Category Archives: FYI

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?

Kids These Days!

I’m teaching a kids’ knitting class again this semester, and as always it’s a delight.  I had a second-grader finish a finger-knitted rug for her cat yesterday, and a first-grader make a pair of hot-pink loom-knitted legwarmers.  A fourth-grader spent the last few weeks learning how to needle-knit and then made a candy-striped headband.  The kids are super sweet and focused, and there’s nothing better than seeing students go from frustrated to successful!

Then there’s one…unique… knitter.  I’ll call her Molly- obviously that’s not really her name, because she’s a kid, so I’m not going to be putting her details on the internet.  That would be a really bad idea for so many reasons.

Anyway, I’ve had Molly in knitting class before.  When she showed up in my Fall Semester knitting class, she already kind of knew how to knit with needles.  (Kind of knowing is the most dangerous amount of knowledge to have.)  I refreshed her memory, and sent her on her way.  She was off, knitting up a storm.

Now, I’ll admit, I didn’t pay super-close attention to what she was doing.  First, Molly is a fiercely smart and independent kid.  She doesn’t want any help with anything if she can possibly avoid it.  I’d show her a stitch once, and she’d pull the needles away from me and scurry off to sit with her friends and go to work. She didn’t want me looking over her shoulder to check how she was doing.  And Second, the rest of the class was crazy last semester- there just wasn’t time to give her uninterrupted attention with 8 other needy kids.

But, like I said, she was knitting something that looked really great!  She made a big piece of stockinette that we made into a little buttoned pouch.  (I assumed she knew how to purl from when she had learned to knit at home.)  It was pretty cute!

Fast forward to a month ago.  My students this semester are a little older, a little more chill.  They need less help, which means I can spend more time paying attention to everyone’s knitting, instead of monitoring how much the classroom was being trashed.

Molly was looking super bored one day, and she had been really interested in a cabled project I had been working on the week before.  I knew she had the basics of knitting really down pat, so I offered to teach her how to make cables.

I had her cast on and knit a couple rows normally.  From afar, it looked great!

Then I sat next to her, to explain how to switch between knits and purls in a single row (you know, switching the yarn forward and back before each stitch).  She started working on her knitting, and I watched over her shoulder.

AND SHE WAS KNITTING FROM LEFT TO RIGHT!

Apparently, she had been knitting for almost a year without ever once flipping her knitting over at the end of a row.  In other words, she wasn’t holding her “old stitches needle” in her left hand and her “new stitches needle” in her right hand, swapping out the needles at the end of each row.  Instead, her right hand needle was always her right hand needle, and her left hand needle was always her left hand needle!

I was actually really impressed, and still have no idea how she was doing it!  (I even tried knitting her way, but couldn’t get it to work.)

We had a big conversation about flipping her knitting.  Though, she still asks me at the end of each row “Do I need to flip my needles now?”

The answer is yes, always yes.

(She’s actually doing an amazing job, and is even getting the hang of cabling.  She still has a little trouble managing the cable needle- she’s very tiny, after all- so I hold it for her, acting as a “third hand.”  I think Molly’s got a great future with knitting!)

Did you have any weird ideas about knitting when you were first learning?

‘Round and ‘Round

I love getting a brand-new, squishy skein of yarn as much as the next knitter, but I also used to kind of dread it.  Un-raveling and balling-up a big (often tangled) skein is the absolute pits!  I used to have a whole system that involved two kitchen chairs, about an hour and a lot of swearing.

But then, for Christmas, my husband gave me one of my most favorite new tools!

My umbrella swift!  (I’m not sure which brand/model it is, but google “umbrella swift” and you’ll find a bunch.)

I always kind of wanted one, but never could justify buying one for myself.  After all, I didn’t need it.  I’d use it, if I had one, but not very often.  Also, they’re a little expensive- and I hate spending money.

So all that made this bad boy the perfect Christmas present.

And you know what?  I love it!  It’s the best!  It makes balling up yarn go so fast, and it’s super fun!

