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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Iknitarod. The toughest.....knit?....on earth!

(click pic to go to the ravelry group page)
Owl jammies? Check. Taco Bell dinner consumed? Check *burp*. Neck therapy pillow microwaved and seeping blissful warmth into my achy neck? Checkety check check. It must be time to write. And ooooohhhh, there are SO many things I want to write about! My pet escapades recently, the crafting I've been doing and will be doing, musings about life in general and the meaning of everything, pretty much a hodgepodge of everything. But unless you have ADD like me, I doubt any sane person could follow along with my chaotic course of thoughts. Except my best friend Morgan. She could always somehow follow along perfectly, even if I spouted something totally random. Cabbage! And magically, she'd understand that I was probably thinking about a movie I watched last night, that had that one actor, who has a weird name that sounded like a food. Dinner tonight. I should make something for dinner. What about the crock pot? Stews do well in crock pots. What kind of stew should I make? Beef? That sounds good. What else should go in it? I know! Cabbage! She'd be right there with me. Bless you, Morgan.

See? That's exactly what I'm talking about! I have the attention span of a hummingbird! Well, I don't know that for sure. Hummingbirds might have incredible attention spans for all I know. I'll have to ask the next one I see.

Back to the ONE topic I wanted to write about tonight. The Iknitarod. Last february, I was bemoaning the fact that I had not joined in the Ravelympics. For you non-fiber junkies out there, the Ravelympics comes around with the Olympics. The online knitting/crochet/spinning community Ravelry organized this as a fun "challenge yourself" event. The idea is to pick a project that will challenge you. A new technique, a larger-than-usual project, whatever is going to make you stretch your skills. You cast on during the opening ceremonies, and then work away at your project while watching the games. Hopefully, by the time the closing ceremonies come around, you're finished with your own olympic -sized project. I didn't sign up because I didn't feel inclined to commit to something like that, and feeling guilty if I didn't feel like knitting, and crapped out altogether. Granted, there's no knitting Guido who's going to come bust your kneecaps if you don't finish, but still. I didn't really feel like participating. But when the olympics were in full swing, I did indeed feel like knitting, and felt like I was missing out on all the fun.

While at work one day, my mind was wandering (me? NO!) while I was elbow-deep in a client's rhomboids. The train of thought went something like this:

I really wish I'd signed up for the ravelympics. I could use something to push me a bit more into doing something bigger, more complicated. Not taking forever to finish a dishcloth. Maybe I'll knit a lot this weekend. Weekend. I should take the dogs mushing this weekend, they need the exercise. Hey, the Iditarod is coming up soon, isn't it? I should follow that online since there's no tv coverage. Hey, wouldn't it be fun if there was something like the ravelympics for the Iditarod? That'd be cool. Cast on at the start, finish by the time the last musher comes in. I should do that! Maybe I'll start a group on Ravelry. What would I call it? Iditarod...Iditarod..knit...hmmm...I KNOW!! I shall call it The Iknitarod!! And lo, angels sang and I was bursting at the seams to go home and start the group. I was also trying not to bust a gut laughing out loud at the cleverness of the name. I doubt the client would have taken kindly to me cracking up while giving them a massage.

I watched as the numbers kept growing and growing. Holy cow, people really like this idea! I think it was only a matter of a couple of days before I had something like 200+ people signed up. Wow! I had no idea people would be this interested! The message boards were humming, and I was happier than a bee in a flower. Pretty soon, I was contacted by a girl who goes by "smokeyblue" who wondered if it would be alright if she took the logo from the Iknitarod (featuring my handsome bubba Loki) and opened up a cafepress shop to sell Iknitarod items. Heck yeah! Run with it! She's also the one who generated this logo:

Unfortunately, not much sold, but that was mainly because it was a bit late in the game at that point. This year, I'm hoping we'll do a bit better. Soon after, I was contacted by Bobbi Daniels, of Raven Frog Fibers. She owns a fiber business in Sitka, Alaska, and has a background in marketing and promotions. She wondered if I was interested in turning it into a bigger charity-type event, which I was completely bowled over by. Her idea was to create a special yarn colorway and pattern, and donate a portion of the proceeds to the Iditarod. With her background in marketing, I had every faith she would be awesome. I wanted to help in any way I could, but if I'm completely honest with myself, I'm pretty useless. I wasn't even that great of a moderator. I tend to be a bit of a lurker on message boards, so I wasn't terribly "present" all the time. There was one girl, however, who was right there greeting everybody, jumping into a lot of discussion, basically being the moderator I could never be. So, I contacted her and asked if she wanted to be my co-mod. Her username? Shewhodoestoomuch, appropriately enough. LOL! She continued all year round to be a warm, friendly presence on the message boards, even long after the Iknitarod was over.

I signed up for the Iditarod Insider package, which allowed me to track mushers' progress on GPS and watch live videos at some check-in points. I updated the message boards with current standings, and we'd chat excitedly about which musher was in the lead versus who was falling behind, etc. My favorite posts were from the people who actually live along the trail in the villages. They'd post pictures of them in their chairs, right there in the snow and knitting as the mushers went by with their teams. During the whole process, I was constantly amazed at this little idea that grew into something so wonderful.

So flash forward to Iknitarod, year two. Bobbi did indeed contact a bunch of yarn shops, who have pre-ordered her gorgeous yarn in the "Alaska Husky" colorway.

She's creating a stitch pattern that looks like paw prints with sled runner tracks on either side. The interest she's generated is truly awesome. Our cafepress superstar, smokeyblue, created her own colorway called "alaska sunset".

SOOO pretty! If I wasn't so poor, and seriously smarting from an emergency vet bill (tomorrow's post, I promise), I'd be ordering both Iknitarod colorways in bulk! What's my contribution? Ummm....the idea. That's about it. So this week, I'll be getting off my lazy duff and creating a few more logo ideas to hopefully generate more interest and sales from the cafepress shop. It's really humbling to see these talented and energetic people taking the Iknitarod to heights I hadn't dreamed of. Maybe next year will be even bigger! Well, bigger than Loki's ego from being our spokesdog.

Even if you're not a musher, don't own dogs, have never been to Alaska (hey, I haven't!), feel free to join in. It's a great opportunity to knit along with some wonderful, fun people and challenge yourself to learn something new or complete that project that's been nagging at you. It's a blast! I promise! The Iditarod ceremonial start is March 5th, so there's plenty of time to join in and find a project you've always wanted to do. And I promise, I won't send Guido to bust your kneecaps if you don't finish.

Edited to add: I originally deleted this comment that was left, because I'm terrible in debates and arguments, and the LAST thing I want is to turn my blog into a flame-war venue. I'm going to post the comment here, because a few of you are curious as to what was said. For the record, no I don't agree (obviously), and I beg you guys PLEASE don't start a flame war over this. Just read and agree or disagree, however you feel. I'm just a knitter who loves the sport and follows along and knits with the event. Not an activist. That said, here's the comment:

Sled Dog Action Coalition has left a new comment on your post "Iknitarod. The toughest.....knit?....on earth!":

For the dogs, the Iditarod is a bottomless pit of suffering. What happens to the dogs during the race includes death, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons and sprains. At least 142 dogs have died in the Iditarod, including two dogs on Dr. Lou Packer's team who froze to death in the brutally cold winds.

During training runs, Iditarod dogs have been killed by moose, snowmachines, and various motor vehicles, including a semi tractor and an ATV. They have died from drowning, heart attacks and being strangled in harnesses. Dogs have also been injured while training. They have been gashed, quilled by porcupines, bitten in dog fights, and had broken bones, and torn muscles and tendons. Most dog deaths and injuries during training aren't even reported.

