Category Archives: Techniques

Two by two, hands of blue, cables make me want to scream

So, I am working on a Bigger on the inside shawl, to coincide with my watching of Doctor Who. It’s actually been going swimmingly, considering my propensity to get bored with what I’m knitting and walk away from a project for years on end.  A lace shawl finished in less than two months?! Inconceivable!

However, I’ve hit the first cables that make up the roofline of the Tardis and the instructions are so freaking unclear. Mainly this is because the designer doesn’t want you to knit these like regular cables, where you slide one stitch off, either to the back or front, and then come back to that stitch later. I can do that no problem. But her instructions call for keeping the stitches all on the same needle, and when I attempt that it comes out totally verkakte. This would all be made clear with a simple video somewhere, but does anyone on the internet have one? No. The best I can find use four stitches instead of two, or call it C2F instead of C2L, but a stitch dictionary I found online made it clear that these aren’t really interchangeable stitch terms, they are slightly different. Also, shouldn’t it be C4F if you are working four stitches, not 2? There is absolutely no standard for this term and so many “teachers” and “designers” online are using the terminology incorrectly I want to scream. Shoot me now. Also, I have a miserable cold so my patience is really low right now.

Ok, upon rereading the stitch dictionary I found online I discovered that the different between C2F and C2L appears to be that one version slips stitches and the other works them on the same needle, as this pattern calls for. Strangely enough, though, the term that calls for the stitches to be worked on one needle is C2F, while this pattern uses that definition for C2L. Do you see what I mean about no freaking standards? Makes me want to tear my hair out.

Thankfully, I did find an online tutorial that was a.) using two stitches for C2F, and was b.) knitting them the way that the designer for this pattern asks that they be knit, even if she’s using the wrong term according to others out there on the web. I’m sharing this video with all of you so that others don’t go through my personal torture. Now I’m going to go take another antihistamine.

UPDATE: Ok, so I tried to start the purl side of C2R and C2L and totally got confused. It was clearly way too late at night and I was too sick because I missed the directions entirely. Though the words didn’t really help at all. However, I found an obscure video about knitting 2-stitch Bavarian twists on the wrong side. At the end of the video, the teacher explains that these “twists can be turned into crosses” (aka C2L or C2R) by turning one knit stitch into a purl stitch. Perfect! Exactly what I was looking for. Though I did stop for a minute and think, “Wait, so does ‘C’ stands for ‘cross’ or ‘cable’? I’m so confused!” I personally followed Method A from the video and after doing it about three times along with the video I could remember it enough to do the two mock cables by myself. Just ignore her when she says to knit the first stitch – it’s always a purl stitch.

So the moral of this story? Sometimes in patterns, less is not more, more is more. After seeing those videos I could do the cables or twists all on one needle, no problem, but not being able to understand what I was doing was very difficult at first. Since these are pretty obscure techniques, in my opinion, more explanations upfront would have made this less of a hair-tearing experience.

Decorative Storage Solutions for Stitch Markers

That’s right, I said it: storage solutions for stitch markers. Man, I like alliteration far too much. Ok, so by now you’ve fallen prey to the siren call of handmade, prettified, dangly, sparkly, adorable stitch markers. You have them in all shapes and sizes, colors and styles, bejeweled and bedazzled, and plain janes that are perfect in a pinch. But there’s a downside to having enough stitch markers to decorate all of your digits – where can you store them all?! Feeling a little overwhelmed yet? That’s what I thought. But don’t worry! I’ve got several solutions that will have you knitting happily away very soon!

I was inspired to write this post after I saw how happy Abigail from KnitLounge was with her Snap ‘n Go Notions Case™ in red. It’s a great little case – everything is very compact and fits neatly inside and there are plenty of fun little compartments for stitch markers. But I don’t know, there’s something sad about having all of your pretty things buried and hidden away all of the time, like when you put all of your pretty baubles in a jewelry box. I certainly need notions cases and jewelry boxes to store my favorite sparklies, but I also like being able to show them off, too.

Snap 'n Go Notions Case

My best friend, knittingale, has long been a member of the decorate-with-your-jewelry club. She has a wall in her closet hung with a lovely silken shawl, and has all of her jewelry pinned to it. When you open the door the first thing you see is this gorgeous bohemian wall that just shines in the light. Recently, she decided to give her stitch markers the same treatment.

Down in her den/craft room she hung all of her stitch markers on a bulletin board to keep track of them – she said she laughed when she’d organized them because she hadn’t realized how many of them had been made by me for her! She loves the way they are both decorative and on display all the same time. Best of all, because this is the family room area of the house, whenever guests visit they admire her board and often can’t help themselves but need to come over and fondle the pretty styles and gleaming bright colors. When she needs a particular set, she grabs them off the wall, pops the set in her notions case and goes.

