Sunday, October 11, 2015


I've just taught a two-day seminar in Princeton, Minnesota (Thank you, Cindy Schmatz and awesome knitters).  This was a grand experience.   We have beautiful weather here in Minnesota, and we're planning on a nice Sunday drive today.  We've already seen some spectacular fall color.

One of the things I've noticed is that a lot of knitters like to keep up to date on my new videos and blog posts, but they miss them.  You can subscribe, you know, and be notified of each new video!  Go down the left-hand side of this blog to subscribe.

I am still doing a YouTube video every month.  This month was an interesting shell stitch.  To subscribe to the YouTube videos, and not miss any of them, go here:

Saturday, October 3, 2015

New Video for October - Seashell Stitch

I had a knitter email, linking a picture and asking about a stitch like this.  Then I saw a number of posts about stitches like this on one of the knitting lists.  After that, I couldn't get it off my mind.  It looked fairly easy; rather like the triangles, argyles and other designs we used to do with short-rowing.

After thinking it over, I decided it would be a good thing for a bulky or mid-gauge in a 12-stitch version.  Of course, you could make it on just about any machine, and it would be gorgeous in standard gauge, but I liked the idea of it working up quickly on a bulky.

This morning, I had a chance to play with some ideas.  I ended up with a very simple 12-stitch shell, s simplified so you don't have many ends to deal with, you can do a quick, no-wrap short-row, and you don't have to do much counting or mark the needle bed. 

You're going to see a very interesting texture - the bottoms of the shells are raised.  You can block that into flatness if you want, but after making, oh, at least four swatches today - I decided I like a very light blocking.   Also, notice how the variegated yarn makes curves? 

After you watch the video, you'll probably realize that this could be done automatically using slip stitches, with an electronic machine that would hold a large enough pattern.  However, you'd have to pass the width of the knitting every row, even if it's just a two-stitch row, so it's a job for a motor attached to an electronic machine.  I might try it...but not today! 

Nope - this weekend, John and I are getting ready to go to Princeton, Minnesota next weekend.  I've going to do a two-day seminar, and I've got a very busy curriculum planned!  I believe Cindy Schmatz still has some space in that seminar, if you'd like to attend. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Spring Fashion Trends - New Colors

Hat tip to My Blue Heaven knits:

I like these colors!  First of all, we're going to have plenty of color this spring.  Remember a couple years ago, when it was all so neutral?  I also appreciate that these are gentle colors, flattering on lots of people.

I don't understand how color trends happen.  I suppose some designer hits a home run and companies copy the nice theme and combination.  I do know that mysteriously, clothing, furniture, and all sorts of manufactured goods will follow the prevailing trends. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Upcoming Seminars!

I apologize that I haven't done a very good job letting blog readers know where I'm teaching and when.  I only do a few seminars a year - still working full-time at a job I love, so I do them on vacation days.  It's always a shame when I hear from someone in an area where I just taught who is looking for a seminar and missed one!

I'm about to do two more seminars in October:

October 9 and 10, I'm going to Princeton, Minnesota to teach for two days.  Information is here:

October 24 and 25, I'm teaching a two-day seminar in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area - in fact, right next to the DFW Airport.  Information on that one:

Now, for those of you who really plan ahead, here's some 2016 news:

February 2016, in fact, Valentine's Day weekend, I'll be in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I haven't been there before! This will be a two-day seminar, but I'm not sure whether it's a Fri-Sat or a Sat-Sun just now. 

March 11-13, Newton's Spring Fling, in Anaheim, California.  That seminar is a real experience, with lots of people, lots of teachers, lots of excellent shopping opportunities.

April 30, I'll do a one-day seminar with Generic Knitters in Denver, Colorado. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Good Question - How can I avoid dropped stitches in lace?

I had a good question the other day in my email.  The knitter has a Studio 700 (nice punch card machine with an excellent lace carriage), and stitches keep dropping, frustratingly, in lace knitting.

So - I asked if the lady was a new knitter or if the machine used to work fine and it was just a new machine problem.  Turns out, she's fairly new to knitting.  Then I thought it over for a while and wrote a little list of things that might help.  Readers, I'd appreciate your comments as you think of additional tips I didn't include.

Hmm.  Ways to avoid dropping lace stitches:

1.       Knit some waste yarn (two inches, maybe) before casting on and starting with the lace.

2.       Try tightening tension.  Doesn’t work?  Try loosening tension.   If too loose, big loops fall off.  If too tight, stitches don’t slip off and onto needles well.

3.       Make sure the upper tension unit take-up springs are not too saggy.  You don’t want any edge loops.

4.       Make sure the little brushes/wheels under the sinker plate (also called fabric presser, the silver thing attached to the carriage) are clean underneath.  Those little wheels should spin freely, but if fuzzy stuff often gets under them, they don’t spin.  That causes edge loops, which catch and cause dropped stitches.

5.       Start with easy yarn.  You’re looking for medium thickness that the machine knits effortlessly, probably acrylic with a little elasticity.  Thin wool is also usually good. Avoid cotton, linen, bamboo, mohair, angora, spandex, slubs, kinks, bumps, super thin or thick yarn, at least until you're more expert.  The thickness is “fingering weight” or a 2/12 kind of thickness. I have driven myself nearly crazy trying to machine knit “lace” weight yarn.  It’s really a little too thin for the machine.  I can do it, but I have to be really careful.

6.       Start with easy stitch patterns, that is, the ones that do not require “full fashion” lace and just happen right as you knit without changing the carriage settings or unthreading.  Why?  Because full-fashion lace pulls the stitches farther and puts more strain on the fabric.

7.       If dropped stitches are intermittent, you can put in a "lifeline," that is, sew a piece of thin string through all the stitches.  You do this every inch or two.  Then, if you drop stitches, you can go back to that.  NOTE:  I personally virtually NEVER use a lifeline, but other people swear by them.  Why don’t I?  I do big swatches and make sure my machine likes the yarn before I attempt the lace project.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Making Slant Lace Circle Scarf on a Different Machine

When I did the September video, it was a long video already, and I didn't explain much about how to do this lace stitch on a different machine.

This can be done with either a Brother (Knitking) or Studio (Singer, Silver Reed) machine that has a lace carriage.

The pattern is this, where X is punched or black and O is blank or unpunched:

O  O

X  O

If you have a punch card machine, you need that all over.  Not in the mood for punching and punching?  For a Brother, you can use card #1 and lock the row so it doesn't change (or any card that is punched out on every other needle).  Two passes with the main carriage, then two passes with the lace carriage.

If you like it, I think you should punch a card.  I'm not keen on having the lace carriage move all those empty needles unnecessarily on the second pass.

If you have an electronic machine, input the pattern.  Two stitches wide, two rows tall.  Bottom row:  black, white.  Top row:  white, white.

Whatever machine you have, set it up so the end needles don't transfer.  You want two plain needles on the end on the lacy rows, with a hole next to the end needle.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Brother KH 900 and KR 900 Ribber

Here's the Brother electronic, model KH 900, with it's ribber, the KR 900.  I had mentioned to y'all that I had never seen one of these before.  John was really getting into this by the time we started on this machine, and he removed and soaked all the needles, took the carriage all apart and unstuck the middle button, and made a repair to the upper tension unit, as well.

John is fascinated with how the machines work.  I can understand that, but I'm not one of those folks who loves to clean and adjust my machine.  I want to knit!  And knit some more!  So, to testing the machines after John has them humming is just my cup of tea.

The 900 was easy for me to use.  The carriage buttons and levers are familiar.  It also has a very simple electronic control panel.  It just has 50 different stitch patterns built in, and you push the Pattern Number button, then the up and down arrows to find the pattern you want.  Then you poke the Pattern Number button again, and you're ready to go.  You can also use the input keys to put in patterns.  I actually use very few large patterns, and 24 stitches is usually plenty of design space, especially in this situation, because if you want a smaller number, you don't have to use 24 - it could be 11 stitches, or 5 stitches, or whatever, but repeated on across the bed.  Another cool thing about 24 stitches is that I have several books of 24-stitch punch card designs that will work with this.  You can get books with hundreds and hundreds of patterns!  There are a few simple variation keys, and I tried those.  There's a double jacquard key.  There's a way to position or isolate patterns, but I didn't play with that, at least not so far. 