I undo the skein, taking off any scrap yarn that was used to keep the strands together, and put the big loop of yarn around the swift.  Then, I take the end of the yarn and attach it to the top of my ball winder, and away we go!  (Ignore the ugly avocado-green end table that I picked up from the side of the road.  It might not be pretty, but it’s very useful.)I get the ball winder spinning, and the swift twirls away, unraveling the skein without a single tangle!  It’s amazing.  This time, I balled 6 skeins of yarn in about 10 minutes.  That would have taken me hours without my umbrella swift!

Do you have a favorite not-technically-necessary-but-really-nice-to-have tool?

PvP Knitting

Every week (well, three times a week), I write about knitting.  What I’m knitting, what I’d like to knit, what I’ve finished knitting.  But I never really talk about why I knit.

I know, I know, it seems obvious, right?  I knit because I love to knit.  Simple.  Heck, that’s why we’re all here!  We all love knitting!

But, what is it about knitting that draws us in?  Why do we do what we do?

The common wisdom is that there are two kinds of knitters: Product Knitters and Process Knitters.  And, while the common wisdom is often wrong, I think there’s definitely something to this one.

Product Knitters are in it for the finished product (hence the very creative name).  They see a gorgeous new sweater pop up on Ravelry, and they have to have it.  They work toward a goal.  If they want a new pair of socks, then by god, they’ll have a new pair of socks (even if they hate knitting socks).I can respect that kind of goal-oriented knitting.  I know I feel that urge from time to time (mostly when my old hand-knits start wearing out).

But, if I’m being honest, I’m more of a Process Knitter.

Process Knitters knit for the sake of knitting.  They knit because they love the feel of yarn sliding through their fingers and enjoy the act of making each stitch, one after another.  They see a new pattern and think “Wow, I’d really love to knit that,” not, “Wow, I’d really love to wear that.”  (Which explains some of the sweaters I’ve made and almost never worn… oops!)

Of course, every knitter has a little Process Knitter in them, and a little Product Knitter.  And, I’m sure there are people that knit for other reasons, too.  But no matter where you fall on the Process vs. Product spectrum, we all love what we do.

What do you think about the whole Process Knitter vs. Product Knitter taxonomy?  Is there anything to it?  Which are you?

Marking Stitches

So, I sat down to write this post about an hour ago.  Then I decided to check Facebook, where I discovered that someone had posted videos of the Crufts dog show from last weekend.  Needless to say,  I got rather distracted watching the agility trials, and an hour later, I’m just getting started writing.  So it goes.

(This has nothing to do with knitting, or this blog, but you have to watch this video- It’s amazing!)

Right?!

Now you’ll be sucked down a dog show YouTube rabbit hole, and I’m not even a bit sorry.

Aaaaaanyway, let’s talk stitch markers.

I’m taking a metalworking/jewelry class at the local community college, where I’m learning jewelry soldering.  I made some rings, earrings, and even a little box.  I’m halfway through a necklace that’s made of lots of pieces of sea glass set in silver.  It’s so fun to learn a new skill!

But, I think my favorite pieces (or at least the pieces I’m getting the most use out of) are my little stitch markers.  (My teacher was confused as to why I was making so many little jump rings, and wanted me to turn them into a chain.  I tried to explain what a stitch marker was, but she remains unconvinced.  She is clearly not a knitter.)

(Also, this picture turned out pretty cool- It looks like my stitch markers are just floating in spaaaaace!)

They’re square copper wire, plated with silver and twisted to make the cool spiral design.  Then, I formed them into little circles using a special jig and a tiny saw, and soldered them shut.  Super simple, especially compared to some of the projects people are making in my class, but really satisfying and oh so practical.

I like these little guys because they’re seamless (and therefore can’t snag), they’re low-profile (so they don’t get in the way), and they don’t have any charms or beads on them (which, while pretty, can get annoying if you’re making a project where you need dozens of stitch markers).

I’ve got one class left before the end of the quarter, and I’m half-inclined to just spend the three hours making more stitch markers, instead of finishing my big final project.

Do you have favorite stitch markers?