Hester's Bulletin Board of Stitch Markers

I really like her corkboard. If you want to make this same style but kick yours up a notch, simply take a nice piece of fabric and some ribbon and staple or glue it around the edges for a finished look. Here are a couple of quick tutorials – one for a plush, quilted look and two others with  framed out and vintage styles. You can use a variety of objects to hang your stitch markers – everything from safety pins to stitch holders.

Image courtesy pbteen.com

Corkboards aren’t the end-all, be-all, however. My grandmother, whose Depression-era background makes her the epitome of creative budget craftiness, always hung her brooches on the wall in her bedroom in a vintage wooden picture frame she’d found at some flea market. The wall feature was very stylish and made her jewelry look like a professional art piece. She used a sturdy piece of black velvet and padded the back with polyfill and that worked very well to hold up her pins. But I found something even better to do with a nice vintage picture frame. I was enchanted by blogger Smart and Sassy with Sprinkles‘ mesh picture frame for hanging her earrings on, which is such a simply construction but has this elegant look when it’s all decorated. How clever is that? The link above takes you to her how-to, by the way.

Smart and Sassy with Sprinkles' "Pretties" on Display

If you are trying to do for a style that is less “screen door chic” then I recommend switching out the metal insert on the frame with something softer – perhaps lace? Tanya from the Trey and Lucy blog made this awesome guest post at Ucreate, and I’m in love with her delicate, lacy mesh fabric backing for her teensy sweet earrings. The Vintage Lemon has a lovely DIY tutorial for a similar project. If you are suspicious about just how well something like lace will hold up with all of your stitch markers, you can always go for a funkier variation, like burlap.

Lace Earring Frame by The Vintage Lemon

Maybe your crafty gene doesn’t tend toward using implements sharper than knitting needles. Whatever the case, sometimes simpler is better. Head over to the store and buy yourself a key rack holder. Just make sure that the hooks aren’t huge. Pop that up on your craft room wall with some nails (but please, if you aren’t handy, don’t touch the hammer – let a professional hurt their thumbs) and you are good to go! They’ve even got some pretty cool designs out there in key holder world.

7-Hook Key Rack in Walnut and Satin Nickel by Spectrum

While I’ve listed a few of the big and bold ways to display your stitch markers and other knitting and crocheting notions, there are many many more. Try one of these ideas below for easy ways to show off your favorite stitch markers, no matter what your decorative style is like.

  • For the romantics, take a long piece of ribbon and tack the ends onto the back of a dresser or across your mirror. Pin your stitch markers to it for an instant bejeweled banner.
  • If you are more of a hippie, one of those Tibetan flags would work fabulously strung across your wall with stitch markers tacked to it.
  • For the hipsters in the crowd, recycle a damaged roll of film and stick stitch holders through the tiny holes at the bottom and top that usually keep the film moving in the camera. Slant it across your door and voila.
  • If you have a streamlined, mod style, buy those  clear, round stacking containers that screw together, where the bottom of one container is also the top of the one below it. You’ll be able to see exactly what you want and the tower can sit nicely on a shelf. Try color-coding your stitch markers by container to create a stunning rainbow effect.

But however you choose to store your stitch markers, don’t forget to enjoy using them as well. Happy knitting!

How to measure your knitting needles without a gauge

Seriously, I need a room for my yarn. My knitting projects, yarn stash and assorted implements are starting to take over. Today I officially decided that my knitting needle gauge is thoroughly lost. I have sort of thought that it might be lost for a few months now, but I’ve been in denial and as a substitute have just been measuring one needle against another. However, after tossing my bedroom tonight I’m convinced that it’s missing in action.

The reason this is a problem is because I’ve got a random set of vintage needles that cannot be categorized. They defy logic. They say they are one size, but many moons ago when I needed them for a project I discovered that they didn’t work because they were too fat. But they also don’t quite appear to be the next size up. They may, in fact, be something in between. I thought I could solve this problem by heading over to The Fiber Gypsy, which has a great comparison chart of all of the knitting needle sizes, past and present, but that didn’t work because the old, vintage size is supposedly the same as the new size. Ha.

So here I am, without a handy knitting gauge, and with a pair of needles that don’t match any damn thing. What’s a girl to do? Well, get back to basics, that’s what a girl does.

It occurred to me that every knitting needle has both random numbers assigned to it as a “size” as well as the actual millimeter size. Now, here in the U.S. we don’t pay much attention to millimeters, and even when we do, it might not occur to to us to actually think of those in terms of a physical ruler. But that little mm does have a connection!

Ok, here’s the deal. Knitting needles are measured by their diameter – that’s the width of a circle, or, to put it in more mathy terms, the diameter is the line segment that goes through the center of a circle, like so:

Parts of a Circle

So, to measure your knitting needles all you need is a ruler that has the metric system on one side of it and this handy dandy chart below. Simply measure the diameter of your needle by placing it between the hash marks on your ruler. Count how many lines it falls between. Remember that the metric system works in 10s. So one centimeter is equal to ten millimeters. Remember, this isn’t an exact science, especially once you get down to those pesky quarter millimeters, but it’ll do in a jiffy.

Craft Yarn Council, Yarn Standards Needle Chart

For me, those pesky needles measured 5 millimeters, meaning they are size 8s, or something darn close to it. Without my needle gauge it’ll be hard to tell if that’s correct, but for the moment I’m content with that assessment. Off to go cast on!

Workin’ The Yardage Maths

Math has never been my strong suit, and therefore I know that what I just learned today will fly right out the window of my brain if I don’t write it down somewhere. Hopefully it will help someone else in the future, too.

I received this gorgeous skein of laceweight recently. It was a test base for the yarn company Dream in Color, when they were trying to pick out a good laceweight for their future Baby yarn.

Wouldn’t it be fun to be a yarn buyer? I imagine someone getting a box full of creamy white skeins of yarn and lying them all out on a table and then having everyone walk around and pet different skeins until they pick which one they like. Mmm, maybe they even roll in the yarn. Secretly, of course. When everyone else is off dying test skeins. 😉

Anyways, enough of my fantasies. So this test base I acquired is, as you can imagine, absolutely divine. Dream in Color doesn’t do shoddy yarns, yo. it’s a blend of 75 percent merino wool and 25 percent silk, and it’s a very traditional laceweight, probably coming in at around 2/18 (which is a typical laceweight gauge). There was just one problem with this yarn. I had no clue what the yardage was! There are all of these mysterious numbers on its tag (which I’m sure, dear readers, you will be able to figure out) but they had me totally and completely stumped. As you can see, this was clearly mill language, not end user writing on the tag:

SPH 5169
STH (?) 1596
75 – sw merino wool
25 – silk
2/12.86 wc. (or 2112.86 wrc. it’s a total tossup. really.)

So what was a girl to do? Figure it out the slow way. I started by unwrapping the skein and picking a point on the hank where the yarn seemed untangled and pretty straight. I began counting each strand, in groups of 100, eventually counting out loud so that I didn’t lose track. That total came to 368 strands of yarn. But now I needed to find out how long my actual skein was. I started by trying to simply shake it out and measure it, but that was an effort in futility. Then I remembered that professionally spun skeins are typically done in specific lengths. I grabbed by yardstick and sure enough, the skein was the full length of the yardstick when pulled taut, meaning that this was a 2-yard skein. A quick bit of math (one yard, or 36 inches, doubled equals 72 inches) and then I took 72 inches and times’d it by the 368 strands. That gave me the number 26496 – as in 26,496 inches. Right. So now I have to get that number of inches down to a manageable size. So, how many yards are in 26,496 inches? If I divide that number by 36 inches (aka a yard) I get 736 exactly. Ah ha! Therefore I have 736 yards in this skein!

So essentially the formula is this:

strand count X skein length doubled = total inches / 36 inches = number of yards

For metric measurements, it’s the same system except:

strand count X skein length doubled = total centimeters / 100 centimeters = number of meters

Yey! I figured out how to measure large amounts of yarn! Now, granted, this is just a rough gauge. And if I was trying to figure out the yardage for a skein of yarn with less yardage I’d reskein it around a niddy noddy to get to my yardage. However, for large amounts of yardage, like laceweight, where it’s just sort of inconceivable to spend your day fighting hundreds of yards, this is a great formula to use.

Origami Lotus Bag Tutorial

My favorite project bag is this lotus-shaped drawstring bag I own. It’s square with some design features that reminds me of Japanese origami, the beautiful art of paper folding. I love the way it folds in on itself like those old fortune teller paper games we used to play in school when we were children. The design is both simple yet clever. Pulling the drawstring shuts the bag and creates handles for carrying, all without losing its basic shape. I knew this bag design would be perfect for the vintage fabric my grandmother bought while traveling in India in the ’70s, but when I looked around the Internet in an attempt to make it, I couldn’t find a pattern or tutorial for the design I liked anywhere. I really wanted to have it replicated, so I just decided to write my own pattern! I’m a rudimentary sewer myself, so I assure you this pattern isn’t hard and will gently stretch your abilities. Let’s get sewing!

Origami Lotus Project Bag with yarn being knit into a shawl inside of it

You’ll need two matching squares of fabric that are roughly 18 inches square and some matching ribbon. The final product, when all said and done, is going to have a 12-inch wide flat bottom. Note: If you use squares of fabric that are larger you will make a larger bag and if you use squares that are smaller your bag will, consequently, be smaller.

First, take the two pieces of complementary fabrics and place the designs facing each other so you see the wrong side. If you have thin fabrics I recommend added a layer of interfacing of some sort for added strength. Sew the two fabrics together like you would for a pillowcase, leaving yourself a small hole. Then flip the fabric inside-out. Ta-da! Your fabrics are all sewn together and look like a flat, er…thicker piece of fabric. Don’t worry, we’re getting there.

Second, iron your fabric so that it’s easier to work with. This is where the fabric starts to look like origami, and as the Japanese masters will tell you, trying to fold wrinkled paper (or fabric) never works well. Before you start folding, however, we’re going to sew a nice little edging on the flat piece of pillowcase fabric to make it look finished and to keep the seam from sliding around. This should be about an eighth of an inch from the edge of the fabrics and can be as simple as a backstitch or as complex as crazy ornate miniature heart shapes. Whatever. It’s totally up to you.

Now we’re getting to the folding. At this point, your square of fabrics should be laid flat with the fabric design that you want to be the exterior fabric facing you. Turn the fabric at an angle so it looks like a diamond shape to you (see fig. 1). Then fold each corner diamond inward until it is touching in the center like the Four Corners out West. Can you see the paper fortune teller game right now? I know, so cool!

Origami Lotus Bag, fig. 1

Your folded flaps should now show only the interior fabric. Those flaps are going to become the interior side panels of the bag. Seam up the four sides of the bag halfway (about four inches), making sure that the interior of the bag is still facing you (see fig. 2). This is important, because you are going to flip the bag so that the seams are facing inward when you are done.

Origami Lotus Bag, fig. 2

The reason we only sewed up the sides of the bag halfway is because to create that lotus-like appearance, the unsewn flaps need to be folded over the outside of the bag. This creates the four origami points that look very similar to the points of a flower petal. To help the four points stay put, we’re going to sew them to the exterior of the bag roughly half an inch from the opening (see fig. 3). This creates a hole or gap large enough to draw ribbons or cord through to make the bag a drawstring one.

Origami Lotus Bag, fig. 3

Lastly, cut two long satin ribbons or silken cord. I usually cut them as long as my arm from fingertip to collarbone, but you’ll need to gauge the length yourself. Take one ribbon and thread it through all four half-inch gaps we sewed at the opening of the bag. Tie the ribbon to itself when it reaches the beginning. At the opposite end from where you started threading the first ribbon, take the second ribbon and repeat the process. Pick up the bag, pull the cords, and watch the bag close! Note: The biggest mistake newbie drawstring bag makers find themselves making is at this point. If you pull your cords and the bag doesn’t close but the ribbons just hang taut, you may have knotted the first ribbon to the second. That’s never going to work so unknot and try again.

Enjoy making your own origami lotus bag!

My Beloved Origami Lotus Bag

UPDATE

I have a second origami lotus bag now, sewn out of some vintage fabric my grandmother brought back with her from India in the 1970s. I am absolutely in love with it – I even had some pale brown ribbon that, just by chance, matched the fabric perfectly! My friend Heidi sewed it for me, and helped me pick out the silken orange interior, which, naturally, I ordered from India. Ah, the magic of the Internet. I had this little pocket that my grandmother had sewn ages ago, as well, so I handstitched an edging to slip the matching ribbon through there as well. Hm, my stitches don’t look to bad in this photo.

The Lotus Temple Bag

Do the twist!

Recently someone on Ravelry fell in love with a tightly-twisted Louet base and was desperate to know of some other yarns that were “soft and squishy” like it. Since that’s my favorite type of sock yarn base, I was only too happy to oblige. But I realized after helping her out that perhaps there are a lot of people who can’t understand why some yarns have more bounce and squish-factor than others, or why they like some yarns so much better. So I thought I’d help with some identification tonight.

Here are a few of my favorite tightly twisted yarns:

Blue Moon Fiber Arts Sock that Rock
Cherry Tree Hill Supersock
Claudia Hand Painted Fingering
Colinette Jitterbug
Koigu KPPPM
Pagewood Farm Chugiak
Sanguine Gryphon Eidos

Now, this is not an extensive list. Since most in the industry use similar bases, especially indie dyers, it would grow too long. I just am telling you the top, most distinctive ones, in my opinion. However, here’s a little picture diagram to help you differentiate between the two.

Here is a “regular” plied sock yarn base. Notice that the plies (those are the separate strands twining the yarn together) turn, but just look rather, um, like normal yarn. The strands lay flat against one another. This is a nice, solid yarn base and there isn’t anything wrong with it; it’s just not one of those tight twists that we are looking for.

Perhaps Today Is A Good Day To Dye in The Green Grass Grows All Around

Here is the more exciting “tightly twisted” sock yarn. The plies of the yarn have been slightly overtwisted, making the strands in between each twist appear to plump up. This creates a beaded effect that, once you know to look for it, is very easy to spot. Some call it “pearls” and others simply refer to it as a “twist” but the effect is the same.

Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in Wind in the Willows

The first time I held a twisted sock yarn like this I nearly cried with happiness. Now, there is nothing wrong with non-tightly twisted sock yarns, lest you think I am prejudice. There are some absolutely wonderful sock yarns that have a more normal twist, such as Wollmeise and Patons kroy. So naturally, I have plenty of sock yarns that have a more normal twist to them. But nothing gets between me and my twisted sock yarns. Yum yum!

The Hippo of the Hour

So, my friend’s husband came out with a new knitting pattern on Ravelry that is very cute. It’s called House Hippo, and it only requires 5-6 grams of fingering weight yarn, which is about the same amount as you find in a “sock mini,” which are all the rage for people who like to make sock yarn square blankets.

Naturally, I felt driven to make myself a hippo. A purple hippo. I’m not sure why, it was a total whim, but I wanted to. My hippo is inspired by the wonderful Disney movie Fantasia. There is this wonderful scene that signals the beginning of my favorite portion of the film. I would actually watch that segment over and over again as a child. Ostrichs and hippos dance in ballet shoes, there is a dramatic scene with dancing crocodiles, elephants, and then the music fades and the shy, brightly-colored centaurs come out. The hippos dance to a famous ballet piece called Dance of the Hours. The tune was popularized in modern music by Allen Sherman’s parody, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.” Anyways, the idea of knitting a hippo in a tutu stuck in my head and I knew I had to whip one up.

I have discovered that I’m not the hugest fan of knitting very tiny toys. I think I just don’t have the patience for it. The pattern wasn’t a problem at all, but my attention span sure was. Only the fact that I wanted to get this done as a gift propelled me along. Of course, I couldn’t resist making slight changes to the original pattern, in part because I wanted my hippo snout to be more “hippo-like” and in part because I was lazy and wanted to finish it quickly. My pretty purple hippo was made using Knit Picks Stroll sock yarn in the nice, warm light purple color called Lantana. I think the new sock yarn from Knit Picks is fabulous. It is super-soft and stretchy and just a dream to work with.

First off,  it’s important to know that the cast-on area is where the neck of the hippo is located. I followed the pattern until Row 3, where, instead of knitting a full inch-long tube, I only knit half an inch of St st.  That is the hippo’s head, which is smaller than the nose of the hippo. For the actual snout, I first decreased six times, twice on each needle, by k2tog at the beginning and end of each needle. That left me with 18 stitches. In the very next row, I increased six times, kfb at the beginning and end of each needle, which pushed me back up to the head’s normal size of 24 stitches. But I wanted the snout to be larger than the head, so I repeated that 6-stitch increase in the next row. With 30 stitches total, I knit for 3/4 of an inch. Then I followed the decrease instructions as normal.

Instead of having a separate head and body, I simply picked up six stitches around the open neck hole and start casting on the body from there. After sewing all of the details on my hippo’s head, I stuffed it gently. Then I picked up and knit the six stitches, and then pulled everything really tight to make the neck smaller and more natural -looking. In the next row I moved up to ten stitches using the handy-dandy kfb stitch. Then I starting following the pattern again for the body.

I did the feet differently than the pattern called for, stuffing the insides of the I-cord with a wee bit of that fake stuffing (which I stole from my mother). The original feet look like they are better made, but I find I-cord to be exceedingly boring and annoying, and I really just wanted to get this little hippo finished. The good thing is, her feet now make her look like she is plie-ing, so it fits with my final design idea! I nabbed a bit of tulle and stitched it around her waist, so she really is a hippo in a tutu!