Thursday, January 27, 2011

Goldilocks Challenge Book - Shawl

Shawls are an all-time favorite gift to make and give.  They don't have to fit, they're stylish, and they're almost always received eagerly.  They're also a way to showcase pretty knitting techniques.

Of course the Goldilocks Challenge needed to include a ladies' gift with a bit of glitz.  It couldn't be only about items for keeping warm!

This is a very easy, simple, semi-circular shawl.  It's quite large.  I made the sample in a sparkly yarn (white, with a silver thread throughout) and then edged it in a silver eyelash style yarn - it's fluffy or fringey, I guess.  In this color scheme, it's a real Snow Princess shawl.  You can go crazy on the color scheme, though, since there are other pretty metalic colors available in the eyelash yarn.

Because it's big, it's not a one-sitting project.  I spent a couple hours making the main piece and then a couple of hours putting on the edging.

First, there's a shot of my sample, still just a little damp from steaming, and below, there's a shot up close, showing the edging and a bit of the sparkle.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Goldilocks Challenge Book - Tams

The playful pinwheel tams make great gift items, so I recharted them in worsted weight yarns for the Goldilocks Challenge book.

I made most of my samples with variegated yarn.  Of course, you could do fair isle or planned stripes or wedges, but as these are, they are VERY simple to make.

These projects don't take much yarn.  You knit the hat band first, take it off on scrap, then knit the top, attaching the band as you go.  It's another one-sitting project.  There's a final Kitchener stitch join for the circle and a mattress stitch join for the ribbed band.

Sizes include baby, toddler, child, and adult.  The math needs to be perfect, and all are well-tested.

My favorite one to knit is the baby hat.  This unusual gift strikes me as just the thing for a Mama Bear who wants her bald baby girl to look feminine!

I used a dinner plate to block Mama's hat.  My saucers  fit the toddler's hat.  I used plastic lids for the baby and child sizes.


Here's a pretty lace scarf -

RHYTHM OF THE NEEDLES: Roots Scarf - Finished

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Goldilocks Challenge Book - Slippers

Here's a progress report.

I've done quite a bit of knitting on the book, figuring out sizes, checking them, knitting and reknitting as needed, and problem-solving.

I know I take "forever," y'all, but I promise you a quality project book and a great value.

I'm very fond of the slipper socks.  I like small projects, to sit down and make a gift in just one sitting, and my gift recipients love warm feet.  This is a winning combination!

Daddy Bear slippers are shown at the top, then Mama Bear slippers in lavender, and then working on down through various childrens' sizes.

I'm using an assortment of yarns that are readily available at the hobby store.  Slipper socks don't take much yarn. If you have small amounts of good worsted leftover yarn, you can make something terrific.

V. I. D.  Very Important Details:

- When the stitches are big like these bulky machine projects, the details really show!

- Use the best, most practical yarns you can find.  As you progress in your knitting, learn to value your time by using good materials.

- The sock has a ribbed top, which means you have a little latching to do if you don't have a ribber, but it's worth it.

- Sew a correct Kitchener stitch along to join the foot top to the front of the cuff and a good Mattress stitch side seam along the short cuff seam.  A little practice is all it takes to make great seams.

- The sew-as-you-go seams look great.  Just a couple of practice sessions, and you can master them.  After that, you'll be thinking of all sorts of situations where you might want to use them.

- Hide ends carefully by sewing them neatly into the inside seams.  I sew in about an inch and a half of yarn for security.

- Don't forget a non-slip substance for the bottom of the socks.  I've used puff paint and silicone seal, and there are also commercial products available.  A few scribbles on the bottom of the foot is all it takes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baby Tam

A friend who collects dolls took one of my baby tams home to try it on her life-sized dolls.

I was knitting and sizing tams for the upcoming book.  The small size came in at about newborn to six months.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Writing Process

I've begun serious work on the new bulky projects book.

I believe I will call it "The Goldilocks Challenge," because the book is going to be all about the projects, gift items you can knit on either a USM or another bulky flatbed knitting machine, items to give to Papa Bear, Mama Bear, or Baby Bear.  It's the least you can do after wandering into their house in the forest, eating their breakfast, breaking the furniture, and generally making yourself at home!

So, I calculated and am knitting ALL the sizes of the slipper and have refilmed the process for the Japanese bulky machine.  I admit it was utter joy to knit on it again, and the projects go so, so fast with that wonderful 270 that I love.  But here's a fact:  you don't have to have a fantastic, expensive machine like the Brother 270 to make these projects.  They can be made on a plastic bed machine from the hobby store.

Filming is its own challenge, preserving just enough of my klutziness (it's impossible to get rid of it all, anyway) so you see what real knitters experience with uncooperative needles and big fingers; showing enough detailed steps so you can knit right along, but not so many that you fall asleep; and finally, trying to get as close as that high-def camcorder will focus.  I'm trying for the chin-on-the-needles perspective!  I actually filmed the slipper twice this weekend, the second time using a yarn that I think will be very easy to see in the one tricky part of the operation, the sew-as-you-go side seams.

I've also refilmed the tam for the Japanese bulky, again using the sew-as-you-go seam.  I have sizing and testing to do on the tam, which I think is very cute on little girls.

I've hit the shops several times to buy yarn.  What a joke, my buying yarn of any kind, since yarn is already squeezing us out of house and home. I've littered my guest room with piles of half-knitted balls of yarn, little bundles of waste yarn, piles of knitted samples, tools, even the high-powered lamp sitting up on the bed to bounce extra light off the ceiling and brighten the video shots.  I have assorted Excel charts and Word documents in about four places on two computers at my house.  I have taken over poor John's computer.  Mine isn't powerful enough for the video software, and his, which is a super-fast multi-processor with Windows 7, can only handle the video software running and nothing else.

I'm not a Neatnik to begin with, and when I'm concentrating on a problem, tunnel vision sets in, so I don't even notice my surroundings.  It's a big mess.  I love this process.

I have a way in mind to do the scarves on the bulky machine to avoid most hand-tooling which is necessary on the Ultimate Sweater machine.

Then there's the sizing and samples on the mitten and the other hat, which will also not have the hand-tooling necessary on the USM.

As I compile the book, the next big question is when are there enough patterns for it to be a good customer value?  These few projects are in meticulous detail with lots of sizes.  I have other projects in mind, just have to work the book up and see when I slam into the space limitations.  My books emphasize how-to and lots of photos and written out, unabbreviated instructions use up lots of space.  You gotta be who you are, and my track record is one of readers actually making well-designed and thoroughly tested projects successfully.  

We'll see what we get!  I'll know when the book is ready, and if I don't know, it'll be like Enchanted Edgings - I have friends who tell me bluntly that I'm finished and to publish already.

I might be a bit quiet, blog-wise, for a while, with just photos of the work as it progresses.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wow - Look What Carla Did With The Tam Pattern

I have got to recruit Carla, who doesn't live that far from me, for Knit Natters.  Reading her blog is fun - she's so creative with her knitting and has such a great sense of humor!

Look at this really cute way to use the short-row technique from the Tam to make a USM scarf!

Knitting is a Romantic Drama: Tam Set for Eden

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New USM Videos - Big, Fat, Warm Slipper Pattern

This is a single-layer, worsted weight footie slipper to make on a bulky machine or a USM.  I did a sew-as-you-go seam, so when it comes off the machine, it's finished except for the ribbing seams.

Once I cooked it up, I knitted it four times.  I wouldn't mind sitting down and knitting another pair, but I really am going to move on.  Come on, Diana, move on...they're like eating the leftover Christmas chocolate, habit-forming.

Maybe I need to do a loose wool pair for felting...

This project was inspired by our having several very cold  nights in a row when I had to wear socks to bed, or else wait a l o n g time for my feet to be warm.

CAUTION:  Always add a non-slip substance to the bottoms of yarn slippers!  I would love it if somebody knitted 20 of them for a nursing home, but please, we don't want to give someone the "gift" of an terrible fall onto a hard floor.  Puff paint works, silicone seal works, and a commenter said that Joann's has a coating for sale that works just great.  Whatever you buy, you just squiggle it on the bottoms, and one container will do a whole bunch of slippers.

Here are some photos.  In the spirit of the USM project, which is aimed at MK newbies, I used readily-available craft store yarns.  The brown variegated ones were made with Lion Brand Tweed.  It is marked as "bulky" but gives the gauge just fine, has a soft hand, very slow color changes, and has a nice, professional look.

The aqua-multi ones are Red Heart worsted yarn, a yarn I hardly ever use unless I want the product to be rather tough.  I think this would be good if you're going to walk around in the slippers, not just wear them for a little warmth.

The rose-multi is Impeccable yarn.  It's a nice choice for these, softer than the rather Red Heart and springier than the Caron Simply Soft on the right.

The lavender Caron Simply soft was actually left-over from the baby blanket video.  Since these slippers require less than three ounces of yarn, I thought I'd see if I could make it and not run out - and I had some left.  The Simply Soft has a super-silky feel, a "hand" that puts me in mind of some silk yarn I used to carry in my yarn shop.  They're shiny, too.  It's not elastic at all.  The slippers come out bigger with it, and although they're very pretty and soft, they're just a bit  limp for my taste.  I should have gone down a whole keyplate size.

There's something tricky about these videos, the short-row method.  Why not practice that technique with scrap yarn before you get all locked-and-loaded to get a slipper done?  I had to do a funny little workaround to deal with my USM's tendency to miss the hook after a needle pulled into hold.  Ironicaly, the second needle that I hand-knit in the video tends to be high after I do it, so I often have  to poke it  down.  Sometimes the carriage plunks into it.  You don't want to tear up that plastic carriage or bend needles by smacking into a high hook, so  knit slowly and if you tap into a needle, reach into the center area of the carriage nose and poke the needle down out of the way.

There are two videos:

Inspiration at Yarn Floozies: pretty cowl

Do y'all like cowls? Like to actually own and wear them?

