Category Archives: FYI

Off (or on) the Map

I get emails on a fairly regular basis asking me why I use charts in my patterns instead of just writing out the instructions.  I try to explain why I prefer charts over written instructions (they are easier to read, they give you a visual representation of what the finished pattern should look like, etc), but I feel like I’ve never had a really good, succinct explanation.  Until now.

I was chatting with a friend about charts vs. written instructions (like you do), and she had an amazing analogy.  An analogy I’d like to share with you.

The year is 1998.  The Barenaked Ladies, Destiny’s Child and Brittney Spears are on the radio, Armageddon is in the movie theaters, and I’m in middle school.  You’re planning on taking a road trip (while listening to your new NSYNC CD in your very high-tech car CD player), and you need directions. 541c9257a84d7.image

You boot up the modem and go to Mapquest for driving directions.  After 45 minutes (which seems very fast), you’ve downloaded and printed out your instructions.  You’re ready to go.

 

You hop in the car, follow your instructions.  Left on Aurora, right on 145th, take the northbound on-ramp, drive 5 miles, get off at Exit 220.  But wait, there is no Exit 220!  Where’s Exit 220?  I thought I was supposed to be on the freeway?  Why am I in the middle of a neighborhood? What happened?

You don’t have a map with you, because you didn’t need it- you had your Mapquest directions.  Sure you could retrace your steps, carefully make your way back home and try following the directions again, but that’s a lot of work.  You’re lost.  You’ve got to cross your fingers that you can find a friendly gas station attendant to give you new directions.CaptureNow imagine you’re on that same road trip, but this time you’ve got a map (or better yet, you’ve got a map and your instructions).  If you get off track, you can pull over, find your cross street and figure out your location.  Sure, reading the map might be a little tricky, but in the long run you know you won’t ever be stranded like you were with just the instructions.

Knitting is the same way.  Sure, if you’re knitting with only written instructions, and you follow the instructions exactly to the letter, you’ll end up with a beautiful garment.  But let’s be honest, when’s the last time you knit a garment without a single mistake?  (I can’t say I’ve ever done that.)  And once you’ve made a mistake, all you have is a big block of text that you have to wade through to figure out where you went wrong- not easy.Capture1If you’re using a chart, on the other hand, you can usually tell much more quickly where you went wrong.  Maybe there’s a yarn over where there should be, a section of lace that is missing a stitch, or a cable that’s been crossed the wrong direction (the bane of my existence).  Because a chart gives you a birds-eye view of what your project should look like, it’s easier to figure out what’s going on, where you went wrong, and ultimately how to fix it.

I know charts aren’t for everybody (just like some people will never be able to read a map, no matter how hard they try), but if you’re on the fence about trying a charted pattern, give it a go!  You might like it!

Welcome! (Blanket)

You guys know I like a big project, I like a nice group project, and I like using my knitting for positive change.

So, honestly, it was only a matter of time before I wrote about the Welcome Blanket project.

WB-flier-2side-final-updateLanguage-1

The Welcome Blanket project is a lovely pro-immigrant activist statement/group art project/just a dang nice thing to do.

Basically, people across America knit or crochet or quilt smallish lap blankets (they ask for 40″x40″), and send them in to be collected at an art gallery somewhere in the US. (So far they’ve been in Chicago and Atlanta, and they’re getting ready to do an installation just outside of Boston.)  Once the donated blankets have been on display for a bit, they are then distributed to newly-immigrated families, along with notes of welcome and encouragement.

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(These blankets were displayed in Chicago last fall.)

It’s a beautiful, loving gesture to families that are doing something incredibly difficult in a country that isn’t always the most welcoming to new people.

If you’re interested in taking part, unfortunately the most recent round of blanket collection (at the Fuller Craft Museum) has just finished, but don’t fear!  The Welcome Blanket folks are going to keep going, and I’m sure a new collection will be just around the corner.  I know I’ve got a couple ideas for blankets that I want to make (in all my free time).

If you’re running short on ideas, but want to participate, there’s an official “Welcome Blanket” pattern that you’re more than welcome to use (but feel free to get creative).

Come Together Blanket by Kat ColeIMG_1009

Do you ever do any activist/charity crafting?  What projects have you participated in?

SNOWPOCALYPSE 2019

We’ve had a crazy mild winter this year- 40s and 50s, and more often sunny than not.  It almost felt like we forgot to have winter.

Well.  We remembered.

And decided to have an entire season’s-worth of winter all in one weekend.IMG_1270.JPGIt started snowing Friday around lunchtime, and kept on going all through the night, until we ended up with knee-deep (or at least calf-deep) snow blanketing the city.  We hit 9 inches on our back deck on Saturday morning!IMG_1280I know that as a transplant from the Midwest I’m supposed to go on and on about how “back in my day we’d drive in three feet of snow, uphill both ways, with our eyes closed, just for fun.”  But, I gotta say, I kind of love the Seattle way of dealing with snow.  Here, we don’t tough it out, we don’t fight it, we don’t shovel or salt or plow.  We just stock up on food when there’s snow in the forecast, call out from work and hunker down.  This morning, I’m fully embracing my inner Seattleite and enjoying the snow through the window, cozy with my knitting and a cup of tea.  Maybe we’ll go outside and make a snowman later, or maybe we’ll just stay inside until the snow melts.  IMG_1284Is there snow where you are?  What do you do when the snow hits?

A Little Something New

It’s been a while since I tried something truly new in knitting.  I’ll try a new cable or stitch pattern, but even the most complicated stitch pattern still just uses a combination of the same handful of stitches.  And I’m not afraid to try a new pattern or come up with a new design, but it’s all really just putting the same stitches in different order.  I’m not complaining, I love my usual knitting, but none of that is really a new skill.

So I decided to try something that’s truly new to me.  Brioche!  (This isn’t a tutorial about brioche knitting- I’m not even finished with my first piece, so I’m very much not an expert!) Brioche is super cool! It’s knitting, but its stitches are just different enough from regular knits and purls that it’s a little tricky.  It took me a few evenings to really get the feel of it.  The finished product ends up with a sort-of two-color ribbing, and is seriously fluffy.  It’s kind of magical.

I browsed Ravelry and found the Fingering Brioche Bandana Cowl by Lavanya Patricella.  It looked simple enough and like something I’d actually wear.  (These days with a very grabby kid, long scarves and shawls aren’t terribly practical, but my neck is still cold!)fingerbandanacowl01I pulled out those mini-skeins of Tosh Merino Light, fired up Google to look for instructions, and after a few false starts, I was cruising along. img_1234I love how the royal blue peeks through to the outside of the cowl, and I love how squishy the fabric is!img_1236(Though I might actually like the “inside” better.  The color-blocking is a little more subtle, just peeking through between the ribs of blue.)img_1240I’ve still got a way to go before I perfect my brioche knitting though, my gauge is a little bit all-over the place and my decreases are a weird and sloppy (though I might be able to block them out a bit).  At least I have a reason to keep practicing!img_1247Have you tried any new techniques lately?  What were they? How did it go?

Busy Busy Busy

I’ve been busy, designing and swatching away.  It’s been great!  But, I can never help thinking that after I finished a swatch, I should be able to do something fun with it.  I’ve got a bunch pinned up on the bulletin boards in my studio, which is nice.  But, honestly, most of them just hang out in a stack in my closet.  My mind is always chugging away in the background, trying to think of something to do with my leftover swatches.

And, over the last few weeks, I’ve been getting a jump on a new sewing project for the kid- a busy book.  Basically it’ll be a little book with quilted/apliqued pages for the baby to play with, and I plan on adding more age-appropriate pages as he grows up.  Right now, the pages are all basically just things for him to touch, feel, and put in his mouth (he’s only 6 months old, after all), but down the line I’ll add pages with fun things like zippers, flaps, velcro, etc.

For example, I made a sheep page with some leftover terrycloth.IMG_0567Cute, if I say so myself!  (Gotta start teaching them to appreciate wool from an early age, right?)

That got me thinking- how could I use knitting in the busy book?

I dug up an old sock swatch (I figured the smaller gauge would work better with the scale of the book) and got to work.  I machine-sewed two lines with very short stitches down the back of the swatch, and cut in-between them- kind of like this. (I’ve never steeked before, and I think this is about as close as I’ll be getting in the near future.  Scary!)  Then I took some iron-on adhesive and ironed it to the back of the swatch, cut out a sweater shape and ironed it to the background fabric. It was more or less intact, but the edges were fraying a smidge, so I ran a quick zig-zag stitch around the edge, and presto! an actually-knit sweater page!IMG_0577I really should have taken pictures of each step, but I really didn’t think it was going to work!

Now that I’ve done this once, my mind is spinning with all the knitting-as-applique possibilities!

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done with your knitting?

Vacation Yarn

Some people collect miniature spoons, or porcelain thimbles when they go on vacation.  Others collect magnets or key chains or tiny, personalized license plates.

I try my darnedest not to collect tschotchkes, but I still want something to remember my vacations by.  So, I’ve started collecting something that I think you guys could get behind.

Vacation yarn.

I try to buy a skein of vacation yarn whenever I go out of town for the last few years.  At first I would just get a skein or two of whatever piqued my fancy.  But now, after realizing I have a bunch of skeins vacation yarn in my stash that I’m probably never going to use for one reason or another, I have given myself Vacation Yarn Rules:

  1. The yarn must be purchased at a local yarn store- no online stores, no big box stores that happen to be in the area.  It’s gotta be something I can only get on location, or what’s the point?  (Plus, it’s a great excuse to go find a new yarn store!)
  2. The yarn must be spun, died, or both by a local yarn producer.
  3. The yarn must be in a colorway that reminds me of the vacation. (This rule has a little more wiggle-room than the others… I can pretty much convince myself that whatever skein I find the prettiest is the one that most closely matches the location.)
  4. One skein must be enough to make a complete project.  This means that 95% of my Vacation Yarn ends up being sock yarn.  But that’s great, because now I’ve got a bunch of pairs of Vacation Socks!

We just got back from a trip to Lake Tahoe, down in California (which is lovely by the way.  I highly recommend going in October- It’s practically empty, the weather is perfect for taking long walks along the lake or sitting in the sun with a cup of tea and some knitting.  And when the weather’s not perfect, it’s a great time to go inside and play board games with your buddies).

And, of course I got a skein of Vacation Yarn.

It’s from a very cute little shop in South Lake Tahoe, Knits and Knots Tahoe, and was hand dyed in the area. This sock yarn was dyed in a colorway called “Driftwood” and it’s a lovely brown-y olive, with little speckles of dark brown and a splash of bright leaf green.  It really reminded me of the colors of the area- the soft brown of the dead pine needles that cover the ground under the massive pine trees, and the green of the little plants peeking through the forest floor.  IMG_0486

I can’t wait until I have time to knit up my Lake Tahoe Socks!

What do you collect when you’re on vacation?

In Defense of Garter Stitch

I was dinking around the internet the other day, snooping in knitting forums and not commenting (because that’s what I do). I came across a post about garter stitch.

“Aha!” I thought, “Another garter stitch enthusiast!”

But, was I mistaken!  This poster had written up an entire diatribe on how garter stitch was Dumb, Ugly, and Boring!  Heresy! (I’d link the post, but 1.  I don’t want to start any drama, and 2. I don’t remember where I found it.)

I didn’t reply at the time, because other people had already said everything that I would have said (more eloquently, and with fewer “How dare you”s).  And of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

Unless their opinions are wrong.

IMG_0293Because garter stitch is a fantastic stitch!  It’s cozy and warm and squishy.  It’s incredibly meditative and satisfying.  It make fabric that’s extra warm.  It lays perfectly flat (perfect for scarves, blankets and dish cloths).

IMG_0315It’s simple to do.  And simple is not to say bad or ugly.  I think because garter stitch is often the first stitch that new knitters learn, it gets a bad rap as something that’s “just for newbies.” I’ve been knitting for over 20 years (which is crazy to say), and I love garter stitch more now than I think I ever have.  I’ll admit, there was a little while there when I looked down on it a bit.  For a while I thought if a pattern didn’t have crazy cables or intricate lace, it wasn’t worth my time.  But now, I have to say, I love going back to the basics.IMG_0284Which isn’t to say that garter stitch has to be basic!  There’s little I love more than a pattern with crazy cables running across a big field of garter stitch.  It’s squishy on squishy, cozy on cozy, and frankly, an unbeatable combination in my opinion.IMG_0298I’ve even been experimenting with variations on garter stitch!  I love how these garter stitch ribs break up what would otherwise be a boring swath of stockinette.

In summary, I love garter stitch.  (Of course, I also love ribbing and stockinette and lace and cables and twisted stitches and…)

Do you love garter stitch, too?

First Sock Syndrome

We’ve all heard of Second Sock Syndrome– that affliction that makes it nigh on impossible to make yourself knit the second sock of a pair.  I admit, sometimes I get a little flare-up of SSS, but it’s something that I try really hard to avoid.

But, I have to admit that I live with a related affliction.  Something just as (if not more) deadly than Second Sock Syndrome, but perhaps a little less common.  I’m here to raise awareness about FSS.  That’s right: First Sock Syndrome, otherwise known as Cuffonly Sockitis.

I realized that I might be having a bout of FSS this weekend when I went to grab a set of my favorite sock needles for a new project (5″ bamboo US2 dpns, if you’re wondering). I have 5 or 6 sets of these needles, so I figured I’d be able to just grab some from the jar on my bookshelf and go on my merry way.  But no!  I couldn’t find a single needle!

It turns out they’re all being used in socks.  And not second socks.  That would be too easy- just a couple hours work to free my needles and finish off a brand-new pair of socks!  Not a single sock in my house is past the heel.  They’re all firmly stuck mid-way down the cuff.IMG_0193I don’t even remember starting this sock.  I think I started it literally before we moved… almost 4 years ago.IMG_0195And this one… I don’t even know what to say. IMG_0198It looks like I started it, got bored with it, put it down, picked it up again, completely forgot what pattern I was working, and just guessed until I got a couple more inches knit.  Look!  You can clearly see where I totally forgot what I was doing.IMG_0202.JPGClearly, I have a problem, and clearly, I’ve got some knitting to do to finish/fix these socks.

Or maybe I’ll just go buy another set of dpns.

Do you ever get FSS?

Swatch Swatch Swatch

It’s finally happened- I’ve used up all my buffer posts.  Sure, I’ve been writing posts this summer from time to time, when I have a minute (or when the baby happens to have a really good nap), but this is the first one I’ve written that’s truly going out in the present!  Which is good, really.  It means that I can just write about what’s on my mind without worrying about the order that my posts are coming out in.

And I’d love to tell you all about what I’ve been doing…

But I can’t.

It’s the eternal knitwear designer/blogger problem.  I’m all excited about my current projects, but I have to keep them under lock and key (or at least off the internet) until they’re published, well into next year.

I gotta say, though, it’s great to be getting back in the designing game.  I took a decent-sized break around when the boy was born, but I’ve slowly been ramping up my freelance work in the last couple months.  It’s great to be able to stretch my brain again in non-nursery-rhyme-related ways.

And while I can’t show you what’s currently on my needles, I can show you what was on my needles.  My swatches.

Swatching gets a bad rap, and I get it.  Sometimes I just want to get on to the project and get knitting.  After all, that’s the whole point of knitting, right?  Making sweaters and socks!

But when I’m designing, I kind of love making swatches.  They’re fun little samples- I think of them like little sketchbook pages, but made with yarn.  IMG_0142

I used to rip out my swatches once I had determined my gauge, so I wouldn’t
“waste” that yarn on the swatch. (I’m nothing if not frugal.) But over the last few years, I’ve been keeping them.  The ones I’m particularly fond of are pinned up on cork boards in my studio, and the rest live, stacked up in my closet.  Sometimes I like to go back through them, to see if there are any ideas in there that I should bring out again.

And recently, I’ve added something to my swatches that I think will come in handy down the line.  On the backs, I’ve been stapling a little tag with the yarn, needle size, and gauge.  So, in theory, the next time I want to make something with Cascade 220 Superwash, I might already have the swatch all finished and ready to go.IMG_0148

Do  you keep your swatches?  What do you do with them?

Rub-a-Dub-Dub

I’m probably the last person in the developed world to make this discovery, but have you guys ever used a lingerie bag for your laundry?

I just got a couple of these bad boys to help with the baby’s clothes (a friend recommended using them to wash baby socks and other stupidly tiny things that you need to wash, but don’t want to lose).  And, it occurred to me that they might be great for washing hand-knits too.The whole idea of lingerie bags is that they protect your dedicates from being over-agitated in the washing machine, keeping them looking like new.  And, since agitation is what makes knitwear felt, this seems like a perfect alternative to hand-washing.

My (and my husband’s) stash of socks is starting to look a little bit ratty and felted.  And, while I knit socks with only super-wash yarn, there’s a limit to how many hundreds of times that you can wear and machine-wash a pair without them starting to get a little worn-out and sad.

It’s past the point of no return for some of my current socks, but I’m going to try using the lingerie bags to wash any new socks from now on.  It’ll be a long experiment, but I think it’ll work out well.  Ask me in a couple of years, and I’ll give you an update!

Do you use lingerie bags for your washing?  Am I an idiot for never using them before?