Knifty Knitter is Knot So Bad

Going into the whole “teaching kids to knit” thing, I would have looked down my nose at the Knifty Knitter and other knitting looms.

71WfQ65azgS._SL1500_[1]In fact, when my boss gave me the tub of knitting supplies for the class, I shuddered at the presence of the Knifty Knitters, and the bag of Fun Fur (did you know that Fun Fur survived the last decade?).  I always thought they were dumb, useless tools for people who didn’t have the attention span to learn how to knit properly.  But, being a dutiful employee (and one paid by the hour), I sat down to try making a project on the loom.

I looked at the instructions, and realized that the Knifty Knitters are basically gigantic versions of those old-fashioned spool knitting mushrooms.  You wrap your yarn around each peg twice, then slip the bottom loop around the top loop.  Then you wrap and slip again (and again and again).

gk-knitting-mushroom2[1]Quickly enough, a decent little hat grew off the bottom of my loom.  I still thought it was a clunky way of knitting.  Unlike needles, the loom takes up quite a bit of space.  And, the stockinette stitch it produces is oddly gappy, with every stitch twisted, giving the stretched fabric a strange vertically-striped look.  Also, there is really no way to easily increase or decrease from the set number of stitches, or change the gauge.  I’ve since poked around on Ravelry, and it looks like some people have found ways to get around this aspect of the looms, but it seems like too much work, when using needles is so simple.

But, the best part of the Knifty Knitter appeared when I brought the looms out for the girls in my class.  About half the class was doing fairly well with their needles, but the other half was seriously struggling.   Once everyone had given their needles a fair try, I broke out the Knifty Knitters for those who wanted to use them.  Girls who had been unable to make a single stitch before were suddenly flying around the looms making hats, purses, cowls, and stuffed animals.

Charity_hat__6_medium2[1]Knitted Hat by Provo Craft

I’m not saying that I would recommend the Knifty Knitter as a substitute for knitting needles.  And, I will probably never use one again.  But, as a supplementary tool for young kids who are unable to wrangle needles and yarn, or people with issues that prevent them from knitting the “normal” way,  these tools get my enthusiastic thumbs up.

Knitting with Kids

Almost a month ago, I spent the week teaching a beginning knitting class to a group of 10 school-aged girls (ages 7-11).   I couldn’t wait to see what would happen.  I’ve taught people to knit before (but always grown-ups), and I’ve taught kids before (I teach sewing lessons as my day-job).  But, this would be an interesting new experience.  I was excited, but also oddly nervous.  Would they be able to do it?  Would they like it?  Would they get too frustrated?

Here are some things that I learned:

1.  Fine motor skills are definitely needed for knitting.  I don’t think any of the girls under 8 really “got” knitting, which is too bad.  I just hope they remember that knitting is fun, the next time they try it.  It also makes me wonder about those stories you hear of girls in Ye-Olden-Times, who learned to knit at the age of 4 to help their mothers with keeping the family clothed.  Maybe olden-time-y girls had better dexterity, but that seems unlikely.

2.  Focus isn’t really a problem, when the kids are excited about what they’re making.  My girls complained and whined when they had to leave class for recess!  It kind of made my day to hear them all go, “Just let me finish this row!”

3.  Except when focus is a problem.  Sometimes the chatting got a little too much for the girls, and that’s when they’d start adding extra stitches, dropping stitches and otherwise causing themselves problems.  But that’s not really a kid problem.  Everyone messes up their knitting when they get distracted.

4.  Nothing is better than when a difficult, new skill “clicks” with a kid.  They get all excited and giggly and proud.  One girl had never picked up knitting needles at the beginning of the week.  Her first project was more hole than knitting, and her second project looked sort-of like knitting, albeit a little wonky.  But halfway through her third project, you could actually look at her knitting and see the row where she finally figured out  knitting.  It was amazing.  She got so excited, and told me that she had even gone to JoAnn’s the night before to pick out her first pair of knitting needles and her first ball of yarn.

