All Hail Nancy

Nancy Bush is a goddess walking the earth as woman. She is my hero. Well, she is my knitting hero. I mean, it’s not like she saved me from a burning building or pulled my baby from an exploding car. She did however, save me from limping, soporific knitting ennui.

The Top Ten Reasons Why Nancy Bush Is So Cool That I Can Hardly Stand It.

10. She wrote Folk Socks. I’ve been knitting my buddy Ken a pair of socks from this book every Christmas for a while. If you read this book then you will come to love and appreciate the humble sock in a way that you can only imagine now. Socks will take on a meaning so profound that sometimes, when you get dressed in the morning and you go to pull your socks on, you will pause for a moment and think…Thanks Nancy. I swear that after this book you will want to discuss gussets with me. I know that in your wildest dreams you cannot picture yourself finding gussets so interesting that you would want to phone someone long distance and talk only about them, but you will. (We will have to discuss the many and beautiful heel treatments in another call. There will only be time for gussets in the first call).

9. Nancy wrote the pattern for the single most beautiful pair of socks I have ever knitted.


Be still my heart. (The pattern is in Folk Socks, I tell you this so that you may know the joy that I have had.)

8. Nancy wrote the pattern for the only sock pattern I have ever happily knit twice. (It is, not coincidentally, the sock above.) Please note that this is not the only sock pattern I have ever knit twice, just the only one that I have knit twice without getting that feeling that comes over you when you turn on the tv and see that “Dirty Dancing” is on for the 900 thousandth time.

7. I have never had to pour myself an alcoholic beverage as a result of an unfortuanate *misunderstanding* with one of her patterns, despite the fact that they are, at times, er… complex. Likewise, I have never emailed her my opinion of an instruction at 3am after trying the alcoholic beverage to resolve the pattern issue first.

6. I have never found an error in Folk Socks, and I’ve knit most of the patterns in the book. This is stunning. This alone is enough to make me think about baking Nancy a cake and writing her name on it.

5. Margene sent me Folk Knitting in Estonia . I had no idea about the Estonians. How did I go this long without knowing how Estonians knit? It’s gripping I tell you, gripping. You know that lovely idea that every knitter gets from time to time? You know, about how all over the world knitters are engaged in the same activity, bonded by our common love, all casting on something…united by our common act of knitting? Wrong. The Estonians are not knitting like me. I have nothing in common with them. They are doing a whole other thing. (Well, they were. I’m doing it now too…) Check it out.


I learned a new decrease, a new cast on, a new braid and a whole new stitch. I swear it. After 30 years of pretty darned adventurous knitting, I learned 4 things that I had never even entertained the concept of. Oh Nancy, you have given me so much. (I’m sure that Joe would also like to thank you for the portion of his evening spent with me showing him mittens and following him around the house explaining a “half-wick increase”. I was excited).

4. I leaned the Kihnu Troi double cast on. Just say that to yourself for a while. Now look at it.


I understand if you need a few moments.

3. Bud stitch.


I’m telling you, Nancy Bush has been trekking around Estonia, learning knitting stuff and writing it down in a way that makes it accessible and interesting to a knitter in Toronto who thought she knew it all. Nancy Bush is a blow to the ego and I like it.

2. Nancy Bush does thumbs like me. Here we have the thumb stitches “held” on waste yarn and I’ve picked up the stitches above and below before ever so delicately pulling out the waste stitches. I pick them up first because I have never gotten over my fear that when I pull out the waste yarn, something bad will happen. Something really bad. Worse than unravelling.


The fact that someone as clever as Nancy Bush does thumbs like me validates my entire thumb approach. I was thinking about other thumb-ways. Not anymore. Anything thumb that’s good enough for Nancy is good enough for me. C’mon, think about it. She’s been to Estonia and still does it this way? That means something.

1. Nancy has been afforded The Yarn Harlot’s highest accolade several times. Not once, not twice…but three times I have knit one of her patterns exactly as written. I have not changed the cast on, I have not mocked her choice of toe. I have not mumbled about the lame decreases and bitterly inserted the superior decrease of my own choosing while adding another centimetre to the ribbing because she has no sense for it.

I have knit them exactly as she suggested, and I have not thought there could be any improvement at all.

When I grow up I want to be Nancy Bush.

