Saturday, August 1, 2015

New Video for August: How to Use Blocking Wires

I admit, this one's a teaser for "Knitter's Finishing School," my latest DVD course (available at  I want every knitter to be able to get excellent results as they put together their projects!

I'm Ba-ack!

The itinerant machine knitting seminar nut is back in town.  Whew.

We arrived at home with head colds starting up - of course, I blame airplane germs - and I'm still sniffly.  But, now that I've been back a few days, I wanted to share the seminar experiences with you just a bit.

First, John and I went to The Knitting Cottage in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, to teach a two-day seminar on Friday and Saturday.  The Knitting Cottage is a MUST SEE if you are ever in that area.  This is an immaculately clean, beautifully organized knitting shop stocked to the brim with beautiful, high quality yarns.  It's nestled in a lovely farming community.  Susan and Elizabeth have a big workroom in the back - also clean, fresh and organized - that usually has knitting machines, but they cleared the back and ussed it for the seminar venue.  We had about 26 knitters in attendance.  Waynesboro isn't a bad drive at all from D.C. or Baltimore, and several people drove to come.

We zoomed through the curriculum and I taught other things, as well.  With two full days to teach, I did a big fat variety of different knitting techniques.  The knitters are terrific; a few of them get a lot more knitting done than I do!

Big highlights for me:  Having dinner with Stephanie and Judy at the Parlor House; seeing Stephanie's sock machine collection and having dinner with her and her husband Howard; Karen giving me an incredible wedding ring shawl made by hand in Uzbekistan (Karen, I've displayed it on a table to show off the Lily of the Valley lace); staying at the fun Burgundy Lane Bed and Breakfast; attending a Mennonite hymm singing with Susan and Elizabeth (glorious), attending church with Susan and Elizabeth; dinner with Carol and Larry; a day of shopping at Amish businesses in nearby communities with Carol, Mary Ann, and Larry (and purchasing an incredible Amish quilt.  Have you got a yen for a real, handmade Amish quilt?  Have I got a source!), attending the monthly knitting club for a few hours, and visiting the Appalachian Trail for a few hours on our final day there (hello to Pyro Moses, Stretch, and Radar from Knitwit and Mr. Fixit).  The photo is John and I at the Mason-Dixon line on the trail. 

We had worked out a triangle route so I could do two seminars.  First, we went to Pennsylvania, taught there, then had fun for a couple days, then flew to Michigan.

I had never been to Detroit before.  Our plan was to visit the Henry Ford Museum.  Cathy, who organizes the Monroe Seminar, told me I'd enjoy the museum as much as John.  She was right.  We got sidetracked that first morning, though, and went to the Ford Rouge factory and watched them build F-150 trucks.  John and I were fascinated, just mesmerized by the process.  We only got a couple of hours of museum displays in before it was time to go, but no worries, we'd be back Sunday.

I taught the same class three times at Monroe on Friday because there were three teachers, then a different class three times on Saturday.  Since I had a limited time to teach, I featured my newest work, techniques out of the baby blanket book, 100 Ways, and Finishing School.  Honestly, I prefer to teach my little brains out, one different thing after another, but for the participant, these really big seminars with multiple teachers are just incredible.  I wish I could go to everyone else's classes!  Well, maybe I'll have time someday to attend as a participant.  They have all the synergies of size. Cathy and Larry had upwards of 90+ people this time.  What I couldn't get over were all the beautiful, familiar faces in Monroe!  It was so much fun catching up with old friends at the hotel.

Two people I spent a little time with have slimmed down, taking advantage of the same volunteer group I attend.  Curious?  If you email me, I'll send you info on the group.

If you don't go to seminars, you really ought to try it out.  Yes, I know I always say that, and I know I'm nagging, but I hate for you to miss out.  The camaraderie with other knitters is remarkable; it's as if we are all old friends almost immediately.  This helps eliminate the issues that come from being in a big crowd at a big seminar - not just that, but being broken into groups for classes helps participants make friends.  We have so much in common, resonate to the same vibrations or something.  I laughed until I was weeping at the hotel.

I don't have many photos this time.  We are always too busy to take many photos, and sometimes John and I find a friend who take some pictures, but we goofed and didn't do it this time.  Say, seminar attendees, I'd love it if you sent me some photos to share!

I have two more seminars this year, Princeton, Minnesota and Dallas, Texas, both in the fall.  Email if you want details.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

New Video for July - Hand Knitted Buttonholes

Yikes, I haven't written a blog post in a couple of weeks!  I've been madly busy:

I'm teaching in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania this month, and then in Monroe, Michigan!  I am so looking forward to these two seminars!  John and I will simply fly from one seminar city to the next this time.  I've been getting the handouts ready, the travel arrangements made, buying a new PA system, and all that jazz...

