Scrappy Crescent Shawl


I started a scrappy crescent shawl back in February after watching WatchBarbaraKnit’s (Barbara Benson Designs) How to Knit an Easy Crescent Shawl on YouTube. It is very easy garter stitch; you increase four stitches on one row and increase two stitches on the back row and repeat those two rows until it’s deep enough or long enough or til you run out of yarn. I never run out of yarn - really, it’s a foreign thing to me - but mostly I think I will knit til it just about bores me to death and I’ll bind off. It will make a good shawl to keep warm in the mornings. 

Anyway, Scrappy started off being my knit-before-bed knitting, which moved to my-chair-knitting-to-watch-TV, and then I got caught up in my Christmas knitting and poor little Scrappy forlornly sat under my end table waiting to die, or until I picked it up again. The fact that Scrappy was fairly ugly didn’t help it much. I was using odds and ends of fingering weight scrap yarn, and I found that my socks and shawls had been lacking in nice colors. 


Now that my Christmas knitting is winding up, I’ve picked up Scrappy again and had to decide, do I rip him out? Or keep going? I shrugged. Scrappy is pretty ugly, but I am only wearing it to keep warm. It’s kind of like a working shawl. The stripes of many colors will be okay I guess. I decided to just increase two stitches in every row because I couldn’t keep track of whether I was on a 2-stitch row or a 4-stitch row. Well, I could keep track of it, but I didn’t really want to, being lazy and all, so I just switched at some point. 


I hope you are a better parent to your scrappy project than I am. I bet you don’t call it ugly or neglect the proper knitting technique or say, “Well, it will keep me warm anyway.” I hope your scrappy project will benefit from proper planning of colors and care of proper knitting and love!

Hello March

I used to hate March, hate it with a passion. It was long and dark and snowy, but most of all, it was just more winter when I was ready to be having spring. Gahhh.

Lion lamb

This year, we haven't had much snow on the coast of Maine, and it has been a relatively warm winter... probably because we got a new snow blower and two generators. So, this March seems to be easier than usual. Or, we could get the winter's worth of snow and cold all in one month, which would truly suck.

If that happens, I am prepared for it as well! I just finished knitting this sweater:


Pattern: Biscotti by Kiyomi Burgin

Yarns: Annabel Fox Chunky Donegal, 109 yards in 100g, 100% wool, 6.5 skeins, color 662 Alder; Berocco Vintage Chunky 136 yards in 100g, 52% Acrylic, 40% Wool, 8% Nylon, 1.3 skeins; color 6134 red

This is a very heavy sweater knit on size 11US/8.0mm needles. Wrangling would be the best way to describe it, or, in my case, one-armed wrangling. ::rolls eyes::

I have had this yarn forever. Well, nearly. I got it around twenty years ago, and it was the oldest yarn in my possession. It's a beautiful dark tweed, a gorgeous yarn, and I truly love it. I hope this sweater never wears out, because I will never have this yarn again!


I used only 6.5 of the 10 skeins I have. What is your favorite bulky weight item to make with around 375 yards of yarn?

Gauge swatch

I knit a gauge swatch in the round (the back is all big loops of yarn) and got 3 stitches per inch. The good thing is this sweater knit up really fast! It took me 12 days to finish it, but I had spinning and the pink shawl and a ZickZack scarf to work on too, so I only worked on it for about two hours at a time. It probably took me 36 hours to knit.

The only casualty was the cable from my AddiClick interchangeable needle set, which alarmingly separated from the metal bit in the middle of a sleeve.


Luckily, I had a couple other size 11 needles on hand and was able to finish the sweater. Which is actually pretty amazing that I had them, since I almost never knit with needles that large.

That cable is the one I used the most, and I have used it a lot since I got the set back in 2014. I emailed Skacel ([email protected]) because I knew they had a lifetime guarantee on their needles, and I wanted to ask how to get another cable. They responded in a few minutes and emailed a form that I printed and filled out. I popped it in the mail along with the cable that broke, and got an email a day or two later that said the replacement was on the way! It will be here soon! If I hadn't had another needle to finish my sweater, I would only have had to wait about a week before the replacement arrived. I think Skacel deserves a big round of applause for their great service!

Have a super duper March, and happy knitting! Stay warm!


Christmas <3

I love Christmas. I love checking out each day on my Jacquie Lawson advent calendar online, and opening each little door on the DROPS advent calendar to check out the lovely Christmas knitting and crochet.     

On day 9 of the DROPS calendar there was a doily, and I thought, I haven't crocheted a  doily in a lonnnng time ... but a doily would be just right on the table under the Christmas centerpiece I had. I had some sport weight red wool left over from another project and a size 3.5 mm hook that would suit (the pattern called for fingering weight cotton and a size 3.0mm hook, but I was using what I had; disregarding rules in crocheting is an expected practice, in my opinion.)

The pattern had a chart. I hadn't followed a chart for crochet since about 1979. But lo, what wondrous sight did I see? A video about how to crochet the WHOLE DOILY! I could simply watch it and follow along! Woohooo!

So I did.


It's so pretty! ~ gush ~

It suits my table just right! 


Hope you are having a wonderful Christmas season!

Fiddle My Stitches!

Have you heard of a website called Stitch Fiddle? I hadn't. I decided to check it out after seeing what a woman was doing with it on Facebook.

It's a website that is also a program that allows the user to make charts for knitting, embroidery, crochet and other things. I've seen web sites like it before, but this one is much better. It is so intuitive. Every time I thought, this is pretty cool but I wish it would allow me to do This Thing, BAM! I found where to do it, in just the place where it should be.

It just so happened that I had a few Christmas stockings to design for some people, and I turned to Stitch Fiddle. This was the result (names are knit or embroidered at the top; the purple or pink line designates the turning point for the back half of the stocking):

Christmas Stocking - Stitch Fiddle Christmas Stocking II Christmas Stocking III

Designing with Stitch Fiddle was so easy and fun! There is a cool little Progress Tracker that highlights the row you are working on, and you can choose how it works to be exactly right for YOU. Such a great idea.

This program does more than colorwork too. It has crochet charts, and for knitting it has lace charts, cables, brioche, mosaic, and more. I may try my hand at designing lace something or other in the near future. Stitch Fiddle is always growing and expanding, so it can do  even more in the future. Should be fun! There is a Ravelry group for Stitch Fiddle too, and yes, I joined.

Stitch Fiddle works on a PC, Mac, iPhone & iPad, Android, Linux, Chromebook and more. No installation is required, just use it from your browser; your saved charts are automatically available on all your  devices. And you can work with others on something also, other users, a tech editor, clients, anybody. You can import a picture if you want to chart it. There is even an Inspiration:Explore Ideas page to see how Stitch Fiddle is being used! This web site is so valuable!

My Christmas stockings were designed in the free version of Stitch Fiddle, and I could save them all, share them, download them. There is also a Premium version of it also, which you can buy for a month (~$3.29) or a year (~$1.70 a month). Go check it out!

Finish A Shawl, Learn Something New

Somehow I got some steam up, and working well into the night -- well, 10:00 p.m. -- for several nights, I got my Beachcomber Shawl done! (Usually I'm in bed at 7:00. I am a total wuss.)


This shawl is HUGE, and it is beautiful!


I love the drape and feel of it.



I love the lace sections. I love the picot bind-off ... kind of a pain to do, but those little points just make me smile.


I love doing origami with my shawl!

Since this shawl was knit with a cotton/linen blend yarn, I wove the yarn in by piercing the purl bumps on the wrong side, because I thought it would hold the yarn better and keep it from unraveling. That got me thinking about doing a Russian join on the places where I ran out of a color and had to start a new ball with more of the same color. I could just cut the yarn on the edge, but I thought that this yarn would be the perfect place to use a Russian join.

I never did one before, but I thought one day I would; it just looked very cool, something to file away for a day that I needed it. Then, I had a stroke, and I thought that I never would be able to do a Russian join without my right hand. I was bummed. Like most things that I "can't do", it simmered away on my back brain burner. I decided to try it, and voilá, it worked! A perfect Russian join! (I like iknitwithcatfur's videos. Subscribe! :)


Peace Project Progress

Happy Winter Solstice! Here is to the shortest day of the year. Let the advancing hours of daylight begin!


FullSizeRender (26)

How is your Peace Project cowl commencing? I am very happy with mine. The Wildwood Arcadia yarn is knitting up beautifully, and the pattern has a nice rhythm to it that is gentle, yet produces a look that suits my variegated yarn. I love it.

I got started late, so my cowl isn't finished; it's a little over halfway to being done, and that is okay. I love knitting it.

One of the things that slowed me down a bit was that I chose to start it with an I-cord cast on, which made a lovely little tubular edge that I like a lot!

FullSizeRender (27)

It took me a day to cast on all the over 300 stitches this way, but it turned out nicely. I plan to cast off with an I-cord bind off as well, making both edges match. 

I-cord Cast on:

I-cord Bind off:

I hope your Peace Project Cowl is giving you a bit of peace this holiday season!

The Summer 2016 Ravelry Games Update!

Halfway to the finish line! I can almost hear the cacophony of 200 or so Ravelry national anthems swelling the stands! 

My sweater is puttering along nicely:

Day_4_RG   Day 4

Day_5_RG_medium   Day 5

Pogo tired of watching me knit   Look! A cute kitty!

Day_7_RG_medium   Day 7

Day_8_RG_medium   Day 8

Bah humbug   Nicky would be tired of watching me knit too.

Cats 003   So would Nora.

Day 11   Day 11

I hope to be finished in time!

I am trying a sort-of new-to-me technique, magic loop knitting. It's where you use a circular needle with a long cord to knit small circumferences in the round, like on socks or sleeves; some people do it to bypass having to use double pointed needles, but I do it because I didn't have any freaking size 9 double pointed needles AND my Denise set of circular needles was missing one pair of needles --- you guessed it, size 9! Therefore I couldn't use the two-circular-needles method for small circumferences. So I am using a 36 inch (or 42 inch, don't know exactly) size 9 circular needle to knit my approximately ten inch circumference sleeve (which will be even smaller at the cuff). Good times. 

Magic Loop   Pogo's butt for size reference

The sleeves look too narrow, but hey. I can always unravel it and re-knit it after the Olympics are done if I need to.

I actually "invented" this method of knitting many, many years ago while on a camping/canoeing trip with friends. It must have been the 1970's or early 80's because Icelandic sweaters were all the rage, and I was knitting them for everybody on my Christmas list. The only thing I hadn't remembered to pack was my needles for the sleeves ... which I needed. Sigh. 

Most people would have given up on it, stuffed the sweater in the bag, and made a S'more. Not me. Maybe I needed to have the sweater done by the time I got back, I don't recall. But, I figured that there must be some way of making it work, and I knit the sleeves while pulling out the two feet of extra needle as I went. It worked. 

I had to chuckle when I found this on The Traveling Loop method.

Or, the Being Stuck Up the Creek Without Double-Pointed Needles method. Hehe. 

See you at the finish line!!! 


The Colorblind Camera on my iPhone

I got a new iPhone before Christmas, a 6+. Where my old iPhone  made all my photos a strange shade of blue, the new iPhone leaves a pinkish hue to my pictures. Oh Apple. I hate you.

Anyway. The aran sweater I am knitting is about 60% done; I just have the front bit at the top to do, and the sleeves. I am getting there. I am knitting the Shire Aran by Glenna C and I am using Ella Rae Classic Heathers in Maroon Heather. Here are some pictures -- it really is not this pinkish brown shade, rather, it's a dark maroon. Apparently maroon is too complex a color for an Apple device to handle. The real color is beautiful.

SA1    SA2    SA3

SAbraided cable    SAring cable

I like to watch a little TV in the evening, but I have to have something simple to knit while I watch, so I started a pair of plain old socks out of Berroco Sox:


I am quite proud of myself for Kitchenering the toe closed. I was having a devil of a time with the tapestry needle, and then I found Techknitter's site that told how to Kitchener Stitch with the knitting needles. It is much easier --the old fiddly bit is on the last two stitches, because the needles tend to fall out. And I have to weave in my dogears.


Techknitter has a really good tutorial for doing the new method of Kitchener Stitch; try it!

And lastly, I am making a cowl, because I had a little handspun purple yarn to use up, and my neck was cold. I am knitting a 2 x 2 rib until it runs out, with 100 sts for a cast on, US size 8 (5.0 mm) 16" circular needle. It's a worstedy-weighty yarn, spun from Indigo Moon batts, too precious to let it go to waste.


This is how Nora is spending the winter:



What's Up

Here is my progress so far. I finished Part II of Wendy Johnson's  2014 Mystery Shawl ahead of time, on Wednesday. It doesn't seem to be so hard now, hehe:


I'm still plugging along on my lacy cardigan, picking away at it:

Lacy Cardi

There are almost 300 stitches there. It knits better, though, since I did this:


I am not spending all my time getting the yarn untangled, and that makes it wayyyy more fun. Thank you Nancy for sending me this little jewel! It's a Yarn Buddy, and it is like a lazy susan for my yarn. If you have ever struggled with a yarn that is fuzzy and got tangled up all the time, this is what you need. I just rewound the skein of yarn (with somebody else holding it) et voilà! It is perfect. It was a wonderful gift, Nancy, and I thank you so very much!

I saw something like this years ago in our knitting group, made by the knitter's husband (Hi Lynn and Jim!). She was using it to knit from a cone of yarn. When you knit from a cone usually, your yarn twists up and you have to stop and untwist it regularly, but the little gadget that Jim made let the entire cone revolve as you pull the yarn from the cone, thus transferring the twist to the cone, not the yarn. I always thought it was a useful little device, and I am glad Sun Valley Fibers makes one. 

Putting Cables in Your Knitting

After completing October Frost in the Ravellenic games, I was all fired up to knit cables. It was such a relief to know that I could do it again! 

Designing with cables is fun, but it can be tricky. You can't just stick the cable in without making allowances for how much it will pull in; cables suck up a lot of horizontal real estate. I saw once a woman wearing a beautiful summer top that used cables in a very ingenious fashion, forming a tighter fabric just below the bust. She said it was from the spring/summer Sandra magazine that year ... unfortunately, I can't remember what show it was that I saw her at, so I can't remember what year it was, but it sure was a good use of cables in the design.

So. Suppose you have a stitch guide that has a really pretty cable in it -- or several (if you're like me). How do you put the cables in without having the thing just pull in and hug you tight? You might make a bigger size, but that's an iffy way to design. I learned (from somewhere a long time ago, can't remember where) that for every stitch crossed in a cable, add a stitch in your knitting: a three-over-three cable would then have three stitches added to make up for the three stitches crossed over.

If you design a pair of gloves that have three two-over-two stitch cables up the back, add 6 stitches -- 3 * 2 = 6. If you're designing a sweater that is stockinette stitch on the bottom, but you want an interesting cably thing at the top, count the number of stitches crossed over on the row with the most cable crossings, and add the stitches to keep the same width in your knitting and to prevent puckering (unless you want that).

Cables swatch

Cabling is a lot of fun, and designing with cables is even funner :) I was in the middle of designing a great cabled sweater for the knitting cruise when I had my stroke; I still have my notes somewhere. I lost hope when I found my cabling ability was compromised, but now maybe I'll pull it out and look at it again. The Isaac Evans knitting cruise goes out this week -- I sure miss doing that! I'll go with you knitters in my heart :)



Just thought I should show you a picture of my knitting rig:


One end slides under my leg, to hold it. The mechanism basically just holds the needles, as you can see in this picture. The white conical shaped piece is the collet that holds the needle in place. There is a different sized collet for each size needle; I have a collet for sizes 0, 1, 2, 3 , 4, 5, and 6. I'd like to get more collets for sizes 7, 8, 9, 10, and 10 1/2, but I can't really afford them right now. It is highly adjustable, too: you can raise and lower it, and adjust the exact position of the arm and the angle of the collet. The device is entirely hand made by my occupational therapist's husband. I think it's a pretty clever way to knit with four needles!

Cables Without the Cable Needle

I finally figured out how to do cables faster, without the cable needle. Before my stoke, I used to cable this way all the time. After my stroke, it was nearly impossible; but, as they say, where there's a will there's a way. I find cables without a cable needle are much easier. There's the added fear of losing a stitch, but there's less fear of losing the cable needle (or some other needle) AND losing a stitch. 

Here's the video that Wendy Gaal made for the Crosswired  sock KAL that shows how to cable both with and without a needle. I perused it mightily and tried to figure out how I could do it with only one hand. I succeeded. I can show you how I do it later, if I get someone to hold the video camera.

It's great that I learned how to do this, as it frees my mind a bit about cables. It's much faster, too. 

Counting, and Buttonholes

You'd never know it to look at me, but counting never used to bother me. Got 357 stitches? No problem, I'll just count 'em for ya, and in a zipppppp I was off, counting, and it was always correct.

Now, not so much. Counting to three is usually pretty ok, counting to ten marginally so, counting to bigger numbers than that, I get antsy because I never know if its right. I just don't know. If I count it three times and get the same number, used to be, I would say it was right ... but now, I could count it wrong three times in a row, and I have done just that, when I counted stitches in the grey vest and set the neck over by about five stitches. Ooops. 

Rather than cry miserably and say "I'm a failure, I used to be able to COUNT for God's sake (I have done that, too), I have devised ways of getting my counting right even when it is not, and I'm putting it here because maybe there are some folks out there who would find it helpful. Have you had a stroke, and can't count? You're not alone. Do you have waaaaay to many stitches to cast on, and the thought of counting those little stitches not once, but two or three or more times makes you run screaming from the project? Then come sit here by me.

I had to cast on 185 stitches for my baby kimono, and I needed to get it right. I thought, I don't want to cast them all on here and spend a whole day counting them over and over to make sure they are right, and I am not asking my husband to count them for me. So I decided to use markers. 


I put a marker on the needle after 10 stitches; after 18 markers, I had 180 stitches, and I just added on five more stitches.


Works for me. Anyone can use this. Instead of casting on stitches and then laboriously counting to make sure you got the right number, just place a marker every 10 or 20 stitches, and count the markers. 

My baby kimono has two little buttonholes, and the pattern recommended Barbara Walker's one-row buttonhole. I did that once, and it seemed a little fiddly for me, and I went back to my two-row buttonhole and kept on going. But this time, I thought, what the hell, I'll give it another try.


The instuctions I followed are here. They are also in Barbara Walker's wonderful knitting book, A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. There is a video tutorial here, too. It makes a nice, reinforced little buttonhole in one row. It looks a little funny, and  I think that's why I didn't like it before. After having done lots of buttonholes that start out looking perfect and then sag out of shape, I think it's time to change. I wish I had used them in my Little Girls Cardigan! Next time :)

Picot Edge Bind Off

You may have noticed the picot edge on my Arroyo shawlette that I did:


It's a pretty edging, but it's an awfully useful bind-off technique, too. The bind-off technique that was stated in the pattern was Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off, and I have used that on pairs of socks that I knit from the toe up. I like it for that, because it's very stretchy and it looks good when it's stretched. On my scarf/shawlette though, it just needed to lie there and not be tight, but not necessarily stretch, and to tell the truth, I didn't really like the look of it. I would normally have done a tubular bind-off, but given my one-handedness, I thought that was too hard for me right now.

So, I dug into my Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book, and the picot-bind off fit the bill nicely. It is a stretchy bind-of that is pleasingly nice to look at as well!

To do it, you start by casting on two stitches using a cable cast-on (go between the first and second stitches, pull up a loop, and put it on the needle), and then bind off four stitches, then repeat until all your stitches are off but one, and cut the yarn and pull it through.

Watch the video here.  (I love the username "iknitwithcatfur" ... watch out Nicky! Heh.)

It takes a longer amount of time to do, especially when you have 241 stitches like I did; I had to bind off 361 stitches all together, but it was well worth it. I ended up with exactly what I wanted.

This edging makes a bound-off edge that is a bit larger than a regularly bound-off edge would be, making it nice for edgings on shawls or scarves. Perhaps I might try it using a smaller needle and see what happens; something to consider. Might be fun! 

Why Don't We Knit Sweaters That Fit?

Lots of people knit, but not sweaters, never ever. They knit hats and mittens and washcloths and scarves and shawls and things that look like sweaters, but that don't have to actually fit. We have gotten away from our bodies, hoping things will just fit. 

I used to see it all the time in the yarn store, people getting all excited about a sweater project but when choosing the size their eyes kind of glaze over, and they'd say, oh, medium I guess. I had to tell them I wasn't going to sell them the yarn unless I measured them, and you know, that's what they wanted -- someone to measure them and tell them what size to make.

I had to learn how to make patterns fit in different gauges, different arm lengths, with different necklines. Some people wanted a size large on bottom and a size small on top. These are things they do not teach you in knitting school*. I had to do it all with math.

MATH. There, I've said it. Walk around the word until it isn't scary anymore. Math, numbers, angles. They are things which will not kill you, and if you become familiar with them, you'll control the world.

Well, maybe that's going a little far, but women used to knit sweaters rather than buy them to save the money, and the sweaters they made fit well. Somewhere along the way we forgot that important skill and started to blindly follow patterns and sizes that Somebody said were right, and made sweaters that did not fit, and nothing in the world makes you into a raving loon more than spending the money and the time and have a sweater not fit. And you know what? We got convinced that the reason we got it so wrong was because our knitting was bad. And that's just wrong. And we stopped making sweaters.

It's time to take back control of your knitting. Measure yourself, measure what fits you well, do a gauge swatch that is not miniscule and know how to measure it well. Find out how long your arms are. Draw a diagram for your size, with the increases or decreases that you have to do to make it work, using the diagram that the pattern comes with as just a guide. You are in control of your knitting. These things are not hard to do, but they require effort; spend the time to do it right and you'll be rewarded with sweaters that fit every time. {Rant mode off.}

And remember, math will not kill you. But you could freeze to death if your sweater's too short :)

*There's no such thing as knitting school, really, except maybe in England. The only degree in knitting I ever heard of was from there.

How To Get from Casting On to the Final Stitch

You're so excited, you've just discovered the most perfect, fun-to-knit pattern in the most lovely yarn imaginable, and you cast on and go! It stays fun for about three days ... and then its slows down a little, and then it  slows down a bit more, and you start looking at other patterns and yarn, or the next Knitty comes out ... and you stop. You don't know you've stopped; you just put it down for a while and you cast on for the next project. 

I know. It's so damn easy to do. 

How do you make yourself keep going on that project? It depends on why, exactly, you're knitting or crocheting it in the first place. If it is a present -- especially a present with a deadline -- you can motivate yourself to get it done. Bribery is the key here. Bribe yourself with images of the recipient getting the gift and being giddy with  delight, agog at your thoughtfulness, brimming with smiles ... and contrast it with images of the recipient opening a wad of needles and yarn, half-knit, and saying "thank you" very quietly and putting it quickly back in the box for you to take back. Half-knit things look so bad when they are half knit. 

You can also bribe yourself with promises of wonderful things that you will knit When Gift Knitting Is Finished, wiling away your time knitting on the gray, stockinette stitch boring sweater for your father, while thinking of that raspberry cowl-necked cabled Thing of Loveliness instead. Just don't drool on your father's sweater, unless you have time to wash it before giving it away.

And there's chocolate. Give yourself a piece of chocolate for every inch you knit. Simple, but it works.

But what if it's not knitted for a deadline? What if no one is waiting for it? What if it is just for you?? Scary.

We tend to put clever things made just for us on the back burner, then the back-back burner, then off to the side, and finally in the cupboard. For me, the death throes of a project came when it went upstairs. I'm still pulling things out of the stash that "went upstairs". Socks, mittens, hats, gloves, scarves, I can finish; it's the sweaters on circular needles that I can't. I suppose someday I'll just unravel them all and make something else out of the yarn, but it's still too painful. I keep thinking my hand will just wake up, and my circular needles (and my spindles and my roving and my spinning wheels) will be useful again.

If you're slowing down on your project, there are things you can do. Recapture some of the magic you had when you started the project -- write about it publically on your blog, in a Facebook post, show it off to your knitting group. When other people see it, they will love it and you will love it again too, and you'll want to finish it and show it off! 

Use little pins to mark your progress. Put a pin every ten rows (followed by a piece of chocolate!) or put a pin when you started knitting each day. Those little markers tell us that hey, we are in fact doing something, making progress! Set deadlines for when you'll think you be done to the underarm, done the back, one sleeve: everything has a deadline. Before you know it, you'll be done! 

Think of the fun you'll have shopping in your imagination (but be careful it stays in your imagination), getting ready for the next big project. And most importantly, think about how fun it will be to have finished your current project. Believe me, no one knows better than I how it can weigh you down having 30 unfinished projects in the background. I always envied people who just had one or two things going at a time. Now I am one of them, and trust me, it feels good!

The Importance of Getting Gauge

So ... I started my vest after doing a gauge swatch. I'm getting 5 stitches per inch with size 5 needles; it's a DK weight yarn, a bit on the heavy side, but it is ok. It's kind of thick and thin, which is funky feeling, but that's ok too. I think he's going to like the resulting fabric. It feels good and it's got some interest.


The yarn is Farmhouse Silk Blend (DK weight) -- 34% silk, 33% cotton, and 33% American-grown lamb's wool. It is 350 yards per 4-ounce skein, and I have 5 of them, or 1750 yards. Presumably, that's enough yarn ... but just in case, I have a back up plan to buy more, hehe. It's really nice to work with, and I'm loving it. I wish I had appreciated it more when I sold it. I'm making up my own pattern; it's just a simple V-neck vest, so gauge was really necessary to planning how many stitches to cast on.

How many people just start knitting without doing a gauge swatch? I was always amazed when someone would come in all teary-eyed and say, "It's too big!" -- or too small, and then say, "Oh, I never do a swatch, it just seems like a big waste of time" ... or my favorite, "I always knit to gauge!" Duh. Like their gauge being off is somehow reflective of their ability to knit. Well, it isn't. It's how that particular yarn acts with their tension, and if the size determined in the pattern is going to be the size they want, they better have the sensibility to see what size needle to use to get the same results as the designer did. Pretty basic.

Except ... what if people don't know how to test their gauge? One of the things that became really clear to me when I had a yarn shop was that people who have been knitting for years really didn't know how to check their gauge, or they were afraid to because it was Math and Measurement and Science and stuff, therefore to be feared. The relief I'd see on their faces when I'd say, "Just knit a little piece about this big--" showing with my fingers about a three inch square -- "and bring it in; I'll check your gauge for you" told me this was something they hated and feared. They didn't hate knitting a gauge swatch ... they hated not knowing what to do with it after they had knit it.

When they came in with their swatch, dutifully washed if possible, I would mark off with pins the number off stitches per inch they were supposed to get, and measure between the pins. If the number was right, they had the right gauge and could knit on with a clear conscience, sure that they had gotten the gauge right. If it was too small, less than an inch, they had to make the stitches bigger by using a bigger needle. If it was too big, measured more than an inch, they had to make the stitches smaller by using a smaller needle. Usually one needle size makes a half a stitch difference per inch per needle size. I could tell them what size needle would probably get the desired gauge, but I told them they should knit another gauge swatch. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn't. They always left happy, though, and they could finally get the gauge thing. It wasn't scary anymore.

And no, I didn't wash my gauge swatch, so he only gets to wear it if it comes out of the wash ok. Doh!

Carding Wool and Getting Good Karma

I've been resting today, trying to fight off a cold (which I think I have succeeded in doing, yay!), but I did manage to card the wool for my Knitting Olympics project. 

Here is the BFL (pink) and nylon (orange) that I started with:

It's 4 ounces of wool and 1 ounce of nylon. I dyed the fibers a couple days ago.

The first thing I did was to divide both fibers into 16 separate but equal pieces:

See the striped toes on the left? Nora had to help.


Then I divided each 1/16th of wool and 1/16th of nylon into quarters:


My pieces are getting itty bitty. 

Each 1/16th got attenuated and layered:


I think the secret to successful carding is to make the wool wispy, very very very wispy, and to turn the drum s-l-o-w-l-y...


You have to build the fiber up, a quarter of a sixteenth at a time.... and then you have to take it off the carder and card it again, a quarter at a time. I could have carded it a couple more times but I wanted to keep the orange nylon a little bit visible, not entirely blended in.

Then I had a lovely teeny batt of fiber:


So pretty. Here's a close-up:


Then I rolled it up like a little sausage, and it is ready to spin: 


Lather, rinse, repeat, and after fifteen more times, here is my wool for my Olympic Knitting event:


It was all I could do not to start spinning them immediately, but I refrained. I really really really want to spin them now. Even though they do look like pink insulation.

 Oh, and at the store? Yesterday I met Jim from Good Karma Farm in Belfast, Maine, who stopped by to show me some of his yarn. I bought all he had on him, about 23 skeins, and he promises to make more soon. I love that Good Karma Farm uses fiber from local animals, spins the yarn on their own farm, and dyes it there too. This yarn is 60% Secret Island Sheep fiber and 40% Good Karma alpaca fiber from their own farm. And yes, the sheep are on one of the Maine islands, and it is a secret where. So just knit, and never mind :) 

Here is what I got:


I wish you could feel how yummy this feels. I would say it is between a worsted and a bulky weight, a chunky weight along the lines of Classic Elite's Montera. I have not yet swatched with it to find out. Each skein has 200 yards and retails for $16.00.

I plucked out two skeins to use for a modular knit scarf I am thinking of designing for my Modular Knitting class later this spring:


I can't wait to start knitting with this stuff :)


Mystery Sock short row heel .... and cats, of course

I finished the Mystery Sock Clue #4 on Saturday night, and it was fun. I don't usually do short row heels, but that is the type of heel this Mystery Sock requires, so I did it, and it was actually kind of fun. This Mystery Sock is good for me; I don't usually knit socks from the toe up, and I don't usually knit socks with beads, either, but this is a fun sock to knit!


I found a great series of 3 videos on that shows the exact same short row heel that I just knit. If you would like to try a short row heel, you can check it out:

Short Row Heel with YO's, Part 1

You know me. Once I get on YouTube, I can't stop. So I found this knitting video by a person with unbelievable fingernails. I mean, how does she do anything, really? Let along knit? Here it is:

And then of course, I can't leave YouTube without a few cat & yarn videos:

Not the Sock Yarn!  (this cat must be related to Nora)

Kitty Stealing Yarn (I knew it! Little thieves...)

Cute Japanese Kitten Yarn song (Warning: this video contains potentially life-threatening cuteness. Watch with caution, as you may be overcome with cutekittenitis.) The song is about kittens and yarn, but I had to take their word for it, as it was in Japanese. There are, however, subtitles...... in Japanese.... )

Knitting Tip: Counting Heel Flap Rows

Today I was working on Alpaca Socks #2 and I did something that I have always done, but the last time I did it was on the boat, and the person sitting next to me said, "What are you doing?!"

I do an apparently unique little thing to help me see if I have made enough rows in my sock heel flaps, and now that I think of it, anytime I do it and someone sees me, it is something they stop and ask about and are happy to have learned the technique. So I decided I should just share it with you.

When I do a sock heel flap, I usually am working over 1/2 the stitches used in the sock leg. Lets say it is a 60 stitch sock on fingering weight yarn with size 2 needles. Over those 60 sts, I work a 2 row pattern of slip one, knit one across the row, followed by slip one, and purl back across the rest of the row. I want to pick up 1/4 of the total number of sock stitches when I pick up stitches along the side of the heel flap, so in this case I want to pick up 15 stitches. So, I want to knit 30 rows in my heel flap, which would create 15 slipped stitches on either side of the heel flap. So far this is typical heel flap stuff, right?

Now comes the trick. Sometimes it is hard to see, or count the rows in the heel flap, due to either bad lighting, age, drunkeness, sugar high, blah blah blah. I noticed the inside of the heel flap had the nice little slipped stitch loops of yarn from the row where you slip one, knit one across. I found I could just slide my free needle up through the yarn loops, and then I could easily count how many rows I had -- two rows for every slip-stitch loop. Or, one stitch to pick up for every slip-stitch loop. Therefore, when I can count 15 slip-stitch loops on the needle that I slide up through them, it is time to turn the heel.

I took a picture to show this, but it was on my cell phone camera, so it is pretty fuzzy. (I'll try to take a clearer picture the next time I make a heel flap.) Hopefully it will show what I mean:


You can count that I only have 11 loops on the needle; I need 4 more, so I have 8 more rows to knit. One other advantage of counting the heel flap rows this way is that you can feel the loops on the needle as well as see them, and that can really help sometimes.

I hope this little trick helps you count your heel flap rows; I think I made this little trick up on my own. It's one of the few things I "discovered", and didn't just read somewhere or see someone else do first, so I feel all happy about it. Have fun :)