5.  Knitting is a slow process, and sometimes kids need someone to push them a little bit.  I didn’t force anyone to work on a project that they didn’t want to do, but there were definitely a couple times when one of my girls wanted to stop halfway through a project, and I gently suggested that they kept going.  Once they got back in the swing of things, they’d invariably finish the project.  When kids are used to instant-gratification, working on a single project for a whole day (or two or three), can be a test of their patience.

6. The best part of knitting, whether you are a kid or a grown-up, is sitting around with your friends and shooting the shit.  I ran my class like a knitting circle, helping one kid at a time with their projects, while everyone chatted.  I had a few super-basic projects for everyone to start with  (a garter-stitch book mark, a garter-stitch headband, a garter-stitch bracelet…see a pattern?).  But, everyone worked on their favorite pattern at their own speed, chatting and helping each other out.

I hope that I sparked at least a couple of the girls to take up needles and do some knitting on their own.  But even if they never knit again, I think everyone had a fun week, and at least walked away from class thinking that knitting is pretty neat.

Pattern Spotlight: Saartje’s Bootees

A quick post today about a lovely quick pattern: Saartje’s Bootees.

This pattern for the most adorable pair of baby bootees is available for free through Ravelry and through Saartje’s website (on the right side of the page).

These tiny bootees are the perfect quick project for when the weather is too hot for anything mentally taxing or large and woolen.  These bootees are worked on two needles, with only a few dozen yards of sock yarn and knit up in only a couple hours.  (If you want to make slightly larger bootees, break out larger needles and thicker wool.)

You could knit them to match a favorite outfit, or a new hand-knit sweater.  Or, go crazy and knit a whole rainbow of bootees.

4378860925_ae64bf0fb0_m[1]In two-tone neutrals, these bootees are perfect for a classy little gentleman.

5734631958_4d97759e70_m[1]And, they are a great excuse to buy those adorable novelty buttons you’ve had your eye on for months.

ldb_small[1]Knit up a whole herd of bootees to keep in your “just-in-case” gift box.  Throw a pair in with a pack of onesies and a card for a perfect gift for any new parent.

Inspiration: Yoshi’s Wooly World

At E3 this year (the big video game conference, where all the big names in video games get together and show off their new products) a new game in the Mario franchise was released: Yoshi’s Woolly World!

Yoshi2015game[1]It’s a Mario game, with Yoshi the dinosaur (dragon?  I’m not sure) as the protagonist.  And for some reason everything in the game is knit, crocheted or otherwise made out of stuff you’d find at Micheal’s.  I’ve tried to figure out why they picked wool as their decorative medium, and I cant’ figure it out.  It does look cool though.

Yoshis_Woolly_World_screenshot[1]Look!  The clouds are made of felt, the big flower is crocheted, the grass is knitted, and even Yoshi himself is made of wool.

WiiU_Yoshi'sWW_scrn09_E3[1]I don’t quite understand it, but I don’t really care.  It’s cute and funny (and fuzzy).  I might even have to go buy a WiiU when this game comes out next year.

Celebrate Yoshi’s Woolly World with a woolly Yoshi of your own:

Yoshi by Jessica Kneffel

yoshi3_2_medium2[1]

Excuses, Excuses…

It drives me nuts when people make excuses to me about things that they have committed to.  If you say you’re going to do something, do it, or don’t, but don’t give me a sob story about how your dog is sick, you and your landlord are having a feud, and aliens abducted you.  I don’t want to hear it (unless it’s about aliens… that one sounds interesting).

That said, I’m now going to look like the biggest hypocrite in the world.  Sorry.

My job just jumped from being a part-time, afternoons-only gig to a full-time job.  Which is great!  I love my job (teaching sewing and other arts and crafts to kids).  But, it’s seriously cutting into my knitting time.  And, my freelance pattern-writing is picking up, too.  (I can’t give you any details, but I can say that I have some pretty cool things coming up.)

I have worked up a bit of a buffer, so I should be OK.  But, if ever a Monday, Wednesday or Friday goes by without a post, I just wanted you to know that I haven’t died.  I might be laying on my floor, exhausted after running around after 7-year-olds all day, but I haven’t abandoned you.

