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Monday, November 23, 2015

Girls just want to have fun

What is your idea of (knitting) fun?

I'm in the home stretch of obligatory knitting for the holidays.  My mind is wandering to visions of things I want to knit. Since I am knitting for my family, when we are sitting together, I knit the Artyarns Watercolors Shawl. I don't want to knit their gifts right in front of them. Call it my decoy knitting project.

I modified the pattern to a scarf by casting on less stitches.  I used two different colorways of Ensemble Light (DK: 50% Silk, 50% Cashmere, 400 yards). Every two rows, you switch colors.  I blocked it yesterday and wore today before the ends were woven in.  

Recently I knit the Frieze Shawl for a class at Westport Yarns.  It. was. so. much. fun.  

The pattern is a series of slip stitches and the quilt stitch while alternating between two yarns.

In my Frieze, I used a Blue Sky Alpacas Extra (Aran: 55% Alpaca, 45 %Merino, 219 yards) in green and Artyarns Big Merino Cloud (Worsted: 80% Merino, 20% Cashmere, 219 yards) in a multi.

 I enjoyed knitting this so much I plan on knitting another one in Silk Garden (Aran: 45% Mohair, 45% Silk, 10% Wool, 110 yards) and Serenity Worsted (Worsted: 75% Merino, 15% Cashmere, 10% Nylon, 175 yards).

Then there is Exploration Station which I'm knitting for an upcoming winter class at Westport Yarns.  The shawl is knit with four different colors and explores different stitch patterns: short rows, brioche, slip stitches, and chevron stitch.  The pattern is very well written.   Forget about the old "just one more row" it is more like "just one more color". I'm knitting it with Anzula Dreamy (and yes, it is dreamy) (Fingering: 75% Merino, 15% Cashmere, 10% Silk, 385 yards) and Koigu PPPM (Fingering: 100% Merino, 175 yards).

All this color and color work makes me feel very happy.

THEN we got a call from Iris Schreier from Artyarns suggesting we check out her Gemstones kits.  While on surfing my way to the Gemstones kit, I got side tracked by the gradient kits.  I was literally jumping up and down in my seat, my eyes glittering with excitement, saying to Beth, "Can we get them, can we, can we, CAN WE?" Thankfully she was (almost) as excited as I was. 

The Artyarns arrived the VERY NEXT DAY.  This is the text I got from Danni while I was on my way to work. Talk about instant gratification. 

For a change from my purples, I bought the red gradient.  I'm knitting the longer version of my Karma Chameleon.

I confess to not straying too far from my beloved purples.  I bought the Gemstones kit in purples ~ sparkly purples at that.  After all, my birthday is coming up....

So, to answer the question I asked at the beginning of the post, my idea of knitting fun is yarns drenched in gorgeous colors and stitch patterns that bring out the best of them.

With all this yarny goodness, I honestly don't know if I want to break into song with, "I'm so excited"

Or, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun". I haven't been this excited over my knitting in a while.  Kind of like when you haven't read a truly fantastic book in a while. 

Have I enticed you to cast on for a fabulous pattern with some gorgeous yarn?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Don't Let Your Slip Show

 Allison was the belle of the ball, wearing her completed Customfit sweater. The sweater is sparkly and magical.  This yarn is definitely next up in my customfit queue.

Now she is working on The Age of Brass & Steam Kerchief in Meadowcroft Dyeworks worsted weight yarn. 

Cornelia's daughter and granddaughter wearing their ponchos. A very rewarding moment.

With her own poncho at the finisher, she began working on a new swatch for her next Customfit sweater.  The yarn is Artyarns Ensemble Light (DK: 50% Cashmere, 50% Silk, 400 yards).

Mallory was ready for the final decrease rounds of the Fool's Fair Isle Baby Hat that she knit with Adriafil Knit Col (DK: 100% Merino, 137 yards).  She wanted help transferring onto the double pointed needles now that there were too few stitches for the circular needle.

Progress continues on her Christmas Stocking.  We are both looking forward to adorning the packages under the Christmas Tree.

 Mary reached the point of grafting (Kitchener stitch) the nose of her Otto Bear.  Next we picked up for the neck and began the body. We discussed how to interpret the language of the pattern and how punctuation is part of the directions.

Mary Ellen is loving knitting the All About the Yarn Cowl with Artyarns Big Merino Cloud (Worsted: 80% Merino, 20% Cashmere goat, 219 yards).

Eleanor pinned her Customfit sweater together to sew.  She is using her leftover Kid Paillettes to knit the Dangling Conversation.

Carol finished 3 squares for her Anthology Cuffed Shawl Sweater from Knitting Block by Block by Nicky Epstein.

The yarn she's using is Plymouth Select Worsted Merino (Worsted: 100% Merino, 219 yards). I didn't show the third square, it was simply stockinette. 

Carol asked me to expound on knots in knitting. She used the phrase, "Don't let your slip show" as a metaphor for "not completing the look" or in our case, not finishing your knitting to it's best potential.

Emphatically, I do not believe in leaving knots in knitting.  They are a false sense of security and can ease apart at anytime. There are two separate issues with knots in knitting.

1. Random knots occurring in the yarn. Here is a link to a blog post that explains why they occur.
2. Should you knot your yarn when changing balls?

There are several different ways to go about joining a new ball of yarn (when you're at the tail end of the old ball of yarn, and you need to add in a new ball of the same color). Personally, I choose to do this near the end/beginning of a row. However, if I'm knitting a very textured piece (i.e. cables) I might join mid row and hide the ends in the bulk of the cable cross.
Picture from techknitting.blogspot.com

1. Overlapping: (Often used mid row) Knit a 3-4 stitches with the new (ball) of yarn together with the old yarn (creating a couple of double stitches). On the next row, knit or purl them together. Downside: it can be a bit lumpy/visible in your knitting. Techknitter adjusts the tension to alleviate that problem.
Diagram from techknitting.blogspot.com

2. Felted Join or Spit Splicing: This may sound yucky to some of you, however it is a pretty cool trick.  This only works with 100% wool - not merino.  You take the tails of the old and new yarns and overlap in your hand, then you wet it (traditionally with spit) and rub the ends together until they become one.

3. Joining at the beginning of a row by knotting the old and new yarns together. Personally I tie a loose knot with the old and new yarns a stitch or two in from the end/beginning of a row with the intention of removing the knot later and weaving it in.  In the same blog post from Techknitter, there was a great suggestion of leaving tails long enough for sewing and using the tails for sewing the seams later on.

4.  Drop the old yarn and begin knitting with the new yarn: Similar to step 3 minus the knot.  Your tension will be a little loose and can be adjusted after a row or two.

Diagram from knittingparadise.com

5. Magic knot: I have not tried this, so I'm sharing it without commentary.

In class we discussed the first and third methods.  Having delved into this a little further, I might knit a few swatches and test out the techniques....after the holidays.

I would love to hear from about how you join yarn and whether you do it at the end/beginning of a row or wherever your yarn runs out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Knitting isn't just about knitting

It's about people getting together for a common interest.  In between the teachable knitting moments, conversation wanders all over the place. You can learn a lot about a little. You learn that no matter how diverse we are, there are so many ways in which we are the same. 

Over the past week, conversation in my classes has taken us into the world of medicine, British history, cooking, and digital clocks- to name a few.
by ysolda Flickr

While teaching the Otto Bear class at Westport Yarns, one woman remarked to another that she was really knitting very fast. The "fast" knitter said that the "knits people together" all day.  She's a Surgeon PA.  How cool is that?  Did knitting make her a better Surgeon PA where she sews people together or did her job make her a better knitter? Maybe a little of both.

That led to a discussion of how our interests when we are young often translate into our life choices.

Mary's son liked to speed when he was a new driver.  Today he is a nurse, EMT, and drives an ambulance.  Awesome - right?

When I was in the 5th grade I had just learned to knit.  At that time, I also wanted to be a math teacher.  Now I teach knitting and design.

The students were learning how to work the Kitchener Stitch which grafts stitches together seamlessly.  Since I like trivia, I explained the origin of the Kitchener Stitch. The short version is that is came about during WWI and is named for The British Secretary of State for War, Horatio Herbert Kitchener.  You can read the full story here.

Rosie asked if that's the man on the recruiting posters in England.  She later sent me a picture and this link.

Last night at the Frieze Shawl class we talked about how the way things were done historically influence how they are done today - whether or not the reason for it still exists.  I'll explain...

It started with a discussion about why the Iphone snooze button is automatically set to 9 minutes. 
"Historically speaking,  clock experts say when snooze alarms were invented, the gears in alarm clocks were standardized. The snooze gear was introduced into the existing mix and its teeth had to mesh with the other gears' teeth. The engineers had to choose between a gear that made the snooze period nine-plus minutes or 10-plus minutes. Because of the gear configuration, 10 minutes on the nose was not an option. From this page and here.

That reminded me of the old story,

"The new Jewish bride is making her first big dinner for her husband and tries her hand at her mother's brisket recipe, cutting off the ends of the roast the way her mother always did. Hubby thinks the meat is delicious, but says, "Why do you cut off the ends — that's the best part!" She answers, "That's the way my mother always made it. "

The next week, they go to the old bubbie's house, and she prepares the famous brisket recipe, again cutting off the ends. The young bride is sure she must be missing some vital information, so she asks her grandma why she cut off the ends.  Grandma says, " Dahlink that's the only way it will fit in the pan!"

I grew up watching my mother wipe down meat with a wet paper towel, so I did too - for years.  Only to learn that the reason why (she did that)was a holdover from her being raised in a kosher home where you're supposed to wash meat.

Of course when I decided to write this post, I google-checked my information.  The (current) opinion is that "this is where habit and tradition bump up against modern science and understanding of what actually spreads germs." 

Public Service Announcement from the USDA, "Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces. We call this cross-contamination."

Of course these kind of random acts of conversation can happen when you get a group of women together under other circumstances. Knitting groups are my (most common) point of reference.

Friday, November 13, 2015

I know I dropped that stitch somewhere around here.

Tuesday's Stitch and Chat was fraught with dropped stitches and incomplete stitches. The problem with fixing mistakes is that you have to make them repeatedly to learn how to fix them.  Luckily we drop stitches repeatedly and get ample practice.  Here is a link to common knitting mistakes and how to fix them.

If you want, you can knit a swatch with leftover yarn and make deliberate mistakes to practice fixing them. (Stitch and Chat students, bring it in with you to class and we can work on it together.)


Rosie dropped a couple of stitches and had a couple of incomplete stitches in her projects.  She had several opportunities to practice picking up stitches.

Calann had some difficulty turning the heal of the socks she was knitting.  It turned out that she was following the directions for the wrong size.  She has knit this pattern so many times, it was hard to discern the right size a midst all the faded pencil marks of past socks knit.


She started knitting The One & Only Morehouse Alligator Scarf. She likened it to a Picasso painting.  Nothing was where it is supposed to be. In this picture you are looking at the beginnings of the snout.


I know Christmas is looming when I see Mallory. Over the past couple of years she has been knitting stockings for her whole family.  I think this is #5.  While switching colors she also had dropped a couple of stitches and had a couple of incomplete stitches. 

Somehow we got on the topic of the timely finishing and gifting of hand knit items.  We wondered if Emily Post had a crafters version specifying the period of time before a gift is late.  Mallory told us a story of how she had finished a (couple's) wedding gift when they had their first baby! I don't see anything wrong with this. 

Carol, wanted moral support for putting stitches back on the needle. This is the Enchanted Forest Cardigan. She had a mis-stitch and had to rip back a few rows. This is the second time she has knit this sweater.  The first time being 23 years (after the she knit the christening gown and before the christening). She washed the first sweater so many times it looked worn.

Sometimes when you are returning stitches to the needle (if you're nervous or the yarn is slippery) get them on any which way - whether they are split, facing the wrong way, whatever.  Then go back across the row and right the wrongs. You want to take out stitches as if to purl, meaning insert your right hand needle into the stitch as if your going to purl and pass it from one needle to the next.  Make sense?

For Carol's next knitting adventure, she is going to knit this sweater from Knitting Block by Block by Nicky Epstein. The sweater is knit entirely in blocks.  We are both excited about it.

The yarn she's using is Plymouth Select Worsted Merino (Worsted: 100% Merino, 219 yards).

 Mary Ellen finished her first Building Block square.  Well done. The yarn is Plymouth Worsted Merino Superwash (Worsted: 100% Merino, 219 yards).

Cornelia had a plan for the day:
1. Finish her poncho (which she did).
2. Get daughters back from finisher and add fringe (that happened Wednesday).
3. Swatch with Ensemble Light for something that is not a poncho.

She has knit three ponchos in in super bulky yarn over the past month!


She looked fabulous in her CustomFit sweater.  I love seeing people where their finished knits with pride (and joy),


Trammi shared her progress on her Outline. I like the color-play between her yarns.  There is a mixture of hand dyed and regular dyed yarns. The variegated yarn picks up the colors in the solids.  She also finished the body of her Essence Pullover Sweater in Tahoe (Aran: 32% Nylon, 27% Wool, 25% Alpaca, 16% Yak, 179 yards). It was time to learn the twisted rib pattern for the bottom.

Jane picked up and knit one border to her sweater coat. She learned the knitted cast on for when she makes the button holes on the other border.

Allison wanted to understand how the stitch repeat work out in The Burrow.  We worked out the math together.  If (at the row in question) there were a total of 40 stitches and you subtract the12 border stitches it equals 28 remaining stitches to incorporate the pattern.  Divide 28 stitches by the 4 stitch repeat and you get 7. The pattern repeat is 7.  This is compounded by the fact that there are two sides/charts for the top down shawl.

Cindy is not familiar with circular needles so we worked on reading her row. She has is knitting with very difficult yarn.  It's hard to tell the knit side from the purl side.

In the end we restored all the stitches to their proper places with a collective sigh of relief and we went on to knit another row.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Accessory Challenge

Now that we are past the (final?) Indian Summer heat wave, I'm throwing down the gauntlet, literally and philosophically.

Gauntlet | Definition of gauntlet by Merriam-Webster

1. : a glove worn with medieval armor to protect the hand. 2. : any of various protective gloves used especially in industry. 3. : an open challenge —used in phrases like throw down the gauntlet.

As I retrieved my (hand knit) woolly accessories from storage I was struck by just how many I have made.  

First I tossed them all on the bed. I bet you expected to see a sea of purple.  Not so.

Then I sorted them by type: cowl, infinity scarf, wrap, shawl, etc.

Here is the tally (which changes daily as I find other accessories stashed in other places):
12 Infinity scarves
16 regular scarves
2 rectangular wraps
5 hats
9 triangular shawls/scarves
5 Rasta cowls
19 (more) cowls
12 ponchos/capelets
5 pairs of fingerless gloves

I've decided to challenge myself.  I will wear a different accessory everyday. At some point I'll be left with a "yes" pile and a "no" pile. The accessories that I habitually do not choose to wear will be donated or given away.

Everyday I wear an accessory I will post it on my Instagram and Facebook pages. Please like/follow me on those pages to see how this plays out.

Feel free to launch your own challenge. Use the hashtag #knitaccessorychallenge

Let the game begin.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Go for the Gusto!

Every fall out of some misguided sense of knitterly responsibility, I ask my family if they want anything hand knit for a holiday gift.  I know so many people (friends and customers alike) that are knitting gifts for the holidays that I feel I would be remiss in the knitter's code of conduct if I didn't.

I have three daughters.  I have learned the hard way that they have to pick the pattern and the yarn.  No surprises here, those end badly.  Since I design, I often get pictures of commercial knits with the question, "can I make (fill in the blank".  I take these requests as a compliment and if I can, I will.

Not so with Thing #2 this year. Here is a recent text "transcript":

I happened to be with a friend (that understands the work involved), who said, "Tell her to get them at Target". I know how this will play out if I attempt to knit these socks.  There is no way I would be able to get the elastic to behave the way a commercial sock (with elastic) would. 