John and I also recently taken two weekends out of town.  One was to attend a Texas Society of CPAs meeting and visit with our older son and his wife, and the other was to go to some classes.

Poor homeless knitting machines have wandered into our house.  I have two 1970s Brother push button machines, one with a ribber, just sitting here, that were donated to our local club.  They need some testing and attention before they go back to the club, and then hopefully, find new homes.  In addition, there's a Brother 270 electronic bulky and a Brother 970 electronic standard gauge, and I need to buy parts for each of those two.  I walk by them and I think that I really should not take on all these projects. 

I put up the July video yesterday and then went off to picnic and watch fireworks. This month's video teaches my two favorite buttonholes to hand knitters.

It's amazing the number of buttonhole lessons out there that each a horizontal buttonhole right across vertical ribbing.  C'mon, knitters, try these instead - they look better!  These two buttonholes are easy, look terrific and blend into the texture of the knitting. 

The July YouTube piece has a little bit of material from my newest product, "Knitter's Finishing School," which is for all knitters who want their finished projects to look more professional. 

Want to see how to make that neat-as-a-pin vertical buttonhole on a knitting machine instead of pointy needles?  It's here:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sponge Strip in a Brother 350

Barbara and Carl came over today, and along with John and I, we figured out how to change the sponge strip in a Brother 350.

The Brother 350 is a lightweight plastic bed machine that I find quite nice to carry along as a portable.  It's easy to use, inexpensive on the used market, and fun for beginners.  Instead of a sponge bar, it has a strip, and if it isn't knitting properly, the strip is likely worn out.  It takes some finagling to replace it.

I currently have a couple of these, one of which needs a sponge strip, and Barbara and Carl brought another over that needed a sponge strip.  Foam rubber simply deteriorates over time.  I had looked online to see how to do this, and we dived in and did the job on my dining room table while we all chatted. 

You know, it's kind of fun to change a sponge strip with three other people whom you enjoy!

John remarked that once we did this Brother 350 sponge strip, I could do it again on the one I have that needs a new sponge and film it for YouTube.  I hope to do that. 

We started by turning it upside down and removing all the metal brackets.  There are brackets that hold clamps and brackets that hold the three sections of plastic bed together, and we needed them off so we could get to the sponge strip.  The sponge strip, which was worn flat, was easy to pull it out.

After that, you can flip the machine over and remove all the needles.  We had three of us working on it, so it went fast.  We'd pull the needles out to hold position, close the latches, and pull them out.  Next, John put them in denatured alcohol to soak them clean, and we went to work getting the sponge strip in.  This was the hardest job.  Carl had the bright idea of attaching a string to it to draw it into the little channel, and even then, he had to patiently work it through, doing one section of the machine at a time.  He showed me how the sections clipped together.  While he was wrestling with that and then putting the clamps and brackets back, Barbara and I worked on the needles, with her drying and then me oiling the latch on each one.  We had put our hands in old, worn out cotton socks.  I was using a gun oil that's safe on plastic to lubricate each latch.  The needles had not been very dirty, as there was hardly any sediment left behind in the alcohol.

By then, Carl had wrestled the strip into the 350 and trimmed the extra from the ends.  Carl and I each took an end of the machine and worked in the needles.  As far as we could tell, the machine has just the right amount of pressure on the needles so they'll stay in place but also knit easily. 

One of the things we talked about was how easy it would be to combine two machines to make a very long bed, perhaps to knit seamless afghans.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Knit Natters on Saturday, June 13

Our club met yesterday.  Since our president moved away (Sob!  We miss you, Sylvia), none of us remembered to send a reminder to the list, but bless them, a bunch of people showed up anyway, and two ladies volunteered to start helping with the organizational things Sylvia used to do for us.

I was very excited about my demonstration, a lace circle scarf (coming to this blog later, thank you), but since we meet in a church, I had to take a tilt stand, machine and tools and set it all up.  Barbara had prepared an amazing demonstration of a Passap flared skirt, and when I got to the church, she of course had her machine all set up and the room organized with the camera, television, chairs, tables, and her knitting gear.

I set up my stuff, and when Norma arrived she helped me program my 970 (which hadn't been out of the closet for a few months.  I've been demoing on other stuff, and I have an older brother 965i that's my everyday standard gauge).  The lace is quite an easy beep-in, and the demo went well until I realized I forgot my garter bar.  Bless him, Barbara lives close to that church, and her husband Carl brought me one.

