Saturday, May 29, 2010


I have the garter bar review filmed, but gosh, it's almost 20 minutes.  I am going to trim ruthlessly, in an effort to fit the YouTube limit, and then write a more extensive written review.  Here's the executive summary: Her stainless steel garter bars do not come with a brass stopper, but otherwise, they are awesome.  You can cut a matboard stopper.  Admittedly, there are a very few techniques where you'll wish you had a brass stopper to hold the needles rigidly against sideways movement, but for most tasks, you probably won't care.  If you have a 6.5 mm mid-gauge, here's your big chance to get a reasonably priced garter bar!  I doubt if you will ever find the old-timey kind for your midgauge.

Kris took quite a risk, manufacturing new garter bars, and she'd done a quality job.  Let's support our small knitting machine businesses when we can.

Want to learn more tricks than you can imagine with a garter bar?  Check out my Garter Bar Course DVDs,

Our younger son Steven is home from Texas A&M for the summer, and working at Lifetime Fitness again as a climbing wall instructor.  (Picture a lanky climbing kid with shaggy blonde hair.)  He got a job, which is difficult this summer!  What's more, he studied hard, pulled straight As, and is happy about his transfer to A&M and his switch to genetics.  He practices guitar for hours, noising up the house with exciting sounds like scales and repetitions of song phrases he doesn't think are quite right yet.  We don't mind at all.  He gave up a huge scholarship to change schools, and having done so well his first semester there, we learned yesterday that A&M has awarded him a small scholarship.

Today is a graduation party for the sweet little Allyce, three doors down.  This is bittersweet - she's going away to college and her parents happen to be moving to another city.  We're gonna miss them.

I finish being immediate past president of the Austin CPA chapter on June 1, which frees up a little time to do something different.  I won't stop being involved, though.  I am helping teach a nonprofit seminar on June 11, which is free for local nonprofit boards and staff.  There was a horrible nonprofit scandal in Austin a while back, and we don't want people to be afraid to volunteer.  Instead, we want them to know how to govern their organization's money.

I am writing the book for the Dallas-Ft. Worth machine knitting seminar in November, very slowly.  This may be my best book so far, but the you have to attend to get one.  The reason for that assertion:  the DFW gals asked for a wide assortment of techniques, and I'm including enough written directions so they can practice after class is all over, including some projects.  Want to attend?  It's near the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, first weekend in November.  Read more here.

It's been busy season at work, and it isn't over yet.  My life as as electronic knitting teacher has been very gratifying lately, with orders to fill and lots of emailed knitting questions.  As I search out ways to get more done, we finally ordered a DVD duplicator machine that we can feed the really good (expensive) DVDs.  It'll run by itself and make our DVD copies, eliminating doing them one by one on the computer or sending them out with uncertain quality results, fees, postage, and delays.  We're going the light scribe route, in which disk labels are burned right into them, just in case stick-on labels give some players a problem.

I had too much on my schedule and couldn't work on my beloved lace project for a week or two. So far, I have over 20 new "enchanted" lace edgings, all 24-stitch ones which can be done on either a punch card or electronic standard Brother, but I wanted to put in a couple of bigger lacy things for the lucky folks with one of the electronic models, and haven't gotten that done yet.  Only the best make it in the book.  These edges are almost magic, but hey, "enchanted" sounds better than "almost magic."

Because of my commitment to beginners, I teach a lot of things that can be done on the older, less expensive and less complicated models.  As they say at the University of Texas here in Austin, HOOK 'EM.  If you stick with your knitting machine, you will be hooked, and your friends, family, and charity projects will get the bounty.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I'm Teaching a Seminar!

In November, I'm the teacher for two days at the Dallas-Ft. Worth machine knitting group's annual seminar.  Wow, am I excited!

Dallas is less than four hours' drive from Austin, so I've attended, and thoroughly enjoyed, several of their seminars.  They rent a nice, big room above Stacy's Furniture near the airport, and they do a fantastic job feeding us and spoiling us rotten during the day.  There's a terrific Holiday Inn Express next door where I like to stay (free breakfast and very nice rooms), and lots of restaurants and shops in the area to visit in the evenings.

This is a great group, and I really enjoy them - not that you ever go wrong hanging out with knitters.  

To get some sense of what the group would like to do, I made a list of possible demonstrations and sent it to their leaders.  They took a poll using my list, and I used that to figure out the program.  It's over a weekend, and here's my plan, roughly:

On Saturday, I'm working on a bulky machine, demonstrating the circular swirl baby blanket, the Fast! V-neck raglan technique, utility cast-on, Entrelac, trims, edges, seaming, and important garter bar techniques like increasing and decreasing across a row, round yoke shaping, and using your garter bar to move only the stitches you want to move. 

On Sunday, out comes the standard machine.  I'm going to show circular and sew-as-you-go sock techniques, Knit Leader and fitting basics, fancy booties, and Jaws (shadow lace tool).  Finally, we binge on lace with thread lace, scalloped lace, mirror lace, and fancy lace edgings.  

Maybe we'll get to do more, but you never know - I'll want to cover things thoroughly and clearly, so it depends on how many questions I get.  

There is some space left at the seminar.  If you are interested, the DFW Machine Knitters site has all the information here:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Now Available - Beautiful Ribber Scarves

The "Beautiful Ribber Scarves" DVD and book are now available!  These scarves required more written instructions, charts and diagrams than usual, so we went with an 18-page, 8-1/2" x 11" coil bound, full-color book.  On the video, I included all the significant steps for each scarf, even the steps that they have in common.  You can choose the scarf you want from the DVD menu and then follow that without skipping around.

These scarves are a wonderful way to improve your ribber skills and make something beautiful as you learn.  The scarves turned out terrific - you should have heard the gasp when I pulled them out at Knit Natters!  I worked hard to choose the prettiest, most practical, and interesting stitches I could, and then make very clear instructions.  What's more, when you finish knitting and binding off, these projects are done!  Only one or two even benefit from a light steaming - there's no edging, or blocking, or assembly.

There are eight different scarves in the book:
  • Burgundy tucked rib scarf - a variation of 1x1 rib and tucked ribbing, using a very simple chart.  This one is lacy but lies completely flat.
  • Green English Rib scarf - everyone should learn English Rib.  It's a great-looking stitch, simple, easy, elegant, and also lies flat.
  • Purple full-needle rib tucked scarf - You probably have dozens of tuck patterns that you can translate into FNR tuck scarves and other projects.
  • Zigzag scarf - an interesting use of ribber racking to make a wonderful, rick-rack shaped scarf.  I've included the cheat sheets with the rack numbers.
  • Red wavy tuck stitch scarf - here's a tuck stitch over 1x3 ribbing, a very fancy closed stitch that knits up very quickly.
  • Cream tuck lace scarf - this one is 1x3 lacy tuck that looks a little like butterfly lace and a little like fagotted insert lace.  
  • Honeycomb tuck scarf - I got hooked on the honeycomb scarf on the Passap machines, but did you know your Japanese machine can make it, too?  
  • Diana's favorite:  the light blue "quilted" scarf.  This is an unusual technique.  You knit circular except for the selected needles, which knit through both layers.  It's warm, thick, and would also be an amazing stitch technique for baby blankets, because it's thick and has the quilted texture.  This one is big, though, a full 8 ounces of sport yarn.  Note the finish on this scarf is a smiles-and-frowns cast-off, closing the top of the tube just like the bottom.
The majority of the scarves use only 4 ounces of yarn and make good one-sitting projects.

The DVD and book are $25 plus shipping.    

New Garter Bars Available from Kris Krafters

I'm an advocate of learning and using a garter bar with your knitting machine.  I have produced a video course on 2 DVDs where I do all kinds of useful tricks with a garter bar, and it's for sale for $25 at  I put some abbreviated videos on the garter bar on YouTube, as well.

I'm both grateful and excited when someone takes a risk and manufactures items we need for machine knitting.  It's terrific news that new garter bars - and especially 6.5 mm midgauge garter bars - are available.  Mid-gauge garter bars have been almost as rare as unicorns!  Bulky garter bars were hard to find, as well, and when you found one, priced over $200.  Now, we can get 'em!

The website is:  

Kris wanted me to review and film the new bars, and sent me a nice mid-gauge, but I have to trade for a bulky because my mid-gauge is not a standard size.  Kris is mailing me a bulky one, which I think will film beautifully, and when it arrives I will try it, review it, and do a YouTube video.  I will tell it to you straight, whatever pros and cons I encounter actually using it.

Facts about the Kris Krafter garter bars:

  • Price is very reasonable, far less than any new prices I've seen in a long, long time
  • The workmanship looks good.  I felt it all over to see if it's smooth, and it's been buffed thoroughly.  It's stainless steel.  
  • They are much lighter than the old-fashioned ones, since they're an open-channel design.
  • You can see through the open channels, so you'll be able to see the stitches when you pick them up for garter stitch.
  • There's not a stopper included.  I'm going to experiment with a piece of matboard or very stiff cardboard to brace the needles instead of a stopper.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Diana's Latest Design-A-Knit Adventure

I have a love-hate relationship with DAK.  I bought it early in the professional version, upgraded it along the way, bought the lace tool, bought the CD, and even set up an old desktop with a serial port at one point just for DAK.  I think DAK users already know why the "hate" part - despite my very careful and very "legal" (spirit of the agreement, not just the letter) use of DAK, I have to run it from the disk because of the oddball copy protection problems.  It would be SO nice to simply run it from the hard drive.  I also had to buy the CD when the floppies went bad, and they charged me $50, or something like that, on top of all the other money I'd paid.  The cables are expensive, too...I had two cables and will soon own three.

The "love" thing about DAK is it communicates with my knitting machine, and for someone like me, since I am utterly compelled to knit the visions in my head and not just follow other people's patterns, DAK is a godsend.  I used to spend hours with graph paper and a card punch, but now, I doodle in DAK and create all my stitch patterns.  I also create shape files to knit for people, in addition to using the Knitleader.  I even used to "knit from screen" for years, because it was a great way to cope with knitting with kids in the house.  The kids would interrupt me, but DAK would keep my place.  It is an awesome program.  Fabulous.  I'm even rather sympathetic about the copy protection issues, now that I'm designing and selling knitting patterns and wanting to protect my own intellectual property.

Yup, I have a Brother disk drive, and a PPD.  DAK is better for me.

Another thing I love about DAK is how helpful it is when I don't get it right the first time.  Trust me, with lace, I almost never get it right the first time!  Most of my lace is done by placing the dots, as opposed to using the DAK lace tool, because I do peculiar things like partial knit-shaped doilies.  There are usually mistakes in my charts.  I just hop up as I am knitting and noticing what's wrong, fix it in DAK, download the pattern again, and try again.

DAK wouldn't download my lace edgings to the 965i last week, and I thought it was the cable.  After borrowing a friend's cable, we finally realized it was the laptop I've been using the last 5 years.  Thank goodness it wasn't the 965i!  I've moved back onto that ancient DAK computer, which hadn't been turned on for about 4 years, after John did quite a bit of computer maintenance, and I'm back in business.  Hooray!  I've even realized what I liked about that old computer.  It is too old and slow for the family to bother it; it has a trackball to make drawing all those dots easier; and it's in a very quiet corner but in cable reach of the machine.  He'll fix the serial port on the good old laptop, hopefully, and I'll be able to doodle stitch patterns again while "watching" TV.  I'll also be able to carry the laptop to the other machines.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


We had an interesting discussion at Knit Natters - Barbara, Sylvia, Mary, and I - about our weddings, which we did inexpensively but meaningfully many years ago.  None of us knew each other back then...