Iditarod dog kennels are puppy mills. Mushers breed large numbers of dogs and routinely kill unwanted ones, including puppies. Many dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, including those who have outlived their usefulness, are killed with a shot to the head, dragged, drowned or clubbed to death. "Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses......" wrote former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford in an article for Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper.

Dog beatings and whippings are common. During the 2007 Iditarod, eyewitnesses reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, "Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective...A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective." "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers..."

Jon Saraceno wrote in his March 3, 2000 column in USA Today, "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens.. Or dragging them to their death."

During the race, veterinarians do not give the dogs physical exams at every checkpoint. Mushers speed through many checkpoints, so the dogs get the briefest visual checks, if that. Instead of pulling sick dogs from the race, veterinarians frequently give them massive doses of antibiotics to keep them running. The Iditarod's chief veterinarian, Stu Nelson, is an employee of the Iditarod Trail Committee. They are the ones who sign his paycheck. So, do you expect that he's going to say anything negative about the Iditarod?

The Iditarod, with all the evils associated with it, has become a synonym for exploitation. The race imposes torture no dog should be forced to endure.

Margery Glickman
Sled Dog Action Coalition,


  1. Is it just me, or do all those very same bad things happen to dogs (horses, cats, guinea pigs, and on and on) who are owned by irresponsible people? Every genre (including rescue groups) has its irresponsible animal owners. You want to know about the Iditarod? There is a bunch of great info out there including a number of documentaries about it... or come to Alaska and see it. It is amazing.
    Bobbi Daniels

  2. You're so right, Bobbi. You can find cruelty and neglect anywhere. To lump everyone together and say they're ALL like that is ridiculous. My first instinct when reading the opening lines was to snort my tea in laughter. Anyone who knows these dogs knows that they want to run more than anything in this universe. Just TRY to keep these dogs from running. Cruel? Hardly.

  3. Thats Glickmans 11-year-old diatribe against mushers, Iditarod, YQ, anything she doesn't agree with. She doesn't get that you can't "push" a dog, it has to want to pull. All the mushers I have ever met have gone above and beyond in the care of their dogs. Anyway, where do I get in on the Iknitarod and order the yarn, love both colorways.

  4. Hi Cecile! One of the girls of Iknitarod told me the same thing. She wrote on her blog about the Iknitarod last year, and she got the same diatribe. Awww, you mean I wasn't singled out? Somehow with the word "coalition" I imagine they wear Che style hats with their snow parkas. Are you a member of Ravelry? If not, it's totally free to sign up and it's the best knit/crochet/everything resource EVER! You can go here: And click the "join" button. Thats all it takes, and jump in on the message boards! I'm trying to figure out a way to broaden the Iknitarod outside of ravelry, and when I get it figured out I'll be sure to post here.

    As for the yarn colorways, there's 2 threads on the message boards. One is called "Raven Frog Fibers promotion", where Bobbi gives details on how to order the Alaska Husky colorway (I really want some too, too bad I'm on a spending moratorium!) and the other thread is called "stash up or find your pattern for the Iknitarod" where you can contact smokeyblue about her amazing color way. Also want....very badly. Darn spending moratorium! Darn vet bills!

    If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask, and thank you so much for finding me!

  5. Rowrrrf.

    as dictated to Her Loving Human Companion, translates as:
    "Run!! (=good) Snow (YES!!) Silly (human)"

  6. Our dogs speak the same language! ;)

  7. Pretty sure my malamutes are happiest when they have their harnesses on!
    aka vicers5 on ravelry

  8. Erin: My huskies may not be the most "focused" sled dogs you'll ever see, but they love it. The people I used to mush with do dryland mushing at a nature preserve in southern california. There's a model airplane group that flies their planes there every weekend, and in the past we've gotten comments from them like "that's cruel", and "animal abuse" and such. Oh, please. If they knew how these huskies howl and yowl and lunge at their harnesses before they take off, they wouldn't be saying those things. Those dogs want to to run more than anything! Malamutes may be slow and steady, but they want to run just as much. Am I right?


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