Posts Tagged ‘design’

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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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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25
Feb

Ravellenic Games are OVER

Posted under Weaving No Comments

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Whew. It’s been an insane couple of weeks for me with the Ravellenic Games in full swing. I challenged myself to get all 34 unique medals this year and I just barely made it! I was so busy spinning, knitting, crocheting, and weaving though that I’m quite a bit behind on posting. This means one thing for my readers: get ready for the deluge of awesome projects.

I’m going to kick off with my absolute favorite project of the games this year, my mini notions bag! You got a bit of a preview in the Rainbow Yarns post earlier. I posted those pictures of the yarn with the new electric spinning wheel right before the insanity started and I was challenged by a friend to get all 34 medals. So what did I do with this yarn? Well, not quite yet!

I didn’t want to use just rainbow yarn for a project because I’m just not very into the bright and crazy colors. My best friend teases me relentlessly about my ever so boring love of earth tones. So I went up to my favorite local fiber and yarn shop, Table Rock Llamas, and picked up some jet black merino wool. I quickly spun this into a 2 ply fingering weight yarn. It spun up fast on the new espinner and when a friend was helping me wind it into a center pull ball, we both marveled at how even it was as it flew through the tensioning fingers at high speed. I don’t think I’ve ever spun so much yardage so evenly, much less so quickly. There was approximately 125 yards from 0.8oz of fiber and I used every last drop.

For my project I opted to use the new black yarn with the rainbow crepe yarn. I set aside the rainbow light fingering yarn from the previous post for hexipuffing of course. How could I not? Here’s that crepe yarn again made from rainbow wool and two plies of polyester machine embroidery thread.

My best friend, K, was visiting the night I did this and so she helped provide extra hands to warp my four harness table loom with the black handspun yarn. We learned a very important lesson that night. Never, ever warp a loom with energetic yarn. You’ll be wrestling with it for hours trying to get the kinks out and tension applied evenly! Still, eventually we succeeded and I began weaving a plain tabby cloth immediately working with a shuttle of the rainbow crepe. I made this particular shuttle from lacewood last year for a specific project, hence the absurd length. But it was the only one I could find and I wanted to weave right that second. If I’d had patience, I’d have soaked and possibly weighted the black warp too! Or, you know, put on something other than jammies for the picture.

Before long I had a beautiful finished fabric but more space to go on the loom before running out of warp. Since it was handspun warp I felt extra horrible about wasting it and spent a while glancing frantically about my room trying to find something I could weave across my black warp to make a useable finished fabric.

I settled on a mini skein of solid black aran weight handspun and a second mini skein of DK weight black and gold thread with sequined yarn, both spun at Distaff Day this past January. I quickly worked them up for a bit in a striped pattern until I lost my patience and just had to cut my rainbow fabric off the loom.

From here it went right into the bathroom sink to be hand felted before being stretched out to dry. Given our difficulties warping the highly energetic black, it was a rather surprisingly flat and even fabric that wasn’t trying to curl up on itself. I had expected it to skew like the bias that forms in knits with energetic yarn worked flat.

I spent a day agonizing over how to cut up my fabric. I finally settled on three rectangles to make three little bags, a black and gold coin purse, a small rainbow notions bag, and a large project or double-pointed needle storage pouch. All three would have cotton liners and zipper closures.

Since I was trying for all the medals and the multiple bags would have all earned just more duplicates of the same medals, I didn’t finish them all. Each woven fabric has been sewn into the outer bag and the lining fabric for each liner cut. I did completely finish the bitty rainbow notions bag though and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.

At about three-and-a-half inches square, it’s just the right size for a tape measure, stitch markers, a package of yarn needles, and a bit of lifeline thread – you know, just the knitting bag basics! It’s my first ever handwoven from my own handspun. I just love running my hands over the lightly felted fabric.

This was also my first ever bag with a zipper and I’m thrilled at how nicely that came out. I didn’t have any directions or idea what I was doing. I just made it up as I went along and it was so successful I’ll definitely line bags that way in the future too!

Keep an eye out for a bunch more posts loaded up with wonderful finished objects from my 2014 rainbow of Ravellenic projects!

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14
Feb

Happy Valentines’ Day in Hexipuffs!

Posted under Hexipuffs, Holidays and Celebrations, Knitting, Life No Comments

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I don’t have much of anything planned today beyond cleaning, cooking, and puffing since I’m single. I did however make one BIG special valentine to share with everyone I love!

Happy Valentines Day!

Also, one important thing I learned today that you’ll probably find helpful is that unseamed hexipuffs photograph best on a black matte background like polar fleece fabric. It really helps the puffs pop where as designs like this heart were impossible to see when the puffs were photographed on a white sheet. I’ve also decided I rather like the heart layout, not for my scrap quilt beekeeper’s, but maybe for a baby beekeeper’s quilt of unpuffs knit from a DK or worsted weight soft acrylic with a heart of pinks and reds surrounded by a sea of undulating green with a border in shades of purple!

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05
Feb

Duplicate Stitch Tricks and More Free Charts

Posted under Free Patterns, Hexipuffs, Knitting, Techniques, Tutorials No Comments

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I’ve been a but quiet for a while due to increased pain levels and being busy as a bee designing new hexipuff charts for the Beekeeper’s Quilt!

The new charts are primarily a series of buildings and more flags. The reason I’m making so many flag designs is that I’m trying to collect mini skeins from as many countries as I can and knit them into puffs for my quilt! I will be knitting each flag as I receive yarn from that country. If you’d like to send one in from your country, shoot me a message on Ravelry! I’m Swamps42 over there. So far I’m set for yarn from the United States and Canada only! I am expecting yarn from Cuba and the UK any day now though!

Of the new charts, which are all posted for free via the hexipuff chart tab at the top of this page, the castle is the one that tempted me most to get out a needle and do some duplicate stitching. Duplicate stitched puffs take much longer than a plain puff, for me about an hour and a half longer. I do think it’s worth it though, don’t you?

The chart

 

The resulting puff

Whenever I post picture of my duplicate stitched puffs on Ravelry, my inbox is filled with PMs from people asking how I get my duplicate stitched puffs to look just right. Common problems with duplicate stitching include the background color showing through, the puff looking bunched up, the duplicate stitching unraveling over time, and the design not being centered on the finished puff. I’m pretty good about responding with my tricks, but doesn’t it seem better to have a photo tutorial to send folks to with all the tricks I’ve learned over time through my own successes and failures?

The Duplicate Stitch Tutorial of Win

***I’m assuming you know the basics of how to duplicate stitch by following the Vs of existing stitches. If you have no idea what duplicate stitching is or how to do it, please visit a beginners tutorial and then come back here for all the tricks that take your basic duplicate stitching and make it look professional!

Of course, first you need to pick a chart and knit your puff with the appropriate background color(s). Here I’ve chosen the castle chart. The background in this chart is two different colors. I cast on with green yarn and switched to blue just before starting the increase row to move up to 16 stitches. I then finished out the hexipuff as per my usual modifications. I use Judy’s magic cast on and eliminate the last knit even at 10 stitches row as the three needle bind off counts as this row if you want a puff that isn’t top heavy. Don’t bind off the puff yet. Just stop knitting after the decrease down to 10 stitches row. Split the stitches on the front of your puff onto two needles and leave all the back stitches on one needle. This will make it easier to get in and out of the puff to weave in ends.

Next, thread your needle with your first color working form the top of the puff down. I’m doing grey. Turn the puff inside out and weave in your ends. The appropriate way to weave in ends requires you to split the ply (or fibers in a single ply) of the existing stitches, purls on the inside of a puff. I usually go one direction horizontally, back, and then up or down one or two stitches just to be sure my yarn is really solid and will hold up to repeated washings. If you’re using something really slippery, like a silk, you may want to run it through a few more times just to be sure. By splitting the ply, you not only assure yourself that your tail won’t be visible from the outside of the puff, but it also provides a more secure grab on your yarn tail.

Now, turn your puff right side out and decide on which stitch to begin with. I find the best results come from duplicate stitching a design from the top down. You will get more complete coverage with your top yarn, but we’ll get there. For now, pick your first stitch at the top of the design. If you are knitting your puffs with the same modifications that I am, your loops on the needles are the bottom row of 10 stitches in the chart. So the third stitch down from the needles on the first stitch on the right hand side of the right hand needle is the furthest top right stitch of the castle!

One of the most important tricks I’ve learned in duplicate stitching is the importance of NOT making twisted stitches. This means that to get a smooth stockinette finish on your duplicate stitching, you need to take directions into account. If you’re moving to a stitch left of the current stitch, you need to go through the current stitch from the right to the left, moving toward the next leftward stitch. Alternatively, if you’re working right to left on a row, you need to move right to left when you insert the needle under the V of the stitch above. Here you can see me working from left to right and so I’m inserting the needle left to right. Remember to work your duplicate stitching somewhat loosely! You want it to be soft and stretchable just like the original knitting!

The other big trick you’ll notice here is that since I’m on the second duplicate stitch of the row, I can pick up only the grey V of the stitch above and not the underlying original blue stitch. This helps prevent any blue yarn from showing through the crook of the V in the duplicate stitch!

It can also be very helpful to grab a bit of fiber or even a full ply of yarn from the neighboring stitch as you’re continuing along a row. This helps prevent your background from showing through in vertical stripes, an otherwise common problem. Here I’m working from right to left and have grabbed a bit of the grey yarn from the previous stitch to the right to help the current stitch and the one to the right stay snugged up against one another.

Continue working top down and side to side in this manner until your first color of duplicate stitching is complete.

Carefully turn your puff inside out again and weave in the tail of your duplicate stitching yarn just as you did when you were starting out. Now, you have loops of both your background yarn and your working yarn, grey. You can split the ply and weave your tail into any of these. If you weave into grey purls, your tail will not show up between stitches on the front of the puff. Of course a mixture or even all background yarn is fine too, just so long as your tail is securely woven in through the ply or fibers of the existing yarn.

Cut the excess grey yarn, thread your needle with black yarn, and weave in the end just like you did to begin working with the grey yarn at the beginning. Turn the puff right side out, and insert your needle through the first stitch. Remember to work from the top of the puff down. It is also important when filling areas like windows here to catch a bit of the wall yarn on either side of the window to make sure the stitches stay snugged up against one another and no blue yarn shows through. Here I’ve grabbed a bit of the right side’s grey wall fiber, the two V legs of the black duplicate stitch above, and a bit of the left side’s grey wall fiber. This stitch is sure to stay snugged into place and banish the blue to the background where it belongs!

Again work from the top down filling all the black stitches. If you need to strand across an area on the back, try to catch a bit of the black yarn underneath the purls of grey duplicate stitches on the back to help secure it. Remember to keep a loose tension as you’re duplicate stitching. If you don’t allow your duplicate stitching yarn to be fluffy, you won’t get good coverage. This is why embroidery floss is not good for covering large areas in duplicate stitch. My preferred fiber for duplicate stitching is the same fingering weight yarn I’ve used to knit the puff. I used all Knit Picks Palette colors to do the castle.

When you’re done with your final color of duplicate stitching, weave in it’s end on the inside as before and turn the puff right side out. I like to stretch my puff in each direction at this point to help the stitches settle into place and make sure there aren’t any gaps or mistakes. The reason a bit of background yarn shows through at the bottom of the door is because there is no stitch below it. Your bottom stitches will look like this unless you also duplicate the purl inside the V. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it. You can barely see the background with the zoom and flash on a camera. In person you’d really, really have to be looking.

Stuff your puff and bind off. Weave in your final tails and enjoy your perfect picture puff!

Remember guys, if you knit a puff with my charts I’d love to see it and feature your hexipuff on my blog! Drop me a line in the comments here or to swamps42 on Ravelry!

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22
Jan

January 22, 2012 Hexipuff Update and a Free Inkle Pattern!

Posted under Free Patterns, Hexipuffs, Inkle Weaving, Knitting, Weaving No Comments

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I’ve been avoiding my hexipuffs lately after puffing myself out with 3-9 per day for the first couple weeks of the year. Today, I did manage to finish the second yellow tonal puff though so I can start winding the remaining yellow tonal into minis for sale and trade! For today’s puff photo, I decided to let the two yellow tonal puffs try to help my US flag puff use my inkle loom.

This new loom is a work in progress. Guy pal and I built it on Saturday, and I warped it and started weaving that night while babysitting for some wonderful sleeping kids. The loom needs some changes to be really sturdy and functional. Right now, it has some EZ-grip clamps holding it together! The body is made entirely of maple with half lap joints. The pegs are the problem. They don’t stay in well enough and the cheap hardwood dowels from Home Depot just aren’t very good. I went through the whole bin at the store to get the least warped ones, but they still had a bit of curl and they’re splitty. I standed them by hand with 400 grit Abranet, but I’m still not happy. The current plants to upgrade the loom include purchasing some walnut dowels at Woodcraft, and instead of having the dowels screw into one side, we will glue them through the side supports. Thank goodness guy pal has a set of Forstner bits to do just that. My drill bit set only goes up to a half inch. Our goal is to have one side of the inkle loom be removable for ease of warping, but if it has to have both sides be permanently attached for peg strength, so be it. I just want to weave!

This is my first ever inkle project. I’m making some US flag bookmarks. I read up on different designs and the basics of inkle weaving on various websites and then came up with this design myself based on a dog collar I saw.

It’s actually a very, very easy design to weave. I’m doing it here in Red Heart Super Saver yarn which I DO NOT recommend using for inkle weaving. I had it on hand, and it was easy to grab on my way to my babysitting gig. Now I know better! Anyhow, the beauty of the pattern here is that it is all done in the warp. You don’t have to do any picking at all! Warping of course takes a while, but it does with any design with color changes. If you’ve got the patience for color changes in your warping, it makes a fantastic beginners pattern because the back and forth weaving is easy while the finished project looks advanced.

Here’s the warping pattern I came up with for you to try out if you’d like. Just don’t use Red Heart Super Saver. Cotton works much better because it glides easier when you’re making your sheds. The finished project will also have better definition of the design because the cotton isn’t so fuzzy as the cheap acrylic I’ve used here.

Bold strands should have a heddle. You will need a total of 19 heddles in this project. Use gold yarn on your shuttle as the weft shows along the edges of the project and the edges are gold. This way, it all blends together perfectly making your weft invisible!

G = Gold

R = Red

W = White

B = Blue

G G R R W W R R W W R R W W R R B B W B B W B B W B B W B B W B B W B B G G

Good luck with your patriotic weaving!

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