Monday, September 8, 2014

It's a Book! Best Baby Blankets is Finished & Available!

Did you hear any shouting or dancing?  That was me in Texas, excited to have "Best Baby Blankets" finished. 

It wasn't really the plan to do a baby blanket book next, but my knit club was making lap robes and baby blankets, and I fell in love with the project.  I had such a good time playing with my different machines, yarns, and ideas.  I put everything in the bone pile that didn't meet my standard:  truly great-looking baby blankets, with no holes for little fingers to catch, practical to make and own, and not requiring fancy equipment.  I included plenty of options - standard gauge, mid-gauge and bulky as well as with and without ribbing attachments.  Of course, not every blanket works in every way, but I think there's something for everyone with a Japanese machine in this book.

Please consider charity knitting as you use these patterns.  A number of them are designed for speedy completion or for using donated or leftover yarns. 

The photo shows some of the blankets.  My sample bag had twice this many, but you can only get so many in one photo.  I hope this book will become one of your favorites, because it has a bunch of projects and some fun, different techniques. 

A baker's dozen blanket designs are included with this book and DVD combo:

Fold-Over Edged Blankie - for virtually any machine in any gauge, this one's a simple little thing you could have a beginner do as a very first project.  The big trick here is the edging, a simple tucked strip that you sew around the edges, hiding ends and making your blanket lie flat.  (Try this edge around a neckline!)

Baby Quillow - a "quilt" and folds into a "pillow," a fun introduction to quilted stitch using your ribbing attachment.  This is a good one for standard and bulky gauge machines with a ribber and patterning device for knitters who want to try something quite different.

Panels and Cables Blanket requires only a single bed machine.  Put your panels together with a contrasting cable stitch, edge the blanket, and you're finished.  Beginners can do this one, too, and it makes one of the best full-sized adult afghans if you want to enlarge it. For standard, mid-gauge, and bulky machines.

Short-Rowed Pinwheel Blanket for standard, mid-gauge, and bulky machines.  This only requires a main bed.  You'll be surprised how quickly you can knit a sizeable, circular colorful blanket.  Skill rating?  Easy.

Multicolored Tuck Stitch Blanket - Here's a great blanket with no ribber and no patterning device required, also an easy one.  As I've shown these blankets to knitters, this is the most-requested pattern.  I've included instructions for standard, mid-gauge, and bulky machines, instructions for doing it fast with a patterning device, and instructions for making the stitch by moving the needles by hand.

Circular Swirl Blanket - this old favorite came back, and I dressed it up, featuring it for bulky and standard gauge, and filmed it on the standard gauge with a very unusual, optional circular ruffle trim made using your ribber.  You can make this blanket with our without a ribber, though.

Long Stitch Blanket for standard and bulky machines does require a ribber to make the simple, built-in edging that lies beautifully flat.  You need to learn this edging!  You'll find lots of other uses for it.

Racked Ripple Blanket requires a machine with patterning and a ribber to knit a fascinating, puffy "ripple" stitch.  I tried this one with scraps, doing a zigzag stripe of each color and also with a planned color scheme. 

Reversible English Rib Blanket is for both bulky and standard gauge machines with a ribber.  This warm, versatile pattern stitch can be whipped up quickly.  Once you bind off and hide your starting and ending yarn ends, you're finished.

Honeycomb Blanket for standard gauge machines with a ribbing attachment uses the very popular honeycomb tuck stitch to produce a thick, thermal blanket.  You may ask, why so many ribber blankets?  Again, it's because when they come off the machine, you hide a couple yarn ends, and you're finished!.  They're all thick, warm and gorgeous.  Besides, I want you to enjoy using your ribber more. ;)

Fisherman Rib Checked Blanket utilizes the patterning device to have blocks of fisherman rib and blocks of plain ribbing, plus a plain ribbed edging for a terrific, professional-looking fast project.  I like all these tucked rib blankets best on the standard gauge machine for babies, but try them on your bulky for luxurious blankets for adults and older children!

Waffles Baby Blanket and Wiggles Baby Blanket - two more terrific thermal ribber blankets.  Waffles doesn't require patterning and can be hand-manipulated.  Wiggles stitch is really similar, but uses patterning to add some variation and make the process more automatic.

If you've purchased my products before, you know that I do full-color books with lie-flat coil bindings, include plenty of photos, avoid abbreviations, and use clear diagrams.

The book and DVD come as a set for $25.  This DVD contains three hours, twenty minutes of high definition video, that looks crisp and clear even on a humongous television screen, showing how to do the techniques, detailed, up-close views.

SHIPPING:  We mail items each weekday using U. S. Postal Service.  In the United States, we charge $3 to ship an order.  As always, when a customer orders more than one item at the same time,any additional items are shipped with no additional shipping charge. 

INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMERS:  Canadian orders cost $8.50 to ship, and other countries $13.75. Any additional items in the same ordered are shipped with no additional shipping charge. Using the U.S. Postal Service, it can take up to 3 weeks for products to arrive in some locations.  The USPS tracking number only tracks the order while it is in the U.S.  You are responsible for any customs, duties, or handling fees that your country charges.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Video for Augus - Two Diagonal Trims

For this month's video, I'm featuring two simple main bed trims.  We machine knitters are constantly looking for good trims for machine knitting to counteract the problem of rolling stockinette stitch and to give things a professional, finished look:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fascinating Video - Inner Workings of Brother Punch Card Mechanism

This is a must-see video if you've ever been curious how a punch card machine works:


This one is from The Answer Lady - thanks, Kathryn & Jack Doubrley, for this very interesting look inside the machine. 

Caution:  As you watch this, you'll hear Jack warn you more than once that you would not want to take your machine apart yourself.  It sounds like great advice to me!  We do have a few terrific repair businesses in the machine knitting community, and I recommend you use one of the professionals when you have mechanical problems. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tricks to Eliminate Ripply Ribbing Cast-On Edges

I received a question recently about how to improve ribbing cast-ons.  This knitter was tightening tension as much as possible but still getting a flared, rippled cast-on edge.  This problem is common, and how much trouble you have seems to depend on the yarn and the machine.

Why does this happen?  It's hard to get a tight tension because the yarn has to travel the distance between the ribber and the main bed, needle to needle, for the first zigzag row.  Also, the ribber comb's teeth, which are a fixed distance apart, tend to hold the edge open and make it flare. 

What can you do?  Well, there are several things that greatly improve the ribbing edges.

First of all, you could start your ribbing with waste yarn.  Cast on and knit several rows with the waste yarn, getting an inch or two of edge on your work.  Switch to circular knitting and knit 2 rows with ravel cord, which makes is easy to get the waste yarn off later.  Then set the carriages for your regular circular cast-on with your garment yarn.  The comb and weights are hanging down from the waste yarn before your "real" knitting, and your garment cast-on is being pulled together, nice-and-neat instead of sideways-and-wavy.  The difference from that strategy alone is just wonderful. 

Second strategy:  Do the broken-toe cast-on in this old video (gosh, this is from before I did hi-def videos!).  Especially check out the part at the end where I showed the nice edges.  This is great information, and so easy.

And here's one more trick to put up your sleeve:  If you're still not thrilled with the edge after your piece is knitted and off the machine, you can slip a blocking or ribber wire into that cast-on edge, gather up the edge, and hit it very briefly with steam.   Heck, if your whole project is assembled, you can still do this to tidy up ribbing edges.  Do not steam the whole ribbing, just the very edge, and briefly. 

If you did the Broken Toe Cast-On in the video, you could leave in that starter row that I pull out at the end of the video.  Pull on it to gather up the ribbing and then do the blocking trick, above.  After the piece is thoroughly dry, pull that thread out.

Surprise!  Your edge is beautiful and perfect!  In a messy life, with difficult people and broken plumbing, where so many problems are achingly complex, I get great personal satisfaction from one little perfect cast-on edge...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I am currently working faithfully on the new book of baby blankets to machine knit - in between living life.

I decided to call it "Best Baby Blankets," because I was very selective about what sorts of patterns made the book.  I am going for easy to knit, not holey (tiny fingers, folks), not fringey or loopy (ditto, little fingers), washable, and lie flat.  I also wanted each pattern to be interesting to make, either providing an interesting technique lesson or a little different way of doing things.

John and I chose the cover theme pretty easily - a photo of the stitch pattern from a project that we took to the last two seminars can be the background.  This blanket seems to be everyone's favorite.  Knitters kept asking John which book had the pattern, and he kept saying, "She's working on it.  It's not out yet."  Naturally, John has "reminded" me a number of times to get this book finished!  This colorful blanket was made with a lot of scraps of baby pastels, and I knitted a fold-over edging that I sewed down very easily, using the sewing machine for the purl side and hand sewing the knit side.  It looks great, with all the sewing thread vanishing into the thickness of the blanket, and the knit side has cute little scallops.  You could have the nifty little scallops on both sides, if you wanted to hand sew the purl side instead of using the sewing machine.  My favorite part was I didn't have to hide all the color-change ends - I just tied them, cut them, and let them vanish inside the edging!  The edging goes around curves and corners just fine, too.

Getting a book done takes me a long time.  Even during a very busy spring with three seminars and a lot of challenges at my day job, I was enjoying working up the new designs, doing as much knitting and redoing as necessary until I was satisfied.  Next, I filmed, edited video (which isn't quite finished yet).  Next, type out the patterns, take photos, make diagrams, and edit.

This was an extremely fun project.  I went off my original plan because I just wanted to make baby blankets while my club was doing them for charity, and pretty soon I had a nice collection of interesting ones.  It's almost too much fun to stop. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Inspiration at Rhythm of the Needles

Adorable - and some good Intarsia advice, too:

I couldn't figure out how to get a date-specific link, so if you're reading this long after I posted it, you'll have to scroll down over there...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tom's Kitchener Photos

Tom did this post a while back showing how he Kitchener stitches a sock toe.  Tom's photography is so terrific that I just have to send you to this post if you're looking to learn or improve your Kitchener stitching:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Skirt Pattern at Stephanie's

Stephanie's Studio Yarn Machine Knitting is featuring a straight skirt pattern today.  This is a simple pattern for the standard gauge machine with lots of sizes.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


I just want to share a wonderful adventure I had this past year.

I got slim.

Oh, I know I'm not skinny.  Here I am in my bathroom taking a selfie (never thought I'd do THAT like a goofy teenager) and I'm a size eight, right smack in the middle of my target weight range for my height and optimal BMI). 

Being slim is marvelous.  I do activities I didn't do before.  I enjoy trying on, buying and wearing pretty clothes.  I can knit items for myself and have them look good (that's a sweater in the photo).

At my highest weight, I was wearing a 22.  Here is my embarrassing "before" picture. I'm front left with my hands together.

I had actually reached the sad place where I thought it was probably impossible to lose my excess weight.  I really would have settled for losing enough weight to feel better and have more energy.  After all, at age 60, I required medication to keep my blood pressure down.  My feet hurt.  I was getting too old to lug all that around.  When I stood up after sitting at my desk a while, I'm gimp along stiffly the first few steps.

Over the years, life has beaten some amount of self-discipline into me.  Although I'd dieted hundreds of times before, in my late 50s, I decided to work hard and make some progress.  I faithfully attended meetings for over a year and a half at a somewhat expensive, famous commercial weight loss program, but made little headway.  I wasn't all that surprised though, since it wasn't my first rodeo.  This time, it was especially discouraging, though, because I'd been very dedicated and serious, tracking all my food and following their plan.  After losing some weight painfully slowly, I got stuck.  I showed up week after week, and my weight just went up or down a little.  Clearly, I needed to move on and do something else.

I read some recommended books - hah, as if I hadn't already read dozens of diet books in my try-to-lose-weight career - one about sugar in the American diet, and another about the activity of carbohydrates in general in producing problem weight gains.  Based on the books, I did another six months of very, very low carb dieting.  All I accomplished with that was stabilizing my weight so I didn't gain back everything I lost in the meeting-based program.  At least that was something!

Then I ran into a friend who had gotten slim, stayed slim, and looked wonderful.  I asked her how she did it.  She took me to visit an all-volunteer, non-commercial weight loss group, and I lost all my weight.

So what was it like?
  • It didn't really cost any money.  I'll toss a couple bucks in the basket to help pay for meeting space and some admin costs.
  • No scary stuff - no surgery, no diet drugs, and no fasting
  • I ate a LOT of food.  My food program is managed by another person.  She told me what to have in each meal, using food categories and easy measurements.  We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, but also grain, legumes, meat, fish, and dairy. The meals are large, but we don't snack.  If I don't like some item or have an allergy or dietary issue, I don't have to eat that because there are plenty of other things in that category.  Once I lost all my weight, my sponsor increased my amounts, so now I eat even more.
  • Getting certain foods out of your system is the hardest part.  We don't use sugar or flour, and it takes a week or two to feel better after getting those items out of their diets.  I had already gone through that with the low carb regimen, though. 
  • I was held accountable.  I check in regularly with my sponsor, the same lady who gave me my food plan.  I also attend group meetings and talk to other members on the phone. 
  • I receive tremendous support and encouragement.  I have described this as a self-help group to people who ask me about it (I get asked a lot, because I lost so much weight), but I realize that's untrue, because this is actually a help-each-other group.
  • I don't weigh very often.  At first, I weighed once a month.  I lost ten pounds the first month - lots of members lose much faster, but my sponsor was looking to take my weight down gently and slowly because of my age.  Of course, for me to lose ten pounds the first month was stunningly fast!  After that, I lost more slowly, but I learned not to worry about it because I finally began to believe that it would come off.  I lost 58 pounds in ten months, and now I'm holding at 60 pounds down.  I came into this program already down from my highest weight because of those other efforts, so altogether, I'm down about 80 pounds. 
  • Less worry about food and weight.  Since I don't snack, I find more time in the evenings to do other things.  I just prepare my planned meals.  Since I know I followed the plan, I don't worry all the time anymore about whether I did something wrong and I'm going to start gaining weight again.
  • You have to want this - seriously.  I am really surprised, as miserable as it is to be fat, how many people just won't bother to do this.  I guess they're not ready yet.  If you do it, it absolutely works, but you do have to show up, attend meetings, follow the plan, and be honest with yourself and others.  Gosh, I thought I'd be the one person for whom it wouldn't work, and it did.  
If anyone is interested in this, contact me for more information.  I promise this isn't a commercial program, and I won't be a pest.  I have an email icon on the left-hand side of this blog page.  Just scroll down, find the envelope, and click.  I can answer questions by email and send you to the group's website. 

Happy Knitting,


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Video for June: Waffle Stitch

I'm continuing to put up a new video each month, trying for an interesting variety of techniques, and here's the June video.

This "waffle stitch" is a warm, textured, tucked stitch made easily with your ribber.  This lies flat and is great for blankets and jackets.  I filmed the demo on the easy-to-see bulky machine, but I hope you'll try it on a standard gauge as well.  Some of these chunkier stitch patterns are wonderful for giving some heft and interest to fabrics made with thinner yarns.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Advice About Shaping Necklines

I agree with this advice over at Machine Knitting is My Life:  take the whole garment piece off on waste yarn, then knit one side at a time.

These instructions are good:

However, there's one thing left out that you need to read BEFORE you knit off on waste yarn.  All machines have specific instructions in the manual explaining how to keep you place in the pattern stitch and return to that same place.  Read through those instructions, keep the book on your lap, and follow them, because you need to get back to the same spot in the pattern to knit the first side of the neckline and then again when you knit the second side.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Miles (Almost) of Ruffles

I've tried lots of techniques for making pretty knitted ruffles, and I'm usually disappointed.  For this project, I wanted a curved ruffle that would be full on the outer edge, but not very full on the edge by the blanket, and one that would not roll or kink on the outer edge.

Here's what I have, just a section of the blanket that I've sewed together.  I still have quite a long ways to sew, having only sewed ruffle to two of the ten pie-shaped sections..

John has been teasing me about my incredibly impractical baby blanket project.  The actual blanket knits up quickly, but he's pointed out that I knitted this long, long piece of ruffle (thousands of rows, short-rowed, and using the ribber on one edge, moving an edge weight regularly), and who will want to knit all those rows?  Not to worry, you can edge the blanket lots of ways, and I'll put more than one in the book, but I wanted to play with my ruffle idea!  Next, I shocked him when I explained that I was going to iron the ruffle.  Yep, kill it with a steam iron.  It lies rather well without the steaming, but I wanted a flowing, drape-y look.  Yup, it's a lot of time to spend on a baby blanket, but nothing compared to the time a hand knitter would spend. 

The ironing job went quite quickly, and look how nice the ruffle is, even before a final steaming of the assembled blanket!

This technique makes an excellent ruffle, and it'll be a fun lesson for the book and video.  I am determined, as usual, to make each project in my book and video a fun learning opportunity.  Consider the possibilities:  a ruffled poet's blouse; a ruffle around a tablecloth, or how about a shawl?