Category Archives: FYI

An Ode to Cables

Oh, cables.  I love you so.

It seems that virtually every design I’ve been working on lately is just packet to the brim with cables.  Big cables, little cables, simple cables, compound cables.  Cables going down sleeves, cables running up the fronts of sweaters.  Wide cables, narrow cables, and ones in-between.I’ve made cables with extra-fine sock yarn, and massively bulky yarn.  In soft cashmere and utilitarian wool.Cables occupy that perfect space in-between cozy/casual and fancy/embellished.  They’re sporty, yet warm.  Comfy, but classy.  They can be dressed up or dressed down (or, if it’s possible) dressed side to side.I don’t just love the finished products, either.  There’s nothing more satisfying than breaking out my cable needle and carefully forming an intricate twist.  (Even when I mess up, it’s OK.  Figuring out how the cable goes back together is half the fun!)Do you have a particular favorite technique?  Or, do you agree with me that cables are the best?

Warning!

I know I just made a post on Friday about how great it is that fall is finally here, but I’ve got bad news for you guys.

It’s officially 3 months until Christmas.  Start panicking.It doesn’t seem right that it’s so close, but I’ve checked and re-checked the calendar.  And, well, it’s 3 months away.

So, if you’re planning on doing any Christmas Knitting, now’s the time to get cracking.  (And I’d better increase my production of Christmas Balls if I’m going to have that red-and-white tree I was hoping for.)

(Also, if you’re making Mary Berry’s Christmas Cake, now’s also the time to start collecting your ingredients.  I’m having the darndedst time finding mixed peel this year.  I wonder if Whole Foods has it stocked already?)

The Island of Forgotten Projects

I’m proud of my little stash of finished projects.  It’s satisfying to see them all folded neatly, ready to be gifted at the next holiday.

But, I have a second stash.  A secret stash.  A shameful stash. A stash that lives in the bookcase next to my desk (I started keeping everything there in the hopes that having to look at it every day would spur myself into doing something to take care of it…  It has not worked yet).

It’s my stash of unfinished projects.

I’m not even going to show you everything, because it’s that embarrassing.

There are several pairs of socks- I decided halfway down the brown sock’s cuff that I didn’t love knitting the pattern.  (I actually really like how the pattern’s turning out, it’s just a pain in the butt to do), and the black/pink socks were being knit at an insanely tight gauge… I don’t know why I decided to start a pair of socks on 0’s!  I never knit with anything smaller than 2s! Not my smartest moment.

Then there’s the box overflowing with my Mama Bears.  Which are in turn overflowing with stuffing because I realized that I don’t have any of the right colors of yarn to finish sewing them up!  (I’ll probably just use some other scraps I have laying around, but there’s a part of my brain that thinks that if I just let the bears hang out in the corner for a little longer, they’ll magically grow extra yarn.  Yeah… that’s how that works.)There are even some projects that are so old, I’m pretty sure I started them before I moved to the new house… almost four years ago.  This scarf, for instance.  I started it as a way to use some pretty fun-fetti-colored yarn I spun.  But, then I decided the scarf was turning out too narrow.  So now it lives in a project bag on a shelf among the other half-forgotten projects.Look!  I even stole the needles from this project… that’s how little confidence I had in myself to finish this project.  Sigh…I know I’m not the only one with a shameful WIP stash.  Make me feel better!  Tell me what you’re totally going to finish… (some day)

A Treasury of Awesome

When I’m coming up with a new design, sometimes an idea pops wholesale into my brain. Sometimes I get a small idea that grows slowly over time.  And sometimes… it’s like pulling teeth.

When I get stuck like that, there’s nothing better than pulling out my stitch treasuries for a little dose of inspiration.

I’ve got two books that are my particular favorites, and I’d like to share them with you.

First, I love Barbara Walker’s classic “Treasury of Knitting Patterns” collection.  I got the first three books for Christmas  couple years ago, and I use them all the time.  Sometimes I’m looking for an idea for a nice all-over pattern, sometimes I need a particularly complex cable that I can’t figure out on my own.  And sometime I just want to look at all the pretty knitting.

Unfortunately, these books are fairly old (the first one was originally published in the 60s), so some of the designs aren’t explained as clearly as I would like.  And, almost all the designs are written out (except book 3, which is all about charted patterns), which drive me up the wall!

But, despite these small problems, I can’t recommend these books highly enough.  If you haven’t taken a look at them already, swing by your library and pick one (or four) up.  You’re sure to be inspired.

A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara WalkerMy other favorite knitting pattern treasury is a little different.  Most noticibly, it doesn’t contain any English!

I found this treasury in the book section of my local Asian grocery store (Uwajimaya… If you ever visit Seattle, stop by, because it’s absolutely amazing).  I was looking at Japanese craft books, because there’s something crazy soothing about the Japanese Craft Book aesthetic (when I look at them, I suddenly think that wearing beige smocks and headbands decorated with pompom critters seems like a really good idea).

Anyway, I found this book, and it’s densely packed from front to back with thickly-patterned knitting designs, some I’d never seen before. Crazy slipped stitches, wrapped stitches, and pompoms.  Delicate lace, thick squishy cables, and gorgeous patterns that defy categorization.

Of course, since it’s not written in English, it’s a little tough to parse the patterns at first, but if you go slowly, there are plenty of diagrams explaining each symbol.  And, since the book was published in the 80s, the color palette leans a little hard on the mauves and mustards.

But other than that, it’s the best! If you can find a copy at an Asian book store, definitely buy it (or just order it from Amazon).

Knitting Patterns 500 by Nihon Vogue ShaDo you have a favorite knitting reference book?

Treasure!

The other week while we were on vacation, my mom and I took a lazy afternoon stroll around the tiny town we were staying in.  (I was secretly hoping that we’d find a coffee shop, but no such luck.)  We did find a bowling alley, a post office that was only open Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays and someone with what I can only call a “Shrine to America” in their front yard (complete with a fairly creepy Uncle Sam doll).

And, we found a massive junk/antique shop called “The Yard Sale.”

I’m not a big antiquing gal, but Mom was in the market for antique windows to decorate for a project, so we went in on a treasure hunt.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find any windows, but we did find something, buried among the VHS tapes and decrepit Furbies.It’s a teeny, tiny sewing machine!  It’s only 5 inches tall (6 if you include the spool of thread on top)!  It’s a vintage, miniature, toy sewing machine- and it actually works!  It’s got a real sewing needle and everything!

It needs a little cleaning, and a bit of TLC (and a new hand wheel, but that’s not 100% necessary to make it work), but it’s in remarkably good condition.

And look at this!

It was manufactured in the US-controlled zone of Berlin, so we can date it to the late 40’s or early 50s.

It even still works! (Kind of, at least.)

I need to see if I can do something about the tension- it’s a little tight.

And, this is neat!  Since it’s just a toy, it doesn’t have a bobbin.  So, when you look at the back of the fabric, you can see that it makes a chain stitch!  (The chain stitch falls apart if you look at it the wrong way, so it’s not super practical.  But, I’ve never seen a sewing machine that is quite like this one!)I’ve got a bit of work before my new sewing machine is up and in tip-top shape again, but that’s OK with me.  I think it’s pretty hilarious as-is.  It really made my day when I found it.  And I think it looks pretty cute, sitting on top of my full-size machine.What’s your favorite thrift-store find?  Also, if you know where to find hand cranks for vintage miniature sewing machines- I’m in the market!

Treasure

Ssh…

I’m going to let you in on a secret!

In the corner of my studio, behind a small bookshelf (that is currently holding a half-dozen half finished projects instead of books), there is a small wooden chest.If you pull that chest out, and open it up, you’ll find something amazing.All the homeless projects I’ve made over the years!I’ve got prototypes, and one-off projects.  Socks  that turned out too small or to big.  Hats that are too warm for Seattle.  I’ve got scarves that I really wanted to knit, but don’t really want to wear and more dishcloths than I could ever use.

(I’d show you everything, but I know I have friends and family who read this blog and might just receive some of these items as gifts in the future…and I’d like to preserve the surprise at least a little bit.)

I don’t usually think about what I’ve got stashed in my secret chest, but it is satisfying to open it up from time to time to see the result of all my hard work.  And, it’s particularly handy when I get invited to a baby shower/birthday party/whatever at the last minute- I can pull out a pair of socks I knit in 2012 and look like I did a heck of a lot more planning than I really did.

Do you have a finished object stash?  Or, is this a symptom of my hoarding tendencies?

It’s in the bag

I’m flying through socks right now.  I’ve got two separate socks from two distinct pairs on my needles right this second.  I’ve even started a new pair of socks without finishing the first pair… something I never do.  It’s like I’ve been bitten by some sort of sock bug.  I’ve contracted a terrible case of sock-fluenza.  I’ve been stricken with sock-itis.

It’s a problem. (Not really.)

Because of my sock-itosis, I’ve been schlepping my sock bag around a lot, and I thought I’d give you a tour of what I carry with me when I’m on a sock binge.I’ve got a handful of sock bags, but I think this one might be my favorite.  It’s tough- I sewed it out of poplin and scraps of cute green quilting cotton.  It’s nice and roomy, but still compact enough to fit in my purse.  And, it’s got a nice big zipper to keep my knitting safe and sound as I schlep it around town.

Open it up, and all this fits inside!  Two big skeins of yarn, a half-finished sock (plus needles) and my trusty notions kit full to bursting with scissors, tapestry needles and stitch markers.

(OK, if I’m being honest, my bag also contains this Snickers wrapper from when I got real hungry at work last week and had to stop for a candy bar.  I’m a grown up, so I can eat candy when I want.)It’s not terribly exciting-there isn’t anything super surprising in my bag, but it still is pretty satisfying to know that I can keep a whole project with me at all times.

Ollie thought it was cool, too.Do you carry a knitting bag?  What’s in yours?

Heel vs. Heel

Two heels enter, one heel leaves.

Dun, dun, duuuuun!

(OK, both heels leave, because I could never throw away knit socks- just take a peek into my sock drawer… about 1/3 of my hand-knits are ancient and full of holes, but I refuse to throw them away!  I worked hard on them, dang it!)

It’s been a while since I’ve switched up my sock game.  I’m a fan of a top-down, turned-heel sock.  I make my socks the same way almost every time, switching out the textures but keeping the construction the same.

Not that there’s anything wrong with my socks, or anyone else’s, for that matter.  There’s about as many ways to make socks as there are knitters.  I just happen to like making socks a certain way.

However, I decided to go crazy with my green socks, and go toe up!  And I decided to make a mitered heel!  Shocking! I know.

I love how they’re turning out- the toe was fun to do, and the mitered heel was so much simpler than my usual heel.

But look! See how much narrower the green sock is than the striped one?

I used the same kind of yarn, with literally the same needles.  Of course, the sock on the left has already been blocked, the the sock on the right is going to be a little narrower because of the cables.  But holy cow! I forgot how much narrower socks are without the nice gusset to accommodate the heel.

I haven’t been able to try the green sock on yet (I don’t want to lose all my stitches from off the end of my needles)… I hope it fits.

(If it doesn’t- someone with smaller feet than mine will be getting a pretty nice Christmas present.)

Do you ever try getting out of your knitting comfort zone?  What do you usually do?  What do you do to mix it up?

Seedy

I’m working on a very simple project right now.  It’s a wrap/big scarf/narrow blanket.  (OK, really, it’s just a big rectangle, but sometimes I try to be fancy.)  It’s super warm and thick and lovely- knit up in bulky wool.  It should just be boring, but it’s so satisfying. I don’t know the last time I made something so simple.

It’s just a big ol’ rectangle of seed stitch.  (Seed stitch is alternating rows of k1p1 and p1k1.)  I’ve always loved seed stitch.  There’s something very satisfying about it.  It doesn’t roll, like stockinette.  It doesn’t shrink up, like ribbing.  It’s thick and poofy and squishy and warm.  And, I think, it’s just beautiful.  Of course, fancy cables and intricate lace are gorgeous, but there’s something perfect and pure about a big square of seed stitch.  It’s homey, yet refined, the same way a linen shirt is both totally casual and very up-scale.  It’s fancy without being fussy.

Of course it’s taking me a million and a half years to finish this project, but what’s new. It’s satisfying knitting and I’m enjoying myself immensely.  (And it makes great TV-knitting!)  It feels great to get back to my roots and make something so totally simple.

Do you have a favorite stitch?

On YOUR Needles

We’ve got some crafty folks up in here!

You guys sent me your current WIPS, and I’ve got to say I’m impressed!

My mom (who’s always got something fun in the works), sent me a picture of her newest knitted doll from Arne and Carlos’s book.  We took the doll class together last year at the Nordic Knitting Conference, which was super fun!  Mom says that this doll is going to be the brother of the doll she made in the fall.A reader, Yhenny, is making this pair of adorable lace gloves.  She made the Poison Ivy Wrap from Rilana Riley-Munson.  And, since she had a little yarn left over, she adapted the lace pattern to make matching mitts.  How clever (and beautiful)!And, one of my old friends, Jenny, is working on a little “Nevertheless, She Persisted” embroidery.  She’s a great embroiderer (is that a word… it doesn’t look right)- last Christmas she stitched a really adorable portrait of a family member’s cat.  So far, she’s done the outline of her letters, and then she’s going to fill in the lines with satin stitch.  I think it’s going to be really great.Thanks for sharing your projects!  I love seeing what you’re all working on!

Are you working on anything else?