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Podcasts for Knitters

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Forgive me if this sounds silly, but you don’t need an iPod to listen to podcasts. Yes, you probably already know that, but I didn’t, not until fairly recently. I’m sure it can’t just be me who thought that? Can it? Anyway, I just thought I’d make that clear right at the start, just in case.

What are Podcasts?

If you think of podcasts as something like your favourite radio programme, but available to download and listen to on your computer or MP3 player whenever you feel like it, you won’t be far wrong.


Podcasts are MP3 files; audio files that you can download onto your computer and listen to at your leisure, just like you’d listen to music. And, just like music MP3 files, you can choose to listen to them using whatever media player you happen to have on your computer. I use iTunes, though you can use Windows Media Player, Real Player etc. Alternatively, you can transfer them on to your MP3 player and listen when you’re away from the computer.


Unlike the (legal) music files available from the iTunes music store and elsewhere, podcasts are usually free.


What Sort of Podcasts Are Available?

Think of a subject, and there’s bound to be a podcast about it. The BBC have an excellent selection. Two of theirs that I listen to every week are Mark Kermode’s film reviews and ‘The Now Show’ from Radio 4. Yes, I know these aren’t knitting related, but humour me for a minute.


There are several web sites you can visit which collect together podcasts on virtually every subject under the sun. A bit like a library for podcasts.


The one I use is Podcast Alley, which sorts the podcasts into genres and allows you to search using specific keywords. Here is the list Podcast Alley returns using ‘knitting’ as a keyword.

How to Download and Listen to Podcasts

You have a two options when it comes to downloading podcasts. You can download individual episodes, or you can subscribe to the podcast.


If you come across a new podcast, you might want to download only a single episode in order to get a feel for if it’s the sort of thing you might want to hear more of. In this case, you’d download the episode you choose just like you would any other file from the internet.


Downloading Individual Episodes

For example, say someone (me!) has recommended that you listen to the very first episode of Cast-On, ‘Halloween Special’. You would go to Podcast Alley and search for the podcast (don’t forget the hyphen in ‘Cast-On’), which would bring you to this page. You’d click on the ‘Cast-On’ link, and then on ‘See Details’, which takes you to the list of all the episodes of the Cast-On podcast to date. ‘Halloween Special’ is right at the very bottom of the page.


To download the episode, simply right click on the episode title, or on the ‘download file’ link, and select ‘Save Link As’. Specify where on your computer you want to save the file, and that’s it.

Subscribing to a Podcast

If you like Cast-On, and I hope that you will, you might find you want to subscribe to it. The excellent web site No iPod Required describes subscribing to a podcast as like subscribing to your favourite magazine. Instead of having to go and fetch each copy from the newsagents, they turn up in your letterbox automatically as soon as they are released.


Subscribing to a podcast means that each new episode will be automatically downloaded onto your computer as soon as it becomes available. This is done by making use of a webfeed called RSS (Really Simple Syndication). For anyone interested in more details of this technology, Wikipedia has an excellent summary here, as well as a detailed review of podcasting.


In order to subscribe to a podcast, you will need to install a program such as iTunes. Podcast Alley has a list of other such media aggregator programs which do the same job. As iTunes is the program I use, I’ll describe how to subscribe to a podcast using that program.


1) Go to Podcast Alley and find the podcast that you’re interested in subscribing to. If you do a search for ‘knitting’, you’ll get a list of just over 30 knitting-related podcasts (as of May 7th 2006).


2) Click on the name of the podcast you want to subscribe to, and then click on the ‘Get Podcast’ button.


3) This will bring you to a page which has a link to the podcast feed for your chosen podcast. Select this link, copy it and then switch to iTunes.


4) In iTunes, select ‘Subscribe to Podcast’ from the ‘Advanced’ menu. Paste the link you’ve just copied into the box, and that’s it. Depending on how you’ve configured it, iTunes will automatically download each new episode of your subscribed podcast when it becomes available. Alternatively, you can click on the ‘Update’ button in the ‘Podcast’ section of iTunes.


The next instalments of this guide will introduce you to some of the best knitting and crochet-related podcasts, starting with Cast-On by Brenda Dayne.

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Podcasts for Knitters: Cast-On by Brenda Dayne


Fans of Knitty may have already heard of Brenda Dayne, as she is the designer of the wonderful Mrs Beeton beaded wrist warmers featured in the Winter 05 edition. Although originally from Oregon in the US, Brenda has been fortunate enough to live in Pembrokeshire, a glorious coastal region of Wales, for the last few years. She is a writer, and has contributed several articles to ‘Interweave Knits’ amongst other publications. Given her wonderfully sonorous voice, I was surprised to learn that she isn’t a professional broadcaster and that Cast-On is her first venture into podcasting.

Cast-On is my very favourite knitting podcast. I enjoy everything about it; the features, the humour, the music, the guest contributers. More importantly, though, is that the show’s central ethos is absolutely consistent with my own view, and that of many other knitters, of knitting in the 21st century. This is perfectly encapsulated in Episode 2 – A Knitters’ Manifesto, which seeks to challenge the traditional stereotypes, preconceived notions and outmoded views which are still associated with knitting and knitters today. Essential listening.


The first episode of Cast-On made its debut on Halloween last year, with a distressing tale of what happens when good yarn goes bad. Listen out for the desparately funny snippet lifted from a message she left on her partner’s answering machine at the time of the attack. As the Cast-On web sites says, it isn’t for the faint-hearted…


Although this Halloween Special is a little shorter than usual – subsequent episodes generally last between 50 minutes and an hour – it does establish several of the features which will recur throughout the series. For example, the title of each episode indicates the theme for that week’s main feature: an essay written by Brenda or a guest contributer. Those who read this post about the Sew Fast, Sew Easy Stich n Bitch trademark disputes will appreciate Episode 10 – Bitch and Bitch.


Brenda also plays a selection of music from the pod-safe music network, with most selections chosen for how they fit into that episode’s theme. I loved Adrina Thorpe’s ‘Fly, Fly, Fly’ from the Halloween episode, but the spookily cunning re-working of ‘Monster Mash’ by The Ians is simply brilliant. I guarentee that it will have you chuckling. Listen out also for Deidre Flint’s ‘Boob Fairy’ in episode 8 and for the track by Da Vinci’s Notebook in Episode 10, the title of which can be found on the Cast-On website. Don’t worry though boys, size doesn’t matter…


The fourteen episodes of series 1 were were followed by three episodes hosted by guest contributers: Dave of Chub Creek (episode 15), Sage of Quirky Nomads (episode 16) and Franklin Habit of The Panopticon (episode 17). Crochet fans will find Sage’s episode particularly entertaining.


Cast-On is currently in the middle of the thoroughly engrossing series 2, with each episode inspired by one of the Muses of Greek mythology.


You must listen to this podcast. As a knitter, it's essential. Infact, it's your duty. So, pick up the pointy sticks, it's time to cast on...


The next installment will feature KnitCast, by Marie Irshad.

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