fora on specialist and general topics, an enormous (and gorgeously organised) patterns database, yarn databases, space for members to record their projects and yarn and what patterns they own and the like, and space for designers to publish their own patterns.

So, for my LISNPN competition entry I've designed a library-inspired knitting pattern, popped a wee smidgen of library advocacy into its introductory text, and set it loose.
Screenshot of the Classmark Mittens pattern
You can get the pdf here without needing to be a member of Ravelry.

Ravelry's pattern database contains over 200,000 patterns: these are all catalogued with relevant metadata including the sort of yarn they use, the type of garment, size/age/fit/gender, amount of yarn needed, pattern source and availability, needle size needed, and so on.  That's one way that I hope people will find the pattern - by browsing for a pattern that meets their specific requirements.

I've also publicised the pattern by using a pattern testers group to find volunteer test-knitters who've ironed out lots of typos and unclear bits in the pattern as well as created their own project pages for it, including difficulty and pattern quality ratings.  I'm also posting to various relevant groups that have threads for designers to show off their new patterns. I'm not expecting this pattern to become a blockbuster like some (Ravelry's most popular pattern, 'Fetching' by Cheryl Niamath, has 17,640 registered projects), but it might reach a few people, and that's not bad for something I really enjoyed putting together.

Anatomy of a Mitten

About the mitten

The pattern is for a fingerless mitten with a thumb gusset (not an afterthought thumb) and a mid-length buttoned cuff in a mistake-rib pattern.  The cuff is knitted flat and the knitting is then joined in the round for the hand and thumb.  The hand and thumb are knitted in stocking stitch and finished with a mistake-rib and garter-stitch edging.

The pattern on the cuff is inspired by the appearance of bookshelves.  After extensive swatching, I decided I just couldn't work out how to represent 'information services' in knitting, and opted for the easy (and stereotyped) option!

I'm not really sure if a knitting pattern, of all things, help to dispel the grumpy-grey-haired-bun-wearing-cardigan-toting-librarian stereotype, but probably everything that keeps libraries in people's minds is a good thing.


  1. Speaking as someone with no clue at all about knitting, that is mega impressive! Well done, and good luck in the competition :)

  2. Very tempted to knit these. Have been looking for a mitten pattern for a while and what could be better than library mittens, plus they look fab as well. Will add a post to Ravelry if I succeed. Although not quite escaping the echo chamber will pass it around work

  3. Lynne - it's a free pattern, so you can always download it and try it out. I'm happy to offer advice and tips if anything in the pattern isn't clear (there's one joining in the round moment that's easy to demonstrate and hard to explain in words) :) Would love to see any results.

    Annie - are you one of the people that we ought to be teaching to knit?

  4. That would be exciting. Then I'd feel like a PROPER librarian ;)

  5. Shh... we're supposed to be combating the stereotypes. (Turns out there's a knitting group at the UL, but it happens in the Staff Tea Room (where the comfy sofa is). Think there's a lunchtime group that meets at English on maybe Mondays - we should go along and get you taught.)

  6. Here via the link on CPD23. I love knitting and fingerless mitts are my favourite thing to do, so I'll add this to The List :) Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thank you thatbklackbook. It's the right time of year (temporary heat wave notwithstanding) for fingerless mitts - I hope you enjoy making them!