There's a door here with some electronic contacts, for a PPD.

I believe this model was not originally sold with a lace carriage; if you wanted one, you had to purchase it separately.  I tried the one from a Brother electronic.  Some lace patterns knitted fine, but one miss-patterned in a certain spot.  The main carriage didn't miss-pattern that lace chart.  Hmm.  So maybe these machines are pickier about which lace carriage that I expected.  My girlfriend has a spare lace carriage from an earlier electronic that I'm going to try with this machine. 

We put the ribber on, and it wasn't working well at all.  After puzzling over it, I realized that the ribber brackets - those little gizmos that you install on each end of the main bed, and from which you hang the ribber - had been installed incorrectly, back under the front edge instead of butted up against the front edge.  We hadn't looked at those, just left them where they were when we got it.  That made the ribber ride too low and too far back, just enough to cause trouble. John and I moved those, and had instant success with the ribber.  I'm curious how this ribber differs from the KR 850.  I notice it does have "lili" buttons.

One of the things John and I talked about as we fiddled with this machine was its possible age.  He thinks perhaps the 900 model was not necessarily before the 910, but was a less-expensive option or something while several other, fancier electronic models were also being sold.  I really have no idea.  I was a dealer when the 910 came out, and I thought it was a great innovation.  At the time, the new technology was very exciting.  This was the time when the garter carriage came out.  I was certainly paying attention to each new product!  When the 930 came out, I truly was in love with that model.  I had that machine when I sold my shop, kept it, and it was my one-and-only for years.  I moved up to a 965i and a 970, but truthfully, my 930 was just a sweet machine, and I kind of miss it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New Video for September - Slant Lace Circle Scarf

This month's video is a fun stitch, a very simple lace that biases automatically.  I've joined the slanty beginning to the slanty end to make a circle scarf.  I like the geometry!  It's a nice little accessory to wear, doesn't take much yarn, and I think you'll be as fascinated as I was with the stitch:

I admit it, I got a little obsessed.  I don't know how many circle scarves I've made this way.  I used fancy patterned sock yarn for them, and one of my favorites was made with a bunch of scrappy leftovers that I put together using the Russian join.  When you get a pretty item out of such small bits, it's like getting something for nothing!

I believe you can do this on any machine with a lace carriage.  You just want every other needle to select, and you'll transfer them all with the lace carriage.  You'll do two passes with the lace carriage; then do two passes with the main carriage.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Brother 900 in the Knitting Machine Hospital

I'm not very good at mechanical things, but John is, and he's been helping me clean and lube an assortment of nice, but used machines that have wandered into our lives. 

There's nothing elegant about turning my kitchen and dining room into a knitting machine hospital.  I find myself cooking in a tiny corner while my 6-foot kitchen island is covered in junk. However, it's also an indescribable feeling, so wonderful to get one of these babies running like silk.  Later, we hope to find them homes.

There were two Brother Profiles donated to our knit club.  These are older, push button machines, and they are very cool.  They both needed sponge bars, then one needed cleaned and oiled, and the other needed quite a bit more work, but now every button is unstuck, every needle lubed.  We even whitened the plastic a bit!  There's a ribber and knit leader I haven't even looked at yet.  I've knitted a bit on each, and they're terrific, but of course, you have to think more when you're pushing buttons to make a pattern.

Then there's a Brother 890 John and I purchased at a garage sale, a 24-stitch punch card machine  This baby was in pretty good shape, but it needed the plastic treatment, a sponge bar, cleaning and lubrication. 

They always need sponge bars.  I keep ordering more sponge bars! 

This is the bed from yet another acquisition, a Brother 900 found on Craigslist.  This is the only 900 I've ever seen.  Perhaps they were more common in other countries.  It's an electronic model, preprogrammed with just 50 patterns, but you can put in more with the input keys.  Patterns are only 24 stitches wide.  We tested it at the seller's house, and it worked pretty well, despite having a totally flat sponge bar and a stuck button on the carriage.  John is currently putting the carriage back together, after getting the center buttons unstuck and everything cleaned and lubed, and I'll get to play with it a bit and see what I think.

The 270 we worked on has found a marvelous new home with Bev, who read a blog post where I mentioned it. 

The biggest problem we've seen with second-hand machines is missing parts.  When you buy one, be sure and compare the machine parts pages in the knitting machine's manual to the items being included with the machine.  Parts are expensive, and sometimes, you can't find a particular item at all.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Helen Griffiths New Website

Go visit Helen!  She's got a new blog, selling site, links, patterns and recipes!

Those of us who've been lucky enough to attend one of Helen's seminars or knit her patterns know what a talented designer and teacher she is, and what a charming person she is, as well.  Helen and carries the EXCELLENT ribber comb wires that I'm always showing y'all at seminars.  I told Helen this week that I need to inventory all my ribber combs that have crummy wires and stock up. (John and I keep bringing home homeless knitting machines to fix up and place for adoption, and they always seem to need these good wires.)

Helen is also working on Knitter's Edge these days.  Linda's getting busy with that site, which had gone dormant.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Post About Cooking

Most of you know that I slimmed down.  Seriously! I went from a hefty plus size to a 6-8.  Some of you have asked for details, and I sent ya'll to the group that helped me.  If you are curious, too, about what I did, just email me. 

A few knitter-friends have slimmed down, too, using this method, and have been giving me menu ideas and cooking tips.

I've always liked to cook.  Now, as I follow this very health-oriented food plan, preparing food at home is the way to go.

In the bad old plus-size days, my meals were skimpy and my snacking was habitual.  Today, I eat three meals, and nothing in between, which means that once dinner is finished and dishes washed, there is no more hanging around in the kitchen for the evening.  The evening is mine!  My meals are big, especially heavy on the veggies, including a big, big salad with supper.

For a person who has major problems with being over-scheduled, the time I spend cooking and cleaning up might seem like a waste.  It's worth it, though.  I get so much more done than I used to, because I feel so good.

John is a good sport and eats whatever I'm cooking.  He says he enjoys the food plan.  Since John doesn't have a weight issue, he eats the same foods but he doesn't weigh or measure his food.  He actually likes smaller servings than I measure and eat.  John adds a little beer and peanuts to his menu, though!

For breakfast, I usually do eggs, oatmeal, and chop up fruit.  The fruit varies according to what's in season, of course. It's not that I have to eat eggs and oatmeal - these are just foods that I like that match with the specific food groups for breakfast.

Keeping up with the program meant that I had to get organized, so on Sundays, I pack weekday lunches.  Again, following food groups, most weeks, I cook a brown and wild-rice combination for my grain servings, measure and pack that in plastic tubs, then pour in enough frozen veggies for my veggie requirement.  (At work, I nuke the tubs in the office microwave.)  I also get my raw vegetables, fruit and a protein bagged and piled in the fridge.  Often, my protein is string cheese or cottage cheese, because I like those, but some days I pack leftover protein item from the night before into my lunch.

I especially like gadgets - no surprise there!  Recently, on a whim, I purchased an Instant Pot from, an electronic pressure cooker/steamer/slow cooker.  This cooker has a big stainless steel cooking pot inside that comes out and goes through the dishwasher. 

I've always liked using stove top pressure cookers.  I have a regular one and a low-pressure one.  With the stove top kind, though, you hang around the kitchen, wait for the pot to reach pressure, then listen to the valve jiggle to make sure the pressure is regulated properly.

With this gizmo, I can come home from work, load something in the pressure cooker, set it up, and I don't have to watch it.  It has a timer and beeps loudly when it's finished.  I have had a learning curve, but gradually improved in my use of it.  I've pretty much eliminated using my crock pot and pressure cookers, and this summer, I've hardly used the oven.  Yesterday, for instance, I set up the Instant Pot with chicken, wandered off and knitted.  I've been making Origami Sweaters.  My first one is in the photo.  I'll write another post about them, I think.

I checked my watch and came back when it was time to make the salad and cook the side veggies.

I like it for cooking rice using the low pressure setting.  I was doing my rice in the microwave, and it was difficult to keep it from bubbling over and making a mess.  I could do rice perfectly on the stove, but that means staying in the kitchen and keeping an eye on it. 

A friend at my weight control group told me she has one, and how she uses it to cook pieces of chicken right out of the freezer.  I tried that myself, with surprisingly good results.  I'm still figuring out cooking times, especially if I put in something frozen, but it works for me to underestimate, then put the lid back on and cook more as needed.  Eventually, I'll master the timing.  I've been visiting some websites with pressure cooker advice and finding those helpful.  There are a lot of foods I haven't tried cooking.  I tend to shy away from the ones that might bubble up and clog the valve.

I cooked salmon in it the other day.  (I'm crazy about salmon.  So is my dog, go figure!  When I am cooking, he usually ignores me, but if it's salmon, he comes and stares at me with his big, soulful brown eyes.  It works - he gets a little after supper.  We buy him salmon-flavored dog food, and that's the kind he will always eat.)  I've been poaching salmon for years with water, lemon juice and lemon pepper, because that produces moist, tender fish.  I found that using the same mix in the electronic pot actually worked okay.  I didn't know how long to cook it.  You're supposed to be careful not to overcook fish, but my first guess wasn't quite long enough, so I poked at it with a knife and cooked it some more time.

I'm still thinking about buying a spiralizer for cutting my veggies.  Next experiment, I guess!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015


Updates - John was gone this week, and I was on my own. 

Tuesday, our dog Sammy had an appointment for a one-shot radiation treatment on a spot where the vet had removed a small, but cancerous tumor.  This was to happen at Texas A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine, so on Tuesday, I took a morning off work and off I went.  Oops! It turned into the whole day.  It's a teaching hospital, and that takes a little longer, but the primary delay was the procedure wasn't going to happen until they did their own evaluation, their own blood work, and lined up on the anesthesiology schedule.  They needed to keep him a while afterwards.  A&M is two hours away, and Sammy doesn't mind road trips if he can roam the car.  This is Texas country driving with high speed limits, and I needed him to not roam all over my body (I had nobody to help me with him), so I put him in his crate for the drive, which he hated.  It ended up being a 12-hour day, including the 4 hours on the road. 

Perhaps because he was knocked out for the procedure, he was off his game afterwards.  He whimpered the whole way home, yet when I stopped the car and checked him out, he seemed okay.  When we finally got home and he seemed to have no appetite, I was worried, but after a day or so he was his old self. 

I haven't done much knitting, just a little "doodling."  Some more knitting parts arrived, though.  I had ordered a bunch of odds and ends to fix up a couple of machines that were donated to our knit club, a 270 with missing parts, and a 970 with a missing CB-1.  I haven't found - and may not find - a CB-1 (has anybody got one for sale?).  Parts came for the other machines, and it's always fun to have knitting items arriving, and they're going to turn out just fine.  However, not sure I want to do this very often; I'd rather knit that fiddle with machines.  In fact, I'd MUCH rather knit. 

Whenever we "adopt" homeless machines, we get to fix them, store them or sell them or find them homes.  We obviously don't have time and space for this, so why keep stumbling into it?  Well, for years, I wanted that first machine, but I couldn't afford it, and when I finally got one, it was like a dream come true.  Then, I kept wanting to add accessories and upgrade, and add different gauge machines, and it was always expensive.  I was always thrilled when I got the newest item and was able to do more because I had it.  John totally understands my emotional history with these machines (he was there and bought me my first one).  He also gets sucked in to the challenge of fixing up anything mechanical.  We're a terrible influence on each other in this area.  :)

I have two more seminars this year, Princeton, Minnesota and Dallas-Ft. Worth in October.  In 2016 I'm going to teach a seminar in Albuquerque next Valentine's Day weekend.  Some other 2016 seminar possibilities are in the hopper.  I'll let you know. 

You know, I love to link to knitting blogs, but I don't see much activity this week.  Tip me off - am I missing some good, new blogs?  Some my favorite blogs to follow don't have much knitting lately. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Inspiration at Anna's Blog

Anna's blog is in Russian, but oh, the pictures!  You can use a translation app to translate the blog, which works quite well with many languages, but with Russian, it comes back with near-nonsense. 

I really like this pullover - the 3/4 length sleeve with the deep ribbing and the simply raglan style: