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On and Off the Needles for September

On and Off the Needles for September

This last month’s report will be a little slim as I’ve been working on some secret projects to be revealed in 2019.  However, I do have one new pattern release!  The Simple Colorwork Mitts are now available on my Ravelry store.  These mitts are a great way to use leftover worsted weight yarn and they come in three sizes with three patterns for the palm.  If you are a reader of my blog, you can get the pattern for 50% off using the code BLOGREADER at checkout!  Enjoy!

I’ve also been spending quite a bit of time working at my sock machine this month.  I’ve made several pairs of socks for my daughter (she picked the yarn from my stash and also worked on some preemie hats and a pattern for a wine bottle cozy.  I’m starting to make socks to give away or sell for the holiday season.  I also made a whole string of fingerless mitts that now need to be finished and have the thumbs hand knit.

I put in a few rows on my Star Wars Scarf, my Japanese Poncho/Cardigan, and my Spanish Bay is just a few woven ends in from being done!

On and Off the Needles in August

On and Off the Needles in August

It feels like I had a slow knitting month but I finished one major project.  My On a Whim CustomFit pullover is finished!  I modified the pattern slightly to have longer ribbing at the cuffs and hem.  It’s way to warm for this sweater right now, but I look forward to wearing it this winter.

I started two new sweaters.  Spanish Bay is another CustomFit sweater.  I worked the ribbing by hand and did the stockinette portions on my LK-150 flatbed knitting machine.  The pieces are assembled and I’m adding the lace border now.  I’m doing a fun trick for the lace.  The first three odd rows are yo, k2tog and the next three odd rows are ssk, yo.  It’s over 200 stitches so that over 100 ssks to work.  On the even (wrong side row) before the first yo, ssk row, I wrapped my yarn for the purls in the opposite direction.  That changed my stitch mount so that all the stitches are “pre-slipped” on the right side so I just have to work them through the back loops.  It was a bit of a trick to purl the “wrong” way for my usual knitting style, but it’s making things go much quicker on the right side rows.

My second sweater is a poncho/cardigan combo from Japanese Knitting (Pattern F).  The yarn I’m using for this is Knit Picks Swish DK, which I think should be called “Squish” because it is sooo soft and squishy.  I’m just getting started on this and it is my new endless stockinette pattern for social knitting.

I played a bit with working a lace pattern on my CSM and made a little cozy for a mason jar.  I have to play with this a bit more and see if this would be a good use for leftover yarn from making socks.

In knitting I can’t show yet, I spent quite a bit of time working on swatches and samples for third party submissions.  More info on that if/when they are accepted!

My Fidget Socks continue to move along.  I’m ready for the heel in the second sock.  No progress on the Star Wars Double Knit Scarf, but I will get back to it soon!  I knit a few rounds on my Rose City Rollers while at a doctor’s appointment.

I have a new pattern out called the Seetang Cowl.  I didn’t knit on it this month, but my lovely test knitters made all kinds of beautiful variations you can check out!

New Pattern Release: Seetang Cowl

New Pattern Release: Seetang Cowl

I’m so excited to announce a new pattern release!  The Seetang Cowl is a cozy and richly-textured cowl that uses a semi-solid and variegated yarn to create undulating textured stripes in a slipped stitch pattern.  Only one yarn is used per round in this rhythmic, easy-to-knit pattern and both written and charted instructions are provided.

I loved seeing all the variations my test knitters created!  They will be adding their projects over the next few days so you can see everything from subtle to bold color variations for this pattern!  Most test knitters completed this project in just a couple of days, so you know it will make a great last minute gift.

If you are a blog reader, please use the code SUMMER in Ravelry to receive 20% off this pattern through the end of July 2018.

I look forward to seeing your finished cowls!

On the Needles in July

On the Needles in July

In June I got a new set of needles– 150 to be exact– in the form of an LK-150 mid gauge knitting machine.  About 17 years ago I acquired a 1960’s era standard gauge Brother knitting machine in a silent auction where I was the only bidder.  I played around with it for a bit and made the parts to a drop shoulder baby sweater that was only recently completed.  I’ve become a big fan of Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit program and recently stumbled across a post from someone doing a lot of the work on a knitting machine and finishing by hand.  It seemed like a brilliant way to work through a lot of stockinette in a short amount of time.  Just by chance, someone was selling an LK-150 in my area on Craigslist.  It’s a much newer machine that can work with yarns from fingering to worsted.  (The Brother is best for yarns lace to fingering.)  I completed two projects on it in June:

 

First, I finished my Featherweight Cardigan.  Although it’s laceweight yarn, it was started on US 6 needles, so it worked best with the LK-150.  It took me about five days to complete with the help of the knitting machine.  I made and washed a swatch to match my hand knit gauge, hung and finished the back I’d been working on, knit the ribbing for the fronts and sleeves by hand, then hung and knit them up.  The final two days of the five were spent knitting the wide ribbed collar and buttonbands.  I am very pleased with the results and am now able to wear this lightweight sweater as a morning layer.

Second, I played with a variety of methods for working Fair Isle on the LK-150 using this resource.  I used the Christmas Stocking pattern from Faye Kennington and re-engineered it a bit to be made top down on the knitting machine with a hand knit heel and toe.  That little stocking took me five days as well as I had to frog a lot of mistakes (the birds got knit upside down the first time, for instance).  But by the end, I felt pretty confident I could work Fair Isle on the machine.

My hand knitting has been making a lot of progress despite my distraction with my new toy!

My yarn arrived and I finished my new shawl design.  My hat is off to Anzula for their quality control on their colorways.  I was prepared to blend in the new skein as it would be from a different dye lot, but the match was so good, I didn’t actually need to do that.  Here’s a sneak peek.  It will be up for test knitting soon in my Ravelry GroupSign up to be a test knitter if you’d like to hear about this opportunity.

I also made a lot of progress on my On a Whim pullover.  I’ll continue to work it by hand.  I’ve finished the body of the sweater and am working the sleeve cap decreases on the first sleeve.  One sleeve to go and it will be ready to sew together!

My first Fidget sock is complete and the toe is started on the second sock.

I also started a new knit along project with my friend in Kansas.  We are making the Star Wars Double Knit Scarf.  This one requires a lot of concentration.  I think it will be on the needles for a while.

Finally, I spent a lot of time swatching for some possible third party submissions.  I love swatching, to tell the truth.  My swatches are fairly large but much smaller than a garment and I love having that canvas to explore ideas.

Teaching Tips: Building in Practice

Teaching Tips: Building in Practice

Some of my Teaching Packs build in practice before students begin the actual project.  For instance, in the Learn to Knit Lace pack, the teacher notes instruct the teacher to have students cast on a swatch and practice the yarn over and the different types of decreases in a swatch before they cast on the actual headband pattern.

Why build in practice on a swatch first?  Well, in this case, making left-leaning and double decreases requires some stitch manipulation that will be new to many students.  By starting with a swatch, students only have to worry about one thing– making the stitch properly.  They don’t have to worry about following the chart or written directions.  They don’t have to worry about getting the right tension.  They only have to worry about manipulating the stitches correctly.

When possible, teachers should look for ways to build in practice on new skills in isolation before applying them to a more complicated project.  When it’s not possible, remind students that it’s just knitting, and if something doesn’t work, we can always pull out the yarn and start again.

Friendship Knitting

Friendship Knitting

This month, my friend Jahna and I got to meet up in San Francisco.  We were wearing the sweaters we made as a friendship knit along.  This was the third project that we’ve done together as a knit along.

The first was the BFF Cowl, which is a completely great friendship project.  You each make two short scarves in different yarn and then you exchange one of them so that you have one that you knit in one color and one your friend knit in another color.  Then you graft the ends together so that they form two interconnected rings.

The second project was a Cheveron Blanket.  Being as they are big and bulky, we’ve never gotten our blankets together.

The sweaters are our most recent project.  For this one, we both picked a sweater from CustomFit, and we picked out yarn from the same indie dyer, but Jahna did hers in a worsted weight yarn and with a longer length and I knit mine in sport weight and a shorter length.  Jahna did some cool color blending on hers as well.

We haven’t decided on our next project, but we are considering a double knit Star Wars scarf!

Looking for some ideas for friendship knitting projects?  One book that we have looked at is Knit the Sky by Lea Redmond.  This book is choke full of interesting possible projects, with a few that are specific to friendship knitting.

 

Crochet Water Balloons for Summer

Crochet Water Balloons for Summer

A few weeks ago a friend sent me a link to an article about crocheted water balloons.  The idea was to make a balloon shape out of Bernet Blanket yarn and then soak them in a bucket to throw instead of a traditional water balloon.  The yarn is very absorbent so they soak up a lot of water and make a pretty satisfying splat!

Advantages: reusable, machine washable, don’t leave bits of plastic all over your yarn for birds and wild animals to get, easy to “fill,” fast to make.

Disadvantages: don’t make quite the same explosive splash as a traditional water balloon and they are made of synthetic yarn so you haven’t gotten totally away from the plastic problem.

All the patterns I found online worked in rounds with a chain up instead of working in a spiral, and of course I felt many weren’t quite round enough or had enough of a balloon looking top.  Many patterns called for a magic loop start, which I think is hard in this yarn because it is so grippy.  So in the end, I designed my own pattern!

If you are local to Santa Cruz, CA, I’ll be teaching a class on how to make these at Knit Sew Make.    If not, or if you are already comfortable with crochet, here’s the pattern so you can make your own!

Materials Needed:

  • Size 9mm crochet hook (US size M)
  • Bernet Blanket Yarn (or other super bulky chenille style yarn)
  • Removable Stitch Marker

Note: Balloons are worked in a continuous spiral.  To keep track of where the rounds begin, place a removable stitch marker in the first stitch of the round and move it up after each round is completed.

Small Balloon

Round 1: Ch 2, 6 sc in second ch from the hook, do not join. (6 sts)

Round 2:  2 sc in each st around (12 sts)

Rounds 3-4: Sc 12.

Round 5: [Sc 4, sc 2 tog) twice. (10 sts)

Round 6: [Sc 3, sc 2 tog] twice. (8 sts)

Round 7: Sc 2 tog four times. (4 sts)

Round 8: Sc 4.

Round 9: [Sc 1, 2 sc in next st] twice, join to beginning of round with slip stitch. (6 sc).

Fasten off.  Use a piece of yarn to tie the neck of the balloon and push all ends to the inside of the balloon.

 

Large Balloon

Round 1: Ch 2, 8 sc in second ch from the hook, do not join. (8 sts)

Round 2: [Sc 1, 2 sc in next sc] four times. (12 sts)

Round 3: [Sc 2, 2 sc in the next sc] four times. (16 sts)

Round 4-7: Sc 16.

Round 8: Sc 2 tog eight times.  (8 sts)

Round 9: Sc 8.

Round 10: Sc 2 tog four times.  (4 sts)

Round 11: Sc 4.

Round 12: 2 sc in each stitch around, join to beginning of round with slip stitch. (8 sts)

Fasten off.  Use a piece of yarn to tie the neck of the balloon and push all ends to the inside of the balloon.

On the Needles in May

On the Needles in May

April was a month of finishing!  I completed my Wynne Shawl and the creature from Edward’s Imaginarium for my daughter.  The hair on the creature took as long as doing the arms and legs combined!  I also made two pairs of socks on my circular sock machine for a school raffle.

I continue to slowly move along on my Featherweight Cardigan.  I find that I don’t pick this up as often as I should because I’m working it on the knitting belt and the extra step of putting on the knitting belt somehow keeps it from being easy to pick up.  I’ve considered putting it on regular needles, but I’m afraid my gauge will change and also that I’ll never get good at the knitting belt technique if I bail now!  I probably need to pick a time of day to work on it and stick to a schedule.

Yarn for On a Whim sweater

I’ve also got a new sweater swatched and ready to go.  I’ll be making the On a Whim Custom Fit sweater by Amy Herzog in a fingering weight yarn I got from Expression Fiber Arts.  As you can see from the wound yarn, I’ll need to alternate skeins throughout!

I’m making steady progress on my new shawl design.  This will be more of a shawlette, but since it’s also meant to be a pattern to learn to knit lace, I think that’s going to be fine!  I’m really loving the yarn I’m working with and can’t wait to see the final results!

A friend pointed me to the idea of crocheted water balloons, so I’ve also been playing with some super bulky yarn and spinning up my own pattern for these great toys.  They don’t fill with water, but the Bernet Blanket yarn becomes really saturated so they make a very satisfying splat when they hit something (or someone).  And no scraps of balloon to hurt the animals.  And endlessly reusable!  Look for my version of the pattern in an upcoming blog post!

Prototypes for my crocheted water balloon pattern.

 

On the Needles in April

On the Needles in April

I did a lot of starting and finishing of smaller projects in March.  I made a total of five crochet mandalas, several of which are going to be on display at Knit Sew Make.  I also crocheted the Artfully Simple Angled Scarf with some yarn I purchased from Leading Men Fiber Arts.  And I finally finished my Vanilla is the New Black socks, which I am pretty pleased with!  I’ve also been working on making Knitted Knockers.  I go to a knitting retreat every April and Knitted Knockers is the chosen charity by the organizers.

I have enough yarn left over from my socks to make a pair of shortie socks, so I started the Rose City Rollers socks as a purse project.  I also needed a new pair of socks to go on my bedside table, so I’ve got a pair of Fidget Socks started as well.  This is a toe up pair, and I have to say, I find starting toe up socks more fiddly than fidgity!  I always feel I have to get eight or ten rounds in before it starts to feel comfortable!

I picked up a project that has been languishing, a creature from Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium.  I started this last year for my daughter, but was finding that it was hurting my hands to work at such a tight gauge.  I switched from my beloved, owned-since-high-school Boye hook to a padded ergonomic one from Knit Picks and things are moving right along.

I continue to make progress on my Wynne shawl and will be ready to bind off after just a dozen or so almost 500 stitch rows!  I’m using a gradient for the blue and I really want to reach the next darker color to edge the shawl before I bind off so I’m adding a few extra rows to the end.

I’m also in the planning and swatching stages for a new shawl design.  This pattern will be in fingering weight with a pattern that will gradually move from simple eyelets into more complicated lacework.  I’m envisioning it as a KAL shawl for new lace knitters or a teaching tool for classes.

Speaking of teaching tools, one thing that came off the virtual needles in the last month was a set of teaching packs.  These are sets of materials designed for busy shop owners and knitting teachers.  They have everything you need to teach a class– a reproducible pattern, class handouts, and teacher notes– all you need to do is make the sample and teach!

 

Crochet Mandalas

Crochet Mandalas

This week I took a break from some of my knitting projects to make a series of crochet mandalas from the book Modern Crochet Mandalas, published by Interweave Press.  These colorful creations use a variety of crochet stitches to create layered designs.  Since each round uses a repeat of stitches to create the pattern for that round, they are very meditative and restful to create.  It’s also been fun creating color combinations for each design.  I purchased eight skeins of coordinating mercerized cotton yarn to use with the book and have been surprised at how different each one appears!

The book itself is not for the beginning crocheter.  Other than the 50+ patterns, there is very little additional material.  Even the stitch glossary in the back is incomplete compared to the stitches that are actually used in the mandalas, so you are better off if you have crochet experience before using this book.  Each pattern is beautifully laid out with a large photo, complete written instructions, and a large charted version of the pattern.  I absolutely love crochet charts for ease in understanding what the written instructions will create and these are easy to read and well done.  My only complaint about the book is that each and every pattern I’ve made has contained at least one error so far.  The error is always in either the written instructions or in the chart, never in both, so if you carefully examine the photos, you can tell which direction was meant by the creator.

For a book aimed at those who are more beginners in crochet, I’d recommend Mandalas to Crochet: 30 Great Patterns by Haafner Linssen.  I purchased this at the same time and it has extensive material on how to form all the stitches needed for the designs in the book as well as some specific tricks and techniques for working in the round and getting a seamless effect.  It gives a lot of suggestions for working with color and creating mandalas with different weights of yarns.  The patterns are overall a little more simple to create than the book I’ve been working from, but still quite beautiful.

If crochet is part of your fiber arts skill set, I recommend giving crochet mandalas a try!