John and I got married at the house he had just bought, which became our first home, which was decorated with a fresh Christmas tree.  We ordered a cake from a lady who made them at her home.  We purchased a few flowers.  Mom, John and I cooked all the food.  My sister wore a dress she already had.  John wore a business suit, and his best man did the same thing.  We hired a minister, who became our minister for years to come.  I do wish we'd had a photographer, but we just had friends take Polaroids.  The whole wedding cost almost nothing.

Sylvia remarked how many of the couples she knows who've been married a long time had simple weddings, and lots of couples have expensive weddings and then divorces.  She and Doug were in the service when they got married.  They had a modest wedding, too, at a little church. She said her sister was the bridesmaid, as well, and wore a dress she already had.  Sylvia and Doug had homemade photos, as well; two of the three rolls were lost in processing.

Barbara and Carl were married in another small church.  Barbara made her own dress; her sister did the flowers; and another made the cake.  Barbara showed us her wedding dress!  It's a candlelight-colored lace over a satin slip, and she said she spent a month making it and sewing sequins in scattered positions all over the dress.  The sequins match the ivory color closely, so all you see is a flash of light.  It's a beautiful dress.  She has the bridesmaid hat, and and veil she wore is especially pretty.  Her sister, the one who does flowers, made the headdress.

Mary also had a simple wedding, and off we all went into a whole conversation about ways that people used to pitch in and do weddings to keep the cost down.  But I'm not sure.  It seems to me that when John and I had the super-simple wedding, that it was a little unusual.  Back then, we attended some friends' big weddings and fancy catered dinner-dances.  Possibly, it's just a coincidence that the four of us having this conversation at Knit Natters all had modest, more meaning-than-money weddings.

It's a truism that something goes wrong at every wedding.  There was one wedding where the bridal veil caught fire on the candles, and someone else in the wedding party put it out quickly with her hands; at one, someone in the bridal party had too much to drink and thought it was funny to heckle; we attended one in  Las Vegas which involved a whole lot of waiting around while they did I don't know what - maybe decided whether or not to go through with it; a wedding was in a non-air-conditioned church with an endless Episcopal ceremony; a beautiful wedding with a minister who went on and on about obedient, submissive wives in a slightly misogynistic way.  My son was a little ring bearer at a close friend's wedding, and fell down a flight of stairs afterwards - they kids were horsing around, but the ripped tuxedo pants were an expensive surprise later on.   .

Tribute to My Mom

Happy Mother's Day!  I hope y'all are having a lovely day.  I'm having a very nice one.  The husband and kids are great, church was nice, and we just ate the leftovers from our Italian restaurant trip last night.

My mother passed away some years ago, and I'm finally reaching a place where I can think about all the wonderful things about her without feeling such a crushing loss.  She's in that happy place now where she's young, strong, and active again, and we don't grieve like those who don't have that hope.

Mom died from lung disease.  She was a fit, active, slim woman with tons of energy, but almost a lifelong heavy smoker.  My heart goes out to - and breaks - for smokers.

Mom was an artist.  As she finished high school, she had an art scholarship to France, but her family didn't have the funds during the depression to send her to Europe, so she studied art at the University of Denver and worked all kinds of jobs to help with family expenses.  She dropped out during her senior year to marry my father, who was a pilot.  I'm sure she was excited about travelling as a military wife, and she was very good at that, incredibly good at making friends, at moving a big family, at finding doctors and services for all her kids (I have four siblings) and forming relationships with teachers and other people in her kids' lives.

Mom would doodle marvelous drawings as she talked on the phone.  If she had a very chatty, lonesome girlfriend, she would turn the classified ads into fanciful sketches while she listened.  She understood clothing design; when her fur coat went out of style, she took it apart and remade it.  She taught me to sew very young.  She crocheted and embroidered, too, but had no patience for knitting.  Mom wasn't terrific at needlework, because she was in too much of a hurry.

My mother had that artist's eye about a lot of things.  She could glance at clothing on the hanger, insist that I try it on, and wow!  It would fit and be exactly the right color for me, even though I'm hard to fit.

I generally think of my mother in motion, a skinny little thing, always doing something.  I have vivid memories of her ironing, mending, sewing, cleaning, scrubbing, gardening, chasing children, and running errands.  Mom and Dad would make lists of things that needed done in the mornings, and then the lists would get crossed off, with Mom doing most of the work.

My Mom was an incredible gardener, and took favorite plants and bulbs with us all over the country as we moved.  We always had cut flowers from our own yard, especially roses.  She used to head for the garden center with the same maniacal gleam in her eye that I have for the yarn aisle - and she knew the Latin names of all the plants and their care.  Not that she spent much money - Mom was clever at growing big plants from small ones, or getting cuttings to take root.  Mom dug up and moved plants that didn't do well until she found the right spot, and finally they would flourish.

Mom was also good with little kids.  She was clever at making a game out of nothing.  Until she got sick, she was the kind of Grandma who got down on the floor and played with the kids.

Mom disliked drama.  As a kid, I'd moan and groan, maybe cry about something or other, and she'd tell me to go to sleep and everything would feel better in the morning.  I was a moody kid, and she was right.

Mom liked animals.  She had dogs, cats, and birds, and they all had a special relationship with her.  We'd talk the parents into an animal, and then it would become Mom's responsibility and Mom's pet.  She would teach the animals funny little tricks.

She had a killer work ethic.  We didn't malinger or skip school!  Mom expected us to go to school and get good grades, and we generally did.

It's hard to even imagine my mother's thrift,  unless you remember the Depression generation.  She grew up with so little, sharing an attic room with six sisters, using a root cellar and keeping chickens in the city of Denver, and then she got married young and had lots of children.  She pinched a penny until Lincoln had a headache.  Ordinary things we do every day would probably qualify to Mom as big splurges!  Knowing someone like my Mom gave me a sense that you can always find a way, financially - either by working, or being creative, or saving.

Mom had an incredible sense of humor, and when the going got very, very hard in her later years, especially when Dad was ill, she used humor to deal with life.  She enjoyed people and made friends incredibly easily. People confided in her, and she knew all about her friends, neighbors and nurses - their boyfriends, children, grandchildren, studies, plans, and hobbies.

Mom insisted on looking after Dad even as it became impossible and we all begged her to get some help.  It taught you something about loyalty.

In Mom's last few years, she was a shut-in.  She was on oxygen continually and had very little stamina.  But when I'd phone her to say hello, she'd describe to me how beautiful the crepe myrtles were outside her window or how many rabbits she'd seen between the condos in the morning, or tell me a story about her cat, or describe a grandkid's project, or tell me who had come to see her and how they were doing.

Irish Tuck Rib Trim

Are you wondering about that very pretty edge trim on Jan's baby set?  It's "Irish Tuck Rib" from Lora Kinnan's book, The Best Ribs in Town, available from Daisy Knits.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

And The Winner Is: Jan Clausen!

I got the Knit Natters ladies to pick a winner in my May Day contest, but they found it difficult because all the entries were so good.  They spent a long, long time looking at the beautiful projects, and it was difficult, but we finally had a consensus.  This beautiful baby set with the Irish Tuck Rib trims was the winner.  The group felt that the workmanship is really special.

Congrats, Jan, on your beautiful baby set!

They also had a bunch of ideas for next contests with themes.  Want to do this again?  I don't know about y'all, but I do.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

MayDay Contest Photos

Isn't this fun?  Please comment on the project photos I received for the MayDay contest!  I'll get my knit club buddies to judge for me this weekend.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Afternoon

It was inspiring to study the photos everyone sent for the May Day contest.  I'm lining up my judges, and should have a winner in a few days.  I can't post pictures today, but soon.

Friday night, the CPA chapter had its annual scholarship fundraiser.  John and I hosted a few accounting students for the party, and had a great time.  Saturday, however, was the Boy Scout council's fundraiser, for which I volunteered to work the front desk.  It was crazy busy, I was on my feet for many hours, and we got in very, very late.  So I'm one rickety old princess today, with my feet and legs needing to recover. 

I am continuing to make lace edgings and trims, and have some really good ones designed.  This is a fascinating project.  I think of two new ideas for every one I conquer.