Monthly Archives: June 2014

Casting on- Long Tail Cast On

The Long Tail Cast On is the most basic cast on. The white bread of cast ons. The Ford Taurus of cast ons.  Not flashy, but totally functional.

The Long Tail Cast On is used about 90% of the time (at least by me), and is absolutely serviceable. It’s probably the cast on that your mom taught you how to do back when you were a kid. It’s moderately stretchy, and fairly easy to use. It’s not exactly beautiful, and not as stretchy as some cast ons, but we still love it.

There are a few ways to perform the Long Tail Cast on, but this is my favorite:

Measure out your long tail (make it about 4 times as long as you want your cast on to be).   Start by making a slipknot and (ahem) slipping it onto your needle.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Then, hold the yarn in your left hand, slipping your index finger and thumb between the two strands of yarn. Like this:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUse the point of your needle to catch the thumb loop of yarn.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Then, slip the point of the needle over to your index finger and grab the loop of yarn over there. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd pull the index finger loop through the thumb loop, like this:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen drop the yarn from your left hand, and snug up your stitch.    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Keep repeating these steps until you have all your stitches, turn your work and start knitting. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beginning at the Beginning: Casting on

You get the basics of knitting. You know how to follow a pattern, what “raglan” means, and why merino is infinitely superior to acrylic (not that I’m being a snob…). It’s time to start getting technical. Really technical.

Let’s talk about casting on. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Casting on (making that very first row of stitches) is something that most knitters basically ignore. Most of the time, I cast on only as a way to get to the meat of my pattern. But, spending a little time to find the perfect cast on for your project can elevate your knitwear from good to great.

So, for the next couple weeks, I want to talk to you about the various ways that you can cast on; each method’s benefits, problems, and how to use them.

Stellar’s Jay Sweater: Stagnation

So, I have this spreadsheet that I use to plan out my blog posts (because I am a nerd, and like to be organized).  Today I was supposed to tell you about how I knit up the arms on my Stellar’s Jay Cardigan.  It was going to be a nice little post, to give you an update on my progress, and tell you about how well everything was going.

Well.   It turns out that today’s post will actually be a little different.  It will be about how I forgot to work on my sweater at all since you last saw it, over a month ago.

It’s sitting in its little project bag, between my stash of sock yarn and my little chest of finished projects.  I look at it every couple days and think, “I should probably pick that up and knit a row or two.”  But, still it sits there, forlorn and neglected.

I could make excuses, pleading that I have been too busy with other projects (which is sort of true).  I could say that I have been busy with work, or getting ready for summer.  But the truth of it is, I’m just not feeling inspired by my little blue sweater.

I’m sure I’ll pick it up again, one of these days.  I’ll suddenly get the urge to finish it, and I’ll dive back in head first, but for right now, I’m happy chugging away on some other projects I’ve got in the works.  It’ll be waiting for me  when I get back to it.

Do you ever put a project on hold?  What do you do to get your inspiration back?

Listening and Knitting

Sometimes, I need my eyeballs while I knit.  I can usually get away with watching TV, but sometimes I have a project that needs more of my attention (especially if I’m working up a new pattern, or I’m working on something with a lot of counting).

When that happens, I like to turn on my podcasts.  Podcasts are great. They’re basically radio shows that you can have your smart phone download automatically (like magic!).  You can listen to them whenever you have the time, and can pause them whenever you need.  It’s as if there was a radio station that only aired the shows you liked, and followed your schedule.  Genius!  (And, if you don’t have a smart phone, you can find them online, and listen to them through your computer.)

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Sawbones500_35[1]Sawbones is a podcast about the weird things that people have done to try and cure disease throughout history, presented by the totally hilarious Justin McElroy and Dr. Sydnee McElroy.  (Did you know that tying a frog to your forehead is supposed to cure headaches?  Now you know.)

pchhblogrect1_custom-ac140c703215b507ceb79d3edbff1eb73ae6011d-s3-c85[1]Pop Culture Happy Hour is produced by NPR, and is an hour-long intelligent discussion of pop-culture-related topics.  That makes it sound totally dry and nerdy, but it’s actually really interesting.  And, the hosts give really great suggestions for books, TV shows, and other media.  I’ve discovered lots of cool things by listening to these guys.

mza_3767929519462584539.600x600-75[1]The Knit Picks’ Podcast is (surprise!) put out by the staff of Knit Picks.  They just updaged their format, and now pick a single topic for each episode.  They interview each other, knitting designers, and local knitters about that topic.  Sometimes it gets a little commercial-y, but I enjoy listening to what’s going on at my favorite online yarn store.

What do you listen to while you knit?

Inspiration: Hippies

This weekend is the Freemont Solstice Fair.  It’s where all the hippies and weirdos in Seattle (and there are a lot of them) get together and put on a fantastical parade and street fair.  There’s music, dancing, crazy costumes, giant puppets, and naked people on bikes.  (I try to keep this blog PG, or at least PG-13, but if you want to see the naked bikers, do a quick search for “Freemont Parade.”  They all wear crazy body paint, which is actually pretty cool.)

The parade is super impressive.  Motorized floats and advertising are not allowed, so everyone who participates is doing so because they love the Solstice Festival, and they love making things.

There’s the giant Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Fremont_Solstice_Parade_2011_-_166[1]People make entire outfits, floats and puppets made out of recycled materials.

3648639306_d9c4e0fa64_z[1]And this person with his (her?) amazing sun mask.7391886998_7c14613abb_z[1]I’m planning on getting into the Solstice mood with a little hippie-inspired knitting.