I have actually not, as yet, knitted a cowl although I guess a Mobius Scarf ought to count. Look at this one at Yarn Floozies:

Inspiration at Art Machines

Here's a really nice shawl at Art Machines.

Art Machines: Косынка цвета розовой сирени

Google Translate doesn't do such a great job on Russian sites, but her pictures are superb.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Current USM Project - A Worsted Weight Slipper

This is a worsted weight slipper made on the USM.  I had in mind a warm bed sock or house slipper.  If you're going to wear them around the house, you'll want to squiggle some puff paint or silicone seal on the bottoms  to make them non-slip.

These would make wonderful gifts.  They take less than 3 ounces!  You can make them out of odds and ends of worsted (American 4-ply) yarn.  Of course, the better the yarn you use, the better your slippers are.  For the video, I used pink variegated yarn which photographs well, but isn't this Tweed smart?.

These are NOT socks to go into a shoe!  These are thick.  The pictured pair is made from Lion Brand Tweed, which is marked as a bulky.   I don't think it's very bulky at all, since I keep getting worsted gauges with it.   I love the stuff; think it would be wonderful in men's sizes.  My son was eyeing the pink ones last night, declaring them "legit," the current Steven stamp-of-approval.  He already made off with the Lion Brand tweed hat and scarf, which he's using in his chilly old car.   These Tweed ones are much too small for his feet, but I do plan to rechart the pattern in lots of sizes for the book, so I can fix him up with a pair for his manly feet.

Wouldn't these be great to knit for the troops?  How about for the sailors, sleeping in cold bunks below deck? Or, perhaps for a nursing home?  Come on, big-hearted knitters!

I will upload the videos in a few days, with the ladies' medium instructions, probably next weekend.  It's all filmed, but I'm hoping folks will try out the baby blanket first.  The blanket is a great little project with its own interesting techniques to add to your arsenal.  The baby blanket has short-rowing, an unusual edging, Kitchener, and closing the center.

I am planning a USM book, all small, interesting projects with plenty of techniques to learn.  I think I will arrange the projects in order of difficulty.

I haven't thought of a title.  Suggestions?

There's nothing here in my USM projects - the slippers, hats, scarves, mittens, or baby blanket - that you couldn't make on a regular bulky machine.  In fact, they'd be easier on the Japanese bulky with a lot less hand-tooling.

I believe that with space constraints for both DVD and book,  the how-tos must be focused on the USM, though.  The USM is a great way for crafters to begin machine knitting, because of its low price and wide availability.  This is my current outreach to newbies.

It is, however, a quirky device and things must be done differently.  For instance, short-rowing a toe is more difficult on the USM.  I tried a slew of experiments and finally came up with a way to short-row the toes and heels that is absolutely reliable.  I do suggest you practice it a little before you make your slipper socks, though.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Videos - USM Baby Blanket

This is a short-rowed swirl blanket, and I do prefer my regular sectioned Circular Swirl Baby Blanket. This one is adapted to be made on the Ultimate Sweater Machine.  This is faster than the sectioned blanket and a great choice for charity blankets, especially blankets for newborns.  It takes surprisingly little yarn.  

I came up with an interesting and practical edging for the USM and put that around the blanket.  Since the blanket is lavender and white, it was nice to have an edging that has both colors.

I also made this with a different yarn and put a crochet edging around it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best Blog Posts of 2010

Wow, I worked hard on the MK blog in 2010! I've combed through a year of posts and picked out the ones that I think are the best, don't miss posts on machine knitting:

January -

Links to Beginner Lessons
Sew As You Go Sock
Published my Sock Book and DVD

February -

Burgundy Mohair Tucked Rib Scarf
Shadow Lace (Jaws) Tool Video
Smart Swatches essay
Published my Garter Bar Course in two DVDs

March -

How to Get More Machine Knitting Done While Having More Fun
Rick Rack Ribber Scarf Video
Short-Rowed Baby Hat Video (People love this project; I get emails about it all the time)

April -

Published my Entrelac Book & DVD

May -

Published Beautiful Ribber Scarves Book & DVD

July -

Published Enchanted Edgings Book & DVD
Video Showing How Edgings Are Done
Wriggle Lace Scarf instructions

August -

Wrote about my seminar at Space City Knitters

September -

Recap of essays about Starting Machine Knitting
Essay on Problems Casting On
Another most popular video Machine Knitting a Tam

October -

Fern Lace Demo
Passap Chip Information (Okay, John wrote most of this!)
Hand knit pattern Star Flower Dishcloth Didya know I have almost got a HK book finished?
Video:  Knit a Hair Scrunchie with Youngest Knit Natter
What to do about an old, idle machine

November -

Hat video, Ultimate Sweater Machine
Scarf video, Ultimate Sweater Machine
Report on Dallas Seminar

December -

Mitten video, Ultimate Sweater Machine
Tam video, Ultimate Sweater Machine

right and wrong: Up from oblivion / memories

right and wrong: Up from oblivion / memories

Check out the teddy bear. I've got a teddy pattern to MK over at Knit Natters, I think.