Thursday, May 31, 2007


I was getting to the end of the wound-off ball of yarn today, and the other end caught and tangled with the yarn as it fed through the carriage. What a mess! Since I was so close to the end anyway I went ahead and broke the yarn, to wind off another ball from the cone. (remember I am using 2 strands for this shell.) After winding off the ball, I rethreaded the machine and hooked the loose end to the mast.

Got called away, to cook lunch or something. I decided I wasn't going to get this one finished in time to wear it this weekend, so decided to start another one, similar shape, but in the bulky cotton I purchased at the GLS&WS...

Made the swatch in stockinette, blocked it, brought Garment Styler up to recalculate the pattern with another stitch gauge, and spent a bit of time playing with the software to change the curved bottom hem.

I endured the comments from my DH that I should finish one project before starting another. Then thought, I could knit a few more rows on this green sweater before I go back downstairs. ONE ROW!

I forgot to put the yarn in the carriage. I lost all my slipped stitches, about every 3 out of 5 stitches. ARRRRGH. Rather than try to rehang all those stitches and then figure out where I was in the pattern, I thought it would be easier just to start this piece over.

But I learned something about my curved hem. Next time I use a slip stitch and a ravel cord, I will knit at least one row of stockinette before changing to pattern mode. I thought I would just be able to re-hang the ravel cord - no, it is buried in the pattern. So it is going to be easiest just to start completely over.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Sitting here in my room, I took a break from knitting and turned around to the computer and the large pile of mail sitting there next to it. I pulled out a few things at random and filed them, then came to the mailing from Knitter's Magazine about the Stitches convention. Kaffe Fassett is back! I see he has a new book, Kaffe Knits Again. Susan Lazear, the genius behind Garment Designer, will be there, plus a long list of other experts. Ginger Luters is teaching a class using Stitch Painter. Leslye Solomon is teaching a few classes. Even though the emphasis is on hand-knitting there are obviously a lot of techniques that carry over to machine knitting. I see a class on "suitable seams". We all know that finishing will make or break the look of the garment.

Ahhh. This convention is in Baltimore on October 11-14. I probably will not be going. I see there are two Stitches Midwest in August in Chicago, this might be more affordable for me - it is only about a 5-hour drive to Chicago. I attended Stitches East in King of Prussia, PA several years ago. I had a wonderful time, and learned a LOT. Between the travel expense and the stash enhancement I spent a LOT more than I wanted to. If only hobby expenses were deductible!

A better curved hem

On the back of the sweater, I blindly followed the directions to cast on 150, then increase 6 on each side after 9 rows. This made a stairstep instead of a nice curve. I will have to figure out what to do with this when attaching the trim.

On the front, I got smarter. I cast on the waste yarn over the number of needles required for the widest part of the garment. Knitted one row with ravel cord. Then pulled the end needles (about 20 each side) to hold, set the machine for hold, and pulled out two needles each side for several rows until I got to the widest part of the garment at row 17. I also decided that decreasing four stitches each side was not enough shaping for me to worry about and knitted straight from this point up to the underarm.

Work in Progress

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Friday I rooted out the multi-colored rayon blend I mentioned the other day, as well as the green. Turns out the multi-colored yarn is 85% rayon, 15% silk. According to the label, the cone weighs .67 lb. It is a mill end, and I remember purchasing this from the Michigan Fiber Fest last year. The tag shows Davidson Corporation in Eaton Rapids, MI. According to the label, I paid 16.75 for this cone. ($25.00 per pound) With the multiple colors, I thought a plain stockinette might be good for this yarn. At tension 7 on the KH864, I got 40 stitches = 5.75 in, and 60 rows = 6.5 in., meaning it is 7 stitches to the inch and 9.2 rows to the inch.

The green yarn is quite a bit lighter weight- it is also a mill end, labelled 15/2 Rayon/Cotton. I paid $2.50 per pound. I think perhaps I bought this at R&M yarns in Adairsville, Georgia during their "dollar days" sale several years ago. I experimented quite a bit until I got a texture I liked. Initially I used the yarn as a single ply and it was much too light. I then wound off quite a bit, and used it double in stockinette at tension 6 and found it still a little light weight for my liking. Then inspiration struck - I have never knitted a slip-stitch pattern on my machine. Why not try now? I picked the Brother punchcard #6 (from the bulky machine) which is kind of a tumbling-block pattern. 40 stitches and 60 rows in the swatch yielded a much shorter swatch. 40 stitches = 5.25 inches, 60 rows = 3.75 inches! That is 7.6 stitches per inch, and 16 rows to the inch! I will be knitting a lot more rows to achieve the same length, but I am happy with the fabric weight in the swatch. Material cost will be much less for the cotton/rayon blend, but the labor cost will be higher. So, plugging in the numbers into the shell pattern I put in Garment Designer the other night, I see I am to cast on 150 stitches, and the bands are supposed to be 8 rows tall.

I have cast on using the weaving cast on (EON in work, K 1 R, All needles in work, knit several rows of waste yarn), then knit 1 row of ravel cord. Theoretically this will make it easier to hang the hem. (ha! Garment Designer doesn't tell me what kind of hem or band to use! My choice!) I am going to knit 8 rows at 1 tension tighter than the garment tension (5) , Knit 1 row at T10 for turning row, then knit 8 rows at tension 6 and hang the hem. I am going to do this in stockinette, which will contrast with the garment body. hmmm. No, that won't work at all. Looking at the body pattern, I am to knit 10 rows then cast on additional 6 stitches each side. Hmmm. This is getting complicated.

OK, thought about it a while. I will go ahead and knit the body, then rehang the bottom for the edging. This will give me more options to trim anyway, and I can think about the edging while knitting the main pieces.

Great Lakes Sheep and Wool Show

Yesterday I went to Wooster, OH, to the county fairgrounds, where the Great Lakes Sheep and Wool Show was taking place. There were 5 barns just full of vendors, not to mention the sheep and llama shows that were also taking place.

I went late in the afternoon because I knew I would be in stash acquisition mode - and I needed to limit my purchases... So I only left myself an hour and a half to shop. It was enough! Here is the haul:

I got a cloud-soft skein of llama/angora/alpaca ($24), 3 skeins of beautiful handpainted wool ($16 each), and some coned unlabeled fiber I just couldn't pass up - $1.00 a pound. I think some is wool, will have to subject it to the burn test to make sure. The white cone in front was definitely cotton. Two cones of grey ragg cotton at $5.00 a cone (about 2-3 lbs per cone) and a cone of sock yarn (8 oz.) at $2.00 an ounce from Zeilinger's woolen mill.

I found a yarn requirements chart displayed in one stall and swooped it up as it has requirements for everything from hats to socks to sweaters.

On the way out I stopped to say hello to some alpacas:
They are so cute! and they were very friendly. I asked if they were like horses, when they lay their ears back they are upset, and the owners said no, not at all.
They were still judging sheep when I left, the show goes on today.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Knitting mysteries

I just found Maggie Sefton. I spent every moment I could over the last three days reading three of her books: Knit One, Kill Two; Needled to Death, and A Deadly Yarn.

She has a fourth one out - Knit Fast, Die Young.

I sometimes read mysteries when I am stressed out. Sometimes I knit. For mysteries I tend to stick to female detective stories, like Sue Grafton, Joan Hess or Earlene Fowler's, for example.

At any rate, Kelly, the amateur detective, CPA and novice knitter, is still knitting the same sweater in book 3 that she started in book 1, a rose-colored cotton and silk blend. I hope she gets a knitting machine in book 4!

While reading about her cotton and silk shell, I remembered a couple of cones of yarn I have in my stash. I think they are cotton/rayon blend. One is a variegated yarn with pink, ivory and moss colors and the other is a mossy green, if I remember right. I think a shell would be just right for this yarn, maybe in a two-color tuck. hmmm.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I sorted my old emails to more easily find a note from a friend, and came across an old email from the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association. Several years ago I attended a MAFA 3-day workshop that was just wonderful. Actually I believe the entire event lasted a full week, maybe even spanning two weekends, but I only attended the weekend workshop. I do remember this, we stayed on a college campus (had to bring our own bedding) and I took a class on designing knits from Lily Chin. Wow, can that lady knit fast!

At any rate I found a topic on the MAFA web site entitled "How to Keep Excessive Travel from Impeding Your Weaving and Textile Interests" that listed how to do fiber projects on an airplane, the airport, or in a hotel. I thought, what a great idea!

The article listed specific things you could do: For example, bring graph paper and do design work. Download fiber-related podcasts to play while waiting. Finishing work, for example, fringing. Small knitting projects (socks, anyone?)
Tablet weaving.

I've already got two projects in the car, but the traffic jams here are so small I couldn't even finish a row before I have to move the car...

But I did make a major start on a pair of socks on our last vacation. Excellent project for the airplane!

So, please leave your idea for maximizing your knitting time as a comment!

Monday, May 14, 2007


Let's see... How many unfinished Projects do I have going?
1. Green ripple afghan - inherited from a farm auction
2. Shopping bag knit from plastic shopping bags (have to hide it or DH will throw it away)
3. Pair of socks in "Dancing" yarn from Knit picks
4. Pink sweater - just sew it together and block it, darn it!
5. Baby all-in-one in cotton - (in the back seat of my car)
6. Navy blue prayer shawl - (need to rip out about 30 rows that dropped one yarn)
7. Teal and raspberry sweater (at the farm in Michigan)
8. Burgundy jacket

That's all I can think of at the moment, although I have lots of other ideas percolating around in my brain. I wonder what order I should attack these? I really, really want to finish them! Maybe I should start in order of most complete, working down to the ones that are least complete..... Of course I am most excited about the newer projects and the old ones have gotten tedious.....

The other "unfinished" thing I need to do is give all my knitting machines a deep cleaning. Ilene demonstrated this at the Grand Rapids seminar. I think I can actually do it. If her demonstration wasn't enough, I also have a DVD from Frank Sanders from last year's workshop... Maybe I should play it...

And one more thing, Charlene Shafer recommends transferring all diskettes into DAK. I have all the tools, including the workbook.... So that's really a UFJ. An unfinished JOB.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pattern development

I spent an hour or so working on my jacket pattern today. I have customized it to my body measurements, and then adjusted the standard pattern that was generated to more closely mirror the measurements of my poor old jacket.

For the back I am supposed to cast on 53 stitches either side of zero. Got to decide if I am going to rib first, though.

Perhaps this would be a good time to mention that the last sweater I knit, I used a much lighter-weight yarn on the standard-gauge machine. I did not double the yarn for the ribbing, or do a hem. The sweater body was in fairaisle, and I am very unhappy with the floppiness of the hem. (I learned a lot of lessons on that sweater, someday I will have the courage to show it to you..maybe when I knit its replacement.)

Charlene mentioned that when she is doing a crochet trim on the edge of a garment or afghan she often doubles the yarn to give it more body. This probably would have been a good idea for the ribbing on that fairaisle sweater. But this one is going to be plain stockinette in the body. hmmm. I will have to knit some samples.

Kitchener stitch for socks

Ilene demonstrated Kitchener stitch for us. Particularly useful when finishing a sock across the toe, especially if the wearer has problems tolerating seams inside their shoes, for example, for diabetics.

I have been trying to do Kitchener stitch from the right side, and have been having trouble. My method was to knit waste yarn at the end and then try to follow the path of the waste yarn through the open stitches. I had trouble at the beginning and at the ending.

Ilene's method was much simpler. There are only a few steps:

1. Knit 1 row of ravel cord and then several rows of waste yarn
2. Turn the sock inside out - perform Kitchener stitch from the purl side.
3. Thread an eyed needle with the tail of the main yarn
4. Insert needle into first open stitch on far side, away from the tail.
5. Stitch back and forth, getting one stitch from each side. The stitch to insert the needle into will be the the NEW stitch on the side where the yarn is coming out and the OLD stitch on the opposite side.
6. Go to the end and secure the last stitch by a backstitch or two.
7. Pull out the ravel cord.

Melva Bass explained this method in fewer words on Roz Porter's page at this web site.

The subject of kitchener stitch came up because Ilene also demonstrated cotton spandex for socks. OH MY GOSH these socks were so soft and stretchy. Ilene knit a baby sock for us, using tension 10, then demonstrated the "shrinky-dink" technique of steaming them. The size was reduced significantly! She used two strands of cotton spandex. She brought several cones for sale in many colors to the seminar. I broke down and bought one.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

More from Charlene

More tips from Charlene's Afghan Techniques session on Friday:

* When joining in a new cone of same color color on an afghan or something where the seams will be visible, make the join several stitches in from the edge - you might unknit a few stitches and knit them again with the new cone. This prevents the tails from ending up doubled when making the seam and leaves your edge nice and smooth.

* When hanging a row of your lining onto the fairaisle (or vice versa) you can use every other needle or every third needle, you don't necessarily have to hang every stitch. It is important to be consistent, though, don't start one way and finish another.

* Trenzi is a good yarn for an afghan that will get a lot of hard use (around kids?), it contains nylon.

* If you are using a lining, use 2 tension #'s looser than you would for a garment or sweater. The second layer gives the afghan plenty of body.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Ilene Levy at the GRAMKC seminar

I promised you some info on Ileen Levy ( The first thing she told us was that News and Views is being published again, and the first six issues have been released. It is being published bi-monthly. The new publisher is Country Knitting of Maine, and is available through Ileen or from from Linda Williams, Well, that was exciting enough!

Ilene's first seminar had to do with measuring yourself for use with her Design-a-Pattern software package, which is a charting package.

Accurate body measurements are probably a number-one requirement for success in knitting, whether designing your own pattern or adjusting someone else's. (Obviously the gauge swatch is number 2!) Ileen was so motivating, she really made me feel that it's not quite so complicated at all, I came home and on Sunday, took out a cone of bulky yarn that has been sitting around for a while, and knitted a gauge swatch according to her directions. Only since I was using a bulky machine, my swatch was 20 stitches by 30 rows instead of 40 x 60, as I would do on a standard bed machine. Ileen's method is to leave a stitch out of work on either side of the 20 (or 40) stitches - she pointed out that on all the Japanese machines, there is a marking on the needle strip that shows which needles to leave out of work. (I think my Brother manual might have said to mark those stitches, I will have to look that up later, Ileen's method is simpler). She uses an e-wrap cast on for her swatches, and marks the tension setting with eyelets at the end. Irene then uses blocking wires (I didn't for the swatch above) and steams it. If wool or cotton, you may want to pre-wash before measuring. Acrylic is probably good with a steaming.

This yarn is labelled 1/95 (date?) in big letters it says 356, below that Ruby, Blend 7378/8434 Lot No. 2. I see no info on manufacturer. The yarn on the cone is kind of rough-feeling, which is probably why it is still in my stash, but once knitted into the swatch, and steamed, it actually feels soft. I have no idea if it is wool or synthetic. I will have to do the "burn test", I suppose. ***Update: it smelled like hair burning, must be wool or silk/wool blend.

This yarn yielded a gauge of 5.25" over 20 stitches, or 3.8 stitches per inch, and 5.125 inches over 30 rows, or 5.85 row per inch.

I am planning to make a jacket to replace this one:

It is a jacket that I loved and wore quite often - too often, as the stuffing is now coming out of the quilted section of the jacket. The jacket was silk, and the outer shell seemed to tear every time I turned around. The sleeves zipped out - I have removed one to cut the seam and measure the sleeve dimensions.

One tip that is useful regardless of whether you have Ilene's software or not - BE SURE TO BREATHE IN when measuring the bust measurement. She demonstrated this with our model, and sure enough, the "breathy" measurement was a full inch bigger. She also noted that when measuring the arm length, to be sure to do it with the arm bent, as it seems to be a slightly longer measurement. She also demonstrated using a clipboard or knitting pattern book or something similar over the "curvy" places when taking a hip measurement or underarm measurement, to make sure that the garment is big enough to encompass the lumps as well as the bumps.

Ileen's software looked interesting and I was sorely tempted. But I have Garment Designer and I don't use it enough, so I reluctantly kept my wallet in my pocketbook.

Monday, May 7, 2007

my, oh, my, oh, my, oh

Why did I leave Ohio? To go to the Grand Rapids Area Knitting Machine Club Spring Seminar!

I had a wonderful time. Thanks to all who organized this. Charlene Shafer and Ilene Levy were the demonstrators on Friday and Saturday. Adrianna and Sarah prepared the luncheon, which was wonderful. The Grand Rapids seminar is a WONDERFUL value. They try to keep the prices low and have largely succeeded. I compare the cost of a machine knitting seminar to a similar seminar for handknitting and I find that I save hundreds of dollars. Possibly because I eliminate some of the travel expenses and don't have to stay in a hotel!
I learned many, many tips and tricks at this seminar. I will try to share a few each day over the next few weeks so as not to overwhelm you as I was overwhelmed and inspired!

I spent the first day, Friday, with Charlene Shafer. Charlene's shop is "The Knit Knack Shop" in Peru, Indiana. She demonstrated some of the techniques from her newest books . (Shameless plug)
She demonstrated a number of afghan techniques, and answered a burning question for me: When you are knitting an afghan with fairaisle, which obviously has floats on the reverse, and the lining is plain stockinette, you have two different gauges to deal with. Usually the fairaisle block is shorter (higher number of rows to the inch). But for ease of knitting and finishing, it is convenient to have the same number of stitches and rows on the front as on the back. How does she deal with the difference in size? Her answer was that she likes to attach the lining at a number of points on the back, like "quilting" the two pieces together. It is nice if you have a design element such as contrasting colors to use to do this. But the more places you attach the lining, the nicer the finished product will be. Blocking and steaming will eliminate the size differences, once they are attached.

Another point she made about lining fairaisle afghans is that if you use a darker lining color, the floats on the back of the fairaisle will not show through the lining, as might happen with a lighter color.

If using a very large repeat (such as a 200-needle repeat) on an electronic machine, be sure and set the machine for a single motif. This will eliminate any possibility of the design being split in a way you do not want.
Tomorrow, or the next time I catch a few minutes to post, I will fill you in with some information about Ilene Levy.