Festival Shawl by Lyn Robinson

Green_Belle_of_the_Ball_2_medium2[1]Dharma Bum Cropped Festival Top by Mama Pacha

ewf2_medium2[1]Summer Girl – knitted headband by Monika Sirna


Knitting In Public


We almost missed it!  It’s World Wide Knit In Public Week!

Since 2005, knitters across the world have picked up their needles and yarn and taken to the streets (and cafes, and libraries, and yarn shops) to share their love of knitting with the world.

Search their website to find an event in your area, or to start your own.  Or, just take your project out into the local park and work a couple rows.

I’m heading out right now to celebrate WWKIP week!  Join me!

On the Road Again

It’s summer, and that means it’s time for road trips! It’s time to get the heck out of Dodge and take to the open road with nothing but a couple bucks, your faithful hound dog, and a skein or two of your favorite yarn.

(Or, if your boring, like me, it’s time to walk over to your local park and sit in the grass with a can of coke and a skein or two of your favorite yarn.)

I usually have a travel kit set up, but I make a point to restock and update it at the beginning of the summer. That way, I can just grab my project bag and head out the door on a whim.

So what do I keep in my travel kit?

I keep a little tool kit at all times in a tiny zippered coin pouch. It includes scissors, a handful of stitch markers, a couple yarn needles, a couple cable needles, and a few tiny stitch holders.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, I can throw my tool kit in whatever project I’m working on. In the summertime, I favor lacy shawls, socks and other small projects (call me crazy, but I’m not into having a big old sweater or blanket on my lap in 80 degree weather.  And yes, I know, I’ve become a total hot-weather weenie when I think that 80 is hot).

I have a stash of several kinds of sock yarn, a bunch of sets of sock-sized dpns, and a couple favorite project bags. When I need an emergency project for the road, I’ll grab a bag, throw in my tool kit, a set of needles and a ball or two of sock yarn (an adult pair of socks takes up about 100 grams of wool), and I’m out the door!  If you like knitting from patterns, think about printing out copies of your favorites, so you can have them ready to tuck into your project bag at a moment’s notice.

How do you take your projects with you when traveling?

Inspiration: Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day this weekend, and that means it’s time for lame Father’s Day gifts.  Every year it’s the same old same old: ties, golf balls and barbecue tongs.  Does your dad really want that?  I don’t think so.

How about doing something epic?  Something awesome.  Something that I totally should have planned out months ago, instead of the Friday before Father’s Day.

A hand-knit sweater, that your dad would actually wear.

Here are a couple of my favorite men’s sweaters:

Cobblestone Pullover by Jared Flood

871051258_9bada4cb0f_z[1]Ranger by Jared Flood

Ranger1_medium2[1]Guston by Ann Budd

Guston2_medium2[1](By the way, Happy Father’s Day, Dad!)

Oh, the Humanity!

There is nothing (NOTHING) worse in a knitter’s life than pulling out a sweater, or a scarf, or even a ball of yarn and finding that THE BUGS have gotten to it. Not yarn barf, not having to rip out an entire sweater, not even carpel tunnel. Nothing.

It doesn’t happen often, but it happens once in a while. A year ago, I pulled my winter hand-knits out of storage and found a big hole in my wool coat, and a chewed-through spot in my husband’s favorite hand-spun alpaca scarf. It still gives me the heebie-jeebies to think about. Ugh.

And, last week, I was digging through my yarn stash, and found a skein of yarn with little cobwebs and eggs on it!  (Needless to say, that skein went immediately in to the trashcan.  You gotta get rid of that business stat.)

There are a couple things you can do to avoid this terrible, terrible situation. (Although, be warned, I am no Orkin Man, or even someone who’s particularly good at cleaning.) Here’s what I do to protect my yarn, fiber and finished knitting:

First, if I am going to put something in storage, I’ll put them in plastic to keep out the bugs. Big plastic storage bins are perfect for coats and sweaters, and ziplock bags work well for accessories and skeins of yarn. (I did not do this with my coat last year or that skein of burgundy wool… which was probably part of my problem.)

51erG3aACqL[1]Second, I make sure to keep my woolens out of dank, musty, moldy, or damp places in my house. If you have a newer house, or don’t live in somewhere as damp as Seattle, you probably don’t have to worry about this so much. Bugs and mold need a source of water, so if you keep your woolens dry, you prevent pests from setting up shop in their folds.

And, third, I now have cedar hangers in all of my closets. I’m 80% sure that it’s a placebo effect, but cedar has been used as a pest deterrant for hundreds of years (think about cedar chests). I don’t have a cedar chest, because all of my furniture comes from Ikea, but you can buy blocks of cedar, cedar hangers, cedar sachets and about a million other cedar-y things to hide in your closet and deter pests. (And, cedar smells good… bonus!)81866[1]What do you do to protect your handknits?

Ladies’ (and Gents’) Choice

Question MarkThat’s right, Ladies and Gents.  It’s time, once again, for me to ask if you have any requests for topics for me to cover.  Want more patterns?  More tutorials?  More inspiration posts?  Is there a topic you’re curious about, or a technique you want to try?  Have you been struggling with a new stitch pattern, and need a hand?  Or are you curious about casting-on?

I’m more than happy bumbling along my way, chatting with you about whatever I happen to be thinking about, but I’d rather give you information you were actually interested in.

Feel free to send your requests to, or leave a comment at the bottom of this post!