Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I just finished "Back on Blossom Street" by Debbie Macomber. If you haven't read the books in this series, it is high time you took a break from your machine or hand-knitting and sit down.

She paints a picture of a knitting/fiber shop that might be highly idealized, but certainly inspiring.

New embroidery machine

Gall Sewing has just notified me that my new embroidery machine is in, I am SEW excited!

I've been looking at different photos of T-shirts, etc. in catalogs and wondering how to embellish them, but then saying to myself that I should knit my own.

Definitely one skill I want to learn is the applique embroidery method. I think it would be interesting to create a collage-type garment, for example, a jacket with appliqued embroidered falling leaves. Might even mix and match some knitted appliques with fabric ones. I think the knitted appliques would work especially if an iron-on fusible interfacing was applied to the back of the knitted fabric.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dragonfly amulet bag (or cell phone holder?)

Here is my latest creation!

Very simple, to be sure, but I am knitting again. Small projects like this one can be a learning experience, to be sure.

I cast on 48 stitches thinking I would have a 24-stitch repeat (on my punchcard KH864) but after casting on, decided I didn't want a fairaisle pattern at all.

I wanted to practice the "turning ridge" or (pants front crease line) that Lora Kinnan demonstarted at the Grand Rapids seminar. This involves using a separate strand of yarn and looping every stitch all the way up (on the wrong side, of course) after each row is knitted.

I chose a soft cotton yarn, because it was at hand. Probably not the best choice for this project if it would be used for a cell-phone holder or other use where it would be worn frequently or used every day, I would want a stronger yarn. For a cell phone or other delicate electronic equipment, I would consider lining the bag with something softer. Once I used a nylon macrame cord for a cell phone holder, but I found that after long use, the bag didn't wear out, but the phone showed signs of wear at the edges!

Since my bag had two "turns" I cut two extra lengths of yarn, and looped needle 13 on either side of zero. Duh. I didn't add this into the count of stitches I would need. So the front of my bag has 24 stitches and the back side has only 11 on either side of the crease. Good thing knits are stretchy! Note to self - the turning stitch takes up width.

I used three rows of crochet cast on, thinking that would give a nice, firm edge to the top of the bag. (Caution- it curled) When I got to the end (the desired length of the bag), I took the piece off on waste yarn and then re-hung the stitches so that they were doubled on the needles (this is when I found out I was short stitches! My plan was to knit one row, then bind off. Oops! when I re-hung the piece, the end of my yarn was in the middle. Thinking it wouldn't matter, I hand-knitted back out to the edge before knitting my one bind-off row. This does result in a visible difference in the bottom of the piece. Next time I would break the yarn and start at the edge.

I hung the bag on the needles and made a 7-stitch I-cord for the strap, when I had knitted enough I-cord I hung the other side of the bag on the needles and then bound off through both stitches.

I wanted to try some different embellishment, so I used my embroidery machine to create a dragonfly patch. I used some leftover (from Christmas) organza-like 4-inch-wide ribbon and hooped it with water-soluble stabilizer. I embroidered the ornament, using blue variegated thread instead of the gray that was called for in the design, then carefully cut out the piece, using embroidery scissors, right next to the stitching. I used fabric glue to attach it to the bag (Note: I put a block of foam packing material inside to prevent the glue from accidentally attaching the front of the bag to the back. I wish I could give credit to the dragonfly creator but unfortunately, it was a free download that I didn't document well enough.

I attached a fringe of green glass beads to the bottom, securing them with knots of yarn. Then I used a green wooden bead and I-cord to make a button-loop at the top to hold the bag's contents securely. Voila! One project completed!

While the embroidery machine was going, I thought I would use the time to figure out where I was on the g-carriage shawl I started as a gift for an expectant mother 3 years ago. It used two colors of yarn, and of course when I set the G-carriage for 50 rows one of the yarns broke at row 20. I found that I had actually ripped all the way back to the error and re-hung the stitches except for a few final stitches that had dropped. I re-hung these, then crossed my fingers and started the g-carriage. (the stitch pattern is very simple, 3 knits, 3 purls, then alternate on the next row, so I had a 50-50 chance of being on the right row) I was overjoyed that the g-carriage started, but it got to the end and didn't turn...

Now what? I looked on the underside of the carriage, but was baffled. Thinking it perhaps had stiffened up from non-use (rust? I hope not!) I gave everything a shot of machine lube, and worked the control back and forth several times. I'm not sure if this actually helped, or if perhaps I had one of the controls in the wrong position in the first place. Anyway, on the next row it turned, I set it for 30 rows, then went upstairs and had dinner with my dear husband. When I got downstairs, I noticed several holes in the fabric where stitches had dropped.

I examined the needles for bent ones. Yes, indeed, one was noticeably twisted. I replaced it, knitted a few more rows, and no holes! Set the machine for 20 rows and went over and worked on the embroidery machine. When I came back, I found several NEW holes, and they weren't consistent from row to row. I looked at the needle in the g-carriage, sure enough, it looked STRAIGHT, not slightly twisted as normal. I replaced the needle in the g-carriage, and it appeared to like it much better.

When I came back the next time, the shawl wasn't noticeably longer than when I had left, but the row counter was all the way down to zero. Hmmmm. Set it for 10 rows and observed. Found out it was turning rows at the end of the row, then turning again when it reached the first stitch. That moves the row counter really fast, but no actual knitting occured!

I decided to give it a rest until today. So far today, I've been out in the garden, cooked a FANTASTIC lunch for my dear husband, and in a few minutes my 4-year old grandson is coming over, so I may not get back to this until tomorrow. If you are reading this and know the answer, I'd welcome a comment!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Back to knitting

I've spent the summer gardening, and now the Grand Rapids Seminar last weekend marks the beginning of the winter - time to knit.

Although I DID manage to finally finish my Michigan UP socks this summer on one of our many road trips. I was so lucky - managed to finish the second sock with two feet of yarn left on the first ball of Sockotta - I thought I was going to need to start the 2nd ball, but now I'll have two pairs of socks, instead of just one.

We had marvelous classes in GR with Deb Osborne and Lora Kinnan. You can read about it on the GRAMKC site I met some new friends and learned about the Monroe area seminar in July.

I learned some new techniques for a button band from Lora, and was really impressed by the fleece-lined garments (vests, hats, slippers) that Deb presented.

I just got an email from Cochenille. It seems Susan Lazear has a blog now. Lovely pictures from her Germany trip. I also learned at the GR seminar that Sandee Cherry maintains a list of upcoming MK seminars on her site.

I have committed to make more of an effort to do something related to knitting every day.

Last night I "tinked" (un-knitted) the back and front of a shell that has been hanging on/off the machine since long before April. My grandson thought it was fascinating to watch the stitches slip off the needles as he pushed them in, one by one. I noticed what he was doing after about 80 stitches came off.

Tonight I am working on a small bag. I hope to incorporate some of the techniques for turning and creases that Lora showed us last weekend.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Finish-it Friday

I love going to Finish-it Friday at the library. The ladies there are such a great mix! It seems that each meeting there is someone who needs to talk and others who need to listen - heads down and getting their projects done. I am still working on the Michigan UP socks.

I have been thinking a lot about gender equity in science and math education issues lately. Having trouble with what to do about it. I found this article online. A lot of useful information for teachers. I especially like this paragraph - it really reminds me of Elizabeth Zimmerman, it applies to knitting as well as teaching science:

"Science is about experimenting and trying new ideas. There is also a lot
of room for mistakes and fixing incorrect hypotheses.

• As often as possible, allow for students to see that there are other
ways of finding an answer, and that the predicted result in not
necessarily the only result (or even the correct one in all cases).

• Allow students (and reward them) to let you know if you’ve made
mistakes and to help you to fix them. Modeling that people make
mistakes may help girls feel more comfortable in science (and
math), which is often perceived as a subject that leaves no room
for making any (i.e., answers are either right or wrong).

• Allow students to question the material and you. If they have
questions or concerns about science that are related to your
material, ask students to share them privately or with the class (if
appropriate). Students often find great material that can be useful
to everyone."

I think that knitting, and machine knitting especially, can reinforce science and math skills in girls' educations. Lots of opportunity to use the computer too, with software tools for garment design and embellishment, or even searching the internet for patterns! Think what a force we could be if all machine knitters were to volunteer in educational programs!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

UFO's taking over

I have almost as many unfinished projects around here as I do cones of yarn, and that is a lot. I'm very cozy today, even though the temperature outside is only 8 degrees Fahrenheit, in a sweater I machine-knit from a old Rowan book. I used 50/50 yarn (50 percent wool, and 50 percent acrylic) and the KH-864 punchcard standard gauge machine. It is a Nordic-looking cardigan and it has checkerboard at the top and fairaisle men and women holding hands at the bottom. I used cut-and-sew at the armholes and neck because I somehow lost track of my pattern and the pieces came out differently-sized. But it all worked out. The pattern (and book it came from) are pretty old, but classic. I saw the punch card design used a few years ago by Mary Ann Oger for a little-girl's jumper. I think next time I use it I will do alternating colors, because the design makes me happy and I think the colors would be cheerful too. Maybe I will do it in the Lion Brand Microfiber yarn - the colors of that yarn are so bright and cheerful - but I think it would have to go on the bulky machine.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Scarf and hat

I've been working on a hand-knit scarf (finished) and hat, which is not finished. I'm using Lion Brand Moonlight mohair along with a rayon blend, an acrylic blend, and a Shetland wool. All together, five strands of yarn (the Moonlight Mohair has 2 strands.)

I used wooden #10 US needles for the scarf, cast on 12 stitches and knitted K1P1 until I ran out of the Moonlight Mohair.

For the hat, I cast on 48 stitches, again doing K1P1 but am using bamboo circular needles in a slightly smaller size. I've got 5 rows done, work is going fast.

I'm trying to empty enough room in my craft room in the basement to even get to my knitting machines. It's been building up for a long time.