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 Amazon.com, 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:


Monday, August 3, 2015

Crib Blanket at Roz's Loft

Check this out:


Condo Cable

Life's been very hectic, but lately I really want to at least knit a few minutes in the evenings.  Even if I only get to doodle, make swatches, try out ideas, and don't have time for a whole project, I want to fit it in. 

I'm calling this evening's experiment a "condo cable:"

Condo knitting is a technique with larger loops for some of the work.  Sometimes we MKers call it "release lace." 

I programmed the Brother standard gauge machine with the chart, above.  It's 12 stitches wide and 16 rows tall.  It could work with a punch card; you'd just have to repeat the pattern.  The programming is just to help me keep track of when to put ribber needles in work and when to cable.

The pattern is a multiple of 12, plus two extra stitches on the side edges.

The ribber is set up, but cast on 50 stitches on the main bed only for the swatch.  I was using tension 6 and a large, 1-pound ribber weight.  It's always harder to get stitches to knit off when you're doing single bed with a ribber, and weights help.  Machine is set to N, not H on main carriage.

Knit a few rows, then engage the machine's needle selection (KCII; if you can't suppress end needle selection, ignore a selected end needle.  Also, ignore the two needles that sometimes select on the edge.)  When the machine selects 6 needles in a row, I put the ribber on half pitch and brought up 5 needles on the ribber bed, just below the 6 selected ones.  Knit 1 row.  It selects the same needles again.  It will have laid down yarn in the ribber needles.  Drop the ribber stitches by uncoupling and sliding the ribber carriage across and back.  Move the ribber needles back down out of work.

Now, the selected needles have long loops and are the ones to cable.  Use two 3-stitch transfer tools and cable 3 over 3.  Because of the long loops, they'll cable just fine, even though they're groups of 6 stitches.  After you cable, bring the cabled stitches out to hold so they'll knit through more easily.

Keep knitting (main bed only), until machine selects groups of 6.  Once again, bring up 5 needles on ribber below those selected 6, knit 1 row, release ribber stitches, and put ribber needles back out of work.  Then cable the selected needles.

Repeat.  This is easy and fun!  A few thoughts:

1.  Be careful not to get the long condo loops stuck on gate pegs.
2.  Bringing the cabled needles out to hold really helps stitches knit off.
3.  No reason you couldn't do this with your bulky - in fact, I think it would look terrific!

Maybe I'll make a video out of it. 

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 www.dianaknits.com).  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: