Monthly Archives: May 2014

Techniques: Tubular Cast-On

Nine times out of ten, when I cast on for a project, I use a basic long-tail cast on.  But sometimes, if the Knitting Gods so move me, and if the project is really special, I like to break out my Tubular Cast-On.

(I’m using it for my Stellar’s Jay Sweater.)

It’s absolutely gorgeous, especially paired with fine ribbing (it’s perfect with a 1×1 ribbing on sock cuffs).  Properly executed, it looks like the stitches on the front of the piece simply swoop around the edge and continue on the back.

tubular8[1]And (double bonus!), it is super stretchy, so you don’t have to worry about weird tension issues that sometimes happen at cast-on edges.

There are a couple ways to do it, which have all been written about online many, many (many) times.

The way I learned, is apparently the “Italian Way.” Who would have thought?  There’s a great tutorial for it here.

There’s another way to do a tubular cast on, that frankly, looks much easier, but I haven’t tried it, so you’ll have to give it a shot and let me know how it goes.  Here‘s a tutorial that looks pretty good.

What kinds of cast-ons do you like?

I’m Slightly Obsessed… Oops.

I don’t know about you,  but my knitting tends to go in cycles.  I always have something on my needles (or on my crochet hook), but one month I might spend all my time on socks, and the next I’ll be all about big gauge sweaters, and the next I won’t want to work on anything but squares for an afghan.

This week, I’m 100% obsessed with my Yo-Yo Afghan.  I’ve kept it in the closet of my knitting studio for about six months, and I pick it up from time to time.  Whenever I feel uninspired by my current project, I break out my worsted-weight scrap yarn and make a handful of yo-yos.

It’s a totally zen project, and you get a very satisfying pile of yo-yo’s when you’re done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Assuming my counting is correct) I’ve got 841 yo-yo’s, which should be enough to make a 29×29 square blanket.  Each yo-yo is about 2.5 inches across, so the blanket should end up about 6 feet across.

I plan on attaching each yo-yo at random, just avoiding putting two of the same color next to each other.  I have at least a couple dozen different colors, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

I know I’m neglecting my other knitting, and the weeds in my yard are starting to loom menacingly again, but I can’t stop myself.

As soon as this post goes up, I’m going to run over to Jo-Ann’s and get some yarn to start joining up all my hundreds of yo-yos.

What projects have taken over your life?


Just a quick little post today!

This is the 200th post on On the Needles! Woo Hoo!

200It’s been an awesome year and a half (ish)!  I love sharing my ideas, thoughts, and the things that inspire me.  And, I appreciate everyone who responds!  Hearing feedback is the best part of writing this blog.

So, to those of you who have been keeping up with On the Needles since the beginning:  Thank you!  And, to those of you who have just found my little corner of the internet: Welcome!

Here’s to 200 more posts!

Stellar’s Jay Sweater: Changing Plans

I’ve been hard at work on my Stellar’s Jay sweater.  The body is almost up to the armpits!

I’m following my pattern as I wrote it, except for a couple (sort-of) minor details.

First, I decided that I didn’t like doing the scallop rows the way I had planned it out, so I modified it a little.  Now, it is slightly shallower (worked over two rows, instead of three), and I think it looks much better.  I’m probably the only one who would ever notice, but I’m picky that way.

Second (and this is a larger change), my pullover had turned into a cardigan.  I don’t know what happened- I was casting on and some knitting spirit whispered in my ear that I needed a cardigan, not a pullover, and one thing led to another.  I’m still following the pattern as I designed it, but instead of working the sweater in the round, I’m knitting it flat.  When I finish up the sweater, I’ll pick up stitches along the selvedge edges and knit on some button bands.  It should look pretty good (I hope!).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s important to remember that regardless of how much planning goes into your knitting, it’s still possible to change plans as you work.  You’re in charge of your project, and being flexible when you don’t like how something is working up will end up giving you a better finished project.

What changes have you made to projects as you knit them?

Inspiration: Call the Midwife, Fetus Edition

You all know that I love me some Call the Midwife.  And you know that my eye for knitted objects on TV is absurdly over-developed.  So it should come as no surprise that while watching the second episode of this season, I just about jumped out of my chair with delight.

Look what Chummy’s holding:

Fetus 2And let’s take a closer look:

Fetus 1It’s amazing! A knitted fetus and uterus model.  How fantastic is that?  I love seeing knitting used in unique and useful ways!  I think I might have to take up midwifery, just so that I have an excuse to make my own fetus model.

Or, I suppose I could just work on one to keep myself busy while watching Call the Midwife.

Fetus Coin Purse by Sarah Hood  (This one is slightly less developed than Chummy’s.  But it’s more practical for us non-midwives.)

1233545803_230c48ccae_z[1]Womb by MK Carroll  (Sure, it’s not a fetus, but who could resist a knitting knitted uterus?)


Pattern: Flower Power

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis pretty little project will light up your life (literally!). When the bumblebee lands on the flower, an LED lights up in the center of the flower. Attached to a pin or hair clip, this flower would be a one-of-a-kind statement piece. A great introduction to soft circuitry, project is a fun combination of knitting and a simple electronic circuit.

The flower is knit in several small pieces, then assembled around a base of plastic canvas, giving the flower shape and strength. Conductive thread, a nickel-sized battery and a tiny LED (available through Sparkfun and other online retailers) make up a simple circuit. Two little neodymium magnets (available at most well-stocked craft stores) hold the bumblebee in place on the petal, completing the circuit.

Finished flowerThe pattern is available here for free!

Flower Power

A Short Explanation of a Circuit

So, what do you think about giving this soft-circuit thing a shot? I’ve got a pretty cute (if I say so myself) pattern in the works for Monday, but in the meantime, let’s talk about circuit basics.  (WARNING: I’m so not an electronics person, so if I use the wrong words, or if I say something backwards, I apologize.  This is just what I’ve managed to figure out bumbling around on my own.)

Let’s make a little imaginary circuit.

We’ll start with an LED. I bought mine from SparkFun. They’re sold in packs of 5 for about 4 bucks. It’s tiny- about a half inch long, and less than an eighth of an inch wide, but it’s super bright when it lights up.  See on the two little holes on either end? Those are the connections to attach it into a circuit. You sew your conductive thread through those, as if you were attaching a button.

10081-02[2]We’ll also need a battery (duh).  I’m using a little coin battery (also from Sparkfun).  It’s the size of a nickel.

Let’s use two “wires” (pieces of conductive thread) to attach the battery to the LED, like this:Circuit 1

See how the + side of the battery is attached to the + end of the LED? And the – side of the battery is attached to the – end of the LED? That’ll make sure that the LED will light up.

Now, we could stop here. We have a lovely, bright, and shiny LED. But, where’s the fun in that? I’d like to try turning the light off and on.

You can buy switches, buttons and other devices for turning your circuit off and on, but they all follow the same principle:  When you make a hole in one of the wires, the circuit is broken and the LED will turn off. If you patch up the hole, you complete the circuit, and the LED will turn on again.

See?  (The switch is shown in red)

OFF:Circuit 2ON:Circuit 3Easy! Frankly, the hardest part of this is making sure that your wires don’t accidentally cross and create a short circuit, but even that’s not too difficult!

Think you’re ready to try your hand at E-Textiles?

Yarn + Electricity = Winning

This weekend MakerFaire is happening in San Francisco!  I am so excited to finally get to go after years of reading about it.  MakerFaire is a super cool craft fair/creative festival that  celebrates innovation and ingenuity.  Anyone who has a cool idea is welcome to share it with other fair-goers.

You made a bicycle-powered sewing machine?  You developed a robot that tends your garden for you?  You used scrap metal to build a car?  You have a spot at MakerFaire. People at MakerFaire are especially known for taking two things that don’t usually go together, combining them and making something amazing.

Like fiber arts and electronics.

E-textiles (aka soft circuits) are a really cool way to try your hand at electronics and create some amazing projects.

The basic idea is that you use conductive thread (nylon thread, coated in a conductive metal) instead of wires to connect your electronic components (like leds, batteries, sensors and tiny computers).

You could go super simple, and make a pair of texting gloves.  The conductive thread woven through the fingertips allows you to use a touchscreen  without removing your gloves.  (Handy in the Great White North in February.)

Teknika Gloves by Laura Nelkin

6437487283_bc44cb9a7d_z[1]Or you could get your embroidery on, and make a little sampler, including LEDs, a battery and an on/off switch.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAOr, if you have more tech experience than I do, you could get your hands on a LilyPad Arduino.  It’s a tiny computer that you can plug into your computer, program, and use to make LEDs blink in cool patterns.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWhat would you use soft circuits for?

Tutorial: Shawl Pins

I’ve got shawls on the brain. When I wear a shawl, especially if it’s a particularly oddly-shaped one, I like to break out a shawl pin.  You can find super fancy ones, but basically a shawl pin is a stick of some kind that you use to hold knitwear in place (I’ve been known to use pencils, chopsticks and knitting needles in a pinch). There are as many kinds of shawl pins as there are shawls, all gorgeous, most expensive.

So, in the name of DIY Cheapskate-y-ness, let’s make some functional, fashionable, and simple shawl pins.  An accessory for your accessory… what’s not to love?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A ¼-inch dowel
  • Small hacksaw (or other dowel-cutting implement)
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Sandpaper (I used 120-grit)
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStart by cutting your dowel into pieces. I made my pins about 5 inches long, but you could go longer or shorter, depending on what you like.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, sharpen one end of each pin with the pencil sharpener.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGrab a piece of sand paper and sand your shawl pin until it’s nice and smooth (get rid of anything that could catch on your shawl and make a hole. No bueno). Sand the point down a little bit so that it isn’t dangerously pointy, and don’t forget to smooth out any corners on the other end, too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABrush off any sawdust, and break out the acrylic paints. I like how they look when they’re mostly wood with just a pop of color on the end, but feel free to experiment. How about stripes? Polka dots? Let the paint dry, and you’re ready to go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGrab a shawl (or scarf, or cardigan) and pin away.


Inspiration: Mr. Roger’s Mom

Everyone (at least in the US), knows Mr. Rogers, and his beautiful kids’ TV show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Each episode begins with Mr. Rogers entering his house, changing his shoes and zipping up (or buttoning up) a cardigan sweater while singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”  (I still know all the words more than 20 years after I last saw the show.)Copyright © 1995 - 2008 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). All Rights ReservedBut, did you know that all (or at least, nearly all) his sweaters were knit by hand by his mother, Nancy Rogers?  How wonderful is that?   It totally makes sense.  Of course Mr. Rogers wore sweaters knit by his mother!25988[1]One of her sweaters has even ended up in the Smithsonian.   You can visit it in D. C. next time you’re there to pay respects to Mrs. Rogers.


And, one of the most famous Mr. Rogers quotes (at least it pops up on my Facebook feed most frequently) is about his mother:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” — Mister Rogers

Mr. Rogers’ mother must have been a pretty amazing lady.  So let’s raise our knitting needles to Nancy Rogers (and all the other amazing mothers) this Sunday while we celebrate Mothers’ Day!


(And Happy Mothers’ day to all you mothers out there on the internet!  Especially Mom, Grandma, and Kris (my Mother-in-Law)!)