Thankfully she was flexible on the whole "over the knee, cabled socks in a tweed yarn that is not too thick/too thin" thing. Instead we went with a super bulky, super long scarf.  She picked out Berroco Gusto (Super Bulky: 45% wool, 45% acrylic, 10% viscose, 70 yards) in the colorway Quartz #1903.

This knit up in a jiffy. I'm happy to report that it is on the "done" pile.  Well, in actuality, it is the only thing on the "done" pile.  It's a start.  

So for that picky, (almost not a) teen, in your life, knit a super bulky scarf and be done with it. Really.

Photo-bomb courtesy of Harry.

The pattern is available on Ravelry.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Bobbleism - It's a thing.

Carol joined us for the first time and brought with her, for show and tell, an incredible Christening gown she knit for her son 23 years ago while on bed-rest.  It was a Beatrix Potter pattern.

The lace trim on the hem belonged to her grandmother.

The bobbles looked so nice that it might even convert Janice to bobble-ism. (Part of our unofficial tally of those who love/hate bobbles or a new art trend.)

She swatched for the pattern for Lucille, a top down, set in sleeves yarn sweater in Anzula for Better or Worsted in a gorgeous pink (Worsted: 80% Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon, 200 yards).

Carol is also in the process of knitting the Enchanted Forest Cardigan. In a word, WOW.

Allison and Carol recognized each other from the Westport Yarns Anzula trunk show where they were picking through the same suitcase of yarn.  Allison also plans on knitting Lucille.  We plan on checking out the comments on Ravelry for any helpful hints.

She (Allison) finished all the pieces for her Customfit sweater and it is going off to the finisher!  Yay!

Eleanor's Customfit is coming along.  She is working on one project at a time. When I admired her commitment/discipline, she admitted that this plan could breakdown. ;)

Cornelia finished her daughter's poncho and it was going off to the finisher.  She's well into the knitting of her own poncho, also in Rasta (Super Bulky: 100% Merino, 90 yards)

Calann realized that she knit one sleeve shorter than it is supposed to be in the Honeybear Hoodie she is knitting in Spud & Chloe Outer (Super Bulky: 65% Wool, 35% Cotton, 60 yards). I took out the bind-off,  she knit the extra rounds, and then set about picking up stitches for the neckline.

While knitting the neckline, she made an illegal u-turn and knit more rows on one side than the other. Neither of us are sure how it happened, all I can say is that conversation was moving along at a good clip.

She finished her 7th? 8th? Fallen Halo

This one she is going to keep!

Mary Ellen also joined us for the first time. She did the same two rows of her building block pattern two times. We took out rows and got back on track. I also showed her how to read the stitches compared to the pattern chart.

She didn't know where she was with her Jeweled Collar.  The yarn is Artyarns Beaded Mohair & Sequins (DK: 60% Silk, 40% Mohair, 114 yards). Mary Ellen's aha moment was finding that there was zen in watching other people knit.

Janice shared her Puffy Cable Cowl in Artyarns Cashmere Glitter (DK: 100% Cashmere, 170 yards).  These are two of my favorite things: cashmere and the color purple!  When she left she warned of a "knitting nightmare" she was going to bring next week. It sounds like the gauntlet of a challenge has been thrown.

Jane is nearly finished with the sweater coat. She's ready to work the button bands.

She brought a picture of her daughter wearing a Lopi sweater that she knit for her years ago when she (her daughter) wanted a Lopi sweater and couldn't find one.

After discussing my version of knitting monogamy (as in none) I asked everyone at the table how many projects they were working on:

Calann: 2 projects in case she makes a mistake in one, she has an alternate.
Mary Ellen: 3-4 projects (at least).
Allison: 3, Hitchhiker, Burrow, and Fallen Halo.
Jane: 1
Cindy: 1
Carol: 1 and she's starting a second.
Eleanor: 1 (for now), swatching for next project - Burrow.
Cornelia: 1.

The "1's" are leading in this tally.  How many projects do you have going at a time?