Barbara's demonstration was terrific; I want to make that skirt.

This had to be one of the best show-and-tell sessions in a while, with members bringing in lots of great projects. 

The club has two Brother Profile 588s which were donated to either help a new knitter or sell for the club treasury.  I brought them home to look at - they appear complete, but Carl showed me some broken buttons and rusted needles.  The Profile 588 was a push button machine with a lace carriage, quite vintage, and you just don't see these often.  One of them even has a ribber and a Knit Leader, but that's the one with some rust.  As old as these machines are, parts can be found.  With two machines, we ought to get one working quite well, not even having to purchase parts.  Knitting machines seem to knit forever with just a little common-sense care.  These might make good starter machines for a beginner. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Adventures With Used Machines

A few years ago, I met a wonderful lady at one of the knitting clubs who works very hard for our craft.  She not only teaches (as a volunteer), she repurposes all the poor stray knitting machines that happen in a club - you know the story - the member changed machines, downsized, got sick, passed away, or something, leaving some machine sitting, gathering dust.  They have no dealer in that area, but if you tell her which item you need, she can probably find one for you.

My husband John is extremely supportive of this hobby, and was also very impressed with the same person's efforts.  Over the past few years, he's gone after various homeless knitting machines and we've sought to repurpose them to other knitters. This makes a lot of sense in our community, because we have no knitting machine dealer.   We don't want to be a dealer, but it's kind of fun to clean them up, check them over, and find them homes as starter machines. 

Knitting machine prices are all over the place, some very high and some very low.  There's something bizarre about finding a machine that originally cost thousands of dollars for sale for peanuts.  You do see them sometimes, though.  Some of them are wonderful, some not so good.

We had a little adventure recently.  John saw a Craigslist ad for a machine and we went to see it.  It's a marvelous machine, a Brother 270, but sadly incomplete - missing the case lid and all the hand tools.  The one missing part that's difficult to find is that case lid.  The seller didn't know how to work it, had inherited it, and said the rest of the items were at her mom's house.  It had been her grandma's machine.  We could tell from the assorted odds and ends which were with it that there were other items, so we asked her to let her mom know that we'd be interested in the rest of the stuff.

We went to see the mom a couple of weeks later and bought the rest of the items - well, what she could find.  We ended up with the case lid for that 270 (hooray), just missing a couple of obtainable parts, and a 970 that's missing it's CB-1 (the electronics for the machine), all hand tools, the manual, and I'm not quite sure what else.  I figured the 970 would be a non-patterning machine unless I dug up another control box, but I read online that you can do things with a 970 with a missing box by hooking up to a computer.  I have DAK, and I'll have to play with that.  I already have an excellent, complete 970, so I plan to find a home for this new baby.  I can tell from the piles of parts that the grandmother had a color changer, a garter carriage, ribber, garter bar, and lots of other items, but this family has not yet sorted through the items they need to sell.  I told them to call me if more KM items turn up. 

So, when I get a chance, I'll clean, oil, and test these latest machines and start ordering the parts I can find. 

These old Japanese knitting machines are so sturdy that as long as they're not rusty, they're probably going to knit just fine. 

John found another item this week, and I told him, nope, nothing more for a while, okay?  It's all getting ahead of me; I haven't room to store it or much free time to fix them.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Favorite Provisional Cast On

When I hand knit, this technique featured over at Canadian Artisan is also my favorite provisional cast-on.  This is the one I always use for round dishcloths that I plan to graft invisibly.

It's MAGIC!  So easy to remove, just pull the string.  The important thing is to use the bumps on the back of the crochet chain, leaving the strands that look like a chain alone:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

New Video for June - Brother Floppy Disk Drive Repair - Belt Replacement

The old Brother floppy disk drives are usually broken by now, but we need them if we have old floppy disks with patterns.  At the very least, we need to get the patterns off and into a modern computer.

It turns out that most of the time, what breaks is the belt inside the floppy disk drive. This is a simple little part, quite like a rubber band, and John taught me how to change it.  I've made a video of my changing out that belt:

I put this video up because I found it quite interesting, but here's a disclaimer:  I'm not a knitting machine repair person, and neither is John.  Please don't ask me how to fix machines, because I usually don't know what to tell you, beyond the usual clean it, oil it, and put a good sponge bar in it. 

There are a few things John fixes for me, but we're not claiming to be experts.  We don't have time to run a repair business, and we don't have a stock of parts.  If you attempt this yourself, you're going to need to take the usual precautions (unplug the thing, for instance, and keep track of the screws as you remove them).  You'll also need to order the belt, make that company's minimum order, and pay a bit of shipping.  You might prefer to work with one of the several knitting machine dealers around the country who do repairs and would do a terrific job on your disk drive.  I am very grateful that there are still terrific repair people in the business.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

FB 100 Parts

The FB100 disk drive for Brother electronic machines was a very popular way to purchase or store stitch patterns.  Unfortunately, a great many of these are broken now.

John was interested in trying to fix mine plus two of my friend's disk drives, and knitters saw my appeal on the internet and sent us all kinds of useful information.  The most common reason for these to break down is that the belt (which looks like a rubber band to me) gets stretched out and worn out. 

This photo is simply two FB100 belts - my old, stretched one on the outside, obviously much too big and loose to do any good on the disk drive, and a new one that John purchased from Russell Industries (again, thanks to a tip from helpful knitters), which is much smaller.  Five belts cost about $30, including shipping.

Now, he's figuring out how to take the thing apart and replace the belt.  Then, we'll test the drive.  Fingers and toes crossed!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Notice to Beginners: You Can Get Started Learning Machine Knitting for Free

Here's how to start machine knitting - and learn to make very nice things:  Watch a beginner lesson, work a lesson each day, and in a little over a month, you have learned to machine knit quite competently on any Japanese main bed.  It doesn't go into fancy patterning but emphasizes the all-important basics.  The lessons even finish with a child's raglan in both standard and bulky gauges, so you can learn the techniques for an actual garment.

If you want to master something FAST, do a little practice every day.

At the end of that course, you're probably "hooked."  You made a nice sweater in a fraction of the time it would have taken to hand knit it, and you probably made a better sweater than you thought was possible, if you followed the finishing instructions carefully.  Now, there's a world of options available, for instance, my ribber course, other teaching materials from plenty of knitters, free on YouTube, there's this blog and other folks' blogs, there are unbelievably awesome local groups, and there are lots of great instructional materials available for sale at reasonable prices (and from lots of people besides me)!

The beginner course is over here:

After I did these, folks asked for a DVD and high-definition lessons.  I bought the equipment and did that, but what I left on YouTube was these freebies, which were done with an old analog camcorder.  The old freebies are absolutely the same content, but lower quality picture, sound, and editing, as well, since I was a newbie.  Should I replace them?  I don't know; I certainly have sentimental feelings about them, because they led to my whole book, DVD and seminar business and meeting so many terrific knitters in the last few years.

The beginner course DVDs, and a bunch of other products, are available at  All the products that are for sale are high-definition and you can play them on your big screen TV, if you really want to see everything in giant detail. 

But what if you're just curious about machine knitting?  Go watch the freebies.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Inspiration at Ozlorna's Blog

Congratulations to Ozlorna on the arrival of her lovely SK155, which traveled all the way from California to Oz!  Check out the beautiful sweater she has already knitted on it:

She's an expert I'd love to meet someday!

Oops - link fixed!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Great Shawl at Marg's Knitting Place

Check out Marg's shawl, and note that she used my recently-uploaded YouTube lesson on a diagonal anti-roll edge.  It certainly worked out well on this lovely lacy shawl.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Inspiration at Rett Og Vrang

Look at these lovely fingerless gloves that Synnove made!

I know a very cool way to do this color technique.  Hmm, adding it to my video list.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

New Video for May - Latch Tool Cast-On Trim

Before I introduce this video, let me mention that I'm teaching at the San Francisco Bay Area Machine Knitting Guild next Friday and Saturday.  I'm excited because I've redone and refreshed my curriculum, and also because I've heard such terrific things about this MK group.

Email me (link on the left-hand side of this blog, just scroll down) if you are in that area and want more information.

Now, for May's video, here's a flat, sturdy (not stretchy), thick edge that I think looks quite elegant.  It's easy to do.  You can put this at the beginning or the end of a piece.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Celebrating Three Million YouTube Views and Ten Thousand Subscribers

Today's a big day for me on YouTube -

10,434 subscribers                     3,001,173 views

This may not seem like big numbers for YouTube generally, but for machine knitting, it's wonderful!

Thanks, everyone!

I used to celebrate by buying yarn, but I really must stop that!  And, I used to celebrate by munching out, but that's out of the question, too. 

Instead, I guess I'll just put up another video tomorrow.  Hint:  For May, it's a nifty tailored-looking trim for the bottom or top of knitting, accomplished with the latch tool.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Inspiration at Needles to Say

I love this little girl's cape, and especially like the edge trim.  If you click on a photo, you can get a bigger view and see the nice lace scallops: