Category Archives: FYI

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?

International Women’s Day and A Day Without A Woman

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!  Especially all you amazing ladies out there!

Today is a day  to appreciate everything women have done in history, as well as everything they do day-to-day to make the world a better place.  It’s a day to acknowledge our mothers and grandmothers (Happy Women’s Day, Mom!  And, Happy Women’s Day, Mother-in-Law!), and how they raised us to be strong, independent women.  And it’s a day to remember the amazing women who have changed history; the Harriet Tubmans, the Hillary Clintons, the Margaret Sangers, the Sally Rides, and the Malala Yousafzais of the world.

While women’s rights and opportunities have come a long way (We can have our own credit card!  We can work outside the home!  We can go to college!), we still need to keep fighting for our rights.  Women are still paid less than men for equal work, and women (especially mothers, women of color, and LGBTQ women) are often discriminated against when applying for jobs.  Women make up the majority of the minimum-wage workforce, and yet are still expected to be the primary caregivers of their families.

So, I’m writing this (sorry if you were hoping for some knitting- that’ll be back soon), to support International Women’s Day and the Day Without A Woman strike.  It’s important that we, as women and allies, keep talking about issues of gender inequality.  It’s important that we call out injustice when we see it.  It’s important that we work to make positive change, to achieve gender equality in the workplace and out.

So, today, give your representative a call, talk to your boss about equal pay, or just wear red in solidarity with the women fighting for their rights.  We’ve come a long way, but we’re not done yet.

Late-night Knitting

I go a little crazy every time I get close to finishing a project, especially a big project.  I get a little obsessed, and I kind of lose touch with the passage of time.

It’s not ideal, but it happens.  And, it happened to me last night.  I was finishing up a sweater (a super secret sweater you’ll see later), and I had about six inches of sleeve left to knit.  I sat down to work on it for a few hours, thinking I could power through before it got too late.  I kept measuring it, counting my stitches and rows,  convincing myself that I was almost done.

Until the clock hit 11, and my husband reminded me it was past my bedtime.

After a little whining on my part and cajoling on his, I went to sleep, my last cuff mere rows from completion.It’s probably good he made me go to bed- when I get to this point in a project, if I’m left to my own devices, I stay up as late as necessary to finish.  (I remember once accidentally staying up until 5 in the morning on a week night, just so I could finish a dress I was sewing.  That wasn’t a great idea.)

Anyway, my knitting was still waiting for me this morning.  And after a cup of tea and a little breakfast, I’ve finished my sweater.  Now, it’s off to be blocked!Do you ever lose track of time while working on a project?

On Balance

I’m going to share with you one of my favorite pieces of knitting equipment.  It’s something a little unexpected, but super useful.  It’s great for planning new projects.  And it’s something you might already have… in your kitchen.

It’s a little scale!61znmd0vewl-_sl1222_1

Instead of measuring the length of yarn (which would be both annoying and very very difficult), I weigh it.  A new skein of yarn will always have the weight and length (for example, 100g and 250 yards) on the label, so with a little math, you’ll be able to figure out how many yards are in any half-finished ball of yarn.

This is the one I have.  I love it.  It’s got settings for grams and ounces (I like using grams, since they’re a little more accurate than ounces).  It’s also great, because the little control panel/readout can be pulled away, if you’re weighing something big (like a bowl of cherries or a whole sweater).7157zip2oel-_sl1500_1But, mostly I like this one because it’s the one we already had (we got it as a wedding gift years ago). Really, any fairly accurate kitchen scale works for weighing yarn.

So, what do I use my scale for?

Just about anything where I’m trying to estimate, predict, or calculate how much yarn I have left or how much yarn I need for a project or how much yarn I’ve already used.

For example.  I’m making a sweater, and I was afraid I wasn’t going to have enough yarn to finish the sleeves.  So, I weighed the sleeveless sweater and marked down that weight.  Then I knit one sleeve and weighed it again.  Then, with a little math, I figured out how much yarn I used for one sleeve, and therefore how much yarn I’ll need for the second one. (Spoiler: I’ve got enough yarn for the second sleeve!  Yay!)

I’ve also used my scale to plan out my mother bears.  I figured out how many grams of yarn I need for each part of a bear (skin, pants, etc.).  Then, I can go through my stash and weigh my bits of yarn to figure out which are big enough for another bear.

I try remember how much yarn I use of each skein of yarn, but sometimes yarn lives in my stash for so long, I forget what I used it for.  So, again I break out the scale to get an estimate on how much of a half-finished skein is left, which helps when I’m planning out a new project.

It seems like a silly addition to a knitting stash, but a scale is super useful!

Do you have a favorite knitting tool that you re-purposed from somewhere else?

On ALL my needles

When I really started getting serious with knitting, back in college, I scoffed at knitters that I thought had “poor self control.”  (As a straight-A’s, honor roll over achiever-type, I scoffed at anyone who I thought had poor self control.  Not one of my more endearing character traits.)  I would never have more yarn in my stash than I could use.  I would never start a project and not finish it.  And, I would never have more than one project going on at once.

Never!

Well.

Maybe not never…

18-year-old me would be horrified with 30-year-old me.  I’ve got a room half-filled with boxes of yarn that “I will definitely use… some day.” I think I’ve got 4 or 5 projects on the needles right now, and about half of those are somewhere between hibernating and I-just-need-to-frog-this-but-I-can’t-be-bothered.

In fact, I now carefully plan my multiple projects.  I always have a big knitting project (sometimes it’s for work, sometimes it’s a gift) that I work on at home.  This is usually something awkward or complicated, something that’s just easier to keep by the couch and not worry about dragging all over town.img_3860I have a simple project- something that’s just a lot of stockinette or other mindless knitting.  I use this project for keeping my hands busy when my mind is doing something else- playing a game with friends, watching a tense movie, or something with subtitles.  (My bears are great for this!)img_3934And, I always have something small in the works, a project that I can keep in my purse and work on when I have a few minutes.  Waiting in line to get into a museum? Knit.  Got to work a little early? Knit.  Barber running a bit late? Knit.  In my opinion, there’s nothing better for purse knitting than a pair of socks (one at a time, of course, to leave more room in my purse for chocolate and a sketchbook).img_4679Do you work on multiple projects at the same time, or are you a one-and-done kind of knitter?