I am also experiencing deep and lovely feelings for Jéan, I think Joe loves him too. Why, you ask?


Oh yeah. I get a little weak in the knees just seeing him up there.

54 thoughts on “All Hail Nancy

  1. incredible, now I have to buy not one but TWO knitting books… I just cant resist… I am a weakling… I will never be able to use all the knitting books I have… it will take a millenium.

  2. One of my knitting life high points: At the end of Nancy’s presentation on travelling in Estonia, I won the raffle copy of Knitting in Estonia, which she signed! herself!!, and a small sample of her knitting attached to some balls of Tiur. I pet this swatch now and then…

  3. Do you realize that you have singlehandedly caused her sales rating at to soar? We are all rushing to buy her books now (or at least entering them on our Christmas wishlists).

  4. Yes! Nancy Bush! I LOVE her. I have all her books (please let us not forget Knitting on the Road). Once, I called Wooly West to order some Sakatieli sock yarn. As the ordering conversation proceeded, i realized i was talking to NANCY herself. I could barely continue.
    I keep knitting her patterns over and over again too!
    Thank you Harlot, for honouring Nancy in a world that sometimes seems to care only for those to-remain-nameless designers who provide the endless error-filled, poorly thought out, quick knits in chunky yarn.
    Sorry, I seem to be ranting.

  5. Wow. Will definitely have to look up this book and request as a gift item.
    A guy on the roof. Working. Weak knees? THAT’S IT?! I get heart palpitations when I see that. It’s so exciting. Progress!

  6. It looks as if your cat also loves Nancy Bush and her socks. If the yarnharlot and her cat both rave about Nancy Bush, well, you know, you gotta buy it.
    BTW, how is it that the cat looks as small as the socks??!

  7. Oh, those are way, way beyond my ability or even my desire to do at this moment in time, but it gives me something SO excited to aspire to. Those socks literally take my breath away.

  8. Wow, what socks. I’m having hateful feelings about my crummy old, single-color ribbed socks right now. And Folk Socks is definitely going on my Amazon wish list — or I could steal the copy I gave my sister for Christmas a couple of years back…

  9. Is this a hint? You mean I’ll have to find something *else* for the clamoring hordes this Christmas? (bookbookbookbook, you know) (hmmm, could I gift-wrap an URL, d’ya think? Like the couple of weeks when you knit the snowdrop swatch? or the Latvian mitten saga? or… …ok, it’s bookbookbookbookbook again…)
    Hmmm. Nancy Bush books would only make a good gift for knitters. Maybe I should send the link to the only person in the family likely to buy a gift for a knitter… (you know, the husband, the man who’s getting a utilikilt… a kilt… …buying one for Jean would make you all the weaker in the knees…)

  10. A mitten seeming so easy
    In Estonian makes me feel queasy
    Yet try it I might
    In fear or delight
    Render all other knitting just cheezy

  11. Your mittens and socks are beautiful.
    As an Estonian I find it amazing that people are actually interested in what and how we knit. I have Folk Socks, but have not been able to buy Folk Knitting in Estonia yet. I have seen it, though, and was moved to tears how Nancy Bush represented our culture. In my opinion she should be honorary Estonian.
    P.S. Your and her way of knitting mitten thumbs is the traditional Estonian way too. 🙂

  12. Wish lists, yes, but aw, c’mon guys…Amazon’s got plenty of customers. Cut your little local independent bookstores a break. LYS? LBS, too. is a quick link to the independents in any area you choose. Amazon won’t be hosting personal bookbookbookbook appearances, but we would, Harlot willing and we don’t go bust first.

  13. Damn it, Harlot.
    Here I was feeling all accomplished and, okay, a bit *smug* that I was knitting my third pair of flat-knit mitts (making sure to pay attention to the fact I was tailoring them to a .pdf file emailed to me from my Canuck friend who will receive them as a late birthday gift).
    Then I saw the Estonian mitts. *Yummy.* Ravagingly so…
    You, missy, can be a cruel Harlot in your exceptional knitting talents.

  14. SWEET!!! And I was thinking this weekend how I’m going to brave making socks soon. Socks scare me, but the way you write about socks makes me want to put down the Harry Potter scarf I’m making and make a pair of socks!!!
    PS Glad you posted… I was getting YH withdrawl.

  15. “that feeling that comes over you when you turn on the tv and see that “Dirty Dancing” is on for the 900 thousandth time. ”
    What, you mean “did I miss the butt shot?”
    Tell me that there are some toe up patterns in those books and I will be hers forever….

  16. I’m enjoying your wonderful “Estonian” posts. I just received an email from Nancy letting me know that the catalog I had requested was on it’s way. I’m planning on ordering a kit or two from “Folk Knitting in Estonia”. I drool over the pictures every night before I go to sleep! Are you using the suggested yarns for her patterns?

  17. Yes, but do her folk socks use the star-toe like her socks in “Knitting on the Road”? I really dislike that star toe and walking on the decreases. I personally find the standard flat toe much more appealing, both aesthetically and wearing-ly. (Okay, I made that last word up, but I feel you’ll know what I’m trying to convey.)

  18. I’m feeling inspired (thanks julia fc!):
    While the cat looks on adoring
    And the praise of Ms. Bush is a-pouring
    You, Harlot, are sitting
    Blogging, not knitting!
    At the least, we need more book-whoring.

  19. Nancy is also a wonderful teacher. I took her Estonian knitting class and learned SO MUCH! This February I am taking her Estonian Lace class. (You did know that Estonians did lace too right???) Is there a book that you would like me to get signed for you?

  20. Oh, rams, I DO support local independent stores of various ilk…but we don’t have a local independent bookstore. For that matter, we don’t have a local yarn store, so I can’t ask them to order the books, either. But your point is well taken.

  21. Isn’t Nancy great? I’m just so glad there’s someone out there writing traditional patterns in teeny tiny yarn for people who aren’t afraid to try something challenging. I’ve just finished Laila’s socks from the Estonian book, I love them to pieces. Now I see your Mamluk ones I must make them, too!

  22. Beautifully said. I’m knitting my first pair from Folk Socks (the Schottische Kilt Hose), and can’t wait to tackle everything else her wonderful mind has patterned up. If only there were more hours in the day….

  23. I have also taken Nancy’s classes and she is wonderful. My husband opened the U.S. Embassy in Estonia when the country became independent and we have lots of Estonian knitting and art. We are sort of honorary Estonians as well. My husband has a hand-drawn picture of an Estonian air force plane from WW II that one of our friends did. Estonia and Estonians are wonderful and Nancy is a tremendous ambassador, a cool person, and a stone terrific knitter.

  24. You know, Jean might look pretty cute in a pair of Estonian mittens ……. course, it would make it difficult to actually use the hammer thus slowing down work on the fabled rear porch….. Forget it I mentioned it. No mittens for Jean.

  25. Wow! What a coincidence! I too woke up thinking that Nancy Bush is a knitting goddess. I am making the Anu’s Christmas gloves (from Folk Knitting in Estonia) for my DIL out of some fine-gauge cashmere – I love the pattern and the whole glove-knitting experience. And I just finished her Polperro Gloves from last February’s Piecework – for my son. Since neither of them are knitters, they probably won’t understand how wonderful those gloves are…

  26. Okay, first off, I must buy the book. It’s on my Christmas list. I hope Santa reads the YarnHarlot!
    Second: I coulda swore you said: I love Laura Bush. I made a noise that could possibly be described, a sigh/grunt/pshaw. I re read and was ecstatic to see NANCY Bush.
    C: Is that a hole in your roof? Gads! That is Scar-Y.
    And finally, I love that mitten. And the socks.
    Love, I tell ya!

  27. I have had the privilege of taking a class from Nancy, and listening to her speak is an experience I hope all of you get to have. She is a gift to the world. I will buy anything she writes, and may she thrive and prosper!

  28. I hope I have ALL Nancy’s books! She is great, isn’t she? as confirmed by all your fans. I’ve been admiring her for a long time. I finally met her. If you get a chance, take a class from her. She will not disappoint.
    ps. your writing is superb. keep it coming, love it!

  29. Me too–at first I thought you were singing a hymn of praise to Laura Bush. Perhaps because of the ‘Nancy’–as in, Nancy Reagan? Nancy and Bush together just sounds very Republican First Lady.
    WhatEVER. Quel relief. Back to garter stitch for little ol’ moi but it’s nice to see you having such a nice time with the Latvians and Estonians. xoxo Kay

  30. Hey, I just looked up some facts on Estonia and their independence day is my birthday! It MUST be a great place!
    You all have my permission to knit me Estonian mittens for my birthday. Now get to work.

  31. If you want to see some of Nancy’s Estonian Lace, go to the Nov. 2004 archives on my blog all the way to the bottom of the page (Nov. 1). There’s some info. from SOAR last year, and there is a link to my online photo album which has some close ups of the lace. The pictures may take a little while to load…make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy.

  32. I taught myself to knit socks from the Folk Socks book. The whole book is terrific and filled with great patterns. But you knew that. Anyway, I’m off to see if I can find my copy and start those socks. And I’ll add the Estonia book to my wish list. Mittens are not in big demand in So Cal.

  33. I, too, have succumbed to Nancy Bush’s socks. I’ve knit at least 2 pair from her book (including the one’s you pictured). They took me no time at all, as I watched with anticipation as the pattern kept evolving. If hubby hadn’t gotten silly and thrown them into the dryer, I might still be able to wear them. Sigh. Oh well, I have more yarn.

  34. Be still, the hearts of all you Nancy Bush fans! Her forthcoming sock book is currently in production at Interweave Press. No firm publication date yet, but it will probably be out sometime around the middle of 2005.

  35. I, too, love Folk Knitting in Estonia. It was actually the first knitting book I ever purchased. I had just taught myself to knit and wandered into Chapters, and – lo and behold! – there was a book on Estonian knitting. I’m half Estonian, and let me tell you, that was probably the only book in Chapters that had _anything_ to do with Estonia. [I love being told by those knot-it-all types… “Oh, Estonia? That’s one of the Balkans, isn’t it” heeheehee]
    Nancy Bush is great… I made my aunt a pair of knits using a pattern from the same county my aunt was named after! How cool is that?
    Also, you should SEE the lace my Estonian grandmother knits. Oh, and the gloves knit by my surrogate great-Aunt’s mother – I think Nancy Bush dumbed down the mittnen patterns a teensy smidge for us North Americans (like using yarn thicker than thread-weight…)

  36. My mother made me those socks — the allah socks, I always call them — and they’re definitely my favourite pair.

  37. Folk Socks was the first knitting book I ever bought. I went into my LYS with 5 patterns marked and said, I need the yarn for these. And then went home and knit one of each. Since they were my first knitting experiences, I’ll excuse myself the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome to which I succumbed. Plus those single socks were more complicated than anything I’ve knit in the 10 years since. Huh.
    In any case, good for you for bringing mighty Nancy Bush to everyone’s attention. I can’t wait for her next book.

  38. Thanks for the poncho instructions that took me out of my 20-odd year knitting hiatus. There’s a picture of my daughter wearing hers on my AOL Hometown page at I have since made one for myself with 14-year-old yarn that has been sitting in my closet, and I’m now working on an Aran sweater for my husband where no two rows are the same! Thanks for the inspiration!

  39. I have both Folk Socks and Knitting on the Road and have been too daunted to make any of the lovely socks therein. Obviously I must get off my duff. However, she also did a masterful knit-any-size sock pattern that showed up in Interweave Knits. That pattern is now on their website for subscribers (the current password is on the cover of the most recent issue).

  40. I notice you never do thumb gores. In my experience, mittens without them are uncomfortable. I assume there is some logic behind your decision not to do thumb gores. Can you explain?

  41. Okay, Steph, we are twins, after all: that is also the most beautiful pair of socks (and, believe it or not, the FIRST pair of socks) I’ve ever made–I used a lapis blue yarn as the ground color, and white for the patterning. They were a gift for a friend with whom I needed to make amends. I have always wanted to make a pair for myself–so much so that I went out and bought the same yarn in the same colors.
    You’re right: Nancy Bush’s patterns have never left me flummoxed. I’ve made several from the Estonia book, too. Absolutely wonderful!

  42. Oh. I’m just sick to my stomach when I look back at where your thumb is and where mine is.
    However, can I pledge a donation on this entry? If I do, will you see it? If a knitter donates on a buried entry, will you see it? I’m all philosphical today! 🙂
    $10 USD to DWB. Or MSF. You say tomate, I tomato.
    Not much, but all the bits add up, eh?

Comments are closed.