Keep on knitting, and send me happy knitting mojo.  I’ll need it.

Casting On- The Provisional Cast On

I want to introduce you to my friend, the provisional cast-on.  It’s a nifty little technique that can be completely invaluable.  It lets you cast on (and knit), then come back and knit in the other direction.  The finished product is insanely stretchy and totally unnoticeable.  It’s perfect for top-down sweaters (so you can knit the entire sweater, then knit the collar).  It’s also great for lace shawls and scarves, where you don’t want an unsightly cast-on edge.

So, how do you do it?

Grab some scrap yarn and a largeish crochet hook and chain several stitches more than you want to cast on.  Don’t worry about making the crochet look pretty, it’s all going to be removed before you finish the garment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, use your knitting needle to pick up and knit one stitch in each chain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKeep going until you have the number of stitches that your pattern calls for.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, just knit your pattern as you normally would.  Ignore the ugly neon green crochet stitches at the collar of your sweater, they will be gone soon enough.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere comes the cool part.  Carefully undo the crocheted chain one stitch at a time (or a few stitches at a time).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd slip your needle into the newly freed stitches.  (In knitter’s lingo, these are now “live stitches.”)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKeep going, until you’ve picked up all the live stitches.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow you’re ready to keep going.  Join your yarn and start knitting the other direction!

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Pattern: Grandma Anna’s Counterpane

My Great-grandmother Anna was a remarkable woman. She was married at 16, lived through the Great Depression and World War II, and raised 11 children (and nearly a hundred grand-children). And through it all, she spent every free moment knitting and crocheting to keep her family warm. She even won a blue ribbon at the Wisconsin state fair for her knitting!

I never got to meet my great-grandmother, but her legacy lives on in the projects she has left behind. I like to imagine that every piece of her knitting is a friendly little “hello” through the decades to me and her other descendants.

Zimmer CounterpaneThis counterpane is based on a bedspread that one of my mother’s cousins inherited from Great-grandma Anna. The pattern has been lost, so I decided to come up with my own. The original was made with white worsted-weight cotton, like most traditional counterpanes. Feel free to substitute your favorite fiber, or change the color to give the blanket a more contemporary feel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGet the pattern here:

Grandma Anna’s Counterpane

Inspiration: Counterpanes

Ever since I saw that picture of my Grandma’s counterpane, I’ve had counterpanes on the brain.  They’re so charmingly old-fashioned, but still manage to combine the elegance of a monochromatic palette  and gorgeous textured stitching with the coziness of a snugly soft blanket.

Let’s indulge my new minor obsession, shall we?

Bedspread (Counterpane with Leaves) by A.M.

bedspread_close__003_medium[1]dogwood by tincanknits

9M-dogwood-00_medium[1]Marguerite by Priscilla Publishing Company

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Needles that Rule

J0yDjiKJust a quickie today, something silly and fun.   I stumbled across this ad from the fifties for the “Measure Knit.”  They’re knitting needles with markings for inches, so you can use them as rulers.  How smart is that?  I’m always loosing my tape measures, so having a ruler/knitting needle hybrid would be super useful.

And, if the ladies in the ad are any indication, these needles are more exciting than a barrel full of monkeys.

Inspiration: Freedom

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Instead of talking about fireworks, flags and red, white and blue, I wan to talk about freedom.   And free-form knitting.

Free-form knitting is knitting without a pattern, without a plan (or at least without much of a plan).  It’s playing with stitches, colors and textures.  And it’s super interesting.  Pick a coordinating color palette, cast on a few stitches, and start playing!

Here are a couple tutorials:

Freeform wrapper OMG by Colleen Davisomg_wrapper_medium[1]

Tips for Freeform Knit & Crochet Garments, Prudence’s Way by Prudence Mapstone2041214197_4929516023_z[1]

Basic Introduction to freeform knitting and crochet by Janice Rosema

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So, go celebrate your freedom with a little free form knitting (and maybe a backyard barbecue).