Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

27
Feb

Why You Should be a Knitting Needle Snob

Posted under Knitting, Product Reviews, Techniques No Comments

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It’s all just sticks and string, so why hunt down the ‘best’ needles? Why not just use what’s most readily available? Or those vintage needles you came across? People have been knitting for hundreds of years on all sorts of things. Some of my favorite traditional knits are the Andean chullos traditionally knit on hook ended needles made of baling wire. And I’ve personally knit on toothpicks, paperclips, large dowels, and even porcupine spines! If any old stick will work, why pay more for those needles? It’s the yarn that goes into the finished piece, so isn’t the yarn the only thing you should be splurging on?

NOPE. Your needles and pattern are just as important and very much worth spending a few extra bucks to have quality because it will very much show in your finished object, even if those needles aren’t going to be a permanent part of the project, they’re just as important as the yarn. Good needles can make a bad knitter’s work look better and a great knitter’s work look horrible, just by being good or bad needles!

I’m currently working on designing a new hat using a stitch I’ve created. It’s a lovely hat and I’m sure you’ll all want to knit it when it’s released. The first hat was knit from a ball of variegated bulky weight yarn, a long on color yarn that when used with such a stitch count creates beautiful stripes. I do love the stripes, but it makes it a bit harder to appreciate the detail of the new decrease and how well it works in ribbing. As such, I purchased a new ball of yarn, the same exact brand, but in a solid color.

The first multicolor hat was knit on a set of double pointed needles and I had a bit of trouble with stitches popping right off the ends of the needles until I hit the crown decreases. It was just too many stitches for the needles. When I was out in the snow picking up the solid colored ball of yarn, I also grabbed a set of 16″ circulars in the same size. Of course I had to get a different brand as no big box shop carries the brand double point I’d been using.

The second I got home, I cast on for the new solid color hat. I’d like it done and photographed as soon as possible so I can share the pattern with you all. When I got into the knitting a ways, I stopped. Something didn’t look right at all. I compared the in-progress hat to my completed one. YEP. Something’s horribly wrong. The stitches are all correct and the new color has much better stitch definition than the multicolored yarn,  but the new needles ruined it! I was over halfway through the body of the hat section too, so it’s a bit sad to rip out. That’s probably an hour and a half of work.

Here’s a close up of the first hat’s stitches. This bit is plain k1p1 ribbing.

Multicolor hat stitches

It’s beautiful, right? The stitches are even, uniform and straight. Now, here’s the same exact pattern and size hat knit in the same brand of 100% acrylic yarn one day later by the same knitter on different needles. Neither piece has been blocked.

solid hat stitches

 

Can you see the differences? The blue one looks horrible. The stitches are crooked with the left leg dominant. It’s wider and sticks up from the fabric more than the right one. Some stitches are more squat, some are taller, and some are just plain wonky.

The needle change also affected gauge in addition to the shape of individual stitches. The multicolor hat has 9 ribs in 4 inches where as the blue one has 8 ribs in 4 inches.

Gauge of multicolor ribbed hat

Gauge of solid ribbed hat

Changing needle brands means redoing your gauge swatch. Changing brands of knitting needles, particularly if that includes a change of knitting needle material, requires redoing your swatch. While only one rib, two stitches, in four inches doesn’t seem like much, in bulky yarn over enough stitches for an adult sized hat, that equates to adding about two and a half inches to the circumference of the hat. That’s huge!

Ribbed Hat difference with ruler

I know the ruler here only shows one and a quarter inches difference, but you’ve got to multiply that by two since there’s two layers under that ruler. Even if it were only an inch off though, that’d surely be enough for a strong wind to carry your hat away while out walking the dog on a brisk winter day.

What are the things that matter about a pair of needles? Generally the tips and the material. How sharp are the needles? How smooth are they? Do the cables have good flex yet aren’t too soft if they’re circulars? Here’s the needles I used for these hats.

Sharps versus Clover

 

The taper on the tip is nearly identical between these needles which is why I was willing to give the cheap and most importantly immediately available ones a chance. The metal ones have a slightly sharper tip, but almost imperceptibly so. The big failure here is that the bamboo needles are a little sticky. Not sticky like they were covered in toddler hand goo, but more in that the yarn doesn’t slide freely down the needle. You’ve got to stop and readjust the knitting to move more stitches to the top. The stitches don’t slide over the join from the cable and back up over the needle well either.

So, what are these needles of win and doom that are making and breaking such a hat? Surely one cost four or five times what the other did, right? Not at all actually. At regular prices one is $8.99USD and the other is $11.50USD with the $11.50 ones being the better ones. Of course given that the cheap ones are from a big box shop though, you could use a 40% off coupon on them which is exactly what I did as it was the only thing I was buying at that shop. That drops them down to $5.40 which means the better needles still are less than twice the cost of the bad ones! Here they are, the hat-ruining Clover bamboo needles and the wonderful but harder-to-come-by HiyaHiya Sharps made of stainless steel.

Clover and Sharps

So what are your favorite brands? What needles will you avoid at all costs? Do you have any problems with allergies to knitting needle materials? I adore the Addi needles, but I have trouble with the nickel in them. I’ve tried their brass line as well, but the smell drives me bonkers!

Lastly, keep in mind that yarn can vary in thickness even within the same brand and weight, so when changing between colors, you might want to redo your gauge swatch too, even if you’re using the same needles. Multicolor acrylics are notoriously thinner than their solid counterparts. If anyone knows why this is, I’d love to know!

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22
Feb

Fair Projects for 2015

Posted under Charity, Crochet, Knitting, Life, Models, Paper Crafting, Sewing and Quilting, Woodworking No Comments

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It’s getting to be the time of year when you’ve got to start thinking about what projects you’re going to be making for your county and state fairs. Ideally you’d start too as working right up to the deadline is never fun, though it seems to happen more often than I’d like!

So far, most of my projects are rather bland looking, but I promise there are colorful projects coming too!


natural colored projects

Here we have a lace baby sweater which will ultimately be part of a three-piece set, a knit lace doily, and a crochet lace bag all in progress.

I’ve also been working on filling the first of three bobbin lace pillows I’m making for myself. I really enjoy the bobbin lace beginners kit I got for Christmas, but the failings of a beginner ‘pillow’ are more than apparent. I done some research on the best and longest lasting bobbin lace pillows and how they’re made. Then, I presented this information to my physical therapist and we worked out a stand set up to prevent any undue stress on my body. Now I’m building that stand and pillow set up! This is the first pillow in progress.

bobbin lace pillow stuffing

 

Kaia seemed rather displeased with my pillow stuffing as a few bits of straw landed on her in her bed!

dog with straw

The pillows are filled with natural straw cut into 4″ or shorter pieces. Cutting the straw is a painful and dull process, and stuffing the pillows is painful and slow going as a result, but when they’re done, I’m going to have fantastic traditional bobbin lace pillows, a standard 24″ cookie pillow and a more rectangular pillow with a roller in the back for making yardage. The pillow above is the roller that will go into the rectangular pillow. The exterior is a natural canvas material sewn into a tube with drawstrings on either end. Inside, there is a dowel running the length and I have two discs cut from 1/4″ plywood. One disc is already in place at the bottom of the pillow and the other will go in just before cinching up the other drawstring. The dowel sticks out a few inches on either side which is how it will connect to the support pillow.

The last big WIP keeping me busy lately is a paper craft project. Some friends asked me to make a 4′ tall LEGO minifig as a decoration for a Boy Scout party in March. After that party, the gigantic LEGO man will be a county and state fair entry for me before finally being sold to the highest bidder to fund some new LEGO sets for me! The main framework of the minifig is cardboard sheeting from Costco. Some of guy pal’s friends from work taught me how to use anti-fatigue mat foam to create the complex curves and gave me some foam to use for the project. Atop the cardboard and foam frame is paper maché. This will create a surface I can sand to a perfect finish. With the glossy paint a LEGO minifig has, any imperfections in the body will show. That’s why I’m doing the paper maché coating. There will likely be some spackle to help fill any gaps prior to sanding as well. Here’s the first two pieces being coated in paper maché, the head (which is upside down in this photo) and one of the arms. They’re the most curvy pieces and thus require the most paper maché to get perfectly smooth.

LEGO head and arm WIP

 

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07
Jan

Knit Your Stash 2015

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This year I’m trying to use more yarn from stash rather than purchasing yarn as needed or worse, just because it’s on sale and I’m walking past. I generally have pretty good self-control driven by my shoestring budget, but I do have a tendency to think I still have the stamina of a healthy person and can complete all the projects my head can think of. Thus I tend to purchase yarn for specific projects that don’t get completed.

There is also this trap you can fall into when shopping for yarn. Let’s say you really want a pair of hand-knit socks for yourself. You buy yarn. Time passes and you never got to knit them because you’ve been too busy with everything else in life, chores, knitting gifts, dog walking, writhing in pain, whatever. Then you’re at the store and you see some stunning sock yarn and you really want a pair of hand-knit socks for yourself. So you buy the yarn somehow of the belief that purchasing said yarn will magically give you the time and energy to knit yourself that pair of socks.

Alas, you cannot purchase more hours in the day. But clearly I really want some socks and/or shawls in these colors!

3 Sock Yarns

The furthest back yarn is the oldest and the cheapest. I bought it at a little yarn shop way up in the mountains of Colorado during the 2013 Yarn Along the Rockies yarn crawl which I did with my mom. Of 23 yarn shops in 2 days, this was one of the two balls of yarn I purchased. Both were sock yarn incidentally. The middle yarn was purchased on vacation in 2014 in Southern California while visiting with another Chronic Bitch I met on Ravelry. She took me to a cute little yarn shop in the Claremont Village, Colors 91711, and I just loved these colors. None of my local stores carry the brand and I was as intrigued by the blend of fibers as the color. The closest to the front was purchased fall 2014 during a anniversary sale at Table Rock Llamas in Black Forest, Colorado. I knew I had the middle one when I purchased the third, but I’d completely forgotten about the first ball from 2013 until I took it down tonight!

Clearly I really need to take some time to knit myself something with at least one of these gorgeous balls of yarn this year! They’re all in my top 10, and probably top 5, favorite sock yarns from my stash. I keep my sock yarn up high along the ceiling on a long shelf above a sliding glass door. Until I took it all down today to photograph it, I honestly had no idea just how much yarn was crammed up there! I shouldn’t NEED to buy much sock yarn this year!

Here’s the entire sock yarn stash on my bed. This doesn’t include 100% wool or 100% alpaca fingering weight yarns as those are stored elsewhere. This is just yarn that is intended for socks but may well become a shawl instead.

Sock Yarn Stash

And this is after I used up a few balls of yarn from the shelf of fingering weight sock yarn to make Christmas gifts! I used up two balls of orange on dad’s crazy cat. That orange was purchased for only $1 a ball back in 2010. The blue on the upper right was $3 a ball and is much nicer stuff than the orange. It’s destined for shawls. I may be broke, but at least I know how to shop right!

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09
Oct

Fair Isle Socks

Posted under Knitting, Life, Product Reviews, Techniques 1 Comment

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I bought a kit to make these socks from Knit Picks a while back. The pattern is called Apirka. It’s horrible! It gives a rectangular gauge and fair isle should have a square gauge. As such, the majority of the reviews on Ravelry tell the tale of failed socks that came out more like a mens’ 13 than a women’s medium. Lesson learned: always check ravelry reviews before buying a Knit Picks kit. Ravelry doesn’t screen the pattern notes like I strongly suspect Knit Picks does the user reviews!

I knit up a gauge swatch the very day my kit arrived because I was so excited to have a wonderful colorwork project. Stranded colorwork is my favorite type of knitting and I love Knit Picks’ Palette yarn. It’s one of my two favorites for fine colorwork projects. The runner up is Brown Sheep’s Naturespun yarns.

When I realized that they’d be impossible to knit following that pattern, I put them in a long time out. I was so upset that I’d spent good money on this kit!

Eventually, the county and fair season started to roll around. I’d originally planned these socks to be show pieces for the fair and I’d get them back just in time for the weather to start to turn cool in September when I could wear them all the time. I didn’t want to waste more money on another pattern and more yarn. I really love the snowflake motif and earthy colors in this pattern. So I measured and remeasured my gauge swatch and feet. I ended up completely writing a new pattern with new charts to knit a pair of socks. The colorwork happens to look the same, but I have entirely unique heels and toes on my socks to keep them from being too long and pointy. I also changed the calf shaping in addition to adjusting the charts for the different stitch counts. I also modified it to be a toe-up sock rather than a top-down one so it’d be easy to try on as I went along and to be sure I wouldn’t run out of yarn.

It was the most challenging pattern writing I think I’ve ever done. I’d knit a bit, try them on, and write out the next chunk of pattern. I worked them two-at-a-time using two sets of double-pointed needles. Two-at-a-time with magic loop and stranded knitting just makes too many tangles. Plus, double-pointed needles rock. it did look like I was playing pick up sticks most of the time though.

In the end, my new custom pattern worked out beautifully. These are currently my favorite socks. Because I knit them to my gauge swatch and my foot instead of a pattern, they fit me like a glove.

The socks did get done in time for the county fair and went on to the state fair after that. They won first place for knitted accessory item and reserve champion for the knitting department at the county fair and second place for knitted accessory at the state fair. I’m not too upset they didn’t win champion for knitting at county…another one of my projects took that top honor! More on that tomorrow.

08
Oct

The Purple Wheat Shawl

Posted under Holidays and Celebrations, Knitting, Life No Comments

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I’m a bit behind on posting my projects, but hey, why not catch up? I got so carried away getting every single medal during the Ravellenic games that I ran out of time to post photos here too.

One of the project categories was shawls. I’d had my eye on a worsted weight shawl for a while. I’ve always got extra worsted wool around and it’s quick. Exactly what I needed for getting medal after medal. I pulled out a ball of some lavender yarn I’d dyed a year or two prior and set to work. Here’s the result! I love how it looks like purple wheat planted in neat little rows.

I modeled it of course, but it just didn’t work for my coloring. It’s headed off to the gift box to hopefully find a new home where it’ll be loved and worn like it deserves!

30
Apr

In honor of Spring

Posted under Free Patterns, Hexipuffs, Knitting No Comments

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How about some new hexipuff charts! Here’s my newly charted delphinium:

delphiniums

and some stylized flowers as well!

sylized_flowers1

Remember, it’s wonderful feedback and donations on the side bar that keep your free hexipuff charts coming. Thanks all!

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09
Mar

Ravellenic Hat and Mittens Set

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Something about the idea of a handmade, matched hat and mittens set just grabbed me when I was first learning to knit in 2010. I found some absolutely crazy rainbow stretchy yarn and started experimenting. After a dozen or so restarts, I finally designed a simple hat that fit well using it. I bought some solid black yarn and set it aside as well so I’d be able to make some matching mittens. I certainly wasn’t a good enough knitter to make the mittens yet, much less to do them without a pattern.

While tidying up my office space nearly four years later during the Ravellenic Games, I came upon the hat, still with unwoven loose ends, the black ball of yarn, and the remnant ball of rainbow stretchy yarn. I needed to knit some mittens for my Mittens Moguls medal, so I figured, why not? I whipped up these cute mittens in no time.

Then, I decided I didn’t actually like the hat made using just the rainbow yarn. I carefully picked out the cast on edge, unraveled the hat just enough to remove the brim, and then reknit the rolled brim using the remainder of the solid black yarn.

I love it! It’s just perfect and exactly what I envisioned so long ago when I was planning out my first matched hat and mittens set.

Feeling ready to make your own hat and mitten sets? Leisure Arts has a great book out called Snow Day Sets to Knit. It’s an ebook you can download and start knitting from right away. All the patterns call for worsted weight yarns like Red Heart Super Saver or Cascade 220, so they’re perfect for the beginner to make with easy to find yarn. Best of all? All the patterns are written for both working flat on two needles and seaming at the end OR working in the round on four double-pointed needles. Even if you’ve never worked in the round before, you CAN make your first hat and mittens set with this book! Like this featured set!

And as an added bonus for my readers? How about 15% off the purchase of your Leisure Arts order? Just use this code, ART15,  and save 15% off your entire order from Leisure Arts! Hurry as this discount offer ends March 30, 2014!

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27
Feb

A lucky bit of color

Posted under Free Patterns, Knitting, Spinning, Techniques No Comments

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I’ve become hooked on knitting with my own handspun yarns to such an extent that I can usually control myself in a yarn store, even one with great sales. Now a fiber shop? I’m in trouble. I look at a big bump of top and think, “What do I want to make? A bulky weight hat? How about a lace shawl?” I love the freedom to take a fiber I like and literally make anything with it.

Last summer when my grandmother was visiting, we bought some natural colored BFL top which I spun. I wasn’t nearly so good of a spinner back then and have improved immensely since then, but my 3 ply sport weight yarn is at least usable. I knit up a bit into a cute little toy mouse as one of my Ravellenic Games projects. This little guy earned the Bobsled, Toy Tobogganing, Stash Skeleton, and Single-Skein Speed Skate medals.

As I knit him, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. The heathered yarn is mostly just that, a heathered yarn, but thanks to my pre-drafting and the chain plying technique, there are periodic sections of yarn that are solid white and very few that are solid brown. The handspun yarn turned white at exactly the right spot to make a lighter colored face on my mouse! I couldn’t have planned that if I’d tried!

When it came time for a face, I wanted to maintain the handspun feel of the mouse, so I headed over to my loom and cut off a bit of the remaining black handspun warp from the rainbow bag fabric I wove. Hooray for not yet cleaning up my loom!

To stuff the mouse, I used some lower quality wool I had and mixed in a few pinches of dried organic catnip. It felt so, so strange to be mixing in vegetable matter into my wool when I spend so much time trying to get it out normally! Even though I did load this mouse up on catnip and make his tail short for kitty safety, I just love his lucky face so much. I think I might have to keep him and make grandma’s cat another one from the same yarn. This one is just too cute to end up lost under the refrigerator! Looks like he’s headed to the shadow box of handmade mini critters instead of a lifetime of kitty breath, teeth, and claws.

For those wanting to try out the mouse pattern themselves in whatever yarn you’ve got some scraps of, handspun or not, the pattern is available for download free on Ravelry here. It’s made entirely in one piece and works up rather quickly as a result. The ears were an interesting technique and one I’ve not done before, so go check it out! The ears are actually cast on and then drawstring tied up. This requires you to cut your yarn leaving a very long tail for completing the knit and carefully using that very long tail on a tapestry needle. It sounds complex, but when you get to that point in the pattern it feels shockingly natural. Plus, worst case scenario and you get stuck? A large bobble would work just as well!

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25
Feb

So you want to sell your knits?

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One of the things my advanced students ask me about the most is how they can make money with their knitting. So many enjoy knitting countless baby socks or scarves or shawls but then have no idea what to do with them all. There’s only so many scarves I need in my wardrobe and only so many more I can gift to the knit-worthy folks on my list. It’s not too wild of a leap to realize you need to sell some of these handknits to be able to buy more yarn and keep your needles sailing through that soft, smooshy yarn.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to college and parents who would support me in just about any major I wanted to try. I settled on business with an emphasis on marketing before long. Even though I didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do, I knew I’d be able to apply it to anything. I could work in film in a multitude of roles, be a physical therapist running my own clinic, I could continue managing a retail store, or I could start my own business. It seemed the perfect major with the widest variety of potential career options. Even though I didn’t fit in well with the business students who were in short rather closed-minded and not so brilliant compared to the students over in the pre-med classes I also took! Thankfully my science and film classes kept me sane!

Anyhow, I’ve had an eye out for resources to send my student’s direction for that constant question, “How do I turn my hobby into a business?” Some want something part-time, some want to replace a full-time job, some just want an activity to fill their retirement, and a few just want to pay for more yarn and higher quality needles. Whatever your reason, it comes down to the same information you need to get started. Things like where to sell your knit and crochet items, how to get yarn wholesale to increase your profit margin, how to stand out from the competition, and the most frequently asked question, “How do I price my items?”

I’ve found a great ebook offer right now that’ll answer these questions and more to help you go from a hobbyist to a business owner. And for a mere $37 to get all that information, 3 months of email coaching and support, a pricing calculator, a business plan, a color selector to avoid those dreaded multicolored horrors every craft show seems to have, and a great big pile of business building freebies from patterns you can use to all you need to know to set up your website, blog and storefront!

If you’re ready to jump in with both feet, check out this ebook and resources here. At this price you’ll only be giving up buying yourself one or two balls of high end sock yarn. And just think how many more balls of luxurious yarny heaven you’ll be able to buy after you’ve got our knitting business started!

Not quite sure if you’re really ready for the whole deal? Is that $37 too steep for you right now? No worries. I’ve totally got you covered with a free newsletter to help you get started too. The ebook is more complete, but hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere and this might be better for you. Everyone’s got to chose their own path!

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12
Feb

Rainbow Spun Yarns

Posted under Hexipuffs, Knitting, Spinning No Comments

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During Yarn Along the Rockies last September, I picked up a little bag with one ounce of rainbow colored sliver at a shop called, “A Knitted Peace,” in Denver. I loved the name so much I wanted some kind of souvenir and they didn’t have any small balls of yarn for hexipuffs which is usually my go to fiber-y souvenir. I figured I could spin some hippy looking bright yarn with this little bag of wool. Then of course I came home, had a million things to do, and the bag of wool got buried.

I pulled my wool out and decided to have a go at it during the Olympics and as part of the Ravellenic Games as a rainbow project in a show of support for the LGBQT community. Plus, one of my Ravellenics goals is to knit up 10 hexipuffs and I want most to be of my own handspun. Here’s the wool I spun as I was watching the Olympics with my mom. The wheel is my Majacraft Pioneer with some modifications to make it electric.

I split the sliver in half and set one half aside. Then I split the other half into half again vertically so I’d have two roughly identical strips of wool. I spun each one into a single and then plied them together for my light fingering weight hexipuffing yarn. Because I spun both strips of wool in the same order, there is a slight gradient to the yarn in addition to the cane striping. As the weights for each color weren’t identical, the singles changed colors at different points. I had initially tried to tear the strips into piles of color so I could get equal weights, but the color segments were shorter than the staple length.

I absolutely love how this yarn came out and would happily knit socks or a shawl out of something similar. I would NOT buy more of this particular wool though as it was still full of dye and left my fingers blue for a whole day.

With the other half ounce of sliver, I tried to spin a crepe yarn. Unfortuantely, I stink at spinning thicker singles, so my rainbow single is a bit thick and thin. After that, I plied it with black polyester machine embroidery thread mostly just because it was on hand. Then, I plied it once more to another strand of the same embroidery thread. I was way too tired by the time I was doing the second round of plying and it didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped, but I still think the yarn will work well to knit or weave a small coin purse type bag. I may stripe it with a black wool and I’ll definitely end up sewing a liner for the bag from black quilting cotton.

Quite possibly the coolest part of the entire spinning experience has been getting to see the two finished yarns together. The crepe is very bright and loud looking. It’s not my thing, but I can see the appeal. The sock yarn though? The slight muddying of the colors created by plying together contrasting colors has toned down the bright jewel toned rainbow significantly. I generally don’t like rainbow or other bright and wild yarns, but I just love this in it’s slightly subdued color. In the future, I will be much more likely to try to spin my brightly colored handpainted tops in this style so as to tone down the colors and create perfect somewhat muted but still exciting and full of color yarns!

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